Jun 27, 2011

7 Easy Homemade Salad Dressings

Is your fridge burdened with store bought salad dressings?

Have you ever made your own, or wanted to know how?

Did you know how simple and how much healthier it is?

Well, we've written a post on the basics that make up a salad dressing (click here to see post), but here are 7 of Wellness Mama's (wellnessmama.com) favorites that capture a good variety. Say good bye to just plain old Ranch from the store.


 -1- Creamy Homemade Caesar 

  • One egg yolk at room temperature (very important it is not cold!)
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard or mustard powder
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely crushed
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire
  • 2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • salt, pepper and spices to taste.
How to Make It:
  1. Whisk egg yolk with whisk or blender on low speed.
  2. Once creamy, add vinegar and other ingredients and blend until creamy.
  3. Slowly add oil, stirring constantly until incorporated.
  4. If it doesn’t incorporate well, your egg might still have been too cold!
Great with: Dark lettuces, chicken dishes, or on asparagus.

-2- Zesty Italian

  • 3 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 small squirt of Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1-2 cloves finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp each of thyme, basil and oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
How to Make It:
Pull all ingredients in small jar and shake vigorously.
Great with: any salad or as a marinade.

-3- Tangy Greek

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • small squirt dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp each of oregano and marjoram
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
How to Make It:
Put all ingredients in small jar with lid and shake until well mixed.
Great with: dark lettuces, feta cheese, olives, and cucumbers. Also a good marinade for a cucumber and onion salad.

-4- Sweet Asian

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • pinch of dried ginger or 1/2 tsp fresh zested ginger root (preferable)
  • spices to taste
How to Make It:
Put all ingredients in small jar with lid and shake vigorously. You can also mix in blender or small food processor.
Great with: Sesame chicken (as a marinade and dipping sauce), on a spinach salad with cashews, on cauliflower fried rice.

-5- Raspberry Vinaigrette 

  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • 2 teaspoons honey
How to Make It:
Put all ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Great with: salad with feta and cashews, grilled chicken salad, marinade on pork.

-6- Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • one clove of garlic, finely minced
  • small squirt of dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon honey (optional)
  • salt, pepper and basil to taste
How to Make It:
Mix all ingredients in small jar or blender.
Great with: any type of salad or as a marinade on beef, chicken or pork.

 -7- French

  • 1 squirt of mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste (organic)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon of honey (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder or small chunk of fresh onion
How to Make It:
Put all ingredients in a small blender and blend until smooth.
Great with: any type of salad (I like it on chef salads), kids like to dip things in this dressing.
Other great things to throw on a salad:
  • nuts: especially pecans, walnuts and macadamias
  • olives
  • chopped veggies
  • chopped apples
  • sliced strawberries or blueberries
  • grilled or baked chicken
  • sliced steak
  • shrimp
  • all of the above!

Jun 23, 2011

Intro to Kefir: Super Healthy and Frugal!

Kefir is a cultured, enzyme-rich food (usually dairy milk) filled with friendly micro-organisms that help balance your "inner ecosystem." More nutritious and therapeutic than yogurt, it supplies complete protein, essential minerals, and valuable B vitamins. While yogurt provides your digestive system with friendly bacterium as long as you eat it, Kefir helps to repopulate it for good!

Kefir is simple and inexpensive to make at home.
Kefir is used to restore the inner eco-system (esp. after antibiotics).
Kefir is excellent nourishment for pregnant and nursing women, the elderly, and those with compromised immunity.
Kefir is great for soaking your whole grain flour for increased nutrients/digestability.

Kefir can be made into a delicious drink that kids love.

The regular use of kefir can help relieve all intestinal disorders, promote bowel movement, reduce flatulence and create a healthier digestive system. In addition, its cleansing effect on the whole body helps to establish a balanced inner ecosystem for optimum health and longevity.
Kefir can also help eliminate unhealthy food cravings by making the body more nourished and balanced. Its excellent nutritional content offers healing and health-maintenance benefits to people in every type of condition.

Kefir can be made from any type of milk, cow, goat or sheep, coconut, rice or soy. Although it is slightly mucous forming, the mucous has a “clean” quality to it that creates ideal conditions in the digestive tract for the colonization of friendly bacteria.

Kefir is made from gelatinous white or yellow particles called “grains.” This makes kefir unique, as no other milk culture forms grains. These grains contain the bacteria/yeast mixture clumped together with casein (milk proteins) and complex sugars. They look like pieces of coral or small clumps of cauliflower and range from the size of a grain of wheat to that of a hazelnut. Some of the grains have been known to grow in large flat sheets that can be big enough to cover your hand!. The grains ferment the milk, incorporating their friendly organisms to create the cultured product. The grains are then removed with a strainer before consumption of the kefir and added to a new batch of milk.

