Healing My Broken Body After a Traumatic Injury

  You can never anticipate a traumatic injury.

Nevertheless, days before Christmas, on a -16°F day in Yellowstone Park, it became my reality.

Suddenly, I’m on my back on the ice and snow-covered ground. The 700-pound snowmobile I’d had ridden all day was now resting on top of my 125-pound frame. As it was pulled off me, I opened my eyes to find a circle of people peering down at me—all with a similar “Oh @#$!” expressions of on their faces.  Continue reading

Miso Tip #8 – Try Miso Spice!

Miso SpiceAnd, Miso Spice makes 8! In the post, ‘7-Tips for Using Miso,’ I shared some miso basics and a few tips for using miso paste in cooking. Now, here’s one more tip for using this detoxifying, gut-friendly, enzyme-rich fermented food. Sprinkle it on savory dishes, showering them with umami goodness. Sprinkle miso on dishes as a condiment?  Continue reading

Do This Before Your Holiday Baking!

Baking Soda and Baking Powder TestIf you shoved your baking staples to back of your cabinet since last holiday season, you may need this baking soda and baking powder test. Because, just like your other ingredients, baking soda and powder freshness counts. So, before you gather your ingredients and pre-heat the oven, do this quick test to make sure your gingerbread men emerge from the oven pleasantly plump and your cakes rise to the occasion!

Why You Should Test Baking Soda and Baking Powder Freshness.

Both lose their effectiveness over time, typically after anywhere from 6 months to 1 year after opening. But, if opened and stored under humid conditions, they may not last until the “best used by” date on the container.

What is the Difference Between Baking Soda and Baking Powder?

The difference is that baking powder contains an acid, whereas baking soda does not. So, when using baking soda, an acid be added separately. Either way, when the acid interacts with the soda, carbon dioxide gas develops, giving your baked goods that pillow-like loft and airiness.

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Umami – The Fifth Taste and Culinary Lifeline

Umami FoodsUmami, the fifth taste, mystified even our greatest philosophers, Aristotle and Plato. Even they believed that there were but four tastes; sweet, sour, salty and bitter, according to NPR’s Jonah Lehrer. In fact, that was the belief of every philosopher, scientist and cook until the 1800s when French chef Auguste Escoffier changed everything.

Escoffier invented veal stock. When he did, he gave the world much more than just another starter for soups and sauces. Neither sweet, sour, salty nor bitter, its earthy savoriness changed cuisine forever. He gave us the fifth, but yet to be named taste, umami. Continue reading

Don’t Make These Apple Season Mistakes!

How to Select the Most Nutritious ApplesCooling temperatures mean apple season, at least where I’m from (Washington State) and where I live (New York). So, those of us in harvest mode head to the farmer’s market or apple orchards in search of our favorite freshly off the tree varieties. Right?!

Actually, this is a mistake. Or, at least a missed opportunity. While in season, this is THE time to try buying, snacking, serving or baking with new-to-you apple varieties. Selected mindfully, veering onto the apple path less traveled could have game-changing health benefits compared to the same old, same old grocery store varieties. Here’s why.

WHAT ARE THE MOST NUTRITIOUS APPLES?

Let’s talk phytonutrients, those near-magical chemicals that plants produce in response to stress. Phytonutrients are a plant’s security detail, protecting them from threats ranging from UV rays to pesky predators. Sadly, apple growing in the United States has bred the phytonutrients out of most varieties of this beloved fruit.

As Jo Robinson (fellow Seattleite!) explains in Eating on the Wild Side, we’ve also bred out the diversity. In fact, “nine out of every ten apples we eat come from a mere dozen varieties. We’ve gone from fifteen thousand varieties to twelve in just three generations.”

However, while the ‘apple a day’ heritage remains, variety matters – literally and figuratively. Jo doesn’t leave us perplexed at the market. Rather, she recommends these 12 apple varieties as the most nutritious and phytonutrient-dense apple options. Here are some guidelines for selecting among these apples, according to your preferred flavors and intended use.

