In My Kitchen 7-29-2011

Soaking some nuts in the jars, and baked oatmeal (for my boys) in the bowl.

Jars and tomato paste ready to make ketchup. . . but not today. Tomorrow looks hopeful :-). I found a super-easy lacto-fermented ketchup recipe using store-bought (cheater) tomato paste that we all love. I think it was on The Nourished Kitchen blog, as a promo for her fermentation class.

Mmmmm. Crustless quiche based loosely off of this recipe.

I promise I have no idea where the rest of the cake went. This recipe was surprisingly good and not at all bean-y.

*squeal of delight* I have a new egg pan! My old “non-stick” pan was more like a mega-stick pan after a few year’s use, so it was time. I’m leery of the safety of standard non-stick pans (not to mention their durability), but my cast iron pans refuse to cooperate for scrambled eggs. I opted for a Cuisinart pan with a ceramic-based coating. I got this pan.

And my tomato plants are producing tomatoes! I was gone for 2 weeks and my neighbor graciously agreed to water them. Not only did I come back to them still alive, but there were red ones ready to pick and she’d somehow managed to revive my 3rd tomato plant (not pictured) that I’d given up for dead and stopped watering. I need to find out her secret. . .


In My Kitchen 7-1-2011 (Jar Edition)

I love glass jars. Really love them. I use them for a lot of things. Soups, water, various ferments, leftover vegetables, soaking nuts, you name it. I get too much of a thrill out of finding a new jar (not that I buy them that often). Today I was balancing quite a few things in the kitchen: kombucha, kefir, yogurt, soaking nuts for dehydration, as well as supper, and I was struck by how many jars I was using! (And I was also struck by the fact that I was in short supply of 1/2 gallon sized jars, even though I have a dozen of them!) So here are just a few jar pictures, for anyone else who has the same obsession.

Here we have a 1/2 gallon jar and a gallon jar, both with kombucha cooling to room temperature so I can add the culture. I found the gallon size jar at a thrift store and it made my day :-). It is difficult to find gallon jars locally! This was a sun tea jar, but it didn’t have the spout on the side, unlike most sun tea jars – just the lid on top, which is what I wanted!

Here is more kefir ready to switch out. I’ll scoop the grains off the top of this jar and plop it into a new jar of fresh milk (picked up this morning at the farm!). After I find a clean large-enough jar, that is. . . Hmmm. Yeah, that took some doing :-). I should do a kefir tutorial sometime soon. It is SUPER easy to make. The easiest ferment to do, in my opinion, and very flexible.

And here are a few jars I’m drying, in my attempts to rearrange things to free up some jars! The smaller jars are 1 -1/2 cup jars that I picked up free at a garage sale last summer :-). The back two are a unique shape, just a bit out of the ordinary :-). I love different jars!

Next are a few jars in the cupboard that, alas, were not half-gallon jars ;-). Alas merely because of how much I needed that size today! But I love all my sizes :-). The two taller ones with the white top off to the right are saved from the local raw honey I buy. I love these jars! They are 16 oz. and great for liquids like beverages in smaller quantities (not great for leftover vegetables, though, unlike most jars).

Here is a pound of almonds and a pound of walnuts soaking, waiting for me to dehydrate them. Note the almonds are in a bowl. I had to steal the almond jar for kombucha :-). Hehe. The almonds didn’t seem to mind.

I don’t think I’ve shown my water set-up yet. I call this “El-cheapo Dechlorination Method.” I should patent it. This is the top of my fridge, which always has two half-gallon jars filled with water. Rather than a regular lid, they have screen sprout inserts (purchased here) on top, to allow evaporation. Chlorine takes about 24 hours to evaporate, and we go through about a gallon of water a day for drinking, so we always have one jar on the dining room table for general purpose drinking, and two other jars in rotation on top of the fridge, waiting to be used. I can definitely tell a taste difference!

Finally, here’s the second shelf of my fridge. “Ferment Central.” Kombucha, kefir, yogurt, dilly carrots, sauerkraut, saueruben. Mmmm. I love me some good bacteria :-). I devote this shelf to ferments, and try to cram leftovers and other things into the top shelf to leave plenty of room for bacterial growth :-).

