Archives for posts with tag: nutrition

Over the last few weeks I have made a conscious effort to change my diet. I have been nourishing myself with good food, learning which foods I have sensitivities to, and talking through the entire process with a supportive group of people all doing the same thing. I have lost about ten or so pounds, have lost inches from my waist, and feel like a zillion bucks. How much is a zillion? It is a lot.

The supportive benefits of this experience are untold. I am energised and educated. I am empowered. I have not done this alone; I would not have known where to find trustworthy information. My friend (and yours!) Tammy the Clinical Herbal Therapist has spent years in research and educating herself on this, as well as other health-related subjects. How fortunate we are that she can help us!

I am currently at the stage where I can reintroduce foods into my diet. Who would have thought a yellow pepper would suddenly be so zingy? I have a sensitivity to peppers. I will, therefore try to eliminate them from my diet. Easy to figure this out!

Having learned new recipes over the last few weeks, old standbys that I had been accustomed to buying and eating daily are surprisingly simple to replace. I didn’t think that I could live without cheese. This is one of the things that I will soon be re-introducing. I am looking forward to the experiment, and hope that I am not sensitive to cheese. However if I am… I will still be able to feed myself!

I have learned something new: Organic pumpkin seed butter is my friend.

I wholeheartedly recommend the next Nourishment series, starting up this upcoming Monday the 16th of April. Email Tammy at Fleurbain@gmail.com to register, or for more info.

-Natasha Henderson Montreal

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I grew up thinking that the sun was something to avoid.  So, I put sunscreen on daily during the summer, and I avoided the sun as much as possible.  Well, as it turns out, a little bit of sunshine is good for you.  Sunburns are still to be avoided, but a little daily sunshine is necessary for health.  In the winter months the body’s vitamin D levels decrease, since people are outdoors very little and the sun is at a low angle on the horizon.   This decrease in Vitamin D is linked with increased incidence of illnesses such as flus and colds.

If you want to know more about Vitamin D, check out this Vitamin D Council website.  As it states on the website, the Vitamin D Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put an end to needless suffering and death worldwide due to  vitamin D deficiency.  

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

elderberries, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves & elderflowers, yarrow, peppermint

Elderberry syrups are everywhere these days.

I love the fact that these products are available but I often wince at the price tag.  It is like anything though, you are paying for the convenience and the availability… and maybe a touch of hype?  I know how to make elderberry syrup, and I can tell you that it is not very expensive to make.   It’s no wonder that this syrup is in demand: elderberries are anti-inflammatory, relaxingly diaphoretic, antiviral against many viruses and a wee bit laxative in regular doses.  These little berries are helpful in cases of colds, sore throats and flus.

I like to keep elderberries on-hand. One of the advantages in doing so is that I do not have always make a syrup.  I can make a decoction of the berries, and then add little honey. Sometimes I forego the honey, since  it’s important to avoid sugar; too much sugar gives my immune system a lot to deal with. This will ultimately set me back.  On the other hand, there is a disadvantage to avoiding sugars in herbal preparations. In this case, an elderberry decoction has a much shorter shelf life – like between 24 and 72 hours – if kept in the fridge.  I add honey and make an elder berry syrup in cases where I want a longer shelf life, if I am dealing with people who are new to herbal remedies, or who have sensitive palates.

Elderberry Syrup

The most basic syrup is elderberries simmered for a long while in water, then squished, strained and composted. Add honey to the final decoction.  As always, I can add all sorts of tasty and useful ingredients to make it my own lil’ creation.

First Step

1/2 cup dried elderberries (50 grams)

3 cups of water

In a sauce pan, bring cold water and berries to a boil, then slowly simmer until it is reduced to 1/2 the amount, between one cup and one and a half cups.

Second Step: Squish the berries to release the juice, Strain with a strainer lined with cheese cloth.  Compost the berries.

Third Step: Mix 1 cup of raw honey into the hot decoction.  Sometimes I add tinctures, like 50 ml of echinacea.

Fourth Step: Put the syrup into a suitable container with a tight fitting lid, making sure that there is not a lot of head space.  Label clearly, note ingredients, suggested uses and the date it was made. Use within 2-3 months (before the end of the winter).

How I use the syrup: I take a teaspoon of the syrup several times a day if I am fighting a cold or flu because it will generally decrease the severity and duration of the illness.  It is nice to stir it into a tea… perhaps the elderflower, mint and yarrow tea?

The decoction: Take 1 tablespoon of the berries and put in a sauce pan with 2 cups of cold water.  Add fresh ginger or cinnamon if you would like.  Slowly simmer this until it is reduced by half or for a half an hour.  Remove from the heat.  If you want, add a teaspoon or two of dried leaves and flowers to this (yarrow, mint, elderflower) and steep for 10 minutes before straining everything.  This might seem like a strong brew, so I take a 1/4 cup every couple hours.  I drink other tea and water in addition to this because I know that I want to get a lot of fluids into my system when I am fighting something.

THE DIY elderberry syrup kit!

Take the ingredients of your choosing and put them in a little muslin bag.  Or put them in a cute jar that could hold the syrup after it is ready made.  Attach clear instructions on how to make, use and store this syrup.  Add a little container of ye olde traditional blend of peppermint, elderflower and yarrow. Decorate as desired.  The ready made syrup is a nice gift too.  I like the dried berries and such because it is easier to transport and people have the choice of making a decoction without sweetener or a syrup.

optional additions:

1 stick of cinnamon , 5 cloves, 3 crushed cardamom pods, 1 tablespoon echinacea root, 1/4 tsp ginger powder, a few slices of raw ginger

*glycerites of elderberry are also wonderful.

** the elderberries I am referring to are Sambucus nigra and Sambucus canadensis.  Be sure to know what berries you are working with.  The red berry elders are toxic.

Tammy Schmidt, Montreal

Christmas flyer?

As I sit here, hypnotized by pleasant photos and cheery colours and persuaded by promise, I have to hand it to him; he really knows how to get a gal excited about the holidays!  Galen Weston, I have no idea why I am under the influence of his spell, other than having just flipped through the President’s Choice ‘Insider’s Report’ for this Christmas.  And I am all aglow.  The odds were against us.  It must be purely magic that keeps us together.  Aside from the box of baby greens, none of his advertised products are organic.  The special coffee shop in the flyer does not feature any fair-trade coffee.  I officially do not eat sweets.  I feel better when I avoid dairy and gluten.  And I dislike too many processed foods in my diet.  But when I read through ‘Insider’s Report’ I want to try one of everything.  Just reading it restores my confidence, Christmas will be okay.  Yes, I have already started making wonderful homespun creations for the celebration.  I am not trying to brag about it, a person has to pace herself when dealing with this holiday!  And I have a plan for a nutrient dense, delightful Christmas. Seeing all of the products in this book, however, makes me want to add a few items to the plan.  Mr. Weston states that it’s all for a good cause.  Me.  Getting me out of the kitchen, making it easy for me to entertain and saving me money!  It’s the President’s Choice!  Let’s see, let’s see.  The wild pacific salmon wellingtons would be a hit at parties and the artichoke and asiago puffs look good.  The 100% sparkling fruit juice would be handy.  And, ooh, the red velvet cheesecake is so elegant, the merry mini cheesecakes look so cute and anything dulce de leche is delicious.  Okay, all of the desserts look good.  And what’s this on page 26?  Holiday blooms of orchids, amaryllis and pointsettias; wouldn’t that be lovely for my décor?  The wildly colourful chocolate fruit fancies make me want to have children.

Anyhoo, I am sharing all of this with you because I know I am not the only one who feels this way.  And I have to say, there is something here that keeps me coming back for more, but only unofficially… I am an herbalist after all.

Now that's more like it! Enjoying one of our favourites, homemade tourtière with a side of greens.

 

Friends, do not throw out my flyer!

This confession was made by Tammy Schmidt, Montreal!

copyright Natasha Henderson

 
by Natasha Henderson, Montreal
 

When I moved across the country from British Columbia’s Vancouver Island to Montreal, Quebec a little over three years ago, I knew that I would experience many changes. Not the least of these changes, I felt, would be to my diet.

The view from Kitty Coleman, in the Comox Valley

I had in mind that I would indulge in new things, new foods, perhaps try French Cuisine… it is true that I experienced some change in my diet and lifestyle, and a lot of that was due to what was available in the supermarkets. Different vegetables, different prices, smaller cuts of meat, and a wider selection of new cheeses greeted me at the first supermarket I visited in the downtown core of Montreal. After a couple of months I learned about the fresh farmer’s markets in the city. I began shopping for goods that were more locally grown, and in season whenever possible. Now, three years into life here, I am signed onto a CSA programme with a local organic farm for weekly veggie and fruit delivery. While enjoying the process of transformations within my new life in a new city and province, I was developing an interest in what I was putting into my mouth… an interest beyond the question of simply flavour.

