Welcome Friends!!!

I am a scientist at heart, and my kitchen often looks like a laboratory with all kinds of jars and containers fermenting and brewing on the counters. I love to share my recipes, my herbal remedies and health tips, and I really LOVE to save money! We have a large extended family....two sons, their wives, eleven grandkids (and often a friend or two), my sister, Lanny's brother, and my parents that come over every Tuesday night for dinner...kind of a family reunion, only weekly instead of yearly! That adds up to from 17 to 22 or more people here every week. So I have to cook big, and cook economically!

So here we go! For all my friends and family that have been encouraging me to put all my recipes and ideas in one place like this....if you don't see what you are looking for, and cannot find it by using the "Topics" or the search field below right, just let me know and I will be sure to post it as soon as I can.

Be sure to check out our African Mission Adventure - we traveled to Malawi in August 2014 and you will find photo's and stories about our trip! LanDebLewAfrica.blogspot.com!!!

Lanny and I also have started devotional blogspots that you might enjoy:

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Water Kefir

Water kefir grains are a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast held in a polymer created by the bacteria. Water kefir grains feed off sugar to produce lactic acid, acetic acid, various other acids, and carbon dioxide.

By culturing sugar water using the water kefir grains, you are creating a lacto-fermented drink. Lacto-fermentation is the process where lactobacilli (lactic acid producing bacteria) convert sugars or starches into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. Used in traditional cultures to preserve foods, lacto-fermentation creates a food teeming with probiotics, good yeasts, and increased nutrient values. The synthesis of lactic acid and other acids often increases vitamin values, including vitamin C and various B vitamins.

Kefir provides dozens of beneficial bacteria and yeast strains that can benefit your body. Your body is inhabited by billions and trillions of bacteria, yeast, and other microorganisms. By taking in beneficial bacteria and yeasts, you increase the population of good bacteria in your system; beneficial bacteria in your gut make up a large part of your immune system and help you defend against harmful organisms, bad bacteria and viruses.

A good source for water kefir grains is Keysands. You will also find lots of good information about the benefits of water kefir as well as recipes and different brewing techniques.

Making Water Kefir 

Directions for single ferment: 

NOTE: We do the double ferment (instructions below) but many people prefer the single, so here you go :-)

To make 1 quart of water kefir, add to a quart sized glass jar:

4 to 5 tbsp of organic sugar, sucanat, rapadura, agave nectar, or maple syrup (I have always used organic raw sugar or even plain white sugar when I had to)

1 tbsp of water kefir grains

a few organic raisins

a handful of organic fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries

about 1 quart of filtered or spring water (enough to fill jar while leaving ½ to 1 inch of space at the top)

To make a larger quantity, simply scale the ingredients. 

The ratios for 1 gallon are:

1 to 1 ¼ cup (20 tbsps) organic white sugar, sucanat, rapadura, agave nectar, or maple syrup

3 to 4 tbsp of water kefir grains

small handful of raisins

a handful of organic fruit, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries

about 1 gallon of filtered or spring water (enough to fill jar while leaving ½ to 1 inch of space at the top)

Shake or stir until the sugars are completely dissolved. Cover with a non-air tight lid (most screw on lids are fine or cover with a coffee filter held on by rubber band) and allow to brew at room temperature for 24 to 48+ hours. Don't use canning lids and rings because your jars might explode...sparkley/kefir is naturally carbonated :-). I recommend for the first couple of batches, that you taste the water kefir every 12 hours after the first day. If it’s too sweet, let ferment longer. If you forget and it’s too sour, dilute with juice or sweetened tea when drinking.

When the water kefir’s done, strain the grains out, discard any fruit you’ve added and store the finished water kefir in the fridge in a covered jar or in airtight bottles. Decanting into airtight bottles while the brew is still slightly sweet and allowing to brew in the airtight bottles for a few hours at room temperature will yield a fizzy drink. Do not bottle in airtight bottles while the brew is too sweet or too much pressure may build up and you may end up with kefir soda all over your counters when you open the bottle.

