Fire cider, apple cider vinegar, holistic health, immunity support, home health remedies, ginger, onion, radish, turmeric, garlic, parsley, raw local honey

Why You Need Fire Cider in Your Life

Fire cider, apple cider vinegar, holistic health, immunity support, home health remedies, ginger, onion, radish, turmeric, garlic, parsley, raw local honeyI headed back to work after the winter holidays yesterday, and met a consultant who had flown from the U.S. to provide training. She was feeling sick from the plane ride and gladly accepted some of my elderberry syrup. I offered some fire cider as well; she was intrigued and loved it at first sip. That got me thinking–who else might need another natural and holistic home remedy for colds and flu, or overall immunity support? YOU! 

What The Heck Is Fire Cider?

Fire cider has been around for hundreds of years, even though it’s just become trendy (and mass-produced) in the recent past. Any combination of apple cider vinegar with vegetables, fruits, herbs, and honey could be called fire cider or spiced vinegar.

Apple cider vinegar has long been known for its health benefits. Apple cider vinegar is created by combining apples or apple juice with yeast, which begins a natural fermentation process. Bacteria are introduced to the solution, which ferments it further; the end product is acetic acid. Store bought apple cider vinegar is generally filtered and looks like apple juice; home brewed or organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar contains ‘mother’, bits of stringy enzymes, proteins, and gut friendly bacteria. Diets high in fermented foods are good for you, and including apple cider vinegar is a smart choice.

Apple cider vinegar is anti-bacterial and disinfectant, and excellent for preserving and pickling foods. Research has shown it lowers blood sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity. While this may be particularly helpful to those with diabetes, it’s a health benefit to anyone who consumes apple cider vinegar (and even more so when combined with a Paleo or grain free diet). Less conclusive studies have suggested that it may also help promote weight loss by causing feelings of satiety, protect against heart disease by lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels, and kill cancer cells and/or shrink tumors. The bottom line is: if it can do any of these things, fantastic! It’s a superfood. If not, it’s still a powerful fermented food to include in your diet to help increase levels of good bacteria in the gut.

Putting Some Fire In Your Apple Cider Vinegar

So, we’re starting with apple cider vinegar. It’s going to need some fire! Chili peppers contain antioxidants  including carotenoids that help improve insulin regulation and vitamin C, which boost immune support. The capsaicin they contain is great for your heart, and they’re also loaded with copper, iron, potassium, and vitamins a and b. I love to put them in everything! A key component of fire cider is chili pepper, although you can control the heat by adjusting your recipe according to your tastes.

Other common ingredients in fire cider are onions, garlic, parley, cilantro, ginger, turmeric, and horseradish, all of which are well know for their health benefits (especially pertaining to immune health). I’ve also seen recipes that included fruits or other vegetables. There are tons of recipes for fire cider, and many who make it don’t follow a recipe but rather toss in whatever ‘superfood’ herbs and ingredients they have laying around. The procedure is simple: chop and layer the ingredients in a jar, pour the apple cider vinegar to the top, seal and let brew on the counter for as long as you’d like. It’s good to give it a shake every few days to mix flavors; when you feel it’s done simply strain and mix with a bit of raw local honey and store on your counter or fridge. The finished product doesn’t have to be refrigerated but it will keep longer there (up to 6 months). I doubt I’d be able to get a batch to last that long if I tried! My family loves it. We take it daily in addition to using for marinades and recipes, and a large mason jar only lasts us about 3 months.

I Made It–Now What Do I Do With It?

Fire cider can be taken daily. We prefer ours straight up, about a shot glass full each. My 2 and 4 year old boys love it and always remind me if I forget to give it to them at breakfast. If that’s not your cup of tea, it can be diluted in water, juice, or a smoothie. I also love to include it in recipes. I combine a half cup or so with equal parts olive or flax oil and use to marinate meats. You can sub it for regular vinegar in dressings or in any recipe that calls for vinegar. I’m even planning to try pickling some cucumbers with it (I have a dangerous obsession with pickles). Perhaps one of my favorite applications is in cocktails (bloody Mary and martini with fire cider are AMAZING!) Experiment, and if you find (or create) something fabulous with your fire cider, please share the recipe with me!   🙂

Homemade Fire Cider Recipe

This is one of those things that evolves. It should be based on the ingredients you have on hand, and your personal tastes. Use my recipe as a starting point but I highly encourage you to adjust and experiment.

Ingredients

Apple cider vinegar (preferably home brewed, or an organic unfiltered brand with ‘mother’ such as Braggs). There’s no quantity listed; you’ll need enough to fill your jar or container after it’s filled with veggies, so will totally depend on the size of container you’re using. Unless you’re using a huge jar, one bottle is probably enough.

