Ginger Beer, Part 2

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Last week I told you how to start your very own ginger bug.  This week, I’ll share the recipe I used to make a liter of fermented, tangy and delicious ginger beer.

(Here is the link in case you missed it.)

If you started your ginger bug last week you’re probably ready to begin your ginger beer by now.  The sign it’s ready to use: active, bubbly fermentation every day.

Equipment needed:
1-liter sized flip-top glass bottle, clean and ready to use
2 organic ginger tea bags
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup active, bubbly ginger bug
1 small chunk fresh ginger, about 1/2 inch, peeled

Directions
Boil just over 1 liter of water, and pour over tea bags into a glass container.

Let tea brew for a few minutes, then stir in sugar.

Allow tea to cool completely, then pour tea and 1/2 cup of ginger bug (you may want to use a funnel) into the glass bottle.

Replenish your bug with 1/2 cup sugar, and either leave it out and keep feeding it every day (if you plan to use it again soon,) or place in the fridge and feed once a week. 

Flip cap closed, and keep at room temperature for 2-4 days.

Chill and serve.

If, upon opening, your ginger beer isn’t carbonated enough or is too sweet (I left mine to ferment for three days,) let it come to room temperature, swirling bottle to re-distribute the wild yeasts, and let it sit for an additional day.  Unlike commercial sodas, your ginger beer will continue to ferment, or produce fizz, as long as it’s tightly capped.  If you prefer your drinks without fizz, simply ferment with a loose cap.  Non-fizzy ginger beer still has all the same benefits. :-)

Please leave me a comment if you try the recipe.  I’d love to know how it turns out for you.

 

Ginger Beer

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This time of year can be difficult for families with children in school. I remember when I rarely got sick, back in the days when I had no contact with elementary-aged children. The sniffles are common around our house now, but I have developed a few tricks that help us through without getting really sick.

My best performers are fermented cod liver oil and probiotics. My daughter has a history of bronchial infections, but this year, when I really started being consistent with these two supplements, I noticed she would get a slight cold but her body seemed to be able to fight it off quickly.

A couple of weeks ago I started a ginger bug, the next “tool” in my sick-season fighting tool box. The great thing about ginger bug is that it contains beneficial bacteria (the same types found in things like homemade sauerkraut and probiotics) that help our immune systems to function optimally. Did you know most of your immune system is in your gut? It pays to keep our gut healthy, and a whole-foods diet with varied probiotic food and drink can help a lot.

Today I started my first batch of (non-alcoholic) home brewed ginger beer, but I’ll be sharing with you how I started the bug. Ginger bug is similar to a sourdough starter in that it contains wild yeast and needs a little maintenance to keep going. But once you have it, it can conceivably last forever.

Next week, once the ginger beer has finished fermenting, I’ll post that recipe. Today, I’ll tell you how to make your own ginger bug. It should take you about five minutes the first day, and about a minute evert day for the following week. Very little time commitment. ;-)

You’ll need a medium to large piece of fresh ginger, organic granulated sugar and filtered water.

Day 1: peel and mince ginger. Mix two tablespoons each, ginger, sugar and water in a very clean mason jar, cap loosely, swirl to combine, and place in a warm location. Reserve remaining ginger in airtight container and place in fridge.

Day 2: add two tablespoons each, ginger, sugar and water. Swirl mixture to combine, cap loosely, and place in warm location.

Days 3-7: repeat instructions for day 2.

After a day or two (or more if your kitchen is cool) you should notice some foaming or bubbling in your jar. This is good! Wild yeast has begun to multiply and consume the sugars.

Once you have a really strong ginger bug with lots of bubbles you are ready for the fun part: making your own probiotic bubbly drinks.

I’ll be back next week with my recipe for ginger beer.

Banana Bread

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Today I made banana bread; it had been a while.  Brown bananas are a rare occurrence in my house because, as my son puts it, “bananas are my favorite! It’s a good thing I’m not allergic to them.”

This is my own staple recipe that I’ve used for years.  It always turns out good, so I thought I’d share it with you.

