Fermentation

A word many of us have heard before, but perhaps with only a vague understanding of what it is.

In short, it refers to a regular household practice that has been lost in North America since the invention of refrigeration and canning, and with it, numerous health benefits.

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“The pathogen is nothing. The terrain is everything.”  -Louis Pasteur

–> In other words, if your gastrointestinal flora is robust, you should be able to handle most any assault. And what better to keep your gut strong than a daily dose of lacto-fermented vegetables?

Here’s how lacto-fermentation works:

  • Lactobaccilli are present on the surface of vegetables and are further provided by the addition of whey.
  • They convert the starches and sugars in vegetables to lactic acid.
  • Lactic acid acts as a preservative and antibacterial.
  • It promotes the growth of good gut flora.
  • The process increases vitamin levels, digestibility, produces helpful enzymes, and anticarcinogenic substances.
  • This is different than industrialized fermented products which use vinegar and pasteurization, destroying the health benefits of fermented foods.

Fermented vegetables make an excellent addition to any daily meal.

Below are two delicious beginner recipes as well as instructions for making whey, a required ingredient for both recipes. It is easier than you think, and once you’ve done it once, it can become as regular a part of your life as watering your plants or walking your dog.


Whey & Cream Cheese

Ingredient:

  • High quality plain yoghurt

Directions:

  • Line a large strainer set over a bowl with a clean dish towel.
  • Pour in the yoghurt, cover and let stand at room temperature for several hours. The whey will run into the bowl and the milk solids will stay in the strainer.

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  • Tie up the towel with the milk solids inside, being careful not to squeeze. Tie this little sack to a wooden spoon placed across the top of a container so that more whey can drip out. When the bag stops dripping, the cheese is ready.

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  • Store whey in a mason jar and cream cheese in a covered glass container.

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  • Refrigerated, the cream cheese keeps for about 1 month and the whey for about 6 months. Makes 5 cups whey and 2 cups cream cheese.

Ginger Carrots

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups grated carrots, tightly packed
  • 1 TBSP freshly grated ginger
  • 1 TBSP sea salt
  • 4 TBSP whey

Directions:

  • In a bowl, mix all ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices.
  • Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the carrots.
  • The top of the carrots should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes 1 quart.

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Pickled Cucumbers

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 pickling cucumbers or 15-20 gherkins
  • 1 TBSP mustard seeds
  • 2 TBSP fresh dill, snipped
  • 1 TBSP sea salt
  • 4 TBSP whey
  • 1 cup filtered water

Directions:

  • Wash cucumbers well and place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar.
  • Combine remaining ingredients and pour over cucumbers, adding more water if necessary to cover the cucumbers.
  • The top of the liquid should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage. Makes 1 quart.

Source: Sally Fallon, 2001. Nourishing Traditions; The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats, 2nd ed. NewTrends Publishing, Inc. USA. 

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Canned Tomatoes, Peaches, Pears, & Pickled Beets!

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Today my grandma taught me how to can my own tomatoes! I only wish I knew sooner how easy it could be! It is something she has been doing for decades – starting back when she lived on the prairies with no running water or refrigeration and grew her own food! What a concept! My gardening skills have a long way to go before I’m growing enough to make it through the whole year. Thank you Grammy for passing on your recipes!!

Canning your own produce is an awesome idea for so many reasons. For starters, you get the tastiest in-season produce, and you get it in bulk for cheaper. In addition, you know exactly what you will be adding and that you won’t be sprinkling any chemical preservatives or unnecessary ingredients in there. Plus you’ll be using glass instead of BPA-lined tin cans. And finally you get to enjoy something you made all year long! Or enjoy giving it away as a great gift idea!

Here’s what you need:

  • A friend or partner – “many hands make light work”
  • 20 lbs of fresh, ripe tomatoes
  • ~15 500mL or pint size mason jars
  • salt & sugar
  • canner (*Don’t have a canner? See tip below!)
  • pot for boiling water
  • large clean bowl for tomatoes
  • a clean sink

Here’s what you do:

