Category Archives: recipes

Slow cooker black beans

When last we left, I had set a few goals, including coming up with new recipes and posting them.

I’m counting this one, because I did not search out recipes in advance to see if it would work. The beans had been sitting around in my cupboard for far too long and I thought it would be nice to prep a batch and have them on hand. Freezing them for future use means I can make a small meal with beans and not have to worry about trying to eat a huge amount before they go bad.

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Frugal, nourishing, and delicious!

Making beans in the way takes some advanced planning and just a little active worth and has a big payout. The store where I get beans sells these in bulk for $1.95 a pound, so even if my plan did not work out it would not be a bit waste of money.

Why soak the beans?

I mentioned a similar process before when I posted my tutorial on sprouting lentils. Soaking beans is a traditional method of preparation which makes the beans more digestible and the body can more easily absorb the “enhanced by impressive stores of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and molybdenum, as well as B vitamins such as folate and thiamine. All legumes contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, with kidney and pinto beans particularly high in omega-3. (from the linked article)

If you want to boost the nutritional content further you can cook the beans in homemade bone broth as well.

While the soaking does take time, putting everything together to soak takes minutes and can be left to its own devices. Using a slow cooker also means not having to tend to a pot and worry about scorching. A win-win arrangement if you ask me.

I was inspired to use apple cider vinegar to soak based on my friend Lindsay’s recipe for black beans. A fruit-based acid will impart extra flavor on to the beans and add character to any dish.

What I did with this batch was freeze portions in quart bags and cover with enough liquid to keep the beans themselves from getting freezer burns. Now they are ready to be defrosted at any time! And the best part, they taste great!

You can use these beans as is for a side dish, or you can try one of the following recipes:

Black bean soup from Thankful Expressions

Another black bean soup from The Homesteading Hippy

Black bean cake from Blue Viola Farm

Tortilla soup from Don’t Waste the Crumbs

Pizza black beans from The Granola Mommy

Or you can take the soaked, uncooked beans to make a variation of traditional natto.

Slow Cooker Black Beans

Ingredients:
(to soak)
2 cups black turtle beans, dried.
Water to cover.
2 tablespoons of acid, like apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice

(to cook)
One onion
5-6 garlic cloves
8-10 cups water, broth, or a mix of both liquids

Supplies:
1 bowl
1 colander
1 slow cooker
Sharp knife
Cutting board

Total preparation time: 24-36 hours
Active preparation time: 10 minutes

1. 12-24 hours before you plan to cook, place beans in a bowl with room temperature water to cover and acid for soak.

2. After beans finish soaking, drain and rinse.

3. Place rinsed beans in slow cooker with water/broth, one whole onion cut in half, and crushed garlic cloves.

4. Set slow cooker on low for 12 hours and leave to cook.

5. To store, freeze in bags with enough cooking liquid to cover from freezer burn. Remove onion and garlic before freezing.

Happy eating!

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Soli’s overloaded muesli

Back in the summer, when it was super hot and muggy and I needed some inspiration for meals I could make without heat, I put together this list of meals to cover the gamut from breakfast through dessert. One which captured my interest was a simple recipe Wardee had shared in her podcast at that time.

Homemade muesli. All I could say was wow, what genius! Soak some oats (gluten-free in my case) overnight and then add in whatever I may want to eat with it in the morning.  Even with the oncoming autumn and drop in temperatures, I think I am going to continue using this method of preparation instead of making hot oatmeal for myself.

Two of the big ingredients I try to include whenever I make the oatmeal are chia seeds and powdered gelatin. Chia seeds are a good source of fiber and protein, minerals, and beneficial fatty acids, while gelatin is also rich in protein and collagen, beneficial for joints. I am partial to Great Lakes brand gelatin, as it is made from animals which are grass-fed and pastured.

These instructions will make a single serving of muesli. If you want to prepare for several people eating this, use Wardee’s instructions in the link above.

Museli!

