Category Archives: Uncategorized

Transitioning to Farm Life

imageI’ve had such an extremely quiet blog, but it’s been for a good reason. In following our hearts’ desires, we have gone to extreme measures in the past 6 months in putting up our home for sale, selling our home, quitting our jobs, and moving across the country to have access to acrage for a small homestead!  I really do hope to chronical our adventures well and to share all the things I am learning.

We are currently still trasitioning in to our new home, and it will be a process over the next few months since there are things we need to fix up (and unpack!), but since it is Spring, we are planning on getting started with some fun things like:

  • Baby chicks for laying hens in the fall
  • Baby goats to get started on having milk next year and meat
  • And of course, lots of experiements going on in the kitchen, as always!

On to rolling hills and green pastures!

 

Milk Kefir “Sourdough” Bread

I have been researching fermentation a lot lately, and it’s one of my newest “from scratch” goals.

I came across a free ebook from Cultures for Health on Milk Kefir. I almost didn’t download it since I know how to make milk kefir, but I thought I would browse the topics and brush up on troubleshooting issues and try to become more of a kefir expert.

While I have heard of using kefir in recipes and to make cheese, I wasn’t familiar with kefir on the cellular level to realize all the things I could make with it! The book states that I can use kefir to culture items to make probiotic mayo, salad dressings, and hard and soft cheeses, among many other things, and that kefir is a culture to act as a kitchen’s one-and-only culture.

I have been wanting to catch some wild yeast and make a sourdough starter for many years, but since I don’t love sourdough, it always seemed like it would be an adventure to be had for a time when I had nothing better to do. Since I am pretty busy running around with the little ones, I haven’t had any boredom to motivate me to grow a pet-sourdough starter.

When I was reading up on milk kefir, I realized that the grains contain both bacteria and yeast, a fact that my nose knew but my brain did not realize. This milk kefir sourdough bread is simple and seems to be pretty failproof. No yeast is required since the kefir grains have yeast! I didn’t even follow the recipe and it turned out just fine.

Below is a direct copy of the recipe, found here.

Ingredients:

4 cups whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey
Scant 2 cups milk kefir

Instructions:
Mix flour and salt well in a large bowl. Pour in honey and 1½ cups milk kefir; mix well. Add additional milk kefir until dough is sticky but pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Knead 5-10 minutes or until dough is soft and smooth.
Transfer to an oiled bowl and ferment for 12-24 hours.
Punch down. Place in a loaf pan, cover, and let rise in a warm place until it reaches the top of the pan.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until done through and golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

When I made the recipe, I had two preschoolers helping me, and I didn’t even successfully put in all of the ingredients. I completely and accidentally left out the honey. Also, after I got started making the dough, I realized I only had about 3/4 cup of kefir. My solution for my lack of kefir was to substitute water for the lack of kefir, and I made sure to pinch off a small kefir grain and throw it in with the dough (which I think was unnecessary). I started my kefir sourdough recipe at about 12pm on a Wednesday, I punched it down at 1pm the following day, and cooked the bread at about 5pm. The resulting bread was lip-puckeringly sour!  Since the recipe calls for allowing the bread to ferment for 12-24 hours, my bread-making process of 29 hours was way too long of fermentation for my liking. Next time I make this bread for a dinner I will start the process before bed the night before. But for any homesteader who loves sourdough, I think milk kefir sourdough bread is the way to go!

Baked oatmeal

imageFound this yummy recipe and need to keep it! I ate it with pecans and have not baked it yet. I just ate the mix, cooked in the microwave with milk!

 

Mix:

4 cups Old fashioned oats

2 2/3 cups nonfat dry milk

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons cinnamon

2 cups raises or craisens

2 cups chopped nuts

 

mix above ingredients together and store in a container.

To Prepare:

 

when ready to make, ADD:

1 cup of oatmeal mix (see above)

1 teaspoon butter

1 cup boiling water

1/2 cup chopped Apple

bake 350F for 30-35 minutes. Makes 2 servings.

On Turning 30

Today I crossed in to another decade. I know many women might feel depressed about the big 3-0, but I feel pretty content.

