Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Pictures

This year:

Compared to last year:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sprouting Grains

Like soaking grains, sprouting breaks down phytic acid, neutralizes enzyme enhibitors, and makes grain proteins more easily digestible by the body. In addition, sprouting drastically increases the vitamin and protein content of grains, and adds an important live food factor to meals. Sprouted grains are a great base for hearty salads or raw porridge. They can also be dehydrated and ground for an extra nutritious flour. Sprouting is easy and fun! Simply:

Place desired amount of whole grains in a jar and fill with cool water.

Cover jar with a cotton cloth or cheesecloth. Secure in place with a rubber band.

Let sit overnight.

Pour contents of jar into a wire mesh strainer. Rinse well under the faucet.

Cover with a cotton cloth.

Rinse every morning and night until the grain has sprouted.

Different grains take different lenghts of time to sprout. For example, my quinoa usually sprouts in 1/2 day, buckwheat in 2 days, and wheat in 3 days, etc. Air tempurature and humidity often play a factor in the length of time it takes a grain to sprout. Unfortunately, oat groats do not sprout. To store sprouted grains, place in a ziplock bag lined with paper towels and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Soaking Grains

Soaking grains allows enzymes, good bacteria, and other organisms to break down and neutralize phytic acid. This neutralization allows the body to absorb all the grain's naturally occurring nutrients. Soaking also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and encourages production of beneficial enzymes, which further increase the grain's natural vitamin content. In addition, soaking breaks down gluten and other proteins into simpler forms that are more easily absorbed by the body. For best results, soak grains for at least 7 hours in warm water with a small amount of acidic substance (lemon juice, vinegar, or whey).
To soak grains:
  1. Place desired amount of grain in a pot. Add an equal amount of water. (If you start with 1 cup grain, add 1 cup water.) Add a splash ofwhey, raw apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice. (Use approximately 1 tablespoon acidic substance for every 2 cups of grain.)
  2. Cover the pot and let sit for 7-24 hours.
  3. Add a pinch of salt and an equal amount of water. (If you started with 1 cup of grain and 1 cup of water, add another cup of water.)
  4. Bring to a boil and cook as appropriate for the grain type.
The yield is typically twice the starting amount. (If you started with 1 cup of grain, you will end up with about 2 cups of cooked grain.)

Rolled or cracked cereals cook up much quicker when soaked than when not soaked - literally a couple of minutes in high altitudes. My usual weekday breakfast:
  • 1 cup cooked cereal grain: cracked, rolled, or ground oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, cornmeal, rice, or millet (or a combination of two or more grains)
  • 1-2 T extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1 T natural sweetener: raw honey, pure maple syrup, pomegranite molasses
  • 1-2 T freshly ground flaxseeds
  • 1 T bee pollen
  • 1 handful raw nuts: walnuts, pecans, or chopped almonds
  • 1 handful fresh, frozen, or dried fruit

Grinding flaxseeds...

...for this morning's breakfast.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Grain Anatomy: A kernel of grain consists of a hull, bran, endosperm, and embryo.

  • The hull (chaff) protects the inner parts of the kernel while it grows on the plant, but is an irritant and has no nutritional value and so is discarded after harvesting.
  • The bran contains cellulose (which gives a kernel its storage life) and nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, and digestive enzymes). The outer bran layers contain lots of cellulose and a little bit of nutrients, and moving in the layers contain progressively less cellulose and progressively more nutrients. Once the cellulose in the outside bran layer has been penetrated, the nutrients in the inner layers start to deteriorate.
  • The endosperm is the starchy part of the grain. It nourishes the embryo before the plant’s leaves begin photosynthesis.
  • The embryo (germ) sprouts into leaves and roots when germinated. It is high in vitamin B, vitamin E, essential fats, and proteins.
Trivia: In the 1800s, many cultures began removing brown rice’s outer layer to create white rice. At the same time, the incidence of heart disease and nervous system diseases skyrocketed. In 1890, a Dutch doctor recognized the connection between those who ate this “polished” rice and those who suffered from the disease heriberi. He prescribed rice bran “waste” and his patients recovered. Researchers later identified thiamine as the vital ingredient in rice bran. The word “vitamin” originated from the phrase “vital amine.”

Problem: In order to create a flour product that doesn’t need to be refrigerated or frozen, manufacturers remove the embryo of the grain (“de-germinate” the kernel). To extend shelf-life, they further process the grain to remove the nutrients and fiber that spoil quickly. The end product contains approximately 10 percent of the original nutrients. Manufacturers often “enrich” the stripped flour by adding chemical versions of some of the removed nutrients. However, because these chemicals are created in a lab and not nature, they are not easily absorbed by the body and are sometimes toxic. To create white flour, manufacturers go a step further and bleach the flour with numerous chemicals, many of which are toxic and disease-causing. In all, white flour has undergone approximately 20 separate processing steps before reaching the grocery store shelf. Even non-white flour, however, has undergone numerous processing steps that render it nutrient deficient at best and toxic at worst, especially if sold at room temperature.

