A nutty treat

Do you soak your nuts? :)

Soaking nuts is a good way to make them more digestible, since it neutralizes the phytic acid that naturally occurs in them. Of course, after soaking, they’re all bloated and moist–yuck! So then it’s time to dehydrate them! I have a dehydrator (love it and use it mainly for nuts), but you can also use your oven. This may sound like a lot of work, but it makes the nuts so much easier on your body and also makes the nutrients in the nuts more available for absorption.

Here is a quick rundown on soaking and dehydrating, and then I want to share a delicious recipe. To soak your nuts, put them in a large bowl and cover with filtered water to 2 inches above the level of the nuts. Then add sea salt (quantity depends on how many nuts you have; for a Costco-sized bag of raw walnuts or almonds, I add 2 Tablespoons of salt). Let soak overnight or at least 12 hours. Drain and give a quick rinse. Then spread your nuts out evenly on your dehydrator trays or on cookie sheets. Set dehydrator according to directions, OR put in your oven at the lowest possible setting (150 would be great) for 8-12 hours. I find almonds take longer than walnuts. (After 8 hours, take one out and eat it; is it crunchy or still a bit moist? You aren’t trying to cook it, but you want it to be dried through.) After you’ve dehydrated the nuts, now you can use them to make nut flours, nut butters, or other treats!

Here is a fun and very delicious thing I did this week with some of our dehydrated walnuts.

Chocolate walnut butter

2 cups soaked/dehydrated walnuts

1/4 cup raw cacao powder

2 Tablespoons raw honey or grade B maple syrup (or 1 T of each)

Put the walnuts into a food processor or blender:

IMG_5285

Process until the walnuts turn into nut butter! Here is what they look like after a few pulses:

IMG_5286

And here they’ve clumped together enough to be nut buttery (don’t worry if it seems dry; the honey/syrup will help):

IMG_5287

Now add your cacao powder and honey/syrup:

IMG_5288

Process:

IMG_5289

Scrape down the sides, and process one more time:

IMG_5290

Now enjoy your delicious, healthy chocolate walnut butter! You can do this with hazelnuts to make an even-closer-to-Nutella version. This is good as a fruit dip or eaten straight on a spoon!

IMG_5291

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Details from a day in the life: dinner

This week I’ve been detailing what our typical breakfasts (all about efficiency), lunches (all about nutritious taste), and dinners involve. Today let’s look at dinner!

Since dinner is more about variety, I don’t have a “typical” dinner that we eat. However, my tried-and-true, make-them-at-least-twice-a-month meals are lettuce-wrap tacos, spicy honey chicken and sweet potato rounds, and oven-roasted chicken.

Lettuce-wrap tacos

I used to think making taco meat meant using one of those spice packets, but have you looked at those ingredients? You can easily make your own spice combination, or simply brown ground beef with salt, pepper, and 4-5 minced garlic cloves. Then dice and/or prepare your other desired ingredients: tomatoes, avocado (a must for us!), green onions, cheese (if your fam does cheese), salsa, etc. Peel lettuce leaves, and use them like tortillas. Easy!

Spicy honey chickenspicy honey chicken with honey

This is our family’s favorite dinner recipe, hands down. I make a huge batch of the spice rub and have it on hand all the time.

You wouldn’t think that a spice rub would make that big of a difference, but MAN does it. Also, I think chicken thighs taste much better with this recipe than breasts. Grilling also adds that extra deliciousness factor, but I have made this on the stovetop before and it does still taste good.

Sweet potato rounds

This recipe evolved from when I used to make sweet potato fries. Cutting the fry shape gets pretty laborious, so I tried doing it this way, and we all love it!

Preheat oven to 375. Slice sweet potatoes into 1/4-inch rounds (not TOO thin or they’ll burn). Coat both sides in coconut oil, then spread evenly in one layer on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Put in oven for approximately 45 minutes. They should be crisp (and delicious) like fries.

Oven-roasted chicken

I like this recipe so much! I like making a whole chicken, because we can use the leftovers for multiple things, and then I use the bones to make broth.

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Details from a day in the life: lunch

Like I mentioned Monday, lunch (specifically school lunch) around here means good foods I know my kids will actually eat. I like to include a hardy protein (+ fat), a fruit or vegetable I know they’ll actually eat, and a “treat.” Hardboiled eggs, leftover meat, vegetables and hummus, apples, oranges, and bananas all make it into lunches every week.

