Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ugly Fruit

This week when I was cutting up some ugly fruit, I was thinking of how often we judge (or should I say "misjudge") something by how it looks on the outside. There are some terrific grapefruit we buy whenever they are available; the industry labels them "choice" which doesn't mean choice by the dictionary definition. It actually means "You'd never buy these if you purchased them based on what they look like." We've bought a few products for ourselves that were labeled "choice", and we never know what we're going to get. They are definately outside the standards produce vendors use to decide what is acceptable to market and what is not. Basically it means "ugly fruits" versus the beautiful ones we all want to buy when we pick through the produce bins.

Anyway, we often buy "choice" for ourselves as it is about half the price of the regular produce. If we list it in the price list, we always tell folks it's "choice" although I'm sure that's misunderstood to mean it is a good thing. Buying "choice" is a good way to save money on organic produce, but it's not regularly available. Probably the growers sell it or give it to their workers, so it rarely hits the marketplace.

We've been buying these "choice" grapefruit all season. Everytime we order them, the vendor asks us if we know they are ugly. We answer that we do, but we go for the flavor which is superb. They agree, but they want us to know because they say, it is very hard to sell this ugly fruit when it is sitting in bins.

So, I was thinking as I was eating some of my ugly grapefruit the other day, why are some fruits on the tree perfectly beautiful and others ugly? I was wondering if perhaps the ugly ones sacrifice working on their outsides instead concentrating all their energy on the inside production of sweet, juicy fruit. (Some of these are sweeter than oranges, I'm not kidding you.) Then I thought how like people this is. So many times, the workers in our culture are those who devote all their energy to making things nicer for the others around them (like my little grapefruit did for me). They don't always have time for the gym and the spa and expensive makeup and hair styles. They operate on very little maintenance and expend the majority of their energy and resources on others. Often they are looked down upon because of their appearance.

In the Old Testament of the Bible there is story of how David was chosen by the Lord to be king. There were many others who appeared more appropriate for the job, but the Lord told Samuel (who was doing the choosing): "Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; ... for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). I guess I'm just thinking there's more to life than what we look like. Why is our self-esteem so tied up in that? Where do we come up with the standards by which we judge, and what have they got to do with what a person is really like?

Like the produce industry, standards are determined by what the product looks like. We all know the disappointment of seeing a beautiful piece of fruit and biting into it to find it is not at all juicy or delicious. Likewise, have we met a human being that had all the beautiful features we sought only to find out they were shallow and selfish? Of course, this is not to say that all beautiful people are this way just as all beautiful produce does not taste yucky.

The other day at the market I had some collards that had a few circles on them where bugs had eaten a few holes. A customer said, "Oh, dear. You left them in the garden too long. You let the bugs get them." I was a little shocked and surprised. I have been growing vegetables and herbs organically for many years, and I have come to expect a little insect damage. I am, in fact, a little skeptical when there's NOT any. I figure if a bug doesn't want to eat it, it can't taste too good. (Are the people who spray pesticides really arrogant enough to think that they are killing all the insects?) This is not to say I eat insect-ridden food, but I am not opposed to sharing a little bit of the earth's bounty with our fellow creatures. Yes, they do create a more ugly product I suppose if one is looking for perfection.

There are a lot of factors that go into this which is more appropriate to a gardening discussion, such as the opinion that a healthy plant does not attract insects. In my experience, it is true that a healthy plant will not fall prey to fungus and disease as easily as a malnourished plant, but I'm pretty sure insects like to eat the good stuff as much as we do.

I suppose it all has to be put in perspective. When we can see things through the eyes of others, and especially through the eyes of the Savior, there might be a different slant on it than we are used to it. I recently saw a movie with my family where Hiccup tells us, "Everything we think we know is wrong!" Maybe there's some things we don't know that will come to us if we do some pondering and searching. Just as an "ugly" fruit might be sweeter than its more attractive fellows, so might a less attractive person have more to offer.

Well, I think I'm starting to ramble (don't I always?), so I need to move on to the task at hand. What to eat? What to eat? It is no easy task to figure out what the crew here wants to eat day after day, and I'm sure every family struggles with that. I think it might be harder for singles as they have to eat the same thing for 3 or 4 days in a row so that it doesn't go to waste. We don't have too many leftovers, that's for sure.

