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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fats and oils: the good, the bad and the not so sure...

There's a lot of arguments over fats and oils, what's healthy and what isn't. Here's the conclusions I've come too, so of you want a quick guide, it's here, but remember that different people seem to draw different conclusions from the same evidence!!



The first thing to realise is that when we cook something we change it, often denaturing enzymes and destroying vitamins, as well as altering chemical structure. So what I'm about to say is a GENERAL rule, which can be applied to fats and oils that you do NOT intend to cook with (salad dressings and the like).

The 'bad' fats typically fall into two categories, saturated fats (that raise your total cholesterol levels as well as LDL - the bad cholesterol) and trans-fats (raise LDL and lower HDL -the good cholesterol - as well as being generally nasty)

The 'good' fats are monounsaturated fats (which lower over all cholesterol, lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol) and polyunsaturated fats (lower cholesterol in general and lower LDL, but do not increase HDL).

So which is which?
Well saturated fats include things like butter and animal fats, and trans fats tend to be man made spreads, like margarine or olive oil spreads, which should naturally be a liquid, but have been altered to make a solid.

Monounsaturated fats are found in nuts, seeds, avocados, whole (raw) dairy products, popcorn and cereals.

Polyunsaturated fats come from sources like fish, leafy greens, nuts, seeds and algae.

Olive oil, being 75% monounsaturated oil and packed with antioxidants would seem to be an excellent choice the - especially cold pressed extra virgin olive oil; but the story does not end here.

Because unsaturated fats are very unstable. Cooking, baking, frying etc with them damages them and leaves them open to free radicals and oxidation. This can make them inflammatory when we eat them and has been linked with heart disease, diabetes and digestive disorders (as well as weight gain)!

Saturated fats, however, are very stable when it comes to eat and light, so believe it or not, animal fats such as butter and lard are much better for you to cook with than oil.

That said tropical oils such as coconut oil and palm oil are probably still considered the best. They contain lots of medium chain fatty acids, which are missing from most peoples diets, including Lauric acid, which can help control infectious problems such as athletes foot, herpes and even measles!

So I'd recommend keeping several fats in your store cupboard, for baking, dressing, sauteeing, and remember as with most thins dietary related, variety is best, and no one solution is perfect for all situations.



Friday, 27 January 2012

Routine, Routine, Routine


Having my son changed my life.
I know every mother says that, but I think specifically having an ASD son has significantly improved my life in many ways.

Before he came along I tried to be easy going, let life happen, but was constantly experiencing low level stress, feeling like everything happened to me and there was just chaos everywhere. I'm a messy person by nature. My bedroom was always horrific and my poor mother tried to help me clean it on a semi-regular basis, but I think it was a difficult task, because I just had too much stuff, and I couldn't cope with it all (another person who changed my life is the unclutterer, but that's another post).

After my son was born, there were definitely teething problems, but I quickly worked out that he thrived on routine, and so did I.

Even before he had a formal diagnosis of autism, we started to alter our every day lives to make them more predictable for him, and as we did so, my stress levels dropped dramatically.

I really believe that routine is the basis to saving time and money, but also that you can't do it all at once. In Exodus 23:30 God promises that he will drive the Israelites enemies out 'little by little' so that they don't become overwhelmed, and I believe this is true in our lives too. Little by little we can take control, without becoming overwhelmed.

With that in mind, here are some little habits and routines that you may want to start adding into your life, to make things run a little more smoothly and give you a little more breathing room. Remember, don't try everything at once, but maybe pick one or two to work on, and when you have it nailed, add another.

  • Make a double portion of what you are cooking and freeze half for another day when you don't have the time or energy to make a nutritious meal
  • Empty or run the dishwasher before you go to bed. Nothing worse than not being able to add your breakfast dishes in the morning!
  • Keep small tupperware and decant half eaten packs of biscuits, crackers, crisps etc... into them. They'll stack neatly in your pantry and keep your food fresh
  • Keep a to-do list
  • Set a reminder (phone or email) to pay bills before they are due
  • Prepare fruits and vegetables (wash, cut, dry etc...) so that you have snacks ready to hand
  • Join the HelloMornings Challenge - it will make you so much more productive
  • Create and use a storage system
  • Exercise at least three times a week - as your fitness levels improve, you'll find every day life so much easier to manage
  • Make caffeine work for you

Friday, 20 January 2012

Ways to use Whey

As promised, here is a post on how to use the leftover whey from your cream cheese making.

