Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rattle and Hum-mus

If you have known me for any length of time, you should realize that I make a lot of references to music - though looking back in this particular blog I only see a couple.  Of course, the title of this post - Rattle and Hum - is a reference to U2, though the post has absolutely nothing to do with the band.  It is a particularly fitting title, though.  The reason being that after a little rattling of some garbanzo beans and a few other ingredients in my food processor, I have made some hummus.

On Wednesday I made my trip down to Deerfield Farm to get my raw milk.  On the way home I decided to stop in to It's Only Natural and pick up some other things that I had run out of along with a sprouting jar.  Actually, I had planned to pick up just the strainer lid, but the only size they had didn't fit the mason jars I already own, so for only a couple of dollars more I got the complete set - a quart size mason jar with a variety of strainer lids.  Sprouting seeds or grain involves a 3-8 hour soak (depending on the variety of grain/seed) followed by several rinse and aerate periods.  The sprouting lid is designed to make this an extremely easy - though still relatively lengthy - process.  Simply add you grain or seed to the jar, fill with filtered water, and screw on the lid.  Allow for the required time to pass - not an exact science here, but a good rule of thumb is that larger grains/seeds need a longer soak - and invert the jar to drain the liquid.  Because the lid is perforated, there is no need to remove the lid or to employ a separate strainer to catch the seeds.  The kit I bought has three lids with varying sizes of perforations to accommodate a wide variety of seeds - from tiny quinoa and sesame seeds up to monstrous garbanzo beans - without worry of losing them through the mesh.  After draining, simply rinse the seeds with fresh, filtered water.  Drain the rinse water and lay the jar on an angle to allow for excess water to slowly drain and air to circulate.  To accomplish this, I simply took a bowl from my cabinet and placed the jar in it so that the jar lays at about a 30 degree angle with the top lower than the base. 

Here is a picture of my sprouting jar that is currently being used to sprout some wheat berries.  I soaked them all day yesterday.  They are already starting to sprout, so I will probably get the Cuisinart out later today and grind them into flour.

The garbanzo beans soaked for about 8 hours and were ready to use yesterday.  I could have waited longer to allow for larger sprouts, but that wasn't the goal.  The simple act of sprouting adds considerably to the nutritional value of our grains and seeds.  Depending on the intended use, the sprouts can be allowed to grow larger or used at the first sign of sprouting.  As my intent was to make hummus, there was no need to allow for more growth.  After giving the beans a final rinse, I set to peeling them - a process that would likely have been made easier had I let the sprouts grow a bit more.  Just like peanuts in a shell, garbanzo beans have a 'skin' that can be removed.  While it is edible, it is not entirely palatable.  Having learned from a previous attempt at making hummus, I decided to remove the hulls for this attempt.  It took me a little while, but I got the job done in fairly good time.  After peeling them, I set the beans to cook.  Brought to a boil and reduced to a simmer, I let the beans simmer for about two hours.
Once done, I drained the beans and allowed them to cool a bit before adding them to the food processor.  I gave them a pulse or two - causing the 'rattle' - and then added my seasonings; some sea salt, toasted sesame oil (less than 1/4 tsp.), some garlic, some flax seeds, and some lemon juice.  I ran the processor for a minute, scraped down the bowl, ran it again and ended up with the 'hum'-mus.  It came out wonderfully.  My only complaint is that I should have been a little more generous with the seasonings as it is a little bland.  Easily corrected for the next batch.
Oh, and I didn't peel all of the beans.  Instead, I kept out a couple to see if I might grow my own!  The sprouting beans are currently sitting in a bowl on my kitchen counter awaiting planting.  I think that I will plant them indoors until they are a little more established.

