Archive for Kinda Yummy

How to Roast Squash

This post is really more of tutorial than a recipe. I use butternut squash in the video, but this method can be used on any kind of squash or pumpkin.

Most squash roasting instructions will tell you to roast the squash for 30 minutes, which results in tender but firm squash to serve cut into pieces. I prefer to roast the squash for closer to 60 minutes, resulting a squash which has essentially pureed itself. (If desired, a quick whirl through the food processor will remove any lingering stringiness or lumps.)

I generally roast squash to prepare it for freezing, though, of course, the roasted squash can also be served immediately, preferably with a pat of butter and perhaps a sprinkling of turbinado sugar and cinnamon or of garlic. I often defrost the squash for a hearty winter breakfast (usually with served with that bit of turbinado sugar), but it can also be used in any soups or casseroles that call for squash puree, or as a substitute for pumpkin puree.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

It’s squash, plain and simple.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

The yumminess rating really depends on what you do with the squash. On it’s own it’s okay, but not that amazing, however it can be turned into yummy amazingness as desired.

How to Roast Squash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. This isn’t really an exact science. 350 or 450 will still get you roasted squash, 350 will just take longer and at 450 you start to risk scorching the squash.

Rinse any loose or excessive dirt from the outside of the squash. You don’t have to be meticulous because you won’t be eating the skin anyway, but I like to avoid the risk of having large chunks of mud fall into the food part of the squash.

Cut of the top of the squash, then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Unless you have a particularly small squash or are particularly handy with a knife, it may be easier and safer to cut the squash in half once crosswise before cutting it in half lengthwise.

Scoop out the seeds. I like to use a large spoon for this because it has enough edge to easily scrape out the orange stringy bits clinging to the seeds, but won’t take away much of the flesh of the squash with it. If you like, you can set aside the seeds to clean and roast later.

Arrange the squash on cookie sheets with sides. (Once I forgot to use cookie sheets with sides and water released by the roasting squash spilled all over the floor of my oven and scorched there. Not ideal.) I can normally fit one squash per cookie sheet unless the squash are abnormally large.

Put the squash into a hot oven for 45 minutes to an hour. The squash is done when a fork easily pierces the skin and slides through the squash.

Remove from the oven and let cool. (If you’re not going to get to it within a reasonable amount of time you can throw it in the fridge and deal with it later, but generally just letting it cool to room temperature on the counter works fine.) If you like, you can save any ‘squash water’ that’s collected in the cookie sheet and add it to soup or stock.

Peel the squash. Once again, I like to use a large spoon for the process. If the squash has been cooked very well you may just be able to remove the peel easily with your fingers, and if it’s still a bit hard it’s best to peel it with a knife as you would any vegetable. However, for everything in between the spoon does a good job of scraping the squash from the peel without making too much of a mess.

Use or freezer the squash puree/pieces. Half a squash serves the two of us for a breakfast or side dish and fits nicely into a quart size freezer bag.

Did you notice how at 40 seconds in I said “cut the half in piece” instead of “cut the piece of half”? Yeah, I’m smooth like that. But I make up for it and prove I’m a cool person anyway  with that Tetris reference at 2:52 right?

FAIL: Yummy but Crumbly Healthy Ritz Style Crackers

Healthy Homeamade Ritz Style Cracker Experiment

 Let me start by saying that I based this experiment on a more successful Cupcake Project Homemade Ritz Cracker recipe, and if you want to make homemade crackers with white flour, you should probably head over there and use that recipe and seems to work just fine.

 But as you know, I can’t just make a recipe as it’s written. I have to experiment and try new things and see if I can make healthier versions that work.

I thought these crackers did have really good flavor despite my healthiness modifications, so I might try reworking this recipe at some point, but for now, it really only produces yummy and healthy cracker crumbs.

Here are some things I would do differently the second time through:

 1. More flour: Whole pastry flour (soft white wheat) really does not absorb as much water as white flour or standard whole wheat flour. I’m afraid standard whole wheat flour would have too much whole wheat taste to make a good cracker, so I’d be inclined to just start with 3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour and then slowly add more water if it seems needed.

2. Thinner crackers: I should have split the dough between two cookie sheets (especially if I was using more flour, which would increase the amount of dough!) to try to get it thinner. It just wasn’t thin enough to get crisp and crackery in the that amount of baking time.

3. Possibly a long baking time: I know now that the crackers will NOT crisp up as they cool, so I would keep them in the oven until they have the right crispness, even if it takes longer that the official baking time.

