Homebrewed Water Kefir

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Thanks to Katie, a fellow apprentice here at Whole Circle, I am now in love with another homebrew drink that is so easy to make, as long as you have kefir culture (pictured above).

Why water kefir?

Aside from it being easy and delicious!… it is packed with some great nutritional benefits. This bubbly beverage is especially handy to have around when you crave effervescence but do not want the associated processed sugars and other junk from sodas. And let’s face it, sometimes it is nice to hydrate with something other than water.

During the fermentation process, the kefir produces probiotics, which are important “good” bacteria for our digestive system. The probiotic benefits of water kefir are vegan friendly – so for all the vegans out there this is a great way to drink up probiotics! Water kefir has also been noted to be a great source for vitamin B12, as well as a good source for B1 & B6.

Water Kefir

1 cup raw sugar
1 cup water kefir grains
1 lemon – organic, unpeeled & cut in half
4 figs or ~ 1/4 cup of unsulphured dried fruit of your choice
water

Place ingredients into a gallon glass jar, fill jar with water and cover with a breathable cloth/cheesecloth. Secure with rubber band & let sit to ferment for 72 hours at room temperature. After three days, remove cloth and strain. Discard figs, save kefir grains in some liquid for next batch (or immediately make another since you’ll quickly become addicted) and squeeze juice of lemons into your water kefir. Option to also add ~1/2 cup of your favorite fruit juice after kefir has been strained. Store in refrigerator – the longer water kefir is stored – the more fermented *more effervescent* it will become.

For those who weren’t gifted kefir grains like I was you can order some here. Keep in mind that with each batch, the grains will multiply, allowing your supply to expand each time.

Katie and I are now on a mission to have multiple batches continually brewing as we are obsessed. As we master certain flavor combinations I will be sure to share!

Caraway Sauerkraut

So many wonderful foods are born via fermentation. Kombucha, beer, wine, vinegar, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, yogurt… the list is endless and I love them all!

Earlier this spring I finally ordered Wild Fermentation, the bible equivalent for fermented foods. This book is both very user friendly as well as informative as the author thoroughly explains the benefits of fermented foods.

Even though this book contains delicious sounding sauerkrauts that I intend to make in the near future, the caraway sauerkraut my mom and I made last week I picked up elsewhere. The recipe we followed came from Crock and Jar, a food preservation company based out of NYC. I know from sampling some earlier this winter at the Just Food Conference that this kraut is SO delicious.

Even though I have a special place in my heart for Bubbie’s sauerkraut (& pickles!) there are no more excuses to buy sauerkraut when it is so easy and cheap to make right in your own kitchen. If making sauerkraut isn’t something that interests you – at least do yourself the favor of buying Bubbie’s raw kraut at some point. This brand is unpasteurized (retaining all nutrients and good bacteria) while not overwhelmingly salty like others can be.

Caraway Sauerkraut

yield: ~1 1/2 quarts

3 lbs green cabbage (any mix of cabbage will do)
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt (do not use iodized salt or anything with an anti-caking agent)
2 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

1. Remove outer leaves of cabbage and cut into quarters. Remove the cores and slice each wedge into 1/4 inch wide strips. Place into large bowl and add some salt and seeds to allow the cabbage to release some of its water. Continue cutting and adding salt until its all finished.
2. Massage cabbage to help the salt remove the water. Put cabbage in a tall container (half-gallon or two quart jars).
3. Firmly press down cabbage with your fist until it is covered with its own liquid.
4. Cover the cabbage with a few outer leaves. Weigh down the cabbage with a glass jar full of water.
5. Cover container with a towel or loose lid and place in a cool place to ferment.
6. Check in one week: remove the weight and wash off any mold and remove any rotten spots. Cabbage (kraut) below these spots are entirely fine . Taste to check the progress. Press cabbage down to submerge in brine.
7. Replace clean jar, cover container and return to cool spot. Continue to check the cabbage 1x/week. Cabbage should ferment for 3-6 weeks. Once the cabbage is sour enough for your taste preferences, put it in a clean container and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Enjoy!

