Category Archives: Recipes

Women Need More Protein In Pregnancy

This article was originally printed in the Natural Medicine Journal–if you would like to see the references, Click here
Especially during a first pregnancy, many women have a pronounced concern about diet: how to eat, what to eat, and when to eat. As providers, we have the opportunity to help guide them towards optimal nutrition and provide reassurance that they are making sound choices. Within the context of so many “don’ts” regarding maternal nutrition–foods to avoid because of possible bacterial contamination, mercury, lead, pesticides, nitrates, blood sugar dysregulation, insufficient or too much weight gain etc–it is good to also have some advice that helps women relax and trust their intuition. This study finds that the protein needs of women throughout pregnancy is higher than previously recommended and possibly closer to what women may be craving.

IAAO is a relatively new method that has become popular for determining protein requirements in human subjects.1-4 In the past, protein requirements were assessed by the nitrogen balance method which can be difficult because it requires that all nitrogen intake and output is carefully recorded and that the subject stays in the testing facility for the duration of the testing to measure nitrogen loss from urine, feces, saliva, and wounds. This testing takes much longer to perform and requires that subjects are put in a deficiency state for longer, which makes it unsuitable for pregnant women. For this reason, the current recommendations for protein intake during pregnancy (Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) of .88 g/kg and RDA of 1.1 g/kg) have been based on nitrogen balance studies of nonpregnant adults that have been extrapolated with total body potassium studies of protein deposition during pregnancy. 5 With the development of IAAO, researchers have been able to more accurately determine protein needs during pregnancy because they can run this study on pregnant women. Additionally, this is one of the first studies to distinguish maternal needs during early and late gestation.

Understanding protein requirements during pregnancy is important because protein is the macronutrient with the most influence on birth weight. This study assumes caloric sufficiency; for well nourished non-diabetic women, increasing protein intake is the macronutrient most likely to increase birth weight.6,7 In addition to neonatal complications and increased mortality, low birth weight is also correlated with long-term health problems such as type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory problems. 8-11 Ensuring that pregnant women have a protein-sufficient diet is therefore crucial for the short- and long-term health of their children.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that while this study showed protein needs to be higher than current recommendations, it is still by no means extraordinarily high. The average weight of the subjects during early pregnancy was 64.4 kilos, indicating a need for 78.6 grams of protein per day, or 314 calories. Calculated resting energy expenditures (REE) averaged 1370 calories per day, so subjects were given an average of 2329 calories (1.7 REE), putting sufficient protein consumption at 13% of calories. In late pregnancy, average weight was 71.1 kg, with a need for 108.1 grams of protein or 432 calories per day. REE was 1480, so subjects were given an average of 2516 calories, with sufficient protein consumption at 15% of calories. 13-15% of calories from protein is far lower than the recommended amounts in virtually any contemporary dietary plan save for some raw, vegan and pritikin diets which are rarely recommended or undertaken during pregnancy.

Based on these new recommendations the example below provides sufficient protein sources on average for late pregnancy with far fewer calories than necessary for a day; a pregnant woman could be encouraged to include these foods within the context of whatever other foods she prefers to meet her additional caloric needs:

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 slices toast=21g

Snack: One ounce of cheese=7g

Lunch: 1 cup cooked lentils with steamed veggies=18g

Snack: 2 Tbsp peanut butter on 2 rye krisp crackers=12g

Dinner: 1 cup cooked chicken breast with 1 cup quinoa and steamed veggies=51g

Total: 109g protein, approximately 1300 calories

With this in mind, practitioners may find that their patients may intuitively be eating an appropriate amount of protein: a current Canadian study found pregnant women generally eating amounts of protein more consistent with the findings of this study, rather than the current DRI.12 This assumes, of course, that women have adequate caloric intake and the financial and practical means to choose what foods they eat.

