Friday, January 27, 2012


Image Credit.
Have you ever heard of sprouting?  I've been doing it for a couple of months, and I'm loving it.  I was lamenting the loss of our garden and local produce for the winter, and now I am growing edible sprouts in my own kitchen!

And it is easy.

What you need:
-a sprouting lid*
-a mason jar (that the sprouting lid fits on)*
-something to sprout (I have only done beans so far)

*There are other sprouting vessels/mediums - bags, trays, cups, etc - but this is what I am using.

How-to:1.  Soak the seeds (read up on that specific seed for recommended soak time), potentially changing out the water once or twice

2. Rinse, swish, and drain as often as you think of it for a few days - until your sprout gets to your desired size (the flavor changes).  You must have the container continuously draining to prevent a pool of water in the bottom.  I prop my jar upside down in a bowl.

3.  When they are your desired size, let them dry to the touch, then refrigerate and use within 2 weeks.  Rinse before use, as you would any other produce.  See safety information below for many links so you can decide for yourself whether you will eat them raw or always cook them first.

A few notes:
Buy organic seeds that are intended for consumption.  And do a little reading up on each seed you intend to sprout.  This has been my favorite source for figuring out what I can simply eat, what must be cooked, and other tips on sprouting different sorts of seeds.

What about safety?
This is going to be very link heavy.  This is the part of this post that has caused it to take weeks to put together.

Seed suppliers and sprout growers maintain that avoiding "sproutbreaks"  (E. Coli and Salmonella, to be specific) is all about starting with high-quality, organic seeds and then handling them properly and according to organic growing guidelines.  They seem to want badly for everyone to have access to the nutrition of sprouts, and the ease of sprouting.  And no one is arguing otherwise - sprouts are jam-packed with nutrition, and they are a fabulously easy way to eat fresh, home-grown produce year-round.

But.  Salmonella and E. Coli are hardy, dangerous buggers.  And any time you are consuming a food raw, you are at risk of such food-borne illnesses.  We could argue over whether organic farming techniques lower risk; we can argue over whether decades of factory farming and feeding livestock on things other than grass has caused an increase in E. Coli and/or salmonella.

Neither will change the fact that you will never have zero risk.This isn't the case only for sprouts (though the growing conditions for sprouts do overlap with the growing conditions of food-borne illnesses, so they are a riskier food).  Any time you eat a raw salad, you are at risk.  Any time you eat undercooked meat, you are at risk. 

This word "risk" is something we all need to assess for ourselves, though.  Every time we get in a car, we accept a degree of risk.  Every day we are alive, we run the risk of dying.

To lower your risk quite a bit with sprouts, cook them.  If you are comfortable with the increased risk of eating them raw, eat them raw. 

To sum up the varying viewpoints on how much risk is too much risk, and to attempt to let you make up your own mind with informed are a bunch of links (I will attempt to note where the quality of the source is questionable).

  • has a great summary here.
  • This is a somewhat questionable source, simply because there are no citations, but she does offer some possible alternatives to cooking, to decrease risk of food-borne illness.  I would do some research into these methods and their efficacy.  Also, the list of sprouts that should not be eaten raw includes sprouts (like lentils) that I cannot find anywhere else as inadvisable to eat raw, and she does not say why those shouldn't be eaten raw or offer a source to find more information.  (Reasons to definitely not eat sprouts raw are things like kidney beans having a toxin that needs to be cooked away, or black beans not being digestible if they aren't cooked.)
  • The International Sprout Growers Association (ISGA) would, of course, like to decrease the risk (some would say they are only interested in looking like they are decreasing risk and that sprouting is simply inherently too risky.)
  • This "savvy vegetarian" offers ways to minimize the risk of raw sprouts.  She also claims that there is no more risk from sprouts than any other raw vegetable, but that is simply not true because of the overlap of growing conditions for sprouts and bacteria.
  • This is a succinct and thorough answer to the question of whether home sprouting is a safe alternative to purchasing sprouts.  This one is more succinct but much less thorough.

My choiceI have been eating them raw, though I am not generally consuming them in huge quantities.  However, after my latest round of reading up, I am planning to eat them cooked instead.  Also, I'm minimizing my risk by only growing them in the winter - our house is too hot and humid in the summer, plus we have less-risky produce available locally. 

My impressions*:

Chickpeas - These were terrible at first, and then got better (less bitter).  The Beast never liked them, but I thought they had a nice nutty flavor.

Lentils - these are my favorite so far!  They have a little bit of a bite, just like plain ol' cooked lentils.
Mung Beans - these are the probably best-known sprout, frequently used in Chinese food.  I found them to be a bit bitter, but The Beast really likes them.