Festivities and poutine abound in Montreal

After realising how much I liked poutine, but how guilty I always felt whenever I indulged, I figured that I must find a way to make a healthier option of it… something I could do at home, too, and save a little cash in the process. The first thing that I tried was to purchase frozen fries at the grocery store, and whenever I had some leftover gravy (not that often, of course… it’s GRAVY) I would make poutine the next day. While experimenting a little more with cooking, I finally discovered the joyous root that is the sweet potato. One day I had some potatoes, so made some wedgie-fries like my mom used to make out of their delightful Yukon Gold potatoes from the home garden in Comox, BC. Butter in a pan in the oven, bake. Easy. I thought about some fried sweet potato chips a friend had treated me to a year or so before that, this seemingly exotic chip. We had dipped them in home-made mayonnaise. That’s another delightful story… I had found the intense flavour of the sweet potato a little powerful, a little overwhelming. So I made a batch of wedgies with some potato, some sweet potato. Perfect combination (for me, anyhow).

Using sweet potatoes in place of, or as well as, regular potatoes for the fries is a tasty option that makes a poutine “healthy”. Sweet potatoes are full of vitamins. Their flesh is a bright, appetizing orange, and their flavour carries a pleasant sweetness. Try to leave the skin on for your fries, like you would with regular potatoes. Just cut off the ugliest bits, and the “eyes“. Cut the sweet potatoes and potatoes into even-thickness strips, like house-fries in restaurants. One healthy option for baking the fries is to use butter or olive oil and fry them in a pan until soft, then bake until crisp. Another is to simply bake them in the oven until they are crisp, using no fat at all, or you can add a little olive oil or butter on the pan for taste. When the fries go in the oven, try sprinkling some salt, pepper, chilli pepper, garlic, steak spice, rosemary… any spice or flavouring that you like on them. You could even add some grated parmesan cheese, though with the upcoming level of cheese curds it might not be necessary. Bake them at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until done to your liking.

Options for the gravy include using butter or olive oil as a tasty start; you don‘t have to have fat drippings from a roast. To thicken and add flavour, stir into the saucepan a small handful of flour, about 2 tablespoons (depending on quantity of gravy you are making). If you’d prefer to not use flour, try using another starchy substance, such as cooked lentils or beans that have been mashed a little with a fork. Once browned, thin out the roux (browned flour or other starch) with a little veggie, beef or chicken stock. Use wine, beer, or water if you have no stock. Bring to bubbling while stirring, then simmer and reduce, adding more of your chosen liquid (or now switch to plain water) as you go. During this reduction process, I like to add a good generous sprinkle of pepper. Other spices can be added, according to your taste. Rosemary, garlic, paprika… the kitchen ceiling‘s the limit. Or, just leave it plain, and practice gravy-making to find your own favourite combo!

Poutine, the "UN-Healthy" version. Click to read CTV story...

The fries will take about an hour once in the oven, and the gravy can be re-heated once it’s made, so I would start in on making the gravy as soon as your fries are baking. That way the fries will be nice and hot when it is time to eat them, and that is quite important for full enjoyment of poutine. You can find cheese curds readily throughout Quebec, and in some regions across Canada. However if there are none in your supermarket, there are other options. A white, flavourful cheese is all right to use for this poutine (though purists would argue not.) I have used Edam, or Havarti, or Old Cheddar as a cheese curd replacement in poutine, with similarly tasty results. You could add a nice tanginess by adding some feta or parmesan, if you have it. Lately, I’ve switched to non-pasteurized, old cheddar and the results are excellent. I like to put the cheese onto the fries inside the oven, to melt a little, and even turn a light brown. Again, it’s about options and taste. It’s all up to you what you do with your meal. Some would add the curds and gravy to the fries, stir around so it is a melting mess, others like to layer their food neatly. If you are serving to guests, I would recommend placing the fries on each plate, then adding the cheese, then the gravy on top to melt the cheese a little.

Healthy Poutine. Seriously.

Now that I’ve shared a little dash of this story with you, I hope that you have fun experimenting with taking those traditionally unhealthy treats and turning them into sustenance to truly enjoy!

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