28 August 2009

MMMM kombucha

Kombucha experiment #2 is a success! We have a good, healthy SCOBY going (about 1/4" thick), forming on the top of the tea. The mother is below it, kind of perpendicular. I am doing a continuous fermentation rather than starting a new batch each time. I think tomorrow I will separate off on of the babies and throw it in a jar with some of the kombucha and some fresh tea/sugar mixture and keep it on the counter, just in case something happens to the big batch. I wouldn't want to lose my kombucha now!

I have done 2 re-batches so far, about every 3 days. I pour off 1.5 litres or so, and put in fresh tea. The kombucha goes straight into a mason jar into the fridge, and when it's chilled we drink a couple ounces at a time. Our bodies are still getting used to it so we don't want to overdo it.

I like the flavour. I was a little scared it would be gross, but it is really good! It still tastes like tea, kind of, but with a little zing to it. Almost apple juicy, almost vinegary, but in a good way. Yum.

Careers and Destiny

Way back in another life, I was a police officer. That news may surprise some people. But it is true.

A couple neighbours recently found out I was a cop in another life and have taken it upon themselves to convince me that I should go back to it. At first I was resistant. There's only so much rejection a person can take, ya know? I left Guelph under a cloud-accused of doing things I hadn't done...messy.

In any case, 5 years have gone by. I still miss the job, the duty, the obligation...the politics part still ticks me off, but I think I can manage that part better. I miss the other parts enough that I think I could balance out the undesirable part...

I have initiated contact with a few people I used to work with. I hope to get a couple letters of recommendation from former co-workers and approach London's HR person. Wish me luck!

16 August 2009

Kombucha Experiment #2

My first kombucha failed-it developed mold around Day 4. I waited a week to ensure that what I was seeing was indeed mold, and it was.

A friend gave me another, fresher SCOBY and I made up a new batch of sweetened tea yesterday (Aug 15). I used 3 (2-cup) teabags and a cup of sugar in 3 L of water. I cleaned out the sun tea jar and set the 2nd batch to sit on the counter. I'm not covering it up this time, since it's not really in direct sunlight anyway.

I will check it in 4 or 5 days. Hopefully this one takes!

07 August 2009

A Weight Loss Update, and How to Make "Soda"

First, the update on my weight loss. Sorry to anyone not interested, just skip down to the soda recipe!

It's been two and a half weeks since we started on this "real food" path, and I've lost 6 pounds. What have I been doing? Well, for one, I WASN'T exercising, which I find odd. It's just been too rainy, or too busy, so I've done practically no walking/running
(up until yesterday).

The things I have been doing with regularity is:
~eating soaked/fermented oatmeal every morning (1/2 cup dried oats soaked in a mixture of water and whey or water and yogurt, in pot with lid on stove overnight), rinsed in morning and heated with a bit of water, milk, cinnamon, and honey or maple syrup, with raisins or bits of apple in it. D eats this too (but not raisins);
~eating scrambled eggs daily (usually with cheese, or cream cheese, or labneh, as well as fresh cilantro or dill) and a piece of homemade toast with butter or natural peanut butter
~drinking whole milk (cream has not been removed), fresh from a cow - at least one cup daily, plus use in cooking

Note the trend? I've been eating MORE fat from animal sources but I'm losing weight. Huh. On the other hand, I haven't been eating as much garbage as I used to. I pay attention to labels and try to avoid processed foods. I haven't killed my chocolate addiction yet, or my love for ice cream, but something has to give. I am coveting a hand-cranked ice cream machine but we'll see....

Now. On to the recipe for "soda":
I ran across a recipe for homemade gingerale online (as well as amazing info on cheese and other things-thanks to David B. Fankhauser, Ph.D, and used it with great success, then tinkered with it to find a less-sweet option. Then I tried the same basic recipe with lemon instead of ginger, and am quite pleased with the outcome. One of my major addictions is soda, and I'd rather drink something I've made, even if it has sugar in it, over the HFCS crap you buy at the store. In any case, here is the modified recipe for a nice, light-tasting soda that is reminiscent of club soda, but better (as you could drink it WITHOUT alcohol in it):

