Sunday, April 22, 2012

When life get's in the way

I haven't posted in a few weeks, I have been juggling so much in my life, and when I have time I have been anesthetizing myself with netflix and chocolate.  I am at one of those life moments when there are too many changes, some good, some hard, going on at once.  I am at the limit of my processing power.  My daughter is trying to figure out where to go to college, and we are trying to figure out how to afford it.  A close childhood friend is ill, and I have been working hard to make sure he has a lovely place to enjoy the outdoors.  My youngest son has been struggling at school, and keeping him on an even keel is a challenge.

But mostly, I have been dealing with the fact that I had a miscarriage.  I certainly can't complain about fertility issues, I already have more than my fair share of kids.  And it's no particular shock at my age that this pregnancy didn't work out.  As miscarriages go this was uncomplicated, my HCG levels are coming down normally, and I didn't require any medical management. On some level I suspected things were going wrong, I normally have horrible morning sickness and fatigue, but this time I felt great.  But I would much rather have been focusing on new life and the adventure of expanding our family rather than on loss and the possibility that I am done having kids altogether.  I am grieving this child, and also the possibility of having more children at all, which seems pretty unlikely now.

Mortality and the fragility of life are much on my mind.  I am trying to prioritize my life, decide what brings me joy and what I do because I feel I should.  Also, I am just trying to get through the days, back to working full time, coaching a student teacher, helping my friends, taking care of my kids.  Somehow I don't seem to have any time.

I haven't been posting my groceries, David shopped from my list the last couple of weeks, and I did photograph them and save the receipts, so maybe I will post them soon.  I haven't even been making menus, though since we know roughly what to eat each day, it's been going okay.  David has been doing a lot of the cooking.  We've been eating a lot of Napali take out.  I've been watching brainless television shows and resting when I can.

But after I build a deck later today I intend to go shopping and start posting again, it's going to be an interesting week to plan a menu for.  And soon we will leave on a last minute college tour.  Gardening for my friend has made me anxious to get out in my own garden.  And yesterday was the CSA fair at the Seward Co-op, and I am excited to blog my CSA boxes when they start coming.  It hasn't been easy the last few weeks, but I seem to be handling it all about as well as one can.  Just doing what comes next.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Drinking vinegar?

Look what Melissa at HuntGatherLove just posted about: Pokpok drinking vinegar.

I think I will be ordering some soon.

Crab, crab, and more crab.

My dinner plate, you can see crab cakes in the background
We had a strange but very tasty dinner tonight.  I bought a can of crab meat this week.  Other than in California rolls at Sushi restaurants I have never really eaten crab, which isn't exactly common here in Minnesota.  Neither of my parents grew up eating it, so it's just never been a part of my reality.

My son's veggie sushi on a piece of tamago
But NomNomPaleo keeps posting these tasty looking crab recipes so I decided to give it a try.  I made her Krabby Patties and her crab hand rolls (scroll down to see a great photo of her crab hand rolls,) which don't really go together, but since they both involve crab and mayonnaise why not?  We had artichokes and I set out a variety of sushi fillings for the kids to make their own sushi.  I will never be a sushi chef, but Rowan has promise!

I have been searching for ages for the right combination of healthy oils for homemade mayonnaise.  100% olive oil gets a strange bitterness, walnut oil mixed with olive has the same problem.  I have read recipes for coconut oil mayo, but somehow that doesn't appeal to me.  I categorically don't use any oil that has to be steamed, bleached, or involves strange solvents, so most of the bland vegetable oils are out.  So far my favorite has been "virgin" cold pressed, local, high oleic sunflower oil, but it's way more expensive than olive oil, so it's a rare treat.  I can say that unfiltered raw sesame oil is okay, but has a tahini taste that doesn't belong in mayonnaise.  Next time I buy oil I think I will try hazelnut if I can find some.

Here are the vegetable fillings for our sushi, those are sorrel leaves and chives from our garden, plus sushi ginger, carrots, and cucumbers.  There were also a few avocados lurking around the table.

I have never used coconut flour before.  I like that it's lower in carbohydrates, and it worked great for dusting the crab cakes.  The crab cakes were sweet, with a moist interior and a crispy fried outside, which I assume is how they should taste, though I have never had one before so I can't compare to traditional crab cakes.  I mixed a bit of wasabi in with some of the mayo which made a great sauce for the crab cakes.  Here they are frying.  I used coconut oil to fry them, which worked great and tasted great.

One of my favorite things about my kids is their relative flexibility with food.  Sure, none of them will eat peas or bell peppers, but my older son had three crab cakes, and my younger son was a sushi making machine, making up creative new vegetarian rolls, and he tried the crab cakes.  I credit their love of Japanese food mostly to our family tradition of eating at Midori's Floating World for special occasions.  And Midori's habit of giving my kids special treats at the end of every meal, pretty Japanese suckers or hard candies.  She doesn't do it any more, but when they were little and impressionable she wooed them, and they are devoted to her now.  One of the very best things about Midori's is that they have a gluten free menu with a great selection.  Back when I could eat gluten I thought they had the best tempura in town.