One question that is relevant to how complete the information is from the study is the possible impact of the types of food consumed rather than just macronutrient content. On the day of the study, all of the calories for the day were consumed as a shake consisting of the protein supplement which was based on an egg-white composition, kool aid or tang, and a shake base powder consisting of palm, soy, coconut and sunflower oils, corn syrup, corn starch, sucrose, calcium phosphate, sodium citrate, vitamins and minerals, plus unspecified “protein-free cookies.” This does meet the requirements of the macronutrient breakdown desired for the purpose of the research study, but certainly doesn’t resemble a dietary plan that would be advocated by most providers who would be counseling a pregnant woman. While this study certainly gives us a good baseline from which to advise patients, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that a pregnant woman’s metabolic and protein needs will shift if fiber, complex carbohydrates, and phytonutrients are present in the diet.

While it can be confusing to create an optimal diet for each individual during pregnancy, the findings from this study indicate that advising for protein intake may be a little more intuitive. For women who are adequately nourished with the financial means to choose what foods they eat, as long as they feel well enough and remember to eat some protein-containing food every few hours, they will probably be able to approximately meet their protein needs each day. For women who struggle to meet this recommendation for increased protein intake, it is important to instruct them on which foods contain protein and remind them to eat these foods every few hours. This will help to optimize the health of their baby as a newborn and throughout life.

Cranberry-Apple Crisp (Gluten Free, Vegan)

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Apple-Cranberry Crisp (Gluten Free, Vegan)
We had some old friends over for dinner the other night to catch up and let the kids run around together.  We had this for dessert and the recipe was requested, so here it is!
Baked fruit desserts are my go-to standby for company because they are simple, easy to make ahead, relatively healthy, and great the next morning with yogurt for breakfast.  This is a gluten free, vegan winter version that utilizes what’s in season now.
(serves 6-8)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
5 small apples, peeled and cut into chunks
2/3 cup fresh cranberries
2 Tbsp corn starch
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup oil (I used avocado, but any mild oil or butter is fine)
In a medium bowl, mix apples, cranberries, corn starch, and 1/3 cup maple syrup. Transfer to an 8X11 baking dish.  Using the same bowl, mix oats, flours, salt, cinnamon, vanilla, oil, and the other 1/3 cup maple syrup until it forms a crumb texture.  Sprinkle over the fruit, making sure all fruit is covered. Bake 45 minutes to an hour until the fruit bubbles and the topping is brown.

Making the Most of the Garden: Pickled and Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

Fried Green Tomatoes

So, as Lilly mentioned in her last post, we had our first real freeze a couple of weeks ago which means just about everything from the garden had to come in. (In case you’re wondering, I keep the carrots and parsnips in the ground until it freezes hard because they keep better out there than in my fridge). Along with all the greens, indian corn for grinding, popcorn for popping, potatoes, zucchini, peppers, tomatillos and ripe tomatoes, I also ended up with about 15 pounds of green tomatoes.

What to do?  If you’ve read my other posts, you know that I am a tomato obsessive:  these overly nurtured babies started out as seeds last February, so even if they’ve not ripened they will not go to waste.  In past years I’ve stuck them in a paper sack and allowed them to ripen, but this year I decided to celebrate them for who they are.  Green tomatoes have their own nutritional benefits:  They are very high in Vitamins A, C, and pantothenic acid, plus are a great source of potassium.  But let’s be honest, I’m not eating them for their nutritional value, I’m loving them for their own unique deliciousness.

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So, the first ten pounds went into jars.  PIckled tomatoes will have all the same health benefits I mentioned in my post about pickles if you prepare them in a similar way.  My folks have found that they need about twice the salt though so I followed their lead.  Sadly, the season for big, overgrown dillweed with large seed heads has passed here so I had to go with the more demurely plastic packaged baby dill from the grocery store. Otherwise, I stuck with the formula.

Next, fried green tomatoes.  I have always heard about this mystical dish and have tried them from time to time but haven’t ever quite gotten the wow I was imagining, so I decided to improvise a bit. I may have mentioned in the past that my husband is a bit of a breaded food obsessive:  chicken fingers, pork cutlets, fish sticks, mozzarella sticks, zucchini fritters–they are all well loved, so I’ve become fairly well practiced at making gluten free, healthy versions of these crispy delights.  These turned out good enough to share the recipe, with a crispy, flavorful crust and a tangy middle.  mmm.  Can’t wait for next year.

