Archive for Entrees and Sides

Sushi

How to Make Sushi

Sushi is the kind of recipe used to terrify new cooks with the complexities of cooking. Recipes call for strangely obscure ingredients and insist that one *cannot* properly make sushi without a specific type of bamboo cutting board for rolling it. Sushi is mysterious and vaguely associated with raw fish and food poisoning and something that one should not even dare attempt without proper training.

In reality, the sushi we’re familiar with is a variation on the japanese version of a sandwich. The simplest version is a rice ball formed around meat, vegetables, or random leftovers, and is the typical lunch of a Japanese blue collar worker. The nori rolled version is a bit fancier, but still not as terrifying as everyone makes it out to be.

You do need a few distinctive ingredients, but they needn’t all be obscure and terrifying. Let’s go over the basics:

Nori sheets: A nutrient dense seaweed used to hold the sushi together. Very good for you, and with a fairly mild flavor, it is very much worth keeping around for its health benefits. Raw nori is, of course, much touted for it’s extra health benefits, but does tend to be a bit chewier, so you may choose roasted nori sheets for better texture.

Rice: You can use white or brown rice, and it doesn’t have to be any special sushi variety, but it MUST be short grain to stick together properly. (I use brown rice, soaked overnight to improve the texture and flavor.) The rice is cooked with vinegar, salt and sweetener for proper sushi flavor.

Meat: I prefer to use canned crab meat as a traditional style meat. (Imitation crab is cheaper, but laden with chemicals, and fresher crab seems to me have a stranger flavor.)  However, remembering that sushi is essentially a type of sandwich, you can feel free to use any type of meat you might use in a sandwich, such as chicken salad, ham or turkey (for an americanized sushi) or for a more traditional sushi, shrimp, smoked salmon or probably even a canned salmon or canned tuna.

Vegetables: I’m a bit hazy on which vegetables are appropriate for traditional japanese sushi, but some general possibilities are celery (matchsticks), carrots (shaved, or sliced thin), cucumber (matchsticks, or sliced very thin), sprouts, spinach (blanched, possibly dressed with vinegar or other seasoning), mushrooms (chopped or sliced thin), apples (matchsticks), bell peppers (sliced thin), bamboo shoots, avocado (sliced thin), and green onions (especially the tops).

Extras: Traditionally, one might include things like pickled ginger and wasabi in one’s sushi experience, though I’m a bit vague one whether they should be included in the sushi fillings or used as dipping sauce and topping. Americanized extras would include cream cheese, mozzerella or cheddar, peanut butter (I ran across this idea elsewhere, it fit’s with the idea that it’s just a sandwich, but I have to admit I’m a little weirded out by the idea of peanut butter in my sushi.) and possibly scrambled eggs

Sauces: Traditionally, wasabi and soy sauce (or this ‘soyless sauce‘) might be used as dipping sauces for the sushi. I made a highly americanized version of one spicy sushi sauce by mixing a bit of hot sauce into mayonnaise. Also pickled ginger (which I just recently realized wouldn’t be hard to make) is traditionally used as a sushi condiment.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Nori is exceptionally nutritious, and making your own sushi you can choose rice, sweetener and other ingredients as healthy as you like. The brown rice, seafood (or other healthy meat) and veggie sushi I make, dressed with apple cider vinegar and turbinado sugar is not only healthy, but nearing superfood status.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Any time my husband is raving about eating brown rice, vegetables and a super food such as nori, even with a bit of meat thrown in, I figure this is a meal that should be repeated as often as possible. Naturally, you can customize the fillings to your taste, but there’s something about the small slices of food rolled in flavorful sushi rice that makes them more palatable than you might expect. I normally don’t like cucumber or celery, but in sushi they just add a nice crunch. My husband isn’t a huge fan of avocado, but quite enjoys sushi made with it.

