Cayenne Tea – Excellent Wellness and Anti-Flu Support

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You don’t have the flu but it’s out there.  You can’t avoid being in public so you want to protect your immune system as much as possible, but you don’t have a lot of money to spend.

Try Cayenne Tea.  I’m having some this morning.  It’s an inexpensive, warming spice and a blood mover,  so it gets YOU moving as well.  Just 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne is enough to do the trick.  Sip an 8-ounce cup a few times a day.

Recipe:
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Pure Maple Syrup
8 ounces hot, boiling water

Enjoy!

cayenne tea

Keto (High-Fat, Low-Carb) Thin Mint Bark

This, by far, has got to be my best keto treat yet.  And it is so easy to make!

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2 Heaping Tablespoons Extra Virgin, Cold-Pressed Unrefined Coconut Oil
1 Scoop (about 2 Heaping Tablespoons) Vanilla Whey Protein Powder (Pea Protein, Egg-White Protein or other Protein Powder of your choice is also good but I like the vanilla or you may choose chocolate)
1-2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (dark)
2 Tablespoons Grade B Pure Maple Syrup (Grade B is more expensive but has high nutritive value.  Grade A is good for taste alone, but I want to make sure that whatever I do is high in nutrition.)
1 capful Chocolate Peppermint Extract
Crushed Walnuts
Chia Seed
Sunflower Seeds (unsalted)
Himalayah Salt

Let the coconut oil sit at room temperature until soft.  If it is not soft and you don’t mind using a microwave for 10 seconds, that is fine as well.

Add the next four ingredients to the coconut oil and blend well, using a spoon, until it forms a thick paste.

Spread the mixture onto a paper plate (or flat plate with parchment paper) until thinly spread to cover as much area as you can, being careful to not spread so thinly you can see the plate. IMG_0365

Sprinkle with walnuts, chia seed, sunflower seeds and salt to lightly cover.  There is no set amount but a guideline might be a tablespoon for nuts and seeds and 1/2 teaspoon for the salt.

Place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and cut like a tic-tac-toe board.

Enjoy!

Keto Chocolate Cardamom Fudge

I learned about cardamom when a new Indian restaurant opened up in the neighborhood, and we had to check it out.  Prior to that, I had not had Indian food (“I had been deprived of many cuisines growing up in an Italian household” she said, tongue-in-cheek).
When I first bit into my food, I tasted a burst of perfume on my tongue;  I wasn’t loving it.  After a few visits, the flavor of cardamom started to intrigue me but I wasn’t yet ready to experiment with it in any of my dishes I prepared at home.

I loved its fragrance in my nose but not on my tongue, so I experimented with perfume making and massage oils.  After awhile, I was ready to try it in my own foods.  The key to keeping from biting into the enormous burst of perfume taste in your mouth is to use very few pods at a time (unless you are a cardamom pro and have developed a taste already.)  This is not a spice that requires several pods.

I recently learned that cardamom was more than just a fragrant spice.  It has some nutritional benefits, quite a few in fact.

So, what is it?  Cardamom is a spice that is in the Zingiberacaea family (the same family as ginger), and is found in hard-shelled pods.  It is often called The Queen of Spices, and ranks as the third most expensive spice in the world, following saffron and vanilla pods.  However, you can buy it in small quantities and use just a little at a time.

Cardamom, as previously stated, is a burst of perfume in your mouth, however, in small doses, the taste is hardly noticed.  It is the aroma in the nose that compliments, but it is more than a fragrant spice used in Indian dishes.  Its health benefits include preventing colorectal cancer,  improvement of cardiovascular health, prevention of gastrointestinal disorders, as an anti-depressant, and has antispasmodic and antibacterial properties as well.
cardamominfo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all its benefits, including its wonderful aroma, I wanted to experiment on my own with this intriguing herb.Because I am on the keto diet (High fat – moderate protein – low carb), I often experiment with various good Omega-3 or 6 fats in various dishes.  This morning,  I made

