November 17, 2014

Adding Beneficial Cultures

A photo posted by @mizqtinaj on

One of the simplest, easy peasy, no-brainer, ways of adding beneficial cultures, vitamins, and nutrients into your diet is to ferment your foods. One of my favorite ways to add these cultures is through beverages like Beet Kvaas which I wanted to share with you today. The recipe couldn't be simpler but the benefits to my gut health, my skin, hair, and nails is why I'm excited to share this today. Beets are not on the favorite foods list of most people I know, but I'm glad to now admit that today they are one of mine.

To describe to you how difficult it is to get a full grown adult to sip or sample a food with beets is worse than taking a five year old for shots. These folks feel like their life will end if they imbibe on this sometimes crimson root vegetable. But I never give up and the smell and my incessant teasing usually wins out and I hear a "Not bad!" and all is well that ends well. Yes I feel accomplished and it may seem a little sick to them that I gain so much joy from exposing them (by being pushy) to such wholesome food choices. I do it because I get excited about the newness to foods that have been around for eons but due to lack of exposure/previous bad experience/and access issues, have been out of the realm of possibility for people I know. Not long ago I was right there too. There was no way I was going to consume in any form or fashion a dirty tasting veg heated up in a microwave that actually bled onto everything it came into contact with. I have not so pleasant memories nightmares of a tin-like taste and the imagery conjured up included a very dusty can at the back of the food shelf at holiday times when we were hard up for anything that could fill our bags. (Really not so great a memory)

Well fast forward several years later and well into my adulthood and realizing necessity being the mother of all intervention, :) I found that our diets lacked greenery. More specifically trying to find and consume foods that naturally contained beneficial vitamins such as folate which I had been taking in pill form due to chemo treatments for myositis. So since I grew real tired of pills and I knew how to grow edible things in general, beets found their way into my garden bed. I was amazed at how prolific they were and the lushness of the greens so similar in color and texture to chard that I had been coming to love. I felt compelled to research recipes that included beets and figured someone out there had to have one decent recipe that I could use to choke down some beets. Not only did I find one amazing recipe after another, I began to experiment with fermentation and stumbled upon a way to leech the nutrients from beets into a palatable and drinkable form, Kvaas!

Wikipedia defines the drink thusly, "Kvass is a fermented beverage made from black or regular rye bread.[1] The colour of the bread used contributes to the colour of the resulting drink. It is classified as a non-alcoholic drink by Russian and Ukrainian standards"

The family is not as fond of drinking their beets as I am as a byproduct of consuming it will cause changes in the color of solid and liquid bodily waste. [red pee can make you freak out] However, that does not stop me from partaking of it at all. It is the best all natural energy drink that I have found that works for me. Beyond outward benefits like skin/hair and the like there are other healthful changes internally that have come with adding simple pure foods like and especially beets into my diet. Fermentation is becoming a buzzword these days and I quite like that. Especially beyond beer, wine, and cheese, people are starting to reach back for simple yet impactful food histories (myself included). There was something to the way grandma and gramps lived and even though it wasn't included in their food story, I'm glad to have found Kvaas. I hope someone out there tries this simplistic flavorful approach to eating the misunderstood beet.

Simple Beet Kvaas Recipe
1 - Medium sized beet or 2 small beets
1 - 1 quart mason jar
1 - Tsp of sea salt (please no caking agents)
1/2 - Tbsp citrus peel (orange or lemon)
1 - Tbsp chopped ginger 
Enough filtered water to fill the jar.

Thoroughly wash beets and cut into cubes.
Combine all ingredients into the mason jar.
Fill with filtered water up to a 1/2 inch from the top of the jar.
Cover with the lid and place on the counter of kitchen or in a cabinet where it is around 70 degrees. If your home is cooler try wrapping in a towel and place near a heat register.
Now let this kvaas sit for 3 to 4 days. The liquid should be bubbly and effervescent and very flavorful. Strain and place the liquid into the refrigerator.