Sushi

(makes about 12 pieces or one to two servings, depending on whether it’s served as an entree)

1 1/2 cups of dry brown rice (I recommend soaking it the night before)

3 TBSP apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar for a more traditional flavor)

3 TBSP turbinado sugar

1 1/8 tsp sea salt

3 cups water

 

2 sheets of nori

 

3-4 kinds of veggies, cut in matchsticks or sliced very thin

meat, fish or crab (technically optional, but really, why make vegetarian sushi?)

1-2 extras (optional)

Examples:

avocado slices, cucumber, crab, cream cheese

green apple, ham, mozzerella

carrot, green onion, salmon

Cook rice with water, sugar, salt and vinegar. Let cool to room temperature.

Set nori rough side up on a bamboo sushi board or countertop. Moisten hands, take a handful of rice and spread it thinly across the sheet of nori. Leave some space along the edges for ‘overflow’.

Add fillings along one edge, remembering not to be so extravagant with the fillings that they make your sushi too fat, or leak out the edge.

Dry hand carefully before touching the nori. Fold the edge of the nori slightly over the fillings, then carefully begin rolling the sushi into a tight roll. (See video for more details.)

Slice into pieces about an inch thick, or whatever thickness you like your sushi.

Serve with dipping sauces of choice.

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

Boxty: Irish Potato Pancakes

 

While I have a fair amount of Scottish blood in me, and my husband is part Irish, we share an interest in good foods, celtic music and traditions, and church history. As you might guess, we celebrate St Patrick’s Day every year, and with lots of Irish food. Our standard Irish dinner is corned beef with cabbage and potato, a sweeter version of Irish soda bread, and whatever other irish or green (or orange if I’m feeling especially like a cranky protestant Scottish girl…) food happens to hit the table.

I discovered boxty when looking for ways to extend our Irish food exploration beyond just dinner on St Patricks Day–why not have Irish food for breakfast too?

Boxty is like a cross between hashbrowns, biscuits and pancakes, and can be eating like any of those: with lots of butter, with butter and honey or syrup, with meat and gravy, or with ketchup. It can also be eaten as a breakfast food, or as a side at lunch or dinner. (Or as a snack for that matter. They’re even fairly portable, though better when they’re still warm.)

Healthiness rating: Healthy to Kinda Healthy

While I have no problem with including this in a meal and then classifying the meal as healthy, I am, for some reason hesitant to  put forward this recipe as having a lot of redeeming health food features. Depending on your definition of healthy food, and what kind of flour you decide to use, this could range from healthy to kinda healthy food.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

This one is less complicated: yummy and husband approved. (But then, he’s Irish, and eats cold baked potatoes straight out of the fridge, so in this case it might actually be more helpful to point out that I also like this recipe.)

Boxty

Large batch:

10 cups of mashed potatoes

10 cups of grated potatoes

8 cups of flour (white or whole wheat)

5 cups of milk or whey

1 cup melted butter

2 TBSP salt

Small batch:

2 cups of mashed potatoes

2 cups of grated potatoes

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 cup milk or whey

3 TBSP melted butter

1 tsp salt

butter or oil for frying

Put the grated potatoes in a clean cotton dishcloth. Squeeze out the excess moisture.  Mix grated potatoes with other ingredients (other than butter or oil for frying, obviously).

Heat butter over medium heat in skillet. Using about 1/4 cup or 1/3 cup batter per pancake, depending on size desired, fry two minutes on each side, until outside is crispy and inside is set to a firm but crispy consistency.

Homemade Chicken Strips (with whole wheat breading)

Healthy Chicken Strips

 I’ve never seen an episode of The Pioneer Woman’s cooking show. I’ve been a fan of her recipes and her blogging style for years, but it didn’t even dawn on me until recently that most of her fans probably, you know, watch her show.

I’ve also probably never cooked one of her recipes exactly as it’s written. Granted, there are few recipes I have cooked exactly as written. Because really, who has exactly the same ingredients and food preferences as another cook somewhere? Still, I can see this affecting my qualifications as a true fan.

