Sunday, November 30, 2014

Gluten content in Einkorn flour vs regular flour

As you may know, here at Eat Thrive Heal, we have been experimenting with ancient wheat grain einkorn flour, a low-gluten alternative, as part of an anti-inflammation diet.  (For facts and further information about einkorn flour, go here.)

We usually cook with the Jovial brand of einkorn flour.  It's actually biodynamic.  

This excerpt about the glutens in einkorn, below, is from the book, Wheat Belly, by Dr. William Davis:
"Gluten from one wheat strain can be quite different in structure from that of another strain.  The gluten proteins produced by einkorn wheat, for example, are distinct from the gluten proteins of emmer, which are, in turn, different from the gluten proteins of Triticum aestivum (modern wheat).
Because 14-chromosome einkorn, containing the so-called A genome (set of genes) has the smallest chromosome set, it codes for the fewest number and variety of glutens.  28-chromosome emmer, containing the A genome with the added B genome, codes for a larger variety of gluten.  Forty two-chromosome Triticum aestivum, with the A, B and D genomes, has the greatest gluten variety even before any human manipulation of its breeding.  Hybridization efforts of the past fifty years have generated numerous additional changes in gluten-coding genes in Triticum aestivum, most of them purposeful modifications of the D genome that confer baking and aesthetic characteristics on flour.  Indeed, genes located in the D genome are those most frequently pinpointed as the source of the glutens that trigger celiac disease.  
It is therefore the D genome of modern Triticum aestivum that, having been the focus of all manner of genetic shenanigans by plant geneticists, has accumulated substantial change in genetically determined characteristics of gluten proteins.  It is also potentially the source for many of the odd health phenomena experienced by consuming humans."   

Yes, this explanation is kind of technical, but it does clearly explain that there is much less gluten in einkorn and that what may be the most troublesome type of gluten, that of the D genome, may not be present in einkorn.

Gluten-free vs. Low gluten Einkorn--  I am one of those people that can have strong reactions to wheat.  Over the years, I've solved the problem by simply avoiding all wheat products.  However, I am now finding that I am able to incorporate einkorn wheat into my diet, on an occasional basis, with no obvious reaction.  If you are normally gluten-free, you might want to test a little einkorn and watch your body's response to it.  We do not recommend this for everyone, and especially not for any celiacs, ever.  However, for people with gluten-intolerances, einkorn might be looked at as an occasional treat.

Also, einkorn has a higher protein content than modern wheat which makes it a little better for diabetics and people who watch their insulin response to food.  Because all grains are rather high on the glycemic scale, consuming einkorn should not become a daily habit for diabetics.  But einkorn does make certain foods, like cake on one's birthday, pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving and strawberry cobbler on the 4th of July, possible.  Of course, we have developed tasty totally grain and gluten-free alternatives for all these foods, but they are never quite the same...and sometimes you just want the real thing.

For some of our published einkorn flour recipes, see here.  We are constantly working on new einkorn recipes as well as our usual grain-free, gluten-free and sugar-free standards.  Some of these recipes have been posted on this blog site, but many more will shortly be making their way here. in addition, we are about to publish an ecookbook called "Grain-free Sugar-free Baking and Treats".   Keep tuned to Eat Thrive Heal!

This "Toll House" style chocolate chip cookie is made with einkorn flour.  It's low-gluten, sugar-free and absolutely to-die-for!  Click here for the recipe.  

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Why You'll Want to Make Broth from Your Leftover Turkey

The Healing Power of Bone Broth

I don't know about your house, but mine has had the fragrant smell of turkey cooking in one form or another for several days now.  Due to some scheduling challenges, we had our family celebration on Wednesday, so I started then with the turkey and each day since there has been one form or another of leftover turkey.  Not only that, but I stuffedd and roasted a chicken last Saturday night developing and testing a recipe for gluten-free stuffing.

Yes, indeed, the kitchen has been full of roasted poultry.  As you well know, after the initial feasting comes the carcass.  What to do with it?

First of all, good cooks know that bones are cooking treasures.  Bones are the basics for creating some of the most intense, intrinsically satisfying and delicious flavors.  In fact, from the moment man found fire, bones have been a source of cooking delight.

However, bones are not just important from a culinary standard.  Bones have inherent nutritional properties that can be extremely healing.

One of the best ways to get maximum healing from bones is to make bone broths.  You can make broths from virtually any kind of bones.  For most American cooks this means beef, pork, lamb, fish and poultry, unless you have access to unusual meats or wild game.  Some people even save their egg shells and add them to broths for the added minerals, especially calcium.

The act of slow cooking the bones in liquid allows some of the nutritional goodness in the bones to seep into the broth.  Putting the pot to the back of the stove and turning the burner to simmer is a tradition we've lost sight of in modern times.  However, this time-tested simple cooking basic of slow simmering causes the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine.

You've probably experienced first-hand the healing power of broths if you've ever eaten homemade chicken soup to cure a cold.  It's not just an old wives-tale that broths help with healing.  Chicken soup actually contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help prevent sniffles. And current medical research indicates that chicken soup relieves the development of cold symptoms.

But broth is much more than just a source of symptom relief for colds.  Homemade stock contains easily absorbable minerals.  Of course, one important mineral from bones is calcium, but magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals are released, too.  Broth also contains broken down compounds from cartilage and tendons such as chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, which if you have arthritis or joint pain, you know can help keep your body moving comfortably.

For a more complete rundown on the healing properties of home-made broth, see the blue box below. Once you look it over, you'll never want to throw precious healing bones into the trash again.

Making homemade broth is easy and a great activity for a winter weekend.  Just throw the bones in a soup pot with some water and vegetables, turn to simmer and let time do the work for you.

The recipe below is for turkey broth, but you can substitute any form of bones for the turkey bones.

