Sunday, March 20, 2011

how we make our sauerkraut

i've mentioned the mister's homemade sauerkraut when i made reubens and piroshkis.  i've also devoted countless facebook statuses to the stuff. so you may be wondering, "what's the big deal with sauerkraut?"

i had it in my head that i didn't like it (stemming from many unreasonable fears & general disgust for a great number of now-awesome (to me) foods (like rye bread, bananas, and sauerkraut). yet i used to eat mcdonald's happy meals and hot dogs.  go figure.

just before christmas 2009, the mister started doing intense research (as he tends to do) on sauerkraut and the vessels used to make it at home. mrs. claus brought him a harsch stoneware crock for xmas (she ordered it from this website - based out of alabama and very reasonable shipping rates for such a heavy item). since then, we've tried to keep a batch going at all times, although we experience some down time when he goes on tour. and then i have to buy bubbie's or boar's head just to get my fix.

so the mister made the very first batch, but it didn't really like it. i'm not even sure if i remember the first time sauerkraut really clicked for me, but i think it may have been triggered by a seitan reuben i had in chicago last spring. and now, i can't get enough. i like to eat it with mashed potatoes and kale (a la colcannon)...but it is also great all by itself. it gives me energy and makes me feel clean.

so what goes into making our kraut? (the mister used to be the sole kraut-maker, but i've helped out the last two times. so now i think it's safe to say we're co-kraut conspirators).
  • cabbage procurement (usually 6-8 heads).  ideally, we'd get locally grown / organic (or in a perfect world, we'd grow our own), but most of it has come from the grocery store.  reserve a few of the big outer leaves to put between the mashed cabbage & weight stones. 
 29 cents a lb at publix. we couldn't pass that up.
  •  clean it WELL, then cut the core out.
  • i shred/cut, while the mister salts (roughly 3 TBS per 5 lbs of cabbage) and mashes it down. (they do make cabbage-specific mandolins (and we own one), but usage resulted in a near decapitated fingertip (they recommend wearing kevlar gloves) and it doesn't cut the cabbage as thin/consistent as we'd like).
 the wooden cabbage tamper (also purchased from the wisemen trading company) is a very useful tool. prior to buying it, the mister used a standard mashed potato masher. 
  • basically, you mash the ever-loving stuff out of the shredded cabbage in order to draw the liquid/water out (the salt also assists in this process).  put the saved outer leaves on top. then you place the weights on top of everything. after the weights go on, you need the water level to be at least 3cm above the stone. Push everything down with the tamper, using all your might.
  • put the lid on (making sure the "lip" of the lid constantly has water to keep a tight seal), then wait 3-6 weeks (depending on the season/weather/temperature of the house).
not our photo. i wish we could make the lid levitate like that though.
and that's it! (let me just say that the cleaning/cutting/mashing is at least a 2-hour process (with both of us working. solo, it used to take him 3-ish hours). your hands cramp up and your muscles hurt. but it is oh so worth it.
Still need some convincing?  Check out some info i found here:

Specific Health Benefits

  1. Sauerkraut as immune booster
    One of the not so secret benefits of sauerkraut is the boost it gives to immune systems. Packed with vitamins andminerals, sauerkraut has been used as a lay immune booster for centuries.Sauerkraut contains phytochemicals which are created during the fermentation process. These naturally occurring, beneficial by products of sauerkraut help boost the immune system which leads to a decrease in a number of health problems. The common cold, skin problems, weight gain and tainted blood are all fixed by a healthy functioning immune system.
  2. Sauerkraut as cancer fighter
    The most recent evidence of sauerkraut's status as a Superfood is found in numerous studies on the cruciferous wonder's cancer fighting properties. The results of a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concluded that sauerkraut is a cancer inhibitor. The study discovered that the fermentation of cabbage produced a substance called isothiocynates, which prevents cancer growth, particularly in the breast, colon, lung and liver. Although raw cabbage is normally rich in a compound called glucosinolate, the researchers found that during the fermentation process enzymes are released that completely decompose the compound into several breakdown products. The majority of these products are cancer-fighting isothiocyanates. The University of New Mexico published a study linking sauerkraut consumption by adolescent females to a reduced risk for breast cancer earlier studies indicate sauerkraut may reduce the risk for other forms of cancer including lung, colon, prostate, and liver We are finding that fermented cabbage could be healthier than raw or cooked cabbage, especially for fighting cancer, says Eeva-Liisa Ryhanen, Ph.D., research manager of MTT Agrifood Research Finland, located in Jokioinen, Finland. A recent study by the American Center for Cancer Research has found that sauerkraut has a profound effect in preventing and healing breast cancer. Based on reports that breast cancer rates amongst polish women in the United States were much higher than those in Poland researchers set out to find out why. Their answer; the women who still lived in Poland ate significantly larger amounts of sauerkraut especially important while they were in adolescence. The research found that the women who immigrated Americanized' their diets and stopped eating as much of the super food that is sauerkraut thus increasing their rates of breast cancer.
  3. Digestive Aid
    Eating sauerkraut is a great way to protect the balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract. Sauerkraut is one of the few foods that contain the bacterium Lactobacilli plantarum. L. planatarum is a very dominant strain of healthful bacteria which helps your digestive system in the following ways: boost the immune system by increasing antibodies that fight infectious disease help inhibit pathogenic organisms including E.coli, salmonella and unhealthy overgrowth of candida (yeast) create antioxidants (glutathione and superoxide dismustase) that scavenge free radicals which are a cancer precursor transforms hard-to-digest lactose from milk to the more easily digested lactic acid. It neutralizes the antinutrients found in many foods including the phytic acid found in all grains and the trypsin-inhibitors in soy generates new nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, digestive aids and the trace mineral GTF chromium. These various properties are the best scientific reasons given for what has been known by loyal users for millennia, sauerkraut cures an upset stomach and is the best natural physic there is. Many sources say raw fermented foods are beneficial to the digestive system by increasing the healthy flora in the intestinal tract or creating the type of environment for them to flourish. Sauerkraut and its juice are traditional folk remedies for constipation. Fermentation actually increases nutrient values in the cabbage, especially vitamin C. Fermented foods are also said to facilitate the breakdown and assimilation of proteins. They have a soothing effect on the nervous system. The benefits of sauerkraut and sauerkraut juice have been recognized for generations. In some families of southern Germany, the children are fed raw sauerkraut twice weekly to support their intestines. Today it is thought that these benefits may relate to a high proportion of lactic acid in sauerkraut and sauerkraut juice that naturally supports the digestive processes, maintain intestinal flora, and increase the feeling of well-being.
  4. Flu Fighter
    With the spread of Avian Flu spreading across the globe, one enterprising Korean scientist, Kang Sa-Ouk of Seoul National University, took 13 chickens infected with avian flu virus and a couple of other diseases, fed them Kim chi extract and found that 11 of the birds recovered. Experts think the vital bacteria are created during the fermenting process and this gives the dish its health-boosting qualities.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

the panda sews: fabric produce bag

week 3's sewing class was canceled today, so i went to the franklin farmer's market & brunch with a pal, did a little shopping (bought nothing), and hung out with big sis carrie and nephew elliott (went to e's baseball practice & indian food for complaints there! perfect way to spend this lovely-weathered day).

i don't want to lose what (little) sewing chops i have, so i decided to tackle a new project (rather than falling back on the two things i already know how to do: folding wallet & pillow).  i found this pretty easy & free .pdf pattern for a fabric produce bag, so i grabbed my least favorite fabric from my stash (in case i messed up) and one hour later churned out this:
now that me and my sewing machine are on a somewhat friendly basis, i think my next hurdle will be reading/understanding patterns. it's easier for me to have a human show me what to do rather than deciphering pattern directions (i'm totally owning up to this being my own fault/problem, and it has nothing to do with the pattern-makers themselves). it takes me a second (or ten) to get it. and when i finally do, i think, "duh, katie!"  it was neat to try out a bag with depth and handles. and now i can add this to the ever-growing list of "things i can make."  but i am certainly looking forward to a human lesson next week.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

(yet another) vegan banana bread recipe

does your banana bread always result from spotting those near-black bananas on your countertop? mine always does.

{katie's} (yet another) vegan banana bread
makes: one 9x5 loaf

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
3 ripe, mashed-up, medium-sized bananas
1/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup (4 oz) applesauce (4 oz. = one of those small individual serving cups)
1 TBS ground flax seed, mixed with 3 TBS water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees. spray 9x5 loaf pan with cooking spray
  2. mix (well): sugar, oil, mashed bananas, milk, applesauce and flax mixture in a large bowl.
  3. combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl (flour, soda, salt, cinnamon).
  4. add the dry to the wet and stir only until blended.
  5. fold in the walnuts and coconut
  6. spoon batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour 10 minutes.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

the panda sews: pillows part 2 and wallets

wow, it really has been about a year since i sewed my first pillows. since then, my sewing machine has been sad and lonely, and every once in awhile i'd glance at it and wonder when i'd feel comfortable touching it again. when i learned about STITCH classes  (taught by alexia abegg in a studio above local honey on belmont blvd), it seemed like the perfect (and affordable) thing to get me (back?) into sewing. i am currently enrolled in sewing 101, and with 2 classes under my belt, i have a newfound enthusiasm.  all i can think about is sewing and fabric. i can't remember the last time i had such fervor for a creative art. and it feels so nice!