A lot of our meals are consisting of watermelon and cantaloupe. They are less expensive right now, and we can easily make a meal of them. Contrast that with peaches: my granddaughter eats about 10 of them at a time, but she can only eat about a fourth of a watermelon or half a cantaloupe. So, consequently, I love when the melons are in season. We're still enjoying the berries, and are glad the grapes have finally come in (even though the green ones were still a little tart). We eat about 3 pounds of grapes for a meal, so that can get a little pricy too. Bananas go a long way at our house for stretching the budget. We go through at least a half case (20 lbs) a week not counting those we freeze for smoothies or dehydrate for roll-ups and banana bark. (Boy, I am really in a rambling mood today. Sorry.)

Besides the fruits, we're enjoying lots of smoothies which are nice and cool if anyone has spent lots of time outside. I like to make a milkshake with strawberries I've frozen blended with almond mylk. I think that is my favorite. Whenever I make chocolate recipes, I always clean the chocolate out of the blender by mixing it with almond mylk and some frozen banana for a chocolate shake, but the strawberry is my favorite. I also like mango lassis. Here's a recipe I found in a recipe book that I adapted to the number I like to make: 2 cups almond milk, 1/2 cup agave, 2 cups frozen mango, and 8 teaspoons lemon juice.

I've got a fresh batch of Hawaiian granola coming out of the dehydrator, so we'll enjoy that for a few snacks and meals with almond mylk this week. We also made ball park sunnies (sprouted sunflower seeds dehydrated with garlic, chili powder, and unrefined sea salt) this week which we all enjoy topping our salads. We also made some curried cashews, candied almonds, and candied pecans that will grace our salads this week along with some goji berries and/or raisins. Of course, there's the ever present Ranch dressing we can't live without.

We have tons of good, organic zucchini in the garden right now (we can give you a great deal if you'd like some), so we're going to be having lots of "noodle" meals this week where we shred up the squash and use it as a base for different sauces: marinara, peanut sauce, cheddar cheese, and queso verde. My favorite right now is the queso verde; we make a "green spaghetti" by mixing it into the zucchini and marinated broccoli. We like it with a little marinated mushroom and sliced tomato on the side.

While we've got the marinated broccoli and the cheddar, we'd better make some broccoli cheese soup - Alicia's favorite. Very good with some Alicia crackers. These crackers will also taste good with a little avo mayo (blend together ½ cups water, 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons raw agave or honey, 2 teaspoons sea salt, and 1 ripe Haas avocado) spread on them and topped with sliced tomato and some sprouts. We've also got some fresh pita chips that are good this way (also crumbled up on top of a salad like croutons).

We also love the zucchini chips with Ranch dressing with some carrot sticks. This makes a nice light dinner. Along the same line is celery sticks with honey almond butter. Surprisingly satisfying.

I think that about covers the meals for the week. Desserts will include our new chocolate mousse trifle which is too good for any description I could write, apple crisp, key lime pies, coco bites. We also have some soul dates that helps to satisfy the sweet tooth.

I suppose that's it for now, and I suppose I'll have to go somewhere else to do my rambling. Hoping it's a good week for everyone.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Carbs! We Need Carbs!

This week we are experimenting with another chocolate dessert. It seems like desserts is the thing people miss the most when they change to a healthy diet. Dr. Doug Graham would say this is because we aren't getting enough fruit in our diets. I think it is because we aren't used to the volume of fruit needed to provide our full load of carbs; desserts provide a more concentrated form. As long as we know this, perhaps we can concentrate on eating more fruit until we get more accustomed to what our particular bodies need. Healthy desserts certainly help bridge the gap.

That being said, this is a great time of year to eat more fruit. We try to eat only fruit in the morning and into the afternoon. When we feel like we need something more substantial, we'll go for the salad or main dish entrees. Even having fruit that large part of the day, we still find we need more many days. The human body is designed to be fueled by the simple sugars in fruits. Please read Dr. Graham's work for a better explanation of this.

Back to the new dessert. Historically speaking, one of Darius' friends (Thanks, Steven) critiqued us when we first got started by telling us that we needed more desserts, especially chocolate. At the time, we didn't have any chocolate anything, so we got busy. Every couple of months, we've come up with a new one. First was our chocolate cheesecake, and we've been working on that consistently since we started. Then we came up with our rawky road which is a chocolate coconut confection that reminds me of a mounds bar. We worked on perfecting our chocolate pudding and
chocolate pie after that. We decided to add coconut meat to our avocado mousse, and that did the trick. The chocolate pie is a nice chocolate crust (almonds, coconut, dates, & cacao) covered with sliced banana and topped with the chocolate pudding. I love making vegan desserts. It is a great challenge to make these without any dairy, flour, and eggs, not to mention the fact that they're uncooked.

