Some Basic Wellness Tips for a Tough Viral Season

A beautiful sunset shot from our neighborhood school where we lost one of our sweet first graders this week.

A beautiful sunset shot from our neighborhood school where we lost one of the sweet first graders to illness.

This week held a tremendously sad event for our community, where we lost one of our little first graders to a very serious respiratory illness.  In the wake of that, and the ensuing communication I received from parents and patients, I decided to pull this short list of wellness suggestions together…there are hundreds of other things I could include, but this is a very solid start that is very reasonable to attain.

Here is the letter I posted on Facebook:

Hello my friends. As many of you know, we lost one of our own yesterday afternoon after a tough battle with a very serious respiratory infection. He was a little first-grader right here at our kids’ school across the street. With the communication I’ve had with parents yesterday and today, I wrote the following post for our local communities–but, with the positive feedback I’m getting on the post, I’m going to post it here for everyone, as we definitely seem to be faced with some virulent pathogens right now. Blessings and well-wishes for you and your loved ones–take good care and take care of one another.

I’d like to just share some natural ideas you can use at home as you look to keep everyone well:

1. Keep the sugars down in the diet–it is incredible the impact sugar has on the immune system–it is no accident that the cold and flu season officially gets underway the week after Halloween. Sugars include the obvious choices, but also fruit juices, sports drinks, granola bars–read the sugar content of the foods you’re eating and make changes as appropriate.

2. Get some sun–without sunscreen. Balanced exposure of our skin to the sun is not only integral for natural Vitamin D production, but also the production and use of sulfur in our bodies. Don’t get burned, but 10 minutes or so of mid-day sun (just go walk around the yard and smell the flowers), in a tank top, a couple times a day, will be a huge boon to your wellness.

3. Drink only water–juices are full of sugars, and while they may have some nutrient value, you’re better off having an orange, with its fiber and raw nutrients, then a pasteurized, concentrated version. Put a healthy squirt of lemon or lime juice into your water for some fresh Vitamin C.

4. Eat foods that are rich in naturally-occurring probiotics, a huge benefit to the immune system. Kombucha, water kefir, raw sauerkraut (not the jarred stuff from the grocery aisles–that’s pasteurized), plain yogurt and plain milk kefir–these are all great sources of naturally-occurring probiotics. Note that I mentioned PLAIN–sweeten and flavor with fresh fruit and Stevia extract to sweeten.

5. Rest–if you feel like sleeping, sleep–our body heals much more efficiently in deep sleep. Not a time for pressing on with caffeine, which taps the adrenals and can set someone up for a big challenge on the immune system.

6. Make chicken soup–from a whole chicken, using only water, salt, garlic, onion, celery, carrots, black pepper, and a splash of apple cider vinegar, or the juice of 2 lemons. Don’t use prepared broth or bouillon cubes–you won’t need them with the flavor from the chicken. Put into a crockpot for the easiest method. Chicken soup helps to loosen the phlegm that arises in the chest, and has anti-inflammatory properties.

7. Consider using medicinal grade essential oils to support the immune system.  Oregano, thyme, tea tree, lemon, basil, frankincense, lavender, orange, clove, rosemary.  These are oils that have shown very good effect in supporting the immune system as it rallies against viruses and bacteria.
Please consider these suggestions–if they seem a good fit for your needs, use them–if not, that’s OK, too. I just wanted to share what I’m sharing with others, and how I’m taking care of our family. If you have more questions, you can contact me at sarica@naturallylivingtoday.com.

Blessings, love and peace to you all!

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20 Life-Changing Minutes

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If you ever notice that I become incredibly uncomfortable when I see kids eating donuts, or Doritos and Gatorade being handed out as a snack…if you take 20 minutes to watch this video, you will have an excellent understanding of why. This is why I do what I do and why I post what I post. Please take 20 minutes for a deeper understanding of the issues we face…This video will put the information right in front of you in an easy to understand format that is life-changing.

Excellent Primer on Real Foods, Where to Find Them and How to Use Them!

All the ingredients for soaked and cultured pancakes--delicious and nutritious!

