Friday, August 29, 2014

Fermentation Means Probiotics! {Fermented carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, cabbage..}

Modern fermentation is basically a controlled rotting of various veggies. You've probably eaten pickles or sauerkraut before, but of they came from a jar off a store shelf, they weren't really "pickled" or fermented - they were probably simply sitting in a vinegar and salt solution for who-knows-how-long before you came around to eat them.

You really want your fermented foods to be alive. You want the presence of beneficial bacteria. These bacteria begin to break down your food, feeding off the carbohydrates and sugars to multiply. You benefit from them in many ways.

Fermentation improves the digestibility of foods. It helps produce the vitamin K2. The little buggers that thrive in fermenting conditions help out our guts and immune systems. It's all-around good news and tasty to boot!

As for me, I'd only ever made pickles a couple times, though I regularly made fermented carrot sticks. One day though, as I was cutting up a watermelon, I thought about pickled watermelon rind.

I fell upon The Domestic Man's recipe. And I realized that his method for pickled watermelon rind was pretty darn similar to my method for pickled carrots. I looked up a few other veggies - and you know what? All similar.

So, basically, here's the method I use to make my carrots, but I've also done many other veggies as well. When I make cabbage rolls, I save the thick stems and pickle them. I cut up my Pépé's giant zucchini and make pickled zucchini sticks. I make regular old pickles. I've even done cabbage before, though you don't need to add water as cabbage releases a lot of its own {you just have to salt it very well and wait}.

So, to start, add some spices to a jar. I always use garlic, and sometimes that's all I use. I've added fresh thyme here because it's wonderful with carrots. I also love using these sorts of jars because extra gas can ease its way out of the jar, all while keeping a closed seal. No exploding jars, perfect ferment every time.


Then, chop up your carrots {or whatever veggie you're using}. I like to make sticks because I can pack them in tightly and not have any floaters - that way everything stays submerged. You can cut them anyway you like though, just don't ferment for too long or you'll end up with mold on top {I'm speaking from experience - I avoid floaters now}.


Now you need to dissolve some salt into some warm water. I use about 1 tbsp of salt for a large jar, but you can experiment with your favorite level of salt. Just pour it over, leaving a bit of space at the top of the jar for gases.


The you place the jar in a coolish, darkish place for 3-15 days. Once you open the jar, you should refrigerate it. This will slow the fermentation progress, but won't kill off the healthy bacteria.

Remember though - this is a condiment, not a meal. Eating too much at once could cause gas, bloating, etc. Use your better judgement and start out slowly, eating a little bit each day for best results.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Rabbit & Plum Stew {AIP, Whole30, Paleo}

Tuesday and Thursday evenings are crossfit evenings for the hubster and I and we don't get home before 9 o'clock. Therefore, I like to cook a meal Tuesday afternoon that will still be yummy when I reheat it Tuesday and Thursday evenings. This is one such meal.



Now, I used to think I didn't like rabbit. The hubster really likes this meat though, so I made the effort of buying and preparing it one day... and I discovered I loved it! Turns out, basic, oven baked rabbit isn't for me. But put that hopper in a sauce and let it simmer? Oh yeah. That's what I like.

The first time I made this recipe, I used prunes, which are dried plums. This resulted in a sweet sauce, which the hubster preferred. This week though, I used fresh plums and the resulting sauce was savory with a delightful fruit taste, which I preferred. Feel free to use whichever sort you have on hand - or the sort that will give you the taste you are looking for.

This also happens to be a traditional Flemish dish, coming from the northern part of Belgium, though I have chose not to include the traditional wine in the sauce.

This recipe makes about enough for two people for two meals. I served it with my Roasted Rhubarb & Sweet Potatoes {roasted potatoes and onions for him} and a green salad.

Rabbit & Plum Stew

Ingredients:

  • 1 rabbit, cut into 6-8 pieces
  • Fat of choice
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of bone broth
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 8 plums or prunes, pitted
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 juniper berries
  • 1 clove
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat fat in your cooking pot and brown the pieces of rabbit on all sides, transferring them to a plate when done.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the onion in half, then thinly slice the halves. Add to the pot once the rabbit is removed, allowing the onion to brown.
  3. Mince and add the garlic, string for about 30 seconds.
  4. Add the bone broth and the plums and bring to a boil. 
  5. Add rabbit pieces and seasonings, then cover, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes, or until cooked through.

Mushroom & Spinach Stuffed Patty Pan Squash {AIP, Whole30, Paleo}

My sweet cousin Manon recently gifted me a few of her mom's garden-fresh squashes... and one of them was a patty pan squash! It was so cute and scalloped and white and everything! I just knew it needed to be stuffed.



