Farmers’ Market Haul – March 2nd, 2014 – Los Feliz Market

Farmers' Market Haul - March 2nd, 2014 - Los Feliz Market

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.

Green Veggies

Green Veggies, broccoli, kale, asparagus

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.

 

Butternut Squash

Butternut Squash

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.

 

Staples

avocado, onion and garlic

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.

 

Ginger

Ginger

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

Jujube

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

Hummus and Garlic Spread - Brothers Products

 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!

My Favorite Paleo Pancakes

Easy Peasy Paleo Pancakes

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!

Ingredients
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

Banana and Eggs

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.

Paleo Pancakes on a Cast Iron Griddle

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.

Bite of Paleo Pancakes

Farmers’ Market Haul – February 16th, 2014 – Atwater Village Market

Farmers' Market Haul

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

Vegetables and Fruit: carrot, apple, avocado, cauliflower, onion

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.

 

Bee Pollen

Bee Pollen

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

Pasture rasied eggs

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

Pasture raised pork bones

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.

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?