Category Archives: Shopping

spelt

Grinding My Own Grain!

My husband bought me a grain grinder for my birthday.

I’m really not sure what this says about me. But between the grain grinder and the backyard chickens, I sense that I’m crossing some sort of line. Some line manned by alternative hippy dippies and paranoid survivalists. (Is this a bad time to mention that I haven’t used conventional deodorant in over a year? I swear, I don’t stink though.)

Anyway, I now grind my own grain. I fantasized aloud back in September about how nice it would be to have freshly ground grain – since it tastes so much better that way. And then my supply at Whole Foods dried up. For over 5 months they had no whole grain spelt.

So my husband bought me a grain grinder for my birthday!

It’s a Wonder Mill Jr. It’s hand powered, not electric, because I thought it would be more durable. Theoretically, this thing should last my lifetime and beyond! You can buy an attachment to use your drill to do the grinding, but we haven’t tried that out. So far it’s just been manual labor all the way. But I have two slaves children to do said manual labor, so it’s not so bad!

One slave child is particularly enthusiastic about the grinding.

IMG_4991 grinding spelt

Grind baby grind!

spelt

We have this policy of whoever walks into the back room (where the grinder is set up) has to do a few cranks on the grinder. This started out working great, but lately production has dramatically dropped. (I’m going to have to break out the whips soon.)

I bought a ridiculous amount of spelt berries from a farm in Idaho. $50 for 50 lb, which is really good. Unfortunately, the shipping cost as much as the spelt – which is NOT so good! After this runs out, my next goal is to find a source that’s more local so that I don’t have to spend an arm and a leg just to get it to me.

spelt spelt

I poured it into two buckets with air-tight lids. The whole berries should keep this way indefinitely.

spelt spelt

And the verdict? Is there really a difference between freshly ground and store bought flour?

Yes! I’ve so far made biscuits, banana bread, dumplings (chicken and dumplings), cookies, and rolls with the flour, and they all taste noticeably better! They’re light and tender and delicious! I have noticed that some of the ratios are different, though. For example, my biscuits take much less liquid with the freshly ground flour than the pre-ground stuff.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone needs to buy a grinder and start grinding their own grain. The VitaSpelt from Whole Foods worked just fine for me before they stopped selling it. (The Bob’s Red Mill brand spelt, however, tastes AWFUL. Truly, truly awful. Don’t bother with it.) But if anyone out there is curious and does want to, I can testify that it is worth it and is delicious. And we’ve been very happy with the Wonder Mill. I suspect it will outlast me on this planet.

And, don’t worry. I don’t really think owning a grain mill actually makes you a paranoid survivalist. (Unless you also have a cellar full of canned goods and a stockpile of weapons. Then you might be.) But it DOES make you one seriously good cook!

 

 

 

cider vinegar drink

Healing Vinegar Drink to Ease Joint Pain

So, you’ve fallen off the wagon? Or perhaps the holidays were a little more indulgent than you planned? And now you’re paying for it. You’re paying for it with joint pain and stiff joints when you wake up in the morning. Maybe you’re also paying for it with not-so-nice tummy feelings as well. You know that getting back on the anti-inflammation wagon will fix things up again…but is there anything else you can do to speed the process?

Yes! There is!

This is something that I’ve been doing for about a year on a regular basis, but especially during flare-ups of joint or digestive discomfort. It’s a drink made with two joint-support powerhouses: raw apple cider vinegar, and gelatin/collagen!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What kind of maniac DRINKS vinegar!?” Well, I’m not suggesting you just down the stuff straight, of course. When you combine a tablespoon or two in a glass of apple cider, it just tastes like apple cider that has started to ferment. Just a little tangy. It’s perfectly palatable that way. I’ve even started to crave it at times.

Take this twice a day, morning and night – or more, if you feel like it. If you want this to help specifically with digestive problems as well as joint pain, take this before meals, but otherwise it doesn’t matter if you take it with food or without. Now, if you’ve accumulated a ton of inflammation and have been eating a lot of bad-for-you foods for a long time – then it will take a little while for you to feel that this is helping. It will be helping, but you might not feel it at first; you’ll have to take it regularly for several weeks, combined with a clean diet, to start feeling relief. However, it will speed it up faster than just clean eating alone. If you’ve just had a little blip of bad food choices, though, and are feeling the results in your body, this should start to help you right away as you return to your standard good food choices!

Assembling your drink. (It’s not rocket science folks.)

