Sunday, August 21, 2011

Asian Beef Salad

I was going to cook a chili crusted chicken Napa salad last night, but changed things up and became inventive.

We had some sirloin that needed to get cooked or frozen. It lent itself ve
ry nicely to the chili crust, but my thumbs have burned since last night after seedi
ng the jalapenos! The only relief has been soaking my fingers in milk when they start heating up again. Milk does help!

I used two jalapenos and a mystery chili from the garden.

I bought a pack of "Carnival Mix" pepper plants, and was under the impression they were sweet. I have a chili and a plant that is forming black peppers. They are lovely! I didn't pick any of them yet. The chili is most certainly hotter than a sweet chili for sure. The black pepper may be a Hungarian Hot Black or it may be a sweet black pepper. If the fruit turns reddish yellow I'll know its the Hungarian.

The peppers were chopped fine, mixed with a T of himalayan pink salt and mixed berry peppers freshly ground, about a teaspoon. I rubbed this on the sirloin and let it sit until the meat was room temperature.

In a glass bowl I squeezed two limes, added a T of honey, and 1/4 c. loosely packed each cilantro and peppermint, 3 pieces fresh ginger the size of a quarter minced and 2 cloves garlic minced. Whisk all together and slowly drizzle in 1/2 c. olive oil until mixed. Let stand while you cook the meat on the grill.

As the meat cooks, cut a medium head of napa cabbage into thin strips. Add 1 medium carrot cut into 2" long toothpicks, a sweet bell pepper also cut into toothpicks, 4-6 radishes sliced, 1 medium cucumber sliced, 1/4 c each cilantro, peppermint, 1/2 c. loosely packed Thai Basil and Italian Flat leaf parsley and toss with 1/2 the lime juice dressing.

When the steaks are medium-rare to medium remove from the grill and let sit for a few minutes tented with foil. Slice the steaks at an angle across the grain. Plate the salad and top with the steak. Pour more dressing over if you desire.

It is a refreshingly light way to get your veggies and protein into a summer dinner.

Today I added some pomegranate vinegar to the lime dressing, some more olive oil and used it as the dressing for five bean salad. The chicken is coming out of the fridge and getting covered in cowboy rub. I had to cave and get potatoes at the store, but the yukon golds will be great with onions and chives. Great stuff.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rejuvenating Water Kefir (Tibi)

There must have been something in the air or water a few weeks ago because both my friend's and my tibi grains turned to applesauce. I brought some of my teensy ones out to her since she had tossed hers. I also brought coconut milk to help feed them. They seem to like the trace minerals in coconut milk, and the sugars. I recommended she use molasses and not agave because of the mineral needs of tibi. It's okay. My grains replenished splendidly! I've got plenty for her and her chickens again! They are even growing in the baggie I have them in in the fridge!

How did I accomplish this? At home I mixed half coconut milk and half filtered water, 1/3rd cup molasses and straining every 24 hours to try to get the grains plump again. They fed really well on that combo! I cut back on the coconut milk each time I strained the tibi. Coconut water came from Amazon last week so I have used half that and half filtered water with a third cup of the newly arrived coconut palm sugar and they are Dancing again!

I am bringing a bag of the palm sugar and some grains to Kathy tomorrow. While there I am going to pick up some more of her Italian Blend. That is some superb stuff!

Right now I have a quart of milk kefir separating on the shelf. I plan on getting some good cheesecloth and driving a hook into the cupboard to hang the cheese from while straining the whey. The kefir cheese or lebneh was a real hit when I mixed in chives and garlic with a little salt and pepper when my son Logan and his girlfriend Sarah were here.

I ordered a pound of broccoli sprouting seeds from sprout today. For the sake of simplicity, I am sticking with just one kind of sprout and broccoli is the chosen one. It was pricey at nearly $40, but good quality is a must. I noticed a lot fewer unsprouted seeds in the Mumm's brassicca blend than in the ones I got with the kit from Burpee. I belong to the sproutpeople group and have picked up great hints in the realm of sprouting.

I need to concentrate on my garden, so am cutting back to just growing tibi grains for Kathy, her family and her chickens, keeping the milk kefir going, and just broccoli sprouts. The sprout seeds are big enough not to run out of the tray and are easy to chase down when dehulling the sprouts. All time saving and all so good for things! The chickens will have probiotic eggs, which I get from Kath, my family continues to enjoy sprouts with salads and sandwiches and I get to have the milk kefir. I truly do believe it is a miracle food in many ways. I need to get better at making lotion with it and coconut oil though! That is quite a mess in that cottage cheese container in the kitchen! Just this moment it came to me to blend the oil and kefir in that container inside a bowl of warm water. Baby Mads has some kind of rash on her back and sides, so I tried to make a mixture to soothe and relieve the itch. I don't know if it helped, but I will try with it blended better!

Off I go, to play with the lives growing in my kitchen!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sweet Roll Adventures/Coconut Milk Kefir Failure

Last night I decided to try something new in the bread machine. I have an abundance of kefir and kefir grains right now. I really like the benefits of soaking flours in kefir before using them for baking. The soaking and souring of the flour breaks down the phytic acid that prevents absorption of the nutrients in the flour. It also adds a leavening element that allows for less yeast or baking powder in the final product. I wanted to make sweet roll dough in the bread machine. I like slow SOLE, but I do work full-time and last night, the grandson seemed to get a 3rd and 4th and 5th wind of energy that needed attention. It is great to use the bread machine to make doughs as well as gigantic Pullman loaves of bread (yee gads, they are HUGE!)

M'love got me this Welbilt bread machine in 1999 from a store that has lots of overpriced leftover inventory, so I am sure it was at least 5 years old when I got it from the store.

This recipe isn't totally SOLE, but I used what I had and will include the desired substitutes in parentheses. My bread machine calls for yeast first and then flour and other dry ingredients then the liquids. I added the milk kefir right after the very cut back yeast, flour, flaxseed and wheat germ and gave that a stir to moisten and then added the rest of the ingredients.

