How to Give the Gift of Food as Medicine: 5 Things to Make This Holiday Season

I have been driven by the idea that food is medicine since I was a teenager. I had health issues that were difficult to treat using conventional, pharmaceutical-based medicine   It became clear  to me that when we sit down to eat we have a powerful opportunity to nourish and heal ourselves with the foods we choose.  And I have dedicated a significant portion of my life’s work doing that through health coaching, and through our work with Fire Cider. One of my favorite things to do is share the idea of food as medicine with my friends and family especially during this time of giving. Here are my  five go-to make-at-home  ways to share the gift of food as medicine this holiday season.

herb-garden-window

Photo from thriftyniftymommy.com

Start A Window Herb Garden

A small window herb garden is easy to assemble and gives the gift of fresh, green herbs all winter long! Nothing brightens up a meal like a confetti of fresh herbs sprinkled on top or an oil infused with herbs picked nearby. For how-to resources on making a kitchen herb garden to gift, I used the post, “Tips for a Small-Space Kitchen Herb Garden” on thekitchn.com and on WikiHow.com “Start A Window Herb Garden” as resources.

Don’t have a green thumb? You can purchase ready-to-pick, plants at your local greenhouse, farm store or grocer. I like Basil, Parsley, Cilantro and Rosemary but pick what your recipient will use the most. Add handmade tags with simple care  instructions and a couple of your favorite recipes to complete the gift.

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Grinding cardamom for the spice mix.

Make A  Healthy Drink Mix

I love drinking sweet and spicy golden milk, especially in the winter when I can really use the benefits of turmeric. You can read more about “Golden Milk – A Calming Ayurvedic Health Drink” on the FireCider.com blog. This year, I’ll be giving out jam jars filled with my pre-mixed golden milk spice blend, milk not included!

Golden Milk Spice Mix to fill on 8 oz jam jar:

¼ cup dried powdered ginger

½ cup dried powdered turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

¾ teaspoon ground black peppercorns

Put everything in a 1 cup jam jar, seal and shake to combine! Decorate the jar, add an ingredient label and include a short and sweet recipe for Golden Milk:

For every 8 ounces of milk (whole dairy or coconut) use one teaspoon of Golden Milk Spice Mix. Whisk to combine and bring to a simmer for two minutes.

Add raw honey (or stevia/sweetner of your choice) to taste.  

I ordered all of the above organic ingredients from Starwest Botanicals but you can also find them in the bulk section of your local co-op or grocery store.

 

Give a Farm Share or Produce Delivery

Give the gift of nutritious, whole foods week after week! Find a CSA— Community Supported Agriculture or a store that has a weekly delivery service like Berkshire Organics in Dalton, MA.

For a list of CSA’s across the US, LocalHarvest.org is an excellent resurce.

 

Custom Teas for Health

“Tea began as a medicine and grew into a beverage.” —Okakura Kakuzō

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Photo by Briar from her Marble and Milkweed Etsy Shop

Winter is the season for tea so why not give the gift of delicious, medicinal tea for winter health? Make your own blends of tea using dried plants from your garden, local farm or bulk organic herbs and spices from Starwest Botanicals. I found a long list of tea recipes on adelightfulhome.com under the post, “52 DIY Herbal Tea Recipes” Package your tea in ball jars and add a tag with the ingredient list and steeping instructions.

Learn Together

Don’t feel crafty? Not sure what to make? Sign yourself and a friend up for a class  and learn how to make something together! The gift of an experience, especially one that’s shared, is sometimes the best gift.  Learn how to make your own bone broth, herbal tinctures, Thai food, etc by checking out classes near you—start with local farms, chefs and herbalists and see what’s happening in your town.

