my love affair with self-sufficiency

Life is interesting.

I have never been interested in cooking or being self-sufficient.

In the last two years, however, this has change. I still do not like cooking but baking, pickling, and jamming have been awesome. I could not be more excited πŸ™‚

Fermented food

Sourdough: I first became interested in baking bread and I now even have a sourdough starter that makes wonders every week πŸ™‚ I have not purchased any store-made bread since May 2016. I also shared my sourdough and commercial yeast loaves with my fiends. What a joy πŸ™‚

Kefir: I then was gifted by kefir grains within 2017 and i not only fell in love with kefir itself, but I made cheese/spread from it and even used it in baking bread πŸ™‚ Drinking kefir makes me feel good and I know that it gives me the calcium that I need at my age in addition to many nutrients. I am very happy with it πŸ™‚

Pickles: I did pickles before thanks to my mother, but I have never been this interested in it until recently – I love the beet and cabbage pickles I make! I think it is the benefit of living in a cold climate that the pickle lasts long without going bad and this way I always have a jar or two in my kitchen. I made three batches of beet pickles this fall enjoyed by myself and my friends πŸ™‚

Sauerkraut: And tomorrow I will try my first ever sauerkraut!Β 

How about this?Β 

I think I am moving in the right direction πŸ™‚

 

Jam/marmalade:

And just within the last 5-6 weeks, I started experimenting with making jam; dried fig jam first, then orange and tangerine, and today the raspberry jam/marmalade πŸ™‚

I feel like I am doing such a great job refraining from additives and chemicals in store-bought jams/bread/pickles. I must be rightfully proud of myself and I am!

 

Sewing

Okay.. I have not been as productive as I wished, but since I purchased my lovely sewing machine last year, I have done small stuff, including lots of covers for jars and discloth/cloth for the counter and window sills. I am yet to undertake a serious project, like a blouse or a quilt, but I know when the time comes, that will happen too πŸ™‚

 

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These are newfound interests for me and they have been enriching my life, providing me healthy and affordable food/items, and I feel increasingly “able”.

I really am excited about this change in me.

 

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my adventures with plastic shopping bags, kefir cheese, and ice cream

I love ice cream in a hot summer day – there is something child-like about it that makes me look at the world with the eyes of an 8 years old. I love this feeling of carelessness, pure joy, and being in the moment πŸ™‚

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My aim to reduce the shopping bags at my home and not picking up new ones continues with 80-90% success. There were times that I had to get the bags at stores, but at least I do not have an over-flowing amount of them in my kitchen drawer anymore. I am determined to keep only around 20 or so of them at home to use as garbage bin liner, but not more than that.Β 

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And I have been trying kefir cheese for some time. I think I have had my forth one this week. You simply collect 700-1000 ml kefir, pour down a strainer lined by a clean cloth (not necessarily a cheese cloth), and put the strainer in a large bowl where the strainer will have some room (so that the strained liquid will collect at the bottom of the bowl away from the strainer), and place the assembly in the fridge over night. The majority of the whey would have drained until then. You can also gently squeeze the curds/cloth to remove extra liquid.

One can eat this – it is delicious, but if you are looking for a thicker one, then change the cloth (cheese cloth is fine now as the curds are large enough so that they will not be strained through the cheese cloth), and place in the fridge. I found that at that point the liquid drainage is not strong enough and the majority of the draining is actually made by the cloth. So change it frequently to encourage further removal of whey. I sometimes place the cheese/curds between two plastic tubs (the one at the bottom would have holes in it to help drainage) and put weight on the top tub to encourage further drainage. But, I find that this is not necessarily an efficient and practical solution, so I rather change the cloth as it gets wet to help it thicken. It is that simple.

Use it as it is, or mix with herbs or even fruits (like mushy berries or banana).

My next trial will be a ricotta made by milk and whey; cannot wait! πŸ™‚

Healthy and fun to do!

Bon appetite!

