Reviving my Kombucha


So I decided to revive my kombucha. I hadn’t made any since before our last move. Somehow between packing and morning sickness at the time, I couldn’t keep up. So, I put it in a jar with some of the kombucha liquid, stuck it in the fridge and it has sat there ever since. Two years later I’m finally ready to try again.

Tea and sugar water cooling.

I took my jar out and let it sit on the counter overnight so that it could warm up to room temperature. The next day I made up my sugar and tea mixture. For more specific directions on how to brew kombucha see my other posts – (Cranberry Ginger Kombucha).

I brewed three batches before I started drinking it again to be sure that it would revive. I’m pouring up a new batch today.

Ferments amaze me. The fact that all those little bacteria do what they do fascinates me. I think I need to start another ferment. Maybe I’ll go back to one of my favorites – Garlic, Onion, Jalepeno Relish. Or maybe I’ll try beets. Fermented beets are delicious. Until I get around to that, I think I’ll go enjoy my kombucha.

Double time it on the Waffles please

Waffles for my hungry kid this morning are brought to you by my favorite cast iron waffle maker.


See my post on Cast Iron Waffles for the many reasons why I love them. But what I’m loving most lately is that I have two of them. My mom gave me another one for my birthday. Two waffle irons for this family of six makes up a weeks worth of waffles in no time which is good for me. The other good thing is that because these are much less bulky than their electric counterparts, they both slide right in beside my pans and take up hardly any cabinet space at all. Who wants waffles now?

Quick and Easy Apple Cobbler

 

apple  cobbler cast ironI’m making this tonight for our family visiting for the weekend.

 

Sugar-Free Apple Cobbler: 

This recipe is free of sugar, eggs, wheat, corn and nuts.

Ingredient List: apples, butter, white spelt flour, cinnamon, cloves, salt, heavy cream, baking powder.

First, grease a casserole dish, cake pan or pie plate with butter.

Peel, slice and chop 4 large apples. Choose a sweet, red variety like Fuji or Braeburn. No Granny Smith’s here please.

Sprinkle 2 tsp. cinnamon, a dash of cloves and 1/2 tsp. of salt over the apples and stir to coat.

Next, melt half a stick of butter in a large (cast-iron if you have it) skillet. Toss in the apple and begin to saute them over medium heat in the butter.

Sprinkle 2 tbls. of white spelt flour over the apples and stir until all the flour is combined with the butter and apple juices. This will make a roux which will thicken your cobber base.

After a few minutes of cooking pour 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream over the apples stirring and simmering until thickened. Remove from heat. The sweetness of the cream combined with the apple juices adds just enough sweet to make this naturally sweet and delicious without needing sugar. (Note: if you wanted it a little sweeter you could substitute 1/2 of apple juice for 1/2 cup of the cream.)

Now, for the topping. This is basically like making homemade biscuits.

In a large mixing bowl add 3 cups white spelt flour (you could use any flour of your choice here, but I think baked goods come out particularly well with this spelt flour), 2 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt. Stir to combine and then cut in 1/2 stick of butter using a pastry blender. Pour in 1 cup of heavy cream and stir quickly until it all just starts to come together adding a dash more cream if the mixture is too dry. Try to avoid overmixing. The cream here too adds a touch of sweetness so that you don’t need to add sugar to the pastry.

140128_0000Spoon your apple mixture into your greased casserole dish. Now, using a large spoon or cookie scoop add dollops of the dough. Don’t worry about filling in every space with dough as it will rise as it cooks and all the nooks and crannies will get filled in.

Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes or until your biscuit topping is golden. Serve with whipped cream if desired. It’s delicious! Enjoy!

Note: If you are diabetic and trying to avoid sugar, the fat (cream and butter) in this recipe will help you metabolize the carbs from the apples and dough.

All Done.

140128_0003

Making Wild Sourdough Starter

My sourdough pot

My sourdough pot

Sourdough pancakes anyone? Try your hand at making your own wild starter. Sourdough was once a staple in every American kitchen. Visit the Pantry to learn how to make your own.

Missouri Maple Syrup – how to make your own at home

IMG_0753

I used a little maple syrup that I’ve saved for years to store my Missouri Maple Syrup.

