This time of year it seems like most people are over the hump of cold and flu season but many people still have coughs that linger for weeks on end. Dry coughs especially can be hard to recover from without the proper support. There are herbs you can take and acupuncture is important too, but whenever a patient is trying to kick a dry cough I always recommend adding steamed pear to their diet until the cough subsides.
Pears and apples in Chinese Medicine are considered natural tonics for moistening the lungs, Asian pears in particular are prized for this quality. If you’ve never had an Asian pear, they have a similar flavor to other varieties but a crunchier texture. I love enjoying them as a regular part of my diet in the fall and winter during the most important time of year for lung health.
Raw fruit is cold and damp in nature which can make it hard for the body to digest and assimilate, so warming it up by lightly steaming helps the body to get all the healing benefits from the pear. The recipe below is one of the simplest ways to cook pear, by simply steaming it. But you can really get creative with how you introduce pears into your diet, they can be part of breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert!
Ingredients Asian pear (or any pear variety you can find – organic) Water Cinnamon (optional)
Peel and core your pear, then slice up into thin slices. I don’t like the texture of the thick skin when the rest of the pear is tender, that’s why I remove it before steaming but you can leave it on if you prefer. A small pear is enough for 1 serving, if you have a bigger one and don’t want to eat it all you can cut off a portion and save the rest in a sealed container in the fridge.
You can steam your pear in a bamboo or basket steamer until tender, or you can also just toss it in a pan with a splash of water, cover and cook over medium heat. It should only take about 5 minutes or so.
In the picture above I served the steamed pear over oatmeal with a sprinkle of cinnamon, just don’t add too much cinnamon as it is warming and in excess can further dry your cough. You can also top with a touch of honey or maple syrup if you’d like, it makes a great addition to breakfast. As I mentioned above you can use it however you’d like. How about on top of a warm winter salad, blended into a soup or enjoyed as a low sugar dessert?
The Los Feliz Sunday Market is one of my favorites. It’s quiet and small, but still has most everything I need. I used to live within walking distance but it’s still just a short drive away so I end up there most Sundays. The only thing they don’t really have is a meat vendor, but in a pinch I can pick up a chicken from La Bahn Ranch where I always get my pasture-raised eggs.
These are my go-to side dishes for dinner during the week. I usually make sure to get enough to make 2-3 dinners before I can make it to a mid-week market. This week I got kale, broccoli and asparagus. While you can get kale and broccoli pretty much year round here in Southern California, asparagus is more plentiful in the spring. Since we’ve had an unusually warm winter, spring has come early this year.
I’ve got to grab these while I can. Butternuts are part of the winter squash family, but you can usually find them starting in the fall and lingering into the spring. I usually cut it in half, take out the seeds, rub with oil and bake until soft. Once it’s fork tender it is so easy to make into soup or a spread. But I’ve been really curious about making noodles out of butternut, so that might be my next experiment.
I go through so many avocados, onions and garlic bulbs that I usually just get a bunch to stock up, without a real clear idea of how I’ll exactly I’ll use them. As you can see, avocados were on sale, so I got extra.
I go through a lot of ginger, more than most people, sometimes a pound a week. I either juice it or make tea out of it, both are great ways to reap the benefits of fresh ginger but the juice is much more concentrated so you only need small amounts.
Ginger, called Sheng Jiang in Chinese, has been used for thousands of years to treat stomach disorders like persistent nausea, motion sickness, morning sickness, loss of appetite or anorexia. but it also treats mild lung disorders, like upper respiratory tract infections, bronchitis or a simple cold and cough. It reduces toxicity which means it is anti-bacterial, and explains why ginger is always served with sushi. Because of ginger’s warm nature it is used to treat pain caused by cold, as seen in most cases of menstrual cramps, stiff muscles and indigestion caused by cold. Western Medicine prizes the rhizome nearly just as much, labeling it with words like anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, antioxidant and anti-cancer.
Jujubes are truly a special fruit. In their fresh form they are called Chinese apples, which you can find in season for only about a month and a half in the fall. They start a pale green color, turn a golden brown when ripe and eventually red when they are dried.
