Creme Fraiche-my new favorite food!

I’ve been doing the full GAPS diet for the past month and have been loving it! The full GAPS diet basically involves eliminating grains, starchy vegetables such as potatoes, refined sugars, and vegetable oils. The diet focuses on nutrient-dense foods like bone broth, fermented foods, and healthy fats.

Armed with the cookbooks Internal Bliss and The Heal Your Gut Cookbook, I’ve been cooking many delicious recipes and have been feeling amazing! I’ve been spending lots of time in the kitchen making dishes like Cowboy Stew, Butternut Squash Lasagna with Swiss Chard, and grain-free Banana Bread. To ensure I always have bone broth on hand, I’ve had a perpetual broth going in my crock pot for the past month so I can ladle out a cup of the broth any time I want.

At the beginning of October, I demonstrated making fermented dairy products for the SHIFT Festival. I was signed up to demonstrate making creme fraiche which I had never made before. So I made some and showed people how to do it at the festival.

Well, I actually tried it for the first time the next day and loved it! Creme fraiche is thick, creamy and good for you. The fat in the cultured cream soothes the gut lining and supplies many fat-soluble vitamins. By culturing it for 24 hours at home, the cultures have time to mutliply, providing lots of beneficial bacteria for the gut.

Creme fraiche is wonderful with stews and mixed in with bone broth. Then I saw a recipe for mixing honey in with the creme fraiche and eating it with berries. I thought I died and went to heaven-it’s better than whipped cream!

See the recipe below to make your own creme fraiche. It’s the easiest way to culture dairy. Although you need to buy creme fraiche at the grocery store to start your own (or you can buy starter packs online), when you make it at home you let it culture for long enough to get plenty of those beneficial bacteria. The commercially-made creme fraiche uses higher heat and a shorter time to culture so you get fewer bacteria and more sugar. Once you’ve made your own batch, you can save 1 Tbls to make the next batch.

Creme Fraiche                                                                                                                 Supplies and Ingredients:                                                                                                    sterilized pint jar                                                                                                                            1 pint good quality cream                                                                                                                     1 Tbs commercial creme fraiche, or creme fraiche from previous batch or whole-milk buttermilk

Directions:                                                                                                                                 Start with the best quality cream you can find. Raw cream is best, but pasteurized will do. Do not use ultrapasteurized cream. Place in a clean glass container. Add buttermilk or creme fraiche, stir well, cover tightly, and place in a warm spot for 20-24 hours. Chill well.

Mix with honey and serve with berries for a delicious and healthy dessert. Or you can use it as an “icing” for cakes and breads. You can make a yummy topping for veggies and potatoes by blending 1 cup of the cultured cream with 1 Tbls horseradish, 1 Tbls dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.

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The Cause of the Obesity Epidemic (It’s not what you think)

Hearing Jim Gerrish speak at the 4th annual Localfest held in Lander, WY last weekend  was an inspiration. Jim’s passion for what’s wrong with our current food system shines through in his hand gestures and well-placed profanity.

He showed some graphs of American food consumption trends over the last 40+ years that I haven’t seen before. I found some similar graphs that I will share here to give some insight into how what we eat is making us sick and fat.

The obesity epidemic:

However, more of us are active than even before which surprised me:

But we eat more than ever:

 

So, what are we eating? A little more fruits and vegetables,

a little more meat,

more chicken and less red meat,

far less milk,

but a lot more sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup,

cereals,

and added fats in the form of vegetables oils.

But our total fat consumption has decreased,

while the only macronutrient that we eat more of than ever before is carbohydrate, mostly in the form of sugar and cereal grains.

So, if fat consumption has gone down and obesity as well as modern diseases have gone up, why are we blaming obesity on fat? These graphs show that changing our diet to more carbohydrates and sweeteners as well as refined, trans fat oils, all of which are found in processed foods, are correlated with obesity and disease!

Based on this info, I conclude that limiting processed foods with vegetables oils and refined sweeteners as well as limiting carbohydrates is the key to health. Of course, Jim  Gerrish said it much better when he said something like: What do you give to cows to make them fat? Grains. What do you give to pigs to make them fat? Grains. What do you give to any animal to make it fat? Grains. Humans are animals, too, and grains make us fat, too.