Turkey Broth 

1 turkey carcass
1 onion cut in half
1 large carrot cut in half
1stalk of celery
Ground peppercorns
1 T Italian herbs dry
1/4 t sage dry
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove minced
Sea salt to be added after cooking

Remove most of the meat from the turkey carcass leaving some bits and pieces that are close to the bone to help flavor and enhance the stock.  Put all the bones in the soup pot.  If the body section of your turkey is too large to fit into the pot, bend and break it in half.  If little bits of stuffing, gravy or other veggies from Thanksgiving dinner go into the pot with the turkey, they will only add flavor, so don't worry about separating them out. Add the vegetables and herbs to the pot and cover it all with water.  Bring the contents of the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat to the lowest setting.  Allow the broth to simmer for most of the day, say 4-6 hours.  Place a strainer over the opening in a separate soup pot and pour the broth, bones, veggies and spices into the strainer.  Allow the contents to sit for awhile so that all the juices and goodness drip down into the finished stock. When the onion is cool enough, squeeze it in your hand allowing the liquid to drip into the pot. Add salt to taste.

Leftover Thanksgiving Turkey Soup

1 pot of turkey broth
3 T olive oil
1 onion diced
2 c celery diced
3 large carrots sliced
3 cups super greens such as chard, kale or spinach
3 cups frozen peas
3 cups turkey meat

Saute the onion celery and carrots in olive oil until somewhat tender.  Add them to the broth and boil about ten minutes or so until carrots are softening.  Add the super greens, peas and turkey and continue to cook until pot just comes back to a boil.  Turn off heat and serve.  Adjust seasonings with sea salt and pepper if needed.

This turkey soup is hearty enough to be a meal in itself, however you can serve it with a side salad if you wish.  Even better, try our recipe for healthy gluten-free seed bread.  It's flavors are perfect for autumn, match up with the turkey soup well and provide extra healing all at once.

Gluten-free seed bread.

If you should happen to have a leftover chicken carcass hanging around, here's what I did with mine...

Mexican Meatball Soup

For the meatballs:
1 lb grass-fed ground meat
1 t cumin
1 t garlic freeze dried* or 1 clove fresh minced
1/4 t lemon pepper
1/8 t onion salt
1 pinch ground red pepper or add more if you like food really spicey
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

For the soup:
1 pot of chicken broth
3 T olive oil
1 onion diced
2 c celery diced
2 carrots sliced
2 bell peppers diced
1 garlic clove minced
2 t cumin
1 t oregano
Fresh ground sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 T cilantro freeze dried* or chopped fresh

For the guacamole
3 avocados mashed
1 tomato diced
2 t freeze-dried onions* or diced fresh shallots
1/2 t cumin
1/4 t oregano
Lime juice to taste (2-3 limes)

Olive oil

Make the meatball mixture by stirring together all ingredients and then rolling it into ball shapes that are about 1" in diameter.  In a stockpot, add the olive oil and saute the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bell pepper until vegetables are softening. Pour in the broth and add the spices and cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender.  Add the meatballs and continue cooking until meatballs are cooked through. Cut the tortillas into pie slice shapes and fry over medium-high heat in olive oil until crisp and golden. Serve soup topped with guacamole and fried tortilla slices.

*I use Lighthouse brand that I buy at my local Safeway.  These are great to have on hand in case you don't have fresh shallots, garlic or cilantro in your pantry or fridge.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Mashed Potato Leftovers

Is your fridge brimming with leftover Thanksgiving offerings?  Mine surely is.  But so far, I've whittled down at least one dish--the mashed potatoes.

Potato pancakes are always a delicious treat.  Once you have the mashed potatoes, the work is basically done.  Just drop in a couple of eggs and fry them up.  This is definitely one of the side-benefits of Thanksgiving leftovers.

I served mine topped with fried eggs and on the side, chard sauteed in garlic and olive oil.  I think everybody was expecting turkey and they were pretty delighted to have the eggs instead.

Be sure your eggs and butter are from pasture raised cows and chickens.  That way you'll be adding inflammation-reducing omega-3s to your meal.

Leftover Mashed Potatoes Pancakes Topped with Fried Eggs

For the potato pancakes:
4 c leftover mashed potatoes
2 eggs grass-fed organic
Freshly ground sea salt and ground pepper
3 T grass-fed organic butter

For the fried eggs:
5 eggs for frying (also grass-fed organic)
2 T grass-fed organic butter
Freshly ground sea salt and ground pepper

Mix all the potato pancakes ingredients up in a bowl.  Melt the butter over medium heat in a large frying pan.  When the butter starts to sizzle, drop the mashed potatoes in making 5 separate patties.  Cook until the bottoms are golden and crispy and flip.  Repeat on the other side.

In a second frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  When the butter is sizzling, crack in the eggs, leaving space between them if possible.  Top with sea salt and pepper to taste.  When the whites are starting to firm up, flip each egg over gently and cook for about 30 seconds more.  Remove from pan and place each egg on the top of a potato pancake.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Healthy Adaptation for the Internet's Most Popular Sweet Potato Recipe

Due to some family scheduling issues, I cooked and served Thanksgiving dinner for my family yesterday evening.  The whole dinner was a success, but the truly rave reviews came in on the sweet potatoes.

I searched around for the most popular recipe on the internet and adapted it for anti-inflammation and healing.  I substituted almond milk for the cream and Coconut Nectar and Palm Sugar for the sugars.  As always, I used pasture raised eggs and butter in order to increasing the omega-3 healing factors.  And, of course, I used natural sea salt rather than table salt.

The result...cheers all around.  I think you're gonna love this one...

Sorry about the photo.  I took this quickie shot before baking them and then, of course, in the Thanksgiving turkey pandemonium, we forgot all about shooting a real one after they came out of the oven. 

