Salad Anatomy 101.

20160831_195731 I know it’s sort of late in the season to be writing about salads, but we’ve been eating a ton of them lately in an effort to be budget friendly. So I thought I’d share some tips for making a salad worth being a main course.

Mix greens.
I buy a head each of organic red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, and romaine. I take them home, rinse them off, chop them up, and mix them well in a large bowl. This usually lasts me for a week and a half or more, depending on hubby’s work schedule. But, how do you keep your lettuce from browning? you ask. Storing chopped lettuce in a mason jar with a standard canning lid set (not a plastic lid) and a paper towel on the bottom really works. The lettuce will stay fresh for as long as 2 weeks.

I don’t recommend adding spinach greens to your salad raw because of their high oxalate content which prevents absorption of calcium. Beet greens are a bit problematic as well. If you have a yard that you don’t treat with chemicals, you can grab some dandelion greens for your salad. I wouldn’t recommend buying them: they cost almost $3 for a small bunch where I am, and that seems like a ridiculous price to pay for something that grows everywhere. Just be sure to pick leaves from plants that haven’t bolted yet (started growing a flower) so you’re greens aren’t overly bitter.

20160903_124044Multiple sources of protein.
I try to have meat of some form on my salads if I’m making one for dinner. I’ll put less meat or no meat at all on lunchtime salads because I usually want a lighter meal for lunch.
Other than meat I like to add different kinds of sprouted beans. You can use whatever kind of beans you like; they don’t necessarily need to be sprouted. I sprout mine for better nutrient absorption, and I like the way they taste, but it’s totally optional. A bonus with using cooked and cooled beans is that you get some resistant starch with your salad, which helps your digestion.
Soaked and dried nuts are also a great addition to salads because they add a delightful crunch.

Something raw other than the greens.
Think sliced tomatoes, shredded carrots, avocados, etc. If you’re struggling with thyroid issues, avoid eating raw cruciferous veggies.

Fermented veggies or pickled veggies.
I like to top my salads with some purple cabbage cortido, because it’s delicious (even though I hate sauerkraut) and crunchy. It also adds a delightful tang to your salad. If I don’t have any on hand I like to chop up some pickles, pickled okra is good as well, or artichoke hearts. Olives are also delicious.

Sprouted seeds.
I love putting sprouted and dried sunflower seeds on top of my salad. This is something I picked up from my awesome mother-in-law. She makes incredible salads.

Dressing.
I find that sometimes I don’t even need dressing if I’ve put enough stuff on the salad, but my go-to dressing recipe is below (this is a good dressing if you’re fighting a candida overgrowth):

Lemon Salad Dressing

  • Servings: 2 cups
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup filtered water
1 cup olive oil
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Combine all ingredients in a jar. Shake well. Serve.

Really, the possibilities are endless. These are just some suggestions based on things that I have found to take a salad from good to great.

What do you usually put on your salads?

Gluten Free Blondies

IMG_0671 I mentioned that I over-soaked two pounds of almonds two posts ago. They sat on the kitchen counter, still in the jellyroll pan I roasted them in because I’m such a cheapskate I was having a really hard time throwing them out. My husband was munching on them the whole time and I asked him (somewhat incredulously) if they were actually edible. He answered me by eating another one. Then I asked my awesome sister-in-law the same thing and she said she thought they were fine. So I made some almond butter out of them. I only got about 1/2 cup of almond butter because by the time I had the energy to do it, hubby had eaten more than 3/4 of the entire two pounds!

The almond butter turned out a bit earthy tasting, but it was still good. I’m going to post my recipe for almond butter next week so that everyone can enjoy the awesomeness. I was inspired by Justin’s Nut Butters to try adding cocoa butter into my nut butters. It is so good! So look out for that recipe next week!

I made my own quinoa flour for this in my blender. I have a retro blender, and I’m not kidding. This is my blender:

blender

You should know that less than half of those buttons actually work because this is a blender from (probably) the 70s. So if my blender can do it, your blender can do it too.

