"Let food be thy medicine ..."

" ... and medicine be thy food." -Hypocrites

I've always been interested in this concept. And really, that's where my cooking-from-scratch journey began. I wanted to understand the process that my food went through, and eliminate as much synthetic processing that went into it as possible.

See, when I was a kid, I just loved to eat. I was 5'9" by the time I was in 8th grade, and "big boned" (except I am quite literally ...) and I thought there was something wrong with me. I felt like food was my enemy and also my best friend. And then when I was a newlywed, I was so excited to cook for someone (not to mention he loved being cooked for ...) so I cooked delicious food--not paying attention to the cost. Which was my weight. Then I had babies. And when I have babies I gain weight. I'm sure my friends reading this chuckle to themselves because they know exactly what I mean when I say I gain weight. Almost every pregnant woman gains some weight. Not me. I gain SERIOUS weight. And like I mentioned, I wasn't petite to begin with.

But I've always had otherwise healthy pregnancies and deliveries and recoveries, and thank goodness I've lost all of the weight fairly easily. And really, I've always had pretty good overall health, which I think is a blessing and miracle considering what little I knew about nutrition. But I guess with each child my concern for health became bigger.  I started to realize that weight is only a symptom of health, not the definition. And with 2 little girls to raise, I had to figure that out fast before the world told them otherwise. As a foodie I am determined to teach my children to respect food. I want them to learn to love and appreciate delicate and robust flavors alike, to recognize them, to cherish them, to savor them. But I also wanted to provide them with wholesome, nutritious food. I want them to live long, healthy lives. And I think it's my duty to start that process right for them.

So how does this food-addict do that? I had to re-teach myself what food meant to me first. Sure, it's a beautiful source of joy and comfort. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be me. And I wouldn't feel human. But I've slowly started to realize that health and flavor don't have to disagree with each other. That's not to say I don't enjoy a decadent dessert once in a while (you know, the kind that has absolutely no nutritional value to speak of?), but I actually have learned to ENJOY it. And then stop while I'm still wanting. And don't bother when I don't enjoy it. It's like Anton Ego says in the Disney movie Ratatouille: "If I don't love it, I don't swallow." (Of course there are circumstances where manners come into play, but you get my point.)

Some of my research has led me to sprouting. It's fun, easy, my kids can help, and packed with nutrition. (here and here and here you'll find good links to explain why sprouting is so good for you) So it was a good place to experiment. We made raw, sprouted chickpea hummus. And devoured it. And made it again and again.
I'm not saying I'm suddenly a nutritionist, but this has been a journey for me. I don't think I'll ever stop loving a good buttery dinner roll or sweet and rich panna cotta, but I'm really enjoying the challenge of coming up with delicious food that my body (and my family members bodies) will thank me for.

Raw, Sprouted Chickpea Hummus
makes about 2 cups
* keep in mind that this is including soaking and sprouting time, so it'll take up to 4 days from start to finish. But once the beans are sprouted, it really only takes about 15 seconds to pull together
** I also recommend splurging a little and getting the highest quality ingredients that you can afford. This recipe relies so much on the depth of flavor of each individual ingredient because there are so few. So don't skimp!
*** You'll need either a sprouting jar and lid or some way to rinse and strain the beans while sprouting. I bought these lids for a standard wide mouth canning jar at my local food co-op for $3.50 total, but you can also find good deals elsewhere. I've seen people use their usual metal canning jar rings and cut a piece of metal netting to fit inside. Or you could use a double layer of cheesecloth and just put a rubber band around it. (But for simplicity's sake, I'm going to describe the process using a simple caning jar and sprouting lid I purchased) Be creative, do your research, it's so easy to start!

1.5 cups dried (preferably organic) chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans)
2~3 tablespoons tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon (keep the other half handy just in case)
1 large clove of garlic, minced
1/2 t coarse salt (or more to taste)
4~5 tablespoons good quality extra virgin olive oil

  1. spread the dried chickpeas on a large flat surface and pick through for any tiny rocks or debris. Then place the beans in a large canning jar, big enough to hold at least double the size of the beans. Fill the jar with cool, filtered water. Let soak for 8-12 hours.
  2. Once the beans look plumped and no longer dry and hard, put your sprouting lid on and drain the water out. Let the jar rest upside-down at about a 45° angle out of direct sunlight. Rinse and drain 3-4 times a day until you start to see sprouts. This will take a couple of days. I usually stop growing them when the sprouts are still quite short. Use immediately or refrigerate and use within a few days. (if refrigerating, you'll want to rinse them once a day still)
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and salt and pulse to combine. Add the chickpeas and let run until it starts to clump up. Add some clean water, 1 tablespoon at a time just until the beans no longer clump up. They will not be smooth yet. With the motor running, slowly pour in the olive oil. Continue to let the food processor run until the hummus is smooth. This may take a while because these beans are not cooked. If you need to, add a little bit more water, a little bit at a time. Add more salt or lemon to taste.
  4. Serve with crisp vegetables, pita, feta, and herbs. Enjoy!

family favorite

My Aunt Carolyn is a fabulous cook. Fabulous. And she is famous for her incredible dinner rolls. They are tender and yeasty and sweet and buttery and fluffy and everything you want in an old fashioned American-style dinner roll. But better.
 We have spent Thanksgiving with our dear friends in Elkhart for the last 4 years, and every year now it's been my job to make these rolls. I like being a huge contribution to the feast, but I think it says more about the rolls than me;)
I've made them probably a hundred times now, and even if I can't seem to get them quite as good as when she makes them, I'm proud of the result. And with her permission, I'm sharing them with you today. And you might not ever make another dinner roll recipe ever again.
Carolyn's Dinner Rolls

makes 24 rolls

2-1/2 cups warm water (about 110°F)

1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups powdered milk
1/3 cups butter, plus more for brushing on the pan and the rolls
3 tablespoons rapid rise yeast
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
7~7-1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  1. Pour water into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add powdered milk, sugar, and yeast. Mix with whisk attachment until combined. Let the yeast proof.
  2. Add egg and cooled melted butter. Mix.
  3. Switch to the dough hook attachment and add 5 C flour and mix for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides, and add salt. Beat for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture is smooth and very elastic. Add 1 more C of flour. As you beat the dough, continue adding flour a little at a time until the dough is still slightly sticky.
  4. Cover and let stand until double it's size.
  5. Punch down and divide into 2 equal parts.
  6. Roll each part into a circle 18 inches in diameter. Brush with a thin layer of melted butter. Cut into 12 wedges. Place the wide part of the wedge closest to you, tuck in the sides, and roll. Place on a buttered baking sheet with the point of the rolled wedge down. Let rise in a warm place until double it's size. Place in a preheated 350°F oven and bake 10~12 minutes until golden brown. Brush with butter when done.
Sometimes I like to make these smaller, so on step 5 I'll cut it into 4 equal parts and follow the rest of the instructions the same. Baking time changes to about 8~10 minutes, but they are still a decent size. Enjoy!