GF Fried Green Tomatoes:

2 large green tomatoes, sliced ⅜ inch thick

2 Tbsp high heat oil, such as safflower

1 egg

½ cup grated parmesan

½ cup almond meal

¼ cup arrowroot starch (potato or even corn would also probably work fine)

½ tsp smoked paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

sea salt

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to coat the pan generously.  Scramble the egg in a bowl.  Mix the remaining ingredients except salt into another bowl.  Dip tomato slice into egg, allow to drip, then using your other hand, coat with the parmesan/almond mixture.  Place in pan.  Repeat with all the tomato slices.  Salt the upper side.  When the bottom in nicely browned, flip tomato slices, salt, and brown the other side.  You may need to turn heat down to medium if the pan starts to get too hot.  Eat when hot and crispy out of the pan.

Homemade Tomato Sauce and the Benefits of Lycopene

Homemade Tomato sauce

Homemade Tomato Sauce

It’s tomato harvest time here in my backyard, and as my mom says, we are up to our earballs.  Each year at the beginning of September, I go through the same process of frantically calling upon friends and neighbors to please come with large bowls and take some home to enjoy. I also repeat the same ritual of attempting to make a large pot of sauce so I can preserve some of the garden goodness for the months ahead, but always with mixed results.  This year, however, I decided to stop cutting corners and do it right: I grew more romas than slicers or cherry tomatoes, and went through and blanched, skinned, and seeded the tomatoes before putting them in the pot. I always cringe at the thought of getting rid of so much of each precious tomato, but it yielded a thick sauce free of skins and seeds that is worth sticking in the freezer for a colder month.

Because I love to get the most nutrition possible out of my food, I am always wary of any process that involves taking out a significant portion of the food (like skins and seeds) and then cooking it for many hours, so making sauce seems a bit antithetical to this principle.  However, in this case, this food processing can actually boost the benefit of the food because of a little molecule called lycopene.  Lycopene is a carotenoid, or substance that gives the tomato its red color.  It is also found in other pink fruits such as watermelon, papaya, and guava, but the highest amount in the western diet is found in tomatoes.   

In the body, lycopene acts as a powerful antioxidant, meaning it gives electrons to oxygen or other molecules that are missing an electron.  Without an antioxidant these molecules then “steal” electrons from places like our DNA or cell membranes, causing damage to the tissues.  Lycopene has been shown to be a more effective antioxidant than Vitamin E or beta carotene, and can help to prevent cancer of the liver, lung, prostate, breast, and colon.  In cancer cells, it can arrest cells growth and promote cell death while having no effect on normal cells.  It also has been shown to prevent inflammatory disease of the liver, heart and neurological systems.

Interestingly, there are two ways in which cooking helps boost the benefits of lycopene.  First, by cooking out the water, the lycopene content becomes more concentrated, so you get more of it in each bite.  For instance, in a raw tomato, you may get as little as 8.8 mcg/g of lycopene, whereas in tomato sauce, you may get as much as 131 mcg/g. Powdering and freeze drying tend to decrease the amount of lycopene and makes it very unstable, whereas freezing and heat processing stabilizes the lycopene. Also, there are two molecular forms of lycopene, called trans and cis.  In a raw tomato, lycopene is in the trans form, while heat processing converts the lycopene to a cis form.  The longer the cooking, the more of this conversion takes place.  This cis form is more “bioavailable” to the body, meaning it is easier for it to utilize.

One other important thing to note is that how the tomatoes are grown also makes a difference.  Conventionally grown tomatoes have been found to be lower in many nutrients, including Vitamin C, polyphenols, quercetin, and flavonoids like lycopene.  So looking for tomatoes that have been organically grown or growing your own will yield a sauce richest in this health-promoting substance.  Plus, it will be the best sauce you’ve ever tasted.  

Enjoy!

Tomato sauce from scratch:

This is not a quick recipe, but it is a great way to use the bounty of your garden and you will never get a sauce from a jar that tastes as good as this!