I sprouted the quinoa for this and dried it in the oven. A word of caution about sprouting quinoa: quinoa sprouts really fast. You should only sprout a little at a time, or separate a large batch into smaller containers for the actual sprouting process, because when you over-sprout quinoa you get a really earthy batch of quinoa that smells like weed when you dry it. I did end up burying the last batch I over-sprouted as I mentioned two posts ago, but I very slightly over-sprouted this batch too simply because there was so much of it sprouting at once. It was salvageable, but take note from my mistake: sprout quinoa in small batches.

I made half of a batch because I didn’t have enough almond butter, but I am posting the recipe for a full batch.

Almond Quinoa Blondies

1/4 cup coconut oil (or butter)IMG_0673
3/4 cup almond butter
2 eggs
1/4 + 1/8 cup sucanat (or other sugar)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment so that the paper hangs over the edge of the pan.
  2. Beat the oil and almond butter until smooth. Add in eggs, sucanat, and vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients in a small bowl. Add them to the almond butter mixture and stir until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs on it, 25 to 35 minutes. Do not over bake.
  5. Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack for 45 minutes.
  6. Pull it out of the pan using the parchment, cut it into pieces and allow to cool completely before storing.

These will last in the fridge for 5 or 6 days if you’d rather make-ahead. Since they don’t use the standard gluten free flours refrigerating them is ok.

 

Can You Soak Something too Long?

Well, I had a post all lined up for today about making sprouted almond butter. What I had forgotten is that almonds sourced from the U.S. are not raw regardless of what the packaging says. They linked a salmonella case back to raw almonds -which is something that happens far far less than salmonella being linked back to contaminated meat- and they said, “thou shalt pasteurize your almonds!” And almond farmers complied. You can still source truly raw almonds directly from the farmers, or overseas, but anything on your store shelf is treated in some way and cannot sprout. Not to mention the ridiculous price difference. I can’t afford to buy truly raw almonds.

Ho hum.

So I spent a bunch of effort trying to sprout the almonds before I remembered this. I sat there, staring at my almonds (which had started smelling a bit like weed) wondering what I was doing wrong. It wasn’t until I googled it to see if I had messed it up somehow that I realized what had gone wrong.

I had effectively ruined two pounds of almonds. Almonds are not cheap, so I was determined to see if I could salvage them. I washed them all very thoroughly and popped them in my dehydrator. They dehydrated for a little more than 24 hours. Then I roasted them. They still taste weird, so I don’t think I’ll be using them for almond butter. I might just bury them in the garden.

I did this to quinoa two days prior as well. I made the mistake of leaving the successfully sprouted quinoa in a bowl on the counter overnight. When I dumped it out on the tray for drying I noticed that the bottom of the bowl was bubbly and some of the sprouts were really long. Not only that, but it smelled like I had just lit up a joint. I’m totally serious. I have no idea why, but soaking things too long makes them smell like weed. If I had to guess at it, I would say that there’s some kind of mold or something to blame. However, you can’t wash it off.

So if you find that your nuts or seeds smell like cannabis, you’ll have to toss them. I haven’t found a way to successfully salvage them. I tried drying the quinoa but my house just smelled like I was a pothead.

How Can it be Gluten Free?

GFreeToday I’m writing about the America’s test Kitchen book How Can it be Gluten Free?. If you’re thinking about going gluten free, or you already are, this book is a must. There are bread recipes, biscuits, cake, all kinds of cookies and sweetbreads, different cereals and tips on how to cook the best pilaf, quinoa or otherwise.

I find a lot of the content online for free, but I still recommend grabbing a physical copy because it’s super handy to have it in your kitchen for reference.

I do have a few bones to pick with it though.

First, many of the recipes call for vegetable oil. I’m not 100% but I think some of them call for canola oil specifically. Vegetable oil is terrible. I’ll write a more comprehensive post explaining why in the future. I actually have a bottle of canola oil in my pantry that I only use for polishing wood furniture and oiling my oven door hinges. I do not consider it food. This is only a minor setback though, because it’s pretty easy to substitute coconut oil or olive oil depending on whether what you’re making is savory or sweet. Sometimes I even just use butter. Because butter is better.

