Thursday, March 31, 2011

Water Kefir

Up until 2 weeks ago, I had never heard of water kefir. I had seen the jars of milk kefir at Trader Joe's a couple of times but had never tried it. Fermented milk is just not something I am going to jump up and try, just because it is sold at Trader Joe's.

But then a lady in our church bought some kefir grains to make water kefir. And she shared it with another friend. Who shared it with another lady. First point to be seen here: ladies in our church love to share. And I am so thankful they do. Second important thing to note: all of this sharing, you will see, is a part of the whole kefir process.

What is kefir? Apparently it is a grain called tibicos, that is fermented in water. The health benefits of drinking water kefir are impressive; the long and short of it is that it supplies natural probiotics to your digestive track. You can read more about that here.

So a dear friend shared with me how to grow it, care for it, drink it and most importantly, gave me some of the grains.

Here they are:


They kind of look like translucent rice grains, only they are all different sizes since they are all growing.

To keep the kefir growing you have to feed it. And what you feed it is sugar - kind of like my kids. (Just kidding!) You will also need spring water (it is important to use non-chlorinated water), unsulfured dried fruit (I chose cherries, but most of the ladies I know are using figs or raisins), and a slice of lemon or lime.



You begin by filling a glass jar with the water, then you dissolve the sugar by stirring with a wooden spoon. Don't use any metal in your kefir care; the grains don't react well to metal objects.

Then you add the kefir, a couple pieces of dried fruit and the slice of lemon or lime. I leave my lids on but I don't tighten them.




Leave alone for 24 hours; at this point I open the jars to release any pressure that might have built up. They look like this:



After another 24 hours take the juice, which has now become this beautiful color....



...and strain all the contents into a plastic strainer. Make sure to put a bowl underneath!


Remove all the fruit and rinse the kefir with room temperature spring water.

I put the strained kefir in quart jars, tightly screw on the lids, and store it in the fridge. I have heard that after a couple days in the fridge it gets even more fizzy, but it has never lasted long enough for us to see if that is true.



Now you are ready to start all over again! After a week or two of this you will notice that you are straining more kefir than before; it really does grow. And this is where the sharing part comes in: you can either keep growing the kefir until it is coming out of your ears, or share it with a friend.


How does it taste? The kefir has a naturally effervescent, slightly sweet flavor that is a cool refreshing treat. It also has a kefir taste that tastes like...well...kefir.....you'll just have to try it. It is not an unpleasant taste, just different.

Adding different kinds of dried fruit changes the flavor so it is fun to experiment. We don't drink juice much in our family, so this has been a nice addition to our drink choices; although the 2 quarts I pull off every two days has never lasted more than 18 hours. My kids love it.





Water Kefir

Ingredients:

1/4 cup water kefir grains
1/4 cup raw sugar
2-3 pieces of unsulfured dried fruit, or 6-8 unsulfured raisins
1 slice of lemon or lime
Spring water

Directions:

Day 1: Dissolve raw sugar in spring water in a glass quart jar using a wooden spoon. Add kefir, dried fruit and citrus slice. Cover, but not air-tightly. Place in a place where it will not be disturbed at room temperature.

After 24 hours: Check to make sure the lids are not sticking from pressure.

After 48 hours: Strain contents of jar through a plastic sieve. Discard fruit and rinse kefir with spring water. Store kefir water in a glass jar that is air-tight in the refrigerator.

Start all over again!

Hints:

You can slow the brewing process by fermenting in the refrigerator.

After 24 hours, taste the water. If it is too sweet you can extend the brewing time by a day, if it is too sour you will need to add more sugar for the next brewing.

You can add sliced ginger, dried pineapple...anything that is unsulfured. If you do use fresh fruit you might need to change it daily to prevent it from rotting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That God works in very mysterious ways. And we have 1 little baby rabbit in the rabbitry. One. To put this in perspective, each doe can have between 4 and 6 babies per litter (once we had one that had 9), and last week we had three pregnant does. I was planning to have each child auction off a meat pen (3 rabbits) at our county fair which would fund our rabbit project next year. Instead, the Lord has blessed us with one very small rabbit. I still haven't figured out why He is choosing this path for us, but I keep telling myself it is the best one.

