Monday, February 28, 2011

New Sprouts!

I started four different sprouts on Feb. 24th and they are ready I do believe!

The new types I am trying this week are the Sandwich Booster Blend (Alfalfa, Red Clover, Radish and canola), alfalfa and red clover on their own. These I sprouted in trays with paper towels and just a gallon freezer bag draped over the top.

I rinsed 2 to 3 times a day in filtered water and used a strainer to catch the strays and put back in the tray when they drained.

I can see how warm days may produce some mold on these guys (not that we have had any lately.) In my Mumm's order was a sprout growing guide in a dial. There are warnings there about what to expect if they get too warm. I have a basement, but the rinsing regimen couldn't go on without a sink down there. Warm weather means things in the garden, so maybe not a lot of sprouting in the summer. Wow, glad that's solved!

I am using the jar method, by far my favorite, for the brassica blend of broccoli, broccoli-rahb, mustard and lentils. I didn't use a lot of seeds in this batch, so there wasn't the "over-growth" of the batch of salad blend I made for my first sprout experience.

Rinsing and draining are the most important steps to healthy sprouts. I don't think I can emphasize that enough!

These nutrient rich little babes pack a punch for our health. Fresh is best and where I live, sprouts are about the only truly "fresh" vegetable we get here this time of year. Last Friday it was 35 below zero, and I speak F, not C. The little 10-12 mph breeze sent that down to the -50's, not a lotta green out there.

I think I found my cure for spring fever. Just the sight of those little leaves of alfalfa and red clover makes me smile! Even the root starts are rewarding, white, vigorous, poking their way out of the hull.

Thank you Jenny, Food Renegade and Mike Adams for the inspiration and the kick in the butt to return to SOLE.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Change of Course

This week I bought a fresh pineapple. At $3.89 I couldn't pass it up. I was going to make yogurt today and hang for cheese tomorrow to make those brownies that I spoke about in the earlier post today. I may still do that, since work isn't on the agenda tomorrow either, just a doctor visit.

I googled "pineapple upside down cake with coconut flour, coconut oil and fresh pineapple" this afternoon and found this recipe at my year without's blog, which led me to the original recipe so I adapted them both to fit what I had on hand. Here is what I got:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake in Cast Iron

For the top:
sliced pineapple Used fresh, sliced)
4 Tbsp butter or
1/2 C. honey or sucanat ( I used ¾ cup sucanat w/ a T. of honey for the glaze)
*optional: pecans (left these out.)

For the cake:
1 C whole wheat flour (Used ½ coconut flour and ½ c. Prairie Gold Wheat Montana)
1 C white whole wheat flour (used Wheat Montana unbleached white wheat)
1 tsp baking powder (cut back to ¾ t. to account for altitude)
1 tsp baking soda (same as w/ the baking pwdr, ¾ t due to altitude.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter or coconut oil (used coconut oil w/ a T of butter to emulsify and fluff)
1/2 C honey (used ¾ c sucanat w/ a T of honey to blend in)
2 eggs (increased to 4 to allow for the coconut flour’s super absorbency!)
1 C buttermilk (used ¼ c. orange juice and ¾ c kefir)
1 and a half tsp vanilla (1 t.

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the 4 Tbsp butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet (I halved the recipe and used my smaller skillet). Once melted, add in the honey and stir until combined. Cook a couple minutes until the mixture is nice and bubbly.

Place pineapple slices in pan.

Continue to cook another couple minutes, turn the slices over, and turn off heat. (If using, place the pecans in pan after you turn off heat.)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Next, cream together the 1/2 C butter, and the 1/2 C honey until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time and then stir in vanilla. Alternating between flour mixture and buttermilk, add them into creamed mixture, stirring just until combined.

Pour over the pineapple slices.

Bake for about 35 minutes (it took 30 in my oven with a baking stone in the bottom) or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes. (This worked out great, took the last five minutes of the timer!) Then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the sides and quickly tip over onto a flat plate or cutting board.

