Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Double Cheese Burgers! (GAPS : primal : gluten-free : grain-free)

My family adores burgers.  I cook them in a skillet on the stovetop, and this week I made a new variation: double cheese burgers.  Rather than putting slices of cheese on top of the burgers like usual, I added some grated cheddar and Parmesan to the meat when I mixed it up and formed the patties.  These are super tasty, and everyone in the house raved about them.

Double Cheese Burgers
Serves 4-5
  • one pound ground beef, preferably from grassfed cows (we ask our butcher for 80/20 mix)
  • 3/4 cup packed shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp celtic sea salt
  • pinch freshly ground pepper 
  • 1/2 Tb refined coconut oil 
  • 1/2 Tb butter, preferably from grassfed cows
  • condiments of your choice, such as mayo, ketchup, and mustard
  1. Put the the ground beef, cheeses, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.  Use your hands to mix the ingredients together.  Then form the patties.  I make 4 grown-up burgers and 4 mini kid burgers with the amount in this recipe. 
  2. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat.  I use a 12-inch stainless steel skillet to cook these, but cast iron would work too. Add the refined coconut oil and butter to the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom.
  3. Place your burger patties into the oil/butter mixture.  If you have a splatter screen, cover the skillet to reduce the mess on the stove. Resist the urge to move the patties around, and just let them cook for about 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Flip the burgers, and feel free to add a bit more butter and oil if needed. Cover once again with the splatter screen and cook some more (about 2 more minutes for a medium-rare burger or longer if you like your burgers more well-done). If you are making any miniature burgers for the kids, only cook the second side for about 1 minute.
  5. Turn off heat, and set the burgers aside to rest for a few minutes and allow the juices to settle back into the meat.  If you eat them right away, you'll lose most of the juice on your plate.
  6. While the burgers rest, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the hot skillet.  These are very tasty, so I like to add a few bits to each plate. 
  7. Then, pour a bit of water into the still-hot skillet and scrape the bottom a bit with a spatula.  This will make clean-up MUCH easier after dinner. 
  8. Top the burgers with a smear of homemade mayonnaise and serve them with your favorite condiments.  We all liked them with just mayo and some pickle slices on the side. A side salad and perhaps some sliced avocado would also pair nicely.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Natural Heartburn Remedies

I've had problems with heartburn ever since my first pregnancy over 5 years ago.  I posted previously that I find fermented foods (such as sauerkraut and milk kefir) to be helpful for heartburn, and this is still the case. But I do still get heartburn frequently nonetheless.

I've recently started consulting with Alan Saxon, a classical homeopath/nutritionist/osteopath, and he gave me some great tips for heartburn that I wanted to share. 
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than large meals
  • Avoid carbonated drinks, as the fizz can move your stomach contents up to where they should not be (awww, no more guava kombucha for me!)
  • Practice deep breathing (like the breathing practiced during yoga), which will strengthen the esophageal sphincter
  • Take extract of orange peel 3 times a day for a month (this is supposed to be a very effective treatment)
  • First thing in the morning, drink two glasses of liquid (any liquid will work); wait a couple minutes, and then stretch onto your tippy-toes.  Then come crashing down onto your heals as hard you you can without hurting your back. Do this on a soft surface, such as carpet. Repeat this for 3-4 mornings.  This helps because the liquid acts as a weight in your stomach and can help pull the stomach downwards where it should be.  I'm guessing this will help me since my stomach may still be shifted up a bit from my two pregnancies. (Now if only I can remember to do this first thing in the morning!)
  • Using a tennis ball or your fist, push in right below your breastbone (between your ribs).  Push deep into the solar plexus and twist the ball, then push it down to your navel and hold it for about a minute.  This is another trick that helps to ensure your stomach is down where it should be. This one can be done a few times a day, and in my case, especially before bedtime since that is when I tend to have the most heartburn.
I'm very excited to put these recommendations into practice, and to see what other health improvements can be made through consulting with Alan.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Slow Cooker Beef Fajitas (GAPS : primal : grain-free : gluten-free)

Beef fajitas are a favorite meal in our house.  This recipe cooks up all day; the results are tender and flavorful, and can be served in a variety of ways.  This recipe easily makes enough to feed a crowd, or you could freeze some for future easy meals.