Sweet "Soured Dough" Rolls

1 tsp yeast

4 c. of any flour and grain combination. This time I used 2 1/2 c. unbleached white Wheat Montana flour (in an attempt to redeem myself for using white flour, ) a cup combined of wheat germ and flaxseed and 1/2 c. coconut flour. (I need to replenish my supplies of brown rice flour, coconut flour and potato starch and Prairie Gold, almond meal , which would be used in combination to make the rolls a bit more gluten free if needed. Sift the gluten free flours and meals)

1 1/2 c. milk kefir (or cultured buttermilk, yogurt thinned with milk, any soured milk will do.)

1/2 c. sugar (it's poison, but I also discovered I am out of sucanat too, sigh and granddaughter is only 18 months so isn't able to have unpasteurized honey yet.)

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 c coconut oil, warmed slightly so it pours.

2 large beaten free range eggs (always add extra eggs when using coconut flour, it's dense. use 1 egg for every 1/4 c. coconut or almond flour)

I set the timer for 12 and 1/2 hours and went about the rest of my evening (this gave the flour a good 11 hr soak in the kefir.) JD had indigestion problems at about 5:00 this morning and had fallen asleep on the couch so the start up of the mixing was a weird sound to wake up to at almost 6:00! Sorry honey!

I slept in until 7:20 and the beeper was just going off as I walked into the kitchen to make my coffee.

There it was, a beauty of a dough ball! A perfect combo of dry to liquid and not a huge amount of stretch to the dough. I patted it out into a rectangle about 15 x 18 " and smeared the dough with soft butter leaving about an inch dry at the long far end. Then I sprinkled the butter with a combination of sugar, ground cinnamon and ground clove. (I would use sucanat and/or brown sugar normally, as much as you want, but I only used a 1/3rd of a cup of sugar since it was white {erg!})

Roll the dough into a cylinder, pinching the dry end into the dough. Cut into 12 pieces (I cut in half, then cut the halves in half and then each of those into thirds. Easier to get them to be even, somewhat)

I put them in a buttered 9 x 13" cake pan and let them rise on the preheating oven's range top until double. Let the oven preheat to 350 deg. and bake for 30 minutes.

While the rolls are in the oven separate an egg and start whipping with the fork the white until foamy, drizzle a third cup of honey into it as you continue to whip the white.

Take the rolls out after 30 min and after giving one more whip to mix, brush the rolls with the egg white and honey mixture. Pop them back in the oven for another 15 minutes, covering with foil the last 5-7 if they start getting dark. Lift up an inside roll to make sure they are baked and let cool for a minute on a rack.

Lightly slide a butter knife along the between the outside of the rolls and the pan to loosen the honey crust and rolls from the sides. Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray or brush with oil or butter. Put the cookie sheet foil side down on the pan of rolls, grab the roll pan and cookie sheet and tip over. Let sit for a minute and remove the pan.

Take a stick of butter out of the fridge and put on a plate. Let the rolls cool for 15 minutes and use the perfect cool butter and have it melt a little.


What would I change about the recipe if I wanted it to be closer to SOLE? It is, with the exceptions of white flour of any kind and white sugar. Substitutions noted bring the recipe closer to SOLE and also low gluten if using brown rice flour and almond meal. Using low gluten flours and meals make the rolls more "cakey" and not as "bready."

I was able to load a photo to photobucket yesterday, but today it's telling me "no" so I will have to work on that and add them later. (Success on the photos!)

The coconut milk kefir didn't work out very well. I may have to add more grains to make it work, or let the grains adapt a bit before it all comes together in a thick bubbly coconut delight, or maybe not. I guess I will have to nurture the grains just like when I first got them going in milk after they had been frozen.

Today I joined all the jars of milk kefir in one jar and set it up on the milk kefir shelf to culture until tomorrow night. I am going to pour it into some cheesecloth and let it form cream cheese or lebneh, leban, whatever you call it! It will make a great little probiotic treat with herbs and fresh chives, maybe make some twice baked potatoes with the result! mmmmmm!

The coconut "stuff" needed some help. I decided to let it sit with more kefir grains today and see how it looks tomorrow. I have spare grains in the fridge in milk right now, and they are forming kefir! This group is busy. I don't get giant grains. I give the kefir a stir with the handle of a plastic cooking spoon before straining, so probably break off pieces. That's okay, those little pieces grow too, and I can do some "kefir-vangelizing" at the same time while sharing those little ones with friends and family.

I am going outside to work on the yard a bit this afternoon and then try to make something for supper!

Life grows and grows in my kitchen!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A New Experiment

With the lactose intolerant granddaughter and the asthmatic grandson and his mucous issues, I looked at different combinations of nut milk and rice milk to help them get their calcium and good fats. Monday I had grandson. I mixed up coconut milk, coconut water, a little milk kefir and some vanilla for his bottle. Poor guy has been suffering from lung problems and an inflamed airway. He doesn't want to chew and swallow anything. He drank it right down and I made a refill and his mom took it home with her.

I had put the kefir grains to rest for a few days since I have been overrun and not having time to work with the kefir we have accumulated. Rest means just placing the kefir grains in milk in the fridge. I took them out yesterday and strained the was kefir after 2 days. There we go! I can culture in the fridge, it just takes a little more time. I do imagine some of the flori don't have a chance to build up in good numbers so it doesn't pack the punch it normally would. I added a cup of milk to the grains (almost a cup) and let it sit for 24 hrs. They seemed to be "awake" so strained that this morning and put the coconut milk mix in the jar to see what it will do.

Although granddaughter hasn't had any major episodes lately with little bits of dairy here and there and she drinks the berry smoothies from the milk kefir and does okay, I still think the coconut milk with all that wonderful medium chain fatty acid and laurine will be so good for her. Grandson needs a boost to the immune system and rebuilding so the coconut milk kefir is probably going to be a big blessing and help!

Right now I have two trays of broccoli sprouts almost ready. They are great little things and the grandkids love them a lot! They like scrambled eggs with sprouts, spinach and a little reconstituted sun dried tomatoes. Lemon pepper is their favorite seasoning! Crazy huh? Those sprouts have so much nutritional punch and such a spicy flavor that eating them is a mouthful of happiness!