The dried version, called Da Zao in Chinese Medicine, is paired with ginger and used in countless herbal formulas to benefit digestion and mediate the effects of other herbs. While ginger is pungent and dispersing, jujube is much more tonic and soothing, so they make a balanced team. On it’s own, jujubes can be used to increase energy, benefit digestion, calm the spirit, prevent insomnia and build blood.
I can usually find them from Asian vendors at the market or some fruit vendors who carry a wide variety. The dried ones are available for months after the fresh ones come into season around October.
Hummus & Garlic Sauce
I go to the Los Feliz market specifically for this stuff. The hummus is really good, it’s so much fresher than the store-bought versions and therefore doesn’t require preservatives. But the real star of the show is the garlic spread. It’s so rich and garlicy by itself it’s delicious used in moderation as a spread, but it also makes for a great starter for dressings or soups – without peeling all those cloves of garlic. Now that they make the garlic spread in several flavors I like to have a few on hand depending on what I’m in the mood for. Not quite sure why the Rosemary/Ginger flavor says “Fresh N Delish Pasta” but that sounds like an awesome recommendation!
I must admit, a lot of the recipes on Pinterest sound too good to be true, often it’s because they are. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found some gems on there, but they definitely aren’t all winners.
For example, I kept seeing pin after pin tout that 1 banana and 2 eggs is all you needed to make paleo pancakes, unfortunately I found that combination to be more like banana flavored omelet cakes. They were simply too eggy and spongy, not like the fluffy pancakes I was hoping for. But not to worry, my tinkering brain will almost never let a failed recipe be, I have to fix it! And that’s exactly what I did.
Much to my surprise, all this recipe needed was a little ground flax and chia to hold it together, plus a pinch of salt and cinnamon to lend some flavor. The recipe is still simple, but now has a lovely texture and tastes good too!
1 ripe banana
2 large pasture-raised eggs
2 tbsp flax seeds (ground)
2 tbsp chia seeds (ground – or use 4 tbsp flax if you don’t have chia)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
This recipe is pretty simple, the only slightly complicated step is to grind up the flax and chia seeds. I like to do this fresh in a coffee grinder that I use almost exclusively for grinding nuts and seeds, but you can do it in batches ahead of time. Keep in mind that the delicate omega 3 fatty acids in flax and chia will oxidized in their ground form, this doesn’t happen immediately, but within 3 months or so. That’s why I never recommend to get pre-ground flax or chia from the grocery store, you simply don’t know how long ago it was processed.
If you only have flax or only have chia, then you can use twice as much to make up for the other, I haven’t tried it for this particular recipe but it usually works for me.
Once you’ve got your seeds ground, peel your banana, crack your eggs and get all the ingredients into the blender. Blend on high speed until no large chunks remain and there you go! You’re batter is done.
When it comes to cooking pancakes I like to use a large cast iron griddle that covers two burners. I use cast iron a lot because I simply love the flavor it adds to food and it holds heat really evenly. While I also have a cast iron skillet and dutch oven, the griddle is great for doing big batches of things like pancakes, bacon, burgers, paninis and other grilled goodies. The opposite side has ridges for things like steak and veggies that you want grill marks on. By all means you can use a frying pan for cooking the pancakes, but you might have to do them in batches depending on how large it is.
I find med-high heat is best for pancakes. Heat up your griddle or pan for at least a few minutes before adding the batter to ensure it’s evenly warmed. Pour the batter into roughly even little rounds, I got about 5 small pancakes out of this recipe. Cook until you can see small bubbles coming up on the uncooked side, then flip. The second side usually only needs a minute or two to cook, you can check by gently lifting the edge with a spatula and peeking.
Serve right away or store in a 200F oven on a ceramic plate to keep warm. They are lovely topped with some butter and maple syrup if you have it, I used raw honey instead and liked it nearly as much.
Going to the farmer’s market is like a ritual for me. I have gone to a market nearly every week for probably 5 or 6 years now. I used to work at a few different markets, helping shy farmers sell their gorgeous organic vegetables. That’s actually were I met my boss and mentor for whom I currently work. I’ve just continually been pulled back, week after week, season after season. I feel a sense of community at the market, I feel connected with the food I eat and the people who produce it.