Despite these fan failings I just want to say that I pretty much stole this recipe from The Pioneer Woman (and then proceeded to tweak it for the way I cook) because she has amazing recipes. Her original version of this recipe is here: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/05/quickie-homemade-chicken-strips/

Now for my changes:

I don’t buy the precut chicken strips. I buy ‘split chicken breasts’ with the bone still in, hack out the bones the best I can for the stock pot (the skin goes in with them), and cut the remaining slab of chicken into strips an inch or two wide. Any odd shaped bits are considered bonus nuggets and thrown in with the chicken strips to be fried up at the same time. (Unfortunately I don’t have video of this part of the process, but if there’s interest I can make a video next time I’m cutting up chicken breast.) I buy ahead when split chicken breasts are sale for .99 a pound, and divide the chicken strips into quart freezer bags. Each bag holds around two pounds of meat.

I almost never have buttermilk on hand. At different times I’ve used raw milk, soured raw milk, yogurt and whey to soak the chicken strips in, and they all seem to work equally well. The important part is soaking the chicken so the flour has plenty of moisture to stick to when you go to bread them. I usually just pour my chosen liquid into the freezer bag the night before when I pull the chicken strips out of the freezer, so they have a good long soaking time, but according the the original recipe, soaking them for 15 to 20 minutes before you cook them is good enough.

I use whole wheat flour instead of white. Also, because the whole wheat flour has more texture to start with, I find the touch of buttermilk in the flour to be completely unnecessary. I use soft white wheat, so the breading has little to no whole wheat flour taste. Red wheat should work just as well in the process but would have much more of a whole wheat flavor. (For those who are concerned that the whole wheat flour in this recipe doesn’t get soaked, see my comments on phytic acid here. This would be one of those cases where I think it’s better to enjoy a moderately healthy food than to obsess over making it ‘perfectly healthy’ and ruin your enjoyment of the food in the process.)

I use my own spice instead of the spice blend recommended in the original recipe, including, of course, garlic powder.

I avoid vegetable oil, soybean oil, corn oil and canola oil (not obsessively, but I’ll make some extra effort to keep other oils in my kitchen instead). I lean toward animal fats and coconut oils as being the healthiest oils, especially for frying, but right now my compromise oil for frying is rice bran oil. It is, at least, non-gmo, and not a food that’s over produced and hidden in most food already, so I’m not afraid of over exposing myself to rice. Sunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil and safflower oil would also fit in the compromise category.

While we’re on the subject of frying, are you poised to object when I get down the healthiness rating and declare a fried food as healthy? Once again, it’s  case of moderation and variety. Nearly everything, including water and raw spinach, is bad for you if you over consume it. Yes, I’m in favor of water and raw spinach as part of a healthy diet, possibly even in large amounts, but I think a simple variety of real, non-processed foods takes the stress out of concepts like oxalic acid, phytic acid and other real food scares.

Similarly, a diet consisting only fried food would undoubtedly be problematic, whether that’s because of lack of raw vegetable enzymes or an over consumption of fats. But that’s no reason to declare fried food unhealthy and inedible. Use healthy ingredients, use frying as one of many methods of preparing those healthy ingredients, and enjoy your food before you kill yourself by stressing about your food too much.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Chicken, milk or whey, whole wheat flour and healthy (or healthyish) fats. I’m not saying this one’s a superfood, but as noted above, I think it’s perfectly reasonable inclusion in a healthy diet.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

This one’s a winner, and possibly even a good transition recipe if you’re trying to wean your family off of processed foods. In my opinion, a lot of the real yumminess factor comes in your choice of sauces served with the chicken strips, but they make a solid base for such yumminess.

