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Monday, August 24, 2015

Why You Should be Soaking Your Grains and Nuts




Last week I took a little hiatus for my kids' first day back at school. This week I'm back with a long overdue post on the importance of soaking grains and nuts before consumption. Not only has the wheat that we eat changed since our grandparents' day but how we consume it and other grains has as well. Soaking grains, and then going through the process of sprouting them, is a time-consuming and therefore forgotten practice. However, it is one that will yield countless dividends on your health.

All grains, seeds, nuts and legumes contain phytic acid, a phosphorus-bound organic acid, in the outer layer or bran. While phytic acid can sport some health claims, unfortunate side-effects like bone loss can occur when eaten in excess (like most American diets). Phytic acid binds with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc in the digestive tract impeding absorption of these minerals.

In addition to phytic acid there are also enzyme inhibitors that protect the seed from germinating under less than ideal conditions but can wreak havoc in the body. If the diet is high in these inhibitors then over time it can lead to obesity, lethargy, gas, bloating, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal difficulties, enlarged pancreas, diabetes and destruction of the body's own naturally produced enzymes.

With gluten sensitivity, IBS and other gastrointestinal disorders on the rise, I feel it is important that we get back to our ancestral roots of soaking, fermenting and even sprouting our grains and nuts.Whether your ancestors hailed from Europe, Asia, Africa or Latin America, every traditional cultural diet prepared their staple grains in these ways.

When it comes to soaking grains and nuts, there are three different mediums that can be used: warm acidic liquid, fermenting and brine. Soaking in this manner greatly reduces the phytic acid content and breaks down the enzyme inhibitors. Not only does this allow the body to absorb all the nutrients but it also increases the vitamin content and makes these nutrients more bio-available to your body. Win-win! Fermenting grains also provides lactic acid and lactobacilli to help break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to-digest proteins (like gluten).

An acidic liquid is warm water (between 95 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit) with lemon juice or vinegar added to it. Slightly warm up half the amount of water that the grain or legume calls for and add in the grains and acidic medium, stir, cover and let sit for at least 8 hours. After eight hours, add in the rest of the water and cook as normal. Cooking time may be reduced. A good tip would be to start soaking any grains for the night's dinner right after that morning's breakfast.

Fermentation works best for stone ground flours and oats that are going to be used for baking, oatmeals, pancakes and the like. In this method the grains are soaked in either cultured buttermilk, yogurt, kefir or a whey/water mixture for 12 to 24 hours. The full 24 hours provides the best results, especially if you are working with a recipe that requires rising dough. I'll have more specific recipes in later posts but if you are in a hurry to try this method, the Nourishing Traditions cookbook that I reference below has a ton of great ideas to try.

The third method, soaking in brine, is reserved for seeds and nuts. There are different soaking times that are listed in the chart below. I like using mason jars to soak nuts in overnight. Just place the nuts and salt into the jar and fill with filtered water. Leave on the counter for the specified amount of time. After soaking, drain in a colander and spread out evenly on dehydrator trays to dry. (The oven can also be used. Put on the lowest setting and dry 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The nuts will no longer be raw using this method to dry.) Dehydrators vary in settings and results so make sure to taste test during your first run.  I usually do the full 24 hours dry time on 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Finished nuts will be crisp, completely dry... and very yummy.

Nut
Quantity
Salt
Soak Time
Dry Time
Dry Temp.
Almonds
4 cups
1 tbsp
7 to 12 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
Cashews
4 cups
1 tbsp
2 to 6 hours
12-24 hours
150 F
Hazelnuts
4 cups
1 tbsp
6 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
Macadamia
4 cups
1 tbsp
4 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
Peanuts
4 cups
1 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
Pecans
4 cups
2 tsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
Pepitas
4 cups
2 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
Sesame
2 cups
1 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-15 hours
105-115 F
Sunflower
4 cups
2 tbsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F
Walnuts
4 cups
2 tsp
7 to 8 hours
12-24 hours
105-115 F



At this point, I'd like to share my experience of when I first became aware of the practice of soaking grains and nuts. I can sum it up in two words: panic attack (because that's how I roll). However, I'm one of those people that has to jump right in and do everything all at once- right now. That never works for anyone. Soaking really doesn't create more hands-on time but it does require a bit of forethought and meal planning. This takes time, patience, practice and a good bit of humour. I can say it is worth it in the end. Certaintly for your good health, but also, soaking and fermented grains and nuts have led to some of the tastiest meals and baked goods that my family and I have had the joy in eating.