Life continues growing in my kitchen!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Biscuit Sticks"

Last night at 8:30 or so I remembered I needed to make bread sticks for the office lunch feast. I mixed up some cheesy, garlicky and herby yeast breadstick dough in the bread machine and set it to start mixing and rising at 4 a.m. That is my concession to working full time and having a daily hour and half commute. I do what I do and try to attain 50% SOLE when I work full time.

My curiosity and guilt took over, I decided to make some lower gluten, high fiber, kefir biscuit sticks. One of my co workers doesn't care much for "fancy bread" so these rustic little things did the trick for him. I mixed 3/4 c. brown rice flour, 1/4 c. coconut flour, and 1 & 1/4 c. Wheat Montana white flour. Yeah, yeah, I used white flour, another concession for my fellow employees. Into that I poured a cup of milk kefir and covered the bowl with plastic wrap to "rest" overnight.

This morning I dumped the breadstick dough out of the machine, shaped the breadsticks and put them in the oven.

I dumped the biscuit dough out onto a well floured board and kneaded in 1/2 t. salt, 1/2 t. baking soda and a 1/2 t. of baking powder and 1/3 c. olive oil. I spread the dough out into a quasi rectangle and cut it into a dozen sticks, letting them rest under a towel until the breadsticks were done. I cranked the heat to 450 deg and baked them for 14 minutes. They were great! Tender on the inside, crusty on the outside and just perfect for soaking up olive oil and herbs, spaghetti sauce, lasagna juices and other such goodies we had today! The man who doesn't like fancy doesn't know that these little biscuit sticks had some healthy and maybe some would consider "fancy" ingredients. He just knew they were tasty, earthy and he ate six!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

At the "Now What?" Stage

I have had such a huge success culturing and fermenting and sprouting that now I am over run with both tibi and milk grains, my sprouts are not being tended as they should and time is short again. I periodically have to work at the main office 35 miles away, and this is one of those periods. No more strains, rinses or preparation for such at lunch, crunch time in the morning and the garden work starting in the evening. It may seem insurmountable right now, but I will get through this.

Last week and this week I put the milk kefir, grains and all, into the fridge and let it wait for a day before straining and starting another jar. That helped.

The tibi grains are the most prolific! I am saving them for my friend's chickens, since I have figured out that 40 oz. is the most I can think of consuming a day. I have started making only a quart of tibi a day. Last week I used the coconut milk tibi for cream soda. The root beer wasn't fizzy but the cream soda was, so pouring half of each into a glass, cream soda first and root beer last really made it seem like a root beer float. The other morning I was getting coffee after my shower and kept hearing this fizzling sound. Being deaf in one ear I thought it was coming from the coffee pot, but no. As I turned around one of the cream coconut soda bottles popped the top off like a mini volcano. Everything went in the fridge that moment! That may be why the root beer was flat, since it didn't get to sit out for the full 24 hours, more like 12.

Last night I added vanilla extract and some more sucanat to the 24 hr. strained tibi and bottled 20 oz. and then added some of the flat root beer to the remainder to bring that up to 20 oz. They were both pretty fizzy at noon so I put them in the fridge to avoid another explosion. I decided to replenish to 38 oz. this batch and keep the 24 hr. first ferment. The 48 hr. just made it so very very sour.

One batch that went for 72 hrs now is fermenting into vinegar with pomegranate juice in it. That should be wonderful!

Milk kefir is doing great! It is consistently thick and tasty now. Even sitting in the fridge a day or two doesn't seem to bother the grains much. I really need to get going on making a big batch of smoothies for my grandson and his dad. The asthma and Crohn's will both be relieved hopefully!

Granddaughter and her dad are both benefiting from the milk kefir. I still can't convince anyone else in the house to try the tibi. This root beer batch I am making the husband taste. I dare him to say it smells like the inside of a shoe. The blend of vanilla and root beer should take that out. It seemed to with what I drank.

Today I got the Burpee sprouter trays and started broccoli sprouts again. I also started the salad blend that came with the set. Not a bad buy for $10 and I can try it and decide if I want to buy the SproutMaster that so many people love!

There is life in my kitchen!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tibicos Experiments and Baking with Milk Kefir

I just drank my first bottle of the tibi I mixed with fresh squeezed orange juice for its second ferment. It needed some more sucanat, but was refreshing and tasty. I also filtered a batch yesterday that had lemons and ginger. The smell of it was wonderful, but the flavor was a little bland so after the first straining I mixed in the juice of 2 more lemons (it was about 45 ozs of tibi) and about a third of a cup of sucanat. It was still a mild flavor, but very tasty. It will be ready to drink tomorrow. I am looking forward to it.

I strained it twice with cheesecloth and put it in the BPA free plastic bottles I found at the local "gouge and grab (your $$)." I do have to admit the bottles were affordable at $3.00 each and are great for that 2nd fermentation and then the fridge. The new batch of tibi is also lemon and ginger.

I am pondering the addition of V8 after the first straining, or maybe V8 Fusion that has fruit too. I wonder if it would be too acidic? I'll have to check with the message board to see if anyone else has tried it.

Yesterday Jenny at Nourished Kitchen had an Irish Soda Bread (actually Spotted Dog for the traditionalist) recipe posted on FB. It called for buttermilk, but I used milk kefir instead. The flour and kefir soaked all night and I added the currents (also soaked in fruit juice all night), salt and baking soda this morning and baked it. Unfortunately the pinched nerve in my neck isn't much better this morning, so am going to have to send the bread to the office and leave me behind...bummer!

The bread looks wonderful! Smells great, and I am going to make some more this weekend with our corned beef dinner. I am going to use the prepared version from the store for the corned beef. Hopefully all the healthy things I am doing for myself will counteract the chemical load of Armor Foods packaged corned beef!

