6 Processed Foods You Should Always Buy Organic | Rodale News

Over the past several decades, we have all sacrificed our health for cheap and convenient food, and we desperately need to change these bad habits.

organic meals | 6 Processed Foods You Should Always Buy Organic | Rodale News.

I guess it is from too many stories like these that I started buying pretty much all organic food.  In Germany, it is pretty easy to do when you go to a ‘bio’ shop.  It IS more expensive, and it ISN’T a guarantee that you will be eating a perfect whole food, but it is the easiest way for me to consume healthier foods for my family.

 

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies | Post Punk Kitchen | Vegan Baking & Vegan Cooking

I know I haven’t posted in ages.  I guess I have continued to be distracted by daily life, but today I finally got some inspiration to share.  I made these gingerbread cookies form Isa Chandra in preparation for the holidays, and the dough is amazing!

Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies | Post Punk Kitchen | Vegan Baking & Vegan Cooking.

I haven’t rolled them out and cut them out yet (and that is often where I have problems with doughs).  However, I couldn’t stop sneaking bites of this dough.  In fact, I would be happy to eat it all raw!

For those of you living in Germany and looking to do some holiday baking as well, I would like to give my 2 cents on a vital ingredient for these treats – molasses.

dark and thick, baby!

dark and thick, baby!

Basically, molasses is a by product when refining sugar to get the white sugar we are used to.  Any of the nutrients that are in sugar originally stay in the molasses (calcium, iron, magnesium, vitamin B-6).  Some even claim that you could have a spoon or two a day as a vitamin!  However, not all molasses products are equal.  Most of the health claims of molasses are for ‘blackstrap’ molasses.  This is a very dark product from the third boiling.  Sometimes you see other molasses available, and those could  be lighter in color, but not as rich in nutrients or flavor.

You can also produce molasses from a variety of products.  In the US we use sugar cane for the most part.  In Germany, most sugar production is with sugar beets, not sugar cane, so the molasses (i.e., Goldsaft)  you usually see in the corner shop also comes from the beet. I haven’t been able to find too much information of the health benefits of sugar beet molasses (other than from the company producing it), but what I have seen  comparing the leans in favor of the cane.  Cane sugar molasses is much higher in iron, copper and manganese.  If you want to make sure you have sugar cane molasses, you want to look for the words ‘Zuckerrohr’ which means ‘sugar cane’.  I have bought this one in local bio shops, but not all bio shops carry it – usually only those with the bigger selections.

You can also buy Rapadura sugar. It is unprocessed and still has the molasses mixed in.  I have used it in recipes calling for refined sugar and a teaspoon or two of molasses.

So give it a try and whip up a bunch of the gingerbread cookies.  They’re vegan, so no worries if you like the dough too much to cook them!

Vegan Goldfish Crackers – Chef Chloe – Vegan Cooking and Recipes

Vegan Goldfish Crackers – Chef Chloe – Vegan Cooking and Recipes.

 

Just came across this, and it seemed too cute NOT to share.  I haven’t even tried it yet, but if the kids like it, I may be splurging for a goldfish cookie cutter as well (but not sure I have the patience to cut them all out!

Bread frustrations

There are two areas in my life where I frequently feel like a complete failure. Number one is getting my kids to bed and number two is baking bread.

Me and the bread have a long history of ups and downs. In my younger days, it seemed like such fun thing, but I never could get a decent loaf on my own until I got a bread maker. I loved the simplicity and waking up to the smell of fresh bread. However, I detested the crusts and then resorted to doing all the prep in the machine but baking in the oven with good results. Then I moved to Kosovo and I couldn’t take the bread maker with me.

When I lived in Kosovo, I felt it was a necessity because there was only one kind of white bread available. Once again, I was unable to have success with yeast breads, so I turned to all manners of quick breads and decided I didn’t need to deal with yeast. Next I moved to Germany, and there was such a variety of whole grain breads available that I decided there was no point to go through the effort.

