Paleo Salty Chocolate Custard

Paleo Salty Chocolate Custard

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)
 

Paleo Salty Chocolate Custard

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.

Paleo Salty Chocolate Custard

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.

Paleo Salty Chocolate Custard

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.

Paleo Salty Chocolate Custard

yields about a dozen 2-3 oz portions, less if you use larger jars

Paleo Salty Chocolate Custard

Vitamin D Deficiency: Are You Part of the Pandemic?

Vitamin D Deficiency, are you part of the pandemic?

I don’t usually like to foster fear about health but the fact that vitamin D deficiency is now being considered an pandemic really concerns me because it has been linked to higher incidences of some serious illnesses, things like cardiovascular disease, bone deformations, cognitive decline and even cancer.  It’s been estimated that upwards of 30-50% of humans worldwide are at risk of vitamin D deficiency, which I think deserves a bit more discussion, don’t you?

We could be getting 50-99% of the vitamin D we need from direct sunlight on the skin where UV-B rays convert cholesterol that is already in our bodies, but most people don’t get enough sunshine to produce proper amounts.  One big reason is simply that current lifestyles have us spending more time indoors, but fear of skin cancer has also played a big role. Even though those with fare complexions don’t need much sun time they often avoid it or block it out with sunscreens.  Those with darker complexions have a natural protection from the sun and need much more time in the sun to produce proper amounts of vitamin D.

Ideally we would still get sufficient levels of vitamin D from diet, however our diets are lacking vitamin D now more than ever in human evolution.  One big culprit is the shift to a factory farm system because indoor animals cannot produce their own vitamin D, which they would in turn pass on to us in their meat, dairy and eggs.  While factory farmed milk is usually supplemented with vitamin D after the fact, products from grassfed cows are already much better natural sources.

The obesity epidemic doesn’t help either, since vitamin D gets stored in body fat so the body may have a difficult time getting enough to use elsewhere.  And the low-fat diet fads of the 80s and 90s are to blame as well, as fat is needed in your diet to absorb vitamin D.

I believe that we have reached a point where we really must stop and think about the foods we are feeding ourselves and the effect they have on our bodies, before the damage is already done.

 

What is vitamin D exactly?

Vitamin D isn’t even technically a vitamin because vitamins are supposed to be compounds essential in our diet since they aren’t produced in the body, but we are capable of producing most of our own vitamin D.  Vitamin D is actually a steroid so it behaves similarly to many of the hormones in our body.

Nonetheless, it gets grouped in with the family of four fat soluble vitamins, which are A, D, E and K.  All of them require fat to be able to be absorbed into the body and they are all essential to the health of  the most fat-dense parts of the body, like cell membranes and the nervous system, particularly the brain.  Vitamin D is necessary for proper nerve and mental function, that’s why it is particularly important in developing children and the elderly.

Our bodies need enough vitamin D to absorb many minerals such as calcium, magnesium and iron.  Vitamin D is extremely important to bone, joint and muscle health and is often taken as a supplement along with calcium and/or other minerals.  Basically, we need sufficient amounts for whole body health.

While the Institute of Medicine recommends 200 IU for infants and adults, 400 IU for those 50-70 years old and 600 IU for those 70+, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is now recommending at least 800-1000 IU for children and adults, that’s a big difference.

 

Vitamin D Deficiency, are you part of the pandemic?

What are symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Historically we know chronic vitamin D deficiency in children can cause rickets or osteomalacia.  This is when developing children with low levels of vitamin D cannot proper mineralize their bones, which makes them soft and causes them to bend.  By supplementing milk with vitamin D the rate of rickets reduced considerably, but an 8 ounce glass of whole milk only boasts about 100 IU of vitamin D, which we now know is only about 10% of how much we should be getting all day.  Skim milk doesn’t have any vitamin D because it’s all in the fat.

If the body has depleted its stores of vitamin D then it can cause increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in adults, asthma and growth retardation in children, cancer, osteoporosis, osteopenia, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and many many more diseases.  Subclinical vitamin D deficiency may show symptoms as common as fatigue, mental fog or muscle cramping.

