Five Delicious Foods For Winter Health

Winter is finally upon us in the Berkshires. Now is the time to take some preventative measures to insure a healthy winter. There are many ways to incorporate health building foods into a home cooked meal. Here are my top five, must eat foods for winter health and the best part is that combined, they make a delightful, one bowl meal.

muchroom miso broth with greens and ginger

  1. Bone broth + harmony

If you add one thing to your winter routine, start drinking a hot cup of bone broth. Why? Because it’s a collagen building, infection fighting, inflammation reducing wunder food. Just heat up and get cozy with your favorite mug and you are ready to go. We make our own, but you can also pick up bone broth at your local butcher shop. If you’d like to make your own, I recommend “How To Make Bone Broth” on WellnessMama.com, it’s full of resources. For the amount of broth we get, it’s definitely worth the effort!

  1. Mushrooms: we all love a fungi!

What goes great with bone broth and keeping your immune system strong and fortified against the winter chill?  Mushrooms! Maitake and shiitake are two flavorful varieties that are readily available fresh or dried. Maitake, aka “Hen-of-the-Woods”, is my personal favorite. Add them dried to your broth for extra flavor and an immune boost. A plateful of fresh maitake mushrooms sauteed in butter with a little salt and black pepper is sublime. Add a perfectly fried over easy egg and it’s dinner.

  1. Get fermented: foods that are good for your gut

Fermented foods introduce good bacteria and balance existing bacteria in your digestive system. Miso is a fermented superfood and it’s nutty umami depth adds the right amount of salty flavor to simple bone broth. Mix it in after the broth has been heated and plated. I’m a fan of Chickpea Miso by South River Miso. Other great for your gut and immune health fermented foods include yogurt, unsweetened Fire Cider and lacto-fermented veggies — Hosta Hill sauerkraut and kimchi are staples at our house.  

  1. Stay warm

Ginger offers anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. A warming spice, you can add it to soups, cookies, hot teas and broth. Grated fresh ginger in hot water with lemon is a soothing way to fight germs and mend a sore throat.

  1. Get your greens

It’s cold and dark outside so be sure to keep your mind and body bright with daily doses of green veggies. They are full of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and balanced, so make slow cooked collards or give saag paneer a try. Plate up a quick salad to go with your bowl of broth for a balanced meal of both raw, cooling food and warming, cooked food.

Best of all, you can combine these five super ingredients into one dish in about 15 minutes, with only 5 minutes of active time, for one satisfying meal. For someone who frequently skips lunch, I’ll consider this recipe my new year’s resolution.

Mushroom Miso Broth – 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • a small handful (about ⅓ cup) of dried maitake and/or shiitake mushrooms , chopped small, stems removed.  Keep in mind they will expand 2-3 times during cooking.
  • about 1 teaspoon or so of dried powdered ginger
  • two cups or more bone broth, unsalted or lightly salted is best since the miso will add all the salt you will need!.
  • shredded napa cabbage or kale, about a ½ cup or less should do.
  • Miso to taste – use traditional soy miso or experiment with other flavors.

In a pot combine the dried mushrooms, powdered ginger and bone broth. Add a lid and bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully hydrated.

Turn off the heat and add a small handful or less shredded napa cabbage or kale.

When the greens are bright green, serve in two bowls.

Add your favorite miso to each bowl, I like about a tablespoon, or more.  Serve with a side of kimchi and enjoy in good health!

 

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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

custom-tea-blends-marbleandmilkweed-570
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.

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.

A Perfect Meal: Bo Ssam

Bo Ssam is a traditional Korean meal of slow cooked pork shoulder that you eat in lettuce cups topped with ginger scallion sauce and ssam sauce made from oil, vinegar and fermented black beans.   Since this meal is made by slow roasting meat on the bone it is one of the best ways to get the most nutrition from cooked meat.  The ginger scallion sauce compliments the savory, fatty meat and is also a digestive aid and immune booster.  The ssam sauce is made from fermented beans, which means they are easy to digest and full of microbes for your internal rain forest.  The lettuce cups provide some green and make this meal more like a salad you eat with your hands.  To top it all off this is meal is a group dinning experience Bo Ssam is food for your mind, body and soul, in other words, a perfect meal!

I went to my local butcher shop, Red Apple Butchers, to get a pork shoulder from Climbing Tree Farm for the Bo Ssam.   I love this shop; Jazu did a little extra work on the shoulder he cut for me by removing a few smaller bones, which means he ended up charging me a bit less, and he also cross-hatched the skin so the whole thing was oven ready when I got home.  I paid about $10 per pound, which seems very reasonable to me, considering what I am getting for my money.  So, before we get to the recipe, let’s talk about why I think everyone, no matter how big or small your food budget,  should ALWAYS buy locally raised versus cheaper conventional animal foods.

Ready for 6-7 hours in the oven, thank you Jazu!

Ready for 6-7 hours in the oven, thank you Jazu!

