Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Persimmon Pudding

Yesterday while we were researching something for school , I finally came across a recipe for Persimmon Pudding. What excitement - I have been hunting for one for several years now. One of my aunts would make this for our Thanksgiving weekend visits, and in my mind it was her unique signature dish. This was the first way I had ever tasted persimmons, and no one else seemed to make this ever. Thankfully the internet is filled with many cooks who are willing to share their dishes, skills, tip and so forth. I printed off the recipe, saved it to my hard drive for future use , and hobbled into the kitchen to make it for myself, with a few adaptations to make it nourishing- or at least more nourishing ! It's called a pudding, but in truth it is a lot more like a dense, moist cake - much like a British steamed pudding

Persimmon Pudding Cake

    * 2 cups of Hachiya persimmon pulp
    * 4 eggs
    * 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
    * 3/4 cups whole milk
    * 1 teaspoon vanilla
    * 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
    * 1/2 cup sugar
    * 1 teaspoon baking powder
    * 1 teaspoon baking soda
    * 1/2 teaspoon salt
    * 2 teaspoon cinnamon
    * 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    * 1 teaspoon ginger
    * 1 teaspoon all spice
    * 1 cup chopped nuts - pecans or walnuts
 * Whipping cream

1 Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, mix the persimmon pulp, eggs, butter, milk and vanilla.
2 In a separate bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
3 Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, a third at a time, fully incorporating after each addition. Add the chopped nuts.
4 Bake in a square glass pan, buttered, at 400°F until done (about 50 minutes).Top with a dollop of whipped cream. Serves 8.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bone Broth- not just for Zombies

Now that the cooler months are here , my thoughts for lunch turn to soup. It's a great, convenient go to kind of lunch. If you make your own soup it can be very economical and healthy, but if you take it one step further, it can become fabulously nourishing ! How is this accomplished , you may ask ? Through making Bone Broth ! Bone Broth  was a very common household staple at one time, when very little food items went to waste, but like so many other things it was replaced by nutritionally stripped convenience items, for a much higher cost. ( I am sensing a vicious cycle here- lack of time means buy more to support the busy lifestyle , which requires earning more money to attempt to keep busy lifestyle "healthy", suffering the effects of poor nutrition as a result which then requires healthcare, which requires more money...) I think it's high time that these forgotten kitchen skills be shared , shouted from the rooftops, and brought back to the common role they once had. THIS will be the solution to the obesity epidemic AND the rising cost of healthcare. Prevention instead of treatment.

Enough soap box drama :-) Let's talk about bone broth . Bone Broth benefits:
*rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and other trace minerals
*contains glucosamine and chondroiton – which help arthritis and joint pain.
*rich in geletin, which supplements protien and helps to fight against degenterative joint disease.It also helps to strenghten connective tissue, hair and nails ( remember the ads suggesting Knox Gelatin for stronger nails ?)
*Costs pennies to make, often with scraps that will be discarded.
*No chemical additives, preservatives, sodium, MSG or so forth
*Better flavor in your dishes

Here is a batch of beef bone broth. Not pretty at first, but it turns to liquid gold with a few simple steps.

Bone Broth
Crockpot or stock pot
bones ( beef bones or pork neck bones or turkey carcass or chicken bones or rib bones or....)
celery tops and bottoms
carrot tops or whole carrots
4 small onions, skin and all
3 cloves garlic, skin and all
2 bay leaves
Other spices according to the critter used( with beef I use thyme and marjoram)
1 T cider Vinegar ( THIS is the magic ingredient. It softens the bones and helps to leech out vital nutrients into the broth)

Place all in the crockpot or stock pot with enough water to bring it to the top. If using crockpot place on low and simmer all day- in a stock pot bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat and let simmer all day. Turn off or remove from heat, strain out the veggies and bones and refrigerate up to 3 days or store in the freezer for up to 6 months. The stock WILL turn gelatinous in the fridge. This is a good sign and means that the necessary nutrients are in your stock. If it sets up like jello, jump for joy, knowing that you have liquid gold !

At this point you can turn it into any soup you fancy. Today I am turning this batch into a crockpot full of minestrone soup- one of Nick's favorite lunches.Toss the ingredients in the crock pot when you first get up and it is ready at lunchtime. If you avoid adding any pasta or potatoes, it freezes beautifully.

Speaking of broth setting up like jello- did you know that in turn of the century/Victorian kitchens it was common to serve a gelatin salad course with dinners, and that gelatin was made by boiling calves feet, straining and then adding fruit and vegetable flavorings ? It's true. One problem was the gel firmness could be really variable according to the age of the animal, conditions in which it was fed and so forth. Commercial Jello was invented to not only eliminate the time intense process of boiling hooves but to create a product with uniformed , predictable results. In that simple vanity step, a protective food source was taken from our diets in exchange for the ability to watch it wiggle and jiggle every time. Gone were the congealed salads and gelatin courses and in came Jigglers and so forth.Makes you go "Hmmmmm"

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sweet Sunday Soaked Rolls

Do you have one meal that is really difficult to plan for ? I sure do, and that would be Sunday breakfast !  Bob is a Cantor( song leader) for one congregation , and a singer/musician for a second one. The weeks that he sings with the second congregation Nick sings in the choir, and they have to be out the door by 7 am. With workdays he has the option of brown bagging breakfast and eating it later- this option disappears on Sundays and often lunch is not till 2. Breakfast has to be quick, substantial, sustainable  and healthy. We have tried numerous options , and while some things almost work, nothing seems to be "the" solution. A few years back , before weight loss, I would make home made cinnabons for Sundays. It made for a good lazy munch for late risers like me and a grab and go for Bob. Problem with the standard cinnabon sort of rolls is they are a carb nightmare filled with highly refined sugar and will send you on a blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of the day. Yet, there is something so completely comforting and wonderful about home made cinnamon rolls that you can get amnesia to this fact. Could they be made healthier ???

