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There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

How to Find Joy in Nourishing Your Body

There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I’ve experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I’m so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

“You have to be healthy to eat healthy.”

It’s something I often say to people frustrated with trying to eat the “right way” but still not feeling great. There are so many diets that promote real food and healing. They all have merit, but that doesn’t mean they work for everyone.

I know this because I’ve tried them (read some of my thoughts HERE). And the only thing I got was severe obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety, more food intolerances and infertility. But no healing.

The real problem is they all include rules. Specific diets place restrictions on what you can eat and categorize food as good or bad. When a food is deemed bad or forbidden guess what happens? You want it! You are left with this constant decision making between doing the right thing or the wrong thing. And feeling guilty if you choose wrong. Or worse food starts to cause anxiety.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

It took me the last twenty years to move past feeling like food is either good or bad. But I did it.  And I love it! It is so freeing to finally enjoy food.

Sound Familiar? There’s help!

Are you hung up on trying to find the right diet for you? Are you wondering if low carb or grain free or high fat is right for you? Does it make you stressed just thinking about it? Here are some simple tips to get past the fear and back to joy.

  1. Start listening to your body.
    Take note of how you feel when you eat certain foods. Keep a food journal for a week or two if need be. If nuts bother your stomach, take a break from them. If you feel better eating more carbohydrates and less fat then go for it. Eat what makes YOU feel good, not what helps your neighbor or your favorite blogger. If you are dealing with an autoimmune disease or allergies that will impact what foods hurt or help.
  2. Get rid of the rules.
    Stop viewing food as good or bad. As long as it’s real food it’s ok. Enjoy a piece of homemade chocolate cake and ice cream. Make a big stack of pancakes with butter and real maple syrup for breakfast. When you restrict foods because you think you shouldn’t eat them (instead of restricting because they actually make you feel bad) they create more stress. Ditch the diet and rigid rules.
  3. Start focusing on nourishment.
    This is where the fun begins. When you let go of unnecessary rules and you’re not constantly debating between eating a salad and digging into a container of ice cream you can focus on really taking care of your body.

Finding Joy

I spent far too many years trying to eat the perfect diet. Only to feel stressed, anxious and deprived. Then I had to go the other direction of eating anything and everything to try to restore metabolic health (you can read about my journey HERE and HERE). All to find a place of balance. Now I find great joy in nourishing my body. Not because a diet tells me to. Because I want to.

I heard someone recently say that happiness is external and joy is internal. Being happy comes from your circumstances, but joy is a state of being that comes from within. And it’s true. Good food does make me happy. But it’s the joy and peace I have inside that motivates me to make healthy choices every day.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Balance is Key

Today eating is like an exciting adventure for me. I try to pack as many nutrients into my food as possible. I add desiccated liver and fermented kale to smoothies and salads. I eat sardines and anchovies a couple times a week. I eat pastured meats and eggs regularly. I aim for a rainbow of vegetables and plenty of healthy fats daily. I drink herbal teas for added minerals and to support my body and get my hormones back in balance. It’s almost like a fun game to see how many vitamins and minerals I can get each day. I feel good and the joy comes pouring out.

But I also enjoy a dish of ice cream when I want it. Sometimes I eat a bowl of mashed avocado and tortilla chips for breakfast (quick and delicious…and it’s easy to add liver to avocado!). I like to bake with my kids and make special sweet treats together (like gluten free Oreos® and salted honey chocolates). It’s even rare that I go a day without at least a little bit of chocolate.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

There is no more should or shouldn’t with food. There are no rules. There is no restriction. Which in turn eliminates cravings (imagine that!).

Now I love to fuel my body, and I love how it makes me feel. That does not mean my diet is perfect. Not every single bite of food has to be nutrient packed. And less healthy foods here and there don’t negate all the good stuff I put in my body every day.

Let go of the Guilt

There is no guilt or feeling of reward for eating a certain way. I just truly love to eat nutrient dense food. No rules or special diets. I don’t eat GAPS or Paleo or AIP or low carb or any other specialized diet. I just eat real food that makes me feel good and that I know is helping me take care of my body. One day I might eat grain free while the next I might need some extra starch. And they are both just fine!

It’s very freeing to let go and find joy in nourishment. And it’s the healthiest I’ve ever been!

I am very blessed that I do not have an autoimmune condition or severe allergies. But I do have some sensitivities and health issues I’m still working through. But I try not to let them get me down. I nourish my body as best I can with my limitations and keep striving for full healing.

