Archive for September, 2009

I’m crazy about grains and herbs!

My name is Suzy (the grainiac) and I am crazy about grains and herbs!  I have learned so many great things about health and nutrition over that past several years that I wanted to pass some of it on!  Having said that, I know that I still have a lot to learn.  That is where you come in…please let me know what you think of my blogs; let me know if you try something you read about here and how it worked for you.  I would also love for you to share what you have learned about whole grains, traditional cooking, herbs, etc.


My Favorite Books on Food and Healthy Living

I absolutely love books.  My husband describes me as a closet librarian.  Perhaps it is because I read so much, or maybe it has to do with the fact that I have cataloged my collection of over 2,000 books using the Dewey decimal system and they are all recorded in a searchable database.

Here is a list of my favorite books on food and healthy living:

  • The Busy Mom’s Guide to Simple Living – Creative Ideas and Practical Ways for Making the Most of What You Have by Jackie Wellwood
  • Healthy Foods – An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well by Leanne Ely, C.N.C
  • Breakfasts by Sue Gregg
  • Eat Fat, Lose Fat  by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon
  • Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
  • The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin

Books for Beginners:

The Busy Mom’s Guide to Simple Living – Creative Ideas and Practical Ways for Making the Most of What You Have by Jackie Wellwood – One of the first books I read when I started getting interested in frugal and healthy living.  This is the one that got me thinking about making my own bread.

Healthy Foods – An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well by Leanne Ely, C.N.C – This is a great starting point with healthy meals that are easy to cook.  She uses some basic prepared foods, i.e. beans, tuna, tomatoes, etc., which make meals quicker.  She had (still has, I think) a service called Menu Mailers that I used for a while.  She would send out weekly menus with shopping lists and recipes.  I had never eaten a sweet potato in my life until I used one of her menus.  All I knew about sweet potatoes was the marshmallow, brown sugar stuff I had seen on holidays and that wasn’t anything I was ever willing to try.  We now eat a lot of baked sweet potatoes with butter, salt and pepper; however, one of our favorite ways to eat them is raw – just peel and slice.  Yum!!

Breakfasts by Sue Gregg – I learned so much from this book!  It tells all the different types of grains and ways to use them.  Some of the grains that I had never heard of, we now use regularly.  She has a revised and updated 2007 addition that I would love to get in the future.  My old one is falling apart from being used so often.  I think she has taken out the use of soy (maybe some fermented soy) and incorporated more of the Nourishing Traditions methods.  Our favorite pancake recipe came from this book.  We don’t even try eating pancakes out anywhere else because they just don’t taste as good.  The batter is made with oatmeal that has been soaked overnight in buttermilk.  They have the best flavor!  Our other favorite is Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole.  We roll this up in tortillas and add lettuce, tomatoes and yogurt.

More Advanced Books:

Eat Fat, Lose Fat  by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon – This is a mini version of Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions (NT).  Some people find NT a bit overwhelming at first. 

Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon – This book is loaded with information!!!  It doesn’t follow the ADA recommendations for a healthy diet.  It goes back to what I consider a common sense, God-given diet.  If we eat foods the way God made them, they can’t be bad!!  It is when we get hold of them and start “changing them to make them better” that we mess everything up!!

The Maker’s Diet by Jordan Rubin – This book uses a lot of information from Nourishing Traditions.  The author was very ill and this book tells how he got well.  He is a Christian so there isn’t anything New Age-y in it.  He does promote his own products quite a bit, but it is fairly easy to overlook.  I think his products are good, but don’t know that they all have to be used.

Homemade Bread

I started making bread about seven years ago.  At first, I was using my VitaMix as my grain grinder and had a Zojirushi bread machine.  While the VitaMix didn’t grind very fine, the bread still came out okay.  The Zo bread machine worked well, but only made one loaf at a time which took about an hour and a half and would get eaten almost immediately!  I tried making two loaves at a time in my Kitchen Aid mixer with only satisfactory results.  We could eat the bread, but it wasn’t what I was wanting.  I was wanting something that didn’t taste like “wheat” bread.  

When I read that grinding wheat in the VitaMix overheats the grain so that it loses some of its nutrients, I decided to go ahead and purchase a grain mill.  After much discussion with my husband, we decided to invest in a mixer (that would knead several loaves of bread) at the same time.  

I ended up with the Kitchen Mill grinder and the Bosch Universal Mixer.  I sold my Kitchen Aid mixer and Zo bread machine to help offset the cost.   The grinder made a huge difference in the flour.  It was very fine and made a much softer loaf of bread.  Using the Bosch, I was able to make five to six loaves of bread in the amount of time it took to make one loaf in the bread machine.  This bread was made with all whole grains and tasted wonderful!! 

I’ve since tried to vary the grains I use and occasionally will throw in some “extras”, but the basics stay pretty much the same.  What I usually make out of one batch of dough now is three or four loaves of bread, rolls, tortillas, and a couple pizza crusts.  I will also occasionally make cinnamon rolls or something sweet.

I’ve been reading a lot about soaking the grains before making bread and I honestly haven’t had a lot of luck.  I’m still working on it, but in the mean time I know that the bread I am making now is nutritionally superiour to anything I can get at the store!