I love the life growing in my kitchen!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tibicos aka Water Kefir

Last Saturday the Tibicos or water kefir grains came from Marilyn at kefirlady
At the time it was -0.4 degrees in my little town. I was impressed first with the amount of grains sent. I may have mentioned that in the previous post, but now I may add they are quite lively! By Friday I had to switch up to a gallon jug with 2 quarts water. The top photo is of a quart jar with 2 cups of water, 1/3rd cup sucanat, two dried dates unsulphered all covered with a piece of paper towel. Six days later ... I wish I had taken a photo of the 2 cups of grains in the quart jar!
I guess showing you the gallon jar with more grains in proportion to water than the quart will have to do. I added a well scrubbed orange cut in half. I don't have a lemon or lime handy so this will have to do. The family is impressed with the growth of the grains although I am the only one drinking it. This jug is filled with nicely percolating bubbles. The husband, JD, say the whole thing is like a lava lamp with the bubbles and the grains rising to the top and sinking back down. The granddaughter doesn't mind it too much. I haven't wanted to give her any probiotics with yeast since she is going through thrush treatment. She is done with those meds today, so tomorrow she will enjoy the kefir!

By Tuesday night I had my first drink of tibi. I squeezed oranges into it and added sucanat, set remainder in the fridge and drank more on Wednesday. It was okay. I will have to get accustomed to the taste. I set out one water jug with 20 oz of straight tibi on Wednesday night and let it go through a second fermentation. It went in the fridge on Thursday night and I drank it after lunch yesterday. I didn't get my typical end of day lag so that was a plus! It may have a little alcohol, but it wasn't a noticeable amount. Today I mixed orange juice into the tibi after I strained it. It filled two 2o oz bottles which will sit on the shelf for the day and into the fridge tomorrow. I am going to have to find someone to share with!

The milk kefir is doing wonderfully. I have been having smoothies morning and evening. My gut feels much better. The filtered water rinse on the grains is doing the trick as far as a nice thick, not separated or wrong smelling product. I like to have 4 - 6 ozs just plain out of the culture jar when I strain it. The smoothies are divine. I am going to have blueberry with sucanat tonight. The blueberries are thawing on the counter. They will be great with coconut oil added in. Pretty too! The Golden Blend from Schwann's is a nice bright color for morning. Tomorrow we are "sprung back," so it's going to be dark again when I wake up. Blue is kind of what I feel about the morning effect of DST. I was smiling on my way to work every day. It will be light at least, if I don't have to drive to the main office.

The addition of tibi seems to be having a positive effect in the energy area. It hasn't had a negative impact on me that's for sure! I sure need to come up with some flavors for it. It's got a strange fermented flavor that has a weak beer start, so maybe tomato juice or V8. It's going to be interesting to see how it goes. People recommend ginger and lemon, so will give that a try next week. I can drink it as it is, and maybe the 2nd ferment on the orange juice laced tibi will be better.

My new batch of brassica blend sprouts is in the fridge all green and luscious looking! I used the tray method this time. It likes more water than most sprouts I think. I am excited to try them on a sandwich or salad tomorrow. I have Kabuli cooking on the stove and am going to add a cup of the it to a bean salad I have on the counter. It will go in the fridge overnight. Tomorrow night hamburger steaks with fried onions, bean salad, baked red potatoes. Yum!!! My mouth is watering!

I love the life growing in my kitchen!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Finally! Kefir at its Best!

This week has been full of kefir drama! It was forming a thickened nicely formed liquid on Monday and Tuesday, but by Wednesday there was mass separation with the whey in the middle of the kefir grain and curds and some not right looking things at the bottom of the jar. Thursday it was really bad again. I read on the kefirlady's message board that it may do that if too many curds cling to the grains. I had been rinsing with milk, but someone mentioned rinsing in filtered water.

And then, more drama. On Thursday night I had rinsed the kefir grains with water, strained them and put them back in the culture jar. I then put the kefir in the fridge and was making the smoothie for that night and the morning after. I looked at the culture jar and thought "That could use a bit of a rinse too!" and proceeded to add filtered water, la-di-da-di-da, swish and pour that water down the drain. Look in the jar and realize what had just happened. Noooooooooooo! Not the grains! Omigosh, NOT the grains...oh oh oh~ and there were two grains sitting on top of the little cross of metal at where the plug fits. Whew! Scooped them up and put them in the culture jar. The drain plug screen had one more little one. I noticed there were "starts" in the strainer too. Those all went in the culture jar with a fresh cup of organic milk. My heart rate settled when I realized all was not lost. Kefir in the water would do no harm. There were plenty of grains put to work in that culture jar.

I decided perhaps the culture was going too long. At noon on Friday I checked the kefir culture and it was a creamy texture with no yeasty smell too it at all. It was a tad sour, but in a refreshing way. Now this must be the kefir that everyone talks about! I strained it then, dumped the separated kefir out of the keeper jar into Thor's (youngest daughter's English Mastiff) bowl and put the kefir into the keeper jar. The grains got another rinse in filtered water until they were free of the little curds.

I put the grains into the culture jar and had to let Madge (youngest daughter's mutt) out. I came back and picked up the empty keeper jar by mistake and looked in with alarm. I think it was a pts-like moment after the feelings I went through the night before, but I hollered "Oh NO!" and ran to Thor, joyfully licking up the last of the kefir. And then I remembered to stop and look in the other jar. There they were, two large grains and one small awaiting their fresh milk. They got a cup and put back on the culture shelf.

This morning at about 9:30 I checked the kefir. It was once again thickened liquid with a bit of tang in the bouquet (hahaha) and no yeasty smell. I found the keeper kefir once again separated in the fridge so elected to give that to the pets and use a clean keeper jar. I strained, it was wonderfully thick and creamy. The grains got a filtered water rinse and into the culture jar with a cup of milk. I had to drink some of this kefir. It was tangy, creamy and easy to consume. Only a third of a cup went into the clean keeper jar.

Madolyn has thrush. I hope it's not from the yeasty part of the kefir. I think this product as it is now is perfect. I do believe that the yeasty smell and taste was because the grains needed better rinsing. Filtered water is definitely doing the trick, something MP forgot to mention.

The water kefir grains should be here by today. I am going to get dates to help them get started. Marilyn's grains get high grades for freshness and readiness of use. I am excited to get them and may get some milk kefir grains from her to boost my poor little babies.

If I have success with the water kefir I will attempt kombucha and definitely get some fir mjolk culture. Fir mjolk will be the easiest. This is my new quest evidently, to bring as many probiotics to my world and help those around me. I hope that it realizes itself in a positive way.

