From harvest to table ~ what's cooking now?

This blog shows where all those garden goodies I grow end up. I call this little eating area next to the stove my "chef's table" because at all the best restaurants it's a privilege to be invited to dine in the kitchen where the chef reigns supreme. So here I am "reigning" and you are all invited. :-D

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Smooooth move

With my recent health problems, one concern is trying to keep weight on.  Ever since I suddenly dropped over 12# 18 months ago, I have to eat more than I think I should at my age.  And when that gets old, or boring, or my appetite just evaporates, I loose weight quickly.  And that's not good for me.

So lately I've been trying to tease myself into eating an 'extra' little meal every day.  That doesn't always work out, but recently I've starting making smoothies.  They aren't as overwhelming or as intimidating as something heavy or even a sandwich.

The first ones I made were flavored after my favorite Baskin Robbins ice cream: Jamoca Almond Fudge.

The basic of all my smoothies are 1C plain yogurt, a banana, a heaping tablespoon of ground flaxseed (super anti-inflammatory and, like the banana, lends body to the blend) and a cup of ice cubes.

To achieve the flavor of the BR ice cream, I added 1t of decaf coffee crystals, 1t of cocoa powder, 1T of agave nectar and a heaping tablespoon of well-ground almonds.  *slurp*  Yep, that's pretty darn close. 

After a couple of those, I decided to branch out.  For some reason, I decided to make something green.  Why?  Who knows.  It just struck my fancy. Maybe because it's supposed to be spring and things are supposed to be green (even though the current 6" of snow says otherwise)?

To the basic ingredients, I added 1/2 avocado, 1 kiwi, and for even more color - 3 large freshly-harvested swiss chard leaves (from the basement greens bin).  I also added a good squeeze of lemon for a bit of sour. *slurp*

Wow.  Totally surprised that it tasted as good as it looked.  And all the ingredients are super healthy and anti-inflammatory.

Not only are these tasty and easy to get down, the ground flax and nuts makes the smoothie more of a meal than just a snack.  Best of all, (at least for now) I look forward to my daily dose from Dr. Blender.

====== different day - different color

Avocados really jumped in price at the store, so today I brought home a couple cartons of blueberries and made up a blue smoothie.

To the 'basic blend' I added 3/4C of blueberries, a heaping tablespoon of blackberry jam and a really heaping tablespoon of ground walnuts.

This blue didn't get as blue as the green one got as green, *slurp* but delicious, nonetheless.  (The walnuts went very well with the berries.) :-D

Stay tuned for more experiments with colorful concoctions. :-D

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Using kefir milk in soda bread

I finally got around to making up an Irish soda bread using the kefir milk I made last week.

Though the milk sat for 7 days, it smelled very nice.  There was about 3/8" separation on the top, but I just stirred everything together, no prob.

Since this is the first soda bread made with kefir, it is an experiment.  Spelt needs less hydration than wheat flour.  When I made soda bread with buttermilk (the best bread), I had to use a tad more than the 1.5C called for.

When I didn't have fresh buttermilk, I used dried buttermilk and water (2nd best bread)  I had to use less water because it soaked up more than the buttermilk.

When I used whey (3rd best), I had to figure out the ratio there, too.

The kefir is thinner than buttermilk, but thicker than water and whey.

After the regular dry ingredients, I loaded the it down with 1C of raisins and 1/2C of walnuts and 1/4C sugar.

Since the kefir was almost buttermilk-thick, I thought I'd better use the whole 1.5C for this batch.  When the dough came together it looked like it was too dry.  So I added another 1T of kefir.  I shouldn't have.

I'd been stirring with my spatula and when I did the final mixing by hand, I could tell it was too wet.  So I had to add about 2T+ of spelt to dry it out a bit.

I may have overdone the raisins, though.  You can see they have stuck out everywhere instead of staying inside where they belonged. *heh*

The final rise of the baked bread is comparable to the buttermilk breads I've made (the water/whey breads didn't get as big).

This one turned out a tad more toasted than I like - could be the oven is being ornery today OR that kefir milk browns differently.

Next time I'll set the heat down to 400F instead of 425F and see what's what.

The bread is still to hot to cut now.  I'll have to update this post later for taste/texture test results.

Stay tuned.


Taste test!

While a tad toasted, this bread turned out JUST AS GOOD as the breads I made with buttermilk!

The texture is fine and dense and moist - almost creamy on the tongue.  The flavor is excellent.  *munch*

And those crusty raisins are the bomb.

I give this experiment WAY thumbs up.  Kefir milk is the only way to go now since it's so easy to make and have on hand.  And talk about PENNIES per quart.  Thanks, Leigh! :-D

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Current kefir

When I figured out that 8oz of the Mighty Mango smoothie contained 32 grams of sugar and the peach nectar contained 38 grams of sugar (that's nearly 10 teaspoons!) I nixed using them as kefir soda material.  After all, the whole idea of kefir is to make a wholesome pro-biotic drink and I didn't want to turn it into a sugar high.

So I dumped the 2nd bottle of peach nectar (Looza) altogether.  I did, however, save the bottles.  I really liked the shape and the 1 liter size.  The sealed cap is a bonus.

