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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Coconut Salmon

photos of making coconut salmonI love how crispy the coconut crust becomes and how beautifully it keeps the salmon moist. I have trouble hitting the sweet spot with salmon – not undercooked, but not over dry – and this recipe makes it easy!

 

1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/2 cup dried, shredded coconut
12 – 18 oz salmon filets

 

Preheat your oven to 375F.

 

Arrange the salmon in a buttered baking dish.

 

Mix the coconut, salt, and paprika in a small bowl.

 

Melt the butter.

 

Add the melted butter to the coconut mixture and stir until the butter is well diffused through the dry ingredients.

 

Spread the coconut-butter mixture on top of the salmon.

 

Place the salmon in the oven.

 

Bake 12 minutes, if salmon is thawed (or fresh). Bake 25 minutes if the salmon is frozen.

 

More Recipes
Baked Carrots
Sauerkraut
Sautéed Eggplant

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The Carrot Un-Recipe

photos of the whole processI love raw carrots, but I like cooked carrots even more. I didn’t eat them often, because of all that slicing and then all that standing over the steamer on the stove top. A few months ago, my kids’ liking for cooked carrots inspired me. If they’ll eat their veggies without complaint, by golly, I’ll cook carrots. But there had to be a better way.

The trick, for me, was bite-sized chunks (not coin-sized slices) and oven baking instead of stove top steaming. The result . . . I find I prefer them to the steamed variety! The flavor is more intense, less watered down.

Baked Carrots

10 large carrots

1/3 cup butter

7” x 11” glass baking dish

Scrub the carrots well, then peel them. Carrots, unlike many other vegetables and fruits, do not store the majority of their nutrients in the skin. Good stuff spreads bountifully through the entire root.

Cut off the tops and discard. Slice the carrots into bite-sized chunks. This goes so much faster than slicing them into coin-sized rounds. You’ll be amazed.

Use a small pat of butter to grease your baking dish. Toss the remnant in with the rest of the butter stick and melt. Place the carrots in the baking dish and drizzle the melted butter over them, coating their surfaces well.

Cover the dish and place in a 350F oven.

Bake for 1 hour.

Be careful removing the cover. The steam contained within is very hot and can burn you.

A Word About Butter

Old-style margarine was chock full of transfats. We now know that transfats are so injurious to the human body that there is no known safe level for eating them. (Talk to the actual fats researchers. They know!)

Enter new-style margarines with “no” transfats.

But . . . there is a big but. Actually three but’s.

First, if the amount of transfat in the margarine is below a certain level, the manufacturer is allowed to claim zero transfats on the label. But that legal “zero” is not what you and I mean by zero. And given how harmful the transfats are, I want that zero to mean literally none at all. It doesn’t.

The second problem is more obscure. It has to do with polyunsaturated fats. (Margarines are made from polyunsarurates.) Until the modern era, humans ate very few. They occurred naturally in grains and cheese and meat and fish, but constituted less than 4% of of the calories ingested.

The process by which we switched to eating nearly 30% of our calories from polyunsaturated fats owes more to corporate greed (a lot of money to be made in corn oil) and political interference than good research. Political correctness may demand we consume corn oil and safflower oil and such, but this political correctness does not dovetail well with good health! Our bodies weren’t made to handle the load.

The third issue with polyunsaturates concerns the manufacturing process. The oils are processed at very high heats. Because polyunsaturates are very fragile, they break down easily. Becoming rancid under the high factory heat, they smell and taste so awful that no one would put them anywhere near the mouth! So the manufacturers must then use harsh chemical scrubbers to remove the odor. Some residues of the chemicals remain in the oils.

Do yourself a favor: cook with butter and extra-virgin olive oil.

 

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Amazing Lactobacilli

photo of corn, tomato, onion melange in canning jarSix weeks ago I made a quart of lacto-fermented corn relish. It was an experiment, because corn in its ordinary state – boiled, slathered with butter, and gnawed from the cob – makes me very ill. Sad, since I love the taste. I hoped lacto-fermented corn might not irritate my system When our CSA delivered yet another eight ears of corn, I decided to risk it. And it went well! I can eat lacto-fermented corn with nary a murmur from my digestion. Plus it tastes like seconds, thirds, and fourths!

