Saturday, February 26, 2011

NOURISHING - BUT DOES IT TASTE ANY GOOD?


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 I love the cookbook Nourishing Traditions, but as I was re-reading it one night lately, I remembered a social engagement I had been invited to a few years ago by an acquaintance.  This acquaintance was a whole food and traditional foods junkie.  She was out to get more people to join her food religion and had set out a spread of traditional whole foods for a group of us to try.  To swing us over to her side, she had chosen to start with desserts and sweets and before us was a vast array of things ranging from pumpkin pies, puddings, muffins and cakes.  We were drooling at the mouth when we saw all this food and I, for one, was excited at the prospect of possibly, for the first time ever, finding a healthy dessert.

The first thing I remember about this night was the color of the food. Surprisingly there weren't any lively colors, and puzzling that it all seemed to be of the same brown hue.   There were also little tincture bottles strewn about on the table full of things we were unsure about. And then we tasted the food.  Literally quite... tasteless.  It was such a disappointment. (I knew then why her husband was a closet fast-food fanatic.) I also remember thinking that if that is what traditional, whole food, organic-fermenting-raw-eating meant, I wanted nothing to do with it. 

I think taste is important in food.  We have been endowed with taste buds by our Creator for a reason. To eat and savor food has to be one of our most pleasurable sensations.  Sure, I can acknowledge that there are times I eat certain foods that are nourishing, but are not exactly tasty because I know I need that particular thing (maybe not the best example, but plain yogurt comes to mind --I don't like the taste of dairy, but I know that good digestive enzymes and the live cultures are important to me). But by and far, food should never be unpalatable, but instead exciting, exhilarating, bursting with flavor, tender or crispy, sweet or spicy, saucy or silky.

Marc David in Nourishing Wisdom tells about a experiment with rats who were deprived of their taste sensation.  Even though these rats were fed a conventional rat diet, the taste-deprived rats soon died and autopsies revealed only one cause of death - malnutrition. He surmises that to be "fully nourished by food, we must experience it through tasting and chewing."

Good, nourishing, traditional, real food does not have to be bland, colorless, and tasteless! If only that gal had instead brought out a gorgeous salad, full of delectable lettuces, with red, bursting strawberries that were overflowing on the plate, with cooked, chopped home grown chicken and farm fresh eggs, and deep green sliced avocado, that not only looked good, but tasted and smelled good....then I would have fallen in love right then and there with this new food religion, instead of taking me years to finally get it. Whole foods are real foods, foods that come right out of your yard and mostly with little change before eating. 

This is the dessert she should have served us--simple, whole, and your taste buds will thank you:

FRIED BANANAS WITH HONEY (adapted from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions cookbook)
8 very ripe large plantain bananas or 16 small red bananas
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil
1 c fresh orange juice
1/3 c honey
1 t cinnamon

Peel bananas and cut lengthwise.  Saute in batches in oil, transferring with a slotted spoon to an oblong dish.  Make a mixture of orange juice, honey and cinnamon.  Pour over bananas and bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes.  Can serve in bowls with a dollop of cultured cream. 


Monday, February 21, 2011

Beekeeping and Almond Flour in the Land of the Amish

One of our beehives in the back of a buggy
This weekend we spent time in Arthur, Illinois which is an Amish community in Central Illinois.  It's a place we go to often to either the bulk food store, the family health food store or to visit our friends the Yoders.


The beekeeping club there invited David to come and speak to the group.  While we were there, we delivered some hives a young man had purchased and I was able to take a picture of the hive in the back of his buggy.


We have seen our hives in a lot of places.  On the way to our son's house, we can see some of our hives right on the edge of the road near a conservation area.  We have seen some in a horse pasture where the horse will saunter right up and act as though he was looking in the hives with you. Our hives also grace a rather well-known-and-loved apple orchard and pumpkin patch in a community to the west of us, where they stand guard at the entrance behind a sign that says "Caution: Honeybees At Work". We've also seen customers take hives home in everything from semi trucks to the backseats of tiny little VW bugs.  But this is the first time we've seen a hive in the back of an Amish buggy. We loved it!


