PRODUCT REVIEW: Umcka ColdCare Line by Nature’s Way

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Cold and flu season is in full force upon us…yuck! Have you been afflicted yet? I have and it seems that everyone in my life has… my office, my family, my friends. I just cannot go anywhere without the fear of picking up that pesky bacteria known as the common cold. Well, friends there is some relief to the common cold, this relief is called Umcka. And the Umcka Cold Care product line by Nature’s Way is what I am reviewing today in my on-going product review series.

Umcka, the name alone sounds odd. It sounds like something my baby girl, Barley cat spit up in her hairball… ahem, UMCKA… right? But, it’s not a hairball, it is an awesome cold remedy that has been proven to reduce severity and shorten the duration of the common cold.

The secret to Umcka Cold Care is a homeopathic remedy called Pelargonium sidoides, commonly known as African geranium and Umckaloabo (a name that got its roots from the Zulu language loosely meaning “heavy cough”.) The benefits of the African geranium have been around for centuries. Originating in South Africa, the African geranium was used by the Zulu, Basuto, Xhosa and Mfengi cultures for ailments ranging from a cough to upper respiratory tract irritations to gastrointestinal concerns.

It found it’s first claim to fame in Britain by Charles Henry Stevens in 1897. Stevens, having been diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis left Britain for Africa upon the advice of his physician for “fresh air, rest and good food.” Instead, he found a cure. In his travels, he came across a healer from the Basuto tribe, Mike Kijitse who offered him a remedy prepared from their native plant, the African geranium. Largely healed and his tuberculosis in remission, Stevens returned to Britain and marketed his concoction “Stevens’ Cure” or “Steven’s Consumption Cure.” Stevens, a layperson, had a tough time marketing his remedy  due to constant grief from Britain’s medical board. However, eventually “Stevens cure” gained popularity and widespread fame throughout Europe continuing into the mid-1900’s. When antibiotics were developed, it fell out of favor and was forgotten.

The African geranium regained popularity again in the 1990’s when it started to be touted as a remedy for treatment of bronchitis and symptoms of common cold. Today, Nature’s Way markets their  Umcka Cold Care liquid formula as one “that reduces the severity of throat, nasal and bronchial irritations including cough, congestion and sore throat.”  (http://www.naturesway.com/Product-Catalog/Umcka-ColdCare-Cherry-Syrup-4-oz) And, believe me, this it does.

The magic in Nature’s Way Umcka ColdCare products is the actual root of the African geranium plant (Pelargonium sidoides (EPs 7630)). Evidence from multiple clinical studies have found that this root greatly reduces the severity and symptoms of the common cold. One illustrative study I found in a prominent medical journal, finds that participants with common cold symptoms (i.e. nasal congestion, sneezing, scratchy throat, hoarseness, cough, headaches, muscle aches, and/or fever) that were given root of the African geranium plant as opposed to participants who were given a placebo reduced the duration of their common cold symptoms within 5 days and were “cured” within 10 days.

However, this study found that the key to get these benefits was to start the remedy early. So, it is suggested to have Umcka on hand for when a cold develops. If you start late, it Umcka likely will not be effective. This study also found that the degree of improvement in cold symptoms with Umcka is “far better than other available over the counter treatments.” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3183890/).

Nature’s Way directions for Umcka Cold Care Cherry syrup are as follows:

“For best results, use at first sign of symptoms and continue to use for an additional 48 hours after symptoms cease.
Adults & children 12 years of age and older: Take 1 1/2 teaspoons (7.5 mL) 3 times daily.
Children 6-11 years of age: Take 1 teaspoon (5 mL) 3 times daily.
Children under 6 years of age: Consult a doctor.”  (http://www.naturesway.com/Product-Catalog/Umcka-ColdCare-Cherry-Syrup-4-oz)

Some, like my husband, are skeptical that Umcka actually works. In fact, every time that I take it and then tell my husband to take it, stating “it is clinically proven to work,” he backs away finding it mysterious and skeptical. One reviewer, Steven Salzberg of Forbes magazine in 2014 trashed Umcka stating that the clinical studies were only done in Russia by Umcka and claimed that “homeopathic preparations are so dilute that they contain little, and sometimes none, of the active ingredient.” (http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevensalzberg/2014/11/17/the-top-five-cold-remedies-that-do-not-work/#2b6edc9b2772)