I've been thinking that we needed something more "cakey", so I've been working on this chocolate mousse cake. The cake part is absolutely just like a cake mix before baking (one of my former pre-vegan favorites), so I am hoping it works up nicely in the dehydrator. The mousse is a no-brainer with cashews and coconut meat much like an ice cream custard before it's frozen. I have big hopes for it!

We also have some chocolate snacks we've worked on; Alicia is better at that than I. I do like the chocolate macaroons, but most people like Alicia's coco bites better. We're also working on a nice chocolate truffle and a date candy filled with chocolate ganache. We'll put them out there when we get them right.

I'll try to take step by step pictures of the mousse cake and post them on facebook. No promises though as I have a hard time remembering to stop and photograph everything when I am "creating".

This week we've got elotes con crema and tomato salsa to make some mega nachos with chili lime corny chips. Also making some yummy Mexican Rice. How about some unfried no-beans?. We're going to make more Mexi-Cali wrappers as these are really good wrapped around some elotes for our alternative tacos. We're also going to use the unfried no-beans to make some cabbage wraps. The wrappers would be good wrapped around the no-beans too.

We're also going to make a green lasagna for next week. We sliced some zucchini thinly long-ways. We topped this with marinated broccoli and queso verde. Then we served some marinated mushrooms and chopped tomato on the side topped with a little crema. It was better than yummy.

Since we've got the marinated broccoli, we're going to have some more broccoli cheese soup. I didn't even get any last time! I'm going to take mine out first this go around!

Hoping everyone has a yummy week. Good food makes the hard times easier to deal with, don't you think? Good, healthy food makes hard times not involve health issues, and that's a great thing!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Faith: Pathway to Success

We had mixed responses from our blog last week about our beloved "juvie". I'm sure some of the readers thought we were out of our mind especially once they smelled the stuff. I don't know how something that stinky makes such a beneficial and (I think) delicious product, but it does.

I've been thinking about how much to read there is out there. I've been wondering how useful it is to write if everyone is too busy or uninterested in reading it. Of course, I find it useful to me as it clarifies my thoughts and mind processes, so if for no other reason, it is a good thing. With that in mind, I write for myself assuming no one is reading. I hope that if someone is reading it, they can realize I am having a rather personal conversation with myself.

This week is graduation at our school, so I am a little insane. It is not that it is so hard; I have been doing this for a lot of years already, and I think I know what I am doing... It is just that I am so concerned that I get everything right; I don't want to mess something up for one of the students on their special day. I want it to be nice for them, and I want them to know how proud I am of their accomplishments. In this day and age, it is so easy for a young person to just hang it up, and many do not have the support of their parents. Anyway, I am a basket case until it is over.

That means this entry will be short and sweet. I am having gratitude for blessings we are receiving when we have a need. We have really needed a cooler of some kind for a while. Presently we use a system of 4 giant coolers (we call them caskets for obvious reasons) for which we must buy a ton of ice every week. It isn't so bad during the winter, but now that the hot weather is upon us, we are really needing to find another solution. Another farmer told us about a restaurant that was being remodeled and maybe selling their cooler, but he could never remember to ask them about it. Then we started looking around at how other people solve this issue. At the Beaver Street Market there was a "Permanent" vendor who had the back of a truck hooked up as a cooler. We thought we might be able to do that if we could find a similar set-up, so we started looking for that. Then we noticed the people with that set-up had moved their location and the cooler was just sitting there. We asked them about it, and they were anxious to sell it, and the market wanted it moved. So we arranged to have it towed down to our property today, and we are hoping it will work for us. It should be adequate in size for a couple of years anyway.

My gratitude comes in how quickly this happened once we put it out there that we needed it. Our prayers were answered so quickly. It made me wonder what I could accomplish if I truly had the faith to ask for more of the things we need. It really is an issue of faith.

There is a history written about a people who were living at the time of the Tower of Babel. They didn't want to have their language confounded, and they wanted to go to a great place when they were scattered, so they prayed that this would happen. Not only did they get what they had prayed for, but they became the greatest civilization on the earth. They were told to build barges to cross the waters to the "promised land". Can you imagine the faith necessary to crawl down into that barge? They were in the water for 344 days! I'm not sure I would have made it 34 days! I'd have been pretty sure I was going to die after a couple hours of being sea sick. I realized why it was said of them that never had a man had the faith that their prophet did. We can truly accomplish great things if we will have faith that our Father in Heaven is listening to us and desires to bless our lives. I'm beginning to realize that any success we hope to have must be preceded by faith. "I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Ether 12:6).

