Quick and Easy Winter Salads



 This holiday season has definitely turned into a potluck season for me. Between family and friend's gatherings, I've been spending more time in the kitchen than usual. I needed to find something easy and delicious that I can take with me. Something that didn't need temperature control or special instruction.
 These are two of my favorite salads year round. I call them my "swinter" salads, because they bring the freshness of summer in winter. I hope you will make them and enjoy them as much as we do. They have less than 5 ingredients each (if you don't count the seasonings/dressing) and can easily feed a crowd.



You will need:

1 medium size cabbage, shredded
2-3 carrots, shredded
1 english cucumber, cut into small cubes
handful of fresh dill
olive oil
lemon juice or fire cider
salt

I like to salt the shredded cabbage first and kind of squeeze/ massage it. It softens it up and releases some juices.Then add the rest of the veggies and the dill. Season to taste with the olive oil and lemon juice/fire cider. If you are not fond of getting your hands dirty, then just mix everything in a bowl and give it some time to mingle ( at least 30 min). Enjoy!





You will need:

1-3lbs bag of potatoes (red skin or yellow), boiled and cooled
1 bunch of parsley
1-2 bunches of scallions (green and white part used)
salt
olive oil
lemon juice

Boil the potatoes and let them cool. I like to dump the hot water after they are done boiling and fill up the pot with cold water. It helps them cool down faster and it loosens the skin , so they are really easy to peel. Cut the potatoes in small cubes. Add chopped parsley and scallions. Season to taste. Enjoy!


I hope you give those two salads a try.

What quick and easy dishes are you making this winter season?

How to manage your asthma naturally



 I've been dealing with asthma my whole life. I had my first asthma attack when I was two years old and I had a pretty rough childhood after that. My asthma attacks were almost daily and were triggered by allergies and excessive motion. So no running for me and no house plants and pretty carpets for my mom. My family had to relocate to a more suitable climate and rethink a lot of their daily choices in order to keep me healthy. I've tried every treatment possible - medicine, shots, steroids... Nothing really worked long term. The attacks kept coming back and all the various treatments left my immune system in a terrible shape. I was sick all the time. I had a tonsillectomy at age five because the doctors were convinced that it will help me avoid constant inflammation. It made things even worse and I was constantly suffering from pneumonia and even the tiniest of colds would affect my lungs, my weak spot, and trigger an attack. My poor parents!
  I was in high school when I started doing my own research and I was able to change things. I was able to control my asthma at that time by avoiding most allergen triggers and vigorous exercise, but I still had periods of daily attacks that left my body weak and exhausted. I found a doctor who treated chronic illness with food. It included a period of fasting and then specific food choices , that were going to help me manage my asthma. It did not include medication so I decided to give it a try. It has been life changing! I am mostly symptom free. I've had only two attacks in the last 4 year! I don't use any prescription or over the counter medication. I use food and herbs to manage my asthma. I do not follow a strict diet and can handle a lot of my triggers without provoking a full blown asthma attack. 

  Here are 5 ways you can manage your asthma naturally:
  • Do a cleanse at least once a year
 I find that this is the best way to let your body restore its balance. My first cleanse was very intense. It was 20 days of just juices and herbal teas. I lost about 25 pounds and I felt great at the end , but it required a lot of will power. I desperately needed this drastic change as I was having daily asthma attacks and I was suffering a lot from allergies. This was seventeen years ago and I've only done it one more time. I usually do a milder version of it every year. I still incorporate a lot of fresh juices and herbal teas, but I eat a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables and some cooked veggies and beans as well. If you eat pretty healthy , you can probably add some wild caught fish and organic chicken. I like to do a two week long cleanse in early spring, in order to get ready for the "active" allergy season. I also go into a cleanse mode when I get sick in the winter.
 If your asthma is triggered by allergies, as is mine, you have to avoid eating a lot of mucus forming foods.When you do a cleanse, your body has a chance to get rid of the excess mucus that has built up throughout the year. If you think you can't handle two whole weeks , just give your body a break one day every week. I had a friend who would eat fruit only on Tuesdays and that was his way of keeping his body clean and well balanced.
Remember, if you want to start a more intense cleanse, make sure you find a doctor who can advise you according to your body's needs. I had to visit my doctor every few days during my first cleanse so she could check my vitals and make sure it was healing rather than damaging to my body. If you have any fluctuations in blood pressure, blood sugar, severe headaches, or extreme weakness, you might want to take the gentler approach and do a longer cleanse, until your symptoms disappear.

