May 25, 2012

It has brought to my attention that I haven't posted recently. This could be true.
Apparently the act of being barefoot in the kitchen takes enough time that I don't have so much extra left to blog about it. Perhaps I should try wearing shoes and see if that makes me more efficient?
It's too bad my brain doesn't have a link to my blogspot (when I want it to...), because I really have crafted some epic posts in my head; alas and alack, they are lost in the Netherlands forever. I'm not really sure why they went there, that's just what I felt like saying. Maybe it's a good thing I don't write as often as I mentally compose.
A lot has happened in the month since my last post. There's no way to concisely convey all the notable experiences, nor is there any need nor likely any desire for such overarticulation. I'm still trying to figure out my slant for my blog, as in, what's the point? Initially I intended to somewhat replicate the idea of some blogs that had recently caught my attention, by focusing on the ways I try to live simply in the kitchen/our home. Yet I also wanted to have this be a place to ponder thoughts and discuss reasons why I have this desire for simple living--something I haven't done very well yet. But if I start thoughts on those issues, and share stories from my domestic endeavors (and trust me, I have those...stay tuned), do I want to stop there? That's not all my life is. Although when I get too ambitious it does feel like it somedays. :) BUT I obviously can't blog about everything--apparently I struggle even when staying somewhat within the realm of the kitchen. Also, I ramble about everything once I start typing...I need schoolwork and writing assignments. Just kidding. Really.
So. Taking advantage of this natural segue, let's talk about yogurt.
(There was no segue. There still is none.)
I've been making yogurt consistently since the first week we moved here. You can't blame me; not only is it fun, free with fresh farm milk, healthy, delicious, and versatile, it's delicious. That's right, it gets two delicious-es.
I've grown up (hypothetically) on homemade yogurt--what a cool mom I have, right? Always an ample consumer, my consumption levels have only increased upon entering my own household. It is an extremely rare day that I go without some form of yogurt entering my nutritional intake--for breakfast with fruit or granola or even half-and-half in my milk with regular cereal, my packed lunch for work always has some glorified yogurty dessert, in smoothies, and although we don't often have it for supper dessert like my family did (we tend towards ice cream...someday there will be a blog about that), it still finds its way in often through homemade dressings, sauces, or sour cream. Basically, it is an essential component of my kitchen.
Granted, I have this frighteningly strong love of bought yogurt. I can't compete with even the Kroger brand pina colada or acai berry. Ask Brian or my parents; if we are getting a splurge purchase, pretty much I want yogurt every time.
That said, it seems kind of silly to buy yogurt when I make it all the time anyway. So I don't. And I really don't even feel like I'm deprived. (Except that I still haven't seen pretty much any Disney classic movies.)
It's been cool; once people here learn that I make yogurt, they all want to know how, too. Okay, not all, but I've given out my recipe to numerous people either from church or even quite a few random people from work. And now, I get to give it to you! I just like to spread the joy; it makes me happy. :)
First off, though, there are so many little differences to how to make yogurt, and I'm gonna go ahead and admit this isn't the only nor the best. It's just what I do. And I keep learning new things from other yogurt people!

All you need is a pot, thermometer, glass jars, starter, and of course, milk.
To make 4 quarts of yogurt, pour just a tince less than one gallon milk into a sturdy pot. You can use whole, skim, or anywhere in between.  
 Heat to 170 degrees or so (I have a hard time being exact about these things), stirring every now and then to prevent sticking to the pot. Not fun to clean. Once to the right temperature, remove from heat and place pot in the sink in ice water, or even just let it sit out on the counter, until it cools to 110 degrees. This is when you whisk in somewhere between 1/4 cup to 1 cup of starter yogurt...told you I'm not exact. :) The starter is simply bought plain yogurt the first time, and then from your previous batch of yogurt after that. I've been told you will need to restart from bought every once in a while, so I froze some manager's-special plain yogurt into ice cubes so I can just grab what I need when the time comes. (It hasn't yet, and I don't know what it will look like when it does...)

 So yes, after you whisk in the starter, as well as a splash of vanilla and/or 1/2 c sugar if you feel like it, pour into your glass jars and set in an insulated cooler. Nestle one jar of hot water in there as well, and stuff in old sheets or something to fill the empty space. Let incubate for between 4-12 hours--longer equals sourer. Then stick in the fridge, and you're done! Unless, of course, you're like me and have a compulsion to always snatch off the cream top before you put it away.
Amanda gets excited about yogurt.

