Muffin Formula

>> Saturday, January 31, 2009

I've seen a LOT of muffin recipes in my day but inevitably I always come back to a trusty old recipe a good friend of mine gave me over a decade ago. It's more of a formula than a recipe which is probably what I love about it. I can use whatever I have on hand and they always turn out delicious. My muffins have never turned out the same way twice, I can pack them full of nutrition, and the best part about is they're CHEAP! You can make a batch of muffins for as little as 4 cents each.

Here's the basic formula:

2 to 2 1/2 C grain
1 C milk
up to 1/4 C fat
1 egg
up to 1/2 C sweetener
2 teaspoons salt
up to 1 1/2 cup additions

Makes 12 muffins

Mix dry ingredients first. Mix wet ingredients, then add to dry ingredients. Blend together; the batter should be lumpy. Grease muffin tin and fill cups two thirds full, Bake in a preheated oven to 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Be creative with your ingredients! Experiment with different grains (but never use white flour!). Try adding canned pumpkin or even some nonsweet options like onion and shredded zucchini and a pinch of parsley. Here are some more ideas:

GRAIN: Use whole wheat flour or subsitute oatmeal, cooked rice, quinoa or millet. Try to use whole grains, nothing refined like white flour. For even more nutrition you can soak your grains overnight (more about this later).

MILK: Use milk or substitute buttermilk or fruit juice for all or part of the milk.

FAT: I use butter but you can substitute all-natural peanut butter for part or all of the fat. The fat can be reduced or omitted with fair results if using a wet addition.

SWEETENER: Use between 2T and 1/2 C sugar. I use rapadura or sucanat, a less refined sugar. You can substitute with 1/2 C honey, molasses or even maple syrup but decrease milk by 3/4 cup.

OPTIONAL ADDITIONS: Additions can be used in any combination, up to 1.5 cups total if using more than 1 C wet additions, decrease milk to 1/2 cup.

DRY ADDITIONS: nuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, coconut, and so on.

MOIST ADDITIONS: blueberries, chopped apple, freshly shredded zucchini, shredded carrot, and so on.

WET ADDITIONS: pumpkin puree, applesauce, cooked and mashed sweet potato, mashed banana, mashed and cooked carrot, and so on. If using 1/2 cup drained, canned fruit or thawed shredded zucchini, substitute the syrup or zucchini liquid for all or part of the milk.

SPICES: Use spices that complement the additions, such as 1 tsp cinnamon with 1/4 tsp nutmeg or cloves. Try 2 tsp grated orange or lemon peel.

JELLIES/JAMS: Fill cups half full with a plain batter. Add 1 tsp jam or jelly and top with 2 more tbls batter.

TOPPING: Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the batter in the tins.

NONSWEET ADDITIONS: Use only 2 T sugar and no fruit. Add combinations of the following: 1/2 C shredded cheese, 3 strips fried and crumbled bacon (without nitrites), 2 T grated onion, 1/2 C shredded zucchini, 2 T parmesan cheese. Spices could include a tsp of parsley and a pinch of marjoram.



Butter is Better

>> Friday, January 30, 2009

If you're thinking about making changes to your diet and don't know where to start, look to the butter dish. Americans have been taught that butter is bad and margarine is healthier. But nothing could be further from the truth. Full of hydrogenated oils, margarine is probably the most highly processed food there is. Let me rephrase that, margarine is NOT real food.

"These oils [in margarine and tub spreads] are as refined as the gasoline in your car. In the refinery they are treated with a caustic soda solution which removes the lecithin, an essential nutrient. Then the oil is steam-cleaned under a vacuum at tremendous temperature. This second step should destroy any remaining food value in the oil, but, just in case, the oil is then bleached at a ghih temperature to remove any color.

The liquid oil is then chemically treatecd by being bombarded with hydrogen under pressure in the presence of the metal nickel. This "hydrogenation" process is what makes the oil look like real butter. But now it's no longer a "polyunsaturate" which is supposed to be so good for you. The remianing step in the manufacture of plastic butter is to steam-clean it again at high temperatures to deodorize it. Then the preservative and color are added, and it is ready for your table.

