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!

 

The Greenest Wrap

One of my favorite ways to eat more greens is to use them in place of bread or crackers.  Nothing against burger buns or sandwich bread but you can skip the processed wheat and grab a bunch of crispy Romaine or collard greens instead.  I use Romaine lettuce like a taco shell- fill it up with whatever you like- sliced avocado, tomato, homemade mayo and bacon for a healthier B.L.T.   Bibb lettuce is soft, flexible and makes for a great little wrap.  Want to eat that salad with your hands?  Wrap it up in the biggest lettuce leaves from the outside of the bunch.  Look at you, doubling down on your veggies!lettuce leaf B.L.T.

Using large collard leaves makes for a sturdier wrap that can hold such awesome summer foods as cheese burgers or the ultimate sunny seed hummus wrap.  You can use the leaves raw or lightly steamed — these are best for hot foods or for bigger wraps.  The folding is easy and unlike regular wraps, these stay sealed. The only prep work you need to do is to carefully trim them rough stems.

Cut the end of the stem off and then lay the collard leaf flat and slice off the rough stem that sticks up, so that the leaf is flat and entirely flexible, like in this photo from MindBodyGreen.com’s tutorial on how to use collards like a wrap!

MindBodyGreen.com collard trimming for wraps

Don’t worry if you tear the collard leaf a bit, you’ll get the hang of the stem trimming and can fold around any small tear.

If you want to steam your collard leaves so that they are more flexible and easier to use and eat, there are a few methods that work well.  This video from Plant Powered Kitchen.com has my favorite technique for when you just want to make up a few wraps.  Get some water boiling in your kettle and open the spout so you’ve got a nice stream of steam coming up.  Hold your raw collard leaf by the stem and wave it over the spout of steam, lightly steaming the whole leaf until it’s bight green and soft enough to fold.  Then trim off the stem as described above.  Repeat until you have enough wraps.

Or, follow the quick blanch method I found on Mind Body Green.com– bring a wide shallow pan of water to a simmer.  Take your de-stemmed collard leaves and give them a 10 second dunk in the pan, one at a time, using tongs to get the collard leaves in and then out and into an ice bath.  Dry in layers using tea towels. Once you’ve got all your wraps ready, fill as desired!

The wrapping part is easy, and there are a number of ways to do it, but this photo tutorial from Honest Fare.com is easy to follow:

HonestFare.com collard wrap- wrap up in 4 photos

Add your filling to the center of one or two overlapping leaves.  Fold the sides in to contain the filling.  Then, starting at one long end, roll the leaf over the filling and keep rolling, making sure the ends stay tucked in. Slice in half and enjoy!

bareburger collard wrap                                                  Above, a collard wrapped Bareburger – it’s as good as it looks!

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.

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.

Serving Suggestion: Broccoli Slaw with Cilantro

Broccoli stems, peeled and shredded, are the base of this easy, raw whole meal.

Broccoli stems, peeled and shredded, are the base of this easy, raw whole meal.

Here’s an excellent way to use up those broccoli stems!

Save the stems from several bunches of broccoli.  Trim the ends and then peel the tough outer skin off with a veggie peeler.

Then either use the shredder attachment on your Cuisinart (quickest and easiest method) or shred them by hand with a box grater.

Then make up a peanut sauce like this one:

Whisk together approximately:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • a shy Tablespoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon tamari plus salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or 1 teaspoon each: mirin and brown rice vinegar
  • 4 drops of liquid stevia
  • pinch of five spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered or juiced ginger
  • srirracha and/or ground hot pepper to taste
  • juice of one lime
  • Add water to desired consistency at the end, taste and adjust flavors.
  • You can save any left over sauce in the fridge.  Just thin it out with a little water when you want to use it again.

Mix the sauce with the shredded stems, top with salted, toasted peanuts, chopped cilantro and hot pepper sauce, just skip the honey in the hot sauce recipe or use stevia instead.  Yum!

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.

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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