Quick & Easy Homemade Cough & Throat Medicine

Apple Cider Vinegar 1 Honey Benefits

It’s that time of year again in the northern hemisphere – winter.  And with it comes colds, flus, and sore throats.  Besides being an author / editor / translator, I’m a vocal coach, and so I deal with more than a fair share of throat issues.  I have a number of tips and tricks for healing throats quickly, but one of the best medicines I know of is what I share with you here; we’ve used this for a few years now, and I’ll never go back to chemically-produced, expensive products!

Homemade Cough & Throat Medicine

1 part apple cider vinegar (make sure to use the unfiltered kind, with the ‘mother’ – it should be cloudy, not clear)

1 part honey (I use acacia honey for a neutral taste)

A bottle (I use an old Vick’s Nyquil bottle, relabelled!)

That’s it!  If you want to add a bit of filtered water, you can, but it’s better straight-up.  Adjust the amount of honey for your own use, but try to keep the proportions fairly even.  Store in a bottle, shake well before using, and drink as much as needed; I keep a small plastic cup with the bottle for each person in the household.  I good swig of it every few hours alleviates the soreness, dryness and scratchy throat feeling; the great thing about this all-natural product is that you can take it as often as needed, with no limits to dosages per day.  Start off with a tablespoon three times a day, and adjust as warranted by your situation.


Nutty Salad Topper

It’s summer time, which means it’s salad time – at least in this household!  Recently at a street market, I came across a Persian stand and bought, among other things, a mixture to put on salads.  It’s delicious, and highly self-make-able!  I won’t give amounts, as only you can say how much you want to make up ahead of time, how much of each ingredient you prefer, and whether you want all or something else – so it’s simply a guideline:


Nutty Salad Topper

1 part sunflower seeds

1 part pumpkin seeds

1 part pine nuts

1 part coarsely chopped almonds

1 part coarsely chopped pistachio nuts

For a Persian flare:  1 part dried (organic – not sprayed with pesticides!) rose petals

If you want a different taste, add 1 part dried chive blossoms (chive flower heads, rinsed and shaken dry, pinched apart, the individual flowers spread out on baking paper and dried in an oven at low temperatures for a few minutes, until the flowers are dried)

Be creative and toss is other items – dried chives, dried onions, puffed grains, etc.

Mix it all together, store in an air-tight container, and sprinkle on your salads, soups, or eat as-is as a healthy snack!

En Guete!


Vegetarian Lasagna

It’s been years since I’ve made traditional meat-based lasagna; currently we eat basically vegetarian because the young woman living with us is vegetarian, and it’s practical and healthy; there are so many great alternatives out there on the market today that meat really isn’t necessary to any dish – it’s just a matter of preference.  Here’s my recipe for vegetable lasagna; it can be made with ground beef by the carnivores or ground Quorn by the vegetarians, or with neither… the vegetable mixture is so good that you won’t miss meat!

Quorn Lasagne 2Veggie Lasagna

Meat(less) Mixture:

~450 gr. ground Quorn or ground beef (either are optional)

1 onion, peeled & finely chopped

1 aubergine (eggplant), diced into small cubes

1 zucchini, diced into small cubes

1 tin of stewed, chopped tomatoes

Italian spices, salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the vegetables; sauté the onion in a bit of your usual oil – I use either olive oil or coconut oil.  Stir in the rest of the ingredients, and cook until the aubergine and zucchini are nearly done.  Set aside while you make the sauce.

Pre-heat the oven now to 200°C (400°C) and put the oven rack on the lower to middle rungs.


Bechamel Sauce with Cheese:

1/2 C. Pre-made Bechamel Sauce

~2 C. milk (or more)

200 gr. grated cheese (your choice)

Place the sauce mixture in a sauce pan, and with a whisk, whisk in  ~1/4 C. milk to a smooth paste.  Bring gradually to a boil, stirring constantly and gradually adding milk.  The flour in the mixture will thicken gradually.  When the sauce has reached a good consistency – a bit thick, not soupy – stir in the grated cheese and remove from the stove.  If you feel you’ve not made enough sauce for 2 layers of lasagna, you can add a bit of Ricotta cheese, stirring it in well, to expand the amount of sauce.

Additional Ingredients:

Lasagna noodles (dry; not necessary to pre-boil them)

200 gr. grated cheese

~1/2 C. breading crumbs

To Layer:

Spoon 1/2 of the meat(less) mixture into the base of a rectangular oven-proof deep glass dish, spreading to coat the bottom of the dish.  Top with a layer of lasagna noodles (single-layer, not overlapping); spread 1/2 of the bechamel sauce over the noodles, covering all the way to the edges.  Repeat these layers once more.  Sprinkle the top with grated cheese, and then top with a sprinkle of the breading crumbs.  Bake at 200°C (400°F) for ~30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

If you like wine, serve with a red wine such as Pinot Noir for a robust taste, or Chianti for a slightly fruitier addition.



