Monday, July 2, 2012

Adapting to Whole Foods Eating

I am trying to spend LESS time on the computer reading about things to do and more time actually doing those things, but it's hard when you come across yet another blog full of great stuff that might disappear any moment if you don't go through all the archives right away! Anyway, my new favorite blog is Before I discovered it I was already leaning in this direction. While browsing the cookbook shelves at the bookstore I ran across the book Nourishing Traditions. I only had the time to peruse the table of contents and a few interesting bits of the text, and despite the fact that it was all completely foreign to me, the wheels began to turn. Then I began to reflect on the astounding number of potential health issues already evident in both sides of our family. Everyone knows that so many of these things can be prevented by just eating better and taking care of our bodies, but which of the thousands of diet lifestyles is the right one? There has to be a better way than lifelong deprivation of foods that I love, forcefeeding of artifical tasting protein supplements, and consumption of artificial sweeteners to fool myself that I am actually still getting treats. One of my biggest pet peeves is the overflowing grocery store aisles trying to sell me every conceivable product doctored up to meet the latest fad diet or nutritional super food. Obviously it isn't working!

This attitude began years ago when I read the book Thin Within, which isn't what it sounds like. It is a grace based approach to weight loss, wherein it teaches you to listen to your body's own hunger cues to eat to satisfaction and not to fullness/stuffed. The book, In Defense of Food, which I am currently reading also addresses this. One of the first pieces of advice in Thin Within is to throw out all the diet foods--Yay! Since then, my mantra to my children has always been, "All things in moderation." I successfully lost a lot of weight with this method and ate what I wanted. Despite being thin, I didn't always listen to my body's cues about what to eat. My obnoxious sweet tooth wanted a small helping of something that would bring my tastebuds momentary pleasure, when the rest of my body cried out for something more healthful and substantial. Then I got pregnant and hunger cues no longer played any part in my food choices and everything was topsy turvey again!

Long story short, I recently came to realize that while I can listen to my own hunger cues and make good portion choices for myself, the only way to make a positive change for my whole family (one that my children can take away with them), is to change the foods we eat. So while all this is running around in my head, I came across 100 Days of Real Food.

I'm taking things in baby steps. We had already started getting a weekly produce basket, off of which I base all of our meals for the week. This forces me to incorporated vegetables into our diet that normally would never cross our threshold. I am working on incorporating whole wheat a little at a time in my baking. This week I bought my first piece of grass-fed beef at the farmers' market. Eliminating processed foods from my diet is not as difficult as eliminating it from the kids' diets. They like snacks. In fact, I used to think it was a successful grocery trip if I had gotten a good deal on lots of snacks. So today I am sharing one recipe solution for Little Guy, a replacement for animal crackers, and one recipe for any everyday breakfast food, Whole Grain Blender Pancakes.

This cookie recipe comes from The Cilantropist blog and I just tweaked it a little. I didn't have any tiny animal cutters and I wanted them to be small like animal crackers. I had originally thought to make them alphabet cookies, but my alphabet cutters were too big. I settled on tiny stars. I followed the recipe pretty much except I substituted oat flour for the flax seed because I didn't have any, and I think they came out great. It seemed a little tedious with the refrigerating and the freezing, but the result is a nicely flavored crisp cookie, perfect to give to little ones (or bigger ones). I'm thinking I could make this dough a head and freeze it for busy weeks. One batch filled a large chinese takeout container--plenty for a week. Here is my saved version of the recipe with the changes I made and without the specifics on using animal cookie cutters.

Little Guy’s Cookies
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup All-purpose flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed* (oat flour)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

* If you don't have ground flaxseed, you can grind flax in a spice grinder, or you could substitute finely ground nuts

In a medium bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients, and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer cream together the butter and sugar for about 2-3 minutes, then add the egg and vanilla extract and continue to mix. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients (flour mixture) in two additions, and then mix until the flour is just incorporated. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball; flatten the dough ball into a 1-inch thick disk and wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner . Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it warm up for a few minutes; then roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/8 inch. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin or starts to crack, just dust the top of the dough with a little flour.

Cut out cookies using whatever small bite-sized cutters you have. Working quickly and carefully, use a spatula to transfer the cookies to the lined baking sheet. You don't want the dough to get too warm and stick, but the cookies are also delicate and can break easily. (Squeeze together any dough scraps and put them back in the fridge to re-roll for your next cookie batch.)

Place the baking sheet in the fridge for 30-40 minutes or in the freezer for 15 minutes; then bake at 350 degrees for 7-9 minutes, or until the edges are just lightly golden and cookie is slightly puffed. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack to allow cookies to cool completely. Cookies will keep in an airtight container for about 1 week.
Other flavor ideas: Add cocoa to the dough, cinnamon
This second recipe comes from a free e-book called Is Your Flour Wet? from I used yogurt and brown rice. I was out of vanilla and used almond extract instead. I also added about 1/8-1/4 cup whole wheat flour to thicken the batter to pancake consistency. These are not your typical thick, suck the moisture out of your mouth, cakey pancakes. These are hearty, flavorful, and moist. We ate them with fresh strawberries and maple syrup.

Whole Grain Pancakes

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 cup cultured dairy (buttermilk, yogurt or kefir)
1/2 cup uncooked oats (rolled or whole)
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice (or try buckwheat, millet, barley, spelt, kamut, or any other whole, raw grain)
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
Other add ins: pureed pumpkin, squash or sweet potato with warming spices; ripe bananas and cinnamon; applesauce; nuts

Mix oil, dairy, oats and rice or other grain in blender at high speed for three minutes: Keep cover on blender and leave out overnight Just before baking, add remaining ingredients and reblend for 3 more minutes. This will be a thin batter, but you can adjust the consistency as needed by adding flour or liquid.
For a good long while I was in a cooking rut. I was really dreading dinner time and would think of all kinds of excuses to avoid or delay it. More and more I find myself not only excited about being in the kitchen, but not wanted to leave to do other things! So far, none of our whole food experiments have been terrible, and we are adjusting. Like I said, baby steps, we enjoy the occasional soda with pizza night, and I'm not super strict about eating out nights, except almost no fast food (still love Chickfila).

Last night I started a sourdough starter and have discovered that this can be used to make all kinds of baked goods, not just bread! Today I will try a whole wheat sandwhich bread recipe, and I hope to make my own yogurt in a crock pot soon (all my friends are doing it)! At any rate, I'm enjoying this forage into the world of whole foods and can't wait to see where the journey takes me!

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