Are Paleo, Gluten Free, Grain Free Diets a Fad? Healthy or Not Healthy? My Thoughts…

I decided it would make perfect sense for me to post about My Favorite Whole Wheat Recipes, and then follow it up the next day with a post about avoiding wheat and/or grains altogether.  I like keeping you on your toes.

Coconut_Flour_Muffin

Seeing as the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle includes an entire section on Special Diets, I thought this might be a good time to address my thoughts on eating a gluten free, grain free, or paleo diet.  Let’s chat, shall we?

A few weeks ago, I got this email from Deb:

I am just wondering what you think about all the gluten free, etc. rage?  Some of my friends truly have celiac, but most just seem to be trying this as more of a fad, way to lose weight, etc.  Don’t you think that the reason that they feel better is because they give up processed junk and sugar, not so much because of the actual gluten? 

We just had a missionary stay with us from Australia, she is originally from Taiwan and has lived in Kenya as well.  She says that Americans are the only ones who take supplements and vitamins and have all these food allergies.  She thinks it is ridiculous to eat at McDonalds, then buy vitamins.  She stayed with us 2 weeks and it was very interesting, even if she was out and about, she would NOT get fast food, she would go to the grocery and buy fresh meat and vegetables and come home and cook it, even though it costs more and was more time consuming.  Also, a lot of my friends that are on these EXTREME diets cheat half the time anyway, so what is the point?  

Ah yes.  I too have watched people go from eating a basic diet of donuts, chips, fast food, and skittles – to eating a low fat or low-carb diet.  They lose weight, feel better, and swear that the key is to cut out carbs, grains, gluten, eggs, beef, or butter.

Hey, hey, hey.  Them’s fightin’ words to this girl.  Nobody better be blaming my butter or beef on their poor health!  Especially when we’re talking about the kind that comes from cows who are raised in a healthy environment.  But enough about my beloved bovines.  What is the healthiest way for all of us to eat?

annesfarm21

I hate to disappoint you, but I do not believe that there is a one-size-fits-all diet.  I believe real food, in balance, based on what your body can tolerate and thrive on is the right diet for you.  Learn to listen to your body, and nourish it.

I love my beef, and in fact, I believe I personally need quite a bit of (grass fed, if possible) red meat in my diet in order to maintain a healthy level of iron in my body.  You might not need much or any beef.  You may not need much of any variety of meat.  Okay by me – that means more cow for this girl.  Learn to listen to your body, and nourish it.

While some can’t tolerate grains or gluten, I can.  I can’t eat them in large amounts, and in fact, I believe most of us should cut back on the grains just to make more room in our diet for fruits and vegetables Learn to listen to your body, and nourish it.

Here are my Paleo, Gluten Free, and Grain Free thoughts in a nutshell:

  • When you give up processed foods and instead eat more wholesome, nourishing foods, you will feel better and look better.  This has very little to do with the fact that the food might be gluten free, paleo, or grain free.
  • If you truly are allergic to a certain food or if a food makes you sick, by all means, you should not eat it.  You might want to check into NAET though.  It is possible to re-program our bodies so that they no longer reject certain foods as allergens.  My boys and I have experienced this, and it works.  Where we used to have food allergies, we no longer do, praise God!
  • A Gluten Free label does not automatically make a food healthy.
  • Cutting down on grains is beneficial, especially if the majority of what you eat is grainy.  Our bodies need a better balance, and grains can be difficult to digest.  Bready foods should not be our main nourishment focus.
  • If we’re cutting down our grains, we should not replace them with loads of almond flour and coconut flour.  I believe these flours are fantastic additions to our diets, and wonderful to use in baking – especially if your body can not tolerate grains.  But to eat them by the pound every day?  Well, what happened to balance?

Paleo, Gluten Free, and Grain Free diets can be healthy and beneficial.  But if you’re focused on cutting out foods for the wrong reasons, and not focused on overall body nourishment – you’re right back where you started.

Share with me what you have found is best for you and your family when it comes to eating gluten and grains.  Do you eat them?  What grains are your favorites?

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Now, who wants to save $120?

