Sipping Your Way Through Flu Season

Winter’s very slowly sneezing and coughing its way out. Staying healthy with seasonal flu and colds circulating and recirculating can be tough. This year seems particularly fraught with heavy colds that keep coming back. Take care of the basics: make sure you get enough exercise (keep that lymphatic system moving!) and sleep, watch your sugar consumption, and remain well hydrated. Moonshine Mama’s Turmeric Tonic is well worth a try if you want to treat yourself to something delicious and fortifying. And here are some more immune-boosting beverages you can make yourself that might help get you through the season.

2017januarykvassBeet Kvass

Why drink it? Fermented beverages benefit your microbiome and overall health. A happy digestive tract makes for a better functioning immune system. And I really like this version of kvass, as it’s quite like sauerkraut.

How to take it? A small glass a couple of times a day, alternating with other lacto-fermented beverages (kefir, water kefir, kombucha etc) will give your gut the variety it needs.

Ingredients

2-3 medium beets, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
¼ cabbage, chopped
½ onion, chopped
2 tbsp sea salt2016aug21kvassday01
¼ cup whey or 1 tbsp starter culture, optional
filtered water to cover

Directions

  1. Add onion and cabbage to a 2 quart glass jar.
  2. Add the beets to the onion and cabbage.
  3. Add salt and optional whey.
  4. Cover with filtered water, leaving an inch between the water and the jar lid.
  5. Close the jar and leave in a cool dark place. The mixture will deepen in colour to a rich ruby red.
  6. Start tasting it after 3 days and if it’s too salty or not sour enough, let it ferment until you like the taste.
  7. When you’re happy with it, strain into bottles and transfer to the fridge; it will keep for months.
  8. The vegetables can be used to make a second batch, depending on how long you’ve had to ferment to get the taste you want, but the results of the second batch will be weaker, so you may wish to augment with a little more of each ingredient.

2017januaryfireciderYarrow Willard’s Fire Cider

At the talk where I was first introduced to this concoction, Willard made the excellent point that his fire cider ingredients are easily found in most supermarkets, a boon for ailing travellers (as long as you pack a blender I guess!) He says it’s kept his family healthy through many a flu season.

Why drink it? It contains alliums – onion and garlic – particularly high in the valuable flavonoid quercetin, and containing various other polyphenols and sulfur, so have multiple health benefits. Horseradish too is believed to boost the immune system due to its antioxidant qualities. Cayenne is an antioxidant, high in vitamin A, and contains capsaicin, which is garnering much research attention for its circulatory-system benefits and antimicrobial properties. Ginger is a well known medicinal spice, soothing and stimulating as a tea, and discussed further in the context of Chris Kresser’s very gingery drink below.

How to drink it? Take a few tablespoons in a glass of water or a daily shot during flu season.

Ingredients

⅛ tsp cayenne
1 small onion or ½ a big one
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger
½ tbsp horseradish
1 cup apple cider vinegar (not pasteurized)
1 cup water

Directions:

Blend for 30 seconds. Store in a jar in your fridge; keeps for months! Makes about 2 cups.

Chris Kresser’s Immune-boosting Ginger Juice

Why to drink it? Fresh (not dried) ginger is a well known anti-inflammatory and antiviral herb, widely used for digestive issues, which has been found effective in treating respiratory viral infections common in childhood. It is a known bile stimulant, so avoid it if you are experiencing  gallbladder or bile duct disorders. As it can also act as a blood sugar modulator, consult your doctor before taking if you are taking diabetic treatments. Honey has antiviral and antimicrobial properties, and is also an expectorant and decongestant and really soothing for cough and the lungs. Cayenne‘s fiery capsaicin content is also helpful in clearing congestion.

How to drink it? This is an intense beverage which Kresser recommends you mix up and then sip away at throughout the day, at the first signs of flu. He recommends juicing or straining blended ginger; I like the chewy bits and leave them in for a bit of extra fibre.

Ingredients:

Sufficient ginger, juiced (or peeled, blended and/or strained) to make 1/2 cup ginger juice
Juice of 1/4 lime or lemon
1 tbsp honey
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Directions:

Stir ingredients together, dilute to taste with hot water, and sip throughout the day.

 

Seeds of Spring

saanich-seedy-saturday-jan-5Another year spins round and here in the depths of an unusually chilly winter on the West Coast we start looking forward to spring.

Spring means gardens, and gardens mean seeds! Seeds mean Seedy Saturdays, and for the second year Haliburton Community Organic Farm has partnered with the Gardens at HCP to offer the first such event on Vancouver Island: Saanich Seedy Saturday, next Saturday January 14.

And seeds need bees, hence our special guest speaker Lori Weidenhammer, author of Victory Gardens for Bees.

