Quick Pickles

This is a bit late in the season for most of these veggies, but I thought I’d share anyway. I think this can be used for fall veggies too like summer/fall quashes if cut thinly. Cucumbers, beets, string beans and even fruits like lemon slices can be used in this recipe.

This recipe makes enough liquid for 2 normal size mason jars (16 oz.)  

The pickling Liquid:

1 c white vinegar

1 Tbs salt

2 tsp sugar

2 c water

Bring the water and vinegar to a boil and stir in the salt and sugar until dissolved

Veggies

Put 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or other spice or herb such as mustard seed, celery seed, or dill in bottom of 2 pint jars. I like the combo of dill and red pepper flakes for the cucumbers). Add 2-3 smashed garlic cloves to the bottom of the jar. Cram as many thin slices of cucumber or whatever you want to pickle into the jar. A mandolin slicer is a great tool for this kind of slicing. 

Pour the boiling hot pickling liquid over the veggies in the jar, covering all the veggies, nearly to the top. Put a lid on it. I like to agitate the jars a bit to move the spices and veggies around so everything get evenly dispersed and exposed to the hot pickle water. 

Let the jars sit out until they cool off to room temperature and then refrigerate. The vinegar, salt and sugar are all antimicrobials. This method will pickle the veggies, preventing them from going bad, but this is not a real canning/jarring method and won’t store foods for a long time so they should refrigerated and eaten within a couple weeks. 

Kombucha!

I know kombucha may not be a new thing to a lot of you. My wife has been drinking it for a few years now as a treat, maybe once or twice a week since it is so expensive. Most of the grocery stores around here (Richmond, VA) sell several different flavors/brands ranging from 3-4 dollars or more. For 12-16 oz, that’s a bit pricey as far as we’re concerned.

A few weeks ago, a local nursery called Sneed’s Nursery had a class about making Kombucha. We had talked about this several times and just never got around to getting the SCOBY, or the supplies, so when this class popped up, we decided now was a good time. We stopped on the way home after the class to pick up a big party size drink dispenser, the kind you usually see filled with tea or lemonade. One with a spigot at the bottom (made from plastic, not metal, I’ll explain more later), is ideal to make for easy bottling/drinking.

The most important thing about making kombucha is the SCOBY. It’s an acronym that stands for Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast. Much like the starter or “mother” for sourdough bread, you get a SCOBY from someone who is making their own kombucha. If you don’t know anyone like that, you can either order a SCOBY from places online, or some health food stores have them. Or, you could buy a store bought kombucha and instead of drinking it, you could make up a batch from the purchased drink since it has a small about of the bacteria/yeast colony in it.

What is kombucha? It is fermented tea. It doesn’t taste much like tea at all, as it’s a bit sour and tastes more like vinegar. It is tart and tangy and served cold can be very crisp and refreshing. The store bought versions are usually mixed with some other flavors to help the masses enjoy it. Ginger is a popular addition, as is cranberry and lemon, but you can find it a wide variety of flavors as more people take a liking to it.

“Why would you want to drink kombucha?”, you might ask. Since this is a food/health/wellness blog, and I am obsessed with gut bacteria, you might have guessed that kombucha is a probiotic! Just like yogurt, kefir or kimchi or sauerkraut, it’s full of gut friendly bacteria to help fight off bad bacteria.

If you are interested in making your own, I’ll tell you how I make mine, which is based on the directions given by the lady who taught the class.

Things you’ll need:

A gallon size pot, tea bags, sugar, water, a glass container to ferment the tea, plastic wrap and tightly sealable containers.

A glass container is necessary, don’t skimp and get a plastic or metal container. Plastic will make it taste funny and metal will ruin the SCOBY. Our container has a plastic spigot (painted silvery on the outside) which is fine.

Step 1: Get a SCOBY

Step 2: Brew a gallon of sweet tea. 1 gallon of water, 8 tea bags (they can be green or black or mix and match, not herbal or citrus flavored though), and 1 cup of sugar. White, refined, plain cheap sugar is ideal. It’s easier for the SCOBY to eat. Bring a pot of water to a boil, mix in the sugar until it dissolves, remove from the heat and add your tea bags. Let the tea sit until it is room temperature again. Not lukewarm, not tepid, room temperature, like 75 degrees F. This is important because if the tea is too hot, you will kill the SCOBY.