The answer is yes- with my invention of Soaked Flour Whole Wheat Pumpkin Cinnamon rolls !! They are not yet perfect, as  want to discover a healthier alternative for the brown sugar and powdered sugar, but these will definitely serve the bill for now !

Soaked flour Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
(or a simple way to make everyone in your house smile and drool)

Roll Dough:
 8-12 hrs before baking , mix together in a bowl:
1/3 cup keifer, plain yogurt or buttermilk
1 cup  All-Purpose Flour
1 1 /4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
cover with plastic and let sit on the counter at room temperature.

 The next morning , dissolve
1/4 cup warm water (not hot, about 110 degrees)
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 tsp sugar

let it get foamy and then add to the soaked flour mix with
1-2 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg, beaten
3/4 cup pumpkin puree, either fresh or canned
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

Mix , adding additional white flour until you have a smooth, elastic, non sticky dough. Cover and let rise  till double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hrs. Meanwhile , gather ingredients for filling

1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each of allspice and ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Punch the dough down, roll into a rectangle. Smear softened butter on the dough and then sprinkle the sugar/spice mix. Roll up in a log and cut into desired roll sizes with dental floss. Place on a greased jelly roll pan , let rise till double and bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, or till golden brown. Meanwhile, make the icing:

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces cream cheese
1 stick (4 ounces) butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
2-3 cups powdered sugar

While rolls are warn, frost . I store these in the fridge overnight, baked and frosted so that breakfast the next morning can be a grab and go for any timetable.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New toy on Black Friday

Black Friday is something you either love or hate it seems. Many years go Bob and I would head out on Black Friday to wander around the malls, take in the excitement of the season without buying anything and come home to make our annual audio Christmas Card for family and friends. Then life changed, and Black Friday became one of the best days to head to the woods for a hike , or to the grocery store to shop for groceries crowd free. We would buy the paper on Thanksgiving to look at the ads , and just make note of what the hot things were this season gift wise. This year we happened to have a little extra money and discovered a must have item of clothing for Bob that was slashed to a too good to resist price. I am still laid up, so he hand Nick awoke before the crack of dawn to head to the mall to make the purchase. It was found, bought, and another item was added. My sweet husband bought me a Cuisinart 7 cup food processor because he saw a terrific deal on it and he knew I wanted one. I have wanted to buy a good food processor since about the 3rd year of our marriage , but I never found a great deal on one. I simply made due with a few lesser appliances and all was well. However now I had a new toy and I was going to play . How do I play ? Make homemade Almond Butter !!

First you start with almonds. You can roast them, soak them or simply add just as they come in the store. I chose to roast them to bring out a more nutty flavor.( Yes my cookie sheets look terrible, but this one is a professional grade pan and it works wonderful so I ignore the black ) Next, put them in your food processor  and process for about 8 minutes ( you may have to stop on occasion to scrape down your bowl and let the motor cool). The mix turns to powder, then paste and then a smooth nut butter. No need to add oil, sugar, salt or anything at all.

The resulting butter needs to be refrigerated. Taste is terrific, costs way less than anything you can buy in the store and absolutely no harmful anything contained. I love it !

As to my injury, it is improving. Yesterday I was able to take about 30 steps on my own and could almost bend my leg enough to get into the shower. I am experiencing moments of shooting pain and spasms for no reason, which is a sign of healing. Injuries are merciful things when they happen because your body goes into a numbing state of shock. Healing however is a twitch because slowly all the sensations come back as the body rebuilds itself. I am continuing to take this as a good sign of progress. I also caught a glimpse of something on TV where people were dancing and I yelled 'Show off !!!" at the TV. It's funny how normal movement becomes so exotic looking when you get laid up !

Friday, November 26, 2010

Day after Thanksgiving

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving ! Ours was a lot of fun , very tasty and rewarding . Being laid up and depending on others to follow directions can really give you an insight as to how much you have learned through experience, and just how valuable the role of a stay at home mom/wife really is . I am deeply grateful to Bob and Nick for being so willing and able to help pull the day off !

We all pitched in to create a holiday meal  that was tasty and filled with real ingredients. I am refusing to use low far, low sugar anything anymore, and we are following a 90/10 plan with soaked grains. All grains must be whole grain, and freshly milled if at all possible. End result is a very tasty and healthy meal that is very satiating. It does require planning and forethought ( flours need 8-12 hrs soaking before baking) and when you add instructing others how to do certain things, pictures are a forgotten thing.( Sorry about that).

The day before Nick tried his hand at his very first cake- and he was very proud of it. The results came out a different size than the original recipe because of an uncertainty of how the batter would rise, but the taste was absolutely delicious !

Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside - Down Cake

Serves 8-10
8 ounces (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 cups cranberries
4 ounces (1 cup) coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
2 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with parchment paper.
3. Melt the butter in a small saucepot over medium heat. Add the
brown sugar and whisk until smooth.
4. Pour the brown sugar mixture into the bottom of the cake pan.
5. In a medium bowl combine the cranberries and pecans. Place
them in the pan over the brown sugar mixture.
6. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree and oil.
7. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture. Carefully spread
the batter over the cranberry pecan topping.
8. Bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean,
35-40 minutes.
9. Cool the cake for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Place a large plate
or platter on top of the cake. Invert the cake and plate together.
Remove the pan. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.
Cool completely before serving.

I will be honest- the smell of the cake was so tempting that we decided to dig into it the night before. And then more at breakfast. And the leftovers are going to be tasty snacks for the next day or so.