Now I’m to the point where I feel very strange if I don’t go to a market first thing on a Sunday morning, I usually pick between the Los Feliz or Atwater Village. Both are great, but Atwater is a little bigger and busier so it depends on what mood I’m in. I often have to stop by a mid-week market as well, just to hold me over until the next Sunday, some of my favorites in my area are Barnsdall Park on Wednesdays, Silver Lake on Tuesdays, or Echo Park on Fridays.
This is such a big part of my life that, for the most part, went unshared on the blog. So to in an attempt to highlight where I get my seasonal produce and local animal products I’ll be starting a series where I can share some of my farmers’ market hauls with all of you.
Feel free to ask questions and offer suggestions in the comments section. Let me know what you got at the market this week and how you’ll be using it!
Assorted fruits and vegetables
I always need a few different fruits and veggies to last me at least until mid-week. At home I still had some kale, broccoli and celery left over from my last market, otherwise I would have gotten some type of green vegetable.
Cauliflower used to be low on my list of vegetables I would buy, I only occasionally roasted it and always preferred broccoli anyhow. But ever since I’ve discovered mashed cauliflower I use it almost every week. It’s an amazing to be able to make Shepard’s pie without potatoes, but I actually used this one to make a creamy blended soup with some of the carrots.
Carrots, along with celery and onions, are staples that I try to always have on hand. All together they are often called mirepoix and used as a base for starting soups and sauces or to accompany different roasted meats. The flavors just go together so nicely, it’s an easy way to start nearly any dish. I always save any trimmings or skins from these for broth, which I seem to be in a constant state of making, more on that below.
Avocados I like to have on hand for quick snack options. Half of an avocado dressed with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt is one of my favorite little bites, but I also slice it up to top several different dishes, particularly eggs, tacos, salads or soup.
The apples also make quick snack options, and pink ladies tend to be my favorite because they are so sweet and flavorful. I usually toss one in my purse and while at work I’ll slice it up and enjoy with a handful of raw walnuts or almonds. If I’m really in a hurry then no slicing is even needed! This time of year I also like to saute some apple slices up with onion and/or fennel, often to top a warm kale salad with some toasted pine nuts.
I take a teaspoon on this stuff every morning. It’s a great source of amino acids and B vitamins, thus it gives a nice balanced boost of energy when taken in moderation. Bee products that are local to your region also help to immunize you to local allergies; this includes honey, royal jelly and bee pollen. There are many reasons to take bee pollen, I wrote about 20 benefits on the MamaFloat blog if you are interested in reading more.
This is a pretty large quantity of bee pollen, but I go through quite a bit so it makes sense for me to buy in bulk. You probably want to start with a smaller package if this is your first time using it, like 2 or 4oz. Keep it in a sealed container in the freezer for prolonged storage, I transfer mine in mason jars.
I don’t love the flavor so I wash it down with some water, but some people like to eat it with yogurt and fruit in the morning. However you get it down, I highly recommend it!
Eggs are obviously another staple, I probably don’t have to tell you how to use eggs, but I would like to talk a bit about the quality I look for.
I search out pasture raised chickens and eggs because animal products are nutritionally superior when the animals they come from have a balanced traditional diet and plenty of outdoor time and fresh air. By balanced traditional diet, I mean what those animals have been raised for generations before factory farming came about. Chickens used be a common backyard animal, fed veggie scraps and weeds from the garden, allowed to eat bugs where ever they could find them, and in exchange we got eggs and eventually meat. Compared to the corn and soy meal which is usually fed to factory farmed poultry, a traditional chicken’s diet provides many more vitamins and minerals. And compared to crowded and dirty indoor conditions that factory farms product, the increased outdoor time that pasture raised animals are allowed results in higher vitamin D production and cleaner/healthier animals, all of which is passed on in their animal products. You can see a big difference just in the dark rich yellow color of pasture raised egg yolks, but research shows their health benefits as well.
I am a big fan of La Bahn Ranch, which I can find at the Atwater, Los Feliz or Barsndall Farmers’ Markets. I get at least 2 dozen eggs every week and usually a whole chicken, but they sell out fast so sometimes I have to settle for a bone-in breast, thighs or some chicken livers.
