Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pecan Cashew Peanut Butter - a Delicious Compromise (GAPS-legal, gluten- and grain-free)

In our house, everyone loves peanut butter.  However, peanut butter from the store is not a very nourishing food.  I do not have a local source for raw peanuts that aren't stored in bins, so I haven't gotten around to making my own peanut butter yet.  All nuts have phytic acid, which blocks absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium.  Additionally, nuts have enzyme inhibitors which make them hard to digest.  Phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors can be reduced by soaking nuts in salt water and cooking them. (For more information, see this great article at Natural Bias.)

Of course, peanut butter from the store is not made with soaked nuts, but I do make sure that the type I buy is made with roasted peanuts. As a compromise to make the peanut butter more nourishing, I blend in some crispy nuts (recipe follows) and a touch of coconut oil using the food processor. The addition of coconut oil keeps the nut butter from separating. The results have the great creaminess of peanut butter, plus a flavor boost from the other nuts. It is delicious!   

Pecan Cashew Peanut Butter
3/4 cup crispy pecans (recipe follows)
3/4 cup crispy cashews (recipe follows)
2 Tb unrefined coconut oil
2 Tb raw honey
3/4 tsp celtic sea salt
1 cup store-bought natural organic peanut butter

Blend crispy pecans, crispy cashews, coconut oil, honey, and salt in food processor until well combined.  Add peanut butter and mix until smooth.  Store in the refrigerator.

Crispy Nuts (recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions)
4 cups nuts*
Filtered water
2 tsp celtic sea salt

Cover nuts with filtered water, and stir in sea salt.  Allow nuts to soak for 12-24 hours (the exception is cashews; make sure they soak for only 6-7 hours or they will get slimy).  Drain and rinse the nuts, then spread them onto dehydrator trays or sheet pans. Dry the nuts in the dehydrator or oven until completely dry and crisp.  In my Nesco dehydrator, it takes about 20-24 hours at 155 degrees F; in the oven you'll want to use the lowest temperature possible (150 degrees) and you'll probably need to stir them a couple times.

Crispy nuts are great for snacking, and can be used in lots of grain-free baking recipes.  To make the nuts extra tasty for snacking, combine them with a little bit of peanut oil and then sprinkle with sea salt.  Beware, they will be addicting!

*Any type of nuts can be used; I typically keep crispy almonds, pecans, and cashews on hand. I periodically make a large batch of crispy nuts, and grind some into flour that is stored in the freezer.

This post is part of Monday Mania at the Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Brisket with Carrots and Onions (GAPS-legal, Grain- and Gluten-free)

This recipe is a simple and delicious way to prepare beef brisket.  I have made this several times for a crowd, and it has always been a hit.  Each time, I thought surely there would be enough for leftovers, but people kept going back for seconds until it was all gone!  It is a one pot meal, and so easy to put together.  You could also easily substitute any roast for the brisket.

Brisket with Carrots and Onions
  • 3 large white onions, peeled and sliced
  • 3-4 pound beef brisket or other roast*
  • 3 Tb celtic sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 (24-ounce) bottle strained tomatoes (or substitute diced tomatoes with juice)
  • 6 stalks celery, cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks
  • 8-10 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks
Home All-day Method
  1. Spread the onions over the bottom of a slow cooker (or use an oven-safe pot).  Place the brisket on top of the onions and season top and bottom with salt, pepper, oregano, and bay leaves.
  2. Pour the strained tomatoes around the brisket, leaving the top exposed.
  3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours (or in an oven at 225 degrees) or cook on High for 3-4 hours.
  4. Add celery and carrots to pot, and nestle them down into the sauce or under the brisket. Flip the brisket over and nestle it down into the sauce and veggies.
  5. Cook on low for another 3-4 hours (or back in the 225 degree oven).
  6. Pull brisket out onto a cutting board.  Shred the meat with a fork, or slice it across the grain.
  7. Return the meat to the pot and nestle it down into the sauce. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed. Turn the heat to "Warm" (or the oven to 150) and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes.  This step allows the meat to soak up the juices and get super moist.
Ladle into bowls and serve.  Great by itself or even better with a side salad and a glass of raw milk!