My great-grandmother Maggie lived on a farm in Missouri. I don’t know whether or not she had maple syrup. However, I know that she was frugal and creative in a pinch. Tonight was one of those nights for me. I had decided to make breakfast for dinner – eggs, sausage and waffles. Yum! One problem. I realized that we were out of maple syrup.

What to do? Do I turn the three burners off that were currently in the middle of cooking everything ,dress the kids and walk to the store for more? Then the moment of inspiration hit! I’ll make my own. I remembered my mom doing this in a pinch when we were little.

So, here’s how to make your own maple syrup substitute. The taste and texture is actually very similar to the real thing. Everyone in my family loved it and wouldn’t have even realized that it wasn’t maple syrup if I hadn’t told them.

Over dinner (breakfast actually) we decided that such an invention should should be named after Maggie and my husband called it “Missouri Maple Syrup” in honor of her. I think the name has stuck. Here’s how you make your own maple syrup – or something pretty close.

Missouri Maple Syrup: Mix equal parts dark brown sugar and water in a saucepan. I made a small batch using about 1/4 cup brown sugar (learn how to make your own brown sugar here) and 1/4 water. Heat to a simmer. While it’s heating, mix 1 tbl. corn starch and 2 tbl. cold water. When the brown sugar mixture is simmering, gradually pour in the cornstarch mixture and stir until slightly thickened to the consistency of real maple syrup. If you find the syrup too thick add a touch more water. If you can’t use cornstarch, then mix 1 tbl. of flour with a mild tasting oil. Blend well to make a thick paste and add to the mixture on the stove, stirring until thickened.

Everyone loved this so much I may start making big batches of it and storing it in the fridge. When money is tight it’s certainly cheaper than buying real maple syrup. That’s a luxury – an expensive one!

Yum! Waffles - made with my favorite cast iron waffle maker.

Yum! Waffles – made with my favorite cast iron waffle maker.

 

Missouri Maple Syrup on these waffles.

Missouri Maple Syrup on these waffles.

 

 

 

 

Kitchen DIY: Lard

IMG_0438I got 10 pounds of pork fat from the farm we buy meat from last month with the intent of rendering my own lard. When I ordered I had an idea of what I would need to do, but knew I would need to look up the directions again before I proceeded. It was surprisingly easy. It took me three days to do all 10 lbs. as my crock pot is small, but I now have 1 gallon of lard (pictured) on my counter. I’d say it was well worth the $7 I paid for the fat. All I did was cube the fat, toss it in the crock pot with about a cup of water. Cover. Turn on low. Cook either overnight or all day stirring occasionally if possible. Strain out the leftover fat pieces with a cheesecloth and collander, pour in a heat safe container (mason jar, casserole dish, crock, etc.), cool and chill in the fridge. All done and not much to it.

The rendered lard should keep in the fridge for quite some time. I find that fat stores better in the fridge if it’s not tightly covered. I’d suggest covering with a tea towel and rubberband. If covered tightly with a lid moisture can accumulates in the jar and it can get moldy. If this happens, scrape off the mold from the top and use what is underneath. You can also store lard at room temperature. But, I would suggest that if you make a big batch like I did, to store one jar at a time on the counter top and to store the remainder in a cool place.

Pork fat in crock pot - ready to cook.

Pork fat in crock pot – ready to cook.

 

 

Make your own oil sprayer – DIY Kitchen

IMG_0210Replace those aresol oil sprayers with your own homemade version. All you need is a spray bottle (glass or stainless steel is best) and your favorite oil. I use olive oil. You need an oil that is liquid at room temperature. If you want to use coconut oil I would try heating it and mixing in half and half with another oil that is liquid. Fill your spray bottle 3/4 full with oil and 1/4 with distilled water. Shake well before each use and spray liberally. I rarely need spray oil but use it when my cast iron waffle makerIMG_0213

Homemade Brown Sugar

Sugary goodness

Sugary goodness

Do you all know how to make brown sugar? I didn’t know how simple it was until I caught a snippet of a Martha Stewart episode a few years ago. I’ve been making it ever since. It’s nice to be able to make up a new batch when you are a 1/2 cup short on a recipe. All you need is two ingredients – some white sugar and molasses. Take a couple of cups of white sugar and drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of blackstrap molasses (affiliate link – Disclosures here). Stir until well mixed. It’s actually easier if you use your fingers to combine the molasses and granulated sugar. You will end up with the softest, moistest brown sugar. For darker brown sugar simply add more molasses. For lighter add less. For best results store in an airtight container so it doesn’t dry out. It’s wonderful! And if you use real blackstrap molasses (the best contains at least 20% iron) you’ll be adding some great iron and minerals to your diet. Enjoy!

