Category Archives: Homemade Household

Milk Kefir

Lots of people are grossed out by cultured foods. I remember once having a coworker that I shared an office with start getting into kefir because it helped his son with Downs Syndrome. He bought it from the store but I was still grossed out, not even knowing how it was made.

I’ve read blogs for ages of people who made Kombucha and I never dreamed of making it myself because…gross.

I never had the same qualms with cultured veggies fortunately and have made sauerkraut plenty of times over the past few years.

Once a friend gave me water kefir grains and I accidentally killed them.

Anyway, all that to say, I hope I can write a bit and make a few people less grossed out by cultured foods because trust me, it’s worth it.

I actually bought milk kefir grains from Amazon. Here’s the link if you’re interested

They sent me a half teaspoon of live grains and I plopped them right into a cup of milk. They have to adjust and I was warned it would take about a week, changing the milk every twenty four hours. It took about five days for the grains to begin culturing the milk. However, even during that week, they grew!

Once you have living grains the process is really quite simple. First you put your grains in a glass container, like a mason jar. Pour milk over them.

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They should float because of the carbon dioxide they emit while culturing. If they sink they might not be warmed up (if you stored them in the fridge for a bit), or they may be dormant.

Cover with a paper towel or cheese cloth and secure with a rubber band. After twenty four hours your kefir should be done. It will be thicker than milk and possibly partially separated. The grains will likely be very bubbly at the top.


Depending on how warm the weather is, you might have significant separation.

IMG_20150328_090910033_HDRI simply scoop off the grains from the top with a wooden spoon (grains do NOT like metal), and put them in a new jar with milk. If you’re not ready to make another batch put your grains in a small jar with milk and refrigerate. If you’re on a rotation where you use a quart of kefir every two days, you can put your grains in a new quart with milk to culture.

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This is what your  grains will look like once you remove them. Underneath the milk they’re kind of rubbery feeling and have a slightly yellow, translucent, tint.

Don’t worry about rinsing your grains. After you remove your grains go ahead and put a lid on kefir without the grains and let it sit for another day. This increases the bacterial (probiotic) content, lowers the lactose content even further, and you can also add some fun flavors like lemon zest if you like.

At this point, I don’t like drinking kefir. Probably because I have never liked milk and had allergic reactions most of my childhood. However, I do drink smoothies daily and so I add a cup or two of kefir to my smoothies that I share with Shane and have reaped many benefits in a short amount of time.

Note, if you are lactose intolerant, kefir will not bother you as the grains (which are bacterial colonies), consume the lactose and produce the probiotics.

If you leave your kefir out for even longer the separation will be so complete you can spoon off the top portion and use the whey for a culture starter for vegetables or also in your smoothies.  What you spoon off will be thick, almost like ricotta cheese. I made a dip yesterday and it was quite irresistible!

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The benefits of milk kefir are abundant. Also, if you’re like me and want the benefits of coconut, you can also use coconut milk or even almond milk. They won’t have the same thickness because they don’t have the casein protein.

Because our body’s immune system is largely a part of the gut, kefir can have amazing results. If your immune system is working fabulously you will truly be able to enjoy living. The results I’ve personally had are really quite fantastic. I was getting headaches daily, had irregular digestion, depression and more. Now my headaches are gone, my digestive system works, my mood is better, my energy is better despite not getting any sleep and I feel generally much better.

I should note that  I personally avoid animal proteins in general as much as I can and so coconut kefir is a great alternative. If you’re fighting candida I suggest doing coconut kefir because it contains Caprylic Acid which destroys helps destroy yeast cells.

Kefir grains love lactose sugars most so if you do use coconut milk you’ll need to occasionally make cows milk kefir to feed them. I alternate and still see the great results.

Anyway, it’s not gross, I now see. It’s fresh, refreshing, transformative and clean. I hope you consider giving it a try.


