Quick and Easy Pizza Night

By Rachel Sircy

Well, truthfully, I wasn’t planning to write about this, but after I tried Mama Mary’s gluten free pizza crust, I thought I had better share my experience. My husband had been asking about home-made pizza recently – I make a pretty mean chicken pizza – but the thing is, I really don’t like to make gluten free pizza crusts. Somehow, the mixes always give you something weird. I really dislike the Bob’s Redmill pizza crust mix. It’s like dry, crusty bread. My favorite, as far as pizza crust mixes go, has always been Namaste, but even that wasn’t ever a normal pizza crust. It was white with greenish flecks of Italian seasoning in it. It was also the consistency of cake batter with the weirdly elastic properties of marshmallow cream. It was weird, but at least it was a kind of weirdness I could handle. Actually, I haven’t even made the Namaste pizza crust in so long, that I don’t know if the formula is even the same anymore.

So, when my husband asked for pizza, I really just wanted to hand him $5 and point him in the direction of the nearest Little Cesar’s, but then I remembered something. Walking down one of the aisles of the Walmart Neighborhood Market in Cayce, I remembered seeing little personal-sized pre-packaged pizza crusts that were labeled “gluten free”. I figured they couldn’t be as bad as Bob’s Redmill, and their small size also solved another one of gluten free pizza’s big problems: leftovers.

My husband loves cold pizza – I’m not such a huge fan, even in my gluten-eating days, I disliked the way that the refrigerator turned all of that luscious, gooey cheese into something like cold leather – but cold, leftover gluten free pizza is pretty nearly inedible. Not only does the cheese turn to leather, but the something that happens to most gluten free pizza crusts that causes them to become so hard that – should you be desperate enough to try to eat a piece – you have to gnaw on the slice like a wild animal trying to peel the last bit of meat off of a carcass. And, in my opinion, reheating a gluten free slice of pizza doesn’t make matters much better. The microwave may melt the cheese, but it doesn’t do much for that awful crust. I have always hated making an entire huge pizza and pretty much having to throw out the leftovers. Yes, some of you may be thinking that you have a perfect (albeit really time-consuming) recipe for gluten free pizza crust that tastes good the next day, but here’s the thing: I’m lazy. Especially when it comes to baking. I kind of hate it. I used to love to bake before I discovered that I have celiac disease, but that love died in the first few months of going gluten free and I’ve never been able to revive it. If you want to see me at my absolute worst, ask me to make a gluten free pizza crust. Or worse yet, a gluten free pie crust. In the case of the pie crust, you might have to pick me up off of the kitchen floor because I will have fallen over, weeping.

Long story short, I decided to give these little pizza crusts a try. And it turns out that they’re pretty good. I mean, they’re not the best pizza crusts I’ve ever had, but I personally think they beat Bob’s Redmill by a mile. (Sorry to beat up on you, Bob. You’ve given us a lot of great products, but your pizza is the pits.) So, I am making a recommendation: if you, like me, are lazy and want a quick and easy pizza without leftovers, try these Mama Mary’s pizza crusts. I didn’t take a picture of the crusts in the package, because I wasn’t planning to write about them, but I took a picture of the back of the package:

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And here’s the finished product:

Again, I found these pizza crusts in the gluten free section of the Neighborhood Market in Cayce. They’re not refrigerated, they right there on the shelf next to the gluten free snack bars and whatnot. I feel fairly certain, however, that almost any Walmart would carry them. Walmart is pretty good at having the same products in every store. Happy Eating!

 

 

 

Two Favorite Healthy Recipes

By Rachel Sircy

So, in early 2017 I discovered, thanks to some lab tests, that I had high cholesterol. I resolved to start taking charge of my health. Well, the truth is that I did and I didn’t take charge of my health. I was pretty good, by which I mean that I was better than I had been in previous years and I started taking fish oil. I never did get a good exercise routine down, which I think is due in part to the fact that I absolutely hate the aerobics dvd that I have. That is no fault of the exercise program on this dvd, it’s just that I hate doing exercises that hurt and make me sweat in the first place and I really hate doing them if I’m stuck indoors watching a video of people who are way, WAY too excited about “sweatin’ the fat away.”