We did get some food prepared this week especially the items we keep in rotation like our breads and cheese. We also have a few desserts:

pumpkin pie (carrot, cashews, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a date/almond crust)
rawky road (a base of pecans and walnuts, raisins, and coconut mixed with a yummy chocolate sauce, topped with a coconut "icing")
key lime pie (avocado, limes (their juice and zest), and agave nectar in a date/almond crust)
a few coconut cream pies (chocolate almond crust with a layer of banana topped with coconut cream: meat from 2 thai coconuts, agave nectar, and vanilla blended well and mixed with shredded dry coconut)
and a few Chocolate cheesecakes (cashew cheese, agave nectar, cacao butter, coconut oil, and vanilla over a pecan/raisin crust topped with chocolate ganache (raw cacao powder, cacao butter, and agave nectar).

Our meals this week consist of "pad thai" which is peanut sauce (almond butter mixed with ginger, lemon juice, maple syrup, nama shoyu, and garlic) atop shredded zucchini. We've also got elotes con crema (picante mayo mixed with fresh corn) to have in avocados and served with ensalada. We've also got corny chips (sprouted buckwheat, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds, flax, zucchini and tomatoes, lots of nice Mexican seasonings) and tomato salsa so we can have some great nachos. We're having cauliflower soup tonight with what looks like the last of the local cauliflower; Alicia made mashed no-taters served with marinated mushrooms. I didn't get any, but it sounded yummy. We've got everyday bread and pita chips to have with an assortment of toppings (mostly sliced tomatoes) and queso verde. We also have some queso dulce to have with celery sticks and apple slices. Of course we're having lots of fabulous salads with Ranch dressing (cashew cheese, lemon juice, cilantro, dill, basil, yummmm). Life is good...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Put Some Life in Your Drink

This week I'm writing about something close to my heart although it is an unlikely love affair for most people: fermented foods. Much has been said about this, but it still remains a mystery to most people. Many are even repulsed by the idea, but I rarely see them reject common fermented foods. The food industry has done a good job of making sure the public doesn't think of these foods in that way: beer, wine, vinegar, sauerkraut, dill pickles, sour cream, buttermilk, cottage cheese, cheese, soy sauce, miso, sourdough bread, chocolate, and yogurt. There are, in fact, whole recipe sections dedicated to fermented foods in ethnic cookbooks as this is a common food in many cuisines.

Besides adding a layer of flavor to our diet, fermented foods are very important to our digestion. According to Sandor Katz in his book Wild Fermentation:
Fermentation is everywhere, always. It is an everyday miracle, the path of least resistance. Microscopic bacteria and fungi (encompassing yeasts and molds) are in every breath we take and every bite we eat. Try--as many do--to eradicate them with antibacterial soaps, antifungal creams, and antibiotic drugs, there is no escaping them. They are ubiquitous agents of transformation, feasting upon decaying matter, constantly shifting dynamic life forces from one miraculous and horrible creation to the next.

Microbial cultures are essential to life's processes, such as digestion and immunity. We humans are in symbiotic relationship with these single-cell life-forms. Microflora, as they are often called, digest food into nutrients our bodies can absorb, protect us from potentially dangerous organisms, and teach our immune systems how to function. Not only are we dependent upon microorganisms, we are their descendents: According to the fossil record, all forms of life on Earth spring from bacterial origins. Microorganisms are our ancestors and our allies. They keep the soil fertile and comprise an indispensable part of the cycle of life. Without them, there could be no other life.
(As an aside, an anti-evolutionist might be tempted to ignore the part about being descended from microorganisms until we remember that the Bible clearly states our origin as being from the ground.)
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7)
In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return Genesis 3:19)
Anyway...if we accept that fermentation is an important part of life (and death as it were), we have to wonder why it is not a more prevalent part of our western culture (no pun intended). I would like to suggest it is another of the lost arts in our society, and indeed, we are less because of it.

I first became acquainted with fermentation when I learned that bread could be made without purchasing yeast. Grains could be fermented and the living organisms would multiply and cause the bread to rise. When the bread had reached its pinacle, it would be baked to halt the growth. A sour taste would result for which San Francisco bread makers are famous.