Good nourishment for the event is being provided by Charlotte & the Quail, the Horticulture Centre‘s cafe, coming out of winter hibernation for the event. The cafe began life as Nourish, now brilliantly expanded into a downtown location in Victoria, and caught the attention of local nutritionists for its well-executed gluten free menu options, its provision of house-made ferments (water kefir, fermented cashew butter, etc.), its support of local farms (including Haliburton!) and food businesses, and its excellent cooking.

Some seeds are better planted than eaten, but there are fibre and healthy fats to be had from many others. I’ve been making a pretty wonderful seed cracker this season, and I recommend you check out the Endurance Cracker recipe over at Oh She Glows. Vegan and dairy, grain, egg and gluten free, it’s a small miracle of simplicity and deliciousness that’s safe to serve to most food-challenged guests. I’ll be providing some cookies at Saanich Seedy Saturday (a fund-raiser for the farm) and these will be among the offerings.

Pumpkin time

pumpkinwordcloudIt’s edible decoration time – although sadly most of the Jack O’Lanterns that languish on front steps are inedible, or will be by next Tuesday.

Which is a shame, because winter squash with its autumn-tinted orange flesh offers you plenty of beta-carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A; vitamins C and E, calcium, magnesium and potassium, and lots of fibre.

Don’t forget to harvest the zinc that’s hiding out in squash: scoop those seeds, give them a soak and rinse off the webbing, then season and roast with oil until golden for crunchy winter snacks. If you roast young squash, the cooked skin, like the skin of baked potatoes, is usually edible and adds a secondary flavour, as well as abundant fibre, so taste it before you scrape or peel it off.

The classic routine with winter squash is to roast wedges, tossed in oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, and eat as a soft, sweet side dish. Some squash varieties (roasted and pureed) stand in for pumpkin better than others in sweet dishes like (pumpkin) pie or (pumpkin) bread, but the denser smoother fleshed ones will give better results. And you can always puree roasted squash into a spicy winter soup (or try one of these savoury recipes) if it doesn’t look like it will work for pie.

One of my favourite recipes of recent years is a squash and caramelized garlic tart by Yotam Ottolenghi. Though it calls for butternut squash, any dense, orange-fleshed winter squash will work. To get the texture right you will, sadly, have to peel the squash for this one. He also does an utterly delicious butternut squash with tahini and za’atar.

DIY pumpkin pie filling: to prepare for use in pies or anywhere canned pumpkin is called for, cut the squash in half, scoop the seeds (roast them for snacks!) and roast, cut-side down, on a baking sheet at 400f/200c. About half an hour, turn one half over and test with a fork; if it passes easily through to the skin, it’s done; if not, cook a bit longer. When done, puree in a food processor or blender, then strain overnight in a jelly bag or coffee filter. Be sure to save the drained liquid for soup stocks, gravy etc.  (Canning safety note: if you actually plan to can pumpkin, do so in cubes that you can puree when you need them, as pureed pumpkin is particularly vulnerable to spoilage when canned.)

Spaghetti squash has achieved new popularity among paleo and low-carb diners, as it makes an excellent substitute for pasta. Roast as above. When finished, use a fork to loosen the strands. Drain in a colander if it seems soggy.

Pumpkin pancakes are another grain-free use for winter squash. Follow the roasting instructions above; then scoop the flesh into a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Place in a jelly bag or coffee filter and let the excess liquid drip into a bowl (save this for soup stock or to thin gravy etc.) for a couple of hours or overnight.

But I’m a pumpkin pie fanatic, so here’s a version you can serve your gluten-free, dairy-free or low-carb diners:

Crustless Pumpkin Pie

(based on Pumpkin Custard from Practical Paleo)
Yield: 4-6 servings depending on the size of your ramekins.

1 cup canned/fresh (drained) pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ea grated nutmeg & mace
pinch sea salt
2 organic eggs
¼ c grade B maple syrup
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup coconut milk (full fat)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350f/170c.
  2. Combine pumpkin and all spices in one bowl.
  3. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs lightly then whisk in the maple syrup, vanilla and coconut milk.
  4. Whisk the egg mixture into the pumpkin mixture until well combined.
  5. Pour the custard into six 1/2 cup ramekins (or a small – 3 cup – buttered quiche pan). Place the ramekins in a baking pan and add enough hot water to the dish to come up 2″ high around the ramekins.
  6. Carefully place in the oven and bake for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted into the centre of the custard comes out clean.
  7. Serve warm or chilled, with or without whipped cream (dairy or coconut).

 

Celery!

celery18july When I was a child my nutritionally-minded mother always kept a jar of carrot and celery sticks in the fridge for snacks. Since those days, aside from a shameful period of addiction to celery stuffed with Cheez Whiz, I have always kept a few sticks on hand for chewing upon in thoughtful, snackish moments.

