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!

Avocado and Papaya Salad

Papaya, avocado, pumpkin seeds and cayenne topping fresh greens from our spring garden.  Absolutely heavenly drizzled with walnut oil and fresh lime juice.

Papaya, avocado, pumpkin seeds and cayenne topping fresh greens from our spring garden. Absolutely heavenly drizzled with walnut oil and fresh lime juice.

It’s getting hot here in the desert, and we have many months of high temperatures ahead of us.  It feels good to move into the lighter faire of fresh fruits and vegetables when the weather warms–wonderful, juicy sustenance, but grounded with a drizzle of rich oil and soaked and dehydrated seeds.

Here’s an easy, fresh and nutritious salad that will be a light meal on its own, a perfect side to grilled fish or chicken, or paired with an assorted raw cheese plate. It is rich in digestion-supporting enzymes, thanks in large part to the Hawaiian papaya.  Included is sliced avocado–it’s mellow butteriness is like a soft pillow to the gentle sweetness of the papaya.  Topped with soaked and dehydrated pumpkin seeds and raw walnut oil, these simple ingredients will surprisingly deliver on sustained energy until your next meal.  Seasoned only with fresh lime juice, coarsely-ground sea salt and a dash of cayenne pepper, it is a flavor profile that puts me in a Mexico state of mind.

Avocado and Papaya Salad

Serves 2

  • 2 cups fresh Green Leaf Lettuce or Bibb Lettuce, roughly chopped and divided to 2 bowls
  • 1 ripe Avocado, cut into 1/2″ slices, divided
  • 1 cup ripe Papaya, cut into 1/2″ slices, divided
  • 1/4-1/2  cup Raw Pumpkin Seeds (preferably soaked and dehydrated), divided
  • 1 Lime, sliced and divided
  • 1/4 cup raw Walnut Oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil will do, as well), divided
  • Cayenne Pepper
  • Coarsely ground Sea Salt

Divide the lettuce between two bowls.  Top each with the avocado and papaya slices and sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds.  Drizzle with  walnut oil and top with sea salt and a dash of cayenne pepper.  Serve with fresh lime wedges and enjoy immediately.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Lamb Bake

Sprouted quinoa and grass-fed lamb bake, fresh from the oven

I’ll be the first to say that not every home has ground lamb ready to go in the freezer.  Pastured lamb is not as common in most kitchens as it once was. However, should you have the opportunity to purchase some, consider this recipe as an excellent way to put it to use.

And just because something doesn’t tend to be a regular part of our diet, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.  Each food has its own unique nutrition profile, and consuming a variety of foods helps to keep us balanced and vibrant.  Dr. Jack Tips’ book, The Pro Vita Plan, speaks volumes about the importance of this practice.

And including a food as nutritious as pastured lamb in your diet is just a very good  idea.  Pastured meats tend to be much leaner than their lot-fed, grain-fed pastured counterparts, and the fat they do contain is much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and much lower in Omega-6’s (fresh grass is over 60% Omega-3’s, and, like us, these animals are what they eat.)  Pastured lamb is also rich in Vitamin E and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient increasingly recognized for its anti-tumor, cardiovascular-supporting actions. (1)  US Wellness Meats is an excellent resource for pastured meats, shipped right to your door.

Another nutritional powerhouse in this recipe is soaked and sprouted quinoa, which I’ve cooked in grass-fed lamb bone broth.  Although quinoa is a food of the Andeas, and not the Mediterranean, it combines really well with the lamb.  If you wanted to be a real traditionalist, however, you could certainly substitute orzo or couscous, though I’d recommend soaking both beforehand.  Quinoa is gluten free, has its own healthy protein profile, and when it’s soaked and sprouted, many of the anti-nutrients found in all grains and seeds are broken down into easier to digest, less bothersome components (phytates, tannins and lectins, to name a few.)

I pair this with freshly made, plain yogurt and a bright green salad topped with raw garlic, cucumbers and ripe tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.  It’s wonderful reheated in the toaster oven, or broken into steaming bone broth, a la matzo ball soup.  The kids love it, and the grown-ups do too, so it’s great as a casserole to serve at a dinner party.  And, of course, it makes for a quick lunch later in the week!

Mediterranean Lamb Bake

  • 1 pound ground Grass-Fed Lamb
  • 2.5 cups soaked Quinoa, cooked (preferably in lamb or chicken broth)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Feta Cheese, preferably raw and grass-fed goat or sheep, crumbled
  • Prepared Vegetables (I sliced Carrot, 1 sliced Zucchini, 1 diced medium Yellow Onion, 3 minced Garlic Cloves, 4 sliced Celery stalks) sauteed in 1 tablespoon Ghee or Butter until soft
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Mint Leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Grease an 8″ x 12″ baking dish with butter or ghee and scoop in the mixture.  Smooth with a spatula and place, uncovered, on the bottom rack of the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes, then increase oven heat to a high broil.  Place dish on a medium-high rack and broil for seven or eight minutes, or until the top gently browns.

