Celebrating the Bride-To-Be

Sooner or later you will find yourself hosting a bridal shower.  For some, this is nerve-racking and others it is right up their alley.  Celebrating the bride-to-be is a time-honored tradition and held in high esteem.  The key to a successful shower is to plan and host within your budget and abilities.  You do not need to be a “Martha Stewart”, just be you.  And YOU can find lots of help if you just ask and seek.

Photo Credit jill 111

Here comes the bride

I have had the pleasure of helping plan, serve at, and to host a few bridal showers.  I personally love to plan, organize and execute.  However I recognize for some this is not “their jam”, so I just want to assure you there is loads of help out there.  You can either choose to take on this honor and plan it yourself, phone a friend and explain your desperation, or you can hire a local event planner.  For the purpose of this article, you are going to grab the bull by the horns, so… “Let’s Do This!” Continue reading

Water Kefir a Culture of Good, Part 2

Here we are!  Part 2 of water kefir and I can’t wait to share the rest of the fun information.  We left off with me closing out the water kefir article with a history of water kefir, as well as the benefits of drinking water kefir.  Today we will finish up with water kefir production education.   I will direct you as to where to purchase water kefir grains.  You will receive my phone number to call me day or night with burning water kefir questions- umm… NO!  Ha, that was just a little test to see if you’re on reading autopilot.  Good thing you caught that.  I knew my readers are sharp people.  But seriously, I will tell you where you can get the swing bottles and materials for brewing and storing your water kefir.  As well as tips and tricks.

water kefir

Amazon Is Your Friend

Here is a list of items you will need:

  1. Water kefir grains
  2. HIC, Nylon mesh strainer 4 inch
  3. Swing top glass bottles 16oz 
  4. 17-inch long bottle brush
  5. Organic Sugar or Brown Sugar (I have used either, good results for both)
  6. Water filtering pitcher (at Amazon) Pur or Zero water (or Walmart)
  7.  Gallon size jars, 2- I use old olive jars (I really like olives)
  8. Wooden or plastic stirring spoon (NEVER USE METAL! It will kill the kefir grains)
  9.  Paper towel and  large rubber band
  10.  4 cup glass measuring bowl
  11.  Funnel

Being computer savvy will aid you in your water kefir pursuits.  Let’s start with going to Amazon.com.  If you don’t have an account, you will need to set one up- phone a friend if this is beyond you.  Once you have set up your account you can look up water kefir grains in the Amazon search bar, but you are specifically looking for 1/4 cup Live Organic Water Kefir Grains (Tibicos) Natural probiotics by Florida Sun Kefir.

Homemade Water Kefir

Go ahead and add one to your cart.  You will receive 1/4 cup of water kefir grains, a 4×6 brewing bag (this is for flavoring your water with cut-up fresh or dried fruit), a business card from Florida Sun Kefir and a handy directions card. (NOTE: these water kefir grains are sensitive to cold, they are lovers of warmth.  Unless your regional temperature is above 25 F, I would wait to order them, especially if you have an outdoor mailbox).  Florida Sun Kefir has 4.6 stars out of 5.  They are very prompt with sending out the order and always answer my questions about water kefir.  They also will provide you with a website you can go to, to download a water kefir tutorial pdf.

Next item on your list to get is the swing top glass bottles 16oz., these are for the carbonating and storage of the water kefir.  Then you will need a 4-inch nylon mesh strainer, this aids in the straining of your kefir grains from the kefir water brew.  A 17-inch bottle brush if you do not have one.  The rest of the items, brown sugar, plastic/wood stirring spoon, brown sugar or organic, gallon size jars,  paper towel, and rubber band, should all be common items in your home.

Water Kefir 101

You just got a notification that your water kefir grains have arrived!  Your heart is pounding as you rush to the mailbox.  Grabbing the package like an NFL quarterback grabbing a football, you tuck and run making it in record time to your kitchen.  Everything is set up and ready to go in the kitchen.  Carefully you open the package and remove the little container of water kefir grains.  Aww… those little grains are so cute and they smell yeasty (that’s good!).  They look like little globs of jelly, all bouncy and looking happy.

You begin by warming 4 cups of filtered or spring water.

