Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Homemade Chicken Salad w/Yogurt Dressing

I am always looking for new flavors for lunches around here... since I am home most days, I can't eat the same thing every. single. day.  Sandwiches are NOT my thing, and I can't make a large meal for lunch then turn around and make another one for dinner.  My other responsibilities don't leave time for that.  So, when I find recipes that catch my interest, I try to make enough to last for a few meals- this is one that fits the bill- and it turned out to be full of wonderful new flavors!

I tweaked  this recipe from one in an old Southern Living magazine.  (Here's the original)

1 can organic garbanzo beans (drained and washed)
2 T flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 T lemon juice
5 T unfiltered extra virgin olive oil
about 4 cups shredded chicken
3/4 cup chopped radishes
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 pt grape tomatoes (halved or whole)
1 1/2 cups chopped Japanese cucumber (no need to peel)

Yogurt dressing:
1 cup plain yogurt
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
2 T chopped fresh dill
2 T lemon juice
1 large garlic clove, minced
salt and pepper to taste

The original recipe called for you to mix this and let that sit... whatever :)  I just threw everything together and poured the dressing over it!  I made three meals out of this one recipe, and it was delish.
If you can, make it the night before you eat it to let the flavors combine.  I found it even tastier on days 2 and 3. Enjoy!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Homemade Rough-Cut Pâté

Whenever I buy a whole chicken, I try to make sure it includes the giblets!  If you avoid them, you are really missing out on a delicious and nutritious snack:  pâté.  (Don't let the other organs go to waste!  Make gravy or stock with them!) .  

This is my go-to recipe for a quick and easy pâté- just 7 ingredients makes this treat a great way to take your organ meats, too!  Usually,  pâté is made with only livers, but I throw the heart in for added nutrients :)

Here's what you'll need to make a fast and tasty pâté:

From one  chicken with giblets:
chicken liver, de-veined with connective tissue cut off, chopped 
chicken heart, cleaned and chopped very fine

salt and pepper to taste
about 2 T minced onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 T butter

Melt butter in a heavy skillet (I like cast iron)
Put chopped organ meats and onions in hot butter, brown
Just before taking the mixture off heat, add in the minced garlic- stir to heat briefly.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

To serve:  place the warm pâté on a toasted piece of homemade sourdough bread- YUM!!
If you are generous, feel free to cut the toast in half and share with a loved-one.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Homemade Tepache (Fermented Pineapple Drink)

I have to admit, I do miss some things about Florida, especially since I know my citrus trees are in full fruit and we cannot enjoy them.  And, we have gotten more snow here in the past week than I've seen in the past 20 years of my life!  Our friends down south have been enjoying 70-80 degree weather... Winter is definitely the time to visit south Florida, and I am coming to understand why all those snow birds travel so far!

But, I was so excited when I saw that another of my favorite tropical treats was on sale at my local King Soopers:  pineapples!  Right now, they are $1 apiece!   So, I am going to make a tropical drink called tepache that reminds me of warmer climates :) 

What you'll need for homemade tepache:

2 pineapple skins and cores, washed 
filtered, non-chlorinated water
1-2 cups sugar (depending on taste)
1 T powdered cinnamon (you could also add cloves)

Although pineapples are not one of the "dirty dozen" fruits, I am not taking any chances- I gave these babies a nice bath in water and white vinegar to rinse off any residual pesticides.  I will be using the skin to ferment this drink, much like homemade ACV.

Once the pineapples are washed thoroughly, I cut off the skin (and about 1/4-1/2" fruit).  Save the interior fruit for eating!

Put the skins (and cores) into a two-gallon fermenting crock or glass jar.  Just cover the skins with filtered, non-chlorinated water that has been sweetened with 1-2 cups sugar.  I also added a couple tablespoons ground cinnamon and 1/4 c whey.  Stir until everything is combined, then cover with a secured towel.

On day 3 (it will be a shorter period for warmer climates), you will notice a layer of bubbly scum on the surface of your brew.  Just skim this off and re-cover the fermentation vessel! You will need to check for scum on day 4 and 5, and skim off whatever comes to the surface...

Day 5:  Bottling Day!

Since I am in a colder climate, I let my tepache ferment for 5 days.  Bottle yours any time between the 3 and 5-day mark.  The earlier you bottle, the sweeter it will be.  I like tart drinks :)  If you bottle earlier, you will have a better chance at putting it away while still bubbly, although mine was still bubbly on day 5! 

I made just enough tepache to fill a one-gallon re-purposed cider jug.  It is still a touch sweet, so I am leaving mine out on the counter overnight.  This will help the good bacteria consume the remaining sugar.  

If you've never had tepache, it is very pineapple-y.  It is a tropical thirst-quencher and a bubbly treat (even on a cold winter day!).  

