Feening For Fennel

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It is quite common for people with lupus to have digestive issues and  last  Wednesday was the beginning of a nasty bout for me.  The timing was pretty bad: I had scheduled an aquaponics training for the very next morning and I  had some very excited farmers looking forward to it.

There was no way to mask the pain so it was great that I was in the company of likeminded  ‘food as medicine’ people: High Garden Center farmer George,  Dr. David Epstein, and Lois Peterson; a PGG board member who is currently furthering her study in  nutrition.

Dr. Dave suggested that I consider adding digestive enzymes pre-biotics  and pro-biotics to my supplement regiment. I was experiencing a flare (an auto immune crisis) so that was sound advice. Fortunately I have all of that on hand… including kombucha of course.  🙂

Lois suggested I go gluten-free and dairy free completely until things calmed down.  She also reminded me of the importance of bone broths when trying to  heal the gut. I grabbed Nourishing Traditions out of my office for reference.  Good thing I did! I had never considered putting wine in my broth! While I didn’t go there this time (with the turmoil in my belly I’ve decided to stay away from alcohol for the moment), I have filed that away under things I will certainly do in the near future. I cooked an organic bird slowly over the course of two days.  In addition I added loads of extras: a cinnamon stick, several garlic bulbs, onion, about 2 inches of ginger,  2 inches of turmeric, carrots and celery.

George sent me into the garden.

Grinning and Bearing it.

Grinning and Bearing it.

He mentioned a few plants that I might want to steep and drink as tea but for some reason I went right to the fennel, popped a few sprigs into my mouth. I have had fennel before in salads but have always remained pretty neutral on it. On this day, however,   I was actually craving it.  And I’ve been noshing on it every day since. Fennel has a licorice like flavor so it taste like candy to me. Eating it, was soothing.

After several days of running into the garden for my fennel fix, I decided to see why my body was asking for it.  After researching it further, it turns out it makes perfect sense.  Here are some of the benefits of fennel listed on juicingforhealth.com:

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Anemia:  Since fennel is rich in iron and histidine, it serves as a good natural remedy for anemia. The production of hemoglobin is increased as a result of the consumption of food containing iron.

Breast milk, secretion:  Lactating mothers can consume fennel juice regularly to increase the secretion of nutritious milk for their infants.

Cancer:  The high content of vitamin C, flavonoids and essential oils in fennel bulb all provide synergistic healing properties for the prevention of cancer.

Colic:  Colic happens because of an imbalanced intestinal flora.  The essential oils found in fennel are useful for rebalancing the flora for remedy of renal colic.

Constipation:  The roughage in fennel seeds act as a stimulant in the clearance of bowels.  By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes regular bowel movement.

Diarrhea:  The essential oils in fennel like Cineole and Anethole help to remedy diarrhea. By taking fennel juice regularly, it helps to rebalance the digestive tract, thus promotes a healthy bowel movement.

Diuretic:  The diuretic property of fennel helps in the removal of toxic substances from the body through frequent urination. Thus, it helps to reduce inflammation that causes rheumatism and swelling.

Flatulence:  Excessive flatulence happens due to the highly imbalanced intestinal flora in the digestive tract.  Fennel has the capability to reduce the bad bacteria while increasing the good bacteria that help rebalance the digestive flora.

Hair health:  The sulphur content together with all the right amino acids and essential oils in fennel help strengthen hair and reduce hair fall.

High blood pressure:  The high potassium content in fennel helps reduce high blood pressure and thus decreasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Indigestion:  The essential oils in fennel increases the secretion of digestive juices, helping in reduction of stomach inflammation and in the absorption of nutrients from the food eaten. Since fennel also has anti-acidic qualities, it is used widely also as an antacid.

Menstruation disorders:  As fennel is an emmenagogue, it helps regulate the hormonal action in the female body, easing menstruation flow.

Vision health:  Fennel has unique properties that can help protect from eyes inflammation, as well as with other eye disorders which are directly or indirectly connected to muscular degeneration and aging.  Due to the anti-oxidants and the necessary amino acids in fennel, they help rejuvenate and prevent aging. The juice of fennel leaves when externally applied on the eyes may help reduce eye irritations and fatigue.

I am on the mend! Was it the broth? Kombucha?  Fennel?

I’d say all three.   I’d also say that I am healing my body with  comfort food, soda and candy.  Except it’s real food. And that just makes me giddy.

 

 

 

 

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Fried Green Tomatoes

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Let’s start off with a recipe shall we?

