Sunday, June 27, 2010

how to make bean sprouts

I love bean sprouts.  They're delicious and a great source of nutrition.  Just the act of sprouting beans increases their nutrition.  It also makes their nutrients more bio-available because the first step, soaking, removes phytic acids which interfere with nutrient absorption.

A while back my friend Jen asked me how to make them.  She had been interested in doing it but was afraid it was too difficult.  She wanted pictures to show her how it was done.  I promised that the next time I made bean sprouts I would take pictures and share the process.

This is a batch of lentil, adzuki, mung bean sprouts.  You can use any beans you like depending on what you have handy in your pantry.  I almost always have mung beans and lentils so I use those a lot.  The other beans vary.  I usually make a bean sprout mix with anywhere from three to five different kinds of beans.

Start by putting a small handful of each of the different beans into a colander and picking them over.  Dry beans frequently have small rocks, little clumps of dirt or other debris in the package, it's important to sort through them before you use them.

After picking them over, rinse the beans well.


Put them into a bowl and cover them with water.

Put them in the oven overnight

(Be sure to put a note on the oven so you don't accidentally turn it on to pre-heat
when your beans are in there.  Trust me on this one.)

The next morning take your beans out of the oven and drain them.
Rinse them well and put them back in the oven.

The next day rinse and drain your beans and put them back in the oven.

Keep doing this.

On day two or three you will notice that your beans have little white sprout tails.

On day three or four you will notice that lots of beans have sprouted and they are ready to eat.

How long they take to sprout depends on how warm or cold it is in your house.  Warmer weather 
causes them to sprout faster so in my house it's usually three days.

Once you have your sprouts ready to eat it's best to store them in the fridge.  

What can you do with them?  I put mine into salads, stir fry, curry, smoothies (just a tiny bit for a protein boost), I also eat them raw as a snack.  They're absolutely fabulous.  

I hope you'll give it a try.

Be well.

Friday, June 25, 2010

lemon juice or powder?

Over on my Facebook Fan Page I recently mentioned how important it is to alkalize your body; a great way to start your day is with 16 oz. of water to which you add 2 T. of either lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar.

This brought up a couple of questions that I thought I would address here.

"If you want to raise your pH, making you less acidic, why are you drinking something with acid in it?"

Although we tend to think of things like lemon and vinegar as being acidic they have an alkaline effect on the body.  The reason is that they produce an alkaline ash; this is the residue left after they have been digested.  Taking in foods that are more alkaline has an alkalizing effect on the body which in turn helps to avoid acidosis and keeps the body in balance.  There are a number of medical experts who feel that a diet that is 70% alkaline is the best for our bodies.  It is important to remember that our bodies seek balance.  If we eat a diet that is too acidic the body must pull alkalizing minerals from our bones in order to balance.  If we eat a diet that is too alkalizing, similarly, the body must return to a balance.

So what are alkalizing foods?  Mostly fruits and vegetables, although there are some exceptions there, sprouted beans and seeds, almonds, millet, buckwheat, honey, molasses, and olive oil.  If anyone is interested I can put up a list of acid alkaline balance foods.

".True lemon is a powdered lemon juice, there's also True Lime and True Orange. For portablity, would the lemon or lime work as well?"

I don't think so.  I looked up the ingredients:  Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Lemon Juice, Lemon Oil, Ascorbic Acid.  Citric Acid comes from fermenting the raw sugars in citrus fruit.  Maltodextrin is a sugar  that comes from hydrolyzing starch and is usually made from corn or potatoes.  Not until the third ingredient do we get to actual lemon juice.  This means that the major ingredients are not actually juice.  I think I'd stick with the juice itself.  

Photo courtesy of:  Aka | Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

carcinogenic strawberries

A while back I wrote a post about the proposed use of Methyl Iodide as a pesticide for strawberry crops.

The original post stated that the comment period would end on June 14.  That has been extended to June 29.

If you have not yet made your feelings about this issue known I urge you to take a moment and do so.  The United Farm Workers has a quick and easy way for you to participate on their website.

As I stated previously, this is a known carcinogen, one used in laboratories for it's reliable ability to create tumors.  Many scientists, including Nobel winners, have urged that this never be used.  Yet California is considering going ahead with it.  The potential for damage and illness is huge.  Not only those who eat those strawberries, but those who work with the crops, those who harvest and or package those crops, those who live near the fields, all will be affected.  This is truly horrifying.  Please take just a moment of your time and vote for clean food by stating your objection to the use of Methyl Iodide.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

lacto-fermented pickles

Back in May I attended the National Association of Nutrition Professionals Conference.  One of the sessions that I attended dealt with naturally fermented foods.

