probiotics

Fermented Cabbage Stuffed Peppers

Fermented Cabbage Stuffed Peppers

If you’ve been around Almost Bananas for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of fermented foods. All the probiotics are beneficial for your health in so many ways, confirmed by science. Fermenting preserves food, and tastes amazing while it’s making us healthier.

Fermenting food is kind of like having a running science experiment in your kitchen. Jars full of bubbling mixes, smells that we are no longer used to. Guests will wonder what on earth is going on in your kitchen.

Once upon a time these were normal foods. And now, we often have to accustom our taste buds to fermented foods, as many grow up without tasting them at all.

Here in Slovakia an old and common ferment is cabbage stuffed peppers. It’s warm enough here to grow peppers and this is a great way to preserve them for the winter. Click to continue reading

25+ Ways to Use Sauerkraut

25+ Ways to Use Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut seems to be all the rage in healthy food circles recently. Fermented sauerkraut is full of probiotic and other benefits, as opposed to the canned vinegar variety which might taste alright but does not have the same health impact.

It’s easy to get excited about eating sauerkraut, but then when sometimes I’m at loss as to what to actually do with it. Just put in on the table in a dish for a condiment?

Yes, you can do that, but there are so many more options! Below are over 25 ideas and recipes for using sauerkraut. Some of the recipes may need some adjusting to fit your idea of healthy. Click to continue reading

Super Easy Sauerkraut

I’m a huge fan of fermenting foods, for probiotics benefits and more, but I’m an even bigger fan of healthy being simple and easy. This method of making sauerkraut utilizes time in place of work, making health and food preservation that much easier.

Lazy Sauerkraut

So, I totally and completely blew my 31 Days of Probiotics and Fermenting. It wasn’t for lack of ideas. I had more than 31 ideas of both information and recipes.

I was unrealistically enthusiastic. I forgot that I have kids, and that time management is still an area where I have room for much improvement. I still want to write on both topics though, so I’ll continue to update that page as an index.

Right now I have a recipe for super easy sauerkraut. If you have a food processor, you could even call it 5 min sauerkraut, because that’s about how much active time is involved. I don’t have a food processor, therefore cutting all those strands by hand takes a little more time (aren’t they lovely and thin strands?).

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Bryndzove (or Feta) Cauliflower

Bryndza, a soft sheep cheese, is a traditional food in Slovakia. It tastes something like feta but is soft. Bryndzove halusky is the classic Slovak dish, little potato gnocchi smothered in byndza and bacon. This version simulates the taste for those who don’t have access to bryndza or don’t have the time to make potato gnocchi. 

Bryndzove (or Feta) Cauliflower

Ask any Slovak about traditional Slovak foods, and you’ll most likely hear about bryndzove halusky (halushky).

Halusky is usually translated as potato dumplings, but I’ve seen dumpling cover everything from bread-like blobs to Chinese wontons to Slovak potato drops, all exceedingly different.

Bryndza is a soft sheep cheese, tasting something akin to feta, salty and sharp. It’s used to make spreads for bread, fill perogies, or even make soup. It’s most common application is as a sauce over halusky.

Many brands mix sheep and cow milk to make bryndza, but some brands use only sheep milk, and a few even have raw sheep bryndza. To fit in with my probiotic and fermenting theme, bryndza is full of probiotics. There is a study examining which bacteria bryndza contains and their antimicrobial activity.

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Fermented Red Onion

 

Fermented Red Onions

 

As a ‘real foodie’, I have this idea that I should therefore like all real foods. I have a confession to make; I don’t like raw onions. Cooked onions are wonderful. In the winter, I go through kilos of onions in soups and stir fries. Caramelized onions, yummm. But raw? Nope. Only if they’ve been marinated for a very long time.

My oldest daughter, on the other hand, loves raw onions. She will voluntarily ask for raw onions on buttered (sourdough) bread, a very Slovak thing to eat. I gladly prepare it for her, because onions are healthy and all that. “Yumm, Mom, this is SO good! Have a bite.” Er…no thanks dear, I’ll let you enjoy it.

But then I came across the idea of Lactofermented Red Onions over at Delicious Obsessions and thought I’d try it.

