Fighting stink on the cheap

Almost 5 years ago, while delving into issues of natural foods, I also dipped a bit into natural body care. …Maybe just a pinky. It’s been a much longer process for me to become as crazy about (truly) natural skin care as I am about food. Don’t ask about house cleaning products either….I go back & forth on the follow-through.

However, ‘natural’ deodorant, or at the very least, non-anti-persperant, non-aluminum was a switch I made early on & stuck with. It took some time…very few options on the market seemed to help me at all (though for the record Ryan has been using Tom’s of Maine for years very happily…guess I’m stinkier than him). One big thing I discovered is that when I’m eating well & not consuming much if any sugar, natural options work well for me. When I’m traveling (which is synonymous for “eating junk & lots of it” for me…), darn near nothing works. AND i have to shower everyday. Sheesh….crazy, right? (again, for the record, Ryan is a ‘daily shower’ fan. I aim for every other day. Doesn’t always work out) I care for mixed reasons, partially because I follow the train of thought that what goes on your skin goes into your bloodstream (good example: birth control patch?), to varying degrees, im sure. I also figure my body is probably supposed to sweat… I know there’s conflicting arguments about whether or not toxins are released through sweat, but considering there are lymph nodes in close proximity to the area…I should probably be interested in what’s being applied to the area every single day of my life….not to mention…I’ve just become ok w/wet underarms. not a FAN of flaunting sweat marks on a hot day, but not mortified by it anymore. …and I do not glisten, I sweat. Ask my husband. My mom? SHE glistens. The woman seems almost incapable of sweat…however I appear to take after my father who can work up sweat thinking hard. The other thought being environmental issues. While I certainly tend toward ‘tree hugger’, it’s very rare that environmental ‘friendliness’ would be a bottom line deciding factor for me on anything. For good or ill, it’s simply a preferred option when it’s not too cumbersome to do so. It is something that factors into my decisions, however mildly.

All that said: I do still hold firmly to some deep held american beliefs (for good or ill)…like: women shouldn’t be hairy and more importantly: no one should stink. I don’t particularly care if i stink at the gym (should I ever go to one), but out & about in general, no stinking please. …I know, i don’t want to shower AND I don’t want to stink? sheesh.

After much trial & error, I finally settled on the deodorant crystal (w/baking soda sprinkles in between shower days) & have stayed there happily for 4 years. Until last week. Stupid internet. I ran across a post by Stephanie from bubble & bee that might have ruined me. After reading that, I did a little googling (yes, I read ‘the beauty brains‘ take on it too) & it would seem that although it’s a ‘different’ type of aluminum used in the crystals than in antiperspirant (that kind plugs up the pores to prevent sweat from even coming out. Sounds kinda creepy to me…), it is still aluminum which is (loosely/possible/maybe) connected to Alzheimer’s. Much like many people see vaccinations as being one of many triggers (or a ‘last straw’ on someone susceptible to complications) tied to Autism, it seems the same for aluminum being connected to Alzheimer’s. Either way….let’s remember I’m using this daily for years & years. I found that supposedly “potassium alum” would be more ideal/natural than “ammonium alum”. Off to read my label….yeah, ammonium. Of course. Compounded on this are the environmental aspects, it’s made w/bauxite ore which is an imported non-renewable resource (in abundance, but still…) blah blah blah…

The idea of trying homemade products from things in my KITCHEN & primarily FOOD was becoming more & more appealing as the week wore on. I’m still not necessarily 100% convinced it’s a NECESSARY step, but since I recently discovered it’s super easy to make lip balm, I decided deodorant couldn’t be much different. If nothing else, it would save a ton of money on Ryan’s deodorant (& get him off chemicals in his deodorant that I don’t recognize the name of). I googled some recipes and found most if not all were basically for a putty type…thing. I figured Ryan wouldn’t go for applying deodorant with his fingertips, so I decided to mix a lip balm & deodorant putty into one. A few days ago I mixed up a very small batch (& poured it into an old Tom’s deodorant container). This did work, but much like my first attempt at lip balm, a little too melty, so I will continue working on ratios & update when I find the right mix. As for it’s ‘stink fighting power’: I’m sold. Ryan & I both used it yesterday (i did today but not sure if Ryan did), w/much success.

The recipe I used:

2T Baking soda
2T arrowroot powder (ok, i didn’t have any, so I used potato starch. ha! It worked fine, but I did buy some arrowroot yesterday just to be more mainstream :) )
2tsp Witch Hazel
2T coconut oil (virgin would be preferred as it’s supposed to have stink fighting properties of it’s own..though not strong enough for me by itself!)
2T cocobutter
few drops of essential oil of choice (I used theives oil, b/c it’s also known for killing germs, which i assume would boost stink fighting power)

melt fats in double boiler, remove from heat, mix in remaining ingredients, then pour into molds. I’m impatient so I stuck it in the fridge for an hour to help it solidify faster.

Next time I will try 1T coconut oil 2T cocobutter 1T beeswax to see if that helps with the melt factor as it’s being rubbed on.

Seasonal Organization and Leftover Pot Roast

You’ve heard of spring cleaning? It would seem I get hit with ‘spring cleaning’ at every season. Granted, I’m not a super anal person about cleaning/organizing. I am becoming increasingly more-so the longer I’m married to Ryan, but for me, anything beyond the daily/weekly maintenance is considered “deep cleaning”. It probably has something to do with having to go through the kids clothes every season. It struck me as odd the other day how I no longer pack away seasonal clothes for myself. I wear more or less the same stuff all year long, minus sweaters & tank tops (though the latter are often layered in winter). Anyhow, those pesky kids & their growing. I have been feeling that seasonal organizational pull again lately. I have been plotting to spend a day throwing out organizing the kids toys again. Toys, especially cheap cluttery unused ones seem to procreate in their bins. …and don’t get me started on the mounds of drawings I have started hoarding.