The liquid part of margaine, which is the second largest component, is usually re-pasteurized, that is reheated, skim milk. So the butter stubstitute on your toast has been steam-cleaned or superheated at least four times." by William Campbell Douglass, MD The Milk Book

Sound appetizing? You won't find margarine anywhere near my plate. Butter is better!! Butter is a whole food. Butter is the nation's best source of vitamin A needed for a wide range of functions in the body from maintaining good vision, to keeping the endocrine system in top shape. Butter also contains all the other fat-soluble vitamins (E, K, and D). Butter is rich in trace minerals, especially selenium, a powerful antioxidant. Butter also supplies iodine, needed by the thyroid gland (as well as vitamin A, also needed by the thyroid gland).

It's important to buy a quality butter. Raw and cultured butter is best. If that is hard to find, then organic butter is your next best thing.

So, the next time you eat a piece of toast slather on the butter and feel good that you're eating the real deal.


Canola Oil

>> Thursday, January 29, 2009

I get really bogged down when I start thinking about oils. I start tuning out when I read words like saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated. And I really get lost when I start reading about short-chain, medium-chain, and long-chain fats. TOO scientific for me! I do know, however, that hydrogenated oils are bad (read those labels!) and olive oil is good. I also know that Americans kinda have it backwards when it comes to the discussion of cholesterol and fats. We have been taught to eat low fat or no fat. But fat is not the enemy...bad fat is! We need GOOD fats in our diets. In fact, for babies and children fat is very important. We just need to educate ourselves more about this topic and choose our fats wisely.

I found this interesting tidbit of information recently,

"Anyone who has eaten his way across France has observed that the French diet is loaded with saturated fat in the form of butter, eggs, cheese, cream, liver, meats and rich pates. Yet the French have a lower rate of coronary heart disease than many other western countries. In the United States, 315 of every 100,000 middle-aged men die of heart attacks each year; in France the rate is 145 per 100,000. In the Gascony region, where goose and duck liver form a staple of the diet, this rate is a remarkably low 80 per 100,000. This phenomenon has recently gained international attention and was dubbed the French Paradox. (The French do suffer from many degenerative diseases, however, They eat large amounts of sugar and white flour and in recent years have succumbed to the timesaving temptation of processed foods.)" from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

I thought I would do some more research this week on the topic of oils and report my findings. Starting with canola...

"Canola oil is "widely recognized as the healthiest salad and cooking oil available to consumers." It was developed through hybridization of rape seed. Rape seed oil is toxic because it contains significant amounts of a poisonous substance called erucic acid. Canola oil contains only trace amounts of erucic acid and its unique fatty acid profile, rich in oleic acid and low in saturated fats, makes it particularly beneficial for the prevention of heart disease. It also contains significant amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, also shown to have health benefits. This is what the food industry says about canola oil.

Canola oil is a poisonous substance, an industrial oil that does not belong in the body. It contains "the infamous chemical warfare agent mustard gas," hemagglutinins and toxic cyanide-containing glycocides; it causes mad cow disease, blindness, nervous disorders, clumping of blood cells and depression of the immune system. This is what detractors say about canola oil.

How is the consumer to sort out the conflicting claims about canola oil? Is canola oil a dream come true or a deadly poison? And why has canola captured so large a share of the oils used in processed foods?"

If you want to read more click here.

It's all so confusing and contrary to what we've been taught. More to come...


Getting Started

>> Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I've had numerous people ask me lately what I did to improve my health. I would definitely say the single MOST important thing I did was throw away any/all processed foods!! I went through my pantry and eliminated all boxed dinners, like mac & cheese, frozen dinners, processed snacks, cereals, canned foods, salad dressings, etc. This didn't leave me with much and put me on a HUGE learning curve to try and figure out what to make for my family. For this reason, I'm not sure I would recommend going cold turkey for most people...although most people aren't sick like I was. BUT I would recommend making it a goal to get rid of as many processed foods as possible. Starting with one meal a week and replacing it with a meal rich in whole foods is a good place to start.