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Baek (White) Kimchi

Kimchi, a Korean fermented pickle, is well known for it’s red colour and spicey flavour. This version of kimchi, baek means white, is actually probably older than the better known version, but just as delicious.

kimchi text

In my hometown in Canada, there has been a Korean restaurant or two at all times in the last 15 years or so. Buses full of Koreans come on tours through the Rocky Mountains, and they stop at the Korean restaurants, keeping the business running in a small town. These restaurants were my first introduction to metal chopsticks (harder than wood), lettuce rice wraps (so good), and sweet potato noodles (love. miss.).

My parents knew the owner of one of the restaurants, and my father called  her  up when we went there once as a family on one of my visits home. For us, she cooked real Korean food as opposed to the versions made for an American palate. What. A. Feast. Little dishes of various condiments, marinated beef still on the hot plate, dandelion kimchi, and those amazing noodles. The table was covered with various dishes that we shared. I rarely go to restaurants and am even more rarely impressed, but I still have visions about that meal.

Kimchi is a staple in Korea and I think it’s the cat’s meow that a fermented veggie is a national staple. According to a video I watched, 94% of Koreans have it every day, and 96% make it themselves instead of buying it in a store.

(What if 96% of North Americans and Europeans made their own yogurt? Or sauerkraut? Dreaming…but I digress.)

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A Scientific Look at the Benefits of Probiotics

I’m concentrating on probiotics and fermenting for the month, and this is the first installment, here is an index I’ll add posts to as I publish them. I wanted to write an epic thorough post on probiotics, complete with scientific references and explanations. The problem is, that’s called a book. For now, please accept this truncated and incomplete version. I’ve tried to include ample sources to demonstrate that the immense importance of probiotics is not some hippy-feel-good theory, but grounded in science.

A Scientific Look at the Benefits of Probiotics

I’ve long known that ‘probiotics’ were good for you in a general way, hearing advice to take them after antibiotics. We are, however, discovering functions of probiotics that are actually fundamental to our well being, as opposed to being a nice thing to have. Studies and experiments are continually discovering new ways that these little bugs benefit the human host and I think we are just starting to uncover the tip of the iceberg.

Probiotics are mostly bacteria, with a few kinds of yeast, that populate our bodies. We tend to concentrate on the ones that reside in the gut, but beneficial bacteria are also present on all the places of contact with the ‘outside’ world, including skin, eyes, genitals, and breastmilk. For our purposes, we will focus on beneficial flora in the gut.

Technically, probiotics are defined as “live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host” by the World Health Organization. This definition is mostly in reference to supplements and advertising claims, so that ‘probiotic’ on a label must have scientific evidence of some health benefit from the strain of bacteria or yeast that is being promoted. With an estimated 1000 species of beneficial flora residing in or on the human person and however, there is much more research before all the health benefits that do exist are found out. And of those 1,000 species of beneficial bacteria in the human ‘eco-system’, each of those species has multiple strains, each of which can have a different influence on the human host.

As an example of how much we don’t yet know, the second most common bacterial species listed in the American Gut Project ( a project examining swabs/samples from a variety of people mostly in the United States) doesn’t have a name – in fact, it doesn’t even have a named genus. And the most common bacteria mapped by the American Gut Project is practically non-existent in the Hanza tribe of Tanzania, a group still living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. This study, as well as other, indicates that the composition of an individual’s microbes is dependent on that individual’s diet.

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31 days of Probiotics and Fermenting

 

31 Days of Probiotics and Fermenting, index

I’m so excited (yes, that’s how geeky I am)!! This month is all about probiotics and fermenting here on Almost Bananas.

I’m taking part in 31 Days, a writing challenge to write every day for the month of October. Take a look – it looks like there are some amazing month long topics.

I’m not off to a very good start – between puking kids and falling asleep putting toddlers to sleep, I’m already behind. But, something is better than nothing, no?

I’ve long known that probiotics are good for you, in a sort of general that-nice type of way. In a ‘you should take a probiotic supplement when you take antibiotics’ type of way.  Increasingly, however, we (as in science and nutrition) are discovering how important probiotics really are and how fundamental they are to health in ways that we never thought of. Who would have guessed that probiotics could effect behaviour and food allergies?

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