Wednesday, February 20, 2013

For more tips and Advice, visit my other Blog

Lazy Day Brunch Bread

You know those days when you wake up after breakfast but not yet lunch and really don’t feel like making anything too time consuming? Well this lazy day brunch bread is a super quick fix with the yum factor:)

Cut a loaf of bread in squares without cutting until the bottom of the bread.

In between the gaps, add cheese and any fresh herbs to your liking and place in the oven just to melt at medium heat until slightly browned.

You can also use garlic paste, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, ham…just about anything you like! 

Homemade Cooking Spray


Avoid the nasty propellants in commercial cooking sprays by making a homemade version!
  • 1 part olive oil (or your choice of oil)
  • 4-5 parts boiled distilled/filtered water (start with 3, and work your way up)
  • 1 misting spray bottle
  1. Sterilize your spray bottle in boiling water.
  2. Place oil and water into spray bottle.
  3. Shake well before use.
  4. Store in the fridge for no longer than a week or so.
Do you use cooking spray in your kitchen? Try this homemade version and let me know what you think!
Some more notes: (This post is the #2 most popular link on this site, and in the process, I’ve read numerous comments with tips, suggestions, and concerns. So below are some of the most common points to consider):
  • As with all homemade alternatives, this will not work as well as the commercial products, so don’t expect it to. You may need to experiment to get it to work properly for you. If all else fails, some good ol’ straight oil or butter in a pan always works!
  • I use this more for baking than I do for cooking on the stove. I make mostly cookies, muffins, and quick breads, and find that if I spray a good amount on the pans, it mostly works pretty well. I may have to help my muffins out of the tin a bit, and sometimes there are tiny muffin crumbs left in the tin, but I don’t really mind it. Again, if I’m really concerned with sticking issues (like in cake pans, for example), I just brush on some melted butter or straight oil.
  • DO NOT spray this onto a HOT pan! The water will make it to splatter everywhere, and may cause burns! Instead, spray it onto a cold pan, and let it heat up gradually; in the process, the water will evaporate, leaving the oil to do its thing.
  • The bottle in the pictures is NOT food-grade plastic, so I would recommend sourcing either a food-grade plastic spray bottle, or a glass spray bottle with a fine mist. Here’s a good site someone shared:
  • Yes, oil and water do not mix, but giving the bottle a quick shake/swirl will allow them to combine just enough to be sprayed out of the bottle at the same time. The water is only used as a vehicle to propel the oil out of the bottle.
  • I’ve read very mixed reviews on products such as the Misto or Pampered Chef sprayer; some love it, and some hate it. So you may want to try that out if you’re having trouble getting this homemade version to work for you.

Recipe: Sweetheart Cherry Pies


  • pie dough
  • fresh cherries, chopped
  • ricotta cheese
  • sprinkle of sugar
  • 1 TBSP butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Roll out your pie dough (I like to do this between 2 sheets of plastic wrap). Cut out shapes with cookie cutter.
  3. Sprinkle and stir the sugar with the chopped cherries in a bowl.
  4. Lay out your heart cut outs on the baking sheet. Spoon on some fresh ricotta cheese, then spoon on the cherries. Lay down the top dough, seal to press with a fork.
  5. Brush the top with melted butter.
  6. Bake for about 15 minutes or until mini hearts are golden brown. The baking time will largely depend on the thickness of your pastry dough and your oven. Just keep close watch.
  7. Cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

The Benefits of Hydrogen Peroxide and its Many Uses

by Andrea Harper

Hydrogen peroxide is the only germicidal agent composed only of water and oxygen. Like ozone, it kills disease organisms by oxidation! Hydrogen peroxide is considered the worlds safest all natural effective sanitizer. It kills microorganisms by oxidizing them, which can be best described as a controlled burning process. When hydrogen peroxide reacts with organic material it breaks down into oxygen and water.

Whiten Clothes – An Alternative to Beach
Add a cup of Peroxide to white clothes in your laundry to whiten them. Peroxide is great to get rid of blood stains on clothes and carpets. If there is blood on clothing, just pour directly on the spot, let it sit for about a minute, then rub and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.