Long story short: I’m still overweight and my numbers, while much better than last year – they were only borderline high as opposed to high – are still not where I’d like them to be. As you know, I’ve been trying to focus on food as medication lately. And, according to what I’ve read about the latest research in lowering cholesterol is that you have to change your diet first and then begin to exercise, not the other way around. Anyway, I’m trying to avoid too much meat and when I do eat meat, I try to pair it with dark, leafy green vegetables. Here are two of the tastiest recipes where I’ve managed to do that. Hopefully they will be of use to someone out there who is trying to lower cholesterol (or blood pressure or whatever) without sacrificing flavor:

  1. Sausage and Kale Soup: This recipe is slightly adapted from the Taste of Home Heartwarming Soups book that my mom gave me some years ago. Basically, the adaptation is that I add twice as much broth as it originally calls for, but if you like less liquid, you can always add less. It is my family’s go-to soup for any time we don’t feel well. Somehow it always makes your recovery time shorter if you have a cold. It’s a great cold weather soup, but I like it the year round. And, given the weather we’ve been having lately, you might want a good cold weather option for the dinner table:

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 8 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 2 medium red potatoes, scrubbed and cubed.
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 lb fresh kale trimmed and chopped (I always get the bags of pre-washed and chopped kale from the grocery store, it makes my life so much easier)
  • 1 15oz can Cannellini or Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ lb fully cooked Kielbasa (Polish Sausage)
  1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté onion and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Add 4 cups of the broth and the potatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. When potatoes are tender, slightly mash them with the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher.
  2. Add the kale (don’t freak out if it seems to take up all the room in your pot, just mash it down), the beans, the sausage and the remaining 4 cups of chicken broth. Boil with the lid on until the kale is tender.

This soup is absolutely delicious. Below is a picture of it as I was finishing cooking some this afternoon. The picture is a bit hazy because of the steam coming off of the pot. It’s going to be so good later…

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  1. Mediterranean Tuna Salad: This salad is one that I found on the internet years ago and it is really, really good. I think it’s from some Mediterranean Diet cookbook. I’m not a seafood lover, I’ll be honest, but this salad has made me able to eat tuna. You can also substitute canned salmon in place of the tuna – I sometimes do this because I find salmon a bit less fishy than tuna. If you use tuna, I would recommend the solid white albacore. Also, my husband can’t stand mayonnaise and so sometimes I just mix a can of tuna with the dressing for this salad (olive oil, lemon juice and grainy Dijon mustard) and he can use it to make a tuna sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 2 5oz. cans water packed tuna
  • 1 15oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
  • ¼ cup finely chopped green onion
  • 1 ½ cup diced cucumber
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped (honestly, I don’t always chop it)
  • 3 TBS extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 TBS grainy Dijon mustard
  • 3 TBS freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Coarse ground pepper to taste
  • 1 TBS capers (optional)
  • Avocado chunks to garnish (optional)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir in the olive oil, mustard and lemon juice. Season with pepper and add capers and avocado if desired.

Seriously, how easy is that recipe? It’s just chop and mix. It’s also delicious and it’s good for you. Here’s a picture of the finished product…

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Happy Eating!

Learning to Listen to Your Gut

By Rachel Sircy

This post is going to be short, since it’s basically a personal story without a whole bunch of evidence to back it up. I will start off by saying (as I’m sure I’ve said before), that I am a big believer in going to the doctor if you feel that something is wrong with you. I would strongly advise against anyone who thinks they have a gluten sensitivity beginning a gluten free diet without going through the proper tests first. There are a lot of reasons for this, but mainly the reason is that if you have celiac disease, you could also have a whole host of other problems that sometimes go along with it. If no doctor really diagnoses you, then no doctor will be looking out for your other symptoms either.

However, there are times when you need to listen to your gut. I am in the middle of learning this lesson myself. You see, some people with celiac disease can eat oats while others can’t. When I say “oats” I am talking only about the strictly certified gluten free oats. No one with a gluten sensitivity should eat just any old oats. Oats and wheat are often processed in the same factories, stored in the same silos and grown in adjacent fields. All this means that cross-contamination is inevitable in regular oats. Certified gluten free oats cost more than regular oats because they are grown in fields away from wheat and they are also stored and processed in gluten free facilities. So, when I talk about oats, I mean ONLY the oats with a label that claims that they are certified gluten free.

