Friday, January 25, 2013

The Best Flu Prevention/Remedy You Will Ever Taste!

With all of the flu and flu shot hype in the media right now (and the fact that my kids have been fighting colds all this week), I figured I'd post the most powerful item in my cold/flu-fighting arsenal:  elderberry syrup.  Elderberries (Sambucus Nigra) are beautiful, little dark purple/black berries that are available in Northeast Ohio at various farmers' markets in late-Au gust or early September (if you want to know exactly where, leave a comment and I'll tell you).  They can also be purchased in dried form online.  The syrup recipe below (which is basically this recipe with a slight modification) is the best flu prevention/remedy you will ever taste!  The cinnamon, cloves and ginger give it a lovely flavor, and the smell while it's cooking is absolutely delicious.  My four-year-old loves it!  If you don't feel like tracking down elderberries, elderberry extract, or Sambucol, can be purchased at such stores as The Vitamin Shoppe.  However, making the syrup is much more cost-effective!

If you don't think little berries can fight the flu, (or if you're picturing me cackling while stirring a large cauldron of bubbling purple juice, like a friend of mine likes to joke,) check this out:  A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of Sambucol elderberry extract administered to a group of people during an influenza outbreak, published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, shows the following:  "A significant improvement of the symptoms, including fever, was seen in 93.3% of the cases in the SAM(Sambucol)-treated group within 2 days, whereas in the control group 91.7% of the patients showed an improvement within 6 days (p < 0.001). A complete cure was achieved within 2 to 3 days in nearly 90% of the SAM-treated group and within at least 6 days in the placebo group (p < 0.001). No satisfactory medication to cure influenza type A and B is available. Considering the efficacy of the extract in vitro on all strains of influenza virus tested, the clinical results, its low cost, and absence of side-effects, this preparation could offer a possibility for safe treatment for influenza A and B."  In other words, elderberry extract is proven to significantly reduce the duration and symptoms of influenza with no side effects.  Based on the results of this study, I'd say yes, little berries can fight the flu :)

**NOTE: Due to the fact that all green parts of the plant (including the stems) are poisonous, I would advise against sampling the elderberries prior to cooking! (Don't worry, they are fine to eat after they are cooked.)**

Elderberry Immunity Syrup Recipe

1cup fresh or 2/3 cup dried black elderberries
3 cups water
1- to 2-inch chunk of fresh ginger root
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp whole cloves or clove powder
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar (with the "mother", if possible)
1 cup raw honey

Directions:  Place elderberries, water, ginger, cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and add the apple cider vinegar.  Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for approx. 45 minutes or until the liquid has reduced to half the original amount.  Remove from heat and cool.  Strain out the berries (and be sure to squeeze them out with the back of a spoon in order to extract all the juice) into a glass bowl.  Stir in the honey.  Label and store in the fridge.  This recipe usually lasts us about 2-3 weeks when everyone in the house is taking it at once.

Dosage:  I take 1 tablespoon every day (except weekends) to keep my immunity up during flu season.  If I feel a cold coming on, I start taking 1 tablespoon every 3-4 hours.  I give my daughter 1 teaspoon per day to boost immunity if someone in the house has a cold, or if she contracts a cold, I give her 1 teaspoon 3 times per day. It is also very tasty when mixed with citrus juice, and can also be watered down to make a juice drink.

If you or one of your kids are feeling under the weather, check out my recipes for Ginger Honey Lemon Tea and Honey Onion Cough Syrup for some more easy and effective home remedies!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Tangy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing Recipe

I always equate the first month of a new year with guilt - usually because the media is abuzz with talk of detoxification, supplementing, fasting, dieting, exercising and the like - and I usually still haven't met my health goals from the year before!  As a result, I feel guilt, and guilt usually drives me to cross my arms and pout; to rebel like a little kid and refuse to do anything at all.  So, last year, in an effort to act like a mature and responsible adult instead of a pouting child, I determined to learn how to make the things that I usually buy, but without the added preservatives, chemicals and sugar.  My repertoire is slowly growing, and this week I decided to tackle ranch dressing - again. 

This is not the first time I've tried to make ranch, which we consume like water in this house - I've swung and missed a few times with various recipes.  However, I've liked this recipe the best so far.  It's adapted from a ranch dressing recipe that I found in my Dinosaur Bar B Que:  An American Roadhouse cookbook.  (Side note:  If you are ever in the Rochester, Harlem or Syracuse, NY area, eating at the Dinosaur Bar B Que is an absolute must - best barbecue I have EVER had - and best pulled pork and fried green tomatoes in the world.)  Now, I will warn you, my husband said, "It's too tangy," which is why "Tangy" is in the title.  The great thing about this recipe is that if you want less tang, reduce (or completely omit) the amounts of fresh garlic, black pepper and cayenne.  Add more dill if you like dill, or more mayo if you like that flavor.  Enjoy the versatility (and your salad) without the mystery ingredients!

Tangy Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

1 cup Hellman's (or similar) mayonnaise
1/4 cup Miracle Whip (only because I ran out of Hellman's)
1 to 2 cups buttermilk (look for the kind that does not include preservatives and add up to 2 cups, or until you reach the desired flavor and consistency)
1 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. grated Parmesan-Romano cheese
1/2 tsp. dill weed
dash of cayenne pepper

Directions:  Mix ingredients together in a large mixing bowl with a whisk.  Pour into a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate.  Makes approximately 3 cups dressing.