Shaved Fennel Salad

Fennel Bulbs: crunchy, slightly sweet and packed with Vitamin C!

I wasn’t sure how I felt about fennel, apparently thin sliced is the way to go.  The combination of these few, simple ingredients is pretty amazing.  A refreshing summer salad that you can make ahead of time, and it has feta in it, what’s not to love?!

1 medium-large zucchini, sliced into paper thin coins

2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and shaved paper-thin (you can use a knife to carefully slice the veggies but a mandolin works best and fastest.  Also, you maybe able to use an attachment on your food processor if you have one that slices thin!)

2/3 cup   loosely chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup  fresh lemon juice, plus more if needed

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed

fine grain sea salt

4 or 5 generous handfuls arugula

Honey, if needed

1/2 cup  pine nuts, toasted (I used almonds)

1/3 cup   feta cheese, crumbled

Combine the zucchini, fennel and dill in a bowl and toss with the lemon juice, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside and marinate for 20 minutes, or up to an hour.

Thanks for a great shot of this salad, Heidi! Image from 101 Cookbooks

When you are ready to serve the salad, put the arugula in a large bowl. Scoop all of the zucchini and fennel onto the arugula, and pour most of the lemon juice dressing on top of that. Toss gently but thoroughly. Taste and adjust with more of the dressing, olive oil, lemon juice, or salt if needed. If the lemons were particularly tart, you may need to counter the pucker-factor by adding a tiny drizzle of honey into the salad at this point. Let your taste buds guide you. Serve topped with pine nuts and feta.

Serves 4 to 6.

Prep time: 10 min

Another great recipe from 101 Cookbooks, here’s her original recipe!

Seasonal Allergy Relief is Sweet and Local

Spring is finally, really truly here and so are my allergies.  This is the cruel irony of spring, it’s so beautiful outside but after an hour run my eyes are itchy and watery and my sinus’s are starting to make my head hurt.  What’s a health conscious, outdoor loving Berkshireite to do?  Well the good news is that there are a whole bunch of natural remedies to choose from.  Everything from homeopathic remedies that you can purchase at the Health Food store on North Street to local bee pollen and honey by the tablespoonful.  Bee pollen, nettles and Dana’s allergy tincture have been working really well for me this year but I wanted to have more options to share with my clients.  I started doing some research and the list of natural, effective allergy remedies is so long, I started to get overwhelmed!  Then I got an email from one of my health coaching clients, we have been working on a number of things together and during our last conversation, her seasonal allergies came up.  Her email included an amazing ‘recipe’ she had found for delicious and effective allergy relief along with her account of how well it works!

Before we get to the recipe, let’s make sure we are on the same page as far as what allergies are and why our bodies react the way they do.  The most basic definition of an allergic reaction is that it is an inappropriate response by the body’s immune system to a substance that is not normally harmful, in this case, pollen.  Pollens, molds, animal hairs, dust and foods all contain protein antigens that stimulate an antibody response or sometimes a “hyper-response.”  Histamine and other chemicals are released into the system, causing an inflammatory reaction. This is called an antigen-antibody response. This reaction could affect the tissues, organs, the skin, mucous membranes, the lungs and gastrointestinal tract.  Over the counter and prescription medication may alleviate your symptoms but they will never help build up your immune system. Worse, instead of helping your allergies lesson over time, your body will build a resistance to the medication and you will need larger and larger doses.  That sounds unhealthy and expensive!

The case for natural remedies is easy to make: they boost your body’s immune system while training it to react less and less over time to exposure to pollen.  Colleen’s Allergy Recipe is for citrus peels in apple cider vinegar and local honey.  This remedy is so effective because the citrus peels work as a natural antihistamine, which provides allergy relief within minutes, and the Vitamin C supports your immune system.

The local honey is an equally important component because when you put a small amount of the seemingly harmful irritant (honey from local flower pollens) into your body, your immune system builds defenses or immunities against the foreign substance. This will make your immune system ready to handle that substance in larger quantities the next time you are exposed. It is a similar concept to using a vaccine or taking homeopathic medicine.  Get honey as close as possible to where you live, this way it will be more likely to contain pollen from the plants that are causing your allergies. And, lastly, the apple cider vinegar, is there any malady that it isn’t good for?  Those of you who have tried our Fire Cider know what I’m talking about!

Just one more thing, when you make Colleen’s Allergy Remedy, be sure to use only organic citrus peels.  Conventional citrus fruits are regularly sprayed with all sorts of toxic chemicals which are readily absorbed by the peel.

Allergy relief you can eat. Thank you Colleen for the great picture!

First, peel your fruit and soak the organic citrus peels, I used lemon and orange, in raw, organic apple cider vinegar for a few hours, mixing them every so often to make sure they get really soaked. Drain peels from the cider. Use the left over apple cider vinegar in your next salad dressing.

Then, using local honey, in a pan over low heat simmer the peels with honey drizzled over them for about 45 minutes. Make sure the peels are completely soaked in the honey, the amount will vary depending on how many peels you are making at a time.

Pour everything into a glass container and let it cool on the counter.  Any honey not stuck to the peels can be eaten separately or added to licorice, mate or kukicha tea which are also great for allergy support. The peels and honey will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Colleen added that she found relief from watery, itchy eyes and a runny nose from eating 5 or 6 peel pieces followed by a glass of water.  Fifteen minutes later her sinuses dried up, eyes stopped itching, throat wasn’t scratchy and her glands even reduced a little in size. Foods are powerful medicine, eat well and be well!