Okay, that being said, some people with celiac disease cannot digest even the cleanest, most certifiably gluten free oats. I am going to give you a basic run-down of why that is, though I may need some correction here. I really haven’t seen many articles on this that haven’t been really technical and scientific. There is a genetic component, I think, that is the cause of the additional sensitivity. There is a protein in the oats that is not related to gluten, but which some people are extremely sensitive to. I believe you can either be allergic to this protein in the oats or intolerant of it. (the same is true of gluten – some people are allergic, while celiacs like me are not allergic, but intolerant)

To be perfectly honest with everyone, I have thought for a number of years that I have an intolerance to oats, but I go back and forth on whether or not to eat them. There are two reasons that I have not made up my mind about whether or not to give oats up forever. Firstly, I LOVE oats. When I was a kid (many years before my celiac diagnosis), I would sneak into the pantry and grab handfuls of dry oats from the Quaker Oats box and eat them plain and uncooked, like a horse. I could eat oatmeal every day of my life and not grow tired of it. I could also probably give up desserts entirely if I just ate one of those dark chocolate chunk Kind granola bars instead. The second reason that I have hemmed and hawed about giving them up is that I figured that there was no test to prove that it was oats that I was allergic to. Plus, everything I read online about celiac disease and even about how to manage high cholesterol seems to indicate that we should eat oats. The arguments are that celiacs need more fiber in their diets and oats are the perfect way to get that fiber. The fiber that you get from oats is also really good for heart health and lowering cholesterol.

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However, for several years now, I have cut most oats and most oat containing products out of my diet – though I’ll admit I’m not a saint. I have relapses. Each time I relapse and eat my way through a box of gluten free granola bars, or eat oat-based cereals or crackers, etc. I get sick. I start having the same symptoms that I had before my celiac diagnosis: bloating, nausea, severe stomach cramps, fatigue – you name it. My most recent relapse ended last Wednesday when, after eating granola on my morning yogurt for about a month straight, I collapsed on the couch after work and just didn’t have the strength or energy to get up. My husband panicked, thinking I was either pregnant or sick with the flu. When I told him that I had been eating oats again, he just put his head in his hands and said “Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” And I finally realized that it was time to stop. I started looking online for answers about oat intolerance and, as it turns out, there is a test for it. So, my next step is going to be to speak to my doctor and try to get tested. A printout of lab results always makes me feel better. Those pieces of paper confirm that I am not a hypochondriac and my symptoms are not just in my head.

As I get further into this life lesson, I will be writing updates. Meanwhile, if anyone out there is a celiac and you’ve been on a gluten free diet for a long time and aren’t feeling any better, try cutting oats out for a while and seeing how you feel. Oats are an excellent source of nutrition if your body can handle them, but if you don’t feel good, they may not be good for you. Just food for thought.

Gluten Free Adventures, Close to Home

By Rachel Sircy

I’ve mentioned before that if you’re a celiac and you’d like to get away for a weekend that there are cities close by that offer a haven for the gluten intolerant. Food meccas like Charleston have all sorts of restaurants that will cater to any and all of the latest trends. Since gluten free eating is still an important trend, trendy restaurants will strive to meet your needs. My favorite gluten free destination that is close to Columbia, however, is Asheville, NC. I’ve probably mentioned my love of Asheville before – maybe I’ve mentioned it a lot – but I’ll go ahead and mention it again, since I was there this past weekend.

There are, as everyone reading this probably already knows, plenty of things to do in Asheville. I keep thinking that one day we’ll go see the Biltmore or Carl Sandburg’s farm or go horseback riding. So far, though, my husband and I have never felt a need to go outside of the city center for fun. Actually, one of the biggest reasons that I like going to Asheville is that it’s one of those quintessential Appalachian towns that’s a little bit hippie and a little bit hillbilly. Athens, Ohio, where I grew up, is quite a bit like Asheville – a little bit country and a little rock and roll. So, taking a trip to this funky mountain town helps to alleviate my homesickness whenever it springs up. Also, there’s a musician on almost every corner playing pretty good music and walking around Asheville’s downtown area has the effect of making me feel that my life suddenly has a soundtrack.

