Babies, Duckies, Puppies & Yummies

Is it terrible that I am sitting here eating coconut macaroons, dreaming of ducklings and puppies? I should be like washing and folding baby clothes or something…I think my nesting instincts are more interested in researching and preparing for ducks then they are interested in washing yet another baby worth of clothes. Somehow, that doesn’t spark my fancy right now. I keep telling Alex I need to get the crib set up and he just sighs and laughs at me because we both know how well the crib worked for our other kids. Read: It Didn’t. About 2 days of no sleeping them babies are nestled right up with us in the big ol King bed and we all sleep peacefully. I have heard my fair share of negativity regarding this choice. Anyways. This is not a post about co-sleeping. This is a post about…hmmm, well…not sure really…macaroons? Mmmm… I am slightly addicted to them. That is probably an understatement. Hang on…lemme go get another one.

Ok back.

So, I got my first “To Read in 2014” (see this post for more) book in this week.

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I know, I am officially a homesteading geek. I dream of lush gardens, fresh apples, country air, spring weather, bare feet, and ducks. Yes…I have actually dreamt about ducks. As part of my 2014 goals, I would really really  like to get some ducklings. Why you ask? Why not chickens? Lemme give you the 5 second low-down.

  • Ducks are cuter. (Ok so that’s not the best reason but…)
  • Ducks lay eggs as much as chickens (or better!)
  • Ducks are much much more resistant to extreme weather (tolerate very cold and very hot without much needed help). Unlike chickens who need pampering…
  • Ducks are much more resistant to diseases and parasites and have less overall health issues
  • Duck eggs are hello good. Like for real, if you have never had a duck egg…well. Get one. I’ll give you your first one free once I’m in abundance.
  • Ducks are excellent foragers and LOVE to eat all sorts of bugs that chickens sometimes overlook…like Fire Ants. I sorta feel bad for them, but I sure could use some help in that department. Ducks also eat lots of hard-shelled insects that chickens sometimes overlook. I can take all the help I can get for that.
  • Did I mention they are cute? Ok…stop me now…

Houdini

Sorry if that took you more than 5 seconds to read.

Problem is…we have so much to do before lil Mr. comes. Not to mention that money is a bit tight around here with everything that needs to get saved up for and prepped. Car seats and vehicle maintenance are eating away at my duck fund. Not that there was ever a duck fund, but I like to think there is…Sigh. And in the back of my mind I think I might be slightly crazy even entertaining the idea of getting baby ducks that will need a lot of attention right after a new baby is born. But that’s at the very back of my mind and my super woman “I-can-do-everything” mind is winning out. Naw, in all seriousness…I just want to walk out my door and collect some eggs for breakfast.

Moving on.

We recently traveled out of town for my grandmothers funeral, which was bittersweet, but we got to visit family that we hadn’t seen in years! Spent lots of time laughing and recalling memories of “Nanny”. While we were there we stayed with my uncle who had a big ol loving goldendoodle dog. We I fell in love and felt that I desperately needed one too. So, that’s where my puppy dreaming started…I really am just wishfully thinking that one will show up at a rescue near us and we can adopt since the whole tight wallet issue will most likely prevent a new dog for a while. Stop! I know what you are thinking. “Erica you need a smack upside yo head…you cannot possibly handle baby ducks, baby boys, and puppies this year.” Meh. I can dream! And if one showed up at my door, for heavens sake I would take it in. (If anyone wanted to just gift me a doodle puppy I wouldn’t resist!) Alright, alright.

Finally, I know all this posts about baby-ish things is probably making you feel a bit tired. How about I give you that recipe for the macaroons? Will you let me have a duckie and a puppy if I make you some cookies??

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Mmm…coconut yumminess….

