Fermented Cabbage (Sauerkraut, Kimchi, Etc.)

I love having some preserved veggies on hand. They can give a more boring dish a savory, salty, tangy kick. Sauerkraut or kimchi can serve as a garnish, or a last-minute addition to stir-fries or soups. And, of course the probiotics in the fermented veggies are so good for the gut.

cabbage + salt = easy probiotic, fermented veggies

Some folks shy away from the saltiness of fermented foods, but salt is a natural preservative. One might use as little as 3 TBS. salt per 5 lb. of veggies, but it’s best to not go lower than that.

The recipe below is a loose guideline. You can change up the spices, or add some shredded beets or carrots as well. It’s best to use a larger proportion of cabbage, since it has the most fermentable properties. Note that veggies like onion, garlic and peppers are better used in small quantities, for seasoning, due to their low acidity. Makes 1 qt.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb. total of veggies (1 head cabbage, plus some carrots and/or beets if desired)
  • scant 2 TBS. salt, non-iodized (about .10 lb.; a scant half ounce of salt per pound of produce)
  • optional: garlic, spices, caraway seed, pepper flakes, ginger, curry, etc.
  • optional: kimchi-style ingredients (fish sauce or kelp powder, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, green onion, etc.)

Fine-slice the cabbage. If using carrots or beets, grate those. If a Korean-style kimchi is desired, use napa cabbage! Use: > 2 lb. total (approx.), of cabbage (including a small amount of carrot, beet, or onion, if desired)

Add the prepped veggies to a large bowl and toss with the salt and any other seasonings of choice. Use: > scant 2 TBS. salt > optional garlic, caraway seed, ginger, pepper flakes, etc.

The mixture will soften up after twenty minutes or so, creating its own juices as well. Then add to a quart jar, pressing in to fit. The vegetables should be pressed down enough that they are submerged in the liquid.

Cover the jar with a coffee filter or a cloth and let sit on counter for about 5 days. Check the jar daily to be sure the vegetables are covered with the juice. If they float to the top, press them down again.

After 5 days or so (this depends on the room temperature), the veggies should be fermented. It will taste fermented! Put a lid on them and refrigerate. Will keep for months.

Induction Stove Top Vs. Gas, Electric

I’ve cooked on electric and gas stove tops for years. Most cooks know that gas ranges are awesome. Electric, not so much. At least we have a gas range at the deli. But for over 25 years, I put up with an electric stove top at home. Until I finally found a most excellent replacement: Induction range!

Induction better than Electric, GasI’ve had the pictured induction stove top for over two years now. I LUV it.

We didn’t really want to go to the bother and expense of getting gas piped into our kitchen, so I surveyed my options. Someone mentioned: If I like to cook, and don’t want to put in gas, then “Induction Range” was the way to go.

What? I hadn’t even heard of it. Guess I’d been too busy cooking on the deli stove to do any research about alternatives. But after looking into it, I realized: Induction range was my answer!

It was easy to get the range installed (we got one similar to this one). Just plug it in! Over two years later, the stove is still gleaming. It’s easy to wipe clean, but if I want to spiff it up, I also spray it with vinegar, wiping until spotless.

But that’s just surface talk. What’s really cool is that the induction burners can get much hotter than electric burners. When I want to sear something, I can really sear! But, like the gas burner, as soon as it’s turned off, there is no more heat. When I want to bring something to a boil, it happens so FAST! I love my induction range, and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good stove.

Date Bars

I pulled out some of our old deli recipes, now that the grandkids and I want to make desserts on occasion. We used to make this recipe at The New Deli, back when we had a wholesale delivery route as well (in the eighties). It was a hit!

Less Sugar Date BarsThis is a less-sweet version of the original Betty Crocker recipe. And it can be made gluten-free, by substituting processed oats (“oat flour”) in place of the regular flour.

I made these with the grandkids—they were surprised that the dates turn into this yummy filling, just by cooking up with some water. Might serve 12 or so (unless there are some date-bar-piggies like me around…).

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 c. dates (1 lb.)
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 3/4 c. quick-cooking oats

Ahead of time, prepare the date filling. Boil, then simmer until thick: > 1 lb. dates > 1 c. water

Cool the date mix.

Beat until creamy: > 1 c. brown sugar > 1 c. butter

Add, just beating until mixed: > 1/2 tsp. baking soda > 1/2 tsp. salt

Add to creamed stuff: > 2 1/4 c. flour > 3 c. quick-cooking oats

Butter 13×9″ pan. Press half the above in pan. Spread with the cooled date filling.

