Fermentation in the Summertime? Yes, It Can Happen!

Refreshing homemade yogurt

Refreshing homemade yogurt–Enjoyed all year long!

Culturing and fermenting foods is becoming an increasingly hot topic in the culinary world.  Who wouldn’t love the gut-benefiting and immune-boosting enhancements that these methods bring to our nutrition, all the while delivering on much more interesting and complex flavors, techniques that break down food macronutrients into easier-to-assimalate components?  Enhanced flavor, better nutrient use, helps to keep a body well–sign me up!

Wild (as in CRAZY) Fermentation in the Summer Months

But all is not rosy when the seasons change and temperatures rise, at least as pertains to cultured and fermented foods. Beneficial bacteria and yeasts–the foundation of these changes–like to work in a certain temperature range, and when the house starts heating up with the warmer days of summer, these temperatures can be too hot, too fast.

Freshly made water kefir to add to the salsa

Freshly made water kefir–a perfect culture starter, or a delightful probiotic beverage on its own–but it doesn’t like to get too hot!

 

Water kefir that has been a delicious and nutritious homemade probiotic beverage during the winter and spring, starts taking on strange and pungent aromas and flavors as the days grow warmer and longer.  Fermenting vegetables are pushed up and out of their containers within a couple of days of preparing them, with the increasing heat generating a lot of carbon dioxide in a very short window of time.  Milk kefir, usually a mellow ferment on the kitchen counter, quickly separates into curds and whey, leaving a marked separation between the cultured milk solids and the increasingly acetone-scented liquid.

Whey and curds in yogurt

Notice the whey in the middle of the curds in this yogurt that cultured at too high of a temperature

Definitely not too appetizing.

Keeping Ferments and Cultures Calm, Cool and Collected!

If any of the above describe what happens to you in the summer months as you attempt to maintain your fermentation practices, you might consider being a little more mindful of the temperature ranges you’re fermenting in.  Ferments and cultures that do best in the 60-75 degree Fahrenheit range (about 15.5-23.8 degrees Celsius) really won’t do well if your home gets warmer than this.  My workaround for this, living in the Mojave Desert of the American Southwest, is to prepare my ferments, and then keep them cooler than my kitchen at its warmest points.

Happy Water Kefir, Milk Kefir and Mesophilic Yogurt Culturing

Plan to prepare each of these as you normally would, only do so at night.  Then, whether the cooling system is on so you can sleep at a more comfortable temperature, or, because the outdoor night air has cooled to a temperature comfortable to sleep in,  leave these ferments on the kitchen counter, or outside on a table (whichever appears to be coolest.)  The home (and hopefully the outdoors!) will eventually be in the mid-to-high 70’s, and, with the cool ingredients (milk or water) going into mix, the final temperature will stay in the cooler temperature range through the night as the ingredients slowly warm to the ambient temperature. There have certainly been some flat-out hot nights here in the desert, where the temperature doesn’t dip below 90, so, in those instances, I definitely leave the ferments indoors.

The next morning, as temperatures begin to warm in earnest, move the ferment to the warmest part of your refrigerator. This allows the fermentation to continue, but at a much slower pace.  Generally, this allows for the cycle to complete for the day.  Every person’s refrigerator is different, so if you find yours seems to stop the fermentation cold (pun intended), then you might consider making a cooling box, of an ice chest stocked with a couple zipper bags of ice.

This is an art, with scientific components at its root, so you’ll have to find the method that best works for you.  You just want to find that happy spot that keeps things cool, but not too cool.  We keep our refrigerator on the medium setting, so, putting my ferments away from the cooling element seems to work fine for us.

Fermenting Summer’s Bounty as a Salsa or Sauerkraut–to be Enjoyed In the Summer!

I really get to missing fermented veggies over the summer, and the best way to get around this (short of purchasing some from the grocery) is to learn to work with the heat of summer.  Plan to prepare your veggies for fermentation as usual, but handling from that point forward requires a little more care than simply placing in a cool spot in a closet or at the back of the pantry.

Salsa--lids in place and ready to ferment for a day…and enjoy tomorrow!

Salsa ready to ferment in the cooler, then transfer to the fridge for a slower fermentation process

Once your veggies are prepared, place them in an ice chest or some other insulated environment, into which you’ll place a few zipper bags of ice.  Keep them in this container for about three days, switching out the ice every 10-12 hours, to keep the temperature cool (an ambient temperature between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit/15.5-21 degrees Celsius) is a very good spot.  At the end of this period, move the ferment to your warmest spot in your refrigerator (which might be a little crowded with your other ferments and cultures!), and plan to enjoy in about four weeks.

Using a little ingenuity and an extra nod to the attention to detail on temperature should allow you to enjoy your ferments and cultures throughout the year.  And there is nothing as refreshing as some fresh water kefir with a twist of lemon juice and a sprinkle of Himalayan Salt after a hot afternoon in the sun–so be sure to keep those home ferments brewing!