Slightly Addictive Coconut Macaroons

Barely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup sugar, use organic if ya got it!
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites

Method:

Dump all ingredients into a bowl and mix until sticky. Use your hands to form small (or large if you’re into that) balls. (Don’t laugh out loud at that sentence.) Place on greased cookie sheet or parchment lined sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 2o mins. The last min or so I pop the broiler on just to give them a little more toasty look. I eat them strait off the cookie sheet. I suppose if you are the patient-type person, you could wait until they cool and dip in chocolate and then wait until they cool again. But that’s way too much waiting for me.

Alright. That’s enough for one night. Leave me a comment and lemme know what you think…I feel loved.

2014 New Year Goals

Well here we are a week into Two-Thousand and Fourteen. I swear I started writing this post on the first. I apologize for it’s tardiness. Before you check out my 2014 goals, did you see my post about 2013? It’s pretty neat-o. If you missed it check it out HERE.

While I am not a believer of “New Years Resolutions” because well…we all know how those are. Nevertheless, there is something about the start of a new year that makes you feel like you have a blank slate. There is also something so rewarding about looking back after a year to see if you actually accomplished your goals. They can be small or big…some will even carry over from year to year. Once these goals are accomplished however, they become lifestyles…changes. It can be entirely too intimidating to set a resolution for yourself with no plan of how to meet those goals. So, here I am going to list my goals in broken down, easy-to-know when I accomplish them format. Yes, I realize some of my goals may be totally wacky and you should not be intimidated. I would encourage you to set a goal to accomplish something completely outside your comfort zone this year! It’s so exciting to learn new things. My favorite place to learn new things is in the kitchen (whoa, don’t read that wrong). You read it wrong. STOP!! Ok, before you go banging your head against a wall to get bad mental images out…oh gee, I forgot my siblings read this…sorry guys. Ok, I’m done. What were you thinking anyways? I was talking about making liver pate and homemade chapstick! Peeps…

Goals for 2014

Eat Better:

  • Eat More Crisco (not really…just wanted to make sure you were paying attention…click HERE to read my opinions of that Crapsco.
  • Buy More Pastured meat products. We buy a cow share usually once a year from a grass-fed, pastured cow. I’ve also found a good source for pork products. Chicken however, has been rather cost prohibitive and I am not sure exactly how we’re going to swing this…but nonetheless, I’d like to make it a goal!
  • Bake with more Non-Wheat grains. Not that any of us have been diagnosed with any gluten issues (thank the Lord!) we have a host of friends who do have issues with wheat and gluten. I would like to learn more about baking with alternative flours/seeds/etc. In addition, I would like to bake more with sprouted grains such as sprouted oat flour and sprouted millet/lentils/etc.
  • Master making homemade tortillas
  • Master making homemade pasta
  • Add more fermented foods to our daily diet. Currently, we usually only eat them once every few days. The kids will eat lacto-fermented carrots and I am currently loving lacto fermented beets. Yum. But we need to up our daily intake. This will be a lot of work but big pay offs!
  • Master making beef bone broth and fish head stock

Become More Sustainable:

  • Have a flock of ducks for eggs by the summertime. I’m really anxious and excited for this goal. Duck eggs are incredible and ducks can lay up to as many eggs per year as chickens. Plus they are so dang adorable. Eeek. I am so excited about this I can barely stand it.
  • Plant a couple of apple trees.
  • Plant a spring, summer, and fall garden.
  • Expand the garden at the end of fall to plan for next year.
  • Harvest enough vegetables to can or dehydrate them for the following year. (Specifically tomatoes).
  • Re-do the compost pile to make it more usable
  • Finally get around to getting my vermi-composting system worked out.
  • Raise a small flock of “meat chickens” (this might be a stretch for this year…but we’ll see!)

Reading List:

I am excited to see where this year takes us. Not to mention we will be adding a sweet little boy to the family in just a couple of months! We actually sat down the other night and drew up our plans for the duck house and run. I am literally giddy out of my shoes about getting some baby ducks in just a couple of months too. I know, I am crazy. New baby AND baby ducks? Well. Yes, I know I am crazy and will tell myself that over and over and over again. But hey…crazy is not new to me. Lol.