Most Nutritious Apple Varieties for Eating

  • Braeburn – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Cortland – Resistant to browning, great for salads
  • Discovery – Sharp and sweet
  • Fuji – Stores well for weeks
  • Gala – Fragrant and juicy
  • Granny Smith – A bit tart, firm texture
  • Honeycrisp – Honey-like sweetness
  • Liberty – Sweet
  • McIntosh – Crisp and juicy
  • Newtown Pippin – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Ozark Gold – A mellow blend of sweet and tart
  • Red Delicious – Sweet and mild-tasting

Most Nutritious Apple Varieties for Baking

  • Braeburn – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Discovery – Sharp and sweet
  • Fuji – Stores well for weeks
  • Granny Smith – A bit tart, long baking time
  • Idared – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Melrose – A blend of sweet and tart
  • Ozark Gold – A mellow blend of sweet and tart
  • Newtown Pippin – A blend of sweet and tart

Most Nutritious Apple Varieties for Applesauce

  • Cortland
  • Fuji
  • Gala
  • Honeycrisp
  • Idared – A blend of sweet and tart

5 TIPS TO GET THE MOST NUTRITION FROM APPLES

  1. The Most Color Wins! How to compare apples-to-apples —of the same variety? Go red. When you’re sorting through the bins, look for the most colorful apples, which generally means the most red. These apples will be the most phytonutrient-dense. These likely grew at the top of the tree or on outer limbs, with more sun exposure triggering much more phytonutrient protection than those grown on the interior or the low-hanging fruit.
  2. To peel or not? That was a rhetorical question. Because, if you don’t eat the peel, more than half of the antioxidants go in the garbage, disposal or ideally, the compost. In the case of the former, the soil gets all that magic, not you. That’s just sad. : (
  3. Go organic, when possible. Year after year, apples are the winner (or loser…) or runner-up on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of the most pesticide-laden produce. However, there are many farmers who don’t spray or minimally spray their orchards, but can’t afford the organic certification. So, if possible, have a chat with the vendor and ask about their growing practices.
  4. Go local, buy often and store appropriately. Apples love to chill out in the cool humid environment of your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. There, they will last up to ten times longer than they will out on the counter. And, buy them as you need them, ideally eating your apples as close to harvest as possible. Like most good things, their health benefits fade over time.
  5. Wash (as in scrub, not rinse). Always use a produce wash, or simply a vinegar and water or salt and water solution to remove any debris or traces of pesticide on produce. For apples, consider using a non-toxic soap to remove the wax on commercial apples. No matter what cleaning solution you select, put some elbow grease into it, scrubbing them with a brush. Simply running them under water isn’t enough.

What are your favorite apples? Leave a comment below!

SOURCES:

Robinson, Jo – Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2014.

Wood, Rebecca – The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. New York: Penguin Books, 2010.

Washington Apple Commission

www.nyapplecounry.com – Accessed Oct. 1, 2016

 

 

Easy Homemade Toothpaste

DIY Toothpatse Ingredients

We try to limit the amount of chemicals that pass our lips. Organic whole foods? – yes! Pesticides? – No. But, what about our toothpaste?

It’s known that toxins are readily absorbed through our skin. According to the scientific literature, ‘The importance of absorption of drugs and poisons through the skin and mucous membranes needs no emphasis.’* Case closed. So, it makes sense to limit toxic exposure to the delicate mucous membranes in our mouth. Continue reading

Seven Tips for Using Miso

Miso PasteDo you have a tub of miso, a culinary time capsule, lurking in the depths of your fridge -neglected and long forgotten? If so, this post is for you!