Your body makes hydrogen peroxide to fight infection which must be present for our immune system to function correctly. White blood cells are known as Leukocytes. A sub-class of Leukocytes called Neutrophils produce hydrogen peroxide as the first line of defense against toxins, parasites, bacteria, viruses and yeast.

Rejuvenating Detoxifying Bath:
Use about 2 quarts 3% hydrogen peroxide to a tub of warm water. Soak at least 1/2 hour, adding hot water as needed to maintain a comfortable water temperature.

Foot Fungus:
To cure a foot fungus, simply spray a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water on them (especially the toes) every night and let dry.

Add 2 capfuls of 3% hydrogen peroxide in warm distilled water once to twice a week to remove even chronic yeast infections.

Colonic or Enema:
For a colonic, add 1 cup (8 ozs.) 3% H202 to 5 gallons warm water. (Do not exceed this amount) For an enema, add 1 tablespoon of 3% H202 to a quart of warm distilled water.

Soak any infections or cuts in 3% for five to ten minutes several times a day. Even gangrene that would not heal with any medicine has been healed by soaking in hydrogen peroxide. Put half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your bath to help rid boils, fungus or other skin infections.

Bird Mites Infections:
Patients infected by tiny mites report that hydrogen peroxide effectively kills the mites on their skins. They spray it on their skin a couple of times (with a few minutes in between the applications) with amazing results.

Sinus Infections:
A tablespoon of 3% hydrogen peroxide added to 1 cup of non-chlorinated water can be used as a nasal spray. Depending on the degree of sinus involvement, one will have to adjust the amount of peroxide used.

Wound Care:
3% H2O2 is used medically for cleaning wounds, removing dead tissue, and as an oral debriding agent. Peroxide stops slow (small vessel) wound bleeding/oozing, as well.
Some sources recommend soaking infections or cuts for five to ten minutes several times a day. However, washing and rinsing action is sufficient. You shouldn’t leave the solution on open tissue for extended periods of time as, like many oxidative antiseptics, hydrogen perioxide causes mild damage to tissue in open wounds. Therefore it is important to use with caution.

Personal Care:

Mouthwash / Tooth Care:
Healing Properties: Take one capful (the little white cap that comes with the bottle) and hold in your mouth for 10 minutes daily, then spit it out. You will not have canker sores and your teeth will be whiter. If you have a terrible toothache and cannot get to a dentist right away, put a capful of 3% hydrogen peroxide into your mouth and hold it for 10 minutes several times a day. The pain will lessen greatly.

Mouthwash: Many people don’t realize that hydrogen peroxide makes a very effective and inexpensive mouthwash. Use 3% H202 – add a dash of liquid chlorophyll for flavoring if desired.

Toothpaste: Use baking soda and add enough 3% H202 to make a paste. Or, just dip your brush in 3% H202 and brush. Soak your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide to keep them free of germs.

Toothbrush: Soaking your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide will help keep them free of harmul germs.
Tooth Ache: Hydrogen peroxide is not a pain killer; however, as an anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-fungal agent, it is effective at treating the pathogen that is causing the infection. The following is from my own personal experience: My dentist wanted to give me a root canal some time ago as one tooth was inflamed and, in her opinion, would die. I felt some discomfort but told her that I would give it chance to heal. I rinsed with hydrogen peroxide (several times a day) as well ascoconut oil (once a day). The discomfort went away and I have had no further problems with the tooth.

Tooth Whitening: Having used 3% Hydrogen Peroxide as a mouth wash for sometime ago, I am thrilled to note that my teeth have been beautifully and effortlessly whitened. I used to pay so much for professional whitening, those silly strips and uncomfortable trays. Live and learn.

NOTE: Do not swallow any peroxide. When the peroxide rinse is done, be sure to rinse out your mouth with water.