Sweet Potatoes With Pecan Crumble Topping

4  C sweet potatoes (also called Yams)
1/2 C Coconut Nectar
2 eggs
1/2 t salt
4T butter
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 C almond milk

1/3 C palm sugar
1/3 C Einkorn flour
3T butter
3/4 C chopped pecans

Peel and quarter the sweet potatoes.  Cook covered with water on the stove top until very tender, about 20 minutes or so. Drain.  Combine the ingredients in a food processor until creamy and smooth.  Pour into a 6 x 9" baking dish.  Make the topping by mixing the palm sugar and Einkorn together in a bowl. Cut the butter into the mixture and then stir in pecans.  Crumble topping evenly over top.  Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

My sister also makes a great and much-requested sweet potato recipe that makes a comeback every year. It's sugar-free, too.  Here's her version:

My sister's version.  Sugar-free.

Orange Sweet Potatoes

6 large sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/2 C Fresh Squeezed orange juice
1 stick Irish or pastured butter
2 eggs
2t salt

Topping, if desired
2T butter
1/3 C Coconut Crystals
1 C halved pecans

Cook the sweet potatoes in a large pan of water on the stove top until very tender when poked with a fork (about twenty minutes).  Drain.  In VitaMix or beater, add all of the ingredients and blend on high until smooth and creamy.

Pour in to 10 x 10” baking pan.  Dot top with pieces of butter, sprinkle top with a dense layer of coconut crystals as desired.  Layer pecans.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until pecans browned.

And just for fun...

Amanda's Paleo Pecan Pie.  We didn't tell anyone it was paleo and everybody kept saying how good it was.  
Pecan pie recipes will be coming in another day's postings!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We'd Love Your Opinion...

We're creating a nutritional healing company.  

If you've ever tried to search the internet to find answers about how to heal a disease or condition, you'll know that there is a lot of conflicting information out there.  So many people claim to be experts, but they never really show you the research.  Is what they say true?  It can be utterly time-consuming and exhausting to wade through the information that's out there.  And once you do so, how do you know whether you have it all or not?

Our company is going to search throughout the internet for all the scientifically documented information on healing with foods for every individual disease and condition.  You know, there are lots of government research studies, University studies, projects from hospitals, doctors and nutritionists all over the world.  It's a wealth of knowledge that is simply not collected up and reposited all together in any one place.  We're going to be that place.

We've teamed up with a guy who has been developing a special search engine for many years.  This engine, originally used by NASA, has the ability to scour all over the internet, deep down where most people never go.  Did you know that Google only covers 4% of the information that's out there?  It's true.  I was very surprised to learn this.

It means that when you go to look up information about a disease, you're not getting to the real sources.  But we will.  We'll be doing it for you.

Once we have our "healing reports" for each condition, we'll be pairing our information with dietary recommendations, supplement suggestions, menu plans, recipes, cooking tips, shopping lists, tracking apps, blogs to explain the information, chat rooms and more.

We want to help people integrate the information we develop on healing with foods, herbs and supplements into their lives as effortlessly and completely as possible.  The whole goal of our new company is to make knowing how to heal with food much easier than it has been in the past.

We need a name--   Anyway, whereas building the company has been easy, getting a name for it has not.  It seems that URLs for all the good names have been taken and whenever we find an available URL, there are often trademark issues.  One by one, all our favorite names have been shot down.

Finally, we have a short list of names that are available and we'd love to know what you think about them.  They are:

      EpicureRx      NutriCern      NutritionScienceRx      NutriGuide       EatRx

It would be so very helpful to us if you would let us know which one you like the best in the comment section below.  

Your opinion is very important to us.  Thanks ever so much!!!

Our first report--   The first condition we're working on is eczema.  We're on track to have our very first report available in mid-January.  After that we'll be working on Macular Degeneration, Psoriasis, Hypertension, Metabolic Syndrome, Hyperlipidemia, Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer's and Cancer Prevention.

Ultimately we'll have reports for all the major diseases  and we'll be able to combine information for multiple conditions, creating a report for someone like me who is concerned about diabetes, macular degeneration and cancer.  Our reports will be fully customized to create a personal healing profile.

We're so excited about what all this means for both your health and ours!

Oh, and one last thing...we would be most grateful if you would like us on facebook.  Click here to go to the Eat Thrive Heal facebook page.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Stuffing from Udi's Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread

Okay, I confess.  Even though I have been eating largely grain free for about four years now, I cheat sometimes.  I cheat for birthday cake, I cheat for croissants in Paris and I cheat for stuffing on Thanksgiving.  (And there are a few other times I cheat, but does a girl have to tell all her secrets?)

I love turkey stuffing.  Up until now I have been eating the regular stuff.  This year is different, however.  I'm experimenting with different gluten-free and low gluten choices.  In fact, I'll be making three separate stuffings this week.
  1. I've already made stuffing using Udi's Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread.  It was quite tasty and you can find the recipe below in this posting. 
  2. On Thanksgiving, I'll be making a pre-packaged gluten-free stuffing.  I'm anticipating that it will taste just fine, but I'm curious to know if the texture will be different from regular bread.
  3. Also on Thanksgiving, I''m planning to go all-out and make homemade stuffing from Einkorn bread. I've already baked my loaf of Einkorn flour bread.  Einkorn is an ancient wheat that has a low gluten content.  I make my bread with sourdough starter which consumes most of the remaining gluten.  I love the Einkorn loaves and I know that this stuffing is going to taste fabulous.  I can't wait!  (For information on Einkorn flour, see here.  For information on making bread from Einkorn, see here.  For information on creating your own sourdough starter, see here.)
Since one can only have so much turkey, I stuffed and roasted a chicken with the Udi's bread stuffing a day ago.  I have to say, it tasted quite good.  The flavor was pretty much the same as for any other stuffing, but the texture was a little different.  Not bad, though.  

If you are preparing a turkey for guests, this is a stuffing you can be proud to serve to anyone.  Actually, unless you have some advanced epicureans on your guest list, it's unlikely that anyone would even know that the stuffing was made from gluten-free bread.  The Udi's seems to be a blank canvas and takes on the flavors of the poultry, the herbs, onions and the sausage.

