Grain-Free Quiche (with a SAUSAGE Crust!)

Yes; it’s an AMAZING food idea and I wish that I could take credit for it! I’ll split the credit between Yummly, a cool food app that suggests recipes based on other recipes that I’ve “liked” and my dietary trends that it picks up on (it’s quite a smart one, this app), and my awesome health-conscious mother-in-law, Mikki, who told me about Yummly three times before I finally checked it out.

So the other day, Yummly kindly sent me a list of high-scoring, grain-free, low-carb lunches, and “Low Carb Sausage Crusted Quiche” instantly gave me ADHD tunnel-vision… Tunnel-vision because I didn’t even look at the other recipes; ADHD because I never even opened the link to the recipe. I just rushed to the store to buy sausage.

Quiche 9Sometimes, you just have to get playful with food and decide preemptively that any disasters are a learning experience.

And then sometimes, a recipe is so simple that it just doesn’t let you muck it up, even when you throw caution to the wind…

This process is sooo easy. And forgiving. And versatile. In between bites, Matt would yell, “Why would anyone make crust out of anything but MEAT?!”

You know what, Matt? I DON’T KNOW.

SAUSAGE-CRUSTED QUICHE

Quiche 8

Although I’m listing ingredients, this is more of a “method” than a “recipe”. You can really make any type of quiche with this process (Well… probably not vegetarian!).

1 lb ground sausage

3-6 eggs (depending on the amount of filling)

~1 cup ricotta*

whatever veggies or herbs you have around**

salt and pepper

1 cup shredded cheddar or jack cheese, or 1/2 cup feta*

*I did a dairy-free version for Veronica, by just leaving out the cheese and going a little heavier on the eggs.

**In the pictures on this page, one of the quiches was filled with bell peppers, onions, parsley, and topped with cheddar; the other quiche was filled with olives, bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, feta, and pesto, similar to the Greek-Style Quiche.

1) You don’t have to get fancy with the sausage– Just press it, raw, into a pie pan (or muffin tin, for individual quiches!) in chunks, and try to make it even. But it doesn’t have to be that even. Just makes sure that the bottom is covered, and that the sausage creeps up the sides of the pan, and that it’s not so thick that there isn’t room for filling.

Quiche 1

Note: It’s a lot more supple when it’s room temperature– If it’s too crumbly, try kneading it so that your hands warm it up.

2) Slice up your veggies (or other fillings) and lay it out in the sausage-filled pie pan.

3) Blend the eggs with the ricotta and add a bit of salt and pepper. I’m so lazy that I usually mix things in my food processor, but I do this mixing by hand and it only takes a minute. Pour over the filling in the raw sausage crust.

Quiche 2

4) Bake for 45 minutes at 375. (If you are topping with cheddar, bake for 15 minutes, top with the cheddar, and bake for another 30 minutes.) It is done when you shake the pan and the middle doesn’t jiggle.

Quiche 3If you need to make it prettier, top with raw herbs, or a cute design of Sriracha.

Quiche 7

That’s it! I swear! SO EASY!

Quiche 4

I loved it, Matt loved it, and Veronica loved it (I made three mini dairy-free quiches for her in the muffin tin and I should have made ten. I blinked and they were GONE.)

Quiche 5If you try this out, I would love to hear what fillings you use– Leave me a comment below!

Stuffed Pollo Pazzo

Last week, I made this dish, figuring that the simple ingredients would come together to form something nice. I was wrong– “Nice” is sweet. “Nice” has charm. But this chicken– It is sexy, it is dramatic, it is RIDICULOUS. It is so delicious, it could drive a man insane.

I’m not even worried about over-selling it. I’m not sure that’s possible.

Part of why this dish is so gorgeous to me is that the end product is complex and extravagant (Matt said that it is something he’d order at Oswald)… But the ingredients and the process are simple and clean. If you don’t count salt, pepper, or oil, there are a whopping 8 ingredients total, for the ricotta stuffing, marinara, EVERYTHING. Such few ingredients mean you can make them good ones, organic tomatoes, free-range chicken, all that jazz.

Chicken 11STUFFED CHICKEN ITALIANO

2 large tomatoes

1 bulb garlic, peeled

1 Tbsp dry Italian seasoning

a “hearty” splash of red wine

8 oz ricotta

1/2 cup fresh parsley

2 chicken breasts

olive oil or butter

salt and pepper

flour, for a light dusting (I use chickpea flour)

parmesan, for topping

These ingredient amounts serve two, but it’s pretty easy math to cut them in half for one, or double the recipe for four.

First, make the marinara: In a blender, liquify the tomatoes and garlic. Pour the sauce into a saucepan, add the Italian seasoning, wine, salt and pepper, and simmer uncovered on low heat while you follow the rest of these instructions (40-60 minutes).

Chicken 2

While the sauce is cooking, make the filling: Use a food processor to blend up the ricotta and parsley with a little salt and pepper. Put aside for now.

Chicken 1

Now, pound that chicken (Insert sexual joke [here]): Put each chicken between sheets of parchment, wax paper, or plastic wrap, and beat it with whatever you have around… I don’t have a kitchen mallet but I’ve used both a wine bottle and my cast-iron skillet; the skillet is the better way to go but the bottle worked too.

Chicken 3

Take out your week’s aggression on each chicken breast until it’s about a half-inch thick, and you can envision rolling it into a burrito-shape.

