It was not long ago that I was dependent on medications and western medicine to help me in overcoming my severe panic and anxiety. After 3 different medications and many doctor’s appointments, it became clear to me that these medicines were not making my situation better rather they were making things worse. I truly believed that there must be a better way to overcome this.
I began to learn, study and absorb all that I could about Anxiety and panic disorders, gut health and nutrition. What I found was astoundingly simple and I am excited to share my journey with you. I had to learn so much about the topic of gut health in order to enable my body to build up and become strong enough to get off of the heavy medications I was on. Infusing my body with probiotic rich nutrition was essential. Instead of pouring tons of money into expensive probiotics, I opted to start making my own Kefir at home.
This was a huge turning point. Kefir was one part of the protocol I applied in order to build my gut health back up. No matter what you are suffering from, gut health is of key importance and it is sometimes the simplest things that can help us to be the healthiest.
Ashley and I would like to kick off our blog by teaching you to make your own kefir.
Before we start, I want to give you some of the many benefits of kefir.
*Loaded with valuable enzymes, easily digestible complete proteins, vitamins and minerals.
*Supplies your body with billions of healthy bacteria and yeast strains
*It can help to manage free radicals in the body
*Complete protein that is high in minerals and vitamins, especially the B vitamins
*Helps to establish healthy bowel flora
*Helps to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the body
The first step towards Kefir making is to obtain your grains. Ashley and I prefer to use Yemoos Nourishing Cultures. You can find them online at www.Yemoos.com.
Steps for making kefir:
Place 1-2 tablespoons of kefir grains in clean glass jar. A quart or 1/2-gallon mason jar works well.
Add 2 cups fresh milk. Any type of milk will work, including cow, goat, and coconut. Raw milk is ideal, particularly goat milk. For sources of raw milk, visit www.RealMilk.com.
The milk may be room temperature or chilled. You may want to allow an extra hour for fermentation if using cold milk.
Gently stir contents, cover jar with a cloth or a lid left slightly ajar, and move to a location away from direct sunlight. This might be a cupboard, pantry, or darker side of the kitchen.
Allow the mixture to ferment for a minimum of 24 hours. It is not advisable to go beyond 48 hours.
Pour contents of the jar into a strainer. Some websites suggest avoiding metal strainers and utensils, while others say it doesn't matter because of the short duration of their contact with the kefir.
Take the strained grains, place them in a clean glass jar, and begin the process again. (You can "rest" the grains in the refrigerator covered in milk or yogurt, which must be changed every 7 days.)
Optional: Leave the strained kefir at room temperature for another 24 hours to increase its nutritional value. The kefir will become more sour, so feel free to enjoy after the initial 24-hour period, as it is officially fermented and nutritious at that point.
Alexander is a health and wellness expert who has a passion for helping others to achieve their very best through optimal living. He is a micro-biology major who has 16+ years helping others achieve healthy lifestyles through nutrition. In 2005, Alexander opened his own wellness facility, A+A Wellness in Atlanta, Ga., and Ashley is a walking testimony for Alex. With his help, she was able to lose 80 pounds and went from 208 pounds to fit and feeling great! Today, Alex has embarked on his newest adventure, obtaining his N.D. Degree. He is excited to detail his journey and experiences with you and get you excited about the endless possibilities of being healthy! Ashley is a Professional Speaker, Aspiring Author and Blogger who shares a passion for helping others to live their best and healthiest life!
I love goats’ milk. That is, fresh goats’ milk. Not the nasty stuff you buy in stores. Goats’ milk is like the very best cows’ milk with sugar added. It’s sweet and creamy, and not at all “goaty.” If the milk tastes “off,” the milk is spoiled, the goat has a health problem, or the goat is one of those breeds such as Toggenburgs that produces strong milk for goat cheese. I remember when I first milked Annie after her owner traded me her for four chickens. I had read goat’s milk was tasty, but until I tasted it, I really didn’t know what I was missing. My husband was hesitant at first but when he tasted the milk, he became an instant advocate. Yes, it’s that good.
When you're blessed with goats who produce lots of luscious, creamy milk, it's easy to want to do something with the milk besides freezing it. Hence, I make homemade cheese. Cheese keeps well, compared to goat’s milk, which has a tendency to go “off” after a few days, even with light pasteurization. What’s more, goat cheese freezes exceedingly well, making it perfect for those of us who are self-sufficient minded.
When I have too much milk and I’m not in the mood to feed it to the chickens, I’ll make what has to be the closest thing to a foolproof cheese. It’s a simple recipe and requires minimal effort on your part, you’ll use it time and again when you’re in a rush and have too much milk. It goes by several names, depending on whose recipe you use. Whether you call it palak paneer, vinegar cheese, mozzarella (it’s not really), or Queso Blanco, it’s a great confidence builder when making cheese. I usually call it Queso Blanco, which means "white cheese."
