Five Delicious Foods For Winter Health

Winter is finally upon us in the Berkshires. Now is the time to take some preventative measures to insure a healthy winter. There are many ways to incorporate health building foods into a home cooked meal. Here are my top five, must eat foods for winter health and the best part is that combined, they make a delightful, one bowl meal.

muchroom miso broth with greens and ginger

  1. Bone broth + harmony

If you add one thing to your winter routine, start drinking a hot cup of bone broth. Why? Because it’s a collagen building, infection fighting, inflammation reducing wunder food. Just heat up and get cozy with your favorite mug and you are ready to go. We make our own, but you can also pick up bone broth at your local butcher shop. If you’d like to make your own, I recommend “How To Make Bone Broth” on WellnessMama.com, it’s full of resources. For the amount of broth we get, it’s definitely worth the effort!

  1. Mushrooms: we all love a fungi!

What goes great with bone broth and keeping your immune system strong and fortified against the winter chill?  Mushrooms! Maitake and shiitake are two flavorful varieties that are readily available fresh or dried. Maitake, aka “Hen-of-the-Woods”, is my personal favorite. Add them dried to your broth for extra flavor and an immune boost. A plateful of fresh maitake mushrooms sauteed in butter with a little salt and black pepper is sublime. Add a perfectly fried over easy egg and it’s dinner.

  1. Get fermented: foods that are good for your gut

Fermented foods introduce good bacteria and balance existing bacteria in your digestive system. Miso is a fermented superfood and it’s nutty umami depth adds the right amount of salty flavor to simple bone broth. Mix it in after the broth has been heated and plated. I’m a fan of Chickpea Miso by South River Miso. Other great for your gut and immune health fermented foods include yogurt, unsweetened Fire Cider and lacto-fermented veggies — Hosta Hill sauerkraut and kimchi are staples at our house.  

  1. Stay warm

Ginger offers anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties. A warming spice, you can add it to soups, cookies, hot teas and broth. Grated fresh ginger in hot water with lemon is a soothing way to fight germs and mend a sore throat.

  1. Get your greens

It’s cold and dark outside so be sure to keep your mind and body bright with daily doses of green veggies. They are full of the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy and balanced, so make slow cooked collards or give saag paneer a try. Plate up a quick salad to go with your bowl of broth for a balanced meal of both raw, cooling food and warming, cooked food.

Best of all, you can combine these five super ingredients into one dish in about 15 minutes, with only 5 minutes of active time, for one satisfying meal. For someone who frequently skips lunch, I’ll consider this recipe my new year’s resolution.

Mushroom Miso Broth – 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • a small handful (about ⅓ cup) of dried maitake and/or shiitake mushrooms , chopped small, stems removed.  Keep in mind they will expand 2-3 times during cooking.
  • about 1 teaspoon or so of dried powdered ginger
  • two cups or more bone broth, unsalted or lightly salted is best since the miso will add all the salt you will need!.
  • shredded napa cabbage or kale, about a ½ cup or less should do.
  • Miso to taste – use traditional soy miso or experiment with other flavors.

In a pot combine the dried mushrooms, powdered ginger and bone broth. Add a lid and bring to a boil.

Turn down the heat and simmer on low for 10-15 minutes or until the mushrooms are fully hydrated.

Turn off the heat and add a small handful or less shredded napa cabbage or kale.

When the greens are bright green, serve in two bowls.

Add your favorite miso to each bowl, I like about a tablespoon, or more.  Serve with a side of kimchi and enjoy in good health!

 

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The Greenest Wrap

One of my favorite ways to eat more greens is to use them in place of bread or crackers.  Nothing against burger buns or sandwich bread but you can skip the processed wheat and grab a bunch of crispy Romaine or collard greens instead.  I use Romaine lettuce like a taco shell- fill it up with whatever you like- sliced avocado, tomato, homemade mayo and bacon for a healthier B.L.T.   Bibb lettuce is soft, flexible and makes for a great little wrap.  Want to eat that salad with your hands?  Wrap it up in the biggest lettuce leaves from the outside of the bunch.  Look at you, doubling down on your veggies!lettuce leaf B.L.T.

