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Spaghetti Squash The Anti-Pasta

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Right now in the squash patch, a variety of colors of oval colored globes lay all over the ground. The RIPE ones are golden yellow and hard skinned. Hard enough that you can’t pierce the skin with a fingernail. That hard skin is what makes these squash last for a month on the counter top or longer in a cool storage area. They’re great for getting fresh produce into your diet in the winter.

But…you don’t have to wait for the skin to turn yellow.

Even green soft spaghetti squash cooks up nicely. This makes them a great crop to plant for use in the summer AND through fall and winter. Plant a big patch of them and you’ll have enough to top with fresh pesto and tomato sauces in the summer and hearty preserved sauces and in soups in the winter.

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HOW TO COOK SPAGHETTI SQUASH

There are a various ways to cook this versatile fruit.

If you’re one to use a microwave for cooking…

  • PUT SEVERAL SMALL SLITS IN THE FLESH ALL THE WAY TO THE CORE
  • Place it in the microwave
  • Cook it for about 15-20 minutes. It will steam the strands from the inside.It’s a quick way, but MAKE SURE YOU PUNCTURE THE SQUASH or it can explode. (Yes, this has happened to me and it was a mess to clean up!) Alternately, you can puncture and cook the squash whole in a conventional oven at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes.

We’ve recently tried to stop using the microwave to cook our food and because the big oven heats up the house so much in the summer I like to use this convection oven. It’s too small to put the whole squash in, so this next method is the way I prefer.

  • Cut the raw squash in half lengthwise.
  • Scoop out the seeds and fibrous strands. (I find it easier to separate the fibrous strands and seeds from the meat strands before cooking the squash.)

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    • Place the two halves face down on a baking sheet.

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  • Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45-60 minutes.

You’ll know it’s done when the outer skin gets softer and dimples. Use a fork to separate the noodle-like strands from the skin.

When the squash is tender, use a fork to separate the noodle-like strands from the skin. If you’ve cooked it whole, you’ll cut it in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds and fibers out and then separate the noodle strands.

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Now for the fun part!
Using your squash in your favorite recipes.

 

 

 

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My 6 favorite ways to use spaghetti squash:

1. Use the noodles just like you would any pasta. In the summer, we like to make a fresh basil pesto or toss the faux noodles in butter and olive oil with roasted garlic and sea salt and top with garden tomatoes. The kids love it with just butter and salt.
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2. Make Chow Mein or other Asian dishes. The ‘noodles’ are soft but slightly crunchy and remind me a little of bean sprouts you would use in Chow Mein, but are a lot thinner. They toss very nicely with vegetables in a wok for stir-fry and are a great vehicle for coconut aminos (or soy sauce if you use it). Here’s an Asian inspired dish from Living Low Carb One Day at a Time.
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3. Make a faux noodle soup. Cut the noodles short and use them in your homemade bone broths for texture and flavor without having to roll out sprouted flour noodles. Here’s a great recipe for Sweet and Spicy Squash Noodle Soup from foodloveswriting.com
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4. Use the strands in place of shredded potatoes for delicious hash browns or ‘potato’ pancakes. If you’re eating Paleo or GAPS or just watching carbs, spaghetti squash has about 5 grams per half cup where potatoes have about 4 times that many. Check out this Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns recipe from Empowered Sustenance.

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5. Use it as a simple side dish in place of rice or potatoes or beans. A little coconut oil and salt and pepper make this into a nice light and colorful companion to your main entree.
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6. Roast the seeds! Just like pumpkin seeds, these little things pack a huge nutritional punch( a good source of Protein, Vitamin K, Iron, Copper, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Manganese). They are also tasty when roasted and salted. Some people have trouble getting all the fibers off of the seeds, but rinsing them in a colander and shaking them around a bit has always worked for me. Here’s a great squash seed roasting recipe from Healthy Living How to.
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A Quick Tip for Freezing Peaches

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I am not a big canner. I’ve done peaches and green beans and that’s about it. I plan on canning more when we get our big garden growing next year. I even bought all the cool canning accessories. I am not ready to can right now, BUT peaches are on and we love them. Our neighbor’s tree shares a whole branch with us over the fence. If we don’t pick them, they fall off and get eaten by ants. I need to ask my neighbor what kind of tree they want US to plant to hang over the fence in exchange.