(I know. I said that before about the eggplant dish below, but it’s true!)

images depicting traditional peoples from around the worldSo let me tell you about lacto-fermentation. The corn relish recipe was my own creation, but I learned the principles from Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions.

Lactobacilli – lactic acid producing bacteria – are everywhere. They thrive on the surface of all living things and are particularly numerous on the roots and leaves of low-growing plants.

Lactic acid is a natural preservative. It inhibits the action of bacteria that produce decay. Before the invention of freezers or canning machines, cooks preserved vegetables and fruits by lacto-fermentation.

The benefits of lacto-fermentation go far beyond mere preservation, however.

Lacto-fermented foods:
• are more digestible
• make their nutrients more bio-available to our bodies
• possess higher vitamin levels
• acquire many helpful enzymes during lacto-fermentation
• include substances that kill harmful bacteria and prevent cancer
• promote the growth of healthy flora along the entire length of the intestine.

Lacto-fermented or “pickled” cabbage was (and is) popular worldwide. Europe developed sauerkraut; Latin America, cortido; Korea, kimchi; and Japan, tsukemono. But many other vegetables (and fruits) respond delisciously to lacto-fermentation: cucumber, corn, and watermelon rind, to name a few.

Lacto-fermentated foods are easy and fun to prepare at home. There’s something magical to the process – a little like baking, in which dough transforms into bread or cake or cookies, but requiring less hands-on prep and little precision.

The basic recipe goes as follows. Wash your fruits or vegetables thoroughly. Chop or shred or grate them and mix with sea salt and homemade whey. Pound the mix briefly with a wooden mallet. Then press the mass into a canning jar, leaving an inch of headroom at the top, and seal firmly. Leave the jar at room temperature for two to four days, then refrigerate. Fruits will keep for two months. Vegetables stay good indefinitely. (Experts consider sauerkraut to be best after six months!)

Speaking of sauerkraut, here’s a bit of trivia about it and a famous navigator of the past. Captain Cook loaded sixty barrels of the stuff onto his ship before embarking on his second trip around the world. None of the crew developed scurvy. (Sauerkraut has a lot of vitamin C.) And twenty-seven months later, when Cook was nearing home again, the last barrel was opened. It remained perfectly preserved – despite its long journey through every kind of weather and warmth – and delicious. When served to Portuguese nobles visiting aboard, the partial barrel was carried away to share with friends!

One more jot of trivia: ketchup was once a lacto-fermented food. The word derives from ke-tsiap, a Chinese Amoy term for a pickled fish sauce. (Fish sauce was the universal condiment of the ancient world.) The English added mushroom, walnut, cucumber, and oyster to fish sauce to create their own version. Then Americans added tomatoes for another unique take on the flavor enhancer. American ketchup is now largely high fructose corn syrup, but it is possible for the home cook to return to the old artisanal method of concocting it. (But that’s another blog post!)

What about my corn relish? Are you clamoring for the recipe? It’s worth trying, but I’m going to recommend that you start with sauerkraut instead. Corn relish is a simple recipe, but sauerkraut is the most basic of all. And I think you’ll be delighted with its taste – much fresher than the vinegar-laden and pasteurized stuff from the grocery store. I promise I’ll post the corn relish recipe when fresh corn is back in season!

Update: Corn did eventually come back in season, and I made more corn relish! The recipe is posted here.

Sauerkraut

1 large cabbage

2 tablespoons sea salt
(not ordinary shaker salt, which has additives that damage lacto-fermentation)

1/2 cup homemade whey
(draining and using the excess liquid from any yogurt with live cultures works fine)

The cabbage should be of high quality and preferably organic. Pesticide residues can kill lactobacilli and interfere with lacto-fermentation.

Wash the cabbage, peel off the outermost leaves and discard, and remove and discard the stem stalk and the densest part of the core. Then shred the cabbage. The grating attachment in a food processor works nicely, but you can also simply slice the cabbage with a chef knife.