Soli’s overloaded muesli

Part 1

1 cup rolled oats

3/4 cup raw milk (if milk is not raw add 1 tablespoon of an acid like raw apple cider vinegar to ferment)

The evening before ou plan to eat, combine the above ingredients in a bowl and cover with a towel. Let sit outside overnight. The acid in the raw milk (which is what you find in whey when the milk separates) will break down the phytic acid in the oats to make them more digestible.

Part 2

In the morning, uncover oats. I start by stirring in

1 T chia seeds

1 T gelatin powder

Generous sprinkle of cinnamon

Milk kefir

Raisins

Small amount of honey

Stir the above into the muesli. Add in any more add-ons. I am partial to fresh berries, bananas, and crispy nuts.

Serve and enjoy! Happy eating!

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Eat your greens and love them!

Kale, collard greens, mustard greens, bok choi, all members of the cruciferous family of vegetables. I confess, while we might be in the height of summer and watching more and more produce become available, I still regularly eat them even though I can find them at the farmer’s market year-round.


source used under Creative Commons.

These greens are incredibly nutritious. High in vitamins like K and D as well as calcium, they are certainly a beneficial addition to any diet. In the correct preparation, that is.

Green smoothies are currently popular, where the various greens are blended together raw. While these vegetables do have a lot of good properties, in their raw state they are packed with oxalates and goitrogenic. Oxalates can cause kidney stones and goitrogens inhibit the thyroid. Not exactly something you want to consume to improve your health. These are foods which should be cooked in order to gain the most benefit from them.

“But Soli,” I hear some of you say, “they don’t taste very good. They’re bitter!”

Yes, I know. It took me some time to learn how to properly prepare and season greens to make them more palatable. But once you learn how to cook them up well, you’ll be eating them on a regular basis. I promise you.

There are two big keys to making tasty greens.

1. Cook them in a good fat.

Foods which are high in fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin D, need to be served with healthy fats in order for the body to properly utilize them. Healthy and tasty fats, in fact. Use butter, olive oil, (non-hydrogenated) lard, tallow, duck fat, or other fats our bodies can digest properly. The southern tradition of collard greens and ham hock is a perfect example of people in the past knowing how best to make up their food.

2. The big taste secret: acid.

It’s not easy to counteract the taste of anything bitter. It sticks with you, it lingers. This makes it very difficult for people to willingly eat bitter but nutritious foods. You need a contrast to that bitter flavor. And it’s very likely you have that very ingredient in your kitchen already.


A fairly popular bottle in my house.

Vinegar. Beautiful, delicious vinegar. A good balsamic or apple cider vinegar provides the perfect contrast to the greens and brings out a flavor you may not have been aware they were capable of having.
I promise you, follow the following directions and you’re going to have very little in the way of leftovers the next time you serve greens!

Basic sauteed greens

Ingredients:
Greens, however many you need to serve at the meal.
Healthy fat. I prefer butter or duck fat for cooking greens.
Salt
Pepper
Quality vinegar

Equipment:
Sharp knife
Saute pan
Spatula or metal spoon

Directions:

1. Rinse greens. Remove stem and chop leaves into small pieces

2. Heat fat/oil on medium-high heat in pan.

3. When fat is melted, put large portion of greens (as much as will fit without overflowing) into pan.

4. Stir regularly as they cook down. When they reduce in size, add any additional raw greens to pan.

5. Cook down greens, stirring regularly.

6. Either portion on to plates or place in serving dish. Garnish with salt, pepper, and vinegar to taste. Don’t worry about skimping. Definitely sample before you serve, if you’re not used to preparing them in this way.

7. Serve and Happy Eating!!

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Chocolate balls: a Swedish Midsummer treat

Last week was Midsummer. It is one of the biggest celebrations in Sweden. In pre-conversion days, it was a time both for fertility and sacrifice. Celebrating the bounty of the land, and the longest day of the year, along with remembering that every day following would be just a little bit shorter.