Becoming a Homesteader

I’ve never considered myself a homesteader. I’ve never considered myself a legit gardener. I’ve never considered myself competent in being fully resourceful.

Last year I got a little bit more into food preservation and this year I got more into gardening. I read every book my library had on soil, permaculture, homesteading, urban gardening and crop optimization. I bought seeds, I started researching individual plants, I worked for my dad and learned from him. I got a rain barrel and began looking at my yard differently. I saw corners to house pollinating flowers, edges to cultivate mushrooms and all the nooks and crannies to squeeze productive plants.

I saw the benefit of gardening on my son who now points out gardens around the city, helps me harvest and eats garden produce like candy.


Then, lastly, I began to look at more processes in my life that my land could fulfill. Composting is a passion, I have a clothesline (!), I have a cool basement that’s perfect for food storage and brewing beer (Shane’s thing, obviously:). Who knows what else I can do that I haven’t even thought of!?


Slowly but surely I am beginning to relate to myself as a homesteader. Yes, I am in an urban setting but that is still no excuse not to take advantage of our resources. My resources don’t just include my small plot of land (under a quarter acre). They include my vocation as a stay at home mom which provides me with time to invest in gardening and preserving food. I also have a good location near a farmers market, my parent’s live nearish by and have given me lots of resources ranging from my Dad helping me build my actual garden and installing my rain barrel as well dumping countless pounds of produce from their own garden into my lap that I have preserved and eaten fresh. The point is, I try to look around and see what I CAN do, instead of what I can’t. I have sun limitations, I have space limitations and I have equipment limitations but guess what, I have more projects than I can get done and that should be my focus, not what is out of reach.


Even after feeling like I had no idea what I was doing midway through this year, my garden looks like this. Lush, growing and producing. If I can screw up on so many things in one year and still get something out of it, think of how much better each year will go as I learn and adapt?

I am a mom, I’m about to have my third kid. My life is busy and full but the thing is, homesteading is a lifestyle, it’s not just extra work for a better product. It’s something I include my kids in even if they can’t do much yet. Avery helps me weed, he helps me pack up my dehydrated herbs/fruits/tomatoes, water the garden and harvest. Eli can’t wield a hose yet or determine which tomato plant will ripen in what color but he hangs out in the garden just the same.


My goals for next year are basically just building on what I have been working on since we moved last summer. I should probably write a project list so I can check things off.


For now though, My focus is winding down my garden throughout the fall, having a baby, and enjoying the rest that winter brings. I’m already giddy about next spring with all the things I’ve learned this year but I know having an infant will certainly bring a new perspective as well. So I enter it with that relaxed feeling of doing something I love with low expectations and high hopes.


The Foods

My appetite isn’t fantastic right now because of the baby currently consuming 90% of my stomach space but I’m still making a point to put garden goods in every or almost every meal (excluding some breakfasts).


This one was a lunch where I reheated some leftovers (rice with veggies and Romano cheese) and cooked it with kale, topped it with tomatoes and of course slathered it all over with hot sauce. It was exceptional. Notice how I’m using a small plate.



I made these calzones and Shane grilled them! He’s quite the pro with grilling foods this year. He experiments with times before flipping and after flipping and all of a sudden we get perfectly grilled foods. It’s so fun. Oh and of course the calzoneswere delicious. I made a sauce with garden tomatoes and filled the crust with onions and peppers from the garden as well as some prosciutto and mozzarella cheese.



Another rice and veggie leftover meals with kale. This time, MOAR KALE. Because I love it. I know some people really aren’t huge fans of kale but there’s something about it that I really and sincerely love. I understand that people don’t like it because when I was a teenager I remember trying to fathom loving greens as crazy as kale and arugala but simply couldn’t. So now I’m a weirdo to a lot of adults and teenagers. It’s cool, I’m confident in my green loverness.



