DIY Fermented Green Salsa

With all the hard work (and love) that goes into gardening, it’s always a shame to see “summer plants” loaded with unripe fruits and vegis in the fall.  Unlike Kale, or Brussel sprouts, which can actually get sweeter with a little frost, tomato plants tend to shrivel up, stall out, or just plain rot away.  Rather than wait, and hope, for my green tomatoes to turn red before winter sets in, I decided to combine two of my favorite things: salsa and fermented foods.  As mentioned in a previous post(sauerkraut), not only is fermentation an excellent preservation method, it is also an affordable way of getting probiotics into your diet.

Probiotics are the good bacteria in the stomach that have been shown to boost the immune system, decrease inflammation, and regulate hormone production (hence the stomach’s nickname “the second brain”).  In fact, poor gut flora has been linked to conditions such as fibromyalgia, GERD (reflux), and clinical depression.  While almost any vegetable can be fermented, I am a big proponent of using what is local, in-season, and in-stock.  To try your hand at making fermented salsa, check out the recipe below:

*** Note: Red tomatoes can also be used (I actually used a combination of both).

The Harvest
                   The Harvest

Fermented Green Salsa (HOT):

> 6-7 Medium Tomatoes, chopped

> 4-6 Jalapeno or Fresno Peppers, chopped (less based on heat preference)

> 2 Hungarian Peppers, chopped

> 1 Small Onion, diced

> Juice of 1 Lemon

> 6 Cloves of Garlic, peeled and minced

> Handful of Cilantro, rinsed and chopped

> 2-3 T. Unrefined Sea Salt (no additives)

> 1 oz. Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

1). Hand chop, or pulse in a food processor, everything except vinegar, salt, and lemon juice.

2). Place all chopped ingredients into large bowl.

3). Add remaining 3 ingredients, and stir to incorporate.

4). Funnel salsa into wide mouth jars, making sure to leave at least 1-inch of head space.

5). Using a wooden spoon, or similar object, lightly smash down the salsa to further release its liquid. (This is more important when hand chopping ingredients).

6). If “smooshed” correctly, there should be a slight layer of liquid across the top of the ingredients; this helps to keep mold from forming on the salsa itself.

7). Close jar with traditional canning band/seal to a loose finger tightness.

8). Cover jars with tea-towel and leave them to sit, at room temperature, for 3-7 days.  Make sure to “burp” the jars periodically to avoid excess pressure build up (the seals will begin to bulge/swell upward as CO2 is created).  The number of days is dependent on the general temperature of the room and your personal taste preference.  Occasionally a small layer of white mold will form on the salsa (remember the important liquid layer from smashing the salsa in step 6); if done correctly, you can usually scrape the top layer off with a spoon and continue on with the process.

9). Once the salsa is to your liking, cap firmly, refrigerate and enjoy!

Note: Fermented foods typically have a shelf-life of nearly six months.  This does vary item to item.  If you are concerned about spoilage, it is best to heed on the side of caution, and discard the product accordingly.

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Simple Vanilla Coffee Creamer

Now a days it seems like everyone is debating what is, and is not, healthy.  Are eggs good or bad for you (good – they are a great source of bioavailable protein and nutrients), margarine or butter (butter – when made from organically grass-fed cattle it is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and beneficial saturated fats; margarine on the other hand is chemically similar to certain plastics and was originally created to fatten up pigs), and should we drink coffee?  Fortunately, for us, grandmother’s old adage of “everything in moderation” has never been more appropriate.

Those opposed to drinking coffee often argue that, once metabolized, coffee becomes very acidic to our bodies.  This is true!  Our bodies are designed to maintain an average blood pH of 7.4.  When we consume foods that make our bodies more acidic (less than 7.4), our body is forced to compensate by pulling alkylating minerals from other tissues in the body.  This includes our bones, and it is this chronic balancing act that can lead to conditions such as osteoporosis (very few people are clinically calcium deficient).  Research also shows us that cancer cells thrive in an environment that is acidic (they also feed on sugar, which further promotes acidity in the body), and can often be reduced by eating foods that are alkaline in nature (such as fresh greens).

On the other hand, there is also a growing body of research that suggest drinking coffee can have a very positive impact on one’s health.  Not only has coffee historically been touted as a strong anti-oxidant, but has recently been proven to jump-start our metabolism when consumed prior to strenuous exercise.  When drank in moderation, the caffeine in coffee can also act as a headache suppressant.  The concern here is, that when consumed in large amounts, a person can often become addicted to caffeine.  This addiction can in turn lead to symptoms of withdraw, such as tremors and headaches.  So, as Grandmother and I said before, everything in moderation!

With that being said, it is important to point out a few points about drinking/brewing coffee:

  • Coffee is best when purchased as organic – with the coffee industry growing exponentially each year, it has become common practice to use more and more pesticides.
  • Coffee should be brewed from freshly ground whole beans –  just like any food or spice you purchase, the more processed it is by the time it reaches you the less healthy nutrients exist
  • If you are going to add sweeteners/flavorings to your coffee, try to limit the amount of sugar and artificial additives used (both of which are inflammatory to your system).  Below you will find a recipe for a vanilla creamer that is high on flavor, yet low in ingredients.

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Vanilla Coffee Creamer

1 1/4 c. Almond Milk

1 T. Vanilla Extract

2 T. Local, Raw Honey (Provides anti-microbial benefits and aids digestion)

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.  Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

Peppermint Mocha Variation: Replace Vanilla Extract with 1-3 T. of Dark Cocoa Powder and 1 tsp. Peppermint Extract

Scratch Made Chili Seasoning

With winter upon us, and the cold wind knocking at our doors, it is safe to say that “soup season” is upon us.  While “soup” is unique in that there is so many varieties, ranging from chicken noodle and tomato, to gumbo and chowders, no “soup” is as hearty and fulfilling as chili.  Made properly, chili can be a highly nutritious, and relatively affordable meal.

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The average chili contains: Beans (which while slightly inflammatory, contain a large amount of fiber that is both Gastro- and Heart Healthy), Ground Beef (which if organic and grass-fed, contains a significant amount of anti-inflammatory Omega-3’s, and CLA fatty acids, that significantly help to reduce the risk of chronic disease, including heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s), Tomatoes (which help to combat prostate cancer with Lycopene), and perhaps the most important aspect of chili, the seasonings (cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, and chili powder).

While it is easier to simply go to the local grocery store and buy a packet of pre-made chili seasoning, making your own mix can not only save you a few pennies, but can also spare you the “natural flavors,” additives (like hydrolyzed yeast – think MSG), anti-caking agents (like silicon dioxide), trans fats (partially hydrogenated soybean oil) and preservatives (like citric acid).  The recipe below works well for both chili and tacos, and can be adjusted to satisfy each individuals personal taste preference.

Chili Seasoning

  • 1/4 C. Garlic Powder (anti-inflammatory)
  • 1/4 C. Onion Powder
  • 1/4 C. Chili Powder (contains anti-inflammatory capsaicin)
  • 1/4 C. Ground Cumin (helps improve hypoglycemia and digestion of fats)
  • 1 T. Crushed Red Pepper (also contains capsaicin, which can boost metabolism)

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Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly in an airtight container.

Add as much seasoning to chili base as you see fit.

Enjoy!