4.30.2012

Recipe: Whole wheat strawberry shortcake


My oldest daughter turned four last week. When I asked her what kind of cake she wanted, she replied, "Strawberry cake!" I scoured for recipes that were somewhat healthy and came across this one for whole wheat strawberry shortcake. I had a couple of others in reserve in case it was a failure, but we all loved it on the first try.

Whole Wheat Strawberry Shortcake (adapted from Tammy's Recipes)

4 eggs, separated
3/4 cup coconut sugar, divided
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Strawberries
Heavy cream
Honey
Vanilla


Beat egg whites in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 c. coconut sugar, 1 T. at a time, mixing well after each addition. Continue beating until stiff peaks form and sugar is incorporated (you will be able to see the coconut sugar crystals). In a separate bowl, combine egg yolks, flour, water, oil, 1/2 c. coconut sugar, baking powder, and vanilla. Mix well. Fold egg yolk mixture into egg whites until combined.

Pour into greased and floured 9" spring form pan and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched.

Wash and cut up strawberries and drizzle with honey. In a separate bowl, beat the whipping cream until stiff, adding in some honey and vanilla to taste.

When the cake is cooled, you can slice it in half and put whipped cream in between the layers, or just leave as-is and top with cream and berries.

Thoughts:


We loved this cake the first time I made it, and I was thrilled to find a recipe I felt comfortable with for my daughter's birthday. The cake by itself is really hearty and good, but adding the berries and cream adds in some sweetness that puts it over the top. I made cupcakes and a round cake. The cupcakes were a little dry; I baked them 20 minutes and that was too long (next time I'll try for 15-17). No one complained, and we had grandparents, aunts, and cousins all wanting more. The coconut sugar adds a brown sugar/caramel flavor that goes really well with the whole wheat. I will make this cake over and over again, trying different variations. It would be divine as a spice cake.



**Side note: I posted this morning about soaking grains. I have since removed the post and upon further research, will re-post at a later date. I want to be sure of my facts, and do all of the reading I can on a topic before posting my thoughts. I am currently trying to learn all I can about phytic acid and how it relates to grain digestion and mineral absorption. I will admit that I was a little hasty in my post and for anyone who read it, I wanted to explain why it suddenly disappeared! Thanks for understanding.

4.26.2012

How to: make your own almond milk

I owe a big thanks to Jessie for her fabulous guest post. I know that many of you were intrigued, and I hope you pick up a copy of Nourishing Traditions and find out for yourself what it's all about. I will post about many of the topics she touched on in the near future, so stay tuned for more information.

For now, a quick tutorial that I wish I would have known about years ago.


If you've been buying almond milk at the store, stop it right now. It is so easy to make on your own, and will save you lots of cash, too. My husband went through a phase of drinking almond milk a lot, but it kind of died out as he realized how much that little carton was costing us! Now, I can make my own whenever we want some or I need it for a recipe. We don't drink it in place of cow's milk, but I use it on hot cereal, or in smoothies.

It really is simple, here are the steps:


1. Soak 1 cup of almonds in some water (to cover) and a little bit of sea salt over night.

2. Drain and rinse the almonds well.

3. Place almonds into a blender with 4 cups of fresh water.


4. Turn blender on high for about one minute, until it's creamy and frothy.


5. Place a piece of cheesecloth (nut milk bag, muslin, etc.) over a bowl and pour the almond mixture into it.


6. Milk the pulp -- squeeze every last drop that you can out of the cheesecloth (this will be messy, but very satisfying).

7. Store the almond milk in a glass quart jar in the fridge for up to two days. The pulp can be used in other recipes, like this one. I haven't tried it yet, but it's on my list!

Optional: add vanilla, dates, honey, etc. to the milk while it's blending, if you want it to have a sweet flavor. I leave mine plain to cook/bake with.

See? Easy. The next time you pick up that carton of almond milk in your grocery store, remember how simple it is to make it yourself. You can customize it to your taste, and know that there aren't any extra additives.


4.24.2012

Guest Post by Jessie Jensen: Nourishing Traditions


My sister-in-law, Jessie, introduced me to the book, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon a couple of years ago. Since then I have referred to it often and have encouraged others to read it as well. I have many future posts dedicated to the ideas expressed in this book. Here are Jessie's thoughts:

This isn’t meant to be a book review – more like a book recommendation.  My sister Annie got me “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon for my birthday three years ago and I’ve been singing its praises to everyone with ears ever since. Technically, it’s a cookbook.  But it’s also so, so, so, so much more.  I was describing it as something of a textbook before I realized that it IS often used as a textbook for nutrition and naturopathic courses. It’s meticulously researched and has completely changed how I think about food.