Basic Banana Bread

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted or quite soft
1/3 cup applesauce
4 very soft, very brown, medium bananas
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all purpose, organic flour (I have successfully substituted up to one cup of whole-wheat or whole-rye sprouted flour)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash cloves
dash nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F

Grease, bottoms only, two eight inch loaf pans or 24 muffin tins with butter or coconut oil (or use paper liners)

Place peeled bananas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Add applesauce, sugar and butter, run on low speed until combined.

Add buttermilk, vanilla extract and eggs and pulse until combined.

Stir together flour, salt, baking soda and spices in separate bowl.  Add, all at once, to food processor and briefly pulse, just until combined. Mixture will be lumpy, but don’t over mix.

Pour batter into pans, and bake: loaf pans, about an hour and muffins about 20 minutes. Oven temperatures vary (I use a baking stone) so please check often.  When done, the tops of muffins or loaves should be crowned and not jiggly.  Use a toothpick to test if desired.

 

Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment if you like.  I would love to hear from you. This recipe appeared first at and is the intellectual property of http://athomewithelizabeth.com

Photo credit: h

How I Prepare Whole Grains

oatmeal This is a follow up to my previous post about the dangers of whole grains.

There are several popular grain-free diets that have gained footing in the past few years, and even though I’m aware of their benefits for many people with digestive problems, for now, I still feed my family grains.

For me, the important thing with whole grains is to prepare them properly. When soaked, sprouted or soured, whole grains are transformed into easily digested nutritional powerhouses.

The most important staple in my house is sourdough bread.  Bread baking intimidated me for a long time, but I finally got over my fear last year and haven’t looked back.  Even though my bread doesn’t turn out perfectly every time, we manage to make it work. My family is pretty understanding of my kitchen misadventures. (Let’s just say homemade bread is much better when it’s fresh.  I’ve always wondered how store bought bread keeps for so long..it’s a little creepy, actually.)

I recommend Nourished Kitchen’s recipe for no-knead sourdough bread.  Jenny really understands all things fermented.  She also has a great tutorial on sourdough starter that I found really helpful, and is a MUCH better photographer than I am.

When I first began soaking and fermenting, though, I started with brown rice and steel cut oats.  This process is so easy.  Once you get in the habit of doing some things a little bit ahead of time you might think so, too.

Soaked Oatmeal
Steel cut oats (you can also use rolled oats)
Filtered water
Raw apple cider vinegar

The night before, measure out your oats for the morning into a non-reactive pot or sauce pan.  I like to use glass, but stainless steel works well, too.

Cover with filtered water at least an inch above oats, and add a splash of apple cider vinegar.  I use about a tablespoon per 2 cups of dried oats.  Stir, cover, and place in a warm place overnight.

When you are ready to cook the oats, strain out the soaking water and rinse with fresh filtered water.  Add water to cover and a dash of salt, and cook until desired texture is achieved.

The oats will cook much more quickly this way, and be easier to digest as well.  We like to serve our oatmeal with butter or coconut oil and a drizzle of maple syrup.  (Added healthy fat slows down digestion, lessening the chance of a blood sugar crash later in the day and also helps your body absorb nutrients.)

Soaked Brown Rice
Organic brown rice
Filtered water
Raw apple cider vinegar

Measure rice into a non-reactive pan.  Cover with filtered water by about a half inch and stir in a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Place in a warm location.

The longer you let it soak, the more nutritious the grains become.  I have let brown rice go for as long as 3 days with no problem.

When ready to cook, rinse rice in a strainer and proceed with package directions.  You might need slightly less water, but I find all brands of rice are different.  I usually start with less than called for and add more part way through cooking if needed.

For an added nutritional boost, cook your rice with broth instead of water. This same process can be used with any whole grain, such as quinoa, buckwheat, millet or amaranth.  It is not necessary to soak white rice, as the bran and germ have already been removed.

Whole Grains For Quick Recipes

To make quick breads or cookies (when soaking the flour isn’t possible) I use the sprouted flours from To Your Health Sprouted Flour Company.  You can find sprouted flour in some health food stores, but because it is a perishable product, I won’t buy it unless it’s in the frozen section.  To Your Health grinds each order immediately before shipping, and it is really good quality.  I store it in the freezer.

