Monday, October 24, 2016

Pumpkin Chili

Delicious dinner with friends enjoying one of my fall favorites pumpkin chili!

Pumpkin- small
Chili- I prefer crockpot chili, but if I'm in a hurry a can of chili works too!

Added some Greek yogurt and a little cheese!

Alternative for the chili can be soups!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Essential Oils for Diabetes

I found this post about diabetes and essential oils that may help. I like that the oils can be used topically, orally, or via scents. I hope you enjoy the article also. 

Essential Oils That May Help Lower Blood Sugar

coriander-Thangaraj Kumaravel-flickr.jpg
Today, the healing benefits of essential oils are more than the claims of ancient tradition and alternative medicine. They are increasingly the stuff of science.
Not that essential oils will cure diabetes, but using them can be more than an odoriferous way to spice-up your diabetes management routine.
Essential oils contain potent biologically-active volatile compounds with therapeutic effects. The compounds enter our system when the oils are absorbed by our skin, the fragrance enters the blood stream via our lungs, their sumptuous scents influence the brain’s limbic system, or they are ingested in dilute amounts.

Essential Oils and Blood Sugar

Several of these essential oils are believed or proven to have an effect on blood sugar levels, including:
    Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum zeylanicum). Research studies have demonstrated that cinnamon helps lower glucose levels, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and increases insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon oil is generally known for its powerful anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties. Coriander (Coriandrum sativum). Coriander helps lower blood sugar in two ways. It demonstrates insulin-like activity at a cellular level, and it facilitates insulin release from the pancreas. Studies reveal that coriander also reduces triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol, and is associated with increased HDL cholesterol.
    Davana (artemisia pallens). The davana plant is native to India. There are historical and anecdotal reports of davana effectively lowering blood glucose levels.
    Dill Weed (Anethum graveolens). Dill stimulates the pancreas and helps regulate insulin. It is also known for its antibacterial, and anti-spasmodic properties.
Essential oils can also relieve problems that result from or contribute to diabetes such as stress, anxiety, pain, and insomnia—all maladies that may be lessened using lavender oil.
However, just because the lavender flower is delicate and smells lovely, does not mean we can take the potency of lavender, or any other essential oil, lightly.

Potent Effects: Use Wisely

Because essential oils are extracted from plants, people tend to think their influence can only be benign. This is a potentially dangerous assumption. If you choose to experiment with oils for diabetes relief, it is important to acknowledge their possibly powerful effects.
For instance, some individuals who report lowering blood glucose with essential oils needed to make medication or dietary adjustments to maintain target glucose levels and avoid hypoglycemia.
Other important considerations include the purity and therapeutic grade of the oils being used, how to best administer them (e.g., inhale, rub on skin, ingest), whether they mix well with other medications, and have age, or pregnancy restrictions.
So, before trying essential oils research them, consult essential oil experts, and work with your doctor to make their use safe and effective as possible.

Sources: Mercol; Diabetes In Control; Heritage Essential Oils
Photo credit: Thangaraj Kumaravel

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Fermentation and Salt

 "Fermentation by definition is an anaerobic process. The lactic acid bacteria that carry out dairy and vegetable fermentations can grow in the presence of air but do not use oxygen to generate energy for growth. Using a fermentation lock to exclude oxygen but allow gas to escape will prevent aerobic yeasts and molds from growing. Aerobic yeasts and molds growing on the surface of sauerkraut brines can soften the kraut and produce off flavors. A more serious problem is that yeasts and molds growing aerobically on the surface of vegetable fermentation brines can consume the lactic acid and can cause pH to rise above 4.6, potentially resulting in botulism. Anaerobic fermentation of cabbage, on the other hand, with 2% salt (NaCl) and a temperature around 18C (64F) typically makes very good quality sauerkraut".  Dr. Fred Breidt, USDA, Microbiologist

Weight Matters
Salt is to brine, like flour is to a well-made bread.  Proportions matter, and in both cases, measuring spoons and cups are inadequate tools when it comes to obtaining the correct amount of dry ingredients.  Just like every type of grain has a different weight, every salt has a different weight depending on its grind, density and moisture content.  Salt, like flour, is a more reliable, consistent ingredient, when weighed - NOT measured.

