Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Fermenting pickles Finnish style

I have always loved fermented pickles and preferred them over the vinegary pickles, since I was a child. In Finland we bought them from the grocery store from big barrels. They were often labeled "Russian pickles". Still now when I visit Finland I buy often for snacking even a package of two fermented pickles from the grocery store produce section.

People often ask for my recipe of pickles. I make them Finnish style, the way I am used to eating them, so here you go!

Fermenting pickles is a little bit more trickier than making sauerkraut or fermenting some other vegetables. Let me tell you the tricks for good pickles that are not mushy!

1. Choose cucumbers that are meant for pickling. They have a hard skin. Choose cucumbers that are firm and as fresh as possible. Use whole cucumbers (smaller often are better) instead of slicing them (that works too).
2. Soak them in fresh, clean, non-chlorinated water for several hours or overnight and wash them with a brush. Remove all pieces of the cucumber flower that is left on the ends of the cucumbers to avoid mushy pickles!
3. You can pierce the skin of the cucumber with a fork to help the brine get in. If the cucumbers are very small and firm, this is not necessary.
4. Make the brine. The ratio of salt and water I use is 25 grams per 1 liter of water (I know, you will just have to figure that out! :)). Dissolve salt in the water. Use non-chlorinated water. Chlorine can kill the good bacteria.
5. Place cucumbers and spices, and a source of tannin in layers in a glass jar. I recommend using airlock jars to ensure success. For spices you can use a few whole cloves of garlic, some fresh horse radish, and fresh dill leaves, stalks and flower heads. (A spoonful of mustard seeds are nice too if not on AIP). A source of tannin can be grape leaves, oak leaves, horse radish leaves or even black tea leaves. In Finland they use often fresh black currant and raspberry leaves. I have even used blackberry leaves from my garden.
6. Leave an inch or two of space for the weight to keep the cukes under the brine and for some air space. To keep pickles under the brine, I often use carrot sticks in the opposite direction than the pickles under the weight.
7. Pour brine over the cukes and makes sure they stay under the brine, especially if not using an airlock! Then it is critical to ensure anaerobic conditions and avoid mold etc. harmful growth. Leave a little space before closing the airlock jar. Add some water to the airlock.
8. Put the jar in a dark place and ferment in room temperature for about 10 days. Do not open the jar in between. After 10 days move to the fridge. The pickles should be ready in a few weeks. You can slice one open and if there are still white spots or areas inside, it is not quite ready in my opinion.

Some people check the pH of the brine before moving the cucumbers to the cold. If the pH is less than 4.2, the brine protects the pickles from harmful bacteria growth. Below you can see two jars of pickles ready to ferment. One is with mustard seeds, the other without. Both have dill, one even the dill blossoms and for tannin to this one I added blackberry leaves. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

California hamburgers

We often eat our burgers with lettuce wraps (just like the protein style burger at In-N-Out, which by the way if you are in California and have food allergies, you can ask to be plain and "allergy burger" so they are more cautious). Sometimes we eat burgers also with just a salad or with with a side of broccoli but every now and then I make buns which makes the kids especially so happy. I make them to be honest mostly just to hear them say things like: "You make the best hamburger buns in the whole world!" The kids say these paleo (and AIP) buns are the best ever. I have had even non-paleo kids say that they are really good.

Instead of fries I often serve some kind of veggie side. Or serve the veggies as an appetizer as I learnt from my friend. I have noticed if I put the veggies as a side, the kids may leave them on the plate and just eat the burger but if I serve the veggies as an appetizer when they are at their hungriest, before giving the main course, the veggies might disappear quickly. This time the appetizer/side was steamed broccoli with lemon juice from our own lemons. The avocado in the burger adds creaminess without any sauces.

California burgers for four with a side of lemony broccoli 

1 lb ground beef
Herbamare or salt
1 tbsp tallow or other cooking fat for frying
half a lemon
olive oil
3 ripe (yellow) plantains or around 4 ripe burro bananas
1 cup arrowroot starch
1/3-1/2 cup water
1/4 cup avocado oil
1 tsp salt

1. Set your oven to 350F.
2. Prepare the batter for the buns: Peel plantains and chop them. Add everything to the blender: the plantains, 1 cup arrowroot starch, 1/3-1/2 cups water (add first the smaller amount but increase if the blender can't mix it), 1 tsp salt and 1/4 cup of avocado oil (you could replace some of this with water). Scoop eight pancake size piles of batter, for instance with the 1/3 cup measuring cup, on 1-2 parchment paper lined cookie sheets or jelly roll pans. Leave some space between as they may spread a little. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.
3. Steam broccoli now so you can serve it as appetizers. Steam in a steamer pot until the fork just goes through, don't let them become mushy. Add a capful of olive oil, sprinkle some Herbamare on them and squeeze half a lemon on them as well.
4. Heat some tallow on medium heat in a cast iron pan (you could also grill the burgers!). Share the pound of ground meat in four pieces, form burgers, salt with Herbamare and fry from both sides until cooked.
5. Cut some avocado slices and get some lettuce from the garden (or your fridge :)) to go with the burgers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Health from vegetables

People sometimes seem to think that Paleo diet consists mostly of meat and it is even criticized because of that. Maybe some people do paleo like that, eating mostly meat and only a little vegetables. Inspired by Dr. Terry Wahls among others (and listening to how my body feels) I try to eat lots and lots of vegetables even though when faced with food intolerances and moving towards paleo diet, I took meat back to my diet. I wanted to post a picture of my vegan paleo plate to show that paleo food can be mostly vegetables.

