Friendly Bacteria

Gear up to get brave in your kitchen! It's time to grow more than herbs on your windowsills!

I found a recipe for lacto-fermented cucumbers (i.e. pickles) in Nourishing Traditions and thought I would give it a try. The appeal of preserving your vegetables this way is that you don't cook out any of the plant enzymes, preserving the benefits of the raw cucumber, but creating an environment where the cucumber can last much much longer. (There are anecdotal stories of lacto-fermented sauerkraut lasting two years at cool temperatures.)

Our pickles haven't lasted that long... only because we're eating them too fast! (Although for me, they are a bit too strong to be 'snacking' pickles. Perfect for potato salads, sandwiches, or the like.)

Here's what I did:

4 pickling cucumbers, washed thoroughly and sliced
1 T Sea Salt
1 T whole mustard
1-2 T dill, dried

Put it all in a quart jar. I just used a *clean* jar that originally held spaghetti sauce from the grocery store. I just saved the lid and jar and washed them really well. Once you have placed your ingredients in the jar, fill it the rest of the way up with water. Make sure the cukes are submerged, but you want a little head room (air at the top), too.

Then... here is the scary part... let it sit on your counter for three days. Or in a cupboard. Somewhere safe, that stays in the 70's (F).

Yeah. Lacto-fermentation means you are growing your own bacteria, lactobacillus to be exact. Probiotics! In your own kitchen!

My water turned all brown and murky. And I said to my husband, "Paul, that cannot be friendly bacteria. That is mean, angry bacteria!" But the trick to knowing if you successfully grew the correct bacteria is the smell. If your cucumbers are hijacked by unhealthy microorganisms, you will be repelled at the first whiff. So, after three days, I took off the lid, braced myself, and was pleasantly surprised that it smelled very appealing.


If you want a stronger taste leave them on your counter longer. When they taste just right, put them in the fridge for storage. That will slow the fermentation process. Our jar has lasted two months so far.

Try it. You'll like it!


Fast Black Bean Soup

I cook this soup all the time because it is so fast, easy, filling, and tasty!  I love the avocado and the cilantro - I usually end up putting extra in the batches I make! 

Serves: 5
Preparation Time: 15 minutes

2 15-ounce cans black beans, no or low salt
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
2 cups frozen corn
2 cups frozen chopped broccoli florets
2 cups carrot juice*
1 cup water
1 cup prepared black bean soup, no or low salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)
1/8 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes
1 avocado, chopped or mashed (optional)
1/2 cup chopped green onions (optional)

Instructions: Combine black beans, mixed vegetables,corn, broccoli, carrot juice, water, soup, cilantro, and chili powder in a soup pot. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 30 minutes. Stir in fresh tomatoes and heat through.

Serve topped with avocado, green onions, and pumpkin seeds if desired.

* Carrot juice may be made in a juice extractor. Fresh or bottled carrot juice is also sold in many health food stores.
Taken from the Dr. Fuhrman Cookbook
Page 88 in Christina's Recipe Book


Black bean and Corn Salad

I am so bad at taking pictures of food. I'm going to get better, I promise.

We had this little gem with corn chips the other night. But I've also had it rolled in tortillias, and straight off the fork, and I gotta say, it's good no matter how you roll the dice.

3 ears of corn, kernels removed
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 c. cooked black beans
1 c. cilantro, chopped
10-12 grape tomatoes, halved (or whatever you have on hand)
Juice of one lime

Begin with a skillet and some olive oil. Yum. A great beginning for every recipe. Add the garlic and the corn, and roast it for 6-8 minutes in the oil. And that is all the cooking you have to do!

Add the corn to the beans, cilantro, and tomatoes and toss. Squeeze in your lime, and you're done! Refrigerate until dinner, or eat it right away. Whatever works. I like it chilled, though. You could also add minced jalepeno for a little heat, or sliced avocado as a garnish.

I discovered this little gem in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which is one of my favorite cookbooks. Seriously great.


Lentils + Mirepoix = Magic

So, if you haven't guessed, I don't really know what to call this meal, but we love it, so here goes:

2 carrots
2 stalks of celery
1 onion
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1/2 lb. of lentils
1 3/4 c. water

Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

Usually I sauté the carrots, celery, and onion in a little oil or butter. But in the spirit of Fuhrman-ism, I water-sautéed the veggies, carrots first, for several (maybe 7-8) minutes, then the onions and celery, until they were tender and had that beautiful brightness of being perfectly cooked. At that point I added the lentils, which I had been soaking for the afternoon, in an effort to decrease the phytic acid, but that's not really necessary. Cover it all with water add a little salt if you wish, and let it cook for about thirty minutes.

The lentils and vegetables should be tender when done. This is great plain, with a little pepper, but divine drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You don't need much. Seriously, drizzle. Slow drizzle.

This serves four as a side dish, two as a main dish.


Grandma Brown's Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

From the time I was literally a toddler, I remember watching my grandmother make this soup.  It is still my favorite meal EVER.  Whenever I make it, I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it is gone!  It is great for colds, sore throats, and bad moods! I don't have an exact recipe because I just do it, so bare with me and feel free to ask any questions. 

1 chicken (giblets included) - the fattier the chicken, the yummier the broth (in my opinion!)
Approximately half a bag of flour
1 Dozen Eggs
1/4 Cup Water
3-4 Bay Leaves
Pepper (Fresh ground is the best)

Put the chicken/giblets, salt, fresh ground pepper, and bay leaves in a large pot of water.  Bring to a boil.  Let it boil for approx. 10-15 minutes, then turn the heat down.  Place a lid on the pot.  Let it cook until the chicken is literally falling off the bones.  I usually keep it on the stove for about 4 hours. 

Meanwhile, crack 12 eggs into a kitchen aid or large bowl.  Stir them up so that there is no difference between the yolks and the whites.  Add 1/4 cup water and stir.  Turn on the kitchen aid (use the dough hook) and slowly add flour until the dough is slightly hard and not very sticky at all.  You will use a lot of flour!   If you are not using a kitchenaid, just knead it the old-fashioned way with your hands. 

Let the dough rest for about 5-10 minutes.

Separate the dough into fist-size balls.
Using a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough.  You will need to use a lot of flour here too.
Let the rolled-out dough get dry enough that it doesn't stick, but not so dry that it will break or crumble when you roll it.  This takes a while.  Then turn the rolled-out dough over to let the other side dry. 
Once the dough is "right", roll each circle like your rolling a cinnamon roll. Then, use the sharpest knife in your house to cut the noodles.  See photo below:
You will want to cut the noodles as thin as you can because they expand when cooked.  I learned this the hard way about a hundred times - haha! 
Once all the noodles are cut, muss them all up with your fingers, so that they actually unwind and look like noodles.
Let them sit out a while to dry even more. 

Once the chicken is done, hoist it out of the pot into another container.  Strain the broth so that you get all the "yuckies" out, aka the giblets.  (I wish I didn't have to use the giblets at all, but they add TONS of yummy flavor to the broth - I tried it without the giblets once and it just wasn't the same).  Now, this is where I hand pick out the pieces of chicken.  I just use my fingers to pick out the good pieces of chicken - light and dark, and I separate it into another container.  Then, I throw the rest of the chicken away.

Add the chicken back to the broth and let simmer. 

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Add the noodles.  Cook the noodles until they are almost done and then transfer them to the broth/chicken pan.  Let them finish cooking in the broth.  Voila!!!  Yummy Soup!