  • Keep mucus forming foods to a minimum
 Think of mucus as sludge for your body. It captures and stores toxins and allergens.It makes your organs sluggish and prevents them from functioning normally. If your systems of elimination are not efficient enough, your body will not be able to expel all the mucus and it will bring on conditions such as excess weight, constipation, sinus problems, joint pain, headaches, and allergy and asthma symptoms. Doing a cleanse once a year will help you keep your balance, but it is good to keep mucus forming foods to a minimum throughout the whole year.
As part of my initial recovery , I had to avoid wheat, dairy and meat. It was a kind of continuous cleansing of the system until my body recovered its balance. Today, I don't shy away from those foods, I just try to make healthier choices. I make my own sourdough bread or purchase from a local artisan bakery. I eat cultured dairy and raw cheeses , rather than processed milk and cheese. I incorporate a lot of probiotic foods in my diet, such as fermented veggies, sauerkraut, kombucha , yogurt and kefir. This keeps my digestive tract working well , which is one of our major channels of elimination. A healthy gut means a healthy body!
There are a lot of alternatives to gluten and dairy and it is a lot easier to enjoy wholesome, delicious foods, while staying away from major allergen triggers ( asthma triggers). It wasn't easy in the early 90s when I first started. But the biggest lesson I learned throughout the years is: HOMEMADE! This is the only way to guarantee the purity and quality of your food. There are too many uncertainties and gaps in the official regulations and I never trust the claims on the box. Usually a healthy claim in big print on the front is not reflected in the ingredient list on the back! Check and you'll see what I have in mind!
  • Avoid toxin exposure as much as possible
 Avoiding toxins is one of the hardest thing to do. Our surroundings are harder to control and manage than our bodies, despite the fact that most people believe the opposite. There are, however, steps you can take that will help you reduce your exposure significantly. Here is what we did in our household:
  1. Switch all your Tupperware to glass - Glass is more expensive but it is worth the investment. You can start with just a few containers and expand according to your needs. I still use some BPA free plastic containers to keep cold food, but never put anything hot or heat up a plastic container. Glass is very durable and you can put it in the dishwasher without being afraid that it will start leaking toxins in your food after the first wash.
  2. Use a water filter - We use a PUR filter for our drinking water and for cooking. I like to fill up a reusable bottle of water when we go out. We sometimes purchase bottled water when we are traveling but try to avoid it as much as possible. A lot of the plastics used for packaging and water bottles leak estrogen like chemicals which we ingest. This can wreak havoc on our bodies, and most importantly our children's bodies. Little boys don't need synthetic estrogens!
  3. Use natural body products - Allergies and asthma are often accompanied by dry skin or eczema. It is a whole body condition and people often forget that the skin is our largest organ. It is not an impenetrable wall between you and the world . It is a living, breathing thing and it is one of our most important channels of elimination. Women often apply over 60 chemicals on their skin daily. So, choose wisely. Use products without any harsh chemicals, synthetic perfumes, dies, phtalates or parabens.  There is a great variety of products out there and often you can create your own for just pennies. 
It is very simple and you don't have to become obsessed with every little thing. Start small and bigger changes will inevitably follow.
     