What I'm reading: I started reading one of my favorite books again, Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss. I have been reminded in the last couple weeks how much my plans might be different from what God plans for me, and I remember this book being particularity encouraging about that conflict.

What I'm listening to: Cherry Jones reading Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder on CD. Three of my offspring are playing/knitting/drawing in the living room while listening.

What we're learning: We are taking a break from new history lessons to review this week. I am trying to think of some fun ways to do this: history pictionary, or maybe a history jeopardy game. I have M&M's for treats too. In science the older children are learning about Order Artiodactyla, which includes cows, bison, antelopes, wildebeest and we will see what else.

What I'm watching: The puddles drying in the street and the sun coming out today. And I am so excited...we are supposed to have a couple days with temperatures over 70!

What's cooking: Tonight I am experimenting from this cookbook and making Chow Mein and Hot and Sour Soup with my crockpots. We will see how this goes....

What I'm buying: I need to head out and get some things for the craft I am thinking to do for our co-op meeting this week. Only I am not sure what I am doing. So I guess I need to figure that out first. :-)

What I'm thankful for: That the older children did so well at Sectionals last weekend. They both got gold! So now they can go onto State Presentation Day if they want (which Mr. Lego is really wanting to do); the only problem is that it is the same weekend as our county fair, so we will have to see if we can juggle both events.

What I'm creating: Nothing at the moment; I am thinking of some cute craft/lazy day ideas that I saw on a couple other blogs and in a magazine lately...

What I'm praying: For my friend who has cancer. For her husband and children as they walk this hard road and that God would be glorified through this journey.

What I'm planning: A blog post about something new I am trying....it has to do with fermentation.....any guesses?

What we did this last weekend: We went to Sectionals pretty much all day Saturday; my Sweetie and I were both judges so that made it lots of fun. Sunday we heard a sermon on Psalm 23, then had good friends over for pulled pork sandwiches, good fellowship and a hymn sing.

What I'm looking forward to: We have co-op this week, then our church is having our semi-annual contra dancing ball this Thursday night. I have 3 little ladies making sure their dresses are looking good and a boy who is trying to find a nice jacket to wear.

A picture to share:


~I am taking black and white photographs for my class. This is one of my favorites, but missed the cut because I didn't like how it was focused.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Cleaning

I enjoy blogs, both reading others and writing on my own. And I appreciate the relationships that form and in some ways, that keep me accountable. Remember my Joy in the Morning? I did wake up at 6am for a whole month and learned a lot about using my time wisely, being a good example for my kids and the importance of good, caffeinated coffee.  And the main reason I completed it was because I was making it public and, in a sense, asking all of you to keep me accountable.

Which leads me to another challenge I am going to try. Spring cleaning. The very words, depending on my mood, can either challenge me to the occasion, or send me running for the hills. Especially with 4 messy sweet helpers. And the homeschooling. And the cooking. And everything else that happens in this house.

But I love it when this



becomes this.




This challenge came from a blog I have recently found; I have actually known the mother-in-law of this blogger since I was young. And though I have never met Anna, I have been impressed with her no-nonsense cleaning and cooking tips that are simple, yet get the job done.

Photobucket


So starting on April 2nd, (actually April 4th for me....I don't check blogs on weekends) I will start following her suggested schedule for cleaning vents (I don't remember if mine have ever been cleaned), doors (I am thinking to definitely enlist the help of the troops for all this), and anything else that needs cleaning in my house (which basically means everything).

I am sure these need cleaning....I don't think I have taken them down since we moved here. 


 I have cleaned these, but with no regularity.


And up here? I cringe to think of what I might find up there.


 She also wrote a post listing the supplies that will be needed. (This is actually what convinced me to join this cleaning party; I had most everything on the list.) So if you feel so inclined, pop over to her blog and join the fun!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That we had better have some baby rabbits soon. We missed the market competition last year at the fair, (where the kids can get some auction money to continue our rabbit project) and if we don't have some hairless, pink babies out in the rabbitry this week, we will miss it again this year.

What I'm reading: Not really anything for myself this week; we are still reading Penrod  together and the children started reading the Landmark book The Crusades by Anthony West as part of school.