During an ingredient lecture at the Natural Gourmet Institute, chef instructor, Olivia Roszkowski commented:

“You may have bought a tub of miso for a recipe and then wondered how you
will ever use it up. But, once you learn some tips for how to use it, you’ll
wonder how you ever cooked without it.”     – Chef Olivia

She is so right. Continue reading

5 Reasons to Love Seaweed

Seaweed Love

While you might not order seaweed beyond sushi rolls or stock it in your pantry, you’re probably eating it —more than you know. Edible seaweeds, also known as sea vegetables, are frequently used in ice creams, consumer baked goods, salad dressings -and of course, nut milks (most brands except Whole Foods 360). But, if you’re not intentionally including seaweed in your diet —should you? Maybe.

I’ve been starting to work with edible seaweeds, also known as sea vegetables. Check out these 5 interesting facts about our green, brown and red friends under the sea and ideas for introducing them into your diet. Welcome to Seaweed 101!

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Icelandic Foods: A Primer – Part 2

Icelandic Foods - Arctic CharThe first post on Icelandic food provided an overview of the cuisine’s ingredients with a focus on indoor farming. This second post on Icelandic foods gives an overview of what this traveller ate (or not) in the Land of Fire and Ice.

Icelandic Foods - Breakfast Buffet

Icelandic Foods: What’s for breakfast?

Iceland may be a little challenging for vegans. For example, the above photo shows a typical  hotel breakfast buffet; liver and lamb pate, cheeses and sausages. Eggs, pastries, muesli and rúgbrauð, a dense dark and sweet rye bread were also typically part of the spread. And then there is skyr, always skyr —as in all the time and everywhere!

Icelandic Foods - Skyr

Skyr is Iceland’s ubiquitous cultured dairy product. For over a thousand years, Icelanders have been making skyr from pasteurized skimmed milk and a bacteria culture. While it seems similar to yogurt, technically it is a soft cheese, not a yogurt.

Compared to typical domestic yogurts, skyr is non-fat, lower in sugar, higher in protein and stick-to-your-spoon thick! Ironically, this non-fat product has incredible full-fat creaminess.

While many commercial yogurts are thickened with fats and stabilizers, the skyr texture develops through a unique filtration technique which removes most of the excess water. Evidently, it takes a whole three liters of milk to produce just one liter of skyr. In contrast, the ratio is 1:1 when producing traditional yogurt. This explains why it is such a concentrated source of protein.

Skyr can be found at every Icelandic breakfast buffet and convenience store. But, it is also becoming readily available in U.S. supermarkets under the Siggi’s and B’more Organic brands. However, these brands are not considered authentic skyr. The actual Skyr brand, manufactured in Iceland, is currently only available at select Whole Foods Markets.

Snack Time!

There were a handful of snacks which seemed to follow us everywhere.

Fish Jerky

One was HarðfIskur. Here, our guide is offering us the value pack. HarðfIskur is basically a fish jerky, available from grocery stores to gas stations.

I thought it was pretty good. But, I evidently didn’t experience it the favorite way of the locals —with salted butter, like Americans might enjoy potato chips or popcorn.

Another in the movie snack category -Icelanders love their black licorice, a softer and often saltier version than we have in the U.S. And in that same color scheme is the famous Brennivin, which literally translated means ‘burned wine’.

Nicknamed ‘black death’. This caraway-flavored, unsweetened schnapps is the appropriately assertive companion beverage when consuming fermented shark.

Yes, fermented shark or kæstur hákarl is a national dish of Iceland consisting of a Greenland shark or other sleeper shark.

Apparently the Greenland shark is poisonous when fresh and can only be consumed after a particular fermentation process and hung to dry for four to five months. Allowing the shark to ferment and cure removes the toxins from the flesh, making it edible. The result is an ammonia-filled fish which smells like something you might keep under your kitchen sink.

Is your mouth watering yet?

As you might imagine, kæstur hákarl is known as an ‘acquired taste’. It was offered to us at the Bjarnarhöfn Shark Museum, served in the traditional way; in cubes on toothpicks with the schnapps. One cube was more than enough. No regrets. But, I would have to agree with Anthony Bourdain who described it as “the single worst, most disgusting and terrible tasting thing” he has ever eaten.

