Sunday, December 29, 2013

Apple Cider Vinegar - good for just about everything

My husband Ed has to take a drug called Bosutinib to treat his Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. It is so strong that he had to have weekly blood tests to check for liver damage when he first started taking it. This class of drug called tyrosine-kinase inhibitors (TKIs) has been a game changer in the cancer world, and we are extremely fortunate that it is available for him. However I worry about how it is effecting the rest of his body - it's seriously toxic stuff and he will be taking it every day for the rest of his life. To offset any damage I started researching ways to detox that wouldn't do anything at all to counteract the efficacy of the Bosutinib. Apple cider vinegar kept coming up in my searches, so I learned more. Good grief is this stuff amazing!! 


Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV for short) has been used anecdotally for thousands of years - Hippocrates, the father of medicine raved about it. It is one of nature's best detoxifiers and gently removes toxins from your body, purifies your blood and builds your immune system. There are many different brands out there, but you must buy raw ACV with "the mother" intact because processed vinegars (Heinz, White House, any generic brand) have been distilled and stripped of all benefits. "The mother" is a stringy, web-like sediment that floats at the bottom of the bottle and passes on gut-friendly bacteria and probiotics - don't worry you can't taste mother…I only buy Bragg's and have found it at Harris Teeter and all health food stores.


This inexpensive remedy has a multitude of uses. It took a little while to get used to drinking it, but I now crave the stuff. This is how I drink it first thing in the morning before breakfast:

  • 1/4 cup filtered water
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed juice (I prefer orange)
  • 5 drops of liquid Stevia
  • 1T Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
  • a squeeze of lemon (another natural detoxifier)
Tastes like Tang and I love it. We've been using ACV for a couple months now and my skin is clearer and I was able to fend off a cold faster than usual because of it's immune boosting qualities. I feel like the Gus, the patriarch on "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", but instead of Windex I wanna put apple cider vinegar on everything. Tip: avoid drinking it undiluted as it's acidic nature can damage tooth enamel. Here are some amazing ways to use it - it's my new go-to!! 

Digestion 

  • Lower glucose levels: Help fight diabetes by taking 1-2 tsp of ACV before meals to dramatically reduce insulin and glucose spikes in the blood. 
  • Constipation: Minimize this problem by adding 1T of Psyllium Husk Powder (natural form of Metamucil) to your ACV drink daily and let it soak for 2 minutes before drinking. I took Psyllium Husk during my pregnancy and never had a problem!
  • Indigestion: Before mealtime sip 1/3 tsp ACV (not much at all!) and hold in your mouth for one minute before swallowing. 
  • Eliminate toxic waste: Toxins stored in your body will eventually cause problems. With a process called "acetolysis" certain toxic wastes are rendered harmless and flushed from the body thanks to the enzymes provided by "the mother."
  • Increase metabolism: Thanks to the powerful combination of vitamins, minerals and trace minerals ACV will help you burn calories faster
  • Weight loss: ACV helps break down fats so your body can use them instead of store them. It also helps suppress your appetite and make you feel fuller so you eat less. Drink 1T with water before each meal. 
  • Acid reflux: Take a dose as soon as you feel symptoms coming on for instant relief
  • Reduce bloating: ACV is a powerful diuretic and will help ensure you aren't carrying around extra water weight. Just ask actress Meghan Fox who swears by her ACV cleanse.




Millions suffer from stomach issues which are aggravated by poor digestion and weak saliva juices. By drinking ACV before meals (sipping 1/3 tsp and holding in mouth for 1 minute before swallowing), you are providing enzymes and prepping your saliva which will improve the entire digestive process that begins in the mouth. Digestive fluids will flow faster which will result in improved break down and elimination of food leading to better overall health. This suggestion sounds cumbersome but certainly worth a try if it helps eliminate or reduce suffering from stomach problems! 

