Posts Tagged ‘Food


Home Brew: Kombucha!

Here’s the thing: I hate tea. I have always said it tastes like leaves in water. Of course, being a crunchy mama, that just can’t be right? I’m supposed to LIKE tea. I didn’t even consider trying tea straight up until my midwife recommended a blend of peppermint and pregnancy tea to help with indigestion during my last pregnancy. Turns out I LOVE peppermint tea. I love it so very much I’ve been known to call it the “gateway tea”. I now drink some tea.

Kombucha is tea, right? It took me a long time to try the stuff, because, you know, I hate tea. I only took a sip based on two facts: it’s really good for you, and it comes in flavors. I figured that flavored tea chock full of probiotics, folic acid and B vitamins was worth forcing down. Commercially available kombucha turned out to be yummy. To me. Hubby still thinks it smells like stinky feet and refuses to try it. It also happens that kombucha doesn’t taste like tea much at all.

I’d had the pleasure of trying home brewed kombucha from a friend a few times, but I hadn’t taken the leap and tried brewing the stuff because it seemed like a lot of trouble to go to just for me. Eventually, I realized that the boys would probably drink home brewed since it isn’t as fizzy (it’s the bubbly part they don’t like), and I just might be able to brew a flavor Hubby would tolerate. Plus, home brewing the stuff is a significantly cheaper way to get the needed nutrition, and I hear it has a much larger quantity and variety of probiotic goodness.

A few months ago my friend who brews came to visit with a backpack full of goodness to share. We popped open a bottle of strawberry lemon kombucha she’d brewed and sipped away while she taught me the basics of brewing at home. It’s really quite simple; you make a cool a specific batch of sweetened tea, cool it to room temperature, and add starter kombucha and culture. She left me with two scobies (aka mushrooms, the culture that grows while you are brewing) and 2 cups or so of starter tea. In grand busy mama fashion I popped the jars in the pantry and got distracted by the start of school, home schooling, and life in general. You know, the 3 or 4 loads of laundry every day, the dishes, the garden, the squabbles, and the general living that prevents you from trying something new just got in the way.

A few weeks ago I decided it was just time; we needed the nutrition in our bodies. I brewed a batch of tea according to the instructions my friend had emailed me; then I waited for it to cool and added the cultures and tea she’d left. A week later we tried it, and we bottled some strawberry and two different ways to make ginger. Slowly, everyone is learning to drink it except Hubby. As expected, he will tolerate the ginger varieties, but I haven’t quite convinced him he needs the probiotics enough to eek down something he doesn’t love. (I predict he will get there, and when he does, the kombucha will be here.) The rest of us are enjoying it, and I am hoping it helps prevent some of what ails us. I’ll keep you posted. For now, batch number 3 is fermenting in the cabinet as I type.

As it turns out, I do like *some* tea!


Baked Masa Bowls

I set out to make tamales one day last week, but a trip to a local grocery where I’d seen corn husks before left me empty handed. Short on time and with a toddler in tow, I decided not to drive to a farther store just to get husks, but dinner still had to be made. I had a brainstorm that surely I could make masa bowls in a muffin tin, so I looked it up. Sure enough, masa bowls are an actual thing, but they are usually fried. I made a baked version, and I am absolutely certain that there are hundreds of things you can put in these gluten free edible bowls. If you would put it in a taco, it will probably be yummy in one of these. We had homemade carnitas in the fridge, so I whipped up some guacamole, grated some cheese (for those of us who can have it), and added some baby spinach.

Baked Masa Bowls

  • Cooking spray or oil
  • 2 cups masa
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 t sea salt

Mix the masa and salt together, stir in 1 1/4 cups of water until thoroughly combined. Be certain you have a mixture just moist enough to hold together. Divide the mixture into 12 balls, and press each ball into the bottom and up the sides of a sprayed or oiled, full size muffin cup. After all muffin cups are filled and pressed, spray the ready to bake masa cups with more cooking spray or brush lightly and gently with oil. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes until set. You will want these to cool about an hour before you try to serve them, so bake them early, then pull them out of the oven and drape them with a dishtowel to keep them moist while they cool.

Our boys haven’t been too keen on corn tortillas, but they LOVED getting to eat their bowls. We will definitely be having these again. After we have tamales, of course, since I did buy husks today!


The Edible Ice Pop Stick

Honestly, this was not *completely* my idea. We popped some ice pops into the freezer one afternoon, and one of the boys announces that we should use sticks you can eat. An idea flashes through my mind instantly, but I don’t bother to share it, saving it instead as a surprise for them.

I immediately think that a pretzel rod would make a great edible stick, and start mentally searching for flaws with the plan. I decide that it would get soggy in the blended liquid before things solidify in the freezer, and settle on a thin coat of chocolate.

This was super simple; just melt some chocolate, add a bit of oil, and dip the pretzels leaving just enough room for a handle. Let these set up in the fridge or freezer while you mix up your ice pop of choice. We went with straight up strawberry here, but I keep dreaming of these with pineapple or cinnamon honey coconut. Pour your mix into cup and freeze for a few minutes, adding the pretzel sticks after they’ve set up just enough to hold the stick up straight. Finish freezing and enjoy!

