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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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!

 

 

Coconut Popsicles

Well since I’m on a coconut theme lately, let’s keep it going with some refreshing, healthy, candida fighting Coconut Popsicles!

I’m sure you have heard of the many health benefits attributed to the versatile coconut but here are two more to remind you:

Vitamin Rich: coconut milk contains an abundance of vitamins C, E and B which boost your immune system and contribute to glowing, elastic, healthy skin!  Coconut oil is a great way to keep your skin healthy, especially with the extra sun exposure we get in the summer time.

Lauric Acid: “Coconut milk is rich in lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that is abundant in mother’s milk. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, lauric acid has many germ-fighting, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties that are very effective at ridding the body of viruses, bacteria and countless illnesses. Lauric acid may also reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which lowers heart disease and stroke risks.”  Quoted from The Health Benefits of Coconut Milk by Tanya Brown, Demand Media

Full of good for you fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants, coconut milk, meat and oil are all excellent additions to your healthy diet and skin care routine.  And these popsicles are a delicious way to get those health benefits!

This one is super easy, all you need is a Popsicle mold, like the ones in this post.

Tovolo brand popsicle molds.

Tovolo brand popsicle molds.

Once you have your popsicle mold, figure out how much mix it will hold, mine has 4 molds and will hold a shy 1/3 cup in each so I make up about 1 1/4 cup of mix.

I use canned coconut milk as the base or use my previous post and make your own!  Then I add a few drops of stevia, some vanilla extract and about 1 Tablespoon dutch cocoa powder.  Whisk to combine, pour into the molds and wait!

I have also combined coconut milk with cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla with a touch of stevia for a chai flavor. Awesome!

Coconut milk with lime juice is also yummy.

How about fresh mint with or without dutch cocoa powder for a refreshing treat?

And, for a cool pick-me-up try mixing some espresso (powder will work too) into the coconut milk with stevia and your favorite extract: vanilla, almond, coconut…?!

I’m sure you can come up with more Candida diet friendly frozen treats using flavorful, healthy coconut milk as the base.  Stay cool and enjoy!

Chocolate Cake

This recipe will make 20 cup cakes or one decadent birthday cake.

This Father’s day I wanted to make my dad a dessert that would be both decadent and diabetic friendly.   I was aiming for brownies by combining some ideas from a bunch of recipes I found on line and instead I accidentally made this moist and springy chocolate cake.  I love when that happens!  To sweeten the cake I used a few tablespoons of raw honey (we usually have some left over from making Fire Cider) and then rounded out the sweetness with a small amount of stevia.  I find that using a little bit of a flavorful sweetener like wildflower honey or molasses in combination with stevia takes the bitter edge off  the plant based sweetener without adding loads of sugar to the recipe.  We ate our cake, yes, it’s also gluten free, with whipped cream from the Jersey cows at Highlawn Farm in Lee.

The last piece of cake, great even without the whipped cream!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the following dry ingredients in a separate bowl and work out any lumps of coconut flour:

2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In another large bowl combine the wet ingredients, using a whisk, adding in order:

2/3 cup coconut oil, warmed to liquid

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter

2 Tablespoons almond milk (or soy/dairy milk)

2 Tablespoons strong coffee and/or coffee liquor

3 Tablespoons honey plus stevia to taste- add a little at a time and taste test in between.  If you added the liquor, which is quite sweet, use only 1 Tablespoon of honey.

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

6 eggs- I get huge farm eggs that are over 1/4 cup each so make sure your eggs measure at least 1 and a 1/2 cups all together.

Whisk all the wet ingredients into a smooth batter.

Add the dry ingredients to the batter in several stages, stirring well to combine in between.  The batter will be like thick brownie batter.  Bake at 350 for 22 minutes (or until just set in the center)  in a well greased 8×8 pan.  Be careful not to over bake, a knife inserted into the center should come out clean so check the cake after 20 minutes.  It should be springy, moist and really rather decadent with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and maybe some sliced ripe strawberries!

A half recipe will make 10 cupcakes, bake them at 350 for 16 minutes, until just done.

5 Star Dessert

Chocolate Avocado Pudding with Cocao Nibs

One of my clients recently went to Thanksgiving dinner hosted by a chef whose day job is at a 5 star restaurant in San Francisco, lucky her!  She was worried, of course, that there would be only a few things that she would be able to eat since she is on the Candida diet.  And rightly so, it’s usually difficult to get someone who doesn’t have any idea what Candida is to understand this diet.  I recently had the pleasure of eating a meal at Eat in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  They usually serve a small, set menu based around what’s local and fresh, my kind of place!  And the set menu on Saturday night was not looking very Amy-friendly.  The chef, surprisingly, wanted to accommodate my diet and asked me, what can I eat?  We went through a list of the usual suspects and he seemed to understand.  What came out of his kitchen was absolutely delightful, lots of greens, some smoked fish, a little cheese, more fresh green herbs in an olive oil and apple cider vinegar dressing.  I was impressed.  And so thankful that he was willing to be flexible and to listen.

