Images

Easy Leek Carbonara – Grain-free

INGREDIENTS

There’s a restaurant in Portland, Oregon called Le Pigeon, which makes a leek carbonara that I read about in The Globe and Mail. My lovely aunt forwarded it to me. I will link to the recipe at the end of this post if you want to try out the original.

Although I don’t eat grains anymore and rarely crave bread or pasta – my Achilles’ heel is spaghetti carbonara. There is something so comforting about creamy fettucine noodles in an egg and parmesan sauce, complemented with rendered pancetta that I just can’t get out of my head. Until now.

This recipe replaces the boring fettucine noodles with strips of leeks, cut into the width of fettucine. Since leeks are probably my favorite vegetable, I decided this was a very, very good idea.

The reason I have messed with the great recipe from Le Pigeon is just to make it a little simpler to prepare on hurried nights, and to increase the fat content (obviously!)pancetta

EASY LEEK CARBONARA

SERVES 4 – 5 AS A MAIN DISH, 6 – 8 AS A SIDE

  • 3 big leeks
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of parmesan
  • 200g of pancettaleek noodles
  1. Cut up 200g of pancetta into small cubes. Cook these slowly in a heavy pot to render out the fat. I always cook for about 15 minutes while I’m getting the other ingredients ready.
  2. Boil a big pot of water.
  3. Trim off the hairy bottom and dark green tops from your leeks. Cut them lengthwise into long strips that resemble fettucine noodles. Rinse these well in a deep bowl of water or the sink to get off any dirt and grit.
  4. Grate about a cup of parmesan cheese.
  5. Crack 3 egg yolks into a large bowl. Add the parmesan cheese and mix together with a fork. Set aside.
  6. Once the water boils, add your leek “noodles” to the pot and boil for about a minute. “Parboil” if you will.egg yolks
  7. Finish rendering the pancetta, being careful not to overcook or your cubes will be crunchy rockettes. Most recipes will drain off the fat at this point, but not me! I spent good money on fancy pancetta from the Healthy Butcher and I’m not throwing any of it away.
  8. Strain the leeks after a minute. At Le Pigeon they are all fancy and plunge the leek “noodles” into an ice bath. I wouldn’t bother, though it is nice to dry them a bit on a towel, and then  add the dry “noodles” to the finished pancetta and hot fat. Toss like crazy in the warm, heavy pan.
  9. Once all the “noodles” have been coated with pancetta fat and the pancetta is evenly distributed, and the leeks have cooked a little more to their desired softness, quickly use some tongs to dump the entire pan into the prepared bowl of yolks and parmesan.  Stir quickly so that the sudden heat doesn’t make the yolks “cook”. (They will “temper” with the heat, but not actually cook). stirring
  10. Serve out smaller portions than you think you can eat, and top with some extra parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

If you think regular carbonara is heavy, this is about twice as heavy. But what I mean instead of “heavy” is filling. What is so remarkable is that even after a large portion, there is no bloating or heaviness – just fullness. I swear you cannot overeat this because it’s just so rich.  And absolutely delicious!

If you are not a fan of leeks, I still think you should try this. Boiling the leeks for a minute before the sauté seems to soften their flavor quite a bit. And yet that subtle leek-ness is still there, making this carbonara dish so much more layered and intense than the standard fare. easy leek carbonara

MACRONUTRIENT BREAKDOWN

One cup of standard carbonara (and who only eats one cup of pasta at a sitting?) is 43g of carbohydrates. One cup of this Easy Leek Carbonara (and you probably can’t eat a full cup) is 7g of carbohydrates.  This recipe also contains 19g of protein and about 32g of fat per serving/cup. If you want less protein, use less pancetta.

As it is, this recipe has 74% of calories from fat, 20% from protein and 6% from carbohydrates. Very LCHF.

What else? Each serving has 25% of your RDA for Calcium, 10% of your Iron, 27% of your Vitamin B12, 28% of your Phosphorous, plus a decent amount of Selenium, Riboflavin, Folate, Potassium, Vitamin A and Vitamin B6.

HOW TO PORTION THIS RECIPE

If you are alone and want to make this for yourself, just use one leek and one egg yolk, with a smaller amount of parmesan and pancetta. You will have leftovers. Generally, a big leek cooked this way will be too much for one person or just enough for two sides  – so gage the recipe that way.

FURTHER READING

Original and slightly more exciting recipe from Le Pigeon restaurant (includes lemon juice! red pepper flakes!)

Read about why leeks are so awesome and also support cardiovascular health. Try to eat something from the allium family every day (garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, etc).

A reminder about just what LCHF stands for (low carbohydrate high fat) and why it matters

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beet Kvass NBD

IMG_0442Seriously, let’s not make a big deal about this. A couple organic beets, some water, some salt and an air-lock jar. It’s like 5 minutes and then you forget about it for 3 weeks.

Beet Kvass is a 10th century Ukranian probiotic sports drink, essentially, in that it’s full of electrolytes and is super hydrating. It also claims to be an anti-inflammatory blood tonic, to cleanse the liver, lower blood pressure, to oxygenate the blood and spare oxygen when exercising. The Ukranians call it a “Cure All”, and there’s a rumor that the only people who didn’t develop blood poisoning after the radioactive Chernobyll explosion are those that religiously consumed beet kvass. As such, beet kvass and juice are frequently recommended for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

beets

There are complicated ways to make it, and then there is THE EASIEST, most traditional method which is obviously my preference.

BEET KVASS DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil your kettle or whatever.
  2. Wash 2 BIG BEETS or 3 medium beets to get any major mud off of them. Don’t go nuts scrubbing because what we are looking for here is the Lactobacillus bacteria that is on the surface of the beets. Some recipes call for peeling the beets and then adding a whey starter culture. But in this recipe, we are acknowledging that the beet skin already contains the exact starter culture we want (isn’t nature cool?) and so we are going to work with the beets and not against them. Again it’s important to use raw, organic beets here because conventionally farmed root vegetables absorb all the toxic fertilizers and neuro-toxin pesticides that are needed to grow them – furthermore, conventional root vegetables are grown in mineral-starved and mostly dead soil so there’s really no point in eating them anyway.
  3. cut up beetsCut up the beets, LEAVING THE SKIN AND SKETCHY HAIRS on, into rough cubes – smaller than an ice cube but much larger than dice. If you make the beet cubes too small, they will release too much juice and sugar and you will get a different type of bacteria involved that works too quickly, creating more alcohol than lactic acid, and the whole thing will be wrecked. Bigger cubes mean the work will be slow and encourage the right kind of bacteria.
  4. Add 1 heaping TBS of good SEA SALT (or Himalayan salt) into the bottom of a large (say a quart) jar that has an air-lock, or those clamps that compress a rubber seal. The jar is important because a lot of carbon dioxide is going to be created and it needs to escape; at the same time you don’t want to let any oxygen in. (Oxygen will encourage the wrong type of bacteria, which will then “spoil” your kvass).
  5. saltPour about half a cup to a cup of boiling water from your kettle into your salted jar, and swirl it around until it dissolves. The only reason you boiled the water is to help the salt dissolve.
  6. Fill up half of the jar with cold FILTERED WATER. You don’t want the water to be hot anymore or else it will “cook” the beets and their bacteria and enzymes. We need a lot of live action for this process.
  7. Shove in all the cut up beets you have just prepared. Hopefully they will all fit. If you need to add more cold water to cover the beets, do it. Try to leave an inch of airspace at the top of the jar. I’m lousy at leaving space, and usually pay for it a few weeks in when my kvass seeps out of the jar all over my marble countertop. Major fail.salty jar
  8. Seal the jar up, leave it out of direct sunlight at room temperature or slightly warmer and forget about it for 3 weeks. Lactobacillus prefers temperatures between 70-75 degrees F, and likes just this amount of salt, no less and not much more. You could add another 1/2 TBS of salt if you don’t mind the salty flavor, but that’s the limit for a quart jar and 2-3 beets.

