Food Friday: More on Edible Gifts

There are 23 days until Christmas ! There is still time to assemble some economical, healthful and delicious food gifts ! 

Traditionally, holiday food gifts are sweets and baked goods, and this is great for special occasions. If however, you’d like to focus on more healthful choices, here are some suggestions. Think savory, and think beyond food, per se. 


Recipes for all these are easily found on the internet and especially on Pinterest. Please feel free to follow me and check out my boards on Paleo Nutrition and Gifts. 


When you prepare a holiday food gift, make the containers part of the gift. Baskets, jars and decorative boxes are widely available at craft, sewing, or even hardware stores. 

To make your gift really nice, include an artful hand lettered card or tag about how to use the gift. Perhaps include it's recipe if it is prepared. To make the gift really deluxe, include a book. For example, A spice oriented gift could be a selection of jarred and labelled spices in a nice basket, complete with a book on spice mixes. 

Be sure to make a list of all the people you wish to acknowledge, thank, or regale with gifts. Start now if you haven’t already. Have a plan and keep it simple. Doing so will reduce stress during the busy holiday. More importantly, it will give you more joy during the process. 

Wellness Wednesday: Natural Home Cleaning 

There are many cleaning products on the market now which are safe, effective and appealing. But they sure can be expensive. In this post, we will go over the general concerns with conventional cleaning methods, the basic principles of healthy cleaning, and finally the “ ingredients” you will need to make your own cleaning supplies for a fraction of the cost. 


Scary clean

Scary can come about in several ways: if you use toxic cleaning products, if you mix cleaning products, if you use standard cleaning products incorrectly, or, if you let something become so soiled over time that only the most powerful solvents will get it clean. 

Medline Plus, a resource of the National Institute for Health (NIH), has produced a page on household cleaning products which is worth bookmarking: 


Medline Plus Household Products

(click to view)


They start by explaining that many common household substances are potentially toxic enough to cause illness, birth defects, or even death.



You might think safe natural cleaning is all about what you clean with; but there is much more to it. 





Principles of Safe Cleaning 

  • Keep up on your cleaning so things do not get really difficult to clean. 
  • Read the label of any cleaner, natural or otherwise. Make sure you know what it is made of. They all should be powerful chemicals; that’s why they can get things clean. 
  • Keep cleaning materials in their original container, with their labels on, so they can be identified. This holds true for homemade cleaning solutions, whose labels should include all their ingredients. 
  • Store all cleaning materials, natural or otherwise, away from children and pets. 
  • Never mix cleaning solutions. Bleach and ammonia for example, may react, ignite or explode. 
  • Volatile hydrocarbons, even from naturals like mineral oil, can be combustible so they may not be used near open flame. 
  • Before cleaning, prepare. 
  • Assemble your supplies and materials. 
  • Assemble your outfit ! Yes, in many cases, you need to wear protective clothes, put your hair up, wear some gloves, and have some eye protection. It won’t hurt either to have some music, TED talks, or audiobooks set up for easy listening. 
  • Do one area at a time. 
  • Turn the lights on, and clear away as many items and furniture as are practical. Open the windows or otherwise secure good ventilation. 

Then and only then, you can clean easily and safely. 


There are many “ recipes” on the internet for home made natural or less toxic cleaning solutions, all complete with tableaux style photos which invariably include bundles of lavender and the obligatory lemon wedge.  The very best resource I found was a link from the National Institute of Health to this page : 

Twelve Home Cleaning Recipes

( Lemon and Lavender not included.) 

Click on the title link to view precise recipes AND instructions to get the most out of these solutions. They have all been tested for both performance and safety at the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at University of Massachusetts, Lowell. Very rigorous ! 

Their ingredients list

Their ingredients list

These are all available at standard grocery stores ( even Murphys’ oil) , as are jars and spray bottles. Labels can be obtained at an office supply store. I recommend writing down the recipes somewhere, i.e. in a note taking app, or even into your family cookbook. The labels do get drizzled on in the course of cleaning, and may run even with sharpie pen labelling. You will not want to lose the recipes. 

