This is the season to catch up on health check-ups:
From the Health Library: We need to keep informed of the impact of diet on medical issues. I’ve included research on preserving eye health and winter recipes. Some of these recipes take a long time to prepare. It’s winter and we are at home more for longer stretches. Perfect time to batten down the hatches and prepare some dishes or pastry dough that can be frozen.
From The Health Library: Cataract is often found in association with other defects of the eye. There are four factors which contribute to the loss of transparency of the lens. These are, stagnation of the fluid current in the lens resulting from bad blood condition ; deterioration in the nutrition of the lens which diminishes the vitality and resistance of the delicate lens fibres ; acid and salt deposits between the lens fibres which have an irritating effect on the lens tissues and exert an increasing pressure on its delicate fibres, gradually destroying them ; and disintegration of the lens fibres, clouding the whole lens in the absence of appropriate measures.
As in case of most diseases, poisons in the blood stream due to dietetic errors and faulty style of living is the real cause of cataract. The toxic matter in the blood stream spreads throughout the body to find shelter in any available weak spot. It strikes the lens if that part has become weak through strain, excessive use of the eyes or local irritation. The condition becomes worse with the passage of time and then a cataract starts developing. Other causes of cataract are stress and strain, excessive intake of alcoholic drinks, sugar, salt, smoking, certain physical ailments such as gastro-intestinal or gall-bladder disturbances, diabetes, vitamins deficiencies, especially of vitamin C, fatty acid intolerances, aging, radiation and side-effects of drugs prescribed for other diseases.
Some specialists believe that the most important cause of many cataracts is poor nutrition. This may be true even in case of type of cataract commonly called senile or aging cataract. The cause may be a lifetime of malnutrition. Dr. Morgan Raifod, opthalmologist who has studied cataracts for many years, considers faulty nutrition to be a basic factor in cataract. He has found by experience that prevention of cataract is initiated by improving nutrition.
Cataract is a most stubborn condition to deal with. If it has become deep-seated, nothing short of a surgical operation will help in overcoming the trouble. If, however, the cataract is in the early stages, there are good chances of getting over the ailment by natural means. Even advanced cases can be prevented from becoming worse.
A thorough course of cleansing the system of the toxic matter is essential. To start with, it will be beneficial to undergo a fast for three to four days on orange juice and water. A warm water enema may be taken during this period.
After this initial fast, a diet of a very restricted nature should be followed for two weeks. In this regimen, breakfast may consist of oranges or grapes or any other juicy fruit in season. Raw vegetable salads in season, with olive oil and lemon juice dressing, and soaked raising, figs or dates should be taken during lunch.
Evening meals may consist of vegetables such as spinach, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot or turnips steamed in their own juices, and a few nuts or some fruits, such as apple, pears and grapes. Potatoes should not be taken. No bread or any other article of food should be added to this list.
After two weeks on this diet, the cataract patient may start on a fuller diet on the following lines :
Breakfast : Any fresh fruits in season, except bananas.
Lunch : Large mixed raw vegetable salad with wholemeal bread or chappatis and butter.
Dinner : Two or three steamed vegetables, other than potatoes, with nuts and fresh fruits.
The short fast followed by a restricted diet should be repeated after three months of the commencement of the treatment and again three months later, if necessary. The bowels should be cleansed daily with a warm water enema during the fast, and afterwards as necessary.
The patient should avoid white bread, sugar, cream, refined cereals, rice, boiled potatoes, puddings, and pies, strong tea or coffee, alcoholic beverages, condiments, pickles, sauces, or other so-called aids to digestion.
There is increasing evidence to show that in several cases cataracts have actually been reversed by proper nutritional treatment. However, the time needed for such treatment may extend from six months to three years. Adelle Davis, one of America’s best-known nutritionists, has pointed out that animals develop cataracts if deprived of pantothenic acid and amino acid, tryptophane and vitamin B6 needed for tryptophane assimilation.
