Arugula Beef

For my next food post, I meant to share a lunch menu with you, but just this week I stumbled upon a dinner so quick and easy and good that it’s jumping the queue. It’s a meal in one dish, though I suppose you could add sides if you wished.

photo by J.M. Ney-Grimm

Ingredients

Topping
small brick of seaside cheddar cheese, grated

Meat
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 baby carrots
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon tarragon
2 pounds ground beef

Dressing
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard

Salad
a generous bunch of arugula
a head of romaine lettuce

Preparation

Dice the onion, mince the garlic, and slice the carrots.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the carrots and sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Add the onions and sauté 2 or 3 minutes. Cover and turn down the heat to low. Let cook for 10 minutes.

While the onions and carrots cook, measure out the spices and grate the cheese. Rinse, drain, and shred the romaine and arugula. Mix the dressing by whisking the olive oil, the vinegar, and mustard. Toss the greens with the dressing and set aside.

The carrots should be soft by now. Add the oregano, thyme, and tarragon. Add the garlic. Stir briefly and sauté for 1 minute. Add the ground beef, breaking it up and mixing it with the carrots and onions. Continue to sauté, stirring as needed to get the meat thoroughly browned and cooked, about 10 minutes. When done, pull off the heat.

To serve: put a generous helping of the salad greens on each plate. Spoon the meat over the salad. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Enjoy! (Serves 4.)

Benefits

Why do I think this is healthy? Yep, I’m always dragging nutrition into it! Let’s start with the easy ones first. Just about anyone can go on and on about how healthy vegetables are, but I find it fun to focus on some of the specifics, especially specifics unfamiliar to me. So…

Romaine LettuceThe Greens: Romaine and Arugula

Romaine lettuce is a powerhouse of the B-vitamins, especially folate. It’s got more vitamin C than carrots! Plus it contains lots of beneficial omega-3 fats, the kind most of us think you must eat fish to obtain. Romaine is also mineral rich (calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, zinc, and iron) and filled with the phyto-nutrients that fight cancer and other ailments.

Arugula boasts many of the same benefits, being packed with vitamins, minerals, and phyto-nutrients. Like romaine, it’s an official “hydrating food” that keeps the body hydrated during hot weather. However, it may also have a more unusual property. The ancient Romans found that regular eaters of arugula possessed more sexual energy and revered the food as an aphrodisiac!

Carrots

Baby CarrotsThe large amount of beta carotene in carrots acts as an anti-oxidant, preventing cell damage and slowing aging. Plus it gets converted into vitamin A, good for the eyes, hair, and skin. Carrots prevent strokes. Most unusually, they help the liver to flush out toxins.

Onions

Another powerhouse of nutrients, onions also improve the efficacy of vitamin C, help regulate blood sugar levels, relieve inflammation, and prevent cancer.

Well, that was pretty straight forward with few surprises, but I bet the next entries in my narrative might prove unexpected. Let’s consider the rest of the dinner. 😀

The Dressing: Olive Oil & Vinegar

Oil & VinegarFirst off, making your own salad dressing means you’re not using the bottled kind, most of which include a host of dubious additives and most of which are made with cheap seed oils, such as canola and safflower. The processing of these fragile seed oils causes them to go rancid. Rancid oil is filled with free radicals, which damage cells. Additionally, rancid oils must be deodorized with powerful chemical scrubbers that leave dangerous residues and create deadly transfats. Not good!

But homemade dressing also has more positive benefits.

Like onions, olive oil prevents inflammation in the body. Since chronic inflammation is now thought to be the precursor to many diseases – heart disease and cancer among them – this is important. Olive oil prevents damage to the cells that line our blood vessels. It lowers both blood cholesterol and blood pressure. If it is cold-pressed, it retains the lipases which facilitate the breakdown of triglycerides. (Triglycerides are a marker for heart disease.)

Vinegar provides its own set of advantages. It increases the absorpption of minerals such as calcium. It slows the breakdown of starches into sugars, giving the body more time in which to regulate blood sugar levels, especially valuable to diabetics. Plus it adds flavor without adding calories.

Both oil and vinegar provide a host of enzymes to help food digest well and thoroughly.

Now I’ll move on to the really tough stuff. Regular readers of my blog probably have an inkling of what to expect, but if you’re new…hold onto your hat!

Cheddar CheeseCheese

Cheese does pack a powerful wallop of protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamins D and B12, and potassium, but common wisdom recommends that you eat only tiny amounts of it because of its high fat content and high calorie count.

Well, as a low-carb eater, I won’t bemoan the fat content. We need that fat to feed our brains and to keep our blood sugar low. You can read more about the benefits of fat in the diet here.

But fat and calories in cheese possess another advantage. Its unique blend of fat and protein is exceptionally satiating. That is, eaters feel satisfied with less and grow hungry again much later than if they’d eaten an equal amount of calories from another food. Eating cheese supports weight loss!

Cheese also helps regulate blood sugar levels. It’s a source for vitamin K (produced by the microorganisms that turn milk to cheese) and vitamin D (naturally present in milk and rarely present in other foods, but critical to immune function).

Aged cheeses, such as cheddar, possess little lactose, making them ideal for lactose-intolerant eaters. Good stuff!

Now for the most maligned food of all. Drum roll!

Roast beef, sliced and ready to serveBeef

First of all, there’s a good bit of difference between feedlot beef and pasture-raised, grass-fed beef. You can read more about it here. Grass-fed beef is a lot healthier! But beef possesses surprising nutritional resources.

Dr. Mat Lalonde – a Harvard chemist – analyzed the different food groups for nutrient density, looking at all the vitamins and minerals whose praises we hear sung by all the media. Make no mistake: vegetables do provide these wonderful substances. But guess what? So does meat, in greater quantity than plant foods and with greater bioavailabilty (which means they’re easier for the body to assimilate). Here’s Dr. Lalonde’s findings:

Grains – Nutrient Density Score: 1.2

Fruit – Nutrient Density Score: 1.5

Vegetables – Nutrient Density Score: 2.0

Legumes – Nutrient Density Score: 2.3

Eggs & Poultry – Nutrient Density Score: 3.1

Pork – Nutrient Density Score: 3.7

Beef – Nutrient Density Score: 4.3

Fish & Seafood – Nutrient Density Score: 6.0

Organ Meats – Nutrient Density Score: 21.3

There’s a reason Mom always tried to make you eat liver when you were a kid! Ditto the fish. But beef pulls a pretty good score, more than twice that of vegetables. Vitamins, minerals, and protein – beef’s got them all.

