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Fourth Times A Charm!

YAY! So this was actually my fourth attempt at making Sauerkraut (the REAL thing, not this crappy “grab a bag of pre-shredded cabbage, dump it in a jar and pour vinegar into it” horrible excuse for the real thing stuff). You know… lactofermented so it’s actually healthy and full of probiotics. My first time making some last summer was an absolute fluke; it turned out great, albeit a tad too salty. I use both green AND red cabbage so I get the nutrients and benefits of both cabbages instead of favoring one over the other so it comes out looking purple (color matters not when it tastes great and is good for you)! Using a head of both yields enough Sauerkraut to last about 3 months and costs all of $5 versus a jar of the only brand I’ve found that is actual SAUERKRAUT and not vinegar soaked cabbage that lasts a week at best and runs $7! No brainer! My second time, I think I managed to get hold of old cabbage (although it could be because I tried a different method…it molded literally overnight and put out no juice…bummer). Last batch turned out good, just not as salty as it should be and not as tangy as a perfectly fermented batch should be, but still good. But this time? Living in northwest Florida and the weather being pretty darn mild for this time of year,  it took 8 days from packing the cabbage to lactofermented Sauerkraut perfection. I’m. So. Happy!

When I checked on it Monday morning, it had that “tangy” smell to it which is indicative of the cabbage properly fermenting (believe me, you learn fast when you’ve bought some and know what it smells and tastes like when your own has gotten to that point) and since I didn’t have quite the room in the fridge at that moment, I decided to wait until yesterday morning which would work great…the fermenting “bubbles” came up in a frenzy Monday! Yippee! So press, press, press…got those bubbles going and made sure it was good and submerged in the juices.

So I went to get it to put into a couple of smaller jars that would fit in the fridge yesterday morning and the smell? Awesome! Great tangy/sour smell that is so very Sauerkraut! Then trying to pack it into the 2 jars that I used, some fell out on the counter so I tasted it. O.M.G. Bubbie’s has NOTHING on this batch of homemade Sauerkraut!  I so wish I could share it with y’all. I’m really happy and feeling quite accomplished at how well it turned out! Look at these beauties…..

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I don’t always like just getting a spoonful out and eating it straight. Usually, I get a couple of heaping tablespoons to 1/3 a cup of Sauerkraut and top my meat with it. Now, I top my chicken with it and whenever I eat beef (which my taste buds are changing…again…beef just doesn’t taste as good to me anymore, not even steaks), but it only took ONCE to discover it does NOT go well with fish! Well, this batch is solo worthy. I feel humbled because even though it is not hard to make, making it really is an art and the taste can vary a little from batch to batch depending on different factors…the freshness of the cabbage, how much salt and quality of salt (NEVER use iodized table salt; even in health magazines, they recommend using some sort of sea salt like Himalayan pink, Kiawe smoked, black sea salt from Hawai’i, etc…), how well you scrunch/rub the salt into the cabbage to release juices, or any extras you add like Caraway seeds like some recipes do. Mine is straight green and red cabbage with Himalayan pink salt and a little filtered water with extra salt on days 2 for brine when it is short on liquid to submerge.

Seriously, go back and check out the recipe. See how easy it is. Make a batch. It is especially great for helping you recuperate when you’re sick. Check out the links on THIS page and see just how good for you it is and the benefits it offers. And if you need something for the flu or an upper respiratory infection (or even a queasy stomach), try the ginger tea from THIS POST. I swear, ginger & honey are miracles for sore throats, coughing and congestion!

Hope you try some and let me know how it turns out and how you like it! Love you guys!

*Want some good reading material? Check out Heroes of Olympus (Rick Riordan), The Dresden Files (Fool Moon) by Jim Butcher or The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle #1) by Patrick Rothfuss. I just finished reading Fool Moon and doing a rush job of Evermore (The Immortals) by Alyson Noel. It’s okay, but it is nothing like The Dresden Files and I’m dying to get started on The Kingkiller Chronicle. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

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Excellent novel on Greek & Roman mythology! Five stars!
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The Dresden Files are just amazing. This is also a five-star book.
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Eh, I feel like I’m reading a version of Twilight. Not a bad book, but not impressed. Three stars.
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I am so looking forward to starting this one either later today or tomorrow. The summary sounds so good!
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What’s So Special About Sauerkraut?