  • IMPORTANT: Not using spring water or filtered water will aid in draining them of important nutrients.  Adding the organic sugar or brown sugar to the warm water you stir the water with a plastic or wooden spoon to help dissolve the sugar.
  •  IMPORTANT:  The sugar MUST BE DISSOLVED completely.  If not, the whole sugar grain will actually make the kefir grains sick and eventually die. NEVER NEVER use a metal spoon to stir your water and sugar

With the sugar dissolved and water at room temperature, you pour it into the gallon size glass container.  Following that, take the water kefir grains and gently drop them into the glass jar with brown sugar water.  The grains will peacefully settle to the bottom.  Take a paper towel and place it over the mouth of the jar and secure it with a rubber band. This will prevent dust and debris from falling into your water kefir brew as it ferments.  Next, place the jar in a warm room (70-85 F, 76 F is the sweet spot) out of direct sunlight.

  •  IMPORTANT:  Direct sunlight will KILL your kefir grains.

Sweet or Tart

With your jar of water kefir grains fermenting in the sugar water, you must decide if you want sweet kefir or tart kefir.  For sweet water kefir, you will ferment just one day.  For more tart (acidic) water kefir you will ferment for two days.  Before I continue on, let’s tackle the issue of alcohol percentage in water kefir.  According to an article, I read online from The  Water Kefir People,

“water kefir is classified as a non-alcoholic beverage” and “federal law classifies non-alcoholic beverage as having less than .5% ABV”.  

Obviously the longer you leave it to ferment, the more alcohol it will begin to contain.  Most people don’t ferment beyond two days.  I like my water kefir a bit more acidic, so I let it ferment two days.

Now that the water kefir has fermented, strain the grains and kefir water through the nylon strainer into a gallon size glass jar.

  • IMPORTANT:  NEVER use a metal strainer.  The metal will kill your kefir grains.

Set aside the nylon strainer with the water kefir grains and take the gallon jar with the water kefir brew and pour it into the swing top 16 oz glass bottle using a funnel. Fill the swing top bottle up to the shoulder (once 4 cup recipe will yield 2-16 oz swing bottles) and then take your fruit juice of choice (I like Welch’s Grape Juice) and fill it up to the neck, leaving “headroom” just like you would in canning.

Oh So Good

Place the two swing bottles on the cupboard counter for the carbonating or “second fermentation”  for 12 to 24 hours.  After which you will place them in the refrigerator to chill and then you may drink!  AH!  Tastes so good and good for you!

  • IMPORTANT:  BE VERY CAREFUL when opening the swing top bottles.  The carbonating can put lots of pressure in the bottle so take your bottle over the sink and slowly release the pressure by “burping” your bottle.  We have had many “eruptions” from super carbonated kefir brews.  Which require mopping the floor and wiping down the cupboards.

As you continue to build your confidence in water kefir brewing you can experiment with a variety of juices, adding fresh or dried fruit to the first fermentation, as well as different methods of brewing with just plain canning jars with plastic lids, or any glass jar that can be sealed without a metal lid.  It’s fun to have hobbies that are inexpensive, fun and beneficial to your health.

Let’s Wrap This Up

On occasion, you will notice that your water kefir brew isn’t very carbonated, or the taste is lackluster.  Should that be the case, you will need to give your water kefir grains a rest and feed them.  This is easily done by hard boiling two eggs.  Remove the eggs from the shell, and take the shells and place them in a gallon glass jar with water kefir grains and the sugar water.  This is the same sugar water you would make to start your brew.  Let them feed in a warm, shady place for a day or two.  Then strain the grains from the water and pick out the eggshells.  Then proceed as normal and resume your usual brewing routine.

If you have to go out of town be sure to feed your water kefir grains.  Make up the normal sugar water for brewing and add that to a glass jar with your kefir grains into the refrigerator.  Then upon your return revive them with the feeding of eggshells and resume your normal brewing routine.  Please note that as you brew with your grains they will grow.  So keep in mind that you may no longer have a 1/4 cup of kefir grains- this will affect your recipe.  If your grains grow you’ll need to separate them and share the love of water kefir with your friends.  Just like the Amish Friendship Bread starter!