Beef SuetBut what about all that saturated fat?

Therein lies a tale. You can read more about saturated fats here. But beef fat consists of 42% monounsaturated fat, 4% of polyunsaturated fat, and only 50% saturated fat. Not quite the expected breakdown, is it? However, that saturated fat is actually a good thing! I’ll summarize some of its good points below.

Saturated fats provide the building blocks for cell membranes and many hormones. Cell membranes are composed of 50% saturated fat. When you don’t eat enough, the body substitutes polyunsaturated fat or monounsaturated fat, whatever is available. But the substitutions don’t regulate what goes in and out of the cell quite they way they should, and you feel less well than you could or even get sick. The case for saturated fats is even stronger when you look at hormones, the messengers between the different organs. When their basic building block is scarce, the hormone is scarce too, and you wind up with problems such as infertility.

Saturated fats include both short-chain fatty acids and long-chain ones. The short ones have anti-microbial properties, protecting us from viruses, yeasts, and pathogenic bacteria. Short-chain fatty acids don’t need bile for digestion and thus are used directly for quick energy. This quality means they are less likely to be stored in fat cells and cause weight gain. The long-chain fatty acids are the precursors to hormones that I mentioned above.

Saturated fats allow calcium to be incorporated into our bones. (Osteoporosis, anyone?)

Saturated fats protect the liver from toxins, such as those in acetaminophen.

Beef Arugula 2There’s more, but I suspect I’ve gone on about the benefits of saturated fat and beef for long enough. 😀

Bottom line: enjoy your beef and enjoy this dish! It’s both delicious and healthy.

For an analysis of a breakfast menu:
A Healthy Breakfast

For more about nutrition:
Yogurt and Kefir and Koumiss, Oh My!
Handle With Care
Test first, then conclude!

 

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A Healthy Breakfast

I like sharing what I’ve learned about nutrition in the last decade. Many of my old ideas about healthy eating have been overturned, and I figure that others may be in the same boat I was: following governmental recommendations that are incorrect. So I try to spread the word about these politically correct, but inaccurate myths.

Most of my nutrition posts are some combination of general information plus recipes.

But last fall, I had an idea for another way to share about food. Menus!

Not fancy, cookbooky menus that I (for one) plan to prepare and then never do. No. Menus of what I actually eat.

So this is the first of my menu posts. Breakfast.

lacto-fermented watermelon pickles, berries and cream, boiled eggs and butter, ground sausage

What do I eat for breakfast? It’s pretty standard. I like variation in my lunches. And I want even more variation for my dinners. But, for breakfast, I am content to eat the same thing, day after day. Good thing! If I had to wrack my brain for multiple breakfast ideas, I’d…I don’t know what I’d do, actually. It would be a pain!

So here’s my breakfast menu:
• a lacto-fermented food
• berries and cream
• boiled eggs and ground sausage

In the photo above, the lacto-fermented food is watermelon pickles, and the berries are raspberries. Those specifics do change as the seasons pass and as I finish various jars of lacto-ferments. Sauerkraut, beet kvass, strawberries, blueberries, etc. have been known to make their appearance in my first meal of the day.

So that’s what I eat for breakfast. But why do I eat these items?

Ah! You knew I’d get to the why of it, didn’t you? 😀

breakfast picklesLet’s tackle the easiest dish first: the lacto-fermented one.

Lacto-fermented foods have all those beautiful lactobacilli and enzymes in them. The enzymes mean I digest my food more thoroughly and easily. My body need not make as many of its own enzymes from scratch and I absorb more of the vitamins and minerals present in the food. Plus there are more vitamins and minerals in lacto-fermented food than in merely raw or cooked food.

Serious students of nutrition speculate that the centenarians who once were so numerous in the mountain communities of Russia’s Caucasus owed their healthy longevity, in part, to the many lacto-fermented foods they ate with every meal. I’d certainly like some of that healthy longevity! Plus, lacto-fermented foods taste good!

If you’d like to learn more about lacto-fermented foods, read Amazing Lactobacilli (an earlier post on my blog).

What about the berries and cream?

raspberries and creamThe berries are also easy to explain. Article after article appears in health newsletters, nutrition blogs, and the health section of newspapers explaining that the phytochemicals in berries – the natural compounds that give them their deep color – help our bodies fight cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Sign me up!

The cream is trickier to explain. Our current culture is convinced that saturated fat is bad for us. So convinced that we’re loading up on polyunsaturated fat to a degree that our ancestors never did. And for which our bodies are not designed. Saturated fats are a critical component of our brains and the myelin sheath that covers our nerves. It’s also a critical component of the hormones and enzymes that carry messages throughout the human body and do the brunt of the work that keeps our bodies functioning.

Bottom line: fat does not cause cardiovascular disease. The weight gain and inflammation resulting from heavy grain and carb consumption causes cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats are essential to good health. Thus, I eat cream from grass-fed cows!

That’s a pretty controversial statement these days, so I urge you not to take my word for it. (Or anyone else’s.) Read up about the topic. Read books that challenge your beliefs. Read Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I’ve blogged about both these books in Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My! and Test first, then conclude! Then decide for yourself.

So what about eggs with butter and sausage?

boiled eggs and ground sausage for breakfastBefore the egg scare back in the 1970’s, eggs were regarded as close to the parfect food because they contain amino acids (the building block of protein) in exactly the proportion that the human body needs to build muscle and other tissues. Then scientists realized that eggs have a lot of cholesterol. Oh, no! Cholesterol is found in arterial plaque! It must be bad!

