When you fall in love with screw back earrings…

…time to pull out the pliers.

The school where I teach uses navy and orange for its colors, and the principal loves spirit days. Occasionally I’ll spot little treasures that function with both my personal aesthetic and are school colors, everyone wins.

So when I spotted these awesome geometric creamsicle bakelite earrings, I snapped them up…even though they’re screw back.

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I wore them a few times as-is, because I was too lazy to pull out my pliers, but tomorrow is “homecoming” and it’s going to be a long day of wrangling students. So I decided to pull out the pliers and swap the findings so I they’d be more comfortable.

I prefer round tip needle-nose pliers for working with jewelry, they seem much less likely to damage old metal.

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It’s really just a matter of opening the hoop on the earring, taking the original hook out and putting a new one in.

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Et voila!

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Lactofermented Ginger Beer

Last soda recipe!  Ginger beer.  Ginger is a traditional remedy for upset stomach, remember mom bringing you ginger ale when you were sick?  There isn’t a whole lot of ginger in the store brands, but something like this is sure to deliver the healing power of the root *and* it tastes awesome.

Another bonus this time of year is that it’s the right season for the classic Dark & Stormy cocktail…and to make a good Dark & Stormy, you need a Ginger Beer that can stand up to the spiced rum.  This one should do it *and it’s pretty good for you* – could balance out the alcohol?

Ginger Beer Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water (filtered preferred)
  • 4-6 inches of ginger root (grated)
  • 2 limes (you could use lemon, but lime is better) juiced
  • 1 cup ginger bug (recipe here!)
  • 1-2 cups sweetener of your choice (not honey – it’s anti-bacterial and you need the bacteria)

Do this:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot: add the water and ginger.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat, add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. My favorite part of all the recipes I found involved cooling the wort (the thing about to be soda) to blood temperature! Generally you want to cool it to somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees so as not to hurt your ginger bug. I found that I had to pop the pan into the fridge for about 15-20 minutes to get there – but spot check it, you definitely don’t want it cold. I also found that none of my kitchen thermometers got cool enough and I had to use my under-the-tongue medical thermometer. When your ginger beer has cooled, squeeze in the lime juice and stir.
  6. Strain it to remove the plant material (ginger gratings and lime pulp). To get it all out, your might need a jelly bag. Mine still has a small amount of plant material which will generally settle out.
  7. Strain off a cup of your ginger bug liquid and add to the ginger beer.
  8. Pour your soda into bottles (again, I’m a fan of swing tops like these). Allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 3-5 days.
  9. After 3-5 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising!), you will have ginger beer unlike one you’ve ever tasted.

For a solid Dark & Stormy, you’ll need 3 ounces of this (a little less than a half a cup), 2 ounces of dark rum (1/4 cup) (Gosling’s is the traditional brand), and a squeeze of lime juice.  Place ice & all ingredients in a bar glass, stir, and garnish with a lime.  That should chase any early-Fall chill away. 🙂

 

 

Natural Lactofermented Root Beer

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Although I was raised predominantly by my mother, I’m a lot like my father – and that extends down to my tastebuds.  I had lunch with my father at his regular workday lunch spot recently and the waitress laughed when I ordered root beer.  My dad followed suit.  We both love it.

My quest for lactofermented soda actually started with a quest for root beer, but it’s a little more complicated than the apple/ginger guy I posted about yesterday, so I wanted to tackle it second.