OTHER FLAVORING OPTIONS

Maybe add a clove, a cardamom pod, a star anise, a bit of orange peel, a knob of ginger or anything you think will go nicely with the earthy flavor of fermented beet juice. The lactic acid will also work its magic on these ingredients, unlocking beneficial polyphenols.

IN THREE WEEKS TIME

During this time the Lactobacillus have been converting the carbohydrates in the beets into lactic acid, carbon dioxide and small amounts of acetic acid and ethyl alcohol. The carbon dioxide displaces any oxygen in the jar, creating an anaerobic environment suitable for subsequent species of Lactobacillus to propagate.

After three weeks, strain out the pink liquid and put it in a serving bottle, preferably with a flip-top airlock style lid, and keep in the fridge. Drink at your leisure – but start slow. Just half a cup a day is all you really need to get the benefits. You might not dig it at first, but you’ll get used to it. Like all the other weird stuff, you’ll end up craving this earthy, salty elixir too.

beet kvass jar

BONUS PROJECT

Leave about a cup of the liquid in the bottom of the beets, fill again with water and another TBS of salt, and ferment the same beets again for another three weeks.

After that point, you can strain out a second batch of kvass and also eat the slightly tangy beets on their own or in a salad. These 6 week old beets will have much less sugar in them, a slightly tangy taste and will be teeming with beneficial bacteria.

While beets are a pretty starchy, high carbohydrate vegetable for anyone on an LCHF (Low Carbohydrate High Fat) diet or similar – fermented beets are much lower in carbohydrates so totally acceptable.  (Whereas if you just “pickle” beets the conventional way by boiling and dumping them into sugary vinegar, they will actually have a much higher level of carbohydrates and sugars. Don’t do that, silly!).

YOU’RE SO WILD, GIRL

When you ferment vegetables (or anything) without adding a starter culture, it’s called doing a “Wild Ferment”. You’re getting your starter culture from the very thing you are culturing. You can use wild yeasts when making bread and beer; you can use wild bacteria when fermenting vegetables and fruits – and cheeses, wines and meats etc. And that’s just way cooler and more natural. Let’s always do it wild. Less fuss, less muss: more WOW factor. Got it?

BODACIOUS BACTERIA

The bacteria in our body outnumber our own cells by a factor of ten, which has to make your jaw drop.

What that essentially means is that over the last couple billion years, Earth bacteria has been co-evolving with us – you might even say “designing us” – in ways to make itself more mobile, virulent and imaginative. Consider that bacteria used to be stuck to a rock underwater; now it can walk around, drive, fly airplanes and be exposed to all manner of exciting cuisines and experiences.

It’s not like we are just the hapless host; we have benefitted immensely from bacteria. Bacteria protects our skin membranes, gives us immunity to diseases, helps digest our food and even creates essential nutrients for us out of food that would otherwise be useless to us. Although there are hundreds of bacteria that are on our side, there are also bacteria that totally suck for us. By encouraging and cultivating the bacteria on our team, they will keep the bad bacteria at bay. It is totally heavy-handed for a human to go after bacteria in general, by means of anti-bacterial wipes and sprays. It’s not our job to try to target bad bacteria – we are too big and clumsy to figure it out. Our job is to promote the health and propagation of our good bacteria so that it can take care of the bad bacteria on our behalf. This is symbiosis, baby! Our good bacteria has been engaged in this dance for billions of years, so there no point presuming we can do it better just because Louis Pasteur figured out how to boil stuff. 

Lactobacillus bacteria in particular inhibits the growth of diarrhea-related bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella and E. Coli. In addition, Lactobacillus competes with pathogens for receptor sites at the mucosal cell surfaces (nose, mouth, underpants region and entire digestive tract), making it more difficult for us to get sick. What this means is that our body is meant to be teeming with Lactobacilli, and has evolved to thrive in its presence. However our modern, sanitized environments and dead, overly fibrous or rancid foods create conditions that deplete Lactobacillus along with other beneficial bacteria. So stop doing that.

Making and drinking beet kvass is too easy not to do. I know you have a couple beets down there in your fridge drawer that you have been too lazy to cook. So just spare five minutes of your time and get on with it. This is a great winter project, and much needed in this season of flu and cold.

FURTHER READING

Article on beet juice lowering blood pressure and sparing oxygen while exercising.

More detailed information about the different Lactobacillus bacterias and their products and by-products, including a table showing all the major lactic acid bacteria involved in fermented fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Mercola’s site claims one serving of fermented vegetables has more probiotics than an entire bottle of commercial probiotic supplements. In other words, don’t bother wasting your money on proprietarily limited commercial strains when making fermented vegetables is dead easy and way more useful.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Raw Eggs: Let’s Crack this one Apart

Raw Eggs: Let's Crack this one Apart

Here’s what you need to know: eggs are good for you and it is a fallacy that their dietary cholesterol content somehow contributes to high LDL blood cholesterol levels. These are unrelated factors regardless of what conventional dietary guidelines will have you believe.

In the “old days” people were always eating raw eggs. See: grandma and her quirkiness. See the expression: “you don’t need to tell me how to suck eggs” etc. But since the advent of factory farming and industrial, sadistic production of chicken and eggs, it became common for raw eggs to be contaminated with salmonella and worse. So it has become a preventative practice to cook eggs because heat kills salmonella.

My rule is that if you are buying the kind of eggs that need to be cooked so that they don’t make you sick, you should just avoid them in the first place. Because what else is lurking in that sickening, industrial egg? What was the chicken eating? What were the conditions? What kind of drugs and hormones was that chicken on so that it could survive being cramped in a battery cage, pecked nearly to death and surrounded by feces? Don’t just cook those eggs, throw them out to the raccoons. Stop creating a demand for eggs that can hit store shelves for under $3. Seriously, people.

WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR IN AN EGG

You want eggs that come from a small farm where the chickens actually go outside and get sunshine on their backs. This natural form of Vitamin D is essential for synthesizing all the other vitamins and nutrients that will make your egg nutritious rather than a waste of your time, or worse, inflammatory.

Another reason you want chickens that go outside is because you want them to peck grass and forage for bugs, especially the kind of bugs that hatch out of fresh cow patties etc. Sounds gross, but this is the circle of life and you need to get on it. Eating grass means high carotein content; eating bugs means high DHA content.

FREE RANGE FOOLERY

At the store you will see plenty of labels on eggs stating they are “free-range”. Well all this means from a regulatory point of view is that the chickens have ACCESS to a tiny door which leads to some form of outside pen. This does not mean that the chickens use the access door, nor does it mean that the outside pen has any grass or bugs in it whatsoever. Furthermore, the chickens used in large-scale egg operations are weak, inferior animals (suitable only for laying eggs, really) who are too timid and ill-equipped to go outside, so they generally do not choose to venture out the terrifying access door. What I am saying is that you cannot win with a large-scale operation.

So you are going to have to find eggs from a small-scale operation. My rule of thumb is less than 500 chickens. That way a human farmer can actually keep track of the chickens and their various issues, and can remove sick chickens from the flock and also just act like farmers instead of factory foremen. You can get these kinds of eggs directly from farmers, farmers’ markets, CSA clubs and also in Ontario from the “Small Flock” egg co-op, which is a co-op of farmers who keep less than 500 chickens per farm but sell under one label. And of course you can also just keep your own chickens if you want to be hard core.smallflock

FEEDING FLAX TO CHICKENS

You see the “Omega-3” label on eggs as well, and this just means that the farmer (or factory foreman) feeds a high ratio of flaxseeds to the chickens. Chickens are pretty efficient at metabolizing flaxseeds and producing eggs higher in Omega-3 fatty acids as a result – so this is a valid claim.

However factory eggs also happen to contain 19 times more pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids than pastured eggs, so you can see why it is essential to add some Omega-3 back into them so that they are not a total junk food. Adding in some Omega-3 will reduce the inflammatory effect of all that Omega-6 – but in the end it will not make very much Omega-3 available to you. Tricky, huh?

What you should know is that chickens who eat grass and forage for bugs produce eggs that are just as high, if not higher, in Omega-3 fatty acids – yet they have 19 times less inflammatory Omega-6 issues to mitigate.

So when you see the “Omega-3” label on eggs, what that says is that these are industrial, factory chickens that have been slightly ameliorated with a health claim for more Omega-3s. It’s kind of like adding Omega-3s to a candy bar – at the end of the day, it’s still a candy bar and the inflammatory properties of the candy bar just can’t be magically canceled out by the additions of some Omega-3s. So let’s call these eggs “industrial plus”, but let’s not confuse them with the eggs from small-scale pastured chickens.

EGG NUTRITION

More than half of the protein in an egg is in the white, but most of the nutrients and all of the fat are in the yolk. Misguided conventional nutritional advice favors protein and fears fat, which is why freaky conflations like egg-white omelettes exist. I’m sorry for you if you ever had to eat one of those.

I don’t think you should throw any part of an egg away; I think you should eat the whole egg. But if you were going to favor any part of the egg, favor the yolk.

A big, natural yolk should be bright orange and contain at least 5g of fat, nearly 3g of protein – and no meaningful carbohydrates. The yolk contains 13 essential nutrients including 10% of your Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D , 5% of your B6, B12 and Vitamin A – all in a super bioavailable package. It is also a source of lutein – for your eyes, and biotin (Vitamin B7) – for glossy hair and dewy skin. However it should be noted that raw egg whites contain anti-nutrients which bind with biotin, among other things, which both make it unavailable and can lead to a biotin-defficiency.

The white of an egg contains nearly 4g of protein – so nominally more than the yolk. The reason everyone has this idea that the whites are soooo much higher in protein is because it is a lean protein, which excites a lot of people who hate fat. There is neither fat nor meaningful carbohydrates in an egg white. So it can totally be used as a pure protein supplement if you are somehow lacking protein – like if you are a vegetarian who eats eggs. But if you are looking for protein, why don’t you just eat the whole egg and get nearly 7g, plus a bonus of all the healthy fats, fat-soluble vitamins and nutrients in the yolk?

EGG WHITE TRICKINESS

While the protein in egg yolks is readily available in its raw state, egg whites contain trypsin-inhibitors which ironically make it more difficult to digest protein. Easy fix is to cook the egg whites, which mostly disables both the trypsin-inhibitors and the anti-nutrient avindin (which binds with biotin). What I am saying is that there is no benefit to eating raw egg whites. Cook them already.

WHY THE CHOLESTEROL CONFUSION?

Two things.

First: When you cook an egg yolk right through, the cholesterol becomes oxidized. When you eat that oxidized cholesterol, it causes inflammation in the body. The body reacts to this inflammation by producing protective cholesterol, including LDL cholesterol. Ergot it has been broadly interpreted that eating eggs raises blood cholesterol serum. A more accurate interpretation is that eating hard-cooked egg yolks can cause inflammation which leads to elevations in LDL cholesterol.

Second: Eating factory eggs, which are freakily high in inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids, causes inflammation in the body which makes the body react by producing protective cholesterol including LDL.

It is very, very easy to fix both these issues. Just use small-farm biodynamic eggs and eat your yolks raw or soft-cooked. End of discussion.

HOW TO WIN AT EGGS

Egg whites are better for you cooked. Egg yolks are better for you raw. So either add raw yolks to your smoothie, or else soft-poach eggs or serve them sunny side up or over-easy. It’s really not that complicated.

My daughter doesn’t like eggs, so I secretly put a raw egg yolk in her breakfast shake some mornings. Recipe = 1 raw egg yolk, 1 cup raw organic milk, 1/2 TBS organic raw cacao, 1/2 TBS coconut oil, 1/4 tsp raw honey from our own bees, 3 drops stevia, vanilla, cinnamon. She falls for it every time.

FURTHER READING

Review study shows eggs do not contribute to heart disease risk, in fact offer beneficial effects

Three Eggs A Day Keeps the Doctor Away

The Cruelest of All Factory Farm Products

An article from Salon about the social costs of purchasing factory farmed eggs, meat and dairy, which accounts for 80% of antibiotic use in America.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Super Matcha Fragilista

Super Matcha Fragilista

Oh brother, another drink. The thing is, I just assumed that everybody was already doing this but it turns out I need to hammer this message home:

YOU NEED TO DRINK MATCHA EVERY DAY

I’m talking tea ceremony! Fancy whisk! Drinking from a bowl!