The sprouts are doing well. I blew it with the brassica blend by not covering them with a solid lid. They dried out and compacted heavily with only the netting. I believe they would benefit from the tray method rather than the jar. I am going to sprout lentils in the jar and read up on mung bean sprouting. It is tricky, needing cool and dark conditions and lots of rinsing.

All in all I am satisfied with the red clover, sandwich booster and alfalfa sprouts in the trays. I am going to try a new approach to draining but the product is tender, sweet and wonderful on sandwiches and in salads. I like them with eggs, maybe not every one else does though.

The mail just came. The package came from kefirlady! Water kefir grains, about a quarter cup. What a great start they will have. I already put them in a jar with filtered water and some sucanat.

Must go now, since I need some coconut milk, whole milk, 2% milk and some dried unsulphered fruit (like that is going to happen at Gouge n Grab your Cash.) Raisins will be a good start. Just like wine in the haystack hahaha! Can you imagine that may have been good for us? I am going to use some for coconut water kefir too, maybe give it it's start with that. The antiviral qualities will be great!

I love the life growing in my kitchen!

I got some microwave splatter screens for use with the sprout rinsing-draining regimen. They might get use as a kefir straining tool too. Who knows?

Monday, February 28, 2011

New Sprouts!

I started four different sprouts on Feb. 24th and they are ready I do believe!

The new types I am trying this week are the Sandwich Booster Blend (Alfalfa, Red Clover, Radish and canola), alfalfa and red clover on their own. These I sprouted in trays with paper towels and just a gallon freezer bag draped over the top.

I rinsed 2 to 3 times a day in filtered water and used a strainer to catch the strays and put back in the tray when they drained.

I can see how warm days may produce some mold on these guys (not that we have had any lately.) In my Mumm's order was a sprout growing guide in a dial. There are warnings there about what to expect if they get too warm. I have a basement, but the rinsing regimen couldn't go on without a sink down there. Warm weather means things in the garden, so maybe not a lot of sprouting in the summer. Wow, glad that's solved!

I am using the jar method, by far my favorite, for the brassica blend of broccoli, broccoli-rahb, mustard and lentils. I didn't use a lot of seeds in this batch, so there wasn't the "over-growth" of the batch of salad blend I made for my first sprout experience.

Rinsing and draining are the most important steps to healthy sprouts. I don't think I can emphasize that enough!

These nutrient rich little babes pack a punch for our health. Fresh is best and where I live, sprouts are about the only truly "fresh" vegetable we get here this time of year. Last Friday it was 35 below zero, and I speak F, not C. The little 10-12 mph breeze sent that down to the -50's, not a lotta green out there.

I think I found my cure for spring fever. Just the sight of those little leaves of alfalfa and red clover makes me smile! Even the root starts are rewarding, white, vigorous, poking their way out of the hull.

Thank you Jenny, Food Renegade and Mike Adams for the inspiration and the kick in the butt to return to SOLE.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Change of Course

This week I bought a fresh pineapple. At $3.89 I couldn't pass it up. I was going to make yogurt today and hang for cheese tomorrow to make those brownies that I spoke about in the earlier post today. I may still do that, since work isn't on the agenda tomorrow either, just a doctor visit.

I googled "pineapple upside down cake with coconut flour, coconut oil and fresh pineapple" this afternoon and found this recipe at my year without's blog, which led me to the original recipe so I adapted them both to fit what I had on hand. Here is what I got:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake in Cast Iron

For the top:
sliced pineapple Used fresh, sliced)
4 Tbsp butter or
1/2 C. honey or sucanat ( I used ¾ cup sucanat w/ a T. of honey for the glaze)
*optional: pecans (left these out.)

For the cake:
1 C whole wheat flour (Used ½ coconut flour and ½ c. Prairie Gold Wheat Montana)
1 C white whole wheat flour (used Wheat Montana unbleached white wheat)
1 tsp baking powder (cut back to ¾ t. to account for altitude)
1 tsp baking soda (same as w/ the baking pwdr, ¾ t due to altitude.)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C butter or coconut oil (used coconut oil w/ a T of butter to emulsify and fluff)
1/2 C honey (used ¾ c sucanat w/ a T of honey to blend in)
2 eggs (increased to 4 to allow for the coconut flour’s super absorbency!)
1 C buttermilk (used ¼ c. orange juice and ¾ c kefir)
1 and a half tsp vanilla (1 t.

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the 4 Tbsp butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet (I halved the recipe and used my smaller skillet). Once melted, add in the honey and stir until combined. Cook a couple minutes until the mixture is nice and bubbly.

Place pineapple slices in pan.

Continue to cook another couple minutes, turn the slices over, and turn off heat. (If using, place the pecans in pan after you turn off heat.)

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Next, cream together the 1/2 C butter, and the 1/2 C honey until light and fluffy. Add the eggs in one at a time and then stir in vanilla. Alternating between flour mixture and buttermilk, add them into creamed mixture, stirring just until combined.

Pour over the pineapple slices.

Bake for about 35 minutes (it took 30 in my oven with a baking stone in the bottom) or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool in pan for 5 minutes. (This worked out great, took the last five minutes of the timer!) Then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the sides and quickly tip over onto a flat plate or cutting board.

It's cooling as I type. The house is full of a nutty/fruity/caramel scent that is divine! I am glad I have sucanat, since it does great as a substitute for honey (sadly too much fructose) for me.

I plan on whipping some cream and serving that with it for my conventional eaters. Grand daughter will relish the laurine and the medium chain saturated fatty acids in it. It's something she can have!

Adventures in Kefir! Kefir! Kefir! and Sprouts!

To be honest, until I began to ferment my own kefir, I had no idea what it tasted like, looked like or the process it took to get it to a point of being palatable. I think we're there though! It has taken two weeks to get those grains to grow some, and now that they look like little cauliflowers instead of opague white booger balls the drink itself has changed too.

The first week or more the kefir smelled like sourdough yeast. After the first week huge separation was taking place, but the curds were large and really sour/yeasty. Stirring did not get it to break up much. I had a moment of thought and realized that I am feeding the grains at this point. They were turning whiter, but still had a gelatinous smooth look to them.