  • Avoid all triggers of asthma attacks until your body is well balanced

 Even though I haven't had an asthma attack in a couple of years, I still try to avoid any triggers when possible. For example, we put in hardwood floors when we moved into our house; we don't have any down bedding or pillows. We use only natural, scent free laundry detergent and wool dryer balls instead of harsh smelling dryer sheets. I avoid certain flowers and plants in our house, and we don't have pets. So, there are some sacrifices you have to make but I love being able to breathe! You just have to find your strongest triggers, the things that will bring on an attack for sure , and eliminate those. You will be able to tolerate any milder triggers after you balance your body. A lot of things will even disappear as causes of an attack.
 If you often get asthma attacks when you try to exercise , run , climb, or when you are under stress, you might want to talk to you doctor about Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis. It is often misdiagnosed as asthma and is caused by the body's reaction to certain foods like gluten , dairy, shellfish or peanuts. You don't have to be allergic to those foods in order for them to trigger an attack. The easiest way to find out if you have Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis is to do an elimination diet/cleanse and then add the most common triggers back to your diet one at a time. Try any rigorous movement before you add them back in to see if you will have an attack. Then eat any of the triggers before you exercise and see if this will affect you.

  • Use herbs to prevent asthma attacks
 I used to carry an inhaler with me all the time. But I hated using it! It made me jittery and light headed for the rest of the day and I couldn't function properly. I had to find a natural alternative to the inhaler which was easy to use and worked quick enough to relieve an attack. Let me tell you, it does exist! During my herbals studies I discovered a common herb which changed my life - Mullein. I use a ready preparation with Mullein and other herbs by WishGarden called Deep Lung. I love it ! Two dropperfuls of the tincture bring air back into my lungs in minutes and I can avoid getting a full blown attack. I take it every time I feel tightness in my chest. 
 I also use aromatherapy as a way to relieve any discomfort or difficulty breathing. I use eucalyptus oil when I have a cold or any sinus issue. It helps me sleep better and breathe better. I also carry some peppermint oil with me and rub it in my palms and inhale when I feel a little bit of a difficulty breathing. Drinking strong peppermint tea will do the trick as well.
 
 
 I know asthma and lung issues can be very hard to deal with and be very limiting. But living a full life and enjoying every minute of it is possible. It just requires a little effort and lots of determination to get better. Remember, only you can heal your body, it is all up to you!

 How do you deal with the every day challenges of asthma?

Fire Cider







 Today I wanted to tell you about one of my all time favorite medicines , which also happens to be a food - Fire Cider. It is also called Master Tonic by some and every herbalist has their own little version. I make a batch of Fire Cider every fall and we use it as a condiment throughout the cold season. It is great not only with food but as a remedy on its own. A teaspoon every couple of hours when you are getting sick can stop a cold or shorten the duration significantly.
 Simply put, Fire Cider is Raw Apple Cider Vinegar infused with herbs and spices. It has anti- viral and anti- bacterial properties. If you are interested in the specific health benefits of the ingredients , check out The Winter Herbal Pantry post here.
 I use Fire Cider in dressings and soups in the winter. It is delicious and very healing. And really easy to make. You can add other herbs in it , but I chose sage and astragalus, because I think they will be beneficial to my family. Sage strengthens the lungs and helps with coughs. Astragalus is an adaptogen herb and helps the body deal with stress - emotional and physical.
Here is what you will need to make this delicious medicine:

Fresh Horseradish Root  
                                                          

Fresh Ginger Root



Garlic and Onion


Add equal amounts of horseradish, ginger, garlic, and onion. You don't have to measure it with a kitchen scale, just a general estimate will work.
To this I add:

Cayenne Pepper

 

Sage

 




and Astragalus Root



I add everything into the blender and then I add 2 cups of Raw Apple Cider Vinegar



I blend everything for about a minute, until it is well mixed and in small chunks. Then I pour the mixture in a quart wide mouth jar and add additional vinegar to top it off. I recommend using a plastic lid when making infused vinegars , since the acid can corrode the metal lids.


I let the mixture infuse for about six weeks. If you are in a hurry, you can dip your spoon in it by week two. Just make sure you add some more vinegar and let it steep for a few more weeks.


