Monday, August 27, 2012

Is it really 'Natural Flavoring'?

Natural Flavoring - is it really natural in the product you're eating/drinking?  I belong to a page on Facebook called 'Allium Allergy: Garlic, Onion, and More' for obvious reasons.  A woman named Di just posted a fantastic link to a page about this very subject!!  It is fascinating and I am blown away!!  And our government is suppose to protect us?  I think NOT!  What you don't know CAN hurt you!!  And it is!!  That's the really, really bad part!!  Get rid of that JUNK many people call food!!  It could very well just be CHEMICALS!!  There is a term that the FDA uses that is known as "GRAS" and this stands for "Generally Recognized as Safe".  Do you really want to put something in your body that is considered that?  Not anymore for me!!

Additionally, I had written a few days ago to Tom's of Maine products.  I received back an email with basically the same response regarding their use of sulfites in their products.  This is a quote from their email!!  "We've been using sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) in our toothpastes since the mid-70s. Our SLS is naturally sourced from coconut oil or palm kernel oil, and meets our standards of safe, effective and sustainable ingredients."  Basically they are saying it is a 40 year old standard that is GRAS and they aren't changing it!!  They said also " That said, we do have a few SLS-free toothpastes, which you can likely find at your local health food store or directly through us at"  Though I have NEVER been able to find the ingredients free of this in any store or online!!  If anyone can identify it for me, I would appreciate it.  Anyone allergic to a substance over time can potentially have a life-threatening reaction that could kill them if exposed to the ingredient!  I for one am not taking the chance.  Would you?

       UPDATE!!  Toms Of Maine wrote back again today (August 28, 2012) and here is there reply to what I said to them:  I replied to them:

"Well that is a really generic answer and doesn't really tell me WHICH ones are free of it. I have yet to figure it out or find one that is free of it. Additionally, times have DRASTICALLY changed in 40 years!! While it  'may' be considered 'relatively safe', for those allergic - it can be deadly! You all really need to consider removing it from your products."

Their response:  "The two SLS-free toothpastes we have are the Clean & Gentle Spearmint, which has fluoride. The other is our brand-new fluoride-free Botanically Bright, which comes in both Peppermint and Spearmint flavors. Like I said, since these are considered specialty products, you are most likely not going to be able to find them in your local drugstore or supermarket and I recommend checking in at your local health or natural food store.

We know of two concerns regarding SLS. The first is its potential to have an adverse effect on a condition known as recurrent aphthous ulcers (canker sores).

The second is that sodium lauryl sulfate can contribute to the formation of a carcinogen. But only if specific criteria is present. This is how that would have to happen:

First it would need to have nitrates present, which it does. It is a botanical ingredient and as such it draws nitrogen from the soil and nitrates are present.

Secondly, the nitrates would have to undergo some sort of manufacturing process that changes them to nitrites (with an “i” instead of an “a”). We do not use this manufacturing process.

Thirdly, the nitrites (again with an i) would have to combine with an amine to form a nitrosamine. Amines are not present in our toothpaste.

Therefore, it is impossible for this ingredient to become a part of anything harmful in our products, and it is not a toxin or a carcinogen. We do not use any ingredients that may be potentially unsafe and will continue to offer both toothpastes that have SLS and are SLS-free

 So, they acknowledge that it isn't safe, yet still use it?  At least they have 2 products now without it and finally told me which ones!!  I haven't had time to see if I can find them.  I will see if I can find it on Thursday when I go to my local health food store.  Be forewarned and avoid products with it in it!!

To read the entire article that Di found, read here:

Products must be unadulterated and clean of chemicals, sulfites, and clearly LABELED with what is in them for people to make informed choices about what they are putting in their bodies!!  Know the facts, make informed decisions, and get the junk out of your bodies!!  Beware of what you are doing to yourselves and how it is is HIDDEN in other things!!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


We had our Dept of Agriculture Processing inspection for spices/dip mixes done today and passed!!  Woo hoo!!  It was kind of nerve wracking to say the least.  We passed with flying colors (though she had some 'issues' with the kitchen).  The issues she had with the kitchen in no way affects us though!!  We don't use the areas of the kitchen that she has issues with at all.  In all she was there about 2 1/2 hours!!  I was so nervous the entire time wondering what she would find 'fault' in!!  All in all she said that all our 'processes' were just fine and that we were quite clean in what we did.  Whew!  Here is our brand new certificate!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dehydrated Ginger!!

Who doesn't like ginger?  I can't think of anyone!  Ginger has known medicinal properties and overall just tastes good!!  It is known to ease an upset stomach, has anti-inflammatory properties, and it aids in the treatment of cough and colds.  There are various other reported benefits that I won't get into here as there isn't really scientific evidence to support it.