Buttermilk

Buttermilk is my secret weapon for healthy baking.  I’ve found many recipes that call for buttermilk (like pancakes or banana bread) do just fine if I stir the flour and buttermilk together the night before and let them sit, covered, in a warm place.  The texture is different and they take longer to cook, but it’s different, not bad.  Sourdough starter works in much the same way, and makes delicious pancakes and waffles.

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The Shortcut

If all this soaking and souring business has you feeling overwhelmed, let me recommend my favorite shortcut. For weeks when I just don’t have time to bake bread, Food For Life has a great range of organic products made from sprouted grains.  The Ezekiel bread shown here is my favorite, but my kids LOVE their cinnamon raisin english muffins. You’ll usually find it in the frozen section of your supermarket.

I hope you’ve found this information useful.  If you have any questions or observations, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.   Check back soon: I usually respond within 24 hours.  (Facebook is great for some things, but discussions tend to fall into the abyss after a week or two. Here, I can keep track of the “love” forever.)  
Thanks,
Elizabeth <3

For further reading, here is a link to an article on the Weston A. Price Foundation website.

And here is another from Natural News.

Photo credit: artizone  77568040@N08

The Problem With Whole Grains

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Whole grains are everywhere now.  Every daytime talk show doctor touts the benefits of adding whole grains to your diet, stating the increased mineral and fiber contents.  Most people probably think this is a good thing — and why not?  This knowledge (and I use that term loosely ;-) ) has become a part of our health-conscious culture in a big way.

Just a few years ago I happily bought the whole-grain cereal, bread, and goldfish crackers for my kids, thinking I was doing them a favor.  The fiber was good for them, I thought. It definitely made me feel less guilty for feeding them the processed snacks that I knew, deep down, weren’t that good for them in the first place.  But they were whole grain!  They were healthy!

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To break it down to the most basic level, this perception of whole grains as healthy is simply marketing at work in our consumer-based society.

(When I was a child I remember being obsessed with the brightly-colored sugary cereals I saw advertised between Saturday morning cartoons.  I received a box of Strawberry Shortcake cereal from my parents for either my fourth or fifth birthday.  It was, in all seriousness, one of the best gifts I ever received.  I was SO excited to eat it, and devoured the box within a few days.  Forget My Little Pony, mom.  I wanted more cereal that left pink milk.)

It’s simple, really.  As our country has become more health-conscious, big food corporations are forced to find innovative ways to market junk food.

pop tarts whole grain

 

Processed, sugar-filled pop tarts with one gram of whole grain per serving are still processed, sugar-filled pop tarts, but there is a more insidious aspect to whole grain consumption.

Improperly Prepared Whole Grains Can be a Detriment to Your Health

First, let’s look at the anatomy of a whole grain.

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The most important part of this diagram is the definition of bran: The fiber-rich outer layer that protects the seed and contains B vitamins and trace minerals.  Seeds are fascinating little storage powerhouses.  They can sit in a dark, dry location for years, even decades, or longer, and then, when conditions become appropriate, sprout and grow into a complete plant.  Unfortunately, the amazing protective powers of the bran are exactly what create problems for us humans when we try to eat it.

Chemicals called phytates are among the compounds that help to preserve these little seeds while they’re waiting to sprout. Unfortunately, phytic acid doesn’t agree with our human digestion systems very well.  Not only can it be uncomfortable to digest (causing gas and bloating or constipation in some people) but it also requires ample minerals to be digested at all.  This causes our bodies to redirect minerals from their usual storage locations to our digestive system, where they are then excreted.

Consuming whole grains can actually create a mineral deficit in our bodies.

In small amounts for a body that has ample mineral stores and healthy digestion, this likely isn’t a problem.  But today, many of us eat lots of sugary processed foods devoid of minerals (other than poor synthetic substitutes added by manufacturers,)  and gut disorders are at an all time high.  Relatively suddenly, consumption of large amounts of whole grains has actually become detrimental.

Traditional cultures knew that the bran was difficult to digest, so they sprouted and/or fermented their grains to improve the nutrition.  The good news is that we can learn these traditional practices and healthfully consume whole grains today.

Keep an eye out for my next post where I’ll tell you how I prepare grains for my family.  (To avoid missing a post, click the Home button above, and sign up with your email address along the right-hand side.)