Roast Chicken with Stuffing from Udi's Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread

1 organic whole chicken
Olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

For the stuffing:  
1/2 loaf of Udi's Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread
3 T olive oil
1 onion diced
1 c chopped celery
1 Italian sausage link organic
Generous fresh ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried sage
3/4 c organic chicken broth

Set the heat in the oven to 175 degrees and place the bread slices on the rack for 1 hour.  Remove the dried bread from the oven and cut into diced cubes for the stuffing.  In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the onion and celery.  Saute' until translucent and soft.  Remove the casing from the sausage link and add to the pan with the onion and celery.  Continue to saute' until sausage is fully cooked. Put the contents of the pan into a mixing bowl and add the seasonings and bread cubes.  Drizzle the chicken broth over the cubes while stirring so that entire contents gets moistened.

Spoon the stuffing into the chicken cavity, lightly packing in the entire contents.  Fasten the skin flap together with a skewer.  Place the chicken breast up in a roasting pan and rub olive oil and salt and pepper into the skin.  Bake at 375 until done.  My chicken took almost 2 hours to bake.  Test for doneness by poking the leg joints with a fork to see if the juices run clear.  If the juices are pink, the bird is not yet done.    

Monday, November 24, 2014

Snack Attack Series--Persimmons and Walnuts

Seasonal Snacks--Autumn

There is something so satisfying about the crunchy texture of a gorgeous Fuyu persimmon.  Sweet, musty and spicy, these babies go great with walnuts.

And did I mention the color?  Punchy oranges mixed with salmon and gold.  The Fuyu persimmon is so gorgeous and sculptural it would be right at home in a Dutch master's still-life painting.

Be sure to eat them while they're just a little softer than an apple. Don't let them get ripe and mushy. And you really only want the Fuyu persimmon.  They're the best for eating raw.  Just chop one up into bite-sized pieces, toss them all in a bowl and top with chopped walnuts.

Nothing could be more perfect for autumn snacking.

Seasonal Snack Attack Series--  It seems that one of the biggest challenges to sticking to a healing anti-inflammation diet is those times when you feel hungry between meals.  Having a plan in place before hunger strikes is essential.  That's what this series is all about.  Over time, I hope the snack ideas will grow to become a useful tool that you can use to stock your kitchen with delicious healing snacks that keep your tummy feeling full, your waistline trim and your body humming!  We're just getting started, but to see the snacks we've included so far, click here.  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Adapting the Classic Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole for Healing

Is it Thanksgiving if you don't have a green bean casserole?  For many American families the classic green bean casserole has become one of the required turkey-day side dishes.

There are really two ways to make the standard dish.  The quicky-cheaty version is the one we all think of and it was invented in 1955 by a home economist at the Campbells Soup Company.  This version requires a can of Campbells Cream of Mushroom soup...not an option if you're living a healing lifestyle.

Classic Campbell's Soup Green Bean Casserole--How do we make it taste even better and provide more healing?
The other version is a more classic French style preparation and requires a traditional white sauce, also known as Bechamel.   The Bechamel sauce is utterly delicious, of course, much more tasty than the Campbell's Mushroom Soup.  It's made from butter, flour, milk, salt, nutmeg.  I've adapted it here to be more healing, but still preserving it's delicious sauce-y French flavor and texture.

From a healing standpoint, I try to remove gluten, dairy and sugar products from my recipes.  These substances are three of the biggest culprits in creating inflammation in the body.  And as most of us already know, inflammation leads to many of today's diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and all the auto-immune diseases.   (See blue box below for a list of conditions caused by inflammation.)

Does giving up dairy mean giving up butter?--  So let's start with the butter.  Although it is a dairy product, made from cow's milk, butter is what's left after the butterfat has been separated from the milk. Most of the inflammation causing elements in milk have been removed with the buttermilk.

Even better, research shows that one way to fight inflammation is to increase the omega-3s in our diets. Lucky us...butter, if it's the right kind of butter, is full of healthy inflammation fighting omega-3s. The right kind of butter is grass-fed organic, of course.  So be sure to switch your brand of butter to one that comes from pastured, organic cows.  Then you can eat butter guilt-free.  Yippee...butter is good for you!  (For more information on how to up your omega-3's, see here.)

A lower gluten form of flour--  As for the flour in Bechamel, regular flour is full of gluten, of course. However, I have been cooking lately with an ancient form of flour called Einkorn.  Modern flour has been hybridized over the years to increase production, resistance to pests, and gluten content.  Yes, I said gluten content.  We've actually intentionally increased the gluten in our flour.  Gluten gives baked goods that fluffy quality we all like in our donuts, dinner rolls and breads, so over the years the gluten content has steadily been ratcheted up in American flour.

In contrast, the gluten content is lower in some European countries.  If you have problems eating gluten, you may have noticed that you are able to eat croissants and baguettes in France and pasta and pizza in Italy, without a problem.  And yet, if you have one slice of bread here in America, your tissues swell up or you may have digestive issues.  That's because the flour in the U.S. has a much higher gluten content.

Einkorn flour, on the other hand, is still very similar to the way it was over 10,000 years ago when man first started cooking with it.  It has never been hybridized. Its gluten content is lower and many people who have issues with gluten are able to tolerate it.  It also has a higher protein and mineral content than our modern flour does.  (See here for more information on Einkorn wheat.)

I'm not suggesting you eat a lot of Einkorn flour, after all, there is still some gluten in it.  However, you might want to try a little and see how your body reacts.  I know that if I eat regular flour, I get puffy and swollen by the next day.  That's inflammation.  I seem to be able to tolerate a little Einkorn now and then.  I try to limit myself to 2 times a week or so and that seems to be working for me.  (By the way, if you have celiac disease, you cannot have Einkorn--this only works if you have a gluten-intolerance.)

