How to Make a Comforting Mug of Tea de Manzanilla

Now that the weather is getting colder and the night is coming earlier, I love a nice, comforting hot drink in the evening. However, coffee beyond three o’clock in the afternoon will wreak havoc on your body clock. Rather, I reach for something that will promote a restful sleep. My go-to warm drink is a soothing mug of tea de manzanilla.

Also known as chamomile tea, it is known to alleviate stress and cure insomnia, among many, many other things. I love a nice mug of tea de manzanilla on a cold winter night! Just inhaling the floral scent brings me back to a vibrant field of flowers.

Here’s how to make your own tea de manzanilla two ways – with fresh and dried flowers, so you can enjoy a cup all year round.


What you will need

  • Fresh or dried chamomile flowers – be sure that they are organically grown, without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Best if you grow them yourself!
  • Boiling water
  • ​Small sieve or tea strainer
  • Bowl
  • Teapot
  • Optional: honey, mint, lemon

Take your pick

There are many commercially packed manzanilla or chamomile teas available in the market, but picking your own flowers ensures that you have the freshest tea.

Here are some great tips to picking the right flowers (source).

  • The best time to pick flowers is in the morning – anytime between 6 a.m. to 12 noon. Choose the best flowers of the lot, discard any damaged ones.
  • Soak the flowers in bowl of cool water. Some insects or other dirt might float to the surface, making them easy to remove.
  • ​Run the flowers through a strainer and try to remove as much moisture as possible.
  • Be sure that the stems are cleanly removed from the flower heads.
  • Note that it is best if the fresh flowers are used immediately. If you absolutely must keep them, store them in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, with a damp paper towel (source).

Fresh Bouquet

Manzanilla actually means “ground apple” (source) and you can enjoy the fruity undertones only when making manzanilla tea from fresh flowers. The fresh flower tea is also much sweeter, and not bitter at all like the dried variety may be.

A good teapot to use is one with a fancy built in infuser. The clear teapots with infusers are particularly nice because you can see the pretty flowers steeping.

However, you can also do your steeping in a separate container, then strain it through a fine sieve into your teapot.

  • Bring your water to a boil. A good rule of thumb is to take eight ounces of water for each cup of tea.
  • Measure four tablespoons of fresh chamomile flowers for each cup that you want to make. Obviously, the more flowers you use, the stronger the tea, so finding your perfect blend will be a matter of trial and error.
  • Pour the boiling water into your teapot and stir in the flowers. You can throw in a little sprig of mint, too. Any variety of mint will do, but if you can get your hands on some apple mint, try it out, as it will bring out those apple tones from the chamomile even more. Let steep for five minutes, so the water absorbs all the sweet, fragrant goodness.
  • Add honey to taste, and a squeeze of lemon, too.

Winter tonic

While fresh is almost always best, dried manzanilla flowers are wonderful for enjoying chamomile tea in the dead of winter – perhaps, when we would appreciate a hot cup of tea the most (source).

  • After cleaning the flowerheads, dry them on paper towels. Preheat your oven to 200º.
  • Place your flowers on a tray lined with baking paper. Be sure to lay them out separately.
  • ​Once your oven is warm, turn it off. Place your tray of flowers on the bottom rack and let them dry slowly.
  • Check in regularly. The flowers should be completely dry in a few hours. If not, remove the tray, turn the oven back on, turn off when warm, and slide the tray in once more until thoroughly dry.
  • Store the dried flowers in a cool, dry place, in an airtight container. It will last you four to six months!
  • To prepare, simply add one tablespoon of dried manzanilla flowers to three cups of boiling water. Cover and let steep for five minutes
  • Strain well and serve with honey and a slice of lemon. You might even want to give your tea a little extra kick with a squeeze of lime (source).

Tea-L-C

Tea de manzanilla is not just an invigorating drink. It also has many healing properties. This is because chamomile flowers contain medicinal oils including matricin and bisabolol, among others.

These substances have antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and sedative properties, making manzanilla a powerful, all-around natural remedy.

It is so potent, in fact, that chamomile is considered a medicinal drug in some countries (source).