Since the book is almost 700 pages long, there are multiple themes.  First and foremost, almost ALL modern processing techniques destroy the quality of our food.  Second, truly whole and healthful foods can offer up even more goodness if you only take the time to prepare it properly.  As the title suggests, the traditions of our ancestors should serve as the model for food preparation.

The book decries the convenience food trend, the heavy processing, the use of antibiotics and pesticides and preservatives, and all those things we already know are awful, BUT!  It actually explains WHY, on a molecular level, these things are bad for us.  And conversely, why some other things we’ve been trained to believe are BAD for us actually aren’t.  (Egg yolks!  Butter!  Cholesterol!)

I’m not going to get into the science of it all, I’m just trying to pique your interest.  Some of it is kind of heavy (like the entire chapter on organ meats), but you can take what you want from it.  I’m not going to serve brains for Thanksgiving dinner, but I CAN make my brown rice more nutritious by soaking it for several hours before I cook it.  (Same with oatmeal – in fact, Quaker oats used to include presoaking in the directions on the canister, but once the convenience food trend took over, that step was removed from their labels.)

Some of my favorite key points, in my own words:

-          The food industry can basically label and market things however they want.  Anything can be called “healthy” – there’s no panel of people who determine how things are allowed to be presented to the public.  If there’s an ingredient (like MSG) that they’d rather not disclose, they can group it under “other flavorings” or “seasonings.”

-          Think about cows.  Why do they have a four-chambered stomach?  Because they’re herbivores, that’s why.  They only eat grass and leaves and hay.  And throughout the digestion process, they continue to extract nutritional goodness from their grass.  A mouthful of grass STILL offers up nutrition even hours after it passed through the first or second chamber of their stomach.  Now think about us.  Because we eat meat as well as grains, our digestive tracts can’t take their sweet time like an herbivore’s or else the meat would go rotten in our gut.  We could get so much more out of our grains and greens if things didn’t have to be moved along so quickly, which is why fermentation was such an important preparation technique to our ancestors.  Each culture has some sort of fermented dish – kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, fafaru, etc.  And how fascinating is it that even thousands of years ago, separate cultures on different continents understood the basics of food preparation better than we do now?   We’re only just beginning to realize the science behind why these things are good for us, but our ancestors knew all along.  They valued animal fats.  They soaked their grains to begin the fermentation process.  They cooked foods slowly.  The book suggests a “mysterious infallible instinct that guided primitive man to the foods he needed to keep him healthy and strong” – a thought that sort of gives me chills, in a good way.

-          Low-fat stuff! Guess what! When you take the pure, natural fat out of stuff, it doesn’t taste good anymore and it looks like sludge. The crap they add in to make it palatable again is garbage.

-          Margarine!  Wait til you see what margarine is!!  Okay, I’ll tell you.  It’s a slimy gray byproduct of the vegetable oil hydroginization process.  “Dyes and strong flavors must then be added to make it resemble butter.  Finally, the mixture is compressed and packaged in blocks or tubs and sold as a health food.” (pg 14)

-          There was a study where one group of rats was fed cornflakes and the other was fed the cardboard box that the cornflakes came in.  ALL the rats eating the cereal died before a SINGLE rat that was eating the cardboard did…in fact, they died sooner than the third group of rats that were eating NOTHING.  I know studies like this aren’t concrete but, still.  INTERESTING.

Buy it here. It’s only 16 bucks.

(I still eat cereal, for the record.  I can only change so much.)


Post written by: Jessica Jensen.

4.23.2012

Is Sugar Toxic?

A few weeks ago, 60 Minutes (hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta) had a special on sugar and artificial sweeteners, and sugar's effect on us. The first video is 14 minutes long. The second video is a synopsis of Dr. Gupta's findings, but more specifically focused on the damaging effects of sugar on children. These videos are very powerful, and well-worth the time to watch them. One of the important aspects of these videos is the documented research (yes, research talk again) and the licensed medical professionals interviewed.

There is a lot of confusion about which sweeteners are healthy and which are harmful. That's a post for another day, but I wanted to share these clips for now.

For those who are interested in learning more about agave nectar, there is a good summary here.

4.22.2012

Recipe: Sprouted Bean Trio Soup


In an attempt to try and use my Sprouted Bean Trio, I came upon this recipe for soup. Spring has finally arrived, but we had a few cold/rainy days a couple of weeks ago, so I made soup for lunch.

Sprouted Bean Trio Italian Soup (adapted from truRoots)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil (or coconut oil)
½ medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
One 14-ounce can Organic diced tomatoes, or fresh tomatoes, chopped
3 ½ cups water or broth
1 bay leaf
1 cup truRoots Sprouted Bean Trio, uncooked
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery, and cook, partially covered, until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add garlic and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.

Stir in water/broth and bay leaf and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the beans. Reduce the heat and simmer 5-10 minutes, until the beans are tender. Cover and let stand for 2 minutes.

