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.

you-are-what-you-eat1

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!

Arugula Pesto Dinner

Sliced tomatoes, arugula pesto, feta cheese and flax bread for dinner!

Sliced tomatoes, arugula pesto, feta cheese and flax bread for dinner!

With so much fresh produce exploding out of gardens everywhere it’s easy to create interesting, healthy, veggie based meals.  My dad recently harvested a whole bunch of arugula.  He used it as the base for ‘Salad Lyonnaise‘, in place of the traditional frisee, yum!  And I decided to turn the bunch he gave me into a spicy pesto.  Eaten with sliced garden tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese and flax bread, this is a filling meal perfect for al fresco dinning.  I saved all my left over ingredients in glass containers, so it was easy to replicate the next night.

Arugula is full of vitamin A, K, folate, can help guard against cancer and is good for your brain too!  You can use the following ingredients as a guide and enjoy this pesto on flax crackers, flax pizza, as a spread on sandwiches, a dip for crudities, grilled fish…pretty much everything!

Ingredients:

  • arugula
  • garlic cloves
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice, optional: zest the lemon first, then add juice to taste
  • salt
  • grated romano or similar hard cheese
  • walnuts

Method:

Pesto is the perfect food for just using what you’ve got and don’t worry about measuring anything.  It’s hard to go wrong, but if you need some numbers to help you out, I go with about 50% greens and 50% nuts, cheese and olive oil with small amounts of lemon, garlic and salt. I use my food processor but I bet you could use a blender as well.

Start with the nuts and the garlic cloves, use as many as you like, and pulse together until you’ve got fine bits.

Then add the arugula, enough olive oil to cover it well, and pulse again to combine.  You can also add parsley or basil, or both, as a compliment to the spicy, bitter arugula.

Add some grated cheese and lemon juice.  Blend well and taste.

Add salt to taste, more cheese or nuts, basically, at this point I start tasting and adding a little more or a lot more of whatever ingredient seems to be lacking.  And I want the consistency to be thick and smooth, so olive oil is key!  You can add lots of oil and lemon juice to make this pesto into more of a thin dressing for a fresh garden salad.  Or keep it thick and use it as a dip or spread.

Perfect for Brunch: Kale and Goat Cheese Fritatta Cups

The link below is to the original recipe on TheKitchn, I copied it as is, I didn’t need to change a thing!  And I will be making these for the next big group brunch, they are perfect for sharing : – )

Photo credit: Megan Gordon

Photo credit: Megan Gordon

Kale and Goat Cheese Fritatta Cups 
I always use lacinato kale for this recipe, but you could really use any leafy green you’d like. And since you’ll have kale stems leftover, why not reserve them for a stir fry later in the evening?

Makes 8 individual cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup goat cheese, crumbled

Procedure:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. To get 2 cups kale, remove the leaves from the kale ribs. Wash and dry the leaves and cut them into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
  2. In a 10-inch nonstick skillet, cook the garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add the kale and red pepper flakes and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Add the kale and thyme to the egg mixture.
  4. Using a 12-cup muffin tin, use the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to grease 8 of the cups (you may also use butter if you’d prefer). Sprinkle the tops with goat cheese. Bake until they are set in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes.
  5. Frittata is best eaten warm from the oven or within the next day, but leftovers can be kept refrigerated and reheated for up to a week.

Serving Suggestion: Nachos

Cheesy nachos with chopped onion and cilantro and fresh guacamaole

Cheesy nachos with chopped onion, cilantro and fresh guacamole.

Ok, first, my apologies for yet another low quality photo, but, I think it’s better than no photo at all!  My version of nachos is fairly simple, more wholesome and healthy and yes, they are cheesy good too.

I started with a double batch of flax crackers, rolled out very thin between to pieces of parchment.

I used these fresh baked flax crisps in place of traditional corn chips, spread out fairly evenly on a baking sheet.

Dice up some onion, shred some cheese- a sharp, raw cheddar is what I used- mix the two together and liberally cover the flax crisps.

Bake or broil until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Take them out and sprinkle with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.  These are nachos so feel free to serve/eat them right from the baking sheet.

Top with fresh guacamole: I make mine with pressed raw garlic, cumin and chili powder, salt, fresh lime juice and a couple of ripe avocados, plus more cilantro.

This is a hearty snack or meal that pairs well with a big green salad like this one made with mostly cilantro or this raw kale salad, just skip the cheese!

Cauliflower Pizza: A New Take On Veggie Pie

I was skeptical about this idea of using cauliflower as the base for a pizza crust.  Then, a former coaching client sent me the recipe she had used, telling me I would love it.  Since she and I have shared a bunch of recipes I decided it was time to see what I was missing out on:

Does this look like a vegetable to you?

Does this look like a vegetable to you?

