Lacto-fermented Garlic and Dill Pickles

I ended up with a bunch of pickling cucumbers in my CSA box a week or two ago, so decided that it was time to make some pickles.

I like to enjoy some probiotic rich food with every meal if I can, and these pickles fit the bill perfectly….

2 Chicken drumsticks, collard greens with bacon, half a sliced avocado and some pickles

2 Chicken drumsticks, collard greens with bacon, half a sliced avocado and some pickles

Because the cucumbers I received were not very even in size, I decided to slice them this time and make pickle slices.  You could easily make whole cucumber pickles or even use cucumbers cut lengthwise into spears.  Whole cucumbers may take a little longer depending on the size, but the process is exactly the same.

In order to keep the cucumber pickles crunchy, you need to use a source of tannin – some people use grape leaves, but I decided to use green tea because that is what I have handy for making my kombucha.

Lacto-Fermented Garlic and Dill Pickles

Makes 1 pint jar

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Place the teabag and the salt in the 2 cups of boiling water and leave to stand until at room temperature.  Stir well to dissolve the salt.

Meanwhile slice the cucumbers into ¼” thick slices.

Peel the garlic but leave the cloves whole.  Place the garlic and dill in the bottom of the jar and then fill the jar with the cucumber slices.

Once the tea/brine has cooled to room temperature, pour this in the jar until they are covered with the brine. You probably will not need all the brine, but it is better to have made too much!

Now you need to weigh them down.  As you can see in the picture above, I used a smaller mason jar that fit nicely inside the mouth of the larger jar.  Other people use clean, boiled river-rocks, glass marbles or even a food-grade plastic bag filled with more brine.  Anything will work as long as it is non-toxic, will fit inside the jar, and will hold the pickles under the brine.  A glass jar just works well for me.

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Cover the jar and any weights with a clean, densely woven cloth.  I like to use a tea-cloth as they wash well in case of any accidental brine spillage, yet they are densely woven enough to keep bugs out.  Do NOT try to use the cheap, loosely woven “Cheesecloth” sold in grocery stores – the weave is far too loose on this, and even with multiple layers fruit-flies and other bugs will get into your pickles!  Hold the cloth in place with either string tied tightly round the jar or an elastic band.

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Leave your pickles on the counter for 4-6 days at room temperature.  I like to stand the jar in a dish to catch any brine that might spill over the edge of the jar – it makes less of a mess on the counter.

After 4 days, taste one of the pickles and see if it is to your liking.  If it is, now is the time to put a lid on the jar and stash them in the fridge.

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If not, leave them on the counter-top for an extra day or two.

Serve cold with your favourite meals….

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If using small whole pickles, they may take an extra 3-4 days depending on size.  Really large whole pickles might take up to a week or two to get properly pickled.

When making whole pickles I will sometimes use a crock or a large pot – in this case a baked bean pot that I will never use for cooking beans…

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Just scale up the recipe, remembering to use 2 cloves of garlic and 2 sprigs of dill for every cup of brine you are making up, and using 1 TBSP of salt and 1 green teabag per cup of brine.

Place the garlic and dill at the bottom of the crock, then pack the cucumbers on top:

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Pour over the brine, and then weight down with something that will keep the pickles under the surface of the brine.  In the case of my bean-pot, because of the shape and the narrow neck, I use a ziplock bag filled with brine.  If you are using a straight sided crock, you could use an appropriately sized dinner plate or anything else that fits.

Cover the crock tightly with a lid or a cloth (I like to put a piece of clingwrap over the mouth of my bean pot, and then place the lid on top to make sure no insects get in.

Ferment for 1-2 weeks depending on the size of the pickles before transferring them to smaller jars and storing in the fridge.

Shared at:  Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable

First CSA of the Year – and why you should use a CSA

I haven’t posted in a while, but I just HAD to share with you all my little haul from the first CSA of the year.

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I went with a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) from Eagle Creek Farms.

In case you have never heard of a CSA and do not know how it works, this is a basic description.

Prior to the start of the growing season, you sign up for the CSA – either a half share (which is what I did – designed to feed 2-3 people) or a full share, or any combination of these.  What you will need will depend very much on how many veggies you eat and how big your family is.

The farmers then start growing their crops based on the number of people who have signed up for a CSA.

Basically, you are providing the funds up front to enable the farmer to buy the necessary seeds and to pay for the labour needed to bring that crop to harvest.  Essentially you are buying shares in the crops that they will be harvesting in the future, and come time when they are ripe, you get a share of those crops, usually in a weekly or bi-weekly delivery, depending on the particular CSA you signed up for.