Fire Cider ( makes a quart jar)

1 small/medium red onion
1 small head of garlic
2-3 inch piece of fresh horseradish root
3-4 inch piece fresh ginger root
1 tsp cayenne ( I actually used 1 Tblsp cayenne but I intentionally wanted this batch to be very powerful. You can adjust to your preference. Start with even less then 1 tsp if you would like)
2-3 sprigs sage
3 slices of astragalus root ( mine were sliced in long strips, but if you have chips or smaller pieces, put at least 2-3 tablespoons of the root)
2 cups vinegar plus additional amount to top off the jar (if needed)

How to use Fire Cider:
  • As a remedy on its own - take up to one tablespoon every couple of ours when you feel a cold coming . You can mix it with some water , if the taste is too strong for you. You can also take one tablespoon a day to prevent colds.
  • As part of a dressing - I like to use it when I make a traditional Bulgarian cabbage salad. I use fresh white or purple cabbage, carrots, parsley and a dressing of the infused vinegar, olive oil and sea salt. It is delicious and very healthy. 
  • Add it to your homemade broth - I make chicken and beef bone broth at home and as a general rule I add some acidity to extract the minerals from the bones. Adding Fire Cider instead of just plain vinegar give the broth a wonderful flavor. 
  • Add it to soups - add it to any soup that needs additional flavor and acidity ( but avoid cream soups as it might curdle the cream in the soup)

I hope you try this recipe. It is a variation on an old time remedy and I absolutely love it.

What favorite remedies are hiding in you pantry?



The Winter Herbal Pantry


Cold and flu season is upon us. I know it because I've been opening that bottle of echinacea tincture more often lately and the tea pot is always full of steamy goodness. Herbal recipes are pulled out of the archives and new formulas are created. Then, today, I started thinking. Healing shouldn't require complicated formulas and herbs we've never heard of. It doesn't have to be complicated. I looked in my pantry. What does my husband and kid ask for when they have the sniffles? What is my go to item when I feel down? How do I keep my body strong? I wanted simple answers, things that I can buy in any store the minute I need them.
 This is what I came up with. A list of seven items that I always have at home, that are available everywhere ( I have a Walmart, Walgreens, Kroger,Safeway and a local grocery store close by) and are easy to work with.
Here is what I keep in my Winter Herbal Pantry:

1.THYME 


People think of thyme as an herb used in cooking but it has some great medicinal properties as well. I remember the fragrant carpet of wild thyme in the woods by our summer house. It is one of my favorite herbs for tea and I often use it in my infusions. My husband loves it as an infusion on its own, with added honey and lemon.
Thyme is wonderful for wet, hacking coughs. It helps you expel the mucus and it strengthens the lungs. Many herbalists recommend it to people that have proneness to upper respiratory infections. A cup of thyme infusion a day, taken on a regular basis, will strengthen the lungs and protect them.
Thyme is part of the mint family which means it will also help you with any stomach issues, painful bloating or gas.

2.PEPPERMINT/ SPEARMINT

I prefer spearmint in my herbal infusions and I often substitute spearmint for peppermint when I prepare my formulas. It has a sweet, milder taste and it works better for my body.
Peppermint / spearmint tea is one of my go to items for digestive problems. I use it for my toddler son when he has tummy troubles. He likes the flavor of the infusion sweetened with a little bit of raw honey.
I also find that spearmint tea gives me a sense of refreshed energy and clears my head when I am coming down with a cold.
In Bulgaria, where I was born, we often add spearmint to our bean dishes to help with digestion and prevent bloating and gas.
I also keep a bottle of peppermint essential oil on hand. It is great to add to your bath or to do an inhalation with it, if your head and sinuses feel stuffy. I use it externally as well on itchy rashes and hives. It will relieve the itchiness and the swelling from mosquito bites. Peppermint essential oil is pretty strong and it can burn the skin, so if you are planning on using it externally, you have to dilute it in another oil, like olive, coconut or almond oil. This diluted oil can be used to massage sore muscles. It will bring blood to the area and act as a warming agent to relieve tightness and pain.