The best way to tell if you have a vitamin D deficiency is to get a blood test, then your health practitioner can recommend the proper dose for you and manage your care.  But that being said, toxicity of vitamin D is rare and usually comes form over supplementation, so getting more of it through dietary sources is usually safe and can benefit nearly anyone.

 

How can we get more of it?

Besides the sun?  Well for those of us who can’t get it all from the sun, we should have enough in our diets to make up for it.

I am not a big fan of synthetic vitamins, I always choose a real food alternative as they usually have fewer side effects and absorb more easily.  Cod liver oil, especially when it is fermented, is the star of the show as it is one of the most dense and easily absorbed natural sources of vitamin D, as well as vitamin A and omega 3s.  My absolute favorite brand is Green Pasture’s Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil and I take it every day.

Fatty fish in general can be a great source of vitamin D, but it will have higher levels when wild caught.  In fact, a study conducted by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that wild-caught salmon has as much as 4-5 times as much as farmed fish.  This is because the food chain that wild fish are a part of naturally provides plenty vitamin D, but farmed fish are fed nutritionally insufficient fish food.

The same is true of pasture-raised animals, both because they have more natural diets and also because they get much more outdoor time and sunshine than factory farmed animals.  Grassfed beef and dairy as well as eggs from pasture-raised chickens (only the yolks) are great everyday sources of vitamin D, but none are full doses on their own.  Liver is a particularly dense resource of vitamin D and is one of the most affordable parts of the animal, but many people have trouble stomaching it.

While it is possible for a vegetarian to bulk up on eggs and dairy, those alone may not be enough.  And it can be especially difficult for a vegan to get sufficient levels without some sort of supplementation.

Vitamin D Deficiency, are you part of the pandemic?

My Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

My Holistic Cold and Flu Season Routine, immunity, health, healthy, wellness, acupuncture, acupuncturist, holistic, cold season, flu seasonIt’s the season for getting sick and it seems to be hitting everyone but me.  Friends, family and almost every patient that I treat are complaining of symptoms, from common colds to stomach flus to sinus infections, plus everything in between.  Even when I seem to be interacting with mostly sick people, I don’t get sick myself.  How?

Well I have never had a flu shot, I don’t take a multivitamin and I’m not slathering antibacterial gel on my hands all day.  No, I don’t believe in things like that.

I believe that we already have some of the most powerful knowledge about health that we’re going to get, it is not a mystery we are waiting to discover with modern science.  I find that the things that work best are often the things that have worked for generation after generation.  These are the tried and true methods that we know to be effective, so why fix what’s not broken?

 

#1 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

bone broth, health, immunity

I recently discussed on the blog why bone broth is so amazing and how to make it yourself, but I can’t emphasize it enough!  People have been consuming it to stay healthy for countless generations and it has so many benefits that I think nearly everyone should be drinking it regularly.

At least once or twice a week I make a big pot of bone broth and drink it almost every day, usually 1-2 cups in the morning plus whatever else I can squeeze into lunch and dinner.  I use it for soup, sauces, and for braising veggies, especially good for simmering with collard greens or kale.

The immune-building properties of bone broth are well known and I believe that is a huge contributor to the strength of my immune system.  But if you’re already sick it is also great for recovery.

 

#2 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

herbal tea, immunity, health, cold and flu

During the fall and winter I like to drink herbal teas all day long.  Even when it isn’t a cold winter like here in LA, I still prefer warm beverages.

I like to start in the morning with ginger tea because it stimulates my digestion, is an immune tonic and warms me up.  I often make it fresh from ginger I get at the farmers’ market, but I also have the the Yogi tea version on hand in a pinch.  I love ginger so much that I often continue drinking ginger tea the rest of the day, but I’ll also toss in the occasional spiced chai, chamomile, fresh mint, gynostemma, raspberry leaf, licorice or other herbal blends.

Gynostemma is especially good for immunity and is packed with antioxidants.  It is believed to promote longevity and has been proven to have a number of other benefits like reducing cholesterol, lowering blood pressure, and balancing blood sugar.   It is one of the most popular teas in Asia and is often consumed daily.  My favorite kind is made by Dragon Herbs.

 

#3 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

socks and scarves

What your mother told you is true!  It’s important to keep your neck and feet covered and warm during cold and flu season.  It all comes down to one thing: wind. Really?  Wind?

