Thursday, September 12, 2013


Lacto-fermentation, or lactic acid fermentation, is a process in which  starches and sugars are converted into cellular energy and the metabolite lactate.  The most commonly fermented products are yogurt and sauerkraut.  Our ancestors were unaware of the benefits of these types of foods and used this process to preserve foods at a time when refrigeration was not an option. There are two stages involved - in the first stage the harmful bacteria gets killed off and in the second stage the beneficial bacteria gets to work creating an environment that safely preserves the vegetables/milk and gives them that tangy deliciousness!

I've long been wanting to try making my own sauerkraut  not just for it's deliciousness but also for the health benefits. Besides prolonging the life of food, lactic acid fermentation increases the nutritional value(vitamins) of food, making it more digestible(enzymes) and promotes the healthy growth of flora (probiotic bacteria) throughout the intestine.  It also contains antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances.  It has been credited with curing indigestion as well.

I'm all for a healthy gut as I believe your digestive system is the gateway to overall body health.  It all starts with your stomach and what you put into it!  I think it was Hippocrates who said "let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food".  Heart disease and cancer are the biggest killers in north america and it's no secret that both of these diseases are linked to the foods we eat as well as our lifestyles. 

I make my own yogurt on a regular basis but this is the first time that I have tried to make my own sauerkraut.  You can purchase one of those professional but expensive fermentation crocks or take the cheap route like me and do it in a canning jar or the ceramic insert from your crockpot/slow cooker.  Don't get me wrong - I would seriously love to have a Harsch crock - I just can't justify the cost for one right now.  The main thing is making sure that the equipment you use is clean and sterile and that the foods you choose to ferment are fresh and preferably organic and free form pesticides and fertilizers.

For my first vegetable ferment I chose to make basic sauerkraut using just cabbage and salt.   Use a non iodized salt such as  himalayan pink.


1 head of green or red cabbage (4-5 lbs)
3-4 tablespoons himalayan pink salt or other non iodized salt


sharp knife
cutting board
crock or large jar to hold the cabbage while it ferments
something to weigh down the cabbage and keep it below the juice


Clean your jar or crock (whatever vessel you choose to hold the cabbage while fermenting) with soapy water and rinse well.  Scald it with boiling water or if heat proof, do what I did and heat it in the oven at 210 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Let it cool while you are shredding your cabbage.

Wash the cabbage and remove any discolored or damaged outer leaves.  Peel off a couple of larger leaves and save to use to hold down your shredded cabbage - more on that later.

With a sharp knife quarter your cabbage and remove the core.

Slice each quarter into shreds, thick or thin according to your preference.  (I knew an old Croation woman who used to ferment the whole head intact to use the leaves for cabbage rolls and it worked out fine!)  Layer the shredded cabbage in a large bowl, sprinkling with salt as you go to start the softening process.

With clean hands, massage the cabbage with the salt for about 10 minutes to release the juice in the cabbage. Alternately you can pound it down with a potato masher or wooden spoon if you don't want to get your hands dirty! One whole cabbage shredded looks like a lot of cabbage but once the juice is released it will shrink down considerably.  You will want enough juice to cover the shreds while they are fermenting.  At this point you can cover it and let it sit at room temperature for a couple hours while you do something else.  The salt will continue helping to release the juice.

After a couple of hours, massage or pound the cabbage shreds for a few minutes - you will notice that quite a bit of juice has accumulated in the bowl.  It is now time to put it into the container it will ferment in.  Pack it down firmly making sure to get out any  air pockets and to force the juice to the top to cover it.  If you still do not have enough juice to do this you may add enough filtered water to cover it.  If using a canning jar, make sure the cabbage/juice does not go up past the shoulder of the jar or it may overflow when it ferments.

Take the large leaves you saved at the beginning and use them to cover the shreds and hold them down under the juice.  You will need some kind of a weight to place on top.  You can use a heavy glass plate, a large unused ziplock baggie filled with filtered water, or a smaller jar filled with water. You want to make sure the cabbage is kept below the juice to prevent it coming in contact with the air.

