Sunday, November 28, 2010

Feelin' Groovy!

"Slow down, you move too fast..."  How true.  The lyrics, of course, are taken from Simon & Garfunkel's 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy).  When the song was originally recorded in 1967, there was no such thing as the internet, cell phones, microwave ovens, and while McDonald's existed, their drive-thru service had not yet been born.  Things were still moving relatively fast in 1967, but no where near the speed of life that we see today.

We are constantly looking for ways to speed things up, to be more efficient, and to earn more money while spending less on necessities so that we can spend more on frivolities.  What are we doing to our quality of life - not the superficial, material quality but the emotional, physical, and spiritual quality - with these pursuits?  People are behind the wheel of their car while talking on the cell phone and eating that fast food meal that they picked up at the drive-thru.  I am all for multitasking, but that is just dangerous in more ways than one!

Today I have already spent quite a bit of time on 'slowing down.'  For almost a week, I have been working on making my own kefir.  Each morning, I have been straining raw milk to recover the kefir grains that have been soaking for the previous 24 hours.  The process of revitalizing the grains in order to produce kefir takes 5-7 days.  This morning started in similar fashion. 
My next project was to make my own peanut butter.  On Wednesday, I had purchased some raw peanuts at It's Only Natural and started soaking them in sea salt and filtered water.  After suitable soaking time, I transferred the peanuts to the dehydrator and started soaking the raw filberts (hazelnuts) that I had also gotten at I.O.N. with the peanuts (did you know that shelled, raw filberts float?).  When the filberts were done soaking, I added them to the dehydrator on a second tray.  I suppose that the difference in density between the peanuts and filberts is the reason, but both were completed drying yesterday.  I pulled out the food processor and loaded the peanuts into the bowl and stored the hazelnuts in a container for snacking.  Along with the peanuts, I added a Tbsp. of coconut oil and a dash of sea salt and turned on the processor.  Once the peanuts started to turn into a nice, creamy butter, I added a Tbsp. of raw honey and some flax seeds and let the processor run for another 30 seconds to mix it all well.
The third project of this morning was to transform two avocados, onion, green pepper, sea salt, lemon juice, and cayenne pepper into guacamole.  Only as I type this do I realize that I forgot to add cilantro to the mix.  No problem, though.  I can always add it later...
Fourth project - to make some more vegetable stock.  Actually, I was somewhat efficient on this project.  While dicing the onion green pepper for the guacamole, I also chopped the onion and green pepper for the stock.  I filled the Crock Pot with filtered water and turned it on while preheating the oven to roast the onion and green pepper.  To the roasting vegetables, I added some coconut oil and sea salt.  While they roasted, I coarsely chopped some cabbage, carrots, and celery and added them to the Crock Pot.
Time for clean-up!  With these projects, I certainly created a fair amount of dirty utensils so while the onion and green pepper roasted, I cleaned up.  Having just run a cycle, the dishwasher was full of clean dishes.  Rather than waste the electricity to have the dishwasher dry the dishes, we simply let them air dry before putting them away.  As the food processor parts would present a bit of a challenge for the dishwasher anyway, I decided to hand wash everything that I had used.

Out of all of these projects, the guacamole took the least amount of time from start to finish.  Had I been responsible for growing the ingredients, that would have been a different story.  The kefir project began almost a week ago and still isn't completed.  The peanut butter (and hazelnut) project(s) began on Wednesday and was completed today.  The vegetable stock project began today (aside from shopping for ingredients) and will be completed on Tuesday.  All of these things take time but the benefits far outweigh the time spent completing them.

To paraphrase the song, slow down, don't move so fast.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wouldn't It Be Nice...

OK, I will shamelessly admit that I lifted the title of this post from a fictional blog mentioned on a TV show last night.  I was watching Chase and one of the characters posted to her blog named for her mother's love of The Beach Boys.  Given my own desire to name my posts with titles or lyrics from songs, I couldn't resist.  So, I thank both The Beach Boys and Chase on NBC for the inspiration.

The song, 'Wouldn't It Be Nice' seems to be the perfect choice for this blog.

Wouldn't it be nice if:
  • We could all be disease-free!
  • We could all be out of debt.
  • We could all have access to truly healthy food.
  • We could all have the ideal home life.
  • We could all live in a world without hatred and war.
  • ...  fill in the blank with your own hopes and desires ...
Certainly, I am working towards at least a few of the ideals in the above list.  My most recent step on my journey to wellness is to attempt to make my own kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product - though I have learned that it can be made from other things as well - that is similar to yogurt.  One of the primary differences is that the milk does not have to be heated at all in order to become kefir.  Yogurt, though the milk only needs to be heated briefly and incubated at 110 deg. F for a period, does require the milk to be 'cooked.'  Cooking anything can have the downside of killing off the beneficial bacteria and enzymes present in the food.

The Maker's Diet recommends kefir as one of the food choices.  Unfortunately, all of the kefir that is available from nearby stores is made from low-fat, pasteurized milk and has several undesirable additives - namely sugar - so I have yet to add it to my diet.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to It's Only Natural with the intent to purchase some kefir starter so that I could make my own from the raw milk that I get from Deerfield Farm.  Unfortunately, they only had one variety of starter 'grains' and the instructions required that the milk be heated.  Not being sure if this brand of kefir starter would work without heating the milk, I opted to pass.

Fortunately, I was able to find a brand of kefir starter online that does work without heating the milk.  My order arrived yesterday!  The Milk Kefir Grains from Cultures for Health LLC come in dehydrated form and need to be revitalized over the course of 5-7 days before they will start producing kefir.  I started the process this morning, so I will hopefully be able to enjoy some kefir next week.

During my failed quest for kefir starter at It's Only Natural, I did pick up a jar of coconut oil.  While I have been strictly using olive oil or butter for cooking, I have been reading more and more about the benefits of coconut oil.  While olive oil is great, it is not truly suited for high heat cooking.  I am not opposed to butter, but the benefits of coconut oil are too great to be ignored.  I have had a couple of opportunities to cook with coconut oil, but it is far too early to notice any results.  I will keep you posted.