Solution: Purchase a grain mill or Vita-Mix blender to grind your own flour from whole grains. Store the freshly ground flour in the refrigerator or freezer.

Problem: To create boxed breakfast cereals (including granola), manufacturers subject grain to unnaturally high temperatures and pressures so as to form flakes and other shapes. Like flour, this processing destroys nutrients, causes the natural oils to go rancid, and makes some of the natural proteins toxic.

Solution: Cook your own breakfast cereal from whole, cracked, rolled, or ground grains. Try oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, cornmeal, rice, or millet. Top with freshly ground flax seed; bee pollen; extra virgin coconut oil; raw honey or pure maple syrup; chopped raw nuts; and fresh, frozen, or dried fruit. Very yummy and much cheaper than store-bought cereal!

Problem: All grains contain phytic acid. Untreated phytic acid combines with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc in the intestinal tract and blocks their absorption into the body. This can lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors, which prevent the body from utilizing the enzymes naturally present in the grain. Grain proteins, especially those found in gluten grains are difficult to digest. Regularly over-straining the digestive system with gluten-containing whole grains can result in allergies, celiac disease, and yeast overgrowth.

Solution: Soak, sprout, or ferment whole grains before cooking them. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting grains allows enzymes, lactobacilli (an important type of good bacteria), and other organisms to break down and neutralize the phytic acid. Soaking, sprouting, or fermenting also neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and encourages production of beneficial enzymes, which further increases the grain’s vitamin content (especially the B vitamins). In addition, soaking, sprouting, or fermenting breaks down gluten and other proteins into simpler forms that are more easily absorbed by the body.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Peppermint is my favorite tummy herb - a quick fix for common digestive problems.

At Greek and Roman feasts, revelers crowned themselves with peppermint and enjoyed broths, sauces, ans wines flavored with the herb. Ancient Athenians perfumed each part of their bodies with a different scent, with mint scenting their arms. Ancient cultures also used mint as a restorative (the precursor to smelling salts).

One of the oldest remedies for colic and indigestion, it was officially admitted to the London Pharmacopeia in 1721 and the English began its commercial cultivation in 1750.

Healing Properties
A member of the mint family, peppermint has the following properties:
  • Antacid - corrects overly acidic stomach or bowels, alkalizes blood
  • Anti-emetic - relieves nausea
  • Anti-inflammatory - reduces inflammation
  • Antiviral - destroys viruses
  • Anti-spasmotic - relieves nervous irritation, muscle spasms, convulsions, and cramps
  • Diaphoretic - promotes perspiration, thus detoxing and lowering body temperature
  • Expectorant - eliminates mucus from the throat and lungs
  • Febrifuge - reduces fever
  • Nervine - relieves pain, soothes nerves, supports the nervous system
Peppermint is effective against such conditions as asthma, bad breath, bloating, bronchitis, burping, colic, the common cold, diarrhea, digestive problems and gas, dizziness, dry coughs, fainting, fatigue, fever, the flu, headaches, heartburn, herpes, hiccups, indigestion, irritable bowel, laryngitis, menstrual cramps, motion sickness, nausea, nerves, sinus congestion, sore throat, toothache, and vomiting.

An "activator," peppermint also enhances the medicinal properties of other herbs.

Peppermint leaves and essential oil distilled from fresh cut peppermint contain multiple healing properties. Major components of the oil are menthol, menthone, and menthyl acetate.

Many members of the mint family closely resemble each other, at times making it difficult to distinguish one from the other. However, because mints share many of the same properties, substituting one type of mint for another typically results in similar medicinal effects. Spearmint is a bit milder than peppermint and can effectively be substituted in children's remedies.

Everyone can use peppermint, including babies and pregnant and nursing mamas.

My favorite preparation using peppermint leaves is tea. Simply brew a cup (or quart) of tea and enjoy as needed!

Peppermint essential oil can be placed directly (undiluted) on the skin and is also safe for internal use. To ease a headache, rub a couple drops of oil onto your temples. To ease a toothache, rub a drop onto your gums. To eliminate bad breath, place a single drop of essential oil directly on your tongue or drink a small cup of warm water mixed with 1-5 drops oil.

Strategically place fresh peppermint leaves or cloths scented with peppermint oil as a deterrent against ants, mice, and other rodents.