Monday, November 12, 2012

Sprout and Cook

I hope all you lovely readers are in the mood to cook, because I have a feeling that my next few posts are going to center around the kitchen.

As I've shared previously, I've been experimenting with new recipes the past two months. Mostly, this is due to my temporary restrictive diet, but the results have been (mostly!) so yummy that I think these recipes will find a permanent place in my "favorites" list. They are all super healthy, too, so I'm excited to share them with you!

One of the main reasons most people in America don't have a healthy diet is because of the extra effort and time involved in eating right. (Of course, "right" depends on what your own body needs, and what your state of health is.) Preparing nutritious food does take a bit of extra effort, but I've found a few ways to speed things up.

The trick is two-fold; number one, think ahead. Not "think ahead" as in "four hours before supper," but as in two days before supper. Sound hard to do? Like everything else in life, it's habit. The nice thing is that if you do form this habit, you can cook supper on the spur of the moment; you just walk into the kitchen, warm up your food, and eat it! Sounds just as easy as prepackaged convenience food, doesn't it?

The second trick is going to be the key in a lot of the recipes I plan to share. It's this: sprout and cook.

Whether you're going low-carb, gluten-free, or just want to add some extra nutrients to your baked goods, "Sprout and Cook" is the way to go. It's also super, super, super cheap. I'm all about cheap. Forget those complicated health food recipes that require trips to special stores and spices I've never heard of. Or flours that cost $5 a cup. (Well, almost.) "Sprout and Cook" won't break the bank, and you can even shop at WalMart for your supplies. 

So what is Sprout and Cook?

It's the basic idea of using beans as a foundational ingredient in recipes that usually require flour. (Think muffins, pizza dough, etc.) It's also the idea of coming up with brand new casseroles, soups, and fried foods that feature beans as a major component. Yummy beans, not tolerated beans.

Beans have carbohydrates, but they are on the low end of the carb scale. Thankfully, I've been able to tolerate them throughout this diet (some can't). They can be a bit hard on the body's digestive system, though. The concept of sprouting them before use gives you a huge wallop of extra nutrients (sprouts are the most compact source of nutrients!), and essentially turns a seed (hard to digest) into a plant (easy to digest!) .

Now, if you're like me, you're not too super excited about sprouts. Maybe once in a a sandwich...but not as a basis for all my cooking, thank you very much! In Sprout and Cook, the sprouting process is halted at the first stage, just when the beans are starting to grow minuscule tails. After they're cooked, you can hardly tell the difference between the sprouted beans and canned beans from the store.

Healthy? Check. (They're SPROUTS!)
Cheap? Check. (Dried beans from the grocery store!)


Really. Yes, if you sprouted and cooked beans for every recipe, it would be a PAIN. But don't do it that way. Too hard. You're going to love this method so much that you'll be constantly sprouting and cooking. All my recipes call for pre-cooked sprouted beans. The key is to sprout and cook a big batch ahead of time, then keep them in a big bowl in the fridge. (Or freeze them, if you make enough to last longer than a week.) Whenever you're ready to bake, there they are; your lovely friends, the sprouted beans. Already cooked. Just scoop and use. Easy-peesy.

I've been living this way for over a month now. Trust me; you need a bowl of beans in your fridge.

But how do you Sprout and Cook?

Stay tuned for my next post!

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Recipes and Ideas

I'm still on this restricted diet; it's been two months now! And I must say, it's gotten harder ...and easier.

Easier because it's more of a habit now. Harder because my mind keeps telling me "you've waited long enough! It's time to got back to regular food now!" while my body says, "no you haven't healed all the way yet."

I'm so ready to just be DONE. Really. truly. Can I gripe for a minute? Thank you. Some days I'm so SICK of self control. "Unhealthy" food isn't the biggest temptation. It's the other stuff. Like the bowl of rosy, crisp pink lady apples on the counter. And the crunchy, luscious granola everybody else has for breakfast. And the steamed peas, salted and buttered to perfection. And homemade bread, with cheese. And cheese. know...granola. And chocolate. And granola. ...And cooked carrots, the sweet things. And molasses on my oatmeal! And cream cheese. And butter. Oh, butter is good. 

