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DIY Junkie – What does your countertop look like? Oh look, a BIRDIE!!!

What does the title of my post mean? I’ve already forgotten. What does it tell you about this post? Uhhhhhh, I’ll get to that???

It has been an eternity since my last post and I would like to apologize the to two people who actually read this blog, but for the life of me I can’t seem to stick to any one thing for very long. Anybody else have this problem? I really just want to try everything, which leaves time for nothing really. Catch my drift?

What I am trying to say is that I am an over the top, balls to the walls, never say die, DIY (do it yourself) J-U-N-K-I-E. You say you like that hat you just saw? Let’s pop on over to the yarn shop and make it happen! Don’t like the chemicals in your lotion? Make that shit yourself! Looking for probiotics? Look no further, we’ll ferment something! In fact, I think I have a little DIY ADD. With that said, I thought I’d share a picture of my countertop with my projects that required staging for tomorrow. With a 4 year old and a newborn, it isn’t all that easy to actually complete a task, which overall, doesn’t help my cause much.

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What you see above are two separate poolish, for tomorrow’s bread baking. The sourdough starter for another poolish tomorrow, two beeswax and chamomile infused grapeseed oil bases and two different liquid bases for lotion making. I am in an experimental phase with the lotion making and am looking to create just the right recipe. Also, there are some essential oils I will use to fragrance those lotions (ylang ylang, geranium, clary sage & lavender). This will all be completed after preschool with my son and before making dairy free clam chowder for dinner (don’t tell my husband that’s not real milk). Then at some point I’ll sleep ūüôā

My New Year’s resolution was to blog more. So here I am blogging about what I am up to. You know, coz I am a narcissist like that. Oh, who am I kidding, I can’t stick to annual resolutions either.

My real resolution this year was to try and be a better mom. I am hoping to remember every day when my patience is running thin and I have to put down my hand blender again, ruining yet another attempt at the perfect emulsion, because somebody got a little poop in their pants while waiting too long to use the toilet, how lucky I am to have such a beautiful life with this beautiful family. Hey, do you think there is a market for lumpy separated lotion with fun names like “Stay at Home Mom Body Balm?” or “Made it During Naptime, Soothing Blend?” Yea, I didn’t think so.

Until next time… Oh look, a BIRDIE!

Fermentaholic – A Look at Fermented Foods

How many ferments are too many? I say, there are never enough!!! If there were a way to ferment this post, I would do it. Currently I have 6 ferments going; water kefir,¬†beet kvass, hard apple cider, two different sourdough starters¬†and Sally Fallon‘s heavenly¬†fermented raisin chutney. I do love me some fermentin’ and at times my kitchen counter looks like one big science experiment. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is fun.¬†Fermenting and fermented foods have been around since humans. Well, technically it was happening before then, but controlled fermenting of foods and beverages didn’t begin until humans got involved. It is arguably the oldest form of food preservation there is.¬†The benefits of fermented foods are widely debated among health practitioners, nutritionists and scientists. The biggest benefit is that it is an easy way to preserve fresh food for later consumption. It certainly was handy before we came up with a little thing called refrigeration.

I began my foray into fermenting at home shortly after joining a CSA. A large box of seasonal/fresh veggies each week for one or two people is a lot to get through and sometimes it requires some method of preservation so things can be eaten at a later time. Also there are veggies that are just kind of meh, and need improved flavor to get me excited about eating them. Sauerkraut it a perfect example of turning cabbage (meh), into enjoyable yumminess. I eat it very regularly and so does my three year old. Incidentally it is the only way I can get the kid to eat cabbage. The great thing about kraut is that the act of fermentation makes the nutrients in cabbage more bio available (fact), and much easier to digest (fact). If you eat cabbage this way, you will never again do the cabbage flatch. This is what I call the intestinal gas often times associated with consuming cabbage. I am¬†embarrassed¬†to add that I also do the dumb dance (the cabbage patch)¬†when I let one rip after eating cabbage. And I wonder why my kid thinks farting is funny…

Let’s do a quick run down on the pros and cons of fermented foods. I will also note where things should be taken on with a fair amount of skepticism. Everyone makes up their own mind about things, and I will leave it up to you to do your due¬†diligence and form your own educated opinion/theory.

First the PROS:

As in Probiotics (meaning pro life) to start with. Many studies have been done on beneficial bacteria in the gut. They promote good digestive health. They improve immune function. They even keep the bad bacteria in check. PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), have released several studies on gut bacterium across many different health related issues, including the reduction in diet related obesity. You should check out their website if interested. Plus it is fun to say… PNAS! PNAS! PNAS!

Fermenting foods also makes nutrients in foods more bio available to you. The act of fermentation breaks down the cellular walls of the food, thus making nutrients available for your body to absorb and use. Chewing food does the same thing, but on a much smaller scale. The macrobiotic diet espouses the benefits of chewing your food¬†thoroughly for the same reason. Adding acids such as lemon juice, or vinegar to vegetable preparation is beneficial in doing the same thing, as well. I love having different options available to me, don’t you?

(put your skeptic hats on) Fermented foods have also been associated with panacean claims such as curing cancer, removing heavy metals from your system (detoxifying), curing autism, curing diabetes and the common cold, as well as many other claims. Folks, there simply isn’t any real data supporting these claims. Integrate these foods into your diet as complimentary to the treatments recommended by your doctor for these conditions.

