Saturday, February 28, 2009

Coconut Oil - What's it for and Why do I care?

http://www.kidcyber.com.au/IMAGES/coconuts.jpg

Many of the people I speak to about Coconut Oil say they like it, they hear a lot about the health benefits and some of them go as far as buying some, but then it seems that people have some trouble finding uses for it. Many people don't hear much about it and may have little interest, so for those all of those folks who might be checking this out, I'd like to offer the idea that as far as plant-based oils go, Coconut oil is Fantastic and once you've read this you'll know more about it, you will be interested, you'll have some ideas of what you can do with it and you'll know the basics of which you are buying!

Some people in the USA and other countries who follow our lead on certain things have concerns about coconut oil having problematic effects on the health, weight gain, cholesterol and various other related issues. It isn't true. Coconut oil got a bunch of bad press in the US based on faulty, biased research years ago. Coconut and palm oil had various culinary uses widespread in our country but were suddenly out of favor after some research was publicized noting the "dangerous" effects that they posed, the research was largely backed by the folks who happened to have the industrial, manufactured replacements at the ready, products like margarine, hydrogenated vegetable oils and Crisco.

The facts? Here is a little bit of info from researcher Dr. Mary Enig regarding coconut oil and its health effects, "Approximately 50% of the fatty acids in coconut fat are lauric acid... [this] is a medium chain fatty acid... additional beneficial function of being formed into monolaurin in the human or animal body. Monolaurin is the anti-viral, antibacterial, and antiprotozoal monoglyceride used by the human or animal to destroy lipid coated viruses such as HIV, herpes, cytomegalovirus, influenza, various pathogenic bacteria including listeria monocytogenes and heliobacter pylori, and protozoa such as giardia lamblia. Some studies have also shown some antimicrobial effects of the free lauric acid.". Coconut oil has been shown to have positive effects on regulating weight, building immunity, soothing digestion, improving skin and hair texture, moisture and regulation of cholesterol levels.

In order to get the best effects from coconut oil through eating it, you'll need to know a couple of things about buying, storing and using. Being a plant-derived oil, coconut does go rancid so you'll want to be sure any coconut product that you buy is fresh and has been stored properly. Coconut oil should be kept cool, dry and away from sunlight. If these conditions are met, coconut oil will stay viable for more than a year. The second bit to be aware of are the different grades of oil available. I am a raw fooder and so am not very interested in cooking anything ever. If you are cooking, then be aware of the smoke point of the oils that you use as healthy fats become oxidized and unhealthful if they are overheated.

For heating, refined coconut oil is best as it has a higher smoke point (450 F) vs unrefined which burns at 350 F. So as one can intuit, the refined has much wider application in cooked foods such as sautes, baked goods etc.. and can replace many of the fats used in those applications with its much healthier and whole characteristics as well as the incredible flavor that it brings. For lower heat applications you can use virgin, unrefined coconut oil which has a greater amount of the meat still present and so has a more whole, aromatic, rounded flavor. Be sure to use certified, raw, organic coconut oils. Many oils are extracted through processes using heat and chemicals which add toxins and destroy nutritional aspects of this fantastic oil!

The thing that many people do not realize about their bodies is the role of fats. Your brain is made out of fat! If you are not eating healthy fats your body will break down, you will develop all sorts of ill effects. Healthy fats do not make you fat! Crappy food makes you fat! Processed sugars have more to do with weight gain in our country than most fats. If you try to eliminate fats from your diet your brain will malfunction along with everything else! So, that said...

There are all sorts of awesome ways you can use virgin coconut oil in its raw form. It easily replaces butter and can be subbed for many other oils on toast, in oatmeal, in sauces, in dressings, in soups, in candies, desserts... on and on! The way I most often use coconut oil is in nut milks, fruit-superfood mashes and in smoothies. Fat is one of the most important parts of our diet and so if you are making a smoothie to start your day that is a perfect place to get some of the fat you need.