Here we have a flat bread I made that has green olives, capocollo, red onions and Romano cheese which you can’t see because I chopped up tomatoes (tossed them with some balsamic vinegar, salt and garlic) and covered it. Oh, and a large side of green beans from my dad.

And finally, an awful pic of a delicious meal.


Green beans and onions cooked until tender and tossed with fresh cherry tomatoes, roasted potatoes and a cheesy bun.

ALL veggies (including potatoes) from these meals are from my garden and my mom and dad’s gardens. So, that’s like, a LOT of fresh, local, and organic veggies. Pretty awesome.

Sometimes cooking with your garden produce isn’t super glamorous but trust me, not only will your body thank you but so will your taste buds. That food is so freaking tasty. I hope you’re enjoying local veggies too!

Wiped Out

A few garden updates here. Firstly, in a fit of pregnancy nesting I redesigned my garden. I just felt like there was a lot of negative spaces that were being completely wasted and so I fixed that. Which means I basically increased my square footage quite a bit. This is great and also more efficient but means I’m short on fall crop seeds! There is nothing wrong with that. I’ll just pick some more up next week when I’m done planting the ones I have.

Speaking of fall crops. I got started on those today. Yesterday I pulled my spaghetti squash plant. It was mostly dead and there were quite a few very large squash and some smaller, not quite ripe ones, we’ll see if they cure up a bit on the counter. My largest is almost five pounds!

IMG_20140806_083922Most of them were more like three pounds though. I have a couple more plants on the side of the house that are still going so I should have some more later. I needed to pull that vine and harvest a few herb plants so that I’d have the entire top bed for fall crops.

So I cleared the plants out and am currently dehydrating all the herbs.


Then I had to turn over all the soil to see what condition it’s in. I’ve mentioned before that I have high clay content in my soil and so it’s hard and compacted. I’ve been adding things and trying to plant plants that will help this season. It’s my first season and I recognize the need to improve my soil as I go. Adding some of my own compost to this bed when I extended it in my redesign was a good addition and I was pleasantly surprised to find that about half the bed’s soil was in great shape and the other half was much improved. This is a big deal since some of the fall crops I’m putting in are soil builders which will add matter to help loosen the clay.

I spent a lot of this morning turning over the soil and working on the herbs and finally it was ready to plant.

SAMSUNG CSCI scored the lines with my shovel and got the seeds ready. I’ve learned that I’m super sloppy if I’m using the seed packet so I pour the seeds into little bowls to help.


Obviously make sure you know which seed is which.

In this bed I wanted to plant a soil builder (diakon radishes), a nitrogen fixer since this will be a tomato bed next year (fava beans), and a few fall crops between (beets, spinach and regular radishes).  At first I thought I’d just do a row of each and repeat but then I realized I’d like to concentrate the soil builders in areas where the soil was rougher and use the areas with the best soil for the fall crops I’ll actually be harvesting. So I catered the sewing to exactly what I wanted from each area.

Then I had to deal with the issue of squirrels. They like digging in fresh, loose, soil and as I may or may not have (bitterly) mentioned, they decimated my previous beet crop because I was unaware of this. So I knew I’d have to cover my beds to prevent them from digging. So I used some hardware cloth a friend gave me.


Originally this bed was two smaller beds so I kind of had to mish mash the pieces but it’ll do. I kept the comfrey plant there because it’s a nitrogen fixer that I’d like to do a leave harvest of later in the season.

After all that it was time for Eli’s nap and I am also WIPED out.



I want to be like this right now.  Instead, I’m snuggling with Avery a bit and enjoying our quiet time.

I’ll have to plant the other beds another day. They have soil in much worse shape than this bed so I’ll be adding my compost and planting crops to help make it better and prepare for next year’s spring/summer garden.

Here are some things going on around the garden.


Tomatoessssss. They’re all nestled in there waiting to ripen, safely behind netting to protect against squirrels.