Eating real food is easy. There are limitless options. Eating real food that meets your needs can be hard. But once you figure out how to do it you’ll love how you feel.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Foods That Nourish

Some of my favorite nutrient dense foods are ferments. They are packed with natural probiotics. What I really love is how easy they are (take a big scoop and enjoy!) and how much my kids like them. My toddler can’t get enough sauerkraut. While we do make our own sometimes, I don’t always have time to pound cabbage.

I recently got the chance to try sauerkraut and fermented pickles from Cultured Guru.There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Both the kraut and pickles have just a few simple ingredients and taste amazing! Using traditional fermentation these products are teaming with probiotics. They make great additions to a meal or are the perfect quick snack.

My oldest can’t get enough of the pickles. She has oral SPD and doesn’t tolerate any amount of spice. So even though she likes pickles it’s rare we can find any she’ll eat. But she loves the Cultured Guru pickles! She loves the sauerkraut too. Another rarity for her.

If you want to try some Cultured Guru ferments you’re in luck! You can get 25% off off using coupon code PROBIO.

I’ll be stocking up too. My kids and I can’t get enough!! Such a blessing when working on healing allergies!There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Super Charged Bites

Another super food that tops my list is a traditional staple – organ meats. I get mine by adding Perfect Supplements desiccated liver to just about everything. I even make caramel with it! I also love the fermented kale, collagen and aquatic greens from Perfect Supplements. I add them to most of our smoothies.

You can get 10% off any of these Perfect Supplements products with the coupon code TAKE10.

Some of my other favorite foods include sardines, salmon, eggs, raw milk, butter, lard, tallow, pastured meats and a rainbow of vegetables. They all make my body smile.

You have to be healthy to eat healthy.

I’m so excited to finally be healthy so I can enjoy eating well and nourishing my body every day.

Are you ready to let go of rules and enjoy eating again? Ditch the diets and find joy in nourishing your body.

Today is my birthday, and I’m starting it with pure joy. Joy that I’m taking care of myself and this beautiful body God gave me.

Want to see what I eat for my #nourishingbreakfast #nourishinglunch and #nourishingdinner? Follow me on Instagram! It may inspire you…or it might gross you out. In my husband’s words, “You eat that for breakfast?!”There are so many diets and theories and opinions when it comes to health. I've experimented with many of them! As I celebrate another year of life I'm so excited to finally be able to find joy in nourishing my body.

Disclaimer: I am working with Cultured Guru for this post. I have been compensated for my time but all opinions are my own.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Food reactions are common and sometimes hard to pinpoint. Allergy testing can be helpful. But what happens if you get a negative allergy test? Does it put you in the clear?

Does a Negative Allergy Test Put You In The Clear?

Food reactions are common and sometimes hard to pinpoint. Allergy testing can be helpful. But what happens if you get a negative allergy test? Does it put you in the clear?

Food reactions are common and sometimes hard to pinpoint. Allergy testing can be helpful. But what happens if you get a negative allergy test? Does it put you in the clear?

Allergy tests are great for pinpointing food reactions. All three of my kids have had multiple rounds of testing done.

Sometimes the test confirms a suspicion I have about a trigger food. Sometimes it helps me figure out a random allergy that I never would have guessed.

Not Always Accurate

But allergy tests are not 100% accurate. An IgE skin prick allergy test only checks for a reaction to the protein in the food. You could have a strong reaction to the sugar in a food (lactose intolerance is a great example) and test negative for an allergy.

An IgE blood test is even less accurate. It checks for antibodies in the blood to a specific food. It can help confirm a diagnosis after a skin prick test is positive. But it is not a very good diagnostic alone.

Food Sensitivities

IgG blood tests are a bit controversial. Some say they are great for detecting food “sensitivities”…actually called latent allergies. Others say this test can give different results every time. You could draw blood three times in the same day and get varying results.

I have done an IgG blood test for myself before. I had mixed feelings about its accuracy. So I’ve never done it for my kids.

All this to say that allergy tests absolutely have their place. And they are quite helpful for diagnosing allergies that range anywhere from mild to severe and life-threatening.

But just because an allergy test is negative does not mean you can throw caution to the wind and eat whatever you want.

My Son

My son has been dealing with various degrees of allergies for many years. It started from birth with some reflux. Then at age two he developed bad eczema on his legs. Thus started our journey with allergy testing and food elimination.

Every time he is tested a slew of foods shows up. We cut them out, work on healing for a while and retest. 

But every time this has happened things have gotten a little more challenging. For example, rice showed up on his first allergy test. We cut it out. Six months later when he was retested the rice allergy was gone. Yet three years later he still can not eat rice without noticeable reactions.

