Thursday, February 25, 2010

Real Food Challenge - week 3

Day #15: What's a SCOBY?
Day #16: Get Cultured (Veggies)
Day #17: Making Yogurt at Home
Day #18: Make Cheese at Home
Day #19: Preparing Nuts & Seeds
Day #20: Maximizing the Nutrient Value of Beans & Legumes
Day #21: Vegetables & Salads

What's a SCOBY?
I really like the idea of replacing fruit juice and soda with some other tasty and beneficial beverage. We don't buy much juice or soda. One idea is fruity herbal iced tea for the kids. I have been wondering if there is MSG in commercial herbal tea. Celestial Seasonings has something called "natural flavors (contains soy lecithin)". Am I going too far? Should I let it go? Please let me know.
Yesterday I read all about kefir. Some websites say that you can convert your kefir grains into water kefir grains. Wikipedia says that water kefir grains are completely different thing called tibicos. I've been reading about kombucha for months now. Once or twice I have tasted it sold at the grocery store. Many times I have found websites selling the mothers and I just haven't bought one. I think it's like buying a cat. Why would you buy one when so many people want to give one away for free? I'll post something on the local freecycle list. I need to find the right kind of fermenting container before starting.

Get Cultured (Veggies)
This was a great because I was planning on making more sauerkraut anyway. I made fermented garlic. I blanched the cloves in boiling water in order to remove the skins. Some of them got over cooked. I should have used a timer. My husband asked why I was making fermented garlic and my answer was, "I don't know.". I searched the web looking for recipes that use it and didn't get very far. Salad dressing?

I made sauerkraut on a Sunday afternoon. That was QUITE a workout. I sliced it with the food processor but I had to pound it by hand. The pounder was a pint jar. I wished I had raw cream in the house. I would have put it in the pounding jar and had butter by the time I was done! I followed the recipe in Nourishing Traditions and used whey as a starter. I packed 2 cabbages worth into a half gallon jar and a quart jar and stuck it in a bottom cabinet with the garlic. It is on an outer wall and is close to 60F, I imagine.

Making Yogurt at Home
A friend from India taught my mom to make yogurt when I was a kid. I have made yogurt probably twice. My mom ate it plain with a dollop of jam. I was never all that enthralled with it. For some reason, drinking kefir isn't as boring as eating plain yogurt. My snack at work has been 1 cup of kefir. It is made with whole milk and actually tastes kind of greasy. Weird. Maybe I'll make raita with it.

Tuesday night I found an unopened half gallon of Farmer's Creamery milk in the back of my fridge. It was probably 10 days since I bought it! Uh-oh! It was sort-of fresh but the next day my daughter wouldn't drink it. Kefir time! I had one quart of kefir still working in the warm closet. (The closet is about 75F and the kitchen counter is 62F.) I took the other batch of grains and put them in the plastic bottle that the milk was in. I am worried that the milk will sour before becoming kefir. Today the first batch of kefir was ready so I dumped those grains into the half gallon.

Make Cheese at Home
I still have to try this. We had a busy weekend. One of my friends from the Progressive Parenting Book Club is in love with making cheese. She just tried it and is very enthusiastic - especially about mozzarella.

Preparing Nuts & Seeds
I still have some Crispy Nuts (almonds) that I made a while ago. The walnuts were better than I've ever had. Toasted walnuts are delicious but soaked and dried walnuts are divine, buttery goodness. I have a question about the sunflower seed cracker recipe I posted last week. The method involved mixing raw sunflower seeds in the food processor until they are a flour, adding sesame seeds and a little water to hold it all together. It all gets baked in the oven. Does that take care of the phytates? Should I be soaking, drying and THEN making the recipe? That's a LOT of work.... :(

Maximizing the Nutrient Value of Beans & Legumes
I make the low-carb excuse again. I think beans are awesome. When I achieve the intended weight loss, legumes are the complex carbs I will definitely work back into my diet. Kalyn's Kitchen is one of my favorite food blogs. She has some great chickpea recipes.