Yes, really.

In Chinese medicine wind is known as the cause of 10,000 diseases and common colds are just the tip of the iceberg.  Depending on how deep wind has penetrated the body, it can cause allergies, arthritis, stiff neck, headaches, body aches, asthma, skin rashes, hives, dizziness, I could go on…

With a common cold, generally the body’s defenses (immune system) are low and the wind finds a way in through vulnerable spots like the back of the neck, which is known as the “wind gate” in Chinese medicine.  It can be in the form of either wind-cold or wind-heat.

I see wind-cold in LA most often caused by strong air conditioning, but catching wind-cold from weather is much more common in colder parts of the world.  LA climate mainly breeds cases of wind-heat, so get it out of your head that just because it’s not cold out you don’t have to cover up.  Especially if you know your immunity is low, make sure you bring your scarf and ditch the flip flops!

 

#4 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

regular exercise

There are many more reasons to exercise than just losing weight.  It helps to circulate blood, speed up metabolism, strengthen immunity, detoxify the body, improve mental health and I have seen it help many forms of chronic pain.  Even if you are limited by an injury, energy level or time, finding some form of regular exercise is paramount to your overall health.

It wouldn’t be very helpful for me to share the specifics of my workouts because you really have to find what works for you, and what works for you right now.  Don’t try to push yourself too hard from the start or you might burnout.

If you aren’t in the habit of working out regularly then start with walking.  You can do this nearly any time of day, almost anywhere and you can bring a friend or interesting podcast along to help distract you.  After that you can start to add in other activities at your own pace, something like hiking, quick 15 minutes runs, yoga, light weight training, a dance class or whatever works.

 

#5 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

Real Food Diet

I mentioned above that I don’t take a multivitamin and explained why in a recent post, it’s because I get all the vitamins I need from the food I eat and don’t trust the quality of vitamins in synthetic supplements.

I try to get most of my produce, meat and dairy from local sources, which means visiting the farmers’ market 1-3 times per week but it’s worth it.  Lower transit time from farm to table means more nutrients retained and fresher food that keeps longer in the fridge.  I also focus on nutrient-dense foods like grassfed meat and dairy, organ meats, local bee products, bone broth and organic seasonal produce.  I only supplement my diet with a few whole foods that I can’t get locally, like fermented cod liver oil and blue-green microalgae.  This gives my immune system all the nutrients it needs to stay strong.

If you are curious about eating a real food diet, I would suggest Nina Planck’s book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why.  But I know this can be a huge shift in how some people think about nutrition.  For those who still want to take something like a multivitamin, I suggest Juice Plus which is a real food supplement made from organic fruits and vegetables.

 

#6 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

sleep

Sleep is important all year long, but especially in the wintertime.  Winter is like the nighttime of the whole year because it is colder, darker and more quiet than the rest of the year.  Since our bodies rest and reset for the next day at night, winter is when our bodies need to rest up for the busy warm months ahead.

In Chinese medicine too little sleep can be linked to anxiety, poor immunity, hormonal imbalances, stress and low energy just to name a few.  Ideally adults should be getting at least 7-8 hours per night.  If you’re missing out on a full night sleep try to supplement by taking naps, try to get to bed earlier, try to slow down a bit.

If you have trouble sleeping, it is important to still use nighttime to rest.  Your body needs that dark, still and quiet time in order to balance out all the energy you use during the day.  Start by putting away your phone and computer at night and avoiding the TV.  Screens can be too stimulating and trick the brain into thinking its time to be awake.  Turn down the lights, climb in bed and do something that relaxes you like light stretching, meditating, listening to soothing music or reading.  Eventually, even if you still can’t sleep, turn all the lights out, lay down and rest.

Learn how to wind down and allow your body to relax or else you’ll quickly run yourself down.  Your body will ultimately find a way to rest, but it may have to get sick or extremely fatigued in order for that to happen.

 

#7 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

probiotics, immunity, health, wellness

These are the “good” bacteria that live in our gut.  They are essential to digestion, but did you know they also play a huge roll in immunity?  They are one of our first lines of defense and help to compete with harmful bacteria that may invade the body.

