Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sesame Ginger Snaps: Using your nut and seed grinder

Announcement: Your days of granola-resembling cookies are over. Time to get a seed and nut grinder (you can pick them up cheaply on amazon). My Cuisinart spice, nut and seed grinder rocks my socks, and I take good care of it.

Tips for using a seed and nut grinder:

1. Don't put excessively hard things in there (like wood, or polypore mushrooms, or even cinnamon sticks). The motors on these things are easily burnt out, so treat it like a kitten.

2. Only put 1-2 tablespoons of material at a time. It grinds quickly, so just do large amounts in batches.

3. Always grind right before you use for maximum nutrient retention and flavor.

4. NEVER use it for coffee, because everything after that will taste like coffee for eternity. Be strict and relentless about this rule, and your grinder will last you.

I love to grind almonds, sesame seeds, flax seeds (up to 3 TBSP in a batch), and chia seeds (up to 3 TBSP in a batch). These can be added into any cookie recipe.

Cookies are a great place to use seeds and nuts because of their texture. They can be chunky, or crunchy. Personally, I dislike cookies with whole seeds or nuts in them. The seeds especially often come out undigested. Grinding them right before baking preserves their "wholeness," but also makes them more palatable (you won't feel like you're eating "health food"), and more digestible (you won't find whole flax seeds at the other end). Finally, because seeds are so packed with nutrition (much more so than any store bought flour), it makes the cookies WAY more nutrient dense.

Sesame Ginger Snaps (Gluten Free)

Dry ingredients:
2.5 CUPS gluten free flour blend + ground seeds and nuts
      More than half of this can be replaced with ground nuts and seeds. Here is the mix that I used.
      2 TBSP Flax seeds (or Chia)
      3/4 CUP freshly ground sesame seeds (lightly toasted or not)
      1/2 CUP ground almonds (fine or rough, depending on your preference)
      remaining: gluten free flour mix bought at the store
1/4 TSP salt
2 TSP baking soda
1 TSP corn starch (optional, though flax seeds offer a binding action without the "corn" factor)
2 TSP ground Ginger
1/2 TSP ground cloves
1 TSP ground cinnamon

Wet ingredients:
1 CUP (or a little less) raw cane sugar/ evaporated cane juice/ unbleached sugar
3/4 CUP soft coconut oil, or other veggie shortening (use pastured butter if you do that sort of thing)
1/2 CUP unsulphered molasses
1 large egg (non-factory farmed eggs are always better)

Some extra whole toasted sesame seeds to dip cookies in

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk together.

3. Combine sugar, oil, and molasses together and stir thoroughly. Use an electric mixer if you have it (I don't, so I just whisk with a fork). Add the egg and mix again.

4. Combine wet and dry, stir/ mix until throughly combined. Put 1.5" balls on a baking sheet, dipping the tops in freshly toasted sesame seeds.

5. Bake for 13 mins.

6. Try not to eat the whole batch in one day.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Feet: A user's guide

Feet have such a stigma for being disgusting, improper and dirty. Most people just want to cover them up and pretend they don't exist. In Thailand, it is considered rude to point you feet at people, and it is rude in many countries to show the bottoms of your feet to other people. During the last supper, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Foot washing is a religious rite observed in many christian sects. It represents humbling yourself before the person whose foot you wash. Also, it is customary for muslims to wash their feet before prayer as a way of cleansing, which is mentioned in the Koran.

Detoxification through feet:

Your feet are a major detoxification organ. Smelly feet are a sign that your body is ridding itself of toxins. Try a detox regimen if you have stinky feet. You may find that once you've helped your body rid itself of the toxins, the stink will clear.  In addition, a general may to steward good foot (and general) health is to be barefoot as much as possible. Many people wear shoes and socks constantly, but this stifles the natural "breathing" of the feet, and can inhibit detoxification mechanisms.

I have heard stories of radiation therapy patients having their feet turn black, as all the junk is expelled through them. Imagine the bottom of a jar of salad dressing: All the bits go to the bottom. Your feet at the lowest point on your body. This is one reason why elevating your feet can be healing for many different foot conditions, including edema and sprains.

Onions and Feet

One folk remedy that I've read quite a lot about plays on this tendency of pushing yucky stuff our through your feet. You take thick slices of fresh onion (1/2" thick), put them in the bottom of cotton or wool socks and leave them overnight, or on all day in the case of a bedridden patient. Change the onions after they darken or dry out. This has been known to prevent infection of whatever is "going around," and also quicken the recovery of someone afflicted with a flu or fever. The reason onions are used is twofold: they are highly antibiotic, and they absorb bacteria and toxins like a sponge. For this reason, you should not leave cut onion exposed in your fridge, as it could absorb some sketchy bacteria.

