Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Blondies (Homemade and Corn-free)

Blondies are our favorite easy dessert that all of us can make from scratch without a recipe. Blondies are just brownies sans chocolate, but they are truly delicious. My daughter can't eat any of the brands of chocolate or cocoa that we have tried so we all eschew chocolate in the name of solidarity. You may even find that you don't miss the cocoa if you give these blondies a chance.

  • 3 sticks organic butter (melted)
  • 3 cups organic cane sugar
  • 3 organic free range eggs
  • 3 cups organic all purpose flour
  • 3 tsp. homemade baking powder (or 1 TBSP)
  • 1 tsp. ground vanilla beans
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Preheat oven to 325°F. Mix melted butter and sugar. Add eggs and stir until mixed well. Add flour, baking powder, ground vanilla beans and salt and mix well. Pour into buttered 9" x 13" dish (I love my glass bakeware) and bake for 42 - 45 minutes. Let cool before cutting (or just be careful not to burn your mouth with the molten lava temperature of the inside of hot blondies).

This recipe is very easy to remember because of all the threes. Both of my teenagers and I can whip up a batch of these so quickly, it hardly takes any effort. This is just a bar cookie and tastes a lot like really thick chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips. This dessert has been very popular with everyone that tried it and was even on the menu at our latest birthday party. Brenda requested (three times) that I put this recipe on my blog since tasting them at my house, so I knew I had to get it done.

Living Corn Free

my refrigerator
I am often asked how a beginner can learn to avoid corn. It's hard to get someone started. I think that avoiding corn is something that comes with practice and no one gets it right the first time out of the gate. It took me over a year before I felt that I was avoiding all corn in my purchases (at least as much as humanly possible in America), but there are still corny things in my life that I can't replace with uncorny ones. I am resigned to life with certain plastics, memory foam, envelopes, cheap pressboard furniture, tape and packaging, fuel for my car, batteries, and craft supplies. I do go out of my way to avoid buying any new products made with/from corn, but sometimes there is no feasible alternative.

My daughter remarked yesterday that even the inside of our refrigerator looks different from the average American's. There are no brightly colored labels and no plastic squeeze bottles and no cardboard packages. Instead, our fridge is filled with mason jars, glass pitchers, glass bowls and whole vegetables. The only cardboard that ever enters our fridge is the packaging for organic butter and organic pastured eggs. In the picture you can clearly see the Santa Cruz Organic Lemon Juice, Bragg's Organic apple cider vinegar, Daisy sour cream, Kroger brand sparkling water (we made cream soda for company) and our Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil. There are very few brand names or marketing dollars represented in our lives and the brand names we do buy are not the huge food corporations so popular with other Americans. These labels never enter my house: Kraft, General Mills, Bryan, Tyson, Kellog's, Quaker, Nabisco, Vlasic, Folger's, Smucker's, Sara Lee or Wesson. Most of those are subsidiaries of larger corporations but I don't buy from the "healthy" subsidiaries of those large corporations, either. You know the ones I mean, the ones that started as a small healthy alternative and were bought out by large corporations wanting to cash in on the "natural and organic" reputation. Labels like Hain, Burt's Bees, Tom's of Maine and Kashi started as small companies selling healthy products but now have been bought out by corporations known for unhealthy additives.

This is our strategy for avoiding corn and soy:

We never buy anything enriched or fortified or diet or low fat or nonfat. Enriched wheat and iodized salt and even organic vitamin D milk all contain GMO corn derivatives which are endocrine disruptors. They adversely effect blood sugar, appetite, weight regulation and hormone levels. We make all wheat products from unenriched organic all-purpose flour using a corn-free baking powder (homemade) and sea salt (uniodized). We only drink raw goat milk from pastured goats that we buy from our local farmers market. If raw is unavailable, there may be pasturized local milk that is unfortified. If we want yogurt or kefir, we make it at home.

We avoid meat from the grocery store. We buy half a cow from a local grassfed farmer and have it custom butchered to avoid citric and lactic acid sprays (both corn derivatives) and cryovac packaging (GMO cornstarch). We haven't found a safe source of chicken or fish (both are fed corn and soy and are treated with citric acid during processing) so we haven't had any in quite some time. (Some corn allergic are able to tolerate corn-fed meat, but we can't.)

I buy all my produce from the farmers market. The produce (especially the fruit) in the grocery store is usually coated with corn derivative wax to preserve it for shipping. Bagged salads are washed with citric acid - also prewashed carrots and berries. Most fruits are corntaminated in some way. We only eat fruit if we find safe local fruit in season. Grocery store tomatoes, potatoes, bananas and avocados are gassed with ethylene gas (corn derivative again). Apples, peppers, cucumbers, eggplants, rutabagas and citrus fruits are waxed with a corn derived wax as a preservative.

We eat a diet consisting of mainly meat and vegetables with healthy fats. We don't cook with processed oils, instead choosing to use rendered fat from grassfed cows, organic butter with no "natural flavor" (corn), virgin organic coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil. The more fat we eat, the longer we are satiated. I know this is contrary to modern thinking, but it really works! I try to avoid grains and refined sugar though we are not always successful and are not fanatical about it. If finances permitted it, we would be grain-free, though. This is not to be confused with a low-carb diet which uses carbohydrate count only to determine which foods to eat. I don't believe 100 grams of carbohydrate from refined flour is equal to 100 grams of carbohydrate from fresh green beans so vegetables always take precedence over grains in this house.

