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!

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!

A Scientific Experiment

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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…

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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.