I don’t know about you, but I grew up on southern food which included coffee so strong it would “make you grow chest hair” (as my daddy put it), buttermilk biscuits (YUM!), fried foods like chicken, and desserts like Coconut Cake, Coconut Cream Pie and Lemon Meringue Pie. Oh, and that’s not all. Summer time meant ice cream, ice pops and snowcones, and getting not only a Bismark doughnut to munch on in the grocery store to keep me quiet while my mama shopped (like a white glazed doughnut with a thick cream down the center…looked a bit like a hotdog bun only MUCH tastier!), but candy at the checkout. The holidays brought all kinds of yummy baked goods like Pumpkin Pie, Sweet Potato Pie (my favorite), Divinity Candy, Fudge, cookies, cakes and brownies GALORE. I didn’t much care for vegetables growing up and wasn’t forced to eat them, although I DID have to at least try them before deciding not to eat them. Oh, I can’t forget the most important thing to us southerners: SWEET ICED TEA! And I’m not talking about tea sweetened with enough sugar to make it taste delicious, it was basically tea flavored sugar water! Times haven’t changed, either. Although now when you go to a restaurant or buy tea premade in the grocery store, you’re buying tea that is sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which has very recently been changed to just Fructose, or Fructose Syrup. Unless you read and do your research, you may think “hey, doesn’t fructose come from fruit?” Yes, and this is Big Ag’s way of fooling the public while continuing to poison us. Always be on your guard!

In that vein, there ARE ways you can counteract these foods. First of all, STOP EATING PROCESSED FOODS! If it has more than 3 ingredients (actually, should eat whole food that is just ONE ingredient), particularly ingredients you can’t pronounce, then DON’T EAT IT. Secondly, fermented foods. Preferably homemade fermented foods. When you buy fermented food at the store, it is ALWAYS pasteurized. Yogurt is pasteurized (and I have a hard time eating pasteurized food…always wind up with severe gastrointestinal pain), Kefir is pasteurized and pickles (if you can even find some that are actually lacto-fermented in the refrigerated section…the ones on the store shelf are made with vinegar, thus NOT fermented and offer no real health benefits) are pasteurized. Even the best sauerkraut in the refrigerated section with just cabbage and sea salt says it is lightly pasteurized.

There are plenty of sites that talk about the benefits of probiotics from fermented foods and there are lots of recipes to be had. I started out eating Bubbie’s Sauerkraut which was actually very good considering I had always been offput with just the smell of the stuff growing up. But as the container is on the small side and cost $7, I was determined to find a way to get fresh sauerkraut that didn’t break the bank. Guess what? You can buy cabbage (I buy both green and red…and according to EWG as posted here, cabbage is part of the “Clean 15”) for about $5 for 2 heads which last 2 to 3 months compared to a week or two! Cabbage is naturally resilient to bugs and the outer leaves are able to shield it from most toxic sprays. When consuming cabbage, make sure to remove and discard these outer leaves.

Okay, I’ll stop yapping and share my recipe. It’s a mix of red and green cabbage as they both have their own nutritional benefits! They share some of the same, but also very different ones. Dr. Mercola had his sauerkraut sent to a lab to test for probiotics and the results were astounding! “We found in a 4-6 ounce serving of the fermented vegetables there were literally ten trillion bacteria.” That means 2 ounces of home fermented sauerkraut had more probiotics than a bottle of 100 count probiotic capsules. Translated this means one 16 ounce of sauerkraut is equal to 8 bottles of probiotics.” (via Nourishing Plot). After the recipe, I’ll post some links to read that list health benefits as well as nutrition information.

Homemade Sauerkraut

Beginning with a head of Red cabbage and a head of Green, remove and discard the outer leaves and rinse the cabbage and set aside to dry. Cut in half, then remove the core.
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Thinly slice and add an inch or 2 layer of cabbage at a time, adding salt (and Caraway seeds if you like) after each layer, scrunching well to release water (make it sweat!). Keep doing this until all the cabbage is used.

*Always make sure to use either a clean, sterilized glass bowl, ceramic, stone or stainless steel bowl.

