Thursday, December 27, 2012

Should you give up coffee or tea?

Image courtesy of markuso
With 2013 just a few days away, some people are probably starting to think about resolutions for the new year. I write about food quite a bit, but what you drink can be equally important. If you've been thinking about reducing or eliminating your coffee or tea drinking, you might find today's post helpful.


Various studies have found that coffee drinkers have lower rates of some cancers, heart disease, Altzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, gallstones, diabetes, liver disease, and gout. You may have heard that there is a correlation between drinking coffee and increased risk of some cancers, gastrointestinal diseases, sleep problems, increased cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, anemia, and problems with pregnancy. Why the disparity?

In many cases, the negative side effects were found in people who consumed large amounts of coffee, which simply confirms the admonition that all good things should be consumed in moderation, but it is more complex than that.

“Often people think of coffee just as a vehicle for caffeine. But it's actually a very complex beverage with hundreds and hundreds of different compounds in it. Since coffee contains so many different compounds, drinking coffee can lead to very diverse health outcomes. It can be good for some things and bad for some things, and that's not necessarily flip-flopping or inconsistent,” said Dr. Rob van Dam, Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health.

Statistically, many people who drink coffee also smoke and are less likely to eat a healthy diet or exercise, so in earlier studies, coffee was often blamed for negative health outcomes that have now been linked to other lifestyle choices. More current studies, such as the one Dr. van Dam conducted with 130,000 volunteers, control for other lifestyle choices when looking at the data. There is still not definitive evidence on whether or not coffee is harmful to an unborn baby whose mother drinks coffee, so pregnant women should limit coffee drinking to one cup a day or less.

Another point to consider when consuming coffee is that the usual process for decaffeinating uses chemicals. There is a decaffeinating process that uses water, but unless the label claims that process has been used, the chemical process was probably the method employed.


Although humans have only been drinking coffee for a few hundred years, the history of tea goes back for thousands. Any herb or plant that has been soaked in hot water is called tea, and every one of those plants has different health benefits and risks. Black tea, which comes from the same plant as green, oolong, and white tea, has been used medicinally for millenia.

Today, studies have documented a long list of health benefits from tea drinking, including reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, and even depression. It also helps the immune system to function better and reduces the body’s production of stress hormones.

Because coffee and black tea must be transported a long distance to reach North America, they are not as ecothrifty as drinking tap water. However, drinking tea and coffee are better for the environment than drinking soft drinks or bottled water because the amount of waste is minimal – the box or can in which the dry tea or coffee was purchased, which is small compared to the amount of tea or coffee that can be prepared from the dry tea leaves or coffee beans. If you have a habit of buying a cup of coffee or tea at a shop in the morning, you can buy a travel mug and make it at home. If you only want one cup, you can buy a coffeemaker that brews coffee in single servings.

Bottom line

I really don't think there are any magic bullet type of foods that will guarantee you'll live to be a hundred, and conversely, I don't think that any natural foods should be completely eliminated from everyone's diet. If you're drinking a pot or two every day, you might want to cut back, but there isn't any compelling reason to completely eliminate coffee or tea.

Monday, December 17, 2012

How the worst chicken ever became the best chicken ever

by Todd Allen 

Our dominant hen went broody this spring and we obtained fertile eggs for her to hatch. One of those eggs became Pat. We attempted feather sexing and it was completely ambiguous so he got an androgynous name. One of our more accurate divinations as we now have a lovely pullet named Boris and gave away her sibling a cockerel named Natasha.

Of our male chicks Pat was the slowest to let on he was male. We believe he was a cross between New Hampshire Red and Easter Egger. He had a small Easter Egger rose comb and fluffy Easter Egger cheeks and beard with scarcely any sign of wattles peeking through. He eventually developed great plumage with deep red wings, fiery orange saddle and hackle feathers and an iridescent green tail which fully gave him away. But prior to that the only thing suggesting maleness was size. He was the biggest, fastest growing of our chicks. But unlike the other male chicks who grew tall and athletic, Pat was plump and awkward. It wasn't until he was our last remaining cockerel that he began to blossom as a rooster.

Although he was the last to crow it became a powerful full throated blast and we took to keeping him indoors over night to spare our neighbors his early morning performance. In spite of being big he was low in the pecking order. He didn't get picked on much because he would hang back out of intimidation. Eventually he became so much bigger than the rest of our flock that his confidence grew. He started doing awkward cute dances to woo our pullets. He would turn himself sideways in front of them and puff himself up and stretch his wings down and out and stomp up and down. And when that failed to impress he would stomp round them in circles. When that failed he took to snatching the choicest food from the bowl taking it a few feet away then clucking about his prize and offering it back to the girls as they came to investigate.

His confidence grew to where he wanted to mate with our older hens. But in spite of being much bigger than them he was still very much afraid of them. Which led him to become the worst chicken ever. There were no attempts at seduction with clumsy dance or snatched treats. Instead he would sneak up and pounce. He might be on and off in a second but his hurried rough technique of biting on to a clump of feathers on the backs of their necks and grabbing onto their wings with his giant feet caused the hens distress and often cost some feathers. The hens quit bullying him and instead would run in terror. And he started chasing.

