Giveaway: The Art of Fermentation

Last week, I promised an exciting giveaway was in the hopper. And tell me — do I deliver, or what?

I would enter this giveaway, if I could.

The winner, who unfortunately cannot be me (did I say that already?), will receive a beautiful, brand-spanking-new copy of The Art of Fermentation, by Sandor Katz.

This is the bible of fermentation, friends. This summer I borrowed a copy from Suzanne, just long enough to read up on my beloved half-sour pickles, but returned it before she could hold it against me in our friendship and also before I could read it cover-to-cover (and yes, I would totally do that, on a Friday night — because that’s how exciting or shockingly anti-social my life is, depending on your age and personal obsession level with fermentation).

If you have any interest in making/understanding fermented foods — everything from cultured veggies to kombucha to yogurt to tempeh — seriously, I think he covers EVERY. THING. — then you want this book.

The only caveat is that, if you win, you have to let me borrow it.

(ok, not really — just if you live in Indianapolis)

No, really, I’m totally lying. You don’t have to ever show it to me, you just have to let me call you with all of my fermenting questions.

Enough, seriously — you really don’t have to do anything. Except fill out the form below (for real this time).

I’m rooting for YOU.
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To enter this giveaway, simply fill out and submit the following form before Friday, September 21, at noon EST. The information goes directly to Chelsea Green Publishing, and you will automatically be added to their e-newsletter list (unsubscribe any time). One entry per person; the winner will be selected at random by the publisher, notified via email, and the book will be shipped directly from Chelsea Green.

[This giveaway is now closed : ( ]

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I am super-grateful to the folks at Chelsea Green Publishing for agreeing to and facilitating this giveaway. I’ve received nothing in exchange for hosting, just the burning jealousy joy I’ll feel for the lucky reader that wins! Also, Kaitlin — you rock!

Ferment Friday no. 3: Kombucha

I have converted my family into a tribe of kombucha-lovers.

Well, all of them except the tallest one. He claims to be wary of the scoby. I can’t imagine why, it’s not creepy at all — I only get warm fuzzies when looking at it.

But, wait. Did I lose you at scoby?

The word, or the photo?

Ok, so let’s just pretend you didn’t see that, and back up a bit.

Kombucha is a cultured tea beverage. A culture, or SCoBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria & Yeast) is used to ferment sweetened black tea (green tea and yerba mate can also be used, but caffeine and sugar are both necessary to feed the yeast). The culture forms a “mat,” or in the words of my kids, “that ewwww! creepy thing that OH MY GOSH YOU’RE TOUCHING IT eeewww!! sits in the tea.”

The drink has been around for thousands of years (via China and Russia), and is known for its detoxing properties and probiotic benefits. It’s slightly fizzy, and has a pleasant sweet-tart flavor (most sugar is converted during culturing, and from what I’ve read the caffeine is also greatly reduced in the finished tea). You can buy commercially-produced kombucha for about $3-$4 per 16-oz bottle — or, you can make it at home for about $1/gallon.

…..aaaaaaannd in case you don’t want to do the quick math on that: that’s about TWENTY-EIGHT DOLLARS versus ONE DOLLAR. My kind of savings.

What do you need to make kombucha at home? You need organic tea, organic sugar, filtered water, a gallon jar, and a scoby.

I bought a scoby online a couple years ago from a very reputable source. I then set out to make my kombucha in the dead of winter. This plan? Bad. Idea. Jeans.

Kombucha likes warmth. In fact, this winter, I might invest in a little electric warming mat for my kombucha jar (thought about trying to rig this thing to do it, it’s cheaper than the official ones). So, lesson #1: if you’re buying a scoby online, I recommend starting it before the cold of winter sets in.

The very best way to get a scoby is to find a friend who’s making kombucha. The scoby’s multiply, or add new layers, as they culture. You can just separate the layers and give them to a friend to start a new batch. The scoby I have now was given to me by a friend in my culture club — and it makes the best kombucha I’ve ever tasted.

If you’re concerned about home-brewing safety, as I am — simply invest in pH strips or a pH meter. Kombucha is safe to drink at a pH of 3-4 (3 is ideal), which is the right acidity to prevent extra bacterial growth but not so acidic to hurt our tummies.