Probiotics are naturally occurring in fermented or cultured foods, so I regularly get them from kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, sour pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or yogurt.

For those who aren’t as fond of fermented foods, I recommend Jarrow’s Jarro-Dophilus because they don’t require refrigeration, provide a big boost of live strains and I’ve never seen anyone have a side effect to taking proper amounts of good quality probiotics.  Especially after an illness or taking antibiotics, it is important to build your gut flora back up by getting an extra boost of probiotics.

 

#8 in my Holistic Cold & Flu Season Routine

De-stress, acupuncture, health, wellness, immunity

Stress can negatively impact so many aspects of our lives, so it is no surprise it’s been proven to weaken the immune system.  That means cold and flu season is an especially important time to make sure we aren’t letting stress get to us.

I’m fond of a combination of meditation, massage, acupuncture and gardening to stay relaxed, but what helps you to de-stress will be very particular to you.  Like I discussed above regarding sleep, our bodies need quiet and calm times to balance out more stressful and hectic hours in the day.  So if you find yourself feeling frantic then focus on activities that slow you down, incorporate them into your schedule on an ongoing basis and find a routine that works for you.

5 of the Biggest Nutrition Myths

5 of the Biggest Nutrition Myths, health, vitamins, water, hydration, raw food

I think nutrition should be a simple thing, eat good food and live well because of it.  So it truly is a shame that there is so much confusion surrounding what we eat.  In this era of over-thinking it is more important than ever that we let go of the outdated notions that no longer serve us.

Over the years I have worked in laboratories, vitamin stores, restaurants, juice bars, acupuncture clinics and herbal pharmacies, my chemist parents even used to manufacture their own vitamin line.  I feel like I’ve been talking about nutrition with people my whole life and these are just 5 of the most widely accepted yet potentially hazardous myths that I have noticed.  I hope they can help you to navigate the murky waters of misinformation out there.

 

Myth #1: Eat a low-fat diet to lose weight

butter, fat, nutrition, health, low-fat

Low-fat and low-cholesterol diets were all the rage in the 80s and 90s.  While we’ve been moving away from the idea that fat is bad in the past few years, the bleed over is still surprisingly influential.

I can follow the logic here, the less fat we take in through our diet, the less we will retain in our bodies…right?  WRONG!  Our metabolisms simply don’t work that way.

Fats and proteins are both used functionally and structurally in the body, so our bodies can put them to good use and they aren’t often stored.  Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are mainly used for energy so we need a surprisingly scant amount to get through the day.  When we take in large amounts of carbohydrates they give the body way too much energy and are stored away as fat.

There have been many studies done on fat in the diet, but I think an experiment performed by Kekwick and Pawan in 1956 is the most interesting.  Different groups consumed 1000-calorie per day diets (which is low compared to the 2000-calorie standard) consisting of 90% fat, 90% protein and 90% carbohydrates.  The high-fat group lost the most weight while the carbohydrate group gained weight.  Even with a low calorie and low fat diet, the high number of carbohydrates in the diet cause the body to store fat, go figure!

And this is only concerning body weight, keep in mind that low fat diets aren’t good for your overall health either.

 

Myth #2:  Everyone needs a multivitamin

Multivitamin, Nutrition, Health, Nutrition Myths, vitamin, supplements

The definition of vitamin includes “various organic substances that are essential in minute quantities to the nutrition of most animals…”  I know we like to think more is often better, especially when it comes to vitamins which we’re constantly being told to load up on, but I think that the in minute quantities part of that definition gets sadly overlooked.

Vitamins are meant to come from the food we eat, mixed in with all everything else that makes up the food like fiber, fat, protein, starches, enzymes and water.  Being a bit diluted in the food we eat actually helps us to absorb vitamins better because it slows down how fast they move through the gut.  Before vitamins began to be discovered about 100 years ago everyone got them through the food they ate.

Once vitamins were discovered in a lab, they started to be manufactured in labs as well.  These chemically created versions of vitamins turn out to be less easily absorbed into the body, less biologically effective than their natural alternatives and may even be hazardous to our health.

For example, there is deep misunderstanding about folic acid vs. folate.  Many health professionals often claim they are the same thing, alternate names for vitamin B9, but they are quite different.

