31 July 2009

Ah, Kombucha!

At this moment in time, I have 2.5 L of real milk in my fridge, and about 1/4 L clabbering on the stove with which I will make cream cheese. We decided we prefer to drink whole milk for the flavour (quite impressive considering I used to refuse to drink anything with more fat than 1%! Delilah is drinking it and enjoying it as well. We slowly integrated it from pasteurized goat's milk to 100% whole milk. She also enjoys the yogurt I made last week.

I started a jug of Kombucha going last night with a friend's SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), using 4 orange pekoe tea bags, a pomegranate green tea bag, and 3 L of water plus a cup of sugar. This is my first attempt at kombucha, so we'll see how it turns out. I put it all into a sun tea jar (with spigot) and covered it with a tea towel and elastic band to keep bugs, dust, and anything else airborne out of it. In 6-8 days I'll check it for flavour and if I can find pH test strips, will check the pH.

For those who have never heard of Kombucha before, basically it's a fermented beverage made from tea and a SCOBY. The yeast in the SCOBY (which theoretically floats on top of the liquid in the jar) consumes the sugar and turns the tea into a healthy, delicious, naturally carbonated fermented beverage. The benefits are twofold, in my opinion: I get the nutrients from the drink, and I get to satisfy my soda addiction (I hope). We'll see.

According to Seeds of Health,
As the Kombucha culture digests the sugar it produces a range of organic acids like glucuronic acid, gluconic acid, lactic acid, acetic acid, butyric acid, malic acid and usnic acid; vitamins, particularly B vitamins and vitamin C; as well as amino acids, enzymes. And of course there are all the benefits of the probiotic microorganisms themselves. The Kombucha culture is a biochemical powerhouse in your kitchen.

Many health claims are made for kombucha but there is less research on the benefits of kombucha than there is on fermented milk products. It has certainly been shown to have similar antibiotic, antiviral and anti fungal properties in lab tests. In rats it’s been shown to protect against stress and improve liver function. There is a lot of experiential evidence from people who have been using kombucha over many years. Many of the benefits reported include improvements in energy levels, metabolic disorders, allergies, cancer, digestive problems, candidiasis, hypertension, HIV, chronic fatigue and arthritis. It ‘s also used externally for skin problems and as a hair wash among other things.

There are many supposed benefits to drinking the tea. From reversal of cancer, to treating skin issues, to reversing the signs of aging...the list is endless. There are internet sites full of testimonials. Here is one of them.

I am impatient to start drinking this, I can't wait to see what happens. I plan on starting small (half an ounce to an ounce a day, increasing by a half ounce per week) to avoid any violent cleansing side effects (nausea, cold symptoms, skin eruptions, etc). I am told this is also a good idea when breastfeeding, as I don't want my liver to do a purge and dump a bunch of toxins into my blood and breastmilk. Once I have my body accustomed to small amounts I will gradually increase the "dosage".

I don't know if Ben will drink it, but I'm sure he will try it. I will let forward him my research, we will discuss it, and he will make his decision. This is how we do practically everything-I discover something I want to try/do, and let him make his decision based on information.

I just hope it doesn't taste funny.

This is a Fight Back Fridays post. A little late, but whatever.

**image from http://www.skrewtips.com/img/300px-kombucha_jar.jpg

24 July 2009

Our Journey Down the Real Food Path

Have you ever had one of those AHA! moments? One where you realize that EVERYTHING you've previously thought about a subject was wrong, incomplete, based on faulty or invalid information, or just plain stupid? I had one of those just recently.

It all started when I toyed with the idea of drinking raw milk. I'm not sure WHERE I first heard that it was good for me, I think Dr Mercola was one of the people who inspired this decision. In any case, I have a friend who knew someone who was a potential source for raw milk and we followed that chain, which resulted in a raw milk source.

When I found out we were able to get some, regularly, I got cold feet - I did a LOT of researching, to make sure that it was safe. It shows you how much you are brainwashed into thinking that "but that's the way it's done" is right. "Pasteurize your milk? Of course! Raw milk is unsafe and you'll die of kidney failure!" Riiiight.

In any case, I found the argument for raw milk pretty convincing. Doctors, farmers, dentists, regular people, a whole bunch of people are out there and willing to talk about raw milk and why you should drink it-and conversely, why you shouldn't drink pasteurized!

I picked up our first installment of milk earlier this week, in a glass 1 gallon jug. It sat in my fridge until the next day, when I sterilized 4 1L mason jars and poured it off into them. There was a little left over in the big container, but that didn't last long.