 Sources:

Fallon, Sally. Nourishing Traditions. Washington: New Trends Publishing, Inc, 2001. Print

http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/issue/11-sprouting-to-remove-enzyme-inhibitors/

Morris, Julie. Superfood Kitchen. New York: Sterling Epicure, 2012. Print



Linked with the Homemade Monday blog series.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fizzy Toilet Bowl Cleaner




Making time to clean my toilets is never a high priority- neither is spending a lot of time making the stuff that will actually clean it. This cleaner works just like a fizzing bath/toilet bomb but in a powdered form and it only takes 5 minutes to make. Cleaning the toilet will go just as fast. Just dump a scoop into the bowl and the fizzing action will start working right away. You can start scrubbing right then or let it sit a bit while the rest of the bathroom gets cleaned.

This cleaner utilizes four strong anti-bacterial essential oils that will kill any nasties lurking under the bowl but won't leave behind any hazardous fumes for you or family to breathe in. This fizzy scrub actually smells quite good!

Since powders are used to make this cleaner, it will be easy for the particulates to make their way into the air. I wear a face mask while mixing to prevent breathing any of this into my lungs. Even a bandanna tied around your mouth and nose will do the trick. This is not a concern when using the cleaner in the toilets- just for the mixing part.




Fizzy Toilet Bowl Scrub
By Living Life Granola
Glass jar with tight fighting lid or another air-tight container
1/8 cup scoop (I use the scoop that came with the oxygen powder.)
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup oxygen whitening powder
1/2 cup citric acid (mountainroseherbs.com)
24 drops lemon essential oil
21 drops scotch pine essential oil
8 drops tea tree oil
7 drops cinnamon essential oil
*optional but recommended: face mask or bandanna tied around nose and mouth

Mix together the baking soda, oxygen whitening powder and citric acid until well combined. Add essential oils while stirring the baking soda mixture. Use the back of the spoon to crush any clumps that may form from the oils. Transfer to the glass storage jar with a tight-fitting lid and let sit for 4 days to synergize. To use, pour 1/8 cup of scrub into the toilet bowl.  The scrub can either sit for while or be used with a toilet brush right away.


The tight-fitting lid is important for keeping moisture out of the container. If moisture does find its way in then your nice loose, powdery cleaner will turn rock hard. Cleaning toilets is chore enough- the cleaner shouldn't be adding to it!


Linked with the Homemade Monday  and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, August 3, 2015

DIY Wood and Cabinet Polish



When it comes time to make my wood furniture shine, this homemade cleaner does the trick. It also leaves behind a delightful lemon fragrance. The fragrance comes naturally from essential oils so you need not be afraid of any dangerous phthalates that can come from the artificial counterparts. You can check out the rating for the well known lemon-scented wood polish here. (EWG.org is a great website to look up all of your commercial cleaning products to see whether or not they are truly safe for your household.)  Give this polish a try to save your money and your health!

This polish is composed of mostly water so it is important to make sure that your furniture is completely dry after wiping it down to avoid any possible warping. This is a polish, after all, so a buffing motion will really help bring out the shine on your furniture (not to mention helping to tone the arms- it is still tank-top season!). I have been using this polish for years with great results. If you are interested in safer dusting for non-wood surfaces, check out this post .


DIY Wood and Cabinet Polish
By: Living Life Granola
1 16 oz spray bottle
1/4 cup white vinegar
2 tsp olive oil
8 drops lemon essential oil
Water to fill bottle
Funnel (optional)

Place the funnel on top of the open bottle and fill with the ingredients in the order they are listed. Screw the spray top back on the bottle and shake well. Shake before use. Store out of the light in between uses. Use within 6 months.


Although cleaning is not a favorite task of mine, this lemon-scented wood polish is a definite pick-me-up that has me whipping through the house in no time. I can also feel good about not filling the air with harmful carcinogens and other bronchial irritants. Remember that breathing happy should also be breathing healthy no matter what part of your home you're sprucing up!


Linked with the Simply Natural Saturdays blog series.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Healing Herbal Toner



The weather has finally starting acting like summer this past week. While I love the heat, my pores have decided to open the flood gates, leaving my skin with breakouts, blotchy-ness and enough grease to start my own McDonald's (bleh!).

Nature does not dissapoint, for even though my pores are going through a teenage rebellion in this heat, these warmer months also provide a ready aresenal of healing herbs to help calm things down. On Living Life Granola's Facebook page, I had given a heads up to start saving your strawberry leaves in the coming weeks. Strawberry leaves are an excellent gentle astringent for combination and oily skin. It helps to rid the skin of excess oil without over-drying, which is so important, especially for skin that has to deal with breakouts and wrinkles (thanks Irony, love ya, too). To dry the strawberry leaves, just leave the clean leaves on a tea towel for two to three days until they are completely dry. Store in an airtight container or sandwich bag.

