Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why do I soak my grains?

I came across the Weston A Price Foundation about six months ago while reading some blogs about 'real food'. I was looking for some ideas about how to eat more seasonally and locally. I found a wealth of information that was really helpful but this idea of soaking your grains kept popping up. Having not heard of it before, I gave in and bought the book they were referring to - Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.

The first 70 pages explain the science and reasoning behind the next 550 pages of recipes. It's an incredible source of information on the why and how of eating traditionally prepared foods and I highly recommend badgering your librarians to obtain a copy of it if you don't want to purchase one. If you don't love reading non-fiction as much as I do, just read the chapter on fats at the beginning. It may blow your mind.

Anyway, the book also explains why grains need to be treated before being consumed:

"Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, coppy and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usally soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and, in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestion process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures (page 25)."

So... phytic acid is bad. It's in whole grains. It can be neutralized by soaking the grains in water plus yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, vinegar OR lemon juice. Plus, after soaking, you can digest the phosphorus in the grain. Phosphorus is important for calcium absorption (good teeth), bone growth, cell growth, and healthy kidneys. This is why my counter often looks like this:

On the left is yogurt incubating. Since we go through so much more of it now, I've decided it's worth the effort to make it from scratch for the cost benefit. In the middle is the flour for my bread dough soaking in water plus yogurt and on the right is my oatmeal, also soaking in water and yogurt overnight.

I'm not a purist yet. I have made things without soaking the flour or grain since I started doing things this way in April - but I have done a lot of experimenting to try and convert all of my regular recipes to soaked-dough recipes. It takes some tweaking, which is probably why there aren't more posts about it on here yet. I do my naan bread and pizza dough like this regularly and have liked the cornbread recipe I found online but I haven't been happy with results on many other things yet.

My next 'frontier' is going to be to sprout whole grain wheat, dehydrate it, and then grind it into flour. The sprouting gives a similar nutritional benefit, but without the soaking time and texture sacrifices of the soaking method. Of course, I could just buy sprouted wheat flour, but that would go against my 'homemade for cheapness' motto.

The other way to get the same benefit is to use 'old-fashioned sour leavening' - as in making bread with a sourdough starter and letting the dough take it's sweet time to raise. I had a fun time experimenting with a starter right after I finished college but I let it die and hadn't looked back until I read Nourishing Traditions.

I made a new starter from rye flour, as suggested in the book, but didn't like the flavor of the resulting sourdough bread. I re-seeded that starter with whole wheat flour and did a second attempt. It tasted pretty good and I liked the texture much better as well. I just still didn't love it and I accidentally forgot to keep out some of the starter for next time, so it disappeared as well. I do still have 50 lbs of rye to figure out what to do with though, so maybe I'll decide to fiddle with the method again later because I felt completely magic being able to make bread out of only water and flour and salt. It sure made a pretty loaf too...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Black beans, sauted onions and peppers, cheese, chips, a few strips of grass-fed steak and toppings. Quick and delicious even if it wasn't super high on the health meter.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Salad from my Garden!

This is the first 'harvest' from my first-ever garden. Really, I just had to thin the lettuce, but I was pretty excited about it. I planted some tubs of dirt on my patio and have tried to keep really low expectations for yield since I'm a novice. Anyway, getting a salad of greens that I grew from seed seems completely magic to me. It was exciting. We had it with the balsamic vinaigrette using white balsamic vinegar. Nature amazes me.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies

I needed cookies. Unfortunately, the rest of the house is nothing but encouraging when I get cravy. At least they were delicious. I used freshly ground whole wheat flour but was all out of rapadura, so I got some white sugar out of food storage - for shame!

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup rapadura sugar (or 1/2 brown and 1/2 white)
1 egg
1 tsp powdered vanilla
1/4 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

Cream butter and peanut butter with sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Mix in dry ingredients. Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and press down with a fork if desired. Bake at 350' for 8 minutes. Do not overcook. Especially if you're going to take them to the neighbors ;)

Chinese Fried Rice

I like making this because I always have the ingredients on hand or can sub something that I do have pretty easily. Fresh celery, carrots, peppers, and snap peas work really well. I usually make this meal when I'm feeling lazy though, so my Costco bag of frozen organic veggies is really convenient.

2 cups brown basamati rice
4 cups water
3 eggs
3 TB coconut oil
2 cups veggies, chopped (frozen ok)
1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
1 cup cooked bacon or ham, chopped (opt.)
1/4 cup soy sauce (to taste)
2 dashes sesame oil (opt.)