Sprinkle other half of oat mix on top. Bake at 400 degrees (375 in Pyrex) for 20-30 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream if desired.

Ginger Bug: Easy Recipe, Healthy Gingerale

Most recipes for ginger bug would have us grating some fresh ginger every day, mixing it with a bit more sugar and water, to feed the bug. I don’t have time for that! So I came up with a quicker method: I process the whole bunch of ginger with an equal part of sugar, add an equal quantity of water, and freeze that mix in ice-cube trays. Then it’s easy to scoop a little out for the daily feedings. Whoot!

Freeze Ginger Bug Paste!But what’s “ginger bug”, you ask? It’s a beneficial culture, to use in making healthy fermented sodas. Add some to the second ferment of kombucha or kefir, for a natural “gingerale”. So tasty, and good for digestion too.

One caveat: Only use organic ginger! I’ve tried using non-organic on two different occasions, and it ruined my bug every time. It may be hard to locate organic ginger, but it’s worth the hunt. I guess that’s why I like to buy a big bunch of it when I do find it (I usually get at least a pound at a time). The ginger/sugar mush I make with it will last awhile in my freezer.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz. fresh ginger root
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 c. filtered water for mix
  • 2 c. filtered water for starter

To make an easy ginger/sugar mix to store in the freezer for months, process the two ingredients in a blender, to a fine “slush”. Chop the fresh ginger into pieces (I don’t peel mine) and process with the sugar in blender, using: > 8 oz. or so fresh ginger root (about 6 large “fingers”) > 1 1/2 c. sugar

Add to the mixture: > 2 c. filtered water

Set aside 1 c. of the ginger/sugar/water mixture (for the starter batch; freeze the rest in an ice cube tray. Grab an ice-cube or two per day, for the ginger bug’s daily feeding.

The initial starter will need these amounts, mixed into a jar (one-quart size or larger): > 1 c. ginger/sugar/water mix

Also add to jar: > 2 c. filtered water

Add a lid and shake well. Remove lid and use a rubber band and coffee filter (or napkin or paper towel) to cover the top.

Stir the mixture at least once a day for five days, with a non-metallic spoon or spatula. Each day, add: > 2-3 TBS. ginger/sugar mix > 2 TBS. water

The culture is active when bubbles form in the top layer (where the ginger pulp floats). It will get cloudy, and may seem fizzy and smell lightly yeasty. This might take up to eight days. If mold grows, remove the mold. Discard the mixture and start over if it gets moldy again.

Use this “ginger bug” to add to fermented drinks. For a quart-size bottle, use: > 1/4 c. ginger bug, strained

The ginger ferment can be kept in the refrigerator, where it will only need to be fed weekly. Add another 2-3 TBS. of the ginger/sugar mix, plus 2 TBS. water, each week.

Make a new batch of the ginger/sugar mix as necessary.

Use the strained ginger bug for the second ferment of kombucha or kefir, for a delicious, natural, healthy “soda”.

Kitchen Sinks: Jen’s Fave & Why

After over 25 years with our original kitchen, I realized my friend was right: My kitchen needed a renovation. One feature: I had a “shabby chic” sink, but sinks aren’t supposed to be shabby chic! It had chipped within the first year of use, years ago, and more chips continued to pop up, even with light use. Turns out, the enamel-over-steel construction was horrible. I do not recommend such a sink, even if they are cheaper than their cast-iron cousins!

Porcelain on Steel- Horrible!

Kohler_Cast_Iron_No_Chips_Bright_DishwashingOne of the things I did in the process of my budget kitchen renovation: I splurged on an enameled cast iron Kohler sink, which I absolutely love. I felt justified, since I wasn’t spending a lot of money on other upgrades. The sink was so worth it.

One of my friends had chosen a more economical stainless steel sink for her kitchen, which I think was a way better choice than the enameled steel sink (in my first picture). But here was my beef about the steel sink: It’s darker! Less warm and inviting! After all, I can spend a lot of time at my sink. I prepare loads of food, which means I wash a lot of dishes. Washing dishes at my bright, light sink, with the window above it, is actually a pleasure!

Another friend insisted I’d want a one-compartment, deep sink (like those popular vintage, farmhouse-style sinks). He said that most professional cooks prefer it, since they can wash large amounts of produce in it. Well, I might be a professional, but I don’t process massive quantities of foods in my home kitchen. I just make our meals, and a few bulk things, and I like washing most of the dishes by hand. I like having one sink compartment for washing and rinsing, the other for letting them sit in to dry. That has always been my dish-washing style. I would say, maybe if you do wash cases of produce, and/or use the dishwasher a lot, go for the farmhouse/apron style sink. But if you’re like me, you’d probably really enjoy the kind I got.