After washing a large mason jar, ceramic or stone jar, sterilize by pouring boiling hot water into jar and lid and rinsing well, put in warm oven for a few minutes (I’ve read in places that this is how some people sterilize their jars) or wash in dishwasher and run through sterilizing heat cycle. Once clean and sterilized, add the cabbage in handfuls to the jar, pressing down to help release juices and cover with a saved leaf or 2 (not the outermost leaves, but a couple 2 to 3 layers down in the cabbage), then cover either with a towel, cheesecloth, or lid loosely fit on. Set in a dark place where the temperature is stable and not cold. How long it takes to ferment depends on how warm or cold it is. If it is warm, it will ferment and be ready to be refrigerated in about 5 days or so, perhaps less, but my experience is 5 days in the summer, and a good week or more in the winter. Sauerkraut has a tangy smell and taste which you will recognize once it is properly fermented. It’s really a no-brainer!

*ALWAYS make sure your hands are CLEAN before you begin and wash only with non-antibacterial soap and water and dry with paper towel. You sure don’t want to add any bad bacteria to the cabbage!

Tomorrow, we will check on the cabbage to see how it is doing. You need to “burp” it daily (releasing air bubbles) by getting a jar or plate (whatever fits in your container) and press down. On the first day, check to see if it has released enough liquid to submerge it. It most likely will have juice, just not enough to cover it. If that is the case, mix up 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per 1 cup of filtered water and add till the cabbage is covered.

Links to check into:

Sauerkraut is the Original Probiotic Superfood

Sauerkraut Test Divulges Shocking Probiotic Count

Sauerkraut Offers A Spectrum of Health Benefits

Tips for Fermenting At Home

Sunny Days & Golden Rays

“It was a beautiful day and the sun beat down,
I had the radio on, I was flying.
The trees went past, me and Dale was singing
Little Runaway; I was flyin’.

Yeah, runnin’ down a dream
Whatever would come to me
Workin’ on a mystery
Goin’ wherever it leads
Yeah, runnin’ down a dream!”

Running Down A Dream – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers

It WAS gorgeous today. Felt like spring. Aaaand I promised last night I would start sharing information and secrets to my weight loss and health. Confession: I don’t eat breakfast! *GASP* I’ve never been a big breakfast person. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE some breakfast foods, just not in the morning. I get up and drink a cup of organic or fair trade or rain forest alliance coffee with pastured cream, coconut sugar and coconut oil. It’s good and it holds me over till about 11’ish.  I tend to eat lunch between 11 and 11:30. Whatever I do, you know I always have to have music playing. Today, it’s definitely a classic rock day. Tomorrow it may be Indie Folk, or Adult Contemporary or Instrumental Rock or Jazz or any number of genres! Oh, you didn’t come on here to read that, huh? Okay.

I wish I had gotten pictures, but unfortunately I didn’t. But I made a homemade simple Traditional Hummus, sans tahini. Turned out fabulous, too!  It is a slightly tweaked recipe by Kelly over at LifeMadeSweeter. I (as well as other family members) can’t use paprika not to mention I have to be careful with any and all things from the “nightshade” family. Like red pepper flakes. A pinch doesn’t USUALLY cause problems, but here lately, more food and medications are giving me problems, so I am just avoiding those things. Also, I don’t have a food processor so I had to bag the handful of ingredients needed and march over to my sister’s house (behind ours) and use hers. No problem. That is, until the food processor decided to fight me and not want to work. It finally gave in! Woohoo!

Ingredients

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed

2 large garlic cloves

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon paprika (OPTIONAL)

1/4 cup water, plus more as needed to thin out hummus to desired consistency

salt to taste

black pepper to taste

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

chili flakes for garnish (OPTIONAL)

Instructions

  1. Place chickpeas in a blender or food processor with garlic, lemon juice, cumin, paprika and water. Blend or puree until very smooth, adding more water as needed to thin out to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to help achieve a super creamy texture.
  2. Serve on pitas, crackers, veggies, or sandwiches. Adjust seasonings as you like and sprinkle with red chili flakes if desired.

Notes

*Can store in an airtight glass container in the fridge for up to 5 days or freezer for up to 3 months.

I normally buy Boar’s Head non-GMO Traditional Hummus in the Publix deli department which has very few ingredients, but the price is ridiculously high. Plus, it is soy free and nut free. But paying $4.99 for a small container that lasts a week compared to 2 cans of organic chickpeas (Garbanzo beans) at less than $2 each while I already have the other ingredients and now I have double the amount that the store bought containers come in. And it is DELICIOUS.