Folic acid is the oxidized form of folate found in vitamin supplements, it must be synthesized in a lab as it is not found in nature.  Folate is a variety of naturally occurring compounds found in foods like kale, broccoli and animal liver, just to name a few.  In order for the body to use either folic acid or folate, both must first be converted to THF, which is the active form of folate that is essential to our metabolism.  We need plenty of THF in our systems to build new red blood cells, support the nervous system and women need it to prevent birth defects early on in pregnancy.

Folate is converted to THF right in the intestines and then is absorbed directly into the body.  Folic acid, however, must be transported to the liver where an enzyme called DHFR converts it.  The problem is, the body doesn’t usually have enough DHFR to process the large doses of folic acid found in supplements.  This forces un-metabolized folic acid into the system, which is now believed to be responsible for increased incidences of cancer.

While many people worry that the standard American diet has depleted their bodies of nutrients, studies still show many negative side effects of taking synthetic vitamins.  It is best to figure out what your specific needs are before self medicating and use the least processed supplements possible.  Instead of multivitamins I usually recommend whole foods supplements like Juice Plus, I suggest fermented cod liver oil rather than synthetic vitamin A or D, bee pollen is an amazing source of the B complex and calcium supplements are easily swapped out for daily bone broth.

 

Myth #3:  Drink 8 cups of water every day

water, nutrition, hydration, 8 cups per day, 8x8 myth, bottled water

The suggestion of drinking at least 8 cups (8oz each) of water every day is called 8×8 for short.  I believe it is one of the most ubiquitous and seemingly harmless of these myths, however it turns out to be not only invalid but also potentially dangerous.

I have known ever since starting acupuncture school that the idea of forcing yourself to drink water in excess every day is not a balanced practice.  Just like all other animals, under normal circumstances our thirst kicks in long before we ever become dehydrated.

An extensive paper on the invalidity of 8×8 was published in 2002 by Heinz Valtin, a professor from Dartmouth.  He found no clear origin of the 8×8 theory and no scientific proof of it.  There is, however, extensive research on how well the thirst reflex controls hydration and how drinking water in excess can cause potentially harmful side effects and in a few incidences has actually been deadly. Here’s an excerpt from the paper:

Despite an extensive search of the literature and many personal inquiries and discussions with nutritionists and colleagues, I have found no scientific reports concluding that we all must drink at least eight glasses of water a day.  On the contrary, there are publications that state the opposite, and skepticism about 8×8 has begun to appear in the lay press. Not only is there no scientific evidence that we need to drink that much, but the recommendation could be harmful, both in precipitating potentially dangerous hyponatremia and exposure to pollutants and also in making many people feel guilty for not drinking enough.
 

Myth #4: Organic is always best

organic bananas, is organic best?, nutrition, health, grassfed, pastured

When talking about fruits, veggies, herbs and spices, yes it is safe to say that organic is usually best, because it means no pesticides or added chemicals and that’s great!  But the case is very different when talking about meat and dairy.

The quality of animal products is completely dependent on the quality of those animals’ diets and lifestyles.  If cows eat grass and chickens eat garden scraps (greens, weeds, bugs, grubs and berries) like they have been raised to for countless generations, then they are usually pretty healthy and produce quality milk, eggs and meat.

Factory-farmed animals, on the other hand, are usually sustained on feed made purely from grains and legumes like wheat, corn or soy (often GMO.)  A foreign diet that is high in starch and low in nutrients, plus overcrowding and the use of growth hormones leaves most of these animals overweight and sick.  This is why they are often treated with antibiotics, which breads antibiotic resistance.

Being that the term “organic” is a legal term, and seeks to identify food that has no unnatural ingredients – like pesticides, hormones or antibiotics – it would seem that the term organic is what differentiates these farm and factory practices, but that’s not exactly the case.  There are countless big-name factory farms which feed their animals an organic version of wheat, corn or soy and call them organic, because legally they are.  In my opinion, just because they don’t contain added hormones or antibiotics does not mean these factory farmed animals are necessarily healthy.