1 gallon of goats’ milk
¼ cup organic or homemade apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt (Optional, but makes it taste better and retards spoilage. I use Real Salt from Utah)
Heat 1 gallon of goats’ milk on the stove to near boiling (about 185F to 190F).
Remove from heat.
Add 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (or more, if necessary to make the curds) and stir with a slotted spoon.
Once the curds form, scoop them from the whey with a slotted spoon and put them in a butter muslin bag to drain.
Optional: add salt. I added salt to them, which makes the cheese taste oh-so-much better.
Hang the bag or put it in a colander and let drain in the sink, gently squeezing out the whey occasionally for about 6 hours or overnight.
Cheese is ready to eat or for cooking.
So, what do you do with this cheese? Queso blanco is a mild cheese that has the consistence of ricotta salada and the taste of mild mozzarella. It will take on the flavors of whatever you’re cooking it with. This cheese doesn’t melt as much as traditional cheeses, making it ideal for paneer in Indian food, and even pizza. I use it in Italian recipes alongside mozzarella, in soups, in salads crumbled like feta, and in stir fry to take the place of tofu. If you need a protein and calcium boost to your food, this cheese is the answer.
Margaret H. (Maggie) Bonham is an animal expert and professional writer, editor, and publisher. Visit her blog at eatingwildmontana.blogspot.com.
After conquering homemade yogurt, I started thinking about cheese making. Some of the preliminary research I had done on it, which wasn’t a lot, indicated it wasn’t that hard. Enter a company called Cultures for Health, which specializes in all kinds of cultures for yogurt, cheeses, kefir, sour dough, to name but a few. The next few blogs will be about my adventures in simple cheese making and the results.
Cheese making is a complete departure for me. Baking and cooking are my mainstream, but one should always try to expand one’s horizons, if not repertoire. The result is, Cultures for Health offers cheese kits. Kits? Now this sounds like a reasonable plan: Simple to start, learn the basics, and build your repertoire from simple to more complex. So we started with ricotta/mozzarella and blanco queso/paneer. As for the paneer, I used to have a Punjabi neighbor, Bel, who was a fabulous cook, and she made Indian cheese as she called it. It was delicious. Of course, it was always in a curry style dish. Along the way, I also got some of the cultures for yogurt and kefir. I’d seen kefir, but never tried it. I tried the yogurt starter right away, and found it to have more flavor and a very nice, thick creamy texture, more flavor than the brand of starter I currently have access to. It’s almost like the Greek style yogurt I’m enamored of. We were off to a good start.
The cheese kits come with butter muslin (like cheesecloth), citric acid, cheese salt, rennet, a good instruction booklet, and the most nifty, little thermometers. Contents can vary by the type of cheese you’re making. They also offer online and phone support. So far, I haven’t needed to go that route. They also list all of the equipment you will need, such as colanders, large bowls, spoons, etc.
Let’s get started (I know someone else who uses that line). The first thing you have to realize is you will need milk. Large quantities. It’s truly amazing how much milk is needed to do any quantity of serious cheese making. A friend suggested I get a cow. Or at least a share in one. I politely declined. But, I did get a strange look from the cashier at the store when I slung two bags of milk on the check out. I just explained (why did I need to explain the equivalent of two gallons of milk?) I was making cheese. That didn’t help. I got a really strange look then. Like uh-oh, this one’s a wacko. “Cheese making, huh?” Then I was in real hot water and explained I am an official blogger for MOTHER. Instant oil on water. The other thing for those not initiated in the ways of Canadians, is our milk indeed comes in bags at the gallon level. One large bag has three smaller bags inside, each smaller bag equaling a liter. Three liters give you a little more than a gallon. I dutifully measured out a gallon just to be sure.
On cheese making day, I got out a large stainless steel pot (stainless is recommended for everything), poured in my milk, added the dissolved citric acid in warm water, stirred, and right away things started to happen. I heated the milk to 195 F, at which point (actually before), the curds separated from the whey. It was almost like magic, and quite magical to watch. The one caveat is that when milk gets near its boiling point, it wants to become rambunctious. Once the curds settle to the bottom, you then scoop them out into a muslin-lined colander and let the whole thing drain. To facilitate the draining, I tied up the corners of the muslin, stuck a large metal shish kebob skewer through the knot, and hung it over the colander. From there you place the curds in a dish, and weight them down with a heavy object, I took the advice of the directions and used a cast iron Dutch oven (I covered the cheese with plastic wrap first). After 30 to 60 minutes, you flip the cheese and then press the other side. I ended up with at least a pound of semi-firm paneer, very mild with a delicious flavor.
