Favorite Things 2017

For those of you who have been hanging around for a year, you may remember last year’s Favorite Things party.  If you are new, let me fill you in!

favorites-9

Does anyone remember Oprah’s Favorite Things show where she would give away one of her favorite things to each audience member?  The idea is the same for the party.  All through the year, we think about what our absolute favorite thing is, and then we buy one for each of the other six friends who come to the party.  There are a few rules: the guest list does not change.  Everyone makes the party a number one priority on their calendar for the year.  And finally, there’s no dollar limit imposed.

Favorites-8

How much is that doggy in the window?

As the creators of Christmas magic in our families, we felt a smidge overlooked when several of us said we were even buying stuff for our OWN stockings.  In an effort to bring a little bit of magic to the season for ourselves, we started this gathering, and now it has been 12 years.  Some of us only see each other the one time a year, others, much more often.  But one thing that has been unchanging is our dedication to the event and each other.

Favorites-13

So welcome to the 12th annual Favorite Things at Sherry’s house!  I’ll give you an inside peek into the party.

Favorites-3

Every year, the table looks amazing!  My mom does such a great job with this part.  All the little finishing touches are just right.  There’s usually a small gift at the table for each person, and this year, there were two- the placecard picture frame and a custom made wooden hanger on the back of each chair.

Favorites-4

My mom’s house is always so beautiful.  I took several pictures.  Here are a few to enjoy!

Favorites-6

I love the “stay awhile” frame and the pine cone print in the entry way.

Favorites-11

Beautiful fall mantel decorations

Favorites-10

Favorites-12

She has such a green thumb!  I wish I had inherited that!

Favorites-20

It was a gorgeous fall day, so even the outside was decorated!

favorites

I couldn’t resist photographing my gift and my mom’s gift before everyone came over.

When everyone arrived, we put the presents on my mom’s bed and gathered for drinks and appetizers.

Favorites-14

Did I mention the other unspoken rule?  Everyone wraps their gifts beautifully!

We played a few fun games (no toilet plunger this year, darn it) and had a blast.  Then it was time for dinner.  I wish I had taken a picture of the entire spread, but it was amazing!

Here’s a snapshot from Instagram of the main course, though:

IMG_7576.jpg

Creamy Chicken Alfredo

So what was in those pretty packages?  Here’s a peek at some of the gifts:

 

 

 

Adventure: Austin, Texas!

Austin Texas Railroad

Get comfortable, because today we are headed into downtown Austin, Texas!  Austin is the best city in the state, and not just for the usual reasons.  You know, live music capitol of the world, great weather, lake and trails for fun outdoor activities… need I go on?

Austin Texas

But even though it is so amazing, it takes something extra special to lure me away from home.  I’m a homebody, in case you didn’t know.  I LOVE being home.  But when I heard that the new Austin Public Library Central branch was complete, I decided that it was just the nerd kind of fun that we all needed.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-14

And, I figured it would make a great excuse to visit one of my old favorite restaurants that I haven’t been to in years- Maudie’s, Too.  In fact, it’s been so long that even Tim has never been and he’s been here for 6 years.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-15

Everything is so built up along south Lamar, I didn’t recognize where I was until we were just upon the restaurant!  If you are visiting town, Maudie’s is a great place for good ole’ Tex-Mex comfort food.  This is the kind of deliciousness that Texans dream about when they are out of state.

Side note:  One time when I was living in New Jersey, I asked a new friend of mine where to get Mexican food in the area.  She thought really hard and…. wait for it…. she said, “Chili’s is in town.”  I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.  Yeah.  All my fellow Texans are shivering in horror, right?!?

Austin Texas Food Adventure-17

Nothing green on this plate!

I decided to have migas, which is a breakfast plate that has scrambled eggs, onions, peppers, tomatoes, broken bits of tortilla chips, and QUESO.  Yep, queso.  So delicious!  And what’s a breakfast-for-lunch meal without a few beers, too, right?

Austin Texas Food Adventure-16

If you go, you have to sit out on the patio.  You can chill and watch the traffic go by on South Lamar.  And because it’s November in Texas, it was perfect patio weather for us at a balmy 80 degrees.  You’ll have an audience of pigeons, which actually adds to the charm.  Or maybe it was charming because of the beer.  Either way, it’s a magical place that you can settle in and absorb some good Austin culture.  Every now and then an acorn falls off the tree above the tin roofed patio and gives a satisfying clang and everything feels right with the world.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-2

Who are those crazy people in the reflection?

