Wintertime essential: ginger cinnamon tea

Ginger cinnamon tea anti inflammatory arthritis IBS cramps weight loss

In the same vein as last week’s post, I thought I would continue with the immunity and self healing thread.  It is winter and everyone is getting sick! My morning ritual revolves around meditation + yoga and a hot drink of some kind.  In the summer I like warm water with lemon, and in the winter I like ginger and cinnamon tea.  Having something warm first thing in the morning feels stimulating and soothing for my body.  It also helps to keep my immunity up so it can fight all the colds and flus going around.  The powerful anti inflammatory effects of these herbs help me keep my rheumatoid arthritis under control.

In traditional Chinese medicine, cool and iced liquids are thought to reduce Qi, or vital life energy.  In Ayurvedic medicine, the same concept exists: drinking cold liquids and foods puts out your digestive fire.  It is no surprise that hot herbal teas are commonly used in these cultures, to stimulate digestion and warm the body.

Cinnamon bark + fresh ginger root tea benefits:

Cinnamon is anti viral, anti fungal, and anti bacterial, making it wonderful for cold and flu symptoms.  It is also effective against candida and urinary tract infections.  It stabilizes blood sugar and is strongly anti inflammatory.  And it is delicious!  Cinnamon has a natural sweetness to it that balances out the spiciest of the ginger in this tea.  I use dried cinnamon sticks.  Ceylon cinnamon (the true cinnamon) is the most healing and medicinal variety.  Cassia (common cinnamon) can also be used, and is more widely available.

Ginger is an equally wonderful and underused herb; it improves circulation, eases pain (headaches and cramps!) reduces inflammation in the body, aids with digestion, and soothes nausea (morning sickness!).  Now I’m not talking about dried, packaged ginger tea- that stuff has little to no medicinal value.  Get your hands on a nice fresh chunk of ginger and prepare yourself some tea!

Directions: (serves 1)

2.5c water

2-3 inch chunk of ginger, cut into slices

2 cinnamon sticks

Put all ingredients in a small pot.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover.  Allow to simmer for 20 minutes.  This is crucial!  My acupuncturist told me that different medicinal compounds get released by the ginger after it is cooked for 20 minutes.  Otherwise it will not be as effective.  Strain into a coffee mug and add sweetener of your choice to taste (raw honey is especially good), I usually use stevia.

Sliced fresh ginger anti inflammatory weight loss immunity flu

Lots of love,

A.

Sickness + a turmeric ginger immunity latte.

Turmeric ginger pepper immunity latte flu prevention

(For the turmeric latte recipe, scroll to the very end of the post :) )

My daughter for sick for the 100th time since kindergarten started.  *le sigh* kids are so germy when they are all together!

Happily, no one else has gotten sick… Yet.  And she has gotten a thousand times better just from herbs and natural remedies.  So I thought I would post today about my go to herbal medicine cabinet when illness strikes.  I don’t like to use medicines for kids, they are often unnecessary and very harsh to a little body who is not equipped to process such toxins.  Remember when they recalled cough and cold medicines for kids because they are dangerous and don’t even work?!  I go the herbal route and it has worked for us 90% or more of the time.

First of all, for fevers, I don’t give fever reducing meds like ibuprofen unless the fever is over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  Children can safely have higher fevers than adults.  Fever is a natural defense your body utilizes to get rid of the virus/bacteria.  If you lower the fever, you are lowering the body’s ability to heal itself!  Lukewarm baths and cool washcloths for the head can help to comfort a child with a fever.

Do not give cold liquids!  This is jolting for the body and it has to struggle to bring it back up to equilibrium.  Warm liquids encourage the removal and dislodging of mucus and congestion and are soothing for a sore throat.  Especially beneficial are herbal teas like chamomile, elderberry, slippery elm, and echinacea.  Traditional medicinals brand teas have tons of great blends just for kids.  Stir in a tablespoon of coconut oil for a sore throat.  Also great are warm water with lemon juice added, and diluted warmed citrus or apple juices.

Support the body’s natural ability to heal with herbs!  I love the herbs for kids brand of tinctures, they have lots of different blends for different ailments.  The two I use the most are the echinacea +astralagus for deep immune support and the cherry bark blend for respiratory support.

If there is mucus, I always give marshmallow root.  It has mucilaginous qualities which help to remove mucus and break up congestion.  I buy it in capsules and then empty 2 capsules into hot liquid and stir it up.