Yield: 3-4 quarts

8 pounds fresh roma tomatoes

½ cup red wine

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

5 garlic cloves, minced

2 stalks of celery, diced

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp black pepper

1 Tbsp kosher salt

1 heel of parmesan (optional)

1 small can tomato paste (optional)

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Put the tomatoes in (as many at a time as you can fit) and let them sit 2-3 minutes, until you can see the skin starting to crack on a few of them).  Strain the tomatoes out and put in a large bowl, repeat until all the tomatoes are done.  Empty the pot.  With each tomato. make a small slit in the skin and “pop” the insides out.  Cut this in half and gently squeeze out the seeds.  Place the skinned and seeded tomato in the pot.  Repeat until all the tomatoes are done. Add the rest of the ingredients except the tomato paste to the soup pot. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce heat and continue to simmer, about an hour.  At this point, you can take a potato masher and break up the tomatoes a bit more.  Continue to simmer uncovered until the sauce thickens, about 2 hours more. If you want to add some extra lycopene and give the sauce a bit more heft, you can add the tomato paste for the last hour of cooking.  Serve with pasta and homemade meatballs.

Sources:

Hallmann E., Orv Hetil. The influence of organic and conventional cultivation systems on the nutritional value and content of bioactive compounds in selected tomato types.J Sci Food Agric. 2012 Nov;92(14):2840-8. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.5617. Epub 2012 Feb 20.

Györéné KG, Varga A, Lugasi A. A comparison of chemical composition and nutritional value of organically and conventionally grown plant derived foods. 2006 Oct 29;147(43):2081-90.

Shi J, Le Maguer M.   Lycopene in tomatoes: chemical and physical properties affected by food processing. Crit Rev Biotechnol. 2000;20(4):293-334.

Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Francis DM, Nagaraja HN, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Lycopene from heat-induced cis-isomer-rich tomato sauce is more bioavailable than from all-trans-rich tomato sauce in human subjects. Br J Nutr.  2007 Jul;98(1):140-6. Epub 2007 Mar 29.

Trejo-Solís C, Pedraza-Chaverrí J, Torres-Ramos M, Jiménez-Farfán D, Cruz Salgado A, Serrano-García N, Osorio-Rico L, Sotelo  Multiple molecular and cellular mechanisms of action of lycopene in cancer inhibition. J.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:705121. doi: 10.1155/2013/705121. Epub 2013 Jul 21.

Lycopene. Wikipedia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tangy Quinoa Salad

Inspired by Mary Shaw
Preparation: 15 minutes

1 Cup Quinoa
¼ Cup walnuts
3 Tbsp extra virgin Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lime
Juice from 1 lime
½ tsp sea salt
4 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp red onion, chopped
½ chopped tart apple

Wash and dry toast quinoa, and place in a pot with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes until quinoa is dry and fully cooked. Chop nuts and dry toast in a pan. Combine oil, lime juice and zest, sea salt, garlic, and herbs, and mix until well combined. Mix nuts, dressing, onion and apple into cooked quinoa and serve.
Serves 4

Healthy Snacking

I have been thinking about snacks quite a bit lately. From the days of my pregnancies where I seemed to need some food what seemed like hourly, to my current days of trying to find something yummy and healthy that a 2-year old and 9-month old will be excited to munch on, I am always on the lookout for something convenient, portable, low-sugar, high-nutrition, and relatively allergen-free. In the past, common wisdom said that snacking between meals was unhealthy and promoted weight gain. However, healthy snacks can help to balance blood sugar and mood and can promote restful sleep; it also helps the body to use your calories properly and not store them as fat. So, with this in mind, and a bit of inspiration from The Shoshoni Cookbook, I came up with this recipe for a “cookie” that gets the toddler as well as an adult thumbs-up:
Oatmeal Banana Raisin Cookies
Makes about 6 dozen–you can halve this recipe!
2 cups bananas, mashed
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 eggs (can substitute 2 Tbsp flax meal mixed with 6 Tbsp warm water if egg sensitive or vegan)
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup honey
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 cup raisins
Optional: 1/2 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut, sunflower seeds, or chopped walnuts (for added healthy fats and protein)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix banana, oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey in a medium sized bowl. In another bowl, mix oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, and xanthan gum. Combine wet and dry ingredients, then mix in raisins and coconut, seeds, or nuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment lined baking sheet–they don’t spread much, so you can put them close together on the sheet. bake 14 minutes until lightly browned.