Remove from the the oven and allow the dish to rest for ten minutes at room temperature before serving.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Sprouted quinoa and grass-fed lamb

 

Veggies sauteed in ghee, with herbs and lemon juice added just at the end

 

Top-browning under the broiler

 

Delicious Mediterranean-style baked lamb and sprouted quinoa, with fresh yogurt

(1)  Visit www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm for more information.

Grain-Free Mini “Pizza” Turkey Loaves

All the wonderful ingredients to make these delicious little turkey loaves

Another nutritious, grain-free, easy recipe to support you during a busy week!

Just because I have a family of four and a two-career household, it doesn’t mean that I’m any busier than most everyone else these days.  All of us have many things going on in our lives.  And I know that if we don’t have foods prepared and ready to go come meal times, our choices start looking rather paltry (and for us, eating common fast-food offerings is simply not a choice.)

So, here’s another recipe to prepare ahead of time (i.e., Sunday!), and keep it in the refrigerator for lunches, a quick snack or on top of a dinnertime salad, as you work through your week.

This recipe is delicious and easy…the hardest part will be steaming the spaghetti squash.  And, this isn’t “hard,” but it is a first step.  Save the remainder of the squash in the refrigerator, to sauté in ghee with fresh basil and garlic, and serve as a quick side dish to fresh salad and these little reheated “loaves” on a busy evening. These will also be making their way into my kids’ lunch boxes this week, paired with some fresh veggies, a hunk of raw cheese and coconut crackers.

I call these “pizza,” because they have that flavor profile.  But if you chose to use thyme, rosemary, sage, omit the tomato paste, and used a little Chèvre as the cheese, they would be more in the savory, Thanksgiving-ish category.  You could also shift them toward Mexico, keeping the tomato paste, garlic, onion and oregano, and adding cumin, cilantro and chipotle.   There are countless ways to make these fit your palate!

Mini Turkey Loaves

Makes 18 muffin-sized “loaves”

  • 2 pounds Ground Turkey, preferably dark meat
  • 1.5 cups cooked Spaghetti Squash, steamed and drained of excess water
  • 3/4 cup frozen Spinach
  • 3 cloves Garlic, finely minced
  • 3 Eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Jack Cheese, preferably raw and grass-fed, shredded (Raw Parmesan would be great, too!)
  • 1-7 oz. jar Tomato Paste, preferably salt-free
  • 1/8 cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2.5 teaspoon Onion Powder
  • 2.5 teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 3  teaspoons dried Oregano Leaf
  • Olive Oil or butter for greasing muffin tins

You’ll need muffin tins for 18 “loaves.”

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.

Grease each tin’s cups with oil to prevent sticking.  Fill each to the top with the mixture, and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon.

Place on the middle rack in a well-heated oven.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes to resorb any oils back into each loaf.

Store in a glass, ceramic or parchment-lined plastic container in the refrigerator and consume within three days.

Turkey “loaves” ready to bake

 

Baked and cooling in the muffin tins

 

On parchment and ready to store in the refrigerator

 

Grain-free turkey loaves ready to enjoy with homemade sauerkraut and fresh greens!

 

Savory Coconut Crackers

Nutritious, crispy, savory coconut flour crackers

I think most of us tend to think of coconut flour in the vein of the sweet delicacies, for which is so well-suited.  But when one uses a fair amount of coconut flour in cooking and baking (read: me), it is nice to diverge from the usual path.  And this recipe does just that, so delightfully, that you’ll forget you’re eating a cracker based in coconut!

As with my Raisin Bread recipe, this recipe uses soaked coconut flour as its base.  The lighter texture that comes from soaking in warm water, with a little whey from fresh kefir or yogurt, makes for an excellent cracker.  (For soaked coconut flour, use 2 cups warm water to 1 cup coconut flour–maybe more, if needed; you want the consistency to be like mashed potatoes–and add 1/4 cup of fresh whey.  Mix all well and keep at room temperature for at least 12 hours, lightly covered, stirring once or twice, before storing in the fridge or using in a recipe.)

My family is loving these little flatbread crackers–they’re great in the kids’ lunches with some raw cheese and grass-fed beef hot dogs, or with a salad at dinner, or just as a great, nutritious snack.  The savory flavor profile can be taken in many directions, based on your tastes–south of the border with chipotle powder and cumin, Italian with oregano, garlic and basil, barbecue with smoked sea salt, coconut crystals, cumin and chili powder.  You get the idea.

Here’s a good template to begin with, a flavor profile that is a great accompaniment to lots of dishes.

