karen's blog


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Can't sleep⇔stress: the age-old "chicken and egg" story.

Two clients this last week told me they had trouble sleeping. There are nights when I too have less-than-stellar "rest."  And when that happens? It's frustrating, can lead to fatigue, affects our quality of life - and relationships.
 
 
Sleep is anything but a luxury:  it's vital for our immune system, supports growth and healing, helps to regulate our blood sugar levels, feeds our brain function - and the beat goes on...
 
Is this problem of stress-anxiety a greater issue in this generation than those previous? If you watched last week's Age of Anxiety on CBC's Doc Zone it appears  so. Pharmaceutical prescriptions for anxiety (and its bedfellow, sleeplessness) are at unprecedented proportions. Why are we so stressed that sleep evades us?? The reasons are myriad: a topic reserved for another post.
 
Until then, rather than burying our head under the pillow and hoping we'll nap a few hours before the alarm, let's look at some sleep enhancers.
 

Action plan:

-- engage in relaxing activity before bedtime. Reading may help - provided it isn't study material for tomorrow's work or school, a thriller novel or related to a stimulating project. Handwork, like cross-stitch or knitting, can help mellow your mind too. (From experience, try to set it down before you're deaing with a challenging new pattern or recovering dropped stitches.)
 
-- this may seem obvious, but eliminate caffeine and other stimulants from your diet - at least after noon.  Some people may swear by "the glass of red before bed" to ease you off to sleep. Perhaps so, although the effects of too much alcohol may cause insomnia later in the night - plus the stress it adds to your liver.
 
-- Bach Flower Remedies are homeopathicaly prepared flower extracts - the label on the Rescue Remedy bottle offers "comfort and reassurance to help you cope in balancing life's ups and downs." Recommended dosage: a few drops when under stress or tension. 
 
-- a couple supplements that may help before bed: melatonin, the hormone that keeps our body in sync with the seasonal balance between day and night, light and dark; or inositol (one of the B vitamins) that has a mild anti-anxiety effect.
 
-- an Epsom salts bath and a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea can put you in a mellow mood for sleep. 
 
 
-- mineral deficiencies, e.g. magnesium, potassium and calcium, can sometimes trigger insomnia. Foods like sesame seeds, pecans and bananas contain these minerals and support the nervous system.
 
 
-- some sources may not agree but a protein snack before bed might be just what you need: yogurt (with or without fruit), nuts, or a piece of cheese on a healthy cracker (if you're okay with dairy). This may save you from waking up later to wander to the kitchen for that banana and yogurt - I've tried that too, with positive results - but why go through the disruption if you don't have to?!
 
-- exercise during the day - get your heart rate up, sweat a little, a lot is even better. Make your body work - get tired out. This should help your body be happy to crawl into bed and zonk out. A caution though, about exercising too late in the evening. Allow enough time to mover from overdrive to low gear. (From experience: adrenaline after a 9:00-10:00 p.m. swimming class was a recipe for a (too) late bedtime.)
 
-- having your bedroom cool and dark contributes to a better sleep - some people sleep better with a "white noise", e.g. a fan whirring in the room. Maybe it'll work for you.
 
-- go to bed before you're overtired, e.g. if at 10:00 p.m. you're feeling ready to go to sleep, then time to turn out the light. Reading a book or watching television for another hour may tip you over the edge into not being able to fall asleep.
 
-- when you wake up in the night, concentrate on belly breathing  - breathing in slowly through your nose, then slowly releasing the air from your belly through partially open lips. This is a good habit to develop during your waking hours - it reduces tension in your neck and shoulders.
 
-- have a glass of water on your bedside table in case you wake up thirsty
 
-- meditation, prayer and other practices that nurture our spiritual health are vital for help with stress. (From experience: prayer has more power than counting sheep.) 
 
-- a short nap in the day helps for catch-up. My Mom (God rest her soul) did this only occasionally - probably the reason why my Dad snapped the photo below! 
 
