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!

 

Salmon and Quinoa Burgers

Salmon and quinoa burgers--incredibly tasty and wonderfully nutritious!

I am happy to report that this first foray into fish-consumption for my kids was a total and complete success–the oldest even asked for seconds!  This is quite a big deal in our house, as our kids have been very stubborn about eating fish.  So glad this hurdle has been jumped!

These burgers really are that good–somehow, the pairing of quinoa with salmon tastes as right as peanut butter and jelly.  Like so many things, the quality of ingredients really counts…having fresh salmon that is not too fishy-tasting is key. And once cooked, the quinoa lends a mild nuttiness in the crispy portions.

These are quite soft patties before being cooked, and really best suited to a grilling pan, where they won’t fall through the grates of a standard grill (trust me, I tried!)  If you don’t have a textured grilling pan, then you can use a standard pan with plenty of butter or coconut oil to prevent sticking.  You could also bake them on an oiled baking sheet.

Their flavor and texture is a wonderful accompaniment to veggies that have been grilled, and they hold up very well when used in a toasted sprouted grain or gluten free bun, if you so choose, dressed with onion and tomato slices, and a sprinkle of capers.

Salmon and Quinoa Burgers

Makes approximately 16-4″ burgers

3 pounds fresh boneless, skinless wild-caught Salmon Fillets

2 cups soaked and cooked Quinoa, cooled

2 Eggs, beaten

1 small Purple Onion, coarsely chopped

1 Yellow, Red or Orange Bell Pepper

1 tablespoon dried, organic Dill

1.5 tablespoons Celtic Sea Salt

Ghee, Butter or Coconut Oil for the grill pan

Directions

Combine the pepper and onion in a food processor with the blade setting, and process until just blended.  Add the eggs, salmon, dill and salt, and blend again, just until the fish has broken into a smoother consistency.

Orange bell pepper and purple onion, just blended

Salmon fillets in the food processor with the veggies

Consistency of mix before adding the quinoa

Add the quinoa, and blend once more, just to mix the ingredients together.  You don’t want a totally smooth consistency; rather, something with a little texture of all the ingredients.  (If you don’t have a food processor, you can finely chop the onion, pepper and salmon, mix in a large bowl with the herb and spice, pour in the beaten eggs, then add the quinoa, mixing all well to distribute all ingredients evenly.)

Cut waxed or parchment paper into 4-5″ squares, making about 16.  Using a tablespoon, taking heaping spoonfuls of the mixture and spread them onto the cut papers, making patties that are about 1/2″ thick and about 4″ across.  (Placing the mix on separate papers makes for a much easier application to the grilling pan.)

Salmon patties about to go into the grill pan

Over low-medium heat, coat the pan with the ghee, butter or coconut oil, and once hot, place the patties gently onto the pan.  Once you notice the texture changing after  2-3 minutes, flip the patties and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

The patty in the front is ready to flip; the one in the back has flipped and will cook for maybe another minute

Once cooked, serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Golden and delightful salmon and quinoa burgers!

 

 

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 😉

Turkey and Fermented Quinoa Patties

Sprouted Quinoa and Turkey Patties

 

These patties will be a lifesaver for you–they are a wonderful dish to have on hand for a quick reheat in the toaster oven, or as a protein entree in a brown-bag lunch (with a freezer pac!)

We love them straight off the griddle, paired with raw sauerkraut and a dollop of creme fraiche  (or, if you ask the kids, with organic ketchup!)  Another favorite is to break one up and top it with rich bone broth–such a nutritious meal!

They are just a handy, nutritious option that tastes great!  They are certainly worth the bit of time it takes to cook them, and even this can be shortened if you have a large griddle.

Turkey and Fermented Quinoa Patties

Makes approximately 28-30 patties

  • 4 cups cooked Quinoa (soak your quinoa in water and water kefir overnight before cooking)–I like to cook mine with bone broth for added flavor and nutrition
  • 2 pounds Ground Dark Turkey
  • 5 Pastured Eggs
  • 1 cup freshly shredded raw Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 teaspoons organic Poultry Herb blend
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 cup frozen, organic Spinach
  • Ghee, coconut oil or grass-fed Beef Tallow for the pan
  • 12″ fry pan

Combine all ingredients into a glass or stainless bowl and mix well.

Melt a tablespoon of oil in the frying pan over low-medium heat.

Using an ice cream scoop or serving spoon, make 3-4″ patties that are about 1/3″ in thickness–in a 12″ pan you should be able to fit 3 patties easily.  Cook for about 4 minutes on the first side, or until golden brown, then flip.  Allow another 3-4 minutes of cooking, then transfer to a non-plastic plate or dish.

Continue re-oiling your pan with each batch.

Patties store well in the refrigerator for 3 days, or in the freezer for 3 months for reheating in the toaster oven or in a pan.  Wrap separately in parchment paper and use heavy duty aluminum foil or a freezer-safe container for storage.

 

Freshly-shredded raw Parmesan

 

All ingredients in the bowl, ready to mix!

