Monday, February 22, 2010

28-Day Real Food Challenge- Week 3 Recap

This week has brought its' ups and downs for me in the 28-Day Real Food Challenge. But it has also made me aware of how close to the end of the month and thus, the Challenge, that we are. And the idea of coming to the end of this Challenge makes me a little bit sad. I have found that I really crave the accountability of having to check in each week, and the guidance of Jenny's daily emails, and the comfort of reading about my fellow participants successes and challenges.

After reflecting on the 14th and writing up our Week 2 reviews, we got back to business on Day 15 with primer in SCOBYs or, symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast. SCOBYs are involved in the creation of kefirs (water and milk), kombucha, and ginger beer. I hadn't actually heard of the so-called "ginger beer plant" SCOBY before, so I had to look that up. What I learned was fascinating! Our actual assignment was to get a culture and start brewing. Well, I've been looking for a local source for water kefir grains for a few weeks now with no luck. I did discover bottled kombucha at our "local" (not so local) natural foods store and bought a bottle. The results of that purchase were disaster and my Ode to Kombucha. I would really like to get some water kefir grains, so if you've got an abundance and would like to spread the wealth, please contact me so we can try to work something out!

The lesson for Day 16 was about preparing cultured vegetables at home. I was really excited about this part of Week 3. I like sauerkraut and have been looking forward to trying my hand at making some. But when it came time to prepare my first cultured veggies, I went looking for a recipe I thought the kids might enjoy too. You can check out this post see the Marinara-Style Cultured Vegetables I tried. Yesterday I tasted this experiment. It's definitely doing its thing, but also definitely not done. Also, after I tried it I had a brief but intense headache. I'm not sure if the two things are actually connected or not; but it seems possible.

On Day 17, our assignment was to try our hand at making yogurt at home. This is another assignment I was looking forward to. However, life got in the way of progress this week and I haven't done it yet. I did buy more milk yesterday, so hopefully I can get that going today.

Ditto for Day 18's assignment to make cheese. I plan to try my hand at the yogurt cheese first, after, you know, I make the yogurt.

Day 19 had me worried for a moment when I read that it was about neutralizing enzyme inhibitors in nuts and seeds. While I did buy grains to soak, way back in the challenge, I never actually soaked them. Or flour. Because, well, that requires more thinking ahead than I can generally muster in my fire-to-fire life these days. But I was reassured that nuts were not gone for good when I read that the nasties in nuts can be avoided by ditching the papery skins or roasting. Most of the nuts I use are either roasted or de-skinned. I was a little sad about pistachios until I double checked- yes! Those salted ones with their skins on are roasted.

So, the little high I got from not losing pistachios came crashing down on Day 20 when I read the assignment on soaking beans to neutralize phytic acid. It would be nice, for people like me, if I could soak a huge batch of beans and then re-dry them so they were available when needed. I haven't read anything about doing this yet, but I'm trying to keep hope alive. I have enough trouble trying to get more beans into our diet let alone trying to remember to soak said beans. So if anyone knows if I could soak a large batch of beans and then dry them in the oven (no dehydrator here) for later use, please let me know. My big worries about this idea are the possibility of decreasing nutrients and the possibility of decreasing keeping time.

I'm looking forward to Week 4 where we'll address meats, fish, and broths. These are areas I have struggled with a bit during the challenge. I've learned a lot so far, although I struggle with not being able to improve everything at once. I've had some big challenges in my life outside food this week. They've highlighted for me some of the things I'm really good at, and some of the things I'm really not good at. I hope to be able to incorporate that new enlightenment into my life so that I don't find changes such as this food journey to be quite so hard to adjust to; but in the mean time, I've discovered that when all else fails, I can type a question into the black box on my desk and answers will trickle in from cyberspace. How cool is that?

Thanks again, Jenny, for hosting this Challenge.


  1. I like to cook up a big batch of beans (after soaking), then freeze them for easy use. If you have a little freezer space, that's what I recommend. I divide them into 2 cup portions, which is approximately equal to 1 can. They defrost quickly, and I've been know to toss the frozen container into warm water to speed the process if I forgot to take them out ahead of time.

    Sorry I can't help with your soaking then drying question. I have no idea!

  2. I was going to suggest freezing the cooked beans, but someone beat me to it! Glad to hear things are going more smoothly for you and hurrah that you got that book from the library.

  3. I agree with the freezing the beans thing. It definitely helps. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thank you all so much! Yes, perhaps freezing the beans makes more sense, although freezer space is at a premium here. Hmm...maybe freecycle or craigslist can help with that...

  5. I am so glad you've enjoyed the challenge so far. It has been really intense for me, but a pleasure nonetheless. I'm really hoping to find a successful way to keep that community feel going past the 28-day mark.