I didn’t get a picture of this one, but I wanted to make note of the recipe, both so I can replicate it, and because when I took it to church I got a request to share the recipe.
This is a variation on Easy Berry Cobbler. I used this Pineapple Upside Down Cake recipe to guide my modifications, as well as my previous conversion to use sourdough starter for the topping, so it may not be very recognizable as the same recipe at this point.
One quick note: I actually prefer crushed pineapple for pineapple upside down cake because of the way the sugar, butter and pineapple all meld together. You can, of course, substitute sliced pineapple if you prefer.
Healthiness Rating: Kinda Healthy
It has fruit, because of the sourdough starter the grains are fully fermented, and it calls for unrefined sugar, but it is still a dessert.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy It’s not quite your standard light and fluffy cake but as a cross between cobbler and pineapple upside down cake I think it’s quite good.
Sourdough Pineapple Upside Down Cobbler
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
1 can crushed or sliced pineapple, drained
2 cups sourdough starter (I feed mine with whole wheat pastry flour)
2/3 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the butter in a 9×13 pan and put it in the oven to melt.
Meanwhile, mix the sourdough starter, turbinado sugar, and salt.
Remove the pan of melted butter from the oven. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the butter, then place or spread the pineapple on top of the sugar.
Mix the baking soda into the sourdough batter, just until mixed, then quickly pour the batter over the pineapple.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
I like to make a big batch of nomato paste at one time and freeze most of it for later. This is about half the amount this recipe makes.
As I mentioned in my previous post, my husband tries to avoid tomato products because of heartburn and acid reflux. In most cases we just work around this by using other kinds of sauces (white sauce on pizza, for instance) but sometimes you just want a real tomato substitute–to use in place of tomato paste in flavoring my favorite lentils recipe, or because I’m really in the mood for meatballs in a red sauce.
This particular combination of vegetables does decent job imitating the color and texture of tomato sauce. (Changing the ratio of vegetables may affect the color, changing it to an orangier or purplier red, but this exact ratio isn’t crucial to the general impression of nomato sauce.) Once you add in an acid, it’s close enough in flavor to trick your brain into accepting the substitute.
As written, this recipe makes a very thick nomato sauce which works well as a replacement for tomato paste. If you prefer, add a bit of water to thin it down to a normal sauce consistency.
I prefer lemon juice for the acid, but apple cider vinegar also works reasonably well if you need to substitute for any reason. Since I’m specifically trying to lower the acid compared to tomatoes, I use just enough lemon juice to give the impression of tomatoes. If your reasons for replacing tomatoes are different, you may want to increase the amount of lemon juice to taste. (If you’re using apple cider vinegar, the acidity will be stronger, so start with 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of lemon juice you would use.)
I generally prefer lard for roasting vegetables, but coconut oil, ghee and avocado oil are also good choices. I do not recommend roasting with olive oil as the high temperatures destroy most or all of the health benefits.
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
Being mostly made out of vegetables, I think this qualifies as healthy.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
If you go expecting an exact tomato replica, this will, of course, be disappointing. If you go in with reasonable expectations of something in the neighborhood of tomato flavors, this should be satisfying.
Nomato Paste or Sauce
6 small zucchini (about two pounds)
3 medium onions
9 medium carrots (about two pounds)
3 medium beets
2-3 TBSP fat or oil of choice
1 cup lemon juice
salt to taste
water, if desired
Preheat the oven to 425.
Prepare the vegetables for roasting: slice (and peel, if desired) the zucchini into 2 inch thick rounds, peel and quarter the onions, remove the ends of the carrots and slice into 2-3 inch segments and peel and remove the ends of the beets, then slice them into halves or quarters.
Toss the vegetables in preferred oil and divide between two large baking sheets. Roast at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft enough to puree. (The carrots and beets may still retain some firmness–how soft they need to be exactly will depend on how well your food processor or blender works.) Let cool.
Puree vegetables with lemon juice and salt in a food processor or food mill. (This recipe makes a large batch of nomato sauce or paste and I had to puree it in two separate batches in my food processor.) If desired, thin down with water to your preferred consistency.
If not thinned down this recipe makes about 10 cups of nomato paste. I like to freeze it in quart bags, with 1 1/2 cups of nomato paste in each bag, as that’s roughly equal to 2 cans of tomato paste.
