Simple Sauerkraut and Kefir Cheese

I started my day with two slices of my soaked bread, slathered with grass-fed, cultured butter, and raw local honey.  Does it get any better than that?  I should have had some raw milk, but I was too full!  Besides cleaning, packing, and school lessons, I’ve been trying to use all of the fresh food in my fridge or get it frozen or preserved.

I made a batch of simple sauerkraut.  It took about 10 minutes, including the time it took to get enough whey from some kefir.  The recipe couldn’t be easier, and it will be ready to be transferred to the fridge when I get back from my sisters.  Here’s how I did it.
Simple Kraut (lacto-fermented)
Ingredients:
1 medium head of cabbage shredded (I use my food processor’s slicing attachment)
1 tbs. of sea salt (this is the mac-daddy of salt)
4 tbs. of whey (see a quick way to make whey below)
Tools:
a mallet/or tenderizer
a large bowl
a large mouthed jar (large enough for the mallet to fit into)
Put all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix.  Mash with the mallet until the juices start to form.  Nourishing Traditions recommends 10 minutes.  It will vary based on the shred size.  You want a good amount of juice.  Transfer the cabbage and all of the juices to the jar.  Mash it down as much as you can.  The goal is to have all of the cabbage fully submerged in the liquid.
Glass and metal aren't optimum, but this is what I have.
Glass and metal aren’t optimum, but this is what I have.

Here’s my easy way to make whey…that makes me giggle a little…I’m such an English nerd!  I take a simple 49 cent dish towel from Ikea, a plastic pitcher, and a stainless steel colander.  My contraption looks like this.  I’m sure if you dig through your cabinets you can find something to use.

Very quickly there is enough whey to use for the kraut.  Then I hang it like this.

You are waiting for the the kefir (or yogurt) to be the consistency of cream cheese.  Then remove it from the towel, and put your extra whey in the fridge.  Whey will store for months and it is useful for fermenting veggies and sauces (like ketchup), soaking beans and grains, and adding protein to smoothies or salad dressings.  The possibilities are endless, so if you are hesitant, thinking you won’t use it…trust me you will!
Oh!  The cheese, I almost forgot.  My favorite way to eat the kefir (or yogurt) cheese is on bread.  I mix it with just enough Grade B Maple Syrup to cut the sourness and add some chopped walnuts and spread it on THICK!!  It would also be good on sliced apples.

Three Freezer Slow-Cooker Meals

WARNING: Freezer Cooking is addictive!!  Freezer meals are all over blogs and Pinterest.  I can totally understand why.  I had done freezer cooking in the past, especially when I was nesting prior to one of my little love’s arrivals.  My third love was so late, I just kept cooking and freezing, I didn’t have to prepare a meal for a solid month after she was born.  That was such a blessing in those sleepless days.

There are several strategies to freezer meals.  There is the once a month approach where you shop, cook, and freeze an entire month’s worth of meals.  Another, is to always double anything that takes considerable time (i.e. enchiladas or lasagna) and then freeze the second.  Finally, and this is what I am doing here, is to take what produce you have access to via sales, gardening, or CSA and preserve it by freezing it in meal size portions with recipes all ready to go.

The three recipes I chose were all for the slow-cooker this time.  They are Slow-Cooker BBQ (inspired by Stephanie at Mamaandbabylove.com), Chicken Teriyaki (inspired by Jaima at ringaroundtherosies.net), and Ginger Beef from MomswithCrockpots.com.  I changed quite a bit of these recipes so I’ll post the entire recipes that I used.  I packed these in 1 gallon bags and I didn’t add the meat to them, because my meat was already frozen.  I think this will maximize my savings, because I buy all of my chicken on markdown and my beef from a local farmer, so it is already frozen.  Then I can make the freezer meals when I get the produce on sale or from my garden and then I have saved all around.  (If you can’t tell frugality is very important to me. I think it is rubbing off on my kids, today my daughter was cleaning up after dinner and she asked me if I wanted to save the hot dog water to use for something else!!)

**I used a full recipe in each bag.  This should be enough to feed my family of 6 and have some leftover for lunch the next day.  If you have a smaller family you should consider splitting the recipes between 2 bags.

Slow-Cooker BBQ Chicken
(I fell in love with Stephanie’s idea of having so many veggies in BBQ, my main changes are in the ingredients in the sauce.  If you have a special way you like to make your BBQ sauce, by all means change it up!)
Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of chicken thighs or legs
3 sweet potatoes diced
2 green bell peppers chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
2 zucchini chopped
2-6oz cans of tomato paste
2 tbs. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tbs. unsulphured molasses
2 tbs. worcestershire sauce
2 tbs. whole grain mustard (or spicy brown)
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp. of salt
1/4 cup of quick cooking tapioca
1 cup of smoky stock (or regular stock + a dash of liquid smoke)

Combine all ingredients, except stock in a freezer bag.  Freeze.  On day of cooking, add all ingredients to slow-cooker, add stock.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours.  (I will add the chicken the day of cooking, I do not think the chicken would have fit into the bag, if you are splitting it into to 2 meals the chicken will fit.)