I like to make it in small batches because I’m still tweaking the recipe, but this is the current incarnation:

Root Beer Ingredients:

  • 8 cups water (filtered preferred)
  • 3 tablespoons sassafras root bark (NOT POWDERED)
  • 3 tablespoons sarsaparilla root  (see above)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of wintergreen leaves (chopped)
  • cinnamon stick
  • about 2 inches of ginger root (grated)
  • 4 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup ginger bug (recipe here!)
  • 1-2 cups sweetener of your choice

Do this:

  1. In a heavy bottomed pot: add the water, herbs, and extract.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and simmer covered for 20 minutes.
  3. Turn off heat, add sweetener and stir to dissolve completely.
  4. Leave the pot covered for 30 minutes.
  5. My favorite part of all the recipes I found involved cooling the root beer to blood temperature!  Generally you want to cool it to somewhere between 80 and 90 degrees so as not to hurt your ginger bug. I found that I had to pop the pan into the fridge for about 20 minutes to get there.  I also found that none of my kitchen thermometers got cool enough and I had to use my under-the-tongue medical thermometer.  When your Root Beer has cooled, strain it to remove the herbs.  To get it all out, your might need a jelly bag.  Mine still has a small amount of plant material which will generally settle out.
  6. Strain off a cup of your ginger bug liquid and add to the root beer.
  7. Pour your soda into bottles (again, I’m a fan of swing tops like these). Allow it to sit in a warm or room temperature spot in your home for 3-5 days.
  8. After 3-5 days of fermentation (watch for bubbles rising!), you will have root beer unlike one you’ve ever tasted.  Sweet, herbal, and actually pretty good for you.  Toss in a scoop of ice cream and enjoy!IMG_6644

Floating sticks!

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Beware when opening!  There will be foam!

Additional notes:

Generally speaking most, if not all, of the weirder things (sassafras, sarsparilla, wintergreen, cinnamon sticks, swing-top bottles) can be found at the home brew store.  Mine didn’t have sassafras and I’m really into wildcrafting/foraging…soooooo I went for a hike and went looking for sassafras trees.  The only ones I ended up finding were in a stand that had been planted about two years ago.  I picked up some downed branches and yanked up a couple of seedlings that had sprung up too close to the main trees (as joggers stared at me, ha!) and brought them home.  My first batch of root beer had chopped twigs (no leaves) and what little bits of root I could find grated into it.  It wasn’t as strongly flavored as subsequent batches that were made after the root I ordered arrived….but I rooted one of the saplings (hopefully it survives) and in a few years I’ll have as much root as I can dig – and no joggers staring at me.

 

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 Not quite blood temperature!

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Sassafras tree.  In the Spring, I’ll find a good spot for her.

 

 

Apple/Ginger Soda – an easy one!

I got this recipe from here and didn’t do much to it.

Apple Ginger Soda Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup ginger bug from yesterday’s ginger bug recipe
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon freshly juiced ginger (or crushed)
  • 3 1/2 cups freshly juiced apple (or unpasturized apple cider/juice)
  • half a stick of cinnamon per bottle

I like to make sure that the juice is room temperature before adding the bug, I don’t want to shock the poor baby!  Mix all ingredients except cinnamon stick and bottle (I prefer the swingtop (grolsch) style bottles, but the author of the original post recommends against them- YMMV on this point).  Drop half a cinnamon stick in each bottle and seal up.  When opening anything fizzy, point it away from your face.  This should be ready to drink in about 3 days (you should hear the gas escaping on opening if it’s ready)….although Sally says you should let it sit for two weeks before opening!  Anything that’s not drunk in two weeks should definitely be stored in the fridge…and I like to cool my soda before drinking it anyway.

Ferment and enjoy!  Let me know how it went!

Probiotic Lactofermented Homemade Soda – Start with Ginger Bug!

Oh man, fermentation.  It’s so fun.  It feels like a science project, fizzes on the tongue, and is actually good for you.  It also has recipes that call for cooling things to “blood temperature” in case you needed to feel more badass than you already do.

This week, I made myself a ginger bug.  Which, once you get used to remembering to feed it, (at least every other day, but better daily) feels like you have a little pet on your counter!  You can even put it to sleep by sticking it in the fridge.  Goodnight, ginger bug!

I love me some Sally Fallon / Nourishing Traditions, and she has a recipe for ginger bug in her beverage chapter (slipped into the ginger beer recipe) as well as some other weird stuff like Sweet Potato Soda and Oat Water.