The booklet comes with recipes on how to use some of the cheese, so I made the one for Cold Peas and Paneer Salad, only I didn’t make it a salad. I made the sauce as they recommended, but served the whole thing hot over basmati rice. Delicious. I think I could rival Bel now in one of her curries. However, to come up to her standards, I’d have to add a lot more spice! So, the moral of the story is, as the booklet explained, paneer is almost like tofu in the sense that it takes on the flavors of the foods around it.
The recipe only used ½ the amount of cheese, so I snacked on some, my son came home from university and I had him try some, and then later on I noticed an empty container in the sink. Proof positive that among the late teen set, paneer cuts the mustard, ur, ah, cheese world.
Next time: Ricotta!
Notes: Cultures for Health. See www.culturesforhealth.com or firstname.lastname@example.org; 1-800-962-1959.
You can read more of Sue Van Slooten's food adventures at www.suevanslooten.com.
It’s safe to say that most of us have been to a cookie swap of some sort. Bake a few dozen cookies, come home with different cookies that disappear as soon as you walk through the door because the husband and children (okay, and Mom, too) devour them. They are fun and festive and I, for one, am grateful they only happen once a year. My waist-line couldn’t handle more than that.
That’s why, when I got an invitation from my neighbor to participate in a soup swap, I jumped at the chance. All the fun of a cookie swap without the sugar? Sign me up. The rules were simple. Make a batch of your favorite soup(s) and package them into quart containers or freezer bags. Show up at the designated time and place, and let the swapping begin! (We drew numbers, so whoever got #1 picked a soup, then #2, and so on. Once everyone had one soup, we went through the order again. When someone collected the same number of packages they came with, they were done choosing.) There were only 7 of us there, so it wasn’t too chaotic at all. (Okay, truthfully there were 8, but Jen only came to socialize, she didn’t make any soup.)
I came home with a great assortment of different soups that I popped in the freezer, perfect for lunches or for dinner with a nice loaf of homemade sourdough bread, especially during the hectic holiday season that will be here before we know it. Who says real food can’t be convenient? It was such a success that we’ve decided to have a muffin swap in November (and I’m pretty sure Jen will be baking and participating this time!)
The hardest part was choosing which soup to make, because it had to freeze well. I ended up making a triple batch of this White Chicken Chili soup which yielded me 5 quarts plus enough for us to eat that night for dinner. I also made a batch of Creamy Cheesy Root Veggie Soup because I happened to be swimming in turnips and needed to use them up. (The inspiration for this came from here, but as you can see I changed it up a bit and renamed it. I knew the neighbors would balk if ‘Turnip’ was anywhere in the title. It was a good thing, too, as my friend Robin got harassed for bringing “Turnip Green Soup” but it was all in good fun!) Yield 2 quarts plus a bowl for lunch.
Creamy Cheesy Root Veggie Soup
½ cup butter
6 turnips (about 3” in diameter), peeled and sliced
6 potatoes, peeled and sliced
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups chicken stock
Grated sharp cheddar cheese, to taste
Garlic powder, pepper, and dill to taste
Melt butter in large pan. Add turnips, potatoes, carrots, celery, onions and salt. Toss vegetables to coat. Cover and simmer on medium low heat for 20 minutes. Add stock. Cook for an additional 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add cheese and stir to melt. Puree with an immersion blender or in batches with a food processor. After the soup is pureed, add seasonings and adjust to taste.
Lanette Lepper is a beekeeper, chicken keeper, gardener, food preserver, and proud Navy spouse who blogs at www.HomesteadingOnTheHomeFront.Blogspot.com
Fall is literally just around the corner— one of my favorite, not to mention, most colorful of the seasons. Fall not only brings color, but also a dazzling array of produce, namely, apples. Apples are just about everyone’s special, versatile fruit. They can go in so many things, such as pies, crisps, breads, sauce, butter, cakes, salads, main courses, and of course, strudel. Apple strudel— that German specialty of pastry, apples, cinnamon that no one can get enough of. But so many people cringe at the thought of making the strudel dough, me included. Many years ago, I came across a much simpler method, which I will now share with you. It was so long ago, I don’t remember now where I read about this, but the results are fabulous.
Here’s the secret (you might already have had an idea that this is where I was going): Phyllo dough. It’s instant strudel dough, or almost instant. You do have to defrost it first. You will need a large area on your counter to spread out the sheets so that the ends overlap, but other than that, there are no special requirements for this strudel. Note that one box of pastry should make two strudels, so if two is what you want, double the ingredients below. Otherwise use the dough for another day. Keep your phyllo damp; if it dries out, it gets brittle. Dampened paper towels work well. So, let’s get into the kitchen (and the faster we do so, the faster we get apple strudel) and get baking.
