The Most Nutritious Sweeteners

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Raise your hand if you ever feel overwhelmed and confused about which sweeteners/sugars are the best to use in your treats?

Uh-huh…me too.  There are dozens of different sweeteners out there and all kinds of  arguments trying to convince you to eat one over the other.

While I’m certainly no sweetener expert (although I do consider myself an expert taste tester of all things sweet and sweeter), I will share with you what I’ve learned through the past few years of researching.

Better Sweeteners (in no particular order)

Sucanat/Rapadura – “Dehydrated Cane Sugar Juice”

This is by far my favorite sugar to bake with.  It is processed in the traditional way that people of India have used for thousands of years and leaves most of the minerals intact.  It substitutes one for one in recipes that call for sugar and has a delicious, rich flavor.

Rapadura is a brand name for Sucanat, so in general I find that Sucanat costs a bit less.  Be very careful to buy Organic Sucanat however, as some ‘regular sucanat’ brands I’ve seen are NOT dehydrated cane sugar juice…but some form of processed sugar with molasses added back in making it MUCH less nutritious.

Raw Honey

If you can find raw honey from a local bee keeper, go for it!  Raw honey (honey that has not been heated over 117° to kill healthy bacteria) contains many nutrients and digestive enzymes.

Raw honey is a wonderful addition to buttered toast or granola.  Honey is also wonderful to bake with (although then of course, it won’t be raw anymore).  If a recipe calls for one cup of sugar, I usually substitute 1/2-2/3 cup of honey.

Real Maple Syrup, Grade B

Mmm…I love maple syrup!  I never bake with it, but find it works wonderfully in liquid recipes like Strawberry Milkshakes, Smoothies, Warm Vanilla Soother, Creamy Orange Cooler, etc.  Oh, and it’s great on Pancakes and Waffles too!

Because real maple syrup is kinda pricey, I am the designated syrup pourer on pancakes…otherwise we’d have a lot of this “Liquid Gold” wasted all over our pancake plates.

Organic Grade B Maple Syrup is better than Grade A as more nutrients are present.  Plus, non-organic maple syrups may contain formaldehyde or other synthetic defoamers.

“Mom, can I please have some more formaldehyde on my pancake?”  I don’t think so.

Molasses

Molasses is the “waste product” that comes from the production of refined sugar.  It is rich in many minerals.  I don’t use molasses much for baking, except in recipes such as Molasses Cookies.  Mmm!

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This is by no means an exhaustive list of “healthy sugars”…these are simply my favorites and the sugars I’m most familiar with.  Feel free to add your suggestions in the comments section if you have researched and know of a great sugar to try!
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Sweeteners to Avoid

Refined Sugars

Unfortunately even many organic sugars (turbinado, raw, natural) are quite refined and contain very few nutrients.  I use these occasionally because AT LEAST they are (unbleached, organic, a little less refined) and better than…

White Sugar

This sugar is so refined that there are no nutrients left in it whatsoever.  It is also usually bleached to make it prettier.  Because it is not sugar in its whole form…it has a dramatic effect on blood sugar levels in the body.  I can actually feel the effect white sugar has on my body (can you?!).

But, if you have a choice between the two, choose regular sugar over…

High Fructose Corn Syrup

Dr. Mercola can explain why High Fructose Corn Syrup should be avoided way better than I can!  Read his professional information on the subject…

Agave Nectar

While I used to believe that Agave Nectar was a healthy substitute for sugar, it seems I should have done my homework more thoroughly.  Agave Nectar should usually be avoided as apparently, it is almost worse than High Fructose Corn Syrup.

By the way, I think I’ve changed any recipes I have here on my site that included agave nectar as an ingredient…but in case you find it anywhere, please let me know so I can edit it!

Artificial Sweeteners

Ooh, I can’t say enough about fake sugar!!!  Please don’t make the mistake of believing that you are eating/drinking healthier if you avoid sugar but use aspertame, splenda, or whatever the latest “fake sugar” is out there. They are worse than good ol’ refined sugar and can cause so many long term health problems.  I have reasons to be passionate about this subject…so if you want to picture me down on the floor grabbing your feet begging you to avoid these…that truly is what I’m doing right now.   You can read more information about aspertame here.  I believe these testimonials may say more than I ever could.

