Fermentation – Good for your Gut and Your Palate

Interest in sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha are evident in many grocery carts lately. At a recent cooking class I attended at Peter Berley’s kitchen in Jamesport, I learned how easy and economical it is to make your own at home. I now have jars of vegetables bubbling away in my kitchen, much to the olfactory dismay of my family. But I can’t wait until next week when I can dip into my jars of kimchi and sauerkraut.

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For thousands of years we’ve been using the art of fermentation to preserve foods. In modern times we’ve discovered the health benefits of cultured products. Here’s why you should learn more about it.

Fermented foods like yogurt, miso, and sauerkraut contain helpful bacteria that feed on their natural sugars. This creates lactic acid which preserves food and gives these foods their signature sour taste. These beneficial bacteria help breakdown some food components, making digestion easier and nutrients absorbed more readily. Yogurt or kefir are often easier to digest for those lactose intolerant just for this reason, as it’s partially digested by the bacteria in it.

Fermented foods provide food synergy by increasing nutrient’s bioavailability and absorption. Nutrients like amino acids, Vitamins A, C and B vitamins are more readily absorbed. For example, cabbage fermented into sauerkraut or kimchi increases the glucosinolates or anti-cancer compounds within. All of these friendly bacteria are a bonus for immunity in our gut and may help decrease inflammation, allergies and auto-immune disease. Consider adding some fermented foods daily, not only for the health benefits but to add dimension and flavor to your dishes. Think crunchy pickles, tangy sauerkraut, savory miso and creamy yogurt. It adds texture, umami and heft to a recipe and its easy to add as a condiment,  sandwich topping or snack.

Lacto Brined Beans by Peter Berley

Brine Ratio: 3 Tbsp salt and 1.5 Tbsp vinegar per quart water

Green beans or Wax beans, dill, garlic, fresh chilis

Note: Beans must be blanched 2 minutes in boiling water to destroy toxin before pickling

Pack beans, dill, garlic and chills into crocks and pour in cool water, drain the water out and measure it. Salt according to the brine ratio and cover the beans with the brine. Weigh and ferment for 7-10 days at room temp. Then refrigerate.

From North Fork Farm to Table

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I love summer – the weather is warm and the produce plentiful. One of my favorite things to do is visit local farm stands and figure out dinner from there. Crisp, unprocessed food in it’s natural state. Nutrition at it’s peak and keeping my ecological footprint to a minimum makes me happy. On a recent journey to Orient Point, I stopped at Latham Farm. They have beautiful produce and it’s easy to be inspired. Just looking at the freshly picked cucumbers, lettuces, carrots and spring onions creates dreams of a farm-fresh supper. Not to mention the incredible view of Orient Harbor. Next stop – the local fishmonger, and then to a winery right up the block.

On this day, I just kept it simple- cucumber salad with red onion and fresh dill, local veggies and blackfish on the grill. A glass of local sauvignon blanc from Kontokosta Winery. Summertime just can’t get better than that.

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It’s Gluten Free… it Must be Healthy

It’s impossible not to notice the enormous amount of gluten free products everywhere lately. Whether it’s in the grocery store, convenience store, vending machine or restaurant – it’s hard not to think about trying these products. After all, they’re healthier than other foods, right? Think again. If you have celiac disease, then yes- it’s essential for your health. For weight loss? Not so much.

Having lunch with a friend the other day, we noticed a gluten free section on the menu. This brought up the subject of the virtues of gluten free diets. “So much healthier!” my friend exclaimed, and was excited to tell me about a new snack food she  found. “It is really healthy and so delicious”, she said. Was it? Delicious it was,  but healthy- well… let’s see.

glutinoThose with gluten intolerance may also feel some relief by avoiding gluten, a wheat protein. But the average person does not need to cut gluten out of their diet, despite what the media and food manufacturers would have you believe.

Of course, lots of gluten containing products are unhealthy, especially if they are refined and processed. But so are gluten free products that are heavily processed, and most of them are.

Let’s just look at the yogurt covered gluten free pretzels to the left.