Stir in the parsley and salt and pepper before serving. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.

Thoughts:

I like this soup, but not as much as my husband. He is more of a “soup” person than I am. The tomatoes added a strong base flavor. I thought of adding the Parmesan for something extra, and it went really well with it. I used chicken stock instead of water, and I think using water would be too bland. Overall, I would make it again, next time using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, and more cheese! When I reheated it for leftovers I enjoyed it more. Maybe it was the whole wheat roll hot out of the oven that I enjoyed . . . but either way, it was a very hearty and tasty soup.

4.20.2012

Simple things you can do TODAY

I have compiled a list of simple things that you can do today to start making better choices that will have a big impact on your overall health.


1. Switch out your baking powder for aluminum-free. This is really easy and inexpensive.

2. Find a good quality sea salt/natural salt and start using it in your cooking. The minerals contained in these salts are extremely important to our health, and we aren’t doing ourselves any favors using white table salt. You will taste the difference, I promise you.


3. Buy a small quantity of chia seeds or flax. You don't have to go out and purchase a vast array of new seeds/nuts/flours, etc. It can be overwhelming. Start here, and gradually add in more. You can buy flax seeds and grind them yourself, or buy ground flax meal. Be sure to store chia and flax in the refrigerator, as they will spoil more quickly at room temperature. I have purchased big bags of flax meal from Costco, but only advise doing this if you are going to use it frequently, so that it doesn’t pass the expiration date before you use it all.

4. Start making "green" smoothies. Add some frozen fruit, juice/milk/water/kefir, etc, some chia/flax meal, and a handful of spinach into your blender. This is an easy place to start. Beginning each day with a smoothie instead of a heavy breakfast is beneficial to your digestive system and gives you more energy. As you become accustomed to the spinach, add in more green vegetables: cucumbers, kale, parsley/cilantro, etc.

Kimberly Snyder, a nutritionist, talks about nutrition myths on her blog. Regarding a heavy breakfast being the most important meal of the day, she says: "In fact, a heavy breakfast will start your day off just wrong! Every morning is a new opportunity to cleanse your body, since it has fasted all night and your food has digested. Eating a heavy meal in the morning can plug up the plumbing and decrease your energy stores as your body focuses on digesting all of that food you just ate. If you eat a huge breakfast, you will need more snacks and caffeine by mid-morning."

Smoothies/juices are a great way to start the day with an extra kick of nutrition to get your body cleansing and feeling great.

5. Buy some coconut oil. This oil is one of the healthiest to cook with and has many other great benefits. It is more money than oils you may already be using (vegetable oils), but it’s worth every penny. Nutiva is the brand I use and love.


6. Add a healthy grain to your weekly menu plan. Quinoa, millet, or brown rice are great options. The more you add into your diet, the less you will want refined starches and grains. I have heard many people say they tried Quinoa and hated it, my own mother included (she has now found a love for it). My advice is to try different methods of cooking it. Grains are very versatile and can be used as a side (not my favorite option), in a casserole, for a hot breakfast cereal, as a dessert pudding (recipe to come), in wraps/tacos, thrown into pitas, etc. It is very important to soak your grains before using (more on this to come), as long as 12 hours if you remember to start them the night before. Don’t give up if you don’t like it on the first try.



7. Try a natural sweetener. Raw honey, pure maple syrup, coconut/palm sugar, or stevia are some great options. Start small by adding a little bit to your oatmeal, in some plain yogurt, or in your pancake batter. These sweeteners can be expensive, so just begin with one and gradually find more ways to incorporate it into your cooking/baking.



8. Buy some almonds. Instead of reaching for a snack when I get the munchies, I grab a handful of almonds. Nuts are a great way to stave off hunger and to get more healthy fats and protein into your day. I buy my almonds in 3 lb. bags from Costco for $10, which is a great price.

Both Amazon and Vitacost carry most, if not all, of these products. The base prices on Vitacost are less expensive if you order over $49 to take advantage of the free shipping. If you are an Amazon Prime member, you get free 2-day shipping. If I am ordering a couple of little things I use Amazon. The price difference is made up with the shipping. These are the two sites I order from most frequently. If you are with Amazon Prime, make sure the products you are buying are Prime eligible. Even the same brand through a different seller will be eligible, while the other will charge you shipping.

The most important thing I can say is to take a deep breath. I don't want people to feel overwhelmed. There are a WHOLE lot of options once you start reading into "Natural," or "Organic" ingredients. My job is to try them and tell you my opinion. Your job is to do some reading (including this blog) and find some answers to your questions. I will be as thorough as I can in my research, but I am bound to make mistakes. Feel free to have me clarify or find more resources on a topic you are interested in.