Besides the effects that Asheville has on my homesickness for the Appalachian foothills and hippies, my husband and I go there for two primary reasons: first, to eat and second, to hang out in bookstores. Hanging out in bookstores is pretty much what it sounds like. We enjoy just walking around and reading the spines and back covers of books and usually we buy at least one book. We then sit in the corners of the bookstores and read. It may not sound like a lot of fun to the rest of the world, but to us it’s worth the 2.5-hour drive just to do that. Columbia, if you’re listening, we need a great independent bookstore!

Much as I’d love to go on about the bookstores, I need to talk about the first reason that I go to Asheville – to eat. Asheville is one of the cities that comes up again and again in articles and discussions of gluten free travel destinations. Every single restaurant that I’ve been to there is aware of plight of the gluten-sensitive and is more than willing to accommodate them. I know for certain that I’ve mentioned a restaurant called Posana (pictured below) in previous posts.

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This restaurant is not only notable for sourcing most, if not all, of it’s ingredients locally, but EVERYTHING on their menu is gluten free. I don’t even know if the majority of their customers are aware of that, because the restaurant is almost always full. I mean, you can certainly get reservations and you may be able to wait for a table, but this is a pretty popular place. I point that out because usually if you say that something is gluten-free, nobody except the gluten sensitive will touch it with a 10-foot pole. I know that all you gluten-free bakers out there know what I’m talking about. But, Posana is 100% gluten free and the food is so good that people fill the place up night after night. This was my dinner there Friday night:

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Yeah, it was as good as it looks. Who doesn’t love chicken with the skin on over top of cheese grits? You’d have to be crazy to pass that up. And these little potatoes were tossed with truffle oil and cheese and served with aioli:

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Yeah, I’d never tasted aioli and I’m not sure what is in it other than mayonnaise, but it was awesome. The best part of any meal, of course, is the dessert. And this was my cheesecake:

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It had a shortbread cookie crust and the little dollops on the side were tiny meringue cookies floating on some kind of red wine and honey jam. It was the best cheesecake I’ve had in a long time. Really, though, the best part of eating at this restaurant is knowing that the entire menu is open to me. There are a lot of restaurants these days that have gluten free menus, but if you’re gluten sensitive or a celiac, you always have to explain your situation to your server and have them watch out for cross contamination. Then, you get to pick from the limited number of items that can be made in a way that won’t make you sick and pray that no one accidentally touches your salad with the wrong tongs.

Posana is a bit fancier and more expensive than my husband and I usually eat. We’re pretty laid-back people and not entirely comfortable in any restaurant with an atmosphere more elegant than Outback. If I can’t wear my Bob Ross t-shirt in an eatery without looking out of place, then you know I’m uncomfortable. But the elegant atmosphere and the price at Posana (which is expensive for us because we’re English majors trying to make a living, which is to say, we’re broke) are worth braving every now and again because you can’t really put a price on peace of mind. There is no cross contamination in Posana’s kitchen because everything in that kitchen is gluten free. There is also no set of things that you have to choose from on the menu, no explaining to your server that you mean it this time about the croutons on your salad – because you can eat everything on the menu, croutons included. So, I highly recommend that you give this place a try if you get a chance. It’s amazing feeling to be able to eat what everyone else is eating and not be a bit worried about it.

Other places that we frequent in Asheville are the Over Easy Café and French Broad Chocolates. Of course, everyone frequents these places (and for good reason), so be prepared to wait a while. The Over Easy Café only serves breakfast, but it’s probably the best breakfast ever. They get locally grown fruits, vegetables and eggs and bacon. Also, I have yet to hear back from them about where they get the gluten free bread that they serve, but it’s the best gf bread I’ve ever had. And best of all, the waitress complimented me on my Bob Ross t-shirt.

French Broad Chocolates serves, yep, you guessed it – chocolates. They prepare chocolate in about every way I can conceive of. And the service is always good even when the place is crowded. Once, my husband and I were sitting eating our chocolates and reading the books that we got that day in one of the bookstores when a waiter interrupted us to give us 6 complimentary truffles. Apparently, the staff noticed that we were the only people in the place who weren’t on our phones and they wanted to say “thank you.” We’ve been loyal customers ever since. My husband loves their Quintessential Chocolate Cake (sadly, not gluten free) whilst I really enjoy both the concept and the actual experience of ordering and then consuming small cups of melted chocolate called Liquid Truffles. I don’t think that it gets better than that. Except for maybe this:

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That was a flourless chocolate torte. Are you jealous? You should be, because that’s a little piece of heaven right there. I’ve asked the people at French Broad to let me live there. They haven’t gotten back to me yet, but we’ll see…

So, the next time that you feel like getting out of town and you want to make sure you’ll have something to eat when you get there, just remember that you have a celiac-friendly destination just a short car-ride away!

