Simplifying nutrition and using food as medicine - one bite at a time.

My goal with this blog is to set folks straight about what good nutrition really is! Starting by discarding the info we get every day from 'sponsors' that do not really have our best interests at heart, I want to inspire you to eat better AND realize it is much easier than you thought it would be!

Just about any health issues can be addressed with nutrition (and meditation), from mild to chronic to acute. We truly have the ability to heal ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually...

And you can use your daily routine as your vehicle to drive that change :)


Join me...

Quote of the Month

"When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous"
~Wendell Berry

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ferment Fervour

Have you ever fermented food? On purpose?

Well ever since I picked up a copy of Wild Fermentation several years ago I've been intrigued by fermenting and have done several ferments now, namely honey wine (I gave it as Christmas presents for family and friends in the past) and, most recently I made ginger beer.

The author, Sandor Ellix Katz, says, "Microscopic organisms - our ancestors and allies - transform food and extend its usefulness. Fermentation is found throughout human cultures. Hundreds of medical and scientific studies confirm what folklore has always known: Fermented foods help people stay healthy."

As a nutritionist I agree with this statement and that is one of the reasons why I loved this book so much. I believe that one of the commonalities between the most healthful societies of the world (ie: Japan) is the ‘living foods’ they consume (ie: fermented pastes such a miso). North Americans don’t really have a staple food that is traditionally fermented, other than perhaps yogourt, which is so highly processed and contains little of the vitality it does when homemade with fresh milk/cream. Pickles and sauerkraut are now fast-food processed with vinegar and not really fermented at all.

Another aspect of this book I love is that the author is humorous, very knowledgeable and provides great practical tips and creative ideas for those of us who like to 'cook outside of the box'.

So this is the first post in what I plan to be a series of posts on fermenting foods (note: not consecutive posts). I hope that they will be informative and inspiring enough for you to try for yourself and see if you get hooked on the flavour and vigour that you get from these living foods!

Ginger Beer (aka Ginger Ale) - from Wild Fermentation

*Note this is a (healthy) ‘soft drink’ not an alcoholic drink, the fermentation creates enough carbonation for a bubbly beverage but not enough to contribute an ‘appreciable’ amount of alcohol.

*You’ll notice that the recipe calls for sugar (or honey) and because during the fermentation process the microorganisms fully metabolize the sugar, it is considered not the same as consuming refined white sugar in its usual form (On pg. 7 of Wild Fermentation, it states; “Fermentation also removes toxins from foods. This is vividly illustrated by the case of cassava, an enormous tuber native to the equatorial regions of Africa and Asia. Certain varieties contain high levels of cyanide and are poisonous until they have undergone a soaking fermentation. The fermentation process eliminates the cyanide, rendering the cassava edible and nutritious.”)

Timeframe: 2-3 weeks

Ingredients:
3 inches or more of fresh ginger root
2 cups sugar or raw honey (I prefer honey)
2 lemons
Water

Process:
1.) First you need to start the 'ginger bug': Add 2 teaspoons grated ginger (skin and all) and 2 tsp. sugar/honey to one cup water. Stir well and leave in a warm spot, covered with cheesecloth to allow free circulation of air while keeping flies out. Add this amount of ginger and sugar/honey every day or two and stir, until the bug starts bubbling, in 2 days to about a week.

2.) Make the ginger beer any time after the bug becomes active. (if you wait more than a couple of days, keep feeding the bug fresh ginger and sugar/honey every 2 days). Boil 2 litres of water. Add about 2 inches of gingerroot, grated, for a mild ginger flavour (up to 6 inches for an intense ginger flavour) and 1 ½ cups sugar. Boil this mixture for about 15 minutes. Cool.

3.) Once the ginger/sugar/water mixture has cooled, strain the ginger out and ass the juice of the lemons and the strained ginger bug. (If you intend to make this process an ongoing rhythm, reserve a few tablespoons of the active bug as a starter and replenish it with additional water, grated ginger and sugar.)

4.) Add enough water to make 4 litres (one gallon).

5.) Bottle in sealable bottles; rubber gasket “bail top” bottles are great or capped beer or wine bottles. Leave bottles to ferment in a warm spot for about 2 weeks.

6.) Cool before opening. When you open a ginger beer, be prepared with a glass, since carbonation can be strong and force liquid rushing out of the bottle.

This is a family favourite in my house and does not last. Consider making a double batch once you get the ‘feel’ for fermenting.

ENJOY!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Raspberry

These berries are the 3rd in my berry series and definitely in my top 3 favourite berries, partly because they are fairly low-maintenance to grow and overall an easy berry to incorporate into many a great baked goodie. I certainly wouldn’t turn down a fresh one (and thanks to my neighbors’ sky-high groves of them I have been enjoying them for several weeks now! They are velvety, luscious berries that are best when a deep pink/red, almost purple colour. This hue indicated its rich nutrient content. One of those notable nutrients is ellagic acid which is present in many red fruits and berries, including raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, pomegranate and some nuts including pecans and walnuts. The highest levels of ellagic acid are found in raspberries however. So if you’re looking for a source of antioxidant, anti-mutagen and anti-cancer properties, they are your berries! Studies have shown their anti-cancer activity on cancer cells of the breast, esophagus, skin, colon, prostate and pancreas.* And it’s never too early to start prevention of the rising incidence of cancer.

