20 December 2010

EASY: Making Sauerkraut the Crabby Way.

Before I start on the kraut, remember my post about the big tin of broad beans?  We bought 8 more tins!!!!!  (Also, the giant 2600g tin of broad beans cost £1.29, not 99p like I mistakenly said before.  But still a fabulous bargain!)  Lots of delicious Ful Medames in the future!

Okay, kraut time.  My first batch, the kind I made in the same way I make kimchi, turned out splendidly (my toddler practically wresteled me for it whenever I dished some up and it's all gone now!), but I thought I'd try an easier way.

Kraut and Kimchi:  Good Friends

I've read you can make sauerkraut just by shredding cabbage, coating it in salt, and packing it into a jar.  In my experience, the cabbage doesn't make enough of it's own brine, so I top it up after letting it sit overnight.  And that's it.

Here it is in a little more detail:

  • Finely shred cabbage and its stem and coat in non-iodised salt.  (I trim the bottom of the stem and take off any gnarly-looking bits first.)  
  • Pack everything into a jar (toss in some caraway seeds or juniper berries or fresh dill if you are feeling fiesty), leaving about a half-inch gap at the top and let it sit (salt-wilt) overnight.  
  • Top up the jar with brine (1 tbsp of non-iodised salt per cup of water) the next morning, leaving about a half-inch gap at the top. (You will notice some water has leached out of the cabbage.  If you taste the water, you will notice it is nice and salty.  (You don't actually have to taste it, you can just take my word for it.))
  • Let it ferment in your refrigerator (or your kitchen if your kitchen is just as cold as your refrigerator -- mine is at the moment!!)

Pink Sauerkraut!

Recently, I've made 3 jars of sauerkraut with purple cabbage.  One of the jars has already started to ferment and it is delicious (as well as being very pretty). I added caraway seeds and a few juniper berries to the 2 other jars, which haven't fermented as much yet (this has nothing to do with the spices, I made them a few days after I made the first jar).  I'll let you know how they turn out!!

Next time, I'm going to try adding shredded carrot to my kraut.  I heard it ferments easily and tastes nice with the cabbage, so I'll let you know about that, too.

ETA:  The Scarecrow brought home some fresh dill yesterday.  I think I'll start another a batch with that and the half-cabbage I have hanging out on the cutting board.  :D

10 December 2010

(Don't look now, but I think the dinner is watching us.)

Don't look now, but I think the dinner is watching us.

Polenta-stuffed butternut squash with marinara sauce.  And it's gluten-free! 

The scarecrow scarfed it down in about a minute.  I'm not exaggerating. 

08 December 2010

Bad Casserole

We didn't go grocery shopping last week and by yesterday, we were out of nearly everything.  Saturday, I'd made an entire bag of red kidney beans (we like beans -- I should do a post of everything you can do with a giant batch of beans), but all that was left by Tuesday was bean and tomato broth with a few scraps of bean, corn, and tomato.  I roasted a butternut squash (and let Baby!Crafter feed himself some -- he loved it!) and a few cloves of garlic.  I blended everything up and threw it in a casserole dish with some salt, chopped celery, brown rice, buckwheat, marjoram, sage, and olive oil.  I baked it.

Bad casserole.

I'm not going to lie, this was a bad casserole.  Mediocre, at best.  But bad casseroles can be saved.  I made béchamel sauce (unsweetened soy milk + equal parts flour and margarine scroll down for the recipe and some variations) with parsley.  The béchamel sauce turned out really well and when I drowned the casserole in it, the casserole wasn't too bad.  Toddler!Crafter really liked it -- he is not a picky eater by any means, but I don't think he would have gone for the bad casserole without the béchamel -- and was running all around saying "béchamel" over and over.  My husband said the casserole was "not bad" (believe me, he would have said it was bad if he thought it was).

This morning, there was a little leftover casserole and no béchamel, so I put some marinara sauce on it.  The casserole was actually pretty good that way!  

The moral of the story is rather than serving something that tastes like cardboard box (or worse), jazz it up with some sauce!

On the upside, my Fiesta Casserole (inspired by the latest episode of Nigella Kitchen) was a big hit!