A few years ago, one of my friends was getting ready to turn 30. I remember thinking it was unfortunate that she was going to hit a new decade. “I’m going to be 30,” sounded so old. She also shared that on her previous birthday she had made a list of a bunch of goals that she had for herself before she turned 30. I remember thinking how cool and inspirational that was, and how I hoped to do something similar.

Well, several years have passed, and I have no list of goals that I am reviewing. Last night, my husband asked me if I accomplished all that I had wanted to accomplish in my 20’s. I think I have, but I also feel like I achieved more than I wanted.

My main goals upon entering my 20’s were to graduate college and get married. That’s pretty much it. However, in my 20’s, not only did I graduate college, but I got my Master’s Degree by age 24. That definitely wasn’t in my plan, but it just got thrown at me, and I said, “well, why not?”

I didn’t have the goal to travel to XYZ places this decade, but I made it to Mexico, Central America, Africa, & Europe (& DISNEYLAND on two continents!).

I didn’t have a goal to get a stable job, so I’ve had the incredible experience of saying that I’ve taught everything from ESL, Biology, Chemistry, Math, Dance, & Spanish.

I knew that I wanted to have kids, but I don’t know if I made it an official goal. It was always just, “this is the best time to get pregnant, so let’s do it!” Now I will have 3 kids at the age of 30.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years sitting on the couch, making hundreds of breakfasts, PBJ’s, changing thousands of poopy diapers, calming tantrums, reading books out loud, doing dishes & laundry. Were those on my goal list entering my 20’s? Yesterday I thought, “I am SO glad Emmanuel pooped 4 times today. If he hadn’t, I would have missed my 2,000th poopy diaper goal before turning 30.” True story about the number of poopy diapers yesterday, and a hyperbole for the poopy diaper goal.

Today I did a few loads of laundry and showered, but intentionally neglected the kitchen (it is my birthday after all). If you can’t find joy in these mundane things, what is life for?

I had a goal of becoming a doula starting last summer, but over 18 months ago, I was literally gifted with ownership of a school. Yes, it seems impressive to say that I am the director of a school, but, even though starting up an immersion kindergarten was in my nebulous future plans, I feel like I cheated somehow in this goal. I’m so glad I have had this opportunity to own a small business, but that definitely wasn’t on my radar when I entered my 20’s.

Other reasons I feel absolutely fabulous entering my 30’s are due to me being pregnant. A 30 year old woman might feel a dread upon recalling that she is not as fit and trim as when turning 20. But, once again, I am cheating here. First of all, I feel greatest about my body when I am pregnant. I feel more feminine and beautiful when pregnant than when not pregnant. And at 6.5 months pregnant, I am approaching that peak of pregnancy beauty. How could I not love that?

And other complaints about a 30 year old body?

“I’m a little chubbier than I used to be!” a fellow female might lament.

Well, I’m pregnant! I am celebrating the fact that I gained 14lbs since July.

“I’m not as energetic and fit as before,” says another.

Once again, I have the most beautiful excuse. I’m PREGNANT!

In conclusion, I am feeling thirty, and flirty, and fine! Many thanks to my pregnancy for letting me off the hook on some of the depressing issues about a new decade. However, I feel that I might need some extra moral support on my 31st birthday, so please celebrate me with gusto next year.

Bread of Life

I battle with viewing bread as an evil or a basic staple in life.  So many of my friends have eliminated gluten from their diet that I feel like I am committing a bodily crime by eating wheat.  However, they physically cannot tolerate gluten, while I can, so I have to tell myself that it isn’t evil for me.

Today I decided that bread is just fine to have in my diet.  If Jesus called himself the Bread of Life, then bread must be important and okay (and wonderful) to include in my diet.  This decision might change, as I haven’t done very much research on bread (for example, ancient breads might have been more healthy than commercial breads/flour today).

I have made many sweet breads in my life, but my first time making bread bread was about a year ago.  I found a good recipe for beginners and it is in my recipe library.  It is called Lazy Woman Bread.  I’ve made this bread many times in the past year.  It involves mixing with a spoon, and allowing to rise, and baking.  It is pretty simple.  While the bread has a great flavor, the texture never was my favorite, but for someone who was helpless when it came to bread (and I didn’t have any fancy equipment like a dough hook), I didn’t have much choice.