Since last Wednesday the grains have begun "blooming" and look more and more like the little cauliflower buds that I had been seeking. The feeding of the grains is much more important than having a palatable drink and lead to a better drink as time goes on I can tell.

There isn't as much separation now. I have decided I like that better. When I strain the kefir now, the curds are small and easy to send through the strainer. The grains are growing and definitely stand out now. It appears I have 4 of the little darlings. They are beginning to multiply!

My straining and restarting process are pretty simple. I set 3/4ths of a cup of organic whole milk on the counter after getting home from work (5-6) About 8 or 9 p.m. I break out the strainer, the pitcher bowl and a cup measure. Use plastic or glass. I have stuck a metal spoon into the mixture a couple times in this two and a half weeks and it does seem to inhibit growth (not kill, but that's all the metal these grains have been in contact with and it did inhibit)

Stir the culture with the handle of a plastic spoon rather briskly to break up the curds. If you break a grain, it's okay, that is part of multiplication! They are easy to see at the bottom of the strainer now, and easy to detect as I 'push' the curds through the strainer.

Pour about 1/4 cup of the organic whole milk into the spare cup measure and put the grains in it and swish lightly to rinse. Strain that into the pitcher bowl and stir or swish those contents lightly. Pour 1/2 cup of the kefir into the culturing jar and return the grains to it. Pour in the rest of the organic milk, sprinkle a little sucanat into it, swish, cover lightly and set to culture in its spot. Pour the rest of the kefir in the "keeper" jar in the fridge.

I have been enjoying the smoothies I am making with the kefir. My gut is enjoying it the best right now, and my butt is too. I do not have screaming diarrhea every day, several times a day any longer. Even having honey in the green tea yesterday, refined flour, root beer, coffee and ice cream did not provoke a major IBS incident.

Can you imagine how great I would feel if I didn't consume any of that processed stuff or high fructose stuff? Maybe I wouldn't be sitting here with a major swollen lymph node right now. Well, I will need to revamp all other foods I consume to meet some standards, but kefir seems to be the magic bullet to reorganizing my gut right now. Last weekend was almost a purge and cleanse. It seemed like the diverticuli were letting loose. Kefir is like adding scrubbing bubbles to the colon, except it leaves behind healthy bacteria and yeast to repopulate and even things out. I was able to drink some on its own last night, and it was almost sweet in after taste with a buttermilk presentation. Sheesh! Sound like a wine or coffee connoisseur but that is what it tasted like. Not unpleasant at all! Sooooo much better than last weekend or the weekend before! Two weeks and it is changing in consistency (less lumpy, less separation) and the grains are really growing right now!

They were at 2/3rds a teaspoon last Thursday. I will have to measure again tonight. The MP video and other sources say it will take up to six weeks to get them to a tablespoon or more. Up until then only a cup of milk can get cultured, otherwise "not enough" as MP's other video spoke of. Not enough grain to culture well or to allow for feeding them more. (My experience on the 17th, 18th and 19th) They will expend their energy trying to culture rather than grow if they are in more milk than 1 cup. That is why I add the 1/2 cup of cultured kefir back into the jar right now. It helps the grains grow, giving a little assist to the culturing process and bringing the culture into a drinkable state.

There is my synopsis of the past two and a half weeks of kefir grain growth and kefir culture process.

By date this is what happened to the kefir:

  • 2/9/11 Kefir grains received in the mail. Two little jelly like squishy slightly transparent grains about 1/8th inch in diameter and flat.
  • 2/10/11 Researched online for info online about starting kefir grains. Not much there. Rinsed the grains in the plastic strainer, heeding the words of those who warn that you should not use metal, or things washed in antibacterial soap or chlorine which can harm the grains. Put them in 1/2 c. milk and a pinch of sucanat and set on the corner cupboard shelf. Reading had said to shake so shook lightly a few times a day.
  • 2/12/11 Set culture on top of fridge to see if that would assist. Had big separation. May just be part of the process but the curds got huge, the kefir grains grew somewhat, the kefir was yeasty and sour smelling and not at all potable.
  • 2/13/11 Increased milk to 2 cups in the kefir, using just the fresh.
  • 2/14/11 I remembered that I had not received the free kefir making video series from MP, sent an email to Giselle and MP sent the link. Watched the videos and realized I had 'not enough" grains for even closeto two cups milk. Stepped back to one cup. Still using a lot of milk. need to devise a new plan.
  • 2/17/11 Tried the kefir in a triple berry smoothie and added some coconut oil which seemed to help make it creamier. Definitely quite drinkable. Still yeasty however. Still have loose stools.
  • 2/20/11 Made new yogurt with a new cup of Mountain High and had great success.
  • 2/21/11 Added a 1/2 cup of yogurt to the smoothie. Very good! The grains are responding to the 1 c. limit and pinch of sucanat. Still using a lot of milk rinsing etc.
  • 2/22/11 Have started setting out 3/4 c. organic whole milk at lunch or when I get home from work and let it lose its chill. When I have stirred and strained the kefir, I put the grains in a 1/4 c. milk to swish and rinse. After pouring a 1/2 c. of kefir into the culture jar, I strain this 1/4 c milk into the keeper batch. The grains go back into the culture jar with the remaining half cup of fresh milk and pinch of sucanat. I have been loosely covering the culture jar with a wide mouth plastic lid at this point. When the grains are 2 to 3 T's large I will give an effervescent culture a try.
  • 2/24/11 The grains continue to bloom. There are three 2/3rd inch grains and one little "start." It is getting easier to identify the new babies too. As the consistency seems to level off and the curds break up easily the new start was so apparent with its tough little rubbery texture there was no missing it!
  • 2/26/11 The setting out milk and rinsing with the 1/4 c. milk has definitely been a good addition. Keeping the volume at a cup and using half a cup of cultured kefir per new batch has also helped a lot in the grain growth department. When I strained the culture this time there was another new grain. The grain from the 24th had doubled and the 3 bigger grains are growing well also. I could theoretically have 1 inch grains by the end of the coming week.
  • Using the filtered water to rinse everything before using has also helped I think. I do reuse the culture and keeper jars for a few days before washing. I also rinse in filtered water to assure the chlorine and antibacterials are gone. You may shudder at reusing the containers without washing, but kefir is a potent source of good flora. It "eats" bad bacteria and yeast, converting it to the good stuff. Research shows that the people of the Caucasus area used goat stomachs to keep their kefir and it NEVER got washed after the initial cleaning before the first use. People in that area were super healthy until nuclear plants started having their little problems.
It is fun nurturing growth of kefir, sprouts (which are also doing very well and we are eating the first batch as the second batch does its thing) in addition to yogurt. It is even more fun to have a healthy gut again. Now I am looking at starting fir mjolk, and using that in concert with the other probiotics. I am of a belief that you do best with the culture of your body's origin. Fir mjolk is a Northern European cultured milk. I remember having it with rhubarb and toasted steel cut oats for breakfast. I know my mom and dad relished the culture and used for years the bit they got from my mom's visiting cousin from Sweden.

