Fire Tonic Cider

Semi-functional immune systems are no fun, let me tell you. The past two weeks of my life have consisted of a cold, travel and an out of state doctor’s appointment (which involved sitting on two planes full of coughing, sneezing, hacking people), and a different cold that I got while traveling. Cold number two is particularly nasty and had me bed/couch-bound for days, so needless to say I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of how to support my immune system.

My current batch of Fire Cider
My current batch of Fire Cider

As soon as I was semi-functional (read: could put a coherent sentence together) I asked my mother to run to the store and pick up the fixings for fire cider. Fire cider is an herbal remedy consisting of apple cider vinegar infused with immune supporting herbs or other foods that is sweetened with honey and taken to prevent colds and the like. Since it has to sit for a month it’ll be ready just around Spring Break when everyone will be traveling and bringing back all sorts of nasty crap. Had I had any foresight, I would have made this wonderful herbal concoction a month ago so it would have been ready when I returned from my travels. Guess I learned my lesson.

Because there are so many options for ingredients, there are a ton of recipes available for Fire Cider on the internet. I decided to start off with the basic recipe from the woman who made it as popular as it is today, Rosemary Gladstar. In the video below she walks you through the benefits and how to make it. The only change I made was doubling the amount of ginger I used because I LOVE ginger.

Basic Fire Tonic Cider

Based on: Rosemary Gladstar’s Fire Cider

1 part Horseradish (fresh, diced)
1 part Garlic (fresh, diced)
1 part Onion (fresh, diced)
1 part Ginger (fresh, diced)
Cayenne Powder (to taste, I didn’t add a lot)
Apple Cider Vinegar
Raw Honey (to taste)

Put first four ingredients in a wide mouth quart jar (you’ll want the jar to be about half full). Add enough vinegar so there is two to three inches above the herbs. Add cayenne to taste and let sit for four weeks. Strain and discard spent herbs (I’ve seen people make a chutney out of them or dehydrate them to make a seasoning). Add honey to taste.

There are infinite variations on this theme. Some people add jalapeños or citrus or use fresh cayenne peppers, some leave out the onion, some do a sort of hybrid recipe of fire cider four thieves vinegar and use the herbs thyme, rosemary, sage, lavender, and mint. I’ve seen gorgeous fire cider that has been colored red by the addition of hibiscus or elderberries. Some people choose not to add the honey. It is really a very customizable recipe which is why I think it is so popular, that and that people swear it works.


A note about the Fire Cider name: Recently there have been a group of herbalists trying to trademark “Fire Cider” claiming that they came up with the recipe and the name all on their own. They have been attacking small sellers and other herbalists telling them that they can’t use the name. This is like trying to trademark something like “vanilla ice-cream” or “granola bar”. Something similar has happened with “thieves oil”, another common herbal remedy.

If you want to learn more about how to make Fire Cider, its history, and the whole trademark thing, Herbal Roots zine has a wonderful FREE PDF that I highly recommend.

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Herbed Drop Biscuits

We’re going to change things up this week and instead of today’s post being about plants it’s going to be about food. Although, it could kind-of be considered about plants since it uses ingredients that come from plants.

Drop biscuits on a white plate.

My mom came up with these drop biscuits a few weeks ago to go with some baked chicken we were having for dinner. They’re kind of cakey but have a pleasant texture and keep really well (for allergen-friendly baked goods). They also really only require one bowl, one spoon, one measuring cup (1/4 c), and one measuring spoon (1 TBSP) so there are not a lot of dishes to wash.

When I made these, I did half without any herbs and half with. Both versions turned out well, so don’t feel like you need to herbs if you don’t want to. I also think a sweet variety of this biscuit would be delicious, though I haven’t tried it yet. The original biscuits were made with homemade chicken broth instead of water so if you have some extra that you need to use up feel free to substitute it in.

Drop Biscuits on baking sheet

Herbed Drop Biscuits
Makes 15-20 (depends on the size of biscuits)

1 cup almond flour
1 cup brown rice flour
1 cup potato flour
½ cup yellow corn flour/masa haring
1 TBSP baking powder
1 TBSP granulated sugar
Salt to taste
Optional: Spices to taste (like garlic, onion powder, thyme, sage, pepper)

½ cup egg whites
1 cup almond milk
¾ cup water
3 TBSP neutral flavored oil (such as vegetable, canola, or grapeseed)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix together dry ingredients.
  3. Add in wet ingredients. Stir until well mixed. Dough should be kind of loose, but hold shape when pressed together.

    Drop Biscuit Dough in bowl.
    Dough should look like this.
  4. Shape dough into 2-3” balls and place on baking sheet. Flatten balls slightly.
  5. Bake for 22-26 minutes or until the bottoms of the biscuits are nicely browned.

Sweet/Breakfast Option: Instead of adding savory spices, add cinnamon, a bit more sugar (to taste) and some chopped nuts or dried fruit.

Allergen-Friendly Thanksgiving

Allergy Friendly Thanksgiving Dinner

I’ve talked about my food allergies and what types of things I eat on this blog before, and since Thanksgiving is this week I thought I’d share some of my favorite Thanksgiving appropriate recipes from around the internet.

Meat

Roast Turkey Breast from Martha Stewart – A turkey is a lot of meat and I find that a turkey breast is much more appropriate for only one or two people.

Kittencal’s Moist Oven Roasted Turkey Breast from Food.com – Another good roast turkey breast recipe. I use olive oil instead of butter when I make this recipe.

Quick Turkey Gravy from The Kitchn – I use this recipe and substitute grapeseed oil for the fat and millet flour for wheat flour and the gravy turns out well. Either that, or if I have enough liquid in the bottom of the pan, I just add some cornstarch or arrowroot starch to thicken and use that as a gravy.

Sides

Crescent Rolls from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom

Drop Biscuits from Not Missing a Thing

Allergy Free Mashed Potatoes from Eating With Food Allergies

Acorn Squash with Cranberry Apple Stuffing from Elana’s Pantry

Cinnamon Ginger Butternut Squash from Sweet Potato Soul

Dessert

No-Bake Pumpkin Pie Filling from Lexie’s Kitchen. – When I want pumpkin pie I make this filling and put it in a pie crust from The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook by Cybele Pascal.

Vegan Pumpkin Custard from Food Fitness Fresh Air – Sometimes a whole pumpkin pie is too much for me to eat before it goes bad. If I don’t have guests I’ll make this custard instead (I halve the recipe). It tastes like pumpkin pie and makes enough that I can have some for breakfast the next day but not so much I’m eating it all week.

My Current Relationship with Food

I’ll admit it; I’m a bit of a foodie. I have quite a fascination with the food I eat. I love learning about what it is, where it comes from, and how to cook with it. I enjoy trying new and novel foods and I try to use fresh, high quality ingredients when I cook.

I haven’t always been this way though. Not so long ago I used to not pay attention to what I was putting in my body. I was blissfully ignorant of what was in my food, only caring about whether it tasted good or not. Because I grew up eating home cooked meals made with good ingredients (Thanks mom!) I was somewhat aware of what was “good” for me and what wasn’t, but it wasn’t something I gave much thought to.

This apathy bled over into cooking. While I learned to cook as a child, I didn’t particularly like it. During summers, my mom would give my sister and I each a night to cook dinner. I did enjoy picking new recipes to try, but cooking itself was difficult and time consuming so I didn’t do it much. This attitude remained until college.

Big Rainbow tomato salad

During my first year of college I had a meal plan and no access to a kitchen. The dining hall food was good for about the first month of the semester then rapidly declined. The food was super-salty and kind-of flavorless and I missed mom’s cooking. During my second year I also had a meal plan, but didn’t use it much. I felt sick a lot this year and dining hall food was NOT good for an upset stomach. I did have occasional access to a communal kitchen so I would make myself egg drop soup, but I didn’t make much else as kitchen was gross. I moved to an apartment with a kitchen the second semester of my sophomore year and I started to learn to cook out of necessity.

My junior year of college was when I learned about my food sensitivities. Suddenly I had to pay attention to the ingredients in food, since there were a lot that I couldn’t eat. It was tough at first, because at that time I was afraid of food; it had made me feel so bad in the past and I had no idea what was “safe”. Eventually I adjusted to my new diet and started cooking quite a bit more since my sensitivities took away the option of most prepared foods, and a lot of restaurant foods. I probably do 95% of my own cooking now.

As a side effect of having to look for the 9 foods I couldn’t have, I started paying more attention to ingredients in general. Some I recognized, some I didn’t. Most I could pronounce, but only because I took organic chemistry. The more I paid attention, the more I started to question things. Why were these ingredients in my food? What purpose did they serve? What were their benefits? What harm could they cause? Unfortunately the answers to those questions have a lot of grey areas, with the only discernable pattern being moderation.

Dealing with food sensitivities is challenge and frustrating at times. Add being more aware of, and wanting to avoid, certain other ingredients/ways of growing food/packaging, and food gets complicated really fast. Some days I feel like there’s nothing I can eat that satisfies all my preferences. Most days I compromise. If it’s not local, it’s organic. If it’s not free of weird ingredients, it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients. The only thing that I’m firm on is avoiding my nine sensitivities. Moderation. Even in trying to be healthy, moderation is key. I’d go insane if I didn’t compromise, and I’d starve.

Cherry Piet Topped with hearts

While it would be easy to focus on what I can’t have, the food sensitivities, I try to seek out new foods I can eat instead. This has lead to some wonderful discoveries. Some of my favorites new ingredients are: pomegranate molasses, mochi, tamarind paste, beets, sesame oil, and lentils. I’m amazed at the existence of all the different types of rice, (I grew up eating minute rice), salts, olive oils, and vinegars. I’m also fortunate to live in a place where exotic fruits are easily found in farmers markets. I’ve tried jaboticaba and lychee, mangosteen and black sapote (also known as chocolate pudding fruit; it makes excellent smoothies). There’s even a star fruit and a mango tree on campus! Choosing this attitude makes the food sensitivities seem much less of a tragedy and more of the push I needed to start exploring a new world.

I used to have a horrible relationship with food. When I was healthy, I ignored how it affected me. When I was first sick, I was afraid of it. Now, I’m much more aware of what’s in my food and how it makes me feel. I’m in the process of becoming more aware of where it comes from, how it was produced, and how it gets to me too. There is still a little fear, and I think there always will be. I can’t forget that food made me feel so bad for so long. Even still, seemingly safe foods, foods I’ve eaten hundreds of times, will randomly make me feel bad. But mostly, I love food. Cooking is a wonderful blend of art and science. The creativity, colors, and combinations of flavors beautifully blended with chemistry make for some tasty dishes. While I may have nine things I can’t eat, there’s a whole world of things I can left to discover.

Sunbutter Cups

Last week I was perusing the “snack” tag on my WordPress reader when I came across a recipe for Sunbutter Chocolate Bites that sounded absolutely amazing. When I realized that I didn’t have to make any substitutions I knew I had to make them. The blog I found them on (Strictly Delicious) is run by an awesome girl who has even more food allergies than I do! She posts wonderful recipes and reviews of allergy-friendly products. I recommend you check her out if you’re looking for an allergy-friendly blog.

I did end up making a few substitutions to the ingredients, only because I didn’t want to run to the store. Instead of Soy-Free Sales Chocolate Chips and dates I used Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips and dried Montmorency cherries, because that’s what was in my pantry. I also used homemade Sunbutter instead of store-bought.

Sunbutter cup with a bite taken out.
The delicious finished product.

End verdict? These were delicious and easy to make. Will definitely be making them again soon (I don’t expect mine to last long).

Terrific Trail Mix

Fruit and Seed Trail mix

My little sister is the best at finding new foods I can have. Half a year ago, she showed up with this excellent coconut spread by Earth Balance.  Last month, after a Target run, she showed up at my apartment with a bag of trail mix by Enjoy Life and said, “I think you can have this”. After reading the ingredients, I promptly opened the bag and downed half of it in one sitting. It was delicious.

Now trail mix had been largely missing from my life since I learned of my food sensitivities because most mixes contained of peanuts and milk chocolate. The closest I had come to eating trail mix was mixing toasted almonds, Enjoy Life chocolate chunks, and cherries in a bag as a snack. Yes, I know I could have made my own trail mix before, it would have required effort to figure out what I wanted in it and frankly, I’m lazy.

After obtaining and consuming four bags of this delicious mix of seeds and fruit in the span of about two weeks, it occurred to me that I could, and should, probably be making it myself. The ingredients were simple and ones I could find easily at the grocery store, and I could modify the ratios of things to be more the way I wanted, namely more chocolate and none of the weird dried apple cube things (not a fan of the texture).

After eating my last bag, and craving trail-mixy goodness I hit up my local Whole Foods, and left with about 2 lbs of pumpkin seeds, 2 lbs of sunflower seeds, cranberries, raisins, and lots of chocolate. The checkout people were a little confused as to why I was getting so many seeds. (Just as a side note, Whole Foods really nails it with their prepared food section. I found 5 different hot dishes that I could eat even with my numerous restrictions.)

Once I got home I toasted the seeds until they smelled done (each oven is different so I don’t really use a recipe) and let them cool. Then I poured everything into a couple of bowls, mixed it up, and tah-da! My very own trail mix!

Bottle of trail mix ready for the fridge.

Here are the ratios I used:

2 cups Lightly Toasted Sunflower Seeds

2 cups Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 cup Cranberries (I used apple juice sweetened ones)

1 cup Raisins

1 cup Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips

Dash of salt

I ended up making a lot of trail mix.
I ended up making a lot of trail mix.

I ended up tripling the recipes since I had about 6 cups of each the sunflower seeds and the pumpkin seeds (my eyes were a bit bigger than my stomach at the store). I’m storing the trail mix in the fridge so the seeds don’t go rancid, and to repay my sister for introducing me to the mix in the first place, I’m sharing what I made with her.

If you don’t feel like making your own trail mix, you can always buy it here.

Sick Food

Part of my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome manifests as a semi-functioning immune system, meaning I get sick quite a lot. The school year is a disaster for me. It seems that I get sick after every break (Summer, Autumn, Thanksgiving, Winter, and Spring) and around finals. Last semester it got so bad that I missed a month of classes and seriously considered wearing a surgical mask around campus, which is really serious for me since I hate those things; they make me claustrophobic. I’m sick quite a bit, not even counting the times when my intestines decide they don’t like food (happens more than it should).

While I’m still working on my avoiding illness tactics (if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them in the comments), I am discovering a good bunch of “sick” foods, or foods that I like to eat when I feel sick. I figured that I’d share some of them in case you’re in search of your own “sick” foods. Lots of times I make these foods when I’m feeling well and freeze them for later.

For the common cold I make sure to drink lots of liquids, usually in the form of water or green tea with lemon and honey. The green tea helps the sore throats that usually accompany my colds. I also LOVE soups.

Middle Eastern Lentil Soup with Pomegranate Syrup from Project Foodie – This is my absolutely favorite soup to make. It’s delicious and has become somewhat of a comfort food. I can’t explain it, but it always makes me feel better.

Caldo Xochitl from Budget Bytes – This is like chicken soup with a kick, which is great when I have a stuffed up nose. It’s easy to make and tastes amazing. I like adding corn to mine and eating it with copious amounts of tortilla chips, lime juice, and cilantro.

Chicken Soup – I don’t have a recipe for this because I make a different version every time. Common ingredients include yellow onion, celery, carrots, noodles/rice/rice noodles, chicken broth, salt, pepper, and chicken if I have it on hand. Sometimes I want a traditional flavor and other times I go for a more Asian vibe and add ginger, garlic, and sesame oil.

When I’m feeling nauseated I eat blander foods:

Arroz Caldo from Kitchen Confidante – This is currently my favorite thing to eat when I have an upset stomach. It’s simple, easy to make (especially if you follow the weekday version), and bland enough not to upset my stomach without being boring. It also has ginger and garlic, two of my favorite spices. Sometimes I make it without the chicken if I’m really in a rush or don’t feel like messing with chicken.

Sweet Potato Soup from Blissfully Domestic – This soup tastes like Thanksgiving. It’s loaded with all sorts of good veggies and isn’t overly spicy (especially if you omit the cayenne pepper).

Golden Potato Soup for the Sensitive Soul from Gluten-Free Goddess – This is such a comforting soup. It reminds me of the potato soup my mom used to make when I was a kid (which I can no longer eat since it has milk in it). This recipe is easy to make and I omit the chilies in this recipe when I feel sick.

Low and Slow Sweet Potatoes from Edible Perspective – Again with the sweet potatoes. My body seems to like them even when it doesn’t want anything else. This recipe is fantastic, and I make it all the time. I absolutely love it!

I also drink ginger tea with lemon and honey to settle my stomach. I like Yogi Ginger Tea a lot. If I’m not in the mood for ginger tea, I’ll sometimes have peppermint tea (Yogi as well) or ginger ale.

There you have it, some of my favorite foods to eat when I’m not feeling so well. Hopefully you don’t feel unwell anytime soon, but should you find yourself in a less than healthy state, perhaps you will try one of these recipes and feel better!