 

 

20 Life-Changing Minutes

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If you ever notice that I become incredibly uncomfortable when I see kids eating donuts, or Doritos and Gatorade being handed out as a snack…if you take 20 minutes to watch this video, you will have an excellent understanding of why. This is why I do what I do and why I post what I post. Please take 20 minutes for a deeper understanding of the issues we face…This video will put the information right in front of you in an easy to understand format that is life-changing.

Excellent Primer on Real Foods, Where to Find Them and How to Use Them!

All the ingredients for soaked and cultured pancakes--delicious and nutritious!

All the ingredients for soaked and cultured pancakes–delicious and nutritious!

If you are keen on where to begin on how to use real foods–maybe you’re even wondering where to FIND real foods–then you’ll want to invest in the fantastic education from Kelly the Kitchen Kop.  And, through the weekend of Thanksgiving here in the US, you can purchase Kelly’s trainings at HALF OFF!  Simply enter BLACKFRIDAY as you check out.

What will you receive in Kelly’s trainings?  Here’s a breakdown:

For the Real Food Ingredient Guide E-book, you’ll find:

This revised version is cram-packed with new information.  What I’m most excited about is that it’s set up in a way that gives you exactly what you want in whichever format you need it in at the moment…

  • It has a newly revised 7-page quick reference guide for when you want fast answers to questions like,
    • Will you please just tell me what I’m supposed to buy?!”
    • Or when someone puts you on the spot and you need a quick reminder of “What was so bad about that food again?
    • Or maybe when you’re at the store you might need something to flip to for guidance there on various ingredients, including “good, better, best” options.
    • It’ll also help you know what to look for at your local farm and what questions to ask.
  • It has a more detailed section with facts on the different food groups and ingredients, for when you have time to dig in a little more, and it includes information on where to go for even more in-depth reading and research.
  • If you’re more of a visual learner, you’ll find an easy top ten real foods and top ten junk foods list in pictures.
  • It also includes new bonus material:  How to bring your family from junk food to real food, and how to overcome the six main obstacles everyone faces:
    1. Motivation – You won’t be willing to make a change if you don’t understand why it’s so important!
    2. Confusion/feeling overwhelmed – You’re probably sick of trying to navigate all the information from the ‘experts’ like what’s ‘good’ vs. what’s ‘not good’, especially when that keeps changing; and you just want to figure out the age-old question of “What the heck can I eat?!”  Especially before meal planning or grocery shopping…
    3. How to afford real food – You’ll learn loads of tips all in one place.
    4. Dealing with family complaints – This can wear you down at times, so I’ve got ways for you to get past this one!
    5. How to make time for real food – There are so many ways that I’ll bet you’ve never thought of!
    6. Sticking to it for the long haul – This is often what trips people up.  Life gets in the way and you find yourself slipping backward.  You’ll learn here how to prevent that from happening or how to get back on track.

And, for Kelly’s Real Food for Rookies Online Class, you’ll receive:

  • 12 weeks of online classes with videos, downloadable audios, and written materials.
  • LIFETIME access! Read/listen/watch at your leisure: on your break at work, while the kids are sleeping, in your pajamas, whatever! If you have a busy week, no big deal, just pick it back up on your own schedule.
  • Exclusive expert interviews with Sally Fallon Morell (President of the Weston Price Foundation), Dr. Kaayla Daniel (author of The Whole Soy Story), Jane Hersey (Director of the Feingold Association), Tom Naughton (Fathead filmmaker), and now one more: Jimmy Moore from the Livin LaVida Low-Carb blog!
  • BONUS: Free copy of the Kitchen Kop Real Food Guide
  • Save time and money while serving Real Food
  • Read labels and avoid dangerous ingredients
  • Make nourishing “fast food” meals to avoid last-minute trips to the drive-thru
  • Find healthier alternatives for soda pop, refined sugars, heart-killer oils, sugar-bomb breakfast cereals, factory farmed meat and more
  • Serve nutrient-dense foods that are necessary for good health
  • Take control of your health and change your family’s future!

Both of these tools are invaluable in your journey to greater health and empowerment for yourself and your family.  It takes a village to recapture  the information that’s been lost over the years in regard to how to take care ourselves with nutrition, and Kelly’s classes and information are priceless in their role of keeping you well!  And, from Thursday, November 28th until Monday, December 2nd 2013, you can get these classes and information at half price, by entering BLACKFRIDAY as you check out.

Wishing you the best!  Here’s to your health and the health of your loved ones!

Sprouted and Cultured Spelt Pancakes

 

Delicious cultured and sprouted spelt pancakes, cooked in pastured beef tallow and filled with organic blueberries

Delicious cultured and sprouted spelt pancakes, cooked in pastured beef tallow and filled with organic blueberries

Who doesn’t love pancakes?

