Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunflower Butter Balls

Sunflower butter balls.  Oh how I love thee.  These heavenly little bites are so delicious and so addicting that I honestly have a love-hate relationship with them.  Sure, they are full of nutritious, wholesome ingredients, but eating a whole batch ( you read that right, a whole batch) in one sitting pretty much cancels out all the health benefits.  I love to work out, but I don't need to be devouring an entire plate of sunflower butter balls to undo all the hard work I put in.  I know what you're thinking.  Sunflower butter balls?  They can't be that good.  You're right, they're not.  They're better than good.  They are demolish an entire batch good.  Hide them in the back of the freezer so no one else can eat them good.  Please, don't take my word for it, make a batch, stick them in the freezer and decide for yourself.  If you don't go back for seconds and thirds, I admire and commend your self-control.

This particular recipe was born out of necessity.  My youngest son Dylan was experiencing sensitivity to foods I was eating through my breast milk.  After eliminating various foods, I ultimately ended up doing a total elimination diet.  It was torture for me but an instant cure for my little man. For what seemed like an eternity I lived on a severely restricted diet.  Then slowly, I started adding foods back in, one at a time, waiting four or five days in between to ensure that if he did react to something new I had eaten, I would know which one was the culprit.  Luckily, the first few additions were added without any adverse reaction.  Then I tried kale, and oh boy, did Dylan react.  So now I knew, I wouldn't be enjoying kale for quite some time.  On the total elimination diet, the method of adding foods back in is simple.  You start with the ones least likely to cause a reaction, like oats, beets, and bananas, and work your way up the list. 

After two months of having nothing sweet to speak of, except for fruits, I was dying for something that even loosely resembled a treat.  I eat extremely well but I have never been known to deny myself a sweet treat.  I just try to be smart and choose healthy options.  I had been making peanut butter balls for some years now, they are Jayden's absolute favorite.  They are ridiculously easy and quick to prepare, consist of ingredients I always have on hand, and are really good for you.  Oh, and they taste amazing!  But peanut butter is one of the last foods I can try, as it is one of the top 8 most allergenic.  What was a woman in desperate need of some wholesome sweets to do? 

Luckily, sunflower seeds were one of the first things I had successfully added back into my diet and oats had already passed the Dylan test.  Then it hit me.  I could use sunflower butter instead of peanut butter and I would have a revised edition of my favorite treat!  My excitement was hard to contain.  Excitement over sunflower butter balls?  Pathetic, I know. But just wait until you try them and then imagine sinking your teeth into these scrumptious little bites after months of eating the same bland food, day in and day out.  I was in heaven.

And that is where my tumultuous relationship with these tasty treats began.  I found myself going through jars of sunflower butter at an alarming rate.  I think at my worst I may have polished off two jars in one week!  And it wasn't just me.  I passed this recipe onto my best friend, who had been using sunflower butter for quite some time because her daughter attends a peanut free school.  The day after I gave her the recipe, I woke up to a verbal chastising on Facebook.  She too had discovered how hard it was not to gorge herself on these little goodies.  She demanded to know why on Earth I had introduced her to these heavenly morsels.  She begrudgingly admitted that her husband had to intervene and force her to stop eating them.  These sunflower balls may look innocent enough, but they have already brought two health conscious women to their knees.

Sunflower butter balls are wonderful for those wanting peanut free alternatives or people looking for healthier options when it comes to dessert.  Their high protein content and natural honey make them perfect for a pre or post workout snack.   Not to mention, they are a favorite amongst kids and a simple recipe that they can help make.   Just don't say I didn't warn you, these puppies are addicting.  They are best kept in the freezer, I've tried them in the refrigerator and straight from the bowl (shocker!) but both the texture and taste are best when frozen.

Sunflower Butter Balls

1 c sunflower butter  ( you could also use peanut butter or other nut butters)
1 c honey  (preferrably raw)
2 c rolled oats
2 c crispy brown rice cereal  (Barbara's, Erewhon and even Rice Krispy's make a brown rice cereal)

Mix sunflower butter and honey together in large bowl.  Add in oats and rice cereal until incorporated. 