In case I’ve not sung the praises of kombucha enough:  this is, by far, the lowest-maintenance cultured product that I make at home. It only requires making a gallon of sweet tea every 1-2 weeks (depending on how fast your tea is culturing) and bottling the finished tea.

Still unsure? Go by the health food store and buy a few jars of GT’s plain kombucha (only drink about 1/3 of a jar per day). You’ll be hooked in a week, back here, desperate for information on how to make your own.

Mark. My. Words.

(This, from the woman who still hasn’t gotten her unbelievably stubborn husband to drink it. My next plan includes resorting to incessant mockery, for his “fear” of “icky things.”)

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Tip Tuesday, no. 4

Green smoothies are all the rage, right? All over pinterest, in the to-go mugs of lululemon moms everywhere. They’ve been one of my favorite breakfasts since I went grain-free and my standby granola went by the wayside.

Most smoothie recipes call for grabbing a bunch of fresh leafy greens and grinding them to liquid with some other yummier items (bananas or other fruits). This is what I did most of last summer, pulling straight from our garden, where our little patch of kale was prolific for many months.

But then I kept reading things about raw greens* containing chemicals that can worsen the effects of hypothyroidism. My thyroid has lately tended to be slightly weak — so while I loved getting my greens in my morning smoothie, I thought it best not to eat them raw every day.

Solution: cook a batch of kale, puree it down in a blender or food processor, and freeze it in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop out and store in a zipper bag. When it comes smoothie time, just grab a cube and stick it in the blender with the rest of your ingredients. You get your serving of dark greens, but they’re cooked to inhibit those goitrogens.

If you drink green smoothies every day, you might consider keeping these kale cubes in your freezer to alternate with raw green smoothies (of course you could do this with any green, I just prefer kale). Perfect for those days you’re clean out of fresh greens — the flavor is still mild, usually overcome by fruits, and you start the morning with a serving of veggies.

* Goitrogens are not present in lettuce greens — so eating all the salad you want doesn’t effect thyroid function. It’s the sturdier greens, including spinach, along with cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower.

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Looking for a great way to add immunity-supporting probiotics to your smoothie? Check this Kid’s Probiotic Smoothie — it’s for grownups too (delicious with kale cubes added)!

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday.

Kids’ power smoothie

Sometimes, it feels as though 90% of my energy on any given day is spent figuring out how to get as many nourishing foods into my kids’ bodies as possible, given their standard-fare pickiness, a limited budget, and their battle-weary mom.

Another 5% is spent doing the laundry.

I don’t know if you’re keeping up with the math, but that leaves 5% of my energy for doing things like brushing my teeth, showering on occasion, keeping up with social media, and watching my library-loaned copies of Lark Rise to Candleford (a BBC period-dramedy chosen specifically for its solid escapism capabilities).

I’m not (always) bitter, just constantly surprised by how much energy it takes to feed kids well. And looking for better solutions.

Thankfully, last spring I landed on an easy, sure-fire way to get loads of good probiotics into the bellies of my kids: the smoothie. We’ve been enjoying them all summer, but school starts Monday (!) — and my goal is to pack them full of friendly gut-flora, daily, year-round, to give their immune systems that much-needed school-year boost.

The great thing about smoothies? You can sneak things into them. Things like greens, kombucha (a how-to-make-your-own post is coming soon!) beet kvass (a lacto-fermented beverage made from beets — great for the liver, not-so-tasty for the kids), or brain-boosting fish oil (tastes like lemon!). I like using probiotics from multiple sources — yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and a powdered kids’ probiotic supplement — to get as much variety as possible in beneficial bacteria.

If you want a protein boost, you can add a spoonful of nut butter (almond and cashew butters are more neutral in flavor than peanut butter). For constipated kids, grind some flaxseed and throw it in (1 tsp should do). And my personal favorite for getting some extra brain-boosting fats? A quarter of an avocado makes the smoothie thick and creamy, and you can’t taste it at all.

The best part of all? No complaining. At afternoon snack time, when my kids hear the blender running, it’s like a Pavlovian reaction — they come to the table, ready to drink. It keeps them satiated until dinner, and gets those good bugs into their adorable little bellies.

Leaving me just enough time to switch out the laundry, check twitter, and change out of my pjs before dinner.*

* Of course I’m kidding. I’m totally done with laundry by dinner.