What I'm listening to: Right this moment I am hearing: A nameless child chewing cereal at the table, (I have a thing for that and am trying to be okay with it right now,) two others are playing with toy cars and making car sounds behind me, and another is brushing his teeth upstairs.

What we're learning: This week we are learning about Jews in the Middle Ages, Richard the Lionhearted, and the Shoguns and Samurai of Japan in history, and question #36 in the catechism. In our co-op I am going to do a fun activity about inflation and have a real hunt for gold. I was planning to have this outside, but after seeing the weather forecast this week, it will happen in our living room.

What I'm watching: My Sweetie and I watched the Bourne movies over the weekend; those are entertaining to watch when you want something brainless to do.

What's cooking: Tonight I am making Pesto Chicken Pasta, or as some of my children call it Green Chicken, and a nice loaf of sourdough bread.

What I'm buying: I do cook a lot of Asian/Japanese dishes and need to run down to the Asain Market in the next town for some things later this week.

What I'm thankful for: The lessons that God is teaching me. This last week there were a couple twists and turns that humbled me and showed that I still have a long way to go, but God is good and I need to rest in His providence.

What I'm creating: Right now I can't think of anything that I am creating. I am trying to 'create' our garden, but the rain this weekend and all this week is pushing those plans off.

What I'm praying: That I will remember what God has done in the past, hope in His redeeming work, and obey His commandments. (From a convicting sermon we heard yesterday morning on Psalm 78)

What I'm planning: I have planned out everything for co-op except the last week of this month; that meeting is a little more laid back then the others. We usually have an extended art history lesson thanks to my dear friend, then have a more extensive craft for everyone. Since I don't think all the moms want to have 15 children simultaneously pounding out designs on tin cans with hammers (making 'Gold Rush' lanterns), I am thinking we will do a more seasonal craft about Spring.

What we did this last weekend: I am feeling a bit of a spring cleaning urge, so the girls and I cleaned out the pantry in the kitchen on Saturday and organized it all. And I am embarrassed to say I found a chocolate scone mix in there that had expired in 2006...  Sunday we went to church and during Sunday school I taught the K-1st grade class. They are such cuties. Then we had some friends over for pasta, salad and Speed Scrabble, then back for evening worship.

What I'm looking forward to: Our week is shaping up to be a quiet one. The only big thing on the calendar is the Sectional Presentation Day this Saturday, where Mr. Lego and Bookworm will give their presentations again.

A picture to share:



~This is one I randomly picked from my files...it was taken 2 years ago at China Beach. And look how much my children have grown in 2 years....

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This Week At Our House

I have a few moments to blog, and I don't have anything that I have been thinking to blog about. But I did carry my camera around with me this week and took photos of what we did. I also took some photos of the kids at home. Sometimes I forget to do this; I take so many pictures when we are out and about, but I forget to capture the images of daily life.

So here is a photo post of our week:

This one is technically from last week but I just had to share this. We had a green dress-up contest at our 4-H meeting and this was what Mr. Lego looked like. And by no surprise, he won a three way tie for first. 




Remember this photo from my last Monday Musings? Well Jesse got it right on Facebook and Nancy S. got it right on my blog! This is our new Governor's office, and that is all I am going to say about that. :-)



We did go to the Capitol as part of one of our 4-H projects and went inside both the Senate and Assembly rooms. This is the Senate.




Saturday we went to our library's used book sale; we picked up about 30 new books. (At least new to us.)




This is one of the many advantages of having older children; Saturday I asked Bookworm to make some chocolate cookies and she mixed them up, baked them and cleaned everything up by herself. I love it that she really enjoys baking.




I have told this sweet child at least 5 times a day to get her thumb out of her mouth. But then my heart melts. How can I get upset at this precious face?



At our Rabbit Project meeting this week, Mr. Lego did his presentation for everyone there. This is great practice for him as we go to sectionals next week...



Dasher spent a chunk of the afternoon making houses and streets out of our supply of wooden blocks and Lincoln logs.



And this is what I found Bookworm doing this afternoon; crocheting a small scarf for a doll and listening to Farmer Boy on CD.



Just another week in our house.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking: That I don't like time changes. I lost an hour of sleep Saturday night, it was dark when my alarm went off this morning and the kids are having a hard time getting up. Do we really have to do this?