Moisten hands with water to keep mixture from sticking and form into 1" balls.

Place in freezer and once they harden, transfer to a Ziploc bag where they will keep for a month or more, but I guarantee you won't need to worry about that!

Sprouted Brown Rice Cereal

Dehydrated sprouted brown rice baby cereal. Sounds much too complicated to attempt, doesn't it? I am here to tell you that all it really takes is a little forethought and a tad bit of planning and you can make this nourishing, nutritious whole grain cereal for your little one. Four years ago, I had my first son Jayden, and my whole world changed. Before becoming a mother I had always taken pretty good care of myself and made healthful choices. I was fortunate to grow up with a mom who cared about nutrition and thankfully I continued to live that way once I was on my own. But now I was a mommy. I had created a perfect little being and I was intent on keeping him that way, so my health conscious attitude went into overdrive. I began scrutinizing every morsel of food, every drop of water, every product that entered our home.

So when it came time for Jayden to start solid food, it was a given that I would be making it myself. I made every bite, he never had food from a jar, not even once. I knew I was giving him the most nutritious, freshest food I could and that gave me an immense sense of satisfaction. I was given this perfect, unblemished little boy and the last thing I was going to do was pollute his new system with garbage. And so began my journey of clean living and of ensuring that I was providing the best nutritional foundation I could for our son.

Fast forward three and a half years, and our family was blessed again with another perfect little boy. Now a busy mom, his infant days seemed to fly by. It really is true what they say, once you have one, the next grow up twice as fast. Long gone are the lazy days of one baby, where I was able to soak up every minute, capture every first on film, stare longingly as my baby slept, and actually had the luxury of utilizing nap time to accomplish things . Now our days are packed to the max with school, soccer, tee ball, errands, and even the occasional attempt to maintain a clean household! I knew once Dylan was born that this time around was not going to be the same. There just aren't enough hours in the day. Amidst all the craziness I knew there was one thing I wouldn't be sacrificing, no matter how busy our days got, and that was his nutrition. I would be making all his food too, just like his big brother. I admit I was a little concerned that I wouldn't find the time for it, squeezing in one more thing into my schedule seemed impossible. But as Dylan neared his six month birthday, I reminded myself that if it is important, you find a way. So here I am, embarking on homemade baby food, round #2!!

I have learned a great deal about nutrition since giving birth to Jayden, and one of the most compelling bits of information was definitely the importance of soaking grains. Soaking and sprouting grains has been done for thousands of years, in every culture. Sadly, like many time honored traditions, this one has fallen by the wayside for us busy Americans. Most of us barely have time to put a hot meal on the table, let alone even entertain the idea of soaking and sprouting our grains beforehand. I too was skeptical that I could fit yet another thing into our daily lives, but once I learned about all the benefits I knew it was something I had to do. As I began my sprouting adventure, I quickly realized that all it takes is a little planning. And like I said before, if something is worth doing, you make time for it.

Why soak or sprout your grains you ask? It's pretty simple really. All grains are seeds and contain a substance called phytic acid. Basically, it's the seed's shield, that protects it until it conditions are right for it to be germinated and become a living plant. These enzyme inhibitors, wreak havoc in our systems when we ingest them. They are toxic, and actually prevent us from absorbing all the precious minerals and vitamins the grains contain, namely calcium, iron and magnesium and also make the grain difficult to digest. Not only is consumption of phytic acid harmful, but the process of soaking and sprouting the grain actually makes it more nutritious. Once grains have been sprouted they are alive and rich in bioavailable vitamins, minerals, amino acids, proteins and phytochemicals, all things that are essential for a plant to grow. The sprouting process unlocks the true nutritional value lying in these seeds and the vitamin content of some seeds can skyrocket to twenty times the original amount within a few days of sprouting. So simply put, eating grains, (or any nut, seed, or bean) without soaking and sprouting is detrimental to our health, which is so ironic, since the reason many of us eat them is to lead a healthier life. But the simple act of sprouting reduces or eliminates the phytic acid and increases the overall nutritional profile of the seed as well as aiding in digestion.

