vegetarian/vegan

Fire Cider: an herbal tonic for wellness!

Fire Cider

We’re deep into cold season here in Minnesota. My partner, my friends, and most of my clients seem to be dealing with nasty colds right now! I’ve managed to stay illness-free so far (knock on wood), and Fire Cider has been one of my stand-by immune system support allies the last few weeks. Fire Cider is a keep-on-hand pantry classic for good health. As a general health tonic, taking a shot of Fire Cider is an awesome way start your morning or as a pick me up when you're feeling low. It's also indispensable to help kick out the early stages of a cold!

In the kitchen, Fire Cider makes a great culinary ingredient, for use cocktails, sparkling water, or in salad dressings and marinades. I used some as part of the dressing on a bean salad recently, and it was a hit.

Why buy bottles of packaged Fire Cider at the co-op or Whole Foods when you can make a batch at home yourself (or with friends!) and take an active role in supporting your own health? Get on it and build that healing pantry yourself.

What is Fire Cider?

Fire Cider is a combination of herbs and medicinal foods soaked in vinegar, so named by the great Rosemary Gladstar years and years ago. Every herbalist has their own version of Fire Cider, and the internet is bursting with variations. This bold mix of horseradish, garlic, ginger, onion, turmeric,  chili peppers, lemons, raw honey, and a few other herbal allies is a naturally anti-viral, anti-bacterial dream come true, helping to stimulate the immune system, support the qi (your body's functional energy), increase circulation, promote detoxification, and kick out pathogenic factors with every zesty dose.

The spicy, sour, bitter, acrid, and sweet flavor combination is very moving and stimulating to the body's blood, qi, and fluids, making it a great choice if you're feeling a cold coming on, are "stuck in a rut" or depressed, have tight achy muscles, spend a lot of time sitting at a desk all day, have cold hands and feet, have a slow-moving digestive system, have phlegm stuck in your lungs, or are recovering from a few too many cocktails last night....

As for my version of Fire Cider, I like adding I like adding thyme, rosemary, dried, shredded astragalus root, and shredded fresh burdock root. Thyme is nourishing and moving to the qi, and rosemary stimulates digestion. Both work together to support the qi, loosen and transform phlegm and mucous, and resolve pathogenic factors like colds and flus.

Astragalus (huang qi) is one of my herbal sweethearts, a wonderfully tonifying herb that helps to build the body's blood and qi, support the Lungs, and promote stable energy levels and digestive function. In Chinese herbal medicine, astragalus is also treasured for its ability to boost protective qi and protect your body against pathogenic factors -- that's Chinese medicine talk for your immune system.

Burdock root is a long, slender, wily-looking root, with a rough brown exterior and a cream colored, starchy interior. When exposed to oxygen, shredded and sliced burdock root turns brown very quickly -- as evidenced by the deep brown color in the photo above. Burdock has powerful detoxifying, heat clearing, dampness draining, and external pathogen clearing effects. I like adding sliced burdock root to broths, stocks, and stews, and often throw dried burdock root in liver-supportive herbal tea blends.

How does it taste?

It tastes like it means business -- spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, acrid, and awesome. It's called Fire Cider for a reason.

Is there anyone who shouldn't use Fire Cider?

While Fire Cider is considered generally safe, there are some situations where it may not be the right fit for certain individuals. People taking prescription blood thinners (like Coumadin or Warfarin) may want to avoid Fire Cider completely, or use extreme caution -- many these herbs have blood thinning properties, so you will want to work with you physician to make sure your INR levels are stable. Additionally, the immune-stimulating properties of Fire Cider may be problematic for individuals with autoimmune conditions. Caution should also be taken by anyone taking several prescription medications, or individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Finally, if you're a hot tempered or easily irritable person who is warm all the time, sweaty, and gets easily red and shiny in the face, this Fire Cider may just be a little too much, um, fire for you. Try some soothing green tea, lemon balm tea, nettle tea, or mint tea instead.

If you have questions on whether Fire Cider is right for you, speak to your healthcare practitioner.



 A jar of beautiful and powerful ingredients, ready to get doused in vinegar!