Congee Takes Away the Chill of Winter

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In my first year of medical school, I had a delightful roommate who was of Vietnamese descent, born in China, and raised in her family’s restaurant in San Jose, California.  Lucky for me, she was a wealth of food knowledge and was happy to share.  From her, I learned about sticky rice steamed in banana leaf, hot pot, geoduck, how to efficiently dispatch a live crab in the kitchen sink, and the magic of congee.

During the winter, the body craves warming foods that provide optimal, easy to assimilate nutrition.  In Chinese medicine, there is a concept called “digestive fire”, which roughly equates to your body’s ability to break down food and absorb it properly.  The bigger the fire, the better you can digest.  I like the metaphor of fire because it seems to parallel how our bodies generally are able to digest:  in the summer when the weather is warm, we can break down much more complex foods and do better with raw fruits and vegetables.  In the winter, we lack that external heat source and so we must apply heat to our foods to assist our digestive fire. Congee is the ultimate digestive assistant.

So what is congee?  Well, more than a specific recipe, congee is more of a concept.  The basic rule of making congee is you take a pulse (most often rice, but millet, wheat, barley, sorghum, mung beans, or other grains or legumes can be used), add a high proportion of water, and cook it for a long time over low heat.  Congee is a traditional food all over Asia, India, and even Portugal, and has historically been viewed as a medicinal food in all of these cultures.  Depending on taste preference, regional specialty, and the specific medicinal quality desired, other foods, herbs, and spices are added.  It can be served for any meal, and depending on your preference can be served sweet or savory.  Many Indian congees are served with milk and jaggery (palm sugar) but many Asian congees contain meats, pickled vegetables, ginger, eggs or crispy fried onions. (for more information, Wikipedia gives a great description of traditional congees across the world).

In my practice, I often recommend making congee as a winter food to bolster nutrition.  However, it is an especially good food for people who are recovering from extended illness or have significant digestive problems.  For patients who seem to “get sick no matter what I eat”, congee is a great place to start.  In people who are needing the simplest, easiest nutrition possible, white rice congee is appropriate. If your digestion is rather intact, brown rice should be fine.

In his book Healing with Whole Foods Paul Pitchford talks about many foods that can be added to congee to boost its healing properties.  A few of the most useful options I’ve found are: Using chicken or mutton broth instead of water is recommended for wasting illnesses and injuries, and duck or fish broth are supposed to relieve swelling. Ginger is warming to the organs and improves digestive function.  Fennel and black pepper also assist in reducing gas and improve digestion. Brown rice is good for nursing mothers and general nutrition, while sweet rice is more specific for recovering from digestive illnesses.

Chicken and Ginger Congee
Use bone-in chicken for this recipe.  The skin, bones, and connective tissue are rich in hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, and other building blocks of a healthy digestive tract and properly functioning immune system.

1 cup rice
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, sliced thinly
1 chicken cut into parts
1 onion or 2 shallots, thinly sliced
6 cups water
1 tsp salt
soy sauce, sesame oil, and cilantro for serving

8-10 hours before eating, place rice, ginger, chicken, onion, and water into a large soup pot on low heat or ideally a slow cooker on low. When you come back 8-10 hours later, you should have a thick porridge.  Remove chicken parts from the porridge.  Remove the skin, then remove the meat from the bones and shred.  Skim the top of the porridge if necessary.  Ladle porridge into bowls and top with shredded chicken.  Garnish with soy sauce, sesame oil, and cilantro to taste.

The dairy-free delight of Homemade Almond Milk

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After the holidays, there is often a lot of talk about detoxing, losing weight, reclaiming your health and more. While I don’t really choose to detox or make dramatic changes this time of year, I often find I am looking to lighten up on the amount of sugar, refined flours and dairy that seemed abundant in December.