I already mentioned today's goal of grinding the wheat berries into flour.  I might go one step further and make some crackers to use with my hummus!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


An odd realization struck me yesterday while I was preparing dinner...  I have not used the microwave to cook anything - not even to boil water - since December of 2009.  In addition,  I have not used a teflon coated pan in that same time.  All of my cooking has been using glass, stainless steel, cast iron, or grill.  The Maker's Diet recommends against using microwaves and teflon and this is a relatively easy recommendation to follow, so I have been complying with it.
I say that it is relatively easy because it is actually quite frightening to realize how much I had relied on using a microwave to cook or reheat things.  Cooking food without a microwave actually takes some prior planning and preparation!  Of course I knew this simple fact but, as I have mentioned previously, planning everyday meals has never been my strong suit.
Also, avoiding teflon wasn't terribly difficult for me as I had some glass and stainless steel pans already.  I also was able to get a couple of cast iron skillets from my parents that have been in the family for a couple of generations.  They weren't really using them much, so I now have them.  Still, cleaning cast iron is a somewhat delicate operation - soak them in water or leave them wet will cause them to rust, scrub them with soap and they lose the seasoning that keeps food from sticking.
It is really easy to see why teflon and microwaves are so widely used.  They certainly make food preparation and clean-up a lot easier and faster.  The question is, what is the 'equal and opposite reaction' they cause?  Yes, I am aware that I am quoting Newton's Laws of Motion there, but it does seem fitting.  We use these things to make our lives easier - to accommodate the fast pace of our lives.  Whether or not there are detrimental effects on human health will likely always be debated.  There are certainly some disturbing facts about teflon and its effect on domesticated birds, however.  It seems to me that if the fumes generated by heating teflon coated pans can kill birds then we should probably think long and hard about using it to cook our food.  Coal miners used to keep caged canaries in the mine with them as an early warning system.  If the canary died, it was time to get out of the mine!

Yesterday, I made quinoa for the family - they are a little hesitant to try new things - and they loved it!  I made it the same way that I did the first time I tried it - soy sauce, onion, garlic, flax seeds, and quinoa.  It came out really good and they actually asked for more.  This is a huge step forward in our family nutrition.  I am definitely looking forward to exploring more possibilities for quinoa.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Adventures in Food Processing - the good kind.

OK, so the title should read "My First Adventure in Food Processing."  In a previous post, Quinoa for breakfast, I mentioned that I had gotten a food processor.  Today, I decided that it was time to give it a whirl.  One thing that strikes me as odd is that 'processed food' is one of the problems we have with our American diet, yet using a food processor can actually be beneficial.  There is a difference, however, in the way we 'process' foods at home and the way packaged foods are processed by the conglomerates for quick sale and long shelf life.  The term 'processing' includes every method of food preparation from churning butter (which can be done with a mason jar and a marble!) to creating high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.  The bottom line is that not all processing is bad.

So, what did I 'process' in my Cuisinart?  Today I made some almond butter - like peanut butter, but with almonds.  First, I had to properly prepare the raw almonds.  This involves first soaking the almonds for 24 hours in a solution of sea salt and filtered water.  Next, drying the almonds in either my oven or food dehydrator which can take up to two days.  I had actually done this last week when I first got the food processor.  Almond butter was one of the things that I really wanted to use the food processor for so I simply prepared more almonds than I would normally do for simple snacking.
Give whatever excuse you want to insert here, I only got around to taking my prepared almonds one step further to convert it to almond butter.  Whatever the cause of my delay, it is finally done.  Today I made some almond butter!  I can't believe how simple it was.  Take a look at the average jar of  peanut butter to see what ingredients are included and you might be hard-pressed to believe that you can make it at home (more on this later in this post - keep reading).
My almond butter consists of nothing more than soaked and dried almonds, some sea salt, a little olive oil, and flax seeds (I love to add flax seeds to almost everything that I make).  That's it!  I started by adding the almonds to the processor bowl and giving them a couple of quick pulses.  I then let the Cuisinart run steady for a couple of minutes.  The result was a fairly dry, granular paste.  After scraping down the bowl to get the particles that stuck out of the reach of the blades, I turned the processor back on.  This time I added a little bit of olive oil.  Again, I stopped the blades and scraped down the bowl.  The paste had taken on a much more creamy texture at this point.  Once more, I set the blades spinning and added the flax seeds.  I basically let the processor run this time just to incorporate the flax seeds uniformly.  Except for the clean-up, I was done (and the clean-up didn't even take that long).    I scooped the almond butter into a small mason jar and set to cleaning the equipment.  The almond butter should keep in the jar for up to 30 days on the shelf - longer in the refrigerator.  Given the quantity that I made, I will have no problem consuming my almond butter well within the 30 days.  Mind you, I don't eat a lot of nut butter.  Because I know where and how this was made and more importantly what all - ALL - of the four ingredients are, I will have no problem increasing my intake of nut butter.  In fact, for lunch today, I spread about two teaspoons of my newly made almond butter onto a couple of stalks of celery accompanied by a banana and handful of raisins.

