"Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table." -William Shakespeare

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It's Not Easy Being Green

"Be careful about reading health books.  You may die of a misprint."  
 ~Mark Twain

 Sometimes at night I lie awake and think about my blog- about how much I enjoy writing and how much I miss working on it.  But I'm a perfectionist.  I don't come back because I don't have time to post everyday, or to post lots of lavish photographs and amazing recipes.

Having my 4th child, going wheat-free on top of dairy-free, and moving 2 times in 1 year really KICKED MY BUTT.  I have to prioritize.  I can't attachment parent, night nurse, and make 90% of our food, plus homeschool and volunteer, AND record it all on an amazing blog.  No siree.  Superwoman has left the building.

But today I had an idea to get myself blogging again with a little regularity. 

I love food; I love organics; I love all things green.

But you know what I hate?  

Spending money on nifty 'green' or 'organic' items only to hate, hate, hate them.  I can only assume, dear reader, that you, too, lust and obsess over x item you LOVE and DESIRE, only once you possess it, you are disgusted no one told you X, Y, and Z.  And had you known said xyz, never would you have parted with your own "green" for it.

 It's the same line of reasoning that I go for when I read only the 1 and 2 star reviews when I'm shopping- anybody can "love" something, but I'd rather know what people hate and decide if I can live with the drawbacks.

So once or twice a week I'm going to review green things I hate.

Water bottles, supplements, organic baby items, cloth diapers, etc.

If it's green and I hate it, you're gonna hear about it.   

"Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing."  
~Redd Foxx

Monday, June 10, 2013

Soaked Muesli

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. "

No big deal.  It only took 3 hours of trial and failure on the bedtime routine to buy myself 30 minutes for a post here... compliments of
See the tear on her little cheek?

Anyway, sorry for the no-explanation-of-where-I've-been-for-six-months, but food is much more interesting than my 2013 has been, so here's the skinny on Soaked Muesli instead.

I've noticed the 'Refrigerator Oatmeal' trend in foodie cyberspace and I'm here to set the record straight: 

1) Eating raw grains for breakfast is called muesliNot oatmeal.

2) Rolled oats are not  raw.  They've been steam rolled. 

3) Refrigerating uncooked oatmeal is convenient and delicious but it could be so much *more* if folks would do it *right.*

Soaking grains for the neophyte healthy eater seems odd, daunting, and downright frustrating.  I know when I had freshly weaned my husband off white flour that the addition of soaking our whole grains was enough to make me hyperventilate so I just hit my mental *delete* button and went on with life.

 However, the concept and the 'why' behind it kept popping up every now and then.  Over the course of several years, I wrapped my mind around the why, then the how, and slowly incorporated soaking into my preparation of grains (and nuts), while refusing to let myself become a perfectionist or paranoid crazy person over it.

Enough for a couple breakfasts and snacks for us- but for my friend with 11 kids, this
countertop full of oats will be a single meal!!!
Long story short: soaking grains properly before cooking or consuming them raw makes them more digestible, increases their nutrition, and *may* prevent or mitigate allergic reactions, depending on the person.
Husband-friendly Muesli: add raw coconut sugar and mini chocolate chips, plus (shudder) a dash of organic half-and-half
To soak oatmeal is simple, since it is partly cooked.  But it must be done at room temperature.  Refrigerating the oats after mixing cuts short the process.  So *try* to make this up in the morning.  Then let it sit till bedtime and pop your jars or covered bowls in the fridge then. 
 Soaked Muesli
per serving:
1/2 c oats
1-2 t chia seeds (or ground flaxseed, or both)
1-2T almond flour (for protein, or sub any combo of nuts and other seeds)
1/2 sliced banana
1-2T raisins (or mini chocolate chips)
1/4t cinnamon (skip this if you go chocolate-y)
1T yogurt or water kefir
8- 12 oz. milk of your choice (I use half milk/ half water if I'm low)
1-2t extra sugar, if you must
ch-ch-ch-chia! (Remember?)
Place oats in bottom of a 16 oz jar or bowl.  (This makes a lot but we eat big breakfasts.)  Dump everything on top and stir with a chopstick.  If you need more milk, go ahead.  The ingredients really gel up, so make this pretty watery.  If you really want to increase the enzyme activity going on during the soak, you can warm up your milk/ water-and-milk before adding it.
Almond flour (just finely ground almonds): protein you don't need to chew!  Great for 3-year-olds.

Top with a lid and let sit at room temperature for about 12 hours.  Then refrigerate and enjoy cold on a hot summer morning.