It's cooling as I type. The house is full of a nutty/fruity/caramel scent that is divine! I am glad I have sucanat, since it does great as a substitute for honey (sadly too much fructose) for me.

I plan on whipping some cream and serving that with it for my conventional eaters. Grand daughter will relish the laurine and the medium chain saturated fatty acids in it. It's something she can have!

Adventures in Kefir! Kefir! Kefir! and Sprouts!

To be honest, until I began to ferment my own kefir, I had no idea what it tasted like, looked like or the process it took to get it to a point of being palatable. I think we're there though! It has taken two weeks to get those grains to grow some, and now that they look like little cauliflowers instead of opague white booger balls the drink itself has changed too.

The first week or more the kefir smelled like sourdough yeast. After the first week huge separation was taking place, but the curds were large and really sour/yeasty. Stirring did not get it to break up much. I had a moment of thought and realized that I am feeding the grains at this point. They were turning whiter, but still had a gelatinous smooth look to them.

Since last Wednesday the grains have begun "blooming" and look more and more like the little cauliflower buds that I had been seeking. The feeding of the grains is much more important than having a palatable drink and lead to a better drink as time goes on I can tell.

There isn't as much separation now. I have decided I like that better. When I strain the kefir now, the curds are small and easy to send through the strainer. The grains are growing and definitely stand out now. It appears I have 4 of the little darlings. They are beginning to multiply!

My straining and restarting process are pretty simple. I set 3/4ths of a cup of organic whole milk on the counter after getting home from work (5-6) About 8 or 9 p.m. I break out the strainer, the pitcher bowl and a cup measure. Use plastic or glass. I have stuck a metal spoon into the mixture a couple times in this two and a half weeks and it does seem to inhibit growth (not kill, but that's all the metal these grains have been in contact with and it did inhibit)

Stir the culture with the handle of a plastic spoon rather briskly to break up the curds. If you break a grain, it's okay, that is part of multiplication! They are easy to see at the bottom of the strainer now, and easy to detect as I 'push' the curds through the strainer.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the organic whole milk into the spare cup measure and put the grains in it and swish lightly to rinse. Strain that into the pitcher bowl and stir or swish those contents lightly. Pour 1/2 cup of the kefir into the culturing jar and return the grains to it. Pour in the rest of the organic milk, sprinkle a little sucanat into it, swish, cover lightly and set to culture in its spot. Pour the rest of the kefir in the "keeper" jar in the fridge.

I have been enjoying the smoothies I am making with the kefir. My gut is enjoying it the best right now, and my butt is too. I do not have screaming diarrhea every day, several times a day any longer. Even having honey in the green tea yesterday, refined flour, root beer, coffee and ice cream did not provoke a major IBS incident.

Can you imagine how great I would feel if I didn't consume any of that processed stuff or high fructose stuff? Maybe I wouldn't be sitting here with a major swollen lymph node right now. Well, I will need to revamp all other foods I consume to meet some standards, but kefir seems to be the magic bullet to reorganizing my gut right now. Last weekend was almost a purge and cleanse. It seemed like the diverticuli were letting loose. Kefir is like adding scrubbing bubbles to the colon, except it leaves behind healthy bacteria and yeast to repopulate and even things out. I was able to drink some on its own last night, and it was almost sweet in after taste with a buttermilk presentation. Sheesh! Sound like a wine or coffee connoisseur but that is what it tasted like. Not unpleasant at all! Sooooo much better than last weekend or the weekend before! Two weeks and it is changing in consistency (less lumpy, less separation) and the grains are really growing right now!

