Fiber Fool

Follow the feats and foibles of a fiber fanatic.

2014 Greet the Week with Gratitude #1

Filed under: Knitting, In the Kitchen, Fitness, Gratitude — Kristi at 10:51 pm on Monday, January 6, 2014

Drew Curling at NoCo Ice Center

Goodbye 2013, can’t say I’ll really miss you! But, 2014 - so far so good! In hopes of keeping it that way I’m going to try to greet every week with gratitude! Perhaps that will help me ease back into the routine of blogging as well as lift my spirits.

So, for this first week of 2014, I’m grateful for:

  1. New adventures with DH! This last week we ventured to the NoCo Ice Center for a two hour Learn to Curl class and it was a blast. I have two really, really bruised knees - it is much harder to glide in a lunge position with a broom in one hand and a 42 pound stone in the other than I imagines. But, by the end of the two hours I was much more consistent in staying upright and starting to put more energy towards speed and aim on the stone during the release. Early on I spent a lot of time down on the ice though. I even made the local paper (see picture 6).
  2. Christmas 2013 at Angie's

  3. DH for braving the cold temps and walking to the grocery store to make sure I had food for SnB at our house tonight when the temps were too cold for the car to start.
  4. Snowy Saturdays when I don’t have to go anywhere and can curl up with books, coffee and tea in comfy and warm flannel PJs covered in knitting sock monkeys.
  5. Baked breakfasts! I banished cereals a few years ago which means breakfast is not the quick and easy meal that it once had been. In the winter I especially want a hot breakfast. Yogurt and fruit just won’t do. So we’ve taken lately to making baked egg stratas and baked oatmeals. It is so slick as we throw everything together before bed, pop stuff in the oven while we shower and boom it’s time to eat when we’re all dressed. We get a hot, filling breakfast with less stress than something that requires full morning prep!
  6. Diana's Hat Finished and Another In Progress

  7. I was so lucky this holiday season and got many of the items on my wishlist. One of which I’ve been enjoying a lot lately is Green Gables Knits. I cast on Diana’s Hat on Christmas Eve. I ended up using one size larger needle because it was handy and I had a lot of reasons to justify it (I tend to knit tight, my head is on the larger end of the spectrum for women, etc. etc.) and it is a tad too big after blocking. So, I took the time to locate the proper needle size and cast on another right away. Both are in Plain & Fancy Wool Co’s sportweight. The first was in Primary and Navy and the second is as written in one color, avocado. I’m loving the project as it is such easy knitting for all the holiday visiting and movie watching. Plus, I have a few bosom friends in mind I might like to surprise :-)
  8. How is 2014 treating you so far? What are you grateful for this week?

In The Kitchen: Kombucha Taste Tests #1

Filed under: In the Kitchen — Kristi at 5:35 am on Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Getting Ready to Taste Test Four Kombuchas

I grew a kombucha scoby from a bottle of raw kombucha at the end of 2012. Since then I’ve made several batches. How many I don’t recall. But I had used 4 different types of teas at various points. Three different black teas and a green tea. One day I caught myself telling DH that I wished I could do a fair taste comparison to understand the nuances of the tea choices.

In order to compare apples to apples I needed to brew the batches at the same time for the same length of time in the same environment so they would all be the same age. Eventually I had plenty of scobys at my disposal to do that. Over the past 2 weeks, roughly, I brewed concurrently each of the four different teas - Keemun, Assam, Darjeeling, and Lucky Dragon Hyson. Since I had another scoby left I decided to try coffee kombucha as well which I won’t get into in this post.

All Four Types of Kombucha Ready to Bottle Condition

I bottled them on Sunday morning when they were at 13 days of fermentation at roughly 67-69 degrees F. I poured off small tasters of each one for DH and I to try right then, without bottle conditioning or chilling. Overall they all came across as pretty sweet. In fact, it might not have been bad to have left them another few days. Although since I like bottle conditioning for 3-5 days to produce good carbonation I tend to bottle a tad on the sweeter side as fermentation continues in the bottle. We’ll see what the next tasting in a few days yields.

Kombucha Taste Test Notes

Now, since this was the first batch with all four types going at once they were all inoculated with darjeeling kombucha so they aren’t quite 100% their tea. The next batch will be closer to 100%. But I have some preliminary results.