What I'm reading: Now that my photography class is almost done, I am reading Photoshop Elements For Dummies so I will know how to edit all those pictures I took.

What I'm listening to: Live feed from the Fish on our computer. I don't recognize the song that is on right now...

What we're learning: This week we are going onto question 35 in the Shorter Catechism, the older children are learning about expanded process paragraphs in Writing Skills, and we are learning about the Petrobrusians, Waldensians and Eleanor of Aquitaine in history.

What I'm watching: Rain again. We have had a good rain year which I am thankful for, but I am really ready for Summer.

What's cooking: Tonight I am making Corn Chowder. This is a yummy crock pot recipe from my trusty crock pot cookbook. I'll probably also make cornbread to go with it.

What I'm buying: Big shopping happens later this week; I need to go through the pantry and see what things we are running low on.

What I'm thankful for: Good friends that encourage me.

What I'm creating: I am starting a project...(I am famous for starting them, but not so well known for finishing them) ...but this one has to do with books so I think I am going to be motivated to finish it. I am going to go through all our books and writing down the title, author and copyright. I am also organizing them (on Word) by genre. This will probably take a while....

What I'm praying: For the Japanese people during this hard time. Also thankfulness that my mother-in-law's family is all accounted for; they live mostly in Hiroshima and Tokyo.

What I'm planning: I'm trying to decide if I should take my kids yearly photos myself or drag us all to the mall and JC Penneys. I really very much dislike the mall. But I am very behind in getting their pictures taken. (Like Nutsy is going to be 6 in 4 four months and I have not had her 5 year old ones done yet.) It still counts if it is done while she is still 5, right?

What we did this last weekend: The kiddos and I went to another library book sale on Saturday, then we had our second Supper For Six that evening. On Sunday we heard a convicting sermon, participated in our thought provoking Sunday school class, then hung out with two great families for the rest of the day.

What I'm looking forward to: We have our rabbit meeting tomorrow, then co-op on Wednesday. And what I am not looking forward to? My dentist appointment this afternoon.

A picture to share:


~Anyone want to take a guess at where we were last week?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Double Chocolate Trifle

A couple of months ago, I decided to make a chocolate cake. (Yes, it has been a couple months since this happened, but as you will soon see, it allowed me some time to experiment and improve my creation.)

I opened up a cookbook that my Sweetie had given me before we were married that has all sorts of recipes in it. It's a massive thing, that my girls sometimes use to press flowers.  Some of the recipes are flops, others are intriguing and the whole low fat section is a big joke.  But I absolutely love the part on chocolate, cakes and  desserts. How can you go wrong when you are dealing with eggs, butter, chocolate and flour?

This particular afternoon I chose to make the Wellesley Fudge Cake. I have no idea what a Wellesley Cake is. But since I am writing this post and I am on the internet, I decided to look it up. And I didn't find much. It looks like some students from Wellesley Women's College found the recipe and it was all the rage in the 60's. Anyways, here is the photo from the cookbook that showed what the cake would look like:


Looks so lovely, right? So I followed the instructions perfectly. And put it in the oven. Then brought it out, set the pans on a rack and after about 10 minutes, started trying, very delicately, to take the cakes out of my round pans. The result:


This was after much scraping of the pan and gnashing of my teeth. And yes, I did butter AND flour the pans.


How was I ever going to frost this thing?




And I had two of them! One with a great big crack all the way through that you can't really see in the photo.


They tasted great; even though they didn't look too pretty. So I started trying to get creative.

And I thought.

And thought.

And tried desperately to have an inspiring idea.

Then I sent Mr. Lego to the store. (Side note here: it is a great thing when your oldest is old enough to walk to the store. We live about 3 blocks from one and having him run over there has saved me many times.)

He brought me back these.




So, this was my bright idea: make a layered chocolate trifle. I made the pudding, whipped up the heavy cream and cut up the cake into cubes.




Then I layered cake, pudding, whipped cream, cake, pudding, whipped cream; until it reached the top of my bowl.




I even got one of those mini chocolate bars that we had on hand from the lady at the assisted living center, and grated chocolate over the top.

Yum! It was a hit. Everyone loved it and licked their bowls clean. Well, at least not the grownups.

