Thursday, October 23, 2014

RECIPE: Pumpkin Granola


Yes, I'm a bit obsessed with granola! Homemade granola is the only "cold cereal" my family eats. I've been know to go on rants about how ridiculously expensive (and lacking in nutrition) commercial cereals can be.

While I'm routinely urging folks to go forth and make their own granola, I've noticed there seems to be some misconception that homemade granola is a seriously labour-intensive endeavour. Not so! I can get a batch ready for the oven in under 5 minutes. Either hubby or I routinely does this while we're cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, so we're already in there when it needs to be taken out and stirred in-process.

Seriously, homemade granola is super easy to make, delicious, packed full of nutrients, and way less expensive than any boxed cereal you could buy. So what are you waiting for?

This pumpkin granola has a nice spicy kick to it, while the pumpkin flavour is fairly subtle. This is a perfect way to make good use of that jack o' lantern come Nov 1st!

Ingredients:
3½ cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
3 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil
cup pumpkin puree

Instructions:
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, coconut, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and allspice. 
  • In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar, honey, coconut oil and pumpkin puree. Heat gently and stir until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour pumpkin mixture over oat mixture and stir until oats are evenly coated.Spread on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake at 300°F for 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes. Let cool, then store at room temperature.
Makes about 6-10 servings

Optional add ins:
If you want to jazz up your granola even more, try adding any of the following:
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder (for Chocolate Pumpkin Granola – add to honey mixture)
  • chopped walnuts or pecans
  • dried cranberries (add after granola is baked and cooled)
  • dried apple chunks (add after granola is baked and cooled)
Want even more granola options? Check out these recipes:


For more simple, tasty and family-friendly recipes like this one, check out my book: Cheap Appétit: The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less Than $400 a Month (While Eating Better Than You Ever Thought Possible) 

Love what you read here? Find out how you can help support this blog.  

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

QUICKIE RECIPE: Stir-Fried Quinoa with Scrambled Eggs


Even with the best planning, we all have days where we need to produce a meal in next to no time. Fortunately, it IS possible to make a decent meal very quickly, even from scratch!

This little number makes a frequent appearance at my house when I want something hot for lunch and there are no leftovers to be had (and that's most of the time, with two teenage boys in residence!)

If you have some cooked quinoa in the fridge, you can be eating this in 10 minutes. It's a surprisingly filling meal, and would work equally well for a quick weeknight dinner. (By the way, if you *don't* have some cooked quinoa in the fridge, it's a great staple to have on hand as this is just one of many things you can whip up with it in just a few minutes! You can always freeze it if you haven't used it all up after a few days).

Here's what you've gotta do:

  • Heat about a tablespoon of your favourite cooking oil/fat in a nonstick pan (I love my cast iron!) 
  • Toss in half a chopped onion and half a medium grated carrot and saute for a minute or two until they soften. Throw in about 1/4 cup of frozen peas and 3/4 cup cooked quinoa; cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the peas are heated through.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste (add about 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley if you have it on hand).
  • Turn this mixture out onto your serving plate, getting the pan as clean as you can. 
  • Put the pan back on the heat and add a small chunk of butter. Beat one or two eggs with a splash of milk; once the butter is melted and pan is hot, add eggs to pan and scramble to desired doneness. Place on top of quinoa mixture. 
  • Top with a spoonful of sour cream and a couple of sliced green onions.

You're done!

How easy was that?!?

This makes one generous portion, and can easily be doubled/tripled/quadrupled to feed your desired amount of people (just adjust your pan size accordingly so you don't overfill the pan).

What's your favourite super-quick meal?

For more simple, tasty and family-friendly recipes like this one, check out my book: Cheap Appétit: The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less Than $400 a Month (While Eating Better Than You Ever Thought Possible) 

Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!)   

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

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Monday, October 6, 2014

Weekly Menu Retrospective #133


Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

If you'd like a whole book full of inexpensive, quick and kid-approved recipes, check out my book, Cheap Appétit : The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less Than $400 a Month (While Eating Better Than You Ever Thought Possible) on Amazon (Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon UK) and Barnes and Noble.  It's gotten multiple 5 star reviews!! I've included page references to recipes that are in the book in my menu plans so you can locate them quickly. For more details about the book, go here. 