For the actual meal we made a brined turkey breast , fresh cranberry and orange relish ( no sugar- just a pureed navel orange and the berries cooked with cinnamon and nutmeg), Turnip Potato Gratin and a stuffing made from soaked corn bread , soaked whole wheat bread, sausage, celery, apples and almonds. For desert we made a crustless Pumpkin cheese cake and Homemade Pumpkin ice cream sweetened with real maple syrup. We cracked up over the black friday commercials, read the ads, watched the parade and just had a nice, low key time.

Now if my knee will let me bend it, I could get in the shower and perhaps walk without my friendly chair ! Sponge Baths will get you clean, but they will never replace a shower or bath !

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving plans

A funny thing happened while shopping this past Saturday. While we were at our last stop we bumped into my sister in law;/Bob's sister /Nick's favorite Aunt, and we were able to wait in the check out line together and chat. Then we discovered that we were parked next to each other, and continued to chat while loading up our cars. My foot had been cramping up all morning, which often means I have to take a little more care to shift my weight on it or bad things happen. I did not pay attention, took a step and fell in such a manner as to bend my knee in a fashion that had me laying on my foot and lower leg. In the middle of a parking lot, and my group came over concerned as well as every other person in the parking lot to see if I was alright. I think the worse thing about falling is the embarrassment over suddenly being the center of attention, and having everyone want to help but feel powerless about what to do. My leg went numb( never a good sign) , I assured everyone that I was not dying and I crawled to the car door to pull myself up. ( my muscles have gotten so bad through the weight loss attempt that I need the aid of something stable to pull myself up from the floor or the ground. This was not the case before weight loss ). We drove home, and in the parking lot I discovered that I could not walk without the aid of something. Another really not good sign. Then when I got in the apartment I started to feel really sick to my stomach ( a sign of shock that happens when you do a serious injury), and needed lots of pain pills, ice, heat and aid of an office chair on wheels to get anywhere. I could not bend my knee without blinding pain.

No, I did not go to the ER to get it checked. I did not feel anything was broken , but either sprained or hyper extended, and nothing but time was going to make this heal. The guys have pitched in to a very high degree to "be mom" , and it is 4 days into the healing process and it is getting better, but I still need the chair. I am getting closer to bending my leg, but till that happens I cannot take a shower or a bath ( it's in a tub and not an enclosure) , so sponge baths are the order of the day. Sponge baths get you clean, but they certainly are not showers ! For these reasons and more, we have decided not to join my family for Thanksgiving. And for these reasons and more Thanksgiving is going to have to be a cooperative effort.

Bad thing is I will miss one of the few opportunities I have to see my family anymore. Good thing is that it gives us an opportunity to prepare yet another meal using real, honest, nourishing foods. No fat free, sugar free, highly refined foods- and it is reminding me of a lot of the meals my grandmother would make for holidays. Nick, who is a recipe junkie, has had a blast helping figure out what we will make. Even Bob has decided to investigate some recipes put out through Martha Stewart's radio program. Different, but a lot of fun !

Slowly I am healing and the swelling is going down. Slowly I am losing the "diet " mentality and embracing real, legitimate food with greater satisfaction. And I am noticing my rings are looser and my face is looking a little thinner. Progress in many directions !

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sausage and apples

We have a really rich food heritage in this country ! So many different races have come to join our great melting pot , and food trends change as a result of the latest influx of culture has come to call this place home. So much to choose from ! Sadly , some old time favorites get pushed out of the lime lite or forgotten in favor of the new kid on the block. For instance, did you know that this time of the year was the time to butcher big animals and preserve them for the months to come ? In the days before refrigeration, cold temps were necessary to cool the meat and allow the beginning of the preserving process to safely happen. No part of the animal was wasted, so there was a lot of sausage, lard and cracklings made. I believe this is one reason so many of the old fashioned dishes served at the holidays featured some form of preserved meat or were made with lard ( pie crust, biscuits and such). Biscuits and pie crusts happened  year round, but I think nostalgia makes us include them on our holiday tables today. Sausage is still something that is very tasty, and if you make your own or buy a brand that is free from the bad stuff like nitrates, can be enjoyed . Last night I made a healthier version of an old dish that I found years ago in a Mennonite cookbook- Sausage and apples.

You will need a medium sweet potato, two apples, about a pound of smoked sausage ( I use Boars Head) and 1/3 of a cup of real maple syrup.

In a glass casserole dish slice the sweet potatoes and place in a layer

Then core and slice the apples and place in another layer

Next slice your sausage into roughly one inch sections and place in a layer

Finally, pour 1/3 cup real maple syrup on top. The original dish called for a mix of pancake syrup and brown sugar, but pure maple syrup is a lot more natural and has elements to nourish your body while adding the sweet. If at all possible use Grade B syrup, but Grade A works .

Cover and bake in a 350 oven for 1 hr, or till the sweet potatoes are tender.

We served this with roast Brussels Sprouts and soaked Quinoa.  I could only eat about half of mine as I somehow wound up getting so much of the sausage in my portion. I offered the extras to the guys , who happily devoured it. One truth seems to ring out- men like the flavor of pork products !


Monday, November 22, 2010

Fruit from the past.

Every year around Thanksgiving I come across something on the market that brings my thoughts instantly back to times spent on my Aunt's farm in Southern Illinois. They had a couple of small oil wells, pigs, and a large old farmhouse with a big kitchen. We would travel down there in the summer, and a couple of times for the weekend following Thanksgiving for an extended thanksgiving gathering of sorts. Every year my aunt would make something called Persimmon Pudding- a steamed cake that was sweet, moist and unlike anything I had ever tasted. It made me want to taste the fruit all on it's own, because it was so unusual  !