Lastly, sometimes your kefir grains just “die out” so from time to time you’ll need to reorder a new batch of grains.  That’s it my friends!  As always, here is to good food, good friends and a good life.

Michele

Water Kefir A Culture Of Good

if you don’t know where to start, go back to the beginning

While on vacation in Grapevine, Texas, our friends the Vande Zande’s introduced us to water kefir.  At first, we were a bit hesitant.  So I put the Vande Zande’s through a question decathlon.  By the time I ran out of questions to ask, Char had given us each a shot of the kefir water in a small glass.  Staring at the water kefir while I rotated the glass around, I inquired as to what flavor we were drinking and she said she made white grape and mango.  We were given white grape.  So taking one last look at Brad (he knows my ingestion of fermented products has very small margins), I lifted my glass and drank it down.

At first, the fizziness took me by surprise.  The bubbles danced on my tongue and the flavor of white grape really came through.  Delicious!  It was nice and cool and that felt wonderful after an 88-degree day walking around Waco, Texas.  It did not have the “alcohol” aftertaste that I thought would occur.  In fact, there really wasn’t an alcohol taste.  The fermentation duration was short, therefore it had not yet reached a stage of possessing intoxicating elements.  Lastly, I was waiting to see if my stomach would concur and moments later… happy stomach!   As you grow more mature, one becomes a bit hesitant in trying new stuff that might upset the delicate balance of your intestinal life. As all good hostesses, she awaited my analysis.

“Well, what do you think?” said Char.

Both Brad and I gave the “thumbs up”.  For the rest of our stay there, we had water kefir with every meal.  It gave me a wonderful option to kick soda to the curb. So I set my mind to order some water kefir grains, poly mesh strainer and the “flipper” glass bottles for storing the water kefir in the instant I got home.

On your mark, get ready

First I would like to start you out with a brief history of water kefir.  Then we will talk about what it is made up of, what benefits there are in drinking water kefir and lastly how to start “brewing” your own water kefir.

You may be wondering how to pronounce kefir.  I have had found three pronunciations.  The first would be to say “keh-fear“, the second would be to say “key-fur” and lastly “keh-fur”.  There was even a poll out on the web on how to say kefir.  I consulted the Cambridge Dictionary (a go-to for those wanting more sophisticated phonics) and found that pronouncing it “keh-fear” seemed to hold weight in both British English and American English. Just delivering this phonetic quandary to you has frazzled me. So I will leave it to you and your regional dialect to decide how you shall pronounce it and what syllabic emphasis it should receive. Let’s move on to more fun and interesting things about water kefir.

get set and go!

Water kefir is a century old drink, whose origins are speculative and lacking documentation.  According to a youtube video by St. Michael’s Kefir, there are four possible areas where water kefir got its start.  These areas are Mexico, Caucasus ( the Caucasus is a mountain system in West  Asia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.) Tibet, and Japan.

Kefir requires sugar for its growth and production of the brew, so any centuries-old culture making water kefir needed to be near the tropics.   It was thought that after the conquest of Mexico the Spanish brought it back to Europe through the transatlantic trade.  In addition, European soldiers returning home from the Crimean war of 1850,  brought with them a drink similar to water kefir.   Regardless, water kefir has spread worldwide,  “splashing” onto the scene in the U.S. in 1853 by a Kentucky local. [Source: St. Michael’s Kefir, youtube]

animal, vegetable, or mineral?

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

As you can see by my picture above, the kefir grains look like little jelly globs.  They are bouncy and slippery.  Once they hit the counter or have pressure applied to them, they easily split apart.  Kefir grains are just a happy group of bacteria and yeast living together.  Kefir goes by several other names like California Bees, Sea Rice, Water Crystals, Ginger Beer, and Tibicos.

Why would you want to drink kefir water?

Great question!  Water kefir is an excellent alternative to soda.  It provides you with gut loving probiotics, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals.  Aiding you in digestion and keeping your intestinal life moving right along.

There are several things I like about kefir water.  First I like its fizzy pop feel.  I like the fact that it is a great probiotic to add to my diet and it is a great alternative to sugary and diet soda.  I have drunk kefir water right along with sandwiches, salads, meat and potatoes supper, as well as breakfast. My favorite flavor of kefir water is grape with apple coming in second.

