Fresh Salsa…Mildly Fermented!

Delicious, fresh tomato salsa…ready to enjoy immediately, or to ferment a bit for a healthy beneficial bacteria profile!

Delicious, fresh tomato salsa…ready to enjoy immediately, or to ferment a bit for a healthy beneficial bacteria profile!

Freshly made salsa is so delightful–it is a perfect compliment to eggs, meats, beans, you name it.  And it is one of those condiments that makes nearly everyone happy, whether they’re following Paleo Diet principles, GAPS dietary prescriptions or raw food ideals.  Or, maybe someone just doesn’t bother too much with concern for their nutrition…fresh salsa works for this group, too (and it is a great way to get some fantastic nutrition into them, with a smile on their face!)

I love preparing and enjoying food in its proper season…and since we live in the desert southwest of the U.S., all of these ingredients are here, even in winter.  This is fantastic, as this recipe is a great source of naturally-occuring Vitamin C and gut-boosting beneficial bacteria, thanks to the water kefir and mild fermentation.  Both of these qualities are real boosts when it’s cold and flu season (and this salsa tastes great!)

This is a blended salsa–in this instance, I’ve used our food processor.  However, if you only have a blender, feel free to use it.  Either kitchen tool works fine.

This recipe can be enjoyed without the inclusion of the water kefir and the 24 hour room-temperature fermentation cycle, and it will be incredibly delicious if you choose to prepare it this way.  But, if you do choose to follow the recipe as delivered in its entirety, you’ll not only have the boost to the beneficial bacterial profile, but the salsa will last much longer (remember, fermentation is an ancient food preservation technique–and when combined with the modern-day convenience of refrigeration, the combination can lend itself to an extended shelf life.) However, this benefit of the salsa storing longer in the refrigerator if mildly fermented is really a moot point–it is so tasty, it won’t last long in any case!

Mildly Fermented Fresh Tomato and Cilantro Salsa

Makes approximately 2 quarts salsa

  • Approximately 4 cups organic Cherry or Plum Tomatoes
  • 2 organic Bell Peppers, preferably red, yellow or orange, coarsely chopped
  • Approximately 1 cup loosely packed organic Cilantro, rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 3-4 organic Green Onions (Scallions), rinsed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen organic Pineapple and/or Mango
  • 4-5 cloves organic Garlic
  • 1 organic Jalapeño Pepper, seeds removed if you don’t want it too hot
  • 3 teaspoons Himalayan or Celtic Sea Salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Chipotle Powder
  • 1/4 cup Water Kefir (Kombucha or fresh Whey would work as well)

Place tomatoes in the carafe of the food processor or blender and coarsely chop, then add the rest of the ingredients.  Blend/chop well until incorporated and uniform.  Spoon into 2 glass quart-sized jars, cap with lids, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours (do this final step if you’ve added some kind of culture for fermentation–such as water kefir.  Otherwise, you can simply store the salsa in the refrigerator immediately.)  If mildly fermented before refrigeration, you can expect the salsa to last at least a week in the refrigerator.  If no fermentation has occurred, then plan to enjoy the salsa within four days.

Fresh veggies for salsa--what a delight!

Fresh veggies for salsa–what a delight!

 

Tomatoes coarsely chopped in food processor.

Tomatoes coarsely chopped in food processor.

Veggies on top of chopped tomatoes, ready to blend it all together!

Veggies on top of chopped tomatoes, ready to blend it all together!

Freshly made water kefir to add to the salsa

Freshly made water kefir to add to the salsa

All ingredients blended and ready to spoon into jars

All ingredients blended and ready to spoon into jars

Salsa--lids in place and ready to ferment for a day…and enjoy tomorrow!

Salsa–lids in place and ready to ferment for a day…and enjoy tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

Pan-Baked Sweet Potato Chunks

Sweet and delicious baked sweet potato chunks

Sweet and delicious baked sweet potato chunks

 

Simple, delicious and nutritious.  Isn’t that such a terrific combination when you’re looking for something to prepare and enjoy?  Tossed in energy-promoting Medium Chain Triglyceride-rich unrefined coconut oil, these chunks will work whether you fall in the Paleo camp, or adhere to the GAPS Diet or just love delicious whole foods!