Breading Chicken Strips

Chicken Strips

about 2 lbs of strips of chicken breast

about 1 cup of sour milk, yogurt or whey (enough to cover the chicken)

about 1 1/2 cups of soft white wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt, or to taste

1/2 tsp garlic powder, or to taste

optional: heavy dash of black pepper, sprinkle of cayenne

Lard, coconut oil or neutral flavored oil for frying (about 2 cups or so)

Soak chicken strips in chosen liquid overnight, or for a few hours. (Edited to add: I do this in a quart size ziploc bag, as the chicken is defrosting, but you can also use any bowl with a lid, or without a lid for that matter, if your fridge is sane enough to allow for such things.)

Begin heating lard or oil of choice over medium heat in a frying pan. I normally make the oil about half an inch deep in the pan.

Mix flour and spices. (As long as it’s still BEFORE you dip raw meat in it, you can actually taste a pinch of the flour mixture to make sure the salt and spice ratios are to your liking. You want the spices to be a light background flavor, and the flour should tasted salted, but not too salty.)

Unfortunately, I don’t have  a really good system for knowing when the oil is hot–I normally just wait two or three minutes, make sure I feel plenty of heat coming off the oil, and start frying. If you’re new to frying and don’t have an oil thermometer, I would mix a spoonful of flour with a spoonful of water, and drop it in the oil when it starts to get warm. When this impromptu batter has bubbling oil around it and is turning golden brown. (If you do have an oil thermometer aim for 350 to 375 degrees.) Adjust the oil temperature as you go, if needed. If the breading is only very lightly browned after cooking for 2 minutes on one side, turn the burner up a notch. If it’s getting dark brown or overly crispy by a minute and a half on one side, turn the burner down a notch (or two).

When the oil is ready, dip a chicken strip in the flour mixture. (Tongs make this part less messy.) Thoroughly coat the strip with flour on both sides. Place the strip (carefully!) into the hot oil (the tongs come in handy again here), and repeat until your pan is full without being crowded.

After about a minute and a half, and when the first side is getting golden brown and crispy, turn over the chicken strips. (It helps to have a second pair of tongs for this part–one for raw chicken, one for cooking chicken. Also, one for raw messy breading, one for hot oil.)

Cook on the other side for about a minute and half, then remove the strips to a warm oven. (I like to put a couple of paper towels on a cookie sheet or plate for receiving the newly fried, and dripping with oil chicken strips.)

If you’re concerned about whether the chicken is done or not, here a few tips: The chicken will be floppy and squashy when raw, cooked chicken will be firm and hold it’s shape when pressed or picked up from one end. If you make a slit into the chicken and clear liquid comes out, it’s done–pink or bloody liquid means it’s not done yet. If you’re still in doubt, cut a couple chicken strips in half to make sure they’re done, until you get a feel for how long they take to cook on your stove. (You could also try the whole meat thermometer thing, but it never works for me.)

Serve with dipping sauces. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, sweet and sour sauce, honey mustard and ranch are all excellent choices.

Garlic Green Beans

Good Bad Food: Garlic Green Beans

This is one of my husband’s favorite vegetables. If your family doesn’t like garlic this recipe won’t help you out much in getting them to eat vegetables, but then if your family doesn’t like garlic, you probably won’t use most of the recipes I post. I like garlic. A lot. I make a conscious effort to use other seasoning strategies at times to switch it up, but if I’m in a hurry and need to season something it will probably get garlic, basil and salt and be declared done and yummy.

Also, anything short of biting into a raw clove of garlic could  not possibly qualify as too much garlic around here, so if you’re a nominal fan of garlic, but less hardy in your garlic consumption, you may want to cut back on the number of cloves of garlic used in the recipe.

A note on the amount of green beans: I generally use 16 oz packages of frozen green beans when I can find them, but as stores continue to sneak price increases by shrinking package sizes, I often have 12 oz packages of green beans on hand. Because I cook so much by feel and taste I don’t specifically adjust my recipe to different size bags of green beans, but if it matters to you, the recipe as written is more specifically formulated to the 12 oz size.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only are none of the ingredients unhealthy, but as a yummy way to eat vegetables, this recipe encourages more vegetable eating than commonly suggest ‘recipes’ such as plain celery sticks or iceberg lettuce with fat free dressing.