I’d love to hear some of your goals! You should leave a comment!

 

Kitchen Updates and Critters

Not much has been going on around here, which is probably why the blog is quiet lately. Nothing entirely new going on around here. The past few weeks have been tiring for me as I am trying to keep up with the two littles running around like wild Indians most days and growing another person inside me. It’s a challenge. Sometimes I think I am crazy. No, actually most of the time I think I am crazy.

After such a busy spring and summer, it almost feels awkward not having much to do around the homestead. Not that there’s not a lot to do, but mostly we just don’t want to be out in the cold! Wimps I guess. We did start painting the house inside. We got the kitchen painted and fabric picked out for the new curtains in the kitchen. We also painted the kids/guest bathroom and are decorating that! It does feel so good to finally be in a house where I feel motivated to decorate, coordinate colors and care. Since we sold our first house, we have been in less than permanent spaces and didn’t feel like wasting energy or money in making things look just right! So, now I’m happy to be able to be home where I can build our life and beautiful things.

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In addition to painting, we received some new beautiful furniture hand crafted by Alex’s Dad! It’s beautiful and matches our colors nicely! He made me a pot-rack, two end tables for the living room and a entry way bench with baskets for taking off shoes. I feel like things are starting to come together!! My kitchen is officially my favorite place in the house, and I am SO glad we went with a home design that included a big kitchen. I would not trade that for anything. Not to mention my picture window to watch the sunrises while cooking up pancakes.

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Speaking of kitchens…we have had a big of a saga this past week and a half…the mice found another way in and have been rather active (to say the least). Thankfully we are catching them as soon as they come in, so we don’t have to deal with them scurrying around the house (for now at least!). We are debating ways to help control this mouse issue, but for now we have a nice new chore to add to our mornings and evenings-taking out the mouse traps! I had a bit of a meltdown the first week it was going on (as we caught over 30 in one week). Seems to have started to back down in numbers now and it is much more manageable. I know I was thoroughly warned about this problem, no one can really help you prepare for that. I guess I never thought it would be that bad. Well, now I know they aren’t kiddin.

Aside from the mouse problem, everything else is fine and dandy. Only thing growing the garden right now is lettuce and collards. Garlic shoots are huge now and the wheat is just chillin doing its thing. Alex is going to start hunting with a friend, and I am so blast darn excited. I am seriously praying he gets a deer this year as we are nearly out of bulk meat in our house and it would be a huge blessing to our budget if we could get some close-to-free meat. Come on babes! Never thought I would be a hunting mans wife, but alas, we are here and free meat is happy meat. I will be doing a very happy happy dance if he gets one.

Other than that its been all Fall around here! Bread baking, pumpkin carving, watching the lemon tree bloom again!

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photo 5Well, that’s probably enough of an update. I’ll try to have more exciting updates soon.

 

6 Month Check Point

I’ve been so busy these past few weeks trying to make the most of this fall weather that I have neglected the blog a bit lately. There is so much to write about but I can’t ever pick what I actually want to sit down and type out. So my posts end up being a conglomerate of my brain spilled out over this lovely white screen. Thanks for loving me through my inability to choose a specific topic. 😉