I discovered Umcka in 2013 and have been using it when I feel a cold coming on ever since. I believe with the help of Umcka I have remained relatively healthy throughout many cold and flu seasons. My cold’s have been largely non-existent or haven’t lasted very long. Further, I have spent the better of the last four hours deeply digging into the nether regions of Google finding support for my love of Umcka. I found more studies and research than the single conclusory statement by Mr. Salzberg. Thus, while I greatly respect his opinion, I disagree. Studies have found that there are no real adverse side effects to Umcka. And, as evidenced above, it has a great history. So, why not try it?

*All views expressed in this blog post are my sole opinion. Further, I have not been asked or endorsed by Nature’s Way in any manner. This blog post is not a replacement for medical care. Please always follow the advice of your physician.*

 

Sources: naturesway.com; examine.com/supplements/pelargonium-sidoides; wikipedia.org; herbs2000.com; herbalafrica.co.za; cms.herbalgram.org/heg/volume7/06%20June/Chapter_17.pdf; ncbi.nlm.nih.gov; webmd.com and forbes.com.

A Sour Start to the New Year!

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Happy 2017 my loyal followers! I have so missed you… have you me? Well, its been 1.5 years since my last post. EEEEEK, I know. Life got in the way… we moved, I started a new job, my husband started a new job, our fur baby beat cancer… but i’m back! And, i’m back with a new revised look (but don’t worry, it’ll be the same content, with a spin!) My husband, Steve recently left his long time career as a chemical engineer to enter the world of his dream career, professional brewing. So, yes, I have now found myself to be a brewer’s wife. Welcome to the chronicles of my life.

So, how better to start off the new year and new revamped blog then to discuss sours! Sour beers are all the rage now. Think of this as the IPA craze of 10 years ago. I love sour beers. I have always loved sour beers… before they became “cool.”

What are sour beers? Sour beers are beers brewed with an intentionally sour or acidic taste. Think of the warhead hard candy from youth translated to beer. Sour beers get their distinct “sour” taste by introducing wild (and somewhat crazy) yeast and lactic acid (which is produced by bacteria) into the brew process. The wild yeast and bacteria help ferment your beer giving it that sour taste.

In the old days, all beers were sour to some degree.  Back then, Brewers didn’t have access to the pure yeast cultures that are available today. They also often did not have a sterile environment, which prevented the intrusion of wild yeast. Traditionally, Brewers allowed wild yeast and bacteria to enter the brew naturally through barrels or during the cooling of the wort (the liquid extracted after the mashing process) by leaving it open to the outside air exposing it to wild yeast and bacteria. This process was often unpredictable and yielded a variety of results.

Wild yeast and bacteria, if not properly controlled can drastically alter the way in which the beer tastes, it can even ruin beer. And, a wild yeast outbreak in a brewery can be bad news. Along comes Emil Christian Hansen in 1883. Hansen revolutionized the brewing industry when he managed to isolate a single cell of yeast in his lab at the Carlsberg Research Institute in Copenhagen. “By serially diluting a solution, he got single cells of yeast that he then grew in sugar-rich wort. Give it time, and you’ve a got pure yeast culture.” (http://www.boxbrewkits.com/blogs/news/48614020-know-your-craft-4-things-to-know-about-face-puckering-sour-beers)

Today, thanks to Mr. Hansen’s science, Brewers work in a controlled and sterile environment to guard against the intrusion of wild yeast and bacteria in order to make the different styles of the beer we love. Now, the wild yeast and bacteria are added during the fermentation process to make sour beer. While brewing a sour beer is still somewhat unpredictable, it has become an exquisite art of brewing science.

Different combinations of wild yeast and bacteria create many unique styles of sour beer. For example, Berliner Weisse, Flanders Red Ale and Gose are a few popular sour styles. However, the most popular right now is the American Sour or American Wild Ale which is typically fermented using a strain of yeast called brettanomyces. 

An American Wild Ale is the Paradox beer style that I tasted: Skully 2016 No. 39, Salty Lemons. No. 39 is a sour golden ale brewed with lemons and salt that possess a 7.9% ABV. Paradox brewery is located in the mountains of Divide, CO. Their website reveals that the rich mountain terrain has allowed them to propagate and inoculate their beers with their own house-grown brettanomyces. Pretty damn cool.