 
-- a thankful attitude can contribute positively to our stress-sleep conundrum. Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection poses the theory we go to sleep burdened by thoughts of what we didn't get, or didn't get done that day and wake up to the "reverie" of lack...."hungry for more joy....we're malnourished (my emphasis, not hers) from a lack of gratitude." I'm not suggesting we be naive about nutritious and lifestyle changes to ensure we get our sleep. But I am suggesting we "live grateful". For the blessings we experience, for the sufficiency we have to choose the way how we think - and deal - with our circumstances.
 

Fast-track Bedtime Summary:

-- have a small snack
 
-- prepare restful bedroom conditions
 
-- have a warm bath, read a while, breathe deeply
 
-- journal your thanksgivings before turning out the light
 
 
Good night and sleep well, my friend.
 
 
 

gluten free workshop

12 Mar 2012
Posted by karen
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Going gluten free - it's mainstream health news.

Bookshelves, magazine racks, the media, our friends and co-workers - all broadcast their opinion and understanding on the why and how to eat GF. 

This workshop will help you navigate this journey for yourself by providing nutritional information, instruction and tasty GF alternatives. 

Even if you're not planning - or needing - to follow this diet route yourself, the recipes and handouts will help you serve healthy and tasty GF dishes to your family and guests who are eating that way.

If you're skeptical that {healthy, tasty and easy=gluten free}  here's one of  several recipes we'll be tasting.

Fudgy Black Bean Brownies - gluten-free

1 ounce dark chocolate (70% cocoa or greater)

1 1/2 cups soft-cooked black beans, rinsed and drained

3 eggs

2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or substitute with olive oil)

1/4 heaped cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 tsp. GF baking powder

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract (or substitute almond extract)

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/4 - 1/2 cup maple syrup or raw organic honey

1/2 cup unsalted walnuts, chopped (optional)

How to:

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease or mist 8 or 9-inch square baking dish.

Melt dark chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat with 1 Tbsp. water mixed in. Combine melted chocolate, beans, eggs, oil, cocoa powder, baking powder, flavoring, applesauce and sweetener in a food processor (or powerful blender); process well until smooth. Stir in walnuts and pour mixture into prepared baking dish. 

Opt: sprinkle a few more chopped walnuts on the top.

Bake in preheated oven until the top is dry and the edges start to pull away from the sides, about 35 minutes.

recipe source: Clean Eating Magazine

 

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Next to my passion about food (cooking, eating, working), I love fitness, a.k.a. cardio stuff: running, cycling, hiking, rowing. This love affair supports one another: they're joined at the hip. For my goals and abilities it's a compatible marriage - takes work but worth the effort.

 
Boosting that regime to endurance training for an ironman distance triathlon - is - another - story. 
 
It's NOT MY STORY. I hate competitive swimming, the training's too all-consuming, and I'm not that crazy.   
 
This is Tammy Slauenwhite's story.
 
http://www.realfoodmatters.ca/sites/realfoodmatters.ca/files/L1010149.JPG
 
 
I met Tammy almost five years ago - the two of us were thrashing our way around the buoys in Fancy Lake - surrounded by other triathletes, some absolutely flying doing the front crawl.  
 
We were both new comers to the Bridgewater Triathlon Club. Tammy was making the move to add to her personal trainer portfolio and I had just made a move across the country and wanted to meet active people.
 
Both of us met our objectives.
 
Fast track to the present. With a log book bulging with short races, several half-marathons, and two half-ironman distance races, Tammy is gunning for the big one.
 

What motivated her to commit to this??!!

- an ironman distance triathlon is on her bucket list
 
- the first ever EPIC Dartmouth is scheduled for the 2012 Maritime race roster - in Halifax, an hour-plus from Tammy's home
 
- a charity route was a registration option (fund-raising for $1200  in lieu of  paying $395). Her charity of choice was PRO Kids, an organization that matches youth and children in need with community-based recreational activities. Great fit.
 

Why aren't we all signing up??!!

 
Because last week alone was an 18-hour training week. (With still four months until race day, I'd be afraid to check what's coming down the pike in the training program.)
 
To see how that looks in the trenches, check out  her facebook page: TamFit (Tammy Slauenwhite) is taking on EPIC Dartmouth for PRO kids, which will also provide information re: donating to PRO kids.
 