Many people are lactose intolerant or having discovered what a mess the dairy industry in our country is, have decided that eating the mother's milk from mistreated, factory farmed animals might not be such a good idea. Once you check into it, you will find that it is very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff in the mass-market place; Add to this the deleterious health effects of the processing (pasteurization) of milk products and it will become obvious that consumption of these is difficult to do in a sustainable manner.

So then, what do I make my smoothie with if I don't have any yogurt or milk? No Problem! You can make a delicious, energizing and wonderfully nutritive smoothie that is also dairy-free.

Try this!

Blend:

Fat T coconut oil
small handful raw almonds
pinch sea salt
big handful fresh fruit of your choice (There are some great quality frozen fruits, make sure there is no sugar added)
half a banana
enough fresh water to get a nice consistency
blob o raw honey or agave if not sweet enough
1/4 vanilla bean if you have it
Fat T raw cacao
1 t Maca if you've got it.

if it seems a little flat, add some more fruit!

You'll feel great with this as the start of your day.

Best!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nut Latte - Crazy Energy

By request, I happy divulge the following recipe:

Nut Latte - as balanced and fantastic as it gets

This is the Nut Milk I've been using.

You will need a good blender.

big handful raw almonds (soaked if possible)
another handful 1/2 cashew 1/2 hemp seeds (raw)
1/4 t cinammon
1/4 t cayenne
1/4 t green cardamon
big pinch sea salt
1/4 cup agave nectar
about 2 cups fresh water
1/4 cup EV coconut oil
1/2 t raw vanilla
1 t lecithin (optional)

Put it all in the blender, but hold back half of the water. Here is a trick that I've noticed most people haven't figured yet; Hold back half of the water and cream everything together, this is especially important if you are using a less extreme blender. Once the mixture is completely smooth, add enough water to get a cream consistency. A bit of lecithin can stop it from seperatin', but I generally don't concern my self. If you have cheescloth you can strain particles and use in other recipes but this is not necessary to enjoy nut milk.

Now, for the slightly naughty part. Get that mug of hot coffee, pour a generous Double shot into it. Yes, this is not perfectly raw, (though you can do it as an iced, which is rawer) It will heat up the nut milk, though it won't boil it. I find that this combination has much friendlier qualities for the body than does the standard milk/sugar combo. It is fantastic for those in a transition or who enjoy a coffee at times. Enjoy!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Live Foods Crash Course - 5 Cooking Intro (LFCC)

Cooking Intro

First thing I think when listening to someone talk about cooking and why they either don't do it or don't like it is that they need to take some of the thinking and deciding out of it, or at least put them in a different part of the process. We often confuse ourselves by taking what could be a simple, natural process and turning it into a set of decisions, lists and work that needs done. Some do it in a way in which they plunge into a review, consideration and planning process in order to accomplish the most rudimentary of things. Which shirt we want to wear, which movie to rent, which toothbrush will get the junk off my molars best?

This process is boring, we don't have to do it at all and we can make our food without it certainly. Food doesn't come from steps, has no bullet points and is very forgiving when we come to it with love. The food itself and our bodies will tell us what we need and what to do when we open ourselves intuitively. Going at it with a sense of openness and interest puts us in a more creative and warmer place. Try this caution-to-the-wind experiment if you've been following recipes and want to be more flexible with your culination!

Go!

Look in the fridge and in the produce basket, see what seems like it should go first and pull it all out. Don't think, just do it... listen to some Bistro-sounding Italian wine music. Look at it together and start washing up, a bit of wilt or softness is often fine and just informs you of what type of food this ingredient will lend itself to most readily. Cut away bad bits and imagine how good whatever it is is going to be. Out of this reverie will come a vision! Once you've got this stuff prepped it will be much easier to imagine what you might make with it.

