Long Live Grilled Cheese!

A panini, a quesadilla, a tosti, a croque-monsieur, a Welsh rarebit…. it has been thoroughly tested the world over, and has been unequivocally determined: a grilled cheese is a good thing.  In conjunction with Wilson Farm’s Grilled Cheese Weekend (my childhood neighborhood farm and farm stand hosting their First-Ever Grilled Cheese Weekend, March 1 & 2, 2014), I’m having what has become my favorite way to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich.

kimchi grilled cheese

Thanks to a thematic overhaul and a particularly lively addition, the grilled cheese recently jumped up in the ranks of my favorite sandwiches. The new theme is probiotics – those BFF bacteria we can’t live without and live much better with. Filling my sandwich with as much life as possible, I’ve been opting for a true sour dough bread (which is naturally fermented), layered with sliced raw milk hard cheese (naturally cultured Cheddar being the favorite choice in my area), topped with a generous scoop of sauerkraut or kimchi (lacto-fermented cabbage teaming with probiotics), all melted together to the point of perfection.

kimchi

kimchi grilled cheese

Add even more life to your meal, by washing it down with a tall glass of kombucha (a naturally fermented tea), ginger bug, kefir or a lassi and you are in good bacterial hands!

Switching to Switchel

Switchel with lemon

It’s time to bring in the hay.  Not something I am directly involved in, but see happening all around me and am impressed by the long days the haymakers put in.  Something exceptionally energizing must be fueling this operation…

Making hay

As it turns out, haymaking has its own energy drink, or at least, traditionally it did. Switchel has been reached for on hot August afternoons for more than a hundred years in these parts. It is possible that this undeniably refreshing drink made from cold well water, sweet maple syrup, electrolyte-filled molasses and energizing apple cider vinegar, traces its roots back to a similar drink enjoyed in Hippocrates’ day. Oxymel was a medicinal mixture of water, honey and vinegar.  Apparently, we’ve been drinking vinegar for a good long time.

A few years ago my daughter attended a summer camp at Shelburne Museum, called “A week in 1795.” She introduced me to Switchel with the following recipe:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • water, to taste

Combine the vinegar, molasses, maple syrup and ginger in a bowl. Vinegar mixture serves as a concentrate. Combine with water in a glass or pitcher to taste.

I like to make it with seltzer water (store-bought, or made from tap water with the help of a counter-top SodaStream soda maker) for an sparkly effervescent libation.  For the highest nutritional value, I would recommend using raw apple cider vinegar, blackstrap molasses, and grade B maple syrup.  If you want to substitute honey for maple syrup, look for raw (unfiltered and unheated) locally harvested honey as your healthiest option.

switchel front

With an interest in keeping traditional foods alive, the Vermont Switchel Co has emerged on the real food scene. If you are Vermont, make sure to look for her ready-made bottles of switchel on more and more grocery and general store shelves, and on YourFarmstand.com. Her website includes in-depth nutritional information as well as recipes in which to use switchel.

Switchel above

If you’re inspired to mix up a batch of your own, I’ll leave you with another recipe. Today, on a glorious August day, I’ll raise a glass to Scott Nearing (who would have been 130 years old!), and all the back-to-the-land, homesteading, traditional customs and foodways he honored, practiced and wrote about.  Therefore, from his wife’s cookbook Simple Food for the Good Life: Random Acts of Cooking and Pithy Quotations (Good Life Series) here is the Nearing’s Switchel Recipe:

  • 1 quart cold water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger

Stir up together and dilute to taste with more cold water. A pinch of baking soda will make it foam up like beer or ginger ale.

Either recipe can be tailored to taste (more or less ginger, maybe a slice of lemon, or a pinch of nutmeg, etc) without skimping on the real food refreshment.  It’s an easy-to-make replacement for expensive, mass-produced and increasingly worrisome (including, – yikes! – death!!) commercial “energy drinks.”

Keep it simple and safe, staying cool and hydrated with real food and water.

Reboot with Joe: From Pharmacy to Farmacy

On Thanksgiving Day, with a freshly made vegetable juice in hand, Joe Cross gratefully declares, “I’m thankful that I got sick, because, if I hadn’t gotten sick, I would have had a heart attack and died.  It was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and get well.”