At that point, I still hadn't tried it (because I'm chicken), so I took a sip-manna! It was delicious. As mentioned in my previous post, I had reservations at first (that brainwashing showing itself) but no more. I DID start small, with a quarter cup serving, so my guts could get used to all the good bacteria and such. I do eat yogurt almost daily, but even with that I could definitely tell a difference. (Sorry if that's TMI!)

I tried spooning off the cream from two of the jars, but that didn't work well, so I procured a sun tea jar/aka glass spigot jar (thanks Food Renegade for the idea!) and got most of it off that way. Then that night, I made butter in my blender. I didn't get as much as I thought I would, but that could be because I had more milk in there than I thought. Better luck next time!

In the course of all this reveling in fresh milk, I was researching. And looking up directions for making butter, yogurt, etcetera. And through THAT research, I learned something. There is a whole Real Food movement out there, a world I didn't even know existed. I mean, sure, eat local, eat organic, eat farm fresh eggs (which we do). But...pasture fed? I had never considered it before! Organic isn't enough?!? Stunning! Now I've started learning about all of this, it makes so much SENSE! Why didn't I think about this/hear about this before?

Another example of Real Food: sprouting or soaking grains/seeds/nuts before you eat them. Who does this? No one I know. But now we do. Last night, I soaked our rolled oats in milk in a pot on the stove (I didn't have any yogurt yet-tonight they are soaking in milk with some yogurt in it). Why? To neutralize a component that makes the oats less bioavailable than they should be. (This makes sense when a grain, seed, or nut's purpose is to propogate, and it can't do that if it's being digested and destroyed in a bird or animal).

Need another example? No processed crap. No white flour or sugar (ok, I was already moving towards that). Pastured, humanely-raised beef, pork, and chicken. Farm-fresh eggs from free-range chickens. Butter or cold-pressed olive oil or coconut oil, not vegetable oil. Most remarkable: ANIMAL FAT IS GOOD FOR YOU. Revolutionary.

I can't write any more now, I'm overwhelmed. I can't believe that I'm turning 32 in a month and I just learned all this. I have so much to make up for!

Raw Milk, and the Making of Yogurt

I've taken a step into the abyss in the last few days - since we got our first batch of fresh milk. From here on out, I will refer to the milk we drink as REAL milk, as opposed to the store-bought, pus-laden, antibiotic and hormone filled garbage we used to drink. Okay, enough ranting-on with the post.

It is not illegal to drink real milk (aka raw, fresh, or unpasteurized). It is highly recommended that you inspect the cows and farm from which you will be obtaining the milk, to ensure the animals and location are clean and healthy. For obvious reasons.

I must admit, I was a little, well, SCARED, at first. I was hesitant about what it would taste like (I formerly used to drink skim milk from the store-BLECH), I was scared it would be thick and gross, I was scared I would die (ok, not really, but I had fallen into the whole "believe everything the government tells you about stuff" conspiracy regarding pasteurization). I actually waited a day, while the milk sat in the fridge, to gather my courage and take a sip.

It was DELICIOUS. Smooth and creamy, and a little sweet. It tasted NOTHING like store-bought. The milk I tasted first was whole milk, so it was as it came from the cow (when you let it sit, cream rises to the top-just shake it before you pour a glass, to mix it all together). This is the highest fat option. You could also strain off the cream, to use in coffee, to make butter, or cheese. The remainder is milk, a little less sweet. The third option is when making butter from your cream, the liquid that remains after the butter separates is buttermilk. This has even less fat than the milk.

Ever since getting the milk, I've been thinking about what to make with it. We had the equivalent of 4.5 mason jars (almost 5 litres!) so I made butter a couple of nights ago (already eaten, on bread and popcorn), and I have frozen 2 small containers of buttermilk for use in baking and cooking. After skimming the cream off of 2 jars, I have 2 jars of milk (one in the freezer) and we've drank half of one. That left us with 2 jars of whole milk. We are drinking one and the other, I made into yogurt. Yes, yogurt.

Today I perused a bunch of different sites and decided to follow one that seemed the most straight-forward, but didn't add in a bunch of stuff like she did. Here's what I used:

~one 1L mason jar of whole milk, shaken to incorporate cream
~one large saucepan
~1/4 cup yogurt starter (I used Western brand Plain Natural 2% Yogurt)
~candy thermometer
~sink half-full of cold water
~1 1/2 L wide-mouth mason jar
~oven pre-heated to 150F, with oven light on

Make sure all pieces of equipment are VERY clean, with no soap residue.

Add milk to saucepan and on low-med heat, bring temperature up slowly to 180F. You don't need to stir. Watch the temperature carefully, you don't want it to get too hot. I chose this temperature as it supposedly provides a thicker consistency.

Remove from heat and place pot into sink filled with cold water and whisk as the temperature drops to 110-115F. Make sure you keep the thermometer in the milk, and watch carefully, as this happens fairly quickly.