Start Out Slow

Start out slow!  You want healthy eating to be a way of life, not a passing fad.  You also want your family to be on board.  If your husband or kids come home one day and find that all their favorite drinks and snacks have been replaced with kombucha and seaweed sheets, you’re going to have a rebellion!  Let me say it again…start out slow!

The first book I bought was The Busy Mom’s Guide to Simple Living – Creative Ideas and Practical Ways for Making the Most of What You Have by Jackie Wellwood.  Thanks to her book, I decided that the first change I was going to make was making my own bread.  I started making whole wheat bread one loaf at a time using a Zojirushi bread machine and my VitaMix as my grinder.  After buying my Family grain mill and Bosch Universal, I started making five loaves at a time and freezing the extra loaves.  That was an easy change for all of us.

Next think I changed was our milk.  We started drinking raw cow’s milk.  That was an easy switch for all of us except my oldest son.  He pretty much quit drinking milk.  It wasn’t that he didn’t care for the taste…I think he just had to start thinking about udders and it grossed him out.  He still doesn’t drink milk, raw or otherwise!  The upside to that was the money we saved having one less teenage boy drinking milk!!

The next book I bought was Healthy Foods – An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well  by Leanne Ely, C.N.C.  I used her cookbook for a while and then joined her Menu Mailers which e-mailed a grocery shopping list and the recipes and menus for a two week period.  This got me trying a lot of foods that I had never eaten. 

Later, I joined a local food co-op that brought in organic produce twice a month.  We bought chickens, so we had farm fresh eggs.  We grew an organic garden.  These were done over time, not overnight. 

The Sue Gregg cookbook, Breakfasts, was the third book I bought.  It is one of the best resources I have on grains.  I started cooking with grains I had never even heard of before!  Her Main Meals cookbook got me started using lentils.  One of our favorite stand-by meals is her lentil and rice burritos.

Seven years into this journey, I am making cultured and fermented drinks and foods.  I am using herbs to treat my family for illnesses that we used to go to the doctor for.  However, with all the new things I’ve learned, there are still so many things I’m wanting to learn.  I can just look at a plant and it dies…I inherited that skill from my mother.  I can’t get my bread to come out right when I soak my flour overnight.  For whatever reason, I only have about a 25% success rate on that one.  I know that usually when things aren’t working out right, it’s because I’m trying to go to fast. 

Some will think you’re crazy and that is okay.  These are usually the same people who call you for advise when they get sick!  Remember, start out slow and most important, don’t lose your sense of humor.  My oldest son told one of his friends, “Don’t ever eat or drink anything from a mason jar at our house.”   I still laugh when I think about that!

Lacto-fermented Kimchi

Kimchi is a Korean sauerkraut and my first taste of it brought tears to my eyes….literally!!  My California friend and neighbor, Sun, would eat tons of the stuff but she liked it very spicy!!   A few months ago, I bought a jar of kimchi from the refrigerator section at Wal-Mart.  It was pretty pricey but since I knew how good it was for me, I wanted to try it again.  When I opened the jar it started fizzing and bubbling over the sides!  I wasn’t expecting that, but fortunately, the jar had an “explanation” of the fizzing that occurs when you open the jar!!  I liked the taste of this kimchi better than my first experience.  It does have a pretty strong taste that I wasn’t sure if I liked at first, but I now crave the stuff!!  As with most things healthy in Wal-Mart, it was only available for a short time so I had to go to plan B…making it myself!

Kimchi is easy to make.  I use a combination of  several different recipes that I’ve found in books and on the internet.  Here is the basic recipe of what I do, although I usually end up changing or trying something different every time.

  • 1 head napa cabbage
  • 1/2 to 1 head bok choi
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 2 to 3 carrots, grated
  • 1 tbsp grated ginger, fresh
  • 3 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp celtic sea salt
  • 1/4 cup whey

Core and shred the napa cabbage and bok choi. (I do this by hand.  I tried using the food processor the first time and it only made 1 quart jar instead of the 2 it should have.)  I also slice the greem onions by hand.  I use the food processor for the carrots, ginger and garlic.  Put everything in a big bowl and mix up really well.  I do this with my (very clean) hands.

Pound with whatever you have that works.  I use a wooden pounder that I got from an estate auction.  I don’t know exactly what it really is, but it works great for this.  I also have a wooden rolling pin with no handles that would work just as well.  You pound the veggies to release the juices.   As you pound, you will notice more liquid and the cabbages will start to wilt and pack down some. 

Put the kimchi into two quart-size jars (wide-mouth is best) and pour the liquid over the veggies.  The veggies need to be at least an inch from the top…this is important, trust me!!!  Pack the kimchi down in the jar with your pounder so that the juice comes up to the top.  If there isn’t enough liquid to cover the top, you can add a little water.  Cover tightly with a lid and let set on your counter at room temperature for three days.  At the end of your three days, put in the refrigerator.  

If the veggies float up to the top during your three days on the counter, you can open the jar and push them back down into the liquid.  Some people will tell you that as long as the veggies still look wet, not to worry about pushing them back down, but I usually put them back under.

Lacto-fermented Salsa

Coming soon!

What is lacto-fermenting?

Lacto-fermenting is so good for your digestion – info coming soon.

Kefir Grains

Coming soon!