I don't know what it is about sprouts that makes me smile. Maybe it's that they look like mini-weeds, or that they're so easy to grow, or perhaps it's just that they are so stinkin' good for you and taste great at the same time. I don't know.
Lately I have been really diggin' this sandwich:
So, in the two+ years I have been growing sprouts, I think I have finally come up with the best way to grow them. We tried in a sprouting bag, a mason jar and now this:
The secret is (lean in and I'll whisper): the largest organic spring mix container from Safeway.
First, soak your sprouts over night. The instructions on my package says the seeds just need twice the amount of water as sprouts, but I don't measure it, I just dump the water on in.
The next morning, get empty salad container, and poke holes in the bottom. You don't want the holes big enough for the sprouts to fall through. I used a carving fork to make the holes, but you could use a push pin.
After that, line the bottom with a durable paper towel (you will be leaving this in the bottom the entire time).
Next, pour sprouts into the container (over the sink :) and rinse with water.
Leave the container in the sink until most water has dripped out.
Lightly cover container with lid and drape dark towel over container.
These babies are growin'
Rinse daily (instructions say twice daily, but I found once was enough).
Last step, and most important one, leave sprouts in lighted (not direct sunlight) area for 4-6 hours or until green. The sprouts reach their full nutritional level after this process. Be sure to allow time for them to turn green.
...well, kinda. I'm back on my blog after a week+ hiatus because we have been visiting family. But I'm not back home yet.
Being a visitor in someone else's home is a struggle when trying to stick to a more natural/organic/local diet. However, here are a few tips for you to try on your next trip.
1) Relax. You're not going to be in charge (for the most part) of what, where or when you eat. So, choose not to stress over it. It's okay if you eat out more than you do at home. Being healthy really is about making the right choices 80-90% of the time. Not 100%.
2) Pack what you can to bring with you. Troy and I had some fresh produce from our garden that we knew we would go bad anyway while we were gone, so we took it with us. It makes for much better snacks on the long drive as well as healthier options once you get there. I even brought my kefir with me (much to my mother-in-law's dismay).
3) If in season, try out the local flavor. There are actually more options for locally grown produce right now in Utah then there are in Wyoming which means that I have visited the road-side stands with cash in hand. Yum. And I am lucky enough to have parents that also garden, so when we leave tomorrow I will be bringing back organic pears, grapes, squash, tomatoes and peppers and I'll grab a couple of boxes of peaches, apples and a flat or two of berries from the local farmers.
We were invited to a friend's house for chili so I found this recipe and it turned out delicious AND IT USES KEFIR!. However, because of time constraint, I wasn't able to try soaking the grains even though I know how much better it is for you. Check back next week for a post on soaking/sprouting.
Amount: 8″ Square Baking Pan (12-16 pieces) I ended up baking mine in a cheesecake pan because I don't own a 8" square pan. It worked perfectly.
Bake: 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) 25-35 minutes
1. Place in blender; blend at high speed 3-5 minutes (the blender will “grind” the grain into a batter in the liquid medium. If it is a little gritty, blend more or let it set overnight for a smoother batter using the two stage soaking method.
1 cup kefir (my first choice!), buttermilk, sour milk, or yogurt
1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil or 2 tablespoons each butter and oil (I use 2 Tbsp of coconut oil & 2 Tbsp olive oil or butter)
3 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2/3 cup whole kernel dry corn 2/3 cup whole wheat pastry grain or 3/4 cup kamut grain If you would like to use flour, use 1 cup of cornmeal and 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour or kamut flour in replacement for the grain above. That's what I did since I didn't have the whole ingredients or the time to soak them. In fact, I didn't even use pastry flour. I used regular organic whole wheat flour and while it ended a little dense, I thought it was fine. Second Stage: Optional (Recommended) Cover blender or bowl. Let batter stand at room temperature overnight or about 12-24 hours.
Add 2 eggs & blend
2. Mix in thoroughly, but briefly, using blender and/or rubber spatula as needed: 2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3. Pour batter immediately into greased baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) 25-35 minutes or until knife or toothpick comes clean out of center. Mine was done at 25 min. so check yours on the early side of it.
I love coconut oil. I first discovered it on accident (as so happens with most of my true loves: Troy,)
I was looking for a remedy to my white tongue (I hadn't yet realized it was thrush) and magically googled upon something called oil pulling. I think it's fabulous by the way, but again, that's another post. Along with helping my thrush. I soon discovered that oil pulling with coconut oil was also good for helping dental problems. I had been to the dentist a few month prior and he wanted to have me come back for the beginning stages of a cavity near the gum on one of my upper teeth. I didn't make the appointment. Go ahead and judge, I know I'm horrible. But after oil pulling off and on every day for a while, my tooth no longer hurt. When I went back to the dentist 6 months later, nothing showed up on the x-ray and the dentist never mentioned anything about the tooth...because there was now nothing wrong with it! It didn't...DOESN'T...hurt anymore. Pretty amazing.