At my Thermomix demonstration, the rep made rolls by grinding while wheat and spelt grains, using fresh yeast, and the whole thing was done in just 30 minutes. I thought, now I have my answer, and I entered a big bread kick using Thermomix recipes. Fortunately most have turned out quite well, but now I have added the challenge of trying to use all whole grains, and I am meeting very mixed success.

It seems sometimes I get a perfect loaf, but half the time it is a failure and I can’t figure out how to guarantee success – especially if I use all whole grains. For example, yesterday I used a recipe which has made perfect sandwich bad in the past, but yesterday it didn’t rise at all (now I have learned I can just make crackers with that). Today I tried a recipe with a soaker and a sponge (I read somewhere that soaker whole grain wheat overnight before baking is supposed to help, and I even added several tablespoons of vital wheat gluten hoping to help), but no matter how much flour I added, the dough was so sticky that I couldn’t shape a loaf. I know I can keep adding flour, and that is what I usually do, but I have also read that the most common novice bread maker mistake is to add too much. It seems I need to usually add about double the called for flour get the right consistency, and I know I shouldn’t add that much.

I’ve decided I need to go to a bread making course to be able to witness and feel the proper dough consistencies, but living in Germany, I have no idea how to go about it. Plus, I am getting tired of trying with bread. I keep reading that it shouldn’t be hard, and I should be able to make much healthier and cheaper bread. So what is my problem? Does anyone have any secrets to baking whole grain bread? I am tired of experimenting and just want to have some success!!!

Homemade Almond Milk

Well, I may be the last one to try it, but I finally made my own almond milk.  Everyone keeps telling me how easy it is, and I hate paying the 3.99 euro per liter, but I didn’t feel like soaking almonds overnight or blanching almonds.  Then I found blanched almonds for the same price as regular almonds at Goll Reformhaus.  (Which reminds me of a questions for those in the know – are all items at the ‘Reformhaus’ bio?  It doesn’t say on the package.)
I mixed 200 g almonds, 600 g of water, 4 dates and a splash of vanilla on high in my Thermomix for 2 minutes, and then I poured it into a nut milk bag (or cheese bag) that I found on Amazon.de.  It seems that sweeteners, flavours, blanching and straining are just a matter of preference.  People make the milk many different ways, and you could just mix raw almonds and milk and drink, but all the variations are for personal preference for flavour and consistency.  However, most recipes using whole almonds do suggest soaking them first. From the pictures, you can see how I set the bag up over a bowl.  After I poured the mixture in, some drained through the bag and then I squeezed the bag to get the remaining liquid out.  Then I was left with some pulp.  There are a few recipes out there for using the pulp as well.  I plan to try the cookies from Choosing Raw.  (You can see pictures on the side, but I can’t see to format this post correctly so you can look at the captions to figure it out).

I will admit this was pretty easy, but I was disappointed to see how little almond milk it made.  It looks like about 2 cups.  The recipe says it makes 3, and I was able to squeeze a little more milk out, but now I am not sure that I am really saving any money this way since 200 g of bio almonds costs 3.50 euros at Der Leyenhof.  I will have to look at my package of store-bought milk to see if it has anything else added because now the only advantage I see to making it is to stick to more whole food ingredients, but I have to admit I am not sure it is worth making it myself. I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences!

Almond Milk

Leftover Almond Pulp

Blanched Almonds

Nut Milk Bag

So what IS a Thermomix and why do you need one?

You have probably noticed several mentions of Thermomix in my postings, and you may be wondering what I am talking about.  First of all, I would like to point out that I have no connection to Vorwerk – Thermomix, but I bought one in October, and it has been used several times a day since then.  So what is this wonder machine and why do you need one?  Basically, it is a high-powered blender, but it also offers several features that no other blender offers that makes it a kind of all-in-one kitchen machine.

