Tuesday, November 26, 2013

With Thanks

"Singing we'll all be together, even when we're not together, with our arms around each other, with our faith still in each other."  N. Case

It's Tuesday night, my oven is on the fritz, I couldn't roast a turkey even if I wanted to.  It seems like a lot of work anyway. So, I went to the market and bought a pre-cooked chicken, homemade mashed potatoes, stuffing, biscuits and gravy. We had what my Dad calls a "winner, winner, chicken dinner." The boys ate most of their portions and my husband was very thankful for his, as he skipped lunch to get home to us sooner. This was our Thanksgiving meal. We all held hands and sang our song, "I'm thankful for my friends and my family, I'm thankful for the food I eat, I'm happy as can be."

As a nurse, I have to work weekends and holidays. My choice, but I always wonder what it would be like to have time off along with everyone else. I work at night and it seems like I have a different view of working life all around. This year, I am hoping to have my Christmas holiday, the balance of scheduling is a constant struggle. I never really minded working the off shifts, but now that my boys are getting bigger and engaging more in the celebration of the seasons, I miss seeing them interact with family and friends, enjoying the holiday without me. I recognize how lucky I am to have my life, my loves, my freedom and my work. Service professionals in military, safety, security and healthcare are not with their families either, their sacrifices keep our extended community protected and sheltered.

Despite the brightness and beauty of the season, the holidays bring melancholy memories of loved ones that are no longer with us. Loss weighs heavier on our hearts, as we are still alive on this earth bound by the cycle of life. Our goal is to honor and remember their spirit and the gifts they have given, and that we continue to receive. When I close my eyes, we are all together sharing a meal, toasting a drink, and sharing a bountiful ritual of gratefulness.

The world offers opportunities to become a part of something larger than ourselves. All living beings who are in pain, sick, suffering or enduring a tremendous tragedy need our help and our love. Sending out a prayer into the universe is important and necessary.

May we all be filled with loving kindness
May we all be peaceful and at ease
May we all be safe and healthy
May we all be happy

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Healing Home

It's cold and flu season and no matter how well you care for yourself, that sneaky, ever-changing virus can hold your body hostage with its irritating symptoms of runny or stuffy nose, cough, congestion, sore throat, headache and muscle weakness. If you have children, it seems that pesky virus can sneak back in just when you think you are improving.  Although there is still no cure for the common cold and without getting too scientific, chicken soup remains a wonderful option for temporarily alleviating cold and flu symptoms. There are various recipes for chicken soup, but most contain specific ingredients that in combination create a powerful impact on your health and healing.

If you are interested, here is a link to Dr. Stephen Rennard's research study at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.  http://www.unmc.edu/publicrelations/article.htm

When we take the time to care for ourselves and those we love, there is a strong energetic current that connects us. Our hands can offer comfort, compassion and tenderness through healing touch. There are many benefits to gentle touch. It is calming, relaxing and helps to balance your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  You have the power to provide healing touch on yourself, others or seek out a certified healing touch practitioner.  http://www.healingtouchinternational.org

Children are very responsive to healing touch. Congested babies and toddlers are miserable, and as a parent if you are sick too, it is double misery. Hot, steamy, showers can help encourage congestion out of the body. A couple drops of essential oils into a shower or bath offer an alternative therapy to decrease inflammation. If you are interested in learning about research directed toward fighting some of the toughest bugs with the use of essential oils, here is a link to Dr. Sue Chao's study at Weber State University in Utah.  http://www.youngliving.com/MRSA_article.pdf

Nasal irrigation with a netti pot or nosefrida for little ones is very helpful as well. Getting the mucous out of the chest eases congestion. nasal irrigation is a wonderful way to do this. As your children get older, teaching them how to blow their nose, and cough up phlegm is a good habit. http://www.fridababy.com

Follow this with lots of cuddling, snuggling, gentle massage of backs and bellies, and hug therapy can promote rest and healing for all.  According to Kathleen Keating author of "The Hug Therapy Book", touch is the primary way we contact and connect with each other. Our skin is the antennae that feels, touches and meets the world outside of ourselves. With touch we meet, bond, and belong.    http://www.bykathleenkeating.com

As a mother of two children with asthma, I know all too well how quickly cold congestion from a virus can spread into a nightmare of respiratory distress. Both my sons have had one too many emergency room visits, and overnight hospital admissions. When sickness invades my home and affects my children, I fight it with all I've got. Knowledge and experience can lessen the stress of sickness, but sleep deprivation doesn't help with coping or healing. Leaning on your support systems and finding balance to care for yourself while caring for others is most important. My younger son has his first ear infection and developed croup from his recent cold. My husband is astute and noticed his cough quickly, another trip to the pediatrician, and we are armed with more fighting power.

One of the most important things you can do is rest and hydrate yourself and your child. Water is essential to help balance homeostasis while fighting off a virus or bacteria. The body's natural immune defense can cause low to high fevers in children. Hydration is key in helping the body fight illness. Frequent hand washing is also essential, consider wiping down counters, doors, door knobs, refrigerators and bathroom fixtures often to decrease the spread of illness within your home and to your family. Another key tip is to wash bed linens and switch out your toothbrush after an illness, so as not to reinfect yourself.

Here is my chicken soup recipe and other small offerings for rejuvenating your immune system.