Cleaning is a chore, but it should not be unsafe or miserable. I recommend being well prepared, and using products that you like, whether homemade or purchased. If you make your own, you may also consider adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil to your solutions, to make your task smell as good as possible. I also am a big fan of taking the time to set up a pleasant listening experience. Happy cleaning. 



Next week we will explore safe gardening, as the gardening season approaches.

Food Friday: Soup is Soul Food

Every cook should know how to make homemade soup, especially those on a budget and those interested in eating healthy.

Two weeks ago I wrote an unusual post about how to make soup stock. It might seem like an unusual post for blog on Obstetrics, Gynecology, and healthy lifestyle, but not when you take a closer look.

One pillar of healthy lifestyle is healthy eating and another pillar is a healthy home life. Home cooked food can help with both. Soup is one of the most comforting and potentially healthy home cooked foods. It is also one of the easiest, of course once you know how. Homemade soup is also one of the thriftiest things to make since you can utilize leftovers and assorted ingredients from the refrigerator, garden, or pantry.

How to start? As always, start by cleaning up any stray dishes in the kitchen, organizing, and assembling your ingredients. Thaw any broth you have frozen. If you have not made frozen broth you can obtain good organic broth in three different flavors at any natural food store. You can also get a jarred  broth concentrate, also organic, at most grocery stores and at Costco as well.

Determine the vegetables you want to include. I'm a fan of great variety, But you can also make a vegetable flavored soup and emphasize one or two flavors such as red pepper. Prepare all of the vegetables by washing trimming and cutting them to the appropriate size.

I try to ask my patients to emphasize the protein in their diet. Decide what the protein in your soup will be. Consider chicken, red meat, fish, seafood,or even eggs. Cut your choice into bite-size pieces.  If you can tolerate legumes like beans and peas and can handle the carbohydrate that they bring, those can be included as well. Prepare all these ingredients so that they are ready to put in the pot.

I like to try to make my soup with only one pot. Choose your pot based on the volume that you want to make. Make sure it is extra large so that when you stir it with a long wooden spoon nothing will spill out.

Use a good cooking olive oil to sauté your first ingredients.These would include garlic, onions, or chilies if they are in your recipe. You will do them first so that they will flavor the oil. Make sure to use enough olive oil on the bottom of the pan. After this, Add your meat, chicken, or fish. Sauté until golden brown, but not fully done. I like to add fairly heavy spices to the cooking meat at this point since the flavor seems to penetrate better than adding it later. Then add your vegetables one by one and cook them until partially done, going from the hardest such as carrots to the softest such as spinach at the last.

When everything seems partially and evenly done, add liquid. I usually add a a half a cup of either red or white wine first. This adds to the depth of flavor. Then I add my broth, at least enough to cover all the hard ingredients, and usually more. I may or may not add a can of diced or stewed tomatoes, depending on the flavor I want to achieve. All you have to do at that point is bring it to a boil briefly, then simmer until the hardest vegetables are fork tender. If you intend for your meats to get very tender, they will have to simmer at least a couple hours. 

This is a good general recipe for a variety of different kinds of soup. You can make it with a large variety of different vegetables and if you add beans and a little pasta it turns out like a minestrone. If you add only a few vegetables and a lot of beans, tomato paste as well as onions and chilies, you have chili. You can pick a vegetable theme such as green vegetables and limit yourself to just a few onions, leeks, spinach, and kale. If you make a broth-y chicken soup with napa cabbage, ginger and green onions, you can drop whisked eggs into it and have egg drop soup. You can do the classic pumpkin soup especially at this time of year. Or you can go with the popular roasted red pepper soup.

If you have athletes, children or adolescents in the home, you can afford to serve this soup with a good whole-grain bread. Otherwise, it should stand on its own. You can always add a side salad and cold glasses of milk, to round it out.

Have fun with your soup and add some garnish. Garnishes can be anything from grated cheese or sour cream to minced green onions, parsley, crumbled hard-boiled eggs, sliced almonds or Siracha sauce. 

You will find that people tend to gather around a kitchen table with a good homemade soup. Having a sitdown family dinner with soup is good for health and good for the soul.