Tonight I had one of my first attempts at making ‘real’ Indian food (previous attempts have basically consisted of throwing a TON of all the Indian style spices I had into a pan of lentils, which turns out surprisingly well, in case you were wondering). I based this lentil dish off of this recipe, and my naan off this recipe for whole wheat naan.
Despite the fact that this was a meatless meal (using fairly inexpensive ingredients) my husband and I both really enjoyed it (!) AND my husband approved the naan despite the fact that it’s whole wheat. Oh, yeah, and it’s all healthy too. Win, win, win.
I should probably warn you that I didn’t measure most of my spices, so the the amounts listed below are estimates…
1 cup split red lentils
water for soaking (optional)
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 diced onion OR 2 TBSP dried minced onion
1 TBSP minced garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
1 6oz can tomato paste
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
salt to taste
1/4 cup butter
2 tsp black cumin seeds (nigella sativa)
1 tsp mustard powder
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp paprika
Soak lentils overnight, if desired. (This improves the digestibility a bit, but isn’t strictly necessary.) Drain soaked lentils.
In a medium sized pot, mix lentils, chicken stock, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 to 40 minutes, or until lentils are completely soft. Add salt to taste.
(I’ll admit I don’t entirely understand how this next bit is supposed to work, but this is what I did in my attempt to mostly follow the recipe I was working from.) Melt butter in a small pot. Meanwhile, measure black cumin seeds into one small bowl, and remaining spices into a second small bowl. Once the butter is beginning to sizzle, dump in the cumin seeds all at once and quickly put the lid on to avoid being spattered. (Mine didn’t really spatter. Perhaps I didn’t heat the butter as hot as I was supposed to.) Remove the lid, add the remaining spices, and let them sizzle and bubble for about 30 seconds without letting them burn.
Mix the butter/spice mixture into the lentils and serve, preferably in a large bowl, scooping it into your mouth with warm whole wheat naan bread.
Whole Wheat Naan
3 cups whole wheat flour (I used red hard wheat aka whole wheat bread flour)
1 tsp honey
1 tsp coconut oil
1 cup sour milk or thin yogurt
1/2 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
dash of ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
coconut oil or ghee (for frying)
melted ghee or butter (for brushing)
Mix first four ingredients and allow to soak overnight. (If using a different type of whole wheat, such as white wheat, you’ll need less liquid, maybe about 3/4 cup.)
Mix yeast and ginger with warm water and let sit until foamy.
Sprinkle baking soda, cream of tartar and salt across top of soaked wheat mixture, and mix it in a bit. (Mine was so crumbly that I just crumbled it around a little with my fingers so everything was distributed. If your mixture is more dough like, giving it a few fold-and-press kneads would probably work better.)
Pour in foamy yeast mixture and mix or knead until all ingredients are incorporated together. Knead for a few minutes, until the dough is beginning to feel firm and dough like. (If I’d been doing this in my mixer I probably would have kneaded it a lot longer, until it was closer to passing a windowpane test, but I get tired of hand kneading whole wheat dough.)
Let rise for about 2 hours.
Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a circle about as big as your skillet.
Heat a small amount of ghee or coconut oil in a skillet, just about enough to cover the bottom of the skillet well, but not quite enough to pool. The original recipe says medium-high heat, though I found that medium on my stove got the skillet plenty hot enough–hot enough that the skillet started smoking if it was empty for more than a few seconds, but not hot enough burn the naan.
Put one circle of dough in the skillet, cover with the lid and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Flip over the bread, replace the lid, and cook for another minute.
Brush with melted ghee or butter while still warm, and serve promptly.
Today I did a bit of experimenting to make bread using the white+wheat germ flour I get from Azure Standard. I like the idea of using this flour for quicker batches of bread that don’t require overnight soaking (because the wheat bran is removed there’s no phytic acid to be concerned about), but still has more nutrition than standard white flour. This flour works very well in my version of 30 minute rolls, but I don’t have a good go-to bread recipe using the white+wheat germ flour. Just substituting it for white flour sometimes makes a heavy ‘off’ tasting product.
I used this recipe as a base for my experiments. My version is below, and it turned out quite well. The texture was much closer to a good homemade white flour bread than I was expecting it to be, though unsurprisingly it was a bit denser (not in a bad way, in my opinion). The graham flavor from the wheat germ did also come through a little, but overall, it was an enjoyable bread for both me and my husband, and I hope to continue tweaking it in the future to make it even better. Ideally I’d actually like to eliminate the whole wheat flour and cornmeal from the recipe as well, so as to completely work around phytic acid concerns.