Colonic or Enema:
For a colonic, add 1 cup (8 ozs.) 3% H202 to 5 gallons warm water. (Do not exceed this amount) For an enema, add 1 tablespoon of 3% H202 to a quart of warm distilled water.

Hair Lightening:
Peroxide is a bleaching agent and is used for lightened hair. Dilute 3% hydrogen peroxide with water (50 / 50) and spray the solution on your wet hair after a shower and comb it through. You will not have the peroxide burnt blonde hair like the hair dye packages, but more natural highlights if your hair is a light brown, faddish, or dirty blonde. It also lightens gradually so it’s not a drastic change.

Contact Lenses:
Hydrogen peroxide is used as a disinfectant in CIBA Vision’s Clear Care no rub contact lens cleaning solution, due to its ability to break down the proteins that build up on the lense from the eye’s immune response, resulting in increased comfort for those with sensitive eyes.

Sanitizing / Disinfectant / Cleaning

Straight or Diluted Hydrogen Perioxide:
Clean your counters and table tops with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters. Use hydrogen peroxide to clean glass and mirrors with no smearing.

Keep a spray bottle of 3% (straight) to disinfect the interior of the refrigerator and kids’ school lunch boxes.
In the Dishwasher: Add 2 oz. of 3% hydrogen peroxide to your regular washing formula.
Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water and keep it in every bathroom to disinfect without harming your septic system like bleach or most other disinfectants will. After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour or spray hydrogen peroxide (and then vinegar) on it to kill salmonella and other bacteria.
I use peroxide to clean my mirrors with, there is no smearing.

Combination of vinegar and hydrogen peroxidemake a cheap, effective and non-toxic disinfectant agent and is said to be more effective at killing pathogens than bleach.  As it is non-toxic, you can use it to disinfect fruits and vegetables, as well as pet toys, equipment and cages.  In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide mists, kills virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces.

You need TWO spray bottles. DO NOT MIX the solutions together.  Put straight vinegar in one and straight hydrogen peroxide in the other spray bottle.  NOTE: Light destroys peroxide rather quickly. It’s best to leave it in its original bottle and screw in a spray head. DO NOT DILUTE THEM.
Remember for any sanitizer to work properly, the surface has to be clean before you use it.
When you want to sanitize a surface (vegetables, cutting board, counters, sink, cages, toys. toilets, floors, etc.), spray one (it doesn’t matter which one you use first) on the surface, then you spray on the other.  When they mix, for a brief time the chemical action of the two make a very powerful sanitizer.  You can rinse off the surface afterwards, if you want, but the result is non-toxic.
Fortunately it is cheap. BTW, we use it in the bathroom to sanitize the counters, toilets, floors, etc.

Sanitizing Drinking Water

Clean with hydrogen peroxide when your house becomes a biohazard after its invaded by toxic mold, such as those with water damage.

Use 1 pint 3% hydrogen peroxide to 1 gallon of water.

Laundry / Stain Removing:
Stain Remover:
3% Hydrogen Peroxide is the best stain lifter if used fairly soon – although blood stains as old as 2 days have been successfully lifted with Hydrogen Peroxide. Although it will bleach or discolor many fabrics. If a little peroxide is poured onto the stain it will bubble up in the area of the blood, due to a reaction with catalase. After a few minutes the excess liquid can be wiped up with a cloth or paper towel and the stain will be gone.
3% H2O2 must be applied to clothing before blood stains can be accidentally “set” with heated water. Cold water and soap are then used to remove the peroxide treated blood.

You can also add a cup of hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach to a load of whites in your laundry to whiten them. If there is blood on clothing, pour directly on the soiled spot. Let it sit for a minute, then rub it and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.

Peroxide is a perfect alternate solution to keep those clothes white. Also, when chlorinating clothes, they tend to wear out faster – peroxide won’t do that.