 Yumminess Rating: Yummy

To quote my husband, “Even people who don’t like green beans like these, because they taste like real food instead of slime”. (He went on to clarify that he, personally, does actually like green beans anyway. They’re just better with garlic and butter on them.)

Garlic Green Beans

1 package frozen green beans (12-16 oz)

5 TBSP butter

2-3 cloves of garlic

1/4 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Mince or smash the garlic cloves according to your preferred method. (See the video for my preferred ‘smash it with a cleaver’ method. It gets it done fast!)

Melt the butter in a skillet (cast iron is preferable) over medium heat. Add the green beans, garlic and salt. Stir so the butter coats the green beans. Continue to stir as needed until the green beans are all thawed and beginning to warm, then stop stirring for a few minutes.

The green beans will release liquid, which will then boil off until you’re left with just bubbly butter again. At this point, let them cook for one to two more minutes without stirring. (If you’re in a hurry, or able to stand over the pan while they’re cooking, turn up the heat to medium high at this point. If you want them to cook slower, or without direct supervision you can leave the heat on medium and go longer between stirring.) The green beans should begin to develop a slightly caramelized golden brown color by the time you stir them. Be careful not to let them burn, but leave them on the stove until many of the green beans throughout the pan have developed this coloring.

(If you’re in a hurry you can skip the browning step, and just have buttered garlic green beans, but the caramelizing adds a lot to the flavor.)

The above recipe serves 2. If you need to serve a crowd, I recommend using 6 lb green beans, 1 pound of butter, 1 head of garlic and 1 1/2 tsp sea salt (or to taste). You may need to caramelize the green beans in batches when making a larger amount.

(Remember the point in the chocolate syrup video where I almost dripped chocolate syrup on my laptop? At about 6′ 18″ in this video, half a spoonful of green beans goes splat right on my laptop, and I totally try to pretend it didn’t happen.)

100% Whole Wheat Bread (soaked flour, soft and fluffy!)

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I didn’t believe 100% whole wheat bread could be this soft and fluffy until I tried this recipe over at Passionate Homemaking. It was amazing. Even my husband, who is a devoted fan of white flour, truly enjoys this bread, without asking me if we can have white bread sometimes too. He does enjoy a variety of bread, so I need to get a couple of my other good bread recipes back in the rotation, but this makes a really good every day bread. It’s good for sandwiches and toast and eating plain with butter. What more could you ask for from a loaf of bread?

But, of course, in true Good Bad Food style, I couldn’t just leave the recipe alone. I substituted chia seeds, which I’ve been trying to get into my diet more, for the flax, which I don’t always have around. (I know, cooked chia doesn’t have the full benefit of omega 3s, but it still has fiber and protein and is generally good for you.) I didn’t want to have to deal with sprouted flour (to many steps and too much work to make, and too expensive to buy when you could just mill your own non-sprouted flour for pennies) or with the phytic acid from the unsoaked flour (see this post for a full discussion of my thoughts on phytic acid and soaking grains), so I found the perfect ratio of flour/chia/grains to water to make a dough soft enough to be kneaded but still stiff enough to use only the soaked dough without the addition of extra flour. And of course, I had to employ the technique I learned from Ada Lou Roberts in Favorite Breads from Rose Lane Farms and add ginger to the yeast proofing mixture.

Also, I cut the recipe in half so my Kitchen Aid wouldn’t die while kneading it. (Seriously, this recipe almost killed my Kitchen Aid at first. I have a Professional 600 model, the same one used by my sister who has 9 children and hasn’t killed her mixer yet, to the best of my knowledge. I didn’t know you could overheat this mixer with bread dough until the first time I tried making the full batch version of this recipe.)

