Make Your Own SCOBY

With my goal of eating more foods with live cultures and active enzymes came the intention of drinking more kombucha.

But if I was going to drink kombucha, I was going to need to learn how to make it myself, because it was too expensive to keep Casa Ney-Grimm supplied from the grocery store. Especially since my kids like the stuff and will empty the refrigerator of it in no time flat. 😀

The key to making kombucha is the SCOBY.

Symbiotic
Colony
Of
Bacteria and
Yeast

The SCOBY is the living element that turns the other ingredients into kombucha.

There are three ways to obtain a SCOBY.

1 • If you know anyone who makes kombucha, they are likely to have a spare which they will gift you.

2 • You can buy a dehydrated SCOBY through the mail as part of a kombucha starter kit, and then rehydrate the SCOBY.

3 • Or you can make your own SCOBY.

Until just a few weeks ago, I knew about only the first two ways. None of my friends or acquaintances makes kombucha, so I couldn’t get one that way. And Casa Ney-Grimm is currently in the midst of an employment drought, so I didn’t want to spend the money on a starter kit.

Luckily I stumbled across a website that gave instructions on how to make your own SCOBY! Yay!

The site is CulturesForHealth.com, and it’s got a lot of really excellent how-to stuff on it, if you are interested.

To make your own SCOBY, you do have to buy a bottle of kombucha with live cultures in it. That’s $3 at the grocery store. I could handle that.

So…how do you make your own SCOBY?

I’d going to chronicle my experience right here.

I almost said ‘adventure,’ except that I’ve been known to use that word when I encounter problems, and—so far—my SCOBY-making has been very smooth. Although I did find it exciting, in a good way. But I digress.

The first thing to do is collect all your ingredients, which includes some equipment, so I think I’ll set the process forth like a recipe.

SCOBY

Ingredients

1 wide-mouth canning jar (1 quart size)
1 sturdy paper napkin (or coffee filter or paper towel)
rubber band
filtered water
1 tea bag (black tea)
2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice
1 bottle live kombucha (16 oz)
1 spray bottle filled with white vinegar

Directions

1 • Brew 1 cup of black tea using filtered water. Let the tea bag stay in the hot water for 10 minutes, instead of the usual 4 or 5 minutes.

If the water has chlorine or chloramine in it, it will kill the SCOBY and hinder the fermentation process. If the water has other contaminates in it, they will harm the SCOBY, hinder the fermentation process, and possibly produce unpleasant sidenotes in the taste. Make sure your water is pure.

2 • Stir the evaporated cane juice into the hot tea until it is dissolved.

3 • Let the tea cool to room temperature.

If the tea is too hot, it will kill the living organisms in the kombucha, and no SCOBY will grow.

4 • Pour the tea into the canning jar.

5 • Add the kombucha from the purchased bottle.

Wash that bottle (and lid), and save it! You’ll need it later.

6 • Cover the canning jar with the paper napkin and secure it with the rubber band.

This will keep dust and debris out, but will allow the mixture to breath.

7 • Spray the paper napkin with the white vinegar. It should be damp, but not soaking.

This will prevent any mold from growing.

8 • Put the jar in a sheltered corner, out of direct sunlight.

9 • Spray the paper napkin once per day.

After 2 days, I saw a small fragment on the top of the liquid that I thought might be the beginnings of a new SCOBY. (It was!)

On day 4, that fragment had expanded to cover the entire surface of the liquid! (I found this super exciting.)

By day 7, the new SCOBY had thickened to become a pancake 1/8-inch thick.

10 • Once your new SCOBY is present, taste a spoonful of the kombucha.

Mine tasted too sweet on day 7, so I carried on letting it ferment and spraying the paper napkin every day until day 10, when it seemed about right. By that time, my SCOBY was a healthy 1/4-inch thick!

11 • Pour the liquid out into a generous glass bowl, letting the SCOBY flow out with it.