1/2 cup chopped or sliced onion

1/4 cup chopped/sliced/grated garlic

1/4 cup chopped/sliced/grated ginger

1/4 cup chopped/sliced/grated turmeric

A few sprigs fresh thyme or dill

A few red and black peppercorns

Peppers (I like it hot and use 2-5 habaneros, ghost chilis, or Indian chilis. You can increase or decrease quantity based on your preference and the type of pepper you’re using).

1/4 cup raw local honey

OTHER IDEAS: horseradish, fresh herbs, chopped carrots, chopped or diced citrus fruits, apple slices

Procedure

In a large glass jar with a lid, layer the chopped roots and vegetables with the lightest on the bottom and the heaviest on top. You can use a fermenting weight to keep everything submerged to prevent spoilage; if you don’t have one, pack the roots down tightly and make sure to leave enough room for plenty of vinegar. Top with a generous amount of apple cider vinegar and close the lid. Don’t add the honey at this stage! You can leave the jar in a cool, dark cupboard undisturbed for 3-4 weeks or shake it every so often during its brew time (I prefer to shake mine).

After about 4 weeks, shake your cider and strain the liquid to a new container using a cheesecloth or sieve. Add honey to taste, mix well, and enjoy. It doesn’t need to be refrigerated but it’s fine to do so if you prefer. Don’t toss the veggies! They’re great to eat just as they are, or pop them in a soup or stir fry.

 

Did you try it and love it (or hate it?!) Please share your experiences and recipe tweaks in the comments!

 

 

 

10 Ways To Rock New Year Resolutions

What are your New Year Resolutions this year? If you’re like most people, the list might say:

Lose Weight

Get Organized

Spend Less/Save More

Spend More Time With Family

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But, if you’re like the 45% of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions, you probably won’t be successful. According to StatisticBrain.com, only 8% of people are successful in achieving their resolutions. That’s not very inspiring, but I’m not recommending you give up and curl up with a tub of ice cream and bottle of wine just yet.

Most Common New Year Resolutions

The most common New Year Resolutions, according to StatisticBrain, are losing weight, getting organized, spending less/saving more, enjoying life, staying fit/healthy, learning something new, quitting smoking, helping others, falling in love, and spending more time with family. Time also includes traveling, getting out of debt, being less stressed, and drinking less. They’re all admirable goals, so why such a low success rate?

Why Do New Year Resolutions Fail?

Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate. Another reason, says Dr. Avya Sharma of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that people set unrealistic goals and expectations in their resolutions.

Psychology professor Peter Herman and his colleagues have identified what they call the “false hope syndrome,” which means their resolution is significantly unrealistic and out of alignment with their internal view of themselves. This principle reflects that of making positive affirmations. When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don’t really believe, the positive affirmations not only don’t work, they can be damaging to your self-esteem.

The other aspect of failed resolutions lies in the cause and effect relationship. You may think that if you lose weight, or reduce your debts, or exercise more, your entire life will change, and when it doesn’t, you may get discouraged and then you revert back to old behaviors. (PsychologyToday)

How to Be Successful With Resolutions

  1. Narrow your list. Choose one or two resolutions so you can focus your time and energy effectively.
  2. Set SMART goals. SMART stands for SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC, TIMELY. A goal of losing weight is not SMART. A SMART goal for weight loss might be “I will lose 10 pounds within 60 days”. This one has been the most critical in my personal resolution success!
  3. Don’t wait for New Year for resolutions! If it’s March and you feel like you need to step back from technology and spend more time with your family, make a SMART goal and start right away!
  4. Take baby steps! You’re much more likely to be successful if you set small and reasonable goals. Once you reach them, you can set new goals.
  5. Have a buddy. A friend or family member that can encourage, motivate, and share your successes will increase your odds of success by up to 40%.
  6. Celebrate each mini success. Your goal was to lose 10 pounds and you lost 3? That’s cause for celebration…now keep going!
  7. Focus on creating new habits and ways of thinking. It takes 21 days to break or make a habit, right? If you make it 21 days, you’ve created new neural pathways that will make it easier to achieve this goal moving forward.
  8. Focus on today. It can be overwhelming to make changes and step out of your comfort zone! What can you do today to move toward your goal?
  9. Be positive. If you have a cigarette halfway through the month, focus on how good you felt in the days you stayed strong. Then let it go and keep going with your goal. Too many people give up (and smoke the whole pack, or eat the whole cake), but a small setback won’t keep you from achieving your goals if you stay positive and continue on with your goal.
  10. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Whether you’re going gluten free, Paleo, or trying 21 Day Fix, there’s a facebook group or meetup group of people with the same goals. The benefit of this is you’l find people at all stages of the journey, with lots of personal experience to share and loads of support and encouragement.