I’d love for you to share your experiences, thoughts on this subject, and favorite sugar choices with us!

The Ice Cream Experiment: Take Two

Be sure to take a look at The Ice Cream Experiment:  Take One if you haven’t already!
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I hereby declare that The Ice Cream Experiment is over.  I got tired of looking at it.  I got tired of it being in my way on my kitchen counter.  I got tired of trying to prepare food around it.

After four days, I didn’t notice any more changes in the ice cream.  After eight days…it looked the same way it had looked on day four and I decided to say goodbye to the ice cream sponges on my countertop.

Here are the final pictures…

Brand One:

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Brand Two:

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Brand One with a spoon stuck in it just for fun:

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Brand Two with a spoon stuck in it for the same reason as above:

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As you can see, if you compare the pictures from the beginning of the experiment until the last day of the experiment, the ice cream did do some melting .  After four days, the towel under both boxes was wet and icky.  So, it would appear that the milk, cream and buttermilk in these ice cream brands did what they were supposed to do:  they melted.  For some reason, it took four days…but they did melt.

But then there’s all the others stuff left in the box that didn’t melt. 

Yes, I understand that stabalizers and stuff are added to make it easier to transport it all over the place…but that still doesn’t make me want to eat it.

My Conclusion:

If possible, I’ll stick to my Homemade Ice Cream.

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Or, if I’m in a pinch and need to buy some ice cream at the store…I’ll definitely spend a little more and get “the good stuff” like Breyers or Haagen-Dazs that has basic, more natural ingredients.

And now…I am completely hungry for ice cream.  The creamy homemade vanilla kind.  Maybe with some fresh peaches in it.  Or strawberries.  Or both.

So what’s your favorite kind of ice cream?
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(Read about which Ice Cream Maker I recommend here!)

The Ice Cream Experiment: Take One

Is all ice cream created equal?  Should we go with the cheap stuff…or is it worth it to pay a little more to make our own or buy brands that have more wholesome ingredients?

I recently read an ice cream story that left me with my jaw on the ground.  With Randy’s permission, I will share part of his story (taken from a monthly newsletter I receive from North Star Neighbors)…

On February 25th, I went to [a grocery store] and purchased  2-quarts of ice cream.  It tasted so-so.  I went to try again and when opening the cartons, it just didn’t look right and fresh!  So, I set both cartons in the sink to melt.
 
The [first brand] took 2 days to actually melt.  The [second brand] NEVER did melt.  Three days after sitting on the counter, I stuck a spoon in it and it ‘stood up’ all by itself. 

I read through the rest of this email and was shocked that an entire month later, the second brand of ice cream had still not melted!!!!  Ice cream that doesn’t melt?!  Whoa!  I knew that many store brand ice creams contain some funky ingredients, which is why I avoid them, but funky ingredients that actually keep the ice cream from melting?!  Kinda makes you think that maybe this frozen stuff in a box is possibly…not real food?!?!

And so, I decided to do a little ice cream experiment of my own, and blog the progress for you.  Only for you (and because I’m weird enough to want to see this for myself) would I buy two cartons of ice cream that I wasn’t planning to eat  and leave it on my countertop for days and days to watch it’s progress.

At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss, please allow me to introduce to you…Brand One and Brand Two:

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Brand One Ingredients:  milk, cream, sugar, skim milk, corn syrup, whey protein concentrate, mono- and diglycerides, guar gum, sodium phosphate, cellulose gum, sodium citrate, polysorbate 80, carrageenan, vanilla extract, artificial flavor, annatto

Brand Two Ingredients:  milk, cream, buttermilk, whey, high fructose corn syrup, sugar, guar gum, mono & diglycerides, sodium phosphate, cellulose gum, sodium citrate, polysorbate 80, carrageenan, natural flavor, annatto

We took a scoop out of each, just to show the texture.

Brand One:

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Take special notice of the layer of gunk (for lack of a better word) on the top of the box of Brand Two:

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We set the ice cream out at precisely 10:40 am Saturday, March 27 (2010).