An Amish parking garage
While were in Arthur, I picked up several different kinds of "flour".  I have been wanting to experiment with some types of flour other than grain and found a nice selection of almond, coconut and pecan meal.  These "flours" of course can't be made into a loaf of bread as you would think of grain, but can be used instead for some other non-traditional baking.  These are pricey, but can be an option if you need to go gluten-free or low-carb in your family. 




Here is a muffin recipe using almond flour and, of course, our beloved honey. By the way, if you need honey and aren't close to us, buy it from the Amish*. Because they don't use any chemicals on their fields, the honey there is going to be naturally organic and it's less expensive than most places.(I know you might be thinking that naturally organic is kind of redundant, but it's a word I use to describe the difference between someone or some company that goes out of its way to be organic versus someone who is organic just because they live naturally.)--*note: I have had one person email me who has said that Amish do use chemicals, but I do know from repeated conversations with the Amish we deal with, that the folks here do not--in fact, they did not even know what GMOs were (and being a former teacher and mother of six, I know when someone is lying to me) :-) So, the moral here is *ask* if you don't know. 


Almond and Honey Muffins
2 c almond flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 stick melted butter
4 eggs
1/3 c water
1/3 c honey


Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients, then incorporate together.  For variation, add 1 c of any fresh or frozen berries, mashed banana or applesauce. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 18 min.  Remember to watch carefully because items made with honey will brown more quickly.  You could also use vanilla extract or various spices like nutmeg or cinnamon as desired.






Saturday, February 19, 2011

For The Love of Chocolate

A chocolate lover's dream











Who doesn't love chocolate? I know I do, and even though I am trying very hard to be very good and not partake of much of it, I think everyone should enjoy and celebrate life, and if that includes a piece of chocolate, then so be it!


I have been interested lately in finding some chocolate recipes that include honey, and while most of them are entirely too decadent to put in my blog, I found one that can be made very healthy actually.


I found this recipe for Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups over at www.divinehealthfromtheinsideout.com and wanted to also reprint blogger Lydia's thoughts on chocolate as she adapts it from Nina Planck's book:
In Nina Planck’s book, ‘Real Food, What to Eat and Why’, she shares some of the good news about the benefit of chocolate. First off, the saturated and monounsaturated fats in cocoa butter are good for cholesterol: cocoa powder is rich in antioxidants and contains mild antidepressants. Cocoa powder contains large amounts of calcium, copper, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium, and more iron than any vegetable. It is very rich in polyphenols, particularly a group called flavonoids, which account for the rich pigment in red wine, cherries and tea. These antioxidants promote vascular health, prevent LDL oxidation, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clots, and fight cancer. A one-and-a-half-ounce (40 gram) bar of milk chocolate contains as many antioxidants as a five ounce (150ml) glass of red wine. Polyphenols in chocolate may prevent obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure – all risk factors for heart disease.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups
2 cups organic dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if you prefer)
2 T coconut oil
1/2 c butter
1/2 c organic natural peanut butter 
1 T honey


Melt chocolate and oil in small saucepan over low heat.  In second saucepan, melt butter, peanut butter and honey.


Line a mini muffin tin with paper cup liners.  Once the chocolate is melted, add a small spoonful of it to the liner, and tilt muffin tin until it is coated with chocolate.  Repeat until all cups are filled and place in freezer for 5 minutes.


Remove from freezer, and put in dollop of peanut mixture.  Place back in freezer for 5 minutes.


Remove from freezer and top each with remaining chocolate.  Freeze again for 5 minutes.  Then place in frig.  These chocolates will need to be kept refrigerated.


Woohoo! Chocolate the healthy and heavenly way!



Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mechanically Separated Chicken - or The Real Thing?



I hope you are all wondering what this is a picture of.  My first thought was that it was some kind of taffy.  That sounds really yummy, doesn't it? But it is actually a picture of something called mechanically separated chicken.

I became interested in what this was this week when I got out my small can of Tone's Chicken Base that I use in virtually all my chicken dishes.  This chicken base was recommended to me by a friend of a few years back, who was one of the most health/food conscious people I knew, so it had to be good, right? I was looking at it this week for the first time and noticed that the first ingredient was something called mechanically separated chicken.  Okay, so you do have to get the chicken off the bone, and it must mean that machines do it, so what was the problem?