 

Breakfasts:

Granola (p. 92) with homemade yogurt, Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Muffins (p. 96), Blueberry Clafouti (p. 223)

Lunches: 

leftovers, grilled cheese, sandwiches, stir-fried quinoa with veggies and scrambled eggs

Dinners:
Monday: Beef & Mushroom Stew over mashed potatoes

Tuesday: Spicy Peanut & Tomato Soup (p. 163) with Cornbread (p. 212)

Wednesday: Indian-Spiced Honey Garlic Chicken (p. 188), Coconut Rice (p. 199) and roasted carrots

Thursday: Classic Beef Burgers (p. 125) with homemade fermented ketchup & mustard, Easy Oven Fries (p. 194)

Friday: Pizza Night: Sausage, Onion and Red Pepper Pizza (my homemade thin-crust pizza dough recipe is HERE)
  
Saturday: Lemony Chicken & Spinach Pasta (p. 150)

Sunday: Pan-fried pork chops with southwestern seasonings, sauteed zucchini, red pepper and onions, Skillet Millet, Chocolate Chip Squares
 
In keeping with my local and organic challenge, I'd also like to note the local and/or organic items on this week's menu:

Organic: coconut (in granola), coconut oil, coconut milk, raisins, sunflower and pumpkin seeds (in granola), flax seeds, quinoa, fresh ginger,  coffee (locally roasted and delivered by bike!), tamari, oregano, basil, parsley, Fairytale tea, peppermint tea
 
Local: potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, apples, pears, garlic, salsa (home-canned), honey (unpasteurized), sour cream, whole wheat flour, ground beef (antibiotic and hormone free, pastured), sausages, milk, buttermilk
 
Local AND organic: 
zucchini, oats, millet, cornmeal, eggs (not "certified organic", but real free range and fed organic feed), apple cider vinegar, green onions*, tomatoes*, red peppers, herbs*

*from our backyard garden

Tired of figuring out what to make for dinner? I've completely overhauled my budget menu planning service over the summer! Many of the simple and affordable recipes are NEW and NOT on the blog or in the book. Plans include complete menu plans and grocery lists featuring inexpensive, seasonally-focused ingredients. Click HERE to find out more!

For more great meal ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com. 
 
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Thursday, October 2, 2014

MAKE IT FROM SCRATCH: {Fermented or Not} Ketchup & Mustard


You may have gotten the impression (from this post, or maybe this one) that I've really gotten into fermenting things lately, and if so, you'd be right!

After my initial abysmal fermenting failures, I forged on and kept trying different things until I had a success or two under my belt, which gave me enough encouragement to experiment further. Since kombucha's one of the things I've found to be the most forgiving, and because my family really enjoys it. I've got a very steady supply of it on hand. So, of course, I'm always looking for new ways to use it!

This ketchup and mustard are super easy to whip up and a great way for beginners to give fermenting a try. It's also a simple way to start introducing fermented foods to your family if you have kids (or spouses) who might balk at the sight of kombucha or sauerkraut. If you don't have your own supply of kombucha on hand, see if a friend's willing to part with a litre or so (maybe in exchange for some of your finished product!) or you could also purchase some kombucha (if you can find a plain, unflavoured raw one somewhere, which I'm guessing might be kind of expensive!) For those of you who are making your own kombucha, this is a good way to use up a batch that's gotten a bit too vinegary for drinking straight up - it's actually optimal to use a more vinegary kombucha for these recipes.

You can absolutely make these recipes *without* fermenting them if you wish, although their shelf life will not be as long and you won't get the benefits of the probiotic bacteria. Simply substitute apple cider vinegar where it calls for kombucha. If you use a good quality, raw apple cider vinegar (I always have a bottle of Filsinger's on hand) you will still be getting some beneficial prebiotic bacteria in your condiments.

Fermented {Or Not} Ketchup

Ingredients:
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, rough chopped
½ cup raisins (use unsulphured if fermenting)
½-1 cup water*
11 oz tomato paste (2 of the 5.5 oz tins)
¼ cup sugar
¼ tsp dry mustard powder
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp cloves
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
⅛ tsp black pepper
⅛ tsp allspice
1-2 tsp sea salt
about 1 cup kombucha or raw apple cider vinegar

Instructions:
  • In a small saucepan, simmer the onion, garlic and raisins in the water for a few minutes until softened. Pour into a blender and blend until smooth.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the pureed raisin mixture with the tomato paste, sugar and seasonings. Let cool to room temperature (this is important as if it's too hot you'll kill the beneficial organisms in the kombucha or ACV).
  • Add kombucha or apple cider vinegar to desired consistency. If using ACV, store in fridge immediately. If fermenting with kombucha, transfer to clean Mason jars and cover with lids. Let ferment at room temperature for 3-5 days, then store in refrigerator.
*If you're fermenting your ketchup and using tap water, be sure to dechlorinate it by boiling for 15 minutes or letting it sit overnight.

