Saturday, July 23, 2011
Friday, July 22, 2011
I started brewing my own kefir water a couple of weeks ago. I have written about it in a couple of posts, here and here. Fast forward to the present, and I have to say that brewing and drinking kefir water has become a normal part of my life – barely remarked upon even by my husband, who thought I was completely nuts when I started. Here are some thoughts on the subject of brewing and drinking kefir.
1. Sugar content: if you have diabetes, or are trying to stay low-carb, drinking kefir water can be tricky. Most recipes you find for brewing kefir water recommend that you use anywhere between 1/3 and ½ cup of some form of sugar to 1 scant quart of water when you start the batch. Of course, the final product has less sugar than this, because your little kefir grains happily munch away on the sugar (this is their food, it keeps them alive). However, I found that this ratio of sugar to water produces a very sweet batch of kefir water, after a standard 48 hour, room temp ferment. This led me to believe that, if there was so much sugar left over after a full ferment, my kefir grains must not need as much as I was providing to them. So, I heavily diluted my first batch with water, and added some lemon for a delicious, barely sweetened lemonade. I decided to brew subsequent batches with less sugar product – about ¼ cup of sugar to 1 scant quart of water. It has worked out pretty well – the resulting kefir water is still sweet, but not unpalatably so.
2. Making the brew: (a) I've experimented with using thai coconut palm sugar paste, brown sugar, and unrefined cane sugar. All of these sugars work well. I prefer the coconut palm sugar paste, because it is the least refined. (b) I have also used bottled spring water, instead of water from the tap. I have City water, and it is very good. In fact, the water in my neighborhood comes from a large City well located less than a mile from my house. I am not sure what additives are put into the water before it gets to my house, however. I don't think that it is chlorinated, but finding out for sure would require me calling the water department, and that would be a pain in the butt. And, a gallon of spring water is pretty cheap, and easy enough to pick up at the grocery store. (c) I have added a few things to my brew, including slices of banana, a handful of dried cranberries, and once, a boiled eggshell. Why? Well, I read online at some reputable websites that the kefir grains do well with the nutrients that come from the fruit, and that they also benefit from the minerals in the egg. I threw the egg shell in because I noticed, after the second batch or so, that the structure of my grains seemed to be degrading a bit. I also used an eggshell in the subsequent batch, and it fixed that issue right up. Regarding the eggshell: make sure you boil it. I had rinsed it, and was about to throw it in the brew, but then had second thoughts. I had read on one blog that a woman's kefir smelled sulfurous after she threw in a "rinsed" eggshell. I decided to boil the eggshell, because I didn't want to introduce any foreign bacteria to the brew. Good thing I boiled mine briefly. You wouldn't believe how much egg white had been left behind, even after rinsing. By boiling it, the white grew in size and became opaque, and I was able to remove it completely. The resulting brew did not taste or smell eggy, at all. Also, I'm pretty sure that the kefir grains actually did take some minerals from the egg shell, because the short soak in the brew caused the egg shell to be less rigid. The banana slice did not alter the flavor of the brew. Neither did the dried cranberries, although they colored it a light pink.
3. Serving your kefir water: I usually ferment my kefir water just once, then stick the strained batch in a mason jar with standard lid, and stash it in the fridge. I usually consume the quart or so of kefir water by the time the next batch is ready. Here are some serving options: (a) my favorite is kefir limeade – mix one cup of kefir water with lime juice to taste and serve over ice. I have used powdered lime called "True Lime" in a pinch. It is delicious, incorporates easily, and tastes just like you've added fresh lime juice (without all of the squeezing). It tastes just like the amazing, fresh lime drink I enjoyed frequently when I was studying abroad in Thailand. Add some seltzer water to taste, and you have a very refreshing beverage in the hot summer heat. (b) pomegranate kefir lemonade – mix one cup of kefir water with ¼ cup pomegranate juice, and ½ cup of lemonade and serve over ice. Delicious for those of you who don't bother with low carb. I made this for my husband, who decided to add just a touch of rum. He said it was delicious. I had the tiniest sip, and it was just way to sweet for me. (c) I've done the second ferment (minus the grains, plus a small amount of pomegranate juice), and I wasn't crazy about it. The resulting product was just too sweet. Also, if you leave the mix on the counter with a sealed lid, it may just blow up on you. I left my brew out for a second ferment in a mason jar with a tight-ish lid overnight. The next day, I was amazed at the pressure in the jar when I opened it to check on the brew. Had I left it until the afternoon to check, it may well have blown up on me. My thoughts: leave it on the counter for about 12 hours, then stick it right in the fridge and let it finish in there for another day or so. Finally, (d) is something I thought of immediately – making ridiculously delicious margaritas out of your kefir limeade. Here's a recipe I'm going to try out this weekend and feed to guests who can drink alcohol (unlike your pregnant friend, here).