Dehydrating ginger and grinding it is so, so easy!!  Buying it already made is quite expensive!!  I was at the grocery store tonight and it was selling for $3.95 a pound for fresh ginger root (myspicesage it is $12.25 a pound!).  I went to the farmer's market on Sunday and picked up a basket weighing about 25 pounds for - now get this ..... $20!!!  That is less than $1.00 a pound!!  What on earth was I going to do with 25 pounds of ginger root?  Well, we decided to dehydrate much of it but also make candied ginger (crystallized)!!  It too is quite expensive!!  On myspicesage, one cup of ground ginger is going for $9.00.  A 4oz bag is $4.50.  How much ground did I end up with?  2 1/2 cups!  We haven't even measured the crystallized yet as we haven't quite finished that yet and I still have about 25% left to go through!  Crystallized on myspicesage runs for $4.50 for 4 oz.  They don't sell it by the cup but for 16oz (1lb) it is $13.25.  I would say that all in all I got more than my money's worth!  Now mind you, about 40 percent of it is wasted from peeling!!  So, don't fret when you lose a good bit of weight when you do this!!  Here is the process for the dehydrated.

 The full basket of ginger!!

Sliced and on the tray (I used my food processor and used the slicer blade!  Quick and easy!!).

Dried ginger - done at 135 degrees for 8 hours (this was 8 trays worth!!)

2 1/2 cups of ground ginger!!  LOL!  I think I burned out my spice grinder!!  Luckily I had two and just switched to the other one.

 My house smells wonderful as we wait for the crystallized ginger!!  It is still cooking down in the 'syrup'!  We will have quite a bit of that as well!!  Can't Wait!! Enjoy the fruits of your labor at much less expense!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Coming Soon!! Cinna-Sub!!

I've talked about substituting for Cinnamon for those allergic to it, but now I will have a great mix just for you!!  Coming soon - Cinna-Sub!!  A proprietary blend of 3 wonderful spices to help you forget your allergy!!  You can use it in place of wherever you would use cinnamon!!  Isn't that incredible! So, stay tuned!!  My supplies will be here very soon and my 'recipe' is ready!!  I'm so excited!!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Cactus Combo Jam!

When I was at the Farmers Market two weeks I spied a little fruit that I had not seen in a long, long time.  I use to see it all the time when I lived in California, but never had I seen it here in South Carolina!  Cactus Pear!!  They were at a pretty good price as well (3/$1.00).  So, I bought a bunch and got them home to make a great jam!  Here is what I came up with!!

Cactus Combo Jam!

9 Cactus Pears (peeled) and pureed in a food processor (with the seeds!)
Zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp Vanilla Paste
2 cups of Demarara Sugar (Raw Sugar)
1 pkg of Low Sugar Sure Jel

Be sure you peel the entire peel of the cactus pear (mine had no 'thorns' so I didn't have to wear gloves! You can find directions online on how to peel the pears here).  Puree the center of the pear in a food processor, seeds and all.  Combine the remaining ingredients except the sure jel until it reaches a boiling point.  Simmer 5 minutes.  Add the sure jel and bring to a boil again for one minute.  Ladle into prepared jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Water bath jar for 10 minutes.  Yield is approx 2 half pints and 1 quarter pint (depending on size of cactus pears!).  It tastes oh so good!!  I will definitely be making more of this!!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Perils of Soda - does it contain carcinogens? Hmmmm????

Every single day I am counseling patients regarding diet and nutrition to get their diabetes, hypertension, obesity, or high cholesterol in check.  I live in the 'South' in an area that is known as the 'Stroke Belt'.  We have a very high percentage of patients that due to diet, lack of exercise, and poor overall nutrition that have a high morbidity and mortality (death and dying) from these diagnoses than the majority of other states.  While other factors may play a part, one of the biggest factors is the intake of sugared drinks, especially soda.  Why is this?  Two of the biggest manufacturers of soda were invented here in the South - Pepsi and Coke.  Pepsi was invented in NC and Coke in GA so there is a lot of heritage here as well.

One of the problems with it though is the formulations that have changed over the years.  Manufacturers have developed ways to speed the process, keep it from spoiling, etc that so many chemicals go into making them that they really are not healthy for you at all.  Numerous studies prove it over and over.  I was reading the label of just one 'diet' soda tonight and am wondering 'why' some of these things are even in soda!!  Potassium citrate, potassium benzoate, 'natural flavors' (what are they?), calcium disodium EDTA, caramel coloring, and the notorius aspartame.