First of all though, a little bit about whey. Whey comes in two forms, acid whey (when you've made paneer or another type of cheese that requires an acid to split the curds like lemon juice) and sweet whey, which is when you have cultured with rennet instead of an acid. If you followed my instructions you will have sweet whey.

Whey is an excellent source of proteins, vitamins, minerals and enzymes; so it's such a shame to waste it. If you have some you need to use up you could try:

  1. Substituting water out of recipes for bread, muffins, pancakes, biscuits etc...
  2. Lacto-fermenting vegetables, sauerkraut, chutneys etc... I have tried this, and it didn't taste great. I think I may have done it wrong as I ended up with fizzy salsa. If you want to know more about this, I am not your girl. You could try http://www.rejoiceinlife.com/recipes/cautions.php
  3. Soaking grains this is a great way to make your recipes more nourishing and easily digestible. For more information The Nourishing Gourmet has compiled a really useful list.
  4. Add it to soups and stews If you freeze it in ice cube trays, it's a great way to cool down a hot soup/stew quickly for little ones and provides extra nutrients
  5. Add it to smoothies
  6. Make Lemonade If you want to try it the recipe is available here. I'm going to give it a go this summer.
  7. Make Ricotta Recipe is here
  8. Make a marinade add whatever else you would normally use. The enzymes in the whey will help to break the meat particles down a little making it much more tender.
  9. Make Nourishing Mayonnaise The Food Renegade has an excellent recipe for an enzyme rich mayonnaise that will be so much better for you than the store bought stuff.
I think that's about it for now. I'm sure there are plenty of other uses for whey, but I'll be learning them as we go.

Let me know if you think of any more in the comments.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Butter and Cream Cheese

Having talked about making the switch to raw milk, I can't believe I haven't talked about all the great stuff you can make at home if you buy your dairy products in large enough quantities.

We regularly buy butter from the store, but I also make it whenever I need some of the by-products. You wouldn't believe how easy it is to make your own butter. We've done it before as an experiment for the children (well, for Will anyway as Lila wasn't born yet), which involves letting them shake cream in a jar for a long time until it turns, then rinsing the buttermilk out by hand under cold water.

That's fine if you've got twenty minutes to kill with small children, but here is the quick way to make butter in less than 2 minutes.

  1. pour some heavy cream into your blender
  2. switch blender on until it starts spraying buttermilk everywhere
  3. pour off buttermilk and save it
  4. add some COLD water to your blender and blitz the butter again
  5. pour off water and any leftover butter milk
  6. press your lovely fresh butter into a jar or container of some sort
Done.
If you like salted butter, add salt. If you like brandy butter, add brandy. I like vanilla butter, so I add... vanilla. It's really that easy.

Now the best part is that buttermilk that you poured off makes delicious pancakes, cookies, scones... and so much more. But the best use, in my humble opinion, is making cream cheese.

This is to die for, you will NEVER want to buy Philadelphia again. Ever.

It does, however, take 5 days, so you probably will.

It freezes well though, so maybe not?

Up to you.

Anyways, here's how.

  1. DAY 1 warm 500ml of cream to body temperature (no hotter)
  2. take it off the heat and add a tablespoon of buttermilk* and 1/2 tsp rennet
  3. cover and leave somewhere warm (next to the dehydrator is perfect for me, but you could use the top of your fridge)
  4. Leave for 24-36 hours. The mixture is ready when it doesn't move if you tilt the bowl.
  5. DAY 2 Pour the mixture into a cheese cloth lined colander over a catch bowl and allow it to drain (you are draining off the whey - please store it, I'll post about it's uses and link back in a few days *promise*)
  6. DAY 3 remove the curds from the cheese cloth and mix in any herbs, spices, salt...etc... that you want to use (strawberry jam makes a delicious one)
  7. Line your colander with a fresh cheesecloth and allow to drain in the fridge for 2 days or until the cheese is as firm as you like it.
  8. Day 5 separate as much as you like to keep in the fridge and freeze the rest.
Easy peasy, and super delicious.