I wanted to know what a typical food-day looks like. From hitting the floor to hitting the sack.

- protein and fruit shake
- eggs with greens and salsa or oatmeal
- fruit and nuts
- salad greens - with some of these: veggies, unsalted nuts, seeds, chicken or beef or beans
- yogurt and berries
- veggies and protein (chicken, beef, fish, eggs)
- nuts, yogurt or hot milk
 
- other "whenever" - raw veggies, fruit, nuts, dates, sometimes home made peanut butter cookies.
- post-workout favourites - dates, nuts, thick protein shakes with banana, berries, yogurt, milk 
- on the bike and the run - water, oranges (and oj), dates, bananas, homemade gel
 
Here's the gel recipe, previously posted. Recipe tweak: finely chop the dates and soak for an hour before making for smoother blending.
 
 
 
The program:  eating every 2-3 hours. "I allow my body to tell me. I don't like to go hungry and I don't like to get bloated so I tend to eat really small amounts at a time." 
 
There's an obvious absence of grains, and Tammy's response to that: "since I cut back on wheat and grains I find my body less bloated and to fill up that space I find I eat more fruits and vegetables which I REALLY need - they have vitamins and minerals I need." 
 
Looks like clean eating to me.  And to date, this is what works for her. Tammy admits that consuming enough veggies and fruits is a challenge. Preparation, shopping (she likes to go organic if available) - along with the protein foods, the total food bill adds up.  Not to mention that she has a teen-age son who also has a healthy appetite - sometimes for different food than what's on her plate which adds time in the kitchen.
 
Tackling an event like this is close to a full-time job commitment. To show support - besides get in a good long run, it's been great fun logging the miles with Tammy and friends. Her program says long runs are slow - yes! - but the time flies as we chat about food, fitness, family and more.
 

I admire Tammy's drive (and her fitness level) to go for such an ambitious dream. The inspiration she wants to share?

"Women my age [almost 40] can do the things they aspire to. It's not too late! Go for it."

Her wish for race day:

- not to be injured

- to be fueled properly (and stay that way) so she's not feeling hungry

- to have energy to be upright and smiling at the finish line

I wish you the best of days, Tammy. 

Speaking of hunger, it's time to fuel up myself after today's 17km  - a beautiful "rave run" by the Atlantic. 

I've made a huge salad of greens, carrot strips, green onions, avocado, cauliflower florets, nuts, toasted pumpkin and sunflower seeds and popped amaranth. The dressing - Creamy Tofu with Dill - is delicious, nutritious and reminds me of my grand-daughter, Brienne, who made it for many of our salads last summer. Do give this a try.

Creamy Tofu with Dill Dressing

1 1/2 cups soft or silken tofu

1 shallot, finely chopped

6 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

4 tsp. dried dill

1/2 tsp. Herbamare

1/4 tsp. black pepper

2 tsp. maple syrup

Mix everything in a blender (I used a Magic Bullet) until smooth and creamy. Makes about 2 cups - delicious on salads or as a dip for veggies.

Mmmmm goodness.

 

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I routinely follow about half a dozen blogs, others I check out occasionally, and the surprises are those discovered through curiosity or Web-wandering rabbit trails.

One of my wanderings landed me at the recipe for chunky monkey muffins - and that trail led to two quick-track baking sessions.

First time around I forgot to add the almond butter. Voila! Fudge brownies that had to be eaten with a fork.

Better texture and improved flavour the second time - using all the ingredients.

My recipe tweaks: used organic coconut oil, the chocolate option, toasted the nuts before adding them to the top. Needed about 20 minutes to bake.

Pretty yummy, and fast if you get it in one try!

Visit the rest of this motley mix for busy people - living healthy, living active.

 
My daughter home-schools her three (beautiful, intelligent) children, writes, lives with her adventuresome husband - and cooks delicious, healthy food. She's fine-tuned how to come up with the goods but spend less time in the kitchen. Her blog overall is targeted to young creative Moms but this post is brimming with practical time-saving tips, menu ideas and applies to busy cooks in any stage of life.
 
