Sunday, August 26, 2012

Spaghetti sauce and the nightshade issue

While my diet has swung more towards paleo since I gave up dairy, there are still a few things I regularly consume that definitely fall outside of the paleo realm. One of those items is tomatoes. Some paleo dieters avoid them because they are a member of the nightshade family. Potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, ground cherries, and tomatillos are all family members. The working theory is that since these are recent (on an evolutionary scale) additions to the human diet, compounds contained in nightshades can cause digestive and auto-immune problems.

As I see it, nightshades are a lot like dairy. Some people have no problems with dairy, and in fact, benefit from good quality dairy products, especially raw dairy from grass-fed cows. Others, like me, should avoid dairy. Tomatoes, because of their vitamin content, can be more beneficial than harmful for most people, especially if those tomatoes are homegrown in rich, nutrient-filled soil and grown without pesticides. Others must avoid nightshades.

If you have auto-immune issues that still haven't cleared up despite following a clean, low carb/paleo diet, try eliminating members of the night shade family for a few weeks, then reintroduce them one at a time and see if you have a reaction. This is the same method I used to determine that I had problems caused by dairy.

If nightshades do not cause you gastric distress, trigger allergies, or increase arthritis symptoms, tomatoes could be a delicious part of your eating plan. They are still in mine, and this time of year I am harvesting plenty of tomatoes from the garden. I will soon have enough to make and can spaghetti sauce. This sauce is far superior to anything you can buy in the store, and by using fresh herbs, you get a much more complex and interesting flavor.

Spaghetti sauce in its' infant stage

The Lazy Person's Guide to Roaster Spaghetti Sauce by Wifezilla

You will need a electric roaster. The roaster is your main measuring device. Without an electric roaster, you get to guess, but basically you will be reducing the volume of raw tomatoes by at least half. The one is use is an 18 quart older model. This recipe also uses a stick blender with a chopper blade and fresh herbs instead of dried. Adaptations to available ingredients and equipment may be required. I water-bath can my sauce, but it can also be pressure canned. If you decide to add meat before canning, pressure canning is required. You can also freeze this sauce.
  1. Fill a roaster to the top with fresh or frozen SKINNED tomatoes or a combination of the two. (Frozen tomatoes are easy to peel and do not require an additional hot water bath.)
  2. Squish the tomatoes with your hands or a potato masher to make it easier for the tomatoes to cook down.
  3. Cook the tomatoes on 275 degrees overnight UNCOVERED. You can cover the top with a piece of metal screen or some cheese cloth to keep the bugs out of your sauce, but the moisture must be able to escape.
  4. The tomatoes should cook down until the roaster is only half way full. If it needs more time, just let it go until you have a half-full roaster or turn up the temps and stir as it cooks down the rest of the way. 
  5. Use a stick blender to chop everything up and make your sauce nice and smooth.
  6. Add 1 - 2 cans of organic tomato paste to make the sauce thicker. If your tomatoes are really meaty, you might not need to add any, but have the cans ready just in case.
  7. Add 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar and stir, then salt to taste. Because a lot of modern tomatoes are lower in acid than they used to be, I consider this a step that should not be skipped. High acidity is required for safe water bath canning.
  8. Let it continue to cook a bit as you caramelize 4 large sweet onions. Once onions are cooked, add to sauce.
  9. Get your canning jars ready. No, I did not forget about other herbs and spices, but that will be the last thing you do before canning. So trust me, just get your jars ready.
  10. NOW you can add fresh chopped basil, oregano, rosemary, minced garlic, etc... Sorry, we didn't measure. Just grabbed handfuls of whatever was ready from the garden. Several hand fulls of basil and oregano if I remember correctly and just a little rosemary and a few sprigs of thyme. 
  11. Immediately put in the jars and water bath can after mixing in the herbs. Prolonged cooking of the fresh herbs can make them bitter so you don't want them simmering for a long time. They are fine through the heat of canning though.
The recipe is more like a series of guidelines than a true recipe, but since I am more a freeform cook and the ingredients available to me vary, it is hard to be more specific. If you are the type that wants specifics, give this recipe a try.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Give a thought to gardening

Even in a tiny yard like mine you can grow your own produce. My entire lot, which has a 1000 sq ft house, a garage, a shed, a large duck pen and a pond system on it, is only .167th of an acre. By using several gardening methods including square foot gardening, deep mulching, container gardening and vertical trellising, I am able to grow melons, pumpkins, grapes, apples, pears, zucchini, beans, tomatoes, peppers, several herb varieties, kale, lettuce, kohlrabi, and even some exotics, flowers and flowering shrubs to attract the local bees and other pollinators.