Making Progress

In spite of some foods still causing problems we were making progress narrowing his list of reactive foods. Then in early 2016 after the onset of stomach aches and an inability to eat much he was retested.

To our shock he had a back full of welts. We were given a prescription for an epi-pen. And he was diagnosed with potentially anaphylactic allergies to nuts, dairy and a few other foods.

Wait, what happened over the last year that made his allergies go from mild and healing to life threatening??

Even though we didn’t have an answer to that question we moved forward, removing the necessary foods, always carrying an epi-pen, doing our best to keep him safe.

Food reactions are common and sometimes hard to pinpoint. Allergy testing can be helpful. But what happens if you get a negative allergy test? Does it put you in the clear?

Not Fixxed

He had some reprieve for a bit. We were so happy to see him get an appetite back and really start growing.

But before too long he started having a lot of stomach aches again. Gradually they started to become more frequent. They prevented him from sleeping. They stopped him from eating well.

More Testing

It was back to the drawing board. We started by going to the pediatrician. We did a CBC and metabolic panel. We did urine and stool tests. All normal.

So it was back to the allergist for another round of testing, fearing another laundry list of foods to avoid.

And we got a huge shock!

Every single skin prick was negative. Not even a tiny bit of reaction. So we did the blood test. Again, all negative.

Nuts, dairy, wheat…everything…negative.

Food reactions are common and sometimes hard to pinpoint. Allergy testing can be helpful. But what happens if you get a negative allergy test? Does it put you in the clear?

Although it was good news I was more confused than ever! The allergist (a new one) said his old test was likely inaccurate because foods were tested at the same time as airborne/environmental allergies.

Now what?

Do I just throw out his allergy list and let him eat whatever he wants? Do I trust the tests?

My husband and I both see glaring evidence of food reactions.

Digging Deeper

Well, I did what I do best. I observed, experimented and researched.

The thing is food reactions are a sign of a deeper issue.

Just because an allergy test is negative does NOT mean you can eat a particular food.

This is something I am very passionate about and believe so many parents could benefit from.

Behavior, digestion, skin, emotions…they are all impacted by the food you eat. Even healthy, nourishing food can create a negative reaction.

Case in point – my whole family (you can read more about it in my book Why Won’t My Child Eat?!).

Experimenting

We gradually let my son try a few foods he’d been avoiding. His stomach aches increased in frequency. His mood declined. He started wetting the bed. He developed bad breath.

Then we let him try some goat’s milk. Wow.

The result was horrific meltdowns, almost as if he was a psychiatric patient. Anything and everything caused him to scream, cry, hit himself and berate himself. It’s a parent’s nightmare.

No amount of comforting him and trying to talk through his feelings helped. If his big sister wouldn’t play with him – meltdown. If I told him I was reading a book his little sister picked out before the book he picked out – meltdown. If he wasn’t crazy about some of the food on his plate – meltdown.

This list could go on and on.

After some charcoal and a few days off of dairy he returned to a more stable state.

Sadly it’s not just dairy that does this to him. There are quite a few foods, all with varying degrees of reactions.

I could also go through our entire family listing foods and reactions. Yet we all test negative for food allergies.

So now what?

What do you do if allergy tests are negative but food reactions are present?

You get help from others who have been there. You find doctors and practitioners who are willing to dig deeper and find a cure instead of simply avoiding certain foods.

Why Won't My Child Eat?!

Healthy Kids

In my book I teach you how to observe your child and not just accept the poor behavior. Find a root cause and fix it. Say goodbye to picky eating and temper tantrums.

Beyond Allergy Testing

If allergy testing isn’t giving you answers, here are some other conditions to consider.

  1. Overall gut dysfunction/leaky gut.
  2. Parasites – they are more common than you think. They tend to really act up around a full moon, so if your child is worse during that time it is something to consider.
  3. Slow metabolism.
  4. Thyroid disorders.
  5. Lack of sleep
  6. Mineral imbalance/nutritional deficiency

And here are some potential treatments.

  1. GAPS diet (Gut And Psychology Syndrome)
  2. Parasite cleanse
  3. Probiotics
  4. Digestive Enzymes
  5. Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis

 

You can also treat food reactions from a more neurological and physical perspective. This includes:

  1. Functional neurology
  2. Chiropractic care
  3. Craniosacral therapy
  4. Osteopathic manipulation therapy
  5. Energy healing
  6. Muscle response testing

Baby Steps

I don’t have all of the answers for you. We are still in the trenches with my son’s reactions, trying to find the correct path forward. 