Now let’s get to the details about those treats!

This recipe is one of our all-time favorites. I started making these before I knew about soaking grains, but now that I do that, I add an extra couple steps. Soak the oatmeal, then dehydrate it if possible. Then proceed with this fun recipe!

Energy balls adapted from the recipe at Smashed Peas and Carrots

1 cup gluten-free oats

1/2 cup raw almond butter or cashew butter (or–better yet–a nut butter you’ve made)

1/3 cup raw honey (to make vegan, which I’ve done when making these as gifts for teachers, substitute grade B maple syrup)

1 scant cup unsweetened coconut flakes/shredded coconut

1/2 cup ground flaxseed

1 tsp vanilla

Mix everything in a medium bowl until incorporated. Let chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then roll into balls. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

For schools that do not allow nuts, the above recipe can also be made with sunflower seed butter.

Another treat I like to give the kids is healthy cookies. I’ve yet to come across the perfect recipe that all three children love (usually two love something and one doesn’t!) AND that are nut-free. Here is our favorite easy cookie recipe that does include nuts.

Almond-coconut-chocolate cookies

1 cup raw creamy almond butter

6-7 Tbs raw honey

1/4 cup raw cacao powder

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup gluten-free oat flour (can make your own by grinding oats)

1 tsp baking soda

1/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk almond butter, honey, and vanilla until smooth. Add oat flour, cacao powder, and baking soda. Stir until combined. Scoop dough into balls and roll in coconut flakes. Place on baking sheet and press down with a fork, forming a criss-cross pattern. Bake for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Yields 12 cookies.

Finally, sometimes I like to put a piece of bread or a waffle into the kids’ lunches. HereIMG_2737 is a good coconut flour bread recipe I’ve made a couple of times (nut free!) from The Paleo Mom, and here I posted our favorite waffles.

Paleo Bread

4 eggs

4 Tbs butter or coconut oil

1/4 cup tapioca flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1/4 baking soda

1.    Preheat oven to 350F.  Line a 7.5″x3.5″ loaf pan with wax paper.  Grease the wax paper with coconut oil.
2.    Melt the butter (or coconut oil if using) and let cool slightly.
3.    Beat eggs until frothy, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and beat again until smooth. Let the batter sit for a minute to thicken.
4.    Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Spread it out so that the surface is even. Bake for 35 minutes.

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Details from a day in the life: breakfast

Yesterday, I gave some basics on what our daily eating generally looks like. Here are the details on breakfast.

Once every two weeks or so, I make a big batch of these sausage patties. Once they’ve cooked in the oven and cooled on the counter, I put them in the freezer. Then, in the mornings, I put a couple into the toaster oven at around 300 degrees for 7-8 minutes. If we were crunched for time and I could only serve one thing for breakfast, it would be these! They’re packed with protein, good fats, and vegetables.

Sausage patties

Makes approximately 24.

2 pounds ground meat (I use grass-fed beef)

2 eggs

1 T sea salt

1 tsp cumin

½ tsp pepper

¼ tsp ground ginger

handful of greens like kale, spinach, chard

1-2 carrots

1 small onion

1 squash, zucchini, raw or cooked cauliflower, or whatever other vegetable you have on hand that you want to add

Preheat oven to 350. Combine all ingredients except meat in a food processor and process until smooth. Add mixture to ground meat in a large bowl, and mix together with your hands, a la meat loaf. Once incorporated, form patties and arrange on cookie sheets. Place in oven and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool, and store in the freezer.

Most days, we also have oatmeal (though Nate doesn’t like it so I don’t make it for him). Here’s how I prepare ours:

Oatmeal

Put 1 to 1¼ cup warm filtered water into a pot. Add scant cup gluten-free rolled oats. (If using steel cut oats, use 2 cups water to 1 cup oats.) Add one Tablespoon of an acidic liquid like lemon juice or whey. Let sit for 7 hours or overnight.

In the morning, no need to drain. Just turn on your burner and bring to a medium-high heat. When bubbling, turn to low and cover the pot. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, then remove cover and stir. Sometimes I let ours cook a couple minutes more with the top off.

To serve, put into bowls (this serves two) and put a huge pat of grass-fed butter on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle with raw honey or grade B maple syrup.

See www.keeperofthehome.org/2008/04/soaking-oatmeal.html for more details!

See www.weedemandreap.com/guide-soaking-sprouting-sour-leavening-grains-part-5/ for a great intro to soaking.