 Hachiya Persimmon

Persimmon is the edible fruit of a number of species of trees in the genus Diospyros in the ebony wood family (Ebenaceae). The word Diospyros means "the fruit of the gods" in ancient Greek.The name persimmon comes from putchamin, pasiminan, or pessamin, from Powhatan, an Algonquian language. It means dry fruit- which is exactly what persimmons are. They are not at all juicy and they leave your mouth feeling a little bit "twangy". The reason for this is they contain tannins.Persimmons are very high in Vitamin A, B and
fiber.Two main varieties are found in the country- the Hachiya ( an astringent variety) and Fuyu ( non astringent). Hachiya's are deep orange and shaped like acorns, Fuyu's are lighter orange and shaped like baby pumpkins. Fuyu is the sweeter of the two.They have many benefits to the digestive system, but for reasons of chemestry should not be eaten with crab or they can form a glutenous ball in your internal works that requires surgical intervention. On the good side they help your body fight cancer, speed wound healing, improves your gum health and a lot more.

Not long ago I stumbled on a new to me idea for persimmon eating- sliced and on a salad. Last night we tried it for oursleves

A salad made with romaine, sliced Hachiya persimmons, pomegranate seeds and blueberries. We topped it with a homemade poppy seed dressing , as this tends to compliment salads with fruits. Bob and I enjoyed it but Nick was somewhat put off by the astringent affects of the fruit. I think this experiment bears repeating with  the Fuyu variety, which seems to be the form my Aunt used. She was blessed with the tree growing on her property and was never very specific about varieties. It was so odd, who knew it had more than one variety ??

One nice thing about persimmons is that they are a low labor fruit to prepare. Simply wash, slice off the green top and eat. Slice it, dice it, mash it, dry it, cook it- plain and simple. To make the pudding like my aunt made is a mystery to me. She never passed on the recipe and I have not been able to locate it on the internet. Yet.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Champion Chard

Ah, chard ! One popular vegetable that comes in early autumn through spring it seems.  Be you green or rainbow, I love you !And chard it seems loves us . It is packed with minerals, vitamins and flavinoids.One of the primary flavonoids found in the leaves of chard is called syringic acid. Syringic acid has received special attention in recent research due to its blood sugar regulating properties.( Stable blood sugar means less cravings amongst other things).Chard also has compounds that help with our nervous system and organs like our eyes and ears. One cup of chard contains more than 100 % oif your RDA of vitamin A. Chard also has high levels of magnesium, calcium, vitamin K, iron, potassium, folate, zinc, copper, vitamin C, dietary fiber, and vitamin E.

I have used chard in the same way one uses spinach, and is interchangeable with it in my opinion.One current favorite way of serving this is something I call a Deep Sea Lunch.

Deep Sea Lunch for 2

1 bunch swiss chard ( any variety), chopped
1 t coconut oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 T parmesagn cheese
1 pack moc crab ( you can use equivalent of real crab- I have an allergy)

In a skillet saute the garlic in coconut oil and add the chard. Stir fry till wilted and divide amongst 2 plates. Top each with 1 T Parmesan cheese. Divide the pack of crab between the two plates. Serve and eat.

Makes for a very satisfying lunch !

Friday, November 19, 2010

Soaked grains bread

I have been so pleased with the results of soaked grains that I could not wait to try making bread using this method. Home made bread is an aroma that could charm snakes, and if you get the basic technique down , a very tasty thing. Use quality  ingredients and it becomes very healthful and superior to anything you will find on the store shelves. So using those ingredients in a way that brings out their maximum potential has to be the very best of all possible worlds.  So what are we waiting for...let's get baking !

Whole grain  soaked bread

12 to 24 hrs before you plan on baking  place the following in a bowl:
2 cups water
2 tablespoons whey, cider vinegar or lemon juice ( I used whey)
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup multigrain cracked grains mix( sold as hot cereal)
Mix it up, cover the bowl and let it sit on the counter for up to 24 hrs.

Then the next day when you are ready to bake, place the soaked mix in your mixing bowl. In a seperate container combine

1/4 cup warm water ( baby bottle warm)
1 tablespoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon honey

Mix and let sit for 5-10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. ( If this does not happen toss this mixture and repeat with new yeast). In yet another bowl, combine and mix well

1/3 cup melted coconut oil, melted butter or olive oil ( I used coconut)
1/3 c honey
2 teaspoons salt

add the contents of the smaller bowls to the soaked grains and add 1/3 cup of vital gluten ( skip this if you have a gluten intolerance) . Mix and add 2-3 cups of flour( I used white all purpose) until you have a smooth, elastic, non sticky dough. Tacky is fine, but sticky means add more flour.

Place in a greased bowl and cover.

Place bowl in a warm place( I like on top of my stove with the pilot lite for heat, in the oven or on top the fridge are other good places) and let rise to double in bulk- about 1 /2 hours.

Punch down, knead and place back in the bowl, covered to rise again.

Punch down and form into loaves. To do this divide the dough into two balls.

Using a rolling pin ,roll out each half to a rectangle

And then roll the rectangle up into a blanket roll, tuck under the ends and place in a greased loaf pan

 Let loaves rise for about 30 minutes, or to double in bulk. Do not let them rise longer , or your bread will collapse in the oven . This looks just about right .
 bake at 375 for 30 minutes.Try to keep children and husbands for insisting bread is done and ready to eat !

Turn out to cooling racks immediately, or your loaf will get soggy. Brush the entire surface with butter to get a soft, sliceable loaf ( skip the butter if you like a crusty loaf)

Cool for at least 30 minutes ( the hardest part of the whole process) and then slice

Allow hungry son to eat the bread , and grab a slice for yourself !