Small farms, however, might not be certified as organic but grass-fed and pasture-raised animals are inherently healthier.  When the cows are grazing on grass that keeps regrowing on its own and chickens pick at weeds and grubs in the garden, pesticides and chemicals aren’t necessary, the animals are simply part of the ecosystem of the farm.  And because the animals are eating nutrient-dense diets they are used to and getting plenty of room and fresh air, they are healthier and pass those health benefits on to us.  You are much better off getting animal products from smaller farm sources that raise animals on open pasture rather than exclusively looking for that “organic” label.

 

Myth #5: Vegetables are healthiest when raw

broccoli, nutrition, health, raw, vegetables

I think that this is one of the biggest misconceptions we have to overcome in America.  For the past few decades, it seems that salad has reigned king of all health foods, and recently that has developed into an all out raw food fad – and yes, it is a fad.  Even though most other cultures seem to have figured out long ago that cooking or fermenting vegetables is needed to help digest them, Americans easily get caught up in extremist ideas when it comes to health.

Again, I can follow the logic here, raw vegetables are some of the least processed foods so they must be the best thing ever!   Right?  Well, yes and no…

Raw vegetables do have more vitamins, enzymes and fiber than cooked vegetables, but let’s take a look at each of those to see if raw veggies truly are the best source.

In terms of vitamins, cooking does reduce the vitamin content of vegetables but it is proportional to heat and cooking time, so lightly steaming or sautéing saves many more nutrients than deep frying.  While light cooking does destroy a fraction of the vitamins, it actually makes the remaining ones more easily absorbed or bioavailable, especially beta-carotene and lycopene.

Enzymes are present in raw vegetables, but a healthy body should produce its own enzymes, so not everyone needs them in large amounts.  Those with low levels of digestive enzymes usually have a hard time digesting raw foods, so eating them for the enzymes wouldn’t help much.  If you are looking to boost your enzyme intake then you should actually look to sprouted and fermented foods which are powerhouses of enzymatic activity and much easier to digest.

As for fiber, this is similar to the vitamin dilemma, it is broken down by cooking but lightly cooked foods still contains plenty.  A whole foods diet, even of cooked foods, should supply sufficient fiber for most people, but 1-2 servings of raw vegetables or fruit per day can offer an extra boost to those worried about fiber intake.

While there are some raw vegetables that are tolerable in small amounts, keep in mind that some really aren’t made for us to digest at all when raw.  Cruciferous vegetables, for example, is a family of plants made up of cabbage, turnips, broccoli, collards, kale and more.  It is well known that cruciferous veggies have high levels of thiocyanates which inhibit thyroid function, in other words they slow down metabolism.  But by cooking these foods the thiocyanates are reduced to a level that is harmless.

Spinach is also a culprit, along with chard, parsley and beet greens they contain high levels of oxalic acid.  High levels of oxalic acid can irritate the digestive tract, cause kidney stones and inhibit absorption of calcium and iron.  The ironic part is that many people consume spinach for its iron, but unless you are cooking it a little you won’t be absorbing much of it.

So while I believe in cooked veggies, the take home lesson here is balance, balance, balance!  Trust your gut and you’ll do fine.

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

This recipe is so good that once I made it the first time, I made it again only 5 days later.  The first time was for a few friends who came over for a Sunday night dinner and we all knew right away that this was a winner.

I probably took the most complicated route to making this recipe, since I roasted the chicken myself and toasted/ground my own spices, but don’t worry because I show you tips along the way that will save you some time in the kitchen.  I think no matter how you piece them together, these flavors are good friends and play together well, so you can’t really go wrong.

This dish makes for a filling meal on its own, or is also great when served with brown rice to soak up some of the sauce.  Enjoy a big pot of it with some friends or family!

 

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry
1 large yellow onion (about 1 lb)
3 medium carrots (about 1/2 lb)
A whole 3 lb roasting chicken – or about 1 and 1/2 lb of both drumsticks and bone-in breasts
Drizzle of olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 head of broccoli
2 tsp cumin seed
2 tbsp coriander seed
2 dry Thai chilies (aka bird’s eye chili)
2 tbsp turmeric powder
2 cans of coconut cream
Splash of fish sauce or soy sauce (optional)
(NOTE: this is a large recipe and can easily be halved.)