That being said, when it came time to start Dylan on grain cereal, I knew I would be sprouting grains to make my own sprouted grain cereals. Not only did the benefits of sprouting make it totally worthwhile, but the idea that consuming unsprouted grains leads to malabsorption of vital minerals made it essential that I do so. Iron is a precious commodity for babies, (especially exclusively breastfed ones, which my baby is) and their iron reserves start to deplete around the six month mark, right around the time they start on solid food. Armed with all my sprouting knowledge, I wasn't about to feed him something that was going to keep him from absorbing vitamins and minerals, after all, I am trying to provide him with those, not take them away. And so began my sprouted cereal journey.

In theory it all sounded so good, yet seemed so daunting. I mean, who are we kidding, dehydrated sprouted brown rice cereal sounds like something you can only buy in a store, not make in your own kitchen. I am here to tell you that you can easily prepare this nutritious first food for your little love, without any sweat, blood, or tears. All you need is a wee bit of planning, and a few kitchen gadgets don't hurt either. I am fortunate to have a dehydrator at my disposal, (a recent gift from my wonderful hubby) which is indispensable for this recipe. Why can't you use your oven you ask? Unfortunately, most ovens only get down to 170 degrees, 150 if you're lucky, and that temperature is just too high to dry grains. It will dehydrate them, but in the process, the high heat will kill all the beneficial enzymes we are trying to preserve. I have heard of people using the oven by turning it on it's lowest setting, and then leaving the door partially open. While this may work, it is not the most effective or safest method of dehydrating, not to mention a huge waste of energy! I myself have not used this method, and cannot attest to it's effectiveness.

Sprouted Brown Rice Cereal

2 c organic brown rice (any brown rice will sprout, but short grain tends to sprout in less time)
warm, filtered water to cover
wide mouth mason jars
sprouting screens or cheesecloth

Begin by rinsing the rice well under running water. Pour rice into jar and cover with water. Cover with lid of your choice. I use cheesecloth secured with a rubber band.

Allow to soak 8-24 hours ( I find that overnight is the best and easiest way for me.)

In the morning, rinse and drain rice well. Invert jar over a bowl at an angle, allowing for water to drain and air to circulate. Leave in an area away from direct sunlight. Rinse and drain at 8-12 hour intervals, until small sprouts appear.

I like my rice with small tails, about an 1/8th of an inch. Your rice is now alive and a nutritional powerhouse!!

Place sprouted rice onto fruit leather trays and put in your dehydrator at 95- 110 degrees. Dry for 12-24 hours until rice is completely dry. Mine are usually ready after about 10-12 hours. At this point, the sprouted rice can be ground into flour. You will want to grind your rice into a fine powder. I like to grind all the rice and then label and store the flour in the freezer. Alternately, you can freeze the rice as is, and grind as you need it. Whole grain flours, and especially sprouted ones can turn rancid very quickly and proper storage is essential. When ready to use, just measure out desired amount and keep the rest in the freezer. Don't forget, sprouted grain flours are great for use in baking breads, making tortillas, crackers, pizza doughs, or any other baked good, not just for making baby cereal!

Now for the cereal. I only make one or two servings at at time because baby cereals tend to get gelatinous if made and reheated.

1/4 c sprouted rice flour
2 c water

Bring water and rice flour to a boil with lid on. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, whisking occasionally to reduce clumping. If cereal is too thick for your baby's liking, add more water, breast milk, or formula to thin to desired consistency.

