Monday, February 9, 2015

Tips for Growing Sourdough in a Cold House

    As I write this from New England, we are receiving a huge major snowstorm. We have received nearly 3 feet and the snow is only now beginning to slow down after 24 hours of continuous snowing. The outdoors is like a marshmallow fantasy land with its billowy white shapes. I love the beauty of the snow but 3 feet is really challenging! We've also had many days of frigid temperatures. My little house is well insulated and toasty warm but my bake shop, located in an old mill building, is drafty and hard to heat.

During this period of arctic temps, It has been challenging to grow my starters and in this newsletter I share the tricks I've learned to help my starters ferment properly in a chilly space.           

Happy sourdough starter.
top, Rice, left Sorghum, right Teff

When we regularly buy a food product, we expect it to have the same taste and texture as the ones we bought in the past.  One of the challenges of making fermented products is being able to maintain a constant product from batch to batch. If you purchase my baked breads, you may have noticed some variation from batch to batch.
If you bake my bread mixes or breads, you may notice some differences in how they grow in warm weather versus cold weather. Alas, there are so many variables that can be difficult to control.

My bake shop is in a drafty old mill building. Some of the suites are well heated but mine is not. In order to really get my starters going, I have needed to get creative about getting them some supplemental heat. If you have a cold kitchen, my tips might help you:
  1. Use room temperature flour rather than chilled flour
  2. Use warmed water rather than chilled or even room temperature water
  3. Place your bowl of starter in sunny window
  4. Place your bowl of starter near a gentle heat source such as:
  • on top of the fridge or freezer
  • near a pot of simmering soup
  • near a crock pot
  • near a wood stove
  • in a warm oven
  • in a warm dehydrator
  • near a radiator
Keep in mind that too much heat may kill rather than energize the bacteria and yeast. You just want the bowl itself, and the sourdough starter, to be warm rather than cold. With practice and experience you can gain a feel for what the starter needs.

If you buy my breads, I ask for your understanding if batches are not exactly the same each time. I do my best to work with Mother Nature as well as with the billions of bacteria and yeast I have the pleasure of raising.
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Can't You Just Knock Off 5 Pounds?

I know someone who is very focused on her weight and is always in the process of trying to knock off 5 pounds. She sees weight loss in very black and white terms: eat too much, put on weight; eat less, lose weight.

When I was still ill, I was carrying about 15 extra pounds. Every time I tried to "go on a diet" and eat less, I became sick. This person would say " can't you just go on a diet and knock off 5 pounds?"

When I learned I had systemic candida I began to understand that there was an overgrowth of a certain type of yeast in my body that was quickly reproducing. These multitudes of yeast were basically eating the food that I was ingesting. They happily fed on the wheat, sugar and dairy products that I was eating and made more of themselves who, in turn, needed to eat more wheat, sugar and dairy products.

The food I ate was feeding them instead of me making my body think it was starving. A starving body won't give up any of its precious fat stores. Also, because I was eating less food, some of the yeasts were starved and subsequently died, causing what is known as "die off". They die off results in cold and flu-like symptoms as the body tries to rid itself of that dead material. Now I understand why I got sick every time I tried to knock off 5 pounds. What was going on was much more complicated then simply eating less food.

It took many years to find the right balance of practitioners, healing modalities, treatments, and diets (not the weight loss kind) to heal the candida and leaky gut. Even when those ailments were mostly resolved, I still wasn't quite well. By that time I no longer trusted that doctors could understand my situation. However, at the suggestion of my husband, I saw a holistic MD, who diagnosed the gluten intolerance and other food sensitivities.

Changing my diet, yet again, yielded incredibly healing results and to my surprise, I lost those 15 pounds and without dieting. The way I see it, the foods I tested sensitive to, and had been eating, were stressing my body. Taking them out of my diet eliminated the stress and allowed my body to come back to a natural and balanced place. Only then was my body able to easily let go of that extra weight.

Now, nearly 10 years after the gluten intolerance diagnosis, I'm baking breads and cookies for sale. When I was perfecting the Sprouted Almond Cookie recipe I had to taste it, a lot, yum yum! These power cookies gave me so much energy that I had some after swimming exercise as well as for my midday snacks as well as for dessert after lunch and dinner. Course, I wasn't used to eating dessert, just occasional treats. Sooooo, by the end of this summer I put on 5 pounds!

                                           Sprouted Almond Cookies

Those words came floating back to me: Can't you just knock off 5 pounds?
I knew I had been eating more than I needed, so step 1 was to stop eating more than I needed. I also slightly shifted the proportion of grains to veggies in all my meals. (a bit less grain, a bit more veggies). It was an easy change and the weight came off in a month.

Then I developed my Chocolate Sourdough Bread and had to repeatedly taste-test until perfection. Yum again! Whoops again! another 5 pounds.
                                        Chocolate Sourdough Bread

Back to eating what I need and the pounds are getting knocked off, 2-3 more to go.