Earlier, I mentioned the ingredients of peanut butter.  Well one example of a nameless brand of peanut butter that is sitting on my shelf includes:  Peanuts, Peanut Oil (so far, so good), Corn Syrup! (at least it isn't high fructose corn syrup), and Hydrogenated Rapeseed and Cottonseed Oils.  Notably, this particular brand does not include any preservatives, but the Use By date is 02/19/2011 - only slightly less than a year from now.  OK, so if there are no official preservatives, why is the shelf life so long?  In one word, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil.  OK, you got me.  That is actually four words.  Both hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils are extremely detrimental to health but are widely used in our processed foods.  It is also notable that this particular brand of peanut butter also only has four ingredients.  The difference between this and my homemade almond butter - both made with four ingredients - is the quality of the ingredients.  The order of ingredients on the label indicates which ingredients are more prevalent.  The first ingredient is used in the largest quantity; the last is used in the smallest quantity.  The caveat is that we do not know in what ratio the ingredients are present.  Does the first ingredient make up 90% of the recipe or only 10%?  We simply cannot tell.
A comparison of my almond butter to the store-bought peanut butter looks like this:

  • Mine
    • Almonds
    • Flax seeds
    • Olive Oil
    • Sea salt (used to prepare the almonds - not added to the mix)
  • Theirs
    • Peanuts
    • Peanut oil
    • Corn syrup
    • Hydrogenated rapeseed and cottonseed oil (so, does this count as two ingredients?)
The first ingredient list on both is expected, the mainstay of the nut butter had better be the nuts.  I didn't measure the quantity of almonds that I used, but the resulting almond butter resulted in a little less than 8 ounces.  It almost, but didn't quite, fill a small mason jar. 
The second ingredient for mine is flax seeds; theirs is peanut oil.  Both peanuts and almonds have oil in them.  Adding oil to the recipe is not entirely necessary.  If added, it certainly does not need to be in a large quantity.  However, given the third and fourth ingredients of their product, I am grateful that peanut oil is listed second.  In my case, I added about 2 tablespoons of flax seeds.
Third comes the olive oil for mine and the corn syrup for theirs.  Corn syrup is sugar.  How much sugar is present in their peanut butter?  Well, a 2 tablespoon serving - according to the nutrition facts on the label - includes 7g of carbohydrates, 3g of which is listed as sugars.  How much sugar is in mine?  Well, I didn't do the math yet and I can't read the label - oh wait, there is no label to read!  I'll get back to you on the amount of sugar per serving but it is more important to recognize the source.  Mine has only naturally occurring sugars - no processed sugars.  Theirs has sugar derived from corn.  Sure, it may be natural, but it is not being used as intended by nature.
The fourth and final ingredient of mine is the sea salt; theirs is more oil - hydrogenated oil, no less.  The sea salt was used in the solution to soak the almonds.  While I didn't rinse the almonds after soaking, most of the salt would have been drained off before dehydrating.  It was about two teaspoons of sea salt added to 2 pints of water.  I truly believe that salt has been somewhat vilified.  It has been blamed for a lot of medical problems.  The fact is that our body needs salt to function and that salt works synergistic with potassium.  Rather than avoiding salt we should really be more concerned with a good balance of salt with potassium.  Excess of either is just as problematic as the absence of either.  We need both and we need them in equal portions.  They included a second (and/or third) oil to theirs.  On top of that, they made it worse through hydrogenation.  Hydrogenating oil produces trans fat.  While the quantity is low enough per serving that the FDA allows them to list the amount of trans fat a 0 (zero), it is still there.  Trans fat is one of the worst things that you could put into your body and it should be avoided entirely.

After watching (and posting) about Food, Inc. I was a friend suggested that I also watch Killer at Large.  Today, I took in a double-feature thanks to Netflix and my Wii of both Killer at Large and Super Size Me.  I had watched the latter several years ago, but I felt it was time for a refresher.  While both have a similar focus - obesity - they are somewhat different in scope.  I recommend watching both of them, though the latter is not quite as family friendly due to language and some commentary while the former certainly has some disturbing images.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Food, Inc.