No. 39 has a 4.09 out of 5.00 rating on Untapped (the app that catalogs and rates beers that you input.)  Which is pretty decent. I thoroughly enjoyed No. 39. It has a mild lemon and distinctively sour taste thanks to the brettanomyces.  However, it is not as sour as some American Wild Ales, likely due to the addition of salt to the brew process. According to my husband, the salt neutralizes the sour taste.

I traditionally prefer sour ales, so the less sour taste was somewhat of a shock to me when I first tasted it. If you have never tried a sour and are apprehensive, this would be a good one to start with. I found it distributed in New York so I suspect it is widely available. You just have to look.

Sour beers take a long time to make and because of this are somewhat higher in price. But, this is one craze everyone should jump on! So splurge a little and start your new year off with a little sourness. If you have any good sours you have tried recently, leave me a comment. Cheers!

*This is an informative article and review and is no way an advertisement or endorsement for Paradox Beer company or sour beers in general, however I did really enjoy their beer.”

Sources: my husband, Steve; Wikipedia; boxbrewkits.com; paradoxbeercompany.com; untappd.com; morebeer.com; huffingtonpost.com; luckypeach.com

The Purse: A Brief History

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Since I was a wee little tot I have had a bag addiction. Yes, I love purses, bags, totes… anything that can carry things in it. I am never without one and have multiple of all different kinds! In fact, when I was young I collected bags, paper and plastic. I had bags from all over the world. I stored them in my closet and I think that my mom just finally got rid of the last of them after I moved out of my childhood home 18 years ago. So, it was only natural that I became a Thirty-One bags independent consultant. What is Thirty-One bags? It is a company that sells bags, purses and organizational products through their consultants. Of course, I have a website and here is my shameless plug: Shop me! My website: https://www.mythirtyone.com/amedd and my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/totemaster

Of course, I was curious about the history of the bags that I loved so much. I have so many questions: How did they come to be? What is the history of the “Murse”? And so many others. So, here you go:

Purses and handbags date back more than 5000 years. The oldest known handbag was worn by a man, Ötzi the Iceman. Early purses were carried by both men and women and were used to carry seeds, religious items and medicine.

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, both men and women would attach pouches to the most important feature of medieval garb: the girdle. Because pockets would not be invented for several hundred more years, wearers would also attach other valuables to their girdle, such as a rosary, Book of Hours, pomanders (scented oranges), chatelaines (a clasp or chain to suspend keys, etc.), and even daggers. The drawstring purse would hang from the girdle on a long cord and would vary according to the fashion, status, and lifestyle of the wearer. As early as the 15th century, a purse was a traditional gift from a groom to his bride. These purses typically were elaborately embroidered with an illustration of a love story.

In the 16th century (the Elizabethan Era) women’s skirts expanded greatly. Rather than girdle purses outside their belt, women switched to purses under their skirts. These handbags took on more of an air of practicality with the use of everyday materials such as leather with a drawstring fastener on top. Additionally, during this period, cloth bags were used that were made larger and used by travelers and carried diagonally across the body.

The 17th century saw more variety and both fashionable men and women carried small purses with more complex shapes. Young girls were taught embroidery as a very necessary skill to make them marriagable and we see the rise of beautiful and unique stitched artwork in handbags. Purses were not only functional but they were also often used as conspicuous decorative containers for gifts, such as money, perfume, or jewels. Toward the end of the 17th century, purses became increasingly sophisticated, moving from a simple drawstring design to more complex shapes and materials.

In the late 18th century, fashions in Europe were moving towards a slender shape, inspired by the silhouettes of Ancient Greece and Rome. A reduction in the amount of underclothing worn by women was the new trend. Wearing a purse would ruin the look of this new fashion so ladies started carrying their handbags which were called reticules or “ridicules”. Reticules were made of fine fabrics like silk and velvet, with wrist straps. “Riducules” often carried a handkerchief, fan, dance card, perfume, or face powder. Originally popular in France, they crossed over into Britain, where they became known as “indispensables”.Men, however, did not adopt the trend. They used purses and pockets, which became popular in men’s trousers. Funny enough, the French often parodied the women who carried the delicate bags that resembled previously hidden pockets which coined the name “ridicules.”