The oil pulling with coconut oil led me to find other great reasons to use coconut oil.
For instance, did you know that coconut oil is good for your hair? It is also great for skin care, stress relief, weight loss, improving the immune system, helping digestion and metabolism, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels, remedying kidney problems, high blood pressure, cancer...are you getting sick of the list yet? Well, needless to say, it is a miracle oil!
The benefits of coconut oil are attributed to its being a source of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.
Lauric Acid The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, cytomegalovirus, and even HIV.
and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, soothing, etc.
Coconut oil is made up of more than ninety percent of saturated fats (If you read my previous post you know not to panic!), with traces of few unsaturated fatty acids, such as monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It also is a source of Vitamin-E, Vitamin K and important minerals such as Iron.
One of the best natural nutrition for hair, Coconut oil helps in healthy growth and shiny hair. By regularly massaging your head with coconut oil you can be rid of dandruff, lice, and lice eggs, even if your scalp is dry. It is an excellent conditioner and helps in the re-growth of damaged hair. It also provides the essential proteins required for nourishing damaged hair. Coconut oil is normally applied topically for hair care.
Skin Care: Coconut oil is excellent massage oil for the skin as well. It acts as an effective moisturizer on all types of skins including dry skin. The benefit of coconut oil on the skin is comparable to that of mineral oil. . It also delays wrinkles, and sagging of skin which normally become prominent with age. Coconut oil also helps in treating various skin problems including psoriasis, dermatitis, eczema and other skin infections. But I have found that merely ingesting coconut oil will improve the complexion.
Premature Aging: Coconut oil helps in preventing premature aging and degenerative diseases due to its antioxidant properties.
Heart Diseases: There is a misconception spread among many people that coconut oil is not good for the heart (because it contains a large quantity of saturated fats). However, coconut oil is beneficial for the heart. It contains about 50% lauric acid, which helps in preventing various heart problems including high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. The saturated fats present in coconut oil are not harmful as it happens in case of other vegetables oils. It does not lead to increase in LDL levels. It also reduces the incidence of injury in arteries and therefore helps in preventing atherosclerosis.
Weight Loss: Coconut oil is very useful in reducing weight. It contains short and medium-chain fatty acids that help in taking off excessive weight. It is also easy to digest and it helps in healthy functioning of the thyroid and enzymes systems. Further, it increases the body metabolism by removing stress on pancreases. Studies have been done with people just taking 1 tsp a day of coconut oil and not doing anything different in their diets and losing 3-5 lbs. per year.
Digestion: Internal use of coconut oil occurs primarily as cooking oil. Coconut oil helps in improving the digestive system and thus prevents various stomach and digestion related problems including irritable bowel syndrome. The saturated fats present in coconut oil have anti microbial properties and help in dealing with various bacteria, fungi, parasites, etc., that cause indigestion. Coconut oil also helps in absorption of other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Immunity: Coconut oil is also good for the immune system. It strengthens the immune system as it contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. The human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which is claimed to help in dealing with viruses and bacteria causing diseases such as herpes, influenza, and even HIV. It helps in fighting harmful bacteria such as listeria and harmful protozoa such as giardia.
Healing: When applied on infections, it forms a chemical layer which protects the infected body part from external dust, air, fungi, bacteria and virus. Coconut oil is most effective on bruises as it speeds up the healing process by repairing damaged tissues.
Infections: Coconut oil is very effective against a variety of infections due to its antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. According to the Coconut Research Center, coconut oil kills viruses that cause influenza, measles, hepatitis, herpes, etc. It also kills bacteria that cause ulcers, throat infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and gonorrhea, etc. Coconut oil is also effective on fungi and yeast that cause candida, ringworm, athlete's foot, thrush, diaper rash, etc.
Liver: Coconut oil is easily converted into energy when it reaches the liver, thus reducing work load on the liver and also preventing accumulation of fat.
Kidney: Coconut oil helps in preventing kidney and gall bladder diseases. It also helps in dissolving kidney stones.
Diabetes: Coconut oil helps in controlling blood sugar, and improves the secretion of insulin. It also helps in effective utilization of blood glucose, thereby preventing and treating diabetes.
Bones: As mentioned earlier, coconut oil improves the ability of our body to absorb important minerals. These include calcium and magnesium which are necessary for development of bones. Thus coconut oil is very useful to women who are prone to osteoporosis after middle age.