Slow Cooker Beef Fajitas
Serves 10
  • 4 to 4.5 pound beef roast and/or sirloin steak (it's okay if this is frozen when you start the meal)
  • 2 medium white onions, chopped
  • Juice from 2 medium limes
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 Tb dried cumin
  • ~ 5 sprigs fresh thyme
  • celtic sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 7 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 medium red, orange, or yellow bell peppers (but NOT green), chopped
  • Additional 1/2 tsp oregano and 1 tsp cumin
  • Garnish: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole* or avocado chunks, salsa
  1. Place the chopped onions over the bottom of a large slow cooker. Put the meat on top of the onions.  
  2. Season with the lime juice, 3/4 tsp oregano, 1 Tb cumin, thyme, salt and pepper. My general rule of thumb is to start with 1 tsp salt for every pound of meat. 
  3. Sprinkle the sliced garlic over the top.  Then put a lid on the pot and cook for 4-6 hours on LOW if your meat was fully thawed, or on HIGH if your meat was frozen.
  4. About 2-3 hours before mealtime, flip the meat.  Then add the sliced mushrooms and chopped bell peppers, and nestle them down into the pot. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper, and continue to cook on HIGH.  (If you will be away from home all day, you could skip flipping the meat, and add in the mushrooms/bell peppers in the morning with everything else.  I would leave the veggies a bit larger if they will be cooking all day.)
  5. About 30-60 minutes before mealtime, pull the meat out onto a cutting board.  Shred the meat with a fork, or slice it thinly across the grain.  Dig around in the pot to find the thyme stems and remove these from the pot (the thyme leaves should have all fallen off during cooking, so the stems should come out leafless.) Return the meat to the pot and nestle it down into the juices.  
  6. Taste the liquid in the pot and add more salt and pepper as needed.  Add the remaining 1/2 tsp oregano and 1 tsp cumin, and fold it all together. Then turn the heat down to WARM (or turn the pot off entirely) and let it hang out for 30-60 minutes. This will allow the meat to get very succulent and juicy.
  7. The fajita meat can be served in a variety of ways: in grain-free tortillas, in corn tortillas, in a bowl, or over a bed of lettuce for a salad.  Whichever way you choose, make sure to garnish it with plenty of cheese, sour cream, guacamole/avocado chunks, and salsa. 
*I make a very simple guacamole by mashing together avocado with salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, a dash of onion powder, a dab of sour cream, and a dab of mayo.  Tasty!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Homeopathy for Helping Infants Sleep Better

This article is a guest post by Joette Calabrese. This is the third in a series on homeopathy for infants and children.

Do you hear that?  Me too.  It’s the tender sound of a baby sleeping.

But it wasn’t that way earlier.  You did everything you could think of to get the baby to stop screaming.

Then you found the remedy that fit her best; the suffering ceased and restorative sleep proceeded.
Take it from a mom who’s been there. There’s only one way to keep a babe from suffering painful effects of teething that is long lasting……the correct homeopathic remedy.

Let me introduce you to two powerhouse homeopathic remedies that no household should be without.

Chamomilla 30 is our #1 go-to remedy for babies who are having trouble sleeping.  This remedy is renowned for calming the discomfort and outright pain of teething, but we think of it anytime a child is extremely irritable and inconsolable.  Here are some other hallmarks:
·       Fractious
·       Often wakes with a scream, screech, or moan (from tooth pain)
·       Capricious.  They indicate they want something, but when offered, it’s thrown away in anger
·       Oversensitivity to pain, noises and such
When a parent tries to hold the Chamomilla baby close to comfort her, she often responds by pushing away, arching her back in frustration and anger.
Even a sibling’s gentle touch can set off a torrent of screaming.
Run your finger along the baby’s gums to check for teething.  If you can feel a tooth emerging, then Chamomilla 30 is likely the right remedy to help her sleep.
But remember that Chamomilla can work to calm children who fit this symptom picture even if they aren’t teething.
Give the remedy four times in one day for three to four days-- it will often be just enough  to witness marked improvement.
If the remedy initially helps the situation but symptoms return, resume giving the remedy, even if it’s days or weeks later. 
Seek the expertise of a homeopath if the remedy brings some relief, but doesn’t completely do the trick.  A higher potency may be needed to make the transition a permanent one.
Yes, permanent.  With the correct remedy in the appropriate potency, many moms have witnessed enduring resolution.

Nux vomica
Other babies who have sleeping difficulties may need Nux vomica 30When babies have been given medications such as antibiotics or Tylenol even months before, a disturbance of the central nervous system may cause insomnia. 

Don’t discount medications given to the mother at birth as an exciting cause for the baby’s sleep troubles.  Thankfully, Nux is the premier remedy for clearing out harmful substances from the body. 

Babies needing this remedy often awaken at three or four in the morning and can’t get back to sleep.  Gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea, constipation, or an alternation of the two may also present.

