Monday, November 28, 2011

Mexican Lasagna

All done with turkey?  Why not make tacos - then make a Mexican lasagna with the left overs for another night.

Layer beef, tortillas (corn or flour soft tortillas), diced tomatoes, and cheese just like a regular lasagna in a large 9x13 pan (or 9x9 if you don't have that many left overs).  Bake until hot and bubbly and nicely toasty on top at 350 or so (maybe about 45 mins).  It got nice and crispy cheesy on top.

Serve with sour cream on top.  Yum!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kefir - Sauerkraut & Kefired Garlic Carrots

In addition to making milk kefir I've started culturing vegetables.  My first go at it was with carrots and garlic.  VERY garlicy as I put in about 6 cloves of garlic, but I enjoyed them.  Then I went and got myself a cabbage and attempted sauerkraut with kefir grains as the acting agent.  Quick, as far as sauerkraut goes apparently, and saltless.

My methods are still a work in progress, although both things I've made have turned out great.  Here's what I've done:

Kefir Carrots and Garlic

1 Tbsp rinsed kefir grains (to get the milk off)
3-6 (or more) cloves of garlic
3-7 carrots - enough to fill a quart sized jar
whey to help start the process (optional)

Place about 1/2 of the rinsed kefir grains in the bottom of the jar.  Top with HALF the carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch sized pieces and peeled garlic cloves.  Add in the rest of the kefir grains and the rest of the garlic and carrots on top.  Put in a couple Tbsp of whey if you want to help get the process started, fill the jar with water (filtered preferably) leaving a bit of head room and cap.  Leave at room temperature for 4-6 days.  The mixture should fizz a bit if you loosen the cap (that's the CO2 that the yeast produces).  After 4-6 days place in the fridge for 2-3 days to stop/slow down the fermentation process.

After it's matured in the fridge for a few days take some out and do a taste test.  They should still be crisp, not soggy.  I liked mine rinsed of some of the water/whey mixture to make it slightly less sharp.  With the 6 cloves of garlic it was VERY garlicy.  I ate it both warmed up and straight out of the fridge.  You can take the kefir grains out before you eat, or leave them in and eat them, too.  If heated, the grains get stringy like cheese.


1-2 Tbsp rinsed kefir grains
1 head cabbage
1/2 apple, quartered (or ~1/2 cup apple juice)
large glass or ceramic container

Wash cabbage, remove 2 outer leaves and save to the side.  Cut, core and shred the head of cabbage into 1/2 wide pieces or less.  Place ~1 Tbsp rinsed kefir grains in the bottom of the container and top with a layer of cabbage.  Start to bruise and pack the cabbage in tight to the jar.  You need to release some of the juice from the cabbage to get it to start fermenting.  Continue to put in and crush/pack the cabbage shreds into the jar until it's about half full.  Put in the last of the kefir grains and the quartered apple half, core removed.  Top with the remainder of the cabbage, packing and bruising as you go.  When it's all in there with a little head space, fill with water to the top of the cabbage and push down with the saved cabbage leaves.  Weigh down the top leaves with a jar, plate, etc to keep the cabbage submerged under the liquid.  It WILL make more as it begins to ferment.

As with the carrots and garlic, leave on the counter for 4-6 days making sure to monitor that the cabbage all stays under the liquid.  If there gets to be a ton of liquid on top scoop some out so it doesn't overflow. After it's been through it's 4-6 day counter ferment, place in the fridge for a few days to chill and slow down the fermentation process.  Again, the cabbage should still be crisp.

I found this to be very tasty after a 5 day ferment and 3-5 days in the fridge (forget how long).  Not too sharp or tart or sweet.  It's good both straight and cooked.  I used it first in a dish with smoked sausage and potatoes, then again similarly with hotdogs (it was for the kids), and rice.  I'll get to those recipes soon as well.  Promise!

Next I want to make cucumber kimchi - or kefir-chi??  Gotta find my Korean hot pepper sauce...

Kefir cultured vegetables have the same probiotic properties as the kefir yogurt.  So make some up and enjoy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! 

Hope you have a great day and some great food and great company.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kefir - the basics

Kefir is a drinkable yogurt style drink.  It's different in that it's a combination of beneficial bacteria and yeast instead of just bacterias, like regular yogurt.  You can make kefir from kefir, as you can regular yogurt, but if you want to make it every day forever (yes you can take breaks), then you're going to need some kefir grains.

I got my grains from my wonderful friend, Hazel.  I'd been intrigued ever since we talked about these things, but it took a good while before I actually got to drive the 4 hours to go get them - and visit for a nice long weekend ;-)  They're easy to take care of and make the most wonderful stuff - kefir!

What I have are milk kefir grains, not water kefir grains.  Supposedly they are different, but I haven't figured out why you couldn't rework milk kefir grains into being water kefir grains eventually.  They eat sugars - lactose in milk, and sugar sugar in water/juice kefir versions.  What comes off the grains is a lightly bubbly, tart and sour drink that's wonderfully probiotic.