Matcha is finely stone-ground, high quality shade-grown, steamed green tea leaves. You spoon about 1/2 teaspoon into a lovely bowl, add some water just south of boiling (60-70 degrees Celsius), and whisk it until frothy and dissolved. If it doesn’t froth well, then what you’ve got is crappy powdered green tea, not matcha. The whisk is supposed to be bamboo (called a “chasen”), and your whisking style is supposed to be in a Z pattern. Think Zen. Hey, if no one’s watching: whisk how you like.

GREEN TEA VS MATCHA

Green tea has a ton of benefits; we all know that. But see if you can get through this next paragraph without having a FOMO panic attack and brewing yourself a preventative cup:

Green tea increases the metabolism while also reducing appetite. Polyphenols work to intensify fat oxidation. Green tea regulates glucose levels, preventing high insulin spikes. It relaxes blood vessels so changes in blood pressure don’t lead to heart attacks; also, reduces high blood pressure and protects against blood clotting. It rebalances cholesterol ratios – more good, less bad. It targets cancer cells without damaging the surrounding cells. It delays Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s deterioration, protects brain cells from dying and restores damaged brain cells. Catchetin in green tea is an antioxidant which destroys bacteria and viruses that cause throat infections and cavities. L-Theanine in green tea is an amino acid that imparts tranquility and eases depression. Green tea is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, so will protect against aging and disease in general. Phew, tell me you’re drinking some already!

The problem is, you need to regularly drink at least 2 cups a day for these benefits, and probably a lot more. Drinking that much tea is so exhausting.

SO LET’S CUT TO THE MATCHA

Matcha has all the benefits of green tea (catchetins, amino acids), but possibly 137 times more. That’s kind of a huge multiple, so let me back it up with this study from the University of Colorado in 2003. To break it down, the antioxidants in a bowl of matcha tea are 137 times stronger than in a cup of the green tea specifically available at Starbucks, which is to say: stronger than low quality green tea. Most of the green tea available in the West is low quality. So if you can get your hands on some really fancy imported high quality green tea, and if you infuse the leaves at least 3 times, then possibly matcha is only 3 times richer in antioxidants than your custom import. But why go to all that trouble when high quality, organic matcha powder is readily available at health food stores, tea shops and high end groceries – and is usually sold right next to the bamboo whisk.

Matcha powder was invented by a Buddhist monk, Eisai Myoan in the late 1100’s. He introduced it to his fellow monks as an early biohack – using it helped the monks calm down and prepare for meditation. The secret weapon: L-Theanine. This is an amino acid and a glutamic acid which crosses the blood-brain barrier and induces changes in brain alpha waves and reduces mental and physical stress. Combined with caffeine, L-Theanine improves cognition, promotes faster reaction times, and increases working memory.

You only need one cup a day, and should start with a small amount of matcha powder (1/4 tsp). I’ve been using it for a pretty long time, so I tend to shovel the powder in. But I pay for it. There is A LOT of caffeine in matcha powder, and even though it is slow-release and alkalizing (rather than fast release and acidifying like coffee), you are still going to feel it. Don’t drink this at night unless you are trying to catch up on a whole season of Breaking Bad.

There are also warnings about drinking matcha with milk, as a latté, as conventional dairy milk can reduce the antioxidant effects of the tea. So try almond or cashew milk, especially homemade from soaked organic raw nuts. But I’m not terribly worried about a bit of steamed milk, especially if it gets you to start enjoying matcha. Something is better than nothing.

RITUAL NOT CONVENIENCE

Drinking matcha tea should be a ritual, not a fast-food convenience. See if you can keep a little bowl, a whisk and a small tub of matcha powder at your office or place of work, and enjoy this every morning.

When I’m out and about, I am often tempted to order a Matcha Latté from Starbucks or the Whole Foods café – but be warned that these chains use a matcha powder that is really low quality and diluted with sweeteners. Always ask for unsweetened (it will still be sweetened, just less so), and know that you are having a treat, not a healthful beverage.

Finally, a shout out to my cousin Kyra who forgot her matcha tea ceremony set at my cottage six years ago, which turned into me appropriating it and discovering a new love. THANKS!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Back to School Bagels

Back to School Bagels

This can actually happen, people. Bagels without grain. I mean, the Oopsies are a game-changer because they are perfectly LCHF. But these come close.

Let’s Talk Macronutrients

This recipe makes 6 bagels, which break down to 7g carbohydrates each, plus an amazing 18g of fat and 11g of protein. Your ratio for one of these is 69% fat, 13% carbs, 18% protein. Pretty ideal.

(Compare that a classic bagel has 45g of carbohydrate, 1g of fat and 9g protein – you can see that it is the opposite of a low carb high fat product. If you eat a classic bagel, you are probably going to feel full, bloated and yet simultaneously hungry. You can see why Dr. William Davis chose to put a stack of bagels on the cover of his best-selling book, Wheat Belly!)

Now if you add a few ounces of cream cheese or nut butter, or cheese and salami, or a fried egg with bacon and cheese… OMG I could go on and on.

But for people who still remember fruits you could do the classic Australian breakfast: toasted grainfree bagel smeared with ripe avocado, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt. Throw a tomato on top, preferably fried in bacon, and life is pretty good.

To make this really easy on yourself, do this in a food processor (like a classic Cuisinart).

Back To School Bagels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Into the bowl of a food processor, add:

1.5 cups almond flour
.25 cup golden flaxmeal
1 Tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
.25 tsp sea salt

Pulse a few times to blend.

Break into a large measuring cup or similar:

5 eggs
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

Stir this up with a fork and then pour the wet mixture into the adding funnel of your food processor while you pulse everything together.

Now it gets a little messy. If you are a tidy person, you can carefully spoon this thick dough into a buttered DOUGHNUT PAN (mine is from Crate and Barrel).

If you are not as skilled, scoop the dough into a pastry bag or a ziploc bag and cut a hole in the corner. Pipe the dough out into clean circles in your doughnut pan.

Seeds on top help this to “look” more like a bagel, as eating is a visual exercise. So over the top of the bagels, sprinkle:

.5 Tbsp sesame seeds

Bake for 20 minutes. Makes 6 bagels.

After you’ve perfected these, start adding cheddar, scallions, garlic powder, poppy seeds, onion powder, jalapeños, cinnamon and raisins, or whatever you feel like.

It’s as if you just inherited your own What-A-Bagel.

One Last Note (of Caution)

You couldn’t actually take these bagels to school, even though they are called Back To School Bagels. They are made with almond flour, and schools don’t allow any kind of nut product anymore. So these are technically for breakfast before school, unless you go to some awesome nut-loving school or are home-schooled, you lucky freak.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

What About Scurvy???

What About Scurvy???

