Restore a Rusty Cast Iron Skillet

The Original Non-Stick Cookware That Will Last a Lifetime With Proper Care

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

A freshly seasoned cast iron skillet
A freshly seasoned cast iron skillet
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Cast iron cookware originated in China during the Han Dynasty, was adopted by Europeans, and eventually made its way to America. The use of iron for many other purposes predates cookware because the process of casting had yet to be invented. Once that process was developed, it was used for water pipes, cannons, and other objects.

Many cast iron skillets on the market today are Chinese schlock (surprise, surprise). The really good ones, which are what you want, can be quite expensive if they are new. To get a deal though, obtain an older one and restore it to its pristine condition. Have a look at garage sales, estate sales, or Goodwill. The degree to which it needs to be refinished, the less of a financial investment you will likely have to make. Once you find your prize, it’s time to restore it to a useable condition.



Remove the Cast Iron Skillet Rust

Most of the sites on the internet will tell you to remove rust with steel wool and this is fine if you have a very mild case of oxidation. But let me tell you, this will take a long time and will work you to the bone if it is worse than that. Instead, I use a grinding wheel attached to my Ryobi cordless drill to expidite the job. Work smarter, not harder, as Gramps used to opine.

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Grinding wheel on a Ryobi Cordless drill
Grinding wheel on a Ryobi Cordless drill

The grinder in the image above came straight from Home Depot and worked out just right for attacking both the bottom and sides of my skillet as well as the inside corners. Keep even but light pressure.

It’s likely that the outside will need some work as well. In my case, I had some flakes that needed to be chipped off before applying the grinder. For this, I used a old flat-blade screwdriver and my trusty 16 oz. hammer, which I bought at the beginning of my carpenter apprenticeship back in 1979. Still going strong. That was when Craftsman was the premier brand for hand tools. That’s a bit of America we’ll never get back. Sigh.

Seasoning Your Cast Iron

Seasoning your cookware is the most important maintenance step; this is what gives it a non-stick cooking surface. After following the steps above and you have a good surface (it does not have to be shiny, just rust-free and smooth) it’s time to season it.

  • For the first seasoning, apply a thin coat of peanut oil on the entire surfaces of your skillet including the handle.
  • Pre-heat your oven to 350℉.
  • Put your skillet in and let it bake for an hour.
  • Turn off the oven an allow it to cool

That’s all there is to it! Do it at least twice before cooking in it. The handle and outside only need to be done the first time. This is done as a rust-inhibitor. Ideally, you should season your skillet after each washing, but you can judge when it is due by the level of non-stickiness.

Properties of Cast Iron Cookware

  • It is an easy way to more of the mineral iron into your diet. One cup of foods like applesauce, chili, tomato sauce, stew, and scrambled eggs will gain about six to eight milligrams of iron after being cooked in cast iron cookware. This is important for all of us but especially us avid runners and other workoutaholics.
  • It will last a looooong time. In this age of planned obsolescence, it is nice to have something you can pass on to your offspring.
  • It is very heavy.
  • It conducts, distributes, and holds heat well.
  • Unlike some other materials, it won’t develop a convex bottom over time, casing wobble and uneven cooking.

That’s about all there is to restoring a rusty cast iron skillet. With proper upkeep, it will not just serve you well, but it will outlast you.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Creamy Turkey Mushroom Couscous Recipe

This Pasta and Lean Meat Dish is a Real Crowd-Pleaser

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Creamy turkey mushroom
Creamy turkey mushroom couscous
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I’ve long wanted to try a couscous recipe just because the word sounds cool. How shallow, right? But, anything pasta is tickety-boo here in the Smith abode. Pasta forms the basis of many recipes that I keep going back to again and again. Who doesn’t like Beef Stroganoff, for example?

But hey, you are here for a more specific recipe, right? I looked at a lot of different recipes that were similar but not. quite. right. So, here we go!