Back to Bechamel--replace the milk with wine and chicken stock--  This works.  The recipe still tastes great without the milk.  Milk is inflammatory, so it's out.  (See here for information on dairy intolerances, allergies and inflammation.)

Natural sea salt is healing--  Sea salt is good for our bodies while regular table salt causes disease. That's okay by me...sea salt is so much more delicious than that tasteless granular powder that comes in the cardboard canisters.  Give me pink Himalayan sea salt crystals that I can grind fresh any day.  I love that stuff!  (For more on the healing properties of sea salt vs. table salt, see here.)

The nutmeg can stay--  Hey, good news, the nutmeg is anti-inflammatory, so it gets to stay.

So here's my adapted recipe for white sauce, or Bechamel.  I actually have two versions.  You choose the one that appeals the most to you.  They're both delicious!

Bechamel with Chardonnay

1 T Einkorn flour
1 T butter (grass-fed, organic)
1/2 c chardonnay
1/4 c chicken stock
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t white pepper
pinch of nutmeg

In a small saute pan, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and keep stirring until all the flour is absorbed completely.  Let the mixture boil while stirring for a minute or two.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring continuously until sauce is thickened.

Bechamel with Chicken Stock

1 T Einkorn flour
1 T butter (grass-fed, organic)
3/4 c chicken stock
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t white pepper
1/4 t Dijon mustard
1 t Worcestershire sauce

In a small saute pan, melt the butter.  Stir in the flour and keep stirring until all the flour is absorbed completely. Let the mixture boil while stirring for a minute or two.  Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring continuously until sauce is thickened.

Green Bean Casserole

1 1/2 lbs green beans ends snapped off and cut into 2" lengths  (I used a package of frozen French green beans from Trader Joe's)
5 oz mushrooms chopped
1 small onion chopped fine
3 T butter or olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Double recipe Bechamel Sauce
Crispy fried onions (see below) or blanched sliced almonds or fried crumbled bacon pieces

In order to make the green bean casserole, boil the green beans until al dente and remove from heat. Drain. Put the butter or olive oil in a saute pan and saute the onions until soft and translucent.  Add the chopped mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are cooked.  Stir the bechamel, the green beans and the onion mixture in together and put into a casserole dish. Season with salt and pepper as desired.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove casserole and top with crispy onions, bacon pieces or sliced almonds and put the casserole back into the oven for another 15 minutes.  

If you'd like to make the crispy onions, here's a recipe below.  If you'd rather not bother with the crispy onions, just top the casserole with some blanched sliced almonds or fried crumbled bacon pieces.

Crispy Onion Rings

1/2 cup Einkorn flour
1/2 cup and 2 T beer
1 small onion sliced into circles
salt and pepper
8 T olive oil

Mix the flour and beer, salt and pepper together to make a batter that resembles thick pancake batter. Dredge 1/2 of the onions through it.  Heat 6 T of olive oil over medium high heat in a large frying pan until the oil is very hot.  Drop in 1/2 the onions leaving space between each onion piece and cook several minutes until the bottoms are golden.  Flip the onions and cook until all onions are golden throughout.  Remove from pan and let drain on a paper towel.  Add 2 T of olive oil to pan and repeat process with the remaining half of the onions.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How to Make Homemade Yogurt--No Special Equipment Required

In yesterday's posting I spoke about some of the reasons why I make my own yogurt.  You can get to that posting by clicking, here.  

I also included links to a new study recently released by the Cornucopia Institute which compares all the commercially available yogurts for cultures, sugar content, additives and whether or not the yogurt is organic.  You can find all this information in the Cornicopia Yogurt Buyer's Guide,  here.  And for the Executive Summary of their overall report called, Culture Wars, click here.   This report is easy to read and very informative, well worth your time.

Yogurt with live probiotic cultures in healing for the body in many ways, among which are:
  • Yogurt contains lots of healthy minerals your body needs along with a good dose of protein, making it a healthy snack.
  • Yogurt helps regulate insulin production.
  • Yogurt reduces inflammation.
  • Yogurt aids digestion.
  • Yogurt helps with weight loss.
  • Yogurt helps keep the balance of microorganisms in the gut in check.  Healthy gut bacteria equals a healthy immune system.  
  • Yogurt may help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Yogurt is one dairy product that may be digestible by those with lactose-intolerance. This is because a lot of the lactose in milk gets consumed by the culturing process in making yogurt. (See here for more information on dairy allergies and intolerances.)
Equipment Needs--  It's actually very easy to make yogurt and you don't really need any special equipment.  If you don't have a yogurt machine you'll need a plain old everyday insulated picnic cooler.  Doesn't everybody have one of these laying around somewhere?

Since a picnic cooler can be bulky to have sitting in the middle of your kitchen, you might ultimately prefer to purchase a small yogurt maker.  But it is not at all necessary and, in fact, I have better luck making yogurt with a cooler than I do with my machine. 

You'll need one other essential item, a food thermometer.  For yogurt I like the touch thermometers.  The milk you'll be using to make your yogurt must be heated in order to provide a nice toasty warm environment to get the cultures actively multiplying.  However, you cannot allow the temperature to rise much above 110 degrees, which is why you need the thermometer.  The live cultures in yogurt will be killed off by the time the heat reads 120 degrees and you don't want that.

Raw vs. Regular Milk--  Raw is far superior to regular milk if you can get it.  Many states outlaw the sale of raw milk.  Where I live, in California, it is available, so I always use it, of course.  Raw milk comes right out of the cow with hundreds of individual strains of probiotics intact.  In commercial production, when that milk is heated in the pasteurization process, the probiotic organisms are killed off.  Yogurt manufacturers then add in a small handful of beneficial strains back into the product, but nowhere near the variety of helpful organisms provided in natural raw milk.  We want those live strains to be actually living so we will be very careful not to heat it to a high temperature, or pasteurize it.