At first, I sort of skipped over the Special Diets eBooks included in the Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle.  We’re the family that eats whole wheat flour and other grains, we can tolerate milk, and gluten isn’t an issue.  I focused on the other eBooks and eCourses instead.

But then, Grain Free Grab-n-Go: Recipes for Portable Meals on the Go! caught my eye.  We’re focusing on food for lunchboxes right now, after all.  To add variety by having some grain free options – very cool!  Then I saw Grain-Free Meal Plans Freezer Cooking Guide.  I love getting me some new freezer meal ideas.  Well, then I just kept looking through the entire Special Diet section.  It is really, really full of great information and recipes.

If you do need to accommodate for special diets in your house, you are going to love this section.  If you don’t need to accommodate for special diets, I think you’re going to love this anyway!  I don’t know about you, but I want to learn more about baking with grains other than wheat.  I want to learn more recipes that don’t include grains at all.  I want to broaden my mind when it comes to healthy meal ideas to put on the table.  Plus, how fantastic is it that I now have loads more recipe ideas to bless my friends who have celiac and food allergies?

The best part?  I did the math on these books.  If I bought them all separately (you can see them all below), they would cost over $150.  The entire Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle is less than $30 for all those and a whole lot more.  I love this deal so much.  You’ll see all the books, eCourses, and free bonuses here.  Here are all the Special Diets books:

Only 4 more days until this sale ends.  I’m going to keep mentioning it because it is that good, and I don’t want you to miss it. :)

Be sure to weigh in with your thoughts:  Share what you have found is best for you and your family when it comes to eating gluten and grains.  Do you eat them?  What grains are your favorites?

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How to Grind Flour in a Grain Mill

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Wanna see how easy it is to
grind wheat into flour in a Nutrimill?
——————————————-

I’ve talked about how I love freshly ground flour and about how I love my nutrimill.  You’ve all helped me share about great sources for organic or chemical free grains.  I’ve even written a letter to your husbands trying to convince them that getting you a grain mill is a fabulous idea.

But I’ve never taken the time to show you how a grain mill works.  Is it hard to run?  Does it take a lot of time?  Do you work up a sweat using it?

The answer to all three questions is a definite no!

So many people have mentioned to me things like “I don’t know how you have time to grind your own flour.  I barely have time to cook, much less make the flour for my baked goods.”

You’re welcome to continue to think that because I grind my own flour, I am a modern day wonder woman.  Or, you can watch this video clip and learn the truth…

Did you see that?  I put in the wheat, turned on the machine…and then I walked away and made lunch and did some dishes.  Then I came back and had freshly ground flour.  It doesn’t get any easier than that.  And wow, this flour tastes more delicious than any you’ve ever had (in my opinion)!

This post was originally published June 1, 2010.

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What Kind of Flour is Best If You Don’t Grind Your Own

Did you know some people grind their own flour?  When I first heard that from a friend about 14 years ago, I thought the very idea was crazy.  Really?  People do that?  Why?  How?  Who has the time?  Only crazy healthy-nutty people would go to the trouble of grinding their own flour.  And their food probably always tastes nasty, because whole wheat flour is really heavy and strong flavored.  Bleh.

That was back in “my poptart and pepsi days” as I now lovingly call the time I didn’t understand much about nutrition.  Obviously, I also didn’t understand that real food tastes really delicious.  I was just doing the best I could with what I knew, and we can’t help what we don’t know, right?  My eyes were opened to a better way after our youngest son was born with chronic eczema.  I’m so thankful for the world of healthy eating God has opened up to us since then.  We all feel so much better now.  Food has never tasted better!  I mean, I didn’t even know how good butter was back then.  Sheesh.  I was missing out.

Who is now among the crazy health-nutty people who grind their own flour?  That would be me.  Yep, we’ve had a Nutrimill now for eight years, and it is still going strong.  Who knew grinding flour was as easy as pouring wheat into a machine, turning a knob, and walking away?  And the end result?  Oh my goodness.  I never knew whole wheat flour could taste so good.  Freshly ground flour is amazing.