It’s REALLY nice to have some good fruit available in the winter so I have been cutting the peaches up and freezing them (after eating a few, of course). Last year, the gallon size freezer bag was just one big chunk of stuck-together peaches. I had to bang the bag on the counter to get a few slices to detach and then the bag would get holes in it. This year, I remembered a trick I saw on some show like “How It’s Made“. I spread the slices out on a cookie sheet and froze them overnight BEFORE putting them in the freezer bag. It worked beautifully! Now we can grab a handful for smoothies without annoying the neighborhood with all the banging.

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Summer Ice Cream Maker Giveaway!

Update: 8/20/2013
We have a WINNER!
Wendy F. at pa…00@yahoo.com
CONGRATULATIONS!!
email me at aprilanderton @ gmail.com within 48 hours to claim your prize!

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It’s summer and we are eating ice cream like crazy! I got this cute personal ice cream maker for my husband for Father’s Day and it has been used and used and used. It’s FAST and makes the best REAL FOOD ice cream (from raw cream!). We love it so much that we want YOU to have one! A new one, not the used and used and used one. Enter to win your very own below. Contest begins at 4:00 PM EASTERN time 8/12/13 and ends at 11:00 PM EASTERN time on 8/19/13. Enter now!

ALSO…If you are looking for more ways to get real food on the table FAST, check out the Real Food For Busy People online video course. Lots of great ways to save time and money on real food for your family.

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Real Food For Busy People Cooking Classes

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I am SO excited about the REAL FOOD FOR BUSY PEOPLE cooking classes. I started my real food adventure about 6 months ago and if you recall, I complained about my feet. A lot. They hurt from standing in the kitchen for so long every day preparing food from scratch, making my own cheese and bread and everything else. I’ve learned a few tricks since then for being more efficient and cutting my time down in the kitchen but there’s still a LOT more I could learn.

That’s where these classes come in. I can watch the sessions whenever and then apply them in my own kitchen. These real foodies have been doing this a lot longer than I have, and I get their expertise from their blogs all the time. Now, I can watch and learn.

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I have a pressure cooker and I am pretty excited to try this pot roast from Heather Dessinger
of Mommypotamus.

If you’re not sure where to start with real food or if you think you’re too busy…these classes are for you! Sign up here and learn how to prepare REAL foods quickly and efficiently!

Sprouted Sun-Dried Pumpkin Seeds

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Sprouted nuts and seeds are a favorite at our house. Sprouting nuts and seeds makes them more easily digestible and breaks down the anti-nutrient phytic acid. If you want to know more about WHY soaking and sprouting is best, Our Nourishing Roots has a great post on the topic HERE.

I usually soak the nuts and put then in our old Ronco food dehydrator. (This Excalibur dehydrator is on my wishlist!)

Yesterday, I started the process by putting about 3-4 cups of raw pumpkin seeds in a bowl with 1 tbsp of real salt. I added filtered water to about an inch above the seeds. Some people add an acidic medium like whey. If I have some on hand, I add it but I have read that it’s not necessary, so I don’t always use it. Pumpkin seeds only need to soak for 7 hours, but I left them overnight and it was about 12. Up to 24 hours is fine. When it was time to put the seeds in the dehydrator today, the temp was about 100 degrees outside, MORE in direct sun. The thought of plugging in a heat generating appliance for 12 or so hours was not appealing to me. Then, I had a brilliant idea.

Metal pan. Hot sun. Sun-dried seeds!

(I say *I* had a brilliant idea, but really…what did they do before dehydrators? Most likely used the sun. Maybe fire in the winter.)

I put the seeds on a metal cookie sheet and spread them out.

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I covered them in cheesecloth and set them on a table in direct sun on the patio. After a few hours, the patio became shaded and the seeds were still a little soft, so I put them on a bench our West-facing front porch. 1 more hour and they were done! 4 hours total in the sun in 100 degree weather.

[stextbox id=”info”]I totally just used the sun to prepare food! How cool is that?[/stextbox]

They are crispy and tasty and the energy was FREE! Can’t beat that.
Tomorrow I try the almonds that are soaking. That might a BIT longer, but it’s worth the wait.

This post is shared at Thank Your Body, Real Food Forager

Why we Bought 1500 Bugs

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We just invited a whole lotta bugs to live in our house for a while.

Why would we do that? Well…it all started one Christmas. I am silly and I do themes every Christmas to keep me reigned in on the impulse buying. Christmas of 2011 the theme was “Learning”. Whatever I bought had to have some educational component to it. Games, books, new hobbies, etc. I bought my husband a lemon tree so he would be compelled to learn how to take care of it. He’d been thinking about it for a few months since a co-worker gave him some limes from his own tree. When he got the tree he found the only window in the house with southern exposure and made a nice little home for it there.

