How to Test Your Olive Oil

So the word on the street is that our olive oil may be fake, or rather cut with cheaper (and unhealthy) oils like canola, corn, or worse.

How to know if yours is?

Put it in the refrigerator.

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If it turns solid at this lower temperature, that means it is indeed an oil with saturated and unsaturated fats; the signature of olive oil.

You can see my olive oil above; after two days of refrigeration, it was pretty solid. Of course, it’s impossible to pour in this state, so don’t *keep* it in the fridge. πŸ™‚

What brand did I buy? Trader Joes Organic Spanish EVOO, a great deal at $6.99 for 17oz.

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(I know…this sounds like an add straight from the TJ’s Frequent Flyer. Fortunately for you, these are my honest opinions. Unfortunately for me, I’m not getting paid to rave about their products.)

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

What is it? A fermented tea drink, sweet and with a kick (though non-alcoholic).

Why make it? Taste’s yummy, and it’s good for you. Here are some of the benefits:

  • full of probiotics: good bacteria and good yeasts
  • the amino acids created by the fermentation process help with liver/body detox
  • reported to prevent cancer in peoples from a polluted area of Russia where it was widely consumed (probably a result of the first 2 benefits)

How To Make Ginger Kombucha

Kombucha is made by fermenting sweet tea for several days or weeks. I have been making it off and on for about 2 years, and our favorite is Ginger Kombucha. My children love it; since it is strong I only give about 1/4 cup to them at a time.

Ingredients

1 Scoby with some starter Kombucha
3 qts. purified water
2 Tbs. organic black tea
1 cup organic sugar
candied ginger
Equipment

large stainless kettle
gallon size glass jar
cloth cover (tea towel or handkerchief)
rubber band
strainer
large knife
funnel
1 qt. glass bottles for bottling

 

Boil about 3 qts of water in the large kettle. Remove from the heat, and add 2 Tbs. black tea* (see note below) and 1 cup sugar.

Stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow to cool on the counter for several hours. If scalding tea is added to a scoby, it will kill the yeast.

Here is a scoby in finished Kombucha. You can see there are three pancake-like pieces (2 are floating sideways). The three can be separated to start three new batches. The newest one always forms on the top of the Kombucha.

When starting out, you will place 1 scoby and about a cup of Kombucha in a clean gallon glass jar, and then add the tepid sweetened tea to it. Use a strainer to catch the loose tea leaves.

Then place a clean towel over the jar, fasten with a rubber band. Leave on the kitchen counter, or another clean warm place, for 7-14 days. You can go longer if you like, but it will taste like vinegar. The warmer the room (or season), the faster the Kombucha will ferment, so begin to check it after 7 days. When it is fermented to your liking, it is ready to strain into bottles.

To flavor it with ginger, I chop up candied ginger to place in each bottle; just a few pieces for each bottle.

Chop it finely so that it doesn’t get stuck in the bottle after the Kombucha is gone and you want to wash the bottle.

Then put the ginger in the bottles.

 

Then pour or ladle the fermented Kombucha into the bottle; leave a few inches at the top. I use a funnel with a strainer piece fitted inside it.

Close the bottles of Kombucha, and leave them on the counter for 2 more days. This allows the Kombucha to continue fermenting the sugar in the candied ginger. Carbon will be formed and trapped in the sealed bottle, which will give the drink a nice bubble when it is opened. After 2 days, place the bottles in the refrigerator to halt the fermentation. Drink chilled, using a tea strainer to strain ginger pieces as you pour.

*Organic tea is preferred to conventional, as conventional often has aluminum residues from processing. Any black tea will work; English Breakfast and Oolong are both delicious varieties I have tried.

Although some people use green tea, I found that there wasn’t nearly enough flavor.

For this batch I used Hampstead Tea and Now Foods Ginger, which can both be ordered from iherb.com. If this isΒ  your first order with iherb, use my coupon code: RON268 and receive $5 off your order.