The result is a reliable healthy recipe for bread, using only ingredients I usually have on hand (no added vital wheat gluten or dough conditioner), and that’s really enjoyable. It’s also versatile as I often make hamburger buns and sometimes hot dog buns out of the same dough I use for my every day bread. (The buns are a little less flexible than store bought white buns, which is especially noticeable with the hot dog buns, but the hamburger buns at least have always worked just fine for us.)

In the bread I made for the video, real life intervened, and my bread dough soaked for an extra day before I got around to making the bread. The bread was still good, though with just a hint of sourness in the flavor from the extra soaking time. Also, you’ll notice in the video that it didn’t rise nearly as high as it should have. While the texture was still soft, this particular batch of bread was just a bit less fluffy than normal, and doesn’t demonstrate quite what ideally ‘doubled’ dough should look like.

Also in the video I make the comment that you can substitute coconut oil for the butter if you want to make it dairy free. I neglected to mention that if making the bread dairy free, you can substitute 1 TBSP vinegar or lemon juice in 1/2 cup warm water for the yogurt.

You can use honey instead of agave in this recipe, but I prefer to save my raw honey for eating, well, raw.

You’ll really want to check out my videos for this post, as in the course of making this recipe, I demonstrate all the basic techniques of bread making, which can applied to any recipe. For instance, if you’re not sure how to tell when your dough is done being kneaded, take a look Part Two of my video, around the 5′ 53″ time mark, where I show you how properly kneaded bread dough stretches thin without tearing.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

No bad ingredients, all whole grain. This bread is about as healthy as bread gets.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

Even people who don’t like whole wheat bread like this bread. It’s soft and fluffy, hold together well for sandwiches and toast, and is hearty without being dense.

Whole Wheat Bread

6 TBSP butter, melted

5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat, ground)

1 cup oats (I use quick oats)

2 TBSP millet, (optional, though I haven’t tried the bread without it)

2 TBSP chia seeds

1/2 cup yogurt

2 cups warm water

1/2 cup agave

 

1/4 cup water

1 tsp honey

1 TBSP + 3/4 tsp yeast

1/4 tsp ginger

2 1/4 tsp sea salt

 

Melt and cool the butter.

Rather than measure an exact amount of flour, I usually calculate how much wheat I need to make the right amount of flour for the recipe. So in this recipe, aiming for 5 1/2 cups of flour, I grind a scant 4 cups of hard red wheat and don’t bother to measure the resulting flour. Mix the flour with the oats, millet and chia. Add the butter, yogurt, 2 cups warm water and agave.

Let the mixture soak for 12 to 24 hours.

Mix together yeast, ginger and 1/4 cup warm water. (Very warm water but not hot enough to burn you is about the right temperature.) Wait for the yeast mixture to become very foamy then mix into the soaked flour mixture, along with the salt.

Knead for 20 minutes, or into a small piece of the dough will stretch very thin, almost translucent. Remove the dough from the bowl, put a small amount of oil in the bottom of the bowl, put the dough back in the bowl and flip it over so all sides of the dough are coated in oil. Put in a warm place to rise until doubled, probably for 1-2 hours. (Note: In the video I put the dough on top of my oven to rise. This works very well if the oven if set on warm or 200, but when I’ve tried to do this while cooking other food at 350 or higher, the bowl has gotten hot enough to start to cook the dough. This is not helpful. So, be careful that you find a warm place, but not too hot, for letting your dough rise.)

Punch the dough down and, if you have time, put the dough back in a warm place to rise until doubled again, for 30-60 minutes. (This makes a better finished product, but isn’t strictly necessary if you’re running short on time.)

Punch the dough down and shape as desired. This dough makes 2 loaves of bread or 12 large hamburger rolls or 16 hot dog buns. I often make one loaf and 8 large hamburger rolls.