I do recommend making the investment to grind your own grain, as the health benefits and deliciousness to baking with freshly ground flour can’t be beat.  But what if you aren’t ready, don’t want to, or aren’t interested?  No prob.  Let’s talk about other great options…

First, let’s discuss the different options you’ll likely come across at the store.  Most whole wheat flour that is pre-packaged at the store has been made from red wheat.  This is a darker and heavier flour – not my favorite, but still an okay option.  If this is the kind you use, you may need to use a bit less than is called for in some recipes as it tends to be dryer and produce a more dense baked good.

I love and always recommend flour made from white wheat as it is lighter in color, lighter in flavor, and typically more enjoyable to eat.  At the store, this is labeled White Whole Wheat Flour.

Is white wheat healthy?  Yes.  Don’t let the word “white” throw you off.  White wheat is simply a variety of wheat that, when ground, makes white whole wheat flour.  Both red and white wheat have the same nutritional value, but they taste just a bit different.  I prefer the flavor of flour made from white wheat – as do many people.

Below is a picture I took last year when we were in Kansas.  You’ll see two fields, side by side, one growing white wheat, the other growing red wheat.  See?  Both are grains of wheat, but when ground, they turn out a different color and texture of flour.

Next you see a picture of the two different kinds of grain, or wheat berries as we call them.  Red wheat berries are on the left, and white wheat berries are on the right:

I almost always grind hard white wheat at my house since we prefer it.  I also sometimes grind soft white wheat, which produces a whole wheat pastry flour.  Pastry flour can be used in any recipe that does NOT call for yeast.  For yeast bread recipes, you must use a hard wheat variety.  Read more about red wheat and white wheat here.

Now let’s talk about which wheat flour I recommend.

My favorite brand of wheat berries and wheat flour is Wheat Montana.  They use chemical free, non-GMO grains.  They are a very high quality grain, which makes wonderful tasting flour.  Look for 100% White Whole Wheat Flour, which they call Prairie Gold.

prairie gold

I was impressed to find a 40 pound package through Amazon for as low as $27.14 (with Amazon Prime/Mom and subscribe and save).  That makes it just 68¢ per pound for very high quality flour.  (Be sure to click over to the Prairie Gold option if you want the white whole wheat.)

I also like the Azure Standard White Wheat Flour, which is as low as 92¢ per pound.  If you are a part of an Azure Standard co-op, you may want to look into this.

Beyond those options, I have seen white wheat flour at Traders Joes, Whole Foods, and other health food stores.  I don’t know the prices because I don’t have easy access to any of those stores.

Share what you know about these options.  Do you grind flour, or purchase it already ground?  What is your favorite variety?

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Is Wheat Making Us All Fat and Unhealthy?

I have been asked many, many times, “Have you read Wheat Belly?  What do you think of it?”  I decided to answer that question here, and open it up for a friendly discussion so that I can hear your thoughts too!

First let me say this:  No, I haven’t read Wheat Belly.  I’ve chosen not to read it because I already feel overloaded with all the information out there about what is healthy, what is not, and how I should be raising my children. (Oh wait, that last bit about being a parent has nothing to do with food or nutrition. Mostly.)  From the description and the reviews of the book, however, I can tell that Wheat Belly contains some helpful information that will benefit many people – especially people who are frequently eating many processed foods. 

Some people really can not handle eating wheat.  If that’s you, then by all means, don’t eat it, and hooray for you that you found a solution for your body’s good health!  But do I feel like we should all throw out the wheat?  Well, since my wheat grinder is humming in the background in preparation for making bread as I write this post, I guess you probably know my answer.

Why does eating wheat sometimes make a person gain weight?  Anytime you’re eating too many carbs (which is what wheat is) – you are likely to put on some extra pounds.  But hey, anytime you eat too much of anything – you are likely to put on some extra pounds.  The key words in those sentences, in my opinion is not “wheat” or “carbs.”  It is “too much.”  Any time you are eating too much of any food (or food group), you are going to lack balance, which can cause weight gain and/or health issues.