People often ask me how we manage to stay ahead of our food selections at home, given that we eat at home nearly every meal, and most of the foods are made from scratch.  Well, Rome was not built in a day, and I didn’t get into the groove of creating meals in this manner overnight!

Over the years, what I’ve learned is to lean on some pre-preparation, so that we can grab something quickly from the fridge, and reheat it quickly in the toaster oven, on the stovetop, toss it into the kids’ lunches or enjoy it as-is.  It’s the homemade version of fast food, and whether it’s oatmeal, pancakes, bread, beans or soup, having some easy-to-use components to a meal on hand makes the WHOLE process so much easier!

This recipe for pan-baked sweet potato chunks falls into this category perfectly.  Once prepared (and they are delicious straight from the oven!), they store really well in the refrigerator for the work- and school week, a true grab-n-go item.  And I have yet to get a refusal from the kids when they find these accompanying the rest of a meal!

In addition to the nutrition in the coconut oil, this recipe leans heavily on warming spices, specifically cinnamon, which has been shown in studies to help with maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.  And with natural sea or mineral salt, you will have a terrific food, full of trace minerals.

This recipe prepares quickly, bakes quickly, stores easily and tastes fantastic.  Good luck on keeping them for the duration of the week–you might consider doubling the recipe just in case they don’t make it through the first day!

Pan-Baked Sweet Potato Chunks

  • 3 pounds organic Sweet Potatoes and/or Yams, washed, ends trimmed and coarsely cut into rounds approximately 1″ thick
  • 1/2 cup organic Unrefined Coconut Oil, melted
  • 3 tablespoons organic Pumpkin Pie Spice blend or 1 tablespoon Ground Cinnamon, 1/2 tablespoon ground Nutmeg, 1 teaspoon Allspice and 1 teaspoon dried Ginger
  • 2-3 teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt or Himalayan Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, sprinkle the spices and salt over the sweet potato chunks and toss to incorporate.  Drizzle the coconut oil over the dressed sweet potato chunks and toss again, insuring that the oil coats all surfaces.  Spread out on a large cookie sheet. so that there is no overlap of the chunks.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 40 minutes, then move to the top rack  and roast on the Low Roast setting for an 2-3 additional minutes, or until the tops of the chunks begin to caramelize (make sure you don’t go too long here, or that the heat is too high, lest the oil begin to smoke.)

Remove from the oven and enjoy immediately, or allow to cool and store in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.  Reheats perfectly in the toaster oven or on the stove top.

Chopping sweet potatoes

Chopping sweet potatoes

Pouring on coconut oil over sweet potatoes

Pouring on coconut oil over sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes dressed and ready to bake

Sweet potatoes dressed and ready to bake

How we get ready for the week ahead--sweet potato chunks and freshly-baked water kefir bread

How we get ready for the week ahead–sweet potato chunks and freshly-baked water kefir bread

Rich and delicious sweet potato chunks--notice the salt chunks.  YUM!

Rich and delicious sweet potato chunks–notice the salt grains. YUM!

[contact-form-7 404 "Not Found"]

 

 

 

 

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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creamy-fruity Popsicles!

Homemade, fruity and nutritious popsicles!

Living in the desert southwest, our family pines for something cool as the long days of summer seem to have no end.  Unfortunately, most of what’s available commercially is made with too much sugar, is full of artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, or is just too lacking in nutrition.  Thankfully, making a dessert like this at home deals with all these concerns.  And how wonderful it is to use some organic berries–or other fruit!–as the base for this quick and satisfying treat.

You could use fresh or frozen organic fruit for this dessert–the options are only limited by what is available to you.  In this version, I used organic frozen berries…only because we’d eaten all the fresh ones!  And I just received fresh, raw, grass-fed cow’s cream from Miller’s Organic Farm, an Amish-run food co-op with the most incredible selection of whole, traditionally-prepared foods.