Now, two years later, Joe is not only fit, healthy and very much alive, but encouraging others (perhaps you too) to join him and get healthy.  His Reboot with Joe program provides free tools, inspiration, recipes and a community of film viewers who are inspired to follow in his footsteps. On the new site, you’ll find these impressive statistics.

As a result of seeing the documentary, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”:

  • 93 million glasses of fresh juice have been consumed,
  • 93,000 US tons of produce have been consumed,
  • More than 6.2 million pounds of weight have been lost,
  • And over 55,000 people are now medication free.
  • Furthermore, the film has been credited with driving the explosive growth in juicing in the past two years. In January 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that, “Appliance retailers say it has been hard to keep up with demand for juicers since (the film) hit Netflix, in July 2011.”

If you have not already seen the full movie, you can do so here.  The documentary quickly draws you into Joe’s juicy life-changing road trip.  A hundred pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe had been a patient of six different doctors, to no avail, when he decided to resort to a healthy diet. To jump start a dramatic lifestyle change, he took himself out of his regular routine in Australia, and spent two months in the US drinking nothing by freshly squeezed juice, and getting better.

Juicing – not to be confused with mixing up orange juice from concentrate or any of the many juice drinks on supermarket shelves – super concentrates the nutrients of more fruits and vegetables than one could consume in a sitting by chewing. This type of cleanse gives the body a break from heavy digesting and metabolizing, while offering easily absorbable micronutrients and plenty of water for flushing and rehydrating. Looking back to our Paleolithic ancestors who often fasted as food was not always and everywhere available, it’s likely a routine to which we are well-suited. Nonetheless, in our modern lives, most of us have taken up fast food eating fast (as in quickly) instead.  And we have a health crisis to show for it.

Joe starts his healing journey with Dr Joel Fuhrman, who explains that “you don’t get permanently well, if you don’t permanently change your habits.”  With 61% of the American diet being processed, 30% animal products, 5% a white starch and only 5% fruits and vegetables, trading that in for quality time with fresh produce is a drastic change in the right direction.  One from which the less drastic, longer term lifestyle changes will follow.

Along the way, he meets a few people willing to give juicing a try.  One woman, who suffers from migraines, commits to a 10-day fast and enjoys headache-free living.  Joe also meets a truck driver with the same rare autoimmune condition he has. What starts as a chance meeting at a truck stop in Arizona, turns into a beautiful ripple effect story.  After this own healing in well under way, Joe returns to the US to become Phil’s (the truck driver) personal juice-maker and health coach.  Without spoiling too much, Phil, weighing in at 430 lbs and suffering from several painful chronic conditions, commits to vegetables and a juicer and comes out a clear winner.

Both Joe and Phil have powerful personal stories to tell, in which they were able to trade in their costly pharmaceutical prescriptions for farm-aceutical fruits and vegetables and go on to inspire countless others to do the same.  They later attended the same holistic nutrition program I did (Institute of Integrative Nutrition) and through health coaching and the Reboot with Joe program are now supporting many more to get healthy and enjoy life.

Have you tried a juice fast? How was your experience? We’d love to hear your stories and any juice recipes you would like to share. A randomly selected commenter will receive a Reboot with Joe bundle (The Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead DVDcompanion book and Reboot Nutrition Guide with recipes to help you get started juicing!).

Sharing Flu-free Tips (with Dr Susan Rubin)

Dr. Susan Rubin recently wrote a two part post about staying healthy despite what is being called a particularly bad flu season.  She has kindly allowed me to post them here (as one post).  I’ve added a few additional tips, just to make sure you have plenty of options.

The news media and the CDC are at it again. They are saying that this year is a bad one for the flu (here’s a map of current outbreak levels in the US). Hurry hurry, go and get your flu shot!  I’m not here to convince you one way or the other on flu shots, the choice is yours to make. (For a more international perspective on flu vaccination, see CNN article here). Shot or no shot, there is plenty you can do to help avoid the flu. More than washing your hands and sneezing into your elbow as the CDC keeps telling us to do.

Here are a few things that can be done for little or no cost.