Ingredient List (Organic When Possible)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb. Turkey sausage
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced and chopped, cremini or baby bella
  • 3/4 cup onion
  • 3/4 cup bell pepper
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup), plus more for serving
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried pearl couscous pasta (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 cups packed baby spinach (about 4 ounces)


Preparation Steps

Creamy turkey mushroom couscous  preparation
Creamy turkey mushroom couscous preparation
  1. Finely grate the Parmesan cheese (about 1 cup), mince the garlic, and slice the mushrooms 1/4-inch thick.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or similar pot using medium-high heat until shimmering. Add in the sausage meat and brown it. Add in the mushrooms, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the pink salt, the onion, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are slightly browned and tender. This should take 5 to 8 minutes. Next, add in the garlic, the and the dried pearl couscous pasta (about 2 1/2 cups) and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Stir in the 2 cups of broth and the 2 cups of whole milk and bring it all to a boil. Next, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Cook uncovered, stirring frequently to keep the orzo from sticking, until the orzo is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed and has formed a creamy sauce, about 10 minutes or according to package instructions.
  4. Remove your pot from the heat. Add the eggs, packed baby spinach, the bell pepper. and the Parmesan. Stir it until the spinach is just barely wilted and the cheese is melted, about 1 minute. Serve topped with more grated Parmesan cheese.


I hope you found this creamy turkey mushroom couscous recipe as delicious as we did! I love experimenting in the kitchen and this was somehow my first time cooking with couscous and now I’m a fan.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Why Grow Sage in Your Garden?

This Medicinal Herb is a Must-Have in Your Garden or Flower Bed

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

The many health benefits of sage
The many health benefits of sage
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Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a medicinal herb that offers a powerful effect against both viruses and microbes which makes it important in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been used for centuries by herbalists worldwide. The name Salvia comes from the Latin word “salvus” which can be translated as “I save” or “I heal.”

Many plants in your garden perform more than just providing food. Whether you are a prepper or not, you likely grow some of these plants to repel mosquitos, for example. Some herbs, like mint, do double-duty. Sage is primarily medicinal. The Romans were the people who began using sage extensively so it has a long history.

The Medicinal Benefits of Sage

  • A Powerful Disinfectant. A sage decoction (boiling in water to extract the benefits) and gargle to clean your mouth and treat various inflammation of the mouth. Use it externally to treat skin wounds and inflammation. Rub it on or add it to your bath.
  • Sage as an Anti-Inflammatory. It can treat inflamed gums, mouth ulcers, and many other irritations. Chew fresh leaves or make a poultice and apply it to your cold sores on your lips or nose. It’s no wonder that sage is one of the most common ingredients in toothpaste.


  • Use it to Eliminate Indigestion. Do you suffer from indigestion? Like the medicinal herb lemon balm, sage is your friend. Just add it to your line-up of bread baking ingredients or to your cooking.
  • Gallbladder Booster. Adding sage to your daily meals will stimulate the gallbladder.
  • Sage Tea for Cleansing. Some believe that half of a gallon of a mild sage decoction can cleanse your intestinal wall, helps cure polyps, and kills harmful parasites. That’s a lot of curative power. Some believe it is effective as a liver detox method.
  • Cell Protection. Sage can help protect your body’s cells from damage resulting from free radicals due to its high antioxidant capacity. Free radicals often cause cells to die and can lead to impaired immunity and chronic disease. They can be formed either naturally in your body by means of your normal metabolic processes or from external factors like X-rays, cigarette smoke, air pollutants, and exposure to industrial chemicals.


  • Alzheimer’s Treatment. An article in the US National Library of Medicine reports, “In vitro and animal studies have confirmed that several Salvia species contain a large array of active compounds that may enhance cognitive activity and protect against neurodegenerative disease.” It goes on to say, “In this 4-month study, participants allocated to the active-drug condition (60 drops of S. officinalis daily) experienced significantly greater improvements in cognitive function as measured by the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale, and the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale.”
  • Lowers Blood Glucose and Cholesterol. Another article in the US National Library of Medicine reported, “Conclusions: S. officinalis leaves may be safe and have anti-hyperglycemic and lipid profile improving effects in hyperlipidemic type 2 diabetic patients.”