12 • Rinse and dry the canning jar.

Now you have your SCOBY!

Which means you need the recipe for a standard batch of kombucha, because you immediately make a new batch with that SCOBY.

But first, what do you do with the kombucha you made while making your SCOBY?

You bottle all but 1/2 cup of it.

Remember the bottle (and lid) I told you to wash and save? Get it now. Put 1/2 teaspoon of evaporated cane juice in it. Pour your newly made kombucha into the bottle. Leave about a 1/2 inch of head room. Screw the lid on tightly.

Set the bottle in a sheltered corner out of direct sunlight for 2-7 days. It will be getting fizzy.

I’m in the middle of this phase right now with the kombucha I made in the process of making my SCOBY.

I saved several bottles from storebought kombucha, so I used two of them, because I had 24 oz of kombucha. Reserving 4 oz (1/2 cup) for my next batch left 20 oz to bottle, which would not fit in one 16-oz bottle. I added a teaspoon of minced ginger to each bottle, because I like ginger-flavored kombucha.

The instructions on CulturesForHealth.com say to ‘burp’ the bottle(s) every day, so that the fizz does not build up too much and shatter the bottle. The first day I did this, I heard a tiny pop from the escaping fizz. But there was nothing on day 2 or 3, so I think I will ‘burp’ mine less frequently. I want more fizz!

Edited to add: When I drank my first batch of kombucha, it was delicious, but not as fizzy as I like.

Since the SCOBY ‘eats’ the evaporated cane juice in order to ferment the tea and to produce the fizz, I decided to increase the amount in each bottle of my second batch from 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. Also, I did not burp the bottles.

The result was perfect! More fizz, yet my bottles did not explode, despite the lack of burping. I suspect each kombucha brewer must fine-tune such things.

Okay. So you’ve bottled your kombucha and now need to start your next batch. Let’s do it!

Kombucha

Ingredients

3 cups filtered water
2 tea bags (black tea)
1/4 cup evaporated cane juice
1/2 cup live kombucha (from previous batch)
1 SCOBY

Directions

1 • Brew 3 cups of black tea using filtered water. Let the tea bag stay in the hot water for 10 minutes, instead of the usual 4 or 5 minutes.

2 • Stir the evaporated cane juice into the hot tea until it is dissolved.

3 • Let the tea cool to room temperature.

4 • Pour the tea into a canning jar.

5 • Add the kombucha from the previous batch.

6 • Add the SCOBY.

7 • Cover the canning jar with a paper napkin and secure it with the rubber band.

8 • Spray the paper napkin with the white vinegar. It should be damp, but not soaking.

9 • Put the jar in a sheltered corner, out of direct sunlight.

10 • Spray the paper napkin once per day.

11 • On day 7, start tasting the kombucha. It will be ready anywhere between day 7 and day 28.

It will taste sweeter in the earlier days (too sweet for me), and more sour in the later days. I’m still experimenting to see what produces the result I like best. 😀

12 • When the kombucha tastes right, bottle all except 1/2 cup. Use that 1/2 cup to start a new batch!

My understanding is that often (but not always) each batch creates a new SCOBY. No wonder kombucha makers are happy to give one away!

I gather that after 3 batches, it is possible to increase the size of your batch from 1 quart to 2 quarts. And after you’ve made 3 batches at the 2-quart size, your SCOBY will be strong, able to handle a gallon.

One other note…my first attempt at making a SCOBY succeeded beautifully, but apparently this is not always the case. Living organisms are unpredictable. If 3 weeks go by with nary a sign of any SCOBY, you’ll need to toss that attempt and try again with fresh ingredients.

For more about foods with live cultures, see:
Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut
Lacto-fermented Corn
Pickled Greens
Beet Kvass

 

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Kimchi

Ever since I stumbled on the recipe for lacto-fermented kimchi in Nourishing Traditions, I’ve wanted to make it.