In addition to the strawberry leaves, there is also calendula, which is known for its healing qualities, rosemary as an antiseptic, chamomile as an anti-inflammatory and sage as a disinfectant & astringent agent. All of these wonderful herbs are then cold steeped in witch hazel, which itself is also a gentle astringent, to completely de-grease and refresh the skin- all without over-drying!

Most of the herbs were bought from Whole Food's bulk section.  Mountain Rose Herbs online is also a great source for all kinds of herbs. If you are lucky enough to have any of these plants growing in your back yard, use them! Just up the amount of fresh herbs to one tablespoon.



Healing Herbal Toner
By: Living Life Granola
1 16oz bottle of witch hazel
2 tsp  dried strawberry leaves
1 tsp  dried sage
1 tsp dried calendula flowers
1 tsp dried chamomile flowers
1 tsp dried peppermint leaves
1 tsp dried rosemary

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Pour the witch hazel into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add in all the herbs and shake well.



Store in a dark cabinet for two weeks, shaking everyday (or whenever you remember).

After two weeks, strain back into the witch hazel bottle. Apply with a cotton ball, shaking the bottle before use. The toner will last for a year.


This toner has been a life saver for me in the summer but it is also great after workouts or anytime you will be breaking a sweat. You can even pore a little into a small glass spray bottle for a little refresher through the day, as well. So no more hiding under layers of powdered foundation to help soak up all that excess oil (You're choking your skin!).  This toner will give you the glow without the shine!


Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 20, 2015

American Fries




American fries were always part of my birthday dinner requests while growing up (along with a rack of ribs and sparkling grape juice- what can I say, I've come a long way diet-wise). I remember standing next to my dad as he turned the potatoes in the hot, popping oil waiting for those babies to be just cool enough to do the "chew, blow, chew, blow, wave hand in front of mouth" routine because I could not wait to chow down.

These days, instead of frying the potatoes, they are baked in the oven. They are still as delicious and crunchy as I remember as a child but without all the cleanup from splattered grease everywhere. I have used all different kinds of potatoes with success along with olive oil (not extra-virgin!) and coconut oil as well. Enjoying fries at home has never been so easy!

American Fries
By: Living Life Granola
3 to 4 large baking potatoes or 6 to 8 small heirloom varieties
3 to 4 tbsp olive oil (not extra-virgin!) or melted coconut oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

*Use organic ingredients whenever possible.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Scrub potatoes and dry on a tea towel. Using a mandolin slicer, slice potatoes 1/4 of an inch thick width-wise into rounds. Alternatively, slice potatoes using a sharp knife as thin as possible. Arrange in a single layer on two  baking sheets, that can fit in the oven side-by-side.




Brush the oil over each round, salt and pepper to taste, then flip the rounds over and repeat on the other side.

Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, halfway.
Serve immediately and store any leftovers in the fridge. These fries are even great cold the next day for lunch!




American fries make a great accompaniment to any meal without any of the trans-fat that you get from the fast food guys. Depending on the size of the potatoes used, you can also give these a try on the grill for another vegetarian grilling option. Just lower the cook time to about 10 minutes total. However you cook these American fries, you can enjoy not only the taste but also the fact that they are made from fresh ingredients that are safe and nutritious!


Linked with the Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Whole Wheat Vegan Pancakes with Whipped Coconut Cream


Sunday mornings were made for breakfasts smothered in maple syrup and fresh whipped cream. Sundays are also the day our farmers market is held, so come morning time, my fridge is looking rather sad. While my family are flexatarians in practice, these vegan pancakes fit the bill for an empty pantry. The pancakes are so fluffy and yummy that I don't even miss the eggs or buttermilk in typical pancakes. It is also a great way to help lower your dairy consumption without compromising on taste.

Whipped cream is a personal favorite of mine but having pastured heavy cream around all the time isn't always feasible financially or health-wise. By always having a can or two of coconut milk in my pantry, I can ensure a steady supply of mock whipped cream that can be made up in a snap.

Whole Wheat Vegan Pancakes with Coconut Whipped Cream
By: Living Life Granola
Pancakes (makes around 20 four inch pancakes) :
2 cups stone-ground whole wheat pastry flour (or sprouted flour)
2 tbsp turbinado or coconut palm sugar
4 tbsp aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups almond milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted + more for skillet
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream:
1 can full-fat or 1  11 oz condensed carton coconut milk
1 tbsp tapioca starch
1 tbsp turbinado or coconut palm sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

*Please use organic ingredients when possible.