The word balance is becoming one of my favorites:  BALANCE.  Bal-ance.  BalanicimoBalanciencioso

Folks – maybe we do need to stop eating so much food with wheat in it, simply so that we can fill our bodies with more vegetables in an effort to achieve balance.  Maybe we should go easier on the bread – so that we can be sure we are getting enough protein food like healthy meat, nuts, eggs, and beans.  It’s all a part of eating in balance.

I may be taking too much of a simplistic view of nutrition and health, but I don’t agree that one part of our diet – in this case, wheat – is the cause of all health concerns.  (Isn’t it a fact that wheat and sugar almost always go together? I believe that is something we need to consider when we call wheat the “bad guy.” Maybe I’ll write another book to follow Wheat Belly called Sugar Gut.)

What I do agree with:  Many of us (my family included) eat a lot of grains – too many perhaps.  Whole grains contain good nutrients, but we really must all be intentional about making sure our diets also include plenty of fruits and vegetables, plus healthy meats, dairy, nuts, eggs, and healthy fats. 

So if you are starting your day with donuts (and nothing else), having two rolls with lunch (with a side of jelly), eating a muffin for a snack, and then a burger with a bun for dinner, with three cookies for dessert - stop it!  That’s not balanced, it’s really heavy on the wheat, and really light on…well, everything else, especially fruits and vegetables. 

What about the argument that our wheat today is not the same as it was 50 years ago?  It’s true.  There have been modifications made to wheat through the years.  Bleh.  Unfortunately, and I hate to break it to you, almost all of our foods (fruits and vegetables included) have been modified through the years.  It’s frustrating, but don’t overthink it.  If you do, you’ll be afraid to eat anything at all, and that’s not a fun place to be.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: God is bigger than the food we eat.  (And Jesus is the Bread of Life.)

Do the best you can.  Be intentional about eating a wide variety of nutrients found in real, whole food.  And when/if you eat wheat, make sure you are also eating a peach, some green beans, and a hunk of chicken.  Sound like a plan?

Hopefully that helps answer your questions about my thoughts on eating wheat.  I certainly don’t claim to know it all.  This is simply where I’ve landed after much research and prayer.  I’d love to know your thoughts about eating wheat…

 

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Flour Made From White Wheat and Red Wheat – Is It All Whole Wheat?

Remember the post I wrote talking about which kind of wheat flour is best?  In that post, I told how both hard red wheat and hard white wheat are good for you.  Both make whole wheat flour.  They are simply different varieties of wheat.

Well, a few weeks ago, when we were visiting family in Kansas, wheat fields were ready for harvest – and so, so beautiful.  I grew up in Kansas, and since I don’t live there anymore, I have really learned to appreciate the beauty of a wheat field.  I tend to gush about it over and over when I see what used to just be a “boring ol’ wheat field”.  That was a side note, but I thought you’d like to hear what Matt has to hear each time we go “home” for a visit.  Wheat fields are so pretty!!  (For the record, my California born and raised husband agrees with me.)

Anyway, we were driving back to my dad’s after church and I nearly came out of my seat belt as we drove past these wheat fields.  Why had I never seen fields like this before?  Had I simply not been paying attention?  Check out the difference in these two fields:

My darling husband, seeing what I was pointing out, kindly slammed on the brakes (not really, but sort of), put the car in reverse, and pulled over so I could get some pictures.  (Don’t worry.  We were on a country road in the middle of nowhere.  There wasn’t another vehicle around for miles.)  There, side by side, was a field of hard red wheat, and a field of hard white wheat.  Gorgeous!

The main reason we wanted pictures is to show you that indeed, red wheat and white wheat both make whole wheat flour – they are just different varieties of wheat.  (Read through all of my grain and grain mill posts if you’d like to learn more.)  And the other reason we wanted pictures is because wheat fields are beautiful and I wanted to gush about them to you.

If I could have recorded the sound they made in the breeze, I would have done that too.  Okay, I’m done gushing now. 