So I'm ready to be done. I wish my body would hurry up and heal. But even after all this is over, I'll definitely make some changes to my "regular diet." My system has become extremely sensitive to sweetness and carbs. Tonight, my sister made a DELICIOUS looking (and smelling!) three layered pumpkin-caramel-marshmellow-meringue pie. (Calories? 500+ per serving! But that's besides the point.) She's practicing for Thanksgiving - this is not a normal dessert in our house. :) :)

After everyone else was served, I licked the pie server (the utensil, not my sister!), and ran a spoon around the edge of the dish. (Yes, I've started allowing myself to cheat once in awhile, just to keep sane. But that's my "cheat;" licking the spoon, not eating a whole slice!)

As soon as I finishing licking, I felt sick to my stomach. I didn't actually get sick, but I felt like it. Wow. So. Sweet. Overpowering.

So I guess that's a good side effect of this diet. No doubt I will be less able to handle sugar. That's a good thing.

I've also lost weight - in the double digits. That's kinda cool, although I'd better not lose too much more. I think I've leveled off. Haven't lost any more in a couple of weeks.

But I think my favorite part (other than the healing that's going on, of course!) is the new recipes I'm coming up with or finding. Seriously, I love, love, love kitchen challenges, and I love creating healthy dishes!

So far in this adventure, I've done the following... Oh - for those of you who missed my earlier post, these recipes have to be sugar-free, grain-free (aside from oats), dairy-free (aside from kefir), no oil except olive and coconut, no starchy veggies like corn and potatoes, no sweet potatoes, no sweet squashes like butternut, no fruit except berries and citrus, no distilled vinegars, no citrus acid, limited beef, no peanuts, no cashews, no cheese except tiny amounts of mozzarella, no peas, no carrots, no beets, and no coffee or cocoa. I did used to cheat early on in the game, with that last item. :)

So, with those limits to drive my creativity, I have:

- Made my own apple cider vinegar; raw, unpasteurized, with the "mother." SO good for you - and SO easy and cheap to make! Having vinegar I can eat also opens up a bunch of new recipe opportunities.
- Learned how to use dried beans to make gluten-free baked goods, like savory muffins and pizza crust. LOVE how cheap that is compared to "gluten-free" mixes in the store!!!!!
- Accidentally made an alcoholic beverage on our kitchen counter (but that's a looong story!)
- Made homemade mayo that was actually yummy! (sugar-free, of course)
-  Tried 1,001 ways to fix lentils. (Not really 1,001.) :) :)
- Made sausage out of lentils. (honest)
- Invented/Discovered fried oatmeal. (Seriously good!)
- Become a total convert to the benefits of oregano oil
- Soaked, sprouted, and toasted raw almonds from our almond tree
- Made sugar-free tomato sauce
- Cheated and watered down pumpkin puree into a delicious hot drink not unlike hot apple cider, with cinnamon and allspice.
- Sprouted, cooked, and eaten approx. 30 lbs. dried beans and lentils. :) Not kidding.
- Made hummus from chickpea sprouts and kefir. So yummy!
- Made subs using cucumbers as the loaf of bread.
- Made lasagna using zucchini sliced thinly instead of noodles. It was really good!
- Eaten about 24+ zucchini.

Upcoming ideas:
- Making Pumpkin-Seed butter (I miss my peanut butter!)
- Get my homemade sauerkraut to finish ripening so I can eat it!
- Try making other condiments, like ketchup (though what I'd eat it on, I don't know!)

I've also made pumpkin donuts, pasta dishes, apple danishes, helped with pumpkin pies, and various other goodies....but those weren't for me. :) I know I really love my family when I can bake for them and not eat it myself! Oh well. Good exercise in self-control.

So, tell me, would you be interested in some recipes? Tips for how to cut up a pumpkin and make pumpkin puree? How to use dried beans to make cheap gluten-free food? How to make apple cider vinegar? Are you interested in that sort of thing, or would these "healthy recipes" be boring?

And do you have any suggestions for how to keep one's self from going into hysterics at the smell of granola? My sister took one look at my red, teary face, my fluttering hands, and promptly pronounced me crazy. :)  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

He is a different Being

I'm sitting in a warm living room on a cold evening. I'm listening to sisters (well, just "sister" now) play the piano. I've just eaten a yummy meal. My feet are encased in cozy boots. I feel the urge to write.

I've been needing to sit down and collect my thoughts for awhile now. Writing is the way I do that. If I go for several days without writing, I begin to notice that something is wrong. The back of my mind has a tickle; an irritating nudge, telling me I'm forgetting something. But I'm stuck on a treadmill and can't slow down to figure out what's stuck in my shoe. ...Until I sit down to write and think.