Finally, scrambled eggs are almost always part of our breakfasts. It’s not rocket science, I know, but here’s how we do ours:

Scrambled eggs

Heat 1 Tablespoon coconut oil in skillet over medium heat. Crack 8-9 eggs into a bowl and whisk. (I don’t add any other liquid! But if you want to, you can add a liquid–raw milk if available or even water.) When the skillet is hot, add the eggs. Let cook for a bit, then scramble to the doneness you like.

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

A day in the life: what our daily eating looks like

Sometimes, I don’t want to read about philosophies and lofty ideas; I want the nitty gritty. I want someone (whom I trust, who researches like I do) just to tell me what to do. And sometimes it’s nice to look into the practical side of someone else’s life. So here is what a typical day of eating looks like for us. After today, I will post recipes and explanations for each meal.

Breakfast

During the school year, breakfast is all about efficiency and a nutritional “bang for our buck.” Here’s what I do most days:

8-9 scrambled eggs (Nate and Levi)

2 sausage patties (Nate and Lucy)

2 servings of pre-soaked oatmeal with butter, cinnamon, and raw honey (Lucy and Levi)

Lunch

My kids rush through lunch at school (because they want to get to recess), so lunch is all about good foods I know they’ll actually eat. I like to include a hardy protein (+ fat), a fruit or vegetable I know they’ll actually eat, and a “treat.” Here are some foods that regularly make it into the rotation:

hardboiled eggs or leftover meat

hardy soup in a thermos

vegetables and hummus

apple, orange, or banana

treats: energy ball recipe, plantain chips, homemade cookies, buttermints, homemade coconut flour bread or waffle

Dinner

While breakfast is about efficiency and lunch is about taste, dinner is more about variety. That means I don’t have a “typical” dinner that we eat, but here are the meals that I make at least once every two weeks:

lettuce-wrap tacos

soup

spicy honey chicken, sweet potato rounds, cucumber salad

oven-roasted chicken (then use the picked bones for broth), salad

Over the next few days, I’ll go meal by meal and give some details and recipes. Have a great Monday!

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Food and grace

grace_and_foodMy friend posted a thought-provoking piece about food guilt, about the stress and pressure now in our culture to eat a certain way, about “think[ing] that we are deep down somehow better than all those other people” who don’t eat like we do. It got me thinking about my topic this month and what I don’t want to convey.

Eight years ago, I did none of this food stuff and didn’t think I ever would become “that person.” So if there is one thing viewing these last eight years through the lens of my thoughts on nutrition has taught me, it’s that we’re all on our own journeys and we’re all at different places on our journeys.

My intention with these posts this month is possibly to help families dealing specifically with autism. I don’t mean to guilt anyone into doing anything. By detailing the process we went through (specifically in posts here, here, here, and here), I wanted to show that this was a process–a difficult process. But it’s a process that was worth it to us, because we saw changes in Nate that any parent would long for.

But Ashley did remind me that, ultimately, it’s about grace (or as she said, “It’s about the people.”). When nutrition becomes so important to me that I exclude others from my life or my kids’ lives because of it, that’s a problem. So while this is something I’m passionate about, it can’t be what I’m most IMG_4858passionate about. Thanks for the reminder, my friend.

I plan on taking a break from everyday posting tomorrow, as it is Sunday and I don’t yet have a post planned! So I’ll see you Monday. :)

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Teaching kids about nutrition

This e-book, called Real Food Nutrition FOR KIDS, by Kristen at Food Renegade, looks fantastic. Here is her description:

Do you want to teach your younger children about Real Food?

To use child-friendly lessons inspired by the same love of wholesome, traditional foods that you find in the cookbookNourishing Traditions, the work of Weston A. Price, the Slow Food movement, and farmer’s markets everywhere?

To avoid the twaddle put out by the USDA which features their sub-par Nutrition standards?

A beautiful book full of fun illustrations, coloring pages, and activities for younger children?

She has created 15 lessons with coloring pages, copy work, activities, and teaching on topics like “How Your Body Uses Food,” “What Are Nutrients?,” “Healthy Fats,” “Sweeteners,” and more.

I’ll post a full review later this month!