Peas - so bitter.  I sprouted them until they grew their cotyledons, and they were still bitter.  Ick.

*I will keep this updated as I try more sprouts!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chocolate yogurt

Quick, easy, healthy, three ingredients.  I almost feel silly sharing this as a recipe, but it is such a go-to for a treat around here!  Bean loves it, and it was actually the first chocolate he ever ate.  And A-Train gobbles it up, too. 

It is creamy and tangy-sweet.  You can adjust the sweetness with more or less honey.  I like quite a bit of cocoa powder.

Chocolate with no refined sugar, no high-fructose corn syrup.

Take some yogurt.  Add some honey.  Now some cocoa powder.  Stir and enjoy!

I have also been known to add some wheat germ.  I'm told that's weird...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Is the natural way the better way?

I've called this a "natural living" blog at times.  But it's not, entirely.  I'm grateful for technology.  I very much use modern technology to better my life (why hello, lovely Internet on which I blog!).

So, no.  I don't think the natural way is always the better way.  We have to balance the way our bodies have evolved and what they have evolved to need and expect (the nature side) with the world we actually live in (which is continuously moving away from natural with everything from the surfaces we walk on to the food we eat).

This is why I consider myself "contentedly crunchy."  I'm not "committedly crunchy" or "conformistly crunchy."  Or any other words that alliterate with crunchy.  I'm just seeking a balance (whatever that means and aren't we all?), and have somehow arrived more at the "natural" end - but I still love my computer, take modern medicines on a regular basis, see doctors, vaccinate my kids, and love and respect those who have found their balance in other ways.

And, as I once heard it put:  Mother Nature will fuck you up.

Nature is not kind. 

I once read a discussion amongst breastfeeding mothers that started with the question "how many babies would you have to have before you would formula feed?" The responses ranged from "I would never formula feed!  I would get donor milk if I couldn't make enough milk!"  to my personal favorite "if my body could grow that number of babies, I could make enough milk." 

Not long before reading that discussion, I had been talking to a dog breeder who breeds dachshunds and doberman pinschers.  The previous time I'd been to see her, she'd had a teensy doberman puppy who was being nursed by a dachshund mother.  Apparently the doberman had one more puppy than she had teats, and (as is apparently the way it always goes) picked out the runt and refused to nurse it.  She cast it aside to die.  Nature and evolution aren't about a mother running herself into the ground in order to save every baby or give it the absolute best she possibly can within her means - it's survival of the fittest.

And so that puppy was nursed by another mother (not donor milk, but cross nursing!).  And it still died.

Thank goodness human "runts" and high order multiples have other options. 

Thank goodness we don't always have to bow under the will and whim of Mother Nature.

Photo: Wonderlane on Flickr.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

On that potty training goal...

Yesterday I got A-Train up from his nap and his diaper was dry, so I sat him on the potty.  He immediately peed, then stood up.  I was pretty sure he hadn't emptied his bladder (it wasn't much pee), but whatever - I was planning to have us hanging out in the kitchen for a bit, and it's no big deal to clean up puddles in the kitchen.  So I had him diaper-free.

He peed so frequently that every time I went to put away the rag I used to clean up one puddle, I returned to find another puddle.  He was definitely taking note each time by looking down quizzically and investigating the source of these puddles.  Step one in my mind is just that he's aware of what he's doing when he pees and poops. 

When I returned from putting a rag away to find that he had pooped on the floor, I decided diaper-free time was done for the day.  Wonder if A-Train is on-board for my 2012 goals!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Toddlers in the kitchen...helping

I wondered what sorts of activities you readers used to occupy your toddlers while you are working in the kitchen. I am often or washing dishes.

A-Train usually wants to be at the counter doing something - or doing what I am doing. He has a thing for water and knives right now.

I put him on a step stool with food and drink (as pictured); give him a fork and fruit and let him practice; give him a tub with a little water, a rag, and some plastic dishes (messy, but it's it's a clean mess...).

This is a fun and sometimes trying age (15 months) with A-Train. He is alllllmost verbal and so frustrated when we don't understand or comply with his wishes. He is also so sweet. There are kisses and snuggles and clinging and whining. And signing and roaring and calling the dog and asking to nurse and chasing the dog and emulating his brother and actually now playing with his brother!  (And there is hitting and crying and pushing and pinching and...."Hey, Mom!  A-Train is <insert thing he shouldn't be doing here>!")

"I shook the hand of the enemy."

I was in tears with this 90-year-old WWII veteran.  You should click over and watch (I can't embed it).

The power of music, indeed.
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