It is tomato season so I scored some beauties during a morning visit to my local farmer’s market. Inexpensive, and easy to make, fried green tomatoes are a tangy and satisfying salute to summer. Here’s how I made them:

Ingredients
4-6 firm green tomatoes cut into 1/2 inch slices
Himalayan sea salt
1/2 cup gluten free pancake mix
1/2 cup organic corn meal
turmeric
cayenne pepper
onion powder
garlic powder
1/2 cup organic almond milk
coconut oil
cast iron skillet

Salt the tomatoes and set them aside. Mix remaining dry ingredients in a gallon sized seal-able bag. Heat coconut oil (enough to cover the pan in a thin layer) on medium heat. I play with the amount of oil I use and my flame along the way (I mention those who cook on electric stoves in my prayers).

You must do this one tomato at a time:

Dip the tomato in the milk bath and coat it with batter. Place into hot oil. Sounds like a crazy thing to mention but this is about technique just as much as it is about anything else. You can fry more than one tomato at a time but be sure not to over cook the tomatoes. I suggest frying a tester tomato or two to get give yourself a chance to get into the groove. Since you are frying a vegetable, there is really no worries about it being ‘raw’ just ‘mushy’. And it the game of fried green tomatoes, mushy means you lose.

That’s it!

golden deliciousness!

golden deliciousness!

 

Sounds simple right? Well it is… But you must follow a few rules:

1)You must use green tomatoes. Not one bit of a single other color on the fruit. Test this theory and again, you lose.

2)The cast iron skillet is an ingredient for a reason. This is not optional.

3)Do not get lazy and add the salt to the dry mix. Salt the damn tomatoes. It matters.

4) I know paper towels do not make for sexy pictures but they are a southern cook’s staple. You must soak up the excess grease with paper towels. Period.

5). Gather you family as soon as the grease gets hot. These babies cook in minutes and are to be eaten as soon as they cool… just a little bit. Cold or old (and once they are cold they are old) fried green tomatoes are just ruined.

I made these last night and they were a hit with the crew.

I should mention that there was a bit of an issue in my kitchen. When I started heating the oil, the hubster started sniffing around.”That smells interesting.” Really dude? Was my corresponding look. “I mean, you sure you about that coconut oil? It smells a little sweet.” I don’t know if it was my ice glare or the telepathic “Get out of my kitchen!” but he quickly turned on his heals and left the room.

Yeah, I’m sure.

By now, I’m certain that a few old school southern cooks didn’t make it past the phrase  ‘gluten free’ in my recipe. I must admit the term is really is  overly played and if it weren’t for my gut telling me otherwise, I’d join them in eye rolling this blog.

But I have a funky belly.

And I’m Southern.

And I know how to take a dish taught to me by my momma  and make it so that I can eat it.

Besides, I’ve been playing with and in my food a lot these days.

The non-profit I run (surprise!), Project Generation Gap has partnered with Rancho Alegre Farm (you might remember me mentioning visiting with them last Fall). Our goal is to bridge the gap between traditional and technology; the tried and true and the new. I assure you, this is the best news you’ve heard in a long time. Well that’s probably not true but we are REALLY excited.

So let me tell you how I got to this point:

Over the years, I’ve learned so much about nutrient dense foods, the effects of a poor diet, disease maintenance, and  the importance of a solid exercise program. Along with my degree in Education from the University of Georgia, I’ve received certifications in both fitness and in nutrition.
I’ve also studied modalities rooted in culture and tradition: healing herbs, food preservation, fermentation, functional/natural movements… all have me reconnecting with nature.

While I admire the research and work that has gone into establishing ‘super foods’ and ‘the ‘dirty dozen’, I found myself feeling like food (and its healing potential)  is being complicated unnecessarily.

And that we are raising a generation of largely inactive and unhealthy kiddos who have no clue where their food comes from.

Not to mention the elderly, who have so much to offer in solving the above issues, are devalued and sometimes, abandoned.

About a year ago I had a conversation with my friend and client, Janice, in the sauna. We talked about this and many others issues that plague our society. She has had her own health triumph using food and has a passion for children and the elderly. It might have been the heat that gave us the confidence but in that moment, Project Generation Gap was born. You can read more about our story here.

Jaan and her mom.

Janice and her mom.

It didn’t take a long to realize that if we wanted to make a real change, we had to not only talk about good food, we had to grow it, share it and teach about it. Partnering with a farm has put us in a position to do just that.

