A Scientific Experiment

20130908-170729.jpg

I had a lot of produce last week:

25lbs of peaches
10lbs of carrots
6lbs of strawberries
5lb of chili peppers

You might be wondering why I haven’t posted much lately. The reason is due to an enormous amount of produce paired with a broken refrigerator. That’s right, I loaded up to stockpile my garage for Armageddon, and then my refrigerator broke, forcing me to run around in circles and confusion on how to live without my fridge.

While I wanted to can peaches, I ended up sticking 10lbs in our (working) freezer.

Instead of canning chile peppers, I made chorizo-stuffed peppers for dinner (very yummy, but once again, some of the peppers are painfully spicy. After chopping them up my hands were burning for a good 8 hours, and that was after rubbing a cocktail of remedies on them – everything from vinegar to milk to toothpaste to line juice. Ouch.)

Thankfully, outside my copious amount of produce, my fridge was pretty bare.  I decided I would do an experiment to test how important refrigeration is by seeing how long I could eat non-refrigerated foods before getting sick.

The Experiment: How Long Will Refrigerated Foods Stay Edible When Not Refrigerated?

Hypothesis
Foods will be edible, even when not refrigerated

Results
1. Milk – Milk smells off before it actually tastes off.  One of our jugs of milk lasted about a day and a half in the cooler before I threw it out.

2. Half-and-Half – Ultrapasturized half and half cream lasts a really long time outside of refrigeration!  I’ve actually been guilty of leaving it out all morning (since I drink coffee throughout the whole morning) various days and I have never encountered sour creamer.  Until last week.  Our Half-and-Half lasted about 2 days in and out of the cooler.  On the third morning, I made my much-needed coffee, squinting through crusty eyes, I grabbed the half and half, and watched chunky, white clumps plop in to my coffee cup.  The cream didn’t even smell bad, and I was even tempted to drink the coffee anyway.  However, the whole much needed effect of having creamy coffee was absent, as the cream separated into little chunks in my coffee.  It is definitely classified as a heterogeneous mixture.  I gave up on creamy coffee that morning, but I finally surrendered to a cup of black Joe in the afternoon.

3. Yogurt – my homemade yogurt didn’t even get to experience the lack of refrigeration, as there were only a few spoonfuls left when the whole fiasco started.  My grocery store yogurt, in which I invested to use as my starter yogurt culture, got to participate in the experiment.  I made some yummy homemade bread two days after the fridge stopped working.  The recipe called for water or whey, so I used all the whey that was in the yogurt.  Several hours later, I gave my two year old some yogurt.  She declined and said it was yucky.  Later, I tried the offending food, and it was indeed yucky.  I was very surprised, since yogurt doesn’t become yogurt without incubating.  I just figured it would get tangy hanging out in the cooler, but it was gross.  I am not sure if I can blame taking the whey out or the lack of a refrigerator.

4. Celery, onions, carrots, and peppers – all of these produce items stayed just fine and fresh!  The carrots are starting to look a bit shriveled, but they aren’t rotting or anything.

5. Bananas – I’m not sure why I stuck bananas in the cooler instead of the freezer.  The cooler reeked of the high-sugar fruit.  I ended up sticking them in our new freezer at the end of the experiment.

6. Eggs – When I lived in Mexico, the eggs are sold on a shelf as opposed to in the refrigerator section, so I was not too worried about them.  I’ve been eating our minimally refrigerated eggs and am still alive and well.

Conclusion
While I lived four days without a refrigerator, I do not want to embrace a lifestyle without a refrigerator, and would have much to learn if I had to live without a refrigerator permanently.

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

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.

20130901-212307.jpg

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

20130831-152403.jpg
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.

 

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!

The Adventure Begins

The ideas propelling this blog have been stirring for several years.  I am on a journey to get back to the basics in life.

I’ve always been a city girl at heart.  I boast in my ability to hop through public transportation.  I gush over Starbucks.  I like fast internet.  I relish varied cuisine at my fingertips.  And to top all that off, even though I want to garden and I make a loving attempt at it every year, I have the thumb of death.

However, I am going to hike up my city britches and wade through the seemingly confusing (to myself) simple life, or as I like to think, primitive life.

I have a deep hankering to figure out how to be self sufficient, not just in navigating a big city, but sowing life and reaping a real harvest.   I want to garden, I want to be able to survive without big industries, and if I ever have to get dropped off at a deserted island (or an open span of wilderness abounding in natural goodness that I currently have no idea how to harness), I want to be able to thrive!  I want to get back to mankind’s primitive roots, and be the “fittest” to survive.

The tiny embers were first  laid in my heart about two years ago.  I joined Pinterest and discovered all sorts of neat crafts that those crafty people do.  I wanted to try my hand a being creative, and I also was in search of some good products.  I stumbled upon soap making and never even realized soap could be made in my house.  I made a genuine attempt at the process, and I did not get any exciting outcomes.  In fact, I would say my first endeavors (that I had the brilliant of idea as gifting as Christmas presents) were a big flop.

So, soap making wasn’t for me.

I then stumbled upon some other “homemade” adventures.  I have always felt rather capable as a cook, and I am pretty brave and successful when it comes to trying weird and difficult recipes.  In spite of the fact that I am not a nature girl, my mother cooked great meals for the family all the time and we never ate frozen or box-prepared dinners.  As part of a science lesson one year I decided to make yogurt.  It was so simple and it made sense to me since I am a biology geek.  I didn’t bat an eyelash at my amazing and successful feat.  However, I had and have much to learn.

Lastly, what has most shaken my world was a casual comment a friend made a few weeks ago.  We were talking about food, and probably expenses and our likes, and he said something simple like, “Yeah, well you can always just make your own cheese,”

Pause.  Make my own cheese?

I had absolutely no idea cheese could be made at home (can I blame this on being a city girl?  Or the fact that I am young?).  That night, I went home and researched a bit and became very determined to make my own cheese.  I haven’t done it yet, but it is on my to-do list.  In the past few weeks I have been having grand revelations.  Everything I consume I wonder if I can make it.  These musings, paired with some other background ideas of wanting to get back to primitive foods for health reasons have spurred this commencement.

I ate some pizza and asked myself,  Can I make this?

I I saw some yeast at the store and asked myself,  Can I make bread with this?  Without a bread machine?

I drained the last drop of my half and half cream and couldn’t get to the store for my next cup of coffee and I asked myself, Can I make this?

I scraped the bottom of the sour cream container today and asked, Can I make this?

I drank some almond milk last week.  I immediately asked myself, Can I make this?

I then entertained a related question of, Can I make almond butter?

I might end up getting all crazy and buying a cow to milk in my backyard.  I’ve even contemplated researching the Amish people (the name of my blog could change later to something like, “Becoming Amish”)

I’m getting back.  I’m getting back to how we were intended to consume foods (and let’s not forget healing herbs and antibacterial foods, etc).  I’m getting back to these roots to enjoy my life fully, and to help have a whole life.

So my adventure begins.  I will be blogging my attempts at my heart’s desires in hopes that I can make the unknown known to others out there like me.

I have lots of ambitions for this week, like making yogurt, making almond milk, making tahini for homemade hummus, and canning jam.  We will see how the adventure goes.  I am sure at many times it will be humorous.

Cheers to the journey.