As I get ready to head outside on this beautiful November day here in Maine I'm making a smoothie for breakfast.  I have mentioned these is a previous post but I have never shown you what I do to make them.  So here is my method.

Kefir ready to use. The grains are floating at the top
Kefir ready to use. The grains are floating at the top

I start with my home made kefir which has been fermenting on the counter for 12 hours.  I rotate between two pint jars.  Each jar has kefir grains in them.  Fortunately here in Maine I can purchase whole unpasteurized and not homogenized organic milk from a local dairy.

Since I am still working we do not have any dairy animals on the farm.  There is a huge time commitment to keeping them healthy and milked that I just don't have right now.  Our goal is eventually to have a very small dairy goat herd.  Our land is much more suited to goats than cows.

I put one of the pints of kefir out on the counter in the morning and leave it the entire day.  We have found that around 12 hours of fermenting creates the flavor of kefir that we like.  In the evening the kefir goes into the refrigerator so it will be cold when I add it to the smoothie in the morning.  The next morning I use the fermented pint for the smoothies and put the second one out on the counter for fermenting.  After I pour the kefir into the blender I add more milk to the kefir grains and put it into the refrigerator.

Kefir and yogurt with chia seeds
Kefir and yogurt with chia seeds

To the kefir I add a pint of plain homemade yogurt.  I then thrown in about a tablespoon of chia seeds.  Chia seed are all the rage I know but they really are good for you.  Chia seeds contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber both which are thought to help with diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.  Now who couldn't use a little help in that direction?  Besides if you don't drink your smoothie right away, I take mine to work with me, they get gelatinous and help to thicken the smoothie and I think it makes them easier to digest that way.

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On top of the chia seeds I add greens.  I am able to get an organic mix of spinach, kale and chard.  A good handful is all that is needed.  Then about a tablespoon of our raw honey is put in.  I don't use it so much for the sweetness because the fruit makes it fairly sweet, but for the properties it has to fight allergies and strengthen the immune system.  Besides what can be better than using some of your own (actually my bees) honey everyday.

Then in goes the fruit.  I have used several combinations depending on what we might have in the house but there is usually a banana then some frozen strawberries and blueberries from the homestead.  I have also used kiwi which adds a nice tang to the smoothie.  Now that apple season is here I want to try a apple cinnamon smoothie which I think would be really yummy and cinnamon is really good for you too.

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Ok, now for the "smoothie" part.  Everything gets processed in the blender until smooth.  I use the blender on medium speed at first to get everything incorporated.  It takes a few seconds until the fruit make their way to the bottom of the blender to be chopped.   I leave the blender at this speed until it looks like the fruit and greens are all chopped fine.  I then turn the blender up to full blast for just a few seconds at the end.  You don't want to leave it on high for too long because it blends air into the smoothie.

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Put your smoothie in a sealed container and off you go with a nourishing smoothie to start your day.  Well, I'm off to hang the sheets on the clothes line.  This guarantees a good night sleep tonight on sheets fresh from the outdoors.




Beautiful blueberries
Beautiful blueberries

Once again this year our high bush blueberries have been producing wonderfully.  Now I know this is Maine and we grow some of the most amazing wild blueberries in this state.  They are small and sweet and perfect for baking.  I really like to use them in my blueberry muffins and pancakes because the small ones distribute throughout the batter very nicely.  However, picking blueberries from bushes is much easier on your back than the traditional method for wild blueberry fields which are low bush and require "raking" to harvest.

We have 4 plants that are mature and producing fruit and 3 additional smaller plants that are growing and we should be able to harvest from then in the next few years.  Like any other fruit plant or tree it takes a little while until you get fruit.

The other great thing about blueberry bushes is that they are perennials.  Once they are established as long as they are taken care of they will give you fruit year after year.  Our bushes are in the front yard fenced off from where the chickens roam the rest of the property.  Before we put up the fence I would look out my kitchen window to see chickens jumping up to snatch berries off.  I guess they love the antioxidants too.