A jar of beautiful and powerful ingredients, ready to get doused in vinegar!

Fire Cider Recipe

yield: 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar

  • 1 cup fresh horseradish root, grated (do not peel)

  • 1 cup fresh burdock root, grated (do not peel)

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • ½ cup peeled garlic cloves, chopped

  • ½ cup fresh ginger root, grated (do not peel)

  • ½ cup fresh turmeric root, grated (do not peel), or 1 tablespoon dried powdered turmeric if fresh is unavailable

  • rind and juice of 3 small, organic unwaxed lemons

  • 2 jalapeño peppers, sliced

  • ¼ cup dried, shredded or sliced astragalus root (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon dry thyme leaves, or a few sprigs fresh

  • 1 tablespoon dry rosemary leaves, or a few sprigs fresh

  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • ¼-½ cup raw honey

Instructions:

Scrub all ingredients well, and prepare as directed above.I used the largest holes on a box grater to grate the horseradish, burdock, ginger, and turmeric roots. If grating by hand isn't your style, you could probably use the grating/shredding blade in a food processor, but I've never done it this way! Take caution while grating horseradish and chopping onions and peppers, to ensure that your eyes and skin are protected. Wear gloves, or make sure to wash hands well after contact with these ingredients!

Layer all ingredients EXCEPT honey into a ½ gallon (aka 2 quart) mason jar. Cover with vinegar. Put a square of wax paper or parchment over the top of the jar, then screw on lid over the wax/parchment paper. Steep for 4-6 weeks, shaking daily. Check often to make sure ingredients are covered completely by apple cider vinegar, topping off with more vinegar as needed.

After 4-6 weeks, open jar and strain out vinegar into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth. Squeeze ingredients in cheesecloth to get out remaining vinegar. Stir honey into vinegar, to taste. Transfer into air-tight bottles or jars, and store in a dark, cool place. Done! Shake bottle well before each use. As long as the contents of the jar stay uncontaminated, this stuff lasts for a long time - feel free to keep in the fridge for longer storage.

Dosage:

  • As a general health tonic, take 1/2-1 oz shots daily, or as needed.

  • For acute cold symptoms, 1/2 - 1 oz shots every few hours at the first sign of a cold, until symptoms subside.

  • As a culinary ingredient, use as you would vinegar, adding to dressings, marinades, sauces, or mixing in cocktails or sparkling water.

Variations:

This recipe is endlessly versatile. Here’s a handful of ways to change up this recipe…

  • if you can’t find an ingredient listed above, that’s okay, you can always make it without

  • use other types of hot peppers

  • add a few green onions

  • swap out lemons for limes, oranges, or tangerines

  • add additional herbs with medicinal properties, like oregano, sage, schisandra berries, licorice, or dried medicinal mushrooms like shiitake or reishi

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!

Recipe: Spiced Seed & Honey Granola (gluten-free, nut-free, low sugar)

Seedy Granola

So many packaged or bulk granolas have glutenous ingredients, are packed full of nuts (I'm allergic to almost all of them), are waaaay too sweet for my tastes, or have more dried fruit than I like. And thus, I prefer making my own granola. Not only is it cheaper, but I can make it fit my tastes and dietary restrictions perfectly! Here's a recipe I'm making a lot lately. It boasts a variety of seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and flax) as well as coconut, honey, spices, vanilla, and raisins. As for the fat, I love using coconut oil in granola; it lends a wonderfully sweet flavor and fragrance. With a splash of coconut milk or a dollop of Greek yogurt, it makes a great energy-packed breakfast or snack. 

Spiced Seed & Honey Granola (gluten-free, nut-free, low sugar)

yield: 7-8 cups

This granola is very lightly sweetened with honey. I love the subtle sweetness in combination with the roasty toasty oats and seeds. If you prefer a sweeter granola, feel free to up the quantity of sweetener to 1/2 or 2/3 cup, to fit your tastes. It will still work a-okay, but based on my experiences, it will need to bake just a little longer due to the extra moisture. 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 cup coconut chips
  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seeds
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • optional: 1 teaspoon gluten-free vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 325º F and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, mix together oats, coconut chips, seeds, salt, and spices. Set aside. 

