Quinoa/ Sweet Potato/ Coconut Glop

Here’s a quick and easy little recipe for some glop I came up with yesterday that my son really loves. I mash it all up when the ingredients are cold so I don’t have airborne reactions to the coconut fumes. I have no idea what it tastes like, but the quinoa/sweet potato pairing is actually really yummy.

1 part sweet potato (cooked, of course)
1 part quinoa (soaked overnight then cooked)
1/2-1 part shredded coconut
Add a little water if it is too dry


Checking, soaking and cooking beans

I get organic beans from the bulk bin at my local food co-op. Some people think that’s crazy, but it works without fail for me. There are some allergy hazards in those bulk bin beans, though. I regularly find grains in lentils, particularly wheat, soy beans in my chick peas, and rocks and dirt in just about everything. The frequency of the hidden treasures varies, but I am allergic to wheat and soy, so it is always an issue.

Checking beans isn’t a new invention. I got the whole idea from the Sephardic Jewish custom to check their beans and rice for hametz before Passover and adapted it to my needs. Here’s what I do, everything from checking to cooking.

The checking

Using a 1/3 cup measuring cup, scoop the beans from the bag to a large white plate for checking. Go through the beans carefully 1/3 cup at a time, under a good light source, until you are sure there are no foreign or unwanted objects. If you try checking more than 1/3 cup of beans at once, it is easy to miss grains. If you find that 1/3 cup is too many to carefully check, try working with less. Tip the checked beans into a bowl, repeating until all of the beans are checked.

The washing

Take the bowl of checked beans and fill it with water. Agitate the beans with your hands and then drain the water. Do this until the water is clean, or at least twice. For beans that are really grimy, get them all wet with apple cider vinegar first, scrub and agitate them, then rinse, then proceed with the aforementioned water rinses.

If you are working with red lentils (lentils with the skin removed), that’s it. You are all done. Proceed to cooking them however you like, put them right in your soup, because you don’t need to soak them. That’s why we always are eating red lentils around here!

The soaking

Many people say not to use a metal bowl for soaking beans, but you might not have a big non-metallic bowl, or it might be busy doing something else. I don’t get too hung up on this, and I use whatever bowl or pot is available at the time. I just don’t use plastic.

I’m not so big on measuring, but I start soaking the beans with lemon juice. I put about 1/4-1/3 cup of lemon juice into the bowl of beans, mix them around in it, and then add water to just cover them. I let them sit this way for about an hour or until I remember them. I consider this lemon juice step optional, but it is what I do when I have safe lemon juice available.

Fill up the bowl with water and let the beans soak. If you did the lemon juice pre-soak, don’t tip it out, just add water to it to fill the bowl. Try to plan on soaking the beans for 24 hours. It is probably best to agitate and rinse the beans once or twice during the 24 hour soak. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I good results either way. At the end of the soak, get your hands in the bowl, agitating, scrubbing, and rinsing the beans until they rinse clean.

The cooking

I put the beans in a stock pot, fill it with water from my Berkey filter and put it on a low flame. Be sure not to add salt at this stage, or you will get tough skin on the beans. I don’t add seasoning either, because I don’t want to waste it when I rinse the beans. I set the burner really low and take my time getting the beans up to a boil, then keep them at a rolling boil until they are cooked. It usually takes about four hours, give or take depending on the type of bean. Make sure they are thoroughly cooked, take them off the heat and tip out the water. Fill with cold water, agitate and rinse until the water runs pretty clear. From this point, the beans are done and ready to be seasoned and used in a recipe.

I hope this helps someone safely eat beans. It works for me. If you want to know all of the whys and hows please refer to this article on beans from the WAPF.

Healthy immune-boosting soup recipe

This is a simple immune-boosting soup that I make. With the exception of the onions and garlic, everything is cut in bite-sized chunks, never peeled, and always made using organic or better produce.

Remember, this is what works in our house. If you like lots of potatoes, add more. If you hate squash, leave it out and add something else. If you like your broth thin, add more water and adjust the salt. Leeks would be a good addition, as would turnips or parsnips, but I haven’t had access to them yet this year.