Step 3: Once your tea is brewed and it’s not hot at all, you pour your tea into a glass  container. kombucha

Step 4: Add the SCOBY.

Step 5: Cover the tea so nothing gets in, but air can get out. Leave it out on the counter/pantry at room temperature. Do not put it in the fridge. We’ve covered ours with saran wrap and poked small holes in it with the tip of a toothpick. You want the holes small enough so dust/mold/fruit flies can’t get in, but CO2 can get out. The SCOBY will produce CO2 and vinegar as by products when the eat the sugar. If you are worried about calorie count or sugar content of kombucha, it is very low because the bacteria and yeast eat practically all the sugar.

Step 6: Wait. Wait until your SCOBY spreads across your entire container, from edge to edge. Depending on how cool or warm you keep your house, this may take a week or two. Once the SCOBY fills the container, it will thicken and continue to grow. The longer it grows, the more vinegary your kombucha will taste.  At this point it is determined by personal preference. You can drink it earlier for less vinegar or wait longer if you’d like. We usually wait about 10-12 days since we like it pretty vinegary.

IMG_5980

Continuing to make Kombucha: the original SCOBY, we’ll call it SCOBY-A you got from a friend/internet/bottle used for batch one will grow a new SCOBY, called SCOBY-B, which is what will grow and fill your container. After it has grown and you have harvested/drunk almost all your Kombucha, you will brew a new batch of sweet tea and will take SCOBY-A out of the container with very clean hands. SCOBY-B remains in the container and you pour your new tea over SCOBY-B. This will then ferment for 1-2 weeks while growing a SCOBY-C and producing your second batch of Kombucha. The cycle repeats and you remove the older SCOBY and let the new SCOBY do it’s magic, always leaving the new SCOBY. The newer SCOBY is always going to be the one at the top of the container.

There is a way to “Double-ferment” the tea, which is were the “tightly sealable containers” come into play and most of the fizz (and tiny bit of alcohol) comes from. Instead of drinking the tea straight from your container with a spigot, you can pour the kombucha into a container you can seal tightly and this is when you can add flavors. You can squeeze the juice out of a small piece of ginger (microplane grater and a garlic press work well here) and add it to the container, along with a small (1 tsp) sugar. This is so the bacteria can have some fresh sugar to eat and produce more CO2. You can add herbal/flavored teas to this container, or any juice that has some sugar instead of the tsp of sugar. Let the double fermenting jars sit out at room temperature for 3-4 days and then put in them in the fridge if you’re not going to drink them immediately. Get creative! Let me know what recipes you come up with!

Complete!

 

I finally finished all the requirements to be a Registered Dietitian! After completing an undergraduate degree in Biology at James Madison University, ~8 years later I went back to school to be a dietitian. Starting in May 2012, while continuing to work at UNOS, I took nutrition specific classes for 2.5 years, then completed a 10 month internship. Finally, I took the Registered Dietitian exam and passed it on Aug 18th, 2016! Along with getting married, having a child and moving to the country, it’s been a busy couple years. Hence why I haven’t posted anything in a long, long time. I plan on making time for blog postings at least weekly from here on out.

Thankfully, I have a full time job again at Southside Regional Medical Center as a Clinical Dietitian. It’s amazing work and I am excited to use what I’ve learned to help people during their stay in the hospital. I also hope to start working very part time at a private practice to see what I can learn, and how I might be able to help people who are less acutely ill and more able to do something about their current health woes.

I am very excited to have completed these tasks, and to be able to practice and help people with food allergies, GI troubles and anything nutrition/health and wellness related. The best is yet to come! Look for more posts in the near future, and if you have any ideas or questions about topics you want to read about, please post in the comments!

Updated site

 

If you hadn’t noticed, I haven’t posted in a while. My website was pretty much broken. It was still up and live and accessible up until a few days ago, but I couldn’t post. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even get to the log-in page to edit/post/update.