Directions for double ferment - this is the way we prefer to do it at our house!

Follow the directions for the first ferment but do not add fruit - only the sugar, water and raisins (if desired) with the grains. After 48 hours you will strain the kefir into another jar of equal volumn, and start another batch with the grains. To the strained kefir you will add a handful of fruit, we like either strawberries (for a really sweet drink) or a mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry blend) for a more tart flavor. You can also add a few slices of fresh ginger or a 1/4-1/2 tsp of dried organic ginger powder, and let this ferment another 48 hours. You will have more probiotic activity this way. 

I use two gallon jars and fill only half way. I find this the easiest to work with and always have two jars fermenting on my counter. Our entire family, grandkids too, LOVE the water kefir. They call it "Bug Juice" because of the good bacteria (bugs) or "Sparkly" because the kefir has a natural fizz!

Here are the freshly made first ferment and the strained off second ferment,
ready to cover and let sit for two days....

This is the first ferment with only sugar, a few raisins (if you have them) and the kefir grains.
This will ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Then strain into the second jar.

I use a large canning funnel, a nylon strainer and a plastic sink strainer. 
I like to make do - don't use metal strainers or utensils when working with kefir.

This is my little sink strainer with the kefir grains strained out.

This is the second ferment after straining - add ginger and fruit. 
This will ferment for 24 to 48 hours. Then strain into your pitcher
and refrigerate.

I cover my jars with coffee filters held on with rubber bands,
or plastic lids ...never cover with canning lids 
because the kefir builds up natural carbonation and you will have a mess on your hands :-).
Always mark the day and time you start your ferment...
if you are anything like me, you will not remember when you did it :-)

Note: It is not recommended to brew the kefir in a metal or plastic container as metal is reactive and the acidic nature of kefir may wear down and leach plastic into your brew. Avoid letting the kefir grains come in contact with metal utensils. Do not rinse or brew grains in chlorinated water as chlorine may damage or kill your grains.

Growing the Kefir Grains

The water kefir grains will grow better in a high-mineral environment. Using high mineral sweeteners such as sucanat, rapadura, or adding a bit of molasses to your brew will help your grains grow faster. I usually use raw sugar or plain white sugar so growth is slow, but if you do want your grains to grow you can brew one or two rounds with only sucanat, rapadura, or with some added molasses. Some juices are also high mineral and work well for growing your grains.

Storing the Grains

When you are not making water kefir, you can store your grains in a glass jar with anywhere from double to several times the amount of liquid as grains. Add one or two tbsps of sugar to feed the grains. You may store it at room temperature or in the fridge. If storing at room temperature, change out the liquid for new water and sugar every 2 to 3 days. If storing in the fridge, you can go up to a week or two. If storing in the fridge, the first brew that you make from the grains may take a bit longer since the bacteria and yeasts will take awhile to become active again.

Alcohol Content

Water kefir can contain anywhere from .2 to 2% alcohol with a 48 hour fermentation. To put it into perspective, wine is usually 7 to 15% alcohol. The alcohol content in water kefir varies widely depending on the type and amount of sweetener added, amount of grains, and fermentation time. A higher ratio of sugar will yield a more alcoholic drink, as will a shorter fermentation time. If you are alcohol sensitive, I would recommend using less kefir grain to sugar water ratio and doing a longer brew, tasting periodically.

What do I do with my extra grains? Eat them! They are a great source of probiotics!

Give them away. Give a tbsp or two to a friend so they can make their own healthful sodas and beverages. Lacto-fermented beverages aid in digestion, provide lots of good nutrients and enzymes, and are an excellent and inexpensive source of probiotics.

Use them to make lacto-fermented vegetables like sauerkraut. You can use kefir grains instead of whey to inoculate your lacto-fermented vegetables with good bacteria and yeast.