Don’t get tempted to over-season this. It only needs salt. Let the veggies speak for themselves. The astragalus and shiitakes bring such a wonderful flavor that I never want to cover it up with other seasonings.

  • 1 big glob (at least 1/4 cup) of palm shortening, coconut oil, or chicken schmaltz
  • 3 or 4 onions, caramelized in the fat
  • 2 bulbs (not cloves) garlic, roughly chopped
  • 4 to 6 sliced astragalus root sticks (they look like crude tongue depressors)
  • 4 or 5 fist sized potatoes
  • 2 or 3 fist sized sweet potatoes
  • At least 1 pint fresh shiitake mushrooms (or dried equivalent) (Other mushrooms are fine, too.)
  • 2 to 4 green zucchinis and/or yellow squash
  • A chunk of a hot pepper can add a nice kick
  • Salt to taste
  • Pure water

Caramelize the onions in the fat first, add the astragalus sticks and all of the veggies, then cook at a simmer for at least an hour and a half.

The Vitamix adventure

I had been thinking about getting a high powered blender for quite a while, for a lot of different reasons, but primarily to focus on getting more healthy food into my belly, and making quality baby food for little Akiva. I fussed over all of the details, comparing this one to that one, and finally settling on Vitamix. Then I fussed over all of the different models. Ugh. Then I went back and considered BlendTec. Then finally went back over to the Vitamix side of things.

I ended up ordering a Vitamix, even though it cost a small fortune. Similar bigger-ticket purchases, like the Berkey water filter and the Excalibur food dehydrator were easily worth every penny, and I suspect this will be the same. This article about refurbished machines on Blender Dude’s web site really made a big difference in what I purchased, and ultimately saved me some money. In fact, if you are shopping for a blender, check out http://blenderdude.com/. It’s really the most informative site I found while shopping for my blender.

Next up: Smoothie theory

Make your pumpkin seeds sing

Even the best recipes need a makeover!

Cooking b'Simcha

Pumpkin seeds, A.K.A. Pepitas, aren’t just yummy, they are chock full of important nutrients. Here is how to prepare them so that you make the most of the nutrients, and your loved ones won’t try to feed them to the squirrels.
Checking raw seeds, nuts, beans and grains for foreign objects is an essential step in limiting cross-contamination. I’m surprised how many people with severe allergies completely forget this step.
Rinse well, and until the water runs fairly clear, agitating the seeds with your fingers in the water. Lots of green stuff will come off. That’s normal. Just keep rinsing until you are bored, don’t care any more, or the water rinses clean.
For every ~4 Cups of seeds, dissolve a tablespoon of sea salt in enough pure water to cover them for 12 hours. If you want to season the little rascals, this…

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Learning to cook with allergens

I’m trying to improve the selection and quality of food my wife has available here at home, so I’m learning to cook with allergens. I don’t think it is much different than learning to juggle with swords and fire instead of those soft little bean bags. Sometimes it hurts, but I understand my boundaries much better than I did when having a lot of allergies was new to me.

Not being able to taste anything is really interesting, as all of the flavor profiles have to come from memory. I can’t taste the food and tweak the flavor this way or the other. Thankfully I ate and cooked a lot of really wonderful foods before I got the allergies. If it weren’t for that, I’d really be in trouble.

So I’m a few brave days into this deadly new world, and I have learned a few things: I am really, really, really allergic to hazelnuts. Even the cold raw nuts, completely unprocessed, sitting in a bowl on the counter brought on a reaction – and not such a small one either. But do they ever smell good! The hazelnuts are now frozen in their soaking brine, waiting for a kind neighbor to help drain and rinse them.

Coconut is an interesting allergen for me. I love it like I love hazelnuts, but it isn’t so fond of me. It is in things that I use, like Charlie’s Soap, but I have to be extremely careful with it. I can’t heat it past a certain point because I react to the fumes. I’m not exactly sure where the tipping point is, other than that it is somewhere just past melting, but it certainly makes its presence known.