Tomorrow I'll post pictures of the S'more pie my younger son made up today.  We would have finished it tonight but we are all too full to contemplate making the filling for the crust we made earlier, so the pie will have to wait.

Tamago and kim chi for homemade sushi

Fermented beverages

Believe it or not, I am not talking about wine, cider, or beer.  I want to mention the weird world of non-alcoholic ferments.  Some people believe them to be very health promoting.  Seth Roberts has a hypothesis that the umami sense is really a taste for complex fermented flavors / bacteria which are necessary to good health.

About a year ago I had a horrible antibiotic related tummy problem (c. dif?  by the time I went to the ER they couldn't find anything so it's hard to know, though they only did the quick test.)  I was able to make it mostly better by taking the strongest pro-biotic I could find every three hours, and drinking and eating every kind of fermented food I could get my hands on including kombucha.  I also took all of the mucilaginous seeds I could think of, like chia and flax.  C. diff. can also be treated with cholesterymine, and chia and flax have some of the same binding properties.  That and the change in antibiotics cured the problem.  Hardly scientific evidence, but it was pretty effective.  There is real scientific research that taking pro-biotics can resolve c. difficile infections, here is a nice meta-analysis.

But to be honest I am less interested in the health aspects than the taste aspects.  I don't drink soda or juice because of the carbohydrates.  I believe and research seems to show that artificial sweeteners actually cause weight gain, and any way they're gross.  Wine and cider are great, but you can only have so much.  We drink ice water with meals, and coffee and tea.  But sometimes you want a complex, flavorful, relatively low in carbohydrate beverage.  What then?

My introduction to non-alcoholic ferments was inauspicious to say the least.  I read about kombucha in my co-op newsletter and bought a bottle as I was driving to my friends house.  It's a longish drive and I was super thirsty.  Once I was on the free-way I opened the kombucha, tried it, and almost spit it out.  Gross!  As I drove I kept taking little sips to see if it was still gross.  I was really thirsty.  When I got to my friends house I tried to get her to try it by saying: "You have to try this, it's totally gross!"  Which, strangely, didn't work, she refused to try.

But for some unknown reason I kept sipping at it until it was gone.  And the next day I sort of wanted another one.  Eventually I developed a bottle a day habit.  A taste that grows on you.  Kombucha is sour, there are definitely vinegar notes.  Some flavors have fruity notes, I like the ginger and lemon flavors best.  I don't like the brands that aren't sour.  I tried making it myself once, but I let it go too long, it turned to very strong vinegar, and I just couldn't sustain my interest in gross looking slimy symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast.  It's a bit expensive, so I generally buy it as a treat these days.  A half bottle in a fancy wine glass is the perfect amount.

I tried beet kvass for the first time this week.  Kvass it a Slavic drink normally made with bread and thus gluten containing, but beet kvass is supposedly super healthy, a blood tonic, and who knows what all else, and it's gluten free.  It was good, more savory than sweet, it had that coppery slightly earthy beet taste, with the strong tang of lactic acid.  Also, it was crazy magenta.  How can you not love magenta food?  At 7.99 a 12 ounce bottle I won't be buying it often, but the recipe at the link above looks easy enough, so I may give it a try.

I have been intrigued by the coconut water kefir at the co-op, but I haven't been able to pull the trigger on $10.00 a small bottle.  If anyone has ever tried it let me know.  Though that does bring me to the much more common and way cheaper fermented milk category.  I was thinking I would start making kefir or yogurt, the friend I mentioned above makes her own yogurt and it tastes great.

In the mean time, here is a great recipe from my German/Finish host mother.  (She is from Finland, but was an exchange student to Germany and fell in love with my host father and stayed.)  I think this must be a Finish recipe, but I never know what of the things I learned from her were Finish and which German.

Buttermilk drink


The amounts of the above are not important, adjust to your taste.  Squeeze half a lemon into a tall glass, stir in a small spoon of sugar, or honey, or maple syrup to your taste.  I am not the biggest fan of sugar, but in this case sugar let's the lemon shine through, and I use less than a teaspoon.  Pour in some buttermilk and stir, add several ice cubes, top with more buttermilk to fill the glass, or mineral water if you want a lighter drink.  I like sour things, but you should make this sweet/sour.

I would love to try this with real buttermilk, the whey left over from making butter.  I bet the whey left over from making greek yogurt would taste great this way too.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Weekly dinner menu, 4/2/2012

Monday: Steak, baby potatoes, asparagus, beets and green beans in a salad.

Tuesday: Chicken and rice casserole with artichokes, crudites.  (Not sure when the boys are getting home, my vegetarian son can have an omelette if they are here for dinner.)

Wednesday: Green pork chili soup, guacamole, quesadillas, carrot sticks for kids, papaya for dessert. (Make homemade mayonnaise for crab cakes, deviled eggs, and potato salad.)

Thursday: Crab cakes, sauteed zucchini, tomato salad, cole slaw.

Friday: Pot roast, mashed potatoes, chard, steamed carrots, whatever vegetarian son wants that night, probably a quesadilla.