Keto Chocolate Cardamom Fudge 

2 Tablespoons Unrefined, Extra Virgin Cold-pressed Coconut Oil (left at room temperature so it mixes well but you can pop in microwave for 10 seconds if you like)
2 Tablespoons Almond Butter (without added sugar or salt)
2 Tablespoons Almond Flour (meal is okay)
2 Tablespoons Vegan Cream Cheese (I used this brand).
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Scoop Vanilla Whey Protein Powder
2 Packets of Pure Stevia (or erythritol)
4 Cardamom pods
Chopped Walnuts

Blend first seven ingredients by hand, using a fork or spoon.  Stir until well-blended.   Break open the 4 pods and sprinkle in your mixture.  Stir throughout.

Scoop out 1 teaspoon of the mixture at a time, roll into balls and put on a dish.  Flatten with two fingers if you like, or just leave in a ball.  Or, if you want to get fancy, you can put in a candy mold.  (I didn’t get fancy this morning).

This mixture should give you about 10 balls/bars.

Add about 2 chopped walnuts to each bar (or you can grind your walnuts and sprinkle on top).

Pop in the freezer for about 15 minutes.  Enjoy.  (This is not a low-calorie food, however, because of its high fat content, one or two should satisfy you.)

While this looks like dessert, on a keto diet, you actually eat these first.  One should fill you so you don’t overdo your regular meal.   I can eat 2-3 for breakfast alone.

chocolate cardamom keto fudge
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I love what the cardamom adds to this.  If you are not sure about cardamom just yet, no worries, it isn’t essential to making keto fudge.  You can leave it out but I’m an herbalist!  I need herbs and love what they add to my creations.

Play around with it.  Instead of chocolate powder, add a teaspoon of Golden Milk powder if you have it.  Or you can add unsweetened coconut flakes instead of walnuts.

But if you do use cardamom, I’d love to know your thoughts.   Please leave a comment.

Pathways of Elimination: The Liver

In 1994, a Russian naturopathic physician named Ilya Metchnikoff discovered that the body would recycle whatever toxin it could not purge via the elimination pathways.  These pathways are the lungs, liver, kidneys, skin, colon lymph and blood.  Each of these pathways works with the others to break down and eliminate toxins from the body.  If one of the pathways is compromised in any way, it places greater burden on the other pathways.

Constipation is an example of the colon not functioning to its fullest capacity. Edema in the tissues is an example of the kidneys, lymph and skin not functioning to their fullest capacity.  Bloating, belching and flatulence or gas are the result of the liver not functioning well. Poor circulation is an example of the blood pathway not functioning at its best.

The key to good health is to know these seven pathways and do whatever it takes to keep them functioning optimally.

So let’s talk liver!   The function of the liver is to break down everything that enters the body and redistribute it to other organs or pathways.  Toxins will be distributed to the kidneys and colon, however when it gets overloaded, it tries to utilize every other elimination system until they become full.  The liver chemically converts destructive toxins into less harmful substances that the colon and kidneys can eliminate. When toxins fail to be eliminated due to overburdening of the pathways, they are then sent to the fat cells to be stored.

Some helpful herbs for the liver are milk thistle (silybum maarianum), artichoke leaf (cynara slolymus), dandelion root (taraxacum oficinales), ashwagandha (withania somnifera), and garlic (allum sativum).  Dandelion root is widely available in our backyards (but collect what is about 100 feet away from the roads to protect from possible pesticide contamination from neighboring yards or spray trucks).   The greens are bitter and can be added to salads, or steamed and added with other greens.

Make your own Dandelion Root Tea

Gather the entire plant from your backyard.  Some lawns will still have dandelions growing in the fall but others may need to wait until spring.  Spring dandelions are best for leaf gathering because the leaves are tender and new, but fall dandelions are best for root harvesting because they are more nutrient dense.

