The seasons are changing again and the cold/flu/and pandemic season is raging. When the seasons change, I like to do all the things to keep our immune system strong. Today I am going to share how we support our immunity in the kitchen.
Filling our diet with nourishing foods is one way we support our immune system. There is so much value to eating whole foods and choosing nutrient-dense items. They support gut health and immune function with necessary vitamins and minerals.
Immune Supporting Vitamins in Food
Vitamin A is the #1 protection against viruses. Not just COVID-19. Foods that are vitamin A rich are egg yolks sourced from pastured hens and grass-fed butter.
Vitamin D and Vitamin A work hand in hand to support immunity. Ways to receive Vitamin D nutritionally is through fatty fishes, red meats, and egg yolks. Another easy way to receive Vitamin D is to opt outside as much as possible to receive Vitamin D from the sun. Avoid sunscreens so that you are able to absorb the vitamin. 10-20 min twice a day is an adequate amount of time. The thing about vitamin D is that we do not store it or have reserves, so it is necessary to receive it each day.
Vitamin C is used to prevent and address viral infections. Vitamin C has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to reduce the severity and symptoms of colds. I always make sure to have an absorbable form of Vitamin C on hand, but a wonderful food to add to your diet is sauerkraut or other fermented veggies. Sauerkraut has 10 times more Vitamin C than fresh cabbage. Fermented veggies are also great for the gut microbiome. Increasing your green vegetables are essential. They provide Vitamin C, as well as B-vitamins, Vitamin K, and other important nutrients.
Healthy Fats— Coconut oil is our best natural source of these healthy fats. Also, the lungs can not work without saturated fats, so grass-fed butter, avocado oil, olive oil, and ghee are great sources of healthy saturated fats. Just make sure to avoid all industrial fats and oils.
Hydration— Staying hydrated keeps the pipes flushed, so to speak. Water is wonderful, adding an ionized mineral supplement is ideal and you can receive additional minerals in your kitchen by making herbal infusions.
Bone Broth–is another one of my favorite ways to receive nourishment. Roasted bones leftover from a previous meal or picked up from your favorite butcher. I make sure to use grass-fed or pasture-raised meats. I often make it in my Instant Pot. However, I have been loving making this on the slow cooker function– I use the same proportions, just slow cook for 24 hours instead.
Sugar & Immune Support
With the holidays we start “sugar season”. It all starts with Halloween, then it seems to go until January. Sugar feeds inflammation and the “bad guys”, so being mindful of sugar consumption is a simple way to support immune function.
There are many healthier alternatives that we use in our kitchen. These sugar alternatives also prevent sugar highs and lows and the insanity that comes with sugared-up kids, lol. I use coconut sugar, monkfruit sweetener, and sometimes Swerve for baking. Maple syrup and honey are also natural alternatives.
Immunity Begins in the Belly
Since about 70% of our immune system begins in the gut, it only makes sense to start supporting it in the kitchen. Being mindful of what you are eating and drinking goes a long way in addition to the other germ-fighting techniques we have! Having essential vitamins, minerals, and a healthy gut aids in fighting illness and improving recovery.
This meal is one of our go-to’s these days. It is simple to make, serves a hearty portion of veggies and is delicious. It is tough to want “fall food” in Florida until we enter November when the temps dip somewhere around 60 degrees. Ah, Florida problems…
The cornbread is my grandma’s recipe– she never used a precise way to measure. She dipped one of her Corelle coffee cups in the flour and cornmeal and measured her liquids that way too. I made this for her while she sat in a chair and I measured things out in measuring cups and spoons and she said “that’s about right”, so this is what I interpreted from her and she approved on the taste and it works every time.
2 Tablespoons Avocado Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Large Onion, Diced
1 Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Diced
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, Seeded And Diced
2 Large Carrots, Peeled And Diced
2 Stalks Celery, Diced
1 Quart Broth (I use chicken, can sub veggie or beef)
1 can (12 To 14 Ounces) Plain Tomato Sauce
1 can Ro-tel (diced Tomatoes And Chiles)
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Oregano
1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
2 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 can (14 Ounces) Kidney Beans, Drained And Rinsed
1 can (14-ounce) Pinto Beans, Drained And Rinsed
1 can Black Beans, Drained And Rinsed
2 Medium Zucchini
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, bell peppers, carrots, and celery, cook until starting to soften. Add the oregano, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Stir and cook for a few more minutes.
Pour in the broth, tomato sauce, and Ro-tel. Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans and zucchini, stir, then cover and simmer for 30 more minutes.
I often serve with rice or cornbread & cheese. This can be made in the instant pot as well, first use saute function and saute the veggies until soft. Add the rest of the ingredients, seal pot and press soup/broth function & viola a quick and hearty meal.
1 cup Flour
3/4 cup Coarse Cornmeal
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
3/4 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Whole Milk
1/2 Stick Melted Butter
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Melt butter 1/2 stick of butter (I do this in the cast iron pan while the oven preheats). Mix dry ingredients until incorporated.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, add the egg and milk and stir until well incorporated.
Pour melted butter in and stir until combined.
Pour batter in hot cast iron pan and bake 20 min, until browned.
