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Posts from the ‘healthy food’ Category

Looking for wild things in the wild

Before I fly home, I definitely had to make some mushroom picking trips.

It’s something I miss a lot in Canada and which is plenty in Latvia.

It’s a land which has maintained its ecological integrity. Forests are quite wild and frequently not that much walked or travelled, although, large number of people would enjoy them, pick wild berries and mushrooms there. These natural forests are extra clean compared to highly developed countries.

It might sound like a walk in the park, but it actually isn’t. It’s not that easy to get over the fallen tree trunks and branches, bushes, thick young firs, aspens, birches and bushes. There is no path usually and one goes led by intuition or guess since wild mushrooms do not grow everywhere, but they are friendly neighbors of some particular tree and moss combination, as well as they like some grasses and dislike or never grow near others. King boletes love outskirts of the forest and can be also found near old roads. The orange-capped boletes grow rather in long grasses, but every forest is different and one has to figure out where they might be hiding.

It is a sporting activity that carries a lot of excitement, hence, finding a bunch of king boletes makes one happy and also proud.

The rainfalls and pretty warm weather this September definitely helped mushrooms grow fast and almost in every forest.

I regret I do not know such places in Ontario, but one should most likely drive for many hours in order to find a clean place where wild mushrooms love growing. It was just slightly out-of-town in Latvia, but we made lots of stops. Every ditch that separates road from the forest was full of water, and getting in the forest was a challenge.

I personally enjoy to a huge extent picking mushrooms, I like eating them, as well, but still: nothing compares to overcoming all obstacles and getting a full basket of nice and valuable mushrooms. King boletes belong to the most nutritious wild mushrooms and they are pride of everybody who takes a walk in the forest. It is believed they help conquering even cancer, not to mention that their protein content can exceed the amount of proteins in meat. Dried king boletes contain more protein than meat.

It is a wonderful food and can be prepared in very many ways: Latvians make mushroom sauces, soups of mushrooms; we dehydrate and dry them and use afterwards either as powder or spice; dried mushrooms can be added to broth, soup and any other dish. We pickle them and prepare delicious salads. Wild mushrooms can be prepared with salt for winter and then eaten any way one likes. They go into pies, and it is not only a snack, but a very delicious main course on many Latvian dinner tables.

Enjoy the pictures! Well, some picture-taking was very tricky since I had the basket on one arm, it was heavy, not less than 4 kg, I balanced myself on some small dry patch and here and there it was almost impossible to place the phone so that it would take a picture.

Golden chanterelle

The poisonous beauties: fly agarics or fly amanitas

The bright red poisonous mushrooms frequently signal that king boletes are not far

Small king bolete getting out of moss after rain

To get the close-up, I pushed moss down, a bit  larger king bolete

Orange cap aspen boletes, so lovely!

This family of orange cap aspen boletes was hiding in long grasses

Full basket of orange cap and king boletes

Absolutely delicious and extraordinary beautiful

They were so firm and so fresh

I took like 100 pictures, I couldn’t resist because I rarely have such an opportunity

I will catch up with my blog friends once I am back home. My trip will take some time and, unfortunately, there is large time zone difference, and that will require adjustment from my side.

 

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The patient, calming and adorable garden neighbor cucumber: love it, eat it, pickle it!

Cucumbers are in the season. At least in my backyard garden, I can enjoy plenty of small pickling cucumbers and also long English type of cucumbers.

Cucumber recipes

There are so many reasons to fall in love with this guy: preparation of salad or cucumber juice takes practically no time. Adding cucumber to salads and cold soups, gives them so much more freshness and flavor. I come originally from Latvia, which is a place where everybody has a garden or at least some balcony or backyard plants. Cucumber time in Latvia is associated with snacking on quick pickles, one hour pickles and tonnes of fresh garden salads.

Vegetables in the garden: cucumbers

My artistic side cannot stop adoring the shape of leaves, blooms and vegetables, they are so attractive! I have painted and drawn them numerous times.