Anyhow, so far the only ‘deep cleaning’ I’ve accomplished lately was organizing the toppling piles of food in our deep freezer. I had a list written in dry erase marker directly on the freezer last spring. It was a great way to keep track of what was in there and update easily. However, I discovered it does NOT wipe off very well. Sigh. Live & Learn. At least I didn’t do it to the one in the kitchen! During this weekend’s freezer revamp, I discovered 4 2cup containers of leftover pot roast I had no idea was in there! However, the only things I know how to do with it are BBQ sandwiches and burritos/enchiladas/quesadillas. That’s all well & good, but 4 containers! I wanted something new. I spent far too much time googling the subject of leftover pot roast and found a very simple casserole recipe that looked as though it might be accepted by the family. I cooked it up, changing it here & there of course, and viola….yummy comfort foodie type leftovers dish! Granted Grace refused to eat it (she’s picky about that sort of thing and italian food. Even pizza when she’s not seated in front of the tv while eating it. Go figure). I thought it was a hit with Asher as he gobbled it up with zero complaints or faces. However, it was apparently more my threatening death before dinner began than the deliciousness of the food. I served it for lunch today. He complained. I expressed frustration that he seemed to like it the other night. “I just ate it because you told me to.” I can’t win. But they don’t count. Ryan? I don’t remember much being said about it that night, but he took leftovers in for work the next day for lunch. Anything ‘lunch-worthy’ for him = massive success in my book.

Ok, I’ll stop my babbling. I found the recipe Here on cooks.com. Here’s my version:

LEFTOVER ROAST BEEF CASSEROLE 

2 c. Leftover Roast (will work w/any animal I think)
1 onion, sliced & chopped thin (saute)
2 celery stalks sliced thin (saute)
1 carrot sliced thin (saute)
1 +/- cups mushroom cream sauce (cream of mushroom soup is the original recipe)
1/3 c. heavy whipping cream
Milk as needed
3 c. potatoes, sliced (i sliced in my food processor, so they were very thin)
3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Saute the vegetables. Mix meat, veggies, mushroom sauce, cream, potatoes in a large bowl. Add milk until it seems moist enough (sorry! i have no idea how much i added. I did not make it at all soupy, but…wet.). Pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Cream Sauce Recipe (this is altered a small bit from what i ‘usually do’ since it’s for beef & using what I have on hand & what i thought would taste good in this dish:

3 TBS Beef Tallow (or butter or coconut oil)
1lb sliced mushrooms
3TBS flour of your choice (I used millet. I have not found an SCD way to thicken a sauce. sigh)
black pepper
salt
paprika
chili powder
1.5 cups beef broth
1.5 cups heavy cream (or more broth if you want casein-free)
(garlic)

1. melt fat in a sauce pan
2. add mushrooms, salt, pepper, paprika, chili powder; cook until mushrooms release moisture & liquid evaporates, approx. 6-10min. (actually I think it was closer to 15min but who’s paying attention?)
3. add flour (and garlic), cook for one minute, stirring constantly…remember jenn who is jealous of your garlic.
4. 1/2 cup at a time, stir in beef stock & bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
5. add cream/additional stock and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced (says reduce to 3.5 cups but i have no idea how you’d know it’s reduced to 3.5 cups..), about 12min.

Chocolate Treats and Coconut Oil Giveaway!

Tropical Traditions Virgin Coconut Oil

***Oct. 3, 2009 THE CONTEST IS OVER!! Congrats to HEATHER from Loving Touch WetBags (cut stuff btw). I have emailed the winner, If I don’t hear back by 8am PST the prize will be awarded to someone else. Thanks!!!****

I love coconut. I love the flavor, the versatility, the health properties….coconut water is a great electrolyte replacement. Coconut ‘flour’ makes delicious gluten-free high fiber baked goodies. Coconut milk adds a whole new level of creamy deliciousness to all kinds of soups, porridge, sauces… Coconut cream concentrate is so good…well…I have bought it twice and never got around to using it in any kind of cooking application because i ate all of it by the spoonful (or melted into hot chocolate). That brings us to Coconut Oil. I use coconut oil extensively in my kitchen. It’s a stable healthy fat, resistant to heat and thus great for high heat cooking and frying. I use expeller pressed coconut oil for the bulk of my cooking (& all of my deep frying except when i can get my hands on affordable lard) mostly due to cost & taste. However, Virgin Coconut oil is REALLY where it’s at concerning health. I’m not going to go into all the science and cause most of you to check out entirely. Instead feel free to google, “benefits of virgin coconut oil” and/or read “Virgin Coconut Oil: How it has changed people’s lives and how it can change yours!” It’s a quick read, easy to understand and sprinkled with personal ‘testimonies’ about the various ways coconut has helped people overcome many maladies. At the end of the post I’ll give you some info on how to score a free copy of this book if you’ve never ordered from Tropical Traditions before. For the record, I do NOT believe there are any dietary ‘magic bullets’. I really really do NOT think you can change one thing about your diet and ‘change your life’. While I am a big fan of virgin coconut oil use as a food and even take it myself for supplement type purposes (anti-viral, anti-yeast), I think it is a powerful tool that works in conjunction with many other variables.