SLEEP I consider sleep to be a nutrient that we need every day. Scientists have shown that sleep is when we grow and when we heal. Parents know this first hand with their kids. When you’re sick, you sleep! Well, why not make sure you get adequate sleep BEFORE you get sick? This is one reason I have a zero sleepover policy, I want my kids home to sleep in their own beds at a reasonable time. Regular sleep hours are shown to be helpful in boosting immunity, and also in better brain function: retaining what you learn. Make regular, restful sleep a priority in your home and you’ll have happier healthier kids to show for it.  

DARKNESS We are supposed to be in the dark in the winter. The more you can align with the rhythms of Mother Nature, they better off you’ll be health wise. Stay away from your computer and TV screens at night, turn down the lights, and get serious about getting to bed a little earlier. Start with 10 minutes earlier, build up to 30. It will make a huge difference in your energy level, your outlook on life and your resistance to illness.

SUGAR We all love sugar, and the holidays are full of it. Now that the holidays are behind us, it’s time to face the not so popular truth: refined sugar can deplete your immunity and can drain the body of much needed nutrients. I could show you all sorts of articles and studies to prove this point. The bottom line is, we all need to look at decreasing our consumption of refined sugar. Replace juices and other sugary drinks with water, preferably filtered, from the tap and you’ll be saving loads of money and helping the planet. Take a good long look at how much refined sugar you and your kids eat over the course of a day or a week. Get conscious and cut back on the white stuff!

GOOD BUGS One thing that many non-science people might not realize is that our bodies consist of all sorts of microorganisms living together in harmony. Bacterial cells outnumber human cells by a factor of 10 to 1. One group of bacteria that I’m particularly fond of is the Lactobacillis family of bacteria that lives in your gut. You can add to this happy family of bugs that helps your digestive and immune systems to work optimally by enjoying foods that naturally contain these beneficial bacteria. Miso soup, Kim Chee, Sauerkraut, Kefir and Yogurt come to mind. You can also take probiotic supplements. This is one thing I get my family going on when there is a flu bug going around. I think of it as a tonic, a small action taken once a day that will make a big difference over time.

DE-STRESS  You absolutely must find ways to decrease your stress level. This is a big ask in these trying times but it is essential.  Meditation, taking a regular walk, doing daily yoga, remembering to plant your feet on the ground and breathe. Reducing stress levels will help build up your resistance to illness and can also help you let go of unwanted weight.

LAUGH I heard a physician speak about this just last week when I was at a comedy show, of all places. Laughter lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow to the heart and other organs, and has shown to help improve resistance to disease. I set time aside every day for chuckles watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

GET OUTSIDE We weren’t meant to be indoor creatures. Acclimate to the colder weather by making an  extra effort to get outside a little every day. Talk a walk, go sit in the park, enjoy a little fresh air. This will help your body make gradual adjustments rather than be stressed by a sudden change.  Wear a scarf and protect your neck and upper back against the wind.

SOUP is a magical food during this time of year, it’s the best thing to be eating when its cold outside. I’m playing the soup for dinner game this month, I think you should too!  I have too many soup recipes to count on my blog page. You can browse through them by visiting my blog, www.DrSusanRubin.com/blog, on the lower right side of that page, you’ll find a list of categories. Simply click on SOUP and you’ll find pages and pages of recipes. Here are my top 3 soup recommendations full of warming herbs and spices:

1. Magical Miso Onion Soup this combination of onions, garlic and ginger will help fight off bug that might be coming your way. The miso helps support your gut flora which is also essential to good immunity.

2. Thai Chicken Soup the Asian spices in this soup, turmeric, garlic, chili pepper make it spicy but not too hot. Mung beans add crunch, peanuts and cilantro help to transport your taste buds to Southeast Asia.

3. Curried Squash Soup curry powder, turmeric, ginger and garlic combined with roasted winter squash make this soup very nourishing and digestible.

COOK Not everyone can afford to take a sick day when they’re not feeling well. This is one of the ways that colds and flu spread. If you cook for yourself, you won’t have to wonder whether your take out, your frozen processed packaged food or even your high-end restaurant food was made by someone who was sick.  If you make your own meals, you’ll know that the ingredients are good and you’ll be putting your own good energy into the food. There is nothing better than that. Cooking from scratch is the most effective investment of time and money you can make to ensure your own health.