Fiesta Casserole

02 December 2010

Homemade Sauerkraut Update

Remember how at the end of this post, I mentioned I made sauerkraut?  I tried some today and it is fermenting quite nicely.  It has taken so much longer to ferment than kimchi (because of the kind of cabbage used), but now it really smells like sauerkraut.  It tastes very mild -- I think it needs to ferment a lot more (and I think I will use more salt in the brine next time -- only I would think sauerkraut isn't salty enough!), but it is really nice. 

Sauerkraut Sammich!

I made a fried sauerkraut sandwich -- onions, paprika, and sauerkraut fried in oil or marg; best served on rye.  It was really good, although I was a little heavy-handed with the oil.  I am used to cooking for 3 and not just for myself!  ;p

Baby #2's Long & Overdue Birth Story (Slightly Vulgar!)

With BabyCrafter nearly 7 months old and starting to show an interest in solids, I thought I'd better post his belated birth story!  (Baby #1's birth story is here.)

Big Momma & Baby Crafter right after the birth!!
4 May (Excerpt from an email I sent a friend that morning.):

So, I might be in very early labour. I've had a few really wimpy and not that painful contractions and I pooped (that is a serious sign -- I'm not kidding). So, of course, ToddlerCrafter wakes up in the other room and Scarecrow, who was up late, comes into the bedroom so I can take care of ToddlerCrafter and he can go back to sleep. He gives me a funny look because I'm playing Klondike solitare on my iPod (his family call it Patience, which is hilarious to me for some reason, so I make a point of calling it Klondike, but it's that standard solitaire like the one that comes with Windows).

So I am all, "Scarecrow, honey, I think I'm in very early labour." And he is all, "okay, try not to get me up before 11:30."
"But I'd be so much more comfortable in here on the air mattress in the sleeping bag."
"You can bring the sleeping bag into the living room."
"I thought that since this was the morning and not the middle of the night like last time, you wouldn't have to take a nap. We could hang out together in the living room or you could take care of ToddlerCrafter and I could lie here in bed where I'm comfortable and warm."
"Well, you could get me up in an hour instead of two hours, but you don't sound that convinced right now."
*sigh* "Fine. Just remember the last time I went into labour, you took a big long nap after showering and there was no hot water and I had to use the kettle just to have a lame tepid bath."
"Okay, but try to let me sleep in until 11:30 if you can."
"Fine. I'll get out of the sleeping bag after this contraction."

If this is labour -- and it might just go away or be a false alarm -- then I'm lucky because it's coming on slowly and it's not the middle of the damn night like the last time. And I'm hungry, so I think I'm going to make hash browns because if I am in labour and it starts really coming on, I won't be able to (or want to) eat and then as soon as I pop, I'll be ravenous. I can't even begin to describe the carnal hunger of post-labour. So, breakfast.

Scarecrow came in the room at about 10:30 asking if I still thought I was in labour. Yeah, but I told him he could go back to bed. "You can wake me up anytime, I might not be sleeping," he said.

Here I am in labour timing contractions and just hanging out watching tv and -- hang on -- contraction -- okay -- feeding ToddlerCrafter a banana and checking my email. I even washed my hair. I need to wash my armpits (I noticed that while washing my hair) next and actually use deodorant, now that I've located mine again.

The really good news for me? The baby is facing the right way (my back). I can feel both his feet through my stomach. Brilliant -- that means no back labour. All that lying on my left side and sitting with my pelvis tilted forward has paid off. Or maybe he was going to turn the right way anyway.

There is so much I've forgotten. I remember nursing ToddlerCrafter (nursing through a contraction is something else, let me tell you). Washing my hair between contractions. Telling Scarecrow I'd phone the birthing centre after I finished watching this episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It all happened so fast once the ambulance arrived. I went by myself because ToddlerCrafter wasn't allowed in the room during labour and I don't do babysitters (no offense to those who do). My contractions were about 4 minutes apart and under a minute in length, but I am a 40 minute ambulance drive away from the birthing centre.

Why an ambulance? Well, I don't have a car. I could phone a taxi, but midwives and nurses have both told me not to do that out here in the country. Even the ambulance guys said not to do that. The midwives forbade me to take public transport, as well.