Growing Sage

  • Sage is resistant to both cold and heat; its cold hardy to -30°.
  • It flowers during the summer.
  • Plant it in full sun; it will tolerate partial shade but the flavor will be reduced.
  • Cultivate it in well-drained soil. Sandy loam is preferable but it will grow in average soil too. It prefers a soil pH of 6.0 to 6.7.
  • You can start sage seed indoors as early as 6 to 8 weeks before the average last frost date in your growing zone.
  • Or, sow seed in your garden during late spring after the last frost. Sow seed shallowly, ¼ inch deep.
  • For companion planting, grow sage with chives and calendula, cabbage, carrots, strawberries, and tomatoes. It is believed to deter cabbage-family pests such as imported cabbage worms and root maggot flies. The flowers attract bees and other beneficial insects to your garden. Sage will stunt the growth of cucumbers and has a negative effect on onions.

It’s easy to see why you should grow sage in your garden. Whether you plan to use it for natural medicine, as an ornamental, or for companion planting, it will enhance your property. Always grow organically; what you put in your soil ends up in your body.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Copycat Lofthouse Sugar Cookie Recipe

How to Make These Popular Store-Bought Cookies at Home

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Copycat Lofthouse Sugar Cookies
Copycat Lofthouse Sugar Cookies
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Although I love to cook, develop bread recipes, and eat copiously, I’m not real big on “sweets.” My wife, (She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed), on the other hand, enjoys her special treats. In particular, she likes Lofthouse Sugar Cookies. I do have a thing for dark (unsweetened) chocolate, and that dovetails nicely in my blood pressure control program because it’s good for that.

Normally, I buy them at the local Kroger when I’m out hunting and gathering. For the past few weeks, they haven’t been selling them. Unfortunate, right? So I decided, hey, why not make them myself? I found many copycat recipes on the internet, took the best of the elements, rolled up my sleeves, and went to work. Here’s what I came up with, and I hope you try it as well. Share the good news, I always say.



Lofthouse Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup organic pure cane granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract (more than other copycats specify, but yum)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (some copycats specify cake flour; your call)


Salute to Baking Experimentation

Preparation Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Line one or more baking sheets with parchment paper. I used 2 baking sheets for some really big cookies, seen in the photo above, and that only used up 3/4 of the dough.
  3. Use your mixer in a large mixing bowl to cream together the butter and sour cream until smooth.
  4. Add in the sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract. Mix until just combined.
  5. In a much bigger mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (if you are using it). Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three additions, mixing well after each.
  6. Keeping your hands wet with water, form drop cookies. Roll dough into 2″ balls and place 2″ apart on the prepared cookie sheet/s. Using a flat-bottomed glass dipped in water, press the cookie balls flat.
  7. Bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the cookies just begin to set up and the bottoms are lightly brown; this is really the critical step. After the first 5 minutes, check every minute. Immediately remove them from the cookie sheet/s and let them cool completely on a cooling rack before applying the frosting of your choice.


I hope you enjoy this copycat Lofthouse sugar cookie recipe as much as She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed did. Let us know in the comment section and vote in the survey on the right.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Lemon Balm: Uses, Benefits, Growing

A Medicinal Herb That Does Double-Duty as a Pest Control

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Lemon balm next to a tomato plant
Lemon balm next to a tomato plant
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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a lemon-scented herb that comes from the mint family. It is a perennial and its leaves have a light lemon fragrance. The herb is native to Europe, North Africa, and West Asia, but it’s cultivated around the world today. As with many popular herbs, it is highly regarded for its medicinal qualities. But don’t worry, you won’t need a shaman to administer it. Keeping a plant in your garden provides a steady supply of tea.

Here’s another important use — it doesn’t just have to be relegated to your herb garden, it can be planted anywhere because it offers a fringe benefit. In addition to its health properties, it acts as pest control because it repels mosquitos. Hello, outdoor barbeque!

