Welcome to my blog – a site committed to finding the healthier, more vibrant and beautiful you! My goal is to explore all aspects of health; helping you discover your inner as well as your outer beauty. I'd like to invite you to join me and begin your own personal journey to health and wellness. Let’s learn together through sharing our own unique experiences; turning them into growth opportunities. You know, you truly can be all you ever dreamed of and more! It is right here waiting for you to attain, and so much easier when we join together as women and friends seeking the same ultimate goal. I welcome your comments and look forward to getting to know you. May God bless your journey... ~Susan~

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas, Chaos & the Countdown

Merry Christmas
Well, the countdown to Christmas is now in the single digits. I feel like I accomplished a lot last week with the decorating finished; my Christmas letter written; and the packages wrapped and under the tree. I am very thankful that I took the time this year to ponder and decide what's really important to me and what activities I can let go; avoiding the typical Christmas chaos. It's been so enjoyable taking the time each day to sit and gaze at the Christmas tree and all the pretty decorations, while sipping a cinnamon-sprinkled green juice in my favorite winter goblets or savoring a cup of hot peppermint tea.

I also buy a new Christmas CD each year and this year I purchased Casting Crowns Peace on Earth ~ it was a wonderful choice (thanks to my sister, Marj, for the recommendation)! These moments of relaxation are so rejuvenating and I'm thinking I should make this daily bit of 'me time' a New Year's Resolution...

Sugar, icing and sprinkles...
This coming week I hope to bake some Christmas goodies. I really love to decorate sugar cookies and, even though I can’t eat them with my food sensitivities, I think I’ll bake them anyway. My husband and family will certainly enjoy having cookies and I can always give them away as gifts. Maybe I’ll sneak just one teeny bite…

Special family traditions that mean so much...

Saturday evening my husband and I will attend the candlelight Christmas Eve service at our church with our daughter and her family.  It’s always been a special tradition at our house to attend this service together. After all, there would be no Christmas to celebrate without God's sending the Christ child and His lasting promise of eternal life.

Excitement fills the air...
I love the way the whole church is filled with the excitement of children; eagerly anticipating soon-to-be-opened gifts under the tree. And what could be a better reminder of another very special and highly anticipated event; the birth of Baby Jesus in Bethlehem so many years ago.

God's wonder and love...

Happiness abounds with lots of “Merry Christmas” greetings and smiling, happy faces. Christmas Eve is such a beautiful night; filled with God’s wonder and love. It’s a deep inner joy and warm feeling of togetherness sent straight from heaven above that I will cherish in my heart for many years to come...

May God bless you and yours with beautiful
 Christmas memories

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Can You Feel the Stress?

The holiday “hustle and bustle” has arrived full force and I’m in panic mode because there’s only two weeks left until Christmas! I know many of you are feeling stressed, as well, with time running out as we speak.

With that thought in mind and in an effort to keep my sanity, I'm going to keep this short and sweet. Fact is, I have lots of shopping to do; cookies to bake and decorate; our three granddaughters' Nutcracker ballet to attend; decorating to finish plus many other fun Christmas activities on my “hope to get to do” list.

One of the special activities that we enjoy each year as a family is putting together a Christmas jigsaw puzzle. Because of the well-cut pieces and colorful, interesting detail of the pictures, we choose this brand of jigsaw puzzle. I know you’ll love them, too.

Remember the Reason for the Season,


Monday, December 5, 2011

Holidays, Hormones and a Heart Full of JOY

Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties. ~ Helen Keller

December days can fill your heart with Christmas wonder or break your spirit leaving you worn out and ridden with agonizing guilt. It seems each and every year brings with it a specially-wrapped package full of stressful scenarios just waiting to wreck your peace and joy.

When the holidays roll around, there are many reasons why a healthy balance is difficult to achieve; most of which involve a few of “our favorite things”:

·         Food
·         Family
·         Friends

Since I’m visiting with women here, we really have to talk about the “food” situation. At the holidays there’s a huge abundance of wonderful, tantalizing food everywhere you go: parties, family dinners, work and social functions...

