Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Soaking Flour for Baking Bread

I wasn't very clear about soaking whole grain flours in an acid medium to break down phytates in the flour for making bread. Sorry. Let me see if I can explain it better.

Bread recipes call for flour, water (plus possibly other ingredients, depending on the recipe) and a leavening agent such as dry yeast or a starter. If you use a packaged yeast for the leavening, it doesn't break down the phytates (i.e. destroy the phytic acid) during the fermentation process. If you are using plain ole white flour that has been stripped of its nutrients, it probably doesn't make any difference anyway since the bran containing phytates is long gone.

If you are making a nutritional, whole grain bread, there are phytates in the milled flour, and using a starter rather than packaged yeast will help destroy the phytates. First, the starter (levain, sourdough, etc) has an active microbe population that has already destroyed most of the phytates in it. When you mix the starter with the flour and water called for in the recipe and let it sit in a cool-ish spot overnight to slowly ferment, you are letting the microbes grow and break down (digest) the phytates. This actually amounts to "soaking the flour"...

The more you slow down the fermentation time, the more phytates will be disarmed. So, if you normally mix up the ingredients, let it raise to double, punch down the dough, let it raise once more, then form and bake, you are eliminating some of the phytates. To let the dough rise longer (thus what is called a slow ferment), and punch it down at least once or twice again before forming, you need cooler temps.

My kitchen is generally cool, and I can leave mine on the counter, let it rise and punch it down 2-3 times after it has first fermented overnight, and put-off baking until perhaps 36 hours from when I first began, destroying more of the phytates.

Fermenting more than 48 hours is pretty useless because by then there are few phytates remaining and your dough could begin to spoil as the microbes have nothing to eat. One of the reason to refrigerate starters between use is to keep the living microbes dormant, not dead. Bringing the microbes out of dormancy by putting the starter back in room temperatures and feeding re-activates the starter.

Any of my whole grains to be cooked as a side dish or a cooked cereal, are soaked overnight in water with some Braggs Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. The acid in vinegar will break down the phytates, and the addition of the microbes in this particular raw vinegar will increase the vitamin (nutrient) content.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Time Out

Blogger seems to be having problems today with posts containing photos. Please be patient, and I will get my next post up asap...

Chicken, Spinach and Sprouts

I used my first batch of sprouted mung beans for this dish. Easy to make although I had no recipe. I found the photo on Flickr and it looked so good!

Sauté some sliced mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil with a pat of butter for added flavor. Add cut-up chicken pieces and stir/fry until almost done. Add some fresh spinach, throw in the bean sprouts and cook just long enough to get them warmed. (I would have thrown in some sliced scallions with the chicken pieces if I'd had any.)

I served it with some hot bulgur (topped with a pat of butter) that I had soaked overnight in water with a tad of vinegar. (Rinse well if the smell of vinegar lingers and you don't like it.) It is a quick cooking grain, so it was easily cooked in the time I was also cooking the chicken.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bones for my Bones

Broths made from bones are highly nutritious, and the base for classic gourmet and traditional foods the world over. Did you know if you make it right, broth provides a wealth of minerals in a form our bodies can readily use? Minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and trace minerals are easily absorbed from good stock or broth used in soups, stews and sauces.

Research studies have shown that the gelatin in well-made broths help build strong bones and cartilage. It also helps the digestive system, our muscles and skin tone. By the way, MSG is added to most commercial stocks (and canned soups and sauces) to get the taste of real meat or chicken... and it's toxic to the nervous system. The name is often disguised, but it's there.

Part of my personal nutrition program has to be geared around what I can chew, since I have
mostly "removable teeth" that do not fit well. That means I can elect to put hard foods in a blender, eat yucky baby foods, or occasionally cook up some really nutritious soups and stews from homemade stocks. I think I prefer to make stocks! (Actually I do make stocks, just have not in a long time, nor with a tad of vinegar to dissolve the minerals in the bones. I once always used vinegar, don't remember why I forgot.)
Good stocks also contain chondroiton sulfates and glucosamine, broken down from the cartilage and tendons in the carcasses and/or bones we cook down for broths. I've been paying over $30 a month for those joint supplements and see very little difference except to my pocketbook. (According to Dr. Kaayla Daniel¹, connective tissue regenerates slowly, so don't expect overnight miracles.)

I will write more about recipes for stocks later, but basically you cover bones with water and a little vinegar for a couple of hours, then bring to a boil, skim any scum, and simmer several hours. I'll do the simmer part overnight in my crock pot.

You can add any veggies and/or herbs you choose, but strongly-flavored ones will impart their taste on the stock. I have a freezer container of carrot pulp from making juice, and some odds and ends of cooked vegetable water to add.
Some bones, like beef and lamb, benefit from slow oven roasting before soaking and simmering, giving up a more flavorful broth.

For more information, see
Sally Fallon, and
¹ Dr. Kaayla Daniel

Saturday, March 27, 2010

What sprouts are edible

Sprouting Red Lentils Photo from JoePhoto's photostream

Almost any food-type bean or seed can be sprouted to safely eat, but there are a few exceptions. First is to be sure it is not seed that has been coated with a fungicide for planting in the garden.

Sprouts from potatoes, tomatoes, and kidney beans are toxic. Juice of buckwheat greens should not be eaten daily in quantity; it can cause some people to become overly-sensitive to sunlight. It is also recommended not to eat large quantities of legume sprouts on a daily basis.

The most common sprouts eaten in the USA are alfalfa, mung beans (think Chinese food), radish, quinoa, amaranth, broccoli, lentils, and wheat. Others are things like dill, mustard, clover, arugula and in fact most lettuces, but I haven't tried them. I've never done sunflower sprouts either but I understand they are tasty and can be sown in a shallow tray of dirt.

Wheat and barley are often sprouted and grown into a short grass for juicing. I like wheat grass, and it's good for me, but if it has been more than 5-10 minutes since it was juiced, the taste is terrible!

Mung bean sprouts have more nutritional value than raw spinach. Try some fresh sprouts in a salad or stir-fry, or alfalfa sprouts in place of lettuce on a sandwich. YUM!