She states that the diet of the cataract patient should be high in B2, B6, as well as whole B complex, pantothenic acid, vitamin C, D, E and other nutrients.
Along with the dietary treatment, the patient should adopt various methods of relaxing and strengthening the eyes. These include moving the eyes gently up and down, from side to side and in a circle, clock-wise and anti-clockwise; rotating the neck in circles and semi-circles and briskly moving the shoulders clock-wise and anti-clockwise.
Palming is highly beneficial in removing strain and relaxing the eyes and its surrounding tissues. The procedures is as follows : sit in a comfortable position and relax with your eyes closed. Cover the eyes with the palms, right palm over the right eye and the left over the left eye. Do not press on the eyes themselves. Then allow your elbow to drop to your knees, which should be fairly close together. Try to imagine blackness, which grows blacker and blacker.
Fresh air and gentle outdoor exercise, such as walking, are other essentials to the treatment.
Nut Squash raw desert
Use a smooth edge if you need support as you finish off the top of the shell
|Cate Farm Burdock|
Kabocha Squash from my Garden
As we move toward the Winter Solstice and a New Year, I am feeling a need to add as many healing and strengthening ingredients to our recipes. Cracking open my favorite books on Herbs, Chinese Medicine and Macrobiotics ignites a spark of creativity as I find myself in my pantry gathering the ingredients for this Nourishing Soup!
Winter is a time of conservation and storage. Because the kidney, along with the urinary bladder, is predominant in this season, winter is the time to build, conserve, and store kidney chi through rest and self-reflection. The time of day that the Urinary Bladder peaks is from 3:00 to 5:00 PM and the Kidney from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.
Foods with floating water energy go deep into the body and strengthen the kidney, urinary bladder, and reproductive organs.
The most beneficial foods for this time of year are burdock, buckwheat, black soybeans, and black sesame seeds. Dried foods, like Shitake Mushroom, also contain concentrated energy to build inner strength.
The taste associated with winter and the water element is Salty.Winter cooking includes warming soups, more oil, rich bean dishes and sea vegetables which are all strengthening to the kidney.
Shiitake Mushrooms provide high levels of protein (18%), potassium, niacin and B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. They have natural antiviral and immunity-boosting properties and are used nutritionally to fight viruses, lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure. Lentinan, an immunostimulant derived from shiitakes, has been used to treat cancer, AIDS, diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease, and other conditions with impressive results.
Burdock Root is a great source of many non-starch polysaccharides such as inulin, glucoside-lappin, mucilage…etc that help act as good laxative. In addition, inulin acts as prebiotic helps reduce blood sugar level, weight and cholesterol levels in the blood.
Mineral- and vitamin-rich Nettle is a naturally nutritious way to help maintain a healthy urinary tract and flush toxins from your system. It is said to uplift a weary body, reduce fatigue and also improve thyroid, kidney and bladder functions. Nettle is also considered an age-old remedy for allergies and respiratory problems, as well as an old-time women’s herb that helps to regulate menses and stimulate lactation in nursing mothers.
Wakame Seaweed is a good source of Vitamin A, C, E and K, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Riboflavin, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Copper, Manganese and supports healthy Thyroid function.
How to Make Vegan Butter – Regular Vegan Butter – Coconut Oil Base from Vegan Baking and Vegan Pie and Puff Pastry
Written by Mattie
Butter is one of those ingredients that can be so central to baking that as soon as some people hear the term vegan baking they wonder aloud almost in a panic, “what about the butter?!” Many vegan baked items get along great with fats like canola, coconut oil or even olive oil. These types of fats work wonders for cakes, cookies, bars and breads. When designing recipes where we need something to act like butter, things start to get complicated. Solid fats like butter and margarine are integral to things like puff pastry, pie crust, shortbread, croissants, danish dough and certain cakes. This is because in these cases the fat is used to coat the flour so gluten doesn’t develop too much and also trap air bubbles to enhance leavening and texture. The only option in these instances is to turn to a margarine or similar vegan butter that is solid at room temperature and gets soft as it melts so it blends to one cohesive mass of dough.
