Saturday, April 30, 2016

Italian Night Just Got Lighter

Want a special appetizer or light entree to go with a big salad that won't add a gazallion calories?

Slice four pieces of fresh ciabatta bread really thin and top with fresh spinach and tomato and a cup of part skim milk mozarella.  Sprinkle with black pepper and garlic powder (optional) and broil. Serves four at less than 300 calories per serving. Compared to other cheeses, Mozzarella is lower in calories with a lot less fat so you can enjoy an Italian treat without the huge plate of pasta.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Turkey meatballs and sauce

There have been a number of people posting about eating off the equivalent money they'd get on SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) to highlight how hard it is to eat healthy and economically on public assistance.

This post isn't about the habits of those on public assistance, as it's easy to criticize.  But I wanted simply to give an example of how, with a little planning, you can feed a family nutritious food for much LESS than the amount of money normally allocated in such programs (about $194 per person per month) even assuming you contribute nothing of your own money towards your family meals.
Low Fat Banana bread (the stunt butter was for the photo)

This weeks food  - $50 for the two of us, including a sweet bread and some cookies.   I've rounded everything up to the nearest half dollar.  I do the bread baking on Saturday and make cookies or some other baked treat.  I make soup or stew on Sunday and chopped and Tupperware the veggies so there's little time to prepare them on a work night. Many meals are meat free, with beans and grain for complete protein. Nothing is wasted, so there's always little bits of peppers or chilis or such in the freezer to add to soup and beans dishes as well as some bones with a little meat on them for soups. Any leftovers not immediately eaten are frozen for lunches the following week. We have  brewed iced tea, not pop, and I'll make an "energy drink" out of a splash of fruit juice mixed with 2 Tablespoons of Braggs apple cider vinegar and lots of water and carried in a recycled glass beverage bottle.
Fans of the TV Show Firefly will so get this mug

Both of us pack our lunches and have a water jug AND a thermos and do not buy coffee or soft drinks at work or on the way to or from. I'll make muffins to have as a mid morning treat for coffee or tea. Plus - when a local Sears went south, we picked up a deep freezer for $100 for the basement.

So total food and treats if one is closely watching the budget and has essentials on hand in bulk already -  $200 for the month for two adults.

We are blessed with a good education (I paid for mine 100% on my own, my husband was blessed with parents, who having done so themselves, were able to help him significantly). With that, we have jobs that pay very well  But being raised by parents that understood a budget, mine growing up in the Great Depression, we are quite fine eating on a budget so that there is money available for unexpected expenses, helping family members and charities, including 100% of all the sales of the Book of Barkley and Saving Grace to animal rescue. That's important to us.
Yes, we have some extra splurge meals with more expensive ingredients (Chocolate Truffles!  Single Malt Scotch!) I'ts because we are blessed to where we  can and we usually eat out once a month, someplace cheap and fun like Thai.  But we also know that if money was really tight we could eat VERY well, with adequate protein and minerals with a little planning and some time in the kitchen. Even with treats, an adult beverage on the weekends and sometimes extra dairy from a local dairy farm we spend less than $300 a month on food, that extra money going to help my Dad or others in need.  I've stood in line at Walmart and watched someone with a cart full of prepared and prepackaged meals and junk food spend that in a week for a small family.

There have been years we've gone in with others for a 4-H cow, the cost per pound being really low, but this year, with a move, and remodeling, we just watch for sales.
 "MackMuffin" with whole wheat sourdough bread rounds and "veggie" sausage

But it takes planning - don't wait until you lose your job before establishing a larder of bulk supplies. Do it when times are plentiful, and you'll have less to worry about later, because it's vital that you have certain items stored up to make a super cheap meal plan work.  You will need to spend a months worth of food budget minimum, laying in supplies if you want the absolutely minimum cost on dried and bulk items, not something that's practical once the emergency strikes.

