Drink Weird Things.

About two weeks ago I got myself some kefir grains, after being intimidated by the idea of ‘rotten milk drink’ for the past couple of years. I’d never tried kefir before, never had any fancy flavored store-bought kefir, just dove right in to the craziness of ‘home brew’ as my dad calls it. And let me tell you, so far I’m much happier with it than the sad results of trying to make kombucha a year and a half ago. It never ever got fizzy no matter how many tricks I tried, and un-fizzy kombucha just seemed wrong to me. I ended up dumping it and watching my scoby die a long drawn-out death. Kefir on the other hand, I can handle. Every night after dinner I simply strain it into a jar and set it out for an over-night second ferment which I pop in the fridge in the morning, and pour fresh raw milk over the grains for the next batch… so I basically have two jars going at the same time to keep myself and my family supplied. Right now I just use kefir in green/fruit smoothies which are DELICIOUS, and I honestly like it better than I ever liked yogurt in smothies. Someday I’ll be brave and try kefir straight, but for now I’m happy with what I’m doing.

 

THEN, we had a couple of really hot days, and while I was at work my kefir over-fermented and separated into basically a floating island of what looks like ricotta cheese, and perfectly pure whey.

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Another hot day, the separation begins. I have yet to find an area in our house with even temperatures.

 

I have the book ‘Cultured Food For Life‘ and I knew there were recipes for home-made sodas started with whey, and there are some great-looking recipes, but I didn’t have the right ingredients for any of them just now. (It’s still a great book, and she’s also got pretty much all of the information on her website, go look!) Then I remembered seeing ‘Lacto-Fermented lemonade’ on The Healthy Home Economist’s facebook – and when I first saw it, it sounded bizarre and actually slightly gross, as I associate lacto with milk, and milk and lemon anything means curdled lumpy mess. But here I was with a bunch of lemons and limes and a jar of whey, so what was I to do? So I did.

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And the results? YUM. So much yum. There’s nutmeg in there, I never would have thought to add nutmeg with lemon/lime, but it’s seriously delicious. Tangy. Zippy. I added just a couple of drops of stevia to replace the sugar that was eaten up in the fermentation process. I almost can’t wait for another scorching hot day just to see how refreshing this fermented lemonade will be then.

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Madness, mayhem and mayonnaise

So, that broccoli salad I was going to make last night? It took me an HOUR AND A HALF to make. There was a time when I considered myself to be efficient in the kitchen. I could whip up anything, no recipe could possibly intimidate me. But then this thing happened where I started reading a lot of nutritional discoveries, and decided it would be a Good Idea to avoid soy products as much as possible. So I make our mayonnaise now. No more Hellmann’s, which is sad because it’s delicious. But for some reason I can’t explain, I have had the WORST time getting my mayo to emulsify the last several times I’ve made it. It used to be a cinch; I had the recipe memorized and in a matter of two minutes I’d have a fresh batch whipped up. But last night was one of those nights where the mayo gods were against me and I was afraid for my hair (I might pull it out, you see,). Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally I figured out that the egg yolks left over from making angel food cake for Easter dinner were Not Happy Yolks, and started with a fresh yolk and that made all the difference. Fortunately with mayo, once you get it started properly, all the eggs and oil you’ve messed up earlier will incorporate, no problem, so the whole lot was saved. At 10 pm I staggered to bed in disbelief that I had JUST finished making the salad. And then I went and shared it with my co-workers today – what was I THINKING? I’m pretty sure I should have horded it all to myself after the trouble I went through.

I’m not going to put up a recipe for mayonnaise… there are oodles all over the internet, just google it. Besides, I’m apparently not an expert at making it. I do, however, stick to it until I get good results. And don’t let anyone tell you home-made mayo will end up runny, they are WRONG. See?The yellowish color is because I used farm-fresh eggs from a guy up the road, and the yolks are practically orange.

IMG_2704If you do decide to try homemade mayo (It really is easy… I don’t mean to scare you off. Just small things can make it go wrong, but once that’s ironed out it’s easy and worth it.) don’t expect the flavor to be the same as Hallmann’s. It’s made with soybean oil. I assume yours would not be. And what I’ve come to realize is that a great part of the flavor is soybean oil flavor. I don’t know why that came as a surprise to me, but it did. So if you make it with light olive oil, as I do, it will taste mostly like light olive oil. Or you can use grapeseed oil, or avocado oil… and it will, well, taste like those oils. Go figure.