Let's start with Potassium citrate.  What is it and what is it used for?  Potassium citrate is actually a drug used to keep the urine from becoming too acidic.  It is used in foods to keep foods from becoming too acidic or as a preservative.  It is not intended to be used in individuals with problems with swallowing, adrenal gland problems, uncontrolled diabetes, heart problems, peptic ulcers, high potassium levels, kidney problems and more.  So, what's it doing in soda?  Side effects of too much potassium citrate include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart problems, kidney stones, dehydration, and more.  Again, this is in soda because?  Hmmmm...

Potassium benzoate - this is a preservative but when combined with citric acid and sodium it can form the chemical benzene - a known carcinogen!!  Almost all soda these days contain sodium.  Recently Coke and Pepsi were in a dispute with California regarding labeling over several factors.  This was one of them but the other was caramel coloring.  More on that in a moment.

Natural flavors - These can be anything!  If you have allergies like I do, and some are so extraneous you can't afford to NOT know what exactly is in your food or drink!  Please LABEL ALL INGREDIENTS!!

Calcium disodium EDTA - The full scientific name is Calcium disodium ethylene diamine tetraacetate.  Calcium disodium EDTA is made from formaldehyde, sodium cyanide, and Ethylenediamine!!  It is used as a preservative to prevent 'metals from chelating (binding) together.'   'It inhibits rancidity (disagreeable odor or taste of decomposing oils or fats) in salad dressings, mayonnaise, sauces, and sandwich spreads.'  So, think long and hard when you drink a soda containing this!!

Caramel coloring - let's face it, when we make 'caramel' at home, we heat sugar at a high heat and it colors it the wonderful caramel color we are use to.  Well, this takes time.  Bottling companies don't have the time we do at home.  They have a lot to bottle in a short period of time.  It use to be done the old fashioned way, but not any more.  Today, they utilize 'chemicals' to get that color!!  In CA, they were going to be required to list it as a carcinogen as well!!  Here is a quote from the Center for Science in the Public Interest statement  "The carcinogen forms when ammonia or ammonia and sulfites are used to manufacture the ‘caramel coloring' that gives those sodas their distinctive brown colors."  So, when you drink or eat today's 'caramel coloring' you are ingesting ammonia and/or sulfites!!  The FDA even took up their (CSPI's) petition for review due to the evidence they found.

Sodium - why on earth do they add sodium to soda?  It is reported they put it in soda to enhance the flavor and to act as a preservative.  But, it also makes you more thirsty!

Aspartame - to date, no known long term effects are known.  It is known however that there are individuals who have headaches, neurological effects, stomach problems and more.  It is a chemically created sugar!!  Not good to drink for anyone.

Caffeine - a natural diuretic and stimulant.  It hypes your body up and can dehydrate you.  You may be drinking that soda for the 'water' but you end up urinating it out because of all the caffeine!!  Do you really need to be dependent on caffeine?  Hmmmm, caffeine dehydrates you, salt makes you thirsty, caffeine also raises your blood pressure, it's a viscous cycle!!  No wonder people are addicted to caffeine!!  It's scandalous!!

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) or Sugar (regular soda) - I don't care what corn manufacturers and soda companies try to tell people - there IS a difference between the two!!  HFCS is far more rapidly absorbed into the body as it is already broken down into tiny molecules much more readily absorbed by the body.  Sugar isn't as broken down and has to be broken down more by the body.  Just 24 oz of soda a day over 1 month is the equivalent of drinking 5 pounds of sugar a month (or 60 pounds per year!!).  That's a LOT of sugar!!

Lastly, the carbonated water.  Carbonated water contains phosphoric acid.  As anyone that has had any biology or chemistry would know an 'acid' eats at things!!  This acid particularly likes calcium!!  Your bones and teeth are made of CALCIUM!!  Without that much needed calcium it sets you up for kidney stones, osteoporosis and fractures.  I use to work in the emergency room for nearly seven years.  I use to see CHILDREN come into the ER with flank pain, blood in their urine and urinary calcium crystals!!  All signs of kidney stone formation.  This should never happen in a child!!  All they drank was SODA.  Not good, not healthy at all!!!