Since you have to be careful how much fruit juice you drink when you’re managing inflammation, I always start out with the glass half or 3/4 full of water first.

vinegar drink

Then fill it the rest of the way with apple cider or unfiltered apple juice…

cider vinegar drink

and pour in a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar. This has to be the good raw kind – like Braggs – not the pasteurized stuff.

vinegar drink

Then I stir in a tablespoon or so of gelatin. It has to be a special kind of gelatin, though, called collagen hydrosylate. It dissolves completely in both hot and cold liquid, so you can add it to anything you want. I suggest Great Lakes brand – the kind that comes in the green can. (You can order it here in bulk, or in individual quantities from Amazon.) Stir it in right away until dissolved.

vinegar drink

That’s it. Since I get a little paranoid about if the vinegar might be eating away at my teeth, for good measure I also rinse out with water after I finish drinking it.

There are other benefits to this drink beyond just joint support, of course. The gelatin is good for joints, skin, hair, and soothing the intestine. Apple cider vinegar is known to be good for a wide variety of things. I personally have found it to help with digestive discomfort, heartburn, and healing faster from a sore throat. So, this can help you in many ways – not only in soothing achy fingers!

 

egg noodles

Ingredient Spotlight: Spelt

You may have noticed that I use spelt a lot on this blog. A lot. I’m having something of a love affair with spelt.

In the beginning days of this diet I went through a phase of experimenting with a bunch of different kinds of flours. Using all whole wheat just didn’t taste very good. I used buckwheat for quite a while, but had problems with it not rising right in certain recipes. Almond flour is great, but is also super expensive so I had to stop that. (I’ve since found that Trader Joe’s has almond meal for like a third of the price of other places, though, so I’m using it again these days!)

Then I found spelt. And I’ve never looked back.

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tjs

What I Buy at Trader Joe’s

I talk a lot on here about shopping at Trader Joe’s. That’s because so many of the ingredients I use are really expensive – unless I get them at Trader Joe’s. This is the one store that I know of that has many of the healthy, good quality ingredients that I want without requiring me to get a second mortgage to be able to buy them! For example, I save $9 – NINE DOLLARS!!! – by buying my almond meal at TJs instead of Whole Foods! 

See what I’m talking about?

Trader Joe’s claims that any of their products that has the “Trader Joe” label is guaranteed to be GMO free – another reason I like shopping there. It feels safe. And none of their products have high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils. This does NOT mean that anything they sell is something good for you to eat! You still must carefully read the ingredient labels, because they still have products with sugar, vegetable oils, and other things you should stay away from. But it does mean that you’re much more likely to find products that you can eat there than at a regular grocery store.

So I thought I’d take you on a little tour of the good deals I regularly get at Trader Joe’s – things I buy there and nowhere else because of how much money it saves me. I whipped out my phone and started snapping pictures at my last trip to Trader Joe’s, getting strange looks from people around me as I did so. See the lengths I go to for you people? You’re welcome.

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dates

Ingredient Spotlight: Medjool Dates

I’ve been using dates as a sweetener ever since I had that delicious raw apple pie at our CSA potluck. They’ve totally transformed the way I bake. I almost always use some amount of dates to substitute for sweeteners in recipes that call for sugar now, and dates enabled me to create a completely sugar-free browned butter banana bread!

When I first started, I just used “regular” dates. I don’t know what kind they are…just that they’re not Medjool. I’d heard that Medjool dates were, like, THE dates to get, but they were so much more expensive. 

dates

These were $4-something for 10 oz., while the Medjools were $7 for 8 oz.! I couldn’t justify that much of a difference (especially to my husband, who is already pretty much freaking out about how much I’m spending on milk and eggs these days.)You have to pick and choose where your money goes, you know? And dates are pretty low on that list, so regular dates it was. 

But THEN I was at Trader Joe’s one day, and I saw these.

dates

And then I saw that the price was $4.50 for 16 whole ounces!! They’re actually cheaper than the “regular” kind from the grocery store, and there’s more of them! So I snatched them up, of course. I had no idea why they were supposed to be so much better than other kinds of dates, just that I’d heard that they were, so I was eager to give them a try.

They really are different! The first thing I immediately noticed is that the Medjools are WAAAYYY softer than the other kind. The others were always pretty hard, which is why I had to soak them for so long to soften them up. These are really soft – almost creamy in texture. And the flavor! They’re described as being “caramelly” in flavor with a hint of honey. They’re also somewhat sweeter than the others. I was never crazy about eating those other dates by themselves, but when I’m cutting into these I can’t resist nibbling on them. Really good. And eating one of these guys does a great job at neutralizing any munchies I have for sweets!

Medjool dates are fairly high in natural fruit sugars, but are also a good source of the essential minerals copper, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. This is why they’re a better choice for a sweetener, because there’s a lot of good nutrition there too! They have a lot of fiber, as well, and are digested slower than typical sugars, making them easier on your blood sugar.

The one thing about these compared to the others I used to get is that they don’t come pitted – at least not the ones at Trader Joe’s. (And, at that price, that’s the only place I’m getting them!) Pitting them yourself isn’t a big deal though.