Using large collard leaves makes for a sturdier wrap that can hold such awesome summer foods as cheese burgers or the ultimate sunny seed hummus wrap.  You can use the leaves raw or lightly steamed — these are best for hot foods or for bigger wraps.  The folding is easy and unlike regular wraps, these stay sealed. The only prep work you need to do is to carefully trim them rough stems.

Cut the end of the stem off and then lay the collard leaf flat and slice off the rough stem that sticks up, so that the leaf is flat and entirely flexible, like in this photo from MindBodyGreen.com’s tutorial on how to use collards like a wrap!

MindBodyGreen.com collard trimming for wraps

Don’t worry if you tear the collard leaf a bit, you’ll get the hang of the stem trimming and can fold around any small tear.

If you want to steam your collard leaves so that they are more flexible and easier to use and eat, there are a few methods that work well.  This video from Plant Powered Kitchen.com has my favorite technique for when you just want to make up a few wraps.  Get some water boiling in your kettle and open the spout so you’ve got a nice stream of steam coming up.  Hold your raw collard leaf by the stem and wave it over the spout of steam, lightly steaming the whole leaf until it’s bight green and soft enough to fold.  Then trim off the stem as described above.  Repeat until you have enough wraps.

Or, follow the quick blanch method I found on Mind Body Green.com– bring a wide shallow pan of water to a simmer.  Take your de-stemmed collard leaves and give them a 10 second dunk in the pan, one at a time, using tongs to get the collard leaves in and then out and into an ice bath.  Dry in layers using tea towels. Once you’ve got all your wraps ready, fill as desired!

The wrapping part is easy, and there are a number of ways to do it, but this photo tutorial from Honest Fare.com is easy to follow:

HonestFare.com collard wrap- wrap up in 4 photos

Add your filling to the center of one or two overlapping leaves.  Fold the sides in to contain the filling.  Then, starting at one long end, roll the leaf over the filling and keep rolling, making sure the ends stay tucked in. Slice in half and enjoy!

bareburger collard wrap                                                  Above, a collard wrapped Bareburger – it’s as good as it looks!

Coconut Love Bombs

This is my new favorite sweet treat.  It’s just five organic ingredients and is super simple to put together.  This raw, vegan treat is packed with lots of energy from coconut oil and shredded coconut.  Did you know that a tablespoon of coconut oil contains 1050 mg of Candida fighting Caprylic acid?  Yep, these love bombs are a great way to get plenty of nourishment and an anti-fungal treatment!  I added in some other variations at the end.  I’m sure there are even more to try.  Recipe can be halved or doubled.  So get going and make some Coconut Love Bombs to share with the ones you love!

 

coconut love bombs

 

Ingredients for 32:

  • 1 Cup Coconut oil – room temperature works best, it should be a little soft, like cream cheese and easy to blend.  Liquid oil needs to be cooled in order to work well in this recipe.
  • 1 1/2 Cups Unsweetened Coconut flakes
  •  a few drops of Vanilla Stevia
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract (If not using vanilla Stevia)

Method:

  1. Mix everything together well.
  2. Use a 1 Tablespoon scoop to shape the dough into little half moons.
  3. Place on a baking sheet and freeze for about 30 minutes.
  4. Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator and serve cold.

Variations:

Substitute 1/2 cup of coconut oil for 1/3-1/2 cup peanut butter or coconut manna.  I used Peanut butter and they came out better than Butterfingers!

Add 1 teaspoon Chai spices to the original recipe

After freezing, dip in melted sugar free dark chocolate, freeze again til the chocolate coating is set.