Exactly one hour later, Brand One looked like this:

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And Brand Two looked like this:

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They appear to be melting don’t they?  Oh dear, maybe we should stop the experiment right now and eat the ice cream before it melts all over the place!  But no, let’s not.  Let’s wait and see what happens.

Two hours later…Brand One:

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Brand Two (notice again, the lid gunk that hasn’t changed a bit):

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As the familiar saying goes, a watched ice cream carton never melts…so we put a towel under it and walked away for the evening. 

The next morning…

Brand One:

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Brand Two:

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The towel underneath the cartons was wet and clearly the cartons were slightly less full than when we first started this two days ago.  So, I will give it this much:  the ice cream was melting somewhat.

Moving on to Monday morning…

Brand One:

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Brand Two:

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At this point in the experiment, it had been almost 48 hours since we’d taken the ice cream out of the freezer.  When we gently pushed on the contents of the cartons, it resembled a sponge.  A sticky sponge.

What could we do now, but make Homemade Ice Cream with all natural ingredients to make a comparison!  And so, we lugged out our ice cream maker and got it whirling.

Homemade Ice Cream Ingredients:  Cream, milk, real maple syrup, egg yolks, vanilla, arrowroot powder

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Okay…yum.

I know this experiment isn’t exactly apples to apples (or ice cream to ice cream as the case may be) because I just wasn’t willing to part with an entire quart of homemade ice cream to see how long it would take to melt.  Instead, we scooped some out into a small bowl.

Here’s the Homemade Ice Cream at 11:40 Monday morning:

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Homemade Ice Cream at one hour later at 12:40 pm:

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And the homemade ice cream on Monday at 1:26 pm:

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The homemade ice cream melted in our mouths too…but that goes without saying.

So let’s review:

Homemade Ice Cream…melted in just under two hours.

Brand One and Brand Two…72 hours later, we’re still waiting to find out.

Check back  here in a few days and I’ll share the ice cream melting progress (or lack thereof)!

And um, just in case it never melts…how long do you suppose I should let it sit on my countertop?
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Such a Sweet Post, Sort Of…**UPDATED!

I’ve told you how much I love Rapadura to bake with.  (If you’ve never eaten a brownie made with rapadura…you haven’t had a brownie…well in my chocolate loving opinion…which is just an…opinion.) (Oh dear, now I’m hungry for brownies.)

Rapadura is unbleached, unrefined dehydrated cane sugar juice.  It bakes just like sugar (you substitute it one for one)…has a wonderful molasses-y taste and it is SO yummy!  Because it is unrefined, it still contains nutrients from the sugar cane. 

Many of you have asked if Sucanat is the same thing as Rapadura and if it was just as good for you.  I looked at the label of Sucanat…which happens to be named for “SUgar CAne NATural” (very clever), and it appears that Sucanat too is dehydrated sugar cane juice. 

I’ll admit to being (more than) a bit confused about Sucanat.  It appears to be practically the same as Rapadura…yet my trusty Nourishing Traditions book tells me to avoid Sucanat like I would avoid other processed sugars.  It says that Turbinado, Sucanat and Florida Cyrstals ”are all refined sugars from which the nutrients have been removed.  Small amounts of molasses may be added back to give a light brown color.”

The Sucanat package says that it is “dehydrated whole cane sugar that has not been separated or blended”.  THEN, it says that “basically nothing has been added and nothing taken out!”.  What does “basically” mean?!  Is that something like “Sort of”?   Has stuff been added or taken out…or hasn’t it?  Oh, I’m so confused.

I googled this subject, researched for way too long and found more confusion.  Sigh.  Like I need this kind of confusion.  I have a hard enough time staying on my feet sometimes.

Here’s what I’ve decided for our family:  I order my Rapadura from Azure Standard.  It is cheaper than the organic Sucanat from Azure.  I love Rapadura.  I’m going to stick with Rapadura. 

NONE OF THIS WOULD EVEN MATTER IF BROWNIES WEREN’T SO STINKIN’ YUMMY!!!! 

(I’m sorry for yelling.) 