Now the CONS:

A natural byproduct of fermentation is alcohol. The harmful effects of alcohol on your body are well documented and can be easily found by doing a google search. With that said, the amount of alcohol found in fermented foods is very minimal unless the ferment in question happens to be beer or wine (which both happen to have their own health benefits).

Fermented foods have a high salt content. Many fermented foods use salt to create an inhospitable environment for bad bacteria, such as botulism. This is not across the board for all fermented foods, just the ones that use salt. If you are in a position to watch your salt intake, you should probably avoid ferments that use a heavy amount of salt in the fermentation process.

(put your skeptic hats back on) Raw foodies love to bash fermented foods as being low in nutrition and hard on digestion, despite the fact that there are scientific studies that prove otherwise. Many cruciferous vegetables are just fiber unless an acid is introduced or fermentation has occurred. The body simply can’t break down the cellular structure of these foods to access all of the nutrients inside. While a raw piece of broccoli may have more nutrients in it, they don’t do your body much good if they can’t be accessed though normal digestion. You can’t taste the doughnut if it’s wrapped in plastic, so whats the point in sticking it in your mouth?

There is also concern with harmful bacterias in fermented foods causing health concerns. One needn’t look very far to see higher¬†incidence¬†of this in¬†conventionally¬†grown vegetables, factory farm meats and dairy, and even heavily processed/pasturized foods that line our grocery store shelves

There is a wealth of information out there if you are interested in learning more, just seek it out. Beware of ambiguous references to “Bulgarian studies” and the like. Spend your time collecting facts and data. The once you’re done, sit down with a nice glass of red wine, slap some lacto fermented raisin chutney onto a Raincoast Crisp smeared with goat cheese (another fermented food) and pontificate on how you feel. If you follow this specific recipe, I can assure you, you’ll feel pretty damn good!

Image by Skepclectic Mom

This is my chutney on it’s way to becoming splendid.

Image by Skepclectic Mom

My new bubbly sourdough starter!!! I love her already.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DISCLAIMER: The statements made here have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These statements are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure or prevent any disease. This notice is required by the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

SourdoughN’T – A Baker I Am Not… (How NOT to make sourdough bread)

Image by skepclectic mom

Here is my baby, the sourdough starter.

So I’ve had this sourdough starter hanging out in my fridge for a few weeks. I have been feeding it, keeping it alive, staring at it blankly, shuffling it around so I can fit other things in my fridge, all while mentally preparing for the upcoming challenge… Well today I decided to do something with it and tried my hand at making sourdough bread. After all, I consider myself to be a San Francisco native (close enough anyway), so why wouldn’t I be able to produce the sourdough bread our lovely city is famed for? I pride myself on being a pretty good cook. I’m no Thomas Keller, but I know my way around a kitchen, with one caveat… I can’t bake.

I really CAN’T bake bake for shit. I try, in fact I participate in an annual cookie exchange with some girlfriends every year and have been doing this for roughly 18 years. You would think, I would pick up a trick or two during this time, but no. Year after year, I bake 12 dozen “whatevers,” and enter them into our cute little contest that I never win. Wait I take that back, I did win one year, but only because there was a category for best display. I made these atrocious gingerbread chew things that were barely palatable, but my display was a gingerbread man sitting on a toilet, pooping them out onto an assembly line. Not only was this hilarious, it was proportionate to the quality of cookie you bit into as well. SCORE! Now if only there were a category for most alcohol consumed, I’d win or place in the top three every time!

My first foray into the world of baking my own sourdough bread was no different than my attempts at baking cookies, sadly. I have pulled off yummy dinner rolls here and there, and one decent loaf of rustic italian, but I was really excited about sourdough! Not only does it feed my belly, it feeds my obsession with cultured and fermented foods as well.

If you like to experiment with food as I do, you have come to notice that recipes, especially ones for foods you aren’t that familiar with, can be a bit tricky when it comes to interpretation. For instance, when it says to “stir in just enough flour so that the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl” it might mean to stir in enough flour so it pulls away from the sides of the bowl completely. Another thing that might be misinterpreted is when you are looking for a dough that is “sticky and elastic.” This particular stage of dough making can be quite vast. Add too much flour and you end up with a dense, hockey puck bread. Add too little and you end up with what I made… Freddy Krueger bread. The Freddy Krueger looking top happened because my dough was so sticky that the well oiled plastic wrap it was covered with while it was on its second rise, pulled the entire top layer off of what otherwise would have been a beautifully raised loaf of bread. I felt my spirit deflate right along with that loaf (sigh). I took a deep breath and shoved it into the oven anyway. I am glad I did, because despite the odd appearance of the loaf, it is actually pretty tasty and has a good texture inside. It just goes to show you, you should NEVER JUDGE A BREAD BY ITS CRUST!

I will attempt this recipe again, and post it as soon as I get it right. I will make sure to take pictures of the dough pulling away from the sides of the bowl, as well as the appropriate “sticky and elastic” texture. Here are some pictures, descriptions included… After all, sometimes the most helpful advice is hearing what NOT to do, right? This is not over sourdough!!! We will meet again soon and I will make you my bitch…

Image by skepclectic mom

That big dent in the side is from my having to pry the loaf out of the greased pan with a spatula.

Image by skepclectic mom

This is the Freddy Krueger top of my bread

Image by skepclectic mom

This is a slice of the bread. Doesn’t look too bad on the inside…