Starting my edible sprouts

I have finally started sprouting some seeds myself, for some better nutrition, and so far it's disappointing. I bought organic mung beans last week at the Roanoke Natural Foods Coop, and also some alfalfa seeds. I started the mung beans about 4 days ago, and they aren't doing well.

Actually, that's not quite true. Some are doing quite well. I know the problem is not me, nor the water... I've been growing mung bean sprouts since the 1970's and I rinse them at least twice a day, and they get plenty of air so they don't moldy.

Close inspection shows about half have no germination whatsoever. Most of the unsprouted beans look like slightly swollen brown peas, squishy as though almost rotten. I'm thinking the beans are very old and probably were not good even when fresh. Over the years I have successfully sprouted mung beans that I've had stored in a mason jar in the pantry for a year or more so it may be more than just age.

I haven't started the alfalfa seeds yet, but they came from the same store. The alfalfa seeds were in a Frontier Herbs bulk gallon jug, and if indeed they are from Frontier, I should have no problems.

When I started the mung beans, I also soaked some hard winter wheat berries to sprout. I want to sprout, dry and grind some sprouted wheat berries for flour to add to breads. I trashed those berries today. Admittedly, I have had those wheat berries in a container for an overly-long time, part of my
'just in case it all GTHIAHB' stash. They did swell up, and by late the 2nd day tiny nubbins of a sprout began to emerge on a large percentage of the old berries. Never got any better with repeated rinsing though, so today they went into the compost. I did buy some fresh wheat berries 2 days ago, and will start them tomorrow.

One other thing I am doing is making my own sourdough starter from scratch, which is just flour and water, and whatever natural yeast is on the wheat bran and in the air. It is doing okay so far, doubling twice a day when I discard half and feed it.

Our water here is highly chlorinated city water, which I won't even drink, much less use to soak seeds or use in my starter. A notation I have come across several times is to use slightly acidic water, so I guess I need some pH strips to see what the pH of the bottled water I'm using really is.

The new battery for my camera came, and a new charger. I may have wasted my money. The battery was in the travel charger overnight, yet read zero once in the camera today. Just in case, I put it back on the charger and plugged it into the cigarette lighter receptacle in my truck. At any rate, I still cannot take photos to show what I am doing. Sigh.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Friday Laugh

I was gonna save this until fishin' time around here, but today is so dreary... just plain cold and nasty after the last few warm, lovely days.

I 'figgered' we all can use a good laugh at the end of the week!

Bill Dance's classic fishing bloopers

Thoughts after reading the News lastnight...

Many years ago I attended a 3 day class on effective sales marketing and negotiating. The news today just reminded me of a story told to our class:

Years ago during the Cold War, the Russians put some preposterous idea on the table. The Americans said it was ludicrous, and walked out.

Fast forward one year: The Russians again put the same proposal on the table, and again the Americans walked out in disgust.

Next Meeting: the Russians once again put the same proposal on the table, and this time the Americans agreed.

Why? The theory is that when we hear the same untenable thing again and again and again, we become subconsciously accustomed to the idea, it has become familiar... making it more acceptable in our conscious minds.

I noticed a similar syndrome in the news tonight, in a story about the select congressional staffers who were among those who wrote the new health care bill and who will be exempt from mandated inclusion. By saying,
"If I have to buy into it, then so should everyone" you are tacitly agreeing to and accepting the bill in your mind, even if you are really against the bill for all the included inequities.

Another item that caught me eye in the news tonight was public job approval ratings. We always hear numbers slung about regarding the President's Job Approval Rating, but tonight I saw a job approval rating for Congress. 77% of the public disapprove!

President Obama said today that Americans in November will not vote out the people who passed the health care bill. I wonder if he saw the public approval ratings for Congress?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

How Much Plastic Do You Eat?

Photo from Tobytrotter's photostream

I bet you eat more plastic than you think! Most of us are aware of the health warnings about drinking water and sodas from plastic bottles... and most of us do it anyway. Recently I've been reading about the cumulative effects of ingested plastics, and finding I wasn't aware of all the containers that leach plastic into foods, or what ingested plastics can do to my body.

If you stop for a hot cup of coffee on your way to work, ask for it in a lined paper cup rather than styrofoam. Yes, you will still get BPA from the heated plastic liner, but not as much as from a foam cup. Styrofoam leaches styrene, a compound linked to cancer. Taking along your refillable drinking mug won't help much unless it's a stainless steel cup.
(You can get a good insulated stainless steel mug without a plastic lip or liner for under $10; I just did.)

Research statistics now show over 93% of Americans have
detectable levels of BPA in our systems*. People who re-fill plastic water bottles have been tested, and results show that in only a week, the detectable amounts of BPA in urine samples can increase by as much as 70%*.

I read the plastic wrap you buy to use at home in increasingly available made from polyethylene, rather than the more harmful PVC marketed for years, although I have not noticed any in my stores yet. Most meat in the grocery stores' meat department
is plastic-wrapped in PVC, and for years I've read to re-package it before freezing, or even refrigerating it. Most people don't.
So why is all this important? After all, it's just small amounts, right?

The plastics we ingest even in minute amounts are endocrine disruptors (EDC's, which stands for Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, and are starting to be called
Obesogens by Researchers) and they can affect our endocrine system even in amounts so small as to be almost impossible to measure. Our endocrines control our sleep, moods, metabolism, hunger, sex drive... The fight or flight syndrome of the adrenals is another function.

Did you know the plastics you ingest contribute to weight gain? That's because EDC's from PVC's (the phthalates) inhibit the hormone testosterone, and low levels of testosterone lead to weight gain and a decrease in muscle mass. EDC's from phthalates and BPA's mimic the hormone estrogen, and can predispose your body from an early age to gain fat.

These plastics are now called "Contact Food Substances" by the FDA, but they were called "Indirect Food Additives" by the FDA prior to 2002. Payoffs at play that cleansed the implications of plastics in our foods?