1. Roasting the chicken

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

Preheat your oven to 325F.

Start by pealing and chopping up the onion into medium-sized chunks.  Peel the carrot and cut into long but thin strips.  Line the bottom of an enameled cast iron dutch oven or a roasting pain with the onion and carrots.

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

Make sure your chicken is completely thawed before using, even if chicken is a little frozen on the inside it will affect how it cooks.  Rinse your chicken and lay over the veggies in the pan.  Drizzle the olive oil over the chicken evenly (2-3 tbsp is plenty) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Cover your dutch over with a lid or if you are using a roasting pan then cover well with foil.  Bake for 45 minutes, then flip the chicken, re-apply olive oil, salt and pepper to the other side, cover again and bake 30-45 minutes more.  You only need about 30 minutes for chicken pieces.  But you’ll need more like 45 minutes for a whole chicken, maybe even a little bit longer, check the meat before cutting it all apart.

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

Once cooked set the chicken aside on a cutting board to cool and the onions and carrots into a bowl.  When the chicken is cool enough to handle you can pull the meat off the bones (and save the bones for bone broth if you’d like.)

If you are using a dutch oven then save it for making the curry in, don’t rinse it out as it has a lot of flavor coating it.

NOTE: if you don’t want to roast your own chicken then you can grill up some chicken breast, chop, and add in later.  Just steam the carrots to soften a little and saute the onion in some oil, salt and pepper.

2. Prepping other veggies

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

Rinse both the broccoli and bell peppers.  Cut the florets of the broccoli, cut them down to evenly sized pieces if any are larger.  Cut the flesh off the bell peppers, leaving seeds and membranes behind, then slice the peppers into thin slices.

Lightly steam both the peppers and the broccoli over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the broccoli is bright but slightly tender to a fork, the peppers should be slightly softened.  Don’t over cook these or they will be mushy later.

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

NOTE: I made this a few weeks back when it was still possible to get some fresh bell peppers in California, but that season is quickly coming to a close.  But you can use many other veggies that go well in curry, try sweet potatoes, peas, green beans, or spinach.

3. Toast the spices

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

Measure out your whole cumin and coriander seeds into a small pan along with the chilies.  Over medium-high heat toast all these together until they become fragrant and are starting to brown, this takes a minute or two so keep your eye on it.

Once toasted, remove the stems of the chilies and put them in a spice grinder with the seeds.  Grind until well ground into a fine powder, then mix with turmeric powder and set aside

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

NOTE: of course you can use a pre-mixed curry powder!  You will need about 2 tbsp worth to replace the cumin, coriander, chilies and turmeric in this recipe.

4. Now you’re making curry

Like it said above, if using a dutch oven then you are going to build the curry right in the pan you roasted the chicken in before, it still has a lot of flavor in it.  You want to pour the coconut cream in and put on the stove over medium-high heat, then scrap down the dutch oven with a wooden spoon to get all the cooked on bits into the curry sauce.  This is called deglazing and it is one of my favorite ways of getting extra flavor into a dish.

If you aren’t using an enameled cast iron dutch oven then just build your curry in a large stew pot and skip the step above, pour in the coconut cream and heat up.

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

I must say, I don’t usually like to eat food from cans, but there truly is no replacement for coconut cream.  I have made fresh coconut milk before, and make curry from it as well, but it’s not possible to get fresh coconut milk as creamy as coconut cream.  If you want that authentic creamy curry that you’re used to then you really do have to use the canned stuff.

Add in the curry powder you prepped and stir until completely incorporated.

Once the coconut base is warm you can gently add in all your prepped ingredients, the pulled chicken, onions, carrots, bell peppers and broccoli.  Now that everything is in you just have to adjust the seasonings to your liking and it’s done!

I recommend a little bit of fish sauce, a little goes a long way so try 1 tsp to start.  If you don’t have fish sauce on hand then you can use soy sauce or something similar.  If you don’t want to use either, then you can just add salt and any other spices you’d like to accommodate your palate.

Roasted Chicken Coconut Curry

You can store this for leftovers, just keep in mind the veggies won’t be quite as fresh and the coconut milk will thicken in the fridge, but will liquify again when heated.

Yields at least 10 servings