These were met with oooo’s, ahh’s and exclamations of “You can eat the stick!!!!” around here. We all agreed that the very best bites are the ones where you get ice pop, chocolate and pretzel all at the same time.


Freeing ourselves…

I updated this post to fix a few important errors on August 7, 2012. Please not that the “coconut butter” listed in the cashew butter coconut sorbet was changed to coconut milk, and the corn breading recipe changed from 1 cup to a 1/2 cup of water. I’m really hoping this didn’t cause a problem for anyone before it was fixed.

…of gluten, that is.

We decided to ditch gluten a while back to see if it would help clear up some health issues troubling some of our troops. I’m happy to report that living without gluten is not as hard as it may seem, and that it has helped us some as well. While it’s not always difficult to eat gluten free, it has it’s challenges. In an effort to get a better grasp of getting all the gluten out of all our diets, I decided to join a small group of people I know online in a 5 day challenge. I also turned up the pressure a bit for myself and tried to cut out refined sugar as well; I’ve done this before, so it should have been a pretty easy task. Uh, yeah, not so much. I’m still working on it. In the mean time, here’s a few recipes, adaptations and meal ideas for those of you who are eating gluten free.

Cashew Butter Coconut Sorbet

  • 1 can coconut milk, slightly warmed
  • 1/4 cashew butter (or your favorite nut butter)
  • 1/4 honey
  • pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients in a blender until just combined and freeze according to the directions for your ice cream freezer. We ate this topped with a small handful of chocolate chunks. The recipe is small, making only 3 or 4 small servings; double it for larger parties or left overs.

Carrot Muffin Adaptation

You’ll find my carrot muffin recipe here. This adaptation will mix and bake just like the original; there are just a few simple changes in the ingredients. You’ll need to substitute 1 1/4 cups of corn flour for the whole wheat flour, double the crushed pineapple from 8 ounces drained to 16 ounces drained, and add an egg for a total of 3 eggs.

Frozen Chocolate Covered Bananas

  • 4 bananas
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 coconut oil
  • crushed nuts, GF pretzels or other crushed or small toppers (optional, of course)

Peel and slice each banana in half; push a popsicle stick into the cut end and place on a sheet tray that will fit in your freezer. Freeze these until frozen through; best done a few hours or more before you’d like to serve them. When you are about ready to serve them, melt chocolate and coconut oil together and pour into a tall glass or my favorite, a 2 cup pyrex measuring cup. Work with one banana at a time; dip it in the melted chocolate, tipping the container to be certain you get chocolate all the way up the side. Then roll it in the topping and let sit until the chocolate is firm before serving. (Obviously, this recipe isn’t refined sugar free. It’s a treat around here, but a great one for the end of a HOT summer day!)

If that’s not enough snacks and treats for you, check out my last post for a chocolate coconut sorbet recipe that you can make into hot cocoa this winter. Or you can try a GF version of our homemade granola bars by using GF oats and substituting your favorite GF flour blend or grinding 2/3 of a cup of GF oats for the whole wheat flour.

Snacks are where we struggle most around here. That may not be true for you and yours, and you may be struggling more with meal ideas. There are simple ways to eat around breads and pastas if you are willing to think “outside the bun” and be a little creative. Some things we have tried and love:

  • corn tortillas – we love to eat tacos and fajitas at our house. I make our corn tortillas using masa we buy at the store, a tortilla press and the directions on the package of masa. If you don’t have a press, I recommend buying one for these; they just don’t hand roll well at all.
  • Salads. If you are grain free, put your taco filling or fajitas on a bed of greens, top with salsa and sliced avocado or guacamole. Or turn your sandwich into a salad by putting what you’d normally put between bread on greens instead.
  • GF pasta is available in many varieties. We like the quinoa pastas the best, but if you are going grain free altogether, try putting your favorite pasta sauce over roasted eggplant. Quarter smaller eggplants and slice larger ones into 1/2 inch discs, toss with a generous amount of olive oil, season with sea salt and bake at 350 for 45 minutes to an hour until the eggplant is soft all the way through.
  • Wrap your sandwich in lettuce instead of bread. You can even order sandwiches this way at some restaurants.
  • Don’t discount just eating things bun-less. We’ve eaten burgers topped with homemade GF onion rings, grated cheese (for those of us who can have it) and BBQ sauce with a side of sweet potato oven fries.
  • Fry things up anyway, just use corn flour. I’ve breaded everything from onions to chicken in corn flour. We’ve made our chicken fried chicken just the same as we always have directly subbing corn flour. Our onion rings go in a batter of 1 cup corn flour, salt to taste, seasoning of choice, and 1 egg mixed into 1/2 cup water. Stir to combine, dip onions and fry. I am certain this would work for other veggies; I’ve done zucchini this way as well.
  • Put things on baked potatoes. We love to take left over pulled pork, shredded beef, or other things that might go on a bun and put them on simple baked potatoes.
  • Make soup. I’ve made everything from a southwestern black bean and kale soup with purple rice in it to a roasted tomato bruchetta with cilantro. Honestly, if you have an idea for soup, try doing an online search, you will likely find a recipe. I’ll post soup recipes later.