Wash rice. Combine with water in pan, bring to boil, then simmer 40 minutes or until cooked (or use a rice cooker). Scramble eggs in a large non-stick skillet. Remove and set to the side. If using fresh vegetables (not frozen), saute a few minutes, until starting to soften, then set aside. Melt coconut oil in hot skillet and add cooked rice. Stir over high heat for 3-5 minutes or until you're happy with the consistency. Add veggies, green onions, and meat (opt.). Add soy sauce. Continue to mix and stir until the vegetables are cooked thru and everything has been well combined. Add sesame oil just before serving, if desired. Thanks Mal!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

After three failures in a row with the homemade yogurt trials, I took a sabbatical. I finally got the courage to try again and I'm really happy I did. This stuff is really yummy.

3 1/2 cups organic whole milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt (good commercial quality or from previous homemade batch)

Heat milk to 180'. Cool to 110'. It took my yogurt about 30 minutes to cool down. Stir in yogurt. Pour into a quart mason jar. Incubate at least 6 hours and up to 24.

My incubator is this blue water cooler we have that I fill up with enough hot water to rise to the level of the yogurt once the jar is submerged. Currently, I incubate for 6 hours and the yogurt comes out nice and thick. In my first successful try, I only used 2 TB yogurt as the starter and incubated it for 24 hours. It was pretty thin - tho supposedly healthier for you because the bacteria had so long to work. If you like the consistency of your yogurt when it first comes out of the incubator, just put it in the fridge and eat it as-is.

If you want to thicken it up, you can strain it (like Greek strained yogurt in the stores). Line a sieve with cheesecloth (you can kind of see the silver sieve in the picture above). Put a bowl under the sieve and pour the yogurt in. Let it sit in the fridge for about three hours or until you like the consistency. Funnel the strained yogurt into one jar (the one on the left in the picture below) and the whey/thin yogurt mixture into another (the one on the right). Note: if you want to feel magic, let it drain in the fridge for 2-3 days or until it gets nice and thick. You can add a bit of salt and vanilla flavoring to the yogurt before draining for a homemade cream cheese or use salt and garlic powder for Greek labneh cheese.

I used the leftover whey mixture from straining to soak my oatmeal (pictured in the middle) and had my strained yogurt with some blueberries and honey. Delicious. As you can see, straining really reduces the volume and it's a hassle so it's not part of my regular yogurt making routine. I do feel like making homemade yogurt it worth the effort though. I now get 128 oz of organic, whole milk yogurt for $5.99 (the price of my gallon of milk). Awesome.

Update: Go here for directions on how to make yogurt in your crockpot!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Soaked Wheat Bread

I am thrilled to have a soaked bread recipe I actually like. After trying several, I finally came back around to my Grandmother Foutz's recipe and adjusted it for soaking. It turned out really well. I think the molasses flavor covers up some of the weird soaked aftertaste I didn't like in the others I'd tried. I learned a lot making those other recipes though. I am finally confident enough with the method to tweak my own recipes now. Hurrah!

9 cups whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup yogurt
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses
4 tsp yeast
2 1/2 tsp salt

Combine flour, water, yogurt, oil, honey and molasses in a large bowl. Mix well. Soak 12-24 hours, covered, at room temperature.

Knead in yeast, then salt, and continue kneading for 8-10 minutes (I did this in two batches in my Kitchen Aid). Cover and let rise until double. Punch down, let rise until double again. Form into 3 loaves and put into well-buttered loaf pans. Let rise again until to desired height. Bake at 350' for 40-45 minutes or until done.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chinese Chicken Salad

1 medium head cabbage
1/2 bunch green onions
1/2 cup almonds, chopped or slivered
3/4 cup frozen peas or mixed veggies
1 1/2 cup chopped chicken
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 TB honey
1 TB toasted sesame seed oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ginger (opt)
pepper to taste

Chop cabbage and green onions. Combine with chicken, and peas in large bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in small bowl for dressing and whisk together until thickened. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Pour over salad. Serve immediately or chill for flavors to meld. Toss in almonds just before serving.

Note: traditionally served with chopped, raw ramen noodles. I don't have high hopes for a real food version of ramen any time soon, so I leave those off entirely. I think fresh ginger would be nice in this but I used powdered because I'm all out of fresh. The sesame seed oil is important to the flavor so don't leave it out.

Real Pie Crust

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (soft white wheat)
1 stick butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp vinegar

Cut butter into flour and salt until crumbly. Add vinegar and milk at once and stir to combine. Form into ball. Roll out on a pastry cloth with any additional flour needed. Makes one 9-inch crust.

Note: don't be expecting a flaky crust. This is still whole wheat flour. But it tastes great and has a good texture, considering. I don't think soaking would work for a pie crust so the best option would be to use sprouted grain flour. I haven't actually sprouted any of my grains yet though, so for now this is my basic recipe for quiche crusts and the rare fruit pie. Also, for the record, V makes much prettier pie crusts than I do. He thinks my fork method is for Cretans. I think it works just fine :)