Skin and Hair
  • Acne: I use diluted ACV as a toner (just like Scarlett Johansson) and it helps dry out and heal acne. I love how smooth it makes my skin - it tightens and plumps and can minimize the appearance of wrinkles. (a little warning - you might have initial break outs when you begin any detox because as your body releases toxins from your body some make their exit throughout the skin…)
  • Sunburn: Obviously we should always strive to avoid skin damage, but if you do accidentally turn red ACV will neutralize the burn. Dilute it in water and pat on with a wash cloth - this will sting at first but will make it feel better quickly. Even better, put the wash cloth in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes beforehand for extra relief.
  • Rosacea: Mix 1T ACV and 1T water and apply to affected areas with a cotton ball before bed. In the morning rinse off with luke warm water.
  • Burn: Apply immediately after a burn and it will neutralize, instantly stop the pain, prevent scarring and help heal. I tried this after hot oil burnt my arm and it worked. ACV is hailed as the best burn treatment by many - seriously keep a bottle in your kitchen!
  • Natural wart remover: Use waterproof tape to secure a ACV dampened cotton ball (the cotton from a q-tip works great) over the wart overnight. In the morning do the same thing with castor oil instead for a daytime treatment. At night you can alternate ACV with Vitamin E (prick open the capsule).
  • Corns and callouses: Soak affected areas in warm water with 1/3 cup ACV for 20 minutes. After soak rub areas with a coarse town then gently use a pumice stone. Apply a undiluted ACV soaked gauze bandage overnight. Voila!
  • Molluscum: Is a type of viral infection that causes "water warts." My friend's children had them and the dermatologist had no solution - ACV worked!
  • Cold sores: Apply directly to affected areas and the itching and burring will rapidly disappear and help the sores heal quicker.
  • Hemorrhoids: Good Lord, I hope I never need this one again but just in case… soak cotton ball in ACV and gently press area for 20 minutes for relief. Will sting initially (which means its working) then ahhhhhhh….. If undiluted is too much for you, add some water.
  • Yeast, viral and fungus infections: Because of it's richness of malic acid athlete's foot, psoriasis, eczema can all be treated with a 50/50 solution of ACV and water. For athlete's foot soak feet in 50/50 mixture twice daily - also be sure to spray your shoes so the acidic ACV will kill the fungus and you don't become recontaminated!
  • Insect bites: Will help stop pain and itching by neutralizing the venom, apply directly.
  • Shingles and chicken pox: Apply undiluted ACV directly to the affected area without pressing or rubbing twice a day and healing should start in a few days. For relief add one cup of ACV to a warm bath.
  • Varicose veins: Wrap ACV dampened cloth around troubled areas morning and night with legs elevated for 15 minutes. Remove and while your legs are still up gently massage the blood upwards starting at your ankles to get blood back into circulation. Continue for 6 weeks.
  • Age/Sun Spots: I have spent insane $$ on fraxel laser treatments to remove my sun/age spots and they came right back, UGH. I'm going to try this remedy even though it sounds a little torturous (just like the laser treatments…). Peel and cut a slice of onion and soak it in ACV for a few minutes. Rub it gently on your troubled spot and continue the treatment for four to six weeks or you get the results you want - I'm going to do this and will report back :)
  • Skin tags: These unsightlies can be removed by applying ACV to a q-tip and pressing it to the skin tag twice a day until it falls off.
  • Hair: When used as a rinse will make your hair feel smooth, shiny and provide clarification by removing oil and dirt. It balances your hair's pH, which helps seal the cuticle making it smoother. Can also help with dandruff and soothe any scalp irritation. Mix a tablespoon in a glass of water and rinse your hair after washing - rinse it out afterwards or it will feel crunch (don't worry, the smell will dissipate once your hair dries!). For a special hair mask mix with coconut oil and vegetable glycerin and cover with a shower cap and turban wrap.
  • Deodorant: My sister swears by this! Apply to skin and ACV absorbs and neutralizes any stink (the vinegar smell will dissipate). 
Apple Cider Vinegar does wonders for your skin! I'm going to start adding it to my bath water to alkalize my skin and help remove toxins. I also want to try this facial remedy:
  1.  First wash your skin with warm water and no soap. 
  2. Apply a wrung-out, hot water soaked wash cloth to your face for 3 minutes, then remove. 
  3. Now soak a thin cotton wash cloth in hot ACV water (1T ACV per cup of water) and again apply to face. Cover the wash cloth with the first cotton towel wrung out of hot water. 
  4. Lie down for 15 minutes or longer with your feel elevated to bring more blood circulation to revitalize your face for cell rejuvenation.
  5.  Now remove both cloths and gently rub skin upwards with a coarser towel to exfoliate the skin loosened by the ACV facial. 
Muscles and Joints
  • Arthritis: Heat up 8 oz of water with 3T of ACV and 2T of baking soda. Soak a bandage and wrap it around the joint for 20 minutes - make sure the bandage is warm not hot.
  • Leg cramps: If you suffer from nighttime leg cramps drink 1T of honey with 1T of ACV in a cup of water before going to bed.
  • Aching muscles: Soak in a warm bath with 1 cup ACV added




