Monday, February 22, 2010

Nourished Kitchen Challenge Report on Week 3

We had a good week in general with trying out recipes and food prep the "real food" way. We used techniques covered in Nourishing Traditions and covered on the blog Nourished Kitchen.

Day 15: Track down a SCOBY--such as a kefir starter. I didn't have luck with this; the food co-op didn't have any and I decided not to order any from an internet source. We eat a lot of yogurt and may eventually add kefir to our repertoire.

Day 16: Make cultured veggies: I made beet kvass. Everyone in the family agrees that it certainly looks delicious but it tastes horrible. I might brave it and just gulp it down as "medicine." Is there a way to make it more palatable? Perhaps add a little to a glass of ice water and add honey? I might try that later.

Day 17: Make yogurt. We make yogurt at least once a week and sometimes twice. I made it twice last week so that I would have extra to make yogurt cheese.

Day 18: Make cheese. I made yogurt cheese and happily harvested the whey for future fermentations. The cats discovered the cheese though, left on the counter for more draining time, while we were all at an ice skating lesson. Grrr. One quart of yogurt wasted and cat throw up on the entry mat. Gross.

Day 19: Prepare nuts and seeds correctly. I tried doing this last week but discovered that my oven cannot go lower than 180 degrees F. I would like to try again after I have a food dehydrator.

Day 20: Soak some beans. I'm doing that today. I'm curious about the advice Sally Fallon gives, that you only need whey or lemon juice (or I assume any acid) with black beans. The advice from Nourished Kitchen is to soak all beans in water and cider vinegar.Why the difference? I have a bean mix that includes some black beans soaking right now in warm water with cider vinegar.

Day 21: Eat veggies with fat. We had carrots last night made with plenty of butter. The recipe was Carrots Vichy (pretty much glazed carrots) from Nourishing Traditions. The kids have never been so enthusiastic about eating any vegetable. I think the 2 tablespoons of honey helped. Phil and I thought they were way too sweet and will use much less honey next time.

Other fun food prep along the same lines this past week:
  • We gave the kids exclusively raw milk for drinking and used pasteurized, vat-processed nonhomogenized milk for cooking and pasteurized cream for butter making and for adding to our breakfast porridge (soaked oats in buttermilk) which we enjoy almost daily now.
  • I soaked brown rice for eating at a few meals throughout the week.
  • We enjoyed carrot soup made with chicken stock we had made ourselves.
  • I nursed sourdough starter throughout the week but the bread dough didn't rise yesterday! Grrr. I have the loaves in the oven now but I'm guessing that the yield will be more like rocks than bread.
  • Phil found a great butcher who sells pastured everything and picked up some beef bones for stock-making (simmering right now in the slow cooker) and a veal roast that I'll make tomorrow or Wednesday.
  • Phil made waffles for a special addition to Saturday's breakfast using buttermilk-soaked oats.
  • We're continuing to buy only cage-free/organic eggs.
  • Phil also stopped using the microwave to defrost frozen sausage.
  • We've been enjoying sprouted bread and sourdough bread (all store-bought right now) slathered with lots of butter. It feels sinful to us both after eating no grains at all for so long.
  • We're buying more organic food in general and finding good deals.
  • I've got the paperwork for signing up for a veggie-share from a local farm this summer. I'd really like to plant a big garden but I think it's safer with a new baby coming this spring to assume I won't have the time I need to tend to one. Hopefully we'll be able to plant some things that will supplement the weekly box from the farm.
  • I picked up paperwork from the food co-op so we can sign up as members and get member benefits, such as a discount two days a month.
  • One of the things I bought while at the co-op was some coconut oil. I made breaded tilapia on Friday and sauteed it in coconut oil. Wow! It was super delicious.
We used to eat out about once a week. I can't even remember the last time we ate out. The girls have noticed and are begging to go out. We're enjoying our homemade food, though, even when I've not planned anything, I can scramble and get something nutritious on the table. The cost of food at restaurants (even fast food) is ridiculous and the food is inferior. I hope we can sustain these new habits.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Feeling Virtuous

Here's what's happening in my kitchen:

Beet kvass is fermenting. Beet kvass is really healthy! It's a digestive aid, cleanses the liver and is good for kidney stone producers (me). All it is is a couple of large, organic chopped up beets soaked in 1/4 cup whey, 1 T sea salt and 2 quarts filtered water at room temperature for 2-3 days. It's popular in the Ukraine. I've never had it. I hope it tastes good. It is very pretty but I can see that if the kids like it, they'll have to use covered cups. I think it will stain like nothing else.