Put the shredded cabbage in a large, sturdy bowl. Add the salt and the whey. Lightly pound the mixture with a wooden mallet for 10 minutes to release the cabbage juices.

(I know. My mallet is metal, and it shouldn’t be. A wooden one is on my shopping list. Why? The whey can damage metal utensils over time. As you can see, my meat pounder is undamaged after 2 years of use. But I still intend to get something wooden. Just not in any rush!)

Transfer the mixture into a pair of quart-sized canning jars. Press the cabbage down firmly in the jars until the juices come up to cover the cabbage. Be sure there is an inch of headroom between the cabbage and the lids. The cabbage will expand slightly while lacto-fermenting. Tighten the lids securely. Lacto-fermentation is an anaerobic process.

Let the jars rest on your counter at room temperature for 2 – 4 days (2 if it’s summer or you’re using the oven a lot, 4 if it’s winter and you keep your house cool).

Then move the jars to the fridge. Let the kraut mature for 3 weeks to develop the best flavor. Serve!

Some people add caraway seed to the ferment. I tried it, but find cabbage straight up to be tastiest!

Once you’ve eaten a serving of your batch, visit here again and tell me what you think! Good?

 

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

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The Reluctant Cook

photo of eggplant dishI hate cooking.

No, that’s not true.

I hate cooking dinner.

No, that’s not true either. Sometimes I love cooking dinner.

I love/hate cooking? I hate/love cooking? What is the truth about me and cooking?

This is it: I hate having to cook.

Making plättar (Swedish pancakes) for breakfast is great fun. I think of my beloved Farmor (father’s mother) the whole time.

Baking chocolate chip cookies also holds my interest. I remember my first solo attempt at age ten – I melted the butter instead of creaming it – and laugh.

Making lacto-fermented sauerkraut is a thrill. Harnessing those miraculous micro-beasties (lactobacilli) to create the best cabbage dish in the whole world is an amazing stretch back through thousands of years of human food prep.

Obviously, I’m a writer! I like my food to have stories.

And when I cook to entertain myself, I love it. When I cook merely to feed myself and my family (and I’m tired after a long day or there’s just nothing good in the fridge or I’d rather be writing) . . . not so much.

I do cook, of course. Not only do I cook, but I give it some real commitment. My mother believed (and believes) that good health rests on good food, and so do I. That’s motivation for cooking on days when I just don’t want to. And I have help. My husband shares the cooking load. In fact, here in the aftermath of my two-year, torn-hip, broken-foot, broken-toe saga, he does more than half. That helps! A lot!

But I enter the kitchen frequently enough. Three meals a day, seven days a week, give us twenty-one opportunities to mess with food. And just a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a way of cooking eggplant that produces an eggplant so mouthwatering that I must share it with you.

It’s so simple that I’m surely not the first to stumble upon it. It’s so easy that real cooks will laugh at me. But it’s so delicious that I want everyone who hasn’t stumbled upon it themselves to taste it. So here’s the “recipe.”

photos of steps in making recipeIngredients

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce
5 plump garlic cloves
2 leeks
6 narrow eggplants

(I know. The veg photo shows ingredients for a half recipe. Sorry about that! Not enough eggplants on hand the day I took the pic! The rest do depict the full recipe.)

Directions

Wash the leeks thoroughly. Cut off the green tops and either discard them or save them for another dish. Cut off and discard the root end. Slice the stalks very thinly.

Peel the garlic cloves and mince them or smush them through a garlic press.

Wash the eggplants and slice them thinly. Discard the stem ends.

Pour the olive oil and then the soy sauce into a largish pot. Heat on medium on the stovetop.

Add the garlic and leeks to the oil and sauté, stirring occasionally.

When the leeks are slightly soft (a couple minutes), add the eggplant and sauté. Add more olive oil (it’s good for you!) if the pot bottom gets dry.

Keep stirring and cooking until the eggplant is thoroughly soft and mushy.

It looks like a brown and gooshy mass. It tastes like seconds, thirds, and fourths!

Serve and enjoy!

 
 
 

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