Here are some benefits of drinking manzanilla tea:

  • Ease menstrual cramps.

    Drinking chamomile tea is great for curing menstrual cramps. I love this because it’s an organic way to relive pain – no more depending on medicine. So, when you start to feel any discomfort, drink a nice warm cup of manzanilla tea. However, the best way to really nip the cramps in the bud, try to drink the tea a couple days before your period (source).
  • Calm muscle spasms.

    This ties in with how manzanilla tea can calm menstrual cramps as well. Studies show that the tea raises the levels of glycine, which effectively calms spasms (source).
  • Helps with diabetes and hyperglycemia.

    Helps fight cancer. Research shows that drinking chamomile tea can help those suffering from diabetes and hyperglycemia. There are also studies being done that show chamomile can help reduce cancerous cells (source).
  • Soothes stomach aches and anxiety.

    I decided to put these two together because when I am stressed out our nervous, I get stomach aches. A cup of tea soothes the nerves.
  • Cures insomnia.

    Here’s another home remedy that I have personally tried and swear by. It is also one of the most popular natural solutions for insomnia, which is no wonder, because it really works! No more sleeping pills needed. The calming and sedative properties of manzanilla work great, so just have a cup of hot tea about half an hour before bed and enjoy a restful slumber (source).

Not just for drinking

Manzanilla tea has so many wonderful health benefits, both when consumed and when applied topically. I even remember my mom, who has terrible hay fever and allergies during pollen season, used to put used chamomile tea bags to help soothe her rashes.

Here are some handy uses for manzanilla tea, even without drinking it:

  • Treat wounds and first degree burns. This is an interesting and very useful tip to keep in mind for a quick first aid cure. Manzanilla has antiseptic properties that can kill bacteria.

    In fact, ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians have been making slaves out of manzanilla to hasten healing (source).

    To treat, seep some teabags in water, drain lightly, and wrap the tea bags around the affected area. Cover with gauze (source).
  • Medicinal mouthwash.

    If you have sensitive gums or mouth sores, you know that medicinal mouthwash often tastes just like that – medicine. You can use manzanilla tea as a natural mouthwash. Its antifungal and antibacterial properties can reduce gum inflammation and keep infections and decay away (source). Bonus, I bet it tastes much, much better!
  • Promote beautiful skin.

    Make a mixture of chamomile with honey and use this as a face mask or on other parts of the body. The manzanilla’s antibacterial and bleaching properties can help brighten your skin and treat acne. The honey has a moisturizing effect.

    Instead of cucumber slices, try putting soaked tea bags on your eyelids! They will relieve tired eyes and even help remove dark circles (source).
  • Prevent dandruff.

    Having dandruff is not only embarrassing. Dealing with an itchy scalp is also very bothersome. Calm your sensitive, itchy scalp by steeping some chamomile in boiling water for 30 minutes. Add some baby oil and strain. Use this concoction as a clarifying shampoo. Rinse thoroughly (source).
  • Soothe your sunburns. Apply the manzanilla tea directly on your skin to help soothe sunburns, itchiness, and any other skin irritation (source).

I hope this post helped introduce you to the delicious manzanilla tea. It is not only a lovely and delicate drink. It also has numerous health benefits. Excuse me while I steep my tea! Have a hot cup of manzanilla, let it transport you to a field of summer flowers and enjoy a deep, restful sleep.

Do you any other benefits of tea de manzanilla? Any special ways that you prepare your tea? I would love to hear about it in the comments!

Goji Berry: It’s a Super Food, But Does it Taste Super Good?

I have been trying to eat and cook a lot healthier lately and I came across an awesome superfood called goji berries. As they’ve gained popularity rather recently, I am sure you are wondering: What do goji berries taste like?

I was definitely hesitant to try them out at first because they sound quite exotic, and I had heard not so good reviews about the taste, but you have to try everything at least once, right?

Here’s the lowdown on goju berries, how to prepare them, and why you should start eating this superfood – right now!

Where to Goji?

Goji berries are commonly grown in Asia, mainly in China and in the Himalayas of Tibet. You may also hear them being referred to by different names – Chinese wolfberries of Tibetan goji (source).