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sourdough loaf with black olive, parsley, and kefir

I wanted to bake a sourdough that was not tried before and I think I managed to do so.

I present you the sourdough loaf with kefir, parsley, and black olive πŸ™‚

Smells like sea! Enjoy!

 

 

adventures with kefir

I have had the excitement of owningΒ kefir grains in the last one month πŸ™‚

At first I left the kefir grains+milk mixture in a jar on the counter with only the top/lid being covered by a clean piece of cloth (secured with elastic band). I replaced milk everyday, directly from fridge. It did not get thick (that is, curdy) but tasted tangy and salty in 24 hours. I kept it that way for a week or so.Β 

Then I decided to wrap it with a kitchen towel and hoped that it warmed it and helped with fermentation. It did not make a huge difference in fermentation/texture/taste I would say.

Then I decided to put it in a cabinet and wrap with a thicker towel, away from sunlight. Again, there was no significant change.

Then, my sister convinced me to use warm milk; basically I put the fresh milk in a clean jar, covered the top, and put it in hot water bed for 10-15 min to warm it up. I then added the grains in warmed milk and also covered it with a thicker blanket. I replaced the milk everyday, and then started to change it every two days. These changes occurred last weekend (June 3-4). There was some thickening of the milk (curd) around the grains and there was some kind of mucus-like thing going on around the grains, but again there was not significant change in the texture.Β 

Then my best friend gave me the idea to warm up the thick blanket in the dryer to help fermentation. I did this starting this weekend – 3-4 min in dryer is enough. I did this whenever I changed the milk.

And a couple of day later, yesterday to be exact, I have had the kefir fermented in 12 hours! πŸ™‚

I have removed the grains, fed them with fresh milk (which nicely gave me another batch of kefir today), and left the fermented kefir at room temperature away from sunlight (not covered by anything, except the lid) yesterday. This is called “second fermentation” by sources in internet. It started to separate (the curd and whey) a few hours after that and this evening I planned to make cheese/spread out of it (total of 24 hours of second fermentation).Β 

It was very easy.

It turns out if you leave it like that, the curd naturally moves up and it almost drains itself of the liquid part (i.e. whey). When used the spoon, I was surprised by how solid it felt πŸ™‚ the bottom part where the curd touches the whey is naturally a little bit wet, but one can strain/drain this using a strainer (I did not this time, but I am planning next time). I added some salt, chili flakes, and dried dill to my first ever kefir spread! Yum πŸ™‚

A couple of notes: I noticed that if I warm up the milk and the blanket, the jar/grains keeps warm for quite some time (for hours) and it is especially important to keep it warm where the grains are; my grains are always on the surface so covering the top/lid of the jar really good with a clean piece of cloth first and then with warm, thick blanket is a good idea.

Also, the fermentation temperature seems to make a difference; when it is colder temps, then it is more sour/tangy. However when it is fermented in a warmer environment, then it is not. There must be some bacteria that like colder temps and produce the tangy taste.

I used 2% or homogenized milk. I am not sure whether skim milk would yield such robust kefir grains. I must also say that there has not been significant change in the size or numbers of the kefir grains since I adopted them a month ago.

Overall, I am very excited and would love to try a cheese or two using the kefir curd. Here is one recipe that makes it sound really easy. Hope I can succeed in this πŸ™‚

joy journal – June 14, 2017

Lots of great things are happening, which deserve to be acknowledged and thanked for πŸ™‚

1. I am grateful for a good sleep yesterday and waking up early.

2. I am grateful for walking in the morning to office. I am usually very absent minded during these walks and I hardly notice what I am up to, but that is not a problem – I feel relaxed as a result of these walks. I also know how useful walking for my bones, muscles, heart, vascular system, skin, and mind – so one activity in the morning does give these many benefits is amazing. I always feel excited and happy about walking in the morning throughout the day! πŸ™‚

