Keeefir, Kehhhfir, Keh-FEAR?

I don’t really know, but it is what’s growing around here…or fermenting…or culturing.  Doing what kefirs do.

My little kefirs had a rough start. When they arrived, I was in the throes of some health issues and the grains sat on my desk for a good week. During the week, they became buried in a pile of mail and thusly forgotten a second week.  I think a good part of another week went by before I gathered the courage (ahem – motivation!) to get this kefir party started. The first batch came through quite sugary but OK, despite being grossly neglected.  Much to my surprise, the boys liked it and I am encouraged.  My little kefirs are alive!

The second batch didn’t fair well.  I used plain sugar in this batch because I was feeling cheap and didn’t want to use up all my organic whole cane  sugar .  Nor was I sure I wanted the molasses under flavor.  To add more stress to my little kefirs, I set them in the oven overnight with the light on to keep them warm – because we were in the midst of a cool spell and there was no way I was going to close my windows!  Well, that oven got a LOT warmer than I thought.  Anyway, I finished the ferment and bottled up the batch to see if it worked.  It didn’t.

OK…back to The Google to learn ‘How to Rehabilitate Your Kefir”.  Kefirs need some minerals in the water.  AHa! Our drinking water is filtered through a Big Berkey…no chlorine, no fluoride, nada.  So, I added a couple drops of ConcenTrace to the next batch.  Low and behold a nice white film begins to grow on the brew and that is never a good thing.  The white slime of death.  Now, I’ve really done it and killed my kefir.

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It’s embarrassing to say that I’ve been whooped up on by a kefir, so before I conceded, I went for one more batch.  This batch has it all….good sugar, minerals, a happy place on the counter.  Fourth time is a charm, right?

The next morning, I check my little jar of friends and I don’t see a white film.  OK….maybe!

The next morning, I see bubbles.  Yes!  Beautiful little bubbles of fermantatiousness!  We dance together in the kitchen….okay, I was just swirling them around a little bit.

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Where I found instructions and helps.

Choosing the Best Water Kefir Ingredients @ Cultures for Health

Water Kefir FAQ also @ Cultures for Health

Directions – Video and Written @ Wellness Mama

How to Make Milk Kefir – good general info on probiotic from DIY Natural

kefir grains – I bought these from Keysands because they had Five Stars.  My kefirs are obviously from good ‘stock’ and they also come with an owner’s manual.

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New foods

Old foods are the new foods,  it seems.

Consider the dandelion. I remember, as a child, hearing about old folks eating dandelion greens, making jelly out of the flowers, and grinding up the roots for a hot beverage. I just don’t remember ever seeing anyone eat these weeds. It turns out that these leaves are some of the most nutrient-dense greens you can eat and other countries actually grow dandelions in their gardens. We can devour a pot of greens around here, so, when I saw these huge dandelion leaves amongst all the other greens at the Kroger, I had a little moment of excitement right there in the produce section.

I fixed them like I do most greens….simply – a little bacon (or sausage), a little onion, and salt and pepper. I can tell you that dandelion greens are as wonderful as any green and they have a bit of a sweet flavor in with the usual bitter.

On this particular trip, I found all kinds of new mushrooms on display. I thought these looked pretty cool, so I bought them.
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We didn’t really like them.

A food that I certainly remember from childhood is round steak. Not very exciting then nor now, I know, but this is a great recipe for those affordable, tough cuts of beef.

Carne Barata – roughly translated as “cheap meat”
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2 lbs tenderized round steak
1 onion
can of crushed tomatoes
2 jalapeños pepper – to taste! but this dish needs at least a little
garlic powder
black pepper
paprika – this is really optional – smoked paprika or chiptole powder
allspice – i have whole allspice and just smashed about a dozen and then chopped them to smithereens
cilantro
butter

Thinly slice the meat. Sprinkle with garlic powder and pepper.
Thinly slice the onion.
Prep your jalapeños – or do what I did and grab the jar of sliced jalapeños in the fridge.

Heat a big pan and add 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Add the meat and just barely brown. Remove.
Sautee onions. Add more butter if needed.
Add tomatoes. Stir and add meat.
Add the allspice and paprika.
Simmer awhile until the meat is quite tender.
Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

I served this over cauliflower mash (with a bit of butter, garlic and nutmeg) and the flavors worked very well together.
A squeeze of fresh lime would really top this off.

My Most Faithful Kitchen Companion!

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Make Your Own Beef Broth

I cannot encourage anyone enough to buy grass-fed, pastured, organic, hormone-free beef! We bought a freezer and our first quarter of beef this year. If you’re over 40 or so, you will recognize the flavor as how meat used to taste.  In our process of eating healthy whole foods, as money permits, we finally got down to the meat. I am now thinking we should have started with meat; beef in particular.  After tasting this wonderful meat, we quickly got on the list for some pastured pork, and again I cannot even begin to describe how much better this is than anything I’ve purchased from a grocery store since I can remember.

Included in the quarter was our share of the bones and I was just thrilled to get them.  Yes, seriously, I was!  The healing properties of bone broth is centuries old knowledge.