Fermented {Or Not} Mustard

Ingredients:
¾ cup whole mustard seeds (yellow, brown or a combination - brown are milder!)
2 cups kombucha (or 1 cup apple cider vinegar and 1 cup water)
2-4 tbsp honey or maple syrup
4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 tbsp sea salt 

Instructions: 
  • In a clean quart jar, combine the mustard seeds and kombucha (or ACV and water). Cover and let stand at room temperature for 4-7 days, adding more kombucha as needed to keep seeds covered as they swell (if using ACV and water, refrigerate for 24-48 hours then proceed with remainder of recipe).
  • Pour soaked seeds into a blender and add honey, garlic and salt. Process until desired consistency, adding more honey or salt to taste. Refrigerate.
Both the ketchup and mustard will keep for months in the fridge if fermented (although I doubt they'll last that long if your house is anything like mine!) They will not keep as long if not fermented, but should be good for at least 2-3 weeks or so (you could freeze extra for longer storage). 

I shared this recipe at Full Plate Thursday.

Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Weekly Menu Retrospective #132


Welcome to my weekly roundup of the past week's eats. I prefer to report what we ate in the last week, rather than what we're planning to eat in the coming week. Why? The reason is pretty simple: although I usually have a general idea of what we're going to eat in the next week or so, life often unfolds a little differently than planned, and I adjust my menu plan on a near-daily basis to accommodate leftovers and other not-possible-to-plan-ahead circumstances. I find this is the easiest way to ensure that I minimize our family's food waste. I'm also willing to admit that I'm a rather spontaneous cook, given to preparing foods that strike me as the most appealing thing to eat right here and now!

If you'd like a whole book full of inexpensive, quick and kid-approved recipes, check out my book, Cheap Appétit : The Complete Guide to Feeding Your Family for Less Than $400 a Month (While Eating Better Than You Ever Thought Possible) on Amazon (Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon UK) and Barnes and Noble.  It's gotten multiple 5 star reviews!! I've included page references to recipes that are in the book in my menu plans so you can locate them quickly. For more details about the book, go here. 

 

Breakfasts:

Granola (p. 92) with homemade yogurt, Rhubarb Streusel Muffins (p. 97), waffles

Lunches: 

leftovers, grilled cheese, sandwiches 

Dinners:
Monday: Thai-Style Peanutty Pasta (p. 147)

Tuesday: Barbecued Steak, Broccoli, Bacon & Cheddar Salad (p. 204), corn on the cob

Wednesday: Western Omelette Wraps (p. 124)

Friday: Pizza Night: Sausage, Onion and Red Pepper Pizza (my homemade thin-crust pizza dough recipe is HERE)
  
Saturday: Everything-But-the-Kitchen-Sink Lentil Soup (p. 162)

Sunday: Spaghetti with Creamy Tomato Vegetable & Meat Sauce, Peach Crisp
 
In keeping with my local and organic challenge, I'd also like to note the local and/or organic items on this week's menu:

Organic: coconut (in granola), coconut oil, raisins, sunflower and pumpkin seeds (in granola), flax seeds, fresh ginger,  coffee (locally roasted and delivered by bike!), tamari, oregano, basil, parsley, Fairytale tea, peppermint tea
 
Local: potatoes, onions, carrots, apples, cucumbers, red peppers, garlic, salsa (home-canned), honey (unpasteurized), sour cream, whole wheat flour, ground beef (antibiotic and hormone free, pastured), milk, buttermilk
 
Local AND organic: 
oats, cornmeal, eggs (not "certified organic", but real free range and fed organic feed), apple cider vinegar, green onions*, tomatoes*, herbs*

*from our backyard garden

Tired of figuring out what to make for dinner? I've completely overhauled my budget menu planning service over the summer! Many of the simple and affordable recipes are NEW and NOT on the blog or in the book. Plans include complete menu plans and grocery lists featuring inexpensive, seasonally-focused ingredients. Click HERE to find out more!