I typically buy coconut products from Tropical Traditions. Admittedly, they’re not always the cheapest and I sometimes order products (like expeller pressed oil) from other companies to save money, but when I “splurge” on Tropical Traditions, I do tend to notice a difference (though not on the expeller pressed oil….sorry…just haven’t). Anyhow, recently the folks at Tropical Traditions were kind enough to send me some of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil and the previously linked book to review for you. Prior to this it’s been awhile since I’ve bought Virgin Coconut oil just due to cost. It just so happens though that I had another brand in my pantry that a friend had given me just the week before. Seemed like a perfect storm for a taste test! The verdict? The taste difference was only very very subtle. The TT brand had a touch more coconut flavor. I could discern no major difference (though I am not well known for acute taste buds. I should have forced Ryan (aka “Mr. Super-taster”) to do it, but he doesn’t like coconut..or gnoshing on oil). However, the texture of the TT oil was a lot smoother than the other and it stayed softer longer. I have no idea why, but there you go. The thing about the Gold Label Virgin Oil vs. pretty much any other Virgin Oil is that it is hand-made traditionally. This video explains it better than I could.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4h6eycjf29M&w=425&h=344]

Pretty impressive. OK, so my favorite way of consuming the coconut oil raw? Coconut Chocolate Treats. Yes, chocolate is technically ‘illegal’ on the SCD diet…but…of all the ways I could be consuming chocolate, I don’t so much plan to stop making this. Besides so is beer. And the rice I had with dinner tonight. Not doing great about SCD, but am still 100% gluten-free. That’s another story. Back to chocolate.

I tried to keep track of measurements when I made some yesterday, but it always ends up needing a pinch more of this or that until I end up having no idea how much of anything is in there. But as best as I can tell here’s the ‘recipe’:

3 parts Virgin Coconut Oil
2-2.5 parts Non-Alkaline Cocoa Powder
1-2 parts honey
1 part flax oil (opt. I did it this time b/c i scored a free bottle from a friend)

whisk together, spread onto chilled cookie sheets lined with wax paper for bark or drop by the teaspoonful, then transfer to freezer for 10-20 min. Transfer to a storage container & keep in the freezer. I recommend freezing them into small pieces because they do melt fast, so you want pieces you can pop in your mouth direct from the freezer. This recipe is easily adaptable to all kinds of tweaks. I intend to experiment with nut butter next time, as well as some with nuts & cinnamon mixed in.

This not only helps me consume the 3 TBS/day I aim for w/o gagging on a spoon of plain oil, but works like a charm to appease the chocolate monster that appears once a moon. I’m also more than happy to treat the kids with it.

On to the free stuff! Tropical Traditions generously offered to send a quart of the virgin coconut oil to one of our readers. So here’s the skinny: Go subscribe to their email sales newsletter (they run some great buy one get one free sales & the like. I enjoy being in the loop), then report back here in the comments (of this post!) that your homework is finished. Bam. You are now entered to win. On October 3rd at 1pm PST I will put all the names in a bowl and have Grace (who begs to eat this stuff on a spoon) pick a name. I will contact the winner via email (so provide an email address in the comment form!) and update this post when I get around to it. :)

If you would like to snag a free copy of the book & help me snag free gifts:
Tropical Traditions also has a Referral Program, so if you place an order with them as a first-time customer, please select “Referred by a friend” and in the box that says “How did you hear of us?” enter my sponsor ID number: 5522466. By telling Tropical Traditions that I referred you, you will receive a complimentary copy of the book Virgin Coconut Oil: How it has changed people’s lives and how it can change yours! by Brian and Marianita Shilhavy with your first order! This book is filled with testimonies and research showing how healthy coconut oil is, and it also includes over 85 recipes showing how one can incorporate coconut into their diet.

Meal Planning for Neurotic People

Sorry, this is not a ‘how-to’ post. Mostly I’m just complaining about meal planning & that I’m neurotic so I make it hard on myself. I just finished september’s menu. Added to the usual challenge of:

    I like variety
    Ryan’s not big on variety
    I like exotic things, lots of veggies & trying new things
    Ryan..not so much
    I have outrageous expectations for healthiness

Notice, My requirements are the ones making it difficult. Ryan would be fine if each day of the week got a meal & I just rotated that all month long. That would make life VERY easy. But no….i’m Neurotic. Oh & i like to occasionally include things (along with pizza & a movie every friday) that I know the kids will eat with no complaint. It’s a very short list so I only go for it every other week or so, but those nights sure are peaceful…

Okay, so added to this I’ve been experimenting with the ‘Specific Carbohydrate Diet’ (SCD) and the ‘Gut & Psychology Syndrome’ Diet (GAPS) for myself. I don’t feel up for major details, but: It’s not about weight-loss. Basically I’ve been dealing with some stomach issues as well as increased fatigue, brain fog, mood, increased PMS, ect. The stomach stuff onset about when Grace was born and i realized a few weeks back that it was almost non-existent when we were in florida….and pretty much gluten-free, casein-free. So I decided to trial some gluten-free for myself (not the rest of the fam.) and after a few days things were noticeably better. Darn. ;) Anyhow, then I FINALLY got hold of the GAPS book, of which i’ve read excerpts from and have been ‘meaning’ to read for over a year. It really resounded with me, and from there I read up on the SCD diet (not a weight-loss thing, a ‘heal your gut’ thing) which GAPS was based from. Anyhow TONS of fascinating reading. HIGHLY recommend it. I still haven’t decided which i’m going to do, though for ease i’ve been leaning more towards SCD. A friend let me borrow “Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet“, which has been VERY helpful (the almond meal muffins passed ryan’s taste test for ‘normal’ & yummy!). For the past 5 days anyhow, I have been totally grain-free and sugar-free (except for honey) and upped my veggie consumption. A big downside was realizing that Asher likely should do this too…cutting out garlic helped his physical symptoms tremendously, but he still has some sensitivities there… from the reading it sounds like he just needs some more time with ‘gentle’ foods to let his gut heal from all the garlic damage from his first 3.6 years. But have i mentioned he’s picky? I’m not sure i’m ready to ‘go there’. Since i will eat darn near anything, it’s been easy for just me to be on the wacko-diet. I need some time to hone my allergen-free cooking skills, so I won’t be pushing it 100% on him yet. Normal pizza is still on the menu. Not for me though…. Seeing as how easy it is to make the pizza crust i use now, I decided normal pizza at the very least will always be on the menu for Ryan. That poor guy puts up with a lot. He deserves his pizza. ;) (unless he decides otherwise).

