Saturday, August 16, 2014

Super yummy, cultured squash!

My countertops are covered with the usual daily crumbs and sticky spots, things people get out and don't put away, and PILES AND PILES of impatiently waiting garden produce. This morning I woke up to an exploded green pepper. It ran out of patience. Oh, who planted so many green pepper plants this year? It took some doing to find some clear space in the kitchen to take the picture for this blog post!  I'll make some more salsa tomorrow, family, I promise!  Then we will have some clear space again.

It's quite a job keeping up with the produce coming in over the summer, and I am always feeling behind. But I've managed to keep a pretty steady flow of produce culturing. Our biggest successes this year have been green peppers (ugh, not my favorite), squash, zucchini, and tomatoes.  So, there's lots of salsa makin' goin' on!

To me, the benefits of cultured vegetables well outweigh the work and time investment in preparing and storing. They are loaded with vitamins, promote healthy gut flora, improve alkaline levels, balance thyroid, improve metabolism, and have amazing cleansing properties. They are full of vitamins B, C, and K2.  

Many healing diets recommend consuming some cultured vegetables with every meal for proper vitamin, mineral, and fat absorption.  The days that I do get my cultured veggies in me, are the days I feel superhuman! They are pretty awesome! 

One of my FAVORITE ferments is cultured squash! It is sweeter than most of the other fermented veggies, and so its savory flavor is a bit of a departure from the usual more sour ferments. I found the recipe for this squash  on Donna Schwenk's website, This is the one to make if you're easing into the flavors of cultured vegetables, since it isn't quite as pickled tasting.  

Now, I'd better go wipe the crumbs off my countertops.  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My long story, short

The ups and downs of the last several years:

I remember May of 2010 so distinctly.  I was on top of the world.  I had just completed my late return to college to finish my final year towards my bachelor's degree.  I was graduating with all A's from that last year, gave a speech during the ceremony, and could hardly believe I had just given birth to my sixth child the previous fall.  My husband and I were also wrapping up a huge undertaking that we had completely poured ourselves into for months.

I believe Jan-May of that year was the hardest work I had ever undertaken... nursing an infant who was having some major nursing challenges, giving over 100% in support and hard work to my husband's project, writing papers and completing assignments for school, and homeschooling and raising five other kiddos! I felt energetic, intelligent, and capable!

The moment I stood, presenting my graduation speech at college, still feeling the high of getting a perfect grade on my senior thesis, was a defining moment for me.

I had always been a good student, loved writing, reading, researching, and being a mom.  But at that moment, I remember taking a mental picture of the blessed life I had, and of the exciting potential of my future endeavors.  I just knew that God had big things in store for me and my family, and that He was giving me the skills necessary to accomplish the tasks he would entrust me with! I like to call this time of my life, the "full bloom phase."

The remainder of 2010 presented even harder challenges to give my energy to, and lots to accomplish, but the next distinct time that stands out in my memory is January 2011. That is when I finally had a chance to sit down for a moment after our big, crazy year.  I knew I didn't feel "right," but that it was probably just temporary exhaustion.

Things had finally calmed down, and I felt like my head was spinning. It was time to rest and recharge for a bit to recover from a huge year that had come to an end with the usual holiday craziness.  I figured that by the end of January, I would be back to my normal self.

Well, the inability to concentrate, read, or write a simple Facebook status update, along with an extremely fatigued feeling didn't go away by the end of the month.  Or by the end of the next month. I remained in a confused, perplexed zombie-like state for the rest of the year and on into the next year.  I like to call this time of my life, when I felt absent from everything going on around me, as "when my brain crashed and completely disappeared."

I had gone from writing beautiful, 10 page academic papers to not being able to read a complete sentence and typing my words with the letters all out of order.  After a lifetime of feeling like I was an analytic, academic type person, I was mentally paralyzed and completely wiped out.  Everything that made me, me... All the inside parts that make you more than just a shell, seemed to have vanished, and I was literally a shell of myself.  Mind and spirit had vanished. My body was on autopilot to get through the basic daily tasks of caring for my family, and that activity was very minimal.  You can see by looking back through my blog, that I did have a few thoughtful moments here and there.  Those moments usually meant I had done very little else that day or that week.  My good moments were few, and they were like a tiny allowance I was given that would be quickly spent on one task or another, and then there was nothing left, mentally or emotionally. If a day came that I was able to think fairly well, I had to decide what I would spend my meager allowance of thoughts and energy on, because I knew I would crash into zombie mode at any moment and wouldn't be back for days.