The super duper kitchen machine

You need a High Power Blender with a whole foods diet

As I adapted to a whole foods, plant based diet, I kept coming across recipes requiring a high power blender.  I think it is honestly the single most useful piece of kitchen equipment if you want to eat this way.  For example,

  • making healthy smoothies with greens and all kinds of of great fruits and vegetables
  • grinding nuts and dates as healthy alternatives to animal based products and sugary dishes.  My favorite are nut and date treats of which there are tons of varieties, and these can be done in just a couple of minutes with a high power blender.  I promise you these treats can satisfy even the worst sweet tooth.
  • grinding your own grains.  I have never been such a purist before, but grinding your own grains allows you to stick to a true whole foods diet, and commercial flours are supposedly ground at such high temperatures that the fats can become rancid (and high temperatures always creates a danger of radical free agents…)
  • make your own non-dairy milks

I did go for a few months on this diet without a high power blender.  I already had a hand blender and a double food processor, so I figured I could make do.  However, things are much faster and easier with more power.  For example, I made the chocolate silk pie in about 10 minutes, and it took my friend Angela over an hour with her food processor.  Believe me, the power will save you time and allow you to make just about everything from smoothies, to plant-based mayonaise and cheese alternatives as well as chocolate silk pie.

Vitamix or Thermomix?

This was the big question for me.  On just about every whole foods web site I came across, the authors praised the Vitamix and often offer a link to buy this wonderful machine.  If I was living in the States, I probably would have succumbed, but then I learned about the German Thermomix and decided to investigate.  I could find very little to compare the two, but here are the reasons I decided to buy the Thermomix instead:

  • According to data I found while researching, Thermomix doesn’t have quite as high of RPM (revolutions per minute) as the Vitamix, and I thought that would be a deciding factor.  However, the Thermomix does go fast enough to grind grains and to do that with the Vitamix, you have to purchase a separate mixing bowl.
  • In addition to the high power fast grinding, The Thermomix allows for slow stirring, reverse mixing (so you don’t use the cutting edge of the blades and can keep food bits intact) and a dough setting for a kneading bread doughs (go slower and works forward and reverse with pauses between).  This slow feature is really useful and allows you to make salads quite easily.  For example, one of the demonstration recipes is a broccoli salad.  You simply throw in chunks of veggies and the dressing ingredients and do at a chopping speed for about 5 seconds. Now you have bite sized chunks tossed in dressing, but a normal blender would turn the mixture to mush.
  • The feature that most convinced me was the cooking feature.  The Thermomix also heats foods from 37-100 degrees celsius while stirring.  I LOVE this feature!!  Just imagine anything you cook that requires stirring.  Now imagine that you don’t have to stir anymore.  I use this to cook my morning oatmeal, to saute onions and other veggies, to make sauces, to melt chocolate, to make pudding….. You can also use one of the steaming baskets to make perfect rice or steam any vegetable (or cook any meat, but I obviously haven’t tried that).  The way all the baskets are designed, you can actually cook several dishes at once, but I have rarely done that.  Because of the cooking feature, I rarely use any pots or my stove top.
  • The Thermomix has a timer so that you can set it and go.  The timer allows me to set it for one minute to grind my grains or make my smoothie while I walk away and prepare other things.  It may sound silly, but you would be amazed at how free you feel to walk around and prepare other parts of your recipe rather than sitting and holding your blender until you decide whether your dish is ready.
  • Another time saving device is a built in scale.  This was not an incentive for me when I bought the machine as I have a kitchen scale and didn’t see the need for it.  However, once you have your recipes converted to weight, you realize you never have to actually measure anything, you just pour straight from the package into the Thermomix.  I am now converting all my recipes so I don’t have to bother with pre-measuring and washing a bunch of measuring cups.
  • On a practical side, Vitamix is difficult machine to buy here is there are only a couple of sellers in Germany and the price starts at 600 euros for the most basic versions.  Thermomix is made by a German company with an outstanding reputation.  The Thermomix is more, around 900 euros, but you don’t need any other accessories.  They also offer many different purchasing plans, for example, I bought with an 18 month plan paying less than 50 euro/month with only 7 euros interest over the term of the financing.  Furthermore, I held a demonstration in my home, and Thermomix sent me a 50 euro check.  If you don’t feel like paying, you could become a representative, and once you sell 6 machines, you get your own.  I have a friend doing this now and she only needs to sell a couple more before she gets her own.  I think she has some kind of loaner machine until then because she now does demonstations in an attempt to sell machines.