3.GINGER
Ginger is one of the oldest herbs known to man and it has wonderful culinary and medicinal properties. It will soothe an upset stomach and chase away a cold. I used to take ginger daily during my pregnancy and I had no problem with morning sickness. I also like to take a nibble of a Ginger Chew ( I always keep those on hand) after a heavy meal to ensure proper digestion.
Ginger is great when you have one of those colds that leave you weak and miserable. I make a strong decoction of fresh ginger root by boiling a two inch piece of ginger in two cups of water until the water is reduced by half. Then, while still hot , I strain it and add the juice of 2-3 lemons and three tablespoons of honey. Drink this as hot as you can handle and wrap yourself into a warm blanket. You'll break out in sweat in no time, fever will be gone and those unpleasant body aches will be a thing of the past. I like to do this whole procedure at night , after I take a hot shower, so I can stay in bed as long as possible. Plus, the relief from fever and aches, can bring a peaceful night of rest, which is the best medicine for your body.

4.CAYENNE
Cayenne is one of my favorite healing plants. It has such an amazing ability to heal our bodies where they need it. I combine cayenne with raw honey and mashed garlic when we get a sore throat. The honey helps to soothe the throat, the garlic acts as a natural antibiotic and cayenne warms up the area and pulls more blood to it , so the healing process can begin.
Cayenne is a wonderful herb to take when you have a blood pressure problem. My husband was diagnosed as being pre - hypertension with his blood pressure consistently staying higher. The doctor gave him a couple of weeks to follow his blood pressure daily and establish a pattern so they can figure out if he needs medication. As you can imagine, medication was not in my plan for the situation. I started using cayenne in our food, and he started taking even more cayenne in capsule form , as well as a few other herbs from my stash. Two weeks later he managed to show lower blood pressure levels and the doctor agreed to leave him off of any medication. Success!

5.GARLIC
I consider garlic a miracle plant. I love it in it's green spring form and in it's mature form, which most people are used to. It is a natural antibiotic, without the harsh side effect of the prescription drugs. It does not disrupt the good flora in your gut as synthetic antibiotics do.
Eating garlic daily can ensure flu free winter. I prepare it in many forms, but the easiest way is to sneak it into your daily cooking. It is great with veggies, meat , legumes.The options are only limited by your imagination. I like to make lacto- fermented veggies and I always add a whole head of garlic. It's healing and delicious!
One the most popular uses of garlic as medicine is for children's ear infections. I infuse a few crushed garlic cloves in olive oil for three days (or a few hours, if you warm up the oil) and keep it in the fridge to have on hand. I warm it up before I use it.
Garlic can cause some bloating and gas in some people, so find your level of tolerance before ingesting a large amount of it.

6. APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
It's important to purchase a good quality raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar with the mother in order to reap the benefits. If you purchase pasteurized vinegar it will be void of all beneficial organisms.
Apple Cider Vinegar is a great detoxifier of the body. It brings the overall pH of the body to more alkaline levels. Viruses and all "bad" bacteria thrive better in an acidic environment. When your body is alkaline you are more likely to NOT get sick.
 I have two favorite preparations that include Apple Cider Vinegar. The first one is great when you have any sinus issues and has only two ingredients - the vinegar and grated fresh horseradish root. Chew on a teaspoon of this mixture and your sinuses will be cleared in no time.
The second preparation is called Fire Cider and is something that I always keep on hand. It is basically vinegar, infused with garlic , onion, horseradish,and cayenne. I make a slightly different version which I plan on sharing with you soon.
I always add Apple Cider Vinegar to my crockpot when I make bone broth. It helps extract the minerals from the bones and makes the broth even more nourishing.

7.HONEY
I call honey "liquid gold". It is one of the most precious items in my pantry. It is alive and vibrant. Of course, we purchase honey from a local farmer and it is wonderful to taste the changes from season to season.
Try to find raw unpasteurized honey and make sure there is no sugar or corn syrup added to your jar.
Honey is an ancient food. It connects us to the healing arts of our ancestors. It is full of minerals and is antibacterial. In ancient Egypt it was used to dress wounds so they will heal faster and avoid infection. It is very soothing for the throat and I love to take a tablespoon of honey instead of the cough drops that you normally get in the store. I also like to infuse honey with different herbs like sage, lavender, and thyme. It is delicious and very healing. Sage and thyme honey do wonders for coughs, and lavender honey is very relaxing in a cup of warm milk.


