Category Archives: Homemade Household

Memories and the Mind

I’ve had a particular thought about a million times in my life. This thought is related to many many many memories of my mother. Her garden. And a flower called statice.

You see, when I was growing up we lived in a very old farmhouse. Because there were a million kids in our family we had to promptly put up a fence around an area in the yard to contain all the littles. I don’t know, maybe the fenced in area was already there. Yes, we called it ‘the fenced in area’ and it was dreamy. My mom, being the magical person she is, planted things, magical things all around this fence. The things I remember were lemon balm, bee balm, straw flower and statice, but there were many more than that.

This old, old, farmhouse had a slightly less old addition of a sun room. It was an awkward room because the windows from the kitchen looked into it, which makes sense because those windows used to look outside. It was even more awkward because the door to the root cellar basement was on the sunroom floor and there were at least three levels of the floor which were three different materials. Some wood, some linoleum and some concrete. We used the sunroom to house a lot of our crafty projects…aka, messes.

Though I don’t think my mom considers herself very crafty, I remember her picking flowers and hanging them in bunches with twine or yarn on nails along the sunroom windows to dry. She had a bunch of different wooden vine wreaths that she would tuck the dried flowers in. I don’t remember where she hung the wreaths or what they looked like after she was done but I do remember this. She was peaceful, she worked at a slow pace that meant she was really enjoying herself. She was expressing her creativity in a chaotic world of homeschooling SEVEN children. In that time she was actually probably pregnant or breastfeeding. I have these idyllic visions of her cutting her flowers from large plants saturated in golden sunlight with butterflies and bees lazily coming off the plants and hanging in the air about her, a small smile resting on her face. It was her world, her space, her project and she loved it.

My world with little children is chaotic but I pursue the things I love for this very reason. I want my children to remember me being happy. Enjoying doing things because I love them. In a world that views stay at home moms as lazy and where a lot of value is placed on high salaries, academic achievements and  career advancements, I hope I can instill in my children that there is value elsewhere. I don’t have to be quite as intentional as Shane because I am with my kids 24/7. He has a few hours before they sleep and so he spends time wrestling, taking them on errands, playing catch in the backyard or more recently, teaching Avery how to play video games with him. These are things he loves to do and he’s able to include at least the boys in a lot of them now.

For me, MY favorite thing. It’s gardening. My happy place. The boys often help me plant and dig but mostly they just play outside or in the hose while I work. They’re peaceful because I’m peaceful.

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Kombucha Making

I was bottling a batch of kombucha the other day and thought I’d record and share it here. It’s not exactly a tutorial because I am starting with the bottling but I’ll get all the important stuff in by the end:)

Everyone does their fermenting and culturing differently because there are so many right ways. I am doing two gallon batches of kombucha right now so this might not look like your operation or how you want to operate at all.

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I ferment my kombucha in these gallon jugs. You need to keep airflow to your SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast)  so they just get paper towels and rubberbands.

Before I bottle I get a tiny bit of sugar dissolved in water (about a half teaspoon per 16oz bottle) for fizz and this particular batch I also put some fresh apple juice in (a tablespoon or two per bottle)  for flavor.

The other stuff I grab includes a funnel and a ladle. The SCOBY floats on top of the kombucha (but don’t worry if your starter SCOBY doesn’t…the new ones that form each batch do float due to carbon dioxide. Mine is getting pretty thick.

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Pretty cool/gross, right? Right.

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These aren’t quite full gallons because I always end up scooping out a ladle here and there to test or just drink some of it. You want to bottle it when it has NO sweetness left. I add the little bit of sugar water to the bottles because this gives it the pleasant carbonation. I wait 3-7 days after bottling to consume so that there won’t be sugar left. If I feel the need to sweeten it, I use stevia drops.

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Basically I press down the SCOBY with the ladle and scoop out the tea until there is just a little left in the jug with the SCOBY.

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This is the starter for the next batch. I do wash the jugs between batches because they get sticky.