Common sense should remind you that since heated plastics leach harmful chemicals, then you shouldn't use them in a microwave... not even those 'microwavable' packages from the freezer section (heating the plastics creates free radicals). Over 6 billion pounds of BPA (found in metal food can linings, plastic soda bottles, baby bottles, and even medical supplies) are produced every year, and it leaches into our foods, daily.

Then there's the environmental concern over plastics. Our oceans now have 6 times more plastic floating on them than plankton! In case you forgot, plankton is a major food source for marine animals. There are even 2 "Garbage Patches" of floating plastic on our oceans that are each bigger than the entire land mass of Texas.

So, please try not to eat so much plastics for your own health, and try not to use and dispose of so many plastics for the health of our planet. (I'll be writing more later on about non-plastic Obesogens.)

* Study from Harvard University and the Center for Disease Control and Protection

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm Revisiting Adelle Davis

I have owned the nutritional books* by Adelle Davis for maybe 50 years (and yes, they are dog-eared), and it is because of her that I first became interested in nutrition. At the time I began reading her work, I was employed in research and development at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Talks with my colleagues soon disclosed they were taught lots about how to treat diseases, very little about nutrition, and almost nothing about the link between disease and poor nutrition.

Today that's not the case in most medical schools, but the trend is still to treat the disease and not prevent the cause.

If you are not familiar with Adelle Davis, she was a nutritionist (Master's Degree from Purdue) who later took an advanced degree in Biochemistry after extensive post-graduate work at Columbia. Ms. Davis was an unrelenting critic of the food industry, and her views were largely unaccepted by the scientific community at the time. She, of course, has since been vindicated by the weight of medical evidence, and honored by many notables in her field.

Ms. Davis advocated whole, unprocessed foods, and criticized food additives. In the 1970's while addressing a convention of cancer victims and friends, she cited USDA statistics on millions of people in the US suffering from heart disease, cancers and other diseases, and then she said,
"This is what's happening to us in America, because there is a $125 billion food industry who cares nothing about health." *

Not much has changed in 40 years, except the numbers have increased.

(Not everything she advocated would be acceptable today, either. For example, she suggested eating liver at least once a week. I might do that occasionally IF I could get grass-fed beef liver, but the liver is a filter and there's no way I'd eat a filter from an animal in a feedlot.)

What brought Adelle Davis to mind this morning was a story she told about an infant. I don't remember the particulars, but when she gave a teaspoon of some oil (cold-pressed, I'm sure) to the child for whatever was causing his distress, his face lit up with joy.

Our bodies know what's good for us, if we would only learn to listen. Last evening I put 1 tablespoon of Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar in 8 ounces of spring water to drink, as part of inching my body's pH back to being more alkaline.

My body really liked it, and I could have consumed 3 glasses! I put a half-teaspoon of local honey in the first glass (2 hours after supper) but left it out in the bedtime glass. Frankly, it was just as good without the honey... and not calorie-laden.

It's also time for me to re-read Adelle Davis...

* Adelle Davis' books on nutrition include Let's Cook it Right, Let's Have Healthy Children, Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit, and Let's Get Well. They are out of print, and a paperback copy can sell from $5 to almost $200. I read that The Adelle Davis Foundation was going to consider republishing them in 2006 but I guess that hasn't happened yet.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Feeling Disturbed, Isolated and Very Alone...

I must admit tonight I am deeply disturbed by a number of things happening all over my country: some are happening in my government, some are happening in my food supply, and some are happening in many of my fellow Americans. And it seems there's not a thing I can do about any of it.

I think I almost understand what some of the Native Americans must have felt at what the White Eyes did to them... slowly... but inexorably.

I read a lot of blogs... blogs of all kinds. I read some because they tinker, or garden as I do, or they eat or cook as I do, or they have the same issues about government control of our food as I do. Or, they write tantalizing word pictures that dance around in my imagination and all's right in my world.

I also read a lot of the political fringe blogs just to know what they are thinking... and I even agree with some of them who think our federal government has been overstepping its bounds with laws that are not legal under our Constitution. Where in our Constitution does it say the government should control automobile manufacturing? Or control the financial sector? Or health care?

The health care bill that just passed could be the place where many will finally draw the line. Already several states have begun the legal process to challenge the new health care legislation as unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, a militant blogger is encouraging civil disobedience via throwing bricks through the windows of political (Democratic) offices, and those acts are being reported in several states just today. Personally, I think encouraging something like sit-ins would have been smarter. I don't agree with violence, even when the militants say violence put Hitler out of business... and Mussolini... and kept Texas from being Mexican.

The new health care bill is over 2,000 pages long and I have only read portions of it. Frankly, I wonder who has read it in its entirety. (Sound familiar, kinda like the Patriot Act that passed without anyone but the authors reading it, or even having a copy, because politicians were in fear after 9-11?) And just what are the 'earmarks' for 13 states in the final health care bill?

I do know part of the bill just passed allows for something like 27,000 new IRS agents. Dunno what for though, since that agenda wasn't noted. Sunday night, soon after passage of the bill, I heard a Senator from Tennessee (my closest news station is in Tennessee) say on TV that Tennessee cannot afford the matching funds required by this bill. The state is already in the red and has already cut many Medicare programs across the state, even limiting how many doctor's visits you can have. (Medicare is always partly funded by each state.)

Here's what another blogger posted, and although I don't agree with a lot he says, I tend to agree with this: "At the heart of the Medicare reform battle was a very simple fact. The current Medicare program is broke. The current Social Security program is broke. Most of the States in the nation are broke. America must borrow a billion dollars a day to maintain its huge entitlement programs. The interest on treasury notes alone is daunting."

I feel very alone, very isolated by the government of this country that I love and is my home, isolated even by the governments at the state and local level who are required to report any dissent to Homeland Security. I doubt Homeland Security knows or cares that I don't like okra, but you can bet they know I don't like how Monsanto and Friends 'buy' favorable government rulings.

To say what I think anymore is to be labeled anti-government, which equals terrorist in their minds.