Preheat the oven to 375F, and start heating up the butter or oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. (If you don’t own a cast-iron skillet, use a regular skillet but transfer the chicken to a baking pan before moving it to the oven. Also, go get a cast-iron skillet.)

Salt and pepper the chicken. Dust a little flour on the smooth side, and put the chicken smooth-side down.

Chicken 4

Spoon a bit of the ricotta filling into the middle of each flattened breast. Roll up the chicken around it; if you are a fancy-pants owner of toothpicks (says the blogger that just made you buy a new skillet) use a toothpick to secure each one; if you are toothpick-challenged like I am, just start with the open side face-down, so that the weight of the chicken keeps it from unfurling. It will still be a mess, but a delicious mess!

Chicken 5Chicken 6

Put each chicken on the hot skillet to brown the outside. Cook for about five minutes and flip, and then cook for another five minutes.

Chicken 7Chicken 8

If you are not using toothpicks, flip the chicken so that the open side is face-down, to keep it from unfurling. Move the chicken to the oven and bake: If you were able to pound the chicken down to a half-inch, bake for 15 minutes; if it was more like an inch thick, bake for 25 minutes.

When it is finished baking, serve with the sauce and parmesan. If you have leftover ricotta (like I did) you can top with that, too, because it’s DELICIOUS! I tried with the sauce under the chicken, or with it over the chicken. Get creative! Make that chicken pretty!

Chicken 11 Chicken 10 Chicken 9

Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Peaches

I didn’t bother giving this recipe a funny name. I didn’t even make a bad pun on the POTUSA song, even though that song is going to be locked in my brain for the next week (because I thought about bad puns). Nope, “Roasted Bacon-Wrapped Peaches” will have to stand on its own, because this recipe is all about simplicity.

It was inspired by Gabriella Cafe‘s appetizer, which I shared with Veronica and Caitlin on a girls’ night out last year. It was SO SIMPLE and SO DELICIOUS.

Peaches 8

Gabriella Cafe’s $15 version.

I have no idea whether to file this under “Desserts” or “Appetizers”… I want it before and after every meal. And during. Now would be a good time.

As so many of you are cutting back on sugar (Yaaaay! Good for you!), this is a real treat that banks on the philosophy of using few ingredients, and making them good ones.

ROASTED BACON-WRAPPED PEACHES

Peaches 7

peaches

bacon (or pancetta)

feta

 

If you don’t eat cheese, you don’t have to use feta (though I think it’s a glorious filling, especially a nice sheep feta) and if you don’t eat bacon, you can leave out the bacon. If that’s the case, adding half a walnut per peach is a nice touch.

First, rinse the peaches,slice them in half and remove the pit.

Peaches 1

Cut your feta into 1-inch cubes and put one in the pit-hole for each half.

Peaches 2

“You shut your pit-hole.”

Cover with uncooked bacon– You might need to cut each piece in half to fit, but don’t forget that the meat will shrink a bit.

Peaches 3

Bake at 375F degrees for about 15 minutes (Using a muffin pan works great for this). For crispier bacon, move the whole pan to the broiler for 5 more minutes.

Peaches 6That’s it!

Peaches 4

They are WONDERFUL!

Peaches 5

…Though they don’t photograph all that well when you cut into their yummy gooey centers!

These would also be fantastic with a little nutmeg or cinnamon sprinkled on the peach, before you lay on the bacon.

Let me know if you try any variations, and how your experiments go!

Bulletproof Coffee (And the Asprey Who Loved Me)

Coffee 2

I’m sure you’ve heard of this crazy trend among foodies and hippies: Coffee with butter and oil. Whoa! What the eff is happening?!

I’m a little ashamed that it took me so long to try it, since (1) I take pride in being an adventurous eater, and (2) I believe fully in a high-fat diet. Especially saturated fat. (If you’re anti-saturated fat, ask yourself if that attitude is due to 1980s misinformed propaganda? Because that’s where mine came from, before I read studies, experimented, and changed my tune.)

Coffee 1

Anyways, this form of coffee has essentially been trademarked as “Bulletproof” by the fellow who made it popular in the US (Dave Asprey– Did you catch my wickedly clever 007 reference in the title? Is it still funny if I have to explain it? Let’s say yes!), and– spoil alert– IT’S DELICIOUS. It is not greasy but creamy (the process emulsifies the oils, similar to the mayo-making process but not savory), with hints of coconut. Caitlin (my bestie who owns  Firefly Coffee House) compares it affectionately to a Cafe Au Lait.

In case you were wondering, it is super common in non-Western cultures to put butter in coffee or yak butter in tea. Don’t you want to try yak butter in tea? I DO.

 Health-wise, here’s why I love this coffee:

It can replace my breakfast on busy mornings (and the fat helps my absorb my meds and vitamins better).

This is not to say that it should replace my breakfast, but it’s better than skipping breakfast altogether! Also, I recently read this Paleohacks article about coffee, which outlines how awesome coffee is for us, but also explains how gnarly coffee is for you if you don’t eat breakfast first. Boom! Bulletproof coffee. Let the fat help protect you from damage, if you’re not eating until later.

It’s a great way to consume more coconut oil.

