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Learning to cook can change your life

August 7, 2013 • Paige

The most important thing you can do to improve your health is to cook your own food.  

Prepackaged and processed foods contain lots of chemicals and substances that you will never find in a pantry in someone’s home.   Lots of extra chemicals are necessary to keep food looking fresh and recent, but there are serious health concerns about these dyes, flavors, emulsifiers, and preservatives.  You are probably already aware of the high levels of salt and fat that comes with mass-produced “corporate cooking” as well.

“I don’t have time to cook!”

Cooking real food does take more time than ripping open a colorful box and throwing it in the microwave, but the perception that cooking  takes “too long” is false.  A web search for “quick and easy recipes” turned up thousands of recipes that take 30 to 45 minutes to prepare, using fresh un-processed ingredients and very simple steps.

Using an electric pressure cooker, I can prepare a huge pot of black eyed peas and sausage served over rice, in less than 45 minutes, starting with dry peas from my pantry.  (Recipe below)

Not only is this healthy and clean food – it is a lot cheaper as well.    Recently I made our “Gusto Chow” for a group of ten people, and it cost me $20.00 to make a pot big enough to feed all of us twice.

How Cooking Can Change Your Life

The first 7:30 of this video is quite eye-opening.

As Michael Pollan says, cooking is about creativity and control.   If you exercise greater control over exactly what goes into your body, you have a much better control over your own health.  Pollan also said “Really great cooking comes from care and conviction, not from a complicated recipe or specific methods.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to cook right now.  There are thousands of recipe websites with pictures and videos that can teach you how to make anything you want.

Learning how to cook is the easy part.  Training yourself to get in the kitchen and DO IT instead of going the “easy route” is the difficult part.  I admit, it took me a few years to learn how to cook and to train myself out of the habit of getting “easy” prepackaged food, but these days we happily go several months without any prepackaged meals.

learn-to-cookGusto Chow Recipe

Serves 3 – 10
Not to be confused with Gusto Chow for 100


1 lb bag dry black eyed peas
1 package of smoked sausage
1 large onion, diced
4-6 stalks celery, diced
2 cups dry, uncooked rice

Seasonings: minced garlic, salt, pepper, liquid smoke, and herbs
(we use basil, oregano, and marjoram)


Electric pressure cooker
2 quart sauce pan
cutting board and a good knife

Optional: Tea kettle or a second pot for boiling water, if you want to really speed things up!


Sort and rinse peas and set them on the stove to boil with enough water to allow the peas to expand. Get the peas to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute, but not longer than 5 minutes. Turn the heat down and let the beans simmer while you do the other steps.

Slice the smoked sausage and brown it in the pressure cooker. Pour off extra fat.

Add the diced onion and celery, and sauté until done.

Drain peas and add them to the pressure cooker, add water to cover.
(Here is where that kettle of boiling water comes in handy!)

Add garlic, herbs, and seasonings to taste.

Attach the pressure cooker lid and set it to cook on High pressure for 30 minutes.

Make rice on the stove while the pressure cooker is doing its thing, and you will likely have 20 minutes to sit down and relax until your home-cooked meal is ready.


If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you would simmer the black eyed peas and sausage on the stove for 90 minutes. This is perfect for a weekend, but the pressure cooker makes it work on a week night.
But an electric pressure cooker costs $80!!  Yup, they do.  If you just look at the savings of using dry beans over canned, you’re saving $5 or more PER MEAL. Because we can use more dry beans, we are eating a LOT less meat.  We are using basic ingredients which are cheaper.My pressure cooker lowered my grocery costs by nearly $100 every month.
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Natural Homemade Deodorant: It really works

May 21, 2013 • Paige

There are a lot of reasons to stop using commercial deodorant and antiperspirant.  Here is a place to start reading, if this is the first you’ve heard:

Let’s face it: Everybody sweats and there is nothing that any of us can do to stop it, but we CAN easily control body odor with natural homemade remedies.  Body odor is caused by bacteria, not by sweat, so the key is to use an antibacterial deodorant that doesn’t irritate your skin.  I’ve tried several natural commercial products, and none of them worked for me, so now I make my own.  I’ve been making moisturizer from coconut oil for a long time, so why not?

Making your own natural deodorant is incredibly easy, but it may take a little trial-and-error to find what works best with your body.  Write down what you put into your deodorant so that you can make it again without having to guess.  The first time you try this, make a small amount so it is easier to adjust it.

There is no “the best recipe”.  Most are based on baking soda with arrowroot powder, corn starch, or salt and a little essential oil in a base of virgin coconut oil.

natural deodorant

A note about the ingredients:  Use the good stuff whenever you can because it makes a world of difference.

Virgin coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, so it makes a great base.  Some people just use straight coconut oil and stop there, but I live in Louisiana so I need something more powerful.

Tea Tree oil is my preferred essential oil due to its antibacterial properties, but you can use whatever you like.  Sweet orange and lavender essential oils are also popular.  Word to the wise: Don’t use peppermint oil.