Now this is where my having time to experiment comes in. To make this trifle, I only used one of the cake rounds. So I made it again a few weeks later, and this time I did this:


I frosted the top of the cake before cutting it into cubes. This really gave it a chocolate punch.

My Sweetie usually loves the good ole' Duncan Hines cake mix, but he really liked this and observed that this cake recipe did hold up better than a boxed cake would have. Even after a couple days (which was the longest it ever lasted in our house) the cake was still firm and not mushy, even though it was surrounded by whipped cream.

And so you know, I made this same exact cake recipe again and even put down parchment paper, but the cake still stuck. Oh well, I'm not going to use it for a layered cake anymore. The kids love this new dessert (Mr. Lego requested it for his birthday), and it is pretty easy to put together.


Double Chocolate Trifle

Ingredients:

1 round chocolate cake, preferably homemade (It will hold up better)
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon sugar
Chocolate pudding mix, (Instant or Cook & Serve) 5.9 ounce package
Milk as directed
1 jar chocolate frosting, or make your own

Directions:

Make cake and cool completely. Place cake in freezer to make frosting the cake easier. Make chocolate pudding according to directions; allow to cool if necessary. Whip heavy cream with hand mixer until soft peaks form; add sugar, then whip until stiff peaks form. Remove cake from freezer and generously frost. Cut cake into 1x1 inch cubes. Layer into a large glass bowl, cake, pudding and whipped cream, ending with whipped cream. If desired garnish with shaved or grated chocolate. Keep refrigerated.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Musings

What I'm thinking:  About our rabbits. And that I am once again stuck with a buck. Everyone wants the does, but the bucks seem much harder to sell. I did sell three from our last litter, but I now have this one guy that no one wants. Anyone?

What I'm reading: I started reading the book Penrod by Booth Tarkington to the children last week. And I love the language and writing style...we are exploring words like plaintively, illumination, infinitesimal and eloquence. But the story is captivating and in spite of the advanced vocabulary, they are all loving the book.


What I'm listening to: The house is quiet right now....everyone is upstairs doing their morning chore list.

What we're learning: I am a little behind after we had to take off some time when we were all sick. This week we are studying Rodentia (rodents) in science, William the Conqueror, Pope Gregory VII and Henry IV in history, and Dasher is doing narrations and copywork from The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

What I'm watching: The rain puddles drying up in the street. We had rain over the weekend, but today it is blue skies and supposed to almost hit 60 degrees.

What's cooking: Tomorrow night I am making Japanese Curry with Miso. One of my Sweetie's favorite meals.

What I'm buying: One of the rabbits water bottles cracked and spilled out everywhere over the weekend. So today we need to run to the feed store to buy another one.

What I'm thankful for: That all of the children, who got sick last week, are better this week. Except for lingering coughs, we are all doing much better.

What I'm creating: Homegrown lettuce. Late last week it hit me that it is already March. And I have done absolutely nothing in our garden. So this last weekend the girls went out and pulled out the weeds, turned the soil and planted some lettuce from seed. I am really excited because this is a mix that includes Arugula, Swiss Chard, Endive and a few others I can't remember.

What I'm praying: That God would continue to give me wisdom as I teach and train my children. (It sometimes seems like I pray this a lot. But this is so important and I never feel like I completely 'get it'. But God is always working on me and working through me and my imperfections.)

What I'm planning: I am working on my co-op teaching for this month. This week we are going to talk about gold and its many uses, and I'll quiz the children on the material they read about how gold was first found in California and how the rest of the nation traveled out to find their fortune. Then the following week I have an activity planned to describe inflation and then a gold hunt and gold panning for everyone to participate in. The only thing I am missing is a craft that has to do with the Gold Rush. And I am having a heck of a time finding one. So do any of my smart friends have any great ideas?

What we did this last weekend: Our Saturday was nice and quiet. I made a Sponge Cake for the first time for our church's monthly fellowship meal, but didn't get up to the dessert table in time to taste it! Oh well, I'll just need to make another one. :-) After church we went to the assisted living center and helped with the service there.

What I'm looking forward to: We have our club meeting in 4-H this week, co-op on Wednesday, and a field trip with our 4-H Citizenship project.

A picture to share:


~This was actually taken at the assisted living center last year. This is a sweet lady who remembers us each month and always has a bag of chocolates for the children.