What have the rest of you learned about the great Sucanat vs. Rapadura mystery?

**UPDATE**

Valerie commented that I should check out the Weston Price website for information on this.  THANK you.  (Why did I not think of that before?)  I trust this website.  In fact, Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions bases her nutritional information on Weston Price’s research.  Here’s what I found there:

Q. I’m confused as to which type of sugar is better, Sucanat or Rapadura?

A. Both are fine; both are made by dehydrating cane sugar juice. For a while Sucanat changed the way they made it and were using white sugar, so we stopped recommending the product. But they are now making Sucanat the old fashioned way, so we can recommend it again.

Sooo, there you have it.  NOW what do you think?  :)
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Visit Tammy’s Recipes for more kitchen tips.

Getting Real With Food: Lindsey’s Journey

I thought at this point in the Getting Real with Food series, you might enjoy hearing from someone else on the matter.  My friend Lindsey recently began making some changes for her family (which includes her husband Eric and two of the cutest little girls).  She and I have been visiting and emailing back and forth.  I’ve loved hearing about how hard she’s working to learn and about all the changes she’s making.  And I thought you would too!  So, I asked her to write a guest post to tell us all of her journey so far. 

Here’s Lindsey:

When Laura started posting about eating healthy, natural foods, I was a little skeptical.  I thought that her lifestyle was something that would take a lot of time and money, and those are two things I do not have.  Because I know Laura to be an intelligent woman, and one that I want to mirror my own wife/mothering skills after, I thought I should open my heart to this topic.  As I continued to read her posts, I also set out to do some of my own research.  I began with reading about unnatural foods such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Oils and artificial sweeteners.  Once I heard everything that went into processing those foods and the health problems they can lead to, I was pretty convinced we should try to make changes. 

Our changes have been slow for two reasons.  The first is that we want to make sure the changes we make turn into habits that will fit our lifestyle.  Second, we make small changes because some of them are costly and we need to find room in our tight budget. 

One of the easiest changes to make was switching from margarine to real butter.  I never had real butter growing up, so I never knew the difference.  Now I know, it is so good!  And, when used in moderation, is a great addition to the fats needed in a healthy diet. 

We have also stopped buying prepackaged foods that have HFCS and Partially Hydrogenated Oils.  These are in pretty much everything.  Some things I buy still have those ingredients, but I will only continue to buy them until I find an alternative. 

Recently, we stopped buying bread from the store.  The ones I found either had whole wheat and HFCS or were not whole wheat, even though it was labeled as whole wheat bread.  So, I made my own, with Laura’s recipe.  I thought I would give it a try, and if it didn’t work out or if it was too time consuming, I would have to try another replacement.  It was not time consuming at all, and I really loved the process.  My two year old even helped me, and it was a great bonding experience for us.  I also switched from buying enriched pastas to whole wheat pastas.  This was another easy change to make, because it doesn’t cost much more and it actually has way better flavor. 

We also switched from buying white flour to whole wheat.  It is not much more expensive, and because I am saving money with not buying prepackaged snacks, I have that money to spend so I can make healthy snacks for our family.  My two year old also helped me make Laura’s pretzels and they are incredible!  They also lasted longer for my small family than a box of unhealthy food would. 

Something that we have always done is buy a lot of fresh fruit.  Over the summer, I had a garden where I grew a lot of it, so we didn’t spend much money on that.  Now that gardening season is about over, we are buying more fruit, but it is so good, and I really feel good when my husband and kids ask for more grapes/apples/pears etc.  We have found so many healthy snacks that are good for us and taste good too. 

I really thought at first that this is something I would fail at because of the money issue, as well as my husband’s picky eating.  His favorite foods are cheeseburgers and pizza.  Not only have I found healthier ways to serve those foods, I am so surprised at the new foods he is trying, and how much he likes them.  There are still many changes I am excited to make because I know I am taking better care of myself and my family. 
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 Thank you so much Lindsey for opening yourself up to share with us.  You are such an encouragement to me and to others.