All the ingredients for soaked and cultured pancakes–delicious and nutritious!

If you are keen on where to begin on how to use real foods–maybe you’re even wondering where to FIND real foods–then you’ll want to invest in the fantastic education from Kelly the Kitchen Kop.  And, through the weekend of Thanksgiving here in the US, you can purchase Kelly’s trainings at HALF OFF!  Simply enter BLACKFRIDAY as you check out.

What will you receive in Kelly’s trainings?  Here’s a breakdown:

For the Real Food Ingredient Guide E-book, you’ll find:

This revised version is cram-packed with new information.  What I’m most excited about is that it’s set up in a way that gives you exactly what you want in whichever format you need it in at the moment…

  • It has a newly revised 7-page quick reference guide for when you want fast answers to questions like,
    • Will you please just tell me what I’m supposed to buy?!”
    • Or when someone puts you on the spot and you need a quick reminder of “What was so bad about that food again?
    • Or maybe when you’re at the store you might need something to flip to for guidance there on various ingredients, including “good, better, best” options.
    • It’ll also help you know what to look for at your local farm and what questions to ask.
  • It has a more detailed section with facts on the different food groups and ingredients, for when you have time to dig in a little more, and it includes information on where to go for even more in-depth reading and research.
  • If you’re more of a visual learner, you’ll find an easy top ten real foods and top ten junk foods list in pictures.
  • It also includes new bonus material:  How to bring your family from junk food to real food, and how to overcome the six main obstacles everyone faces:
    1. Motivation – You won’t be willing to make a change if you don’t understand why it’s so important!
    2. Confusion/feeling overwhelmed – You’re probably sick of trying to navigate all the information from the ‘experts’ like what’s ‘good’ vs. what’s ‘not good’, especially when that keeps changing; and you just want to figure out the age-old question of “What the heck can I eat?!”  Especially before meal planning or grocery shopping…
    3. How to afford real food – You’ll learn loads of tips all in one place.
    4. Dealing with family complaints – This can wear you down at times, so I’ve got ways for you to get past this one!
    5. How to make time for real food – There are so many ways that I’ll bet you’ve never thought of!
    6. Sticking to it for the long haul – This is often what trips people up.  Life gets in the way and you find yourself slipping backward.  You’ll learn here how to prevent that from happening or how to get back on track.

And, for Kelly’s Real Food for Rookies Online Class, you’ll receive:

  • 12 weeks of online classes with videos, downloadable audios, and written materials.
  • LIFETIME access! Read/listen/watch at your leisure: on your break at work, while the kids are sleeping, in your pajamas, whatever! If you have a busy week, no big deal, just pick it back up on your own schedule.
  • Exclusive expert interviews with Sally Fallon Morell (President of the Weston Price Foundation), Dr. Kaayla Daniel (author of The Whole Soy Story), Jane Hersey (Director of the Feingold Association), Tom Naughton (Fathead filmmaker), and now one more: Jimmy Moore from the Livin LaVida Low-Carb blog!
  • BONUS: Free copy of the Kitchen Kop Real Food Guide
  • Save time and money while serving Real Food
  • Read labels and avoid dangerous ingredients
  • Make nourishing “fast food” meals to avoid last-minute trips to the drive-thru
  • Find healthier alternatives for soda pop, refined sugars, heart-killer oils, sugar-bomb breakfast cereals, factory farmed meat and more
  • Serve nutrient-dense foods that are necessary for good health
  • Take control of your health and change your family’s future!

Both of these tools are invaluable in your journey to greater health and empowerment for yourself and your family.  It takes a village to recapture  the information that’s been lost over the years in regard to how to take care ourselves with nutrition, and Kelly’s classes and information are priceless in their role of keeping you well!  And, from Thursday, November 28th until Monday, December 2nd 2013, you can get these classes and information at half price, by entering BLACKFRIDAY as you check out.

Wishing you the best!  Here’s to your health and the health of your loved ones!