Get Started:

Choose your ingredients, and mix them in equal parts:

Baking soda +  corn starch


Baking soda  + arrowroot powder


Baking soda  +  salt*
(Salt was awful for me, but others swear by it)

Add just enough coconut oil to form a thick paste, about the consistency of commercial deodorant.  Add a few drops of essential oil and thoroughly mix everything together.   Be careful not to add too much essential oil, as some of them can burn the skin.

For every 1 cup of natural deodorant, I can only add about 3 drops of essential oil or my skin will develop a hot red rash that is not fun.  I’ve seen a lot of recipes contain 10 drops of this, 15 drops of that, so it’s possible that I’m more sensitive than the average person.  Better safe than sorry!  You can always add more later.

Store your deodorant in a wide-mouth container that you can easily get your fingers into, and keep it in a cool place.  Coconut oil melts at 76 degrees, so consider keeping it in the refrigerator in the summer time.

To apply, rub a little bit of deodorant onto your fingers and spread it under your arms – pretty simple.

This stuff really works.  If you’re nervous, try it on a weekend.  That’s best if you don’t know what is going to work for you anyway.  I was very nervous at the idea of ditching my Ultra Maximum Strength antiperspirant for an entire work day, but it has been 85 degrees in Shreveport, Louisiana for the last week and I’ve been doing just fine the whole time!   I’m sure I’ll use the commercial stuff from time to time but I’m not soaking myself in aluminum every day any more.

Troubleshooting help:

If your arm pits develop a red rash, or start burning, you likely have too much baking soda or too much essential oil.    Dilute it with some more coconut oil, and/or more arrowroot or cornstarch, and adjust until you’re comfortable.   This is why you start with a small batch.  You also might get irritated skin if you apply deodorant too soon after shaving, but that happens with commercial brands, too.

At the end of all this…  If you still feel like you need the commercial products, don’t sweat it. (har har)  There are so many other ways to simplify and make healthier choices.  The sky is the limit!

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Growing your own sprouts

May 12, 2013 • Paige

sproutinglentils-fivedays07How to Sprout Lentils

Sprouting is something that everyone can do to grow fresh nutritious food for very little cost.  For about five years, the Gustos have been growing our own sprouts and eating them every day.

At this point, we have developed our own method of sprouting, which is what I am going to show you.

To start things off, we’ll focus on lentils.

What’s a Lentil?

Lentils are a small brownish green legume found with the dry beans and rice. The store brand usually costs about $1.40 per pound.

Note: You can sprout several different types of dry beans, but some of them are poisonous, so make sure you choose something you can safely sprout!  Example: NEVER eat sprouted kidney beans.


What do I need to start sprouting lentils?

A bag of dried lentils

A wide-mouth glass jar

A lid and a screen

  • Metal ring lids that come with a canning jar (they rust, only use them once or twice).
  • Plastic lid, cut with a hole-saw
  • Metal screen from hardware store, cut with heavy duty shears. You need this for sprouting small seeds.
  • Plastic screen, cut from craft store “Plastic Canvas”.  Large holes, lots of air-flow

If you don’t have any of that stuff, a rubber band and some window screen works pretty well, too!


Getting Started:

Prepare your materials

Wash and sanitize the jar, lid, and screen to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Do this before each new sprouting “crop”

  • Wash in hot water by hand or in a dish washer.
  • Rinse in a light vinegar or bleach solution.

Start with about  1/4 cup of dry lentils.

Pick through them and remove any small stones and debris, and rinse well with cool water.
Note: I used a half cup for this tutorial – it was way too much!


Cover lentils with water and soak for 8 – 12 hours. 

Leave lots of room for lentils to expand.


Rinse and Drain

Drain and rinse your lentils well with cool, clean water. They will have doubled in size.

Rinse and drain lentils every 8 – 12 hours.

Place jar upside down in a bowl or rack at an angle steep enough to prevent water from pooling. Ensure there is plenty of air-flow through the lid. We keep our sprouting jars in a dish drying rack with a drainboard that drains into the sink.

Photo below – Left: Lentils               Right: Black Eyed Peas.
We have switched to all plastic lids now, this photo is a few years old.


At approximately 24 hours, the lentils are beginning to sprout. 

If you are going to cook them, you could stop here.  I like to sprout them a lot longer so that I can eat them raw.

Sprouted lentils after 36 hours:


Sprouts are Ready to Eat!

At 3 days, (below), the sprouts can be eaten raw.



At 3 to 3.5 days, the sprouts begin growing little leaves.

That is when we start eating them!

Five Days



Stopping the Sprouting Process and Storing your Sprouts

Refrigerating lentils almost stops the growing process.
Rinse sprouts and drain very well, gently pat dry with a towel.

  • Store sprouted lentils in a clean, dry jar secured with an airtight lid.
  • Rinse and drain well once per day.
  • Eat within a few days.

Lentil sprouts smell heavenly when you lightly saute them, but we usually eat them raw, sprinkled into our salads.  We usually have two jars going so that we have a constant supply of fresh sprouts.

(Article also appears on

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How to Cook Brown Rice by Moxie Gusto

May 28, 2012 • Paige

The myth that eating healthy is expensive – is false!