*If you use cultured buttermilk that you have bought you don't need to add rennet.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Banana bread

This is my new favourite sourdough recipe, it's honestly divine. I adapted it from an Amish recipe, so you know it's old school and comes out great every time.

1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup sugar (feel free to exchange for honey - we didn't have any in)
1 egg
2 cups stoneground whole meal flour.
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup mashed banana
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla paste

Cream together the egg, oil and sugar, then add the banana, starter and vanilla. If you're lazy do it in your blender, if your upper arms could use a workout do it by hand :0)

In a separate bowl sift together all the dry ingredients then mix into the batter.

Pour into muffin tins or a loaf tin and bake at 180 until golden brown.

This really is delicious on its own, but my children like it best topped with chocolate spread or, weirdly, homemade peanut butter.
Each to their own.


Friday, 13 January 2012

Dairy Kefir

Some of you may remember that we first encountered Kefir a while back at the beginning of 2011. We stuck with water Kefir, mostly because my son has a passion for all things carbonated, but also because I didn't like the sound of the dairy version.

Milk going off on my kitchen side and then drinking it?

Not nice.

But something in me must have been curious because a few weeks ago I decided to try, and I'm sooooo glad I did.

It's honestly delicious. Somewhere between plain yoghurt and sour cream. I wouldn't drink it on it's own, but it makes the most amazing, creamy, fruit smoothies. It also makes a ranch salad dressing or dip that my children cannot get enough of.

So here's the recipe and it's easy peasy:
  • 1 cup of kefir
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Some herbs

That's literally all there is to it. For the authentic ranch dressing flavour you should use garlic powder, dill weed, onion powder and parsley. I used herbs de provence this week and it was equally good. Just shake it up in a jar and you are good to go.

If you are using dried herbs, make sure you make it up an hour or two before you want to use it and pop it in the fridge. That way they will have a chance to soften up a bit and infuse some flavour.

It honestly is so easy and keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks.

And if you want to know more about the health benefits of Kefir >click here<

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

The Importance Of An Apostrophe...

This is a yod
It's a hebrew letter which looks a lot like an apostrophe. Why is it important? It reminds me that we need to take the scripture seriously. Especially in it's original hebrew/greek/aramaic as it was originally written. That's the reason I first started to learn hebrew.

Why?

Because Jesus did.

Jesus himself said 'Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, 'til heaven and earth pass, on jot [yod] or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law 'til all be fulfilled.' Matt 5:17-18

As if that wasn't enough, he also gives us an example of how to read and interpret scripture in the most literal way, using a quote from psalms to confound the pharisees - the learned teachers of the scriptures. Matt 22:41-15

Jesus calls the pharisees together saying 'who do you think the Christ is?' and they answer 'the son of David'.

So Jesus quotes back to them psalm 110 saying 'The Lord said unto my Lord, sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. If David calls him Lord, how then is he his son?'

What you miss in english is the differences in the word for Lord used here. The first Lord is written 'YHWH' or Yahweh and is the standard name used for God in the old testament. The second word is 'Adonai' with a yod at the end. It looks like this:
That yod changes the meaning into a possessive. The text doesn't simply say, 'God said to THE Lord...' It says 'God said to MY Lord. This couldn't be a natural child of David's that was being prophesied, because David was saying that even he would call Him Lord.

I love the way this passage finished too, 'And no man was able to answer him a word, neither darest they to ask him any more questions from that day forth.'

If Jesus, who was Himself God, accepts that scripture is accurate to the point that even the punctuation is enough to build a theological argument from, the surely it is accurate enough for us to take it very seriously?

