Nutrient Dense

November has shaped up to be quite a busy month.  Life was plenty busy already, so I decided to add another major activity into the mix.  My sister and I have teamed up to film a video called “The Well Fed Family.”    We have grand visions of turning this into a series, but for now it is just one video designed to show people how to make bread products of all kinds as healthy as possible.  That would include grinding grain into flour yourself, as well as soaking the flour in order to make it more digestible and nutritious.  In the video we demonstrate 6 different recipes, including yeast bread and quick bread.  Of course we have no experience with film, but we were blessed to have a professional do all the filming.  Jonathan Reichel of LightSpeed Productions agreed to handle our project for us.  The dvd will hopefully be available sometime in the next 3 or 4 months.  Here are some pictures of our big venture:

That’s me on the left, and my sister Lee on the right.  And yes, those glasses are full of delicious raw milk fresh from a local farm!  This project was a big family effort and we all had fun getting together.  But hopefully the time and effort put into it will bless many other people as well.

I mentioned that we wanted to show people how to make their breads even more nutritious.  But breads are not the only food that could – or should – be more nutritious.  Every food you eat could be, and should be, more nutritious.  The perfect phrase for this is “Nutrient Dense.”  You can take almost any meal and transform it from “nutrient less” to Nutrient Dense.  This simply means packing as much nutrition as possible into every bite.  You do this using ingredients God created, as close as possible to the way he created them.  You want every bite to count for something good for your body.  After all, the food you are eating needs to do more than please the taste buds and comfort the psyche.  It has to keep you healthy for the rest of your life.

Don’t let this overwhelm you.  By changing a few ingredients, you can make your favorite recipes healthy, or healthier, and definitely more delicious.  Just today my sister mentioned how she had substituted a whole food for a processed food and how much more delicious the results were.  As I was planning our Thanksgiving menu I realized that over the years that is exactly what we have been doing.

One of my family’s favorite holiday meals is sweet potato casserole.  The original recipe calls for canned sweet potatoes and a can of evaporated milk.  Canned sweet potatoes are actually packed in corn syrup, so we no longer buy them.  Instead we discovered that it is very easy to use fresh sweet potatoes, which are readily available this time of year.  And instead of the canned milk, we discovered that whole milk or even a high quality cream yield the same results.  Our recipe does not use marshmallows but rather has a fabulous sweet topping that uses brown sugar, cinnamon, and chopped pecans.  Cinnamon and pecans are already whole foods, but the brown sugar is not.  We just substitute Sucanat (or Rapadura), which is an unrefined sugar so it actually has vitamins and minerals in it.  This sweet potato casserole recipe uses a lot of butter, in the potatoes and the topping.   It also uses eggs.  Butter and eggs are very nutritious whole foods, so now instead of cringing when we add them, we smile real big and say, “Bless our hearts!”  These changes have turned an already yummy food into something even more delicious.  And now, even more nutritious.

Stuffing is another favorite food that can easily be made into a nutrient dense food.  The packaged stuffing may taste good but the ingredients read like a chemist’s lab.  Start with some good bread – we use a combination of our homemade yeast bread and homemade cornbread – crumbled up.  Mix in some sautéed onion and celery.  Add in fresh herbs and a little chicken stock.  These are all whole, healthful ingredients and they will make up into a delicious dish that will provide great nutrition for your body.  If you need a recipe, consult the old Better Homes and Gardens plaid cookbook – there is a great recipe in there.

Often, you just have to make things yourself if you want truly nutrient dense foods.  Chicken stock is a great example. The stuff from the store is just a waste of your money.  When you make it at home, following the instructions from my post last fall, you’ll not only get an incredibly delicious stock but you’ll also get an incredibly nutrient dense stock that will truly nourish your body by strengthening bones and building immunities.  A soup with homemade chicken stock as the base will turn the most finicky eater into a soup lover.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Pasta e Fagioli

Chicken Noodle Soup

Salad dressings are another simple way to turn a health-destroying food into an enzyme-rich, nourishing food.  Recipes are in abundance on the web.  For a delicious vinaigrette, start with  the best quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil you can find, and pair it with a high quality vinegar such as Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar or BioNaturae’s Balsamic Vinegar.  Or find a recipe on the web for ranch dressing that doesn’t use powdered milk.