Figuring out what you might make is of course a case by case event, new recipes are made at every meal. The point here is that whatever you've got is fine, that's your starting point not a recipe book. Making meals creatively out of what is at hand solves many issues that arise in peoples' relationship to the hearth and in the process they go through when considering what to make.

With an unstructured, open approach to managing your cupboards, more variety comes to your table and much less food is wasted, so trips to the grocer don't have such an air of defeat or burden. Further, cleaning out the fridge doesn't involve hazardous waste, preparing foods becomes more natural, more fun and more of a highpoint in the day once whatever you've got is exactly what you needed.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Live Foods Crash Course - 4 Storage (LFCC)

In a nutshell, there is much more to keeping good food good than just putting it in a refrigerator or cabinet. Many foods do not do well in the fridge, or must be in there, or may need to be moved at certain point in their maturation. Further, many foods that people do not generally refrigerate benefit from freezing and refrigeration though it may not be mentioned on packaging. The manner in which things are stored makes a noticeable difference in the quality and life of the subject foods.

In the line of simplicity I offer these basics to ingrain deeply:

Not everything should be refrigerated! Many things lose flavor and texture in the fridge, some become tough, dry or just ugly. (Tomatoes, potatoes, garlic, oranges, bananas etc.) Learn how to store and get more flavor out of what you buy.

Every food has limits to how long it will remain viable, nutritious and worth the energy of consuming. This comment is made with two things immediately in mind: Oils and Spices. (by oils I include oily foods such as nuts and seeds) Upon a moment more of reflection I'll include frozen foods as a close inbred cousin. I've seen it in almost every kitchen I've had the fortune of walking into and been allowed to snoop around in. People either lack cognizance of what is in their kitchen or are unrealistic about the rate of decay of what they've got.

Recently I was making some eggnog (rare for me as my diet is often undairy) for my family over the holidays. They had some processed "Cocaine" Sugar as I sometimes refer to it, the white slightly bitter standard for many confections and some Cinnamon but no nutmeg. I thought it over and called my grandmother "Nan" as she is officially known. I requested a bottle of honey and some nutmeg. I proceeded to make the Nog, added ingredients and toward the end I opened up that jar of nutmeg. When you open nutmeg, it should hit you... hard. It is one of the most lively and intense seasonings available, up there with powerhouses like Cardamom, clove, oregano.

I notice very little and do not feel the exhilaration I've learned to associate with the uncapping or even better, fresh grating of nutmeg. So I recap and flip the bottle, a faded digitized stamp reads something like 8/01... It's almost 2009, this nutmeg is just a little past it's prime. Against my better judgement I decide to use a bit anyway and supplement with some added Cinnamon and I get a Nog that is drinkable but definitely lacking in some quality... so I add more cinnamon and more rum and we play some Pinochle.

Everything has its limits. Spices lose potency due to time, sunlight, heat and the quality of the storage vessel (glass always preferable). I find people keep things and then try to use them far past their having any taste whatsoever. The other place where issues of duration were mentioned is oils. Oils whether refined such as Canola or Olive or in the original packaging such as that jar of peanuts or almonds, goes rancid. The greatest culprits in this process of rancidity are heat and time, light being an important factor as well.

That jar of peanut butter will not last forever, though you will often find folks proceeding as if this were so. Best practice for nuts and seeds is to acquire some good packaging and put them in the freezer if you intend to keep them for an extended period. Oils should not be kept out in clear bottles near sources of heat, dark cool places instead.