I look forward to seeing you back here in two weeks.  We will go over where to get your kefir grains, the recipe for water kefir production, maintaining health grains, as well as helpful tips and tricks.

Michele

 

Have you tried water Kefir? What is your favorite flavor?

 

 

 

 

Kitchen Catastrophe Number Two

THAT DARN CAT!

That darn cat!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  If you read my articles faithfully, you would have read about my  “Kitchen Catastrophe” with brownies.  Well, as luck would have it, the cats have struck again.  This time they upped the game.  But before I can tell you the rest of the story, I have to take you on a short “rabbit trail” of storytelling sorts.

This is how it all began

I signed up late last year to take an online baking class( more on this later).  As part of the class, our instructor Tessa Arias from Handle the Heat has been sharing with her students baking products that she recommends.   One of her recommendations was to get a Cuisinart 1 1/2 quart ice cream maker.  I really like ice cream, so I jotted it down on my list of products to watch for on sale.

Continue reading

fruitcake

The Fruitcake

Fruitcake

I love fruitcake! But I am betting you don’t.  Well, today is the day dear reader.  I am going to change your mind about fruitcake.  Before you exit out of this blog article, just give me a chance to win you over.

 

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

We all have our stories to share about the dreaded fruitcake.  You know the kind, it comes in a decorative tin or wrapped neatly in some holiday plastic wrap.  The cover of the tin has some idyllic Christmas scene of a horse and sleigh with happy riders decked out in winter garb.  They are probably “happy” because they threw their fruitcake out of the sleigh two miles back or like Hansel and Gretel, chiseled pieces out and threw them out along their route to make their return easier.  Perhaps they used it to defend themselves from would-be sleigh robbers.  One good hit to the head and your down for the count! Continue reading

Christmas Memories

the most wonderful time of the year

Photo Credit Free-Photos

Christmas memories are probably some of the most vivid memories I have.  There is something about being a kid that just engages all the senses and ingrains them deep in your mind and soul. My favorite memories all have to do with the “community” of Christmas.  Most everyone was into the “spirit” of the Christmas season.

At school, you practiced your part, memorized all the great Christmas hymns and some secular songs.  You ate lots of goodies that represented Christmas.  Pictures were drawn about Christmas, crafts made about Christmas.  Your Christmas program clothes and your Christmas pajamas.  Kids talked on the bus about what they thought they were getting for Christmas.  Some even went so far as to sneak peeks at moms Christmas present stash.

At church, you practiced Saturday afternoons for the big Christmas program that invariably someone either threw up or made the Christmas program director want to pull out her hair out. Christmas Eve comes and sleep doesn’t.  So many thoughts about what is under the tree?! And what fun you will have with cousins and family. And finally, you drift off to sleep and you wake up and… IT’S CHRISTMAS!

santa Claus is coming to town

You bolt from the bed and grab family as you go because no one can open any presents till everyone is there!  At last, everyone arrives in the living room only for mom to announce breakfast must be eaten first.  Good grief mom! What she doesn’t know is we polished off all the Christmas cookies last night before bed, there is no way any of us are hungry!  But rules are rules, so you go to your place at the table and you inhale your bowl of cereal.  All the while giving the “hurry up” eye to the rest of your clan.

Dad finally closes the feeding frenzy in prayer and it becomes an “every man for himself” as we leave the table.   Mom yells that all teeth must be brushed.  So, like a heard of wild buffalo we head into the bathroom.   A friendly boxing match begins for control of the toothpaste tube. Toothbrushes barely touching three teeth are thrown back into the drawer.  No one would be getting a star on their chart today for flossing, no sir!

I want a hippopotamus for Christmas

At last!  We are all assembled.  A scene from Norman Rockwell to be sure.  Eyes are wide with anticipation.  This is a pinnacle moment.  Hours have been spent pouring over the JC Penney’s catalog, the Sear’s catalog since September. Notes left, highlights made followed with arrows and circles so that Santa would not be mistaken.