Video on the Use of Bone Broths in the Context of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Pastured beef broth in the making

Pastured beef broth in the making

Click here to learn more about the healing use of bone broths as seen through the prism of Chinese Medicine

Parmesan Polenta with Bacon and Greens

Polenta before soaking and mild fermentation

Polenta before soaking and mild fermentation

One of the terrific things about being part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program is that your hand is sometimes forced to get creative with ingredients you might not have otherwise chosen.  In this instance, my inspiration was field garlic and Swiss chard.  Thankfully I had some corn grits (polenta) stored in the freezer, as well as raw Parmesan cheese and smokehouse pastured beef bacon from another local source here in our desert hamlet.  And, not surprisingly, there was bone broth, too–this time, pastured chicken.

So, with a little forethought to begin soaking the grits this morning in warm water with fresh water kefir, we were able to enjoy an excellent meal this evening (just perfect for an al fresco meal on the back patio before we hit the triple-digits on the thermometer!)  I paired this with a fresh, simple salad of various lettuces from our garden and steamed beets, topped with balsamic vinegar, olive oil  and chopped garlic.

Parmesan Polenta with Bacon and Greens

Serves 6 as an entree

To prepare polenta:

  • 1 1/2 Corn Grits (Polenta)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 2  cups warm, filtered, dechlorinated Water (approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • 1 cup fresh Water Kefir

Combine all ingredients in a glass or ceramic bowl and stir well to incorporate.  There should be about 1/8″-1/4″ of the water/water kefir over the top of the polenta.  Cover and store in a warm spot (I set mine on top of the yogurt maker–turned on–to help maintain a gentle, warm heat to encourage mild fermentation of the grain.  You could also set the bowl in a dehydrator set around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or in an ice chest or oven–turned off–with a couple of bottles filled with hot water.)  Allow to rest undisturbed for at least eight hours, until you see the little bubbles of fermentation and there is a mild tart scent. When this point has been reached, begin preparing the rest of the recipe.

For the remainder of the recipe you’ll need:

  • 4-5 cups Swiss Chard, sliced in 1/2″ strips
  • 5-6 slices of pastured Beef Bacon or Pork Bacon, cut in 1/2″ slices
  • 3 cups Chicken Broth, plus 1 additional cup, heated
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Field Garlic, chopped in 1/2″ pieces, or 4 Scallions, chopped in 1/2″ pieces with 3-4 cloves Garlic, minced finely
  • Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste
  • Cherry or Plum Tomatoes, sliced, for garnish
  • Freshly-chopped Basil Leaves and Lemon wedges, for garnish

In a 5-6 quart pot, combine soaked polenta with 3 cups of chicken broth over a medium heat and bring to a  mild simmer, stirring constantly from the bottom.  In about five minutes, you’ll notice the grits have firmed up substantially and the grain has softened.  Stir for another  five minutes or so and turn off the heat.

In a separate, large pan over medium heat, begin cooking the bacon.  Once it has begun to release its fat into the pan, add the field garlic or scallions/garlic, stirring occasionally to keep all ingredients from burning.  After a few minutes, once the garlic/onions have softened, add the Swiss chard and incorporate well into the mix.  Keep cooking and stirring periodically, until most of the moisture has evaporated off and the chard has softened.  Turn off heat and return to the polenta.

Resume a low heat under the polenta, which will have stiffened while cooling.  Add the Parmesan cheese and pour in an additional cup of hot chicken broth.  Stir all ingredients well to incorporate and to soften the polenta.  Spoon in the bacon and greens mixture and mix well into the polenta.  Remove from the heat and serve immediately with a garnish of fresh, sliced tomatoes, a sprinkling of basil leaves and a healthy squirt of lemon juice.

Store any remaining in a covered glass or ceramic bowl for up to three days in the refrigerator.

 

Pouring water kefir into the polenta to begin soaking and fermentation

Pouring water kefir into the polenta to begin soaking and fermentation

 

Notice how there is a pooling of water over the soaking polenta--not too much, just about 1/8 of an inch

Notice how there is a pooling of water over the soaking polenta–not too much, just about 1/8 of an inch

 

Using the yogurt maker to keep a gentle heat source under the soaking and fermenting polenta

Using the yogurt maker to keep a gentle heat source under the soaking and fermenting polenta

 

The polenta after eight hours of soaking and mild fermentation--notice the little bubbles in the soaking water?