'Black or Brown' A1/A2 Cow Milk Controversy

Yes, there IS a controversy over milk from black cows versus milk from brown cows, but actually it's the A1 milk vs the A2 milk. Color matters.


For several years now scientific testing of milk has been turning up some interesting facts that vary the healthfulness of milk from certain cows. Milk contains casein, which is a protein... more specifically, beta-casein. Beta casein contains an amino acid called BCM-7, a powerful opiate linked to negative health effects such as Type 1 Diabetes, heart disease, neurological impairment including autistic and schizophrenic changes and auto-immune disease.

Beta casein from older breeds of cows (like the brown & white Jersey and Guernsey cows) contains an amino acid called
proline. (There will not be a test, so don't worry!) These cows typically produce A2 milk where the proline bonds to the BCM-7, which keeps it OUT of the milk.

In newer breeds of cows like the black & white Holstein cows, the amino acid proline has mutated to one named
histadine. Histadine does not bond to BCM-7, so BCM-7 gets INTO the milk; that's called A1 milk and it is typically produced by Holsteins.

Why haven't we heard any of this?
It's Easy. Follow the Money... The predominant cow for dairy products in the US is the Holstein cow. No one outside the dairy industry has any interest in paying for milk research, and the dairy industry likely won't pay for the research because it would be financially devastating regarding their herds.

Nonetheless, I understand many American and Canadian breeders are routinely testing herds for A2 genetics and breeding accordingly. There is still much research needed in order to be fully conclusive about A1 or A2 milk and disease.

I'd also like to see some
conclusive evidence that grain-fed, pasteurized CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) milk is dangerous. Let us drink healthy raw milk if we so choose!

Because dead milk is dead milk, whether the cow is brown or black, I'll just find someone who sells raw milk from a brown cow and buy half the cow.

For more information: The Bovine; Real Milk.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It's Time...!

It's time to start gardening again! Friday and Saturday the moon was in Taurus, and a good time to start above ground, cool weather crops.

I planted spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, and a small-headed cabbage, and peas (including snow peas and sugar snaps). Some were seeds, while the brassicas were nursery seedlings from Southern States.

Even though today is the spring equinox, it is far from 'planting weather' for most things, and I hope these I just planted do well. Last year I didn't plant brussels sprouts until May and they didn't develop edible sprouts until fall!

We will still have many cold snaps and occasional frosts here in the mountains before the middle or so of May. Ugh. I am SO ready for warm weather!

I managed to do some repairs and clean-up on half my raspberry patch yesterday, too. I am slowly replacing the first wires I used for my 'trellis' as they continually stretched (in spite of being advertised on the package as no-stretch) and let the canes flop over and into the walkway between the rows. (You can read about the initial building of my bramble trellis here.) I have replaced 75% of the wires so far, and now I can get a taut restraint for my canes.

In my original design, I only used 3 horizontal wires on each side of a row. I'm thinking I should probably add a 4th wire for better control of new canes as they are growing. Same overall height as I now have for the wires, only spaced closer together nearer the bottom to contain new canes before they even get 2' tall.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Broccoli and Friends

Didn't your mother say, "Eat your broccoli"?

The cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, bok choy, and cauliflower (Brassicas) are good for us under some circumstances. It just so happens I like them, especially broccoli. Yum!

The "good for us" part is that they contain a substance called I3C; when they are chewed, swallowed, and get to the stomach acid, I3C's combine to form another substance (DIM) that causes the liver to block some toxic enzymes, and helps protect the body against environmental estrogens. (Technical information here.) Most of our foods come to us carrying residues of herbicides, pesticides and even residues from plastic packaging; these substances all have estrogen-like endocrine disruptors.

It is suggested to eat these cruciferous vegetables every day (and eat lots of them) to fight disease, especially cancer. That's the good news.

The bad news is that cooking deactivates the good-healthy-for-us I3C. Additionally, cruciferous vegetables contain goitrogens which inhibit thyroid function, and for someone like me with a low thyroid condition, it's a big problem. (Your thyroid controls how quickly the body uses energy, and how it makes proteins.) So that means cooking brassicas isn't good for anyone because it deactivates I3C. Eating them raw is fine if your digestive system can handle it. (I love raw broccoli on a crudities tray but it always gives me terrible indigestion.)

So the answer is to learn to make and eat your cruciferous vegetables fermented, because culturing maintains the I3C which would be lost by cooking, and culturing neutralizes the thyroid-depressing substances. By cultured, I mean more than just pickles and sauerkraut. Fermented cauliflower and carrots would be a nice topping on a garden salad, and I love a few pickled onions on a sandwich. I have Sandor Katz' book on wild fermentation, but a quick glimpse on Amazon lists several books that contain basic fermenting techniques and recipes.

When I was a young adult, my boyfriend and I frequented a few Jewish Deli's over on Miami Beach. On every table, right along with the ubiquitous salt and pepper, was always a relish tray with small bowls of sauerkraut, and other pickled (fermented) vegetables. Howie said it was for good digestion.

I never thought about it much back then, but now it makes perfect sense to me. Cultured Raw Vegetables contain high amounts of probiotics, and ingesting just a little bit of all those natural enzymes aids our digestion and begins to re-colonize our intestinal tract with the good guys.

Just FYI: Canola oil is made from rapeseed, which is a Brassica.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Are We Getting Dumber?

The University of Virginia Hospital is a huge complex, part of the UVa School of Medicine, and also part of their nursing school... and it is where I travel 250 miles to see specialists in health care not available locally.

When I first started going up there 3 years ago, the parking garage spat out a stiff paper slip with a time stamp on it. Once at the appointed office, someone would rubber-stamp my parking slip, which I gave to the attendant when exiting the garage, and got free parking.

Last fall, the slips had become larger green slips with a magnetic stripe. The offices gave me a pink slip with a magnetic stripe to turn in with the green one for free parking. There was still an attendant, and I assumed some change-over was in process.

The University must have spent millions for the magnetic time-stamp system, and the machines I saw today upon exiting the garage. The machines have a slot to insert the green slip, visually marked, and another slot to insert the pink slip to "pay" the parking... and the gates open.