After filling up, we headed to the library.  Their parking garage was at capacity, so we parked at one down a few blocks and walked some pretty landscaped paths.  I couldn’t resist taking a few pictures of the boys, of course.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-3

 

Austin Texas Food Adventure-4

We rounded a corner, and there it was!  The new library looking gorgeous and modern and inviting.  Tim said that the Seattle Public Library is better.  And I suppose to a mechanical engineer, it might be!  But this one looks perfect for Austin.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-5

The ground floor level will eventually have a cafe, and since it faces the lake, I’m sure it will be very popular.  The library is also home to an art gallery space and it opened featuring the work of Lance Letscher, a local collage artist who works on old books!  Here’s a few of my favorites on display:

Austin Texas Food Adventure-7

 

Austin Texas Food Adventure-8

 

Austin Texas Food Adventure-6

We enjoyed tromping around all 6 floors of the library and found some really neat work spaces, gardens, patios, and places to explore.  If you go, look up when you are in the atrium to the door on the 6th floor.  You’ll know which one I’m talking about!

Austin Texas Food Adventure-10

Gorgeous main atrium

This hands on art is in the children’s patio.  I showed Will, and his eyes lit up.  He looked at me and I looked at him and in that one glance we both knew without saying anything that that would have been his favorite place in the entire library when he was little.  So of course, it’s got a special place in my heart already.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-9

After all of the exploring, we were ready for our last treat of the day.  I’ve been hearing about Gordough’s food truck for a long time.  It’s practically legend, and I can see why.  It’s one of those unique Austin experiences, for sure.  It’s casual and unassuming like most of Austin and not to be missed.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-18

Who’s in that reflection again?

They have crazy, gluttonous donut concoctions, like the Elvis and even one called the Flying Pig with a nest of bacon on top and drizzled in maple syrup!  These are not regular donuts, so come hungry and ready to indulge. I told the boys we had to stop here “for the blog” ha!  I hope you guys enjoy my sacrifice.  I’m such a team player.

Austin Texas Food Adventure-19

We got ours to go, but couldn’t resist sitting down at the picnic tables and tasting a few bites before we headed home.  They were warm and gooey and delicious.  Every bit as amazing as everyone says!

Austin Texas Food Adventure-20

Mama’s Cake.  This donut actually has a hole, but you can’t tell because it’s filled with warm chocolate and cake batter drizzle.  This is the one I had and it was amazing.

 

Austin Texas Food Adventure-21

The ODB.  This was Tim’s choice, of course, ha!  Donut holes smothered in frosting and rolled in coconut.

 

Austin Texas Food Adventure-22

The Big E-Z.  This one was right up Will’s alley, with sugar and more sugar.  It came with literally mounds of powdered sugar and honey to drizzle.

I hope you enjoyed our peek into a classic Austin day!  What are your favorite local Austin hot spots?  I’d love to hear, and maybe I’ll head that way next!  And click follow on the right if you want more Austin features.

Adventure: Flour

If you’ve noodled around on my blog, you may have noticed that some of my recipes are very practical and easy, and some of my content is more… nuanced and involved.  This is because sometimes I just need to get yummy food on the table, stat, and sometimes I like to play a little and research a little deeper with some things.

flour2-2

Flour is a topic that I have delved deeeeeeply into.  Like, fallen down the rabbit hole deep.  I realize that most people haven’t given flour much thought. And if you are one of those people who haven’t thought about flour or simply pick up a new package at the store when you run out, that is totally fine.  And probably very normal.  But I was curious about the nutrition aspect of flour and why it is so demonized by certain groups today when bread has been eaten for years upon years.

flour-3

The TL;DR answer is that I use freshly milled home ground wheat flour. But the flour is only one part of the equation for health. The oldest and most nutritionally beneficial preparation for bread is sourdough and other forms of fermented bread.

sourdough2

Come to find out, sourdough isn’t just a flavor.  Authentic sourdough bread uses a wild yeast starter for the rise of the bread instead of relying on manufactured yeast packets.  Wild yeast fermentation is what’s been used for centuries upon centuries.

sourdough

I would LOVE to have one of these awesome NutriMill stone-ground machines for my kitchen.  Aren’t they gorgeous?!  If you have time, watch the video.  But I think my hubby might croak if I bring another appliance into the kitchen.  Ha!

nutrimill

I’ve been saving my bargaining for a KitchenAid mixer soon, and I know there are attachments for that to grind flour.  I’m way too impatient to wait for that purchase, though.  Using the tools I already have, I decided to use my Vitamix for grinding my flour.  I had to buy the dry container for grinding wheat, which costs around $100 on Amazon.  

flour4

Grind up to two cups at a time in the dry container.