It’s great at lunch! My typical lunch? It varies, but one of my favorite lunches is Crown Prince Sardines in Olive Oil, traditional hummus with The Better Chip chips (right now I’m on a kick with the Beet chips; although I’m a huge fan of their Spinach & Kale and the Radish Chia is great, too!), a cup of fresh brewed Cinnamon Ginger tea (I make that in the mornings around 8:30 and let it sit covered till lunch when it is at room temperature), and a square of dark chocolate (85% cacao) with about a teaspoon of Polaner’s non-GMO Seedless Raspberry Spread. I love berries with dark chocolate, but raspberry is by far my favorite. One day, I’m going to make my own fruit preserves. On the days I don’t eat sardines, I have either Wild Planet tuna (Albacore Wild Tuna in EVOO, or rather, Extra Virgin Olive Oil) or Ocean Naturals Albacore Solid White Tuna in Italian Olive Oil. BOTH are delicious! And when I can afford it, I drink GT’s Synergy Kombucha, usually Raspberry Chia (my favorite). They have a few I really like, but the Raspberry Chia? Mmmm, can’t be beat!

My dinners? Depends on what the rest of the family is having. I tend to buy my own chicken (non-GMO, cage free, organic) and Sockeye Salmon which Wednesdays are my fish, kale and quinoa day since they eat at the church (and I can’t…every time I have, I’ve gotten sick because of food additives…ugh). I eat sweet potatoes pretty regular also. And I make my own sauerkraut which I will share that process with y’all tomorrow since I’ll be making some to which I eat with all meat except fish. Well, except I don’t eat pork. I can’t eat pork. I LIKE pork meats, but they don’t like me (yeah, part of my ever growing list of foods that I can no longer eat without getting sick or suffering) just like beef is starting to do the same. I eat them in very small amounts with a good portion of sauerkraut. I don’t eat bread or pasta and rarely eat rice and quinoa is once, maybe twice a week, and I occasionally whip up a batch of gluten free biscuits so I can have one when I get the craving (not often, but I am southern, ya know!). About half an hour before dinner, I get 2 tablespoons of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar in 4 ounces of water with a little stevia and drink it, chasing it with some filtered water. THAT, my friends, is not easy for me, but with my thyroid condition, I’ve noticed a lot of benefits in drinking it!

The only other thing I do is I tend to eat a spoon of Smucker’s organic peanut butter and a cup of fresh raw milk (I can’t consume pasteurized dairy…talk about several gastrointestinal discomfort!) at night when I take my medicine. Usually have a second square of dark chocolate too. So that pretty much sums up my eating habits. Tomorrow, homemade sauerkraut!

Christmas Time & Ginger Lemon Bars

Christmas tends to be my favorite time of the year. Even with depressing events and not having all my family together, the music, the lights, the smells of delicious food baking… Mmmmm! Just missing cold weather. But this is Florida, so we can’t always expect cold weather for Christmas!

We can usually expect friends and/or family, though. And this mama doesn’t like drama, particularly this time of year, so instead of wishing for things that may or may not could happen, I will focus on positives: I got some goals accomplished this year that had been part of my New Year’s resolutions! I learned to be proficient at knitting and getting better every time I knit something. I am still far FAR from being a pro, but I’m pretty happy with the latest results! I would post a picture, but until after Christmas, that will have to wait as said projects are part of our gift exchange and there is NO PEEKING! Also, homesteading has been a desire and goal of mine for some time. When you can’t sit or stand for long periods of time because of serious back problems, you do what you can as you can. So I’ve learned how to make my own sauerkraut (will post that in a later post when I make a new batch), caramelized ginger & simple ginger syrup (along with sparkling Voss water makes an amazing homemade Ginger Ale without the additives like high fructose corn syrup, aka “HFCS”), and the latest Pinterest recipe, Ginger Lemon Bars. O. M. G. New favorite!