My jalapeno plants are loaded again. I’ve already had a solid harvest on them and now they’ve each got a bigger second load. The fresnos too. I even have some poblano peppers getting big!


I planted one bell pepper plant and it was hidden behind some overgrown herbs so I forgot about it until this happened!


My comfrey plants are blooming. Some are purple and some are white. I love it!



We had a pretty massive storm last night and I noticed a lot of blooms had been blown off.

The borage is blooming for a second time all over the garden!


Herbs are insane of course. I’ve been drying, eating and drinking them in juices and smoothies. I have a lot more to deal with before I’m done! I haven’t even touched the mint which I grew specifically for drying and making into herbal tea.

I’ll do a post on my growing spice pantry soon.

Now I’m gonna relax and let my poor pregger bod recover from all the digging, squatting and planting I did this morning.w



Squirrels Strike Again

So apparently I got a little too comfy with my garden and forgot squirrels wouldn’t ignore it after the seedling stage. One morning I walked out to this.


And this….


And this.


And this.


And even this.


That’s a spaghetti squash. Fortunately, it kinda grew out of the bite marks after a while. Not really a plant I can net since it’s basically consuming my garden at this point (and I’m totally cool with that).

The point is, I lost a lot of tomatoes all at once in their varying stages of ripeness and it hurt my heart.

So I went to the hardware store and got myself some bird netting and wrapped up my tomato plants. Lesson learned. I can tell netting and I are going to be very good friends going forward with gardening. Especially as I prepare to plant my fall seeds (any day now!).

But it’s all good. I still got some tomatoes and have many more on the way and my peppers are on round two of crazy production. Round one was kinda wimpy but now they’re loaded. Let’s not even mention the amount of produce I’ve been getting from my dad! I just did my first round of dehydrated tomatoes and cayenne peppers. The bigger romas are my dads and the smaller ones (an heirloom variety called San Marzano) are from my plants. I have a roma plant but they seem to only ripen in bunches of three at a time so not really enough for dehydrating.



It took a solid 48hrs. I like to keep my heat low so that I’m not cooking the produce while dehydrating. They turned out great though!


I just recently learned how I like to use dried tomatoes. I’m actually not a fan of their flavor so I don’t enjoy them on pizza or salads or normal things that people generally use them for but when I was reading Quarter Acre Farm (a fantastic book on gardening) and she mentioned how she adds them to her marinara sauces and uses a hand blender to emulsify them after they absorb liquid. Her description of the added flavor made me jump to try it, and since my dad always gives me dried tomatoes I had some on hand, and guess what? It was like literally the best marinara sauce I have ever made. I got a great reaction from all the boys and haven’t made sauce any other way since. So now I’m making my own stash to last the whole year starting with this batch. I just cut the romas in half (more if they’re big), sprinkle them with dried herbs (this batch I used oregano), and dehydrated until they were completely dry, no wiggle.


The cayenne peppers I intended for an end product of red pepper flakes. Shane is always using red pepper flakes so I figured there’s no point in buying the dusty old variety from the store if I could make them myself.



Be extremely careful doing this because these bad boys are SPICY. You might think your store bought pepper flakes are something, well, think again. They are flavorless compared to these.

I put the dried peppers into a plastic bag, folded it into a towel and crushed them using my hands. The aroma that came up when I opened the bag to transfer it to a jar was a blinding rush of suffocating spice. I ran outside (where I had put the jar) with tears streaming down my face, coughing up a lung. My disturbed three year old thought I was seriously injured. It was adorable.


Those peppers gave me about a third of a cup of flakes which is probably more than we use in a year but I’ll very likely continue to make them as I get peppers.

Anyway, I also redesigned my garden in a whirl of nesting hormones the other day so I’ll update you on that as soon as I get a chance to take pictures. And I know, pregnancy updates are waaaay lacking. I’m just so, pregnant…I don’t feel like doing much about updates. I promise I will though.

How is your garden? Do you ever dehydrate?

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