4. Possibly replace the coconut oil: I used coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil called for in the original recipe because it’s the healthy oil that I have on hand, but coconut oil does seem to increase the crumbliness of baked goods in my experience, so it might be better to just use more butter, or lard, or possibly even olive oil.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Aside from the fact that the whole wheat flour doesn’t get soaked, there’s nothing in this recipe I would consider unhealthy at all.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

 I thought the flavor was fabulous on these crackers (though that might be because I was going in with such low expectations of how the flavor would measure up to store bought crackers). My husband thought they were actually a little on the bland side. Either way, I have deduct points on texture because they were almost impossible to remove from the pan without disintegrating them.

Buttery Crackers (Crumbs)

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (ground from soft white wheat), plus a few more TBSP if needed

1 TBSP baking powder

1 TBSP turbinado sugar

1/4 tsp sea salt

6 TBSP cold butter, cut into chunks

2 TBSP coconut oil

about 1/4 cup water

2 TBSP butter, melted + 1/8 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put the dry ingredients (the first four ingredients) into the food processor and pulse briefly to mix.

Add 6 TBSP butter, about 2 TBSP at a time, blending after each addition until the butter is thoroughly incorporated.

Add coconut oil and blend again. With the food processor running, trickle in water until the dough forms a ball. (If the dough is too soft you can add a few more TBSP of flour until it’s a consistency you can work with.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and press out the dough into the thin layer across the whole cookie sheet. Score the dough into cracker sized squares or rectangles. Poke several holes in each cracker with a fork.

Bake at 400 degrees for ten minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.

Melt 2 TBSP butter and mix in 1/8 tsp salt. Brush across the tops of the crackers.

Very carefully attempt to remove crackers from the pan whole. Give up and enjoy your cracker crumbs!

Kombucha (A Fermented Tea Drink)

How To Make Kombucha (A Fermented Tea Drink)

 Kombucha is a fermented tea drink (fermented in the probiotic sense, not so much the alcoholic sense, but if that disappoints you, check out this kombucha margarita recipe). It’s fizzy and tart and can be as sweet (or unsweet) as you want it to be. I haven’t experimented much with flavorings yet, but I’ve heard of people essentially using it as a base for soda, and adding fruit, fruit juice, herbs (think peppermint) and ginger once it’s finished it’s first fermenting stage.

Kombucha is famed for it’s health qualities, including being very high in b vitamins and being so high in probiotics that you have to ease yourself into drinking it, so as to avoid an unpleasant die off effect. Once you’ve acquired a kombucha habit though, you may be a kombucha-er for life, judging by stories I’ve read of people making kombucha in small aquariums so as to have enough…

Kombucha had a lot of steps, so it can seem involved to a beginner, but it’s not particularly hard once you get your kombucha routine figured out. First I’ll lay out some of the basics to understanding kombucha, and then I’ll give you my recipe and procedure.

Kombucha is fermented by using a scoby, which is a kind of mushroom that resembles a dead jellyfish. (I think they’re really cool looking, but sometimes there’s a fine line between cool and gross.) You must have a scoby to make kombucha, but the good news is that if you have a friend who makes kombucha, they probably have scobys coming out their ears and will be happy to give you one to start you off. Otherwise you can find a place order a scoby online. (There are tutorials for growing a scoby from storebought kombucha, but it seems a reformulation a few years ago has made this option a much less reliable source for scobys.)

As with most ferments, the scoby needs to be fed, and has it’s own particular preferences for food. It thrives best on black tea (including the caffeine) and white sugar. Because a large part of the caffeine and sugar are used up by the scoby, the finished product is still low in caffeine and sugar.

Because I’m particularly sensitive to caffeine I like to dunk my tea bags in boiling water for 30 seconds or so before making kombucha out of them, to keep the caffeine levels as low as possible in the finished product. It’s also possible to make kombucha out of green tea or herbals teas, but other teas should either be mixed with black tea, or alternated with batches of full black tea in order to keep your scoby healthy.

I also have been using organic evaporated cane juice as the sugar for my kombucha, which is just a bit less processed than white sugar, and eliminates any concerns about GMO sugar beets. My scoby seems perfectly happy with this sugar so far.