BTW did you know that there are CSA’s for everything from fresh veggies (the kind I signed up for) through to fruit ones.  There are even CSA’s for grass-fed meat, dairy produce (raw dairy included in areas where it is legal), eggs and grains (if you eat them)….  google CSA [your local area] to find ones local to you!   Obviously not all of these CSA’s may be seasonal, but many are.  There are also Winter CSA shares that you can buy that rely on stored root veggies and the few winter crops that can be grown (seasonality depends on location).

And some CSA’s include non-perishable items like fermented veggies or preserves.  The one I use includes the occasional bunch of flowers which is always nice to receive.  The bunch I collected today is in my bedroom where I can enjoy if without the cats destroying it!

So the downside of a CSA?

There is some risk with this – crops can and do fail.  But it is very unusual for a farmer who offers a CSA to only grow one crop.  And if one fails (for example the carrot harvest), others are likely to make up for it.  They also often carry out subsequent plantings of seeds, so that if one crop fails, a later one may succeed and provide a good harvest.

In addition, often you do not get much choice as you get what is ripe and ready to harvest when you go to the pick-up point.  (very few CSA’s deliver to your house, although some do.  The ones I have seen local to me all have pick-up/drop-off points at various farmers markets around the city).  Some do offer a limited choice – the one I use does.  It works on the simple method of “take one item from each bin”, and where there is a choice, the bin will contain one or more items that you can choose from.  If you are strict AIP, you will almost certainly receive some items you cannot eat yourself….  but then again, you may also be able to trade or gift them with someone (a neighbour, a friend or a family member)

Also, because this is a seasonal thing, you are only going to receive those veggies that are actually in season and ripe at the time.  This means in early summer you get a TON of greens, but in the fall/autumn you will get a TON of roots – plan accordingly!  We cannot cheat Mother Nature!

So if there are risks involved, why should you sign up for a CSA?

Well first of all, it is supporting local farmers.  Usually, the produce you will be receiving will be either organic, or grown in a sustainable fashion, but either way, it is locally grown, and you can bet that it is always in season.  And then there is the chance to go to the farmers market/collection point and actually MEET your farmer…

And these veggies are so fresh because they were picked if not that morning, probably the day before. Some of them may even be still “living” and have the roots intact or still planted in a pot! (Winter CSA’s are often different here, as they often involved stored veggies.)  And then when you add in the fact that you do not always know what you are going to be receiving, there is the element of surprise.

And it is FUN – you get to try veggies that you never knew would exist!  You can experiment!

As I said, today was the first CSA collection of the season (a week late because of the rain, hail and other bad weather we have been having in the Calgary region these last few weeks).  So I headed to Northland Mall to their Farmers Market to pick up my half-share.

For me, a half share works perfectly – for the most part I feed just myself due to my dietary issues,.  But I do like to share my bounty with my 2 wonderful housemates, so having a little bit extra works well.  I also eat far more veggies than the average person so a 2-3 person share probably means a 1-2 person share when it includes me!

This half share cost me $355, which I paid for back in March, and is designed to feed 2-3 people each week…  I figured that I would most likely spend more than $355 over the 16 weeks that this CSA will run – it only works out at around $22 a week.  I don’t know about you, but I normally spend FAR more than $22 a week on fresh produce!  And that is just for myself….  as the half-share I bought is designed to feed 2-3 people, I will have some leftover to share with my 2 housemates to earn myself a little bit of good-will (goodness knows I NEED it! – I OWE them a bundle for their boundless and freely given support)

And if all else fails, I will ferment, dry, freeze or otherwise preserve the veggies before they go bad.

So what did I get in my first CSA share (bear in mind, this is early in the season and only designed to feed 2-3 people for 1 week – this is a half-share, a full-share gets double this amount):

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Now this is a TON of nutrient dense greens!

At the back, we have a bunch of flowers (there was a choice of 2 different bunches – a welcome non-edible addition that made my heart sing!).  And also a small potted basil plant.

Then working from the far left-hand corner in a clockwise direction, I received:

  • a large bag of pea shoots
  • a small bag of lambs quarters greens
  • horseradish greens (with itty, bitty baby horseradish roots attached)
  • garlic scrapes
  • cilantro
  • purple kale (this was a HUGE bunch!)