Nowadays, goji berries can be found in some well-stocked groceries – check out your local grocer’s health food section – or in most health food stores. These superfoods are all the rage now, so you should not have a hard time finding them in dried or powdered form. You may have to search a little bit harder for the fresh berries, though.

Berry Good

While goji berries are seeing a resurgence in popularity today, they have actually been around for centuries, used in ancient Chinese medicine.

  • In Chinese medicine, goji berries are included in immune tonics and blood tonics (source) as they pack a powerful punch of vitamin C, boosting the immune system significantly (source).
  • High in antioxidants, the berries are also anti-inflamatory (source).
  • They are chockful of micronutrients like vitamin A and iron, and contain a complete set of the eight essential amino acids (source).
  • A one-ounce serving of the berries has 4 grams of protein and three grams of fiber (source). They are also fat-free and low in calories. A combination of this is great for a regular bowel movement and promotes weight loss (source).
  • Loaded with beta-carotene, the berries also promote good eyesight and healthy skin (source).

The legendary healing properties might be just that, however – a legend. There is no solid scientific evidence on the goji berry’s ability to cure cancer and reverse the effects of aging, so take those bigger claims with a grain of salt.

A Little Bit of Everything

Talking of salt, I bet you’re dying to know by now how these berries taste.

Well, while there is no doubt that they are great for your health, whether or not you will like the taste is debateable.

The fresh berries are pretty bitter, so don’t be fooled by their juicy, cherry tomato appearance (source). It is no wonder that the Chinese used these as medicine. Actually, the berries are not normally consumed fresh because of that overwhelmingly bitter taste.

The dried variety is a bit more palatable. It still has that slightly bitter taste, but with more tartness and a sweet aftertaste (source).

I guess you could compare goji berries to cranberries, sour plums or sour cherries. I happen to like tart berries and fruits, so I found goji berries pretty good. That hint of medicinal bitter herb flavor was not enough to throw me off.

The berries have tiny seeds, sort of like figs, that can give a new and interesting texture to your smoothie or soup (source).

If you have a sweet tooth and love delicate, sugary fruits, goji berries might be too aggressive for you. But do give them a try – don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!

Ready, Set, Goji!

Ready to whip up some goji berry treats? The interesting thing about the super berry is it can be used for both sweet and savory preparations.

A good rule of thumb when trying to incorporate goji berries into your meals is to think of it as a raisin (source).

  • If you run with that idea, a bunch of recipes will surely come to mind. Perhaps try subbing in goji berries for raisins in cookies and other baked goods. Or try them as a topper to put some texture and a kick of flavor into your oatmeal.

    These can also be good mixed into your favorite greek yogurt with fruits and granola, or add a sprinkling of them onto your next acai bowl.

  • I am not bothered by the bitter hint of the dried goji berries, so I love just throwing a handful of them into my favorite trail mix. It lends the old mix a new, exotic taste, plus it’s super energizing and great for keeping up my energy when I travel.
  • Another way to play with dried goji berries is to soak them in hot water for a few minutes to rehydrate them. Soaking them also helps remove the bitterness even more and you’re left with a plump berry, reminiscent of a sweet cheery tomato (source).

The rehydrated berry adds a little sweetness to spiced rice or grain pilafs; it can tame a chili with a bit of sweet and sour; it can add new dimensions of flavor to a salsa; or it can be added to tomato sauce.

  • Back on the sweet end of the spectrum goji berries can be added to ice cream and other frozen desserts.

    Another favorite of mine is to add some berries to my morning smoothie. The taste is tamed by the other fruits that you add to the mix – my favorites are pineapples and bananas – and you reap all the benefits that the superfood adds to your power smoothie.

You can find a bunch of great recipes for goji berry first timers here and here. Do try them out and let me know what you think!

Do You Really Have to Refrigerate Apples?

As the weather is turning cooler and the autumn leaves are changing to beautiful shades of red and orange, it is not just a signal that it is time for pumpkin spice everything. It is also apple harvesting season! If you are anything like me, you will have an abundance of fresh, crisp bushels all the way to the holidays. This brings about an important question: do apples need to be refrigerated?