Midsummer pole. (source used under Creative Commons.)

While Midsummer was last Wednesday, and the celebrations in Sweden happened last weekend, there’s no harm in still marking this time of year with some special foods. A typical feast includes herring, new potatoes, and schnaps, and desserts including chocolate balls. Even though three of the ingredients aren’t native to Sweden (chocolate, coffee, and coconut do not fare well in colder climates), this recipe has become a standard for bringing in the summer.

Eeeeek! But there’s BUTTER in it!
See the blog name? That’s not a worry around here. I’d rather eat something my body can use properly because it won’t make me fat or sick.

Eeeeeek! But there’s SUGAR n it!
Alright, yes I will grant this. Sugar is certainly not the best thing for you to eat. The standard recipe for this actually includes double the sugar. With the loss of my sweet tooth, I don’t notice it. Neither do my co-workers, who ate the majority of what is on the plate. In fact one co-worker said I could never bring it in again. After a little pressing, she amended it to not often.

If you’re going to make any substitutions, please don’t take out the good stuff. Leave the butter. If you can’t tolerate milk products, then I beg you not to replace the butter with some fake margarine thing. Coconut butter might be an option. Sugars can also be altered, though honey and maple syrup would make these way too sticky to be a finger food. If you do use coconut butter or a different sugar (like coconut, palm, etc.), please let me know! I’d love to hear how it turns out.

Chokladbullar/Swedish chocolate balls

Ingredients:
1 1/2 sticks (6oz) unsalted butter (I LOVE Kerrygold)
1/2 cup sugar (I used organic cane)
1 1/4 cups oatmeal
1 tsp coffee, liquid
2 tbsp. powdered cocoa
Pårlsocker (Swedish pearl sugar, or other large granule sugar. West coast variation) or coconut flakes (East coast version)

Equipment:
1 large mixing bowl
1 spatula
1 small spoon or melon baller
1 small bowl for rolling

Directions:
Optional: Before prepping, soak oatmeal for 12+ hours, then dry in a dehydrator at 150F for 12-24 hours or overnight in the over on lowest setting for same amount of time. If doing the latter, turn oats 1-2 times.*

1. Let butter soften in bowl to make it more pliable.

2. Add oats, sugar, and coffee. Mix well until evenly blended.

3. Using spoon or melon baller, make small balls of the mix and coat in either the pårlsocker or coconut flakes. Pårlsocker is the usual covering for people on the west coast of Sweden. I only recently learned that people on the east coast of the country use coconut flakes. Do this if you can’t get the sugar. It’s not a common item on US shelves.

4. Put balls in fridge or freezer (the latter if you’re in a hurry or impatient) until stiff.

5. Enjoy and happy eating!

*Welcome to how my brain works. When I decided to make up a batch of these and post about them, I realized I could include a mention of soaking the oats. This meant posting about the oatmeal, but first writing about two things I love to put on my oats: cripsy almonds and milk kefir

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How to (really) make milk kefir

Oh, hi everyone! Before I go barreling in to blogging again, let me sum up the last month or so.
Rest, go on vacation to see best friend, finally feel like I am doing with schooling, get over the feeling like I have to shoehorn activities into each day otherwise they don’t get done, relax for real, come home, have amazing fellowship for 2 days, be lethargic for a week, have sinus issues for a week, regroup, and plot out blog posts for the month of June.

And here we are now!

One of my ongoing tasks with this blog is to prove that real food is indeed for everyone. That it IS possible to make these foods and live this kind of life even if you don’t have the ability to be at home all day. Let’s face it, between soaking, sprouting, letting things ferment, and all the other prep work, it can be very intimidating. My key to “doing it all” is simple: I don’t. I decide which things are most important to me in terms of health, ethics, and logistics. What’s going to do the most for my body, can I justify my purchases, and do I have enough space for everything.