You can technically let this sit out for 24 hours, but if the room is warm-ish, and you've added fruit or sugar, your muesli might get pretty sour and ZING-y.  I like to let it sit out during cold weather and then warm the muesli really gently before eating it.
 So, other than being delish, what's the best thing about Soaked Muesli?  It uses up extra kefir:
A jar of the home-made probiotic 'water kefir' that is taking over my life kitchen.
 I've been making water kefir, which is a non-dairy version of the liquid-y yogurt-y probiotic drink that more and more people are drinking and more and more regular stores are carrying.  Unfortunately, like yogurt, most of the kefir you get commercially is straight-up junk.  You can add small amounts to soaking grains to break down the phytase. 

More than you wanted to know:

Phytase is an anti-nutrient that is, traditionally, broken down before grains are consumed.  Before modern man invented commercial yeast, quick-cooking rice, and other strange things, grains could only be consumed after breaking them down, a la sourdough bread (for wheat) or traditional Mexican nixtamal (for corn) or traditional Middle Eastern salt-soaking (for rice). 

 Really picky foodies will probably balk at the way I soak rolled oats, but since rolled oats are not truly raw, it breaks down faster than most other grains (i.e. it does not need to soak a full 24 hours like rice or several days like wheat or spelt). 

I've heard internet rumors that you can do this muesli with steel-cut oats and simply increase both soaking times, but I probably won't try that till my rolled oats run out and I feel too cheap to replace them before using up my steel-cut.
Ridiculously delicious coconut kefir makes this recipe out-of-this-world scrumptious.
You can learn more about kefir and how to make it at www.culturesforlife.com, if your interest has been piqued.

And, to close, an unedited version of my 8 pm kitchen, to prove that I am absolutely no super-mom:

"Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty." 
~Sicilian Proverb

"But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored and sorrows end."
~William Shakespeare

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way. "

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!

"New Year's Day:  Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions.  Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual." 
 ~Mark Twain
                        "May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions." 
                                                                       ~Joey Adams

He who breaks a resolution is a weakling;
He who makes one is a fool.
~F.M. Knowles
                    “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

you-can't-be-allergic-to-this-PUMPKIN PIE

OK, well, someone could be, I'm sure.  You can always try to use an egg replacer like ener-G if that's the issue.

I'm feeling really smug about this pumpkin pie recipe, as no one hasd been able to tell the difference between it and 'real' pumpkin pie. 

Start with your crust.  You can use whatever.  Ground almonds make a really yummy 'graham cracker' style crust which is a nice change from a regular crust.  And most any cookbook will have an 'easy oil crust' type recipe which you can use with coconut or spelt flour and coconut oil or sunflower oil or whatever.  Our tester pies were spelt with coconut oil, but our Christmas pie is a gluten-free pie crust mix from Whole Paycheck Foods.

Then, the pumpkin!

you-can't-be-allergic-to-this-PUMPKIN PIE
1 can pumpkin
1 can coconut milk, full fat NOT lite
2 eggs
3/4c coconut sugar, 1/2c maple sugar, or 2/3c agave
1/2t salt
1t cinnamon
1/2t ginger
1/4t cloves

Toss all this in the blender and pour into your crust.  Bake at 425 for 15 minutes.  Turn down the oven to 350 and bake 35 more minutes.  That's it.  I'll add some pictures when ours is done!

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen. " ~Author unknown, attributed to a 7-year-old named Bobby

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peanut Butter Cookies! gluten-free, dairy-free

I'd like to say I've used my blogging break in some uberprofitable or at least ubercool way, but I haven't.  Nope.  Just life and Advent as usual, but a little more unplugged.  I love blogging but I'm not really that fond of the internet.  Go figure.

I have, at least, come up with some smashingly delicious holiday treats, though probably putting them up 3 days before Christmas is not overly helpful.

Ah, well, happy new year!

My first recipe is these utterly perfect, allergen-free peanut butter cookies.  If you happen to be allergic to peanuts?  Hold on till tomorrow for the perfect pumpkin pie.

Peanut Butter Cookies
1c natural peanut butter
1c coconut oil, softened but not totally melted
3/4c maple sugar or coconut sugar (you can sub any sweetener you like)
2 eggs
2t vanilla
3/4c coconut flour (or sub 2c spelt flour)
1/4t salt
2t baking soda
1c peanuts, if desired

Cream first three ingredients.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  Add flour, salt, soda, and peanuts and mix well.
  Form tablespoon-sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet or cookie sheet covered in parchment paper.  You may need to add another Tablespoon or two of flour if dough is sticky.  You may need to do some extra forming of the balls if they are crumbling.  Smash with a fork in a criss-cross and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.
Now, COOL COOKIES COMPLETELY ON THE SHEETS.  Do NOT move these cookies till they are good and cool, or they will be very crumbly.  They firm up as they sit.