Chicken Teriyaki
(This recipe had the ingredients of Sweet and Sour Chicken with Teriyaki sauce, I cooked it once before I froze any of it.  It was good, the peppers were a little mushy, so I will leave them out until the last part of cooking next time).

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of chicken thighs or breast (weight varying on whether meat is bone in or boneless)
1 pineapple cored and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 red bell peppers cut into 1 inch chunks
2 chopped onions chopped
2-16oz bags of baby carrots
1 cup tamari, liquid aminos, or soy sauce (read here why fermented soy is better for you)
1/3 cup sucanat, honey or brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground dried ginger
1 tbs. garlic powder
2 tbsp. quick cooking tapioca

Combine all ingredients (except peppers) into a freezer bag (or 2).  Put peppers into a smaller freezer bag and tape the smaller to the larger.  On day of cooking, empty large bag into slow-cooker.  Cook on high 4-6 hours.  Add peppers in last 30 mins-1 hour until desired tenderness. Finally, tasted the sauce, adjust to your tastes, more soy sauce if it is too bland.  More honey if you don’t think it is sweet enough. Serve this with rice and top with lo mein noodles if desired.

Ginger Beef

Ingredients:
2-3 lbs of stew meat or roast cut into cubes (preferably grass-fed and local)
1-16oz bag of baby carrots
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
1 onion chopped
1-8 oz pack of mushrooms sliced
2 tsp. of grated ginger
1/2 cup of Hoisin sauce (gluten-free variety)
1 cup of beef broth (if using homemade stock or broth, you will probably have to salt to taste or add salt initially- I usually do a good palm full for a 6 quart crock meal, and then salt to taste at the end, homemade stock is always your best gluten-free option)
1/4 cup of quick cooking tapioca
toasted sesame seeds (optional
garnish)

Add all ingredients (except peppers) to a 1 gallon bag or split between 2.  Bag peppers separate, label both bags and tape them together.  On day of cooking dump large bag into slow-cooker.  Cook on high for 4-6 hours, adding peppers last 30 mins-1 hour until they reach desired tenderness.

While I was at it I made a couple of bags with chopped celery, onions, and carrots to make a quick pot of chicken soup when I have leftover roasted chicken.  All in all, it was a couple hours that will save me many!  Give it a try!  You will not go back to cooking every night again.

Roasted Chicken to the Rescue

I didn’t make a meal plan this week.  In part, because of the chaos of the holiday weekend, but also some distraction on my part.  I was working hard to complete my 40 bags challenge before Lent was over.  And work in the yard, and…and…and.  So I must confess at the end of last week I started changing things from my plan, and then I didn’t even write one this week.  And yesterday, with all shame, because of a lack of planning on my part, I had to throw out some organic chicken that I bought.  Simply because I was off my game and I didn’t throw it in the freezer.  Because I didn’t have a plan.  I didn’t know what was coming.

This week I’ve been doing my best to eat everything in the fridge and get it all organized so that I am ready to have my game plan together for next week.  I’m also reading through some freezer meal recipes to replenish my stockpile of ready made meals.  The only saving grace this week was the almost whole ham we took home from Easter dinner and the 2 chickens I roasted over the weekend to warm the kitchen while I was baking bread.  (Which I will have to post, because take two on the soaked bread was AAAH-WSOME!)
Almost every week I roast 2 chickens.  I just choose a day when I know I will be home and get them defrosted and then roast them up.  Not for dinner, just because.  When they cool I pull the meat off the bones, use the bones for stock, the pan juice for gravy, the fat that rises to the top of the pan juice to cook veggies in, and the meat for whatever I need it for.  It makes meals so quick, like: Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Quesidillas, Casserole, Chicken Salad, Chicken Pot Pie…the options are endless.  Sometimes in the summer, I will do the same with chicken Andy grills or smokes for me.

Simple Way to Roast Chicken

It doesn’t take a lot of work, just a lot of time.  You’ll need:
2 Chickens
Sea Salt
Poultry Seasoning or other all purpose seasoning.  This is my favorite.
Lemon or Orange (optional-I don’t notice a lot of difference, but if you have one that’s about to go bad, use it!)
Deep Roasting or Casserole Pan (I prefer ceramic like this one)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove gizzards and neck (reserve for stock).  Rinse Chicken.  Place in pan breast side down.  Squeeze citrus over chicken if using.  Salt generously.  Sprinkle with Poultry seasoning.  Pop in the oven for 30 minutes.  Reduce oven temp. to 350 degrees.  Cook for an additional 40-60 minutes until temperature in deepest part of the thigh reads 165.  Remove and let rest.  Enjoy the skin and pull the meat for later use.  Or eat all of it for dinner.
I’ve tried on a rack and I am a fan of without, it keeps the white meat (which I put down) very moist.  When we are eating the chicken right away we will pour out some of the pan gravy and bring it to the table.  It’s messy, but so so worth it!
So I guess even though I didn’t do a game plan for the week, some of my obsessive planning still got through to make the week work for me.  I never regret the things I cook when I’m not trying to get a meal on the table.  They always come in handy later.