traditional diet

Soaked Granola Bars

Of all the things I am reading about the traditional foods diet, soaking grains is probably the most confusing. Not confusing due to the labors involved, but confusing as to the benefits of soaking. I am all for making work for myself, but am I making more work for a reason? Is there actual value to soaking, say, oatmeal in whey inoculated water for a day and then dehydrating it for many hours before using it? On taste alone, I would say yes - since these granola "bars" were superior to any granola I've ever made at home. But as for nutritionally, I would say that for me the jury is still out.

Soaked and Ready Oats.

It is so easy for me to read and believe almost anything written relating to healthy diet. It wasn't hard for me to banish my microwave to the basement (for occasional Husband-usage only) and to commit to using my cast iron pans for almost all stove-top duties. After a while, it wasn't even hard for me to give up canola oil - though that was probably the most difficult given the overwhelming insistence that for years health and diet sources told me was the superior and healthiest oil to use. But giving up non-soaked grain, oatmeal in particular, proves to be the highest hurdle to date.

The flavors that come from soaking and sprouting grains and then grinding them is reward enough for the extra demand for my time and devotion. But soaking oatmeal in whey-water and then drying it... well, that isn't so intoxicating. You need the bit of acid to kick-start the process in things, like oatmeal, that won't sprout. The smell of the dehydrating oats was pleasant enough (I am so lucky that my Mom never got rid of the food dehydrator that we used years ago - it's now proudly perched atop my childhood play table in the basement), but the taste of soaked then dried oats was not so much. Aside from looking rather like dog kibble, it had a certain fermented sourness that I knew I would have a hard time passing over on my picky boys.

A sure way to get this one to try something is to have him help me make it!

Cultures around the world have soaked or fermented grains before consumption for generations. Americans, and our independent and inventive spirits, appear to have successfully removed this extra work from our lives and perhaps that may play a role in some of our collective poor health. Obviously, I don't think just because we have modernized and something has a Whole Grains Seal of Approval that it is going to be healthy - I'm certainly not going to run out and buy General Mills cereals. But sometimes I think it is probably speculation at best. Other cultures are subject to other climates and geographic anomalies that we New World-ers are not. The coconut and palm oils well used by tropical cultures are readily available in those areas, and maybe my northerner ancestry will never do well with them. It's hard to say, but so far, I'm happily using coconut and olive oil most of the time; I am choosing not to worry too much about it.

We do know that the phytic acid present in all grains, nuts and seeds can be reduced greatly by a gentle pre-treatment of either acidulated soaking or sprouting. According to Sally Fallon (who is very well-researched), "untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss." How about that, Sally Field?

Last week I read this post at Kitchen Stewardship bulleting the differences between soaking and sprouting and the benefits (or disadvantages) of each. It is confusing to know what to do or what is best for human consumption. We all will "live until we die", I suppose, but sometimes I wish I was a more science minded type who could really know and decipher all the dietetic contradictions I come across.

No matter what I have read and the confusion I feel, I still wanted to try this recipe for soaked granola bars from Kitchen Stewardship. I made a half batch using the soaked and ready oats, and let the Boy-O dictate the add-ins: equal parts chocolate chips and coconut. Since the soaked and dehydrated oatmeal is so crunchy, the recipe is better than any other granola I've tried. (I chose the baking method: 10 minutes at 325 degrees.) I couldn't cut true bars from them, but rather have large chunks that are easy to pick up and eat. Because you essentially make a caramel from honey and butter, the chocolate melted - masking all remaining traces of whey flavor from the oats. The final result was a richly satisfying snack that the Boy-O loved, and I felt good about giving him. Since I have the dehydrator now, I will be making more soaked and ready oats.

Soaked and Ready Oats (Kitchen Stewardship)
makes enough for 1/2 batch of Soaked Granola Bars (easily increased)
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T. whey
Place the oats and wheat flour in a non-reactive bowl. Measure water and add whey to the water, stir to mix. Pour water/whey over oats/flour, and stir well. Let sit for at least 7 hours at room temperature. (I didn't have any standing liquid at all, and didn't need to drain any off. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.)

Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Since I dehydrated, I lined the dehydrator tray with parchment - and dehydrated at 147 degrees for about 12 hours until completely dry. Kitchen Stewardship recommends drying until hard and crispy in a 250 degree oven for 2-4 hours.

When dried and cooled, break into chunks resembling oatmeal size. You can pulse in a blender or food pro, or even break by hand.

Kitchen Stewardship really does have many great recipes, and I love them as a resource for both soaking/sprouting grains and for using sourdough starter. The soaked granola bar recipe is actually from the ebook Katie Kimball wrote called Healthy Snacks to Go. I have never purchased an ebook, and am thinking that this may be my first one. There is something about holding a book in my hands, even though I appreciate the paper-freedom of the computer, especially in the kitchen. (Obviously, since the "M" key and some punctuation near my right hand are sticking on this kitchen netbook... How do you even clean that?)

Meanwhile, I'll likely go on sprouting and soaking a number of things. It is true that the more fermented foods you introduce your taste buds to, the more they will accept and even crave them. And, while I can't see cooking up a bowl of "soaked and ready" oatmeal in the morning, I can see making more of this delicious granola. I may eventually try eating it plain, but likely will need to add some sweetener, maybe maple syrup.
What do you think about sprouting and/or soaking? I am anxious to hear some thoughts from other fermenters and experimenters!

Alone = Quiche.

Quiche. That misunderstood brunch or dinner delicacy that is wrongly accused of being girlie, chic (or chick?) food. Whenever I have the opportunity to make dinner solely for myself, I like to use it to my advantage by making quiche. It's filling, versatile, and uses up whatever needs using up - and it requires just enough work to make me feel like I'm worth the fussing over. Besides, I like eating it straight from the fridge for lunches too.

Most people would serve quiche alongside some kind of green salad, but not me. Since I usually partake alone, I fortify it with whatever veg I can, and chalk it up to a one dish meal - a casserole that is so much more attractive seeing as it comes at me baked into a pie. This leads me to believe I know why quiche has the bad-rap of being girlie food: usually it contains no meat. When my Husband (who was on his way out to a basketball game) saw, and likely smelled, the results of my casual labors coming out of the oven, he said "what! I like quiche" to which I responded "since when?" (that was code for "keep away from my leftovers"). My filling was really of no matter to me tonight. What I was really after was a trial run of Sally Fallon's yogurt dough, made from 100% whole wheat that ferments with yogurt and butter prior to baking.

As with most of these new-to-me nourishments, this yogurt dough did not disappoint. It was actually light and flaky, and as complementary to a savory pie as I could see it being to a sweet one. Most whole wheat baked goods seem dense, but not this pie crust. It held up to the filling without sogginess and the edges browned and crisped up nicely. The flavor had just a nuance of graham cracker, which made me immediately think that the next time I get a taste for chocolate pudding pie, I will most certainly use this crust - though likely I'll add a tablespoon or two of honey to enhance it's nutty sweetness.

Sally Fallon's Yogurt Dough (Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions)

I used half amounts to yield 1 pie crust - otherwise, it will make two. (Sally says that the recipe will allow enough for two 10 inch, French style, tart shells - and that it cooks more slowly than doughs made with white flour.)
  • 1 c. plain whole yogurt (I used my homemade, which is made with 2% milk)
  • 1 c. butter (1/2 lb. or 2 sticks), softened
  • 3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or she recommends spelt flour)
  • 2 t. sea salt
  • unbleached white flour for rolling out
Cream yogurt and butter together. Blend in flour and salt. Cover and leave in a warmish place for 12-24 hours (I left mine only about 8 since I didn't plan too far in advance).

Sally recommends rolling out on a pastry cloth lightly dusted with flour, but I used a lightly floured wooden board, and had no problem with sticking whatsoever.

She also says that if you are baking for a pre-baked shell, prick the bottom well with a fork and place in a cold oven. Turn heat on to 350, and bake for 20-30 minutes. For the quiche, I filled it and baked in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, and it worked perfectly.