Only... there is still an attendant, just no longer in the booth. The attendant takes your green slip and inserts it in the machine, then inserts the pink slip in the appropriately marked slot, and the gate bar rises. I asked her why, and her reply was that people couldn't figure out how to do it.

Now I'm no mental giant, but even a 5 year old kid should be competent enough without even being able to read... See the picture of the green slip, magnetic stripe up, and a huge arrow to the slot. Put the green slip in the green slot. Same for the pink slip. Duh.

The University has spent millions for a system we are too dumb to use, and so they must pay for both the system AND the attendants. I wonder what that will add to the cost of my health care? I wonder if that kind of expense is in the fine print of any health-care bill?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Love Vanilla?

I have read several glowing reports about this vanilla, Vanilla Bean Crush, and I have an order ready for when my next check comes in. I thought I'd pass the information along in case you never heard of it and might be interested. Additionally, 10% of the selling price goes for a great cause.

KAF (King Arthur Flour)
carries it, (be sure to read all the reviews) and the manufacturer's site is here. It is an artisanal syrup of crushed whole vanilla beans (Madagascar Bourbon and Tahitian), and one of the things I promised to make with it is hand-cranked homemade vanilla ice cream (with the help of my niece) this summer. Breyer's used to make a decent vanilla-bean ice cream, but not anymore.

Somewhere in my recipe mess I have an old family recipe for a cooked custard base for
vanilla ice cream. I haven't made it in years but I can still remember the taste. YUM!

Soaking Grains and Legumes

I have soaked beans overnight for years, thinking it both softened the beans thus reducing cooking time, and eliminating some of the gas produced in the intestines during digestion. Now, with my research into phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors found in legumes and grains, I have a better understanding of the process, and how to improve it.

Usually I soak beans overnight with at least 2 changes of water. Now with the information about neutralizing the antinutrients by soaking in an acid medium, I can do better. Sally Fallon (Nourishing Traditions) recommends adding 2 tablespoons of an acid medium per cup of grains or legumes to the soaking water. (I'll cover milled grains/flours in another post later.)

My preference for the acid medium will be Bragg's Raw Apple Cider Vinegar because the friendly bacteria in it will inhibit unwanted bacteria that could contaminate my soaking water. The next day, rinse well, and cook as you normally do.
For years I have read Asian rice recipes where they soak rice overnight with a few changes of water. I thought it a cultural thing, not an improvement to the bioavailability of the nutrients in the food. So, yes, you can use just plain water, as I have done with my beans for years, but it will only break down a small portion of the phytic acid.

I happen to like the taste of a good vinegar, but if you do not, there are several other acid mediums you can use although the proportions should remain the same. You can use buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, whey, milk with fresh lemon juice to acidify it, cultured milk, regular vinegar, and lemon juice. There are probably other acids that will work, too, so feel free to experiment.

I cook a lot of whole grains like brown rice, bulgur, millet, quinoa, barley (both hulled and pearled), kamut, steel-cut oats and oat groats. You can be sure that my grains will be properly soaked from now on!

Update July 2010:
I finally (and reluctantly) have had to accept the idea that our systems are not designed to process grains, seeds, or beans after seeing the incredible improvement in my health and well-being without eating them for several months. Although I miss those items, I no longer eat any grains, seeds, or beans and only the occasional soaked nut meats. It still doesn't feel right (it's hard to eradicate what I was taught for so many years), but I cannot deny the improvement!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sourdough Bread and Soaking Grains

In my post about antinutrients, I passed along Sally Fallon's recommendation of soaking legumes and grains overnight in an acidulated medium, but I didn't say why. The
'why' is very important, whether making sourdough bread, beans, or soaking milled whole grain flour overnight for pancakes.

An acidulated soaking medium such as buttermilk, raw apple cider vinegar or lemon juice in water, kefir, yogurt or whey contains enzymes and beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus. (The skin on your arms holds enough friendly bacteria to make a sourdough starter!) As the bacteria break down the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in either whole grains or milled flour, they also multiply, thus increasing the beneficial enzymes and vitamins produced by their activity.

Just last week I read about a zillion pages on the internet about making bread. I have made bread many times (usually the basic recipe from the Tassajara Monastery in California), but would never call myself anything but a novice, thus all the recent reading.

However, combining what I have learned about soaking grains with the many bread baking sites I've read and bookmarked, I have thus far concluded that if I am to learn to make the nutritionally best everyday bread for myself, it needs to be a long-ferment sourdough.

When I return from my current trip to UVa on Wednesday, I intend to begin my own starter, or maybe 2, with one being helped by some very old starter from a friend. It will not be a quick project, as I understand starters change and get better with age. I do not plan to use any added yeast, either... just sourdough.

Bread won't happen for a while, and I expect I'll be looking at a long string of failures as I learn. I will no doubt buy some packaged sourdough starters along the way, just to have somewhat edible bread, and to see what different tastes develop with other starters and other grains.
I will probably make the occasional yeasted bread too, just for variety.

I'm taking my camera to the shop on my trip. The battery will not charge and I'm hoping it is just the lithium battery and not the charger. I need it to take pictures during my bread project, including the failures.

By the way, several bread blogs I read mentioned Sally Fallon's buttermilk soaking of the milled wheat flour. Most said it was a heavier, more dense bread that they preferred, but switching to raw apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice produced a more satisfactory product. Either way, you should read the book. Your local library probably has a copy.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I'm already hearing from acquaintances who strongly disagree with what I am posting about soy. And that's okay ... the First Amendment guarantees our Right to say what we think (and the Right to have poor nutrition if we so choose!).
As my old pastor said, "I may not believe what you have to say... but I would give my life to defend your right to say it."

Nothing I have seen in this life is ever just black and white, and no person I've ever met or read about has all the answers. I merely write what I uncover and how it applies to my heath. If what I write also happens to be of interest or possible benefit to you, that's wonderful. If it offends you, please don't read it.