It’s an endless feast of delectable cookies, candies, appetizers and dinners bursting with:

·         High Sugar
·         High Fat
·         High Calories

What makes it even worse is you’re so incredibly busy that you can hardly fit meal preparation into your frantic schedule.

It would be so much easier to just “graze” your way through the holidays. Another certainty is that the "fast sugar", "fast fat","fast calorie" fast food joints Love, Love, Love Christmas! Their profit percentages spike off the charts because everyone is just “too busy” to cook. Convenience trumps nutrition every time in our fast and busy world.
And time to work out? You’ve got to be kidding! Who has time for that with all the hustle and bustle of Christmas! Besides, you have it all under control, fully intending to start an exercise routine in January; right after the ink dries on your annual New Year’s resolutions.

But the real kicker is (back to the “woman” thing) that sugar (your very best friend) has the capability to do a major number on your hormones. Stay with me here as we ponder this for a moment...

You’re now well into the month of December and you’re feeling quite rotten both physically and mentally from all the over-indulgence and lack of activity. You’re having worse ups and downs than the Nasdaq and you’re on a guilt trip that’s no happy Carribean cruise. The sugar has dulled and fuzzied your brain and you’re stressing out over what clothes you could possibly fit into  for your annual Christmas parties. You've blown it again....

You know those routine PMS symptoms you suffer with each month? Lucky Girl...  you get to enjoy them all the month of December!

According to Steven R. Goldstein, MD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at NYU Medical Center in New York City, hormonal symptoms “can include anything from mild to moderate depression, anxiety, mood swings, melancholia, sensitivity, even full-blown anger and self-hatred.” 

So where's the JOY?!?

Next let’s add close and loving family to this toxic cocktail you've got going…

Your Beautiful Children – Don’t they just make you proud? And you gotta love ‘em ‘cause they’re what Christmas is all about, right? The little stinkers are now happily on a steady and unrelenting sugar high (who gave that to them anyway?) and they’re wound up tight with visions of Santa Claus bouncing around in their sugar-laden heads.

The Special Man in Your Life – poor guy can’t do anything right enough for the Queen of Hormones and he knows it, so he’s trying to be totally invisible. By now he’s responding quite well to voice commands (but not always) and he seems to be spending a lot of time in the garage.

Note to You: This is the same guy you expect a beautifully wrapped and touchy/feely gift from come Christmas Day).

And you say you’re doing the FAMILY dinner again this year?

What FUN! Bring on the relatives (along with all their "baggage"). Does it get any better than this?

It's definitely time for some holiday analysis…

·    Your kids are now needy and out-of-control and the urge to torture them has crossed your mind more than once.

·    Your man is wondering if your name is really “Sybil” ‘cause he has no clue who this woman is he’s waking up to these days.

·    You’re a weepy, distraught wreck and, you too, are having difficulty figuring out who has taken residence in your body. 

·    And, of course, your friends are still your friends because you’d never treat them like you do your family, for pity’s sakes…

INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein

Even though this scenario may be somewhat exaggerated (and then again, maybe not), I really hope you haven’t seen yourself in this lovely Christmas scene. It’s an ugly picture devoid of the precious joy given us by the Christ Child that we celebrate on Christmas Day. I’m sad to admit that I was this woman and I’m still struggling on my journey to get my holiday self together. It's probably going to be a long trip...

It’s been said that, through awareness, we can make the changes necessary to improve our emotional and physical wellbeing. My prayer for you this Christmas season is that you’ll not fret over past mistakes, but rather seek joy in each and every moment; savoring the time spent with your family and friends. Through it all, you'll be creating special and lasting memories that everyone will cherish for many years to come. Life is just too short to do it any other way…

May God bless your journey,

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Slippery Slopes & the Leftovers' Lament

Have you ever found yourself intent on a mission to completely devour the Thanksgiving leftovers just so you can be done with them and return to a healthy diet routine? Well, last night we finished off the apple crumb pie and today we’re officially down to one piece of lemon pie and four homemade dinner rolls. The carton of ice cream has been sucked down, as well as the bowl of tangerine salad.