It’s a crucial addition to the raw veggie tray and scoops up hummus most efficiently. It’s a great edible tool for scraping up the last of your blue cheese dressing. Those of you from Ants on a Log childhoods may crave it with peanut butter, or want to share the making of it with your own junior chefs.

Celery is a good medicinal food, a close relative of bulb fennel and celeriac. Aside from the obvious water and fibre content, it’s a traditional diuretic, antioxidant and sedative, helpful in calming muscle spasms, reducing blood pressure and improving appetite. It’s good for arthritis, gout and kidney problems. And it’s a trusted herbal treatment for parasites in animals.

Celery is a key ingredient in mirepoix – with onions and carrots – the foundation of many soups, stews and other savoury dishes. As a time-saver, you might like to chop some up and keep it in a ziplock bag in the freezer to add a salt-free flavour boost to your winter recipes. Keep those celery leaves to throw into the stock pot, too!

You can add chopped celery to your juicing ingredients, browse this selection of Celery Recipes That Are Freakishly Delicious, or make it into a salad with peanuts, if you are from a nut-allergy-free family. When I lived in England and worked for a fancy band of head-hunters, our company cook used to make a delectably simple peanut-celery-mayo salad; this one is a little more slick and works well with Asian flavours.

Thai Celery & Peanut Salad
Makes 4 servings
Ingredients:
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp sesame oil (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp fish sauce (or soy sauce if you prefer)
6 celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
3 thinly sliced green onions
1 thinly sliced hot red pepper (and/or sweet bell pepper if you prefer)
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
1/4 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts
Instructions:
1. Whisk together the oil, garlic, lime juice and fish sauce.
2. Toss dressing with celery, green onion, red pepper, cilantro and peanuts.

The lovely aubergine

eggplant-fbYou may think I have been in summer hibernation, but only the blogging part of me has been. The rest of me has been keeping extremely busy with many things. One of those is writing a weekly letter for the Haliburton Community Organic Farm food box program, which will be winding up at the end of October. I thought, belatedly, I could share some of those messages with you. (If you’re in Victoria and interested in signing up for next year’s offering – a weekly certified organic food box, please email me at the food box email and I’ll put you on the list to be notified when we’ve established timings and prices, most likely in January 2017.)

Eggplant – or aubergine as I learned to call it while living in England – is a much-abused vegetable, in my experience. When, as is too often the case, it is served undercooked, it has a chewy, spongy texture which would revolt any sane eater. Properly cooked, it is soft and luscious, infused with the flavour of its surrounding ingredients. As for the salt or don’t salt question: perhaps through sheer laziness I am in the “don’t bother” camp and still love eggplant in many ways.

Delicious, okay, but is it healthy? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! The deep purple skin’s colouring is due to an anthocyanin (a type of beneficial compound that colours berries and other ‘superfoods’) called nasunin, which has been found to be a potent antioxidant. Antioxidants work by neutralizing free radicals – harmful molecules that damage our body’s cells, causing aging and diseases like cancer. But nasunin also plays a uniquely helpful role, by removing excess iron from the bloodstream. Excess iron can cause many problems (so don’t supplement unless medically directed to do so!) including leaving harmful deposits in the heart and brain.

Eggplant also contains a compound called chlorogenic acid (found in coffee beans, apples, pears and blueberries) which researchers think may have properties effective against cancer and diabetes.

So all this goes on while you sit back and enjoy the moussaka! Like so many healthy foods, remember that the antioxidant benefits are in the skin, so recipes that call for peeling eggplant, while delicious and rich in fibre and other nutrients, won’t have this bonus.

Here’s one of my very favourite ways to enjoy it, based on a Peg Bracken recipe (anyone else remember the I Hate To Cook books?) It’s an easy and delicious veggie main course, excellent served on rice, that you can make ahead and store in the freezer for a rainy day, when it will be best appreciated.

Spicy Baked Eggplant
Serves 4-6
Ingredients:
1 large eggplant, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes (unpeeled)
¾ cup olive oil
2 cups chopped or canned tomatoes (400 ml)
1 red pepper, peeled and chopped, or 1 small jar of pimentos drained and coarsely chopped
2 medium sliced onions
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp capers
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil, or 3/4 tsp dried (or to taste)
1 tbsp soy sauce
Instructions:
1. In a large frying pan, sauté the eggplant in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until soft.
2. Add remaining ingredients and cook the mixture for about 15 minutes.
3. Pile it into a casserole dish, wrap it, cool it and freeze it.

When ready to eat it, thaw it overnight in the fridge then top it with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs. Heat half an hour at 350f and make sure it’s hot all the way through.