For coughs and colds, I find umcka syrup to be amazing.  It is a homeopathic syrup that is widely used in Europe to shorten the duration and severity of colds and it really works well.

Elderberry syrup is also wonderful for supporting the immune system and reducing the severity of illness.

As far as homeopathic medicines, I always keep belladonna (for high fevers, infections and inflammations) and pulsatilla (runny nose, mucus, clinging child) around.

Ear infections respond really well to warmed oil with garlic and mullein.  You can buy it in a little dropper bottle at your health food store, usually it has arnica added too-a homeopathic medicine for pain relief.  Just warm up the whole bottle by submerging it in hot water.  Test some oil on your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot.  Then have your child lay on their side and drop 5 drops of the warmed oil in each ear.  Sing or tell a story while you do this so that they will stay at least a minute on their side.  Do the other ear the same way too even if it doesn’t hurt.  HOWEVER if the ear is leaking pus/blood/liquid do NOT put anything in it, this means the eardrum has perforated.

If your child doesn’t want to eat, it’s OK!  Sick animals do not eat.  This is because digestion takes LOTS of energy.  Energy going towards digestion=energy taken away from healing and fighting sickness.  Give foods that are easy to digest with high water content, like juicy fruits (citrus, pineapple, grapes, mango) white rice, warmed broth and steamed broccoli.  Absolutely do not give your child dairy or wheat when they are sick.  These foods produce mucus in the body, adding to the mucus that is already there when they are sick, and are generally hard to digest and irritating to the digestive tract.

Essential oils are another great tool to have.

eucualyptus: breaks up congestion, good to dilute and rub on chest and to put in a diffuser and or humidifier, or in the bath.

peppermint: relieves headache.  Dilute and rub on temples, jaw, forehead to relieve pain.

Clove and cinnamon oils: are potent anti virals, dilute and rub on the bottoms of feet to fight and prevent illness.

lavender: very calming.  Great for massage or in the bath to calm an irritated or sad child.

And lastly, to ensure no one else gets sick, up your intake of immunity boosting foods…mushrooms, greens, vitamin c rich foods, lemons, spirulina, turmeric, ginger, garlic, etc.  If you feel like you are getting sick my favorite remedy is to blend lemon juice, ginger, cayenne pepper, garlic and honey all together and drink it.  It really works!  Also, this turmeric-ginger latte is a delicious favorite.  Here’s the recipe:

Turmeric ginger immunity latte.

2c plant milk (almond, hemp, coconut, whatever)

A few quarter sized slices of ginger

1t ground turmeric

1/8t fresh ground black pepper (this increases the turmeric’s bioavailability a lot)

honey/sweetener to taste

bring the milk and finger slices to boil in a small saucepan.  Let them simmer for 5 minutes, covered.  Fish out the ginger and add the turmeric, pepper, and sweetener.  Pour into a cup and enjoy!

Miso vegetables with rice and sesame peanut crunch.

Plenty more ottolenghi vegan rice bowl macrobiotic

This recipe comes from my favorite new cookbook, Plenty More by Yoham Ottolenghi.  The man is a genius with veggies.  I love his philosophy because it’s all about celebrating vegetables for what they are instead of trying to manipulate them into trying to taste like an animal product.  No mock-meats and junk filled fake cheeses for me, please.  This is pure vegetable goodness.Vegan rice macrobiotic miso soy bowl vegetables winter

This recipe is very well balanced flavor wise, and superrrr delicious.  All the veggies are shortly blanched, allowing them to retain almost all of the amazing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for your body’s benefit.  Switch up the veggies according to what is available and on hand for you!

Miso vegetables with rice and peanut sesame crunch. (Serves 4)

1 large piece kombu seaweed

1.5T tamari

2 scant T red miso

1.5T mirin

1.5t sugar, any kind you use (ok to omit)

1 small head broccoli, cut into bite size pieces, stems peeled and matchsticked

1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks

8 ounces mushrooms, I used shiitakes, stems removed and cut into bite size pieces