Buy it, rent it, or borrow it (don't accept illegal copies, however), and watch it.  Watch it now.  You will need to come to your own conclusions, but don't make another trip to the grocery store until you have watched this movie.  It is just that important.
Food, Inc.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Where there's a will, there's a 'whey'...

Yesterday was milk day.  I had run out of milk earlier in the week, so I needed to make my bi-weekly trip down to Durham to visit Deerfield Farm.  This week, the girls were excited to get some of Deerfield's strawberry and chocolate milk.  I had gotten them each a pint of it on the last trip and they really liked it.  Tatyana thinks that it is the best chocolate milk that she has ever had.  On the way there, I saw a sign advertising the Durham Farmers' Market.  As it was scheduled to begin at 3 PM that day, we weren't going to be able to get there this time but the market happens every week on Thursday from 3-5 PM.  Hopefully we can make it next time!

When we got to the farm, Melynda happened to be there - I think that she was preparing to go to the Farmers' Market.  One of the products they make on the farm is cheese.  They don't make any hard cheeses, just cream cheese.  Of course, when making cheese you will end up with whey in addition to the cheese.  I asked her what they did with the left over whey hoping that I might be able to get some of it.  Sure enough, she told me that she would be happy to bottle some for me the next time that they make cheese!  This is going to be very helpful in following The Maker's Diet.  Whey is an integral part of many recipes - though not used as an actual ingredient in all of them, it is used to prepare other ingredients for cooking.  Also, whey can be used in place of vinegar for pickling.  For example, soaking cabbage in a solution of filtered water, sea salt, and whey makes a basic sauerkraut.  Personally, I have never liked sauerkraut, but this is just one example of the uses of whey.  I definitely plan to put whey to a lot of good use in food preparation.  Additionally, mixing whey into my yogurt smoothies will boost the nutritional benefits.

And now for something completely different (well, almost completely)...

A couple of years ago, I had a membership to Netflix.  I enjoyed the flexibility of getting DVDs in the mail as well as the ability to watch movies instantly on my laptop.  It was also possible, with a set-top box, to watch movies instantly on your TV.  Yesterday, I got an email from Netflix offering me a two week trial to come back.  One new feature they have is the ability to configure your XBox 360, PS3, or Wii to be able to serve as that set-top box.  Well, I have a Wii now so I figured that I would give Netflix another shot - for at least the two week trial.  One of the movies that I am looking forward to watching is Food, Inc..  It is available as either a DVD or instantly over the internet.
"For most Americans, the ideal meal is fast, cheap, and tasty. Food, Inc. examines the costs of putting value and convenience over nutrition and environmental impact. Director Robert Kenner explores the subject from all angles, talking to authors, advocates, farmers, and CEOs, like co-producer Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma), Gary Hirschberg (Stonyfield Farms), and Barbara Kowalcyk, who's been lobbying for more rigorous standards since E. coli claimed the life of her two-year-old son. The filmmaker takes his camera into slaughterhouses and factory farms where chickens grow too fast to walk properly, cows eat feed pumped with toxic chemicals, and illegal immigrants risk life and limb to bring these products to market at an affordable cost. If eco-docs tends to preach to the converted, Kenner presents his findings in such an engaging fashion that Food, Inc. may well reach the very viewers who could benefit from it the most: harried workers who don't have the time or income to read every book and eat non-genetically modified produce every day. Though he covers some of the same ground as Super-Size MeKing Corn, Food Inc. presents a broader picture of the problem, and if Kenner takes an understandably tough stance on particular politicians and corporations, he's just as quick to praise those who are trying to be responsible--even Wal-Mart, which now carries organic products. That development may have more to do with economics than empathy, but the consumer still benefits, and every little bit counts. --Kathleen C. Fennessy"

It should be an interesting viewing...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Quinoa for breakfast

A cold, dreary, wet weather day - no, not a 'dark and stormy night' - seemed the perfect setting for a nice, hot breakfast.  You know what?  It was!

