K2 & Bone Health

We’ve been taught for years that calcium is crucial for bone health, and while that is true, without the proper co-factors, calcium cannot be utilized and distributed properly in the body. Vitamin D3 is needed to absorb calcium and vitamin K2, in the form of MK-7, is essential for determining where calcium ends up in the body.

While D3 is needed for calcium absorption, mega-dosing can cause stiff joints and kidney stones because the calcium is ending up in the wrong places. This is where vitamin K2 comes into play. Vitamin K2 tells the body to put the calcium in the bones and teeth and not the tissue. Then, once the calcium is in the bone, K2 activates osteocalcin telling the calcium to flood throughout the bones.

Both K1 and K2 are fat soluble vitamins, but K2 is very different than K1. K1 is found in leafy greens and responsible for blood clotting. It is harder for the human body to utilize and much of K1 is left unprocessed. K1 can be processed to K2 by the gut bacteria, but due to the antibiotic use in our culture, very few people are actually able to do this. K2 can be found in Natto, hard and soft cheese, egg yolk, butter and chicken liver.

K2 isn’t only beneficial for bone health, it is also very beneficial for promoting heart health and prevents the calcification and stiffness of coronary arteries by moving calcium out of the blood vessels.

I recommend supplementing with K2 to ensure you are getting enough. Two brands I like best are Vital Proteins Bone Collagen and MicroBiome Mega Quinone K2

Dr Weston A Price’s ‘X-Factor’ is now believed to be vitamin K2. If you are someone who prefers to get your nutrients from whole foods instead of vitamins there is a list of foods containing K2 in the Dr Weston A Price article linked above.

Grandma Janes Bean Dip

Janes Bean Dip

Although not a traditional looking cold chip dip, this recipe is always a hit. Don’t let the sprouts on top scare you away, they add a delightful taste!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups refried beans or 1- 16 oz can
  • 4 to 8 dashes hot sauce more for a spicier dip, less for a milder dip
  • 2 to 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 to 3 T taco seasoning more for a spicier dip, less for a milder dip
  • 1/2 to 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 2 bunches green onions diced
  • 2 lg tomatoes, diced
  • 1 – 4 oz can diced olives
  • 1 to 2 lg whole jalepanos, diced remove seeds for less spice, add for more
  • 1- 4 oz pkg alfalfa sprouts I like to chop with a scissors to make them easier to eat

Instructions

  • Use a 9×13 pan for a dip with thick layers or a jelly roll pan for a dip with thin layers. 
  • Combine refried beans and hot sauce. Spread evenly in the bottom of the pan.
  • Mash avocados until smooth. Add lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Carefully spread on top of beans.
  • Mix sour cream and taco seasoning. Carefully spread on top of avocados. 
  • Evenly cover sour cream mixture with shredded cheese.
  • Top sour cream mixture with green onions, tomatoes, olives and jalapenos. 
  • Spread sprouts over everything.
  • Chill dip for 24 hours before serving for best flavor. 
  • Serve with chips and vegetables.

Ingredient Links

Chips: Siete Lime Chips, Jackson’s Honests Corn Chips, Terra Chips

Taco Seasoning: My two favorite taco seasonings are Primal Palate and Balanced Bites. I think Primal Palate is spicier than Balanced Bites but Balanced Bites has a fuller flavor.

Sour Cream: Daisy, Kalona Naturals. If you don’t want to purchase organic dairy, I think Daisy brand is a clean alternative.

Good Fats & Bad Fats

We have been told for years to reduce fat, consume cholesterol free foods and use highly processed vegetable oils to promote health. The truth is these things are leading to the decline of our health. As Americans our diet is far too low in healthy fats, and too high in sugar and omega 6 fats due to the over-consumption of processed foods and vegetable oils.

The high consumption of omega 6 fats upset the delicate balance of omega 3’s to omega 6’s in our body, which increases inflammation, slows healing, causes skin issues, and is linked to depression. Ideally, we should be eating a 1:1 ration of omega 3’s to omega 6’s, but the typical American diet is between 1:20 and 1:50. Omega 6 fats, in excess, tend to be inflammatory while omega 3 fats are anti-inflammatory. When they are in balance it is a beautiful thing. When they become out of balance the body can begin to experience disorder. It is important to know, omega 6 fats are not the villain, it is only when they are consumed in excess and in the form of highly processed, rancid fat, that they become a problem.

Before we dig deeper into fat let’s dispel some common beliefs.