Bread - I make it from scratch, using a sourdough starter made out of wild yeast in place of commercial yeast and a food processor, it takes minutes to prep, then just the rise and bake time for a couple of loafs and a batch of muffins or rolls. An hour of prep, time to rise, and a couple of hours to bake up everything, and I've got bread products for the week for a couple of bucks.
Wild yeast sourdough starter

Shopping - I will hit 3 stores if it saves me 3 or 4 bucks, as long as the gas to go there doesn't eat up the difference. I regularly check ads to see what's on sale where and I'm not afraid to clip a coupon. Make sure you look at your receipt - I've been charged other than the sale price at a couple of the big chain grocers.  I make a list.  If I see something super cheap not on the list, I will pick it up to add to the larder. I will NOT buy something just because "it looks good!" if it's not on the list,

On hand:
Home canned: salsas, applesauce (I trade bread/cookies for huge bag of apples each Fall with non baking colleague who has a bunch of trees), some veggies, barbecue sauce
frozen soup bones from previous roasts, frozen vegetable stock to make soups
sourdough starter
powdered milk, vegetable oil, peanut butter, pasta
vinegar and spices in bulk
rice and dried beans - in bulk
flour and sugar - in bulk
water - we take refillable thermoses to work, the tap water here tastes good and frankly, half of the bottled water is from a tap in some other city plus we keep a minimum of  3 months of bleach treated water, per person (including the dog) with prepping supplies.
4-H cow burgers with homemade buns


Cost - About $50 for the week for my husband and I and that included a number of meals with meat and eggs.

Daily Goal  - 3 servings of protein
5 servings of fruits and veggies
A treat (usually a cookie, sometimes a piece of pie when fruit is plentiful and cheap)
3 servings of whole grain carbs (my husband may eat more, the bread is super cheap to make)
2 servings dairy

Cost:

Use of the bulk items for the week (spices, flour, bones, powdered milk, dried beans, oil, vinegar) $6.00
coffee or tea for the week (made at home and carried to work)  $2
Oatmeal $1
One small package chicken thighs (sale)   $2
package of boneless breasts (for sandwiches)  (free - this was a buy one get one from the previous week)
1 pound ground beef  $4 (if money was extra tight, I would replace with lentils for meat sauce or sloppy joes on the homemade bread)
Fresh Green Beans - $2
Fresh squash  - $2
2 Cucumbers (great with rice vinegar and a dash of honey as a salad)  $1.50
2 bags of apples (Aldi)  $5
Veggies: a number of cans purchased on  scratch and dent clearance  $4 total
Carrots:  2 bags on sale for $1.50
3 pounds oranges (sale)  $2
eggs - free - bartered with homemade bread for someone that has chickens but doesn't bake
bananas  .50 cents for a bunch on sale
Tibetan curried lentils

Potatoes 5 pound bag on sale .99 cents
2 onions   $1.50
package of  whole romaine for sandwiches and salad  $1
1/4 deli pound Swiss (sale)  $1
1/2 pound mozzarella  $2
Canned mushrooms (sale).50
Bag of peppers  (Aldi sale) $2
Big tub of cottage cheese (or plain yogurt) $5
Bag of frozen dried berries (for oatmeal and/or muffins)  $2
Generic  boxed mac and cheese  .50
Butter (free with $25 grocery purchase)
Ham and Bean soup

Even better,  there will be some soup and beans to be frozen for a lunch the next week
Any leftover cheese  or chicken will be mixed with leftover pasta for a casserole or stuffed baked potatoes the following week.

Menu for the week:
Breakfast - work day oatmeal (with some powdered milk and cinnamon mixed in)  and tea or coffee or egg with toast or a homemade muffin
sourdough raspberry muffin

weekend - hash-browns with any leftover onions and scrambled eggs or omelette  or pancakes made with leftover plain yogurt and a fried egg

Lunch - For my husband:  peanut butter or chicken sandwich (sliced or chicken salad with veggie or fruit bits left from the previous weekend) with Swiss and homemade mayo and an apple
Homemade baked potato chips (400 F. oven, lightly coat 2 rimmed baking sheets with non stick spray.  Slice potatoes super thin with food processor and place 1/4 inch apart on sheet.  Season and bake, rotating halfway trough until golden brown - about 30 minutes)
extra fruit for afternoon snack
homemade peanut butter or oatmeal cookie

For me:  baked potato with a bit of salsa and cottage cheese with some carrots,  applesauce for dessert

or

Cottage cheese or leftover soup or casserole from the freezer with a slice of bread and a small apple
an extra fruit for a snack
Lebanese herbed rice - with homegrown herbs and bulk beef or TVP, less than .75 cents a serving

weekend lunches - boxed  mac and cheese to which I've added a little leftover corn, a little leftover protein, a little pepper and salsa, topped with buttered bread crumbs and baked
canned green beans

Leftover barbecue shredded chicken served on homemade rolls with extra sauce and canned corn.

