July 30, 2013

It's Chia Pudding, Pet!

Remember chia pets? Chia seeds are sprouted on terra cotta animals and other shapes (Duck Dynasty's Willie is shown to the right) to form "hair" or "fur." They first came out in the 1970s and were more than likely the result of someone dropping a whole lotta acid.

Well apparently chia seeds, all on their own, are the newest craze. They're considered a super food (meaning they're nutrient dense). They're packed with omega-3 fatty acids, and contain lots of protein, fiber and antioxidents. To find out more about how awesome these little seeds are, check out this Super Seeds page.

Back in the beginning of July, we decided to put our son on a gluten free, casein free (GFCF) diet. He's had a runny nose ever since he got really sick two years ago and we're wondering if his stomach lining has never healed properly and he has a leaky gut. (I'll write more on leaky guts some day. It's really quite interesting and isn't really what you probably thought of when you first read the term.) I bought several cookbooks on Amazon, and checked out even more from the library, and I've been a cookbook reading queen for the past several weeks. I'd say the most important change we've made has nothing to do with removing gluten and casein from our diets. It seems like adding in more healthful foods (like lots and lots of veggies) has been the greatest boon. (And we were a pretty darn healthy family before. We grind our own whole grains, buy all organic produce, don't eat a lot of processed foods, etc. But as much as I knew veggies were important, they take time. Chopping time, mostly. And sometimes I just don't have the energy to chop. But that's where the blender comes in handy. More on that in another post also.)

Most of the books I've been looking through focus on an autism or ADHD diet (which is primarily gluten and casein free). Removing these two proteins from the diets of autistic kids has been found to make huge changes in how they interact with the world around them. It's like these kids have been imprisoned in a painful world and when they react people think they're just acting out, not that they're nutritionally screwed up inside. ... but more on that in another post. The key that I was talking about was veggies. And the cookbooks that focus most on veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds tend to be the vegan and raw cookbooks, which I've found the most fascinating in terms of recipes. The GFCF cook books are full of muffins and breads and pancakes and all sorts of crap I've been making all my life. Now I just need to make the same recipe with gluten free flours. But the raw and vegan cookbooks are full of things I've never seen or tried before. Suddenly a whole new world of cooking (or not) possibilities have opened up before me.

This chia pudding recipe is one of those delightful new recipes I've tried and found to be utterly delicious. Now that statement comes with a caveat. Between myself and my three children, one of my girls and I like the pudding. My son and other daughter ate a few bites and that was enough for them. So this clearly isn't a dish for everyone. But if you love tapioca pudding, then it's quite possible that you'll love this as well. And danged if this isn't literally the easiest pudding recipe I have ever come across in my life. So without further ado....

This recipe is from Going Raw: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet & Lifestyle Revolution at Home (which is the same book I pulled the zucchini hummus recipe from that I posted about recently). I checked this book out from the library, but I think I'm going to have to go buy myself a copy. There are sooo many recipes in here I want to try.

1/3 cup (50 g) chia seeds
2 cups (475 ml) nut milk (There's instructions to make your own nut milk given in the book. But I just used Blue Diamond's Almond Breeze almond milk.)
2 tablespoons (40 g) agave nectar or honey, or a pinch of stevia
dash of cinnamon for garnish (optional)

Throw the seeds, sweetener, and nut milk into a container. (I used a glass jar with a lid.) Stir/shake the mixture and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Now stir/shake it again and throw it into the refrigerator. Leave it there for 4 hours at a minimum. Garnish with cinnamon when you eat it. It'll keep for 3 days in the fridge (if it's not all gobbled up before then).

That's it. I threw everything into a jar, gave it a shake, went and did something else, came back and shook it again, threw it in the fridge and had chia pudding the next morning. Viola!

The texture is creamy and a tad bit slimy (like tapioca can be). You have to chew the seeds. I guess you could just swallow them, but I'll take a mouthful and spend several minutes chewing. I figure that gets me to eat less in the long run because I spent so much time chewing I have less time to keep stuffing my face. And I like the flavor as it's chewed.

Apparently these little seeds soak the water up like crazy, so it's hydrating to eat them once they've been soaked in liquid for 4 hours. But according to Judita Wignall, the author of the cookbook, you don't want to eat them straight or they'll actually suck the water out of you. (OK, she just said "dehydrate" but that sounds boring. It's when the water is sucked from your cells that you become a desiccated mummy and show up in a good scifi flick, right? So if you don't want to be a mummy in a horror/scifi episode of Fringe or something, soak the seeds before you eat them, K?)

July 29, 2013

The Ukrainians

Yesterday I got a chance to hang out with my Ukrainian cousins and their friends. Given that my dad is mentally long gone and my grandparents, aunties and uncles have passed on, they're really the only Ukie influence left in my life (if you don't count the Mad Heads as an influence. They're more like a drug. Although I guess that's where they get the phrase "under the influence", eh? OK, so we're just excepting them for now).