Add the yogurt starter in and whisk until smooth.

Remove from the water and pour the milk/starter mixture into your clean 1.5 L jar and place into the oven.

Turn the oven OFF but leave the oven light on - this will maintain the inside temperature at 100F, which is optimal for developing the yogurt.

Now wait. 4-10 hours is average. Do NOT open the door before 4 hours is up.

Some time after 4 hours (I waited almost 6), carefully open the oven door and look at the yogurt. If it is creamy and thickened (yes, you can use a clean spoon), then it's ready and you can take it out, cover it, and place it into the fridge. If it's NOT, you will have to bring the oven heat up a bit (just turn your oven back on up to the lowest temp it'll go, usually 150F) for a minute or to, then turn it off again and leave the door shut! Leave it for another couple hours.

I ended up leaving mine in for closer to 8 hours. It looked a little runny straight out of the oven, but not too bad. I haven't tasted it yet, as it was still warm - I am about to give it a taste test in a few minutes. If it is still runny after cooling, I will strain a bit of the whey (the liquid) and reserve it for fermenting purposes and for soaking grains, seeds, and nuts before eating.

Remember to keep a little of your first batch aside as starter for next time, OR keep using your store-bought yogurt.

You can add in sweetener like maple syrup or honey, plus jam, fruit, vanilla, anything you like.

***for those people who think it's stupid to drink real milk, that it's unsafe - think about this: it's legal in 28 states to sell raw milk for human consumption. Add in the states where it's legally sold for animal consumption, then you have 33 out of the 50 states where it's absolutely legal. Plus all the states where people get around the law by buying "cow shares"-if you own a cow, you can drink it's milk - and you have a LOT of people drinking raw milk. Plus all the farmers' families, people from other countries, and Canada. That's a LOT of people drinking raw milk, and you don't hear about mass deaths.

People have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years. It's unsafe farming practices (overcrowding, hormone treatments, and misuse of antibiotics), like industrial milk farming that create milk that needs to be pasteurized.

For other ideas on how to eat properly and well, with Real Food, check out Fight Back Fridays, over on Food Renegade.

23 July 2009

Clean Your Plate July!

My Recipe for July's Clean Your Plate Recipe Challenge is my favourite curry recipe so far. It involves full-fat coconut milk, organic, free-range chicken, curry powder, and your own favourite picks of in-season vegetables. My husband and I eat this served over a bed of organic medium or long grain brown rice, but you can serve it however you like (I have JUST started into this Real Food thing so be nice!). My husband and I are living on a frugal grocery budget, so I make one chicken breast serve both of us.

In any case, let's get started. This recipe will provide 4 small servings or 3 large ones.

Coconut Chicken Curry

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2-3 tbsp of medium or spicy yellow curry powder (or however much you need to coat your chicken pieces)
olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 clove garlic (more or less, to taste)
red and green peppers (half of each)-chopped in 1/4 inch chunks
any other in-season vegetables (zucchini, cauliflower, snap peas), chopped
1/4 c homemade chicken stock


Place curry powder into a bowl and toss cubed chicken in spice, making sure all pieces are thoroughly covered. Meanwhile, in a cast iron skillet, heat olive oil. Add in onion, ginger, and garlic and cook over low heat until softened.

THIS PART IS VERY IMPORTANT to ensure the curry flavour gets locked in to the chicken: remove onion, garlic, and ginger to a small bowl and add more oil to the pan, if necessary. Turn up the heat and add your curry-coated chicken pieces to the pan and quickly sear the chicken on all sides. **You are NOT cooking the chicken through at this stage, just searing it.

Add the onion, garlic and ginger back to the pan, add 1 can of full-fat coconut milk and 1/4 cup chicken broth (this part is optional, as it gives a depth to the flavour, but if you leave it out you get a more coconut-y taste!) and all your other vegetables.

Keep heat on medium until the mixture starts to simmer, then reduce heat and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Serve over your choice of rice, quinoa, or pasta.


***EDITED TO ADD: if you would like some heat to your curry, feel free to add dried hot red pepper flakes when you add in the coconut milk. I usually add a tablespoon, and that makes it pretty hot.

12 July 2009

When Children Get Hurt

Thursday evening, Ben went off to fly and so I took Harley and Delilah for a walk. I decided to stop in and pick up Sean, Ben's nephew so that he could go with us to the dog park and then the playground. He was nattering away, like usual, as we walked along on the sidewalk, when suddenly, BAM! The stroller stopped! I looked down, and Delilah's left foot was caught on the tire, and her leg was twisted up and around. She was in the rear-facing position, and there is no footrest or fender on the back wheel.