 

Just two ingredients. Can't get much simpler than that.

Just two ingredients. Can’t get much simpler than that.

 

Stirring the molasses in.

Stirring the molasses in.

Product Update: Cotton-lined dish washing gloves

So, see my post below to read about the virtues of these wonderful dish washing gloves. Just wanted to let you know that 3 months later I’m still using the same pair of gloves! I’m shocked and amazed at the quality of these gloves. I’ve never had a pair of rubber gloves last so long and I’ve never liked a pair as well as I like these. Usually after a month at the most mine have holes and I’m throwing them out. And these get heavy use. On most days I use them 2-3 times a day. They are wonderful and you should all order some. Use my Amazon link and I’ll get a few pennies for your purchase. Wash away…..

Original Post:

41ZtqK26hQL._SY300_I usually don’t post about products but have any of you used these? Casabella Premium Water Stop  Latex Gloves (affiliate link – see my Disclosures page). I just discovered them and they are working wonders for the eczema on my hands that flares up periodically with the use of irritants like dish soap and hot water. But, what’s a city girl to do? The dishes have to be done. NYC apartment = no dishwasher. I can’t make the kids do the dishes yet. And the regular latex gloves from the store irritate my hands just as bad as dish soap with all those powdery linings. Well, guess what? These are wonderful! They have a “cotton flocking” which means that tiny cotton fibers have been adhered to the interior of the glove. Now, I will warn you that when I first got these and opened them up my first thought was, “These aren’t lined with cotton.” You see, I was expecting a cotton fabric lining and that is not what it is. It feels like a soft, less rubbery glove on the inside. I wasn’t sure that it was what I wanted but decided to try them out. I have been using them for around 3 weeks now and let me tell you the are well worth the $7 price tag. The lining (though not what I expected) doesn’t irritate my hands, they fit well and don’t slip and they have yet to crack or get a hole which is something that I can’t say for the gloves I used to buy at the grocery store. I’m sure they will wear out eventually but right now I am very happy and will definitely order more. They have definitely made dish washing a much happier chore at my house.

 Note: These are latex, so if you have a latex allergy I would avoid them since I don’t know that the cotton flocked lining would protect your skin sufficiently. 

Cast Iron Waffles

3.12.14 027Not actually cast iron waffles, but my new favorite waffle maker (affiliate link). I had a regular electric belgian waffle maker that I used until we moved this fall. The handle had broken off, the rubber feet had all melted and the non-stick stuff was all scratched up on the inside. So I decided that it had served 7 good years and threw it out. This one was patiently sitting in the cabinet just waiting to be pulled out. I had received it as a birthday present and hadn’t really figured out how to use. Well, the time had come.

3.12.14 031At first I didn’t like it, but as my friend said the other day – “It’s cast iron. You just have to get to know it.” And she’s absolutely right. Now, that I know this lovely little cast iron waffle maker I think it’s so much better than my other one was. It’s seasoning up better and better with each use. It makes perfectly round beautiful waffles that come right out. You should all click the affiliate links above and buy one. I’ll earn .02 cents or something from Amazon which I’ll probably put toward some more cast iron. Are there more cast iron pieces that I don’t have yet? Surely there are. I’d better find some. Here’s the list of what I’ve got. Let me know if there’s some thing that I don’t have so that I can add it to my wish list. 🙂 (Read Disclosures/Disclaimers here.)

If you decide to try this little gem of a waffle maker here are some tips to help your waffles come out nicely.

How to get great waffles with a cast iron waffle maker:
1. Heat the waffle iron till hot on both sides before using.
2. Just before pouring the first batch of batter in (turn the burner off if gas) and spray on the top and bottom plates with a bit of cooking oil. Note: this is only needed for the first waffle of the batch. You do not need to spray oil before cooking the next waffle.
3. Cook for a couple of minutes on one side (time will vary depending on your burner heat and batter thickness – you’ll get a feel for it), then using a hot pad flip the waffle iron over to cook on the other side. The second side is usually done a little faster than the first side.
4. Remove by lifting up one plate of the waffle iron and gently pulling the waffle out with a fork along the edges if it doesn’t fall out on it’s own.
5. Don’t wash when you are done. Simply let it cool completely, brush off any stray crumbs and store in your cabinet until next time. If you scrub with soap or water you will loose your seasoning. If some waffles get stuck on at any point, scrub off with a dry brush and spray with cooking oil as directed above before pouring more batter in.