On a Saturday morning, they are an absolute delight, topped with butter, yogurt, maple syrup, fresh fruit, honey, molasses…or enjoyed as-is!  And, if enough are prepared, they make an easy snack or a yummy breakfast reheated in the toaster oven the next day.  Who wouldn’t love that?

I expect you’ll love this recipe as much as we do, if you’re wishing for some pancakes, but would like a healthier version.  Using the principles of predigestion by fermentation, these pancakes are nutritious, filling and they keep the body’s energy more even than the usual pancake.  While spelt is not gluten-free, the carbohydrates in this recipe have been broken down tremendously by way of fermentation, a la water kefir (my go-to homemade fermented beverage that has 101 uses.)  This process makes the pancakes less of a blood sugar spike, especially when paired with lots of butter or whole fat yogurt.  Soaking the flour in water kefir also breaks down various anti-nutritients, including gluten, helping you to get the most nutrition from the spelt. And from a flavor standpoint?  These have a similar flavor profile to sourdough–absolutely delicious!

And how the heck does one make pancakes from flour that is already wet?  Well, by way of mixing all the other ingredients and then incorporating them into the soaked and fermented flour, an even distribution of all ingredients is easily had. Just follow the directions below and enjoy!

Sprouted and Cultured Spelt Pancakes

Makes approximately 16-5″ pancakes
  • 2 1/2 cups Sprouted Spelt Flour
  • 1-1 1/2 cups warm, filtered Water (105 degree Fahrenheit range)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Water Kefir
  • 1 1/2  cups Whole Milk, preferably raw
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup Ghee (clarified butter) or Coconut Oil
  • 3 tablespoons Raw Sugar or Coconut Crystals
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 tablespoon Real Vanilla Extract
  • Fat or oil for the griddle (Pastured Lard, Coconut Oil, Pastured Tallow, Ghee)

The evening before you plan to make your pancakes, in a large, glass mixing bowl, add the warm water and water kefir to the flour.  Mix all ingredients well, then cover with a lid and set in a warm environment.  I use my yogurt maker, plugged in, with the the dome lid removed and the bowl resting in the top of the maker.  You could also use a dehydrator with the trays removed, and set to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you don’t have either of these, use a microwave (turned off!), oven (turned off!) or ice chest–what you need is an incubation chamber, and it should have at least a couple of bottles filled with hot water to keep the air temperature warm.  (The beneficial bacteria and yeast in the water kefir like a warm temperature to function and thrive, so keeping the air  warm will allow for more breakdown of the complex carbohydrates into simpler, easier to digest sugars.)  Plan to keep your flour soaking and fermenting in the range of 6-10 hours.

When you’ve finished the first stage of soaking and fermenting, you’ll likely notice a tart, lively smell as you remove the lid and see that the batter has risen–lacto-fermenation!  In a separate bowl, combine all the remaining dry ingredients and mix well.  In another bowl, add all the remaining wet ingredients and mix well.  Add the dry to the wet ingredients, mix well and incorporate them into the soaked flour.  You’ll likely notice the batter rising substantially as the baking soda comes into contact with the fermented grains.

Heat a griddle or frying pan to low-medium heat, and add your choice of oil or fat to coat the cooking surface.  Once a drop of batter bubbles on the oil, add a ladle of batter, letting it cook until bubbles appear throughout the pancake, then flip over.  These pancakes will be more moist than those made with dry flour, so be sure the heat isn’t too high so that the pancakes have an opportunity to cook through on both sides without burning.

Top immediately with butter  and any other accompaniments of your choice–maple syrup, yogurt, yacon syrup, molasses, fresh fruit are great choices.  Or, if you’d like to save them to reheat later, simply set them on a plate, and stack each with a piece of parchment paper between, to keep them from sticking to one another.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator and enjoy within a few days’ time.

Pancake ingredients, step one! Water kefir, warm water and sprouted spelt flour.

Pancake ingredients, step one!
Water kefir, warm water and sprouted spelt flour.

Pouring in the water kefir to the flour and water.

Pouring in the water kefir to the flour and water.

Consistency of batter after water and water kefir have been added.

Consistency of batter after water and water kefir have been added.

Sprouted spelt batter with water kefir, resting and warming on the yogurt maker.

Sprouted spelt batter with water kefir, resting and warming on the yogurt maker.

Sprouted spelt pancake batter the next morning after a long, warm fermentation

Sprouted spelt pancake batter the next morning after a long, warm fermentation–notice how much it has risen overnight.  Thank you, beneficial bacteria and yeasts!

Sprouted spelt risen in the bowl, ready to add the other ingredients.

Sprouted spelt risen in the bowl, ready to add the other ingredients.