I've been canning and preserving for over 20 years, first as a way to preserve excess food for later or to control the flavors of jams, pickles and chutneys that our family ate.  Later I began to see it more as a way to control the preservatives and other chemicals that frequently appear in these kinds of foods.  Quite frankly I've never understood why pickle manufacturers felt it necessary to add yellow #2 to pickles.  It doesn't add anything to the flavor and if you want your pickles to be yellow just add turmeric.

As I learned more I began to wonder about lacto-fermented foods.  Through this process lactobacilli, an anaerobic beneficial microbe, converts starches and sugars in the food into lactic acid.  This lactic acid helps not only to preserve the food for an extended period of time, it also helps to promote a healthy bacterial balance in your gut.

There are many traditionally fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, relishes, and chutneys.  Many of these foods are now made commercially, a process that frequently does not allow for lacto-fermentation.  Part of the reason that commercially processed foods are not lacto-fermented is because it takes longer, requires more interaction with the food, and does not last as long on the shelf.

I see lacto-fermented foods as an addition to my pickled vegetables.  Let's face it, confronted with an abundance of zucchini, there is only so much lacto-fermentation I can do.  I'll make my favorite bread and butter pickles and zucchini relish with the rest.  The canned foods will last for a longer time and the lacto-fermented ones will support digestive health.

Back to the conference.  I took a class with Sandy Der and Nishanga Bliss where they demonstrated making kimchi and lacto-fermented soda.  I had always thought that lacto-fermentation required a fermentation crock.  Mostly because the books I have seem to call for one.  Both Sandy and Nishanga demonstrated using 1 gallon glass jars.  When Sandy demonstrated the kimchi she showed off her beautiful pickle weights which she makes in her ceramics studio.  I was amazed at how easy the whole process was and as soon as the lecture was over I rushed for the door to purchase a set of pickle weights.

Shortly after arriving home I dug out a one gallon jar, went to the grocery store and bought the ingredients for my first batch of kimchi.  It turned out amazingly well and having a little bit every day with a meal turned out to be a most delicious way to add probiotics to my diet.  I finished it very quickly and made some more; a gallon seems like a lot but when you are eating it every day it doesn't last long.

I then moved on to lacto-fermented pickles.  The first batch smelled fabulous and pickled really well.  Unfortunately I didn't particularly care for the flavor.  The recipe called for pickling spice.  Now I have used pickling spice before when making vinegar preserved pickles and the flavor didn't bother me then.  I'm not sure if the lacto-fermentation process intensifies the flavor or if it simply is stronger since there is no pickling and no boiling.  I wound up giving them to a friend who is from India and thought their flavor was great.  Trying another batch this time I branched out and following the basic tenets of lacto-fermentation I made a brine but modified the flavorings.  I'm waiting for this next batch to be done, frequently stopping by to enjoy the aroma of my fizzing jar of lacto-fermented pickles.

I've been writing down my lacto-fermentation adventures on my Facebook Fan Page and have gotten a request for my recipe.  This is a basic recipe, feel free to modify the spices to suit yourself.  The most important parts are that the brine be a suitable strength to preserve the cucumbers until the lactobacilli take over the preserving process and that the cucumbers be fully submerged in the brine (hence the need for pickle weights).

I made this recipe in a two quart jar as there are not that many people living in my house and a whole gallon of pickles plus a whole gallon of kimchi seemed like a lot.  If you decide to make this in a gallon jar you will need to double the recipe.

Lacto-fermented Pickles

4 large pickling cucumbers (only because this is what fit - if using baby cukes you may need more)
3 cloves of garlic, crushed, not peeled
2 bay leaves
1/2 t. celery seed
1/2 t. dill seed
1 quart of water
1 1/2 T. kosher salt

Sterilize the jar
Wash the cucumbers
Add spices to the jar
Mix together water and salt until salt is completely dissolved (this is your brine)
Pour brine over cucumbers and herbs
Use pickle weights to hold down the cucumbers
Loosely cover jar with wax paper and a ring or rubber band
Let sit in a warm (not hot) dark place
After 4 days you can cut off small pieces of pickle to taste.  When it tastes pickle-y enough you can put it in the refrigerator.  This will slow down but not completely stop the fermentation process

If you'd like to learn more about lacto-fermentation there are a few books out there that are really good resources:


Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Candida, or common yeast overgrowth, is a very serious health condition.  For many people it can cause a wide range of symptoms from stomach upset and pain to skin problems such as acne or eczma to headaches and intense cravings for sweets.  Often triggered by an imbalance in the gut bacteria due to excessive sugar consumption or frequent antibiotic use, candida requires a serious dietary shift to remove all trigger foods from your nutritional plan.