 

 

Photo credits: iateapie  jrconlin

Oil Cleansing, Continued

 

(Check out my first post on oil cleansing for the face here.)

I’ve been using the same bar of soap in my shower for about a year.  That’s not to say I haven’t been showering, but I have been using much less soap.

Why would anyone want to use less soap?  I imagine different people have different reasons, but for me, it’s mainly twofold: in spite of several changes that helped improve my skin, I still suffered from dry skin from time to time; even natural soaps still contain perfumes that I wanted to avoid putting on my skin.

And I had heard rumors that oil can clean skin just as well as soap.  ;-)

How likely are you to take a lick of your lotion or a swig of shampoo?  Yeah, me neither, but since the end result is the same, I’ve been seriously cutting down on commercial products that come into contact with my body.

Did you know that what you put on your body ends up inside your body?  Read the ingredients on your lotion bottle.  Our skin is our largest organ, and if you slather it in chemicals, the best case scenario is that your organs are forced to detoxify the bad stuff.  If your toxic load is already high (as it is for many of us from unintentional daily exposure) these chemicals are simply stored in your fat.

Fat is kind of like your body’s secure vault, and it’s not letting those toxins out any time soon.

I try to limit my exposure to toxins in every way possible so that my body has the resources to effectively detoxify the every day chemicals found in pollution, non-organic food, or furniture flame-retardants.

I liked the results of oil cleansing on my face, so, after a bit of research, I decided to try oil cleansing for my body.  I figured if it didn’t work well enough, I could always go back to soap.

It took a few tries to get my method down, but eventually I worked it out.  I love how soft my skin is now;  it feels exfoliated and smooth, without the flakiness I used to experience.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Tie back my hair if I’m not washing it that day.
  2. Slather my body with organic apricot kernel oil
  3. Hop in the shower
  4. Use some homemade body scrub on the areas that need it
  5. Rub everywhere else with a wash cloth
  6. Rinse

When I’m finished in the shower, my skin is really soft and I never need moisturizer.

One note of caution: if you put the oil on your feet, please be careful in the shower.  While I love how soft the skin on my feet is after a shower, it can be a little slippery getting in and out.

Keep an eye out for my next post where I’ll share my homemade body scrub recipe.

 

Thanks for reading At Home With Elizabeth.  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Vanilla Custard Ice Cream

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I don’t know about you, but we like to enjoy our short Michigan Summer to the fullest.  That means we’re crazy-busy most of the time, but the fun memories make it all worth it.

Ice cream is a favorite of my kids, but, until I received my ice cream maker, I rarely bought it.  Unless you spring for the expensive organic pints, many varieties are full of nasty fillers and preservatives. Take a few minutes to make your own; it tastes SO much better than store-bought.

I only have a few minutes, but I wanted to share my recipe for quick vanilla frozen custard.

Note Number 1: This recipe does require an ice cream maker.

Note Number 2: What makes this quick is that all ingredients are raw.  I use the best, freshest-quality farm eggs from organically fed and free-ranged hens; therefore, I am completely fine with feeding my family raw egg yolks.  If you only have access to supermarket milk, cream and eggs, you could pretty easily modify this recipe by cooking it in a double boiler before churning.  Don’t forget to completely cool the mixture in your fridge before you churn it.

Vanilla Frozen Custard
2 cups heavy cream, organic and raw
2 cups whole milk, organic and raw
3 egg yolks, organic and as fresh as possible
1/2 cup sugar, organic
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, organic if possible
seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean
dash sea salt

Whisk all ingredients together and churn until set, then freeze for several hours.

 

photo credit

Soap? What’s that? (Oil Cleansing for Better Skin)

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I have been putting this post off for a while.  There’s this new thing I have been doing that I love, but I’m a little scared you all will think I’m strange when I tell you.

I think it’s finally time to spill.

I have quit using soap.

And if you say, “So that’s what I’ve been smelling?” I’m going to pinch you.  ;-)

I first heard of oil cleansing when I was a little girl in Sunday school, and was told that Mary Magdalene cleaned Jesus’ feet with expensive oils and perfumes.  I’ll wager that what I took away (which was, for the record, How in the world would oil clean his feet? Why didn’t she just use soap and water? Gross!) was pretty far from the intended lesson.