Interestingly enough, the almonds I soaked and rinsed and dried (outside) haven’t caused me a single problem. I was expecting they would. I haven’t cut or heated them yet, but so far they haven’t started up with me. If this lack of a reaction persists, I wouldn’t mind trying the almonds, even if it were only to eat those delicate little Maronchinos again (The Book of Jewish Food, Claudia Roden, Page 608). I’m not sure a better cookie exists.

Many thanks to the raw foodists and crazy diet fiends for coming up with all of these apparently delicious, uber-healthy, and somewhat wacky combinations of allergens that I don’t need to cook. Because of you I can (sort of) safely make tasty things for my wonderful wife without using up my stash of Epi-Pens.

Fermenting veggies

Someone had asked me recently about fermenting veggies. I take a pretty simple approach. Here is what I do.

Make the brine
Adding 3 Tbsp salt to 1 quart of water makes a brine with salinity of 5.6%. That’s a good number to keep the bad growies in check, which is the goal. Any non-iodized, canning or kosher salt will get the job done, though it doesn’t hurt to use a quality salt like Eden’s Celtic Sea Salt.

Use Fido jars 
Fido jars rock. They seal just tight enough to keep the air out, but loose enough for the Co2 that is created to push the air out of the jar. You can actually hear the pressure escaping when they are actively fermenting. Be sure the lid has a tight seal before you pack the jar full of veggies. Other than that, Fido jars just work.

You can pick up the Fido jars at the Container Store for a reasonable price, along with replacement seals. If they seem expensive, it is just because you don’t realize how well they work. My favorite size is 2L, though the 5L works very well if you have a lot of hungry pickle eaters. FYI, I haven’t been so pleased with the Fido knock-offs that you can find at World Market for a dollar or two less. While the knockoffs do work, I decided to standardize with Fido so I always have reliable, interchangeable parts.

I don’t sterilize the jars, but I do wash them well with very hot water and let them air-dry. I also like to use fresh rubber rings if the old ones get nasty or have been used for fermenting at all. Of course that is optional, but they aren’t so expensive and I don’t go through very many of them.

Find your veggies
I use all sorts of things. Carrots, green beans, garlic and okra are some of my favorites. It just depends on what is in season. I try to get them from the garden into the brine as quickly as possible. You don’t even have to spend too much time washing them. Just get off the stuff that will break your teeth or make that awful crunchy, “I just bit into a bunch of dirt!” sound.

Grab some seasonings
I use whatever picklish type of spices I have kicking around that won’t try to kill me. It depends on whatever use I have planned for the batch in question. I often use fresh or dried dill weed, dill seed, celery seed, garlic cloves or chunks, dried or fresh hot peppers in one form or another, maybe a few whole pepper corns, whole juniper berries, whole cumin seeds, whole coriander seeds, and horseradish leaves. Just pick a nice blend and run with it. Take some notes if that’s your style. Put them in the bottom of the jar and cover them with a grape leaf, a horseradish leaf, or a piece of kale if you don’t have anything else.

Pack in the veggies
Take those veggies you found and pack them into the jar nice and tight, leaving as few air pockets as possible. Be sure to mix it up, because nothing is worse than wanting access to the layer of carrots at the bottom of the jar, but having to eat through half a quart of ridiculously hot peppers to get to them.

Top it off
Pour the brine you made into the jar full of veggies, but leave an inch or two at the top for expansion or they will waste your brine. Be sure to fill the jar slowly and swish it around to make sure there aren’t any air pockets. Remember, air is the bad guy.

Stow and ferment
Put the full, sealed jars in a dark place at room temperature for at least three days. Be sure to monitor the progress. If they start overflowing, put a pan under them, but don’t tip out any of the brine. The level and pressure will normalize.

As long as you have a good seal on your jar, you can leave them fermenting for a long, long time. I recently took out some jars that had been fermenting (unopened) for three and five months, and the results were amazing. The green beans were even crunchy.

Are they safe?
If they don’t smell terrible, they are safe. The nose knows. The difference will be abundantly clear.