Archive | July, 2013

Easy side dish – Inside Out Pierogis

16 Jul

I am mostly Slovenian. My great grandparents came to America on a boat full of other immigrants looking to make a better life for themselves. When my gram married and had my mom, she didn’t dilute the gene pool too much. Same thing with my mom when she married my dad. I am German, Dutch, Indian and Slovak – but the Slovak dominates. I blame that for my unnatural love of pierogis. And I’m a bit of a snob about them. I’ll eat non church pierogis, but there is one local church that makes them twice a year around Easter and Christmas and they are AMAZING. The best ever. My gram buys dozens of them and shares them with the rest of us. I freeze a bunch to have later, but immediately fry up a dozen with butter and some onions and eat half of them. Yep. No shame.

Now, it’s summertime so that means my stockpile of church pierogis are pretty much depleted. <insert sad face here> So when I recently had a hankering for pierogis, the Inside Out was born. You’ve got the dough aspect covered by the gnocchi – and they are traditionally made with potatoes so there is the potato aspect. Add in the ricotta for cheese and the chives for the onion and voila! And amazingly, they do taste a whole lot like pierogis. I loved it! I will most certainly be making these again. And I actually ate this as lunch, not as a side. I accompanied it with a salad and it was a delicious and filling meal.

Inside Out Pierogis

serves 2-3 as a side dish

1lb gnocchi – store bought of fresh made

½ cup whole milk ricotta

2 tbsp chives

½ tsp garlic salt

1tbsp olive oil

1tbsp butter

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Using the same pot the gnocchi were boiled in, add your oil and butter and heat over medium heat until butter is melted and the olive oil is hot. Add the cooked gnocchi to the pan and toss to coat. Let the gnocchi cook for a few minutes so that they get crispy and brown on one side. While they are browning, add the ricotta, chives and garlic salt. Stir to combine and cook until ricotta cheese it hot.

Serve and enjoy!

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Mmmmm…smoothies…..

11 Jul

Has anyone else noticed how stifling hot out it’s been? The other day, the weather dude said that oh, it hasn’t been that hot out. We haven’t reached a 90 degree day yet. If I was near mr. weather dude, I would have throat punched him. In western PA it doesn’t need to be 90 degrees out to be miserably hot. We have humidity thick enough that it feels like you are walking through sweat. Gross, I know.

Soooo….since it’s been so hot out, cold beverages and breakfasts are becoming a thing around our house again. Lots of salads, frosty glasses of iced tea (or vodka, lemon & water), ice cream cones. You know, cold stuff.

I admit that I’ve been lazing around in my bed for another 30 minutes after my alarm goes off. Because I’m cozy. The ceiling fan is going, the morning news is on. I just want to delay starting my day a bit. I still have plenty of time to get ready for work and be out the door, but it limits the amount of time I have to whip up myself breakfast. And this girl HAS to eat breakfast. Otherwise my blood sugar drops and the hunger turns to hanger. It’s bad for everyone. So, when I’m pressed for time, I whip up a smoothie. Combining protein powder, oatmeal, and plenty of fruit helps to make a filling, satisfying breakfast beverage. The oatmeal helps to thicken the smoothie without watering it down, and using frozen berries means I can skip the ice and won’t have a watered down smoothie 20 minutes later. Because I combine protein powder & oatmeal, I use this smoothie as a meal replacement. It’s filling, it tastes good, and is healthy for me! Be sure to experiment with the types of fruits and liquids you use. Add in some frozen banana slices, pineapple, mango, strawberries. Whatever! Just make sure it’s frozen since this helps you avoid adding ice.

Don’t want to commit to purchasing a protein powder? You don’t have to, but it certainly helps the smoothie to be more filling. Not sure where to purchase some of the ingredients listed? Click on the ingredient to be taken to the site where I purchase. The protein powder I use is a whey protein that is non-GMO, non-denatured, no growth hormones and no artificial sweeteners or ingredients. I have only tried the double chocolate flavor and it’s very good. The RAW superfood powder is organic and lets me get a dose of nutrients, vitamins and minerals from more veggies than I could pack into a smoothie (and veggies or grasses that I just wouldn’t otherwise eat). Both of the powders I add in last me about 2 months as I only have smoothies on weekdays, with the most being 5 per week, so it helps to offset the cost of buying the protein and RAW powders. I can honestly say I feel more energy in the mornings of having smoothie than I do with a couple of cups of coffee. Minus the jitters and the afternoon slump.

Give it a try!

berry breakfast smoothie

Chocolate Oatmeal Berry Breakfast Smoothie

1/4 cup oatmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons ground flax meal

1 cup frozen berries (I use a triple berry blend – blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

1 cup coconut or almond milk

1/4 cup organic vanilla yogurt

4-5 drops  Sweet Leaf Stevia drops – optional

1 scoop Natural Factors Double Chocolate Whey Powder

1/2 scoop Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW Organic Chocolate Cocoa powder

In a blender, pulse your oatmeal and flax meal until it’s a powder. Add in your berries, coconut or almond milk, protein and RAW powders, and Stevia drops if using. Blend on high until everything is combined, 1-2 minutes. Blending for a longer time whips everything together and adds air, making the smoothie taste ridiculously creamy. If your smoothie is too thick, add a little more coconut or almond milk.

Pour into a glass, add a straw, and enjoy your breakfast beverage!