Distinct memory number three- August of 2012.  I was returning from date day with the hubby, and walking up the four stairs into the main part of our house, I felt my calf muscles seize up.  It wasn't pain. They just turned as hard as rocks and didn't relax again.  I became puzzled and sat down, and as I tried to figure out what this strange sensation was, my arms and legs began to feel numb with pins and needles.  By the next day, I couldn't get up off my couch all day, because my arms and legs felt like they each weighed 1,000 thousand pounds.  In fact, I felt like a huge invisible weight was pushing my whole body down.  I ended up lying down on my bedroom floor, because the sensations of weight pushing on me, pins and needles, and fire all over my skin made me feel like I needed to sink lower to the ground for some kind of relief.  It was like the dream where you can't move when the boogie man starts coming after you.  My body felt stuck, heavy, and covered in roaming prickly pains.

From August 2012, until March 2014 I spent much, much time in and out of those symptoms.  The bad times meant being bedridden, the good times meant living like a zombie with the addition now of muscles that were weighted with fatigue and painful inflammation and terrible all encompassing exhaustion.  I like to call this time of my life the "the time I was very, very sick."

 After some initial high dose Vitamin D therapy, I saw slight improvement by the end of 2012.  I started special methylated B Vitamins in 2013, after finding a gene mutation that was contributing to my crash.  Baby steps of improvement followed throughout the remainder of 2013.  There were some good times, then bad times again on my roller coaster ride of crashing, recovering, and crashing again.

By 2014, I felt that the baby steps I had taken through supplements were doing as much good as they were ever going to do. I was no longer bedridden or completely helpless, but I was so very limited in what I could actually accomplish in the down times, and the good times were tainted with muscle pain and severe brain fog.  I was happy with the progress, but knew that if I wanted to feel like my full bloom self ever again, I would have to discover additional steps to take toward healing.

God was so present in this sick period, and led me so faithfully through each baby step to take. But I will post the spiritual side of the story in a future entry.  

The next distinct memory I have is of a phone conversation with my mom in February of this year.  I told her I had been researching and praying, and that I was going to try an extreme diet to see if it just might help me. I was considering the GAPS diet or The Maker's Diet. I eventually settled on eliminating all refined sugars, processed foods, and grains. I concentrated on real foods, traditionally prepared, with lots of probiotic foods and nourishing bone broths.

Now, here's my FAVORITE distinct memory...

The first week of April in this year, I organically, miraculously, amazingly, and completely returned. I was back. My body felt like it should. My brain worked like it should. I felt like I had been gone somewhere for a couple years, and had just returned. I saw my precious family right there in front of me. I had intelligent thoughts. I felt my spirit soar with love, peace, and joy, instead of just feeling like I was clinging tightly to hope alone.

I am so very, very grateful to be healthy. I like to call this time of my life "the return of ME."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Garden tomato salsa

So I'm the crazy health nut lady now.  There's that.  It started out as "desperate times call for desperate measures," but I very quickly began wearing my crunchiness with pride!

Cultured vegetables are something that I have added to the arsenal of healing foods in our kitchen.  So, with all the fresh produce coming in from the garden and farmer's market, I am culturing my vegetables like mad!

One of our favorite cultures this summer has been homemade salsa made from fresh garden tomatoes.  We already love salsa, so culturing just adds the benefit of some amazing probiotics and super-powering of the vitamins already present in the various vegetables used.

I used this recipe I found online, and it is soooo good!

Some departures from the original recipe that I linked:

I had to leave mine out on the counter in an air-lock jar for five or six days before I saw any signs of bubbly ferment.  I think it's because I pretty much liquefied my tomatoes.  I think if I would have left the tomatoes more chunky, it wouldn't have taken so long.  But I like how mine turned out.  Just know that it's pretty much up to you to keep an eye on any cultured veggies you make to know when they are ready for refrigeration. Also, I didn't de-gas like the recipe calls for.  I just treated this like all my other ferments, and threw a lid on it and put it in the fridge for a week before we called it ready. 

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