Today, oh today, I tried a new method. Look how nifty it is--instead of heating the milk in the pot, heat water in the pot and milk in the jars and jars in the water! I love the idea of saving the mess that always happens when I get milk crud stuck on the pot and spill milk-ish trying to pour into the jars.
Saving the mess is not what happened. I was on the road to success, pulling the filled and ready-to-go jars out of the ice water to put in the cooler. *suspenseful musics* The bottom of the jar straight up fell out. Milk. Went. Everywhere. I had no idea a quart of milk was such a voluminous quantity. Into the counter cupboard, dripping onto and even into the drawers below, splashing through a slightly-open corner cupboard, sloshing onto the floor. I just washed my rug yesterday, right? First time. Today got to be the second. Eventually I got things cleaned up, after tracking milk-footprints over my also freshly-cleaned floor while scurrying around to first finish the other yogurts so as not to lose them as well and to get the granola out of the oven since it got done at exactly the same time. But we all survived (sans that one quart); besides, I knew I needed to clean under those canisters.
So it all worked out, plus I get an epic story to tell you! I thought getting avocado milkshake on the ceiling and dropping a bottle of Lysol were bad, but no, this one trumped.
Sheeshers. See, this is why I never have time to blog. :) When I do blog I can't make myself stop at an appropriate time, plus I'm too busy cleaning up after my fiascoes anyway. 

April 20, 2012


Top three things of my day: 

1. My co-worker brought me rennet. What is that, you ask? Actually I have no idea, but it's an essential ingredient in MAKING CHEESE. I cannot explain how excited I am. And that will only be made even better by anticipation over delayed gratification--I work until Wednesday. But when Wednesday comes...

2. Think of the word "burly." Now picture a man epitomizing that adjective, complete with straw hat and beyond-walrus mustache, as he lumbers over the cheese cooler beside where my now-very-familiar cheese-cutting location at work lies. He is carrying both a "Healthy Choices" cookbook--and a 15 lb log of colby cheese, as well as three smaller cheese selections. The man himself, dirty jeans, cowboy boots, and beefy worked-hard hands, was epic enough; the rest of the situation completed his awesomeness.

 3. My fantastic husband had a most delicious gumbo on the stove by the time I got home from work, and he had the (albeit dubious) culinary genius to substitute rhubarb for celery. It really does look about the same, so why not? Like I said, faaaaantastic.

Things like these help me find the joy in life.

Please keep giving me the eyes to look for them, God.

April 16, 2012

Dairy Fever

It's nice when someone else catches the dairy fever, and you realize maybe it's contagious to be compelled to experiment with as many milk products as physically possible. It's like, we can, so we might as well!
I speak of my parents' visit this past weekend. As far as birthday presents go, their presence was a fantastic one.
Saturday brunch
I also have to quick brag on my husband, who started off my birthday with a massively impressive breakfast in bed. Blueberry-pecan pancakes, fresh kiwi, pistachio yogurt sauce, and chocolate raspberry coffee. That's right; be jealous, everyone. :)
Actually, everyone made my birthday great. I thought it might be hard to celebrate away from Ohio and people I know, but it was super special to get phone calls and cards and Facebookings. So thank you.
But back to the dairy explosion in the kitchen. Since Mom and Dad were only here for the weekend, we had to make the best of the time available. Meaning, when we got home from the MCC sale midafternoon on Saturday, we got to work. We made butter, Greek yogurt, ice cream (Jeni's recipe, with baked rhubarb, fresh from the garden! MMMM), ricotta cheese (seriously. we made that.), and creme brulee (I've told myself for years I'm going to make that--bam).
Sooo much fun, and I don't know if she's ever seen a kitchen that discombobulated. :)
I already blogged on making butter, so you have a good idea how to do it, although I have since learned you need to let it set for a few minutes after blending before separating.
I'll post later how to make Greek yogurt, but we can't overstimulate you by going into detail on everything, my dear readers.
The ice cream, what can I say? It's Jeni's. It's only fault is that once you eat it it's gone.
Every time I think about that ricotta cheese I get a little bit excited, too. Just take two quarts of milk, heat to 180 degrees, add 3 T vinegar and 1/2 t salt, let sit covered for 2 hours (the hardest part!), and little curds have magically formed. You can't see them underneath the whey until you dip your spoon in and scoop out the little treasures. Strain through a cheesecloth and you have seriously made what I fondly call ricottage cheese.
See? (You can't really see. But still.) It's awesome!
The creme brulee, I tell you, it's given the "fancy dessert" status not because of it's difficulty in creating but because of it's extreme deliciousness. We registered for our wedding for a bakeware set that included ramekins simply due to their connection with potential creme brulee, and with only this one usage, they're essentially worth it. Plus I got to use a flame torch (see I don't even know what to actually call it but that just sounds so cool) to toast the brown sugar topping.
We did all this while also making pizza and staying tuned to the tornado happenings in our non-immediate proximity. And then we ate ice cream and watched TinTin after playing the Bean Game. What more could you ask for??

