Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Hot Sauce -- How to Avoid Unhealthy Additives

Recently, I began re-reading the ingredients of my favorite hot sauces.  Depressing.  With the latest information coming out about inflammation, diabetes, candida, etc., this was a sobering exercise.

Hot sauces all seem to have either preservatives and/or vinegar (bad for candida overgrowth and certain diets) and/or sugar (bad for candida overgrowth and also not paleo, keto, or diabetic friendly). Not to mention that many don't use good quality salt.

Years ago I made my own healthy, raw, fresh, 3-ingredient hot sauce.  I noticed that Tabasco only has 3 ingredients: vinegar, cayenne, and salt. So I decided to try lemon, cayenne, and salt as a hot sauce. It was delicious, but took all of 10 minutes to make, because I would try to make a few helpings and mix it in a small pitcher (salad dressing size). I didn't keep up with it, because it required this monumental 10 minute effort and involved a small pitcher!

So I reverted to bottled hot sauce.  Fast forward several years to when I decided to re-read the ingredients.  Yikes! I decided to try making my simple home made version again, but I'd simplify it further.  Rather than a recipe involving mixing and trying to make a small supply, this time I'd try to put it together right on my plate.  If something is simple enough, I won't be deterred from doing it. So I asked myself, how can I make this so easy I just have to do it?  I experimented, and: Success!  I'm pretty sure this recipe is safe for keto, paleo, raw, vegan, and diabetic diets. For those with inflammation, the quality and quantity of salt should be considered.

Of course when I first tried to switch from the bottle to the unprocessed/homemade, at the moment of truth, I found myself thinking, "can't I just grab this hot sauce in the fridge? I am short on time! And anyway, I don't use much!"
And at first, that's what I did.
I gave up and grabbed my bottle of Tapatio from the fridge.
(As to the rationalization of using just a little bit of bottled hot sauce -  I was using about a bottle every month.  All that sauce goes somewhere!  The preservatives, vinegar, or sugar - stuff that my body simply does not need)

Then I asked myself, "how long does it really take to give my brekkie a dash of salt, cayenne and a little squeeze of lemon? The cayenne stays in a condiment tray right on the counter....the lemon is easily accessible on the door of my fridge.... Less than a minute?   Am I worth a minute? Does being short on time mean I devalue my health?  When I thought about it, it seemed ridiculous!


So the ingredients are:
Good quality salt (Himalayan or Real are my first choices)
Cayenne (you can get various heat, some is not so hot at all)
and a little fresh lemon juice.

I usually add salt to taste while cooking (or if a raw dish -- while I'm prepping).

I sprinkle the cayenne on once I have plated the dish.  I use a lot, but I don't use the really hot stuff.  Again this will be to individual taste (remember it is easier to add than subtract)

I keep a lemon in a small cup or bowl in the fridge, easily accessible.  I have my cutting board and knife out from cooking.  I slice a small wedge from the lemon, and squeeze over the cuisine on my plate and put the rest of the lemon back in its spot in the fridge. Obviously I don't hurry when handling a knife, but the whole operation takes about 30 seconds.

I recommend using up the lemon wedge you cut (which is why I recommend cutting a small one), because the lemon flavor loses integrity once the wedge is squeezed, so trying to squeeze it again later is a little funky.

I hope this recipe helps readers avoid some unneeded, unhealthy additives.  Let me know in comments!

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Life Saving Salads

Have I mentioned how good green and raw veggies are? How much better I feel when I get plenty of green? The thing is, life happens and despite what I know, I constantly forget to get the green I need to feel at my best.  

Recently, after several long work days, and weekends spent just catching up, I asked myself, am I missing something? I remembered my "choppy salads" and how much of a boost they are to my sense of health and well-being.

My "choppy salad" usually consists of a dark green base ("base" meaning it is the prominent ingredient - about 50% of the salad), like kale and/or parsley, mixed with whatever other veggies I have handy.  (There are alternatives to the base such as zucchini, or other summer squash)  Sometimes I shop for specific veggies, of course, but the choppy salad is more of a concept than a recipe designed to get some deep nutrition in a quick, tasty, and convenient way using whatever you have on hand.