Eliminating dairy is never an easy task in our home as we love cheese and a splash of creaminess in our morning beverages, on steamy oats or granola. There are certainly a lot of new ‘milks’ on the market including creamy more flavorful options for coconut, almond and soy milks.

During a detox a few years ago, my husband and I started making almond milk. In a pinch during that period, I grabbed a pre-made almond milk container and was shocked at how dramatically better in flavor my homemade option was. There wasn’t a subtle chemical taste in our almost sweet homemade version. The crazy part was it is annoyingly simple to make almond milk. Certainly easier than going out and buying a carton anyways. And even though I have yet to do the math I would say it is cheaper. But, my favorite part is if you buy your nuts in bulk with a reusable bag this is a completely waste free option compared to tossing out all of those milk containers. After my discovery, I was grateful for the new sense of freedom in making my own from scratch. Join me!

Almond Milk (about 4-6 cups)

1/2 cup raw almonds

1-2 dates, optional to add a bit of sweetness

1 splash vanilla or almond extract, optional (if you want to give it an extra spike of flavor, but try it without first)

cheesecloth

Soak the raw almonds overnight or at least 8 hours.

Drain the soaking liquid, rinse the nuts and place the almonds in the blender with about 3 cups of water. Blend away for a couple of minutes until the mixture is smooth. Strain the almond blend through the cheesecloth (or a nut milk bag, pantyhose, tight sieve, or a thin dishcloth). Dump the almonds back in the blender for more milk, if desired, and blend again with another cup or two of water. Strain the nuts again through the cheesecloth and this time squeeze and push out any access liquid. Nut milk is most delicious immediately but will last up to 3-4 days in the fridge. Just shake well before using.

Now… it actually gets better, because you have this lovely mash of almond meat leftover. Some folks spread it on a sheet in a dehydrator to make their own almond meal. That is a great option, but when we were making it regularly for our detox I made it the replacement for my oatmeal. I just tossed the almonds into a saucepan with a splash of the almond milk and warmed it until it was just steaming. Fresh fruit, a bit of dried fruit, extra almond milk, a crumble of different nuts & toasted seeds, all contributed to the toppings on this bowl of goodness. My favorite part is that the almonds’ protein levels kept me cruising a few hours longer than my higher-glycemic oatmeal breakfast.

Do not limit yourself to almonds, either! Hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, pistachios and even a combination of nuts are all good. Seed milks work too and the recipe is the same with pumpkin, hemp, sunflower and sesame seeds all being great choices.

Heidi Swanson just posted about making her nut milks through a juicer… check it out!

Summer Squash Pancakes to flip for

Some of you are just starting to see zucchini’s and summer squash hanging from their vines, while more of you are swimming in the abundance wondering what else you could possibly do with them. As a kid, I wasn’t always thrilled to see the piles of green squash throughout our house, but there were two dishes that I happily gobbled up and then asked for more. One is my beloved Zucchini Soup, which is a simple smooth puree of steamed zucchini with a handful of other ingredients.

The other takes the virtues of a good oil and sears shreds of squash into a mid-summer latke. A griddle or cast-iron pan is the perfect tool to get a golden crisp to the edges. I typically use a hearty olive oil, but coconut oil could give it an exotic twist, while butter could add an almost caramelized flavor. I also keep the temperature of the skillet or griddle to medium. Anything above this will cause these more gentle fats to smoke. This also results in destroying the good nutrients in the fats as well. Check out this handy Smoke Point list from Wikipedia to see about your own preferred oils. Ghee is also an amazing option anytime you want a higher smoke point. It is butter with the milk solids removed thereby almost doubling the smoke point. Whatever fat you choose there are a few simple steps to ensure crisp edges on a Summer Squash or Zucchini Pancake.

The first critical step is to squeeze out any excess liquid from the zucchini. Just as you would with traditional potato latkes, salt by osmosis will help remove some of the water from the squash so that the pancakes will crisp rather than steam.

