Category Archives: homemade

Meet my new pet!

Last month, I was at the store (Wal-mart, no less!) and spied a rare (in my neck of the woods) and new product that I hadn’t ever seen before: GT’s Kombucha. I had heard about Kombucha a few years ago, but as with many new ideas, it seemed weird and scary to me. Fermented tea? How can I be sure I don’t grow some really bad bacteria on the tea? Oh, how little I understood about whole health! When I saw the Kombucha in Wal-mart, I knew I wanted to at least try it to see if I wanted to get in to the Kombucha business.

I popped open the top and fell in love. When my bottle was empty, I was dreaming about the Kombucha for days. I became obsessed. I scoured the internet for supplies, read the Kombucha book by Cultures for Health, and was unwrapping my pet SCOBY within a few weeks after my first taste of GT’s Kombucha.

My SCOBY really felt like a new part of our family. It was something I was going to care for and it was going to sit at the dinnertable with us. I was very enthusiastic with my first batch and started with a whole gallon. I counted down the days eagarly until my first batch would be done. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve!

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A healthy batch of Kombucha, but so. many. SCOBYs!

I was so pleased with the flavor of my first batch. It was so yummy and I imagined the Kombucha flowing through my body and strengthening my cells! But I soon got disheartened and frustrated. Even though my Kombucha was delicious, it lacked the pizazz of GT’s Kombucha. Every dose of Kombucha that I drank just reminded me more of how delicious the storebought Kombucha was and how inferior my Kombucha was. I half heartedly made my second batch, only a quart this time, just days before we completely packed up our house and moved.

I made sure to be a good owner and I lovingly packed my brewing Kombucha. It rode safely by my side in the van. I brought it in to the hotel room with me. I took care of it dutifully.  I get new pet SCOBYs every few days, and I sadly look at the SCOBYs piling up. It somehow communicates that I am a neglectful owner, although I am still brewing it according to instructions. The multiplication of the SCOBYs should be a happy sight; something that makes me feel that I am being successful in my brewing. However, I feel that I have SCOBYs coming out my ears and I have no place to rehome them.

After much procrastination and exasperated investigation, I decided to invest in some airtight flip-top bottles. If they work as they should and my Kombucha ends up fizzy after the second fermentation, I think I will once again be in love. If not, the alternative is not good for my newest pet.

In the meantime, if anyone wants a new pet SCOBY, I’d be happy to share! Let me know!

 

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Raw Veggie Tortilla Soup

Today I was at Costco, literally wandering the aisles aimlessly and stumbled upon not just a tasting booth, but a demonstration and tasting booth. The product was for some sort of blender (I think it is the Vitamix), and the girl doing the demonstration quickly made several smoothies and a batch of tortilla soup right before my eyes. It was amazing. What is more, she did it with all raw ingredients. For the soup, the blender heated up the soup automatically. It was a yummy, healthy, and extremely easy meal literally in a few minutes. In addition, the cleanup was a breeze. I thought only in a dream could I make and clean up a delicious meal in 5 minutes. I almost spent the $350, but I knew better than to buy something impulsively, so I decided I would think about it and put it on my Christmas list.

Even though my only purpose for entering Costco was to prepay for my gas, I couldn’t help but amble through the aisles. I just started meal planning last night and, even though I didn’t have time to make a grocery list, I tried to remember some ingredients I might need. By the time I arrived home, my mouth was watering for the Caanan-sized economical organic and amazing food I had found at Costco. I decided to do an experiement and see if I could make and easy and somewhat raw tortilla soup using my old, decrepit blender. The result was wonderful. It was a little messier than cooking with the fancy blender from Costco, but it was still a relatively quick meal.

Ingredients

  1. 1 gallon of quality chicken broth (I use Better Than Boullion)
  2. 6 handfuls of baby carrots
  3. 1/2 of a small onion
  4. Approximately 10 of those small sweet peppers, assorted yellow, orange, and red, stems on (you can also substitute regular larger bell peppers). No need to take the stem off!
  5. 3 Large sticks of celery
  6. 6 garlic cloves, with the paper-y skin on! I learned that it contains health benefits!*
  7. 5 Roma tomatoes
  8. 1 More Roma tomato
  9. 3-4 large handfuls of Spinach (I actually used a Spring Mix)
  10. Tortilla chips

Instructions

Boil carrots and onion in chicken broth until tender (approximately 25 minutes). Place the carrots and onion and some of the broth in a blender and puree. Dump this in to a different pot. Puree ingredients 4-7 (RAW!) in batches, using the remaining chicken broth to aid in the puree process. Dump each batch in to the pot with the pureed carrots/onion. Once finished pureeing ingredients 4-7, place ingredients 8-9 in the blender with some chicken broth (might have to do in batches) and use the “salsa” or “chop” setting. Dump contents with other pureed food.

And there is the base of the Raw Veggie Tortilla soup! I froze half of the soup. The last step is to place a quantity of the prepared soup base back in to the blender, throw in several handfuls of tortilla chips, and blend on a VERY low setting for just a few seconds (just enough to break up the chips.

Serve immediately!