Conventional/factory farm meat:  please note that the word ‘natural’ on the package means nothing, as in, there is nothing natural about this meat!   Factory farmed animal foods are cheap and you get what you pay for: very little actual nutrition and a lot shit you don’t want.  Conventional meat is raised using antibiotics that cause the animal to gain a lot of weight quickly.  You are eating these antibiotics, so you too can gain weight more quickly!  Along with antibiotics that are harmful to your body, you consume everything else the animal was exposed to: torturous inhumane conditions, genetically modified foods full of lethal to animals (you are an animal too!) herbicides, pesticides and hormone disruptors.  Factory farming is incredibly destructive to our environment and is making us sick to the major financial benefit of a handful of CEO’s.   In summary, cheap meat buys you tortured sick animals devoid of any real nutrition aka empty calories that will help you pack on pounds while making you sick and hurting the environment.  And you’re paying for it!  Now is the time for you to do something about it!

Locally sourced, small farm animal foods: You and your community get way more value per dollar by investing in farm raised foods.  Ever noticed how you feel more full on less than usual when you eat a pork chop from a healthy, local pig?  Try it if you haven’t already!  It’s because the meat is full of all the good things the animal ate and came into contact with: sunlight, rain and healthy soil combine to produce superior, pure foods that the animal consumes and turns into highly concentrated, nutrient dense, health food that directly supports the health of the farm, the farmers and the community it will feed.  A farm that operates in harmony with nature is an awesome place to work and contributes to a healthy environment for everyone.   In short, food produced in nature sustainably nurtures everything around it, including your personal health!

When shopping for animal protein you have two choices that couldn’t be farther apart.  Even on a very limited budget you can eat less meat of higher quality and it will actually help to build up your health over the long-term.  You will get the most value for your food dollars by shopping locally and your community benefits with you!

And now for the recipe, you’ll need to start the meat the day before you want to serve it.  Allow at least 6 hours cooking time.

Momofuko Bo Ssam Recipe

From the NY Times Magazine by Sam Sifton

Pork Butt

1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)

1 cup white sugar

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt

7 tablespoons brown sugar

note: eliminate all sugar for Candida diet, or do what I did: 1/3 cup sugar mixed with 3/4 cup salt.  Then, I used about 1 Tablespoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar for the glaze at the end.

Left over Bo Ssam over salad greens with ginger scallion and ssam sauce.

Left over Bo Ssam over salad greens with ginger scallion and ssam sauce.

The shoulder I cooked was 10.5 pounds and fed 7 people the first night.  Dana and I ate Bo Ssam Salad with the leftover sauces for days afterwards.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce

2½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts

½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger

¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

1½ teaspoons light soy sauce

1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar

½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Ssam Sauce

2 tablespoons fermented bean-and- chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)

1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)

½ cup sherry vinegar

½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

Accompaniments

2 cups plain white rice, cooked (eliminate for Candida diet, you really don’t need it!)

3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried

1 dozen or more fresh oysters (optional)

Kimchi (available in many Asian markets, and from Hosta Hill).

1. Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.  Make sure to save the pan juices, they will turn into a layer of delicious pork fat atop a layer of thick pork stock jelly, so good for your joints.  You can cook anything in the pan juices and it will taste amazing!

Finished and ready to be devoured!

Finished and ready to be devoured!

3. Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

4. Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.

5. Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

6. When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.

Serves 6 to 10. Adapted from “Momofuku,” by David Chang and Peter Meehan.

Almond Tea Cookies or Pie Crust

These sweet little cookies can be made many different ways, including into pie crust!  Easy and quick to make, these are nice afternoon snack or after dinner treat.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Blanched Almond Flour- I always use Bob’s Red Mill Brand
  • 2-3 Tablespoons unsalted pasture butter, use 2 Tablespoons for pie crust and 3 for cookies
  • 1 large organic farm egg
  • a pinch of salt

Stop right there if you want to make pie crust.

Or

Add any of the following combinations for cookies:

  • a splash of rose water, a sprinkle of cardamom and vanilla stevia to taste- about 2-3 dropperfuls of Whole Foods brand vanilla stevia
  • a teaspoon of cinnamon, a tablespoon of ginger, vanilla stevia to taste
  • lemon  or lime zest and vanilla stevia to taste
My friend Bobbie made these cookies for a tea party, wordy icing optional!

My friend Bobbie made these cookies for a tea party, wordy icing optional!

Method:

Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor.

For pie crust: press the dough evenly into a 9 in pie plate and bake at 350 for 10-14 min, until firm and starting to brown.  Cool and add pie filling, then bake or refrigerate as called for in your pie recipe.

For cookies: scoop out dough by the tablespoon and form into flattened rounds.  Bake at 350 for 18-22 min, til they are starting to brown lightly.  Enjoy making these simple tea cookies with many different flavorings!

 

 

Jamaican Jerk Veggie Curry with Mahi Mahi

And now for some on the fly leftover Jamaican jerk ‘curry’ with whatever is in the vegetable crisper…

1/3 of a quart ball jar of leftover Jerk sauce. 1/3- 1/2 can of coconut milk. Purple cabbage from the garden, roughly chopped. A small handful of carrots from my Dad’s garden and a few thick slices of onion.

Turn the heat to medium, mix and simmer with a lid on for 3-4 minutes. Add the thickest part of some chopped kale, simmer for 3-4 minutes more with the lid on.

Add the rest of the chopped kale. Put the lid back on and simmer til it’s done.

Add some toasted (or raw) coconut flakes and serve with….

baked Jerk Mahi Mahi, leftover carrot ginger soup and hot ginger tea, yum!

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.

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