Green Juice #1

green juice

 

My apologies for the horrible, horrible photo. It’s 11 pm and I just realized about 20 minutes ago that I wanted to have green juice ready for my breakfast in the morning, on the fly to work. So, I made a batch of what has become my personal favorite juice, bottled it, (dotcha like the bottle? Isn’t it adorable? T.J. Maxx. $4.) and wanted it share it with you. I just stuck a pad of newsprint paper behind it to block the other, more hideous clutter from view. I wanted to illustrate just how GREEN this stuff is. I love it! This is what The Jolly Green Giant drinks for breakfast, I’m pretty sure. He sits around with The Hulk, discussing how to get more kids to eat their vegetables.

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They told me this would happen.

About two weeks ago, I started juicing. Mostly vegetables. Not major juicing, not the juice-fast thing by any means. Some mornings I have juice for my breakfast, some nights I have it with my supper. Still eating more than plenty of my regular food. I wanted to see how many veggies I could get in there after months of knowing that a small handful of spinach in my fruit smoothie wasn’t cutting it. The handful o0f spinach is great for what it’s worth, but when weight is a problem and sugar is killing several members of your family, having too much fruit is a very real problem. Likewise not enough vegetables.

green-juice

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My Christmas season

I have several friends who are attempting the 365 thing this year… you know, where you post a picture of something from your day every day for a year. It is so much fun to keep up with when someone actually does it. I know a few who have; I love the idea, but we all know by now that I’m not good with staying true to a course like that. I might last a week, maybe. So I decided, hey, I can still put up pictures when I feel like it, of whatever I’d like to share with you.  Duh.

So, to start with, here are some highlights from my Christmas season.

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I made sugared rose petals for our Christmas dessert. It was Jubilee Cake, in honor for the Queen’s Jubilee. Two layers of s moist almond cake with clotted cream and raspberries in between. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the right kind of cream to make clotted cream, so I ended up with sorta-thickish but still runny, lumpy cream. Hey, it still tasted good. But it did make me angry at the FDA or whoever it is that thinks we need to have everything ultra-pasteurized. But that’s a different topic…

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Home-Made Perogies

 

It’s been a while since I made Perogies… in fact, when I couldn’t remember which book my recipe came from, I checked in my old food blog, and it was 3 years ago that I was in the habit of making them. Wowzers, how time flies. Mom’s been bugging me to make these lately, and since it’s a Saturday and we need something to keep the kids occupied all day, I thought to myself “What better way to keep them busy than to inflict labor-intense Perogie assembly on them? BWAHahahaha.”
I’m such a good sister.
So, I figured I might as well share the recipe on here, since my old blog is pretty much a thing of the past. If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d take new pictures of the process today as I work on them, but I won’t. You’ll just have to make do with the pictures from before I knew how to use my camera properly.
Be careful with this recipe. These are hearty and high-carb, full of cheese and butter, and for your health’s sake, wait til the official meal and don’t snack on 20 as you cook them. *sigh*
Ukrainian Perogies
For the Dough:
2 C flour
1/2 C warm milk
1/2 C mashed potato
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs oil
Mix all ingredients, adding a little more milk if it’s too dry. Knead on a lightly floured surface until it forms a ball. You want it to be just slightly sticky. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with a towel to rest at least 30 minutes.
Filling:
1/2 C finely chopped onion
1/4 C butter
2 C mashed potato ( a good use for left-overs, or boil fresh and season with salt and pepper)
1 C grated white cheddar
Sauté the onion in butter until well cooked and starting to brown. Mix with potato and cheese. You might want to add salt to taste, but keep in mind that the cheese has quite a bit of salt already. If you use hot mashed potato, allow to cool a bit before filling perogies.
Set a pot of water to boil (the wider it is the more you can cook at once). Roll the dough very thinly on lightly floured surface (0.125″ to be precise. *cough*) adding as little four as possible to keep it from sticking. Cut 3″ circles with a wide glass/biscuit cutter.