You can buy Kefir in the store, or you can buy kefir grains and make your own. You can buy milk or water kefir grains (we'll explain more of that later in this post). But, they multiply regularly, so it's easy to keep them going once you start. I got mine on KSL classified for free. (There's always someone giving some away, but you have to be careful of the quality because it's like yogurt, in that not all yogurts/cultures are created equally and some may have more beneficial bacteria in them than others--esp. if they come from a reputable source.)

WHY KEFIR (and not just yogurt)?
Both kefir and yogurt are cultured milk products...but they contain different types of beneficial bacteria. Yogurt contains transient beneficial bacteria that keep the digestive system clean and provide food for the friendly bacteria that reside there. But kefir can actually colonize the intestinal tract, a feat that yogurt cannot match.

Kefir contains several major strains of friendly bacteria not commonly found in yogurt, Lactobacillus Caucasus, Leuconostoc, Acetobacter species, and Streptococcus species. It also contains beneficial yeasts, such as Saccharomyces kefir and Torula kefir, which dominate, control and eliminate destructive pathogenic yeasts in the body. They do so by penetrating the mucosal lining where unhealthy yeast and bacteria reside, forming a virtual SWAT team that housecleans and strengthens the intestines. Hence, the body becomes more efficient in resisting such pathogens as E. coli and intestinal parasites.

Kefir's active yeast and bacteria provide more nutritive value than yogurt by helping digest the foods that you eat and by keeping the colon environment clean and healthy.

Because the curd size of kefir is smaller than yogurt, it is also easier to digest, which makes it a particularly excellent, nutritious food for babies, invalids and the elderly, as well as a remedy for digestive disorders.


Milk Kefir is made with cow milk, goat milk or coconut milk
Water Kefir is dairy-free and is made with sugar water, juice or coconut water

Milk Kefir is a probiotic-rich beverage with live active yeast and bacteria; Milk Kefir Grains (traditional starter culture) are propagated in organic milk
Water Kefir is dairy-free and is made with sugar water, juice or coconut wate; Water Kefir Grains are grown in organic sugar and filtered water

Milk kefir can be consumed plain, flavored or as the base for salad dressings, smoothies and more.  You can generally substitute kefir for buttermilk or yogurt in recipes.  Milk Kefir can also be strained of some of the whey to make a type of cheese ranging from a soft cheese consistency, to a cream cheese texture to even a hard cheese texture.
Water Kefir can flavored and consumed as a replacement to soda pop and juice.  It also makes a great base for dairy-free smoothies.

Milk Kefir tastes like a strongly flavored cultured milk but the taste of any particular batch is based on the level of fermentation which is dependent on a number of factors including the ratio of kefir grains to milk, the ambient temperature and the length of time the kefir is allowed to culture.  Well fermented kefir generally has a strong sour or tart taste and can even have a bit of a carbonated texture (it is known in some circles as the "champagne of milk".
Water Kefir tends to have a sweet, slightly fermented taste to it.  We generally recommend flavoring water kefir as it isn't very impressive tasting plain.  Flavoring is easy--fresh or dried fruit, juice or flavor extracts such as vanilla extract can all be used.

Milk Kefir can be flavored by blending in fresh or frozen fruit, flavor extracts such as vanilla, sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, stevia and more.  There are a number of flavoring options.
Water Kefir can be flavored using fresh or dried fruit, flavor extracts such as vanilla extract, fruit juice or even herbs.

Milk Kefir can be used to inoculate cream to make butter or a sour cream-type condiment.  It can also be drained of some of its whey to make a soft cheese.  Coconut Milk Kefir can be made by allowing the kefir grains to culture in coconut milk.

Water Kefir can be bottled up and used in place of soda pop.  It also can be used as a base for dairy free smoothies.

KEFIR BREWING INFO (using milk kefir grains)
Brewing Directions:

In a clean, wide mouth glass container (ie, a mason jar is wonderful), place these grains and 1 cup milk (whole, 2%, skim, pasteurized or not, homogenized or not – organic is preferable, though).

Start with a small amount of milk (like 1 cup), you can increase it over a few days time, as your grains grow (it may take weeks to noticeably grow or a matter of days, depending on the temperature of where you have them ‘brewing’ and how much they need to adjust to your brand of milk).

Place a lid on the jar or a cloth with rubber band to keep it on tight. Leave sitting on your countertop, out of direct sunlight for 12 - 24 hours.

During the brew time, gently swirl the jar to make sure the grains are ‘bathed’ with the milk and this will help feed them and convert the milk to Kefir. You can omit this ‘swirling of the jar’, and it will turn out fine, especially if you are using the smaller amount of milk. Just give it a gently ‘swirl’ in the morning to make sure it looks like all (most) the milk was ‘converted’.

12 - 24 hours later, depending on milk to grain ratio and ambient temperature in your kitchen, you will have ‘real’ Kefir. It will be a bit tart and tangy. You will need to adjust the ‘brew’ time to get it to taste best for you. Less time will be less tart and more ‘yogurty’, longer will be sourer tasting.
Just prior to straining, I stir the contents with a silicon spatula or spoon. Definitely use a plastic utensil and NOT metal. This makes straining a little easier as it breaks up any large ‘curds’ that have formed and makes it a smoother Kefir.