All the ingredients for the pancakes--delicious and nutritious!

All the ingredients for the pancakes–delicious and nutritious!

Dry ingredients with wet ingredients, added to the soaked and fermented flour.

Dry ingredients with wet ingredients, added to the soaked and fermented flour.

 

Consistency of batter as it's ready to cook...notice the bubbles of activity from the baking soda working on the fermented grains.

Consistency of batter as it’s ready to cook…notice the bubbles of activity from the baking soda working on the fermented grains.

 

Pancake ready to flip--notice the bubbles.

Pancake ready to flip–notice the bubbles.

 

Crispy on the edges, delicious on the inside...perfect sprouted and cultured spelt pancake!

Crispy on the edges, delicious on the inside…perfect sprouted and cultured spelt pancake!

 

 

 

Ferments and Culturing…How I love Your Ways

It may not look like much, but the fermentation and culturing happening here fuels our kitchen!

It may not look like much, but the fermentation and culturing happening here fuels our kitchen!  Shown here:  water kefir, ginger bug brew, raw milk yogurt in yogurt maker, sprouted brown rice incubating in second yogurt maker and fermenting with added water kefir.

I’ve been in the very good habit lately of leaning heavily on lacto-fermentation to pre-digest the foods our family eats.  Culturing, fermenting, sourdough-ing, kraut-ing…our kitchen has been a hotbed of activity, but not always a lot of elbow grease on the family’s part.

After spending the better part of this last year reading and re-reading The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, I’ve felt compelled and encouraged to just sit back and let the bacteria do a lion’s share of the digestive work, so we don’t have to.  (The digestive equivalent of comfortably reclining, quaffing champagne and noshing bon-bons.)

And it has been a good move!

We had decided some time back to work on incorporating some grains back into our months’-long grain-free diet, and as with any move to eat grains, we did so with the expectation that they would always be properly-prepared by a long, warm-water soak before cooking.  The removal of various anti-nutrients by this simple first step is paramount to getting more nutrition from the grains, and mitigating the mineral- and protein-leaching that consuming unsoaked grains can lead to.

But adding in a little fresh culture to that warm, long watery soak–by way of  whey from yogurt or kefir, or a splash of water kefir–provided  the additional benefit of allowing the cultures to pre-digest the complex carbohydrates in the grains, leaving us with much more digestible simple sugars.  Yay!  And everything took on that wonderful, slightly-tart flavor of sourdough (and once a palate gets a taste for sourdough, anything less tastes bland and simple)–Yay again!  But possibly best of all, the grains didn’t feel like a brick in our bellies–even pancakes and hot cereal have been very well-digested, where we are full, but not at all bloated or logy.  Yay!

At one point last week, I counted 9 different ferments happening in our kitchen.  And while that certainly seems like a lot, it’s important to remember that the process of creating lacto-fermented foods requires time.  Rome may have not been built in a day, but culturing a quart of milk to become yogurt takes about a third of a day, and that’s a little longer than simply picking a container off the shelf at the grocery store.  But the benefits are innumerable if you do allow the time for your homegrown cultures to go to work for you.  Most commercially-prepared yogurt goes through a hastened culturing process, that does not allow for the more complete conversion of what are for many troublesome milk sugars (lactose)  into the gut-benefiting, probiotic bacteria.  And, if you have access to raw, grass-fed milk, then you are able to make a very nutritious food, indeed.

Similarly, making fermented veggies at home–most widely-known as sauerkraut–allows you to make a condiment teeming with beneficial bacteria, with the ingredients you choose.  Many people have issues with thyroid function–whether it be diagnosed or sub-clinical–and consuming raw sauerkraut of cabbage can actually further dampen thyroid function.  It turns out that the fermentation process does not degrade the thyroid-dampening effects of brassica-family vegetables, of which kale, cabbage, bok choy, cauliflower and many others belong.  Now, a little raw or fermented brassica veggies isn’t going to squelch most people’s thyroid activity.  But if a person is inclined to eat a few spoons’ full of fermented veggies in a day (read:  me), then, making a kraut that leans more heavily on other types of vegetation–zucchini and other summer squashes, carrots, cucumbers, onions, garlic, chard, lettuces–might be a good option.  Again, this just takes time to let those good bacteria do their good work for you.

And there are more ways we’ve been using the cultures…to make bread, to prepare beans for cooking, as a base for refreshing and calming drinks, in making pancakes, and even as skincare!  The ways to use them are only as limited as our ingredients on hand and our imaginations.  I’d love to hear from you on what you’re culturing and fermenting, what your favorite cultured foods are, how you’re using these foods in your life.  Please leave a comment or contact me–there is always more to learn and share!