One of my favorite things about what Lindsey is doing:  She’s not just reading my posts about healthy eating, believing what I say and that’s it.  She’s been doing a lot of research on her own to validate the fact that HFCS and hydrogenated oils and such are not good for you.  (In the meantime, she found a website telling how great HFCS is supposed to be for your health.  Guess who funded THAT website?  Grr)

I’m curious what others of you out there have discovered about making changes.  Has it been difficult?  Is it costing you much more to eat this way?  Are you discovering some new favorite foods that are both healthy and delicious?   

Getting Real With Food: Keeping the Peace

I have two friends.

Okay, I have way more than two friends…but right now I’m going to be talking about two friends.

These two friends are named Ima and Erma.  (While these may sound like ficticious friends…they aren’t…the friends are real…I just changed their names so as not to embarrass them on my blog).

Ima’s husband has had poor health for years.  Once when Ima was visiting with me in my kitchen while I was making honey whole wheat bread she looked into my pantry at my whole foods and said, “Oh, you do try to make everything healthy don’t you?  My husband is always on me to cook more like this.  I just don’t want to.”  Then Ima shrugged. 

Here’s my advice to all the Ima’s out there who have husbands that want to eat healthier:

If your husband wants to eat healthier…then I would certainly think that as his help meet you would want to work to learn a few things about healthy eating.  It is not as difficult as you might think.  What a great gift you would be giving your husband…which would be a blessing to your marriage and your entire family. 

Now, on to my friend Erma…

Erma has a husband who sort of understands that eating healthy is a good thing…but the guy just really likes his junk food.  And he loves to eat out.  And he really likes giving their kids fun treats like “Fun Dip” and popsicles and hot dogs, because…it’s fun.  Erma is totally into healthy eating and has had a very hard time with the way her husband likes to eat because she knows that licking colored sugar off of a sugar stick (Fun Dip) is not a good snack for her kids.  And it really bothers her.

For a while, Erma fought her husband on this.  She got mad at him everytime he brought home sugary cereals and white bread from the store.  The kids started noticing that that Mommy got mad about the suckers Daddy would bring home for them.  It was causing bitterness within Erma and tension in the family.

Finally Erma realized that her husband and kids did also eat the healthy food she prepared.  The treats her husband brought home were rare…and he did it because he wanted to do something fun for his children.  It was a special thing for Daddy to do. 

So Erma decided that it was more important to have peace in the home than to have a perfect diet.  She knew it was better for all of them to eat healthy foods…but the trouble she was creating by fighting her husband all the time about it was not worth the “unhealth” of the family.  She began smiling at him and thanking him when he brought home pizza so that she wouldn’t have to cook.  And she’d fire up the grill when he brought home hotdogs for a fun cook out.  (And she’d get out carrot sticks to go with the hotdogs)  :)

It is amazing the transformation that happened in the family when Erma just lightened up and worked to follow her husband’s lead about food.  Now he even works a little harder to make sure the kids eat their veggies!

Erma, you rock. 

I wanted to tell you about my friends because I’ve heard from several of you out there whose husbands aren’t as excited about making healthy changes as you are.  I want to just encourage you to follow their lead.  Move slowly and try new things.  Make tiny changes.  Make their favorite foods, just try to make them with the best ingredients that you can.   Try healthier foods that are fun (like my Giant Breakfast Cookies or Donuts).

Above all, be cheerful about it.  And don’t give up.  As long as he’s okay with it, keep making small changes to your diet so that your family is given the nourishment they need.  And, if he brings home a package of oreos…pour everyone a glass of milk and just sit yourself down and enjoy them! 

What’s it like at your house?  Are you and your husband “on the same page” when it comes to eating healthy?   And…what’s it like teaching your kids to eat healthy foods?  I’ll be talking about that soon!
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Read more Works for me Wednesday posts here.

Getting Real with Food: You Can Do it!!

If you’ve missed the other posts in this Getting Real with Food series, be sure to go read them!

All this information about healthy eating can be SO OVERWHELMING…huh?  Especially if you’re used to buying and eating mostly pre-made convenience foods.  Now you’ve learned that you need to “find good healthy sources of milk and meat from cows that have gone to college and have a Master’s degree”.  And you should become the little red hen so that you can ”grow the wheat,  cut it, chaff it, and mill it” (Andrea’s fun commentary on what we have to do if we grind our own flour!).   And “eat only organic produce that has nary a pesticide on it whatsoever and grew on a tree that was sung to sleep every night”.   Please, can someone just hand me a poptart? 