Coconut oil is such an amazing product. (I could tell you the benefits, but there are almost 6 million results to the Google search “coconut oil benefits”, and I linked the last sentence to four of those articles, so I won’t try to reinvent the wheel!). I aim to get it every day, but honestly, sometimes it’s tricky (like, I only want coconut-flavored scrambled eggs most of the time, not all the time). And sometimes I just forget. But you know what I don’t forget to do? Drink coffee. Sometimes, occasionally, I choose not to drink coffee. But I NEVER forget.

It’s wonderful. And wonderful things are good for your mental health.

It is warm and creamy and frothy. It’s delicious. And delicious things that are good for you are The Best.

Coffee 5

Look at that foam! That magical milk-free foam!

 

Here’s what you need:

a cup of good-quality hot coffee

a tablespoon of grass-fed butter

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

a standard blender, immersion blender, or food processor

 

Here’s what you do:

Put the stuff together and blend it for 30 seconds to one minute.

It will magically become creamy and frothy and you will thank me.

Enjoy! Let me know what you think!

(A last-minute shout-out to Samantha Keller for being the lovely lady to finally introduce me to this cup ‘o magic. I’m hooked, Sammie!)

Are You There, Reader? It’s Me, Jamie!

You know what’s funny? I haven’t posted in almost a year. (!!!)

But I’ve missed you guys, and I’m sorry that I disappeared for a while. Let me catch you up, because it’s been a great year.

I got a new job, in my same office (which I love), with the same people (whom I love), doing work that supports a community that is near and dear to my heart (UCSC students and advisers).

I took up archery. I’ve been hiking a lot. And I just recently started riding my bike again, after a year-long hiatus after getting hit by a car. Boy, do I love biking again!

It's hard to stay away from biking with a cute helmet like this!

It’s hard to stay away from biking with a cute helmet like this!

I’ve lost 40 pounds since last year. You may remember the article I wrote, “How I Lost Weight Without Exercise, and Why You Shouldn’t Care“, where I outlined the dietary changes I made that defied my doctor’s assessment that I could not lose weight, and dropped ten pounds in a month. Those ten blossomed into twenty, then thirty, and then this year I changed my diet again and my doctor increased my blood sugar medication, and then BAM! Another ten came off. And it’s still moving!

So, while I want to tell you all about how Matt’s doing (Great! He has an epic beard now!) and give you updates on the crazy UC politics, we’re here for food and nutrition so I’ll try to stay on course.

Ok... Maybe just one pic of Matt's epic beard.

Ok… Maybe just one pic of Matt’s epic beard.

What’s this about medication?

I’ve been on Metformin for a couple years, which is a common blood-glucose stabilizer for diabetics (I’m not actually diabetic, but I have severe PCOS, which is affectionately nicknamed “Type 3 Diabetes”).

As my doctor explained it to me, Metformin helps my body to “use food better”. I have pretty strong control over my diet, but nothing I did took off any weight– I love curves, I’ve always had healthy self-esteem (in fact, my parents joke that they might have gone overboard with the positive reinforcement), but last year I was at 235 pounds and I was worried about my joints. (Not my appearance. I still think that I was 235 pounds of Hot!)

What’s worse, even when I got down to 205, I was eating nothing that should have affected my blood sugar (more on that later) and still had a fasting blood glucose that placed me as pre-diabetic. I was down from the full-on diabetic range, but my blood sugar was still too high, for no reason. So, my doctor doubled my dose– A big decision, because it makes you nauseous for 3-6 months, but I’m doing better now. It was worth the rough patch of daily illness.

In case you’re curious: I was taking 500mg twice per day, and my doctor bumped me up to 1000mg, twice per day. My blood glucose is now stable (thought I’m still adjusting to the increase), and in fact, because I still follow a low-carb diet, it sometimes dips too low.

What’s this diet?

Portobello Bacon Sandwich? Certainly doesn't LOOK like a dietary restriction!

Portobello Bacon Sandwich? Certainly doesn’t LOOK like a dietary restriction!

 

Here are the simple guidelines I’ve set for myself:

1) Low carb (under 60g/day)

2) High fat (isn’t that fun?)

3) No sugar or sugar substitutes (not even honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar)

4) No grains or potatoes

5) No processed foods. Ever.

Let’s talk about this for a sec. First and foremost, let it be known that you are the master of your diet and the only rules that you should follow are the ones that your body tells you. I went the severe route because I have a lot of willpower in dieting and needed to fix my blood sugar issues.

Also, the only hard-and-fast rule I have for myself is no processed foods– And by that, I mean no trans-fats and no pre-made junk, unless it’s a trusted/beloved source, like Veganaise. Otherwise, occasionally, I’ll go over 60 carbs. On my birthday I splurged on a sandwich. A real sandwich, with real bread! I had a bite of potatoes last week. If high-quality dark chocolate is around me late at night, it’s not safe. These are guidelines. They’re bendy.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Happy Birthday to Me!

 Anyways– I feel great and my skin looks good. You can always tell from skin, right?

I’ve developed a lot of awesome new recipes and techniques over the past year, and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Welcome back. I missed you.

Love,

Jamie

Random Food Love: Meat Lover’s Insanity

This is a long one, kids– I’ve been eating great stuff lately! Notably, since I started eating land meat again this month after a six-month cleanse, I’ve eaten a lot of different meats. Small helpings of high quality meat! But a lot of different meats, nonetheless.

You’ll see that I’ve been allowing a little wheat in my diet too. I’ve also had a sudden burst of headaches lately, so I might have to get strict again. (Due to my PCOS, I can’t process sugar– It wouldn’t be a shock if I had trouble with wheat, too.)

