Beauty – la Dolce Vita

Nothing like sourcing beautiful body care & fragrance products from beautiful locales where lives beautiful women with a knack for looking after themselves.  Which brings me to this place:italian4

Santa Maria Novella, Florenceone of the oldest pharmacies in the world! They carry products with a meaning.  They come with tradition and history which in my books makes them extra special.italian3

photo: d. king
photo: d. king

santamaria1

In all fairness I didn’t know about this until my good friend came back from Florence and gifted me with an elegantly wrapped package of what appeared to be some amazing skincare…made in Italy.  I could tell right away these were exceptional from the tasteful ribboned box they came in and even the bag.  Of course I couldn’t wait to open it up and try them.

And the best part is their story (I love a good story)….italian6italian2

THEN:

The long name is Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.  It was established in 1221 by Dominican Monks shortly after their arrival in Florence.  The friars began cultivating medicinal herbs in their gardens to prepare medications, balms and ointments for their convent’s small infirmary.

Once fame of their extraordinary products spread beyond Italy, it became opportune, in 1612, to open the pharmacy to the public.

The ingenuity of the formulas developed by the apothecary fathers, in the 18th century became renowned and crossed numerous borders reaching Russia, the Indies, and as far away as China.

NOW:

They have a tea room
They have a tea room

Today the tradition is perpetuated and renewed.  They use the highest quality natural raw materials and follow the artisanal procedures first established by the Dominican fathers.

The Officina is particularly attentive to the herbalist’s art which has triumphed since the enterprise began, basing all its preparations on herbs and natural lipids, with nothing tested on animals.

Each of the products has its own peculiar history.  For instance one of the products “Acqua della Regina” is an essence that was created especially for Caterina de’ Medici (a noblewoman, crowned Queen of France after marrying Henry II).

There are other ancient recipes that deserve mention but perhaps that is the most popular perfume.

The original Via della Scala premises, where production took place until just a few years ago, while still a store, are genuine museum rooms.  The museum’s purpose is not only to educate people about the Santa Maria Novella’s products but to benefit visitors who simply wish to see a “museum of tradition.”

The products are available in Florence. Address: (Via della Scala, 16, 50123 Firenze, Italy) and major cities in Italy.  They have travelled to France, Spain, Belgium and England and a few locations in the United States.italian1

In North America you can find them at:

Address: 285 Lafayette St #2, New York, NY 10012, United States

Phone:+1 212-271-0884

Address: 8411 Melrose Pl, Los Angeles, CA 90069, United States

Phone:+1 323-651-3754

Address: 9700 Collins Ave, Bal Harbour, FL 33154, United States

Phone:+1 305-865-3334

They are unique and wonderful

 

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Health MATTERS – spice it up with natural healers

It’s almost déjà-vuhealthyI know I’ve written about the healing powers of herbs and spices before but just in case you missed it, or need further explanation of what certain ones are capable of doing, read on…

Herbs and Spices have long been one of our greatest natural healers.  Ancient Egyptians combined coriander, mint and sage with wine (aha!) to treat everything from herpes to upset stomachs.  True story: Cinnamon is such a powerful antimicrobial that it was even used in embalming to slow decay.  I know that’s kind of gory but impressive right?  These old-world remedies continue to play a role in fighting new world diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Diabetes, thanks to their potent antioxidant qualities.  Here are three of the world’s healthiest spices:

TUMERIChealthy1

The golden spice that gives curry its distinctive yellow colour also provides a medicine chest full of health benefits. Turmeric is high in dietary fibre, iron, manganese, vitamin B6 and potassium. Studies show it helps relieve bloating and indigestion and also has antibacterial properties. A 2012 study in Clinical and Experimental Pharmacology and Physiology shows the active ingredient in turmeric curcumin is a potent anti inflammatory. Researchers at the University of Buffalo recently discovered that these anti-inflammatory properties may be good for your waistline and reduce the risk of obesity related diseases. Try using turmeric to jazz up scrambled eggs, soups, rice or veggies, or brew up a pot of turmeric tea:

Boil 1-2 cups water, then simmer with one teaspoon turmeric, one teaspoon cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg for 10 minutes. Strain. Sweeten with raw honey and add a dollop of almond or coconut milk to taste. Include a pinch of cloves or a teaspoon of fresh ground ginger to the water.

CINNAMON
healthy2

Did you know that just one teaspoon of ground cinnamon contains the same amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants as a half cup of blueberries? A study published in BMC Cancer found that cinnamon extract may actually help prevent tumour cell growth. Cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives the spice its colour and flavour, is also the key ingredient in fighting a host of other illnesses. A 2013 study from the University of California, Santa Barbara found it may even help ward off Alzheimer’s by preventing the development of “tangles” in brain cells. Meanwhile, researchers from the University of Hannover found that cinnamon also helps control blood sugar in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Study participants who took cinnamon extract three times a day (the equivalent of about three grams of cinnamon) for four months had significantly lower glucose levels than those who didn’t sample the spicy extract.