A few months ago, after buying several loaves of French and Italian bread for $1.65ish each, I was determined to make my own French loaf.  My recipe that I have for French bread isn’t hard, and I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but it is a long process and messy.  Basically, it involves kneading the dough 25 minutes, letting it rise an hour, turning it out, covering and letting rise 10 minutes, then rolling out, then making it in to the loaf, then letting rise again for 45 minutes, then baking 20 minutes, then removing, then baking 20 more minutes.  I just tried to find the online recipe to link to and found this recipe instead, which actually seems easier than my recipe.  The loaves look a bit more artisan than my loaves, but they look pretty delicious.  I might try this recipe in the future.

Last week I really wanted a delicious bread that was easy and quick.  I didn’t want the flavor and texture of Lazy Woman Bread, and I didn’t have time to make my French loaves.  I found a simple bread recipe in the book Make the Bread, Buy the Butter that is going to be my new go-to recipe!  I will let you check the book out.  Basically, you mix the ingredients together and let the dough rise for 2 hours, then bake it!  The only negative to the recipe is I can’t make it on too much of a whim, but it doesn’t require too much planning and is amazing!

Homemade Starter Yogurt Culture

Yesterday, to help me feel like I was getting back to normalcy from not having a refrigerator, I picked up some plain yogurt at the market and made a batch of homemade yogurt.  The experience went without a hitch, but as I was stirring my milk, I contemplated how annoyed I was that I had to buy yogurt to make yogurt.  While homemade yogurt is extremely easy and cheap, if I have to keep buying a quart of plain yogurt for $2-something, I think my homemade yogurt might actually be somewhat expensive if I waste the supermarket yogurt (like I did last week with a non working fridge.  My yogurt starter for one batch of yogurt ended up costing me $2.50).

Obviously the main ingredient in yogurt are live bacterial cultures.  I started wondering how I could grow these cultures safely at my house to make my homemade starter.  With a little bit of research, I discovered there is a book called Wild Fermentation that discusses a hundred fermented foods and beverages.  It is definitely going on my to-read list!

Upon a bit more research, I found that I can (possibly?) make my own yogurt starter using

Tamarind pods - they are not very good in my opinion, but it is a common flavor for drinks, candies, and Popsicle in Mexico
Tamarind pods – they are not very good in my opinion, but it is a common flavor for drinks, candies, and Popsicle in Mexico

chile peppers and/or tamarind (I only know what a tamarind is because they were all over Mexico when I lived there!  I never liked the flavor, but I would happily use it to make yogurt!).  Here is information on an experiment using the Chile peppers to make a culture.  I guess this is very common in India as well.  Lastly, I also discovered ant eggs are used to make starter yogurt cultures.  Yuck.  I will stick to the chile peppers.  Maybe I can use my painfully spicy New Mexican Hatch Chiles for this!

Basic Jam for Beginners: All Natural, Low Sugar, No Pectin Added

I think I just found my ideal jam, on the blog The High Heel Gourmet! I just made my first independent batch of canned jam the other day and will be writing about it, but this will be on my to-do list!

The High Heel Gourmet

Basic Jam Making for Beginner - NO Pectin by The High Heel Gourmet

Well, in case you ever wondered (just for the few that do wonder…I hope there is at least one, please!) why I’m not blogging as often in summer months, it’s because I’m busy doing preserves (jams), conserves, syrups or coulis from several fruits at the peak of the season, and some sauces, especially tomato sauce; these are taking time away from blogging and responding to comments.

Since I’ve been busy with preserving fruit, there are a lot of requests about my jam–either wanting to learn how to make them, or  how to BUY them. I’m NOT going to sell my jams, sorry. I don’t make jam to sell. I only make enough for myself and to give to my close friends. With the price I’m paying for fruit and sugar, if I sold them they would be too expensive.

Why? Because I don’t buy cheap fruit! I’m going to be…

View original post 3,776 more words

Fast Homemade Yogurt

Let me just whip up some yogurt real fast!

I’ve made homemade yogurt before several times, and my first exposure to the process was in my microbiology lab.  Making yogurt in lab was probably the most fun I ever had earning a grade.