White Plus Wheat Germ Flour Bread
1 TBSP yeast
2 cups warm water
2 TBSP molasses
1 TBSP turbinado sugar
1/4 tsp ginger powder
4 3/4 cups white+wheat germ flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (hard red wheat)
1 TBSP cornmeal
2 tsp salt
2 TBSP coconut oil, melted
Mix first five ingredients and set aside until foamy. Mix next four ingredients in a stand mixer bowl. Add foamy yeast mixture and coconut oil.
Knead until dough passes window pane test. (Mine never quite got there, even after about twenty minutes of kneading, so I just went until I could stretch it out almost to the windowpane thinness before it tore, and called that good enough.)
Grease bowl and let dough rise until doubled, about an hour. Punch down, divide into two loaves and let rise until doubled again, for about 30 minutes. Bake for 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees.
As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, St Patrick’s Day is a holiday we really enjoy celebrating at our house, for both culinary and historical reasons.
Our typical main course for a St Patrick’s Day dinner is corned beef. This is one of those areas of compromise between health and budget: the best option would be to get a high quality beef brisket and brine it myself to avoid all chemical additions to the meat. Instead I buy inexpensive corned beef on sale, throw away the spice packet and use my own blend of spices, so that I at least avoid any msg or other mystery ingredients in the spices.
In case you’re wondering, the rest of our St Patricks Day menu typically looks something like this:
Irish Soda Bread (my husband prefers a sweeter version, technically closer to Spotted Dog Bread than traditional plain Irish soda bread) with butter
Sometimes we may also add an Irish cheese such as Dubliner which is made by Kerrygold (I’ve seen this particular cheese both at Aldi and Costco) or homemade Irish Cream. (Because it’s already a hearty meal, if we do get an Irish cheese, we’re more likely to it as an appetizer or an evening snack than part of the meal. The Irish Cream is also more of an after dinner drink.)
Today I’m sharing my recipe for the spice mix I add to my corned beef brisket. This is my own interpretation of a pickling spice blend, which is basically what the mysterious spice packet included in the corned beef package is supposed to be.
I’ve found it to be a pretty forgiving recipe. In fact, until I was getting ready to write this post, I’d never measured the spices, I just used a heavy sprinkling of some spices and a lighter sprinkling of others. You should be able to pretty easily adjust this recipe to taste and based on what ingredients you have on hand.
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
As with a lot of my recipes, your healthiness results will vary based on the quality of the ingredients you use, in this case most notably the quality of meat. However, this spice blend is on its own merits good for you, and allows you to replace a prepackaged spice packet with mystery ingredients that might include MSG. It seems to me that should merit a healthy rating.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
It’s been so long since I’ve had corned beef fixed with the included spice packet that I’m not going to try to make any claims this spice mix tastes the same. What I can say is that this spice mix makes the corned beef taste very good and very savory, and based on the results I have no reason to wish for a spice packet or any other spice options.
Spice Mix for Corned Beef Brisket
3-4 pound corned beef brisket
1 TBSP mustard powder
1 TBSP black pepper
1 tsp dill seed
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp clove
Sprinkle spices on corned beef and cook according to favorite method. This is how I like to do it:
Chop 1/2 a head of cabbage and 2-3 pounds of potatoes and put them in the bottom of a crock pot. (If you’d like, give the potatoes a light sprinkle of salt, but be careful because the corned beef is going to add a LOT of salt to the dish.)
Remove corned beef from packaging, discarding the spice packet and juices. (If you like you can rinse the corned beef as well.) Put the corned beef brisket on top of the potatoes and cabbage, sprinkle with the spices, and cook on high for 4-7 hours or on low for 7-10 hours. (Corned beef is best with a long, slow, moist cooking time in order to tenderize well.)
I have already posted a general recipe for using water kefir grains to turn sugar and water into a carbonated probiotic beverage, and today I’m posting a more detailed recipe for my favorite flavor of water kefir: ginger ale.
This post has been delayed because my water kefir grains suffered some neglect recently while I was recovering from surgery and I wasn’t sure for a while that they were going to survive. They’re still not going quite as strong as they were before that, but they are fermenting and carbonating just fine, simply a little slower. Because of that, (and possibly also affected by the warmer spring weather) I still haven’t gotten my timetable down for maximum carbonation. Because of the health of the grains and the temperature and possibly other smaller factors can affect the exact speed of fermentation, it will probably take you a bit of experimentation to achieve maximum carbonation anyway.