Mediterranean Lamb Bake

Sprouted quinoa and grass-fed lamb bake, fresh from the oven

I’ll be the first to say that not every home has ground lamb ready to go in the freezer.  Pastured lamb is not as common in most kitchens as it once was. However, should you have the opportunity to purchase some, consider this recipe as an excellent way to put it to use.

And just because something doesn’t tend to be a regular part of our diet, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be.  Each food has its own unique nutrition profile, and consuming a variety of foods helps to keep us balanced and vibrant.  Dr. Jack Tips’ book, The Pro Vita Plan, speaks volumes about the importance of this practice.

And including a food as nutritious as pastured lamb in your diet is just a very good  idea.  Pastured meats tend to be much leaner than their lot-fed, grain-fed pastured counterparts, and the fat they do contain is much higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and much lower in Omega-6’s (fresh grass is over 60% Omega-3’s, and, like us, these animals are what they eat.)  Pastured lamb is also rich in Vitamin E and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient increasingly recognized for its anti-tumor, cardiovascular-supporting actions. (1)  US Wellness Meats is an excellent resource for pastured meats, shipped right to your door.

Another nutritional powerhouse in this recipe is soaked and sprouted quinoa, which I’ve cooked in grass-fed lamb bone broth.  Although quinoa is a food of the Andeas, and not the Mediterranean, it combines really well with the lamb.  If you wanted to be a real traditionalist, however, you could certainly substitute orzo or couscous, though I’d recommend soaking both beforehand.  Quinoa is gluten free, has its own healthy protein profile, and when it’s soaked and sprouted, many of the anti-nutrients found in all grains and seeds are broken down into easier to digest, less bothersome components (phytates, tannins and lectins, to name a few.)

I pair this with freshly made, plain yogurt and a bright green salad topped with raw garlic, cucumbers and ripe tomatoes, drizzled with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt.  It’s wonderful reheated in the toaster oven, or broken into steaming bone broth, a la matzo ball soup.  The kids love it, and the grown-ups do too, so it’s great as a casserole to serve at a dinner party.  And, of course, it makes for a quick lunch later in the week!

Mediterranean Lamb Bake

  • 1 pound ground Grass-Fed Lamb
  • 2.5 cups soaked Quinoa, cooked (preferably in lamb or chicken broth)
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Feta Cheese, preferably raw and grass-fed goat or sheep, crumbled
  • Prepared Vegetables (I sliced Carrot, 1 sliced Zucchini, 1 diced medium Yellow Onion, 3 minced Garlic Cloves, 4 sliced Celery stalks) sauteed in 1 tablespoon Ghee or Butter until soft
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice
  • 2 tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh Mint Leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Grease an 8″ x 12″ baking dish with butter or ghee and scoop in the mixture.  Smooth with a spatula and place, uncovered, on the bottom rack of the oven.

Bake for 20 minutes, then increase oven heat to a high broil.  Place dish on a medium-high rack and broil for seven or eight minutes, or until the top gently browns.

Remove from the the oven and allow the dish to rest for ten minutes at room temperature before serving.  Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Sprouted quinoa and grass-fed lamb

 

Veggies sauteed in ghee, with herbs and lemon juice added just at the end

 

Top-browning under the broiler

 

Delicious Mediterranean-style baked lamb and sprouted quinoa, with fresh yogurt

(1)  Visit www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm for more information.

Creamy-fruity Popsicles!

Homemade, fruity and nutritious popsicles!

Living in the desert southwest, our family pines for something cool as the long days of summer seem to have no end.  Unfortunately, most of what’s available commercially is made with too much sugar, is full of artificial colors, flavors or sweeteners, or is just too lacking in nutrition.  Thankfully, making a dessert like this at home deals with all these concerns.  And how wonderful it is to use some organic berries–or other fruit!–as the base for this quick and satisfying treat.

You could use fresh or frozen organic fruit for this dessert–the options are only limited by what is available to you.  In this version, I used organic frozen berries…only because we’d eaten all the fresh ones!  And I just received fresh, raw, grass-fed cow’s cream from Miller’s Organic Farm, an Amish-run food co-op with the most incredible selection of whole, traditionally-prepared foods.

Whenever I get an ingredient like Miller’s cream in hand, my wheels start turning as to how I can use every last drop of it.  And making a dessert for the kids is a surefire way to make certain none goes to waste!

As mentioned, unlike most popsicles, this treat pulls no punches on nutrition.  In addition to the raw cream, I add coconut oil, raw whey, raw milk, and I sweeten with either a little honey or yacon syrup ,and some stevia.  The result is not overly-sweet, instead allowing all the flavors to shine together.

We have a popsicle mold, though you could certainly use this as a base for a homemade ice cream (in fact, because of the saturated fat content, just placing a bowl of this in the refrigerator will cause it to take on a firmer texture, delightful for scooping into a dish.)   For our popsicle mold (4 molds), this makes about 2-3 rounds of popsicles.  I store the additional mix in a glass jar in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, until we’re ready for another round.My husband also takes the leftovers from the glass jar in which its stored, and puts a couple spoonfuls into fresh yogurt at breakfast time.

