good (for you) cooking fats

Before you spritz that vegetable cooking spray in your pan …

WAIT!

Put the vegetable oil down and step away from the stove!

Seriously.

If you’re still cooking with vegetable or canola oil, I want you to consider that canola oil is only five percent saturated fat (WHICH IS NOT A GOOD THING). The process to extract the oil from the rape seed requires high heat, hydrogen, solvents, bleach, deodorant, etc, to make it palatable. It has a high sulphur content, and goes rancid quickly and easily, which makes it difficult for our bodies to digest.

Thankfully, there are finally reports reaching the mainstream that are showing what Weston A. Price knew in the 1930s when he was doing his research on the benefits of traditional diets. Saturated fats are not the enemy.

The news is out: Saturated Fats are not bad for you. 

good fats

I know a lot of people who live in fear of fat.

They cook with teflon or add a squirt of cooking spray to the bottom of the pan. Butter their bread with margarine. Drink low fat milk. Eat non-fat yogurt. And they do it on the order of their heart-conscious doctor.

I’m not going to tell you to ignore the advice of your medical professional. I’m not a doctor, after all.

But I’m going to ask you ton consider that you share this article with him/her. Ask about the new research. Engage him/her in a conversation to understand where the recommendations come from.

In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon, PhD, shares pages and pages of evidence refuting what she calls the “Diet Dictocrats” with studies from all over the world that suggest we need fat. She states simply “Fats from animal and vegetable sources provide a concentrated source of energy in the diet; they also provide the building blocks for cell membranes and a variety of hormones and hormone-like substances. Fats as part of a meal slow down nutrient absorption so that we can go longer without feeling hungry. In addition, they act as carriers for important fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Dietary fats are needed for the conversion of carotene to vitamin A, for mineral absorption and for a host of other processes.”

It may not change your world.

It certainly may not change the mind of your doctor.

The evidence hasn’t yet swayed The American Heart Association, but the evidence is clear. And it’s worth a conversation, at least.

So now what?

What fats belong in your cupboard?

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COOKING FATS

Some fats are good for cooking. They have a high smoke-point and retain their nutrient dense composition at high heat. They help us absorb nutrients from high protein foods. And they have a stable shelf life. These are the primary cooking oils/fats that we use in our kitchen:

  • Avocado oil – Nutritionally, avocado oil is right up there with olive oil boasting serious amounts of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. It’s also a good source of complex proteins, lecithin, beta-carotne and vitamins A, D and E. But unlike olive oil, the mighty avocado oil has a really high smoke point (500 degrees), a stable shelf life and a very subtle aromatic flavor.
  • Butter – raw, organic, pastured, locally sourced butter is your best bet, as it’s not going to be quite so nutrient dense from cows eating a primarily grain-fed diet. We love Kerrygold Irish Butter because it is grassfed, the only ingredients are cream and salt, and there are no artificial colors. When we’ve got raw milk from our local herd-share, I’ve even been known to make my own.
  • Coconut Oil – unrefined, cold pressed, organic, coconut oil is a great source of lauric acid and has antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-microbial attributes. It’s also so readily available these days. We use coconut oil a lot. In baked goods. For frying. For popping popcorn. In smoothies. In French Toast. We use it topically (on minor abrasions and sunburn). We just love the Coconut Oil.
  • Chicken, Duck, Goose fat – choose duck or goose over chicken for more omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. And look for a reputable source. I’m going to admit that we only use chicken, duck and goose fat on rare occasion. I’ve not found a reasonable and reliable local source for it.
  • Lard – If you can find a healthy source of lard (from sustainably, pasture-raised pigs), lard is stable and good for frying and is an excellent source of vitamin D. I love fresh homemade tortillas … and the difference between ones made with lard versus ones made with vegetable shortening is UNREAL. It’s worth a little homework to find good lard.
  • Beef & Mutton Tallows – The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends use of beef and mutton tallows, but I’ll admit it … I’ve never tried them. If you do, can you let me know how it goes?
  • Peanut & Sesame Oil – good for occasional stir fries, but contains a high percentage of oleic acid, so both should be used sparingly.

EAT RAW (never heat)

These good-for-you oils are staples in our diet. We use them in salad dressings and smoothies, but never in the skillet as heating them destroys their nutrient dense composition and makes them really difficult for your gut to process.