One of the first things we decided to do was send some kids to farm camp. I got to experience Rancho Alegre Farm’s (RAF) first week of camp in June and it made me want to send every child I know! Pilar (the owner/operator) and I put our heads together and came up with a way to give 10 kids a great opportunity this summer. She agreed to reduce the fee for our sponsored kids. Great Beginnings (a local daycare center) is providing transportation to and from camp. Project Generation Gap is raising the funds. See what can happen when a community comes together?

Me, Lloyd of Great Beginnings, and Pilar of Rancho Alegre. Making it happen for the kiddos!

Me, Lloyd of Great Beginnings, and Pilar of Rancho Alegre. Making it happen for the kiddos!

We need your support. Please purchase a t-shirt! Every 5 shirts sold sends a kiddo to camp.

Cool, huh?

Stay tuned for updates on me adjusting to farm living… very Green Acres-esque. HA!

Good times.

Butter In my Coffee

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So we are at the stage in the Detox Challenge where I let them choose what they want to reintroduce into their diet… in a healthier way.

First on most folks list:

Coffee.

looks like milk but it's butta baby!

looks like milk but it’s butta baby!

I always feel guilty about taking away people’s coffee. I have a coffee ritual that is painfully interrupted when I do a Detox. Painful for anyone who crosses my path.  But, I find it beneficial to pause and take a close look at my relationship with Java and even elevate it a bit. 🙂

Drinking coffee is a personal decision. Some people argue that caffeine is bad (can be harmful for your adrenals)  others argue it is good for you (my kids’ pediatrician swears by it as a ADHD treatment)… I’m going to let them debate… while I enjoy a cup of brew. Read the positions, listen to your body and decide for yourself.

While I feel strongly about drinking coffee I do have standards. Standards that I revisit and elevate typically around the time of my cleanse.

My rules:

I only drink one cup of coffee a day. By one cup I mean 10-12 ounces, one container. Ha!

I only buy organic coffee.  Non-organic coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides

I only buy fairly traded coffee. It is important to me that farmers are treated with respect.

I buy beans and grind them every morning. Well I buy the beans and my husband grinds them. Pre-ground stuff is a no-no around here. We wouldn’t even consider instant. The Thought makes me shiver!  Coffee is an experience (I learned that from my days as a Starbuck’s barista) The best part of waking up isn’t Folgers in your cup but it is the smell of fresh cracked coffee brewing!

How I make it:

10-12 ounces of freshly brewed coffee

1 tablespoons of Pure ghee

1 tablespoon coconut oil

(you can use butter alone but only organic and grassfed or it is gross!)

A sprinkle of cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

Blend in my Vitamix for 30 seconds.

Now let me explain:

I met the wonderful couple who make PURE Ghee at the Ancestral Health Symposium and they were sampling their product with coffee. It was delicious but I needed to do my research and determine a  fit  for it in my diet. Bear in mind this conference was for Paleo/ Westin Price type folks and they have a bring on the fat mentality. I haven’t quit made that leap but I do recognize the benefits of coconut oil and ghee particularly for auto immune peeps like me. As a matter of fact, I believe that many disorders we experience today have been aggravated by the low-fat diet craze days.  Fat does not make you fat. Too much sugar does. It also causes inflammation and cancer cell growth. Am I Paleo? Not much. I eat primarily vegetables and fruit and I also eat legumes and beans.  I am not big on grains although I eat brown rice and quinoa occasionally (typically when training hard).  I eat meat (I reach for lean cuts of organic, cage free, free range and grass fed options) but not as a rule. I eat dairy occasionally: organic, full fat and raw when possible.  I  pull from vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and anti-inflammatory mindsets.  I like to say that I am a pescaterian with Paleo tendencies. 🙂

Basically, I don’t eat crap.

My coffee fits into my plan because of this very important fact.

It is my first meal of the day and because of the fat, I am satisfied for at least 2 hours. I also have tons of energy (coconut oil is a known metabolism booster) and focus throughout my morning. I am not a morning person but my kids and clients don’t seem to care about that.   So my coffee keeps everybody happy. 🙂

Coffee is not a dessert and therefore I do not  add sugar.  I know adding anything to coffee is a faux pas for a coffee snob connoisseur; I live with one. He believes coffee should be served one way: black and in huge quantities. He also comes from generations of  rancher stock. Cattlemen and women. I’m just not on that level.

Why put coffee in the Vitamix?

Because I when I mixed it with our blending I was left with clumps of the butter/ghee blend at the end. I realized that it needs to emulsify.  Blending it also infuses the other flavors and makes it frothy. I also aprrecitate that the Vitamix keeps it hot!

So there you have it.

Oh and it takes me about 1 minute to make.

How do you take your coffee?