The verdict ? Soaking made for a dough that was a little easier to work with and had a more even rise. The smell was even better than non soaked flours and the taste was a lot more rich and mellow. Strange thing was it did not inspire a feeding frenzy ( as fresh bread sometimes can). It also made for very long term satiation . Nick and I each had a sandwich for lunch using this bread and were not in the least bit snacky or hungry until dinner, and that was late.

I don't think I will ever make any grain product with a different method again !

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Healthy Home Economist

Some more info about soaking grains and flours- does your body good !

The Healthy Home Economist

Soaked oatmeal

Long ago and far away I lived in a land where oatmeal was rarely ever served. It was called childhood, and oatmeal was something that seemed only to be made when camping. Quick oats, cooked on a campstove, with some brown sugar and margarine tossed on top. I liked the mouth feel of it, and wondered why we did not eat it more often. My teen years came along and a marvelous invention came along- instant oatmeal ! It made a great quick breakfast for those mornings that cold cereal was out ( breakfast on the weekdays was always cereal- eggs or pancakes or oatmeal were weekend things). One day as an adult I discovered steel cut oats, and I thought I had conquered the world of potential oat nutrition. Then came adding things like pumpkin and nut butters  to that bowl or even overnight oats in the fridge. Well move over kids, oats have a way to be made even better- soaked oats !!!

Why soak oats ? The reason is phytic acid. Soaking oats for 12-24 hrs allows the acid to be broken down and what remains is more available to the body for digestion. How to do this and why can be found at this most excellent post ! 

A long-term diet of untreated (soaked or fermented) grains will lead to mineral deficiencies and disease.
It's an old Irish tradition of soaking oats in milk or water and leaving them that way overnight. Consider that people of Irish descent in our modern world tend to have a higher than average rate of things like Celiac Disease . In our modern world few people soak grains, and perhaps this forgotten practice is one of the causing factors.In days gone by, the Quaker Oats box included he directions to soak them overnight. These bits of trivia also add credence to the practice.

I soaked our oats for 24 hrs and in the morning added the additional water and pumpkin puree. We really like pumpkin in oatmeal for some reason ! Then I placed a spoonful of homemade almond butter and a tablespoon of ground flax in each bowl, added the cooked oats and poured a tablespoon of real maple syrup on top of this.

The results ? The best bowl of oatmeal I had ever made ! Creamy, a richer flavor and incredibly satisfying. It was completely worth the effort to soak them ahead of time, and is something I will do from now on.

I cannot wait to try working with the soaking technique for yeast breads !!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soaking grains day 2

It's funny how resilient the body can be when it is treated right ! I am noticing a reduction in my arthritis flairs and a general improvement in my overall mood already. I feel more calm and centered as a rule, and I am noticing the same thing in Nick. Sleep is also improved by us all- not where it should be  yet, but better than it was. Bob is noticing that something seems to have shifted in his metabolism as well, so overall I think so far the change has done us good.

Breakfast yesterday was scrambled cheese eggs with tumeric, pork sausage , a piece of whole wheat bread and an apple. For me french press coffee with cream and sugar was added.

Why tumeric ? It is a wonderful antioxidant that adds a bright yellow color to any food. French Press coffee is perhaps one step removed from morning Heaven and this handy little portable press just makes for one less dish to wash . The bread is the end of one of the last loaves of bread I will ever buy ! I make bread and do it well but stopped when the weight loss journey started, simply because I cannot slice a loaf consistently into 16 same sized slices- a very necessary step for calorie counting. Some loaves - in particular ones made with oat meal- were able to be sliced thinner and more slices. Others such as whole meal pumpernickel could not be sliced as thin and wound up with only 12. Had noting to do with over consumption, but everything to do with not wanting to drag a calculator into the kitchen every time I baked and making loaves according to flours by weight instead of the feel of the loaf. I gave up good bread made with real ingredients in favor of a "frankenfood " that was uniform in serving sizes and calorically calculated. Never again ! All breads in this house will be home made with soaked grains and real food.

After a morning with no cravings, plenty of energy and a very productive school morning we broke for lunch- a bed of romaine with tuna, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and wasa crisp bread with some remaining laughing cow lite on the side and an apple. Wasa, AkMak and a few other brands are the only crackers I will buy now because of their simple, basic ingredients, Laughing Cow lite cheese will be replaced with marscapone that I season with my own herbs and spices. Less chemicals and more real food. Dressing was a splash of balsamic vinegar- dressings are another thing that are going to start being home made to avoid things like high fructose corn syrup and questionable oils.

Dinner included another adventure in soaked grains, this time a mix of black and white quinoa that had been soaked for 24 hours
Soaking whole grains improves their texture and your bodies ability to digest them.(Soaked grains - information and directions  can be found here)  I used the two kinds of quinoa because I found two partial packs in the cabinet and wanted to free up some space. All grains besides brown rice require 12-24 hours of soaking to bring out their maximum benefit, so it takes some advanced planing for meals. Quinoa seemed to be the best grain to go with the planned dinner, which was one that looked very blah , but was incredibly delicious !

Creamy lemon chicken, roast fennel and quinoa. To make the chicken place chicken thighs in a pan, sprinkle with lemon zest, saute onions and mushrooms in butter and top the chicken with these. Whisk together cream and sour cream and pour over the thighs. Bake 375 for 1 hour. For the fennel, slice and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and roast at 375 for 40 minutes. The whole thing looks kind of beige, but it was very yummy ! Best thing about the day was absolutely no cravings or snack attacks ( something that Nick struggled with each and every day). There is a very long satiation with eating real food .

Today is going to involve making room in my freezer for the purchase of a turkey . I am finding a million little dribs and drabs of odd things in there , and while this could be a great sign of frugality, I have no idea how long most of these things have been in there, and some I have no idea what they even are . There is one of my very bad habits- not lableing what I put in my freezer ! At least it does not have to be defrosted !