I feel fortunate and deeply blessed that I found a way through the maze of healing possibilities and now have a healthy body and lots of energy. One of the hardest challenges I faced was to maintain hope in the face of very slow progress. In the beginning and even the middle of these healing journeys, progress may be barely noticeable.

I wish everyone who is working through any health challenges:
  • patience with yourself and your body
  • to focus on what works for you, not what works for the masses
  • to maintain your hope and faith that there is a path to your wellness and you will find it if you keep at it

Friday, December 12, 2014

Famous for more than 15 minutes...I hope

I was recently video-interviewed by Missy Cohen, a local health coach, for her cable program, New Beginnings in Health. The interview is now being aired by my town's cable station, WACA, Ashland, Massachusetts. Click Here for Missy's website.

Missy carefully read through my bread book, Art of Gluten-Free Sourdough Baking, so she could really understand my baking techniques. She wanted me to share my healing journey as an inspiration to those that have health issues but have not yet found their unique ways to recover.

This made her an excellent interviewer as she asked questions that built upon each other and helped me share a clear overview of the larger concepts of my work as well as many of the details.

I was really enthralled to see myself on TV!!
I hope I'll be a bit famous for more than 15 minutes.

Click here and Watch the 28 minute video and let me know what you think!

Monday, October 27, 2014

View From the Other Side of the Table

Before I was a farmer's market vendor, I was a farmer's market customer, checking out booth after booth and sometimes balking at the prices of things. Imagine charging that much for homemade bread, chocolate, salsa, wine or produce! Not having yet been a vendor, it was impossible for me to know how much time, energy and resources went into the crafting of the product that seemed so pricey.

Now that I've been on the other side of the table, I really get it!! High quality ingredients, hand made beautiful products, long hours making the products and on market day (after working at a frenzied pace in the days before, then packing the car the night before)...up at 5 am, out the door carrying lunch, drinks, coffee (or in my case, vitamin powder drink), set up the tent, tables and products by opening bell.

It can be challenging to have a smile on one's face at that opening bell especially if it's cold and drizzly or burning hot or even if it's a nice day because the long week of preparations has left us with some real fatigue.

Yet we keep on keepin' on to build our businesses, try out new products, and best of all, to take part in the community spirit!

Market day is a happy day. Everyone is out with babies, kids, and dogs looking for beautiful food and crafts and connection.

My friend, Peggy, who helped me at the market a few times, pointed out the changes in people's faces upon trying my products. Of course, not everyone likes my products but most people did. When someone tried the Sprouted Almond Cookies or a Pumpernickel Muffin Top I watched their face move from neutral to pure joy and delight.

Comments like "these cookies are delicious and are not too sweet!" and "I haven't had pumpernickel in sooooooo long! Thank you!!" remind me that I am on the right path, bringing healthy delicious food to people like myself with food restrictions.

Peggy suggested that sometime we set up a video camera to document the facial changes. I think it's an interesting idea!

I learned so much from my first vendor year at the market. I didn't figure out everything, though. Some days I sold out of one product. The next week I'd bring lots more of that product but it would just sit there while something else would sell out. Baffling.

I felt a lot of solidarity and support with and from the other vendors. We shared business tips and supported each other through the season.

We have one last market, the Pre-Thanksgiving Market which will be indoors so no tent to set up. I'll be presenting  my newly perfected Chocolate Bread as well as my Ginger Bread. Hopefully, my new Cocktail breads, which need another week or so of testing, will also be ready.

        Ginger Bread                               Chocolate Bread

Being a farmer's market vendor was a fabulous experience and I hope to do it again, next year!!

Click here to learn more about and order products!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gluten-Free Sourdough Bread Crumbs

The Weston A. Price Conference was last weekend and it was a great success for me. I sold some of everything, books, starters, bread mixes, baked breads and cookies. I donated 1000 Sprouted Almond Cookies and 400 Muffin Tops to the lunches and they were greatly received! I still can't believe that I pulled that off and managed to also bring breads and cookies to sell. Check out the photos!!

There were leftover muffin tops from the donation so I brought them home and turned them into bread crumbs. I have a lot of regular bread crumbs and some pumpernickel bread crumbs.

Here's an unsolicited testimonial about how a customer used the savory regular bread crumbs for a lightly sweetened dessert:

Hi Sharon,
The products are delicious! ! So, so good. It feels so good to eat bread and not get intestinal distress! I used the bread crumbs as a topping for a sour cherry crumble. I mixed the crumbs with some almond flour, vanilla extract,  coconut oil, date syrup, cinnamon and a pinch of sea salt.  It came out heavenly! !!
V.W., Virginia

Here are 2 ways I use bread crumbs:
Pan sauteed catfish:

Gluten-Free Egg-Free Meatloaf

Here's the recipe!

