Sweet And Spicy Pumpkin Soup

sns soup

 It has been bitter cold this winter and I wanted a creamy soup. This recipe contains spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves that make you feel warm and comfy, as well as cayenne and ginger which are said to help with circulation. Put those spices in a rich, soothing base of sweet pumpkin and savory broth and you have the perfect winter soup. I’ve also made it using butternut squash. You can use it as a main course served with crackers for a lighter meal, or as a side dish. It would go great with a roasted chicken.

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Soup

3 cups broth
4 cups pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 Tbs ghee
1 1/2 Tbs cinnamon
1/8 to 1/2 tsp cayenne, to taste
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp  ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice

Blend all ingredients in a blender, food processor, or using a immersion blender until smooth. Heat on medium in large pot until simmering, stirring occasionally.

Inflammation Causes And Solutions

inflammation causes and solutions

For what inflammation is and its effects on the body, see this previous post.

Causes

Inflammation can be caused by many things, luckily most of them are within our control. It’s important to be aware of the many causes in order to avoid them and the diseases they would trigger.

Dietary sources of inflammation are everywhere in our society. Sugar, processed foods, trans-fats, alcohol, genetically modified foods, refined grains, and MSG are all causes. An intolerance to certain foods will also cause inflammation.

Poor sleep habits lead to inflammation.  Not getting enough shut-eye, or having poor quality sleep can be triggers. Those who get less than 6 hours a night were found to have elevated markers for inflammation.

Damage to the intestines caused by poor diet, food allergies, or antibiotics allows partially digested particles of food into the blood stream.  The immune system attacks these particles because they are not where they belong.  This is often referred to as “leaky gut” and causes inflammation as well as other problems.

Chronic bacterial, viral or yeast infections, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, stress, hormonal imbalances,  environmental toxins, allergens, and some medications are other causes.

Solutions

Avoiding the foods that cause inflammation and adding anti-inflammatory food to our diet can be a big boost to our health. Ginger, turmeric, green tea, tart cherries, omega-3 from nuts and fish, fiber and vitamin E in dark leafy greens, beets, garlic, onions, and some all fight inflammation.

Using probiotics either in supplements or fermented foods can help heal damage to the intestines, blocking a cause of inflammation.  Bone broths can also help with this.

Lifestyle changes such as adding regular exercise, getting plenty of sleep, and making time to de-stress are important in fighting inflammation. Adding a vitamin D supplement has also been shown to help.

Inflammation is a big factor in how we feel. By avoiding triggers and using some of the simple solutions in this article you can take charge of your health.

Sources

Grzanka, Alicja, Edyta Machura, Mazur Bogdan, Maciej Misiilek, Jerzy Jochem, Jacek Kasperski, and Alicja Kasperska-Zajac. “Relationship between vitamin D status and the inflammatory state in patients with chronic spontaneous urticaria.” 112.2 (2014): n. page. Web. 7 Feb. 2014. <http://www.journal-inflammation.com/content/11/1/2>.

 Marquis, David. “How Inflammation Affects Every Aspect of Your Health.” Mercola. N.p., 07 Mar 2013. Web. 12 Feb 2014. <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/07/inflammation-triggers-disease-symptoms.asp&xgt;>.

 Hyman, Mark. “Is Your Body Burning Up With Hidden Inflammation?.” Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 27 Aug 2009. Web. 12 Feb 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/is-your-body-burning-up-w_b_269717.html>.

Mitchell, Traci D. “9 Foods That Cause Inflammation.” Get Fit Chicago. N.p., 09 Sep 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.chicagonow.com/get-fit-chicago/2013/09/9-foods-that-cause-inflammation/>

 Klein, Sarah. “Inflammatory Foods: 9 Of The Worst Picks For Inflammation.” Huffington Post. N.p., 21 Mar 2013. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/21/inflammatory-foods-worst-inflammation_n_2838643.html>.

 Macmillan, Amanda. “14 Foods That Fight Inflammation.”Health . N.p.. Web. 20 Feb 2014. <http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20705881,00.html>.

Paddock, Catherine. “Poor Sleep Tied To Inflammation, A Risk Factor For Heart Disease, Stroke.” Medical News Today. 10 Feb 2014.

Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Inflammation? What Causes Inflammation?.” Medical News Today. N.p., 12 Dec 2012. Web. 7 Feb 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php>.

Inflammation What it is And What it Does to You

inflammation

Inflammation is a response of the immune and cardiovascular system to some form of trauma.  The trauma could be physical, such as stubbing your toe, or chemical, such as an allergen. Inflammation is actually an important part of the healing process, but it becomes a problem when the body’s response is inappropriate in strength, length of time, or location.

Chronic Inflammation is inflammation that has gone on for months or years.  It leads to tissue damage and eventually necrosis, or tissue death. This often happens without  the person having any clue that inflammation is to blame.