Homemade Lip Balm

This was made here recently by the young woman living with us at the moment; it turned out really well, and I have a small pot of it sitting next to my computer that I use regularly.  The texture is smooth, and it’s long-lasting.  You may never want to buy lip balm again!

(illustration from wwwfoodrenegade.com)

(illustration from wwwfoodrenegade.com)

Homemade Lip Balm

1 oz. Beeswax
5 oz. Almond oil (or coconut, or olive oil)
1 Tbs. Honey
4 drops essential oil or extract (choose your favourite flavour)

Melt the beeswax in a pan over boiling water; remove from heat. Stir in the other ingredients, pour into storage containers and allow to cool.

[The cosmetic-grade beeswax “droplets” (I wouldn’t recommend using an old beeswax candle you’ve had standing around…) can either be found in a health food store or a pharmacy, as can the cosmetic-grade almond oil and essential oil.  For storage containers, I used small travel containers that originally had face cream in them; I keep such things for just such occasions.  Otherwise, look for small containers at your local shop, or improvise – be creative!]

Make-Ahead Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)

Bechamel Sauce - White Sauce

This is a recipe I keep on hand; it’s easy to make and use, and will save a lot of time when making a more complex meal.  You can also add a bit of this paste to any liquidy meal you need to thicken.

Make-Ahead Bechamel Sauce (White Sauce)

2 C. dried milk (powdered)

1 C. all purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

1 C. butter, margarine, or oil

Combine dry milk, flour and salt. Mix well. With a pastry blender, cut in butter, margarine or oil until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Put in an airtight container, store in refrigerator and use within 2 months.

To make white sauce:

Combine ½ C. white sauce mix, 1 C. (or more, to required thickness after the flour has had cooking-time to swell) cool water or milk, cook over low heat until smooth, stirring constantly. Season as desired.


Evaporated vs. Condensed Milk

Condensed Evaporated MilksOkay, I will admit it:  I have a pet peeve with recipes that tell me in no uncertain terms to use either condensed milk or evaporated milk.  Here in Switzerland, there’s only one kind.  Why?  Because there’s only one kind – they are one and the same.  How many think there’s a difference?  A difference so substantial that it has to be explicitely stressed in recipes something to the effect of, “Whatever you do, DON’T substitute X for Y!  It won’t work!”  I’m here to tell you it WILL work, and what the differences are:

Simply put, evaporated milk has gone through a process that removes up to 60% of the water found in the fresh milk.  In other words, it is evaporated… or in other words, condensed.  Condensed milk, on the other hand, has gone through a similar process, but has tons of sugar added.  That’s why it has a long shelf-life.  Tons – that’s why it’s much thicker.  62 calories per tablespoon thicker.  No matter what the USDA or the FDA says, there’s nothing healthy about that.  Period.

The only difference it makes to your recipes is how much additional sugar you’ll have to consciously add to your recipe if you use evaporated milk rather than sweetened condensed milk.  But I’d say that if you have to actually see and handle the amount of sugar you’ll have to compensate for, it will go a long way to helping you reduce calorie intake, sugar intake, and be more aware in general of what you’re feeding your body.

Use whichever you want.  Make your own (there are dozens of recipes online – because I’ve never made it myself I won’t post a recipe that’s not “tried and true”) so that you know exactly how much sugar is in there.  But just don’t get hung up about the terminology – condensed is evaporated is dehydrated.

TomAto, TomAHto.

Copycat Ranch Dressing Dry Mix & Dressing Recipe

For those of you who live in the States, you may be able to go out to the store and buy a large container of this; but if you read the ingredients list, and look up those chemical codes, you might be surprised to find out just how little that concoction resembles anything your grandmother would have recognized as “food.”  I prefer to mix it myself; then at least I know what I’m eating!  If you want to go all natural, grow and dry your spices yourself (here in Switzerland there are no added preservatives to most spices I buy), and try to find powdered milk that is just that – milk that has been dehydrated and pulverized, with no added sugar or chemicals.

I keep a large container of this at hand; it makes a great salad dressing (obviously), but can also be used in Bisquick biscuits, soups, or any meal that wants a quick zing added.  Mix it up and keep it in an air-tight container.  To mix up the dressing, make sure you use a generous-sized bottle as it will thicken, and you will likely need to add additional milk to bring it to the consistency you want.

Ranch Dressing MixRanch Dressing Mix

½ C. powdered milk (unsweetened!)

1 Tbs. dried parsley, crushed

1 tsp. dried dill weed

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. dried onion flakes

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend at high speed until it forms a consistently smooth, fine powder. Store in an air-tight container.

Ranch DressingRanch Dressing


1 Tbs. mix

1 C. mayonnaise

1 C. milk; if you want a buttermilk taste, add 1 Tbs. lemon juice to the cup of milk.

Stir well.  It will thicken up because of the powdered milk, so make sure you use a large container or bottle.  If you want a “Lite” dressing,  I assume you’re smart enough to figure out the changes to ingredients on your own… 😉

Otherwise use 1 Tbs. in any recipe calling for an envelope of ranch dressing mix.