I am not sure whether the grocery store vegetables will do the same because of shipping and storage, but fresh ones from the garden can do a lot to improve our health. I personally simply love the flavor, the look and the taste of these easy to grow vegetables. All they need is watering fairly rich soil and some string to travel up.

Cucumbers: fresh vegetables

I can tell from my own experience: having about one cucumber with dill and green onions a day stabilized my very moody blood glucose levels. It became so stable that I was really surprised, I’m not sure what I will do in winter, but it works excellently for now, especially because I love eating them.

I will briefly mention that cucumbers:

refresh your breath, cure gums, destroy bad bacteria in the mouth

facilitate digestion and metabolism, kill bad bacteria in the gut, cure constipation

carry out toxins present in the body due to very specific substances they contain

stabilize blood glucose, especially with dill

stabilize blood pressure, especially with dill, because dill is a very well known blood pressure reducing herb

using for longer term, prevents cancers due to lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol that cucumbers contain

reduce bad cholesterol due to sterols they contain

flavor will calm you and put in a better mood, this is scientifically tested and found to be working

cucumbers are an ideal product for weight loss: very few calories and lots of good stuff!

refresh skin, decrease swelling under eyes

cure sunburnt skin

help with hangover.

We could continue and continue.

Cucumbers are inexpensive and when in season: always available from farmers market and in our own garden.

So, I picked some along with plenty of dills and blossoming dill and dill stems:

Dill: the wonderful herb

For inspiration some Latvian recipes from series: I have very little time and money

cucumber recipes ingredients

5 minute cucumber salad

Cut cucumber in medium thin slices. Small cucumbers and any cucumbers must be pealed (if needed, because sometimes they have thick skin) always from the light end; this prevents from getting the whole vegetable bitter. In dry weather, small cucumbers can become bitter.

Chop generously fresh dill and green onion.

Dress with either: sour cream plus small bit of neutral mild vinegar; mix of mayonnaise and whipping cream, like I do; olive oil plus mild vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Salt is added on cucumbers directly before serving, otherwise they release too much juice and water.

Cucumber salad recipe

Dill goes so well with cucumber and has similar properties: regulates blood pressure and blood glucose levels

1 hour quick pickles

Choose a plastic or glass dish with tight lid.

Combine 2 teaspoons honey or sugar; 1.5 table spoons vinegar; 0.5 teaspoons salt, freshly ground pepper, 2-3 cloves of garlic, cut in smaller pieces on 1 long cucumber or 2 small ones, mix

Cut cucumber in slices, they don’t need to be very thin, add plenty of chopped dill and finely chopped green onion. Close with lid. Shake well for about 30 seconds. Leave in room temperature for about 20 minutes, place in fridge until the meal time. 20 minutes is already enough. Serve.

1 hour pickles

Next day mild pickles

Pour water in a pot. Amount depends on how many jars you make.

On 1 litre water: 2 table spoons kosher salt; 2 table spoons sugar

Bring to boil. Meanwhile wash small pickling cucumbers. Cut off both ends. Stuff in a jar blossoming dill/dill with stems, 2-3 cloves of garlic per 1 l jar; add some whole pepper, place cucumbers tightly. Cherry and black currant leaves go well with it. Use just 1-2 on each jar. Pour over hot water. If desired, add some spoon of vinegar, but that is not necessary if you don’t like vinegar. Put on lid, leave in room temperature for quicker results, place in fridge to use after 2 days.

Next day ready pickles

When left in room temperature, these pickles are ready after 12-15 hours, sometimes even faster. The smaller vegetables, the faster they get pickled. They absorb neither much sugar, nor salt. If you add very little, there won’t have any decent taste. We have very many variations of this type of cucumber recipes in Latvia, I just described the absolutely simplest and quickest.

Cucumber recipes

I love all of these, and I put new quick pickles in some jar every second day. After I’m done with quick pickles, I will put in some cucumbers for winter. Winter pickling recipe is obviously different.