We have officially been country dwellers for 6 months now. It’s good, but I think we are definitely past the honeymoon period and have settled into a contended “this is how it is”  life. Life is just harder now. It’s a good thing and I would not go back, but some days I feel the weight a little heavier than others. I have been more challenged in my beliefs, mindset, and physical body than I have ever been before. The lessons I am learning are so valuable to me, but as I have written about before…sometimes I just wish something was easy. Lately I have been wrestling with the idea of how to be content with where we are when I now have the potential to be and have so much more. Let me explain. God blessed us immensely with this 5 acres. We had not a clue how to do anything with it, yet we knew the potential that was now within reach. Whereas before, I really couldn’t have the potential for more than a  few tomato plants. Now, I have the potential to grow 5 acres of whatever crop I wanted! There’s so much potential in that. My brain gets dreamy and starts thinking about CSA’s or an organic apple orchard, or any number of things that could help us be sustainable yet profitable. It’s within reach…yet so far out of my reach. So I start with a tiny garden of a few tomatoes, a few squash, a row of sweet potatoes, etc…But then I look at how much more I have that I haven’t used yet!  So then I feel like I need more! More garden! More trees! More knowledge! Nevertheless, it all costs money. Money has to be spent intentionally these days. It has to stretch a lot further than it ever has before. So, all that to say that there are days where I am disappointed I don’t really know how to garden or raise chickens or prune trees. More often than not however, on those days I look at pictures of when we first moved in and I am seriously amazed with how far we have come in a short period of time. I guess I kinda expected things to just be easier or simpler. Yet, I am not giving up. I am in for the challenge and I am learning. Growth was never not a painful experience.

So as I have said before, this year is the year of trial and error. Learning, failing, learning more. It’s a big experiment. We will always be trialing through new things. It does give me a renewed sense of hope and of pursuit because at least I know I am trying. I am doing something…no longer just wishing and dreaming. Like our Pastor re-iterated last Sunday. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” We have been taking a lot of single steps. My prayer is that each year my steps will double. Next year the garden will give double, I will plant double the amount of flowers and trees, I will preserve double the amount of this year. My joy will double, my heart will double. (My family will not however…just one baby in there alright folks!) This is thrilling. Because then the next year, I will pray to double the previous year. Wow, won’t take long to grow. 

Yawn. Well that was kinda heavy. My eyes are starting to fall. I’ll wrap up here with a few of my latest steps in my journey.

-Got 1/2 of the new garden in place. Picked up a yard of compost last weekend and put that down before the woodchips. Working on getting some manure to spread on top and let it sit for the season. We are planning to get another load of compost this weekend and do the same. The garden will be a bit bigger than my initial one we had this summer. We are going to use the “old” garden to start our fruit tree orchard in the spring. The new garden location is much more conveniently placed for access from house as well as future irrigation plans.

-I canned some applesauce and apple butter. Not a lot-about 25lbs of apples worth, but I wanted to practice canning more and get the hang of that. So, I’m happy about that! It’s just the beginning of apple season so I am really hoping to be able to get some more apples and can more…because there is no greater joy for me than seeing a shelf of home canned goods. Holy smokes. They are not kidding, those homesteaders. We get a feeevverrr. 

-Windows have been open for a few weeks now, I seriously cannot get enough enjoyment out of the cool breeze that passes through the house. I am looking forward to the reprieve on this month’s energy bill. Can I get a hallelujah? Seriously. It could be this weather most of the year long and I would be a happy camper. Yep. A few hot days for beach please, and then this nice beautifulness.

-Finally, I just want to say Thank You to my Jesus, because every.single.day. I am awestruck in the beauty of creation. I am so mourning that I have not noticed these things ever before so profoundly. The sunrises, sunsets, stars, wildlife, etc. Something will literally stop me in my tracks every day and make me go “wow.” The sunrises literally make my heart race…they are so beautiful, I just wish I could call everyone I know and say, “come down here, quickly, you HAVE to see this.” No photo will ever do, but I really hope I am blessed someday with an incredible camera to capture even a sliver of this beauty. Holy cow.  Haha. So what I am really saying, is everyone needs to come pitch a tent here and experience this. Whoa yeah, you’ll be changed.

Good night ya’ll. 😉

-Erica

Homestead Busyness

It feels like life is always busy around here. Funny because most of the time we are home. I just thought I would post what a day on the MonroePost might behold…Here’s what today was like.

LOTS of grass to mow.

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Fall seedlings sprouting.

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Chicken Bone Broth simmering on the stove.

