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Just Beet It

beet-root-bspGrowing up, I hated beets. They had a funny flavor, worse texture, and stained everything on your plate. Of course, the beets that I was eating came out of a can, so they can hardly be called beets. It wasn’t until I was an adult, out on my own and sharing an organic produce box with my roommates, that I discovered beets could actually be cooked in a tasty way.

I still wouldn’t list beets as my favorite vegetable, however. And when I first read in Nourishing Traditions about Beet Kvass, I put that recipe on the “probably won’t try” list. But the more I read about the benefits of this tonic, the more I realized that I should probably make it part of my kitchen routine.

What are these benefits? Besides being a lacto-fermented beverage providing loads of probiotics for healthy intestine function, beet kvass is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, a natural multivitamin, if you will. Most importantly, it supports the liver, which is sadly much abused in our modern world. The liver is our primary cleansing organ, filtering out the toxins in our food and the chemicals we are exposed to in our everyday life. When the liver gets overburdened with toxins, the body responds by either storing the toxins, causing long-term problems, or they look for other methods of getting rid of those toxins, such as through the skin. Acne and eczema can both be results of an overtaxed digestive system.

I can tell that drinking beet kvass regularly helps with my skin issues. If I am feeling itchy, a glass of kvass will calm my system. When I was ill over the holidays, my blood tests showed that my liver enzymes were elevated, a sign that my liver function was impaired. As soon as I got home I started drinking beet kvass every day, and when I went back to the doctor for my follow-up, my liver enzymes had begun to drop, and a few weeks later all my tests were normal.

It may take awhile to get used to the taste of kvass if you are not a fan of beets.  Sally Fallon admits that “you wouldn’t serve it to guests.” But I’ve found that I don’t mind the taste when it is mixed with filtered water or fresh juice or kombucha. And you can also add in carrots or ginger with the beets to give a different flavor if you like. The recipe is very simple, but it is truly worth your time.

 

Beet Kvass

from Nourishing Traditions

2 medium beets

1 Tbsp. sea salt

1/4 c homemade whey* (or an extra Tbsp. of salt)

 

Peel and chop beets into one inch chunks. Don’t cut it too small, or the fermentation will occur too quickly and it will turn alcoholic. Place beets with salt and whey in a quart mason jar and fill jar with filtered water. Cover and let sit on counter at room temperature 2-3 days, then transfer to refrigerator.

Drink a few ounces each day, either straight or mixed with filtered water. When most of the liquid is gone, refill the jar with water and let sit out on the counter for another 2 days, After the second batch, discard beets and start again.

If the kvass gets thick and slightly syrupy, that is normal-it means you have a good batch! Just thin it out with filtered water when you drink it.

 

*Homemade whey provides a starter culture and can be made from yogurt fairly easily. Line a sieve with cheesecloth or a coffee filter and place over a bowl. Put one cup of yogurt (whole, plain, with active cultures and no fillers) into the sieve and allow to drain for several hours or overnight. You will end up with whey in the bowl, and the yogurt will have become thick like Greek yogurt or a soft cream cheese.

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2011 in Things Edible

 

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When Life Gives You Peppers, Stuff ‘Em

Our CSA program is quite handy. Every week we get a box of fresh organic fruits and veggies delivered to our door.  It helps us eat seasonally and locally, and actually simplifies my meal planning. This winter, with my bounty of beef and salmon in the freezer, squash in the garage, and various preserved veggies in the pantry, all I have to do is check the upcoming bin contents for the week, skim a few cookbooks, pull out the meat to thaw, and my week is good to go.

I try to work with whatever the box brings, but occasionally I make use of the ability to submit substitution requests. Green peppers are a vegetable that almost never make it into the house.  They are not a favorite of Jer’s stomach or my tastebuds. But through some technical difficulties on the website, we have had two weeks since the beginning of the year that brought us green peppers to consume, so I had to decide what to make with them.

