Category Archives: healthy diets

Milk Kefir Recipes

milk kefir and raw milk

Raw milk (L) and kefir (R)

Milk kefir: Milk that has been cultured (fermented) into a thick, creamy, tangy-sour, probiotic-filled smoothie.

Most people don’t know what milk kefir is, but with the growing movement towards whole foods and probiotics, kefir is coming into more public awareness. So much so, that it can now be bought in the dairy aisle of most grocery stores.

Lifeway (lifewaykefir.com) makes kefir in a variety of flavors and styles (low fat, whole milk, Greek, “green”), all containing pasteurized milk. My preference is for raw, unpasteurized milk because of all of the nutritional benefits (see my post on raw milk) that end up being killed by pasteurization. But you would have to culture your own raw milk in order to have raw milk kefir. If you are willing to make it yourself, it’s very easy. Continue reading

Beets: try them, you’ll like them!

Beets — four+ ways to use them.

Having been raised in a somewhat ethnic family (the “old country,” in this case, being Russia/Poland), I tend to be more open to trying– and usually liking–foods that most Americans would not even consider touching. Heart, liver, kidneys, trotters, blood puddings: my relatives had a real “waste no part of the animal mentality.” Nose to tail consumption. As I’ve always been slender and healthy, I figure I must be doing something right. I’ve also never met a vegetable I didn’t like. I’ll never starve to death, that’s for sure!

beets for kvass

All you need are beets, salt and clean H2O to make Kvas.

One vegetable that I enjoy, yet a lot of people will turn their noses up to, is the humble beet. Beets are typically a deep, rich ruby red in color, although you can also find orange and two-tone ones (alternating layers of red and white). Vegetables that have deep colors tend to be supersaturated with nutrients, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins.

I grow beets in the garden and have come to love the beet greens (tops) as well. Some people say that beets taste like dirt (maybe that’s why I like them, lol), but the tops, when sautéed, taste similar to spinach. Harvesting just a few leaves at a time from several plants throughout the summer and early fall will cause replacement leaves grow, thereby creating a sustainable situation. The leaves can also be added to salads, raw and chopped, therefore retaining their nutritional value.

beet kvas

Kvas: day 1 and ready to ferment.

Some of my favorite ways to use the beet roots is pickling (these can also be canned), roasted and cut into pieces for salads, grated raw into salads, fermented pickling, beet kvas and a cold or hot soup called borscht. Beets also have a natural earthy sweetness to them that pairs beautifully with salty/sour pickling and fermentation.

Pickled Beets
This makes a great cold side dish, especially with summer barbecues or added to a chopped salad. Food Network has a nice Alton Brown pickled beet recipe that calls for roasting the beets first, and then letting them soak in a seasoned brine mixture for up to 7 days before serving. I’ve tried this one and it’s a winner!

beet kvas

Ten days later…

Old Fashioned Fermented Pickled Beets
I’ve tried the recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which calls for whey and it’s just “okay.” I prefer not using whey for fermentation, the results just don’t taste the same as natural fermentation. Here’s a good fermented beets recipe that calls for simply beets, salt and water. Personally, I would also add onions. And fermentation = probiotics!

Borscht
I’ve never actually made this soup, but I have had it a few times in both Russian and Jewish restaurants. In those instances the cold soup was puréed, served with a dollop of sour cream, and I couldn’t identify what was in it other than beets. Served in this way, the soup makes a nice appetizer (as opposed to a meal, which calls for a heartier recipe).

My search on the internet brought up a variety of recipes that include all sorts of ingredients, some with meat, some without. This Borscht recipe from Cooks.com has the best rating and comments from cooks. I am tempted to take the advice in one comment about using tomato paste, fried in butter, rather than canned tomatoes. Note: Try not to use canned anything, unless you have no other option! Fresh is best!

beet kvas

After 10+ days the Kvas is ready to drink. Yum!

Beet Kvas
This is a fermented, naturally carbonated beverage made from only three ingredients: beets, filtered water and salt. The first time I made and tasted this I just knew it was a tonic for the blood. There’s something about the combination of salty-sour-carbonation that I crave at times. And Kvas practically makes itself.

Update: A week in the fridge and the little kvas I have left has turned a brownish red. But it still smells and tastes good, so keep that in mind.