So: it took me 2.5 hours to make September’s dinner menu. There were a few nights that I just said “to heck with it” and I will just eat something else. Leftovers or salad or something. I’m fine with a quick meal of hard boiled egg & steamed chard. But I can’t quite expect anyone else to eat that.

for the curious I’ll post the menu, note how uninspired i am regarding side-dishes. after all the effort with the main dish i almost never put effort into sides. Warmed up frozen veggies mostly. For those not curious, this is the end. Thank-you and Good Bye.

5 – Beef Heart Kebobs, Green beans, potatoes for everyone but me. (Steak for ryan)
6 – Cookout @ friends’ house. Bringing Honey baked Lentils (from freezer). Not sure yet what I’ll eat.
7 – SCD friendly shepherd’s pie. (mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes)
8 – savory crock pot chicken over rice (not for me) w/broccoli
9 – Spicy Fried Fish, snow pea saute
10 – Beef Stew (celeriac instead of potatoes in there)
11 – Pan Roasted Chicken, cauliflower ‘rice’, green beans
12 – going to a wedding. we’ll see.
13 – Pasta w/bread (I will have either spaghetti squash or thinly sliced zuchinni for mock-pasta)
14 – southwest chicken & black bean stew
15 – Breakfast for dinner: Eggs, nitrate-free bacon (pre-cooked & reheated…i might skip. not sure i’ll find an scd-friendly brand), coconut flour drop biscuits (pre-cooked). — we have ‘soccer practice’ that evening.
16 – salmon…not sure with what yet
17 – leftovers (another soccer night)
18 – Pizza
19 – beef stroganoff (thinly sliced egg ‘noodles’ for me), broccoli
20 – Almond fried Halibut, butternut squash & celeriac home fries
21 – Roast Chicken, green beans, leftover home fries
22 – Mexican (this means quesadillas for kids, burrito for ryan, ‘bowl burrito’ for me)
23 – Jamaican Jerk chicken, lima beans, ‘rice’ (or maybe real rice & i’ll just eat more lima beans)
24 – Steak, mashed cauliflower, green beans
25 – Pizza
26 – Lasagna (salad for me)…contemplated a mock lasagna but I’ll spare the family this month.
27 – Beef Roast, butternut squash french fries
28 – SCD Salmon Patties (uses almond meal instead of bread crumbs). not sure on the side dish yet
29 – Lemon Pepper Chicken w/honey lemon sauce…and veggies for side.
30 – Mexican
1 – Szechuan Chicken (from reserved chicken) w/’noodles’ (zuchinni strips).
2 – Pizza
3 – Hamburgers, squash fries

Sandwich Bread Nirvana (aka: ‘toot-toot’)!

Ladies & Gentleman….(drumroll)…Children of ALL ages….I bring you: The bread recipe that has taken 7 months to figure out! Granted similar recipes can be found, but I’ve yet to find one that didn’t include a sourdough starter. I have had little patience for babysitting yet another ferment on a regular basis, so I’ve been trying to find a ‘lazy woman’s sourdough’.

First, details: I’ll give details on why I’ve done what I’ve done AFTER the recipe. That way folks that don’t really care about the science can just have the recipe already. Then fellow food-nerds can wallow in my overly detailed explanations that will follow….and those who don’t care at all about my bread making endeavors will have stopped reading by now. I apologize in advance for the fact that my ‘recipes’ are not exact and there’s a lot of trial & error/guesswork involved. I suppose that’s why people say bread-making is an ‘art’. It’s taken me a few years to ‘feel’ it….and it’s still not necessarily the same result twice.


Jenn’s Tweaked Version of the Bread Beckers “Slightly Sweet But Very Simple Whole Wheat Bread”

1 cup cool or lukewarm water
1 cup kefir or thinned yogurt (i use home-made kefir, no idea if this makes a difference or not) *
1/2 cup oil (olive or coconut…or butter, though this last one might be heavier? i’m not sure) (1/3 cup if using egg)
1 egg (optional)
2TBS honey
2TBS blackstrap molasses (can probably use all honey or all molasses if you like..explanation will follow)
1tsp yeast
5+/- cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour (optional, but i used it)
2tsp. salt

in a glass, ceramic, or plastic bowl (so, preferably no metal, though if u try it & it works, lemme know), mix: water, kefir, sweetners, yeast, oil, egg (optional). Let that sit while you mill your wheat (heh)…or let it sit for 10 min or so (i didn’t time it, i have no idea…just let it sit awhile…). In the mixing bowl mix: 3-4 cups flour, salt. Turn on mixer (i use cookie hook first, then switch to dough hook when it starts getting thick), pour in the liquids. Add more flour 1/2-1cup at a time till it’s…uh…enough? i’m sorry. i’m not good at explaining bread dough texture. Something about atmospheric conditions and how many legs you’re standing on in any given moment or something. In fact, i typically add just a tad too much, it’s fine, just a bit heavier than hoped for. Anyhow, if you want the 1 cup of white flour (I’ll explain why I’m ok with this later), add it first, then add more whole wheat till it’s no longer super sticky & looking more like dough…it’s all incorporated & rolling around in the mixer**. I ‘knead’ (in the mixer) for 5-7min. It gets loud & the motor warms up a bit. Again…i’m not entirely sure when i’m done. I’ve not perfected kneading. Rumor has it if you knead by hand you’ll know better when it’s ‘done’. I’m too lazy to knead by hand. I think it’s like 15min by hand or something. Some sort of ‘window pane test’. I’ve never experienced this with whole wheat dough, though i guess this is what you’re supposed to achieve. My Aunt Helen could probably shed some light here.