Well, no. It took a while, but eventually the researchers realized that unless you have a particular unusual syndrome, cholesterol that you eat does not become plaque in your arteries. Instead, it’s an essential ingredient for the cell walls of the cells that make up your body, as well as a building block for critical hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. In other words, we need that cholesterol! And the protein profile is close to perfect. Time to rehabilitate the egg.

For the butter, my notes on cream above apply.

And the sausage?

Our human bodies assemble and use nearly 50,000 proteins to make our organs, nerves, muscles and other tissues. Plus enzymes and antibodies are formed of proteins. Proteins are essential to life. And animal protein – meat and eggs – is our only source of complete protein.

Masai youths Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania.Our hunter gatherer ancestors ate a diet largely composed of meat and fat. Vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts were additions to their diet, not the bulk of it. They had excellent bone structure, heavy musculature, and teeth unmarred by any cavities. They were healthy.

Looking at more modern populations, the Russians of the Caucasus again show up as long-lived people eating lots of fatty meats and whole milk foods. In studies of Soviet Georgia, those who ate the most meat and fat lived the longest. The denizens of Vilacabamba, Ecuador – also famous for longevity – consume whole milk and fatty pork. And the Masai of the 1930’s – with a diet of meat, milk, and blood – were nearly disease-free.

With meat, we also get back to fats. Yes, the protein is essential, but the fat is equally important. In order to assimilate vitamins A, D, E, K and certain minerals – calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium – we need fat.

For more about the benefits of meat, read Pasture Perfect. I’ve blogged about this book as well in Grass Green. 😀

One cool bit of trivia about pork: the fat in pork is 45% monounsaturated fat, 11% polyunsaturated fat, and 39% saturated fat. I believe saturated fat to be good for me, but there’s not as much of it in bacon as you might think!

And there you have it: the full rationale behind my breakfast. One more extra benefit: I don’t get hungry for 6 hours after eating it.

For your convenience, I’ll list the links I mentioned in the body of this post:
Amazing Lactobacilli
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Test first, then conclude!
Grass Green

For a dinner menu:
Arugula Beef

 

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I Love Soup!

Meat and fish stocks have been a staple of traditional cuisines for a long time. Consider the Japanese breakfast of fish broth with rice. French onion soup. Korean sol long tang (beef broth and thinly shaved beef brisket). Russsian chlodnik (shrimp soup).

Lima Bean Soup

Yum! I want some right now! 😀

No question that a homemade soup based on homemade stock is delicious. Makes me wish for a do-over of my winter cooking this year. I didn’t make nearly as much soup as I’d intended.

a book of foods from traditional peoples from around the worldBut homemade soup stock is great for a bunch other reasons too. Most of which I didn’t know before I read the book Nourishing Traditions.

Broth Is Super Nutritious

Okay, I “knew” soup was nutritious. You hear it all the time. But I didn’t know why. And, honestly, most commercial soups aren’t, because they’re made with cheap hydrolyzed vegetable protein as a base instead of actual beef stock or chicken stock.

So why is meat and fish broth so good for us? Two reasons.

All the minerals present in bone, cartilage, and marrow are present in the broth, especially the biggies of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

These minerals, plus those of any vegetables you’ve included in your stock-making, are present as electrolytes, a form that is particularly easy for the body to assimilate – that is, your body will take in more of them, more easily.

Broth Is Hydrophilic

“What?” I hear you say. I said it too!

Hydrophilic means it attracts liquids. Most raw foods are hydrophilic. When we eat them, the particles attract the digestive juices present in the gut, causing the food particles to be rapidly and thoroughly digested.

But most cooked foods are hydrophobic. That is, they repel liquids. And repel the digestive juices. Which means your body has to use (and make) more enzymes to accomplish digestion, and it takes longer.

The gelatin in stock possesses the unusual property that even after heating it is hydrophilic. It attracts liquid. So all those lovely vegetable chunks and meat pieces in your soup? They’re coated in broth and thus become far easier to digest.

When I was a young thing, the emphasis placed by my elders on digestibility seemed incomprehensible. You swallow your food; it’s digested; end of story. After I’d experienced indigestion – ouch! – their concern made more sense. And after I’d experienced years of a painful gut from eating soy products such as tofu, digestibility seemed paramount! (All better, BTW, now that I’ve been avoiding soy for nearly a decade.)

Broth Is Protein Sparing

I said “what?” to that one as well.

Here’s the thing: all living cells are composed of protein. Or, put another way, protein is essential to life.

Proteins are assembled from amino acids. And our bodies can build many of the amino acids we need. But not all. There are eight of them that must be supplied by our diet. All essential eight are present in their most assimilable form in meat.

Roast Beefbeef stewBut meat is expensive. Plus, we now know that cooked meat is hydrophobic, which reduces the bio-availability of those amino acids.

So how does this protein sparing thing work?

It has to do with the protein in broth gelatin. The protein in broth gelatin is not complete. That is, it does not contain all eight essential amino acids. In fact, it’s mostly composed of two: arginine and glycine.

But meat broth (and fish broth) gelatin has another special property. It allows the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are eaten with it.

In other words, the chunks of beef in a beef stew (with its broth) will give you much more protein than the same amount of beef sliced from a roast. For those of us on a budget, soup with homemade stock is our friend. 😀

So how do you make soup stock?

I’ll confess that I make more chicken stock than any other, because it’s the easiest. Here’s how I do it.

Chicken StockChicken Stock Recipe

bones & necks from 2 free-range chickens
4 quarts cold, filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar or whey
1 large onion
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, peeled
3 celery sticks

Put the chicken bones into a large pot, fill it with the water, and add the vinegar (or the whey – the liquid that runs off yogurt). Let it sit for an hour. This allows the acidic water to draw the minerals, especially calcium, out of the bones and into the liquid.

Stick the cloves into the onion.

Bring the soaking bones to a boil. Skim the foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat, put the onion and the bay leaf in, cover, and simmer for 4 hours. Add the vegetables and simmer for another 2 to 6 hours.