Sprouted brown rice cereal is perfect by itself as a first food or mixed with other fruit or veggie purees.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spicy Sambal Beef Jerky

I am one lucky lady.  I have an amazing husband who takes very good care of our family.  He is a wonderful provider and awesome father.  Some would even go so far to say he is a saint to have to endure my endless chatter day in and day out.   It is true I have a habit of incessantly talking.  I talk.  A lot.   I talk about things.  Anything.  Everything.  Things I see.  Things I want. All sorts of things.  And when I get a wild hair up my...  I really won't stop.  Recently, I was on a dehydrator kick.  I did my research and gave hubby my best pitch.  I needed one, had to have one, all of a sudden, I couldn't live without one.  Our youngest son was about to start solid food, and I wanted to make sprouted grain cereals for him.  The only way to do this was to have a dehydrator.  I had been hinting about wanting one for a few years now.  It's my goal to provide nourishing, nutritious meals for my family and that means making things from scratch.  I knew if I had a dehydrator at my disposal I could create all kinds of goodies that otherwise only come from a box or a bag.  Dried fruit.  Fruit leather.  Dried herbs.  Raw crackers.  Turkey jerky.  Beef jerky.  Whoa, wait a minute, I think that last one struck a nerve. 

Homemade beef jerky?  I saw hubby's eyes light up.  I definitely had his attention now.  A little more research and product comparison and my new dehydrator was on it's way.  I could hardly wait.  I debated for hours deciding what would be first on the trays.  Fruit leather for Jayden?  Sprouted brown rice cereal for Dylan?  No, no it had to be beef jerky for daddy.  After all, without him (and my annoying persistence) none of this would be possible. 

As with many things I have attempted to create at home, homemade beef jerky seemed a little scary.  Being the research nut I am, I read everything there was to know about dehydrating meat.  And just like homemade baby food, I found out how simple it was. Dehydrating food has been around for centuries.  It was essential for the preservation of food that would otherwise spoil.  Nowadays, we have the luxury of refrigeration but back then dehydrating was all there was.  Luckily, I don't have to hang a side of beef out in the elements and wait weeks for it to dry, hoping it doesn't mold in the process.  A dehydrator can produce scrumptious, cowboy worthy jerky in as little as four hours. 

Don't have a dehydrator?  Not to worry, jerky can be made in the oven, and although the results won't mimic those of a dehydrator, you can still produce tasty jerky without one.

Jerky is a popular snack because it is low in fat and high in protein plus it keeps and travels well.  Making your own jerky is not only economical but allows you to control the ingredients and alter the flavors however you choose.  One of my main nutritional missions is to recreate store bought garbage and make it healthier and tastier.  Store bought jerky is filled with preservatives and junk like high fructose corn syrup.  Making it from scratch ensures you are feeding your family a wholesome, nutritious snack. 

Spicy Sambal Beef Jerky

2 lbs. lean beef  (flank, london broil , or round steak work best- I used flank in this recipe)
1/2 c soy sauce
2 T worcestershire sauce
1/4 c sambal sauce
1 T honey
1 t garlic powder
1 t onion powder
1 t fresh ground black pepper
1 t crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 t dry mustard

Place meat in freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before marinating to make it easier to slice.  Prepare marinade by mixing all ingredients in a bowl. 

Once meat is ready, take out of freezer and trim off any fat or connective tissue.  Fat does not dry, and will turn rancid, which is why using lean cuts like flank steak yield the best results when making jerky. 

Now thinly slice meat across the grain.  There are mixed reviews when it comes to the best way to cut jerky.  Cutting with the grain produces a chewy jerky, so if you like to chew your jerky for the better part of an hour, by all means, cut with the grain.  For my liking, I cut across the grain.  This produces a more tender, crumbly jerky that is easier to chew.

Cut jerky into thin strips, about 1/4 inch.  Place sliced meat in ziploc bag along with marinade and smush together to ensure all the meat gets coated.  Place in fridge and marinate 4-24 hours, overnight usually works best for me.

When you are ready to dry your jerky, take it out of the bag and place on paper towels.  Blot up the excess marinade and try to get jerky as dry as possible, especially if using a dehydrator.  Lay strips on dehydrator trays, close to each other, but not touching.  Dehydrate according to manufacturer's instructions.  For my dehydrator, I cook at 160 for the first couple hours, to kill any bacteria, and then finish dehydrating at 140 for the duration of the cooking process.