3

This is the first meat I had: Ribs slow-cooked for 5 hours in sugar-free BBQ sauce. (I only ate one, but it was awesome!)

1

Peanut butter curry with butternut squash. It was amazing and I need to figure out how to mimic the recipe at home.

267

23194

Tons of salads, too! From top left: kale with nectarines hard-boiled eggs, golden raisins, sunflower seeds, and the same dressing as in the next picture, veganaise with lemon and Bragg’s liguid aminos; same salad with avocado instead of egg; kale salad with peaches, tomatoes, and walnuts; my new favorite pre-made salad, Super Fresh! Food’s Pan Pacific Chopped Chicken salad; the Monterey Bay-jing from Global Village Cafe; taco salad with romaine, black beans, brown rice, and lots of avo.

22 21 9

A few awesome sushi dinners. The first two are from Rumblefish, the third pic is from I Love Sushi (of course).

11 26 27 31

I’m so excited to eat sausage again! Top left is a Field Roast vegan sausage with a kale salad, dandelion pesto, and home-made sauerkraut; top right is chicken apple breakfast sausage with farm eggs with mushrooms and strawberries; bottom right is a, Italian chicken sausage with sauted chard; bottom left is an artichoke-chicken sausage, sauted bell pepper and leeks, and more home-made sauerkraut.

14Steak, medium rare, with (vegan!) horseradish cream sauce and baked potato wedges with sugar-free BBQ sauce.

5Home-made almond cheese spread on rye crackers with grape tomatoes.

15

I love chicken SO MUCH. I am always smitten with chicken when I return to it from a bout of vegetarianism. Here, organic chicken slow-cooked in sugar-free BBQ sauce for a day and a half, while we were out of town. Awesome.

10

So clean and delicious and satisfying: poached eggs over black bean chili with cilantro, vegan sour cream, avocado, and tomatoes.

13 12

Amazing drinks: on the left, an almond/banana/maca smoothie; on the left, a home-made strawberry kombucha.

18

Fantastic Brussels sprouts, simmered in fresh-squeezed orange juice and coconut oil.

17

A giant bowl of sauted zucchini, served with cashews. (See a pattern?)

20

Panini (aka Foreman Grill sandwich) with pastrami, tomatoes, and veganaise, and a few strawberries.

24

Lamb steak with sauted mushrooms and fingerling potatoes.

30

Frozen bananas blended with frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, and almond milk to make a delicious soft sorbet / thick smoothie.

32

TONS of fresh fruit lately.

28

Fish taco with sauted bell peppers, salsa, avocado, and sauerkraut. Keith caught the fish– a lingcod– and it was perfect for tacos.

Turkey Wrap

Turkey wrap with grilled veggies, cucumbers, and Veganaise.

Pate

Chicken thyme pate— How I’ve missed it!!!

Such a variety! What kinds of things have you been eating lately?

Wild Honey Mead

All right readers, you demanded it and the time has come: I AM FINALLY POSTING THE RECIPE FOR ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, ABSOLUTELY (NATURALLY) ALCOHOLIC HONEY MEAD.

Mead 2

LIQUID GOLD.

I’ve had requests for these instructions ever since I first posted that I was making mead at home. I think that my family, who are all very particular about their alcohol, would agree that the mead is their favorite of all my food projects. This mead has become Matt’s #1 favorite alcoholic beverage. That says a lot.

Making honey mead has been one of the most exciting and satisfying food projects that I’ve taken on. The experimentation is endless– Timing! Flavors! Techniques! I could start a new batch of honey mead every few days for the rest of my life and I would still not exhaust the possibilities.

This information and these recipes are based on wild fermentation– that is, fermentation that happens naturally by using the yeasts in the air– so if you are looking to add yeast from a packet, I’m afraid I don’t know anything about that. All of my fermentation projects have been wild, so I’ve never “added” yeast. I’ve never need to!

These instructions are a compilation of experiences and a hundred articles and books I’ve read on the topic. I’ve tried to include the relevant science involved, in basic terms, and any other tips and fun facts along the way. I know that this is long, but I tried to highlight the most important points so that you can skim through the page if you wish…

Food Love 38

My very first sip of my very first batch, aka Love at first taste!

HISTORY

Honey mead is perhaps the oldest possible ferment known– The fermentation happens so easily, cave dwellers were getting plowed off it thousands of years ago! Traces of honey mead has been found in ancient pottery from 7000 BC.

Honey is so magical, with amazing nutrients, and it is so stable that it never goes bad. That is, in pure form. The sugars (glucose and fructose) in honey are dehydrated, so they do not ferment on their own. However, if honey is mixed with water (a mere 15% water or more) it will rehydrate the sugars, and the sugars will ferment and turn the mixture into mead. When I say that this fermentation happens easily, I mean it!

Food love 8

Honey Mead / Strawberry Cocktail

COST

The big cost is the honey, which isn’t too bad. I buy a 5-lb tub of raw honey at about $17 each. Each tub contains almost 7 cups of honey, so it will make 2 1/3 gallons of mead, and each gallon makes about 4 wine bottles full. So, each wine bottle of mead costs less than $2 in honey.

