Saturday, February 27, 2010

Quick Condiments

My neighbor called recently asking , no not for a cup of sugar, for tartar sauce. We don't use it often enough to keep it from going bad and it's so inexpensive to make I just don't buy it. I asked her if she had mayo, pickle relish and onion, if she didn't I could certainly give her any of those. By then she had walked her cordless phone across the street and was ringing the door bell, I just love her! I pointed out that basic tartar sauce was nothing more than these ingredients but she could dress it up with extra stuff to add more flavor or color. Like what? Hot sauce, is my favorite, or finely shredded carrots, chili powder, garlic...I make mine with really good, briny dill pickles instead of relish. She preferred sweet pickle relish. I don't know if I won her over from the ho-hum stuff in the jar, but at least their fish was dressed that night. I'm waiting for her to ask for salad dressing.
There is no right or wrong with this, I use about a half cup of mayo or veganaise (it's healthier) and a couple tablespoons of everything else except the hot sauce, of course, just a few drops.
 Here it is all mixed up. Capers would have been good in it too. This is a good place to hide finely mince peppers or other veggies for the kids (or finicky husbands).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Homemade Kefir and What Does One Do With It?

Homemade Kefir and What To Do With It
I had the best breakfast this morning; a hearty granola with fresh blueberries and kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk product much like yogurt but even healthier because it has even more probiotics. I wasn’t sure I wanted to try it because I tend to have all the modern food phobias; you don’t eat dairy product that have not been refrigerated, right? I remember being at a picnic and rushing around to get all the perishable food back into the cooler when everyone was finished eating only to be told by my husband’s aunt that her granny left everything out why she even left the mayonnaise on the middle of the table with the catsup all the time. I made up my mind I would never eat anything his family brought to gatherings. I haven’t changed my  mind much. But I have reconsidered properly fermented kefir.
You start with kefir grains which look like cottage cheese but are very spongy. In a clean glass jar put the kefir grains and fresh milk, cover with a coffee filter or paper towel and secure with a rubber band. Let set on the counter for 18-24 hours, that’s right.  I restart mine every morning so while I get the cereal out I pour the fresh kefir through a plastic sieve, don’t use any metal because the kefir reacts to metal, then I use the kefir on the cereal, wash the jar, put the kefir grains into the clean jar add some milk and start all over.       
Kefir is not as tart as plain yogurt but you may prefer to sweeten it a bit with honey or stevia if you don’t like tangy flavors.
Don’t limit yourself to milk, you can make kefir with cream too for a healthier version of sour cream or butter. Kefir can be made with whole milk, 2% or skim, I have a friend with a milk cow who makes it with raw milk but I use store bought organic.
Kefir grains can be purchased online just search “kefir grains”, I got mine from a friend so I really can’t recommend anywhere.
If you want to try kefir before buying grains and processing it yourself you can find it at most of the larger grocery stores and most health food stores.
Properly fermented food is healthy and tastes good, for more information on fermented food and other traditional techniques see Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions. One of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long time.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Peet's Coffee--My New Favorite

My friend, Heather, and I share a love for a great cup of coffee. A few months ago she and her family moved to Texas, I miss watching her open the bag of coffee beans and enjoy their aroma before measuring them into the grinder. It is an art, coffee at Heather's home is always about engaging all the senses.

She recently sent a bag of coffee beans for me to enjoy, and enjoy them I did. They were so dark and glossy, the fragrance rich and bold. These photos don't do it justice, they were taken long before sunrise so the lighting was poor but believe me it was most certainly a beautiful morning.
Just before grinding.
The fragrance was incredible.
Steeping in the French press.
 Gather the optional accompaniments.
Almost ready...

 Note the tiny box with the ribbon, it contained the richest truffles I have ever enjoyed, thanks Heather--you're the best!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Making Dinner Ahead

I was supposed to be going to the airport to pick up my daughter and her friend returning from their trip to Texas. I needed dinner ready ahead of time because with school and my neighbor's kids here the day could easily get out of hand.

Leah had gone to visit friends for the sheer pleasure of the fellowship but looking for some warmer weather was a definite premeditated bonus. Who knew that TX would be standing still due to snow. If they were to get snow in this decade surely it would be during her vacation.

This morning after breakfast and getting the neighbor's kids on the bus I put all the ingredients in the crock pot for creamy chicken soup.

2 c. cooked, chopped chicken
1 large onion, chopped
1 4 oz. can mushrooms
1 can cream of celery soup
2 c. chicken broth, a little more or less is fine
1 small bag frozen mixed vegetables
2 tablespoons butter
1 c. milk
1/2 c. sour cream
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Saute the onion and mushrooms in the butter. Pour into the crock pot with the chicken, broth, cream of celery soup, and mixed vegetables. Cook on high for 6 hours.
Just before serving add the milk, sour cream and cheese, stir until combined. Serves 6.
This can be made on the stove top in about an hour.

As it happened there was a mix up at the airport and she couldn't get checked in in time to catch the plane so she is still in TX and we'll try again tomorrow, same time, same airport.