Benefits of Lemon Balm

  • Stress Relief. Lemon balm is said to soothe symptoms of stress, boost your mood, and help you to relax. Just the thing after a day of dealing with proponents of Critical Race Theory. In a study, the National Library of Medicine found that, “The results showed that the 600-mg dose of Melissa ameliorated the negative mood effects of the DISS, with significantly increased self-ratings of calmness and reduced self-ratings of alertness.”1
  • Treating Insomnia. Combining lemon balm with valerian may help alliviate restlessness and sleep disorders such as insomnia. In addition, drinking lemon balm tea can help with disturbing dreams such as Corona Virus dreams.
  • It May Boost Cognitive Function. MDPI.com published a study that concluded, “active lemon balm treatments were generally associated with improvements in mood and/or cognitive performance, though there were some behavioral “costs” at other doses and these effects depended to some degree on the delivery matrix. The results indicate that Lemon balm delivered in foodstuffs can have positive behavioural effects which may be used in applied health settings.”2

  • Healing Cold Sores. According to WebMD.com, “Lemon balm ointments have been found to help heal cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).”3 Using lemon balm cream may help prolong the intervals between cold sore outbreaks.
  • Soothing Digestive Problems. Compounds in lemon balm may help with gastrointestinal problems like bloating and indigestion. Try adding 1 teaspoon (tsp) of lemon balm powder to a bowl of ice cream or smoothie.
  • Help With Menstrual Cramps. A study reported in the US National Library of Medicine concluded that, “the results of the current study showed that M. officinalis capsules were effective to reduce the intensity of PMS symptoms.”4


Health Risks

Although lemon balm is considered safe; the American Herbal Products Association’s Botanical Safety Handbook lists lemon balm as a “class 1” herbal product. Some sources recommend limiting it to 3 weeks use, 1 week off. Here are some interactions:

  • HIV Medication. Lemon balm may interact with HIV medications, but sufficient studies have not been conducted.
  • Sedatives and Thyroid Medication. There may be some interaction; consult with your doctor.
  • Glaucoma. Some reports say that lemon balm may increase eye pressure, impacting glaucoma.

Growing Lemon Balm

Plant lemon balm during the warm weather of late spring, once all chances of frost have passed. Space plants 20 to 24 inches apart in an area with partial shade and fertile, well-drained soil with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0. I only have one plant so spacing is not an issue.

Begin by mixing several inches of aged compost or other rich organic matter into your native soil. Check your soil moisture every few days and water when the top inch becomes dry. You’ll be doing your garden a favor if you install and use a foliar feeding with compost juice or Medina Hasta Gro. Harvest the leaves once your plant is 6 to 8 inches tall; avoid harvesting any more than one-third of the plant at a time.

Lemon balm is a must-have plant in your herb garden (in my opinion). For a small purchase price, you will reap a wealth of health benefits. It is so easy to grow, like other members of the mint family, that not green thumb is necessary.

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at Considered Opinions Blog where he muses on many different topics.

References

  1. David O. Kennedy, Wendy Little, Andrew B. Scholey, National Library of Medicine, Attenuation of laboratory-induced stress in humans after acute administration of Melissa officinalis (Lemon Balm), https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15272110/
  2. Andrew Scholey, et al., MDPI, Anti-Stress Effects of Lemon Balm-Containing Foods, https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/6/11/4805/htm
  3. WebMD.com, Health Benefits of Lemon Balm, https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-lemon-balm#1
  4. Marzieh Akbarzadeh, US National Library of Medicine, Effect of Melissa officinalis Capsule on the Intensity of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms in High School Girl Students, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4557408/

6 Plants That Repel Mosquitos

How to Design Your Garden and Landscaping to Get Rid of Pests

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Lemon balm in the garden
Lemon balm in the garden
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Here in South Texas, mosquitos are just a fact of life. They are bad for people; they’re bad for pet dogs and cats, and they’re just pests. Dennis Prager once said when he gets to heaven he’s going to ask God, “Why?” Good point. But, while we have to live with them, we will talk about 6 plants that do a good job of repelling mosquitos whether you are having a barbeque or just enjoying your backyard deck. For best results, stick with an organic feeding program.

  • Lemon balm. As you can see in the picture above, this is a fine-looking plant. This is a member of the mint family that gets its distinct scent from citronellal. This is an oil that has some of the same properties as citronella, one of which is the ability to repel mosquitoes. It’s an easy species to grow. Lemon balm is a perennial (more bang for your buck) that, like mint, can become invasive and take over your whole flower bed or vegetable garden. It likes full sun to part shade and adequate water. The leaves can be used as a tea.
  • Citronella grass. The active ingredient here is the essential oil that’s used to make insect-repellent candles. Be sure you’re planting the tall spiky grass Cymbopogon nardus, and not “citronella plant” (Pelargonium citrosum), which is a kind of geranium that smells similar but doesn’t offer the same mosquito-repelling oils. It likes partial sun and moist, loamy dirt, so water it every day, especially if you’re growing it as a container species. It’s a perennial in tropical climates but it still can be grown as an annual in colder places.