I used a large flat bottomed pyrex bowl that was heavy enough to keep it lower than the juice and then  covered it with a food grade plastic wrap to keep dirt out.  The lid of the crockpot will keep it weighed down.  After about 24 hours you could see my cabbage was already fermenting by the bubbles forming in the juice.  Don't be alarmed if after a few days your ferment becomes a little odorifous for a couple of days - that seems to be a part of the first stage in fermentation and after the first week it should start smelling more like sauerkraut.  Let it ferment for 4-6 weeks in a cool place (70F or 20C).  I did not experience this, but it is apparently quite common to find a little mold form on the top which you can just remove as you find it.  You can taste your kraut along the way to see how the fermentation is going, just be sure to use clean utensils and keep the cabbage covered with it's juice. When your kraut is ready remove the larger leaves, and if using a crock transfer the sauerkraut with it's juice to clean jars and store in the refrigerator for up to a year - if it lasts that long!

After four weeks my cabbage turned into this crisp, tangy, tasty, oh-so-good-for-you, lovely sauerkraut!  It's at it's finest eaten raw as heating destroys the enzymes, probiotics and vitamins (as does pasturization and canning).  It is, however, excellent tasting cooked as well so consume it both ways! 

Make an effort to include fermented foods in your daily diet.  They will improve your digestion and help you to absorb the nutrition in your foods.  There are many fruits and vegetables that can be fermented so don't limit yourself to just cabbage.  Currently I am fermenting more sauerkraut and also some lemons, and I plan to try my hand at making some vegan kimchi in the near future.

These are the lemons I started about 10 days ago - they still have another 4 days or so to go.   I fashioned an air-lock system using a plastic wide mouth lid (Bernardin) with a hole drilled, and parts bought from a wine supply store for less than $1.50.  The air lock allows the fermentation gasses to escape without exposing the contents to air where mold can breed.  This would also work with your other fermentations.

What do I plan to do with all that sauerkraut?  Eat it of course!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I'm back...

Wow, it's hard to believe it's been about 4 months since I last blogged.  A lot has hanged since then including a 2000 kilometer move .  My journey started earlier this year when my  81 year old mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and scheduled for surgery to remove it.  She pulled through the surgery with flying colors but then developed some blood clots which led to her having a small heart attack and then a blockage in one of her legs requiring further surgery.  For awhile there it was not looking very promising.

We decided to leave our jobs and move back to the east coast where she lived (and where I grew up) so that she could remain in her home with our assistance and companionship. It was a sudden decision and we didn't have a lot of time  and so we were very occupied with sorting, packing and making arrangements to move our home and cats.  My mother is a real dear and has made these changes easy to adjust to, and I'm happy to say that  she has recovered very well from all that she went through and has been declared cancer-free.  She's a real trooper and an inspiration!  We are still looking for new jobs but are hopeful we will soon find something.  In the meantime I will have lots of time to experiment with new recipes and ideas to blog about! 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Going bananas

At some point in your life there will come a time when too many bananas have been bought and not enough eaten.  When this happens to you and you have bananas that are too ripe,  make muffins!  Muffins are quick and easy and the perfect take-along, hand held food. These low glycemic  muffins are made with coconut flour and coconut oil making them gluten free, high fiber, protein rich, and low carb, and if you skip the chocolate chips they become sugar-free.  They are moist and delicious.

You will notice when baking with coconut flour that the recipes use a lot of eggs .  That's because coconut flour is so dense and absorbent and the eggs prevent the baked product form getting too dry , giving it a more cake-like texture.  Also, because it is so dense you only need to use a fraction of what you would need if using other flours.  You can't substitute coconut flour cup for cup in recipes for other flours due to this.  I think the basic substitution is 1/4 - 1/3 cup coconut flour for every 1 cup of regular flour.  Unless you are very experienced in baking with coconut flour I would recommend using already established recipes because it is quite a bit more expensive than regular flour.

