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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Dana’s Pork or Chicken Stock Recipe

The secret to amazing pork stock?  The answer is trotters, aka pigs feet!  The same goes for chicken stock, it’s best with chicken feet.  Now don’t get all ewwww about it, the feet are perfectly clean.  You eat animals, they have feet, it’s really not a big deal. When we kill animals for food we should use every bit, nose to tail, because all those bits in between are full of health building essentials!  The reasons this specific part of the animal is so great for making stock are threefold:

1. Trotters especially are known for their gelatin, so when you simmer them for hours, they make a naturally thick, deeply flavorful stock that is soothing to the digestive system, full of cartilage repairing collagen and deep immune support.

2. They are cheap and plentiful.  For every hog that’s butchered, there go 4 more trotters.  Your local butcher or farmer can hook you up with feet for cheap, just ask!

3. Waste not, want not: chicken feet and trotters can certainly be deep fried into one of the best bar snacks you’ll ever eat but I’d argue that making stock from the bones and feet of an animal is the best and easiest way to use them.  And you’ll be sure you are making the most out of the food you raise or buy.

Bone Broth or Stock is relatively easy to make in large amounts, it just takes some time.  I eat a bowl of broth a day during the winter months, dressing it up with kelp, mushrooms and chickpea miso.  Or making traditional chicken soup.  You can also add frozen cubes of stock concentrate to all kinds of recipes to add deep nutrition and lots of flavor.  I recommend a bowl a day to stay warm and healthy til Spring.  Here’s the basic recipe and method my husband Dana uses-

Ingredients for 2 ½ quarts Chicken /Turkey /Pork Stock:

  • 5 pounds assorted organic, local farm raised chicken parts (2-3 pounds of feet plus backs, necks, legs, and wings), rinsed.  For pork stock, use the bones from your last roast plus several trotters.
  • Handful dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped into 2-inch lengths
  • 2 medium leeks or one onion, chopped into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar, or 1-2 Cups wine/hard cider

Optional, but highly recommended for ultimate, health enhancing stock add:

  • 2-4 tongue-depressor sized pieces Astragalus root (available from mountainroseherbs.com)
  • Small handful dried Reishi and/or Maitake mushroom
  • 1-2 ginseng roots

Method:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in a stockpot large enough to hold them with about 3 inches of room above (an 8-quart pot should do) and add enough water to cover by at least 1 inch (about 3 quarts).
  2. Heat until bubbling, then reduce heat to a bare simmer (bubbles should just gently break the surface). A slow cooker works well for this if you have one. Simmer for 8-48 hours.  I think the longer the better.
  3. Pass stock through a sieve into another bowl or pot, line the sieve with cheesecloth if you want clearer stock.  I never bother.  Discard the solids, I recommend composting them, or feed to your chickens.
  4. You can use the stock for soup right now, yummmm!
  5. If you are planning to store it without reducing it, stick it in the fridge or freezer.  The fat will rise to the top as it cools, and you can remove it, or leave it in. You can also boil the stock uncovered and reduce it by as much as 90%.  This makes for easier storage of large amounts of stock concentrate.
  6. Note: I use ice cube trays to freeze cooled stock.  Then I keep the cubes in a container in the freezer for use whenever I need.  It’s easy to make a cup of hot broth by adding cubes to a mug with boiling water or throw a bunch into soups.  Sometimes I sauté greens until almost done, then add a cube of stock to finish for extra flavor and health benefits.

Souper Immunity!

If you really want an immune boost come visit our booth at Alchemy’s Handmade Holiday Festival, this Friday evening and Saturday from 10-5 pm.  We will be handing out Fire Cider samples and selling our holiday edition wax sealed bottles as well as herbal bath soaks, unique tee shirts from A Fine Example and other great handmade gifties!

Dana just made turkey stock from the Thanksgiving carcass (thank you Meat Market!) and it came out really well.  Soup stock made from simmering an organic, healthy animal has tons of nutrition in it.  If you don’t have a day to simmer, here’s an easier immune boosting soup recipe from my doctor in NYC.

'Tis the season for soup!

Superimmunity Soup from Dr. Vincent Pedre

When you need an immune pick-me-up, try this superimmunity soup to charge up your immune system and ward off that cold.  It contains many common vegetables that we all enjoy, but feel free to vary the recipe by adding your own winter vegetables.  You may vary the mushroom used from shiitake to reishi or maitake, all are highly medicinal.  It is ideal to always add the astragalus, but it may be harder to find at your local grocery store.  Astragalus may actually require a trip to Chinatown or to Mountain Rose Herbs on-line.

Also, remove any ingredients you don’t enjoy.  For example, I am an avid cilantro lover, so I always add cilantro to my soups, but there are those among that may not share my enthusiasm.  Feel free to quietly omit the cilantro and use parsley instead.  You can also use the soup recipe to make a vegetable stock to use in other recipes.

Here’s my recipe:

Ingredients

1 yellow onion

2 large organic carrots

2 stalks of organic celery

1 head of kale

30g dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms

30g dried astragalus root

1-2 tbsp finely chopped ginger

10 garlic cloves (chopped or whole)

1 bunch of cilantro

¼ cup olive oil

Sea salt

Ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Wash and cut the vegetables
  2. For extra browning and flavor, you can sauté the vegetables with olive oil or sesame oil
  3. Wash the mushrooms and astragalus root and place into pot
  4. Pour cold water into a large soup pot up to 3/4 full, add all vegetables, and bring to a boil
  5. Lower the heat, and cook uncovered for 40 minutes
  6. Add sea salt and black pepper to taste
  7. Cool down and enjoy!
If you have an autoimmune condition or other chronic disease, you should consult with your doctor before taking medicinal herbs or mushrooms.  Read Dr. Pedre’s whole post about immune boosting for the winter….and don’t forget to take your daily dose of Fire Cider!!!