So, enjoy this tropical treat and think of warmer days to come!  
To view the the original, inspiring post on Cultures for Health, click here.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Homemade Tooth Whitener

By now, everyone has heard of the wonderfully natural whitening ability of activated charcoal... well, those of us who have tried it in powdered form also know how messy it can be- big time messy. I have discovered a great way to cut down on the mess and make the charcoal experience more tasty, too!  Honey is the answer :)  

While perusing the vintage cookbooks on, I found some beauty tips from the Ugly Girl Papers in the back of the Housekeeper's Friend Cookbook (1876).  One tip was regarding a whitening paste for the teeth.  It reads in part:

     "...charcoal holds the highest place as a tooth powder.  It has the property, too, of opposing             putrefaction, and destroying vices of the gums.  It is most conveniently used when made into paste with honey."

The addition of (raw) honey makes charcoal much neater and more convenient to use! I, and  my bathroom counter, can attest to that :)  

In my charcoal tooth whitening paste, I used about two tablespoons honey and about two teaspoons charcoal.  If you feel you need more charcoal and less honey, go ahead and experiment with proportions!  

So, instead of using chemicals to bleach your teeth, try something natural, something tried and true. My teeth are looking whiter by the day,  and the addition of honey makes my teeth whitening a breeze!  Enjoy!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Homemade, Naturally-Fermented Honey Mead (part 2)

My kitchen smells so good right now!  Every time I stir my melomel (fruit mead), I get a sweet whiff of honey-wine... nothing smells better than fermenting fruit beverages, in my opinion.  I think my body craves them!  By now (day 6), my honey mead has been fermenting for a good two days.  Here are some wonderfully bubbly pictures of this naturally-fermented masterpiece...

Bubbles, bubbles, everywhere!  During fermentation, whatever fruit you put in your mead (if any) will be floating on top because of the wonderful effervescence.

Here's what my melomel looks like after being stirred up

Not too much longer and I'll be bottling...

Bottling Day!! (day 12) :

I am in heaven.  Right now, I am sipping on my finished fruit mead, and it is good!  This lovely fermented drink reminds me of a sweet fruit wine but with a hint of honey at the end.  The fragrance is very floral, and the color is beautiful- slightly pink from the blackberries.

I encourage everyone to try this project, if you are a wine drinker.  Unlike store-bought fruit wine, this drink is packed with enzymes and probiotics that are good for your tummy and promote good digestion.  It's just an added bonus that fruit mead tastes so darn yummy!  Enjoy!

To view part 1 of my mead project, click here.
For more information on aging mead, visit this website.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Homemade SCOBY for Making Kombucha

I refused to pay $20+ for another SCOBY, especially since you can make your own for about $3 and some items found in your kitchen.  Yes, you can make your own culture from scratch!  And I'm going to show you how...

I stumbled upon directions for making a SCOBY years ago, but since I always had a few of them on hand I never had the opportunity to make my own. Now's my chance!  I referenced the kitchn blog, just to make sure I was doing everything right, but honestly the directions are pretty much the same as brewing a batch of kombucha with a SCOBY.  If you've made kombucha before, this is a cinch!  (All the same, there are some fantastic pictures on the kitchn blog!  Check it out for more precise directions)

What you'll need:
about 7 cups filtered, non-chlorinated water
5 small tea bags (black or green-I used green)
1/2 c sugar
1 c store-bought, raw, unfiltered, non-flavored kombucha
A fermenting vessel (clear glass)

Start with brewing your tea.  Bring the water to a boil, then (off heat) add your tea bags.  Let the tea steep at least 15 minutes.  Remove tea bags and add sugar while the tea is still warm.  Let the tea cool completely.  Pour sweetened tea into your fermenting vessel and pour in the kombucha.  Cover with a towel secured with a rubber band.

If you have more than one culture sitting on your kitchen counter at once, be sure to separate them to prevent cross-contamination.  I have my sourdough and kombucha at opposite ends of my kitchen.

The SCOBY will be ready in 1-4 weeks, depending on the temperature in your home.  Since it is pretty cold here, mine will take closer to 4 weeks...

4 days later:

I noticed that "yeasties" were starting to form on the surface of my brew.  If you are familiar with kombucha, the "yeasties" are the brown tendril-like things that grow beneath (or between) your SCOBYs.  After all, SCOBY means: Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast.  The yeast isn't bad, but it does show me that something is alive in there!  In the upper left of the picture, you can see the baby SCOBY that was in my store-bought bottle of kombucha.  I included it in my cup of starter, just to get things moving along!  The bubbles around it tell me it is consuming the sugar in the tea and breeding more good bacteria.  Life is beautiful!

6 days later:

The new SCOBY is a thin film over my kombucha.  It is finally forming!  As I said before, it can take up to 4 weeks for the SCOBY to fully develop, so I will keep checking it daily...