Away from Home All-day Method  
  1. Spread the onions, carrots, and celery over the bottom of a slow cooker.  Place the brisket on top of the vegetables and season top and bottom with salt, pepper, oregano, and bay leaves. Turn the brisket so that the fatty side is up.
  2. Pour the strained tomatoes around the brisket, leaving the top exposed.
  3. Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 6-8 hours.
  4. As soon as you arrive home, pull brisket out onto a cutting board.  Shred the meat with a fork, or slice it across the grain.
  5. Return the meat to the pot and nestle it down into the sauce. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper as needed. Turn the heat to "Warm" (or the oven to 150) and let it sit for 30 to 60 minutes.  This step allows the meat to soak up the juices and get super moist.
Ladle into bowls and serve.  Great by itself or even better with a side salad and a glass of raw milk!

    *If you use a roast that is fairly thick, cut it in half so it will cover the bottom of your slow cooker.

    This recipe is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet!

    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Easy Grain-free Breakfasts for Weekday Mornings

    An easy breakfast can quite a challenge for people eating a nourishing diet, and moreover for people eating a grain-free diet.  However, with a bit of planning, it is easy to prepare breakfasts that are fast, easy, and delicious.  While I typically cook scrambled eggs and veggies for myself and the kids most mornings, my husband needs breakfast meals that require little-to-no preparation on weekday mornings.

    When you are following a nourishing diet, you have to make almost everything from scratch as healthy pre-prepared foods are pretty much nonexistent at the store. For us, the key to having plenty of easy breakfasts during the week is to make ahead some foods during the weekend.  On a typical weekend, I will make a batch of muffins or a double recipe of clafoutis, plus a pack of bacon, and some eggs (either scrambled or egg muffins).  Then, all my husband has to do on weekday mornings is warm a muffin and/or container of eggs in the toaster oven while he goes about the rest of his morning routine.

    Make-ahead Grain-free Warm Breakfast Items
    During the weekend, make a few of these items.  Store these items in individual glass containers for easy re-heating on weekday mornings. To re-heat these items, use a toaster oven set at 200-250 degrees for about 20 minutes. Avoid using a microwave to re-heat the leftovers.

    Simple Grain-free Cold Breakfasts
    In addition to the warm breakfast items you prepare on the weekend, keep a stock of some cold breakfast items. This will allow plenty of variety for breakfast during the week.
    With a little planning and preparation, weekday breakfasts can be simple and easy.  What are your favorite grain-free breakfasts?
      *Crispy nuts are nuts that have been soaked in water with a little salt for 12-24 hours and then dried in the dehydrator until crispy (which usually takes about 20-24 hours at 155 degrees F in my Nesco dehydrator). Soaking the nuts neutralizes phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors. Phytic acid blocks mineral absorption of calcium and magnesium; enzyme inhibitors make nuts hard to digest. I periodically make a large batch of crispy nuts to have on hand, and grind some into flour that is stored in the freezer.

      This post is part of Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist and Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade! 

        Sunday, March 20, 2011

        The Best Stovetop Hamburgers with Homemade Ketchup (GAPS-legal)

        Everyone in my household loves hamburgers. When we started on the GAPS diet about seven months ago, we switched to eating bunless burgers. My favorite way to cook burgers is on the stovetop in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. A few months ago, I stumbled upon a trick to make burgers even tastier: fry them in a mixture of butter and oil!  These burgers are so delicious that we do not miss the bun at all!

        I know many people like to add spices or even some minced onion to their hamburger meat, but I like to keep it simple with just salt and pepper.  The flavor of the beef really shines in this recipe.

        Best Bunless Burgers:
        • one pound ground beef, preferably grassfed
        • 1.5 tsp Celtic sea salt
        • pinch of freshly ground pepper
        • 1-2 Tb butter, chopped into pieces
        • 1-2 Tb sunflower oil (or other oil with a high smoke point, such as refined coconut oil)
        • splatter screen (optional)
        • cheddar cheese, sliced thinly
        • homemade mayonnaise
        • lactofermented pickles (we use Bubbies)
        • homemade ketchup (recipe follows)
        1. Using your hands, mix the salt and pepper into the ground beef. 
        2. Divide the meat into four equal portions and pat into patties that are about 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick. I also pull a bit off each patty to make a couple miniature burgers for my 4-year-old daughter.
        3. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.  The skillet is ready when you can sprinkle a couple water droplets in and they immediately sizzle and evaporate. Try not to overheat the skillet as you don't want to burn the oil and butter.
        4. Drizzle about 1Tb of oil into the pan and sprinkle around about 1 Tb of butter. The butter will very quickly melt, so be ready to add your burgers.
        5. Place your burger patties into the oil/butter mixture.  If you have a splatter screen, cover the skillet to reduce the mess on the stove. Resist the urge to move the patties around, and just let them cook for about 3-4 minutes. 
        6. Flip the burgers, and feel free to add a bit more butter and oil if needed. Carefully top the burgers with the sliced cheddar cheese. Cover once again with the splatter screen and cook some more (about 2 more minutes for a medium-rare burger or longer if you like your burgers more well done). If you are making any miniature burgers for the kids, only cook the second side for about 1 minute.
        7. Remove burgers from heat, and let them rest for a few minutes to allow the juices to settle back into the meat.  If you eat them right away, you'll lose most of the juice on your plate.
        8. Top the burgers with a smear of homemade mayonnaise and serve them with homemade ketchup, a side salad, and perhaps some sliced avocado. If you feel the need for something to replace the typical french fries, try some pork rinds.
        Why make homemade ketchup?
        Store-bought ketchup is loaded with sugar and is not a nourishing food. Making homemade ketchup is very easy, and it tastes great! Once you get used to eating homemade ketchup, you'll find store-bought ketchup to be overly sweet with a very one-dimensional flavor. I based my recipe on the one in Nourishing Traditions, but have made it GAPS-legal by using honey instead of maple syrup. Since this ketchup has whey in it, it is also a great way to add some probiotics to your diet.