Remove the chicken bones and wilted vegetables with a slotted spoon. Let the stock cool. Strain it through a seive and pour it into jars to store. It will stay good for 5 days in the fridge, several months in the freezer.

Use as a base for soups and sauces. Plain broth with some salt added makes a great breakfast addition.

For more about nutrition, see:
Grass Green
Handle with Care

For more about food chemistry, see:
Electrolytes iin Solution
Essential Amino Acids

 

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Butternut Soup

deep golden soup in blue and white china bowlVisiting family over the holidays, I encountered the most scrumptious soup. Flavorful. Satisfying. Delicious.

I had seconds. Maybe even thirds. And begged the cook for her recipe.

I tried that recipe at home to great success. Yes! Mine tasted almost as good as hers.

When I asked her if I could feature it on my blog, she said, “Yes.” 😀

So here it is!

the squashes, onions and celery, sauteing, the soupIngredients

2 butternut squashes
1 medium onion, chopped
3 short stalks celery, chopped
(about 2/3 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
tiny pinch of ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups chicken broth
(vegetable broth works fine,
if cooking for vegetarians)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Directions

Bake the squashes whole at 350°F for an hour and a half. Let cool.

Sauté the onion, celery, and garlic in olive oil. Add the spices and continue to cook until the celery and onions are softened. Remove from heat and let cool.

Cut the squashes in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard them. Scoop out the squash flesh. (Discard the outer rind.) Purée the squash in a food processor (or blender). Pour the purée into a large pot. (Or a large bowl.)

Purée the onion-celery mixture in a food processor (or blender). Add this to the pot.

Add the broth and stir. Warm the soup on the stove top for a few minutes. (Or store the soup in two 2-quart bottles in the fridge. And heat later in the microwave by the bowl-full.)

Add a generous spoonful of cream to each bowl, when you serve it.

Makes 4 quarts.

For more recipes, see:
Coconut Salmon
Baked Apples
Oatmeal, Rice, & Granola

 

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Pie Crust Cookies

plate of pie crust cookiesThe first pie crust cookies were frugality run amok.

I was baking an apple pie with my son and enjoying it. We tried a new recipe for the crust, based on pecans. The recipe was intended for a custard pie that didn’t require a top crust. But apple pies need them, and ours was mounded super high with apples. We made more than a double recipe to be sure to have enough dough. Which yielded too much, of course.

Not wanting to waste it, we made the extra into cookies. And they were melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Yum!

The next time we baked together, we made pie crust cookies on purpose!

Here’s how we did it.

A Note on Ingredients

This recipe will work with ordinary whole wheat flour, instead of sprouted whole wheat flour. You may also use raw pecans, rather than crisp pecans. But I urge you to use the sprouted flour and the crisp nuts.

Grains, nuts, and seeds contain phytic acid. Phytic acid prevents the seed or nut from sprouting until it is in contact with the moist earth that will permit the plant to flourish. Which means it prevents enzymes from working. But you want the enzymes in your body to work! You’ll digest your food more completely and receive more of its nourishment. Plus phytic acid is an irritant. Properly preparing seeds, nuts, and grains neutralizes phytic acid. You can read more about this important principle of nutrition here.

Many health food stores carry sprouted whole wheat flour. I buy mine at Whole Foods. Some health food stores carry sprouted nuts. Sprouted nuts can safely be used instead of crisp nuts. The recipe for crisp pecans follows the one for the cookies below.

baking pie crust cookiesIngredients

2 cups crisp pecans
1-1/2 cups sprouted whole wheat flour
1/2 cup evaporated cane juice
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3/8 cup butter
3/8 cup unrefined coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Directions

Put pecans, flour, sugar, and salt in food processor and process until nuts are ground and all ingredients well mixed.

 

Add butter, coconut oil, and vanilla.

 

Process until the mixture forms a ball.

 

Place half of the dough on a sheet of wax paper.

 

Use a rolling pin to roll out dough between 2 sheets of wax paper. Be careful when you pull the top sheet up, since the dough is both delicate and sticky.

 

Use a cookie cutter or a small glass to make small round cookies. You may form the leftover dough into small cookies. The dough is delicate, but will not suffer from this extra handling.

 

Place cookie rounds on cookie sheets covered with baking parchment.

 

Bake in pre-heated 375º F oven for 10 minutes. Cool cookies on cookie sheets for about 2 minutes.

 

Remove cookies to cooling racks and cool completely. The cookies are fragile, but they truly do melt in your mouth.

 
 

Crisp Pecans

Use these as a topping on oatmeal, in the cookie recipe above, or as a snack.

 

Ingredients

4 cups raw pecans
2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
filtered water to cover nuts

 

Directions

Mix the salt with the filtered water and soak the nuts in it overnight (at least 7 hours).

Next day, drain the nuts in a colander.

Put baking parchment on a baking sheet. Spread the nuts evenly on it. Place in oven, turn on to 150ºF and “bake” for 12-24 hours, until completely dry and crisp. Stir the nuts with a spoon and re-spread them occasionally. (If you have a food dehydrator, use that!)

Store the nuts in an air-tight container.

This crisp nut recipe may be used for walnuts, almonds, or macadamias. Do not use it for cashews. Cashews are not raw when they come to us. They contain a toxic oil that must be released and removed by two separate heatings before humans can eat them safely. This means that they’ll get slimy and nasty if soaked too long or dried too slowly. Soak them at most 6 hours. Dry them in a 200ºF oven.

Note: Walnuts, alone of all the nuts, must be stored in the refrigerator. Their unique composition of oils will go rancid at room temperature. The other nuts may be safely stored at room temperature.

For another dessert recipe, see:
Coconut Chocolates

For more on nutrition, see:
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Test first, then conclude

 

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Beet Kvass

I want to tell you about beet kvass!

Beet kvass is my favorite drink, savory and flavorful, yet refreshing. Plus it’s good for you. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to get around to this.

'Red Ace' Beets

Before I zero in on beet kvass specifically, let’s consider lacto-fermented beverages generally. Lacto-fermented beverages use whey in their making, just as yogurt does, and have many of the same benefits.

