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Whole Gourmet Natural Cooking

Alison Anton's Natural Cooking Blog offers healthy recipes, inspirational food articles and culinary advice for the natural chef, and features dessert recipes from her upcoming cookbook, Desserts for Every Body.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How to Make Your Own Homemade Nut Milk

I've been making my own nut milks for years, but it wasn't until recently (as soon as I let go of my raw cow milk share) that I needed a healthy, sustainable solution for my daily green smoothies. Sure, I can buy nut milks in those asceptic containers from the alternative milk aisle, but I dread seeing anything unnecessarily going into the recycle bin. Making my own nut milk and storing it in mason jars was the only acceptable option for me.

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I also get to vary the nuts and seeds I use, instead of feeling limited to what's available at the market. Brazil nut milk is my favorite, but I also use walnuts, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, hazelnuts, and of course almonds. Another benefit of making my own is that
I get to decide if the milk gets sweetened or not (and with what sweetener and how much) and I'm not forced to consume the added oils, starches, gums and thickeners that tend to come along for the ride with the store-bought brands.

What You Need
  • Organic nuts or seeds. A general rule is one cup of nuts for every three cups of milk you want to make.
  • Half-gallon mason jar or glass pitcher. Use this for soaking the nuts and storing your final product.
  • Blender of food processor. You don't need a high-speed blender or anything fancy to make nut milk.
  • Nut milk bag, cheesecloth or fine-meshed sieve (optional). Use if you like your milk smooth instead of pulpy.
It's as Easy as 1, 2, 3

1. Soak and rinse the nuts. Soak the nuts in water to cover overnight. Soaking de-activates the compounds that keep the nuts dormant, and activates the enzymes that make them sprout. Soaked nuts and seeds tend to be easier to digest and have better bio-availability, meaning that the nutrients have an enhanced ability to be utilized by the cells. Plus, soaking the nuts makes them tender enough to blend. Drain the water and rinse the nuts well before using.

2. Blend the soaked nuts with water. Place the soaked nuts into a blender or food processor and add about 3 cups of fresh water for each cup of presoaked nuts. If you want a thicker, richer milk, decrease the amount of water to your liking. Blend until the nuts are very fine ground and the water has turned a light milky color.

3. Strain the pulp (optional). I choose not to strain my nut milk for a couple reasons: For one, I use the milk for smoothies and I like the milk thick. Secondly, I don't like throwing away fiber. Although nuts aren't notoriously high in fiber, they have it, and I like to get it anywhere I can. But smooth is good, especially if you want a nice drinkable glass of milk. For smooth milk, it needs to be strained. A nut milk bag is used specifically for this purpose: It's clean and easy and also reusable. A cheesecloth folded in 3-4 layers or a large fine-meshed sieve also work well. The pulp can be used for a variety of purposes (see below).

Flavoring and Sweetening Your Milk

The milk can be drunk as is, but I like to add a touch of one or more of the following for new flavor dimensions:

Cocoa and SpicesFlavorings:
  • Vanilla extract
  • Almond extract
  • Raw cocoa powder
  • Sweet spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. Whole fresh, crushed spices like ginger root, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks can be steeped into the milk while chilling (let it steep 12-24 hours for the best flavor)
  • Fresh fruit (remember strawberry milk?)
  • Liquid stevia extract
  • Maple syrup
  • Raw, unfiltered honey
  • Agave nectar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Dates
Which Nuts Should You Use?

The most commonly used nut for milk is the almond because it lends a mellow nutty flavor. But don't rule out other varieties; just take into consideration that the milk will retain the distinct flavor of the nut or seed that is used.

Try any of these nut or seed options, or a blend of two or three:

Nuts: Almonds, Cashews, Brazil nuts, Hazelnuts, Macadamias, Pecans, Pistachios, Walnuts

Seeds: Hemp, Sunflower, Flax, Chia, Pumpkin, Sesame, Pine nuts

To Pulp or Not to Pulp? That is the Last Question

If you want a smooth milk for sipping, you're going to end up with at least a cup of pulp every time you make your milk. Most people hate to throw it away, as it does have a range of healthy uses. As mentioned above, I just keep it in the milk and use it for thick smoothies.