Icelandic Foods - Fermented Shark

THE BEFORE HÁKARL FACIAL EXPRESSION. (NOT ANTHONY BOURDAIN)

Dinner

Our travel itinerary meant staying in a lot of remote hotels with pre fix dinners. These prefix dinners typically offered a choice between fish and lamb. Because locals and travellers alike rave about the lamb, I was tempted to try it. But, I never wanted to give up fish for dinner!

Iceland is heavenly for fish lovers. A unique combination of cool and warm ocean currents meet off the island’s shores. This creates ideal conditions for fish stocks to thrive, mainly Cod, Haddock, Pollock, Golden redfish, Herring, Greenland halibut, Wolffish and Ling.

Today, fish remains not only a key part of the Icelandic diet and culture, but is also the country’s primary export product. As such, Iceland maintains rigorous standards for healthy, sustainable fisheries and strict laws protect the coastal waters from pollution.

These rigorous standards and strict laws also benefit aquaculture. About 50 fish farms have started operating since the 1980s. The main aquaculture species, Atlantic salmon, Arctic char and Atlantic cod seem to make their way onto every restaurant menu, or at least the ones I scanned. While I didn’t realize it at the time, evidently I ate quite a bit of farmed fish. But, the taste and texture was exceptional and nothing like my experience with farmed fish in the US.

Salmon and ling cod with carrot puree and blue mussel foam
Cured salmon with celery root mayonnaise
red fish (ocean perch) and langostine with langostine hollandaise
arctic char with celery root puree

And Dessert

Like baked goods? You’re in luck because you won’t have to go out of your way to find some phenomenal ones. Icelandic bakers know their craft, carrying on the tradition, originating from Danish influence. The image below captures a small sample of what was commonly available at Iceland’s equivalent of roadside stands. On this occasion, our vehicle had to stop to wait out extreme weather and road closures. So, when in Rome…

Icelandic Foods - Baked Goods

Icelandic Foods I did NOT Eat

As you will see, traditional Icelandic is rather resourceful. Nothing gets wasted!

  • Horse – I’m not casting judgment
  • Hotdogs – Famous dogs, made with lamb, pork and beef
  • Hrútspungar – Ram’s testicles, pickled and pressed into blocks
  • Lamb – Lamb lovers rave about the Icelandic lamb quality
  • Puffin – Often smoked
  • Svið –  a half sheep’s head with the brain removed, singed to remove the fur, and boiled
  • Minke Whale – Actually not an endangered species, prepared skewered, as kabob, as steaks or seared like tuna

In summary, modern icelandic food is probably much more innovative, sustainably sourced and delicious than you may have ever imagined. If you eat fish or lamb, eat as much of either or both while you are there. Everyone should at least try a few of the novelty traditional items to gain an authentic flavor for the place. And vegan, pack some snacks.

Have you travelled to Iceland? If so, what did you think of the food? Please leave a comment below!

Iceland Food – Part 1

RESOURCES:

http://www.iceland.is/files/pdf/food-press-kit-iceland-iv-pdf.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icelandic_cuisine
http://lfh.is/documents/AquacultureinIcelanddes2009upps.pdf

3 Reasons to Love Sunchokes

Jerusalem ArtichokesSunchokes might not be on your radar —but for both culinary and health reasons, you may want to check out these tubers! They look a bit like ginger and come in a variety of sizes, shapes and even different colors, depending upon the soil in which they were grown. They are generally smooth, but can be very knobby, as in the heirloom variety. Not exactly the star of the farmers’ market, they are in the shadow of the more colorful fall and winter vegetables. But, here are three reasons you’ll want to bring them home. Skip the squash. It’s not going anywhere!

THREE REASONS TO TRY SUNCHOKES

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