Lacto-fermentation creates valuable enzymes that add to the health of the entire gastro-intestinal tract. We digest our food more thoroughly and easily – and receive more of its nutrition – when we eat enzymes.

Lacto-fermentation creates pro-biotics. Just as eating yogurt after a course of anti-biotics helps restore the natural and beneficial bacteria needed in the intestine, so will eating other lacto-fermented foods and beverages.

Plus lacto-fermentation makes the vitamins and minerals in food more bio-available, so that our bodies can absorb more of their goodness.

Using whey to make nutritious beverages isn’t new, although we moderns have forgotten about it. It’s an ancient practice once used throughout the world and valued for its medicinal benefits.

Lacto-fermented beverages:
• relieve intestinal problems and constipation
• promote lactation in nursing mothers
• strengthen the sick
• and promote overall wellness and stamina

Modern research discovered that liquids containing dilute sugars and electrolytes of minerals are absorbed faster and retained longer than plain water.

Commercial sports beverage companies tout this research to promote their products. But modern sports drinks are high-sugar brews with minimal electrolytes.

Naturally lacto-fermented beverages contain plentiful mineral electrolytes and only a small portion of sugar. Plus their lactic acid and beneficial lactobacilli promote good health and more effectively relieve thirst.

a book of foods from traditional peoples from around the worldSipped with meals, lacto-fermented beverages promote thorough and easy digestion. Swallowed after physical labor, they gently replenish the body’s lost mineral ions. In Nourishing Traditions (a marvelous book from which I’ve learned a lot), Sally Fallon speculates that the human craving for alcohol and soft drinks may hark back to an archetypal collective memory of the ancient lacto-fermented beverages that were once foundational food ways. There’s no knowing the accuracy of the notion, but it’s an interesting idea.

So…what about beet kvass?

First a disclaimer. I adore the stuff, but some folks describe it as medicinal in taste. That doesn’t compute for me. Beet kvass medicinal? Huh? But I’m a kvass lover. You may not be. Or perhaps you simply loathe beets. Many do. In which case, beet kvass may not be for you!

However, beet kvass possesses all the benefits of lacto-fermented beverages plus some special qualities all its own.

Annelies Schoneck in Des Crudités L’Année tells us that sick people lack the proper digestive juices in the gastro-intestinal tract. And not only during the acute phase of an illness, but for a long time after. Cancer patients especially do not possess healthy intestinal flora. Lacto-fermented beets are particularly valuable to cancer patients and the chronically ill, because they are so rich in vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Plus they help normalize disturbed cellular function.

Zukay beet kvassHow do you make beet kvass? The recipe’s coming right up. It’s an easy one, even simpler than sauerkraut.

(If cooking is not your thing, health food stores often carry Zukay Beet Kvass. As does Amazon. I just checked! 😀 It’s good, although not quite as tasty as homemade.)

BEET KVASS

3 medium or 2 large organic beets
1/4 cup whey
1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
filtered water
a 2-quart canning jar

In addition to its medicinal benefits, beet kvass works well as a substitute for vinegar in salad dressing and as a flavorful enhancement to soups.

A word on ingredients: Be sure to use organic beets. The pesticide residues on conventional produce can halt the lacto-fermentation process. Use liquid whey drained from yogurt with active cultures or obtained from raw milk, not the powdered whey (which won’t work for this) found in health food stores. Use Celtic sea salt, because most other salts have chemical additives that hurt or halt lacto-fermentation. Use filtered or well water, because the chlorine in chlorinated water also harms lacto-fermentation.

First wash and peel the beets. Then chop them coarsely. Do not grate them or chop them finely. Grated beets exude too much juice, which results in rapid fermentation. Rapid fermentation produces alcohol, rather than lactic acid. We need lactic acid for lacto-fermentation!

Place the chopped beets, the whey, and the salt in the 2-quart canning jar. Add filtered water to fill the jar. Stir well and cover with the lid, tightening firmly to finger tight.

Keep the jar on your kitchen counter for 2 to 4 days, depending on the temperature. At 80°F, 2 days will be enough. At 68°F, the kvass will need 3 or 4 days to lacto-ferment. You’ll know it’s ready to refrigerate (and drink) when the beet chunks float to the top.

beet kvass, homemadeServe by pouring the liquid – the kvass – into a glass. Keep the beet chunks in the jar. (I use a small strainer placed against the jar mouth while I pour to corral the beets.) If kvass is new to you, start with small servings, perhaps just a tablespoon or two, to give your body a chance to adjust.

When most of the liquid has been consumed (but not all – leave a quarter cup or so), fill the jar again with filtered water and keep it on the kitchen counter for 2 to 4 days to lacto-ferment again. This will give you another batch of kvass from the same chopped beets.

Or, you can decant the first batch into another jar and store it in the fridge, while starting your second batch right away. This makes pouring and serving the kvass easier. No beet chunks to corral. Plus you’ll have that second batch ready to drink at about the time the first one is gone. In the photo above, you can see one jar with beets still in it, and one jar of decanted kvass.

After the second brew, discard the beet pieces. You’ve used all their goodness! You may, however, reserve a quarter cup of the kvass to use in place of the whey and salt in your next batch. I’m rarely disciplined enough to not drink every last drop! Yes, I love the stuff that much. 😀

For more lacto-fermented recipes, see Corn Relish and Sauerkraut.

For more Nourishing Traditions posts, see:
Yogurt & Kefir & Koumiss, Oh My!
Amazing Lactobacilli
Handle with Care

For more recipes with excellent nutrition, see Coconut Salmon and Baked Carrots.

For more on nutrition, see:
Thinner and Healthier
Test first, then conclude!

I’d love to hear about your cooking adventures and hope you’ll consider sharing in the comments.

 

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Lacto-fermented Corn

corn earsThe first corn of summer arrived in my kitchen last week.

Half of it I simply cooked and served, slathered in butter, to my family. The other half I made into corn relish.

I promised last August that I’d share the corn relish recipe with you when corn was in season again. Time to make good on my promise!

