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How to Maximize Nutrients in Food

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How to Maximize Nutrients in Food

Have you ever stopped to wonder exactly how many nutrients are in the foods that you eat? Usually the answer to that question is no. A lot of us just eat what we find, it's been that way since we were kids and sort of stuck with us as an unconscious habit. I don’t know about you, but I don’t go to the grocery store thinking, “does this Bell Pepper have more Vitamin C in it than the one at the farmer’s market?” It’s usually something like, “hey, this Bell Pepper would go good in my stir fry!”

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Another Cup of "Coffee" Please + Giveaway

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Another Cup of "Coffee" Please + Giveaway

I miss coffee. I'll admit it. For decades, I used to really geek out on it: I loved knowing about the origins of the beans, how they were roasted and the flavor profiles. I was one of those that weighed out grams of freshly ground beans and water heated to exactly 205°F to make the perfect french press. I even at one point had one of those fancy, make-any-espresso-drink-you-want machines from Italy. 

But mostly I missed the morning ritual of having a warm drink with body, and bitterness and never sweet. Whether black, or with a dollop of perfectly steamed foam on top. Later it was blended with unsalted butter and collagen. Whichever way it was, I loved the ritual of it....

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Spring Ferments

Image courtesy Toréa Rodriguez

Image courtesy Toréa Rodriguez

Well spring has definitely sprung in this part of the world. I usually can tell by the change in the veg at the farmers markets. This week I was excited to see, not only asparagus, but green garlic too! So exciting!! Plus its a welcome change to the seasons. My friend wrote about Eating Intuitively over at her blog It's Me, Charlotte and it got me thinking about how we naturally change what we crave based on the seasons too.

I crave more vegetables and lighter dishes in the spring and summer. Anyone else notice that?

So in that vein, I decided to make some of our farmers market haul into some crispy tangy fermented veg! I did two batches; the recipe for each are below. I wrote some tips on fermentation a few posts back, in case this is something that is new for you. And this time I am jotting down my technique so you can try too. I just can't help it - I really am loving my Kraut Source lids!

Fermented veg are great additions to salads, scrambles, stir-frys, you name it. Sometimes I will just snack on them plain! 


Herby Carrots & Turnips

Spring Asparagus

  • 1 carrot (any color, I used purple)
  • 4-5 small tokyo turnips, sliced
  • 1 head green garlic, sliced
  • few sprigs fresh dill
  • 1/2 t coriander seed
  • 1/4 t fennel seed
  • 2% brine (see notes below)
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 1 head green garlic, sliced
  • few sprigs fresh dill
  • 2% brine (see notes below)

 

 

Procedure

For the Asparagus, I simply washed them and snapped them off at the ends with my hands. This is where asparagus naturally becomes tender rather than tough and stringy. Then I cut them to fit in the jar. For the green garlic (in both recipes) and for the Carrot/Turnips, I used a mandolin to slice them thinly.

Then I place the ingredients into the jars. You can stack them on the ends, or layer them however you like. As long as all the ingredient make it to beneath the "shoulder" of the jar. My asparagus was a bit tall, so I twisted them in the jar to get them to be as low as possible.

Then I make a 2% brine. This is super easy. For every 2 cups filtered water, you'll want to add 10g of sea salt. I like to use a super fine pink himalayan sea salt because it is easier to go into solution with cold water. For this batch, I made about 5 cups with 25g of salt mixed in. 

Then I just pour enough brine to cover the veg by about an inch (2-3cm). I use the Kraut Source lids since they are so great at keeping the good bacteria in and keeping out everything I don't want with their water lock. They also help keep my veg submerged under the brine. 

These will stay on my kitchen counter for approximately 3-7 days. I can already see the bubbles forming on the carrot/turnips (24h later) but no activity yet on the asparagus. I'll keep checking them visually each day and do a taste test every few days. Once they change from tasting salty to tangy, yet still have a bit of crispness, that is when I know they are done. Then I swap out the tops for normal canning jar lids and store them in the fridge.

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5 Simple Tips for Home Fermentation

Image courtesy of Toréa Rodriguez

Image courtesy of Toréa Rodriguez

I'm not going to get into why fermented foods are so good for you - if you want to dig into the nitty gritty of it all you can read about that here (1), here (2) and here (3). Oh and here's a bit of science goodness here(4).

But here is the rub. Buying commercially available fermented foods is expensive $$$ - It may not seem so much at the time, but if you add it up over time - you end up spending a lot more than you need to. You can spend upwards of $10 for a jar of sauerkraut! If you bought a full pound of cabbage, you'd only spend a few dollars. See what I'm getting at here? 

Some folks are afraid to do their own ferments... afraid they might mess it up. Well, you might. I know I have messed up a bunch of batches, but its much less costly even if I mess it up a few times. Some folks think its too complicated. Well, it can be - I mean, you can get very very detailed about it. But it doesn't have to be. 

Here are some simple tips to make your foray into fermentation (or further into it) easier.

