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.

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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.

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A Very Berry Crumble

On Friday night Dana and I joined our friends Mike and Becca for dessert: a berry crumble.  This is Becca’s recipe, I’m not sure what the original one looked like, I know she definitely reduced the amount of refined white sugar and switched to maple syrup instead.  I have included my suggestions for eliminating most of the sugar for those who don’t tolerate it.  I have found that my body can definitely tell the difference between say, corn syrup and berries or honey.  Honey and berries both have plenty of medicinal properties, from immune support and allergy relief to anti oxidants and vitamins- these sweet foods have much more to offer than just taste.  Corn syrup and refined sugars offer empty calories, with no nutritional or health benefits at all.  As one of my health coaching clients told me, “Sugar is like rust in your body.  I will never eat that stuff again!” Too true.   This dessert is a great way to enjoy the natural sweetness of this season’s berries and get some nutrition too.  Enjoy this for dessert or for breakfast with a side of tart yogurt.

I love the crumble part in this dish; it’s moist, with great texture and gets nice and crunchy on the outside.  Almond and cashew flour can be easily made by using a spice grinder or Quisinart to finely chop the whole nuts.   Raw nut flours are best in this recipe since they will bake for over an hour.   Depending on what kind of berries you choose to mix together- blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, black berries, mulberries, cherries- will determine the amount of overall sweetness.  I used mostly raspberries since I made this for family dinner and like to keep things very low sugar as does my dad who is diabetic.  We enjoyed this healthy dessert topped with fresh whipped cream, I bet ice cream or frozen yogurt would also be delicious!

This photos is from Simply Recipes dot com. Our berry crumble got all eaten up before anyone thought to take a picture!

Ingredients:

About 6 cups of your choice of berries, Mike and Becca’s version included blueberries, black raspberries and cherries.  For the lowest carbohydrate/sugar count use raspberries and blackberries.

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Splash of vanilla

For the topping:

2 ½ cups almond and/or cashew flour- I used all almond flour which is lower in carbohydrates, a mix of the two is really nice if you have both.

1/3 cup maple syrup or honey- I used 1 tablespoon of honey plus stevia to taste for the crumble and added 1 tablespoon of honey plus a touch of stevia to the raspberries picked from my dad’s garden since they were a bit tart.

1/3 cup cold butter or coconut oil

1 teaspoon  tapioca

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon each: ground ginger, allspice and salt

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 350*

Mix together berries, lemon juice and vanilla and place in a 12×12 pan.

Combine all dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Cube the butter, add it to the dry ingredients and mix with your hands or a pastry cutter.

Gently mix in your sweetener of choice.

Spread the crumble topping over the berries and bake for an hour and 15 minutes.

Peanut Butter Jelly Granola Bars

These are traditional granola bars in the sense that they are made from oats and held together with brown rice syrup and flax.  Check out these if you want a Candida diet friendly version of sweet snack bars. I started making these for my husband when I smugly came to the conclusion that I could make something healthier, better tasting and cheaper than Cliff Bars, no offence Cliff.  This recipe is very easily customizable, so far I have made ginger almond, cranberry pecan and of course, peanut butter and jelly.  I adapted this recipe from Alton Brown’s basic granola bar recipe.

Crunchy, chewy granola bars, thanks Alton Brown!

Ingredients for Granola Bars

  • 2 cups Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
  • 1/2 cup raw or toasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup sliced peanuts, raw or toasted (you can use any kind of nuts, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, ect)
  • 1/2 cup ground flax
  • ½ cup of honey or brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 cup of nut butter, I used peanut butter this time but you can use almond, sunflower seed, ect.
  • ¼ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 1/2 ounces chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries, blueberries, cranberries, raisins or ginger, for these I used raisins.

The Procedure:

Butter a 9 by 9-inch glass baking dish and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds and peanuts onto a half sheet pan. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring every 4-5 minutes. If you are using toasted sunflower seeds and nuts, just toast the oats!

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla, nut butter and salt in a medium saucepan (large enough to accommodate all the ingredients from the recipe) and place over medium heat. Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved. Add the dried fruit last and then….

Gooey deliciousness

Once the oat mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees F. Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture and stir to combine.

peanuts, sunny seeds, flax and oats, next time I need to use a bigger sauce pan

Turn mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.

It's sticky work so use a spatula to press the granola into the baking dish.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about ½ an hour or until they are cool but not cold. They will be too hard to cut if they are completely cold!  Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.  Or, wrap the individual bars so you always have a healthy snack handy.

Another suggestion is to make a double batch, cut one into bars after it cools and spread the other one back out onto your half sheet pan, let it cool completely on the sheet pan and break up into bite sized granola for snacking or for breakfast with yogurt or your choice of milk.