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Pancakes soaking for breakfast.

Bread sponge and soaker awaiting tomorrow’s kneading.

Wheat Berries sprouting.

Blueberry Syrup Vitamixing for pancakes

Pizza dough soaking for dinner tomorrow.

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Scrubbing play dough off dining room chairs.

Endless amounts of dishes.

Surprise findings in the garden.

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Children to put to bed.

Hot tea to make because its downright chilly tonight. And maybe take a bath…

It has been a very busy day…and yes, I used nearly every bowl I own. 

Canning Tomatoes and More Fence Work

I’ll admit it. I get jealous of other peoples gardens. The concept of  “too many” anything in your garden is too much for me to comprehend. While I am completely grateful that I am getting a few squash out of the garden, I yearn for the day I can “put up” some veggies for the winter. In the meantime, I dream about a full canning cupboard full of home-canned vegetables and fruit. I did strike a deal this week on some tomatoes and a dear friend was able to help me out (Thanks Mer!) and pick them up for me!! I wanted to try pressure canning for the first time…I suppose it turned out ok. I am not sure the reason for the liquid separation in the final product…anyone know that answer?

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Lea was a huge help and cut all the “X’s” on the tomatoes for their boiling water bath to get the skin off. She had a blast squeezing the “guts” out too!

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I had about 25lbs of tomatoes and was able to get 15 pints of diced tomatoes out of the deal! It was work, but so much fun! Next year I just hope they are my own tomatoes!

 

More work on the fence today…feels like so much progress! Lea keeps asking when we can get farm animals because now we have a fence. Soon baby, soon.

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More updates soon! Gotta go mix some more concrete!

Oh…one more thing! I am starting a new sourdough starter…so far it is looking extremely healthy and happy! Oh how I have missed Emily Elizabeth…

I have some sad news…

Well, I am not really sure how to write this. I am still coming to terms with it myself. I have been through a period of denial and doubt. Hope and disappointment. But I think I really need to let go and move on.

My Sourdough Starter Died.

I like to think that it just died a natural death, painless and uncomplicated. I could not admit that I killed it. Accidentally. Unknowingly. To be honest, I am not sure really what happened. It just doesn’t seem right. Started acting in strange ways that I was not used to. I still haven’t had the heart to dump it yet. I am still hoping that somehow maybe, just maybe it will come back to life!? The resurrection sourdough!!

Or maybe I just need to order some new starter.

Sigh. That was my baby! I worked so hard to get her all grown up and happy. Ayyyeee. I did almost cry a little. I am more sad that I might not know how to live without it for a few weeks until I get a new one.

This is why you should never name your kitchen projects. They die, you cry. Did I mention my Kefir grains kicked the bucket too? Sheesh. I’ve replaced those and the new ones seem happy. Good grief.

ANYWAYS. On a happier note (don’t ever tell my sourdough), I did make some soaked whole wheat bread that turned out fantastically. Prob better than any sourdough loaf I ever made. Or maybe it was because I borrowed my mom’s Bosch mixer for a few days. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and make some bread. I literally drooled watching it knead the bread. If you were not aware until now…I have previously hand kneaded all my doughs. There have been times its nice and relaxing, but most of the time its plain hard work and sucks. And bread never turns out as good. So, I swiped by moms Bosch mixer for a few days to make Ellyjoy’s 1st Birthday Cake and decided to make some bread and everything else I could think of…Ok, so enough about my obsession with the Bosch mixer.

We eat our butter a little cave-man style. Lol
This bread was a little over-achieving on the rising.

Oh oh! One more kitchen-y related cool thing. I finally finished my spice rack!!  Alex bought me my spice jars for mothers day and his Dad built me a custom sized rack for them all. I am in love. Its like a dream! I have always hated digging around in a cupboard for spices, or even in a rack where everything is mis-matched and oddly sized. I buy all my spices in bulk so this is perfect! I am very pleased with how they turned out! I found these awesome labels online and found a sweet font that I really liked! Woohoo!