Fire Cider: Food as Medicine for Candida Overgrowth

Candida Overgrowth is something that you may have been hearing more about lately, or maybe you’re like me, and have had a personal experience with too much Candida. Candida Albicans is a naturally occurring type of beneficial yeast found in every body’s mucus membranes. Under certain conditions the Candida mutates into a fungal form. This fungal Candida grows roots and can penetrate the walls of your intestines or other areas of the body causing all kinds of symptoms. Unfortunately, the conditions that can cause Candida to multiply in it’s damaging fungal form are all part of a typical American lifestyle: use of synthetic hormone based birth control, antibiotic consumption/use, too much stress, not enough movement and deep breathing, a diet high in processed sugars, alcohol and/or carbohydrates and the consumption of processed foods and body products loaded with chemicals, hormone disruptors and antibiotics.

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The symptoms of Candida Overgrowth are many but here are the highlights: sugar cravings, bloated abdomen, gas and digestive pain, especially after consuming carbohydrates or sugary foods, IBS, weight gain, joint pain, feeling sluggish or tired, brain fog, itchy skin, chronic vaginal yeast infections, bladder infections, jock itch and/or thrush which usually means a white or yellowish coating on the tongue. Not everyone has all the symptoms and Candida Overgrowth can overlap with other imbalances. It’s best to get tested and properly diagnosed before treating yourself for any health issue. The test for Candida Overgrowth should include an in depth medical history and a lab test on saliva, blood and stool samples.

food heart

The good news is that the way to get Candida back into balance is all about using the food you eat everyday as medicine, no drugs or prescriptions necessary! My blog, The Candida Diaries, is dedicated to sharing delicious recipes and remedies so that you can eat your way back to health. The Candida diet is actually pretty simple and similar to the Paleo or Atkins diets: no sugars, no carbohydrates, yes to lots of green veggies, fresh herbs, organic proteins and fats, nuts and seeds and naturally fermented foods like sauerkraut, crème fraiche and raw apple cider vinegar. These fermented foods help to repopulate your digestive system with beneficial organisms that help support a healthy internal balance.

When I was first diagnosed, I worked with my doctor to come up with a list of supplements, herbs and medicinal foods to help me recover. I started by complimenting a no sugar, no carbohydrate diet with a lot of immune support. I took high does of Vitamin C with Quercetin as well as Osha, Ecchinacea and started eating more fresh green herbs, bone broth, raw sauerkraut and aloe vera juice. After I was on the diet for a few weeks, eating well and supporting my immune system, I added in antifungal foods and supplements: raw garlic, oil of oregano, pau d’acro tea or tincture, chaparral tincture, digestive enzymes and caprylic acid aka coconut oil. There are many anti fungal, anti viral and anti bacterial plants out there so you can easily rotate your foods and herbs for maximum effect and support.

Me with Unsweetened Fire Cider in front of a wall of food starch packing peanuts (yes, they are biodegradable!)

Me with Unsweetened Fire Cider in front of a wall of food starch packing peanuts (yes, they are biodegradable!)

 

In 2009 my husband Dana introduced me to a vinegar and honey based health tonic that he had been making for his seasonal bouts of allergies and bronchitis for the past 10 years. Without adding the honey in at the end, this tonic is a mix of a lot of the foods I had been eating for their anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and immune boosting properties: organic, raw apple cider vinegar, citrus, onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, horseradish and habanero peppers. I used Dana’s tonic, now known as Shire City Herbals Fire Cider® and also called master tonic, plague tonic, etc, as a digestive aid after meals to reduce excess Candida, gas and bloating. It also helped me to avoid getting sick all the time during the winter.  Unsweeteend Fire Cider was a life changing experience and I have been using it daily ever since to keep my Candida in balance and my immune system supported. In 2011 my husband, brother and I decided to start Shire City Herbals so we could make Fire Cider on a large scale and share this traditional remedy with as many people as possible.

I have also found a lot of non food things to support my health, like loving what I do for a living! A regular yoga practice, deep breathing, getting exercise outside, these activities keep me grounded and help me manage stress. Keeping a food journal and working with a naturopath have been tremendously helpful. A holistic approach to health and wellness is one that recognizes that everything is connected, you food, your environment, your relationships, your job, everything! Using your food as medicine is a great way to start reconnecting with your healthiest self.