18 months later, the tree is still alive! It has had issues like adjusting to the changing temperature through the year, leaves and blossoms falling off and spider mites crawling all over it. In spite of all that, it now boasts one lemon about an inch in diameter.

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My husband did learn about what fertilizer to get and how often to feed it. He learned about why the leaves were falling off (most likely temperature changes and the mites) and he learned about a few ways to handle the mites.

One of those methods was rosemary essential oil. He put it in a spray bottle straight and sprayed it on liberally. Maybe a bit TOO liberally. Rosemary mist floated through the house. It smelled good, but it wasn’t easy on the lungs for some of us. The tree didn’t like it much either. More leaves fell off. It did bloom a few weeks later but most of the buds ended up on the floor. And…the spider mites came back.

He kept reading and researching and found a solution our kids thought was exciting! Ladybugs. LOTS of them. He ordered what was supposed to be 1500 live bugs HERE. It was more like 500, but I think that’s enough for our little lemon tree.

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My husband and kids opened up the container and put a few on the tree. They seemed to like their new all-you-can-eat restaurant.

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The kids had fun letting them crawl all over their arms.

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When we put the open container at the base of the tree, a bunch crawled right up the trunk of the tree. Eat, ladybugs, EAT!

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I don’t know how they’ll do as far as controlling the mites, but I have a feeling I’ll be finding them around the house for a while. At least they’re cute bugs. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the spider mite situation and our solitary lemon.

Why I Don’t Do NSAIDs

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For the past 7 years I have had systemic inflammation related to an auto-immune condition diagnosed shortly after my youngest child was born. I have taken various prescription and non-prescription medications, both steroid and non-steroid(NSAID). They offer temporary relief but come with a slew of side effects. Some of the side effects of the NSAIDs that I personally experienced are:

My recent goal has been to transition from conventional medications to natural alternatives, focusing mostly on nutrition. I am happy to report that:
[stextbox id=”info”]For the last 4 months I have not been using over-the-counter medications to treat my systemic inflammation.[/stextbox]

What am I doing instead?

For the most part, I am eating a high-fat, nutrient dense diet that feeds my body what it needs to take care of itself. Grass-fed raw cream and butter have an anti-stiffness factor that helps with inflammation and joint pain. So, I eat a lot of ice cream (homemade, sweetened with honey or succanat). I have cut out processed foods almost entirely. My diet has changed completely.

While this has me on my way to a pain-free life, right now I need more. Food will help me heal over time, but in order to keep moving and functioning NOW, I need something to help reduce the inflammation more immediately. In his book The Fourfold Path to Healing, Thomas Cowan suggests a few alternatives to commercial NSAIDs. I take them all right now, but hope to need them less and less as my body adjusts and heals.

1. White Willow Bark
White willow bark is just bark from a willow tree. It’s active ingredient is a compound called salicin. It’s been used for centuries to treat pain and reduce fever. Scientists later synthesized the salicin into salicylic acid, which is now known as aspirin. The synthetic form is known to irritate the stomach, but willow bark is far less likely to do so. The first thing I did was switch from my regular NSAID to willow bark. It worked just as well, if not better so I’ve stuck to it. I now buy it in bulk (here) and fill my own 00 capsules with this cute machine. The price is about 8 times less expensive than buying the capsules pre-made and it doesn’t take much time to fill them. This is the ‘everyday’ natural NSAID I keep in my cupboard to replace conventional synthetic over-the-counter pain and fever medications. My son (18) took this for mild pain relief the other day and reported that it worked well for him, too. Natural and effective.

2. Boswellia
Boswellia is also a tree. The resin is found to have anti-inflammatory properties. Frankincense comes from the extracts of the resin as well. I take this alone, but it is also in a complex I take that has other anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and turmeric.

3. Betacol®
Betacol is a blend by Standard Process that has some ‘weird’ stuff in it like bovine liver and adrenal. But, it works and it’s encapsulated in a pretty blue pill, so I don’t mind. It has the anti-stiffness factor that butter and cream do, but it’s got a longer shelf life.

Combined with my new way of eating, these natural supplements have helped me get rid of the unwanted side effects of conventional NSAIDs. In fact, they’ve even helped me stop taking the acid reducer I’ve been on for over 20 years. THAT is a great step forward for me.

In fact, look for a future post on how I got rid of the daily acid blocker.

This post is shared at: ThankYourBody

Fast and Fun Watermelon ‘Cake’

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Just a quick post to share a fun way to dress up a traditional summer dish. I saw a different version of this with whipped cream ‘frosting’ and it is cute, but who needs the fluff? Watermelon is such a great food and I love it on its own or with other fruit.