Dental Care: Calcium is an important element in healthy teeth. Since coconut oil facilitates absorption of calcium by the body, it helps in getting strong teeth. Coconut oil also stops tooth decay.
HIV and Cancer: It is believed that coconut oil plays an instrumental role in reducing viral susceptibility of HIV and cancer patients.
Finally, coconut oil is often preferred by athletes and body builders and by those who are dieting. The reason behind this being that coconut oil contains lesser calories than other oils, its fat content is easily converted into energy and it does not lead to accumulation of fat in the heart and arteries. Coconut oil helps in boosting energy and endurance, and enhances the performance of athletes.
Personally, I love to add coconut oil when I make homemade granola, muffins, banana bread, or stir fry. It would be great in just about anything! Especially if you don't care for the sometimes overpowering taste of olive oil. Coconut oil is subtle and slightly nutty and sweet.
I am dying to try this no-bake cookie with coconut oil and a few others I have seen on various blogs. This lady loves to cook with it. And here is a big list of recipes. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, but doesn't like high heat. When cooking with coconut oil it is optimal to cook at a lower heat for a longer amount of time. But if that won't work...c'est la vie.
I wanted to write a post about one of my very favorite "new" discoveries: Coconut oil.
However, one can't really talk about the benefits of extra-virgin coconut oil without first going into fats in general. So, this post is on the different types of fats and why knowing about them matters. Next post will be on my favorite source for fat: Coconut oil.
Most people now-a-days know to stay away from trans fats, but what they don't know is just how prevalent they really are (ie in margarine, cake mix, pretty much every cracker (including the goldfish you feed to your toddler) almost every granola bar and candy such as starbursts. Start reading the labels because it's in pretty much anything pre-made or boxed. Not to mention deep fried and fast food. Even in some breads).
Trans fats, while openly labeled when they are NOT in a product, are not as easily recognizable when IN something. They hide under many different names, but almost always have the term "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" in it.
So, now, let's talk about just what "hydrogenated" means.
Hydrogenated fats are liquid fats that have been injected with hydrogen gas at high temperatures under high pressure to make the fat solid at room temperature. This process makes them indigestible (goes straight to storage if not used). Another danger about transfats is that they have a different DNA structure than natural fats (unsaturated, polyunsaturated...and even saturated).
My nutrition professor back in college explained it this way:
If a saturated fat strand is shaped this way in the body: VVVVVVV , then every time your body stores fat, they stack up nicely one on top of the other.
Then along comes a transfat strand shaped like this: MMMMMM. It doesn't stack the same, causing a the fat to take up more space in the person's body and the person to actually be LARGER than had they just eaten saturated fats.
But lets get to the real reason to avoid hydrogenated fats. Trans fats have been directly linked to cancer, obesity, immune-system dysfunction, birth defects, sterility, diabetes, to just name a few. YIKES! Those are all things we want to avoid!
Natural fats on the other hand...are fats that were intended for humans to eat (*ahem* they're found in nature and not man-made in a laboratory somewhere. Just eat them in moderation).
Natural fats are fats found in fish, cod liver oil, olive oil, extra-virgin coconut oil, omega-3 eggs (those are produced by free-range chickens allowed to eat grasses), as well as organic grass-fed meats or other organic animal products such as butter, cheeses, yogurt, kefir, and milk.
Perhaps you're thinking, "But those are loaded with saturated fats."
Contrary to common belief, saturated fats are not bad for you (as long as they are from sources stated above and not a Krispy Kreme doughnut). Don't believe me?
Saturated fatty acids make up 50% of all cell membranes. (Hmm...cell formation...that's important)
Saturated fats are needed in order to effectively incorporate calcium into your bones. (Ever heard of osteoporosis? Guess that's important too!)
Saturated fats actually LOWER LP (LP is a substance in the blood that determines if you are proned to heart disease).
It is impossible for a saturated fat to be hydrogenated. The structure of the molecule doesn't allow it.
Saturated fats protect the liver from toxins.
Saturated fats enhance the immune system.
Saturated fats are actually the PREFERRED fuel of the heart (which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated)
Saturated fatty acids found in butter, coconut and palm oil have important microbial properties which protect us from harmful microorganisms in the digestive tract.**
Our bodies were made to consume and use fats. We need fat for our brains, joints and skin. In fact, most people probably know this. We weren't, however, made to eat so much sugar. Too much sugar ruins your teeth, causes liver and kidney problems, causes diabetes and weakens bones by depleting calcium levels in the body.
Why is it then that when people want to lose weight they actually do non-fat or low-fat diets?
We should be doing low-sugar diets! (But that's another post)
So, don't be afraid of fats. Just learn about them and which ones to eat.