Tom turkey was a BIG bird so he might take a while yet, but I’m seriously pondering the thought of pitching the side dishes right along with all the fat and calories they contain.

Have you noticed how it’s so easy to lose track of your sanity and eat yourself right into oblivion?

Which I might add, is a very unpleasant and miserable place to be. Personally, I've never been able to stop once I started to slide down the slippery slope of calorie laden holiday foods. Before I knew what had happened, I was smack in the middle of January; no healthy food in sight and my exercise routine totally nonexistent. Sugar had become my best friend, even though it left me hurting and hankering for more.

All of that being said, I’ve decided “NOT EVER AGAIN!”

Our Christmas dinner will not be "king-sized". I vow to prepare just enough food to last two to three meals; no more. I’m going to explore ways to reduce the sugar level in my pies so they don’t skyrocket our blood sugar levels clear off the charts. I’ll make my own homemade, chemical-free whipped cream and sweeten with stevia for garnishing the pies. There’ll be a healthy bowl of fresh fruit, a tray of raw veggies and nuts instead of sweets. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s way past time for wise choices in my life when it comes to how I eat during the holidays...

I do not like the way this over indulgence makes me feel nor do I want to regain weight I worked hard to lose. Tomorrow I return to healthy eating and climb back on my treadmill for my daily workout. My new Omega masticating juicer arrives on Tuesday (my Jack LaLanne died last week) and I can’t wait to get back to juicing again. Since I’ve been drinking organic green juice every morning, I find that it not only completely satisfies all my cravings, but reduces my appetite as well. Combine that with my antioxidant cactus juice, and I feel better than I have in years. Believe me, it sure beats the stuffed, miserable, heartburn path I’ve been on for the last week, hands down. Not going there again!

Are you ready to make a change for the healthier more vibrant you? I welcome your comments and suggestions.

May God bless your journey,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thanksgiving - A Lesson to Be Learned From the Pain

To say that I really struggled with writing this Thanksgiving blog post is a gross understatement. Not wanting to pen the usual “food focused” article - turkey this/dressing that and “Oh My”, Where’s the sugar-laden pie. Or reiterate the, “What are you thankful for” theme for the thousandth time. And then there’s the Black Friday shopping thing, which is great if you're a bargain shopper, but I'm not. So what was there left to write about?

I Googled and searched the whole world-wide web to no avail. Writer’s block had knocked at my door and barged right in. I even entertained the idea of skipping the Thanksgiving theme altogether, but something just didn’t seem quite right about that. And then then the phone call came with the news…

Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end…

While growing up on the ranch, Thanksgiving was always a bountiful feast. My mother was beyond the best cook around – she was amazing! We ate until we were miserable; not once, but over and over again. Leftovers galore and warm cherry pie a la mode was my breakfast for as long as the pies lasted. Then I moved on to my next favorite pie. Sugar was my best friend and this was gluttony in its finest hour.
For many years, after my husband and I were married, we returned to the ranch for Thanksgiving. Dad was always at the front door grinning from ear to ear welcoming his kids and grandkids. Mom was busy in the kitchen where she’d been since 4 a.m. in the morning. With six offspring and all their children, it was a monumental task to feed the tribe. And my how noisy! - Kids whooping and tearing around and all the adults trying to talk at once.

But it was family and it was a crazy kind of wonderful that I will never forget…

Then those happy holiday family times came to an abrupt end, when my parents started going south for the winter (possibly to escape the chaos). My siblings and I began preparing holiday dinners and establishing our own family traditions.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance…
But, as happens in all families, sometimes holidays don’t deliver happiness. Loved ones pass on leaving a huge void in our lives. The special day, once filled with laughter, produces nothing but an aching heart full of painfully fresh memories. It was like that the year Daddy died…

It can be tough feeling thankful, when you’ve just lost a loved one; divorce has devastated your family; you’re out of a job with no hope in sight; or tragedy has come into your life; an uninvited guest. What do you do when it’s your turn at the dinner table to share the things you’re thankful for, and the tears of pain puddle up in your eyes?