If you have those baseball bat sized zucs this is a pretty good way to use them. Cut out the seeds (they are a bit too rough and inedible in flavor for shredding) and then shred up the flesh & skin. The salting process will aid in removing any of the bitter taste overgrown squash sometimes has.

Another interesting part of this recipe is there isn’t a lot of batter. Really there is just enough to keep all of the squash together in pancake form. But, if you want more batter, simply double the amount of eggs & flour. I like a bit of parmesan for the flavor, but it is entirely optional.

Summer Squash Pancakes (serves about 2)

3 cups zucchini or summer squash, shredded

1/2 teaspoon salt (kosher is actually ideal, if using increase the amount to just under 1 teaspoon)

2 tablespoons flour (wheat or your favorite gluten-free flour will do, brown-rice flour works just fine)

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon grated parmesan, optional

1 pinch black pepper, more to taste

1-2 tablespoons olive oil, ghee, coconut oil or butter

Toss the shredded squash in a colander with the salt. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes up to 30 minutes.

Squeeze out the excess liquid with your hands and shake dry.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, egg, parmesan (if using) and the black pepper.

Fold the shredded vegetables into the batter.

Heat a griddle or skillet (cast-iron works well for this!) over medium heat. Melt in a bit of your preferred fat. Scoop on a generous dollop of batter. Allow it to sear for 3-6 minutes. Flip it over once the bottom side is golden and sear on the other side until golden and cooked through.

Repeat with the remaining batter, adding more ghee, butter or oil as needed.

The Medicinal Value of Culinary Herbs (With a recipe for Tummy Soother Sleep Tea)

One of my favorite ways to help people connect with nature and health is to take them out on medicinal herb walks.  Often, as we walk around in a wild space, someone will point to something and say “is that an herb or a weed?”  Well, the difference is really just semantics: when we decide that a plant is valuable to us personally, we call it an herb.  When we decide we don’t like it, it’s in the way of something else we’d prefer to have in that spot, or we just don’t know what to do with it, it’s a weed.

The dividing line between medicinal and culinary herbs can also often be thin.  On a broad level, the differences are obvious: medicinal herbs serve a health promoting purpose and culinary herbs taste good.  Also, many medicinal herbs have potential toxicity so they must be taken in specific dosages to avoid causing problems.  However, on the other hand many culinary herbs have potent medicinal properties of which we are often unaware.  Often these herbs are dried, concentrated, or distilled to create medicines, but they also have value fresh from your backyard or the fridge.

For many culinary herbs, they are medicinal for the same reason that they are delicious.  Their flavoring properties come from volatile oils contained in the seeds or foliage of the plant.  Those oils can also be medicinal.  Oregano and thyme oils are quite good at killing yeasts, and lavender and garlic are useful for killing bacteria.  Rosemary oil has been found to be an excellent antioxidant and is actually used as a preservative in many natural foods.

Beyond this, we can find that almost all of our common culinary herbs can be of use to promote health.  Mint and lemon balm teas are quite good for soothing an upset stomach, and fennel is quite good at helping to dispel gas.  Parsley (most often the root) has traditionally been used to promote kidney health.  Cilantro is an excellent adjunct to a detoxification regimen as it helps to move toxins from the body.  And sorrel is a very cooling plant that can be eaten to reduce a fever (raspberries and mushrooms are good for this as well)!

Every parent is a nurse and a doctor at some point and it always helps to have some tricks up your sleeve when a little one is feeling yucky.  The recipe below is handy for babies, kids, and adults with a colicky or upset tummy and helps to promote restful sleep through the night.

Soothing Tummy Sleep Tea

In a glass jar, combine equal parts (start with ¼ oz or 3 Tbsp of each):
Peppermint
Lemon balm
Chamomile
Lavender
Put 1 tsp of the mixture in a tea ball or bag.  Pour 1 cup boiled water over the tea, steep 5-8 minutes (you don’t need to take the tea ball out when it’s done steeping).  For adults and kids over 12 months, add 1 tsp honey.  For babies over 4 months, add 1 oz apple juice and give them 1-2 oz of the mixture  in a bottle (can combine with breast milk or other milk without the sweetener).