From our favorite to our least favorite (though none were bad or undrinkable):
Assam - This was the most well rounded of the four types I brewed. It was smooth and the tanic astringency of the tea was full-mouthed, rather than concentrated on the tip of the tongue. There was a very slight undertone of smokiness.
Keemun - Like the Assam, this one was fairly well rounded and had a full-mouth astringency. The smokiness of it was very pronounced. This was the first batch of Keemun from this particular tea order and I noticed a strong smoky smell that I hadn’t with our previous order of the tea. I’m not sure if it was a mix and we didn’t get the tea the bag indicates or what as I don’t expect a Keemun to have that strong of a smoky note nor is is considered a good idea to brew with a smoked tea. I’m doing one more batch with it, but that will likely be the last I use this particular order of Keemun for kombucha.
Darjeeling - This kombucha was relatively sweet. At first taste it was very mild, though the astringency builds in the aftertaste, but is concentrated on the tip of the tongue. It was almost drying to the tip of our tongues.
Lucky Dragon Hyson - This too was well rounded and quite smooth. It was also very mild and had an almost syrupy aftertaste. It was our least favorite of the four at this stage.

Our Kombucha Taster Pours

On a related, but side note I just calculated my costs for a 1/2 gallon batch of kombucha. It comes out to only $0.15 - $0.25 per 8 ounces! Generally you buy 12-16 ounce bottles for $4 and upwards! That’s a savings of 85-92% depending upon what tea I use and what, if any flavoring agents I use in the bottle conditioning. It doesn’t take long to make back the cost of the flip-top grolsch-style bottles or the wide mouth canning jars I brew in with savings like that. I knew it was much more economical (and environmental) but I hadn’t realized it was that drastically so!

Have you brewed kombucha? What are your favorite teas to use?

Weekending Homey Edition

Filed under: In the Kitchen, Miscellaneous — Kristi at 11:15 am on Monday, March 25, 2013

Well, it was a hibernation weekend as predicted, which is totally fine by me these days. Snow did start falling about mid-day on Friday and continued through early afternoon on Saturday or so if memory serves. This time of the season it is pretty difficult to get an accurate snowfall measurement as the ground is warm enough for the snow to start melting from below so I don’t have a clue how much we got. It was relatively significant though which is good.

Baked blueberry banana walnut oatmeal brunch on this snowy Saturday. #supernaturaleveryday

My food/cooking mojo was mostly back too. We enjoyed the baked oatmeal from Super Natural Everyday and it does reheat pretty well at 300 degrees F for about 20 minutes. A splash of milk on top is a nice touch. I do want to play around with the recipe a bit to improve the protein content though. I’m contemplating adding an additional egg and/or some greek yogurt to the milk for a faux buttermilk effect.

"Farro" soup - curry, black lentils, sweet potato, onion, and barley. Topped with Greek yogurt with preserved lemon. From Super Natural Every Day.

We also enjoyed the “farro” soup from the same cookbook, though I subbed regular barley (not pearled) because the food co-op only had quick cooking farrow. The flavor was good, though I really need to research the different curry powders we got from my mom and dad as the insert included with them are very meat-centric so I didn’t really a clue which to use for this soup. The lentils I chose did give us some fits. Maybe 5% or so of them didn’t soften at all when the others were a really great texture. I even soaked the lentils and barley for a bit over 8 hours before cooking them. I’m hoping the fridge time of the leftovers will remedy the hard lentils a bit. The yogurt with preserved lemon definitely made the dish. That brightness was a great contrast to the earthy spiciness of the soup.

The first side-by-side taste test of Keemun, Assam, Darjeeling, and Hysson 13-day kombuchas on bottling day at room temp. Will try bottle conditioned and chilled versions later in the week, but Assam is currently in the lead.

The first round of the kombucha taste test took place as well. We tried the kombucha coffee too. I also passed along a scoby all ready to brew for a bit to Kathryn. If you are in the area and interested in brewing kombucha and are in need of a scoby, just let me know. I currently have 3 in my “incubator.” I also worked on doing a thorough write up of brewing kombucha. I’ll be presenting more info on our taste test either this week or next. So far we only tasted straight from the brewing vessel at room temp and are curious to see if bottle conditioning and chilling changes the results at all and that will take a few days yet.