Ahhh. They are so good! But one of the best parts is that I’ll never have to buy another waffle iron again. 🙂 With proper care this one will last forever.

Shhh! My Surprising Secret for Keeping my Kitchen Clean

140204_0003Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. (Well, actually do… share this post and improve my blog traffic.) But, I’ve been finding it easier to keep my kitchen clean. It took me a while to figure out why. We moved in the fall and it seemed like in the new kitchen it’s easier to keep clean than the old one. This really didn’t make sense. The new kitchen is smaller, has fewer cabinets and storage places and less counter space. So, why would it be easier to keep clean? It took me a couple of months to figure out but it finally hit me.

When we moved, we removed some conveniences from our life. Now it seems counter-intuitive that removing conveniences would make something easier, but that’s what happened. Let me tell you the story.

When we moved we threw out our microwave. This decision was made mostly due to a lack of space in the new kitchen. The fact that half the buttons were broken had something to do with it too. And I know that it is better for us to eat food heated on the stove, but that’s another topic. So, we moved and began settling into the new place without a microwave. After a month or so I was noticing that it seemed easier to keep this kitchen clean. Why would that be? A couple of months went by and it finally dawned on me. The reason (partly) is because I no longer had the microwave to rely on.

I realized that before in my spacious kitchen where counter and cabinet space was abundant, that I often relied on the microwave for reheating food, and usually on paper plates too. When we moved we gave up both the microwave and paper plates. Since then it’s been easier to keep the kitchen clean because I end up doing it in short spurts here and there throughout the day. Before, I would let myself fall back on using the microwave and paper plates and then go about putting out the next “fire” (solving arguments, changing diapers, cleaning up spills, etc…. you know everyday life). I would move the kitchen to the bottom of my “To-Do” list because I didn’t have to do it right then. I could get to it later. When the next meal came along and I still hadn’t gotten around to cleaning the kitchen, I would fall back on the paper plates and microwave. The cycle would continue and we would end up with stacks of dishes and no clean silverware in the drawer. So, I would end up washing just enough forks and spoons to get us through that meal and then I’d have to deal with all again at the next meal. The kitchen was a monster and something that I could never get on top of.

Now, without having the conveniences at my fingertips, I have to wash the pans because there is no hot food if I don’t. And it’s easier to wash a drainer full of dishes in the morning and then another one while I cook dinner. Cleaning the kitchen is not the dreaded chore anymore. It feels smaller and easier.

Now, lest anyone have the mistaken impression that I am against ever having a microwave or against ever using paper plates – I am not. But, I’ve realized that removing those things from my life has ended up being a blessing in disguise. It’s taken away a crutch and made me keep on top of things that I otherwise would let slide. Not having the microwave and not keeping paper plates around forces me to keep up better cleaning habits in my kitchen.

2.13.14 005And lest anyone also have the mistaken impression that my kitchen is now always clean here’s a picture just to prove it. It’s not always clean. We’re busy and I still let the kitchen work slide when more pressing things like 3 kids and homeschooling takes over my day. But, it’s no longer the dreaded chore that it used to be for which I am thankful.

DIY Olive Oil Hand Soap and Dish Soap

140128_0012This is easy peasy for all of you who aren’t brave enough (like me) to undertake the daunting process of making your own soap from scratch.

With this recipe you can customize your blends, and add your own essential oils for scent and disinfecting purposes.

We avoid all the natural soaps and all the store bought soaps because members of our family react to the coconut oil in almost every natural soap and have very sensitive skin which reacts to the mainstream soap brands. So, once you take out coconut oil as a base ingredient and all the main soap brands and all their irritating ingredients, then you aren’t left with much except coming up with your own homemade soap. However, the process of making my own soap from scratch is a bridge too far for me right now. I’ll make lots of things from scratch (as you can tell from the recipes on this blog), but cooking fats and handling lye with littles around just makes me too nervous. Maybe I’ll try it one day, but right now, soap is one project that I don’t have the time, energy or ambition for. So, this is the way you do it without having to make it from scratch yourself. And I just found out that it has a name. I’ve been making soap this way for the past several months and didn’t know what it was called until recently. It’s a process called “re-batching.” Basically, you’re taking an existing bar or leftover pieces of soap and remake it.