Use a non metal strainer (I found a nylon ‘tea strainer’ made by ‘Tea Republic’ that I love, it catches all the grains, and I can gently rub a silicon spatula back and forth, and the Kefir milk strains into a new mason jar and is super creamy and smooth.

After straining off the liquidy ‘Milk Kefir’, the Kefir grains (which might still have some ‘curds’ clinging to them, but this is ok) are placed straight back into a pre-washed and room temp mason jar or fermenting vessel of choice, without rinsing the grains.

Fresh milk is added to the grains to prepare the next batch and a lid/cloth is put on.
The strained kefir is either consumed fresh, immediately, or poured into a sealed container and stored in the refrigerator (will keep up to a few weeks or longer). It can also be stored on your counter top for 1-2 more days at room temp to help reduce lactose content, then refrigerated and used..
Eventually you will notice the grains increasing in mass, and you can add more milk to the jar for brewing or remove some of the grains to give away or make a ‘back up’ copy.

Short Term Kefir Storage:
Put your grains in a glass jar of milk with a lid on it (~a cup milk per 1-2 TBS grains)
Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Longer Term Kefir Storage:
By straining off the refrigerated, kefir’d milk at least once a week, and replacing with fresh milk, you can usually extend the ‘refrigerator’ storage method indefinitely. I would try to get them reactivated a few times a year, though…just to be sure. The longer you do this, the more chance of the grains dying or becoming inbalanced from loosing too many of their unique cultures.

Freezing Kefir Grains:
Rinse off your grains with clean, filtered water. Pat dry and place on a paper towel or clean tea towel to allow to dry.

Place your grains in a jar or plastic baggie and freeze for up to one year, but you might only want to do it for a few months, as the yeast component can completely die off using this method. It might take up to two weeks to get them active again, once you thaw them.

Drying Kefir Grains:
Kefir grains may be dehydrated to store long term (a year or so).

Prepare the grains, as for freezing, then as they dry on the paper towel, or tea towel, allow them to continue drying in a well ventilated, warm spot (maybe on the top of your refrigerator?) for up to 3 days or longer for large grains. They will become smaller, hard and yellow looking. Store in a plastic baggie, or in a glass jar, in a cool dry spot or in the refrigerator, once you know they are well dried.

Reactivating Frozen and Dried Kefir Grains:
To reactivate frozen and dehydrated kefir grains, place in a glass jar with cool water and soak for a few minutes. Place them in a small amount of fresh milk, and allow to sit at room temp for 24 hours.

Every day change the milk and toss out the kefir milk (don’t drink it yet). You will want the milk to be coagulating, and have a clean, yeasty smell (or like good buttermilk). Once that happens, you can start consuming your kefir and continue as for normal brewing, and increasing the amount of milk again. This process could take a few weeks to happen, to reactivate. Be patient and use smaller than normal amounts of milk until you are confident you have happy, active kefir cultures again.

First you can buy some (you don't need more than 1/4 cup of grains, because they'll multiply). I got mine on KSL Classified for free.

Water kefir grains ferment at room temperature typically for about 48 hours (compared to 24 for milk). Simply add a couple pieces of dried fruit for more flavor and nutrients to sugar water with the grains. You can also add in some fresh lemon if desired. In 48 hours you'll have a delicious, refreshing and healthy probiotic drink.

One thing to keep in mind is that a big portion of the sugar is broken down and converted by the grains into acids, carbonation, small amounts of alcohol and other nutritious by-products. The actual sugar content and GL is lowered once it is ready to drink. More on this below...

Making Water Kefir

 To make 1 quart of water kefir, add to a quart sized glass jar:
  • 4 or so tbsp of sucanat, rapadura, sugar, agave nectar, or maple syrup (honey is antibacterial and will slowly kill the grains)
  • 1 tbsp of water kefir grains
  • about 1 quart of filtered or spring water (enough to fill jar while leaving 1/2 to 1 inch of space at the top)
Optional – you can add fruit and other ingredients to flavor your water kefir, such as:
  • Ginger and lemon slices
  • Berries, sliced in half
  • Dried fruit such as figs or dried pineapple ring
Shake or stir until the sugars are completely dissolved. Cover with a non-air tight lid (most screw on lids are fine) and allow to brew at room temperature for 24 to 48+ hours. I recommend for the first couple of batches, that you taste the water kefir every 12 hours after the first day. If it’s too sweet, let ferment longer. If you forget and it’s too sour, dilute with juice or sweetened tea when drinking.

When the water kefir’s done, strain the grains out, discard any fruit you’ve added and store the finished water kefir in the fridge in a covered jar or in airtight bottles. Decanting into airtight bottles while the brew is still slightly sweet and allowing to brew in the airtight bottles for a few hours at room temperature will yield a fizzy drink. Do not bottle in airtight bottles while the brew is too sweet or too much pressure may build up and you may end up with kefir soda all over your counters when you open the bottle.