To illustrate...Each dish in the above-photo contains 1 level-tablespoon of unrefined, additive-free (no added iodine or anti-caking agents) high-mineral salt, every one a unique brand and grind, ranging from super-fine to large and coarse. Several are moist, some are bone-dry. The brick-red Hawaiian salt (NOT meant to be used as a brine-salt, but instead, a "finishing" salt) contains added clay.  Using a digital scale, set to metric-grams instead U.S. ounces, we weighed each tablespoon of salt.

The end result:  Their weights ranged from 10 to 16-grams per tablespoon. That's a whopping 60% difference, negatively or positively impacting salinity!  Variations in salinity will impact fermentation.  

Salt helps lactic acid bacteria win the microbial race.  At a certain salt concentration, lactic acid bacteria grow more quickly than other microbes, and have a competitive advantage.

Below the correct concentration, bad bacteria may survive and spread more easily, possibly out-competing lactic acid bacteria and spoiling your pickles. Also, lactic acid bacteria don't survive in brines that are less than 1%.  The "no-salt" fermentation movement doesn't have its roots in traditional fermentation, but instead, in modern misunderstandings about the importance of salt.
Too much salt is also a problem.  Lactic acid bacteria cannot thrive, leaving your vegetables unpickled, and instead, salt-cured.  Salt-cured has always been a traditional method of fermentation, but it is intentional - meant to kill lactic acid bacteria.  What's more, salt-tolerant yeasts can spread more quickly.  By consuming lactic acid, yeasts make the pickles less acidic - and more hospitable to spoilage microbes.

Weigh, Don't Measure Salt

1. Use easy-to-read brine-tables - based on traditional formulas used by artisan butchers, cheese and pickle-makers.
2. Create the amount of brine you need, whether 1-cup, 1-gallon, or 1-liter, at the proper salinity-level, following our easy-to-read chart.
3.  Buy a gram-scale.  Digital scales are inexpensive - under $20 - readily available.  Make sure there's a "tare" button to zero-out your scale, to obtain the most accurate weight. Scales have a toggle-switch on the underside, one-side labeled "OZ", and the other, "GM". Switch the switch to GM - grams.

Which salt is best?

We recommend most dry salts - never wet.  Wet salts typically contain clay or dirt, providing coloration (grey, red, brown, etc.) but they also act as a "substrate", a surface on which mold grows.  Even when wet salts are baked at a very high temperature, in the hopes of killing mold, rsearch has shown that many mold spores survive.   Another issue, not talked about enough, is the lead-content of many northern salts.  All salts are graded, like a good wine, according to their quality and  use.  We prefer a gourmet-grade for any culinary use, including fermentation.  

2%?  3.5%? 5%? 10%? Which brine is best?

Dr. Fred Breidt, a USDA microbiologist and UNC microbiology professor is quoted in mainstream pro-fermentation articles, as saying that properly-made "lactic acid fermentation is SAFER than canned food".   Dr. Breidt enthusiastically suggested that we could reduce the amount of salt normally used in other methods.  Because our anaerobic-container suffocates oxygen-rich mold and yeast, the excess salt is NOT inhibit their growth.  "Anaerobic fermentation of cabbage, on the other hand, with 2% salt (NaCl) and a temperature around 18C (64F) typically makes very good quality sauerkraut."
Dr. Breidt's summary was: "Using the 2% with its anaerobic-conditions, would create a consistently good end-product with superior results in taste, flavor and color retention."

2% Salinity:  Carrot sticks, shreds, slices; broccoli, cauliflower, pearl onions, green beans (add grape leaves to preserve color), asparagus, green/red peppers de-seeded, parsnip, kohlrabi, Jerusalem artichoke, zucchini (whole), sliced radish, whole-small radish, whole green tomato, are but a few examples. Quick guide: Fill the Pickl-It with food (dice, chunk, whole, etc.) to 1-inch below the "shoulder".  Add 2% brine to the "shoulder" so your vegetables are covered with 1-inch of brine.
3.5% Salinity: Pickled cukes for pickling-varieties such as Kirby or Boston.  Fermented short-term (7-days on-counter, then 2 weeks in fridge) creates "half-sour" - still half-white, somewhat green inside.  More fermentation-time creates evenly-distributed green color and sublime flavor.

