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.

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!

Better Than Butterfingers

Here is a little update to the Raw Bars  recipe I put up almost 2 years ago.  I can’t believe how long it’s been since I started this blog.  I have collected so many recipes and am really looking forward to finishing my cookbook called, of course, The Candida Diaries- A Holistic Cookbook.  I have made it to the final editing stages after I put my foot down, no more new recipes!  Those are going into a separate, as yet unnamed, cookbook file.  Along with this one, which I think will become one of your favorites.  My friend Bobbie taste tested these for me, she says they are just like the Butterfingers candy but better, and healthier too!

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted, salted peanuts

1/2 cup ground flax seeds

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1/2 cup peanut butter- I used chunky

1/4 cup coconut oil- very soft to liquid

1 and 1/2 dropperfuls of vanilla stevia- I used Whole Foods brand liquid Stevia with vanilla

Method:

Add all the ingredients to a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse to combine.

Taste and adjust the sweetness and vanilla.

Press into an 8×8 glass pan.  Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour.

When the bars are set you can cut them up into squares.

Eat them cold, they get very soft at room temperature!

Alternatively, crumble cold bars over thick, tart yogurt for breakfast or dessert.

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!

Cha Cha Cha Chia Seed Pudding!

I love pudding but my days of instant Jello mixes are far behind me.  So, obviously, I was stoked to find these two variations on Chia seed based pudding from the site Deliciously Organic.  Chia seeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids and contain alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA), ladies, these all come in really handy if you experience PMS.  Yes, this chia based chocolate pudding is medicinal! Chia seeds also contain protein, fiber and some antioxidants. Chia seeds don’t need to be ground up like flax seeds in order for the body to absorb their nutrients.

Some really good lookin' nutrition information!

Some really good lookin’ nutrition information!

Ingredients:

  • 1  3/4 cups or one can coconut milk (Deliciously Organic recommends organic canned coconut milk from Native Forest. The can isn’t lined with BPA and it’s a nice thick milk)
  • 1  3/4 cups almond milk (just refill the empty coconut milk can no need to use a measuring cup!)
  • a few drops of stevia (or for non Candida diets: 4 tablespoons maple syrup or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional but recommended!)
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds

Procedure:

In a wide mouth quart mason jar add the coconut milk and almond milk, extracts and stevia.  If the coconut milk is cold you will need to use a whisk to work out any lumps.  Or, put the lid on and shake vigorously!  Then add the chia seeds, put the lid on and shake well to combine.  Let it sit at room temperature for a few hours until the chia seeds are fully expanded.

If you’d like to make the pudding ahead of time, shake well and then keep it in the refrigerator until you want a health snack or dessert.

This recipe makes an excellent take along snack or addition to your picnic.  You can easily make 1/2 a recipe in a smaller mason jar if you prefer.  For a thicker pudding, add another tablespoon or two of chia seeds, for a thinner drink, similar to tapioca bubble tea, use a tablespoon or 2 fewer chia seeds.

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

As above, just whisk 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder in with the coconut milk.

Top with a sprinkling of cacao nibs if you like.

Date Coconut ‘Fudge’

Clearly these are not on the candida diet, they are however nutritious, raw, vegan spheres of deliciousness.  This recipe was sent to me by my friend Jess who accepted my offer to make these for her, everyone needs a taste tester!  The original recipe calls them ‘Bliss Balls’ and they are blissfully good and round but the name just seems a little over the top.  The texture of this naturally sweet snack is similar to fudge due to the dates and Dutch process cocoa powder, yum! These snacks are packed with protein from the almonds, and full of fiber from the dates, which also provide energy-fueling carbohydrates and have more potassium than bananas.

I was too busy cuddling Jess's new baby to remember to take a picture of these yummy treats! Thanks to EcoBeautyEditor for the picture.

Ingredients:

1  1/2 cups raw almonds

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 cup dates

2 tsp coconut, plus more for rolling (optional)

Enough water to make it sticky

Grind nuts in a food processor.  Add in dates, cocoa and coconut.   Blend until mixed, then slowly add in water until the mixture is sticky but stays together.  Roll into golf ball-sized balls, and cover with shredded coconut.  These remain fresh in an air-tight container for a week but I bet they’ll get eaten way before then!