Put the shaped dough in a slightly warm oven to rise. (If you’ve had your oven on warm or 200 degrees and then turn it off when you put the dough in the oven, this is perfect.) In 20 to 30 minutes, when the dough is doubled, turn on your oven to 350 degrees. Rolls with take about 20 minutes to cook. Loaves will normally take about 30 minutes.

If you’re not sure whether your bread is done, carefully remove it from the loaf pan and tap on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done.

Technically, you’re supposed to let your bread cool before slicing into it, or it smooshes somewhat. But if you happen to want to slice into it immediately and enjoy hot bread, straight from the oven, slathered in butter, I shan’t disapprove this choice. I might even join you.

How To Soak Brown Rice

I suppose the first question I should answer before “How should I soak my rice?” is “Why should I soak my rice?”

Rice, as many grains do, contains phytic acid, which blocks mineral absorption. Soaking allows the phytase present in the grains to break down the phytic acid and make the grain overall more digestible and the nutrients more accessible to the body. Because rice doesn’t contain as much phytase as other common grains, the best effect is from reusing the soaking water repeatedly to allow the phytase to build up to useful levels in the soaking water. (I’ll explain this whole technique later in the post.)

There’s a lot of debate over how important it is to soak your grains. Some are even opposed to soaking grains because (apparently) higher phytic acid levels may be associated with a reduced risk of cancer. In my opinion this just comes back to a variety of food in  your diet being important. If you eat some grains soaked you’ll get the maximum nutrient absorption, and if you skip soaking some of the time for convenience, well, I guess  you may be fighting cancer at the same time.

I think there are two groups of people for who soaking grains is more important on the nutritional priority list.

First, those who eat a lot grains in their diets. If you’re eating a vegetarian diet, for example, or are stretching out all your meals with a lot of grains because of a low food budget, you really want to make sure you’re getting maximum nutrition from those grains. You also don’t want to to risk all that phytic acid blocking the nutrients from all the other foods you eat as well. In fact, with a large grain consumption,  you may even want to move beyond soaking, and try sprouting or fermenting to get even more nutrition from your grains.

Second, those with food allergies (even not grain related), other digestive problems, and general chronic health problems. If you have food allergies, it’s very likely that you have leaky gut, and your gut will have more chances to heal the easier it is for it to digest the food you give it. Similarly, if you have any kind of chronic health problems, you want to be providing as much nutrition to your body as you can, without making it work any harder to get that nutrition than is absolutely necessary. It may even be helpful to give your body a break from grains entirely for a while as it heals, but if that’s not practical for some reason, make sure you’re soaking (and again, maybe even sprouting or fermenting) the grains you do eat.

On the other hand, if you have a diet full of lots of veggies, animal fats and proteins and some grains, and you’re relatively healthy, you may not see as much problem with eating some of your grains unsoaked. (Eating vitamin C with your grains does seems to significantly mitigate the ill effects of the phytic acid, so all those fruits and veggies in your diet will help a lot.) Life is busy. Set your priorities where they really matter, and don’t get bullied into making that include soaking  your grains unless you really want it to.

Now that that’s out of the way, for those of you who are interested in taking a little extra time to extract the maximum nutrition from your food, may I present my method of soaking rice. ( I use double this recipe in the video. The amounts listed below provide two meals worth of cooked rice for my husband and I, plus one meals worth for the freezer.)

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

I know the Paleo types will disagree, but in my book soaked grains are healthy, provided you’re getting a proper range of nutrition in your diet overall.

Yumminess Rating: Yummy

This post is a little different from my normal recipes, in that it’s more a  base technique than a full blown recipe. However, I think it still deserves a Yummy rating, because my husband normally prefers white rice to brown rice, but he doesn’t mind the brown rice when I soak it like this. That means getting more nutrients into a meal without having to use ‘I’m eating this because it’s healthy, but I don’t like it’ points.