Food Preparation:

Vegetable Soak:
Use as a vegetable wash or soak to kill bacteria and neutralize chemicals. Add 1/4 cup 3% H202 to a full sink of cold water. Soak light skinned (light lettuce) 20 minutes, thicker skinned (like cucumbers) 30 minutes. Drain, dry and refrigerate. Prolongs freshness.
If time is a problem, spray vegetables (and fruits) with a solution of 3%. Let stand for a few minutes, rinse and dry.

Meat Sanitizing:
You can also use it to rinse off your meat before cooking.

Leftover tossed salad:
Spray with a solution of 1/2 cup water and 1 Tbsp. 5%. Drain, cover and refrigerate.

Place meat, fish or poultry in a casserole (avoid using aluminium pans). Cover with a dilute solution of equal parts of water and 3% H202. Place loosely covered in refrigerator for 1/2 hour. Rinse and cook.

Sprouting Seeds:
Add 1 ounce 3% hydrogen peroxide to 1 pint of water and soak the seeds overnight. Add the same amount of hydrogen peroxide each time you rinse the seeds.

Grades of Hydrogen Peroxide

A) 3.5% Pharmaceutical Grade: This is the grade sold at your local drugstore or supermarket. This product is not recommended for internal use. It contains an assortment of stabilizers which shouldn’t be ingested. Various stabilizers include: acetanilide, phenol, sodium stanate and tertrasodium phosphate.
B) 6% Beautician Grade: This is used in beauty shops to color hair and is not recommended for internal use.
C) 30% Reagent Grade: This is used for various scientific experimentation and also contains stabilizers. It is also not for internal use.
D) 30% to 32% Electronic Grade: This is used to clean electronic parts and not for internal use.
E) 35% Technical Grade: This is a more concentrated product than the Reagent Grade and differs slightly in that phosphorus is added to help neutralize any chlorine from the water used to dilute it.
F) 35% Food Grade: This is used in the production of foods like cheese, eggs, and whey-containing products. It is also sprayed on the foil lining of aseptic packages containing fruit juices and milk products. THIS IS THE ONLY GRADE RECOMMENDED FOR INTERNAL USE.
G) 90%: This is used as an oxygen source for rocket fuel.

Only 35% Food Grade hydrogen peroxide is recommended for internal use. At this concentration, however, hydrogen peroxide is a very strong oxidizer and if not diluted, it can be extremely dangerous or even fatal. Any concentrations over 10% can cause neurological reactions and damage to the upper gastrointestinal tract. There have been two known fatalities in children who ingested 27% and 40% concentrations of H202. Another reports tells of a 26 month old female who swallowed one mouthful of 35% H202. She immediately began vomiting, followed by fainting and respiratory arrest. Fortunately, she was under emergency room care and although she experienced erosion and bleeding of the stomach and esophagus, she survived the incident. When she was re-examined 12 days later, the areas involved had healed (J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 90;28(1):95-100).

Personal note:  As with ANY food, drug, or supplement, using the product according to instructions is key to safety.  If someone uses too much, then of course ramifications may be felt.  We’ve NEVER heard of ANY harmful side effects from the correct usage of Food Grade hydrogen peroxide.In dire cases of disease, intraveneous use may be recommended.  If you would like to find a doctor in your area trained in the use of intravenous H202 infusion, contact the International Bio-Oxidative Medicine Foundation (IBOM), P.O. Box 13205, Oklahoma City, OK 73113 at (405) 478-4266. They can provide names and addresses of doctors using the procedure in your area.

35% Food Grade H202 must be….
1) handled carefully (direct contact will burn the skin- immediate flushing with water is recommended).
2) diluted properly before use.
3) stored safely and properly (after making a dilution the remainder should be stored tightly sealed in the freezer).
One of the most convenient methods of dispensing 35% H202 is from a small glass eye dropper bottle. These can be purchased at your local drugstore. Fill this with the 35% H202 and store the larger container in the freezer compartment of your refrigerator until more is needed. Store the eye dropper bottle in the refrigerator. The generally recommended dosage is outlined in the chart below.
The drops are mixed with either 6 to 8 ounces of distilled water, juice, aloe vera juice or gel.

(Don’t use chlorinated tap water to dilute the peroxide!)