        Homemade Ketchup:
        • 1 & 1/4 cups BPA-free tomato paste (from glass jars, such as Bionaturae brand)
        • 1/8 cup whey 
        • 1.5 tsp Celtic sea salt
        • 1/8 to 1/4 cup raw honey
        • pinch cayenne pepper
        • 2 small (or 1 large) cloves of garlic, minced
        • 1/4 cup fish sauce*
        1. Add all ingredients to a 2-cup glass jar. Stir well to combine. 
        2. Ensure that the top of the ketchup is at least 1-inch below the top of the jar. 
        3. Using a clean cloth or paper towel, wipe the top of the jar above the ketchup clean.  Put lid on jar and leave at room temperature for 2-3 days; then transfer to the refrigerator.
        *Don't worry: the fish sauce does not make this ketchup taste fishy! I use store-bought fish sauce, but if you are on GAPS you need to make sure it does not have added sugar.  You could also make your own using the recipe in Nourishing Traditions.

        This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

          Friday, March 18, 2011

          Home Birth is Great for Siblings

          This article is the last in a 7-part series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.

          Becoming an older sibling can be difficult for children as they adjust to their new roles and the necessarily divided attention of their parents. Birth can be a time to welcome the new baby, and allowing the sibling to be present at the birth can help to ease the transition. In a study of parents whose children were present at birth [1], certified nurse-midwife Christina Krutsky found that “the children’s presence added to a feeling of family unity.”

          When a mother gives birth in the hospital, it can be traumatic for the siblings. Young children are typically not allowed to be present during labor and delivery. Additionally, the siblings are separated from their mother during the hospital stay. My daughter is accustomed to being with me most of the time, and she was still sleeping in our family bed when her brother was born. It could have been very difficult for my daughter had I given birth to her brother in a hospital rather than at home.

          Although my daughter slept through my rather quick second labor, she woke up immediately after my son was born and was able to take part in welcoming her brother to the family. It was such a special moment when, at around 2am, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her new little brother. At nearly three-years-old, my daughter was excited to be able to help by getting a hat for the baby and then watch as he was measured and weighed.

          Birthing at home allows siblings to take part in welcoming the new baby to the family.  In our society where birth is looked on with fear and negativity, having siblings present at home births can also be a great way to show children what a normal, natural occurrence birth can be.

          1. “Siblings at birth: Impact on parents”, Krutsky, C., Journal of Nurse-Midwifery, September-October 1985, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp. 269-276.

          Home Birth Works Cooperatively with the Sphincter Law

          This article is the sixth in a 7-part series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.

          As described in Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth [1], the vaginal and cervical sphincters operate just as the excretory ones do. “Each sphincter’s job is to relax and expand so that it can open comfortably and wide enough to allow the passage of whatever must move through” [1]. Since the cervix and vagina are sphincters, they operate under the Sphincter Law. This means that they do not respond to orders (such as someone telling a mother to push), they work best “in an atmosphere of familiarity and privacy”, they “may suddenly close when their owner is startled or frightened”, and they are more easily opened when the mouth and jaw are relaxed. Furthermore, “the presence of a strange person in the birth room, especially if the person is male and not an intimate companion of the laboring woman, frequently (although not always) slows or stops labor” [1].