I know we will keep digging until we find the problem and the solution. We will restore my son to full health. We will find health for our whole family!

A negative allergy test does not give you free reign on food.

You have to dig a little deeper. It’s more work, but so worth it! In the end you will be able to eat more of the nutritious food your body needs.

Have you or your children been tested for allergies? Was it helpful or confusing?

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

It's not always easy or cheap to lead a natural lifestyle. Sometimes we still reach for convenience foods...but of higher quality. But just what is the natural flavor in your "natural" foods?

The Secret Ingredient Hiding In Your Natural Food: What Is Natural Flavor?

It’s not always easy or cheap to lead a natural lifestyle. Sometimes we still reach for convenience foods…but of higher quality. But just what is the natural flavor in your “natural” foods?

It's not always easy or cheap to lead a natural lifestyle. Sometimes we still reach for convenience foods...but of higher quality. But just what is the natural flavor in your "natural" foods?

It’s been over three years now since we cut out food coloring/food dyes from our kids’ diet. As in absolutely none. No exceptions. Artificial flavor is limited to a few times a year in a treat of vanilla ice cream.

It has made a big difference in how my children feel and behave. It is literally like a drug for my oldest. Sometimes it makes her insane. Sometimes it makes her super mellow. Either way, it’s impacting her brain and is not good.

Of course cutting out artificial ingredients naturally lends itself to a healthier, more natural lifestyle. Who doesn’t love that?!

Instead of artificially flavored fruit snacks you buy organic gummies. Instead of Trix yogurt with food dyes you get organic yogurt. Instead of traditional candy you buy organic suckers made with fruit. Sounds great!

Not Enough

That was us…for a while. Until I noticed my daughter was exhibiting the same behavior as when she ate the foods with artificial colors and flavors.

Being the investigator that I am I read labels, I observed her, I kept a food journal. She had already been gluten free for a long time.

The one thing that I came up with was the ingredient common to all of these “natural” foods…

Natural Flavor

Since then I’ve been doing more research. Both experimenting with diet and reading any information I can find. I really want to know…what is natural flavor??

Not surprisingly I came across article after article that said natural flavor is basically the same thing as artificial flavor. The only real difference is the ingredient(s) it starts with. Natural flavor starts with real food. But it still undergoes various chemical processes which result in a product not much different than its artificial counterpart.

The Technical Term

According to the Code of Federal Regulations, “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors, include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants.”

Per dictionary.com enzymolysis is: “Chemical change or cleavage of a substance by enzymatic action.

So, natural flavor can come from a chemical change of bark and it’s still within the guidelines. Interesting.

It's not always easy or cheap to lead a natural lifestyle. Sometimes we still reach for convenience foods...but of higher quality. But just what is the natural flavor in your "natural" foods?

What Others Are Saying

According to dailyburn.com:

“Natural flavors are coming from natural sources — the original ingredient is found in nature and then purified and extracted and added back into the food.

But, that doesn’t necessarily mean the “natural flavors” in your blueberry granola bar are simply…crushed-up blueberries. Rather, they probably consist of a chemical originally found in blueberries, enhanced and added into your food in a lab.”

“Added flavoring, both natural and artificial, could contain anywhere from 50 to 100 ingredients. And all of the extra ingredients in flavors often aren’t as innocent as you’d hope they would be. The mixture will often have some solvent and preservatives — and that makes up 80 to 90 percent of the volume [of the flavoring]. In the end product, it’s a small amount, but it still has artificial ingredients.”

NaturalNews.com states:

“Regulations for the word “natural” only apply to flavors; anywhere else you find it on food packaging means absolutely nothing regarding quality. Secondly, the FDA definition of “natural flavors” and “natural flavoring” allows for the substance to be extracted from plant or animal “matter.” So when you buy something that’s organic, vegetarian, or vegan, and it has “natural flavoring,” you could be eating a pig, cow, turkey, chicken, or lamb which was shot up with growth hormones, fed GMO pesticide-laden corn and grain – probably mixed with other animals of it’s same breed, then shot up with antibiotics due to infections and diseases from living in confined quarters on slats covered in feces.

Monosodium Glutamate is a neurotoxin that can be legally hidden from you and/or be labeled “natural flavors” in the ingredients list. MSG is not a natural flavor – in fact, it can cause brain lesions, neuro-endocrine disorders, and neurodegenerative disease in humans, but you won’t hear any doctors of Western Medicine mentioning that at your next extreme migraine emergency visit. There are more than 25 names for MSG, so sometimes you find it spread out a little, just in case the manufacturer gets “checked out” by anyone other than the FDA.”