So after a lot of work and copy and pasting I have a “new” site that I can update and post to again. It’s simpler, with less options to adapt the page to how I’d like it to look, but I can update it, which is the whole point. Moving forward…

 

I’m happy to say I was accepted into an internship. I am now a Dietetic Intern with Virginia State University. I finished my classes last winter and had a semester off and have now started my first rotation doing clinical work with a great group of Registered Dietitians at Regional Memorial Medical Center just north of Richmond city in VA. This is the first of many rotations and I will finish up in June 2016. I’ll try and keep you apprised of my progress throughout the year while posting (now that I’m able) new and hopefully interesting links, articles, recipes, and reviews.

Automimmune Genes

This is an interesting article about how old the genes are that play a role in Crohn’s and psoriasis.

“Both diseases are autoimmune disorders, and one can imagine that in a pathogen-rich environment, a highly active immune system may actually be a good thing even if it increases the chances of an auto-immune response.”
The question they don’t ask, and we’ll never know, is if these ancient ancestors suffered from the symptoms of these issues. Then you could ask the question, like in the book “The Epidemic of Absence”, would people who suffer from Crohn’s today, benefit from from being exposed to pathogens?
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/01/150128114058.htm

The New Yorker on Gluten

This is a really good read. A bit lengthy, but the writer interviewed a slew of people from different sides of the “gluten debate.” I had a couple thoughts while reading this which I’ll expand on here.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/11/03/grain

The author writes about a study where the scientists concluded that gluten was the cause of a small groups’ IBS. Gluten was introduced in a double blind study and the gluten eaters had more IBS than the gluten-free eaters. The conclusion was pretty easy to make since it was the only variable they were looking for.  A separate study removed gluten and FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols); things like onions, garlic, apples, etc. Gluten was then reintroduced to the FODMAP group and people didn’t have the IBS issues they started with, so the conclusion was made that it was the FODMAPs and not the gluten that caused the IBS issues.

I think removing gluten is easier than removing all the foods that fall into the FODMAP category. If people feel better removing one item, they may not bother trying to figure out the FODMAP rules, especially when different sources list different foods for FODMAPs. It’s possible the FODMAP diet helps fix the underlying problem and allows people to eat gluten without issue, but there isn’t much sciene to back that up definitively. Going gluten-free may just a placebo effect and people just believe they feel better because they are “gluten-free,” but I think the first study shows some people feel the effects of gluten even when they don’t know it’s there.  I do hope that people aren’t just substituting everything with a gluten-free version because gluten-free cake is still cake and full of all kinds of other junk.

The other thing I thought about was how FODMAPs effect gut bacteria. The point of being on a FODMAP diet is usually to reduce the overgrowth of “bad” bacteria in the gut. When someone’s bacteria ratio is out of order, eating FODMAP foods may increase the bad bacteria, causing gas, bloating and other IBS symptoms. It is a possibility that the people in the study experiencing IBS were not gluten intolerant but had a poor ratio of “good” to “bad” bacteria in the gut and the FODMAP test helped fix this balance, so when the gluten was reintroduced to the FODMAP study patients, their bacteria were in balance and they didn’t suffer any distress. If they were not gluten intolerant, fixing the bacteria solves the problem. Whereas the gluten free test, where gluten was the only variable, the gut bacteria ratio wasn’t remedied but still provided adequate relief when gluten was removed. The question becomes, is gluten the problem, or is our gut bacteria the problem? And if it is the gluten, is it dose dependent, and  the real problem is all the extra wheat gluten producers put in bread to make it airy and fluffy?

While I personally feel better when I leave gluten out of my diet, and I take a probiotic supplement and eat a fair amount of prebiotic foods, I do tend to think that the nations dramatic increase in “gluten-sensitivity” (celiac or otherwise) has a lot to do with the bacteria we are inadvertently promoting by eating lots of boxed, processed, pasteurized and sanitized foods. We have very different microbiomes inside us than our ancestors did.

If you don’t believe gluten is a problem, and you think your bacteria is just fine, I’d encourage you to think about making your own bread. The stuff used to clean and bleach flour in processed breads these days is provocative at best and detrimental at worst. How much benzolye peroxide is left in the bread you eat from the store is hard to figure out, but if you make your own bread at home, you know there’s none.