then grease a large non-metallic bowl, turn the dough in it to moisten a bit, cover & leave sit in a warm place for 16-24hrs. I let mine sit on the counter (the thermostat claims it’s 70 degrees lately, but i don’t believe it….i still need a sweatshirt). I started it at about 2pm & at 7am it needed to go into the oven w/the pilot light on for a few hours. Anyhow, when it looks like it’s probably doubled (I’m also really good at forgetting where it started so not sure if it’s doubled), punch it down & shape however you want. This last batch i put into 2 loaf pans (1 in my stonewear which makes a pretty big loaf & one in a metal pan which makes a small/medium loaf). If you want hamburger buns, just form them into roundish mounds. I used to twist them all fancy, but then it made them too thick. Just a smoothed-out blob of dough works better. let rise till doubled, then bake @ 350 for approx. 30min or until you can tap on the top & it sounds hollow.

Here’s the kicker: WAIT! If this is sandwich bread: wait!! If you want it to maintain a sturdy shape (i.e. doesn’t collapse with the slightest pressure while you’re slicing) & a ‘crumb’ (inside texture) with integrity (i.e. can hold up to a sandwich)….WAIT until it is COMPLETELY cooled! it’s sooo hard…nothing’s better than hot bread with butter….unless that leaves you with annoying sandwiches the rest of the week.

Since i make 2 loaves, i like to keep one out & slice as needed, then slice up the other & freeze it. That way I can just take out slices as I need them (thaw in toaster as needed). Ok….this is the first time I’ve done it, but i’ve seen it recommended elsewhere & kept meaning to do it that way.

*for casein-free folk you *might* be able to sub a lemon juice/water mix (like 2-3TBS lemon juice + remaining water), but i make no flavor guarantees…and it’s not likely i’ll put forth the effort to trial it. lemme know if u do!)**

** if you don’t have a heavy-duty mixer (thanks again Pop & Gigi for the heavy duty mixer christmas gift 3 years ago!), i’m not exactly sure what you should do…perhaps mix till it gets to where your mixer seems to be getting angry with you, then hand knead?

The ‘Science’
Um…after all that i’m not gonna go super duper in-depth. If you want to know ALL the details about why phytates are bad…or any of my crazy ideas that follow. google it. :)

Non-metallic bowls: Supposedly metal kills yeast. I have experienced this with killing sourdough starters by stirring with metal spoons. I’ve also had many a sourdough bread not rise in a metal bowl. I do however mix it in my Kitchen-aid which is metal. But I don’t keep it there long.

I added the kefir (original recipe calls for 2 cups water), because an acidic medium helps neutralize phytates. This is the reason I make sprouted wheat flour for quickbreads & cookies. There are soaked recipes for these things, but i don’t like them. Sprouting accomplishes the same thing as soaking does (some might argue more). But sprouting, dehydrating & grinding are far too labor intensive (& buying sprouted wheat flour is far too expensive), so I’m not going to do it unless I can’t find a yummier easier alternative. For bread, this is that alternative. So…phytates in an extremely simplified explanation: Enzyme inhibitors that make digesting the grains/beans/seeds more difficult. It’s good news for ‘seeds’ in the wild because animals gnosh on them, but many pass through undigested….in their own wonderful little pile of compost, to go on to grow into a new plant. Bad news for us though. Best case we’re just not getting all we can out of the grains, worst case it’s wreaking havoc in our intestines. Bread Beckers folks have written an argument against this theory…but i disagree with it. I’ll stop there.

If you want to know why I said said, “olive, coconut oil or butter” see Nina Planck or weston price they can explain why ‘real fats’ are better, and why vegetable oils in particular are not good for high-heat cooking better than I can (& why corn & soybean oils will never be in my pantry). I HIGHLY recommend Nina Planck’s book, “Real Food; What to eat and why”.

The honey molasses mix: It might well work with just honey. In which case, just do a 1/4 cup honey. But yeast likes blackstrap molasses. Not sure if it’s the calcium, magnesium or iron or what. i forget… But it likes it. I however don’t so much, thus I don’t do ONLY molasses….I’ve never been a fan of black licorice which is what it tastes like to me. For what it’s worth, yeast also likes ginger so If YOU like ginger you can add a tsp of powdered ginger to the water mix to make your yeast really happy. Ryan’s not a big fan of gingery bread so I was glad to see that this still worked without it.

The original recipe calls for 1.5 TABLESPOONS yeast. i only used 1 TEASPOON (i bet 1/4 tsp would work too given enough time). The reason for this is that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. …It just takes longer for it to do so. This is a GOOD thing because (and again, I’m not an expert, just a crazy person who reads stuff by crazy people too often): 1) it gives the ‘acidic medium’ time to works it’s magic against the phytates. 2) something about the longer the yeast gets to proliferate the more digestible IT becomes (a lot of people are sensitive to commercial yeast…and may or may not know it…it’s usually grown on corn…). 3) The longer it gets ‘predigested’ by the yeast & kefir, the more digestible the gluten becomes (gluten being the protein in wheat, which again, many (some might say most) people are sensitive to & don’t even know it). This is where I’m ok with a bit of white flour. This guy claims that “bran is bull….” well…you get the idea…and that we should only consume slow ferment white bread. I’m not entirely convinced since I want to get as much nutrition out of every bite that I can…and i wonder how fine ‘traditional’ cultures were able to sift wheat on a regular basis. Whole wheat, in it’s entirety I think does work toward nutrient-dense…though I agree I would never purposely add bran in isolation to anything just like i prefer not to use white flour in isolation (though ok ok…i cheat on the latter a good bit). So the cup of white flour can add some lightness but it’s mostly whole wheat, so has all that ‘goodness’….and the long ferment deals with the sugars in the white flour.