Note: It is not recommended to brew the kefir in a metal or plastic container as metal is reactive and the acidic nature of kefir may wear down and leach plastic into your brew. Avoid letting the kefir grains come in contact with metal utensils. Do not rinse or brew grains in chlorinated water as chlorine may damage or kill your grains.

Growing the Kefir Grains

The water kefir grains will grow better in a high-mineral environment. Using high mineral sweeteners such as sucanat, rapadura, or adding a bit of molasses to your brew will help your grains grow faster. I use only sucanat, and my grains double each batch. If your grains are not growing and you want them to, brew one or two rounds with only sucanat, rapadura, or with some added molasses. Some juices are also high mineral and work well for growing your grains.

Storing the Grains

When you are not making water kefir, you can store your grains in a glass jar with anywhere from double to several times the amount of liquid as grains. Add one or two tbsps of sugar to feed the grains. You may store it at room temperature or in the fridge. If storing at room temperature, change out the liquid for new water and sugar every 2 to 3 days. If storing in the fridge, you can go up to a week or two. If storing in the fridge, the first brew that you make from the grains may take a bit longer since the bacteria and yeasts will take awhile to become active again.

Water Kefir Recipes

These are some recipes: from www.wholetraditions.com (adjust to taste and have fun)
Ginger Ale Kefir
Juice Kefir Spritzer
Lychee Kefir Soda & Fermented Lychees

Alcohol Content

Water kefir can contain anywhere from .2 to 2% alcohol with a 48 hour fermentation. To put it into perspective, wine is usually 7 to 15% alcohol. The alcohol content in water kefir varies widely depending on the type and amount of sweetener added, amount of grains, and fermentation time. A higher ratio of sugar will yield a more alcoholic drink, as will a shorter fermentation time. It's recommended using less kefir grain to sugar water ratio and doing a longer brew, tasting periodically.

What do I do with my extra grains?

  • Eat them! They are a great source of probiotics!
  • Give them away. Give a tbsp or two to a friend so they can make their own healthful sodas and beverages. Lacto-fermented beverages aid in digestion, provide lots of good nutrients and enzymes, and are an excellent and inexpensive source of probiotics.
  • Use them to make lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut. You can use kefir grains instead of whey to inoculate your lacto-fermented vegetables with good bacteria and yeast.
  • Compost them. If your grains are taking over your fridge and counters like they do mine, throw them in your compost pile. The bacteria will happily help you munch away at your compost pile. Microbials are great for soil health too!

What do I do with overbrewed water kefir?

Sometimes you let your water kefir go too long and make water kefir vinegar:
  • Use the water kefir vinegar as a cleaner. It smells great and works great – just place in a spray bottle and use on your counters.
  • Use it as a hair rinse. If you’re doing “no poo” (no shampoo), water kefir is great for rebalancing your hair PH after a baking soda wash

Jun 20, 2011

Healthier Whole Grains: Value of Soaking

Ever heard of soaking, sourdough or sprouting? Well, these methods all aid your body's digestion. We wanted to shared an awesome way to get healthier whole grains in your diet--soaking your grains. Yes, you can even soak the grains after you've ground them into flour. You can read about this is the Nourishing Traditions book. Here is an excerpt about soaking grains...

"All grains contain phytic acid (an organic acid in which phosphorous is bound) in the outer layer or bran. Untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron especially zinc in the intestinal track and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may led to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. The modern misguided practice of consuming large amounts of unprocessed bran often improves colon transit time at first but may lead to irritable bowel syndrome and, in the long term, many other adverse effects. Soaking allows enzyme, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. As little as seven hours of soaking in warm acidulated water will neutralize a large portion of phytic acid in grains. The simple practice of soaking cracked or rolled cereal grains overnight will vastly improve their nutritional benefits."

So, below we've posted a great summary article about soaking from www.passionatehomemaking.com.

Using whole grains in your cooking/baking is the first and one the most significant step you can take towards improving your nutrition. Whole grains include: whole wheat, kamut, spelt, brown rice, oats, any many others. Unlike white flour, whole grains keep the bran & germ together and in tact, which supplies you with all the nutrients. It is important to note that making the switch to whole grains is easier than you think. In fact, many recipes can be switched white flour with whole wheat flour without any difficulty. But, just because you have or are in the process of switching to healthier grains does not mean you are getting all the nutritional value. Have you ever considered that whole wheat and other whole grains might be very difficult for your body to digest?

Grinding Your Own Flour

Fresh flour contains all the vitamins and minerals missing in commercial flours. It includes the bran which is vital for a healthy colon and weight control. It is economical. Within 24 hours up to 40% of the nutrients have oxidized. In three days up to 80% of nutrients have oxidized, so using freshly grained flours preserves all the wonderful nutrients. Read more benefits here.
I personally use a NutriMill grinder. You can read more about this particular grinder at Pleasant Hill Grain Company online (www.pleasanthillgrain.com). It has worked splendidly for me! They have wonderful customer service as well. This is the one of the best investments you can make towards becoming more healthy and nutritious in your cooking. Check out this article to compare different mills. I store mine on my kitchen counter, because it is small and convenient for easy access. I have ground everything from beans, to grains, to corn in it.