Another apparent sign pointing towards Nux vom is irritability.  If you select Nux vom for your baby, offer it in the same manner as with Chamomilla. Whichever remedy you choose, stay with it until you’ve given it a four-dose chance.

Now that the baby’s asleep, you can get a restful night yourself, knowing that you cured your baby without harmful drugs. It’s enough to make a mom want to shout it to the world……but not ‘til morning.

Joette Calabrese, HMC,CCH,RSHom is a homeopath and mom who has depended solely on homeopathy and nutrition in raising her family without a single drug….ever! If you find this kind of information valuable, consider joining Joette’s 12 month system, How to Raise a Drug Free Family by visiting www.homeopathyworks.net/offers/drugfree.html, or contact her office at 716.941.1045.  Lots more free tips like these at www.Homeopathyworks.net

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Cultivating a Taste for Real Foods in Children

The following article was published in the May/June issue of Real Food and Health Magazine.

Why real foods?
People have relied upon real foods throughout history to ensure good health and proper development. To ensure the best health and development of children, their diets should have the same characteristics as traditional diets. This means that children should eat real foods, which are those that have not been refined or adulterated with chemicals. There should be an emphasis on consuming animal foods and fats, organic fruits and vegetables, and fermented foods.

Real foods are the best way to nourish our children since they can provide all the nutrients needed to grow up healthy. As the research of Weston A. Price showed, people who ate traditional foods had virtually no cavities or tooth decay, nor even cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. It is wise to cultivate a taste for real foods in children, and thereby ensure their lasting health.

Limit exposure to processed foods
Processed foods can wreak havoc on the body, and they can also wreak havoc on the tastebuds. A child whose palate is used to processed foods may have a hard time eating real foods, because the taste is so different. Processed foods tend to be overly salty or overly sweet, and this can make real foods taste bland by comparison. Limiting the amount of processed foods that children eat is a very good way to encourage their palates to savor the taste of real foods.

For instance, after limiting sweets in our diets for quite awhile, the sweetness of candy was downright shocking. Our tastebuds have gotten very sensitive to sweet tastes over time, and this means that we need less sweetness to be satisfied. Since our children have been raised on a nutrient-dense diet of real foods, they don't even have a taste for many processed foods. The first time my daughter tried a soda, she was 3 years old, and her reaction was to ask if she could trade it for a banana.

Don't assume that kids won't like real foods
As adults who grew up eating processed foods, my husband and I sometimes assume that our kids will not like certain real foods. For instance, when our eldest child was a baby, we wanted to get her started early on taking cod liver oil, since it is such as wonderful superfood rich in Vitamins A and D, plus Omega 3's, DHA, and EPA. Since we assumed our daughter would not like the cod liver oil, we initially tried mixing it with cooked, pureed prunes. She really did not like this, and we figured out that actually, she'd much rather have the cod liver oil straight out of the jar. She loved it, and would ask for it every day.

Don't let your own biases taint your children's exposure to foods
Children are very perceptive of their parent's feelings and reactions. When a parent gives food to kids while having a grimace on their own face, the facial expression of the parent can easily prompt the child to reject the food. There is no need to feel grossed out when our kids are eating foods we do not like. It is wise to stifle our own negative reactions to foods to give our kids the best chance of receiving new tastes with an open mind. Foods like sauerkraut, cod liver oil, and organ meats are fabulously nutritious, but sometimes we need to actively work to make sure our kids have a chance to like them.

In our home, I work actively to give our kids a chance to like foods that their dad dislikes, like cruciferous veggies, organ meats, beets, and most fermented foods. I make sure that the kids have many chances to eat all sorts of foods when their dad is at work, and when he is home, he makes sure to be positive and not emphasize his own negative biases for foods.

Let the kids help in the kitchen and garden
Taking the extra time to let kids help in the kitchen and garden can really make them excited about eating real foods. This gets the kids connected to the foods in a real way. They get to watch the plants grow and bear fruit, and then take part in the wonderful process of turning foods into delicious meals.

From the age of 2, my daughter has had her own very small garden plot. She is free to plant whatever she chooses, and is inordinately pleased when it is time to harvest the fruits of her labor. This year, her younger brother will get to join in the experience of growing food that we serve on the dinner table.

Both of my kids have loved to help out in the kitchen from a very young age. Toddlers can put food scraps into the compost bucket, put chopped foods into a pot, and stir some ingredients together (but not flour without a big mess). Preschoolers can break eggs into a bowl, measure and stir ingredients, peel and even chop some veggies, tear and wash lettuce, and put together salads. With older kids, the possibilities are endless.