Here are some of my favorite things about watermelon:

  • It’s high in anti-oxidants, Vitamin C and Beta-Carotenes which all can help reduce inflammation

  • It’s a natural diuretic and helps flush the kidneys.
  • It contains Folic acid and Citrulline, which may reduce the risk of a heart attack, stroke and colon cancer.
  • It is a rich source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
  • It is pretty darn refreshing on a hot day.
  • It’s beautiful to look at.
  • Watermelon is a great addition to a picnic or BBQ or other casual event. If it’s served at a function that’s a little fancier, you often see it cubed or balled. This is an alternative that’s easy, beautiful and fun!
    All you do is cut the rounded ends off of the watermelon and carve the center from the rind (great visual instructions at PaleoCupboard. Sprinkle some berries around and put on a pretty cake plate and you are set! You could go through the trouble of frosting and decorating, but I think it’s pretty nekked! Enjoy!

    Pin it for later:
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    How to Avoid Bringing Toxins Camping

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    In a previous post I detailed the food we ate on our first camping trip since I fully committed to eating real food. When I decided that was the way I was going to live, I also began cutting other toxins from my daily routine. I changed the soaps and shampoos we use, the detergents and cleaners and even beauty products to non-toxic versions and started making some of them myself. This posed a bit of a problem when packing for camping. What should I use for sunscreen? What about bug spray? What about the plastic water bottles we used to bring? How do I pack my coconut oil and baking soda deodorant that melts at 76 degrees? So many things to think about.

    I got creative. Some of my ‘solutions’ worked. Some didn’t. Here’s a rundown of what I did and how it turned out.

    1. Bug spray

    Commercial insect repellent has so many chemicals in it I am surprised they can fit them all on the label. I’ve been buying natural bug spray for my husband for years but didn’t think much about it for me and the kids. We just used whatever was cheap and worked. In my effort to go non-toxic, this was now a major concern. I looked up recipes and found a couple using essential oils. I was skeptical because the mosquitoes around here are HUGE and persistent and last year they ate me alive even with commercial bug spray on. I looked up the ingredients of a popular essential oil blend for insect repellent a friend had given me a sample of and mixed up my own. It is similar to this one from Thank Your Body. Not all the ingredients were listed, but I smelled vanilla and added it to mine. I tested it out in the back yard and it totally worked. Mosquitoes would dance around and sometimes land but them fly right away. We used this while camping and it worked just as well. It also repelled flies, which were more numerous than mosquitoes.

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    2. Insect Repellent Lotion Bars

    Because the spray worked so well, I decided to make some cute repellent bars that I found at Homemade Mommy’s site for my son so he wouldn’t run from me when I tried to spray him. The bars were SO adorable. I used Lego Mifigure molds and made myself an army. bugarmy

    My little guy was thrilled to rub that minifig all over his arms and legs and face. He ran off to play and came back covered in dirt. Normal for him, but now he had streaks everywhere where the dirt stuck to the lotion. Oops. I think we’ll keep these for the backyard or grassy park situations. (Or for ME, if I can sneak them out).

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    3. Sunscreen

    I meant to make these sunscreen bars. I really did. I didn’t order the zinc powder in time, so that was out. I searched the health food store for the best alternative. I knew we’d be high in the mountains which means closer to the sun. The rest of the family likes to hike (I’m not there yet) so I knew they’d need something strong. We brought hats and sunglasses but I knew we’d need more. I got a spray that is spf 50 from Kiss My Face It isn’t the very best option,(for a list of safe and effective sunscreens, click here) but it worked for what I needed. We forgot to put it on the first day, so we were all a bit pink by the end of the day. Sunscreen only works if you apply it! My husband used coconut oil, which usually works great for him while out doing yard work, but it didn’t give him the protection he needed in the mountains in direct sun. He was pretty red most of the trip and opted for shade wherever he could find it so I gave him a job as my cabana boy.
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    4. Personal care

    There were no showers. FIVE days. No shower. Last time I brought baby wipes and wiped down the little guy and myself every evening. I’m not using those any more, so this time I brought a stack of wash cloths. The ‘little guy’ is now almost 7 and is not thrilled with mom washing him down, so I pretty much let him ripen. Clean clothes and underwear every day was good enough. He even protested washing his hands and face. After reading about dirt, I only insisted once or twice a day. You can see how that turned out in the image below. (BTW, that’s not snot under his nose, it’s his scar from his repaired cleft). For myself, I used the wash cloths with warm water from the camp stove and washed them out and hung them to dry. The last day I was itching for a shower, but it wasn’t bad. I had my hair back in a ponytail and wore a hat and it was all good. I decided to forego the makeup and it was LOVELY. I plan on doing more of that.