In My Kitchen 6-25-11

A peek into my day :-).

My cast iron skillets and I have reached a truce. If I promise not to use them for eggs (scrambled, fried, etc.), they work beautifully to cook up meats, veggies, pancakes, etc. I love my cast iron skillets :-). I just wish they liked eggs. And if anyone was wondering, yes it’s true that a high acid food does NOT work well in cast iron. I forgot that important rule a few weeks ago, sauteed vegetables and added some lemon juice. Ugh. The most iron-tasting veggies I’ve ever had, and it completely stripped the seasoning. *sigh* So I get to re-season again, which I needed to anyway, since I hadn’t since I called an egg truce with the pans. Now we’re all one big happy family :-).

I’m draining some whey from kefir, to use for fermenting purposes. I lined a colander with a kitchen towel, and placed all over a bowl. I love the thick “Greek yogurt” type of kefir it leaves behind :-). I don’t let it drip all out, just enough to give me 1/4 cup of whey or so, but I could drip all the way for a really firm “cream cheese” type consistency, which I’ve done before with yogurt, and is lovely.

Avocados, O how I love thee. These are one of the few things that I can eat at a dinner, feel pleasantly (but not overly) full, and it will hold me through the evening and I won’t wake up shaking with hunger. It’s hard to get enough calories sans grains for dinner and not still need a significant snack before bed. And even then I usually wake up very hunger. Yay for good fats.

Mmmm. Pumpkin pancake recipe (via Modern Alternative Mama) still open from breakfast :-). Yum!

I now have two gallon-sized glass jars! Yes I’m obsessed :-). But they make me smile :-). I found one new at T.J. Maxx, the only one they had. The other I found at a thrift store. FINALLY. It is very difficult to track these down locally! (These are holding fermenting kombucha, as you might have guessed.)

Distilled water for making  Insect Repellent (scroll down on linked page). What am I supposed to do with the rest of the gallon?

Yummy almond flour crackers. Just butter, almond flour, and a bit of water (and a sprinkle of salt on top).

Making dilly carrots. Hans and I LOVE these. Many thanks to Crazy Aunt Hannah for turning Hans onto these ;-).  He didn’t want to try them until Aunt Hannah coaxed him. She can get him to try and love just about anything ;-).

And lacto-fermented ketchup too! This time instead of whey I used leftover dilly carrot liquid as my innoculant. Interested to see how that goes. . . I’ve used other fermented “leftover” liquids before and they work great. Each imparts a slightly different flavor :-).

Our “garden” for this year (apartment-living has gardening limitations ;-D). Three containers of tomatoes and one of cucumbers. The cucumbers seem to be doing fabulously. They have grown a ton since I got them a few weeks ago. They were only 2 leaves each then! The tomatoes. . . have me stumped. Discolored leaves of various types, one plant looks stunted. . . hmm. But they are bearing fruit! We’ll see if the fruit is good.

This is my “stunted” plant. Compare with the next photo, which is another tomato plant I have.

Same container size, bought at the same place. One is way taller! Both of the plants started developing yellowed leaves on the bottom last week. Basically my books have narrowed that down to one of about 5 nutritional deficiencies or 8 possible pests. (I barely exaggerate.)  I started fertilizing them once/week a few weeks ago, using Miracle Grow “Tomato Food.” The one plant already looked stunted, but the yellowed leaves are an in-the-last-week development. Not sure if that’s related. . . and I have no idea if Miracle Grow is a “safe” choice for gardening, so feel free to enlighten me if you want ;-). It was on the shelf at my local store, so I got it. Maybe next year I’ll put more thought into plant care :-).

And here’s a close-up of my third tomato plant, which has developed what looks like early blight. I don’t have many leaves left that show it really well, as I cut them off, but the middle of this picture shows it somewhat. But early blight is supposed to be very rare for container plants. Hmm. Maybe I got lucky(?). Heh. The fruit on this plant (there are several baby tomatoes right now) aren’t showing signs of early blight yet, though, so. . .

In My Kitchen 5/10/11

Our home computer gave us the blue screen of death 2 weeks ago, so I’ve had very limited computer time in the evenings on my husband’s work laptop, which explains for my relative quiet :-). That and it’s so amazingly gorgeous outside that I’ve been moseying around outside with the kiddos quite a lot and not done quite so much kitchen work. And I’ve also been napping more, since my rooster has been partying middle-of-the-night and still wanting to wake me before 6 am. *yawn* But enough with the excuses. . . this post is less bustle and more random sights in my kitchen.

Look! A gallon-sized glass jar! *swoons* Thank you, T.J. Maxx. . . if only you’d had more. My kombucha endeavours thank you :-).

Recipe notes scribbled in “The Flavor Thesaurus”. . . still waiting to be typed up in a blog post. Last night’s supper was Ratatouille :-).

An extremely simple and over-due project. I’ve been trying only semi-successfully for several months (years?) to switch over to rags from paper towels. I don’t even buy paper towels, but I end up grabbing paper napkins more often than I’d like. I had my rag-rags (as opposed to dish rags ;-D) in a very inconvenient location, and convenience + familiarity = paper napkins more often than rags. So I made this rag holder – elasticized on top and bottom to stuff rags in the top and pull them out the bottom. Hung in a convenient location and it has been SO easy to grab and use them! A friend cross-stitched this tea towel for me for my wedding, but every time I used it I stained it, so I decided it needed a less perilous job :-). It was too pretty for dirty jobs!

I’m making kefir again! And let me tell you, raw milk kefir is SO yummy and creamy!

Trying to get up the “oomph” to try lentils again. This bag has been on my counter for a few days as a reminder. . . every time I’ve tried lentils on the GAPS diet, I haven’t reacted well, but I’ve experienced so many improvements lately, that I’m going to try them again. . . eventually ;-).

I *finally* found a straight-ended metal spatula! It’s amazing how difficult this was to find. All the metal spatulas I was finding had slightly curved ends, which made for poorly-stirred scrambled eggs in the cast iron skillet, which contributed to sticking :-P.

Speaking of. . . help! Why can I not seem to ever make peace with my cast iron? What am I doing wrong? Ergh. Nothing seems to work long-term. I season, I re-season, then I try medium heat, then I try low, then I try this oil for seasoning, or this type of spatula, or that type, this method of cleaning, then I reseason it all because everything is sticking, etc. Maybe I just shouldn’t try scrambled eggs for a good long while? Maybe I should just stick to oily foods until it really gets broken in. . . I don’t know, but scrambled eggs + cast iron are my bane 😛 Any tips would be appreciated :-).

Mmmm. Afternoon snack: raw milk yogurt + raw honey + lime juice.

One of my projects last week was to move the plates and bowls and flatware down to a lower cabinet. Hans thinks this is great fun (which was the intent!) and is eager to set the table now that he can get the dishes himself :-).

Okay, okay, not in my kitchen. Don’t be all technical on me. That’s my annoying job. But look! A tomato plant! Hans and I are going to try not to kill it this summer :-). I have a brown thumb that really wants to be a green one, so I’m trying to start small. Apartment living also helps motivate the “small” part.

And look what I plan to read next!

And here’s today’s dinner. Canned wild salmon over lettuce and chopped celery, with raisins and ranch dressing (made with kefir this time). Yum!

In My Kitchen 4/26/11

A note: although I hope it is inferred by my readers, “In My Kitchen” posts are not representative of an “average” day in my kitchen. Instead they are representative of an average busy (read: “once or twice a week”) day in my kitchen. So don’t think “Oh my goodness. She gets so much done each day.” Um, no. Yesterday supper got made. And it was a really easy supper. Today, lots more happened. That’s the way the (grain-free) cookie crumbles. . . Also, I’m on a restrictive diet, so naturally I’m going to be spending more time in the kitchen than the average person. 

1/2 gallon + 1 quart of beet kvass fermenting, 2 quarts + 1 – 1/2 pint fermenting. Both started yesterday. And my new set of half-gallon jars. *heart flutters* So excited about more jars! I’ve been getting by without, but it will be SO nice to have more.

Easter chicken broth. Cooked Sunday after picking the bird clean, cooled Monday in fridge, today (Tuesday) it gets divied up and frozen.

Trip to a local farm today to pick up a few items. Here is 7+ lbs. of beef bones for stock.

And 2 gallons of raw Jersey milk. Mmmm! 1 gallon for yogurt, one for drinking + kefir. I get kefir grains tomorrow! So excited!

And 3 dozen free-range eggs. Orange yolks, oh yeah! (Don’t count too closely; there are some store-bought egg cartons in there too. . . )

The makings of supper. 1/2 a shredded cabbage leftover from making sauerkraut the night before, frozen butternut squash, 6 cups of chicken broth, tomato paste, turkey sausage = cabbage soup

Never bought these before. But a lot of dressing recipes call for it, so I thought “Why not?” $1 for 12 fillets. . . sure. Now to get up the gumption to try them :-).

The beef bones boiling on the stove. And yes, they did boil over. And no, I didn’t get a picture. Too busy wiping up yucky water on the stovetop.

One of my helpers. (The other was strapped to my back.)

The beef broth transferred to the crockpot to cook until tomorrow.

Heating a gallon of raw milk to 110 degrees to make yogurt. And yes, I have heated it above 120 degrees before. *beats head against proverbial wall* As my sister-in-law said in consolation, “At least it was still unhomogenized.” Hehe. I watch the thermometer a bit closer now and don’t try to multi-task ;-). And I make yogurt during kiddo-nap-time.

I set walnuts and almonds to soak in salt water, so I can dehydrate them tomorrow.  I’m traveling this weekend and need GAPS-friendly easy-to-pack foods :-).

The yogurt in jars with starter added. Ready to add to the cooler to incubate for 24 hours.

In My Kitchen 4/19/2011

Eager to dig into this book that came in the mail today. I ❤ books on food and cooking :-).

Sister Dear is living vicariously through me this week. I have a dehydrator and she doesn’t, so she sent me this recipe to try. This is definitely a bit unusual. They should be done tomorrow morning. . . interested to see if they’re good.

After using a few cups for the above “cookies” I baked up the rest of the squash I had to freeze in 2-cup portions. I use a lot of squash on GAPS, and butternut is my favorite :-).

And the seeds from the squash get soaked overnight and will be dehydrated tomorrow.

Meanwhile. . . the dirty dishes are fast piling up. . .

And chicken broth is simmering in the crockpot. I like to cook my broth into obliteration – 24 hours or so. I start it stovetop and then move it to the crockpot after it comes to a boil. I also make it strong. Yay for condensed freezer storage :-).

And dishes are done and the squash is out and cooling before scooping and freezing. I don’t dry and put away my dishes right away. I believe in celestial drying. Isn’t that what evaporation was created for?

Beef. It’s what’s for dinner. Bun-less hamburgers. Mmmmm. With homemade ketchup (recipe courtesy of Internal Bliss), who would miss the bun? And I made some sort of a cauliflower mash and also some spinach.  And yep, the first picture has broccoli, and the second picture (the actual cooking meal) has spinach. This is my life. I make a lot of last-minute changes ;-).

So that was my day in the kitchen. How was yours?

In My Kitchen 4/13/2011

“In My Kitchen” is my way to give a quick pictorial tour of some in-the-moment happenings in my kitchen, without a lot of text – just some pictures with brief captions. I’m hoping to do an “In My Kitchen” post every week or so, or as I’m inspired. We’ll see ;-).

My cute little helper.

Kombucha fermenting on the fridge top. I have no idea why this pic won’t turn the right way!

Walnuts and almonds dehydrating on the counter. I soak them in water + sea salt overnight, then dehydrate them for ~24 hours. Much more digestible!

Beet kvass! Day 1 of a 2-3 day ferment.

The makings of supper. Frozen meatballs + tomato paste (with water and spices) + spaghetti squash = GAPS pasta night ;-).

Raw milk yogurt incubating. (The water is for warmth; the yogurt is in the covered jars under the towel.)