My main point is that you can start today. Make a small change. Pick even one of the things I’ve mentioned, and then add in another next week or next month. Begin by having a morning smoothie. You don't have to go out and buy a juicer, but you can begin making small changes, right now. My blender was $30 and lasted me years. If you don't already own one, that could be a great place to start. The feeling that you have to have a lot of fancy equipment (juicer, vitamix/blendtech, food processor, dehydrator, etc.) can keep many people away from doing anything. I am here to tell you that you don't need all of that right now; you just need the determination and the knowledge to back you up.

Go ahead, make a smoothie. They taste great. Once your husband/wife/children/roommates have adjusted to the green color of the drink you’re serving, start adding in more veggies. If you make gradual changes like these, it will become something that slips quietly into your life and suddenly you will be feeling great, having more energy, and will be wondering what happened.

4.18.2012

Recipe: Creamy Chicken Quinoa



In my search for ways to use more healthy grains in our diet, I stumbled upon a recipe claiming that if you loved Alfredo, this would be a hit. The ingredients sounded like they would taste similar to Alfredo sauce, and I was intrigued. We had it for lunch the other day.

Creamy Chicken Quinoa (adapted from All About Fasting)

1 1/2 T. butter or coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium white or yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced and cooked
1/4 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 T. chicken broth
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 - 1 1/2 cups full-fat, plain yogurt
Salt and pepper, to taste



Sauté the pepper and onion in coconut oil until tender, adding some salt midway. Add garlic, chicken, basil, and thyme, stirring occasionally, until it’s heated through. Add quinoa, broth, and cheese, stirring to heat evenly. Turn heat to low. Wait a few minutes for pan to cool a bit, and then stir in the yogurt. Don't let the yogurt cook too much, just heat enough to warm it, and then remove pan from heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Thoughts:

This was pretty tasty. I added quite a bit of salt and pepper. Next time I will add more Parmesan cheese, because it needed something to counteract the tang of the yogurt. It made a healthy meal that filled us up and made me feel proud to serve. I am really enjoying trying new recipes. Being able to weed through and find things that people might actually make, is fun. I like the challenge of finding things with ingredients that aren’t too tricky or fancy. This recipe originally called for shrimp, which we love, but I didn’t have any on hand. My husband loved it. The red pepper added a great flavor and some crunch. I served this alongside some sweet potato fries, and it was delicious. I wouldn't say this tasted much like Alfredo, but it will be a dish I make again.

4.17.2012

Recipe: Easy Roasted Veggies



We love vegetables around here, but like most people, we don't eat enough. That is one of the main reasons we began juicing, was to get more greens into our bodies. I love to eat vegetables raw, but after I cleaned out my fridge, the Ranch dressing didn't quite make the cut (once again, I was shocked by the ingredients). I am in the process of experimenting with new dip ideas, but until I find the perfect one, I cook a lot of veggies. I became aware of roasting vegetables last summer. I don't know how or why I didn't try this method before, but it's brilliant. I love the crisp texture, and the slightly crunchy bits. It is an easy way to add some variety to your cooking.

Roasted Veggies (this is tricky, so pay very close attention):

Vegetables: my favorites are broccoli and cauliflower, hands down. You can also do potatoes, asparagus, brussel sprouts (the best way to eat them, in my opinion), carrots, etc. Basically any vegetable can be roasted.

2-3 T. Coconut oil, or olive oil if you prefer. I love the taste of coconut oil, so it's my first choice.

Sea salt.

Garlic. Lots of garlic. I used to be afraid of this small white bulb with the odd segments, but I have become enamored by it.

Preheat oven to 400 (F).



Toss vegetable(s) of choice with coconut oil and salt until coated. Add a few cloves of minced garlic. Lay evenly on a baking sheet and bake/roast in oven until vegetables are crisp/tender and beginning to brown. Potatoes take close to 30 minutes, while broccoli and cauliflower take only 20. Watch them carefully. Remove from oven and try not to eat them all with your fingers before serving to your family.

Thoughts:

Vegetables are good for you. We should all be eating more of them. I know this seems like a silly post, but I am always looking for easy ways to incorporate another side or vegetable into my meals. The garlic in this recipe browns up and flavors the veggies perfectly. If you haven't tried your veggies roasted, give it a go. You'll thank me . . . I hope.

4.16.2012

Coconut Oil



Having a mother who cares to do her own research on products before she blindly buys them has been a great asset to me. Whenever I used to wonder about a new product I saw in the store, I would call my mom to see what she knew about it. Now, I see something new and do my own research. I believe that knowledge truly is power, and until we can take responsibility for our own health, we will remain floundering and making ourselves sick in the process. I strongly encourage people to do their own reading; to find things out on their own. That is how you make a believer -- by leading a person to the information and having them find out on their own.