Kefir Lime Margaritas
6 ounces white tequila
2 ounces triple sec or Cointreau
8 ounces kefir water
Juice of 1 lime, or 4-6 packets "True Lime"
Mix all ingredients in a 1 quart mason jar. Screw on lid, and shake until well combined. Open jar, add several ice cubes, and stir until ice cold (okay to shake if you don't mind a cloudy margarita). Strain into margarita glasses (with salted rims, if you like that). Should make about 4 margaritas. Note: I'm not sure whether prolonged exposure to alcohol will kill the cultures in your kefir water, but I don't think so. Alcohol is one byproduct of kefiring. Just in case, be sure to mix up the batch right before serving.
4. The effects of kefir water: Do I feel like Super Woman? Well, no. In fact, I feel just like a tired pregnant woman in her first trimester usually does. I am low-ish on energy, and feel fatigued on a pretty regular basis. I think that maybe I feel a little less fatigued than I did with my last pregnancy. However, I don't think that it can reasonably be attributed to my adding kefir to my diet. I am a lot healthier now than I was the last time I was pregnant (I weight a lot less, I am more fit, and I eat much better). One thing I can attest to: kefir helps keep you regular. It moves things along. That is an added benefit during pregnancy, which can muck up the works a bit. I can definitely tell you this: I don't feel worse for drinking kefir.
Alright. I think that is sufficiently wrapped up. Until the next time…
Hey, what do you think about kefir? Is it crazy? Do you kefir? Interested in trying? Any recipes? Let me know!!
Thursday, July 21, 2011
What do you think about adding some shaved chocolate to the batter? I have a 72% cocoa chocolate bar, and was thinking it might be a good addition.
Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Now that I'm supposed to maintain my carbs just high enough to keep me out of ketosis (thank you pregnancy), yet low enough to keep my blood sugar from spiking (thus requiring me to use insulin, which I am trying to avoid as much as possible) (thank you diabetes), I've been trying to find a healthy way to incorporate some carbohydrate into my diet.
I attempted to work in some whole grains, but that led to some serious gastrointestinal discomfort (oy vey – the gas, the cramps from the gas). So, grains are out.
I've decided the way to handle this is to go primal/paleo, keeping the carbs to about 80 net grams per day. How does that work? Well… basically, I use my usual low carb menu, then I supplement it with small to moderate amounts of nutritious fruits and vegetables that contain some carbohydrate, including berries, some beans, and sweet potatoes, for example.
I've found that my blood sugar stays stable if I eat the carbohydrate together with fat, which slows the digestion of the carbs. Also, it seems that my blood sugar responds differently to the same amount and type of carbohydrate depending on what time of the day I ingest that carbohydrate – the carbohydrate is better tolerated in the evening than in the morning. No idea why this is so.
Last night, I made the best dinner ever. I want to share it with you. It was pretty "primalicious", if I must say so myself. And it was a pretty meal… I should have taken photos. We demolished the entire dinner (and I made a ton of food). Even my picky-ish 4 year old approved.
Here's what we ate: Cashew Chicken and Homemade Sweet Potato Chips with Sea Salt. Yummo. Here's how to duplicate.
Sweet Potato Chips
1 x 1lb organic sweet potato
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup olive oil
Sea salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Scrub the sweet potato, but do not peel. Slice into a chip shape with your mandolin or v-slicer (get a cheap one if you must, as it is key to making these thin enough).
- Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Oil should cover the bottom of the pan.
- Fry the sweet potato slices in batches of 5-6 slices in the hot oil, until bright orange, soft and the edges are just beginning to curl up and lightly brown. It goes pretty fast.
- Place the cooked sweet potatoes on a foil-covered cookie sheet as you finish frying them. When all the slices are lined up on the cookie sheet, sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
- Bake in the hot oven, on the upper rack, until they are brown and crisp. Check after five minutes, for every five minutes, to make sure they don't burn.
- Don't throw out the leftover oil! Use it to make the cashew chicken, below!!