I had help writing this article, thanks to Colleen Del Vecchio for her awesome recipe,

Phebe A. Durand’s online yahoo article ‘Natural Allergy Relief: Treat Allergies Without Medicine’

‘Prescription For Natural Healing’ 3rd edition by Phyllis A. Balch, cnc and James F. Balch, md

And the website:

For more allergy relief, my doctor in New York recently wrote this post for his blog: Dr. Pedre’s Clean Living

An article I wrote recently with seven natural remedies for spring allergies was featured onYahoo! Green and The Early Show on CBS this Friday, May 13th, and I am writing to follow-up with a few more natural remedies that can help provide relief to those that suffer from spring allergies:

  • Butterbur: this European herb shows great promise as a natural treatment for allergies.  In a study published in the British Medical Journal, taking one tablet of butterbur four times a day was effective in controlling hay fever symptoms without the usual drowsiness accompanying many traditional antihistamines.  Butterbur has been used medicinally since ancient Greece.
  • Chrysanthemum: taken both as a salve and tea, the flower pods of this herb provide relief from red eyes, itchiness, and sinus pressure headaches associated with allergies.  Steep the dried flower pods in boiling water for 1 minute, then let sit for 5-10 min, strain, and drink the tea.  Place the boiled flower pods inside a paper towel and apply directly over the eyes for 10 minutes for relief from itchy, watery, red eyes associated with seasonal allergies.
  • HEPA Filter: a High Efficiency Particulate Filter can filter out the tiniest particles floating in the air, including pollen grains.  Use one in your bedroom, or other rooms where you tend to spend a lot of time indoors, and it will help relieve allergy symptoms by reducing your exposure to the allergens.  A HEPA filter is a great idea to have in any bedroom to improve the quality of indoor air.

Hope you find these additional suggestions useful as you seek to reduce your allergy symptoms.  Here’s to no sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, or itchy eyes and nose!

Shire City Herbals’ Tips For A Healthy Winter Season

Winter Survival Kit: Echinacea with Osha, Fire Cider and Winter Sunshine Tea

Last winter was my first Berkshire County winter in almost ten years and it was tough.  I was cold and sick frequently, almost every month it seemed I spent a few days totally out of commission.  Last winter I learned a lot about how to stay healthy during the colder months and this winter, I am happy to say I’m much better prepared for the low temperatures and all those opportunistic germs.  In preparation  for the coming winter my husband and I started making our own stay healthy herbal tinctures and remedies and just recently launched ‘Shire City Herbals’ so we can share our health building herbal formulas with all of you.   Here are my tips, including herbal formulas, for having a healthy and happy winter season.

  1. We call them colds because it’s easy for our bodies to become susceptible to pathogens when we are too cold for too long.  Our body must spend its resources keeping our temperature stable and can’t always fight off every germ that comes our way.   So, your first line of defense is to dress warmly.  I know this seems obvious but when I switched from cotton to wool clothing, wow, what a huge difference.  Wear a hat, a scarf, wool socks and a thin wool layer under your regular clothes and you’ll be toasty warm and healthy too.
  2. Eat warm foods.  Soups, hot tea and anything spicy will help keep you warm from the inside out. Hot peppers are great at warding off viruses and germs and flushing out your sinuses.  Garlic, ginger and horseradish are also great foods to eat regularly so look for ways to incorporate them into your diet.

    Me playing with the organic ginger we juiced and then froze in small batches.

  3. Exercise daily.  Whatever it is that you like to do that gets you hot and sweaty (yes, sex counts as exercise!) make sure to keep it up as often as possible throughout the winter.  Exercise warms you up and strengthens your immune system.  It’s also a great mood booster.  If you are like me and the lack of sunlight gets you down, you’ve got to exercise!  I love to run and this year I’ve ordered insulated carbide studded running shoes so I can keep up my daily run even when the roads are icy and snow covered.

    Echinacea with Osha: awesome immune boosting powers!

  4. Take immune boosting supplements like Echinacea with Osha, a Shire City Herbals specialty, and lots of Vitamin C at the onset of a cold or flu or take a low maintenance dose on a daily basis to insure your immune system is strong and healthy.

    An 8 oz bottle of Fire Cider

  5. Take your Fire Cider! ‘Fire Cider’ is based on the traditional New England cure-all of apple cider vinegar and honey, our Shire City Herbals Fire Cider tonic is spiced up with a synergistic blend of immune-boosting, health-enhancing, pathogen-fighting roots and fruits.  Fire Cider can be taken daily as a preventive and also at the onset of colds or flu. As an expectorant it breaks up congestion and helps to ward off respiratory ailments and sinusitis.  Fire Cider is also an excellent digestive aid for such common problems as heartburn, gas and bloating as well as sluggish digestion and Candida overgrowth.  Fire Cider increases circulation and warms the body, and thus is valuable in cold winter temperatures and for those who frequently experience cold extremities.

These simple and easy suggestions will help you make it through the coldest months and maybe even have you enjoying the winter!

All our Shire City Herbals creations will be for sale at the Handmade Holiday Festival this coming weekend, December 4th and 5th, click the link to view the official invite.  We will be giving out samples of our amazing Fire Cider and are looking forward to meeting you!

I am also launching my new website soon, same address, better site, and you’ll be able to read about and purchase all our Shire City Herbals through the new site or you can email with any questions or special requests: