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.

A Little Bit of Luck

I know I’ve been a bit infrequent with my posting lately, but there’s a good reason. As the semester is coming to the close there have been a lot of lab reports and essay exams (Yes, you read that right, they’re take-home exams that consist of 7+ essays) assigned, so I’ve been writing those instead. Tomorrow we get our take-home final which is due next Tuesday, and after that I hope to be a bit more regular with posts. In the mean time, here are some four leaf cloves I found at the community garden work day on Saturday. May you have a lucky week!

Herbal Vitamin C Drops

Scored herbal glass candy in jelly roll pan

One of my favorite things about the online herbalist course I’m taking is that we’re required to try recipes that relate to the unit we’re studying before we can move on to the next unit. This encourages me to actually put theory into practice and get used to different ways of preparing herbs. I’m just finishing up the Immune System unit and decided to make Vitamin C drops, partly because I already had the ingredients and partly because I haven’t made candy in a while.

These are inspired by a vitamin C syrup I saw on the Bulk Herb Store’s Blog and the vitamin C drops my family stocks up on during flu season. I can’t have the store bought drops as they use soy oil somewhere in the processing. I’m hoping these will both soothe any sore throats and give me a little extra boost of vitamin C this winter.

Herbal Vitamin C Drops

1 cup filtered water + extra
1 TBSP Dried Black Elderberries
1 TBSP Dried Hibiscus Flowers
1 TBSP Dried Whole Rose Hips (I used my own from this fall)
½ TBSP Dried Cut Ginger Root
½ cup Local Honey
1 cup Granulated Sugar
Coconut oil – to grease molds/pan

In a small pan, combine the water, elderberries, hibiscus, rose hips, and ginger. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is reduced by half. Strain resultant liquid and add more water (if needed) to bring total liquid volume to ½ cup.

Return the liquid to the pan and add the honey and granulated sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly, then reduce heat slightly and cook to 300°F (hard crack stage). This will take a while; while mixture is cooking, oil candy molds or pan.

Remove mixture from heat and pour into molds or pan and allow it to cool. If using molds, remove the candy when it is almost room temperature. If using a pan/cookie sheet, wait until candy is just about room temperature, score with a knife then allow to cool completely. Break into pieces along score lines and store in airtight container. If pieces stick together, toss in powdered sugar.

Herbal Vitamin C Drops - decocting the herbs
Decocting the herbs to get a very (pretty) red liquid.
Herbal Vitamin C Drops - liquid, honey, and sugar cooking on stovetop.
Liquid, honey, and sugar cooking.

Now I was rather inattentive when oiling my cookie sheet and ended up having to shatter the candy to get it out. So much for my score lines…

Herbal glass candy stored in ziploc bag
Not quite drop shaped, but still delicious!

Freezing Food (AKA: How I Eat Well on Bad Days)

One of the problems I’ve run into as the result of my love of cooking is that recipes rarely have a serving size of one. Even if said recipe is easily divisible, I find it’s often much harder to make one serving than multiple. This means I end up with lots of leftovers. How is this a problem you ask?

Well, I’m only one person, so if it’s a week that I’m cooking a lot, I end up with way more leftovers than I can eat before they go bad and I hate wasting food. I also get incredibly tired of eating the same thing after about three nights. I do occasionally invite my parents over for dinner, which helps with leftover control, but they like different types of food than I do so that’s not always an option. My solution to this absolutely horrible (she said sarcastically) problem? Freeze my leftovers.

Red Silicone Mini Loaf Pans

My favorite way to freeze leftovers is in silicone loaf pans (for soups) and ice cube trays (for sauces, dressings, gravies). I use these two which I purchased from Amazon a few years ago. I’ll ladle soup into the pans (which have been placed on cookie sheets for stability), pop them in the freezer overnight, and in the morning place the now frozen soup-cubes in a labeled and dated plastic freezer bags. I find the rectangular shape of the cubes allows me not only to fit more in a single bag (than say if I had used a muffin tin) but also use my freezer space more efficiently (rectangular items in rectangular spaces). When I’m ready to eat the frozen food I just pull a few cubes out of the bag and either place them in a bowl in the microwave or in a pan on the stove and reheat. Easy peasy, and has seriously cut down on my food waste and food boredom.

I also use freezing as a way to keep ingredients from going bad before I can use them up. I rarely have a recipe that calls for a whole can of tomato paste, so I’ll freeze the rest of an open can in ice cube trays. I try to make tablespoon or teaspoon size cubes so when I go to use it later I can pull out exactly how much the recipe calls for. Other things I’ve frozen this way include: fruit juice, herbs in oil, and chicken broth. Apparently wine can be frozen this way too, but I haven’t tried it.

Frozen cubes of carrot dressing and gravy
Carrot Dressing and Gravy (which I forgot to date, oops) cubes.

Another reason I freeze food is that it gives me a reserve to fall back on when I’m too sick or too tired to cook, which with CFS happens a lot more than I like. This is extra important for me, because my bad-health days are the days that I need to eat nourishing food. In addition to the recipes below I try to always have cooked chicken breast, rice, broccoli florets, and homemade chicken broth in my freezer. There are quite a few ways to combine these items (chicken and rice soup; chicken, broccoli, and rice bowls; etc.) and I find they’re fairly easy on my stomach, which is always appreciated. But this is just me, you may find you have different foods you want to keep in your freezer. The key is finding what types of meals make you feel good.

Now of course, not all meals will freeze and reheat well. Here are a few of my favorites. I usually try to plan meals so I make one of these a week, hold about 2 days worth of leftovers out, and freeze the rest. I’ll then make whatever other recipes I have planned and alternate between the leftovers so I don’t get bored.

Potato-Rosemary Soup – Williams-Sonoma
Caldo Zochitl – Budget Bytes
Taco Chicken Bowls – Budget Bytes (I just freeze the part made in the slow-cooker)
Slow Cooker Black-Eye Pea Soup – Sweet T Makes Three
Arroz Caldo for the Soul – Kitchen Confidante (If I have time I make the weekend version, but the week day version is good as well)

Do you freeze your leftovers? What are your favorite recipes to freeze?

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.

Latkes, Latkes, Good to Eat

… Cook me up a Hanukkah treat!

Holidays seem to be times for traditions. My favorite Hanukkah “tradition” of sorts is latkes. I LOVE latkes. Every year at Hanukkah, for as long as I can remember there have been latkes at Hanukkah. When I was young, my sister and I were in charge of shredding the potatoes. When I got old enough, frying the latkes became my job. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of the spattering oil, but the perks of being the cook (first dibs on the latkes) were definitely worth it. Hanukkah wouldn’t be Hanukkah without latkes (or watching the old VHS of Lamb Chop’s Chanukah Special and playing dreidel with my sister).

Wooden Dreidel on table

Fortunately the latke recipe of my youth didn’t require much modification to meet my current food allergy requirements. Below is the modified recipe.

Crunchy Potato Latkes

4 medium white or red potatoes, about 4 cups
1 medium onion, about ½ cup diced (optional)
2 tsp salt
3 egg whites (if you can use whole eggs, use 2 whole eggs)
2 TBSP potato flour (If gluten is not an issue you can use regular flour)
½ c oil for frying (I like olive oil or canola oil, but any neutral oil will work)

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into large pieces.
  2. Shred potatoes in a food processor with the medium shredder[1][2]. Remove shredded potatoes and drain excess liquid.
  3. Dice[3]
  4. In a bowl, mix together shredded potatoes, salt, egg whites, potato flour, and onions.
  5. Heat 2 TBSP of oil in a frying pan. Spoon latke batter into pan, fry on one side until brown around the edges. Flip and fry on other side. Add more oil as needed. Drain on a paper towel and serve[4][5].

Notes:

[1] If you don’t have a food processor you can use a cheese grater, but be warned, this takes forever.

[2] For an easy shortcut I sometimes use bags of Simply Potatoes hash browns instead of shredding the potatoes myself. It really cuts down on the time and doesn’t seem to affect the finished latke texture at all.

[3] If you don’t want big chunks of onion in your latkes you can mince or process the onion in a food processor. I have also used onion powder when I haven’t had any onions on hand.

[4] If you aren’t serving the latkes immediately they can be kept warm in the oven. They also reheat nicely for lunch the next day.

[5] My favorite way to have latkes is with applesauce. Sour cream is also popular.

Miso Happy

(Cheesy title, I know. I couldn’t resist.)

So, in case you hadn’t heard, South River Miso Company makes gluten-free, soy-free miso and tamari. You know what that means right? It means that they make miso and tamari that I can have! You know what’s even better? The miso and tamari are REALLY REALLY GOOD! Like incredibly, amazingly good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I discovered South River a few years ago when I found their chickpea miso in a Natural Grocers. The one jar I bought lasted me quite a while and I had to leave it in Florida with my grandparents when I moved. This made me really sad since I was miso-less once again and miso is oddly enough one of my comfort foods. I hadn’t had any luck finding a replacement jar in local stores so I decided to order directly from South River, which yes, normal customers can do. I got their Chickpea miso, Azuki Bean miso, and their Chickpea tamari. I haven’t tried the Azuki Bean miso yet, but the Chickpea miso is excellent as before and the tamari is one of the best I’ve ever had, ever.

South River currently has ten varieties of miso (find them here). In addition to the Chickpea and Azuki Bean miso, they also have a Garlic Red Pepper miso that is gluten and soy-free. If gluten is not an issue, but soy is, you’ll be able to have their Chickpea Barley miso. If gluten is an issue but soy isn’t, you have eight misos to choose from. They make their miso in small batches in the traditional way, and I’ve heard only good things about all of their varieties. If you want fantastic miso, South River Miso Company is definitely worth checking out.

If you’re interested in how they make the miso (It’s really cool), here are a few videos: