Aug 21, 2014

Fermenting Workshops: Kombucha and Veggies


Kombucha is a fermented, probiotic and detoxifying drink that can be found in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods and in some Krogers for about $3 a pint.  The good news is that you can make it in your kitchen for a fraction of the cost.  It is very simple to make.  I have posted directions in this space before.  However, I understand that some people want a helping hand fermenting their first time around.

Next Thursday, August 28 at 7pm, I will be hosting a kombucha workshop in my kitchen.  In order to raise funds to attend the annual conference for the Weston A. Price Foundation, I am charging $25 per person for this class.  You will go home with a SCOBY (starter).  If you would like for me to procure the other needed supplies for home brew, mention that when you email me to reserve your spot.

Next Saturday, August 30 at 7pm, I will be hosting a vegetable fermenting workshop in my kitchen.  You will taste everything I have fermented in my refrigerator: kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, relish, carrots, roasted peppers, cauliflower and my favorite... tomatoes!  You will go home with a jar that we make in class as well as the knowledge and power to ferment your own sauerkraut.  This class will also cost $25 per person, which will help offset the costs of the conference.

Both classes are limited to ten people.  Email to reserve your spot: luvmyhub AT gmail.com.  I live near Whole Foods (Rodney Parham/430) in Little Rock.  If you are interested in these classes but the dates do not work for you, email me and if enough interest, I will host other classes.

Recap
2 separate classes, $25 each
 - kombucha on Thursday, August 28 at 7pm
 - sauerkraut on Saturday, August 30 at 7pm

Happy fermenting!
Julie

PS - anyone else going to the conference in Indianapolis?  You can watch the promo video here.

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Aug 6, 2014

Vaccines Are Not Mandatory (though you may be bullied)

My oldest son was homeschooled until this year.  He will harken the halls of the fifth grade in public school on August 18.  Among the many forms that I filled out to get him registered for "real" school, one was the Immunization Exemption Packet.  Email Mary.Casey@arkansas.gov for yours.

Though you may feel bullied to vaccinate, Arkansans may refuse vaccinations.  In fact, every state allows for exemptions --except West Virginia and Mississippi.  Arkansas allows for both religious exemption as well as philosophical exemptions.

Have you educated yourself about vaccines?  Here is a good place to start.  Please don't assume that our government has your best interest in mind.  Could it be that the Centers for Disease Control is in cahoots with Big Pharma?  Do your own research.  Don't turn a blind eye.  Take your health into your own hands.

For the longest time, when it came to vaccines I was like a toddler with my fingers stuck in my ears screaming, "I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"  I didn't want to know what the ill-effects of vaccines could be.  Partly, I was a tad bit lazy and didn't want to do my own research.  It was easier to trust someone else (doctors, government) who said vaccines were OK.  My husband and I vaccinated our eldest son until he was two.  That is about the time we started getting serious about healthy living.  That is when I stopped believing what "they" told me and when I started doing my own research.

There are some serious dangers associated with vaccines.  A friend and guest blogger recently wrote about the dangers of vaccines here.

If you were beginning to question the validity of vaccines and we could sit and chat some of the things I would tell you research are:

--Examine how the number of reported incidents of illnesses drastically reduced once running water and electricity were made widely available.  This decline in illness occurred BEFORE vaccines.  Most homes in America have electricity and running water.  Do we need so many vaccines?

--Many illnesses can be treated with proper nutrition and hygiene.  The movie Defiance is a story of 1,500 Belarussian Jews hiding in the forest during WWII.  I was so intrigued by the story line, I read the book.  Though the living conditions were not ideal, those who succumbed to illness were quarantined.  Some of the sickest were given the choicest foods.  None died because of illness (and they were on the run and in the woods for 2+ years.)  Many of those illnesses have vaccines today.

--Most of the recent outbreaks of pertussis (whopping cough) have been from people who have been vaccinated.  Just because you have a shot does not make you immune.

--I try to avoid toxins when and where I can.  The toxins that I interact with are first filtered through my skin, digestive or respiratory systems.  These are complex systems, which are made to filter out the bad.  Vaccines contain toxins (neurotoxic chemicals like mercury, aluminum, and formaldehyde).  These toxins are shot straight into the blood stream.  No chance for filtering.

--Please do your research on each illness and weigh the costs.  For example, what are the negative effects of chicken pox?  Itchiness, welts, discomfort, a week in bed?  Let's entertain the theory that autism and vaccines could be connected.  Is it worth putting a child on the autism spectrum for life because you don't want them to to be sick and uncomfortable for a week?  (By the way, if you know anyone with the chicken pox, I'd love to take my children to meet them and share germs.)

--Last but certainly not least, is the fact that aborted fetal cells are used to manufacture vaccines.

Here's an article that claims that God Does Not Support Vaccines.  I must admit, when a friend sent it to me, I almost didn't click on the link.  I was offended by the preposterous title (and I was already against vaccines).  The author writes from a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing perspective.  The tone is not my favorite.  But some interesting arguments are made.  The most interesting take away for me was the fact that fetal cells are are labeled as numbers.  So if you take the time to read the vaccine inserts (please do so), you won't read "dead babies were used in making this shot" you will read an ingredient such as "WI-38."  Read it the article for yourself.

Another article that took me three times to complete was this article written from a moral and historical perspective of vaccines.  Why three attempts?  It literally made me sick to my stomach to read about aborted baby organs being used to create vaccines.  I wept for the unborn and also the mothers who were tricked into thinking they were doing common good for aborting a precious baby.  The article is thorough and well written, probably one of the best I have read on the religious aspect of why vaccines are wrong.

In closing, I want to recognize that this is a free county and I am so thankful for my freedoms!  I am thankful that we can agree to disagree.  My desire is for you to do your own research.  Convince yourself.  If you choose to vaccinate your family, I will still be your friend.  If you choose to refuse vaccinations (or at very least, delay until you have more information!), ask for the exemption form (school or daycare) and email Mary.Casey@arkansas.gov

Educate before you vaccinate,
Julie

Related:
Sarah The Healthy Home Economist recently posted The Myth of Mandatory School Vaccines.  I've been thinking I should post something and reading her post pushed me to publish.

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Soaked Oatmeal Cookies

What does it mean to "soak" oatmeal?

Soaking simply breaks down grains and makes nutrients more available and easier to digest.  

The recipe that follows is an adaptation of Lori's Brookies (breakfast cookies).  
In a large bowl, combine and soak overnight (at least 7 hours, up to 24):
2 cups whole wheat
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup yogurt, kefir or other acidic medium
1 cup melted butter or coconut oil

To make things go quickly in the morning, in another bowl combine:
1 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup dates or raisins (I like extruded dates)
1/4 cup craisins
3/4 cup sucanat or brown sugar
1 teaspoon each: salt, baking soda, and cinnamon

The next morning, add 3 beaten eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla to the soaked oats and wheat.  Then add the other pre-measured dry ingredients.
I think parchment paper helps make prettier cookies.  It definitely makes for easy clean up!

Bake in a preheated oven at 375 for 8 minutes, longer for larger cookies.

-Julie


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Aug 3, 2014

Fall CSA by North Pulaski Farms (Certified Organic)

North Pulaski Farms is now enrolling for their fall Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.  It runs for 10 weeks, beginning August 12.

Kelly, the owner/operator wrote me, "The cold weather this spring delayed many of our summer crops. Our okra, green beans, sweet corn and watermelons will be ripening during this program.  We are starting our lettuce and other fall greens seeds this week."

For the enrollment form and more details click here.  Learn more about the farm on their website.  -Julie




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Jul 30, 2014

Lacto-fermented Tomatoes (juice or salsa)

Anyone tired of me going on and on about the beauty of lacto-ferementing veggies?  Wait, don't answer that.

Today I am fermenting tomatoes.  This could be one of my favorite and tastiest ferments.  It doesn't have the traditional "pickled" taste that most ferments possess.  When tomatoes are fermented it brings a depth of flavor that is similar to V-8 juice.  (Probiotic Bloody Mary anyone? :)  Taking a shot of fermented tomato juice could be a good option for those who want food probiotics but don't like the taste or texture of sauerkraut.

While I don't particularly enjoy V-8 juice as a drink, I LOVE using it in soups in the winter.  Doesn't heating ferments destroy their beneficial bacteria?  Yes, it does.  I ferment tomatoes because it is hands down the easiest way to preserve a handful of tomatoes.  No super-hot kitchens from boiling or special equipment needed for canning.

As I mentioned, I only had a handful of tomatoes that I wanted to preserve.  I chopped an onion and two not-hot jalapeños to bulk up the jar so that my jar wouldn't have too much extra air.
 Last week, I threw everything in my blender and that was faster than chopping.  As I chopped today, I wondered why I didn't just blend again...  The half-gallon jar on the right is lacto-fermented tomato juice from last week.  I threw it all in a blender because I'm lazy I didn't want to have to run it through a sieve to remove the littlest bits.
After stirring my jar, I realized I still had more head room than I wanted.  Half the jar was empty and I was out of tomatoes.  What's a girl to do?  I added about a cup of tomato juice from last week.  It acts as my starter (or whey or Bubbies juice) as well as take up space in the jar.  For each quart of tomatoes, I use 1 tablespoon of sea salt (non-iodized) and 4 tablespoons of whey or starter.  Recipe for fermented salsa here.  I let both tomato juice and salsa ferment 2 days on the counter then removed to cold storage.
 A word about the funky apparatus on the top called an air-lock...
You can lacto-ferment in any jar as long as your veggies are submerged in brine (salt water).  A fancy air-lock is not necessary.

So why do I use an air-lock?

'Cause I got one.  I also use mason jars, aplenty.  After reading about the benefits of using Pickl-It from other bloggers as well as on the Pickl-It website I was curious.  The air-lock on the top allows pressure out of the jar while preventing more air (or new microbes) inside.   Some say this system prevents common problems with mold and yeast.  Some say an anaerobic system makes more pleasant tasting ferments.

Just a few minutes away from placing my order for a Pickl-It jar,  a friend of mine said her husband could drill holes in Fido jars.  I happened to have a Fido jar that I could use for this purpose.  The air-lock is from Fermentables, the wine/beer making store in North Little Rock.  So for a fraction of the cost I am testing a homemade Pickl-It jar.

My friend's husband will drill holes for you for $5/lid but he wants a minimum of 4 lids per order to make it worth the effort of setting up the drill, etc.  Email me:: luvmyhub AT gmail.com and I'll send you contact info.  This will save you a ton of cash because shipping big glass jars costs a small fortune these days.  You can find the Fido jars at TJ Maxx or from Crate & Barrel.  You can also purchase parts from Primal Kitchen, who also sells a different silicone valve that is space saving.

-Julie
Disclaimer: I don't make any money from this blog.  Just tellin' my friends what works for me.

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Jul 27, 2014

Reducing Caffeine in Coffee

I can hear some of you questioning now.  Why on earth would someone want to reduce caffeine intake from coffee?  Isn't that the precise reason one drinks coffee...for the caffeine?

Well, I am super-sensitive to caffeine.  As in, I can't drink decaf coffee after lunch else I am awake until 3am.  I even have to severely limit my chocolate intake after dinner.

It is a curse.

I drink my (decaf) coffee first thing in the morning because I enjoy the ritual and the taste.  And to be honest I need something to heat up my cream.

Last summer, looking to try something new, I bought a can of Cafe du Monde coffee from Whole Foods.  {I know the coffee snobs are cringing that I bought ground coffee...in a can!} Those of you who have been to N'awlins have probably tasted their beignets and coffee right at their stand.  That's where I fell in love with chicory.
Chicory has a distinct flavor and is bitter (like coffee) except it is caffeine free.  In the Civil War it was used as a coffee substitute.

After drinking Cafe du Monde's coffee for a while I wanted more chicory and less coffee so I made my own mix.  Now I buy a box of chicory (from WF or Drug Emporium for $2.50 for 6oz) and mix 1 part chicory with 2 parts coffee.

If you are sensitive to caffeine or are looking for a way to limit caffeine give chicory a try.

-Julie

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Jul 18, 2014

Salsa: Probiotic Style

Now is the time to preserve the bounty of summer.  Using a pressure cooker scares the buh-gee-bies out of me.  Fermenting, however, is super simple.  If you have extra refrigerator space, this is the way to preserve food.  This salsa is so yummy though, it's not gonna last long.  And, making salsa this way will inoculate your gut with healthy bacteria to keep you from falling prey to the bad bacteria that make you sick.
My goal is to get my family to eat something fermented at every meal.  My kids pick kombucha for breakfast and lunch.  When Hubby is home for dinner, we gang up on the kids and make them eat veggies...lacto-fermented veggies!  I have a shelf in the refrigerator that is dedicated to ferments.  Before dinner, I choose a jar that pairs with our meal.  Sometimes we just eat a tablespoon or two.  Sometimes we eat much more than the minimum.  I have a feeling this salsa will go quick.

Below are tomatillos I grew in my garden.  They are delish and taste somewhat like a tomato, but with a hint of apple and onion.  If you wanted to heat up your oven, you could roast these babies first.  I was feeling lazy wanted to knock out this project so I didn't roast.
I combined the tomatillos with half an onion, a couple small tomatoes and a jalapeño.  Sprinkle it with a hearty dose of salt (1T) and some juice (4T) from a jar of Bubbies sauerkraut (or another ferment or whey from yogurt).

Stir the combination around and push into a quart jar.  Make sure all the chunky pieces are under liquid.  If you don't have enough to fill the jar, chop up another tomato.  Or onion.  Or whatever.  Stir it in the jar and push all the chunks under the liquid.  Screw a lid on (no pressure cooker needed!) and let it sit.
After 2 days move to cold storage.  Or eat immediately.  Yumma.
 And just for bonus... this cutie-patootie:
Anyone else lovin' this July weather?!  Head on out to the farmers market and grab some Arkansas tomatoes today.

-Julie

*Cultures for Health says you can use 2 teaspoons (about 1T) of salt and not use whey.  Check out their recipe.