As for why I would not use any refined salt (even ‘sea salt’…if it’s just labeled, ‘sea salt’ it’s probably refined. Unrefined salt is more expensive so they’d be putting that pretty info on the label), and why I prefer freshly milled wheat….well….that’s too much for the scope of this already-too-long-post (both info would be found in the “Real Food” book). Store-bough whole wheat would work though. Ryan’s already in bed. I’d like to go join him.

If any of you try this let me know how it goes!

Kefir Bread

Another “Necessity is the mother of Invention” post. Though admittedly I’ll have to post whether or not it’s any GOOD, as I haven’t cooked it yet, ha.

While I still haven’t settled on a sandwich bread recipe for us since coming back to gluteny-grains (I found one but it’s admittedly a PIA from a mental energy perspective and requires i mix and knead dough at night….i’m hard pressed to get dinner cleaned up at night so baking….ugh…), but I have been using recipes from the book, “Artisan Bread in 5min/day” for other things (& might have now found an easy way to appropriately ‘tweak’ the whole wheat sandwich bread recipe for my desire to limit phytates). Anyhow, I use the olive oil dough recipe for our weekly pizza, of course ‘tweaked’ to accommodate whole wheat flour vs. white. The basic gist is you mix up the ingredients rather quickly into a bowl (or in my case bucket), let it do an initial rise, then stick it in the fridge for a few hours up to a couple weeks depending on the recipe. I like this because though it might not be a perfect or ideal way to reduce phytates in the grains, it is a long ferment (if i remember to do it far enough ahead) and thus better than nothing. Not to mention EASY!! No knead, no mixer, just a wooden spoon, bucket & about 5min, literally.

Ok, so yesterday I was mixing up the dough for today’s pizza (ideally I like to do this monday or tuesday but hasn’t been happening lately), and after i had things already in the works, I remembered I had no yeast. Ugh. NOT up for yet another unplanned grocery store trip (we’ve stinkin’ made 3 this week!), I decided to experiment with my proliferating milk kefir grains (the grains are a “symbiotic yeast/bacteria culture”). I mixed up the water, kefir (as a dough conditioner since i’m doing whole wheat w/a white flour recipe instead of 2 3/4 water I do 2 cups water, 1 cup kefir), sugar, and a teaspoon of powdered ginger (feeds yeast). Then I added one little baby kefir grain (it was just slightly smaller than a pea). I let this mixture sit for 20min. Then I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, covered loosely & hoped for the best. I put it in the oven w/the pilot light on for an hour or so and then turned off the light, and promptly forgot about it altogether (thankfully dinner didn’t require the oven or I would’ve baked the plastic bucket, whew).

Last night I was lying in bed wired from having been chatting with women at Bible study, unable to sleep. Suddenly I remembered the dough. Fully expecting no movement, I pulled it out of the oven & lo & behold it HAD risen….only veeery slightly. So, I just left it on the counter overnight. This morning I woke up and sure enough it had doubled. I’ve put it in the fridge and we’ll see how it goes tonight.

OAMC

That’s short for: Once A Month Cooking

I’ve been slowly but surely trying to wrap my brain around this concept and seeing where and how I can fit this in with my “cooking style” as well as the meals that we like. In a small way, I do it with broth-making. There ARE people who make broth every week with that week’s chicken. I much prefer to save the bones up in the freezer and make it once a month.

Anyhow, the most recent move in this direction: about a month ago a woman at the women’s bible study mentioned that she’s been doing a lot of batch cooking and raved about it. She recommended a book, but that it was a good one to just borrow vs. buy.

So I went home & directly to the computer to put “Fix Freeze Feast” on hold. I was #9 in line and had to wait just over a month! Anyhow, it was ready for pick-up this week and after going through the whole book (ryan ‘let’ me stop at starbucks this morning to hang out by myself w/some tea, and i got to thumb through all the recipes), I decided it IS actually one I want to buy. My original intent was to just get a good grasp on the concept & perhaps copy a few recipes (assuming I’d not ‘agree’ w/most, ha), but as it turns out the list I wanted to copy kept growing and growing….and then I remembered I had a gift certificate from Keynote. :)

There are tons of OAMC & batch-cooking books out there and admittedly I have only read this one. However, I have read a lot of reviews and this seemed good as any. Things I particularly liked: Most everything is made from scratch. I have read reviews of other books that used a lot of canned soup recipes and other processed “quick cooking” ingredients. With this book there are very few things that I’ll change to adjust to my neurosis (the easiest being that it calls for water & bullion cubes all over the place, which is good news, i get to use broth!), which is nice. Also, I like that it makes enough for 3 meals. In theory, I could make something and then not have to do the prep for it for another 3 months (or less if we eat it more than once a month). Heck, I could in theory make up a meal plan for the month and then never make one again….unless we got bored.

The cooking part I like (despite that time is an issue, thus my desire to batch cook) the PLANNING part i detest. Ryan keeps saying that I should just repeat stuff more, but I like variety. I think perhaps if it was just repeating once a month I could handle the repetition.

I think for now I’ll approach it that I’ll batch cook each entree as the day comes up, vs. spending a whole day or weekend cooking multiple meals. In theory…I could do that and then only be ‘cooking’ (there is still cooking but mostly just plopping in the oven) once every 3 months. Well…we still have fried chicken to contend with (can’t figure out how to batch & freeze fried chicken…speaking of which, anyone want to buy me a deep fryer?).

