Tag Archives: natural cooking

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

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.