If using the canned coconut milk, scoop off the top cream and place in a medium-sized mixing bowl along with the other whipped cream ingredients. If using the carton, pour into a cheesecloth-lined sieve over a bowl to drain for a few minutes. Save the coconut water for a later use (great in smoothies!).  Either using a handheld or stand mixer, whip the cream for 2 to 3 minutes. The consistency will be thin. Place the mixing bowl in the freezer while making the pancakes. Move the bowl to the fridge if it is longer than 20 minutes.
  
Preheat oven to the lowest setting (mine is 170 degrees Fahrenheit) and place  an oven-safe serving plate on the highest rack.

Melt the coconut oil over low heat in a small pan.
Place a large skillet on the stove and turn the heat on the lowest setting to preheat the pan.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, sugar, 4 tbsp baking powder (4 tbsp is not a typo. This is what will give the pancakes the light and fluffy texture!) and salt in a large bowl.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the almond milk and melted oil. Whisk until smooth.  Let sit for 5 minutes to let the baking powder do its magic.



Turn the heat on the stove to medium-low and add a little coconut oil to coat the pan. I use a large metal serving spoon to scoop the batter onto the skillet- then use the back of the spoon to help smooth the pancake out. When bubbles start forming on the top of the pancake, it is time to flip. Let cook for a couple minutes more then transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding coconut oil to the skillet as needed.

Right before serving, take the cream out of the freezer (or fridge) and whip for another minute to get a nice whipped texture.

Serve pancakes with the coconut whipped cream, maple syrup and fresh fruit.





July is the perfect time to take advantage of all the stone-fruit and berries that are in season and on sale. Don't forget to check your farmers market for the freshest produce around. These pancakes are delicious on their own but the peaches and cream made them over the top. Happy and healthy eating!


Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Breast Milk Lotion



OK- so I can hear the ewwwww's now but really this stuff is a miracle in a jar. We know that the benefits of feeding babies breast milk are innumerable. The milk is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and has anti-bodies. These benefits can also be utilized topically as well. When my daughter was a few months old she broke out in eczema all over her body. We tried everything: coconut oil, homeopathy, organic eczema cream, pro-biotics- as well as me not eating any dairy for a while (not fun). Nothing was working. Even a trip to the pediatrician didn't yield any results because all they wanted to do was slather her in steroids (umm, no).


Desperate at this point to try anything, I came across a thread on Baby Center talking about breast milk lotion. Bingo! Since I make my own lotion all of the time, I had to give it a go. Within a week the eczema was gone. Diaper rash? Gone. Baby acne? Gone. My fine lines? Still here… but how awesome would that be. Fine lines aside, if your baby or toddler is dealing with any of these issues, you have to try this lotion. The most important ingredient of the lotion... you supply yourself. Everything else can be bought at Whole Foods or a local health store. This lotion will still work out to be much cheaper than the $20 per jar I was dropping on the creams that we previously tried.

Breast Milk Lotion
By: Living Life Granola
1/4 cup breast milk (fresh or thawed is fine)
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1 tbsp beeswax
1/2 capsule vitamin E or 4 drops vitamin E oil
20 drops calendula extract

Fill a skillet with 2 inches of water and put on the stove. In a glass measuring cup, pour in the oil and beeswax. In a separate glass measuring cup, pour in the breast milk. Place the oil/wax measuring cup in the skillet and turn the burner on low/med. You do not want high heat because that can damage the oil- if it is too hot it will kill the beneficial properties of the breast milk once it is mixed together.

Occasionally stir the oil/wax mixture until all the wax has melted. This can take up to 10 minutes. During the last couple of minutes, place the measuring cup with the breast milk in the skillet. If the milk and oil mixture are around the same temperature, it will mix better. Take both measuring cups out of the skillet once the wax has melted.

While vigorously whisking the oil mixture, slowly pour in the breast milk. You will start to see a white emulsion. Keep whisking for one minute. Let cool for 5 minutes and then add the vitamin E and calendula extract. Whisk for another minute. Pour into a glass jar and keep the cap off until completely cool. Store in the fridge and use within 3 months. Makes 4 oz.


Breast milk lotion truly is a magic bullet for all skin ailments. Give it a try and be amazed!


Linked with the Homemade Mondays and Simply Natural Saturday blog series.