The polenta after eight hours of soaking and mild fermentation–notice the little bubbles in the soaking water?

 

Polenta with 3 cups of chicken broth, just beginning to cook

Polenta with 3 cups of chicken broth, just beginning to cook

 

Polenta after only 5 minutes of cooking--the soaking process definitely hastens the cooking time

Polenta after only 5 minutes of cooking–the soaking process definitely hastens the cooking time

 

Pastured beef bacon and field garlic sautéing

Pastured beef bacon and field garlic sautéing

 

Freshly grated, raw Parmesan cheese

Freshly grated, raw Parmesan cheese

 

Notice the smoother consistency of the polenta once the Parmesan cheese and additional chicken broth have been added

Notice the smoother consistency of the polenta once the Parmesan cheese and additional chicken broth have been added

 

Swiss chard sauted with pastured beef bacon and field garlic, ready to blend into the polenta

Swiss chard sauted with pastured beef bacon and field garlic, ready to blend into the polenta

 

Prepared polenta with Swiss chard, pastured beef bacon and field garlic

Prepared polenta with Swiss chard, pastured beef bacon and field garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Bean, Sunchoke and Kale Stew

Savory and nourishing white bean, sunhcoke and kale stew, topped with shavings of Parmesan cheese and freshly-ground pepper.

Savory and nourishing white bean, sunhcoke and kale stew, topped with shavings of Parmesan cheese and freshly-ground pepper.

Having just returned from an enriching weekend at Systemic Formulas‘ headquarters in Utah, learning in-depth about the causes and effects of Leaky Gut Syndrome, as well as having the opportunity to share on the importance of cultured foods to recover from this very real and very damaging digestive concern, it just seems fitting to share a recipe on…sunchokes.

While this may seem a stretch, it’s really not.  After my presentation, I was gifted a bag of sunchokes (also known as Jerusalem artichokes) by a very thoughtful attendee, who’d brought them fresh from her father’s garden!  And, given that so much of what we taught and learned on over the weekend involved building and maintaining a healthy gut flora, the sunchokes were a very welcome gift.

Most are very aware that beneficial bacteria are an incredibly necessary component to our health and well-being.  In fact, the bacteria that reside in our bodies outnumber our cells by about 10 to 1!  Researchers have come to understand  that so much of what makes us human, from our emotional expression to how we feel in our bodies to how we relate to one another, is intensely dependent on the state of the bacteria that live in and on us.  (See the June 2012 edition of Scientific American magazine for more information.)  But these little powerhouses are no different than us–they need food to survive.  Enter the prebiotic.

Prebiotics are non-digestible components of foods that nourish these beneficial bacteria.  And when the bacteria are healthy and well-fed, we reap the benefits. Studies have shown a diet supplemented with prebiotics to be a boon to mineral absorption as well as the immune system; they show promise in improving regularity in bowel patterns and reducing inflammatory patterns of the bowel and decreasing the incidence of colorectal cancer;  they even appear to offer benefit in hypertensive patterns.*

But what does all this good news about prebiotics have to do with this recipe? Well, one of the main ingredients in this stew is the versatile and nutritious sunchoke.  I would enjoy it for its taste and texture alone, as it’s a delight raw with a sprinkle of sea salt, or sautéd in ghee, but its nutrition is the clincher.  It turns out that the sunchoke is a terrific source of a prebiotic called inulin, thus elevating this rather non-descript root vegetable to the ranks of superfood in my estimation.

And in this recipe, it is paired with other foods that further enhance and benefit gut function and form.  The pastured bone broth is rich in GI-soothing and nourishing gelatin.  The beans have been soaked and mildly fermented, making their stored nutrition much more digestible and bioavailable.  Even the onion is an additional source of prebiotics, too.