IN YOUR KITCHEN Once in your kitchen cooking up flu protection for your family, let me (Deirdre, from Plan It Healthier) reiterate and highlight a few key ingredients for a preventive approach:

  • fresh water, drunk at room temperature or warm, or brewed as green or herbal tea
  • raw garlic
  • raw honey
  • onions (and other members of the allium family: leeks, chives, scallions, garlic etc.)
  • ginger (ideally fresh)
  • turmeric
  • elderberries
  • vitamin D (both from foods and supplements….or, if you can manage it, a vacation to the sun)
  • vitamin C (from vitamin-rich foods, including squeezing fresh lemon juice in water and/or tea and supplements)
  • vegetables – fresh, ideally organic vegetables with a good portion eaten raw
  • herbal teas (peppermint, chamomile, cat’s claw, mullein, elderflower, echinacea and more). An extensive list with particular applications and herbal tea recipes available from Mountain Rose Herbs, also a good place to order high quality herbs.

Be well!

Brush, Floss and Pull?

Empty coconut oil jar

Oil pulling, that is.  Since my husband’s last dentist appointment, I’ve noticed my coveted jar of coconut oil is almost empty!  I’ve been using coconut oil for cooking and baking (and sometimes for snacking) for several years.  A pure, unrefined, raw product, coconut oil is a nourishing real food with an impressive array of health benefits from skin care to improved immunity to heart health.

If the fact that coconut is a saturated oil has you avoiding it, know that the world of saturated fats consists of various molecule lengths.  The vast majority of the oils we consume (and with which the saturated fat health concerns are connected) are long-chain fatty acids (LCFA).  Coconut oil, however, contains mostly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA).  MCFA do not contribute to cholesterol concerns and have been shown to protect against heart disease.

Coconut oil consists of 50% lauric acid, the highest concentration of any food. Lauric acid is an important type of fat, not found in many foods, with commonly needed anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal power.  In lesser amounts, it contains capric acid, also with antimicrobial properties, making coconut oil a valuable medicinal food.

Now, in addition to consuming it, my husband is swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in his mouth for 15-20 minutes a day.  The new Ayurvedic dental hygienist suggested this for the antibacterial and detoxification benefits.  He claims his teeth are whiter and cleaner already.

Optimal Oil Pulling:

  1. Pick the same time everyday to work up to 20 minutes of “pulling” or swishing.
  2. Do not swallow the oil, and spit it out in the trash when you are done.
  3. Brush and floss your teeth afterwards to remove the toxins the oil pulled out.
  4. Scrape or brush your tongue to completed rid your mouth of any remaining toxins.
  5. Enjoy a super clean and healthy day!

Toothbrushes

coconut oil brushingI won’t be surprised to find Coconut Colgate and Coconut Crest in the drugstore in the near future, but like most “new” health findings, there is usually a long history of use in traditional cultures.  Throughout the tropics, coconuts have been used successfully for many culinary and medicinal uses for thousands of years. Therefore, I’ve stocked up on organic, unrefined coconut oil and made room for a jar next to the toothbrushes as well as in the kitchen.

In addition to replacing your mouthwash with coconut oil, if you also like the idea of eating it, here is a very simple recipe to get more coconut in your life.

Coconut Toast: Spread coconut oil or coconut manna (a spread made from the whole coconut) as you would butter on a slice of toast and cover with unsweetened coconut flakes.  Add a sprinkling of cinnamon if this reminds you of cinnamon toast. There’s no need to sweeten, as coconut comes with a naturally sweet flavor.

Coconut Toast

Sharing a Superfood Breakfast

I love getting new ideas, great recipes and most importantly inspiration from blogs. Nourishing Words is one of those.  I’ve been a subscriber for some time, and always look forward to a new post.  On this snowy, icy morning without power or internet, Eleanor’s post on her Super Superfood Breakfast seems like just the thing to keep me going today and throughout the winter months to come.  I hope it inspires (and nourishes) you as well.