  • Olive Oil – extra virgin, cold pressed is the way to go. We’ve been reading a lot about how finding “pure” olive oil can be a challenge these days as some of the biggest purveyors in the US have been found to have unwittingly been importing olive oil adulterated with soy and vegetable oils. Ugh. So, take some care to make sure when you buy Olive Oil you are getting Olive Oil!
  • Unrefined Flaxseed Oil – Extremely high omega-3 content!! So good for you.  But keep it refrigerated!
  • Grape Seed Oil – We use this primarily because of it’s similarity to Olive Oil. And it’s got a smooth buttery taste. We’ve used it often to make our own mayonnaise, but the green color can be a bit of a turn-off.
  • Nut Oils like Walnut and Macadamia – Both are so tasty, but very expensive, so we use these sparingly in salad dressing. Walnut oil has to be stored in a cool dry place to avoid oxidization.
  • Red Palm Oil – similar to Coconut Oil in that it’s one of the few available vegetable saturated fats. There is some controversy about the palm oil industry, so we don’t often choose this oil. But from a traditional food perspective, this is a vegetable oil that has been utilized for more than 5,000 years.
  • Sunflower Oil – choose cold pressed sunflower oil to preserve Vitamin E and eliminate free radicals produced during other production methods. But keep in mind that it doesn’t contain the good Omega-3 fats. We primarily use this in our homemade mayonnaise these days because it’s nearly flavorless and it’s not “green” like Grape Seed Oil.

RANCID OILS/FATS TO AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE

In the “good ol’ days” oils were extracted using cold pressed or expeller pressed methods that retained the integrity of the “food” in our food. I don’t want to seem old fashioned. But my personal problem with fats like Canola, Margarine, Shortening, etc, is that the process to make them is so volatile (involving solvents and bleaches and deodorizers) that what’s left for consumption has little resemblance to food. If it has to be deodorized because it smells rancid and unpalatable, chances are, it’s rancid and unpalatable. And I don’t need a chemist to trick my body into eating something it shouldn’t.

That said, these are the fats and oils that we’ve scrubbed from our kitchen:

  • Canola Oil – has a high sulphur content and is typically rancid because of the high heat used in the extraction process. There are studies now showing that canola oil can contribute to a vitamin E deficiency (which we need for a healthy heart).
  • Corn Oil – on it’s own, corn oil might not be awful, but since more than 85 percent of the corn on the US market is GMO corn and contains high levels of the pesticide glyphosate, it’s hard to find pure organic corn oil and we avoid it.
  • Cottonseed Oil – first of all, it’s made from the inedible cotton plant. Secondly, it’s near-impossible to come by a non-GMO cottonseed oil because it’s one of the big-4 Monsanto GMO crops. It’s everywhere (margarine, shortening, box cereals, processed cookies, crackers, et al). But it doesn’t belong in the cupboard.
  • Margarine & Vegetable Shortening – the process to make margarine and shortening is called hydrogenation. It goes something like this: Cheap oils (like soy, corn, cottonseed or canola) are mixed with a catalyst (tiny metal particles like nickel oxide) and then pressurized with hydrogen gas to turn the oil into a solid at room temperature. Then emulsifiers are added to correct the texture. It then has to be “deodorized” by “steam cleaning” at extremely high temperatures and bleached to eliminate it’s unnatural grey color. And finally, to make margarine, food coloring and flavors must be added to make it taste more like butter.
  • Soybean oil – like Corn Oil, it’s so challenging to find organic soybean oil. And despite the high levels of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids, I’ve read too often that soy is an endocrine disruptor that we avoid also soybean oil.
  • Vegetable oil – the conventional factory process to make vegetable oil involves overheating the crushed seeds, washing them with toxic solvents to extract every last bit of oil, destroying healthy antioxidants in the seeds and resulting oil just isn’t something I want to feed my family.

So now it’s time to clean the cupboard …

… and use more butter.

xo,

Jeanne

Q: What healthy fats do you use and how do you add them to your diet?

better homemade nutbutter

Jeanne here.

My super-in-the-know sister-in-law had this in her house a few weeks ago …

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And it was so dang tasty … creamy and delicious and I wanted to eat the whole jar with a spoon. (Thankfully, my better judgment took hold and I left a little for my nephew’s lunch … at least I think I left enough for one sandwich … perhaps this explains my need for a new swimsuit this year.)

So I went home and dreamed about coconut & peanut spread.

And then I went to the Co-op and thought about buying it (it retails for $10.48 for 16 oz).

But then I realized I had a big bag of bulk almonds at home.

And more than our share of Organic Nutiva Cold Pressed Coconut Oil (we have four 78 oz. jars in the pantry right now … it’s scary).

And three gallons of that incredible pure grade B maple syrup that we ordered direct from a farmer in Wisconsin through our local Weston A. Price Foundation.