There are a lot of dandelion look-a likes out there so be sure you are pulling up a dandelion plant.  The leaves are long, and jagged (pictured below).

Shake dirt off before bringing into the home and remember that there are insect eggs and possibly adult insects so be sure to wash the whole plant well to remove what dirt and insects did not shake off.

Separate the root from the leaves and chop the root coarsely.  Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a saucepan and add 2 teaspoons of the root.  Cover and lower the heat to simmer for about a minute.  Remove from heat and let steep for about 40 minutes. You may add the leaves and flowers about 5-7 minutes before you are ready to strain it so as not to damage the nutrition from them.

Strain by placing a strainer over your teacup and pour.  Add honey if desired.

Drinking a few cups daily will help cleanse your liver and support its function.  If you have bloating, belching, gas, or constipation, dandelion root tea may help remove the burden.

 

Keto Cream Cheese Cupcakes

I am new to the ketogenic diet so I’m having a lot of fun reading on it and experimenting with new ways to bake.  Oh my goodness! Cream cheese is in so many recipes – it is becoming a staple.

The ketogenic diet is designed to help you burn fat instead of carbohydrates. Our bodies will burn carbs before they burn fat but fat is what we want to burn!   When you eat carbohydrates, it triggers your pancreas to produce insulin in order to allow for glucose metabolism.  When too much insulin is triggered, the body resists the insulin and insulin is then stored as fat while the carbs spill over into the urine and the bloodstream, not entering your cells to provide any nutrition.    Fat does not trigger the pancreas so there is no insulin secreted; therefore the insulin cannot be stored as fat, and fat is used as the primary fuel source.

This is virtually a guilt-free plan and I can eat these cupcakes for lunch!

This recipe was tweaked just slightly to suit my taste and it came out delicious!  cream cheese cupcakes

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup almond flour

¾ cup sugar substitute ( I used a stevia/erythritol blend)

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

4 eggs

3 ½ ounces cream cheese

1 tbsp creamy almond butter (no sugar added)

1 tbsp maple syrup grade B

1 tsp vanilla

Cinnamon (optional)

 

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a mixing bowl beat on high the butter and stevia or other sweetener until well blended.

Add cream cheese, vanilla and maple syrup and mix well.  Then add the eggs.   It is best to add one egg at a time then mix after each addition to make sure they are incorporated well.

Add the dry ingredients until well blended.

I used muffin cups but if you don’t have muffin cups be sure to grease your muffin pan well.   Fill muffin cups almost to the top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Pop out of the muffin pan when cooled – OR – if you used muffin cups – pop out of the pan and place in refrigerator to cool.  These are best when cooled.

After 30 minutes take out of refrigerator and add a spoon of cream cheese to the top.  (or  use your favorite topping – whipped cream, preserves, yogurt and fruit, crushed walnuts, etc.)      You can even substitute the vanilla for almond extract and add crushed nuts to the top instead of cream cheese.

What You Probably Didn’t Know About Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)

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Black pepper.  Have you wondered much about what it is, where it comes from, what nutritional value it has?  Most of us think of black pepper in the shaker or grinder and not much beyond that.
McCormick Pure Ground Black Pepper, 6 oz

In fact, I remember the day I found out that ground black pepper actually came from peppercorns and I could crack them in the grinder.  (It was a long time ago lol).  I was in a restaurant and the waitress came to the table and asked if I wanted freshly cracked pepper.  I looked at her with a blank stare as if to ask “what do you mean?”  As she cracked the pepper over my salad, I could really taste and smell the freshness and was ruined for anything else.

Black pepper always seemed like salt’s tag-along buddy; salt being the more boisterous friend.  But black pepper has some wonderful magic all its own.

The What and Where of Black Pepper

Black pepper comes from the Piperacae family (sounds like papparazzi – sorta), and is not at all like bell pepper, or sweet pepper, chili or jalapeno. In fact they aren’t even in the same botanical family.  Black pepper comes from peppercorns;  berries from the blossoms of a trailing, woody vine grown in tropical climates.  Many years ago, black pepper was a sign of a man’s wealth.