In a small saucepan on the stovetop, melt together honey and coconut oil over low heat, stirring often, until liquid. Stir in vanilla extract, if using. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and stir until evenly coated.

Divide granola between baking sheets and spread evently in a thin layer over surface. Place in pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove pans from oven, stir granola, and place pans back in oven on opposite shelves. Bake another 15 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove pans from oven and let cool completely. Granola will crisp as it cools.

Once cool, store in sealed jars or containers. Will keep for 2 weeks.  

Substitution options:

  • Substitute raisins with any other dried fruit.
  • Substitute honey with other liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup). Keep in mind each one has a different intensity of sweetness, so it may be less - or more - sweet depending on your substitution. 
  • Substitute coconut oil with another oil, such as sunflower oil
  • Substitute sunflower and pumpkin seeds with any type of nut
  • Substitute sesame seeds with hemp seeds
  • Play with other spices, such as nutmeg or ground ginger 

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!

Recipe: Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins (GF, dairy-free, cane sugar-free, low sugar)

So it's not *really* spring here yet. Technically it is, but the ongoing weather proves otherwise. It was snowing out this morning! For obvious reasons, "spring" food isn't really happening yet. I yearn for pea shoots, fresh lettuces, tiny radishes, and sweet crunchy kohlrabi. But given the chilly temperatures, I'm still eating root veggies, cooked greens, etc etc etc. Geez.

Since it feels like we are moving backward through the seasons instead of forward, diving headlong back into fall, I decided to make some pumpkin muffins. They are a little autumnal for this time of year, but based on the chilly temperatures, they fit right in. Aaaaand they are gluten-free, dairy-free, and cane sugar-free. I like this recipe because it makes a muffin that isn't very sweet. You can really taste the pumpkin! I mean really, if you are looking for sugarbomb baked goods, you are reading the wrong blog. They are moist and just a little sweet, with a good balance of pumpkin flavor and spice. Nice.

Pumpkin Muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free, cane sugar-free, low sugar)

yield: 10-12 regular-size muffins

I like this recipe because it is free of xanthan gum or other binders, and is low in sugar. This yields 10 to 12 muffins, depending on how exact you are with filling the muffin tins and how large your muffin tins are. I have not tried this using a "flax" egg or another egg-substitute. If you do, please let me know how it works for you!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil or sunflower oil (if you are a dairy-eater, this recipe is great with melted butter too)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 120 grams (1 cup) sorghum flour
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup) oat flour
  • 30 grams (1/4 cup) tapioca starch aka tapioca flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a muffin tin very well or line with cute muffin papers (I like dinosaur muffin papers).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, starch, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice until mixture is light and well-mixed. Set aside.

In a large bowl with stand mixer or hand mixer, combine pumpkin, eggs, oil, water, vanilla, and Agave nectar. Mix until ingredients are smooth and well-combined. Then add dry ingredients gradually, scraping sides as you go, until mixture is just combined.

Spoon batter into the prepared muffin pan, filling about 3/4 of the way ( I like using a cookie scoop for this - easy peasy!) and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove from pan and allow to finish cooling on rack.

Store in a well-sealed container or wrapped tightly in foil or in a storage bag. These muffins freeze well and can be thawed at room temperature or on a defrost setting in the microwave.

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!

Recipe: Gluten-Free Maple Syrup Pumpkin Pie with Flaky Gluten-Free Pie Crust (GF, cane sugar free)

Recipe: Gluten-Free Maple Syrup Pumpkin Pie with Flaky Gluten-Free Pie Crust (GF, cane sugar free)
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Gluten-free pie crust.

These words struck fear in my heart for years. I tried, and tried, and tried. And each time, I was like "F***!" when I had another crust that just wouldn't roll correctly, was dry and sandy, was tough and chewy, or was just plain weird.