I eat meat but not necessarily at every meal. When I am filling my plate, I fill it with often about 75% vegetables and only about 25% meat or fish. The percentages vary of course and are averages. I do not eat legumes or nuts so I need the meat for protein source but in fact I eat now more vegetables than when I was vegetarian and my meals often consisted of pasta, cheese and vegetables as a small side. I wasn't eating very healthy then. Now vegetables are the main part of the meal.

I am so proud of this meal in the photo also because nearly everything you see is from my garden. Or local (olive oil and honey in the dressing). Only the salt (Herbamare) is store bought. Other ingredients: lettuce, lemon cucumbers, carrots, chard, garlic, lemon and squashy have been grown in my container garden in our backyard. I haven't always had a green thumb so this is worth celebrating!

My favorite breakfast bowl

I have been eating this a lot recently. I created it for a breakfast bowl but it could be eaten for lunch or dinner too. It is delicious and I have even packed it to go. (Once I even ate some when I was stuck in morning traffic on my way to Beverly Hills for work...)

So all you will need is:

  1. A batch of cooked spaghetti squash which you can prepare in bigger batches ahead of time and just warm it up in the frying pan or microwave. How to prepare spaghetti squash. Add some salt, olive oil and fresh herbs to taste if you like.
  2. Some fried ground beef or bison. Add salt to taste. You could also use any other leftover meat.
  3. Sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables
  4. Sliced olives (check ingredients so they are AIP compatible if following AIP)
  5. You can also add any leftover salad or veggies or sliced avocado is delicious on it too.

Pur spaghetti squash in the bowl and top it with all the other ingredients. Enjoy!

PS. This would make an excellent camping or travel food too that you could prepare ahead of time and eat cold or find a way to warm it up. Don't heat the fermented veggies though, keep them separate. Heating would destroy beneficial bacteria.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Story Massage in Sequoia

I went a week ago to Elements Gathering in Sequoia to teach story massage. The rain interrupted the class but it was lovely nevertheless. Here we are doing a story massage train. Read about the benefits of story massage here:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Blog maintenance, please be patient with me


I am doing some maintenance work in this blog so please be patient with me. It seems like I accidentally sent an old post to subscribers etc... I am learning! :)

Have a magical day!

Book review: Holistic Baby Acupressure System to help sleep and wellness

I teach pediatric massage and I have found out that some of the topics parents love to learn more about is how to help their child sleep better and ease colic, digestive issues and teething pains just to mention a few common childhood discomforts. To have tools yourself to help your child at home without medications can be very empowering to parents and in addition nurturing touch can be a great way to connect and bond with your child.

I was excited to see this new book by Jennifer Chellis Taveras, L.Ac, come out earlier this year. This book teaches parents a whole acupressure program to help the sleep and general wellness of their babies. The program is designed for children from birth until age five although it can be used on older kids too.

The sleep system is not a sleep training method but offers physiological support to help with sleep. This is a good additional tool to pediatric massage that helps sleep by lowering stress hormones for instance.

One thing I would like to try the acupressure for - one day - is the jet lag. We travel to see family in Finland sometimes and the jetlag is always an issue.

Thinking of sleep (and other health issues), from purely my own experience as a mom I would add to look into your child's diet to help with sleep, as well as digestive problems and colic (or your own diet if you are breastfeeding as everything you eat passes to the baby through breast milk). 

The book offers tips how to get kids stay still to receive the acupressure treatment. I liked the tips about involving the child in the process and showing what you plan to do on a stuffed animal or doll first and let them massage the doll while you work on them. I don't agree however on bribing kids with any rewards to get a massage. I believe in having a full permission from the child to do massage (or acupressure or reflexology etc.). I teach parents to always ask permission, and never massage if the child says no. I also teach not to offer rewards for massage.

In general I think this book is a great addition to the bookshelves of parents, health care professionals and anyone working with children. This book gives parents a concrete way to take an active role in their children's health. It teaches the acupressure massage techniques and has clear illustrations and instructions show where to apply the massage.

Read more about the book here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sima - Mead for May Day

Mead (sima) is an essential part of May Day celebrations in Finland. Mead and homemade donuts! That's what a good May Day is made of. We also used to go marching with labor unions and leftist political party people on May Day. It is like our Labor Day. It also is the celebration day of all students. May Day is the celebration of spring. Everyone is outside, celebrating, on the streets and in the parks, there are picnics and general happiness in the air.

Mead is fermented so it needs to be prepared a week in advance. I am usually late so I have to leave it in room temperature for longer to be able to have it ready in 4 days. That is about the time I usually have when I realize that May Day is coming up. Like now. 