The general idea of ginger bug is to take a quart sized mason jar and add 3 teaspoons of sugar (white is fine, you won’t be eating this– the BUG will!) and 3 teaspoons of chopped or grated ginger (with skin) to 3 cups of water.  Your bug needs to live in a warmish place (I like the top of the fridge for this – but put it somewhere you won’t forget about it.).  At least every other day add 2 tsp of sugar and 2 more tsp of grated ginger.  You should see bubbles forming within 3 days, which will increase the longer you feed your little bugger.  It’s ready to use as soon as it becomes active, but most sources recommend waiting at least a week.  If you don’t see bubbles (or hear gas escaping when you open it) after 7 days, chuck it out and start again.

If you have grown a ginger bug, but have run out of uses for it – stick it in the fridge.  When you’re ready to use it again, sit it on the counter for three days to reactivate (and feed it while it’s out!)

If you’re out of bug liquid and want to restart it – compost half of the sediment in the bottom, refill the water, and start with the feeding plan again!

I’m making three batches of lacto-fermented sodas to share with you- root beer (my favorite), ginger beer (might want to go out and get some dark rum immediately), and sparkling apple cider.  I’ll be posting the recipes to these every day for the next three.  By the time your bug is ready to use, you’ll have a few recipes at hand to try out!

Enjoy bugging out!

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Soda waiting to be ready and a new round of ginger bug growing stronger by the day!

Citrus/Vinegar Cleaner for Whiteboards

I like to use as few chemicals as possible in cleaning, but my school gave me whiteboard cleaner and so I’ve been using it. I think it’s about the same as windex, from the smell of it….and I definitely don’t like the smell.

Last week, my document camera (the overhead projector of the new millennium) stopped working between 2nd and 3rd periods while I was modeling writing in paragraphs/proofreading to my kids.

I went to the whiteboard and realized that all of my dry erase markers were too thick for the job of writing a bunch all at once, and too temporary to stand up to proofreading. So I grabbed a wet erase marker and went to town.

Afterward, I tried to clean the board and this happened:

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Big smeary mess! That’s actually after two attempts with the expo cleaner.

So today, I decided to put citrus/vinegar cleaner head to head with the expo.

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Grudge match!

The winner?

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Polenta Pie! Another gluten-free kitchen experiment.

I make a lot of other peoples’ gluten free recipes, but every now and then I take something into my head and it won’t leave until I make it.

I’m not the hugest fan of polenta, like cream of wheat, the texture bugs me out a little bit…and even fried it’s just never done anything for me. But this week, I had a polenta epiphany!!

I was out checking on the garden, and noticed that my basil plant was starting to go a little crazy. Crazy basil= pesto.

I had a bunch of pasta last week, so I decided to try something different….and polenta came to mind. Without even googling to see what anyone else had done, I set to work on my polenta pie.

The first step is making the pesto. I used this pesto recipe without the pine nuts (I just didn’t have any, and it’s fine without). My only change was an extra clove of garlic and a splash of milk because I like my pesto creamy.

Once the pesto was done, I browned a diced chicken breast in garlic and oil.

I covered that pan to keep the heat in, set the oven to 350, and put water to boil for the polenta.

I made a single portion of polenta to package instructions, and as soon as it had thickened, scooped it into a pie plate I had waiting.

Using a rubber spatula, I smoothed it into a layer about an inch thick, then I “iced” the polenta cake with a generous pesto layer. After that, I sprinkled on the chicken, placed two fistfuls of baby spinach on top of that, layered on some slices of fresh mozzarella, sprinkled on my diced Roma tomato and then spritzed the whole creation with balsamic vinegar.

When I was done, it looked like this:

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Then I popped it into the oven for just long enough to melt the cheese, which took about 12 minutes. Just long enough to clean up the kitchen!

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This little guy should serve 4! 🙂