I also couldn’t help be struck by the thought that if I were unmarried this method would be particularly appealing. For many of the recipes, you can easily sort them into one serving sizes, and viola, ‘real’ food cooked just for me but not having to deal with a week of leftovers all at once. Oh, and the idea of ‘sharing’ with friends: You make your 3, then trade and bam: 3 different nights of dinner and you only ‘made’ one.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Stock, Fat, and Fried Chicken

It’s all loosely related & all happened within the past 24 hrs so it’s getting lumped into one post.

I know i talk about bone broth (or stock…whatever) all the time. But thought I should note my ‘recipe’ has evolved a bit since i last blogged it (i’m assuming i’ve blogged it before).

  • Bones reserved both from cooked chicken & raw de-boned chicken (i make it once a month, so however much i’ve accumulated in the freezer during that time).
  • Lots of water
  • Vinegar (i use apple cider, but that’s just ’cause i’m too lazy to go to the laundry room (5 feet away) to get the regular vinegar)
  • Veggie scraps (broth should be ‘free food’. therefore i don’t use meat-on chickens or whole veggies anymore)

1) Put bones (frozen or thawed….probably thawed is best but you know me…) in large pot, cover with water as full as you can w/o worry about overflow. Add 1/4 cup (or so) vinegar, swish. Let sit for 1 hr.
** the vinegar step is totally optional. The purpose is that it helps to leach the minerals out of the bones**
2) Bring to a boil, skim (if you happen to be nearby when it foams…ok, both using raw bones & not skimming can supposedly lead to ‘off’ tasting broth…perhaps my tastebuds are immature or something, but i’ve yet to notice anything), then turn down to simmer.
3) simmer 24hrs.
4) yep. 24 hrs. (getting all those minerals (including calcium) out of the bones)
5) oh, if you happen to remember (i don’t always), add the veggie scraps the last hour or 2 before it’s finished.
6) let it cool (if you so desire anyway), strain (i use my sieve to scoop out the large masses & then pour through it into various large bowls)
7) cover w/plastic wrap (or whatever), transfer to fridge.
8) next day, skim off fat, transfer stock to freezer containers of choice. I’m currently using rubbermaid disposable food containers (they’re re-usable & dishwasher safe…WAY better than ziplocs). I store in 2 & 4 cup containers.

ok so for the fat. Quick “tip” to stretch every ounce of ‘goodness’ from your whole chicken: If I’m cutting up a raw chicken (for say, fried chicken), I cut/peel/pull off the skin & any fat that i can get at & ‘render’ it while i’m working on the chicken. As in, i put it on a lipped cookie sheet (sometimes on a rack, sometimes not) & let it cook at anywhere from 200 to 300 for however long it takes to get all the fat liquidated. Then i reserve that for…oh…frying the chicken (is that horrendous? cooking it in it’s own fat?), or biscuits or something. I don’t get enough to use it as the only frying fat, but it cuts back on some of the coconut oil i need to use.  Leave me alone.  It makes me feel thrifty.

Next up, fried chicken. Don’t worry I’m not posting the whole recipe. I just wanted to note that I make this every other week or so (it’s on ryan’s list of “please make this so i can have amazing lunches for work” dinners)…for a long time i was making it with sprouted garbanzo bean flour (w/salt, pepper & Parmesan cheese). But i’ve gotten lazy. The past few times I’ve used unbleached white flour. Tonight i added the addition of kefir milk to the “wet dunking solution” (egg & kefir milk) & it was AWESOME (buttermilk or thinned yogurt will suffice). After the super bowl I’ll go back to the sprouted garbanzo’s…mostly b/c I’m curious if it will still taste good after tonight’s version. Even Ryan liked the garbanzo flour version. But perhaps it was an “ignorance is bliss” kinda deal. We shall see.

For what it’s worth tonight we had sprouted rice with the white flour breaded chicken. First time I’ve ever sprouted rice. Worked great & tasted awesome as usual.

What to do with a “rubber chicken”

Not an ACTUAL rubber chicken…. “Rubber Chicken” is a term used to describe the practice of buying a whole chicken & using it for 3 meals.  If you google that phrase for recipe ideas, typically the first meal is roasted chicken and then 9 out of 9.5 places will offer the 3rd meal as a meatless soup.  They count the stock/broth (i still don’t know the difference) you make from the bones as a meal.  In our house (due to the oldest member of my peanut gallery) that does not “count”.  However, I am still able to make 3 meals out of my “rubber chickens”.  Granted, I spend a friggin’ hour picking every last little piece of meat off the bones after roasting night & one of the meals is usually taco night, which requires very little meat for us as I amp up the bean consumption for the kids & myself.

Anymore I rarely buy chicken cuts.  If i do it’s usually dark meat since it’s super cheap, but I prefer to buy whole chickens not just to save money, but to get my hands on those bones since I’m a maniac about bone broth.

Add to the challenge trying to come up with healthy meals that will make it to the “Ryan will take the leftovers for his lunches” hall of fame.

Anyhow in the spirit of brevity (ha!  me brief….), I will get on with the point.  Awhile back Ryan requested I make “chicken & rice” which is supposed to be a rather simple casserole based on either cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup.  Of course i disect the poor little recipe & make it a wee more complicated.  I’d like to blame Asher’s garlic allergy (i don’t know for sure, but it’s safe to assume most canned soups have garlic), but well….I would’ve done this anyway.  I’m neurotic.