The recipe I was sent is this one, from the site Eating Bird Food, which is all about how healthy foods can and should be delicious, I couldn’t agree more!  I took the recipe and made it double, with minor changes:

Ingredients

  • 1 head cauliflower (about 4 cups riced)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cheese- use your favorite- mozzarella is great, we had some goat Gouda so I used that.
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons each basil and oregano

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven and pizza stone, if you have one, to 400° F
  2. Prep a 12 inch round baking tray- you can grease the tray or use parchment paper.
  3. Remove the stems and leaves from your cauliflower and chop the florets into chunks. Add to a food processor (I used my Cuisinart) and pulse just until the texture is similar to rice. If you don’t have a food processor or Vitamix, you can grate the cauliflower with a cheese grater or chop it.
  4. Sauté cauliflower “rice” in a non-stick skillet (I used our large cast iron pan) over medium heat and cook until translucent, approximately 10-12 minutes.   Mine did not get very translucent but it did get cooked somewhat which is the whole point.
  5. In a bowl combine all remaining ingredients, starting with the eggs so you can whip them up.  Then add the cauliflower and mix well to combine.
  6. Spread dough out evenly over greased tray or parchment paper – about ¼ to ⅓ of an inch thick. The pizza should be about 12  inches in diameter.
  7. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the crust is golden, crispy on the edges and cooked through the middle.
  8. Remove the crust from the oven.
  9. Top with sauce and toppings.  Add whatever you like best, you’ll be eating this pizza with a fork so go for it: sautéed onions, mushrooms, fresh chopped veggies, pesto, cheese, fresh herbs, etc.
  10. Broil the pizza for 5 minutes, or until the toppings are hot and the cheese is melted. Allow the pizza to cool for 2-3 minutes then cut and serve immediately.

I topped our pizza with one crumbled Italian sausage, sautéed onions, hot pepper flakes, more oregano and basil and just a bit of grated Romano sheep cheese.  I thought we had pesto in the freezer (wishful thinking!)  which would have been perfect for the sauce.  I could have made pesto out of garlic, olive oil, salt and some of the collard greens we had but didn’t think ahead enough.  It turned out really well even without the green and I am already thinking about what to make next time!

If you want pizza you can eat with your hands, try the flax crust I posted earlier and be sure to let us know what your favorite toppings are!

Mushroom Stir-Fry: Mark Bittman Style

Once again I have been carving out time to work on my book of recipes based on this blog.  Yesterday I was adding to a section on mushrooms and reminding myself of how incredibly beneficial they are to those of us working hard to regain our healthy balance.  Here is a great article on how mold, fungus and other beneficial organisms are very good for us, and no, they definitely don’t make Candida worse!

I found the following recipe for a mushroom based meal in the Sunday Times Magazine, it’s by Mark Bittman, taken from his cookbook, “How To Cook Everything” which is as handy as the title suggests.  This recipe is all about mushrooms: dried and fresh they make for a filling and healthy vegetarian meal.  You can add any protein you like: cubes of fried tofu or baked chicken or make the recipe as is, it’s simple and should take less than half an hour to make.

Dried Shiitake mushrooms will keep in your pantry long term and add tons of flavor and nutrition to so many dishes.

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces dried mushrooms, preferably shiitakes
  • 2 cups broccoli florets and stems, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms like button, cremini, shiitake, sliced (a variety is nice)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, optional as a thickener, it does NOT add a significant amount of carbohydrates.
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
  • 3/4 cup mushroom-soaking liquid
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions

Procedure:

1. Soak the dried mushrooms in 3 cups very hot water until soft, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. (Dried shiitake are much tougher than other varieties and should be soaked in boiled water.) When they are tender, remove the dried mushrooms from the liquid with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid; slice or chop if the pieces are large.
2. Meanwhile, set a pot of water to boil for the broccoli. Cook the broccoli for 2 minutes in the boiling water, then drain.
3. Put a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat; add the oil and swirl it around, then add the garlic and ginger. Cook for 15 seconds; add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften and brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms and dried mushrooms when they’re ready, and allow them to cook down 2 or 3 minutes before adding the carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but not at all mushy, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the broccoli during the last five minutes of cooking.
4. If you like, dissolve the cornstarch in the tamari to thicken it; stir into the pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
5. Add the crushed red pepper if you’re using it, and pour in the soaking liquid. Stir the mixture, and scrape the bottom of the pan, then turn off the heat; the liquid should be mostly absorbed. Sprinkle with the scallions and serve.
YIELD
4 to 6 servings

The original recipe can be found here.

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.

Pesto Pizza

The barbed wire on the top really adds to the over all effect: Welcome to Greenpoint, kinda.

I took this photo on my last trip to NYC.  There is a block long wall topped with barbed wire that greets you as you leave the ferry dock and enter Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  This mural was my favorite piece of art along the wall.  My trips to NY are always filled with new experiences and plenty of new ideas for recipes based on the things I eat, the menus I read and the street food that seems to be on every corner.  This past trip I came back craving pizza and so, here’s my version, made with a thin, crispy flax crust and topped with fresh garden pesto, Kalamata olives, goat chevre and grated Romano.

For the Pizza Crust

Make up a batch of flax dough, from my previous recipe for flax crackers and flax bread.

Roll the flax dough out in an even, thin sheet, between two well greased pieces of parchment paper, the third method in the flax cracker post.  Make whatever shape you like, I tried to go with a round-ish shape.

Par-bake the crust, after piercing it all over with a fork, at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes.  The dough should be set up but not too crispy.

For the Toppings

For my pizza I chose a base of freshly made pesto, here are a few suggestions!

And added halved Kalamata olives, fresh, soft goat cheese and shaved Romano cheese.

Have fun and get creative, use whatever toppings and cheese you have on hand.

Bake the finished pizza in the oven at 350 for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the edges are crispy and the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Slice and serve with a big green salad.

Pesto pizza and garden salad, dinner is served!

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