Creamy-fruity Popsicles

Makes about 1 quart of popsicle mix

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  (Because of the saturated fat in the oil, if using frozen or very cold fruit, consider allowing some time to thaw before blending so the motor doesn’t work as hard.)  Pour mixture into popsicle molds and freeze for 2 hours before serving.  Or, store mixture in a glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowl in the refrigerator to enjoy as a soft “ice cream.”  Consume within 3 days if refrigerated; up to a month in the freezer.

Ingredients for popsicles–lots of healthy fats!

 

Cream with coconut oil, vanilla and yacon syrup

 

Consistency rather thick from the cold fruit and coconut oil

 

Easy-to-use popsicle molds

 

Popsicles ready to freeze and enjoy!

 

Cinnamon Raisin Soaked Coconut Flour Bread

We’ve been enjoying this recipe very much lately, and it comes together in a snap, when you’ve got your flour soaked and ready in the refrigerator!

I’ve gotten into the (good) habit of soaking most of the flours we eat, and that is including coconut.  Doing so unleashes enzymatic activity within the flour, making all components more digestible and bio-available, while breaking down tough-to-digest “anti-nutrients” like tannins, phytates and difficult proteins.  And, when a little bit of a culture is added (such as a couple tablespoons of fresh whey from cheese or yogurt making), the beneficial bacteria have an opportunity to further break down the complex carbohydrates, using them as a fuel source…and, in turn, helping to reduce the carbohydrate load of the food being consumed.  A total win-win!

And, as mentioned, I’ve even been soaking coconut flour, the darling of many nutritional pundits these days.  I do it for the reasons just stated, and also because I like what it does to the texture of the flour once I’m actually using it, say, in pancakes, or as in this recipe, a quick bread.  Because coconut flour is so hydrophilic, the end products with it can be on the dry side.  When the flour is well-saturated, though, by pre-soaking, the end result is very moist.  So, I’ve found it’s worth the effort, for all the right reasons!

When I soak my flour, I start with about one cup of flour, to which I add warm (110 degrees Fahrenheit, or so) water–usually 2-3 times the amount of flour.  I add it slowly, and incorporate it well, before adding more.  The texture should be like mashed potatoes.

Not mashed potatoes…soaked coconut flour!

Once the consistency is right, then I’ll add about two tablespoons of whey, which I also mix in well.  Then I cover everything and leave it at room temperature for about 24 hours, stirring occasionally.  At the end of this time, I put it in a glass bowl and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week, using it as needed for the afore-mentioned pancakes, and quick breads.  The inherent anti-pathogenic qualities of coconut allows this to keep longer than most flours that have been soaked–again, another bonus!

This recipe makes a very moist quick bread that is not overly sweet.  I use freshly ground flax seed as a binding agent, thus reducing the amount of eggs usually needed when working with non-gluten flours.  Stores beautifully  in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Cinnamon Raisin Soaked Coconut Flour Bread

Makes 1 8″ x 4″ Pan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Blend flour with flax, sea salt, spices, baking soda, sugar and stevia.  Add the beaten eggs and oil, then add raisins.  Mix all ingredients together well, then spoon into the oiled baking pan.  Smooth the top, and bake in the middle rack in the oven

Bake uncovered for 35 minutes, or until knife inserted in the middle comes clean.  Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature before slicing, as the saturated fat content of the bread will help to give it body once cooled.  Store any uneaten portions in the refrigerator.

Soaked coconut flour

 

Flax seeds about to be ground in coffee grinder

 

Incorporating oils (I used Blue Breeze coconut ghee from Green Pastures)

 

Consistency just before transferring to pan

 

Bread uncooked, ready for the oven

 

Bread fresh from the oven!

 

Bread cooled and ready to enjoy

 

 

 

 

Making Homemade Dairy Yogurt

Homemade yogurt

Wonderful homemade yogurt.
Photo courtesy of Vera Almann. 

Why Should We Culture Dairy Products?

• The culturing of dairy reduces the lactose (milk sugar) in the milk, transforming milk into a rich source of immune-building probiotics that is lower in naturally-occurring sugars and higher in Vitamins B and C

 • Culturing dairy generally makes it much more digestible by breaking down the casein (milk protein) that can be very troublesome for many

 • It also increases the enzymes in the milk (even pasteurized milk that is then cultured has a boost to its enzyme capacity), which helps to digest the components of the milk

This ancient way of preservation helped to create some of the incredibly nutritious foods our forefathers consumed. Regardless of whether or not there was an understanding of the healing byproducts of their preserved foods, they were an integral part of keeping them well. (There have been upsides and downsides to the advent of refrigeration and modern food preservation techniques!)