Here are five ideas for your pulp (if you don't want it in your milk):

1. Nut Flour. The pulp can be dehydrated or placed in a 200 degree oven until dried. Grind the dried pulp in a spice grinder or high-speed blender until fine.

2. Raw cookies. Blend the pulp with some dates, nut butter, shredded coconut and sweet spices. Roll into balls and roll in shredded coconut or raw cocoa powder.

3. Soft, raw cheese. Blend the pulp in a food processor with a little nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, fresh herbs, and salt. Serve with crackers.

4. Cereal. Combine the pulp with your fresh nut milk, dried fruits, nuts and sweet spices for a porridge-like cereal.

5. Body Scrub. A great idea from Raw Food Talk. Let me know how it goes!
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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Poop Scoop - A Guide to Healthy Poops

High-Fiber Recipes Below!

Not much older than eleven or twelve, my friend had us in stitches after her first day of her new babysitting gig: The mom came home and asked if the child had a BM while she was gone. Intuiting that the mom must have been referring to 'poop' but never having heard the term 'BM' before, my friend answered, "You mean a big mess?"

Sadly for most, pooping is a big mess. Ranging from diarrhea to constipation, Americans suffer pain and embarrassment around moving their bowels. Worse is what's happening internally: unhealthy bowel movements are an indication of unhealthy digestion. We can laugh and tell jokes about sitting on the pot for hours reading a newspaper, but in the end, improper digestion is no laughing fecal matter. As they say, "You are what you eat", but you are also what you don't digest.

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What Makes a Healthy Poop?

Healthy bowel movements actually feel good to pass, in which there is an absence of discomfort on both a physical and emotional level. In order for the act of pooping to feel OK emotionally, we need to rid ourselves of the embarrassment associated with it -- be it the smell, having to excuse ourselves, sitting too long in the bathroom, or making funny noises.

Bowel movements change with what we eat; they are not going to be perfect everyday. You can, however, learn to gauge what you eat on how healthy or unhealthy your poops look.

In order to monitor your poops, you have to be willing to really look at them instead of turning a nose up and flushing as fast as you possibly can. While on the pot, notice how it feels. After every poop, take a moment to look at it, and also notice how it smells. Pretty soon, you'll be able to identify a poop that feels good to pass, and how it should look in the toilet.

Signs of Healthy Poop
  • Soft, but formed
  • Medium-light brown in color
  • Consistent shape and color throughout
  • Easy to pass
  • Natural smell, not repulsive (I'm not saying that it will smell good)
  • 12 inches per day (whether in one big 12-inch poop, two 6-inch poops or three 4-inch poops)
Signs of Unhealthy Poop
  • Undigested food particles may indicate that food hasn't been broken down well. There really should be no undigested food in the stool.
  • Loose stools mean that the food hasn't had significant time to move through the intestines. Too much water has remained in the stool (water that was supposed to be absorbed and given to the cells).
  • Hard stools point out that food has remained too long in the colon. Most of the water has been extracted, leaving a hard (and hard to pass) stool.
  • Intermittent hard and soft stools are a tell tale sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The bowel is sporadic and spastic, never knowing what it's going to do next.
  • Small pellets may be an indication of dehydration; not enough water is present to keep the stool soft enough to stay formed in the midst of peristaltic motion.
  • Thin, skinny stools may indicate a tight or tense anal sphincter. The tighter the opening, the thinner the stool will be.
  • Clay or pale colored stools show that there may be a sign of elevated bilirubin - an indicator of poor liver function. If yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice) are also present, a liver test is recommended.
  • Dark or black stools shows that the stool might have been sitting in the colon for too long. The longer poop stays in the bowel, the more dark and compact it will be.
  • Pain or burning around the anus may simply be due to eating spicy foods, but if spices weren't eaten, and the burning persists for more than a few days, the possibility of intestinal or colonic disease should be considered.
  • Noxious smelling stools may point toward toxicity in the digestive organs, namely in the colon where an overgrowth of bacteria may be nesting.
Bowel Transit Time

Digested food should move through the colon in approximately 18 hours, from start to finish. If transit time is considerably longer, the fecal matter will be harder and harder to pass. Intestinal flora may feed on the mass, causing gas, bloating and ultimately damage to the intestinal lining. Toxins may seep into the bloodstream through the permeable bowel lining.