With that being said, let's talk fat. Prior to a few years ago, fats were confusing to me. I remember being in high school when the Trans Fats phase began, and once again, I asked my mom what the scoop was. Then everything went to low-fat or NO fat (how absurd). It seemed like a good idea, until I realized that all of the chemicals being shovelled in to replace the "fat" were toxic. In a society confused by fat, there is a shimmer of hope. There ARE good fats.

I want to introduce everyone to Coconut Oil (mmm . . . doesn’t it sound delightful?). It's showing up everywhere, and some might feel it's just a fad, similar to Agave, where more research will come out later to prove that it's actually not as good for us as we thought. I don't think that's true. I have done a lot of reading on this subject since my first glimpse at the words, "Coconut oil" two years ago in the book, Nourishing Traditions. Sally Fallon gives a great introduction to fats in her book, and I could not put it down because my mind was reeling from what she had to say. Since reading her words, I have found many other sources, including numerous peer-reviewed articles citing the benefits of coconut oil.

Here is a (somewhat) brief over view of the benefits of this lovely oil:

• Coconut oil has a high smoking point and is very stable, meaning you can cook with it at high temperatures and it won’t break down into free radicals.

• Coconut oil is a medium fatty acid chain. This means that after these fats are digested they go into the liver and are immediately available for our body to use as energy.

• Because of the above fact, coconut oil is used to promote weight loss. It does not circulate in the blood stream like other fats. The fats in coconut oil are treated like carbohydrates in the body, being used for energy instead of being stored.

• Coconut oil increases metabolism, allowing the body to burn calories more quickly, which also promotes weight loss.

• Coconut oil has amazing anti-microbial properties (similar to raw honey) and can be taken during cold/flu season as a great way to fight off viruses.



• Coconut oil is solid below 76 degrees (F) and liquid above 77 degrees. Depending on your climate it may vary between the two states, but that will not harm the oil.

• Coconut oil does not need to be refrigerated like some other sensitive oils (flax, some olive oils, etc).

• Coconut oil contains lauric acid, which is wonderful for the body. Among other things, lauric acid rids the digestive tract of harmful viruses, yeast, bacteria, and fungi. Lauric acid is the substance found in breast milk that protects the baby from getting sick while they are young.

• People who experience digestive issues including gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and constipation can benefit from taking a few tablespoons of coconut oil each day. It will help rid the intestines of toxins and bacteria and restore the beneficial flora.

• Coconut oil helps to keep the body balanced, which allows all organs to function properly, and in turn leads to weight loss.

• Coconut oil contains fats that help the body with the absorption of vitamins, amino acids, and minerals.

• Coconut oil can be put directly on the skin to help soothe, protect, nourish, and heal. It can be used as sunscreen, and a diet high in coconut oil is proven to prevent sun damage.

• Coconut oil can be used as a conditioner for your hair. Rub in a couple of teaspoons before going to bed and wash out the next morning for healthy, shiny hair. It also controls dandruff.

If that doesn’t convince you that you need to incorporate this oil into your life, I don’t know what will. The benefits of this oil are remarkable. It can be used to cook, bake, as a spread for toast, in smoothies, on your skin, in your hair, etc. There are many ways to get this healthy fat into your body.

A word of caution: because coconut oil is relatively “new” to our culture, it seems to be popping up everywhere. You can find it in almost any grocery store, but beware. When buying Coconut oil, you want to get the best quality you can find. Look for “Organic,” “Expeller pressed,” “Extra virgin” coconut oils. You will get what you pay for. Don’t go cheap here, make sure what you are buying is worth the money. All of the benefits listed above will be null and void without high quality oil. I have used three different brands, and thus far I have really liked the Nutiva brand, as well as Nature's Way. They both smell amazing and are high quality oils. You can find them through Amazon or Vitacost for a good price. Nature's Way is sold at Fred Meyer, but I haven't noticed it anywhere else. I bought the Spectrum Naturals brand at a local grocery store about a year and a half ago and it was awful. There wasn't even a hint of coconut smell to it, and I didn't like it.

Do your research, find what looks good, and try it out. Try a few brands if you want. The point is, TRY IT.

4.14.2012

Recipe: Buckwheat Chia Pancakes



My family loves pancakes. My girls love to eat them cut up into bite-sized pieces, or they grab a cold one the next day for a snack. My mom has a great pancake recipe that I wanted to adapt to see if I could make it healthier.

Buckwheat Chia Pancakes

2/3 c. whole wheat flour
2/3 c. buckwheat flour
2-3 T. chia seeds
3 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp. natural salt or sea salt
2 T. coconut/palm sugar
1 tsp. (or less) cinnamon

1 egg, beaten
3/4 c. nut milk, coconut milk, or organic milk
1/2 c. plain kefir
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 T. unsweetened applesauce

Combine dry ingredients in mixing bowl. In small bowl, beat egg and add milk/kefir. Add vanilla and applesauce and mix well. Whisk wet ingredients into dry until smooth. Add more milk if needed.