I buy my  wheat berries in bulk at Whole Foods.  You can bring in any size container and fill it, so long as you get it weighed at customer service first.  So I’ve got one of my old Tupperware containers that we used for cereal to hold all my gorgeous wheat berries.  

It does a great job grinding the flour to a fine consistency.  I do lightly sift the flour afterwards to take out the larger pieces of bran that can puncture the bubbles in the bread dough and cause a denser loaf.  

flour2

When I was at the Homestead Heritage a few months ago for my sourdough bread class, I got to see their historic wheat mill in action.  That was amazing!  I got to meet their miller, who gave us this interesting factoid:  The saying “keep your nose to the grindstone,” comes from millers, not blacksmiths and blade sharpeners.  It has to do with grinding wheat and making sure that the wheat doesn’t get too hot and destroy the nutrition.  Millers know how the wheat smells at various temperatures and that’s how that saying evolved.  Even when I was standing there in the creaky old wooden mill with those massive stones turning and turning, he could notice the difference in the smell of the wheat and made adjustments as we stood there talking.  It was a fascinating experience that I highly recommend.

2017_01-bread-class-00006

The Homestead Heritage in Waco is a great place to learn about traditional cooking techniques.

And speaking of heat and grain, whole wheat flour spoils more quickly than regular flour because it has all of the natural oils from the entire wheat berry.  Once I grind it, I store my flour in the freezer until I’m ready to use it.

If you are curious what research lead me to my conclusions, I can point you to several resources.  You truly must watch the documentary Cooked on Netflix with Michael Pollan based on his book of the same name.  He thoroughly explores the process of fermentation and its role in health.  Seriously, stop right now and add it to your queue.  

 

I would also highly recommend Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently by Dr. David Ludwig and Grain of Truth: The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten by Stephen Yafa.  Both of these books provide a balanced, critical examination of carbs in general and flour in particular.  

Image result for always hungry book           Image result for grain of truth book

 

 

Mission (Im)Possible?: Healthy Cruise

Cruise-5

When most people think of a cruise, they think of the ocean, fun drinks, and of course, tons of amazing food.  Even if you have never been on a cruise, you may have heard about the legendary midnight chocolate buffets where fancy desserts, ice sculptures, and chocolate fountains are laid out on an altar to gluttony.  So where does healthy eating fall into the equation?  For most people, healthy eating is not even a thought beyond the first five minutes.  And with good reason!  It is overwhelming to constantly have tempting options right there for the taking.  Everyone else is loading up their plates with stacks of pancakes, bacon, eggs, corned beef hash, roasted potatoes and french toast with syrup!  So why shouldn’t you grab a plate and join in, right?! And that’s just breakfast.

But this isn’t my first rodeo.  On several past cruises, I did indulge with no restrictions.  I’ve had the “fun” of the eating frenzy, with the resultant bloat, tight clothing by the end of the cruise, weight gain, and constipation.  This time, however, I wanted to challenge myself to a new way of cruising.

For this challenge, I defined healthy eating as eating slow carbs and low/no sugar or sugar substitutes.  By slow carbs, I mean minimizing the consumption of white flour, white rice, and pasta and choosing whole grains like brown rice and quinoa when possible instead.  This included swapping white potatoes, which are high on the glycemic index for sweet potatoes, which are ironically lower on the GI.   I also included healthy movement and moderate alcohol into the mix.

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I’ve talked about this way of eating.  I mostly refer to the book Always Hungry? by Dr. David Ludwig, a practicing endocrinologist and researcher who works at Boston Children’s Hospital.  What I like the most about the Always Hungry? approach is it’s moderation.  I could never do a low carb diet long term.  What AH offers, however, is an eminently doable slow carb lifestyle that is not low in fat or ridiculously high in protein.  All of that is to offer the context of what I’ll be talking about in terms of healthy eating.