The easiest way to make yogurt is to purchase a yogurt maker, which is essentially an incubator that keeps the temperature at a stable 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature at which most thermophilic (heat-loving) cultures thrive.  This is not a mandatory tool, however.  Here are other options:

  • You can also use a mesophilic culture, which cultures dairy in the 70-78 degree Fahrenheit range.
  • You can use a different, stable heat source, monitored with a food thermometer, to keep heat in the 110 degree Fahrenheit range:
    • An insulated bag or ice chest, containing heated bottles filled with hot water
    • A food dehydrator with the trays removed, set at the 110 degree Fahrenheit setting
    • An oven or microwave warmed by its incandescent bulb, possibly with bottles of hot water to increase the heat if necessary
    • Set in the shade on a hot summer’s day (such as in the desert southwest)

In any of the above options, it’s important to start with whole, organic milk, preferably pastured, and raw if you can find it.  Avoid using ultra-pasteurized milk.  You can use goat’s, sheep’s or cow’s milk, though goat’s milk tends to make a thinner yogurt.  If you use raw milk, you’ll need to make a “mother batch” of starter yogurt, otherwise the innate bacteria in the raw yogurt will eventually weaken and override the yogurt cultures.

Visit Cultures for Health for instructions on how to prepare raw milk for a reusable cultured format.

You can also start a homemade yogurt from a small, fresh, 6-8 oz. container of organic, plain, live-culture, unsweetened yogurt.  Look for one without additional thickeners or gums.  You would then treat this as a thermophilic culture starter, adding the contents of the container to your warmed milk.  It will likely only produce one additional batch–if you want to do more, it’s better to use cultures designed for this.

Homemade Dairy Yogurt Instructions for Pasteurized Milk

Using a food thermometer, bring 1 quart of pasteurized milk to the proper temperature (160 degrees Fahrenheit for most thermophilic cultures)—you can set the thermometer in a pan with the milk and slowly heat it to its correct temperature.  Allow it to cool to its proper culturing temperature (105-110 degrees for thermophilic; 72-78 degrees for mesophilic.)  Although this milk has been pasteurized previously, simply bringing it to the proper culturing temperature is tempting fate…because the milk is devoid of its naturally-occuring beneficial bacteria and enzymes, it is a sugary substrate for potentially pathogenic bacteria to proliferate in warm conditions.  Better to first re-sterizlize it then allow it to cool to culturing temperature.

Remove from heat and pour into a glass, quart-sized jar.  Add your cultures and stir well to incorporate into the milk.  Cover with a paper towel and cinch with a rubber band.  Place the jar in an environment (incubator, oven, yogurt maker or on the counter) that is correct for the type of culture you are using.

After about 6 hours, check your yogurt to see if it has “set”—you’ll know, because it will all move as one unit away from the sides of the jar when tilted.  It will also take on a lovely tart smell.  If not, allow it culture for another hour or two, or even longer if necessary, but checking every hour.

(Note–If yogurt goes too long at the culturing temperature, it will become liquid whey and milk curds.  If this happens, you can strain off the whey and use it to drink, as a base for a smoothie, or as a wonderful soaking medium for grains, legumes and meat marinades.  The milk curds can be enjoyed as a thicker type of yogurt, or yogurt cheese, topping a salad.  I’ve had some success using yogurt that has differentiated like this to start a new batch of yogurt, though sometimes it’s best to just start over—you’ll just have to experiment and see for yourself.)

Whey and curds in yogurt

Notice the whey in the middle of the curds in this yogurt that cultured for too long

Once your yogurt has set, enjoy it immediately, or set it in the refrigerator to halt the culturing process.  Whenever you make yogurt, always reserve about 1/2 to 1 cup to start your next batch, following the same instructions of bringing your milk to the proper temperature, pouring it into a new glass jar, adding your existing yogurt, stirring, and setting it at the culturing temperature for 6-7 hours.

Adding Some Soaked and Fermented Grains Back into the Diet…

Soaked and sprouting quinoa, draining in the colander (Yes, it is correct that it is not a “true” grain, but rather a grain-like seed…but we use it in a grainy way!)

I really like the concept of balance 🙂

Whether it is maintaining–even improving!–health with a solid mix of rest, creative outlets and hard work, or engaging in the social world and its counterpart, private quiet-time, there are so many ways to hit that just-right note of balance in the Yin and Yang of every aspect of life.

However, wouldn’t you agree that to really adopt a change in lifestyle, one has to hang out in the deep end of change for a while before moving back to the moderate depths?  You’ve got to flex your mental muscles a little bit, learn some new moves, before heading back to middle ground. Modern research supports this–new behaviors lay down new paths in our brain’s design, creating new pathways and neural communication.

Without big change, it is much too simple to return to old habits and there won’t be staying power with our new habits.