  1. Set everything up so it’s ready to go before you begin
  2. Wash the mason jars in warm soapy water and put all except the outer ring of the lids into the dishwasher on rinse cycle. Do this right before you begin because you want the jars nice and warm when you add the tomatoes.
  3. Blanch the tomatoes, about 7 at a time (place into pot of boiling water for about a minute and then remove and place into sink full of ice cold water)
  4. Peel the skin off the tomatoes and core.
  5. Dice into bowl, juice and all, removing any bad bits as you go. Every once in a while, run your fingers through them and squeeze – this helps bring more seeds up to the surface (you’ll see why later).
  6. Remove jars from dishwasher and place on old dish cloth or paper towel on the counter. Fill about 3/4 full using hands (don’t worry about adding all the juice yet)
  7. Pour the last bit of juice left in the bowl through a strainer and discard the leftover seeds in the strainer. Use the juice to top up the mason jars, leaving 1/2 inch of room at the top of the jar.
  8. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp sugar to each jar. No need to mix.
  9. Dry the mouth of the jar with a paper towel.
  10. Place lids on and tighten all the way and then reverse as if you were going to open the jar, but just a smidgen. This will allow the jars to “breath” so they don’t explode.
  11. Put the jars into the canner and turn on the burner. Bring water to boil and then start the timer for 20 minutes.
  12. After timer goes off, turn off the burner and take lid off canner. Allow water to settle and then gently wipe the water off the top of the mason jars and carefully remove, placing on rack to cool. Leave the lids as they are, don’t tighten them.
  13. If you see clear liquid at the bottom of the jar and you hear the lid “pop” you know it has sealed properly.
  14. Once cooled, store in a dark place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate.

 

*TIP: Don’t have a canner? If you want to try canning just a few things at a time, you can use a large pot, add water, and put the jars in on top of some extra mason jar lids so they don’t bump around and break in the pot. Or if you have a roaster with a tight lid that won’t let the steam out and some pieces of wood you could put on the bottom of it, you could place that over two of your burners and use as a canner that way. Or you could try the pickled beet recipe below which doesn’t require a canner at all!

 


If you want my grammy’s recipes for Canned Peaches, Pears, and Pickled Beets, continue reading below! Continue reading

Toddler Cookies II

Ever go to make cookies just to realize that you’re all out of flour? Well that happened to me the other day and that is where these cookies came from. Substitution after substitution, I ended up with a whole new cookie!

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All-Out-Of-Flour Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butternut squash, cooked and pureed
  • 1 flax egg (1 TBSP ground flax + 3 TBSP warm water)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup nut and/or seed butter (use whatever you have; mine was a mix of cashews, almonds, chia seeds, brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and hazelnuts)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup oat flour (I just grind my oats in a coffee grinder)
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 1 TBSP psyllium husk powder
  • 3 TBSP coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp each of baking soda, salt, cinnamon & allspice

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
  • Mix wet and dry ingredients together separately, then add dry ingredients to wet mixture and blend.
  • Drop by the tablespoon onto prepared baking sheet and flatten with a fork, dipping the fork into water between cookies.
  • Bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes.
  • Transfer cookies on parchment paper to wire rack to cool.
  • Enjoy them warm or refrigerated. 🙂

Nutritious Toddler Snack Ideas

I call my toddler my little teenager. He seems to always have his head in the refrigerator and he loves to eat! I have been working hard to give him nothing but the highest standard of healthy that I know of and now I cannot help but to get a little smile on my face when he closes the fridge door holding a cucumber saying, “peese, peese?!” 

In his first two years (he will be 2 in a couple months), I have been training his little developing taste buds to enjoy healthy food choices. [You can find some info on solid food introduction here.] I have introduced him to a wide variety of colours, textures, and tastes and have kept him away from sugar, candy, fast food, processed foods, dairy and wheat. So far he will eat just about anything I give him, which I am so grateful for, and he is growing into a strong boy with no health concerns to speak of!


 

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates

“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Ann Wigmore

“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” Thomas Edison


Here are a couple of great tips on how we can encourage our toddlers to eat well. And remember the “golden rule for happy meals”: you decide what food is served and when it’s served and your toddler decides whether they’ll eat and how much.

The following is a list of some of my son’s favourite snacks or lunches. I hope you will find it helpful when trying to appease your little one’s appetite!


 

  • Fresh fruit and veggies of all shapes, sizes, variety, and colour!
  • Fresh juice – a deliciously sneaky way to get those greens in!
    • Apple, pear, citrus, melon, carrot, ginger, beets, greens, mint…