What staples do you keep in your Winter Herbal Pantry?

Warm Sprouted Lentil Salad



 This time of year I crave the comfort of warm nourishing food. A green salad, as much as I love those, doesn't satisfy my hunger when it's ten degrees below outside. If you are like me, this is a perfect dish to try.
 I call this dish a salad , just because it's not only delicious warm , but it's also great cold the next day. You can call it a side dish if you want. Either way, it's delicious!

This warm salad requires some preparation ahead of time. You need to sprout the lentils. It's a very easy process and it doesn't require a lot of effort on your side. I purchased a couple of 1/2 gallon sprouting jars from my local health food store. I use them to soak and sprout my grains and legumes, to make them more nutritious, and remove any anti-nutrients, such as phytic acid. I normally soak one and a half cups of dried lentils in water overnight. The next morning I drain the water and rinse them well. Then I lay the jar on its side and make sure the lentils are evenly spread. I leave them on the kitchen counter and rinse them with clean water every 12 hours. It takes about 36 to 48 hours for the lentils to sprout. Don't forget to rinse them since the top layer will dry out and they will start to mold. After the sprouts reach about a milimeter long, a little less is ok too, I rinse them again and boil them until the lentils are soft. Once the lentils are soaked and sprouted, their cooking time is drastically reduced , so watch not to overcook them.

Here is what the lentils look like after you've finished prepping them:


 See, sprouting doesn't have to be scary!
 One and a half cup of dry lentils will yield close to 5 cups cooked lentils. It's a lot, but I use it for other meal later in the week and it keeps well in the fridge. A quick lentil soup or a lentil tabbouleh, it's all up to your imagination. But now, let me tell you about this delicious Warm Sprouted Lentil Salad!

Ingredients:
(makes 4 servings)

  • 2 cups cooked sprouted lentils
  • 1 bell pepper (color of your choice; I used orange)
  • 1/3 of a medium sized cauliflower
  • 1/2 of a small red onion (other onion or shallots can be used as well)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • a handful of parsley
  • apple cider vinegar or Fire Cider to taste*
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ghee and olive oil
* Fire Cider is apple cider vinegar, infused with onion, garlic, ginger, horseradish root and cayenne pepper. It is called Master Tonic by some and helps boost the immune system. It has great anti-viral and anti- bacterial properties and is great to keep around during cold and flu season. I make a batch in the fall and use it in dressings and soups all winter to keep our bodies strong.

I used a tablespoon of ghee to saute my veggies. First add the onions and saute until they start to caramelize:



 Add the bell pepper :



Add the garlic:



Add the cauliflower:


When you cook the pepper and cauliflower , you want them to remain firm but not completely raw. I chopped the cauliflower florets into smaller pieces to make sure they will "touch" the heat of the pan evenly. I didn't want to soften them too much or have any "cooked" marks seared on them, in order to keep with the"salad" , not a side dish, idea.

 Add the lentils when the veggies are done and cook for a couple of minutes. Let the flavors mingle. I had cooked my lentils the day before and this allowed them to warm up.

Finally, add your seasonings! I love the taste of the Fire Cider and I use it in many dressings during the winter. It's just another wonderful way to keep our immune systems strong by using our food as medicine. I am sure lemon juice will work great , if you don't like the pungent taste of apple cider vinegar.  I also add a splash of extra virgin olive oil and the rest of the seasoning to taste.

Pull the pan away from the heat. Stir in a handful of chopped parsley and let the salad rest for a couple of minutes. The lentils will soak up all the delicious flavors and juices.

We enjoyed our Warm Sprouted Lentil Salad with some beautiful grass-fed beef roast, cooked in the crockpot and home made purple kraut. Delicious!


What healthy and delicious masterpieces are you making in your kitchen?