So bottom line- how did I do?  Wellllll…. for the most part, I accomplished my goals.   Let’s break it down by category, shall we?

Breakfasts

This was generally the easiest meal of the day to eat healthfully, as eggs in all their variety are a solid choice and plenty of fresh fruit abounds to provide some slow carbs.  What was most disappointing was the lack of options.  Because regular oats are fairly highly processed, I didn’t want to choose them very often.  At home, I only eat steel cut oats.  Also at home, I frequently have full fat plain greek yogurt.  The closest thing I could find was low fat plain regular yogurt.  All of the other options had added sugar and sweetened fruit.  So by day 6, I was mightily sick of eggs and decided to branch out and have some (highly processed) oatmeal with honey and fruit.  On day 7, I had some muesli, which was quite tasty, but surely had sweetened yogurt and processed oats.

I was disappointed in the dairy selections.  There was whole milk available in cartons to drink, but the only half and half option was in those little individual containers and there was no cream offered at all.  So if you are accustomed to cream in your coffee, brace yourself for disappointment, even in the dining room at night.

Lunch

I only ended up having one lunch, which was the first meal when we arrived on ship.  There were lots of healthy protein options, tons of fresh veggies and fruit, but disappointingly, not many slow carbs or legumes, aside from the major score of finding chickpeas.

Tim and I found that if we had a later breakfast, then we were plenty full until our dinner time of 5:30.  Skipping lunch was one way of ensuring that we were actually hungry when it was time to eat again.  If you know me in real life, you know that I NEVER skip a meal, ha!  But on each cruise in the past, I would often head into the next meal out of habit instead of hunger.  Being intentional about waiting to eat until I was hungry was a major victory for me in terms of health on this trip.

Cruise Food-8

Romaine lettuce salad with olives, carrots, corn, chickpeas and ranch dressing.  Cold cuts and cheese.  Amazing Greek salad.

The only other time we had lunch was when we were in port at Cozumel.  We had to stop and have some yummy Mexican food.  I had a chicken enchilada and Tim had bean and cheese nachos.  Of course, we had plenty of cerveza to wash it down.

Cozumel Food

Dinner

Here comes the temptations!!  Freshly baked rolls of all types and desserts galore!  Sigh.  I was surprisingly easily able to pass on the bread rolls before the meals.  I’m actually pretty much a bread snob.  You know what I missed most?  The butter.

Dinner each night came with an appetizer, main course, and dessert.  The appetizers were all so excellent.  I’m kind of a soup aficionado, so that was my go to most nights.

At home, I don’t eat a lot of red meat, or meat in generally, typically.  But on this cruise, I was all about the meat.  I had duck, lamb two times, and several cuts of beef.  They were so tender and flavorful.  I do suspect that the sauces and marinades had sugar in them, however.  There was not much I could do to avoid that, so I just rolled with it.  Most of the sides were vegetables with some higher glycemic polenta or mashed potatoes.  Those, I sampled a bite of and then skipped. One night, I was pleasantly surprised to have mashed parsnips, which made me very happy!  I think several people at the table ate them, not realizing that they weren’t mashed potatoes.

Now let’s get to the desserts.  Sigh.  I tried, ya’ll.  I really did.  The first night, I got the fruit, which was beautiful, but honestly, disappointing.  We also got coffee each evening, so I tried adding cream from the coffee to the fruit, but realized very quickly that it was not real cream.  Bummer.  I had a dessert each night, except for the one night I had two!  Ha!  But it all balanced out because the following night I didn’t have any.

Not pictured is the amazing key lime pie and a few nights where I had a scoop of ice cream.  Oh well, you win some, you lose some!

Exercise

I wanted to make sure that I included exercise on this cruise, so I signed up for spin class when they offered it each sea day.  The first two classes were an excellent hour of sweat and fun.  I felt like a million bucks afterwards, even though I felt pretty much like a martyr before class.  Ha!  The last sea day, I skipped class so I could spend the last day with my hubby, and I was fine with that decision.  Exercise is something that I do on a regular basis at home, and I knew that workouts awaited me when I got back to land.  We did take the stairs often, both going up and down.  The wait at the elevators was looong, so most times we just gave up and hoofed it up.

Spin Class

Good times!  If you spin, I would highly recommend.  Image courtesy of Royal Caribbean Press.