I use commercial kombucha bottles a friend gave me so I just screw the lids on tight and store on top of the fridge or in a pantry until they’re ready.

Then I brew new batch of tea for my SCOBYs.

SAMSUNG CSCMy kiddos enjoy hanging out outside and occasionally ‘helping’ me.

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The real help is when the boys entertain Ida. hehe

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I basically make a gallon batch of tea and add a cup of sugar per gallon. Notice the color difference? The batch I bottled was green tea and the new batch is black.

I then let the sweet tea cool and add it to the starter and SCOBY.

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Don’t worry, SCOBYs are actually quite hardy and pouring the tea over them won’t harm them at all.

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The whole process starts again.

The benefits of kombucha are many, but also a lot them are anecdotal due to lack of research. The long history of kombucha is a testimony to it’s properties and if you try it yourself you may find it can help your well being. There are, however, a few claims supported by science and those include high probiotic content (each batch is slightly different depending on the tea, sugar quality and time of fermentation, but there are at least ten to twelve strains generally present), the presence of b vitamins (trace) as well as several beneficial detoxifying elements.

Obviously doctors and scientists aren’t much apt to recommend or study this drink because it’s not a money maker, so research has been minimal.

I can only attest to my own results and those of people I know. It has been beneficial for my digestion, I DO feel better when drinking it somewhat consistently and it has most definitely helped when I felt allergies or a cold coming on.  I know several people who have used kombucha as a tool for overcoming soda addiction and no matter how you look at that, it’s a good thing! Also, CHEAP. Just the cost of some black or green tea bags and a little bit of sugar.

I don’t eat many animal products and the b vitamins have been proven to be present (in however small amounts) I think that is also beneficial for me personally.

Before I go, there is one more thing I want to mention. When you do secondary fermentation in the bottles you can add any flavoring you want. Adding ingredients that compound the benefits of kombucha, like ginger or lemon can only add to the nutrient content. I highly recommend using ginger kombucha before taking allergy medicine. The cons of medication are not always mentioned and usually involved damaged digestive tract.

I hope this helps you understand kombucha better! If you’re local and want to try, I have SCOBY to share:)

 

 

 

Water Kefir Tutorial

Okay, I talked about milk kefir and now I’m going to talk you all through how water kefir works. It has only about a third of the probiotic strains as milk kefir but that doesn’t discredit the ability to transform you life. Especially if you are trying to rid yourself of a nasty soda habit.  For informational/education reasons, I will list the probiotic strains involved.

Bacteria

Species Lactobacillus
L. brevis
L. casei
L. hilgardii
L. hordei
L. nagelii

Species Leuconostoc
L. citreum
L. mesenteroides

Species Acetobacter
A. fabarum
A. orientalis

Species Streptococcus
S. lactis

Yeasts

Hanseniaospora valbyensis
Lachancea fermentati
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Zygotorulaspora florentina

Source

Water kefir is very much like milk kefir, in that, it all starts with the ‘grains’. Again, they’re not actual grains but symbiotic colonies of bacterial yeasts. They also consume sugars and product probiotics.

SAMSUNG CSCIt’s also kind of rubbery, although firmer than milk kefir, and instead of clumping together they remain in separate pieces.

When you first get your water kefir grains you will want to put them in a jar. Maximum of a quarter cup per quart. You can have as few as two tablespoons to start though.

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It’s quite simple after that. Warm up some filtered water and dissolve sugar in it. While it cools go ahead and put a drop of black strap molasses on the grains to give them a good dose of minerals.

SAMSUNG CSCIf they aren’t fed adequate amounts of minerals  they won’t grow and you want them to grow.

Then you pour the cooled sugar water over top and cover with a cheese cloth or paper towel and rubberband. The reason you don’t seal this like with milk kefir is because it produces a LOT of carbon dioxide and can be quite explosive.