I’ve made it twice now and tonight I hodge-podged a couple recipes (including the cream sauce base for the green bean casserole i made for thanksgiving) and came up with perfection.   Ok, ok, it’s missing something…but i’m assuming it’s garlic….maybe next time i’ll add a little onion powder.  This is a great recipe to batch cook & freeze.  I’ve managed to get in a lot of stock into the recipe, which is always a little exciting for me (“guerrilla nutrition” to quote a friend), I’ll let it slide if you’d rather use water.

Without Further adieu:

Chicken (or Turkey) & Rice Casserole
Cream Sauce:
3 TBS butter or coconut oil
1lb sliced mushrooms
3TBS flour of your choice
black pepper
salt
1.5 cups chicken broth
1.5 cups heavy cream (or more broth if you want casein-free)
(garlic)
1-2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, opt. (i did 2 cups tonight….and it was great)

  1. melt butter in a sauce pan, until foaming subsides (i dont really know what this means nor have i ever waited that long, but it sounds gourmet, no?)
  2. add mushrooms, salt, pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture & liquid evaporates, approx. 6-10min.
  3. add flour (and garlic), cook for one minute, stirring constantly…remember jenn who is jealous of your garlic.
  4. 1/2 cup at a time, stir in chicken stock & bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
  5. add cream/additional stock and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced (says reduce to 3.5 cups but i have no idea how you’d know it’s reduced to 3.5 cups..), about 12min.
  6. if using cheese, add in cheese & stir until incorporated.

The rest of the story

2c uncooked rice
4c broth
2-4 cups pre-cooked & cubed chicken/turkey

salt & pepper to taste

frozen broccoli or peas (i just sort of pour it in till it looks like enough…maybe an 8oz. package??)
I think it needs some sort of seasoning/spice but i’m no good in this dept.  report in the comments section if you know what’s missing.

wash & drain rice, spread in 9X13 pan.  broth, sauce, chicken & broccoli.   cover tightly with foil & cook for 1hr @ 350.  uncover & cook for 20min longer or until most of liquid is absorbed & rice is tender.

Attack of the Cough

Before I start, I would like to clarify that we DO pray for each other & ourselves when we’re sick. I do not think any healing comes our way outside the mercy of God. However, I also believe God (usually) uses “earthly” means to do so. Just like we trust God for our care, and still go to work. It’s not as though because Ryan works for a paycheck he’s not “trusting God for our provision”…God IS providing through his job. That could all be it’s own post though. I just wanted to clarify for those that will read this & think I see it all as being “in MY hands”. I do not.

Last Sunday, Ryan started coming down with a chest cold. Despite his good effort with “obeying” my cold fighting regimen, it has continued for 8 days now. Now…for the record, though he has been good about taking raw garlic by the spoonful, drinking lots of herbal teas & taking extra vitamin C, he hasn’t quite done it to the level that I do when I’m fighting something…I do the garlic & C every 1-2 hours (at least the garlic, the C about 4x/day +/-)…. But I’m not criticizing; he doesn’t have the benefit of a good Catholic upbringing, which gives way easily to self-flagellation.

Anyhow, come Tuesday, Asher started to succumb. So the boys hacked and wheezed & talked funny through Christmas and into the weekend. There’s not much I can do for Asher since he CAN’T take garlic, and WON’T drink hot tea, broth, or eat soup. Best I can do is give him vitamin C, extra probiotics, some cherry bark tincture and try to bathe him more often (than never)….for the steam.

It appeared as if the girls were in the clear. I stopped the garlic regimen on Wednesday. I started to get cocky. Then yesterday Grace started coughing. Thankfully (Lord bless this child) she will drink tea and despite it’s nastiness will (resigned but w/little complaint) swallow spoonfuls of garlic infused raw honey for me. It seems a little better today. Better for both of them, but especially Grace.

Today I have had a slight runny nose. No signs of anything else, but to be sure I’ve gotten back on the garlic wagon. You might want to make sure to avoid our house if at all possible. I’m sure we all smell delightful.

Given the apparent voracity of this little bug I’ve decided to take out the “big guns”. I’m making a “tea” for myself (& anyone else willing to drink it) that was recommended by one of my health-nut weirdo friends. Our internet is down (typing this out in Word at the moment), so I can’t remember all the measurements, but here’s what I’m going with:

4 cups Pre-Brewed Red Raspberry Leaf Tea (loosens phlegm, antiseptic). I’m already drinking 3 cups/day of this anyway to alleviate some ‘female issues’, so this could be an aide for why I haven’t ‘caught’ it yet.

3 (ish) teaspoons of Fenugreek Seed (I forget what this is for, other than it’s a mid-eastern folk remedy for the common cold…I think another phlegm helper)

3 inches of fresh ginger peeled into small pieces. usually I use a vegetable peeler & just peel into the pot, but I broke it yesterday…cutting cold butter…don’t ask. So today I whirled it through my black & decker “handy chopper” (for tea, I use the whole thing, ‘skin’ & all). Anyhow, ginger is antiviral, and “warming” (warm bodies fight germs easier).

put all into a pot, bring to a boil, then let steep for at least an hour…or longer. The original recipe calls for mullein flowers too (for congestion, which none of us have had thus far), but I don’t have any.

Strain into a glass jar (I use canning jars) then add:

1-2 tsp. Cayenne pepper (yikes! Think we all know what that’s good for!)

However many cloves of garlic you think you can handle (more than one folks). Garlic being an anti-bacterial & anti-viral agent. I’m probably going to go with 4 big guys. Crush, chop or press & dump in the jar, put on the lid. Swirl around & let sit a few hours to overnight. Swirl before pouring & drink as much as you can handle throughout the day till you’ve finished the quart. Repeat as needed.

If it doesn’t kill the cold, at least it can double as penance….right?