Foodbabe.com says:

“With the words “natural flavor” food chemists and companies can put whatever they want in your food that is “generally regarded as safe” including excitotoxins. Natural flavor can legally contain natural occurring “glutamate” bi-products like MSG – which are known excitotoxins. These excitotoxins are some of the chemicals that cause your taste buds to experience irresistibility when it comes to food. Excitotoxins overexcite your cells literally until they die or are damaged causing “injury” and “incapacitating” you with disease. When consumed over time, excitotoxins can cause nerve disorders resulting a myriad of diseases from stroke to Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s. And lots of other side effects too – like obesity, migraines, fatigue and depression.”

Remember what I said about “natural flavor” acting like a brain-altering drug for my kids? It’s not so far fetched when you really do some searching. My observations were spot on.

Straight From The Source

None of it sounds very appealing and certainly doesn’t put my mind at ease.

But I know you can’t trust everything you read. So I set out to do my own investigation.

I called some popular organic food companies and some conventional food companies to ask them about the ingredients in their food (I’ll be kind and won’t name names). Sadly most of them had no answer for me.

I told them I was a mom of kids with tons of allergies. I need to know a full ingredient list or I can’t give it to my kids. Simply avoiding the top eight allergens does not cut it.

These are the responses I got:

“Natural flavor is listed so we can keep the full ingredient list from our competitors. The natural flavor in X product contains apple, corn, black raspberry, cherry, cranberry, lemon, lime and strawberry. I don’t know how it’s processed, but it does contain those ingredients.”

“The natural flavor is outsourced. The ingredients for each flavor can change by the season so we can’t tell you what’s in it. It is made from fruits, vegetables and/or spices. And they can’t be modified. There are no major allergens.”

“The natural flavor comes from a natural source. I don’t have a specific list of ingredients.”

“It is a proprietary formula that I can’t tell you. It is an all natural food or something.”

“The Natural Flavors in our products will follow our same Brand Promise to be Gluten-Free and Free-From the top defined food allergens. We have only aligned ourselves with business partners and ingredient suppliers that can adhere to our strict allergen requirements.”

One website directly stated:

“All our Natural Flavors in our certified organic product are Organic Compliant Natural Flavors and conform to the regulations of both the FDA and the very strict National Organic Plan (NOP) by the USDA.These natural flavors do not contain anything we would not be proud to put in our family’s mouths.  

Please note that we consider our Natural Flavors to be secret recipes so we do not reveal the contents of our Natural Flavors.  We are aware that some people may not be able to eat some of our flavors because we are unable to reveal the secret recipe and we are truly sorry for this inconvenience.”

Digging Even Deeper

Since I was getting nowhere with the food manufacturers I tried contacting some natural flavor manufacturers directly.

No surprise…I couldn’t get any response from them!

I Need To Know

As a mom of kids with allergies it concerns me greatly that I am not allowed to know what is in just about every packaged food. Even simple foods like canned tomatoes and salsa. It also concerns me that these “natural flavors” are so common that nobody questions them.

The word natural has no real standard. It can mean just about anything. Don’t let it fool you too. If you are conscious of avoiding artificial flavors and colors, you might want to add natural flavor your list.

If it is so “natural” why don’t you just tell us what it is??

Now what?

Don’t feel discouraged! You can still live a natural lifestyle. And it does NOT have to be complicated or involve convenience foods with suspicious ingredients.

You can learn to replace store-bought products with DIY options that actually work (like homemade fruit snacks and granola bars) and are easy to make. You feel better (and even look better, too). Healthy living becomes less stressful and more enjoyable.

Our family has felt so much better by making changes to the way we eat, the products we use, and how we take care of ourselves. It’s made all the difference in the world and I want the same for you.

The use of natural flavor has been my biggest “natural food” complaint for many years. It really has no place in our food. And food companies that make quality, whole foods should be more than happy to tell consumers exactly what ingredients they use.

 

Skip the “natural flavor” that is a mystery ingredient. Keep your family well nourished and feeling their best.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Dairy Kefir – Take 2

Last week I got some kefir grains and made my first attempt at making some.  I wasn’t really sure what I was doing or what it was supposed to look like/taste like.  And it didn’t seem to work that well.  So I did a little more research, watched a few videos and tried again this week.  Well, I think it worked this time 🙂  And it really wasn’t hard at all.  I think I just hadn’t given my grains enough time to adjust/grow before.  My first batch of kefir is still probably on the thin side.  But it’s way thicker than the stuff I made last week.  I mixed kefir and yogurt together yesterday for lunch.  That worked well.  The kefir does have a pretty strong sour taste.  I love the tangy taste of plain yogurt.  But kefir is different.  I haven’t accquired the taste for eating it plain yet.  But maybe I will over time.  I’m excited to have kefir and to try in various recipes.  And mostly excited about its impact on my gut 🙂

In addition to dairy kefir there is also water kefir.  Which also is great for your digestive system.  I’ve read about it many places.  Maybe I’ll try that next (thanks for the suggestions Sara and Donielle!).