So What Are the Cons?

When I was researching to find negative aspects of the Thermomix, I couldn’t find any, and that was another convincing factor for me.  However, I can admit to a few negatives and I will share them with you here.

  • The price is the number one reason people hesitate to buy the Thermomix.  It does seem ridiculously expensive at first, but there are ways to make it affordable as mentioned in the previous section.  Also, it is the second most used device in my kitchen after my refrigerator as almost everything I eat passes through it. Finally, it is said that it replaces several kitchen gadgets so if you buy it you dont need all the others.  While this is true, most potential buyers, such as myself, probably already have those other gadgets. it would make a splendid purchase for someone setting up their first household.
  • You can’t see through the container.  People used to glass or plastic blenders and food processors will find this a bit of a challenge at first.  I was used to looking at things through the container to tell if it was ready.  With the Thermomix you have to turn it off and release the lid to see inside since the mixing bowl is stainless steel.  Obviously stainless steel is a more durable product and better for cooking things in, so that disadvantage is easy to understand.
  • You can’t take off the top unless you turn off the machine.  This is a safety feature which makes the Thermomix safe enough for any child to operate, but occasionally I have wished to be able to take off the top and keep the machine running.
  • The mixing bowl only holds 2 L.  This is as much or more than most other blenders and food processors, but not enough to make soup for a family of 6 therefore I feel I am not able to make full use of my wonderful machine.  However, there has really only been once or twice that I have wanted to use it and couldn’t due to capacity limitations.
  • The warranty is only 2 years.  I believe the Vitamix has a 10 year warranty, and it would be nice when you pay so much to have a longer warranty.
  • It is a bit complicated to buy.  It is only available through representatives, somewhat like Tupperware or Mary Kay.  I believe you can get on the website to get connected with a representative, but I have heard that they are not officially sold in the US.  You can still buy them through Canada, but it would mean you probably wouldn’t have a demonstration or support to be able to make full use of your machine.  Since I bought mine in Germany, there is plenty of support and even some newsletters and magazines.  My machine even came with a couple of cookbooks, but everything was in German, and my German  isn’t the greatest.  I finally broke down and bought some books from the UK site, and it has multiplied the use I am getting out of my machine.  While the German recipes were simple enough to follow, I found that they simply weren’t to my taste (except the breads).  The English cookbooks have 2-3 times as many recipes, and the vegetarian cookbook has tons of healthy recipes.
  • It doesn’t completely replace other machines.  There is no ‘grating’ attachment.  I have kept my food processor for that (the only thing I currently use it for), but I have decided that since I can finely chop for small pieces for salads or baking or use a mandoline for pretty pieces that are longer, I can get by.  Also, it doesn’t have a whisk which I used a lot in my old stand mixer.  However, I have mixed many batters in my Thermomix quite successfully.  I just find it helps to scrape down the sides once or twice.

In spite of the possible criticisms, I would still buy the machine.

In summation, this machine works well for someone who does not like cooking and wants to simplify meal prep as well as severe foodies with lots of food preparation needs.  I have no regrets about my purchase except that I wish I had 2!

Balls Galore

Image

Last weekend I went a little ball cray, and perhaps a little coconut crazy as well since all these recipes include desiccated coconut.  The problem is that they are so dang easy to make, and the kids love getting involved.  Although it is a great way to get them involved in food prep, it probably diminishes the outcome by about half.

On Friday, I made ‘Power Balls’ which I discovered and modified from my German Thermomix book.  These are basically date-nut balls with a bit of orange punch.  The kids all love them and I feel good giving them an energizing afternoon snack that they can get involved in. (the dark balls on the right of the picture)

On Saturday, my five year old son was begging to make what he calls ‘Snowballs’ that came from an old childhood cookbook of mine with the original name, ‘Quick-Energy Pickups’ (the balls on the left in the picture).  I think they get the quick energy from the use of 1 cup of powdered sugar which I can’t bear the thought of now, so I played around with the recipe to lower the sugar and to make it vegan.  For those in germany, I recommend using a pure organic product such as Rapunzel’s Erdnussmus which is one of the only products I have found that is 100% peanuts. 