By the early 20th century, women were carry bags every time they left home. By the 1930s, most of the bags used today had been invented, including the classic handbag which had a handles and a clasp frame, the clutch, the satchel, and the shoulder bag. During the 1940s, the rationing of textiles and notions such as buttons and zippers, for World War II led to the manufacturing of handbags made of materials like raffia, or crocheted from yarn. Some women crocheted their own small handbags from commercial patterns during the 1940s. Bags became larger, squarer, and more practical, reflecting a desire to appear self-sufficient. The 50’s saw the rise of important designer houses including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes and the 60’s saw the breakdown of old notions of the classical and the rise of youth culture.

Men’s purses were revived by designers in the 1970s in Europe. Since the 1990s, designers have marketed a diverse range of accessory bags for men under the guise of “murse.” The designs are typically variations on backpacks or messenger bags, and have either a masculine or a more unisex appearance, although they are often more streamlined than a backpack and less bulky than a briefcase.

The history of the bag is interesting. Throughout time, one thing has remained the same, it is a fashionable way to carry any and all of your necessaries. So, next time you use a bag, think about its long history and how it got to this point.

Sources: Wikipedia; thehothandbag.com; henriettashandbags.com; randomhistory.com;

B is for Biotin

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I’m back!! I am sorry that I have been gone for so so so long (5 months to be exact), but during those 5 months I have been through a lot! I had to say goodbye to my best “furry” friend, Pierre (our 14 year old clumbar spaniel); we moved to a new townhouse; I started a new job and continued my part-time job, and just recently I fell fracturing two ribs, so needless to say I have been busy, BUT i’m back and ready to bring my clean eating, healthy lifestyle, weight loss quest to you all once again…

…so, what is Biotin, you ask? Biotin is a coenzyme and a B vitamin and is also known as vitamin H or B7. It is a water-soluble vitamin that can be produced in the body as well as obtained from foods. As a supplement, biotin is sometimes used for diabetes,brittle nails, and other conditions.

Biotin is necessary for cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of fats and amino acids. Biotin assists in various metabolic reactions involving the transfer of carbon dioxide. It can also be helpful in maintaining a steady blood sugar level. Biotin is often recommended as a dietary supplement for strengthening hair and nails. As such, Biotin is found in many health and beauty products in order to promote strength and growth for hair, skin and nails.

Biotin deficiency is rare because, in general, intestinal bacteria produce biotin in excess of the body’s daily requirements. For that reason, statutory agencies in many countries, for example the USA and Australia, do not prescribe a recommended daily intake of biotin.

Biotin is consumed from a wide range of food sources in the diet, but few are particularly rich sources. Foods with a relatively high biotin content include peanuts, Swiss chard and other leafy green vegetables, raw egg yolk, liver, salmon and Saskatoon berries (a shrub with edible berry-like fruit, native to North America from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north-central United States.) Biotin is also available in supplement form.

Biotin has a multitude of health benefits, including benefits for pregnancy, diabetes, metabolism and my favorite, hair, skin and nail strength and growth. Biotin has been shown to improve nail strength and durability of fingernails in several small-scale studies. One study showed a 25% increase in thickness and a decrease of splitting with biotin supplementation. Another trial reported an improvement in nail strength for up to 91% of participants. Further, a small, but controlled, study among women with brittle nails found that a daily dose of 2,500 mcg of biotin for 6 to 9 months increased nail thickness by 25% and reduced the tendency of nails to split (Columbo, J Am Acad Dermatol 1990). Biotin does not, however, further strengthen healthy nails.

Luckily, large doses of biotin have no known toxic effects. However, although biotin appears to be well-tolerated, long-term side effects of high doses of biotin are unknown. Also good information to know is that supplements haven’t been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, thus, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Thus, Biotin can help your nails become stronger, firmer, and harder — and resistant to chipping and cracking, which is good for me… a lifetime nail biter.

