Barley, Turnip, and Greens Soup

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Like I've said in other blog posts, I don't really cook with set recipes. I let my knowledge of traditional foods and my culinary tradition guide me.

Today I made a simple soup that is rather exceptional. I wish I would have made it sooner!

Zeke's Barley, Turnip, and Greens Soup

4 medium sized turnips
1 bunch of greens (I used collards)
1 onion
1 clove garlic
a little olive oil for the onion and garlic
2 cups barley
about 1/4 cup fish sauce

1.Place the barley in a large pot and cover it with as much water as your pot will hold. Soak it overnight. The next day pour off the water. This leaches out much of the phytates.

2. Sweat the onion in a little olive oil. When its about half done mince and throw in the garlic

3. Chop your greens and them them to your large soup pot with your barley

4. Add the onion to the pot

5. Wash and cube your turnips. Add them to the pot.

6. Top everything off with you broth and add the fish sauce

7. Cook it. This shouldn't take more than about half an hour. You really just want the barley to break open and release its goodness into the soup to thicken it. Everything else should cook pretty quick.

There you have it folks. Super simple and super tasty.


Fermented Fish Sauce

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It doesn't matter what you call it, fish sauce, nuoc mam, patis, or nam pla. It's all the same fishy goodness.

Fish sauce is made by a few varying methods, but they are all basically the same. Fish, usually anchovies and sardines, but sometimes whatever comes up in the net, are mixed with salt and maybe some water and allowed to ferment. The fermented juice that comes off is fish sauce. sometimes it is drained from the bottom and added back into to the top of the fermenter until fermentation has completed, and sometimes it isn't. There isn't much of a wrong way to make fish sauce.

Where the Chinese and Japanese use soy sauce, much of southeast Asia uses fish sauce. It has a rich savory flavor like soy sauce, but better. It is actually believed that fish sauce came first, and that soybeans were added to extend the fish sauce, until eventually the fish were left out altogether.

Fish sauce is not an entirely eastern food either. The romans had fish sauce too. They called it garum or liquamen. It was used in food, medicine, and even in cosmetics. Like so many things, they got it from the Greeks. It was usually made from just the guts of fish. Some modern fish sauce is as well.

Fish sauce can be used in place of soy sauce in many applications. It has a good umami kick to it and a nutty slightly cheesy flavor. When you first open the bottle, don't let the aroma scare you off. Its a little stinky. Supposedly when the French first got to Vietnam and tried fish sauce they described the aroma as "a young girl that does not wash properly." I had a friend that once said, "If you can get it past your nose its one of the most delicious things there is." It doesn't smell that bad. I really think people get all worked up over nothing.

so what are the health benefits of this traditional food? It has almost all the same health benefits that fish broth has. Think about it. One is boiling fish until the goodness comes out, and the other is fermenting fish until the goodness comes out. Fish sauce is high in minerals, especially if made from small fish like anchovies so the total bone content is higher. It also contains small amounts of thyroid hormones.

My favorite fish sauce recipe was posted in my "eat your heart" out post. Another great thing to use fish sauce with is vegetables of all kinds. I like to take zucchini and summer squash, brown in some butter or olive oil, then add a little fish sauce and let it cook in. Something my Stepmother does is brown some ground beef and cook it with patis(Filipino fish sauce) and chayote(AKA alligator pear). It is delciious and satisfying!

So what are you waiting for? Go buy some fish sauce! Start cooking already!


Eat your Heart Out

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This post is Part of Real food Wednesdays!

Many people who eat traditional foods have trouble incorporating organ meats into their diets. It seems thats Americans have somehow been led to beleive that organ meats are yucky. When people into traditional foods start talking about organ meats, the topic almost immediately goes to liver. Liver is indeed a nutritional powerhouse, especially when eaten raw or rare.

I'm not here to talk about liver. Well, Not today anyways. I want to talk about my favorite organ meat, heart.

Thats right. Nothing is quite as satisfying as munching down on a bog old chunk of beef heart. Here in south Texas I can go into almost any grocery store and find tongue, kidneys, sweetbreads, feet(not organs, I know), and heart.

Heart is great for those of you just starting out with organ meats. When you get a nice steak, What are you eating? Muscle. What is the heart? A muscle. Granted its smooth muscle unlike skeletal muscle, but its still muscle. So what do you think it would taste like? Muscle!

Heart is great for organ meat noobs because it takes like extra beefy beef. It does taste kinda strong, but it still tastes like beef. I can't get enough of it, and cooking it is easy too! Just grab a chunk of heart about two to four pounds, trim off any connective tissue, and treat it like a small roast. Throw it in an oven until the outside is golden brown and delicious and the inside is as pink or well done as you like. I personally like all my meat very rare, even heart.

Heart can be ground and used anywhere you use normal beef. You can put it in Chili, meatloaf, hamburgers, soups, stews, or anywhere!

I haven't even started to mention the vitamins and nutrients in beef heart. Its one of the best sources of CoQ10. CoQ10 is good for you heart. So eat heart for your heart. Heart also attracts the best fats to itself, which means even if you buy a regular supermarket heart, you'd be getting better fat than with any other cut of meat.

Another kind of heart I like is chicken hearts. They're cute little bite sized hearts. They taste kind of meaty like duck or goose meat. You can make all sorts of interesting stir fries with these little organ bombs. I like to throw them in a pan with a little coconut oil (feel free to use schmaltz or tallow or butter or ghee) and brown, then let them simmer in a little Vietnamese fish sauce. Use some roux or cornstarch to thicken it and you have an awesome chicken hearts and gravy. I'd make this more often but my roommate gets mad when I cook with fish sauce.

So next time you're out shopping get some heart. You'll be glad you did!


A-fib and Omega-3's

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Those of you familiar with my blog are probably already aware that I suffer from atrial fibrillation. It is quite literally a subject near and dear to my heart.

One of the best things someone suffering from atrial fibrillation can do for their heart is to increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids, and decrease their intake of omega-6's this is mainly through their ability to regulate eicosanoids.

Among other things, Eicosanoids regulate blood thinness and inflammation. Atrial fibrillation can cause blood to not flow out of the atria properly, where it can pool and form clots. Most people with atrial fibrillation are put on a blood thinner to keep these clots from forming and possibly moving out of the heart causing stroke or embolism. Omega-3's have a blood thinning effect that can be used to combat this.

I take about ten grams of fish oil a day. I take three 1200 mg capsules three times a day, with breakfast lunch and dinner. Taking them with meals helps absorption, though I sometimes take my morning dose awhile before breakfast. I also try to eat foods high in natural omega-3's like fish, grass fed beef, and walnuts.

Inflammation's role in a-fib is not very well known, but managing inflammation seems to help with it. Eicosanoids have alot to do with inflammation. The ones formed from omega-3's tend to stop inflammation, while the eicosanoids formed from omega-6's tend to cause inflammation.

Increasing our intake of omega-3' and balancing our fatty acid ratios is yet another way to use traditional foods to manage a-fib.

More Beans

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I've never really been one to use recipes. I've always had a pretty good culinary intuition, but some of you want actual recipes, so I'll give it a shot.

Here's an awesome pot of beans I made this weekend.

Zeke's Latest Bean recipe.
1 pound black beans
1 pound pinto beans
3 chicken thighs
3 Tablespoons cumin (or to taste
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
2 Tablespoons onion powder
3 Tablespoons chili powder

1. Soak the beans overnight in a 5 quart dutch oven, then drain off the water and add fresh
2. place the chicken thighs skin side down in a pan and brown them. Don't worry about actually cooking them, we just want the flavor that comes from browning.
3. Place the chicken thighs in with the beans.
4. bring the beans to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Lets the beans almost cook. This can take up to two hours.
5. remove the chicken and shred it with a few forks. Put the meat and the bones back into the pot.
6. Add the spices and let the beans finish cooking. Remember salt will nearly stop the cooking process. I also wait till near the end to add the spices as much of oils that give them their flavor will cook out.
7. let simmer a while for flavors to meld and enjoy!

What could make this recipe better? Well if you aren't a broke tired college student like me, you can cook some fresh onion and garlic and add that. The flavor will be much better. you also keep more of the healthy chemicals in the food that way.

Lets not forget that beans feed your intestinal flora. Why pay good money for inulin or fructo-oligosaccharides? Beans contain the same indestible sugars that feed our gut bugs. Where do you think all that gas comes from?


Eat Natto Now!

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It's sticky. It's stinky, It's slimy. It's natto.

Most modern soy foods are not fit for human consumption. The only soy foods that are safe to eat are traditional fermented soy products, and natto fits the bill perfectly.