They were at 2/3rds a teaspoon last Thursday. I will have to measure again tonight. The MP video and other sources say it will take up to six weeks to get them to a tablespoon or more. Up until then only a cup of milk can get cultured, otherwise "not enough" as MP's other video spoke of. Not enough grain to culture well or to allow for feeding them more. (My experience on the 17th, 18th and 19th) They will expend their energy trying to culture rather than grow if they are in more milk than 1 cup. That is why I add the 1/2 cup of cultured kefir back into the jar right now. It helps the grains grow, giving a little assist to the culturing process and bringing the culture into a drinkable state.

There is my synopsis of the past two and a half weeks of kefir grain growth and kefir culture process.

By date this is what happened to the kefir:

  • 2/9/11 Kefir grains received in the mail. Two little jelly like squishy slightly transparent grains about 1/8th inch in diameter and flat.
  • 2/10/11 Researched online for info online about starting kefir grains. Not much there. Rinsed the grains in the plastic strainer, heeding the words of those who warn that you should not use metal, or things washed in antibacterial soap or chlorine which can harm the grains. Put them in 1/2 c. milk and a pinch of sucanat and set on the corner cupboard shelf. Reading had said to shake so shook lightly a few times a day.
  • 2/12/11 Set culture on top of fridge to see if that would assist. Had big separation. May just be part of the process but the curds got huge, the kefir grains grew somewhat, the kefir was yeasty and sour smelling and not at all potable.
  • 2/13/11 Increased milk to 2 cups in the kefir, using just the fresh.
  • 2/14/11 I remembered that I had not received the free kefir making video series from MP, sent an email to Giselle and MP sent the link. Watched the videos and realized I had 'not enough" grains for even closeto two cups milk. Stepped back to one cup. Still using a lot of milk. need to devise a new plan.
  • 2/17/11 Tried the kefir in a triple berry smoothie and added some coconut oil which seemed to help make it creamier. Definitely quite drinkable. Still yeasty however. Still have loose stools.
  • 2/20/11 Made new yogurt with a new cup of Mountain High and had great success.
  • 2/21/11 Added a 1/2 cup of yogurt to the smoothie. Very good! The grains are responding to the 1 c. limit and pinch of sucanat. Still using a lot of milk rinsing etc.
  • 2/22/11 Have started setting out 3/4 c. organic whole milk at lunch or when I get home from work and let it lose its chill. When I have stirred and strained the kefir, I put the grains in a 1/4 c. milk to swish and rinse. After pouring a 1/2 c. of kefir into the culture jar, I strain this 1/4 c milk into the keeper batch. The grains go back into the culture jar with the remaining half cup of fresh milk and pinch of sucanat. I have been loosely covering the culture jar with a wide mouth plastic lid at this point. When the grains are 2 to 3 T's large I will give an effervescent culture a try.
  • 2/24/11 The grains continue to bloom. There are three 2/3rd inch grains and one little "start." It is getting easier to identify the new babies too. As the consistency seems to level off and the curds break up easily the new start was so apparent with its tough little rubbery texture there was no missing it!
  • 2/26/11 The setting out milk and rinsing with the 1/4 c. milk has definitely been a good addition. Keeping the volume at a cup and using half a cup of cultured kefir per new batch has also helped a lot in the grain growth department. When I strained the culture this time there was another new grain. The grain from the 24th had doubled and the 3 bigger grains are growing well also. I could theoretically have 1 inch grains by the end of the coming week.
  • Using the filtered water to rinse everything before using has also helped I think. I do reuse the culture and keeper jars for a few days before washing. I also rinse in filtered water to assure the chlorine and antibacterials are gone. You may shudder at reusing the containers without washing, but kefir is a potent source of good flora. It "eats" bad bacteria and yeast, converting it to the good stuff. Research shows that the people of the Caucasus area used goat stomachs to keep their kefir and it NEVER got washed after the initial cleaning before the first use. People in that area were super healthy until nuclear plants started having their little problems.
It is fun nurturing growth of kefir, sprouts (which are also doing very well and we are eating the first batch as the second batch does its thing) in addition to yogurt. It is even more fun to have a healthy gut again. Now I am looking at starting fir mjolk, and using that in concert with the other probiotics. I am of a belief that you do best with the culture of your body's origin. Fir mjolk is a Northern European cultured milk. I remember having it with rhubarb and toasted steel cut oats for breakfast. I know my mom and dad relished the culture and used for years the bit they got from my mom's visiting cousin from Sweden.