Jerky is done when dry and pliable, but not brittle.  Obviously drying times will vary depending on how thick you cut your meat and whether you are using a dehydrator or an oven.  Typically, our jerky is done around the six hour mark.

For jerky made in the oven:

  Follow all steps above and place strips on a wire rack placed on a baking sheet covered in foil.  Turn oven on to it's lowest setting, usually 170 degrees and cook for 6-12 hours until jerky is dried.  It should bend, but not break.

Jerky will last for several months in an airtight container, but who are we kidding, it will never last that long!!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sprouted Brown Rice

I am on a perpetual mission to learn everything I can about nutrition.  Lately, I have delved into the cooking ways of our ancestors.  Nurturing time honored traditions, cooking food the way it was meant to be prepared, not mass produced on some assembly line with huge machines and people in latex gloves.  The fewer stops my food makes from being pulled from the ground to the time it meets my mouth- the better. 

As I buried myself in age old cooking techniques, I stumbled upon sprouted grains.  I have been eating sprouted bread for quite a few years now.  I love Ezekiel bread, and I was aware of the benefits of sprouted grains which is why I started eating it in the first place.  So why on Earth did it take me so long to realize that I could sprout my own grains at home and reap all the benefits?  Seriously, I don't know how I failed to make that connection.  I spent the next few weeks learning about the benefits and methods of sprouting.  The more I read, the more intrigued I became.  After digesting all this information, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be sprouting my grains from now on.  I'd like to go as far as to say I won't eat another grain unless it's been sprouted, but I realize that's not practical unless I vow never to go out for sushi again (hey there's my next project- homemade sushi with sprouted rice!) or enjoy dinner at a friend's. One thing was certain, any grains made in my kitchen would only be of the sprouted nature.

I know what you're thinking.  My life is entirely too busy and time too precious a commodity to even entertain the idea of adding yet another step to the already harried event that is dinner.  Just hear me out. Once you learn of the benefits of sprouting grains along with the detriments of consuming unsprouted grains, you too will be convinced that this is a task well worth undertaking.  And did I mention, that aside from a little forethought, sprouting your own grains will only take about 15 minutes out of your day?  

 Let's discuss the various benefits of sprouted rice.  Rice is a grain and all grains are seeds that contain a toxic substance called phytic acid.  This enzyme inhibitor protects the seed until the conditions are ideal for germination.  Consuming unsprouted grains leads to malabsorption of the vital nutrients within the grain and can wreak havoc on our digestive systems, irritating the G.I. tract leading to a myriad of problems, including inflammation, gas, and allergic reactions.  The mere act of sprouting not only neutralizes the phytic acid but it actually increases the nutritional value of the grain.  Once the enzymes are activated, they release all the nutrients necessary for that seed to grow into a plant.  What does this mean for us?  We are now eating a living plant, not a dormant seed.  It's nutritional profile has changed dramatically, and enhanced the bio-availability of its nutrients.  The protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and fiber content of the rice all significantly increase upon germination. Take calcium for instance.  Once sprouted, the calcium content goes from about 7 mg to 30 mg!  I'd say that's pretty impressive. 

Another perk of germination, it naturally releases an amino acid called gamma-amniobutyric acid (GABA).  GABA has been shown to have various health benefits including promoting lean muscle mass, aiding in weight loss, treating anxiety and high blood pressure, and improving sleep.  There has been a renewed interest in sprouted rice lately due to the recent studies done on GABA. 

For thousands of years, in virtually every culture, people have either soaked, sprouted, or fermented their grains, seeds, and beans before consuming them.  They didn't have all the scientific evidence we do today, they just instinctively knew to do it. This time honored tradition has been long forgotten in our society.  The feverish pace at which we live does not accommodate such practices.  Or does it?  Like I promised earlier, all it takes to reap the benefits of sprouted rice is a tad bit of planning.   Once you eat your sprouted rice you will immediately notice it's mellow, nutty flavor and it's improved digestibility.  Sprouted brown rice also has a shorter cook time, which makes it a perfect choice for a busy weeknight.  Once your rice has been sprouted, it can be cooked as is or dried and ground into a flour for making a wide array of baked goods, or even baby cereal. 

