Saturday, December 31, 2011

Good Night 2011

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I find it impossible to end this day without some reflection of the year gone by.  Of course, I have spent the last week pondering hard what I will resolve to do in the New Year.  But I must take a minute to think of the things I pledged 2011 to and make my peace with my work.


I had two main resolutions last year, one, the trite "get in shape" was more of a "I plan to continue my health journey."  This year I incorporated coconut oil into my diet and cut out all liquid vegetable oil except EVOO which I stopped heating.  I remained the same weight the entire year, but went down almost 2 dress sizes.  Meaning that I have done well to restore the bone density I lost from having 4 children in 5 years time, I am well at peace with this.  I must admit, not seeing the scale budge did drive me a bit crazy at times, but I was well aware of the good and bad side of eating a nutrient dense diet. (See Eat Fat Lose Fat)


My second resolution was to begin the blogging I had been telling myself and all of my loved ones I would do.  So I can't say I did that well, but I did start.  So all in all, 2011 I bid thee farewell.  I think we will part on good terms.


Love and Butter,


Mishelle
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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Kombucha

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I know I am more adventurous than the average person. So I realize when I speak of growing bacteria in my kitchen and then eating or drinking it...I know I lose a few of you! I dove head first into the world of homegrown probiotics about a year ago and I have to say Kombucha will rock your digestive world and your palate, if you let it.

Kombucha is a sparkling, slightly acidic beverage made from brewing tea and letting a yeast colony in the shape of a "mushroom" or "scobie" feed on the sugar and caffeine producing beneficial strains of bacteria. Many health stores sell Kombucha, but as you will find with any probiotics you ferment at home will always be far more alive than anything you find in a store. In fact, for the product to be bottled the manufacturer has to prove the fermenting has indeed stopped. Kombucha has been pulled off the shelves in Whole Foods Stores, because the products were not consistent. Nothing truly alive could ever be consistent enough to be bottled and sold in bulk. To top that off, as the kombuca fad grows, greed will bring cheaper less quality versions of it. Without the FDA breathing down your neck, you can know in your own home that you are drinking an alive beverage with life-giving force and heal your digestive tract...and it taste really great too! Since the gut is the largest line of health defense, this beverage has led many to believe it has power to help fight arthritis, cancer and other degenerative diseases.

Since incorporating Kombucha into my kitchen routine, my family has given up all fruit juice, soda, and most of our sweet tea consumption...it is the South still! No matter how hard I try I can't break my Southern husband of this fetish! Of course, water should always be the top beverage, but sometimes you just want something else. Here's a rundown on how to make Kombucha. You can get a mushroom from anyone you know who is brewing Kombucha at home. Ask for a nice thick one and the average "adoption fee" is $15. You can also order them online for about the same, but you will have to pay shipping.

To prepare Kombucha you will need a few things:

Large glass Mason Jars (1/2 gallon)
Coffee filters, cheesecloth or other thin pieces of cloth
Family size bags of regular black tea (organic if available)
White sugar, turbinado, sucanat, or honey granules*
Boiling Water
Kombucha Mushroom

Fill Mason Jar with boiling distilled** water and add 1/2 cup of sugar (or other listed sweetener). Stir until dissolved. Add tea bag and allow to steep for 10 minutes-2 hours. Remove and discard. Allow tea to return to room temperature and then add Kombucha Mushroom. Cover Mason jar with coffee filter or cloth and screw on the ring part of the lid. Place jar in a quiet dark place for 4-7 days. A new mushroom should grow on the top of the liquid. This means it is done, or almost done. Once you see the second mushroom (it may be just a thin film on the top), begin to test your Kombucha daily. Use a clean plastic spoon to taste a little, do not double dip. Once your tea develops a hint of vinegar it is done. Remove the mushrooms, you can now start two batches or store the mushrooms in the fridge in a small amount of the Kombucha. Put a lid on your Kombucha and put it in the fridge to enjoy whenever you like!