Then back in May, something happened. I made a crust I was happy with. Then I made another. And another. It was reliable. Easy. Delicious. FLAKY. And now I will share it with you, filled with a delicious maple syrup-sweetened pumpkin pie filling. I've made this pie time after time this fall, and it is always a winner with everyone who tries it. I like it best as leftovers, pulled from the fridge and eaten for breakfast.  Continue for the recipe!

the tools to make the pie

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Recipe: Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten-free, low sugar)

Cashew Butter Cookies (gluten-free)

I bake a lot. When I'm stressed, I bake. When I'm sad, I bake. When it's chilly outside, I bake. When I'm bored, I bake. It's a little excessive sometimes, actually, but much to the benefit of my the people in my life. The other day, sure enough, the urge struck and I needed to satisfy it. I hadn't tried my hand at a nut butter cookie for a while so gave it a go. After some research and brainstorming, I whipped together this recipe and it was a total hit! Not only is the dough totally bomb, the finished cookies are both beautiful and delicious. Crisp on the outside, soft and a little chewy on the inside, and with a nice subtle cashew butter flavor. And best yet, they stayed a little chewy and moist for three days. None of that dry, crumbly cookie business here. Instead of sweetening it with a ton of cane sugar, I used a combination of coconut sugar and maple syrup. This combination creates a great flavor that isn't too sweet and carries far less sugar and calories than a traditional recipe.

I took some of the cookies to school the other day and shared them with my fellow acupuncture students. Everyone loved them! In fact, a couple of people declared that they wouldn't have ever guessed they were gluten-free. I hope you like them as much as I did. 

Cashew Butter Cookies (gluten-free)

Cashew Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies 

yield: approximately two dozen cookies

This recipe calls for a blend of four flours, which may seem like a lot, but it makes a great mix. Sorghum and brown rice flours are both easy to find and affordable. Arrowroot flour and arrowroot starch are the same thing, but just go by two different names. Same with tapioca flour and tapioca starch. Arrowroot and tapioca are interchangeable in this recipe, so feel free to use whichever you have in your pantry. There is not a substitute for sweet rice flour, so try to get your hands on some. Look in the gluten-free flour section, or for the best deal, the Asian food section of your local grocery store or better yet, an Asian grocery store. Sweet rice flour is also known as glutinous rice flour, but don't be scared - it doesn't contain gluten! Sweet rice is often called glutinous rice because it is really sticky stuff. That's why the flour is so great - it helps hold things together and keep things moist and chewy. 

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch/arrowroot flour or tapioca starch/tapioca flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup smooth roasted cashew butter (feel free to substitute equal amount of another nut butter)
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar (feel free to substitute an equal amount of granulated palm sugar or another variety of granulated sugar)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free vanilla extract
  • 1 10-ounce bag chocolate chips 

In a medium bowl, whisk together flours and starch, baking powder and baking soda, and salt until light and well-mixed. Set-aside

In a large bowl, cream together butter and cashew butter until smooth with a handmixer or in a standing mixer. Add coconut sugar and maple syrup and continue to mix until smooth. The coconut sugar will not dissolve the same way and get totally creamy like granulated white sugar, so don't be surprised if there are small gritty pieces of coconut sugar. That's okay! Then add eggs one at a time and vanilla. Mix until everything well-incorporated. 

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients gradually, mixing on low and scraping sides as necessary, then turning up to a higher speed to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Then add chocolate chips and mix one final time.

I think the dough bakes up better after it has had the chance to rest for a few hours, or even better, a whole day or two or three, in the fridge. Something magical happens to cookie dough as it continues to sit, the flour absorbs the moisture and I think it results in a chewier cookie. So at this point, I suggest covering it with plastic wrap and putting the bowl in the fridge and letting it hang out for a bit. But if you want to bake it right away, that's fine too!

When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and scoop dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto the baking sheet. Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until edges are just browned and the middles are still slightly soft. Let cool on a baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack. Bake in batches until all the dough is gone!

Store in a tightly sealed container or plastic bag for up to 3 days. 

*The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

*Heads up! This post may contain some affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a single cent more, but I'll get a small commission that helps keep the content flowing. P.S. I only recommend products I use in my own daily life!