Baked potato stuffed with  leftover veggies, salsa, cheeses, whatever bits are in the fridge.

leftover soups or stews (frozen)

leftover pizza

Dinners:

(1) Split Pea Soup (from Scratch) with potatoes and onions (beef bone to add seasoning)
Cornbread from scratch
Carrots

(2) Meat Sauce and Pasta (made with  from scratch sauce from previous week, adding peppers and ground beef).
Zucchini
Canned corn
Garlic toast (homemade bread, a little oil and garlic powder toasted in a pan)
S
Lasagna bread

(3) Baked potatoes stuffed with meat sauce with a sprinkle of cheese or lasagna bread (meatsauce, 3 cheese stuffed day old rolls)
Can of peas and carrots
Fresh green beans

(4) Homemade lentil soup (beef bone and spices for seasoning)
leftover cornbread
carrot sticks

(5) Chicken with  homemade canned barbecue sauce
Steamed rice
Canned corn
Remainder of fresh green beans


(6)   Pizza Night - deep dish this time, homemade. topped with  homemade Canadian bacon (much cheaper than the store bought), leftover veggies bits  and cheese
Carrots
Romaine salad with cucumber and homemade vinaigrette.  Croutons made out of older bread.

(7) White beans with ham shank and spices
Garlic toast made with homemade bread, sprinkled with a little cheese
Carrots or canned veggies of choice.
Cookies for dessert and some sweet tea sitting out on the front porch

So whether you are trying to eat less processed food or just wanting to save some money - take some time to prepare a plan.  A couple hours in the kitchen on weekends can make for some wonderfully inexpensive meals during the week.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Your Breakfast Sandwich Just Got Better

Hot breakfast sandwiches are always tasty, but the frozen ones are typically really high in sodium with added sugar, and the fast food ones have sugar in them and WAY more sodium than you want. (a bacon egg and cheese biscuit from McDonald's has almost 1300 grams of sodium!)

Sure you can buy an English muffin to assemble one at home, though to me, the whole wheat ones are way too "dense".  I was looking for something a little lighter and fluffier as my egg transport system.  Homemade whole wheat sourdough rounds!  They are perfect for a quick breakfast before you head out the door, or on a Saturday morning before chores.  My version was vegetarian with soy "sausage" as I eat meat free several meals a week, but you can make with breakfast meat of your choice.
They have the texture of a biscuit but are made thin, almost like a muffin top. Quite soft and fluffy inside due to the whole wheat pastry flour, they are still sturdy enough to make a sandwich with a delicate taste that pairs well with about anything..  They are also super easy to make (3 minutes to  mix up) and are also good heated up for dinner with less than 130 calories per generous sized  round.
Use a smaller salad plate for your meals, you'll be less
 likely to go back for "seconds".

Using my Azure Standard



I got the recipe off of the Azure Standard blog (and if the person that came up with this wants credit - please drop me a line as I'm not sure who came up with it). Simply mix up a cup of the starter with a cup of cream, a cup and a half of  Bob's Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Stir, and drop on  by 1/8 cup measures on a  large cookie sheet sprayed with natural non-stock spray (makes about a dozen)  Cover with plastic wrap also sprayed with non stock spray on the underside  and a kitchen towel and let rise overnight OR rise in a warm place for 3-4 hours. They flatten out so leave several inches between then.  Bake at 350 F for about 25 minutes, until bottoms are browning slightly.

They are very soft and tender and just the right thickness for a breakfast (or lunch) sandwich .

I made  these Saturday and assembled the sandwich with a fried egg,Trader Joe's vegetarian breakfast "sausage" which are pre-cooked and just heat up in the microwave, and a small sprinkle of cheddar. The best part, though these are not "low sodium"  with the pre-cooked "sausage", they were still 1/3 the sodium of a fast food  breakfast biscuit sandwich with NO added sugar.  Plus we were getting whole grain nutrition.