It was a delight to see them. They're on their way to Idaho, Yellowstone and the Tetons next. We all posed for a group photo. Unfortunately my sister wasn't able to make it.

From left to right: Ilya, Halya, me, Genia (my first cousin twice removed), my mom (a total non-Ukrainian, through no fault of her own), Ira (my second cousin once removed), Danny and Slavik.

July 25, 2013

Banana Oatmeal Cookies - GF/CF

This recipe started making the rounds on May 13th, 2013 on Facebook, as best I can figure. The earliest mention of it (using this image, at least) is from a post in a group called The Road to Healthy.

The first time I made this I made the recipe exactly as shown and baked some of the cookies, then I added an egg and baked the rest. I thought the egg would be an improvement but the eggless cookies were snapped up and the rest just lay around until I eventually ate them over a period of days. The egg made them a bit too custardy or something.

On the Facebook post people recommend all sorts of variations from adding chocolate chips or cranberries to throwing in granola or walnuts.

They're really easy to make and rather tasty.

July 23, 2013

Zucchini Hummus - GF/CF/Raw

This recipe is straight out of Going Raw: Everything You Need to Start Your Own Raw Food Diet & Lifestyle Revolution at Home, by Judita Wignall. I checked the book out from our local library and I've probably spent more time reading it than any of the other cookbooks that I've recently picked up. (I grabbed a bunch from the library but also ordered several from Amazon.) Judita is a gracious evangelist, encouraging her readers to try adding some raw foods to their diet, even if they don't dive in whole hog. (In other words, she doesn't beat her readers over the head with some sort of raw foods bible, preaching fire and brimstone if you don't totally convert to an all raw diet.)

Because chickpeas have to be cooked, Judita offers a hummus recipe with zucchini as the base. (Yay! One more way to use up all that zucchini from the garden.) Nathan made this hummus the same day that I brought the book home. It was absolutely delicious, but he wouldn't let me or Rob have more than a taste. So I grabbed a can of chickpeas, whipped up some of my own hummus, and sat down to eat that instead. I'll admit right up front for all to hear, Nathan's zucchini hummus beat the pants off of my chickpea hummus. Even Rob agreed.

According to the book, this makes 6 - 8 servings. I don't think that's even remotely accurate. Nathan ate his batch all himself and then wanted a little more and tried mine (at which point he decided he was full since mine wasn't as good). So I think you're lucky if this makes 2 servings. But I suppose it depends on how you're eating it. If you're making a spread for your falafel sandwiches, this should work for you. If you're about to sit down to an episode of The Mentalist and you want to munch on yummies dipped in hummus the whole time... and you're going to have to share your hummus with others, then plan on at least doubling the recipe.

1 cup (124 g) peeled and chopped zucchini
1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 cup (120 g) raw tahini paste
2 teaspoons minced parsley (We skipped this since we didn't have any on hand.)
Za'atar seasoning (dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds, and other spices), paprika, olive oil, and pine nuts for garnish  (Nathan used some dried oregano, resh thyme, paprika and olive oil and skipped the rest since we didn't have it all on hand).

1. Place the zucchini, lemon juice, oil, garlic, salt, paprika, cumin, and cayenne in a blender and process until smooth. Add the tahini and blend again until well incorporated.
2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the minced parsley. Garnish with the za'atar seasoning, paprika, olive oil, and pine nuts.
3. Chill for 2 hours. (We didn't manage this. It was eaten within 1 hour.)

According to the book, "Two tablespoons (30 g) of tahini contains almost 35 percent of your recommended daily calcium intake.

July 18, 2013

Quinoa and Black Beans - GF/CF

We recently started a gluten free, casein free diet so I've been modifying old recipes and looking for new ones. This is one that I really liked. It's hearty and easily modified to include extra veggies you might have lying around. It was also a breeze to make. I found the original recipe on AllRecipes.com.

The comments on All Recipes include suggestions of adding tomatoes, zucchini, and lemon juice. I think the next time I make it I might try adding some fresh red onion at the end, uncooked, just to add a little extra zip and crunch.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
 salt and pepper to taste
1 cup frozen corn kernels
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, and saute until lightly browned. Mix quinoa into the saucepan and cover with vegetable broth. Season with cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes, Stir frozen corn into the saucepan, and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until heated through. Mix in the black beans and cilantro.

You Don't Have to Be a "People Person" to Be an Extravert, as Sherlock Demonstrates

“You have a grand gift for silence, Watson. It makes you quite invaluable as a companion." 
-- Sherlock Holmes (by Arthur Conan Doyle)

Lately I've been thinking about Sherlock Holmes. I've read one of Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories, but the latest BBC iteration of the fellow has quite entranced our family. The way the character is portrayed in the show, and I think in Arthur Conan Doyle's books as well, really is a marvelous example of the fact that not all extraverts are "people persons." (If the first retort to well up in your brain is, "But Sherlock could't possibly be an extravert! He hates having to deal with people!" then this post is especially for you.)