My parents used to make mead before every May Day. They used sugar, brown sugar, oranges, lemons, yeast and water. Usually I prepare it in the same way they did but this year I made also a honey version without cane sugar. It must be the more traditional way to make mead anyway. The Finnish word "sima" is a synonym for the nectar bees collect to make honey (mesi). We buy lovely raw honey locally from Klausesbees

In Finland mead is fermented so little that it doesn't really have alcohol, or the amount is very small so it is served even for children. My parents made the mead in a 10 liter plastic bucket and we drank it for days, if not weeks. They boiled the water, poured it on the sugar in the bucket, added sliced lemons and oranges and a tiny piece of fresh yeast. After a day they bottled it with a teaspoon of sugar and a few raisins and put it in the fridge. Usually around after a week the raisins had plumped up and were floating on top. That is how you knew the mead was ready. You looked at the raisins. I went every day to the fridge to look if the raisins were already floating on the top. It was very festive when you finally were able to taste the ready ferments and sparkly mead that tickled your tongue. There was not much alcohol at all but a lot of sugar left so it was sweet. Sweet and tasty. I loved to eat the raisins that had been soaking in the mead for days.

Honey mead (recipe is from Finnish beekeepers' association)

4 liters or 17 cups of water (almost 4 quarts) 
2 lemons (I used Meyer lemons from our tree)
14 oz honey (450 grams) 
1/5 tsp dry yeast

  • Boil about 1/4 of the water and pour it on the honey with the rest of the water cold to achieve slightly warm water. The honey will melt in it easily and it will be around the right temperature for the yeast. Dry yeast needs the water to be 105-110 Fahrenheit for it to start doing its job. 
  • Add sliced lemons. You can use oranges instead too if you like. Some people add the juice of the citrus fruit and some peel separately. My parents sliced the fruit so that is what I usually do too. If I am feeling very fancy, I squeeze the juice out and grate the peel and add them separately. 
  • Cover the container with a napkin or cheese cloth and rubber band, or even a lid, and keep in room temperature for 24 hours. Bottle it and add a few raisins to each bottle. If you have plenty of time, put the bottles in the fridge at this point and sima should be ready in 7 days. If you need your sima to be ready sooner, leave the bottles in room temperature for three days. To avoid the bottles from exploding as the mead ferments, you may want to "burp" them once a day (just open the bottle and close it back up).
  • You know your sima is ready when the raisins float on top. Serve with homemade donuts - wait, I have to start working on a paleo version of those.

To compare I made mead with the kind of recipe I grew up with. 

Sugar Mead

2 liters water (almost two quarts or 8.5 cups)
2/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon (or orange or half of both)
1/10 tsp dry yeast

Follow the method above. Enjoy your Finnish mead!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Relaxation exercise for children: Grounded like a tree

I am preparing for a Story Relaxation class I am leading tomorrow for children with their parents. I am going to teach a lot of different ways to use stories, your imagination, touch and guided imagery to relax, be mindful and connect with each other. This is one of the exercises I plan to use. I translated this relaxation exercise from Heike Jung's book that has Massage stories and movement games for children. It is perfect to start the Earth Day week as well! Have a lovely week and keep your feet firmly grounded on the earth!

Grounded like a tree
Relaxation exercise for children

Starting position: Stand on the floor, barefooted is best, feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent

Script (talk with a slow calm voice): Imagine you are a tree with a thick trunk. You have stood in that same spot for 200 years, that is how old you are! No storm has ever been able to take you down. Under your feet there are strong roots that grow deep in the ground. They keep you strongly grounded. Stand still for a moment and imagine how it would feel to be a big old tree.

Now you feel a light wind. Your branches and leaves move in the wind. The wind strokes softly the trunk, branches and leaves. Let your arms be the branches and fingers the leaves. Let them move slowly and softly in the wind. Stroke gently your head, arms, face and hands.

The wind becomes stronger. The whole tree waves in the wind from side to side. Then the wind changes direction and the tree moves from front to back. Move your body from left to right and then front and back.

The wind has stopped. You stand still again. The sun peeks from behind the clouds. You notice how the sun beams warm your body. Put your both hands on your face and feel the warmth of the sun. Put your hands on your belly, close your eyes and feel the warmth there as well.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: He Won't Know It's Paleo

A taste of recipes included in the book!
I put my kids on AIP (an autoimmune protocol of paleo diet, basically a paleo diet but more restricted) and this new book He Won't Know It's Paleo by Bre'anna Emmitt, has been a great tool when getting the kids used to the new diet. 

The book has great recipes for AIP friendly versions of foods that my kids may have been missing like crackers, muffins, ketchup just to mention few. The main dish recipes are amazing too, not just the condiments and baked goods. I have tried only a handful of recipes but so far I am very impressed.

The story behind the cook book is funny I thought: The author had wanted to switch to AIP diet but knew the switch to paleo wouldn't be easy on her husband so she didn't tell him! He ate paleo for six months without knowing it, commented how he felt better and lost weight. Wow. I don't know if I could have pulled that through! You have to be a very good cook to do that so that is probably the best testimonial for this book!

The book is available as a hard copy and Kindle version