Healthy, Natural Living

Archive for the ‘What We’re Eating’ Category

Chocolate Coconut Chews

I am not much of a baker, but if I don’t make something, hubby will buy something. This treat was quick, easy, and satisfied his (and my) palate. The boys ate them up too.
Anytime I can get coconut oil in our diet, that is a bonus. Approximately 50% of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid, which is rarely found in nature. In fact, coconut oil contains the most lauric acid of any substance on earth. The major fat in breast milk is the same lauric acid that is seen in coconut oil. Your body converts lauric acid into monolaurin, which has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-protozoa properties. Coconut oil has been reported to inhibit various microorganisms including bacteria, yeast, fungi, and enveloped viruses. Coconut oil is the most easily digestible and absorbed class of fats and does not circulate in the blood stream and is not deposited.
Did you know that multiple studies on Pacific Island populations, who get 30-60% of their total caloric intact from fully saturated coconut oil, have all shown nearly non-existent rates of cardiovascular disease? Coronary Artery Disease is unknown among Polynesian population whose staple diet is coconut (Prior et al, 1981). When these groups migrated to New Zealand however, and lowered their intake of coconut oil, their total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol increased, and their HDL cholesterol decreased.

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1/2 cup Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Honey
1/2 cup Cocoa
2 teas Vanilla
dash of Salt
1 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Combine all the ingredients except the coconut into a pan. Warm until everything is melted together. Whisk until smooth. Remove from heat mix in coconut. These can be scooped onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment. I opted to fill a silicon tray. Place into a refrigerator until hard. Enjoy!

Now, that I have edited the photo with ‘mint’ green font, I will be adding some mint extract next time. I will start with 1/2 teaspoon.

For more understanding on the benefits of coconut oil.
Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences

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Snack? Oh, Nuts!

image One of our favorite snacks are ‘Crispy Almonds’ with Dried Fruit. Soaking the almonds in salt water, then dehydrating them in a low temperature oven causes them to be so crispy, that they pop in your mouth when you bite them. They become fun to eat. But, of course there is a reason other than texture that I soak the nuts. Phytic Acid. Phytic acid in grains, nuts, seeds and beans represents a serious problem in our diets. Phytic acid chelates or binds with other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc, making them unavailable. This study’s recommendation states: This“should be best interpreted in such a way as to prevent the consumption of excessive amounts of phytate, particularly for those whose mineral needs are great.” I don’t know anyone whose mineral needs are NOT great. This problem exists because we have lost touch with our ancestral heritage of food preparation. Instead we listen to those that promote the consumption of raw and unprocessed “whole foods.” But raw is definitely not nature’s way for grains, nuts, seeds and beans.  imageI know what you’re thinking…Really!? Nuts have to be prepared? We have to understand that we have moved away from our traditional diets and practices, which were passed down from generation to generation. With that our health and happiness have suffered greatly. Because we didn’t understand why great great great great Grandma did what she did we’ve stopped doing it. I am not even sure she knew why she was doing it. There was an intuitive Spirit that taught our ancestors how to prepare their food. Convenient, instant gratification, microwave oven, drive-thru food is our way of life, now. The good news is, we do have a choice. Let’s make good food a priority, slow down and breathe, consider meal preparation a joy, and make every single bite you serve yourself and family a powerful influence on your lives. When nuts are properly prepared they become a very nutritious snack. Soaked almonds have much higher protein content than the raw almonds and so does the water in which they are soaked. When nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated and increasing the nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest. Traditional people instinctively knew that nuts are best soaked or partially sprouted before eaten.image The Indians of the east made hickory nut milk by pounding the nuts, shell and all, into a paste and then adding water and boiling. Some would grill the nuts after soaking them for a few hours, to get a good flavor from the smoke. imageThe Indians of California consumed acorn meal. Converting the acorn from an inedible nut to the soup, mush, or bread required a lengthy process involving a diverse array of tools. The nuts were pounded into flour or meal using a mortar and pestle. Repeated flushing with either hot or cold water in a shallow, sandy basin or in a basket filter, then cooking. imageThe Aztec soaked pumpkin and squash seeds in brine and then let them dry in the sun. (excerpt from “Nourishing Traditions” pg 512) imageThe Aboriginal people made the Moreton Bay Chestnut seeds edible by cracking them and soaking in running water for long periods, after which they were dried and roasted. The seeds of this plant are poisonous when raw.. While doing the research for this section of the blog, I became more aware of just how far a culture can stray from their traditional ancestors. To the point of poverty and starvation. My heart grieves for the people of Central America, God does provide and His people will perish for lack of knowledge. This next paragraph and quotes is proof we need to ‘Think on These Things” and learn about traditional diets to maintain sustainability and health. In Central America the Maya Nut was the staple food for prehispanic cultures throughout the neotropics, who probably ate it boiled and protected it as a source of food. The marble-sized seed can be prepared to taste like mashed potatoes, chocolate or coffee. To those who stumble upon the nuts on the ground, they’re free for the taking.image

