Spike Your Drink With Essential Oils

Essential oils

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

Recently I was re-introduced to the idea of adding a couple of drops of essential oils to my drinks.  I used to add a couple of drops of lemon essential oil to my jasmine tea for an amazing morning “brew,” but took a break from that combination and never gave too much thought to another fusion.  Until recently, that is.

Last week, an Oriental Medicine and BodyTalk practitioner I see here in Ocala, Florida, tested me for which essential oils would help get my body back into balance.  Interestingly, what came up was one of my absolute favorite oils, Frankincense, along with Fennel.  She had recommended 1 drop each in a large bottle of good quality water, and to just sip on it throughout the day.  I was so excited to try it that I stopped by the store on the way home to get a big bottle of Fiji water so I could easily add the drops and carry it around with me wherever I go.

As soon as I got home, I put the drops into the water and right away started drinking it.  It was really quite good!  Actually, earlier in the week I had pulled my fennel essential oil out and put a drop in my hand and then dipped some fresh lettuce into it and ate it.  To me, it tasted so good – it’s almost a licorice taste.  I’ve done that before, but never thought to put it into water.  I’ve been doing it ever since, at least once a day, sometimes twice.

For those of you not too familiar with essential oils, Frankincense is my go-to oil.  It used to be lavender (and I still use quite a bit of lavender because it helps with so many things), but now Frankincense has gone to the forefront.  I cannot tell you how much I love this oil.  Seriously, I would be in heaven if I could go into a special room designed with a special ventilation system which delivered therapeutic grade frankincense into the room at higher concentrations.  I can’t get enough of it!  Which, to me, tells me that my body actually needs it.  So I’ve been using this oil quite a bit lately.  I’ve used frankincense for age spots, in capsules when I’ve been feeling run down, under my nose and on my neck for a calming, centering, and focused feeling, on cuts, on cold sores on our horses lips, and on unrecognizable lumps in our animals, to name a few.

Fennel is such a great digestive aid, and that’s primarily what I use it for.

While back in Michigan this past week, I spent some time with my brother and sisters and their families, and thought it might be nice to change up my mix a little; so, not wanting to give up the Frankincense, I still used one drop of it along with one drop of lemon essential oil into my bottled water, and that tasted really good as well.

Lemon essential oil is so refreshing and I use it to strengthen my immune system, and being under a bit of stress while in Michigan last week, I thought this would be a logical addition to my Frankincense and water.  I actually recommended it to some of my family as something that may help with the immune system and would also add some flavor to their water, which would encourage them to drink more water (which we all need to do).  So I grabbed their water bottle and put just one drop of lemon oil in it, and they loved it.  They actually couldn’t believe how strong it smelled and how much flavor they got from just one drop.

Since getting back to Florida, I’ve been a little tired and wore out, so I thought another combination that might be good for me would be just adding one drop of peppermint oil to my water.  That was quite a pick me up!

I love essential oils and I love using them in this way.  It’s fun to wake up in the morning and tune in to how I’m feeling and listen to my body to see what, if any, oils may help me throughout the day.  There are so many other options and combinations out there, I’m looking forward to exploring this further.

I’ll keep experimenting, and if I come across some really tasty and helpful combinations, I’ll be sure to share them with you!

Note: Remember to only use therapeutic-grade essential oils from a trusted source!

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Rice Pilaf With Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussel sprout pilaf

By Shannon Keirnan, Contributing Foodie Bitch

Thanksgiving approaches!

Like most of you, I’m looking forward to a day of overeating, football, and then overeating again (desserts, y’all!).

While turkey is awesome and pie will definitely be consumed, I’m also planning to bring a few healthier options to the table this year. Indulging is great once in a while, but there’s no need to regret it for days afterwards!

I took to the kitchen to play around with what was available in my house that could be worked into a side dish option.

Enter rice pilaf with roasted brussels sprouts, an experiment in balancing taste with health benefits. I threw in whatever vegetables I had handy, and used my frozen bone broth cubes in the rice to add extra nutritional punch. Feel free to change up whatever vegetables you add, to suit this dish to your tastes and needs.