Here’s the basic idea of how to make dairy kefir:

Kefir

1. Put kefir grains in a clean container (a mason jar works well)
2. Poor milk into the jar (how much milk you use depends on how many grains you have and how much kefir you want to make.  To start out I’m only using about a cup of milk.) and stir with non-metallic spoon.

3.  Cover jar loosely (I use cheesecloth secured with a ring)
4.  Set in a warm spot, away from sunlight (I put mine in a kitchen cupboard…above my oven)
5.  In 12 – 48 hours you should have kefir (The time depends on your grains and how strong you like the kefir)

6.  Strain the kefir into another jar. (I pour it through a strainer)

7.  Put the grains back into the old jar and pour milk on top.  Repeat steps 3 – 6 for more kefir.  Or store in the refrigerator if you want a break from making kefir.

8.  Cover the kefir you just  made.  You can put it right in the refrigerator.  Or you can let it set out a while to continue to thicken and separate.  If it separates the top portion will be thicker, like yogurt.  The bottom will be whey.  You can use them together or separate, just like you do with yogurt.

In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. It will not change the cost of any products or services for you.

Strawberry Banana Sourdough Muffins

It’s strawberry season, and we have a bunch in the fridge.  And my sourdough starter is getting big.  So I figured I’d use them up together.  While searching for sourdough muffin recipes I mostly found recipe for blueberry muffins.  And most of them are very similar.  So I just picked one as my base.  Then I used strawberries and bananas (I have some bananas to use up too) instead of blueberries.  Any berry would work.  I bet diced apples would even be good.  I made these yesterday morning for breakfast.  Yum!!!  Very good.  All 3 of us really like them.  They taste great warm with a healthy spread of butter 🙂  Butter and sourdough are such a great match.  These are mildly sweet and still have a hint of the sourdough flavor.  I used the recipe from Sourdough Home.  I’ll post the original recipe and add my adjustments.  This said it made 6 muffins, so I doubled the recipe…and got 21 muffins!  I filled the muffin cups to the top too.  Maybe it makes 6 jumbo muffins.  I fed my sourdough starter the night before and let it sit on the counter so it was ready in the morning.  I don’t know if this step is necessary, but most recipes suggest it (although this one didn’t).  Some chopped crispy walnuts would be really good in these.

*Edited 8/5/10 – I made another batch of these today with a little mashed banana and some blueberries.  So good!!!  And more moist than with the strawberries.  I used about 1 cup of berries instead of 1/2 cup.  I got 12 muffins out of it.

Strawberry Banana Sourdough Muffins
make 10-12 muffins

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 cup sugar or fructose (You can double this if you want them sweeter. For a double batch I used 3/4 cups…worked well.)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup oil (I used coconut)
1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup blueberries (I added diced strawberries.  I also added some mashed banana and some small banana chunks.) (I think they’re better with 1 cup of berries…blueberries work very well.)

Preheat oven to 425F.

Combine dry ingredients in small bowl. Stir in blueberries (strawberries and banana chunks). Combine wet ingredients (and mashed banana) in medium bowl. Add dry ingredients to wet ones.

Mix quickly and spoon into muffin cups (I used silicon muffin cups…the muffins popped right out.).

Bake at 425 for 18-20 minutes.

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Kefir

As I continue on my journey towards better health, I’m trying to find foods that will help heal my gut.  One that I’ve read a lot about is kefir.  It’s kind of like yogurt (not as thick), but has a lot more good bacteria.  Although I’ve done a fair amount of research kefir is still somewhat of a mystery to me.  What it’s supposed to taste like, how you use it, etc.  But I’m working on experimenting and finding the answers.