Compost them. If your grains are taking over your fridge and counters like they do mine, throw them in your compost pile. The bacteria will happily help you munch away at your compost pile. Microbials are great for soil health too!

What do I do with overbrewed water kefir?

Sometimes you let your water kefir go too long and make water kefir vinegar. If this happens, you can:

Use the water kefir vinegar as a cleaner. It smells great and works great – just place in a spray bottle and use on your counters.

Use it as a hair rinse. If you’re doing “no poo” (no shampoo), water kefir is great for rebalancing your hair PH after a baking soda wash.

Here is a good video from Wellness Mama showing how to brew water kefir - there are so many links on the internet with many recipes, many different ways to brew...I have been doing our kefir this way for years and it works well for us, but you can try other blends, other flavor additives...the sky is the limit!!  Wellness Mama

Friday, November 15, 2013

Homemade Gifts - Placemat Purse or Book Bag

This was my favorite project last year. You can find pretty placemats all over the place, very inexpensive! All you have to do is fold it over, sew up the two sides, sew across the seam to make a box bottom, add some handles and some decorations and voila! I made all the ladies and girls in my family one last year and put other homemade gifts inside. They LOVED them!! There is a link at the bottom with detailed instructions.

I picked iron on patches, buttons, and applique to make each one unique.
We call our Grand Daughter Kyra Lady Bug so this was perfect for her!

I put Soup in a Jar, Dessert in a Jar 
and a bag of Cornbread in each bag...a complete meal!

I ordered some little glue on labels with my name on it! The sky is the limit!

The link below has detailed instructions 
and some other placemat purse ideas. Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Homemade Gifts in a Jar

Yummy Gifts in a Jar!

These are always a welcome gift. Get a dozen or so quart canning jars, gather the ingredients for your favorites and start stuffing. 

Butterscotch Brownies
1/2 cup packed flaked coconut
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Mix together all-purpose flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside. Layer ingredients in order given, adding all-purpose flour mixture last. Press each layer firmly in place.

Attach this message to jar:
Empty brownie mix into large mixing bowl and blend together thoroughly. Add: 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened. (Do not use diet margarine.) Mix in 2 eggs, slightly beaten and 2 tsp vanilla. Mix until completely blended. Spread batter into a greased 9- x 13-inch pan. Bake at 375°F for 25 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in baking pan. Cut brownies into 1 1/2 inch squares. Cool completely in pan. Yield: 2 dozen brownies.

M&M's Cookies
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 1/4 cups M&M’s
2 cups all-purpose flour, mixed with 
1/2 tsp baking soda and 
1/2 tsp baking powder

Layer ingredients in jar in order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding next ingredient.

Attach this message to jar: 
Empty cookie mix in large mixing bowl; mix thoroughly. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg slightly beaten and 1 tsp vanilla; mix until completely blended. Roll dough into walnut-sized balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375°F for 12 to 14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Dreamsicle Cookies
1/2 cup Tang Instant Breakfast drink powder
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups vanilla chips
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, mixed with
1/2 tsp baking soda and
1/2 tsp baking powder

Layer ingredients in jar in order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding next ingredient.

Attach this message to jar:
Empty cookie mix into a large mixing bowl; mix thoroughly. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg
slightly beaten and 1 tsp vanilla; mix until completely blended. Roll heaping spoonfuls into balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased
baking sheet. Bake at 375°F for 12 to 14 minutes, or until tops are very lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool completely. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Easiest Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup white sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Combine the all-purpose flour, baking soda, white sugar, and the chocolate chips. Place 1/2 of the mixture in the jar, and pack firmly. Place the brown sugar on top, again packing firmly. Finish with the remaining all purpose flour mixture on top.