The raw milk I am able to buy here in California is both organic and grass-fed.  It comes from small family dairies, of course.  I'm assuming that's the way with raw milk across the country, but if you should happen to find yourself faced with a choice, choose grass fed and organic, of course.  After all, you want the cows with the healthiest gut bacteria and you're going to find just that with pastured animals.

Cleanliness is Important with Live Culturing--  You're going to be growing cultures in your milk so you want to be sure not to introduce any bad bacterias.  Be sure your hands are washed and that all your containers and sterilized (just run them through the dishwasher).

1 quart of raw milk
1 envelope of gelatin mix
1 T of regular store-bought yogurt or kefir with live cultures

Here's what you do--  Pour a quart of raw milk into a sauce pan and turn the heat to medium.  Stir the milk, watching carefully, and checking the temperature frequently with your thermometer.  When the temperature reaches 105 degrees, pull the pan off the heat immediately.  Do not allow the temperature to rise above 110 degrees.

Stir a package of gelatin into the yogurt.  You'll need to stir this continuously for over a minute, maybe two, or it will not dissolve fully.  If you don't add the gelatin, you'll be making kefir which is basically a liquid yogurt.  Stir in the tablespoon or so of commercial yogurt to add additional probiotic cultures.  By the way, if I have several yogurts or kefirs in my fridge, I'll add a tablespoon from each one.  I figure, the more cultures, the merrier!

Pour the milk mixture into its final container and place it inside the cooler on a towel and close the lid.  Now go back to the stove and bring a pot of water to a boil.  Remove it from the stove, open the cooler, and place this pot inside next to the yogurt.  Close the lid.  Every eight hours or so take out the pot, bring the water back to a boil and put it back in the cooler.

It takes a day or so for the yogurt cultures to become fully activated.  Check the yogurt to see whether it tastes like yogurt or milk.  You'll know the difference.  When it's yogurt, it will still be runny, but that will change once it gets into your refrigerator for a while and the gelatin has a chance to go into action and thicken up.

One last thing to know--   The next time you make yogurt you can add the cultures from this batch to your milk, but be sure to always add commercial cultures from store bought yogurts or kefirs, too.  The cultures in your yogurt tend to become ineffective after a use or two.  You want to keep re-introducing the live cultures.

Eating fermented and cultured foods is one of the best things you can do to increase your health.  And best of all, home-made yogurt tastes great.  One of my favorite tricks is to put some yogurt in a bowl and stir in some cocoa powder, a splash of vanilla extract and a teaspoon or so of Coconut Nectar.  Stir that all up and top it off with walnuts or fresh berries.  Yum!

Plain home-made yogurt drizzled with Coconut nectar and topped with walnuts.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Not All Yogurts are the Same

Yogurt?  I make my own.  I know that sounds crazy, but I have my reasons.  And I think they're good ones.

It's all about gut health--  More and more nutritional healing research is pointing clearly in the direction of gut health.  Yes, gut health...not very glamorous sounding, but your overall good health relies on it.  Gut health refers to the delicate balance in our guts between good and bad microbes.  Our gut is literally filled with microbes and these microbes are essential for the proper digestion of food, but much more importantly, to the overall health of our bodies.

Just what are these gut microbes?  They are both good and bad bacterias, good and bad viruses, yeasts, parasites and other tiny living creatures that live in our gut.  Many of these microbes are crucial to the functioning of our body's systems.  In fact, without gut microbes we would actually be incapable of digesting our food.  They do much of the work for us, breaking down and pre-digesting food for us so that it can be absorbed into our blood stream and transported to the places in our bodies where the nutrients are needed.

Keeping things in balance--  Unfortunately, a lot of the helpful microbes get killed off in our guts because of modern living and modern diets.  Most of us know that when we take antibiotics we are killing off much of the beneficial bacteria in our guts.  Did you know, however, that eating meats and poultry that are fed antibiotics can also contribute to killing off beneficial gut bacteria?  And did you know that the hormones and pesticides that are common in our food sources are also disturbing the balance in our guts.

It's not just a matter of avoiding the killing off of the good microbes, it's essential to create an environment which encourages the good guys to thrive.  Just like all the cells in our bodies, these organisms need to reproduce and propagate.  When we feed them foods that make our guts inhospitable to them, they don't thrive, and that means that they are unable to help us heal and be strong in turn.

In fact, certain foods feed and support the bad guys.  One example of this is candida yeast which thrives on sugars.  A small amount of candida is naturally found in our intestines and in proper balance, it is a helpful organism.  However, eating too much sugar (or processed food, which is filled with sugars and high fructose corn syrup) just encourages it to take over.  Candida yeast, with a little encouragement from our poor eating habits, will colonize in large sections in the intestines.  Once it's there, it's very difficult to eradicate.  It punches holes in the intestinal wall creating leaky gut syndrome which wreaks havoc on the body's immune system and causes inflammation, which then leads to all kinds of diseases (see blue box below).

What's the problem with store-bought yogurt?--  So, getting back to yogurt, many commercial yogurts are filled with sugar, or even worse, high fructose corn syrup.  They're not at all healing foods. In fact, they're feeding the bad guys in our guts, helping them to wrestle over command from the good bacteria we really need.  We might as well eat a hot fudge sundae.  At least when we eat the sundae, we call it dessert.

Unfortunately, many of us think of yogurt as a health-promoting food.  And it once was.  Yogurt is cultured milk which means it is fermented.  In the culturing process, beneficial bacterias are introduced to the milk which is kept at a warm enough temperature over a period of time in order to allow those bacterias to multiply.  In fact, milk itself comes right out of the cow intact with many of the cow's own beneficial bacterias.  Culturing encourages them to grow, too.

However, what happens when we pasteurize milk?  We heat it up to temperatures somewhere between 140 and 160 degrees, depending on the process.  Unfortunately, the bacterias are mostly killed off by around 120 degrees.