Similar to milk kefir, the grains will generally consume all the sugar within a 24-48hr period. After this you will want to put it into secondary fermentation. This basically means you’ll add as small amount of sugar (just under a teaspoon per 16oz) and some sort of flavor. My favorite is ginger and lemon but you can really go with any fruit you want. My next batch I’ll be adding grapes!

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After a day or two you can start drinking. Make sure you strain before drinking! I just pour through a strainer right into my cup!

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Fizzzzzzz!!!!

It’s a fast and simple process you can do with all the kiddos around.

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Water Kefir

  • 1/2 cup water kefir grains
  • 1/2 cup sugar (preferably evaporated cane juice or other less processed sugars)
  • 2 quart water
  • 2 drops of black strap molasses

Dissolve sugar into warm water. Put grains in either one half gallon jar or two quart jars and add molasses. Once wate is cool pour it over grains and cover lightly with paper towel or cheese cloth.

Allow to sit for 24-48 hours until it no longer tastes sweet. Secondary bottling is optional.

*quick tip. Just like with milk kefir, do not let metal utensils touch the kefir grains. They hate it. Use wooden spoons, glass and plastic only.

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I hope you can find time to add water kefir to your cultured food arsenal. I’ve read around the internet of people being transformed by just water kefir alone but when used with other foods like milk kefir, kombucha and cultured vegetables it makes a formidable enemy to illness! I bought my original grains on amazon (when you search be sure you get organic, LIVE grains, not dehydrated) and they have grown significantly. I have given away three separate portions and still have enough to make a large batch.

 

 

Clarifications

Okay, I have gotten a LOT of feedback on my last post about milk kefir. Some people asked questions that I think definitely need addressing.

1. Are kefir grains….grains?

No. Kefir grains are just rubbery clumps that someone named grains. They’re a colony of bacteria so abundant that you can see them. They live on sugars, specifically lactose from milk and when they consume that lactose they produce carbon dioxide and 30-50 different probiotic strains that are extremely beneficial to human gastro intestinal tracts. I took this picture to show you that they aren’t like curds, they’re rubbery and clumpy. Not soft

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2. Can you consume the grains?

Again, no. I mean, I’m sure they wouldn’t hurt you but they’re not meant for you to eat. Their bi-products are far too beneficial to waste! You remove the grains before consuming.

3. How do you secondary ferment?

I didn’t make this clear at all. After the initial 24hrs with the kefir grains, your milk will have almost no lactose left. To do a secondary fermentation, you remove the grains and add another kind of sugar. Not refined sugar, but something like a piece of fruit, fresh or dried and then seal your container. This way you can not only have more probiotic content in your kefir, but also the carbon dioxide produced will make it slightly effervescent, aka, mild carbonation which can be quite refreshing if you’re drinking it straight instead of in a smoothie.

4. How much kefir should I drink?

This is up to you somewhat. I drink 1-2 cups per day in my smoothies. At first you may want to gauge your consumption of cultured foods on how you feel. Consuming large amounts of probiotics when you aren’t used to them can have a myriad of effects. When I first started eating fermented vegetables I would get lightheaded and dizzy immediately after. If your body is dominated with bad bacteria, or overgrown with yeast, the good bacteria in such large amounts will disrupt the status quo. This is a GOOD thing but can be overwhelming at first. Start small and work your way up.

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5. What can I use the kefir in?

Most anything! You can use kefir much the same way you use milk. It’s predigested by the bacteria and therefore much easier to consume even in cooked foods. You can pour it into a cheese cloth and strain the whey until it’s either yogurt consistency and eat it as you would yogurt (it’s far more beneficial because of the large content of bacteria and complete lack of lactose) or strain it longer to get a kefir ‘cheese’. This can be used in place of cream cheese or ricotta. You can season it for dips, spreads and or even frosting.  Strain off a little whey and blend with berries and a banana or avocado to make kefir pudding! The possibilities are endless.

So I hope this clears up some things from my last post for everyone.  It’s been pretty crazy talking about milk kefir for the past few days with everyone! Thanks for the feed back. I hope you all are inspired to give it a try.

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.

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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.

 

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