If transit time is too quick, stools will be on the loose side, and you may run the risk of malabsorption, as the digestive system is pressured to absorb nutrients in a hurried manner.

To check bowel transit time: Drink 8 ounces of beet juice or take 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds. Note the time, and check your poops consistently for the next day or two. You should be able to see a reddish hue if you drank the beet juice, or see the little seeds. If you see the evidence well before 18 hours, your transit time may be too quick. If two days have passed before seeing any evidence, you transit time may be too long.

10 ways to improve transit time and overall digestion:

1. Chew your food well to help the stomach in the digestive process.

2. For slower bowels, try eating more raw fruits and vegetables.

3. For a quick bowel, slow the process with more protein and fats with each meal.

Alison Anton4. Drink More Water! A general rule is to drink half your body weight (in ounces) per day. If you weigh 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water.

1 cup = 8 fluid ounces
1 pint = 16 fluid ounces
1 quart = 32 fluid ounces
1/2 gallon = 64 fluid ounces

I have gotten into a good habit of measuring out my daily water rations as soon as I wake up. I fill mason jars with filtered water and make sure I drink it throughout the day, not just in two or three sittings. I often add lemon or cucumber slices, or chopped herbs like mint and lemon balm to add flavor and a burst of nutrients.

5. Eat more high-fiber foods (see recipes below) to aid peristalsis and to sooth the lining of the intestines. Roughage like celery, whole grains, fruit and vegetables, as well as flax seeds, chia seeds and sea vegetables are healthy, high-fiber options.

6. Find out if you're low in stomach acid. If gas and bloating are present immediately after eating, you're probably low. Read my article on Stomach Acid for more information.

7. Take enzyme supplements to help the pancreas and small intestine better digest food that has just left the stomach. Papaya, pineapple and pancreatin (from animal sources) may help.

8. Help the liver in its daily detox by eating bitter greens, lemon and cruciferous vegetables. My rule is: one bitter, leafy green and one cruciferous vegetable a day.

9. Keep intestinal flora balanced. On a daily basis, stay away from refined foods, overly sweet foods and foods that you think you are reactive to. Antimicrobials like garlic, oregano and thyme, as well as probiotic formulas help keep the bad bacteria at bay.

10. Exercise. Moving the body moves the bowels.

OK... One more...
11. Reduce extraneous stress in your life. Stress can throw off hormones and neurotransmitters that have a significant say in the digestive process. When stressed, digestion gets put on hold to deal with the immediacy of the stressful situation.


Apple-Celery SlawApple-Celery Slaw
A jumble of crisp celery, tart apples, onions and raisins combine with a tangy yogurt dressing for a refreshing summer or fall salad. High in soluble fiber, it's a winner for boosting digestion. This salad also targets liver health: Sour foods kick-start liver metabolism; lemon helps break down gallstones, and parsley is a potent detoxifier...

Apple-Celery SlawFiggie Plum Parfait with Macadamia Nut Cream
Sweet, ripe, fresh plums are pureed with dried figs and dates to make a smooth, mildly sweet chilled pudding. Topped with a healthy whipped cream replacement, it makes a "good for you" treat with a lovely presentation. This dessert is high in fiber to help slow sugar absorption and promote healthy bowel flow..


1.Jensen, Bernard. Dr. Jensen's Guide to Better Bowel Care. New York: Paragon Press. 1999.
2. Chek, Paul. How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy. San Diego: CHEK Institute. 2007.
3. Rubin, Jordan S, NMD and Brasco, Joseph, MD. Restoring Your Digestive Health. New York: Twin Streams Books. 2003.
4. Palmer, Melissa, M.D. Hepatitis and Liver Disease-What You Need to Know. New York: Penguin Putnam, Inc. 2000.
5. Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts. Natural Chef Instructor Slides. Penngrove: Bauman College. 2009.
6. Lipski, Elizabth, Ph.D. Digestive Wellness. New York: McGraw Hill. 2005.
7. Gershon, Michael, M.D. The Second Brain. New York: Harper Collins. 1998.
8. Burning Bowel. 2009.
Health Castle. Fiber 101: Soluble Fiber vs. Insoluble Fiber. 2009.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Coo Coo for Coconuts

How to Open a Coconut and Coconut recipes below!