I can use these for kefir teas and save the 16 oz plastic bottles for juices.

The kefir water in the carafe is my original formula: turbinado sugar, well water & molasses.  Notice how dark it is.

Meanwhile, back in the lab.  The water kefir grains are just too darn prolific.  So the last batch I made I totally left out the spoonful of mineral-rich molasses.  There.  That should stifle those babies.

Alas, no.  Between the turbinado sugar and my lovely (even softened) well water, 1.5C of grains in the last batch gave up an extra full cup of new grains.  Sheesh.

One nice thing - without the dark molasses, the kefir water is a lot lighter.  So is the flavor.

Check out the difference between the apple juice/kefir on the left (with molasses) vs the apple juice/kefir on the right (sans molasses).  Same 50/50 ratio.

Not only is the color of the kefir water lighter, the kefir grains themselves aren't so dark amber anymore. 

Encouraged by the lighter kefir flavor, I've made up my first batch of kefir/orange pekoe tea (in one of the new carafes).  To give it a bit of fizz, I added a mere 5t (20 grams) of table sugar (that's to 16oz of tea so it's WAY less than the other juices). (Yeah, I know, the bottle is mis-marked at 4t).

(FYI: The organic apple juice (Apple&Eve), only contains 22 g/8 oz.)

Now we wait for fizz.  Next juice to try - 100% tart cherry!

Hmm, and I still have to make up a soda bread with my kefir milk.  So much fun, so little time.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Need new kitchens to conquer

Ever think you'd like to make water kefir?   Didn't know where to get the grains?

I have some (organic) water kefir grains that need new homes.  They are growing so fast.

I bought 1/2C of grains.   I made 2 quarts of kefir and ended up with 1C of grains.

I gave away 1/2C and made another batch of kefir...

I now have over 3C of grains.  I hate the thought of composting them, but I have no pets or chickens to feed them to.

So if you want water kefir grains, I'll send you* 1/2C for the price of postage.  (Click HERE for more info on my water (and milk) kefir adventures.)   (*until they run out or they take over the house)

Otherwise - it's compost time.

============== news flash ==========

Hey, found out *I* can eat the excess grains too!  So I tried a spoonful.  No real flavor, not sweet, not sour.  Not as firm as gelatin or tapioca.  Kind of eh.   But they are packed with pro-biotics and will be a great addition to fruit smoothies.

Now, having said that I'm still game to send out a few grain gifts.  Limited time, folks.  I've got the blender at hand....

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Tired of my WATER kefir posts?

Fine!   Here's my first MILK kefir post. *snark*

Leigh (from 5 Acres & a Dream) sent me a culture of milk kefir grains.

I, in turn, sent her some of my rampantly growing water kefir grains.

Her gift came in a baggie with a couple tablespoons of milk and a clump of grains.  All I had to do was dump the whole kit n kaboodle into a jar with 2C of milk (ANY kind of milk - room temp, cold, whole, skim, cow, you name it). 

Now THAT's what I call simple!

I left the jar on the counter with a loose lid and *presto chango* 24 hours later I had a jar of milk kefir. 

(And it didn't matter that I used organic ultra-pasteurized milk.  Don't let ANYone tell you that ultra-pasteurized milk is 'dead' and can't be used to culture.  I've cultured yogurt & buttermilk for years with this stuff and the kefir were happy campers in that jar.)

I strained the milk and recaptured the milk kefir grains.   As you can see, they are different from the water kefir grains.  The water grains are individual gelatin blobs, while the milk grains grow in a cluster and look like cottage cheese.  That cluster thing makes it really easy to strain them out.

The milk itself had turned thick and silky - not quite as thick as buttermilk, but smooth.  It's more tangy than buttermilk, that's for sure. 

I don't plan (at this point) to drink the milk plain or flavored.  What I DO plan on is substituting the kefir milk in all my baking (bread, biscuits, pancakes, etc.) where it calls for buttermilk.

For now I poured the kefir milk in a clean jar, and put it in the fridge to cool.

I'll be making up a soda bread this weekend and can't wait to use the kefir milk in it.

Stay tuned for more. :-D

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I'm gettin' the hang of this

Spelt tortillas - toasted for crunch or steamed/grilled for wraps.

Thicker flatbreads - easy to slice open for sandwiches:

I didn't end up all fumble thumbs this time and could grill them as fast as I could roll them out, watch some TV and sip kefir soda.  Talk about multi-tasking!  Yay me. :-D

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Bonus round

On Saturday I decanted my first batch of kefir water and used it for a secondary ferment of Mango & Peach juices.  At that time I ended up with 5 bottles of kefir juice and knew I wouldn't need any more for a bit of time.  That said, I scooped up the grains, put 'em in a quart jar with fresh water, some sugar and a dribble of molasses.  Then into the bottom of the fridge where it was coldest.  There.  Go to sleep you little guys.

A scant 48 hours later I scooped out 1/2C of grains and mailed them off to a friend.  I was surprised at home many bubbles there were in the jar.  I thought cold would put them to sleep.  Hmmm.