“People are living right there, in extreme poverty, not even eating more than one meal a day and there’s Maya nut lying all around,” Vohman said. “They don’t eat it because they don’t know.” It is truly a “lifesaving” tree. Today, however, the food value of the Maya Nut is largely forgotten. Having watched impoverished Guatemalan communities clear rain forests to plant food, it struck Vohman that the key for uplifting Central American communities was to help them return to their roots.The Maya Nut Institute

Finally, the recipe from “Nourishing Traditions” 4 cups *raw almonds 1 Tbls sea salt filtered water enough to cover almonds Mix almonds with salt and filtered water and leave in a warm place for at least 7 hours or overnight. Drain in a colander. Spread on a stainless steel baking pan (I use stoneware) and place in a warm oven (no more than 150) for 12 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally, until completely dry and crisp. Store in an airtight container. *Unfortunately, truly raw almonds are no longer available commercially in the U.S. Since 2007, all U.S. almonds must be “pasteurized.” While there are four main methods of pasteurizing almonds, steam processing, high heat treatment (roasting), blanching and highly toxic fumigation treatment with propylene oxide (PPO), two of them are the primary methods that are used most often.. These two are steam processing and PPO fumigation.To get truly raw almonds with all their enzymes and vitamins intact, you must live in California, get them imported from Spain, or order them online. Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship emailed Meijer and Country Life Naturals. These just happen to be the two places I get almonds, and both use the steam method of pasteurizing. No chemicals. I can’t help myself. For the Dr. Oz fans, he is now promoting soaked nuts. It must be true 😉

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

We needed a treat and I had some heavy cream that needed to get used up.
My favorite ice cream in Mint Chocolate Chip. So, I had to go looking for recipes to make my own and this is what I came up with. Oh, Man! We are happy, happy Wards. The best homemade ice cream I have ever made!
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3-1/2 cups cream, local and grass-fed preferable
3 pastured eggs
1/2 cup Sucanat (grind in a coffee grinder to make a powder) or 1/2 Maple Syrup
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons mint extract
1/3 cup cocoa nibs (grind in coffee until small bits)
2/3 chocolate chips (read the ingredients, there are several that have undesirables in them)

Blend all ingredients thoroughly, but not too much to whip the cream. Chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours. Add to ice cream maker, filling bowl only 2/3 of the way, to allow room to add cocoa nibs and chocolate chips. Follow manufacturer’s directions for churning. During the last few minutes of churning, which is when the ice cream is almost firm add cocoa nibs & chips.
I transferred the soft serve styled ice cream from my ice cream maker into an air tight container and popped it into the freezer. Several hours later the ice cream was scoopable, creamy, and smooth.

Chocolate Ice Cream
3-1/2 cups cream, local and grass-fed preferable
3 pastured eggs
1/2 cup Sucanat (grind in a coffee grinder to make a powder) or 1/2 cup Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup cocoa

Vanilla Ice Cream
3-1/2 cups cream, local and grass-fed preferable
3 pastured eggs
1/2 cup Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

Simple Chocolate Syrup

Green Smoothie

A couple times a week we have smoothies for breakfast. I don’t have a set recipe. I have a bag in my freezer for bananas that are more ripe than we like for fresh eating. Make sure to peel them before you freeze them. The base of my smoothie always includes, cultured dairy, raw eggs, bananas, and flaxseed. This morning I took inventory of what I had and then decided on the theme of our smoothie. I had an avocado in need of being eaten and with no festive plan for dinner in the near future, that had to go into the smoothie. What else….?