So, enjoy the savory flavors of this very nutritious stew.  It is well-accompanied by a chunk of fermented grain bread slathered in butter, and like most soups and stews, tastes its very best a day after preparation, when the flavors have had an opportunity to meld.  And as you indulge your tastebuds, you can feel good about all the good you are doing for the bacteria in your belly!

*http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leaky_gut

White Bean, Sunchoke and Kale Stew

Makes approximately 10-12 servings

  • 2 cups White Beans (Flageolet or Great Northern are good choices), sorted, rinsed and soaked overnight **
  • 2 quarts plus 2 cups Pastured Beef Bone Broth
  • 3 cups Kale, washed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups Sunchokes, washed and cut into 1/2″ wedges
  • 2 large Portabella Mushrooms, sliced in 1/2″ chunks
  • 1 small Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Rosemary Leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground Sage Leaf
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Fresh, raw Parmesan Cheese, shaved, for topping the finished stew

**I like to soak my beans in warm water (105-110 degree Fahrenheit range), with a splash of water kefir to prime the culturing pump.  For this recipe of 2 cups of dry beans, place the beans in a glass bowl, cover them with 6-8 cups of warm, chlorine-free water and 2-3 tablespoons of water kefir.   Next, cover the bowl and rest it on top of a yogurt maker that has been turned on, or inside a dehydrator set at 105 degrees, to keep the fermentation process very active (if you don’t have either of these devices, you can place the bowl inside an ice chest that has two or three large jars filled with hot water).  Check periodically to ensure the beans are staying submerged under the water.  After 24 hours or so, gentle fermentation is happening, and small sprouts are generally visible from the beans, which should be at least double their original size.  Rinse the beans and they are now ready for cooking.

Add the broth and soaked beans to a large stock pot, and set on a medium heat. Once a gentle boil is reached, reduce heat to a mild simmer and add onion, rosemary and sage.  Cook for about 20 minutes, then add the remainder of the ingredients and cook for an additional 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans and sunchokes have softened.

Ladle into soup bowls, top with a twist of freshly-ground black pepper and shavings of Parmesan cheese.  Store additional stew in a covered glass or ceramic bowl in the refrigerator for up to four days.

 

Wedges of prebiotic-rich sunchokes, fresh from the garden

Wedges of sunchokes, fresh from the garden

White beans before soaking and fermentation

White beans before soaking and fermentation

White beans that have been soaking and mildly fermenting for 24 hours...notice the little bubbles of fermentation?  These are ready to rinse and put to use.

White beans that have been soaking and mildly fermenting for 24 hours…notice the little bubbles of fermentation? These are ready to rinse and put to use.

Beans that have just begun to sprout from the long, warm soaking.

Beans that have just begun to sprout from the long, warm soaking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A modern spin on the Tale of Fish and Loaves (or how a tablespoon of cultures and 2 chickens helped feed 65 people)

One of the most compelling aspects of preparing foods in a traditional manner is the magic that can be wrought with a little elbow grease, some on-the-fly moves, and the right amount of time.

I just finished presenting to a group of healthcare practitioners at Systemic Formulas Sunshine Symposium.  As with everything that comes from Systemic, it was an excellent event, where I learned more about advances in natural healing than seems reasonable in a 3-day window!  And I was absolutely delighted and very honored to be included in the list of presenters this year.

As I began my deliberations on WHAT I would talk about (no surprise–traditional food preparation techniques and the healing benefits of using these types of foods), I quickly got to thinking about HOW I could enliven my PowerPoint presentation.

Certainly I’d put lots of (hopefully!) compelling statistics on the decline in health, how our diets have changed in very short window of time, techniques on how to do some soaking and some culturing…but I wanted a little “Pow!” to drive those points home.  And, there is nothing like letting people see, taste and smell some good, nutritious food to get them on board with making good changes in their own kitchens!

So, knowing that I would be in a standard hotel room (read: No kitchen, nor kitchen-y tools), with rather limited access to the Systemic Formulas’ kitchen (there’s not much time to cook when you’re busy learning in the classroom for the better part of a 10-hour day), I quickly sorted out that some tasty homemade kraut or raw milk yogurt wouldn’t likely make the cut.  I needed something that would take care of the bulk of its own preparation, without a lot of effort or time from me.