  • Refined vegetable oils are not healthy, think canola oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil…They are highly processed, most often rancid when consumed, increase inflammation in the body and have been linked to many other health problems.
  • Consuming dietary cholesterol has little to no effect of cholesterol circulating in the body and it is not linked to heart disease.
  • Consuming fats and oils do not necessarily make you fat. Eating the correct kind will protect you from weight gain, boost your metabolism, and improve your cholesterol numbers. Healthy fats are the main source of fuel for your brain and are the building blocks of all cells membranes.

Healthy fats play an important role in your health, but not all healthy fats remain healthy in all cooking methods. What are healthy fats? And what methods should they be used in?

Healthy Saturated Fats consist of coconut oil, palm oil, butter, ghee, lard, bacon grease, tallow, duck fat, full fat dairy, eggs, meat and seafood. These fats should ideally be purchased as unrefined, or from pasture raised, grass fed and organic sources. Saturated fats are more stable due to their molecular structure than unsaturated fats and should be used when heating the fat- stove top, baking and roasting. They are not chemically altered by heat and do not oxidize easily.

Healthy Unsaturated Fats consist of avocado oil, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, walnut oil, and nuts and seeds – including butters. These fats should ideally be purchased as organic, extra-virgin and cold pressed. They are for cold use with the exception of avocado oil which is heat stable and can be used for cooking, baking, frying and grilling. Avocado oil is one of my favorite oils. Chosen foods and Primal Kitchen are my favorite brands. Chosen foods has a very mild taste making it perfect for when you are making a delicate dish or dessert.

Hydrogenated, Partially Hydrogenated Oils and Trans Fats along with man-made fats and artificial buttery spreads are fats which should be avoided. They are highly processed. These oils are created by injecting a catalyst into the oil which changes the molecular structure making the new product closer to plastic than the original product. Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils increase bad cholesterol and decrease good cholesterol. They increase inflammation which often manifests as swelling, aches and pains, and are associated with cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, low birth weight babies, immune system disfunction, altered gut bacteria and obesity.

Bacon Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts are little nutrition powerhouses. One serving provides over 240% of the recommended amount of vitamin K, over 125% of vitamin C, almost 25% of folate and many other nutrients in lesser quantities.

Pub Med has nearly 100 studies published on Brussels Sprouts. Over half focus on the benefits of Brussels Sprouts and cancer, while many other studies document their detox benefits.

Two of the tastiest ways to cook Brussels Sprouts are either roasting or sautéing, both with a tasty, healthy fat.

Three important tips:

  • Don’t Over cook
  • Use a tasty, healthy fat such as bacon grease, duck fat or ghee from grass fed animals
  • Season well with garlic, pepper and/or salt

Sprouts sautéd with bacon: Prepare Brussels Sprouts by slicing the stem end off and removing outer leaves if needed. Slice in halves or quarters depending on size. Set a side. Slice the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Then cook on the stove top until browned but not crisp in a large sauté pan. Add Brussels Sprouts, garlic, and pepper, then cook until tender. Add a little water to help steam the sprouts if the grease in the pan begins to dry out. Don’t over cook. You want tender sprouts not mushy sprouts.

Alternately, you can sauté in ghee or duck fat (which adds amazing flavor!) which in that case you would melt the fat on the stove top, then immediately add the sprouts and seasonings.

Bacon Wrapped Brussels Sprouts: Preheat oven to 400*. Place a wire rack in a jelly roll pan to allow the grease to drain and the bacon to crisp up. Prepare the sprouts by trimming the stem end off. Then lightly steam the sprouts in the microwave or stove top steamer for 2 – 4 minutes depending on size. You want to begin cooking them, but you don’t want them cooked. Wrap a slice of bacon around each sprout, place the bacon wrapped sprout on the wire rack which you have put in the jelly roll pan. Secure the ends under the sprouts. You can use a toothpick, but I don’t. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 – 30 minutes or until the bacon is crisp.

Roasted Asparagus and Bacon Bundles

I strive to make birthdays at our house a special time. The birthday child wakes up to a birthday sign, small treat and balloons hanging from the kitchen light in their honor.

They get to choose the menu and dessert for dinner. We’ve had everything from pizza to lobster, which we picked out -ALIVE- from the store, gave it a name, brought home -still alive- and then boiled. It was an experience to say the least 🙂

The birthday child gets to pick the full menu, from vegetable to dessert and everything in between. Bacon wrapped asparagus and bacon wrapped Brussels Sprouts are two items which frequently end up on the menu. Both of which I personally love to eat and cook because they are delicious, nutritious and very easy to make. Another bonus, the cooking time can be adapted if sharing the oven with another food.