NOTE: Save a tablespoon of the liquid and return this and the leftover beet citrus mixture to your mason jar adding 1/2 tsp of salt and filtered water just as before. This will create your next batch of Kvaas. After the second batch the beets have been leeched of their nutrients and the remaining pulpy veg is not very tasty so I advise composting it. Also, if making sauerkraut and other fermented veg like the salsa pictured above, use a tablespoon of the Kvaas for a vegetable based starter.



November 16, 2014

So Sage

It is very fitting that next week we kick off the holiday season with Thanksgiving, so tis the time for sage in everything. Sage is such a wonderful plant! This photo was taken in May of this year and this post has been sitting in my queue ever since, waiting to shine in all its savory glory!  Now that it's cooled off significantly and the last, of the last, of the last, vegetation has been harvested from the garden, I have had time to find some perspective on a couple few things. Number one, I've decided to not give this blog up. Yeah I considered it and it's been a very long time since I've posted anything due to so many factors. Including health and very painful personal losses that took me in a direction I for one least expected. That being said and in an effort to avoid elaborating anymore, I realize that this small blog is my love letter to myself, my family, my friends (current and future), and all things green.

Having just finished a phone call with a new friend I realize I have had a life that is and was abundant in so many ways. Access to quality food being one of these abundant things. We touched on stories of our childhood which led me down memory lane and remembering that as much as kids complain about lunchtime at their schools (myself included), I had come from a place where we knew our lunch ladies and their families. 4-H was also a part of my life from a very young age and was a place where I was taught about healthful eating and respect for growers. Even though I was the kid with an apple tree, grapes, and granny's who knew how to sow, grow, and put away some greens I hadn't always appreciated that. The food in my life at home and at school was fresh and made daily for the most part. My family on both sides either worked directly with the growing and/or preparation of real non-processed/dyed/ fried/ or laid to the side food. Then there came a time when we could afford a massive dinosaur sized microwave and it was the "in" thing to eat some frozen pre-packaged meal. It's no wonder how we put on all the pounds and the ailments started cropping up. All of our efforts put towards an unnecessary need to "save time" for more imaginary important things. Our meals got quicker but we saw less and less of each other 'Go Figure'!

Which brings me back to sage and how it isn't just edible, beautiful, and enticing to the olfactory senses. It means wise and at this time of year we tend to look to the lessons learned in the past and reflect on the bounty of life. Thanksgiving in and of itself is a day filled with some of this bounty. Hopefully Non-microwaved! So, beyond purchasing food, preparing food, or sharing food, it is a day for reflection. There is so much I am thankful for everyday so I don't put much stock in extolling these things on one day out of 365. This is why I chose this time and this photo to share. It's 6 months old so very much a part of history, but it brings me to that moment in the garden when the bees were prolific and I realized this plant was not giving up the ghost as others had. Not only was it thriving despite a harsh winter and a sopping wet spring, it stood out in all of its budding vibrance pushing out stems with the most fragrant and full to bursting bud of blooms. I needed to be taken back to that time not just because it is pretty darn cold right now, but because it is a symbol of cleansing, healing, and of gatherings to come with friends and family.

Next week I foresee so much more than turkey, dressings, seasoning blends, and the like. There are plans in store for the sage pictured above. Especially in the realm of healing, which comes along with the gathering of loved ones as we remember those who've passed while clustered around the distinct aroma of a well seasoned bird and side dishes. Besides the sage filled feast, I envision pickled veggies, steamed greens, laughter, hugs, happy tears and so much more to look forward to, and to be thankful for, and excited about. In my small but maybe too candid way of reaching back to the past and sharing a history passed down well before I was conceived I will be giving thanks to the skillful hands of the elders in my family. Especially the women strong in their own rite who passed down an edible script for me to follow and embellish upon with a little of my own simple citified agrarianist approach.

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!


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