Here are the carbonation tips I do have:
*Cap the jar tightly on the second fermentation to trap all the carbonation gases inside.
*Make sure you don’t ferment too long, as the carbonation with start to dissipate after it peaks. (I think this is my current problem, as my water kefir is getting fizzy in its original ferment, but is flat by the time we drink it.)
*On this last batch, instead of doing a true second fermentation, I put the jar of ginger and water kefir in the refrigerator to ‘steep’. The carbonation seemed to improve slightly, so I may incorporate this strategy into my further experiments on timing for peak carbonation.
In this recipe I assume that you have already followed the steps in my basic water kefir tutorial, and have a jar or pitcher of fermented water kefir that’s ready for flavoring and a second fermentation. Note that my original tutorial makes a half gallon of water kefir, while this recipe is for flavoring a quart. This allows you to split your water kefir for different flavorings if you’d like, but you can also simply double the flavoring recipe to make a half gallon of ginger ale.
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
The water kefir already contains some excellent strains of probiotics, and adding fresh ginger supercharges its good effect on the digestion. I find this fermented ginger ale to be mildly energy boosting, easy on an upset stomach and overall a very good and gentle digestive tonic.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
My husband prefers this drink with a slightly shorter original fermentation time so it’s sweeter, while I prefer it with a moderate length fermentation so it has a bit stronger flavor, but we both enjoy it both ways. My husband thinks ‘ginger beer’ conveys the sense of the flavor better than ‘ginger ale’, but either way, this recipe is husband approved.
(A note on flavor: if the water kefir is over fermented it can develop an overly sharp, funky/musty flavor. My husband says it smells like vomit at this stage. If your water kefir isn’t going over well with your family, try experimenting with a slightly shorter fermentation time and see if that helps.)
optional: 1 tsp cinnamon chips (pieces of cinnamon stick NOT baking chips)
Grate the fresh ginger into the water kefir. (I like to use a grater similar to this.) Half a teaspon will give you a mild and mellow ginger ale, while a full teaspoon will give you just a bit of sharpness to the ginger flavor, more link a typical ginger tea. If you like a very spicy, intense ginger ale flavor (along the lines of Blenheim), you could reasonably increase the ginger to 2 tsp or more. Experiment a bit and see what level of ginger flavor you prefer in your ginger ale.
The flavor with just fresh ginger is quite good, but sometimes I like to add about a teaspoon of cinnamon chips to add some depth and balance to the flavor, depending on whether I’m in the mood for the simple sharpness of plain ginger, or the more rounded complex flavor of ginger with cinnamon.
Cap the jar tightly and let sit on the counter for 1-2 days. Strain out the ginger (this mesh strainer is very handy for this sort of job) and drink immediately or refrigerate. (I often just refrigerate the whole jar with the ginger still in it and strain out the ginger as I pour it into my glass when I drink it.)
This is a bit different from a lot of my recipe posts so far. I didn’t video myself making it and I barely even got a picture of it (we won’t talk about whether I managed to get an appetizing picture of it at all…). Think of this as a chance to peek into my recipe box and read my notes on how I changed the recipe to use what I had on hand because it turned out so well that I didn’t want to forget what I did.
We really enjoyed this casserole, and especially since I used sourdough bread, organic raw milk and organic cornstarch, the wholesomeness and nutrition levels were very high for such a ‘comfort food’ kind of dish. I always consider it a big win when I use all healthy ingredients in a dish AND my husband loves it.
I worked from this savory bread pudding recipe as a base, but after browsing a couple of other recipes (and looking in the fridge) I knew I also wanted to add parmesan, mushrooms and peppers.
I made this to use up one of my early loaves of sourdough bread that was bit too sour and dense. I think it would be a good way to use up any kind of bread that’s going stale or didn’t turn out quite right. (I left the crusts on mine and they softened up just fine in the milk mixture.)
The original recipe calls for putting the whole casserole into a 9×13 pan, but because I’m cooking for only two people I split the recipe between two 8×8 pans and put one in the freezer. That made my cooking time just a smidge shorter, but I think either way probably works just as well.
I skimped a bit on the cheddar cheese compared to the original recipe, which isn’t my normal strategy when it comes to cheese (it’s nearly impossible to get my husband or I to say that something has too much cheese), but we were getting a bit low on cheese, so I wanted to make sure I reserved enough to not run out before my next grocery trip. It still turned out to have a very good balance of cheese–the cheese isn’t the star of this dish, but adds a lot to the texture and flavor as a background ingredient.