You probably already have a gallon-container for the initial ferment, but I found gallon jars at Salvation Army for $3.25 (which I use over and over again). I re-use the balloons, but the initial cost was about $3 for a bag of 15. The screw-capped wine bottles were just bottles that I saved after drinking the wine, so I’m counting them as free– Also, my friends, local bartender, and especially my family(!!!) have been saving their screw-tops bottles for me. My family just sent me home with 25 bottles they’d been collecting for me! (Don’t forget to thank your helpers with a bit of your mead.)

You can get fancy with equipment– Brand-new bottles, airlocks, siphons, etc– but I’m not that kind of girl.

WHAT YOU NEED (TO MAKE 1 GALLON)

a gallon-sized glass jar or bowl
(ceramic may be fine, but I’ve never used it)

~3 cups honey
(raw or not)

filtered water

a plastic or wooden stirring spoon

a filter (for pouring the mead into bottles)

glass bottles with screw caps*

airlocks or balloons**

*I recommend screw-top wine bottles, but you can also use a gallon jug (Think apple cider jug).

**I have never used an actual airlock, although you can find them at wine/beer shops and online for about $1.50 each. In my experience, balloons work great, cost less, and make a more simple operation.

THE SIMPLE STEPS

1: Put ~3 cups of honey into your gallon jar, and fill up the rest with water. (5 minutes)

2: Stir your mead vigorously 2+ times per day until it is bubbly. (3-10 days)

3: Pour into bottles and airlock. (1-3 weeks)

4: Once the bubbling has stopped, cap the bottles. (5 minutes)

5: Let age. (1 week to a few years)

6: Drink!

I indicated the time involved for each step, but in actual work you only put in about a half-hour per gallon.

Super simple steps, and I want you to have them for reference– But let me explain a little of the science behind each step so that you can experiment with flavors and alcohol content.

1: Put 3 cups of honey into your (clean) gallon jar, and fill up the rest with water.

Make sure the water is filtered. If you are using raw honey, be sure to use lukewarm water (not hot) so that you don’t kill the natural yeasts in the honey– These natural yeasts will contribute to the alcohol content. It’s okay if your honey isn’t raw, though, since step #2 will introduce more yeast to your mead.

Stir so that the honey and water are thoroughly mixed.

You’ll want to cover your jar with a cloth to prevent flies from getting in (Seriously– Flies are going to attack your mead if you don’t cover it). I love to use aprons because I can use the skirt of the apron over the top of the jar, and then tie the strings in a bow around the jar to keep it secure. You can also use towels or dishrags, which I’ve also used successfully.

Mead 3

Prettiest little meads at the ball, all dressed up and ready to ferment!

 Keep your mead in a lukewarm place, out of direct sunlight. Your mead will want a bit of airflow to bring more yeasts.

2: Stir your mead vigorously 2+ times per day until it is bubbly.

(These are the basic instructions, so please see the “FRUIT” information below about adding fruit to increase alcohol content and flavor– That would be done between the last step and this one.)

To understand what happens in this step and the next, the science of the sugars is important awesome. Honey has two types of sugars: glucose and fructose. Generally speaking, when combined, glucose ferments into alcohol very quickly, and fructose ferments more slowly. During this step, the glucose is fermenting. In the next couple of steps, the fructose will ferment. Thus, after this step your mead will be alcoholic (and delicious!)– but only half of the sugars will have turned to alcohol.

To be honest, after a few batches I started using fruit to ferment and lightly flavor the mead, and the fruit encourages much more yeast to form in your mead, which is both fun and effective. However, plain (“pure”) mead is also delicious and can attract yeast quite easily as well.

My technique (and also Sandor Katz‘s, who is a great master of all things fermented) is to stir the honey in a circle one way, and then switch directions. You can stir the mead several times per day if you’d like, and the additional stirring will help the yeast to ferment faster.

Mead 1

After a few days, you will notice some obvious bubbling when you stir– Not just the bubbles caused by the stirring itself, but a flurry of bubbles will soar in from the bottom of the jar like a bottle of soda. The bubbling should get strong for a few days and then start to subside; when it subsides, it is time to airlock your mead.

3: Pour into bottles and airlock.

At this point, the glucose is pretty much all turned to alcohol, and now the fructose is starting to turn into alcohol. If, instead of airlocking your mead, you decide to drink it, you will have mead that is sweet and slightly (~8%) alcoholic. Just make sure that if you cap the bottle that is holding the mead, it doesn’t stay out of the fridge for more than a couple days, or else carbonation will build and your bottle might explode.

Like I said earlier, I don’t use real airlocks– I use balloons. The point of the airlock is to let air out of the mead while preventing oxygen from getting in. I like to use balloons because (1) they’re cheap, and (2) I’m at work all day, so it’s fun to come home each day and see how much the balloons have inflated. I wouldn’t get to see the progress with a regular airlock.

Also, the production is colorful and fun, like a circus!

Mead 7

If it seems like the balloons have stopped inflating, I will let the air out of the balloon, allowing the exposure of oxygen to the small surface of the mead for a few seconds, and then replace the balloon to see if it has any new air in the next few days. I also might put the cap on for a moment and dip the bottle upside-down and then right-side up again, to see if bubbles fly up, and replace the balloon for a few more days. The exposure to oxygen and the bottle-flip can re-inspire the mead to bubble a bit more (Remember that this means more alcohol! See the alcohol section below***). You can take this a step further and actually pour the mead out and back into the bottle, which will really give it a new oxygen boost. You can also siphon the mead into a fresh bottle, but I’ve never used a siphon. More on that in the next step.