On Sunday morning, I was flipping through my new ‘A Taste of Vegetarian’ by Thermomix which has so many fun and healthy recipes, that I decided I had to try yet another ball recipe.  This one is called ‘Carob Bites’.  I haven’t really used carob much or been a fan of other recipes I tried it in.  This recipe mixes carob, tahini and honey for a really unique flavor.  Obviously many vegans will find issue with the honey, and rice syrup could be easily substituted.  The other issue is that it does have quite a bit of sweetener. I was a little confused by the recipe in that it instructs you to cut into squares and then roll it in this ‘LSA Plus’ mix.  I ended up making the squares into balls, and that made it a bit more time consuing, but for my last few treats, I rolled the squares in the LSA Plus mix, and that worked fine and would make this a really quick treat. The LSA Plus that you make to roll these in is highly recommended.  It makes a fair amount, and I have been keeping it in my fridge to add some goodness daily to smoothies, salads, cereals or whatever strikes my fancy.  I did not add the ‘pimento’ as in my mind that is marinated red peppers and is totally out of place.  However, I recognize that ‘piment’ is allspice in German, so that would make sense in this recipe (I will need to research this before I do my next batch).

As a final note, although I was inspired by my super duper Thermomix to make these recipes, I think any high powered blender   would do, and you should be able to figure out the recipes.  Just keep in mind that the speeds on the Thermomix go from 1-10 with 10 being the highest.  However, I wouldn’t blame you if you decided to buy a Thermomix to simplify your life:-)

 

 

Power Balls
A few of my own modifications, but very popular with the kids.

INGREDIENTS:

- 250 grams almonds
– 2 tablespoons flax seed
– 200 grams dates, stoned
– 1 orange zest
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
– 2 teaspoons cinnamon
– 6 tablespoons orange juice
– coconut for rolling

METHOD:

1. Put the orange zest, flax seed and almonds in the mixing bowl for 10 sec / level 10 to grind finely. (see note to use a whole orange instead)

2. Put the dates, vanilla and cinnamon in for 15 seconds / level 10 grind.

3. Add the orange juice and mix 10 seconds / level 3 mix.

4. For each 1 tsp of the ground mixture, make a ball of about 3 cm. Roll in coconut.

5. Keep in the refrigerator.

SOURCE: Thermomix

Quick-Energy Pickups

Modified to a lower sugar/vegan version.

INGREDIENTS:

- 1 cup peanut butter
– 1/3 cup rice syrup
– 1/2 cup powdered soy milk
– 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
– 1/3 cup coconut

METHOD:

1. Mix all ingredients except coconut.

2. Roll into bite-sized balls and roll balls in coconut.

3. Store in refrigerator until ready to eat.

SOURCE: Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls

Carob Bites

- 60 grams carob powder
– 220 grams tahini
– 290 grams honey
– 170 grams soy milk powder
– 2 tablespoons LSA Plus

METHOD:

1. Place all ingredients except LSA plus into the Thermomix bowl and mix for 10 seconds on speed 4.

2. Tip onto a clean work surface and press out into 2 cm thick rectangle. Cut into bite sized pieces, roll in LSA Plus and refrigerate.

SOURCE: A Taste of Vegetarian

LSA Plus

A great healthy topping for cereal or salads or mix in for smoothies.

INGREDIENTS:

- 1 measuring cup flax seed
– 1 measuring cup sunflower seeds
– 1 measuring cup almonds
– 1/2 measuring cup goji berries
– 1/2 measuring cups desiccated coconut
– 1/2 measuring cup pimento

(the measuring cup refers to the cup on the top of the Thermomix which is about 1/2 cup(?), but the exact amount is not really important.  The important thing is that you have the same measure of the first 3 ingredients and 1/2 of that measure for the second 3)
METHOD:

1. Using the measuring cup front eh top of the thermomix, place the flaxseed into the Thermomix and mill for 5 seconds on speed 9.