I went to a restaurant with my mom yesterday for a little post holiday shopping meal.  Mom was familiar with the menu and quickly pointed out the things I could eat and probably get on the side.  And she was right!  It’s funny how something so seemingly insignificant as the minutia of what I can and can not eat means so much to me when someone else gets it, especially family.  Eating the same food, together at the same time, is so important and that’s why it’s so easy to feel lonely and left out when your diet seems drastic, mysterious and limited to those around us.  With all the holiday parties and family get togethers coming up it’s important to speak up and participate.  Bring food to share so that your friends and family can understand that your diet is full of delicious food.  Plenty of recipes to choose from here!  Ask ahead about the proposed menu and make sure that there will be plenty for you to eat that doesn’t compromise your health.  Is it really worth it to just eat what happens to be available (and end up starving) or have your health suffer for days because you ate something to be polite that you really shouldn’t eat?  Eating together is one way that we social creatures bond, so speak up and share your food, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Avocados: creamy, rich, healthy and versatile.

Back to the Thanksgiving dinner, my client had a great time because she chose to get in touch with the chef and, politely ask about his Thanksgiving menu.  The chef was very nice and had a chat with her about what she can eat.  He made plenty of friendly foods and he even made dessert!  Here’s the recipe for the rich chocolate pudding that he made.  My client loved it and, a few days later, replicated the recipe easily at home.  So we’ll call this one ‘Five Star Dessert’.  The recipe can easily be doubled.
Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
Stevia, to taste
A bit of heavy cream or coconut cream, to desired consistency, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup
1 ripe avocado
Optional: vanilla extract, just a dash and cocao nibs, sprinkled on top!
Procedure:
Put everything (except the stevia) and about 1/4 cup of the coconut or dairy cream into a blender and blend.  Adjust the consistency by adding more cream and/or more cocoa powder.  Add stevia, a little at a time until it’s sweet to your liking.  Top with cocao nibs and/or shredded coconut.  Share, eat and enjoy!

Vanilla Almond Pancakes with Lemon Curd

The ones on the left were my first batch made with thick batter, the ones on the right made from thinner batter came out just right.

Honestly I was a bit skeptical about making pancakes, but my first thought when taking a bite of these was, “Oh man, these taste like pancakes!”  True story.

This recipe was found by a client of mine who is in the process of figuring out what exactly she should be eating in order to heal her digestive system.  Every few weeks her doctors seem to discover something else, want to do more testing and we keep having to change her diet.  Instead of giving up and getting frustrated, she’s getting creative! She sent me a link to these pancakes on Elena’s Pantry, a gluten free food blog worth checking out even if you and gluten get along fine. The original recipe is here, but of course, I had to change a few things!

Ingredients:

2 eggs
¼ cup almond milk (this is just a place to start, add as much as you need to reach proper pancake consistency.)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups blanched almond flour ( I used whole, raw and toasted almonds and ground them up in my coffee grinder)
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
neutral oil for sauteing: sunflower, veggie oil, coconut, ect

A little bit of stevia goes a long way, add it while you whip the eggs.

  1. Whip eggs, almond milk, a touch of stevia and vanilla until smooth.
  2. Add almond flour, salt and baking soda and blend again to incorporate dry ingredients into batter.
  3. Let batter sit while you get the skillet ready.

    The batter came out very thick. I made one batch with this batter but the second batch, thinned out with more almond milk was much more like real pancakes.

  4. Warm sunflower oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  5. Ladle pancake batter onto skillet, smaller is better and easier to flip.
  6. Pancakes will form little bubbles, when bubbles open, flip pancakes over and cook other side
  7. Remove from heat to a plate
  8. Repeat process with remaining batter, adding more oil to skillet as needed
Makes at least 12 pancakes

I used a cast iron skillet to make these pancakes.  This is a lot of batter, I made as many as I wanted to eat and then put the batter in the fridge to use later.  The next morning I heated up the skillet, thinned the batter with almond milk and had panckes in just a few minutes!

Thinner batter is better!

And if you want something to put on top of your pancakes, try making lemon or lime curd.  I found a recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson and tweaked it just a bit.  This took about 30 minutes start to finish.  I made the curd the night before and it went perfectly with my pancakes in the morning!

Lemon curd and the recipe from Nigella

To make lemon or lime curd, melt 6 tablespoons of butter on low in a sauce pan while you gather the rest of your ingredients.

Whip together: 1/2 cup of citrus juice, in this case, lemon, seeds and bits removed, with the zest of one lemon (zest first, juice second) and three large eggs.  You can add some stevia now and then adjust for final flavor at the end.