5 to 6 baking apples like Rome or Cortland ( I prefer Cortland)
1/2 box of frozen phyllo pastry, defrosted according to directions on box
¼ cup sugar (I prefer dark brown), more if you like it sweeter
1/3 cup walnuts
1 tsp cinnamon, or a mixture of spices that you like. Ginger goes well here, too.
Pinch of salt
¼ cup dry, plain bread crumbs
½ cup melted butter
Purists call for peeled, cored apples, but I find unpeeled work just as well and keep all the nutrition of the apple. If apple skins bother you, by all means peel them. Core and slice the apples on the thin side into a large bowl. You should have about 4 cups. Sprinkle with lemon juice to keep from browning. Add sugar, walnuts, spices, and salt; mix well. Set aside.
On your large open counter area, take out the phyllo sheets, about half the package, and spread them out to an area about 18 inches by 2 feet. Brush with some of the melted butter and sprinkle down the middle with the bread crumbs. The bread crumbs help to keep things from getting soggy. Next, spread your apple mixture over the bread crumbs. Fold the phyllo sheets up and over the filling, carefully tucking under the seam. Have a large greased baking sheet close by. Shape the strudel into a horseshoe shape, and tuck under ends. Transfer carefully to the baking sheet. Brush with more melted butter. Bake in the oven at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until golden brown and apples are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Loosen gently and let cool. You may wish to sprinkle a little powdered sugar before serving.
You can read more of Sue Van Slooten's food adventures at her website.
Here in coastal southeast Virginia, jam season starts in December with kiwis. In April, the strawberries keep us busy through May. In late June, the peaches ripen along with the blackberries, which are followed by blueberries. The season rounds itself out with nectarines, figs, pears, and even apples into October.
I take advantage of our local fruit harvest and make a lot of jams. Some will be enjoyed by my family, used to sweeten yogurt and oatmeal or spread on home-baked bread. Most will be given as gifts. At this point in the season, my shelves are overflowing. There are jars in the kids’ playroom, jars in the laundry room, jars on the dining room floor.
Unfortunately, there are also jars and jars in the fridge, each containing a tablespoon or five and taking up valuable real estate. I know I’m not the only food-preserver who has this problem! With every batch of jam, there’s always just enough left-over that you can’t justify throwing it away, but it’s not enough to fill another jar. Or the kids decide that raspberry isn’t their favorite flavor anymore and decide to open another jar of something else. Or the jars just get forgotten about way back there in no man’s land. Eventually, I get frustrated enough and decide to take matters into my own hands.
My stand-by recipe for oatmeal squares is the perfect solution. The kids get a treat in their lunch boxes, and I get an emptier fridge. Instead of using one kind of jam like I normally do, I used up all eight of the the almost-empty jars I had (which also included some apple butter.)
Oatmeal Squares Recipe
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup butter
about 1 ½ cups jam
Preheat oven to 350. Grease one 9"x13" or two 8"x8” pans. In a large bowl, combine the first five ingredients (I also add a bit of cinnamon if I’m using a jam like peach or even blueberry). Cut in the butter. Place about half of this mixture into prepared pans and press firmly. Spread jam and sprinkle with the remaining oat mixture. Press gently.
Bake for about 40 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool before cutting.
This recipe gets made so often at our house that I decided to make my own ‘mix’ by simply combining the first 5 ingredients in a bag or jar. When I want to make them, I simply dump a bag into a bowl, cut in the butter, and choose a jar of jam, which makes it easier than any store bought box-mix, with no artificial ingredients. Every time I make them, someone wants the recipe, and they are always surprised at how easy they are. It doesn’t matter what kind of jam you use, either. Our favorites are peach and strawberry-rhubarb, but feel free to use whatever you have. Orange marmalade, blackberry, raspberry… it’s all good!
How do you use up your jam extras?
Lanette Lepper is a beekeeper, chicken keeper, gardener, food preserver, and proud Navy spouse who blogs at www.HomesteadingOnTheHomeFront.Blogspot.com
Roasting nuts crisps them and deepens flavors. This simple step will improve almost any recipe that calls for nuts, and may also boost antioxidant levels in some nuts. Yield: 1 pound roasted nuts.
1 pound nuts or nut pieces, raw
Optional additions: 1 tbsp peanut or grapeseed oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp honey
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with nuts a layer deep. For sweet-and-salty nuts, toss them first with oil, salt and honey. Roast for 5 to 15 minutes, paying close attention and shaking the pan around once or twice during cooking.
Remove the nuts when they have darkened noticeably and are fragrant but not burnt. They will continue to cook for a few minutes outside the oven. Allow them to cool before tasting — they’ll be chewy while warm, but crisp after they’ve cooled.
Want to find more uses for nuts? See Using Healthy Nuts in the Kitchen: 3 Easy Nut Recipes. Or, use the Fabulous Homemade Peanut Butter Recipe to stock up with natural homemade peanut butter.
Photo By Tim Nauman