I have never been a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions because like everyone else, I’m good for a few weeks but by February I’m derailed and have forgotten my pledge. However, this doesn’t mean I don’t try to make some kind change for the better.
In place of a “resolution”, I’ve started to add or eliminate one thing from my life. It’s not meant to be painful – I replace one thing and test to see how things go for 30 days. If it works then it’s a keeper but if it doesn’t, I go back to the original and move on.
My “add 1 thing or delete one thing” is always related to healthy living and this month I started in my pantry. I’ll be honest, we’re not purist’s - my pantry has a split personality that contains both good and bad foods. I make everything from scratch for my consumption – i.e.- gluten free, dairy free, soy free, natural sugars (i.e. honey, maple syrup) little to no white starches (white rice, potatoes, pasta etc.). I eat mostly, proteins, legumes, ancient grains, brown rice, fresh veggies, herbs and fruits.
However, my husband has his limits and he loves his junk food. I don’t nag him about it – his blood work tells me everything I need to know and he’s healthy as a horse for his age (60+). However, since I cook for the two of us, he eats what is served and what is served comes from my side of the pantry.
I will frequently go through my pantry and re-read labels and decide if I want to eliminate a particular product and replace it with a homemade version. In today’s world, part of having good health requires control over all aspects of the food you eat balanced with time and resources. The more factors you can control the better off you will be.
This brings me to my decision to eliminate bouillon cubes after realizing that commercially made cubes (packets) contain a lot of unhealthy stuff, such as preservatives, sugars, salts, thickeners rather than dehydrated vegetables and/or evaporated meat marrow. Yes, it seems like this is small and insignificant – but the impacts on one’s health can be huge over a long period of time. Major floods start with a drop of water. It’s the cumulative effect that I’m referring too, and the reason for eliminating this product from my pantry.
Have you ever checked out the ingredients on Herb Ox Vegetable Bouillon Cubes? The first several ingredients are salts, sugars and the remaining are powders of vegetables. The first 4 ingredients of Chicken Bouillon are a variety of salts and sugars! To my surprise I also discovered that these products have milk protein and soy in them. I have an allergy to milk protein and I don’t do soy because of my age.
Soy can disrupt a woman’s hormones especially those nearing the age of menopause – I’m trying to age naturally (and gracefully…) without any unwanted inhibitors. Soy is a big inhibitor for my body. So between the milk and soy these are two big reasons to ditch the bouillon!
The good news is there is a healthier substitute using fresh vegetables. I can have total control over my ingredients and amounts and there are plenty of storage options to choose from.
The original recipe comes from a book (River Cottage Series) that I bought while traveling abroad many years ago. I’ve adapted it for my own purposes – you are welcome to do the same. There are no rules here - this recipe is meant to be a guideline. The secret is to use what you have on hand or what’s in season. It’s winter here in Connecticut, so I’m using root vegetables and fresh herbs.
The preservative used for this recipe is salt. Yes, you read this correctly – I hear the whispers… - …but salt is bad for you! – Yes, no and depends - stay with me. Don’t use regular table salt with iodine, sea salt or kosher salt. Use an unrefined salt such as Himalayan salt or some kind of flake salt in place of the commonly known commercial salts.
In the book Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, the author Mark Bitterman asserts that unrefined salt is healthier for you than the table salts (e.g. salt with iodine, sea salt and kosher salt). Common table salts are so highly refined and processed to the point that it’s not salt but a derivative of the original. Combine these with the frequent consumption of processed foods filled and or pumped full of chemically created salts the body is overwhelmed resulting in people having health problems (paraphrased).
If you want to learn more about the great salt debate, I highly recommend reading Mark Bitterman’s book. In the future I’ll write more about salt and will go deeper into Mark’s position. It’s a fascinating read!
Making Healthy Veggie Paste
Food Processor: The workhorse in any kitchen and if you don’t have one, get one as it’s well It’s worth the splurge!
Canning jars, with new lids and rings – if using the hot water bath method
Large pot w/lid big enough to submerge your canning jars
Ice-cube trays (optional)
Large Dehydrator or low temperature oven (100 – 170 degrees)
Air tight storage container
My Basic Veggie Paste Ingredients:
Unrefined Salt (1 cup) per batch on average – I use Himalayan Salt – Flake Salt will work as well.
Add or subtract ingredients to your fit your taste. The combinations of vegetables can be limitless flavors. Think about flavor themes based on regions of the world. i.e. - Italian, Greek, Asian, Mexican, Thai, East Indian etc. My second recipe included turmeric root, parsnips and kale. I eliminated the sundried tomatoes and fennel.
Canning - Hot Water Bath Method:
I use this method more often than the others. I process for 20 minutes, cool and in the pantry the jars go. However, for this method I use at least a cup of salt per food processor batch – the salt is the only preservative used so I want to make sure my product is shelf stable.
Note: I’m not confident to recommend a reduced salt veggie paste using the canning method. It may be fine – but I would proceed with caution.
For those who want to use less salt, or don’t want to use the canning process, I recommend freezing your paste in individual bags or in ice cube trays and pop out when frozen into a plastic freezer bag.
Beware, this method takes a long time and the lower the heat the better. Be careful not to burn or roast your paste. Your dried morsels can be stored in an air-tight container.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Feel free to share your combinations. It’s good to share!