2 cups Kefirimage
2 cups Kale (raw)
1 Avocado
1 frozen banana
2 Raw eggs (from my chickens)
2 tbls peanut butter
1 tbls honey
1 tbls flax seeds
1 tbls cocoa nibs

Add all the ingredients into a blender. I always put my liquids into my blender pitcher first, this seems to keep the mixture spinning. This turned out so creamy, smooth, and yummy with just the right amount of peanut butter cup flavor!

The benefits of these ingredients:
See my Kefir post
imageRaw Kale is not only a very nutritious vegetable, but including it in your diet may help lower levels of bad cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease as well. Kale is a very rich source of vitamin K, vitamin A, beta carotene, calcium, and vitamin C. It also contains minerals; copper, manganese, and potassium. Kale contains the antioxidants carotenoids and flavonoids which are thought to help prevent the development of cancer.

Avocados may be fatty, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad for your health. Healthy fats account for around three quarters of the calorie count of an avocado. Most of it is monounsaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid. Monounsaturated fat is considered to be a “good fat” which reduces levels of bad cholesterol in your blood and lowers your risk of stroke and heart disease. Avocado contains around 4 grams of protein. Avocados are an excellent source of potassium (containing more per weight than bananas). In addition, avocados are rich in vitamin K, Vitamin B9, vitamin B6, vitamin B5 vitamin C, and vitamin E. A medium avocado contains 11 grams of fiber, which is close to half of the daily recommended minimum intake.

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Bananas provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, including: vitamin B6, vitamin C, and vitamin A, folate, riboflavin, niacin, manganese, potassium, magnesium, iron.

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Fresh ‘Pastured’ Eggs~Egg yolks are the richest source of two superstar carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin. These fat-soluble antioxidant nutrients combate macular degeneration, and cataracts and support overall healthy vision. They have a long list of other benefits, including protecting the skin from sun damage and even reducing one’s risk of colon and breast cancer. Besides providing all eight essential protein building amino acids, a large whole, fresh egg offers about six to seven grams of protein and five grams of fat (with about 1.5 grams of it saturated), which comes in handy to help in the absorption of all the egg’s fat-soluble vitamins. One egg also serves up around 200 milligrams of brain-loving cholesterol and contains the valuable vitamins A, K, E, D, B-complex and minerals iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium. Choline, another egg-nutrient, is a fatty substance found in every living cell and is a major component of our brain. Additionally, choline helps break up cholesterol deposits by preventing fat and cholesterol from sticking to the arteries.

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Raw local honey~Raw honey is an alkaline-forming food that contains natural vitamins, enzymes, powerful antioxidants and other important natural nutrients. Raw honey has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It promotes body and digestive health, is a powerful antioxidant, strengthens the immune system, eliminates allergies, and is an excellent remedy for skin wounds and all types of infections. Raw honey’s benefits don’t stop there. Raw honey can also stabilize blood pressure, balance sugar levels, relieve pain, calm nerves, and it has been used to treat ulcers. Raw honey is also an expectorant and anti-inflammatory and has been known to effectively treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis and asthma.

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Flaxseed are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid that may be helpful for heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, and other health problems. In addition to the important omega-3 fatty acid ALA, flaxseed also has a group of chemicals called lignans that may help protect the body from cancer. Lignans are phytoestrogens, substances in plants that act like the hormone estrogen.

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Cocoa nibs are high in potassium and magnesium. One ounce of cocoa nibs provides almost 80 milligrams of magnesium. They also provide a small amount of calcium in addition to trace amounts of vitamins D, vitamin E and several of the B vitamins. Eat a serving of cocoa nibs and you’ll be getting a boost of healthy antioxidants. In fact, chocolate contains more health-promoting catechins, a type of antioxidant, than does green tea. You’ll also get the amino acid tryptophan along with small amounts of phenylethylamine and theobromine — all of which can improve mood.

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Maple Syrup, What’s in Your’s?