April 5, 2012

So It's About Time...

...both for me to actually post and for me to introduce you to our new Kansan home!
These past few weeks since the last time I blogged, I've been thinking of a slew of things about which I want to blog. I start formulating them in my mind, putting these pictures here and these thoughts here, and then they simply fail to materialize.
Before I began this blog, I wanted to make sure that my focus on simple living would articulate itself not only in the blogged activities/thoughts but also in the way I blog. This is supposed to be simple, as in, not becoming this addictive or overwhelming thing that I dedicate too much time to or spend to much time focusing on when I should be enjoying other aspects of my life. I put the idea of not posting too often in my foundational guidelines for my blog--so far, I've fulfilled that above and beyond. :)
That said, I haven't fallen off my blogging inspiration yet, and hopefully will post some of my adventures in the not-so-distant future. To start off, however, let's take a quick look at our house.
We are renting it from Brian's grandpa, and we could not ask for better. Besides being quite ample in size, especially for two people that came from a teensy apartment, our red-brick abode is only a dirt-road mile and a half from the farm and a mile from my job. Brian's grandma loved flowers, and so I get to benefit from her labor and enjoy the flowers all around the house and the perimeter of the yard (although from the look of those weeds I am going to have the opportunity to input a frighteningly decent share of my own labor as well :) ). In the back, there's a clothesline and a brick planter where my fresh herbs and salad greens will go, and then even two volunteer peach trees! I will attach pictures of the outside later, since I haven't actually taken any yet and this week has had surprisingly close to Ohio weather--overcast and drizzly. Perfect for hot tea :)
As far as the inside goes, once again, very nice. Brian and I officially own one piece of furniture: a lampstand made just for us by an elderly man from my Ohio church. Thankfully, the family was gracious enough to leave our house furnished, and so we can actually sleep in a bed, sit on chairs, eat around a table, and such. :) Here are just a few selective pictures to give you a glimpse of what it looks like for us.

It started out like this...
And with a little TLC got to this. Pardon the jars all over the drying rack and table--just another project in process. :)

Our bedroom, complete with blankets over the windows because I will wake up with the sunrise otherwise. :)
I spent several days unpacking and rearranging. Several very necessary days.

Ah, one of the most important spots in our house--the game cabinet. For being married only six months, we have a pretty good supply...

So, there you have it. Although I do suggest that a much better way to see where we live is to actually see where we live...there are two more bedrooms in the basement, and I'm not above bribing you with fresh butter, farm-raised brown eggs, and surplus chocolate, not to mention our fantastic hosting skills...:)

March 7, 2012


So Aldi had avocados on sale last week, right? On sale, meaning, the earth's core almost went up a degree because of the mind-blowing phenomenon at hand: 19 cents each. For avocados, those phantasmagorically and quintessentially delectable morsel of green goodness. When my mother alerted me to the existence of this noteworthy event, I did what any logical and self-respecting person would do.

I bought 34. 
For less than $6.50, I didn't feel so guilty.
We ate them all in five days! 
Just kidding. I realized imbibing that many avocados before they would go bad (essentially by myself since the silly husband still doesn't recognize their value) was virtually beyond the realm of possibility for even such a talented consumer as myself. I looked online, and in addition to learning how to grow my own avocado houseplant from the pits, I learned that freezing was in fact a viable option. And what better activity after my first day of work at Glenn's Bulk Food Store (yaaay for a job!) than blending up a box of avocados? 

See? Isn't it beautiful?

This, however, is even more beautiful...especially times four.

The official California avocado website laid forth the only approved method of freezing as pureeing with a ratio of 1 T of lemon/lime juice per avocado, to effectively halt the spread of browning. After scooping six avocados into the blender, I decided 6 T was way too much lemon juice, so I opted for a gentle 1/4 C. Thankfully, I had three more blenders of avocados to go, because all I could taste was green creamy lemon. The next batch I tried just salt (and water to aid in the blending process), then 1/2 and 1/2 salt and lemon juice, then nothing at all (except water again). I can't help but experiment. 
I ended up with a delightful slew of bright green paste in subtly varying flavors, to the extent that I was raiding my cupboards for any appropriate sized sort of freezing container. 
Eventually I decided ice cube trays were my best bet for the remnants--perfect for smoothies! Seriously, avocado smoothies are my fav. Just blend an avocado with milk, ice, and sugar (or just ice cream and milk), and drink up the green goodness!!! Mmmm. 
I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with this treasure trove...but I'm not too worried about it. A fantastic sandwich spread I discovered: smashed avocado, salt, lime juice, chili powder, hot pepper, plain yogurt. Simple, but fantastic on toast with some thin tomato slices or white cheese.
Brian's going to have to learn to like avocados. Although, I guess if he doesn't, that just leaves more for me. Not that I'm really running out at this point.

