30 March, 2016

MAKING WATER KEFIR, PART II

As promised, a step-by-step guide for flavouring and carbonating your water kefir!



So, your first ferment is finished, now what? You can either drink it as is, add flavouring and allow it to infuse while in the fridge, or add your kefir with the flavourings to swing-top bottles and ferment a second time to create a flavoured, carbonated drink. That is what this post covers.

In order for your water kefir to become carbonated it needs to be poured into tightly sealed bottles. As the bacteria and yeasts continue consuming the sugar they release the gases that cause carbonation. We let our second brews sit for 1-3 days, depending on the temperature of my kitchen. Right now while it's pretty warm (who am I kidding, this is England. . .), we are averaging two days. 

Flavouring & Carbonating Water Kefir

To begin your second ferment, strain your first brew from the wide-mouth jars, setting the grains aside for beginning another batch.

Dissolve 2-3 tablespoons of rapadura sugar in a small amount of filtered water, pour into swing top bottle, and once cooled to room temperature, add the strained kefir (this is the liquid, not the grains). Top with your flavouring of choice, close the airtight tops, and leave in a warm place out of direct sunlight for 1-3 days.

We may or may not have sprayed fizz all over ourselves opening several very-fermented bottles, so use caution when you're opening these, especially if they've sat for closer to the three days.




That's it! After a few days, you can pop your bottles into the fridge, or drink it right away. When we open ours immediately we like to add a slice of lemon and a couple of ice cubes. Dee-licious. 

A side-note: it is possible to ferment with freshly pressed juices, but this is not recommended with a second ferment because bottles are more prone to bursting. We have not brewed this way because we all really enjoy the carbonation, but share what you think if you do try this way!

For ideas on flavourings, I've referenced this page a lot. Lately, and as I've becomes a bit more confident in my brewing, we have just been adding whatever we have on hand. Our favourite has been raspberries & lemon and lemon-lime. We are trying ginger next!

That's all-- so super easy for such a delicious and nourishing drink. I hope you try it! Leave a comment below if you have a favourite flavour we should try!

SURPRISE!



Good Friday came and my husband successfully ruffled my feathers by saying he was needing to go into the office on his day off. On the sunniest day of the year.

I took the littles for a day outside, after making plans with Peter to meet back at home early evening for an Easter egg hunt in the park.

Little did we know he was nowhere near his office, but was picking up my mother, grandmother, and two littlest sisters from the airport in a surprise they had all been planning for months.

I'm a hard person to surprise, guys. I just figure things out. I'm curious and I pick up on things, and Peter and I have an incredibly open relationship which makes it generally easy for me to tell when he's not telling it all. But this! I cried and sobbed and screamed and was genuinely shocked.

So, please bear with me if posting is more sporadic than usual. I hope to return to normal when they leave in a couple weeks, but until then, we'll be having a ball. If anyone else wants to secretly book tickets and show up in my dining room, by all means, please do! ;)

xo

24 March, 2016

MAKING WATER KEFIR, PART I


These days I might look bit like a mad scientist: every 24 hours I'm measuring and straining grains, a pot simmering on the stove, shaking bottles and swirling sugars.

It's totally worth it. Besides, I don't wear any funky goggles. But what am I concocting? Water kefir!

Water kefir (we say this like the Russians would-- ke-FEER, not KEE-fur) is a fermented probiotic-rich drink with so many health benefits. It's sweeter and less vinegary than kombucha, and in my opinion, better tasting (especially with a fruit infusion!). You begin by introducing a yeast and bacteria culture into sugar water, allowing it to brew for up to three days. It can then be strained and drank right then, or added to a swing-top bottle with fruits, vegetables, and flowers and fermented for a second time for flavour and carbonation. We always prefer two ferments.

Aren't you just drinking a glass of sugar water? No! The kefir grains metabolise the sugar, converting it into beneficial acids and bacteria, b-vitamins, and food enzymes. So, fermenting actually reduces the sugar content. This power drink supports gut health, aids digestion, and supports overall wellness. What's not to love?!

Want to give it a try?

First things first: you'll need a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts). I ordered mine already hydrated from here. If you are in the US, this is a reputable site with organically grown grains. They also have a lot of tips there if you're hesitant to begin brewing. 
These grains will reproduce as you brew, and if you care for them well you'll quickly find you can be giving jars of them away to friends and family. In one week I went from 4 tablespoons of grains to nearly 2 cups!



Next thing you need is a wide-mouth jar. I use these. You'll also need mineral-rich sugar, like this, and minerals to keep your SCOBY healthy if you're using another sugar, such as organic cane (this is optional, and not necessary if you use rapadura sugar). 




Little bits and pieces you need: a plastic mesh strainer for straining your grains between ferments. Mine cost £3 on Amazon. Some cheesecloth (or a paper towel) for covering your jars and a rubber band for securing it, and filtered water (we are having incredible success using water from our Berkey).


**Metal will kill your grains, so be sure to use only glass, wood, or plastic when brewing, stirring, and straining.

Lets get started!