A Super Superfood Breakfast

Originally published on December 3, 2012 by Eleanor Baron of Nourishing Words.

Superfood Breakfast Ingredients

When is good good enough? When it comes to nourishing our bodies, it makes sense to eat high-quality food—the best. Nutritionists agree that skimping on breakfast is a bad thing. When we rush out the door without breakfast, by mid-morning, we’re hungry, cranky, light-headed or worse. Developing a reliable breakfast routine is one of the basic building blocks of a healthy day.

I’ve long been fascinated by the so-called “superfoods.” Foods that pack so much nutrition that they’re set apart from other foods, by virtue of having something special to contribute to building health. The term itself has no legal meaning, and some say it’s become a useless marketing term. I use it here to loosely refer to any densely nutritious food that contributes to building health or preventing illness. No matter which foods are on the list or not on the list (there are many lists), it’s a challenge to figure out how to fit more healthy foods into the day.

Breakfast is the perfect opportunity to load up.

In warmer weather, I whiz up a remarkably good green or fruit smoothie, loaded with kale, fresh berries, flax seed, hemp seed and more to get me off to a good start. Come autumn, my tolerance for holding an ice-cold smoothie drops in direct proportion to the outside temperature.

Frosty Oak Leaf

It’s time to turn to something more warming. Something aromatic and comforting. Something hearty. Something with a good amount of protein and that will sustain me into the early afternoon.

Here’s a peek at my go-to winter breakfast routine.

Imagine me, in my fluffy sheepskin slippers, flannel pajamas, a fleece (or two) and a thick wool cap. I’ve made my way down the stairs, with a clatter of eight paws behind me, around me and in front of me. Out to the back porch I go, freeing the dogs for their morning constitutional and other wake-up routines—all of which, I must say, they embrace with more gleeful enthusiasm than I’ve ever been known to muster first thing in the morning. This gives me a few moments to breathe in the cold air, greeting the day with my sleepy version of a sun salutation—at least the part of it that keeps me upright.

Inside again, where the previously chilly-feeling house now feels toasty, I feed the dogs while water boils for a cup of green tea, which is to be my first superfood of the day.

The night before, if I remembered, I would have soaked a quarter cup of steel cut oats in warm water, covering it with a dish towel and tucking it away on top of the fridge. Soaking softens the oats up for cooking and removes the phytic acid, which inhibits mineral absorption in the body. It’s an easy step, well worth taking, that potentially doubles the minerals my body absorbs from that one serving of oatmeal. (Soaking grains in general is a good thing, but more on that, later.)

Oats are available in at least three different forms, from thick and chunky to thin and flaky. Steel cut oats are whole oats (known as groats), just cracked up into little chunks. They’re very hard and would be impossible to chew uncooked. Rolled oats are simply flattened groats, and they also retain all the goodness of the original grain. Quick oats are further processed and lack the bran portion of the grain. And the stuff that comes in little sweetened packets? Quick oats with flavors and plenty of sugar added.

Steel cut oats take about 30 minutes to cook. Some people cook them overnight in a crockpot, but I’m cooking for one and have an aversion to electrical gadgets, rendering the crockpot option clearly overkill. Because I mostly avoid dairy products, I cook my oats with a lot of extra water, making the finished product super soupy. (Soupy is necessary to handle the ground flax seed and chia seeds that will come later. Such thirsty ingredients will greedily pull water from my body if I don’t offer it to them first.)

I prefer steel cut oats because of their flavor, chewiness and the way they sustain me through the morning, but they’re also a healthy choice, although not a true super food. They’re rich in soluble fiber and have been proven to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure. They take a little longer to digest than rolled oats (which take just ten minutes or so to cook), but are otherwise about the same nutritionally. Steel cut oats have a considerably lower glycemic index than quick (instant) oats, however (42 versus 65), helping to avoid an early morning spike in blood sugar. One quarter cup serving of steel cut oats (dry) is worth 5 grams of protein—but that amount increases with all the ingredients I stir in later.