So what is natto?
Natto is an ancient Japanese food made from soybeans that have been boiled and fermented with Bacillus subtilis bacteria. The story of its discovery goes like this. Minamoto no Yoshiie was on a battle campaign in Japan when one day he and his men were attacked while boiling soybeans for their horses. (Notice they weren't going to eat the soybeans, as they knew they weren't appropriate for human consumption.) They hurriedly packed up the beans, and did not open the straw bags until a few days later, where they found fermented soy beans. They tried it and liked it. The rest is history.

Natto has a very strong ammonia like smell, which some compare to cheese. It is covered with a gooey coating of polyglutamic acid that makes spiderweb like strings when pulled apart. They are usually made with a type of soybean called, surprisingly enough, a natto soybean.

So what does natto taste like? Some think it tastes strong. Some say it tastes like coffee. Some people find it bland. I'm in between somewhere. I can taste a hint of coffee, but its not intense.

I buy my natto at my local Asian market. I plan to make natto next week. I will of course let you know how it turns out, and hopefully take some pictures.

To eat natto you take it out of the package and put it in a bowl with some shoyu and mustard, then you stir the crap out of it. It will get more and more gooey. Then you put it on top of some rice and chow down!

While the dangers of modern soy products are quite bad, Natto is extremely healthy.

One of the most important things about natto is an enzyme called "nattokinase." It is a fibrolytic enzyme. It can actually break up blood clots! Nattokinase is becoming popular. Some people take nattokinase in the form of a natto extract. It also contains pyrazine, another chemical that can stop blood clots. Now that really is heart healthy soy!

Natto also contains vitamin K2. Many believe this to be Weston A. Price's "Activator X."

Natto is one of the few fermented soy foods you can safely eat every day. I'm going to make some next week. I'll take pictures so you can see how it's done.

This post is part of Fight back Fridays at Food Renegade.


Personal Lubricant fom Flax?

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I usually talk about food you eat, but today I'm going to talk about something interesting to do with flax seeds.

Flax seeds can make a simple all natural personal lubricant thanks to their soluble fiber content.

Have you ever tried putting flax seeds in water? The soluble fiber in flax seeds will dissolve into the water and make it somewhat slimy. This slime is very slippery and makes a great personal lubricant for those of you really serious about getting strange chemicals out of the products you use. Many commercial personal lubricant ingredients contain dubious chemicals like polyvinyl alcohol, a polymer also used to make rubber cement. Flax makes edible personal lubricant is water based, which makes it a condom safe lubricant as well. If you use organic flax seeds you will even have an organic personal lubricant.

I don't remember where I originally found this. Its a very interesting project for you and your sweetie.

To make this all you do is put about a tablespoon of flax seeds in about a cup of water. Wait until it gets to your desired slimyness, and strain out the flaxseeds.

...and there you have it. Homemade lube. Do it for your health.


Beans, The Musical Fruit!

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It doesn't matter whether you call them pulses or legumes, beans are one of my favorite foods!
I've heard some conflicting evidence on beans. Some say they are difficult to digest and mildly toxic, while others claim the longest lived cultures on earth eat plenty of beans. I tend to believe the latter more. Just look at the Japanese, they have taken soy, aw very unhealthy bean, and turned it into miso and natto. Two of the healthiest foods around!

These days even the average megamart has a variety of beans to choose from. You can find dried butter beans, organic anasazi beans, and even mayocoba beans. My personal favorite is good old fashioned pinto beans.

Cooking with dried beans is simple. I fill the pot I want to cook with about a third full with beans, then I cover them with water and let them soak overnight. If I can I change the water every three or four hours. Soaking beans is important for the same reason as soaking grains. Its draws out excessive phytates and other antinutrients. It is possible to cook beans without soaking them or to use the fast soak method, but they will not be as healthy.

After your beans have soaked, give them some new water and start cooking. Bring them to a boil then allow them to simmer. I find it usually takes me about two hours.

Whatever you do , don't ass salt until your beans are cooked through! Salt virtually stops the cooking process! Wait until your beans have softened to your preference before salting.

Salt brings up the next topic. Seasoning. Almost any common culinary spice will work with beans. My all time favorite bean spice is cumin. It is almost mandatory for beans here in Texas. Sometimes I will also ad a chili powder blend to make a kind of (I cringe when I say this but I don't know what else to call it) vegetarian chili. Don't get carried away though if your chili powder has salt in it, you can get carried away and easily add too much chili powder and have extra salty beans. Always check the label.

You can make a more greek style bean recipe by using cinnamon, anise and allspice to your beans.


This blog is part of Real food wednesdays.