Are you buying commercial maple syrup? Have you read the ingredients? We have been trained to read the nutritional label and count calories, sugar, and fat grams. Look down in the ‘fine print’ at the list of ingredients. That is what I want to know. What am I eating? What am I feeding my children?

MRS. BUTTERWORTH’S, LITTLE DUNKERS SYRUP CUPS, ORIGINAL
INGREDIENTS: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Water, Salt, Cellulose Gum, Molasses, Potassium Sorbate, (Preservative) Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Natural Flavors, and Artificial Flavors.

AUNT JEMIMA, SYRUP, ORIGINAL
INGREDIENTS: Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Cellulose Gum, Caramel Color, Salt, Sodium Benzoate, and Sorbic Acid. (Preservatives) Artificial Flavors, and Natural Flavors, Sodium Hexametaphosphate.

LOG CABIN, ORIGINAL SYRUP
INGREDIENTS: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Sugar Syrup, Water, Pure Maple Syrup, Salt, Artificial Flavors, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sodium Benzoate, and Sorbic Acid, (Preservatives) Caramel Color.
www.labelwatch.com

I am going to just briefly cover a couple of the ingredients in these common products. What is wrong with High Fructose Corn Syrup?
Prolonged fructose consumption may contribute to the development of metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical disorders that, when occurring together, increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Read more here.
Consuming fructose-sweetened, not glucose-sweetened, beverages increases visceral adiposity and lipids and decreases insulin sensitivity in overweight/obese humans. Read more here.
A recent study has found that adults who consumed high fructose corn syrup for two weeks as 25 percent of their daily calorie requirement had increased blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which have been shown to be indicators of increased risk for heart disease.
Most of the corn now grown in the USA is GMO. GMO’s are banned in 60 developed countries, they do not consider them safe for consumption.

Did you have too much Sodium Benzoate?
It is used mainly as a food preservative, but is also found in cosmetics, dyes, pharmaceuticals, and in industrial settings. When combined with ascorbic acid — also known as vitamin C or citric acid — the preservative converts to benzene, a carcinogen reported to cause leukemia, DNA damage, damage to mitochondria in cells, cell death and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Since many people consume processed foods on a regular basis and the preservative is usually unnoticed in most diets, benzene levels may be very high.

Or, Potassium Sorbate
Those who consume large amounts of food containing potassium sorbate may suffer from diarrhea which can cause them to deplete the nutrient value in their system. In lesser cases, the patient may suffer from nausea as your body becomes overwhelmed with the amount of potassium in your system. Those who frequently use cosmetic products that have potassium sorbate as a preservative can experience rashes or irritation if their body becomes overexposed to the drug. It can also cause irritation to the eyes if it comes in contact with them.

Pure Maple Syrup
We love our pure Michigan Maple Syrup. We love the man that joyfully, and precisely, cooks that maple sap until it becomes rich, thick, delicious maple syrup! All summer long, he splits the wood that heats the evaporator to just the right temperature to make medium amber syrup. Syrup season, as I call it, starts when the temperature is above freezing during the day and continues as long as it freezes during the night. It is a very short season. Michigan sap is not a sweet as sap from Vermont. Here it takes approximately 60 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and several hours of cooking. That should give you a whole new appreciation for a bottle of pure maple syrup.

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I use it in the obvious places, pancakes and french toast. We also enjoy it in yogurt, kefir, overnight oatmeal, stovetop oatmeal, smoothies, coffee, ice cream, chocolate chip cookies. Maple syrup makes a wonderful caramel. Depending on how hot I get it, I can make a sauce for ice cream or chewy for turtles. I need to stop! I am making myself hungry for sweets!
What is in pure maple syrup? Well, just maple syrup! And vitamins, minerials, and amino acids which are the building blocks for protein. The majority of the minerals making up pure maple syrup are potassium, calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Minerals provide both specific and nonspecific roles in the body. The vitamins present in pure maple syrup are PP (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid), B2 (Riboflavin), Folic Acid, B6 (Pyridoxine), Biotin, and Vitamin A. Vitamins are essential, organic nutrients that serve as as helpers in cell functions. More on vitamin and mineral function in maple syrup, here.