  • Basil. The anecdotal evidence says it helps control mosquitoes but the studies are on-going. If you like pesto but veer away from grocery store prices, keep several basil plants in your garden and prune them regularly to keep them from going to seed. Also, why not whip up some Creamy Parmesan Basil Chicken? Basil thrives in full sun and moist soil.
  • Catnip. The active ingredient here is nepetalactone, the essential oil that gives catnip its smell. It’s also a member of the mint family and grows best in full sun and well-drained soil, but will tolerate partial sun and almost any type of soil if that’s what you are working with.


  • Lavender. Who doesn’t love lavender? Anecdotal evidence and tests on lavender essential oil indicate that mosquitoes shun this plant. Some people dry the flowers and make or buy lavender and cedar sachets to ward off mosquitos and moths. Grow it in full sun and drier soil. You only need to water it once or twice weekly in the growing season. It is a perennial species, so expect it to come back yearly.
  • Peppermint. Yet another member of the wonderful mint family. It’s the essential oil that works the mosquito magic. It is related to the lemon balm and has essentially the same care requirements. It likes lots of sun and water. It does well in a pot; in your flower bed, it will want to take over. I like it in tea and add it to my freshly-ground coffee. What a way to start the day!

So there you have it; 6 plants that repel mosquitos, look good, and serve other purposes. They won’t eliminate these outdoor pests completely but you can certainly cut down on those toxic insecticides.

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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Running in the Heat & Humidity

Working Out in Hot Weather Can Lead to Dehydration and Heat Stroke

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Running in the summer heat
Running in the summer heat
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If there’s one thing runners in Texas understand, it’s heat. Some seem to tolerate it more than others, but too much of it can be deadly. Have you ever wondered exactly how and why it affects you like it does? OK; let’s look into that. It’s a completely different animal than cold weather running. Here are factors to focus on.

  • Thermoregulation. This concept involves maintaining adequate heat production and sufficient heat dissipation; a balancing act, essentially. Your normal skin temp: 33°C (91°F), range 32-35°C. MedlinePlus.gov says, “Some studies have shown that the “normal” body temperature can have a wide range, from 97°F (36.1°C) to 99°F (37.2°C). A temperature over 100.4°F (38°C) most often means you have a fever caused by an infection or illness.”1 But during strenuous exercise the body’s heat production may exceed 1000 W. Some of the heat produced is stored, raising body core temperature by a few degrees. Evaporation of your sweat and an increased skin blood flow are highly-effective mechanisms for the dissipation of heat from the body, however dehydration hampers your ability to sweat and lose body heat.
  • Exercise. Your core temperature increases during exercise in relationship to exercise intensity. Obviously, a slow, easy run will have less effect than speedwork. Heat production is 15-20 times greater than when you are at rest. It has been said that it’s a blessing in the wintertime, and a curse in the summer. Why is it harder to get a head of steam up on hot days? As much as 70% of energy produced is released as heat instead of energy for muscles. This causes an increase in core body temperature by 1°C for every 5 minutes of exercise without heat loss.
  • Heat and humidity. Your heart rate increases up to 10 beats per minute when the temperature is in the range 75-90°F. Your heart rate increases up to additional 10 bpm when humidity is 50-90% because of decreased evaporation. Your performance can decrease by ~20% when temps are above 80°F.


  • Heat dissipation. What areas of body are most important for heat dissipation? Your forehead for one Do you wear a bandana or a cap? Your upper limbs, trunk, and lower limbs are next in line. I’m a big fan of going shirtless or wearing a wicking or cooling shirt like the one below.