Enjoy!

Low carb dinner party

2016FebLowCarbStartersSalmon+PateI had a low carb dinner party last weekend as I’m trying out some new recipes to suit people trying to lower their carb and sugar intake. It worked well, despite the nail-biting and ill-advised practice of trying out untried recipes on dinner guests, and I share with you the menu. Which also happens to be gluten-free.

Starters (shown): Almond-rosemary-parmesan crackers (around .25g net carbs/srv); cold-smoked Spring salmon (0g carbs/srv), Daikon radish slices (1g carbs/srv), red peppers (3g/half cup), turkey liver mousse (0.7g/srv). For the mousse, I adapted this beautiful recipe with its parsley and fennel frond gelée. It was very good on both the red pepper and the crackers. The crackers were based on this recipe (but I used whole egg, added some almond meal – unblanched unpeeled almonds – as well as  ground flax and poppyseed to give it a bit more fibre and oomph).

Moving right along, for the main course, we had a sausage, bean and collard casserole (about 17.2 g net sausage-beans-greens-400x400-kalynskitchencarbs/serving), with cauliflower mash (1.6g/srv) and a fennel and blood orange salad (5g/srv). The casserole was based on this slow cooker recipe (but wouldn’t fit in my small cooker, so was baked in a 325f oven for an hour or so). I mashed the cauliflower with butter, sour cream and a dash of whipping cream, plus a pinch of cumin, salt and pepper. There was also a not-very-low-carb-but-very-popular side dish, the highly delicious Squash with Chile Yogurt Cilantro Sauce (20 net carbs/srv) from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More cookbook (the recipe says 4 servings – I’d say more like 8). Which I have been eating all winter for breakfast, lunch or dinner, using butternut and hubbard squash as the base. So high in vitamin A and potassium you can forgive it its sweet more-ishness.

2016FebLowCarbSeedBunsI added almond flour-based seed buns (about 9.3 g net carbs for 1/4 of the recipe) to the table, which was very well received. It didn’t rise as high as the first time I’d made it, no doubt due to the extra seeds and almond meal I’d added to the recipe. I soaked the seeds (flax, pumpkin, sesame) overnight to reduce the phytic acid content (I’ll try soaking the almond flour and meal too next time). Doesn’t matter if it’s somewhat flat – it’s very good. (And very expensive to make, with the price of almond flour nowadays!)

The disappointment was the dessert, which was a low-carb Chocolate Souffle Cheesecake (about 8.2 net carbs/srv, made with semisweet baking chocolate). It was dry and crumbly, but edible with whipped cream and toasted walnuts (another gram or so of carbs). Before I give up on it – and how can I with 4 ingredients, no added sugar and all those health benefits? – I’ll try undercooking it in a deeper pan. And will be using a better quality chocolate (at least 70% but ideally, to my taste, more around the 80% cocoa solids).

Back, with blueberries

2015Sep30BlueberryCheesecake Summer was insanely busy, and now it’s all but over. I’ve got a freezer full of berries, and a visitor with a birthday, so I thought I’d make a welcome raw blueberry cheesecake.

An excellent recipe, tried and true: gluten– and dairy-free and just as delicious as the more conventional counterpart. Perhaps more so, as it’s light and fresh-tasting. Not difficult, just a slog getting all the ingredients pureed to the right consistency.

I’ve made this several times and can’t think of a nicer and more impressive dinner party dessert which is safe for those with allergies (aside from nut allergies of course) and gluten/dairy intolerances. A celiac I made it for once declared it an excellent breakfast (she took the leftovers home) and said how grateful she was to be served a real dessert, as she’s usually fobbed off with sorbet or fruit.

Speaking of gluten intolerance, I was interested to read this article, which discusses  Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a condition that responds well to a gluten-free diet, and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). The article suggests that people with NCGS may in fact have diagnosed themselves with IBS, and are self-treating by avoiding gluten. (This study, somewhat similarly, suggests that a diagnosis of IBS may prevent prompt and necessary treatment for gluten sensitivity.) All food for thought and further research. Meanwhile, let us eat (cheeseless) cheesecake!

Got cucumbers? Here’s a cold summer soup…

I think one can eat only so many cucumber salads before starting to dream of other tastes. Here’s a lovely recipe, based on the Spanish summer soup Ajo Blanco, which is normally made without cucumbers and garnished with white-ish fruit such as grapes or melon. In this version, though, cucumber adds a refreshing tang – and ample vitamin A (as long as you don’t peel). Very quick to make, and you can whip it up the night before.

Zucchini season

My zucchini plants may be struggling, but more successful growers are experiencing their usual summer squash glut. Here’s one of my favourite ways to use them.