So for less than $3, I could try my hand making our own nut-butter.

coconut almond butter

(I don’t know about you, but the thing I don’t love about homemade and/or organic nut butter that you can buy in the store is that it can be grainy and will separate and has to be stirred … So I was hoping that combining almonds with coconut oil would give me the creaminess I crave in a good nut butter.)

I’ve now made this twice and we are totally happy with the results!

Here’s what I did:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups almonds
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons pure grade B maple syrup
  • dash of salt

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it reaches the texture you like.

What I like about making our own (not just the cost-benefit) is that we get all the good benefits of Coconut Oil (like the fact that it contains lauric acid … one of the good fats we’re always looking for … it has antioxidant properties, helps us absorb important minerals and contains antimicrobial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties), and we know the almonds are organic and non-GMO, we know how little maple syrup we actually need to sweeten this tasty concoction.

We use this almond butter on PBJs, in smoothies, and in just about any recipe that calls for peanut butter (including the Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles that my family loves).

And if almonds aren’t your thing … try cashews or hazelnuts or shelled sunflower seeds.  Let us know how it goes … we want to know!

Happy Tuesday!

We’re linked up at:

The Nourishing Gourmet
This Chick Cooks
Healthy Roots Happy Soul

sourdough french toast, with coconut oil

I have a friend from high school who recently told me that because she’s been reading our blog she now has a jar of Coconut Oil in her pantry and no idea what to do with it.

This is for you, CKR.

IMG_6020 The thing about Coconut Oil is … it’s pretty versatile.  And it’s really good for you.

I mean really good for you.

It’s good for your hair.

Skin.

Digestion.

Kidneys.

Heart.

It boosts your immunity.

It helps control cholesterol levels.

It’s helps reduce high blood pressure.

People use it in dental care.

It can even promote weight loss!

And I am not usually a proponent of Dr. Oz, but even he sees the benefits of using coconut oil.

Why is it good for you?

Because of the lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid that make up the lipids in the oil.  Lauric acid is the active ingredient in Lauricidin (which we use during cold/flu season as a preventative measure).  Also, Coconut Oil has been shown to be antimocrobial, antioxident, antifungal and antibacterial.

And when it comes to cooking?  It’s really adaptable.

Because it’s solid in most US pantries (if you live north of Washington, DC, and the Coconut Oil in your pantry is liquid, your pantry might be too warm, and I’d consider keeping the CO in the fridge), it’s an easy substitute when recipes call for Crisco or Shortening.  I’m not saying it will work in every recipe, but we’ve had good luck using it as a replacement in most of our baked goods.

And putting a little heat under it for a few seconds makes it liquid and usable for recipes that call for Soybean, Vegetable or Canola Oil.  (The reason we don’t use Soybean, Vegetable or Canola Oil in cooking anymore, primarily because they are high in the “bad fats,” and are processed using chemical solvents to break down and release the oil.  Olive and Nut oils are processed using a press.  If there is a choice not to add “chemical solvents” to our bodies … we’re going to make it.  Check out this link if you want more info on what oils are good for you and why.)

Back to Coconut Oil, and how it ended up in our French toast.

So, we use Coconut Oil all the time.

In cookies, cakes, pancakes, fried chicken, to sauté vegetables … to name a few.

A few days ago, I was making breakfast for the gang and we had a lot of things on the schedule for the day so I was looking for a “super-nutrtious” start for the day.  I hadn’t soaked any grains.  We’re doing out best to avoid boxed cereal.  I wasn’t in the mood for an egg taco. And there was only a little milk in the fridge.

But we did have half of a 2-day old loaf of sourdough bread.  We did have four eggs.  Some yogurt.  Vanilla.  And Coconut Oil.

Breakfast.

Fast and easy and super-duper-nutrious.

With just a hint of coconut goodness, pure grade B maple syrup and small pat of pasture butter?  Everyone loved them.

INGREDIENTS (makes 8 pieces of toast):

  • 8 one half inch slices of sourdough bread
  • 4 eggs (3 large eggs would probably do it.  The ladies gave us medium eggs this week)
  • 1/2 cup yogurt plus 1/4 cup whey (If you don’t have yogurt and whey, 3/4 cup of milk or 3/4 cup of buttermilk will also work)
  • 2 tablespoon Coconut Oil (plue 1 tablespoon to grease the pan)
  • 1 teaspoon of pure Vanilla Extract
  • pinch of Sea Salt

DIRECTIONS:

Heat a 10-12 inch saute pan on medium-high heat.  Add coconut oil and let it melt.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, yogurt, whey and vanilla extract and salt in a bowl large enough to soak a piece of bread.   Whisk until well-combined.