I did not put tortilla chips in my frozen soup. When I am ready to use it, I will thaw it out, heat up the soup (not cook, just heat!), and then use the blender to integrate the tortilla chips just before serving.

It is soooooooooooo delicious and so many amazing raw veggies right there! If you have a better blender than I do, you might be able to throw the carrots (and onion) directly in the blender with hot chicken broth.

This is great served with tortilla chips crushed on top, as well. I’m sure it would be yummy topped with avocado, sour cream, and/or beans. I never knew eating whole foods (literally!) could be so easy and delicious! I am excited to try more blender cooking in the future!

*This article also supports what I just learned today during the super blender demonstration. Peels and skins of food contain lots of cancer fighting compounds! However, I would probably make sure your fruits and veggies come from a good source and possibly consider organic, since I am guessing certain peels and skins contain excess pesticides.

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Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey…

When I was young and recited this nursery rhyme, I thought that curds and whey sounded pretty disgusting. It always made me think of curdled milk. As I got older, I realized that curds and whey was probably something like cottage cheese.

Earlier this week I received my cheese making supplies, and I have been waiting for an opportunity for days to experience homemade cheese bliss.

After reading and re-reading my cheese recipe all week, I finally decided that I had sufficient time to do my cheese experiment today.

I planned to make mozzarella cheese. The process I found here
seemed pretty easy. I also initially decided on mozzarella cheese because 1. I love mozzarella cheese and 2. From everything I read, it is one of the most basic cheeses with the least amount of fancy equipment required.

Turning milk into a new product is always a little scary. I was pretty excited when my milk started looking like this:

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What you are looking at is a vat of curds and whey! Yum-o! Whether Little Miss Muffet ate that or cottage cheese, I’m not really sure, but I will find a solid answer at some point along my journey.

After successfully separating my curds from the whey, the experience went downhill from there. The instruction refer to draining the curds, but puts emphasis on not draining them too much. I think I erred on the other end, as my product at each step did not resemble the hypothetical product in the instructions. Nevertheless, I pressed on with my cheese-making, assuming that I would have some edible product at the end.

I formed very gooey and grainy mozzarella balls, which I don’t think resemble what I know to be mozzarella. I haven’t sampled them yet either but plan to this evening after they chill. Hopefully they turn out edible at least in a quesadilla. I feel, however, that all I ended up making were salted curds. Verdict to come soon.

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Fried dough

I have been extremely busy and exhausted, and I am happy if I can get together something edible for the family every day without spending a fortune.  I haven’t been doing much on the homestead, except for holding it together.

My homesteading goals have taken a back seat, unfortunately.  Last night I made homemade french fries (not the healthiest, I know, but if we are going to eat french fries, they might as well be homemade, right?).  French fries are pretty easy to make, but I am not a frying expert.  I didn’t even know things could be fried at home until I was living in Mexico.  Street vendors would set up a wobbly table on the street in a neighborhood I lived in and people could order fresh french fries, fried hot dogs (another completely foreign concept to me), and in some places, hot and fresh churros.  The fries and hot dogs could then be smothered with ketchup, mustard, and (the best part) hot sauce.  My husband and I would grab some fried food as a treat on a Friday night a few times each year.

After frying the french fries last night, I kept thinking how I didn’t want to just throw away all that oil.  I remembered in the back of my mind that I had seen some homemade doughnut recipes that seemed pretty easy.  So I started looking for recipes.  The first I found was very complicated and involved lots of rising dough and overnight refrigeration.  Since it was already late at night, I did not want to begin that endevour, especially on something as unhealthy as doughnuts, no matter how delicious they turned out.

I found a recipe for doughnut holes that seemed very fast and easy, and the reviews were great.  I went to bed content that I could make a yummy treat to go along with our breakfast in the morning, and that it would be easy!

I discovered in the morning that it was, indeed, quite easy.

A pitfall I encountered was that the recipe called for a fry thermometer.  I figured, I didn’t use a fry thermometer for my fries, so I’m sure I can get by without one with these!  The result was that my first batch of doughnut holes turned out looking like chunks of charcoal.  Seriously.  They were these perfect black circles that looked identical to charcoal.

The next few batches turned out a nice bronze, but as I was sampling the doughnut holes, I discovered I did not like them.  They tasted like fried dough.  And oil.  For some reason, it was a big surprise.  I didn’t even finish frying them.  I don’t really like vegetable oil.  Why was I doing this to myself?!

I slowly proceeded to dump my cooked doughnut holes, charcoal pieces, and uncooked dough in the trash, and vowed to never make a doughnut again.

On the bright side, I just placed an order for some cheese making ingredients, which I have been dying to make for months (I got the ingredients from this company here).  I love cheese.  We consume pounds and pounds of cheese each month.  If I can figure out how to successfully and easily make cheese, I feel like I will be able to survive in a world of chaos, Armageddon, or at least government shutdown.  I think cheese-making will be on my timeline in about 2 weeks.  I can’t wait!

Peter Piper

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper Pick?

This tongue twister is a doosey, and I started wondering tonight if it is trying to teach alliteration, math, or something about food science.

As far as alliteration goes, this tongue twister gets an A+. There are lots of palpable P’s.