 

 

Well, that’s that folks. Oh, we had a pretty sweet thunderstorm today. Here’s my not-so-saavy panorama of the storm today. Whew it was a biggie!

Chewy Delicious Cookies

Every now and then…wait…more like once a week…I get a craving for some cookies. Alex stumbled upon this recipe and the first time we made it we just looked at each other with wide eyes like “oh cookie where have you been all my life?” Ya’ll know I am not much of a cookbook girl, more of a blog-pinterest-make it up myself, kind of girl-so had he not tried these I probably never would have tried the recipe myself. Thank God for husbands who like to follow recipes. Rebel girl here. Anyways. After we made the cookies a few times we have tweaked a few things to make them match up more with our real foodie lifestyle, ya know. Good stuff.

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Now. I will warn you, these are highly, highly, HIGHLY addictive. I have been known to eat 4-5 in one sitting. I a humbly admitting this to you so that you don’t have to feel bad if you do the same. We’re paddling the same boat. No guilt. Tell yourself how much better these are for you than chemical laden alternatives that line the shelf of the stores. And we all know that most people can down a 1/2 dozen oreos in no time. *(Ps-that was not a hatin on Oreos sentence, I am just sayin…)

The other fun thing about these cookies is that they are entirely customizable. If you are a plain jane like me, I like just chocolate chips. Alex likes what we consider “trail mix” cookies with dried fruit, nuts and chocolate. Both entirely good. So add what you want, possibilities are endless for your “add-ins”. If you really want to be a rebel add some additional spices, such as nutmeg. Mmm. Just no oregano or anything like that, k?

Alright enough fluff. Here’s the recipe.

Chewy Delicious Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup sprouted flour (or combination of whole wheat and All-Purpose flour)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled *(If you use a cup or less of add-ins you can reduce butter to 4T).
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (don’t skip this!)
  • 1/2 cup to 11/2 cups Add-Ins (such as chocolate chips, nuts, coconut, dried fruit, etc.)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Whisk oats, flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a bowl.

2. In large bowl whisk melted butter, egg, vanilla and sugar together until combined.

3. Stir the oat mixture into this wet mix. Then fold in the add-ins.

4. Take approx 1 Tablespoon of dough and with slightly wet hands, roll into a ball and place on cookie sheet.

6. Bake on middle rack in preheated oven for 13-16 minutes (usually closer to the 16 min mark). You want the edges to look set but the middle to look a little underdone. Over baking these will lead to a brittle cookie [bad]. If you slightly under bake them they will turn out chewy and delicious [good]. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5-10 mins before moving to a cooling rack. Don’t try to peel them off right away they will break!

7. Store in an airtight container.

Note: I have gotten word from a friend, Hi Cara!, that these freeze well. I’ve never tried freezing as they hardly make it to the next day. One time I suggested to Alex that we freeze some and he just looked at me. You know, the look, the…”Are you kidding me?” look. So yeah. Maybe if I made a double batch but that’s just dangerous. Lol.

Hope you enjoy!

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-Erica

 

 

 

My Favorite Banana Bread

If you are anything like me, you probably have some brown bananas on your counter. Its ok, I understand, this time of year its very hard to keep bananas for more than a few days before they start getting attacked by fruit flies and turning brown overnight. No worries. Never throw those babies away! I actually buy extra bananas just so I can let them turn brown on purpose so I can make this recipe.

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I absolutely love this recipe. I felt like a bit of a rebel from deviating from my moms famous banana bread recipe. I love  moms too, this one just holds a special place in my heart for some reason. I just like the crackly little bits so much. I seriously try to keep this around for more than a day, and I fail miserably every.single.time. If you decide to make this brace yourself and prepare your mind that you won’t be able to save any. Especially if your husband comes home from work looking for a snack. It’s all over, just eat the whole loaf. I have made some modifications to the original recipe, but feel free to tweak to your liking as it comes out similar!