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God…”Romans 8:28

You pause and remember…

You pause and remember that when everything else in your life is turned upside down, God never changes. You can rest assured that He has a plan for you, even though you can’t see it in the midst of the storm. The day will come when the sun will shine again and happiness will return to your world. It will be a day of awareness that you’re now walking closer with Him; that there was a lesson to be learned from the pain. A peace in knowing that God’s divine goodness was there all the time. And for that you can be truly thankful.

This blog is dedicated to my friend Holly who was welcomed home last week by a host of angels after a long and courageous battle here on earth. May God wrap his loving arms around her family and hold them close.

May God bless your journey,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Damning Effect of the "Food Focus"

Have you ever thought about how almost everything we do in life is centered on food? Think about it for a minute…No special celebration is complete without food. No holiday. No sport’s event. No church gathering. No office party…Where people are gathered there’s bound to be a plentiful amount of delectable, enticing foods.

To tell you the truth, I hadn’t given it much thought until I developed extensive food sensitivities. One of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to conquer is sitting and watching while others indulge. On second thought, having to prepare the food for a holiday meal may be an even worse scenario. You quickly come to realize how much tasting and testing went into all of the dinner’s preparation.

I wish I could say that I have this incredible amount of discipline that keeps my hands out of the food. But that’s not the case and I end up eating the forbidden knowing full well the agonizing muscle pain that will ensue for days. It’s an unending battle that takes its toll both physically and mentally.

And I’m not alone - There’s an alarming increase in the diagnosis of complex digestive disorders striking those of all ages.

You’ve probably heard of IBD (irritable bowel disease), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and the list goes on and on. Some believe that autism and ADD (attention deficit disorder) can also be traced back to digestive issues. These are life-changing, painful conditions that have no quick fix; no easy answer.

Not nearly as appealing as the food that got them to this point, is it?
This is an endoscopy image taken of a section of the bowel called the sigmoid colon and shows what ulcerative colitis looks like. Note that the inside surface of the colon has a red blotchy appearance and has broken places.
It’s my belief, that toxins play a huge role as a precursor to chronic and painful intestinal disorders.
Combine the chemicals in our food with today’s poor dietary habits and you can find yourself on a fast track to serious digestive problems. Add over-the-counter and prescription meds to the mix and you now have a genuinely deadly combination.

Personally, I can attribute the intestinal damage I suffered to that of a doctor’s careless prescribing of massive amounts of antibiotics and the acid-blocker Prilosec; coupled with off-the-charts and ongoing stress. I already had a history of digestive issues and this ill-advised treatment only compounded my existing problems. Unfortunately, no advice was given me to be sure to follow up with quality probiotics (and I don’t mean yogurt) to replenish the good bacteria in my guts. In a relatively short amount of time, the situation was totally out of control.

The longer I live the less confidence I have in drugs and the greater is my confidence in the regulation and administration of diet and regimen. ~John Redman Coxe, 1800

You see, when you take antibiotics, they wipe out absolutely all the bacteria in your intestines - good and bad. My medical knowledge, at that point, was very limited and I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “good” and “bad” bacteria to be worried about. I, like many of you, obediently followed my doctor’s orders, not giving it a second thought.

Lesson learned: Always research the side effects before taking a prescription medication. In other words, do your homework. Ask for another opinion and if there are possible alternative options that might work just as well.

The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease. ~Thomas Edison

Another important thing to realize is that treating the symptoms of your condition does not make the cause go away. Today’s medical professionals are trained to focus predominately on addressing the symptoms instead of seeking out the source of the problem. Especially in the case of digestive disorders, the cause has to be addressed or your health will be further jeopardized. It’s just a matter of time.