Press scraps into a ball, and allow it to rest again so the dough can be re-used. It relaxes significantly after 15 minutes or more.
Scoop 1 1/2- 2 tsp filling into each circle (you’ll figure out how much is too much pretty quick, it’ll gush out the corner.), fold and press closed. The dough sticks together very well compared to some other pastries. The first time I made these I thought they’d pop open, but they didn’t.
Place in boiling water to cook. Stir once to keep them from sticking to the bottom. They will float after about 2 minutes. Cook about a minute longer, then remove with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle cooked perogies with melted butter and toss. You can either eat them now as a ravioli-like dumpling, or….
…. fry them until golden, as we do. I actually like them either way, but most of my family only likes them fried.

Jamie Oliver: My New Foodie Nerd-Crush

 

As a friend of mine, who cheerfully gushes along with me, says “He’s so adorkable.”

Just this past week I stumbled across Jamie Oliver’s TV show Jamie at Home. I don’t even remember how I found it, but I’ve been watching about ten episodes a day ever since. Love it. He’s a lot of fun, has a lot of passion for what he’s doing, so down-to-earth, and most importantly, his food is real. The very fact that a good part of his show occurs in his garden immediately made me see him as a ‘real’ person.

I’m afraid he’s already made me into a bit of a cooking-show snob, because when I decided to give The Pioneer Woman’s show a try, it lasted about15 minutes and I couldn’t take it any more. Sorry, Ree… you are a wonderfully entertaining writer, but in front of a camera is not where you were meant to be. I love you anyway. Someday, I will win a free Kitchen Aid from you.

Back to Jamie. He’s been around for quite a while, right? I’m pretty sure I’ve even cooked some of his recipes from Food Network’s website. I think I had heard of his efforts to get healthy meals into the schools. Did you know he owns a restaurant where they train teens from rough backgrounds into chefs, and give them the chance to actually work there after they are done training? Pretty cool. And also, if you need a good laugh, look up the names of his children. But don’t judge. He claims his wife named them.

And now I must leave you… softlyyyyy… (Ten points to the first one who knows why I just did that.)

Time to go check the mail.

Because I ordered two of Jamie Oliver’s cook-books. And.. and… they just might get here today. *grin*

As a parting gift, I give you Jamie Oliver, making English Onion Soup. The best part is his monologue whilst crying over the onions. Totally made my day.

 

Of Egg Whites

 

Eggs in baking can sometimes be problematic. Angel food cake wants whites only, but you hate to waste the yolks. Occasionally, you may be cooking lemon curd or a custard that only wants the yolks. Many of us succumb to making too many baked products and puddings at once to use up everything and then have the delightful problem of too many sweets in the house. I haven’t found a solution for what to do when you have extra yolks, but with extra whites, I learned you can freeze them.

Line a drinking glass or jar with a freezer ziplock bag and crack the egg into it, capturing the yolk you need in the shell, of course.

Label with how many yolks there are and pop the bag into the freezer. To quickly thaw them, put the baggy in a bowl or very warm water, careful that it’s not so hot it will begin cooking them. They whip up perfectly into stiff peak, or whatever state you need them in. Several times I’ve found I had just the right number of whites in the freezer and didn’t have to crack any eggs or waste any yolks just to make waffles or my mom’s special tapioca pudding, etc.

 

Rosemary as an Ornimental Herb

I’ve tried several times to grow Rosemary in my herb garden. The problem is, in my climate, rosemary does much better in a clay pot so the roots are in warmer soil during the day, and my herb garden is far enough away from the house that I just don’t remember to water ANYTHING out there. So rosemary normally dies on me.

This year I decided to just mix it in with my other container plants. It is pretty, a nice textural contrast, and a great color contrast when combined with purple foliage. It’s right outside my patio door with my other highly needy containers and gets watered almost as regularly as everything else. Rosemary is a Mediterranean plant so it never needs to be soaking wet, either.

 

Another herb that I’m going to do even more with next year is Pistou basil. It’s teeny, adorable, and with the right amount of space and light, each plant forms a perfect little sphere, like an herbal topiary you didn’t have to work for.

This is several plants in one pot, so the shape is a little kooky. I did see perfectly round plants this spring in the greenhouse where I work. The flavor of this variety is wonderful, and since the leave are so tiny it’s a cinch to just strip them off and toss them into your salad or sauce or whatever you want, no chopping involved.