Sprouted Brown Rice

2 c organic brown rice  (any brown rice will sprout, I have had the fastest results with short grain)

rinse rice well and place in bowl or wide mouth mason jar.

cover with cool water and let soak 12-24 hours ( I prefer to soak mine overnight)

In the morning, rinse and drain well.  Cover with a sprouting lid or cheesecloth secured with a rubber band.   

Invert jar at an angle over a bowl to allow for water drainage and air circulation.  Place in an area away from direct sunlight.

Rinse and drain at 8-12 hour intervals until small sprouts begin to appear.  I usually notice sprouts after one day.  Rice is ready when sprouts are about 1/8 of an inch.

If consuming immediately, bring 1 1/2 c water to a boil and add 1 c sprouted rice.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until done, about 30 minutes.

Alternately, you can dehydrate the sprouted rice and then grind it into a flour and freeze.

Any unused sprouted rice can be kept in the refrigerator for up to a week, but allow rice to drain fully before putting in fridge.  You want to reduce surface moisture as much as possible to prevent spoilage if storing in the refrigerator.

Of course I realize, sprouting grains isn't for everyone.  If you don't want to sprout your own, you can purchase sprouted rice and other grains at many grocery stores.  I recently found sprouted quinoa in the Natural Foods section at Raley's!  For the greatest selection of sprouted grains, your local co-op or Whole Foods would be your best bet.  

Happy Sprouting!! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beet Greens Smoothie

I have been eating a great deal of beets lately and not by choice.  Well, that's only partly true.  My youngest son Dylan has some severe sensitivities to certain foods in my breast milk, so about three months ago, I began a total elimination diet.  Long story short, on the total elimination diet, you pretty much cut out all foods, and then slowly, painstakingly, add them back in one by one so you can figure out which ones are the offenders.  I didn't plan on doing something so extreme, but after I cut out the top 8, dairy, soy, wheat, etc. without much success, I decided to give the t.e.d. a try.  The first few weeks were torture, only being allowed to eat turkey, sweet and white potatoes, pears, rice, and zucchini, all with no spices except salt and pepper.  But low and behold, this diet worked!  Within two days Dylan was back to normal.  It was both a blessing and a curse because as much as I wanted to heal my baby, I was really beginning to miss food.  I started to dream about all the forbidden food I wasn't able to enjoy. I can't tell you how many times I became enraged watching my husband eat dark chocolate in front of me.  Oh ya, those first few weeks were excruciating.  Did I mention that I started this the week before Christmas?  I never knew how much self control I had until I was faced with holiday gatherings overflowing with decadent treats, baked breads and mashed potatoes and wasn't able to eat any of it.  None.  Zero.  Zilch.  I don't think I could have done it by myself, but us mommy's will do anything for our babies and so I refrained from enjoying and savoring the many goodies that the holidays have to offer.   Days turned to weeks, and weeks to months and I before I knew it I had been doing this diet for almost three months.  I had survived!  I could hardly believe I did it.  Of course, by the three month mark I had successfully added a whole plethora of delectable food to my once limited repertoire.

In addition to healing my baby, the total elimination diet had a surprising side effect on me.  It reintroduced me to foods I had sworn off because I was certain I didn't like them.  See, as you begin to add foods in, you start with the ones least likely to cause a reaction, and beets were high up on that list.  I always knew how nutritious beets were, but I just never liked them- or so I thought.  To be perfectly honest, I don't know if I had ever even tried a beet before this.  Like them or not, with such a limited, restricted diet, any new food was a welcome addition and so I decided to give them a try.  I began roasting them and loving them.  Pretty soon, I was eating beets almost everyday!!  I was thrilled with my new love affair with this almighty root vegetable but it always felt wrong to waste the beautiful greens sitting atop those crimson beets. 