Quickly add your lemon and egg mixture to your melted butter on the stove, whisking to incorporate.  Turn the heat up to medium and continue to whisk until a custard forms.  Add stevia and adjust for desired sweet/tart ratio. You can add up to a tablespoon of agave to help take the edge off all the stevia if you like.

Put the curd into a jar and let it cool before putting the lid on and refrigerating.  It will keep for a week or so and makes a great topping for pancakes or perhaps a coconut cake?!

Pancake breakfast on the porch, life is good.

Summer Drinks

In the cooler months I drink hot tea like it’s the only think keeping me warm.  Because sometimes it is.  When summer hits and the weather calls for icy cold beverages (and your distributor sends you an extra case of lemons) it’s clearly time for something more refreshing like lemonade or a ginger lime fizz.  Here are my favorite ways to stay hydrated and cool….

Lemonade on the porch.

Lemonade….ok this one is really simple, squeeze 1/2 a fresh organic lemon (or more) into a pint glass, add a bit of stevia and top off with fizzy water.  Add a dash of bitters for old-fashioned tummy relief and a bitter, floral, slightly sweet flavor.  A trip to Old Town Bar years ago was the first time I had bitters in soda water as a cure for my upset stomach. It’s one of the oldest bars in the city and so it seemed fitting that I would be offered a traditional digestif.  Sure enough, it made me feel well enough to order a drink! My friend Mark is behind Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters if you are looking to break out of your Angostura habit and try something new.

You’ll notice all of the drinks in this post have something in common: bubbles.   I LOVE water with bubbles.  I also love champagne but that’s a whole other bubble story.  My husband Dana made us a carbonator because it was getting silly expensive paying for water with fizz and then the guilt of all those plastic bottles, just too much.


Dana made this for about 40 bucks, we have it mounted to the wall in our kitchen.

Ginger Lime Fizz

I drink this all the time; it settles my stomach, combats Candida and combines two of my favorite flavors, ginger and lime.

Squeeze 1/2 a lime into a pint glass, add 1 Tablespoon or so fresh juiced ginger (or finely grated fresh ginger), 2-4 ounces of aloe vera juice, stevia to taste and top with fizzy water.

You can make this with lemon or with just ginger, play around with the flavors and see what you like best!

A note on ‘Stevia, to taste’:  Recently a friend of my mom’s tried my nuts and seeds cookie recipe  and they came out mostly unsweetened because she didn’t know how much stevia to add.  Stevia comes in many forms; granulated, green unrefined powder, refined white powder, liquid drops, flavored liquid drops, ect.  Each form has a different amount of sweetness from very sweet to intensely sweet.  What I do is add a little at a time until it tastes right to me.  When I’m baking I add it to the wet ingredients, making it a little sweeter than I want to compensate for the dry ingredients, then I taste it again when it’s mixed to make sure.  It can take some adjustments and getting used to when using stevia as a sweetener, you’ve gotta taste and adjust and taste again!

Tastes like a root beer float and looks like one too!

Pero Float

Pero is a malted grain beverage that’s made from chicory and barley.  It has a rich, earthy coffee like flavor and has been used in times of no coffee as a replacement.   Really, there is no substitute for coffee and Pero is its own thing, with it’s own flavor.  It contains no caffeine and offers your liver some support filtering out toxins.  You can easily make a hot or cold Pero drink by mixing a couple of teaspoons in hot or cold water.  Add a bit of stevia and almond milk if you like.

Or…you can mix 3 teaspoons of Pero, a bit of stevia and a splash of almond milk in a large glass.  Make sure the powder is dissolved before filling your glass up with, yup, fizzy water.  This makes a frothy dark drink reminiscent of a root beer float.  Looks pretty and tastes pretty awesome.

Summer Cocktail

ALL of my Candida clients ask me, can I drink alcohol and what can I have?  Most of them just want something so that they can socialize like everyone else.  It was kind of shocking to me, when I first started eating to get the Candida back into balance, how much socializing takes place around alcohol and food, most of which was not healing or healthy.  This recipes is for my favorite adult beverage and it makes a deceptively drinkable party punch.  Hey, if you are going to host a party, you should at least be able to enjoy the punch!  If you are sick, don’t drink, but if you feel all right and want to enjoy a cocktail, this is what I recommend.  All ingredients (except the booze) are soothing and healing for your whole digestive system, including your taste-buds.

1 oz top shelf blanco tequila ( you can use vodka but why would you do that?)

juice from 1/2 a lime

1 Tablespoon ginger juice (or freshly grated ginger)

2-3 oz aloe vera juice (goes really well with tequila, the agave and aloe plants are in the same family)

stevia to taste

Mix or shake well, pour over ice in a pint glass and top with soda water.

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