          The atmosphere while birthing at home naturally works well with the Sphincter Law. The mother is comfortable with her surroundings, and the only people present are those that she knows. She is less likely to have fear as her midwives will generally treat labor and birth as a natural occurrence rather than as a medical situation that must be managed. Since the mother will be comfortable and have less fear, she may experience labor as a more joyous process, possibly even smiling and laughing which would further allow her body to work with the Sphincter Law. I certainly would not have felt as comfortable birthing in a hospital as I was at home, and the Sphincter Law shows that the mother’s comfort level is intimately connected to how smoothly her labor can progress.

          1.  Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Ina May Gaskin, 2003, pp. 141 and 170-179.

          Wednesday, March 16, 2011

          Chicken Bones - A Nourishing Snack!

          While picking through a chicken carcass after making broth a few months ago, I discovered something - my preschooler daughter LOVES to eat chicken rib bones!  What a great way to get an extra boost in nutrients and minerals.  My daughter now asks for the little bones anytime I make broth, and she pretends to be a tiger while eating them.

          If you want to give this a try, make sure you use bones that have been simmered for a long time, which makes them soft and chewable.  If the bones are soft enough to easily snap with your fingers, then they are ready for eating.  Season them with a bit of salt and enjoy!

          Of course, the bones should be chewed well before they are swallowed, but this is no problem so long as the bones were cooked for a long time. I won't say that this is an epicurean snack, but it is worth a try considering the bones would end up in the trash anyway.  Even if you do not like the bones, you may find that children raised on a nutrient-dense diet truly enjoy the flavor. Give it a try!

          This post is part of Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

          Sunday, March 13, 2011

          Blueberry Banana Muffins (GAPS-legal, grain- and gluten-free)

          Coconut flour is very high in fiber, and it is also very dense.  Many eggs are required whenever baking with coconut flour, which I think is great because it results in us eating even more healthy eggs. I love the combination of blueberries and bananas together. This recipe was originally based on one from The Nourishing Gourmet, but I have changed it quite a bit.

          Blueberry Banana Muffins
          Makes 12 muffins
          1/2 cup butter or unrefined coconut oil
          1/2 cup honey
          3/4 tsp celtic sea salt 
          6 eggs, preferably pasture-raised
          1.5 tsp vanilla extract
          1/2 tsp almond extract
          3/4 cup coconut flour
          1 ripe banana, mashed
          1 heaping cup frozen blueberries

          1. Melt butter or coconut oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly.
          2. Meanwhile, combine the eggs, salt, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a large bowl.  If using an immersion blender, pulse a few times to combine. Otherwise, mix to combine with a whisk or mixer.
          3. Add the honey to the butter (or coconut oil) and stir slightly.  Pour this mixture into the wet ingredients and blend well with immersion blender or mixer.
          4. Measure out the coconut flour.  Since coconut flour clumps, it will need to be sifted if you are not using an immersion blender
          5. Pour the coconut flour into the bowl with the wet ingredients.  Use an immersion blender or mixer to thoroughly combine all ingredients, making sure there are no lumps.  (Since coconut flour does not contain gluten, there is no worry of over-mixing it).
          6. Add mashed banana and mix to combine.
          7. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  Scoop the muffin batter into the paper cups.  I like to use a 3-Tb scoop for this, but you could just use a large spoon.
          8. Add about 8-10 blueberries to the top of each muffin.  Push them down slightly into the batter. (If you try to fold the blueberries into the batter, they tend to sink to the bottom of the muffins during baking, making everything a bit soggy.)
          9. Bake muffins in 325 degree oven for about 40-50 minutes, until muffins are set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  If you are in a time-crunch, you could bake them at 350 degrees initially, but you'll need to reduce the heat after a bit so they won't burn before being set in the middle.
          10. Remove from oven and cool.  
          Delicious with a pat of butter and a big glass of raw milk or milk kefir!

          *Time-saving tip: If you use an immersion blender to combine the ingredients, you can skip the step of sifting the coconut flour.  This also gives you less dirty dishes!

          *Nourishing tip: If you're trying to limit sweets in your diet, you could easily use a bit less honey.  I wouldn't use less than 1/3 cup plus 2 Tb, though, as they get a bit bland with less than that.

          This recipe is part of Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!

          Thursday, March 10, 2011

          Home Birth Facilitates Bonding and Breastfeeding

          This article is the fifth in a 7-part series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.

          photo via igotmompower
          Bonding between the newborn and mother may be disrupted in hospitals since, in many hospitals, babies are separated from their mothers for at least part of the time. The baby may be whisked away to be cleaned and weighed immediately after delivery, taken away from the mother for vaccinations, or not allowed to sleep in the same room as the mother. An advantage of birthing at home is that the baby can stay with the mother as much as desired.