Aimee, This One’s For You!

As my friend Aimee liked to bring to my attention today – I haven’t shown much love here lately and her ability to stalk me has been severely hindered. So here is what I have been up to since the day I ran the city of bridges.

-Two weekends ago I moved out of my tiny dollhouse apartment into Jeanne’s – a mere hop, skip, & jump away in Squirrel Hill. Temporary roomie until I head to Toronto and permanent roomie come December. Living with Jeanne means I’ll be able to enjoy many more walks with Edison & flowers!

My favorite pic from an early morning walk a few weeks ago –

-In the last week I officially became an omnivore (a picky one). Yep, this girl ate a burger last week (thanks to Jeanne’s local, grass-fed meat from her CSA) and am looking very forward to the bison I will be dining on come Wednesday with my fam at the Heartland Cafe. In addition to that burger, I’ve enjoyed some eggs, raw milk, organic yogurt, wild-caught salmon and pasture butter. I wouldn’t go as far as saying “I’ve been missing out” but I cannot deny that I have enjoyed these foods entirely. More blood work showed I’ve hit a scary level (you can go ahead and read this as nearly zero) with my hormones and vitamin B12 – so instead of not working out which was recommended by the doc – I decided to introduce pristine quality meat and raw dairy into my diet while continuing to workout. The fact that I’m craving red meat again speaks volumes – I clearly need the nutrients. More on this to come.

-Flew into Chicago last week and have been enjoying the amazing weather, relaxation, catching up with friends, reading the Hunger Games, going to my first Cubs/Sox Crosstown Classic game, visiting the always beautiful Chicago Botanic Gardens, and watching movies with my momma.

Being home has meant I’ve even been able to witness the first ripe strawberry from my plants of last year – my mom and I went to harvest our one berry this evening and some stinker already got it! You snooze you loose apparently. This week I’ll likely do lots of reading, yoga, running, projects with my mom (soap, sauerkraut, more lotions, yada yada yada), and go see The Hunger Games before heading to Milwaukee this weekend for another Jagel wedding. Cannot wait to see Ryan & Maggie get hitched and to hopefully check out Growing Power Saturday am. I have a lot to pack in before I go back to the burgh Sunday & Canada Monday!

-Today I made homemade lotion and chapstick! Easiest. projects. ever. and both incredibly cost efficient. For just a few cents I have a few mason jars full of lotion and 6 tubes of chapstick. Here’s how to DIY:

Homemade Lotion

1/4 cup olive oil (note: not extra virgin)
1/4 cup emulsifying wax (purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs)
1 1/4 cup hot water
essential oil(s) of choice

Directions: In a glass pyrex measuring cup combine 1/4 cup emulsifying wax & 1/4 olive oil. Heat these two until wax is entirely melted either in microwave (~1-2 minutes) or double broiler style in a pot over medium heat. Once the wax is melted add 24-36 drops of essential oil(s) if desired. While adding oils, heat 1 1/4 cup of water for about 1 1/2 minutes in the microwave. Add hot water to oil/wax mixture. Immediately the combination will turn milky white. Stir and pour into a 16 ounce mason jar. Cover and allow to settle & cool.

That’s it!! So quick, easy, and eco-friendly.

Homemade Chapstick

1 1/8 tsp cocoa butter
1 7/8 tsp coconut oil
3 tsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp beeswax
3 vitamin E capsules
6-7 chapstick tubes (reuse old ones or purchase for cheap Mountain Rose Herbs)

Directions: In a pyrex glass measuring cup combine melted cocoa butter, coconut oil, beeswax & olive oil. After these four liquids are well combined, add the contents of three vitamin E capsules. Stir and pour into empty tubes. Allow to cool and harden and there you have chapstick that smells like honey!

I was very pleased with all the products I ordered from Mountain Rose Herbs – just be sure to purchase everything at once to keep the price of shipping down.