Lots of greens as you can see, which is hardly surprising seeing that this is very early in the growing season in Calgary.  This is what I mean when I say that you have very little control or choice because you are getting what is ready and seasonal at the time of collection.  And at this point in the growing season, in Calgary, that means greens.

But I seriously LOVE greens, so all is good in my world!

For what it is worth, I could choose between the garlic scrapes and a single bulb of young garlic (I chose garlic scrapes simply because I have never eaten them and am always open to new fthings), and between the kale and collard greens (I went with the kale because it was a bigger bunch!)

There are some very new items here – some I have never eaten but am excited to try.  I have never had lambs quarters, horseradish greens or garlic scrapes.

I will need to test out the pea-shoots, but I suspect that they will be OK – I ate a few on the bus on the way home (they just looked so fresh, tasty and appetizing!) and I have had no reaction to them 5 hours later.

The flowers and the basil plant (small, but he will grow!) were a welcome surprise.

After collecting these, I went for a walk around the market and bought myself a few other bits:

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At the back – organic strawberries

Then clockwise from the far left:

  • organic arugula
  • the cutest, freshest radishes (I plan to use both the greens and the radishes)
  • some of the most flavourful blueberries I have ever tasted
  • a huge bag of wondefully ripe cherries

These last purchases cost me less than $20, so I am one happy bunny….

So that is my farmers market haul…

total costs:

  • CSA share (divided between 16 weeks) – $22
  • extra items – $17:50 (the stuff in the second picture)

Not bad as all of this will be shared beween 3 people!

So will anyone tell me that eating local is not affordable try visiting your local farmers

Bone Marrow Poutine – AIP/Paleo/Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free

Poutine is a comfort food dish that originated in Quebec, Canada.  It consists of fries, gravy and cheese curds, and is a common fast-food dish found throughout Canada.

In honour of the week of April 18 – 25 2015 being Calgary’s Poutine Week, I decided that I was going to cook an Autoimmune Protocol version of this classic Canadian dish to share with my 2 housemates.

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I had been thinking about recreating this dish for a long time – several months at least, and Poutine Week seemed the ideal time to make it.

Of course, seeing that I am both Celiac and allergic to dairy, and I am also practicing the AIP (Autoimmune Protocol), an anti-inflammatory and intestinal healing lifestyle,  I needed to make a poutine that I could also eat…  and that meant that the traditional poutine of French-fries, flour-thickened gravy and cheese curds was totally out of the question.

I decided that white (Japanese) sweet potato fries would make a perfect substitute for the (nightshade containing) french-fries.  The gravy was a fairly easy substitute to make – I made a rich onion gravy similar to my Simple Gravy recipe that was thickened with tapioca starch, and flavoured with caramelized red onion and beef bone broth.

The cheese curds were substituted with cubes of my Cauliflower and Zucchini “Cheese” that I posted about yesterday.

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This cheese tastes like a mild cheddar or processed cheese.  And while it cannot compare to the texture of the traditional “squeaky” cheese curds, it does still add that mild cheese flavour.  The heat of the sweet potato fries and the gravy melts the cheese slightly and makes it taste oh so rich….  Think of all those poutines you ate that had mozzarella and other melty mild-tasting cheese added.  That is what this one is like!

And then, “just because I could”, I added some grass-fed beef bone marrow to add extra flavour and richness.

If you don’t like the idea of eating bone marrow, you could easily leave it out, and this dish will still be good….  in fact, if you did this, and used vegetable broth in place of the bone broth and agar while making the “cheese”, this could be a vegan dish!

But if you can obtain some marrow bones, I really urge you to give this a try with the marrow included – it really does add to the flavour.  And bone marrow is very nutritious – full of “brain-feeding” healthy fats.  And really, what is more decadent than a bone marrow poutine!

The best bit about this recipe is that if you have made the “cheese” in advance, you can have it ready in under 1 hour….

Serve this next time you have friends over to watch the hockey, and you will have very happy friends!  In fact, get yourself organized and you could have this cooking during the first period, and serve it while everyone is waiting for the second period to start!  Perfect food for the Stanley Cup Playoffs!