The "domestic divas" offer a wealth of wisdom about cultured foods - and a whack of other topics. This instant breakfast porridge recipe is a zinger for athletes, camping, packing in lunches, traveling - and of course, breakfast too. 
 
Have you recently walked by (or to) the coolers stocked with sports drinks? Their brilliant colours have to be be the first red flag they can't be all that good for you. An RHN colleague (and author) has recipes to make your own - they might even give you the leading edge you're looking for! 
 
If you are a walker, runner, weight lifter, cyclist, swimmer, hiker: a window washer, gardener, painter, carpenter, secretary: or anyone who moves muscles --self-massage techniques  could well lengthen the time span between professional tune-ups. (This isn't a family blog promo, but my son-in-law's site is worth checking out.)
 
 
If you follow some favourite nutrition-fitness blogs, do tell!
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Last week I spent Valentine's Day with my sister who lives in Alberta. For the record, we both have husbands who are our "true loves" but infortunately neither of them were there. In reality, her husband was as close as the other side of town, in the hospital (poor guy - the good news, he's since been discharged) - and my husband was at our home on the other side of the country. 

 
Us two girls needed a pick-me-up.
 
True to our personalities, my sister went out and bought us a rose (you can see a bit of it in the photo above) - I got busy in her kitchen. 
 

I was bent on making us a treat which didn't mean tossing aside good nutrition.

 
I found in the basement a dust-covered box containing a Donvier ice cream maker.
 
In the freezer were some frozen strawberries from last summer's pickings.
 
In the cupboard was a Magic Bullet blender, coconut milk, honey and vanilla extract (from Jamaica, no less!).
 
In my memory was a simple recipe I've often made from Whole Food Nutrition.
 
 

The recipe: strawberry-coconut ice "cream" without dairy and refined sugar.

 
I made a small batch as her Bullet wasn't a full-size blender (and really how much treat did the two of us need?!) but doubling the amount would have fit fine into the ice cream maker.
 
-- 1 can full fat coconut milk (check the label to ensure there's no added sugar)
 
-- 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (other fruits like blueberries are equally as yummy)
 
-- 2-3 Tbsp. honey (could substitute with agave nectar or maple syrup)
 
-- 1-2 tsp. vanilla (I coaxed about 1 1/2 tsp out of the Jamaican bottle)
 
Place ingredients into blender and blend until smooth and creamy. To take good care of my sister's Bullet I stopped and started a couple times, but mixing doesn't take very long - especially if you have a stronger machine like a Vitamix. 
 
 
You can pour this immediately into the Donvier's frozen cannister but I let the blender and contents sit in the fridge and chill for about half an hour before doing so.
 
This type of ice cream maker requires turning the paddle about every minute or so - it was ready in 20-25 minutes.
 
 
Scoop it out of the cannister and into another container: let it sit in the freezer for about an hour before serving. It's okay to chill longer of course, but can get rock solid and has to sit out for quite a while before you can scoop it.
 
 
Honestly, this is the stage I could sit down and spoon up! Creamy, smooth, punched full of strawberry and coconut flavours.
 
Not as good as sharing the day with my life-long Valentine (another story - how I still have the Valentine card my hubbie gave me in elementary school!) but this hit the spot for an occasion when "....all you need is love..." wasn't quite enough :)
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Cleanse, re-junevate, re-energize - these can be the rewards when you want to:

-- allow your body to get back on track after periods of high stress or indulgent eating (been away for a vacation, on a cruise?!)

-- jump start a weight loss effort

-- prepare for a seasonal transition

-- are ready to get back on balance with a healthy life style

This workshop focuses on a food-based cleanse: an informal evening of information in the form of handouts, recipes and tasting.

There's still room - but space is limited so don't delay if you're interested. 

If you live too far away to attend, workshop material is available online.

 

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It's winter - and soup is on the menu.

Reasons why home made soup can be a winner in any season:

 

-- you know what is in it - and what isn't in it (like salt, additives, preservatives, sugar, etc.)
 