That's nothing to joke about.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Having A Daily Treat

Eating healthier or eating healthier AND dieting are both difficult changes.  I didn't have a ton of weight to lose, but I'd been eating WAY too much junk and prepackaged foods as I completed my last book (while working full time with a family) and my health was suffering from it with blood sugar swings and decreased energy.

Back eating more healthy foods I DO feel better and sleep better and I've lost 5 pounds in the last six weeks, without counting calories (except those I include for readers).  I do use "My Fitness Pal" to track carbs and fat and sodium though as well as get a general idea of average calories in a week.  I noticed also, since I started working out again, my weight loss about doubled over just healthier food choices, doing an hour workout of cardio and light weights twice a week with three power walks (except for the last couple of weeks when I sprained my knee on a slippery surface).

But I found I had better luck with my eating when I allowed one little treat a day.

I'm not talking a big bowl of ice cream or a giant cheeseburger and fries. Just a small portion of food I really liked, and could nibble on for between 90 and 175 calories.

Depending on whether I wanted sweet, salty or savory, here are some of my favories.

10 baked tortilla chips with  1/3 cup salsa.

fig newton and small glass unsweetened almond milk

raw veggies with 1/4 cup hummus, a pickle spear and a few olives

frozen grapes (a couple dozen)

1/3 cup full fat ice cream (I find 1/3 cup of the good stuff is way more satisfying than 1 cup of sugar free fat free)

half a frozen banana dipped in two tablespoons of melted dark chocolate

Low fat yogurt with a teaspoon of granola

low fat cottage cheese (1/2 cup) with 1/4 cup berries

3 dates stuffed with skim ricotta cheese and sprinkled with cinnamon

1 cup berries with 2 tablespoons of whipped cream

2 teaspoons raisins mixed with 3 tablespoons of salted almonds

pumpkin pie yogurt - mix 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt with 2 tablespoons pumpkin puree and 1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup (the real stuff) with a pinch of nutmeg

English "biscuit" or a couple of vanilla wafers with tea and honey

What are YOUR favorite low cal treats?


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Thai Spring Rolls - Light Spring Lunches

Thai Spring rolls are a tasty way to get your veggies in, and once you've had them you'll not go back to the fried egg rolls again. They're made with rice paper (gluten free) and are not fried, filled with fresh crisp vegetables and served cold. My husband and I regularly eat a plate of these with a small bowl of coconut Thai soup for Saturday lunch after fresh fruit for breakfast when we've had pizza or something heavy on Friday night..

For the rolls:

8 rice paper wrappers (available in Asian markets and some high end grocers)
a few pieces of torn greens
1 english cucumber (the seedless ones)
1/2 small red pepper
2 medium carrots
a handful of fresh cilantro and/or fresh mint
green onion (garnish, optional)

Cut the veggies into small matchstick pices, leaving a few larger strips of pepper for garnish if you like.  Sometimes I add bean sprouts but since bean sprouts have a higher salmonella risk then other veggies, I make my own when I do so.

Soak the rice paper one at a time in a bowl of very warm (but not hot) water for about 10 seconds, to soften, than place on a clean, damp towel.  The rice paper is fragile so don't soak them longer than that or they will fall apart.  Keep them covered as you finish soaking the remaining ones.
When they are all softened, uncover and pat dry.

Dry your hands and place a few of the veggies and herbs in the center of the wrapper horizontally, starting with the greens.  Fold the left and right sides towards the middle, fold the top flap over the veggies, tucking everything in, and tightly roll it up.  The wrapper will be pretty stick and they are fragile, so work carefully.

Cut in half and put on serving platter topped with additional pepper, carrot strips and onion (if you eat onion).

Typically this is served with a peanut dipping sauce, but I ate so m any packs of peanuts as an airline pilot I gag at the smell of them, so I use another spicy/sweet dipping sauce.

Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon
1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce (such as Lee
dash of crushed red pepper
Optional:  dash of fish sauce and/or dash of lime juice

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Lactose may not be Your Issue, rBHG May Be - Loving Dairy Again

Those of us over 50 remember the neighborhood milkman.  When I was a kid in the late 60's, we had a white box outside the garage side door to which fresh milk, butter and cottage cheese would be delivered.  Since we butchered a steer each year to add to the fish Dad regularly caught, with most of the veggies and fruit coming from our garden, that saved  a trip to the store.  That was a blessing for my busy Mom, especially as she fought cancer those early years of my life, before we lost her to a smoking related cancer.