I hoped this would be a short passing phase. I tried prevention and correction of his assaults with blasts from the garden hose. When he went after our molting Barred Rock hen her distress was so apparent our dog would rush in to her defense and drive Pat off. In recent rains I noticed how thin the feathers had become on his favorite target our lowest ranking hen a previously sweet and gentle Australorp and I began keeping him separated from her.

And there was the incident. We heard a commotion outside amongst the chickens. Our dog was inside with us so I knew she wasn't involved and took my time to go out and investigate. I found our molting Barred Rock hen dead in a corner formed by stacked cinder blocks next to the back wall of our house. Her head and apparently broken neck wedged in between the blocks and the wall. We don't know what happened but I suspect Pat chased her and she died trying to get away from him. We contemplated eating her but not being certain of the circumstances of her demise we chose not to.

I was fond of Pat. He was becoming braver and more protective of the girls. He was a good sentry for hawks and other dangers while they ate. I had seen him flush out mice and alert my dog to rats. He was sweet with me and our pullets but with our hens he was awful. Perhaps not truly the worst chicken ever but bad enough that it was time for what we had long resolved to do with a problem chicken.

Which lead to Pat becoming the best chicken ever. My wife arranged for a family dinner at her mother's house last night. We brought him over ready to roast. We thought due to his size and age that the meat might be tough so Sara chose to slow roast at 250F. It took longer than we calculated before we turned the oven up for a final browning and then sat down to dinner 90 minutes late with everyone very hungry. Which perhaps contributed to the appreciation.

My wife and I only rarely eat meat. Prior to baking I was slightly nauseated by the clean fresh meat which to me had an odor of death in contrast to the exuberance of life in the pictures of his flashy plumage I displayed on my phone. But out of the oven came the best chicken ever. Our home produced eggs are much better than any eggs we have purchased but are clearly still eggs. This meat was so much better I found myself questioning is this really chicken?

We go for months at a time without eating meat. Mainly because we are no longer willing to buy meat that we believe may have been raised inhumanely or by practices environmentally damaging and not at all sustainable. I'm not desiring now to raise poultry for slaughter due to the work and drama of the process. But I'm feeling more strongly that the best meat one can eat is the meat one produces themselves with all of the respect, work and appreciation for everything involved in the process. I'm not about to speak out for a campaign to change the city's ordinance prohibiting the raising of animals intended for slaughter. But I am questioning the wisdom of it thinking that prohibiting the sale instead of prohibiting the raising would be better. But very thankful we otherwise have such enlightened ordinances regarding the raising of poultry for eggs.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Do you need mouthwash?

The short answer is no. But what about all those ads that say mouthwash is awesome and does awesome things for your teeth and gums? Well, they're ads. They're trying to sell mouthwash.

Unfortunately, mouthwash is worse than simply useless. It can actually be harmful. One study found that people who use mouthwashes with a high amount of alcohol in them are at an increased risk of oral cancer, which has a mortality rate of 50%. Smokers who used mouthwash were nine times as likely to get oral cancer as sometime who didn't smoke or use mouthwash. What's high alcohol content? Listerine in particular has more alcohol in it than beer or wine. For more on that story, click here.

A lawsuit was filed against Johnson and Johnson this year for the claims they made about their Listerine Total Care Anticavity Mouthwash, which they claim --
fights plaque above the gum line, prevents cavities, freshens breath, restores enamel, kills bad breath germs, strengthens teeth, is the most complete mouthwash, and allegedly advertises it as an FDA-approved drug that fights gum disease, even though the only active ingredient in Listerine Total Care Anticavity Mouthwash is sodium fluoride which has not been recognized by the FDA to fight plaque, a precursor to gum disease, according to class action lawsuit news reports.
Listerine is not the only one though. Last year, a class action lawsuit was filed against the makers of ACT Total Care mouthwash because they also claimed that their mouthwash "fights plaque" when its only active ingredient is also sodium fluoride. If you purchased ACT, you can get in on the lawsuit by filling out the form here.

In 2010, the FDA accused Johnson & Johnson, CVS, and Walgreens of false advertising and ordered them to remove claims on their mouthwash labels that said they fought gum disease and plaque. Those mouthwash companies are stubborn though.

The makers of Crest Pro-Health mouthwash were sued by the makers of Listerine back in 2006 because of an ad that claimed four out of five dentists recommended Crest mouthwash. Crest's claim was based upon the fact that they had paid 269 dentists $75 to give them their opinion on the mouthwash question.

And if you quit flossing a few years ago because you saw an ad that said mouthwash was as good as flossing, toss the mouthwash and go back to flossing. Listerine was sued for false advertising and ordered to stop running that ad.

Sadly, Listerine probably wins the prize for quantity of false advertising, but they have been around the longest. I remember their ads back in the 70s that claimed you could prevent a cold if you gargled with Listerine. That one made Time magazine's "Too-Good-To-Be-True Hall of Fame."