When I consider all that we use it for, and the nutrition it offers, it is worth every penny! I am a buyer of what is in season. I buy enough (hopefully) to last us the year. Maple Syrup is the first staple of the year to be re-stocked. The season will be here soon. It’s a good time to set some money aside and plan to buy a couple quarts of pure maple syrup.

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Overnight Oatmeal

One of our favorite breakfast is ‘Overnight Oatmel.’ Several months back I kept seeing post for a recipe called, refrigerator oatmeal on Facebook. The bases of the recipe is mix all the ingredients into a jar, pop it into the refrigerator and in the morning grab and go. That recipe was made in 1/2 pint jars. Well, I am not going anywhere and the less dirty dishes the better. The first change I made to that recipe was mixing it in a quart sized jar. The first few times I made it, I basically followed the directions. I say basically because I always change a recipe. We did enjoy it that way, but I also know there is benefit to soaking grains in an acid medium at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Properly soaked grains are easier to digest and allow your body to absorb more minerals and nutrients from the whole grain and other food sources at the same time. This process begins to pre-digest the grains, including breaking down complex starches and tannins that can irritate your stomach, as well as beginning to break down proteins like gluten. I am not going to go into great detail on this topic because one of my favorite bloggers has done extensive research, interviews, and has several links to reference. Check out the Kitchen Stewardship’s page.

One night I decided I had to leave the jar out on the table. What did I have to lose? Not much. My husband’s grandmother always encouraged me. I can still hear her saying, “just try it, Di, you won’t know until you do.” It is because of her encouragement to fail, that I can now really cook. I’ve had to toss a few things out, but I have had way more success than failure.

We love my version! It is creamy, smooth, and just the right amount of sweet! I have had to increase the amount I make. Roman eats 1/2 the jar by himself! This is the only dish I serve that he has seconds and sometimes thirds! I make a pint jar for Jeff to take to work. He really appreciates that.

Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal

Blueberry Overnight Oatmeal

Ingredients
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup plain kefir
2 tbls chia seeds
1 tbls pure maple syrup or 2 tbls sucanat
1 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
1 cup fruit

Apple & Manago

Apple & Mango

In a quart jar, add yogurt, kefier, chia seeds, maple syrup, and oats. Mix together. Add in fruit. We like bluberry, strawberry, apple & mango, apple cinnamon raisin with almonds. Be creative, you won’t know until you try! Set it in a warm spot overnight and enjoy in the morning.

Simply cut the recipe in 1/2 for a pint sized jar.

I do make my own yogurt and kefir. But you can purchase plain yogurt and kefir. I recommend full fat dairy (that will be a future post). Both Brown Cow and Stoneyfield make  a whole fat plain yogurt. I am only aware of kefir made by Lifeway.

Pot o’ Chicken Soup

I decided to make some chicken soup for dinner tonight. I don’t have a go to recipe. I just get started and I am not sure how it is going to ‘pan’ out until it is finished. I have not always been able to cook on a whim and I am still not that great of an impromptu cook, but I have come a long way. I grabbed some chicken legs and a quart of broth. Threw that into a crockpot with some bay leaf, garlic, salt, and pepper. The legs were still frozen so, I turned it on high. There, dinner was started. Time to start school. About three hours later, I noticed it was boiling. I turned it down to low. After about 6 hours, I took the legs out to cool. I don’t like burning my fingers while removing the meat from the bones. I now need a plan…Oh! I have that cabbage that needs to get used up. Now, my crockpot isn’t big enough. I dumped the broth into my soup pot and removed the bay leaf. Sliced up and added the cabbage along with carrots to the pot, discovered I was going to need another quart of broth. I grabbed another quart out of the freezer. Sliced up the chicken meat put that into the pot, time to simmer. Once the broth was heated through and the cabbage was cooked, time to taste. I then added my herbs and salt and pepper. Simmered about 1/2 hour until carrots were done. Delicious! This just may become my go to…no, I don’t always buy cabbage.

Chicken Soup
6 chicken legs
2 quarts chicken broth
2 bay leaves
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
4 cups cabbage, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
1/4 teas thyme
1/4 teas tarragon
salt & pepper

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Don’t forget to save the ends of your carrots and the chicken leg bones. Put them into separate gallon sized freezer bags and keep them in the freezer until it is time to make broth.