But I figured I should try basic sauerkraut first. And then lacto-fermented carrots seemed like a more accessible taste-treat. Next I went on a beet kvass tear. And then I stayed within that safe, known perimeter until I drifted away from a regular schedule of lacto-fermentation.

But now I’m intent on always having a selection of lacto-fermented foods on hand.

So I tackled a mild version of kimchi!

Here’s the recipe:

Kimchi (Korean Sauerkraut)

1 head Napa cabbage, cored and shredded
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup carrots, grated
1 daikon radish, grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 tablespoons whey

1 • Remove the core of the cabbage and discard. Shred the cabbage leaves.

I discovered I preferred European sauerkraut when shredded by putting it through the grating mechanism of my food processor. But I decided to try slicing the cabbage narrowly for kimchi. I’ll see what I think of that before I try something different.

2Chop the green onions. Peel and mince the ginger. Put the garlic through a garlic press.

3Grate the carrots and daikon radish by putting them through the grating mechanism of the food processor.

4Put all the ingredients in a bowl and knead them as you might knead bread dough.

All the recipes I’d seen directed me to pound the mixture, and that is how I’d prepared European sauerkraut. I found it took what seemed like forever, and I was always wondering if I’d pounded it enough.

Recently I saw another recipe which recommended the kneading method. I liked that much better. It was easy, much faster, and I could tell when the whole batch was sufficiently kneaded—that there weren’t lingering bits in the middle that remained hard.

5Place the mixture in two quart-sized, wide-mouth canning jars. Press it down well, until the juices rise enough to cover the vegetables. Place fermentation weights atop to keep the vegetables submerged.

I possessed no fermentation weights when I first tried lacto-fermenting cabbage. I didn’t even know there was such a thing. And all of my batches turned out fine. But now that I do know, I’m using them. Why risk having to throw out a batch?

6Twist the lids on the canning jars to finger tight. Keep at room temperature (but out of sunlight) for 3 days. Then store in the refrigerator (or a root cellar).

When I was making European sauerkraut, the flavors needed about 6 weeks to develop. The sauerkraut just tasted bland before then. But by 6 weeks, it was delish!

I expect the same to be true of my kimchi. I omitted the optional red pepper flakes, because I want flavor, not heat. The nibble I tasted when I put my jars in the fridge did taste bland. But sometime in October, I’ll be in for a treat.

I’ll post a note here to let you know if it’s as good as I think it will be. 😀

For more lacto-fermented recipes, see:
Lacto-fermented Sauerkraut
Lacto-fermented Corn
Pickled Greens
Beet Kvass

 

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Quiche sans Crust

Swedish apronI’ve always loved quiche, but it’s been decades since I’ve made any in my kitchen. I’m not sure why I dropped it from my repertoire. Honestly, I’m not sure it was ever in my repertoire. A shame.

But last week, my daughter who hates eggs announced that she’d been served quiche at a friend’s house and really liked it. I leapt on my opportunity to get some luscious, farm-fresh eggs into my beloved child. 😉

Since it has been many months since I’ve posted a recipe, I’m leaping on the chance to do that as well.

It’s been years since the food researchers conceded that they were wrong about the cholesterol in eggs. It’s not harmful, never has been harmful, and you can eat as many eggs as you want. Actually, they conceded that the cholesterol in eggs is not harmful and has never been harmful, but they wussed out of reversing their recommendation to limit eggs. It just looks so bad. Heaven help their reputations!

So what’s good about the nutrition in eggs?

Just about everything. They are rich in vitamins, especially the important fat-soluble A and D.

(Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin, healthy mucous membranes, proper immune system function, healthy eyes, and good vision. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth, the proper functioning of the immune system and the brain and nervous system, regulating insulin levels, support of the lungs and cardiovascular system, and preventing cancer.)