AIP Bone Marrow Poutine

serves 2-3

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    • 2-3 medium sweet potatoes (If you use the white Japanese sweet potatoes your poutine will appear more authentic, but the ruby/orange ones work just as well)
    • 3-4 tbsp fat of choice – melted if necessary (beef tallow, lard, bacon fat, coconut oil or olive oil would all be good choices)
    • Pink Himalayan Salt to taste
    • 2-3 lb cross-cut beef marrow bones (aprox 6-8 bones in total) – preferably from grass-fed beef
    • 1 red onion – peeled, halved and sliced
    • 2 cloves garlic – peeled and minced
    • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 quart beef bone broth – preferably homemade
    • 1 Tbsp Coconut Aminos or other soy sauce substitute
    • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • 2 Tbsp Tapioca Flour
    • 3 slices Homemade Dairy-Free “Cheese” – cubed

The first thing that you are going to do is to preheat your oven to 400°F (200°C).

Peel the sweet potatoes, and cut them into fat fries – you really do not want skinny shoe-string fries here!  Place the fries in a bowl and toss with 2-3 tbsp of the fat you have chosen (melt the fat first if it is a solid type).  Season with salt, and spread the fries out in a single layer on 1-2 rimmed baking sheets.

Place the sweet potato fries in the oven, and set the timer for 15 minutes.

Place the marrow bones upright in a rimmed roasting tin:

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Place the roasting tin with the marrow bones in the oven below the sweet potato fries.

While the fries and bones are cooking, prepare the gravy – melt the remaining 1-2 tbsp of fat in a heavy based pan over a medium heat.

Add the onion and sautee until caramelized and browned.  Add the garlic and thyme and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Now pour in the bone broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

When the timer goes off, take the sweet potato fries out of the oven and toss well.  Return them to the oven and set the timer for a further 15 minutes.

Add the balsamic vinegar and coconut aminos to the pan with the onion and broth, and simmer for another 10-15 minutes.  You want the liquid to reduce by about a third…

When the oven timer goes off again, remove the sweet potato fries and bone marrow from the oven and allow them to rest for 5-10 minutes while finishing the gravy.

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Use as stick blender to puree the gravy to a smooth consistency.

Take the tapioca flour and mix with a little cold water to make a slurry.  Mix this slurry into the gravy, and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened.

Taste and season as necessary with salt.

To assemble an individual portion of the Poutine…

Place a portion of the sweet potato fries in the bottom of an individual serving dish.

Scoop the bone marrow out of 2 of the roasted marrow bones and use to top the fries – don’t worry if it breaks up – that is fine…  Just don’t waste any.  You may need to use a small knife to cut around the bone cavity to release the bone marrow (if it comes out in one long piece chop it up before adding it to the fries in the dish!).  If the bones are too narrow, use a chop-stick or metal skewer to poke it out… just get as much out as you can! (Reserve the bones for making bone broth).  Make sure you either add any of the fat that comes out of the bone marrow to this dish or save it for future uses – it is a really nutritious fat.

Scatter some of the homemade dairy-free cheese cubes over the fries, and top with a generous ladle full of the gravy….

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Serve at once before the “cheese” has melted…

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It is worth bearing in mind that this is an incredibly rich dish, and it is very filling… the small amount shown in the picture above is roughly what each of us managed to eat – me and my 2 housemates (both of them guys)…  we all felt incredibly satisfied after eating it…. But not uncomfortably full… this stuff gets into your brain and just tells it that “I have eaten enough”…  bone marrow and the gelatin in the bone broth and cheese does that to you!  It is so incredibly nutritious that you really do not need to eat huge portions.

I would love to know if you try this recipe and what you thought of it…. and please, PLEASE!  give it a try with the bone marrow at least once!

Shared at: Simply Natural Saturday, Corn Free Every Day, Hearth and Soul Hop, Tasty Tuesdays, AIP Paleo Recipe Roundtable

Tostones – Green Plantain Fritters

Tostones are essentially a fritter made from green plantains.

They are a popular side dish and snack in many Latin-American countries, and may sometimes be called Patacones.

Essentially, they are twice-fried green plantains, and they can provide both a tasty starchy side and an appetizing crunch to many dishes.

I love to serve them as a starchy side, but I also serve them as a snack in their own right, sometimes with a dipping sauce, in much the same way as chips would be served.  They are also very good with soup.

To make these, you do need the plantains to be fairly green – if they are turning yellow, they will not be starchy enough, and your tostones would turn out mushy rather than crisp and crunchy.  If you have plantains that are more yellow than green, try making my caramelized sweet plantains instead!

I like The Paleo Mom’s video on green plantains, although I do not peel and cut them in the same way as she does if I am making tostones.

But if you can get your hands on some green plantains (and the greener the better really for these!) consider giving these a go!

