Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living off the Land--Are we Pushing the Limits?

In recent years, North Americans are starting to become more aware of how much of the world’s precious resources we are consuming—but we have a long way to go. WorldWatch Institute states that, “the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These “ecological footprints” range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.” (

The idea of the respecting the earth’s limited resources is no new phenomenon. In the Bible, in Genesis 13:6 it tells the story of Abram and Lot separating. “But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great.” This happens again two generations later with Jacob and Esau. Genesis 36:7b stays, “Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock.” As the second verse points out clearly, a person’s amount of livestock was usually how one’s wealth was measured during this time. The solution to the problem at this time (roughly 2000 B.C.) was fairly simple, just move away so you can occupy more land. However we are beyond maxing-out our resources—we can’t move away because someone is already living there.

So what does this all have to do with food? This verse from the Bible shows that just like us, animals are consumers of the land, and the land can only support so much (it has limits!) Modern farming has pushed these limits by factoring farming and feeding animals unnatural diets instead of allowing them to graze on pasture or be free-run. Pushing these limits has had a big impact on the environment and our health.
Abram and Lot as well as Jacob and Esau respected the limits of the land and we need to follow suit. We should only have as much livestock as can live naturally off the land and that, in turn, limits our diets as well. Keep in mind you can feed more people off plant foods than animal foods, so reducing our animal product consumption helps reduce our use of the earth’s resources.

Another aspect to this idea of respecting the limits of the land is to eat local food. The cost of our food on the earth’s resources grows exponentially when we use oil to ship it half way around the world. But I won’t get into the details of local eating here…that deserves at least a post of it’s own! What I will say in the time being, is to find local food sources and buy what you can from them. Even if you can get 50% of your food locally, that’s good progress!

This post just scratches the surface of way to apply this verse, because they are so many ways in which we need to make changes so we are living sustainably. Please feel free to leave any ideas or comments about sustainability, it would be great o get a discussion going.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Recipe: Almond Cookies

As promised, here is another recipe that you can use soaked and dehyrdated nuts in. To see how to soak & dehdrate nuts see my post "Nuts over Nuts" This recipe for Almond (and other nut cookies) is great because it adds a source of protein to your cookies and does not contain white flour or white sugar. The arrowroot flour used is nutritious and easily digested (that’s why it’s used for babies – remember arrowroot cookies?) You can purchase arrowroot flour/starch at the Bulk barn or a health food store.

The following recipe for Almond cookies is taken directly from the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

Almond Cookies (makes about 18)

1 ½ cups crispy (soaked & dehydrated) almonds, preferably skinless
½ cups butter, softened or coconut oil
1 cup arrowroot or 7/8 cup bulgur flour
½ Rapadura**
½ tsp sea salt
grated rind of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
18 crispy almonds

Place almonds in food processor and process to a fine meal. Add remaining ingredients except 18 almonds and process until well blended. Form dough into walnut-sized balls and place on buttered cookie sheets. Press an almond into each. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes. After about 5 minutes in the over, press cookies down lightly with a fork. Let cool completely before removing to an airtight container. Store in refrigerator.

Variation: Raspberry Jam Cookies
Instead of using 18 almonds, use ¼ cup naturally sweetened raspberry jam. After 5 minutes in the over, press cookies down slightly, make an indentation and fill with raspberry jam.

Variation: Peanut Cookies
Follow the same instrUctions as with almond cookies, but replace with peanuts. Omit lemon zest and extract and add 1 more tsp vanilla extract.

** A note about Rapadura – Never heard of this before? That’s okay! I hadn’t until about a year ago. Rapadura is evaporated sugar cane juice. It is a much healthier alternative to white sugar because it contains the vitamins and minerals naturally found in the sugarcane, whereas almost everything nutritious is stripped from white sugar. You can find it at a health food store.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Recipe: Nut Butter

As promised, here is a recipe that you can use soaked and dehydrated nuts in. To see how to soak & dehydrate nuts see my post "Nuts over Nuts" This is a great alternative to store-bought peanut butter which contains hydrogenated oils and roasted nuts instead of soaked & dehydrated. And it's so tasty! It's great on a sandwhich, pancake, celery sticks or apple slices.