Whenever I get an ingredient like Miller’s cream in hand, my wheels start turning as to how I can use every last drop of it.  And making a dessert for the kids is a surefire way to make certain none goes to waste!

As mentioned, unlike most popsicles, this treat pulls no punches on nutrition.  In addition to the raw cream, I add coconut oil, raw whey, raw milk, and I sweeten with either a little honey or yacon syrup ,and some stevia.  The result is not overly-sweet, instead allowing all the flavors to shine together.

We have a popsicle mold, though you could certainly use this as a base for a homemade ice cream (in fact, because of the saturated fat content, just placing a bowl of this in the refrigerator will cause it to take on a firmer texture, delightful for scooping into a dish.)   For our popsicle mold (4 molds), this makes about 2-3 rounds of popsicles.  I store the additional mix in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, until we’re ready for another round.My husband also takes the leftovers from the glass jar in which its stored, and puts a couple spoonfuls into fresh yogurt at breakfast time.

Creamy-fruity Popsicles

Makes about 1 quart of popsicle mix

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  (Because of the saturated fat in the oil, if using frozen or very cold fruit, consider allowing some time to thaw before blending so the motor doesn’t work as hard.)  Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for 2 hours before serving.  Or, store mixture in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl in the refrigerator to enjoy as a soft “ice cream.”  Consume within 3 days if refrigerated; up to a month in the freezer.

Ingredients for popsicles–lots of healthy fats!

 

Cream with coconut oil, vanilla and yacon syrup

 

Consistency rather thick from the cold fruit and coconut oil

 

Easy-to-use popsicle molds

 

Popsicles ready to freeze and enjoy!

 

Cinnamon Raisin Soaked Coconut Flour Bread

We’ve been enjoying this recipe very much lately, and it comes together in a snap, when you’ve got your flour soaked and ready in the refrigerator!

I’ve gotten into the (good) habit of soaking most of the flours we eat, and that is including coconut.  Doing so unleashes enzymatic activity within the flour, making all components more digestible and bio-available, while breaking down tough-to-digest “anti-nutrients” like tannins, phytates and difficult proteins.  And, when a little bit of a culture is added (such as a couple tablespoons of fresh whey from cheese or yogurt making), the beneficial bacteria have an opportunity to further break down the complex carbohydrates, using them as a fuel source…and, in turn, helping to reduce the carbohydrate load of the food being consumed.  A total win-win!

And, as mentioned, I’ve even been soaking coconut flour, the darling of many nutritional pundits these days.  I do it for the reasons just stated, and also because I like what it does to the texture of the flour once I’m actually using it, say, in pancakes, or as in this recipe, a quick bread.  Because coconut flour is so hydrophilic, the end products with it can be on the dry side.  When the flour is well-saturated, though, by pre-soaking, the end result is very moist.  So, I’ve found it’s worth the effort, for all the right reasons!

When I soak my flour, I start with about one cup of flour, to which I add warm (110 degrees Fahrenheit, or so) water–usually 2-3 times the amount of flour.  I add it slowly, and incorporate it well, before adding more.  The texture should be like mashed potatoes.

Not mashed potatoes…soaked coconut flour!

Once the consistency is right, then I’ll add about two tablespoons of whey, which I also mix in well.  Then I cover everything and leave it at room temperature for about 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  At the end of this time, I put it in a glass bowl and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week, using it as needed for the afore-mentioned pancakes, and quick breads.  The inherent anti-pathogenic qualities of coconut allows this to keep longer than most flours that have been soaked–again, another bonus!