What disappoints me, though, is that these are intelligent people who have bought lock, stock and barrel* the long-running and expensive advertising myth about soy. There's a current ad running on TV that says soy has been in the diet of Asians and other ethnic groups for thousands of years, and that there is correlation to lower incidence of disease in that population. So it must be safe, right?

Technically, that TV advertising statement is correct. Soy has been consumed for thousands of years, but in it's fermented form (like soy sauce, tamari, tofu and tempeh which break down the antinutrients), and even then, they ate it more as a condiment or only in small quantities. You can be sure it wasn't Roundup Ready soy, either.

As far as disease, native cultures around the world had far better health and much less disease, thanks to the unprocessed foods in their diet. Since they also had no refrigerators, much of their food was fermented to keep over the winter, and historically, their grains were soaked before cooking.

The medical literature is full of case studies showing startling increases in disease with the introduction of 'western (i.e. processed) foods' . That initial observation was the foundation of the research by Dr. Weston Price: the comparison of disease including tooth decay in the western diet of processed foods vs. the health-building diet of unprocessed foods eaten by native cultures.

There is also a lot of controversy about soy milk in infant formula. I'm not going to wage a crusade against that issue (infant formula) because it's all been documented already. It's basically a battle of BigAg profits vs. health, and personally I question any medical research supported by grants from BigAg, right along with pay-offs via campaign contributions and 'gifts' to elected officials who "assure" our food quality.

*although a well-known phrase since the 1800's, I like how Rudyard Kipling used it: "The whole thing, lock, stock and barrel, isn't worth one big yellow sea-poppy." ~ The Light That Failed

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Milk Chuckle...

As I have written before, I'm looking for raw milk... to drink, and to make cheese, kefir or whatever. I still haven't found a cow share yet, but I have been buying local milk in glass jugs.

The last jug bought 2 days ago is not homogenized (which I had not seen on the shelves before), so I bought a jug to try, put in the fridge, and then promptly forgot I bought milk that wasn't homogenized.

This morning when I went to add milk to my coffee, out poured this thick, almost chunky stuff and my knee-jerk reaction was "spoiled milk".
It has been so many years since I saw milk with the cream on top that it took several seconds for my brain to process what my eyes were seeing!

I love the taste of this milk; I love that plastic jugs aren't going to the landfill, and plastic residues aren't going into my system. I also love that the milk seems colder in the glass jugs.


Wow, a new word for me! Antinutrients. I might have thought to make up such a word, but I would have been too late: it's been around a long time already. I just hadn't heard that particular word (or maybe just not noticed!), even though I know the names of some in the group, like oxalic acid and phytic acid.

Antinutrients are compounds (natural or synthetic) that interfere with our body's ability to absorb nutrients. A few posts back I mentioned changing some of my food habits, and said that I should soak legumes, grains and flour overnight for a short fermentation. That's because these foods contain phytic acid, usually found in the bran and husk.

Phytic acid is an organic acid to which phosphorus is bound.
If it is untreated (not soaked/fermented), phytic acid combines with calcium, magnesium and zinc in our intestines thus blocking their absorption. It also binds a few other minerals like copper and iron, but I'm aiming at the major ones for building or maintaining bones and muscles here.

If I take calcium supplements daily, and eat beans or bread (other than long-fermented homemade sourdough), I have done nothing to provide calcium to my old, thinning bones. If I take magnesium for leg cramps, the regular bread and/or beans I have eaten keeps it from reaching my muscles.

Sally Fallon, in Nourishing Traditions, points out whole grains and legumes also contain other antinutrients including enzyme inhibitors which stress the pancreas; complex sugars the body cannot break down, and proteins like gluten which may cause distress and digestive problems in some people.

As a gardener, I understand perfectly her description of why seeds have antinutrients. They protect the seed from sprouting... until conditions are right with warmth, moisture and slight acidity.

So if we imitate those conditions by overnight soaking in warm, acidulated water for beans, pancakes or cooked cereal, or the long, slow sourdough ferment for bread, we neutralize the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Vitamin content increases, esp. the B vitamin's, and tannins, complex sugars, gluten and other difficult to digest substances are partially broken down and easier to digest. We then absorb the minerals in them when eaten, too.

Ms. Fallon also reminds us that fat-soluble Vitamins A and D found in animal fats like butter, cheese and cream help us absorb calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, and other minerals and nutrients found in grains. So, put cream on your cooked cereal, and butter or whipped cream on your fresh bread and pancakes!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hyrdolyzed Vegetable Protein

iStockphoto © Westhoff

A current USDA Food Recall cites HVP (Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein) as the culprit carrying salmonella in some ready-to-eat beef products.

So what IS HVP, really? Well, basically it's MSG. And it's everywhere. And it's highly addictive, encouraging us to eat more and more (increasing our waistlines and the manufacturer's bottom line). Since the uproar over MSG several years ago, it now hides behind more than
45 different names such as 'natural flavoring' and the FDA has set no limit on how much can be added to our foods.

HVP is made by boiling legumes (usually soy beans) in hydrochloric acid and then neutralizing the solution with sodium hydroxide. The hydrochloric acid breaks down the proteins into their various component amino acids, such as glutamic acid, aka MSG, which is used as a flavor enhancer in processed foods.

There are hundreds of studies showing long-term damage from MSG, and a strong link to obesity. (One of the things MSG does in the human body is triple the amount of insulin the pancreas creates.)
If you go to the US Government's pubmed and type in 'MSG Obesity' you will find more than 200 studies posted.

MSG is an 'Excitotoxin' and a broad range of neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and even strokes) are linked, in part, to them. Even the typical memory loss attributed to age is thought to be linked in part to the excitotoxins.

In posting yesterday about my thyroid condition and soy, I named
Soy Protein Isolate or SPI, which is also a flavor enhancer like HVP. From my research online, I cannot actually tell if SPI and HVP are identical, but they sure have the same effect on our bodies.

This article names many common foods probably in your pantry containing MSG (even if hidden under another name) plus a list of many fast food places that serve foods with hidden MSG. The list is startling, and appalling.

And to cap it all, soy is the leading commercial GM crop in the USA, with 91% of all soybeans grown here being GM. Cotton, Corn and Canola follow closely with 88%, 88% and 85%.