10% Salinity:  For those serious about brine-curing meat, crafting authentic feta-cheese, pepper-mashes, curing green olives, authentic fish-sauce, and shrimp-sauce.

Chart #1:  Water is U.S. Measurement, salt in grams.

Examples: To create 8-cups of brine at 2% salinity, use 38 grams of salt.  To create 3-cups of brine at a 2% salinity, add the amount of salt called for in the columns under 1-cup (5 grams) and 2-cups (10 grams) which equals 15-grams of salt. If creating a 1% brine, simply divide the 2% salt grams by 50%.  To make a 1% brine for 2-cups of water, use half of the 5-grams, ROUND DOWN to 2 grams.  


Adapted from

Monday, February 22, 2016

Fermenting Vegetables

What makes vegetables ferment instead of rot?
First of all, fermented vegetables ferment instead of rot because of the natural beneficial microbes in them. The job of the cook is to give those beneficial microbes the best possible environment to thrive and multiply. At the same time the environment needs to discourage the bad microbes that cause rot from multiplying and overpowering the mixture. This is where the salt comes in. Salt inhibits the growth of microbes.
Food that is naturally high in moisture like finely cut cabbage requires less salt than food with a hard rind, like lemons, in order to discourage the bad microbes. Food that spoils faster, like herrings, require more salt than food that is slower to spoil, like beets.  Salt also causes osmosis — a transfer of juices from the vegetables that is replaced by brine, further inhibiting spoilage.

Let’s look at what actually goes on as vegetables ferment
When you start to ferment vegetables (or dough or fish) there are hundreds of different microbes on the surface that are vying for supremacy. Whether you end up with rotting food, mold, or a nicely fermented food, depends on encouraging the good microbes, while trying to crowd out the bad microbes. The good microbes thrive in an acidic environment while the bad microbes don’t. Some microbes need air to multiply while the good microbes need an anaerobic environment.
You want to begin with more of the good microbes and less of the bad. Always wash your vegetables under cold, running water before you prepare them for fermented vegetables. This washes off some of the undesirable microbes right at the beginning. Wash and sanitize knives, cutting boards, jars, and bowls before you begin to make your ferment.
Salt inhibits the growth of yeast and delays the bad microbes from reproducing and this is why salt is commonly used in fermented vegetables. Use kosher salt or sea salt rather than table salt (Iodized salt) because the addition of iodine, an antimicrobial, will inhibit the good microbes, too and discolour your vegetables.
Inoculating a jar of fermenting vegetables with the good microbes will encourage the good microbes to reproduce at a faster rate, crowding out the bad microbes.  This replaces some of the need for salt in your recipe.  If your recipe calls for 2 tbsp of salt per quart — if you innoculate your vegetables with good microbes you can use 2 tsp of salt instead.

The 3 stages of fermenting vegetables
What you’ll see
What’s happening inside the jar
Day 1 to 2
Fine bubbles begin to form which break the surface when a knife is inserted inside the jar
Coliform bacteria begin the fermentation process. As it grows the mixture becomes more acidic. 
Day 3 to 5
Large gaseous bubbles form inside the jar. The food is pushed up from the bottom against the weight.   Unweighted food is pushed above the brine. The jar liquid overflows through the airlock. 
The Leuconostoc bacteria are multiplying and continue lowering the pH in the vat. This crowds out the coliform bacteria.
Day 5 to 8
The bubbling slows down or stops. The vegetables fall down in the jar and the pressure stops building up. The ferment can be refrigerated. It will continue to develop while in storage.
The environment in the jar has become more acidic and the lacto-bacteria is thriving, while the other bacterium and yeasts are being crowded out. The lacto-bacteria are living and active inside the ferment.   The fermentation can be slowed by refrigerating the ferment. It can be eaten now or the flavours can continue to develop over months. The jar contents are preserved in the acidic environment of the jar. 

Adapted from
Image from