So don't let a culture, even inside your churches, rob you of the precious revelations that scripture can hold for you, by telling you that it contains human error, or that it's only allegorical. If it was good enough for the Messiah to believe it inerrant, it should be good enough for you too.



Sunday, 8 January 2012

Raw Milk

We've been trying to eat more healthily as a family recently, slowly but steadily introducing new choices, so that we aren't overwhelmed and give up (something that happens when I push myself to do something too radical)!

We started out buying water kefir, switching to healthier snacks and making our own bread with spelt instead of white flour. That was a year ago and as thesse things became habit and routine we started to add in more healthy choices like making our own preserves and using sourdough, and most recently investing in a dehydrator.

The lovely Sarah at StayingAwake blog (who gave us our original sourdough starter) is also embarking on a 'real food' journey, and has managed to find a farm (semi) locally who will sell us raw milk and cream. I'm so thankful for her, as raw milk is something I've wanted to introduce to our diets for a long time, but looking at cost of couriers etc... from national companies it was just not something we could afford to budget for. Luckily this local farm will sell us raw milk and raw cream for less than the price I was paying my local milkman to deliver me pasteurised stuff. It is a 20 minute drive away, but Sarah and I (and whoever else I can convince to join us on this journey) are going to take turns to go and collect it so that it won't end up costing us too much in petrol.

Don't you just love it when community works out like that?

So anyway, in case you weren't aware, here are some of the reasons you should consider switching to raw milk:
  1. Pasteurisation destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
  2. Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid. Believe it or not your raw milk will keep for up to 2 months in a very cold fridge, and when it does sour, you get yoghurt/sour cream... etc... instead of nasty putrid milk.
  3. Pasteurization does not always kill the bacteria for Johne’s disease suspected of causing Crohn's disease in humans with which most confinement cows are infected.
  4. Raw milk is not homogenized. Homogenization is a process that breaks down butterfat globules so they do not rise to the top. Homogenized milk has been linked to heart disease.
  5. Raw Milk is higher in butterfat than even full fat milk you can buy in the stores (4.5% average), Butterfat contains vitamins A and D needed for assimilation of calcium and protein in the water fraction of the milk. Without them protein and calcium are more difficult to utilise. Butterfat is rich in short- and medium chain fatty acids which protect against disease and stimulate the immune system. It contains glyco-spingolipids which prevent intestinal distress and conjugated linoleic acid which has strong anticancer properties. You can just trust me, or google it. I don't mind which ;0)
  6. Raw milk has no additives - Powdered skim milk, a source of dangerous oxidized cholesterol and neurotoxic amino acids, is added to 1% and 2% milk. Low-fat yogurts and sour creams contain mucopolysaccharide to give them body. Pale butter from hay-fed cows contains colorings to make it look like vitamin-rich butter from grass-fed cows. Bioengineered enzymes are used in large-scale cheese production. Many mass produced cheeses contain additives and colorings and imitation cheese products contain vegetable oils.

Plus it just tastes better. Not in tea and coffee weirdly, but luckily I don't drink those. In fact, we will probably be putting cream in peoples coffees from now on (makes us look fancy) and people with tea will just have to suck it up or bring their own milk when they come over.

Maybe I should pray for more gifting in the area of hospitality...

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Dehydration


Looking at the title of this post I'm reminded that every year in January I resolve to drink more water.

To be honest, pretty much every 2-3 months I resolve to drink more water. I know I'm dehydrated, I just never seem to get thirsty. It's been a problem, even as a kid, I used to get sick from not drinking enough. I've been hospitalised for it more than once!

I need a program to keep me on track. One of the most useful things I ever did was set alarms during the day to remind me to drink. I wonder why I stopped doing that...

Anyway, this post is not about that kind of dehydration. This is about my brand new Excalibur food dehydrator.
Isn't she beautiful?

Well, she would be, but I couldn't afford the black one so I had to get white.

Anyway, it's incredibly functional, even if not particularly beautiful.

So far we've made vegetable crisps (which the children could not get enough of) and dried onions (I had a glut of them that needed to be preserved in some way) and I'm about to make biltong.