Second, these recipes do not take proper grain preparation (soaking/sprouting) into account. I have had some success in soaking the cakes and the chocolate chip cookies, but some of the recipes, like bread, don’t lend themselves to soaking. You could get around this by sprouting your own brown rice and then grinding it into flour, but you can’t sprout white rice and the majority of the flour mix is white rice.

Otherwise the recipes in this book are fantastic. I was making bread for a while using the basic bread recipe and even hubby liked it. I even had success making a sourdough starter with the flour blend and I got a good number of sourdough loaves out of it that were good by gluten free standards, but hubby asked me to just make regular bread after a while so I stopped that. But know it is possible.

One of my favorite things about this book is that there is an explanation of all the things they tried before landing on a really successful recipe. They explain why certain things didn’t work and why others did. You could use this book to help create your own gluten free recipes for this reason. There are also really helpful tips and tricks that would never have occurred to me otherwise. Like using psyllium husk powder – something found in the supplement section of your health food store – for structure.

Be forewarned: if you have a nut allergy there are a handful of recipes that call for almond flour (the pizza crust being one of them) for texture reasons. However, you might be able to get away with oat flour or some other flour that has more protein than rice flour.

Overall this book is amazing. My husband, who loves bread and cookies, approves of the majority of the things I make from this book. The chocolate chip cookies are my new favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and the sugar cookie recipe is to die for. Not to mention the chocolate cake recipe. The book is worth the money just for the desserts alone. That being said, I never knew I could like quinoa as much as I do until I followed the pilaf and porridge directions in this book. The main point I’m trying to make here is that I highly recommend it despite my misgivings. If you’re determined you can get around the two things I listed, and most of the stuff in this book is meant to be a treat anyway, so indulge yourself!

All About that Paste

I recently made some sprouted hummus. I was inspired to tweak my usual recipe in an attempt to mimic the hummus that is served at Yaffa’s Savory Mediterranean culinaria. It is the most creamy, amazing hummus I have ever had in my life. Because I’ve been exploring the world of sprouting I thought I’d give it a go. My results were pretty good, but I still need to tweak a few things to get it to taste exactly like Yaffa’s. Nevertheless, this hummus is bangin’ so I’m sharing the recipe with you!

The first step is to sprout the beans. This took me a couple days, but I think it could have been finished in just one if I had been more sure of myself. Anyway, the way I sprouted the beans was I soaked them overnight and drained them in the morning. I just left them in the colander and rinsed them every couple of hours. Then I cooked them until they were tender, which was about 3 hours on the stove top.

I also soaked the sesame seeds for the tahini. They may have sprouted, but I’ll need to do this again to be 100% sure about that. I used brown sesame seeds because they’re cheaper than white sesame seeds at Vitamin Cottage. I dried and toasted them before grinding them up with some olive oil.

This hummus is best eaten the day you make it, but it’s pretty delicious after a day or so in the fridge. It just gets really thick once it has been refrigerated.

Sprouted HummusIMG_0637

1.5 cups dry garbanzo beens
Water to cover

1/2 cup brown sesame seeds
Water to cover

3 cups sprouted, cooked garbanzo beans
1/3 cup bean water
1 cup olive oil, divided2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch cayenne pepper

  1. Soak the garbanzo beans overnight. Strain in the morning. Leave in the colander, rinsing every few hours until you see sprouts start to form.
  2. In a large soup pot cover the beans with water. There should be 2 inches of water over the top of the beans. Bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 3 hours or until the beans are tender.
  3. Drain the beans, saving the water, and set aside.
  4. Soak the sesame seeds overnight. Drain and rinse.
  5. Place seeds in the oven on low to dry. Once dry, heat the oven to 350°F. Bake until fragrant, about 5-10 minutes.
  6. Allow the seeds to cool slightly before putting them into a food processor, processing them into a rough paste.
  7. Pour 1/4 cup of the oil over the seed paste and process until smooth.
  8. Once the tahini is smooth add one cup of the beans, spices and garlic and process a little.
  9. Add the bean water and another cup of the beans, processing again until smooth.
  10. Add the oil and the last cup of beans and process until it reaches the desired consistency. This took me about 2 minutes.
  11. Enjoy.