1 1/2 weeks later:

As you can see, the SCOBY is starting to take shape!  The bubbles are normal- that's just co2 that was trapped underneath the developing culture.  The "yeasties" look a bit gross, but that's normal, too!

2 weeks later:

The SCOBY is gaining girth!  Since I am using a clear glass container, it is easy to see the thickness of my culture... in the pictures below, you can see its continued growth:

I still need to let the culture grow, as the thickness is not ideal.  I think one more week will suffice!

You can tell that the SCOBY is growing a bit unevenly, but it will smooth out after continued fermentation.  

3 weeks later:

That's what I'm taling about!  My SCOBY is finally thick enough and even enough to use full-time!  Other than the bubbles, my culture is an even thickness and a nice creamy-white color.  It looks healthy (no mold) and smells like a well-cultured kombucha.  

I am so pleased with how this project turned out!  :)  Now, go make your own SCOBY and enjoy some homemade kombucha!

For more info on fermenting your own kombucha, go to:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Homemade, Naturally-Fermented Honey Mead

I am fascinated by history!  I have been researching the history of mead (honey wine) and have been thrilled with my findings... Apparently, the first mead was probably a happy accident :)  A beehive may have been flooded with rain water, which released the power of natural yeasts contained in the honey and BAM!  fermented honey wine!  I know, it would have taken days or weeks for the mead to develop, but that's basically the story :)

Some other neat facts about mead:
*Mead was considered a drink of the gods in ancient Greece.  Ambrosia, they called it.  It was thought to make you stronger, live longer and give you better overall health.   
*Mead was thought to be the first things given to the Viking warriors as they entered Valhalla.
*Celts believed that a river of mead ran through paradise!
*Even the term "honeymoon" refers to the gift of honey mead for the newly-married couple.
*Mead is featured in 1999 version of A Christmas Carol, with Patrick Stewart.  During the Christmas party at Scrooge's nephew's house, they heat a bowl of mead with a hot poker from the fire.  That is the traditional way to heat a Christmas mead

The reason mead production declined was due to the discovery of wine made from grapes and ale made from grains- both of which are cheaper than honey.  But, since mead was considered to be a divine gift, it was still used in religious ceremonies.

So making your own mead isn't just a hobby- you are carrying on a tradition that has been handed down for millennia.  Honey mead is considered the first fermented beverage in the history of the world, and you can make it right in your own kitchen :)

Honey mead can be made with only two ingredients:  honey and water. You might ask, "Where's the yeast??"  Well, believe it or not, honey actually contains yeast, enveloping it and preserving it until you release it in water to make mead.  

Think about it... everything in this world has yeast on it- leaves, flowers, fruit, even your own skin!  So, it's no wonder that the little honey bee picks up some yeast as it's gathering pollen!  I am going to make use of this wonderful wild yeast and ferment some honey to make a delicious holiday drink.

Here's all you need to make your homemade mead:
3-4 cups raw, local honey (less will give you a dryer mead, more will be sweeter)
1 gallon spring or non-chlorinated, filtered water
2-gallon fermenting vessel (either glass jar or fermenting crock)
1 c non-sprayed fruit (optional)

I do not have well water anymore, so I purchased some mountain spring water along with a  bottle of local raw honey.

In your fermenting vessel, pour the gallon of water and 3-4 cups honey.  No need to heat, as heating too much will kill all the beneficial enzymes and wild yeasts in the honey!

Stir vigorously until honey and water are incorporated- maybe a couple minutes.  At this point, you could just cover with a secured cotton cloth and wait for your mead to ferment!  I have chosen to add fruit to mine:  1 lemon and about 1 cup blackberries.  I have seen other traditional recipes that incorporate cloves, cinnamon sticks, apples, pears and oranges. Even Queen Elizabeth I had a favorite recipe that called for rosemary, sweet briar, thyme and bay leaf!  

As your mead ferments, stir often every day (at least twice, preferably 3 times) to aid in yeast growth and hinder mold from developing.  Take care of your mead and it will turn out beautifully!

Here is my fruity mead (also called melomel), ready to ferment!  I am going to leave it on the counter, covered, for about 10 days.  When the bubbly, fermenting stage is over (it should start around day 4), you can strain and drink the young mead -or- bottle in a carboy and let it develop into a more alcoholic beverage.  Check out this blog for more info on long-term mead fermentation.

Day 4:

I was excited this morning when I woke up to... bubbles!  Yes, they were small.  BUT, later in the day (for stir #2), I saw this:

My melomel is well on its way!  I'll keep you updated on the progress... and let you know how it ends up tasting! Stay tuned!

For Homemade, Naturally Fermemted Honey Mead (part 2), click here!

This post was inspired by a blog post by Jesse Frost and countless other recipes for traditional honey mead.  Check out Jesse's original post here.  You can also find traditional mead recipes in the vintage cookbooks on  Mead fun facts were gathered from various websites, including Sky River Brewing.