I flash freeze the blueberries we harvest to be used later mostly in smoothies that both my husband and I take to work for breakfast.  To flash freeze we just lay the blueberries out on a rimmed baking sheet and put it in the freezer for several hours.  The berries are then transferred to bags and kept in the freezer.  The advantage to flash freezing is that the berries are all separate so when you open the bag you can take out just what you need since they are not frozen into one lump.  If you just put them into the freezer bag fresh and put the whole thing in to freeze you risk that they will freeze together and it will be more difficult to use only what you need.

We make both kefir and yogurt and use a combination of both in our smoothies.  Then we add a tablespoon or so of honey a handful of greens and a few berries.  This is all blended and makes enough for both of us for breakfast.  Whatever greens and berries are available make great smoothies.  We tend to use berries more than other fruit because one they don't have too much fructose in them and two they are loaded with antioxidants.  Kale is the green that we use most but spinach, bok choy and even chard are great.  Any combination of berries and greens makes things interesting and nutritious too.

Even if you are buying yogurt, kefir and frozen berries from the store smoothies are a great way to pack a big nutrition punch to start your day.  It only takes a few minutes to make them and I'm betting the kids will love them too.

It is Friday evening and I'm trying to get a jump on my "to do" list for the weekend.  I bought some fresh milk and it had been in refrigerator for a couple of days allowing the cream to come to the top so I could skim it off.  Now that I have the time I have skimmed off the cream (to be used later for ice cream making).  I have got the yogurt in my homemade incubator doing its thing for the next 12 hours.

It really is easy to make yogurt at home.  All you need is milk, plain yogurt with active cultures and a place for the yogurt to stay warm for 12 hours or so undisturbed.

8 cups milk, I use whole but it works with skim or low fat as well

1 cup plain yogurt with active cultures.  I find the one with the least amount of other additives.  The next time just save a cup of the yogurt you are making now.  It becomes the starter for the next batch.

Heat the milk in a saucepan on low heat to between 150-170 degrees.  Spoon plain yogurt into a bowl at least 4 cups in size and allow to come to room temperature while the milk is heating.  Heat the milk in a saucepan to between 150 and 170 degrees turn off heat.  You will need a thermometer for this, a candy thermometer will work but I have several of the instant read ones and they work great.  Allow milk to cool to 110 degrees.  Take around 3 cups of the 110 degree milk and stir it into the container with the yogurt in it, this will temper the yogurt.  Wisk the milk and yogurt together then pour that mixture back into the rest of the warm milk.  Pour this mixture into a two quart container or two quart canning jars.

Now for the place for the yogurt to incubate undisturbed.  For yogurt to its thing it must remain as close to the 110 degrees for as much of the next 12 hours as possible.  While there are commercial yogurt incubators on the market I prefer my homemade, no electricity needed, method.  I simply use a Styrofoam ice chest and towels.  Place the container(s) into the ice chest and fit towels around them for additional insulation.  The ice chest and yogurt need to be left undisturbed during the incubation time.  I place mine on a out of the way spot on my kitchen counter.

After the 12 hours is up place the container(s) in the refrigerator immediately.  Do not stir or further disturb the yogurt until it is fully chilled.  No you have 1/2 gallon of yogurt to enjoy.  You may add the sweetener of your choice and a dash of vanilla to make a nice vanilla yogurt.

Beautiful fresh raspberries infusing in white vinegar
Beautiful fresh raspberries infusing in white vinegar

I found a recipe today that calls for raspberry vinegar so I thought that I would make some since I picked raspberries off our bushes yesterday.  I simply washed the raspberries put them in a clean pint canning jar and poured white vinegar over them.  In less than an hour the vinegar is already a beautiful color.  I will let it infuse for 24 hours or so then I will give it a little taste.  If I want it stronger I will strain out these berries and replace them with fresh ones and let it infuse for another 24 hours.  When it is the flavor I desire I will once again strain the berries out and put just 3 or 4 fresh berries in the jar so everyone will know what type of vinegar it is.

Well the weather is supposed to be great tomorrow and I have to work on more of the "list".  Sunday looks like it might rain and when it rains I take that opportunity to work in the kitchen.  I think it is time to make another batch of granola.  After all granola is great mixed into homemade yogurt!!