Cultured and fermented foods are a big part of my diet. Somehow, however, I have managed not to write much of anything about them until now. (Have you seen my sourdough tutorial?) But they were the first noted diet addition when I started eating traditional foods in 2009. Fortunately there is a brand of fermented vegetables available in the northeast called Real Pickles. I quickly got hooked on their sauerkrauts. I also started buying milk kefir from the supermarket, then the farmer’s market, then last year started making my own. It plays a big role in the Body Ecology diet. I decided that since I already bought my own raw milk every week, buying grains for culturing would quickly become a more frugal option.

Why eat cultured and fermented foods?
In a phrase: they’re good for you. Extremely good. Most every culture on earth has some form of cultured food as part of their diet. It’s not only a method for preservation. Cultured foods, when consumed regularly, build probiotics in your gut. They play a vital role in your overall health. These days, between not consuming fermented foods and high use of antibiotics means that most of us have very poor levels of good bacteria in our guts.

There’s one thing about cultured foods. They take time to culture. I can’t speak for water kefir or kombucha, but milk kefir also takes time to strain if you use grains. Usually the instructions for making milk kefir look like this:
1. Put grains or culture in fresh milk.
2. Cover.
3. Let sit until milk takes on a yogurty/custardy consistency.
4. If using grains, strain out grains. If using a culture, retain some of the kefir for the next batch.
5. Put grains/culture in clean jar with new batch of milk and start process again.

There is just one little thing with my making of kefir. I make it in mason jars. When I got my kit from Cultures for Health, I received dehydrated grains and a plastic mesh strainer. So let’s go back to that straining step, shall we?

That’s not a large strainer. I tend to culture at least a cup of milk each time. It’s not going to all fit in that strainer. Let’s also note that bit of kefir escaping over the lip of the jar. I’m too cheapfrugal to let any of this deliciousness run down the side and somehow not find its way into my belly.

This means that when I strain kefir, I want to be there to make sure all of it gets in the jar. I’ll be honest, it takes me about 15 minutes to take care of the kefir this way. The time turns into a meditation for me, because I am so focused on the work and can’t really do anything else then. It’s comforting. I also like being able to slow down this way.

Incidentally, I recommend checking your kefir daily. During the cooler months it takes two days to culture, no matter how much milk is in the jar. When it’s warmer, I have to strain daily. In fact during very hot and humid days I could possibly strain off twice a day. The time to do so is just not there.

So now, I present…
Soli’s guide to REALLY making milk kefir

(This guide presumes you have active milk kefir grains. If yours are dehydrated, follow the instructions you are given to make them active.)

1. Check that your kefir is ready. It should resemble the consistency of yogurt. Get your mesh strainer (and NEVER USE METAL, the culture will corrode the metal over time), a clean jar, lid, and a spatula.

2. Start pouring some of the kefir through the strainer into the jar below. I like to run the spatula between the kefir and jar to loosen it up and make pouring easier. (I also like to lick some of the kefired cream from the spatula. You’ll only have this option with non-homogenized milk, because the cream rises to the top.)

3. Use the spatula to help move the kefir through the strainer quicker.

4. As the strainer empties, pour in more kefir. You may need to scrape the jar to get the kefir clinging to the sides. Something else I do is scrape the bottom of the strainer, which seems to help make things go quicker.

5. When you get to the end, you’ll see your grains in the strainer. Get as much of the kefir into the jar. I don’t worry about some kefir clinging, and have never had an issue with things going sour or bad.
Transfer the grains to a clean jar, and cover with milk. Cover the jar and start the process again!

6. Place a lid on your strained kefir. I like to date them, in case I don’t remember which jar is older. You can see my geekdom and how long I’ve been planning this post by the date here…

7. Drink up and enjoy! You can keep your kefir plain, do a second culture with spices or fruits, make it into smoothies, or even salad dressing. The latter is a great option if your kefir is tasting a little more sour than you like. I made this salad dressing last week. It’s SO GOOD.

Do you make kefir or other cultured drinks regularly? Do you want to try doing so now?

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