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Sprouting at home is easy and requires little or no equipment not already have on hand. To save a few pennies, improve the taste, texture and nutritional status of your favorite recipes and to ensure you are eating well produced, safe and healthy sprouts, start sprouting in on your own kitchen counter today. See Monday’s post for a list of good seeds, beans and grains to sprout as well as some nutritional information on the super-food quality and power of sprouts.

What you will need:

  • 1 wide mouth jar (the bigger the better – ½ gallon or bigger)
  • Cheesecloth or a fine mesh screen to cover the mouth of the jar
  • A rubber band, string or fine wire to secure the lid on the jar
  • Your sprouting seed/bean/grain of choice

How to start

  • Use 1 part seed to 3 parts water
  • Place desired amount of seed in your jar. All of the following measurements will yield one quart of sprouts – 2 tbsp alfalfa or clover, ¼ cup radish or mustard, ½ cup lentils, 1 cup wheat or rye, 2 cups sunflower
  • Add the appropriate amount of filtered or spring water to the jar depending on what amount of seed you choose
  • Secure your cheesecloth or mesh screen over the lid of the jar
  • Let soak at room temperature for at least 6 hours for smaller amounts of seeds and 12 hours for larger measurements
  • Drain well and keep in a mild but warm dark place.
  • Rinse sprouts twice daily in a strainer and return to the jar
  • After three days place your sprouts in a slightly lighter area to increase the amount of chlorophyll, continue to drain twice daily
  • After 5 to 6 days your sprouts will be ready for consumption. Rinse before using and remove any hulls left behind from the original seed
  • Store sprouts in the refrigerator for up to one week in a clean and covered glass jar

Add sprouts to your favorite sandwich, wrap, soup, salad, pizza or stir fry. Spicier sprouts like radish and mustard make great garnishes for meats and seafood. Sprouts may be slightly cooked but provide the most nourishment when eaten raw and fresh.

Soba and Sunflower Sprout Salad with Cashew Dressing

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves crushed garlic
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp tamari
3 Tbsp smooth cashew butte
1 tsp chili sauce
2 9-oz packages soba noodles
3 cups fresh sunflower sprouts
6 green onions thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 red bell pepper thinly sliced
2 carrots quartered and thinly sliced (on a mandolin if you have it)

Combine olive oil, garlic, orange juice, sesame oil, tamari, cashew butter and chili sauce in a small mixing bowl.  Whisk to combine. In a large saucepan bring water to a boil and add soba noodles.  Cook until just soft, drain and set aside. Toss cooled noodles with sprouts, green onions, cilantro, bell pepper and carrot.  Add dressing and toss until salad has a light coating and good flavor. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

*Add ginger soy grilled chicken or salmon for extra protein

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Following up on my article on soaking grains from last week, I thought I would discuss the result of going one step further in your whole grain preparation. If your grains are left soaking for three or more days (not necessary for the nutrient absorption and pre-digestion process, but an option that creates a whole new delicacy) the result is a sprouted seedling. As I explained, soaking helps release the “dormant energy” of the seed, making it more available for use by your body. As it happens, the dormant energy of any grain, seed or legume is the source of life and growth potential that it contains – remember it’s not just food, it’s a plant’s form of reproduction as well. As the growth process begins during sprouting, food enzymes are activated, nutrient levels increase and new vitamins and minerals are taken on. Like the initial soaking process, sprouting eliminates the nutrient blocking enzymes, begins pre-digesting the grain/legume/seed and results in a more nutrient rich and available food for your digestive tract.

With the recent salmonella outbreaks in commercially produced sprouts, what better time to take your grain soaking to the next level and try some at home sprouting? Depending on what you chose to sprout, nutrient contents vary, but all sprouts are healthy nutritional powerhouses. Some of the best grains for sprouting are: amaranth, barley, buckwheat, millet, oats, quinoa, rice and wheat/rye. Other great seeds and legumes to sprout include pumpkin, radish, sesame, sunflower, broccoli, alfalfa, clover, garbanzo, lentil and mung. Avoid sprouting large beans such as black, fava, kidney, lima, navy, pinto, and soy as they can be harsh on digestion and toxic to the body.

Don’t write off sprouts as a past time for hippies and granola lovers. Sprouts can be a delightful addition to a gourmet meal or a simple sandwich. They taste great, add texture and flare to foods and have amazing nutritional benefits.