So, why Biotin do you ask? I am a lifetime nail biter and after 37 years of biting my nails down to the quick, finally decided to kick the habit. How you ask? Jamberry Nail Wraps and biotin. (http://tallystevenson8.jamberrynails.net/profile/) (This is my dear friend’s page). I tried everything… hot sauce, manicures, nasty tasting nail polish and nothing worked. Jamberry wraps and Biotin are working so far. Biotin is making my nails strong again so they can grow and Jamberry is preventing me from biting them because they are stunningly beautiful (and hard to bite.)

So, we will see. I have stocked up on my jams and will continue with Biotin. Maybe, just maybe after 37 years of life, I will have nails. One can only keep her fingers crossed (no pun intended.)

*Sources include: Wikipedia, WebMD, Medicalnewstoday.com, about.com, consumerlab.com, families.com and my own personal knowledge.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. My column is purely informational. As such, it is always best to check with your doctor or healthcare professional before taking any supplements, vitamins or the like.

PRODUCT REVIEW (Holiday Style): Arethusa Farm Eggnog

Picture Credit: Arethusa Farm Facebook Page

Picture Credit: Arethusa Farm Facebook Page

I really have never have enjoyed eggnog… UNTIL now! Arethusa Farm eggnog has given me that love for this holiday classic. And now, a new tradition for me springs to life as I cannot imagine a Christmas without it.

Arethusa Farms is located in the hills of beautiful and quaint, Litchfield, Connecticut (specifically Bantam, CT). For all of you that are outside the greater Connecticut area, I am sorry. This just means that you have to travel to our neck of the woods! Arethusa Farm and Dairy (http://www.arethusafarm.com/) makes a variety of dairy products: milk, cheese, ice cream and yogurt. They advertise their brand as “Milk like it used to taste.” Arethusa Farms also has award winning cows… no wonder their products are amazing.

Eggnog is an interesting beverage. “Eggnog is a sweetened dairy-based beverage traditionally made with milk and/or cream, sugar, and whipped eggs (which gives it a frothy texture). Spirits such as brandy, rum or bourbon are often added. The finished serving is often garnished with a sprinkling of ground cinnamon or nutmeg.” (Source: Wikipedia)

“The origins, etymology, and the ingredients used to make the original eggnog drink are debated. Eggnog may have originated in East Anglia, England; or it may have simply developed from posset, a medieval European beverage made with hot milk. The “nog” part of its name may stem from the word noggin, a Middle English term for a small, carved wooden mug used to serve alcohol. However, the British drink was also called an Egg Flip, from the practice of “flipping” (rapidly pouring) the mixture between two pitchers to mix it.” (Source: Wikipedia)

“In Britain, the drink was popular mainly among the aristocracy. Those who could get milk and eggs mixed it with brandy, Madeira or sherry to make a drink similar to modern alcoholic egg nog. The drink is described in Cold Comfort Farm (chapter 21) as a Hell’s Angel, made with an egg, two ounces of brandy, a teaspoonful of cream, and some chips of ice, where it is served as breakfast.

The drink crossed the Atlantic to the British colonies during the 18th century. Since brandy and wine were heavily taxed, rum from the Triangular Trade with the Caribbean was a cost-effective substitute. The inexpensive liquor, coupled with plentiful farm and dairy products, helped the drink become very popular in America. When the supply of rum to the newly founded United States was reduced as a consequence of the American Revolutionary War, Americans turned to domestic whiskey, and eventually bourbon in particular, as a substitute.

The Eggnog Riot occurred at the United States Military Academy on 23–25 December 1826. Whiskey was smuggled into the barracks to make eggnog for a Christmas Day party. The incident resulted in the court-martialing of twenty cadets and one enlisted soldier.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Arethusa Dairy Farm Eggnog has the following ingredients: Grade A Milk and Cream, Whole Eggs (Citric Acid), Cane Sugar, Pure Vanilla, Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Vitamin D3. Arethusa Farms states the following about their eggnog: “Years ago eggnog was made by families in their homes around the holidays as a special indulgence to celebrate the joyous times with family and friends. It was made with the riches, freshest ingredients they had; whole eggs, heavy cream, milk and sugar and flavored with their most cherished spices, nutmeg and cinnamon. Nothing was more welcoming to a house guest on a cold night than a fresh glass of eggnog served by the fire. Arethusa Farm Dairy is bringing this tradition back with its homemade all natural eggnog. Made like it used to be made with fresh whole eggs, our own whole milk and heavy cream and flavored with the best West Indies nutmeg and cinnamon. Help us recreate this tradition and celebrate the holiday with a glass of Arethusa Farm Dairy Eggnog!” (Source: Arethusa Farm Website)