But tell me – is that not beautiful??!   :)

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My Current Thoughts About Soaking or Not Soaking Grains

Since we started the week here talking about what healthy eating really means, I thought this might be a good time to discuss the many questions I receive about the idea of soaking grains.  There is definitely conflicting information on this subject.  If you’re wondering what I’m even talking about when I say “soaking grains“, you may want to read this post.

If you’ve been reading here long, you know that I’ve done quite a bit of struggling with the idea of soaking grains for better digestion.  I learned so much several years ago from reading Nourishing Traditions about eating real, whole foods and the importance of healthy fats and well balanced nutrition.  Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, feels very strongly after much research that it is important to soak oats, wheat flour, and most other grains in something like whey, yogurt, kefir, cultured buttermilk, lemon juice, or vinegar for at least seven hours to allow the enzymes to break down and neutralize the phytic acid so that our bodies can digest the grain.

My initial reaction after reading Nourishing Traditions was to feel that I absolutely had to soak all of our grains before I made any breads, muffins, pancakes – everything! - otherwise I was being a horrible mother.  The book wasn’t condemning, I just took everything I read in it straight to the heart, and had a huge desire to do everything right as I transitioned our family into healthy eating.  I never really came up with a soaked bread we liked and many of the soaked muffins and such just had a funky flavor, but I kept trying anway.  I had to soak – I had to soak – I had to soak. And if I didn’t soak, I felt guilty – like I was feeding my kids junk food.  Sounds extreme, but that’s how I felt about it.

As time went on, I began to feel very overwhelmed by the need to soak all of our grains.  Was anything really wrong with me simply stirring up and baking some muffins without first soaking the grains?  Why did healthy cooking have to be so difficult?  On top of that, my family didn’t really love the taste of my soaked grain baked goods.  Truthfully, neither did I.  Keeping up with soaking became a tedious chore for me, especially as my life became more full with my family and with keeping up with the work on this site.

Somewhere in there, I read this article from Bread Beckers, detailing why soaking grains is not necessary.  It is a well researched, well written article.  And it made me question so many things I’d learned about soaking grains.

As I’ve wrestled with this through the years, I received many questions about soaking grains from you, my readers.  Here I am wavering on my conviction on this subject and you are wanting my thoughts and opinion on the matter.  I don’t want to steer anyone wrong!  I don’t want to be the authority on this subject!  I’m not saying soaking grains is right.  I’m not saying soaking grains is wrong.  Shucks, I don’t even really know what I’m saying.

I’m saying I’m tired.  I’m saying I’m a little overwhelmed by all the conflicting information out there about what it truly means to eat a healthy diet where grains are involved.  I’m saying that I give up on trying to have all the answers about grains.  Soaked grains, sprouted grains, no grains at all?  I don’t want to cop out, I just want simplicity and balance.  I wish I could provide you with something more solid.

For our family, at this point I have landed on eating whole grains, mainly freshly ground grains, and trying to work in a nice variety of them.  For the most part, I am not soaking my grains right now.  And I don’t feel guilt over it.  Mostly.  ;)

I’m doing the best I can for my family and I feel peace with this decision.

So what are your thoughts about soaking and sprouting grains?  I’d love to hear where you have landed on this subject.

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How Many Cups of Flour in a Pound of Wheat

You would not believe the amount of wheat measuring-flour calculating drama I’ve had here during the past few days.  And here I thought that I was decent at math.  In addition, I was under the impression that my brain still had at least a little bit of function-ability left.  But wowza, figuring out how many cups of flour in a pound of wheat just about threw me over the edge.  And unfortunately for you – you had to read my posts and deal with me giving you all kinds of weird information all week.

I think I have now figured this thing out.  And I’m posting it here because, for the life of me, I could not find any answers when I did any internet searches.  And believe you me, I did some big time internet searches.  To the best of my knowledge, the following information is accurate, or at least it is as close as I could figure with what was left of my brain reserves after this week.  I used Montana Gold, Chemical Free, Hard White Wheat in my calculations.