Recipe is taken from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (with my variations)

Nut Butter (makes 2 cups)
2 cups crispy (soaked & dehydrated) nuts such as peanuts, almonds or cashews
2/3 cup cold-pressed coconut oil (recipe suggest 3/4 cup, but I put in less)
2 Tbsp raw honey (can be omitted for a sugar-free version)
1 tsp sea salt

Place nuts and sea salt in food processor and grind to a fine powder. Add honey and coconut oil and process until "butter" becomes smooth. It will be somewhat liquid but will harden when chilled.

It is best to store in fridge to keep the oils in the nuts from going rancid, however it needs to be served at room temperature, so you'll have to take it out of the fridge a few hours before you want to use it. If you can't plan ahead that well, keep most of it in the fridge and take out what you think you'll use in a few days and leave it in the cupboard. Enjoy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Nuts over Nuts

Nuts make a great snack! First of all they are tasty, but they also are a good source of protein and nutrients and their fat content (healthy oils) keeps you feeling full. However, there a few things you should know about nuts before grabbing a jar of planter peanuts.

Most commercially available nuts come to us already roasted. This means that the good healthy oils are negatively affected, the B vitamin and mineral content is decreased (Elson M, Haas. Staying Healthy with Nutrition, p. 334), and the enzymes are destroyed. To add to this, they are roasted in more oil (often not very good oil) and a lot of salt is added. Intead of roasted, raw is a better choice—but even raw nuts require some preparation.

Nuts can be difficult for our body to digest because of the enzyme inhibitors that are present. Enzymes are a very important and often overlooked part of our food. Enzymes are used in our body to be a catalyst for chemical reactions, so that means without enzymes many reactions cannot occur. In terms of our digestion, we need the enzymes present in the food to be able to use the energy and nutrients available in our food. Fortunately, the enzyme inhibitors in the nuts can be neutralized by a simple soaking which provides the following benefits:
• Increased digestibility
• Increased nutrient availability and absorption
• Better taste, especially almonds and walnuts

To soak you nuts, use a glass jar or bowl and soak in warm filtered water, with some sea salt added. The nuts will expand when they absorb the water, so make sure there is extra room in your container. There are different recommendations for the length of soaking for each nut, but in general the harder the nut, the more soaking is required.

In the cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, the author suggests soaking 4 cups of nuts with 1 Tbsp sea salt (only 2 tsp salt for walnuts and pecans) for 7 hours or overnight and then dehydrating the nuts in a warm oven (150 F) for 12-24 hours (depending on the nut) until they are dried out. Although, you can eat them still wet, drying them out will give a texture close to that of a roasted nut, but without killing the enzymes, nutrients and oils.

Keep posted for some recipes with these delicious nuts in the next few days!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Malnourished: the East and the West

Over the past week or so I have been thinking about how many of the people in the world are malnourished (not in the strict sense of the word, but poorly nourished in one way or another)—but I’m not just thinking about the Third World countries or the Developing countries, I’m thinking about the Western Developed nations as well. One billion under-nourished and over one billion overweight, according to the article shown in the picture below.
This summer, my husband and I are planning to go to South Sudan on a mission trip (if all goes well). Part of the work I’ll be doing there is teaching on nutrition. As I’ve been thinking about what it will be like in South Sudan, I’ve been struggling over the question, “What am I going to be eating?” On one side of things, I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’m going to have to sacrifice having many of the nourishing foods I’d prepare for myself at home. However, on the other hand, I was thinking about how nearly 3 months away from the heavily processed food of North America might do my body good. In a sense, I’ve been thinking over what would be better for me, the one I have here (along with the processing, modifying, pasteurizing, additives, preservatives, hormones antibiotics, etc) or a simpler diet that is perhaps filling but lacking in nutrients.

How absurd it is, that we in the West have all the money or resources at our fingertips to eat healthfully but yet we make poor choices that leave us malnourished. As individuals we make poor choices, choosing refined foods devoid of nutrients rather than whole, natural foods—choices which drive the supply and demand of our food market. Or perhaps we make poor choices, spending money in unnecessary areas and buying the cheapest food possible. On a larger scale though, we have made poor choices as a nation, not standing up against the use of pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and much more in our deteriorating food supply. So many people in the world would love to have choice when it comes to food. It is devastating to think that so many people in the world are dying from malnourishment, in a sense, half from under-eating and half from over-eating/poor eating.

Where is justice when it comes to distribution of food? What can you do help? What choices can you make today?