Along with everything else, I had temporarily given up my morning green smoothie, until all the goodies I put in there had passed the Dylan test.  Finally, I had added enough foods back into my diet to begin drinking smoothies with the family again.  I can't tell you how hard it was to make my family green smoothies everyday and not be able to enjoy them too!  And while we're on that subject, I must tell you that I actually began to resent (gasp!) preparing delicious meals for them while I was eating plain turkey for the 23rd day in a row.  I never thought I could feel such a way, since preparing nutritious meals for my family brings me immense pleasure and satisfaction.  But, alas, the madness of the total elimination diet was coming to an end.  I could now enjoy a whole array of nature's bounty, and I couldn't wait to make a beet green smoothie.  Spinach and kale are our old standbys when it comes to greens for our smoothies, but kale was one of the foods that Dylan couldn't tolerate, and I hadn't added in spinach yet.  Technically, I hadn't actually eaten the greens of the beet yet either, only the root, but since that passed with flying colors, I figured the greens would be a success as well and I was curious to see how they tasted in comparison to the greens we were so used to.

Beet greens are rich in vitamins A, C, E, K and B vitamins, as well as calcium and iron.  They are a great source of dietary fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese.  The beet root gets all the attention, but the greens are the real powerhouse and are actually more nutritious than the root.  Always opt for fresh, organic beets with greens attached. 

I was pleasantly surprised how palatable the beet greens were in our smoothie.  I can handle and actually enjoy a stronger vegetable flavor, but my four year old son will not drink it if he doesn't enjoy it.  And if he doesn't drink it, he can't reap all the benefits, so it has to taste good, not just be good for you.  The flavor of the beet greens are easily masked by the addition of fruit in the smoothie.  It has a slightly stronger flavor than spinach, but not nearly as robust as kale, and we use that all the time.  I can't tell you how happy I am not to have to waste these beautiful greens anymore.

If it can pass the Jayden taste test, you know it's good!!  "Tastes like Jamba Juice", is what he told me.  I'd say that is a green smoothie success!!

Beet Green Smoothie

1 banana
1 orange
1 organic kiwi *(skin left on if you have a Vitamix, otherwise peel)
5 organic strawberries
handful organic red grapes
1/2 c organic wild blueberries, frozen
4 slices organic peaches, frozen
10- 12 organic beet green stalks, thoroughly washed

Place in Vitamix (or other high powered blender) in order listed.  Blend and enjoy!  You will feel the power of the greens all morning long!!  This recipe made one big glass for mommy and a small, kid sized one for Jayden!

*Useful Info:

I leave the skin on my kiwi because I am fortunate enough to own a Vitamix.  This marvelous blender is powerful enough to pulverize the skin and transform it into a silky, smooth texture.  The skin of the kiwi, like the skin of many fruits and vegetables is where a majority of the vitamins and minerals lie.  Kiwi skin is rich is flavanoids, fiber, and folic acid.  It contains omega 3 fatty acids as well as alpha-linoleic acids.  The flavanoids in kiwi skin have profound antioxidant properties which protect tissues and cells from free radicals.  The folic acid contained in kiwi skin is beneficial in red blood cell production, maintenance of the nervous system, and involved in metabolism.  I recommend buying organic kiwi if you are going to consume the skin, for that is where 99% of the pesticides reside.  If you are going to peel it instead, choosing organic is not crucial, I would opt for the conventionally grown and save your money.  I never buy organic for things I am going to peel, ie: bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, etc.  Choosing organic produce is most critical when the skin cannot be peeled or for produce in which you want to consume the skin, like apples, peaches, and pears.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Baked tortilla chips

It was a stunningly gorgeous day here in Northern Cali today. It is the middle of February but judging from the weather, you'd never know. Jayden and I took advantage of the beautiful day and little brother's nap time to get in some much needed one on one time. After giving him several options of things we could do, he of course chose jumping on the trampoline. Forty minutes of serious jumping and we were both tired and ready for a snack. Okay, let's be honest, I was the only tired one, that boy never runs out of steam.