NO!  Don’t fall back on the poptart!  Eating healthy doesn’t have to cause stress.  That would be…unhealthy.  :)

I love to cook and bake, and it comes pretty naturally to me.  Even so, when I began making healthy changes for our family a few years ago, I also found it overwhelming to think about all of the ins and outs of it.  Cooking macaroni and cheese from a box would take so much less time and be so much easier than making macaroni and cheese from scratch from wholesome ingredients, wouldn’t it?

Guess what I’ve found?  It DOESN’T take much longer and it ISN’T much harder! 

Over the past few days, I’ve been charting some of the things I do in the kitchen…and guess what I found?  All the work I do to feed my family a healthy diet really doesn’t take hours and hours.  It really, really doesn’t!!  You just have to get into the swing of things, that’s all.

Like, take for instance, the fact that I grind my own flour.  This job consists of me pouring grain from a sack into my grinder…plugging it in…and turning the knob to “on”.  Then, I walk away and do other things (like read someone’s blog, or check email!)…then I go back in and turn it off.   Done.  I’ve ground flour.  Whew.

Or how about soaking the flour before you make your recipe?  It hardly takes any time at all…you just have to plan ahead a little.  Oh, and you have to stir.

And cooking a whole chicken?  Well, yesterday I did this…and today…I’m not even sore.  I stuck that bird in a pot of water with some veggies (that I didn’t even take the time to peel), shook in some salt…and walked away.  The chicken cooked all day long, all by itself, and made the house smell really good too.   Go chicken…go chicken.

And I could go on and on about the simple REAL FOODS you can make without difficulty.  Cooking from scratch and preparing healthy meals doesn’t always mean that you have to labor in the kitchen for EVER.  Often it’s just about planning ahead and getting the food started…then just waiting for it to be ready. 

And…the more you cook…the easier it will be and the faster it will go.  (I can practically bake bread in my sleep now…and I’m pretty sure I have on occasion…)

You CAN do this!! YOU can do this!!  You can DO this!!!  And you can keep reading my blog for more help…and you can email me anytime you want with questions.  I love it when you email me!  It excites me to read about the changes you’re working to make and to see that you care enough to try and learn! 

So keep on making great changes and learning new things about healthy eating!  Your good health and the good health of your family is worth it!

So…how are you doing on this healthy eating train?  What’s going well for you?  What’s overwhelming you?  How are ya feelin’?
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Be sure to read more Works for me Wednesday posts here at Shannon’s awesome blog!

Soaking Those Grains…What is THAT about?

I’ve had tons of emails lately asking if I soak my grains and how I do it and why I do it!

Most of the recipes on my site have not shown that I soak my grains.  Mostly I did that because I know that many of my readers are just beginning to look into making changes toward healthy eating.  I decided…if you are just starting out trying to switch over from fruit roll-ups to real fruit…from white flour to whole wheat…from boxed foods to foods made from scratch…it would be very discouraging to hear that you also should “prepare your grains 12-24 hours ahead of time by soaking them in something that is lacto-fermented in order to break down the phytic acid…”

It’s overwhelming enough sometimes just to try to get your kids to eat a green bean…and to wrap your brain around the fact that almost every food on the shelves that we might be used to eating has a no-no ingredient in it.

So, if you’re just starting out on the healthy eating trail…read over the information in this post and tuck it away for whenever or if ever you’re ready.  Continue to take baby steps and make small changes.  Read the Getting Real with Food series here to give you some basic ideas of where to start and what to do.

But, if you’re eating a lot of whole grains already and are used to baking from scratch anyway, and you want to take this nutrition thing one step farther…here’s some information for you about soaking grains that I am paraphrasing from Sally Fallon’s book “Nourishing Traditions”:

Eating whole grains is important because they provide vitamin E, B vitamins, many important minerals and fiber.  But the phytic acid in the grain combines with the iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption.  They also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion.