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Honey simple syrup

Last week at the lake, where cocktail hour acceptably starts around noon, I watched with sadness as my husband and friends popped open local craft beers to drink with lunch. Or when the margarita pitcher passed me by during that pre-dinner guacamole hour, the salted rims of glasses sparkling jewel-like, causing a Pavlovian mouth-watering.

Uncorking that bottle of rosé to eat with my guac just wasn’t doing it for me.

When you are grain-and-sugar-free, you can’t drink beer. Or mixed drinks. The only alcohol that’s acceptable on the GAPS diet is dry wine, and that in limited amounts (*see note below).

In a move of desperation, I decided to make myself a wine cocktail. I had brought along some sparkling water, and cranberry concentrate, and realized I needed a sweetener. Sugar is out, and I’ve made the mistake before of pouring honey into a cold drink (it sticks like candy to the stirring spoon, refusing to dissolve in icy waters). So in a moment of desperate brilliance, I whipped up a simple syrup using honey instead of sugar. It worked beautifully — after refrigeration the syrup was cold and pourable, ready to add to my cocktail of choice.

If only my concoction hadn’t tasted like a back-woods version of Bartles & James.

But even though my cocktail was undrinkable (the rosé and guac started to taste a lot better together), I drove home with honey simple syrup in our cooler. And have since thought of more delightful uses for it (for the GAPS or sugar-free-inclined):

  • homemade “soda” (sparkling water, unsweetened cranberry or cherry concentrate, honey simple syrup)
  • iced coffee (cold decaf coffee, coconut or almond milk, honey simple syrup)
  • iced herbal tea (cold herbal tea, honey simple syrup)

And while cocktail hour won’t currently be improved (if the best things come to those who wait, I’ll be having the world’s most epic beer and margarita sometime later this year or early next), an afternoon pick-me-up of homemade cherry soda over ice is just the thing to get me through our own pre-dinner hour, at home, no guac, in a hot summer kitchen.

* newsflash: after the original posting, a concerned reader emailed to tell me that tequila, being grain-free, should be fine. A little research showed that it’s TRUE — small amounts of pure tequila are allowable on the GAPS diet! I see a margarita with tequila, fresh lime juice, and honey simple syrup in my future. Thanks, Belinda!

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Recipe: Honey Simple Syrup

Ingredients

  • equal parts honey and water, any amount

Instructions

  1. Combine honey and water in a saucepan. Warm over medium-low heat, stirring, until honey dissolves completely (no need to simmer).
  2. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Pour into a glass jar, and store in the refrigerator. Keeps for a really long time.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2012.

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This post was linked to Simple Lives Thursday, via GNOWFGLINS.

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Homemade, all-natural “Gatorade”

gatorade-homemade

On my to-do list today was “make marshmallows.”

It all started this past weekend, when on the way home from her orchestra rehearsal, I told my daughter we could have hot cocoa that afternoon. Instead of the praise-filled, Mother-adoring “YAY!!” I was fully expecting, her response was a lackluster, “mom, do we have marshmallows?”

“Um, no, honey, I don’t think we do.”

To which her reply was unquestionable, non-Mother-adoring, silence.

Anyway, it’s not that I feel the need to meet every whimsical expectation of my eldest child — but making marshmallows was something I had been meaning to try and do, so this week it was.

But my 3-year old has been down with a fever and headache since Monday morning — and when I woke with her beside me in bed this morning, my husband informed me that our eldest was the latest to succumb. So we’re home today, all three feeling tired and cranky, and I’m trying to simply be thankful for the relatively healthy year we’ve had, rather than feel inconvenienced or grumpy.

Because, I mean, marshmallows. On my to-do list, on a Wednesday.

Instead, I’m whipping up what can best be described as the opposite-end-of-the-spectrum: homemade Gatorade.

I’ve got two pitiful little ones, neither one having much of an appetite. I want them to stay hydrated, and keep balanced electrolytes. But I also want them to avoid sugar at all costs, since that ingredient effectively shuts down the immune system. Enter homemade Gatorade: all-natural, no refined sugar, no chemicals, tastes just like the powdered stuff. If you happen to have a couple lemons or limes & some honey, you’ve got all you need.