I was a little nervous to work with the strong flavors of brussels sprouts and cabbage, but found that, when combined with the rice and other ingredients, everything had a nice, earthy taste, with the lemon juice providing a memorable extra zing. Give it a try – and feel free to suggest your favorite healthy Thanksgiving side dish in the comments!

Ingredients:

10-15 brussels sprouts

4-6 servings brown rice

1 lemon

1 onion

1/2 cup chopped cabbage

1/2 cup shredded carrot

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

Chicken bone broth (or regular broth, or stock), portioned according to the rice instructions

Olive oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

Garlic powder

Salt

Pepper

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs (gluten-free option if desired)

Instructions: 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the brussels sprouts lengthwise, and toss with a coating of olive oil. Layer into a roasting pan and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, and pepper. Squeeze a wedge of lemon on top, and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring once, until tender and brown. Leave the oven on.

In the meanwhile, cook the rice according to the package, substituting the bone broth for water in the recipe.

In a separate pan, sauté the chopped onion, cabbage, mushrooms, and shredded carrot in a tablespoon or so of butter (or coconut oil). Add the cooked rice, and simmer for about ten minutes, stirring often. Add a little bit more oil or butter if too dry to stir easily. Salt and pepper to taste.

Stir in the brussels sprouts and cook for an additional five minutes. Add a hearty squeeze of lemon, and layer into a baking dish.

Melt the remaining butter and stir in the Panko crumbs until coated, and sprinkle over the dish.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crumbs are just slightly browned.

Chloe Coscarelli’s Vegan Italian Apple Cake

Italian apple cake

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

I know I said it earlier, but you have seriously got to pick up one of Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbooks!  I finally had a chance to sit down and peruse through two of her cookbooks:  Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, and Chloe’s Vegan Desserts, and everything looks amazing!!  I know I’ve probably said this before about other cookbooks, but for a vegan cookbook, everything does seriously look phenomenal.

Chloe's vegan italian kitchen

But does it taste amazing?  I can enthusiastically say “YES!!” My family,  a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarians, whole-heartedly agrees.

So far I’ve tried the Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from her desserts cookbook.  I made those this past Saturday morning for the company we had that spent the night.  They were a big hit and they held everyone over until I finished making breakfast.  I wish I had a picture to share with you, but I wasn’t thinking that morning and they didn’t last long.  But everyone, guests and all, loved them.

Then last night for dinner, I made the Pasta in Pink Sauce, or more authentically, Pasta Con La Salsa Rosa, from her Italian cookbook.  I got more compliments and thank you’s from everyone than I can ever remember getting from cooking.  Everyone thanked me over and over for making it, and went on about how great it was!

Now, I did tweak this pasta recipe a bit – I wanted a little more substance so it wasn’t just pasta and sauce.  So I sautéed some mushrooms, onions, red pepper and broccoli, and added it into the sauce at the end.  I think what made this so good was the “cream” sauce that was added, which of course, is not cream, but a mixture of cashews and water blended in the Vitamix.  What would also be great with this particular dish would be to add the vegan meatball sliders.

I think another thing that made it so good was that, since I eat gluten free, I used the Jovial brand of brown rice pasta, which I hadn’t used in quite a while.  I actually really like the texture of these noodles better than the corn-based Farmo brand.

I was on a roll with Chloe’s recipes, so for our Monday night “Dancing with the Stars” party, I thought I would try her Italian Apple Cake, or again, more authentically, Torta di Mela.  I thought it would make a perfect fall dessert and a perfect ending to a great Italian meal.  And, once again, she did not disappoint!  Click here for the recipe for Chloe’s vegan apple cake.

But you know what I’m really excited about?  Her books and recipes have inspired me, and a new spark has been ignited for cooking again.  Quite honestly, I felt like I was going through a bit of a slump, and I wasn’t being too creative.  My family was being very polite, but there were probably only so many sautéed vegetable dishes they could take!

What I also love about Chloe is that she doesn’t push a vegan way of eating on everyone.  She is a vegan and that works for her, but she doesn’t make  you feel bad if you aren’t a vegan.  She just says to maybe give some of her recipes a try and see what you think and how you feel.  Or maybe just try one vegan dish a week and see how you like it.  Everyone is different, and her way of presenting is so lovingly non-judgemental.  We could all learn from that.