My grandma used to love making stuffed green peppers. I remember her baking whole trays of them and then keeping them individually wrapped in the fridge for her late-night snacks. Grandma and I used to compete for who would get home the latest-her coming from a prayer meeting or healing conference, and me coming from a Bible study or church party I was running. My mom would wait up for both us, and then we would all sit around and chat, eating our preferred snacks.  Mine varied, involving toast or cereal, or a couple slices of cheese, or sometimes just an entire head of steamed broccoli with butter.  Sadly, even though grandma offered, I never ate her green peppers.

Grandma isn’t here to give me her recipe, but I remembered the basics-seasoned ground beef, cooked rice, sauteed onions, all baked in the pepper with some parmesan cheese on top.  I used some leftover quinoa and added homemade salsa to the beef. It was pretty good. Then on the second green pepper delivery, Jer looked at our box and came up with a tastier version, which ended up being grain-free and full of good fats. He still had to take some digestive enzymes, and I didn’t finish my green pepper, but the filling was delicious. Next time you get some peppers, you should try it out.

Jer’s Stuffed Peppers

This can be adapted for as many people as you need-the proportions below are for each pepper.

One sweet pepper-green, or my favorite, yellow

olive oil

1/4 lb ground beef

1-2 Tbls finely diced onion

1 Tbls salsa

half an avocado, diced

1/4 c cheese , small dice (we like Tillamook from Oregon, because the cows spend some time on pasture, so the nutrient content is higher, but it is still economical)

Slice pepper in half and clean out stem and ribs. Brush lightly with oil and roast in oven for 20 mins at 400 degrees.  While it cooks, saute ground beef and onions. When beef is cooked through and onions are soft, add salsa, and any additional seasonings you would like-salt, pepper, garlic, hot sauce, etc.  When peppers are ready, remove from oven and turn on broiler. Mix cheese and avocado into the beef, then stuff filling into the peppers. Broil for 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve with addtional salsa and cortido.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2011 in Things Edible

 

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Van Der Memes

yes, i'm a stud

I think I watched about one episodes of Dawson’s Creek… but this is just too funny.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Things Geeky, Things Humorous

 

The Way We Were

The wonderful husband did me the greatest favor yesterday of moving all our blog posts from our old server here to the new one on wordpress. Our old server was only serving spam, so here we are. It was quite a trip reading the early entries of a year ago. While I was already working on my sourdough starter I had just barely begun to research natural health information and hadn’t even heard of Weston A Price. In one of my recipe posts I actually talked about how to make a muffin lowfat, something I shudder at now. These days I am always looking for more ways to get more good fats (and the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K) into my diet, to help my skin and blood sugar.

2010 was definitely a year of learning and growing in the kitchen. Here’s just a quick list of some of the changes:

From yeast breads to natural sourdough

All purpose flour to whole wheat, sprouted wheat and sprouted spelt

Quick recipes to soaked baked goods to increase nutrition

Found sources for pastured eggs and grass-fed meat, even buying a quarter cow (and the freezer to hold it!)

Started rendering lard and using coconut oil

Learned how to can and preserve our organic produce

Dabbled in our own bit of backyard gardening

Learned how to make cultured vegetables and other fermented foods

Stopped buying toxic beauty products and started making my own

I’m really looking forward to expanding my traditional cooking skills this year, now that I have a solid foundation. I’ve been trying out more fermented foods, and want to start making my own kombucha soon. While this way of eating is a little more work, it’s a lot of fun for me to learn and experiment, and there is a deep satisfaction in knowing that I am providing wonderful healthy food for my family. Ultimately I hope to look back on these early years and chuckle at my newbie mistakes and rejoice in the legacy of health that we have created.

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in Things Edible

 

2011: A Year of Health

It’s that resolution-filled time of year again. All over the blogosphere folks are listing out their goals, and of course one of the top resolutions out there is to lose weight.  Of particular note are several real food bloggers who are running challenges that would/could be beneficial to me, such as reducing sugar intake, eliminating caffeine, and even working through Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s great book Eat Fat Lose Fat (I’ve read it, and highly recommend). All of these are great ideas, and I’ve signed up for newsletters and notifications for many of them.  I’m looking forward to receiving the tips and recipes and such.