Vegetables & Salads
This is about adding a little fat whenever eating vegetables so that the fat-soluable vitamins in the vegetables are absorbed and digested. I do try to make my own salad dressing because the bottled stuff doesn't taste good any longer. What's in there anyway? My husband makes dinner most weeknights. When the kids aren't looking I throw a pat of butter over the cooked veggies. I know this is strange but if they see me do it, they think it will taste bad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


I received 2 batches of kefir grains Saturday. That afternoon I placed one batch in a glass bottle with a little less than 1 quart of Farmer's Creamery whole milk. I have been shaking it and checking the smell for over 2 days. Finally it is kefir this morning. I think it took so long because it is only 62F in my kitchen. In the past I have made kefir from a powdered starter from Body Ecology. It always had a sour taste. This kefir tastes more like yogurt to me. It is quite an improvement. Usually I drink kefir with a packet of raspberry Emergen-C. I would rather skip that because each packet has 6g of carbs from fructose. I enjoyed drinking plain kefir with my breakfast today.

Maybe the difference in flavor is in the method. The Body Ecology instructions require the milk be warmed up to 90F before adding the starter. I didn't do that. I rinsed the grains with reverse osmosis water and put them in with the cold milk. Later I added 1 tsp sucanat because I read that at the Kefir Manual.

I started another batch of kefir using the other set of grains, in order to keep them fed. I put the first batch in a jar of RO water and am keeping it in the fridge.

I am concerned about drinking kefir every day due to the carbs. I'm eating an Atkins-induction kind of diet right now. The benefits of kefir probiotics is important to me, yet I want to lose weight. Well, I had better drink it because nobody else in the house will. Cassie tasted it and said it was good but she wasn't willing to drink any more of it. I'm open to ideas for getting my kids to drink it. The only yogurt they want to eat are the super sweetened kinds that their grandmother buys for them in the little containers. I have bought the plain kind in the big tub. I will put sweetener or jam into individual servings. They always reject it. I think they can sense when I have an "agenda".

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Real Food Challenge, Week #2

This week we looked at
Day #8: Fats for High Heat
Day #9: Fight Against GMOs
Day #10: Fats You Shouldn’t Cook
Day #11: Bake Some Sourdough
Day #12: Find Real Milk
Day #13: Get Your Bacteria
Day #14: Happy Valentine’s Day

Fats for High Heat
We usually sauté with butter or olive oil mostly out of habit. According to Nourished Kitchen, neither of these are generally suited to high heat cooking. Our pantry/freezer has beef tallow, ghee, coconut oil, lard, bacon grease, duck fat*, turkey fat, and chicken fat. I should be using one of those to fry my eggs in the morning. We’ll save the butter for putting on vegetables. I posted a note by the stove as a reminder.

Fight Against GMOs
I downloaded the Non-GMO Shopping Guide and posted the link on Facebook.

Fats You Shouldn’t Cook
The assignment is to devise an uncooked recipe using flax oil, olive oil or butter. At this point, I don’t have a need to cook something like this. I’ll look for an opportunity. I have made mayo from olive oil and I have never been happy with the taste. No matter what oil I use, it always tastes like the oil is off. Some perfectly good mayo batches got thrown out because it didn't taste right to me. I want to try making mayo with bacon grease!

Bake Some Sourdough
Gotta skip this one. I'm eating low carb. If I bake it for my family, I’ll end up eating it instead of them. When reading Nourishing Traditions, the grains seem to be the hardest part. I would leave that to last. Maybe that’s why it was in the first week - so we have the whole month to work on it…? I made some awesome low-carb crackers this week. They weren’t organic, but now I have organic ingredients to make them again. The crumbs were a very nice crouton replacement in salads.

Find Real Milk
Saturday I borrowed The Untold Story of Milk from the library. Two weeks ago I joined a co-op which has a drop off in my town twice a month. Raw, grass-fed milk is $7/gallon, which is pretty reasonable. I don’t know how long raw milk will last in my fridge. I’m going to try to buy enough to last until the next drop-off date. I have heard of freezing it, but there’s no room in the freezer. The best part is that it comes in plastic gallons. Most people want it in glass. The raw milk I have tried before was noticeably different, but this milk tastes very much like the whole milk from the grocery store. My kids didn't notice the difference!! This is very important to me! My kids guzzle milk – especially when they are served weird stuff like heart and oxtails. (That was 2 dinners this week.) If milk is going to be a large percentage of their diet, I want to make sure they get the best bang for the buck!