Friday, March 12, 2010

My Thyroid Condition, and Soy

Just a quick post. My Endocrine Doctor from UVa just called; she is putting me on thyroid medications. My thyroid is functioning, but only putting out low amounts, and she's not sure why, yet.

Coincidentally, I am currently researching antinutrients for some upcoming posts. One thing I have been against for many years is soy as a food. (I will write/post about that later.)
Then right after my doctor called, I came across a notation that soy is in most supermarket foods. That comment didn't concern me as I read it because I don't eat soy products unless they have a long, slow fermentation like true tamari or soy sauce.

However, then I further read that almost all supermarket breads, rolls, muffins, etc. contains soy.
Huh? I never see that on the label. I read labels. Always. Often I see 'isoflavones' on a label, and really hadn't thought much about it. Well, Duh! Isoflavones are generally made from beans. Soybeans. Almost all artificial flavorings, flavor enhancers, preservatives, synthetic nutrients and sweeteners are made with Soy Protein Isolate, SPI.

So what does that have to do with my thyroid? Soy contains goitrogens, which are substances that depress thyroid function!

Oh, there is much more to say about soy and its negative effects on our bodies, but that's for another day...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pelosi Speaks...

Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, is second in the line of presidential succession if something should happen to the President; the Vice President is first in line.

Speaking about the Health Care Bill, Pelosi said: "We Have to Pass the Bill So That You Can Find Out What Is In It"


Monday, March 8, 2010

pH Balance in the Body

One of my goals is to eat better to help balance the pH of my body. The body works hard to keep a pH of about 7.4 (mildly alkaline) in critical body fluids. When the pH is in the proper range, we use oxygen more efficiently to burn sugar and make energy. When the pH isn't in the right range we get free radicals, and put more stress on the body and the ability to utilize the all-important building blocks of minerals and proteins.

Much like our garden soils, our bodies may have enough mineral intake but are unable to use them in the form they are in. Among other things, a deficiency in bioavailable minerals gives us leg/muscle cramps, eye twitches, and fragile bones/teeth. I have read that yeast infections and poor digestion are also indications of the body being too acidic.

When we crave sugars it's often because the body is acidic, rather than alkaline... in other words, a slightly alkaline body doesn't crave sugar. Sugars and refined fatty acids induce an acidic pH and the body has to work hard to regain balance.

From what I have read so far, merely eating a diet high in alkaline foods won't do the trick. We need to consume the right fatty acids (like Omega-3) and minerals, which work together to help create and maintain health, which includes pH balance. I suspect there was a time (before factory farms and all the pesticides and herbicides developed to adapt chemical munitions plants to still making profits after the 2 world wars) when our foods supplied all the ingredients we needed to balance pH. Well, maybe not the cowboy fare of beans, beans and beans...

Somewhere I read that the best diet for pH balance should be 75% alkalizing foods and 25% acidifying foods. If that's true, my diet is out of whack with too many acidifying foods like meat (including chicken), grain products and flours, beans and legumes, and dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt. Until summer garden time, I'd say my diet is probably 10% alkalizing foods like fresh veggies and fruits.

There are some things I can do before garden season. One is to grow and eat sprouts, and eat more winter squash and sweet potatoes rather than white potatoes and pasta. Another thing I can do is pre-soak grains and flour in buttermilk or raw apple cider vinegar, giving them a mild fermentation overnight.

Fermented foods are good for us. "Hundreds of medical and scientific studies confirm what folklore has always known: Fermented foods help people stay healthy. Many of your favorite foods and drinks are probably fermented. For instance: bread, cheese, wine, beer, mead, fresh cider, chocolate, coffee, tea, pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, real soy sauce, vinegar, yogurt, kefir, kombucha." ~
Sandor Ellix Katz

Real fermented vegetables are alkalizing, but you seldom find them in most stores. What is sold is usually heat-processed which nullifies most of the positive effects.
Look at orange juice. If it's reconstituted, or frozen, or even just pasteurized, it's acidic; but if you squeeze it yourself, it's alkaline.

I fully intend to ferment more vegetables this summer. I only have 2 actual fermenting crocks, but quart or half-gallon canning jars will work just fine with some tweaking to keep out unwanted bacteria. I knew a young couple in Europe who made their living making and selling fermented vegetables at several farmer's markets every week. I remember the husband said they made over 100 different kinds, which I assume is 100 different vegetable medleys. I've made sauerkraut and pickles, but it's just as easy to ferment cauliflower or carrots, or whatever. Plus, I have an ideal place to store them on shelves in my root cellar where they will remain cool.

None of this is intended as medical or health advice of any kind. It's merely the story of what I am currently doing for my own health. Even with what I can grow, and afford to purchase that's organic, my nutrition will still not be optimum... meaning I will still need to add supplements such as calcium, Vitamin D3 and Omega-3.

Work for 224 Days just to pay Federal Spending

When I was younger and still in the working class, I remember reading that we worked until sometime in early May each year just to pay for government spending. Last year (2009) that
figure rose to 224 days, or August 12, just to pay for federal, state and local governments. That figure is a full 26 days more than the previous year!

That's a whopping 61.34% of national income. Can you imagine what it will be next year and years following, thanks to the Stimulus Package (
ARRA), TARP, and other new federal spending? Federal spending has reached a record 28.5% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product), which is often called GDI (Gross Domestic Income). It is the measured value of all goods and services produced within the borders of a country and is generally used to measure the standard of living.

There's an interesting chart here on tax bites. We pay an average of over 46% tax on cable services (TV and internet) and cell phones, and nearly 52% tax on telephone land lines and gasoline. The so-called "sin" taxes are 56% on beer, 79.6% on distilled spirits and 86.71% on cigarettes.

I bet those so-called "sin" items make up a large percentage of what little we actually still make in this country.

Chicken or the Egg...

I'm not one for taking pills (pharmaceuticals) even though it looks like another one may be added to my regime, depending on results of the thyroid tests I just had done at the University of Virginia last week.

