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.

Zucchini and Basil Sautee

Zucchini chopped into bite sized pieces.

Zucchini chopped into bite sized pieces.

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy all the zucchini that’s super fresh right now.  And it’s really easy, just some time and a few ingredients and you’ve got a healthy delicious side dish or meal to go picnicking with!

Ingredients:

Zucchini

Onion

Butter and/or Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Basil

Shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method:

Chop up some onion, I usually use about a 1 to 4 ratio of onion to zucchini.

Add the chopped onion, a few pinches of salt (go easy on the salt if you plan to add cheese to the finished dish, which I highly recommend!) and a healthy dose of butter and olive oil to a heavy bottom pan, the wider the pan the better.   You’ll start with a lot of fat in the pan to cook the onions and then when you add the zucchini you can decide if you need to add more.  Cook the onions on medium heat.

While the onions cook, chop your zucchini.  I make some pieces smaller than others so when it cooks, the smaller bits get mushy and the larger bits keep their shape so you don’t end up with baby food.  Or maybe you end up with baby food, it’s really delicious either way!

Start with chopped onion and plenty of butter.

Start with chopped onion and plenty of butter.

When the onions begin to look translucent, add in the zucchini, some black pepper and saute, stirring all the while, til smushy and starting to brown on med to medium high heat.

Sautee the zucchini and onions

Saute the zucchini and onions

Once you’ve cooked the zucchini down, it will release a lot of water, so plan on stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes til you get a nice, thick consistency.  Take it off the heat and serve topped with fresh chopped basil and shredded hard cheese like Romano.  This tastes great warm or at room temperature and makes a nice take along meal for picnic’s or pot lucks.

Topped with cheese and ready to eat or take on a picnic!

Topped with cheese and ready to eat or take on a picnic!

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!

Meatloaf- It’s What’s For Dinner!

Meatloaf is hearty fare and it’s a classic from my childhood that I have been enjoying lately with a local twist.  Using humanely raised, organic beef, lamb and bacon from farms in Dalton and Cummington, MA, eggs from Hinsdale and cream from High Lawn Farm this is as local as meatloaf gets!  I replaced the traditional bread crumbs with ground flax so this recipe is gluten and carbohydrate free.  Served with a side of greens, like slow cooked collards and perhaps a bowl of broth, this meal will be sure to warm you up and keep you going.  When I made this recipe we were having friends over for dinner and I wanted to be sure to have enough for left over meatloaf sandwiches.   I added an extra pound of ground beef to my basic meatloaf recipe and it just barely fit in my glass baking dish.  This will serve 6-8 people or 4 people for dinner, twice.  And if you have time, this recipe is great for meatballs too!

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground beef

1 pound ground lamb (or pork)

1/2 pound bacon, half of it minced and half reserved in strips.

1/2 cup cream or milk

3 Tablespoons ground flax

1 extra-large farm egg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1/2 small white onion, minced

1 tsp salt

1 tsp chili powder or hot pepper flakes

1 tsp paprika, smokey, mild or hot, whatever you’ve got!

1/4 cup fresh minced parsley

Ready to bake in about 15 minutes.

Ready to bake after just 15 minutes of prep time!

Method:

Pre heat oven to 350

Beat the egg into the milk and flax, add all of the other ingredients and mix well in a large bowl.

Shape into a loaf in a glass baking dish, make sure there is some room on all four sides.

Lay the remaining strips of bacon on top.

Bake at 350 for about 1 hour to 1.5 hours, until it’s firm and reads 160 degrees in the center!

Take it out, let it rest for about 15 minutes, transfer to a plate and serve.

Dinner four times two in about fifteen minutes plus baking time!

Dinner x 2 in about fifteen minutes plus baking time!

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!

Sicilian Cauliflower and Black Olive Gratin

I found this recipe on the New York Times web site and was excited to try cooking cauliflower a new way.  When Dana and I arrived for Sunday dinner at my parents house last week this cauliflower and olive dish was just coming out of the oven!  It was yummy but we all agreed: more cheese, smaller olives.  So I have changed the recipe just a bit based on how the original recipe turned out.

Goes well with red wine!

Goes well with pork roast from Holiday Farms : – )

Ingredients:

  • 1 generous head green or white cauliflower (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
  • Salt
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 16 imported oil-cured black olives, pitted and cut in half or chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino or Parmesan
  • note: The Romano is delicious but because it’s lower in fat it doesn’t get nice and gooey when it melts.  Use half mozzarella with a really flavorful Romano or use 1/2 cup of sharp cheddar instead.

Procedure:

1. Break up the cauliflower into small florets while you bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and drop in the cauliflower. Boil 5 minutes while you fill a bowl with ice and water. Transfer the cauliflower to the ice water, let sit for a couple of minutes, then drain and place on clean tea towels.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart baking dish or gratin dish. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 3 minutes, and add a pinch of salt and the garlic. Cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds, until fragrant and translucent. Remove from the heat and stir in the olives.

3. Place the cauliflower in the baking dish and add the onion and olive mixture, the remaining olive oil, the parsley and half the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir together well. Spread out in the dish and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the cheese is nicely browned. Serve hot or warm.

Yield: Serves 6

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

Advance preparation: The cauliflower can be cooked and refrigerated for up to three days. The dish can be prepared through Step 2 several hours before assembling the gratin. Hold on top of the stove or in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving: 177 calories; 13 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 7 grams monounsaturated fat; 9 milligrams cholesterol; 9 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 377 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 7 grams protein

Martha Rose Shulman is the author of “The Very Best of Recipes for Health.”

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.

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.

Best Hot Breakfast

Around this time last year I made a bunch of sauerkraut with my dad.  And then Dana and I discovered that it made an awesome compliment to fried eggs at breakfast.  So the sauerkraut went quickly.  When we planned our garden last spring, cabbages were on the top of our list.  Yesterday we harvested about a third of our crop: 22.5 pounds of cabbage.  Shredding it in the food processor went quickly and I layered the cabbage with 3 Tablespoons of salt for every 5 pounds of cabbage in one of our large pots.  Here’s the sauerkraut doing it’s lacto-fermentation under the weight of a big lid and some ball jars full of water.

Over 22 pounds of shredded cabbage turning into sauerkraut, this should last us a few months!

For a hot breakfast, how about a big handful of sauerkraut, plus eggs fried with onions, cumin seeds and paprika?  Try it as an alternative to a veggie omelet and get all the benefits of eating raw, naturally fermented food.  Then check out Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon!

Start your day off healthy with a big serving of fermented veggies at breakfast.

Ingredients:

A big handful or two of Sauerkraut, excess liquid squeezed out.  Set aside while you cook the onions and eggs to let the sauerkraut come up to room temperature.

Farm fresh eggs

Fat for frying: olive oil, butter or lard

Chopped onion or leeks (leeks are lower in sugars)

Whole cumin seeds

Paprika

Salt

Procedure:

Heat the fat in your skillet on medium.  Add the chopped onion or leeks and saute for a few minutes.

Add a generous sprinkle of the whole cumin seeds and let them cook for about a minute before adding the eggs to fry.  Cook your eggs, sprinkle with paprika and lightly salt, the sauerkraut will be plenty salty.

Onions and cumin seeds frying in lard from pork chops we cooked recently.

Serve the fried eggs and onions on top of the sauerkraut and serve immediately.  Dana likes his with 100% rye sourdough toast from these guys!

Previous Older Entries