This recipe makes a very moist quick bread that is not overly sweet.  I use freshly ground flax seed as a binding agent, thus reducing the amount of eggs usually needed when working with non-gluten flours.  Stores beautifully  in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Cinnamon Raisin Soaked Coconut Flour Bread

Makes 1 8″ x 4″ Pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Blend flour with flax, sea salt, spices, baking soda, sugar and stevia.  Add the beaten eggs and oil, then add raisins.  Mix all ingredients together well, then spoon into the oiled baking pan.  Smooth the top, and bake in the middle rack in the oven

Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, or until knife inserted in the middle comes clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing, as the saturated fat content of the bread will help to give it body once cooled.  Store any uneaten portions in the refrigerator.

Soaked coconut flour

 

Flax seeds about to be ground in coffee grinder

 

Incorporating oils (I used Blue Breeze coconut ghee from Green Pastures)

 

Consistency just before transferring to pan

 

Bread uncooked, ready for the oven

 

Bread fresh from the oven!

 

Bread cooled and ready to enjoy

 

 

 

 

Adding Some Soaked and Fermented Grains Back into the Diet…

Soaked and sprouting quinoa, draining in the colander (Yes, it is correct that it is not a “true” grain, but rather a grain-like seed…but we use it in a grainy way!)

I really like the concept of balance 🙂

Whether it is maintaining–even improving!–health with a solid mix of rest, creative outlets and hard work, or engaging in the social world and its counterpart, private quiet-time, there are so many ways to hit that just-right note of balance in the Yin and Yang of every aspect of life.

However, wouldn’t you agree that to really adopt a change in lifestyle, one has to hang out in the deep end of change for a while before moving back to the moderate depths?  You’ve got to flex your mental muscles a little bit, learn some new moves, before heading back to middle ground. Modern research supports this–new behaviors lay down new paths in our brain’s design, creating new pathways and neural communication.

Without big change, it is much too simple to return to old habits and there won’t be staying power with our new habits.

Personally, I’ve ventured off into the deep waters around nutrition many times.  And sometimes I’ve stayed in the deep a good, long while…my 14-year commitment to being a lacto-ovo-pescarian being one foray (translate: My very weak attempt at vegetarianism–high refined carbs, lots of soy and pseudo-meats.  My saving grace was the pescarian part…something in me knew it needed the nutrition of fish!)

It’s hard to appreciate how various choices make us feel without having first experienced something very different.  My years of sloppy vegetarianism, practiced in a manner that left me incredibly deficient in solid nutritional components, have helped me to appreciate SO MUCH how good it is to feel calm, nourished and BALANCED with the deep nutrition we feed ourselves now.

And, to that end, in the name of balance, we shifted from another extreme decision, to totally remove grains in the name of seeing how we felt.  Going off grains helped me to see how we used grain products as a lazy energy crutch.  A bowl of cereal here, some toast and butter there, a platter of pasta to share at dinner.  I realized how much nutrition we’d been cutting out by way of putting refined grains in the place of deeper nutrition sources.

When grain products are removed, something has to go in their place. Certainly, that could be any number of things.  For our family, that meant more produce, notably more veggies, especially squash, sweet potatoes and yams.  It also meant more nut flours, from soaked, dehydrated and ground sources.  And we ate many more coconut products–from flour to cream to flakes.  We also used the seed-like grains, amaranth and quinoa. Cooking with these types of foods was a big learning curve (one never appreciates all that gluten can do as relates to binding and shape until there’s not a speck of it in sight!), and I am very grateful for what it has done to broaden our perspectives on food and for the greater range of nutrition it brought to our plates.

But, what about balance?  Might there be a limit to the almond-flour donuts and coconut flour breads one should really be consuming on a daily basis?  Totally eschewing all grains is something that doesn’t seem moderate to me.

So I began looking more closely at the traditional methods of grain preparation, most notably as found in Nourishing Traditions, but in various blogs as well.  Our family descends from northern Europe, and I know traditionally-prepared grains are a food source my ancestors employed.  And by incorporating the techniques that lend themselves toward better assimilation of the nutrients that are stored in these foods, I felt that I could test the waters and see how we all responded to the inclusion of some of these foods in our diet.

