Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kefir a.k.a buddies!


A few weeks ago I received a letter, and in that letter was a pouch full of bacteria. No this was not an act of bioterroism, it was my new kefir culture arriving by mail from an organic farm in Ontario.

I described in a previous post what kefir is, and why I think it's great. So I took it upon myself to actually make my own kefir from my own bacteria, as one would naturally do?
I ordered some of my own little kefir babies online, they arrived in no less than 4 days, and I accepted them in to my home as if they were my own.

They are actually called kefir grains because they look like a little grain, but in fact they are not a grain at all just a cluster of beneficial bacteria. Basically the goal is to keep them alive by providing them with milk and in turn they will transform your milk into a delicious fermented goodness. I'm semi-lactose intolerant, so drinking kefir is a great way for me to be able to get some good ole pasture fed milk in me without exploding.

(pic on the left: kefir grains)

Here are the steps I used to make my kefir:

1) Rinse the kefir grains with non-chlorinated water, not tap water. I use a Brita filter for this. Chlorine can possibly kill the bacteria, so avoid it. Use a plastic strainer (the slots on this one below are a little too wide), metal or wire strainers can kill the bacteria as well, so plastic only.

2). After your little kefir buddies have had a shower, get a clean jar, and some room temperature milk.

3) Spoon the kefir grains into the jar, again using a plastic spoon not a metal one (see step 1).

4). Pour in your room temperature milk.

 4). Place a cloth over the jar, or just place the lid on loosely depending on the jar you are using. The key here is that you need the jar to breath (burp) without completely exposing it to the air, where it could possibly pick up unwanted bacteria.

 5) Leave it at room temperature in a dark place (like a cupboard) ensuring it is not exposed to light. Let it sit there for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days or more depending on how sour you want it to taste.

6). After it has cultured (1-4 days) Strain out the kefir grains through a plastic strainer as in Step 1 and start again. The milk will now have a consistency just slightly more fluid than yogurt.

Place the finished jar in the fridge where it will continue to develop. Best case scenario: you will have one jar fermenting, and one ready to consume in the fridge, and continue on this cycle. If you do not feel like consuming a liter of kefir per week, then you can leave the kefir grains in some water in the fridge for when you need them, change the water (not chlorinated) every week, and rinse the kefir grains in the process.

If you have never tried kefir, it is a slightly sour but also sweet tasting milk. Delicious! One thing to remember about fermenting is that the food should still taste good, so if what you just fermented tastes absolutely awful, it probably didn't work.
I use kefir to make muesli, or in a smoothie, or in a dressing.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Cucinare Per Uno:(?.... :)


Here is the deal. Most of the time I cook, it is a meal for one. sad? No.
My fiancé lives on one side of Canada I live on the other, so right now cooking for two is on the horizon, but will have to wait.

This does not however stop me from cooking; in fact far from it, I cook often. I say this because I frequently hear the excuse that cooking for oneself is just not worth it! For me nothing could be more worth it! I mean we are talking about the most important person in your life here (yourself), so what could be a better excuse than to make the most delicious meal you can. I do understand the need to show off a little in the kitchen and to cook for others, but don't let vanity get in the way of your health. Plus, what's stopping you from bragging about the meal you cooked for yourself last night to your co-workers/friends, or with leftovers "Hey Sally I made the most amazing pasta last night, it blew my mind, this is what was in it..."
Talking about food, for me, is a part of life. You can inspire people to start cooking for themselves, to try new recipes, get new recipes, and in truth it's actually stimulating conversation. I have a lot of experience with people getting together and talking about food, I'm Italian. When I was younger I actually used to say to my family "can we stop talking about food for one second!" Our family would sit down to eat dinner and over half of the conversation is about what they had for breakfast/lunch and what they are going to make for dinner tomorrow night.
As I get older...I completely get it.

Cook your own meals and you will most likely be much healthier because you can then control your ingredients; and if you have read any of my previous posts you'll know that it is all about the ingredients!

As well, nothing in my opinion is more satisfying than cooking for yourself/others so the more often you do it the better, right? In our fast paced, non-stop, make as much money until you don't know your kids names world, most people are being robbed of the very right to actually have time to cook.
Reclaim your kitchen!

This post actually came to me (no joke) when I was cooking for myself. I was making pasta carbonara, and it turned out to be one of the best plates of pasta I have ever had.

Smelling the parmigiano reggiano cheese I used for the carbonara. I highly recommend doing this any time you pass by your fridge.

When I finished making my carbonara and then tasted it, it made me do two things:
1) Smile.
2) Yell out "CHE BELLO!, CHE e CARBONARA!"