Corn relish is a lacto-fermented food. The same lacto-bacilli that turn milk into yogurt also turn corn and a few other vegetables into corn relish.

photo of corn, tomato, onion melange in canning jarThere are several benefits to this.

For me personally, it means I can eat corn! Cooked in any ordinary way, corn makes me really ill. Lacto-fermented corn bothers my system not in the least.

Of course, most people can eat corn without my difficulty, but lacto-fermented corn offers everyone the great benefits of any lacto-fermented food.

The process of lacto-fermentation creates valuable enzymes which add to the health of the entire gastro-intestinal tract. We digest our food more thoroughly and easily, and receive more of its nutrition, when we eat enzymes.

Lacto-fermentation also creates pro-biotics. You know how your doctor recommends eating yogurt after a course of anti-biotics? Well, eating lacto-fermented vegetables does the same thing, repopulating the intestine with the beneficial bacteria that must be present in order for humans to be healthy!

And lacto-fermentation makes the vitamins and minerals in our foods more bio-available, so that our bodies absorb more of these vital substances, instead of letting them merely pass through and out.

a book of foods from traditional peoples from around the worldI learned about lacto-fermantation in Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. It’s an incredible treasury of the old food ways, and I encourage you to check it out for yourself! One caution: whenever you eat foods new to you, it’s wise to go slow. Your body isn’t used to the new substance. Eat just a spoonful or two and wait. Everyone’s body is a little different. Check to make sure yours is okay with something new before you eat a large serving!

For more information about lacto-fermented foods, check here and here.

And now, without more ado, here’s the recipe. (P.S. It’s delicious!)

Corn Relish

3 large ears of fresh organic corn
1 small onion (or a quarter of a large one)
3 tomatoes or 3 peaches
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves (optional)
1 tablespoon Celtic sea salt
4 tablespoons whey

It’s important to use organic vegetables, because pesticide residues on conventional produce can halt the process of lacto-fermentation.

Also, do not use ordinary table salt. The anti-caking chemicals in it can likewise interfere with lacto-fermentation.

I obtain whey by allowing raw milk (from my herd share in a local dairy farm) to become old-fashioned curds and whey! But you can get it from draining the liquid – whey – from any yogurt with active cultures.

Last summer I made corn relish with tomatoes. It tasted marvelous. Last week, I had no tomatoes on hand, and I substituted peaches for them. This corn relish tastes very similar. The lacto-fermented corn and onions are somewhat spicy and dominant. If you have neither tomatoes nor peaches on hand, I encourage you to experiment. I suspect other substitutions might work equally well.

The first step is shucking the corn of its husks and rinsing the threads that cling to the corn away under running water. You may notice that the very tip of the corn is slightly brown. This is a good thing! It’s a bonafide that the corn really is organic. The browning is from a type of pest that loves corn, but is kept away by pesticides. Just cut the brown tip off and discard it.

Next, cut the corn kernels from the cob into a large bowl.

Wash the peaches, remove their pits, and dice the flesh. Add to the mix. (Or peel the tomatoes, dice them, and add them to the mix. The best way to peel tomatoes: immerse them in boiling water for 60 seconds, then in cold water. The skins will slip right off.)

Dice the onion very fine. Add to mixture.

corn relish in the makingPluck the cilantro leaves from their stems, if you are using cilantro, and add.

Add sea salt and whey. Stir the mixture with a spoon. Then pound it lightly with a wooden mallet or a meat pounder.

Spoon the mixture into a 1-quart canning jar. (Be sure you have put the jar and its lid through the hottest cycle of your dishwasher, or else fill the jar with boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes before pouring it out. And immerse the lid in boiling water as well. You want the lacto-bacilli to grow, not any pathogenic bacteria!)

Leave at least 1 inch of headroom between the top of the corn mixture and the lip of the jar. Pres the mixture down firmly, so that the whey and the vegetable juices cover the corn mixture. If there is not enough liquid for this, add a little filtered water or more whey. Screw the lid on to finger tight.

serving of corn relishLet the jar sit on your counter at room temperature for 3 days. This is when it lacto-ferments. After 3 days, refrigerate the corn relish. It is ready to eat now and will keep in the refrigerator for many months.

More recipes:
Sauerkraut
Coconut Salmon
Baked Carrots
Baked Apples

More on nutrition:
Test first, then conclude!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

 

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Apples á la Ney-Grimm

Basket of ApplesI love fine cuisine, but the daily grind of cooking is truly not my thing. My husband does more of it than I, but I do cook. We both emphasize simple recipes with excellent ingredients. Complicated food is fun to eat, not so much fun to prepare for a Wednesday dinner!

I’m going to share another of my “un-recipes.” I call them that, because they’re so simple they barely deserve the epithet of recipe. Gourmets will laugh at me, but if it’s yummy and healthful, I’m satisfied.

Baked apples always featured as a dessert in my mind. And, certainly, if you add a sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar to this dish, it makes an excellent dessert. Avoid the sweeteners, however (but keep plenty of butter from grass-fed cows), and you’ve got a good accompaniment to roast pork or roast fowl.

Here’s my simple procedure.

Baking ApplesBaked Apples

8 organic apples
1/4 cup butter

 

Grease the baking dish with butter.
 

Wash and peel the apples.

 

Core and cut the apples into bite-sized chunks. Arrange them in the baking dish.

 

Melt the butter. Drizzle it over the apples.
 

Cover the baking dish and place it in the oven. Bake for 1 hour at 350°F.
 

Serves 4 generously.

 

For more simple recipes, see:
Sautéed Eggplant
Sauerkraut
Baked Carrots
Coconut Salmon
Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Granola, and Crisp Nuts
Coconut Chocolates

For more about butter, see:
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

 

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Handle with Care

glass cannister of granolaI’ve learned to be cautious with grains.

They’re high in carbohydrates and, as I’ve gotten older, my body has grown more sensitive to carbs. Philip Maffetone’s In Fitness and in Health taught me that carbs were likely behind the chronic fatigue of my 30’s and the weight gain of my 40’s.