1c snow peas, matchsticked

1/2 a medium cucumber, matchsticked

1c cilantro, chopped

4T roasted peanuts, chopped

2T sesame seeds, toasted

1T rice vinegar

1t maple syrup

1t sesame oil

1t chile flakes

Cooked rice of choice for serving (I used sprouted brown) about 2c

Bring 1.5c water to boil in a saucepan, add kombu, cover and let simmer 10 minutes.  Remove kombu and reserve.  Add soy sauce,mirin, sugar, and miso to pot and combine thoroughly.   Bring to a boil; add broccoli and cook for 4 minutes; remove with strainer and place in a large bowl.  Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes; remove to bowl.  Add carrots and cook for 2 minutes, remove to bowl.  Add snow peas and cook 1 minute; remove to bowl.  Add cucumber and cook 15 seconds; remove to bowl.  Allow remaining liquid in pot to reduce on medium heat until about 1/4c is left.

While the liquid is reducing, mix up the peanuts, sesame seeds, sesame oil, maple syrup, rice vinegar and chile flakes in a small bowl.  Cut the kombu into thin strips.  Divide the rice between four bowls; add the veggies and kombu on top and garnish with peanut mixture and cilantro.  Drizzle the reduced liquid on top and serve!

Green Thai curry (in a hurry)

Thai curry green vegan homemade tofu spicy

Thai green curry tofu homemade spicy

Thai curry is so delicious and really simple to make at home.  I love it for cold weather because it’s so comforting and spicy and warms you up inside.  It’s super easy to make at home at a fraction of the cost of takeout.

A curry is only as good as the curry paste that you use.  It is so worth making a trip to an Asian market or ordering online to get the good stuff.  Mae Ploy is my personal favorite and is widely available here, but I’ve also heard that Thai and True is good.  Steer clear of brands like Thai kitchen or premixed sauces, as their flavor is bland at best.

For the veggies, you can switch it up to include whatever you’d like, but it’s nice to include one starchy veggie like potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, or carrots + at least one non starchy veggie like broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, mushrooms, bell pepper, etc + a whole onion to give it a good texture balance and flavor.  I used tofu here but it is totally optional.

Thai green curry with green beans, sweet potato and tofu (serves 4)

1T veggie oil (coconut or avocado)

1 large yellow onion, sliced

4-6T green curry paste, preferably Mae Ploy

1 can coconut milk

1 large sweet potato, chopped into 1/2 in chunks

2c green beans, cut into bite sized pieces

1 15 ounce package organic tofu (optional), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Thai basil for topping (optional but delicious)

Cooked rice for serving (optional)

Drizzle the oil in a large skillet and add the onions.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onion is soft.  Add the curry paste and stir well.  Fry for a minute until paste is fragrant.  Add coconut milk and 1c water, stir well.  Add sweet potato and cook for 6-7 minutes uncovered until sweet potato can be pierced with a fork.  Add green beans, cover, and cook for 4 minutes or until all veggies are tender.  Add tofu and cook for another 2 minutes until tofu is warmed through:  serve over rice and top with Thai basil leaves.

Butternut squash + Shiitake ragout

Butternut squash shiitake stir fry ragout

Butternut squash shiitake mushroom stir fry raguI’ll admit it up front. I don’t really like butternut squash. I always want to like it: it’s so beautiful and orange and HEALTHY! It’s ok when it’s puréed into soup but it’s still…squash.

I had a couple of plants this year come up from seed in my compost, so I let them do their thing and now I have about 20 butternut squash. Cooool.
So, I started checking out recipes outside of roasting/pureeing and found a recipe from bon appetit that was amazing! It doesn’t taste squashy but has a creamy texture. It has sweetness from the port, umami from the shiitakes and a pop of color + flavor from the garnish of pomegranate seeds.
Bottom line: I would make it again and again, and this coming from a self professed butternut hater.

Butternut + shiitake ragout: (serves 4)

10 ounces fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and reserved, caps halved if small or quartered if large
4 sun-dried tomatoes, not packed in oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 cup tawny Port, divided
1 large onion, chopped
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, cut in 1” cubes (I used 2 pretty small ones)
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

Combine shiitake stems, tomatoes, and 2 cups boiling water in a bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add mushroom caps; cook until lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in 1/4 cup Port and cook, scraping up browned bits from skillet, until liquid is absorbed, about 3 minutes. Stir in onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, scraping up browned bits from skillet, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Pour in remaining Port and cook until sauce is glossy, about 3 minutes.
Add butternut squash; stir to coat. Strain the mushroom stem liquid into skillet; discard stems, chop the tomatoes, and add them to squash mixture. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover skillet, and cook until squash is almost tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover; continue to cook until liquid is reduced and glossy, 5-8 minutes.