Before we opted to remove grains from our diet, we ate organic, commercially-prepared grains, either in a sprouted form (bread or tortillas), as chips, or as gluten-free options (bread, waffles, English muffins.)

We didn’t do much in the way of traditional preparation of whole grains–meaning, if I made rice, I simply rinsed it then cooked it. Same for oats, corn meal or buckwheat, or any other whole grain.  In sum, we were eating foods that, for the most part, were not well-prepared to support their digestion and assimilation into our bodies.

But the traditional methods involve soaking the grain in warm water, with a little bit of an acid medium, for about 7-12 hours, generally.  By doing so, many of the anti-nutrients, enzyme inhibitors, complex carbohydrates and difficult-to-digest proteins (such as gluten and phytic acid) are broken down into much easier components that our bodies can handle. while at the same time increasing the enzyme activity of the grain, making their digestion much easier.

The above-mentioned acid medium can be fresh lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar, whey from fresh yogurt, or my favorites, homemade kombucha or water kefir.  Personally, I’ve moved away from using whey because research has shown that the calcium in the dairy can inhibit physic acid reduction, thus, inhibiting the bioavailability of some minerals.  No matter the culture starter, though, the fact remains that the healthy bacteria (and yeast, in kefir and kombucha) will use the carbohydrates in the grains as an energy source, thus, predigesting the sugars and reducing them in the final product.

Additionally, warmth and time are needed for proper breakdown–starting with water in the room temperature range, left at room temperature (65-75 degrees Fahrenheit), for about 7-12 hours, gives a very good foundation for proper assimilation. And if the grains are especially big (rice, spelt, kamut), then opening up a little more surface area is a good idea.  You could even use a coffee grinder, and give a quick spin of the grains before soaking–just enough to break up the grain a little and expose more of its structure to the water and ferment starter.

And in that pursuit of balance, you’ve got to have some variety!  Soak, ferment and buy organic and in small batches, then keep them in the freezer so there is no concern for oxidation.  Try gluten-free or straight rolled oats, spelt berries, quinoa, rye, quinoa, amaranth and steel cut oats–all great choices.

Needless to say, this all requires a few extra steps, though it’s far from difficult–and I go into good detail on it in my book, The Funky Kitchen, and even GREATER detail in my 6-module course, Fresh, Fun and Flavorful in The Funky Kitchen.  But these steps, coupled with a tart flavor profile (thanks to the healthy bacteria consuming the sugars in the grains) and the richer texture of whole grains, lends itself toward lighter consumption.

And that is a balanced answer 😉

Sauerkraut in a Jar!

Humble beginnings to a homemade kraut
Photo courtesy of Vera Almann

Homemade, lacto-fermented, raw sauerkraut is such a total delight!  And, as I enjoy my new favorite book, The Art of Fermentation, gifted to me by my sister for Mother’s Day, my appreciation grows deeper.

There are a number of different ways to start a ferment–you can use starter granules, a little whey from fresh yogurt or water kefir, some of the liquid from a previous fresh ferment, or by use of salt, as this recipe does.

And don’t feel beholden to my ingredients–this is what I had on hand from my most recent CSA purchase.Just be sure to consume it within four weeks so that the balance of healthy flora doesn’t begin to lose ground against oxidation, degrading the good bacteria you’ve worked so hard to propagate!

Jarred Sauerkraut

Makes approximately 1/2 gallon 

  • 2 medium heads of Cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 1 English Cucumber, shredded
  • 3 Spring Onions, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 1 Red or Yellow Bell Pepper, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 8-9 small Carrots (approximately 1.5 cups), shredded
  • 2 cups Spinach, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 4-5 tablespoons Celtic Sea Salt
  • Reserve a few of the outer Cabbage Leaves to roll to compress down the kraut, if you choose
  • 4-5 tablespoons Fresh Whey or Water Kefir, if you choose
  • 2 Quart-sized Mason Jars, or 1 half-gallon Mason Jar

Using the slicing attachment on a food processor, shred chunks of cabbage (if you don’t have a food processor, you can shred the cabbage and other ingredients that call for slicing with a sharp knife and cutting board.)