Today I am making more yogurt so I can make a version of the cream cheese brownie swirls with lo-grain rather than no grain. Here is the recipe (Thanks to Food Renegade) that I am going to convert and its conversions:

Grain-Free Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Yield: 12 brownies

The Players
Brownie Ingredients

  • 1 c almond butter (1/2 c. coconut flour, 1/2 c. blend of unbleached white and Prairie Gold Wheat Montana flour that has been soaked in 1/2 c. kefir)
  • 2 eggs (from pastured hens) (4 eggs, coconut flour is very absorbent. My first try with pancakes was an amazing adventure of add liquid, stir, watch it turn into thick glop and then stand still, add liquid, stir...rinse repeat... until I researched and found you need to add an egg per 1/4 c coconut flour, hence add two!)
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c canned coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1/2 c coconut crystals or palm sugar ( I am using sucanat and maybe some honey)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/3 c chocolate chips (optional) (not adding)

Cheesecake Ingredients

The How-To

Set your oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brownie ingredients until well combined, and pour into a greased 9×9 oven-safe baking dish.

Add the cream cheese to your mixer bowl and beat until smooth, add the rest of the ingredients and beat until combined.

Dollop the cream cheese batter on top of the brownie batter. Using a knife, or a toothpick, swirl the cheesecake batter into the brownie batter. This would be a great thing for kids to do! Another option would be to remove the vanilla extract and add your favorite extract flavoring to the cheesecake batter; mint, almond, orange, coffee, coconut–would all work well.

Bake for about 35 minutes–until the top has slightly cracked. Serve well chilled, just like cheesecake.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Happy culturing!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sprouts for Life!

How about the sprouts? Well, the first attempt had great success. The salad blend had alfalfa, red clover, broccoli and radish seeds. The Jar method was employed for that. A bit of netting secured with a rubber band was all that was needed. The jar was completely full and popping out the top 5 days later. They are spicy/hot and added a great kick to the salad we had a couple nights ago. A makeshift tray method was used for the alfala sprouts. I need to revamp that method, especially since JD brought home some more of those drawer organizers from work the other day. The sprouts "stuck" to the felt pad I had at the bottom of the tray. It was also awkward to rinse the sprouts without a good straining top with small enough holes. This method requires a bit more research. The sprouts are so fresh and full of flavor, sweet and so good!

People wonder how sprouts could have so many more nutrients than the actual plants they produce eventually. That "germ" in the seeds contains all the nutrients and has a buttload of protein, enzymes etc for enhanced health. My favorite article on sprouts helped me a lot in making the decision to spend nearly $60 on the sprouting seeds and legumes.

I am thinking "green smoothies" with sprouts, Alive Pea Protein Powder and kefir would make an awesome combination for a drinkable salad. I might make a kefir salad dressing with a combination of herbs for a slaw with sprouts. Mixed greens, spinach and the salad blend with just olive oil drizzled over them was delicious and I felt so clean afterward. It was like a neti pot for the tummy.

Today the brassica blend with its mustard and broccoli seeds are calling my name. The jar method seems to be the best for my skill level. I hope to learn more today about creating a home made tray method. It is a sick day for me. (antithetical, but caring for the grandkids last Sunday and Monday took its toll.) I have a lymph node the size on an egg on the right side of my neck. I am going to rest, which is what my body demands, and shrink that bugger!

As I was naming off seeds to JD while going through the sprouting treasure box I got last week, he laughed and said "Sounds like the weeds I sprayed!" ... hopefully none of that spray is on these sprout seeds! Mumm's has a good ethic and strong belief in the organics. I doubt there is any spray of insecticide or pesticide on these little darlings.