For our purposes, we will be turning a bar of soap into liquid hand soap and dishwashing soap.

Now, if you research DIY soap recipes online, you will find that almost all of them call for liquid castille soap. Now aside from the fact that most of those contain coconut oil as part of the base for the soap – which rules them out for me – the other factor that has driven me to develop this recipe is the expense. Even if buying castille soap is cheaper than buying regular dish soap at the store, liquid castille soaps are expensive and basically, I’m just not willing to pay that much money for them.

So, here’s what I do instead. Note: This recipe is very easily customized to meet your needs so change the ingredients to suit your purpose.

Basic DIY Liquid Hand Soap:
Start with 1 bar of 
Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil Soap (affiliate link, see Disclosures Page). Amazon charges $3.99 per bar for this (you can find 8 oz. bars even cheaper other places online), and you’re only grating 1/2 cup of shavings which is a very minimal amount. So, this recipe will cost you probably less a quarter per batch. To make the soap, start with a cheese grater. Grate enough shavings to loosely fill a 1/2 cup measuring cup. Don’t use the largest shredder but the next size down. Dump the shavings into a small glass bowl. Add your favorite essential oils for fragrance and disinfecting. To decide which oils you want to use, click here for a list of essential oils and their properties. Then add 1 cup of distilled water. (You could use tap water if you’ll use the soap up quickly, but if you don’t use it up fast enough you may find bacteria or mold growing in your soap and have to throw the rest of the batch out). Let the mixture sit overnight. The water will soften the soap shavings and in the morning you will have a lovely, scented liquid soap. Stir the soap and pour it  into an old soap dispenser and you’re done. This recipe will make enough soap to fill a 10 oz. soap dispenser. If you’re not sure what oil blends to use, my favorite for hand soap are geranium/cedarwood or lemon/lavender. If you want to make a moisturizing soap, add 1 teaspoon of your favorite oil (olive oil, almond oil, etc.) to the bottle and shake well. Note: Over time the soap may begin to solidify or coagulate in places so that it looks like there are things floating around in your soap bottle. This is normal and the nature rebatched olive oil soap. If this happens you can just vigorously shake your bottle to remix it. If it doesn’t mix all the way, you can either use it as it is (which is what I usually do). Or if you bothers you, pour your soap into a sauce pan and gently heat it on low (do not boil) and stir until it is all recombined. When it has cooled a little bit pour it back into your soap dispenser.

DIY Liquid Dish Soap:
Follow the recipe above, except only add 3/4 cup of distilled water to the 1/2 cup soap shavings. This will make a more concentrated soap. If using distilled water, feel free to double and triple the batch so that you don’t have to make it as often. The best oils for dishwashing purposes are citrus blends – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, tangerine. I would suggest using lemon as the main oil as it has wonderful disinfecting and solvent/grease cutting properties, and then adding some other citrus oils based on what scents you prefer (be creative and come up with your own combinations). Probably 12-15 drops of oil total is sufficient for a small batch of this recipe. If you double or triple the recipe, adjust the essential oil amounts accordingly. I should warn you that you won’t see any bubbles in your dishwater when using this soap. Olive oil soap is a very low sudsing soap and hardly makes any bubbles. It will still work fine though. It’s just not what we are used to.

DIY Foaming Mosturizing Hand Soap:
Follow the recipe for the basic hand soap above. Add about a 1/4 cup of the end product to a foaming soap dispenser and fill with water. Add 1/2 teaspoon of oil to the soap dispenser to make a moisturizing blend. Keep in mind that olive oil soap doesn’t foam much. So, I use it for one of my bathrooms, but don’t expect typical results in a foaming dispenser. If you want the typical foam then I suggest using this foaming hand soap recipe.

This basic recipe will work with any bar soap that you like and works well for you skin. Feel free to try it with something other than olive oil soap. The moisture content and sudsing may be different with another bar soap, but try it out. It will save you money and if you use a soap with minimal ingredients it will be better for your skin too.