She looked at me with this awful face and started screaming. I had to actually lift her foot and put it back where it should be. As she continued crying, I gently felt the ankle joint and foot and shin for movement where there should be none, and tried to see if I could get a flinch or anything. I looked for immediate swelling and bruising, but didn't see any. She kept pulling her foot away so it was hard, and I didn't want to hurt her more than necessary.

She stopped crying within 3 or 4 minutes, and I didn't see any OBVIOUS signs of a fracture, so I decided to continue on to the park and keep assessing. She fell asleep within 5 minutes and slept the entire time we were at the dog park. She woke up when we got to the playground but was content to stay in the stroller. Sean played for about 10 minutes, then we left for home.

Once Delilah and Harley and I got home (shortly after 8 PM), I took her out of the stroller and attempted to set her on the floor on her feet. She immediately fell onto the floor. That's when I was sure she needed to get checked out. I had to send a friend to the airfield to find Ben to send him home and waited for him.

We got to Victoria Hospital and man, was it packed. Even the kid's emergency room waiting area was full. After about 2 hours we finally saw a doctor who felt her leg and ankle and foot. He couldn't feel any fractures, but once he saw that D wouldn't walk, he ordered x-rays. He felt that, since her bones are so young (and therefore soft), there was a greenstick fracture instead of a complete break through the bone. Which would explain why he couldn't feel a fracture.

The x-rays didn't show any breaks, but the doc still thought there might be, since some won't show on x-rays until 48 hours later for some reason. So he sent us home and told us that if there was no improvement within 48 hours, to come back. We finally got out of the hospital around 1:00 AM. The doctor had told us to give her tylenol or ibuprofin, but of course, D was fast asleep within 5 minutes of leaving the hospital. We managed to get her inside and upstairs without waking her.

The next morning, she still wouldn't walk on it, but didn't seem to be in any pain when she was sitting. Both Ben and I felt that it would be foolhardy to give her pain medication since we didn't want her walking on it-and if Tylenol made her feel better she might try and overdo it. We showed her how to crawl again, and about midmorning, she finally figured it out that she could get around, saving herself a lot of frustration.

The next day, Saturday, D was walking around a little bit in the evening so we felt there was enough improvement that she didn't need to go back for x-rays. Since then, she has used it more and more, but is still crawling on occasion. She'll forget that it's sore and try to do something that is a little too much for it and will whimper a bit and look sad.

It's such a relief that she's healing, and without a cast. It was a terrible feeling, knowing she was injured and in pain and there wasn't much I could do about it.

08 July 2009

It's a Walk in the Park

Cable has been off for what, a week now? Two? I haven't missed it. Once or twice, in the evenings I forget and wonder what's on, but I'm not upset when I realize we don't have anything to watch on tv. Admittedly, it is possible for us to watch stuff online, and we have hooked the laptop up to the television to watch a movie or two (Wolverine last week, Night in the Museum this week). Other than the possibility of us going over our download limit, it's not a bad deal.

One upside of us turning our cable off has been the inordinate amount of time I have on my hands. Who knew? TV was eating my day! Ack! These days, I get a hell of a lot more housework done, and Delilah, Harley and I go on daily walks that average an hour in duration. That's a lot more calories burned than sitting on your duff watching the boob tube.

Today we walked to the Civic Gardens entrance at Wonderland and Springbank (right on the corner) and cut thru the park to the paths. Then we walked all the way along the river past Storybook Gardens and kept going until we reached Byron Baseline by the bridge. The road loops back around and goes back through Springbank Park past a splash pad/wading pool and playground for the kiddies. That will be awesome when Delilah is older! Then we came out exactly where we went in and came home. All told it took us just about 2 hours, with a few water breaks.

I haven't been able to find an actual map of the paths with scale distance that is clear enough to understand-the London City one is terrible. I'd like to know how far we went today. It feels like about 6 km but what do I know?

The paths are great. There are some that are paved and some are crushed stone. There are trees all along the way-willow trees, evergreens, maple trees, and oaks. I am sure there are many more different types as well. There are flowers and plants, ivy and ground cover, wild raspberries, daisies, and more with which I am unfamiliar. There are cyclists and joggers, in-line skaters, people with regular strollers and running strollers. There are people with dogs and babies and older kids.

We have had a couple run-ins with the local wildlife, too. Monday we walked up to the backside of Storybook where the little duck pond is. There was a family of geese on the pedestrian side of the fence - the mom and dad plus 3 goslings. The dad didn't take too kindly to Harley and started hissing and chased us. We ran away. Then, today, there was a big swan by the banks of the river by the dam and it wasn't too friendly either. We avoid the big birds, now.

I'm looking forward to exploring more of the paths, in all directions. Apparently you can get from Springbank Park to downtown London using the path system!

My Weightloss Progress