How to make a sourdough starter

sourdough-starter

Confession time……this is probably the 4th time I’ve made a sourdough starter. My first attempt was back in 2012 when I was just starting out with Real Food and surprisingly it went well! I had a nice bubbly starter and even made delicious sourdough biscuits out of it. Unfortunately, I was not a good sourdough mama and my starter died of starvation in the back of my fridge. Since then I’ve attempted to make sourdough 2 other times and was not able to recreate it. I was determined to make it work this time and it did!

What is sourdough?

Sourdough is basically an ancient fermented dough from naturally occurring yeasts and lactobacillus bacteria. Yeast and lactobacillus found in the air will eat up the sugar from the flour and create gas which will allow your bread to rise naturally. Because the flour is already partially digested by the bacteria, it will be easier for our bodies to digest the final product (like a loaf of bread, tortillas, biscuits, etc.) Sourdough also breaks down phytic acid so that we can get more nutrients out of the resulting product. [Read more…]

Why Organic Spices Matter

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Switching to organic fruits, vegetables and meats may be a natural transition when moving toward a Real Food lifestyle, but don’t overlook your spices! Sure, spices tend to be a small part of the final meals we consume, but that doesn’t mean they can’t effect our health. Besides the obvious problem of pesticides,  did you know that conventional, non-organic spices may be irradiated?

Approved in 1963, irradiation is a process that exposes spices (as well as some fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, flour, and juices)  to radiation through gamma rays, electron beams and X-rays .

Manufacturers benefit from irradiation because it kills bacteria and pests, which results in goods lasting longer on the shelf. At first that may sound like a good thing. However, all the bacteria is killed, both good and bad. Vitamin, mineral and enzyme content can also be reduced by this process. If you’ve read Nourishing Traditions or Nutrition & Physical Degeneration then you already know the detrimental effects that denaturing our food has on our health. Irradiation can also prevent spoiled food from giving off tell-tale signs of spoilage like an off scent since the bad bacteria is killed. This means you may be consuming food past it’s prime. Manufacturers need to ensure that our foods are handled safely and in sanitary conditions during the entire production process, not fall back on irradiation as a means to fix contaminated food at the end.

Now, the FDA does regulate irradiated foods by requiring them to be labeled with the International Radura logo (click here to see it).  However, food products that contain irradiated spices or other ingredients do not have to be labeled. So for example, if you buy a jar of spaghetti sauce, the basil or tomatoes may have been irradiated but the manufacturer does not have to disclose this.

By law, organic foods including spices, cannot be irradiated so if you are looking to avoid radiation in your food then always choose organic when possible.

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One of our spice racks. Most of our spices are organic now, but we still have a few to replace.

Don’t feel like you need to replace all your spices ASAP in favor of all organic ones. Just take baby steps! First, go through all your conventional spices and toss out anything that is expired and replace the ones you use most right off. Then make it a goal to replace 1 conventional spice for an organic one each time you grocery shop, or even just 1 a month if the budget is too tight. Take baby steps and before you know it, you’ll have a completely organic set of spices, free of radiation (and pesticides).

Most of our spices are now organic, but we still have some conventional ones that we’ve been working through, however I am going to follow my own suggestion and start replacing one old spice on each grocery trip. I do a weekly run so that should be 4 spices a month for us.

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My grocery list chalkboard. I will be replacing our conventional paprika with an organic version on my next grocery trip.

Homemade Vegetable Stock from Scraps

You’ll never want to toss out veggie scraps again after finding out how easy and frugal it is to make your own vegetable stock! No more buying stock from the grocery store, which is basically just flavored water with additives anyhow.

If you are squeamish about handling raw meat and bones and therefore not ready to make your own chicken or beef stock, then this recipe is for you. Besides eliminating the ick factor when making stock, another nice thing about homemade vegetable stock is that it requires much less simmering so you can make it the same day that you need it for a recipe.

Probably the best thing about making your own veggie stock is that it’s essentially free as you are using veggie scraps that normally would have ended up in the trash can. Think of all those nutrients that have previously just gone to waste. Not any longer!

As you cook throughout the month, just toss veggie scraps into a gallon freezer bag and store it in your freezer until the bag fills up. You’ll be surprised at how fast you accumulate enough scraps to make your first batch. Make sure the veggie scraps are clean though! No one likes gritty dirt stock! Toss in ends, peelings and anything that is wilting. Just make sure to avoid using scraps that are moldy or going bad.

Collect & Freeze:
Carrots peelings and ends
Onion skins and ends (onion skins will give the broth a darker color)
Celery ends
Garlic scraps
Potato peelings
Tomato scraps
Herb stems
Mushroom ends
Squash & Zuchinni scraps
Leek ends
Lettuce ends

Not all  scraps make a good tasting stock so be sure to be selective.

Avoid:
Cauliflower
Broccoli
Cabbage
Brussels Sprouts
Beets
Asparagus
Anything that has started to rot or mold


I was prepping the above veggies for a meal and made sure to save and freeze the peelings and scraps.


Vegetable stock is a great way to use up that leftover bit of garlic that gets left in a garlic press. Just peel it out and toss it in your freezer bag.

Homemade Vegetable Stock from Scraps

Ingredients

  • Frozen Vegetable Scraps
  • Filtered Water

Instructions

  1. Place scraps in a stockpot and pour enough filtered water to cover.
  2. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Line a large bowl with a strainer and pour stock through it to strain out vegetable pieces.
  4. Let stock cool and pour into glass jars.
  5. Refrigerate and use within 3 days or store in freezer for long term storage.
http://www.acasablog.com/2014/04/homemade-vegetable-stock-from-scraps/

I was able to make 2 quarts of vegetable stock from the bag of frozen veggie scraps.

Shared on Down Home Blog Hop, Real Food Wednesday and The Homestead Blog Hop.

Homemade Coconut Milk


Who knew you could make your own coconut milk at home? It only requires 2 ingredients and the instructions are so simple.  Now you have no more excuses to buy the canned version!

I’ve chosen to make an effort to cut down on as much commercial canned food as possible so having the option of homemade coconut milk is great. One of main concerns of canned foods is BPA (bisphenol A.)  in the lining.

What’s the big deal about BPA?

“BPA is an industrial chemical that has been used to make certain plastics and resins since the 1960s. Some research has shown that BPA can seep into food or beverages from containers that are made with BPA. Exposure to BPA is a concern because of possible health effects of BPA on the brain, behavior and prostate gland of fetuses, infants and children.” – Mayoclinic.org

The above explanation is very simple, but there is more to it than just that. I do encourage you to do a search on BPA to learn more about it’s harmful effects.

[Read more…]

Homemade Chicken Stock


As you can tell from the above photo, chicken feet made an appearance in this particular batch of chicken stock! They are definitely an optional ingredient, but if you do have them available to you, then please don’t skip out on them! Tossing chicken feet into stock is a great way to ensure that it will gel! Your great-grandma knew this and had no issue using all parts of the bird, so you shouldn’t neither!

Making homemade chicken stock is just as easy as beef stock. The basics of the how-to are essentially the same with just a few minor differences. As with homemade beef stock, homemade chicken stock is also going to be much healthier than the organic canned or boxed options at the grocery store.

Despite the convenience of cooking with already cut up chicken, it’s best to buy a whole chicken and cut it yourself. Not only will you save money by doing the labor yourself but you will also have the back bone of the chicken for a future batch of chicken stock (as seen in the video below).

[Read more…]

How to Soak Nuts, Seeds, Grains and Beans

Did you know that nuts, seeds, grains, and beans have natural protective mechanisms built in so that they can survive until good growing conditions arrive? Once they come into contact with rain these protections are broken down and washed away so that the seeds can germinate. This also releases more enzymes and nutrients to support their growth. That means that not only do we digest soaked nuts, seeds, grains and beans better, but we also intake more nutrients from them!

The most commonly known protector is phytic acid (aka phytate), which as previously mentioned helps prevent the seed from prematurely sprouting. This is wonderful for the plant, however it’s not so great for us humans because we  lack phytase. Phytase is an enzyme that neutralizes phytic acid. Phytic acid is known as an anti-nutrient because it binds to minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc. Once bound, these minerals are less likely to be absorbed by our intestines thus contributing to mineral deficiencies. Phytic acid also inhibits enzymes we need to digest protein, starch, and sugar.

[Read more…]

Homemade Beef Bone Stock

I told John I was in the process of writing a post on beef stock and he said all I need to write is, “It’s delicious. The end.” Indeed, stock is very delicious but there’s more to it than that! Read on…

I haven’t purchased any stock in over a year since I’ve discovered how easy it is to make at home.  Making your own stock may sound like a very difficult task, but just look at it as simply simmering bones and vegetables in water. Not so intimidating anymore, is it?

Mastering homemade stock should be at the top of the priority list for those that are wanting to transition to a Real Food lifestyle. That is because it is far more nutritious than anything you’ll find on the grocery store shelf…even when comparing to organic stock. The store bought stuff is basically just flavored water with MSG thrown in to enhance it’s flavor. Here are ingredient decks for 3 popular organic stock options:

  • Filtered water, organic beef stock (organic beef stock, sea salt, flavor), sea salt, organic caramel color, natural flavors (includes yeast extract), organic evaporated cane syrup.
    -Notice the “flavor” ingredient? That along with the second mention of “natural flavors” and yeast extract typically indicates MSG. This stock also contains caramel color, and sugar in the form of evaporated cane syrup. Why would stock ever need to contain sugar? Makes no sense!
  • Organic Beef flavored stock (filtered water, organic beef, organic beef stock), sea salt, organic caramel color, yeast extract, organic onion powder, organic evaporated cane juice, organic natural flavors, xanthan gum, organic spice.
    -This stock also contains MSG in the form of yeast extract, natural flavors and organic spice. Anytime a label just says “spices” without mentioning specific ones, you can bet that it’s MSG. The caramel color, evaporated cane juice (sugar) and xantham gum are unnecessary.
  • Organic beef stock (water, organic beef), sea salt, organic evaporated cane juice, organic onion powder, autolyzed yeast extract, organic garlic powder, organic caramel color, organic black pepper.
    -Once again MSG, sugar and unnecessary coloring are present in this ready-made organic stock.

 

[Read more…]

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