1 pound of wheat = 2 cups of wheat
2 cups of wheat = 3 cups of flour

For me, since I currently pay $0.39/pound of wheat, this breaks down to:

3 cups of flour = $0.39
1 cup of flour = $0.13

And now, I shall go take a long, long nap, because even though it shouldn’t have been nearly that complicated for me to figure out this information, it sent my brain into a crazy tailspin.  My apologies to every one of you who got pulled into my confusion this week.  I’m planning to continue sharing more of my Real Food – Low Cost calculations next week – after my nap.

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What Kind of Wheat Flour is Best?

I get lots and lots of questions about which wheat flour I use and about which I feel is best for baking.  I decided to take a few pictures to try and show you the differences and to explain my favorites.

As you can imagine, the grain and flour picture taking thing was fun.  We all know that my fanciest and finest accessory is flour in my hair and on my jeans.  This gave me opportunity to look my best at a soccer game Saturday afternoon.  Yes, somehow I managed to get freshly ground flour at the bottom of my left pant leg by my shoe.  It takes talent, people.

I’ve talked bunches about how I love grinding my flour in my Nutrimill.  You can read through all of the posts in my Grains and Grain Mills section to learn more about whether or not a grain mill saves money, which grain mills I prefer and how to grind flour in a grain mill.

There really is no comparison between store bought whole wheat flour and freshly ground whole wheat flour.  I have found that all of my baked goods taste best when made with freshly ground hard white wheat.  I also discovered, after I saved up and purchased a grain mill six years ago, that I made my money back on it within six months.  It’s very cost effective to grind your own wheat, not to mention the fresher the flour, the more nutrients it contains.

If you still aren’t ready or able to buy a grain mill, I suggest that you try to find whole wheat flour at the store that is made from white wheat.  I’m just starting to see this flour pop in up local stores, so this is encouraging.  (Before, I only saw them if I went out of town to a Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s.)  I’ve used and recommend King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat Flour or better yet, try to find an organic variety like this one.

Okay, now a few pictures to show you some differences between red and white wheat, and the flour they each produce.

First, a lovely picture of wheat kernels (or berries).  On the left you will see Hard Red Wheat – on the right you will see Hard White Wheat:

See, they are both whole wheat kernels, they are just a different variety.  This should answer all those questions about whether white wheat is as healthy as red wheat.  The answer is yes.  They are both good for you.  They are just different kinds of wheat.  Red wheat produces a darker, heavier, stronger flavored flour.  Some like it – I don’t prefer it.  White wheat produces a much milder, easier to work with flour.  In many recipes, when I use Hard White Wheat, it’s hard to tell that the baked good is even made with whole wheat flour.  I love hard white wheat.

Next, I ground both some red wheat and some white wheat.  It may be difficult to tell the difference in the two pictures that follow, but if you look real closely, I think you’ll see a difference.

First you will see a picture of my beloved hard white wheat flour.  Notice that it is white in color with a few specks of light brown throughout.  It almost looks like white flour, but nope – all of those wonderful nutrients are all still there in the flour.

Second, we have the Hard Red Wheat Flour.  Do you see that the brown in this flour is darker and a little more reddish brown in color?  This will produce a darker, whole wheat baked product.  It’s still tasty and obviously still very good for you – just a little heavier tasting.  I had happened upon a great deal on some red wheat, which is why I have any at all!  I occasionally mix my red and white together to make it easier for our family to eat the red wheat.

One more thing:  You can also purchase Soft White Wheat.  Once ground, this becomes “whole wheat pastry flour” which can be used in any baked good that does not require the use of yeast.  You must use a hard grain for yeast breads. Pastry flour is great for muffins, cookies, quick breaks and cakes.  However, since my hard white wheat still works fine for these products, I usually just use it for all of my wheat baking.  It’s easier that way!

(You can read this post to learn great sources for purchasing grain.)

Your turn to share:  What’s your favorite kind of wheat flour?  Have you taken the plunge to grind your own grain yet?  Ever found yourself at a soccer game with flour on your pant leg?

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What it Means to “Soak Grains”

It’s a funny term isn’t it?  “Soak your grains.”  It sounds like you need to dump a bunch of water into your bucket of hard white wheat kernels and give ‘em a good soaking.  But don’t do that.  You don’t want soggy wheat berries.