I learned that vegetables could be preserved by fermentation, and my first dill pickles and sauerkraut were born. I learned to take this a step farther when I began gardening and learned that soil is formed the same way: microorganisms break down organic matter to make it. I've been saving my vegetable scraps and making "compost" ever since. I even save other people's garbage hating to see that wonderful "black gold" going to waste in the garbage dump instead of being reconstructed in its rightful place in the garden.

Since learning about the living foods diet, fermentation and composting make even more sense and are even a more integral part of my daily diet and life. I do this with fermented vegetables, but mostly with a substance called rejuvelac. We fondly call it "Juvie" because of its renegade nature.

Rejuvelac is made from sprouted grain. Once sprouted, the grain is placed in a glass or ceramic vessel and mixed with water and allowed to ferment for a couple of days. Once fermented sufficiently, it is strained and the berries can be composted. The liquid is refrigerated and will last quite a while in the fridge (but I recommend you use it up!). I start a new batch sprouting when one batch is added to water and keep the cycle going that way. It is easy to remember it if you do something with it every day. I actually always have grain either soaking or sprouting, and sprouted grains fermenting, and a batch of rejuvelac at all times. Those are the three stages.

What to do with it? First of all, it is a nutritious beverage in its own right. It tastes like an unsweetened lemonade. Dr. Ann Wigmore who is said to have invented rejuvelac says this about it:
Rejuvelac is a slightly fermented wheatberry drink that is one of the most important items in the living foods lifestyle....[It] plays a vital role in restoring health....Rejuvelac contains all the nutritional nourishment of wheat and is more easily digested. It contains the friendly bacteria that are necessary for a healthy colon and to remove toxins. It is also filled with B complex vitamins and vitamins C and E.
In her book Hippocrates Live Food Program, Dr. Ann quotes food chemist Harvey Lisle, who did extensive research on Rejuvelac's contents,
Rejuvelac is rich in proteins, carbohydrates, dextrines, phosphates, saccharins, lactobacilli and aspergillis oryzae. Amylases are enzymes derived from aspergillis oryzae which have the faculty of breaking down large molecules of glucose, starch and glycogens.
(Actually Dr. Wigmore didn't invent rejuvelac; it has been around for centuries. She certainly is responsible for rediscovering it and giving it to the living foods movement.)

We also make what we call "hard lemonade" from it. We mix 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup of agave nectar (or sweetener of your choice) in a quart jar. Then we add rejuvelac as part or all of the liquid to fill the jar. The amount of rejuvelac you add depends on how "hard" you want your lemonade to be. I enjoy it full strength, but the wimps at my house perfer to cut it some with regular water.

I use rejuvelac mostly as a fermentation for nuts and seeds. Once combined with rejuvelac, the proteins and carbohydrates break down and become much more digestible. They also happen to make a delightful and useful living foods cheese.

Hopefully I've inspired someone to make this wonderful concoction. First you'll need some grain, any grain that is still sproutable will do. I use the same organic hard red wheat used to grow our wheatgrass, but many like rye or soft wheat better. Place one cup of it in a jar large enough to allow expansion and fill it with water. It must soak for 10 - 12 hours (overnight). Drain and rinse well. Grains are known to have molds on their seedcoats, so it would behoove us to rinse them well. Once rinsed and drained, sprout as you would any other sprout. Some use sprout bags, others a mason jar with cheesecloth on the lid to allow for drainage. I have a "sprouting cup" that has holes in the bottom and sits atop its sister cup to allow for drainage.

I really can't keep track of how long it sprouts (maybe 2 days?). I spray it a couple of times a day, and when the tails are about 3/16 of an inch long, I dump it into a gallon jar. This is filled with water, and I stir the sprouts well to distribute them. Each day I shake the jar. When the water becomes slightly cloudy (2 - 4 days), we check it to see if it's "done" meaning it has a nice lemony flavor. It smells stinky, but tastes like unsweetened lemonade. I then pour it into another gallon jar lined with a nut milk bag to catch the finished sprouts. These can then be composted; some say you can use them again, but I don't like to do that. I worry about other unwelcome organisms being introduced. The finished rejuvelac is then refrigerated where it will rest comfortably before being placed in your nice warm belly where it will work its magic.

Once you start keeping rejuvelac on hand, you'll love having it. You won't want to be without it. It is quite the fad nowadays to take enzymes and probiotics in an expensive pill form, but I believe this is a viable alternative that is a useful food to boot. Viva la verde!