  • Sprouted wheat contains almost four times the amount of niacin and twice the amount of vitamin B6 and folate as un-sprouted
  • Sprouted wheat has a higher protein to starch ratio, which makes its impact on your blood sugar level less extreme. More protein than starch will help maintain energy and satiation longer and decrease cravings
  • Chlorophyll is abundant in sprouts and has intense purification, anti-inflammation and regeneration qualities
  • Sprouts help eliminate excess and stagnancy built up in the body from symptoms induced by stress, diet and lifestyle in modern cultures
  • Sprouts, especially of broccoli seeds, contain high levels of sulforaphane that supports antioxidants such as vitamin C and E and has been researched for its aid in cancer fighting regimens
  • Sprouts contain highly effective and beneficial digestive enzymes that help build healthy intestinal flora and proper digestion and assimilation processes
  • Sprouting cereal grains can produce up to 300 percent more vitamin A
  • A large variety of phytonutrients (naturally occurring plant based compounds) in sprouts have positive health benefits that include combating degenerative disease, aiding in pain relief and anti-inflammation, detoxifying the body, counteracting harmful free-radicals and oxidation and aiding metabolism and immune function
  • Alfalfa sprouts help clean and tone the intestines, remove harmful acids from the blood and contain enzymes that help with the assimilation of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Carotene, magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus zinc, vitamins K and P and abundant chlorophyll in alfalfa sprouts provide nourishing and healing qualities.
  • Sunflower sprouts (pictured above) are a rare food form of natural vitamin D, a necessary but usually deficient vitamin for most people. Vitamin D aids in bone and immune system health and plays a role in fighting cancer and cardiovascular disease.

This weekend, while waiting for my homegrown sprouts to work their magic, I picked up some beautiful sunflower sprouts at the farmers market. They were a treat to snack on plain (snappy and fresh — hinting of fresh spring life) as I meandered my way around the remaining booths. Luckily I managed to save a few for last night’s dinner, where they added a perfect crisp crunch to the top of  a black bean, quinoa, sauteed greens and arugula pesto salad.

Check back this Thursday for easy at home sprouting instructions and more recipe ides for the final product.

Everyone is telling you that whole grains reign nutritionally supreme, but what they are not telling you is that it is easy for “whole grains” not to live up to the nutrient rich, good-for-you standards they are held to. As I explained on Monday, processed whole grains in packaged foods like cereal, cookies and crackers, are hardly better than their refined counterparts.

Unfortunately, there are some setbacks to natural whole grains that can inhibit the nutritional benefits if not properly prepared. Enzyme inhibitors and natural substances that the plants use to protect their seeds can almost completely prevent the digestion and absorption of whole grains. For this reason, it is absolutely necessary to soak all grains before cooking them.

Phosphorus in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium,copper and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking their absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors and in effect, predigest grains so that all their nutrients are more available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important pre-digestive process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when they are prepared according to these procedures. – Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon

Soaking grains will help those who have digestion troubles by easing the labor of grain breakdown and absorption. For every grain eater, soaking will benefit your body by providing more accessible and digestible nourishment.

Soaking is an easy process that can be done several days beforehand.  In a large, non-reactive bowl, soak your grains in water with 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice, vinegar, keifer or buttermilk (to provide an acid that works to neutralize the nutrient blockers).

After 12 to 24 hours rinse your grains and prepare as instructed.  For baking purposes it works well to soak your grains in the liquid (buttermilk, yogurt, milk or non dairy alternative) called for in the recipe.  After soaking add the rest of your ingredients and prepare as instructed.

Here are two of my personal favorite soaked whole grain breakfast treats!

Creamy Morning Oats with Fresh Fruit

3/4 Cup Organic whole rolled oats
1 Cup Organic unsweetened plain keifer
1 tsp. Cinnamon
½ Cup fresh seasonal fruit of your choice (pears are a great pick in the winter and blueberries are my summer favorite)

Combine all ingredients except fruit in a medium sized ceramic or glass bowl. Cover and soak overnight at room temperature.  In the morning add fresh fruit and enjoy!

Unbelievably Fluffy Whole Grain Waffles

2 Cups whole-wheat flour
1 ¼ Cup plain keifer or ¾ cup plain yogurt to ¾ cup milk
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
4 eggs split into yolks and whites
½ cup vegetable oil

Combine flour and keifer or milk and yogurt in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Cover and refrigerate overnight. Add baking powder, salt, sugar, egg yolks and vegetable oil to flour mixture and mix to incorporate.  Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold in egg whites gently in three parts until just incorporated. Do not over-mix the egg whites in the batter or the fluffy consistency will be lost. Pour waffle batter onto hot waffle iron and cook until golden brown. Serve immediately with fresh fruit, yogurt or syrup.

The status of grain in the modern diet is debated as if it held a place in office: should it be impeached from our dietary guidelines, should we use it to solve world hunger or should we blame it for the obesity of a nation and the degradation of worldwide environmental systems?