Hope you enjoy!  I served this with simple quinoa: tossed with parsley, lemon zest and olive oil.  So satisfying and filling.  Great for a meatless Monday :)

Much love,

A.

Easy superfood dark chocolate bark. (5 minutes!)

chocolate bark vegan pomegranate superfood

I have been making a batch of this chocolate bark every week and keeping it in the fridge, enjoying a few pieces each night as an after dinner treat.  Silky and rich, with tons of different flavor nuances just like a good wine.  With lots of polyphenols and antioxidants, dark chocolate is a healthy treat.  Just make sure you’re eating 70% or higher cacao content to ensure that you’re reaping all the healthy benefits chocolate has to offer.  Cacao has a specific antioxidant, epicatechin, that lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.  Some researchers even consider epicatechin an essential vitamin.  It reduces inflammation, improves blood flow, and elevates nitric oxide in the blood ( this is what Viagra does- no wonder chocolate is considered a love food) .

This bark is infinitely customizable and only takes about 5 minutes to put together. The one I made today was sesame seed (gives a savory quality to it, almost like chocolate covered pretzels), coconut flake, hemp seeds, pomegranate arils, flaky sea salt, and almonds.  Almonds are my favorite nut to use because they give the biggest crunch payoff.  Get a pretty tin to put it in and it makes a wonderful last minute gift, too.

IMG_2315

Superfood Dark Chocolate Bark.

8 ounces or so (2-3 bars) dark chocolate, preferably 70% or above and organic (I prefer Scharffenbergers (not organic but no-gmo soy lecithin) or Green&Blacks)

Any or all of these healthy toppings:

hemp seeds

coconut flakes (toasted or not)

sesame seeds

almonds, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, or cashews

pomegranate arils, freeze dried raspberries or strawberries, dried cherries, goji berries, etc.

flaky sea salt (like Maldon)

Rig a double boiler: fill up a large saucepan halfway with water, then place a heatproof mixing bowl over the pot.  Make sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Start the water boiling and chop up your chocolate.  It doesnt have to be super tiny pieces, just a rough chop will do fine.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat (aka the best invention ever) or parchment paper.  Now put all your chocolate in the bowl of your double boiler.  Stir with a rubber spatula until thoroughly melted.  Pour your chocolate onto your lined pan.  Spread the chocolate out with your spatula until it is the thickness you desire.  I like it thin so I spread it out a lot.  Sprinkle all your desired toppings over.  Pop in the freezer for 10 minutes to harden up.  Peel the chocolate carefully off of the silpat/parchment and break into coarse pieces.  Store in the fridge or freezer for a snappier chocolate, or keep at room temperature (no hotter!) in an airtight container.  If you give it as a gift it would be a good idea to seperate the pieces with parchment paper so they dont stick together.

My personal favorite: Scharffenberger 70% cacao.  Their 85% is AMAZING too.  Rich, nuanced chocolatey flavor with NO acrid/bitter flavors that I taste in many dark chocalates from other brands.  Green & Blacks is my second choice, organic, and more widely available.

scharffenberger bittersweet

Enjoy!

Love,

A.

Creamy berry-almond breakfast smoothie.

berry almond butter smoothie

I have been loving this smoothie for breakfast lately!  I love oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, but sometimes I just want something sweet and creamy.

This smoothie takes 2 minutes to make in the morning (no cutting fruit or anything!) so its ideal for when you’re in a rush but want something good for you too.  It has tons of healthy, filling fats from the almond butter and antioxidants from the berries.

I equally love this smoothie made with a frozen banana instead of the berries.  It is seriously like a milkshake this way- the banana makes it super creamy and sweet.

The hint of almond extract in this is so delicious.  It elevates the other ingredients and makes a basic smoothie a little more fancy.  If you’re not a fan of almond flavor (like my husband), try vanilla extract instead.

Almond breakfast smoothie. (serves 1)

1c unsweetened almond milk

1/2 c frozen berries OR 1 large-ish frozen banana

1 heaping tablespoon almond butter

5 drops stevia OR sweetener of your choice

1/8t almond extract OR 1/2t vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients together and enjoy!

Much Love,

A.

P.s. Kids are into it too ;)

IMG_2200