Another 24 hours later I decided to make more kefir so I could experiment with tea flavors.  Okay, I hauled out the quart jar and - omigosh - MORE grains!  And each of them are HUGE.  No - really.

I drained them and found I had over 1.5C  - AGAIN.

Now wait a minute.  I BOUGHT 1/2C.  I gave AWAY 1/2C.  And I still had 1.5C ??? What are these? MAGIC BEANS??**  I've watched vids all over YouTube how people have these dinky little grains, their grains work but hardly multiply, etc.etc.  

Between the well water, molasses & Turbinado sugar I seem to have the perfect storm, uh, environment for water kefir grains.

Anyway, when I drained the dormant (ha!) grains I ended up with 2C of kefir water.  I set that aside.

Then I got my new find - a 1/2 gallon blue tinted Ball/Mason jar.  It's so pretty I decided to use it for fermenting water kefir from now on.

I filled it with softened well water, added 1/2C Turbinado sugar and  1t of molasses and dumped in ALL THE GRAINS.  Why not?  The jar is certainly not crowded.  Although the ratio of sugar may be a bit low, I can compensate by not letting the ferment go more than, say 20-30 hours, not the full 48 like last time (although these grains have a mind of their own (like, maybe, world domination?)).

Meanwhile, waste not, want not I took the 2C of kefir water I poured out from the 'dormant' jar and decided to make tea with it.  After all, the water was only 72 hours old and had been fermenting at very low temps so I'm sure the water is fine to use.

I added 2C of fresh brewed tea (common black) and a couple tablespoons of organic agave for sweetness and poured out 2 - 16oz bottles to ferment.  If this common tea turns out well, I'll be making up more flavorful types later on (hmm, fresh mint, and herbals...).  One thing - I may only let these 2 bottles ferment for a mere 12 hours seeing as the water seems to be VERY active with probiotics at this point.  I don't want any bottle rockets. LOL

** Or maybe it's the old Ball jars.  Maybe THEY are magic.  If so, I'm going to stuff a couple of C-notes in one of them.  You know -- just in case.... ;-D

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

One fine fizz!

In yesterday's post I PS'd that I decided to add more juice to the kefir water, bringing the ratio of juice to kefir to 50/50.

That said, I needed to add another bottle to the group, bringing the total up to 5.  (Talk about scope creep!)

Anyway, after a full 18 hours of juice/kefir ferment at room temp, I put the bottles into the fridge.  But I couldn't wait until they were icy, instead, after sweeping the snow off the deck, I came in and poured out half a glass of the Mighty Mango blend.

Houston - WE. HAVE. FIZZ! Delish.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Decanting water kefir

After 48 hours in my decidedly cool (mid 60s) kitchen, the water kefir is ready to decant.

Look at the fermentation bubbles.

Look at all those plump kefir grains.

These guys are as healthy as all get out and have consumed all of the Turbinado sugar and molasses.  Time to move on.

I've decided to flavor all of this first batch of kefir and am going to use peach nectar in 2 re-used soda bottles and some Mighty Mango in the other 2.

So I measured out 1/2C of fruit juice into each bottle (only 3 are shown here - 2 peach and 1 mango, but I had more kefir so later added a 4th mango bottle).

Then I strained off the kefir grains into a quart measuring cup. I was supposed to use only a NYLON screen, but only had metal.  Hope I've not harmed the poor things.

Goodness - I got more grains from just ONE of the ferment jars than I originally put into BOTH of the ferment jars.  There must be over 3/4C here - double than went in 48 hours ago!

Finally,  I poured the kefir water into the bottles with the fruit juice, capped them then shook them lightly to mix.

I ended up with 3.5 16oz bottles of kefir/juice blend.

I also ended up with a freaking TON of water kefir grains.  There's well over 1.5C of them now.  Whoa!  Is this NORMAL???

Now I'll put the kefir/juice bottles on the shelf for 24 hours to let residual kefir yeast/bacteria cultures in the water to ferment the sugars in the juices.  This should fizz up the beverage lightly.

After 24 hours I'll put all the bottles in the 'fridge to stop the fermenting.

As for all those kefir grains?  Well, I won't be needed them for the next couple of days (I'm one person - I can only drink so much, y'know!).

So I followed instructions: put the grains in a roomy jar, fed them with more Turbinado & some molasses, capped it and put in right into the fridge to cool.

In a couple days I'll divide the grains, sending some to Leigh (5 Acres & a Dream) in exchange for some of her MILK kefir grains.

I'll be tasting both kefir juices come Monday and will be sure to let you know the final results. 

Are YOU interested?  Here' a great link for more WATER KEFIR info.

Update - 4 hours later.  I shot an email to April (see previous post) and she said that healthy grains DO reproduce that fast.  Holy mackerel!  I've got to find homes for these babies. LOL  Meanwhile, she suggested 50/50 for juice/kefir water, so I added a 5th bottle for overflow, then topped off the bottles with more juice.  Already there was fizz in the bottles and some tasty flavor from some quick sips.  :-D  I'm really going to enjoy this!

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