Phytic Acid Prevents Digestion

Unfortunately, whole grains contain phytic acid in the bran of the grain which combines with key minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc and prevents their absorption in the intestinal tract. This makes it more difficult to digest properly. Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting the grain before cooking or baking will neutralize the phytic acid, releasing these nutrients for absorption.
This process allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralize the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins, including gluten. For many, this may lessen their sensitivity or allergic reactions to particular grains. Everyone will benefit, nevertheless, from the release of nutrients and greater ease of digestion.

How to Soak

1. The first stage of preparation is to soak the whole grain flour in an acid medium and liquid. The basic idea is to soak all the flour with the liquid ingredients and 1 Tbsp of an acid medium per cup of water called for in the recipe.

- If the substance is too dry to mix well (i.e. more flour than can mix evenly with the liquids), you can also add the liquid oil and sweetener (honey, maple syrup or agave) called for in the recipe to the mixture. This will help maintain a moist consistency that is easy to combine with the other ingredients after soaking.

- Acid mediums options include: cultured buttermilk, milk kefir, coconut kefir, water kefir, cultured yogurt, whey, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Dairy product acid mediums must be cultured!

- Make sure to use warm filtered water/liquids for soaking. Warm water is necessary for the soaking process to be effective. Warm the water/liquids until they are bath water temperature before adding to the grain/flour.

- Don't add salt to soak mixture because it slows down the soaking process. Add it at the end of the soaking period.
- Brown rice, buckwheat, and millet do not have as high of phytate content and thus need only be soaked for 7 hours (these are great last minute grains if you forget to soak, won’t be a big problem – also recommend purchasing brown rice pasta for this reason as well)

-All other grains (whole wheat, spelt, kamut, oats, etc) should be soaked from 12-24 hours, with oats have the highest level and best soaked for 24 hours.

2. Leave your grains soaking at room temperature on your counter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, or with a plate to prevent it from drying out (especially in the case of a dough). After soaking, you add the remaining ingredients, if required, and proceed with recipe!

Sue Gregg shares two other benefits to soaking: “There are two other advantages of the two-stage process. Several hours of soaking serves to soften the grain, resulting in baked goods lighter in texture, closer to the texture of white flour. The longer the soaking, the less necessary is baking powder. Baking soda, alone, will give enough rise. Secondly, this is a great step in convenience, dividing the task into two shorter time periods, cutting the time needed to prepare the recipe right before cooking and baking when you feel
rushed to get food on the table.”

Another benefit I have found to soaking is that it absorbs the liquids and expands the grains, making a larger quantity in the end. This is very true especially with my soaking oatmeal. If I forget to soak, it results in a smaller batch, but if I soak it increases the quantity and is more satisfying and filling as well.

Soaked baked goods and cereals are always lighter in texture as well, and not dense as their unsoaked wheat counterparts. Don’t quite know why this happens, but it extends the food budget further! Whole grains overall are much more satisfying and fill you up longer than white products…so once again, more value for your money!

Soaking Cereals

Simply soak your cereals in half the quantity of water called for in the recipe with the 1 Tbsp acid medium per cup of water for 12-24 hours. When you are ready to cook, boil the other half of the water before adding the soaked grain. It will be ready in 5 minutes!

For our regular twice a week breakfast of oatmeal, I soak 1 cup of rolled oats with 1 cup of water and 1-2 Tbls of kefir. I let it sit covered overnight. In the morning I put 1 cup of water to boil on the stove. When it is rolling, I add the soaked oats and let it simmer for 5 minutes or so. We then add ground flax seeds, dried cranberries, chopped apples and sometimes a little mashed bananas and there you have an excellent high fiber breakfast.

Check out our Soaked Oat/No-Flour Pancake and Soaked/Sourdough Whole Grain Pancake recipes.

Soaking Quick Breads

For quick breads (waffles, pancakes, muffins, etc) add 1 Tbsp of an acid medium (best with cultured buttermilk or kefir) for every cup of water called for in the recipe, cover and soak as recommended above. If the recipe calls for buttermilk already, soak in the buttermilk or replace with kefir (which is my favorite!).

I replace buttermilk with kefir completely most of the time without problem. If desired, you can also add all the other liquid ingredients besides the egg, leavenings, and salt in the soaking mixture as well. This helps maintain a moist dough. After soaking, I simply add the egg, leavenings and salt called for in the recipe.

Soaking Beans

Beans should be rinsed then soaked with 1 Tbsp whey or lemon juice per cup of beans. After soaking, drain, rinse and start with fresh water. Follow the recommended quantities as you would normally.