The ambulance arrived and Scarecrow and ToddlerCrafter walked me out. I bring a backpack full of stuff. The driver remembered picking me up when I had ToddlerCrafter! No, Mr. Nice Ambulance Man (the one in the back with me, not the driver) , I don't need gas & air. Thank you for your advice on how to huff it when I change my mind later at the birthing centre. Mr. Ambulance Man and I chat about how he likes hiking and my husband likes hiking. How he says I ought to just bite it and get a car and a driving license.

We get to the birthing centre at about 10 past 5 in the PM. I walk in, have a mild contraction, they escort me to the lovely birthing suite.  
http://www.nhsggc.org.uk/content/mediaassets/images/cmu_vol_come_see_recovery_room_800.jpg -- this is a picture of my birthing suite! What you can't see is the en-suite bathroom with a huge bath and a bidet (seriously, a BIDET!!!). They check the baby's heart rate and my BP and say I can just hang out and do whatever I want. No vaginal exam is needed just yet. Do I want the birthing pool? It takes 30 minutes to get started and fill. I said the bath would be fine. Have I eaten? Good. The midwives are lovely and make me toast and tea. My contractions are starting to get a bit rough, but I don't want the gas and air just yet. I get in the bath and drink the tea. Lovely. The contractions are suddenly getting way harder very fast. I ask for gas & air. It's lovely. Suddenly, it's not so lovely because the contractions are horrible. I ask how far along they think I am because if I am not far along (the contractions with ToddlerCrafter were this bad just a few hours in with miles to go before I gave birth), I might wuss out and ask for a morphine jab (I never did). It's pethidine. Whatever. "Patient asks for cervical exam," mumbles the midwife, as she writes in my notes. She helps me out of the tub and back to the bed. She gets the mouthpiece for the gas & air from the bathroom and attaches it at the head of the bed. I huff. Everything is spinning. The contractions are fast. YNGGG!--POP!!!! My waters popped! (That didn't happen with ToddlerCrafter.) There is water everywhere. "I think her waters just broke," a midwife says to another midwife who has just come in the room. "...Thbbbleyyy...didpthblttt..." I try to say, during a contraction. Spin...spin... I'm sitting up in the bed. They look at my vagina.

"Well, I think your baby will be born around 7pm." A midwife says.
"What time is it now?" I whimper. She moves out of the way. I see a clock on the wall. A quarter to 7. "That's the best news I've heard all day." Whimper. Spin...spin... Huff. YNGGG!! My body is pushing. It's not the uncontrollable urge to push like they always say. I am not pushing. My uterus is doing it all for me. Which is actually good because pushing can be a bit scary. "Why does my back hurt? Do I have back labour?" I call out. Spin...Spin...
"It's just cos the baby's so low. Don't worry." one of the midwives says reassuringly. Spin...spin... Huff. YNGG!!
"Should I push on my side or something? What should I do to get it out faster?" They say to push on my side if I want, but after one push, they say I might as well just go back to sitting up. I agree. I'm not actually sure when this happened.
"My thigh is cramping!!!" Once I explain which thigh, one of the midwives gives it a massage. The pain melts away.
"Am I crowning yet?"
"NO! PUSH!!" They chorus.
Spin...spin... Huff. YNGG!!
I look between my legs. There is a head. "That's a head!!" I mumble helpfully. "OH MY GOD!"
I know what this means. One more push and he's out. And out he flew. The cord was only wrapped around his neck once (it was twice with ToddlerCrafter).
I thought they said he was 6lbs 10oz, but I checked later and he was 6lbs 13oz, just like ToddlerCrafter.

I cannot believe what an easy labour it was. They hand me the baby. "Oh my god. Oh my god." I think about how BabyCrafter doesn't look like ToddlerCrafter. He doesn't have my ears. He has my mouth, though. I check his palm for the simian line. It doesn't look like he has it. "I love you two!" I say to the midwives. I feel dazzled. They exchange a glance and kind of ignore me. One midwife runs off to make me toast and tea. I cut the cord myself after it's stopped pulsating. Same thing with ToddlerCrafter.

I nurse BabyCrafter. ToddlerCrafter just latched right on, but BabyCrafter has no idea what he is doing. I work with him. He is kind of getting the hang of it, but is no boob-champ like ToddlerCrafter was. Later that night, I will hear him loudly nursing the air.