On a side note, last Friday I was in another small community. I love their grocery store! The organic selection is great. I picked up some onions, broccoli, avocados and kiwi that are organic. The meat dept. at this IGA is also wonderful. The beef isn't full of red dye and as I was looking over the choices I found LIVER! Guess what was for supper that night! JD and I feasted on a huge bunch of sauteed organic red onions, a tad of maple bacon, liver powdered lightly with sea salt, triple berry blend pepper and Wheat Montana Prairie Gold flour sauteed in the mass of olive oil, butter and bacon grease left over from the onions. Ohhhh it was delicious! Son in law loved it, granddaughter loved it, youngest daughter didn't, wouldn't, refused even a bite and left the main floor to escape the smell. Hey, liver isn't for everyone! I just made her take an extra Alive with iron and put a sublingual B 12 under her tongue when she finally emerged from below with a can of orange air spray. har har!

Liver seems to be something our bodies crave, especially this time of year. The iron and B complex vitamins it contains are part of the craving, but my intuition tells me that the enzymes in liver are another thing that our bodies say "Ahhhh, thank you!" for receiving. The same with the sprouts. Now youngest daughter has a real acceptance of sprouts. She told her friend and her friend's daughter that sprouts make your mouth happy. Linz, the daughter, said "Doritos make my mouth happy"...sometimes we just can't win, but we continue to put forth the effort, since I don't see good nutrition, whole foods and probiotics as a game as much as I see it as an act of civil disobedience toward the corporate food/pharmaceutical/political monolith. I work hard to NOT buy their products, and am at about 75% SOLE with Hutterite poultry, eggs, Montana grains, some beef, wild game and online ordering as food sources. I want to eventually only go to the store for chips to munch on during the Daytona 500.

Probiotic Energy

It's been two weeks since the kefir grains arrived (view the post from my other blog and this post). Things are "developing" well in that department. I realized that I am still in the "grain feeding" stage of this process. I now have 3 grains that are about 3/4" in diameter and are fluffing up nicely! The reading I have been doing seems to indicate that the grains take about 6 weeks to get to "full size" and will be dividing along the way. I got the link to Michael Patterson's video series on kefir. He seems to like the separated and curdy stuff. I am inclined to the smoother, more "homogenized" drink.

I have been making a pitcher of blended fruit. I started with berries and kefir, but my gut still was doing what it does... >:-( and that doing was still mucous filled. This week I switched to a blend of pineapple, mango, peaches and strawberries frozen from Schwann's. I know, poor choice, but better than what is available at our local gouge and grab (your $$) grocery. Fresh and organic would be better but it's 28 below zero out there right now, so not an option. "Fresh" fruits and vegetables are no where near fresh at this time of year here at the gouge and grab. Even summer fare gives us last summer's crop. Their frozen possibilities all are tasteless and lacking too, not to mention a quick label read shows hfcs added to the frozen fruit. At least Schwann's has no sugar added in any of the fruit and all are quick frozen with a bit of ascorbic acid. I add that to my frozen fruits too, so it's close to "okay".

Any way, I digress...The new fruit combo, 1 c. kefir and 1 c. yogurt all have joined to make my gut healthy again! I drink half before bed and half in the morning. I learned that I lack motivation in the morning to blend up this treat. The kefir needs to be strained and refreshed every evening. I make the smoothie for that evening and the next morning right after tending to the kefir. No excuses, and who doesn't want to start the day, or end it for that matter, with a delicious smoothie that is so tasty that the most critical of yogurt/kefir haters will actually enjoy it. (Tested on family members who turn their nose up at my crazy food.)