Heat is transported by blood from muscles to skin primarily by sweating. This is the first step in the cooling, evaporation process. 75% of evaporated fluids comes from your skin and 25% from respiration (breathing). ScienceDirect.com tells us, “In humans, roughly 1.6 to 5 million sweat glands are found in the skin, and the amount varies between individuals as well as anatomic sites. The region with greatest sweat gland density is the palms and soles of the feet, which contain 600–700 sweat glands/cm2. The primary function of sweat glands is to keep the core body temperature at approximately 37 °C by releasing sweat in a hot environment or during physical activity.”2 So, your soles don’t help matters much. We sweat an average of 1.4 L/hr (max 3 L/hr). Don’t forget to re-hydrate. By the time you get thirsty you are already behind the ball. Use a large water bottle; fill it with filtered water before you leave home.

Your body also dissipates heat by increased skin blood flow (convection). It transfers heat from your core to your skin and stimulates the sweat response.



  • Heat related illnesses. According to the CDC, “Heat-related deaths and illnesses are preventable. Despite this fact, more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year.”3 There are 3 main types of heat-related illness that get progressively more serious. The first is heat cramps-sharp stabbing pain typically in legs or diaphragm. This is caused by electrolyte deficiencies/imbalances. The common treatment is to stop running, ingest a sports drink to replace fluids/electrolytes, and cool your body. The second illness is exertional hyperthermia. Symptoms are a core temp 39-40°C (102.2-104.0°F); excess sweating causing fluid volume loss of 6-10% of your body weight; headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and an elevated heart rate (a real issue for those with high blood pressure). The treatment? all the things mentioned above plus cooling the body via immersion and elevating feet above level of the heart. The third illness is exertional heatstroke. This is characterized by all of the symptoms mentioned above plus core body temperature greater than 40.5°C (104.9°F), mental changes such as confusion, disorientation, and loss of consciousness. Seizures and coma are also likely, and in especially bad cases, death. Treatment includes all of the above but do not take fluids if unconscious/severely disoriented/seizing, etc.
  • Are there risks factors for developing a heat related illness? You bet! These include low fitness level, dehydration, being unacclimated to heat and humidity, overweight/obese (BMI or Body Mass Index greater than 27), medications or supplements, and even lack of sleep.
  • Prevention methods. The first thing to do is be realistic and adjust your pace. Refer to this chart.
Running pace adjustment due to heat and humidity
Running pace adjustment due to heat and humidity

Take walking breaks regularly and often, especially during your weekend long run. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Thirst is not an accurate indicator of dehydration but increased HR and dark urine are. Your body absorbs liquids best when they’re cold (40℉ is ideal); cold fluids will also help reduce your core temperature. Take liquids with electrolytes, eat small amounts of foods w/sodium 12 hrs before running. Acclimate yourself to warmer weather beginning in the spring. 2 weeks of moderate intensity exercise, 30-100 min in duration in the heat, is a good rule of thumb. Keep to a regular schedule; adaptations can be lost in as little as 10 days. Trade in your hat for a visor.

These are the basics of running in the heat and humidity. A little common sense and precautions can go a long way. Above all, have fun; running is good for the soul!

References

  1. MedlinePlus.gov, Body temperature norms, https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001982.htm
  2. ScienceDirect.com, Sweat Gland, https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/sweat-gland
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Extreme Heat, https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat/index.html

Further Reading


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Pink Himalayan Salt Health Benefits

Is This Table and Cooking Condiment Worth the Added Expense?

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Ladling out pink Himalayan salt
Ladling out pink Himalayan salt
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Looking at most recipes, there are commonly five kinds of salt you will see–table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, Celtic salt, and pink or Himalayan salt. In all honesty, I don’t find much difference in flavor between them. The choice you make boils down to personal taste, price, degree of cultural hipness as you describe your dish to your guests, and other factors.

What Makes Himalayan Salt Different?

The most obvious characteristic is that it is, well, pink! I’m not a big fan of the color pink (there’s my toxic masculinity showing again!) but this condiment wears it tolerably well. The two most important distinctions are its origin and its health benefits.

According to Fooducate, “Himalayan salts is actually not from the Himalayas. It is sourced from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan, about 300 miles to the west of the Himalayan Mountain Range. This salt mine is the second largest in the world, and has been a source of salt for over 2000 years. Despite this lengthy history, the “Himalayan” brand gained popularity in the Western world only in the past 15 years.”1



What are the Health Benefits of Pink Salt?