So, what I settled on were two options that I knew I’d be able manage with these parameters, using as little from home as I could, leaning more on what I’d gather from local stores.  And what seemed to make the most sense were organic, pastured chicken bone broth and apple juice naturally fermented with water kefir.

Now, mind you, the staff at Systemic feeds us like family, using excellent ingredients that fulfill the diet based on their founder, Doc Wheelwright‘s, Pro-Vita principles.  So, my offerings were not going to be the mainstay of the meal, but rather healthy adjuncts to the offerings.  Regardless, I wanted to share something that would be nutritious and likely rather different than what most would usually consider lunch faire.

So, I brought a tablespoons’ worth of my raw water kefir grains in a small container, tucked safely in the clothing in my luggage.  And, once I settled in to my room, I walked to the nearest store and purchased a glass carafe, unfiltered apple juice, bottled water and organic Demerara sugar (and then I called the good folks at the Marriott Ogden and asked for the shuttle to help me get all this back to the hotel!)

Back in my room, I started the slow-yet-hopeful process of paving the way for some water kefir in a few days’ time.  Beginning with heating the water in the in-room coffee maker, I next melted the sugar into it, poured it into the newly purchased carafe, tempered the heat with room temperature water, and then finished with adding the water kefir grains to the sweet, warm solution.  And then I crossed my fingers in hopes that in my 3-day window, I’d create the right environment for my transported kefir grains to do their alchemical magic, turning sugar water and apple juice into a richly-probiotic beverage for everyone to share.

The next morning, Nate from Systemic escorted me to the local natural foods’ store, where I made a quick purchase of two pastured, organically-raised chickens, some apple cider vinegar and sea salt.  Returning to Systemic’s headquarters, the wonderful kitchen staff  shared a couple of locally-grown onions for the broth and helped me settle everything into an industrial-sized crockpot, which I set on a 4-hour heat, then reduced to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, to continue simmering over a 24-hour period.

By a couple hours into the cooking, the entire area of the kitchen and dining room was swimming in the delicious aroma of homemade chicken broth–is there anything better?

Returning to the hotel room that night, I peered into my  water kefir carafe, sniffing hopefully for a hint of tartness, the tangy hit of lacto-fermentation.  I’d left the carafe to warm in the sunny window sill all day, but there appeared to be no obvious signs of kefir kefiring.  “Well,”  I thought, “even if this doesn’t take off, at least I’m the only one that knows about it–thankfully I’ve not mentioned this to any of the attendees.”   Adding a little more warmed sugar water to the mix, I placed the carafe into a warm water bath to keep any possibility of culturing moving forward in my cool hotel room.  After a while, I removed it from the water and wrapped it in a towel for insulation.  Then I went to bed.

The next morning–the morning of my presentation–I hopped out of bed and immediately checked on the water kefir.  As I jostled the container to remove the lid, I noticed the wonderful tell-tale bubbles rising along the sides of the liquid–Lacto-fermentation!  Sure enough, as I pulled back the lid, I could smell the lively, pungent smell of kefir in action!  The only caveat was that I only had about a quart’s worth of water kefir–certainly not enough for all the attendees to have a taste.  I immediately added the apple juice to the mix and put the carafe back into a warm water bath while I got ready for the day, keeping my hopes high that there was enough lively culturing and the right temperature to begin consuming the newly added sugars and minerals from the apple juice.  As I left the room, I tucked the carafe in a towel and carried it to the car.

Upon arriving at Systemic’s headquarters, I placed the glass carafe in a warm spot in the kitchen (one of the unused back burners to the very busy stove and oven.)  I next asked the staff to help me with removing the flesh and meat from the long-simmered chickens, leaving behind the bones, adding a little more sea salt, vinegar and boiling water to the broth–the staff was my saving grace to pulling this last bit off, as I had to begin my presentation in a few minutes’ time!

Following my presentation, and then sitting in on a great talk given by Dr. Daniel Pompa, I ran back down to the kitchen, just in time to see the most beautiful golden broth being ladled into a festive punch bowl!  What a delight!