What I’d like for you to take away from this blog post is this:

  • If your diet is fast food, processed foods and junk you could soon be going through my nightmare or even worse. And “Yes”, it can really happen to you. Plan a nutritious diet menu and get with the program.
  • If you’re already having symptoms of digestive problems, seek out a highly recommended professional nutritionist or functional health practitioner as soon as possible. Don’t procrastinate until your digestive issue has the opportunity to turn into a full-fledged auto-immune disorder.
  • Remember that you’re paying the doctor for his advice - this doesn’t mean you have to take it. Sometimes a good case of common sense applies.
  • Analyze your food habits and plan events that aren't focused on food. Replace bad eating habits with enjoyable activities that will work towards a healthier, more vibrant and beautiful you - not sabotage your efforts.

There’s truly no better preventative measure you can take against disease than to start living an active, healthy life. You’ll feel and look better than you have in years, while ensuring yourself a future free of unnecessary suffering and pain.

May God bless you on your journey,

Note: If you have a digestive disorder or disease, I welcome your comments and encourage your input.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

3 Steps to Achieving an Amazing Attitude

I gazed out my front door this morning to a blanket of fresh-fallen snow and a glistening world of white. That is, except for my beautiful purple petunia, hanging happily in my entryway still blooming away; rebelliously oblivious to the winter weather. She wasn’t withered or wilted; not even a bit. No cold weather was going to get the best of her – she was going to blossom where she was planted!

There are souls in this world which have the gift of finding joy everywhere and of leaving it behind them when they go. ~ Frederick Faber

How I wish I could be like that cheerful, blissfully content petunia; just blooming away weathering the storm no matter what the circumstances. Have you ever known someone like that? The one with the permanent smiley affixed to their face? The one who has a lilt to their voice and an obvious song in their heart?

A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort. ~ Herm Albright

I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I even think they irritate me sometimes - a little jealousy factor appearing on the scene. Am I alone here? Deep down I believe we all want to be like that and just haven’t figured out how to recreate ourselves into a positively contented and happy human being.

It causes me to ponder why I have forever been such a negative person. I used to state, very adamantly I might add, that my outlook wasn't "negative", just very "realistic". It took me most of a lifetime, but I can now honestly and openly make the admission that my glass is most definitely half-empty, NOT half-full. 

Anywhere is paradise; it's up to you ~ Author Unknown

But it’s just plain work, isn’t it? - that cheerful and sunny outlook. Unfortunately, whatever does not “come naturally”, takes a lot of dedication, perseverance and hard work to put in place. We recoil at that thought, don’t we? Speaking for myself, retraining my behavior is about as appealing as vacationing in an igloo at the North Pole.

The soul does not absorb negativity by accident, always by choice ~ Dodinsky

It’s a tedious process to alter what’s been “stuck like glue” to your unique (and negative) personality for so long and it will require that you:

1)   Recognize that you do indeed have a negative-type outlook

2)   Pause and ponder choices for positive alternative behaviors

3)   Take immediate and definitive action for improvement

Sometimes life's Hell. But hey! Whatever gets the marshmallows toasty. ~ J. Andrew Helt

And it will all be worth it - for a positive and healthy state of mind can carry you through the worst of times; be like toasted marshmallows and candy on a yummy chocolate cupcake during the best of times; and make life a whole lot easier on those who are blessed with your presence. I guess it’s really true that “attitude is everything”...

Anyone game for an attitude adjustment? Your thoughts please?

May God bless your journey,


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Skinny by Sunday ~ 3 Steps to Defeat the Diet Saga

Usually, by this time of year, a freeze has finished off the summer flowers; the trees are past their prime standing naked in my yard and you don’t leave home without a jacket. But not this year! There’s still a gorgeous array of colors, not only from the trees, but from the ever-blooming flowers. I still have red roses adding a nice accent to the autumn colors.

Because of our extended fall season, the days on the calendar have silently slipped by unnoticed. That is until a friend of mine declared that she was going to lose 20 lbs. by Christmas. That’s right~ Christmas!

And if Christmas is just on the horizon, we’re looking Thanksgiving right in the face. Which brings me full circle back to the “losing 20 lbs. by Christmas” comment.