We all know the story, or at least we think we know it. Some early sailors got scurvy – showing up as spongy gums, loose teeth, skin lesions, bone pain and lethargy – which then led to some two million sailor deaths between 1500 and 1800. Who knew there were even two million people sailing around back then? Luckily Admiral Sir Richard Dawkins discovered that drinking orange and lemon juice prevented the disease. Subsequently British sailors became known around the world as Limeys because they were always eating limes (which were cheaper but less effective than oranges and lemons) to ward off the dreaded scurvy.

This account is generally correct and has been translated into a rigid belief that if citrus fruits and specifically vitamin C can cure scurvy, then the cause of scurvy must be a lack of vitamin C. This is essentially true, but it is not the whole story.

You may have even wondered to yourself, if you are from a Northern latitude, how on earth your forebears managed to get enough Vitamin C from fresh vegetables and fruits during the long winter, when they didn’t have daily deliveries from California and Florida?  Considering our Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is from 40mg/day (UK) to 90mg/day (Canada), how were we possibly getting enough back then? One easy answer is that 2 cups of traditionally lacto-fermented sauerkraut contain about 80% of the daily RDI. So possibly our northern ancestors knew to eat an awful lot of preserved cabbage and other winter vegetables. Possibly they did as the Indians did and made themselves pine needle or cedar tips tea, or they harvested the dry red flower of the sumach bush and made “Indian lemonade”, which is similarly high in Vitamin C.  We’ve also heard the story about settlers being saved from scurvy by rose hip tea.

I’ll come back to a defining dietary similarity between the sailors and the settlers in a moment. First I want to return to a culture that never had access to fruits and vegetables and yet did not develop scurvy.

THE TRADITIONAL INUIT: NO SCURVY IN SIGHT

It would be too easy to just say that the Inuit peoples of the Arctic only ate fat and meat and didn’t get scurvy. The fact is, they ate most of their meat and seafood raw, and in their raw forms, these foods are relatively high in Vitamin C. They also ate a staple of muktuk, which is the high Vitamin C skin of the Beluga whale.  In addition, it has been suggested that the Inuit enjoyed eating the fermented vegetal contents of caribou stomachs, which were similarly high in Vitamin C. The fatty adrenal glands of animals are also usually full of Vitamin C. We’re not talking thousands of milligrams, but nearly enough to make the suggested RDI.  They probably also made teas out of herbs that were full of ascorbic acid. Simple enough explanation.

But that doesn’t explain Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Karsen Anderson’s 1928 year-long experiment at New York’s Bellevue Hospital where they consumed only fatty meat and organs (like brains, liver, kidneys) and yet did not develop scurvy. They did not consume muktuk, fermented caribou stomachs or herbal teas. The whole point of their experiment was that they exclusively ate meat and fat. And furthermore, they ate all of their meat and fat cooked; they did not follow the Inuit protocol of consuming most of it raw. This is not a magic trick, but it does illuminate the key limiting factor in the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin C.

COMPETING FOR CELL RECEPTORS

The scoop is: both Vitamin C and glucose compete for the same receptors to enter the cell membrane, and those receptors favor glucose. The GLUT-1 receptor is activated by insulin, and pairs with the similarly structured Vitamin C and glucose molecules to allow them to enter the cell. But what that means plainly is that if you have a lot of glucose in your diet in the form of carbohydrates, the glucose is going to enter your cell membranes instead of the Vitamin C. So most of your ingested Vitamin C is going to be wasted, and you are going to have to supplement with quite a lot in order to get any past the GLUT-1 receptor gates and into your cells. However if you just keep on, keep on supplementing with Vitamin C, eventually some will get through to those receptors, and you will not get scurvy.

This fact leads to the belief that not only does Vitamin C prevent scurvy, but that a lack of Vitamin C causes scurvy. The first statement is true, the second statement is merely correlated.

A more correct way of looking at scurvy is that it is a deficiency disease caused by excessive carbohydrates.

SCURVY IS CAUSED BY EXCESSIVE CARBOHYDRATES

I really had to make that a heading, to let it sink in.

So it’s a win if you happen to be in the business of selling Vitamin C, because people on a high carbohydrate diet are going to need to buy a lot of it for basic functioning and also to prevent scurvy.

Now I want to return to the defining dietary similarity between sailors and early settlers. What unites them is that they largely lived on rations that were heavy in carbohydrates. In the sailors’ case, their diet consisted of salted preserved meat and hardtack, which is also known as a “sea biscuit”. This was an inexpensive and long-lasting flat brick of flour, water and sometimes salt. The large ratio of hardtack (and sugary rum for that matter) in the sailors’ diets meant that glucose from carbohydrates were getting to their cell receptors before any scarce Vitamin C from their salted meat rations could get close. Hence: scurvy. Similarly settlers used flour and bread as their energy staple, which inhibited Vitamin C absorption. Take away the hardtack, rum, flour and bread – and you take away the scurvy.

SO HOW MUCH VITAMIN C DO WE NEED?

Here’s the rub. On a fat and meat diet, you only need about 10mg of Vitamin C/day. But that kind of diet is not really affordable, necessary, or in any way sustainable these days. However the fact remains that if you restrict your carbohydrates, you do not need the huge amounts of Vitamin C that are recommended by the governments of the world.

However, the governments of the world would generally like to support not only their farmers (yeah, right) but their commodities markets of sugar, wheat, soy and grains. So in order to recommend a high carbohydrate diet to the people, it is absolutely necessary to simultaneously recommend a high Vitamin C supplementation.

I just need to say this one more time: Vitamin C is not the cure for scurvy, it is the cure for a diet high in carbohydrates.

This is the reason why the supplement section doesn’t even carry Vitamin C pills lower than 500mg/pill – and that most of them are at least 1000mg/pill. Why would we need ten times our RDI of Vitamin C? Maybe because our carbohydrate consumption tends to be ten times higher than our bodies have evolved to manage.

STILL THERE?

Why not read Stefansson’s first-hand account that he wrote up for Harper’s magazine in 1935?

Or read a 316-page pdf of Stefansson’s 1946 book “Not By Bread Alone”, renamed “The Fat of the Land“. You will really learn a lot about pemmican!

Maybe you also want more details about the relationship between Vitamin C, glucose and insulin receptors.

Tagged , , , , , ,

My Big Fat Coffee: Foundation Drink No. 4

So you’ve smuggled in all this grass-fed butter, now what? It’s not like you can spread it on toast, sandwiches or pancakes. Not in a dream world, anyway. (A dream world is one where you don’t eat sugar and grains, FYI. In case that wasn’t clear).

So you can bake with it (almond/coconut flour to the rescue), melt it on your vegetables, add to sauces and gravies (what a great emulsifier!) but short of just eating it, you might find yourself running out of ways to answer the age-old question: How can I get more butter in my life?