Once complete, pour out into a large, stainless steel bowl, then slice and chop the onions, pepper and spinach, and scoop this mixture onto the shredded cabbage.  Sprinkle with half the salt and a little of water kefir or fresh whey, if using.

Next, attach the shredding component to the processor (or use a box grater on the countertop.)  Grate cucumber and carrots.  Pour this mixture onto the other vegetables sprinkle with the remainder of the salt, whey or kefir (if using), and mix well.

Allow all ingredients to sit a few minutes, for the salt to release the juices from the vegetables.  Use a meat tenderizer to pound the vegetables, or squeeze them hard with clean hands.  You are trying to express as much liquid as you can from the vegetables.

When you see pools of liquid in the mixture, carefully transfer everything into clean glass jars, compressing the mixture down hard with each scoop to ensure there are no air pockets in the kraut.  As you reach the top of the jar, make sure all the vegetables are covered by their juices by at least an inch, and allow at least another inch of space at the top for the mixture to rise a little during the fermentation process.  If the vegetables are floating at the top as you finish, you can roll the reserved cabbage leaves, cigar-style,  and line them up like sardines, creating a wedge between the kraut and the lid.  This will keep the kraut under its liquids.  Seal tightly.

Place in a dark, cool cupboard and do not disturb for at least three days (a week if you’re putting everything into one, big, half-gallon jar), during which the lacto-fermentation process will be well underway. (We usually wait two weeks, but you can go even longer, if you choose.) When complete, remove the jars for storage in the refrigerator.  Be careful when removing the lid–carbonation from the fermentation process may very likely give rise to juices spilling over the top.  If you’ve used the cabbage leaves at the top, discard these to the compost pile and dig in!

Enjoy with grass-fed meats, as a dollop on fresh salads or soups, or as a pairing with raw cheeses.

Fresh cabbage and a strong food processor

The shredding tool, for offering more body to the sauerkraut

 

Beautiful fresh carrots from the CSA

 

Veggies in the processor after shredding

 

Coarse Celtic sea salt

 

Veggies, sliced, shredded and pounded, with sea salt

 

Here’s the pooling from the veggies as the salt releases the juices

 

Veggies in the jar, with at least 1.5″ of headroom to the top of the jar, allowing for the expansion of fermentation.  See how everything has risen up?  I’ll be using rolled cabbage leaves to press it down under its juices.

 

Dreamy Almond “Pancookies”

Yacon-Date-Almond Pancookies--their flavor is buttery-caramel, just as their color suggests!

This little cookie is a total delight!  Made with only fresh almond flour, it is gluten- and grain-free.  And the sweetener is Yacon syrup from the Amazon.

If you’ve yet to try this amazing sweetener, you are in for a real treat.  It has the most delicate floral essence and the richest coloration…a dark amber, significant of its mineral and vitamin content.  It has a lower glycemic index than other sweeteners, as well as being a great source of fructooligosacharides (FOS), a prebiotic that does not raise blood sugar levels.

These cookies are very moist and thin.  In fact, so moist and thin, my family calls them “pancookies,” owing to their resemblance to a little pancake.  So, pancookies they are.  Whatever you call them, they are tasty!

When baking, allow at least 2″ between each for the spreading action that happens with heating.  Also, the combination of the egg, yacon syrup and almond flour makes for a very thick, almost gelatinous batter.  Simply take a tablespoon and pour onto your cooking sheet for each cookie.

As with all my “treats,” these are not overly-sweet…in fact, they remind me more of caramel than a cookie in their flavor profile, due to the buttery-saltiness of combined ingredients.  Some freshly-chopped dates up the sweetness in each bite.  Add 7-8 dates to the batter–their flavor is an excellent complement.