Why Scalp Treatments Are Important

Here are just a few reasons that a scalp treatment should be a part of your regular beauty routine:
  • Removes product build up (even shampoo and conditioner build up)
  • Relieves dry, flaky, tight skin from winter months
  • Treats dandruff
  • Stimulates the scalp to speed up hair growth
On a more serious note: many scalp related problems including hair loss and slow hair growth are caused by a hardened build-up of sebum that clogs the hair follicles.  Over time this build up may cause some types of scaling, and if not removed may eventually obstruct the hair follicle’s ability to function properly.


  • Scalp treatment bristle brush – natural is best, but all I could find at Sally’s was a nylon brush.  They have a rounded top at the bristles making it easier to roll over the scalp, but even a regular bristle brush can do the job.
  • Ingredients for recipe
  • Application brush or cotton balls 
 Recipe: Take about 4 tablespoons softened coconut oil, mix with 2-4 (depending on sensitivity) drops tea tree oil, and 3-4 drops of rosemary oil.  This is dreamy.

Ingredients from the kitchen:  I mix 4 tablespoons coconut oil with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon grapefruit juice.

You can do a little research and find all sorts of recipes and concoctions for scalp treatments, these are just my favorite.  Rosemary and tea tree oil are both great for treating dry flaky scalps, and stimulate the hair follicle for hair growth, among other things.  You can also adjust the amounts, but keep in mind that tea tree oil can be irritating if you use too much, so use caution.


  • You’ll start on dry hair, and it really makes no difference if it is clean or not.  Starting on top, place the brush on the scalp, rotate it across the scalp while pressing down and pull off in the end.  Repeat across the scalp, parting hair where necessary.  This will stimulate the blood circulation and loosen any dry skin scales.  This should feel good, don’t press so hard that it hurts.
  • Next part the hair down the center and apply the oil mixture to the scalp with the application brush or cotton ball.  Work in one inch sections down the sides of the head, then the back making sure the mixture covers the entire scalp.
  • Now give your scalp a good massage.  Rub with your fingertips in a circular motion all over the scalp.  Leave the treatment on for about 20 minutes.
  • Finish it off with a good shampoo and conditioner.

Homemade Sore Muscle Bath Soak

  • 1/4 Cup Sea Salts
  • 1/4 Cup B
  • 1 Cup Epsom Salts
  • aking Soda
  • 3 drops each of eucalyptus essential oil and rosemary essential oil
Mix together in a small bowl, fill bathtub with hot water and put the salt mixture in under the faucet as it is filling. Soak for at least 20 minutes, preferably with some music, a good book and the door locked so that small kids can’t enter. When done you will be ready to pour yourself into bed immediately afterward.

Braided Cinnamon Wreath

Cinnamon Sweet Bread cinnamon sweet bread
Photo Credit:Ana Maria Ciolacu from Just Love Cooking
I’ve never seen a better looking and tasting braid! Try this fantastic recipe from Just Love Cookin’ and not only your house will smell good but you will love the taste of this cinnamon braid. Ana did a fantastic creation here!!! Get that cup of coffee or hot chocolate and enjoy! This is the best cinnamon roll you will ever taste.

Author: Ana Maria Ciolacu from Just Love Cookin’
Yield: 1 Wreath 

  •  2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast or 0.6 Oz
  • 1/8 cup melted butter
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  •  1/4 cup softened butter
  • 4-5 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tsp cinnamon

  1. Mix the yeast and sugar with the lukewarm milk and let it sit a few minutes while the yeast bubbles and foams up.
  2. Add the egg yolk, the melted butter, the flour and the salt, then knead the dough and shape into a ball.
  3. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, then cover and place in a warm space and let rise until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
  4. Preheat oven to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Dust your work surface with flour, and roll the dough out to a thickness of 1cm.
  5. Spread the melted butter across all of the dough, then sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  6. Roll up the dough, and using a knife, cut the log in half length-wise.
  7. Twist the two halves together, keeping the open layers exposed as described in the photo tutorial. Give a round shape, then transfer to a baking tray (buttered or covered with cookie sheet).
  8. Top the remaining butter and sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
  9. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit after 5-10 minutes to stop it burning. Top with icing sugar mixed with water if you want, just sprinkle some sugar, or eat it like this.