Order Bread Crumbs Here

Here's my Fall Discount!! Good to the end of 2014
5% Discount Coupon Code on all orders $50 or more (excluding shipping). Type RC5 into the coupon box on the shopping cart.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Baked Gluten-Free Sourdough Products!!

To all of you who have asked me to sell baked bread, 
I have finally taken the plunge!!
Click Here to learn more and purchase!!
My first offerings are made from high protein teff flour and are genuine sourdough. Real Food at its  finest! Traditionally prepared by hand in my dedicated Gluten-Free, Vegan Kitchen.

Here are the breads available so far:
Muffin Tops in 2 flavors: regular or pumpernickel
English Muffins in 2 flavors: regular or pumpernickel
Bread Crumbs: regular flavor

           Muffin Tops
                English Muffins                                           Bread Crumbs

The Muffin Tops and English Muffins are gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, yeast-free, soy-free, peanut-free, gum-free. For the summer, they will be shipped frozen and will arrive thawed. Open the package to let them air out for a half hour or so. Then refrigerate or freeze. 

Toasting before eating will bring out the aroma and complex flavors while refreshing the nice spongy texture. Slather them with butter, olive oil, coconut oil, peanut butter, cream cheese and lox or pate! 

The Bread Crumbs are made of the same ingredients and go well in salads, on top of bean and veggie dishes and are great for coating fish for pan frying.
Ingredients Muffin Tops Regular, English Muffins Regular, & Bread Crumbs:
Teff flour (unsprayed), filtered water, organic olive oil, organic chia seeds, salt, water kefir culture.
Ingredients Muffin Tops Pumpernickel, English Muffins Pumpernickel:
Teff flour (unsprayed), filtered water, organic olive oil, organic chia seeds, organic caraway seed, organic carob powder, salt, water kefir culture.
Click Here to learn more and purchase!!
Also available are Sprouted Almond Cookies & and soon to come: Sprouted Almond Energy Bars! These are grain-free as well as gluten-free. I begin with organic, raw, unpasteurized almonds and sprout them overnight. Then I dehydrate them at low temps to retain the living enzymes. Then I grind them and mix them with all organic ingredients, hand cut and slow bake them. 

These cookies and bars have high food value without the sugar high associated with many cookies and energy bars. A small amount satisfies hunger for hours! I am in the process of getting my products nutritionally analyzed. 
Click Here to learn more and purchase!!

 More info at my website

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How To Buy Gluten-Free Without Getting Duped

Here's a fabulous article from the Daily Beast, on healthy gluten-free food vs. gluten-free junk food. I'm proud to say my recipes and products fall within their "healthy food" parameters! I've added my own photos:-)
By Nicole McDermott for Life by DailyBurn

A quick trip down the natural foods section of your grocery store likely reveals box after box showcasing “gluten-free” on the label, indicating items free from wheat, rye, barley or crossbreeds of those grains. Now, the buzz phrase is infiltrating the rest of the aisles—on pasta, cereal, and even items like sauces, popcorn and potato chips that never even contained gluten in the first place. From 2011 to 2013, the gluten-free market grew 44 percent. More than half of consumers who buy these foods (65 percent) do so because they think the items are actually healthier. But, reading “gluten-free” on a product’s label doesn’t always mean it’s automatically a nutrition rock star.
Compared to whole-grain foods, gluten-free versions often lack essential vitamins and nutrients and turn to added sugar and fat to make up for taste and texture. They’re loaded with refined un-enriched grains and starches, meaning the grains have been milled (a process that removes dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins).
While it’s generally better to just ditch processed foods and stick to whole, real foods when possible (for instance, fruit, veggies, nuts and beans) we all crave some carbs and comfort food every once in a while—gluten-allergy or not. Learn how to buy healthier gluten-free products—from pasta and bread to crackers, snack bars and cereal—with our tips and insight from Rachel Begun, R.D., gluten-related disorders expert.

Gluten-Free Pasta
Tons of conventional pasta brands have joined the gluten-free ranks with their own varieties. But beware: Though bigger brands have the ability to produce pasta for a fraction of the price, most varieties have sub-par nutritional value.
Watch out for:
While gluten-free and regular pastas typically have the same amount of calories per serving, some of the former options have only one gram of fiber versus many whole-wheat varieties that have six. And though whole-wheat pasta has only a small amount of iron in every serving, most gluten-free brands lack any vitamins or minerals at all. “Some gluten-free pastas are made from empty starches and refined grains, thereby providing little in the way of nutrition,” Begun says.
Look for:
Try to purchase pastas made from whole grains like quinoa or brown rice to add back some of that iron and fiber. “Fiber, protein and healthy fats all contribute to satiety,” Begun says, “meaning they fill us up on smaller portion sizes.” Look for brands with ingredients like flax seed, rice bran and nut flours, which add healthy fats to the mix and keep us fuller, longer.