UPDATE:  For using this as a quiche crust, I find that it works best to pop the formed crust into the freezer for 30 minutes to firm it up nicely prior to filling and baking.  It's a soft dough at room temperature, so if blind baking, be sure to line with parchment and fill with weights.

I always use Mollie Katzen's approach to quiche, the dog-eared page 131 of The Enchanted Broccoli Forest guiding me on my way to chic (or chick) dining. Tonight, I only had a bit of Wisconsin Colby cheese, a half pound of mushrooms and an onion. I used garlic, Aleppo and thyme to season, and along to my egg and milk custard, I added about 1/4 c. of the cultured "sour cream" I kind of made by adding my villi yogurt culture to heavy cream. I'm always surprised at the complexity in the flavors of something that has so few ingredients. Of course, that wheaty yogurt dough crust helped quite a bit, too. (I used the same basic Mollie Katzen formula to make another memorable pie, the Wisconsin (Ramp) Pie I made last spring.)

I often wonder what it would be like to cook only for myself again, not worrying about the other members of my family and what their picky palates would prefer. I'd likely eat quiche more than twice a year, I'm sure. When my son saw that there was a pie cooling on the stove, he wanted to try some, until he got right up next to a bite I held out for him - dashing all my sincere hopes that he would enjoy the eggy, mushroomy goodness that I was unable to share with anyone. I'm not giving up, I will offer until there is nothing left for me to offer. Instead, he ate leftover sourdough pancakes that I popped into the toaster to warm.

So, to each of us, our own fermented grains, I suppose. I feel happier eating these soaked and fermented things, still as excited and wide-eyed at the flavors and as eager as ever to share them with others. Convinced my own food revolution will transform at least my household if it goes no further than that. That, or just annoy my fellow family members... But, this pie was great and smelled great. I'm going to get them, if it's the last thing I do!

Soaked Cornbread and Other Things I'm Loving.

Whenever I start a sit down dinner on a Friday night, I remember to appreciate. It would be easy for me to feel a bit bad that I'm not going out and about, seeing shows or fine dining (or just plain dining out), but rather am home-bodied and set for nourishments of my own creation.

My days have been kitchen heavy. Figuring now that this "nourishing diet" thing has really stung me hard, I try and super-nourish my boys, picky as they are, at the expense of creating more work for myself. This morning, I started the cornbread that we'd eat for dinner tonight, and I was careful not to mention to anyone within my earshot all day that it contained yogurt and whole wheat flour. It fermented a good 8 hours at room temperature, before I added the eggs and remaining ingredients, and scooped it gently into a generously buttered cast iron skillet: a number 6 as seen above. It baked up feather light, and no one the wiser that it was actually nutritious.

I wish I didn't get so overwhelmed at the flavors of these things. If the only thing I could tell you about traditional diets it that they are a bit time consuming, and that you'd probably have to quit your job and be nearly Amish to do a good job of it, some of my readership (such as it is) would be spared the little spark in his/her own mind to give it a go. But the truth is, the flavors are so much better than the quick versions, and I don't mind the planning ahead a bit. This cornbread in particular makes me feel as if any yellowish cornbread version could not hold a candle when compared bite for bite. And, having only a paltry 3 leftover wedges leftover only confirms my suspicions.

image from Amazon.

I rented the Culinary Institute of America's New Book of Soups from the library a few weeks ago, and the inspiration has led me to success in incorporating more soup into our diet. I count it a personal success that tonight's soup had cleverly disguised acorn squash politely cubed to the exact same size as some red potatoes that were sprouting up to heaven from my CSA box last fall. No one was the wiser, and even the bigger of the two boys ate an impressive amount of the veg from the Bolivan Beef Stew. (The little one choked down his 5 bites before negotiating more cornbread.) I think it helps that no matter my excitement, I act as if nothing is new and I couldn't have made a more mundane supper - even if I really think nothing is further from the truth.

The best thing about renting a book written by a renowned authority like the CIA is that things are simple and rely on core ingredients and simple technique. I actually followed the directions for this soup, and tell me: who follows directions for soup? Well, I guess I didn't fully follow. I used a quart of home canned tomatoes instead of 2 cups of plum tomatoes and 1 cup of beef stock since I didn't have any on hand, and also subbed in a couple spoonfuls of my candied jalapenos for a fresh, stemmed, seeded, and chopped one. But, I did not add garlic and the last time I checked, doesn't almost every soup on the planet have garlic in it? CIA has an awesome soup book, and you should check it out.

whole wheat, soaked cornbread.