My toddler is going through an incredibly picky phase for eating. He only wants to snack, and he prefers if the snack is sweet. We limit processed foods, only offer water for drinks, etc. and I’m now having to be creative with food choices to get vegetables in his mouth. “Ick” is his new favorite term, and he will often “ick” something that he enjoyed just a few days before.
I assembled this recipe yesterday and baked for tonight’s dinner. You can make this gluten-free or grain-free by choosing the appropriate noodle. I used gluten-free oven-ready pasta to cut down on time. A plus is we have an over-grown basil plant in our front yard 🙂
To prepare the veggies: In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Once shimmering, add the carrots, bell pepper, zucchini, yellow onion, and salt. Cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until the veggies are golden on the edges, about 10 minutes.
Add a few large handfuls of spinach. Cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach has wilted. Repeat with remaining spinach and cook until all of the spinach has wilted. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
Meanwhile, to prepare the tomato sauce: Drain off excess juice from tomatoes. Then, transfer the drained tomatoes to the food processor. Add the basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes.
Pulse the mixture about 10 times, until the tomatoes have broken down to an easily spreadable consistency. Pour the mixture into a bowl to use later. Rinse out the food processor and return it to the machine.
Pour half of the cottage cheese (1 cup) into the processor and blend it until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to large mixing bowl. No need to rinse out the bowl of the food processor this time; just put it back onto the machine because you’ll need it later.
Transfer the cooked veggies and spinach mixture to the bowl of the food processor. Pulse until they are more finely chopped (but not puréed!), about 5 to 7 times, stopping to scrape down the sides as necessary. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of whipped cottage cheese. Top with the remaining cottage cheese, then add ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stir to combine. Now it’s lasagna assembly time!
Spread ½ cup tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of a 9” by 9” baking dish. Layer 4 lasagna noodles on top (overlap their edges as necessary). Spread half of the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the noodles. Top with ¾ cup tomato sauce, then sprinkle ½ cup shredded cheese on top.
Top with 4 more noodles, followed by the remaining cottage cheese mixture (we’re skipping the tomato sauce in this layer.) Sprinkle ½ cup shredded cheese on top.
Top with 3 more noodles, then spread ¾ cup tomato sauce over the top (you may have a little sauce leftover) to evenly cover the noodles. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup shredded cheese.
Wrap a sheet of parchment paper around the top of the lasagna (or cover the lasagna with aluminum foil, but don’t let the foil touch the cheese). Bake, covered, for 20 minutes, then remove the cover, rotate the pan by 180° and continue cooking for about 10 to 12 more minutes, until the top is turning spotty brown.
Remove from oven and let the lasagna cool for 15 to 20 minutes, so it has time to set and cool down to a reasonable temperature. Sprinkle additional basil over the top, then slice and serve.
I have been on a quest to meal prep and have a solid rotation of simple, healthy, and quick meals to prepare for after baby Mira’s arrival. I did some searches online to find an Instant Pot Beef and Broccoli recipe and I could not find one with our pantry staples that I could follow from start to finish, so I played around with some ingredients we had on hand and came up with this version. It was lovely and everyone in the family approved.
This recipe takes approximately 15 min to prep and 12 min to cook. The meat/sauce mixture can also be prepared ahead of time, frozen and then reheated in the skillet for a quick meal.
1 1/2- 2 lb. grass-fed & finished flank steak
2 Tb. avocado oil
3/4 c. beef broth
1/4 c. coconut aminos
1/4 c. oyster sauce
1 Tb. honey
1 Tb. rice vinegar
1 Tb. sriracha sauce
1 diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2 Tb. minced ginger
3 Tb. arrowroot starch (or cornstarch if you are not avoiding corn)
3. Tb. water
package of frozen broccoli
rice/noodles/cauliflower rice– whatever suits your palate!
Set Instant Pot to saute function. Season beef with pepper and brown in batches, removing to a plate after browned.
Combine coconut aminos, oyster sauce, honey, vinegar, sriracha in a measuring cup or bowl.
Pour coconut amino mixture and beef broth into the instant pot, followed by the onion and browned beef.
Seal Instant Pot and cook on high pressure for 12 min.
While beef mixture is cooking, steam broccoli on stove or in microwave until crisp tender.
Mix arrowroot or cornstarch with water to make a slurry.
After 12 min. are up quick release pressure. Open the lid and set function to back to saute and add the starch slurry, stirring until sauce thickens, about 2 min. Add broccoli to mixture and give a quick stir to coat broccoli with sauce. Serve over your rice or noodle of choice.
I recently posted my Instant Pot bone broth on Instagram and had a few folks wanting to know the how to’s. I am becoming happier with my Instant Pot, now that I have found a few staples and am happy with the time and effort it takes to use it.
Bone broth is one of our staples. I like to make a few batches and freeze so that we have it for soup bases. I am also going to make a few batches to have for postpartum. Soups and bone broths are warming and healing for the postpartum period. I recently purchased the book The First Forty Days, and although I was not wowed by the book and recipes, the philosophy of nourishing the mother with warmth, vital nutrients and minerals is a concept I can grasp.
So, how do I make Bone Broth in my Instant Pot?
I make a whole pasture-raised chicken about once a week. We save the bones for broth. Sometimes just in the fridge, but sometimes I will freeze for a later time.
Bones from 1 chicken (can also use beef, fish, or lamb)