I think the picture above shows you the problem with mechanically separated chicken.  According to this article in the Huffington Post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/04/mechanically-separated-meat-chicken-mcnugget-photo_n_749893.html not only should we have a problem with the weird color, but it has a weird taste, and must also be hosed down with ammonia to kill the bacteria.  It therefore will need artificial coloring as well as artificial flavoring and is destined to be in your child's (or your) next chicken nugget, hot dog, or bologna sandwich.

Actually the first tip off that this wasn't real food should have been the cardboard box they are feeding this pink snake into (and do you see the other cardboard boxes of the stuff sitting on the floor?)

So where do you get the real thing? Chickens can be purchased in your store, and many will even say from "family farms" which means absolutely nothing.  You can even find some labeled "organic" and that doesn't really tell you anything except the chicken feed was organic, not how the birds were raised.  The way birds are raised and their stress level is just as important as their feed. Certain changes occur in the guts of the chickens when they are stressed. These result in lower pH levels. When the pH level is low, harmful bacteria become more active as they get a favorable environment for growth. They start replicating rapidly and within a short span of time gain advantage.

 Stress-free birds are generally found on home farms.  You can raise them yourselves, or find a good poultry farm near you. Ask around, you can usually find a friend who will share a side of beef with you from someone they know well.  Check out these websites: http://www.eatwild.com/ and http://www.localharvest.org/ for listings in your area of local farms.  

Check your labels if you don't want to eat anymore cardboard box pink snakes!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yogurt Biscuits made with Honey

You know you can substitute honey for sugar in bread recipes, right? I hope you all have got that much so far from my blogs.  I know that "normal" peole (and by normal, I mean anyone who is NOT a beekeeper, because we all know beekeepers can not possibly be normal, and quite possibly are crazy) use sugar because it's easier and cheaper to get.

And that is what has made us an unhealthy, overweight culture because of easy, cheap food. High fructose corn syrup is the number one enemy, with white, processed beet sugar coming in a close second.

But if you want a wholesome, raw, good-for-you, healthy food, forget the sugar and go with the honey. The wild thing is though, that even beekeepers don't know how to cook and bake with honey, leaving it to mainly generate income for them, or for a sweetener on toast, in coffee, etc.  We have to learn to cook and bake with our honey.

Here is an easy bread recipe using honey, instead of sugar.

Yogurt Biscuits
2 cups flour
1 cup plain yogurt
1 - 2 t honey
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt

Take 1 cup of the flour and 1 cup yogurt, and blend together until smooth.  Drizzle the honey over the top of yogurt mixture.  Put damp towel on top of bowl and let sit in a warm spot for up to 4 hours (or overnight).

Next combine the ingredients and stir into the yogurt mixture. Spray a baking sheet with non stick spray (olive oil please), and then turn out dough onto a floured surface. Cut out pieces in desired thickness, place on sheet, bake at 400 degrees for about 8-10, reduce oven to 375 degrees, bake another 8-10 minutes until golden brown. Note: You have to keep an eye on any baking items when cooking with honey because they will brown quicker.

I served these biscuits with a corn and potato chowder, and we enjoyed it while we sat and listened to the wind blow outside and watched the thermometer creep down to a -1 degrees outside. Brrrrrr.....

Baby, it's cold outside!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Saucy Peachy Chicken With Honey




Saucy peachy chicken
I love sweet.  Anything sweet.  This sweet peach chicken recipe is very good.  It hit the spot with brown rice and sauteed broccoli along with it. Simple, and easy, try it tonight.

Dredge about 4 chicken breast halves in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper and paprika.  Brown the chicken in a good olive oil.

Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine the following:  
1 c orange juice
1 1/2 c sliced peaches (fresh organic, if not try frozen)
2 T honey

2 T vinegar
1 t nutmeg
1 t basil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Heat mixture over medium heat, reduce to low and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove chicken when it is brown and place into the peach mixture and cover and simmer until cooked through, about 20 - 25 minutes.

Smells and looks like a cobbler cooking!