~3/4 c sugar (the yeast need sugar-I don't think anything else would work)
~about 1-2 tbsp lemon juice (you could do lime, too, or vanilla for cream soda, or grated ginger...)
~1/4 tsp yeast
~water to fill (filtered is best)

Using a clean plastic 2L bottle (apparently it's a risk to use glass as the pressure could make it explode - I will experiment with a glass gallon jug and valve system), pour in the sugar and then the yeast using a funnel. Swirl the bottle around to mix the yeast into the sugar, then add the lemon or lime juice. Fill the bottle to within an inch of the neck with water, and cap tightly. Tilt the bottle several times until the sugar is dissolved, then place on the counter. Let sit for 24-48 hours (could be finished before this depending on how warm your place is-make sure you check), until you can't squeeze the sides of the bottle. Let it sit for a couple hours more, then refrigerate for several hours/overnight for complete chilling. Enjoy!

**it is possible to let it go for too long on your counter and risk having the bottle explode from the expanding gasses. Try to avoid this. Messy.

04 August 2009

I Made Labneh!

Labneh is a traditional Middle-Eastern soft cheese made from straining yoghurt. It is very similar in taste and consistency to cream cheese.

Yesterday, I placed a cheesecloth into a strainer and dumped a tub of plain natural (no sugar added, no flavours, etc) yogurt into it. Apparently I should have added salt before this step but no matter, I added salt to the finished product.

Next I gathered the corners of the cheesecloth and brought them together and hung the small sack from the kitchen faucet over top of a 4 cup glass measuring cup to catch the whey. A couple hours later I remembered that the yogurt I was using was pasteurized, and should be refrigerated, so I transferred the sack to hang over a pitcher using a wooden spoon to hold it.

This afternoon I checked on the sack and it felt of the proper consistency so I carefully removed it from the cheesecloth. It looked like a big white ball of cream cheese! I transferred it to a bowl and mixed in about half a teaspoon or so of kosher sea salt. I'll store the labneh in a cream cheese container, since it made just a little less than 250 mL. Perfect.

The taste is pretty similar to cream cheese, if not a little more sour tasting. It's less sour than the plain yogurt taste, I think, and not offensive at all, especially with the salt added. I tried some spread over PC Organic Multi-Seed Stoned Wheat Crackers. Yum.

I can foresee this replacing our commercial cream cheese. It has an excellent, creamy consistency, a smooth taste, and will go with everything that cream cheese or sour cream partners does. I picture it over baked potatoes, on bagels and crackers, or the base for dips and spreads. Right now I'm imagining it served with roasted red peppers and olives.

The best part is, I know how to make yogurt. I can make that myself, and in turn, make labneh from the yogurt. And then the remaining whey I will use for soaking grains and such, and for replacing the liquid in breads and baking. Cheese and milk products RULE!

On a side note, I have found an Ontario source for rennet tablets and liquid, so I'll be ordering some of that. I plan on making Feta, so I won't have to buy THAT anymore, either. Eventually I'd love to learn to make cheddar and other forms of cheese so I'm excited to get started.

03 August 2009

Health Update

Many people who actually know me will know that I had a bout with extremely high blood pressure at the end of my pregnancy and for months afterward (the high BP is what caused my transfer to hospital to give birth). It got high enough after I had D that my midwife worried about stroke. I was forced to go onto blood pressure medication for about 2 months after having Delilah just to control it, and even then, it was high normal. I was weaned off of the meds but continued to monitor myself.

I hadn't tested my numbers in the last month or so. Today while grocery shopping I realized that the No Frills has a blood pressure machine, so I sat down in the chair...and wondered. First reading was 129/78. I figured, "huh, I've been walking around pushing a cart for the last 20 minutes, and this here sheet says to wait 5 minutes while sitting quietly before taking a reading" so...I tested again. Result: 117/78. Awesome.

I don't think my blood pressure has been this low in YEARS. I always struggled with it, even before I got pregnant. It got to the point where my doctor threatened to take me off my birth control pills.

I wonder...could the lowered blood pressure be related to the milk?? I'm still dropping weight and haven't really changed anything other than drinking the real milk. Maybe my blood pressure has gone down BECAUSE I've lost weight. But no, that doesn't really make sense either, because my BP was high before when I weighed under 145. hmmmm.