And their false ads even pre-date my life. Apparently they'd been claiming to prevent colds and cure sore throats for decades before the court stepped in and made them stop. I remember their ads from the 1970s telling you to gargle with Listerine any time you got cold or wet. It's no wonder the idea that cold causes colds is so ingrained in our culture -- Listerine was telling us that for more than fifty years.

It was originally created as a surgical antiseptic, but how much money can you make selling surgical antiseptic? So, they started looking for alternative uses and realized that it cures halitosis, otherwise known as bad breath. It then became the first mouthwash in 1914, and sales went from $115,000 to more than $8 million in only seven years.

In fact, Listerine was the originator of the phrase "often a bridesmaid, never a bride" because of their ads targeted at young women wanting to get married. Here's a TV ad from the 1950s.

Through the years, they've even claimed to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. I'll just let you use your imagination on what women were supposed to do with Listerine to prevent that little problem.

And to cure dandruff---->

And to use after shaving -- or else you could wind up in the hospital with your head covered in bandages. I had no idea shaving could be so deadly!

And to put on cuts and bruises ... although I'm not sure how it was supposed to help bruises, which don't normally get infected because the skin isn't broken. But you'll notice they gave up on all of those claims in recent decades and have been focusing on oral health.

The reality, however, is that if you're buying mouthwash, you can save your money. Dental professionals agree that brushing and flossing are the important things. Contrary to the ads, "everyone" doesn't have halitosis. Maybe most of us already realize that we don't need mouthwash for bad breath, and that's why they're still trying to convince us that we need it for other reasons ... like all the claims listed in the latest lawsuit.

This post was shared at Mama Moments Monday, Better Mom Mondays, Motivation Monday, Clever Chicks, Sweet Sharing Monday, Sunday School, and Healthy Home Economist.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Another give-away in the spirit of giving

If you've been thinking that Homegrown & Handmade would make a great gift for someone special, here is your chance to get an autographed copy, as well as a spiral notebook that can be used as a garden diary, a cheese making notebook, a goat journal, or whatever type of record keeping book that is needed.

To enter, just leave a comment below (not on Facebook) telling us who you'd like to give the book to, and why. You don't have to get really personal -- just something like, "My friend Julie because she's been talking about getting chickens for at least a year now!" Of course, if you want to tell us more, that's great. I always love hearing about homesteaders at all stages, whether they're just starting to plan or have been living the dream for a few years.

The deadline is Friday at midnight, central time, and the winner will be randomly chosen and posted on Saturday. I'll ship the books directly to them with a card letting them know whom to thank!

P. S. If you post as "Anonymous," you are not eligible. Sorry, but I still can't read minds.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

And the winner is ...

Brandy Jones, who said she'd like to give a copy of Ecothrifty to her parents is the winner! Using the random number generator at, the number six popped up, and Brandy was the sixth person to enter the give-away.

Brandy, please send me your parents name and address, and I'll send them a copy of Ecothrifty first thing Monday morning with a note saying it's from you! Congratulations!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Egg nog cake

It can be so tempting this time of year to pick up a cake at the grocery store or a bakery. If you catch yourself staring at something like that for more than a couple seconds, imagine my youngest daughter in her mid-teens saying, "Mom, we could make that at home from scratch." It's been a few years, but I don't think I'll ever stop hearing her voice when I catch myself looking at sweets in a store.

Cakes are so easy to mix up if you have a stand mixer. It's that third hand that you always wanted. It gets the job done so fast because it's mixing while you're pulling out ingredients and measuring and dumping. And it takes less than a penny of electricity to mix up a cake.

I've been making this cake since Christmas 2003 when I found a similar version online. Usually I don't make it until a couple days before Christmas, but I'm in the mood for something sweet now, so I jumped ahead of schedule!

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 3/4 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter and flour a bundt pan.

Cream together sugar and butter. Add rum, vanilla, and eggs, continuing to mix well. Add dry ingredients and milk. Mix until well blended and smooth. Pour into bundt pan and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick, skewer, or fork inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for ten or fifteen minutes and then invert it on a serving plate.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Season of giving give-away

If you've been thinking that Ecothrifty would make a great gift for someone special, here is your chance to get an autographed copy for him or her.

The book includes chapters on going green and saving money on personal care products, health and fitness, babies, clothing, food, your home, gardening, entertainment, and transportation.

To enter, just leave a comment below (not on Facebook) telling us who you'd like to give the book to, and why. You don't have to get really personal -- just something like, "My friend Tiffany because she's been trying to eat less fast food." Of course, if you want to tell us more, that's great. I always love hearing about how people are trying to live cheaper, greener, healthier, and happier lives.

The deadline is Friday at midnight, central time, and the winner will be randomly chosen and posted on Saturday. I'll ship the book directly to them with a card letting them know whom to thank!

P. S. If you post as "Anonymous," you are not eligible. Sorry, but I flunked Mind Reading 101.

This post has been shared at the Healthy Home Economist and the Prairie Homestead.
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