Since I'm on the subject of awesomeness, and I read everywhere that urban beekeeping is the new hot thing, I am proudly devoted (for some time now) to Gentle Breeze Honey. Situated in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, Gentle Breeze produces a wonder. This honey is affordable, raw, and comes in pint or quart canning jars that I can reuse. They are even thoughtful enough to make their labels easy to peel off after a 5-minute soak in warm water! At about $10 a quart, it isn't a luxury honey that I have to judiciously spoon onto a corner of my bread and savor. I can loll about in it's tastiness, using it to bake with, and still enjoy it perfectly well on a piece of toasted sourdough bread. At this point, I am not jumping on the beekeeping bandwagon. I am supporting Gentle Breeze Honey, and finally remembering to write down why I love them so much.

image from Gentle Breeze Honey.

I used it both in and on this remarkable soaked cornbread. Really, the pre-mixing takes less than 5 minutes, and then assembly later in the day maybe another 10. Patience is a virtue, but especially for things as delicious as this - when the payoff makes you look forward to being a habitual planner. Since I appear to be in full out love-fest mode, I really love this website Kitchen Stewardship as well. Many of their recipes come with "levels of healthiness", which is to say that they have quick versions, soaked versions, and other adaptations all written into their base recipes. I like that a lot, since sometimes we aren't all on the same page and we need a bit of variation.

Soaked Cornbread (Kitchen Stewardship - I only adapted the way I put things together...)
  • 1 c. yogurt
  • 1 c. yellow cornmeal
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. coconut oil or butter (I used about half and half)
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • heavy pinch of salt
At least 8 hours before you want to make cornbread for dinner, mix together yogurt, cornmeal, and wheat flour. Make sure it's well combined, and leave it at room temperature (somewhat warm) to ferment.

When ready to make cornbread, preheat oven to 400.

In a small bowl, beat eggs. Add in honey and melted butter and/or coconut oil and beat together well. Then, add in baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and stir. (It will start to fizz up, but I like to add the baking powder and soda to the eggs because you reduce the risk of a Boy-O telling you something doesn't taste good in the finished baked good...)

Because it starts to fizz up, be ready to pour it into the fermented cornmeal/flour/yogurt bowl right away after you make sure you blended it well.

Mix until everything is well incorporated, and to tell you the truth, I used my hands. I didn't want to run the risk of over beating, and my hands were clean. (Actually, I just used my left hand, since it's good kitchen logic to leave one hand clean - you know, just in case.)

Pour batter into a well buttered number 6 cast iron skillet, or an 8x8 glass baking dish. Total baking time will be about 20-25 minutes, but I found that I needed to reduce the heat to 350 at the 15 minute mark since the edges were starting to brown a bit too quickly. A tester should come out fairly clean when inserted near the center. Let cool in the pan several minutes before cutting into it.

As another week passes, and I am still happily geeking out about traditional foods, I read this link to the Northwest Edible Life that Sean from Punk Domestics shared today. In a nutshell, it's funny but good information that I thought about most of the day. After all, I don't want to be the person that looks down on others and the way they choose to eat, I just get so excited (usually due to taste) and then want to share. I find myself wondering if others think that I'm that "Urban Homesteading A**hole", except that I'm not raising chickens and bees in the backyard, and struggle yearly making a garden I'm actually proud of. I sure hope not. I just sincerely hope that if you are the least bit curious, and you have an "epicurean palate", you will give soaking grains a try.

Not only because it's getting closer to Valentine's day, I love soaking grain. I love my Family. I love Friday night at home. I love being a geek. I love that it takes me a full 2 hours to do the dishes after dinner because I refuse to dry a dish, and because I have to pause to play with puzzles. I love that I am able to share things I love with you... since sometimes I can't divulge as much information as I'd like to my picky boys. Thanks a lot!