Just get a paring knife and make a slit down the middle. They’re so soft that this will be really easy.

medjool dates

Then pull out the seed. It’s tucked inside the large inner cavity and is loose – it comes right out.

medjool dates

Collect them all in a bowl or something as you go. You’ll still want to soak these if you’re going to puree them for a recipe, but it won’t take long at all. Probably 10 minutes, if that.

medjool dates

The seeds are funny. They look like little bugs. They remind me of the Cicada shells I used to see when I lived in Arkansas. Super creepy when you think of it that way.

IMG_2790

But, hey, don’t let a creepy-looking seed stop you! It’s just a SEED after all. Not, like, some mutant bug that’s going to kill you in your sleep or anything. Right? (Please…tell me I’m right.)

So, these are now my dates of choice. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, this is a great source! I’m steadily getting a whole list of “good quality ingredients that are stupidly cheaper at Trader Joe’s than anywhere else.” I think they’re starting to recognize me there.

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, and the only Medjool dates you can find are ridiculously expensive, then just get the regular ones. These aren’t essential or anything. They’re absolutely better, but not enough better to justify a huge expense when other things are more important money-wise. But if you can find them at an affordable price, they’re definitely better and definitely worth it!

 

cacao nibs

Ingredient Spotlight: Cacao Nibs

I thought I’d make a few posts about some new ingredients that I’ve found particularly useful. Things you might not think of on your own, but that I’ve really enjoyed. And for the first one I’m going to talk about cacao nibs!

You may have never heard of cacao nibs before. I’ve never seen them in my regular grocery store, so they aren’t so common. You can find them in health food stores, and I got these at Whole Foods.

 cacao nibsq

Plain and simple, cacao nibs are unprocessed chocolate. It’s cacao beans that have been roasted and prepped right up to the point in which they’re used to make chocolate, but instead they’re chopped up and sold as is.

Cacao nibs are really high in magnesium – an important mineral most of us are deficient in. There are 272 mg of magnesium per 100 grams of cacao nibs! And they have higher levels of antioxidants than blueberries! They’re also good sources of tryptophan (which elevates mood), chromium (which stabilizes blood sugar and controls appetite), theobromine (which boosts energy), flavanols (antioxidants which improve circulation), and monounsaturated fats (which raise healthy HDL cholesterol levels.) 

They’re not super sweet, so I don’t necessarily like them on their own, but they have a super-duper crunch and chocolate flavor that goes REALLY well with other things!

cacao nibs

Paired with something else that’s sweet, these add really great texture. And I’m all about the texture! In particular, I’ve liked these on top of spelt cakes or banana bread covered with Homemade Chocolate Peanut Butter.

cacao nibs

Stick some banana slices on there too, and between the crunch of the nibs and the sweet creaminess of the Chocolate Peanut Butter and the bananas it’s heavenly!

I’ve also liked them on top of homemade ice cream. We recently made a batch with fresh strawberries for strawberry ice cream, and these were really good on top! Nice crunch with a hint of chocolate, but not overwhelming.

cacao nibs

They’re also good in Magic Milkshakes, and added into different baked goods.

Now, I’m NOT saying these are the same thing as eating a handful of chocolate chips. They’re not! They’re not at all as sweet. But pair them with other foods that could use a chocolatey crunch, and they’re great! I find that they provide that something extra that I’m sometimes craving, and help fight back urges to eat things I shouldn’t.

What other uses for cacao nibs can you think of?

Affordable Almond Flour!

When I first started this diet, I used almond flour a lot, and that’s reflected in my early recipes. I used it a lot because most of my recipe ideas were coming from Paleo diet blogs, and the Paleo diet doesn’t allow any grains.

However, at $11/pound, it just wasn’t practical to use almond flour very often, so I gradually dropped away from using it. It’s just SO expensive! I mean, when you’re trying to eat Real Food, you kind of have to pick and choose where your budget goes. And it’s much more important to me to spend money on buying good quality milk and butter than almond flour. So almond flour in recipes basically got ditched.

But then I found this at Trader Joe’s!

almond meal

 

It’s not quite the same as flour – it’s almond meal, which is coarser than almond flour. But I can still use it for most things, and it was only $3.99/pound! This is a HUGE difference from what I was paying for a bag of Bob’s Red Mill.

So, that’s why I’m starting to use almond flour in my recipes again. I like the texture almond flour gives baked goods, and it’s also a good idea to decrease grain consumption when possible. I might even go back and try some of my recipes with some almond flour subbed in for the spelt (I’m especially thinking of the banana bread, since I eat so much of it.) If you are unwilling/unable to buy almond flour, though, don’t worry. Usually it can be replaced with another flour, and I’ll try to make a note of that in the recipes.

But if you have a Trader Joe’s near you, then just go buy yourself some cheap almond meal!