Now look - it's not a "box" but I have a "cooler on my porch this morning and it's filled with dairy products and other goodies - delivered just like the old days!

How did this happen?

You all remember my attempt to go dairy free?

No, that is not a roof shingle, it's a high end frozen pizza with fake "cheese".

The "cheese" did not melt". It just solidified and the crust needed a camping tool to cut. (We couldn't find the chain saw).   I'm thinking if it weren't for the price (almost $10 for a single, serves two, pizza) I could buy a few of these and put a new roof on the house. (Except the vegan Hansel and Gretel would then come and nibble on it.)

Even the Abby the rescue dog wouldn't eat it.
Hey!  Mom that is NOT cheese!

But dairy, quite frankly, upset my stomach.  I never had problems with it as a kid, but suddenly as an adult, I had issues. Sure - I'd eat it once in a while as I loved it but there was always a price.  Did I change - or over the years, was it the dairy?

I found out when  I tried some


ice cream at a friend's house in Indiana. (click on the name for their website) Not only was it the best ice cream I'd eaten in a long time, NO gastrointestinal side effects!  I could eat ice cream and go alpine  rock climbing!  I could eat ice cream and race motorcycles. OK, maybe I could eat ice cream and sit within 3 feet of my husband on the couch without embarrassing noises coming from my intestinal tract, how about THAT!

But I couldn't understand why I  could eat that dairy farm's product and not that of the cheap dairy I was buying at the chain grocers?.

I tried more Oberweis products back  home in Chicago - no tummy upset.   Could it be that I'm not lactose intolerant, but it's the growth hormones that the cows of my mass produced chain store milk and ice cream are loaded up with?  I did some research and sure enough, genetically engineered rBGH, can cause stomach upset in people.
I'm NOT lactose intolerant, I'm rBGH sensitive. The dairy I had been eating was from the big box mart type stores, and mass produced.    Woot!  I can eat dairy again, just dairy from non- stressed, rBGH (bovine growth hormone) free cows.   I wrote the company and received a kind thank you back in reply with this information:

That is why rather than purchasing comingled milk from any number of high-output farms, we pay a premium to families who care about producing milk as a way of life and who treat their animals well--no rBGH and no antibiotics. We know the quality of raw milk improves measurably when a cow is not stressed, and we start with the very best raw milk available.

Our milk is taken from their farms to our plant every day where we gently heat the milk to the lowest acceptable temperature to kill bacteria but retain taste and nutrients. This gentle pasteurization process that Oberweis has been using for generations is NOT the High Temperature Short Time method that is standard in the mass-production dairy industry.

Then when milk is bottled in glass, protected from light and extremes in temperature, that great quality milk arrives at your door in a condition that is as close to its original nature as possible. Both the serious attention to herd health and to the treatment of the fresh raw milk are key to the top quality and nutrition that Oberweis dairy is known for. It is not a fad for us, and as you noted, you can truly taste the difference!"

Thank you Patricia from Oberweis Dairy! So I was back to two-three servings a day of dairy, which is helping my waistline because that extra protein each day, with my dairy servings, is  keeping me full and not wanting to munch on junk food because I'm hungry mid day.  I can even have a little bowl of ice cream after my workouts with no ill effects or weight gain. In one study out of the University of Tennessee, researchers showed that eating three servings of dairy daily significantly reduced body fat in obese subjects. If they restricted calories a bit while continuing with the same dairy servings, it accelerated fat and weight loss.

Plus, with my hectic schedule (full time job at secret squirrel headquarters, 95 year old Dad, husband, and a 3rd and 4th book my publisher is actually expecting me to write over the next two years) not having to hit the grocers every week is great. So I love the delivery option (with a small one time fee for the cooler). Our freezer, like Mom's, is  full of home grown and home baked items and food purchased and prepared in bulk so I really don't want to have to drive to the store every week. They even deliver fresh (never frozen) pastas, spring water and other beverages, breads, and desserts at prices quite competitive with your local grocers, given the time and the gas you will save.