Start with your base (i.e. kale and/or parsley), using a small bunch of kale or a large bunch of parsley, or a combination.  

Chop your greens and put in a food processor.(If you don't have one, the Braun and Aicock got good reviews. I have a Cuisinart for years, but reviews on recent products are mixed)
(They don't have to be finely chopped; large chucks will work - see images below)
Pulse your "base" (i.e. greens) in the food processor until they are almost finely chopped 

Add your other veggies - these can be any combination of what you have handy - a couple of carrots, zucchini, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, a green onion, sugar snap peas, a small quantity of broccoli or peeled broccoli stems
Chop the veggies into large chunks and add into the food processor 

Add 1 tsp Himalayan salt or Real Salt
Squeeze the juice from a slice of lemon into the mix
Add extra virgin olive oil (at least 4 tbsp, more if you love olive oil as I do)
A dash of cayenne (don't over do it, you can always add)
Add 1 medium tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes

For variety you can add dried or fresh herbs like oregano, thyme, basil, dill - whatever you prefer.
Pulse until the salad is fairly uniform small chunks (you may need to stop and open the food processor in the middle of this process if you have large chunks hanging out on top. Just use a spatula to turn them to the bottom of the processor bowl)

Taste before you take it out of the food processor bowl. You may want to add something to the dressing - more olive oil, more lemon, more salt.  This is the time to make adjustments to taste if you want to mix in the food processor.  Some friends have told me they add a little goat cheese with the olive oil. If you like a heavier dressing, there are great creamy raw dressings made with avocados, pine nuts, cashews.  (I plan to share a couple of my favorite dressing recipes soon, so please stay tuned!)

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Love, Flax, and Chocolate

I love almond milk. I love chocolate. Sometimes I want something quicker and cheaper and easier than almond milk, though.

 Flax milk offers the nourishment of germinated flax seeds without the cost of raw almonds (which in California one must get directly from farmers in order to avoid pasteurization) and without having to strain through a nut milk bag.

To demonstrate how little work this is, I added time estimates to each step.

Start by making your flax milk.

Put 1/4 cup dry, raw, organic flax seeds in a bowl to soak
Let it stand at least an hour - best is overnight
(the work takes 1 minute - I'm not counting the soaking into the work time)

Put the soaked flax and 4 cups of filtered water in a blender (hi speed is best) and blend -- start on low and increase to high speed for about a minute
(takes about 3 minutes to get the blender out, add the water and soaked flax seeds, and blend)

That's it - Now you have your refreshing, inexpensive, healthy Flax Milk!

If you are a chocolate lover like me, make it chocolate.
Put a half tablespoon of cacao powder in a cup and pour the flax milk over it
Use a spoon or small whisk to stir

I don't use any sweeteners like honey, agave, coconut sugar, etc. to my cup of chocolate milk.  I add a very little stevia in the raw or sweet drops -- just enough that it tastes slightly sweet but not like stevia -- or a teensy bit of monk fruit sugar (like stevia it has no glycemic spike).
(this part takes maybe a little over 1 minute).

Wash out blender (blend soapy water starting on low and increasing to high speed for a minute).
This is not a big operation. What is that 5 or 6 minutes altogether?

Pour the remaining flax milk from blender to jar to store in the fridge (note that there will be settling at the bottom of the jar, but this blends in when you shake it up)

Note for making chocolate milk with refrigerated flax milk: The surface tension of liquids increases as temperature decreases. This is why cacao powder doesn't mix so well with chilled liquids. So once the flax milk is cold, I prep the cacao before I mix in the flax milk. I add the cacao powder to a dry cup, then add a little warm water to blend the cacao powder. My electric kettle has temperature controls, so I can bring water temperature up to about 130 degrees.  I add a little of this water to the cup of cacao powder and mix before adding cold flax milk.