Alcohol

I had one cocktail each afternoon.  Most times, it was my current favorite of kahlua and cream.  One afternoon, I had a toasted almond martini for old times sake.  That was my favorite a few cruises back.  One night, I had wine with dinner.  In Mexico, I had 3 beers.  I definitely had more alcohol than I normally drink at home, but I was totally fine with the amount I had.  I didn’t overindulge this time, but I did fondly remember a past trip to Señor Frog’s- who can forget that, right, Dad?

Kaluha

My drink of choice- Kahlua and Cream.

 

All told, I think I managed to strike a balance between health and indulgence.  Was I perfect?  Definitely not.  Did I feel good about my choices at the end of the day?  Absolutely.  And that’s a win in my book.

Want to see personal photos of the cruise?  Click here to see my photo album*.  And if you haven’t yet, become a follower of my blog!

*Please be aware that all photos in my personal album are copyrighted by me and cannot be used or modified without permission.

Farmer’s Market Haul

I have always loved the *idea* of going to the farmer’s market early on Saturday morning to get fresh produce and eggs.  The reality, however, is more difficult.  Working full time, my mornings at home are extremely precious to me.  I love that first cup of coffee at home with my husband.

But THIS.

2017_03 Farmer's Market 00001

Fresh eggs, yellow, orange, and red carrots, leaf lettuce, asparagus, and what appears to be an avocado, but most definitely is NOT.  More on that later.

This may be starting to edge out sleeping in.  Maybe we can create a new tradition of having our first cup of coffee in the car on the way to the farmers market.  LOL.

2017_03 Farmer's Market 00020

Fresh low-temp pasteurized milk.

And this milk- holy cow!  For real, ha!  It’s my first experience with milk that separates into cream on top.  You just give it a shake before drinking.  It is the most amazing milk I’ve ever tasted.  I’m not a huge milk drinker, but several times this week, I’ve poured myself a cup.

2017_03 Farmer's Market 00029

I like several things about going to the farmer’s market.  The freshness of the produce is unbelievable.  The asparagus I bought was literally picked less than 24 hours before I bought it.  And the carrots.  Last time I bought these carrots and roasted them, I craved them and thought about them and wanted them again.  They were so flavorful!  This time, I couldn’t wait to get them home to roast them.  Then I proceeded to pick them off the pan like candy every time I walked past.

2017_03 Farmer's Market 00026

Beautiful eggs!

The eggs have the most golden yolk.  My husband can tell you, I’m quite the egg snob now.  My son’s best friend has chickens at his house, and the best is getting those eggs.  They are really fresh -and free!- every now and then when I’m lucky enough to get some.  The farmer’s market eggs are just like those.  The yolks are firm and golden.  If you cracked an egg, I could tell you if the chicken was actually pastured or not.  When you are shopping at the store, always buy pastured eggs if possible.

Cage free doesn’t mean the gloriously open grassy areas that the word tries to conjure.  In reality, cage free chickens live on a concrete warehouse-style floor with a small chicken door on one side that the chickens could theoretically use to go out onto a small square of dirt.  If they knew it existed.  And if they could get past all the other chickens to go out.

Pastured eggs are the way to go for sure.  The chickens get to peck around in the grass and eat little bugs with their feed, which is what they should do.  Chickens are not vegetarian, so vegetarian fed chicken eggs aren’t a good thing, either.  Healthy chickens produce the best eggs, and it’s really the only kind of egg I feel good about eating.  I want a chicken to live a good life and not suffer over much for me to have the eggs.  Happy chickens, right Timmy?

2017_03 Farmer's Market 00022

NOT a chicken egg.

Speaking of eggs, this adventure in food is actually an emu egg!  Look at the size of it compared to the standard chicken eggs.  It really was quite a novelty and produced a lovely frittata.  Be looking for more on that in a future post!

2017_03 Farmer's Market 00012

Look at those colors!

The other thing I love about shopping at the farmer’s market is the absence of so much packaging.  My poor husband has to put up with me griping about unnecessary packaging at the store all the time.  I hate the flimsy plastic bags that I’m supposed to put produce in.  I use them, but I hate them and feel guilty all the time.  Not only that, but packaging that goes above and beyond, like a pack of four potatoes on a styrofoam tray wrapped in plastic.  I don’t need my potatoes in plastic.  I can pick them out of a bin just fine, thank you very much!  My mom will be familiar with these gripes of mine as well.  We went to Costco and I just about croaked at the large plastic clamshell containers that the apples come in.  The apples tasted good, but it seemed like such a ridiculous waste to have all those containers.  Sorry, mom!