JUST ADD IT TO YOUR COFFEE

This sounds crazy, I know!  But it’s not my idea. This comes from The Bulletproof Executive and tons of people are doing it. Don’t be the last to the party.

coffee butter coconut oil

THE WAY I DRINK IT

1 TBS grass-fed butter
1 TBS quality coconut oil
espresso or coffee

And then I sometimes add a little raw milk to cool it down and make it creamier.

If you only add coconut oil, which I sometimes do, you will get a pool of oil on the surface of your coffee. It’s not the worst and you can just keep stirring it in. But when you also add butter, the butter emulsifies all the fats into a lovely homogenous drink.

Better: throw it in your Vitamix or blender, and blend until it turns a homogenous caramel colour with a beautiful latté foam on top. I mean, come on! The latté photo below is made without milk – just coconut oil and butter in black coffee. Creamy, right?

buttercoffeeTo be clear, The Bulletproof Executive has a much more refined way of doing this. He uses his own proprietary extremely high quality coffee which is guaranteed free of toxins and mould, and then he also uses his own proprietary MCT (Medium Chain Triglyceride) oil which is slightly more “fat burning” than coconut oil, in that it promotes ketosis more readily. He has really thought this out, and uses it as a “cheat” for intermittent fasting. His theory is that if you limit your solid eating to between the hours of 2pm and 8pm and fast the rest of the time, your body reaps crazy benefits in longevity, energy, metabolism, healing and whatnot. The way he “cheats” is by allowing as much grass-fed butter, MCT oil and coffee as he wants before 2pm. But he would never add milk because that would stimulate digestion and defeat his purpose. And I think he opposes dairy. It is impossible to be hungry if you are downing all your calories directly from tablespoons of pure fat; your caloric requirements are met. (Though all your other dietary requirements are not met – so if you follow his regimen you better be sure to cram nutrient dense foods into your 6 hour eating window).

I am intrigued by the intermittent fasting, and think it should probably find its way into my life for one day every week or something. It’s probably not a great regimen if you are trying to get pregnant, already pregnant, nursing etc. (Though eating high fat is a great regimen).

BUTTER COFFEE IS FOR ME

Try it. You’ll like it. But if you don’t have grass-fed butter, just use the coconut oil and deal with the oil slick on top. It’s not worth doing this with organic or conventional butter because of all the grain the dairy cows ate. If you just don’t like coffee or you think you should avoid it, you can add grass-fed butter and coconut oil to The Crazy Hot Drink, to unsweetened hot cocoa (preferably raw cacao) or just about any earthy tea – unsweetened chai would be great.

Also remember that FAT + SUGAR = sick and fat. If you’re going to embrace fat, and it’s about time you did, you’ve got to kick sugar to the curb.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Managing Stomach Acid? This Is For You

Managing Stomach Acid: This Is For You

“Let food by thy medicine and medicine by thy food,” sayeth the great old Hippocrates. And while I couldn’t agree more, what if that food is not being digested properly? Or if the healing foods are giving you so much acid reflux that you feel like you are just biding your time until esophageal cancer strikes?

I ordered this book, Why Stomach Acid Is Good For You: Natural Relief from Heartburn, Indigestion, Reflux & GERD, because I can’t believe how many people I know – friends and family, young and old – who are taking daily antacids or acid-blocker medication due to mild or very serious acid reflux or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). I wanted to know if there was an alternative to the party line being pumped out by pharmaceutical companies and well-meaning doctors alike.

What a surprise: there is! And not only that, but the remedy for acid reflux is – wait for it – THE EXACT OPPOSITE of what every single doctor or advertisement is telling you to do.

Obviously this is contrarian advice, and that is why I am drawn to it. But if I was suffering from this condition, I would not wait another minute before reading this book. This is the real “second opinion” that you need to get for yourself and your best health.

The cause of acid reflux, where stomach acid leaks up through the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES) and burns the delicate lining of the esophagus, is not an overabundance of stomach acid. Instead it is an underperforming LES due to low stomach acid. When the stomach acid is too low, it lets the LES be lazy – which allows leaks. When stomach acid is high, the LES must be on guard and stay strong and tight, because it knows its job is to protect the esophagus from acid. If it doesn’t detect much acid, it doesn’t bother doing its job. Chronic low stomach acid leads to a very lazy underperforming LES. This can be remedied by increasing the acidity of the stomach acid through time-tested methods like ingesting bitters before meals, or with stronger medical interventions like capsules of hydrochloric acid.

Now before you start mowing down on hydrochloric acid, maybe you should take this book to a doctor or some kind of healer. Let’s not get all your information from an untrained but enthusiastic hobbyist from the internet, please.

Also, some conditions are herniated – which means the LES is not located right in the diaphragm where it should be, but has been squeezed up above where it cannot benefit from the muscles of the diaphragm to help keep it closed. These conditions probably need surgery to fix, or else can remedy on their own by losing a tremendous amount of weight. (This is what happens in pregnancy – the LES is squeezed above the diaphragm and then acts leaky until the baby is delivered and the LES has room again to gravitate back to the diaphragm. Most cases of pregnancy reflux completely disappear the minute the baby is born.)

What is so interesting is that the conventional medical response to reflux is to prescribe antacids to lower stomach acidity or acid-blockers to block acid production completely.

Creating a low-acid environment in the stomach is going to lead to a lazy LES, which will not solve the problem of acid getting into the esophagus. All it will do is neutralize the digestive juices. Which means you will not be able to properly digest food. And that just doesn’t make a lot of sense. The stomach acid is there for a reason; it’s not just some bothersome pool of corrosive liquid that you are meant to destroy.

If you remove your ability to properly digest food, and all its enzymes, vitamins, minerals, macro- and micro-nutrients, what are you left with?

A low level of health.

If this is all news to you, and you want to read more about it, please check out Chris Kessler’s great five-part series online: What Everybody Ought To Know (But Doesn’t) About Heartburn and GERD. You can thank me later.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Substitution: Hot Sauce

hot sauce vs ketchupWHAT’S SO WRONG WITH KETCHUP?

On the one hand, good old fashioned ketchup is full of lycopene, the antioxidant from tomatoes that only becomes bio-available after cooking. But on the other hand, the third ingredient in organic Heinz ketchup (after organic tomato paste and organic white vinegar) is organic sugar. This adds up to 5g sugar per tablespoon, which is a lot when you consider my daughter easily eats 3 TBSP every time she sits down. Every tablespoon of ketchup has the same amount of sugar as Lindt chocolate ball, and honestly, wouldn’t you prefer to eat your sugar as a chocolate ball? 3 tablespoons of ketchup has more sugar than an ENTIRE BAR of Lindt 90% cacao chocolate – all 10 squares! Please, don’t waste sugar by eating it as a condiment.

Most non-organic commercial ketchup is made with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Obviously you are going to avoid that wherever possible.

I have tried to replace the contents of the ketchup container with a brand from the health food store that uses raw honey as its sweetener, and got no complaints from my family. Though naturally they would have complained if they knew.