I didn’t get around to any sewing, though I totally thought about it and let stash fabric options roll around in my head. But I did finish both fiction books I had in progress and started on that Anne recommended. We also got through the Warehouse 13 marathon and started watching Twin Peaks which allowed me to knit about 3/4 of a coordinating project to go with the recently completed DIP.

How was your weekend? Did you hunker down and do homey things like I did or did you have a wild and crazy busy weekend?

In The Kitchen: Everyday Granola

Filed under: In the Kitchen — Kristi at 6:32 am on Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Everyday Granola from Designedly, Kristi

Slightly sweet. Crunchy. Chewy. Slightly spicy. Nutty. There is no arguing in this house that granola makes a great topping. Most frequently it is probably enjoyed atop yoghurt in some form or another. Although this weekend you would have found us enjoying some inside our pancakes ala the Granny Cakes at The Rainbow.

Dry Granola Ingredients - Oats, Puffed Brown Rice and Millet, Wheat Germ, Walnuts and Pumpkin Seeds

I’ve been toying around with making my own granola for over a year. I enjoy store bought granola, don’t get me wrong. We can get some great ones in bulk at our food co-op even. But have you looked at the calories? It isn’t uncommon to see 1/4 cup of granola coming in at 200-250+ calories! Then I think back to my days in college when I’d enjoy a bowl topped with milk and shudder. I definitely ate much more than a 1/4 cup worth in those bowls.

By it’s very nature granola is calorically dense since it is most often made up mostly of rolled grains, nuts, and dried fruits. Then to make it yummy and crunchy it is doused in extra fats and sugars like most processed foods we can buy. When I actually stop to think about what granola is, I’m not so surprised by the nutrition facts.

Dry Granola Grain Ingredients

You can’t deviate from the core of what makes up granola too much, but healthier versions can be made at home. Like I said, I’ve been making batches of homemade granola for over a year now and I only recently settled on a recipe I don’t feel I have to keep tweaking. That isn’t to say that other variations aren’t rolling around in my head. But, this is a great, everyday granola that goes well with any flavor yoghurt or in our whole wheat pancakes. And the numbers are such that I can enjoy some in moderation daily if I wish. We are heading soon into fresh berry season and I love a dessert of yoghurt, berries and a bit of granola for crunchy!

Stir Wet Ingredients Well

There were two ways I saw to lighten up granola. First, make it less dense by using some puffed whole grains in place of some of the rolled grains. Second, use fruit puree for some of the sweetening. You still need some sugar and some wet sweetner to bind things and form a crunchy coating that keeps those puffed grains from going soggy when added to wet things like yoghurt but fruit can boost the sweetness and bring some fiber and additional vitamins to the granola party. Here I keep it a bit simpler by using quality prune baby food that is made only of prunes and water.

In my experiments I discovered a crucial step in getting it to clump a bit was to use a smaller dry ingredient - not quite as fine as flour. Here I’ve chosen to use wheat germ which boosts the fiber and protein a tad. I’ve used oat bran and flax seed meal too depending upon who I think I may end up sharing the granola with and their particular dietary restrictions. The recipe is really quite adaptable and flexible to adjustments for food allergies and specific dietary needs.

Reserve Some Wet For Coating the Nuts and Seeds

In exploring other granola recipes I also discovered the trick of adding any nuts and seeds to the granola part way through the baking cycle to ensure they did not get over toasted. I took that a step further and held back a bit of the wet binding ingredients so the nuts and seeds would get plenty of that yummy flavor but also so they’d incorporate into the existing clumps and chunks of grain instead of remaining segregated and falling to the bottom of the jar.

Stirring Granola to Coat

Once I get the grains all evenly coated I pat them out onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat. I work from the center out trying to keep a thin, solid layer of granola. This is what helps form the clumps. Then the first round of baking before stirring is a tad longer than the rest. Because I use a rimmed baking sheet I try to keep the granola away from the very edges. I found heat would reflect off those edges and kind of overcook the granola that was lying too close. Frequent stirring helps prevent that though.