Eggs contain ample high-quality protein. They are an excellent source of EPA and DHA – long-chain fatty acids that are vital to the development of the nervous system in young children and to the preservation of mental acuity in adults. Eggs are truly a complete nutritional package, provided they come from chickens raised on pasture, where they scratch for bugs and worms.

quiche eggsChickens sitting in vast warehouses produce eggs that lack some of the superlative benefits of pasture-raised birds. Their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 20:1 instead of the optimum 1:1. And you can see from simply looking at the egg yolks – pale lemon yellow versus rich orange – that warehoused chickens produce eggs with less beta-carotene. They also have 28% less vitamin A.

But enough of weighing the pros and cons of eggs. What about my quiche?

quiche milkWhen I made it for my family, I made two, one crustless and one with a crust. That way I can eat low-carb, while my kids and husband get the kind of taste sensation they prefer. The recipe below is for one crustless quiche. You can double it, if you want to make a pair like I did. Or you can pour it into a crust, if you prefer your quiche with wheat. 😀

Ingredients

quiche cheesedab of butter
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 slices of deli ham
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
dash of white pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives

Directions

1Make sure you have a rack in the middle of the oven, and either remove the second one or place it below the middle one. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

quiche spices2Smear the butter all over the interior of a 9-inch glass pie dish.

3Heat the milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until a few tendrils of steam start to rise from its surface. Then set it aside, off the heat.

4Grate the cheddar cheese, if you have not already done so. (I do my grating after heating the milk, to give the milk a chance to cool a little.)

quiche ham5Cut the deli ham in strips, roughly half an inch wide and 2 inches long.

6Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly.

7Add the salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and chives to the eggs and mix well.

8Lay the ham strips all over the bottom of the pie dish.

quiche ham and cheese9Cover the ham with the grated cheese.

10Pour the egg mixture into the milk and mix thoroughly.

11Gently pour the egg-milk mixture over the cheese and ham.

quiche uncooked12Getting that full pie dish into the oven without spilling it is tricky! Take it slow and use pot lifters, so that all your attention can be on the liquid level and not on your vulnerable fingers.

13Let the quiche bake for 45 – 50 minutes.

quiche cooked14Test for doneness by inserting a butter knife into the edge of the quiche custard. The rubric says that if it comes out clean, the quiche is done. I say: know your oven! The knife came out clean from last week’s quiche at 40 minutes, but it could have used another 5 minutes. This week’s quiche generated a knife that never came out clean. After 55 minutes, I took it out of the oven anyway. I should have taken it out 5 minutes earlier. Both week’s quiches were good, but not at the ultimate sweet spot.

quiche slice15Let the quiche cool to lukewarm – about 15 minutes – and serve. Cut the quiche to create 6 pieces.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Baked Apples
Coconut Chocolates

 

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cookies - alternative floursI’ve wanted to try baking cookies using alternative flours for a while now. My body seems to tolerate wheat less and less well as the years go by. I was hoping that coconut flour and almond flour would be friendlier choices for me.

Lately I’ve been inspired by the dinner recipes of Danielle Walker. I’m sure her recipes work perfectly without any tinkering – she seems to test them thoroughly. But somehow I have not yet managed to follow any of them exactly. My inner cook comes out, and I make a few changes. 😉

I decided to see what Danielle had to offer for cookies. You can find her recipe here. I stuck pretty closely to it, but not exactly. However, I was delighted by my results. These cookies are super delicious – delicate and yet slightly chewy, and they don’t upset my tummy!

Ingredients

Cookies - ingredients1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1 teaspoon cane sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1-1/2 cups almond flour
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/2 chocolate chips

Directions

In a food processor, cream together the butter, coconut sugar, cane sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla until well mixed, about 15 seconds.

(Creaming the butter and sugar the old-fashioned way – with a fork – would likely work equally well. I used the food processor for my first attempt. I may not bother rousting it out on my second.)

Add the almond flour, coconut flour, baking soda, and salt to the processor and process again until well mixed, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the processor, if needed, to get all the dry ingredients mixed in.