Scobys also don’t like teas with oils, so ginger and peppermint and such generally need to be saved for flavoring the kobmucha after it’s fully brewed (in the secondary ferment). I have successfully made kombucha with half black tea and half peppermint tea, but the kombucha didn’t ferment as quickly as normal, and the scoby didn’t grow at all as it normally does, so it clearly wasn’t good for the scoby, especially for a long term plan. My standard mix is half black tea and half green tea.

Scobys can handle brief contact with metal, but metal does weaken them over time, so it’s best to use glass jars for fermenting and plastic or wooden utensils for handling the scoby.

It’s usually recommended to ferment the kombucha for 10 to 14 days, but my husband and I prefer I much sweeter, only slightly tart kombucha, so we often ferment ours for as little as 3 to 4 days. If you’re very new to kombucha, you may want to taste your brew every day to get an idea of how long you should ferment it to your own taste. (The tartness does sometimes mellow a bit after the second ferment, so if you’re afraid you’ve let it go a bit too long, it may still be fine.)

And, if you accidentally let it ferment for very long, you can use your very vinegary kombucha as a substitute for apple cider vinegar!

Scobys do sometimes stain from the tea, or get holes torn in them, and may be clear (a young scoby) or white (a mature scoby), all of which is perfectly normal and still healthy. However, if your scoby develops any signs of mold, it needs to be discarded immediately.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Aside from possible considerations of the amount of sugar and/or caffeine left in the kombucha if a shorter ferment time is used, this drink pegs the healthiness scale as a classic fermented/probiotic addition to one’s diet. People make some pretty extravagant claims of renewed health and energy after making kombucha a part of their daily lives, and even if those claims are only half true, I think kombucha pretty clearly makes an improvement in the overall health of those who drink it on a regular basis.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

I might be able to get this upgraded to a completely husband approved ‘yummy’ status when I experiment more with flavorings, but as it is, kombucha is something that’s very well tolerated in our diets, and sometimes even enjoyed, just not often craved.

Kombucha

makes 1 gallon

1 scoby (for each fermenting container, no matter what the size)

2 cups kombucha (from last batch–can substitute a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar if necessary)

1 cup sugar (white sugar, or evaporated cane juice)

4 cups water + 10 cups water

8 tea bags or tsp of loose tea (black tea, or half black and half green or herbal)

First ferment:

Heat 4 cups water to boiling. Mix in sugar. Add tea and let steep until water is cold to make a very strong tea concentrate.

If you have a previous batch of kombucha, move it to the second ferment or bottling stage as you wait for the tea concentrate to cool.

Once your tea concentrate is cooled, add it to your fermenting jar or container along with the 2 cups of kombucha reserved from your last batch, the other 10 cups of water (or as needed to fill your container) and the scoby. Cover loosely to allow gases to escape as they are produced by the fermenting process and set aside for anywhere from 3 to 14 days or more, depending how you tart you like the finished product.

Second ferment/bottling:

Pour off 2 cups of kombucha to add to your next batch. Set aside scoby on a clean plate or float in reserved kombucha. (This is a good time to check your scoby for any problems and remove the bottom layer if it’s getting too thick. “Too thick” is mostly measured by whether your kombucha is fermenting faster than you want it too.)

Pour the rest of the kombucha into mason jars, plastic bottles, or one large plastic jug. (Plastic makes it easier to tell when it’s fully carbonated when you’re just starting out.) If you want to add any flavorings, such as chopped ginger, fruit juice, peppermint tea bags, etc, now is the time to do that.

Tightly cap the bottles and let sit out overnight or until fully carbonated. (If using plastic bottles, until the plastic is hard and no longer soft or squeezable.) Refrigerate.

Homemade Yogurt, The Easy Way + How to Drain Yogurt for Thicker Greek Yogurt

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Homemade raw Greek yogurt, topped with honey and cinnamon.

 Over the past couple of years I have struggled with some fairly major health problems. leaving me with low energy most of the time, ranging to completely fatigued and exhausted on a bad day. Thankfully, the bad days are becoming less frequent than they used to be, but even on an average day I have far more project ideas than I have energy to put into projects.

This means, that while cooking healthy food is usually a priority for me, I really don’t like to make any of my projects  more involved or complicated than they have to be. Certain projects that others consider complex might fit nicely into my routine, but other projects, sometimes even one that don’t seem so complicated to most people, just seem overwhelming.