Folks sometimes refrigerate oils though this can be dicey when you need them to flow, depending on the oil. If you plan on keeping oils for a period beyond a couple of months then it is wise to make some plan for what sort of storage you will employ to keep it fresh. Rancid or oxidized oils are not only poor in taste, depreciating the foods you put them in, but add acidity and free radicals to your diet which works against any desire for good health you might be pursuing.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Live Foods Crash Course - 3 Cookware (LFCC)

Cookware

Once we have a space ready for the act of creation we require the necessary implements to work our Magic. There are a million different kitchen gadgets, knives, pots, graters, processors, mixers, wisks, blenders, ladels, grinders etc. You could never have them all nor want even a 10th what is available. They all take space and care and often require some practice in order to use them effectively. What is really important is that you have just a few basic, good quality items and you can expand from there as you require. Almost anything you want to create can be done with just a few items. Here is a shortlist:

1. Clear workspace! Seems obvious, but often there is all sorts of stuff covering useful counter and workspace. Which stuff needs to be there, which is just taking up room? If you have a microwave get rid of it. Do you really use that Foreman Grill that often or can it go underneath? The Blender? Country Duck Ornaments? You get the picture.

2. Large Wooden Chopping Board (14" x 20" or more if possible!)! This is the center of your workspace, it should feel satisfying just to touch it, it should also have enough room that things aren't falling off when you're chopping or working something. Wooden Boards develop character as they age and become more beautiful and rounded. Keep it oiled and never use soap or dirty sponges on it. Wash well with hot water, tip up to drain dry. Wood has natural anti-biotic qualities that will keep it properly sanitary. Warm, soapy sponges are the dirtiest thing in the kitchen.

3. 8" Chef knife of solid construction w/ sharpener. One good knife like this, with a sharp blade can get you just about anywhere.

4. larger strainer

5. Big Washing and Salad Bowl. Something ceramic or even wood can be nice, I like an earthy piece if it's available.

6. 4 quart boiling pot , 2 & 1 quart saucepans, 12" & 8" fry pans or something like this.

In addition a small array of wooden spoons, solid steel spatula and a couple serving spoons. If you're high-falutin' like I am you might add in a few big pyrex measuring vessels 1/2, 1 & 2 Quart. I love these, though I never really measure much anything. I also have a very exciting commercial blender that has more horsepower than most lawnmowers.. (Waring Commercial Xtreme!.. some peak 4hp I think) Sounds funny but it does have a purpose, though much to complex and secret to talk about here. Baking gear is extra curricular and not covered in this installment.

Much cookware, particularly pots and pans are often made of toxic Materials such as Aluminum which is then sometimes coated with Teflon (Plastic). Some folks then proceed to use metal implements to cook with or a dishwasher to clean, drop the thing a couple of times and end up with a sort of lumpy ovoid aluminum debris with tattered, sliced plastic interior. They take this injured creation and put it on the stove, light it up and put some food in it, which they then let heat up together with the plastic and aluminum. They mix all that together and call it dinner... Just throw them away. One old cliche I've heard is "Pay for it now, or pay for it later". With this item, you are sabotaging your health. Do not use Aluminum, do not cook on hot plastic and definitely don't cook on either of these when the surfaces are damaged to boot. Cooking Surfaces should be stainless steel, iron, glass, stone, clay, wood. Some enamels are ok but I like to know where and when they come from. Jury is out on anodized pans from what I can tell through researching it. These are aluminum that has been put through a hardening process and is used in some very good cookware such as Calphalon's high-end series'. They are harder than the old pots and do not seem to be leeching. They do not oxidize and I do use them. If they do oxidize or start to dull, they are done. Call Manufacturer for replacement (many of these have lifetime warranty) or recycle it in some non-food-related capacity, but do not eat from it. Aluminum is not food and is not a mineral that you want your RDA met on.

If you follow this series to its end you'll need almost no cookware at all as by that time you'll want nothing but raw foods!



Friday, February 13, 2009

Live Foods Crash Course - 2 Refrigerator

One of the freakiest places in a person's kitchen is often the refrigerator. Some of the things that will offer the best diagnosis of the health of this organ are: Is the fridge full of condiments and bottled sauces? Are there use-by dates stamped on that remind you of the last career change you made? Are there things obviously going off, turning green or trying to eat the carrots you just bought? Is the refrigerator a barren wasteland with a bottle of water, a take-out container from Taco-Ted's, some ketchup and a soda that was there when you moved in? In any case, if the fridge is off your radar, it needs some love, otherwise the good things we want to put in there either have no room to go, or are at risk of spoiling due to the already rotted foods around them.

