Tag Archives: nourishing traditions

Warmer Bugs

As the temperature has begun to increase recently, the various trees and insects have started to bloom and buzz. I happen to like most little creepy crawlies, but the rash of very animated Stink Bugs  that have decided to burst out of hiding with great joy are somewhat less than joyful to me.

Also a big kill-joy is the rate at which the overly zealous trees are polluting my air with pollen. I know the survival of their respective species depends entirely on filling the atmosphere with high levels of potential offspring, but the effort, in my humble, non-tree-life-form opinion, could still be effective with a little less output. That said, I am attempting to cope with “Seasonal Allergies”. I need some help to fight back… will you aid my cause?

I would like to find a food based attack plan, and my current remedy attempts include:

Increased Vitamin C (from supplements, so not really a food)

Adding Tumeric (in fairly large amounts) to food during cooking

Eating Parsley, which could help with detoxifying the body

Tried eating local raw honey, but hasn’t seemed to help

I would love some more ideas, so please leave me a comment!

-sn


Salt of the Earth

Artist's concept of Aquarius

At 7:20 AM (west-coast time), NASA finally merged two objects of my affection: astronomy and sea salt. With the launch of the Aquarius satellite, NASA will study sea salt around the Earth.

I, of course, like to eat sea salt.

Now NASA is not, unfortunately, going to study the health benefits of sea salt outlined in Nourishing Traditions. Salt is mentioned in the subject index 21 times, but a good discussion of it’s health advantages starts around page 48. The unrefined variety of sea salt, such as Celtic type farmed in the salt marshes of Brittany, frequently contain traces of marine life that carry minerals in a bio-available form. It is the trace minerals that give sea salt one of it’s primary benefits, but the sodium chloride (largest component of sea salt by percent) is also important to the health of our brain, nervous system, and vital to digestion. Of note is the necessity of chlorine (the chloride part) to the making of hydrochloric acid, a favored tool of the stomach.

Alas, the science geeks (like me) are in fact searching for variations in the concentration of salt in the water of our oceans. Salinity traces the currents of water in the oceans, giving researchers a tool to understand how the water moves, or does not move, around the globe.

Even if NASA is not yet blasting rockets into space to investigate traditional cooking methods, at least they’ve taken one small step in that direction. So here’s to the salt of the Earth!

(Now go put some on your food)

*Image of salt taken from Celtic Sea Salt® brand website, as it is the source of salt I currently use. Artist concept of Aquarius spacecraft property of NASA, all rights reserved.


Collards

I grew up in the south. In spite of this, I survived to adulthood without the foggiest idea of what collard greens are. So, for those of you who are as uninformed as I was, here is a brief introduction:

Collards are broad leaf-like objects constructed by angry garden gnomes out of high density rubber and aircraft grade titanium. Intended by the gnomes as personal protective shields, collards are able to survive all but the most intensive heat, and have a tough stem that is best removed before eating. Their high degree of resilience allows collards to resist the attacks of insects, disease, and photon torpedoes. Thus, they grow quite well in the south, where such things are common.

With this in mind, I can now acquaint you with the classic southern approach to eating collards… try not to taste them. Collards have an incredibly unremarkable flavor, which is characterized as bitter. In good southern style, the typical treatment is to add fat, acid, and heat to mask the less desired flavor, while drawing on the bitter edge. So, here’s the recipe:

First, remove the stem rather far up the leaf. Next, cut the leaves into strips or small pieces, chop one small onion, and set aside. In a pan large enough to contain the collards, cook several pieces of bacon until crispy, then add onion and cook until onion is mostly done. Next add some water, vinegar, and the collards and cook until collards are soft enough to eat.

Ingredients:
One bunch of collards (about 8-10 leaves)
One small onion
1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar (probably any kind would work ok)
3-4 strips of bacon (turkey bacon did not produced the proper effect when I tried to substitute)
Enough water to cook the collards

I’m not very specific about the water here because I’ve never measured it. You should need around a cup, but the idea is to mostly steam the collards. You don’t want to make a stew, and you are supposed to consume the liquid with the greens.

It is possible to simply steam collards and eat them as you would any other green, but the steaming process leaches out some of the nutrients you may want to keep. So, if the only green thing you find at the market this week is a few tough shards of leftover gnome defenses, try out the southern style. You might actually like it!


chili w/out tomatoes (or winter bean soup)

There is probably a hilarious coincidence behind the English word chilly (origin ~1570) and the Spanish name of the chili pepper (~1500). Nevertheless, the irony is that chili, formed by adding lots of chili pepper to meat and beans, goes well with chilly weather.

The modern American version of chili almost always contains tomatoes, a delicious fruit to which my wife is allergic. This allergy, and our combined desire for good chili, drove us to explore some tomato-less recipes. The first step in the most promising versions began with mixing several types of beans. Obviously, kidney beans were necessary, but we were surprised to find the addition of great northern, navy, and lima beans, and even various lentils.