Then, it is your turn to receive your gift.  Your heart is beating, hands are clapping in excitement.  You are ready to wildly rip off the wrapping paper and your mom stops you and tells you that it is polite to read the card first. You sigh.  The card envelope is opened, the card carefully is withdrawn and read. There, now the gift can be opened.  Paper flys and tada!  Yes! YES!  A Holly Hobbie General Store by Colorform.  I was in love. This is still the best gift I ever got as a kid.  I still wish I still had it! Check this out for some nostalgia:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGaF2YfpSUI

It really didn’t matter what anyone else got, you just were happy with your gift!  Mom and dad sit on the couch taking in the sight of happy children at peace. Well… for the moment anyway.

God rest ye merry gentlemen

We always spent Christmas Day with the Syens family.  Grandpa Syens always held court in the living room with sounds of the football game.  The ladies gathered in the dining room, and like prison guards, they patrolled this area making sure the kids and the guys kept the fingers out of the food in the kitchen until it was officially time to eat.

Like rats, we kids would slowly make our way into the kitchen and steal nibbles. Sometimes we would receive requests from the guys in the living room.  Carefully we would sneak into the kitchen and make a plate of requests.  If we were lucky we could make it through the dining room undetected.

Once the meal was eaten we would gather to open our presents and then run off and play.  The ladies would begin the assembly line of cleaning up the table, dishes, and distribution of the leftovers.  The men would continue to watch the game or fall into a food coma.

do you hear what I hear?

Photo Credit Jill 111

I like to think that I have matured in my celebration of Christmas.  For me, it has become a time of reflecting on the past year.  Taking an inventory of where I am at- as compared to where I was.  Allowing myself and others room to make mistakes, as well as grace and mercy to make it right.  To remember we only have this moment, so love deeply and forgive generously.  Holding all my expectations, hopes and dreams loosely.  Love people where they are at, not where I want them to be.  Celebrating life’s beautiful things and the wisdom to view everything else in light of eternity.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!  May the joy of His season fill you and carry you throughout the next year.

Michele

 

 

 

 

Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile

The Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile!  Have you ever seen it driving its way around America? Well, I have not only seen the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile, BUT I HAVE RIDDEN IN THE OSCAR MAYER WIENER MOBILE.  WHAT!?  Yes, you read that right.  I did ride in the Wiener Mobile and it was my good friend Kristen Christian’s wedding party wheels.  Try to contain your jealousy, green is very unbecoming on you.

Photo Credit Michele Bruxvoort

This is how we roll

Imagine if you would… a wedding party of 10, rolling out of the church parking lot in the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile.  Complimentary Wiener Whistles were handed out by the Wiener Mobile drivers as we boarded.  Huh?  Wait a second.  Wiener Whistles?  No complimentary Oscar Mayer wieners on a bun!?  Graciously I took a whistle and joined the chorus, all the while wishing I had a deliciously grilled Oscar Mayer wiener.  Maybe kazoos would have been a better choice? Continue reading

The Cold Roast Beef Sandwich

The cold roast beef sandwich might be popular with some, but not with this girl.  This sandwich often made its way into my “Welcome Back Kotter” metal lunch pail.  My dear mother was a good steward of every bit of food in the refrigerator.  Spying last nights roast beef, she lovingly made me a sandwich and put it in my lunch pail.  This sandwich started out cold, but then slowly from 7:30 am on, made it’s way up to room temperature. And room temperature roast beef is just gross.  What child in their right mind wants to eat room temperature roast beef?  I sure didn’t! Continue reading

Appreciation of Cheese

I appreciate cheese.  Glorious Cheese!  I can’t imagine my day without it.  In fact, being from Wisconsin and loving cheese go hand in hand.  When you have your baby in a Wisconsin hospital, the pacifier the baby receives in the hospital nursery is made of cheese. Okay… just kidding there.  I wanted to see if you are paying attention to what I am writing.  But seriously, cheese is a big deal. Continue reading

of cats and brownies

Kitchen Cat-astrophes

Kitchen catastrophes.  We’ve all had them.  Some of us keep them as secret as an FBI file and others of us publish them.  So today reader, you are witness to my confession.  I stand in my pantry and solemnly swear upon my 1963, twelfth printing of the “Good Housekeeping Cookbook”, to tell you the truth, and nothing but the whole truth, so help my KitchenAid standing mixer. Continue reading