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nourishing while feeding

There is a real difference between eating to stop being hungry and nourishing ! From the current story of the guy who ate the twinkies and lost weight , to tales coming from famine times with people eating seaweed and shoe leather to survive, it is very easy to rid oneself of hunger in the form of your stomach growling . Eating to the purpose of nourishing the body is a little more difficult in this modern world. Crazy when you think about it- we have so many marvels in our modern society, but we have completely distanced our self from real nutrition. We have done this in favor of convenience, perceptions of sanitation and the incorrect belief that obesity is the root of all disease. Truth is malnutrition, not a number on a scale or tape measure, is the root of disease. Just like one can be fat and fit, one can also be overweight and healthy. A "proper" body weight is no assurance of real health either. The reason so much attention is devoted to that scale number is that when it is high , odds are good that you have been eating a diet that fills your stomach, does not nourish your body and depletes you of nutrients and you are ill. Plain and simple. And yet the "fix" for this high number often involves foods that will deplete you even further in the long term. Wouldn't it be more intelligent to focus first and foremost on nourishing the body so that balance resumes and real health results ? I think so. The way to do this is to eat real food- often including things that we have been brainwashed into believing are "
evil". This is my focus now  for myself and my family, and the results have been pretty tasty, nourishing and have completely removed any desire for snacks between meals. When you are nourished, there are no cravings. So what did yesterday look like  ?

Breakfast ( photo borrowed from the net)
Flax meal cereal
1/4 c flax meal
2 T homemade almond butter
1 t cinnamon
1/2 c boiling water
apple, coffee with cream and sugar(both real foods)

leftover cabbage stir fry ( cabbage, kielbasa, onion, green pepper, butter)
Pumpkin mash ( baked pumpkin with butter and real maple syrup- again, real food)

pecan crusted chicken thighs
green beans with panchetta,onions and dried cranberries in a vinegar butter sauce
(cider vinegar , which aids in the digestive process)
soaked brown rice with butter ( real food and better for your body)

Soaking brown rice- why ?
Grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds can all add great value and variety to the diet, yet they contain anti nutrients – particularly phytates and enzyme inhibitors – which detract from their nutritive value. Soaking, sprouting or fermenting grains removes the phytates and allows the body to digest the grains more efficiently. It also makes them very tender- brown rice comes out the consistency of white rice, and can be more agreeable to the tastebuds of children and picky eaters. So how do you do it ?

Brown Rice
1 c brown rice
2 1/4 c water
1 TBS plain nonfat yogurt

Put in container and let soak for 7 hrs, and then cook . I simply placed it all in my rice cooker and when it came time to cook I flipped the switch and let it cook. It was very delicious ! I intend of preparing all grains with this method now- brown rice is the quickest of them all. Other grains and should be soaked for 24 hrs, so it makes planning ahead a bit of a necessity. But isn't real , legitimate food worth it ?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Get Real Diet Plan

Small things can mean a lot. A smile at just the right minute, an available seat when you are exhausted, or even a day that just seems to flow in the right way. Small words written on a page, read at just the right moment can change your world as well. It seems that the later happened to me over the last few days.

I was reading my friends posts over at facebook, and came across one that was discussing how she had ditched the scale for 20 odd days  and how she was doing. At first I thought it was a post about someone's experience with intuitive eating, but as I read I learned that it was about a whole different phenomenon- metabolic healing. I read her blog and earlier entries, and as I read a lot of things began to make a whole lot of sense. Clicking on the links that she had posted led to writings by Matt Stone ( not the co- creator of South Park) and his work on metabolic healing. Basically he talks about how any and all diets over a period of time create metabolic stress , which creates even more problems in the body. He advocates a diet that is high in everything- fats, fiber, protein and so forth. Interesting !

He got me to thinking after reading  a PDF document that was hyperlinked through the blog. What if, after all is said and done, the human body, very much a part of nature, was meant to eat things also found in nature ? Things that grow in the ground or on trees, things that come from animals or are themselves an animal and not "improved" upon by a man created lab ? What if nature, in it's great system of checks and balances, had the right idea afterall when it produced things like butter, cream, unrefined milk, whole grains and fruits and vegetables in specific seasons ? What if our ancestors , who lived closer to the ground, had a whole lot of brilliant ideas about how to stay healthy through a simple thing called life ? Radical thoughts it seems. Instead of the modern day "healthy" lifestyle of eating only short chained plant based fats, a sweetened compound created in a laboratory and a chicken breast that has no skin, minimal fat , eating a piece of animal flesh that has been cooked in animal fat  because it has a long chain fat that is more compatible with our bodies ? What if every single thing stated by every cardiologist today is based on a very bad research study done 30 odd years ago ? What if blood cholesterol has nothing to do with the cholesterol you ingest- but everything to do with other things you ingest like highly refined carbs, transfatty acids and fructose ? Makes you go hmmmm.

I read further , and came across other radical thinkers like Sally Fallon and Sue Gregg who talk about the value of soaking whole grains to improve the available nutrients for the body. They also talk about using things like butter, cream, coconut  and other "evil" foods. Once again I come across people with this weird idea that nature actually has this crazy system that can nourish other things that are found in nature, like human beings. How dare they ! How could we live without people like General Mills and Deans Foods or Tyson ???