          In hospitals, there are numerous ways that breastfeeding can be compromised. According to So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide [1], “babies born to women who’ve had drugs during their labor may be more sluggish than those born to women who did not have drugs. They also may have sucking problems.” Additionally, if the baby is not given the opportunity to nurse in the first hour following delivery, breastfeeding may be more difficult. According to Swedish doctor Lennart Righard MD [2], “Immediately after birth we often deny normal newborn activity by taking the baby away from the mother, thus disturbing the baby’s normal searching for the breast. Often the baby is exhausted by interventions in labor… In natural birth without any interventions, sensitivity is much higher. Being laid on the mother’s abdomen… the newborn baby is given warm intimate contact that stimulates the senses, especially touch and smell. This contact helps the alert newborn baby to actively search for the breast, to breastfeed. Breastfeeding in this early stage is made possible by intuition and inborn reflexes, and of course, this sensitive process should not be disturbed by unnecessary interventions.”

          The widespread use of pacifiers and bottle-feeding in hospitals may also disrupt breastfeeding. In a study to determine if pacifiers contributed to breastfeeding failure [3], the conclusion was that “to promote successful breastfeeding and to reduce nursing problems… the use of pacifiers should be avoided or restricted.” Mothers are also more likely to feel pressured to try formula or to give up nursing in a hospital, whereas home birth midwives are generally supportive of breastfeeding.
          In my own experience, I was able to cuddle and bond with both of my babies right away. They were both born eager to nurse, and it was amazing to see how they instinctively knew how to latch on immediately after delivery. Being at home allows mothers the freedom to bond with their baby during the alert period after birth, to breastfeed as much as desired, and to easily control whether or not their baby is exposed to a pacifier or bottle. 

          This post is part of Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet, Fight Back Friday at the Food Renegade and Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist!


          1. So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide 3rd edition, Janet Tamaro, 2005, p. 61.

          2. “Helping to Maintain Natural Behavior at Birth”, Righard, L., Birth, March 2010, Volume 37, Issue 1, p. 84.

          3. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Pacifiers”, Righard, L. and Alade, M. O., Birth, July 1997, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp. 116–120.

          Home Birth Allows Mothers the Freedom to Move

          This article is the fourth in a 7-part series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.

          It is commonplace for women laboring in hospitals to be confined to beds, often times as a result of IV’s or electronic fetal monitoring. However, as described in the book Active Birth : The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally [1], “women have easier labors and births when they move about and assume upright positions… There is more than sufficient evidence that upright birth positions – kneeling, sitting, standing, and squatting – are more advantageous to both mother and child.”

          My own experience certainly agrees, as I found movement to be invaluable during both of my labors. I labored with my firstborn for about 16 hours, bouncing on an exercise ball and singing along to music during the early stages and then, as things progressed, standing up for each contraction and pulling on a doorframe. During the couple hours of passive descent, I laid down to rest in between contractions but was compelled to stand up each time a contraction approached. When the urge to push finally came, I squatted on the floor, pushed a few times, and out she came.

          My second labor was much different, with my son being born just 2 hours and 15 minutes after my first contraction. It was the middle of the night, but it felt imperative for me to stand up and walk around between contractions, and then lean on a counter while moving my hips around and moaning during contractions. Things progressed quickly, and I very soon needed to wake up my husband so I could lean on him during each contraction. The apprentice midwife was the first to arrive, and I felt my first urge to push just after her arrival.  She requested that I lie down to slow things down while we waited for the midwife to arrive. Lying down made the contractions seem much harder to handle, even as I lay with my husband for encouragement and support. As soon as the midwife arrived, I toddled to the bathroom and my son was born in a couple pushes while I squatted over the toilet.

          Overall, movement really helped me feel like I was going with the flow of labor. Moving around helped me tremendously, and I cannot imagine having been confined to a bed. Active birth “is the way that a woman behaves when she is following her own instincts and the physiologic logic of her body. It is a way of saying that she herself controls her body while giving birth, rather than being the passive recipient of a birth that is managed by her attendants… An active birth is instinctive. It involves your giving birth quite naturally and spontaneously through your own will and determination, having the complete freedom to use your body as you choose and to follow its urges” [1].

          It is no wonder so many women seem to feel the labor is too intense and out of control; if they could only get up and move with the flow of energy in their bodies, they could labor much more on their own terms.

          1. Active Birth : The New Approach to Giving Birth Naturally, Janet Balaskas, 1992, pp. 1-3, 13.