  1. Start with clean equipment. It is possible to culture the microbes that are on our hands, counters, jars, utensils etc. We'd like to try to keep that to the microbes that are naturally present on the veg. So make sure to wash your utensils, counters, jars and hands before starting.
  2. It doesn't have to be fancy! Yes, you could spend a lot of $ on special fermentation vessels. You don't need to. Start with a mason jar and a airlock top, like this one or this one.
  3. Good results start with good ingredients. Try to obtain the freshest produce possible. Organic or biodynamic will always yield really tasty results.
  4. Try to maintain consistent temperature. The colder it is, the longer your ferments will take. And the warmer it is, the shorter. But keep an eye on it. You'd like to keep the cultures proliferating rather than cycling between overactive and hibernation. Best to keep them in a location that has consistent temperatures between 65°-72°F.
  5. Still stuck? Get a good guidebook or try taking a class. It helps to have a resource to go to for details. Books I personally like are Sandor Katz' Art of Fermentation,  Jill Ciciarelli's Fermented or Lisa Herndon's Counter Culture: Pickles and Other Well-bred Foods. Some of these books are very very detailed, but again, its a reference. As for classes, you might be able to find local classes in fermenting. Or you can try an online course, like this one.

Pictured above are my two batches that I started this week. On the left is purple cabbage, fennel and apple sauerkraut. On the right is a batch of purple onions with some garlic and coriander seed. I guess I'm on a purple veg kick these days :).  Oh and the tops of the jars, I use a fermentation system by the folks over at Kraut Source

What do you like to ferment? Or what have you always wanted to try, but have been afraid to do? Leave a comment and let me know!

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Inflammation Busting Turmeric Tonic

Image courtesy of Toréa Rodriguez

Image courtesy of Toréa Rodriguez

Inflammation can come from many sources. It could be a cold, or flu... or from foods that don't agree with your system (aka me and gluten, not the best friends). Or you may be exposed to something environmentally (molds, chemicals from cleaning or beauty products, etc). Regardless, inflammation is a normal response of the immune system, but sometimes our lovely immune system needs a little love. Good thing there are things we can do to help support it in its time of need. One of those foods is turmeric, and its got some awesome anti-inflammatory (amongst many other) benefits (1, 2).

The last few weeks, I have been experimenting with turmeric root in the kitchen and really loved this concoction that can be fairly versatile! So I wanted to share it with all of you. The best part is that it can be made in batches so you only have to do it once a week or once in a while (depending on how often you consume it). And it can be used in a variety of ways: cold, hot, gummy snack, sparkling... whatever your fancy. One thing I know is the marigold-orange hearts make me happy when I see them in my cup!

The other great thing about this recipe is that it also contains ginger which supports digestion. And since I use the root (peel and all) you also get the beneficial bacteria (read: probiotics) that are present in the outer layers of both the turmeric and ginger. I tend to get both of theses roots in the market when I can find them fresh, and then chop them into smaller pieces and freeze them for longer term storage. You can then let the quantity you need thaw slightly before making the tonic.

Note: I use a blender and nut milk bag to make mine. If you don't like the hand/finger workout (good for rock climbing, right?), you can always use a juicer to make the same thing. Just be forewarned, your pretty white nut milk bag will be forever bright yellow after this :)

Turmeric Tonic Concentrate

Use this concentrate for "shots" to be added to regular water, or fizzy water. You can even freeze them into ice "shots" for fizzy water or, heck even cocktails when you are feeling fancy! I use 3 cubes, which is about 1 oz or 30 ml of tonic for every 10-12 oz (300-400ml) water/fizzy water.  You can use ginger and lemon essential oil as well to enhance the flavor, but not required to get a good tonic.

Ingredients

  • 4 lemons peeled
  • 1-2" of fresh ginger root (~25g)
  • 2-3 "fingers" of fresh turmeric root (~75g)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-2 drops ginger essential oil (optional)
  • 2-3 drops lemon essential oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Place peeled lemons, ginger, turmeric and water in a high-powered blender
  2. Turn it up to max speed and blitz until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into a nut milk bag to strain into a quart sized mason jar.
  4. Store in the mason jar, or freeze smaller "shot" portions in an ice cube tray.

Turmeric Tonic Gummies

These are potent! So if you want them for snacks, I would suggest that you dilute with more water and perhaps increase the gelatin. However, i find the gummy version to be excellent for adding to hot water to make a Turmeric Tonic Tea. I use 3 squares (about 30 grams) for each 10-12 oz (300-400ml) hot water.

Ingredients

  • 4 lemons peeled
  • 1-2" of fresh ginger root (~25g)
  • 2-3 "fingers" of fresh turmeric root (~75g)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 T gelatin
  • 1-2 drops ginger essential oil (optional)
  • 2-3 drops lemon essential oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Place peeled lemons, ginger, turmeric and water in a high-powered blender
  2. Turn it up to max speed and blitz until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Pour mixture into a nut milk bag to strain into a sauce pan.
  4. Set the saucepan on the stove over medium heat and warm it up to just steaming, not boiling. Place the now warmed liquid back in the blender and turn on low so that its just keeping the liquid in motion. While the liquid is moving, sprinkle the gelatin in to get it to mix properly.
  5. Pour into silicone molds to create gummy snacks and refrigerate until set. If you don't have a mold, then you can pour into a small baking dish. Once set, cut into smaller squares.

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