I harvested this basket of food out of my back yard just yesterday morning. The tomatoes and peppers are just starting to take off, all the grapes are ready and I need to harvest more today and over the weekend. The squash, which got a late start, are just now ripening. Cucumbers and beans will be ready next month.

With the drought, rising food prices and the ever increasing genetic modification of foods from the store, you might want to consider your own garden. Food inflation has been creeping up year after year and projections for next year's harvest is grim. Even if you can not grow enough to entirely support your family's food needs, anything you can grow yourself is less you have to buy in the store. Not only that, there is a growing body of evidence that the nutriton level in commercially-raised food is dropping. This means you have to eat more food volume to get the same amount of nutrients that used to be in food years ago. Nutrient density is of particular importance for people with weight and digestive problems like me. Growing your own food and properly managing soil means the food you grow will be more nutritious than food you can buy.

While summer is almost over in the US, you can prep growing beds NOW for easy spring planting. In fact, fall is the time you plant garlic. Thinking of a garden as a spring to fall thing is very much a thing of the past. In some areas you can even grow greens through the winter. My kale survived several hard frosts and a few snow storms with no problems at all.

Give gardening a thought or two next time you see the sorry state and high price of what is available in the stores. Better food could be available right outside your back door.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A good use for soy

In general, soy is NOT a good food source. It messes with your thyroid, causes weight gain, and even inhibits protein absorption. Sure, properly fermented soy can be tasty and used occasionally without issue (for most people), but the soy in the typical American diet is not fermented and prepared safely. It is just added to everything because it is cheap and the populace has been duped in to thinking soy is healthy.

Fortunately there is an actual good use for all that soy that people should not be eating...

"Last week, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it's purchasing 50 pounds of fake poop. A practical joke? No, not in the least.

Nor is this synthetic poop a plastic replica of the real thing; it's an organic version made from soybeans. The Gates Foundation will use it to test high-tech commodes at their Reinvent the Toilet Fair next week." (more)

So next time you see SOY on the label of some food item in the store, just remember this article. Soy is crap. Don't eat it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Recipe: Non-dairy Creamy Turkey Mushroom Soup

I spent last weekend with friends I hadn't seen in a while. Their children, whom I have known since they were infants brought THEIR children. friends' babies are having babies. Apparently while I was soaking in the cuteness I also soaked in some cooties. They don't call kids germ balls for nothing!

Anyway,  I woke up today with a tickle in my throat and congestion in my left ear. By the end of the day it had progressed to painful sinuses, pressure behind the eyes and a full-blown sore throat and coughing up crud. Fortunately I had some turkey bone broth simmering away because a hot, sinus-clearing soup was exactly what I needed. I dragged my pathetic carcass in to the kitchen and this is what I threw together. It's a tangy, spicy, non-dairy version of cream of chicken mushroom soup that is low in carbs, high in flavor, and should help you breathe a little easier when cooties get you down.

Yeah, it's a crappy cell phone picture, but I am sick. Cut me some slack!

Wifezilla's Creamy Turkey Mushroom Soup

4 oz shitake mushroom - chopped
4 oz baby bella mushrooms - chopped (or 8oz total of your favorite mushroom type)
1 large sweet onion - chopped
1 clove garlic - minced
1/4 cup coconut oil
2-3 cups chicken or turkey broth
1 cup cooked turkey or chicken meat
1 can coconut milk (or 1/2 can coconut milk and 1/2 cup mayo*)
1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
2 tsp - 1 Tbsp ground black pepper (start with 2 tsp and go up from there)
1 Tbsp hot sauce
2 tsp cayenne pepper powder (or red pepper flakes)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp Xantham gum
Sea salt to taste
Optional: chopped chives or green onions for garnish

In a small cup, dissolve xantham gum and 2 Tbsp of melted coconut oil. Set aside. Caramelize onions over medium heat in 1/4 cup coconut oil. Add mushrooms to caramelized onions and cook until mushrooms are soft. Add garlic, being careful not to overcook garlic or it will get bitter. After stirring in garlic, add xantham gum mix and stir, then immediately add 2 cups of broth. Allow mixture to simmer a bit, stirring as it thickens. Add remaining ingredients and check thickness when all items are incorporated. If mixture is too thick, add a little more broth. Add salt to taste. Sprinkle with chives or green onions and serve.

  • Coconut milk flavor varies from brand to brand. If the type you are using has a strong coconut flavor or is a bit on the sweet side, use the half coconut milk, half mayo version.
  • If you don't have a problem with dairy, you can directly sub butter for the coconut oil and cream for the coconut milk. 
  • If you don't have xantham gum, tempered egg yolks can also be used to thicken the soup.