Vegan butter options as of this writing are pretty slim. If you’re lucky, you have access to Earth Balance Buttery Sticks or Spectrum Spread (tub margarine is a no-no in baking due to its excessive water and salt content). These margarines utilize a blend of fats, water, starches and gums to mimic real butter. If you’re unlucky you only have access to other margarines which use a process called partial hydrogenation to solidify vegetable (usually soy) oil. This hydrogenation process alters the fat structure which also happens to create compounds calledtrans fatty acids that are highly toxic to the body. Toxic to the point of where finding local, sustainably raised real butter would ironically probably be a better pseudo-vegan alternative in the grand scheme of things.
Non-hydrogenated vegan margarines aren’t knights in shining buttery armor either. Lots of them use palm oil which, as of this writing, is currently associated with rainforest destruction due to its rising popularity as regions like Sumatra scramble to devote more land to its production without respecting the environment. Imagine that: a vegan option that actually leads to habitat destruction. There are efforts currently underway to sustainably cultivate palm oil but as vegans know, the best way to really know that you’re not contributing to it is to just not buy it.
I’ve never been a huge fan of margarines because I find that they’re so packed with chemicals and stabilizers that they frequently remind me of what it would be like to chew on a candle on a hot day. Have you ever done a taste test with butter and margarine? Butter dissolves away on the tongue and margarine overstays its welcome by a long shot, leaving a gummy residue lingering on. Loving a challenge, I decided to do something about this lack of quality vegan butter and give my best shot to making my own alternative. Lucky for us, this turned out to be much easier than I thought and I think I may have opened a buttery portal to give vegan bakers a little more power to innovate with the flavor of their recipes. White Chocolate Almond Croissants anyone?
I make Vegan Butter in large batches and store it in my freezer. The night before I bake I transfer it to my refrigerator or kitchen counter depending on the consistency my recipe calls for.
Understanding Real Butter
To create Vegan Butter we must understand traditional dairy-based butter. Dairy butter consists of about 78% fat, 18% water and 4% milk solids. In Europe, the fat is usually even higher in proportion to the water. The milk solids are responsible for emulsifying the fat and water, adding additional flavor and allowing the margarine to melt softly. I decided that in order to have a tasty vegan drop-in replacement for butter and margarine in things like laminated doughs and pie crusts, I’d have to stick to these figures. And heck, I’d might as well do my best to make it taste awesome as a spread too.
Real butter comes from heavy cream. The fat globules in the cream are completely surrounded and suspended in a network of emulsifying compounds in the water. As you shake the cream, the fats get shaken out of their emulsifying network, find each other and join together. As they join together they start to solidify and the water can be drained away to a point. The result is butter.
Designing Vegan Butter
In regards to fat I’d have to use something that’s solid at room temperature and not be palm oil due to the environmental issues associated with it. Coconut oil is perfect for this application because it’s available refined (unflavored) and unrefined (with coconut flavor intact). Cocoa butter comes in a close second but let’s face it- it has an overwhelming chocolate flavor. So I developed a bonus White Chocolate Vegan Butter so there. Here’s to hoping coconut oil and cocoa butter production don’t lead to habitat destruction as their popularity rises.
Coconut oil supposedly has health benefits over other fats but as of this writing it really depends on who you talk to. One camp insists that coconut fat is made up of medium-chain fatty acids that are small enough to the point of where they don’t get stored as much as other fats and result in quick-burning energy. This camp also insists that the high amount of saturated fat in coconut oil isn’t detrimental to health as other saturated fats. The other camp pledges that all saturated fats are bad and should be avoided. I personally think it’s too early to say one is right and the other is wrong and happily exercise the everything in moderation approach.