Arethusa eggnog is rich and velvety smooth. It has a sweet taste that warms the soul (even when chilled). Arethusa Farm eggnog tastes like a comforting Christmas hug. Before I found Arethusa, if you wanted me to drink eggnog, it had to be warm and full of liquor. Now, I like this eggnog best chilled, with nothing else added… yup, no brandy for this girl in her ‘nog! Why ruin a good thing? Also, as highlighted in the picture, the eggnog comes in a commemorative glass. While you can return it for a refund, it is so festive that I plan on putting some red roses in it to decorate my holiday table.

And, Arethusa Farms even has their own farm to table restaurant. Called Arethusa Al Tavolo, opened in June 2013 (http://arethusaaltavolo.com/), they serve lunch/brunch and dinner with food inspired by dairy products found on the farm. My husband and I plan on going there for a post Christmas/ early New Years “date day” celebration to visit the farm and eat at the restaurant, so I hope that this eggnog inspired dish is still on the menu: “Arethusa Eggnog Brioche French Toast with Applewood Bacon or Griddled Ham and Banana- Walnut- Rum Sauce” (Source: Arethusa Al Tavolo website) and the eggnog ice cream is still available in the shop.

So, as I finish my glass of ‘nog, I have to highly recommend this warm, rich, Christmas-time eggnog from Arethusa Farm and Dairy. As an extra special treat to my readers, if you are not fortunate enough to get your hands on this delicious eggnog, below is a recipe for you. This recipe is for a special occasion! I made this for the holidays and it is delicious, of course I used Arethusa eggnog, but any ‘nog should do — just make sure you get a good one!

Eggnog Cheesecake Swirl Bars (Adapted from myrecipes.com)

“Eggnog recipes spread creamy holiday cheer, as revealed in these cheesecake brownie bars. A buttery crust of vanilla wafers and toasted pecans balances the rich chocolate filling that’s flavored with a splash of rum flavoring.”

Ingredients
55 vanilla wafers, crushed (I used Whole Foods 365 Brand)
6 tablespoons sweet cream, salted butter, melted
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
16 ounces cream cheese, softened (I used Whole Foods Brand)
1/2 cup sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoons rum extract
2 large eggs (I used cage free eggs — and yes, I really do think it makes a difference)
1/4 cup Arethusa Farm eggnog
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels, melted (I used Whole Foods 365 Brand)
1/2 cup double chocolate morsels, melted (I used Guittard Extra Dark Chocolate baking chips https://www.guittard.com/our-chocolate/detail/extra-dark-chocolate-chips)

Preparation

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring until blended. Press crumb mixture into bottom of a lightly greased square pan. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Beat cream cheese, sugar, and rum extract at medium speed with an electric mixer just until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended. Pour 1 1/2 cups cream cheese batter evenly over baked crust. (crust does not have to be fully cooled)

Stir eggnog into remaining batter. Divide batter in half; stir melted white chocolate into 1 portion. Spoon evenly over cream cheese batter. Stir melted semisweet chocolate into remaining batter. Drop spoonfuls of chocolate batter evenly over white chocolate layer; gently swirl batters with a knife.

Bake at 350° for 30 to 33 minutes or until almost set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving. (I chilled it overnight) Cut into bars.

A Whole Lot of Holiday Happiness: Incan Warrior Hot Chocolate.

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The weather is getting colder, we have survived our first snowfall and the holiday season is in full swing, so I have a nice, relaxing concoction for you: Incan Warrior Hot Chocolate. This velvety hot chocolate, full of Incan (and Mayan) super foods will warm your soul. It will help you de-stress and energize and lift your mood.

The Inca Empire was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century, and the last Inca stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572.

From 1438 to 1533, the Incas used a variety of methods, from conquest to peaceful assimilation, to incorporate a large portion of western South America, centered on the Andean mountain ranges, including, besides Peru, large parts of modern Ecuador, western and south central Bolivia, northwest Argentina, north and central Chile, and a small part of southern Colombia into a state comparable to the historical empires of Eurasia.