Soaking Yeast Breads

Soak flour, and 1 Tbsp vinegar or kefir for every cup of water called for in the recipe (leave 1/2 cup of water for activating yeast later). After soaking, active the yeast in the remaining water with a tsp of honey. Proceed with the recipe.
Homemade Bread Recipe – with soaking instructions!

Soaking Brown Rice

Combine your rice and all the water called for in the recipe with 1-2 Tbsp of acid medium and let soak for 7 hours. I combine these ingredients in the pot I will cook it in. When ready, simply turn it on and cook as usual. My recipe is to soak 1 cup brown rice to 2 1/4 cup water, with 2 Tbsp of kefir. Heat to boiling and then turn to low heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

For more recipes, view the recipe index. Most of my recipes include soaking instructions.

Soaking is actually quite simple. The key: thinking ahead! Write it in your schedule! Each morning after breakfast and making dinner preparations, I also ask myself if I need to soak anything for the next day. I quickly combine it and let it sit on my counter.

Two other good options that accomplish the same benefits as soaking, include using sprouted flour or sourdough methods.

Jun 16, 2011

Calcium Depleting Foods!

The following 7 foods are considered “Calcium Robbers” and keep us from absorbing the mineral, calcium; Citrus, Flour, Sugar, Salt, Yeast, Vinegar, and Dairy.  People with any type of Arthritis, Low Bone Density, or Osteoporosis should especially avoid these particular foods.

Of course staying away from ALL of these things is almost impossible, but by limiting many of them, your body will limit the amount of calcium lost on a daily basis.  I have severe osteoarthritis in my jaw joints and have some experience trying to limit these foods from my diet.  Here are some suggestions that have helped heal my body and get me back on the road to better health. 

1.      Citrus- tomatos are very acidic, so try cutting those and citrus fruits from your diet and instead, try eating more berries with higher antioxidant levels.

2.      Flour- Instead of WHITE REFINED FLOUR, try grinding your own grains and using them to make your own breads, muffins, pancakes, etc.  (click on the GRAINS tab to learn more about how to prepare them correctly.)

3.    Sugar- Excess sugar not only inhibits calcium absorption but promotes excess bacteria and candida in the body.  So, eat only unrefined or minimally processed sweeteners such as Rapadura, Raw Honey, Pure Maple Syrup, Molasses, etc. instead of white refined sugar if you have to sweeten things.  Experts on the subject recommend consuming celery, lettuce and chlorophyll, plants rich in silicon (a natural fiber), to help to diffuse buildup of yeast in the body and encourage calcium absorption. Sugar, already shown to be a major contributor to diabetes, also depletes phosphorus, another mineral important in facilitating the absorption of calcium.
4.    Salt- use only Sea Salt and preferably Celtic Sea Salt and go sparingly because a little goes a long way.  Excess sodium in our diet leads to excretion of calcium in the urine.
5.    Yeast- there are many quick breads that use other ingredients such as lecithin or baking soda and baking powder so try eating those instead. 

6.    Vinegar- unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar is a better choice if you have to use any vinegar, but use distilled and other vinegars sparingly.

7.    Dairy- I love cheese, but I try to get Tillamook cheese because they don’t have any growth hormones in it.  I also love milk, but when possible I get RAW MILK (best if from 100% pasture-fed cows) which helps you absorb and utilize the calcium.
DO NOT FEEL OVERWHELMED!  So much information at one time can often make people feel a little stressed and can hurt attempts to make changes in life.  Remember, take one step at a time! 
At least by keeping these seven foods to a minimum, you will do your body a world of good and perhaps later down the road you’ll feel your body beginning to heal itself.  Enjoy eating healthy!

Jun 14, 2011

Good Cheap Food Tips

1. Buy raw ingredients instead of prepackaged foods. If you don’t know how to cook, learn. You’ll save on food bills, and your body will thank you for it in the long run.

2. Buy in bulk from a local health food store, or place bulk orders directly with mail-order companies. If you can’t meet their minimum order size, go in on an order with another family, or organize a larger food buying club.

3. Avoid the middleman and buy directly from farmers. Look for farm stands, community supported agriculture programs and farmers markets.

4. Eat fruits and vegetables in season, when they are least expensive. (Once, we found organic watermelon for three cents a pound!) Stock up when they’re cheap and freeze or can any excess for later use.

5. Keep up with what’s in your refrigerator and make sure nothing spoils. Once a week, make soup or casseroles to use up vegetables and other leftovers.

6. Calculate the price of food per pound when you visit supermarkets. Doing the math will help you spot good deals.

7. Don’t overeat. When you do, you’re flushing money down the drain.

Read more: http://www.motherearthnews.com/Modern-Homesteading/2007-10-01/Live-on-Less.aspx#ixzz1MoWglTou

Homemade Bisquick

6 c flour

3 T baking powder

1 T salt

1/2 c cold butter (or shortening, but we try not to use that stuff)
1. Measure the sifted flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Use a wire whisk to blend thoroughly.
2. Cut in cold butter using a pastry cutter until thoroughly incorporated.
3. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 months.