4: Once the bubbling has stopped, cap the bottles.

BE CERTAIN THAT IT HAS STOPPED BUBBLING. If the mead is still bubbling when you cap it, the carbonation can build up too much over the next few weeks and make the bottle explode!!!

(If you do want very carbonated mead, you can cap the bottle while it’s still bubbly, but only let it sit out for a couple days and then put the bottle in the fridge so that the fermentation stops.)

If you are a fan of siphons, you would want to siphon the mead from its current bottle into a new bottle, pulling the mead from the top so that you leave the “dregs” (the murky part) at the bottom.

I’m not interested in this technique. The dregs are full of nutrients and flavor! Why would you leave it behind? For this reason I’ve never used a siphon, although in the US people are big fans of clarified, refined fluids (Think hot sake instead of cold unfiltered sake, or clear beer instead of cloudy). I’m not sure why we’re so turned off by murkiness, but I prefer the extra nutrients and less bottling work.

Label your bottles with the bottling date so that you know how long the mead has aged, and keep in a cool, dark place, just as you would to age wine.

Mead 8

You can also add a “drink date”, or you can label the bottles at the time you airlock them.

Your mead is actually delicious and ready to drink at this point, with its full alcohol content (more or less). Matt and I always drink a little of the new batch, and it is clearly alcoholic and light and sweet and a little fruity and absolutely delicious.

However, if you let it age, the flavors will change and the mead will become slightly more alcoholic.

5: Let age.

Please let me reiterate this instruction: Label your bottles with the bottling date, and keep in a cool, dark place, just as you would to age wine.

You can let your mead age for a week, or a few years, or anything in between. I’ve only been making mead for a few months, so I can’t tell you how it will change over a greater length of time, but resources say that it gets better and better. For me, I need a balance of “great mead” and “not waiting forever to drink it”. Currently, I make a couple new batches every couple weeks, so that I am constantly trying out different ages of mead, with different flavoring. SO FUN.

As it ages, the mead will lighten in color. I didn’t think that my mead had lightened much, until I compared a bottle of 2-week aged mead to a jar of new batch.

Mead 6

Left side, 2-week aged mead; right side, brand new, unfermented batch. What a difference!

Matt can hardly wait for each new bottle to “finish” aging. If we go for more than a couple weeks without mead, he will look at me with big doe eyes and ask if it’s time yet?

6: Drink!

The best step!

Whether you wait for a day, a month, or a year, it will be delicious. It’s a challenge for us to wait, since I know how good it is from the very beginning– But the older (aged more than 2 months) bottles I’ve opened have been carbonated and extra alcoholic and taste like magical honey beer.

I recommend chilling the mead first, and letting it breathe for about half an hour, if you can stand the wait.

_________________________________________________________________

FRUIT

8e0ac4b2ba72d60dbce723ca66377461

Strawberry-Vanilla Mead. (The beans were only resting on top for the picture, afterwards they were pushed down into the mead.)

 Besides step #6 above, my favorite part of the honey mead fermentation process has been incorporating fruit.

The yeast in the air is attracted to the sugars in the honey, which is made up of fructose and glucose. Fruit also has fructose. A lot of it. The yeast is drawn to it, so more yeast will enter your mead if there’s fruit bobbing along the surface.

You’ve actually seen the yeast attraction to fruit– think of grapes, or plums, and the white, chalky layer on the outside. That’s the yeast that is going to help get you tipsy!

You don’t want to puree the fruit, just put chunks in. The fruit that works best is soft fruit that rots quickly– bananas, melon, mango. The most ridiculously effective fruit that I’ve used was watermelon.

Mead 5

I like to cut blueberries and strawberries so that the flavor infuses more. This was taken seconds after adding the blueberries, and you can already see little bubbles of yeast around the berries!

Berries also work great, and although I’ve heard that edible flowers work well, my only attempt was with jasmine and it did poorly– No bubbles after almost a week and the mead smelled grassy. I scooped out the flowers and added raspberries instead, and everything was just fine. (Remember– Don’t be afraid to experiment!!!)

Mead 4

Raspberries added to a batch of failed jasmine mead, during step #2. The fruit woke the mead right up!

When you first start your batch, throw the chunks of fruit in and cover. You’ll still want to stir vigorously, to wash the yeast into the mead and leave room for more yeast on the fruit. PAY CLOSE ATTENTION TO SMELL. You’ll want to strain the fruit out when the mead smells like the fruit (It will smell AMAZING). This should only take a day or two.

After you take the fruit out and stir the mead vigorously, it will appear to boil, the bubbles will be so strong. When I used watermelon, I couldn’t even use my regular “stir vigorously” technique– I would just dip the spoon in, and the entire mead would bubble over like crazy!

Continue by following step #3, above.

To date, I have made the following:

“pure” mead

strawberry-vanilla*

mango

watermelon**

blueberry

raspberry

jasmine***

*Done as outlined above, and also with strawberry juice and vanilla added to the bottle of pure mead before airlocking, which produced highly alcoholic mead!

**Most alcoholic, using fruit technique above

***Failed- let me know if you make a successful flower-mead batch!

WHAT ABOUT ALCOHOL CONTENT???

Of COURSE we want to know about alcohol content! And you would think, what with all the technological advances we’ve made, that there would be some way to dip a stick into your mead and get an alcohol reading– But it’s not so simple.