 

 

 

 

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Localfest in Lander this weekend!

If you want something fun and entertaining to do this off-season, I recommend Localfest in Lander happening this Thursday-Sunday. The meat of the festival is Friday and Saturday with workshops, a farmers market, a Gala dinner and celebrations at the Lander Bar. Featuring beef from Wyoming and how to eat it, there’s plenty to do for ranchers and consumers.

I’m doing a talk about raw milk with Curtis Haderlie who has a cow share program in Thayne, WY. I will also do a workshop on how to make delicious bone broth and talk about the history and health benefits as well.

Farm to school, seed saving and cooking classes such as nutrient-dense legumes, plants and grains are also offered. I’m expecting an inspirational Friday night Gala supper with Jim Gerrish  about The Nature of Food: How Real Food Can Help Save Us, Our Society, and Our Environment.

Check out www.localfest.org for the full schedule and for more details. I hope you’ll join me in beautiful Lander this weekend for this fun and educational event!

 

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Shift Festival in Jackson

Check out the SHIFT Festival in Jackson, Wyoming this week! A celebration of local food, you can learn about everything from coffee to cocktails to fermented foods. I will be doing demonstrations on fermented dairy this Thursday from 2-5pm at The Rose as part of the festival. Check out the schedule at www.shiftjh.com.

Auden Schendler, VP of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company, is the keynote speaker on Wednesday, October 8th from 7-9pm. 

Friday night features the People’s Banquet, an all-you-can-eat extravaganza of locally sourced dishes created by Jackson Hole’s finest chefs. The menu features ingredients from local farmers, ranchers, bakers, and cheese artisans. Add libations from local brewers, winemakers and distillers and voilà: a local, sustainable and delicious evening.

The dinner follows the free speech by Dr. Marion Nestle, presented in partnership with St. John’s Medical Center’s Words on Wellness program. As the voice and conscience of the national food movement, Dr. Marion Nestle has worked tirelessly to improve school lunches, educate on the health dangers of processed foods, lobby against the marketing of processed foods to children, and rally against the industrialized food system.

On Saturday, October 11, join The 2014 SHIFT Festival as we honor the next generation of adventure activists with the Jackson Hole premiere of Jeremy Jones’HIGHER, presented by Subaru and in person by Jeremy Jones.

 

I hope to see you at this celebration of local food, drinks and culture!

 

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Preserving Food for the Winter

If you haven’t already been storing food for the winter this summer, now is a good time to start. Frozen vegetables used to not be appealing to me until I learned that many nutrients are preserved when they are blanched. Now I love eating frozen kale, squash, spinach and chard from Cosmic Apple in the fall and early winter.

Blanching is a great way to preserve many different kinds of vegetables, especially greens. Blanching stops enzymes from breaking down the nutrients in the vegetable. Studies show that vegetables that were blanched before frozen retained up to 1300% more vitamin C and other nutrients than vegetables that were frozen and weren’t blanched.

Steam blanching preserves nutrients better than water blanching. Small percentages of water-soluble nutrients like vitamin C and B vitamins are lost during blanching but even fresh vegetables begin losing nutrients the moment they are picked. However, many antioxidants remain in the produce after blanching.

The faster you cool down the vegetables after blanching, the more color, flavor and nutrients they will retain. Drying the veggies before freezing them will prevent freezer burn.

Little nutrition is lost during freezing. Frozen vegetables will keep for 12-18 months in a 0°F or colder freezer.

Home canning is similar to blanching and freezing for nutrient loss. Water-soluble vitamins are most affected.

Making pesto and freezing it in ice cube trays is a great way to enjoy some “fresh” greens mid-winter. Last summer I froze some extra mint vinaigrette I had into ice cube trays and it worked well, too. There’s nothing like a taste of summer when it’s snowing outside!

I wrote about fermenting foods as a preservation method earlier this summer so I won’t elaborate again. Fermenting food is the only preservation method that actually increases the nutrients in food as well as adding beneficial bacteria for your gut.

I store my turnips, carrots and beets in the fridge after I remove the tops and they keep for many months. I’ve had the best luck storing other root veggies like garlic, potatoes and onions in paper bags in a dark kitchen cabinet. Of course, a basement or root cellar is more ideal but an unheated garage can be too cold.