1 loaf of bread, cubed (about 4 cups of bread cubes?)
1/4 cup diced sweet peppers (I used about 4 of the larger mini peppers)
3 cups milk
2 TBSP cornstarch
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 3/4-2 cups cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste (in a rare turn of events, I thought this was fine without any extra salt, because I put plenty of salt in the fake sausage)
Preheat oven to 350 and grease pan or pans.
Cook fake sausage in a skillet. Transfer to casserole pan(s) and mix with bread cubes.
Melt butter in skillet and sautee vegetables. While vegetables are cooking, whisk cornstarch into 1/2 cup of milk, then mix with remaining milk.
Add vegetables and cheeses to meat and bread cubes, mix, pour milk mixture over the whole thing. Let sit for a few minutes so bread can absorb the moisture, then mix again so all the bread is moistened. (The original recipe said to let it sit in the fridge for at a few hours, but mine only sat for about ten minutes on the counter.)
Just look at that cheesy gooeyness. Or is it gooey cheesiness?
Imagine this scenario: You’re invited to a party at the last minute and you’re supposed to bring a finger food to share. You suspect that everyone else will bring some kind of dessert, which fine and all, but you kind of get cranky if you don’t get some kind of protein for supper. The problem is finding a high protein food you have on hand that everyone else will consider acceptable party food.
This nacho cheese sauce is mostly made out of cheese (along with a few other real food ingredients), but with that creamy processed food texture that will satisfy all your normal friends that it belongs at a party. In fact, if you could get your hands on an old Cheez Whiz jar, they’d probably never suspect the contents were homemade. (Just make sure you serve it warm–the homemade nacho cheese sauce thickens considerably when cold.)
Other good reasons to make this nacho cheese sauce include needing to make lunch in less than fifteen minutes, needing a midnight snack, having cheese and tortilla chips in the house, or having cheese and spoon in the house.
If you really want to replicate a processed food flavor, I recommend making this recipe using mild cheddar cheese and a few dashes of hot sauce. The sky’s the limit for flavor combinations though, if you want more of a gourmet and personalized cheese sauce. Mozzarella and green hot sauce? Extra sharp cheddar and lots of cayenne? Monterey Jack and a spoonful of chili powder? Okay, now I’m getting hungry…
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
As always, the quality of the ingredients you use determines exactly how healthy your end product is (for example, I always try to use organic cornstarch to avoid GMOs), but in any case you’re replacing a processed food that’s full of chemicals with a homemade sauce made from real foods, so it’s a vast improvement regardless.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
Oh, so yummy! As you might imagine, this nacho cheese sauce is very much a husband approved recipe. (My husband has been known to mix it with salsa on occasion for a different twist.)
Nacho Cheese Sauce
inspired by this recipe from How to Cook Like Your Grandmother
1 1/2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP cornstarch
1/2 cup milk
1 ounce cream cheese
1 heaping cup of cheddar cheese (or cheese of choice)
dash of cayenne and/or dash of hot sauce
Melt the butter over a medium heat. Break (or cut) the cream cheese into three or four pieces so it melts into the sauce more easily when you add it. (But don’t add it yet.)
Turn down the heat to medium low (if you’re more patient than I am you can just start with the heat at medium low). Whisk the cornstarch and milk into the melted butter.
Add the cream cheese and whisk until it’s fully melted in.
Add the cheddar cheese (or whatever kind of cheese you prefer) and whisk (or stir) it in until it’s completely melted and evenly blended into the sauce.
Mix in cayenne, hot sauce, or whatever seasonings you prefer.
Serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers.
(The refrigerated nacho sauce will develop a texture not unlike a loaf of american cheese, so if you like you can pour the leftovers into a small loaf pan and experiment with this use of the sauce.)
The pitcher in the back is sugar-water-molasses ready to be fermented by the water kefir grains. The jar in the front is vanilla flavored water kefir that’s ready to drink. The color contrast between start and finish is not always this drastic, but it is usually noticeable.
I’ve tried a variety of ferments. I’ve fermented all kinds of vegetables (the only one that has become a staple is ketchup), made kombucha (currently in hibernation), made milk kefir (which worked well for flavor, but was hard to consistently have fresh milk for at the right times, and my grains eventually died) and made tepache (which requires have fresh pineapple around, so it’s a fun occasional drink, not a staple).