Simple, nutritious and low-fat food is actually some of the cheapest food out there. Brown Rice and dry beans are about $1.50 per pound.  A pound of dry beans cooks up about six cups of beans, equal to five cans.

Brown rice is packed with nutrition, and cheap. It goes well with practically anything and I think brown rice tastes a lot better than white rice.  I make big batches and keep it in the fridge for quick meals.

Learning to cook brown rice is easy.  You just need the patience to leave it alone and resist temptation to lift the lid and stir it.  For me, this was not easy!

Cooking Brown Rice

Brown Rice Method one:

  • Pour 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan, heat to boiling.
  • Measure and rinse 1 cup of uncooked brown rice, add it to the water.
  • Stir and cover with a lid.
  • Turn heat down to low, and set a timer for 45 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, uncover.
  • Drain off any excess liquid and fluff with a fork.

Do not lift the lid, not even once until 45 Minutes are up!

Brown Rice Method two:

Pre-soaking brown rice cuts the cooking time in half!

  • Measure and thoroughly rinse 1 cup of uncooked brown rice.
  • Soak the rice in a bowl of cool water for two hours, then drain.
  • Pour 2 cups of water in a medium sauce pan and heat to boiling
  • Drain the soaked rice and add it to the boiling water.
  • Stir and cover with a lid.
  • Turn the heat down to low, set a timer for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, uncover.
  • Drain any excess liquid and fluff with a fork.

Do not lift the lid, not even once until 20 minutes are up!

If you’re not sure how to use brown rice, here are some recipes to get you started:

Southern Brown Rice Recipes @

Recipe: Lentils, Brown Rice, and Carmelized Onions

Here is an explanation of some of the benefits of  brown rice.

This article also appears on

Blissfully Simple Laundry. Yes…. Laundry. by Moxie Gusto

May 14, 2012 • Paige

The next time you do laundry, don’t use any detergent.  When the washer agitates, you will see suds.  Wash without detergent again, and you will still see suds. Your clothes are full of detergent, and every interior surface of your washing machine is coated with detergent, too.

I haven’t used any detergent in about a year and I’m never going back.  The benefits are pretty amazing.

If you’re not up for going detergent-free, try cutting the amount of product you use in half. I promise: you’re not going to notice a difference except that you buy a lot less detergent.

You don’t need fabric softener, either.  Add a quarter cup of white vinegar in the rinse cycle instead of softener. Vinegar aids in rinsing out the detergent and reduces static quite a lot.  It kills odors really well.  I used a ‘Downy ball’ for the vinegar so I wouldn’t have to catch the rinse cycle. Easy and efficient!

Now, all I use in my laundry is white vinegar.  I add ½ to 1 full cup of white vinegar at the beginning in place of detergent.   My clothes are clean and soft, and smell like clean clothes.  Vinegar even does the job on my athlete teenager’s sports uniform.  I was really skeptical there, but I swear by “just vinegar” now.

After ditching laundry products and other perfumed products,  I discovered an unexpected benefit:

Now, when I go out in public I can smell everything.  The perfumes and chemicals in detergents and other products hang around a person like a cloud of fumes. I didn’t realize I had such dulled senses until I quit all that stuff!   As far as I’m concerned, white vinegar is the holy grail of household chores.

Honey: A Simple Home Remedy

January 16, 2012 • Paige

Honey is an excellent home-remedy and has been used for thousands of years to treat open wounds, burns, ulcers, sore throats, and dry skin. There is evidence that honey was used medicinally by ancient Egyptians and Greeks, Native Americans, and many other people all over the world. Aristotle spoke of honey as a salve for wounds.  Midwives have long used honey to aid in the healing of tears after childbirth.

Honey is antimicrobial, antibacterial, and a natural antiseptic. It contains an enzyme called glucose oxidase which produces hydrogen peroxide, when combined with water or body fluids. Honey helps keep the skin moist, encouraging the growth if new tissues and may reduce scarring. Honey dressings are easy to remove and don’t stick to the skin.

Honey soothes a sore throat.  Taking a spoonful of honey can help suppress a cough, soothe a sore throat, and help fight infection. Not only is honey antibacterial, it has anti-inflammatory properties as well.   Children can tolerate honey and you will likely have an easier time administering a spoonful of honey than spoonful of over the counter cough syrup.  Note: NEVER give honey to infants, as there is a high risk of botulism.

Honey has been said to induce sleep, and it -really- works for me, so that’s another reason to try administering a spoonful of honey to a sick child at bedtime.  It will soothe their throat, relieve coughs and help them sleep.

Raw honey is best, because it hasn’t been heated and filtered like the commercial honey you find in the grocery store.  Heating honey destroys the enzymes and lessens the medicinal properties.  However, the honey I buy is produced in my area, and is heated but not high enough to be pasteurized. I know I’m losing some of the beneficial properties this way but I’m supporting a local business and I’m happy with the results of this lower priced option.  I’ve read that regularly taking local honey over a long period of time helps build up a resistance to local pollens and reduces seasonal allergies.  I’ll be sure to report on that once I’ve been at it long enough.

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