Use the best quality buttermilk or kefir you can find as the base.  Suddenly, the guilt of drowning your salad in dressing is gone because you know that instead you’ve got a very nourishing food.  Add in some fresh raw garlic to give it an even bigger punch – taste-wise and health-wise.

So what about desserts?  Those can be nutrient dense too.  It is the holiday season and while we all know sugar is definitely not a health food we’re still going to indulge in some sweet treats.  But there are ways you can make enjoying desserts a healthier, more nutritious experience.   First, instead of buying the traditional white sugar, make sure you purchase organic sugar.  It isn’t necessarily healthier, but the organic certification means that you will not be contributing to or consuming genetically modified sugar cane.  Second, wherever brown sugar is called for in a recipe, substitute it with Sucanat and you will actually add vitamins and minerals to your dessert.  Third, make sure that your sweet treats always use healthy fats such as lard (from grassfed pigs) or butter, and healthy eggs (locally raised on pasture if possible).  And finally, eliminate the corn syrup all together.  Sometimes you can use brown rice syrup as an acceptable substitute for corn syrup.

 

How about trying something new such as baked apples, using maple syrup as your sweetener?  Baked apples are easy enough that you don’t need a recipe.  Just choose a good baking apple, enough to feed your family.  You can peel and slice them, toss them with cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon juice, then dot them with butter and drizzle them with real maple syrup.  You can add pecans and raisins if you like.  Then bake low and slow until they’re tender and smelling great.  Serve them with a drizzle of fresh raw cream or low-heat pasteurized cream.  Or, make your own whipped cream by simply whipping cream in your mixer, adding a taste of honey and vanilla if desired.  You will have a delicious, and nutritious, dessert. 

 

Apples are in season right now so that makes them the perfect choice for a fall dessert.  I like eating foods in season.  I sense that that is what God actually intended for us to be doing in the first place. At our local farmer’s market fresh apples of all kinds are in abundance. Here is a picture of some baked apples I made recently, coring them and peeling them about 1/3 of the way down then stuffing them with a fabulous mixture of butter, almonds, spices, and maple syrup.  The incredible smells coming from the kitchen tantalized the entire family for hours!  I would never have given these a chance as a child, yet my kids gobbled them up and begged for more!

One of my favorite discoveries is nutrient dense ice cream.  Yes!  Ice cream that is nutrient dense!  The recipe is in the back of my favorite cookbook, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, in the section “Sweets for Kids of All Ages.”  This is an amazingly delicious, nutritious, and easy recipe.  Especially if you have an ice cream freezer that doesn’t require ice or salt, but rather a freezer container that you store in the freezer when not in use.  I have some freezing right now to enjoy with our Thanksgiving dessert.  You need 3 farm fresh egg yolks, 3 cups of cream (preferably raw but never ultra-pasteurized), ½ cup maple syrup, 1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder or non-GMO cornstarch, and 1 Tablespoon real vanilla.  Just beat the eggs with a mixer, then beat in everything else, and pour it into the ice cream freezer.  One time I added a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon – so very gourmet!  Just think – if you make this ice cream then you will get loads of vitamin A and D, calcium, and a plethora of other vitamins and minerals.  Everyone wins!

I confess, I get giddy thinking about this ice cream!

I hope that the wheels of your mind are turning as you consider how to transform your meals into nutrient dense meals.  The foods God created are all nutrient dense.  The foods that man has created are all nutrient-less. For me, there is great freedom in the knowledge that I can indulge in decadent-tasting sweets that will nourish my body.  We are not slaves to the conventional way of eating that robs us of our health. And it is a great comfort to know that there is an abundance of foods available to us that will truly heal our disease.  This is not a salvation issue but it is definitely good news.  Our God is a great giver, and he has truly given us good things to eat.  Let us honor and glorify him in return, giving thanks as we partake of his bounty.