Thursday, January 31, 2013

Influenza, Sassy Style

Yeah, well, we got the flu.

Now just a minute and listen up.  The flu is NOT a stomach virus.  At all.  The flu is influenza.  It is a high fever, aches, head ache, exhaustion, burning dry cough in the chest, and maybe some head congestion.  It comes on fast.  And knocks you flat.

A stomach bug is gastroenteritis and you will vomit and go poo for a day and then be better.  Trust me on this one.  There is NO such thing as the stomach flu.  Some kids will get stomach upset with influenza, most likely from fever or nasty draining mucus into their tender tummies.


We have the flu.  It was generously brought home by Eric from a business trip.  Thanks, pal.  I figured we'd end up with it, being it's so widespread and he was flying on a plane, etc.

We don't get flu shots.  Ever.  My kids have never had one.  My last one was in the 1970s during the 'swine flu' epidemic scare.

We do, however, try to prevent the flu.  This elderberry syrup is the number one virus and illness prevention known to man.  Ok, known to me.  Cheap and easy to make.

But some people still get sick.  Which brings me to "comfort care."

My big teen started the fun last week.  I found him fast asleep at 830 on a Friday night on my bed.  I woke him up, said "what's up?" and he coughed.  Oh yay!

I give tylenol or advil for fever relief if the fever interferes with sleep (theirs or mine).  Or if they are just plain miserable.  But if they can tolerate it a bit, we let it ride and do the good work fever was designed to do.

Healing Bath
This is basically 1 cup epsom salts (drug store, grocery store, Target), 1/4 cup sea salt (not necessary, but nice), 2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and then 5-10 drops of each eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oils.  I like to get my oils at:

Mix all those ingredients in a big bowl (with a spoon, or with your hands) and put it in a glass jar with a lid.  You might have to break up the clumps of oil in the salts first.

Then, when someone is sick, put 1/2 cup of this good mixture into a warm or hot bath, swirl to dissolve, and let the oils lift from the steam into the respiratory passages, and soak through the skin, and do wonders.

Another great product from Beeyoutiful.  Remember the old vapo-rub our moms would put on our chests when we had a cough?  This is the natural, healing, wonderfully safe and healthy version!

I rub this on their chests, their necks, their shoulders, and even under the nose for serious sinus congestion.  Be careful around the eyes, the essential oils can sting a bit.

I will never cease to wax poetic about the qualities of good, home made broth from chicken or turkey or beef bones, and a bunch of aromatics and herbs.  It is salty and full of minerals and vitamins and gelatin and so many good things to heal the body inside and out.  AND, with the low appetite of the flu, it's a way to get a few calories in the body while hydrating at the same time.

Easy to make.  Really easy.  I just put 8 more quart containers of turkey broth into my freezer.  I bought up a bunch of frozen turkey parts (backs and necks) from my health food store.

Serve it by the mug to your flu patients.  Even tiny tots.

Sick Tea
Not a great title, but a great thing to sip.  Full of spicy aromatic ingredients, it revs up the internal furnace of the body to fight off sickness, soothe sore throats, ease coughs, and of course hydrate.

Three main ingredients - fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, and lemon.  Recipe?

About 2 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped into big pieces.  3-4 cinnamon sticks.  1/2 a lemon, sliced or quartered.  One pot of water, at least a quart to start.  Raw (or not) honey at the ready.  Simmer the ginger, cinnamon and lemon in the water on low for as long as you like.  I keep it going all day, add more water as we drink the tea, turn it off at night and let it sit, start it up again the next day.  The longer, the better and stronger.

Pour off the liquid into a mug, stir in a big spoon of honey, and sip away.

Now, Sassy is not going to brag (much) but I am grateful for an easy flu outbreak in our home.  Eric had a light case, James got sacked pretty hard but only in bed for 3 days, Carlton and Elsa each had two days in bed followed by a wee lingering cough, and Asher is a new case today with a mild sore throat, bit of a head ache, and his chest hurts some.  No fever yet.  Wesley, Sally and I are still standing.

But if we fall?  We are ready.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

The kids and I just finished a unit study on Africa.

This year we've "visited" Europe, North America, and South America.  Now that we've left Africa, we'll make a stop in Asia and then finish with Australia/Oceana.

We try to cook a little something from each place we learn about.  I'm not so great on the crafting and artsy stuff, but dang!  we can cook what we learn.

I knew they would not go for Peanut Soup.

And it's hard to procure Zebra or Giraffe meat out of season.

So Moroccan Chicken Tagine it was.  And it was good.  All sorts of flavors we love around here - cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, turmeric.  Sweet apricots and honey.  Spicy cinnamon.  Fresh cilantro.  Good for the Sassy family.

Lots of recipes I found called for almonds - we skipped.  None of them asked for a dry rub on the chicken - I did it anyway.  I doubled the amount of dried apricots.

That's 12 chicken thighs and a whole package of couscous there.  We are hungry folks.  I'll give you the amounts for 8 pieces of chicken.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
1/2 tsp EACH cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other oil with a high smoking point)
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 1" piece of fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2 tsp EACH (again) of the spices above
handful of fresh cilantro stems, minced (reserve leaves for garnish)
handful of fresh parsley stems, minced (reserve leaves for couscous)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dried apricots
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons honey
1 - 15 ounce can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
large handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 box couscous, cooked according to package directions, with fresh chopped parsley added

Sprinkle the chicken with the spices - rub it all over and turn to coat.  Let it sit while you chop and prep other ingredients.

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil on medium high heat.  In batches of 3 or 4 at a time, brown the chicken, skin side down first, for about 6-8 minutes.  Remove to a plate.

Add the onion and carrot to the oil.  Turn the heat down to medium and cook until it starts to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the ginger and the parsley and cilantro stems, plus the other half teaspoon of each of the spices, salt and pepper.  Stir.  Add the apricots and chicken broth, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the sides of the pot.  Bring to a slow boil.

Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, crowding them in and nestling them into the sauce - skin side up.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes until the chicken is tender.

Prepare the couscous.

Remove the chicken to a platter.  Add the honey and the chick peas to the pot, stirring and simmering, taste for salt and pepper.

Arrange the chicken and sauce on a large platter.  Surround with couscous or have it all to one side if your people like their couscous "unsauced."  Sprinkle the entire platter with fresh chopped cilantro.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chocolate Sauce

Hershey's syrup is funk.

There, I said it.  Never plan to be a spokesperson for the company, so it's all good.

And it is SO EASY to make your own chocolate syrup.  A few cups of home made syrup costs a fraction of the cost of the squeezy bottle kind, and lasts as long in your fridge (unless you have teens, then it's gone way sooner) and tastes a million times better.

See this cake?

That's an angel food cake (from a box, no one can be funk-free ALL the time).

Then you frost it with real whipped cream which has some of your home made chocolate syrup whipped in at the end.

But since you love chocolate, you drizzle some extra syrup on top of the cake before serving.

This stirs beautifully into milk for chocolate milk or hot chocolate.  It is perfect on ice cream.  It really only needs a spoon and your mouth, but I have no idea personally.  Ahem.

I googled and polled friends and tried several recipes and figured out the combo of ingredients that works best for me.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Syrup

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp corn starch
2 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring water and sugar to a simmer, stirring often.  When sugar is dissolved, whisk in cocoa, salt and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour into a quart jar, cover and refrigerate.  You can also store it in squeeze bottles for easy use.