It would be pretty easy to make a fat with the consistency of butter but how would I mimic the flavor without resorting to chemicals? I’m a firm believer in the power of curdling and fermentation. Fermentation and curdling involve hundreds of chemical reactions that produce a multitude of complex flavor compounds with a depth that can’t be replicated by chemicals. I know that dairy products like cultured butter and crème fraiche involve a certain level of fermentation; you can even buy the cultures at cheese making stores and make it yourself. I wasn’t interested in the complexity of fermenting before mixing my ingredients though. This would probably be more trouble than it was worth. What if I simply curdled non-dairy milk to build the flavor I was looking for?
Non-Dairy Milk Curdling
Curdling involves adding acids to a liquid that causes the proteins to unravel like balls of yarn. As the proteins unravel, their strands line up, join together and tighten. This tightening causes tiny clumps in the mixture and also generates a large array of flavors that add a significant amount of depth to almost anything you bake it with. You may have noticed how much of a fan of curdled non-dairy milk I am due to how often I use it in my recipes on Veganbaking.net.
Several weeks prior to these Vegan Butter experiments I conducted tests with different non-dairy milks to see how they vary in curdling in regards to taste. I ended up curdling a half cup of soy, hemp, almond, rice and coconut milks each in 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes, then analyzing thickness and flavor. The results were surprising: soy milk curdled the most and had the most complex flavor (think buttermilk), followed by hemp milk, then almond milk. Coconut milk and rice milk didn’t curdle at all. This confirmed my theory that curdling is directly proportional to the amount of protein in the non-diary milk. This makes perfect sense after the explanation of curdling above. This Vegan Butter was going to have to use soy milk. You could probably make a cashew purèe to use for this base if you’re not keen on soy, however I haven’t tried this yet as of this writing. Banana Vegan Butter doesn’t use curdling to build flavor so this is an option for those interested in eliminating soy. It can also be made raw.
Since curdling is directly proportional to butter flavor development, high-protein non-dairy milks such as soy milk will provide the highest degree of butter flavor in Vegan Butter. Other non-dairy milks can be used, but don’t expect the same degree of butter flavor.
Due to this discovery of the flavor-building properties of soy milk curdled with acid, I’ll be using soy milk exclusively when I want to build flavor in this manner from here on out.
The role of acidity in Vegan Butter
Traditional butter doesn’t really have a noticeable acid profile to speak of. Since we’re building our own butter from the ground up, we need to think about acid’s extremely subtle role in savory, buttery foods. In this case, the acid plays two roles:
It’s responsible for curdling the proteins in the soy milk which creates a layer of savory flavor.
Butter flavor is also enhanced from the acid itself.
After I experimented with several vinegars as well as lemon juice, I originally settled on 100 percent apple cider vinegar to drive butter flavors. This vinegar features malic as well as acetic acid which is a great combination. The malic acid delivers initial fruity notes whereas the acetic acid promotes a volatile cultured butteriness that can be easily perceived in the nose.
One of the problems with malic acid is that it features an initial sharp, acidic punch that quickly fades. This burst of acidity can be a little too much for people who are sensitive to acidity. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the merits of coconut vinegar.
Coconut vinegar lacks the fruitiness of apple cider vinegar but features a smoother acid profile that lingers longer. I found that combining apple cider vinegar with coconut vinegar provides the best combination of subtle fruitiness with a smooth, lingering finish. If you can’t find coconut vinegar, feel free to use 100 percent apple cider vinegar. If you’re particularly sensitive to acidity in general, don’t be afraid to experiment with lowering the acidity to your liking.
Emulsifiers and stabilizers
Now that I had the fat and flavor-building ingredients down, I needed to bring everything together into a smooth cohesive, malleable mass that could be worked into dough, creamed into airy masses for cakes and cut into pie crust dough. Emulsifiers are compounds that bind oil-based ingredients and water-based ingredients into one cohesive mixture. I decided to use soy lecithin for this purpose due to its affordability and effectiveness. Xanthan gum was developed in the mid 20th century from the slimy grime that grows on vegetables in the refrigerator. It so happens that this vegetable gum is a wonder ingredient, acting as both an emulsifier and a stabilizer. A stabilizer is able hold air bubbles and support structure.