So good with hot tea or hot chocolate.  Our tester batches were inhaled in minutes.

                                                               And my amazing helper:
I couldn't get anything accomplished without my wonderful babysitter.

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."  ~Peg Bracken

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Treasures: Good King Wenceslas

I'm to the point where I hesitate.   Majorly.   Before any given homeschool purchase.  Even if said purchase is something as innocuous and non-space-guzzling as a book.  And the longer I homeschool the more wary I become of recommending "things"- any  "things"- to any one.  I'm a minimalist, to be sure.  Plus there are only so many slots in any homeschooler's library!  And I think we all hold our wallets just a little tighter these days. 

So when I call something a treasure, I don't do it lightly.  Let alone a book!  Books.  Books.  Books.  There are so many.  Good ones.  Bad ones.  Sometimes I think I'll write one but then every time I go to Barnes and Noble I get sort of sick looking at the sea of books... only a small fraction of which are worth anybody's time.  Too many books.

We have a treasury of Tomie de Paola'sw Christmas books which we lovingly display and read each Advent.  We don't need any more Christmas books!  But I couldn't walk by this one.  I had to stop and look.  Then I had to read it.  Then, well, I had to have it for our collection; despite all my misgivings, I just couldn't pass this beauty up.

The book tells the story of St. Wenceslas with exquisite illustrations.  And his story couldn'y be more apropo  for the children of our time.  I don't want to tell you the story in case you've never heard it.  But King Wenceslas embodies the spirit of giving in a concrete way that really sinks in for children.  So if you only buy one Christmas book this year, may I be so bold as to say, this should be it! 

God bless, and happy reading.

Good King Wenceslas

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers.  My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them.  There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." 
~Flannery O'Connor

Monday, November 12, 2012

NOT-So-Ordinary Pork and Beans

"Worries go down better with soup." 
~Jewish Proverb

Soup weather at last!  I made this soup in honor of an organic, free-range pork roast we're trying out from a local farm, but any old pork roast will do.  It's a great way to stretch the meat for a hungry crowd.  Or substitute extra seasoning and 2T extra virgin olive oil for the roast for a yummy and vegan- but still very rich- bowl of soup.

3 lb pork roast
2c black beans
1c brown rice
2c chopped carrots
1c chopped onion (or leave it in a solid half for flavor if your family hates onions- I do this then John Paul and I eat the onion whole)
2 t sea salt
2 t salt-free seasoning mix of your choice (mine is just the cheap stuff from ALDI)cajun seasoning is a good choice, too
2 4" strips of kombu
2 Tablespoons seaweed flakes (wakame, dulse, etc.), optional
10c boiling water
Start with the beans and rinse well.  Pork is usually paired with white beans or split peas but I prefer black beans with pork.  Well, with everything, really.  Black beans are delicious!

Adding kombu to the soup means you can use plain water and it turns into soup stock while the soup cooks.  Way easy for the lazy cook like myself who doesn't plan ahead.  (Actually, I had 6 cups of good chicken stock in the fridge when I made this but I had forgotten about it.  Sheesh.)

 Now, follow along closely: dump everything into a crockpot and walk away.  See my half onion floating?  It enriches the soup, but no one has to eat it.  Fine with me!  I love to eat an onion like this, and so does Johnny.
"This is every cook's opinion -
no savory dish without an onion,
but lest your kissing should be spoiled
your onions must be fully boiled."
~Jonathan Swift
 Come back 8 hours later:
 Voila!  Really yummy soup. 
This recipe  approved by my pickiest eater

Lots of crock pot recipes actually do better on the stove where you can brown or saute ingredients separately.  This recipe doesn't really need it, though.  Why?  Well, truth be told, it's the pork fat.  In case you haven't noticed, pork fat tastes good.  Really, really good.  It's hard to screw up recipes involving pork fat. 

"I would like to find a stew that will give me heartburn immediately, instead of at three o'clock in the morning."
  ~John Barrymore

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Elderberry is in; Echinacea is out...

Guess what?

Recent 'for real' research shows that echinacea doesn't work for your cold.  Or for cold prevention.

Say what???

 Yep.  True.

So what's a mama to do?  Well, don't throw out that echnacea tincture just yet!  Turns out echinacea really works on infected flesh, but the tincture needs direct contact with the infection- which makes it perfect for your sore throat!  I was skeptical, but recently had the good luck to come down with an awful sore throat.  I tried using the ecninacea-cinnamon tincture I make as a gargle- straight.  Knocked a serious sore throat right out in just three doses.  Nice!
Random pic of world's cutest baby

I first heard this 'herb news' from my doctor.  He trained in Germany so is pretty hip to herbal healing, for an MD.  He went on a tirade about echinacea in my first appointment with him, which was so surprising, I didn't counter.  Instead I came home and, in my next 4 minutes of spare time, tried to find these new studies.