Gary Taubes, in his Good Calories, Bad Calories, explained some of why. When eaten, carbohydrates can provoke an inflammatory response (fatigue) and do cause the body to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin then causes the body to cease burning fat for energy and switch to burning glucose. Which means the fatty acids stay in the fat cells, and more fatty acids are packed in (weight gain).

But there’s another reason to be cautious with grains. Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions explains that we modern westerners aren’t preparing whole grains safely any more. Our ancestors did. And a few of us still possess the old knowledge. (I did not.)

images depicting traditional peoples from around the worldIn India, rice and lentils are fermented for two days before being made into idli and dosas. In Africa, coarsely ground corn was soaked overnight before being added to soups and stews. Ethiopian injera bread is made by fermenting the grain teff for several days. American pioneers were famous for sourdough breads and biscuits. In old-fashioned European porridges, the oats or barley berries were soaked overnight or even for several days before cooking. Flours were never simply scooped from a canister, mixed into whatever, cooked, and eaten two hours later. There’s a reason for that!

All grains contain phytic acid in the outer layer, the bran.

Of course, you can eat refined grains which lack the bran and the germ, but that leads to its own set of health problems. (White flour acts on the body a lot like sugar.) But if you eat whole grains, improperly prepared, phytic acid will harm you.

So what’s the problem with phytic acid?

It combines with minerals in the digestive tract and blocks their absorption. All that lovely calcium or iron or zinc or whatever binds to the phytic acid and rides away, right out of the body. On top of that, phytic acid can be very irritating. Hello, irritable bowel syndrome! Hello, mineral deficiencies! Hello, osteoporosis!

And that’s not all.

The protein in grains, especially the gluten, is hard to digest. Soaking and fermenting breaks down these proteins into their simpler building blocks, which are much easier on digestion.

Consider animals nourished primarily by plants. They have multiple stomachs (sometimes four!) and long intestines. Plants take a lot of digesting! Humans have only one stomach and shorter intestines. We need the help of friendly lactobacilli (the bacteria in yogurt and other live foods) when we eat plants such as grains (and legumes).

Another possibility to consider: add a dollop of cream or butter to cooked grains. The fat acts as a catalyst for mineral absorption. You’ll get more of that critical calcium (for example), if you pair those oats with cream.

And a final consideration: most processed breakfast cereals – even granola, alas! – are downright dangerous. Not only are they rife with phytic acid, but they are processed at high heat and under high pressure. This destroys many of the valuable nutrients in grains, turns the fragile plant oils rancid, and changes the proteins enough to render them toxic.

The take-away lesson is that grains (and legumes) need to be soaked or sprouted to confer their benefits.

If you’re a baker, bake true sourdough breads or loaves made with sprouted grains. If you purchase your bread (raising my hand here), buy true sourdoughs (not just flavored with sourdough) and sprouted grain breads.

I go very light on the grains myself. But for all the grain lovers among us, I’ll share three basic recipes with the grains properly prepared. (Plus crisp nuts.)

The oatmeal in this photo has raisons in it, cooked on the stovetop with the oats, but not soaked overnight with the oats!

oatmealOatmeal

1 cup oats, rolled (not instant or quick-cooking)
1 cup filtered water, warmed (but not hot)
2 tablespoons whey or yogurt or lemon juice
1 more cup filtered water
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt

Add the whey to the warm water and soak the oats in it overnight (at least 7 hours). Find a warm spot. A covered bowl on the kitchen counter is fine, if your house isn’t too chilly.

(Chlorine can interfere with lacto-fermentation, so don’t use straight water-plant tap water.)

In the morning, bring the additional cup of water to a boil. Add the salt. Add the soaked oats (along with any remaining liquid). Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit (still covered) for 5 minutes.

Serve with cream or butter.

Other optional toppings include maple syrup, raw honey, apricot butter, or crisp nuts.

Rice

2 cups brown rice
4 cups filtered water, warmed
4 tablespoons whey or yogurt or lemon juice or vinegar
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3 tablespoons butter

Rinse and drain the rice.

Add whey to the warm water and soak the rice in it overnight (at least 7 hours).

When soaking is complete, transfer mixture to a cooking pot and bring it to a boil on the stove top.

Skim off the foam that rises to the top.

Lower the heat, add the salt and butter, stir, and then cover tightly. Cook (without removing the lid) for 45 minutes over very low heat.

Serve.

granolaGranola (a safe version)

This recipe is a bit involved. My kids adore it, but I don’t make it very often! In fact, it’s been more than a year for me. Which leads me to a note of warning. I’ve made lots of adjustments to the recipe since the first time, with lots of scribbly notes in the margins of my recipe binder. I hope I’ve deciphered them accurately! But if your rendition of this granola isn’t working, it’s probably me, not you. I hope to make granola this spring. (And if I discover I’ve erred, I’ll come back and correct myself.) So you might wait to try this until after my essay. Or – if you’re the adventurous sort – dive in and post any adjustments you make in the comments!

Update:I did make granola this spring (as promised to my kids). Twice! And the recipe as I posted it was pretty close to correct. But it needed a touch more spice. I increased the amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves in my second batch. Plus I made more. The first batch was devoured in 5 days flat. If you were waiting (as recommended above) for me to tweak my recipe, I’ve done so. The recipe below is the recipe. Go for it!

6 cups oats, rolled
6 cups filtered water, warmed
4 tablespoons whey or yogurt or lemon juice
3/8 cup butter (add 1 tablespoon butter, if you’re soaking the nuts with the oats)
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons maple syrup (add 1 tablespoon syrup, if soaking nuts with oats)
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 cups crisp nuts (no crisp nuts on hand? throw some in to soak with the oats)
2 cups raisins

draining and spreading the granolaAdd whey to warm water and soak oats in it overnight (at least 7 hours). If you are out of crisp nuts, add raw nuts to the oats to soak along with them.

Next day, drain the liquid off the oats. Press the mass a little (if it’s really soggy) to wring extra moisture out of it.