Cook on hot griddle (325-350 degrees).



Thoughts:

These pancakes turned out wonderfully. My girls ate them right up, and came back for seconds. They were dark brown in color, which might throw some people off, but the taste was good. They need to be cooked immediately because of the chia seeds, which will thicken the batter the longer it sits. The batter was very thick and gloppy, but they cooked up really well. We topped ours with pure maple syrup. Maybe it's the fact that I'm not eating processed foods or refined sugars anymore, but these pancakes were very sweet with the syrup on them. As a side note, I was SHOCKED when going through my fridge/throwing things out at the ingredients on the "maple syrup" I had in there. There was no maple to be found on the list, and I couldn't believe I had been feeding that concoction to my children. I dare you to take a look in your own fridge and see what's in your syrup.

I'd love to try some plain yogurt with fruit and a little honey on these next time. There will definitely be a next time! Another variation would be to use coconut oil in place of the applesauce. I had one cold and the texture was slightly gritty (from the buckwheat), but it tasted fine and would be perfect topped with some homemade nut butter!

4.12.2012

Forcing Change



I have been wrestling with some anxiety over what I wish people would change in their lives, and I finally realized that I can’t make people change. I started this blog to try and lend some motivation, or a place to start. I wanted to encourage others to do their own reading, and to find out what will work for them. We can’t all change our entire lives overnight. It takes a lot of work, learning, and preparation to change what we have been doing for years. When I read the above quote I had to sit back and read it a few times. Then I sighed, “Okay.”

I am doing what I feel compelled to do right now, by writing about different topics concerning health and well-being. That is all I can do. I can change, my husband can change, our little family can change . . . but only because we are ready. We are finally ready to go for it and see what kinds of possibilities are out there for us. We want to be happy, we always thought we were happy, but our lives are becoming fresh and new and exhilarating every single day. Those are changes that I want forever.

Yet, that is why it can be so hard to resist forcing change on others. We see the results beginning to change our lives, and it is hard not to shout from the roof tops how excited we are about the future. We are truly LIVING, in a way that I didn’t think possible. I read and watched and searched out people who were living fulfilled, healthy lives. I gasped at how radiant they looked, how young and fresh they seemed. I wanted that. I just wasn’t ready to change. I wasn’t ready to give up my treats hidden away in the cupboard. I wasn’t ready to make financial commitments to start with new ingredients and throw away the old. I wasn’t ready to commit the time and effort it would take to learn. I am now.

It’s my choice, and I am making it right now. I wish you would all join me!

4.09.2012

Juicing Tips



We have learned a lot in the short month since we began this journey, and I'm sure there is more to come. For now, I’ve decided to summarize some of the basics.

1. Buy organic when you can, especially when buying celery, cucumbers, leafy greens, and apples.

2. Wash all produce with a high-quality, all-natural fruit and vegetable rinse. This ensures that pesticides and other chemicals are removed, and it also keeps your produce fresh longer in the fridge. You would be amazed at the dirt I rinse out of the bucket after washing all of my produce—yuck.

3. Wash your produce all at once when you get home from the store. It will all be washed and ready to go when you need it for juicing, or just for munching. This saves me lots of time, especially in the morning.



4. If using a masticating juicer, some preparation of the produce is required. I assemble the juicer the night before so it's ready to go. In the morning, I take out my produce and begin cutting up whatever I need to (apples, oranges, lemons, carrots if they're too big, cucumbers, etc.). While I'm cutting, I am also juicing. I throw in a carrot and while it's juicing I cut my apple. It saves a lot of time. It now takes me about 20 minutes each morning to gather everything, prepare it, and make enough juice for two of us.

5. Always alternate leafy greens with solid veggies, such as carrots or celery. This helps prevent clogs in your auger and keeps things moving along.

6. If juicing beets, remove the skins. Boiling them in water for 30 seconds makes them easier to peel. Don't discard the beet greens; they can be juiced as well.

7. Cucumbers and oranges should also be peeled. Because of their waxy coating, it is hard to remove all chemicals on the surface of cucumbers. Oranges can be peeled with a vegetable peeler to remove the outer skin, but leaving the white pith (or just cut them and take the skins off like you normally would to eat it). Most other produce can be juiced with the skin intact.

8. Experiment with different combinations. It took me a while to get used to the taste of drinking vegetables, but now I really enjoy it. Add in a lemon or an orange to perk things up. Add some ginger or cilantro for a fresh flavor. The possibilities are endless.