Bacon Wrapped Asparagus

Ingredients

  • fresh aspapragus spears
  • high quality bacon
  • ground garlic
  • ground pepper – if desired, I like corse ground

Instructions

  • Place a wire rack on a jelly roll pan. This will allow the grease to drain off the bacon and the bacon to crisp up.*
  • Cut 1 – 3 inches (as needed) off of the woody end of the asparagus creating even length spears.
  • Divide asparagus into bundles of 3 to 5 spears depending on thickness and amount of bacon you want to use.  
  • Then wrap each bundle tightly with bacon. Lay the bundles on the wire rack in the jelly roll pan, tucking the bacon end under so it doens’t unwrap. 
  • Season with garlic and pepper.
  • Roast in a preheated oven for 30 minutes at 400* or until the bacon is crisp. Flip part way through roasting to crisp up the bottom side.*

Notes

This recipe can easily be adjusted as needed. If you have something else in the oven at a different temperature, go ahead and put it in adjusting baking times as needed. If you find your bacon isn’t crisping up, broil for a minute or two, but watch closely! 
*If you are using a high quality, grass fed, hormone free bacon, save the bacon grease for use in other recipes: Fry your eggs in it, sauté vegetables, toss potatoes fries in it before baking. Your taste buds will thank you!

Energy Balls with Oatmeal

Energy Balls with Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cashews, walnuts, almonds or your nut mixture of choice (I cup total, not one cup of each)
  • 1 cup pitted medjool dates
  • 1-2 T water – if needed
  • 1 1/2 tsps real vanilla
  • 2 T melted coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten free oatmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2- 1 cup Add-In’s such as: chocolate chips, raisins, dried cherries, dried fruit Use a single Add-In or a combination to equal 1/2 – 1 cup total

Instructions

  • In a food processor with a ‘S’ blade, process the cashews until crumbly. 
  • Add dates, process until a thick paste forms. You want a sticky dough, but not a wet dough. Add water, a tsp at a time, if needed.
  • Remove mixture from food processor and place into a large bowl.
  • By hand, stir in melted coconut oil and vanilla, then cinnamon and oatmeal. Finally incorporate the ‘Add In’s’. Mix well. The mixture should be sticky, but not wet. If it is too wet you can add additional oatmeal or 1 T cassava flour at a time. If it is too crumbly and doesn’t stick together, add additional water one tsp at a time.
  • Form into balls. Store in the refrigerator. 

Berry Fruity Smoothie

Skip the sugary drink, and instead sip on this. It is sweetened with dried dates, packed full of antioxidants, and will leave you with sustained energy and not a sugar crash.

Berry Fruity Smoothy

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 16 oz crushed ice
  • 3 cups partially frozen mixes berries
  • 2 bananas, frozen*
  • 3 scoops collagen peptides**
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 -2 T chia seeds
  • 3 T coconut oil, melted, or MCT oil

Instructions

  • Mix all ingredients, except coconut oil, together in a high speed blender. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, slowly pour in melted coconut oil. Blend until light. 

Notes

* I keep a bag of frozen banana slices in my freezer for smoothies. I cut the banana into 1/2 inch slices before freezing.
**Vital Proteins is my preferred brand. You can use VP collagen peptides in the blue canister or Beauty Collagen to add additional flavor and benefits.

Why do you put _________ in the smoothie?

Berries: Taste! A rich source of phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory properties.

Bananas: They provide a creamy texture and add sweetness. Tip: Freeze bananas when very ripe and the sweetness will shine out even more.

Collagen: An easy to absorb protein, which aids in muscle recovery and supports healthy joints, bones, and digestive health. Check out this post for more information.

Dates: Natural sweetener, natural energy booster, high in fiber, aids digestion, good for bones.

Chia Seeds: Fiber to keep you full, antioxidants to fight free radicals, improve digestive health, and aid in balancing blood sugar.

Coconut Oil: Healthy fat to keep you feeling full longer and support brain function.

Tropical Green Smoothie

Need a post workout recovery drink or a refreshing pick me up?

This smoothie will hit the spot. It has enough protein, fat and fiber to keep you full, will help balance your blood sugar and will aid in recovery after a workout. 


I promise, the spinach does not over power this drink! It is bursting with tropical pineapple and lime flavors, making it a green smoothie even your children will enjoy.