As an antioxidant food containing ellagic acid, raspberries help prevent unwanted damage to cell membranes and other structures in the body by neutralizing free radicals. Ellagic acid is not the only well-researched phytonutrient component of raspberry, however. Raspberry's flavanoid content is also well documented. These flavanoid molecules are also classified as anthocyanins, and they belong to the group of substances that give raspberries their rich red color. Raspberries' anthocyanins also give these delectable berries unique antioxidant properties, as well as some antimicrobial ones, including the ability to prevent overgrowth of certain bacteria and fungi in the body (for example, the yeast Candida albicans, which is a frequent culprit in vaginal infections and can be a contributing cause in irritable bowel syndrome).

This is not a berry to pass up. So get out there and get your hands on some soon before they are gone and reap their multitude of benefits!

*Note: Frozen berries are still a great option and you’ll still reap the nutritional benefits (wash, if necessary, and dry before freezing).

Creative ways to use raspberries:

1.) Add raspberries to your apple crumble recipe.

2.) Add fresh or crushed with honey if tart to fresh ice cream

3.) Make an instant jam by simply crushing them with a fork and adding raw honey (as with strawberries)

3.) Awesome enhancement to salad dressing!

4.) One of the best berries for using in pies. Here is my recipe:

Crust:
2.5 cups fine-ground spelt flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. unrefined sugar
Put these 3 ingredients into a food processor and pulse a few times.
Add 1 cup of cold, unsalted butter, chopped into tbsp. sized cubes.
¼-1/2 cup ice-cold water

Process butter into mixture about 10 seconds (using pulse) until it becomes a coarse meal consistency.
Have water ready (1/2 cup) and add in slow steady stream while blending just until it holds together.
(*Note: You may not need the full ½ cup of water).
Now it’s ready to roll!
*Fork the bottom of the crust if you are baking it empty.
Freeze for an hour or so before putting in filling.

Berry/fruit pie contents:
¾ - 1 cup unrefined sugar
¼ sifted spelt flour
1 tsp.cinnamon and ¼ tsp. nutmeg
Add all above ingredients together, then add 4 cups of chosen berries (I like a mixture of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and huckleberries)
*If your berries are frozen you may want to defrost somewhat and drain excess water to avoid an overly juicy pie.
1 ½ tbsp. lemon juice + ½ tbsp zest
1-2 tbsp butter cut into pieces
Put fruit mixture into pre-frozen pie shell with butter pieces scattered over top.
*If very juicy add egg yolk to bind.

Preheat oven to 450 then reduce to 350 and put pie in oven. Bake 40-50 minutes, check after about 35 minutes. It’s done when the crust starts to brown slightly at the edges.

Sources used for article:
http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/ellagic-acid.php

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Strawberry Bliss!

Our strawberries have been ripening the past 2 weeks and are absolutely delicious! There's nothing quite like a fresh-picked strawberry from a sun-ripened vine. I prefer them straight-up, unadulterated and still warm from the sun.


Strawberries, particularly organically grown ones, are rich in vitamin C and higher in iron and potassium than other berries. Strawberries, like other berries, are famous in the phytonutrient world as a rich source of compounds called phenols. One family of those phenols is called anthocyanin, which provide the strawberry with not only its flush red color, they also serve as potent antioxidants that have repeatedly been shown to help protect cell structures in the body and to prevent oxygen damage in all of the body's organ systems. Strawberries' unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one.*

Choosing/Storing your Strawberries:
Store-bought prepared foods containing berries are devoid of healthy anthocyanins and other nutrients such as Vitamin C that are only measurable in fresh and whole, frozen berries, not in their processed counterparts.
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found anthocyanins, among other beneficial nutrients, were almost undetectable in canned foods, bread, cereals, and other foods containing berries.  So choose fresh, raw as much as possible and try to retain their nutrients by freezing them whole in a well-sealed glass jar or tupperware container if you are not consuming them within a day or 2 of picking.

Here are a few creative ways to prepare your fresh or frozen strawberries:

1.) Homemade strawberry slushies - just add ice (or frozen berries), and maple syrup if they’re a little tart.

2.) A great ice-cream accompaniment – just throw them on whole or crush them for a more compote-like effect.

3.) Strawberry tarts or shortcake. Alter your favourite recipe and use fine-ground spelt flour and unrefined sugar, for a much healthier version, instead of white flour and white sugar.

4.) Instant strawberry jam; just crush berries with a fork and add raw honey, mix well and voila – delicious homemade strawberry jam. *It will last for a week or so in the fridge or much longer in the freezer.

5.) Add them to your favourite smoothie. Just yogourt and strawberries are nice blended together but you can also add ice, a bit of lime juice and/or rosewater(optional) to make, what is traditionally called in India, a 'Lassi'.

If you're a berry lover...raspberries are also now in season as well as huckleberries and salmonberries.  Blackberries will be out in about a month or so...enjoy!

*Be sure not to pick berries from roadways, railway lines (they tend to be sprayed with pesticides/herbicides) or where dogs may be 'roaming'.

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