For more great meal ideas, check out Menu Plan Monday at orgjunkie.com. 
 
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

Click HERE to follow me on Pinterest 

Click HERE to follow me on Twitter

Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

Click HERE to like Cheap Appétit on Facebook and get updates and tips on frugal eating and cooking

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

RECIPE: Apple, Bacon & Sage Pizza


It's a fact: teenagers love pizza. And with two teenage boys in the house, there's a lot of pizza-eating capacity around here :) Fortunately, I've gotten pretty darn good at whipping up a homemade pizza, and finally have a thinner-crust dough that meets with my family's approval (if you want a more thick, chewy dough, my Whole Wheat Refrigerator Bread Dough works well!)

We've been experimenting with some more sophisticated pizza variations lately. This Apple, Bacon & Sage Pizza won rave reviews from my whole family (my husband even gasped "I think this is the best pizza you've ever made" while wolfing down his share). We've all decided we actually prefer a white sauce to the typical red sauce on our pizza, so I've been using that a lot as the base. It somehow gives an air of decadence to just about any pizza you can throw together, and takes just a couple of minutes to whip together. And since I planted sage in my garden this year, I've been looking for more ways to use it. It pairs wonderfully with the apples and bacon...and as fresh local apples are just coming into season, NOW is the perfect time to make this pizza!

So, let's get right to it, shall we?

Ingredients:
Crust
¾ cup warm water
1 tsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour (may use up to ½ cup whole wheat flour if desired)

cornmeal for sprinkling

Sauce
2 tbsp butter
6 sage leaves, cut crosswise into thin strips
2 tbsp flour
1 cup milk 

Toppings
6 strips bacon
2 apples, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, sliced
2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Instructions:
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand for a few minutes until yeast starts to foam. Add the salt and butter.
  • Gradually stir in the flour until mixture forms a ball of dough. Place dough on a floured surface and knead for several minutes, adding more flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic.
  • Place dough in a clean bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until dough has doubled in size (about 45-60 minutes).
  • While dough is rising, prepare the sauce and toppings: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the sage leaves and cook for about 3 minutes, until fragrant and softened. Add the flour, stirring to make sure it's completely coated with fat, then slowly whisk in the milk, stirring frequently until sauce thickens. Set aside.
  • In a medium frying pan, cook the bacon until crisp. Set aside on a paper towel-lined plate to cool, then crumble.
  • Drain off all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan. Add the apples and onions and cook until tender and onions have browned slightly.
 (You're almost finished, hang in there!)
  • Grease a rimmed baking sheet, then sprinkle with a thin layer of cornmeal. Place the dough on top and start stretching it out with your fingers to fit the baking sheet. To get a really good thin crust, I find using a rolling pin or a round drinking glass to press down and roll it very firmly is helpful.
  • Once the crust is in place, spread the sauce over top, leaving about ½" uncovered around the edges. Spread apple/onion mixture evenly over top, then sprinkle with the crumbled bacon. Top with cheese.
  • Bake at 400°F for about 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Let cool for a few minutes before cutting into squares.
Serves 4

I shared this recipe at Full Plate Thursday. 

This is just one of the many simple, delicious and inexpensive new recipes that will be featured in my October menu plans. Go HERE to find out more about them! 
Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

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Click HERE to like Abundance on a Dime on Facebook and get updates and tips on living frugally

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Probiotics for Pennies

My homebrewed kombucha in 3 flavours: strawberry, pineapple and grape (the bottles are from IKEA)

It's back to school this week, and that means it's a perfect time for...probiotics.

Wait, WHAT?!?! You thought I was going to say a good stiff drink, right? :)

I'll admit the (alcoholic) drink sounds tempting, but there's another type of drink that will definitely have more long-term benefits than that bottle of wine you're eying. Better yet, it's one you can easily make at home for just pennies: a delicious homemade probiotic beverage.

Increasing your family's probiotic consumption at this time of year is particularly advantageous as probiotics are beneficial to both the digestive and immune systems. With the stress of the new school year (not to mention the exposure to a round of new germs in the classroom), probiotics can be a great support to help maintain optimal health for all your family members.

