Kitchen Projects Day

Saturday ended up being a big kitchen projects day for us this weekend. Hubby had a four day weekend and I had him all to myself all day on Saturday (except for the waiting time when he went off to play video games). So we made full use of it and did lots of projects.

First thing in the morning, though, we went out to the Pomona farmer’s market. Its a little one, but they have some good stuff. A couple produce stands, including one for Amy’s Farm, which is an adorable little farm down the road from us. We’ve been there a few times for produce, and they’ve always got some good stuff. I’ve thought about joining their CSA, but haven’t yet found myself to be reliable in getting their on a weekly basis. We started looking for farmer’s markets, because I’d like to find one where I can get pastured eggs (preferably organic-fed with no soy in the feed). Pomona was close to us, so the other weekend, we went to check it out. Its very small, but has some good stuff. Aside from the three veggie stands (one of which has fabulous organic strawberries!), there is also a fruit stand, a nursery dude, a bread stand, a snack stand (nuts and treats and stuff), a flower stand, a tamales stand, and another stand selling jewelry and whatnot.

Saturday when we went, we grabbed some general produce – onions, celery, zucchini, radishes, carrots, as well as strawberries. From the fruit stand, we grabbed a pound of cherries and some apples (biggest apples, but last of the season – boo). Also a couple things from the bread stand, which has excellent prices and interesting variations.

 

Brandied Cherries

The awesome thing was, the day before, we had been talking about maraschino cherries, and how terribly those are made, and how brandied cherries are so much better anyway and we could make our own. And then the fruit stand HAD CHERRIES! So we grabbed some. That was our first kitchen project of the day. So brandy and sugar went into a pot, and cherries got pitted. Once the brandy mix was cooled, it got poured over the cherries in a jar, and in about 4 weeks, we shall have a wonderful garnish for drinks.

Brandied Cherries :)

Brandied Cherries 🙂

 

Pickles

Next up on the list, I wanted to try making pickles. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE pickles, but hubby hates them. Like REALLY hates them. But he was kind enough to help me in my endeavors, and I greatly appreciate that. Now, most of the recipes I found for making pickles said to look for actual pickling cucumbers and preferably organic. What I was able to find was organic Persian cucumbers at Trader Joe’s. They looked to be a good size, so I went with those. We (hubby) cut them up into spears, and we added the spears, dill, peppercorns, garlic, and salt water to the jar. I also added a little veggie culture starter to give it a headstart, as well as two leaves from our grape vine, which is supposed to keep the pickles crunchy. Up into a cupboard the pickle jar went for 2 days. I tasted them yesterday to see where they were at, and I was happy with the flavor, the smell, and the crunchiness, so I stuck them in the fridge. Attempt #1 seems to be a success. So now I plan to make a couple more batches – one for father-in-law, one for a friend, and another one for me.

Dill pickles after bottling

Dill pickles after bottling

 

Kombucha

With my newfound obsession for cultured/fermented traditional foods, I also wanted to try making kombucha. I had ordered a kombucha scoby from Kombucha Kamp, and needed to get that going. I followed the directions that came with my scoby and got that put together in a jar/pitcher that I had found at WalMart for $8 that had a spigot at the bottom. This way I can do a continuous brew on it, and be able to easily taste a little each day to determine where I want the sweet/sour balance to be.

Kombucha on Day 1

Kombucha on Day 1

After just two days, I checked it last night, and there is already a film forming over the top which will be my new baby scoby! I was so excited to see that! I think that’s an excellent sign that the conditions are good, so I must have done something right. Who would have ever thought I would get so excited over scum? 🙂

Kombucha on Day 3

Kombucha on Day 3

 

Strawberry Soda

Next up on the list was a naturally fermented strawberry soda. This utilized my ginger bug that I’d been working on for the last week. I used this recipe from Holistic Squid for Cultured Strawberry Soda. The process was fairly straight forward, though it did take forever for the wort to get down to around 75 degrees, and we actually ended up setting the pan in a sink of cold water to cool it quicker. This was towards the end of the day, and we were just ready to be done with our projects. Once it was cool enough, we got the strawberry soda bottled and capped.

Strawberry Soda is bottled!

Strawberry Soda is bottled!