Nutritional Facts

An ounce of black pepper provides 79% of manganese, 57% of Vitamin K, 45% of iron, 30% fiber.  Although an ounce is way more than we would have at one time, it provides perspective; a teaspoon of black pepper provides 6% of the total manganese we would need in a day.

But here is another fabulous black pepper fact – it has potassium – and I’ve been writing about potassium a lot lately because it is THAT important to our health.  Potassium is responsible for improving our stomach’s ability to digest food.   If you were to look at many supplements on the market, turmeric, for example, you would see that Piper nigrum or Piperine is added.  That is black pepper.  In fact, turmeric which has been touted as a giant superfood, may not be useful at all unless paired with black pepper, because it is not bioavailable, or absorbable.  Black pepper or piperine, increases its absorption. The use of piperine can boost blood levels of curcumin from the spice turmeric by up to 2,000%.  Source

Piperine also increases the body’s ability to absorb betacarotenes, selenium and B-vitamins (which, in black pepper means pyridoxine, riboflavin, thiamin and niacin), as well as other nutrients from food.

Black pepper is also a carminative; that is, it keeps the intestines from forming gas.   And when black pepper is freshly cracked from the peppercorn, the outer layer of that pepper corn helps to break down fat stored in the body.   Source

Studies

One study showed that black pepper inhibited the growth of various types of bacteria in the gut, and the report concluded its findings with a statement that black pepper is not only anti-inflammatory, but antioxidant, fever reducing, and immune enhancing.

The free-radical scavenging activity of black pepper and its active ingredients might be helpful in chemoprevention and controlling progression of tumor growth. Additionally, the key alkaloid components of Piper Nigrum, that is, piperine assist in cognitive brain functioning, boost nutrient’s absorption and improve gastrointestinal functionality. Source

Black pepper or piperine treatment has also been evidenced to lower lipid peroxidation in vivo and beneficially influence cellular thiol status, antioxidant molecules and antioxidant enzymes in a number of experimental situations of oxidative stress. The most far-reaching attribute of piperine has been its inhibitory influence on enzymatic drug biotransforming reactions in the liver. Source

Piperine had been reported to inhibit tumors formation in different experimental models. Many studies revealed the antitumor activity of piperine by the oral administration. The alcoholic extract of peppercorn and piperine exhibited effective immunomodulatory and antitumor activities. Piperine is also reported to reduce lung cancer by altering lipid peroxidation and by antioxidative protection enzymes activation  Piperine has distinct pharmacological activities along with Anti-cancer activity.  Source

How-To-Use-Black-Pepper-For-Weight-Loss

Using Black Pepper for Weight Loss

Because black pepper has the ability to reduce fat in the body, and boost metabolism, you can add this to your healthy diet as you lose weight.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper to boiling water, along with a little ginger, lemon and honey or stevia, and sip as a tea before breakfast.

To low sodium V8, add black pepper to enhance the absorption of all that good potassium.

Add to all your foods, including steak and eggs.

And now, for my favorite way to have black pepper:

Black Pepper Healthy Recipes

2 tablespoons salt 1 pound grass-fed beef or buffalo/bison strip loin ¼ cup peppercorns, crushed roughly ¼ cup butter
1 teaspoon tamari sauce (wheat-free) 2 tablespoons beef stock 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Procedures:

  1. Place peppercorns on a plate and press steak into peppercorns to cover both sides thickly. Work peppercorns into the meat using your hands.
  2. Sprinkle a skillet with the salt and over medium heat, cook until salt begins to brown. Add steak to the pan and brown over high heat. Reduce to medium heat and cook until it reaches the desired degree of doneness, approximately three to four minutes per side for medium-rare. Discard drippings. Note: as much as possible, avoid charring the meat to prevent the formation of carcinogenic chemicals.
  3. In a separate saucepan, combine butter, tamari, beef stock, and lemon juice.
  4. Serve the steak with the sauce on the side.