Gluten-Free Bread
With a super-low fiber content (usually only about one gram per two slices), gluten-free breads may leave your stomach grumbling soon after lunch is over. Quite a few of these loafs use potato starch and tapioca starch in attempts to produce a lighter, fluffier product. Unfortunately, that leaves out many of the healthy nutrients found in whole grains.
Watch out for:
Beware of starches and white rice flour leading the pack on the ingredients label. As a result of using those ingredients, most gluten-free breads have double the carbs of whole-wheat bread (and that factors in the small size of a gluten-free slice). Even whole-grain gluten-free breads are highly processed and contain a long list of ingredients, including added sugars and chemical agents to soften the dough since there’s no gluten present. According to Begun, at this stage in the gluten-free game, refined grains and starches are still necessary to make good quality, better tasting products, “so it’s unlikely to find options that completely eliminate them,” she says.
Look for:
Purchase breads containing seeds and a mixture of healthy grains (like millet and amaranth) other than just brown rice. “Breads with a whole grain as the first or second ingredient are ideal,” Begun says. Extra protein, like pea protein for instance, or all organic and non-genetically modified ingredients are an added bonus.

Gluten-Free Crackers
Yes, it’s possible to have cheese without them, but sometimes we’ve just got to kill that crunchy, salty craving with a cracker. Pretzels aren’t exactly a healthy gluten-free snacking choice as the first five ingredients are typically starches, oils, sugar and salt. Thankfully, some crackers are made of more promising ingredients.
Watch out for:
Just like the other foods on this list, we have a similar guideline for crackers: Steer clear of varieties with low protein and low fiber content. Crackers that list cornstarch as the first ingredient? Those are a no-no unless you’re a fan of baked, flavored cornstarch, which features no fiber, no protein and a whopping 24 grams of carbohydrates for a very small serving.
Look for:
According to Begun, options made mostly from gluten-free whole grains and nut flour reign supreme. Seek out varieties that include seeds—like flax, chia and sesame—which add nutrients including omega-3s and protein. Bean powders may be tossed into the mix to increase the fiber and protein count even more. Look for at least three grams of fiber and three grams of protein for a more satisfying crunch.

Gluten-Free Snack Bars
Granola and protein bars make for a convenient, grab-and-go snack. They’re pre-wrapped, mess-free, and easy to toss in a gym bag or briefcase before heading out the door. Unfortunately, many snack bars rely on sweet syrups and coatings for optimal taste rather than optimal nutrition.
Watch out for:
“Avoid bars with an added sugar as the first ingredient,” Begun says. Many snack bars on supermarket shelves, gluten-free or not, are loaded with the sweet stuff. Chocolate or yogurt coatings are a major red flag, too. Some labels feature incognito sugars with less recognizable names including brown rice syrup, maltitol, evaporated cane juice, dextrose and sorbitol. “There are very few snack bars on the market that are truly a healthful option,” Begun says. And, many bars print “gluten-free” on their labels just to appear healthy.
Look for:
Try to find bars with high protein counts. As a rule of thumb, choose bars with more grams of protein than sugar (shoot for at least eight to 10 grams). Products made with naturally gluten-free ingredients like nuts, seeds, gluten-free grains, beans and dried fruit tend to be the healthiest options. “Protein enhancers such as whey, whole soybeans and pea protein are good, too,” Begun says.

Gluten-Free Cereal
For gluten-free eaters, most conventional cereals are automatically off the table (unless you’re looking in the natural foods section of the grocery store), since the majority of boxes on the shelf include wheat. There are a few gluten-free friendly mainstream cereals, but they’re generally lacking enriched vitamins and nutrients.
Watch out for:
“Just like their conventional counterparts, gluten-free cereals can also be loaded with added sugars,” Begun says. A good rule of thumb, she says, is to stick to options featuring five grams of sugar or less per serving. While puffed grains (light and air-filled grains created by high pressure and steam to increase their original size)—such as puffed white rice—are a good low-cal option, but the high heat used during manufacturing destroys a lot of their nutritional value.
Look for:
Choose cereals with gluten-free whole grains such as brown rice, oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free), quinoa, amaranth and millet. If you want to try out puffed grains, opt for fortified versions, meaning essential vitamins and minerals like iron and amino acids are pumped back into the cereal. Seeds are an added bonus. Or you can buy your own gluten-free cereal grains and whip up a semi-homemade cereal.
Yes, it’s easy to point fingers at most of the food found in boxes and bags (read: processed), but that doesn’t mean gluten-free eaters have to cut out pasta, bread, crackers, snack bars, or cereal forever. With the right ingredients and nutrition stats in mind, gluten-free buying is a little less complicated and a whole lot more satisfying.