                                             Coconut Flour Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins 

6 eggs, whisked
1/3 cup coconut milk (or any nut milk)
1 tablespoon maple syrup, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup coconut flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 med)
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
 1/4 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat oven to 400.  Line muffin pan (12) with paper liners or parchment.

In large bowl whisk eggs, coconut milk, maple syrup, salt and vanilla.  Set aside.  Measure and mix coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Sift dry ingredients into egg mixture while briskly whisking.  Mix well.   Stir in coconut oil, bananas, chocolate chips and pecans.

Bake for 18-20 mins.  Cool in pan for 10 min.  Store cooled muffins in closed container in fridge for longer storage. 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Raw Coconut Rose Macaroons with Pistachios

Aren't these pretty!  I found this recipe by Amy over at Fragrant Vanilla Cake and just had to try it.  She has the most beautiful raw deserts I've ever seen and loves to share her recipes.  I wasn't sure how big  of a piece to use of raw beet to give it it's pretty color so mine turned out darker than the original recipe.  I used a 1/2 inch slice when I should probably have only used an 1/2 inch square cube.  None the less, they still look fabulous!  I have never used rosewater extract before so was a little nervous about it tasting too floral but it has a really subtle flavor that is lovely.

Raw Coconut Rose Macaroons with Pistachios

3/4 cup almond meal
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 inch square piece of beet
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rosewater extract
2 cups fine shred unsweetened coconut

1/4 cup coconut butter or manna, warmed to liquid
3 tablespoons coconut oil, warmed to liquid
1 tablespoon raw honey

1/2 cup raw pistachios, chopped

In food processor using s-blade process almond meal, salt, honey, beet, vanilla and rosewater until well blended; add coconut and pulse till mixture holds together.  Using cookie scoop shape into 12-14 equal sized balls and dehydrate for 6 hours at 110.  Mix together glaze ingredients and dip tops of balls in glaze and then chopped pistachios.  Place in freezer for 5 mins to harden.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Homemade Nut Butters

With peanut butter and peanut butter paste product recalls due to salmonella in the news, making your own peanut butter at home seems a much safer alternative.  It's not that difficult if you have a food processor and it's a great way to control the sugar/salt content. You don't have to limit yourself to peanuts - almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds and any combination of these make delicious and nutritious nut butters.  By making these butters yourself from whole nuts you can be assured that the final product does not contain any of the undesirable but allowable "ingredients" (ie: insect parts, rodent hair) found in commercial nut butters.  Plus, you can't get it any fresher than when you make it yourself

Nuts should be a part of your diet as they are rich in energy, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acids.   They lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, and help to prevent coronary artery disease.  The fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect that helps lower your risk of strokes, high blood pressure and some types of cancers and offers some benefit for rheumatoid arthritis.  Nuts are also said to help you to lose weight because they keep your hunger satisfied longer, are high in fiber, and the fats can raise your metabolism when burning the calories from them.  Keep in mind that they are high in calories so you should stick to portion sizes!

When you buy your nuts in bulk it is even more economical to make your own nut butter at home.  I purchase my natural almonds at Costco for $10/1.36 Kg.  A 500 g (2 cup) jar of almond butter retails for around $10 so that's better than half the cost.  Whenever possible you should use organic nuts but this is not always feasible because of availability and cost.  I use nuts in my cereals and raw foods as well so I go through a lot of nuts and find it too expensive to buy them organic.  I soak my nuts for 8-12 hours to remove the enzyme inhibitors and dehydrate them for storage.  The soaking makes the nut more digestible and they taste better.

Nut butters are wonderful to spread on bread, toasted or plain, to dip celery or apple slices in, or to use in recipes calling for peanut butter.  Mmmm....can't you just imagine hazelnut butter chocolate chip cookies!  With the addition of cocoa and a little coconut palm sugar you could even make your own hazelnut-chocolate spread.  Now you want to make some nut butter don't you!