CAYENNEhealthy3

Pepper flakes, cayenne and paprika not only add pizzazz to plain dishes, they’re also a handy source of healing and pain relief. Capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their kick, fights pain by blocking pain signals to the brain. (The hotter the pepper, the more pain-fighting bang for your buck.) Capsaicin is often used as a cream or lotion to relieve neuralgia (pain that originates in nerves near the skin surface). A study in the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology found that capsaicin in nasal spray form reduces migraine pain and also helps fight cold symptoms. And although spicy food is often blamed for stomach upset, eating capsaicin actually promotes digestive health by reducing stomach acid and relieving bloating and nausea.

More Herbal Healers:

Ginger – studies show that ginger relieves symptons of morning sickness, a condition that affects as many as 85% of women in their first trimester.

Lavender – There’s a reason this fragrant plant is so often used in soaps and lotions – studies show its subtle scent soothes anxiety and mental stress.

Mint – Don’t deny yourself an after-dinner-mint – peppermint has proven to be an effective treatment for bloating, gas, diarrhea, and even the pain associated with irritable bowel syndrome.

Rosemary – This flavourful herb is high in antioxidants and studies show it may help relieve symptoms of indigestion.

Saffron – Tame monthly miseries with a daily saffron capsule – studies show saffron may provide fast relief from PMS symtons.

Photos: IStock

Source: Canadian Health and Lifestyle

Fabulous Food – creamy Herb dressing

If you’re like me you put fresh herbs in everything from egg salad sandwiches to soups and pastas. Even pizza!creamyherbdressing2 It really does improve the taste and I love the ritual of cutting a few fresh stems from my herb garden. Well right now my herb garden is not looking so great except for the oregano and thyme (which is thriving since I re-potted them in a huge pot together – they seem to get along very well).  I’ve been looking for ways to preserve their freshness for as long as possible.  Nothing wrong with using dried but I love garnishing with fresh almost as much as cooking with them. So here’s an idea for preserving your soon-to-be-sad-looking herbs and a recipe for a simple dressing which you can use for everything from coleslaw & cucumber salad to potato salad or simple mixed greens.

Preserving: 

Summer might be waning, but your money-saving herb garden can be harvested until the first frost. Preserve those wonderful green bits for winter with these tips.

At the household blog Tipnut, they’ve put together a rather exhaustive list of ways you can preserve the bounty of your summer garden. On top of more traditional methods like hanging herbs to air dry, they have some rather novel approaches to stashing them away for the winter. Want to preserve your more oily herbs as-is, instead of drying them out? Try this trick:

Chop herbs then sprinkle them into ice cube trays (measure into each cube the most common amount you use in cooking). Cover with water and freeze (can also cover with stock or olive oil). Pop them out once they’re frozen, package in freezer bags and store in the freezer (remove as much air as possible from the bags before freezing). When needed for cooking, just take out a cube and pop it in the dish that’s cooking (thawing first is optional–remember to account for the frozen liquid in your recipe). Tip: Try mixing your favorite blends of fresh herbs before freezing.

If you have a consistent stable of recipes, the ice cube trick would be a great way to preserve fresh herbs and oil for easy use.

And now for the low calorie, low-fat RECIPE – Creamy always sounds more fattening right?

creamyherbdressing1Creamy Herbed Dressing

  • 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise (try avocado or southwest)
  • 1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried minced onion or chopped chives
  • 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon or dill (or use both)
  • 1 teaspoon onion salt or celery salt or 1/4 teaspoon of each
  • White pepper to tastecreamyherbdressing3
  1. Preparation: Combine mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, honey, onion or chives, tarragon (or dill) and onion salt (and/or celery salt) in a bowl until well blended. Season with white pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings, if desired.
  2. Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate the dressing for up to 5 days. Stir before using.
  3. Nutritional per Tbsp: 16 measely calories & 1 G FAT

 Tell me how you LOVE IT (a switch over from reliable olive oil, balsamic & lemon juice!)

If you were wondering: black pepper is unripe fruit (green), picked and sun dried til it turns black. White pepper is the fully ripe seed stripped of its outer husk.

Furthermore….white pepper has a little milder flavor than black pepper but in some things it shouldn’t matter. Some recipes will specifically call for white pepper but I routinely substitute black pepper for white in my recipes. Keep this in mind… if you are making a cream soup or a lighter colored soup, usually the recipe calls for white pepper so it doesn’t look like you have dirt floating around in your soup. You can’t see the white pepper like you see the black pepper. But as long as you don’t mind the color… the taste is usually just the same.