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Raising chickens to overcome fear of animals

Nate has always been skittish around animals, especially dogs. Unfortunately, there have been a few times over the years that playful but quite large dogs have jumped on Nate, scaring him and reinforcing the fear he already had. It had gotten to the point that, if we were playing at a playground, he would want to leave if someone came with a dog. He would also hide or want to go to the other side of the street if someone was walking a dog near us. He would scream if a dog came too close–and I don’t just mean when he was little; he still did this at 8 and 9 years old. We taught him how to tell dog owners that he was afraid, and usually that was enough for people not to bring their dogs near him.

Once we started on the GAPS diet/nourishing nutrition journey and started eating dozens and dozens of eggs a week, I got an idea. What if we could raise chickens? This could kill two birds with one stone: we would be able to eat the eggs the chickens produced (and we’d control what those chickens would be eating, which we learned yesterday is important), and maybe this would help Nate with his fear. Not even Nate was afraid of cute little teeny tiny baby chicks. And if he held and played with those baby chicks each day, they’d eventually get “big and scary,” but he would still be used to them because he’d be so familiar with them.

I  researched our city’s laws and found we could have up to four hens, no roosters. But I still had to convince Jon this was a good idea, even in our tightly packed suburban back yard. When I told him my ideas, he was pretty much on board. But when I brought up the disaster preparedness factor (if something were to happen and we were stuck at home without utilities or access to groceries for a time, we’d still have eggs!–and eventually, of course, chicken–but let’s not talk about that), he gave me the green light.

I ordered our four baby chicks from My Pet Chicken, which has a sexing guarantee (I needed females only) and also has a fun find-your-favorite-breed tool to figure out which breeds to order. I picked our date (April 2014) to be at the beginning of the kids’ spring break from school, so that we could have a full week of full days with our new chicks. Then, on April 9, our one-day-old Delaware (1), Australorp (1), and Easter Eggers (2) arrived in the mail!

Nate with "his" chicken, Star
Nate with “his” chicken, Star–an Easter Egger
Levi with Dottie
Levi with Dottie, our Australorp

These little gals were the cutest fluff balls ever. They fell asleep in our hands, made sweet little chirping noises, and were fun just to watch. They would take chick power naps: one would be walking around, then slow down, then stop, then face-plant right into the wood shavings for about 10 seconds. Then she’d wake up, get up, and keep going.

They grew quickly! Look at them after just three weeks:

Chicks at 3 weeks old
Chicks at three weeks old. L to R: Star (Easter Egger), Minion (Easter Egger), Joy (Delaware), Dottie (Australorp)

Do you see how Nate is comfortable and happy? Below, he is holding Minion (named by Levi) when she was five weeks old. Pre-pet-chicken, Nate would have been afraid of an unpredictable animal this size. As they grew each week, though, he continued to run with them, pick them up, dance with them, catch the skittish one (Joy), and hold them.

Nate with Minion at 5 weeks (huge, right?)
Nate with Minion at five weeks (huge, right?)

Now our chickens are almost six months old and nearly full grown. They’re pretty huge, sometimes flighty (flapping their wings if you’re holding them and they want to get down), and definitely scary to kids not used to being around animals. But Nate isn’t phased a bit. He’s still the best at catching Joy, who doesn’t like to be held. (For anyone interested, our Easter Eggers, Star and Minion, are by far the friendliest, quietest, gentlest, sweetest, and easiest chickens!)

Minion at five months, wanting to join the fun inside the house
Minion at five months, wanting to come inside (not happenin’)
Joy, five months. A little bit scary, right?
Joy, five months. A little bit scary, right?

We have noticed a marked difference now in Nate’s comfortability around all animals. He is calmer, more adaptable, and less worried about animals’ unpredictable movements. I saw him petting our neighbor’s friendly old black lab the other day (what?!). Nate still wouldn’t want an unfamiliar dog to run up at him, but many people wouldn’t want that! Overall, I consider this chickens-to-help-overcome-fear experiment a big success!

The coop the kids and I built for the girls
The coop the kids and I built for the girls

And just a few weeks ago, we found our first eggs. Yay girls–you did it!

First two eggs, found in September
First two eggs, found in September

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

An eggcellent post

Let’s talk about eggs. Before doing the GAPS diet, we consumed a very conservative amount of eggs–usually my own breakfast and in baking. I bought a dozen a week. After getting into GAPS, though, we upped our egg intake drastically. Now, after we’ve “leveled out,” so to speak, we still go through about seven dozen a week! We love our eggs–and there are many reasons!

