Kefir and yogurt cheese

03/23/2009 at 12:19 pm (uncategorized)

I got some kefir grains last week. What is kefir, you ask? It is a creamy cultured milk product that is loaded with vitamins and minerals. Kefir can be made with cows’, goats’, coconut, rice or soy milk. It is similar to yogurt in that it contains friendly probiotic bacteria but it also  contains beneficial yeast. This naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in kefir combine to provide superior health benefits.

Besides the friendly bacteria and yeast, kefir contains minerals and amino acids. The partially digested, complete proteins in kefir are easier to digest making it good for those who usually can’t handle milk products. Kefir is also rich in calcium and magnesium and has an ample supply of phosphorus. Kefir contributes to a healthy immune system.

To make you simply add the gelatin-like particles called “grains” to the milk. I use a clear canning jar so I can check on its progress. I stir it throughout the day with a wooden chopstick, but you don’t have to do anything to it. Never use metal to stir it with or strain it because the grains will react to the metal. The longer you leave it out, the more sour it will taste. You just decide when you want to use it.

When you’re ready you strain it in a plastic colander and take the part that you strained and use that for smoothies, or in place of milk in pancake batter. There are many things to do with kefir. A simple search on google will tell you. The part in the colander will be put back into a clean jar and you will add milk to it and start over again. It might sound hard but it’s really not!

Straining kefir

When I make smoothies with it, I take the strained finished product and add frozen strawberries and a bit of sugar or honey to it and blend it until smooth. I think frozen bananas would be tasty too. We have quite a bit of a sweet tooth, but eventually I hope to not have to add any extra sweetener to it. It reminds me of a strawberry milkshake. We enjoy drinking this every day.

I also ordered a 64 ounce container of plain yogurt from the local buying club. The whole reason I ordered it was to get the whey from it and to do that you make yogurt cheese.  To make the yogurt cheese you put the yogurt in a flour sack towel and knot the ends up and hang to drip. The liquid that drains out is the whey.  I wanted the whey to make homemade mustard and other fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and pickles. I got the idea from my favorite book: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I let the yogurt cheese drip for 2 days. But I didn’t hang it the whole time and I think if I had, it would have been done sooner.

Hanging Yogurt cheese to drip

The yogurt cheese smells and looks like cream cheese, but it’s more sour to me than store bought cream cheese. I think it would be excellent in a vegetable dip of some sort. I made some “cream cheese” frosting out of it and it was pretty tart, but I think I will end up using it as a “lemon” glaze for poppy seed cake. The yogurt cheese was good spread on crackers with jelly on top. The jelly seemed to make it taste less sour.

finished yogurt cheese

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Granola

03/02/2009 at 9:52 pm (food)

We enjoy eating granola for breakfast. I make it in small batches in my toaster oven and it lasts a few days. We like this recipe because it’s easy to make.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For a half batch (the size I make), melt 1/4 cup butter plus one Tablespoon with 1/4 cup honey in saucepan on low, stir so it doesn’t burn. Add 1/4 cup flax seed, 1/3 cup raisins, and a handful of nuts, if you prefer, and stir well to coat all ingredients. I bake it in a glass pan that looks like a miniature 9X13 pan that fits in my toaster oven. I dump 2 cups of oats in that pan and pour the wet ingredients on top of that to save myself from dirtying another pan. Give it a few stirs to mix everything together and bake for 10 minutes. Take it out, stir it together, and bake an additional 5 minutes. Let cool, and stir it occasionally, otherwise, you’ll have that granola stuck in the pan! When it’s cool and dry, I store it in a canning jar.granola

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February Update

03/02/2009 at 9:19 pm (uncategorized)

We lost Myrple. Her feet weren’t getting any better, so we put her out of her misery.

We gave our red hens to a dear friend in Cherryvale. It’s just the four black ones now.

Then, Luna died. Her death was unexpected. We all miss her very much.

But we’re still plugging along. One day at a time. I check on the chickens, give them some freshly plucked grass to eat. A few handfuls of cracked corn, which they love and go crazy for.

Daily loads of laundry are done around here to keep up with the load. I often chuckle when I see cars drive by and watch me hanging up the laundry in the snow or watch me take down “boards” of freeze dried clothing that are as stiff as plywood. I wonder what is going through their minds and if they are laughing too. I hope I’ve given them something to smile at.

One of our big exciting things that happened is getting our garden spot plowed and tilled. We had seen the neighbor’s get theirs done and decided we wanted to have a bigger area than we thought. I’m planning on taking over the square beds and planting some herbs both medicinal and culinary and flowers, all edible if I can.

We had the area tilled up that we used the first year we were here. I’m so excited about all that we’re going to grow and this year we’ll be able to tackle the weeds better since Nick will be able to help. We fixed our gate that leads to the back too, so no more stray dogs getting into the garden. Milo is smart. He knows he’s not allowed in the garden area and walks along the border of it.

The winter blues have been hitting us both hard this year but looks like spring is around the corner. It seems like yesterday we were starting the new year and now it’s already March! Wow! Time flies. This Friday will mark the day that Nick and I married 12 years ago. 12 years! I remember when I would hear about someone being married for 10 years and thought that was a long time! Funny how things change as you get older.

Twelve years ago I married my best friend and I’m still in love with him as the day we met. Well meaning friends and family thought we wouldn’t survive a month let alone a year. And here we are, still going strong. I wonder what they think now?

Life is good.