As far as math goes, it isn’t quite a brain buster. How many pickled peppers did Peter Piper pick? Well, according to the rhyme, he picked a PECK. Easy. I guess…unless you count the fact that a peck isn’t actually a number of items, then I guess the math problem gets a bit more complicated.

Or maybe the math problem is way trickier than originally thought…now that I have worked through the problem, my final answer is ZERO. Zero pecks. No pecks. Zippo.

Why? Because supposedly he picked pickled peppers. After this evening, I am pretty sure pickled peppers do not grow on trees (or bushes? I’m not a horticulture expert. Give me a break.). I am a math genius! And this tongue twister is either testing a child’s creative thought process or just flat out wrong.

Today’s stop on the journey was pickling peppers! I was quite confounded by this P-word, but thought it would be beneficial to investigate. My husband absolutely loves all kinds of chiles. A friend told me last week she bought 25 lbs of New Mexico Hatch chiles. We like spicy at our house, but a pound of chiles seems like enough for us for a week. I offered to take some off her hands, and picked them up today (we got 5lbs, which may or may not be a peck).

I stared at my five pounds of chiles, calculating strategic ways to use them:

1. Grill them and stuff them with cheese (yum!)
2. Salsa
3. Soup
4. Can them

We grilled several at lunch and I discovered I cannot eat them because they are so spicy! So it is up to my husband to eat 5lbs of chiles.

Canning jalapeños has been on my radar in the past few days, so I decided, “why not can the hatch chiles instead?” It was a satisfying substitute. However, for me to can them, I had to learn what to do and get big mason jars. A lot of mason jars. Then, I realized that canned jalapeños are just pickled jalapeños and I don’t have to lock them in an airtight jar!

After my realization, I found a recipe and made these bad boys (below). It was so easy. It took about two minutes of effort. In addition, I estimate it cost me about $0.50 maybe to make (it was probably more like $0.25, actually, but I’m too lazy to count how many peppers are in 5lbs right now.), and the same quantity at the store costs about $2.00. I can’t remember the exact supermarket price, but it is significantly higher. I wish I would have known how easy this was several years ago when I married my husband. Since he consumes probably about 50 cans of jalapeños a year, I could have saved some major cash!

If it weren’t for his obsessive love of chiles, I probably would never care if I knew how to pickle jalapeños or not, but if you have a chile-addict like I do, this is worth doing!

This is where I got my recipe. I’m not sure if my husband will like the sugar, but I also didn’t know if it was necessary. I might be using a different recipe and/or experimenting in the future.

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You say, “Tahini,” I say… “I beg your pardon?”

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A sea of toasted sesame seeds

The word of the day is tahini.  I had no knowledge of the word up until about a week and a half ago.  Several weeks ago, I was mulling over the definition of “health” and was feeling very dissatisfied with my grasp on the concept.  Ten years ago, I was a health nut and a diet professional, but I finally realized my concept of health was messed up.  What is healthy?  What is unhealthy?  Here is a list I used to have of “Healthy Foods”:

Low fat
Low carb
Meatless recipes

What was I eating during my professional healthy days?  Is low fat really healthy?  I was eating margarine (similar in chemical structure to plastic).  Is low carb really all that great?  I was eating artificial sweeteners, which are linked to cancer.  Is ditching the carnivore lifestyle the way to go?  I was eating soy based foods (increases estrogen levels and can lead to cancer).

At my most boastful “healthy” pinnacle, I realize in hinds sight I had no idea what “healthy” really means.  In all honesty, I still am feeling pretty clueless, and my search for answers of making informed food choices is what lead me to tahini.

A few weeks ago I was reflecting on my “healthy” past (of which this blog is a result – read more here).   A branch of my scattered thoughts lead me to reflect on the famous Hebrew, Daniel, who dictated his own royal diet and appeared to be the healthiest young man in all the royal court.  I believe his food choice was divinely inspired, and very well might be a reflection of basic biology.  Many Hebrew laws that I have come across have sound reasoning, even though it did not seem explainable several thousand years ago.  For example, pork can be contaminated by a yucky pathogen, and the Israelites avoided eating pork.  I could list and cite and investigate more examples, but that is moving away from the purpose of my blog, which is to find better ways to do things and to become a self sufficient member of society.

Since I knew that Daniel’s diet was a success in history, I decided to investigate.  In short, there are whole blogs and books dedicated to Daniel’s diet.  I poked around at the how-to’s and decided to try a few recipes.  One recipe was for hummus, I thought is sounded delicious and pretty easy, so I included it on the menu.

One obstacle for making the hummus was an unknown ingredient, tahini.  I looked it up and figured I would be wandering the aisles of the grocery store or running all over health-food-store-creation looking for this mystery ingredient, and I might as well buy some hummus.  However, in my tahini investigation (yep, I googled “where is tahini in my grocery store”), I came across “how to make your own tahini.”  Tahini is roasted sesame seeds and olive oil.  Easy.

I figured it would be much faster for me to make my own tahini than look for it in the store, so that is what I am doing.  Right now my roasted sesame seeds have cooled, and I am going to finish the process.