9. Be cautious when juicing fruit. Fruit juices have high sugar content, and that sugar (in juice form) is instantly absorbed, creating a spike in blood sugar levels. Along with that spike, comes a crash. Fruits are easy to digest, and should be eaten whole most of the time. It’s fine to throw in an apple or piece of citrus fruit with your vegetable juice, but avoid drinking straight fruit juice on a regular basis. If you want a treat, juice fruit and drink it alongside your meal. This way, the food will help slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream.

10. Like any budget-conscious mom will tell you, plan ahead when grocery shopping. Look at what produce is on sale, and stock up if you are going to be juicing a lot. Making a plan of what you want to juice before you go to the store will prevent you from standing dumb-founded in front of all the produce, with no idea where to start. When doing our fast, I looked at the weekly ads on Tuesday night. If cucumbers were on sale that day, but wouldn’t be on Wednesday morning, I ran to the store to stock up.

11. Some produce will keep the longer in the fridge so you can buy enough for a week at a time: apples, oranges, lemons, carrots, beets, celery, etc. Try to buy leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, and herbs fresh every few days.

12. Have a pitcher or glass Mason jar handy if juicing for more than one person. I found a great glass pitcher with an air-tight lid at Wal-Mart for a few dollars. I pour the juice into it as my one-serving container (what the juice goes into from the juicer) gets full, and can even keep it in the fridge for 30 minutes or so if I need to.

Making My Own Almond Flour



I am intrigued by the vast number of resources popping up on how to make things gluten-free. Though I do not have Celiac Disease, I do feel the effects of eating too much bread. I love to make bread and see others enjoy it. I have been baking my own bread for my family each week for the past two and a half years. The smell of bread baking takes me back to my childhood and coming home from school to warm bread/buns/rolls. I don't know what it is, but there is something soothing to me about a warm slice of bread with butter. I don't think I can give up bread, but I do want to be more conscious of how much I am eating.

Enter: Almond Meal/flour.

In many of the gluten-free recipes that I've seen, wheat flour is replaced with almond flour, coconut flour, buckwheat flour, etc. Almond flour is a high protein, low carbohydrate, and low sugar alternative. Almond flour is also high in monounsaturated fats (the good kind, also found in olive oil). For a great read about almond flour visit Elana's Pantry.

How to make your own almond flour:

I started small, using about a cup and a half of almonds for my "test" batch. Vigorously boil a pot of water, and then toss the almonds in for one minute.


When the minute is up, immediately remove the almonds with a slotted spoon into a bowl of cold water. The cold water will stop them from cooking. Taking a few almonds at a time, grab their skins and pop them off. They should easily slide out, and one of mine even flew across the room, so be careful who you are aiming at! Lay the almonds out to dry on a kitchen towel, and discard the skins. They should dry for at least a few hours, or overnight. I left mine out for about 15 hours.




When you're ready to make your flour, assemble your food processor or masticating juicer (with the mincing cone), and toss the almonds in. Turn it on, and grind them up! With my juicer, they immediately came out in a perfect flour-like texture. I imagine with a food processor you would have to watch and make sure you stop before it becomes almond butter.



It took me about 20 minutes to blanch and peel the almonds. It took four seconds to make the almonds into flour. I now have a nice little container of this white stuff waiting for me in the fridge (almond flour goes rancid easily if left at room temperature). I'm anxious to try it in place of my wheat flour.

4.07.2012

Recipe: Quinoa Patties with Yogurt Sauce



In my search for recipes, I came across several variations of Quinoa patties/cakes. They looked great, and sounded delicious. I'm always looking for new ways to incorporate quinoa, since I don't particularly like it plain as a side dish. While juicing, I find that I have most of the ingredients on hand to make delicious healthy meals, which is an added bonus to all of this. Before juicing, I had never purchased kale, and my herbs were dried flakes in bottles. Now, however, I have those things in my fridge already. Knowing I was going to try this recipe, I picked up some feta. I have never been a huge fan, but thought I'd give it a whirl.

Quinoa Patties with Yogurt Sauce

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, brought to room temperature
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 cup finely chopped kale
1/2 yellow or white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup whole grain bread crumbs, plus more if needed
1/3 cup crumbled feta

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or butter (if cooking in a skillet).

These patties can be baked or cooked in a skillet.

If Baking: preheat oven to 400 F

Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the parsley, kale, onion, garlic, and cumin. Stir well.

Add the baking powder and bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture.

Gently stir in the feta.



The mixture should now resemble something that can be formed into 12, 1 inch-thick patties. I kept mine pretty moist, so that they wouldn’t dry out in the oven. I was able to form them into patties without much trouble. If the mixture is causing you problems, you can add in a little water if it’s dry, or more bread crumbs if it’s too wet.

Oil a baking sheet, and arrange the patties with a bit of space between each. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the bottoms are brown. Flip and bake for another 5 minutes.