Avoiding harmful chemicals and making good choices to quench our thirst is a big deal

While standing in the grocery store line, it’s impossible not to pay attention to what people are putting in their shopping carts. There is pretty large crowd which walks around the store with flyers in their hand looking for deals and discounts. Well, it’s not that the best products or the freshest ones get into this flyer, but we can sometimes get promotional products at very inexpensive prices. However, the most deals are offered for unhealthy and processed food and drinks.

I would say there’s a reason why soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi and Sprite family drinks are banned from schools and their neighbourhoods in quite a few European countries. My native country Latvia has always been strict with such foods and drinks, the positive side is that we didn’t even see them or know they existed until borders were opened in 1991, and the Latvian market was flushed with North American chemical foods and fast food places appeared. We had practically no obesity and related issues until the era of imported stuff begun. Believe or not unlike in Canada, real dairy products are still available in Latvia. It’s always up to consumers because manufacturers will try to meet the demand. When consumers show their dissatisfaction with chemically enhanced food, manufacturers and food producers have no other way, but to offer food and drinks which are in line with healthy eating guidelines and which are compliant with restrictions in use of chemical ingredients.

I’ve read in some surveys how people who told Coke was a total poison and Pepsi was a pure junk were attacked. That makes one wonder: are there really too few obesity, type 2 diabetes, digestive and heart and blood vessel associated diseases and cases yet? Isn’t there proof enough that not real food, proteins, carbohydrates and fats make a person sick, but their chemical substitutes and surrogate ingredients? Nobody would need to ever diet or fight the unwanted pounds if all of a sudden fast food, processed food and chemically produced food and drinks disappeared. However, that is NOT going to happen because profits always come first. There is a wide range in standards for chemicals and their maximum contents in food products. Therefore, the choice is ours: we all can exclude chemicals, fast food and processed foods from our menu. To some extent at least, because vegetables, fruit, berries, herbs and organic products are still a subject to standards, and these standards allow for plenty of variation. Organic DOES NOT mean the product is completely free of chemicals, pesticides and fertilizers. Organic means the amount of harmful chemicals meets the stated limits.

It has been abnormally hot in Canada, Ontario for the last 2 weeks. We are expecting one more heat wave. Everybody will need to quench their thirst, and everybody will have a choice: use pure water, mineral water or fruit flavored water for hydration, or just grab some soft drink, milk shake and juice. When we talk about hydration, there is nothing better than PURE water. There simply isn’t. For quite a few reasons: for its chemical formula, for the fast absorption rate, for its friendly attitude towards our cell structure and for its lack of chemicals (however, some tap water can contain a lot chlorine, even antibiotics, even metformin which is blood sugar lowering drug, even residues of very harmful chemical elements: everything which does not degrade naturally and fast within the source of drinking water). We are very fine when we use MODERATE amounts of water because overdoing anything has bad consequences (hyponatremia or deficit of sodium in the blood stream). Everything else will have some additional something: juice is too high in sugar, soft drinks are high in sugar and mainly consist of chemicals, milk shakes and ice-cream based drinks have way too many calories. The only thing we actually need is to hydrate ourselves and maintain a good functionality, isn’t it? We don’t have to intake as many calories as with meal for this purpose.

How about kids? Kids will use whatever their parents are offering them from early childhood. When the family does not use soft drinks, kid will never have cravings for them. When the family is not addicted to sugars and fast foods, kid will never know such disorders as type 2 diabetes even exist. Some parents are very worried that child does not eat enough. Well, normal kid will not starve himself to the point when some disorders occur. Kid could be reluctant to drink enough water, though. I also told this in my previous post: making fruit flavored water with colorful slices of citrus fruits is a good idea because this type of drink does not raise the content of sugars noticeably, but hydrates well. Nobody has appetite when the blood glucose level is too high. We humans are having lots of signals in place to know when we are hungry (and being hungry is really good, but not starving), therefore, if kid has had some sugar-rich food or drink before, they will not be interested in eating normal meal. Adding colored ice to such drinks is also a nice thing: we can freeze small mint leaves in ice cubs, we can freeze tea and juice to add to water, it looks very attractive.