Making Water Kefir

Step One:
Add 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar to quart-sized preserve jar. Pour about 1 cup of hot (filtered) water over sugar and stir to dissolve. Add remaining 2 cups of water (at room temperature) to jar and allow to cool to room temperature before moving on.

















Step Two:
Add your grains to the sugar water. If they're from a previous batch, you'll want to strain them using your plastic strainer over a measuring jug. Using a plastic measuring spoon, measure out 2-3 tablespoons of grains, and add them to your jar, being certain your water is fully cooled.

Step Three:
Cover the jar with a cheesecloth and secure with a rubber band. Place in a warm area in the kitchen and allow to ferment for 24-48 hours. You'll know they've worked their magic by a change in the colour (water kefir typically lightens when it has worked) and it may have a slightly sour or bitter taste.

After 1-2 days, your kefir is finished! Strain the grains for using in another batch, and either drink your ferment right away or get ready to do a second ferment (post to follow).

If you're unsure about beginning, you can find helpful points here, and a totally simple video tutorial here. It really is so simple and delicious, all five of us enjoy a glass every day!

22 March, 2016

RICE KRISPIES



I'm really pleased to say this week's weather seems to be pulling itself together. Last year Easter week in St Andrews hit the low 80's, and I remember it well because I had to shave my legs so I could wear a sundress.

We're having guests for spaghetti and meatballs tonight but I'm just itching for barbecue season. Come on, Spring!

This weekend we're seeing the Passion play at Trafalgar Square with friends we met in St Andrews, having two egg hunts (one American-style in the park, because), and maybe taking a day trip out of London if weather permits. As usual, we're flying by the seat of our pants (trousers?) and our Easter meal menu is still tbd. What are you cooking?

As promised, I'm sharing the easy, nothing-nourishing-about-it Rice Krispy treat recipe below. Little hands love to help with this one. Enjoy! ;)



Rice Krispy Treats

ingredients:

6 cups krispy rice cereal 
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) butter
4 cups (about 10 ounces) American-style marshmallows (these must be the white American-style ones. We have tried with others and they do not yield the same result)

method:

Pre-measure marshmallows and cereal. Set aside.

Melt butter in large sauce pan over low heat, stirring regularly to prevent browning. 

Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and add cereal, stirring quickly, until cereal is evenly coated.

Press mixture evenly into a buttered pan. Allow to cool, then cut into squares (or any shape you choose).


17 March, 2016

MUDCHUTE FARM




"I did not get enough sleep last night and I am not a good mother when I am tired. Today is going to be so rough."

That's how today started-- me thinking of my big old self and little of anyone else. Motherhood has shown me I'm actually very good at that.

You know how my husband responds? "You are a wonderful mother to our children." "Not every day can be a win", and "I am so thankful daily for how you nurture them with all you have." Etc etc, and at the same time I'm built up and humbled by his words. He's such a great picture to me of an earthly version of our heavenly Father gently leading those with young (Is 40:11). His expectations are reasonable, and gentle. His challenges are thoughtful and kind.



So I fasten my bootstraps. We bake a loaf of bread while waiting for our grocery delivery, then pack it up and head to Mudchute Farm, a city farm only about 25 minutes from our home. We went once as a family last autumn but hadn't been since today because I'm a freeze baby and winter was long, okay?
We buy several bags of carrots and parsnips before arriving, and spend all morning and into the afternoon petting and feeding animals, racing over hills and through trees, and picnicking in the sunshine. We are all glad to be wearing our Hunters, which have been much neglected since moving to the City.

I'm telling you-- this is the meat of life. These days are everything to me. And this place is an oasis amidst busy London. Now that the weather has broken (has it?) we plan to go back much more often.



We stop at a garden centre on the way back and buy a few spring flowers to plant at home. Everyone has an opinion about which flowers are the most beautiful and mine is that you really can't have enough flowers, so the littles and I are the perfect gardening team (except for my brown thumb, which is really really brown, but never mind. Old dogs do learn new tricks). We buy all the flowers.

Walking back to the train station, flowers hanging out of everywhere (there's even a small bush on the side of the buggy), we pass an ice cream van. About once every 2-3 years I say yes to the good old soft serve. Cones are £2.50 each and I have £3.50 in my pocket and three children, but the vendor kindly gives us three sprinkle-coated cones for the measly £3.50 I had in my palm and my kids give him the greatest smiles I have seen.

"Oh. My. Word! This day!!" 

"What. A. Treat! I cannot believe this."

"Ice cream from an ice cream van! Mama, this is so special!"

If ever I feel we're making our kids miss out on regular "normal" things by trying to give them a simple life, I remember the utter delight of these treats, and I'm convinced they're just fine.



Katharina asks if we could "pop into our charity shop" before going home, and I'm a sucker for treasure hunting so in we go. Sometimes you don't know you need something until you see it (ha). Katharina peruses the baby clothes and Philippa the children's clothes, while Sebastian makes a beeline to the books and bric-a-brac. I secretly buy 10 creaky old children's books, pass them out once we leave, and watch my children walk into things reading them while walking home.