So, when I discovered a super easy way to make my own raw yogurt, I was thrilled. Yogurt is generally considered fairly fussy. Regulating the temperature is a pain and doesn’t seem to guarantee results no matter how carefully it’s done. Plus, I was on GAPS diet at the time, with little energy to spare, and a lot of special cooking to be done, and a lot of slowly fermented food needed on a regular basis. The idea that I could drop yogurt in a jar, add milk, and then just let the whole thing sit out in a warm spot to make yogurt was a relief.

Now, as simple as the process is, fermented foods do often have a bit of a finicky streak. You may immediately find a warm spot that happily makes yogurt without any problems, ever. More likely, you’ll have to try a couple warm spots to see which one ferments your milk at the speed which is convenient to your schedule. You may find that the warm spot on top of your fridge, that normally turns out yogurt like clockwork, overheats on your baking day, and the pervading warmth of the oven ferments your yogurt unexpectedly faster than normal.

To me, these inconsistencies are simply an expected part of cooking real and traditional food. Like making soup with leftovers, or marrying into a family that makes a lot of last minute plans, life is often something of a grab bag no matter how carefully we try to regiment it.

I have found this method of making yogurt to produce mostly consistent results, and the occasional batch of extra sour and thick yogurt, or runny yogurt can easily find their home in baked goods without dramatically disrupting the rhythm of my life. These odd batches of yogurt even seem to make fine starter for a new batch in most cases, as the inconsistencies are naturally evened out by the steady working of the natural probiotics and enzymes through slight disruptions of their routine.

If this sort of adaptation to changes in your life is not for you, I recommend googling ‘crockpot yogurt’ and continuing in your quest to bend the world to your will without detouring through my yogurt making method. Best of luck to you in that endeavor.

In the realm of adapting to changes, the video I have posted on  making yogurt is technically a fail video. It still demonstrates *how* to use my yogurt making technique, but in a moment of brain fog, I misremembered how much whey was needed for the amount of yogurt I was making, resulting in a less than optimal batch of yogurt. Feel free to both laugh at my fail and glean what you can from watching my methods.

Straining (or draining) the yogurt to make it thicker is completely optional, but since we really like greek style yogurt, and I find it really handy to have whey around for recipes (soaking whole wheat flour, ketchup, etc), I almost always do drain it.

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Not only is the yogurt completely natural, but making your own plain yogurt gives you the ability to make your own flavored yogurts without any unnatural sweeteners or additives. Obviously, you get an extra boost to your enzymes if you start with raw milk, but you can use this method for any type of dairy you generally use (I haven’t tested it with non-dairy milks) and meet your general health standards.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy

I’ll be honest here: homemade yogurt isn’t something my husband raves about. He actually kinda likes Yoplaits.

As for myself, I don’t hate yogurt, but I’ve never been a huge fan of any kind of yogurt, even including Yoplait (which baffles my husband). But, throwing a couple splops (yes, that’s a very specific measurement, why do you ask?) of yogurt into a smoothie is easy and doesn’t adversely affect the taste, and if I mix the homemade yogurt with sufficient honey and fruit, my husband doesn’t mind eating it, and in the right mood, I rather enjoy it.

Homemade Yogurt

1 cup of whey or yogurt

3 cups of milk

Mix whey or yogurt with milk in a quart jar. Cover and set in a warm place for 12-24 hours. Refrigerate, or proceed to straining your yogurt first.

To make greek yogurt: Line a strainer or colander with cheesecloth or thin cotton (not terrycloth) dishtowel. Set on a bowl to catch the whey. Pour yogurt into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for a few hours, until it is your desired thickness. (You can also make yogurt cheese, which can be used as a cream cheese substitute, by draining the yogurt longer, until it’s very thick.) Using a large metal spoon or rubber spatula, transfer yogurt to a jar or covered bowl and store in refrigerator. Pour whey into a separate bowl or jar and store in refrigerator.

 

Homemade Sauerkraut

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If your New Year’s resolutions involved phrases like ‘learn to make sauerkraut’ and ‘eat more fermented vegetables’ you have come to the right place. Seriously, you’re going to like it around here. Bookmark my blog and subscribe to my youtube channel. I’ll wait.

The other reason you’ve come to the right place is that I happen to be posting about making your own home fermented sauerkraut today. What a crazy, random happenstance, huh?

Sauerkraut is made out of cheap ingredients (cabbage and salt) and is really fairly simple to make. (There are a few pitfalls to avoid, which I’ll cover later, but the process is not overly complex.) It stimulates the production of stomach acid (which is often low in people with digestive problems, including acid reflux and ulcers–sufficient stomach acid actually helps *prevent* these problems, counter intuitive as it may seem) and provides needed probiotics.