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Crackly Banana Bread

  • 3 large ripe-to-over-ripe bananas
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed until it liquefies
  • 1/3-1/2 cup organic sugar, or a combination of maple syrup and sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
  • 1 T molasses
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups (180 grams) sprouted flour (feel free to use whatever flour you want)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional…ha, as if!)
  • 1/4 cup (plus a little extra) (50 grams) uncooked millet

Heat oven to 350° and grease a 9×5 loaf pan. In large bowl mash the bananas with a potato masher or fork. Whisk in egg, oil, sugars, molassas and vanilla. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, & spices (Do not add millet yet!). Gently incorporate dry mixture into your banana mixture, being careful not to overmix! Add millet and chocolate chips and fold into batter. Pour mixture into prepared pan and sprinkle the top of the bread with some extra millet. Bake for 50-55 mins until toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan or wait at least 15 mins before cooling on a rack or plate. (I have been known to dump it immediately after it comes out and I usually loose its pretty shape and burn my mouth on melted chocolate chips…so it’s probably best to wait.)

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I love Smitten Kitchen by the way…she cooks up some goood stuff.

Great Grains: Unrefined Truth [Real Food Series]

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I want to present a post here on grains, but know that this can be another controversial subject. I am aware of the many theories about grains, the gluten controversy, and allergies. I am not hard-lined on this subject. I completely understand the arguments on both sides. So-whatever side you fall on, or if you ride the line like me-good we can agree! I’m not going to do a grain vs grain free diet debate.

I would first like to define how we eat grains. I do not prepare any food that we consume at home with refined grains (with the occasional exception of a little organic/unbleached All Purp flour). This is a PROCESS! Getting away from all refined carbs is very difficult and requires a lot of work. There is no way around that. We have stopped buying any boxed mix of anything and instead making everything from scratch. Yes, literally everything. I know it sounds very intimidating, and I am not saying that is what YOU have to do, that’s just what I do.

What is a refined grain?

In a nutshell, it is any grain that has undergone a process removing parts of the whole grain. Let’s just talk wheat for a minute. There are three (main) components to a wheat grain. The bran, the endosperm, and the germ. The bran is outer part of the grain, providing the fiber content as well as a host of vitamins, minerals and phytic acid (we will get to this later). The germ is the embryo of the seed- the part that will germinate if given the right environment. The germ is very high in Vitamin E, folic acid, and many other vitamins and minerals. Both the bran and the germ are removed in refining process. The endosperm is the main part of the grain, this is the starch and where the well-known gluten protein is found. The endosperm is all that is left after the refining process and this is what is milled to make white flour (which is also typically bleached).

Why are refined grains bad?

Firstly, you are missing out on a ton of healthy vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, & fiber that come from the other parts of the grain. Companies will add these missing vitamins and minerals back into refined products in the form of synthetics. Your body does not assimilate synthetic vitamins in the same way. In fact, your body will use its own vitamin and mineral reserves to help you digest these refined products, thus depleting the body. The term “empty calories” should be more appropriately called “negative calories” because they actually take things from your body. Secondly, the refining process can be done with the use of chemicals so you are subjecting yourself to further chemical exposure. Third, after the refining process, really all that is left of the grain is the starch, which the body converts into pure sugar. Refined grains will cause major insulin spikes due to the high sugar rush into the bloodstream as a result of eating these products.

What is a whole grain?

Basically, a whole grain is a grain that has all the biological parts still in the party. The fiber, the oils, the starch. When consuming whole grains in your diet the fiber helps your body digest the grain a little more slowly so that it doesn’t cause the sugar spike. The fatty acids such as Vit E present in the germ help your body to absorb all the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, K). However! There is a caveat, when a whole grain is broken (as in the milling of wheat) and the germ is exposed, the oils can quickly go rancid (read the previous post as to why rancid oils are bad!)  This is another reason why refined goods (stripped of oils) are so popular- they have a very long shelf life. Whole wheat flour has a very short shelf life because of the oils present and their tendency to go rancid very quickly.