-- great way to add more veggies to your diet
 
-- perfect dish for adding chopped greens (kale, spinach, chard) -  which boost your day's intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants; fight off the flu and colds; and boost your energy 
 
-- economical – what you find in the fridge can become your “soup of the day” 
 
-- convenient – make a large enough batch to have extra to freeze for later
 
-- the protein you add (eg. beans and lentils) plus the fibre from the veggies is satisfying, can boost weight loss
 
-- increases water intake  - not drinking enough water is a deficiency that lowers metabolism, increases cravings, sends you messages that you're hungry but are most likely just thirsty
 
 
Here's the recipe for my latest favourite - I think you're going to love it too!
 

Carrot Leek  Soup

2 Tbsp olive oil
 
2 large leeks – chopped (can substitute with 1 large onion)
 
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
 
12 medium sized carrots cut into small pieces
 
7 cups water
 
lemon peel from 1 lemon – organic is best
 
2 - 3 Tbsp. light miso
 
pinch of cayenne (to taste)
 
1 – 2 tsp. dried dill or 2- 3 Tbsp fresh dill or any of your favourite herbs
 
Saute leeks (or onion) in olive oil until tender. Add water and bring to boil. Add minced garlic, carrots and lemon. Cover and simmer until carrots are tender, about 10 - 20 minutes. Remove lemon and discard. Add miso, cayenne and puree, using hand blender, blender or food processor. Add herbs and serve.
 
This is such a comforting, nutritious soup: beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin C, antioxidants, and a long list of minerals.

This past week I made two (huge) pots of soup for my Dad's 90th birthday party - still enjoying the leftovers. 

I omitted the sherry and didn't use spaghetti squash in this roasted squash soup, and left out the potatoes and peas in this one hearty and wholesome vegetable soup . Both delicious.

Do yourself a favour - get out the stock pot, fill the house with the goodness and fragrance of "Soup's on!"

BiBimBap

03 Feb 2012
Posted by karen
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Bee-bim-bap(rice).

Please join my fast-track-taste-tour through the Orient.
 
Growing up in a family of seven, eating out in a restaurant was a rare occasion - like maybe four or five times a year we had a Chinese food treat at The Seven Seas. Egg rolls, chicken balls, vegetables covered in a gelatinous sauce, chow mein noodles, dry ribs, stir-fried rice. We ordered the dishes for our "special of the day"!
 
Fast forward. My husband and I made more frequent restaurant visits and we adventured into other Orient options: Beef Noodle Satay Soup from Vietnamese Oriental Noodle House became a favourite. Later, our daughter and son-in-law introduced us to sushi and the fresh cuisine of Japan.
 
Then in 2005 for three months we were privileged to host a Korean house-guest/boarder  - who loved to cook. Shopping with Joon, stocking up for his culinary specialties, was like taking kids to the toy store. Then watching him work his magic for food presentation, and later eating his fare...it was the best of times.
 
Joon taught me how to make BiBimBap. I love this dish because it has a variety of veggies, it's not heavy - and once in a while I love a fried egg. It's a meal in a bowl that's nothing like the one-pot dishes we're used to.
 

Here's how you make it.

 
Cook a pot of rice as you normally would - in a rice cooker or on the stove. (When I was outnumbered by Joon and my husband it was white rice - now I make brown.)
 
While rice is cooking, prepare your choice of the following toppings (about 4 -6, not including the eggs). Some of the prep can be done ahead of time or round up the troops to help - guests come in handy to join in the work, and the fun.
 
-- carrots - sliced into tiny julienned strips, or grated slivers, 2 - 3 inches long
 
-- red or green cabbage - finely sliced
 
-- package of fresh bean sprouts
 
-- green onions - cut on the diagonal
 
-- tofu - cubed or sliced, lightly sauteed in mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil
 
-- fresh, or re-hydrated wild mushrooms - thinly sliced, lightly sauteed or not
 
-- English cucumber - sliced into 1/4" thick slices and lightly sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- zucchini - cut in half from top to bottom, sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil
 
-- spinach - left in fresh leaves, or lightly wilted with sea salt
 
-- thinly sliced minced beef - lightly fry in hot pan with bit of sea salt until cooked
 
 
-- eggs - cook sunnyside up (or to your preference) at the very last, just before eating.
 