Oh, one caveat: even the enameled cast iron sink could get marks or chip if you try hard enough. I’ve had mine for over two years now, and it’s yet to chip or mark. I don’t think it ever will. I have taken precautions though, purchasing the Kohler stainless steel sink racks for the left side and right. They protect my sink from pots and pans. Yes, it’s true that metal will mark the sink, but any marks I’ve made have come out with cleanser. (I try not to use too much cleanser though, as that will help preserve the integrity of the finish.

I hope this helps with any decision-making you need to make about your kitchen sink!

“Pistou” (French Pesto)

Perk up an otherwise average soup by topping it with French-style pesto (AKA pistou). I personally appreciate that it doesn’t contain pine nuts, since I watch my intake of PUFAs (due to their inflammatory qualities).

A cool thing about “Pistou”: The garlic flavor steeps and mellows some when it is crushed with sea salt. The salt draws out the garlic flavor as it brings out the moisture. Kind of “unlocking” the flavor, so it’s not too overwhelming.

You can use a mortar and pestle (old-school style) to make this, but a food processor or blender is handy too. The garlic gets processed with the salt until fine, then basil is added, to puree until pretty smooth. Then the olive oil gets whisked in, along with chopped tomatoes and the cheese. Delicious!

Olive oil, basil, garlic, salt, parmesan

“Pistou” (French Style Pesto)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-6 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 c. fresh basil
  • 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 c. grated Parmesan (or other flavorful, aged, dry cheese, like Gruyere)

PREPARATION

1. Mash garlic up with salt, or use processor/blender. (A garlic press also works- just sprinkle salt on afterwards, letting the garlic soften for the salt.). Use: > 4-6 cloves fresh garlic > 1/2 tsp. sea salt

2. Let salt work into the garlic for 10-20 minutes, then add fresh basil to the mix and process. (If doing by hand, hand-chop the basil first, until fine.) Use: > 4 c. fresh basil

3. Slowly add plus the olive oil, whisked in slowly until incorporated: > 1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

4. Add the tomato, chopped, and the Parmesan (or other favorite). Process until smooth (or leave it more chunky): > 1 tomato > 1 c. grated Parmesan (or other flavorful, aged, dry cheese, like Gruyere)

5. Dollop onto of soups or other fave dishes.

Pesto Pizza, New Deli Style

Back in the day, The New Deli made one huge sheet of Pesto Pizza on Fridays. A few of us still remember those days. Once in awhile, we make this recipe again, for New Deli parties. Sssh–don’t tell anyone! (It’s just for employees and family, ha…)

We found a way to prepare it using a hearty amount of chunky tomatoes, without the crust getting soggy. The secret: A first layer of thinly-sliced mozzarella cheese over the dough.

We also add extra spinach to the pesto we make up, processing it together in the blender, then adding an egg as well, which gives the pesto drizzle a good consistency.

Serves 8.

New Deli Pesto Pizza

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-2 lb. bread dough (fresh or frozen, thawed)
  • 28 oz. can chunk tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 TBS. dry oregano, rubbed
  • 2/3 c. pesto
  • 3 c. spinach, fresh
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz. thinly-sliced mozzarella
  • 8 oz. grated Jack cheese (or part Provolone cheese)
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan

PREPARATION

  1. Let dough get to room temperature. Meanwhile, prepare toppings. Mix the following in a strainer, setting over a bowl to catch the juice. The salt will help the tomatoes to lose their excess moisture: > 28 oz. can chunk tomatoes > 1/2 tsp. salt > 1/2 tsp. pepper > 1/2 TBS. dry oregano, rubbed
  2. The seasoned tomatoes can drain for several hours. Also, mix together and set aside (use blender or food processor if adding the fresh spinach): > 2/3 c. pesto > 1 egg > 3 c. fresh spinach
  3. Shape the room-temperature pizza dough into a circle, to fit a standard pizza pan (or very large iron pan, if available), using extra flour as necessary if dough is sticky. Sprinkle the pizza pan with fine corn meal, stretching the dough onto the pan, using: > 1-2 lb. frozen bread dough, thawed (or use homemade)
  4. Lay out over dough, to cover: > 8 oz. mozzarella, sliced thin
  5. Next add the drained, seasoned tomatoes, topping with dollops of the pesto mix. Finally, top with: > 8 oz. grated Jack cheese (or part Provolone cheese) > 1/2 c. Parmesan