The book Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria (provocative title, eh?) is where I found it.  (An excellent book, but not light bedtime reading.)  It gives a fascinating history of the herb (well, fascinating to an herb-nerd like me) and also lays out the most up-to-date research on echinacea.  Most of which, big surprise, was not conducted on this continent.

So.  Apparently echinacea's use is very new, in the grand scheme of things.  And while many German physicians use echinacea, they tend to use fresh juice.  I'm not sure I've ever even considered juicing fresh echinacea, and I've never seen it for sale anywhere!  So that's pretty key when looking at studies on the herb.  Water infusions (tea) of echinacea have shown in clinical trials to be pretty useless against active infections (something I've long suspected), alcohol preparations (tinctures) have a different action, and fresh juice does somehting altogether different.   

What gets confusing, thoough, is that while echinacea apparently won't get rid of your cold, or prevent a cold, it does 'work' as a tonic.  A tonic is an herb that will build up and strengthen your system over time, but shouldn't be what you reach for first during active infections (when you are actually sick, right now). 

Clear as mud, right?

Here's what might actually be helpful to remember:

-echinacea is still good
-Echinacea Augustafolia is medicinally useful, while Echinacea Purpurea (much cheaper) is not as powerful (just look on the label, it will say the variety)
-go for the tincture
-use it like a vitamin, not a medicine, unless you are applying it directly to infected or potentially infected flesh (it's cheaper in your natural first aid kit than lavender essential oil, anyway!)
-don't take echinacea continuously- during cold and flu season, a typical regime is 5 days on, 2 days off, or 2-3 weeks on, 1 week off
-elderberry does work well during colds

Save money by making your own elderberry syrup:
Elderberry Syrup How-To

Random pic of world's cutest baby

"Nobody seems more obsessed by diet than our anti-materialistic, otherworldly, New Age spiritual types.  But if the material world is merely illusion, an honest guru should be as content with Budweiser and bratwurst as with raw carrot juice, tofu and seaweed slime. "
~Edward Abbey

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Venerable Vitamins

I'm not here to convince anyone they need vitamin supplements.  (Herbs might be another story, since in other cultures "herbs" and "food" are mostly synonomous.)
random pic of world's cutest baby
So if you feel good, have plenty of energy and resiliency, rarely get sick, and are satisfied with your overall health, you probably don't need extra vitamin and mineral supplements.  And my sister was telling me recently that a Swiss study has found supplemental vitamins are purely placebo.... 

I know that I feel better, get sick less often, get well faster, and handle life better on my carefully designed supplement routine.  How did I figure it out and where did I start?

I started with Marilyn Shannon's Fertility, Cycles & Nutrition .  I started with the vitamins she recommends, but during my last pregnancy I had to experiment to find something that wouldn't make a reappearance 10 minutes later... eventually finding a raw whole food vitamin supplement: Garden of Life Vitamin Code Raw Prenatal 

And while I use several different supplements for myself and my little people, I would scale back to just the kids sugar-free chewable multi and my raw prenatal if I needed to keep the cost as low as possible. 

It can be confusing and annoying to try and figure out if the ingredients in a given vitamin bottle are causing as much harm as good, and it's not as fun for some people as it is for me, so I'm sharing a list of 'clean' vitamins with you today.  The vitamins are all for sale at Iherb.  I shop there if I'm not buying locally because their prices are always between good and awesome.  (And if you buy anything from them, yes, I get a miniscule referral fee.  Like if 100 people bought something, I could probably get a cup of coffee with it....)  Do use the code in the link for $5 or $10 off your first order! 
Bread with Honey's vitamin and herbals recommendations for cold and flu season

And check out the bubble bath on my list, too.  If you are trying to keep chemicals away from your little people's bodies, chances are you don't give them bubble baths.  Or, you pay astronomical prices for natural health food store stuff.  Iherb sells Nutribiotic's bubble bath for a crazy-low price and it is a bath time staple around here.  We love it.

"In its complexity and sensuality, nature invites exploration, direct contact, and experience.  But it also inspires a sense of awe, a glimpse of what is still "un-Goggleable"... life's mystery and magnitude."
~Kim Payne, Simplicity Parenting

"Do vegetarians eat animal crackers?"
  ~Author Unknown

"I take a vitamin every day.  It's called a steak." 

~Leo Benvenuti and Steve Rudnick, Kicking & Screaming, 2005, spoken by the character Buck Weston