 
-- kimchi - purchased from reputable source or make your own - here's how. 
 
-- soy sauce, sesame oil, hot chili sauce - or gochujang - Korean traditional hot chili paste
 

To Serve:

Scoop up a mugful of hot rice and tip it out in the middle of a wide-mouthed cereal bowl or small serving bowl. Around the perimeter of the rice, using chopsticks or a spoon, serve up  amounts of the toppings, reserving the "peak" of the rice for your egg(s). (Sorry, my photo doesn't show any rice, but it's there under all the toppings.)
 
Sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil and your choice of hot sauce.
 
Using chopsticks (or fork), stir everything together and eat up - adding extra bits of toppings and rice as desired.
 
Look for BiBimBap on the menu of your favourite Oriental restaurant. It will have its own variations -  more ideas for your own healthy BiBimBap experience.
 
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Live Long, Die Short: this pithy phrase is not original - the marketplace and world-wide web have a showcase of books and videos expressing someone's take on this message.

Here is mine.
 
The first I heard this expression was from a good friend. He had been a guest, staying with people connected with his work. The hostess was complaining about not feeling well, tired of having too much weight and too little energy, etc. etc. From his observations, all of the above were true - my friend who lives what he preaches (no doubt he had his greens and home-ground mix of oats and seeds along for his breakfast :) asked her, "do you want to live short and die long or live long and die short?"
 
She chose to move towards the latter: made healthy changes to her diet, lost weight, and a year later was training for her first marathon. At last report, this continues to be a good news story.
 
The media is telling us it won't be far in the future before there will be more Canadians 65 years and older than those 40 years and under. The condensed version of that story translates to the capability of the population's earning power, which is a hand-off to the financial support for the country's essential services. 
 
Health care being one of the primary pots: and I add, a pot that appears to have holes. Health problems require medical/hospital care - which can include Rx precriptions.
 
Another recent word on the street? Insurance coverage for some prescription drugs is going to decrease. Add that to those insurance plans where you have to pay upfront and wait. Or, like possibly the majority (this is my "statistic"), you don't have insurance beyond the basic health care as above mentioned.
 
We have a problem. I will not say, "prepare yourself, it's only going to get worse" as my viewfinder defaults to the positive angle.
 
But it looks like "the force is against us" - what can we do? 
 
I am not suggesting we can add to "the number of our days" - I believe God alone is privy to that information - however, I do think our nutrition and lifestyle choices contribute to the quality of those days.
 

Here's a "mini-mum" version to "the long and the short" in the right places.

 

Nutrition:

-- eat real, whole food: not the processed stuff - weigh in big-time on vegetables and fruits
-- reduce white: sugar, flour, rice - eliminate hydrogenated oils
 
 

Exercise:

-- elevate our heart rate so we sweat, at least 3-4x/week
-- do some physical activity everyday
 

Lifestyle:

-- do meaningful work (this doesn't always have to be about money)
-- build and nurture relationships with other people
 

Mental health:

-- practice an attitude of thankfulness
-- include soul-care in daily schedule
 
 
Six years ago, January 11th, my Mother died - following six months of being unwell due to an "unknown cause" and a brief period of hospitalization. She was two months away from her 80th birthday. At the time I believed, "Mom would have hated to lay in bed, sickly for endless weeks and months" but yet I struggled with accepting that she had gone so fast.
 
Now I finally get it. Mom is my personal, wonderful, story of "Live Long, Die Short". 
 
 
Preach it: do it. The life you live depends on it.
  
 
 
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Microscopic bacteria and fungi - dish me up another serving, please.

 

Before you stop reading - never to return - I ask you to hang in with me here.
 

The microorganisms I'm referrring to protect us:

-- by competing with - and conquering - potentially dangerous organisms
-- they teach the immune system how to function when it's exposed to the diversity of unsavoury microorganisms, e.g. those found in soil and untreated water 
 
And - those living cultures have transforming power to create flavorful, nutritious fermented foods. 
 