 

Will Sourdough Save Us? Some food for thought

By Rachel Sircy

Some food for thought: An ongoing study is looking into whether or not the fermentation that happens when wheat flour bread dough becomes “sourdough” is enough to break down the gluten proteins in the wheat and make the bread safe to eat for celiacs. According to an article in Gluten Free Living, researchers in Europe have been studying the breakdown of gluten in sourdough bread. Celiac test subjects have eaten sourdough wheat bread on several occasions with no tell-tale auto-immune response, which could mean that a sourdough wheat bread might be created which would be safe for celiacs to eat. Right now, it’s not an option, though, so don’t go out and buy yourself a sourdough loaf if you’re gluten sensitive.

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The other interesting part of this study has to do with the bacteria used to ferment sourdough, Lactobacillus. Apparently, it is a powerful way to start breaking down the proteins in wheat that are commonly known as gluten. (For anyone not yet aware “gluten” is not really a single substance, but a group of amino acids that are commonly found together and which are lumped under the name “gluten.”) Some researchers believe that they may be able to find a way to create a medication made of lactobacillus, or of something similar, which could actually break down the proteins in gluten in food being consumed by a celiac patient. This would mean that celiacs may someday be able to consume wheat bread and take a capsule to stave off any reaction to it. I wouldn’t start looking for such a product just yet, but perhaps there is a light at the end of our gluten-free tunnel!

(FYI: There are many products on the market today which claim to be able to break down gluten. I actually discussed some of these products in an earlier blog post, but let me repeat what I said before:  None of these products are actually safe for celiac patients. Gluten-Ease and other such products are merely for people who believe that they may be sensitive, or who have a mild-sensitivity. They are NOT safe for anyone who has an auto-immune reaction to gluten. They may give some peace of mind to a celiac who thinks that she may have accidentally consumed some gluten, but they do not actually work to stop an immune response from happening.)

 

 

Eating Around the Flu

By Rachel Sircy

First, before I dive into my main subject, let me clarify a statement from my last blog post. I am kind of a skeptic when it comes to certain alternative medicines and home remedies. However, I am a believer in many herbal remedies and I definitely believe that a person can eat (and exercise) their way to better health. Benjamin Franklin said that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I believe this is true and this describes my outlook on homeopathic remedies. They are the ounce of prevention that is worth the pound of cure. I believe that you should try to prevent illness with diet, exercise and herbal remedies and reserve trips to the doctor for when you are sick and the herbal stuff isn’t doing the trick. I don’t believe in any fad diets and I especially don’t believe in any concoction that is supposed to cure anything that ails me. If a person claims to have answers for everything from warts to stage 4 cancer, they are just trying to sell something. Or, that’s my feeling on the subject anyway. And that goes for conventional medicine as well as homeopathic remedies.

So, I said all of that to say, I don’t think that essential oils are ineffective or useless. Melaluca oil killed my pet beta fish almost instantly (I was trying to cure a vicious fungal infection that he had), so I know that the power of essential oils isn’t just hype. They definitely have their uses. Not for poor, sick beta fish, but certainly for other things.

…anyway, on to this week’s post.

The post last week was all about how I was on a horseradish kick. I’m still on a bit of a kick and I’ve found that a bit of the fresh ground horseradish with some Duke’s mayonnaise is awesome on an egg sandwich. Beware, though, of eating it first thing in the morning. It could tear your stomach up and, actually, while I’m thinking about it, horseradish isn’t recommended for people with ulcers. I am the kind of person who eats egg sandwiches for lunch and dinner, so that would be when I would recommend eating it. It’s also really good on a grilled ham and Swiss cheese sandwich.

This week’s post is about some other foods that you can eat to help prevent sickness this cold and flu season. Here are some of the things I’ve been eating lately:

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Of course, there’s the horseradish and I’m also a big believer in Echinacea, especially in tea form. Echinacea is the one and only herbal remedy that I’ve ever heard praised in a biology class. I was in college and our professor told us that it works better than vitamin C to prevent and shorten colds and flus. It’s a great immune system booster.