I stopped reading for a minute and looked at my hands on the keyboard. I saw brittle , breaking nails, skin that has lost it's elasticity and a few more hairs that had fallen out of my head. I stood up to stretch and was once again reminded of the serious arthritis flare I was currently dealing with. I have been following the rules for healthy living for three years now, in an attempt to lose weight , and have come to the place where the scale is a constant enemy, food is filled with a long list of do's and don'ts, and my health is just not good. Something deep inside of me said "listen to these people because they know what they are talking about". It occurred to me that my weight ( and a lot of people's weight) has a lot more to do with being a result of starvation than lack of discipline or laziness. Highly refined food and science in the interest of profit has created food and advice that no longer nourish a body and set it up for a long list of serious health issues down the road. What is needed is not cardio and calorie reduction but rather metabolic healing and movement natural to real life. I am calling it the Get Real diet. It involves eating real food that nourishes the body so that it can heal and bring the metabolic response back to normal. For movement it involves real management of one's living space ( cleaning and such). This action involves movement of all major muscle groups, weight training and strength building exercise. Results are a clean  ,orderly, organized living space that brings rest and nurturing qualities to the inhabitants. Granted, no one will show up with cameras to watch a trainer yell at me and capture the sweat filled moments , but the results will be more rewarding to a lot more than just myself.

I hope you continue to follow me as I journey into the waters of reality. I think it's going to be an exciting ride !

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Nourished Life: Weight Loss Wednesday: Counting Calories is Pointl...

Calories...the sacred cow of the weight loss world. Are they accurate ? Do they really mean anything other than space filled on a label ?

The Nourished Life: Weight Loss Wednesday: Counting Calories is Pointl...: "Ever go car shopping? They have nifty labels now in the windows of cars that show the average gas mileage a vehicle gets. They even get real..."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 23 on RRARF: Life Without the Scale

This makes complete and total sense, and I believe it is what is happening to me, and I am going to follow this !

Day 23 on RRARF: Life Without the Scale

Thursday, November 11, 2010

'Biggest Loser' Shuts Down, as Crew Goes on Strike | Fancast News

It's ironic that a show about a health issue does not provide health care for the crew

'Biggest Loser' Shuts Down, as Crew Goes on Strike | Fancast News

Fiber is my friend...fiber is my friend...

Yesterday I was reminded of something that is very important on low carb diets- the role of fiber ! It is a very common misconception that low carb plans ignore fiber and are all about meat and cheese. Nothing could be further from the truth ! Even the Atkins plan  states that you must get in 2 cups of green leafy vegetables a day. Even during Induction. The reason is simple- fiber keeps you satiated. Fiber also preforms several important functions in the body.

A big one is aid in elimination. Fiber keeps you regular. Fiber and water with some lubrication from fat keeps your colon happy, healthy and dancing in the streets. Well, not exactly dancing, but you get the idea. The amazing thing about fiber is that the lack of it in your diet will show up pretty quick. With different vitamin and mineral deficiencies your body seems to compensate for a long time, with the appearance, that all is for the most part well . Go a coupe of days without fiber and you feel the affects immediately. Constipation is the result. It kind of reminds me of a very crude joke about what part of the body is really the boss ! Constipation is uncomfortable, makes you feel miserable and will do not so nice thing to the scale .

Enter in my flaw. I eat green leafy veggies every day, but for some reason they do not have the "performance enhancing quality" on my colon that they do on most people. I have to rely on different fruits and things like flax meal  and wheat bran for this. So while shifting to a low carb approach I remembered the greens, forgot the flax, went very low on fruit and experienced 4 days of discomfort. I was reading some blogs about low carb lifestyle, was reminded about flax, and all is love again.

Now to pin post it notes all over the house , reminding me to add flax and low sugar fruits to my diet every day. I started the day off right today with a bowl of flax meal cereal ( 1/4 c flax meal, 2 T peanut butter, 1/2 t cinnamon and 1/2 cup boiling water mixed together in a cup, let sit for a minute and eat). I am going to experiment with some flax meal crackers as well and remember to eat that apple a day !

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why You'll Never Have Enough Willpower to Lose Weight

For the first time someone is recognizing that it is behavior modification and not will power that is needed in weight loss. It's not the think system, but rather the do system !

Why You'll Never Have Enough Willpower to Lose Weight

Monday, November 8, 2010

Professor Drops 27 Pounds In 10 Weeks On 'Twinkie Diet' - The Consumerist

Umm....I think I will pass on this one !

Professor Drops 27 Pounds In 10 Weeks On 'Twinkie Diet' - The Consumerist

Gonna make you sweat !!

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Not only words to a great so by The Byrds and inspired by a passage i The Bible, but true of everything in life. Spring waltzes in with warm days and brings beautiful flowers. The sun gains strength and we linger outside in the summer days enjoying all of nature, and then nature gifts us with a spectacular color show ad cooler temperatures. Then comes the cold and we all think about long winters naps. For women, the rhythm of change seem to be a constant one, through the system that allows us to carry and nurture new life, but withing that constant comes bigger changes. Sweet little girls become moody, boy crazy whirlwinds of music, clothes and roller coaster rides of emotions. This drifts into glowing women with rounded bellies , full breasts and a lot of nausea. That life experience changes us physically and emotionally , and we kind of get complacent about  it. Mother Nature sits back, laughs and gets ready to be entertained by the greatest change of all, which kind of sneaks up on you . One day you start to notice that your skin and hair do not look as vibrant as they did at one time. You seem to have less tolerance and energy for things that you could do all day long. Foods that you have eaten all your life start to affect you differently, you develop odd sorts of aches and pains, your mind starts dwelling on irrational sorts of things and you encourage Prince Charming to go find some hobbies so you can have some peace and quiet. Yes ladies, you are entering the jungle  known as Menopause !