At some point during all this, they give me the gas & air one last time, so I can pass the placenta. It slides out and looks like a liver on a string. My uterus is cramping and contracting like a mo-fo. I am still nursing. They dial Scarecrow and I tell him about the birth. "I was only here for an hour and 40 minutes or so before I popped!!"
We put a hat on BabyCrafter. A funny red and blue one I made when ToddlerCrafter was a baby, but it was too small for ToddlerCrafter. They giggle at it. "It's cute!" they say. "Like a little Tam O'Shanter!"

I think I have to pee. I don't know. BabyCrafter goes in a bassinet. They help me hobble to the toilet, we are kind of also holding a gigantic disposable square pad-thingy because of the blood. I swoon right before I hit the toilet. Whoops! A hunk of blood falls out of me and lands on the floor with a gigantic SPLAT! It looks all chunky and coagulated. There is so much, it is everywhere. I slump onto the toilet. The midwives look HORRIFIED. Everything starts to black out and my ears start ringing. My whole body is tingling. They ask my permission to jab me to stop the bleeding. Of course! Phew, for a minute there, you looked all grey. We were really worried! They talk about whether or not I need an IV. Suddenly I am ravenous. They get the wheelchair and wheel me back to bed. I start devouring granola bars and guzzling gatorade from my backpack and chatting cheerfully. The midwives relax. Maybe you don't need an IV after all.

Long story short, because of my quick recovery from the haemorrhage, I get the feeling they fudged the amount I actually bled out so I could still have my next baby at that birthing centre. "Promise me you will get the jab next time, okay?" I promise, explaining I'd heard it would make me feel nauseous, which is why I hadn't wanted it. But it's better than bleeding to death. I am tired for days after from bleeding so much.

That night, I had my last night-of-the-living-acid-reflux that had plagued me all during my pregnancy. The midwives introduced me to Gaviscon for my next pregnancy. There's not much more to say, except they kept peering at my vagina (in a funny and polite way, to check the bleeding). I remember being in the bath and they were by the baby outside in the suite, whispering. "Hey, guys? All that whispering is making it REALLY hard to eavesdrop on you." They laugh and come into the bathroom.

Scarecrow comes the next day with ToddlerCrafter and snacks. I eat cheerily. ToddlerCrafter is fascinated with BabyCrafter. Everything is lovely. I am tired like crazy. We go home.

Toddler & BabyCrafter at home.
ToddlerCrafter gave the baby a big kiss
as soon as they met!

01 December 2010

Bye-Bye MoFo!

I missed the ending of VeganMoFo -- BabyCrafter had (minor) surgery and we had to stay overnight.  It is hard enough to sleep in a hospital, let alone a ward full of crying kids.  When they brought BabyCrafter out after his surgery, they cheerily said, "bad news, Big Momma, he pooped!  And you get to change his diaper."  He pooped a TON!!  I cleaned him up and then he breastfed like a champ and fell asleep.  After he woke from his nap, his colouring returned and he was back to his usual cheery self.

Post-Op Reggie
Post-Op Pooper Sleeps Peacefully

The Scarecrow (my husband) and ToddlerCrafter came to visit and ToddlerCrafter and I celebrated the end of VeganMoFo with a nice vegan dinner in the hospital's canteen.  Baked beans, chips (chubby fries to you yanks), and a nice lentil soup.  A bargain for only £2.10!  ;p

Speaking of BabyCrafter, I need to post his 7 month overdue birth story!  It's a long one, even though my labour was shorter than when I had ToddlerCrafter.  I'll post that next.

On a food note, I think I fancy more ful medames.  With the last of the giant tin of fava beans.  I should have bought another tin -- I am crazy about beans.  I need to make some more kimchi, too -- I finally found more napa cabbage.  Also, my first attempt at sauerkraut (mentioned at the end of the kimchi link) seems to be a success.  It is sour and tart, but still on the mild side.  I'm going to eat some, but let the rest of it ferment a bit more.  My next attempt at sauerkraut will be the salt-and-cabbage-in-a-jar-method.  Where you pack salt and cabbage in a jar and just leave it to do it's thing.  I'll let you know how that method compares to my previous attempt.

I'll leave you with this photo I snapped at the hospital.  I am not a fan of clowns.  It's bad enough the kids are sick, but then they have to deal with clowns, too!  ;p

Dr. CousCous is my favourite.
Dr. CousCous is my favourite