Photo Credit: Ana Maria Ciolacu

Monday, February 18, 2013

Get More Sleep, Lose More Weight

Toxic Effects of Sugar

Weight Problem Solved


Butternut Squash Mini-Pizzas

Cuisine: Paleo
Recipe type: Appetizer
Serves: 4-8
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1 medium butternut squash, choose one with a wide and long neck, as the round and bulging side is hollow and cannot be sliced into rounds
  • 6-8 ounces of dairy-free pesto ( See recipe below)
  • 2 sliced Roma tomatoes
  • 4-6 ounces of cooked nitrate free sausage or grilled veggies
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Peel the squash ( I use a potato peeler) and slice the top part into ¼ inch thick rounds.
  3. Arrange rounds on a greased or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes.
  5. Spread the pesto sauce over each round.
  6. Add toppings and bake until squash is soft.

Food is fuel.....

An Apple a Day......

The Amazing Health Benefits Of Sleeping

Wake Up to the Benefits of Power Napping – Boost Clarity, Happiness and Cardiovascular Health

Linked with clarity, increased performance, memory, mood and even heart health, naps are an economical (and fun) way to boost mental and physical health. Many companies are now sanctioning office nap times to increase productivity and morale. By following a few simple steps, a blissful catnap can become a happy and healthful habit.

Guilt-free napping
Seeking an excuse to grab a bit of shut-eye? Take a look at the following benefits:

Cardiovascular Heath

Greek researchers found that men who took a 30 minute nap at least three times a week lowered their risk of dying from a heart attack by 37 percent. Factors such as smoking, diet and activity level were included in the study.

Healthy Weight Management

When energy naturally drops in the afternoon, coffee and sugar tend to be the usual stimulants of choice. But afternoon sleepiness is a biological rhythm related to a slight decrease in body temperature — nature is telling us that it wants us to take a nap. By attempting to ward off drowsiness with caffeine and sugary snacks, biorhythm is disrupted, extra calories are consumed and a rollercoaster ride of energy spikes and crashes begins. This vicious cycle contributes to unwanted extra pounds.

Alertness, Improved Mood and Performance

A mid-afternoon nap can help with depression, dullness and lack of clarity — all of which can hinder physical and mental performance. As seen in the Harvard Health Letter, a New Zealand study found that “air traffic controllers working the night shift scored better on tests of alertness and performance if they took advantage of a planned nap period of 40 minutes.”

According to Sara Mednick, PhD, sleep medicine researcher and author of Take a nap! Change Your Life, a nap will also:

- Reverse aging
- Strengthen the sex drive
- Accelerate the ability to perform motor tasks
- Enhance how the body utilizes carbs
- Minimize stress hormones
- Alleviate migraines
- Reduce brain chatter before nighttime sleep

Napping basics
A few quick tips to get the most out of a nap:

- Try to keep naps under 45 minutes to avoid grogginess
- Naps are best taken between 1:00 and 3:00 PM
- 30 minute naps improve memory and physical health
- 20 minute naps are revitalizing and help to sharpen the senses
- 10 minute naps help to uplift mood and fend-off afternoon energy slumps

Read more:

Healthy Habits.....

we live in s strange world.....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Salad of Prickly Pears, Feta and Watercress

Serves 6 as a starter
  • 6 large, ripe prickly pears, chilled overnight
  • 2 ‘wheels’ (about 140 g) creamy feta cheese, cubed
  • a small bunch of fresh watercress, leaves picked
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) dried red chilli flakes, or more, to taste
  • salt and milled black pepper
  • a little extra-virgin olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice

First peel the cold pears. Cut about 5 mm off the top and bottom of each pear, using a kitchen cloth or a rubber glove to grasp the pear while you do so. Place a pear, upright, on a chopping board. Push the tines of a fork into the top of the pear to hold it fast. Now, using the tip of a sharp paring knife, make four vertical cuts, about 3mm deep, into the skin of the pear, scoring from top to bottom. Use the fork to peel away the skin in sections; it will come away easily if the pears are ripe. Cut the pear in half vertically and slice into thick half-moons. Repeat with the remaining pears.
Put the pears in a bowl and add the feta, watercress and chilli flakes. Season with salt and pepper (but go easy on the salt, as the feta is already quite salty). Toss all the ingredients gently together. Pile the mixture onto a platter (or onto individual plates) and drizzle with a little olive oil and a generous spritz of lemon juice. Serve immediately.
 This recipe was originally published on Scrumptious SA.

The ant, the elephant and a tree that whistles

Here’s a little tale about ants, elephants and a tree that whistles which has rather large implications.

The tree is Acacia drepanolobium, commonly known as a whistling thorn for reasons which will become clear in a moment. It’s native to East Africa, grows to around six metres tall and has the usual pairs of mean-looking thorns on its branches.

Ordinarily, thorns don’t deter elephants. They can turn woodland into grass savanna in remarkably short time and have the ecological delicacy of bulldozers. But they mostly avoid the whistling thorns like poison chalices.

The reason is that these trees have bulbous spheres at the base of their thorns and dispense sugary nectar from the ends of their leaves. The result is food and housing for several species of stinging ant with Latin names far longer than themselves.

Some of these bore holes in the spheres, chuck out the contents and settle in. When the wind blows across the entrances, the spheres whistle like flutes. If an unwary animal attempts to browse off a whistling thorn, the ants attack with singular ferocity.

There’s an inverse proportion between an elephant’s size and strength and the sensitivity of the inside of its trunk. Once bitten, as they say, twice shy. The same browsing sensitivity goes for giraffes and other herbivores.

To test whether the ants were deterring elephants, University of Florida biologist Todd Palmer and University of Wyoming ecologist Jacob Goheen fed some young orphaned Kenyan elephants branches from whistling thorn trees, as well as from another acacia. When there were no ants on the branches, the elephants were just as likely to eat whistling thorn as they were their usual tree food. But when the branches held ants, the elephants avoided both types of acacia.

The mutualistic relationship, however, is more complex than just housing ants. If the whistling thorn could be said to have a preference, it would be for the Crematogaster nigriceps ant. And if the nigriceps could be said to have a plan, it would (and does) allow occasional herbivore browsing. This is because a bit of plucking stimulates leaf growth, which increases the supply of nectar.

However, if one of the other acacia ant species such as C. sjostedti takes over a tree, the insects’ preference isn’t for the bulbs but holes drilled by stem-boring long-horned beetles. In ways not yet understood, this ant species attracts the beetles, which eventually weaken a tree and can kill it. To prevent this, if a tree leans out too far in the direction of another, the nigriceps prune the twigs so there’s no contact, avoiding a possible invasion.

Too greater variation in the balance between tree, ant and elephant would cause hardship for all three.
There’s no need to remind you that, while an elephant’s brain is larger than ours, a tree doesn’t have one and an ant’s is smaller than the point of a pin. We’re talking about something other than intelligence here and a synecdoche of a story about deep time.

Every second of every minute of every hour of every day, year, decade, millennium, million and even billions of years, the relationship between every insect, animal, bird, fish, plant, mountain, continent, planet, star and galaxy is in an exquisite ongoing dance of this and every moment of time.

Life on our blue planet is a never-ending story so big, so small, so destructive and constructive, so beautiful and profound that, like the blind men trying to describe an elephant by touching parts of it, we can hardly see it at all.

And the hardest of all is to understand the outrageously vast time it takes for an ant, a tree and an elephant to learn to dance together in mutual harmony on the African savanna.