In most Latin American countries, they use a special tool called a tostonera to flatten the plantains after their first frying – I have found that 2 cutting boards does the job perfectly well…  all you need is something with a smooth flat surface so that you can press the chunks of plantain into flat discs.

These are both paleo and AIP-friendly.

These Tostones were made by A while I took the photographs of her cooking them.

Don’t be afraid of this recipe serving 4-6, it is easy to make less by simply using fewer plantains.  But I suspect that once yo try these, you will want to make the full amount and keep the leftovers for snacks or other meals as they are so versatile.

Tostones – Green Plantain Fritters

Serves 4-6

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  • 3-4 green plantains (get the greenest ones you can)
  • coconut oil or lard for frying
  • sea salt to season

The first thing you need to do is to peel the plantains – this can be a little tricky sometimes, especially when they are very green.  You do need them to stay in the round, so you cannot peel them in the same way that The Paleo Mom did in the above video.

What I tend to do is to cut the bottom and top off each plantain.  I then cut them in half.

Next I cut a long slit along the entire length of the plantain, and I pries as much of the peel off as I can using my thumb.  This can be tricky, but be patient and eventually you will get most of it off.  If any bits of peel remain, just use a knife to cut them off.

Once all your plantains are peeled, you need to cut them in chunks – We tend to go for somewhere between ½ and ¾ of an inch – the thicker you cut them at this stage, the bigger your tostones will be  when done, so if you want small thin tostones (more like a chip), cut them smaller, if you want thicker, bigger tostones (more like a fritter), cut them bigger.

Heat the coconut oil or lard in a large skillet over a medium high heat.

Once it is hot, working in batches, cook the plantains until golden brown on both sides.  They don’t have to be completely cooked through at this stage -you are just aiming for an attractive brown colour.

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Remove the plantains from the pan and cook the remaining chunks in batches.

Once all the plantain chunks are cooked you need to start reheating the oil back to medium-high.

Place one plantain chunk on a cutting board and put a second cutting board on top.

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Apply pressure to the top board to squish it flat – how much pressure you use is up to you.

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Light pressure results in a thicker tostone that is more like a fritter (better for serving with soups or as a side), more pressure results in a thinner, crisper tostone that will more resemble a chip.

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Of course if you could get your hands on a tostonera you would use that in place of the 2 cutting boards.  I have never tried this with a tortilla press, but I wonder if that might work as well – if you have one and try it, please let me know!

Once all your plantains are flatened you can start cooking the tostones.

Place a few in the heated fat in the skillet, being careful not to over-crowd it – these need to be cooked in batches to achive crispness.

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Cook over a medium-high heat for a few minutes each side until golden brown and crispy.

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Remove, transfer to a plate and sprinkle with a little sea salt.  Continue until all the tostones are cooked.

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These can be served hot or cold as a starchy side, as a snack or even as a chip with some dips.

Shared at Gluten Free Fridays #99

Shared at Real Food Fridays #46

How to thaw a frozen chicken quickly and safely

I am sure we have all been there – it gets to mid-afternoon and we suddenly realize that the whole chicken we were planning on roasting for dinner is still in the freezer.

So what are you going to do?

You could plan on cooking something else for dinner (assuming that you have some other protein that is not frozen), or you could decide to go out to eat, or you could run to the grocery store for a rotisserie chicken.

Or you could use the one safe way of quickly thawing a frozen chicken.

That is what I am going to show you today.  Simply because last Sunday I forgot to get the chicken out of the freezer….

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All you do is take that bird and remove it from any packaging.

Then you place it in a large bowl (a large pan/stockpot would work too), and place that in the sink.

Turn on the cold tap and let the bowl fill with water.  Then turn the flow down until it is just a dribble.  Let the water constantly run into the bowl and overflow.  Make sure the drain is not plugged or you will get a flood!

The constantly running cold water keeps the chicken at a safe temperature.  It may not be the most environmentally friendly (the constant running water), but it is the safest if you need to do it quickly.  And by turning the flow down to the lowest you can without actually turning it off, you are minimizing how much water will be used.  This method works better than some other recommended ones where you don’t have the tap running and you change the entire bowl of water every hour as the constant flow stops the frozen meat from chilling the cold water too much.

Leave the chicken in that cold water until it is totally thawed.  It will take around 30 minutes per lb, but may take longer.   A 4lb chicken could take anything up to 2 hours to defrost, but that is better than it taking 10-12 hours in the refrigerator!  Just keep checking it.