Hubby made these fabulous labels for me with the label maker I had asked him for at Christmas (but never set up and used until this weekend – such a procrastinator!).

Strawberry Sharcakes Soda

Strawberry Sharcakes Soda

I only let it sit out at room temperature for a day, because I am super paranoid about the stories I’ve read about exploding bottles when the pressure builds too much. I have no idea how to know when it is getting too pressurized, and did not like the idea of glass and soda going everywhere in my kitchen. So after a day, I went ahead and stuck them in the refrigerator. Yesterday, we went ahead and cracked one open to see how it tasted and how fizzy it was. I was imagining soda foaming everywhere when the lid was opened, but it did not do that. It really didn’t foam at all, until we poured it into a glass of ice.

Fizzy strawberry soda

Fizzy strawberry soda

Then we got some nice fizziness going on. It was pretty tasty, though there was a little bit of funkiness in the smell of it. I would imagine that is because it is a naturally fermented product, rather than a crappy-ingredient-filled soda. It was still pretty sweet, which works well for hubby. But for me, I’d probably leave it out at room temp for 2 days next time, and maybe have it be less sweet and have eaten more of the sugar. But all in all, I would call that a success as well.

 

Ginger Bug

Alright, last post for today. I’m terrible at keeping up with my blog. Sorry for that. 🙂

Another experiment in cultured foods that I am currently working on is a ginger bug. I had seen a couple posts on other blogs for creating a ginger bug to use for making homemade healthy sodas, and thought this could be fun! The recipe I decided to use is from Holistic Squid and her post How to Make a Ginger Bug.

The sugar I’m using in it is an organic turbinado that we already had, and so far, it seems to be working well. I started this on Sunday, and already, its starting to get bubbly and build pressure inside. I’m feeding it once a day, but checking the pressure a couple times a day. Her recipe says to put a tight lid on it, but others say to cover with cheese cloth or a coffee filter and allow it to breathe. I don’t know which is right (if there is a right or wrong), but I’m going with the tight lid.

When I opened the lid this morning to feed it, this is what I got:

Day 3 of my Ginger Bug

Day 3 of my Ginger Bug

Nice and bubbly. I’m guessing since my kitchen is more on the warm side, I won’t have to wait a full week. But I do need to get some proper bottles or decide if I’m just going to bottle the sodas in mason jars. And I’ll have to decide what flavors of soda I’d like to make.

I’m considering trying this Cultured Strawberry Soda, since I have some organic strawberries I need to use up from the farmer’s market we went to last Saturday. But I’ll have to make that soon, because those babies aren’t going to last long. This Apple Ginger Soda also looks good, but I’ll have to grab more apples to make that.

I’m still a little paranoid about this whole cultured foods thing, so I keep smelling everything to make sure it doesn’t smell good. Let me just say, this ginger bug smells GOOD!

Sourdough Bread

I’ve always wanted to learn how to bake bread. But I never got around to it before learning how bad wheat is for us. I am trying not to eat a lot, if any, bread, but I can’t force my significant other into eating the same way that I do. So I was thinking, what changes could I make that would increase the healthiness of his bread?

In reading through Nourished Traditions, it talks about the importance of properly soaking, sprouting, or fermenting for bread products. So I decided to learn about that and experiment with it. I haven’t gotten to the point of soaking or sprouting or grinding the grains into flour myself (and I do realize that it is important for the grains to be freshly ground) as of yet, but I did want to start playing with the process of making sourdough. To start off, I ordered a sourdough starter from Cultures for Health. They have a good variety of sourdough starters, and I chose to go with the San Francisco starter.

Since I’m not sure whether this is something I’ll keep up with, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on fancy flours, so I went with a plain, unbleached, organic all purpose flour found at my local grocery store. After about a week of feeding the starter regularly with flour and water, I was ready to bake my first loaf of sourdough bread.

The recipe I used comes from the ebook Lacto-Fermentation by GNOWFGLINS. The recipe is for Honey Whole Wheat, but the flour I used was not whole wheat flour recommended. I basically wanted to stick with the ingredients I already had, so that I didn’t have to spend a lot of extra money. The whole process ended up to be quite easy, though it does take some planning, since you have to leave time for the dough to rise and all that fun stuff. But this was the end result we ended up with:

Sourdough Loaf

Sourdough Loaf

It ended up quite tasty, and we were able to make fabulous bacon grilled cheese sandwiches on it. I have yet to make my next batch of bread, but will be trying that again soon. Its also quite tasty with some raw honey spread on it.