Tropical Green Smoothies

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 16 oz crushed ice
  • 2 oranges, peeled
  • 2 cups spinach, pressed fairly full
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple chunks
  • 2 med frozen bananas*
  • 2 scoops collagen peptides**
  • 1-2 T chia seeds
  • 2 T coconut oil or MCT oil

Instructions

  • Using a high speed blender, blend together all ingredients, except coconut oil, until smooth. Then, slowly pour in melted coconut oil with the blender running, and blend until light. 

Notes

* I keep a bag of frozen banana slices in my freezer for smoothies. I cut the banana into 1/2 inch slices before freezing.
**Vital Proteins is my preferred brand. You can use VP collagen peptides in the blue canister or Beauty Collagen to add additional flavor and benefits. 

Why do you put _________ in the smoothie?

Spinach: Loaded with vitamins it is a nutritional powerhouse. One cup contains over 100% of vitamins K and A, and over 25% of B6, B2, Magnesium, folate and iron.

Bananas: They provide a creamy texture and add sweetness. Tip: Freeze bananas when very ripe and the sweetness will shine out even more.

Collagen: An easy to absorb protein, which aids in muscle recovery and supports healthy joints, bones, and digestive health. Check out this post for more information.

Lime: Helps to create digestive enzymes so you can better digest your food.

Coconut Oil: Healthy fat to keep you feeling full longer and support brain function.

Chia Seeds: Fiber to keep you full, antioxidants to fight free radicals, improve digestive health, and aid in balancing blood sugar.

Gluten & Grain Free Flours

Gluten free flours can be a challenge to bake with if you don’t know their individual characteristics. To make things even more of difficult, quality and consistency can vary from company to company. However, with a bit of information, gluten free baking can be a lot less intimidating. I will refer to these flours as ‘GF flours’.

First, before you begin baking with GF flours, there are a few things you need to know. Properly measuring the flour is one of the most important things you can do to ensure consistent results. I weigh all of my ingredients in grams using a digital scale. Why? Because the amount of humidity in the air, how you scoop, how packed your flour is and whether or not the flour has been pre-sifted will all effect the outcome of how much flour you end up with in your cup. I have the EatSmart Precision scale. It weighs in grams and ounces up to 15 lbs. Second, you will have the best results in a recipe when you use a combination of flours instead of just one. Why? Because GF flours are different in density, protein, starch and moisture content. Combining a variety of flours will help produce a baked good more similar in taste and texture to a wheat baked product. Third, extra eggs are often needed when baking with GF flours to help bind the batter together and help the baked good to rise. If you cannot tolerate eggs, there are substitutes you can use which I will cover in a different post.

Almond Flour: When purchasing almond flour be aware that almond flour and almond meal are two very different products. Almond flour is made from blanched, ground almonds with an end result of a light colored, powdery flour. Almond meal is made of almonds which have not been blanched and still contain the skin. Almond meal is often darker and coarser. Almond flour is a high protein, high fat flour with a slightly sweet taste, rich buttery texture and a high moisture content. Almond flour can burn easily. Lowering the temperature of your oven and baking for a longer period of time can help prevent a product with burnt outside and under-cooked inside. Almond flour is not good for breads with yeast. Instead use it for baking cookies, muffins, cakes, and sweet breads. My favorite brands of almond flour are Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour and Wellbee’s flour. I always purchase ‘superfine’.

Cassava Flour: Cassava flour is fairly new to the GF flour world. It is made from the Yuca (cassava) plant. Tapioca starch is also made from the Yuca plant, but they are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably. Cassava flour is not a nut or grain making it a good substitute for people with a gluten intolerance, Celiac Disease or a nut sensitivity/allergy. Cassava flour is lower in calories and fat than most other GF flours. It is higher in carbs than other GF flours but similar in carbs to other grain flours. It has a mild taste and can often be substituted 1:1 in recipes not containing yeast. Cassava flour will help produce a delicious loaf of bread, but adjustments will need to be made. I recommend combining cassava flour with other GF flours when baking with yeast. I only use Ottos Naturals Cassava Flour. Many grocery stores are now carrying Ottos Cassava Flour.