So, in the making of yogurt, we take the milk from the cow which is brimming with many, many different varieties of healthy bacteria (good), we heat up and kill the bacteria (bad), we then culture the pasteurized milk by adding in a handful of strains of good bacterias (somewhat good), and then we add in sugars and high fructose corn products, stabilizing agents, thickening agents and artificial flavorings (bad). Many of these ingredients arrive into the gut where they support and encourage the bad microbes to flourish and take over.

That's just plain kooky.

Yogurt is not always what we think it is-- We think of yogurt as a health food, and yet many of the commercially prepared brands are simply desserts in disguise.  I don't know how you feel about it, but when I choose to eat dessert, I want to make a deliberate choice for it.

The Cornucopia Institute just did a study evaluating the brands of commercially prepared yogurts available and has ranked them based on the quality of their cultures, whether they are organic or not, whether they add thickeners or stabilizer and what sorts of sweeteners they use along with how much of them.  You can find their comparison rankings by brand, called the Cornicopia Yogurt Buyer's Guide,  here.  And for the Executive Summary of their overall report called, Culture Wars, click here.   This report is easy to read and very informative, well worth your time.  Here's a little excerpt from it:

Why home-made?-- Now, back to why I like to make my own yogurt.  It all has to do with pasteurization and how the process kills off the natural live bacterias in the milk.  I buy raw milk to make my yogurt, but I do live in California where raw milk is available for sale (some states have banned the sale of raw milk).  Milk must be heated in order to get the cultures actively growing, but I am careful to keep the temperature below 110 degrees so that I am not killing off any of the live cultures.

I also infuse my yogurt with additional live cultures by adding a tablespoon of yogurt from one or more of the better commercially prepared brands or, even better, commercially prepared raw kefir.  This insures that I am cultivating as many bacteria strains as possible in my yogurt.

Making your own yogurt is actually very simple to do.  The actual work takes only about ten minutes but then there is a warming period that can take from 8 hours to a day or so, depending on the method you use.  To see how I make mine, click here.

I actually have pretty strong dairy intolerances and have been avoiding dairy products for many years.  (See here for information on dairy allergies, intolerances and lactose problems)  However, I find that home-made yogurt made from raw milk is something I can tolerate.  Plus, I appreciate that I am supporting and cultivating the beneficial bacterias in my gut with every bite.

Research suggests that eating yogurt may help with weight loss, probably because it reduces inflammation and insulin sensitivity.  I'm all for that!

Homemade yogurt tastes delicious, too.  I sometimes use it as a topping for soups and stews (kind of a replacement for sour cream).  I also love it as a mid-afternoon snack especially when I add fresh fruits and nuts to it.  Or if I really have a sweet tooth, I'll stir in a little cocoa powder and Coconut Nectar.  Then it really does taste as good as a hot fudge sundae, to me!

According to a study performed by the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. “Twelve weeks of consuming a fermented milk product containing the Lactobacillusstrain was associated with a 4.6 per cent reduction in abdominal fat…”.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

10 Tips for a Gluten Free Thanksgiving...and Other Healthy Suggestions

Healing with food is not always easy around Thanksgiving time.  Especially for those of us that are trying to stick to our gluten-free diets. Stuffing, pie crust,...yikes!  And if we're also trying to be sugar-free and dairy-free, the entire meal is full of land-mines.  

Here are nine tips you can use to get through the meal without compromising your health.  Follow our tips and you won't have to go into recovery mode after the big day.  

1.  Skip the dinner rolls--  Yes, those airy pieces of gluten-y fluff are fun to eat, but we have a better option.  Our healthy Seed Bread (recipe here) is really delicious, totally gluten-free and a perfect flavor to match up to Thanksgiving turkey.

2.  Use store-bought gluten-free bread for the stuffing   For a recipe on using store-bought gluten free bread, here.)

3.  Replace sugar in your holiday recipes with Coconut Nectar--  It's not just the pie.  Sugar is added to other holiday recipes, like sweet potatoes and cranberries, too.  You can choose to drop these items from your menu, or substitute low glycemic Coconut Nectar and stevia for the sugar in your favorite recipes.  Start by adding two tablespoons of stevia to your recipe and then add about 1/3 cup of Coconut Nectar.  This is when you start tasting.  If it's sweet enough, stop here.  If not, keep adding Coconut Nectar.

4.  Switch from regular butter to grass-fed butter-- Mashed potatoes anyone?  Try whipping up those potatoes with a combination of unsweetened almond milk and grass-fed butter.  Most folks with dairy intolerances or allergies can handle butter or ghee.  Goats milk may also be an option.  (See here for more information on dairy allergies and intolerances.)  The good new is that if you're working to reduce inflammation in your body for your overall health, grass fed butter is an excellent source of inflammation reducing omega-3 oils.  

5.  Use a reduction method or try einkorn flour for the gravy-- When it comes to thickening up your turkey juices, you can add some flavorful wine and boil the mixture down to create a syrupy sauce.   Or try low-gluten einkorn flour as a replacement in your favorite gravy recipe.  

6.  Try our Coconut Nectar sweetened pumpkin pie--  It's good enough to pass muster with the family.  No one will know that there's not one bit of sugar in it.  Pick up a ready-made gluten free crust or use our recipe for low-gluten einkorn flour crust.  Our recipe is here.

7.  Pass up the whip cream--  If you're avoiding dairy, you can always add a scoop of Coconut Secret ice cream or Laloo's goat milk ice cream. 

8.  Change out your salt shaker to real natural sea salt--  Good news!  If you think salt is bad for you, you're missing out on all the research.  Yes, regular table salt and the salt that comes in most processed foods is still a contributing cause of high blood pressure, kidney disease and fluid retention.  However, real natural sea salt is filled with important minerals that are very healthy for the body.  Get off the processed foods and you can add natural sea salt to your diet.  Just be sure to keep your consumption down to about 1/2 teaspoon a day.  By the way, we love the Himalayan Sea Salt Grinders at Costco.  (For more information on salt, see here for health information and here for cooking information.)  