Provide a wide variety of options
There are many wonderful real foods to eat, so it should not be difficult to try some new foods if kids are averse to any specific foods. Even if you try just one new food each week, over time this can really expand the range of foods the kids will eat. If you make sure that all of the options are nutritious, there is not so much worry if the kids only choose to eat certain items. Having plenty of options allows the kids to feel like they have some control over what they can eat.

For kids averse to veggies, start with simple cooked carrots or mashed potatoes. For kids that don’t like sauerkraut, try pickles or pickled beets. Fermented drinks, such as beet kvass and kombucha, are also a great way to introduce fermented foods to kids. My kids love beet kvass; they call it beet juice and are very excited to drink it. We’ve also had very good success with letting the kids choose their own flavor of cod liver oil.

Be persistent and keep a positive attitude
While negative tactics may work in the short term, keep the goal of lifelong healthy eating in mind. In the end, we want our children to truly savor real foods, and to seek them out as adults. Meal time should be enjoyed, and if it starts to turn into a nightly battle then it is probably time to take a step back and try some new tactics. If the kids don’t like many foods yet, don’t give up.

Don’t be afraid to try a variety of preparations. For instance, if your kids don’t like plain broccoli with butter, try cutting it very small and adding it to stir-fry. If they don’t like meat, try cutting it very small and just adding a small amount to soup. When needed, giving the kids a little dipping sauce can really go a long way, too. Homemade ketchup or honey mustard sauce pair wonderfully with most meats and veggies.

Chop meat very small for young children
Meat can be especially difficult for some kids to eat. Remember, though, that their mouths and teeth are much smaller than those of adults. Chopping and shredding meat into pieces that are very small is a great way to make sure that kids can easily eat meat.

Giving my kids a chunk of steak or roast is a sure way to ensure that they won’t finish their meat. If I take the time to chop it very small and add some lovely cooking juices, they are sure to gobble it up. I always shred steaks and roasts with a fork rather than cutting them up; this ensures that the pieces are nice and small. For chicken or dishes with chunks of meat, I like to use kitchen shears to chop it up right in the bowl.

Extreme pickiness is sign of improper gut flora
Children who are extremely picky and will only eat a few foods may have improper gut flora. In such cases, the children’s guts are really in charge of their tastebuds and food preferences. In extreme cases, special diets such as the GAPS diet may need to be undertaken to get the proper balance of flora in children’s guts.

Making sure kids get plenty of probiotics is another way to help their gut bacteria get healthier. Fermented foods are a wonderful source of probiotics. Milk kefir, which is a cultured milk drink, even contains probiotics that will kill bad bacteria! Go slowly in introducing such foods, though, since a “die-off” reaction can occur with the shift to more beneficial bacteria in the gut. “Die-off” reactions are caused by toxins that are released as the bad bacteria are killed within the gut, and symptoms can include diarrhea, headaches, and lethargy.

A wonderful legacy
Cultivating a taste for real foods is truly worth the effort. Helping kids enjoy real foods gives them the best chance for long-lasting health. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful legacy to leave your kids, as they seek out those foods from childhood that they loved so much?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Caramelized Green Beans (GAPS : primal : grain-free : gluten-free)

I like to keep a bag of frozen green beans on hand for a simple and easy side dish.  These caramelized green beans fit the bill, and are so tasty that my husband even likes them (he generally does not like green beans).  The green beans take on a wonderful flavor from the butter and meat stock.

Caramelized Green Beans
Serves 2
  • 3/4 cup chicken or beef stock, preferably homemade 
  • 2 cups frozen green beans (fresh would probably work too, but the cook time would be longer)
  • 3 Tb butter or combination of butter and bacon grease
  • celtic sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper 
  • pinch of nutmeg
  1. Combine the green beans and chicken stock in a medium pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  
  2. Heat to a low boil, over medium flame, and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Skim and discard the foam.
  3. Add the butter and put a lid on the pot.  Allow to simmer covered until the beans are nearly done to your liking, or for about 25-35 minutes.
  4. Remove the lid and turn up the heat to medium high.  Boil the beans for several minutes, until the moisture from the chicken stock has evaporated.
  5. Allow the beans to continue to cook over a medium high flame for a few more minutes.  They should be sizzling in the butter. Reduce the heat if the beans start to burn.  Stir them occasionally, but not too often as you want to caramelize them a bit in the butter. 
  6. About a minute before they are done, sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg over the beans and give them a stir.  Also taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
  7. Serve and enjoy!  I particularly like these green beans when served with a nice bit of roasted chicken or pan-fried steak.