A lot of horror stories are spoken about this time of life, and little seems to be said about some of the more humorous affects. Such as night sweats ! They are an amazing thing. You go to bed in a comfy nightgown with the temperature and pillows adjusted to your comfort, drift into a good sleep and wake up to find yourself soaked from your own sweat. Sometimes  it can require the change of nightclothes and bedding. If you happen to sleep spooning your partner, they will need a change as well. It makes me laugh - and yet it seems to be a kind of sweat that does not bring weight loss. For strange reasons, no matter how hard I exercise I do not sweat. But put me to sleep these days and I can sweat buckets just by breathing ! There are reasons why this happens in menopausal women and several have chosen HRT to deal with this. Personally I am forgoing that route and simply laughing at my bodies changing landscape.

My question is  , with my body going through this greater metamorphosis, how realistic is it to expect it to lose weight through this as well ?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sleepy, Groggy and another Dwarf

Yesterday, after a morning of grocery shopping/errands/laundry/household chores, Bob and I sat, looked at each other, and mutually announced we were tired !. The kind of tired that makes people dash off to bed because of an overpowering need to grab a nap. This was sort of annoying, considering for the last few evenings we have both been ready to go to bed at 7 pm. Sure, older people turn in earlier, but this is ridiculous !

I stretched, I yawned, I wiggled about , and then I realized what well might be the reason. Low carb eating often makes people feel very tired at first ! Carbohydrates, be they simple or complex, convert to a form of sugar in the body , and sugar is used for quick fuel. When you cut way back on this and up your fat and protein intake in its place, your body takes a little while to switch over. The result, for some is a temporary feeling of exhaustion , as your body learns to burn something other than sugars for fuel . That other something is fat, and when it gets the hang of it, it begins to consume itself. It sounds drastic, but this is exactly what weight loss is - utilizing those surplus stores in the body.

I am taking this as a good sign. Between the yawns and longing glances at my comfy bed that is !

Friday, November 5, 2010

Loafing about

I needed some bread for sandwiches today. I did not want to pull a pack of buns out of the freezer, so I decided it would be a good opportunity to try a couple of low carb bread recipies.

Bread, if you are doing a low carb program, cn be tricky. There are the Atkins type rolls, flax meal foccacias, almond meal breads, but non are exactly like good ole slice a loaf and make a sandwich kind of loaves. It gets discouraging  to say the least ! I came across two recipes that promised a loaf type loaf that looked, tasted and preformed like regular sandwich bread, and I thought I would share with you the results.

Loaf one- Gabi's bread. This one has been floating around low carb circles for a while and is supposedly the best Low Carb loaf option


  2 tsp dry yeast
  1 tsp sugar -- yeast food
  1 1/8 cups warm water
  2 tbsp olive oil
  1 tsp salt
  1 tbsp splenda
  3/4 cup gluten, wheat
  1/4 cup oat bran
  1/4 cup flax seed meal
  1/4 cup wheat bran
  1 cup soy flour

  Dissolve yeast in water, add splenda , oil, salt. Mix. Add flours and mix till
it forms an elastic dough. Let rise till double in bulk, place in loaf pan, let rise and bake 375 for 35 minutes

Resulting loaf looked like bread, sliced like bread but tasted salty ! Next time I would cut the salt way down. Otherwise the flavor was fair - I think I will pass on this one. Sorry Gabi !

Next loaf -

Low Carb Bread

1/2 cup water -- warmed
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 Tablespoon oil
1 large egg
1/4 Teaspoon salt
1 cup gluten flour
1 cup oat bran
2 Teaspoon yeast
1 Teaspoon Splenda

Dissolve yeast in water, add splenda , milk, oil
egg and salt. Add flours and mix till it forms a soft elastic dough.
Let rise till double in bulk, punch down and form a loaf. Let rise and bake 30 minutes at 375 degrees

This one had a better flavor, was the same consistence of Wonder Bread, but was a little on the chewy side. We chose to have this one with our sandwiches, and I would defiantly make this one again ! I realized as I was eating that this loaf is also vegan- could be a definite plus for some people !

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Press Association: WeightWatchers in U-turn on alcohol

It seems Weight Watchers is launching a new program - Powerpoints, bases on calories, fiber, fat AND protein. Most all fruits and veggies are zero points, and there is room for more alcoholic drinks

The Press Association: WeightWatchers in U-turn on alcohol

White flag

So I have been missing for a few days, and in weight loss blog world, this usually means something has happened. It has not been a good time here !

We spent last week staying completely faithful to points( a way of calculating fat, fiber and calories, and doing 3 15 minute sessions of exercise 6 days a week. Staying low sodium, drinking water, staying low on the breads, and stepped on the scale Saturday morning as usual. How does the monster reward me ??

Gained 2 lbs !

Not just me, but Nick as well. Bob lost a half a pound, through no exercise and eating two company sponsored pizza orgy type lunches. I screamed. I banged my head. I threatened to toss the scale out the window. NONE of this is making sense on any level ! Bob, who is my great rock and sanity manager talked me down from the ledge. For what ever reason, it seems my body is saying enough is enough, no matter what I try to do and Saturdays are quickly becoming the day to avoid having any contact with me because I am likely to bite your head off for breathing. Weigh ins are followed by hours of analyzing every meal, every snack, every crumb, every movement and then attempting to figure out how to do things completely different the following week, and then a general foul mood. After 2 years of this pattern, enough is enough.

It has been decided that we will weigh in the first Saturday of the month , and not weekly. It is also decided that we are going to go low carb, as this seems to be the way our bodies best preform with and gives the greatest appetite satisfaction. I don't know if I will consistently lose weight with this, but I do know that at least it will not make me crazy any more. Everything else is not working AND making me crazy, so this is a win.

Not quitting, but no longer obsessing. Life is too short and there is a lot more to it than numbers on a scale or a tape measure.No more measuring, counting, calculating- just eating low carb according to appetite.

Should be interesting !