I was getting our snack ready and Jayden wandered into the kitchen and said he wanted to cook something together. I knew we were having tacos for dinner and so I figured we could bake up some tortilla chips. Baking them, as opposed to frying, is obviously much healthier and just as delicious. They bake up crispy with only a trivial amount of oil and then we can reap all the whole grain goodness minus all the fat. Since Jayden was cooking with me, I wanted to make it a little more fun and so we decided to cut our chips into cool shapes. I have a ton of cookie cutters, and being the boy he is, he chose a train, car, and an airplane! I threw in a few other shapes too. He was so excited when he saw his "super cool" chips, he kept asking when dinner was because he couldn't wait to eat them! He said the train was the first one to be gobbled up. Funny how something as simple as cutting tortillas into kid friendly shapes can turn an ordinary snack into something special.

Whole Grain Baked Tortilla Chips

Corn or flour tortillas. ( I used corn and a whole wheat corn blend)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Cookie cutters

Preheat oven to 400. Cut shapes into tortillas and brush both sides with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and place on baking sheet. Put into oven and bake 6-10 minutes, flipping once to ensure even browning. Since ovens can vary, be sure to check chips often to ensure they come out crispy and not burnt!

* Save tortilla scraps to thicken tortilla soup or bake them off too! They might not look as cool, but they'll taste just as good!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Pita Chips

If you have followed any of my posts. you know how much I love my sweets.  I am in a constant struggle between satisfying my sweet tooth and my desire to eat clean and healthy.  I wish I were one of those people who can eat dinner and not feel the need to have dessert but as hard as I try I just cannot do it.  It's like my taste buds need to have sugar.  So, I have come to terms with the fact that I have to make room in my diet for treats.  I will not however, indulge on junk.  I don't pollute my kids systems with refined, processed, sugar-laden trash so I resolve to not subject my body to it either.  That leaves me with the task of finding healthy, nutrient dense goodies to quench my insatiable sweet tooth.

My favorite thing to do in the kitchen is to make over store bought treats and replace the unfavorable ingredients, like high fructose corn syrup and refined grains with their wholesome counterparts.  So while perusing the snack aisle at the Nugget the other day, I happened upon Stacy's cinnamon and sugar pita chips.  Now, I have been known to knock back a bag or two of those babies in my hay day, but those days are behind me now. I studied the ingredient list and knew I could make them healthier and probably cheaper too!  The obvious swap was using 100% whole wheat pitas.  By now we all know about the benefits of adding whole grains to our diets and the detriment that refined grains can have on our systems.  Refined carbohydrates have been stripped of all their nutrients, which is why products using them have to add nutrients back in.  The only other thing I did was increase the amount of cinnamon to sugar ratio.  Cinnamon, like most other spices has tremendous health benefits.  It has an amazing ability to regulate blood sugar, can boost cognitive function, and contains iron, calcium, fiber, and manganese.

These cinnamon sugar pita chips are so delicious and incredibly easy to make.  They only consist of 4 ingredients, most of which we all have in our kitchens at any given time.  Plus, by making them at home, you are in control of the amount of fat and sugar that goes in them and you get to enjoy them warm out of the oven!  Now the only obstacle you face is practicing enough self control not to eat them all in one sitting!!

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Pita Chips

1 package 100% whole wheat pita bread
1/4 c granulated sugar  (may be more or less depending on your preference)
2 T cinnamon
2 T butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350.  Try to separate each pita into two, this makes for thinner, crispier chips.*  Mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Place butter in bowl and microwave until melted. Working with one pita at a time, brush both sides with the butter.  Sprinkle both sides of the pita with sugar mixture and shake off excess.  Cut pita bread with a pizza cutter into wedges.  Continue with rest of pitas.  Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 6-10 minutes or until pitas are crisp. 

*  You will find that some pitas are more stubborn than others, and you are not able to separate them.  Not to worry, you will just end up with thicker chips and will need to increase cooking time to ensure crispy, crunchy chips!