You’ll notice that there are 150 calories, 7g fat (6g of which are saturated), and 12 g of sugar (that’s 3 tsp)- and just in 9 tiny pretzels. These little morsels are so tasty and impossible to resist (thanks to those clever food scientists) I could inhale that amount in approximately 30 seconds. Now look at the servings per package. This small 5.5 oz bag (yes you read it right) contains 5 portions- according to the manufacturer. Now, I ask you- who decided that? And who could possibly resist eating the entire bag? Someone with intense discipline (maybe Gandhi?), but the average mortal will be wolfing down this entire bag- along with 750 calories, 35g fat and 60 grams of sugar (15 tsp!). Ouch. Still think this is a healthy product?

Now take a look at the ingredients.  Sugar, palm kernel oil, soy lecithin,  corn starch, potato starch, palm oil and a host of other unfamiliar ingredients- none of which your grandma would recognize. And- it’ll set you back over $4 bucks to boot.

So, before you jump on the gluten free bandwagon- check out the the nutrition facts panel and then decide if it’s worth it. Maybe the new nutrition facts panel will help clarify these confusing and misleading labels in the future.

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Let’s Get Freekeh



Roasted green wheat. Sounds compelling, doesn’t it? While quinoa is the new whole grain sweetheart, Freekeh is the newcomer. Even the name is intriguing. Don’t be afraid to try this exotic sounding grain. Not only is it a nutrition powerhouse, it’s truly delicious. Similar to bulgar wheat, Freekeh is harvested young, an immature green wheat that is roasted and then cracked.  This gives it a roasted, nutty flavor and a wonderful alternative to other whole grains such as farro, millet, amaranth and buckwheat. It’s nice to have healthy choices.

Freekeh is perfect as a side dish and also stands alone as a main. Maybe it’s that process of harvesting it while young and green that gives it it’s nutrient edge. High in fiber, protein and nutrients like the  antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin (eye health benefits). It’s also a low glycemic food. This powerful combination can promote weight loss, stabilize blood sugar and promote GI health all in one bowl. It is not gluten free though, for those with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease.

Here’s a recipe for those looking for a satisfying plant-based meal, or as the main event on your plate with a side of lean animal protein. Be careful though, it’s so good you may have trouble with portion control!

Freekeh Pilaf with Beluga Lentils and Roasted Yellow Tomatoes/Garlic

First roast tomatoes and garlic in olive oil in a 400 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes until just starting to brown. Next prepare lentils and set aside.  In a wide, deep skillet or pot, sauté chopped onion and carrot in a Tbsp olive oil. Add Freekeh and toss to coat. Roast in pan for a few minutes to bring out flavor. Add the appropriate amount of veg broth (follow package directions for the amount you are using). Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until just about done (about 15 minutes). You may add some chopped green veggies at this point for a nutrition boost. Stir and let cook a few minutes longer until veggies are done. Season with  salt and fresh ground pepper as desired. Top with lentils and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil if desired.


Peconic Bay Scallops- Hyperlocal, Hyperseasonal and Dreamy

I admit- I’ve been thinking alot about Peconic Bay Scallops lately. The season is almost over, but I was able to snag a few today from the Southhold Fish Market. Local only in the North Fork of Long Island, they are a real treat and so delicate and delicious.  Enjoy them while you can, with a super short season and especially limited supply this year (thanks alot Sandy). These locally harvested gems are wild caught as opposed to the usual imported scallops soaked in preservatives. Protein, vitamin B12, selenium are just a few of the benefits in this nutrient dense mollusk. Short supply and short season make them expensive, so use them as a garnish or in this great first course:

Peconic Bay Scallops Salad

Greens with Pan Seared Peconic Bay Scallops, Avocado and Beans with Citrus Vinaigrette 

6 cups butter lettuce and raddichio

1 avocado

1 cup green beans, lightly steamed

1/2# Peconic Bay Scallops

1-2 Tbsp good quality olive oil (I used Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil from Vines and Branches in Greenport- so good!)