**most of this information was taken from The Maker's Diet by Jordan S. Rubin. Excellent read, by the way.
Eating organic kind of crept up on me. I mean, I had previously heard things saying that it's better for you, but I thought, "Maybe, but it's also way more expensive." It wasn't until I found a new friend who eats organically that I began asking questions and really figuring out why it's the better way.
And the clincher for me? I want to have a baby.
I am convinced that my overall health plays a huge role in eventually having the ability to bear a child (or two or three:) I was already beginning to make changes in my diet looking for an answer to my multiple miscarriages. I had tried going off dairy and gone completely gluten-free for a time. And, I had been praying and fasting for answers and guidance as to what to do next. I don't say that to try to convince anyone that this is the only way. I say it only to state that I know for me, going as natural as possible is the right thing to do.
Now that I know it is most likely because of MTHFR A1298C, and the fact that my body doesn't metabolize folic acid the way it should, it made me start to wonder if I could just go to the source for other nutritional discrepancies as well: FOOD.
While I still eat randomly and pig-out somewhat, at least most all of my food choices are fresh and NOT boxed, pre-made, full of preservatives and names I can't pronounce. And I feel a difference. I feel healthier and happier. I'm not skinnier, but I have more energy and even my skin in clearer than it has been in a while. For me, the benefits certainly out-weigh the cost.
My goal for this blog is not to coerce or persuade people into believing or acting a certain way. My intention is to state what I do, why I do it and add a few other voices into the mix. Then, perhaps you will go out, do some more research and decide for yourself. This blog isn't a soap box and I am no politician preaching my agenda. I'm just another blogger with her opinion. Feel free to disagree. But please leave comments :)
Why you should get one (of his zillions of siblings) for a friend of yours:
1. Kefir is a natural. As in, a natural probiotic.
2. He's super easy to have around. I have left him forgotten, sitting in my fridge for months at a time only to put him in a new bottle with fresh milk and voila! He's good as new.
3. He is versatile. Add the kefir milk to fresh oatmeal or make a fruit smoothie. You can even use the milk to make a cool and creamy salad dressing. Not bad.
4. Kefir will beat up the bad guys for you.
5. And, he is good for you. Enough said.
More information about Kefir Kefir is fermented milk that ends up taking the consistency of runny yogurt. You can find it in the stores in a smoothie type bottle, but these do not have the live culture for you to grow on your own. A kefir grain (that's what the cultures are called) looks like a small cauliflower floret (see my picture above). The grains are a combination of bacteria and yeast, as well as small amounts of sugars and proteins. Because kefir is a culture, it will grow in size.
You can make your own kefir by adding the grain to milk (about 7 or 8 TBS milk to 1 TBS kefir). I do this in a glass jar (with lid). Be sure to keep the jar out of direct sunlight. Allow the milk to sit at room temperature for 12+ hours to ferment. If it is warm in your house the kefir will ferment quicker than in a cold atmosphere. If this kind of creeps you out, you can leave the jar in the fridge, but it will take MUCH MUCH longer to thicken. When the liquid is thick like runny yogurt, it is done. Strain the kefir to find the grain and repeat the process. Use the milk mixture as kefir. (Kefir will keep in the refrigerator for months!)
Kefir tastes similar to plain yogurt, but it is an acquired taste. And of course, you can add fresh fruit to it to sweeten it up!
If you linked over earlier in the post, you will know that kefir has many health benefits. Kefir is full of probiotics and vitamins. The coolest thing, in my opinion, is that it actually restructures the bacteria in your intestines (unlike yogurt). And will help digest your food. A lot of people that have IBS or something similar really just need good kefir and then their tummies would be more settled. Kefir also helps with gas and bloating. You could almost just plan on eating some kefir before/after/during every meal and it would help your digestive system tremendously! Additionally, if you have a lactose intolerance, you can still eat kefir because kefir digests the sugars in the milk.
Kefir can also be used as a substitute for buttermilk, sour cream, or yogurt in various recipes. This can depend on the recipe and how long you've cultured the batch of kefir, since the kefir gets more tangy the longer it cultures. And since homemade kefir is cheaper than yogurt, sour cream, or buttermilk, there are endless ways to use it if you want to get creative!
Where can you get a kefir?
The easiest way to obtain some kefir culture is to get some from a friend who is making kefir. Here is a list of people who either sell or give away (sometimes free to local pick-up, or just for the cost of shipping) kefir grains. (You have to email the individuals through that webpage for details.)
You can also find them online or at some health food stores.
Be sure to get kefir grains, not just a "starter", which is sometimes sold. Kefir grains can be used "forever", whereas "starters" can only be used 7 times.
*Many types of milk may be used to culture kefir, but kefir grains that are cultured in non-animal milk will stop growing. Consider using your excess grains to culture soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, etc.