Monday, November 26, 2007

Soups and Teas

I've been amazed lately at what I can do with a pot of boiling water.

This isn't exactly new to me, but it's something I'm doing more and more often and it's having amazing results on our health. Although listening to the chorus of coughing in the other room it might not seem like it.

The last couple of weeks the children have all been sick. We thought it was just a cold and nothing to worry about. They have been active and playful and well, normal, except that their noses are runny and they cough a lot. Then yesterday Sam got bad and we realized that it's probably the flu we're dealing with (which explains why this cold was lasting SO long) and we've just been in really good shape considering!

Well, when funds were tighter than usual in October I started making soup more often. It's really a rather cheap way to stretch food dollars. I could take a frozen chicken and plunk it in a big pot of water. While it was coming to a boil I could chop up a bunch of fresh veggies like carrots and potatoes, throw in some frozen veggies from the freezer that I'd stocked up on while they were on sale, add some salt, pepper, thyme, garlic and onion, maybe throw in some brown rice (white rice gets mushy too fast and you have to add it later. Plus it's not as good for you.) or barley, then let it all simmer for an hour or so. Pull a loaf of homemade bread out of the cabinet, remove the bones and add the meat back in, and voila! An inexpensive, tasty meal. And to top it off, it usually lasts us two nights. It is really good for you. It turns out that boiling all that stuff in a pot of water doesn't just feed you, it nourishes you. It draws out all those vitamins and minerals and then we eat it up (or sop it up in the bread). So for probably less than $10, I was feeding my family a good meal for 2 nights! I started making soup once a week--which means we eat it twice a week-- and no one is tired of it yet.

So then I started making tea. I've got a cabinet full of herbs that I bought at over the last couple of years. When the sniffles hit and didn't seem to be going away, I decided to brew up a big batch of tea. I just put on a pot of water to boil and started adding handfuls of this and that. I included a handful of stevia leaves to sweeten it so there is no sugar needed and no honey even! Plus the stevia is kind of good for you (helps fight cavities?)! Then I strained it over ice into a 5 gallon cooler, added some cold water and we have iced tea. It's great! Everyone loves the taste of it and it is so good for you! All those great vitamins and minerals in those leaves get drawn out by the boiling water and then we drink them down. We don't drink juice or tea or soda around here. It's usually just milk at meals and water any other time. This has been a very welcome addition and it's so easy to do! But we ran out Saturday and I didn't make more soon enough. Saturday night several of the kids got worse than having sniffles. They developed fevers and worse sore throats and Sam got croup and had trouble breathing. I made a new batch of tea, plus a special batch of good, strong licorice tea to add separately to the sick ones cups (not safe for pregnant or nursing moms)and they started to feel better right away. I was amazed!

All that by just boiling water.

I'm really impressed with the taste of the stevia. I'm wanting to see what else I can do with that. I was thinking we should be able to make some tea with just the stevia leaves and use that in place of water and sugar in some recipes (maybe start with oatmeal?) to avoid using sugar. Then it occurred to me that that is so obvious someone else must have thought of such a thing. So I turned to the internet to search for recipes. What I found was that since the FDA won't approve stevia as a sweetener (but aspartame is okay?!? I guess the stevia growers need more lobbyists, huh?) you can't sell cookbooks telling how to use it as a sweetener. Isn't this a violation of freedom of speech or something? But now I'm confused because I finally found where they have recipes and sell it as a sweetener. Anyway, I'll be doing some experimenting in my own kitchen. I'd like to figure out how to use it starting with the leaves rather than buying the refined extract. It seems to me that part of the problem with sugar being bad for you is from refining it--you take out what little nutrients were there in the first place. But maybe I can boil it down and try using it very concentrated. We'll see. If I have any successes, I'll share. For now, I do know that it works great added to our tea!


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