Once we assembled a collection of beans to our liking, we soaked them overnight. Now here I must add that in a second run of this recipe we bumped our menu by one day, and the beans soaked for an additional day. This was one of our best culinary accidents yet. By soaking the beans for one day, they begin to sprout, which leaves them tasting a little ‘green’. The second day of soaking killed this taste, and made for a good flavor. Page 495 of NT indicates that beans should be soaked for ‘…a long time’, but does not indicate if more than one day would be harmful or not, so I don’t know the impact on nutrition after a two day soak.

Anyway, we then covered the beans generously in chicken broth, and simmered for awhile on low. Next we browned some ground beef with a chopped onion and chili spices. Mixing the meat into the pot with beans, we let this simmer until we were too hungry to wait, and ate it topped generously with cheddar cheese and cilantro. We probably only let this cook for 2-3 hours total, but longer would be better. Below I’ll try to give the full recipe. One note, I prefer a very un-spicy version of chili, so if you like the hot stuff, modify to your preference.

Chili (bean soup for a cold day)

1 lb. ground beef or lamb
1.5 – 2 cups of mixed beans (navy, great norther, kidney, lima, and lentils + whatever you like)
3-4 cups of chicken or beef stock
1 onion
heaps of cheddar cheese
1 clove of garlic, crushed (optional)
Fresh cilantro as garnish (optional)

Spices:
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Directions:
Soak beans for 1-2 days in water, then drain and cook on low in broth. Brown meat on medium and onion, adding spices except basil. Taste spices when meat is sufficiently cooked, make adjustments. When meat is nearly done, add basil and garlic to the beans. After the meat is seasoned correctly (defined by you), add the meat to beans and simmer on low until you think it’s done (an hour or so).

So that’s the basic approach. This makes a good (heavy) meal for a cold day, we got about 4 serving out of these amounts. You could probably make this vegetarian style by subtracting the meat and substituting for the broth.

Try it out yourself! You have plenty of winter left to go, so you have no excuse.


Whole grain flour

It is a well known fact that flour is explosive. It is also well known that anything explosive contains energy. The energy of flour is typically calculated in Calories (that’s a thousand Chemistry lab calories), and according to me is the primary nutritional goal of any flour based food (such as bread).

There are several ways to deliver this explosive to the powerful muscles requiring the energy, but the debate on methods of delivery that I have seen to date are not about the explosive at all. Instead, the discussion centers around everything except energy. Like Iron, Vitamin-B, Vitamin-E, and Fiber. With the exception of Vitamin-E found in the germ of certain grains, these nutritional goodies are found in the husk (or bran). Any grain that is sold with it’s original bran included (rather than having the bran stripped by clever machines) is called a whole grain. I definitely used to enjoy ‘white’ grains, and despise whole ones. (Not only because it’s harder to ignite whole grains, but I thought they tasted better). However, by an interesting path, I now prefer the whole grains. This path is a twisted story of the non-energetic nutritional components of grain.

On page 25 of Nourishing Traditions, an important note is made concerning the loading of whole grains into our body. A natural substance found in whole grains binds to a number of useful nutrients, like Iron, Zinc, and Calcium. Enzyme inhibitors present in whole grains also prevent absorption (digestion) of other useful things. Now, what the book doesn’t mention at this point is that energy is still largely available in these whole grains. Anyway, Nourishing Traditions goes on to deliver the punch line: we can neutralize the inhibitors! By fermenting our whole grains, the micro-organism that eat grain in the wild will destroy the inhibitors for us. Alternately, if you sprout your grain, the natural mechanism in the seed (grain) will get rid of the inhibitors. Up to this point I have not mentioned exactly what grain I am talking about. In fact, it doesn’t seem to matter. Vitamin B was discovered in the husk of rice, and the vitamin content of most other grains is also in the bran. My discovery concerning the fermentation of flour had a bit more to do with Teff.

A smallish angry, seed, Teff is gluten free, making it a prime target for my kitchen experiments. Mixing teff flour into various recipes, I noted that the soaked teff became more elastic and pliable. This seems to be the case for most flours, except perhaps for the very fine powdery types like tapioca. Anyway, while the nutritional aspect of flour is improved by soaking or sprouting, I personally like the superior cooking quality of soaked flour.

So try your own today, any flour will do. Let me know how it works!


Sans Gluten

Gluten is a protein, and protein is healthy stuff, so that means Gluten should be good for you. And for me. Which it probably is. Gluten is not, however, good for my wife. Nope, this little protein, crafted in the endosperm of certain grains, can knock her down for a good day, with migraines, joint and muscle pain, and similar debilitating effects.