You can make kefir from grains or a powder.  Based on what I read the powder is pretty easy.  You just mix it with milk, let it set a bit, and it’s done.  But then you have to buy more.  And it’s not cheap!!  On the other hand, if you use grains to make kefir you only have to buy them once.  They can last forever!  Guess which one I chose?  Grains of course.  But they are a bit trickier (I think).  I got my grains last week and followed the instructions that came with them.  The grains themselves are definitely growing.  So I know I’m doing something right.  But the kefir itself…I’m still working on that.  It was really hot when I started the process, so I think the process was going faster than usaul.  After a few days of adding milk, letting it sit, dumping the  milk and repeating I got what I thought was my first actual batch of kefir.  It smelled and tasted like spoiled milk to me.  Maybe it was bad.  Or maybe it was just really strong kefir (some people compare it to buttermilk).  Either way I couldn’t drink it.  Just to be safe I dumped it and rinsed the grains.  And started over.  I know I have healthy, growing grains, so I started fresh.  And I didn’t let it ferment nearly as long.  So yesterday I made my first new batch.  I only let it go about 12 hours.  And it actually tasted good.  Similar to milk, but you could tell there was more to it than that…a little tangy and a little sweet at the same time.  I’ve got another batch going now (the tough part about kefir…you have to keep making it/keep feeding the grains).  We’ll see how that one goes.  The down side is that it uses up a lot of milk.  But if I use the kefir in place of milk and buttermilk than I guess it evens out.

So I’m in the experimentation phase.  But hoping that even my mild kefir will have some health benefits.  And maybe over time I’ll develop a taste for stronger kefir and can let it ferment longer.  I’m also figuring out how to use my kefir.  Last night I mixed some in with my yogurt.  That worked well (maybe a 1:3 ration, kefir to yogurt).  I’m planning to make kefir smoothies.  And I want to use it in some baking.  Plus just drink it plain sometimes (if I can 🙂  And maybe even use it on my granola.  Mmm.  That sounds good.

For now I’m not going to post a “recipe”/method of how to make keifr.  If you buy the grains you should get directions with them.  And I’m still figuring it out.  When I get more comfortable with it maybe I’ll update this post and give some directions/tips.

If you’re looking for grains, I ordered mine here (but from a different seller that isn’t listed right now).  And if mine keep growing well, maybe I’ll have some to give away 🙂

Note – the pictures are from various stages in the process.  You can see the grains growing.  I’ll have to take a picture some other time when I have the grains clean.

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Black Bean Brownies

I saw a recipe for grain free black bean brownies on Naturally Knocked Up and knew I had to try them.  A brownie that is full of beans?  Sounds good to me.  Plus I had some sprouted black beans I wanted to use up (running out of room in my fridge:).  And we’re getting low on treats for Justin.  These were so easy to make.  And really good!  Who knew you could make a great brownie with beans and no flour?  They have a different texture…much smoother than a regular brownie, not cake-like.  Almost more like fudge.  They can be quite addictive.  I had to stop myself 🙂  But at least I knew I wasn’t being too bad.  I was getting beans, coconut oil and eggs!  Honestly there isn’t much in them that is bad.  I did have to use regular chocolate chunks (all I had in the house).  But that’s not a big deal.  You don’t get much in one piece.  Rebecca and I both like these.  Justin hasn’t tried them yet.  These are super easy to make…you just throw everything in a blender.  The hardest part for me was keeping Rebecca from eating all of the beans before I could get them in the blender 😛  A definite keeper!

Edited 3/13/11 – Donielle modified her recipe to include almonds and spinach.  I tried it with just the almonds.  Awesome!!  I’ll update the recipe to reflect the change.

Grain Free Black Bean Brownies

1 cup crispy almonds (optional)
2 cups black beans, cooked (or 1 can of no salt added) (preferably soaked first)
3 lightly beaten eggs
1/3 cup melted coconut oil (or melted butter)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt (I used unrefined sea salt)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey (or other equivalent sweetener) (I used local raw honey)
1/2 cup chopped up bittersweet chocolate (or semi-sweet chips if you don’t mind the added refined sugar in them) (I used semi-sweet chocolate chunks…I’d like to make them with homemade chocoalte chips next time.)
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease an 8×8 (or 9×9) pan.  Blend almonds and coconut oil until smooth in blender or food processor (until like almond butter).  Add remaining ingredients (except the chopped up chocolate and walnuts) and blend until smooth. Fold in the chopped chocolate and walnuts. Pour into the pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

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Sourdough Pancakes

Now that I have a sourdough starter I’m trying to find ways to use it.  This morning I made sourdough pancakes for breakfast.  YUM!!!  They were so good.  And so easy.  I served them with real butter and local maple syrup and a sprinkling of crispy walnuts.  What a great way to start the day.  I’ll be making these again for sure.  And I’ve got a few in the freezer now.  I got 10 pancakes out of 1 batch.  In addition to tasting good it is fun to make these pancakes…to watch them come alive as you mix the batter and add the baking soda.  Very cool.  I got the recipe from Naturally Knocked Up.