1-1.25 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1" chunks
1/3 cup cashews
¼ cup olive oil
3 tbsp garlic
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
1 tbsp sesame seed oil
½ tsp sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper
½ fresh mango, diced
½ cup red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
4 tbsp Olive oil, and 2 tbsp coconut oil (or leftover oil from chip recipe, above)
- Mix all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, and marinade for at least an hour.
- Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat.
- Add mixture to hot oil, stir frying quickly, until chicken is brown and cooked through.
- Serve! You can add some thin scallion slices, chopped cilantro, or a bit of chiffonade basil to the top for some extra flavor and a bit of pizzazz.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Polish Borscht (Beet soup)
Makes about 4-5 cups.
4 medium sized beets
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 carton low sodium vegetable stock
1 tsp sugar or honey or 1/2 packet of truvia
1-2 tbsp red wine or apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder (not garlic salt)
1. Heat oven to 400. Scrub beets; cut off beet greens; place beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil; drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Wrap beets tightly in aluminum foil (making a packet) and place packet on a baking sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes. (This can be done ahead, or you can substitute a large can of beets for the roasted beets and proceed directly to the next step, if short on time).
2. Meanwhile, saute the chopped onion in the olive oil over medium heat. When the onion is translucent and soft, add the vegetable stock, sugar, vinegar and garlic powder to the pan. Simmer.
3. Quarter the cooked beets, add to the stock, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt to taste.
4. Carefully puree the hot soup and serve. (An immersion blender works best).
1. I like to add a dollop of dairy (cream, sour cream, creme fraiche, or plain greek yogurt) and a little fresh dill to the soup before serving.
2. It is very traditional to add a few pieces of boiled waxy potato to the soup prior to serving, but this soup is so hearty that I don't bother.
I leave on the beet skin because it contains a lot of vitamins and nutrients, and once its pureed, you don't even know its there. However, if you peel the beets after roasting, it will produce a smoother puree later. The best way to peel the beets, I've found, is to place one beet at a time in a bowl full of cool water in the sink, then use a vegetable peeler to peel them in the water (your hands, the beets and the peeler should be submerged!). The beet juice dissipates in the water and doesn't stain your hands, cutting board, clothes, etc.
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
You Are A Radical, And So Am I: Paleo Reaches The Ominous "Stage 3″ -- Health & Wellness -- Sott.net
This is an excellent, well-written article that discusses the correlation between grain subsidies, wealthy agricultural companies, and the advice we receive from our government about nutrition. When in doubt, follow the money!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
Thursday, July 7, 2011
Which brings me to my point. Having a low carb pregnancy requires that you give some thought to snacking throughout the day. Now that I'm pregnant, and using insulin (12 units of humalog at bedtime only, to help control morning fasting sugar), I am trending towards hypoglycemic during the day. This is notwithstanding the fact that I've added reasonable amounts of carb-y fruits and vegetables to my diet, like strawberries, pineapple, carrots, and beans.
This morning, I had my usual eggs and meat with unsweetened, decaf iced coffee with cream. I added half a cup of fresh cut pineapple. Two hours later, my glucose is 92. I start to feel crummy at about 11, so I check my glucose again, and its down in the 80s. Now, I know that above 80 is not hypoglycemic ('cause I've been there before), but I'm telling you it feels lousy - I get headachey and uncomfortable, and I just don't like it.
So, snacks. That's my plan. Better snack preparation, and clearly, keeping up with the frequent glucose monitoring, so I can keep my levels nice and steady. I'm going to make some stuff when I get home that I can keep in my desk or in the fridge/freezer at the office.
I'm also going to keep track of how I react to small amounts of carb-y foods. Like yesterday, at lunch I had about 1/2 cup of beans from the latin restaurant where I grabbed my food. Two hours later, despite the good amount of carbs in the beans, I was already in the 90s. I wonder if its a high fiber thing?
For now, I'm going to see if I can get some nuts out of the downstairs vending machine. Fingers crossed.
Ounce for ounce, an avocado has as many total grams of fat as a Big Mac®, something that led to its being vilified during the "fat free" diet crazes of the past. Seventy-five percent of the calories in an avocado come from fat, whereas most fruits derive their calories from sugars. But ever since nutritionists sorted out the difference between bad and good monounsaturated fats, the avocado has been voted back onto the island.
Half a California avocado has an excellent overall nutrient profile: 114 calories, 2 grams of protein, 4.5 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of fat, most of which (8 grams) is monounsaturated fat.