The down side, of course, is that it’s sauerkraut, with the pungent intensity that we all know and many of us hate. I, myself, can enjoy sauerkraut just fine, as long as it’s used in small quantities on a food that needed some spicing up anyway. Even so, after doing the GAPS diet and ‘enjoying’ sauerkraut with almost every meal, I was burned out on sauerkraut for a while.

Even if you’re not so fond of store bought sauerkraut, I recommend trying to make your own and see how you like it. My husband can’t stand store bought sauerkraut but he tolerates and will sometimes intentionally eat homemade sauerkraut. He says it has a flavor other than ‘Pow, vinegar!’, which is all the store bought sauerkraut tastes like.

If you’re just trying out homemade sauerkraut for the first time, you probably don’t want to go buy one of those fancy fermenting crocks people are always recommending. On the other hand, I’ve heard some serious warnings about using old crocks that may leech lead into your ferments through tiny cracks in the finish. My solution was to go buy a $20, 1 gallon stoneware crock at Ace Hardware. It’s simple, not too expensive, and unrisky. (Don’t use anything metal for fermenting your sauerkraut in. In a pinch you can probably do a big batch in a five gallon food grade plastic bucket though.)

Whatever kind of crock you use, you need a way to keep the air away from your sauerkraut is it ferments. The good bacteria does not require oxygen to work, while stray bad bacteria that might take over your ferment does require oxygen, so creating an oxygen free environment for your ferment is ideal. In the recipe I explain how to use a ziploc bag to allow the gases from the fermenting cabbage to escape without allowing air in contact with the cabbage.

You may get a white film on top, which is probably harmless, though I recommend doing your own research to confirm what is growing on your sauerkraut. If you get anything fuzzy, brown, green or pink growing on your sauerkraut throw it out and start over.

Edited to add: Once you’ve made your sauerkraut you may be wondering what to eat it with. It goes well with most meats–hot dogs and sausages are obvious ones, but I often put it on hamburgers, and it can also work with pork or beef roasts as well. You can use it in place of pickles for a tang on any sandwich, and don’t forget Rueben sandwiches as a classic use for sauerkraut. (I requested Rueben sandwiches for my birthday meal several years running, and that was before I even made homemade sauerkraut.) If that’s not enough to get you started, you can can also find recipes for soups that use sauerkraut!

Healthiness Rating: Healthy

Cabbage and sea salt fermented to provide probiotics. Doesn’t get much healthier than that.

Yumminess Rating: Kinda Yummy
Okay, I admit it’s not that amazing as a flavor, but it is tolerable, and once you develop a taste for it you’ll miss it when you don’t have it.

Homemade Sauerkraut

1 head cabbage, about 2 pounds

1 TBSP sea salt

1-2 cups filtered water, if needed

Core and shred the cabbage. I find the easiest method is to slice it thinly, then cut across the slices in two or three places to keep the shreds from being unreasonably long. Put cabbage into a stoneware crock.
Sprinkle salt on the cabbage and let it sit for ten minutes or so, until the juices start to come out of the cabbage.

Begin to squeeze and knead the cabbage with your hands until the cabbage is softened and has released it’s juices. You may get enough liquid out of the cabbage to cover it, but I only ever get enough to just barely come up to the level of the cabbage. Press the cabbage down tightly into the bottomof the crock. Unless the cabbage juices completely submerge the cabbage, add filtered water until the level of the liquid is an inch or two above the level of the cabbage.

Remove any stray pieces of cabbage from the sides of the crock.

If you don’t have a special fermenting crock, fill a gallon sized ziploc bag halfway with water. (Tap water is fine for this part.) Squeeze out most of the air before closing it. Put the ziploc bag in the crock on top of the cabbage. This will form fit to the sides of the crock, holding the cabbage underwater. Some liquid, and probably a few shreds of cabbage, will rise around the sides of the bag, but that’s fine as long as most of the cabbage is secure at the bottom of the crock.

Cover with a cotton dishtowel and let sit at room temperature for anywhere from one week to a few months depending on how strong you like your sauerkraut and how forgetful you are. I generally transfer the sauerkraut to canning jars in the fridge after two to three weeks. (You may need to add water to the canning jars occasionally to continue to keep the sauerkraut submerged as you use it. There’s less danger of the ferment going wrong at this point, but it’s just kind of gross if it gets dried out.)