*Different versions of sugar will lend a slightly different end taste. Turbinado and Sucanat definitively have a hint of molasses still sticking around after the fermenting is done. Do be cautious to buy "Pure Cane Sugar", otherwise you are getting Beet Sugar which is in the process of GMO approval. 
**You can also boil your water for 10 full minutes to remove the chlorine.


Love and Butter,


Mishelle
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Friday, September 23, 2011

Sweet, Savory, and Slow

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Every month around the 20th my Better Homes and Gardens Magazine arrives, it always puts a smile on my face! This month I saw this recipe and puckered up and thought "YUCK"!! But then I realized all of the ingredients were family favorites so I thought I would give it a try. As I move further away from packaged food, I am finding some of the best dishes are where I risk combining flavors I wouldn't usually put together. You can only "garlic and herb" so many things! This recipe is tangy, sweet, and savory. Simmering away while we were out, this dish had our mouths watering as soon as we opened the door. This meal is a little "fancy" for coming out of a Crock Pot, so pour yourself a glass of wine or kombucha and enjoy!


I've edited it to my own likes...because that's what I do! This will feed a large hungry family or make a good sized family some leftovers...you will soon find I love leftovers. They are home cooked meals without the work! Here it is:


Slow Cooker Chicken with Olives and Dried Plums


3-4 lbs organic or pastured chicken preferably boneless thighs*
4 cups of homemade chicken stock (recipe)
2 TBS of italian seasoning
4 garlic cloves pressed or 1 tsp of garlic powder
14 oz jar of pimento stuffed green olives
8-12 oz pack of prunes
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar (I love the pomegranate infused one!)
1/2 cup of honey


Drain liquid from olives. Add all ingredients to Slow Cooker. Turn on high setting for 4 hours or low for 6+ hours. I like to sometimes start my Slow Cooker on high until it comes to a light boil and then cut it down to low if I need it to stay in there longer or if I forgot to thaw my meat and need to jump start the cooking! Serve with rice or quinoa.


*Boneless Breast will work, but will be a little dry. They don't take well to slow cooking. There is a lot of sauce, so you can sop that up with the dry meat, but thigh meat would be perfection. Thighs or legs with skin and bones would be okay too. You will just have to fish out the bones.


Let me know what you think if you try it. The next time I make it I will take some photos.


Love and Butter,


Mishelle
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Homemade Stock

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There is nothing quite as nourishing to the stomach, or soul, as homemade Chicken Soup. The best Chicken soup starts with real homemade, simmer all day, Chicken Stock. It is much simpler than you think, doesn't require much work, just a little planning ahead. I started making my own stock about 4 years ago when I read "Food to Live By" which is a cookbook written by the owner of Earthbound Farms--Myra Goodman. I've made it a million different ways since then, only making significant changes when I found the Weston Price Foundations and embraced the Traditional cooking methods of 
Simmering Away
bones. In traditional cooking the addition of an acidic liquid purges the minerals from the bones and makes the readily available for you to

absorb. These include real, natural
gelatin and you will see the difference in the gelatinous texture when cooled. Without access to Chicken feet, which I don't think the average person has, this is the most nutrition-packed recipe I could concoct. Once you taste the real stuff you will never buy another can on Swanson! I have included three versions, these all make amazing stock you can use for much more than soup.



Chicken Stock With Meat


Ingredients


1 whole organic or pastured Chicken with Gizzards if possible
5 carrots, ends cut off
1 large yellow or Vidalia Onion, peel removed, cut in half
2 Garlic Cloves (more if you love Garlic)
The center part of Celery (the part with the skinny stalks and leaves)
Any other extra veggies you have lying around*
1 TBS of Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar


Optional: Fresh herbs if available--Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, or Parsley
if not:
1 TBS of Italian Seasoning
1 tsp of ground Sage dried


Get the largest pot you have. If you are lucky enough to have one with a pasta insert, this will save you a lot of time at the end. Add all of the ingredients, then cover with cold water. (Very important that it is COLD!) Leave room at the top for foaming. Bring to a boil on high, removing foam as it appears on top, and then cover and reduce to 2 settings higher than low (3 on my stove). Let simmer as long as possible, but no less than 3 hours, all day if possible. Maintain the stove setting so it does not boil over. If you need to be away from the house and don't want to leave your stove on, you can do all of the above with a Crock Pot, use the high setting for an hour or two if possible and then cut back. In the Crock, it will need to simmer all day, if possible as long as 24 hours. I don't like to use the Crock when I am making stock from a whole chicken, because sometimes the meat is soggy and can't be used for chicken salad. But when making stock from only bones (next recipe), the crock is fine.