02 August 2009

Kombucha Update: Day 3

My kombucha is coming along nicely. Above are pictures: the baby SCOBY is forming on top of the tea (if you look closely you can see the mother SCOBY sort of suspended sideways just below the baby) and a view of how my kombucha sits on the counter with it's cover. I've been calling the jar "the Arab"...

Some might think that I have mold forming on the surface; this is, in fact, NOT mold, it is the baby forming.

When I place my nose close to the top of the jar, I can smell a winy-sweet smell, like when you make wine. This tells me the kombucha is doing well and has started to ferment. Yay!

In 3 more days I will test the flavour. I have posted ads on the freecycle and such groups asking for some empty Grolsch bottles so I can do a secondary fermentation, with ginger, lemon, and other flavourings.

I have had people ask me for babies so they can start their own. I will have to wait a while before the SCOBY will be sturdy enough to separate. I will be doing the continuous brew method, so I will allow the SCOBY to get up to an inch thick before dividing it (unless it appears it wants to divide).

01 August 2009

Weight Loss-The Easy Way

Some of you may have noticed I have a weight loss ticker up there at the top centre of my blog. It says I've lost 8 lbs so far. And before you go thinking I'm talking about baby weight, I'm not-I dropped that about 3 weeks after I had D. Go ahead, hate me if you want.

No, the weight I need to lose is from BEFORE I got pregnant. I was fat when I got married. Okay, maybe not fat compared to some people's standards, but I was fat for ME. I hit a major depression when I jumped on the scales 3 weeks after our wedding and saw it read...172 pounds. At just over 5 and a half feet, that's crazy. Especially since my ideal weight is about 135. That's almost 40 pounds over, for those who feel they need a number. Ouch.

After I had D, I went down to about 168, and have gone down somewhat steadily, then plateaued around 160. Still waaay too high. So when a couple friends and I decided to enter into a weight loss challenge, I figured I'd have no problems, and all that. Yeah, right. I lost a pound, I gained it back, etc. This went on for 2 months. Then I started on the Real Food path. Yep, here I go, talking about Real Food again.

In any case, since that day about a week and a half ago, I have lost 4 pounds. 4 pounds, and all I've done is started drinking real milk (whole milk, with all the cream still in it), eating yogurt I made from the real milk, and trying to eat healthier foods. I eat a LOT of chickpeas, lots of fruits and veggies, and a little meat. Usually 3 oz or less a day. (That's more because we can't afford more, but whatever.) Does it strike you as odd that I've begun eating MORE fat and am losing weight? Huh.

I try to avoid foods that have HFCS, inordinate amounts of sugar, vegetable oils, and other processed crap. About the only processed foods I've eaten in the last few days are organic stoned wheat crackers (and not that many) and packaged gravy (ew, I know, terrible stuff).

I feel pretty good. You can really tell by looking at my face that I have lost weight. I like that my clothes are fitting better, I've put clothes on that I haven't worn in years, and am looking forward to trying on more of my "skinny" clothes. I have drawers and a box full of clothes that were/are too small for me. I have gotten RID of boxes of clothes that I thought would never fit again! I think I donated all of my skinniest clothes, with the idea that I would never fit into them again. But lately, I've started to believe that it might be possible for me to get back down to my ideal weight yet again.

I don't think that I'll ever be as skinny as I was once-at one point, at the end of college and right before I started working as a police officer, I was a very skinny 127 pounds. That is far too thin, for me, as I tend to be muscular and fit. My hipbones stick out really far when I get below 135, and anything below 133 is crazy. My body likes being about 135-that is, if I get moderate amounts of exercise and eat properly.

I will start walking regularly again - we haven't been, in about a week, because of our schedule, the rain, and other reasons. I would love to start running again. I really miss it. My only problem is finding the time. I am loathe to give up my sleep in the mornings, but it might be the only way I can get out. Even if I went for short runs, that would help. Weight training at the gym would be a huge help also, especially in getting my metabolism going again. I miss my muscles. And I think my husband does too.

I am looking forward to getting out and about, getting the dog some extra exercise, and enjoying the rest of the summer. Can you believe it's the first of August??? I will be 32 in 25 days, and I'd like to weigh less than 150 pounds. That would be nice. I'd say I'd like to weigh less than 140 pounds, but that would be pushing it. I'll be realistic.

My Weightloss Progress