                                                    How to Make Nut Butter at Home

For 1 1/2 cups of nut butter use 2 cups of nuts.  Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet with sides and roast in your oven at 350 for 5-8 mins.  Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Place slighly cooled nuts in your food processor fitted with the s-blade and process till it looks like crumbs.  If you are using coconut sugar and/or salt add to processor now. 

Continue to process until it becomes smooth.  You need to have a bit of patience with this as it takes some time for the oils to release and the nuts to become creamy but it will happen!  I would say it takes a good 5 minutes.

For the pictured nut butter I used 1 cup of natural almonds, 1 cup of hazelnuts and 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt.  I do not like to add sugar, but if that's your thing I would suggest using a tablespoon or less.  Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for about a month.  One tablespoon of this nut butter is 84 calories and has 1.5 g of fiber and 2.5 g of protein.

I hope you will give this a try!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Raw Fig Newtons

If you like fig newtons you are gonna love this healthy raw alternative!  Figs are fat-free and a great source of potassium, calcium, iron and fiber.  Keep in mind that dried figs are naturally high in sugar and eat accordingly (meaning you should always try to stay within the normal daily recommendations for sugar).  These are a perfect sweet treat for kids to enjoy with a cold glass of milk.  The ingredients are simple and few and they're  easy to make.  This version of an old favorite is gluten and dairy free, raw and vegan.

Raw Fig Newtons

1/2 cup natural almonds, ground

3 cups dried figs, cut up with hard stem-ends removed
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2-3 shakes of sea salt
juice of a large lemon

Grind nuts using s-blade of food processor into coarse flour; dump onto a large piece of wax paper.  Place  cut up figs, cinnamon and salt in food processor and pulse while adding lemon juice a bit at a time until well incorporated.  This should be quite thick.  I like to refrigerate it for a couple of hours so it's easier to handle.  Divide into quarters  and shape each into 7-8" logs; flatten between sheets of parchment or wax paper and roll in the reserved ground almonds.  With a sharp knife cut each piece into 4 or 5 portions.  Store in fridge.

                                          I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

I've read that as a country we're losing our ability to feed ourselves and it's largely due to our dependance on imported produce.  Super farms in South America and Mexico ship mass quantities of produce north relatively cheap.  So cheap that local farmers are unable to compete and many are forced to give up on farming or turn to crops not intended for human consumption.  I have also heard that some of the greenhouses around  here are now not growing their own produce  but importing it and packaging it for resale.   I find this trend alarming.  These super farms grow GMO's and they don't even employ a lot of people because of the huge machinery they now use.  I don't need to tell you whose pocket the money goes into.

Sure there are some things that can't be grown locally like bananas, but the next time you buy a cucumber and you have the choice of buying one produced locally or an imported one, buy local even if it cost a little bit more.  Local produce is not picked prematurely and unripened to survive long transport and is much tastier and nutritious.  Fresher IS better. You will help keep our farmers in business and keep the money in our own economy.  Just sayin.

Another thing we can do to lessen our dependance on imported produce is to grow our own in season and preserve the surplus for the winter by dehydrating, freezing or canning it.  These have become long-forgotten arts that need to be revived!  Almost everyone has a computer these days and if you have a computer you have access to information on how to do these things.  There are many ingenuous ways to garden in small spaces including balconies.  I myself would like to see more urban gardening including the (responsible) keeping of chickens for eggs and pest control!  Start small - grow some herbs in window pots, plant a few tomatoes or peppers in patio planters.  Gardening can be a relaxing and rewarding hobby.  Don't you just love this open garden shed...I want!

The concept of buying local should also extended to our other purchases.  I try to buy products that are made in this country even if they are a little more expensive because I know they were made by people who earned a fair wage for their labor and it helps keep jobs in my own country.  Buying local also helps foster a sense of community I think.  Okay....enough of my rant!  Please just give this some thought.