Patting Down the Granola to Help it Clump

I kept the flavor here simple - just cinnamon in addition to the sweeteners and a pinch of salt. I think that is part of this Everyday Granola’s ability to go well with everything. I have gone more complex and done gingerbread, adding ground ginger, clove and all spice to the cinnamon. With the prune puree I call for here, adding some cocoa powder would be delicious I’m sure. I’d be inclined to keep some of the cinnamon but cut it back - maybe in half?

Of course by switching up the nuts and seeds and the fruit used to sweeten it the flavor combinations are almost limitless. Here I opted to use mostly pumpkin seeds as they are a good source of magnesium, a mineral my body is often low on which can cause muscle cramping and sleep difficulties. I also boosted the magnesium and iron by making my own organic dark brown sugar by mixing 1 cup organic evaporated sugar cane crystal with a 1/4 cup of blackstrap molasses. If I’m feeling particularly low on either of those minerals I’ll add 2 chopped, dried apricots to the granola when serving.

Everyday Granola from Designedly, Kristi

At roughly 4 cups, this is a small batch size compared to many. I prefer it for our household of two since we don’t usually eat granola daily. It is not unusual for myself to enjoy it in 2 tablespoon servings on days I haven’t done much cardio. I can bake this size batch in our toaster oven when it is too hot to turn on the big oven which is another big plus for me. But the recipe is very easily doubled or even tripled for larger households.

Everyday Granola

yields approximate 4 cups depending upon clumping size

Laced with trace minerals from pumpkin seeds and the molasses in dark brown sugar, spiced with cinnamon which may help reduce blood sugar spikes, partially sweetened with fruit puree, and lightened up with puffed grains, this is a granola that can be enjoyed everyday with no guilt. It is also simple to modify to suit your family’s nutritional needs.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup puffed brown rice
  • 1/4 cup puffed millet
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2.5 oz prune baby food (2 ingredient, organic if available)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, raw, unsalted
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix rolled grain, puffed grains and wheat germ.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon and salt, being sure to break up any clumps of brown sugar. Add the fruit puree, honey, coconut oil, and vanilla extract and mix to combine.
  4. In another small bowl combine the nuts and seeds with roughly 2 tablespoons of the wet ingredients. Add remaining wet ingredients to the grain mixture and stir gently until evenly coated.
  5. Pat the coated grains out onto the lined baking sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, then stir. Bake an additional 8-10 minutes, then add the reserved coated seeds and nuts and stir to combine. Continue baking another 8-12 minutes. Remove from over, stir slightly to achieve desired clump size then let cool. It should crunch up as it cools, but if it still looks quite light in color one more round of 8-10 minutes of baking may be done.
  6. Once cool, transfer to an air tight container. To maintain freshness and crunchiness add any desired dried fruit when serving.

Nutrition Info (per 2 tablespoon serving): 46 cal; 2.1 g fat; 0.2 g sat fat; 6.1 g carb; 0.9 g fiber; 3.2 g sugar; 1.3 g protein.

Your nutritional value may differ depending upon yield which is greatly impacted by clump size. Also, any changes to ingredients will change the values as well.

Everyday Granola from Designedly, Kristi

What are you favorite flavors of granola? I could definitely see adding some large coconut flakes to this one. How about adding some peanut butter? I bet DH would like that!

In The Kitchen: Scandinavian Inspired Icebox Cookies

Filed under: In the Kitchen — Kristi at 11:51 am on Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Join Me For Fika of Rye Ice Box Cookies?

If you’ve read my blog for very long or followed me on various social media sites you have more than likely heard me mention fika many times. Thanks in part to a Gevalia commercial, that term is not as foreign to many here in the US as it was previously. While I don’t practice it religiously, I find it is a great way step away and reset if things aren’t going as I wish or my eyes have started to cross from staring at the computer screen too long.

Limpa Inspired Rye Ice Box Cookies (L) and Cardamom Orange Rye Ice Box Cookies (R)

It is traditional to have a bit of sweet with a coffee during these breaks. While generally Swedish baked goods are lower in sugar than American recipes, it still isn’t the most waistline friendly practice. So I wanted to come up with a little snack that went well with coffee and could satisfy my sweet tooth for 150 calories or less. These humble cookies are the result. But don’t let their looks fool you!