Chicken Soup with Shiitake and Ginger

4-6 organic chicken thighs (skin on, bone in)

*4-6 cups filtered water or bone broth

2-3 T organic extra virgin olive oil

2-3 large cloves finely chopped garlic

2-3 T freshly grated ginger 

1 large sweet onion chopped into crescent moons

1 cup finely chopped shiitake mushrooms (dry brushed)

2-3 rinsed celery ribs cut into 1/2" diagonal crescent moons

4-5 medium sized organic carrots unpeeled (rinse and scrub) and sliced into circles

2-3 strips wild atlantic Nori (sea vegetable)

sea salt, fresh ground pepper, thyme, rosemary, lavender (herbs de provence), turmeric and cumin to taste

Place chicken thighs in a large pot with 4-6 cups water and boil to make your own chicken broth add a pinch of sea salt.  About 30 minutes and simmer broth.

In another large stove pot, (I like to use my Le Creuset dutch oven)  add olive oil, garlic, ginger, onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, seasonings and saute until tender to make a mirepoix.

Slowly add chicken broth and chicken thighs to the mirepoix.  Cut up the Nori strips and add to the soup.  Simmer soup for 2-3 hours or until the chicken falls off the bone.  Before serving, I de-bone and de-skin my thighs then place the pieces of chicken back into the soup.  

For the little ones, serve the broth over rice cereal or with warm fresh bread to dip. My boys don't like anything floating in their soup except chicken and carrots, so I infuse all the healthy ingredients into the broth and then strain it.

For the adults, I like to add a bunch of fresh herbs just before serving, sliced into strips.  Fresh basil, cilantro, flat leaf parsley, napa cabbage, lemongrass, scallion, baby bok choy, baby spinach, kale or swiss chard adds crunch and texture. Sometimes, I add more grated ginger or freshly sliced thai chiles to zest it up. Season to taste.

Another option is to add 1/2 cup of sweet brown rice to the soup and simmer for 3 hours creating a congee, also known as rice porridge.  The rice thickens the soup adding texture and heartiness.  The congee is nice for little ones too.

Homemade chicken broth is the most important ingredient, I use it as a base for most of my soup recipes. You can simplify the soup and just use, carrot, celery and onion as well. Lots of add-in or substitutions, sweet potato, butternut squash, parsnips, turnips, white or purple carrot, depending on the season.

*Bone broth is a wonderful option to use instead of filtered water, with more amazing nutritional benefits than chicken broth. If you have bone broth on hand, add it to your chicken soup for a power packed healing soup. Here are some links to the benefits of bone broth and how to make it.



Vegetarian Options

It is also possible to create a healing soup from vegetables. Here are some easy ways to incorporate a nourishing, vegetable based soup into your diet.

4-6 cups of water

2-3 T extra virgin olive oil

2-3 large cloves finely chopped garlic

2-3 T freshly grated ginger 

1 T plus 2 tsp of shoyu (*see recipe below for my soy free version)

1 T chickpea miso (traditional japanese fermented beans, this one is soy free and power packed with probiotics)

1 large sweet onion chopped into crescent moons

1-2 medium sized organic carrots unpeeled (rinsed and scrubbed) cut lengthwise or an a diagonal

1 cup shiitake mushrooms (dry brushed)

1-2 (rinsed) celery stalks cut into 1/2" diagonal crescent moons

1 cup dried daikon, soaked in 1 cup of water for 5 minutes, reserve the soaking water

2 pieces of kombu (sea vegetable) halved

In a large saucepan, layer the ingredients in this order: kombu, onion, garlic, ginger, miso, carrot, celery, shiitake mushrooms and dried daikon. It is believed that by layering vegetables and allowing them to cook undisturbed, their nutritional energy gets even more concentrated. Pour the water on top, including the reserved dried daikon water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce to a gentle simmer and add 1 tsp shoyu.  Continue cooking for another 35 minutes, then add the remaining tsp of shoyu.  Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat.

This a rich and hearty vegetable broth easily served by itself, over sweet brown rice, or with chopped greens and spices as listed above with the healing chicken soup.

Soy free Shoyu

1 cup vegetable broth (see above recipe)

1 T balsamic vinegar

2 tsp unsulphured molasses

1 tsp sea salt

pinch garlic powder

pinch of ginger powder

Combine all ingredients into a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to medium and allow to lightly boil for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool then store in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Apple Tea  (helps thin congestion)

2 cups water

2 T grated ginger + juice

2 T grated lemon zest + juice of 1 lemon (oranges are good too)

1/4 cup raw unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar

*2-3 spoonfuls local organic raw honey (not to be consumed by infants under 1 year)

1-2 cinnamon sticks for infusion

Simmer all ingredients for at least 30 minutes to infuse mixture together.  Strain and serve. For the little ones, I add apple juice or orange juice to cool it off and cut the vinegar taste.

Magic Mix  (natural cough suppressant)

*1/4 cup local organic raw honey (not to be consumed by children under 1 year)

1 T unsulphured organic molasses

2 T fresh grated ginger

2 T ground cinnamon

1 T each of ground turmeric and cardamom

1 tsp ground black pepper

Mix above ingredients together creating a paste, take 1 spoonful 3 times a day and before bed to help suppress cough and thin congestion.  You can store this mixture for up to 3 months in the refrigerator, but I like to make in small batches to keep it fresh.

Aromatic Chest Rub (breathing comfort)

1/2 cup extra virgin organic olive oil or organic virgin unrefined coconut oil

2 tsp. castor oil

10 drops essential oil mixture of eucalyptus, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, frankincense, and chamomile

15 drops essential oil mixture of lemon and sweet orange

Whisk ingredients together and place in an airtight container, then refrigerate to harden.

Make your own balm or buy a pre-made certified organic chest balm. Massage onto chest and back right after a steamy shower and breathe in. For little ones, cupping your palm and very gently provide short, quick pats onto the right and left sides of the upper and middle back. This helps to loosen mucous and congestion, also known as chest physical therapy.