When I taught biology, I decided to sneak in a lesson on microbes and a lab for making yogurt.  It would be nice to take a poll of my former students to see if they thought that was the coolest lab ever, but just hunting down my old students and asking them this question might be borderline weird.

During my first pregnancy I ate yogurt all the time, and I contribute a lot of my good health to that.  Sadly, I did not make any of my own yogurt while I was pregnant because I forgot I knew how to make yogurt (“baby brain” at its finest).

Later, I miscalculated and thought that store bought yogurt was about the same price as homemade yogurt, but I recalculated correctly.  A quart of plain, store bought (store brand) yogurt cost around $2.50.  A quart of plain, homemade yogurt costs about $0.75.  I might quit my day job and start selling yogurt!

Yogurt making is “so easy…” That is, unless you have two monkeys hanging off your leg.

The process is simple:

1. Heat a quart of milk to 185 degrees Farenheit (I had to invest in a candy thermometer)

2. Cool the milk to 115 degrees.

3. Add a starter (I used 1/4 cup of plain yogurt from the store).

4. Incubate for about 12 hours.

During step one, I encountered difficulties and it took me way longer than normal.  I was stirring my pot, stirring, stirring, stirring.  After about 5 minutes, I realized I had the wrong burner on.

During step two, I also encountered difficulties.  Once I discovered the wrong burner was on, my milk appeared to heat up in two minutes!  Wow!  That was fast!  So I took it off to start cooling down, and I furrowed my brow.  Hmmm… I don’t remember it being that easy.  And guess what?  It wasn’t that easy.  I read the thermometer wrong.  I had only heated it to like 120 degrees.  The temporal thermometer we use when we are sick must be spoiling me.  Please don’t judge my skills in biology by this confession.  I’m sure I can blame it on the monkeys (the ones that live with me).

I had to repeat step one, again.  Here I am, stirring, and stirring.  And stirring.  Gee, this is taking a really long time to heat up.  About 5 minutes later, I realized that once again I had turned on the wrong burner.

Thankfully, that is the end of my yogurt woes.  Oh wait… no it isn’t (see, my brain does not work very well anymore.)

“This is your brain.  This is your brain on kids” <—- that is me.

The final woe, (and I promise it really was the final woe) was that I thought I would easily incubate it with my heating pad all afternoon and all night long.  I totally forgot my heating pad has an automatic shut off, so I had to keep turning it on every 90 minutes.  So much for fixing it and forgetting it (or sleeping).  Instead of waking up every 90 minutes during the night, I just opted to stick it in the fridge before bed.  As a result of less incubation time, it just doesn’t have a very tangy flavor, but the consistency was amazing and turned out super thick (just the way I like it).

That was my real fast yogurt making experience.

Adventure 1 – Almond milk (attempt #1)

By looking at the title, you should be able to tell that my intent at making almond milk wasn’t a huge success.  

I decided to start my journey with almond milk because it seemed easy, and it was one of the most recent ideas I had in my head.  All I really needed were almonds and water (and a blender, and some special straining devices.)  To top it off, I went to Costco and a 3lb bag of almonds was calling my name, so it sealed the deal of me making almond milk.

I’ve made horchata before many times, and I will post my delicious recipe for that sometime, and it is a similar process.  However, the end result of my almond milk was kind of chewy… or rather pulpy.  

Here were my steps:

1. I soaked 2 cups of almonds for about 18 hours.  The recipe I followed said to soak them overnight or two nights.  I thought I would be good with this amount of time.  

2. I took out half of the water logged almonds for attempt #1 at making the milk.  They didn’t feel very squishy.  In fact, most of them felt pretty hard still.

3. I blended the almonds with 2 cups of water.

4. I strained the mixture several times using a normal strainer.  Then I added a pinch of sugar and a bit of vanilla.

5. I drank the almond milk (and it was warm).

Result: Not good enough for me to go on an almond-milk-making spree, but I am going to try to see how I can make it better.  In some ways, it is pretty easy.  All you have to do is soak almonds and then blend them… but I am going to have to investigate if I need some cheesecloth or something (I have no idea what cheesecloth is, but I have heard about the device many times).  I even tried using a coffee filter, but I just ended up making it rip and tear, and the almond meal oozed out.

I will try my hand at almond milk in a few more days.  Next on the agenda is yogurt!