Spread baking parchment on 2 baking sheets. Spoon the oats onto the sheets and spread them out evenly. Place baking sheets in the oven and turn it on to 200ºF (no need to preheat). Bake for 3 hours. Check the oats for moisture. If you added nuts to soak with the oats, the mixture will be dry at the edges of the baking sheet, but still moist at the center. If you soaked the oats solo, they’ll be dry all the way through, but not crisp.

Near the end of this first baking, melt the butter, honey, and maple syrup. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Set aside, off the heat.

granola in the makingRemove the oats from the oven. Put the oats in a large bowl and break up the large clumps using 2 butter knives. Then get a handful between your palms and rub your hands together. This works really well to break the clumps even further. Keep going until the texture of the oats is fairly fine. Then pour the butter mixture over the oats, and blend thoroughly.

Put fresh sheets of baking parchment on the baking sheets. (The used parchment will be soggy.) Spoon the oat mixture onto the baking sheets and spread evenly. Place back in the 200ºF oven. Stir the oats and re-spread them every hour. Bake for 4 hours.

Remove oats from oven and allow to cool. Break up any clumps with your hands. Mix the now-crisp oats with raisons and crisp nuts (if you didn’t add raw nuts at the soaking step). Store in an air-tight canister.

Serve however you prefer granola: with milk, with cream, with yogurt, with fruit, etc. It will be a little more crisp than conventional store-bought granola.

Crisp Walnuts

Use these as a topping on oatmeal, in the granola recipe above, or as a snack. Just like grains and legumes, nuts should be soaked to neutralize the many enzyme inhibitors in them.

4 cups walnut pieces, raw
2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt
filtered water to cover nuts

Mix the salt with the filtered water and soak the nuts in it overnight (at least 7 hours).

Next day, drain the nuts in a colander.

Put baking parchment on a baking sheet. Spread the nuts evenly on it. Place in oven, turn on to 150ºF and “bake” for 12-24 hours, until completely dry and crisp. Stir the nuts with a spoon and re-spread them occasionally. (If you have a food dehydrator, use that!)

Store the nuts in an air-tight container.

Walnuts, alone of all the nuts, must be stored in the refrigerator. Their unique composition of oils will go rancid at room temperature. The other nuts may be safely stored at room temperature.

This recipe may be used for pecans, almonds, or macadamias. Do not use it for cashews. Cashews are not raw when they come to us. They contain a toxic oil that must be released and removed by two separate heatings before humans can eat them safely. This means that they’ll get slimy and nasty if soaked too long or dried too slowly. Soak them at most 6 hours. Dry them in a 200ºF oven.

Nourishing Traditions at Amazon

Nourishing Traditions at B&N

For more Nourishing Traditions posts, see:
Yogurt & Kefir & Koumiss, Oh My!
Amazing Lactobacilli
Beet Kvass

Some posts challenging politically correct nutrition:
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Test first, then conclude!
Thinner and Healthier

And some more recipes:
Coconut Chocolates
Coconut Salmon
Baked Carrots

Do you have any old-time grain recipes that include the soaking or sprouting of grains?
Do please share!

 

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Coconut Chocolates

chocolates on a bule willow plateWith a little more foresight, I might have posted this before Valentine’s Day instead of after! Alas! But these are candies worth having in your fridge all year, because . . . they’re actually good for you. In moderation, of course! Don’t eat them every day. Gotta watch those carbs. (Grin!)

“How can candy be good for you?” you ask.

Well, the dehydrated cane juice and the honey aren’t, but everything else is just fine and some, downright essential. The coconut oil is especially beneficial.

Here’s three quick reasons why it’s so good:

• The fats in coconut oil are not stored in the body as fat.
They are quickly converted to energy

• People living in countries where coconut is an important part of their diet
have lower rates of heart disease and cancer

• The fats in coconut oil kill viruses and pathogenic bacteria
by stripping their protective outer layer

So how do you make coconut chocolates? It’s really easy, no real cooking involved. The only disadvantage? Washing the food processor afterward!

photos of making coconut chocolates

 

Ingredients

1/2 cup sprouted almonds
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1-1/2 cups coconut oil (unrefined)
3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup dried, shredded coconut
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup raw honey
1 tablespoon dehydrated cane juice

One thought on ingredients: get sprouted almonds, if you can! All nuts have phytic acid in them, and phytic acid sweeps necessary minerals like calcium out of the body. Sprouting the nuts gets rid of the phytic acid and makes other nutrients more bio-available.

 

Directions

Grind the almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor. I try to grind them down to a nut butter. My family prefers “smooth” to “crunchy,” but keep your own preferences in mind when deciding how much to process the nuts.

 

Add the butter and coconut oil and process again. You can probably skip this step – just dump the rest of the ingredients in – but I like to get the “batter” silky smooth!

 

Now add the honey, evaporated cane juice, cocoa powder, and shredded coconut. Process until blended and smooth.

 

Next pour the “batter” into ice cube trays. If the weather is really cool, you might need to spoon it in. Coconut oil is liquid in Virginia’s summer, but solid in winter. The other thing you can do is warm the coconut oil before you add it to the processor. That keeps the “batter” pourable.

 

The other thing to consider is acquiring some trays designed for bottle-sized ice cubes. Helps to keep the chocolates bite sized.

 

Next the filled trays go into the freezer. If you have room, you can spread them out and avoid covering them with plastic wrap. (I prefer to avoid the stuff.)

 

Unfortunately, my freezer doesn’t truly have room. (Cheating a little on that photo!) I have to stack the trays, and I don’t want chocolate smeared all over their bottoms. So I wrap. You’ll see it in the photo where the chocolates come out of the freezer.

 

Once the chocolates are firm (several hours), take them out of the freezer and remove them from the trays. Cut them into bite-sized chunks. Store them in glass jars in the fridge. (You don’t want them melting, the way they might in a room-temp cupboard.)

 

Enjoy!

 

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of coconut oil – there’s way more than the three points I listed above – I have a post!

 

But you knew I did, didn’t you?

 

:: smiling ::

 

A few more recipes:
Coconut Salmon
The Carrot Un-recipe
Sauerkraut
Eggplant Merveilleux

 

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