This method does mean that the meat absorbs some water, so if that is a concern, simply leave it in the packaging and place it in the water.  I find that it takes longer to defrost in the packaging though – presumably because the cold water cannot get inside the chicken to defrost it from the inside.  Also, removing the packaging means that you can check inside the chicken for ice.

NEVER try to use warm or hot water to speed up the thawing process, it can lead to bacterial growth and potential food-poisoning.  And NEVER attempt to defrost a chicken at room temperature either.

This method is safe because it keeps the chicken at a cool enough temperature that there will be little to no bacterial growth.

Please note, this is only a safe way to defrost a chicken that will be cooked immediately after thawing.  Please do not try to put the chicken back in the fridge (or freezer!) if you use this method!

This method will work with all forms of poultry (even turkeys although they will take ages to thaw!  Estimate 30-40 minutes per lb as per the chicken).  If you are using frozen chicken portions, I would recommend that you place them in a sealed ziplock bag as they will absorb far more water than a whole chicken will and that can lead to them getting soggy.

This method also works for fish, shrimp and other meats including burgers and steaks.  Just make sure that the small items are sealed in a ziplock bag so that they do not absorb too much water.  Fish and shrimp will defrost especially fast using this method.  I often just dump frozen shrimp in a colander and let the cold water run over them while I am removing any shells…  they defrost in minutes this way.

Yes you could use a microwave, but I personally do not like thawing anything in a microwave.  It has nothing to do with the safety, and everything to to with the risk of partially cooking the foods as microwaves do not heat evenly.  Any hots spots will cause the chicken to be cooked in that area, which will result in overcooking (and dryness) when I put it in the oven.

Shared at Full Plate Thursday 5-8-14

Shared at Thrifty Thursday week 59

 

 

Water Kefir Soda

In an attempt to increase the amount of probiotic foods in our diet, I have been making water kefir a lot lately.

Water Kefir is an effervescent, probiotic rich fermented drink that can be used to make a healthy homemade soda.    Like most other probiotic rich fermented foods, it supports gut health and systemic wellness.

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It is enzyme rich and filled with amino acids, and is also rich in vitamin B12, vitamin K and biotin.

Water kefir is made using a scoby (Symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts) called Tibicos, although most people simply refer to them as water kefir grains.  Unlike a kombucha scoby, water kefir grains are small, translucent jelly like lumps around 5mm in size although they can grow to be much larger.

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You add the grains to a sugar water solution, and the bacteria and yeasts feed on the sugar turning it into a number of beneficial acids and infusing the water with probiotic microorganisims, B vitamins and food enzymes.  This process reduces the amount of sugar in the finished drink.  It does produce a small amount of alcohol as well, but in most cases, this ranges from 0.5% to 0.75% depending on how you brew it.  The longer you brew it, the more alcohol it will contain.  This post deals with the alcohol content of water kefir.

I purchased my water kefir grains in a dried form from Cultures for Health, but you may be able to find someone local who will give or sell you some.  Try searching on Craigslist or Kijiji.  You could also try asking on groups such as Wild Fermentation on Facebook.

It is very easy to make, and because you flavour it yourself with fruit or juice, the variations you can make are endless.

I like to make my water kefir using an unrefined organic cane sugar as this provides the mineral rich environment that the water kefir grains love.  I also add a pinch of sea salt (for minerals again).  In case you are thinking “But sugar is not paleo”, read this post by The Paleo Mom on using sugar as a sweetener.  As long as you do not over consume the water kefir (and really, you do not need to consume more than a single glass in a day) you really won’t be getting huge amounts of sugar, and this beverage contains far less sugar than a can of coke, and none of the harmful artificial flavourings and additives.

Honey does not make a good substitute for the sugar as it has antimicrobial propeties and can weaken or kill your water kefir grains.  Likewise, sugar-free sweeteners such as stevia cannot be used to make water kefir as they would not provide any food for the grains.

Water kefir is made in 2 stages – a primary fermentation where the grains grow in the sugar water for 24-48 hours, then a secondary fermentation where fruit, juice or herbs and spices are added to flavour the liquid.  It is during the secondary fermentation that the carbonation takes place.