The DIY Life: Fermenting your own Kombucha Tea. Part 1

1 Jul

Good things come from fermentation – pickles, wine, beer, kraut. But who would have thought tea? I know I didn’t. Until I heard a friend talking about brewing up her own Kombucha. The short of the process is you brew up some tea, sweeten it, add the SCOBY to the cooled sweet tea, cover with a clean cotton cloth and let sit for 7-21 days to ferment. The longer you let it ferment, the stronger the tea. Drink a little of the tea each day for the health benefits. The health benefits are wide and don’t really have a whole lot of documented proof because Kombucha tea is not evaluated by the FDA. I think it’s pretty refreshing to have a  jelly jar full each morning or evening.

A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast. They are also known and kombucha mushrooms, Mother, Baby or plain old kombucha.

Why did I decide to start brewing some? Because it DOES contain probiotics, like those found in yogurt. Probiotics are good for you. They help keep the good bacteria in your body from going all wild. Here is a great article over at Kombucha Camp if you want to see more of the purported benefits of drinking Kombucha.  Since I have only been drinking it for a couple of months, I can’t confirm or deny any of the implied benefits. However, I like the taste and the process of making it is so easy that I can’t find a reason to NOT make it. So far I made a batch up with black tea and let it ferment for only 7 days. I wanted to see how it tasted at that point. At the 7 day mark, the tea was slightly carbonated and still sweet. My next batch was a green tea, and I let that one ferment for 10 days. It was a lot milder in flavor over the black tea I had from the first batch, and was a teeny bit more carbonated and tangy. Batch 3 I went back to black tea and let ferment for 15 days. The carbonation was pretty good, with a nice flow of small champagne like bubbles. It had a bit more zing to the taste. I think 7 days will continue to be my max first fermentation time for right now, until I get a little more adventurous.

The longer that you let the tea ferment, the more pronounced vinegar flavor it takes on. I like vinegar, but I don’t want to drink it. If for some reason I forgot about my tea, and the flavor was more vinegar like than I could handle, it can easily be saved and used AS vinegar – in dressings and what not.

Below is a basic recipe for Kombucha, for a single fermentation process. You can do a double fermentation, where after the first round you remove the SCOBY and ferment with a fruit or flavoring. I’ll be doing a follow-up post on how to do the second fermentation.

Since the Kombucha is fermented, there is a low percentage of ABV – the highest I’ve seen is 1%. So no, you can’t get drunk off of it. It does have a very slight booze taste when you first take a sip, because of the little bubbles and the whole fermenting process. But you are fine.

And please, don’t freak out about the sugar content. The sugars are for the SCOBY, not for you. The SCOBY will eat the sugars, which are what causes your brew to ferment. There will still be SOME sweetness to your finished brew, but it won’t be like the overly sweet tea you started with.

Tips

* If you don’t have a friend who brews their own Kombucha and can hook you up with a SCOBY, be sure to purchase one from a reputable supplier. Kombucha Camp does sell them as well as kits.

* NEVER allow any metal to come in contact with your SCOBY. Contact with metal will kill it. Nobody wants to have “SCOBY killer” as their nickname.

* NEVER use organic teas. They will cause the brew to grow mold and you will have to throw everything out.

* Don’t worry if your SCOBY sinks or is sideways. It will float back to the top of the container and right itself. This usually happens if the SCOBY and tea are not at the same room temp. No biggie.

* DISTILLED WATER ONLY. Just suck it up and spend the $0.88 on a gallon of the stuff. Don’t use tap, whatever you do. Just don’t.

* Don’t be sloppy with your sanitation skills. Make sure all jars and containers are clean. You wouldn’t want to eat dinner off of a dirty plate, so don’t use dirty utensils for brewing!

* NEVER store your SCOBY in the fridge.

* Share your baby SCOBY’s with others! Be sure to include some of your finished Kombucha tea/Mother with the baby so they can get their own brew going on.

* Too many SCOBY’s from brewing tons of Kombucha? Toss extras or old SCOBY’s into your compost pile. They are good for your garden.

 

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar – I use Zulka Pure Cane GMO free 

4-6 tea bags

1 SCOBY + 1 cup Mother (starter tea)

8-10 cups distilled water

Tools:

Large glass container (I use this 1 gallon mason jar, minus the lid)

Tea towel

Rubber band

Large pot

 

In a large pot, bring your water to a boil. Add your tea bags and let steep for 10 minutes. Add your sugar and stir until dissolved.

Let your sweetened tea cool to room temperature.

In large glass container, add your room temperature sweetened tea. To the sweetened tea, add the starter tea. Gently place your SCOBY into the jar, letting if float on top.

Cover the top of your jar with a clean flour sack/tea towel that is secured with a rubber band. This will let your tea breathe and ferment, while keeping out bugs. Place your jar in a dark corner of your house out of direct sunlight and let sit, undisturbed for at least 7 days.

At 7 days, remove your SCOBY and 1 cup of the freshly fermented kombucha. Store in a ziplock bag or jar until you are ready for your next round of brewing. If you have a second “baby” SCOBY, separate it from the Mother SCOBY and store with another cup of Kombucha to give to friends. I always keep 2 SCOBY’s on hand, in case something happens to the original.

To store your finished tea, strain the tea through cheese cloth to remove any of the stringiness that happens when you brew Kombucha. You do not have to strain the tea if you don’t want to. Store in a gallon sized glass jar in the fridge, or pint/quart mason jars for easily portable drinking.

Enjoy daily, and get started brewing your second batch!