How well I remember that mindset. I went through the scenario so many times that my adoring husband used to tease me about my being “Skinny by Sunday”. Even though my goals of a slim and trim body never came to fruition, I kept right on doing the same crazy things over and over again. After all, I just had to lose weight so I could:
v unabashedly wear a swimsuit by summer
v actually fit into a pair of shorts without humiliation
v wear a pair of “skinny” jeans again
v lose two dress sizes for “the” wedding event of the year
v be thin enough to graze my way through the holidays without reservation or guilt
Sadly, I spent many frosty months hiding under a bulky winter coat dreading the day I’d have to shed the thing and conceal the “real” me to the world. Diet fads came and went. Exercise programs bombed out. Holidays added extra pounds. You know the drill…

What’s even worse, I was exhausted and felt rotten most of the time. My joints ached and my face often looked like I’d been on a ten day drunk from the junk I ate the day before. I wasn’t old enough to feel like this and it wasn’t getting any better. Some days I didn’t have the energy to even shower and get ready for work. And that was just the beginning of my day! All those years of eating poorly and consuming enough sugar to kill me was taking its toll. Did you know that being overweight or obese causes inflammation in your body that leads to a wide variety of chronic diseases? Neither did I, until I was faced with potentially serious health issues.

The good news is you don’t have to live like that; never again. It will mean making a choice to drastically change your lifestyle for good and forever; a choice to live each and every day as healthy and active as possible. No more unrealistic and unattainable goals. No more ridiculously hard workout regimens. And, of utmost importantance, no more failures!

Step #1 ~ Exercise

Pick an exercise you enjoy, but don’t overdo. Gradually push yourself to the next level, while increasing your strength and stamina. If you really feel like you need to experience extreme workout regimens, spend a couple hours watching Biggest Loser.

I found that setting realistic goals and then broadcasting them to all of my friends and family kept me accountable. When I vowed to work out every day for a year, everyone heard about it. This probably was a stretch, but I was desperate (and fat) by this point. I wasn’t about to give up and have to admit failure, so I managed to survive 364 days of half hour workouts. Much to my dismay, I missed one day because I was just too sick to climb on the treadmill. I continued on to accomplish a year and a half straight of daily work outs. The best part of all was that this process created a habit of regular exercise and a desire to stay with it that I have maintained to this day.

Step #2 ~ Diet

Eat healthy and eat at home; eliminating fast food from your menu. Clear your house of processed foods that are lacking in nutrition and packed with calories. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables; organic if possible. You know your “trigger” foods – stay away from them like the plague. Eat in the dining area and leave when you’re done, so you’re not tempted to keep nibbling.

It’s all about portions, portions, portions. Count calories, log your food intake online, do Weight Watchers, but most importantly, do something!

Step #3 ~ Take Care of Yourself

Find ways to reduce your stress levels, as a round with high stress can lead to all sorts of bingeing episodes. You know how you hate yourself after going on one of those! My favorite reward was always brownies, but I could never stop at just one...

Reward yourself for your successes, but NOT with food. Trust me, that never works, and it can send you on a downward spiral to places you really don’t’ want to go.

Click here for a blog post that I wrote describing some helpful stress reduction techniques. Stress not only leads to overeating, it's the precursor to life-threatening chronic inflammation.

Life is too short not to live it to the fullest. Make the decision to live a healthy, active life enjoying every moment of your journey to Finding a More Healthy, Vibrant & Beautiful You!

Skinny jeans? Priceless J

May God bless your journey,


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Arriving at Autumn ~ A Portrait of Your Life

This week my husband and I took a drive to see the autumn colors in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The weather was perfect - a beautiful, warm fall day with a gentle breeze. The sun shimmered on the aspen leaves turning them into thousands of pieces of gold reflected against a bright blue sky.
Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn. ~Elizabeth Lawrence

Intermingled amongst the aspen were several types of evergreens and a variety of other trees; adding an array of shades of green, gold and orange to enhance the view. The aspen leaves glistened and danced as the wind rustled through their whisper-thin leaves; creating a marvelous musical serenade.