Yogurt is draining for production of yogurt cheese and whey. I need the whey for other fun fermented things such as gingered carrots.

Milk is heating in the slow cooker for more yogurt because we're yogurt monsters rather than cookie monsters.

Sourdough starter has been fed today; only one more day and I can make bread.

I put leftover pork shoulder in the freezer and posted a freezer inventory so we don't forget what's in there to eat.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Successful Yogurt and a Horrible Way to Wake Up

The yogurt-in-a-crock-pot method works great! I left the crock pot wrapped up in towels out overnight, leaving it out unintentionally 8 hours longer than suggested in the directions. It didn't matter at all (I didn't think it would but I thought we'd end up with tarter yogurt). The yogurt is still pleasantly mild and it set up beautifully.

Pregnancy leg cramps have begun. I woke up in agony from the worst calf cramp ever. It's amazing that a muscle cramp can be so painful. Week 25 is a little later than cramping started with the other two I think, so I guess that's positive. Most of the cramping I had with my other two pregnancies were hip cramps. I don't think I have a preference on the location--none would be nice.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Yogurt in the Crock Pot

We've been making yogurt for many months by sterilizing milk in mason jars in a water bath on the stove, cooling it and then adding starter and incubating in a yogurt maker for several hours. Today I thought I'd do something different since I'm using the yogurt maker to keep the brown rice that I'm soaking warm. I learned that you can make yogurt in a slow cooker! Here:

This method doesn't include any thermometer-watching, just clock-watching. The only down-side I see is that I'll have to transfer the yogurt from the cooker to smaller containers when it's done.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge Week 2

Challenge 8: Fats for High Heat--I haven't done this yet but I'll make some clarified butter and order some coconut oil. We don't do very much high heat cooking and use olive oil and butter for moderate heat. We'll have to eliminate these when we have clarified butter and coconut oil.
Challenge 9: Fight Against GMOs--got the shopping list and read the blog
Challenge 10: Fats to Eat Raw--I make salad dressing regularly either with walnut oil or olive oil. I can switch to coconut oil and ghee for sauteing.
Challenge 11: Sourdough Bread--I didn't make any bread as I have just started making the starter. I'll try in a week.
Challenge 12: Finding Real Milk--We found some at two groceries but hope to find a farm-direct source.
Challenge 13: Get Good Bacteria--We eat yogurt everyday as well as cultured butter.
Challenge 14: Evaluate

What we've found most difficult so far is the thought of the amount of money we will need to spend to eat pastured poultry, beef and to buy raw dairy. One of the articles at the Weston A. Price Foundation web site addresses budget concerns and we found that helpful.

I've researched and found several farms where we can buy pastured poultry, fresh eggs, pastured lamb, beef and pork. I know of two groceries where we can get raw milk but will contact the closest Weston A. Price Foundation group leader to see if there's a farm-direct source we can use. I think that we'll probably not buy all raw milk as it may be cost-prohibitive but as a compromise we can buy raw milk for our drinking needs and buy single-pasteurized milk for yogurt. So far we've bought two half-gallons of raw milk as two different stores, pasteurized cream (no raw to be found), pasteurized non-homogenized milk and vat-pasteurized homogenized milk. We buy UHT cream at Costco and make butter with it. There isn't any non-UHT cream around that isn't really pricey. Phil wonders if culturing the butter helps offset the fact that the cream used is UHT. Anyone know?

What has been fairly easy is incorporating fermented food into our diets. We were already eating yogurt and fermenting oats for breakfast proved successful. We soaked some ww pastry flour in buttermilk for pancakes this morning and the kids loved them. I plan to try to make gingered carrots this week.

We're both really enjoying reading and learning what's shared in Fallon and Enig's Nourishing Traditions book and I've been spending an inordinate amount of time on the computer reading articles on the Weston A. Price Foundation web site and finding real food bloggers.