When done simmering, pull all ingredients out. This is where you will be thankful if you have a pasta insert. Discard all veggies except the carrots, and all gizzards except the liver. With a potato masher, or your fingers, mash the carrots and liver into a pulp and add back to the liquid. When cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the chicken and reserve for soup, casserole, or chicken salad. If you let the meat get cold or store with the bones in, in the fridge, it will be very hard to pull off the bone later. You can store stock in the fridge for 3-4 days, and freeze extra after that. I am experimenting with ideas to freeze different portions of stock...blog post to come later.


Look at that color!

Here's another option:


Chicken Stock with Bones--Roasted or Smoked


During the cold months, my favorite thing is to Roast Chicken. In the summer, I send all my whole chickens to my husband and his smoker. This leaves me with a lot of flavorful bones. The stock that comes from that rich flavor of Chicken that has been roasted or smoked is not to be missed. Save the bones by freezing them if you don't roast enough Chicken in one week. You can also use bones from Chicken you have Grilled.**


Ingredients and Directions same as above, substitute the bones of 2 or more chickens or equivalent parts for 1 whole Chicken in the recipe above. If using Smoked Chicken only add onion, the smokey flavor will not allow any of the veggies to come through.**


Benefits of Homemade Stock


1. Using something you would normally throw away.
2. The addition of vinegar breaks down the Calcium and Phosphorous in the Bones making it readily available for your absorption.
3. Good Stock will do most of the work for you in a recipe. Rice, Quinoa, or Polenta cooked in homemade stock will rival anything you can order at a restaurant.


*I know this part isn't specific, but anything you don't think you will eat before it spoils, throw it in..broccoli is the only thing I've put in that I was disappointed with. Bell Peppers, Beets, Green Beans, Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes...all of these will add dimension and flavor to your stock without overpowering it.


**Grilled Chicken won't change the flavor that much unless there is a considerable amount of charred meat or bones. Smoked Chicken makes a stock very unique to itself. My favorite way to use Smoked Stock is to cook beans or greens in it, add it to my barbecue sauce, or use it to supplement the smoky flavor of a dish I am putting Bacon or ham in.


Love and Butter,


Mishelle
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Monday, September 19, 2011

Why Blog?

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Over the last few years I've had the blessing of sharing a lot of myself with people. My food, my experiences in parenting and homeschooling, my advice, my exhortations...the list continues. After heaps of encouragement from friends and family, I decided to record some stuff here online to share with anyone who's interested. If you know me you know my passions. My God. My family. And FOOD!! If you want to hear me talk for 30 minutes without taking a breath, go ahead and ask me what I've been doing in the kitchen lately! Whether it is experimenting with new flavors, trying to conquer a new skill, or just fighting to keep healthy reasonably priced food on the table each night, it is my favorite subject.


About a year ago, I signed a letter to a farmer friend of mine "Love and Butter" and she was so tickled with it. I chose that as my blog name, because any thing that comes from my kitchen comes from my heart, to fill yours with joy...and it almost always includes butter!! I'm no Paula Dean...I would never use white sugar or flour in a recipe. But I do believe butter is one of the most wonderful things our Creator made for us. And that introduces the simplicity of my philosophy on food: God made our bodies and God made food. My family's journey is to eat food as close to the way it was created.


So we will start here on a journey. I'll welcome you into my kitchen...and via blog I won't have to do the dishes! Each week I always try one new dish, and I will pledge to share that with you along with any seasonal activity I'm doing, like freezing, canning, or gardening. Thanks for joining me, I hope you find something tasty, helpful, or challenging in the weeks or months to come.




Love and Butter,




Mishelle
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