Whisk in the melted Coconut Oil, leaving enough in the pan to coat the surface.  (NOTE, if your ingredients are very cold, the CO will start to “bead” and firm up again … I left mine out for a few minutes to come a little closer to room temperature before I started cooking)

Soak the bread slices until they are good and coated on both sides.  Add them one by one (or two by two, if you can fit them in your pan and they aren’t squished) to the hot sauté pan.  Let cook on one side until they are golden and cooked through.  Turn and cook on the other side.  Repeat.

Plate the toast with a pat of butter and some pure grade B maple syrup and feel satisfied that you’ve eaten a nourishing and delicious breakfast!

coconut chicken nuggets … everybody wants some

I know there are a lot of folks out there who love The Nugget.  Who depend on it.

But we’ve never been big nugget eaters in our house.

Maybe it’s because I ate a primarily vegetarian diet for so many years.

Maybe it’s because I’ve seen one too many documentaries on the manufacture of fast food versions.

Or maybe it just wasn’t on my radar … or I didn’t know how easy it was to make …

Until …

IMG_5829 Meet the Coconut Chicken Nugget.

I’m not going to deny it … these were totally inspired by Abby’s fried chicken.

But the first time I tried to make hers, I didn’t have Italian-seasoned Panko.  Actually, I was at my mom’s, and she didn’t have oregano or garlic or Italian seasoning in her cupboard.  But I did have a cup of shredded coconut.  I had sea salt.  And I had coconut oil.

They are sweeter than Abby’s.  And nuttier.  (I was thinking that using finely chopped almonds instead of bread-crumbs would be a great gluten-free option, but I haven’t tried it yet because everyone loves these so much.)

And there wasn’t one bite left after dinner.

Next thing I knew, they became a staple of our diet.

We eat them for dinner at home.  We take them for picnics on the go.

They make easy protein-packed road-trip snacks.

For Four Servings:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 chicken breasts, 3 chicken thighs (cut into 1 1/2 inch bites)
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat Panko-style bread crumbs
  • 3/4 cup shredded coconut (we get our from the bulk aisle at the Coop, but it’s available in bags, too)
  • 1  1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 3/4 cup of coconut oil (plus more, if you need it)

DIRECTIONS:

coconut nuggets PNG

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the chicken into 1 1/2 – 2 inch “bites.”

Combine the bread crumbs, coconut and salt in a medium bowl.

Beat the eggs in another medium bowl.

Add half of the chicken to the egg.  Let soak for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, begin to heat a large saucepan.  If you’re using stainless steel, let the pan get good and hot before adding the coconut oil.  Hot pan.  Cold oil.  Heating the pan before adding the oil goes a long way toward making the pan “non-stick,” and a LOT easier to clean.

While the coconut oil melts, move the chicken from the egg into the coconut-bread-crumb bowl and toss until well coated.   And put the second half of your chicken to soak in the remaining egg.  By then, your oil should be good and hot.  (You can check this by dropping a few drops of water into the pan … if it sizzles, it’s hot enough.)

Transfer the coconut coated chicken (piece by piece) into the sizzling coconut oil.  While they cook on one side (for about 3 minutes), put the chicken that’s been soaking in the egg, into the coconut-crust.  Also, taking a page from Abby’s book, line a baking dish with brown paper (a great way to re-use brown-paper grocery bags).

Turn the chicken, cooking for another 3-4 minutes.  Then transfer fried chicken to the baking dish.

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Repeat with the second batch of chicken.  And then add that to the baking dish.  (If you feel like you need to add a little more coconut oil to the pan, the time to do that is between batches, so it has time to heat up again.)

Bake for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.  (These take less time than Abby’s because they are smaller.)

And if we were having a Superbowl Party tomorrow, I’d probably make two batches … and serve them with a few different dipping sauces (like a yogurt sauce with maple, a spicy honey mustard and maybe a buffalo hot sauce, which would be a great contrast to the sweet crunchy coconut coating).  In fact, I might just make them and turn our super bowl watching into a party!

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So whatever your nugget needs … I hope you’ll give these a go.

how to start building a nourishing cupboard

Jeanne here …

I’ve recently been asked a few times about how to start eating a nourishing diet. How to start changing one’s diet.

I’ll admit readily that it’s not always easy. Because we are creatures of habit. Because habits are easy. And breaking habits is not.

So don’t expect it to happen overnight.

Because it won’t happen overnight (and if it doeshappen overnight, it’s going to cost waaaaaay too much money. And it might not stick).