People have made many nutrition claims about Himalayan salt over the years. Some insist salt lamps help purify the air. Some say it can detoxify the body of heavy minerals. Some (optimistic) mountebanks have even suggested it can increase libido.

  • Iodine naturally occurs in Himalayan salt. The chemical element iodine is necessary for the proper functioning of our thyroid gland.2
  • It is about 96% sodium chloride, the same as table salt. This is what makes it conveniently interchangeable with table salt in, say, your favorite whole wheat bread recipe.
  • The remaining 4% are potassium, calcium and magnesium, as well as tens of additional trace minerals.
  • It prevents hyponatremia, meaning low sodium levels in the blood. Eating enough sodium through a healthy diet is vital to preventing this dangerous and painful condition.
  • It plays an key role in your small intestine’s ability to absorb chloride, amino acids, glucose, and water.
  • Sodium also assists your stomach in breaking down food which releases nutrients for absorption.

So, despite having trace minerals that other salts might not, do the health benefits really register or is it all just marketing hype? WebMD says, “research has not demonstrated that Himalayan salt has any unique health benefits compared to other dietary salt. The mineral impurities that give it a pink color, often promoted as healthful, are far too low in concentration to be nutritionally beneficial. You would have to eat a lethal amount of sodium to achieve helpful quantities of the other minerals.”3



Additional Reading

Resources

  1. Fooducate, Himalayan Salt – 10 Things to Know, https://www.fooducate.com/community/post/Himalayan-Salt-10-Things-to-Know/57A355B1-7CE7-3C26-48D8-A9A1BBA83175
  2. Steve Fentress, Moment of Science, Why Does Table Salt Contain Iodide?, https://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/table-salt-iodide.php
  3. WebMD, Himalayan Salt: Is It Good for You?, https://www.webmd.com/diet/himalayan-salt-good-for-you#1

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Cupcakes Recipe

Delicious 100% Cocoa Lowers Blood Pressure

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith

Ghirardelli chocolate cupcakes
Ghirardelli chocolate cupcakes
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I’ll have to confess, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. I enjoy the odd Reese’s peanut butter cups or pieces, but regular candy or cake, not so much. I do eat a small square of dark chocolate every day because it’s been shown to lower blood pressure naturally. The ingredient in this Ghirardelli chocolate cupcake recipe falls in that category; it is not processed with alkali, otherwise known as the Dutch method. That kind of processing takes away the hypertension benefit.

*Remember: once you lick the frosting off a cupcake, it becomes a muffin. And muffins are healthy. You’re welcome.

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 Cup pure cane sugar (or the sweetener of your choice)
  • 1/3 Cup flaxseed meal (for antioxidants, fiber, protein)
  • 3/4 Cup wheat bran (fiber)
  • 3/4 cup Ghirardelli premium baking unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp Himalayan (pink) salt; it retains all the essential minerals that are removed from commercial salt
  • 1 Cup milk
  • 1 3/4 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 Cups water, boiling
  • Frosting of your choice; or not

Preparation

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°.
  2. Put baking cups in your cupcake pans. this recipe makes 31 or so cupcakes, so you’ll need 3 pans that hold a dozen each.
  3. Mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add in the milk and butter.
  5. Mix with a beater, medium speed, 2 minutes. Any stronger and you’ll likely be decorating the wall.
  6. Add in the vanilla extract and the eggs.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Stir in the boiling water.
  9. Divide among the baking cups. Filling them about 80% full each leaves just enough room for rising.
  10. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes. Test doneness by pushing down lightly in the center with your fingertip. If the dent springs up nicely, you’re good to go.
  11. Remove from oven, cool, and frost if desired. I don’t frost mine; She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed does. As Pappy used to say, “Each to his own, said the man who kissed the cow.”
  12. Enjoy!


I came up with this version of Ghirardelli chocolate cupcake recipe to add another healthy option to my snacks, baking, and workout recovery food list. But that aside, it’s just plain tasty.

Additional Reading


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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Getting Enough Minerals in Your Diet?