Another place to start is to begin reading labels. READ, READ, READ. You might be amazed at what you find. Can you believe that even some whole grain breads have high fructose corn syrup in it? I refuse to buy anything with additives, preservatives, or anything I can't pronounce. The general idea is to buy food as close to the way God created it. Think quality of food rather than quantity. Americans these days are rather obsessed with calories, fat grams, sodium, etc. If you eat good quality food you don't have to worry about how much you eat. You can enjoy a wide variety of things, as much as you want. Just be aware of what goes into your body and make sure it's real food, not processed.

Here is an example of what my grocery list looks like now...

Eggs: I buy only cage-free eggs. They cost a little more but well worth the money. Even better, buy them from a local farmer!
Cheese/Milk: I buy my milk from a local farmer. This is a loaded topic...will discuss more at length later. If you're interested check out
Kefir: More beneficial bacteria than yogurt. You drink kefir, rather than eat it. It has a pleasant tart flavor.
Grains/Beans: I buy my grains in bulk to save money. I buy only whole grains, organic if possible.
Rice: Only brown. White is highly processed and stripped of all nutritional value.
Flour: I only buy whole wheat. White flour is the enemy.
Black Beans
Oils: I only buy cold-pressed. Coconut has wonderful health benefits and cooks wonderfully in high heat. Try to avoid canola and vegetable oils.
Grapeseed: We use grapeseed to cook our popcorn for a snack at night. Has a wonderful flavor and less harmful than canola.
Juice: Only 100% juice of course!
Tea: Organic if possible.
Hot Dogs: I buy hot dogs without nitrites. Trader Joe's carries them. We avoid pork in our family so we always look for beef.
Chicken: Range-free, antibiotic-free
Beef: Grass-fed beef, no hormones
Produce: I try to look for things in season because it costs less.
Frozen Fruit: Great for smoothies!!
Frozen Veggies: I use frozen to save some money on groceries but I look for organic if possible.
Snacks: Currently, I buy my snacks at Trader Joe's because I know they don't have hydrogenated oils or preservatives.
Tortilla Chips
Raisins/Dried Fruit: I try to find unsulphered fruit.
Sunflower Butter or any other nut butters without the preservatives. NO JIFFY!!!
Coconut Milk: Also great for smoothies and has great health benefits.
Condiments: I look for ketchup without added sugar. I'm trying to start making my own condiments though.
Salad dressings: Look for salad dressings with healthy oils (olive, grapeseed, etc.) or I try to make my's very simple to do!
Bread: Currently, I buy Ezekiel 4:9 which is sprouted. I occasionally buy whole grain bread but I'm trying to learn how to make my own so I know exactly what it has in it.
Sweeteners: NO WHITE SUGAR!! We use honey or agave syrup. Some people use rapadura or sucanat.


Taco Seasoning

>> Saturday, January 24, 2009

Seasoning mixes that you buy from the store are full of preservatives and chemicals, most of which wreak havoc on our bodies. I've been trying to make my own mixes lately, mainly because I want to know where my food is coming from and exactly what it has in it. It also saves money.
This is a really good recipe that I use in place of taco seasoning. Tonight I'm trying it in our chili. The cumin makes this mix especially flavorful.

1 tsp chili powder (or more if you like heat)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried oregano (I leave this out because I don't care for it)
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and add to ground beef or turkey when meat is almost fully cooked. If you are not going to use it right away, cover and refrigerate until needed to preserve flavor.



>> Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I just looked back through my old posts. It's amazing how far God has brought me in the last year or so since I've posted. He has delivered me from some horrible symptoms and I am happy to report that I am finally healthy again!

It's been exactly 16 months since I took the plunge into whole foods. And what a difference it has made in my life. I haven't been sick since. Occassionally I get a headache, and usually it's because I've strayed from eating well. But for the most part, I haven't been healthier. And I have so much more energy. Most importantly, I'm able to do more of what called has called me to do.

I've debated about keeping up with this blog...blogs seem so self-centered to me! BUT I've depended heavily on others' blogs to teach me how to eat and cook well. So I want to pay it forward by documenting my continued journey into whole foods. I have a long, long way to go. So I thought I would share as I go.

More tomorrow...


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