Here’s how it looks as a bacon grilled cheese sandwich. Delicious!

Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Bacon Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I would like to try making a sourdough bread using einkorn flour, as that is supposed to be a more ancient form of wheat, but want to get my process down a little more before attempting with a much more expensive form of flour. And if I can do this well, then getting a grain mill and making freshly ground flour will be in my future.

Cultured Applesauce

I’ve been reading a lot and trying to learn more about the fabulous world of traditional foods, especially the cultured/fermented foods. I’m trying to incorporate a variety of these cultured/fermented foods into my diet, to get a good variety of the healthy bacterias into my system.

One of my favorites, and the easiest and quickest by far, has been a cultured applesauce. This was the first one I tried, because it seemed like it would be the easiest food on a palate that is NOT accustomed to eating these types of foods. I’ve never, in my life, even tried a sauerkraut, properly cultured or not, so I feel a little timid about whether I can get used to the taste of that type of food. So applesauce it was. I got my recipe from this post by Real Food Forager for Cultured Applesauce.

Rather than using whey for the starter, I’ve been using this culture starter from Body Ecology. Find it here. In my warm kitchen (ranging anywhere between 70-80 degrees) , I only need to let it sit for about a day before putting it in the fridge, and this is what I end up with:

Cultured Applesauce

Cultured Applesauce

 

Yum! I’ve made this twice so far, and it is delicious! Apparently, it should stay fresh in the refrigerator for at least a few weeks, but one jar only lasts me about a week, eating it by myself.

First Attempt at Bone Broth

I finally made my first attempt at bone broth. On Sunday, I started my broth. I adapted my methods from two different recipes. Most of the recipe comes from the bone broth recipe in The Paleo Slow Cooker by Arsy Vartanian. You can find Arsy at her blog, Rubies and Radishes. I also used some recommendations from the bone broth recipe found in Beautiful Babies by Kristen Michaelis. You can find Kristen at her blog, Food Renegade.

First, on the recommendation from the recipe by Kristen, I roasted my beef bones in the oven. I used all marrow beef bones, because that is what I had from my grass-fed beef order from Hat Creek. As the bones were roasting in the oven, they smelled SOOOO good! It was making me very hungry. Once the bones were browned, I transferred them to the slow cooker, along with most of the ingredients from the recipe by Arsy.

Here’s what it looked like at the beginning:

The start of Bone Broth

The start of Bone Broth

 

I let the bone broth do its thing overnight, only adding a little water when the bones started peeking out a little. I tried to skim off any impurities after a couple hours, but there wasn’t really much to skim off, maybe because I used high quality bones?

All night, we could smell the broth in the crockpot, and all night, I dreamed about food. In the morning, it looked like this:

Finished Bone Broth

Finished Bone Broth

 

Then I strained everything out, let the broth cool in mason jars, and then put it in the fridge.

After hearing from a friend that they know someone who puts the bones back in for a second go-round, I decided to try it, and set everything back up in the crockpot to see if I could get a decent second batch of broth from one set of bones. I also came across this post from Nourished Kitchen, Perpetual Soup: The Easiest Bone Broth You’ll Make. Loving this idea, I decided to keep going with this set of bones as long as I can.

For the second batch of broth, I ended up letting it go longer than 24 hours, and just strained it out this morning. The broth is now cooling on my counter before I put it in the fridge, and a third batch is going in the crockpot.

I didn’t add much, if any, salt to the batches, as that can always be added later when you use it, but cannot be taken away if there is too much. Yesterday, I warmed up a jar of the broth with a little added salt, and drank it. It was DELICIOUS.

Overall, the process is super easy and takes very little active time. Its so easy, I wonder why I didn’t try this sooner.

2013 Goals

I came across a blog that caught my interest called The Prairie Homestead, and as I was flipping through, I came across a post with her goals for 2012. I think this is a fabulous idea! And even though its already 4 months into 2013, I thought it would be a good idea to write up a list of my goals for this year.