We eat lots of homemade probiotic foods. I found that my gut flora was badly out of balance (as it is for most people that have eaten processed foods) and I needed probiotics to repopulate my gut. They not only boost the health of the beneficial bacteria in the gut, they stimulate digestive juices for better digestion. I make lacto-fermented vegetables (process used to make traditional sauerkraut) from safe veggies and sea salt and eat them daily. I also drink beet kvass and fermented cabbage juice tonic (delicious, I swear!) for natural probiotics. Really easy to make, the varieties are limited only by imagination and no special equipment is required.

We don't buy spice blends or sauce mixes or bottled dressings or condiments. We buy single organic spices (in seed or pod form when possible) and grow fresh herbs. We also don't eat anything that contains white or distilled vinegar since that is fermented completely from GMO corn. I make my own cucumber pickles and salsa using the method above and use the fermented veggie juice in place of vinegar or buy organic apple cider vinegar. I make salad dressing, marinade, hot sauce, mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard if we want them.

We don't drink any bottled beverages including water or juice. Bottled water contains GMO corn derivatives as does most filtered water. We drink tap water run through a Brita water pitcher and carry our own glass or stainless steel water bottle with us. If we want juice, we make it from fresh veggies or fruit. I never did this before I got a chicken (for corn-free eggs) since the pulp was wasted. Now, the chicken gets the pulp and gives me eggs in return so it isn't a waste anymore. Still, we don't drink juice every day because I question the wisdom of ingesting the juice without the fiber it came with. We do buy organic lemon juice for adding to recipes since organic lemons can be hard to find here.

We have ibuprofen compounded without corn and take no other OTC or Rx meds. More and more we are discovering natural ways to combat little health problems we all encounter from time to time. It helps that we are a lot healthier these days needing fewer remedies. If we did require medications, I would get them compounded as well. I am also extremely careful of any supplements since most contain some GMO corn derivative. Here is a list of corn derivative names.

That pretty much sums up a year of careful research and success with respect to avoiding corn in the kitchen. I have been shocked so many times in the last year at the amount of GMO crops that the average American ingests daily without even knowing it. Even though I was cooking our meals from scratch, I was still feeding them to my family in the form of canned veggies, soup mixes and spice combos and milk, meat, cheese and eggs  (we buy only Kerrygold cheese now since it is corn-free and only organic pastured eggs when we need more than my chicken can produce).

Maybe my next post should be about avoiding corn in the rest of the house. The average American not only ingests GMO corn with every meal or dietary supplement, but absorbs it in the form of deodorant, moisturizer, perfume, shaving cream, hand soap, antibacterial products, air fresheners and shampoo.

Corn-free resources that we find helpful:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pizza (Homemade and Corn-free)

Sometimes we just want sausage pizza. It isn't as easy as having one brought to your door, but my recipe is pretty easy. I can't believe we haven't taken pictures of our pizza yet, but I will post some next time we make it. There are several things that I do ahead of time that make it much quicker. First, I always shred my cheese when I buy it. I buy Kerrygold cheese when I am going to make pizza or Mexican so I shred all of it at once and put it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge. We prefer Dubliner for pizzas and it happens to be the cheapest, too. Woohoo!

I brown my meat with diced onions and garlic (you can just puree these in the food processor if you have a son like mine who doesn't like pieces of onion in his food but likes the flavor) and Italian seasonings for the Italian sausage. I can't find safe pork so I make mine from 75/25 pastured beef (some people consider this ratio too fatty but fat is good for you). It is delicious and easy - I could mix all the herbs into it and form it into patties while raw, but I prefer to just add the herbs to the meat while it is browning. I can't tell you specific amounts of herbs because I never measure. Just add the following to taste: fennel seed, rosemary, red pepper flakes, sage, sea salt. Add a little touch of organic sugar if you think it needs it - most commercial Italian sausage has some sweetener but we generally leave that out.

While my meat is browning, I chop my veggies and make my pizza sauce. I always add fresh basil, garlic, onions and red bell peppers (loaded with Vitamin C) on my pizza, but  you can add whatever you like. If you like broccoli on your pizza, go for it! Just beware of mushrooms since they can be grown on a corny medium. The sauce is very simple, too. You can mix this up and it will keep in the fridge for several days and it even freezes well (use it like pizza quick sauce). To a can of safe tomato paste, I add the following: basil, oregano, organic sugar, sea salt, touch of extra virgin olive oil and water. Stir it until it is smooth but still pretty thick (the only way to screw this up is to add to much water - err on the side of too thick rather than too thin). Then I turn my attention to the pizza crust.

Pizza crust for 2 round pizza pans:

4 cups flour (organic wheat is the only ingredient)
1 1/2 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 - 3 cups of water (may need more)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients in bowl and make a well in the middle (just an indention for the water). Add some of the water to the middle of the bowl and stir in the flour as you need it. When it gets all incorporated and you have flour left, add more water and stir more flour in. Do this until all the flour is mixed and you have a dough. Pour a handful of extra virgin olive oil into your palm and rub your hands together to coat them both. Pull the dough in half and put each half on a pizza pan. Making sure your hands are well coated, use them to push the dough to the edges of the pan. Don't worry about getting it perfect, you want it to look home-made, don't you? Bake at 425F for about 8 - 12 minutes. Take from the oven and cover with toppings. Bake for another 12 - 15 minutes and enjoy.