There are definitely some pretty extreme health claims for probiotics on the internet; research *does* support that there are a variety of health benefits to consuming probiotic foods on a regular basis - the exact benefits depend on which particular organisms you're ingesting. I have personally noticed that since I started brewing kombucha and drinking it nearly every day (starting early this spring), my seasonal allergies have improved dramatically this year - I've been using my homemade nettle tincture FAR less than I did last year to treat allergy symptoms. Your own experience may be completely different depending on which types of probiotics you consume and your body's own personal affinity for particular organisms over others.

While you can certainly purchase both probiotic supplements and prepared fermented foods, it can be a big investment (it can easily cost you $1-2 or more per day for supplements per person!) and you really have no way of knowing how active the supplement is when you take it (even if it came from a very reputable company, the way it's been stored and handled since production can adversely affect quality). The same goes for many fermented foods produced on an industrial scale. While there are certainly some quality products out there, they are going to be the pricier ones, and even paying a higher price is no guarantee of quality with so many companies jumping on the probiotic bandwagon just to make a quick buck.

The obvious solution is (as usual) to do it yourself! Making your own probiotic foods might sound intimidating, but keep in mind that people have been fermenting foods for thousands of years! Some fermented foods are quite familiar to most of us (e.g. yogurt) and some might sound just plain weird, but there's plenty of opportunity to discover some tasty, interesting and probiotic-packed foods in the middle.

A (not at all comprehensive) list of fermented foods would include:

Dairy-based:
Yogurt
Kefir

Non-dairy based:
Kombucha
Water kefir
Ginger beer
Lacto-fermented lemonade

Fermented vegetables (e.g. sauerkraut, kimchi)

Fermented condiments (ketchup, mustard, salsa, barbecue sauce, chutneys, etc)

Getting started with fermenting:
Based on my own personal experiences, the two foods I've found the easiest to start with are yogurt and kombucha. You don't need any special equipment to make either of them. You can find my basic yogurt making method HERE. I've since switched from putting the cultured milk in a Thermos to putting it directly into Mason jars and wrapping them with towels; that way I just pull them straight out of the cooler and put them in the fridge.

To start making kombucha, you will need a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) - as home brewing of kombucha has gotten very popular, you shouldn't have too much trouble tracking one down if you start asking around. A new SCOBY forms with each fermentation, so most people who make kombucha regularly are more than happy to give some away :) Kombucha brewing has a nice rhythm to it, as it takes about a week to ferment, which is a nice manageable time frame to be switching out batches.

One of the reasons I love kombucha is that you can have a ton of fun experimenting with different flavours - our favourite so far is definitely pineapple (which gets *very* fizzy); we've done strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, grape, peach and lemon as well and I'm looking forward to experimenting with apples and pears now that they've come into season!

My family also loves lemon-ginger water kefir, which I wrote about earlier this year. I was initially very excited about it, but over time I found out that the 2 day fermentation cycle was burning me out, plus the water kefir grains are a lot more temperamental than kombucha SCOBYs so I ended up passing my grains along to a friend who wanted to give them a shot. I plan to give lacto-fermented lemonade and gingerale a whirl to see how they compare taste and ease-of-making wise.

The nice thing about fermenting foods is there are SO many options, so you can pick what works best for your family. Ideally, it's a good idea to eat a number of different types of fermented foods on a regular basis so you get exposed to a wider variety of beneficial organisms.

I'm going to be fiddling around with my fermented ketchup recipe this week, so I'll share that soon. It's super easy if you have some kombucha on hand! The first batch I made met with huge approval from my family so it disappeared fast; I have some ideas of how to make it even better, though :)

And since the jalapeno peppers are one of the few things that we got a bumper crop of this season, I'm going to be trying out this recipe very soon, too.

 Intrigued enough to give it a go? Some helpful resources to get you started:





The Cultures for Health website (great articles and instructional videos, plus you can order cultures from them if you can't find anyone to donate some to your cause!)

Kombucha Kamp - a great resource for all things kombucha-related.

(Yes, the usual disclaimers apply: Those are Amazon affiliate links for the books, and I am hardly an expert on fermented foods or gut health. I'm simply sharing my own experiences. You need to do your own research and make your own decisions about what is right for you and your family, and consult with a health professional if you have any concerns about why fermented foods might not be right for you.)

Are you already a seasoned fermenter, or just getting started? I'd love to hear your experiences with making your own fermented foods.

Love what you read here? Click HERE to see the ways you can help support this blog (many of them won't cost you a thing!) 

Want to stay connected in between blog posts?

Click HERE to sign up for my Cook with Karen newsletter (max 2 emails a month)

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