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    5. Cleaners and Soaps

    Washing all the dishes used in making real food camping meals was a bit of a chore. The cast iron pan my husband brought was ideal because it just needed to be scraped out and rinsed. The other dishes needed a good wash and with no hot water or sink it wasn’t fun. I ended up heating water on the camp stove because the DIY dish soap I brought left streaks of oil in a cold water wash. The foaming soap was great for washing hands, but in weighing how it worked on dishes and the effort involved, I think next time I will give in and pack the Scotch-Brite Soap Pads I brought last time. I wouldn’t use them at home, but this was a short period of time and we only had a few dishes to use. It would have been nice to get them clean in-between.

    For cleaning surfaces I brought a spray bottle of natural homemade cleaner. I added a couple of drops of lemon oil to it and it worked very well to clean up after cooking. It was a nice air freshener for inside tents, too.

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    6. Water Filtration

    The water at the campground was said to be clean and safe and if we didn’t have other options, it would have been fine to use. It’s a little cloudy and has a film on top, though so we’ve always brought our own. Last time it was a 5 gallon water cooler bottle with a manual pump. That worked well, but that was before we got our beautiful Berkey. This time, the Berkey had its own seat in the van. It took up a lot of room, but so would two 5 gallon bottles. We set up the Berkey in the outdoor ‘kitchen’ and filled it up. It was convenient for cooking, washing hands and filling up water bottles. Everyone brought a water bottle. The kids had regular Camelbak bottles or stainless steel, I had a Camelbak with a filter and my husband brought a Berkey sports bottle that has a serious filter. He boasted that he could probably drink right out of the lake with it.

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    7. First Aid and Medical

    Luckily we didn’t need much in the way of first aid. We brought an assortment of essential oils just in case. I used peppermint and lavender one morning for a headache(probably from not drinking enough water). My oldest son used the same for congestion due to seasonal allergies but ended up taking a Benadryl one night so he could sleep. We brought clove and frankincense for bug bites (which we didn’t have many of). The bug spray doubled as ‘thieves’ oil when I got sneezed on by a sick kid. The one we used the most, though was coconut oil. The air was dry and so was our skin. After a day in the sun, coconut oil felt great. My little guy’s cheeks were chapped and it worked well on that. It helped with chapped lips, too. The great part was that it was already packed to use for cooking and was readily available. We had a couple of extended family members ask to use some of the oils for various things and we were happy to share.

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    It might have taken more thought and preparation, but it wasn’t hard to avoid the toxic products we used to use. It was really nice to be out in nature and know that the products we were using were clean and natural, too.

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    In case you were wondering what I was doing while the family was hiking…I’m the big dot under the red umbrella.

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    Keep the Chlorine OUT of the Kiddie Pool!

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    A while back I wrote a post about neutralizing chlorine in your bath water. Now that it’s summer, we’re filling up the kiddie pools, most likely with the same water we use to fill our bathtubs. The kids are splashing around having a great time…and absorbing chlorine through their skin.

    [stextbox id=”bl”]WHY is that a problem?
    As I wrote in my previous post, “Chlorine is a chemical that kills living organisms. Unfortunately, it is not selective, so along with killing pathogens in our water, it kills beneficial bacteria and cells and tissues within the body. Inhaling chlorine byproducts in the steam from chlorinated showers and absorbing chlorine through the skin can trigger the body to produce free radicals, which cause damage to cells. Chlorine byproducts have also been shown to cause cancer and are a factor in heart disease .” (Read more about why we avoid chlorine in my previous post.)[/stextbox]

    The good news is that the same way you can clean up your bathwater, the chlorine can be wiped out of that kiddie pool in seconds VERY INEXPENSIVELY. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) has been proven to neutralize chlorine in water. Just one teaspoon can neutralize the chlorine in 200 gallons. Sprinkle it in the little pool, swish it around and you’re done! The water should be drained often to prevent bacteria build-up. (GET VITAMIN C POWDER HERE). OR…you could wait 24-48 hours for the chlorine to evaporate on its own, but who wants to wait to play???

    Unfortunately, you can’t go around neutralizing the neighbors’ pools or the public pool. Luckily, vitamin C will also neutralize chlorine on the skin after swimming. There’s a great topical spray for hair and body that uses the same method of neutralization (get it here).

    Keep the chlorine out of the kiddie pool this summer with safe and natural Vitamin C!