We're enjoying all the foods we've added since starting the challenge--raw milk and fermented grains as well as sprouted grain bread. I've started some sourdough starter and have a batch of almonds soaking for crispy almonds for snacking this week. We are eating organic eggs now and I'm incorporating a lot more raw vegetables and fruit into our meals--offering them with cheese in addition to our normal lunch and dinner rather than just as snacking food. The kids haven't noticed anything different about raw milk, maybe because we've always given them full fat dairy. We feel better about giving them raw rather than pasteurized milk though. We're having our first try at pasture-fed beef for our main dish tonight--a sirloin tip roast.

The challenge has been fun and it's inspiring to find all the folks out there already successfully eating this way or working to get there.

Nourished Kitchen Real Food Challenge Week 1

I joined the challenge a week late but I wanted to share my progress on the challenge now anyway.

Challenge 1: Clean out the cupboards
This is a challenge that we failed. I am so thrifty that I just can't throw out everything that is processed. We are not a family that eats a lot of processed food anyway, so what we are going to do instead of throwing away or setting aside all the processed food is to use them up and not replace them--this includes breakfast cereal, crackers, white sugar and sugar-free syrup. We are going to make quite an effort to eat almost exclusively the Real Food way for this month.
Challenge 2: Choose wholesome food
This challenge was super easy as we already had all the suggested items: extra virgin olive oil, butter and full fat dairy. We also checked out the local food coop and whole foods market for other food recommended in Nourishing Traditions. Giant gleep felt when we saw the prices.
Challenge 3: Improve your grains
I made oatmeal porridge to supplement our normal breakfast of eggs and sausage. The sour smell of the fermented oats was a little off-putting but the final result was fantastic. Everyone loved it especially with a little butter, cream and maple syrup.
Challenge 4: Start sourdough
I got to this late--I just started it today. Hopefully it will turn out okay although I am using rye flour from the food coop--not milled by me.
Challenge 5 and 6: Sprout grain and mill it
A couple of things kept me from doing these--I don't have the equipment for drying and milling the sprouted grain so I didn't see the point of creating sprouts and all I have to sprout is old brown rice and old pearl barley. Not sure those will work. Nourishing Traditions talks a lot about sprouting grain but the recipes are all soaked grain recipes--I think this is what we will probably do more often than not. We did find an internet source for milled sprouted grain and we bought some sprouted grain bread. My better half thinks he'll order some milled sprouted grain and work with it.
Challenge 7: Relax and evaluate

Nourishing Traditions

Phil and I are both enjoying perusing the cookbook Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig. We've been eating a more "traditional" diet for some time now (getting away from refined carbohydrates and eating more animal protein) but we have some ways to go to achieve the way of eating promoted in this book. It's by no means new fangled. It's a return to old, traditional ways of eating that primitive cultures thrived on (i.e., fermented foods, animal fats, raw dairy) and away from modern, processed food. Whole food prepared in the ways that this books suggests should promote optimal health. We've already been practicing some of its advice for many months--making homemade yogurt and taking cod liver oil, for instance. I don't know how much we'll adopt of the principles and practices in this book but I hope we can do quite a bit as we both agree with its basic tenets and we need to provide our family with the best quality food we can. We won't go so far as to move and make a small homestead complete with chickens, a couple of cows and a giant garden but it's tempting given how expensive pastured animal protein, raw milk and organic vegetables are.

Here are some foods that we have now in our larder that we're just not going to buy when they run out. Thrifty me is not willing to just throw out everything processed. So, here are some things we are not replacing:
Vitamin water (I know, I know...I only bought it in the first place because I am pregnant and a medical professional suggested I drink it.)
Non-sprouted grain bread
Breakfast cereal
Soda pop (I virtually never drink it but Phil does.)
White flour

Our first steps toward Real Food/Traditional Diet way of life:
We're soaking grains/flours before using them (in buttermilk usually that is a by-product of Phil's butter making).
We make our own yogurt.
We're looking for local farms where we can buy eggs and pastured beef and chicken.
We've started buying organic eggs and have sampled raw milk (but at $6-7 per half gallon, we wonder how we can make that work--we drink a lot of milk and eat a lot of homemade yogurt).
We've checked out what products are available at PCC and Whole Food Market and started looking online for sources.
We made homemade chicken stock from several chicken carcasses we've been collecting.
I'm making a batch of nuts prepared in a way that makes them more digestible--soaking them in salt water and then dehydrating them.

My biggest concern right now is how we can possibly afford organic eggs, raw milk and pastured beef and chicken. I think that may work itself out. Maybe when we stop buying convenience and processed food completely, the better quality food won't seem so expensive.