My Resolution

It’s an ongoing resolution, and one that I’ve been successful with each year for the past 4 years. I plan to inventory our material possessions at least once per season and donate or sell anything that we don’t truly want or need. Even though I’m mindful of making minimal purchases for the home (and we don’t do gifts for Christmas or birthdays), it’s still human nature to accumulate too much stuff. When we moved abroad, we sold and donated almost everything we owned, and started fresh. But each year, I find we’ve ended up with stuff we just don’t need. It takes a focused and mindful approach, but it keeps stress levels down, teaches the children that material things aren’t tied to our happiness, and has a lovely side effect of less work to tidy the house! In the spirit of accountability, I’ll take a photo of everything we purge this week and share it along with the details of my room-by-room-strategy.

Here’s to Your Success!

Please share your resolutions in the comments, along with the strategies that have led you to success in the past. Happy New Year!

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5 Health Benefits [Elderberry Syrup]

My youngest started nursery for the first time this year, which means lots of macaroni art for the fridge and a constant onslaught of colds and flu (which he generously passed to the rest of the family). A few mamas in my tribe suggested we try elderberry syrup, and I set off to Dr. Google to research the health benefits of elderberry syrup.

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Health Benefits of Elderberry Syrup

According to herbwisdom.com, elderberries have been used for centuries for the prevention and treatment of colds, flu, yeast infections, nasal and chest congestion, and hay fever. Elderberry is used for sinus pain, sciatica, nerve pain (neuralgia), and chronic fatigue syndrome. Some researchers claim to have had success treating cancer, AIDS, asthma, diabetes, and obesity with the berries as well (probably due to the immune boosting function).

Black elderberries contain tannin, amino acids, carotenoids, flavonoids, rutin, viburnic acid, and vitamins A, B, and C. They are mildly laxative, a diuretic, and diaphoretic. Flavonoids, including quercetin, are believed to account for the therapeutic actions of the elderberry plant. According to research, flavonoids include anthocyanins that are powerful antioxidants and protect cells against damage. (WebMD)

I sent an email off to my holistic health practitioner, Hisham, who recommended buying or making elderberry syrup for the whole family to help treat our symptoms and support immune health.

Deep in the throes of two sick kiddos, a sick mama, and a husband with man-flu (the horror!), I wasn’t feeling up to making my own syrup so I ordered a bottle from iHerb. Have I mentioned how much I love iHerb? It’s hard to find certain products here in the UAE, especially natural and holistic products, and iHerb can ship everything I need right to my door within 24-48 hours. We got the order the next day and started taking a teaspoon each daily. Coincidence or not, we were all feeling better within 2 days and continued to take a daily dose as preventive measure.

By the time we finished the bottle I was ready to try making my own elderberry syrup. I ordered a pound of dried organic berries (from iHerb, natch) and asked around for recipes. I’m a bit of a purist and decided to use only elderberries (it’s common to add cinnamon, cloves, or other herbs to the syrup). It’s so simple to make–just simmer, mash, strain and you’ll be armed with enough delicious homemade elderberry syrup to get your whole family through the cold and flu season. I can’t wait to experiment with elderberry jam and wine (in the name of holistic health, of course!)

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Recipe

Basic recipe:

1/2 cup dried elderberries

2 cups water

1 cup raw local honey

In a small saucepan, combine the elderberries and water and simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. Mash the berries with the back of a spoon and strain into a bowl. Once cool, stir the elderberry juice and honey together and store in a glass jar or bottle in your fridge up to 2 months.

You can add cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ground vanilla, or other herbs during the simmer stage to change the flavor and add even more health benefits. I plan to make a jar of elderberry syrup with cinnamon and vanilla as soon as our current one is finished. If your kids are picky or don’t like the syrup, add some unflavored gelatin and you’ll end up with gummies (plus the gut healing power of gelatin–yay!)

There isn’t an exact dosage, much as there isn’t for taking honey or bone broth. It’s recommended to take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon daily, several days per week. If you do become sick, this can be increased to 1/2 to 1 teaspoon every few hours to help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. The syrup is lovely on its own but also delicious on pancakes, porridge, ice cream, and yogurt. I like to stir a spoonful into herbal tea and homemade, unsweetened kefir.

 

Have you experienced the health benefits of elderberry syrup? Share your favorite elderberry syrup recipe in the comments!