Somewhere in the 50's, coconut oil got a bad rap due to its high levels of saturated fats. Coconut oil does indeed have the highest content of saturated fat of all the vegetable oils. With fat phobia prevalent in the West, it's not surprising that coconuts (oil, milk, juice and all) got put on the shelf.

Saturated fats aren't all that bad. We actually need them. We need them to maintain cell structure, for immunity, and to utilize essential fatty acids, just to name a few. As a saturated fat, coconut oil has some powerful benefits.

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Coconut oil is one of the most stable fats, meaning that it has a
high smoking point so you can cook with it at moderately high temperatures without having to worry about the heat changing its chemical makeup, making it harmful to eat. For this reason alone, it's my number one choice for sautéing. Coconut oil also has a good long shelf life, lasting much longer than its poly- and mono-unsaturated counterparts, like canola, safflower, soy, peanut or olive oil. It also makes a handy pantry item for cooking burns or sunburns.

What's best is that nearly half of this saturated fat is in the form of
lauric acid, which is only found abundantly in one other food: human breast milk. This fatty acid acts as an antiviral and antibacterial agent to rid the body of disease-causing organisms. According to Naturopath Michael Murray in his book The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, approximately 12 grams of lauric acid are provided in 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 3 tablespoons of creamed coconut, half a can of coconut milk or half a cup of dried coconut meat.

But that's not all... High in electrolytes, coconut juice (the water inside the coconut) provides energy before and after exercise, on hot days, or when recovering from an illness or dehydration. Electrolytes are minerals that charge nerves and make us "go". For more information on electrolyte minerals, see my blog post Electrolytes for Energy and Endurance. Everyone needs electrolytes, and drinking coconut juice is a natural (and delicious!) way to get them.

What's the Difference Between Coconut Milk and Coconut Water?

Coconut Juice, or coconut water, is the pure, clear liquid that pours right out of a young coconut shell. A good young coconut will be filled with this nectar. The juice is very sweet and has a soothing quality, but it may take a newbie a few swigs to adjust their palate to the exotic taste. I buy cans of it for everyday drinking (my favorite brand is Amy and Brian's with pulp, found at natural food stores) but the ultimate is to open a fresh young coconut yourself and savor the sweetness. Nothing beats it.

Coconut Milk is the inside flesh of the coconut pureed with water. More or less water is used, and "lite" versions can now be purchased that have less meat and more water. I recommend the full-fat varieties, as they have a deeper, richer flavor and more nutritional benefits. Again, making your own at home from a fresh coconut can't be beat. I use the milk for smoothies and curries.

I've Seen Green, White and Brown Coconuts

There are different varieties of coconut palms, but basically when purchasing, they can be found either young or mature. A
young coconut (see pictorial below) is sold inside its casing, or husk. It is a large green nut and is picked before it naturally falls to the ground. The husk is carved for ease of opening, and what is left is the white inside of the husk, carved into a point at the top end. The inner shell is easy to pry open and the young meat is soft, sweet and almost gelatinous. Young coconuts are found in the produce section of natural food stores or Asian markets.

mature coconut husk turns light brown on the tree. The husk is completely removed and what is left when purchasing is the hard, round inner shell. Mature coconuts take a bit more strength to open, and the meat is thicker, harder and chewier. The water is usually bitter.

How to Open a Young Coconut - Yes, You CAN try this at home!
(written directions below)

How to Open a Coconut - Step By Step

STEP 1 - Exposing the hard shell from under the white casing

Lay the whole white coconut on its side in front of you with the pointed side of the coconut towards your cutting hand. Use a good chef's knife (no, you do not need a butcher knife) to cut diagonally into the white fibrous casing along the pointed edges. If you are doing it correctly and going deep enough into the casing, you'll come across the hard shell underneath. Essentially, you are cutting along the diagonal point to expose the hard shell underneath.

STEP 2 - Whacking the shell
Sit the coconut upright on the flat end (it should now have the top of the hard round shell exposed, facing upward). Using the heal end of the knife (the thick bottom corner) whack into the coconut shell at a 40 degree angle. Do not use the blade, use the thick corner heal. If done correctly, the heal of the knife should be sticking into the coconut shell a bit.