Jun 8, 2011

Fats & Oils 101...

Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet and provide the building blocks for cell membranes.  Fats as part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry.  In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.  Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption, and a host of other processes.


Duck & Goose Fat-  35% saturated fat, 52% monounsaturated fat and about 13% polyunsaturated fat.  These fats are quite stable and are highly prized for frying potatoes.

Chicken Fat- about 31% saturated, 49% monounsaturated, and 20% polyunsaturated.  Inferior to goose and duck fat but still used for frying in kosher kitchens.

Lard (pork fat)- 40% saturated, 48% monounsaturated, and 12% polyunsaturated.  Like duck/goose fat, lard is stable and a preferred fat for frying.  It is an excellent source of vitamin D.  Some researchers believe that pork products should be avoided because they may contribute to cancer.  Others suggest that only pork MEAT presents a problem and that pig FAT in the form of lard is safe and healthy.  (This is my belief as well, so when we do fry our chicken, we use lard!)


Olive Oil-  75% oleic acid (stable monounsaturated fat), 13% saturated fat, and 10% omega-6 as well as 2% omega-3 linolenic acid.  The high percentage of oleic acid makes olive oil ideal for salads and for cooking at moderate temperatures.  Extra virgin  olive oil is also rich in antioxidants.  It should be cloudy, indicating that it has not been filtered, and have a golden yellow color, indicating that it is made from fully ripened olives.  Olive oil has withstood the test of time; it is the safest vegetable oil you can use, but don't overdo.  The longer-chain fatty acids found in olive oil are more likely to contribute to the buildup of body fat than the short-chain and medium-chain fatty acids found in butter and coconut oil. 

Peanut Oil- 48% oleic acid, 18% saturated fat, and 34% omega-6.  Like olive oil, peanut oil is relatively stable and therefore appropriate for stirfrys on occasion.  But the high percentage of omega-6 presents a potential danger, so use of this oil should be limited.

Sesame Oil- 42% oleic acid, 15% saturated fat, and 43% omega-6 linoleic acid.  It is similar to peanut oil so use sparingly but it can used for frying because it contains unique antioxidants that are not destroyed by heat.

Flaxseed Oil- 9% saturated fat, 18% oleic acid, 16% omega-6, and 57% omega-3 linoleic acid.  With this high omega-3 content, it provides a remedy for the omega-6/omega-3 imbalance so prevalent in America today.  It should be kept refrigerated, never heated, and consumed in small amounts in salad dressings and spreads.

Tropical OilsPalm Oil is about 50% saturated, 41% oleic acid and about 9% linoleic acid.  Coconut Oil is 92% saturated with over two-thirds of the saturated fat as medium-chain fatty acids.  The lauric acid found in coconut milk and mothers milk provides antifungal and antimicrobial properties.  Coconut milk protects tropical populations from bacteria and fungusso prevalent in their food supply.  Because of this lauric acid, it is often used in baby formulas.  These oils are stable at room temperature for many months without becoming rancid. 

Safflower, Corn, Sunflower, Soybean and Cottonseed Oils- all contain over 50% omega-6 and (except Soybean oil), only minimal omega-3.  Safflower oil contains amost 80% omega-6.  Research continues to accumulate on the dangers of excess omega-6 oils in the diet, whether rancid or not.  Use of these oils should be strictly limited!  They should NEVER e consumed after they have been heated, as in cooking, frying or baking!  High oleic safflower oils, produced from hybrid plants, have composition similar to olive oil, namely, high amounts of oleic acid and only small amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids and thus are more stable than traditional varieties.  However it is difficult to find truly cold-pressed versions of these oils.

Canola Oil- 5% saturated fat, 57% oleic acid, 23% omega-6, and 10-15% omega-3. The newest oil on the market, canola oil was developed from the rape seed, a member of the mustard family. Rape seed is considered unsuited for human consumption because it contains a long-chain fatty acid called erucic acid, which under some circumstances is associated with fibrotic heart lesions. Canola oil was bred to contain little if any erucic acid and has drawn attention of nutritionists because of its high oleic acid content. But there are some indications that canola oil presents dangers of its own. It has a high sulphur content and goes rancid easily. Baked goods made with canola oil develop mold very quickly. During the deodorizing process, the omega-3 fatty acids or processed canola oil are transformed into TRANS fatty acids, similar to those in margerine and possibly more dangerous.

In summary...
Our Choice of fats and oils is one of extreme importance! Most people, especially infants and growing children, benefit from MORE fat in the diet rather than less. But the fats we eat must be chosen with care. Avoid all processed foods containing hydrogenated fats and polyunsaturated oils. Instead, use traditional vegetable oils like extra virgin olive oil and small amounts of unrefined flax seed oil. Aquaint yourselves with the merits of coconut oil for baking and with animal fats for occasional frying. Eat egg yolks and other animal fats with the proteins to which they are attached. And finally (MY FAVORITE suggestion), use as much good quality organic butter as you like, with the happy assurance that it is wholesome- indeed, an essential- food for you and your whole family...YEAH!