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  • Smoothies
    • Frozen berries, mango/peach/pear/banana, spinach/bok choy/kale/swiss chard, water/coconut water/cashew milk/hemp milk
    • More add ins: avocado, coconut cream, raw cashews soaked overnight, nut butter, chia seeds, hemp hearts, coconut oil, powdered probiotics, gelatin…
  • Homemade Bread or Rice Crackers with spreadable goat cheese or nut butter or bean or hummus dip (see below)
  • Hummus or Bean Dip or Sweet Potato Mash:
    • Blend in food processor 2 cups black beans or garbanzo beans, 1 clove garlic, 2 TBSP olive oil, 1 TBSP each of fresh lemon juice, tahini, 1 nutritional yeast (optional), and water, pinch of salt
    • Or blend butternut squash with 1 cup garbanzo beans, 1 TBSP tahini, 1 tsp cinnamon, 2 TBSP maple syrup, 1/2 tsp salt
    • Boil sweet potato chunks with red lentils and apple chunks until soft. Serve as is or mash together with salt, tahini, cinnamon, and maple syrup
    • Note: you can add in cooked greens to these as well!
  • Healthy homemade zucchini/carrot/beet/nut bread (example)
  • Banana Crisps
    • Puree 2 small ripe bananas, 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, and half of a lemon squeezed
    • Bake for around 30 minutes, flipping partway through, at 300 degrees F or until hardened and browning
  • Dehydrated fruit or fruit leather
    • Slice bananas, apples, or strawberries thinly
    • Or make a fruit puree with a touch of lemon and honey to taste (no honey if your child is under 1 year old)
    • Place slices or spread puree about 1/8-1/4 inch thick onto baking sheet covered with parchment paper
    • Dehydrate in oven at 170 degrees F overnight with the oven open a crack or for about 8-10 hours. Slices may need to be flipped.
  • Frozen fruit drops
    • Drop pureed fruit by the teaspoon onto parchment paper and freeze
  • Frozen fruit juice/puree pops (I make mine in these silicone molds)
  • Frozen fruit ‘ice cream’
    • Blend frozen berries/banana/mango/peach until creamy
  • Gelatin gummies, fruit snacks, or pudding
  • Sardines (packed full of protein, B vitamins, selenium, omega 3, and calcium!) -remember, even if you don’t like them, it doesn’t mean that your toddler won’t!
  • Boiled egg – simple, easy to pack for a snack away from home (assuming no allergy)
    • or egg fried with goat cheese, spinach, leftover rice…
  • Root Veggie Wedges (potato, sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, rutabaga, beet, carrot)
    • Peel and slice veggies into wedges
    • Mix in large boil with olive oil and spices (ex. salt & pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, or cumin, coriander, ginger, paprika, turmeric, etc.)
    • Place spaced out on baking sheet covered in parchment paper
    • Cook at 375 for about 15-20mins, flip and cook another 10 minutes or so – until both sides are crisp (cooking time depends on size of slices & type of veg so watch carefully!)
  • Kale chips
    • Wash and dry torn leaves (no stems)
    • Mix in bowl with olive oil and garlic powder and salt
    • Cook on baking sheet covered with parchment paper at 375 F, flipping once, until crisp (time varies – watch carefully)
  • Toasted Chickpeas
    • Rinse and drain chickpeas, season with olive oil and Herbamare (or your favourite spices), cook at 450 degrees F on baking sheet covered in parchment paper for ~15-20mins (a sweet variation: oil, honey, and cinnamon) (no honey if your child is under 1 year old)
  • Power Balls

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I’m sure that I will keep revising this list as I go, but for now there are some ideas! I would love to hear what some of yours are too – please share below!

 

Power Balls

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Ingredients:

  • 6 soaked medjool dates
  • 4 TBSP coconut oil
  • 2 TBSP raisins or goji berries
  • 3/4 cup seed mix (hemp, chia, sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup nut or seed butter
  • 1 TBSP cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp each cinnamon, cardamon, salt

Directions:

  • Blend all in food processor. Shape into small balls and refrigerate or press into small cake pan and slice into squares after refrigerated for a couple hours.

Brown Rice Crackers

Simple. Easy. Crunchy. Yummy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2/3 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 TBSP flaxseeds (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup water

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a large baking sheet.
  • In bowl or food processor, mix flour, rice, flaxseeds, salt, and oil until combined.
  • Add water a little at a time until dough holds together.
  • Turn out onto floured surface and knead a few times to form a ball. Press or roll dough onto prepared baking sheet to 1/8-inch thickness.
  • With a sharp knife, score dough into 1 1/2 inch squares.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown.
  • Cool before removing from pan.

 

Recipe from “The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook” by Cathe Olson

Quinoa Cakes

Packed with nutrition, these are a great make ahead meal to have on hand! Just cook, freeze, and when in need, pop in the toaster oven for a quick and healthy snack!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 carrot or an equal portion of sweet potato
  • half of a zucchini
  • 1 cup dark leafy greens
  • 3 cups cooked millet or quinoa or brown rice (rinsed and cooked in vegetable stock)
  • 1 egg or 1 flax/chia egg (1 TBSP ground flax or chia + 3 TBSP water)
  • 1/4 cup soft goat cheese
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats ground in coffee grinder into flour
  • 3 TBSP tamari sauce
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 TBSP Italian seasoning mix
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions:

  • Puree first 5 ingredients in food processor.
  • Combine with the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Place 1/3 cup scoops – formed into balls and flattened – onto baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
  • Bake at 400 degrees F for about 15mins per side or until brown.