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This huge pile of minced garlic went into a chicken dish that I made. I’ve been cooking with as much garlic as possible, not just to prevent respiratory infections, but also because garlic contains compounds that aid in heart health. Garlic is also supposed to be an immune system booster, but remember, you need to buy cloves of garlic and chop it yourself. To get the most out of your chopped garlic, let it sit for at least 5 minutes before cooking with it. Apparently when garlic is chopped and left to sit, a compound called allicin forms. Allicin is the compound that boosts your immune system and can help prevent a cold. You’ll notice, when you let your garlic sit that it’s scent changes. It gets stronger the longer that you let it sit. My Reader’s Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs recommends that you consume 3-4 cloves per week for prevention of sickness and 1-2 cloves per day if you are already sick. Yeah, you’re going to smell funky if you eat 1-2 cloves per day, but I bet you’ll feel better.

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This is a delicious bowl of cabbage soup was made by my mother-in-law. Now, I don’t advocate the Cabbage Soup Diet. Almost every reputable source of medical information that I’ve found on the internet (including the Mayo Clinic, which is the source that I trust the most) says that the Cabbage Soup Diet is a really, really bad idea. However, if you don’t go crazy and eat nothing but cabbage soup for months on end, then a bowl of cabbage soup is actually pretty good for you. Cabbage, after all, is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables also include broccoli and cauliflower and are related to – guess what? Horseradish! Cruciferous vegetables, like horseradish contain glucosinolates, which is a compound that may aid in the prevention of cancer. Not to mention that cabbage contains a lot of vitamin C, as do the tomatoes in the soup. So, it’s kind of a win-win food for your health. As long as you don’t eat it and nothing else. Really, don’t do the Cabbage Soup Diet. Losing weight isn’t that serious!

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This is the chicken dish that I made with all that garlic. The herbs on the chicken are oregano and thyme. Thyme is supposed to have anti-microbial properties and so it is recommended for respiratory infections and for the prevention of colds. I’ve also had thyme tea, which you can make by simply putting some dried thyme in hot water and steeping for 10 minutes or so. It’s not your usual tasting tea, but it’s really not that bad. I don’t know if I’d go for the tea unless I was already sick. But the great thing about trying to eat for your health, is that when you cook a dish that consists of a lot of garlic, thyme and lemon (these basic ingredients make up the marinade for this chicken) it’s not only healthy, but it tastes great, too.

There are a ton of other remedies out there. You can also use supplements to help you in this season of nastiness. I take one Zinc tablet every day and my husband takes capsules containing dried Echinacea since he doesn’t care for the tea. Elderberry can be used either in powdered form in a capsule or as a syrup, or you can sometimes find it as an extra ingredient in Echinacea tea. I really like the combination of Echinacea and Elderberry tea, but each person’s tastes are different. If you’re a tea fanatic like me, Traditional Medicinals and Yogi teas are a great place to start if you’re looking for herbal remedies. There’s basically a tea for every ailment that you can think of (but no one tea is a cure-all).

What I’ve shared here is, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. So if anyone else has an good remedies or recipes, please share them with us!

Healthy Horseradish

By Rachel Sircy

So, I’ve been on a weird kick lately. I’ve suddenly become obsessed with horseradish. My affinity for the stuff actually began a couple of years ago when someone from work introduced me to Wasabi coated dried peas. You can occasionally find these treats made by a company called Fusia at Aldi and I know that Whole Foods also carries Wasabi chickpeas from a company called Saffron Road. I highly recommend both products. Actually, I might recommend eating your own hand if you cover it in Wasabi.

Anyway, Wasabi is a cousin to the European horseradish root that is commonly grown in the US, and my point in that seemingly pointless story above is that I didn’t eat horseradish as a kid. My grandfather did sometimes on roast beef or something like that, but Grandpa also ate squirrel meat and headcheese and he didn’t manage to convince me that any of those things were good either. I think I remember smelling horseradish sauce as a kid and thinking that it smelled like an over-chlorinated pool, so I wouldn’t eat it for a long time. The introduction to Wasabi was the thing that got me thinking that horseradish might not be so bad after all. My first taste of horseradish sauce was last Easter at my in-laws’ house. They don’t eat the stuff themselves, but for some reason they always keep some of the Inglehoffer horseradish sauce in the refrigerator for guests and they just happened to put some on the table to go with the Easter ham. I figured if it was related to Wasabi, it couldn’t be that bad and that was the moment I fell in love with the stuff.