Attach this message to jar:
Empty cookie mix into a large bowl. In separate bowl combine 3/4 cup of butter, 2 eggs, and 1 tsp vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add to dry mixture. Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Holiday Cookies in a Jar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate-covered candy (such as holiday M&M's or Hershey's Holiday Candy Coated Bits)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup cocoa crisped-rice cereal (or regular flavor)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
How to make it

In a 1-quart widemouthed jar, add the ingredients in the order listed. Pack them down firmly after each addition (use the blunt end of a table knife or a wooden spoon to level and tamp down each layer). Screw on the cover (see Wrapping It Up for a note on securing a ribbon beneath the threads) and prepare a gift tag with the following instructions:

 "To make your holiday cookies, cream together 1/2 cup of butter or margarine, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1 egg in a large bowl. Add the contents of the jar and stir until well blended. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. Makes 4 dozen."

Holiday Hash

3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups small pretzels
2 cups salted peanuts
1 bag (12 oz.) plain M&Ms
1 bag (12 oz.) peanut M&Ms
2 bags (12 oz.) white chocolate chips or melting wafers

Combine all ingredients except white chocolate in a very big bowl. Melt white chocolate or wafers according to the package instructions.* Be careful to not overcook as these chips burn quickly. Pour the melted white chocolate over the mixture and with a strong, long-handled wooden spoon toss well to coat. Spread the hash out on waxed paper and let set until the chocolate hardens. Store in an airtight container or pour into gift bags. If you get the red and green M&Ms you’ll have a very festive-looking batch for the Christmas holidays. This makes a lot. You should be able to make 10 to 15 gifts depending on the size of your containers.

Chocolate Chunk Hot Cocoa Mix
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
8 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate

In a bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, and chocolate. Store in an airtight container. Keep at room temperature for up to 4 months. Makes 4 cups

Transfer the cocoa mix to a resealable airtight container (such as a canning jar).

Handwrite the following instructions on a gift tag or label to include with your gift: 

“In a small saucepan, whisk ¼ cup cocoa mix with ¾ cup milk. Bring to a bare simmer. 
Serves 1.”

Tie a ribbon around the container, looping it through a measuring scoop if desired, and the gift tag with the instructions.

S’mores in a Jar
Layer in a large wide mouthed 1 quart mason jar:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (one sleeve of crackers, crushed)
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows.
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (or mini Hershey Kisses or M&M’s)
1/3 cup brown sugar

Gift Tags:

Combine jar contents with 1/2 cup melted butter and 1 tsp vanilla. Press mixture into a 9 inch square baking pan. Place marshmallows on top. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. Let cool completely. Cut into bars. Makes 12 yummy bars.

WRAPPING IT UP: Theses gifts, with their various layers of colorful ingredients, are most beautiful unwrapped. You can make the instructional tags from a folded rectangle of white card stock, decorate it, and write the all-important baking directions on the inside. Punch a hole in the corner for a length of narrow ribbon, which can then be tied around the jar's neck or secured beneath the threads of the lid.

Homemade Gift Ideas - Journal in a Jar

Journal in a Jar

Journal in a Jar requires the traditional jar plus a gift pack. The idea is to give everything your recipient needs to write the story of his or her life, including appropriate and specific questions. You can include as many questions or prompts as you like, even 365 to make it easy for your recipient to simply pull out one at random each day and write about it. Include with this gift jar a nice blank book or writing paper, an appropriate binder and a nice pen. Include everything required to get started. At first I found this to be a terrific gift idea for a parent or grandparent. But then it dawned on me this could be adapted for any age, even a child just learning to read, write and draw. Of course every Jar Gift needs
a recipe or instruction card tied to it. 

Here’s an idea:

Recipe for Your Life History.
Combine a generous slice of your life history, a dash of nostalgia, several cups of facts and feelings using these deliciously interesting questions. Draw one slip of paper. Take a few minutes to enjoy the memories. Paste or write the question at the top of a blank page. Fill in your answer. Don’t worry about your handwriting or spelling—just tell your story. The purpose of this gift is to help you preserve a written account of your life. Enjoy the homemade memories that celebrate something very important ... you!