STEP 3 - Wedging the coconut shell open
Use the heal of the knife to wedge the coconut open a bit, by wedging the knife back and forward, up and down, to widen the crack. Wedge the heal of the knife into the crack, allowing a bigger gap to pry open.

STEP 4: Opening the shell
Remove the knife and use your fingers to pry off the top of the shell. The top of the shell should pull off surprisingly easy in one nice piece.

STEP 5 - Getting the water
The coconut should be full of water. Pour this delicious nectar into a large bowl or mason jar. The water should be clear; if it is pink or purple, it is going bad and should be discarded.

STEP 6: Scooping out the meat
Run a thin, flexible plastic or metal spatula between the delicate white flesh and the hard shell to remove the meat. The meat should be soft and white; if gooey, pink or purple, the meat is going bad and should be discarded.

Coconut Recipes

Raw Pad Thai
Fresh young coconut meat replaces conventional rice noodles in this sweet and spicy Thai dish. Don't be frightened just 'cause you've never opened a coconut -- It's easier than you think...

Coconut Creamsicles
Make these dreamy summer treats at home with a popsicle tray, or ditch the plastic by using Dixie cups and wooden craft sticks, directions below. This quick and easy version uses canned coconut milk; if you are up to the task, using fresh coconut meat and its water are ideal...

Toasted Shredded Coconut / Thai-Style Trail Mix
Toasting coconut brings out the natural sugars and hightens the coconut flavors. Use it as a topping for desserts or make your own Thai-Style Trail Mix, below...

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Tale of Indigestion -- It All Starts in the Stomach

"Try taking a stomach acid supplement", offered a colleague when I expressed a need for reprieve from my chronic indigestion. "Nah", I retorted, "my digestive troubles are deep in my gut, not my stomach".

I thought my statement was accurate, for I rarely observed pain, burning or heartburn in or around my stomach. I always felt the symptoms localized in my lower belly -- bloating, gas, pain and constipation to name a few.

"Just try it", she countered.

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Both skeptical and hopeful, I took her recommendation. Since then, I have surprisingly seen remarkable improvements in my digestive health. After over a decade of fruitless searching (and thousands of dollars on dietary supplements, books and visits to doctors, nutritionists and naturopaths) I finally began healing the issue from the digestive "starting line", my stomach, rather than just treating the symptoms down the pike.

Treating Indigestion from North to South

Digestion flows from top to bottom, and according to Biotics Research representative Daniel Broenning, BS, CNN, treatment should follow this same path, starting with chewing food carefully and fully. The stomach, of course, is next in line -- if there's too little stomach acid to break down proteins and to cleave mineral bonds, digestive ailments and chronic diseases can arise from the body's reaction to improperly digested food that leaves the upper GI tract to venture down into the intestines (1).

In a healthy stomach with proper pH, complex chemical signals are relayed to nearby digestive organs (the pancreas and liver) right as the food leaves the stomach to the duodenum (upper intestine) (2). These chemical messages tell the organs that food is on its way, and that the food will be highly acidic from its acid bath in the stomach. In turn, the pancreas will release bicarbonate to alkalinize the acid, and enzymes to continue the operation of breaking down food into smaller and smaller particles. Bile is also released from the gall bladder to digest fats. This intricate communication is reliant on the acidity in the stomach. If the stomach is not within a pH range of 1.5 to 2.5, the pancreas and liver will not release enough of the essential components to alkalinize and break down the food once it leaves the stomach, often causing irritating and often harmful problems later down the line, including malnutrition and inflammatory bowel disease.

Symptoms of indigestion resulting from low stomach acid:
  • Gas and bloating immediately following a meal
  • Offensive breath, body odor and foul smelling stool
  • Indigestion, diarrhea or constipation
  • Black or tarry-colored stools
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Stomach pains or cramps
  • Multiple food allergies and environmental sensitivities
  • Excessive fullness after meals
  • Heartburn or acid reflux
Yes... Acid Reflux

Why would acid reflux be on the symptoms list for low stomach acid? Wouldn't heartburn indicate too much acid?

Not always.