Today I am making more yogurt so I can make a version of the cream cheese brownie swirls with lo-grain rather than no grain. Here is the recipe (Thanks to Food Renegade) that I am going to convert and its conversions:

Grain-Free Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

Yield: 12 brownies

The Players
Brownie Ingredients

  • 1 c almond butter (1/2 c. coconut flour, 1/2 c. blend of unbleached white and Prairie Gold Wheat Montana flour that has been soaked in 1/2 c. kefir)
  • 2 eggs (from pastured hens) (4 eggs, coconut flour is very absorbent. My first try with pancakes was an amazing adventure of add liquid, stir, watch it turn into thick glop and then stand still, add liquid, stir...rinse repeat... until I researched and found you need to add an egg per 1/4 c coconut flour, hence add two!)
  • 1/3 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 c canned coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1/2 c coconut crystals or palm sugar ( I am using sucanat and maybe some honey)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/3 c chocolate chips (optional) (not adding)

Cheesecake Ingredients

The How-To

Set your oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, whisk together the brownie ingredients until well combined, and pour into a greased 9×9 oven-safe baking dish.

Add the cream cheese to your mixer bowl and beat until smooth, add the rest of the ingredients and beat until combined.

Dollop the cream cheese batter on top of the brownie batter. Using a knife, or a toothpick, swirl the cheesecake batter into the brownie batter. This would be a great thing for kids to do! Another option would be to remove the vanilla extract and add your favorite extract flavoring to the cheesecake batter; mint, almond, orange, coffee, coconut–would all work well.

Bake for about 35 minutes–until the top has slightly cracked. Serve well chilled, just like cheesecake.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

Happy culturing!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sprouts for Life!

How about the sprouts? Well, the first attempt had great success. The salad blend had alfalfa, red clover, broccoli and radish seeds. The Jar method was employed for that. A bit of netting secured with a rubber band was all that was needed. The jar was completely full and popping out the top 5 days later. They are spicy/hot and added a great kick to the salad we had a couple nights ago. A makeshift tray method was used for the alfala sprouts. I need to revamp that method, especially since JD brought home some more of those drawer organizers from work the other day. The sprouts "stuck" to the felt pad I had at the bottom of the tray. It was also awkward to rinse the sprouts without a good straining top with small enough holes. This method requires a bit more research. The sprouts are so fresh and full of flavor, sweet and so good!

People wonder how sprouts could have so many more nutrients than the actual plants they produce eventually. That "germ" in the seeds contains all the nutrients and has a buttload of protein, enzymes etc for enhanced health. My favorite article on sprouts helped me a lot in making the decision to spend nearly $60 on the sprouting seeds and legumes.

I am thinking "green smoothies" with sprouts, Alive Pea Protein Powder and kefir would make an awesome combination for a drinkable salad. I might make a kefir salad dressing with a combination of herbs for a slaw with sprouts. Mixed greens, spinach and the salad blend with just olive oil drizzled over them was delicious and I felt so clean afterward. It was like a neti pot for the tummy.

Today the brassica blend with its mustard and broccoli seeds are calling my name. The jar method seems to be the best for my skill level. I hope to learn more today about creating a home made tray method. It is a sick day for me. (antithetical, but caring for the grandkids last Sunday and Monday took its toll.) I have a lymph node the size on an egg on the right side of my neck. I am going to rest, which is what my body demands, and shrink that bugger!

As I was naming off seeds to JD while going through the sprouting treasure box I got last week, he laughed and said "Sounds like the weeds I sprayed!" ... hopefully none of that spray is on these sprout seeds! Mumm's has a good ethic and strong belief in the organics. I doubt there is any spray of insecticide or pesticide on these little darlings.

On a side note, last Friday I was in another small community. I love their grocery store! The organic selection is great. I picked up some onions, broccoli, avocados and kiwi that are organic. The meat dept. at this IGA is also wonderful. The beef isn't full of red dye and as I was looking over the choices I found LIVER! Guess what was for supper that night! JD and I feasted on a huge bunch of sauteed organic red onions, a tad of maple bacon, liver powdered lightly with sea salt, triple berry blend pepper and Wheat Montana Prairie Gold flour sauteed in the mass of olive oil, butter and bacon grease left over from the onions. Ohhhh it was delicious! Son in law loved it, granddaughter loved it, youngest daughter didn't, wouldn't, refused even a bite and left the main floor to escape the smell. Hey, liver isn't for everyone! I just made her take an extra Alive with iron and put a sublingual B 12 under her tongue when she finally emerged from below with a can of orange air spray. har har!

Liver seems to be something our bodies crave, especially this time of year. The iron and B complex vitamins it contains are part of the craving, but my intuition tells me that the enzymes in liver are another thing that our bodies say "Ahhhh, thank you!" for receiving. The same with the sprouts. Now youngest daughter has a real acceptance of sprouts. She told her friend and her friend's daughter that sprouts make your mouth happy. Linz, the daughter, said "Doritos make my mouth happy"...sometimes we just can't win, but we continue to put forth the effort, since I don't see good nutrition, whole foods and probiotics as a game as much as I see it as an act of civil disobedience toward the corporate food/pharmaceutical/political monolith. I work hard to NOT buy their products, and am at about 75% SOLE with Hutterite poultry, eggs, Montana grains, some beef, wild game and online ordering as food sources. I want to eventually only go to the store for chips to munch on during the Daytona 500.