6. Bake at 475 degrees, 20 minutes or more (depending on size of pizza pan).

 

Science Behind “Lose Belly Fat”

I kept seeing that “Lose Belly Fat” ad last year. I never wanted to click on it- I might start getting spam emails for weight loss supplements. Ah, but my husband didn’t know any better- he was just checking his 10-K scores after a run, when he noticed the intriguing headline. He watched the whole video, and was able to fill me in on the details. Perfect! I didn’t want to sit through an advertisement for that long, but was glad he could tell me about it. Some of it was interesting. Except for the sales pitch for a product, of course…

Natural Fat LossI already knew that fat around the gut is bad for the body- it can push other organs out of their proper place, and can potentially lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, liver and heart diseases, even dementia. The propensity to gain in the abdominal area can be genetic, but hormones, bad metabolism, certain medications, stress or overeating can increase the problem.

So what was the buzz from the Belly Fat ad? They mentioned that the belly fat has to do with how we process insulin. And, since they are trying to sell a product, they don’t recommend one of the natural options: going off of carbs for 8 weeks. That can help reset our system, so we can begin to improve how we process carbohydrates.

Rather, the company suggests we just take their supplement, because it contains the otherwise-hard-to-procure ingredients that they’ve included in their mix. One ingredient, Indonesian cinnamon bark, is far superior to much of the “cinnamon” on the market (which can have a different chemical make-up, or even be adulterated with cheaper ingredients). This Ceylon cinnamon is perfect–I add it to my hot drinks. YUM! Oh, and cinnamon is a metabolic stimulator, and even helps regulate glucose levels, so of course it’s good to include in the diet.

Other helpful ingredients to fight belly fat: Ginger is great. I use it to flavor my kefir water, make tea out of it, and add it to many dishes. It fights inflammation and can help regulate blood sugar, serum cholesterol, and cortisol levels.

Low-GI foods are good too. That means they’re low on the glycemic index, and don’t raise insulin levels as much as Hi-GI foods. Hi-GI foods like potatoes and white rice can cause rapid blood sugar spikes, which soon crash, causing the release of cortisol, making blood sugar levels go up and down alot, leading to insulin resistance. Type 2 diabetes is just around the corner at that point!

Another tip: Cranberries contain organic acids that emulsify stubborn fat and help digest lymphatic waste. Whoot! (Glad I have some of this Cranberry Concentrate in the fridge.)

And we all know fish oil has omega 3 fatty acids, which help break down stored fat, right?

One more anti-belly-fat tip: Get enough calcium too. When our body is low on calcium, it produces a hormone that signals the body to store visceral fat. Not good!

So, thanks, Tom- it was good to get some more specifics about what we can do to fight belly fat. I still don’t want to buy someone else’s product (usually over-priced), but I love to know what kinds of healthy supplemental foods I can stock up on!

Weight Loss, Food Addictions, Bad Habits

A lot of us may try to reconfigure our habits after the holidays. I know I’m trying to share as much of the Christmas candy we received, before I have a daily habit started up again. Now that it’s the new year, I’m ready to re-commit to healthy habits.

Weight Loss Goals Three years ago, when I finally bought a new scale and discovered I was up to 125 lb., I took the above picture. To get the improved reading of “117.5 lb.”, I stepped on the scale just enough for it to show my target weight, then snapped the pic before the readout disappeared. Hey, who says visualization doesn’t help, right?!

Within a few months, I was able to reach that target weight. I achieved my goal, and maintained it. (My weight may even get lower on occasion. Hurrah!)

I eat a lot of super-foods, to stay well-nourished, to stave away hunger (which can sometimes be a hunger for nutrients). But here are a few more thoughts to throw into the mix too.

  1. Be ready for self-sacrifice. A lot of folks aren’t really ready to exert that much self-control. The first thirty days are hard, since part of it is breaking old habits. I asked God for help. He delivered me from seeking food to fill my “needs”.
  2. No pain, no gain. In this case- “No pain, no loss”. Doesn’t have the same ring! But think of it as an investment. By investing 30 days or so of your life into developing a new, healthy habit, you might actually lose those carb cravings indefinitely!
  3. You won’t “suffer” for life. If you train your body for a month or so, to eat the right foods (and not in ginormous quantities), you’ll probably start feeling so good that you won’t even want the same foods you used to eat. For me, it started to not feel worth it. Bad foods didn’t really satisfy my hunger. Oh, and as I gradually ate a more pure diet, foods with any kind of chemical in them started tasting down-right nasty. It wasn’t hard to pass that up.
  4. Set a good example for others. It’s been said that good behavior is somewhat “addictive”- the more you’re around someone who makes good choices, the more likely you’ll follow suit. They noticed this in a study of eating habits- it was much harder to be self-controlled around those who ate less healthy foods. So let’s encourage others by eating better ourselves- it will help them and our clothes will fit better in the process, too.