My photos of fruit flavored water and ice

Fruit flavored water

Colorful, fresh and healthy

Mineral water good choice to quench our thirst

Mineral water: good choice to quench our thirst

Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water

Add fruit and ice to regular bottled water

Sparkling mineral water

For people who want to stay away from alcohol: using sparkling water with lime and mint allows to get rid of cravings for alcohol

Still life with water and fruit

Fresh and delicious: what’s not to like?

I’m always embarrassed how when we have to stop on the roadside while travelling for some snack these places always will push one to have a Coke or Pepsi with food, but when I ask whether they have sparkling water or mineral water, they quite often don’t. Well, I usually get by asking for water with lime.

Stay hydrated and use healthy water to quench your thirst!

The Midsummer magic in Latvian style

Midsummer or Summer Solstice is celebrated in quite a few countries, nations and places; however, I don’t know any other place than Latvia where people so much love the Midsummer night which is called „Līgo”. This is practically not translatable; it comes from ancient times and is used after every line of Latvian midsummer folk-songs. The closest interpretation might be “sway or swing”, just like plants or trees are swaying in a light wind. There are plenty of folk-songs, and these songs have come to us through very many centuries, they have originated some 1500 years ago and given verbally from generation to generation. No powers, natural disasters or governing rules could make these songs and the Midsummer celebration extinct, even though many tried to prohibit Latvians to celebrate “Līgo”, especially Germans and Russians and especially after the WWII during the communist times.

Well, Latvia is such a tiny country, but the spiritual and intellectual side of life is a big deal over there. Latvians are a nation of singers; they were overcoming all troubles and all disasters cheering up themselves with such folk-songs. I will attach a link which shows one adapted “Līgo” song performed by Latvian choirs during the Song Festival which takes place every 4 years.

Magic rituals, superstitions, simply traditions and solstice magic: everything is carried out and present during the night of June 23. It is supposed to be the shortest night, although, we know June 21 or June 22 are the shortest nights.

Ligo My small Midsummer  treats

We have special foods to enjoy: special cheese with caraway seeds, beer, special small pies and similar.

I managed to make my Midsummer cheese this year, as well. That is definitely my most favorite cheese of all of them. It is difficult to make it using Canadian products because they are not quite the same as in Latvia. However, the taste is excellent, I had some slices already.

Latvian Midsummer

This night is celebrated outdoors: with bonfires, dancing and singing. This year I’m not going to Sidrabene where Canadian Latvians have Midsummer Festival, it is not the same anyway. “Līgo” belongs to Latvia, we can imitate it, we can try, but it still is very different from the original celebration in Latvia.

Midsummer treats: caraway seed cheese

The nice thing is being able to wear a flower wreath: women wear wreaths from any flowers, grasses or leaves, men usually wear large wreaths made of oak leaves.

Fresh midsummer strawberries

Latvians have names days and celebrate them even more than birthdays. June 23 is the day when Jānis has the name’s day. Jānis (we say this not with an English “J”, but like in “young”, just with long “a”). Many Latvian men are given a name “Jānis”. It said 58, 400 men will celebrate their name’s day this year, meaning, they all have name “Jānis” and wear the big oak wreath. “Jānis” in Latvian mythology was supposed to be the God’s son who rides around during this night and blesses fields, meadows, forests and homes: brings fertility, abundance and good luck.

Latvian Midsummer caraway seed cheese

The Midsummer cheese, Midsummer wreath and Midsummer bonfire are all round to honor the Sun and to celebrate its victory over night. Nights are very short around this time in Latvia, there are only few darker hours between 12 and 3 pm, and afterwards the light returns.

Young and not that young couples are going to look for the blossom of a fern. Ferns according to the Latvian mythology are blossoming only during this night, only in rare places, and not everybody can find or see these blossoms. The folk-song says: all flowers were blossoming; only the fern did not. It was blossoming on the Midsummer night with golden blooms.

Ligo 7

Midsummer is the moment of full blooming when the beauty becomes so obvious that it is impossible not to notice it, when love is so close that it becomes touchable. It is a time of fertility in the nature and among humans. It is a time when human becomes a part of the nature again, forgets about civilization, its rules, limitations and restrictions. The Midsummer night is wild in its purest form.

