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.
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
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
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.
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)
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!
Growing up in Boulder, Colorado, I was exposed to much that has gone through the world of “health food” in the past 35 years. From the days of the small local co-op (the smell of comingled bulk grains, greens, and patchouli still feels like home to me), through the advent of larger stores such as Wild Oats and Alfalfa’s (where the milk is dairy free!), and into the more recent years of much larger, corporate, sparkly beautiful and expensive stores where you can find just about anything under the sun, there has clearly been a revolution in how we view and value natural foods in this country.
One of the most beautiful aspects of this revolution is that those foods that used to be an adventure to locate are now coming home to my local conventional grocery store. When I started naturopathic medical school in 1999, gluten free grains such as quinoa, millet, and buckwheat were relegated to the bulk bin at the co-op, and gf bread was usually a sort of dense brick-like affair that required many condiments to choke down and crumbled into dust within a few hours of purchase. I had several celiac patients who flat out refused to change their diet because they just couldn’t live with the thought of eating that way for the rest of their lives, regardless of how bad they felt. Today, there are so many good tasting gluten free alternatives, ranging from pastas to breads to pizzas, cookies and more, most of which are easily located at my local supermarket (I’m in Golden, CO now, but this is true in much of the country).
So if you’ve been told you need to eat gluten free, there is the good news for you. Any type of gluten containing food you’ve been consuming up to now is probably available readily to you in a gf version that’s often pretty darn yummy. But what are we missing here? We need to remind ourselves that gf or not, a treat is still a treat. A delicious, gf, organic, evaporated cane juice sweetened, fair trade cocoa oreo is still an oreo. It will lack the hydrogenated fats, which is a bonus, but otherwise, we’re still talking about a processed food lacking in nutrient density. Even gf breads tend to be very high in processed starches such as white or sweet rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch. These will spike the blood sugar just as any other refined flour would.
Gluten free is very popular right now, and for many people is a wonderful option for improving their health, but when we choose gluten free we need to remember to the basics of healthy eating: eat real, whole, local, seasonal food. This means we need to rethink gluten free: rather than strategizing how to substitute gluten free products for the breads and cakes we are used to, we can eat delicious foods that are naturally free of gluten containing grains. If you visit one of my favorite gluten-free websites, gluten free girl, you will notice that many of her recipes don’t involve baking at all. This is because she is enjoying all the delicious foods that mother nature has to offer.
One way to do this is to think about how we assemble a meal. Using the plate model of eating, we have ½ of our plate dedicated to vegetables, ¼ protein, and ¼ starch. This means that if you’re eating gluten free, ¾ of your plate does not have to change. For that remaining quarter, consider high-carbohydrate vegetables such as winter squash (spaghetti squash makes great noodles!), sweet potatoes, white potatoes, or corn on the cob. Otherwise, think of using whole grains that happen to be gluten free: brown rice, quinoa, millet, and polenta are all good choices for this.
If you are just starting to eat gluten free, have fun on your adventure; there are many fun foods to discover at your local market! If you have been gluten free for awhile, remember to keep eating fresh, whole foods. This is the foundation of a healthy diet no matter what you choose to eat.