Okay, I give out the information..... what you do with it is up to you as I tell my patients.  You can lead a horse to water but you can't force them to drink.  I haven't had a soda in about seven years.  It feels good.  You don't miss it after a while and you know that it is doing a body good to go without it.  For information on making your own 'healthy' soda, check out this blog!  Saving naturally!! So, have I convinced you yet?  I sure hope so!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Dehydrated Red Bell Peppers

Red Bell Peppers can be very expensive!  I use them in dip mixes, soup mixes, salads, and more.  At the grocery store they can run $3 a piece to purchase!  This past weekend I got them for a steal!  I got a bushel of 28 peppers for a mere $18!!!  That is about $0.65 each!!  I've NEVER been able to get them for that price!!  It was the end of the day and the farmers market was about to close, so I think I may have caught him off guard. LOL!!  You really have to know how to work with the farmers to get the best deal.  I often go back to the same places and buy in bulk as well (not just a small basket).  To make matters worse, to purchase them dehydrated is really, really expensive.  At MySpiceSage, red bell peppers are $10.50 for one cup!!  The amount I got from the ones that I picked up yielded me nearly six cups of dried peppers!!  AND, we didn't dry them all!!  We used about 3 cups (before dehydrating) for recipes.  Here they are!!

On the tray prior to dehydrating.

On the tray after dehydrating.  YES, they shrink that much!!  This was 12 hours at 135 degrees.

And in the jars!!  Yep, 3 pints (nearly six cups!!)

So, don't hesitate to 'shop around' the various vendors at your farmers market!!  Get the best deal, haggle, go back and promise to go back!!  It helps everyone!!  I frequent a small farmer from a nearby town at our State Farmer's Market (and I make sure he knows it!).  Have fun cooking and preserving!!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

PC Failure!! Oh no!

I had planned on doing a different post today, but this is important.  While finishing up my sweet potatoes, I had the last batch in the PC, had it all heated, vented for 10 minutes and waited for the locking mechanism to 'pop up'.  When it didn't I used some tongs to see if it would raise and to my surprise it didn't!!  It came OUT!!  Oh no!!  Here is a pic of what I am talking about as for the locking mechanism, this is a drawing of a PC and refer to number 5.

I had to turn the heat down (didn't want to lose all that hot water!!) and took the top off.  What on earth happened?  I peered into the water (avoiding the steam!) and lo and behold the screw that held the locking mechanism on was in the bottom of the PC!!  NO!!  I used some tongs and reached in and grabbed it.  Using oven mitts I screwed it back on.  Then had to restart the PC.  All that time lost!!

Here's what it looks like apart.

So, I finally got the rest of the sweet potatoes done.  Learning point in this?  Though I always check my seal and gauge I had not been checking this piece!!  I will now!!  Be sure and check all connections, screws, etc. prior to using your PC every time!!  Lesson learned!!  Have a great day everyone!!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dehydrating Dill!

My dill plants have not been doing well despite the rain we have been having.  Not sure why.  Usually I can't keep it cut back enough!!  I went to the farmers market and picked up two great bunches of organic dill and decided to dehydrate it for my dip mixes as it is just so expensive to buy it already dried.  Here is how it went:

Into the dehydrator:

I had SIX trays from two bunches of dill just like this.  I set the temp to 135 degrees for about 4 hours and it was done.  I did use the 'sticky' sheets as I knew it would shrink up a good bit and didn't want it to 'fall' into the cracks!

All dried!!

It was all dried and ready to get it off the stems!!  Now comes the fun! LOL!!  I placed a sheet of parchment paper on the counter and took all the bits off the sheet and put it on there.

That's a lot of dill!!  Or is it?  At this point it is still on the stems!  Time to get cracking!  Or should I say 'rubbing'!  You need to rub the stems between your palms to get the dill off the stems.  It took a bit of time but it is soooo worth it!!  It smelled so good too!!  Remove the stems as you go!

All stems and bits that you can't use are now removed!!  Time for jarring!!  Wow, that's all that's left?

All done and in the jar!!  Yep, not a lot but well worth it.  Organic, smells heavenly and oh so good!!  About 4 oz of wonderful Heaven (this is weight not volume!)!!  It only took a few hours and only cost me $6.  This is a little less than MySpiceSage price.  If you grow your own, it's free!!  My dill is finally starting to grow (and it's organic too!) but it will be a bit before it is ready.  There you have it!!  So, dry your own and save money!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Artificial Blueberries? Really?

A friend of mine from Facebook found this incredible story about this and I just had to share!!  I've posted before about artificial food coloring, but artificial blueberries?  What on earth are the food companies doing to us?  No wonder we are getting heavier and heavier and having more and more diseases including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancers!  These 'chemicals' they are using (including petroleum to make food dyes!) are contributing to this continuing epidemic!!

Learn to read your food labels!!  If it has high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial food colorings (Red Dye, Blue Dye, Yellow Dye, etc) DON'T BUY IT!!  Put it back and find something else that has REAL foods in them!!  Watch the video and learn what I'm talking about and stop the epidemic of chronic diseases!!  Blueberries Faked by Food Companies!!  Thanks Erin for finding this and sharing!!