The next time I came across non-soap cleansing was when I was in my early twenties and a dear friend told me she used olive oil to wash her face.  She has beautiful skin, but I still thought it was a little strange.  I was perfectly happy with my foaming cleanser, thankyouverymuch.

And then, a few months back, I started noticing some skin issues on my face that I hadn’t dealt with much before, or at least not all at the same time: occasional stress-induced rash, more fine lines, dry and flaky in some areas and super-oily in others, and more acne than I’d had since I was 13.  Also, even though my skin is reddish to begin with, I was noticing a bright red flush for fifteen to twenty minutes after I got out of the shower.

Now, at that time I had been using the same all-natural gentle cleansing bar for several years with coconut oil to moisturize.  Pretty clean, right?  I thought so, and it wasn’t until I began to think I was having a skin crisis that I decided to do something different.

I decided to give up soap.

It took a few months of tweaking my method and recipe, but now I will never go back.  My skin is better than it has ever been: acne is practically non-existent, dry, flaky patches are gone, rashes have disappeared, redness and lines are dramatically reduced, and my skin is softer and smoother than I ever remember.

And the best part?  Absolutely NO unpronounceable chemicals or questionable ingredients come anywhere near my face.  Have you read the back of your cleanser lately?  Did you know our skin rapidly absorbs whatever we put on it and sends it directly to our blood? Check out this article for more information: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-462997/Women-absorb-5lbs-damaging-chemicals-year-thanks-beauty-products.html

Interested in learning more? Here’s my method and recipe.

You’ll need:
2 oz. glass bottle with dropper
Organic carrier oil (I usually use organic apricot kernel oil, but any good-quality organic oil will do)
Organic geranium essential oil
Organic lavender essential oil
Organic rosemary essential oil

Wash and dry glass bottle and dropper.  Fill with carrier oil, almost to top, leaving room for dropper.  Top with two drops of each essential oil, geranium, lavender and rosemary.  Screw on dropper cap snugly, invert bottle, and roll between your hands to blend oils.

To remove eye makeup:
Dampen two cotton balls slightly.  Place several drops of cleansing oil on your fingertips and gently massage over eye makeup.  Swipe cotton balls across eyelids and under eyes to remove makeup. 

The cleansing method:
Rinse a clean wash cloth in very warm water and wring out.  Gently massage one dropper-full of your cleansing oil and over face and neck, taking your time to really work in the oil and allow the essential oils to benefit your skin. Hold the cloth over your face for a moment and feel the warmth, then gently rub to remove oil from your skin.  I like to follow up with a light layer of coconut oil to moisturize, although with this method I need very little extra moisture.

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin

I use Mountain Rose Herbs for all of my oils, and find their quality to be excellent and reliable.  The above banner is an affiliate link.  If you choose to buy any of the products I recommend, please consider making your purchases by clicking through my banner.  I will receive a small commission to help offset the costs of maintaining this blog.

 

Thanks for reading At Home With Elizabeth, Soap. What’s that? (Oil Cleansing for Better Skin).  What did you think? Please leave a comment below.

 

 

Vinegar: Why My Household Can’t Be Without

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Even though my kids hate the smell, (and really, who likes the smell of vinegar?) I can’t get enough of this useful liquid.

I like Bragg’s brand in particular because it is organic and easy to find. It keeps forever if you don’t use it often, but you might find you get hooked once you start using it. ;-)


Soaking beans/grains
When I prepare dry beans or oatmeal, I always soak them overnight in a mixture of warm water with a splash or two of apple cider vinegar. This allows the food to ferment slightly, which makes it more easily digestible.  This process also breaks down the anti-nutrients that are naturally present in many dry goods such as whole grains, legumes and nuts. Anti-nutrients work for the good of the seed: that’s one of the reasons they can be stored for so long without sprouting or going bad.  Anti-nutrients aren’t so great for us, though, because when consumed without proper preparation they can bind with minerals in our bodies, eventually causing depletion.  The peoples of traditional cultures knew this, and often soaked or fermented their foods (think of traditional sourdough bread or sauerkraut).