Ironically, millions of Americans are popping pills to decrease stomach acid when many, maybe most, actually have too little. Stomach acid naturally decreases with age. In fact, half the people over the age of sixty have hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) and by age eighty-five, 80 percent of the healthy people tested had low stomach acid (3).

Low stomach acid can actually produce the same symptoms as too much acid, namely the feeling of burning in the stomach and acid reflux into the esophagus. This is due to fermentation of undigested food in the stomach that is not properly exposed to suitable amounts of stomach acid (4). Fermentation produces large amounts of gas that pushes stomach acid and food back up into the esophagus. I guess you could technically call this "acid reflux", but better to call it a "gaseous eruption".

Popping antacids will do nothing long term for this. You may get some relief by alkalizing the refluxing acid and whatever acid is left in your stomach, but if you are chronically low, reducing the acid even further will most likely worsen your symptoms later on.

Burning in the stomach may also be caused by a bacterium called h-pylori. H-pylori can be a serious threat: it burrows deep into the mucosal layer of the stomach and halts the production of stomach acid to keep it alive. This bacterium is a known cause of stomach cancer (5). If you think you may be at risk for h-pylori, have your doctor test you.

How to Increase Stomach Acid with Food, Supplements and Lifestyle

HCl with Betaine Supplement - Until the body can begin secreting adequate amounts of HCl (hydrochloric acid) on its own, supplemental HCl can be used. I use Thorne Research that can be purchased over-the-counter through Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy or ordered online. Take one capsule with a meal. If you do not feel a sense of warmth in the stomach, increase to two capsules at the next meal. Continue increasing the dose by one capsule per meal (interspersed throughout the meal) until you feel a distinct warm sensation in the stomach (you may be taking anywhere from 1-8 capsules per meal). As soon as you feel warmth, drop the dose by one capsule at the next meal (6).

Note: If you take only one HCl capsule and experience warmth, you may need a different blend of HCl, or lesser dose per capsule, or none at all. Specialized low-dose HCl products can be purchased from professional health practitioners.

Digestive Bitters Tincture - (See recipe below to make your own). Bitter foods stimulate the stomach to make more of its own acid. Take a dropper-full of bitter tincture before each meal.

L-Glutamine and Deglycyrrhiizinated Licorice - These supplements can help repair the acid secreting cells in the stomach (7). They are also excellent at repairing the digestive tract from top to bottom.

Umeboshi Plum - (See Umeshoyu Dressing recipe below). These salty little fermented plums can be sucked on or eaten before a meal. Purchase them whole or in paste-form at natural foods stores in the Asian section.

Chew Your Food - Digestion essentially starts in the mouth. Chewing food deliberately and slowly increases the surface area of the food, making the stomach's job considerably easier. Chewing also stimulates the stomach to produce acid. Get in the habit of chewing each bite at least 25-50 times before swallowing.

Eat Smaller Meals - While its OK to over-indulge on special occasions, keep meals smaller on a daily basis. It can be hard on the stomach to produce enough acid on an over-stuffed stomach.


Digestive Bitters Tincture
Take a dropper of this digestive blend before each meal to stimulate acid production in the stomach. Amounts do not need to be exact. Most items, including dropper bottles, can be purchased at a local herb store or ordered online...

Umeboshi PlumsUmeshoyu Dressing
This simple, Asian dressing doubles as a digestive aid. Drizzle over steamed vegetables, chicken or fish. You can find packaged whole umeboshi plums or paste in the Asian section of your local natural foods market...

1. Broenning, Daniel, BS, CCN. DSD International. Biotics Research Telecourse Series: The Gut Part 1. 2009.
2. Gershon, Michael M.D. The Second Brain. Harper Collins. New York. 1998.
3. Lipski, Elizabeth Ph.D. Digestive Wellness. McGraw Hill. New York. 2005.
4. Bauman College Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts. Nutrition Educator Handbook: Role of the Gastrointestinal Tract. Penngrove, California. 2009.
5. Mayo Clinic. H-Pylori Infection: Complications. 2009.
6. Livers, Erin. Nutrition Therapist. Boulder, Colorado. 2008.
7. Balch, Phyllis A., CNC and Balch, James F., M.D. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. Avery. New York, New York. 2000.
8. Non-Drug Options for GERD: Except from Men's Journal Magazine. 2009.
9. Donna Gates' Body Ecology Diet. Low Stomach Acid: The Risks, the Symptoms, and the Solutions. 2009.
10. Allergy Self-Help. Low Acid Self-Help. 2009.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Fish Schooling - How to Cook a Whole Fish

Although there might be something intimidating for you about cooking a fish whole -- head, tail, skin and all -- I assure you that the process is easy. It's actually hard to flub up, as the delicate meat is enveloped in a protective layer of skin. And... if you're up to the gills with the cost of seafood, buying fish whole is an economical way to go (check out the difference in price-per-pound next time you pass the seafood counter).