I'll be honest, I've never eaten biltong, despite both my children and my husband being addicted to the stuff. Something about eating raw meat has just never appealed to me. However, as I read through various recipes online it actually started to appeal a little more. For a start, it uses a ton of corriander powder; I've never been close enough to know this, but I LOVE corriander! It also has worcester sauce, I love worcester sauce!

Unfortunately it takes twelve hours of marinading before you can put it in the dehydrator even, so it's going to be at least 24 hours before I get back to you with results, but the recipe looks good.

In case you want to give it a try, here's what I did:
  1. Cut some nice meat into strips (I used steak, which was possibly a little extravagant, but it was all the beef I could find; Chicken biltong sounds like a death warrant and we ate the lamb last night)
  2. Put some brown sugar, rock salt, bicarbonate of soda and ground Corriander in the bottom of a bowl.
  3. Lay strips of meat over the mixture and sprinkle more of it on top
  4. Pour brown vinegar and worcester sauce on in a 2:1 ratio and watch it bubble
  5. Once it's settled add another layer of meat in the same way and repeat until your all done
  6. Cover with cling film and set in the fridge for 12 hours
The next step is to lay it all out nicely on sheets in the dehydrator and leave it for another 12-18 hours, checking regularly. You need to decide how 'wet' you like your biltong to be, so there's no real time/recipe. Hopefully mines going to look something like this:

I'll let you know how I get on.

Monday, 2 January 2012

It's been a busy end to the year...

Here's what our December looked like:


If this, then that!

I've noticed a lot of new years resolutions amongst some of my favourite bloggers are to do with technology; namely the taming of it. All over the internet are people saying they need to spend less time on twitter/facebook/googlereader etc... to spend more time with their families.

I think it's incredibly admirable. If you feel like your family are suffering for your online presence, then you really do need to re-prioritise.

That said, I do wonder if perhaps they have missed something which is making all this online socialising seem like much harder work than it has to be. My sister once told me she felt like she was 'babysitting the internet', which was why she didn't want to sign up to instagram. She already did twitter and facebook, and managed a blog, that was enough.

I've been asked by people before 'how do you find the time to go online with two kids at home?' and I realise the underlying question is not 'how do you get time to update a facebook status?', which takes about three seconds from my iphone, but 'how do you find time to post that on facebook, twitter, instagram, G+ and your blog?!' Which when you put it like that does sound like a lot!

So here's the secret. I don't.

Most of the time I post once, somewhere, then let the technology do the hard work.

There is a great website that makes this really simple - IFTTT or 'if this, then that'.

The basic idea is to build 'recipes' (or copy them from the hundreds they have listed) that say things like 'If I post a new picture on instagram, post it to twitter, facebook, G+ and Linked in for me'. You can tweak all the settings, so for example, on new years eve at midnight, you might have seen a happy new years message on my twitter and facebook. I can assure you I was nowhere near my computer, and you'll get the exact same message on new years next year at the same time. Ditto Christmas and Easter.

If I post a new public video to youtube, again you'll be informed on twitter, facebook and G+ - without me doing anything more than uploading the video.

If you feel like technology might be getting out of control, or that you're babysitting the internet, try IFTTT.

Sound too antisocial? Letting a robot take charge of your account and not having any personal input? It really isn't. You put the information in, it's just spreading it across platforms to reach as many of your friends as possible. You will still get notifications when a friend comments on each media, allowing you to go and respond personally. It's literally just saved you all the repetitive typing and logging in and out.

It can also be used to send you an SMS reminding you to take a coat if the weather report says it's cold, or an umbrella if it's going to rain.

And if you really are the antisocial type, there's even recipes to send yourself 'escape' phone calls to get out of awkward social situations!
This post is linked up with No Ordinary Blog Hop

Pretty new calling card


As I've said before, I love calling cards, so here is my next design for you to download.

It's a sketchy little design, and as before all the parts are customisable, so feel free to change it up to suit your needs. Have fun making new friends in the new year!

This post is linked with No Ordinary Blog Hop

 
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