While some of the changes are easy to understand such as avoiding fruit or dairy, modifying recipes can be difficult.  Especially recipes for sweets and treats.  A large part of the difficulty in going on an anti-candida diet is the initial increased urge for sweets as the candida organisms are starved out of your system in a process called "die-off."

Anti-Candida Feast: Holiday and Special Occasion Recipes for an Anti-Candida Diet  by Ricki Heller, Ph.D. is a good little book with some great recipes that are both delicious and satisfying.  The crimson salad on page 9 was a fun, pink color sensation at our recent barbeque, the splash of lime really perked it up.  The sesame crackers made a delicious snack while the lemony almond pancakes were flavorful and delicious.  The choco-carob frosting looks interesting and might even pair well with the almond pancakes to make a chocolate crepe-type dessert.  There are more delicious recipes to try, these are just the ones that I have made to date.

While I would have liked to see a table of contents to make it easier to find the individual recipes this is definitely a good little book for anyone looking to work within the confines of an anti-candida diet.  At a low cost of only $5 through her website, it's definitely worth adding to your collection.  Don't pass up the opportunity to check out her blog for other great recipes as well.

Monday, June 14, 2010

coconut oil

I really like coconut oil, it's a healthy fat with lots of wonderful uses. Approximately 90% saturated fat, mostly consisting of medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), with antimicrobial properties, this makes it beneficial to the immune system.  MCFAs are also easily digested by the body for quick energy. The different types of fatty acids in the coconut oil include lauric acid (44%), which is known for being antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and containing no trans-fats, and caprylic acid (8%), an antifungal that is highly effective against candida. Coconut oil is very stable because it is slow to oxidize which prevents it from going rancid too quickly.

Tropic Traditions recently sent me a 32 oz jar of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil to try.  I like this particular coconut oil for a couple of different reasons.  One is that it's packaged in a glass jar.  Coconut oil is very sensitive to temperature and goes from liquid to solid fairly easily depending on ambient temperature.  This does not affect the quality of the oil or the shelf life, but I prefer not to have these changes happening in a plastic container.  This was a very mild coconut oil without a strong scent that some coconut oils have.  The product in it's solid form was also smooth and even.

I use coconut oil primarily for cooking and baking; it's a good, heat stable cooking oil.  It is also good for body care as a moisturizer, makeup remover and hair moisturizer.  For body care it also works well to  soothe sunburn and help reduce the amount of peeling.  Overall it's a great, versatile product to have in your house.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose.  Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.  

Saturday, June 12, 2010

whole foods versus whole medicines

"The less we spend on food, the more we spend on health care."  ~ Michael Pollan 

I think this recent quote is true.  The more we spend on "convenience" the more we buy over-processed, non-nutritious foods.  This leads to a nutritional deficit that in turn can lead to illness.  This then leads us to take medicines to "correct" whatever is wrong with us and unfortunately no attention whatsoever is paid to managing what fuels our bodies.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not suggesting that medicine is bad or unnecessary.  On the contrary, I can recall being very grateful for the sophistication of our current state of medical care and what pharmaceuticals can do to help.  My foot surgery in 2003 is a prime example.  However, I do believe that in many instances we have gone too far in trying to fix everything with a pill and not looking at the food (i.e., fuel) that we put into our bodies.  Chemicals are not enough to run the complex organism that is our body.

The more our food is broken down for us, in other words processed, the easier our bodies can work through that food.  In the process of breaking down foods many nutrients are stripped.  They are then replaced with chemicals that promote shelf stability for longer life in the grocery store, colorants to make them look more attractive, flavorings to fool our palates into thinking we're getting something good, and emulsifiers to help it all stick together.  All of these non-nutritive additives do nothing for our state of health.  In fact, the faster our body can  work through that highly processed donut, candy, cereal, canned pasta, etc, the less it needs to work.  And the more empty calories we wind up consuming.  If we can't use them all our body saves them.  Where does it save extra calories?  As fat.  Adipose tissue.  Frequently in the belly area, but all over our bodies if it needs to.

I believe that it is important to look at what we are eating and how we can increase the nutrient density.  The more whole foods you eat, high fiber, no chemicals, low processed, the harder your body has to work to retrieve those energy units we call calories.  Yes, overeating even healthy foods can lead to weight gain, but I challenge anyone to eat the same number of apples it takes to make one glass of apple juice and claim that they still have room for more.

While eating a whole food, low process diet may not be the answer to all of your medical problems it will certainly give your body the best possible support it needs to be as healthy as it can be.  Staying well hydrated, exercising, getting enough sleep.  Those help too.  But one of the most important foundations is good nutrition.  Eat well to be well.

photo courtesy of pleasant family shopping | Wikimedia Commons