Citrus Vinaigrette

(zest and juice from 1 lemon, 1/2 orange, fresh chopped rosemary, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1/2c extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste – whisk to blend)


Sear scallops in oil over med-high heat in nonstick skillet for 1-2 minutes. Don’t turn for first 30 seconds to get a nice brown crust. Toss with salad and vinaigrette and enjoy right away!

Bee(t) Strong for the Holidays

The holidays are going strong right about now. But, How do we keep our resolve at all of the celebrations? Despite the obstacles to good health, here are some techniques to help you stay on track and a recipe for Beet and Fennel Soup to stay strong.

  1. Choose light, nutrient- dense foods that fill you up, like vegetables, salads, fruits and light proteins such as fish, shellfish, poultry and vegetarian options.
  2. Stay hydrated to control your appetite- stick with water, seltzers and unsweetened iced teas.
  3. Make a plan of action and stick with it. For example “I will have a light snack before I go so I’m not ravenous at the party”. Remind yourself of your plan before you go to the event.
  4. Dodge the bread and rolls at the table or buffet- it’s not worth the empty calories.
  5. Use a small plate, such as a salad plate, for your main course and keep your portions small

Bonus Strategy: Take some healthy cooking classes at a health-supportive cooking school like the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC and develop a few of your own nutritious dishes to bring along and share with your friends. They’ll love you for it and you won’t be tempted to eat something unhealthy at the party because your food rocks!

Beet and Fennel Soup

Beets provide potassium, folic acid and phytonutrients with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. One in particular, Betalain, has been receiving alot of attention from athletes for muscle strength and endurance, possibly due to naturally occurring  nitrate which is converted to nitric oxide in the body – increasing blood flow and reducing the amount of oxygen needed by muscles, improving efficiency. Reducing homocysteine levels is another possible benefit in reducing risk for cardiovascular disease.

Enjoy this beautiful ruby red soup for the holidays and you just may be strong enough to resist all of the temptations.

Farmstand Beets

8 servings

4  medium beets (about 1 pound)

1/4  cup  water

1  large onion, chopped

4  cups  organic vegetable broth

1 3/4  cups  chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large)

1  cup  chopped peeled Granny Smith apple

2  teaspoons  white wine vinegar

2  teaspoons  lemon juice

1/2  teaspoon  salt

1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

8  teaspoons  reduced-fat sour cream

Chopped fennel fronds

Preheat oven to 375°.

Leave root and 1 inch of stem on beets; scrub with a brush. Place beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil; sprinkle beets with water. Wrap beets in foil; arrange packet of beets and onion on a baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until tender. Cool.

Combine broth, chopped fennel, onion and apple in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until fennel is tender. Cool.

Trim off beet roots; rub off skins, and coarsely chop. Add beets to broth mixture in pan, stirring to combine. Place half of beet mixture in a blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed beet mixture into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining beet mixture. Stir in vinegar, juice, salt, and pepper. Return pureed beet mixture to pan.

Place the pureed beet mixture over medium heat, and cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Ladle soup into bowls, and top with sour cream. Sprinkle evenly with chopped fennel fronds.

Health Benefits of Seasonal, Local, and Sustainable Produce

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Don’t fall victim to the hype. If you were to believe all of the advertisements out there attached to processed foods, you would think that eating items that have been depleted of their nutrients is the way to go. But our bodies think differently.

According to various media campaigns by a whole slew of food corporations like McDonalds, Sara Lee and Coca Cola, their type of food actually brings happiness. Unfortunately, the sugar, chemicals, additives, and processing that goes into making the foods that these type of companies offer does nothing but wreak havoc on our bodies. The best way to create happiness from food is to eat a healthy, vibrant, seasonal diet of fresh and sustainable food that was grown locally to your area. The body craves the nourishment that comes from good, wholesome food that is not processed and loaded with sugars and trans fats.