There is another source that I am excited about! My grocery store chain carries a brand called Farmer’s Creamery for $4.97 / half-gallon. This is milk from Amish and Mennonite farmers in Iowa. It is grass-fed, non-homogenized, and low-heat pasteurized. It is the absolute best that can be achieved from a grocery store in Illinois. I still don’t have a good source of other milk products that we love: cheese, cream cheese, sour cream and butter. I think I can get organic versions of some of them. Have you ever read the ingredients on regular cream cheese? It doesn’t look right to me.

I bought some raw cream from the co-op 2 weeks ago. Saturday morning it didn’t taste right and I had to dump my tea. It smelled like cheese. I asked my farmer friend how to use it or culture it. She said it is still good. We figured out I can make salad dressing with it. I added ranch dressing ingredients and it became really awesome!

Get Your Bacteria
Probiotics are getting a lot of good press for preventing illness. I read years ago that if you are faced with the flu, you can take 1 capsule of high-potency probiotics every 30-60 minutes until the diarrhea is gone. Today, one of my friends said her whole house has stomach flu and she thought she was coming down with it. I brought her a bottle that only contained 1 capsule andshe said she felt a little better about 45 minutes later.

Last night I had kimchee and sauerkraut with dinner. They were both from a jar, but I think the kimchee was still alive. The label said not to shake it or it might explode! I plan to make some more sauerkraut soon. I’m looking for a source of organic cabbage.

I just got my hands on 2 sets of kefir grains for milk. One is fermenting 1 quart of Farmer’s Creamery milk right now. The extra set was offered to my church email list. Someone has claimed them. A friend emailed to ask what kefir grains are. She was so interested, I’ll give her some grains when my batch multiplies. Spreading the love…..

Here’s a beautiful quote from “Please accept the real kefir grains as precious living beings. Love them, talk to them, handle them gently, feed them regularly and they will pay you back with your health. When you take loving care about them, they will be with you for the rest of your life and you will be the one who benefited most.”

Pantry update: new additions were sucanat and Real Salt from Utah.

Sunday we went on a winter hike at the local nature center. When it was over, they offered hot chocolate out of a can. Instead, we dragged the kids out of there and made it with organic whole milk and sucanat. (Organic, free trade cocoa is on my shopping list.)

Happy Valentine’s Day
Jim bought me organic flowers and organic, free trade chocolate from a resource he found here. You would think I'd do the same... I gave him a ticket to the Chicago Auto Show and Fannie May Mint Meltaways from the grocery store.

*The duck fat was an awesome xmas gift. My brother-in-law, Bill, roasted 6 (!) ducks on Christmas. I didn't ask if they were organic. Our family celebration was in the party room of his condo complex. The oven there wasn’t working, so he had to take the ducks over to the condo. It caused a delay. We had already eaten the other food when he brought out those gorgeous birds. I saw all the drippings and asked if I could take them home. I poured them into 2 empty 2L bottles. The next day I warmed it all up and separated the drippings from the fat. The drippings are for soup or gravy. It's like homemade bouillon! MMMMMM……

Monday, February 8, 2010

Real Food Challenge from Nourished Kitchen

I signed on to the 28 Day Real Food Challenge from Nourished Kitchen blog. Every day in February, she'll be sending out emails with "an assignment that will help you learn about the principles of a nourishing diet including the importance of grass-finished and pastured meats, wholesome fats, sprouted and soured grains and probiotic foods."

Traditional Nutrition is explained best in the cookbook called Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. I own a copy. I have poured over it. I first heard about this way of eating from Dr. Mercola's newsletters. He has been writing about it for years. I always thought it was too hard to get the foods. Last May, Robin Migalla was a speaker at our Wisdom Rising event. She mentioned that she attends a local Weston A. Price club* in Elgin once a month. She has sources for pastured meats and raw dairy. It always helps me to be part of a community that is on the same wavelength of whatever I am into at the time. This club has paved the way for me by finding the farmers that grow these healthy foods.