Let’s see what else… while teaching Jeanne to juice last week we pumped out one of my typical green juices while also making a watermelon-strawberry juice. Delicious. A few days prior I had juiced some remaining watermelon that was in my fridge so I didn’t have to pack it for my move. Why had I not done this before? Simple watermelon juice is so refreshing and hydrating. A perfect summer beverage. So this morning I decided to start my day not with green but with red juice and opted for a pineapple & watermelon juice:

1/2 pineapple
2-3 cups watermelon
1/2 lemon, peeled
1 1″ nub of ginger

So good and rehydrating. I’ve been in desperate need of liquids after a weekend of too much salt however water wasn’t appealing. This really hit the spot.

Off to read more Hunger Games, do some yoga, and perch with Ma & Pa.

Source: etsy.com via Jo Ann on Pinterest

Warm Weather Inspiration

Warmer temperatures these past few days have helped me see some light at the end of the tunnel (although it still seems eons away). Sunday morning after nearly three hours of hot yoga – hellllo sweat – I walked outside to a 70 degree, very sunny day! Amazing. Showered, made some green juice, ate half a pineapple (totally normal…), and joined my friend Jeanne & Edison (pictured below) for an afternoon walk to the park. Spent a lovely hour or so soaking up the warm rays and getting a fair amount of pet therapy in the process… SO many cute puppies.

Edison

Onyx

Was too distracted with his cuteness to remember his name

Monday morning I woke up pre-sunrise to finish Pineapple Culture, a book I’ve been reading for my Food, Culture, & History class this week. With my tea I had fresh orange and pineapple juice (coincidence???). In the juicer went 5 small valencia oranges and about 1/4 of the remaining pineapple from Sunday. Simple, sweet, and a wonderful way to start my Monday. Unfortunately, I will now always associate pineapple with American imperialism in Hawaii… I double checked-my pineapple came from Costa Rica. Certainly no better. Can’t win.

Late Monday night I decided to make cashew butter and a face scrub. I’m not sure what made me decide to do this but come 10:30 I figured it was time to start a project in the kitchen. So unfortunately for my neighbor I ran my food processor, loudly, for a good 15 minutes.

It’s too bad my apartment has horrific lighting and pictures don’t do justice for anything made here. So I can’t share what these two look like. You’ll just have to trust my judgment and make them yourself because they are worth it.

Cashew Butter

Simple. Grab a bunch of raw cashews and throw them in the food processor. Turn it on and let it process. Every few minutes scrape the sides and mix up what is in there to make sure nothing gets glued to the sides. After about 10-15 minutes you’ll have a smooth & creamy butter. No need to add additional oils- there are plenty naturally in the cashews. Enjoy! Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Oatmeal Lavender Face Scrub

Exfoliating your face with this brings out a rich lavender smell… can’t beat it. And an excellent, chem-free way to refresh your skin after winter.

In a food processor combine:
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup dry lavender flowers, stripped off stalks (available at health food stores & Whole Foods herb bulk sections)

Pulse these a few times just enough to break up the oatmeal a bit. Transfer to a bowl and add ~1/4 cup of milk. Stir to combine. Massage into damp skin and rinse. Will store in a sealed container up to six months.

Last night I also made kale & lentil soup for a friend. While I didn’t taste it – I can guarantee, based off the smell of my apartment after it was cooking all night in the crockpot, it is bound to be tasty…. Marisa will have to confirm :)

Kale & Lentil Soup

1 tbsp olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup of green or brown lentils, picked & rinsed
6 cups of broth or water
4 kale leaves (Dino/lacinato works best)
1 tbsp tamari (optional)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Combine oil, onion, garlic, carrot and celery in crock-pot on low.
2. Rinse lentils, add to pot along with broth or water. Add tamari if desired.
3. Cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Cut kale into bite size strips and either a) steam in a double boiler for 5 minutes or b) add directly to crock at least 15 minutes prior to serving to soften.
5. Season with salt & pepper if desired.