2017_03 Farmer's Market 00012-2

Roasted Carrot and Green Leaf Lettuce Salad

It baffles me that we have lettuce trucked in from California when there’s great organic lettuce that is grown here!  So yeah, I may be getting a little picky about my food.  Or maybe I’m just starting to see that I have real options apart from relying on industrial agribusiness.  Supporting the farmers at the market makes me happy.  Fresh.  Local.  Low waste.  Yum!

 

Gorgeous Purple Sauerkraut

2017_03 Saurkraut 00016

Let’s just all pause for a moment to admire that vibrant purple color.

That color came about by accident.  I went with my friend, Tara, (the one I met at sourdough bread class, remember?) to HEB the other day.  We were on the hunt for some green cabbage to make homemade sauerkraut.

I should probably back up a little bit and fill you guys in.  My hubby and I were actually camping for a few days in Georgetown, TX.  It’s really ideal, because he works in Georgetown, so after work he comes home to the camper.  That leaves me all day to myself, which I have to admit is quite a treat.  After one day of luxury to myself I decided I wanted some company.  I called Tara to see if she wanted to come down from Killeen and make a day of it.  We had a vague plan to make something together.

So there we are at HEB and wouldn’t you know- they are OUT of cabbage.  When is there a run on cabbage EVER, am I right?  The only kind they had left was some purple cabbage.  Tara said it would work fine, so we continued with our plan to make sauerkraut.  We nosed around and bought other things and returned to my camper to get to work.

The first step in making sauerkraut is to chop the cabbage and put it into a large container.  My slices were  a little thick, which makes the cabbage a little crunchier.  I love it, but my hubby likes it a little less crunchy, so I’ll try thin slices next time.  So, slice according to your taste!

Add about a teaspoon of salt.  Then, you essentially bash the shit out of it for 10 minutes.  Seriously.  The most appropriate tool I had while camping was a mason jar filled with water to add more heft.

2017_03 Saurkraut 00002

I love the color already!

2017_03 Saurkraut 000035

Take turns with a friend so your arm doesn’t get tired.

The smashing helps release the natural water inside the cabbage.  After a good ten minutes or so, it’s time to transfer the sauerkraut into a smaller container.  This part amazed me- Tara kept adding the cabbage to my empty yogurt container and pressing it down and adding more and pressing it down.  I thought several times that there was no way she’d get it all to fit in there, but she did!

2017_03 Saurkraut 00004-2

Here you can see the natural cabbage water rising to the top.

Press down super hard on the cabbage until the natural water covers the cabbage.  Leave the weighted jar on top of the cabbage and set it aside for 5-7 days.  There’s really no rule on how long to leave it, just leave it until it gets the taste you like!

2017_03 Saurkraut 00005

See the bubbles forming on the container and the jar?  That’s what you want.

I wiped the bubbles away from the edge of the container every few days.  Because my cabbage is purple, the bubbles were a little bit brown and gross looking.  If you look carefully on the edge of the container below, you can see some of the residue still on the edge.  But the bubbles are a good sign.  It means the magic of fermentation is happening!

2017_03 Saurkraut 00007

See the left side with brown residue- eww.  Totally normal and not a bad sign, though.

I let my sauerkraut sit for 6 days and I love it!  It has just enough tang and crunch, plus it looks so beautiful!  I think from now on, I’ll always make purple sauerkraut.  It’s just so gorgeous, I can’t resist. And the colors you see in the photo are true to life, I didn’t edit them or pump them up at all with photo software- nature at its best!


Sauerkraut

  • Servings: lots
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients


1 head cabbage

1 teaspoon salt


Directions

Thinly slice your cabbage and place in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the salt on the cabbage and mix up. Smash the cabbage for 10 minutes using something that has weight. You can use a clean can of soup, or a meat mallet, or do what I did and use a mason jar filled with water. Press the cabbage and the resulting water into a smaller container and really pack it in tight. Using the jar, press down hard until the natural water rises to the top and the cabbage is submerged. Set aside for 5-7 days or more, wiping any excess foam from around the edges. Remove the jar, wipe down the container, and pop a lid on it. You can refrigerate and enjoy- no need to rinse or anything!