(I tasted my batch at this point and decided that it was not quite sweet enough. That’s where the “extra” teaspoon of cane sugar – listed above in the ingredients – came from. I also assessed the dough and felt that it was a little too liquid. So I added the “extra” teaspoon of coconut flour – also listed above in ingredients.)

Cookies - the doughTurn the dough out into a mixing bowl, add the chocolate chips, and stir by hand until they are well mixed in.

(My batch in the photos likely looks a little strange to you. That’s because we had no chocolate chips in the house, and my husband and my daughter were out with car, shopping. So I improvised. I dug through the Halloween candy in the freezer and pulled out a mini chocolate bar, two kitkat bars, and a bar of white chocolate. I chopped them up and used them in place of the chocolate chips.)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Line two baking sheets with baking parchment.

Cookies - on baking sheet

Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls on the baking sheets. Flatten the cookies, because they will not change shape much while baking.

Bake 9 minutes and then cool on a rack. Makes 29 cookies.

More recipes:
Arugula Beef
Butternut Soup
Baked Apples
Coconut Chocolates

Cookies - baked

 

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London Broil at Casa Ney-Grimm

londo 600 pxI adore the savor of London broil, but for decades I didn’t realize how easy it is to make at home. Now that I prefer to serve grassfed meat to my family, I’ve discovered that London broil is one of the easiest to find and most reasonably priced cuts of grassfed beef available. Here’s how I make it.

Ingredients
london marinade2 to 2-1/2 pounds London broil beef

Marinade
4 garlic cloves, minced or put through a garlic press
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons brown mustard
1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2/3 cup olive oil

london broilerDirections
Whisk the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.

Put the meat in a resealable plastic bag. Pour the marinade into the bag. Seal the bag, pressing out the air.

Put the bag in a shallow dish in the refrigerator. Marinate for 8 hours or over night. Turn the bag twice.

When ready to cook, remove the meat from the marinade and let the liquid drip off it. Discard the marinade.

Place the meat on a broiling pan and set it under the broiler. I use the second rack slot from the broiler coils, about 4 inches away. Broil the first side for 10 minutes. (The meat in my photo was broiled for 11 minutes, which was a bit too long. It was still scrumptious; I just prefer mine more rare.) Flip the meat and broil the second side for 9 minutes.

london cookedTransfer the meat to a cutting board. Let it rest for 10 minutes. Cut it diagonally across the grain in thin slices. Serve.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Apples á la Ney-Grimm
Pie Crust Cookies

 

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Parsnip Turnip Purée

rutabagas and parsnips

I’ve tried cooking this combination – parsnips and turnips – two ways. They’re both good, but distinctly different as an eating experience. The broth-cooked method yields a smoother, almost sweeter result. The roasted method delivers a denser, starchier one. I’m going to share them both.

Ingredients

root puree with broth3 large turnips or rutabagas
8 – 10 parsnips
1/4 to 1/2 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
3 cups chicken broth (for broth version; omit for roasted version)

Broth Directions

Pour the chicken broth into a large pot and warm over medium heat.

Scrub the vegetables in clear water. Then peel them and cut into bite-sized chunks. Add the vegetables to the chicken broth. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until the veggies are fork tender. Take the pot off the heat and let it cool 10 minutes.

Pour the whole mixture into a food processor. Add the butter and salt and process until smooth and creamy. Serve.

cubed rutabagas and parsnips

Roast Directions

Scrub the vegetables in clear water. Then peel them and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Put the chopped parsnips in one baking dish, the turnips in another.

Melt the butter and drizzle it over both portions of vegetables. Cover both baking dishes and place them in a 350ºF oven.

Bake the turnips for 45 minutes, check them for tenderness, and pull them out of the oven when they are fork tender.

roots pureeBake the parsnips for 90 minutes, check them for tenderness, and pull them out of the oven when they are fork tender.

Place both vegetables, the salt, and more butter into a food processor. Process until smooth. Re-heat the purée and serve.