I decided to stuff that cutie with ground beef, spinach and mushrooms. I taste-tested the raw meat, like I always do, to make sure it was spiced enough - and I almost ate it all just like that! It was good!

I put the little guy into my oven... and pulled it out, perfectly browned, and served it to a happy hubster! It's very simple to throw together, yet very impressive to serve to others.

Feel free to customize it as well, swapping your favorite greens for the spinach, such as kale, or your favorite veggie for the mushrooms, such as chopped carrots. And don't forget - you can eat the rind! Don't waste any of that yummy squash!

Mushroom & Spinach Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 small to medium patty pan squash
  • 500 g ground beef
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp coarse salt (use less if the salt is finely ground)
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 5 button mushrooms, diced
  • 1-2 handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
Method:

  1. Cut off the top of the squash and hollow out the seeds. 
  2. Mix together the rest of the ingredients and stuff inside the squash.
  3. Bake for 45-60 minutes at 180°C {350°F} or until the meat is no longer pink in the center.
  4. Slice and serve hot.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Read the labels! {Tortilla Wraps}


The hubster and I ate tacos last week. We often eat "tacos", but we usually serve them nacho style on a bed of chips {corn chips for him, plantain chips for me}. This time though, he wanted tortillas for the "real" taco experience.

So, we did our grocery shopping for the week - and he picked out his tortillas. They sat on our shelf all week, then it was finally Friday and we got to eating our tacos! 

I had my usual taco salad with a side of plantain chips... and he threw together his first real taco in I don't know how long. He ate the first one, then got the urge to look at the back of the tortilla package. He said, "Wow. I should have looked at that before buying them..." He made a second taco though, and ate it as I finished my salad.

Then he took out The Book. This book isn't even ours {I think the hubster borrowed it from a co-worker} but I highly suggest that everyone buy a copy {or borrow a copy long-term, like we seem to be doing}. Here's the website to learn more.


This book lists all European food additives, explains potential consequences and uses a color code {green, orange, red} to classify them according to their danger level {safe, harmful, dangerous}. 

Anyway, back to those tortilla wraps... Here is a picture of the ingredients list, the one the hubster didn't read before throwing into the cart {pro tip: always read the ingredients list, or better yet, only buy food that doesn't have an ingredients list because it's an ingredient itself}:


Alright, now, as I was saying with the hubster, they could have stopped at the first three ingredients and the product would have been cleanish. Not paleo, but it would have been made from simple ingredients. "Whole wheat" would have made it clean, but I digress...

The truth is, they didn't stop at three ingredients. They didn't even stop at six ingredients. There are FOURTEEN ingredients in these tortilla wraps! Huh?! Let's go through them one by one, shall we? {Note: Any additive with a capital letter "E" in front of it means it has been accepted by Europe and is allowed in European-grade food products.}

  • Wheat flour: if you really need explaining on why this is bad for you, check out this article by Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple.
  • Water: Okay, this one is good for you :)
  • Palm oil: This one can be good for you as well - though there is no way of knowing if it's sustainably harvested or not.
  • E422: Glycerol. Can be transgenetic. Can cause nausea, migraines and high blood pressure. To be avoided by pregnant and nursing women.
  • E466: Microcrystalline cellulose. Cotton by-product {part of the waste that results when treating cotton}. Cancer-causing.
  • E412: Guar Gum. Can cause allergies, nausea, flatulence, abdominal cramps, eczema, poor absorption of vitamins and minerals.
  • E500: Sodium Carbonate. A leavening powder.
  • E450: Diphosphate. Synthesized from phosphate salts. Can cause hyperactivity, digestive troubles and poor absorption of vitamins and minerals. Rats have shown reductions in fertility, life expectancy and size.
  • Salt: Good for you.
  • E296: Malic acid DL or L. DL: Natural or chemical, can cause digestive troubles in infants and children. L: a GMO authorized in food for children and infants, can cause digestive troubles in infants and children.
  • E471: Mono and diglycerides of fatty acids. Often mixes of chemical products, can also be transgenetic. Can prevent proper growth, can prevent absorption of essential fatty acids, can increase liver and kidney size, can reduce uterus and testicle size.
  • Dextrose: Any added sugars are a bad idea.
  • E282: Calcium propionate. Chemically produced. Can cause digestive problems and migraines. Is also used to treat "athletes foot".
  • E202: Potassium sorbate. Chemically produced. Can provoke birth defects. Can also cause asthma, hives, rhinitus and digestive troubles.
Is that enough for you to put down the tortilla wraps? It certainly was enough for the hubster. He threw out the four other tortillas, preferring to eat the leftover taco fixings in a taco salad when we finished them off last night.