 

Following are some of the myriad health benefits of fermentation:

-- preserves food - history has is that sauerkraut lasted for 27 months on Captain James Cook's second exploration, preventing his crew members from developing the dreaded vitamin-C deficiency disease we know as scurvy
 
-- breaks nutrients down into more easily digestible forms
 
-- increases the nutritional value of certain foods, e.g. sauerkraut has significantly higher vitamin C levels than unfermented cabbage
 
-- provide lactic acid, food for the good bacteria 
 
-- creates new nutrients - e.g. B vitamins like folic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin and biotin
 
-- can function as antioxidants, those scavengers snatching up free radicals (unstable molecules that can wreak cellulor damage, promoting disease)
 
-- removes toxins from foods, e.g. fermenting grains by soaking them before cooking neutralizes phytic acid, a compound that can block absorption of minerals
 
-- ancient Chinese medicine states that the unique flavour of cultured foods has a balancing effect that helps cancel out cravings for sugar - and neutralizes/helps assimilate sugar if/when it is eaten with a fermented food
 
 

Be watchful of commercially fermented foods:

-- yogurt: pasteurization after the culturing process kills the bacteria so you want to purchase yogurt that states on the label "contains live cultures". Or another way to be certain is to make your own. I have step-by-step-instructions for you.
 
***Another bonus of making your own yogurt is your opportunity to make your own yogurt cheese, a healthier version of sour cream. It's a simple process of lining a small strainer or colander with a couple layers of cheesecloth and carefully scooping yogurt into it. Let it drain: the liquid left is whey, which can be substituted for water in baking or cooking. My sources tell me this whey can be used as a starter for kick-starting other foods to ferment - some day I'll try it but as yet have no experience to report.
 
-- store bought sauerkraut is often heat-processed and canned for longer shelf life.  This too I recommend that you make your own. Here's how.
 
 
Another favourite fermented food in our house is kimchi. I have tried several recipes: the following is my present go-to. I love this condiment as a a spicy topping on my rice,  spooned over salad, snuggled next to poached eggs, hidden in a veggie wrap......
 

Kimchi (Korean Sauerkraut)

 
1 large head napa cabbage – (this type of cabbage will give the traditional look and taste of kimchi)
1 large bunch of green onions, chopped
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
5 or 6 cloves minced garlic (for my taste, more is better, but this is a personal choice)
2 – 3 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 – 1 tsp. dried chili flakes
2 Tbsp. sea salt – to taste
 
(other vegetable options to add: finely sliced daikon or other radishes, turnips)
 
Cut each napa cabbage leaf if half lengthwise and cut into 1-inch (bite-sized) pieces.
 
Chop the green onions using both white and green parts. 
 
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl.
 
Massage the veggies with your hands until juices are released.
 
Pack the kimchi into quart jars, making sure that there is some liquid above the vegetables, and leave a 1-inch of air space on top. Put lids on the jars, without turning them too tight.
 
Let the jars sit out on the counter at room temp for 3 – 10 days. I let mine sit out for about a week. When the veggies rise to the top in the jar be sure to push down with a spoon to keep them covered by the brine.
 
Put into the fridge for storage.
 
(Note: It's the benefit of the fermentation that makes this such a healthy condiment. Amounts of garlic, ginger and chili flakes is totally dependent on how spicy you like your food. This recipe is a variation of one from the Domestic Diva:  whose enthusiasm for all things fermented is contagious.)
 
 
Ideas for fermented foods is a list limited only by your imagination and taste. If you're interested at all in this kind of experimenting and eating, I recommend you read Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz: it's a valuable resource - one I give credit to: for much of the information, and certainly the inspiration, for the writing of this post.  
 
Olives are on my fementation to-do list. Or were. Yesterday I checked out the idea at the Mid East Food Center in Halifax. The only way that's going to happen is if I go to the Middle East/Northern Africa and buy the olives freshly harvested and smuggle them home in a hurry before their condition deteriorates. Thankfully Mid East has a variety of delicious olives besides many other Mediterranean foods. 
 
Any time is an ideal time for a second serving of an FFF: a fantastic fermented food.

 

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