Okroshka

                                       

                                       

I love soup. Broccoli cheddar, French onion, chicken noodle... you name it, I will eat it. (Caveat: as long as it's hot. ) Cold soups have never been appealing to me. I've tried them in a variety of flavors and settings and it's always been very... meh. If a year ago you were to tell me that the first recipe I'd choose to share on this site would be for cold soup, I'd probably drop whatever I was doing and go make a piping hot lentil soup, just out of spite.

Last summer, I spent two months living in Israel. The weather in July and August reaches unfathomable levels of humidity and heat- not unlike DC, but much worse. The entire day is spent dripping in sweat, and breathing fresh air feels more like drinking water than absorbing oxygen. I constantly found myself with a waning appetite, along with an exclusive craving for anything that would have an immediate cooling effect over my body. I was staying with close family friends and at the beginning of each week, Lara- my host mother- would prepare a large pot of Okroshka- a traditional chilled, kefir based, Russian soup. I was skeptical at first but when I eventually gave in, there was no turning back.  After a full day of traipsing around the markets and scorching streets of Tel-Aviv, nothing proved more refreshing and filling than a bowl of this tangy, silky-smooth, crunchy cold soup. In other words, on a hot and humid day this soup is a breath of fresh, crisp air.

The best thing about Okroshka (from the Russian word kroshit- crumble) is that it's budget friendly, easy to make, and consists mostly of ingredients that are probably already in your fridge.  It is also incredibly healthy due to the massive amount of probiotics in Kefir and the fact that most of the vegetables are fresh, meaning they are packed with nutrients for your body to absorb. Trust me on this one- it will change your summer. 

Okroshka

Ingredients: 

  • 3-4 cups plain Kefir
  • 6 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 medium sized potatoes, 3/4 dice
  • 1 English cucumber or 2 Persian cucumbers, 3/4 dice
  • 1 cup radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dill, rough chop
  • salt/pepper to taste
  1. Boil potatoes until fork tender.
  2. While potatoes are boiling chop scallions, radishes, and cucumber.
  3. Chop potatoes in 3/4 inch cubes.
  4. Combine all vegetables into soup dish/pot.
  5. Pour kefir over vegetables, mix well, season with salt/pepper to taste, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. When ready to serve garnish with dill and eat with a big slice of crusty bread. 


This is a variation on the traditional Russian recipe which contains kvass, a fermented rye drink, not readily available in the US. The original version also calls for chopped boiled eggs or sliced ham which I omit because I don't like them. A dollop of horseradish for spice or sour cream for extra smoothness goes a long way in this dish. But mostly you should feel free to play around with any vegetables in your fridge- root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, even beets are all delicious variations on the original.

I hope you give it a chance and enjoy! 

pro/prebiotics without the pretty penny

http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/blog/2014/04/probiotics-vs-antibiotics-wrong-question.html   

http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/blog/2014/04/probiotics-vs-antibiotics-wrong-question.html

 

 

I never thought I would be led astray by a doctor named Muffy. 

Unfortunately, the last month has found me fighting the debilitating consequences of being misprescribed and not properly warned of the effects of a medicine called Clindamycin. An antiparasitic, usually prescribed for people with very serious parasitic infections, I was given this as treatment for a very normal and natural bacterial overgrowth. After taking the pills for almost the full dose I started feeling intense stomach cramping, dizziness, and nausea. I couldn't hold down small bites of bland, solid food or water for almost 16 days. Lots of research led me to discover that taking Clindamycin is effectively akin to staging a full blown nuclear attack on the flora and natural ecosystem of your digestive tract. To put it simply, the good bacteria is wiped out and the (very resistant) bad bacteria gets free reign. In many cases, it can lead to very serious lifelong diseases such as colitis. Thanks, Muffy.

A thorough consultation with a gastroenterologist is what helped me discover the benefits of probiotics and prebiotics. These bacteria naturally occur in our digestive tracts and are what help our systems function properly. The latter, prebiotics,  are the "foods" that feed and encourage the good bacteria, probiotics, in our intestinal tracts. (Check out handy article that I used to learn more about probiotic bacteria here.)

In order to get my digestive system into a pre-poisoned state I was told to consume as many of these good GI bacteria as I could get my hands on. No less than 2000 live strains at least two times a day.

A trip to the natural foods store quickly opened my eyes to how expensive this supremely healthy bacteria can be. A pack of four pills can go for as much as $50 - not at all realistic for my budget! Thus, I started doing research on probiotic rich foods that I could use to supplement what I couldn't afford to give my body in pill form.

I hope the following lists help anyone else who finds themselves in such a predicament.. 

Probiotic Rich Foods

  • Kefir : a fermented dairy/water based beverage, the most powerful and direct way to consume probiotic organisms.
  • Stoneyfield Yogurt I found this is the best as it has a great selection of flavors, no hormones, often on sale, and has 3 live strains of bacteria.
  • Miso : fermented soy beans made into a paste, delicious in broth or stir-fry
  • Tempeh : also a product of fermented soybeans, great in stir-fry.
  • Oatmeal : just add butter!
  • Kombucha : over 50 strains of bacteria in this delicious beverage.

Prebiotic Rich Foods

  • Carrots : especially fresh carrot juice does amazing things for the stomach lining.
  • Leeks : raw or lightly sautéed with olive oil. 
  • Banana : incredible benefits for the lining of the stomach and in prebiotic content. 
  • Brussels Sprout : lightly sauteed or roasted in the oven for 15 min at 400F.
  • Beans : soy, pinto, kidney.
  • Asparagus : raw or lightly sautéed.
  • Honey : Love it on my oatmeal and toast BUT I believe it is best consumed in stick form. Tons of flavors in bulk available here!

 

P.S. The very serious diet I have had to adhere to over the last month has meant few allowed foods and lots of experimentation. Kefir, not surprisingly, has been one of the most used items in my kitchen. I've put it over granola, mixed it with fruit, and added it to my buckwheat to try and "spice" things up. Later this week I will post a recipe for a fantastic cold Russian soup whose base is Kefir that is quick, easy,  inexpensive, full of nutrients, and incredibly delicious. Stay tuned!