My advice is to start small. Start in the cupboard.

When you run out of Skippy, just don’t buy another jar. Look for a healthier alternative that you might enjoy. The kiddos and I have switched to almond butter. But the Cowboy digs his PBJ and I know a lot of folks who don’t like having to stir the organic peanut butters. Natural Directions offers a peanut butter that absolutely does not require stirring. (Maybe you see it on the second shelf of our cupboard?) So maybe that’s your first step.

If you start small, I promise, that one day you will realize as you walk through the grocery store you are only walking around the edges. Maybe you’ll dip into an aisle or two, but mostly you are on the outskirts. Fruits. Veggies. Dairy. Meat. With a diversion down the baking/bulk aisle for flours and oils and spices.

Again, it doesn’t happen overnight. But one day you realize you are living on the fringe!

And the fewer aisles you visit, the lower your food bill! Even if you’re spending a little extra on organics.

So you get more food and spend less. And when you eat more food (versus eating processed food-like products), you might find yourself feeling better!

It’s a happy coincidence.

But again, how do you start?

Simply. Of course.

For me, it was figuring out easy changes like replacing vegetable and canola oils with things like extra virgin olive oil (organic EVOO is available at Costco), grape seed oil and coconut oil (oils with higher smoke points, that are easier to digest), looking into replacements for refined sugar like maple syrup (which we buy in the bulk aisle) and locally sourced honey.

And so what happens when you make these changes?

Well, for example, I realized that buying locally sourced honey wasn’t only good for the pocketbook, but great for our bodies, too. You want to know why? It’s because the bees make their honey from the local flora and fauna. And ingesting THAT honey causes your body to build up the right immunity to those pollens, thereby alleviating Spring allergies! Seriously, who wouldn’t want a more gentle spring allergy season because you spent the winter drinking tea with honey?!?

Count me in!

What changes have you made that are making a difference …to your wallet and/or to your well-being?

ALSO – don’t forget to register up for this week’s WHOLE FOODS MARKET GIFT CARD GIVEAWAY!!

fried chicken, honey-mustard, and an easy salad


Fried chicken.  Not exactly something you would call a health food.  But tonight my family was craving it, and with a foot of snow and temps in the teens… comfort food just felt right.

I changed things up a bit from your typical fried chicken to make it a little more health-nut mama friendly and here’s where we ended up.

What I used:

  • 4 large organic boneless chicken breast
  • 3 large eggs
  • coconut oil (about a cup)
  • 1/3 bag Panko italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • large skillet
  • large (11 x 13) glass baking dish

What I did:
Pre-heat oven to 350. Then, using a sharp knife and a non-wood cutting board, slice chicken into strips.

Place the eggs in a bowl and whisk.  In a separate bowl place the bread crumbs.

Next, fill the large skillet with enough coconut oil to coat the pan and get a thin later on the bottom.  Turn the heat up to medium high.

While the oil is getting hot, now is the time to prepare your tenders.  Lightly season them with salt and pepper before dunking them one-by-one in the eggs.

After the eggs, place the tenders in the bread crumbs.  I should note here that you don’t have to use Panko style, but I really love the texture they add.  In the past, I have also used gluten-free bread crumbs or even chia seeds (a recipe I haven’t quite perfected yet.)

By this time, your oil should be hot enough to fry.  It should lightly sizzle when you place the tenders in.  If it doesn’t sizzle just yet, give it a minute or 2 and you should be fine.

After about 4-5 minutes, flip the chicken.  Before you turn, make sure they are plenty browned on the bottom.  Through-out the frying process, you may need to add more oil.
After the second side gets to fry for another 4-5 minutes, place the tenders in the glass baking dish and place in pre-heated oven.  To help absorb the oil, I place a brown paper bag (cut to the size of the dish).  Tonight, I didn’t have one of hand, so I lined it with unbleached coffee filters.
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until your tenders are cooked all the way through.  Every oven is different so just keep an eye on them.
For a quick, tasty, fantastic dipping sauce… mix equal parts honey and mustard.
I also threw together a quick kale salad to add a little green to our meal.
  • Finely chop a few cups of kale. This green is tough so it’s important to chop finely!
  • Dice up a quarter of an red onion and a quarter of an apple.
  • I made a quick dressing by placing equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil in a jar with a lid and shake.
  • Combine kale, onion, apple and dressing and let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.  Letting it set also helps slightly soften the kale.

My 3 year old, who can be a picky eater, gobbled this up!

This meal pleased every member of my family!  Love it when that happens!
-Abby