Coconut Flour: A coconut belongs to the drupe family, not the tree nut family. Most people with tree nut allergies can eat coconuts but as always, check with your doctor first if you have concerns. Coconut flour is made from the leftover coconut after it has been pressed for oil. It is high in protein, very high in fiber and low in carbohydrates. Coconut flour is very dry making a little go a long way. For every cup of all purpose flour only 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut flour is needed. Additional eggs and liquid are often needed. When baking with coconut flour, after adding the flour to the batter, let it sit for several minutes. The batter will thicken and absorb the liquids. Then make adjustments as needed. Coconut flour has a mild, sweet coconut taste and helps produce a delicate baked good. In some recipes the coconut taste is easily detected and in others you cannot tell it is there. Coconut flour does not act the same in every recipe. This GF flour takes the most patience to figure out, but it is worth it. The brands I use are Tropical Traditions and Anthony’s Organics.

Arrowroot Starch: Arrowroot starch comes from the arrowroot plant. It has a neutral taste making it a good thickener for pies, soups, sauces and jams. However, it is heat sensitive so use it carefully. To thicken make a 2:1 slurry with room temperature water and arrowroot. Add the slurry at the end of cooking but do not add it to boiling liquids. NOTE: If an arrowroot thickened dish continues to cook after it has thickened, it can become thin again and will not thicken back up. When added to (dairy) milk based products it can become slimy; nut milks and coconut milk do not seem to do this. Arrowroot holds up very well when frozen and used with acidic foods. It is a good coating when desiring a crunch on potatoes, meat, fish or fried foods. In GF baking, arrowroot lightens up heavy flours, adds texture and is a good binder. It adds a slightly chewy texture to baked goods but not as much as tapioca starch does. It works best when mixed with other GF flours and makes a perfectly chewy sandwich wrap. I use Feel Good Arrowroot.

Tapioca Starch: Tapioca starch and tapioca flour are the same product. Tapioca starch is made from the Yuca (cassava) plant but is not the same as cassava flour. It can be substituted at a 1:1 ratio in most recipes for cornstarch. It works well to thicken pies, cobblers, and sauces. Tapioca starch does not hold up well with acidic ingredients or when frozen. In GF baking it is used to lighten up heavy flours and is a good binder. Tapioca starch is often used to create a chewy texture and crisp crust in baked goods such as breads, bagels, pretzels, and wraps. Brazilian dinner rolls are a popular recipe made with tapioca starch. I use tapioca starch to dust my work surface and bread pans when making french bread and homemade marshmallows. It works best combined with other GF flours. I use Authentic Foods or Thrive Market brand tapioca starch.

A note on GF flour weights: Not all flour manufacturers go by the same weight chart when converting 1 cup of flour into grams. A quick google search will show you the results for 1 cup of coconut flour converted to grams ranges from 90 to 130, a huge difference! It is important that you consistently use the same weight in grams when you make your recipes. This may take a few trial recipes, but once you get it, write it down, highlight it, circle it or rewrite the recipe and toss the old one(s) out. I have started to use 128 grams per cup or 8 grams per 1 tablespoon, for all of my GF flours in recipes.

Gluten Free Pasta

Gluten Free Pasta Noodles

Gluten free noodles are surprisingly easy to make. Save the yolks from your homemade angel food cake and whip these up!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups egg yolks (300 grams)
  • 2 T water
  • 1 1/2 cups cassava flour (192 grams)
  • 1/2 cup arrowroot flour (64 grams)
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour (64grams)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic
  • water 1 T at a time as needed
  • cassava flour 1 T at a time as needed, plus for dusting surface

Instructions

  • Place dry ingredients in a stand mixer bowl and stir to mix. Add in egg yolks and water. Mix until a firm dough forms. If the dough is crumbly and dry, add water one tablespoon at a time. If the dough is sticky to the touch, add cassava flour one tablespoon at a time. The dough should be smooth and easily form a ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. 
  • For hand cut noodles: While the dough is resting, dust a surface with cassava flour. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 sections, keeping the sections you aren’t using covered. Roll the dough very thin then cut into long thin strips. Loosely pile strips on parchment lined trays. To store, freeze fresh noodles on parchment lined trays. When frozen, divide into serving portions then package and store in freezer until use. Alternatively, allow to air dry* 1 – 2 days then store in airtight containers.
  • For machine cut noodles: (I use the Marcato Atlas Pasta Machine.) Roll the dough to form long thin pieces. Allow the pieces to dry 5 – 10 minutes after rolling before running through the machine again to cut into noodles. Cut into noodles, then loosely pile on parchment lines trays. Dry by freezer method or air dry*. 
    *I place noodles in my dehydrator for 6 – 8 hours to dry then store in air tight bags.