Imagine the onion farmers during the great plague of Europe, sleeping with onions strapped to their feet. Legend has it that those people were among the few not infected. Next time you've got a serious gripe, give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is your feet smell like onions, which for some people would be an improvement.

Therapies for the feet

Many cultures and groups traditionally have foot-centered therapies. In Chinese reflexology, The bottom of the foot acts as a representation of the whole body. In other words, the big toe is the head and the heel is your feet. Various portions of the middle of the foot represent organs. A reflexologist may be able to tell what parts ail you by where you experience pain upon pressing. They will then work points with acupuncture or acupressure, until an improvement is made. This works much like whole-body acupuncture. To work with this idea at home, give yourself foot massages, pressing on points that "seem right" (for lack of a better word). Observe any results or feelings.

Hydrotherapy (aka soaking your feet in some hot or cold water) is an ancient method to relax, detoxify and tonify. It's as simple as dipping them in a creek for a few minutes on a hike (notice how amazing they feel), or preparing a tub of hot or cold water and soaking them while relaxing on the couch. On some mornings, I fill the bathtub with cold water and stand in there for a minute or so. I sometimes even sit on the side and read for a bit. This helps me start my day off on the right foot. Hot foot baths are also beneficial, and better if you're under the weather. As a general but not all-encompassing rule, avoid cold baths for the sick, though tepid water may serve a feverish person.

Should I walk barefoot?

The idea that walking barefoot (or with minimal shoes) is beneficial to your feet and to your whole anatomy is becoming more accepted as fact. Even Nike are attempting to make shoes that are like being barefoot.

There are two basic problems with highly cushioned shoes: they don't allow for the natural bending and compensation of side-to-side motion, and they create a detrimental heel-toe strike. In other words, cushioned shoes allow muscles to go soft, and force an inordinate amount of weight to be improperly stacks on the wrong joints. Many people now believe that running shoes are the reason for the enormous rise in running injuries that has occurred since the introduction of the cushioned shoes by Nike.

So my verdict is: barefoot walking/ running is great given that you striking with the ball of the foot (which should naturally occur with bare feet), and you don't step on anything sharp. Most people will need to "season" their feet, and eventually develop callouses to make it more comfortable. Walking barefoot on soft grass while engaging the gripping motion of the toes is a good place to start if you are timid about it. I highly recommend anyone with bunions to try a little barefoot walking out. There is a large movement of people with a lot of experience. The Barefoot Runners Society is one of several groups world wide.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Toasted Sesame Treats

Sesame seeds rock my socks, and they should rock yours, too. If you are sesame lover, your love is well founded, for this is an ancient-hailed healing food. They are incredibly rich in minerals, which are a valuable asset in a time of depleted soils, and thus mineral-poor foods. At the moment, I am skeptical of esteeming specific foods because of some miraculous chemical compound that's going to cure you of cancer. However, sesame scores high on the "awesomeness" scale in my universe. Have faith in your food and it will serve you well.

On the holy quest for healthy snack foods, I have come upon a fated, yet ancient combination of sesame and honey. These snacks are addictive, so be careful you don't eat the whole batch, as you'll most certainly be sad the next day. Please keep these refrigerated (to keep them fresh and hard), though feel free to put some in a bag and take 'em on your hike. Note that I use coconut oil because of its tastiness and its ability to harden when cold. However, feel free to experiment with other oils, such as olive.

Toasted Sesame Treats
2 cups raw sesame seeds (whole or hulled)
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 pinches of salt

1. Toast the sesame seeds. To do this, I use a big cast iron pan, and put all the seeds in it, dry. I turn the heat to medium high (high can burn them quickly), and stir constantly. You will hear them pop. Do not leave them at this point. When you start to get the aroma of sesame, and the seeds darken slightly, you can stop at any time. I like the toasted flavor, so I toast mine a little extra.

2. Grind the sesame seeds. I use a nut grinder, but you could use a food processor, a food mill, a mortar and pestle, or whatever means you have. Roughly ground is fine. I find if I don't grind sesame seeds, they pass right through and it's like I never ate them at all.

3. Add oil, honey and salt into a saucepan on medium heat. Heat until melted. Add all the ground sesame and stir throughly. Heat the whole thing for a few minutes on med-low. The "dough" may seem a little dry and non-coherent, but it will stick once refrigerated.

4. Flatten the dough on a piece of parchment paper on a flat surface (place, baking sheet). Press down and shape with a flat spoon until it's about 1/4- 1/2" thick.

5. Put it in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

6. Get it out and cut into small squares (the size of candies). Store in an airtight container in the fridge.