The monounsaturated fat found in avocados is mostly oleic acid, which, according to a 1996 study by researchers at the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social in Mexico, may help lower cholesterol. This study found that after seven days of a diet rich in avocados, subjects saw significant decreases in both total and LDL ("bad") cholesterol, as well as an 11 percent increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol. In other words, it showed that avocados raised good cholesterol levels while lowering the bad, a one-two punch against heart disease.
But good fats are not the only attractive side of this leathery-skinned green fruit. Avocados also have 60 percent more potassium than bananas, making them a great post-workout recovery food. They're also rich in vitamin E and other antioxidants.
You'll also find a large amount of omega-3s and omega-6s in avocados, excellent news for vegetarians and vegans who want to incorporate these beneficial fatty acids into their diet without consuming fish oil, poultry, or eggs.
Really, the only way you can go wrong eating avocados is if you eat so many of them that the excess calories make you overweight. But as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, bring on the avocados.
This is because unlike the avocado, with its wonderfully healthy monounsaturated fats, which provide it with its silky flavor, the coconut is rich in saturated fats. However, different kinds of saturated fats have different chemical compositions, depending on the number of carbon atoms they contain. The saturated fat in coconut oil consists mainly of lauric acid and myristic acid, whereas red meat like beef contains mostly palmitic acid. Lauric acid has been shown to increase good cholesterol levels, and, along with myristic acide, may have antimicrobial/anti-acne properties. Consumption of palmitic acid, on the other hand, has been shown to increase risk of heart disease in humans.
According to researchers, consuming coconut flesh and/or coconut oil can raise your cholesterol levels, but since they raise your good cholesterol more than your bad cholesterol, things would seem to balance out. But here's where the research gets complicated: When studying the nutritional properties of one food, it's important to take into account the other foods it's consumed with, especially in terms of regional dietary habits.
The Asia Pacific Health and Nutrition Centre at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, studies the eating habits of people in Indonesia and other Pacific island regions who consume diets rich in coconut. Coconut has long been a staple in this region, where there has traditionally been a very low incidence of heart disease. But because the percentage of coconut in the regional diet has been declining for decades as imported foods like red meat have become more available, the incidence of coronary heart disease among these people has increased.
The reason appears to be that Pacific islanders have traditionally consumed coconut along with large quantities of fresh fruit, vegetables, and fish. (As a side note, the night before I finished this article, I had a traditional Thai dish that combined coconut, fish, and vegetables: squid curry.) So if coconut, coconut milk, and/or coconut oil encourage you to choose to cook a delicious meal of fresh vegetables and seafood, it'll probably do you good. If you just like the taste of fresh coconut meat, it's probably not doing you any harm. But frying your donuts in coconut oil isn't going to turn them into anything resembling a healthy treat.
The main type of fat found in all kinds of olives and olive oils is monounsaturated fatty acid, which helps to lower your total cholesterol and bad cholesterol levels. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, monounsaturated fatty acids may also help normalize blood clotting, as well as benefitting insulin levels and helping to control blood sugar.
In my own experience, cured olives are also highly portable, keep well without refrigeration, and satisfy the same type of hunger that might otherwise have me reaching for a piece of cheese or salami, neither of which is going to lower my cholesterol. My primary salad dressing of choice is simply extra virgin olive oil with a dash of balsamic vinegar. Both good things. Trading in your overly processed bottled dressing for some self-mixed olive oil and vinegar is a great way to cut your intake of sugar and unhealthy fats with no loss of taste or enjoyment.
But the durian doesn't taste like it smells, and it's a great source of beneficial fats. One 100-gram serving (a little more than a third of a cup of cubed pieces) contains 147 calories and 5 grams (or 8 percent of your daily requirement) of beneficial monounsaturated fat. And unlike olives, the durian is also a source of the amino acid tryptophan, which is known to increase seratonin levels in your brain, which can lift your mood. (Interestingly enough, avocados have fairly high tryptophan levels too.)
Finally, like many other tropical fruits, the durian is a good overall source of fiber and vitamins. So next time you're in a Thai or Indonesian fruit market and get a whiff of something that smells like it needs to take a bath, consider giving the durian a chance.
As soon as I learn a recipe for a delicious durian-avocado-coconut-olive shake, you'll be the first to hear. Until then, I'll be putting my money where my mouth is and eating a lot of guacamole and olives to help my cholesterol. And I'll leave the durians for you.