I am quite happy with the kefir, and am delighted that the combo of home fermented kefir and home cultured yogurt are leveling out my IBS symptoms. For many years we called our fridge the "genesis machine" since we grew new life in there...mold mostly. It has been a joke around here and now has converted to life growing on the counter, but its a healthy form of life that we don't mind eating!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It All Began with a Jar of

Coconut Oil and a can of Coconut Flour, same company.

A few years ago I subscribed to Mike Adams, The Health Ranger's newsletter "Natural News". There are times he is a little too
"anti" for me. To his credit I have learned a lot from the newsletter and share a lot of his thoughts on vaccinations, prevention via probiotics and vitamins and whole foods. I also got totally turned on by the coconut oil and coconut flour information since the granddaughter has shown some sensitivity to gluten and dairy.

I have been a yogurt eater and found the value of making my own with store bought yogurt with live cultures as my starter. I treasure my second hand store $2.00 Salton 1 qt. yogurt maker, especially when I looked it up to see what it would take to replace it. Amazon had one and it was 179.99!! I need to work on my 'attachment' to the "Salton yogi". It has helped me to be mindful of caring for this little warmer. I have found others, and will be buying the 2 qt. Yogourmet in the near future. I just checked and it is still $50, the Salton is down to $150...oh yay.

My mother was a firm believer in raw milk from our cows, eggs and fresh chickens from the neighbor (we didn't know there were nice chickens, so didn't keep them often,) pastured beef, the other neighbor's get the idea. Her veggies from the garden were extraordinary. She froze rather than canned. Simple blanching and freezing did preserve more nutrients. She ground grains to make the bread we ate. The term "homemaker" was taken seriously by her. I am forever grateful to have her as the provider of my food for my youth. I have not been kind to myself as far as tobacco abuse and, for a time, alcohol abuse. I took short cuts and dieted using Atkins throughout my life, yet I retain health in many ways.

Several years ago I was a physical, emotional and pharmaceutical mess. I was treating my depression with paxil, zoloft, lexapro (not good for me at all) and xanax for the anxiety. I put over 1200 miles on the state car every two weeks, and sat in front of the computer when I wasn't driving. I ate Town Pump fast food and yoplait. Add to that menopause, metabolic syndrome symptoms, financial and marital problems and a mess was an understatement!

I lost a lot of weight without trying. It was great at first! I could get into clothes I hadn't worn for years, but the weight kept coming off until I was wearing a size 4. I had been in 16+ to 18+ for 7 years before, so this was getting worrisome. I began to incorporate better eating habits, lean proteins and veggies, started making my own yogurt again and quit the desk/driving job. I maintained my weight for 2 years, but went to work at an espresso shop and the hfcs in the syrups, the growth hormones in the commercial milk and the stopping of smoking started adding a ring, then a tire of fat around my abdomen.

I also suffered from IBS from the antidepressant load I had taken. I was off all medications by the time I started work at the coffee shop, except of course caffeine and refined corn sugars. I was doing somewhat better when I incorporated fresh greens in my diet. I continued making and eating the yogurt. Things were healing, but only somewhat.

I began a quest for a better probiotic and found out about the Specific Carb Diet that recommended 24 hr. yogurt. Even that didn't really even things out the way I wanted. Mind you, I was still consuming honey in rather high doses, thinking that would help the gut too. I was just feeding the bad bacteria and yeast with it, and definitely was feeding the ab fat with it! On to other sources and began research on kefir.

I found links to "Nourished Kitchen" and "Food Renegade" and eventually Giselle C's site. I made some monetary decisions regarding health and ordered the grains from Michael Patterson's website . I have been drinking the kefir for several days now. It was a rough start, but a week later the kefir has become palatable and is great mixed with mashed fruit in a smoothie. I start and end my day with some kefir. It has helped a great deal in the potty department. I have had more energy and focus too. That may be enhanced by the amino acids I am taking since reading in "The Mood Cure", but absorption of other nutrients and creating balanced flora in the gut are part of the cure too.

This is the record of my journey toward health from nature not the lab.