The rest of your body
  • Headaches: For relief put 2 Tbs ACV and 2 cups of water and bring to a boil and put towel over your head and inhale 5 deep, slow breaths of steam vapors. 
  • Sore throat: Mix 1 tsp with 1/2 glass of water and gargle 3 mouthfuls of mixture each hour, then spit it out. As the throat feels better, gargle every 3 hours. Bette Midler, the Beach Boys and Katy Perry use this trick to keep their throats healthy and germ-free (I figure you're bound to be a fan of one of these stars…).
  • Yeast infection: The enzymes in ACV help restore the natural balance of healthy bacteria in the gut and keep yeast in check. Take 2 tsp diluted with water orally and douche with 3T of ACV mixed with 2 quarts of water twice daily until you get complete relief.
  • Bedwetting: Mix 1/2 tsp of buckwheat honey with 1/2 tsp of ACV and drink right before bed - will greatly reduce or eliminate the problem.
  • Allergies: To reduce sinus congestion and mucus take 1 tsp of ACV with a cup of water to relieve symptoms
  • Cancer prevention: Pectin, a soluble fiber in vinegar helps dilute cancer causing dietary fats through the colon before they can be absorbed. Studies show that a high fiber diet can kill colon cancer cells.
  • Blood pressure: ACV helps promote a healthy circulatory system by thinning the blood and helping break the plaque built up in the arteries. Helps keep your heart strong by proving potassium and other fuel.
  • Cataracts: Drink AVC and use eye wash of 1/3 tsp ACV in 4 oz distilled water applied with a dropper 3 times daily. Keep eyes closed for 2 minutes after application - sometimes will sting. This is certainly worth a try before cataract surgery!
For your pets
  • Natural flea repellent: Bathe your pet with the usual shampoo, pat dry and them spray a mix of 3:1 ACV to warm water all over coat and massage into the sin. Not only will they be flea-less, but also sport a shiny coat!
  • Maintain pH: Add a tiny bit of ACV in their water to maintain their pH balance and prevent kidney issues and UTI. I just started adding to our cat's water bowl.
  • Fat buster: Add 1 tsp ACV to their drinking water twice a day to help dissolve fats and safely keep your pet trim.
  • Immune system boost: Help fight cancer, heart disease and slow the aging process by adding 1 tsp of ACV to your pet's water bowl. It could be what helps turn around your sick or lethargic best friend!
  • Rash and itch: Spray or pat ACV on irrupted areas twice daily
Around the house
  • Air Freshener: Adios Febreze! ACV is the original room deodorizer - spritz it around the house to freshen things up.
  • Disinfectant: Straight vinegar kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of common mold and 80% of germs and viruses - take that 409 and bleach! For a natural, non-toxic cleanser mix 1/2 cup of ACV with 1 cup of water and clean away!
  • Weed killer: Mix 1 part ACV to 8 parts water and spray on weeks. Will kill the weeds and leave the rest of your garden happy.
  • Produce wash: Mix 4 TBS of ACV with a gallon of cold water and soak your fruits and veggies to remove dirt, pesticides and bugs. You won't believe all the gross stuff that settles at the bottom of the bowl!
In conclusion, if you don't already own a bottle of raw apple cider vinegar GO BUY SOME!! Bragg's is the only way to go in my book. If you suffer from one of the plethora of ailments listed above why not try a natural remedy that has been used for thousand of years? Don't take my word for it and do your own research because I realize this list sounds pretty ridiculous. Who knew!?

Sources:

- "Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar Miracle Health System" by Paul and Patricia Bragg
- The Gerson Institute Blog
- Takepart.com Blog
- Eating Bird Food Blog

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas Morning Gingerbread Pancakes

We're trying to start some Christmas traditions for our little family and I love the idea of a special breakfast. Hoping this Gingerbread Pancakes with Agave Maple Syrup recipe is one we'll want to make year after year! It comes from my Babycakes Covers the Classics cookbook by Erin McKenna and I've never tried it, but it sounds divine - how can I possibly go wrong with gingerbread and Christmastime?! They're vegan, gluten free and I can't wait to try my first bite :)


Gingerbread Pancakes
by Babycakes Covers the Classics

2 cups Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour (I will substitute spelt flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup melted coconut oil plus more for pan
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/3 cup dark molasses
2/3 cup rice milk (I will substitute almond milk)
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
Agave Maple Syrup

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, cinnamon, salt, xanthan gum, cardamom, and cloves. Add the applesauce, 1/2 cup coconut oil, agave nectar, molasses, rice milk, and vanilla and stir with a rubber spatula until the batter is smooth.