Almond-Date Pancookies with Yacon Syrup

Makes approximately 28 2-3″ cookies

3 cups freshly-ground Almond Flour

4 Eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup Yacon syrup

7-8 Dates, thinly chopped

1/2 cup Unrefined, Cold-pressed Coconut Oil, melted

1/2 cup Ghee or Clarified Butter, melted

3/4 teaspoon Sea Salt

2 tablespoons Vanilla Extract

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Fahrenheit.

Combine almond flour with sea salt and chopped dates.  Beat eggs and blend in yacon syrup, oils and vanilla, then combine with flour and salt mixture.

 

Freshly ground organic almond flour

 

Freshly chopped dates

 

Blending melted coconut oil and ghee

 

Yacon syrup--secret ingredient to this wonderful cookie!

 

On a cookie sheet lined with a Silpat mat or parchment paper, use a tablespoon to measure out each cookie, separating them by at least 2 inches.

Blending the cookie batter

 

Pancookies on Silpat sheet, ready to bake

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until edges begin to brown.

Remove and cool at room temperature.  Place in an air-tight glass, ceramic or metal container for safekeeping in the refrigerator.

Yummy pancookies ready to enjoy!

 

Crock-Pot Chicken

Juicy, flavorful, pastured chicken…straight from the crock-pot!

The joy of working with a crock-pot–there is something so wonderful about knowing that a meal will be nearly completed as we work through the day, or sleep through the night. And this recipe for pastured, organic chicken speaks to this delight.  It is rich, deeply flavorful, nutritious…and easy as can be!

Start with a whole, organic chicken–and while this works beautifully with a whole chicken, you might try a chicken that is cut into parts—either works fine.  Just look for a chicken that has been pasture-raised, meaning it has been able to move around, support itself and get some sunshine (seems like not much to ask, but the modern conventional farming techniques have made it necessary to research before making a purchase.)

I love working with the pastured chickens that are  cut into parts, from Tropical Traditions.  These chickens are fed a diet free of soy and rich in coconut…making for a very flavorful and nutritious meat.

Coconut-fed, soy-free pastured chicken, cut into parts

Once completed, this recipe has about 2 1/2 cups of reserve liquid from the cooking process, thanks in large part to the wine (I love the Trader Joe’s Chardonnay made with organic grapes–not too sweet.)  I like to save this in a separate glass container as a base for a soup, to add to sauteed veggies, or as a base for a sauce.  Just don’t discard it–it is very nutritious, rich in tissue-building gelatin, collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin and bio-avaialable minerals.  And it tastes divine!

This chicken is excellent served over greens, both fresh and braised.  You can also pull the meat from the bones and use as a great base for a homemade chicken salad, or in enchiladas, or reserved to toss into a veggie soup.  Feel free to freeze some as well, once removed from the bones, to have on hand to add to a vegetable saute or wrapped in nori sheets with avocado…needless to say, the options are endless!

Drunken Crock-pot Chicken with Onions

Makes 6-8 servings of various cuts of meat

  • 1 Large Chicken, whole or in parts, rinsed and patted dry
  • 1 cup  Chardonnay Wine
  • 2 T Apple Cider Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 cup Celery, chopped
  • 1 large Yellow Onion, sliced thinly
  • 2/3 cup filtered Water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1.5 teaspoon Poultry Herb Blend (preferably organic and non-irradiated)
  • 4-5 Bay leaves

Set the crock-pot to a four-hour setting.

Place the chicken in the pot, followed by the vegetables, then the seasonings.  Pour the wine, vinegar and water over the ingredients, and place the lid on the pot.

Uncooked ingredients in crock-pot

There should be ample liquids in the pot to prevent scorching and burning.  However, if you smell or see that this is happening, simply add a little more water and keep the lid on the pot.

After four hours, you can enjoy this great dish…or, allow it to cook longer on the “Keep Warm” setting, which will further break down the bound minerals and connective tissues, bringing them into the broth’s solution.

Cooked chicken in a rich broth

As mentioned, strain and reserve the flavorful liquid for another meal–it is fantastic when spooned over sauteing vegetables!

Tasty chicken and rich reserved cooking liquid