 By: Don Pinnock

Roast Butternut and Baby Corn Salad with Feta and Sunflower Seeds

Serves 10 as a side salad, or 6 as a main course.
  • 1 large butternut, peeled, deseeded and cubed
  • 2 cups (500 ml) tiny little carrots (or big carrots, peeled and cut into cubes)
  • 1 large punnet baby sweetcorn
  • 7 T (105 ml) olive oil
  • salt and milled black pepper
  • 2 large packets mixed rocket, watercress and baby spinach, or similar dark leaves
  • 1 stick celery (no leaves), finely sliced
  • 140 g (about two ‘wheels’) peppered feta cheese
  • ½ cup (125 ml) sunflower seeds
  • 2 T (30 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce

For the dressing:
  • reserved juices from the roast vegetables
  • a pinch of Hot English Mustard powder, or ½ tsp (2.5 ml) prepared Dijon mustard
  • a pinch of caster sugar
  • the juice of a small lemon
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) Kikkoman soy sauce
  • 2 T (30 ml) white wine vinegar
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) olive oil, or a mixture of sunflower and olive oil
  • salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 190ºC. Put the butternut cubes on a roasting tray and drizzle them with half the olive oil. Season generously with salt and black pepper and, using your hands, toss well to coat. Roast the butternut, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges are nicely freckled with brown. Push the cubes to one side of the tray and arrange the baby sweetcorn and carrots on the other side. Drizzle the remaining oil over them, season, toss well and return the tray to the oven. After 15 minutes, remove the butternut cubes, place them in a large bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave the sweetcorn and carrots in the oven for another 15 minutes, or until they are toasty and just tender. Add them to the cooked butternut cubes and set aside at room temperature until you’re ready to use them.
To make the dressing, tip any juices that have accumulated under the roast vegetables into a small mixing bowl. Add the mustard powder, caster sugar, lemon juice, soy sauce and vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Now whisk in the olive oil to make a smooth emulsion. Season with salt and pepper. If you’d like a tangier dressing, add more lemon juice or vinegar to taste.
Put the sunflower seeds in a large frying pan and toss them gently over a medium-low flame until lightly toasted. Turn the heat up to medium, add the soy sauce and stir well so all the seeds are coated. Leave over the heat for 30 seconds, or until the pan is dry, then set aside to cool slightly.
Lay the leaves on a big serving platter and arrange the roast vegetables, chopped celery and feta – broken into chunks – on top. Immediately before you serve the salad, pour over just enough dressing to coat the leaves lightly, and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

This recipe was originally published on Scrumptious SA.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Heart Touching Story

A doctor entered the hospital in hurry after being called in for an urgent surgery. He answered the call asap, changed his clothes & went directly to the surger...y block. He found the boy’s father pacing in the hall waiting for the doctor.

On seeing him, the dad yelled:
“Why did you take all this time to come? Don’t you know that my son’s life is in danger? Don’t you have any sense of responsibility?”

The doctor smiled & said:
“I am sorry, I wasn’t in the hospital & I came as fast as I could after receiving the call…… And now, I wish you’d calm down so that I can do my work”

“Calm down?! What if your son was in this room right now, would you calm down? If your own son dies now what will you do??” said the father angrily

The doctor smiled again & replied: “I will say what Job said in the Holy Book “From dust we came & to dust we return, blessed be the name of God”. Doctors cannot prolong lives. Go & intercede for your son, we will do our best by God’s grace”

“Giving advises when we’re not concerned is so easy” Murmured the father.

The surgery took some hours after which the doctor went out happy,
“Thank goodness!, your son is saved!” And without waiting for the father’s reply he carried on his way running. “If you have any questions, ask the nurse!!”

“Why is he so arrogant? He couldn’t wait some minutes so that I ask about my son’s state” Commented the father when seeing the nurse minutes after the doctor left.

The nurse answered, tears coming down her face: “His son died yesterday in a road accident, he was at the burial when we called him for your son’s surgery. And now that he saved your son’s life, he left running to finish his son’s burial.”

Moral: Never judge anyone….. because you never know how their life is & what they’re going through”

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