How do we get around this?

Well, my recommendation (and some might not like this!) is to grind all of your own flour at home from whole wheat berries. Cornmeal? Grind your own corn. This way you can choose the quality and type of product that you want. I buy a variety of wheat that is excellent for bread as well as pastries. I grind any and all grains in my Vitamix, although there are products on the market that are just designed for grain grinding. I think it is a worthy investment and one I will always appreciate. If you can’t afford to do this option, I still recommend buying whole wheat flour when possible and making everything from scratch so as to avoid preservatives and synthetic vitamins. As I said above, I do occasionally use a little all purpose flour (which is refined!) if I am making or thickening a sauce of some sort, it just seems to work better. I will also use in some bread recipes if I need a little bit “lighter” of a bread. But I rarely use it alone, always with fresh flour.

Is there anything bad in whole grains?

Yes. I was surprised to learn that there are actually some downfalls to whole grains. Phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors are the two gotcha’s. Phytic acid is found in grains, nuts, legumes, & seeds. Without getting to scientific on ya, phytic acid will bind to minerals and prevent your body from absorbing them. Phytic acid will bind most notably to iron, zinc, calcium, and magnesium. Humans do not have the enzyme (phytase) present in the body needed to break phytic acid down. The other problem that can arise from whole grains are enzyme inhibitors. God created grains so that they would only germinate under the proper conditions (moist, warm, and light). The enzyme inhibitors prevent the grain from sprouting until those specific conditions are met.  But with those inhibitors in the way, our body cannot digest the grain as well. The enzymes needed to break down all the components are bound up and working to prevent the grain from premature sprouting, not working for us. Does that make sense?

 So what do I do?

Well, the easiest way to solve BOTH of those issues above is to meet those specific requirements! There are three ways to accomplish this. You can begin sprouting the grains, soak the ground flour in a slightly acid liquid, or use fermentation (think sourdough!). Any of these three methods releases enzymes, breaks down phytic acid, and also “pre-digests” hard to digest proteins such as gluten. People with gluten sensitivity have been known to tolerate grains if prepared in this fashion. I know this probably sound intimidating, but it really isn’t. There are a ton of resources and “how-to’s” available. I will link to some of those below if you want to learn more. I think soaking your flour and grains is the easiest possible thing to do. Just takes remembering to do it the day/night before. Want oatmeal in the morning? Throw your oatmeal with your water and a tablespoon or so of lemon juice in a bowl. Then in the morning, dump the whole thing into the pot and cook normally. Tastes fantastic and you know your body can break it down easily and absorb all the tasty nutrients. See easy huh? You can even buy sprouted flour (its possible to make your own too). And while sourdough sounds intimidating, once you get the hang of it and are willing to remember to feed it, it’s a cinch and so much fun!

Sprouted Grains
Sprouted Grains

Want to Learn More?

Here’s a link for a free e-book with recipes using the soaking method: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/05/09/download-is-your-flour-wet-a-soaked-grains-ebook-for-free/

More on soaking:

http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/seriescarnivals/soaking-grains-an-exploration/

How-to Sprouting Grains:

http://nourishedkitchen.com/sprouted-grain/

Considering Sourdough? (Ps- I have more than enough starter to share!):

http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2011/04/for-the-love-of-sourdough-starting-a-sourdough-adventure.html

The key here, as with any new thing, is to take baby steps! I started soaking my grains, then started the sprouting process after I got a dehydrator (you can do without it though), and then I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon. My favorite of course is the sourdough!

My Sourdough Starter!
My Sourdough Starter!

 

Have you missed the first couple of posts in this series? Check them out here:

1. Introduction to Real Food Series

2. Fats and Cholesterol: Good or Bad??