There is a simple blood test that can reveal your levels of inflammation. The C-reactive protein test measures the level of the protein that rises as inflammation occurs.  Addressing this problem could be a lifesaver. In a study of elderly patients who were otherwise healthy, those with high levels of the C-reactive protein were 260 times more likely to die within 4 years. People rarely think to have this test until they are rather ill and damage has already been done.

Many diseases have inflammation as a root cause, and almost all modern diseases can count it as a factor. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, atherosclerosis, migraines, gum diseases, thyroid problems, dementia, depression, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, the list goes on and on. Even autism and obesity have been linked to inflammation.

What often happens is that people end up on multiple medications (often with nasty side effects).  The underlying cause of inflammation is rarely addressed, but their symptoms are put under some semblance of control. Despite the person feeling normal, the damage to their body rages on.

Up Next: Inflammation: Causes and Solutions.

Sources:

Nordqvist, Christian. “What Is Inflammation? What Causes Inflammation?.” Medical News Tosay. N.p., 12 Dec 2012. Web. 7 Feb 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/248423.php>.

Marquis, David. “How Inflammation Affects Every Aspect of Your Health.” Mercola. N.p., 07 Mar 2013. Web. 12 Feb 2014. <http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/03/07/inflammation-triggers-disease-symptoms.asp&xgt;>.

Hyman, Mark. “Is Your Body Burning Up With Hidden Inflammation?.” Huffington Post. Huffington Post, 27 Aug 2009. Web. 12 Feb 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/is-your-body-burning-up-w_b_269717.html>.

“Doctor speaks on health effects of chronic inflammation.”News Medical. N.p., 17 Feb 2011. Web. 12 Feb 2014. <http://www.news-medical.net/news/20110217/Doctor-speaks-on-health-effects-of-chronic-inflammation.asp&xgt;>.

How to Sauté Greens

Leafy Greens are great for you. If you don’t have much experience with cooking, don’t let them intimidate you. A simple sauté is an easy way to cook them. In this post I’m going to show you how to sauté swiss chard. You are going to need one bunch of chard, 1/4 cup of cooking oil (sesame, sunflower, or coconut are good choices), salt, a long knife,  a frying pan, and a pair of tongs or utensil to flip/stir your greens. I also throw in a clove of garlic using my garlic press, but that is an optional step.

swiss chard

First rinse off your greens to remove any dirt that may have tried to hitch a ride.

 

chopped chard

Now we are going to prep the greens. Cut off and discard an inch to inch and a half of the end of your stems. Start chopping the stems up into small pieces, about a quarter of an inch but no need to be overly precise. Once you get to the green leafy parts cut them into strips approximately an inch and a half wide. Do two perpendicular cuts to cut your strips into thirds.

Next heat your 1/4 cup of oil up in the pan. Once it’s been warming for a minute or two add your chopped chard.  Top that with a generous amount of salt.

 

add garlic to greensThis next step is optional, so if you don’t like garlic go ahead and omit it.  Peel a garlic clove and put it in your garlic press.  Scrape the crushed garlic into the pan.  If you don’t have a garlic press you can mince, or really finely chop, the garlic. I love my garlic press because it makes the process much faster and garlic much smaller.

Frequently flip and stir the greens or the bottom pieces of chard will turn into char.

 

sauteed grrens finished

When it is wilted and the stems have lost their crunch it’s done.  Serve immediately.  In my personal opinion if you let greens get luke warm they feel slimy and much less appetizing.

You can use this method for other greens, the only variation will be how you prepare them. Baby spinach only needs rinsed and it’s ready to cook.  Be aware that spinach reduces in volume more than chard so you’ll need more of it to make a serving. Kale has a very fibrous stem, so you’ll want to rip the greens off of the main central vein. Then rip it into pieces and continue as with the chard.

Now you know how to sauté greens.  What other methods of cooking them do you use?  Are there any other tutorials you would find useful?

 

Spiced Nut Butter Dip

 

ezaKlC1391744400Need something easy and quick to whip up as a snack for a group?  Mix up this peanut butter based dip, slice up some apples, and you’re good to go.  You could also try using graham crackers for dipping, or it could be great used as filling between two cookies. Yum. For those who are going paleo just use another nut butter, or sun butter for the nut free. If you use an unsalted nut butter you should add a pinch of salt. I brought this to a church social and it was a hit.  You probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen already!

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
3/4 cup milk of choice (I used coconut)
1 cup raw honey
2 Tbs cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

8 or so apples sliced for dipping
Add half the milk to the peanut butter and mix till combined.  Add in the other half and repeat.  Then add in the rest of the ingredients (minus the apples) and keep mixing until combined.  If its too thick slowly add more milk until its the desired consistency.