 

Everything ready to cook

 

Patties ready to flip…

 

…et voila! Crunchy, savory, nutritious patties, ready to enjoy or to save in the freezer for another meal!

Grass-fed Beef Bacon and Liver Stew

Grass-Fed Beef Bacon and Liver Stew--nutritious and tasty!

First, let me say that I have never been one to reach for liver.  Of any variety.  It is something that was not part of my upbringing, and for that matter, I’m not so sure how much a part it was of my parents’ upbringing.

However, I know how important a role it can play in health if given the opportunity.  It is a rich source of readily available Vitamin A, protein and iron.  It is a truly nutritious, restorative food.  My training in Chinese Medicine further underscores the point–it is used traditionally for building the blood and nourishing the tendons and sinews, while benefiting the eyes, and is a terrific tonic in recovery from blood loss.  All good stuff.

However, there has been a big divide between theory and practice when it comes to using grass-fed, organic beef liver as a nutritious component in my  family’s diet.  I’ve found the mineral-rich flavor and  soft texture too overpowering to my sensibilities, and I’ve not had much more success with giving it to my kids.

But just because something might be a challenge, doesn’t mean there isn’t a way to make it work.  And when it comes to this gold-mine of nutrition, I find it does best when taken as small bites, and flavored with additional ingredients.

In this instance, the additional ingredients are fatty slices of grass-fed beef bacon, onions, garlic, vegetables and the ensuing rich broth that marries all of the components. In other words, I make the liver work by making it a small part of a healthy and hearty stew.

As with all the dishes I make, I strive to get as much nutrition into every spoonful as possible, and this stew is no exception.  I begin with beef I buy directly from one of our local sources, Kenny of Fishhugger.  A modern-day hunter-gatherer, Kenny allows his cattle and sheep to graze on the wild grasses of New Mexico, with the resultant meats, organs and fats being sublimely infused with the taste and scent of…grass.

Likewise, the bacon created by way of Kenny’s efforts is truly hardwood smoked, and when it’s cooking, I can’t help but feel like I’m preparing bacon that is very close to the original concept of bacon–its scent fills our kitchen with a rich smokiness that is the beautiful, authentic version of what we’ve come to know in modern times.

Additionally, another important component of the stew is the nutritious, colorful and flavorful veggies I use from our local farmer, Tonopah Rob.  We are part of Rob’s CSA program and we couldn’t be happier.  If you live in the Phoenix, AZ area, I encourage you to contact him for excellent, local, heirloom-variety, all-natural produce.  And if you don’t live in the area, please research your local farmers so you can reap the bounty of harvests in your community.

I begin by cooking the bacon on a low heat, allowing the fat to melt out, then add the liver, which has been thinly sliced.  Next I add the onion, wait a few minutes, stir a couple of times, then add the veggies.  After about 25″ of cooking, with a stir of the ingredients from the bottom to the top every few minutes, I add the seasonings, mirin, chopped garlic and 6 cups of boiling water.  Then I cover the stew with a tight-fitting lid, and turn off the heat.

I like to serve this stew with a spoonful or two of raw sauerkraut.  The salty tartness is a terrific pairing with the smoky, mild sweetness of the broth.

And, for the record, the kids have been enjoying this stew, too!  It feels great to feed them such nutritious food (and not have to struggle to do so!)

Grass-Fed Beef Bacon and Liver Stew

Makes 10-12 servings 

Ingredients

10-12 slices Grass-fed Beef Bacon, sliced into 1″ slices

3 ounces Grass-fed Beef liver, thinly sliced into 1″ pieces

1 large Yellow Onion, thinly sliced

1 medium-sized Green Cabbage, thinly sliced

2 cups Kale, stems removed and chopped

6 Shiitake Mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 1/2 cups Carrots, 1/4″ slices

2 Zucchini, 1/4″ slices

1 tablespoon Garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon powdered Sage

3-4 Bay Leaves

2-3 teaspoons Celtic Sea Salt

3 tablespoons Mirin (Japanese Cooking Wine)

6 cups Purified Hot Water

In a large soup pot, cook bacon slices on low heat, then add the sliced liver.  Cook both for 5-10″, allowing the fat to melt out onto the bottom of the  pan, then add the sliced onions.  Stir all occasionally,  and cook for another 5″ before adding the cabbage and kale.  Stir from the bottom, bringing the hot oil and meat over the greens, allowing them to wilt down.  Next add the rest of the vegetables, salt, bay leaves and sage.  Cook for another 15-20″, stirring from the bottom to the top periodically.  Finally, add the hot water, mirin and garlic, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and remove from the heat.  After 15-20″, spoon out into bowls and top with fresh, raw sauerkraut.

Grass-fed beef bacon slices

 

Carrots directly from Tonopah Rob's All-Natural Farm

 

Bacon and liver cooking

 

Onions added to bacon and liver

 

Cabbage over bacon and liver--looks like a lot of greens, but...

 

...it cooks right down after a few minutes

 

Everything melding nicely, about to add the garlic, water and mirin

 

Stew served and ready for a spoonful or two of fresh sauerkraut!

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