Next to the water kefir.

Had it had enough time to ferment the sugars I’d just fed it a few hours’ prior?  What if it was too sweet, more of a warm, sugary apple juice than anything resembling a probiotic beverage?  There was no time to bother with hand-wringing; I could see the attendees lining up along the lunch tables.  With hope in my heart, I began dropping in ice cubes to bring down the temperature a little–and as the ice hit the liquid, frothy, fizzy bubbles shot to the top of the carafe, the wonderful signs of a beverage lacto-fermented!  It worked!

We arranged everything out front, at the end of the food lines.  From a tablespoon of kefir grains and two chickens, there was about a gallon and a half of apple juice water kefir and two huge punch bowls of broth…folks got a “shot” size of the kefir, and as much of the broth as they wished.

And from these small beginnings, I received some fantastic feedback–“We’ve been eating the exact same foods for the last 3 days, and come afternoon, we just hit the wall with the fatigue of sitting and learning all day.  Today, we ate the same foods again, the only difference was the kefir and the broth…and we never hit the wall!  We feel great!”  And, “I was so full from the cup of broth, that I only had half as much food as normal!”  And, “The broth was so good–I had three cups!”

So, if you’re wondering if you can make this kind of food at home…if you’re wondering if it’s worth the effort…if you’re wondering if it will have an impact in your health…I share this little story with you to say, yes, it is most definitely something you can do, and, yes, it is most definitely something you should do.

Bon appetit!

 

Soul-satisfying Bone Broth

Rich, delicious bone broth–this batch was seasoned with onion and fresh rosemary

Rarely a day goes by I don’t extol the virtues of bone broth to someone.

Having made the decision to keep a crock-pot of it on hand at all times, I’ve come to deeply appreciate its virtues, both culinary and medicinally (and, in my life, the two generally go together!)

My first taste of bone broth came in the chicken and dumpling soups my Grandma Linda would make throughout my childhood.  I’m not too certain her methodology, but I do clearly remember a very rich butteriness, flecked with parsley, sizable bits of chicken and chewy, salty dumplings, all swimming in a sunny sea in a Corning Ware bowl.  I’m sure the dumplings were made with Bisquik (which I’d steer clear of today, instead figuring a way to use sprouted spelt flour and ghee or lard), but the chicken broth stands out as the golden essence of love in a bowl.

Happy chance when I began my study of Eastern Nutrition at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and we fell upon the use of bone broths.  The discussion of their use in convalescence from all sorts of traumas, from surgery to childbirth, to recovery from bone-crunching injuries, struck me as very reasonable and in keeping with the sage wisdom of Asian medicine.

Bone broths are full of many of the bits we pay for in our modern-day supplement and vitamin regimens–magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, collagen, easy-to-assimilate amino acids, glucosamine, chondroitin.  And the real beauty is that these components (and many others not mentioned!) are in a very bio-available form, so they are a breeze for you to put to use.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has long praised these virtues, and has used this kitchen medicine to repair a damaged body and return it to full capacity.  And I would argue, with the toxic-load we are exposed to in this modern day and age, we need this type of food more than ever.  From electro-magnetic fields, to depleted, pesticide-laced, MSG- and  GMO-tainted foods, to overworked and under-rested bodies, we are pushed to our limits.  And there is nothing quite as settling, nourishing and substantive as a rich bone broth.

To further capitalize on the wisdom of Chinese Medicine, I will sometimes include an additional ingredient–organ meats. Usually it is a liver, but I am happy to use heart as well.  The choice depends on what I hope to achieve in the broth’s nutrition profile.  If there are issues with failing eyesight, connective tissue problems, gynecological concerns, exhaustion and insomnia, then inclusion of a grass-fed, organic liver might be in order.  For cardiovascular issues, anemia and anxiety, then heart might be a good choice.  The wisdom goes, if there is a lacking in a given organ or in the tissues that are governed by that organ, then consume that organ to build the organ and tissues in the patient.