Insufficient Nutrition Can Be Robbing Your Optimal Health

Photo of Kelly R. Smith   by Kelly R. Smith
Forms of Nutraceuticals
Forms of Nutraceuticals
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So what exactly are nutraceuticals? According to Dictionary.com, they are, “a bioactive compound occurring as a food component, additive, or product, including vitamins, dietary fiber, herbal extracts, carotenoids, and probiotics: nutraceuticals are said to promote health and well-being, allegedly helping in the prevention and treatment of disease.”1

So basically, these include dietary supplements as well as basic foods. Ideally, we would get all necessary minerals and nutrients via the food groups but this is rarely the case due to lifestyle. You may have assumed that since minerals are in so many foods you are in the safe zone. Not so; in many cases strict vegans and even borderline vegetarians may be missing out on important trace minerals and the ones in your multi-vitamin may not be as high-quality as you suppose.

Calcium for Strong Bones, Teeth, and Heart

Calcium is one of the most important and abundant minerals in our bodies. WebMD.com says, “Calcium is a mineral that is an essential part of bones and teeth. The heart, nerves, and blood-clotting systems also need calcium to work. Calcium-rich foods include milk and dairy products, kale and broccoli, as well as the calcium-enriched citrus juices, mineral water, canned fish with bones, and soy products processed with calcium. Calcium is also taken as a supplement.”2 Which foods are calcium-rich? According to Kidshealth.org,3

  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Calcium-fortified foods such as orange juice, cereals and, crackers
  • Canned salmon, anchovies, and sardines with bones
  • Green leafy vegetables like kale, Swiss chard, and broccoli

Potassium for Your Nervous System

Potassium keeps your muscles and your nervous system working properly and minimizes the possibility of cramps. Your blood and bodily tissues, including muscles, contain water. Potassium helps ensure that the quantity of water is optimized between cells and body fluids; it performs a balancing act. You can find it in:

  • Legumes, such as beans, split peas, lentils
  • Bananas, tomatoes
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes, with skin intact
  • Green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli

Zinc for Your Immune System

We all know the importance of our immune systems during the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, this mineral gives a powerful boost to your immune system. This system fights off common illnesses and infections. It is also involved cellular growth and assists in healing wounds, such as cuts. It is found in:

  • A variety of nuts including cashews, pecans, walnuts, and almonds
  • Legumes, such as peanuts, split peas, and lentils
  • Cuts of meats such as beef, pork, and chicken

The Strength of Iron

Our bodies utilize the mineral iron to transport oxygen from our lungs to the rest of our bodies. This is a critical function because our bodies depend on oxygen to maintain life. Iron also assists in the production of hemoglobin. This is the component in our red blood cells that moves oxygen throughout our bodies. Get your iron in:

  • Eggs
  • By cooking in cast iron cookware
  • Dried fruits like apricots and raisins
  • Whole and enriched grains like quinoa, wheat, and oats
  • Various cuts of meat, particularly red meat like liver or beef

Steps for Good Health

All the minerals listed above originated in the earth and seas and got into the food chain that way. Research shows that the mineral depletion in the soil was about 85% during the years from 1900 to 1940.

Adding specific soil amendments in organic farming programs has made a measure of progress in bringing soil health back from the brink. Unfortunately, chemical techniques are still applied to most crops and meats found in your local grocery store. To maximize your health goals:

  • Take your supplements daily.
  • Purchase organic produce and free range meat whenever possible. Yes, you’ll pay a bit more but mineral and nutrient deficiencies cost even more in the long run.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity puts stress and strain on your body and impacts your overall health. Intermittent fasting for weight loss and maintenance is a great strategy for most people.
  • Consume fresh, local fruits and produce. They generally taste better and as a bonus they support your local economy which impacts you directly.

Getting enough minerals in your diet with healthy foods and supplements is not difficult. It might take a slight alteration in your lifestyle but you’ll be happier in the long run.

References

  1. Dictionary.com, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/nutraceutical?s=t
  2. WebMD.com, Calcium, https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-781/calcium
  3. Mary l. Gavin M.D., Kidshealth.org, Minerals, https://kidshealth.org/en/kids/minerals.html

Further Reading and Relevant Recipes


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Visit Kelly’s profile on Pinterest.

About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.