One of these days I will make this fermented ketchup recipe from Nourishing Traditions, even though it’s still pretty sweet (though sweetened with maple syrup). I have also seen it made with stevia, but never tried it myself. Obviously any homemade version would have to be smuggled back into a familiar Heinz bottle.

Changing other people’s habits is a work in progress, but I can still do something about my own. So here’s what I have done to avoid ketchup:

SUB HOT SAUCE FOR KETCHUP

It’s that simple. Every time I want to use ketchup, I use hot sauce instead. It doesn’t have any sugar or carbohydrates. If you are already starting off your day with The Crazy Hot Drink, then your body is probably craving spicier foods than you are used to. So give it a try. I started on Harissa, a Middle-Eastern condiment made from roasted red peppers ground with spices, sea salt and olive oil (do NOT use condiments made with soy/corn/canola oil). Then I moved on to plain old Tabasco Sauce, as it is readily available in most restaurants.

AND THE WINNER IS

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is mild (!) enough that I can really dump it on my eggs and if I add too much, it won’t ruin the meal. It is made of cayenne peppers, which can miraculously increase blood flow to the sickest parts of the body that need it. Frank’s does not make an organic version, which is a bummer. But it has a bright, hot flavor and you will love it! Thanks to my littlest sister for the recommendation.

But don’t worry, you can totally ferment your own hot sauce out of your own organic peppers and high quality sea salt. Check out this project!

OTHER BENEFITS: CAPSAICIN

Like cayenne powder, hot sauce is made of dried hot red peppers, so they have similar benefits as they both contain capsaicin. First of all, the spicy flavor stimulates your stomach acids and digestive juices, and also increases the mucous layer of the stomach. So this makes your digestion more efficient, but does not stimulate the appetite. In fact, the appetite can be repressed with capsaicin (which is why it is such a big part of the Master Cleanse). Secondly, the body’s response to the shocking jolt of spice is to release “natural pain killers”, or endorphins – which make you feel good like a tiny rush of opiates. And thirdly, capsaicin is thermogenic so it revs up the metabolism, and your body moves fat and glucose into the blood for your muscles to use.  It can also offer protection against some food borne pathogens – so if you are about to eat something dodgy, definitely cover it in hot sauce. Capsaicin also warms you up, clears your sinuses and reverses prostate cancer in mice.

So go ahead, put hot sauce on everything. It’s a great habit.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Kefir: Foundation Drink No. 3

I KEEP SEEING THIS IN THE STORE

That’s right, you can now buy “kefir” at the store! Liberté Organics has a version in a plastic jug that you can drink, and it’s also flavored with strawberry or blueberry. Try this if you are new to kefir. It’s just super sweet like YOP! Enjoy, preferably last thing at night before bed.

Once you are ready to graduate to the next level, try buying a better commercial version. Here in Ontario we have Pinehedge Farms, which makes a UNHOMOGENIZED WHOLE MILK version in a glass jar. They also have a low fat version but I do not encourage low fat products.

But I put “kefir” in quotes up above for a reason. The commercial “kefir” that you buy is made from a powdered compilation of beneficial bacteria and yeast cultures – usually containing about 9 strains combined. This is “better” than yoghurt, which usually only contains one or two varieties (Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus). Just as an aside, there is a story going around that yoghurt cultures are destroyed in the stomach and never make it to the intestines to flourish, but this study suggests otherwise. The cultures in commercial “kefir” are great, and like the yoghurt cultures, they make it through the digestive tract and live to colonize the intestines. The Pinehedge “kefir” is a fantastic product, thick, creamy and great tasting, and I would be happy if you ate a 1/2 cup every night before bed so that it can colonize you in your sleep.

WHY BOTHER MAKING MY OWN KEFIR THEN?

As much as I love the Pinehedge “kefir” (or similar glass-bottled whole milk unhomogenized products), they probably don’t have more than 10 strains of bacteria in their makeup. Whereas homemade kefir from “grains” contains 29 strains of bacteria and 27 strains of yeast. Want to see the whole list? Though please note that this isn’t a more = better contest. Actually, change that. It most certainly IS A MORE = BETTER CONTEST as far as intestinal bacteria is concerned. I mean, you want more of the “good bacteria” certainly and less of the “bad bacteria”, but what you are especially looking for is diversity. This is like the rainforest – lots of options give you adaptability but a monoculture or fewer species of bacteria limit your immune system’s ability to deal with all the environmental factors you throw at it. But even beyond this great diversity of bacteria and yeasts, homemade kefir from “grains” derived from the Caucasus Mountains have an even more profound advantage. In fact homemade kefir from these grains is such a very special creation that no commercial enterprise has been able to replicate it, though they have certainly tried and tried. Wikipedia calls kefir a unique “symbiotic consortia of bacteria and yeasts”. And what is most special about these Caucasian grains is that when allowed to ferment on the lactose of dairy milk, they create a substance called kefiran. And it’s all about the kefiran.

KEFIRAN

Kefiran is the polysaccharide that holds the “grains” of kefir together, and is created as a result of the unique relationships between kefir’s bacteria and yeasts. Kefiran tested on rats has reduced and eliminated tumors, induced systemic anti-inflammatory response, reduced serum cholesterol levels and suppressed increased blood pressure. In human studies, kefiran had a preventative effect against breast cancer cells without harming the healthy cells,  and it stimulated body cells to produce 14 times more Interferon-beta, a vital glycoprotein excreted by body cells to combat viral infection, and possibly combat cancer cells. Nobody has compiled the research on kefiran better than Kefir Mentor Dom Anfiteatro, who has the most comprehensive guide to kefir that exists, complete with references to every existing study.

But that two-page list of studies is all there is. Are there ongoing large-scale clinical trials on kefiran? Certainly not. There is no money in it as kefiran just cannot be made commercially. It has to be tended, like a pet, and it is very susceptible to changes in temperature, humidity and the ratios of milk to grains. Is this the inexpensive low-tech answer to curing cancer? I don’t know, but it doesn’t cause any harm (unlike all cancer medicines and conventional protocols),  and costs no more than good quality milk, some cool glass jars with flip-tops and a one-time purchase of grains (under $20 unless you can get them from a friend for free).

YEAST, YUK! RIGHT…?

I get it, you just spent  months on a Candida Cleanse to get rid of your yeast overgrowth, which was characterized by sharp pangs in your stomach (intestines) every time you ate too much sugar, and also by an anti-intuitive out of control craving for that same sugar. You cut out sugar, bread, beer, brewer’s yeast, fermented products of all sorts. So how on earth can it be beneficial now to ingest more yeast?