Some nutritional scholars believe that grains should be avoided completely, arguing that our bodies did not evolve to digest grains and they cause a downward spiral in many facets of your internal health. Ancient Eastern medicine traditions, on the other hand, hold grains as an important element of dietary balance. Recent western medicine research has popularized “whole grains” to an almost divine status; launching campaigns that assure dieters and skeptics that anything labeled whole grain is an automatic health food.

You are confused? So am I. Avoiding grains completely is difficult and may not be the best option, but popular refined forms of grain are digging a rut into the health of many. I am going to venture out on a limb and say forget it: forget the great debate, proceed with moderation and, as always, keep in mind that whole foods are always better than their processed counterparts. Somewhere in-between the “whole grain” coco puffs and the Paleolithic style no grain diets there has to be level ground:  a few whole grains from natural sources, a few indulgences and a happy and healthy body.

Figuring out how grains fit into your lifestyle and how they impact your health as an individual may be the best place to start. Pay attention to how you feel after eating a particular grain and make note of whether it was processed, whole, soaked, raw or cooked.  You may find that some grains like quinoa, whole oats and millet are easier for your body to digest and provide more prolonged balanced energy.

There is some truth behind the recent “whole grain” campaign phenomena in that whole grains contain fiber, nutrients and protein that improve the way your body digests, uses, and stores grain-based foods. Whole grains have also been shown to play a role in helping improve cognitive function and mood. However, alleged “whole grains” in your honey nut cheerios, are probably not going to do the deed. The processing and additives that go into cereals, breads, cookies, crackers and the like are more than enough to destroy the health benefits of a natural whole grain.

Proper grain preparation methods are crucial to the health benefit they impart and may alleviate the health issues that grain opponents cite. Not eating packaged and processed grain products and taking the time to prepare whole grains at home is necessary to help your body absorb the nutrients. Soaking grains overnight helps germinate the dormant energy of the seed, release nutrients and ensure proper digestion.

Breakfast is the often the best (and most delicious) time to indulge in some healthy whole grains. During sleep your body’s systems slow down and burn energy reserves for basic function so it is important to wake up the process by providing healthy fuel. Whole grains provide the energy and nutrients your body needs to get your metabolism running and to power all internal organs for full daily function. But, no matter what the health claims a cereal box says, steer clear and start experimenting with homemade whole grains instead.

Soaking old-fashioned rolled oats in almond milk with a dash of cinnamon is one of my favorite easy go-to’s.  Check back this Thursday for some easy at home and on the go healthy grain preparation tips and recipes.

Knowing how your food is made is equally as important as knowing where it comes from. I know (because I am a culprit of this myself) it is easy to get caught up on the labels that have been plastered on products all over the grocery store shelves. However, what labels usually don’t tell you is how the product was made; how much processing it went through, what other products have been added to it and exactly how it came to be on your local market shelf.

Knowing the origin and production process of the food you put in your body can help connect you with the earth, people, plants and animals that feed you, as well as helping ensure that every last bite is going to make a positive impact. Buying organic, sourcing as locally as possible and trusting the producer and distributor that provide for you is a great fist step, but nothing can outweigh homemade foods you have a personal hand in from start to finish. Not only do you know exactly what goes in, you know and can control the details of the entire process.

Realistically, I realize that it is close to impossible to make everything you eat from scratch, but learning how to make a few of your favorite staple foods can be a fun process that also benefits your health. One of my favorite foods to make at home is yogurt. I hardly go a day without a bowl of yogurt and my favorite granola that my father makes and sends me in gallon quantities on a regular basis. Since I eat it so regularly, and yogurt is commonly a food that is highly processed and can contain a lot of additives when not produced well, I thought it would be a good one to undertake at home. Homemade yogurt has a great original taste and texture that you can’t find in the store bought version. Use good quality organic milk to ensure your final product is as filled with nutrients and beneficial probiotic bacteria as possible.

Basic Homemade Yogurt

1 Quart whole milk

3 Tbsp plain organic yogurt

Heat milk to 105 degrees (any lower can promote growth of harmful bacteria and any higher can kill the good probiotic bacteria). Remove from heat and thoroughly stir in yogurt. 

At this point, unless you have a conventional yogurt maker, you have the option of using a thermos, a warm oven or a heating pad.  I prefer to use my oven because I find it is the easiest to regulate temperature in.

Pour the milk mixture into a clean ovenproof dish or jar and set in a 100-degree oven for 6 hours. This method works especially well with gas ovens that have a pilot light that keeps the oven at a warmer temperature. Use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is not too hot or cool during the process.