As planned, I used quinoa to make a hot 'cereal' for breakfast.  I used about 1/2 cup of quinoa that I had set to soak last night and added some raisins, 1 tsp. of raw honey, about 1 Tbsp. of ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp. of organic maple syrup.  The maple syrup was an afterthought.  Next time that I make this I will probably use either a little more honey OR a little more maple syrup but not both.  I also did as I planned and added one serving of VidaCell.  Without adding any flavor (VidaCell is relatively flavorless), the VidaCell served as a thickening agent for the cereal in addition to adding to the nutrition profile.
It was a great way to start the day!

I forgot to mention in my last post that I now have a food processor - I guess that I was too excited about the quinoa!  I am also really happy to have this, though.  One thing that I really want to do is to make my own flour and dough.  Cutting out all bleached flour and any product that uses it as an ingredient really cuts down on a wide variety of foods!  One way to add some foods back into my diet but still avoid bleached flour is to make my own versions.
Timing is indeed everything.  Through one of my various online activities, I had earned enough points to redeem for a $50.00 gift card.  It came in the mail today.  I promptly signed on to, entered the gift card code, and went shopping.  I ordered some wheat berries, rye berries, and some buckwheat.  Once my order arrives, I plan to soak, sprout, dehydrate, and mill some of my own flour!
I also want use the food processor to make some almond and/or peanut butter and hummus.  I really have some reading to do, though, because I really don't know everything that this thing can do.  I do know that it is going to help me and my family eat a whole lot healthier!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Went away (from blogging) for a while, but now I am back.

For the last month - and then some! - I just haven't posted any new information here.  It isn't because I have lost interest in blogging about my experience with The Maker's Diet, but rather it is because there just hasn't been anything new to report on.  I have pretty much settled in to the eating habits and have not varied my food choices very much.  I have revisited the 'egg fast' as I described in an earlier post, Eating on less than $3.00 per day, several times over the last month.  I am also still keeping to an average of one slice of Ezekiel 4:9 bread per day.  About the only change has resulted from my continuing effort to find better options for the foods that I eat.  I have been able to upgrade quite a few of the foods - cage free eggs and grass fed beef, specifically.

One thing that has changed for the better is the addition of 'quinoa' to my diet.  I have been hearing about this 'grain' for a while, but I balked at the price in the store as it is not terribly inexpensive.  Oddly enough, I finally decided to buy some when I was shopping at It's Only Natural the other day.  What is odd is that It's Only Natural is not the place to shop when looking for low prices yet they had quinoa in their bulk section that was priced comparable to other stores.  The truly nice thing was that I could buy only as much as I wanted.

Pretty much every reference that I could find to preparing quinoa called for it to be soaked prior to cooking.  Most called for it to be soaked for a minimum of two hours.  Nourishing Traditions has only one recipe that I could find that included quinoa.  This recipe called for the quinoa to be soaked in a solution of filtered water and yogurt for at least 12 hours.  Having never prepared quinoa before, I opted for the longer soak.  So, last night I started soaking the quinoa.  I used 1/2 cup of the dry quinoa in a solution of 1 cup of water with 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt.
Today, I rinsed the quinoa and set it to boil in 1 cup of fresh, filtered water with a teaspoon of soy sauce.  After bringing it to a boil, I turned down the heat to a simmer and added some peas, onion, and green pepper to the mix.  It seems that I should have cut down on the water a little bit because it took quite some time for it to cook off.  At any rate, I am happy to say that it turned out great!  I think that I have found my new favorite side dish.  As it is prepared similarly to rice, it can easily be substituted for - or blended with - rice to provide some variety.

According to, one serving (one cup, cooked) of quinoa has:
  • 4g of fat
  • 39g of carbohydrate 
    • 5g of fiber
  • 8g of protein.
Compare this to a one cup serving of medium-grain brown rice at:
  • 2g of fat
  • 46g of carbohydrate 
    • 4g of fiber
  • 5g of protein.
In addition to buying the quinoa at It's Only Natural, I also bought two other Ezekiel 4:9 products; the Ezekiel 4:9 tortillas and the Genesis 1:29 English muffins.  These give me a little variety over just the bread.

Well, tomorrow morning I intend to start my day with a hot quinoa 'cereal' for breakfast.  I put 1/2 cup of dried quinoa in filtered water to soak overnight.  Tomorrow, I will prepare it with raisins, cinnamon, and some raw honey.  Rather than preparing it separately, I will add my VidaCell to the mix.  I am really looking forward to breakfast!