As an added bonus, I am able to cut down on the waste of egg cartons. I used to save my old ones and bring them back every week, but they eventually got too dirty to keep using and I was not able to clean them as they were usually made of a papery cardboard material. That’s when I decided to get these amazing washable and BPA-free reusable egg containers. I can wash them out, stack them, keep my eggs safe from smashing, and it still fits the extra large size I like to get. I am so surprised when vendor tell me I’m the only one who brings these to the market. Why aren’t we all using them?
Bones for broth
Last but certainly not least, BONES! I discussed how to make your own bone broth and why it’s so good for you in previous posts, so it’s no wonder I make a pot of it once or twice a week. I often roast a chicken and use the leftover bones from that to make a broth, but I always want to find bigger bones to make another batch with since they contain more marrow, one of the most nutritious parts of an animal.
Jimenez Family Farms is one of my favorite places to get meat and bones. They usually have lamb, pork and chicken, but occasionally you can find goat, rabbit and quail. I have gotten lamb bones from them before but this was my first time trying pork bones. Lucky for me they had quite a bit of meat still on them, so I was able to pull the bones out of the crock pot after cooking for about 6 hours, get a little bit of melty pulled pork off the bones to enjoy with dinner, then return the bones to the pot to finish cooking.
Ultimately, I ended up cooking the broth for 72 hours, which I usually do for bigger bones like these. They made a delicious broth, some of which I used to make that cauliflower and carrot soup I discussed above.
These little things are amazing. I can make a big batch of them right in individual mason jars and then I have simple portioned treats for the rest of the week! It helps that they are so easy to make, just 5 ingredients in the blender, pour and bake, that’s it!
The original recipe I followed is called 3, 2, 1 Custard because it contains 3 eggs, 2 bananas and 1 can of coconut milk. Together they have a banana bread flavor especially with a little cinnamon mixed in, maybe some walnuts and maple syrup on top. But I wanted to play with those flavors just a little bit by adding some cacao powder and a little sea salt. That banana flavor still lingers under the surface, but with more complex bitter chocolate notes and that lovely salty finish are predominating.
I love the taste and texture of coconut cream in recipes, though I don’t truly consider it a real food since it comes from a can and contains additives I’d rather not have in my diet. Still, it is one of the ingredients in my kitchen that I try not to worry too much about. My goal is to make this with a natural alternative like a thick homemade coconut milk, but I think this is a great jumping off point, especially for those less ambitious than me.
These make great little snacks, desserts or even breakfasts since they have a good boost of protein and fat to fill you up without a ton of sweetness that will only leave you with a sugar crash. Enjoy by themselves or topped with any kind of topping you’d like. They would be especially tasty with chopped fruit, slivered almonds, cacao nibs or a little touch of honey for those who like things a bit sweeter.
Ingredients 3 eggs 2 bananas 1 can of coconut cream 1/4 c cacao powder 1/2 tsp sea salt Sprinkle of Maldon’s salt for finishing (optional)
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Just crack your eggs, peal your bananas and open your coconut cream, toss all your ingredients (except the finishing salt) in the blender and blend until smooth. Once you turn it off, tap the blender pitcher on the counter a few times to get some of the bubbles out of it.
Set up your jars in pan with at least 1/2 inch of hot water poured in. You have to cook these in a water bath to keep them evenly cooking all the way through and you want the water to be hot so it doesn’t suck up all the heat from the oven and slow down the custards from cooking. I used 11 4oz jars and filled them about 3/4ths full. You can also use larger jars for bigger portions, or you can try baking the whole thing in a large shallow dish.
Pour the blended mixture into the jars evenly. No need to grease the jars since it doesn’t matter if they stick to the sides a little. Put the jars in their water baths into the oven and bake for 45 minutes.
Once cooked all the way through, take the pans out of the oven and let the custards cool in the water baths. Once cool, you can screw on the lids and refrigerate for later. Sprinkle a bit of Maldon’s salt on top before serving for that extra salty bite.
yields about a dozen 2-3 oz portions, less if you use larger jars