>Oh-So-Soft Skin

>With as many nasty carcinogenic chemicals and additives present in personal care products on the market these days-I’ve cut out use of many products or switched to a natural brand. I stick to as natural as possible while keeping it kosher. Even with the most natural product on the market, ideally I only want to use homemade so that I have complete control of what is going into itThis week I made a new batch of sugar scrub for the shower. I was WAY overdue for whipping up a new scrub- if I remember correctly I ran out back in late March! Homemade scrubs and bath salts are so quick and easy if you have a food processor! (& they smell soooo good!!)

The basic ingredients for the sugar scrub are:

*Coconut or sesame oil *I use coconut as it smells amazing but sesame is best for a neutral oil
*Raw cane sugar
*Essential oil of your choice

Optional ingredients I highly encourage to add:
*raw cacao powder
*fresh fruit
::::For example::::
sugar
coconut oil
lavender essential
cacao
~OR~
sugar
sesame oil
tangerine essential
one passionfruit

What I mixed up this week:
~1/4 cup melted coconut oil
~1 1/2 cups cane sugar
~15-20 drops tangerine essential oil
~1/8-1/4 c cacao powder
**Note that I estimate all amounts. I eyeball everything & never use a formal measuring device. I just add bit by bit of what I think needs to be added until I have made a heavenly scent & texture.

Combine all ingredients in your food processor and grind away until you have a smooth, uniform consistency. Should look like this:

I transfer to an airtight jar that keeps the air and water out.

Next on my list to try are strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, & mango. Stay tuned!

>Soap Making

>As I continue to learn how to grow, prepare, and preserve food for a self-sustaining life, I naturally have developed a desire to master ALL aspects to homesteading. This is why soap making has been on my long list of do-it-yourselfers. Finally I can knock this one off.

I spent last Sunday making soap with my Mom and cousin-scratch that-my sisssta Avis. My mom and I couldn’t stop laughing at how ridiculous we looked with our goggles & gear to protect us from the lye. Being as caustic as it is-we were scared to even take the cap off the darn bottle. We got over it… or I should say SHE got over it. I made her do the dirty work. I’m too much of a hypochondriac, especially around foreign chemicals that have poison written all over it.

The oils we used were coconut, vegetable, and olive. Here is my lovely mother measuring our oils before melting on low.

In the meantime, you must mix the lye and water. This is the only part of the process that gets sketchy and you have to be extremely careful. The reaction between the two will produce heat… lots of heat… and a nasty smell so don’t go sniffin’.
Once the lye dissolves completely, you need to cool it back down between 95-125 degrees F. The goal is to get the lye/water mixture and oil mixtures to be within 3 degrees of one another (anywhere in the 95-125 range). Once you reach this, you can add the two and beginning stirring or with an electric mixer-we used a hand held smoothie mixer- it makes the process a wholeeee lot faster. Once the soap “trails” you can add essential oils/dyes/food grade products to beautify your creation. We added patchouli essential oil and dried lavender flowers into the entire batch. Once we laid it in the containers to age, we sprinkled crushed lavender and oatmeal on top.

The soap takes a full month to age, so for now it is tucked away doing just that. Come early May we will be able to enjoy our patchouli lavender soap.

>Tailfeather Designs Jewelry

>Prior to my arrival at Greenleaf, I had been on a quest to find the perfect pair of feather earrings. I had fallen in love with the recent trend of feather jewelry yet could not seem to find the right pair that “spoke” to me. As my Mom always says, “Patience is a virtue” and that absolutely holds true for how I came to be part of Tailfeather Designs. The first week I was on the farm I ventured into town for the Wednesday farmers market in Makawao. Waiting for my friends to finish their purchases, I came across the PERFECT feather earrings. Affordable AND gorgeous…. finally!! Only I had no cash. I started talking with the designer, Liat, about how I’d have to return next Wednesday. One thing led to another and I walked away that afternoon having been offered an apprenticeship with her. I now am a partner with Tailfeather Designs and have loved every second of learning how to design and make her jewelry. I am thrilled to be a part of her business and look forward to taking it back with me to Chicago & Pittsburgh. Feel free to check out the website and facebook page. Custom designs are available too!

Tailfeather Designs Facebook

Tailfeather Designs