From WHFoods:

Eggs have long been recognized as a source of high-quality protein. The World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health authorities actually use eggs as their reference standard for evaluating the protein quality in all other foods…. The high quality of egg protein is based on the mixture of amino acids it contains. (Amino acids are the building blocks for making proteins.) Eggs provide a complete range of amino acids, including branched chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, valine), sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine, cysteine), lysine, tryptophan, and all other essential amino acids. Their protein is sometimes referred to as a ‘complete protein’ for this reason. (source)

The protein in eggs is considered so high quality and bio-available (ready to digest) that the proteins in all other foods are compared to eggs to determine their quality! In the GAPS diet, eggs are extremely important as they are so easily digestibly and healing–two important aspects of the diet, especially the Intro diet. (Eggs are introduced after the first couple of stages of the GAPS Intro.)

egg-yolks-vertical-2

image source

Egg yolks are also a great first food for babies! Read more here.

How do we go through so many eggs in a week? Well, we eat about 10 eggs at breakfast (8 eggs split between the boys, 2 eggs for me), and I do some baking, and I often put a hardboiled egg or two in school lunches. That’s an easy way to go through a dozen or more per day!

But what if you or your child is allergic to eggs? Well, there is a chance the GAPS diet could actually heal that allergy! Although food allergies aren’t fully understood, I have read some research that healing and sealing the gut lining–a hallmark of GAPS–could alleviate mild food allergies. Read here for an interesting story of a lady trying to heal her egg intolerance on GAPS.

Tomorrow: we love eggs so much that we now get them from our own back yard!

IMG_5072

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.

Intro to fermenting

Yesterday, I mentioned fermenting and whey. Today, I want to delve into the practical side of fermenting: how to do it and my favorite easy ferments to try. Much of my information comes from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, which I recommend to anyone who asks me about my favorite books.

The basic how-to of fermenting is pretty simple. Wash and cut up the fruits or vegetables you’re using, then mix with salt (plus possibly herbs or spices), and pound to release juices. Then press everything into air-tight containers, pounding the vegetables down more so that the juices/liquid covers the vegetables. The salt keeps the vegetables from going bad until enough lactic acid is produced to preserve the veggies. (Whey is an optional addition, and I like to use it because its lactic acid and good bacteria act as an inoculant, reducing the time needed for preservation and ensuring consistently successful results.) Cover and let sit at room temperature for a few days. Done! Ferments can then be stored in the fridge for months.

The first recipe I’d recommend trying is ginger carrots, because it requires few ingredients, has a milder taste, and is almost fool-proof!

Ginger Carrots (from Nourishing Traditions, p. 95)

4 cups grated carrots, tightly packed

1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 Tablespoon sea salt

4 Tablespoons whey (if not available, use additional 1 T salt)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with a pounder or meat hammer until juices cover the carrots. The top of the carrots should be at least 1 inch below top of the jar. Cover tightly and leave at room temp about 3 days before transferring to refrigerator. Note: if you can’t get the juices to cover the carrots, it’s OK to add a little bit of filtered water.

Another ferment I’ve had success making that tasted absolutely delicious (possibly my favorite) is kimchi. Lucy loved it too.

Kimchi (Nourishing Traditions, p. 94)

1 head Napa cabbage, cored and shredded

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 cup carrots, grated

1/2 cup daikon radish, grated (optional)

1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger

3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon dried chile flakes

1 Tablespoon sea salt

4 Tablespoons whey (if not available, use additional 1 T salt)

Place vegetables, ginger, garlic, red chile flakes, sea salt and whey in a bowl and pound with a wooden pounder or a meat hammer to release juices. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with pounder or meat hammer until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the veggies should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temp for about 3 days before transferring to refrigerator.

Do you or your kids miss having ketchup? Store-bought stuff is full of sugar, but try this ferment recipe instead!

Ketchup (Nourishing Traditions, p. 104)

3 cups canned tomato paste, preferable organic

1/4 cup whey

1 Tablespoon sea salt

1/2 cup maple syrup (grade B organic)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed

1/2 cup homemade fish sauce or commercial fish sauce

Mix all ingredients until well blended. Place in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar. The top of the ketchup should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Leave at room temp for about 2 days before transferring to refrigerator.

See you tomorrow!

This post is part of the 31 Days writing challenge, during which I’m detailing our family’s journey through autism as it relates to the one lifestyle change we made that had the greatest impact on our son’s recovery: nutrition. Click here for a list of all this month’s entries as they are posted.