But right now, with coming out of a tough year physically, punctuated by my hospital stint over the holidays, I just can’t put weight loss down as my number one goal. Oh, I’d love to lose weight and get slim and trim. But I know that my body isn’t ready. Healing is my goal for this year-healing the allergies, eczema, fatigue, and other little things that have been stealing my everyday vitality. My body isn’t going to relax and lose the excess weight until it feels like it has all the nutrients it needs, so instead of calorie restriction and intense workouts, I am focusing on traditional foods, getting adequate rest, and taking care of my skin. Eating more fat and reducing sugar and caffeine are certainly part of that plan, but I’m going to try not to judge my progress by the number on the scale but instead on the amount of energy I have when I wake up in the morning.

Hopefully, as I heal and gain strength internally, the effects will show externally, and the weight loss will simply come as a function of reducing inflammation, eating healthy food, and having more energy. And really, my goal is to end 2011 with a little extra weight in the form of a baby, so a healthy system has got to be my focus more than fitting some social standard of acceptable weight. I know that I have the tools I need to move forward in my real food-fueled health journey. I truly believe that with everything I have learned over the past year, 2011 will be a year of health, vitality, and hopefully, babymaking!

 
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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Chocolate Cream Pie

My brother doesn’t like pie.

Well, I should clarify. I have four younger brothers, a pack of big lovable brutes, and the oldest of the four (who turns 21 next weekend, oh-em-gee) dislikes pie. If we are all having pie and ice cream, he will just have the ice cream, even if the pie is Mom’s perfectly cooked apple pie, for which she is famous.

The only pie that turns this brother on is chocolate cream pie. It makes sense-it’s sort of like chocolate ice cream in pie form, something between cheesecake and pudding, both of which he does enjoy. Our family holiday tradition has been to include a chocolate cream pie every year at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas. In years past this has meant standing over a saucepan stirring boxed pudding mix into milk, and then pouring into a prebaked pie shell. But I knew I could do better than that. With my foray into the world of real food and slightly more sophisticated cooking, I could leave the pudding box with its ingredient list of scary chemicals in the dust.

So I did some searching through recipes and blog posts and finally decided to try a decadent-looking mousse recipe from Orangette. Molly knows her chocolate, and I figured the mousse would do just as well in a pie shell as in a teacup. I tinkered with the recipe a little, to give it my own flair, and just to gild the lily a bit I brushed the baked pie shell with chocolate ganache, which I then chilled before spooning in the mousse. It’s a little thing, but it takes the whole package right over the edge.

Despite the multiple steps, this is actually a very simple and easy recipe, and depending on the quality of chocolate you get, it’s not too unhealthy. There is very little added sugar and the focus is on the chocolate, eggs, and cream. While I wouldn’t recommend it as an everyday menu item, if you use good ingredients you can certainly enjoy this as part of your next celebration, without too much guilt.

Chocolate Cream Pie

Pie shell:

1 1/4 c flour (I use 3/4 c whole wheat pastry and 1/2 c all-purpose)

1/2 tsp each salt and sugar

1 stick cold butter + 2 Tbls lard (or just more butter)

1 Tbls liquid whey (optional, but it helps break down the flour, making it more tender and digestible)

1/4-1/2 c cold water

A food processor makes pie crust easy: Pulse flour, salt, and sugar with the butter and lard until fat is pea-sized. Then mix whey into 1/4 c cold water and add slowly, pulsing until dough starts to come together.  Use more water if needed. Form dough into a disk, wrap, and chill overnight. The next morning, roll out, press into pie plate, and bake 15-20 min  at 375 or until golden.