I went to the first meeting in October. There were Amish farmers selling saw dairy. I bought milk, yogurt, cream and dry curd cottage cheese. Amazing! I attended one day of the Weston A. Price conference in Schaumburg, IL in November. There were Pennsylvania Amish there with many coolers filled with frozen pastured meats. I bought cheese, beef tallow, lard, beef heart, and the coolest things: chicken feet and heads for making broth.

The first email from the Real Food Challenge was about cleaning out my cupboards. I had a bit of resistance to this task.

Here's the list:
Vegetable Oils: Soybean, Cottonseed, Canola, Corn
Sugar: White Sugar, Brown Sugar, Turbinado, Agave Nectar (including "raw"), Sugar in the raw
Stevia: white stevia powder, stevia liquid
Shortening (excluding palm shortening)
White flour: all-purpose flour, unbleached all-purpose flour, white rice flour,
Soy foods: soy sauce, soy flour, soy milk, soy lecithin, isoflavone-enriched foods and supplements
Iodized Salt
Refined Sea Salt
Meat & Dairy Replacements: TVP, veggie burgers, vegan cheeses, sour creams, rice and nut milks, vegan sausages
Processed cheeses
Skim and Low-fat Dairy: cheese, milk, yogurts etc.
Boxed cereals, crackers and cookies

Oh, boy... This is hard. My family is not quite on board yet. Converting people to new foods is a process.

Oils, margarine & shortening: nothing to throw out. I'm good.
Soy foods: all I have is tamari. Not sure why I have to get rid of it.
Meat & Dairy Replacements: never had any of this stuff
Salt: Iodized Salt, Refined Sea Salt
Processed cheeses: like what? we don't eat velveeta or american cheese
Skim and Low-fat Dairy: I switched to whole milk a while ago. Did you ever notice that you can NOT buy whole milk yogurt?
Boxed cereals, crackers and cookies: This is the crap I want my husband to stop buying. I don't eat it. I can't really throw it out because it's a negotiation.

I didn't throw this stuff out: Dried Pastas and Noodles, salts, flours and sugars.

Day #2 was about replacing everything I threw out.

Here's the list:
Natural Sweeteners such as honey, blackstrap molasses, whole unrefined cane sugar (e.g. Rapadura / Sucanat), sorghum syrup, maple syrup.
Wholesome fats such as unrefined olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, tallow, butter, ghee
Whole meal flours such as grain flour, sprouted grain flour, coconut and blanched nut flours
Unrefined Sea Salt such as real salt and celtic sea salt
Meat (preferably grass-fed or pasture-raised) such as beef, lamb, chicken, pork, bison, elk etc.
Fresh vegetables and fruit (preferably organic in season and local)
Full fat dairy (preferably raw) such as whole milk, butter, cream, cheese
Naturally fermented foods and beverages such as kombucha, yogurt, kefir

I wasn't exactly going shopping last Tuesday. I think I am already on track with this stuff. Most of the meat in my freezer is pastured. We already have organic fats. I still have to buy the salt. I am getting some kefir grains this Saturday.

My Progressive Parenting Book Club is reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Because I live in Illinois, all our fresh produce is trucked in from somewhere else during winter. I am kind of in a quandry because I don't want to add to my carbon footprint or eat out of season. Yet, I eat low carb and 2/3 of my diet needs to consist of non-starchy vegetables. Even frozen produce is not local. I'm still working on this.

The next emails for this week were all about grains. I completely ignored these emails because I do not eat grains. I am following a low carb diet. When I add carbs to my diet I will start with starchier vegetables like peas, sweet potatoes and then see how I handle legumes. Even Sally Fallon has to watch her carbs. The rest of my family eats grains. I know I should feed them healthier food. If I start baking, I will eat the bread. I just can't go there. I could replace my flours with sprouted flours, for when I make pancakes for the kids. I could replace all our sugar with healthier versions. We rarely add sugar to things. It's only used when I bake. The only sweetener I use is xylitol in my black tea (about 3 tsps/day). It's a process.

So that's my report for week #1. Next time I'll tell you about my recent dairy source.

* Our club in Elgin used to be a Weston A. Price chapter. It no longer is a member of that organization. (long story)