To cook in skillet: Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add as many patties will fit with room between each, and cook 7-10 minutes, until the bottoms are deeply browned. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes and continue to cook until the patties are browned. Flip the patties and cook for 7 more minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. The quinoa mixture keeps in the fridge for a few days, so you can cook patties to order, if you prefer.

Thoughts:

Some recipes called for chives, or dill, or a mixture of herbs. I only had fresh parsley on hand, so I used it and it was great. Next time I’ll try mixing chives and dill for a different flavor. I threw the onion and garlic into my juicer with the mincing cone, and it was wonderful. No mess, perfectly minced onions and garlic, and all I had to do was throw them in. I have switched to Aluminum-free baking powder, and found it at Wal-Mart. For as often as I use baking powder, it was worth the extra 50 cents.

These patties were a success. I decided to throw some plain, whole milk yogurt mixed with some fresh lemon juice on top of them. It added the perfect extra flavor and some moisture to the patties. I served them along with tilapia, and even my daughters tried a bite. They didn’t love them (although my 1 year old loved swirling the bites around in the yogurt and licking it off), but I’m sure they’ll come around once they get used to all of the new ingredients and flavors. My 3 year old is a huge tilapia fan though, and devoured her fish!

These patties are easy to manipulate. Using spinach instead of kale, switching up the herbs, or substituting the feta for parmesan are just a few variations I want to try. This recipe makes a lot; I will probably get about 16 patties from my mixture. I think I will end up baking them and freezing the rest. They will make an easy freezer meal for lunches!

I baked ours last night, and fried some up for lunch today. Both methods worked well; the skillet was faster, but you have to pay closer attention.

4.05.2012

Recipe: Sprouted Bean Salad


The finished product.

While at Costco the other day I went very carefully down the aisle home to grains, to see if there was anything new. To my delight, there was. I buy my quinoa from Coscto and have done for the past year or so. The brand I buy is truRoots. The same company has a sprouted bean trio (lentils, adzuki, and mung beans). I immediately put a bag in my cart to try. For dinner tonight I made the recipe on the back of the bag.

Sprouted Bean Trio Salad (with my own variations)

1 C. truRoots Organic sprouted bean trio
2/3 C. Fresh chopped parsley
1/3 C. Peeled, diced cucumber
½ C. Diced orange pepper
1 Large avocado, diced
4 T. Olive oil
1 T. Fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. Ground cumin
Salt, to taste

Cook beans according to package directions, drain, and bring to room temperature. Combine the beans, parsley, cucumber, pepper, and avocado in large bowl. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, and cumin. Drizzle over salad and toss well. Salt, to taste.

Thoughts:

The salad was very fresh and good. Next time I will squeeze in some more lemon juice, and use more salt. My husband thought some green peppers would add some good flavor, and I agree. I am glad I added the avocado (not in the original recipe), because it was the perfect creamy texture to go with the beans. This salad packs quite a nutritional punch. The beans have 33 g of dietary fiber and 33 g of protein. Add in all of those veggies and some good fat, and it makes a great choice for dinner. I’m not sure how well it will keep with the avocados in it.



For dessert: fresh grape juice!

4.03.2012

Juicing and Menstrual Cramps


Celery juice, who knew?

Let me preface this with a little background information. When I turned 13 years old and the "big change" happened in my life, I began having excruciating period cramps. I thought that having babies might help with this situation, but the opposite proved to be true. Since having my last baby, my cramps have intensified beyond what I thought possible. I spent the first day of each cycle curled up on the couch, or bent over walking around. My heating pad is my constant companion for at least the first two days, usually three.

I didn't even think about juicing having an effect on this part of my life. Then I had my period three days after completing our juice fast. I waited for the cramps to take over as they usually do. I got my heating pad out and plugged in, ready to go. I wondered when my craving for brownies would kick in. The waiting turned out to be in vain. I did experience some cramps the first day, and even put the heating pad on that evening, more out of habit than anything else. But something was different. I wasn't moody, my cramps were significantly less intense, and I had terrific energy. On top of that, I didn’t crave chocolate like I usually do. I packed and cleaned and kept right on juicing and going about my day.

After delving deeper into juicing and menstrual cramps, I found that there are many foods that have been proven to help ease the pain: pineapple, beets, celery, fennel, ginger, and leafy greens that contain magnesium. Because I had been juicing beets, celery, and a whole lot of leafy greens, my cramps were all but diminished. I even cut up a pineapple on the second day of my period, without knowing that it was probably helping me! Someone should have enlightened me 10 years ago.

Juicing is turning out to be something that is changing our lives. I know that sounds dramatic, but I feel things changing; I can tell I'm becoming healthier and more vibrant, and I don't want it to stop. If juicing can help with my cramps, I will welcome the change with open arms! I will keep a close watch from month to month, as I try to incorporate those foods during my period. I’m interested to see if I can make this a permanent change.
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