The original recipe sounds good too, I found it on the side of my Nutiva Coconut Oil container:

coconut oil recipe

Leek Gratin

This is my new favorite way to cook and eat leeks.  My Dad made this on a whim, without a recipe, for Christmas dinner and it was amazing, no leftovers at all!  You can easily make double this recipe, which is what I did since I had a whole bunch of leeks from my Dad’s garden and wanted to cook them up all at once.  I cooked all the leeks, about 10 cups total, and baked half right away.  The next day I baked the other half for another dinner.  This is a nice addition to a pot luck dinner and if you do have leftovers they are great hot or cold.  Prepping the leeks takes the longest, especially if you are getting them from your root cellar and not fresh from the store.  Leeks are a great storage veggie, as you can easily peel off the less pretty outer layers and find a perfectly preserve leek inside!

leek gratin 1

Ingredients:

5 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only

Salt and pepper to taste

3 Tablespoons pasture butter

1 large egg

a shy 1/2 cup cream or half and half

Method:

Prepare the leeks: strip away any rotten or damaged outer layrs, slice off the root tip and trim the top to the light green part.  Thinly slice all the leeks until you have about 5 cups.

leek gratin 2

Preheat the oven to 355 degrees.

In a large sauce pan or pot, I used my enamel coated cast iron soup pot, add the butter, sliced leeks and sprinkle with salt, then add as much black pepper as you like.

Over medium low flame, sweat the leeks until they are just past bright green, cooked though and reduced dramatically in size.

leek gratin 3

leek gratin 4

Let the leeks cool.

Whip together the egg and heavy cream.

Combine the egg, cream and cooked, cooled, leeks in glass or ceramic baking dish, I used a 1.5 liter pyrex square.

Spead the mixture evenly and top with a sprinkling of cheese, Gruyere is my favorite!

leek gratin 5

Bake the gratin until it’s set and staring to brown around the edges, about 30 minutes.  You can brown the cheese under the broiler at the end if that sounds good to you.  Enjoy!

Zucchini and Basil Sautee

Zucchini chopped into bite sized pieces.

Zucchini chopped into bite sized pieces.

This is one of my favorite ways to enjoy all the zucchini that’s super fresh right now.  And it’s really easy, just some time and a few ingredients and you’ve got a healthy delicious side dish or meal to go picnicking with!

Ingredients:

Zucchini

Onion

Butter and/or Olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Basil

Shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese

Method:

Chop up some onion, I usually use about a 1 to 4 ratio of onion to zucchini.

Add the chopped onion, a few pinches of salt (go easy on the salt if you plan to add cheese to the finished dish, which I highly recommend!) and a healthy dose of butter and olive oil to a heavy bottom pan, the wider the pan the better.   You’ll start with a lot of fat in the pan to cook the onions and then when you add the zucchini you can decide if you need to add more.  Cook the onions on medium heat.

While the onions cook, chop your zucchini.  I make some pieces smaller than others so when it cooks, the smaller bits get mushy and the larger bits keep their shape so you don’t end up with baby food.  Or maybe you end up with baby food, it’s really delicious either way!

Start with chopped onion and plenty of butter.

Start with chopped onion and plenty of butter.

When the onions begin to look translucent, add in the zucchini, some black pepper and saute, stirring all the while, til smushy and starting to brown on med to medium high heat.

Sautee the zucchini and onions

Saute the zucchini and onions

Once you’ve cooked the zucchini down, it will release a lot of water, so plan on stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes til you get a nice, thick consistency.  Take it off the heat and serve topped with fresh chopped basil and shredded hard cheese like Romano.  This tastes great warm or at room temperature and makes a nice take along meal for picnic’s or pot lucks.

Topped with cheese and ready to eat or take on a picnic!

Topped with cheese and ready to eat or take on a picnic!

Carrot Cupcakes

Cute carrot muffins ready to eat!

Cute carrot cupcakes ready to eat!

I have tried out several carrot cake and carrot muffin recipes and I think I’ve finally come up with the perfect combination the natural sweetness of the carrots and coconut make for a moist cupcake you can eat for breakfast, snack time or yes, desert!  If you have a Cuisinart, shredding the carrots will take no time at all.

Ingredients:

Dry-

1 cup almond flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

dash of allspice

2 teaspoons lemon zest

Wet-

3 large eggs

1 Tablespoon mayo

1 teaspoon vanilla

2-4 dropperfuls liquid stevia, to taste

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup milk- almond, coconut, soy or cow’s milk

Mix in last-

2 cups grated carrots

1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

 

Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 350 and grease a  muffin tin for 12 with coconut oil or butter.