Now, you definitely want to do everything you can to keep those delicious apples nice and crunchy. Refrigeration might come to mind immediately. Afterall, the cool environment is known to preserve perishables. However, keep in mind the refrigerators are also a moist environment, which can significantly speed up the ripening of the fruit (source).

Keep Your Cool

It is actually a big debate whether you should refrigerate apples or not. The bottom line is, you do not really have to. But should you?

The great thing about apples is that they will keep fine without refrigeration. This makes for a great snack to take along camping or to pack for lunch. They will hold up fine without any form of cool storage.

However, keeping them at room temperature will be good for apples to keep for a few weeks – around a couple of weeks is a good estimate (source). If you have a large amount of apples on hand and cannot consume all of them at once, keeping them in the fridge will in fact extend that shelf life significantly.

According to some sources, you can even keep apples good for six months or even more if you store them in a temperature between 30º to 40º F, with high humidity. This is an interesting theory, though I’ve never had the chance to try it yet, since these conditions are not commonly achieved with regular home appliances.

An Apple a Day

It is all about timing with fresh fruits. If you’ve gone an picked your own apples at your local orchard, you know you have your produce at its best and freshest.

However, most of the time, we only go as far as the grocery store for our fruits, making it a lot harder to gauge how long they will keep, based on when they were picked.

If you are buying from your neighborhood farmer’s market, do not hesitate to chat up your friendly farmer. They will be more than happy to give you the lowdown on apple picking dates – and their offerings will definitely be nice and freshly picked.

The farther you get from the orchard, the trickier it gets to figure out when the apple was picked, and therefore until when you can keep it fresh. With supermarket bought apples, often the best you can go with are the sell by dates.

  • Fun fact: those stickers with the sell by dates are (supposed to be) edible! Well, they are food safe, at the very least.

One Bad Apple

There are a few signs that will tell you if your apples are going bad. Overripe apples will have bruises or discoloration. Their skin might even go a bit wrinkly.

Inside, an overripe apple might be a bit soft to bite and have a grainy texture (source).

A good rule of thumb is that the firmer apple varieties like the tart Granny Smiths will hold up longer than softer varieties like the Golden Delicious (source).

It would also be interesting to note that apples should be stored in containers separate from other fruits and vegetables. They give off ethylene, a gas that causes produce to spoil faster. If your refrigerator has a separate compartment, store your apples in there. Otherwise, a sealed plastic bag will do the trick (source).

Apple of My Eye

What to do with all your apples before they go rotten? Make your apples last so much longer by dehydrating them. Homemade apple chips are easy to make and so much better than store bought brands. If you make them on your own, you will know exactly what goes into them and they definitely will not contain any preservatives.

All you have to do is slice your fresh apples into very thin rounds. If you do not have the knife skills, a mandoline would be great for this. You can choose to leave the peel on or off. Pop out the seeds carefully.

Toss your apple slices with cinnamon sugar. I love adding an extra kick of cinnamon. It makes the chips taste like apple pie!

Pop the slices into a dehydrator and let them sit for six to eight hours, or until they are dried and crisp. If you don’t have a dehydrator, simply preheat your oven to 200ºF. Bake your apple slices for an hour, flip them over, and bake them for another hour or two. Store your apple chips in an airtight container (source). For a more detailed step by step, cook along with this video:

As for overripe apples, don’t through them out just yet. Just like browning bananas in banana bread, overripe apples can still be wonderful in applesauce which all ages will enjoy a nice warm bowl of on a cold, chilly night. For a unique little twist, try making some smooth apple butter. Check out some more great overripe apples here.

Do you have any favorite apple recipes that you are looking forward to making this harvest season? Share them with us in the comments below!

10 Healthy Smoothies Recipes

These smoothies make it easy for you to take in milk, yogurt, and fruits in one drink. This means that you get to have proteins and vitamins all in one drink. They are also ideal for those who are on a smoothie diet or those who want to cut down on the amout of calories they are taking in with each meal.

Below are some amazing smoothie recipes for you to try out.

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