The Bowl

By the time I’ve finished my tea and checked my morning email, my oats are close to cooked. Now comes the fun part, creating a veritable compost heap of superfoods. To start, I grind up a couple of tablespoons of golden flax seed in the blender and pop it into my beautiful blue hand-thrown bowl that, to most people, looks way too big for a breakfast bowl. It may indeed be too big, but it gives me pleasure to hold it, and sensual pleasure is an important aspect of eating.

This is my current favorite heap of ingredients, some of which pack enough nutritional punch to qualify them as superfoods:

  1. 2 tablespoons of ground golden flax seeds (an excellent source of fiber as well as the short chain omega-3 fatty acid, alpha linolenic acid, plus 3 more grams of protein) Read this post if you want to learn more about why flax seed is a true superfood.
  2. 2 teaspoons of chia seeds (adds fiber, healthy omega-3 fatty acids and 1 more gram of protein)
  3. 1 rounded tablespoon of hemp seeds (fiber, healthy omega-3 fatty acids, including alpha linoleic acid and 4 grams of additional protein)
  4. shredded coconut (high in vitamins, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants; rich in fiber)
  5. 1 tablespoon of fresh virgin coconut oil (a healthy fat with easy to metabolize medium-chain fatty acids; coconut oil’s lauric acid converts to monolaurin in the body, a powerful antiviral, antibacterial compound)
  6. a few almonds (cholesterol lowering, heart-healthy fats and another 2 or so grams of protein)
  7. two pieces of fresh fruit, chopped (sometimes just one)
  8. a few fresh cranberries, because they’re in season locally at this time of year (cranberries are loaded with antioxidants, making them the most powerful fruit at scavenging free radicals in the body, protecting cells against cancerous changes)
  9. lots of cinnamon (lots!—it lowers bad cholesterol and blood sugar, soothes arthritis pain—just smelling it boosts memory and cognitive function)
  10. a splash of maple syrup, if the fruits were tart ones or I need a little sweetening up.

Stirring in the soupy oats, the coconut oil (solid at room temperature) melts, the cinnamon releases its fragrance, the flax seed and chia seeds soak in the extra liquid, and it all generally mixes together to perfect porridge. If including coconut oil in the mix seems strange to you, I can assure you that it disappears beautifully, leaving just an additional hint of coconut flavor and, more importantly, a bit of healthy fat that makes this a filling, sustaining breakfast.

Oatmeal with Superfoods

The combination of soft and crunchy textures, along with contrasting sweet and tart flavors, makes it all more interesting than the average bowl of oatmeal. The combined nutritional power of so many superfoods in one bowl makes me feel like I’m giving my body the very best start to the day. I’m a lifelong oatmeal lover; this blend is delicious and keeps me going for hours. It’s a good breakfast.

It’s fun to shake things up now and then with other breakfast choices, but this is my reliable routine during the colder months. It’s plenty flexible to accommodate any ingredients I have on hand, and it always satisfies.

I’ll keep working on that sun salutation. Who knows, there might even be a downward dog in my future, if I can squeeze a few more superfoods into my diet.

Ginnie

Making Room for Sunchokes

Sunchokes

Often called Jerusalem artichokes, Sunchokes are unusually nutritious tubers which have nothing to do with either Jerusalem or artichokes.  They grow vigorously to over ten feet tall and burst into abundant sunflower-like blooms in the fall. That would be reason enough to grow them, but after the plant has gone, and the first frost has touched the ground, the tubers multiplying under the ground become sweet, delicious and extraordinarily nutritious. Resembling a ginger-potato merger in appearance and a water chestnut-jicama-potato (maybe with a hint of artichoke heart?) blend in flavor, they make a fresh addition to fall and winter cooking.

A North American native plant, these edible tubers were a common food for several Native American tribes. They are still eaten both raw and cooked, and are increasingly appreciated for their high inulin content, a sweet fiber used medicinally to balance blood sugar and support healthy gut bacteria. With a flavor similar to cooked potatoes, they make a good substitute for those wanting to reduce their starch consumption, increase their fiber intake and eat a low glycemic diet. They are also an excellent source of iron and a good one of thiamine, niacin, potassium, magnesium and calcium.