Well the 27 yeasts in kefir are generally “the good yeasts”! And they will fight off “the bad yeasts”(Candida albicons) that are controlling your sugar appetite and leading to yeast overgrowths. For this reason, sometimes when people start taking kefir, the new yeasts cause a die-off of the old yeasts, called a Herxheimer reaction. These dying Candida albicons can produce up to 79 short-term toxins and be kind of unpleasant (headache, fatigue, bloating) until they are all eliminated. One way to avoid this is by initiating your kefir protocol slowly, like a few TBS at night, and then only over a week or two work up to 1/2 cup or more. If you get constipated, you have taken too much too soon.

stovetop kefir

WHAT WILL IT DO FOR ME? BIG PICTURE

People, let’s start with the problems you don’t know you have yet. Consider that all auto-immune diseases start in the gut. Check out the long, long list of auto-immune diseases. You don’t have any yet? Well your mom or your uncle probably does. And I’m sorry to say this but on a Western diet, they’re coming for you. And what about allergies? If your gut health isn’t optimal, meaning if you don’t have the best balance of beneficial bacteria colonizing your intestines, then the walls of your intestines are leaking partially digested foods directly into your blood where they act as toxins. These toxins affect both your psychology and your physiology. There is a name for this occurrence, it’s called the Gut and Psychology (or Physiology) Syndrome – shortened to GAPS, and coined by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.

Haven’t heard of GAPS yet? Have you heard of Leaky Gut Syndrome? It’s not exactly recognized by the conventional medical establishment, but it is understood to be the pre-cursor to every auto-immune system. Leaky Gut Syndrome is not a side effect that the medical establishment can treat with commercial drugs, so it doesn’t seem very interesting to them, and nor is healing the gut. In our system, a drug comes first and then an illness is discovered and marketed to sell the drug. The economic problem here is that it is drugs themselves, especially antibiotics, that create imbalances in the gut and harm it. But all that is an aside.  I am here to tell you that healing the gut is EVERYTHING.

WHAT WILL IT DO FOR ME? SMALLER PICTURE

Kefir is high in tryptophan, so has a tranquilizing effect on the nervous system and can help you get to sleep as well as ease depression and ADHD. It is easily digested, balances and cleanses the intestines with beneficial bacteria and yeasts, and builds up the immune system. The fermentation process creates complete proteins, reduces carbohydrates by pre-digesting sugars and lactose, boosts levels of B Vitamins – especially B12 and folic acid, and in particular creates the important Vitamin K2.

When you take kefir regularly (I prefer at bedtime when it has the best chance of colonizing the intestines) it will reduce gas, promote regular bowel movements and eliminate bloating and other intestinal issues.

ALREADY CONVINCED? WELL TRY MAKING IT

There are so many great sites online that show you how to make kefir. Let me direct you to Dom’s Kefir-Making Site, where he has step by step instructions with photos. If all that info is too much to handle, look at these simpler instructions at Nourished Kitchen.

WHAT I DO

I use 2 glass flip-top jars for the first fermentation and the second fermentation. I use a steel strainer and a wooden spoon. I use raw (unhomogenized organic whole fat) milk that I get in an alley from a cow that I share (thanks for the hassle, Ontario!). I also use lemon peels and sometimes basil leaves for the second fermentation.

FIRST FERMENTATION: WITH KEFIR GRAINS

  1. Before bed, I put a small handful of kefir grains in a flip-top 1 L jar and fill about 3/4 full (3 cups of milk). This is a very high grains to milk ratio, but I have a lot of grains and not a lot of room to store milk.
  2. I put the sealed jar into a dark cupboard, because that is convenient for me. A countertop is fine. When I remember and pass the cupboard, I give the jar a gentle shake.
  3. In the morning, about 12 hours later, I check the kefir. The milk is usually still runny, and it hasn’t thickened or shown signs of “legs” on the glass when shaken.  I put it back in the cupboard.
  4. Usually between 3pm and 6pm, the kefir has started to look like it is thickening up. But I usually don’t have time to deal with it right away. So I move it to the fridge until bedtime, to slow it down.
  5. At bedtime, let’s say 9 or 10pm, I take the kefir out of the fridge and check again to make sure it is ready. Usually the fridge seems to thicken it a bit more, I think because a different form of bacteria is allowed to propagate at the cooler temperature.
  6. At this point if it is ready (has legs, is thick) I pour it through a strainer into a bowl, stirring with a spoon to separate the grains from the kefir.
  7. I put the kefir grains back into the same flip-top jar without rinsing them or the jar (I rinse the jar every 3 or 4 turns), and fill back up with milk, then put the jar back into the cupboard to repeat at step 2 above. This jar is called THE FIRST FERMENT.

THE SECOND FERMENTATION: WITHOUT KEFIR GRAINS

  1. I pour the freshly strained kefir from the bowl into a second glass 1L flip-top jar, and add about a 1/4 of a lemon peel. Sometimes I add a basil leaf as well, or bee pollen and royal jelly. This jar is called THE SECOND FERMENT.
  2. I seal up this jar and put it into the cupboard next to the first ferment. And then I go to sleep.
  3. In the morning, I check both jars and maybe shake them a bit. I am checking for thickness, legs, or separation.
  4. Usually between 3pm -6pm, both the first ferment and the second ferment are ready or almost ready, so I put them both in the fridge. Again, the fridge just makes them a little more drinkable to me, a little smoother and creamier.
  5. At bedtime, I take out the second ferment and check it for doneness. Now is a great time to drink it! It should be bubbly like champagne, slightly tart from the sourness of the milk, zesty from the lemon and/or basil, and mild (to my taste anyway). It should not taste or smell revolting or overly sour. It should definitely not taste or smell like rancid milk.
  6. At this point I usually rinse or don’t rinse the second ferment jar, and pour the strained kefir from the first ferment into it. Etc.

grainsIt’s great when it all works like this, because I like to be able to drink my kefir at night, and do all the work at the same time. However sometimes it’s just not ready in time, and I have to wait until morning. Sometimes I wait until morning and then it has gone too far – characterized by separating into curds and whey. (If this happens, you can then strain the kefir through a cheesecloth and make cream cheese from the curds and drink the whey separately). Sometimes if it has only separated a little, you can put the jar in the fridge and it will sort of “come back together”. The fridge seems to smooth out a lot of human error, I find.

A NOTE ON JARS

You can do this in mason jars, so long as you don’t make them too tight. The fermentation process produces CO2 which can cause the jar to explode. But the problem with a loose mason jar lid is that it also lets random yeasts and bacterias in, which changes the final product (can make it extra sour etc.). The best results happen in an air-lock jar where the carbon dioxide can get out but nothing can get in. You can see every method of jar tested here, on 28-day sauerkraut. Even better results happen when there is a bit of pressure on the jar, but not enough to burst it. Which means you don’t have to spend big money on a fancy Pickl-it jar, as any old Fido or European brand of glass flip-top jars will do. Ikea jars, not so sure. Let’s leave the Chinese glass in China.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,