I DO NOT MEASURE ALCOHOL CONTENT because the process doesn’t interest me. The short answer is that your mead will be 8-20% alcohol. If you follow all the steps to make your mead as alcoholic as possible– using fruit to attract yeast, stirring frequently, exposing your mead to oxygen to jump-start a second ferment (see detailed instructions of step 3 above***), waiting until the bubbling has completely ceased before capping, and letting your mead age– it will be closer to 20% alcohol. If you do not use fruit, stir less frequently, only give your mead the primary ferment before capping, capping before the bubbling has ceased, and drinking the mead young, your mead will be closer to 8%.

if you are like me, you’d prefer a more alcoholic mead. However, if you are tempted to drink your mead young, keep in mind that 8% is not a shabby alcohol content! In the beer world, that’s a hell of a strong brew!

IF YOU DO WANT TO MEASURE THE ALCOHOL CONTENT, you will either need a hydrometer or a refractometer. With either tool, you’ll need to take a mead measurement at the very beginning of your mead process, and then again when you cap it. You will plug the numbers into a long equation, and that will give you the alcohol content. For more information about this process, I recommend this website.

Am I missing anything?!

I would absolutely love to hear about your mead adventures! Please leave a comment and let me know of your experiences, techniques, outcomes, and any questions that you have.

Totally Home-Made Sugar-Free BBQ Sauce

I love BBQ sauce, but I never eat it because it has SO MUCH SUGAR. So I’ve been planning to make it for a while– in fact, it was the whole reason I finally bought liquid smoke last year— but I kept getting intimidated stumped by online recipes because they all called for ketchup (which is full of sugar, too), and making ketchup from scratch so that I could make BBQ sauce from scratch seemed awfully daunting!

Then, after a careful examination of recipes, I realized that ketchup has all the same ingredients as BBQ sauce anyways. Ok– I could work with that.

The result of the recipe below is a wonderful, fresh, smokey, smooth BBQ sauce that puts store-bought sauce to shame. In fact, a week after I made this I heard Chef Jamie Smith on a radio show explaining the benefits of making BBQ sauce from scratch, and his instructions exactly matched up with my process (except he said to use store-bought tomato sauce, while I used fresh tomatoes).

SUGAR-FREE BBQ SAUCE

 BBQ Sauce 11

4 large tomatoes

1/2 onion

2 cloves garlic

a splash of vinegar (white wine, rice, or apple cider)

1/2 cup coconut sugar (or maple syrup)

1 Tbs mustard

~1 tsp liquid smoke

salt

hot sauce, to taste

Please note that the photos show a doubled recipe.

Chop the tomatoes into chunks, and put in the food processor.

BBQ Sauce 1

Blend until smooth. Pour the tomato sauce into a saucepan.

BBQ Sauce 2

Cut the half-onion into chunks, and put in the food processor with the garlic and vinegar.

BBQ Sauce 3

Blend until smooth-ish. Add mixture to the saucepan.

BBQ Sauce 4

 

 Add the coconut sugar, mustard, liquid smoke, and salt (to taste). I held off on the hot sauce, because I didn’t want the spiciness to burn off.

BBQ Sauce 5

Stir well, cover, bring to a boil, and then simmer over low heat for one hour. Stir occasionally.

BBQ Sauce 6

After an hour, the sauce will have reduced slightly.

BBQ Sauce 7

I ran it through the food processor one more time, to get it as smooth as possible, adding hot sauce to give it a spicy kick.

Taste your sauce, add salt, hot sauce, mustard (etc) as needed. Refrigerate in tupperware, a recycled marinara jar, etc.

BBQ Sauce 8BBQ Sauce 11

Dietary Changes: Meat and Yogurt

MY DIET IS CHANGING!

As some of you are aware, at the beginning of 2014 I completely cut out table sugar, dairy, land meat, processed foods, and wheat, limited my overall grain intake, and did not consume alcohol besides wine (and no more than 2-3 glasses in a day). Without any additional exercise, I lost 10 lbs in the first month, although my doctor had hypothesized that it was not possible for me to lose weight.

After that first month, my weight-loss slowed, and now, 6 months after the cleansing began, I am about 22 lbs less than I was in 2013. Not too shabby!

Here are some key points about this diet and weightloss:

1) In general, I was pretty strict with my diet. But if Matt really wanted me to try a bite of something that was outside of my diet and looked like something I’d enjoy, I’d take a bite, unless it was sugar-heavy. One bite. A small one. These small samplings kept me sane.

035

Small cheat: I’m sure there’s wheat flour in these crab cakes.

2) I barely exercised. When I did exercise, I’d drop a little weight immediately, since my body wasn’t used to it. One weekend I hit a piñata and I lost half a pound (True story). I know this is a controversial statement, but I believe my lack of exercise actually improved my metabolism. However, I’m also far less physically capable than I was when I was riding my bike up mountains every day.

3) Non-weightloss benefits to this diet included: fabulous skin (seriously; I sound cocky but the improvement is undeniable), healthier blood, healthier hair, increased energy, improved sexual health, improved dental/oral health, better sleep, better focus, better mood. Also, I created about a thousand new recipes, since new diets tend to bring about new dishes.

172

The increase in almond milk surely contributed to my improved skin, according to Brandi, experienced esthetician and owner of Prima Salon.