And when we went grocery shopping for this week, we decided to look at the ingredients list of the other tortillas available in our grocery store... the others weren't much better! Worse, it became obvious there aren't many regulations for those lists. One package had a very long list of ingredients, but written out in words. Next to this package full of numbers, the words look healthier - but they really aren't! Remember: if you can't pronounce it or buy it in a whole-foods form, IT'S NOT FOOD!

Re-reading this book has also prompted us to stop eating foods with nitrates and nitrites. This means no more canned corned beef, and no more bacon. Here's what the book has to say about added nitrates and nitrites:

  • E249 Potassium nitrite: Chemical. Can prevent the transportation of oxygen in our blood. Interacts with other additives and thereby becomes cancer causing. Can also cause shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches. 
  • E250 Sodium nitrite: Chemical. Can prevent the transportation of oxygen in our blood. Interacts with other additives and thereby becomes cancer causing. Can also cause shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches. Can cause hyperactivity, asthma, insomnia, low blood pressure, cancer.
  • E251 Potassium nitrate: Chemical. Also used to make fertilizer. Can prevent the transportation of oxygen in our blood. Interacts with other additives and thereby becomes cancer causing. Can also cause shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches. Can cause hyperactivity, asthma, insomnia, low blood pressure, cancer.
  • E252 Sodium nitrate: Chemical but may also be derived from animal carcasses. Also used to make fertilizer, gun powder and other explosives. Can prevent the transportation of oxygen in our blood. Interacts with other additives and thereby becomes cancer causing. Can also cause shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches. Can cause hyperactivity, asthma, insomnia, low blood pressure, cancer.
We have both decided that eating the foods that contain these additives just isn't worth it. What food contain these additives?

Delicatessen {deli meats}
Salaison {salted meats}
Foie gras
Cured bacon

Even organic meats of these sorts can contain these additives! We will be extra vigilant when reading our food labels for now on.

Do you read food labels? Are there any exceptions you make when buying certain products?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pépé does it better. {Shredded Beet Salad}


I am a HUGE fan of mustard, and put it on basically everything. I've even eaten it by the spoonful. I'm pretty much gaga over mustard. So when my cousin Manon asked for advice of how to eat her beets, I quickly recommended my Bister Beet Salad, confident that she would love it just as much as I did!


Well, she tried it and had this to say: 

Bister Beet Salad that I really liked!
But Meg, I have to say I like Pépé's better :)

Well... if Pépé's was better, it had to be good! I would have to ask Pépé how he made his...

Shortly after this, I decided to do an AIP Whole30. This meant no mustard {mustard is made from ground mustard seeds, seeds being off-limits for AIP}. But, Bister L'Impériale is a type of mustard! This took my want to try Pépé's beets to need to try Pépé's beets.

Luckily I invited myself was invited over for lunch that week - and Pépé prepared freshly harvested beets!

Verdict? They are good. Real good. Possibly even better than my Bister Beets, but I'll let you be the judge.


Shredded Beet Salad

Ingredients:
  • 2 small, young beets, peeled and shredded
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
Method:
  1. Combine beets, onions, oil and vinegar, tossing to mix.
  2. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  3. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Savory Rhubarb Pie {AIP, Whole30, Paleo}

Since the hubster and I have started going to crossfit three times a week, and two of those times are during our usual dinner time, I've needed to up the ante a bit with food prep and meal planning - namely, planning a meal I can cook Tuesday afternoon and easily reheat Tuesday and Thursday evenings after our WOD.

An easy meal idea I came up with was Sheppard's Pie, and the hubster was happy with my choice. I am currently going through an AIP reintroduction period though, and I don't want to push things too far with tomatoes, just in case {so far, I can handle them in small doses, but if an actual sauce is too much, I don't want to find out when that's all I have ready to eat}.

I decided to make two separate dishes then, the hubster's dish using white potatoes and tomatoes, and my dish using sweet potatoes... and rhubarb.

I had originally planned on making a "no-mato" sauce of some kind, but then my eyes fell upon my pile of garden fresh rhubarb and I thought back to my yummy side dish - Roasted Rhubarb & Sweet Potatoes. The rhubarb in that dish cooks down into a delicious sauce, coating the sweet potatoes in a tangy layer of goodness. I figured they'd make a nice replacement sauce in my Sheppard's Pie.



I was right.

No, this is not hubster approved. He tasted it without me even asking him to, but he just shook his head and said, "I really don't like rhubarb." I guess that means that if you don't like rhubarb, don't make this dish. But if you are looking for a savory rhubarb dish, and one that is also AIP and Whole30 compliant, then go for it.