the night before the first class, i (tried to) reacquaint myself with my sewing machine. but it was like running into someone you've only talked to once, then you see them again and you're forced to make (awkward) conversation. it was uncomfortable and i treaded very lightly around the threading mechanism.

during the first class, i was still a little nervous, but in the end, i walked out with a little (lopsided) pincushion. i practiced some more the next day (after a trip to hancock fabric in murfreesboro, where once again i had to sort through 90% crap to find the 10% awesome that store has to offer).

friday night i made this pillow (this is a good tutorial), and after doing so, i felt WAY more confident on my sewing machine.

we made wallets during saturday's class, and i was excited to use this super adorable bear fabric i bought at textile fabrics (unlike hancock, textile is 90% awesome and i have a hard time restraining myself).

tonight, i used this strange fabric (butcher & the baker!) to make the mister a wallet:

next week, zipper pouches. then a tote bag & an a-line skirt. huzzah!

Friday, March 11, 2011

crispy fried plantains

i think there's 2 kinds of cooks out there: those who plan out meals, print out recipes, and scour cookbooks (that's me). and the other type throws meals together on a whim, based on what's on hand in the fridge and pantry (that's the mister).   i have to admire his ability to spice things just right, and he really is an ace at indian food and "asian"-ish noodles (made with tofu & whatever veggies we have in the fridge). 

the other night, i remarked that the plantain was about to go bad, and he immediately said, "you know what would be good..." and before i knew it, he was crunching up corn flakes and we ended up with these guys:

my only input was suggesting that he needed a liquid before "dredging" the plantain in the coating.

crispy fried plantains
serves 2. good for snacking or dessert

1 plantain
coconut oil
coconut milk creamer (or coconut milk...or almond milk)
crushed up corn flakes
a few dashes of ground ginger
a few dashes of cayenne pepper
a little bit of brown sugar
honey, for drizzling

peel the plantain and cut into small discs.   crush up the corn flakes in a small bowl, and mix in your spices and sugar.  pour a little coconut milk creamer in a separate dish.  melt a bit of coconut oil in a nonstick pan. then create a little assembly line: dunk each piece in the creamer, cover with the corn flakes, and place in the frying pan. flip the pieces after each side gets brown and crispy, and drizzle with honey.

the recipe-follower in me apologizes for the vagueness of this recipe (i.e.: "a little bit of this..."), but since this was just thrown together on a whim (mainly by someone else), i did the best i could!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

steel cut oats - rice cooker recipe (vegan)

ever since i've discovered my love for steel cut oats, my rice cooker has (almost) been granted permanent space on the countertop (i think the stand mixer and food processor are a bit jealous, actually).  i tried making them in the crock pot overnight and wound up with a burnt, sticky mess (and no breakfast) the next morning.  next, i tried using my 3-cup rice cooker and discovered a fool-proof (and fast) way that gives me perfect oats every time. we found this rice cooker on closeout at kroger years ago for $4 and couldn't be happier with it.

rice cooker steel cut oats recipe (vegan)
makes 2-3 servings

2/3 cup steel cut oats (this kind can be found at trader joe's & it's cheaper than mccann's)
2/3 cup almond milk
1 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash salt
dash vanilla extract
3 tsp pure maple syrup
3 tsp ground flax seed meal (optional)

combine/stir all the ingredients in the rice cooker and set to "cook".  it'll take about 20-25 minutes.
stir and top with your favorite toppings (i like a little more syrup, a little earth balance, and some dried fruit or fresh blueberries).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

english muffins v 2.0

the mister's missed out on a lot of rad food (pizza, english muffins) being out on tour (although he's had some culinary adventures of his own), so now that he's home, i made some more english muffins.  he requested some non-vegan ones (these are made with buttermilk), and i thought this recipe on tastespotting looked good, so i went with that.

followed the recipe as-is, except i used a cast iron skillet rather than a griddle for 'cooking' the muffins.  i took her advice and weighed the dough with a kitchen scale - it gave me 6 uniformly-sized pieces (i had a problem with that with the vegan muffins...some were too thick, some were too thin. it seems easy enough to eyeball it, but weighing is the way to go if you want conformity). these are VERY easy to make & i highly recommend it, especially if you're looking for an easy yeast-based thing to try.  just make sure to account for all the rise time when you start it (60-90 minutes for dough {mine took more like 90-120 was a little chilly} / another hour before baking them). so it's a good activity if you've played hooky from work.

taste:  vegan vs these:  tie
texture/consistency:  these guys

says the mister: "the best english muffin i've ever had".