 

I can’t make hummus without singing “All About that Paste” so here it is for your viewing pleasure.

Sprouting and Soaking Grains.

Last week I wrote a little about phytic acid and sprouting/fermenting grains in the context of the paleolithic diet. Today, I’m writing some general tips and instructions for how to sprout and soak grains. Soaking grains is like fermentation shorthand, I think you’d have to leave the grains for longer to achieve true fermentation. Soaking is a good first step.

Something to keep in mind if you’re thinking of implementing this (or any change to your diet/lifestyle, really) is to try one thing at a time. Take it slow: it gets overwhelming really fast. It has taken me almost 3 years to get to where I am now and I had a serious motivator in the form of hypothyroidism. I am really reluctant to put synthetic things in my body, so I sort of jumped in with both feet in an effort to avoid needing synthroid even temporarily – not to mention that taking synthroid for postpartum thyroiditis (which is what I probably had) could potentially increase the likelihood of needing it for the rest of my life and I was so not down with that. I’m also selectively super stubborn and that helped me stick with it. Although I do eat grains again I am completely gluten-free and I try to soak and sprout as much as I can.

On to soaking!

Soaking is usually done overnight though there are a few exceptions: according to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon cashews shouldn’t be soaked overnight because they are a softer nut that has already been steamed (yes, even the “raw” ones) to neutralize the urushiol which is a resin that is toxic, and the result will be unpleasant. However, I have seen plenty of Raw Food recipes calling for cashews to be soaked overnight so I suppose it’s really your call.

To soak grains properly you need a large bowl, preferably glass; cloth for covering, cheesecloth, muslin or a kitchen towel all work; grain to soak; enough water to cover the grain; an acidic medium such as vinegar, lemon juice, whey (the yellow stuff that you sometimes find on top of yogurt). I have used water kefir and kombucha and I seem to get good results with those. Alternatively you can use another grain that is high in phytase which is an enzyme that breaks down phytic acid like rye or buckwheat. The catch to this method is that since phytase is an enzyme that is susceptible to degradation as soon as the grain is milled into flour  you’ll need to use freshly ground grain for this to be most effective. Here is a great article explaining some of the process.

To soak your grain you simply combine the grain with the water and acidic medium to the tune of 1 tablespoon acid per cup of flour. If the recipe you’re making uses buttermilk as liquid (like pancakes or waffles) feel free to use that, but know that the presence of calcium will reduce the amount of phytic acid neutralized by up to 50% in some grains. So, while it’s counter intuitive, adding a dollop of yogurt or milk kefir does more harm than good (whey is debatable as well). I’m not sure about using dairy to ferment grains and the impact that has on phytic acid, but my hunch would be that if you left it long enough you might get comparable results to soaking with something like vinegar or lemon juice if you don’t mind sour foods.

I use just water and salt for soaking legumes, but I do know a couple people who use vinegar or some other acid.

Sprouting is very similar in that you start by soaking the grains overnight but you’re just using water. There are all sorts of grain sprobeansuting kits and pieces of equipment you can purchase, but I just use a bowl and a strainer with a cloth to cover in the summer when fruit flies are a problem. Basically you soak your grains/legumes overnight and drain them in the morning. Rinse and return them to the bowl to sit. Every two hours or so put them back in the strainer and rinse, also rinsing the bowl, then stick them back in the bowl. In 12 hours to 3 days you’ll start to see sprouts on most grains/legumes. Quinoa takes the least time to sprout in my experience. Usually there are sprouts on the majority of the grains by mid-day after soaking.

Sprouting grains activates the phytase enzyme so souring them after sprouting will remove even more of the phytic acid content. I haven’t done this yet myself, but I  plan on giving it a shot soon and I will certainly write about what happens!

And there is my crash-course on soaking and sprouting grains and legumes. I hope it was helpful!