More recipes:
Chicken Stock
Coconut Salmon
Sauerkraut
Arugula Beef

 

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The Steak Un-Recipe

I used tri-tip steaks the last time I cooked this, but really many cuts of meat would work.

steak on a rectangular dish

I don’t usually add salt to a dish before I cook it, figuring that it’s best left up to the individual diner. Eating pan-fried porkchops at a friend’s house changed my mind. She sprinkled salt and pepper onto both sides of the chops before placing them in the pan. And they were delicious! Much better than if I had sprinkled my portion after it was cooked and served. I decided to try her method on another meat dish: steak.

Ingredients

uncooked steakssteak, 8 oz. per person
butter
Celtic sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Grease the broiler pan with a thin layer of olive oil.

Melt the butter, from 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup, depending on how much steak you are cooking.

Pre-heat the oven broiler to “Hi Broil.”

Place the steaks on the broiler pan. Pour the melted butter over the steaks, gently and with some precision. Allow the butter to form a thin skimming over the entire surface of the meat. Don’t waste the butter by allowing it to spread on the pan. Keep it on the meat.

Sprinkle salt lightly over the surface of the meat – not too much!

Grind black pepper over the surface of the meat. Again, not too much.

Place the broiler pan under the broiler. I use the second rack position, not the first (the highest).

Broil for 6 minutes, and remove the pan to a heat-resistant surface. Flip the steaks. Pour the rest of the melted butter over this side of the meat. Sprinkle salt and grind black pepper onto them.

steak servedBroil this side of the steaks for 6 minutes.

Remove the broiler pan from the oven and let the meat rest for 5 minutes. Slice it thinly and serve. Yum!

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Beet Kvass

 

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Butternut Carrots

Butternut SquashesI recently purchased a new cookbook that’s had a unique effect on me.

It’s a great cookbook. The few recipes that I’ve followed to the letter have worked perfectly. This in itself is noteworthy. I don’t know how many cookbooks I’ve purchased, tried, and concluded: the chef didn’t test the recipes. This new one is already unique by delivering up recipes that work and are delicious.

Even more unusually, I’ll browse its pages and think, “That looks really good, but it’s a little more involved than I prefer. What if I take this ingredient and that ingredient and then go in this other direction?” That never happens to me! I’m not the sort who gets food ideas of my own. In fact, my native kitchen IQ is very, very low. But this cookbook sparks ideas even in me.

I’ll undoubtedly blog about the book itself sometime in the coming weeks. But first I want to share one of my latest experiments. It was crazy delicious!

Ingredients

baby carrots1 butternut squash
6 – 8 large carrots
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
sea salt to taste
extra butter to taste

Directions

Scrub the carrots and rinse the squash.

Place the uncut squash in a baking dish and start it baking in a 350°F oven. Set the timer for 90 minutes.

Peel the carrots, cut and discard the tip at the wide end. Cut each carrot in two. Place the carrot chunks in a greased baking dish. Melt the butter and pour it over the carrots. Cover the baking dish and put it in the oven (joining the squash). Depending on how much time has elapsed, the carrots will be done (fork tender, about 50 minutes) a little before the squash.

Remove the carrots from the oven when they are soft and set them aside. When the squash is done (it dents when you press the flesh), take it out of the oven and let it cool.

Cut the squash in half. Scoop out the seeds and discard. (Or wash them and toast them like pumpkin seeds for a snack.) Scoop the squash flesh out of the skin and place the flesh in a food processor. Add the cooked carrot chunks to the food processor. Pour in any butter remaining in the baking dish. Add the sage. Put the lid on the and pulse until the purée is smooth.

Taste the purée and add salt and more butter as you wish. If the squash got very cool before you puréed it, you’ll need to warm it before serving. Otherwise, it’s ready! Yum. I want some right now! 😉

Butternut Carrots

More recipes:
Coconut Salmon
Baked Apples

 

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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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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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