For those of you who are new to “soaking grains” and have emailed me with questions of confusion as to what this means exactly…I thought I would take the time to explain it a little bit better, and to show some pictures of what a bowl of “soaking grains” looks like!

First, let’s talk a tiny bit about why soaking grains is important.  Because I’m not good at remembering big words and how to use them, here is a quote from the Nourishing Traditions cookbook about soaking grains:

Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid.  Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption.  Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion.  Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and, in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available.

In Laura’s terms:  When you soak your grain, your tummy will feel better and the nutrients in the grain will be better used by your body.

If you’ve been reading here long, you know that I’m a little bit on the fence when it comes to soaking grains.  Sometimes I’m a soaker…sometimes I’m not.  It depends on the day and what recipe I’m using, but I do try to soak my grains if I can.  There are different schools of thought behind soaking grains and you can read my thoughts about it (and other people’s ideas and comments) here.  Matt and I have come to the conclusion that we don’t need to go into panic mode if I don’t get around to soaking our grains.  Right or wrong…that’s where we’ve landed.  I really like the pressure this has taken off of my brain.

Now, having said all of that…I would like to share what “soaking grains” really means.  Ultimately, it means that you are soaking the whole grain that has already been ground into flour .  (You can/should also soak oats or cornmeal.  Oats are soaked the same as flour.  Cornmeal requires a different variety of soaking, which I’ll discuss in a separate post.)

The soaking of said flour or oats needs to be done in an “acid medium liquid” for 12-24 hours, or at least overnight.  This means, you can soak your flour or oats in:

The flour doesn’t need to “go swimming” in the liquid.  It simply needs to be wet.  In any of my recipes that give soaking instructions, I will share the exact measurements of flour and/or oats and liquids needed for soaking.  On my site, I have instructions for soaking:  Whole Wheat Waffles, Simple Soaked Pancakes, Breakfast Cookies, Breakfast Cake, Poptarts, Pizza Pocket dough, and others that I’m likely forgetting at the moment.  :)  I also describe how to soak my Whole Wheat Tortillas in my Totally Tortillas ebook.

Here is what my Simple Soaked Pancakes look like in the morning after I’ve stirred together the flour and buttermilk the night before.  See the little bubbles that formed?  That means we’ve accomplished kind of a “sourdough” effect.  Perfect!  Next, I mix in the remaining ingredients and make the pancakes.  (And then the fam will eat the entire triple batch before I have a chance to grab one if I’m not on top of my game.) 

This is what my Whole Wheat Tortillas look like once I’ve mixed them up and left them to “soak”.  This recipe with soaking instructions is so simple because I put them all together, they soak, then they are ready right away for me to roll them out and cook them!

Soaking grains isn’t difficult at all…it just requires a little bit of planning ahead!

Some other frequently asked questions about soaking grains include:

Do I need to soak my flour even if it isn’t freshly ground in a grain mill?

Yes, even if it is store bought whole wheat flour, it is best to soak it if you can.

Do I need to soak my white flour?

Nope.  The reason it’s white flour is because the bran and the germ have been taken out.  The bran is what needs to be soaked in the first place.  Since that’s not there…no reason to soak!

What other questions do you have about soaking grains?  Are you a soaker?

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Switching to Whole Wheat Flour – making the transitions easier

simplesteps

I want to take some time to address some of the many whole wheat flour questions I receive from those of you making the switch from white to brown.  So many of you email me to say “I wish we liked whole wheat flour…we just don’t.  What ideas do you have?”  or “When I bake with whole wheat flour, my food often feels and tastes heavy and grainy.  My kids won’t eat it.”  or “Laura, you look really good with flour in your hair, what’s your secret for getting it right there on your bangs?”  Just kidding about that last statement.  Thankfully.

My suggestion (and hear me out on this, because I think I know all of your arguments) is…okay actually I have two suggestions:

  1. Use a Grain Mill to grind fresh flour.
  2. Use Hard WHITE Wheat.

Here’s the deal:  I have NEVER liked store-bought whole wheat flour.  Still don’t like it very much.  The idea of switching to whole wheat flour to me was NOT appealing and I DIDN’T want to.