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Jul 15, 2014

Batch Making Burrito Basics

A friend, her teenage daughter, and I knocked out 60 burritos in about an hour this morning.  Well, we assembled 60 burritos in an hour.  Much of the work was done in advance in bite sized pieces. My friend and I each went home with 30 burritos - or 6 meals for my family!

These burritos are perfect for when your family is on the go (i.e. need to be on the baseball field at dinner time?)  Or if you are crazy busy and just want an easy, quick, nutritious dinner option.

Because I use this blog as a personal cooking notebook of sorts, I thought it would be helpful to record the portions in this space.

Ingredients
60 large burrito shells
3 large roasts (about 16-17 pounds, total), shredded
16 cups cheese, shredded
4 cups (dry) brown rice, soaked and cooked in broth
2 pounds dry pinto beans, soaked and cooked with ham bone
2 pounds dry black beans, soaked and cooked
5 pounds onions, sliced and roasted at 425*
10 bell peppers, various colors, sliced and roasted

More Cooking Details
The roasts were cooked in a crock pot on low overnight with a rub made of 2 parts chili powder, 1 part of (each) sea salt, cumin, garlic powder.  Onion powder would have been good, too but I didn't have any.  You could add a can of tomatoes but we didn't.  Save the broth and use it for a Mexican inspired soup.

After the pinto beans were cooked, I poured off most of the water and used my immersion blender to make them like refried beans.  You could also do this with a potato masher - or leave them as beans.  I like the texture of pinto beans in my burritos.  Any kind will do.  I seasoned them with salt, spicy paprika, chili powder, cumin and garlic powder.  If I had more jalapenos growing in my garden, I would have chopped them up and added them.

One pound of dry beans is equivalent to 5-6 cans.  You could save time by buying cans - be sure to drain and rinse canned beans.  I figure if I'm going to make such crazy amounts of food, it is easy enough to cook dry beans.  Beans can be cooked in a crock pot; it's not that much trouble.

As for roasting the onions and peppers, the reason is to remove some water before freezing.  Doing this step not only enhances flavor but also keeps the burritos from being too soggy after they are thawed.  You can omit them all together if your crew does not prefer them.  Also, caramelizing onions is a super-yumma-lish option but takes a bit more time.

Assembly
All ingredients were approximately divided among three very large bowls.  We used one crockpot as a bowl since it was already dirty full of shredded meat.  Mix everything together and taste.  Ours needed more salt; otherwise the spices were right.

Packaging
We have a tutorial here on how to roll and package burritos.

To Heat
Place frozen foil wrapped burrito in a crockpot and turn to high for about 3-4 hours.  If you can, turn mid way through cooking.  If they are thawed, it will take less time.

If you like the tortilla texture crispy like a chimichanga, heat in the oven.  Unwrap (thawed) burrito, slather in butter & bake on a cookie sheet at 375* till golden. About 15-20 minutes.  I use the foil as a barrier on the cookie sheet for easy clean up.

Serve with sour cream and sauerkraut or other ferment of choice.   My favorite ferment pairing is radish relish, followed by sauerkraut and banana peppers or jalapeños.


Other links:
Stewed Chicken for Burritos
Carnitas (Pork) for Burritos

Anyone else batch-making these days?  Are these kind of posts helpful or I should I just write this down in a kitchen notebook?

-Julie

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Jul 14, 2014

Quick Tip for Packing Lunches


Lunch tip - make several individual bags on Sunday night for the rest of the week.

My oldest son and daughter are both in day camps this week.  They I need to pack lunch everyday.

Sunday night, I popped 3 batches of popcorn, stovetop in coconut oil then bagged it.  My neighbor, whose children are also in camps this week, peeled, sliced and bagged carrots.

We swapped portions.

I gave her bags of popcorn and she gave me bags of carrots.  (I added cucumbers from my garden for my veggie-loving daughter.)

Now lunch making is a breeze because two items from their lunches are already bagged and waiting.

-Julie

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Jul 13, 2014

How to Cut a Watermelon for a Party

A friend showed me how to do this a few years ago.  It's genius.  Everyone gets a slice and you don't spend ten years cutting it up.  It can be done for a watermelon or cantaloupe.


First you buy a melon from your farmers market.  This one came from Laughing Stock Farms.
Then you lop off both ends.  It helps to have a sharp knife.  I love my Global.
Cut it in half and lay one (big side) face down.
Cut a wedge.
Make slices all around, like the spokes of a wheel.
Put a bowl on top of the melon.  If you have a cute or fancy bowl, the melon will taste better.
Now flip.  You could do this with a cutting board or a cookie sheet.

Invite your hungry friends to join you.


Anyone want to guess hold old that picture is?  This post was originally published four years ago.

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