You can order and scoby from Cultures For Health. Or, if you live near me (Portland area) email me and I’ll give you one!

 

How To Soak and Dry Nuts

I’m drying a few batches of walnuts in preparation for holiday baking. Here’s my method:

Put 4 cups walnuts into a glass bowl. I’m doing 2 batches here.

Add a heaping tsp. of sea salt to the nuts.

Cover with purified water. Let sit for 24 hours on the countertop. This allows the nuts to soak up the salt water, which breaks down the phytic acid in them.

After the nuts have soaked 24 hours, drain off the water, and transfer them to baking pans. I try not to use aluminum cookware, so I use my glass pans.

Place in an oven at about 120 degrees, to allow the enzymes to stay intact. My oven only goes down to 170, so I use the warming drawer under my oven.

Leave in there for about 2 days, stirring every 12 hours or so. When done, they will be crispy all the way through. Store in a sealed container. Use them in baking (which kills the enzymes, but there is still the benefit of having the phytic acid removed). They are also delicious on salads, or as a small snack.

How To Soak Grains

Q:

I’m planning to make the High Protein Waffles, but I’ve never soaked grains before, and I am unclear on the process. I looked around a little on the internet, and it wasn’t much clearer. Did you separate your own whey from milk, or buy whey powder and reconstitute it, or would you suggest I just use yogurt? I haven’t even purchased the whey (or yogurt) yet, so if you have some direction on that, I’d appreciate it!

~Debra , via Facebook

A:

Soaking grains is pretty straight forward, although I know it can seem daunting at first since this practice has been all but abandoned in modern cooking. To soak my oats, I measure them into a glass bowl; you’ll want one large enough that there is some space left for the whey or yogurt. You can see my whey here in the picture.

Pour the liquid/yogurt on top of the oats and begin to incorporate with a small spoon.

Stir the wet and dry together until there aren’t any dry oats left.

Then smash them down firmly in the bowl with the back of the spoon. There shouldn’t be any pooling wet areas.

Cover with a dish towel and place on the countertop, or another warmish clean place, for 12-24 hours.

At the end of this time, you’ll notice that the oats seem to have dried out some, and are stuck into a clump which will need a little bit of breaking up before putting into the blender.

If you double or triple the recipe, you can soak all the oats together and then evenly divide them the next day after soaking. Since they are stuck together in a chunk, it’s not to hard to cut them evenly. However, I recommend only making one batch at a time (unless you have a really strong blender) as doubling the batch makes it difficult to completely blend the oats into the eggs and cottage cheese mixture.

Whey and yogurt can both be used in this recipe. If you use yogurt you’ll need to use a little more than if using whey, since it is thicker and won’t mix with the oats as freely. I often use whey just because I have it on hand when it has separated from the kefir I make continually on my countertop. If the whey hasn’t separated, I use the kefir or a plain yogurt, which is probably what you should do at this point.

Here’s a picture of oats soaked in yogurt.

These soaking agents are actually souring the oats, and the waffles will have a pleasant sourdough flavor. I think kefir makes them more sour than yogurt, but it is pretty inconsequential. The acids and bacteria in the whey/yogurt are the agents that are eating away at the sugars in the oats, and dismantling some of the anti-nutrients like phytic acid. Therefore, whey powder (protein powder) reconstituted would not work for this purpose, as it no longer has these active cultures at work.

On purchasing the yogurt: get plain, and make sure it has active cultures in it. I like the European Style Whole Milk Yogurt from Traders Joes, and while you’re there, their Small Curd Cottage Cheese seems to be a good choice (for the waffle recipe) since the side of the carton makes it sound like the cows live in a resort. πŸ™‚
Make sure your waffle iron is fully heated before pouring in the batter. I was in a hurry when I made these a few weeks ago, and I ended up with a mess in waffle maker! :-/

The waffles freeze well after cooling, and can then be toasted for a quick snack later.