  1. Cut out wheat/gluten from my diet (this one I’m currently working on and have pretty much already eliminated any wheat/gluten sources in the last month)
  2. Cut out any sources of refined sugar (this is definitely a work in progress, but I am doing a lot better and have greatly reduced any sources)
  3. Make my first attempt at making home-made bone broth
  4. Buy a deep freezer
  5. Order a half of grass-fed beef (in the process of putting in my order)
  6. *Maybe* attempt to render my own beef tallow, if I can get some of the beef fat included in my order (that idea also came from The Prairie Homestead as well as a post I came across today on Facebook)
  7. Improve my cooking skills 🙂
  8. *Maybe* plant a garden (but we have some work to do on setting up on appropriate space with a water source, as I am REALLY bad at remembering to water things by hand)

I think that is basically it for now, although I am sure there are more things that will get added or crossed out as time goes by. 🙂

Primal/Paleo Thoughts

I’ve been doing my best to stick as closely as I can to a primal/paleo way of eating. I’ve had a couple backslides, but have been doing pretty well with it. The key, so far, is to make sure that I have groceries in the house, of course. And even if I do, but find that I do not feel like cooking, I try to make sure I choose someplace to eat that has a higher chance of keeping me at least gluten-free and sugar-free.

I ordered a mixed package of grass-fed beef from Hat Creek Grown in Northern California and am loving their meat so far. We’ve made a few things – a chuck roast, NY steaks, and ground beef dishes. Right now, I have the cross rib roast in the crockpot. I’m a huge fan of roast-type dishes, because they are super easy and require little supervision on my part. Cooking is not really my forte, and not something I am very comfortable with.

In between beef dishes, I’m making meals using conventional pork and either conventional or organic chicken. Mixing in the conventional products helps me to bring my costs down for now, which is helpful.

Another site that I am loving is PaleoTrack.com, which is awesome for nutrition tracking. While the food database *could* be better, I find it suitable, and I especially love that it gives you the Omega 6 to Omega 3 breakdowns. I do find that eating REAL foods, I have to pay attention to how much I am eating and make sure that I am eating enough – enough protein, enough fat. If I don’t pay attention to that, then the amount I eat drops especially low and I do not need to be losing any weight right now.

I finished reading The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson the other day. That was a very good read. It gave me lots to think about when choosing my foods, and it was especially interesting to read the sections describing how our bodies react to the gluten and sugars, what that does to our insulin levels, etc. I liked the workout sections a lot too.

While I’ve never been one for working out or physical activity in general, I’ve been trying to work hard at incorporating that into my lifestyle. I had started doing modified push ups against a wall a few weeks ago, and am getting close to being able to do 50 at a time. So almost time to move on to the next type of modified push ups, which I believe is the girly version. 🙂  I’ve also been working on squats, which is not so easy, but I can do maybe 15 at a time. And we put a pull up bar in the doorway to our hallway, and I can do about 3 chin ups and 0 actual pull ups.  But I am working on it. Eventually I will be able to do ONE whole pull up. 😀

Primal Eating

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on the primal/paleo eating lifestyle and that is something that I am working towards. Most importantly, I am trying to cut out any wheat/gluten, sugar, and processed foods, but it is a battle. The hardest part for me is moving away from my morning espresso laced with sugary syrup. One of my other battles is that cooking, in general, has not been one of my strong suits. I can rock at baking cookies, but cooking real foods is something that I have to work at and improve upon.

So far, I’ve been dabbling. Figuring out some healthy meals and ways to prepare real foods that we enjoy, mixed with crappy poisonous fast foods when I don’t feel like cooking. So its all a work in progress. And my goal is to keep progressing with it and improving my cooking skills.

Right now, I am in the middle of reading The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson. It is a great book. I love the in-depth explanations of how our body processes wheat and sugar, what that does to our insulin levels and how the changes in insulin levels affect our body. It also gives a great explanation of how cholesterol works. I have a number of other books on my list of books to read that will hopefully continue to give me motivation to improve my way of eating and living, and make the necessary changes to improve my health and life.

Back from hiatus

My blog has been on hiatus for about a year and a half now due to some health issues that have taken over my focus. I’m hoping to get back to blogging, though my focus may be different, as I have not been experimenting with my plants for a while (though I hope to eventually get back to that too).  I’ll be doing some renovating on my page and hopefully some real writing soon.