Confession: I don’t think my youngest has ever had Gatorade, and my oldest has likely only had it at soccer practice. So while they don’t care that the flavor is so similar, they both drank it up, guaranteeing that they’ve ingested fluid, salt, and calcium. That’s a win.

And the marshmallows? Let’s just say that’ll be the barometer for how we’ve fared, come my next post.

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Recipe: Homemade “Gatorade”

Ingredients

  • 2 lemons + 1 lime, juiced (can use all lemons or limes, should have about 1/3 cup juice — this is a fantastic tool for juicing citrus)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp dolomite powder (buy it here), or 1 calcium tablet, crushed (optional, adds calcium)
  • 3+ cups filtered water

Instructions

  1. Combine juice, honey, salt, and optional calcium in a quart-sized (32-oz) jar with a tight-fitting lid.
  2. Add enough water to make 1 quart. Shake well, enjoy. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.

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This post was linked up to Simple Lives Thursday.

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Tea strainer **giveaway**

I’ve hosted a grand total of 2 giveaways on this little blog.

The first was eons ago, I fell in love with a milk frother, so much so, that I bought one on Amazon to give away (how’re you liking it, Rebecca?). This was long before I had a single PR pitch in my inbox, before anyone offered me anything at all to review, ever. It was simply an obsession that I wanted to share, and it felt good to do it.

And it’s not like I’m getting showered in freebies now — but occasionally I do get an offer for a product or book to review, and such is the situation that led to my second giveaway. I wrote an honest review about a book I was really excited about, and a lucky reader got a copy.

But — I’ll admit it — the whole process just felt a little weird to me. I felt pressure to write a positive review — and even though no one asked me or directly influenced me to do that, I felt it just the same.*

So I’ve decided that, for the time being, I’m no longer doing those. But what I can & will do is find random cheap stuff that I can buy, and give it away to whomever might be interested.

Case in point: today’s tea strainer. The source? My favorite Fall-Off-The-Truck Store, Angelo’s. I paid $4 for it. No, I am not PioneerWoman (but how I love her in all her unmatched hilarity), and will not be giving away Kitchenaid mixers or trips to my ranch (you did know I had a ranch, didn’t you? I just like to keep it all to my lonesome is all). But, on the bright side, you probably have a 1-in-15-ish chance of winning my $4 discount tea strainer, versus a chance somewhat equal to getting struck by lightening whilst finding a needle in The World’s Largest Haystack (I believe that’s somewhere in rural Ohio, by the way).

Come on. You know you want to win, even if it’s just a little tiny something. Don’t you.

I love this strainer. How completely adorable is it? (though, admittedly, not this adorable). And, true to its word, the tea leaves stay in the stainless basket. It even comes with a little stand to catch the drippings after steeping. It likely cost way more than $4 on its original shelf. Probably even, like, $10. And it kind of looks like a witch’s hat, which is seasonally appropriate.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll start giving away items I dig out of the bin at Goodwill. That’s the underwhelming reach of my generosity. And pocketbook.

To Enter this Mind-Boggling Giveaway:

1) leave a comment, telling me what you would buy if you had $4 burning a hole in your pocket.

2) for a second entry, follow me on twitter, and tweet the following: “I just entered an amazing FOUR DOLLAR GIVEAWAY from @katyshecooks [insert link to this post]!!!!” If you want the tweet to count as an entry, you must leave a comment here w/ a link, or else I’ll never know. I’m just not that organized.

3) can’t think of another way to self-promote at the expense of your energy. So, just review numbers 1 & 2.

A winner will be selected, at random, via random.org, randomly, at 9pm (or maybe 10? whenever I remember to do it) on Sunday, October 16. Winner will be notified by email sometime in the early days of next week.

Also, no choice on color. All they had was yellow.

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* This is totally my issue. Many, many bloggers do giveaways with honesty and generosity and without having to spend their own money at junk stores. You should definitely be reading their blogs, not mine.

** Congrats to OrdinarySarah, who’s lifelong dream was realized the day I told her she won the strainer. Ok, maybe not lifelong dream… but apparently she did dream that she was at my house, asking about the strainer, the day before she won it. This did not in any way influence the contest, unless random.org is able to be controlled by the dreams of pregnant women. Thanks to all of you who confessed your love of $4 coffee drinks, I’m right there with ya.