Sourdough Pancakes
makes ~ 10 pancakes

2 cups sourdough starter
1 Tbsp. maple syrup (or equivalent sweetener) (I used honey because it was convenient)
1 beaten egg
3 Tbsp. coconut oil (or melted butter)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. water

The night before:
Start by feeding and setting your starter out the night before (make sure you have at least 3 cups starter). You want it at room temp in the morning.

In the morning:
Preheat pan to a medium heat. Mix the baking soda in the water and set aside. Mix starter, egg, oil, and salt until well combined. Add water mixture right before your ready to place on pan and stir gently.

Pour about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake (I did about 1/3 cup). Cook until the bottom is a nice golden brown and the bubbles have popped on top (watch for the popping and the holes staying open).

Flip, cook a bit more, top with butter and syrup (or nuts, fresh fruit, or fruit topping), and enjoy!

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Fermented Punch

Keeping with my June goals I’m trying some fermented drinks.  These can be more beneficial to your digestive system and overall health than only drinking water.  And some of them are so easy to make.  So I’m giving it a shot.  I’m starting with punch.  It’s a Nourishing Traditions recipe.  It’s kind of like lemonade (basically lemon juice, water and sugar).  Not sure how the fermenting will impact the taste.  It’s still in the fermenting process.  I’ll have to update once I’ve tried it (tonight or tomorrow).  I hope it turns out well.  It was simple to make.  And a perfect way to use up some of the organic lemons I have.  I only made a half recipe to try it.  If it’s good it’ll be a very cheap, healthy and easy drink to have on hand in place of things like juice.

**Edited 6/2/10 – This is very good!  Tastes like lemonade.  Now I have a great replacement for my grape juice.  I was wondering how I was going to be able to cut out juice.  This is it!  Cheap, easy and good for my tummy.

Fermented Punch
Makes 2 quarts

juice of 6-8 lemons
1/2 cup Rapadura (I used organic cane sugar)
1/2 cup whey
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg
2 quarts filtered water

Place all ingredients in a 2 quart glass container (I used a 1 quart mason jar to make a half batch).  Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days (I shook it up a bit when I first put it in the jar).  Skim off any foam that may have risen to the top.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.  The punch will develop more flavor over time.

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Sprouted Wheat Berries and Sprouted Wheat Flour (Bulgur Flour)

Over the weekend I made my first attempt at sprouting grains.  I used hard white wheat (some winter, some spring).  It turned out to be super easy!  And went so quickly.  I started soaking the berries Saturday night.  By Monday mid-morning I had freshly ground sprouted wheat flour and some homemade sprouted whole wheat graham crackers 🙂  I’m so glad I tried this.  I’ll be sprouting more of my wheat berries for sure.  By sprouting the berries before grinding the flour I eliminate the step of soaking the flour.  This is so handy for recipes that aren’t conducive to soaking, like many bread products.  I’m planning to make sprouted whole wheat bagels later this week with the remainder of my fresh flour.  I’ll post the method I used for both the sprouting and the drying.  You don’t have to dry the berries.  You can use them as soon as they are done sprouting in certain recipes, but not to make flour.  They have to be dry to make flour.  I followed the method I found on Kelly the Kitchen Cop.  She also talks more in deatil about why you should sprout, in case you’re interested.

Sprouted Wheat Berries (or any other grain)

You start with whole grains (or seeds), like spelt or wheat berries.

Fill your jar about 1/3 full of grains, then add filtered water to the top, cover and soak overnight. (I used 3 1-qt jars.)

Next, drain them well.  I drained them with a small strainer over the top of the jar.  Then I put cheesecloth over the top, secured with a rubber band.  And place them upside down in a large bowl.

Rinse them 1-3 times per day…however often it takes to keep them damp. But after rinsing, they need to be draining again, so that they aren’t wet for long.

The sprouting can take anywhere from 1 to 4 days I think.  But in this heat mine went quickly.  I started draining Sunday morning.  By Sunday night they were sprouted and ready for drying.  At this point you can dry the berries or use them in casseroles and salads.

Sprouted wheat flour

After the sprouting dry the berries on a cookie sheet in the oven at 150.  It took about 10 hours for mine to completely dry.  Make sure they are totally dry, or they can ruin your grain mill.

Then grind finely in your grain mill.  And you have sprouted flour (also known as bulgur flour*)!!  Store in the refrigerator or freezer.

*If you do a course grind instead of a fine grind you will have bulgur.

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