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Food…My Favorite Thing: Small Steps to take in the Kitchen to add Big Benefits to Your Health

The past several weeks I’ve written about our favorite things…and this could be titled the same thing (or MY favorite things) but I decided to put a different spin on it for this week.

Lately on Cheeky Bums blog we’ve been focusing on good food. Good as in in nutritional AND tasty. Now that my daughter is starting to REALLY enjoy solids, I find myself wanting to give her the best foods that I can. Not only to provide her with the nourishment that her never-ending “go-go-go” body needs but also to expand her palette. {I want her to enjoy food as much as her mom does!}

I must admit (or I already have) that she does enjoy her graham crackers. Not what I would consider nutritional nor even close to being labeled a “whole food” with it containing high fructose corn syrup and all. Yuck, it disgusts me as I write it. But my cravings give in…I like them…especially with homemade *powdered-sugar laden* frosting (no, I haven’t given this to her yet!) and so we enjoy them together. But I’m learning…we all are…and we take small steps and large ones when we can.

So, with this new year I have some changes I want to make in my kitchen.

All of these things I have already tried but they have not become a regular part of my kitchen routine. With a new baby set to arrive in late July/early August, I want to have these foods part of my kitchen routine so that when fatigue and well, more fatigue is hitting like a torrent, I don’t have to think about how to make these things. They will be routine, easy to do with the littlest in one arm and the oldest holding on to my legs so that I’m moving in a slow two-step dance routine across the kitchen floor. I’ll be able to make them quickly, easily, and inexpensively. Each day these three things are becoming more and more important in the Kingsley household.

These four items have made my list. There are so many other areas to try for those without dairy allergies…milk kefir, mozzarella, and butter!

Water Kefir

What is it: Sugar water or juice that has been fermented to create a carbonated lacto-fermented drink. Aka: a healthy and delicious soda full of probiotics!

How to: Buy a starter culture from here or here. You place the “grains” in the sugar water or juice and let sit out at room temperature for 24-48 hours until it has that soda fizz and perfect flavor. The grains are then removed and used to make a new batch. Grains continue to grow and multiply and you eventually can make more batches at once AND supply your friends with their own starter culture…for free. Or, eat the extra grains or blend in a smoothie for a probiotic boost.

**Prior to my daughter’s birth, we were enjoying lots of this. Unfortunately, the week after she was born, I set the fermenting jar too close to our stove and it overheated, killing the grains. I then ordered another batch (from another company) and could never get them to “activate”. I never got around to buying another starter culture and I didn’t have any friends with starter cultures. This is something that I have missed greatly.

Sourdough (or soaked wholegrain) breads

Most of you have tasted delicious San Francisco sourdough style bread and if my budget allowed for it, I would buy a loaf a week. But sourdough is not limited to this bread alone. These other recipes are only a handful of those that I have found:

How to: You can buy a starter culture from here or make your own. I will share more specifically as I learn myself.

**I love bread. Understatement…I LOVE BREAD! I LOVE GRAINS. I could easily eat a loaf of fresh bread each day if someone told me it was healthy. Unfortunately, it’s not and I restrain myself.

I have tried sourdough twice and both times it has seemed somewhat overwhelming. It is definitely a learning process but once you have it…oh, the benefits out weigh it all!

While I conquer this beast, my mother recently supplied with me with a WONDERFUL soaked wholegrain (NO knead) bread. This truly is QUICK, EASY, and INEXPENSIVE. You’ll find the recipe here.

Fermented Vegetables

What it is: Vegetables are preserved through the process of lacto-fermentation. The starches and sugars in vegetables are converted into lactic acid producing bacteria which increases their digestibility and increases vitamin levels.

How to: Sounds difficult but it’s not. Most recipes call for vegetables, sea salt, whey (or in my case omitted and more salt is added), and water. That’s it. Let it sit out at room temperature for a several days (recipes will denote time) and then transfer to the refrigerator. Enjoy!

**We enjoy our homemade sauerkraut (even Isa) but there are so many other options to explore. You can pickle just about anything~cucumbers, garlic, pearl onions, turnips, beets, red peppers, ginger as well as make different forms of lacto-fermented relishes and condiments (corn relish, salsa, mustard, ketchup, chutney) This winter, sauerkraut has become our staple as cabbage is one of the most inexpensive vegetables to buy during this season but as summer will quickly be approaching, I have a list of fermented vegetables that I would love to try.

Homemade Chicken Broth

How to: Place leftover bones of the chicken carcass with vegetables (even peelings) and water into a stockpot and simmer for 12-24 hours. That’s it! For a tutorial visit here.

**I have done this once and it couldn’t have been easier. The results were so good and I felt great about adding nutrient-dense stock to my foods instead of msg-laden bouillon cubes. Also, it is rich in calcium. I am constantly in search of how to increase my calcium intake since I am unable to consume dairy.

These are steps that I believe I can manage towards better eating and better health. I have six months to incorporate four items into my routine. I’m hoping you all keep me accountable.

What do you want to add to your kitchen routine?

You can find this article linked to Monday Mania over at Health Home Economist!

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