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real food

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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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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Bone Broth: New Health Craze or Traditional Staple?

CC image courtesy of Billfromesm

CC image courtesy of Billfromesm

Seems like bone broth is getting a lot of media these days... here, here and here. There's even entire books devoted to bone broth! Which is fine by me! Frankly, I don't care if it is a craze or not. I do know that bone broth has been around for many, many years and probably arose from trying to get as much nutrition out of food as possible and without letting anything go to waste. 

In fact, broth has been touted to be a healing potion as far back as the days of Hippocrates. Bone broth, the kind you make at home, is extraordinarily rich in nutrients, namely minerals and amino acids and collagen. Bone broth is rich in arginine, glycine and proline. Glycine supports the body's detoxification processes and is used in the synthesis of hemoglobin, bile salts and other compounds within the body. Proline, especially when paired with Vitamin C, supports good skin health. Bone broth is also rich in gelatin which improves collagen status and also supports skin health. Gelatin also supports digestive health which is why bone broth plays a critical role in therapeutic diets such as GAPS, SCD, Paleo and AIP. Ever hear that chicken soup is like "Jewish Penicillin"? There's a reason for that! Chicken broth inhibits neutrophil migration; that is, it helps mitigate the side effects of colds, flus and upper respiratory infections.

But here's the thing, while bone broth has a ton of wonderful nutrients in it, amino acids, collagen, some minerals, etc. there's one thing that people make an assumption about and that is that "bone broth contains a lot of calcium". Fascinating to learn in this AHS 14 Presentation by Kaayla Daniel, Ph. D, that bone broth only contains calcium if there are lots of vegetables cooked with the bones! Pretty interesting huh? 

For most people, they think it's a hassle to make or that you have to use scary ingredients (like chicken feet). But really, Im here to tell you that its super simple and with a few tricks I have collected over the years, making bone broth is easy to do and easy to use! No need to fret about the bones any more than making sure you are sourcing bones from pasture raised animals. If you don't know how to make bone broth, I use the technique outlined at Zenbelly's site.

Good broth will resurrect the dead
— South American Proverb

Tips and Tricks for Simple Broth

  1. Save all the bones! This is pretty basic, but if you cook entire chickens, turkeys, or cuts of meat with bones in them, just save them. I have two plastic bags in the freezer that I dump all the bones into: one for poultry and one for beef/pork/lamb bones. I will toss the bones (not picked clean mind you - I use the extra meaty bits for flavor) into the bags and save them until I have enough for making a batch.
  2. Save the veggie bits too! The veggies, as we know now, provide a lot of the minerals in broth. Plus they add a lot of flavor. If I have a bunch of coriander stems, carrot ends, broccoli stems when trimming my veg, then I will toss those in the freezer too to save for making a batch of bone broth! My friend Simone over at Zenbelly does this too!
  3. Use Soup Socks! What? What the heck is a Soup Sock? Seriously makes the whole bone broth process super simple. I stick my bag-o-bones, my bag-o-veg and some smashed cloves of garlic into a soup sock (basically a huge net "stocking" to hold all the goodies in), tie it up and plop it into my Instant Pot (see #4). When the broth is done, I simply pull out the one large "sock" of stuff in one step - no fishing for bones with tongs, no ladling into a strainer... Saves a ton time.
  4. Instant Pot - As if you didn't already have reasons to get one of these! Bottom line, you can make super broth in 2-4 hours instead of 12-36 hours! Its like getting a Tardis without the whole "its bigger on the inside" bit. Plus the Instant Pot is a true kitchen multi-tasker and totally worth it! I pressure cook my broth about 4 hours each time I make it.
  5. Reduce - Simone (Zenbelly) is a self-proclaimed (and rightfully so) Bone Broth Jedi Master. If you read her tutorial, take note of her reduction step. This is the key to making the most gelatin-laden savory "jello" out there. When my batch is done in the Instant Pot, I switch modes to low sauté, this gives me a nice simmer and I let it reduce for 30-60 minutes. Perfect gelling every time. 
  6. Portion Freeze - I often times can't drink/use as much broth as I make in a batch. And instead of wasting it, I freeze it. But freezing in mason jars is impractical as I sometimes only need 1/3 cup for braising, etc. And then I found this ice cube tray that makes about 1/3c pucks. So I freeze up my batch into 20-30 of these pucks (bag-o-pucks) that I keep in the freezer. (Do you see the trend here? bag-o-everything!) I pop out ~4 of them to make a mug of broth, or use one as a braising liquid when cooking veg later in the week.

 

 

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No-Sugar Cranberry Cardamom Sauce

CC image courtesy of Susy Morris

CC image courtesy of Susy Morris

When I was a full-on KitchenKlutz™, about the only thing that I could make for Thanksgiving was cranberry sauce. Its pretty fool proof, and doesn't take much time. Plus I didn't have to show up with the cranberry relish with can ridges down the sides of it either! (But if your into that kind of shaped cranberry thing, see below for a gelled option.)

But as I got further into my healing path, and learned more about the negative affects of sugar on health, I started looking for recipes that would satisfy my love for this easy dish yet not add a ton of sugar. I also have to admit, I really don't care for cranberries and citrus combinations. So over the years, I adapted the plain recipe into a crazy-good recipe that most dinner guests rave about. Today Im sharing with all of you my secret cranberry sauce!

So if you are looking for a sauce that doesn't have sugar, or if you got asked to bring something to the festivities and just don't know if you can handle even one dish, look no further! Another bonus: this recipe is Paleo, AIP,  and Whole 30® compliant (if you use date puree).


Recipe: No-Sugar Cranberry Cardamom  Sauce

Ingredients

15 ounces fresh, organic cranberries
1 cup water
1 cup apricot puree*
3 pods cardamom, shelled and ground
2 tbsp cognac (optional)
1-2 tbsp honey or date puree (optional)

Directions

Place the cranberries, water, ground cardamom and apricot puree in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer.

Stirring occasionally, simmer the mixture until almost all of the cranberries have popped 10-15 minutes.

Then add your sweetener 1 tablespoon at time, just enough to balance the tartness.

If opting for the cognac, then add the cognac and let it cook off for a few more minutes.

Serve immediately or place in jar and keep in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks.

NOTES

* If you want a more rustic texture - you're done. If you want a smoother texture blitz with a hand blender or in a food processor until desired consistency. 
* If you want the kind that gels and sets into a mold, then stir in 2 T of Great Lakes gelatin while the sauce is simmering. Then pour into your mold of choice and refrigerate.
* If you don't have apricot puree, soak 3/4 - 1 cup of dried apricots in hot water and blitz with a stick blender or food processor

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