How does eating healthy, seasonal, local and sustainable produce benefit you? Check out these amazing ways that eating sustainably can make a difference in your life…

  1. It does a body good. It is safe to say that the difference in nutrients is astronomical when comparing processed foods to whole, organic food grown locally. By eating food that is grown in your area in the season that it is supposed to be grown in, you are giving your body the optimum and highest amount of vitamins that the fruit or vegetable can offer. The longer amount of time between the moment that a piece of produce is picked and when it is eaten correlates to a diminishing in quality. When you eat in a seasonal, healthy way, you are providing your body with, in addition to vitamins, the best in minerals, enzymes, phytochemicals and antioxidants that food can offer. The body works with the changing of the seasons and this includes the way in which we eat.
  2. It does the earth good. When you are eating organic, seasonal produce that is grown locally you are cutting back on the amount of fossil fuels expended to get the produce to you. This helps the earth in various ways: erosion, emissions, etc. In addition, when you buy from a farmer that grows organically you are participating in a reduction of pesticides being leached into the earth. This benefits us health wise twofold. One, it helps with the health and longevity of the soil. Two, it helps with keeping our water sources clean.
  3. It lessens cravings for food that isn’t good for you. If you give yourself the chance of eating a diet that is filled with nourishing, whole food you will come to realize that your cravings for fast food as well as sweet and salty convenience items diminishes. The body will give you positive feedback with a dedication to this way of eating by feeling healthier, healing illnesses and looking more vibrant.

Kishana Sainte is devoted to inspiring sustainability and writes on health & lifestyle topics, including food & recipes, diet and fitness on behalf of MyDocHub.com, a trusted online patient recommendation and medical information website. For more information, please visit http://www.mydochub.com/

Eat Real-Eat Healthy-On Food Day

Eat real, eat healthy, on Food Day – and every day! Food Day, on October 24, is a great opportunity to think about how to incorproate healthy, sustainable and affordable food for you and people around you.

Food Day is a nationwide celebration of local whole foods while cutting back on processed, refined unhealthy options.

Check out local celebrations and festivals promoting healthy eating and improving our health and the health of our environment. You’ll find them everywhere- at community organizations, local hospitals, schools, campuses and other public events.


Zen of Eating

Most of us know what to eat to be healthy. But, how many of us know how to eat? I don’t mean physically how- putting your fork to your mouth is an obvious technique. What I’m talking about is paying attention – both internally and externally. Being mindful helps us pay attention to our habits. How many times have you used food to pacify your mind? Emotional eating can wreak havoc on our bodies and minds, and most of us do it. But, you can control your turbulent eating habits by living fully in the moment.

According to the Center for Mindful Eating:

Mindful Eating is:

  • Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom.
  • Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.
  • Acknowledging responses to food (likes, neutral or dislikes) without judgment.
  • Learning to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin eating and to stop eating.


Where do I begin this enlightened path to better nutrition habits you may be asking? The perfect place to start is in your new meditation room (see previous post) and focusing on your breath. A wonderful reference is the book “Savor- Mindful Eating, Mindful Life”  by Thich Nhat Hanh and Lilian Cheung D.Sc., RD.

Here are some mindful eating strategies adapted from this amazing resource:

1) Mind-Body Scan: Focus you attention by moving away from the sight and smell of food to figure out if you are really hungry. Move into another room or area to tune into your signals.

2) Focus Inward: Close your eyes, take deep breaths and calm yourself. Reconnect body and mind.

3) Focus on Physical Sensations: Place your hand on your upper abdomen, picture your stomach. Think of a balloon and try to imagine how full it is. Ask yourself “AM i hungry?” What are your physical sensations? Growling? Empty? Full?

4) Notice other sensations: Are you edgy? Lightheaded? Weak? Thirst? Tired? Do you have tension? Discomfort? Pain?  Become mindful of your body’s signals.

5) Focus on your thoughts: Are you rationalizing or justifying eating?Looking for an excuse to eat?If you have doubts about your hunger- you’re probably not.

6) Focus on your feelings” What are your emotions at the moment? Let go of negative thoughts. Hunger is normal and eating is the best way to satisfy- if you are truly hungry. Do not feel guilty.

It’s not easy to be mindful and it takes lots of practice. But a quote from Socrates kind of sums it all up:

“A life not examined is not worth living”

Now, go meditate on that…