So, Nourishing Traditions recommends that we soak our grains in either whey, cultured yogurt, kefir, cultured buttermilk…or in lemon juice or vinegar if you can’t tolerate milk products.  Soaking them for at least seven hours allows the enzymes to break down and neutralize the phytic acid.  Then, more of the good nutrients in the grain are released and all the good stuff is more readily absorbed in our systems and the grain is digested much more easily.

Okay…so quick re-cap.  Eating whole grains is so, so much better for you than processed grains that have almost all of their nutrients stripped from them.  Eating whole grains that have been soaked is even better.

How do I do this?

It’s really not hard…I just have to plan ahead a little more.  And I don’t always soak everything even though I know I should.  I try to just do the best I can.  (That’s the goal right?)

So, here’s a quick run down of the basics of how I soak my grains when preparing recipes:

Pancakes and Waffles…I stir the whole wheat flour and the buttermilk together, cover it with a cloth and let it sit overnight.  The next day, I add the remaining ingredients and cook the pancakes or waffles.  They are SO YUMMY made like this!

Quick Breads and Muffins…I mix the flour with the butter (melted and cooled) or oil that the recipe calls for and add enough buttermilk to make it “soakable”.  I let it sit overnight, then mix in the remaining ingredients.

Giant Breakfast Cookies and Breakfast Bars…I mix the melted butter, flour and oats with enough buttermilk to soak then let it sit overnight.  I have found these to be VERY HARD to stir the next morning, so putting the soaked mixture into my food processor with the other ingredients so that it doesn’t take me 45 minutes (or until lunchtime) just to stir the silly things.  Yea for food processors.

Tortillas…I mix up the tortillas as the recipes says, only I put in 1/4 cup less water and add 1/4 cup yogurt, kefir or buttermilk as I’m making the recipe.  Then, I let them sit for the day, and roll them and cook them that night for dinner.  They roll out so nicely after they’ve been soaked.

Breads, Rolls and Pretzels…These belong in the “I don’t soak these but I should” category.  When I’m really on the ball, I make sourdough bread…but my sourdough starter isn’t starting anymore, so I need to get a new one going.  In the meantime, I’m compromising and making Honey Whole Wheat Bread, and that’s okay with me.  After I get my sourdough going again, I’ll post about it.  Sourdough bread is so tasty!

Cookies and Brownies…I rarely soak these either, mostly because I’m lazy about it.  When I do soak them, I mix the butter and flour called for in the recipe with a few tablespoons of buttermilk, kefir or yogurt…allow them to sit for a few hours, then add the remaining ingredients and bake.

I hope that helps.  I’ll cover soaking other grains like rice and oats in the future.  And, as I slowly but surely get around to it…I’ll go back through each of my site recipes and blog recipes and add a brief explanation of how to soak the grains if you choose to do so.  That way, you have the option if you’d like!

And now, I think I’ll go grind me some flour and soak something.  Because looking at all these recipes put me in the mood to bake.

(Like I’m ever not in the mood to bake?!)  :)

Getting Real With Food, Pt. 12 Finding Great Sources of Food

After all this talk about how you should eat real food and stay away from not-real food…many of you are asking WHERE I get all of my real food and how I find it to be affordable.  I decided my Frugal Friday post for this week would offer some suggestions about great real food sources!

Now of course, I only live in one place.  So, I don’t know all of the real food sources you might have in your community, and every community offers different things.  I’ll just tell you what I do…and hopefully it will at least give you some ideas!

1.  I grow as much produce as I can and preserve it for the winter.  (Check out this post about putting up corn and this post for putting up green beans…then stay tuned for more posts about putting up more produce.  It IS that time of year when I always have a very achy back from freezing and canning foods for hours.  Ah, but I love it!)

2.  There are many things that I can’t grow myself that others around me are growing…and they are happy for me to take their extra produce off of their hands.  So might I suggest to you:  Mooching is a great way to gain access to awesome, often organic produce. MOOCH as much as you can.  Woohoo for mooching.   (P.S.  Is that the right way to spell mooch?)  :)

3.  What I can’t grow or mooch…I try to find at our local Farmer’s Market.  Often if I buy in bulk from some of the venders, they offer me a discount.  LOCAL PRODUCE IS THE BEST!!  Supporting local farmers is a great thing to do!  Go load up at your Farmer’s Market!!