I planted several last fall and did close to nothing to care for them besides eagerly await harvest time.  Last weekend, I dug up one plant. Did I happen to pick the plant sitting on the mother load or are all of these blooming beauties harboring bucket loads of sunchokes?!  I dug up another to find…. more bounty!  I had to stop since I didn’t have the storage space worked out for quantities at this scale.  Fortunately, until the ground freezes, they store well right where they are.

P1010367-002

P1010372-001

A few Sunchoke recipe ideas:

Sunchoke Slices on a Salad:  scrub and thinly slice several sunchokes and add them to your favorite green salad.  They offer a nice crunch with an earthy flavor making a fresh salad a more grounding food in fall and winter.  Dress with a light vinaigrette.

Sunchoke & Cheddar Soup (from The Victory Garden Cookbook):

  • 1 pound sunchokes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 celeriac bulb or 2 stalks celery
  • 1 medium onion
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • salt & cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Wash, peel (optional) and roughly chop sunchokes and keep in water to which lemon juice has been added until ready to use. Chop celery and onion and cook in 2 tablespoons butter until slightly wilted, approximately 10 minutes. Add sunchokes and 1 1/2 cups of broth, cover, and cook for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through. Purée in a blender or food processor.

In a medium saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter, add flour, and cook for 2 minutes without browning. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 cup of broth and cook 5 minutes. Add cheese and mustard, and stir until blended. Stir in sunchoke mixture and cream, and cook until soup is heated through. Season with salt, cayenne pepper and Worcestershire sauce.

Sunchoke Mash: Cook or roast cubes of root vegetables and tubers, such as potatoes, turnips, rutabaga, carrots, celeriac, etc with a couple of cloves of garlic. Add cubed sunchokes and cook until tender. Mash with a bit of butter or olive oil and some milk or cream, depending on desired consistency.

Vegetable Sauté with Sunchokes: Prepare and sauté any vegetables (such as red onion, garlic and celery stalks) in a skillet, and add scrubbed and sliced sunchokes toward the end of the cooking time.  Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with parsley.

Sunchokes Sauteed

 

Looking for more recipes? Thankfully, there is a blog devoted entirely to the sunchoke and its recipes.

Sliding Gently into Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut, one of the better known members of the probiotics food group, is a very cost effective medicinal food.  It gives most any dish a tasty zing and keeps your digestion and immunity humming along.

Cabbage is already a good source of vitamin C, folate, fiber, manganese, beta carotene and other antioxidants. A member of the cruciferous family, it is credited for fighting cancer, high cholesterol and inflammation. Now lacto-ferment it (and start calling it “sauerkraut”), and the nutrient profile gets even better. Developed centuries ago, the natural pickling process of vegetables allows for long term storage, and increases the vitamin content, adds digestive enzymes and probiotics and makes many nutrients easier to absorb.

Early civilizations from China to Europe relied on it for its health benefits.  Many long ocean voyages packed barrels of sauerkraut to keep their sailors healthy. It is said that Captain Cook protected his crew from scurvy death with sixty barrels of kraut.

Unfortunately, its foreign name and the suggestion of something sour has not done wonders for its modern day reputation. If you’ve found sauerkraut reluctance is keeping you from optimal health, here’s a recipe, based on a popular Dutch dish, zuurkool stamppot met worst, which smooths out kraut’s rougher edges, and offers a gentle entry into the healthful world of fermented vegetables.

Kraut-Potatoes with Sausage

  • 4-6 potatoes (ideally organic)
  • 1 cup sauerkraut
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 -1 cup milk or dairy-free milk 
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • cheddar cheese, cut into small blocks (optional)
  • vegetarian or meat sausage (optional)
  • parsley, chives or other green herbs

Method:

  1. Scrub and cut potatoes into medium-sized pieces (keep peel on for greatest nutrition).
  2. Put potato pieces in pot and fill with water to cover.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes.  Add sauerkraut and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes or until potatoes are soft.  Pour off and save excess water.
  4. Place pot back on a low flame, add garlic through a garlic press and milk, and mash. Add more milk or excess water to reach preferred consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile cook vegetarian or meat sausages in a skillet.
  6. Assemble dish by adding cheese cubes, sausages, fresh green herbs and/or edible flowers.  Serve warm and enjoy the perfect blend of medicinal food and comfort food.