My first loaf!

Well, I have to say, my first loaf is actually edible!  I was nervous pulling out my starter and feeding it and then forming my first loaf at home.  But I really really wanted more cinnamon raisin bread- I was determined!

2017_02-cinnamon-bread-1-00005

Isn’t it pretty?!

It turned out really dense and smaller than the one in class, and I’m thinking that might be because it was unsifted whole grain flour.   In class, we used lightly sifted whole grain flour.  It was heavy as a brick, but very tasty!

2017_02-cinnamon-bread-1-00021

Crumb shot

I was happy to achieve the flakiness of our loaf in class, and you can see the clearly delineated swirl of cinnamon, which makes me happy.  Next time, I will use even more cinnamon.  And please don’t make too much fun of the date stamp in the picture.  God knows what setting I had pressed to get that to show up.  And of course, I don’t know the editing software good enough to remove it yet…  It’s a learning process, people!

Overall, I’m proud of how the first loaf went at home!  I did have some realizations.  One, working on a cold granite counter top may not be the best surface for making bread.  Sigh. I guess I’ll have to get an extra large wood cutting board.  Second, don’t start making a loaf of bread at 8 pm.  I KNEW I’d be up very late finishing it and I was determined to have my fresh bread for the morning.  But next time I’m really going to try to start earlier!

2017_02-bread-batch-1-00010

Before the first rise.

2017_02-cinnamon-bread-1-00002

About to go in the oven (at 11:45pm).

I ended up baking it for abour 45 minutes, which was longer than I thought it might take, but ended up being perfect.  That means that I took the loaf out of the oven at about 12:30 and by the time I was able to fall asleep it was almost 1 am.  But the payoff!

2017_02-cinnamon-bread-1-00017

The best part- breakfast the next morning!

A Cheesy Adventure

So in the latest installment of my crazy life, let me tell you the story of how I came home from a normal work day yesterday, and unexpectedly woke up early today to watch a cheese demo in a town 40 minutes north of me.

mother-earth-fair

Generic photo from the Mother Earth News publicity kit.  🙂  Did I mention I brought my camera and neglected to take any shots?  Never again!

After work yesterday, I hung out with my friend, Charity, then went to bed early.  Word to the wise, this is what happens when you leave your phone unattended around Charity.  Anyway, I was lounging in bed catching up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube- you know the drill- my friend Tara messaged me.  I met Tara a few weeks ago when I went to the bread class, and we hit it off so well, it didn’t seem too weird or stalker-y to friend her on Facebook.  It’s so fun making new friends who share my same interests!

Anyway, she messaged me about the Mother Earth Expo happening in Belton today and tomorrow. I have to say, I had not ever heard of Mother Earth, but I was willing to hang out with a friend doing something fun together.  She was super excited, because Cary from The Ploughshare was going to be giving a demonstration on how to make Mozzarella Cheese.  Tara is a lucky duck, she’s already taken their soft cheese class.  Below are her own creations of cheese and butter.  Maybe you need to write a guest blog post, Tara!

So that’s how I came to spontaneously buy a weekend pass to the Mother Earth Fair.  And you guys, the cheese!  It was amazing, and I don’t say that lightly.  The process is fascinating.  Basically, you warm up a gallon of milk, add citric acid and rennet, and 5 minutes later, the entire pot turns from a liquid to a solid!  Crazy!  The teacher, Cary, took her knife and sliced up the solid milk into strips in the pan.  One stir with a spoon and the curds immediately separated from the whey.  She gathered them, stretched them, and bam- mozzarella cheese just like that.

Tara and I had a fun morning, walking around the vendors, looking at the baby chicks and piglets and gorgeous roosters.  Food trucks were scattered everywhere outside, while demos were happening inside.  People could make their own brass spoons, or even carve their own wooden spoons, and weave small baskets.  There was one lady who was spinning cotton on an improvised spindle made with a bicycle tire frame.  It was so soft and thin and pretty.

spindle

Stock photo, but the cotton looked just like this!

speaker2

A great lecture on designing a homestead from the Ploughshare.

egg-apron

Isn’t this adorable! I would totally need one of these if I had chickens.

pigs

This is a stock photo, but I did see piglets nursing!  They were so adorable.