Rye Ice Box Cookie Dough

Many years ago I explored Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book and remembered enjoying the Swedish Peasant Cookies which were a super simple ice box cookie studded with slivered almonds. I had also been curious about a rye-based cookie. On my first attempt I simply swapped the AP flour for 1/3 spelt flour and 2/3 rye flour. The result was good. It reminded me a lot of digestive biscuits, both in texture and sweetness level. They went well with coffee, but didn’t really satisfy a sweet craving if I had one. DH thought they tasted a tad “floury.” It wasn’t quite right - though we had no trouble gobbling them up.

Rye Ice Box Cookie Dough Sliced - 1

I had thoughts from the get go of dressing up the cookies so I held off posting the recipe and a couple weeks later gave it another go using two different flavor combinations. I was indecisive. Plus, we have a small food processor so I could only do 1/2 batch at a time anyway. I made one inspired by Swedish Limpa bread, a dark rye with orange zest, caraway, fennel and anise seed. Then I went with the classic Swedish flavor combo of orange and cardamom.

Rye Ice Box Cookie Dough Sliced - 2

The results? Over the top awesome! I took a sample to knitting and I didn’t even get a whole cookie of both flavors. Almost everyone said they liked both flavors even though DH had anticipated a win for the orange cardamom. The cardamom version is the better choice if you are really jonesing for a sweet treat. I find both equally satisfying. Especially when enjoyed with a quality cup of coffee. The flavors are recognizable, yet pretty subtle overall. They just lend a certain roundness and depth to the flavor of the cookie that was lacking in my first version.

Rye Ice Box Cookie Dough in Food Processor

As far as cookie making goes, it doesn’t get much simpler. It is practically dump, run food processor, roll, chill, slice and bake. You do need to plan ahead a little as the dough really does require 3-4 hours in the fridge. I found mixing it up in the evening after supper and then baking them up the following evening worked well with my work schedule. Plus, the rolls of dough can be frozen for up to three months so you can slice and bake as needed!

How did they stack up nutritionally? Quite well in my opinion. One cookie is right around 50 calories. So you can snack on 2 or 3 without blowing your calorie budget. Plus, the whole grains and the sweetening from coconut sugar and molasses don’t cause drastic blood sugar spikes. Each cookie has nearly 1 g each of fiber and protein and only 2 g of sugar. Not bad for a 50 calorie treat if you ask me.

Two Types of Rye Ice Box Cookies for Fika

Rye Ice Box Cookies

Inspired by Beatrice Ojakangas’ Swedish Peasant Cookies from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
yields 72 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1-1/3 cups rye flour
  • 2/3 cups spelt flour
  • 3/4 cups coconut palm sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons desired spice(s)*
  • 2/3 cups unsalted butter (room temperature), cubed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1 tablespoon desired liquid*
  • 1 cup almonds, slivered

Directions

  1. Place all dry ingredients except almonds in the food processor and pulse a few times to mix them together and break down the coconut sugar slightly.
  2. Add butter and pulse a few more times until the dough resembles clumped sand.
  3. Add remaining liquid and almonds and process until a dough is formed.
  4. Place dough onto a lightly floured board and roll into two 8” logs. Wrap securely in waxed paper and chill for 3-4 hours or up to 4 days.
  5. Before baking, preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  6. Slice logs into 1/4” rounds and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 8-10 minutes. Let coo1 2 minutes on pan, then move to a cooling rack.

*For Limpa Version - Use 1/2 teaspoon each of anise seed, caraway and fennel, ground; the zest of 1 orange; and 1 tablespoon of orange juice.

* For the Orange Cardamom Version - Use 1-1/2 teaspoon of cardamom, ground; the zest of 1 orange; and 1 tablespoon of orange juice.

Nutrition Info (per cookie): 49 calories; 2.9 g fat; 1.3 g sat fat; 5.3 g carbs; 0.6 g fiber; 2.1 g sugar; 0.9 g protein.

You may notice that the orange cardamom cookies have smaller bits of almond than the limpa. You can adjust the almond size according to how long you run the food processor after adding the almonds. Smaller pieces tend to disappear in the cookie, but larger pieces make it harder to get clean slices, so find the balance you prefer.

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