Grate 2 cups of carrots and set aside.

Combine all the dry ingredients, work out any lumps and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and mayo together on high speed for about 3 minutes til nice and frothy.

Add the stevia, vanilla (or use vanilla stevia!), cooled, melted coconut oil and the milk and whip together to combine.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.

Taste test for sweetness, add more stevia if needed.

Fold in the carrot and coconut.  Add up to 1/4 cup more milk if need, the batter should be thick but moist.

Scoop into the prepared muffin tin.  I like to use a small ice cream scoop to get evenly sized muffins with round tops!

Bake at 350 for 22-26 minutes, til cooked though and lightly browned.

Store muffins an air tight container in the fridge.

Makes 12 muffins each one is about 190 calories, 15 grams of healthy, filling fats, 4 grams fiber, 4 grams net carbs and 5.5 grams of protein.  These are an excellent snack, breakfast or dessert and a great way to get your kids to eat an extra serving of veggies while making them think they are eating a cupcake!

 

 

Curry Fire Cider Marinade

This past Father’s Day weekend I did what all good children do: grilled with my dad!  It was really fun, especially since I was trying out a new marinade that Chef and Butcher James Burden recommended to me.   I went to Berkshire Organics in Dalton to stock up on everything we needed for dinner.  I picked up fresh, organic veggies: eggplant really soaks up marinade so it’s great for grilling, plus onions, zucchini and some red and orange bell peppers.

Red Apple Butchers, at Berkshire Organics, had 30 day, dry aged steaks, so I had to try a few of those.  And I also bought about 2 and 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs with the skin on.  Here’s the marinade recipe plus a bonus curry mix from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, which is as useful as it sounds.   Last week I wrote to Mr. Bittman about Fire Cider and his assistant wrote me back saying she had tried it the last time she was in the Berkshires and would be happy to share a sample bottle with her boss.  How cool is that?!

Marinade for 2-3 pounds of Chicken 

Yes, of course you can use this marinade on tofu, fish or veggies.  For fish and veggies, about 20 minutes in the marinade will do.  For meat, like the chicken, make the marinade the day before and let the meat marinate overnight.  I made double this recipe, one half for the chicken and one half for the veggies.

Ingredients:

a generous 1/4 cup unsweetened Fire Cider

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 teaspoons salt

1 big tablespoon fragrant curry powder blend (see photo below for the recipe! Yes, you can use store bought as well.)

a pinch of asafoetida

a pinch of chipolte pepper

1 teaspoon garam masala

 

Method:

First, make up the fragrant curry powder blend, this will make enough for this recipe plus plenty left over for all your curry spice needs, it’s awesome on kale chips!

Whole spices ready to toast.

Whole spices ready to toast.

Keep 'um moving, toasty and fragrant!

Keep ‘um moving, toasty and fragrant!

Use a small spice grinder to turn toasted spices into powder and then add powdered ginger and turmeric.  Homemade curry powder!

Use a small spice grinder to turn toasted spices into powder and then add powdered ginger and turmeric. Homemade curry powder!

Once you’ve made the curry blend,  combine all the marinade ingredients in a bowl.

Yes, that's a gallon of Fire Cider. Beware the underdose!

Yes, that’s my personal gallon of unsweetened Fire Cider. Beware the underdose!

Pour all the marinade over the chicken and marinate over night in a sealed bag or sealed container.

The next day, when you are ready to cook, remove the chicken, discard any leftover marinade and grill the chicken til it’s done!

For veggies: chop bite sized pieces of onion, bell peppers, zucchini and eggplant, make up more marinade and marinate for about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to coat each piece.  Slide onto skewers and grill with the chicken.

Grill ready chicken, veggies and steak.

Grill ready chicken, veggies and steak.

The 30 day dry aged steaks were perfect as is so I let them sit out at room temp for about an hour, lightly salted them and then grilled them for a few minutes on each side for perfectly rare, melt in your mouth awesomeness.

Happy grilling, all summer long!

Happy grilling, all summer long!

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