Saturday: Bacon cheese burgers, veggie burgers, rice, sauteed zucchini.  Or potentially, split pea soup with the ham bone from last week, and vegetarian split pea soup.  Depending on the weather, I could go either way.

Sunday: Grilled bratwurst, deviled eggs, potato salad, sauteed savoy cabbage, or cole slaw, or something else clever with cabbage that I think my kids might eat. 

Weekly shopping 4/2/12

I give up, my official grocery shopping budget has to be $250.00.  Since the kids are gone we bought a bunch less food, and then I thought, I'll get some treats that I don't usually get.  And, voila, $247.00.  $50.00 per person per week seems reasonable.  44% of our purchases were P6, mostly because we bought less dairy.  The only local produce we bought were the potatoes and the hydroponic tomatoes.

Meat: can of wild caught crab meat, bacon, ground beef, chicken thighs, breakfast sausage, chuck roast, flat iron steak, Boston butt roast, bratwurst, and mild italian sausage.  Meat total: 93.39.  It was the steak and the crab meat that did me in.

Produce: a bargain bag with some little potatoes, garlic, and an onion, and another with three zucchini and 2 cucumbers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, carrots, 4 artichokes, a savoy cabbage, bunch cilantro, 2 cara cara oranges, chard, 4 avocados, 3 pabloanos, a vine of hydroponic tomatoes, asparagus, bananas, tomatillos, a giant papaya, bag of yellow potatoes, a mango a bunch of pears, and a yellow bell pepper.

Dairy: 1/2 gallon whole milk, pint cream, butter, 2 dozen eggs, and a container of cottage cheese.

Bags, boxes, and cans (otherwise known as the center of the store:) Nut thins, Earl grey tea, Breakfast tea, rice thins, nori seaweed, coconut flour, sesame oil, sauerkraut, beet kvass (weirdly magenta, but tasty,) kombucha, dish soap, cleaning concentrate, and olive oil.

Signs of spring

Strange photo-booth picture of the red bud
I let my sons take the camera, technically "their" camera on vacation, so these are taken with my in-computer camera.  Sort of dreamy and odd.  The plums and red bud are in full bloom, and some time this week we are going to have to build our fence to the plants don't get too big.

Since the children are all out of town David and I are trying to eat down our food in the house a bit before we shop.  I made chicken stock with the remaining chicken and turkey products that have been taking up space in the freezer.  I am looking forward to a light shop later today or tomorrow.
Day lilies!
Plum blossoms with the neighbors apple tree in the back ground

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Buckwheat crepes!

I finally got around to making the buckwheat crepes I mentioned earlier in the week.  They were great!  David ate his with yogurt, maple syrup, and bananas and liked them very well.  I salted mine and tore off pieces to eat with a soft boiled egg, as though it were toast or a socca.  They had a flavor that reminded me a little of injera, the Somalian flat bread normally made with teff flour.  I might try letting them ferment longer next time to get more of that sourdough flavor.  The texture on the tongue was smooth and crepe like, but they are not as resilient as wheat flour crepes, I would fold them rather than roll them around a filling.

Next time I am going to add a smidgen of baking soda, and beat the egg whites and make the batter into small blini type pancakes and serve them with some sort of savory topping.  I think that would suit the texture more.  David said they would make fine dosa substitutes with some sort of curry filling.

The yogurt and buckwheat flour mixture was very thick, and I used all of the whey from two containers of yogurt to make up part of the 8 ounces.  If you are making your own greek yogurt this would be a great way to use the drained off whey.  I might also try this with buttermilk or kefir instead of the yogurt.

This amount made 8 thin 8 inch crepes, plenty for two, probably enough for four if you have other dishes as well.

Buckwheat Crepes

4 ounces raw buckwheat groats
8 ounces plain whole fat yogurt
4 eggs
pinch of salt

Put the groats in your blender and blend on low for 4 minutes.  Sift through a fine mesh strainer returning any coarse bits to the blender and repeat until all of the flour passes through the strainer.

Whisk the yogurt and buckwheat flour together in a bowl and cover loosely with a plate or a cloth and a rubber band.  Leave in a warm draft free spot overnight or up to 24 hours.  (I did mine over night and there was a mild sourdough taste and a little yogurt taste, I think I would have liked to ferment it longer.)

In the morning add the eggs and a pinch of salt, whisk till smooth, and cook in lightly buttered crepe pans till gently brown on the bottom and dry on top.  Flip and cook for a minute or two more until the other side has some brown flecks.

Edited to add: According to MyPlate this recipe has about 850 calories, and around 40 grams protein, 50 grams fat, and  60 grams carb.  (If you figure on 2 good tablespoons of butter for the pans.)  1/4 of that would make a fine breakfast side dish with some meat or eggs for me.  1/2 would be about right for David. 

I made the first one too thick, and liked it best.  Experiment with how thick you like them.  My crepe pans are non stick, but I buttered them liberally and enjoyed the buttery flavor a lot.  Unfortunately we gobbled them all down before I thought to take a picture.