9)  Super Green Smoothie--  What to do after the big day?  We love our morning super green smoothies.  They help us stay energized, clear headed and slim.  If you're feeling a little sluggish the morning after, whip up a batch of these babies and give your body a chance to recover.  (Recipe here.)  

Super Green Smoothies!  Healthy ingredients in the food processor, ready to blend.
10)  Turkey leftovers-- For sandwiches, we are loving our homemade Einkorn Bread, recipe here.  When you use a sourdough starter and Einkorn ancient grain wheat flour, you get a very low gluten loaf.  (More information on einkorn, here. )

Follow these tips for a healthy, anti-inflammatory and healing Thanksgiving.  We promise, your guests will never know the difference.  And you'll feel so much better afterward.  

Thanksgiving dinner--with our changes, gobble it up, it's good for you!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

I'm in the Mood for Soup!

With the first autumn cold weather, I find that my thoughts turn to soups and stews.  This week I've been cooking cold-weather soups that are so chock full of hearty ingredients that you could almost call them stews, if it weren't for the broth.

Cod, Kale and Bacon Soup

You can serve a salad with this if you wish, but this healthy soup is really pretty much a one dish meal.  For ease, why not just slice a couple of avocados in half, fill the cavities with fresh squeezed lemon juice, and fresh ground sea salt and black pepper.  That's all you really need.

3 T olive oil
1 onion chopped medium-fine
2 cups celery chopped medium-fine
1 garlic clove minced
32 oz organic chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 t thyme dried
1 15 oz can organic diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can organic garbanzo beans drained and thoroughly rinsed (for easier digestion)
1 lb cod fillets frozen or fresh (I used Costco frozen Wild Alaskan Cod)
8 c organic kale rough chopped
Fresh ground Himalayan pink sea salt and black pepper to taste  (Costco sells these in grinders)
4 strips bacon sliced every 1/2 inch (be sure to get hormone and antibiotic-free bacon that is cured with naturally occurring salts--available at Whole Foods)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, celery and garlic and saute until vegetables begin to soften.  Pour in the broth and add the bay leaf, thyme, tomatoes and garbanzo beans.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, put the bacon in a frying pan and fry until crisp and golden-brown.  Add the cod, kale, salt and pepper to the soup until cod is cooked.  Serve in bowls and sprinkle bacon pieces over the top.  

Monday, November 10, 2014

Omega-3 Plus Banana Bread --It's Grain-free, Sugar-free, Dairy-free and Even Egg-free if You Like

Yes, we know.  It sounds like there's nothing left in it that tastes good...but this is a delicious banana bread that's also healing.  And that makes it the best kind of food!

This banana quick bread is grain free, which makes it gluten-free, too, of course. We've also replaced the sugar in regular banana bread with coconut nectar and coconut palm sugar, a low-glycemic substitute.

If you're trying to reduce inflammation, this bread is perfect for you because it has lots of high-in-omega-3 flax meal and omega-3 grass-fed butter.  You can make it without eggs, or if you want the added benefit of omega-3 eggs from pasture-fed chickens, add them in.  Instructions for just how to do this are included in the recipe.  (Just remember that the eggs and butter are only high in omega-3's if they are from free-roaming, grass-fed cows or chickens.)

Adaptable.  That's what this recipe is.  We've included all kinds of conversions so that you can pretty much make it adapt to any allergen, intolerance or health preferences you have.   We made ours with butter, but if you're totally dairy free, use coconut oil.  (If you have dairy intolerance, see here for information about butter.)  You can also choose whether to add eggs or use a substitute.  If you're allergic to walnuts, leave them out or use pecans.

Why the omega-3's?  Getting enough omega-3's in our diets is always a challenge.  Omega-3's need to be in balance with omega-6's.  Unfortunately, so many modern foods have omega-6's added into them, especially processed foods.  Most of us get way more omega-6's than we need and not enough omega-3's.  See here, for more information on this.  When the omegas get out of balance, inflammation results.  And inflammation is one of the leading causes of most of today's major diseases (see box below).

I don't know why, but I particularly love these kinds of quick breads in the autumn and near the holidays. Unfortunately, when they contain sugar and white flour, they're not promoting health.  Here, you can enjoy the banana bread and feel good about yourself, too, knowing you're eating some of the healthiest foods available to you.

Omega-3 Plus Banana Bread

dry ingredients:
1/2 c coconut flour
1/2 c almond meal
1 c flax meal
2 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
1 T stevia
1/8 t cinnamon and 1/8 t ground nutmeg

wet ingredients:
3 mashed ripe bananas
3 eggs or 5 T almond or coconut milk
1/2 c melted butter or coconut oil
1/2 c coconut nectar

final ingredients:
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 c chopped walnuts

Set the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 5 x 8 bread pan with coconut oil cooking spray. In a mixing bowl stir together all the dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add all the wet ingredients into the well.  Stir until well combined.  When you are just about ready to bake, add the vinegar and walnuts and stir.  Pour batter into the baking pan.  Bake for 40 minutes.  If needed, check center of loaf for doneness with a toothpick.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.
If you prefer a sweeter bread, add an additional 2-3 T of coconut nectar.

Toppings:  The traditional topping with banana bread is cream cheese, but if you're watching your inflammation, dairy is out.  There's always grass-fed butter, of course.  And how about jam?  You can use any jam made without sugar, or even better, mash a few berries with a fork and eat them on top.  Nut butters make good toppings, of course.  And if you really deserve a treat today, try this "Nutella" style sugar-free substitute:

Sugar Free "Nutella"

4 T coconut nectar
2 T room temperature grass-fed butter
2 T cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1 t vanilla
2 T almond butter (or better yet, hazelnut butter if you can find it or can make your own)

Stir all ingredients together until thoroughly combined.