When You Think You Can’t Escape the Scapes

It’s time to google “scape recipes”.  Other than making a fascinating looking bouquet, wearing them as bracelets (as my daughters have been known to do) and chopping one up instead of a garlic clove, I was still at a loss for how to use the artistic display of curlicuing shoots fall-planted garlic sends up this time of year.

To encourage the plant to focus its energy in the formation of the garlic bulbs forming under ground (as opposed to the seed pods contained in the scapes) I have been following gardening advice to cut off the scapes.  With a basket full, I found this simple recipe online, and adjusted it like this:

Simple Vegan Garlic Scape Pesto

  • Jar full of freshly cut garlic scapes (if you don’t grow garlic, you can find these at farmers markets in late spring and early summer)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds (good source of magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin E and a great source of omega 3 essential fatty acids)
  • 1 bunch of basil, leaves washed, removed and stems discarded
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chili pepper flakes (optional)

Method:

  1. With seed pods trimmed off, wash the scapes. Cut into match-length pieces.
  2. Place scape pieces, basil leaves, walnuts and hemp seeds in food processor bowl, and run processor until a paste is formed.  Drizzle olive oil into bowl until desired consistency is reached.
  3. Adjust flavor with salt and pepper.  Maybe a few chili pepper flakes for a touch of heat?
  4. Use as you would traditional basil pesto and pack up any additional in small air tight containers for the freezer.

Looking forward to tomorrow already: scrambled eggs with scape pesto for breakfast; scape pesto, fresh mozzarella and tomato sandwich for lunch, and pesto pasta, salad with pesto dressing or salmon with pesto for dinner…. a perfect destination for all those scapes!

Kombucha: My New Bubbly

On Mothers Day, I was blessed with another “daughter”: a perfectly slimy, thoroughly unappealing looking, squishy, whitish patty. She won’t be winning any beauty contests, but she is teaming with life, and healthy energy!  Earlier than I had expected, the “mother” kombucha “SCOBY” (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) from which I brewed my first batch, had already grown a mini version of herself.  I was delighted!

As a follow-up to a recent post about probiotics, here’s more about what has become one of my favorite food forms (well drink, actually) of naturally occurring probiotic bacteria: Kombucha.

When first introduced to the supposed elixir, it was described to me as an effervescent fermented tea made from a mushroom.  Though I am (for the most part) open-minded and eager to try new foods (particularly ones surrounded by information about their numerous health benefits), fermented mushroom tea was a stretch.  As it turns out, it is not made from a mushroom, but a “SCOBY” which resembles a mushroom (or rather a pancake, I think) in appearance.

Kombucha traces its history back to Russian as well as ancient Japan and China, often in a context of profound health and healing.  Although conclusive scientific studies have yet to be completed in the US, centuries of anecdotal evidence have convinced many to add this beverage to their diet, and some have used it as a successful healing therapy.

The drink’s naturally occurring bacteria serve to replenish our internal gut flora, which improves our digestion and boosts immunity. It contains glucuronic acid, which is effective in cleansing the body of toxins.  In addition, the tea provides a worthwhile amount of vitamin B complex, antioxidants and minerals.  It appeals to health-seekers, do-it-yourselfers, low-carb dieters and foodies in numbers large enough to have caught the attention of beverage makers such as Red Bull, Coca-Cola, and Celestial Seasonings (all of whom have leapt on board the kombucha train).  Being more of the DIY persuasion, I gave it a try.

How to make kombucha home-brew:

When the much anticipated SCOBY (which can be ordered online) arrives in the mail:

Brew strong black tea (ideally organic) with organic sugar:

Remove tea bags or leaves, add SCOBY and fill jar with additional cool water.  Allow to sit, covered with a cloth, in a warm place:

After one-two weeks, start to taste your brew.  It will continue to ferment (as the bacteria will continue to eat the sugar), making the flavor stronger and less sweet the longer you wait.

Save the SCOBY (which may already be growing a “daughter” so that you can start making twice as much) and serve your refreshing home brew.

Curious to know more? Various websites, such as kombucha camp, and these books can help.

Cheers!