Yes, our tiny  temporary countertop is a board, and the kitchen looks
 like the house in  "Green Acres".  We're in the middle of a major remodel.

I realize that there are many people truly lactose intolerant and I'm sorry they're missing out.  But by, by simply changing the quality of the dairy I was consuming, I can enjoy it again.

No more Franken-dairy means no more upset stomach.  If you live in the Midwest, you may have a local Oberweis dairy store in your area, and the ice cream and milk are often available in many chain grocers if delivery is not available in your area.  So go have a treat!

Thank you Oberweis dairy.  I can enjoy the dairy of my youth again and it's some of the tastiest and freshest dairy I've had in years.  My stomach (and my pizza) thank you
Warning - my infamous "white pizza" with Oberweis Garlic Alfredo, cheddar and Parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes and olives is not a diet plan pizza, but if you eat it on Tuesday while standing up I have been told the calories don't count.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Crockpot Cornbread


We had an unseasonably warm day this weekend and I really didn't want to turn on the oven to bake, but I really wanted some cornbread.  This was a little experiment that worked.  The cornbread WAS a little darker on the bottom and sides but was not burned in any way and was very moist.

Paired with some homemade white bean soup in chicken stock with caramelized onion, some chopped leftover pork tenderloin (you can omit pork for a veggie version with vegetable stock) and Braggs Sprinkle seasoning and a Bay leaf, it made a low fat and nourishing dinner

The overhead fixture was out for some plaster work, so the low light  photos aren't that great, but you get the idea.
CrockPot Cornbread

In one bowl mix:

1 cup flour
3/4 cup corn meal
1 teaspoon EACH:
baking powder
baking soda
salt
3 Tablespoons sugar

In another bowl whisk:

1 cup Kefir or buttermilk at room temperature
1/4 cup lowfat milk or almond milk (room temperature)
(note - if you don't do dairy, substitute 1 cup soy yogurt and 1/4 cup soy milk).
1 egg (also at room temperature) or egg substitute
drop or two of vanilla

Melt 3 Tablespoons of butter or Vegan spread and whisk into milk mixture.

Combine wet and dry and pour into a pan coated with non stick spray that you placed in the crockpot before turning to high.  (note:  I let crockpot and pan preheat for about 10 minutes while I mixed my batter).

Make sure your liquids aren't cold or it will take too long to come to temperature and the crust might get too brown before the inside is done.

Bake on high, covered an hour and a half to an hour to two hours (crock pots vary, cook until it's starting to brown and  looks done and a knife comes out clean).

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Whole Wheat Pastry Flour Pancakes

How to get a perfect rise on homemade bread in a cold house - heating pad on low!

I've been having fun making a loaf or two of homemade wild yeast bread each weekend (my husband packs a sandwich lunch to work every day.)  Made with 100% whole wheat, no oil (salt optional) or sugar - it's about as healthy as it gets.

But I REALLY like my  Sunday pancakes.  But pancakes made with the 100% whole wheat flour were just too thick for my personal liking.  I like my pancakes to be light and fluffy.
Whole Wheat Pastry Flour Pancakes

So I read about using whole wheat PASTRY flour instead.  Ground finer, it lends a texture similar to white flour without the grainier texture. Even better, it contains all of the  wonderful oil from the wheat germ, fiber from the wheat bran and protein from the inner endosperm - nothing is added or removed so it's much healthier than bleached white flour. I make my pancakes with kefir - a fermented yogurt drink loaded with probiotics (I can't digest regular milk at all) which makes them really light, moist, and fluffy.

I replaced 2/3 of the flour in my regular recipe with whole wheat pastry flour and the results were VERY good.  You might have to go to a larger store or health food store (or order online) to find, but I love the Bob's Red Mill products, especially this one.
Light and Fluffy Whole Wheat Pancakes

In one bowl mix:

1/3 cup white flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking powder (check your date - near expiration powder makes for flat pancakes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
In another bowl mix:

1 cup nonfat kefir
1 egg  (try and have milk and egg at room temperature for best results)
Whisk egg and kefir, then, in a very thin and slow stream, whisk in
2 Tablespoons butter (melted)

Mix wet and dry, just until combined then cook on an oiled griddle on medium heat.  (note:  I've made this basic recipe with non dairy milk which I've soured with 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon, egg substitute and vegan butter for a vegan friend and they were still really good.)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

In a Pickle - Making Fermented Foods

I've always been a firm believer in keeping the refrigerator stocked with healthy food.  This picture was taken at the crash pad before I moved. (for new reader - I sold my house in Indiana before I got married in 2013 but had to commute a while until I could transfer to Chicago where my husband was).  With a major kitchen remodel going on now, our fridge is at "bare minimum".  But this gives you an example of what I normally keep on hand..