I thank God that He’s given me the fruit of self control. (The Bible says all believers receive the fruit of the spirit, including self control.) Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:27, “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” Paul didn’t want to be a hypocrite. I don’t either!

Jen’s Top Ten List To Improve Thyroid Health

Another year’s gone by, and my thyroid levels have stayed great. Optimizing my thyroid function is working. I suspect a lot of these tips are good for anyone- husband Tom and I have stayed healthy all during this flu season. It’s been awesome!

grateful_table_thyroid_top_ten_list
  1. Remove Silver Fillings: Consider getting amalgam (silver) fillings out. They contain mercury- ew! (Major endocrine disruptor).
  2. Get Enough Iron: A bit of beef liver can help us get enough iron–it’s the most-absorbed form. I take these liver pills, from grass-fed cows, or even this powdered liver powder, that I mix in with my morning green drink. It’s hard to gag down– I guzzle it as quickly as possible, and I did get used to it. (The powder is the most economical way to get this form of iron.)
  3. Mega-Greens: Spirulina and. Chlorella can supply mega-nutrients–nourishing to the thyroid gland. I have two tablespoons of these powders every morning. Or– these tablets are easier to take.
  4. Super-food Herbs: A mix of various super-food herbs, blended into a jar of protein powder or gelatin, can make it easy to get a natural, extra boost. Just mix some into the morning’s hot drink or protein shake. Ashwagandha Root Powder  is an adaptogen, so it may help the body fill in missing nutrients to improve function. Other good herbs to consider-  Eleuthero root, Astragalus root, Codonopsis root (pretty pricey, but it is an extract), Fo-Ti root (it has rave reviews as a hair tonic and gray-hair-delayer as well), Devils Club bark. More herbs/foods that can fight inflammation (which aggravates so many issues, including thyroid): Nopal Powder and Tart Cherry Powder. I usually mix one or several of these in with the batch of whey protein powder, gelatin, or whatever I’m mixing into my morning drinks at the time. I use one mix this way, instead of several individual scoops of this or that.
  5. Minerals: Some hypothyroid sufferers have noticed great improvement from taking mineral supplements. I prefer whole-food forms of nutrients (we’re less likely to get overloaded on any one mineral this way). One of my favorite natural sources for minerals is Capra Mineral Whey. Maybe it’s because it’s from goats that graze on the mineral-rich grasses of the Capra region. It seems to work. Expensive, but I love this stuff. Also, mineral-rich, hormone-balancing herbs like nettle, yellow dock, horsetail, alfalfa, and rosemary are good to add to the diet too.
  6. Chromium: This is an important mineral to aid thyroid function, but it takes some effort to find great sources. A few ideas: Grape juice (and red wine), and brewer’s yeast are just a few of the many whole foods that do contain some chromium.
  7. Zinc & Selenium: Zinc can be added to the diet by eating beef, lamb, pumpkin and/or sesame seeds. And it only takes about two Brazil nuts daily to get enough selenium.
  8. Cod Liver Oil: Cod Liver Oil can help balance our Omega 3/6 ratio- another plus. Especially if you’re like me- I don’t always eat weekly rations of wild-caught salmon. The capsules are handy.
  9. Pure Water: A “Berkey Water Filter” (or other filter designed to remove fluoride and chlorine) is a good investment. Fluoride and chlorine can potentially disrupt thyroid health. Plus, the water tastes great.
  10. Natural Thyroid Gland Supplement: I’ve been to the doctor pretty irregularly now, since I’m feeling so healthy. I got my thyroid levels checked anyway, fairly recently, and they were fine. The doctor preferred that I would continue with a prescription thyroid, but I’ve been successfully using an OTC thyroid supplement (“Thyro-Gold“) instead. I’ve been using it for three years and have never felt healthier. Getting older, but getting better too.

There you have it- my top ten. It’s working for me–I love it that more people have told me I look younger now than I did ten years ago when I didn’t know I was hypothyroid. AND, I feel younger. Hurrah!