Why Gluten? The reason this otherwise indistinguishable portion of a grain has such a response is not well known (at least to me), but it shows up in a remarkable variety of foods. The reason it shows up in food has something to do with the versatility of the host grain, and the clever application of food engineering. The primary source of Gluten is Wheat, which is often used in bread and bread-like products. Aside from direct uses, Wheat can be included in food as thickener, or to enhance some aspect of the food like it’s energy content. Wheat is particularly useful for making Beer, and the starch from Wheat was used to stiffen cloth during weaving (I think they use a different process now). Gluten is also generated by grains other than Wheat, such as Barley, Rye, and depending on who you ask, maybe Oats. Other names for Wheat are usually historical in nature, since what we call Wheat today is the descendant of some super-evil grain quite some time back. So, you may encounter the locally derived names for Wheat, such as Kamut, Spelt, Bulgar, or Durum. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but at least the biggest offenders. The most interesting hiding place for a Wheat derivative I have seen is Soy Sauce. In particular, the traditionally brewed variety. If you avoid Soy for any of the numerous good reasons to do so, keeping away from the Gluten in Soy Sauce should be pretty easy.

So, in this journey through a life of eating food, we have learned to craft our food without the easy engineering techniques that include Wheat. Several Gluten-free grains are available, but require some practice to use (if you are used to Wheat flour).

While this step is a rather daunting task to most, my wife and I were already pursuing the non-processed food route before we had to leave Gluten behind. My wife has been off Gluten for several years, and we have found that most foods can be made without Wheat. All the recipes I have discussed here we made without Gluten, for the recipes that have flour we use a mix of Gluten free flours.

One interesting note: We have found that soaking Gluten free grains overnight in Raw Milk works wonderfully. A fairly consistent issue with Gluten free flours is the stuff you make with them tends to crumble or fall apart. A good night with the friendly milk bacteria seems to convince this flour to settle down and play nice. However it works, I’m glad that it does. The general approach to ‘fixing’ Gluten free flour mixes is to add Xanthan or Guar gum, or a similar bonding additive. Instead of these shortcuts, we are grateful we can make use of the soaking process to keep our food together.


Chicken soup for the toothless soul

Quite recently, my wife had two wisdom teeth removed. (Very much against her will, but it seemed the best thing to do in the end). She has incredible teeth, no cavities or anything, but randomly (the dentist can’t explain it) one broke. Soo, the difficult challenge became to make Real Food, that doesn’t require any chewing. Since that list boils down really fast to soup, we ate mostly soup for about a week. And since I was promoted to head chef, I can claim full credit for the one stellar success in that department: Chicken Radish Soup.
Editors note: Radish is really just the ‘secret weapon’ of this recipe, so the recipe could be called Chicken Harvest Soup. (Loosely follows the Chicken Rice recipe on page 199 of Nourishing Traditions, minus rice).

First we needed a good base for soup. I considered importing a French sous chef to oversee this part, but in the end settled for a temperature controlled crock pot. (It’s not even french, but it is pretty reliable). So we tossed a whole chicken in the crock pot for about 9 hours, and after the chicken was cooked, we separated the meat. Then we put the bones (fat, cartilage, and skin) back in with enough water to cover, and cooked that again overnight. Once the stock was strained, we had enough for a couple of meals of soup.

The next step was to account for our vegetable population. The inhabitants of our refrigerator included: Celery, Carrots, Onions, and Radishes. Plus we had some Potatoes in the cabinet. I chopped what I needed of the veggies, and set them to cook in the stock, added a bay leaf, and a generous amount of powdered garlic. I let these simmer until the potatoes were soft, and added them to the chicken. Since the goal was to have food that required no chewing, we had to convert this soup to baby food. I used a blender, starting with some chicken and adding a little of the broth and then combining everything as the blender was able to handle it. And of course, sea salt to taste.
This was by far the best baby food I’ve tasted. And yes, I have tasted quite a lot (my youngest brother is 15 years my junior, so I stole my fair share of his food). Anyway, as far as the soup goes, I think the radish was the amazing part. It was subtle, but brought a freshness that really suited the carrots and soup as a whole.
I’ll try to put all this here is a concise form:

Chicken Radish Soup

5-6 Cups of Chicken stock
2-3 Cups of chopped cooked Chicken
4 medium carrots.
One bunch of radishes (about 10)
1/2 large Onion
4 small Potatoes
2 stalks of Celery
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 – 1 Teaspoon of Garlic Powder
Sea Salt
Optional water.

Chop the vegetables, and place them in a stock pot.
After the veggies are chopped, add enough stock to cover them, and thin out the stock if needed. (I only thin out my stock if it’s pretty dense).
Simmer with the Bay Leaf and Garlic powder for about an hour, or until the potatoes are soft. The other veggies should cook faster than the potatoes, but they aren’t bad if they are undercooked. You can add the chicken at any time, I add it near the end so it retains flavor. We take half of a chicken that has been cooked in the crock pot for our soup, so the measurement is approximate.
Remove the Bay Leaf, and salt to taste.
Enjoy!

We had these veggies on hand since we wanted to have something to boost the immune system, and there are a lot of nutrients in Carrots, Radishes, and Celery. Some vitamins are destroyed by heat and cooking, but you can hang on to a few in a broth. So I think this make a good soup for healing, but it’s also really tasty.


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