Folk-song adapted to song festival

Just like thousands years ago, a clear and loud “Līgo!” goes up to the sky, and lakes, rivers, hills, forests, fields and meadows respond with an echo. This is believed to be the most magical night when everything is possible and everything can come true.

Why wonder-diets don’t work?

The reality of today is as follows: we have forgotten why we have to eat, instead we are getting obsessed with what, when, how, how much, where to eat. There are many millions of diets and food recommendations, no surprise we get easily lost.

Healthy diet

Why don’t the wonder diets work and why aren’t we all physically and mentally fit and living very long, peaceful, enjoyable life? Based on so much research and findings, it’s about time we should be getting to the point that every single person who follows all countless suggestions about what to eat and what to avoid should be getting extremely healthy and free of diseases and health related problems. In fact, the health situation is becoming worse and worse and we never thought cancer would be present in newborns, yet it is, and in multiple hard to cure forms and very rare forms.

It is very logical to conclude, that something does not add up and something must be profoundly wrong.

fresh vegetables

The first reason why many diets don’t work is that they may be suited to the person/persons who tried them, and they are completely useless or even harmful for you, me or whoever else. How so? Just like our DNA is absolutely unique, everything else about particular person is absolutely unique. While all humans have lots of similarities, they also have plenty of distinctions. Our DNA is much older than our personal age or the age of our closest relatives. It has the knowledge of things we might have no clue about.

Therefore, the main principle in choosing our food should be to use such products which suit the health condition, age, life style and activity level, any existing physical or mental problems and is as natural as possible and is also easy enough to find, get and prepare. That’s theoretically, but practically we should follow more our own feelings, listen to our body, make conclusions and correct our previous mistakes. That means, not everything which is good for some celebrity is good for you or me, that also means that not everybody should or can be a vegetarian, vegan or use any other restrictive food choices, unless clinically indicated. Clinically indicated is: tests are done, and the condition has been confirmed. That means not to base the exclusion of some important food and nutrients just because some other people think they feel better using that type of diet.

Balance and moderation is what nature teaches us. Balance in everything, because it is so easy to overdo with good things and even excellent things.

Healthy habits

The second principle which applies to food, and especially nowadays: we should always choose everything in its most natural form: plants as plants, vegetables as vegetables, grains as grains, etc. The less unchanged something is, the better. What do the grocery stores offer? Those are for the most part already processed foods, packed foods, products with something added, something taken off. Lots of as if improved products: with different flavors, in different colors. There are obviously vegetables and fruits, but I would like to ask: how much of nutrients are you getting when buying your vegetables and fruit at the closest supermarket? Place like Wal-Mart? They’re always busy. The answer is: very little. These vegetables will even look good, they might have some flavour and attractive fragrance, but if they have traveled for thousands of kilometers and then have spent quite a time in storage and sorting departments, it is very unlikely they will have the same amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as the small while ago picked ones.

The most over-used descriptors for food are: fresh, natural and organic.

Organic vegetables

By a short definition natural is present in or produced by nature, and it could no way contain additives, chemicals, sweeteners, flavorants, taste enhancing substances, added vitamins or any substances which were not present in this product when found in a natural environment. Organic food in the context of regulations is food produced in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organizations. These standards greatly vary, there are very distinctive approaches for labelling handling and other procedures as organic. Therefore, organic might cost a lot more, but it does not necessarily mean it is free of pesticides, chemicals or other harmful substances. Basically, organic food would be food which is grown and processed in accordance with standards in that particular country or region and the company putting it out on the market has the certificate.

Vegetables from the garden

What do we choose? Whether organic or not: the freshest and the least processed. I suppose, if we could, we would grow every single product in our backyard. The quality of some stuff is so low in Canada, that I have been seriously thinking about baking my own bread.

Nutrition and fresh vegetables

The attached pictures are from the local farmer’s market. Well, it is a better choice than supermarket, but there is no guarantee you are getting all nutrients you think you are. I will continue in some other post.

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