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Water Kefir Soda

makes 1 quart

For the primary fermentation:

  • ¼ cup water kefir grains (one packet of dehydrated grains from Cultures for Health will yield ¼ cup when rehydrated)
  • ¼ cup unrefined organic cane sugar
  • 1 pinch of unrefined sea salt
  • un-chlorinated filtered water (if you are using tap water, boil it to remove the chlorine and allow to cool)

Dissolve the sugar and sea salt in the water, and place in a 1 quart jar.  Add the water kefir grains (if using dehydrated ones, follow the instructions that come with them for re-hydrating them).

Cover the mouth of the jar with a coffee filter held in place with an elastic band and place in a room-temperature dark place for 24-48 hours.  I put mine in the pantry.

The longer you leave it, the more of the sugar that will be fermented out, but do not leave it for more than 48 hours or it will starve your grains.

After 48 hours, strain the grains through a strainer, reserving the liquid.  Some people tell you never to use metal, but I have been, and my grains are fine.  I figure the few seconds it takes me to strain out the grains and then dump them into a new container of sugar water won’t harm them or me.

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Place your strained grains into a new jar of sugar water to start the process again.

The strained liquid is what you are going to use to make the water kefir.

Place it in a new mason jar with whatever you decide to flavour it with.  You could use ½ cup of fruit juice, but I most often add whole fruit to the jar.  I also add herbs or spices sometimes.

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These are some of my favourites:

  • 1 cup diced pineapple and a sprig of mint mint
  • a diced grapefruit (this one is WONDERFUL!)
  • a sliced lemon and a sprig of mint
  • ½ cup of frozen mixed berries
  • a 1″ piece of ginger sliced (no need to peel), ½ lemon sliced, 2-3 star anise, a cinnamon stick, a tsp cardamom seeds and a tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ cup frozen saskatoon berries and a couple of sprigs of fresh basil
  • 2 peppermint teabags (seriously, it is VERY good!)

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Seal the jar with a lid and place it on the kitchen counter for 12-24 hours until the flavours have infused and the drink is starting to get bubbly.  As per the article I linked to above, you don’t want to let it get so bubbly that it fountains out of the jar.  You want it just about the fizziness of a can of coke.

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Now you can strain out any solid flavouring ingredients and store it in the fridge.

I like to transfer it to a flip-top bottle like this one for storage.

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Shared at Waste Not Want Not Wednesday #70

Shared at Allergy Free Wednesday #115

Shared at Wellness Wednesday

Shared at Full Plate Thursday 5-1-14

Shared at Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable #25

Shared at Simple Meals Friday #83

Shared at Whole Food Fridays 5-2-2014

Gravlax (Cured Salmon)

I love salmon, and one of my favourite ways to prepare it is as gravlax.

Gravlax is a Nordic (Norwegian and Swedish) cured salmon dish, where the fish is cured in a mixture of salt and sugar, usually with dill, and is then consumed raw.  If you love smoked salmon, you will most likely love this fish preparation as well.

The name gravlax means “buried salmon”.  In medieval times, and possibly even earlier, the raw fish (not just salmon, but also herrings and other oily fish) was buried in holes in the ground and left to ferment as a means of preserving the fish for consumption during the winter when food was scarce.

Modern gravlax is not buried in the ground, and is not fermented.  Instead it is cured in salt (and usually sugar), in the fridge for a few days.

It is very simple to make and tastes delicious.  Don’t be put off by the fact that is is served raw, it has a texture very similar to smoked salmon.  It is also safe to eat the fish raw as long as it has been frozen for a minimum of 7 days as this kills any parasites that may be in the flesh.  You could also buy sushi-grade salmon to be extra safe.

This recipe is AIP friendly, and because the fish has not been cooked, it is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids, so very good for you.

Use it just as you would smoked salmon.  It is excellent as an appetizer, as a light main-course and the leftovers are great for breakfast.  I often add leftover gravlax to scrambled eggs.

My recipe for gravlax is loosely based on a recipe in Cured by Lindy Wildsmith.  I cut out the sugar for this cure to make it Paleo/AIP and added a small amount of honey for a little sweetness.

To make this strict AIP, you would need to omit the black pepper which is a stage 1 reintroductoin.  If you have managed to reintroduce it and know you are not sensitive to it, it does add a touch of spice however.  When reintroducing foods on the AIP, I recommend this guide.

Gravlax

serves 12

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  • 2 x 2¼lb (1kg) pieces of wild-caught salmon fillet (skin on) – previously frozen for a minimum of 7 days then defrosted
  • 4 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 4 tsp ground black pepper (omit if sensitive or strict AIP)
  • 2 tbsp honey – preferably raw and local
  • 1 bunch of dill finely chopped

Thaw the salmon in the refrigerator, then check carefully for any pinbones, removing them with a pair of tweezers.