This recipe makes 3 to 4 servings.
(From Dr. Mercola’s No-Grain Diet)

Enjoy black pepper in a whole new way!

Herbal Infused Garlic Oil

  • “Gahhhhhhhlic!” Whenever anyone says garlic like that, I can hear the love in the tone.  “Gahhhhhhhlic!”    Mmmmmm.   Who doesn’t love garlic?  I grew up in an Italian home where garlic was a staple and used liberally in everything from sauces and gravies to fish and vegetables and casseroles.

    And salads.

    And soups and stews.

    You get the picture.  I love gahhhhhhhlic!

    Maybe you didn’t know that garlic is a potent antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antibiotic as well.  Garlic’s therapeutic value tops the list of home remedies to keep as a staple in your home.   Keep a large jar around; you can use it for flavoring your favorite foods, add nutrition to your diet, take as a wellness protocol and even use for ear and skin infections.   So!  Are you ready?

    There are a few ways to infuse the oil. If you are making a flavor oil for culinary purposes only, you can use a cold infusion, sometimes called solar infusion by adding your garlic to a jar with olive oil and letting it sit for no longer than 10 days (to prevent botulism) and then refrigerate immediately.  Or, you can use a crock-pot, or put in the oven, or use on the stove in a double-boiler. I like using solar infusions when using dried herbs however when using garlic for a remedy, it is best to use one of the other heat-extracted methods. Because this is fresh garlic, and because I want to use this for medicinal as well as therapeutic and culinary purposes, I used a double-boiler.   Heat infusions such as this will extract more of the volatile oils that provide such good medicine.

    You will need a clean, dry mason jar.   I used fresh garlic at a ratio of 1 part garlic to 5 parts oil.  I used a garlic press to mince the garlic from one very large bulb.

 

101217 minced garlic and press

One clove at a time I put through the garlic press (no need to peel – just put it in and skuhweeze! You can pull the peels out of the press after each clove is minced).

101217 garlic press

Once you have finished pressing your garlic, you will want to weigh your jar.  My jar weighed 6.2 ounces.

101217 medium jar on scale

Now, add your garlic to the jar.  Weigh it.  The amount of garlic I used weighed 1.2 ounces.  I get that by taking the total weight of 7.4 ounces and subtracting the weight of the jar.  7.4 ounces – 6.2 ounces = 1.2 ounces.  You can use more garlic if you are just going for garlic to add to your food, but because I want a higher yield of oil to use for remedies, I chose to use a 1:5 ratio (1 part garlic to 5 parts oil).

101217 one point two ounces garlic

Now add your olive oil.  (Use extra virgin, cold-pressed olive oil. It’s not enough to say extra virgin or 100% pure olive oil.  However, not all olive oil is truly extra-virgin, cold-pressed.  Here is a list of some true olive oil brands.  (There are others but you may be surprised to find your $3.00 cheaper version is likely vegetable oil, not olive oil at all.)  Authentic Olive Oils   

Notice the weight is 11.3 ounces.  This means I added 5. 1 ounces of oil to the jar.  I get that by subtracting the original weight of the jar, 6.2 ounces, from the total weight of      11.3 ounces.

101217 five point one ounces evoo

I don’t have a typical double boiler but I use my large stock pot with a stainless steel bowl.  When using a make-shift double-boiler, be sure no water is able to get inside the bowl as it boils.  Turn on high until it boils, then put the temperature to medium-low for about 10 minutes.

 

After 10 minutes, add it back to your jar and seal it up.  Make sure to label what it is and the date you infused it.  This will be good for one year as long as it is refrigerated.

101217 garlic infused evoo

I can use this for ear infections,  or as a wellness remedy of 10 drops per day under the tongue.

Or, I can add to sauce.  Or fish.  Or soups and stews!