Monday, September 27, 2010

Starting your own Herb Garden: Part 1

The Benefits of Fresh Herbs

There are so many benefits to growing your own herbs. You save money on store-bought fresh herbs, which tend to be overpriced, and home-grown always tastes better. Plus, with your own herb garden there's no realizing you don't have the spice you need halfway into cooking dinner. You just step outside and pick it! And, did you know that herbs are extremely good for you? According to the Nutrition Diva, ". . . ounce for ounce, fresh herbs like oregano, rosemary, parsley, and basil are among the most nutritious greens you can find." Besides vitamins and antioxidants, she adds that "herbs are also very rich in a wide range of disease-fighting phytochemicals. Almost all green herbs have potent anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties." She also notes that, like fruits and vegetables, herbs are most potent and contain the most nutrients when they are freshly picked.

Some commonly used herbs and their benefits/uses

Basil: helps regulate blood pressure and prevent free-radical damage, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory

Chamomile: helps calm the nerves and promote sleep, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic

Cilantro: helps increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), promotes healthy liver function, helps reduce menstrual cramping, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant

Dill: helps neutralize carcinogens, high in calcium, antioxidant

Garlic: lowers cholesterol and blood sugar levels, helps prevent blood clots and cancerous tumors, fights bacterial, viral, and fungal infections, and supports healthy heart function

Ginger: lowers cholesterol, stimulates blood circulation, helps relieve indigestion and joint pain, used as an expectorant

Oregano: high in iron and manganese, protects against and fights dysentery and is especially effective against Giardia, one of the most common intestinal infections caused by water parasites

Parsley: high in iron, folic acid, and vitamins A and C, antioxidant, antibacterial, diuretic

Peppermint: helps calm muscle spasms and relieve headache, nausea, and menstrual cramps, and gastrointestinal upset; used as a cough suppressant and decongestant

Rosemary: helps kill bacteria that cause infection, improve digestion, and clear congestion, may help prevent Alzheimer's disease, antioxidant

Sage: helps reduce digestive problems, sore throat, premenstrual cramps, and even excessive perspiration; lowers blood sugar, antibacterial

Thyme: helps protect against age-related change in the brain, high in manganese, antimicrobial

Pretty amazing, right? Next week, we'll get started on helping you plan and plant your own herb garden. Stay tuned.


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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fun and Cheap Ways to Spend Time with Your Honey

Let’s face it: the whole pizza-and-a-movie-at-home bit gets old really fast. So don’t let it get to the point of cholesterol problems from pepperoni grease or multiple viewings of Date Night. Your body, your mind, and your significant other will thank you. Simply browse through the following ideas for ways to spend time with your special someone that will get you out and about, learning more about each other, and having fun while nurturing your wallets.

Group or Double Date with Board and Video Games
This is a great idea if you know some other couples in your area who’d rather not break the bank over one night at a fancy restaurant. Schedule some group or double dates at each other’s houses or apartments, playing a new board game or trying out a new Wii challenge together. It will get you out of your own place, so it’s a change of scenery, and you’ll get to interact with other fun couples. Chances are that you’ll learn something new about each other, such as a hidden talent for singing Rock Band solos. You might still order some pizza, but changing one out of two tired dating habits isn’t too shabby.

Go Local
Try checking out your city’s website to find out if you have some of these events or venues in your area:

Farmer’s market: Reasonably priced and fresh, it’s also a fun place to go if you want to simply look around together. You can look up recipes beforehand, pick up the perfect ingredients at a budget-friendly rate, and enjoy cooking a meal together later in the day.

Art, history, or science museums: These are often free or very reasonably priced for admission. You’ll learn something about the world around you and might even discover a special interest or hobby that your date is passionate about.

Used bookstores: If you’re of the literary persuasion, this is fun, interesting, and expands your book collection for next to nothing. Find out what kinds of books you both enjoy, then get double the value by reading each other’s purchases.

Consignment shops: If you ever do go out on a “real” dinner date, dress each other up for the special occasion by shopping together at consignment shops. Make a deal that you’ll set up a budget for the outfits and that you each have to wear what the other one picks out.

College and university exhibitions: Students in all kinds of arts programs often set up events that are free and open to the public, such as art exhibitions, dance and music recitals, and theatre productions. If there’s a charge, it’s usually minimal and goes to support higher education, so you’re not throwing your money away. You might enjoy the experience and find that you’re frugal patrons of the arts.

State or national parks: Make a day trip of it, bring a picnic, and have a great time. You might invest in some good trail shoes, but otherwise, you won’t have to buy anything. Most parks have free admission, and if not, the fee should be low (around $10). If the park you choose does charge too much, try gardens at universities and colleges for your picnic location.

This article was written by guest blogger Alexis Bonari of Thanks for the ideas, Alexis!

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