There were lots of sessions about organic gardening, raising your own backyard chickens, and even a session on how to butcher an animal and make the most of all the pieces.  For real. I didn’t go to that session, ha!

The experience combined so many strands of study in my life.  One year, I read Michael Pollan’s book The Ominvore’s Dilemma.  In the book, he talks about an innovative farmer, Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms.  And Joel Salatin is actually one of the speakers at this event!  Plus, on the way to the expo center, I was listening to a lovely podcast called Living Homegrown.  The host, Theresa Loe, was interviewing Shawna Coronado about her organic gardening hacks.  And surprise, Shawna Coronado was on the schedule as well!

It felt great to do something spontaneous and to hang out with a new friend.  The weather was amazing, too.  And while I failed to take many pictures, boo, it was a great day!  Do I plan on raising my own chickens and growing my own food?  No, at least not any time soon.  I have a brown thumb and chickens aren’t allowed where I live.  But I love to learn and gain new perspectives, so it was a lovely day!

I am sooo adding mozzarella cheese to my list of things to do!  But, I do think I will make another loaf of my cinnamon bread first, because we are sadly out of that.  So many things, so little time.

 

Bread, Glorious Bread!

Ya’ll.  I’m writing this post and looking at the pictures, and it’s making me want to get up and go to the freezer right now where my  last piece of Cinnamon Raisin bread is waiting for me.  I want to toast it up and slather it with butter because it is YUMMY!

2017_01-bread-class-00022

So, I didn’t seal the bread well enough and some of my cinnamon and sugar melted out onto the pan, whoops!  The surprising thing to me was how lightly sweetened this loaf is.  It’s got 3 tablespoons of sugar total- not bad for a sweet bread.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  So in my quest to have the most nutritious food, I started looking into grains, in particular whole wheat.  I have mostly been eating the whole version of these for the last year.  I might have cooked wheat berries or occasionally steel cut oats, but not regular bread made out of flour.  The thinking behind this is that the more processed something is, the higher the insulin rush in your body, which can lead to excess fat storage.

But I’ve been wondering if there are perhaps shades of nutritious whole grain flours, as an occasional slice of bread is a glorious thing.   I began wondering if I could freshly mill my own flour from quality wheat and then feel good knowing that it hasn’t been stripped and bleached.  I’ve come to think of modern white flour as “dead” flour, which isn’t far from the truth, since it is stripped of the fiber and bran and then bleached so it will remain shelf stable.

2017_02-bread-class-iphone-00003

Freshly milled whole grain flour made with a lovely sourdough starter- there’s nothing dead about this bread.

Looking into milling my own flour lead me to The Homestead Heritage.   They call themselves an intentional Christian community dedicated to sustainability.  They have one of the only working stone ground mills left in the United States.  The other weekend, I went to visit.  Watching the millstone grind the wheat, feeling the vibrations in the floorboards, and hearing the miller talk about the nuances in the smell of the wheat, was truly an enriching experience.  Come to find out, the saying “keep your nose to the grindstone” comes from a milling background- who knew?!

2017_01-bread-class-00006

I signed up to take the sourdough bread class, which was an all day affair starting at 8:30 and ending around 5:30.  We had a tour of the bakery, hands on experience with several recipes, and even got to take home our very  own starter from theirs.

2017_01-bread-class-00010

I wish I could bottle the smell and share it with you!

2017_02-bread-class-iphone-00004

Here are the pitas going into the 500 degree oven! High heat for a few minutes only, and they puffed up beautifully.

2017_02-bread-class-iphone-00001

They have the perfect top to stuff goodies into the pocket!

I learned so much from the day!  I haven’t made a loaf here at home, as we sliced and froze the glorious loaves and stashed them in the freezer so as not to eat them all in one weekend.  Ha!  I left with a cookbook of recipes and a determination to eat only the best.

I hope to go back soon and re-visit the mill with my family and walk the campus with more leisure.  It was such a beautiful place and the people were very kind and welcoming.  They also have a cheese class and I suspect that this might be next on my list.

I ended the day with a sack full of flours from the mill and a car filled with the heavenly scent of homemade bread.  One of the best parts?  We made a pizza, so I didn’t even have to cook dinner!

2017_02-bread-class-iphone-00002