Beet Kvas - no whey!
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A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Beet Kvas - no whey!
Print Recipe
A carbonated salty-sour-yet-sweet beverage that can be considered a tonic, or cleansing... or just plain delicious! This will ferment just fine without the whey called for in other recipes.
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Servings Prep Time
1.25 quarts (roughly) 20 minutes
Passive Time
1-1/2 weeks or so
Ingredients
  • 3-4 beets a generous medium size
  • 1-1/2 quarts water filtered
  • 1 TB sea salt (or a little more if you like)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic Optional
Servings: quarts (roughly)
Instructions
  1. Wash beet roots to remove any dirt but don't overdo it, you don't want to remove all the good (lactobacillus) bacteria.
  2. Chop into, roughly, 1" chunks.
  3. Add beets to a half gallon jar.
  4. Add 1 TB sea salt.
  5. Add filtered water to within 1/2" below lip.
  6. Cover with lid and write the date on the jar with a Sharpie.
  7. Allow to ferment, out of direct sunlight, for 1-1/2 weeks or more.
  8. When done, this can be strained, or just serve right out of the jar, chunks and all. Enjoy!
Recipe Notes

Don't drink this if it smells or looks bad or has mold growing in or on it. Natural fermentation can sometimes go wrong, so be smart! My beets sometimes turn almost black, but there is nothing wrong with them and the kvas smells sweet and earthy. Delicious!

The Kvas could become syrupy towards the bottom of the jar. Just mix it back in before consuming.

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The Best Diet in the World: Eat Your Veggies!

Spoiler: Great salad, salad dressing mix and Caesar salad dressing recipe links can be found at the end of this post.

What is the healthiest diet for humans? There are certainly a lot of choices and opinions out there, and rarely do they agree.

I grew up in New Jersey (the Garden State) during the ’60s. There were plenty of vegetable stands on the outskirts of town, and I still hold those as my standard for farmers’ markets. Nothing fancy, simply just-picked fresh produce, locally and organically grown, at reasonable prices. Apples came with spots, tomatoes with a few cracks, other veggies and fruit were a little misshapen–distorted even. That’s what real food looked like. No wax coatings. No cukes looking like they were pressure-formed at a plastics factory. Lots of flavor. What could be wrong? That was nature.

I’ve been a human for a long time. As a kid, we ate a lot of vegetables whether we liked it or not. We ate some meat and some carbs. When I was a kid, food was simple. You ate what your mother–or the school cafeteria–provided. Back then, we were all pretty healthy and very few of us were over weight.

But, avert your eyes for a moment (or 50 years) and everything has changed. Increasing incidences of allergies, diseases, diabetes, high cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity–you name it. Change is not always for the good. And better living through chemistry should not necessarily apply to our food.

My thought is, we were crafted from the very elements of our planet and so logic states that our bodies should be in perfect harmony with the nutrition provided by our mother Earth. Our bodies are these amazingly self-sufficient bio-organisms that grow, heal and repair themselves without any conscious effort. We truly are indigenous to our planet. We began here, we belong here and everything we need to perpetuate our species is here — naturally. But… then something went terribly wrong.

Onions at Heavenly Harvest

We humans have been messing with mother nature for about 200 years. We have introduced chemistry into every phase of our lives. Chemical manufacturers have been messing with our food via genetic modification, pesticides and mass production. Greed has reduced the quality of our food via “factory production” of animals and vegetables. Special interest groups, such as corn farmers (high fructose corn syrup, GMO corn), animal feed manufacturers (a pellet for every animal, causing Omega 3 deficient foods), cane sugar farmers, dairy farmers (hormones and antibiotics), pesticide producers (Roundup-ready GMO corn and soy) have shamelessly degraded the quality of our food, all for the all-mighty dollar. We make cosmetics, soaps, lotions, shampoo and cleansers from petroleum that leach through our skin and end up inside our bodies. Not to mention the special interest groups– oops, I meant government agencies–such as the FDA and AGA, misrepresenting and omitting information regarding health issues, studies and statistics.  Add to that pharmaceutical companies pumping dollars into schooling, research and other incentives for the training of doctors and we end up with biases and omissions of information up the wazoo. And for some reason, not many of us have a clue of what’s going on. Somehow we’ve been brain-washed to implicitly trust government agencies, doctors, statistics and studies. How did we become so gullible?

A-hem, so back to diet. There’s Atkins (low carbs, high fat and protein). Paleo, which takes us back to caveman days when humans ate what they could forage — occasional lean meats, mostly greens and maybe some seeds, nuts and rare fruits. There are vegetarians. Vegans. Betty Crocker. Who, exactly, is right? If you look at our teeth, an indicator of what our natural diet should be, it’s pretty much a mish-mash. Our front teeth are perfect for nipping off bite-size bits of food. We have incisors, reminiscent of canines, meant for tearing meat. We also have molars, designed for grinding grain and other foods. Hey, we’re omnivores!  So, apparently humans are built to eat just about anything. But I have to admit that every BODY is not the same. Our ancestors came from different parts of Earth, and most likely adapted to whatever was available to eat in the areas where they lived. So, that introduces another element. We’re all borne of Earth, but our bodies have adapted to local food availability. That’s a thought worth looking into. My heritage is Eastern European. For for some reason, my body responds best to a lot of veggies and protein. Carbs tend to bloat me and make me put weight. People indigenous to the polar regions flourish on lots of fish and whale. People from Asian countries do best with a lot of fresh seafoods, raw veggies and seaweed.