I have come to the conclusion that preserving my produce from Cosmic Apple is far more nutritious than buying vegetables from the grocery store. Getting veggies fresh from the farm and eating them fresh or preserving them for later ensures you get the more nutritious food there is-rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.

Here’s a recipe for lacto-fermented turnips*:

12 medium turnips, scrubbed well and sliced 1/8 inch thick

2 tsp red pepper flakes

6 cups water

3-1/2 Tbls sea salt

Make a brine by combining the water and sea salt. Set aside.

Put 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes in each of two quart jars. Add the sliced turnips, packing until no higher than 1 inch from the top.

Pour the brine over the turnips and red pepper flakes, pushing the turnips down to release any air bubbles. Make sure brine leaves at least 1 inch of head space in jar. Weigh the turnips down so that they stay below the brine. Place a lid on the jar and secure tightly.

Allow to ferment at a cool room temperature (65° to 80°F) for 3 to 10 days, burping the jar to release gases for the first few days. Move to cold storage.

*Recipe from www.culturesforhealth.com

 

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Are you getting enough minerals from your food?

When you think about the nutrients in vegetables, vitamins probably first come to mind. Minerals are a lesser-talked about but important component of the nutrients found in food.

In 1936, Senator Duncan Fletcher, a Democrat in Florida, added the following to the Congressional Record:

“Do you know that most of us today are suffering from certain dangerous diet deficiencies which cannot be remedied until depleted soils from which our food comes are brought into proper mineral balance?

The alarming fact is that foods (fruits, vegetables and grains) now being raised on millions of acres of land that no longer contain enough of certain minerals are starving us – no matter how much of them we eat. No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the minerals he requires for perfect health because his stomach isn’t big enough to hold them.

The truth is that our foods vary enormously in value, and some of them aren’t worth eating as food…Our physical well-being is more directly dependent upon the minerals we take into our systems than upon calories or vitamins or upon the precise proportions of starch, protein or carbohydrates we consume.

Laboratory test prove that the fruits, the vegetables, the grains, the eggs, and even the milk and the meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago (which doubtless explains why our forefathers thrived on a selection of foods that would starve us!)

We know that vitamins are complex chemical substances which are indispensable to nutrition, and that each of them is of importance for normal function of some special structure in the body. Disorder and disease result from any vitamin deficiency. It is not commonly realized, however, that vitamins control the body’s appropriation of minerals, and in the absence of minerals they have no function to perform. Lacking vitamins, the system can make some use of minerals, but lacking minerals, vitamins are useless.

Conventional farms use chemical fertilizers that supply lots of potassium that ensures that vegetables grow big and tall. However, other minerals such as calcium and magnesium get blocked by the potassium, so they don’t end up in your produce.

Pesticides and herbicides kill not only pests and weeds but also worms and soil bacteria. Worms break up the earth making it porous and leave their own form of compost behind. The bacteria fix nitrogen and make it possible for plants to absorb nutrients. In this dead soil with no worms or bacteria, plants grow weaker and have fewer nutrients.

Biodynamic farming focuses on the health of the soil through compost and preps. You can know that the vegetables you get from Cosmic Apple or any biodynamic farms are nutritious, healthy, and full of minerals.

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Are there more antioxidants in organic food?

Vegetables have lots of antioxidants. Antioxidants destroy free radicals that are thought to cause many diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer. Many of the antioxidants in foods are what gives them their color. Each vegetable has many different beneficial properties, many of which haven’t been studied or even discovered. Getting food from a CSA and eating seasonally ensures that you get different nutrients every time you eat a different vegetable. I don’t know about you, but during the winter I end up buying the same vegetables and don’t branch out. Getting a CSA share pushes you to experiment with foods you may not normally buy and to try different vegetables.

Being organic, vegetables from Cosmic Apple have more antioxidants than conventionally-grown produce you get at the grocery store, up to 40% more according to the Quality Food Low Input Project. Why is that? As vegetables grow and ripen, the vitamins and antioxidants increase. When a vegetable is picked when it is ripe, it has reached its full nutrition potential. If it’s picked before it’s ripe and it doesn’t have its full possible color, it also doesn’t have as many nutrients. Tomatoes picked green and then sprayed with gas to ripen them at least a week later have far fewer antioxidants (and don’t taste as good) than tomatoes allowed to ripen on the vine.

