Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kefir Grains For Sale

The grains I have are multiplying like crazy, enough so that I have excess I need to sell.    What I am offering is 200 grams of grains in a 500ml jar filled with 1% milk for $10.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A different kind of cooking....

In my work world I have been learning about and playing with aromatherapy products since my student days. I have often found essential oils and products derived from them to be effective, gentle, natural and affordable options for health and beauty uses. This may seem a strange addition to a food blog but I find when I work with the oils the process is much the same as cooking. I use many of the same tools and much the same premise. I take good ingredients, pick ones that suit my purpose and that should mix well and then I work to create a product that is appealing to the senses.

Recently I decided to turn aromatherapy into more of a business than a hobby. I have created a line of products for sale in my office and am selling some baby products at the Mothering Touch. I have also been welcoming custom orders for products and providing access to direct order essential oils from my supplier.

For Christmas I have decided to put together a few small gift packages and welcome custom orders of the same. I am also happy to discuss putting together products for corporate giving or fundraisers.

Follow the links throughout this post to learn more and then contact me to order or to ask more questions.

The London Chef

I had waited with anticipation the opening of The London Chef, at 953 Fort Street. The concept of this space is of a foodie's haven of cooking classes and food parties. Despite my curiosity I didn't get into the shop until late in the summer as I just wasn't in that part of town often. Since I began teaching infant massage next door at the Mothering Touch (975 Fort) though I have weekly opportunities to be in the shop.

My first visit was actually my job interview for the teaching gig when I was surprised to discover that a small cafe and retail area was attached to the shop, something I hadn't known. This cafe is where I will start. Selling coffee, pastries and lunches the cafe is an expanded breezeway really but it is filled with things to intrigue every foodie.

On the retail front the fridge is stuffed with house made sausage from Stage restaurant and there are frozen stocks and sauces too. The shelves to the left of the sales counter are filled with cookbooks from some of the most prominent chef's of today (Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck caught my eye especially). There are also vinegars, reductions and flavoured salts (coffee?!?!?) to tempt you too.

In terms of the actual cafe items I have tried a selection. The coffee and espresso is definitely up to standard and the soup I had one day was delicious. Some of the baked goods though haven't been so overwhelming. I have had one of the savory open tarts (leek and goat cheese) and though tasty enough the puff pastry was quite pale and, as a result, lacked the crisp flakiness I prefer. Same can be said of the "breadsticks", which are actually puff pastry sticks with a small sprinkling of cheese and caraway seeds (Bernard was pretty pleased with the caraway) but that didn't compensate for the slightly limp pastry. I have tried some of the sweet pastries to and the same applies. Nothing bad, but I am still waiting to be dazzled.

The bulk of the space is set up in a squared "u" of work stations with a larger teaching station in the open side of the "u". There is also a large (like sit 30 large) beautiful wooden table to the side for dining. There is selection of cooking classes taught here and you can book private cook and eat events in the evenings.

Tuesday at noon is the event I have been most intrigued by. Called "lunch and learn" and running from noon to one this event allows you to come in and get a lunch that you get to watch being made. The menu shifts and focuses sometimes on a culture (i.e. Arabian) or a food (ie. the hamburger). There are munchies for you when you arrive and you then get an interactive demo by the chef and his assistant that culminates in the delivery of your main course (usually around twenty or quarter to one to give you some time for eating). I haven't actually attended but I am often in the cafe during the classes and the atmosphere seems fun and friendly. Judging by the papers the audience are generally clutching I am guessing you get recipes too. At a cost of $25 it is an expensive lunch - but a pretty good deal for an hour long cooking class/entertainment.

Lasagna and the new ricotta

My brother-in-law recently gifted us with a copy of Air Canada's en Route magazine's annual food trends issue. An interesting read and I was tickled to discover that several of BC's best restaurants are on my "I've been there" list. Part of the interest was the discovery that one of the new restaurant trends this year is "house-made ricotta". I found this interesting because on a recent trip to one of our friendly neighbourhood warehouse stores I saw, for the first time ever, a ricotta that didn't come in a tub. Intriguing, even the warehouse stores are getting trendy! This ricotta came shrink wrapped in plastic and looked closer to mozzarella in texture.

Of course the real interest for foodies is - what did I do with this new item? Answer - I made lasagna.

I made the pasta dough, made the meat sauce, and finally cracked the ricotta. I wasn't sure what to expect. Would I be able to slice this new ricotta? Would it mix well with the spinach, egg and cheese or would I have to use it separately?

When I opened it I discovered that it would slice, and dice well enough, but that it also crumbled into a much drier version of the tub ricotta's small pieces. I was able to mix my ricotta/spinach layer easily though I came out with a drier result - not a bad thing from my point of view. I dislike runny lasagna.

After assembly and baking we ended up with a lovely lasagna that was not runny at all. I can not say I noted any flavour difference, but it was nice to created a drier ricotta mix. Thicker sauce and drier ricotta made for a nicely cohesive and stable lasagna. The bit of lemon zest I put into the ricotta mixture though came through beautifully.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Working with the kefir

I do not have pictures of the kefir, when I get a chance I will post some.   So how is it going with the kefir making?   Very well.

I am working the kefir heavily and this means my grains have more than doubled since I got my grains.  I have grains to spare now and if you want some, drop me a line and I can give you some.

Many people drink it kefir, but this does not appeal to me, it might work as part of a smoothie, but on its own it does not do it.  I like the tang of the kefir better than the normal yogurt flavour and I am trying to eat 250 grams of kefir yogurt per day.  

I am letting it get quite firm and then I separate out the grains.   Once the grains are out, I strain it through a jelly bag to get it to a fairly thick consistency.   There are two consistencies a I aim for, one about the consistency of yogurt or sour cream, the second the thickness of ricotta.

I process between 1.5 and 1.8 litres of milk every 24 to 48 hours.  The jars I use can hold up to 2 litres but the grains take some space and I leave some space at the top.   For the yogurt consistency I get about 50% of the volume of the milk I started with.   For the ricotta consistency it get about 35-40% of the volume of the milk I started with.

The kefir has more or less replaced all of our yogurt, sour cream and soft fresh cheese uses in the house.   It works very well as a replacement for sour cream, and has a much lower fat content.  I work with 1% milk, which means my sour cream consistency kefir has about a 2% milk fat content.

The ricotta consistency kefir is about 3% milk fat, making it a very low fat fresh cheese.    I could make it firmer still by pressing out more of the whey.   Adding a bit of salt and herbs and you have a very nice cream cheese.

Meanwhile, I am getting all this whey, what do I do with it?  I am throwing it out because I have no idea what I can use it for.  In a quick internet search, I have some interesting uses for it.  I guess I will not longer be throwing it out.

Cost of yogurt consistency is about $2.30 a litre, for the fresh cheese consistency it costs about $3.40 a kilogram.   This is dramatically cheaper than what it costs in the store and it is better for me.