Soaked Rice

2 cups of brown rice

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, lemon juice or yogurt whey

4 cups of filtered water

Put all ingredients in a bowl and soak overnight or for at least 7 hours. Strain soaking water out of rice and save in a jar for next time. Rinse the rice and cook as desired, or following the recipe below.

Next time you want to soak rice, take your soaking water out of the fridge. Add water if needed until you have liquid equal to twice as much rice as you want to soak. Pour the soaking liquid over rice and, as before, soak overnight or for at least 7 hours.

The more times you reuse the soaking water the fluffier and more digestible your rice will be.

Brown Rice

2 cups of rice, soaked

4 cups of water

1 tsp salt

1 TBSP butter

Put all ingredients in medium saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes. (Officially brown rice takes 45 minutes to cook, but I find that soaked brown rice usually cooks faster than I expect it to, sometimes in closer to 30 minutes.)

Oven Roasted Carrots

Oven Roasted Carrots

 

This is more of a technique for cooking vegetables than it is a recipe, but it is an important part of the ‘making healthy food that my husband enjoys eating’ aspect of this blog. If vegetables are going to be a regular part of your diet, you have to fix them in ways that you enjoy eating them, or pretty soon you’ll just decide it’s not worth the trouble and everyone can fill up on bread and butter instead.

We eat some salads, and at some point I may share some of our favorite salad toppers that make it a non-chore to eat salad, but the truth is that if I tried to eat raw veggies with every meal I wouldn’t make it very long. I don’t know if this purely a matter of taste or has something to do with a metabolism that tends toward low and slow causing me to prefer food warm and easier to digest. (There are some fascinating theories about the connection between ‘warming’ foods and raising a slow metabolism.) Either way, we intersperse our salads into a selection of roasted and sauteed vegetables. Cooked vegetables lose out on the enzymes of raw veggies, but since cooking starts the process of breaking down the cells, some nutrients are actually easier to digest and more accessible to our bodies after cooking.

So, especially if you’re just trying to get in the habit of eating more vegetables, I have two words to facilitate this process for you: Butter. Garlic.

Have no guilt in  roasting, sauteeing or lightly boiling your vegetables before you eat them. Have no compunction in throwing a few extra tablespoons of butter into the pot of vegetables so they slide down more easily. Have no hesitation in seasoning them creatively, and allow me highly recommend garlic as my own personal seasoning of choice when trying to move vegetables from the realm of merely edible to  “Yay, we’re having carrots for dinner!”

This oven roasting technique works on many vegetables. It’s particularly effective on root vegetables such as sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, rutabagas and of course, carrots. As a bonus, most of these vegetables are cheap in the winter and some can probably be picked up for less than a dollar a pound at your local grocery store.

Healthiness rating: Healthy

Vegetables, butter and sea salt: sounds healthy to me.

Yumminess rating: Yummy

This is one of those recipes that may not change the mind of the veggie hater, but will likely sway a veggie tolerator into actively enjoying a serving of carrots. My husband’s reaction when he walks into the kitchen and sees roasted carrots is “Yum! Carrots for dinner!”. This automatically puts roasted carrots in the top tier for best vegetable recipes ever.

Roasted Carrots

2 pounds of carrots, peeled (or washed) and scrubbed

6 TBSP butter

1/2-1 tsp sea salt, according to taste

optional: garlic powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Melt butter in an oven proof container, preferable a cast iron skillet. Anything, including a cookie sheet, will work for roasting the carrots, but cast iron helps with the browning process.

Add carrots and salt. Stir until the carrots are well coated with melted butter.

If desired, add 1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder. I do this occasionally to change up the flavor, but despite being a devoted fan of garlic, I don’t think the carrots have to have any flavor boost besides the roasting process.

Roast the carrots for 30-60 minutes depending on your oven, time constraints and desired degree of browning. The carrots should have a slightly shriveled look and be lightly browned when they’re done.

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