Because locally-grown produce doesn’t have to be shipped far, it can be picked when it is ripe. Instead of buying vegetables that were picked unripe a week before, traveled on a truck for a few days and then sat in the grocery store, you get vegetables that were picked that day or the day before.   Cosmic Apple Gardens takes organic a step further by growing biodynamically as well. A study published in “Biodynamics” in 1999 showed that the antioxidants beta carotene and vitamin C are 14 and 48% higher in biodynamic produce, respectively.

Some antioxidants are destroyed during cooking, especially the water-soluble vitamins C and E. However, other antioxidants actually increase when cooked such as beta-carotene in carrots and lycopene in tomatoes. Generally speaking, griddling (cooking on a pan with no oil) and baking cause the least destruction of antioxidants while frying, boiling and pressure-cooking destroy more antioxidants, although each vegetable is different.

 

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Summer Squash

I love summer squash and zucchini. Luckily, because the plants go crazy this time of year in the warm weather. When I worked on the farm, we harvested the zucchini twice a week. Now they have to harvest 3 times a week so the zukes don’t get too big. Occasionally you find one you’ve missed the last couple of harvests and its eligible for the state fair prize for biggest zucchini. The small ones are more delicious and tender but the bigger ones are still great for zucchini bread or cookies, stuffed zucchini and zucchini pancakes.

I remember always making sure to wear long sleeves when harvesting the zucchini. The plants are beautiful but the leaves are razor sharp. The first time I harvested them without long sleeves, I had bright-red scratches all over my arms.

Zucchini time of year always reminds me of Barbara Kinglsolver’s wonderful book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in which she describes her family living off the land for a year in North Carolina. Summer squash grows well in the summer south.

Overrun with zucchini, she writes:

“Could they design an automobile engine that runs on zucchini?

It didn’t help that other people were trying to give them to us. One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of them hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight.

‘Wow,’ we all said—’what a good idea!’

Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke.

I don’t want to advertise the presence or absence of security measures in our neighborhood, except to say that in rural areas, generally speaking, people don’t lock their doors all that much. The notion of a “gated community” is comprehensible to us only in terms of keeping the livestock out of the crops. It’s a relaxed atmosphere in our little town, plus our neighbors keep an eye out and will, if asked, tell us the make and model of every vehicle that ever enters the lane to our farm. So the family was a bit surprised when I started double-checking the security of doors and gates any time we all were about to leave the premises.

‘Do I have to explain the obvious?’ I asked impatiently. ‘Somebody might break in and put zucchini in our house.’ ”

If you need ideas of what to do with an overabundance of zucchini, here’s an idea:

Stuffed Zucchini w/ Sausage, Sage and Mushrooms

1 huge zucchini or several medium-sized ones
1/2 cup walnuts
1 pound sausage
1 onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced sage
2 eggs
1 cup shredded pecorino cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 375° F.

Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Set the zucchini in the baking pan cut-side up and seasoning it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour 1/4 inch of boiling water into the pan, cover with foil, and bake for 10 minutes, just until the zucchini is no longer raw.

Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and roast them alongside the zucchini for 5-10 minutes, until fragrant. Chop into small pieces and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage. Transfer to a bowl and drain off all but a teaspoon of the grease. Add the onions to the pan with a good pinch of salt, and cook until soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Cook together until the mushrooms have turned golden. Stir in the garlic and sage. Cook for about 30 seconds.

Combine the walnuts, cooked sausage, onions, and mushrooms in a large bowl.  Beat the eggs together. Stir the eggs and 3/4 cup of the pecorino into the stuffing mixture.

Pat the zucchini dry and fill the cavity with the stuffing. Drain the liquid from the baking pan, rub it with a little butter or olive oil, and place the stuffed zucchini back inside.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the zucchini, and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the filling is bubbling and the cheese is crispy. Allow the zucchini to cool slightly. Slice into portions and serve.

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Butter is good for you!

You may have read my blog and wondering why a nutritionist would include so many recipes with butter and olive oil. This statement may come as a shock to you but I believe it’s true: butter is good for you. Especially raw, organic, from pastured cows butter.