Cleaning out the fridge can be a great way to get some of your energy back and clearing up blockages. Things that nobody cares about hanging around your place suck the energy and freshness out of what you are intending. Break that stagnancy by opening the door cleaning and getting rid of stuff that you do not use or have not looked at forever. Take a look at the labels on some of these products that may be there and notice all of the ingredients that may not even be food. Empty out glass containers, wash them up and use for storage of all the tasty creations you will make in the future (glass is much better than plastic for taste, quality and toxicity of foods).

With counters cleared, refrigerator gone over, sink emptied and trash out the kitchen starts to take on the form necessary to welcome fresh foods, people and creativity into its midst. The hearth has begun to reawaken to its timeless purpose within the fabric of our lives. We need only bring the life energy of fruits, vegetables, our enthusiasm for fresh meals and the folks we love to eat with to make it complete.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Live Foods Crash Course - 1 Hearth (LFCC)

The kitchen is a Sacred Place! Running a Kitchen with presence and joy leads to greater awareness of foods and tastes as well as our bodies and our needs; By engaging this space we can learn quicker, simpler preparations and increase our creativity both in the kitchen as well as other areas of our lives. Every action can be an expression of Love or Yoga if you like. The similarity in both spelling and meaning of the words "Heart" and "Hearth" in itself is worth reflecting as well as the radiant quality of both. When we give ourselves to the hearth it gives back the energy we need to care for it, ourselves and our world.

Cooking can be a frugal art and works from a kind of precision and desire to use what we have available to create something delicious and nourishing... we need not waste nor want, but learn to recognize abundance and perfection while at the same time loving all that we are given as if it were everything. In the hearth we show this love in many ways, one of which is by learning to make beauty of whatever we have. By giving this kind of care to the ingredients as well as what we prepare, the foods, the kitchen, the cook and the diners all share in a kind of sacred eternal blessing that comes only from the heart and from endowing our acts with love and presence.

One of the first ways we can begin to endow the hearth with our Presence is quite pragmatic as many deep spiritual practices generally are. Walk into the kitchen and consider the arrangement. Is it set in a way that lends itself to your being there and creating within the space? Are there mail and bills on the counter? Are there a lot of dirty dishes in the sink? Are the counters clean? Is the lighting good? Is the garbage piled up? A space with these characteristics doesn't invite most people to embrace the joy of creating sacramental meals, or even snacks. No great crime in the big picture, but often an obstacle within our search for quality of life experience and in finding the motivation to be creative. An unpleasant environment can make it difficult to feel the blessing when creating the meal and leads many to order out or eat from a box even if they have good food waiting. A hearth that is about food, spirit, family and creation energizes and invites us even when we are tired or ill and gives back to us what it is that we require.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Live Foods Crash Course - Intro

Many people in western society today have come to a place where they are unsure of how to feed themselves properly, of how to shop for foods, prepare them, store them or feel that they just do not have the time or energy to give to these practices, some say they just don't like cooking. There are myriad reasons why people feel this way including anything from working long hours to never learning how much of it works, to feeling discouraged after watching so much of the food they buy go off, or come out poorly after the time spent preparing it. Whatever the reasons for staying out of the kitchen, there are more and better for getting into the kitchen. All that most folks need is some basic understanding that will get them past some basic hurdles such as: What to Buy, What to Make, What is good for me, What do I have time for, How do I do that???

This blog will offer something along the lines of what the title portends, Live Foods Crash Course. In it we will go into a lot of questions I've been asked about how to make all sorts of foods, raw food preparation, buying, storing, avoiding toxins in foods, cooking, uncooking, eating live foods to feel great, more energy, losing weight and much more. There will be links to recipes, other natural food sites, private consultation and other relevant information. Let us know what you would like to know more about!