I have to question my own self whether it's the chicken or the egg syndrome. Do I not like taking pills because of all I've learned about Big Pharma over the years? Or do I just not like relying on something external to fix an internal "dis-ease"?

I'd guess most of us think most drugs are priced way too high so Big Pharma can make big profits, but I'd guess we also accept the costs of research and development are not cheap, either. Then, there's the matter of trust in any drug. I sadly remember the 10,000+
Thalidomide babies born with deformities in the late 1950's and early 1960's.

Recently, a large
research fraud was exposed about a doctor who had published dozens of favorable research articles in medical journals for Pfizer and Merck pharmaceuticals. The doctor's study on Celebrex to reduce pain during post-surgical recovery was positive, yet he never even enrolled a single patient in the study!

study just released by the Senate Finance Committee shows GlaxoSmithKline deliberately hid evidence of harm from their diabetes drug Avandia. The document even shows FDA's own scientists had concluded that Avandia was responsible for more than 83,000 heart attacks yet still allowed the drug to be marketed.

I said I don't like to take pills, but I'm usually okay with taking an antibiotic if I have an infection, and reluctantly take a beta blocker only because I know I must to prevent additional harm to my body. However, anything I do take gets vetted on the internet for contra-indications, drug reactions, and so on.

That brings me to supplements. I take a few, mostly D3, calcium and Omega-3. I believe there are some supplements (but not all that many) on the market that make vast, unsupported claims and should be controlled or removed. We are too quick to believe the hype without reading the fine print. I also believe that in this age of nutritionally-deficient food, some supplements are necessary even though how much of any of them our bodies can utilize varies.

I was glad to see Senator McCain's Bill
(Dietary Supplement Safety Act S-3002) looks dead in it's current form, but I still think Congress will try to pass some legislation to have total control over dietary supplements. Unfortunately, Codex Alimentarius will probably prevail in the long run despite fears of over-regulation: "It is reported that in 1996 the German delegation put forward a proposal that no herb, vitamin or mineral should be sold for preventive or therapeutic reasons, and that supplements should be reclassified as drugs." The proposal was accepted by the Commission, but not enacted because of protests. (See Codex link for source.)

What frightens me is that on the surface, Codex sounds protective of the public safety, but I fear it merely gives control to Big Pharma. Frankly, I think I am intelligent enough to choose to take any vitamin or dietary supplement without a doctor's visit and subsequent prescription.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I'm Baaaack...

I'm back from a lovely but long trip. I did lots of reading between doctor appointments and will have a few things (mostly related to gardening and/or food) to post over the next few days.

However, today the sun is shining, it's fairly warm outside... and I have several kinds of allium bulbs from a fall co-op that I need to plant. I should have planted them last fall but hopefully they will be okay. I can't wait to get my hands in the dirt, cold and soggy as it may be...

Friday, March 5, 2010

My Thoughts on Gun Control

First off, let me say the only gun I own is a BB Gun, used to attempt to ping stray critters out of my vegetable garden. Sometimes it even works!

I don't own a real gun... not one for protecting my home and self, nor one for hunting. However, it is
my right to own one if I choose. It says so in the Bill of Rights, the first 10 Amendments to our Constitution (not that I think most politicians pay attention to details like that).

Does anyone
really think that gun control laws will stop criminals from having guns? A deranged person or criminal Hell-Bent on using a gun to force themselves into a private home/car, or to abduct and/or kill someone will always find a way to have a gun or do the mayhem another way. All gun control laws will do is disarm law-abiding citizens who could otherwise protect their homes and families.

Over the last several years I have come to fear the authorities more than I fear a common thug. That's partly because many laws now written often contain the clause "...and for other purposes" which are not defined, and allow wide discretion in any law. The enormous powers given to Homeland Security are really scary because now anyone can just whisper
terrorist suspect and the authorities can and will do whatever they want to law-abiding citizens, including unlawful search, seizure and incarceration.

Laws already on the books are strange anyway. Who's business is it if I choose not to wear a seatbelt in my car? Who's business is it if my damn' fool neighbor chooses to ride his motorcycle without wearing a helmet? Why are there laws about those things and yet no laws to prevent someone from buying all the saturated fat/cholesterol-laden foods that could eventually kill them?
Heart attacks kill more people than guns... make laws about foods to prevent heart attacks.

I just read a story of a law-abiding family man who owned several guns, locked away in a home safe. His wife told the authorities he was collecting guns in fear of a breakdown in our social structure, bringing on martial law. Naturally, the authorities stormed the house and confiscated the guns,
which were all legally purchased and registered. The man apparently also had 4 batons like the English Bobbies carry, tear gas canisters and some pepper projectiles; accordingly, he was charged with four counts of possessing “an infernal device” and four counts of possessing a “dangerous weapon.” All because someone whispered to the authorities.

More than a decade ago, the state government of Connecticut enacted a “law” permitting state agents to confiscate firearms from people suspected of 'dangerous' tendencies — a variation on the Soviet idea of preemptive punishment of “socially dangerous persons.”

Be Worried. Be Very Worried.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Styptic Pencil, Handy to Have!

Back in the days when shaving was done with a razor blade rather than an electric shaver, every medicine chest held a styptic pencil. I hadn't thought of them in years until today when a friend's dog had a foot pad bleeding. Now that I've remembered them, I need to get a couple for my medicine box. I have compresses (bandages) for more profuse bleeding, but the pencils sure would be handy for smaller cuts and nicks.

If you aren't familiar with styptic pencils, they are a stick of compound you put on a cut that causes the bleeding to stop. The common ones are usually anhydrous aluminum sulfate (alum) or titanium dioxide, and they cause the blood vessels to contract
(think pucker!) which slows or stops the bleeding. You can see a picture of one here.

If you own a cat or dog and cut their nails, you probably have a styptic powder on hand in the event you clip a nail too closely, causing bleeding.
It would be good to have a styptic pencil on hand for your own cuts.

Styptic pencils are very cheap. Amazon carries
one for under $2; they don't go bad as far as I remember, so I think I'll get several.