Until I had a piece of my friend’s bread made with freshly ground hard white wheat flour.  That was all the evidence I needed.

I really didn’t believe her when she said that the bread was 100% whole wheat.  It didn’t taste whole wheat.  It didn’t look whole wheat.  It didn’t feel whole wheat.  Oh, but did it ever smell and taste good.

It was at that moment (after she answered more of my questions and after I talked it over with Matt of course) that I decided that I would save any extra money we had toward getting my own grain mill.  The problem was…we had NO extra money to save toward a grain mill. 

What I Did:

I started buying Hard White Wheat and letting my friend grind it for me.  She was so sweet to do this, and it worked, but it certainly wasn’t convenient.  I then began making these soft pretzels to sell at our local farmer’s market to save for my Nutrimill.  It took just a few weeks before I had enough money saved.  I ordered my Nutrimill right away!  That was five years ago, and I’ve gotta say that saving up for and buying my Nutrimill was SUCH a great investment.  My whole family thinks so. 

Why Freshly Ground Flour Made from Hard White Wheat is Different (and tastes so good):

Well, fresh flour is…fresh.  It’s amazing the difference in taste you’ll notice when you eat bread and other goodies made from flour that has been freshly ground.  The whole wheat flour from the store is a little on the old side and is likely even to be rancid.  It is usually often made from RED wheat.

Which leads me to my second point about why freshly ground flour from hard white wheat is different and tastes so good:  White wheat is lighter in texture and color than red wheat.  Whole wheat flour made from Hard White Wheat produces lovely bread, tortillas, pizza crust, muffins…everything you need flour for.

The Question of the Hour:

But Laura, doesn’t white wheat turn into white flour?

Ah, I didn’t get that at first either.  But NO, it absolutely doesn’t.  Hard White Winter Wheat is simply a different variety of grain.  Hard Spring Red Wheat has the same nutritional value as Hard White Winter Wheat…but white wheat makes (in  my opinion) a nicer and more palatable whole wheat flour.

I think you’ll notice a big difference.

(White flour that you buy at the store, by the way, is flour made by sifting out the bran and germ after the grain has been ground.  This was originally done to give it a longer shelf life.  Now, unless otherwise noted, the white flour is bleached to make it whiter.  Yum.)

What Do I Suggest?

See if you can find someone who has a grain mill and will let you try out freshly ground flour made from hard white wheat.  Hey, if you come over to my place, I’ll let you try some of mine!  (I may even share my secret of getting flour in my hair.)

If you like it (the freshly ground flour…not the flour in my hair), I recommend doing a little something to save up for a grain mill.  I love my Nutrimill!!!  Here’s a video of me showing how to use the Nutrimill.  I love Paula’s Bread as your go-to source for purchasing a Nutrimill.  She offers great prices and offers wonderful customer service.

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And…you may want to look into this online Bread Class offered by Lori.  She teaches you to use freshly ground flour to make a perfect loaf of bread…and other great baked goods too!  It’s a very helpful class!

Lastly…I will recommend that if you just aren’t able to grind fresh flour right now, try to find store bought whole wheat flour made from white wheat, labeled, White Whole Wheat.  King Arthur has a nice variety.  It’s not quite the same (because it isn’t fresh), but it’s the best store-bought flour I’ve used.

Those of you who’ve been grinding your own flour…share what you love about it!  How were you able to make the investment to get a grain mill?  Which is your favorite grain mill and wheat to grind?

(You’ll find more posts I’ve written about grinding grain, where I recommend getting grain, which grain I recommend and ALL kinds of grainy questions answered in this section!)

Disclaimer:  No one here is going to force you to grind your own flour, eat white wheat or get flour in your hair.  If you like flour make with red wheat, enjoy!  If you can’t afford a grain mill, this is not a guilt trip.  I’m just answering many readers’ questions.  Hopefully you all found it helpful.  And hopefully you are much cleaner bakers than I am.  Not only is there flour in my hair, it is also on my kitchen floor and counter tops.  I need to go clean my kitchen. 

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