2. Add the remaining ingredients and set dial to closed lid position. Pulse the Turbo button twice for 1 second each.

SOURCE: A Taste of Vegetarian

Power Breakfast

Homemade, Healthy, Happy.: Raw Superfood Chia Porridge.

So my standard breakfast these days is either oatmeal or smoothie.  I enjoy both, and you can make each with a variety of fruits so it’s not always the same.  However, it is always nice to have more options.

I keep hearing about the wonders of chia and goji berries, so when I came across this recipe, I knew I had to try it.

Any google search on chia will bring up sites praising the seed.  In brief, it appears to be a great source calcium,  anti-oxidants, and omega-3s.  Additionally, it is supposed to curb hunger, intensify flavor and be a healthy gelatinous substitute for eggs and fat.  We haven’t been able to get them in Germany, so I haven’t really tried anything with them.  However,  my friend. Angela recently gave me a bag, so I have been adding it to smoothies.  Now I have discovered they are available at Amazon.de, so I am looking for more ways to use them.  In fact, I wouldn’t have tried this recipe if I didn’t have another source as it uses quite a bit of chia.

The Goji berry is well known by the Chinese and has been used for thousands of years there.  According to About.com, some of the benefits are that they:

  • protect the liver
  • help eyesight
  • improve sexual function and fertility
  • strengthen the legs
  • boost immune function
  • improve circulation
  • promote longevity

With benefits such as these, who wouldn’t want to use them?!  I have already been throwing them into my oatmeal, and my Taiwanese friend says you can even add them to soups!  Goji berries are also available at the Reformhaus stores in towns in Germany.  I have even seen monster bags of them – 1 kg perhaps?

So I was quite pleased to find this breakfast porridge with both chia and goji and figured I had to try it.  I don’t think you need a Thermomix as it is only a little mixing required.  The instructions have you mixing on a reverse blade which means the non-cutting side.  It would be equivalent to mixing by hand.  I was actually a bit surprised by this as I thought you would want to grind the chia like flax seeds.  I did not have any incaberries (don’t know anything about those) or raw cacao nibs.  I have never used the cacao nibs before, but I know they are available here and I will get some for the next time.  I did add all the suggested spices and let the mixture sit for the recommended 45 minutes. (The wait time is evidently necessary, but you can prepare it the night before.) Then I topped with bananas, almonds, ‘bromberries’ (whatever they are in English), and I had a hearty, healthy and tasty breakfast.

I loved the flavor, and I loved that I was eating so much healthy goodness.  The popping of the chia seeds is a bit surprising, but I thought it was fun.  Unfortunately, the breakfast was not a hit with my first 3 kids.  The 10 year old  and 5 year old wouldn’t even try it (but that is typical with most of my experiments), the 3 year old tried it, but wasn’t enthusiastic.  The one year old ate it just as well as any breakfast (not refusing, but not super enthusiastic either).  I don’t expect I will be making this too often because my kids weren’t too thrilled with it and because of the necessary wait time, but I would definitely like to work it in every couple of weeks, and I recommend you give it a try as well just to have so much healthy goodness!

Tasty Chocolate treats good enough to serve anyone

Chocolate Goji Berry Stars : Disease Proof.

So I have probably posted chocolately treats a few too many times, but I love me some chocolat!.  At any rate, I keep reading that chocolate itself is good for you, but all the fats and sugars that usually come with it are not.  In general, I have had great success with variation of date-nut mixtures with cocoa.  This recipe is the simplest of them yet.  There are only 3 ingredients and no cooking!  I didn’t even do the different mixing steps this recipe calls for as I simply threw all the ingredients in my Thermomix at once and it was ready to roll in about 15 seconds.

Now forming the little disks does take a bit of time, but honestly, the most time consuming bit is making decorative stars. You could skip this step and just mash into pan and then cut brownie style, but the disks with the stars look nice enough to serve to company, and Goji berries are supposed to be full of health benefits.

I took these disks to a brunch, and everyone seem to enjoy them and were surprised that there was no sugar.  The hostess even took some to serve to a passel of boys coming to her house that afternoon. So I highly recommend it as both a rich treat and something you can take to events.