I believe the Sherlock character is a brilliant portrayal of an ENTP. His primary mode of operation is extraverted intuition (Ne) which means his brain is constantly on what we might think of as "brainstorming mode." He's jumping from taking in what clothes a person is wearing, what perfume he might smell on them, what crumbs still sit in their tie or beard, the mud that's on the edge of their shoes and then suddenly he's thinking about the position that person had been in, where they were coming from and where they were going to, and before the average onlooker has taken in the fact that there are indeed crumbs in the fellow's beard, Sherlock has already perceived about a hundred other details and possibilities and connections and patterns. In other words, Sherlock is inputting data from the world around him at an energetic pace and rapidly finding the connections between the data that he's assimilating. He's taking in input (That means he's perceiving, not judging. So his primary mode of operation has to do with the second letter in the 4 letter MBTi algorithm which addresses perception.) and he's taking that input from a broad swath of the external world. (That means he's doing so in an extraverted manner as extraverts tend to be broad where introverts are deep. Sherlock isn't taking a small set of data and delving deeply into it. He's taking in dizzying amounts of data from everywhere, often including areas people overlook. The net he casts is very broad.)

Sherlock's secondary mode of operation fits in well with his primary as a means of sorting out which data is important and which isn't. That secondary mode is introverted thinking (Ti). Despite the fact that he's taking in copious amounts of input, he then weeds through it very logically, discarding what he believes to be irrelevant or impossible. This secondary function is a judging function, which means that it's what Sherlock uses to make decisions, or judgements, about things. His Ti works in lock step with his Ne as it discards data that it finds unimportant, then allows the Ne to go back to work sorting out connections between the input that's been perceived.

Notice that the character tends to be full of frenetic energy when there's a new case, new input to be received, a new crime scene to case. He's using all of his senses to take in information around him and find patterns or connections within it. He seems most calm when he's processing the information and weeding out the unimportant details. When a person is extraverting, they're relating primarily to the outside world, which comes out as energy and interaction. When a person is introverting, the action is all taking place inside of them. All of the energy is running through their brain and though the brain can be running at a jillion miles an hour, the outside observer doesn't see the activity, so it looks like the person has suddenly slowed down or is inactive.

I've seen discussions online regarding Sherlocks personality type and pretty much everyone agrees he's either ENTP or INTP. In other words, everyone agrees that he's an extraverted intuitive and that he's an introverted thinker. The real question is which of these functions is primary and which is secondary. I think a fairly solid argument could be made either way, and of could it might depend upon which Sherlock (from the original books, from a tv show, or from a movie) you're considering as one character might be much more an introvert than an extravert. But the BBC version seems indubidoubly to me to be Ne first and foremost. I've looked at several clips on YouTube in hopes of finding one that most succinctly portrays what I'm talking about, and I wanted to settle on the "I'm bored" scene (which is brilliant and certainly shows my point as Sherlock can't sit still even when he has nothing at all to do. He craves the mental activity that a good brainstorming experience gives him and he'll resort to shooting the wall if there's nothing else to keep him occupied.) but instead I decided to go with this short riding crop clip. It's rather repulsive, but it clearly shows Sherlock physically interacting with the world around him in an effort to correctly sort data he's collected. In other words, if Sherlock was primarily an introvert, he would have found medical books with information about the kind of damage that a riding crop could do. But instead he collects a corpse and tests the riding crop out, quite physically, in order to collect data.

The next time you watch the show, pay attention to how much Sherlock moves compared to Watson (an introvert). Sherlock waves his arms around, steeples them in front of himself, jumps and glides and moves all over the crime seen while Watson just stands there, a bit flustered, wondering how he can possibly save a situation that he feels Sherlock has entirely screwed up socially.

Which brings me back to the fact that Sherlock is seriously not a people person. He really doesn't like people much and he frequently puts his desire for input and his cutting decision making skills far before social niceties. However, his third function is extraverted feeling, which usually seeks peace and harmony between people. As a third function, however, not only is it not very strong, but it's also a minion to the two higher functions. So when it suits, Sherlock can be charming, or he can ease negotiations or calm people down. But it's not because he truly wants people to be charmed or at ease or calm. It's entirely because it aids either his extraverted intuition (enabling him to take in and make connections with more types of data than he might otherwise have been able to do) or it assists his introverted thinking which might need help in better analyzing a situation correctly.

When people use the term "extraverted" they often associate it with being very people focused, the life of the party, hungry to meet and hang out with crowds of new people. There are extraverts that are like that. They're extraverted feelers (Fe). But there are also three other kinds of extraverts - extraverted sensors (crave new experiences), extraverted thinkers (love to check things off their to do list), and extraverted intuitives (like Sherlock). So the next time you talk about folks who are extraverted, don't give Ne's, Te's, and Se's short shrift. Recognize that extraversion relates to being outwardly focused (in some way or other). Some focus on people, some on actions, some on accomplishments and some on ideas and connects, but they're all focusing on the external.

Extravert. External. It's elementary.