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The first thing to do is purchase your whole fish. Buy them fresh from the seafood section -- or if you're lucky, from a seafood market or the dock itself -- and avoid pre-packaged fish. Any small to medium-sized whole fish will do, but you'll probably only find one or two available in most markets; the three most commonly displayed are trout, snapper or sea bass. If it hasn't been done already, make sure the fish is scaled and de-gutted.

A Fish to Fry

There are many ways to cook a whole fish; here are a few of the most common methods:

Broiled - This is a cooking technique where the heat is high and usually comes from above. The fish is placed close to the heat source to attain a browned or charred texture before moving the fish to the center of the oven to finish it off.

Directions (also see recipe below): Heat the broiler to high heat. Slash the fish in diagonal slices for even cooking. Place the fish directly under the broiler until the skin is charred, about 3 minutes. Remove to the center of the oven and finish for about 6 minutes, until the meat easily flakes with a fork and the meat is opaque throughout.

Pan-Fried - Pan-fried fish are usually cooked over medium to high heat. The skin gets crispy, while the inside stays nice a moist. Butter, ghee or coconut oil are the healthiest choices for higher heat cooking, as they have a higher smoking point than the more delicate oils. Olive oil is suitable if the pan is only moderately hot.

Directions (also see recipe below): Heat a couple tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook for 5 minutes. Carefully flip with two spatulas or a long fish spatula and cook the other side for another 4-5 minutes, until the meat flakes easily with a fork.

Grilled - Although grilling is a tasty way to eat whole fish, extra care has to be made to keep the skin from sticking to the grill. Steady, medium heat is best, and always make sure to generously oil the fish and the grill before placing the fish on the barbie.

Directions: Heat the grill to medium heat. Oil the grill and the fish to keep it from sticking. Slash the fish in diagonal slices to help the fish cook evenly. Lay the fish on the grill with the tail furthest away from the heat to keep it from cooking faster than the thick middle section. Cook each side 4-6 minutes, carefully turning only once to prevent the fish from falling apart.

Alison AntonClay Pot Baked - Clay pot cooking keeps food tender and moist; it's almost foolproof. Clay pots are a popular method of cooking fish in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Asia. Shallow clay pots formed beautifully in the shape of a fish can be found in gourmet specialty shops.

Directions: Soak the clay pot in water for 10 minutes. Set the fish in the pot and place in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 425-450 and bake for about 30 minutes, until the fish is flaky and opaque throughout.

Dishing Your Fish

The simplest filling for a whole fish will suffice: Fresh herbs, lemon, olive oil or butter and salt is all that's required. A simple finishing sauce made of butter, olive oil and a touch of white wine or lemon juice makes a perfect accompaniment. For an Asian flair, try soy sauce, sweet rice wine, garlic and ginger.

I like serving the fish whole with its skin, spine, head and tail intact. The rustic look invites romance and makes a showy presentation. Your guests can open it up like a book and flake off the tender meat, or they can pop the crispy skin into their mouths... one delectable bite at a time.

Whole Fish with Lemon and Rosemary
Rosemary, lemon, olive oil... that's it, and a little sea salt to bring out the flavors of this classic combination. Try this simple recipe with sea bass, trout, snapper or grouper. (Pictured here are trout.) A few of the cooked rosemary sprigs can be minced into a side of rice or quinoa...

Left-Over Fish Salad
This is my favorite way to use up the left-over meat from a whole cooked fish. I use an avocado mash flavored with mustard and honey to replace mayonaisse and have included fresh asparagus and Egyptian walking onions from the farmers' market. Use any diced vegetables you have in the fridge...