March 5, 2012

I Can't Believe It's Butter!

Really, it still fascinates me. Who knew you could actually make butter?? 
I did, and I've done it before, but this is different. It's from cows a mile and a half down the road, and it comes over in gallon glass jars.
Plus, due to self-inflicted mandates, it's our only source of butter from now on. Hypothetically. I have ideals, including self-sustanence in many different realms--one of them the realm of butter :) 
Butter was one of the first dairy products I intended to tackle mastery of in my new home. I approached my first experiment with dubious excitement. Thankfully, Dr. Seuss and my time-proven Mr. Blender gave me confidence.

They let me down. The only things I produced were failure and some nasty chunky-watery liquid. Great, the easiest thing on my list, and I was already struggling.
Oh well. It's not like I'm going to run out of milk anytime soon. 

So with our next gallon of milk came my next attempt, bolstered by actual advice and step-by-step instructions instead of making it up from what I remembered in passing conversations. AND, since I did succeed this time, I'm going to tell you how it works. 

After ladling the cream off the top of "rested" milk (a couple hours should be enough to get the cream and milk to separate), let it sit on the counter until room temperature. Longer than the 20 minutes I gave it my first shot; I've been leaving it for 4-6 hours. Dump it in the blender, and turn that puppy on.

It never got to that instantaneous transformation from cream to butter that I was looking for, but after a couple minutes the butter should start to collect at the surface. One blog I was checking out said to then pour it all through a strainer:

My strainer is very fine-mesh, intended for chai (not that I ever make that stuff), and all the butter did was conglomerate everywhere. I decided that was theretofore an unnecessary step, and today I just scooped the butter off the buttermilk and put it in a glass container. I smushed it around for a while (but definitely not playing with it), tipping out the rivulets of buttermilk as they escaped the butter. Towards the end I just captured the butter with my spatula and poured out the unwanteds. 

At this point I stirred in some salt (I would tell you the amount but it's hard to show you on the surface area of my palm, so I have absolutely no idea), and whoopdedoo, I gots butter! It even turned a gentle shade of yellow this time, which gives me some internal level of accreditation. I got about 1/2 cup of butter with 2 1/2 cups of leftover liquid--I'll tell you later about my experiment with that not a fantastic ratio, but so worth it.


March 3, 2012

My Idea

So, here's my thought. I have no idea how to make a blog interesting, if I'll have the initiative to keep it updated, or who is going to be bored enough to read it. :) But--I know I love to write, take pictures, cook, try new things, stay connected with my friends, try to treat the environment like it's God's (since it is), and glorify Him with my life.
And what is the perfect synergism of all of the above?? Probably not a blog. But it seems worth a shot anyway. :)
What's the goal of my entering the world of periodic cyber updates? I'm not sure I've formally articulated that even in my subliminal mental processing, but without taking the time that would more adequately help me convey my thoughts, I just want to jump into the life God has given me with joy and enthusiasm, and be able to share some of my experiences. At times I'm almost giddy with the discoveries of living more simply and utilizing my environment in a way that echoes some of the community I feel God desires us to pursue. That said, I find myself continually wondering what on Earth (literally) that is supposed to look like, both in general and in my specific day-to-day life. I'll share sometime why I think it's important to live in simplicity and environmental awareness.
Heads up, I don't have the answers. :)
But I am enjoying looking. I recently encountered a (what at least feels like) drastic change in my location and lifestyle in my husband's and my move from Ohio to Kansas. True, without imparting any positive or negative value, I can point out that both places are flat, windy, and full of fields. Thank goodness for some continuity. In the week and three days since we've been here, I've been enjoying a lot of blessings, such as a house approximately 5 (?) times larger than our previous (not including the basement) (meaning, our apartment was a bit on the small side), an extremely welcoming church and local community, and a sun that shines almost every day. Not to mention Brian's family is right down the dirt road, we actually have space to utilize wedding gifts now, and more job offers than I anticipated. Kansans really are great--everyone waves at you, you can have an in-depth conversation with any random person about farming, and apparently they think liverwurst is a good thing. What's not to love? :) But seriously, though it's going to take a while to make this my home, with the grace of God I will. And in the process, I'd love to share some of the endeavors and stories that currently entertain me.
Also, I'll ramble from time to time. Just so you're aware of that.