The official language of the empire was Quechua, although hundreds of local languages and dialects of Quechua were spoken. The Inca referred to their empire as Tawantinsuyu which can be translated as “The Four Regions” or “The Four United Provinces.”

Many local forms of worship persisted in the empire, most of them concerning local sacred Huacas, but the Inca leadership encouraged the worship of Inti—the sun god—and imposed its sovereignty above other cults such as that of Pachamama. The Incas considered their king, the Sapa Inca, to be the “child of the sun.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Because the Incan civilization stretched across many different regions, there was a great diversity of plants and animals used for cooking, many of which remain unknown outside Peru. The most important staples were various tubers, roots, and grains. Maize was of high prestige, but could not be grown as extensively as it was further north. The most common sources of meat were guinea pigs and llamas, and dried fish was common. (Spruce: Wikipedia)

While my Incan Warrior Hot Chocolate probably wasn’t around when the Incan civilization was thriving, it does contain two Incan super foods: Maca and Lucuma Powder, which is how the name is derived.

Maca is an ancient superfood of the Incan Empire. Maca is the powdered root of the Lepidium Meyenii plant. This superfood, whose taste closely resembles that of a graham cracker, is grown in the high Andes mountains in Peru and is packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins, tannins, complex alkaloids and other phytochemicals. Maca was prized throughout the Incan empire for its adaptogenic-like qualities that enable it to nourish and balance the body’s delicate endocrine system, and to help cope with stress. It also energizes naturally, without the jitters and crashes of caffeine. However, Maca is probably best known for its libido enhancing activity. Maca helps to recharge sexual performance. In fact, recent sexuality tests with animals have been quite dramatic! Maca extracts were fed to mice, none to control mice. Control mice had sex 13 times in three hours… the Maca mice had sex 67 times in 3 hours! Wow! Maca was used by ancient Incan warriors to build strength and increase energy, though, quite interestingly, Incan soldiers were forbidden from using Maca after they were done fighting because it increased their libido too much.

Lucuma was viewed in the ancient Peruvian cosmic vision as a symbol of fertility and creation. It has been honored spiritually and culinarily since ancient times. Traditionally known as the “Gold of the Incas”, the sweet orange and yellow pulpy Lucuma fruit (Pouteria obovata, or Lucuma obovata) creates a rich and creamy texture and imparts a subtle maple and sweet potato flavor. Lucuma is often touted as a rich source of nutrients including beta-carotene, vitamin B3, iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals. It also contains protein, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. The Lucuma fruit is naturally sweet, but low on the Glycemic Index, making it a healthy choice for individuals seeking to decrease their sugar consumption. , Lucuma is commonly found at the burial sites of indigenous people, and it is often incorporated into the ancient Incan artwork. Even today, Lucuma is Peru’s most popular ice cream flavor, trumping both vanilla and chocolate.

So, are you ready for the recipe? Below makes two hot steamy mugs full of the most decadent, rich (and healthy) hot chocolate. Note: this recipe was conceived by me. It contains Cacao (see my earlier blog post: http://100lbstoboudoir.com/2014/09/05/cacao-cacao-cacao-what-is-the-difference-between-cacao-and-cocoa/, which is a Mayan superfood and makes the hot chocolate rich, much more akin to a dark chocolate.)

Audrey’s Incan Warrior Hot Chocolate

Serving Size: 2 Mugs

4 Tbls. Raw Cacao Powder (I used Navitas Naturals)
2 Tbls. Maca Powder (I used Gaia Brand)
2 Tbls. Lucuma Powder (I used Navitas Naturals)
32 oz. Vanilla Almond Milk (give or take)
Crushed Candy Cane (I used organic, Trujoy Sweets Peppermint Candy Cane)
1/2 Mini Marshmallows (I used Elyon brand)

Blend Raw Cacao, Maca powder, Lucuma powder and vanilla almond milk in blender. Transfer to saucepan and heat constantly whisking. Pour into two mugs and top both with marshmallows and candy cane. You can omit marshmallows and candy cane and/or add cinnamon stick, cayenne pepper, cacao nibs… let your imagination soar.

Enjoy!