Probiotic Energy

It's been two weeks since the kefir grains arrived (view the post from my other blog and this post). Things are "developing" well in that department. I realized that I am still in the "grain feeding" stage of this process. I now have 3 grains that are about 3/4" in diameter and are fluffing up nicely! The reading I have been doing seems to indicate that the grains take about 6 weeks to get to "full size" and will be dividing along the way. I got the link to Michael Patterson's video series on kefir. He seems to like the separated and curdy stuff. I am inclined to the smoother, more "homogenized" drink.

I have been making a pitcher of blended fruit. I started with berries and kefir, but my gut still was doing what it does... >:-( and that doing was still mucous filled. This week I switched to a blend of pineapple, mango, peaches and strawberries frozen from Schwann's. I know, poor choice, but better than what is available at our local gouge and grab (your $$) grocery. Fresh and organic would be better but it's 28 below zero out there right now, so not an option. "Fresh" fruits and vegetables are no where near fresh at this time of year here at the gouge and grab. Even summer fare gives us last summer's crop. Their frozen possibilities all are tasteless and lacking too, not to mention a quick label read shows hfcs added to the frozen fruit. At least Schwann's has no sugar added in any of the fruit and all are quick frozen with a bit of ascorbic acid. I add that to my frozen fruits too, so it's close to "okay".

Any way, I digress...The new fruit combo, 1 c. kefir and 1 c. yogurt all have joined to make my gut healthy again! I drink half before bed and half in the morning. I learned that I lack motivation in the morning to blend up this treat. The kefir needs to be strained and refreshed every evening. I make the smoothie for that evening and the next morning right after tending to the kefir. No excuses, and who doesn't want to start the day, or end it for that matter, with a delicious smoothie that is so tasty that the most critical of yogurt/kefir haters will actually enjoy it. (Tested on family members who turn their nose up at my crazy food.)

I am quite happy with the kefir, and am delighted that the combo of home fermented kefir and home cultured yogurt are leveling out my IBS symptoms. For many years we called our fridge the "genesis machine" since we grew new life in there...mold mostly. It has been a joke around here and now has converted to life growing on the counter, but its a healthy form of life that we don't mind eating!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It All Began with a Jar of

Coconut Oil and a can of Coconut Flour, same company.

A few years ago I subscribed to Mike Adams, The Health Ranger's newsletter "Natural News". There are times he is a little too
"anti" for me. To his credit I have learned a lot from the newsletter and share a lot of his thoughts on vaccinations, prevention via probiotics and vitamins and whole foods. I also got totally turned on by the coconut oil and coconut flour information since the granddaughter has shown some sensitivity to gluten and dairy.

I have been a yogurt eater and found the value of making my own with store bought yogurt with live cultures as my starter. I treasure my second hand store $2.00 Salton 1 qt. yogurt maker, especially when I looked it up to see what it would take to replace it. Amazon had one and it was 179.99!! I need to work on my 'attachment' to the "Salton yogi". It has helped me to be mindful of caring for this little warmer. I have found others, and will be buying the 2 qt. Yogourmet in the near future. I just checked and it is still $50, the Salton is down to $150...oh yay.

My mother was a firm believer in raw milk from our cows, eggs and fresh chickens from the neighbor (we didn't know there were nice chickens, so didn't keep them often,) pastured beef, the other neighbor's get the idea. Her veggies from the garden were extraordinary. She froze rather than canned. Simple blanching and freezing did preserve more nutrients. She ground grains to make the bread we ate. The term "homemaker" was taken seriously by her. I am forever grateful to have her as the provider of my food for my youth. I have not been kind to myself as far as tobacco abuse and, for a time, alcohol abuse. I took short cuts and dieted using Atkins throughout my life, yet I retain health in many ways.

Several years ago I was a physical, emotional and pharmaceutical mess. I was treating my depression with paxil, zoloft, lexapro (not good for me at all) and xanax for the anxiety. I put over 1200 miles on the state car every two weeks, and sat in front of the computer when I wasn't driving. I ate Town Pump fast food and yoplait. Add to that menopause, metabolic syndrome symptoms, financial and marital problems and a mess was an understatement!

I lost a lot of weight without trying. It was great at first! I could get into clothes I hadn't worn for years, but the weight kept coming off until I was wearing a size 4. I had been in 16+ to 18+ for 7 years before, so this was getting worrisome. I began to incorporate better eating habits, lean proteins and veggies, started making my own yogurt again and quit the desk/driving job. I maintained my weight for 2 years, but went to work at an espresso shop and the hfcs in the syrups, the growth hormones in the commercial milk and the stopping of smoking started adding a ring, then a tire of fat around my abdomen.

I also suffered from IBS from the antidepressant load I had taken. I was off all medications by the time I started work at the coffee shop, except of course caffeine and refined corn sugars. I was doing somewhat better when I incorporated fresh greens in my diet. I continued making and eating the yogurt. Things were healing, but only somewhat.

I began a quest for a better probiotic and found out about the Specific Carb Diet that recommended 24 hr. yogurt. Even that didn't really even things out the way I wanted. Mind you, I was still consuming honey in rather high doses, thinking that would help the gut too. I was just feeding the bad bacteria and yeast with it, and definitely was feeding the ab fat with it! On to other sources and began research on kefir.

I found links to "Nourished Kitchen" and "Food Renegade" and eventually Giselle C's site. I made some monetary decisions regarding health and ordered the grains from Michael Patterson's website . I have been drinking the kefir for several days now. It was a rough start, but a week later the kefir has become palatable and is great mixed with mashed fruit in a smoothie. I start and end my day with some kefir. It has helped a great deal in the potty department. I have had more energy and focus too. That may be enhanced by the amino acids I am taking since reading in "The Mood Cure", but absorption of other nutrients and creating balanced flora in the gut are part of the cure too.

This is the record of my journey toward health from nature not the lab.