Sunday, April 07, 2013

My Kitchen Slaves

No, I'm not referring to my sons. Although knowledgeable and enthusiastic in many kitchen-ey things, especially pizza, they aren't coordinated enough to be super helpful in the kitchen yet.

I'm speaking of these: chunky colonies of microorganisms known as water kefir "grains".

After our family's first bout of pneumonia and antibiotics, I thought now was a good time to put my new year's resolution of kefir into action. And to be honest, I've always liked a good science experiment. Kefir is a probiotic culture (like yogurt), and probiotics are good for everyone, whether or not you've been on antibiotics. I picked up some grains, which are actually little colonies of specialized bacteria and yeast, from a friend (you can also purchase them in a dehydrated form) and put them to work.

The finished kefir is a little like pop: a bubbly sweet beverage. The starter ingredients are sugar/molasses, water, and the culture/grains. You can add flavoring as well. A lot of the sugar gets consumed by the bacteria but it is still sweet. The grains are removed before you drink the kefir and used for the next batch.

For now I'm keeping track of each batch (ingredients, how long it ferments, etc.) so I can tell what makes a good batch. The first two batches (berry tea and sweet cherry juice) have been good flavors with a mild fizz.

Considering that a bottle of kids probiotic pills ranges from $8-$23 for about a month's supply, I'm happy to have these little kitchen slaves on my countertop manufacturing virtually free lactobacilli for me.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Spring 2013 Rotating Meal Plan

Spring forward without falling back into the rut of pulling some chicken out of the freezer and then wondering what to do with it! 

Week A
M: taco salad
T: spaghetti
W: chicken nuggets & veggies with ranch dip
F: Sourdough Pizza
Sa: rice and beans casserole
Su: grilled chicken (raspberry or BBQ or Italian)

Week B
M: bean, bacon and cheese sandwiches
T: pasta w/ broccoli or asparagus
W: Stir fry & rice
Th: hummus & pita bread & sprouts, veggies to dip in hummus
F: Sourdough Pizza
Sa: Breakfast
Su: grilled burgers/brats/sausages

I found that my first meal plan was helpful. I could look ahead and see what needed preparing, and when I got a little time I would work on something like browning meat, getting something sprouting, chopping veggies, or mixing up a bowl of sourdough for something on an upcoming meal. We didn't get sick of repeating the meals because they were always a little different.

Seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains can be sprouted. Sprouting increases the nutritional value of many foods and the bioavailability of nutrients such as Vitamin C. Sprouted foods are supposed to "cost" less for your body to digest, so you get more out of them. I'm still learning about what the benefits are and how to do it, but it has been fun and easy to try. So far I have sprouted alfalfa seeds, clover seeds, radish seeds, brown rice, wheat berries, almonds, lentils, and mung beans. Today's taco salad includes some sprouted lentils that I browned with an onion and some meat.

I am hoping that soon we'll be getting fresh veggies out of the greenhouse or the garden to add to these meals!