And if one looks at the nutrition profile of different organs, it is easy to see the reasoning.  Liver is rich in B-vitamins, protein, iron, CoQ10, and Vitamin A making it an excellent source for the nutrition to support the building of new blood cells and the various tissues of the body.  Heart is also rich in protein and CoQ10, each comprising the building blocks and energy source of the heart muscle, respectively.

In the yumminess of a broth, these incredibly nutritious foods come easily to the palate of even the fussiest eaters.  Much of the nutrition of the organ makes its way into the broth, without the need to actually eat the organ.

Plan to start your broth with 2-3 bones–a mix of marrow, neck, oxtail and shank, maybe a piece of organ meat, purified water, Celtic Sea Salt, an acid (usually raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice) and a bit of onion.

Place everything into a cool crock-pot, and set it for a 4-hour cooking.  Fill the pot with enough water to leave only about 1.5″ of space at the top, then cover with the lid.

You may want to start your broth as you go to bed, and let it cook through the night.  In the morning you’ll have a broth that is incredibly rich–sometimes so rich, a splash of vinegar in each serving is helpful to cut the oiliness of this first draft, or you might skim much of the fat off to use later to sauté vegetables.  Next pour in enough boiling water to replace the liquid  just removed, add a healthy pinch of Celtic Sea Salt, and keep the pot on the “Keep Warm” setting, which, on our pot is 190 degrees Fahrenheit, beating out the needed 180 degrees to keep pathogens at bay.

Throughout the day, use the broth as a base for cooking soaked and sprouted grains, as the steaming medium for chopped veggies, as a sauce base, as a wonderful beverage, and as the liquid to a quick “bowl soup”–just take some fresh greens (spinach, spring greens, soft chard), some slices of avocado–and pour the hot broth and some chunks of meat over the cold, fresh foods.  Let it sit for a few minutes, and in no time, you’ll have a wonderful, quick soup.  Topping with a dash of vinegar is an absolute delight!

Keep repeating the process of drawing off of the broth, and replacing with boiling water and a pinch of Celtic sea salt, maintaining the temperature at on the “Keep Warm” setting.  By the end of the first day, plan to have all meaty bits out of the broth, though you may keep the bones from larger animals in an extra day or two.  By the third day, strain the remaining broth from the bones and complete what remains of the broth.  Plan to start a new batch on the fourth day.

It should be noted to always use grass-fed,  pastured, organically-raised sources for meats, bones and organs.  There is real concern for toxicity if doing otherwise, whether blatant or as an insidious build-up over time. And even if a chicken is organic, if it’s been kept in a cage, its subsequent broth will not have the nutritious gelatin as part of its composition.  It’s just worth it to pay the extra and make the effort to find a source that meets these standards.  And, when using bones and organs, the cost is incremental to the standard cost of a muscle meat, making this option much more feasible for even the tightest of budgets.  Additionally, bone broth, rich in gelatin, allows for less meat consumption, if drunk throughout the day with meals.

Here’s a basic recipe for bone broth, using beef bones.  You can also use this recipe for lamb, and it could be replicated for bison, too.

Basic Bone Broth

  • 1 large Shank Bone (2 pounds or so)
  • 1 Neck Bone (1-2 pounds)
  • 1 Oxtail (1-2 pounds)
  • 1/2 pound Liver, if you like (rinse under cold water and remove any bandy parts)
  • 1 Onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2-4 Tablespoons Celtic Sea Salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup Vinegar (raw Apple Cider, naturally fermented Rice or organic Balsamic) or the juice of 1-2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup Wine (not necessary, though I like what it does to the flavor profile–I use organic reds for beef, lamb and bison, and organic whites for chicken, fish and turkey)
  • Enough purified water to fill the crock pot just shy of 1.5″ full

Place all ingredients in pot and place on 4-hour setting.  As you take the broth from the pot, replace with the same amount of boiling water and a pinch of sea salt.  Keep the pot at the Keep Warm setting and consume all meat/organ portions within the end of the first day.  The bones may remain in another day or two.  Plan to consume all your broth within 3 days of first starting it if using this perpetual method, where it maintains a hot temperature.  Any longer and proteins and fats can begin to degrade.