Jun 6, 2011

Simple Artisan Bread in Five Minutes! No Kneading!

Ever wanted to make European Bakery Worthy Breads?

Well, there's an awesome book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes (by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoë François ). It's a simple sure fire way to create many different scrumptious breads using one basic recipe and no kneading or proofing the yeast is needed, because you let the batter sit until you need it (like a starter).

Just make a large batch of dough and keep it in the fridge for two weeks, pulling off what you need when you want. However, if there are eggs in it, it should sit out too long and won't last longer than the week in the fridge. All doughs freeze well though; just thaw overnight in the fridge to use the next day.

Here is the website and a video so you can better understand and browse...

Base recipe:
3 c. warm water
1 1/2 T yeast (I only use 1 T, which is fine for longer dough raising)
1 1/2 T salt (not needed: I only use 1 T)
6 1/2 c. flour (does best with white flour, but you can try other variations)

*If doing a whole grain version, I've found my best approach is half white, half whole grain blend and 2-4 T vital wheat gluten with a dash of vinegar (or kefir, buttermilk, yogurt, lemon juice--soaking ideally for 12 hours in this helps to break down the phytic acid in the whole grains so it's easier for your body to digest). I also sometimes sub 1/4 c ground flax for some flour sometimes and add a little oil.

1. Mix the ingredients in a bowl or large bucket (it will double) with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed (it helps to do the flour last).

2. Let sit at least 2 hours, up to 24 hours if you want more of a sourdough flavor (which is healthier because the souring process is better for digestion). Place the bowl in the fridge until you're going to use it--refrigeration helps the dough not be as sticky. (Do not punch down dough...that releases gas bubbles and creates a dense dough)

3. Pull off the dough you want and shape it in a ball (make four 1 lb loaves--size of grapefruit); put the rest back in the fridge. Will keep up to 14 days.

4. Place the ball of dough on a cornmealed pizza peel or other surface and let rest (about 30-60 minutes, esp if right out of the fridge). 

5. Always Preheat a baking stone in the oven for 20 minutes at the temperature the recipe will be baking at (or a cookie sheet for 5 minutes if you aren't using a stone). For this recipe, bake at 450. 

6. Place the dough on stone/tray and cut a few slices on the top (flouring the top of the dough ball before cutting will help the knife not stick) bake 30 minutes with a pan of water below in the oven (this will create the thick crusty crust while keeping the inside moist).

7. Remove and place on a rack to cool.

You can use this recipe for all sorts of things. I've made pizza, calzones, sticky rolls, sourdough artisan, etc. all with this same ball of dough. It's so handy to just keep in your fridge and just pull it out when you want. I normally just do half the base recipe though, because I don't want to store a huge bucket in my fridge.

We'll post later about some of our other grain variations so we can make healthier bread, but it's a good idea to get started with this base recipe before you play with your own grain variations.

As I read the book, I took note of the differences between recipes using the base recipe and have made a cheat sheet so it's easy to remember and refer to. But, I suggest getting really familiar with the basic recipes and if you're uncomfortable with my cheat sheet and need more instructions, get the book from the library.

I've bolded the ones I've tried and use.
Bread Recipe
Add at the start of basic dough
1 lb ball =grapefruit
Oven Temp
Cook Time
Bake on
Water in Oven?

Basic/Boule* (starter)
1 lb ball

Olive Oil*
(good starter)
Sub. ¼ c. oil for ¼ c. water, and 1 T sugar

roll ½”
Basic or olive oil dough
Roll 1/8”
Basic or olive oil dough
Roll ½”
Fold over, slit top
Flat Bread
Roll ½”

Fist size, 1/8”
keep cooked pitas in towel
Orange size, paper thin
Prick with fork and salt before cooking; Pop bubbles during cooking
(good starter)
Only 1 ½ c. water, 8 eggs, ½ c. honey, 1 ½ c. butter, add 1 c. more flour
1lb ball
Brush loaf with egg wash before baking (eggs with water). Dough keeps only 5 days in fridge.
Sticky Rolls
Use Basic or brioche dough
1 ½ lb, roll 1/8” rect.
Coat rect. with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon; Roll and cut. Place in dish with heavily greased and sugared bottom. Flip onto plate as soon as baked so sticky side is on top.
Coffee Cake
Use Brioche dough
1 lb, roll 2 1/8” circles
Greased cake pan
Place one layer on bottom and layer fruit and other layer and more fruit. Once baked, cool and flip over.
Cinnamon/Bread twists
Use brioche scraps
Add cinnamon sugar and/or egg wash before baking.
Potato Bread
1 c. mashed potato, 1 ½ T sugar

Whole Wheat Sandwich
Sub 1 ½ c. milk for 1 ½ c. water, 5 T oil, ½ c. honey