4) When my weight-loss slowed, I increased my daily caloric intake. Normally I eat between 1200 and 1600 cals per day, and I increased to a solid 2000 per day. It sounds counterproductive, but I think the increase boosted my metabolism, and also increased my nutrient intake, since I’m eating so healthily.

059

5) Socially, this has been more of a challenge than just cutting out alcohol (which is also socially challenging). I have amazing, culinary-inclined friends who desperately wanted to cook for me and keep me involved with the fun times, and it was a little heartbreaking when someone would plan a full meal around my dietary restrictions, only to overlook one restriction and then I couldn’t partake. (One friend, for example, made me a lovey dinner salad but dumped a bunch of dressing on it, not realizing that the dressing was sugar-based. My dad did the same thing with a fruit salad. Dressing is a sneaky culprit.)

Any time I went to a food event, I had to have a back-up plan—a bag of trail mix or a piece of fruit in my purse, or an already full tummy to start.

6) I still bought and cooked food for Matt that wasn’t part of my diet… Sausages, cereals, milk, cake, and even pork chops, lamb, and beef. Matt was incredibly supportive of my food choices and I made an effort to show him the same respect. However, I did buy him the best possible quality of these things.

057

Matt food.

7) Even after a 20+ lb loss, I don’t look much different. I’m actually quite happy with that. I want to get weight off my joints, but I don’t want to lose my curves.

WHAT’S NEXT?

One of the great benefits about elimination diets is that your body really starts talking to you clearly, via results and also cravings.

My body has told me:

1) It’s time to go back to 1200-1600 calories per day. Now that I’ve lost some weight, I need to eat less to maintain.

2) It’s time to eat meat. I actually figured this out while I was talking to a vegetarian. I told her the story of why, after 15 years of vegetarianism, I had decided to start eating meat again in 2009. I realized that the reasons still hold: For my blood type (O+), I thrive on red meat; controversial diets (like blood-type diets) aside, I can tell you that I feel better when I eat meat. Also, while I prefer fish to land meat, it is increasingly challenging to trust seafood.

I will be eating red meat in moderation, though—Maybe once per week, and in small helpings.

3) It’s time to try yogurt. I log my calories through fitday.com every day, and I’ve seen a great drop in my overall calcium intake this year. I am lactose-sensitive, but I think yogurt will be okay since it’s fermented (Fermentation pre-digests food for you, so that it’s much easier for your body to handle). Side note: I pretty much always start craving yogurt when I’m on an elimination cleanse. We’ll see how it goes!

Yogurt

I think that most of my readers are meat-eaters in some fashion, so hopefully you’ll benefit from the new meaty recipes. But, I will also have tons of vegetarian and vegan recipes. After all, this is Soy Milk Mustache!

HAS YOUR BODY TOLD YOU ANYTHING INTERESTING ABOUT YOUR DIET THIS YEAR?

Random Food Love: So Much Food! #2

Again, I apologize that I’ve been off of my usual Food Love schedule– I usually post it every other Friday, but I’ve been having some computer problems and have been posting food love every third Friday instead. As a result, I have a TON of food to post each time! I’m breaking this into two parts, like I did last month. We’ll get back to the normal schedule for June.

Food Love 36 Food Love 37

A gorgeous (and expensive!) lunch from Ristorante Avanti: arugula salad with golden beets, avocado, orange, and marinated onions; grilled salmon with grilled snap peas, cole slaw, young potatoes, and pesto.

Food Love 40

Sauted chard with chickpeas and Field Roast (vegan) sausage. I haven’t been buying many pre-made groceries because I have trouble trusting them, but this company is known for having clean regulations and quality ingredients. I wouldn’t recommend the sausage on its own, but as an ingredient it’s fantastic.

Food Love 1Super amazing Indian food from Maharaja: Baingan Bharta and Fish Curry.

Food Love 2

These were crazy fermented cocktails that Matt and I got at a promotional event for Creative Cultures. They were both really delicious, with bee pollen and raw cacao and other awesome things.

Food Love 3

More sweet potato Paleo pancakes and vegan bacon crisps!

Food Love 4

Dharma’s Portobello-Artichoke Sandwich on gluten-free bread. I don’t normally eat gluten-free bread because I think it’s gross, but this one is nice and seedy.

Food Love 5

Sashimi from I Love Sushi, of course! I can’t go three weeks without a stop at my favorite sushi restaurant.

Food Love 33

Home-pickled radishes. It was an experiment that went very well. I’ll start posting more  fermentation recipes soon.

Food love 11

Chocolate Smoothie! I didn’t include kale this time, so it was just unsweetened cocoa, frozen bananas, almond milk, maple syrup, and maca powder. So smooth and delicious.

Food love 6

Homemade sauerkraut. This was a wonderful batch, but I’ve been a little hit-or-miss on these. Once I nail the procedure down, I’ll share it with you.

Food Love 9

Vegan Cream of Mushroom Soup.

Food love 12

Ratatouille. I would post the recipe, but it’s so simple– Saute together eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, and tomatoes in olive oil with some fresh parsley or basil. Boom! Recipe.

Food love 14

Snapper with crispy lemons, spelt pasta with broccoli, and kale with mango and walnuts.

Food love 15

Catfish with brown rice and ratatouille.

Food love 16

Salad Bowl from Chipotle with tofu, no dairy, lots of avocado.

Whew– SO MUCH FOOD! What have you been eating lately?