I know I'm truly looking forward to Thursday evening, just so I can eat the rest of it!

Savory Rhubarb Pie

Ingredients:
  • 300 grams ground beef
  • 2 stems of rhubarb
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup bone broth (can also use water)
  • 2-4 sweet potatoes (about 400 grams)
Method:
  1. Cook sweet potatoes using your favorite method. I poked holes in them and microwaved mine for about 7 minutes. Set them aside to cool.
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the ground beef and break it up a bit with a spatula.
  3. Meanwhile, slice the rhubarb into thin slices, dice the onion and mince the garlic. Add to the meat and stir to combine, breaking up the meat as you go.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir occasionally as it cooks.
  5. When the meat is cooked through, add the bone broth, scraping the browned bits up from the bottom. Remove pan from heat and spread the meat mixture in the bottom of an oven-safe dish.
  6. Peel the cooled sweet potatoes and mash them. Season with salt and pepper to taste and spread over the top of the meat mixture, making little peaks on the top with a fork.
  7. Bake at 200°C (400°F) for about 30 minutes, or until the tops of the peaks begin to brown and the meat mixture begins to bubble.
  8. Serve hot. Reheats wonderfully.

AIP Whole30 Check-In {reintroductions}

Well, as I write this, it's Day 31 of my Whole30 - but I only made it to Day 28 of AIP. You see, I hadn't really told anyone I was doing AIP {don't make that mistake if you intend on respecting your engagement} and so when my mother-in-law told me what we were having for dinner to celebrate my brother-in-law's birthday, I really didn't have it in me to tell her I couldn't eat it {she was stressed enough with party planning as it was}. I just decided that I would begin my reintroductions that day instead of waiting for today, Day 31. 

I have listed my intended reintroduction order below, though that may change depending on other social engagements I may encounter. I will also be updating this post each time I reintroduce a new food.



Tomatoes {+ Eggplant}

Day 28, I had one small, organic, garden fresh, raw tomato at lunch with no noticed symptoms. Later than day, I had regular store-bought, non-organic cooked tomatoes and eggplant, once again with no noticed symptoms.

Day 29, I abstained from eating tomatoes and didn't notice any changes.

Day 30, I had half a large, store bought tomato, raw, at lunch. No symptoms were noticed all day.

Verdict: Tomatoes are safe!

Mustard

Day 28, without realizing it, I also ate mustard {in the vinaigrette}. As noted above, I did not react to anything I ate that day.

Day 34, I knowingly had mustard again {in a vinaigrette} and experienced no symptoms.


Verdict: Mustard is safe!



Whole Eggs

Day 31, I had one over-easy egg {conventional store quality} with the yolk cooked fully for breakfast. I noticed a bit of flatulence soon after my meal, and it progressively got worse throughout the morning. Weirdly, it got progressively better after lunch - which had raw tomato. About mid-afternoon, I had a rather disagreeable bowel movement {I'll spare you the details}. 

Day 32, I returned to full AIP {no eggs or tomatoes} to allow my system to go back to functioning normally.

Day 33, I had one over-easy egg {conventional store quality} with the yolk cooked fully for breakfast. I thought things were going well... until they most obviously weren't. To keep things short and sweet, I had a bad bathroom trip and everything has been smelly since.

A few days after that, I had half a hard boiled egg... same nasty reaction.

Verdict: 
Conventional, store bought, whole eggs aren't safe!


Egg yolk

Day 34, I returned to full AIP. I had no reactions.

Day 35, I ate two scrambled egg yolks {I rinsed them off, removing as much of the white as I could}. I didn't experience any issues. I also ate mayo later that day {raw yolk} with no issues.


Verdict: Egg yolks are safe!




Paprika & Nightshade-based Spices

Day 35, I went out to eat and decided to take the plunge and order my favorite dish - which also happens to be smothered in paprika. Plus I doused it with tons of hot sauce {ingredients list: chili peppers, bell peppers}. I had no reaction to the meal. I will probably eat these sparingly, but for now...

Verdict: Nightshades are safe!



Egg White

Day 36, the hubster convinced me to try egg whites... so I whipped up some meringue and ate two raw egg whites... and had no reaction whatsoever. I still need to try them cooked alone...


Coconut



I made simple fruit bars using 3 tablespoons of coconut flour total. The first day I had just a small sampling of the treat, with no reaction.

The day after that, I ate 1/3 of the remaining bar. No reaction.

The next day, I ate another third of the bar plus about 1/2 a cup of homemade coconut milk.


Ghee 


Seed-based Spices


Coffee 


Tapioca


Cocoa

Other Seeds


Nuts


Eggplant & Sweet Peppers