If using a thermos, pour the milk mixture into the clean thermos, wrap with a towel or blanket for extra insulation and let sit for 6 hours. If using a heating pad, place the pad in a box or insulated cooler with the jars of your milk mixture. Let sit for 6 hours and use a thermometer to regulate the 100-degree temperature. After the 6-hour incubation period of your choosing, remove the jars and test the yogurt.

If your incubation was too hot the yogurt can curdle and get very stiff.  If you did not incubate for long enough or the temperature was too low, the yogurt will be very runny. After successful incubation, store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to one month. If you desire, add fruit, honey or jam for flavoring right before consumption. Your yogurt will last longer if not exposed to any additional ingredients during storage.

I am a true Idahoan at heart; born and bread in the land of potatoes and well accustomed to the “Oh the potato state huh…did you drive a tractor to school?” remark. Somehow, even without a tractor or a potato field within miles of my hometown, I couldn’t escape the inevitable potato pride and affinity for all things potato, which elicits snickers from those who have not yet come to terms with the true greatness of the land I call home and its famous tasty taters. I feel a tinge of disappointment when the potato is brushed off the nutritional map into the junk food denomination as a mere vehicle for ketchup, salt, deep fried grease, bacon bits and sour cream. The potato, let me tell you, in its many colors, sizes, varieties, shapes and flavors, is one of nature’s greatest packages of delicious, nourishment; easy, versatile and actually quite good for you. In the spirit of the season and upcoming St. Patrick’s day celebrations, what better time to pay respect to this underestimated tuber?

The potato is a tuber that grows underground on the roots of the plant after it has matured and flowered. This makes them a great locally grown food you can consume well into the winter months because they can be left insulated and preserved in the cold ground until just before use. There are over 4,000 known varieties that come in hues of blue, purple, red, golden, pink, white and dark brown.

If the fryer doesn’t get a hold of them before you do, potatoes are a rich source of nutrients while low in calories and fat. A bad rap has been placed on the potato for its starchy carbohydrate content (80% on average) but recent nutritional research has found that a significant portion of this is not directly digested in the stomach and small intestine and is instead a resistant starch that helps regulate digestion, makes you feel fuller longer and promotes sustained energy similar to the effects of fiber. Potatoes also contain about 10% protein, which plays a significant role in the energy supply process and maintenance of sustained, even energy after consumption.

Although it is hard to believe when you picture potatoes as the crispy contents in an air packed bag of chips, whole unprocessed potatoes with the skins on supply a good amount of vitamin C, B vitamins (folic acid, thiamin and niacin), potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron and zinc. In addition, the phytonutrients in potatoes, which vary according to color, are great antioxidants that help clear your body of harmful free radicals. Blue, purple, and pink potatoes are richest in antioxidants and make a beautiful display on the table.

In eastern medicine traditions the potato is revered for its healing properties, especially on the digestive system. Internally, potatoes are attributed with the power to calm the digestive tract, decrease bloating, lubricate the intestines, tone the spleen and pancreas and fortify the kidneys. Externally, raw potatoes are used to draw infection out of wounds and decrease swelling.

Idahoan, Irish or otherwise, people of all walks of life can enjoy potatoes for their nourishing qualities, easy availability, versatility and ubiquitous appeal. In addition to the Russets in Full Circle’s Farm-to-Table box this week, Austrian Crescent Fingerlings, brilliant purples and buttery Yukon Golds are available for substitution. Check out the amazing recipe for Baked Potato Soup in the recipe section of your member page or the Potato Parsnip cakes on our Good Food Life blog that are perfect for a St. Patty’s day brunch or appetizer.

Full Circle’s booth at the annual Flower and Garden show, held at the convention center in downtown Seattle last Tuesday through Sunday, was a great success.  Thanks to all of our current members who stopped by for a visit and for contributing some great feedback and encouraging comments. We love to hear about your stories, recipes and Full Circle favorites.

Over 200 people signed up for our raffle and the new faces and interests were great to see. If you’re interested in trying out our Farm-to-Table delivery program, don’t forget to use your promo code and sign up this week to receive a discount on your first delivery. We’ll be sending you an email soon with the promo code as a reminder! We are always excited to have new members on board supporting and sharing the benefits of delicious and healthy food.

Those who hadn’t heard about our green grocery program looked excited to see the variety of meats, cheeses, milk products, dry goods and specialty foods on display at the show. Our display highlighted just a few of the many organic and artisan foods we offer through the grocery program that can be added to weekly orders.  For more information on what we offer check out our web page – (http://www.fullcirclefarm.com/additional.html) or log in and explore on your member homepage.

Members and non-members alike, it was great to see all of you out and about last week. Check out our Facebook page for more special events, weekly updates, fun competitions and great deals.