Personally, I’ve ventured off into the deep waters around nutrition many times.  And sometimes I’ve stayed in the deep a good, long while…my 14-year commitment to being a lacto-ovo-pescarian being one foray (translate: My very weak attempt at vegetarianism–high refined carbs, lots of soy and pseudo-meats.  My saving grace was the pescarian part…something in me knew it needed the nutrition of fish!)

It’s hard to appreciate how various choices make us feel without having first experienced something very different.  My years of sloppy vegetarianism, practiced in a manner that left me incredibly deficient in solid nutritional components, have helped me to appreciate SO MUCH how good it is to feel calm, nourished and BALANCED with the deep nutrition we feed ourselves now.

And, to that end, in the name of balance, we shifted from another extreme decision, to totally remove grains in the name of seeing how we felt.  Going off grains helped me to see how we used grain products as a lazy energy crutch.  A bowl of cereal here, some toast and butter there, a platter of pasta to share at dinner.  I realized how much nutrition we’d been cutting out by way of putting refined grains in the place of deeper nutrition sources.

When grain products are removed, something has to go in their place. Certainly, that could be any number of things.  For our family, that meant more produce, notably more veggies, especially squash, sweet potatoes and yams.  It also meant more nut flours, from soaked, dehydrated and ground sources.  And we ate many more coconut products–from flour to cream to flakes.  We also used the seed-like grains, amaranth and quinoa. Cooking with these types of foods was a big learning curve (one never appreciates all that gluten can do as relates to binding and shape until there’s not a speck of it in sight!), and I am very grateful for what it has done to broaden our perspectives on food and for the greater range of nutrition it brought to our plates.

But, what about balance?  Might there be a limit to the almond-flour donuts and coconut flour breads one should really be consuming on a daily basis?  Totally eschewing all grains is something that doesn’t seem moderate to me.

So I began looking more closely at the traditional methods of grain preparation, most notably as found in Nourishing Traditions, but in various blogs as well.  Our family descends from northern Europe, and I know traditionally-prepared grains are a food source my ancestors employed.  And by incorporating the techniques that lend themselves toward better assimilation of the nutrients that are stored in these foods, I felt that I could test the waters and see how we all responded to the inclusion of some of these foods in our diet.

Before we opted to remove grains from our diet, we ate organic, commercially-prepared grains, either in a sprouted form (bread or tortillas), as chips, or as gluten-free options (bread, waffles, English muffins.)

We didn’t do much in the way of traditional preparation of whole grains–meaning, if I made rice, I simply rinsed it then cooked it. Same for oats, corn meal or buckwheat, or any other whole grain.  In sum, we were eating foods that, for the most part, were not well-prepared to support their digestion and assimilation into our bodies.

But the traditional methods involve soaking the grain in warm water, with a little bit of an acid medium, for about 7-12 hours, generally.  By doing so, many of the anti-nutrients, enzyme inhibitors, complex carbohydrates and difficult-to-digest proteins (such as gluten and phytic acid) are broken down into much easier components that our bodies can handle. while at the same time increasing the enzyme activity of the grain, making their digestion much easier.

The above-mentioned acid medium can be fresh lemon juice, raw apple cider vinegar, whey from fresh yogurt, or my favorites, homemade kombucha or water kefir.  Personally, I’ve moved away from using whey because research has shown that the calcium in the dairy can inhibit physic acid reduction, thus, inhibiting the bioavailability of some minerals.  No matter the culture starter, though, the fact remains that the healthy bacteria (and yeast, in kefir and kombucha) will use the carbohydrates in the grains as an energy source, thus, predigesting the sugars and reducing them in the final product.

Additionally, warmth and time are needed for proper breakdown–starting with water in the room temperature range, left at room temperature (65-75 degrees Fahrenheit), for about 7-12 hours, gives a very good foundation for proper assimilation. And if the grains are especially big (rice, spelt, kamut), then opening up a little more surface area is a good idea.  You could even use a coffee grinder, and give a quick spin of the grains before soaking–just enough to break up the grain a little and expose more of its structure to the water and ferment starter.

And in that pursuit of balance, you’ve got to have some variety!  Soak, ferment and buy organic and in small batches, then keep them in the freezer so there is no concern for oxidation.  Try gluten-free or straight rolled oats, spelt berries, quinoa, rye, quinoa, amaranth and steel cut oats–all great choices.

Needless to say, this all requires a few extra steps, though it’s far from difficult–and I go into good detail on it in my book, The Funky Kitchen, and even GREATER detail in my 6-module course, Fresh, Fun and Flavorful in The Funky Kitchen.  But these steps, coupled with a tart flavor profile (thanks to the healthy bacteria consuming the sugars in the grains) and the richer texture of whole grains, lends itself toward lighter consumption.

And that is a balanced answer 😉