Nutrition Nightmare – Traveling healthy

Our Latest installment in Miles and Minutes. PDF link here

Nutrition Nightmare

By Paula Inserra and Wesley Smith

So, you’ve decided to branch out and sign up for an out-of-town race. What could be better than traveling to some exotic place AND running? Your hopes are high! You picked a flat, fast course. Your training was spot on. You’ve endured set-backs, sure, but you’ve pushed through the nagging injuries. You’ve put in the hard work and hammered out a ton of miles in preparation for race day. You’ve done well staying hydrated on runs and your recovery drinks, well, let’s just say they were magical! You’ve eaten right; enough calories, but not too much. High carbohydrates, check. Moderate protein, check. And low fat. You’re fit, your muscles are strong and your glycogen stores are topped off! You are ready!

Then, three days before the big race you pack your bags and head out to the airport. Going through security; “better toss my water bottle”. Uh oh, flight delayed. “I better get something to eat. Hmm, only fast food here. What, $6.25 for a liter of water?! Maybe I should just wait until I get on the plane?” Then the flight attendant hands you a measly 14 pretzels and 6oz of water. “Well this isn’t going to cut it; I’m running a MARATHON in a few days! I guess I’ll just make up for it when I get to the hotel.” You arrive. Your running buddy is dying to try this Italian restaurant he’s heard about. You think, GREAT, finally I’ll get some good carbs. You both order the specialty, lasagna; and I guess one glass of wine can’t hurt, right? Here comes the meal, wait…I thought it came with marinara sauce? This is alfredo!Panic sets in when the waiter explains that they are out of marinara and to make up for it the manager is giving you a BOTTLE of wine on the house….

Does this sound familiar? All of your months of preparation can be jeopardized in a few short days. So what’s a nomad runner to do?

Prepare. Pack healthy snacks and an empty water bottle you can easily refill at water fountains. Search restaurants and come up with healthy options to order in advance. Hit a grocery store when you arrive at your destination to stock up on sports drinks, snacks and to pick up your tried and true pre-race breakfast foods. Don’t leave anything to chance. Most hotel rooms have refrigerators or at the very least an ice-machine. If your room includes a free breakfast, find out what is offered when you check in and if they will be serving early enough for you to make it to the porta-potty before the gun goes off. It’s also always a good idea to have your own foods ready to go. You can always take advantage of the hotel breakfast for the non-necessities like plates, utensils, toaster and condiments; this way you can avoid any extra pre-race anxiety in the event they do run out of bagels and bananas…

Here some power packed options for the nomad runner:

Shopping list (no refrigeration needed)

Fruit: bananas, apples, oranges, raisins, etc.

Bagels, breads, crackers

Cereal

To-go peanut butter or chocolate hazelnut spread

Salty pretzels

Nuts

Sports drinks

Bottled water

Juice boxes

Shelf-stable chocolate milk or soy milk

 

Restaurant Options

Sushi: It’s low in fat, high in carbs and has moderate lean protein. Just make sure it’s fresh and from a reputable place. Add an extra bowl of rice and some miso soup for added carbs and sodium.

Mediterranean: Hummus, pita, rice, grilled skewered meat or chicken, tabouli; great sources of carbs and low in fat.

Italian: Avoid lasagna, ravioli, stuffed shells etc. Stick with plain pasta with a small amount of marinara or other red sauce. Consider non-cream based seafood sauces for all the carbs plus some natural sea salt. Add some bread on the side for an added punch, but skip the butter or olive oil.

American/Pub: Keep it simple. Order some plain grilled fish or chicken, baked potato, small salad or veggie. Add some bread or rolls and avoid sauces, mashed or fried potatoes.

Asian: Simple stir fry with extra rice and soup. Avoid tempura or other fried options to keep it low in fat but max out the sodium with a nice dose of regular soy sauce.

 

Paula Inserra, PhD, RD, is an associate professor at Virginia State University, where she heads the Didactic Program in Dietetics. She holds a doctorate in nutrition science from the University of Arizona.

Wesley Smith, BS, is completing a post-baccalaureate certificate program in nutrition and dietetics at VSU.