I have lately enjoyed reading a blogger at www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com.  There is a great blog about concerns of not eating certain veggies raw.  Her reasons seem valid and with good evidence to back her up.  What I like is that she is a traditional foods person who encourages the use of good fats and organic foods in cooking.  I also love that she uses lots of butter--good, real butter (not margarine or anything fake and processed).  I personally do not believe that good fats contribute to obesity problems, so I am all for putting the butter in the pan and cooking up my veggies in it.  Check it out at : http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/2010/10/think-raw-veggies-are-best-think-again/

Hope you all are keeping warm!



Monday, February 7, 2011

How to Make Cream Honey

Cream honey
It is known by many names, such as spun honey, whipped honey, and churned honey.  But contrary to popular belief, cream honey does not contain butter, although it's buttery- looking texture would suggest otherwise.

And in fact, some people do indeed spin or churn (sort of) the honey to get it to this buttery-like texture, but neither method is necessary for a cream honey product.

Honey naturally crystallizes (unless you eat it pretty quick after extraction). Crystallization is when the honey solidifies, giving it a hard texture. Some people get crystallization quick when they mistakenly think that honey needs to be refrigerated.   Lots of folks love it this way, while others will simply reheat the product, turning it back into liquid honey.

Crystallization is when honey turns into tiny crystal particles.  While these crystals are small, there is a method that makes these crystals even smaller, giving you a very smooth product.  This product is then called cream honey.

I love cream honey.  There's not a lot you can do with it once you cream it except use it for a spread, but it is yummy on toast, biscuits, bagels and muffins.

To get cream honey, you need to start off with pastuerized honey.  Typically we don't encourage heating honey because it will kill the beneficial enzymes of honey, but for a product like this it is necessary, and since you don't use much of it, won't matter much.

Heat to 150 degrees, then strain at least once, but twice preferably.  That kills any yeast and strains any foreign matter from the honey.  After cooling to at least 75 degress, take a cream honey product you have purchased, and add to your liquid honey at a ratio of 10% cream product to 90% liquid honey.  You can also purchase a seed powder from some large beekeeping companies which seems to be a type of confectioners sugar. The folks we talk to don't seem to like the seed powder much, but I can see the benefits of it.

Stir in the purchased cream starter or the powder seed starter. Put a lid on it, and let sit for at least 1 week at 57 degrees (cellars are good for this). During the stirring process, some will put it in big 5 gallon buckets and use a type of hook on the end of a drill and "spin" or "churn" it like this.  If you are going for big quantities, this would be necessary in order to get your product done quick and into containers; however, caution must be taken when using tools or scrapers in plastic buckets, as plastic scrapings could be introduced into the cream honey.

Easy and delicious!

 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Things I'd like to do again some day (soon!)

David is being silly in the ice.
Today we are expecting the biggest storm of the year.  It is suppose to be ice, rain, and then perhaps as much as 12 inches of snow.  Everybody raced to the store, bought out all the kerosene heaters and generators at Menards, and now are hunkering down in their houses to await the onslaught. The lights have been flickering on and off here in the house and only time will tell what will happen over the next 24 hours. (2/2/11 update: even though we were told to expect the worse, plus about 16 inches of snow, we only got a couple of inches on top of the sleet.  It's sunny here today and a little windy, but nothing close to the catastrophe we were led to believe.)

Christian would rather be in Illinois!!

 Christian loves to go the Cracker Barrel.  You know that a kid has been born to old people (like us) when he'd rather go to Cracker Barrel than McDonald's.  He loves to sit on the porch in the rocking chairs and play checkers.  So he asked if he could go last week on a Sunday night, and since we had been cooped up in the house for a few days, we said sure.  He couldn't sit out and play checkers, but they had a big fire going in the fireplace that fascinated him.  Out in the store, we found this shirt that he is modeling in the picture. For you beekeepers, you can get this shirt and others like it from a site called www.bee-tees.com. In the spring, we should have several to sell in our store.

 Here in Illinois, it is cold.  Last week Christian and I went swimming and the thermometer registered ~ 0~ outside.  That's not a typo for those of you from the south.  It was zero outside.  It kept a lot of folks out of the pool, but we enjoyed it.  Here, for your amusement and nostalgia, are some things I'd like to do again....and soon!
Ahhh, doesn't that feel good? Dangling feet in the creek.


Baseball. Or even better, just playing catch in the yard.
  
Go fishing.


Absolutely nothing.


Stay warm folks.  Spring is coming!