For those who love lemon and who like ginger, this is amazing. Lemon and ginger work so well together as it is (have you tried a hot ginger tea with lemon and honey?) that if you haven’t tried ginger, lemon & honey tea, you MUST. It’s great when you’re sick. Seriously. But these babies here? I promise, you’ll be making these again. Wish I could claim they were my own recipe, but credit goes to Sarah over at Broma Bakery. The only things I changed were omitting salt since I used salted butter and I am gluten free so there’s that.

Ginger Lemon Bars

Ingredients:
for Cream Cheese Shortbread:
-5 oz. cream cheese
-1/2 C. butter
-2/3 C. sugar
-1/2 tsp. sea salt
-1 tsp. vanilla
-1 1/3 C. flour

 for the Ginger Lemon Curd:
-4 eggs
-1 1/4 C. sugar
-1/2 C. lemon juice
-1 Tblsp. lemon zest
-1 Tblsp. fresh ginger (grated)
-1/2 tsp. sea salt
-2 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 C. Flour

Instructions:

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1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray and line an 8″x 8″ baking dish/pan with parchment paper and lightly spray again. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the butter, cream cheese, sugar, salt (if using unsalted butter), and vanilla until light & fluffy (approximately 2 minutes). Turn mixer to low speed and incorporate flour.

3. Press dough firmly onto bottom of baking dish, spreading evenly to edges. Bake 12-15 minutes.

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4. While the shortbread is cooking….. In large bowl, whisk together all ingredients for the Ginger Lemon Curd (except for the flour). Once mixed, whisk in flour, whisking away lumps.

5. Pour Ginger Lemon Curd on top of the Cream Cheese Shortbread and bake an additional 20-30 minutes to set (length of time will depend on your oven and also the dish or pan used; I have a conventional oven and a glass dish which takes longer).

6. Cool to room temperature (or slightly warmer) on wire racks then cool in refrigerator until set and chilled an additional 2+ hours.

7. Cut into bars. You can sprinkle with as little or as much powdered sugar if desired. If you prefer more tangy, you can omit the sugar (like me, HA!).

These are absolutely divine! Now that my baking is done and my knitting projects are finished, I can focus on another resolution I have fallen pretty far behind on: my reading! Want to finally finish the Game of Thrones series (can’t wait till George R.R. Martin comes out with the 6th book in the series; he has 3 more books in the series he is working on, book 6 should be out some time in the new year). Then on to collecting and reading the rest of The Mistborn series and Dresden Files. And so many more!
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MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Wishing all of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Grandma’s Incredibly Moist Banana Cake

I am going to start this blog off with the easiest and most delicious banana cake you will ever try. Seriously! This is my MIL’s recipe and although you could play with it, change things, add things (like frosting), you don’t need to and you won’t want to once you try it! It’s a perfect sweetness…not too sweet. Believe me when I say my family is one who loves to take a recipe and play with it and dress things up, down, and all around!  We definitely like to experiment! I’m not going to bore you any further with step-by-step pictures because this cake is just too simple to make! Without further ado:

Ingredients:

  • 1 C. Crisco shortening (or lard if you have it since it’s better for you)
  • 1 1/2 C. Organic Cane Sugar
  • 2 Organic Pasture Eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 C. Sour Organic or Raw Milk (1 tspn. vinegar added to milk)
  • 1 tspn. Baking Powder (Non-GMO – Bob’s Red Mill has some)
  • 1 tspn. Baking Soda
  • 2 C. All-Purpose Flour (can also use King Arthur Gluten Free Flour or I am starting to make my own with the instructions from Gluten-Free Girl)
  • 1 tspn. Vanilla Extract
  • 1 C. Mashed Ripe Bananas (3 average size VERY ripe)
  • 1/2 C. Walnuts or Pecans (optional – never add since one of us can’t eat tree nuts but if you aren’t allergic, go for it!)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease 9″x13″ pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Cream Crisco and sugar together; add eggs. Beat till creamy.
  3. Alternate beating in milk and dry ingredients.
  4. Add vanilla and mashed bananas. Mix well.
  5. Pour into pan. Bake approximately 30 minutes, checking after 20 minutes with a toothpick in middle (will cook faster in metal pans, glass can take up to 45 minutes depending on oven). You want the toothpick to have a few crumbs, but not be wet.banana cake

This is wonderful served with a tall glass of ice cold milk! It’s delicious both fresh out of the oven AND room temperature. How you eat it depends on your preference! Hope y’all enjoy!