What's in here?  The usual -milk for my husband because I can't drink milt :-(    free range eggs from a friend's chickens, chicken breasts, Amish bacon, organic butter, lots of veggies, Greek yogurt and some gluten free muffin tops (which I got to see if I could replicate a recipe for them for a friend with Celiac).  Then the staples - whole wheat flour, stone ground cornmeal, Riehles Indiana popcorn, Lard (for the occasional biscuit treat so much more healthy than Crisco), mineral and bottled water (the tap water in crashpadville was horrible) and cheap "I just mowed the lawn" beer, Ezekiel sprouted grain bread, Kombucha (fermented tea), almond butter, Miso and a bottle of 25 year old balsamic.  There's a jar in there with some home brewed mead as well as an assortment of olive oils and flavored balsamics for dips and homemade dressings for the veggies. And the inevitable jar of orange marmalade for my morning homemade sourdough whole wheat bread and large sriracha (Thai chili sauce) for stir fry nights. The freezer has lots of veggies and veggie meat substitutes for the meat free days I have each week.

Refrigerators are a good indicator of many things - the size of your family, whether you like to cook or not, whether you're a college student (Dad visited my roommates and I once and all he found in the fridge was a stick of butter and a case of Olympia beer). It can show the status of both your wallet and your general nutrition.
I try and keep healthy and fresh stuff on hand, (please do not look in the freezer, that's where I hide at least two rolls of  McVities Digestive biscuits, Tater Tots and Home Run Pizzas).  Even so, I make sure I buy things when they are on sale, taking advantage of managers mark downs on items I can use immediately  Recently when I hit the store,, there was fresh baby dill at the store for 80 cents (manager special due to the sell by date) for a huge bundle

What to do with it?  I have cucumbers.  I'll make pickles with some of the fresh dill and dry the rest for seasoning other things.
You don't need "canning equipment" and these will keep for several weeks in the fridge (like they're going to last that long). You just need a small sauce pan, a big bowl, a spoon and a big glass jar.

Wash thoroughly 2  large cucumbers and cut as you wish (I went for fairly large Spears), place in large bowl and toss in 1/4 cup gently diced baby dill (you want fresh dill, not dried)

In a small saucepan mix:
1 cup Braggs apple cider vinegar (do not use the heated treated cheap acv)
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon raw sugar (or table sugar)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
2 heaping teaspoons of jarred minced garlic (optional for those that don't do garlic)

Bring to a simmer on the stove and remove from heat.  Let cool a minute or two then pour warm liquid over cucumbers and dill, stirring with a big spoon every 10 minutes or so, until it comes down to room temperature.  Place in tightly sealed jar, and shake every 15 minutes or so while it cools further, then put in fridge overnight.  You can eat them immediately, but they're much better the next day, and after that, they get even better.  I used a squarish glass jar (I ran over to big box mart and got it for $3) so I could rotate the jar on it's side each day to keep all of the cucumbers brined.
These are fresh, clean and crisp, with just the right amount of pickle taste for those of us that prefer a garlicy dill to the overly sweet bread and butter pickles and crisp over any limp store pickles. And fermented food isn't just tasty, it's good for you.  I try and have 2-3 servings of fermented food a day, pickled veggies, yogurt, goat milk kefir, kombucha, miso, and homemade sourdough bread and rolls.
The kefir ferments in the redneck wine glass
(moved here from it's shadowy home for a photo)

Try the pickles.  They are easy to make, and like the Kefir I now have going daily in my home, I simply had to say "I could  make that!" And I  (and my wallet) was so glad I did.
Garlicy, not too sweet and super crunchy.  Honestly, dinner one night when I was "bacheloring" it was several of these and a handful of raw almonds. And yes, I know, that's not a "French manicure", that's the Swiss Army manicure.