It's easy to make.  Just put the grains in a quart sized jar (or pint depending on the amount of grains you have - I have a good 2 cups at the moment in 2 quart sized jars), and dump fresh cold milk on top - yup! right out of the fridge.  (Easier than yogurt, 'eh?)  Cover the jars with a dish towel, they like the dark.  After 12-48 hours, depending on how tart you like your yogurt/kefir, using a fine mesh colander, strain and drain the kefir off the grains - stir to get the most kefir off the grains as you can.  Put the grains back in the jar and add more fresh milk.  Drink the kefir straight off the grains, or refrigerate a few hours to thicken and chill.  Sweeten/flavor if you'd like, and drink.

Some sweeteners I've tried and like in my kefir include:

  • honey
  • vanilla syrup (Torani)
  • orgeat/almond syrup (Torani)
  • peach jam - (MIL made wonderful stuff - it's addicting!)
  • strawberry rhubarb sauce
  • apple butter
  • chocolate sauce
  • triple berry sauce (raspberry, blueberry, blackberry)
If you're interested in making your own kefir, find some grains and have at.  You can likely find someone with grains in the area that's willing to give you some for free, but if you can't look up "The Kefir Lady" - she's out of Ohio and ships every week.  There are many health benefits, or so I've read - go searching online - you'll find a ton.  But it's great for just the taste, and so many uses.  I'll get to some of those eventually.  Happy Kefir-ing!

Friday, November 18, 2011


I've gotten into making my own kefir lately.  A wonderful friend gifted me with some of her kefir grains to get me started.  And woah have I gotten started ;-)

If you don't know what kefir is, it's a thin drinkable yogurt-style drink.  Pretty up there in price at the grocery store, and very inexpensive to make at home (just the cost of milk).  Difference between yogurt and kefir is the symbiotic relationship between the beneficial bacteria and yeasts that make up the kefir grains used to make it.  The grains kind of look like small curds of dry cottage cheese or small bits of creamy cauliflower.

So far I've made kefir drink nearly every day (since the end of August), kefir spoonable yogurt, kefired garlic carrots, and kefir-kraut (sauerkraut without salt) - on my second batch as of today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Calendar of Events: November/December 2011

Classes I'm teaching in and around town:

November 15 - Amigurumi at the Mallets Creek AADL, 6pm -

November 16 - Felt Ball Fun at the Pittsfield Branch AADL, 7pm -

December 27 - Advanced Crochet Class: Mobius Strip Scarf, AADL.

December 28 - Mini Monster Stuffies at the Pittsfield Branch AADL, 6:30pm -

December 29 - Origami Basics at the Down Town AADL, 7pm -

All classes through the library are free.  Supplies included.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A "New" Vegetable: Romanesco

Ever had romanesco?  I hadn't.  I discovered it on a school field trip to our local Farmer's Market.  It's green, it's spirally, it's firm like cauliflower, tastes like a cross between broccoli and cauliflower and is super yummy!  I took it as a cut vegetable as part of my daughter's school Halloween party.  Getting the kids to try it was a struggle, but the adults did - and went wild over it.  Or maybe it was just my home made dressing... ;-)  Many kids did try it after the adults raved.

Next time you need a new spin on broccoli (or cauliflower), give romanesco a try!

What Can You Make from 2 Large Pork Chops

I often post what I've been making for dinner, etc on my facebook page.  I got asked today to tell how I made a pork stock for my pork & tortilla soup.  Well, it all started with these huge bone in pork chops that were, well, really really salty right out of the store.  So much so that if we smoked them on the grill they tasted like ham.  Not so good when you just want grilled pork chops!

So, I needed to make them into something we could actually eat.  These two giant bone-in pork chops (probably about 1/3-1/2lb each) made probably about 11 or 12 meals total, maybe more.

Night 1:  I used most of 1 pork chop to make some pork fried rice.  Diced up the large part of 1 pork chop and mixed with a couple cups of day old rice, chopped carrots, celery, fried egg, frozen peas, some chopped onion (1/2 large onion diced) and likely some garlic.  A bit of soy sauce once it's all fried up and poof!  Fried Rice.

Night 2:  I took the pork chop that was left, and the bone from the other one and simmered it in a small-ish pot with some water and taco seasoning (no sodium/salt) until it was very tender and falling off the bone.  I then shredded the pork with a couple forks and  made some corn tortillas for tacos.

Night 3: Took the bones from the pork chops and the left over "juice" from simmering the now shredded pork and put in lots of water for a big pot of stock.  Added in celery, carrots, the rest of that onion from the fried rice, more taco seasoning and simmered until it was stock like.  Added in an appropriate amount of salt (not much since it was so salty to begin with), took out the bones and added the shredded pork back in.  I then brought the pot up to boiling and whisked in a few tablespoons of corn meal into the pot to thicken it up... Not too much or you end up with a big thick pot of polenta.  (Wrong ethnicity for this dish. ;-) )  Mixed in a good serving of shredded cheese.  Served this up with baked tortilla strips (cut the left over tortillas from the tacos in strips and baked them), chopped/diced tomatoes, more shredded cheese, and some kefir yogurt (thickened by draining off the whey) - instead of sour cream.

Ate these same 2 pork chops for at least 2 meals of fried rice - for 4, and 3.  Then tacos for 4, and then tortilla soup for 4 and 4 or 5 the next day (forget if DH took it for lunch or not ;-) ).

So, for chops that were way too salty to just eat as chops, they stretched pretty far.  The same idea can be done with a whole chicken.  Must do that again soon.

Apologies for no pictures, I must remember to do that. :/