Savory Soaked Coconut Flour Flatbread Crackers

Makes 2 sheet pans’ worth of crackers

  • 2 cups Soaked Coconut Flour
  • 1/2 cup freshly ground Flax Meal
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Ghee
  • 1.5 teaspoons Sea Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Garlic Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Onion Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried Oregano Leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder

Preheat oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all ingredients and mix until well incorporated.

Take 2 baking sheets and line with parchment paper. Divide the mixture between the 2 sheets.  Take another sheet of parchment paper the length of each of the sheets, and cover the mixture.  Using a rolling pin, evenly compress the mixture across the length and width of the sheet, then repeat for the second sheet.  Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and discard.

Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to score the dough into 1″ crackers.

Place both sheets in the middle of the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.  Any edges or thinner spots will brown first, so remove these with a spatula, then replace the remainder in the oven until the rest have browned accordingly, likely just a few minutes longer.

Place hot crackers on a plate to cool, spaced from each other to keep humidity from forming that will cause sogginess.  Once cooled, place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.  Will keep for 5-6 days or longer, though the humidity of the refrigerator will begin to soften the crispiness.  To crisp again, simply place for a minute or so in a toaster oven.

Soaked coconut flour, the texture of stiff mashed potatoes

 

Freshly grated raw Parmesan cheese

 

Freshly ground flax meal

 

Delicious ghee

 

Parchment paper lining to sheet pans

 

Preparing to roll out dough

 

Scoring the dough

Edges browning and crisping!

 

Crispy, delicious, gluten-free, grain-free crackers!

 

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

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Keeping Beans a Vegetarian Protein!

Black beans sprouting
Photo courtesy of Vera Almann

As was explained in Dr. Jack Tips’ book, The Pro-Vita Plan, master herbalist Doc Wheelwright espoused the proper preparation and cooking of legumes to keep them a vegetarian source of protein.  As is explained in the book, most beans are prepared in a manner that does not allow for the activation of sprouting, and then they are overcooked, denaturing the delicate proteins and leaving in its wake a carbohydrate-rich food.

Fun times leaning from my friend, Dr. Jack Tips

Fun times leaning from my friend, Dr. Jack Tips

However, if beans are soaked (and in my suggested preparation, also fermented), allowed to sprout just a little, and then cooked at a very gentle simmer, they maintain their protein structure, a portion of the carbohydrates are transformed by the fermentation process and another portion is used as a fuel source for the sprouting process.  The end result?  A much-more digestible, lower carbohydrate, vegetarian protein source!

At home, we enjoy beans prepared this way on salads, in sprouted corn tortillas topped with raw cheese and avocado, and blended into various pates–beans are just so versatile.  And when they’re prepared in this manner, they make a great vegetarian source of protein in a given meal.  There are some caveats, though–I have found, and so have others in my 6-week course, that fermenting peas doesn’t work out quite right…they stay tough.  Better to just soak them in plain water overnight before cooking.

You can just hear the cows mooing in deep appreciation, the chickens flapping their wings in delight ;-).

Preparation of Protein-rich Beans

  • 1 cup of organic, rinsed and sorted whole beans
  • 3 cups of room temperature, chlorine-free water
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh water kefir (to culture the water and propagate little fermentation–Kombucha works too)
  • Any vegetables and seasonings you would like for your beans
  • Plan to also include about 1-2 teaspoons of sea salt in the soaking water to help soften the beans when cooking

Soak the beans in water, salt and water kefir  for at least 8 hours, up to 24 if you like, kept at room temperature, in a loosely covered bowl (a bound paper towel works great, or a pot with a lid.)  Check them after about 4 hours to make sure they are staying well-submerged under the water.

Beans after eight hours of soaking should be pliable to the teeth, no longer ultra-hard, and after the longer fermentation cycle of up to 24 hours, you’ll also notice they are fermenting…there will be bubbles and a slightly tart sent of fermentation.

Drain and rinse the beans, then spread them in a colander, keeping them level throughout, and loosely covered with a paper towel. (Placing them in a colander keeps air circulating on more surface area of the beans, and makes for easy rinsing until they begin to sprout.)  Keep beans at room temperature, checking every few hours for a small, white sprout to appear.  Rinse every 4-5 hours until sprouts have appeared.  Just don’t let them get slimy!  Rinsing helps avoid this, but if it is especially warm and/or humid, you may need to rinse more frequently.

Once sprouted, add beans to simmering water—or even bone broth.  You may want to season with herbs and spices and precook any vegetables you might include as well.  Bring the beans and water/broth up to a gentle boil, removing any scum that might rise to the surface.  After a few minutes, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cap the pot, careful that it doesn’t start simmering too hard with the lid on.  Plan to maintain at this heat for 40-50 minutes, or until tender.

Remove from the heat and enjoy!  Cooked beans will store in the refrigerator for up to five days in a glass, stainless steel or ceramic container–and beans freeze very well for several months.