Curry Fire Cider Marinade

This past Father’s Day weekend I did what all good children do: grilled with my dad!  It was really fun, especially since I was trying out a new marinade that Chef and Butcher James Burden recommended to me.   I went to Berkshire Organics in Dalton to stock up on everything we needed for dinner.  I picked up fresh, organic veggies: eggplant really soaks up marinade so it’s great for grilling, plus onions, zucchini and some red and orange bell peppers.

Red Apple Butchers, at Berkshire Organics, had 30 day, dry aged steaks, so I had to try a few of those.  And I also bought about 2 and 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs with the skin on.  Here’s the marinade recipe plus a bonus curry mix from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, which is as useful as it sounds.   Last week I wrote to Mr. Bittman about Fire Cider and his assistant wrote me back saying she had tried it the last time she was in the Berkshires and would be happy to share a sample bottle with her boss.  How cool is that?!

Marinade for 2-3 pounds of Chicken 

Yes, of course you can use this marinade on tofu, fish or veggies.  For fish and veggies, about 20 minutes in the marinade will do.  For meat, like the chicken, make the marinade the day before and let the meat marinate overnight.  I made double this recipe, one half for the chicken and one half for the veggies.

Ingredients:

a generous 1/4 cup unsweetened Fire Cider

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons salt

1 big tablespoon fragrant curry powder blend (see photo below for the recipe! Yes, you can use store bought as well.)

a pinch of asafoetida

a pinch of chipolte pepper

1 teaspoon garam masala

 

Method:

First, make up the fragrant curry powder blend, this will make enough for this recipe plus plenty left over for all your curry spice needs, it’s awesome on kale chips!

Whole spices ready to toast.

Whole spices ready to toast.

Keep 'um moving, toasty and fragrant!

Keep ‘um moving, toasty and fragrant!

Use a small spice grinder to turn toasted spices into powder and then add powdered ginger and turmeric.  Homemade curry powder!

Use a small spice grinder to turn toasted spices into powder and then add powdered ginger and turmeric. Homemade curry powder!

Once you’ve made the curry blend,  combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl.

Yes, that's a gallon of Fire Cider. Beware the underdose!

Yes, that’s my personal gallon of unsweetened Fire Cider. Beware the underdose!

Pour all the marinade over the chicken and marinate over night in a sealed bag or sealed container.

The next day, when you are ready to cook, remove the chicken, discard any leftover marinade and grill the chicken til it’s done!

For veggies: chop bite sized pieces of onion, bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant, make up more marinade and marinate for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat each piece.  Slide onto skewers and grill with the chicken.

Grill ready chicken, veggies and steak.

Grill ready chicken, veggies and steak.

The 30 day dry aged steaks were perfect as is so I let them sit out at room temp for about an hour, lightly salted them and then grilled them for a few minutes on each side for perfectly rare, melt in your mouth awesomeness.

Happy grilling, all summer long!

Happy grilling, all summer long!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pine Nuts and Parmesan

I took this recipe straight from Bay Area Bites as it incorporates many things I love: Brussels sprouts, cheese, and food you can eat with your hands!  Brussels sprouts are flavorful, mini cabbages that roast up into crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, orbs of pallet pleasing nutrition.  This recipe calls for cooking and serving the sprouts on skewers, making them perfect party food, or maybe a fun way to get your kids (roommates, spouse) interested in eating green veggies.  If you don’t have skewers, don’t fret, you can simply skip that step.  If you are avoiding as much sugar as possible use Apple Cider Vinegar in place of the balsamic.

Photo from Bay Area Bites: Sprouts on a stick!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of Brussels sprouts
  • 1/8 cup pine nuts, finely diced
  • Balsamic vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar or Fire Cider
  • Olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese

Procedure:

Trim and peel away the outer leaves of each Brussels sprout and then half them.

Slide the Brussels sprout halves onto the skewers, about six to eight halves per skewer.

Line a baking dish with parchment paper and places the skewers halved-side up.

Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over each skewer, trying to “fill up” the Brussels sprouts.

Brussels sprouts on a stick ready to bake, photo from Bay Area Bites

Bake the skewers at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes until they are cooked and crispy.

Plate the skewers on a serving tray and cover them with shaved Parmesan and the pine nuts.

Original post can be found HERE!

Carrot Ginger Soup

It’s that time of year again: I have about 20 pounds of carrots in my refrigerator from my Dad’s garden and our friends at Woven Roots Farm.  I also have about as much free time as…wait, what’s that?  Since the first week in September I have been busy and busier and I can’t complain about it one bit.  So this week’s recipe is all about carrots, and quickly!

My husband Dana and my brother Brian and I started selling our Fire Cider in stores around the Berkshires last September.  We have gotten so much support from so many people and local businesses (no, they are not the same thing!) all over the Berkshires and beyond: we are now officially in every state in New England and even Ohio.  It’s been a pretty amazing year for the three of us.  This fall for our one year anniversary we exhibited at the Big E for 6 days, handing out over 15,000 samples of our tonic.  This has led to us working pretty much nonstop for the past 4 weeks and counting.

One thing that has kept us going (aside from the Fire Cider, of course) has been sitting down for a home cooked meal together, at least a few times a week.  I am so used to cooking almost all of the food we eat that it’s been kind of a shock all this eating on the go- grabbing prepared food at the Co-op or The Creamery and  eating in restaurants at the end of a long workday, too tired to cook, or even go to our garden to harvest food.  So I feel reassured that once again, home cooking with farm fresh foods is the way to go for health, best flavor and my sanity as well.

Eating together is one of those things that is full of intangibles and is so very important to any family, be it your group of friends, your roommates or your parents, siblings and kids.  When we eat together we have a chance, maybe the only time all day or all week, when we are all doing the same thing, at the same time, together.  When we share a meal we have prepared together we share the energy and love we put into the food and we all receive the benefits.  Eating together is community building 101.  Speaking of the energy we get from our food, eating root vegetables helps me to to feel more grounded and connected to the earth, especially during times when I’m really busy!  This easy soup recipe calls for 3 root veggies: ginger, onion and carrots with some fresh herbs for a very colorful and nutrient dense meal.

This soup takes about 15 minutes of actual cooking time, with about 30 minutes of simmering and cooling, so make a double batch and save some for later in the week when you have less time to cook.  You can use the downtime while the soup simmers to sauté some greens in garlic and olive oil for a well-rounded, brightly colored meal that will surely leave you and your family feeling nourished, brighter and healthier.

Carrot and Ginger Soup with a swirl of cream or coconut milk, perfect fall food!

Serves 4 – Cooking Time 15 minutes – Total Time- 40 Minutes

Ingredients

 

Enough olive oil or coconut oil for sautéing the onion

medium yellow onion, sliced

1 & 1/2  pounds  carrots, cut into 1/4-inch rounds

4  cups  vegetable or mushroom broth

1  tablespoon or more fresh  grated ginger

1 1/2  teaspoons  salt

1/4  teaspoon black pepper or more to taste

Optional:

1/2  cup  heavy cream (Highlawn Farm!) or coconut milk

Fresh herbs for garnish: chopped parsley or dill

Procedure

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 5 to 6 minutes.

Stir in the carrots, broth, ginger, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool at least 10 minutes.

Using a wand blender or a vented stand blender, puree the soup until smooth. Return to pot and warm, if necessary, over medium heat.

If you want to add cream: whisk the cream in a small bowl until soft peaks form. Fold in a pinch of salt and chopped fresh herbs. Divide the soup among individual bowls and top with the herb cream.

For the coconut milk: use organic, canned coconut milk (not the light stuff, it just has water added) and blend well so that it is smooth.  Add the chopped herbs and serve the soup with ¼ cup swirled into each bowl.

If you are on a strict no sugar diet, try making this version of the soup using lots of leeks and just a few carrots for color and mild sweetness.