Chloe has also got me thinking about all of the creative ways to make substitutions.  I’ve tried a ton of Paleo recipes where they have made substitutions for dairy or sugar or some other ingredient, but the Paleo world, in my opinion, hasn’t quite figured it out yet (the exclusion being, perhaps, Julie Bauer and George Bryant’s “The Paleo Kitchen”).  The substitutions Chloe has made for vegan dishes and desserts work amazingly well.  So much so, that you don’t even miss the ingredient that is being substituted.  I think her victory on the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” is a testament to that.  If the judges on that show awarded her the winner (the first vegan chef to enter), then I think it’s safe to say, most people would find her creations to be winners as well!

So a big thank you to Chloe Coscarelli for all of her hard work testing and re-testing recipes, adapting her family recipes to fit the vegan lifestyle, and for putting herself out there and sharing all of this wonderful food with the world.

And, if you know anyone who is a vegan or vegetarian, or is just looking to maybe start a Meatless Monday program with their family, her cookbooks would make great gifts – for a hostess gift, holiday gift, thank-you gift, or even a just a “thinking about you” gift.

Maybe even give yourself the gift – especially if you are looking for some different options as we move into the holiday season.

Try some of her recipes and let me know what you think!

Homemade Cough Syrup

Homemade cough syrup

By Nancy Smorch, Foodie Bitch

The ups and downs in the temperature this fall can put a strain on the immune system – one day it’s in the 60’s and sunny, and the next, it’s raining and in the 30’s!  Or snowing, in Michigan!  Add to that any stress (or perceived stress)  you are experiencing with travel, family situations, new experiences, work-related issues, or any other uncertain environment, and your immune system is compromised even more.

And so Lindsey’s immune system has recently become compromised.  She just returned from Dallas (yes, we let her go to Dallas – no worries about ebola).  She was at Tony Robbins’ UPW (Unlimited Power Within) weekend, and from Thursday night, when they did the “fire walk,” until Sunday evening, when they covered some really great health information, Lindsey was going non-stop.  She and another 6,000 people were packed into the convention center for some pretty intense personal work and discovery.  If you ever get a chance to go to one of Tony Robbins’ events – take it!  They are amazing!  Check out this video to get a feel for what it’s like:

To make a long story short, Lindsey got a little run down and caught a bit of a cold.  So we’ve been strategizing to make sure she’s getting enough of the right foods and nutrients to allow her immune system to heal her body.  A couple of things we’re doing in addition to food is using essential oils.  I’ve been giving her capsules filled with frankincense, lemon, and lavender essential oils twice a day, and I put together a “cough syrup” with a honey base.  She doesn’t have much of a cough, but the honey is a great base to get the oils in so they can go to work on her congestion and start attacking whatever it is that is causing her to  feel less than 100%.

This cough syrup is something I’ve used for years and it really does help with coughing, sore throat, and overall recovery.  So, I thought I would share it with you in case you need some extra tools in your cold and flu first aid kit this season!

Cough Syrup Ingredients

1/4 cup raw honey

1 drop Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree essential oil)

1 drop clove essential oil

1 drop rosemary oil

2 drops cedarwood oil

3 drops peppermint oil

2 drops frankincense oil

Remember when using essential oils, use therapeutic grade essential oils; that way you can be confident they are made in such a way that preserves the oils’ therapeutic qualities rather than destroys them.

I mix all of the ingredients together and take 1 tsp. as needed.  If this is too strong for you (although I think it can’t possibly be worse than the cough syrup you get at the drug store!), you can dilute it with more honey.

I actually like the taste of it.  You can even add it to a cup of your favorite tea or with a cup of warm water and lemon juice.  If you’re up for an extra zing, try adding some grated ginger!

Remember, the best defense is a good offense (I’ve got college football on my mind – go Michigan State!), so make sure you take care of yourself in the first place.  Get plenty of good quality sleep, eat fresh organic foods, do some sort of movement and exercise, and take time to be good to yourself and have fun!

Oh, and have a Happy Halloween!