I’ve only make making water kefir for about a month now, and I’m still working on how to achieve maximum carbonation in the finished product, but I have my routine down, and I’m thinking water kefir could be a new staple around here.
The real fun of water kefir is that it can easily be used to make homemade sodas ranging from any fruit flavor to ginger ale and root beer to herbal teas to whatever crazy flavor combination you want to try. However, unlike kombucha which quickly gets a strong tart flavor as it ferments, plain water kefir was a pleasantly mild flavor with just a bit of tart and sweet. While not particularly interesting, it is very drinkable on it’s own.
Both kombucha and water kefir seem to give me a similar energy boost when I drink them and I’ve been drinking quite a bit of water kefir, especially as I’ve realized that with its quick fermentation time, I don’t have to hoard it for ‘if I need it later’.
My favorite flavor of water kefir so far has been made by grating fresh ginger into the water kefir after its first fermentation. I’ll do some individual posts with more detailed water kefir soda recipes, but in the meant time, after straining out the water kefir grains you can try flavoring your soda with fresh ginger, or mix your water kefir half and half with any flavor of juice or tea (sweetened or unsweetened) before doing a second fermentation. (My husband really liked the water kefir I flavored with sweetened peppermint tea.)
Healthiness Rating: Healthy
The only possible health concern here is the sugar, and since water kefir takes a relatively small amount of sugar, most of which is consumed by the grains themselves AND does best on unrefined sugars such as turbinado, I don’t see that being a barrier to a healthy rating.
Water kefir also contains a wide variety of beneficial yeasts and bacteria, which most of us could use a lot more of in our diets.
Yumminess Rating: Yummy
Sure, you can mess this up if you try a flavoring that really doesn’t work right. (I’m going to give you a heads up that while I’ve never tried it with water kefir, I’ve had a bad experience trying to make celery soda.) But the basic flavor of water kefir is good, and gets even better with judicious flavorings.
1/2 cup water kefir grains
1/2 cup turbinado sugar or evaporated cane juice
1-2 tsp molasses (optional)
1 cup hot water
7 cups cold water
flavorings of choice
Let us assume that you are starting with a jar or baggie of water kefir grains. If they are active grains, such a might be given to you by a friend, you’re ready to go. If they’re dehydrated grains, such as might be ordered online, you’ll need to follow the instructions for rehydration first.
Once your grains are ready to go, you’ll need a container suitable for fermentation. I’ve been using these pitchers, which are a bit on the expensive side, but they’re really just the best for every kind of pouring, storing or fermenting. You could also use a two quart canning jar, or do half a batch in a regular quart jar.
Put the sugar and molasses (if using) into the bottom of your fermenting container. If using turbinado sugar the molasses is unnecessary, but more refined sugars need a little boost from the molasses to keep the water kefir grains healthy.
Pour about a cup of hot water over the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. (There’s no need to measure this exactly–estimating is fine.) Add cold water until the fermentation container is almost full.
You’ll want to use filtered water for this, because water kefir grains are sensitive to chlorine.
The water should now be about room temperature, but if it’s still hot, you’ll need to wait for it too cool down before adding the kefir grains.
Add the water kefir grains to the sugar water mixture. Loosely cap the container, or cover it with cheesecloth or a clean dishtowel and let it sit out and ferment for about two days. (I’m finding that two days may be too long, as the kefir tends to ferment past the time of peak carbonation after two days of primary ferment and two days of secondary ferment. Experiment a bit to see how long works best for you.)
The color of your liquid will often be lighter after fermentation as the kefir grains have digested many of the nutrients in the molasses and given you happy probiotics in exchange.
Strain the liquid into a new container (another pitcher or jar or two quart jars). I generally use a nylon mesh strainer, but from what I’ve read, a stainless steel strainer is unlikely to harm the grains, despite some anti metal hype in connection with water kefir grains.
I like to leave my water kefir grains sitting in the strainer while I begin the process of making sugar water again in the first jar. I don’t wash the jar every time, as I figure it’s just growing more of the same good bacteria, but I do rinse it with hot water after every few uses or if it starts to look or smell like it needs to be washed. If you feel the need you can wash it or use a new jar for every batch.
The finished water kefir can now be flavored as desired, tightly capped and left out for a secondary ferment for 1-2 days. At this point strain out anything you don’t want left in (such as tea leaves or grated ginger) and transfer it to the refrigerator.
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?