Pork (or Tempeh) and Peppers with Fire Cider

Our friend Tom learned to cook this flavorful and simple Italian dish from his grandmother.  He served this along with some other amazing food- he made a tomato sauce from scratch, a huge colorful salad and  individual apple tarts for dessert- the last time Dana and I went to dinner at his place.  Here’s a version of Tom’s recipe, he used our Fire Cider in place of the vinegar from the original recipe.

Ingredients:

4  pork chops, bone in.  You can also use sliced pork or sliced tempeh.  If using tempeh I would marinate it first in some Fire Cider for about 20 minutes.

about 16 pepperoncini, sliced.  You can buy these or easily make your own!

sliced onion and sliced red, green or yellow peppers, about a handful per pork chop/serving

salt and pepper to taste

3-4  Tablespoons olive oil

3-4 Tablespoons of Fire Cider

Pork chops with colorful peppers and a side of sautéed greens.  This image is from the food network, Tom’s pork n peppers got all eaten up before I thought to take a picture. A testament to the deliciousness of his recipe!

Season your pork chops with salt and pepper on both sides.   In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil and add your chops (or tempeh).  Saute until browned on both sides then move to a covered plate to keep warm.  Add both kinds of peppers, onion and Fire Cider to the pan and continue to cook on medium heat, until peppers and onions are lightly browned. Serve over pork chops (or tempeh). This dish goes nicely with a big side of greens sautéed in garlic and olive oil.

Greens and Golden Beet Salad

I spent the better part of last week in Somerville with my sister Elise- we had a great time delivering bottles of Fire Cider to prospective stores and cafe’s.  We also went to a hot yoga class taught by my friend and former coaching client Joanna.  It was an amazing class, I think I will have to make hot yoga a part of my practice.  Perhaps once monthly to start, it’s pretty intense!  South Boston Yoga, where Joanna teaches, is a great studio if you are in the area.

Even though Elise lives in an apartment she has made excellent use of the limited outdoor space available: a planter box in the driveway that she grew corn and golden beets in and another small raised bed where she’s growing tomatoes, onions, spaghetti squash and a rose-bush.  For lunch one day Elise thinned the beets out by picking 4 small ones and we ate them from root to tip!  Here’s a whole meal in one salad that takes just a few minutes to make…..

Ingredients for 2 Servings:

Young beet greens, chopped and placed on 2 big plates or shallow bowls.

3-4 small golden beets, boiled til just soft.  Elise mixed the leftover beet juice with a cube of home-made organic beef stock for a joint and immune boosting, mineral rich, hot drink.

about 1/3 of a medium-sized onion, thin sliced

a clove or two of crushed garlic

olive oil for sauteing

salt and black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of Fire Cider

one whole sliced avocado

fresh goat or sheep cheese, we used the sheep yogurt-cheese from Sophia’s Greek Pantry, it’s some of the best Greek yogurt I’ve ever had, including the yogurt I had in Greece!

a handful of toasted walnuts

Procedure:

Separate the golden beets from the tender beet greens, chop the greens and spread between 2 plates or in shallow, wide bowls.

Boil the beets til tender.  While you wait for the beets, saute the onion and garlic with salt and pepper in olive oil over medium heat.  When the onions are soft and starting to brown, add the Fire Cider and turn off the heat.

Slice the beets while they are still hot.  Spread the beets over the greens, drizzle with olive oil, top with the sautéed onion and Fire Cider mixture.

Add a dollop of Greek yogurt or fresh sheep cheese, sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and a side of sliced avocado.

A Note About: the golden beets certainly tasted much less sweet than red beets and according to my ‘research’ on the internet there are about 18 grams of carbohydrates per cup or around 8 grams of carbs per 2.5 inch diameter beet.  So the golden beets are not a low carbohydrate food but not excessive either.  At this point, for me, portions matter as much as the carbohydrate count.  Eating small amounts of root vegetables and grains, even 100% rye sourdough bread, is a way to get healthy carbohydrates without causing candida symptoms.

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