The one single thing I’ve found in common with all the diets and cultures I’ve studied is raw fresh vegetation. Not one diet I’ve heard of has ever said that vegetables are bad for you. Even the diets that insist on lots of proteins in the form of meats and dairy products do not deny that animals that forage naturally on grasses and other plant materials are superior in nutrition to those that are fed pellets. Naturally grazing animals have a much higher Omega 3 content (which is an essential fat that is key to our health) than those fed an unnatural diet. And we’ve all heard that you are what you eat–and what you eat eats.

Today I drove half an hour to Wheat Ridge to shop at a produce store, Heavenly Harvest Produce

So, moving on to this week’s new recipe: My son, who will be 17 this month, became a vegetarian early this winter. It has been a little extra work for me to cook for my husband and I (plus all the animals) and accommodate my son’s requirements as well. But not a big issue. We do a purely-salad night 1-2 times a week. Most teens have very few positive things to say about their parents. Recently my son said I make the BEST salad ever (he also said I was a really good driver “for a woman”). He has loved salad for a long time and usually orders it in restaurants, but our at-home salads are so much more nutritious, creative and deeply satisfying. I call my salads “Kitchen Sink” salad, as I toss everything I need to use up in the fridge into the kitchen sink for rinsing. My salads are never exactly the same, and are usually prompted by an excess of odd amounts of raw veggies in the fridge that need to be used, plus cooked leftovers from the last couple of days.

I love Italian dressing, but have been a bit turned off by the contents in store-bought dressings–even the organic ones. There are always ingredients that we can’t pronounce or identify, and we don’t need that. So here is a healthy ingredient salad dressing mix that can be turned into dressing in a few minutes. Feel good that you’re not only eating what is healthy, but what tastes good and satiates your hunger.

I’ve also added a Caesar Salad recipe that is quick and easy to make and so darned delicious!

Salad, chopped, a hearty meal
Print Recipe
Note: If you want to use my Salad dressing mix on your salad, you'll have to make that first.

Base of salad is a heathy mixture of lettuce (Iceberg is low nutrition, go for Romaine or spring salad mixes); spinach; any greens you have on hand such as Mustard Greens, Kale, Chard; all torn into bite-size pieces.

Extras such as tomato chunks, cucumber, avocado, carrots, peppers, radishes, sprouts, green onions, leftover cooked or raw veggies such as zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, green beans, brussels sprouts; corn; any other beans or veggies; chow mein noodles; nuts such as almonds, cashews or pinion; sunflower seeds.

A protein if you're so inclined, such as leftover cooked meats; fish such as salmon, tuna, shrimp; hard-boiled eggs; cut up cold-cuts. If you're vegan, tofu works.

Cheese if you want: chopped or shredded cheddar or feta are great; freshly grated parmesan is hard to beat as well.

Croutons if available, or make your own: Sauté stale bread in a butter/olive oil mixture. Add salt, pepper & garlic. Cook until crisp. If you have some Chinese noodles, these are great too.

Herbs are a great addition. If you have scraps of dill, parsley, oregano, thyme etc., chop & throw them in.

Get Creative! If there's anything else in the fridge that is a leftover and you like it, it may just work out fine in your big salad.
Prep Time
30 minutes
Prep Time
30 minutes
Salad, chopped, a hearty meal
Print Recipe
Note: If you want to use my Salad dressing mix on your salad, you'll have to make that first.

Base of salad is a heathy mixture of lettuce (Iceberg is low nutrition, go for Romaine or spring salad mixes); spinach; any greens you have on hand such as Mustard Greens, Kale, Chard; all torn into bite-size pieces.

Extras such as tomato chunks, cucumber, avocado, carrots, peppers, radishes, sprouts, green onions, leftover cooked or raw veggies such as zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, green beans, brussels sprouts; corn; any other beans or veggies; chow mein noodles; nuts such as almonds, cashews or pinion; sunflower seeds.

A protein if you're so inclined, such as leftover cooked meats; fish such as salmon, tuna, shrimp; hard-boiled eggs; cut up cold-cuts. If you're vegan, tofu works.

Cheese if you want: chopped or shredded cheddar or feta are great; freshly grated parmesan is hard to beat as well.

Croutons if available, or make your own: Sauté stale bread in a butter/olive oil mixture. Add salt, pepper & garlic. Cook until crisp. If you have some Chinese noodles, these are great too.

Herbs are a great addition. If you have scraps of dill, parsley, oregano, thyme etc., chop & throw them in.

Get Creative! If there's anything else in the fridge that is a leftover and you like it, it may just work out fine in your big salad.
Prep Time
30 minutes
Prep Time
30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: It depends
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a big bowl and toss with your favorite dressing, or just mix in some olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and herbs and seasonings of your choice.
  2. Serve and enjoy.
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