This is an idea that can be adapted in so many ways. The more you can personalize it, the better. Adapt your questions and prompts to the specific recipient so the result will be more detailed and the answers more complete and specific. Make it fun by including questions you know will make the person laugh because the answers are so hilarious. To help you get going you will find a few idea starters below. If you need more, you can find hundreds for all age groups—as young as 5 and as old as 105— on the following website. Just log on to www.debtproofliving.com and click on Mary’s Web Desk. You can copy and paste them to your word processing program or write them longhand. Add your own unique questions. Print, cut apart and drop them into the jar. Journal in a Jar is not a gift you can make on Christmas Eve. You need to get started now. While you’re at it, make one for yourself. It will become a legacy for your children.

Question Ideas for Adults:
Why was your name chosen for you?
What was happening in the world when you were born?
What is your earliest memory of home?
What was your favorite hiding place as a child?
What is your favorite hiding place as an adult?
What was your favorite store and why did you like to go there?
What were your chores as a child?
What did your mother do during the day?
What did you do on summer days?
What did you enjoy in the winter?
What was your favorite fairy tale or bedtime story?
What was your favorite doll or toy?
What was your favorite treat?
What pets have you had?
What pet did you always want?
Do you remember what an ice cream cone cost when you were a child?
What does one cost today?
What kind of car did your family have?
Describe how people dressed when you were a child.
Describe your favorite outfit as a child and as a youth.
How were children expected to behave?
How did you learn about God?
Who set a good example for you?
What was your favorite scripture as a child?
What is your favorite scripture now?
What was your favorite television show as a child or youth?
Describe getting a Christmas tree with your family as a child.

For older children:
Tell about your favorite pet – what kind of animal? When did you get him/her? Why do you like him/her?
What’s your favorite thing to do in the summertime? Why?
Tell about a trip your family took that you particularly enjoyed. Where did you go?
What did you see?
What’s your favorite movie?
Why do you like it? What’s it about?
Tell something you enjoyed doing with your grandma or grandpa.
What is the best Christmas best one you gave?
What is your favorite thing to play at the park?
If you could have your favorite dinner for your birthday, what would it be?
Tell all about your favorite friend and why they are special to you.
What is your best and worst subject in school? What do and don’t you like about them?
If you could have any animal as a pet, what kind would you choose and why?
Write something nice about your family that they do that makes you happy.
Tell your favorite joke or write about something that makes you laugh!
What is your favorite board game or computer game and why do you like it?
If you could watch a video over and over, what would it be and why? What’s it about?
Tell about the house you live in. Have you lived anywhere else? If so, do you remember the addresses, phone numbers?
Tell about a special birthday party you’ve had? Given? Or been to?
How do you like being the older, middle, or youngest child?
Does it have any particular advantages or disadvantages?

For young children:
Draw a picture of your favorite pet or animal.
Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do in the summertime.
Draw a picture of your favorite place to go.
Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do with Grandma or Grandpa.
Draw a picture of what you want for Christmas or what you are giving your mom.
Draw a picture of what you play with at the park.
Draw a funny picture about something that makes you laugh!
Draw a picture of the house you live in.
Draw a picture of your favorite birthday present.
Draw a picture of your favorite toy.
Draw a picture of your family.
Draw a picture of anything that you are afraid of.
Draw a picture of what you would buy if you had all the money in the world.
Draw a picture of your favorite outfit to wear.
Draw a picture of your room and what makes it special.

Homemade Gifts - No Sew Sachets

No Sew Sachet’s

Fabric scraps
Fabric glue
Potpourri, such as lavender flowers or balsam fir needles

For each sachet, place 2 matching 3 to 5-inch fabric squares back-to-back and glue the edges together on 3 sides. Spread the glue close to the edges to prevent fraying.

Once the glue is dry, fill the sachet with about 1/4 cup of potpourri or loose herbs. Then glue together the open edges and again let the glue dry.

Arrange the finished sachets in multicolored stacks and tie them together with a festive ribbon or yarn.