Until next time…

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Foundation

01/28/2009 at 12:28 pm (bible)

I think that much of the Christian church today has lost its way. I think we’ve forgotten what it is we’re supposed to stand for.

10 Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ.

12 Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13 But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. 14 If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. 15 But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames. – 1 Corinthians 3:10-15

But what is the foundation of Christ? Jesus said: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Save from what? The modern Christian would say sin.

But what is sin? Romans 7:7 tells us that the Law reveals sin to us. But what did Christ say about the Law?

35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:35-40

Christ said that all of the commandments boiled down to either loving God or loving our neighbors. Basically he said that all sin was a direct result of a failure to love.

But what is Love? Christ said: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13. Furthermore 1 John 3:16 says: “We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

But Christ took it one step further. He said in Matthew 5:

43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.

Christ said don’t love just the people who love you back, but love even the people who curse you! What a mandate!

But how many churches are there today who embrace and embody true Love? Not many.

Some churches focus on sin. They preach and rail against it. But I think it interesting that Christ did not tell us to condemn sin. He told us “let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7).

Many churches focus on the “gifts of the spirit.” But 1 Corinthians 13 says:

1 If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. 3 If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Many churches focus solely on faith. But in James chapter 2 it is written:

14 What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? 15 Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, 16 and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?

17 So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

18 Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.”

19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone.

25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

I think it is very interesting that the example given in James was not any of the multiple activities that the modern church engages in. The example given was of helping folks in need. Another example is found in James 1:27, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”

Jesus also dealt heavily with this subject referring to the final judgement in Matthew 25 he said:

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”

I pray that I can live up to the mandate given to me by the one who loved me enough to lay down his life for me.

All scripture quotations from the New Living Translation

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Fear

01/18/2009 at 7:32 pm (bible)

After a couple weeks without the internet I can safely say that I’m not missing it all that much.

I’ve been poking around the last couple days, and quite a bit of what I see boils down to one thing … fear.

And a lot of it is from folks who call themselves Christians.

This is interesting to me because two of the Charity tapes we’ve listened to in the past week had to do with fear.

Here are a couple Bible verses:

The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? – Psalm 118:6

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7

We are not to be fearful. In fact we are given the command to rejoice always!

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. – Philippians 4:4

Most folks probably don’t give much thought to the seriousness of fearfulness, I among them. Then I came across this verse:

But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death. – Revelation 21:8

It is a very sobering thought to me to realize that God puts fearfulness on the same level as murder and all manner of ungodliness.

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A year without trash

12/31/2008 at 9:16 pm (thoughts)

I found this blog — 365 Days of Trash — a couple days ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

It was his goal not to throw anything away for a year. 

When I first heard about it, I thought “this is a fellow I could really like.”

And he made some basic steps. He purchased a folding bowl, utensils and a drink carrier to use instead of disposables.

But then I found a photo of his basement where he’s been storing all the stuff he would’ve normally thrown away. And I was a little disappointed.

Noel and I have been working on reducing our trash load for some time. At one point a couple years ago we were producing less than a grocery sack of garbage per month. We’re making a little more than that now, but we’re working our way back down again.

In fact, my first words of advice to folks trying to live frugally is to cancel your trash service.

When you have to personally find something to do with every bit of material you bring into your home, it really changes your buying habits. You avoid things that were made to be thrown away, all these disposable wipes and swiffer things that are all the rage right now are off your list immediately.

You switch to buying in bulk and providing your own reusable containers. You look for product in packaging that can be reused in some manner. Did you know you can still get many staples in cloth sacks? You can buy flour sack towels at Wal-Mart, or you can get your flour in them and keep the sack for free.

It always irks me to have to pay extra for a product because of its pretty packaging and then pay someone else to haul the pretty packaging off as trash.

So I would encourage everyone this new year to make less trash. And I would suggest to the 365 guy that his next step to go a year without purchasing anything that would need to be disposed of at all and not to just store the garbage in his basement.

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Tea

12/30/2008 at 8:08 pm (food)

A dear friend of mine, from Texas, gave me a box of black tea once. She had only known me for less than a few weeks and already knew that I loved tea! I miss her! Well, when I tried the tea back then I found it too dark and strong. So, I stashed it away in my tea tin and saved it. Sure glad I did too, because Nick loves it! It’s one of his favorites.

How did this happen? Well, back when Nick still worked at Walgreens he was really enjoying drinking the Arizona teas specifically one with ginseng and honey in it.  He didn’t want to always have to buy it from them. They were fairly cheap but still cost us money. So I got him to try a cup of the tea from Sarah and he liked it.

Now, he was enjoying it and so  when we ran out of it, I substituted some generic brand of tea that we had always enjoyed iced before. The standard kind you buy in the tea section, I think it’s black and orange pekoe.  But it was too late, he’d had the good stuff and couldn’t stand it! It was so flavorless.

Then one day I tried it and now, I look forward to waking up to have a cup. Since then, I have been drinking tea like crazy and enjoying trying new ones. Which is great, because I recently received a nice sample of different kinds of tea from a good friend that I met through the local co-op I joined. (She has a love for herbs like me and I’m really glad I met her.)

I haven’t tried them all yet but  so far my favorite is one called  Rooibos vanilla. I don’t know if it’s caffeinated or not, but after drinking 3 cups of it, I had a hard time getting to sleep. Now, I’ll be sure to drink it in the morning and not right before bed.. Oh, it is sooo delicious!

I also just found out that Arizona makes hot tea now. I’ll have to see if they have our favorite in bag form.

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