Now, since then I’ve used horseradish sauce sparingly – putting it on the occasional piece of ham or roast beef or even steak as a nice break from the usual A-1. But in the past couple of weeks I’ve started using gobs of it (that is dangerous, by the way, if you’re not used to it) on everything from ham sandwiches to boiled eggs and not just because I enjoy the taste. You see, for some reason my immune system decided to go on strike this cold and flu season and since about September, I’ve had a pretty continuous string of sinus infections and respiratory illnesses. What does horseradish have to do with sinus infections, you may ask? Well, try a half of a teaspoon of horseradish the next time that you have sinus congestion. It’s like an atomic bomb going off in your nose – my face actually turned red when I took a big bite of it – but I promise you that you will be able to breathe easier afterward.

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Here’s the German-style horseradish sauce. It’s milder and goes well with pretty much anything

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I found this stuff at Publix. It doesn’t even have a brand name, that’s how serious this stuff is. It’s just the grated horseradish root with some vinegar and salt mixed it.

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For anyone who’s not familiar with it, this is what the grated root looks like. I’m pretty sure it could peel paint off the walls. Just opening the jar makes our whole apartment smell like it. Tastes pretty good though.

Apparently, the thing that my grandfather didn’t tell me when he was eating horseradish sauce (the stuff he had was always homemade from someone or other’s garden) is that horseradish has been used for years to cure sinus congestion and even sinus infections. I didn’t know that horseradish had such powerful medicinal benefits until I was trying to find an alternative cure for my own never-ending sinus infection this year. In the back of an herbal encyclopedia that my mother gave me, I saw horseradish listed among the curative herbs used for hay fever and sinusitis. According to this herbal encyclopedia, horseradish is high in Vitamin C and contains compounds called glucosinolates that work to thin mucus. A buildup of mucus in the sinus cavity can become a veritable playground for the kind of bacteria that will blossom in to sinusitis. Eating horseradish regularly as a condiment can keep mucus from building up in your nose and causing sickness. Horseradish also has antimicrobial properties that can apparently work like a mild antibiotic once it’s eaten. The glucosinolate compounds in horseradish are also credited with being able to help your body detoxify carcinogens and thereby ward off cancer.

Now, I’m a bit of a skeptic sometimes when it comes to herbal remedies and I never believe anyone who tells me that a particular product or plant or whatever will cure anything that ails me. Once, someone was trying to convince me of the health benefits of essential oils, but they lost me almost immediately when they tried to explain to me that I had to keep the lid tightly screwed on the bottle of the oil because the compounds in the oil are actually alive and that the “living oil” might try to escape – kind of like a genie in a bottle. Yeah. I haven’t purchased any essential oils to date. However, having said that, I do believe that God put natural medicines on earth and that getting as close to what He created to heal us is probably the best thing that we can do for our bodies. I don’t know much about horseradish, but what I do know is this: during my last bout with a sinus infection, I suddenly started craving horseradish like crazy. I was so sick at the time that I really hadn’t eaten anything except tomato soup and I didn’t feel like having ham or roast beef, but I couldn’t shake the craving for the horseradish. Once I started to feel well enough to eat regular foods again, I started putting horseradish on everything and since then I haven’t had any more issues with my sinuses. (I’m knocking on wood right now) So, I thought I’d share what I’ve been learning and maybe help some others through this awful cold and flu season. Also, horseradish and Wasabi just taste good, so why not eat some?

If you want to do some research on your own, there are a lot (I mean a LOT) of natural remedies websites out there that have a deep love for all things horseradish. I mostly got my information from The Reader’s Digest Complete Illustrated Book of Herbs (This book is not as hokey as it sounds. I usually don’t do my research with books by Reader’s Digest but this book seems pretty solid in it’s information) and from a blog post or two that I found on Rodale’s Organic Life’s website.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” – Until next time, let this quote from Hippocrates to start off all your healthy resolutions. Happy New Year!