In a large nonstick skillet or on a griddle over medium heat, add 1 teaspoon coconut oil. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup pancake batter into the pan for each pancake. Using the back of a rubber spatula, spread the batter to make a 4-inch pancake. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side for 2 minutes more, or until the center bounces back when tapped and the edges are browned. Transfer the pancakes to a warm plate and repeat with the remaining batter. Serve with the Agave Maple Syrup.

For Agave Maple Syrup:
1 cup agave nectar
3 tablespoons maple flavor, or to taste

Put the agave nectar in a small bowl. Add the maple flavor and stir until fully combined. Taste and adjust maple flavor to desired intensity. Makes 1 cup and can be stored at room temperature, covered tightly, for up to 1 month.

Enjoy!! Ho Ho Ho

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas cookie transformation

Baking cookies has always been one of my favorite Christmas traditions. I've eaten the same homemade goodies for about 36 years now and baking with my mom is one of my earliest memories. I've been bummed because all of our family recipes include highly processed and genetically modified ingredients that I now avoid. Adios butter flavored Crisco and Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk, sigh :(

I changed my eating habits soon after my wedding back in the summer of 2011 after my husband's Leukemia diagnosis. With some leftover William-Sonoma registry credit I bought a few vegan cookbooks to help support our new lifestyle. A sales lady recommended the just released Babycakes Covers the Classics by celebrated baker Erin McKenna - the doughnut on the cover instantly sealed the deal with my sweet tooth. McKenna includes recipes from her famous NYC hotspot bakery - all free of gluten, dairy, eggs or refined sugar. German chocolate cake, whoopie pies, gingerbread pancakes with agave-maple syrup, doughnuts topped with rich vanilla glaze, sticky honey buns... The pictures in this cookbook will make you drool and forget all about that butter flavored Crisco.

Unfortunately this awesome cookbook has been gathering dust for over two years now because I was my heart was stuck on my stupid old recipes - shame on me! Enthusiastically I went out and bought the ingredient xanthan gum (a binding and thickening agent necessary for holding gluten-free baked goods together) after my Babycakes purchase and it has been hidden way unopened in the back of my pantry. I have been gung ho about converting breakfast, lunch and dinner to plant based but holding back on my beloved baking. Last week I had two Christmas parties that required I bring a dessert. I couldn't bring myself to supporting pro-GMO companies, so I brought out Babycakes and quickly decided on the Snickerdoodles recipe.

I had never baked with melted coconut oil before and finally got to open up my bag of xanthan gum - it was a little different, but not too big of a change. My biggest worry was how they were going to taste. I was not disappointed one bit - they were DELICIOUS! They come out flat and chewy, which is exactly how I like cookies. All my friends gobbled them up and were excited to learn they were vegan and gluten-free (the batch I made was low gluten with the spelt, but would be free with rice flour). Next I'm going to try sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies and her take on Nilla Wafers and the Thin Mint - I'll pass them along it they're as good as the Snickerdoodles!
I didn't take this picture, but this looks just like how mine turned out.

 Snickerdoodles 
from BabyCakes Covers the Classics, serves 36

1 1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup of vegan sugar (I used organic sugar from Trader Joe's)
3 Tbs ground cinnamon
2 cups rice flour (I used spelt flour but rice flour would make it gluten free)
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp xanthan gum (I bought Bob's Red Mill from Whole Foods - $$$ but you get a huge bag)
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbs melted refined coconut oil or canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 Tbs vanilla

Preheat the oven to 325F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup sugar and 2 Tbs of the cinnamon until evenly incorporated. Set aside

In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 1/3 cup of sugar, the flour, flax meal, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt and the remaining 1 Tbs of cinnamon. Add the coconut oil, applesauce and vanilla and mix with a rubber spatula until a thick dough that resembles wet sand forms (it really does look like wet sand!). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Working in batches, drop the dough by the teaspoonful into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll around to coat the dough all over. Place on the prepared baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Gently press each cookie with a fork to help them spread. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate the baking sheet and continue baking for 7 minutes more, or until the cookies are crispy around the edges. Let stand on the baking sheets for 15 minutes before serving.