Hopefully this is enough to keep those of you in need of ideas going a little while longer while you change your habits. Happy eating!


Book Review: The Organic Family Cookbook by Anni Daulter

I would like to preface this post by telling you that I was asked by the author to review this book when I volunteered to review her next book Naturally Fun Parties for Kids. You’ll read my review of that book in a couple of weeks. I was thrilled to get this book, The Organic Family Cookbook, in the mail and write a review as I hadn’t heard of it. I’m certain many of you haven’t either.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I am by all definitions of the word a “foodie”. I love to cook, eat, bake and shop for food. I’ll try anything once, and I am constantly experimenting in the kitchen, the best of which you guys get to read about here. Here’s the thing about Anni Daulter’s The Organic Family Cookbook: it’s chock full of new ideas. There are so very many of them, I had trouble choosing things for us to try. It’s taken me longer than I would have liked to get this post ready simply because each weekly trip to the store is another opportunity to try more of Anni’s ideas; meaning that waiting just a bit longer means I have more to tell you about it.

The book is beautiful; the photos, by Alexandria DeFurio, are gorgeous, and the sections are organized to walk you through a day of eating. Anni presents ideas for breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners, sides, desserts, and extras. Most of you also know that health and nutrition are big in our home, and Anni delivers here as well. The recipes are generally very healthy, and even the sweeteners used tend to be on the healthier side. Anni does seem to use agave nectar a lot, which I am not a big fan of for many reasons; it is, however, easy enough to substitute honey or maple syrup, and Anni usually notes this.

As far as the recipes themselves, we have loved most everything we’ve tried. So far, and there are many more in the works, we’ve tested out:

  • Natural Cran-Strawberry Red Roll-ups – I liked these, but they are a bit tart. The boys and hubby were not fans, but the texture was great and the flavor was perfect for those of us who like things that pucker you up a bit. Of course, a bit more sweetener would also diminish the pucker factor here.


  • Cantaloupe and Arugula Salad with Crispy Prosciutto and Spicy Orange VinaigretteĀ  – I LOVED this salad. It’s the perfect combination of salty, spicy and sweet. I couldn’t stop eating it, and I put the Spicy Orange Vinaigrette dressing on another salad I made with sauteed pineapple over baby arugula with astounding results. If cantaloupe isn’t your thing, make the dressing anyway; it’s delish!
  • Zoe’s Favorite Baked Parmesan-Crusted Artichokes – I have to confess that I ended up altering this recipe quite a bit; I can’t have dairy right now, so I had to skip both the butter and the cheese. I used olive oil instead. Hubby doesn’t like the smell of vinegar, so I skipped that as well. Without it, however, I found that the artichokes didn’t bake as quickly or evenly. I ended up baking the second trial batch for nearly twice as long with a bit of water in the bottom of the pan; they ended up being wonderful. I will have to make them at lunch one afternoon when Hubby isn’t here to be bothered by the smell of baking balsamic.
  • Anni’s Favorite Roasted Tomatoes – This recipe is amazing. It is deceptively simply, with only 4 (5 if you count salt and pepper separately) ingredients, and I cannot stop making them. I’ve added them to standard family dinners, and I even start them at mid-morning to have them warm to dress up left overs for lunch. Honestly, roasted tomatoes are now a staple around here!

In addition to these recipes, we also tried red quinoa as a side with dinner. While I loved it, and ate the left overs topped with roasted tomatoes for lunches, hubby just liked it and the boys weren’t big on trying it. I plan on feeding them a lighter shade in the future; maybe if it looks more like rice they’ll give it more of a chance. The baby, of course, gave it a hearty try, but he found it way more fun to smear it on the table than to actually consume it! When we do try quinoa again, I plan on trying both the warm berry quinoa for breakfast and the simple quinoa with peas and corn; berry season is just getting under way here and sweet corn season will follow.

Recipes we can’t wait to try, in addition to those two, include:

  • Pumpkin Pancakes
  • Super Green Crispy Kale (which is not like all the other crispy kale recipes I have seen!)
  • A spinach-pineapple-banana version of the fruit roll ups
  • Roasted Tomato Garden Tacos (I bought tomatoes for this today! Yay!)
  • Super Crunch Apple Cranberry Tuna Wrap
  • Grilled Lemon Caper Halibut
  • Vine-Roasted Tomato Soup
  • BBQ Chicken (I really want to try this sauce recipe!)
  • Asparagus with Tamari and Almond Slices
  • Luscious Garlic Beet Chips
  • Fall Pumpkin Spiced Cookies
  • Red Velvet Carrot Cupcakes
  • Dana’s Raw Vegan Apple Pie

And that’s just SOME of what I still want to try. This volume, while still under 200 pages, just has THAT many ideas in it.

Anni’s also packs in a lot of fun ideas for green family living in the margins. They include ways to grow food as a family, impact the environment in your kitchen, and cook with your kids. The ideas range from heading out to pick at a farm to baking for charity and supporting local agriculture. I love how Anni presents and embraces the true and complete impact of an organic family kitchen.