Salad dressing
I don’t use apple cider vinegar often for salads, but I love a good, homemade balsamic dressing.

Bone broth
Bone broth is so nourishing and easy to prepare.  Even if you don’t do much cooking you can easily keep a batch of perpetual broth going in your slow cooker.  For the recipe at its simplest, just throw the picked over bones of a rotisserie chicken or beef roast into your slow cooker, cover with filtered water, and add a splash of organic vinegar. Let it come to a boil,  turn it down to low, and replenish the water as you use broth or as it evaporates away.  Sometimes I add herbs, onions, or other vegetables, but usually I just keep it simple.  Vinegar helps minerals naturally present in bones to release into the broth.  Use your homemade bone broth in soups, stews, and sauces, as a liquid for cooking rice, or sprinkled with sea salt as a nourishing beverage.

Cleaning
Did you know vinegar is a great antibacterial?  Due to its high acidity, many germs and other yukky things can’t survive in vinegar.  I use the cheap gallons of white vinegar mixed with water to mop floors, to cut mineral stains in the shower and as a replacement to fabric softener in my washing machine.  It softens clothes and also helps to keep the washer clean.  I have a front loader, and in the years I used traditional fabric softener I had to clean mildew out of the drawer frequently. Not anymore! Vinegar can also be used to make your own homemade counter top spray for kitchens and bathrooms.  I’ll post a recipe for that in an upcoming post.

Dishwasher
Sometimes my dishwasher gets all gunked up (technical term.)  I use two cups straight white vinegar in an empty cycle to dislodge the major grime, and then wipe around door edges and seals with straight vinegar on a cloth or paper towel.  This can also help with rust stains from hard water, if you have that problem.

Personal care
Diluted apple cider vinegar (preferably organic, raw and unfiltered) is also great for your skin.  With a ph naturally close to that of your skin, apple cider vinegar works well as a toner post-cleanse or as a hair rinse to restore shine.  I also use a little ACV straight to dab on blemishes for a natural solution that I find helps them to clear up more quickly. I have also heard that repeated application can cure warts, although I have not tried it.

So there you have it.  How do you use vinegar?  Have I forgotten anything?

 

 

Natural Jello

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Finger jello, jello salad (raspberry with fresh raspberries inside was my favorite,) jello cups: jello reminds me of my childhood.  My mom had a special multi-colored layered jello salad that was famous at Summer family gatherings or church potlucks.  My grandma served her famous cranberry jello salad at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  For better or worse, you could say I grew up on jello.

Commercial Jell-O?  No, thank you.

A few years ago I took a look at the ingredient list on the box of jello at the supermarket and never bought another box.  I hadn’t ever thought about it, but jello is just gelatin, sugar, artificial colors and artificial flavors.  Ick.  Why waste the calories when there are much better choices out there?

But every once in a while I crave the jiggly stuff, so I decided to come up with my own recipe, natural-style.

Gelatin: found naturally in bone broth

Healthy and healing for your digestive system, gelatin is actually quite good for you.  It soothes your intestines, and, by giving your body the necessary tools, helps to repair microscopic tears.  This process helps you to better absorb nutrients from your food. You don’t want all that tasty stuff to go to waste, do you?  After all, even though we enjoy the taste, our primary reason for eating is to supply our bodies with necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Recipe: Homemade Natural Jello

Ingredients:
32 oz. jar organic, unsweetened juice of your choice
2 packets gelatin
3 tablespoons cool water
4 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
dash sea salt
cream or yogurt, to serve

Recipe:
Place juice in a medium sauce pan and set over medium-low heat.  Allow to reduce by about a cup.  This concentrates the flavor of the juice. Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over cool water in a small bowl and allow to gel.  Once juice has reduced to your liking, stir in gelatin, salt and concentrate.  Taste to make sure you like it; you might want to add a bit more salt or concentrate if you like things sweeter.

Pour liquid in a medium bowl or individual bowls and chill for several hours, or over night, until set.  I like to serve this with a generous dollop of cream or whole-milk yogurt, which helps to balance the blood sugar spike and crash that can be associated with eating a sugar-filled dessert.

 

photo credit