Okay….that was mostly all about produce.  Now, on to my resources for other real foods:

4.  Health Food Coops.  There are several out there.  My favorite by far is Azure Standard.  If you’ve hung out here much you’ve heard me talk about them over and over.  They don’t service every U.S. state, but they are expanding all the time.  They have great customer service and great prices on great foods.  They even have organic produce for VERY reasonable prices.  Go to their website and check them out.  Give them a call and see if there’s a coop near you.  If not…talk to them about starting one.  That’s what I did.    They make things very simple.  I love Azure Standard!  (Really, they should be paying me to say all these things…)

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Here’s a picture of my Azure Standard order this month. 
Check out that gallon jar of raw honey!!

I also am a part of a Frontier Coop, which my friend organizes.  I order a few times a year from them, mostly spices, vanilla, shampoo and dishwashing stuff.  (Soon I’ll post more about the soaps and cleaners we use and where I get them all.)

5.  Local Farmers.  Oh how I love them.  These people work HARD so that I can have fresh free range eggs and chickens, grass fed organic raw milk, grass fed organic hormone free beef and lamb…all for very reasonable prices.  I found most of these farmers pretty much by just asking around.  But, there’s a great website called Local Harvest which may help you find what local farmers in your area have to offer.  Even if the farmers you find through their site don’t have exactly what you’re looking for, they might be a good resource to finding other farmers. 

6.  Local grocery stores.  I don’t have any cool stores like Whole Foods within 90 miles of me (bummer)…but I do find a few organic foods I need at our regular grocery stores and of course at Walmart.  And, a couple of years ago I called one of our grocery stores and talked to the produce guy who happily ordered cases of organic produce for me.  He even gave the produce to me for a price less than what he would have charged if he would have shelved the items for normal sale.  My friends and I then divided up the cases and ordered as often as we needed to.   It never hurts to ask!

Okay, that pretty much sums up my sources for the food we eat.  Here’s a link to a post about our food budget and break down of what we spent where.

Anybody else have a great suggestion about resources for real food?!

Getting Real With Food, Pt. 11

Many, many, many of you have emailed or left comments asking what on earth I feed my family for snacks since we try to avoid packaged crackers and other “stuff”.  (See my list of the ingredients we try to avoid eating.)

Snacks are one of the most difficult foods to come up with, in my opinion.  Especially when it seems that all afternoon I seem to be bombarded with, “Mama, I’m hungry again.” 

One thing we’re working on is simply to encourage our kids to just eat more at meal time…and that seems to be working somewhat.  But really…they do get hungry between meals.  They can’t help it.  They’re growing boys.  (With hollow legs.)

I have found that I really have to think ahead and try to be prepared when it comes to snacks.  Otherwise, I get frustrated when they ask me for one.  (Like it’s their fault they’re starving again.)

Here’s a list of foods that I feel great about offering as snacks…

*Fresh fruit or veggies (of course)
*Homemade tortillas with peanut butter and honey or jelly or other yummy things inside
*Muffins or quick breads
    ~Applesauce bread
    ~Orange Muffins
    ~Chocolate swirl muffins
*Homemade bread and butter
*Whole wheat soft pretzels
*Nuts
*Popcorn with coconut oil and sea salt…or sprinkled with parmesan cheese
*Mudballs
*Milkshakes (recipe coming soon)
*Applesauce
*Homemade wheat crackers
*Homemade graham crackers (recipe coming soon) (oh so…yummy!!)
*Yogurt with fruit
*Breakfast cookies
*Breakfast bars
*Slushies
    ~Strawberry-Peach
    ~Pineapple-Orange
*Smoothies
*A treat made with natural sugars and whole wheat flour

There really are some great choices for snacks out there that provide your family with nutrition! 

What kinds of things do you make for your kids for snacks? 

Visit Tammy’s Recipes for more great kitchen ideas.