Of course, I can't publicize all my thought-collecting. That would be just plain terrifying (not sure whether more so to you, or to me!), but I decided I'd share a few of my thoughts.

- Thought number one; I'm so grateful to be sitting here, warm and safe, with electricity running my laptop and the light above my head. My heart goes out to those in the North who have lost homes and loved ones in the recent storm. May God be with them.

- That reminds me of what I heard at church yesterday; one of the ladies told of her co-worker's sad state of affairs. She had a son who was trying to commit suicide, and she surprised him in the act. She wrestled with him to get the gun away. He was stronger than her, and ended up killing himself right in front of her. How sad. How awful. God be merciful!

- I've been thinking a lot lately about the names of God. Our Sunday-school lesson this week was on the third commandment. It's such a blessing to study the laws of God as see how much love they contain - but also how much they tell us about God Himself. This one reminded us of how holy God is; we should treat even His name with awe and respect.

That led me to thinking how little we think about what God is. Not Who, but what. He isn't US.

That seems obvious, but, really, it's....everything! He isn't a human. He isn't a creature. He isn't an angel. He isn't like anything else. I can look at another girl and say "I'm like you." An angel can look at another angel and say "I'm like you," but God can't do that. He's another "Being" entirely. His very essence is different. His make-up. His....whatever it is that makes one being different from another. 

Think of what this means! All your life, you've dealt with other humans. Sometimes you deal with other beings - animals, for instance. You are familiar with a limited variety of "being" types. Every once in awhile, a human interacts with a supernatural being, such as an angel or evil spirit. The Bible is quite clear that both of those are real beings, and we have numerous accounts of times when they have interacted with human beings; some in the past, and some in the present. Whenever they make themselves know - whether they be a godly or ungodly spirit - they results are tremendous. Coming into contact with a "being" we aren't familiar with terrifies us - and with good cause! It also fascinates us.

I find it interesting that even "uncivilized" natives in a deep jungle are aware of the spirit world. Every tribe, no matter how remote, has made some sort of connection with the super-natural world (most of the time, the devilish side of it, unfortunately). They know. We're born knowing.

But in all that knowing, no creature, no being, is so terrifying as God. There is nothing else to compare Him to. Everything that we are, He's not. We are limited. He's not. We die. He's always been. We are anchored in the present. He not only knows the future and past, but is in them. He can do anything.


And what of His nature? He defines what is good and what is bad. He is the source of our moral code. Something is good because it is "like Him." Something is bad because it is not like Him. Hatred is wrong because He is love. Lying is wrong because He is Truth. Treating the Sabbath day as a ordinary working day is wrong because He rested on the Sabbath. Treating His Word flippantly is wrong because He honors His Word. He is God-focused, therefore we must be.

He doesn't get tired. He doesn't lie. He doesn't change. He doesn't grow. He doesn't forget. He is a real, true, actual Person. This isn't a fairy story - He's real! And He really is a totally different Being. Such a thing can happen. He exists.

And because of all this - and more - we ought to tremble before Him. I understand that His children are commanded to come boldly before Him - such a precious verse! - but that should not diminish our awe of Him. I think that if I truly kept in mind what little I know of Him, and always remembered that He is such a great, different Being, I would speak differently to Him. So many times I talk to Him as if He's a human, you know? But He isn't. He thinks differently than I do. He sees differently than I do. Not just because He's wiser, and "gooder" and purer, but because He is a different Being.

If I always remembered this, I would cry over that verse which allows me such an awesome privilege, to come before this God and be permitted to speak a word to Him. I would be speechless at the news that He loves me. I would take care that every word I spoke in His hearing would be just right.

Why do we treat His name lightly? Why do we tack "in Jesus' name" on the end of a prayer as if it didn't matter that we've been given the awesome honor of being able to ask in His name? Why do so many "praise songs" repeat His name over and over again like a chant in a commercial instead of a title of the Sovereign Ruler of earth?

Why do we treat His names lightly? He is our Lord - why do some songs or people throw that word in to fill up space in a verse or sentence? He is our goodness; why do we talk about "my goodness" when we want to express surprise?

Oh, how I want to treasure His names - all of them!

- I've also been thinking about .....

...Forget it. All the other stuff I was thinking about suddenly doesn't seem that exciting or important.

How can I complain about _______, when I just talked about this wonderful Being I am allowed to know?
How can I sound enthralled about _________, when I just sat here and described a God who is better than  a fairy story, and actually exists?

I'm overwhelmed.

I think I'll stop for now.