Ahh, winter. The season for sturdy boots, books by the fire, boardgames and blankies . . . and dietary indulgences! No matter your religion or geography, between Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, New Years and more, you’re probably partaking in some winter festivities. You might be traveling and you’ll most likely drop your daily routine. Almost certainly, you’ll be eating different – and more decadent – foods. And that’s just as it should be! But still, the sudden switch can really do a number on the ol’ insides.
Probiotics are important year-round, but during times of digestive stress, they can be downright lifesavers. So if you’re looking for an easy way to fight “celebration belly” (ha!), my best suggestion is to eat some fermented foods each day. Here are a few of my favorites:
Tempeh is made of whole soy beans, and sometimes whole grains, which are pressed into a patty and then cultured with a special fungus. This process bestows tempeh with a higher protein and vitamin content than other forms of soy. It also gives tempeh that unique, earthy flavor. I have high hopes of making my own tempeh in 2012, but until then I’m still doing store-bought. I like Trader Joe’s for super cheap organic goodness, or LightLife for a gluten-free variety.
Tip: Lightly steam your tempeh (just 5-10 minutes) before you use it. This will cut down on some of the bitterness that newbies may not enjoy. After steaming, use just as instructed.
2. Coconut Yogurt
You can culture any plant-milk to make a yogurt, but coconut is by far my favorite. It’s rich and creamy and tangy and DANG, it’s just so! delicious! I like to make my own, but the commercial stuff (called, wouldn’t you know it? So Delicious) is pretty good. They even make a Greek-style now!
Tip: Use plain unsweetened yogurt in place of sour cream for any savory dish, like tacos or tofu scramble. Or, pop it in the freezer for some homemade frozen yogurt!
It’s not just for kielbasa! Sauerkraut is an amazingly healthful treat, salty and savory and yum yum yummy. I like to eat a forkful all by itself while I’m browsing the fridge, but that’s just me. You can also put it on sandwiches, veggie burgers, not-dogs, salads, savory grits, and anything else your mind can imagine. I make my own, but commercial brands such as Bubbies are pretty widely available. Just make sure it says “unpasteurized” or “live cultures” on the jar.
Bonus!: Sauerkraut is super high in vitamin C, so eat a bit each day for a super immunity boost!
My very first fermented love. How I adore thee, sweet mushroom tea. ♥ ♥ ♥ If you don’t already make your own kombucha, it’s pretty easy to find pre-bottled brew these days. GT Dave’s is everywhere, and smaller artisan varieties are popping up up all over the place. Kombucha is nice because you can drink it discreetly and your relatives won’t give you the side-eye.
Tip: To keep it even more incognito, use kombucha as the liquid base of a smoothie. You’ll get the probiotic punch and the super smoothie nutrition all in one!
Miso is easy to use and as a soup it’s pretty familiar, so you may even be able to serve it to your relatives. It’s purchased as a paste, usually made from fermented soy beans, though these days you can often find chickpea or other soy-free versions. Light miso is a best bet for beginners. Cooking instructions will depend on the product, but they’ll be on the package so don’t worry.
Tip: Miso adds a salty, umami quality to any sauce or spread. Throw a tablespoon into salad dressings, dips, or other homemade condiments.
Cucumbers are the most common variety, but any vegetable can be pickled using traditional lacto-fermentation techniques. Gingered carrots, spiced beets, or any other amazing combination you can imagine! Pickled veggies are easy to make at home, but they can be harder to find in stores (most “pickles” are vinegared, not fermented). Again, Bubbies is a reliable brand, or check your local health food store, Farmer’s Market, or craft fair for artisan offerings.
Bonus!: Pickling vegetables makes them taste great – salty and crunchy and totally unique. A lot of kids who may shun veggies that are cooked or raw, often like them in pickled form. And the best part is, pickling actually increases vitamin content!
7. Apple Cider Vinegar
Real raw unpasteurized ACV is one of my all-time favorite fermented foods. It’s similar to kombucha actually, and making it is also high on my list of 2012 projects! But for now, I go store-bought. Make sure that your bottle says “unpasteurized” or “living food”. Bragg and Solana Gold are great brands; the Trader Joe’s ACV is pasteurized.
Tip: ACV is easy to slip into many dishes. Try replacing half the vinegar in salad dressings, or half the lemon juice in hummus dip. I think it tastes great!
So there it is, the very best of fermented fabulousness! And with that, I hope you have an awesome and indulgent winter season, my dears.