Psyllium husk powder
As I’ve learned in the comments section for this Vegan Butter, for one reason or another, some people just aren’t that keen on xanthan gum. For some it’s due to an allergic reaction. Others just aren’t into the idea of eating food that’s not in its natural state. Although I feel that xanthan gum works as an excellent emulsifier and stabilizer in Vegan Butter, I respect those who choose to not consume it.
After some suggestions in the comments and further testing, I’ve found that psyllium husk powder can work as a suitable stabilizer for Vegan Butter.
Keep in mind that if you choose to not use xanthan gum or psyllium husk powder, Vegan Butter will be, as they say in the butter world, less plastic or malleable. This can cause it to be more difficult to work with in some recipes because it’ll shear when cut into recipes instead of squish. It also won’t be able to hold air bubbles when whipped.
Fine tuning the salt
I decided to walk a fine line in regards to salt in Vegan Butter. You may laugh at the measurement of ¼ + ⅛ teaspoon salt in the recipe below. I wanted the salt level to be sufficient enough to yield buttery flavor in most applications but not to the point of where it added to the saltiness of baked items.
I ended up fine tuning this formula and the results worked so well I decided to develop variants I now feature in the Vegan Butters recipe section. These variants include Miso Tahini Tarragon Vegan Butter, Three Herbed Vegan Butter, Cultured European Style Vegan Butter and White Truffle Vegan Butter. Use these anywhere you would use traditional butter or margarine. I must say I’m baffled as to why this hasn’t been done before and promptly placed on the market. A vegan butter that doesn’t use space-age ingredients would surely fly off store shelves, even if it were relatively expensive.
When making these Vegan Butters it’s highly recommended that you use a silicone mold like the Extra Large Silicone Ice Cube Tray. This will allow you to make gorgeous butter cubes that can easily be slid out of the molds.
This is regular ‘ol Vegan Butter that’s designed to mimic your favorite commercial variant. Use it wherever you use butter or margarine. Like traditional butter, Vegan Butter is more solid than tub margarine and not as spreadable. This is so it can perform optimally in vegan baking applications. If your goal is to have a conveniently softer, spreadable Vegan Butter, swap out 1 Tablespoon of the coconut oil with 1 additional Tablespoon canola, light olive oil or rice bran oil.
Regular Vegan Butter Recipe – Coconut Oil Base
¼ cup + 2 teaspoons soy milk
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (130 grams) refined coconut oil, melted
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum or ½ + ⅛ teaspoon psyllium husk powder or ground chia seeds/ground flax seeds
1) Curdle your soy milk
Place the soy milk, apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar and salt in a small cup and whisk together with a fork. Let it sit for about 10 minutes so the mixture curdles.
2) Mix your Vegan Butter ingredients
Melt the coconut oil in a microwave so it’s barely melted and as close to room temperature as possible. Measure it and add it and the canola oil to a food processor. Making smooth Vegan Butter is dependent on the mixture solidifying as quickly as possible after it’s mixed. This is why it’s important to make sure your coconut oil is as close to room temperature as possible before you mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
3) Transfer the Vegan Butter to a mold so it solidifies
Add the soy milk mixture, soy lecithin and xanthan gum to the food processor. Process for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides halfway through the duration. Pour the mixture into a mold and place it in the freezer to solidify. An ice cube mold works well. The Vegan Butter should be ready to use in about an hour. Store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 month or wrapped in plastic wrap in the freezer for up to 1 year. Makes 1 cup (215 grams), or the equivalent of 2 sticks Regular Vegan Butter.
Got to get some Kosher liquid soy lecithin!