Just like the aspens in fall, I have come to the autumn of my life. I want this time to be just like those glittering gold aspen leaves. I’m going to enjoy my day in the sun; dancing and glowing with a song in my heart. I’ve earned all those bright and beautiful autumn colors that are splashed over the portrait of my life. I vow to be active, vibrant and alive until I breathe my last breath!
And you? Do you want to arrive at your “autumn” healthy, active and living life to the fullest? What kind of life portrait are you going to paint; are you ready to dance?

No matter what season of life you are in today, I pray you make the choice to begin your journey to A Healthier More Vibrant & Beautiful You.

May God bless your journey,

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.
~ Stanley Horowitz

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Going Beyond the Gingerbread Man...

This week I’ve added a ‘new-to-me’ vegetable to my healthy eating plan. It’s a twisted and inter-connected odd looking veggie that can be beige, white or red in color. It is the underground rhizome of the plant Zingiber officinale – commonly known as ginger root.

Ginger root has been used for medicinal purposes for over 2000 years and also as a delicious cooking and baking spice. The extent of my culinary experience with ginger was baking gingerbread, the cookies ginger creams and gingersnaps (two of my all-time favorites) and, of course Gingerbread Men. I also drank ginger ale soda occasionally and, I would guess that I’ve often eaten Chinese food seasoned with ginger.
My knowledge of the broad health-related benefits of ginger root was nonexistent. While researching, I discovered that ginger is known for its extremely potent anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerols and that these gingerols can obstruct the production of prostaglandins, perhaps more successfully than domethicin, an arthritis drug. Ginger extracts have been shown to have both antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects on cells.

Ginger root is known to be beneficial for:
v Motion sickness
v Pregnancy nausea and vomiting
v Gastrointestinal distress
v Muscular discomfort
v Arthritis pain
v Lower cholesterol
v Headaches & migraines
v Cancer of the skin, colon, breast and ovaries
v Lower blood pressure
v Menstrual pain
v Common cold and flu

How to add ginger to your diet
There are endless ways to incorporate ginger into your diet. I consume a lot of chicken salad, so I use my food processor to mince the ginger and add to the mixture to spice it up. I also drink two to three cups of hot ginger tea a day using the following preparation procedure:
Cut a 1 to 1 1/2" piece of fresh ginger root, peel and slice into a large mug
Add a few fresh mint leaves, a peppermint tea bag or some cinnamon flavored liquid stevia
Pour boiling water over the above and steep for at least 1/2 hour
Heat to taste and sweeten with liquid Stevia, if desired

Ginger root can also be added to your favorite juicing recipes to add some extra ‘zip’ to your drink’s flavor.

Buying fresh ginger root
You can purchase ginger at your local market, but you may need to check your health food store for ginger root that is grown organically and for a fresher product. Buying fresh ginger root will ensure superior flavor and higher levels of gingerol and the anti-inflammatory compound protease. Make sure you choose firm and mold-free ginger roots that are smooth skinned.

Preparing for consumption
Rinse before using and peel off the skin. You can store fresh, unpeeled ginger for up to three weeks in the refrigerator or up to six months in the freezer.

Varieties of ginger
·   Pickled Ginger - To make pickled ginger you need to marinate fresh ginger in a vinegar and rice brine until it is tender and pink in color. After slicing the pickled ginger in paper-thin slices, it is ready to serve. You will often find pickled ginger at sushi bars used to accent the flavor of fresh raw fish.

·   Powdered Ginger - A warm, fragrant and rich spice used in baking and cooking alike.

·   Preserved Ginger This is a sweet and tasty condiment, and sometimes accented with a bit of salt and licorice.

·   Dried Ginger – For the freshest quality of dried ginger root, buy at Chinese or Indian markets. Allow to bake out in the sun for about two weeks and then break the root in pieces and powder in a coffee grinder.

·   Crystallized Ginger – Candied ginger is a very delectable concoction that causes a slightly warming sensation to the palate. It is prepared by slow cooking ginger in sugar water until it crystallizes and then rolling the candy in sugar.

I would love to know if any of you cook or bake with ginger. Please feel free to comment and leave your recipes or tips.
May God bless your journey,