Monday, July 30, 2012

Homemade Ketchup and Yogurt Cheese

For the past couple years, I've been making ketchup at home instead of buying the store-bought version of ketchup.  I started because I wanted to avoid the amount of sugar (and high fructose corn syrup) in regular ketchup (and the preservatives, etc.) and just basically to eat high-quality food.  Since then, however, I've found that making a fermented recipe means my ketchup has probiotics in it!  What an easy way to get probiotics into my kids daily, while cutting out the sugar they were getting in the store-bought ketchup!  Beyond that, I've heard store-bought yogurt has hidden gluten in it.  Basically, it keeps making more sense to make my own, as I learn more.  As an added bonus, I get  yogurt cheese out of the experience, too!

Originally, I had tried a recipe from DIY Delicious by Vanessa Barrington, but then I found the fermented ketchup recipe from Nourished Kitchen.  I had been on a learn-to-ferment kick, anyway, so I dove right in.

Don't be surprised, if you taste it pre-fermentation, that it's NASTY.  That was my experience, anyway.  I tasted it thinking "hm, wonder what to expect" and it was not at all appealing.  So, since I had made it already anyway, I figured there was no harm done in letting it sit in a cabinet for a few days and then seeing if it had gotten any better.  And WOW!  After fermenting it was fantastic!  Now, I will admit, I am not generally a huge ketchup person, and neither is my husband.  This was mostly for my kids. After making this fermented ketchup, though, we were both curious so we tried it out.  My husband now uses it as his go-to condiment!  Totally worth the time and effort.

I make a double batch each time, because we go through it pretty fast.  Also, I use canned [organic] tomato paste (oh the shame!) for the convenience factor, and it generally needs a LOT of thinning out from the raw apple cider vinegar, so when I make it, it has a lot more vinegar than what the nourished kitchen recipe calls for... and it's still not really thin enough that I could reasonably put it in a squirt bottle.  I tried that... it was a fail.  I'd also like to highly recommend using wide mouthed mason jars for this because it can be a bit difficult to get into a narrower mouthed jar.

The bonus is that in the process of making ketchup, I get some yogurt cheese.  Why?  Well, I use yogurt to make the whey for the recipe.  If you're sensitive to dairy, you can try using goat yogurt to make whey - that worked pretty well when my son was dairy sensitive.  Alternatively, you can buy "vegetable starter culture" and avoid the milk all together.

Making whey is very, very easy.  Simply line a colander with some cheese cloth, then dump in some yogurt.  I used a store-bought grassfed yogurt that we really like, but you can certainly use homemade or whatever else.  I wouldn't recommend greek yogurt because it's already been strained, which is why it's so thick and creamy.  Then just cover it, put the colander into a bowl and stick it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, take it out and in the bowl you'll have whey (a yellowish looking liquid) and inside the cheesecloth, in the colander, you'll have yogurt cheese (also known as labneh).  Depending on how long you strain it, it'll be thicker or thinner.  Greek yogurt is obviously not strained too long because otherwise it'd be a lot thicker and more cream cheese-like.

Now, what do you do with yogurt cheese?  You can add it to recipes to make it creamy.  I like to make boursin with it in place of the cream cheese.  You could simply spread it on a bagel or something as if it is cream cheese.  You can make veggie dip with it.  I basically use it in place of sour cream or cream cheese (depending on the recipe).  Delicious!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Merrell Barefoot Life Wonder Glove

Merrell now has a line of barefoot shoes that include a number of casual shoes (!!!), and because, who DOESN'T want to feel like they're barefoot all the time, I bought a pair.  Now, looking on their website, I see they also have boots and fun looking shoes for fall!

I appreciated the look of the "Barefoot Life Serene Glove", but wasn't sure I wanted the ribbon going around my ankle.  Instead, I went for the "Barefoot Life Wonder Glove"... in "mulberry"!  Hooray for bright pink shoes!  Actually they're not as bright as I expected them to be, but they're still plenty noticeable.  I've decided shoes are now officially a netural (no matter what color), so I wear them with everthing.  Haha!
The wonder glove is extremely comfortable.  It seems more flexible, to me, than either of the Merrell barefoot running shoes I own, which is a bonus.  The fabric on the sides is very thin, similar to the fabric for vibrams in thickness, but the toe and heel is leather.  I'm not sure this would be a reasonable shoe to wear if there's water on the ground or if it's cold out, but it's been wonderful for summer.  It's also cute enough that I can wear it with nicer things or with jeans or shorts.  Looks especially cute with jeans.  If I worked, I'd totally wear it to work.

It seems nearly all of their women's line has that elastic by the ankle.  I'm not sure why that is, but it is reasonably comfortable and doesn't really bother me as I expected.  The elastic is fairly stiff and not really pulling into your ankle, as it looks like it might be in the pictures.  That's something I recall being worried about before I bought any of their barefoot shoes.

The sole is, as I said, thin and flexible (you can roll them right up in your hand), but with a decent amount of grip, so you don't have to worry about sliding around.  It's also rubber, so not a problem in slippery polished indoor floors.  As you can see, it's a vibram sole.

I've been wearing them daily, with no sock or anything, for a couple months, and have yet to detect a stench.  They supposedly are treated to slow bacterial growth, but I do wonder how to clean them when they do start to smell.  Of course, this would be a problem with any shoe you typically wear without socks.

Really, my only negative on this shoe is that the cross strap occasionally pulls the shoe over a little and I have to scoot it back.  That is, it sorta feels like it's on sideways.  It's not a huge deal, to me, though.  Overall, I love them and am looking forward to getting other varieties of Merrell barefoot casual shoes!

**Edited to add**

My shoes started getting pretty stinky, so I asked merrell how we should clean these.  They said they do not recommend sending them through the washer, but that I could use a typical sandal cleaner.  What I did instead was dump a bunch of baking soda in them and then dampen it with some water and use that to gently scrub any crud off.  Then I rinsed with apple cider vinegar.  I followed this up with water rinse and then let them dry in the sun.  It's not a perfect fix but it's cheap and made a big difference in the funk.  :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Sneaky E

This past school year, I have been working in my kid's tiny school, helping out teaching various things.  One day, a few months ago, I was working with the kids on labeling various classroom items and this required sounding out the words.  Every time, the silent e on the end of a word caught them up, so I realized they needed a bit of an explanation on what the silent e does.  After a moment of thought (and completely on the fly...) I realized that I could make this concept interesting by describing the silent e as being a little bit sneaky.  Kids love when things are sneaky!  So I explained that on the end of some words, there's a "sneaky e" and it pokes the vowel and makes it say it's name.  So, it pokes an O and make's it say "OH!" or maybe it pokes an A and makes it say "AY!"  The kids thought this was pretty funny and thus went about focusing on finding the "sneaky e's" and discovering what letter it could be poking!.

The concept has really stuck with my almost-5-yr-old year old son.  He LOVES those sneaky e's!  It's been months and he still talks about the sneaky e and laughs about how they poke the other letters.  Earlier this week, he was practicing some of his sight words and we realized that the sneaky e on the end of the word "have" was not doing it's job.  This was hilariously funny to my son.  He looked at me very seriously and said "I have an idea.  We could write the words and then draw an arrow going from the sneaky e to where it pokes the other letter!"  I got him some paper and this is what he did:

The most interesting thing to me, though, is that he is normally pretty averse to doing any fine motor development, but was willing to write this.