And now we're home. It's 4:15 and I know nap time should be over but the sun is pouring in all the back windows, the house smells like chicken stock, and I am blissfully content like I've just eaten all the chocolate cake. Not that I know what that is like. . .





Tonight I'm making Sweet Potato & Avocado tacos with Slaw but I've just realised I forgot to order red cabbage, so I guess nap time is over. To market to market to buy a fat. . . cabbage?

I hope you're all having a lovely Thursday!

14 March, 2016

THE WEEKEND



This weekend was the first in months that we've been able to resume our "Papa Time" and it was l o v e l y.  Peter's job doesn't specifically require him to be in his office on the weekends, but he is currently studying to take the CFA level 1 in June, which is a master's-level qualification that will  take him several years to complete and is on-par with a PhD in regards to time commitment. So needless to say, when we can have him with us, we savour it.

This past weekend we took things slowly, as we do. We celebrated his success on another finance exam with a night out with our best friends, and started Saturday morning with Looney Tunes and breakfast burritos (Peter cooked!). After football we walked to the park in blinding sunshine (!) for family freeze-tag and tree climbing. We did a lot of resting under trees together, a lot of laughing, a lot of just being still.



I'm thankful for the ways Peter challenges me to live the life we are called to, especially in the everyday that so easily feels like a grind. When I'm fighting impatience he reminds me to slow everything down and live the quiet life that we want. He called me from work not very long ago to share this revelation he'd had: how we were so bogged down with life's hurdles that we were failing to taste our daily bread, and enjoy it. So we purposed to do better together, living in the now, and immediately we felt this weighty burden lifted. We often chock-up worrying and planning as "being prudent" but there's only so much forward thinking you can do before you find yourself in a place needing to surrender it all. After all, each day has enough troubles of its own.



He's in Frankfurt this week and we are all so eager for his return. Tomorrow we're planning to paint ceramic "piggy" banks that aren't actually pigs, bake banana bread, and take a trip to the library. Mondays aren't usually our favourite day of the week, be we do love a fresh start and new mercies!

Happy Monday, guys! Drink up the goodness today.  xx

09 March, 2016

YOUR NEW FAVOURITE MEATBALL RECIPE




I told the littles they could watch Pride & Prejudice in lieu of nap time today, to which they all responded with excited giggles. Wednesdays are Peter's late night because of CFA studying (and Mondays too, but whose counting) so I'm planning to have an early dinner with them. If I can keep them awake and eat before seven, flying solo feels a whole lot more manageable and I get in a workout.

Their commentary kills me: "They've just met Wickham. Ooh, he's a liar."

"I think they're going to Buckingham Palace to see the Queen Lady Catherine. . ."

"He was very harsh and stern, but then his heart softens."

About those meatballs I mentioned before: they're to die for. I used to think the word moist should be reserved solely for cakes, but I now realise meatballs should always fall into this category as well. Never eat a dry cake, or meatballs.

Behold: the recipe! Be warned, this serves two adults and three hungry children, with leftovers for lunch the next day.


Dolly Sinatra's Meatballs

ingredients:
750g ground beef
200g ground pork
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 eggs
100g freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1 tablespoon dried parsley / 8g fresh, chopped
1.5 teaspoons sea salt, pepper to taste
90g stale breadcrumbs
150ml lukewarm water
olive oil

(Truth be told, the above measurements are very loose. I always eyeball this recipe, never measure, and every time it turns out fabulous. What you're wanting is a sticky, very moist, meat mixture.  It should appear sloppy, but keep its shape when you form balls. You should have a generous amount of breadcrumbs throughout, as well as a good bit of minced garlic and parsley).

method:

Preheat oven to 200ºC/400ºF.

Toss together minced meat in a large bowl. Add garlic, eggs, grated cheese, parsley, salt & pepper.

Blend in bread crumbs with a fork. Slowly add water until you reach the proper consistency. Shape into large meatballs (about 1/3 cup).

Drizzle olive oil in a casserole dish (we always need two!) and add meatballs. Bake uncovered about 20-25 minutes, or until browning and cooked through.

Serve with spaghetti, homemade pasta sauce, and plenty of freshly-grated parmesan. 

Enjoy!


(This recipe was adapted from here).

03 March, 2016

THURSDAY

I cried yesterday when I saw there was predicted snow three days in the seven-day forecast. Winter has felt excruciatingly long this year, and we battled weeks of illnesses which I chocked up to immune systems adjusting to a new place. Needless to say, we've been aching for not just warm weather, but even just a little spot of sun.

Turns out, today was our day.



After running errands outside of Greenwich (okay, we went to the pet shop to look at fish and rabbits. Thank you, Peter, for the text saying no bunnies. . .) we dropped our bags at home and packed some rice cakes, cheese chunks, energy bites, and sliced cucumber and hustled to Greenwich Park. I've been craving some blanket time on the hill over there, but the grey and cold had me in hibernation mode. It had been months since we really went to the park like we used to. But this was invigorating and filled us all with the life I felt we were lacking all winter.

Apparently that snow is still coming (or is it?), but we're clinging today and the promise of Spring somewhere in the future!