Fats that are solid at room temperature are highly stable and unlikely to become rancid. Butter is one of those stable traditional fats, along with coconut oil, palm oil and lard. These fats are also good for higher temperature cooking because they are so stable.

Butter is rich in short and medium-chain fatty acids that inhibit tumor growth. Butter also has lots of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) that helps combat cancer, asthma, heart disease, insulin resistance and inflammation. Grass-fed beef (but not feedlot beef) also has CLA. Other acids in butter such as lauric and butyric are anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial and antifungal.

Our brain cells are over 65% fat and need fat and cholesterol to be healthy. Mother’s milk has over 50% of its calories from buttermilk and is high in cholesterol because babies need high amounts of fat and cholesterol to develop properly.

Butter also has certain fatty acids that protect against infection in the gut. The antifungal properties of these fatty acids protect the gut from pathogens and yeast overgrowth like candida.

Grass-fed butter in particular is high in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K2. Grass-fed butter is the best way to get vitamin K2 in your diet. Vitamin K2 is necessary for bone health and healthy arteries and is essential for a growing fetus and baby.

The fat-soluble vitamins in butter and oils help your body absorb the other nutrients in leafy greens and vegetables. Traditionally, people always consumed vegetables with fat for that very reason.

Now you know why many of my recipes call for butter and other fats. Olive oil has many antioxidants but is not as stable as butter so I mainly use it for dressings and drizzled over cooked or raw vegetables.

Other processed vegetable oils such as canola, grapeseed, sunflower and safflower become rancid during processing and cause inflammation and disease. Check out my other posts for more information on vegetable oils, traditional foods and many things nutrition-related.

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The Benefits of Herbs

When I was tending to my herbs I have planted in my mini-garden at my house last week, I became inspired to write about herbs. I never did much with herbs until I became involved with the Cosmic Apple Gardens. Now I love them so much I grow them in my own garden and am excited to get a different herb (or two) from Cosmic Apple every week.

Herbs are great for dressings and marinades. I  also make sure to dry plenty of each kind of herb to have for the winter. Because they lose their freshness (and nutritional value) over time, I replace my dried herbs every summer.

Luckily, it’s easy to dry herbs in our non-humid climate. I wash them, then pat them dry and spread them out on a cookie sheet or plate until dry, about 2-3 days when the leaves turn crumbly. Then I remove the leaves from their stems and store them in glass jars for the year. No more buying herbs from the store that could be years old!

I just learned from Farmer John’s Cookbook that you can freeze most herbs, too (except delicate basil and cilantro). To freeze, chop the leaves and put them in ice cube trays; add 1 inch of water. After they are frozen, remove the cubes from the tray and store in plastic freezer bags. Each cube equals about 1 Tbls fresh or 1 tsp of dried herb.

Besides adding flavor to dishes, herbs have nutritional and therapeutic value as well. Herbs protect fats from oxidation when they are cooked. Herbs and spices have anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-cancer properties. They are high in B vitamins and trace minerals and have more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables.

Basil is anti-inflammatory while dill and mint help settle a queasy stomach. Thyme can be used to treat fungal and yeast infections. Oregano has been shown to fight food-borne pathogens like listeria.

Herbs are great in eggs, soups and salads, to name a few. I try to add fresh herbs to everything I eat. You can make herb-infused vinegars, butter, salad dressing and marinades. Be grateful to be eating this amazingly nutritious food all summer and even throughout the year if you freeze or dry them.

Herb-Infused Vinegar*

1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs

2 cups vinegar (wine, champagne or apple cider)

Put the herbs in a pint jar.

Heat the vinegar in a medium, nonreactive pot over medium-low heat until it reaches almost a simmer (be careful not to boil). Pour the vinegar over the herbs and cover tightly with a nonmetallic lid or with 2 layers of plastic wrap and a metal lid. Set the jar aside in a cool, dark place for 2-3 weeks.

Strain the vinegar through a coffee filter or a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Repeat until the vinegar is completely clear.

Pour the strained vinegar into a clean, sterilized, nonmetallic jar or bottle.  For a pretty touch, add a clean and dry sprig of the fresh herb with its flowers. Cap the jar of bottle with a plastic or plastic-lined cap or a new cork. Tightly sealed and stored in the refrigerator, the herb-flavored vinegar will keep for several months.

*Farmer John’s Cookbook

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