Ganache:

Mix about half a cup of chopped chocolate-dark, semi-sweet, or bittersweet-with about 1/4 c heavy cream. Melt and stir until smooth, then spread on the baked pie crust. Chill while you prepare the mousse.

Mousse:

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (the first time I made this, I only had semisweet chocolate chips on hand, and it turned out fine. But the second I used a nice Callebaut baking chocolate, and the difference was worth it)

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

1 tsp instant espresso or very finely ground dark coffee

1/4 tsp cinnamon

5 Tbsp water

1 Tbsp bourbon (Molly uses whiskey or brandy, but we only ever have bourbon and scotch around here)

2 pastured eggs, separated

2 tsp  sugar, divided

1/8 tsp salt

1 c plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream

Combine chocolate, cocoa, espresso, water, and bourbon in a double boiler or a glass bowl set over a small saucepan of simmering water.  Melt chocolate, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and glossy.

Remove from heat. Whip egg yolks with 1 tsp sugar and 1/8  tsp salt until slightly thickened, about a minute. Combine egg yolks and chocolate slowly, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from scrambling. When chocolate is again smooth, set aside and turn to the egg whites. Beat them with the other 1 tsp of sugar in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Molly recommends detaching the whisk and bowl from the mixer and using the whisk to scrape up any unbeaten egg whites from the bottom, then using the whisk to mix about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate. Then use a large spatula to gently fold in the rest of the egg whites, until they are mostly incorporated and only a few streaks remain.

Using the same bowl and whisk, beat the cream in the stand mixer to soft peaks. Again, use a spatula to gently fold  the whipped cream into the chocolate, until fully incorporated. The mousse will be very soft and have turned a lovely light chocolatey color. Spoon into the pie shell and chill, at least two hours but overnight is best. Serve with lightly sweetened whip cream.

There you have it-a much tastier and healthier answer to the desire for chocolate cream pie. Next year I’ll have to tackle the other pie that used the boxed pudding: lemon. I’m sure with some fresh lemon juice and pastured eggs we can turn that one into a real food dessert as well!

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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Getting Back in the Kitchen

Three weeks ago I was deep in the throes of Thanksgiving planning, trying out pie crust recipes and trying to figure out how to best utilize my oven to cook both tasty free-range turkeys we had purchased, along with squash and potatoes and sourdough rolls and of course, lots and lots of gravy. My parents, brothers, and in-laws were all coming, bringing traditional family dishes like candied yams and green bean casserole. My only concern was whether the snow surrounding our house would melt soon enough for me to go out to the store for more butter and eggs.

Unfortunately, my grand feast never quite materialized. I came down sick on Wednesday, and spent most of Thursday on the couch while my wonderful husband and his fabulous parents did almost all of the cooking. My family ended up stuck at home with a touch of the stomach flu, so no tasty stuffing graced my table (I’m still waiting for a taste of mom’s stuffing and candied yams!). We did the best we could, but it wasn’t the holiday I had envisioned.

It went from bad to worse as I got sicker and sicker, and ended up in the hospital the following Monday with a nasty viral infection. While I have come to resist the idea of taking conventional drugs needlessly, I was so dangerously sick as to require IV antiviral and antibiotic medication, as well as narcotic painkillers and a steady dose of fluids and vaccines. Fortunately, though prayer and good doctors I made it through and was allowed to come home after almost a week in the hospital.

I’m still regaining my strength and healing from my little adventure, but it has been good to be home and in control of my diet again. There are only so many good options on the hospital cafeteria menu. Fortunately I had a good stock of beet kvass and kefir already fermented to help the healing process, as well as several quarts of turkey stock that my husband had made and frozen before we had to leave the house. I’m planning to make a couple batches of fermented veggies this week, and I’m loading up on all the healthy fats I can.  With the Christmas season upon us, I am looking forward to trying new real food recipes, like homemade egg nog and new cookie recipes using some sprouted flour I recently purchased.

We’re back in the saddle here at Ruminations-more recipes on the way!

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2010 in Things Edible

 

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