Category Archives: tutorials

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.

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

(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

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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I’m sharing this post at Real Food Friday, Simple Saturday, Simple life Sunday, Motivation Monday, Natural Living Monday, Homestead Barn Hop, Real Food Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Wellness Wednesday, Fight Back Friday, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways!


How to make crispy nuts


Nuts. They’re delicious, nutritious, and sometimes ubiquitous. They make an easy snack due to being so portable.

They also, in their raw state, are covered in enzyme inhibitors. Similar to the reasons why soaking and sprouting legumes improves their nutrition, soaking nuts and drying them makes their nutrients much more accessible for digestion. I also think crispy nuts taste a lot better than raw nuts.

To be honest, when I was younger I did not eat nuts very often. Tree nuts triggered my asthma. Never severely, but there would be wheezing after a while. Now I wonder if it was due to enzyme inhibitors or the oils. No matter, these days I can eat almonds, walnuts, and all other nuts without issue. Also, the taste of these nuts is lighter than what you’re likely used to with nuts.

Keeping crispy nuts on hand is easy. Once you complete the preparation listed here, you can store them covered in an airtight container and have them ready at any time. I even keep pumpkin seeds prepared in this matter at my desk!

I regularly make up large batches of crispy almonds and walnuts. It’s very easy and good to keep them around in your kitchen.

Directions sourced from Nourishing Traditions.

Crispy nuts
4 cups almonds, preferably skinkess
1 T. sea salt
Filtered water

4 cups walnut halves and pieces, ideally freshly shelled
2 t. sea salt
Filtered water

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.
2. Allow nuts to soak for 7 hours minimum. (Usually I start them early in the morning and drain them 12 hours later.)
3. Drain nuts. If the skins can come off easily (like with almonds) pop off the skin.
4. If you have a dehydrator, spread the nuts out on the shelves. If you are using an oven, spread on a stainless steel baking pan.
5. For dehydrator, I set the temperature around 105F and let the machine run for 10 to 12 hours. For an oven, set on the lowest temperature and let run for 12-24 hours. When using the oven method, periodically turn the nuts.
6. When done, put nuts in an airtight container.
7. Enjoy eating them!

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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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