This is my first batch of beef broth and I followed Sally Fallon’s (Nourishing Traditions) recipe/method.  The only thing not organic in this was the onion and I never added additional spices or salt.

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Simmer dem bones for 48 hours.

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Here is the fruit of my labor in a half gallon jar.  After chilling in the fridge overnight, I scooped off the tallow (fat) and saved it in a separate container.  I further divided the broth into smaller containers and most of them are now in the freezer.  The only hard part about any of this is finding pastured, grass-fed beef….but it’s worth the time and effort to seek a local source.

Bone Appetite!

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Homemade Yogurt ala Dallas

I am blessed with a husband that likes yogurt AND likes to make it AND this is how he does it!  We go through about 1 Qt. every 5-7 days, if we’re just eating yogurt.  If I use it in a recipe for a salad dressing or as a substitute for sour cream, then we need 2 Qts. or more.  First off you need a “starter”.  Most suggestions were for a whole milk, plain yogurt that is known for having an abundance of cultures.  Stoneybrook is the name that came up the most often.  We used Greek Gods Plain yogurt.  You will need 1/3 C of your starter yogurt.  Or you can buy a yogurt starter.

1 quart of whole milk into a small, heavy-bott0m pan.  Heat until somewhere between 180-200*F.  We actually went over that temp once and made up the batch anyway.  It was still yummy yogurt and the starter for the next batch still worked.

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Next you will set aside the pan to cool or place it in a larger bowl of cold water….to speed things up, as we did here.  Cool to 100*F.

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Add 1/3 C of your starter from the last batch.  Stir well. Exact measurement of 1/3 C isn’t essential.  I think this was just a smidge over a 1/4 C…worked fine.

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Optional:  add 1/3 C powdered milk.  Stir in well. This will help thicken the yogurt and give it more body.  If you don’t like powdered milk, then just leave it out.20130910-151719.jpg

Place into a yogurt maker and incubate for 4 hours or so, depending on how tart you like your yogurt. There are many ways to culture yogurt, but this Salton YM-9 is what we have and it is super easy and convenient.

Pros:  one container vs. several small containers and a glass quart jar fits perfectly, eliminating another plastic food container.

Cons:  no longer available.  I actually bought this several years ago and it languished in the back of a dark cabinet for too long.  Shame on me, but it sees the light of day frequently now!

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This is pretty  much how we eat it — covered in some sort of fruit.  A box of any fresh berry around here barely lasts a day, so I have to keep frozen fruit around.  Sweeten to taste, but it really is good without any added sweetness.

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There ya have it!

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Biscuits, School and a Tetrazzini

Ah, the record-breaking cool weather we’ve been having this mid-August is a tremendous blessing: clear blue skies and cool breezes coming through the window. School has restarted and I have a Senior and a Sophomore. (HOW did this happen so fast?!) My Senior is facing the year with calm and maturity. My Sophomore is already fretting Spanish….its only the 2nd day! Between the cool weather and the beginning of another high school year, I believe a bit of nostalgia overcomes me; with visions of milder, shorter days, the smell of textbooks and pencils, and a taste for homey things….like biscuits…dripping with melted butter…loaded with homemade preserves. M m m m, say no more!

However, we have a biscuit conundrum in this house….regular biscuits vs. buttermilk biscuits. It is a 50/50 split. I prefer the regular biscuits and let’s just say that being the baker has it’s benefits. I often use my Two Ingredient Biscuits recipe, but sometimes I like to play in the dough with my hands and squish the cold little bits of butter into the floury mix. I’ve also learned to cut my biscuits into squares…no more cutting out biscuits, re-rolling the dough and all that nonsense. Ain’t got time for all that, ya know!

…and in other homey things…how about a recipe for Chicken Tetrazzini. Almost time for oven-baked casseroles!

1 pkg cooked and chopped or shredded chicken thighs or whatever parts you prefer
8 oz. pasta, cooked – vermicelli or broken up spaghetti for more traditional dish
1/2 C butter
1/2 C onions, chopped
1/4 C green pepper, chopped
1/2 C flour
3 C milk
1 C chicken stock (from cooking your chicken parts)
2 C Parmesan cheese (save 1 C for topping)
1 C of another cheese – I used gouda
6 oz jar of mushrooms or about 1 C of sliced fresh mushrooms* (opt)
3/4 C of slivered almonds (opt)
1 C frozen peas (opt)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º.
Cook your pasta.
In a cooking pot, melt butter and sauté onions and green pepper *(if using fresh mushrooms, sauté them here). When onions are nearly translucent, add flour, stir to coat and cook several minutes but don’t let it brown. Slowly whisk in the milk and stock over a medium heat. Whisk nearly constantly for 8 to 10 minutes until mixture is thickened and bubbling. Season with salt and pepper. Add in 1 C Parmesan cheese and 1 C of the other cheese you chose. Remove from heat and add chicken, mushrooms, peas, and cooked pasta.
Spoon into buttered baking dish (13×9) and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and almonds.
Bake 35 min until bubbly.

You know what I miss about my high school years? My hair….yep, a nice medium brown with no grays…soft, smooth, and long. Yes, I miss that.

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