Mix the salt, pepper, honey and dill together.  You may need to warm your honey to make it liquid if it is the creamed, solid kind.

Place one piece of salmon skin-side down in a shallow dish and spread the salt mixture evenly over the flesh.

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Top with the second piece of salmon, flesh side down.  Cover the dish and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, turn the fish over so that the top piece is now on the bottom, recover and replace in the refrigerator for another 24 hours.

After this time, wipe off the salt mixture,

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sprinkle the top of the fish with a little extra chopped dill, slice thinly on the diagonal, leaving the skin behind, and serve.

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I served this with a green salad, roasted beets and carrots and some lactofermented cucumber relish.

If you want to serve fewer people than 12, you could halve the recipe, just using one piece of fish that you cut in half lengthwise to give 2 similarly shaped pieces of fish.  I usually make the recipe just as it is though as we love this fish so much that we will happily eat all of it.  Any leftover sliced fish will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Shared at Paleo AIP Recipe Roundtable #24

Shared at Real Food Fridays #36

Shared at Fight Back Friday May 2nd

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

Because I can’t have regular mashed potatoes (potatoes are a nightshade) while on AIP, I have been eating a lot of alternative mashed “potatoes”.

Cauliflower mash is one of my favourites because it does not have too strong a flavour, and the texture actually does resemble mashed potato.

Unlike a lot of other mashed root vegetables, cauliflower is also low-carb, which makes it great for those who want to loose weight or are eating a low-carb version of Paleo.  They are also dairy-free the way I make them, which means that they fit well on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)

This is a very, very simple recipe to make, and far quicker than boiling potatoes for regular mash.  I use either coconut oil or bacon fat to make these (they are really yummy with the bacon fat), but if you preferred and you “do” dairy, you could use either ghee or butter (ghee/butter is an AIP stage 2 reintroduction).

Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”

serves 4

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  • 1 large head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • ¼ cup of coconut oil or bacon-fat (or ghee or butter if you “do” dairy)
  • 1-2 tbsp full-fat coconut milk – optional
  • sea salt

I prefer to steam my cauliflower for cauli mash as it means that it is not too wet.  I find that boiling them in water makes for a very sloppy mash.

Steam the cauliflower florets for 12 – 15 minutes over boiling water until they are fork tender

Now place the coconut oil or bacon fat in the blender with the the cauliflower and a generous seasoning of salt.

Process until smooth.

If the mash is not thin enough, add a little coconut milk to soften it up.

And that is is….  Cauliflower Mashed “Potatoes”.

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An alternative that I sometimes make is to add the cloves from a bulb of roasted garlic to the mash, which gives it an incredible flavour.  Not harsh and garlicy, but more mild and slightly sweet.

Easy Peeling Mandarin Oranges

Thanks to a random stumble (I have a BAD Stumbleupon habit!), I found this website that shows you how to peel mandarin oranges the easy way

While reading it, the thought occurred to me that it would be a fantastic way to prep mandarin oranges (or satsumas/clementines) to go in lunch boxes.

Easy for little fingers to eat and less mess too…  Just roll the cut orange back up and pop it in the lunch box and the job is done.  And if your orange is too big to fit in the lunch box while rolled up, you could leave it as a long strip…

Guess what I may try for a future lunchbox…..

Homemade Grainy Mustard

This is a necessary condiment to serve with roast beef, and is one of Hubby’s favourites.

Rather than buying the small jars of ready made mustard, which often contain dubious ingredients (which means I have to read labels), I decided to make my own.  That way, I could control exactly what went into it.

This has a more pungent, stronger flavour than bought mustard.

Mustard is an AIP stage 2 reintroduction.  When reintroducing foods on the AIP, I recommend this guide.

Homemade Mustard

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  • ¾ cup of mustard seeds (I used a mix of black and yellow mustard seeds)
  • ¾ cup apple cider vinegar (be sure to use one that is “live” and contains a “mother”)
  • ¾ cup white wine (or substitute fruit juice)
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste

Place the mustard seeds in a bowl and pour over the apple cider vinegar and wine/fruit juice.  Allow to soak at room temperature for several hours.

Once you are ready to make the mustard, place the soaked seeds, the liquid and all the remaining ingredients in a blender.  Blend to a thick paste.

Store in the fridge in a mason jar.