3. I am grateful for getting up early. I noticed that if I get up early, I am more inclined to walk. It is, I guess, because if I am late, I feel stressed and want to go to office as early as possible. So a reason to take the cab rather than walk. Being in the office early also gives me a chance to relax and start working early in the day. That means before noon I take care of quite a bit of work, which makes me feel efficient and I am not as stressed as I otherwise would. So, getting up early works very well for me πŸ™‚

4. I am grateful for having a chat with a friend/colleague of mine where we both were frustrated with the toxic workplace environment and finally had realized that we were better than what we thought we were because surviving and striving in such an environment was not easy and not for everyone, but we were doing it. We should stop listening to others and go ahead with our work and plans to success. I also mentioned during this talk that how good I felt about my life, my daily routine, and everything else, except the toxicity of the work place and the feeling of “I am not god enough” that taxes my self-confidence. It felt awesome to be able to feel and say good about my life πŸ™‚

5. I am grateful for walking in the nearby forest with two of my colleagues in the afternoon. It was refreshing and energizing – we all enjoyed it πŸ™‚

6. I am grateful for my kefir grains! have I mentioned that for the first time since I have had the grains (the last 4-5 weeks) I had the milk fermented in 12 hours? I checked it this morning, as my usual habit and curiosity, and there it was! all thick and curdy! It was so exciting! I fed it this evening and cannot wait till tomorrow morning to check it out! I have so many plans; I would like to buy new and bigger jugs to preserve my kefir. I also would like to try kefir spread and cheese sometime. And tonite I also thought about fermenting my own yogurt! I had tried it last year and I was not successful, but I would like to give it a try again. Very exciting!

7. I m grateful for eating relatively healthy today.Β 

8. I am grateful for today being a no expense day πŸ™‚

9. I am grateful for tomorrow being Thursday,which is usually my grocery shopping day! I really need to buy fresh produce and shopping makes me feel good. So, happy Thursday everyone! πŸ™‚

10. I am grateful for relaxing the entire evening and night and enjoying my time by reading, writing, and watching movies πŸ™‚

11. I am grateful for the rain that we have had for a short time today. Thanks to it, I did not have to water the seeds in the yard. So far I was not able to see any seed germinate (some of them were planted 10 days ago), which is discouraging. But at least, i think I have 6 potato plants! Yuppiiii!! πŸ™‚ Something other than a sturdy stalk of mint, weed, and grass grew in my yard! πŸ™‚

12. I am grateful for the work I have done today and moving things.

13. I am grateful for brewing my own coffee and enjoying it a lot today.

14. I am grateful for the weekend to come and all the shopping I can do then!

Have a great night everyone πŸ™‚Β 

 

joy journal – May 15, 2017

1. I had a pleasant night and an easy morning, for which I am grateful. I decided last week or so that it feels great to notice and noteΒ when I have a comfy and relaxing evening &Β night at home. The same holds true for the easy morning. Easy mornings are those when I get up when I want to getΒ up and those that I do not stress myselfΒ by having negative thoughts going in my mind.

2. I m grateful for the bright day outside and the sunlight that make me feel energetic, optimistic, and hopeful! Spring indeed is awesome, my friends. One of the best remedy forΒ feeling down and the seasonal effective disorder (SAD) that I probably have.

3. I am grateful for walking to office this morning. I do not notice anymore that I am walking. I just walk and often am thoughtful while walking. This may not be the best practice, but at least I am not counting the steps or the distance and wonder when i will reach the office. I just do it, it is relaxing, and becoming a second nature for my mornings πŸ™‚ When I think about 2-3 years ago how lethargic and tired I was and all I could do was to take the cab to the office, I feel nothing but lucky, excited, proud, and happy for being capable of walking in the mornings πŸ™‚

4. I am grateful for walking with my new assistant effectively. She just joined my unit but is very positive and intelligent person, so I am really excited to be training and working with her.

5. I am grateful for my mid-morning walk. I just put on my boots, my toque, and my jacket and walked out in the forest next to our building. The air is fresher and cooler, and it is so peaceful over there. I had felt very optimistic when IΒ had done this last time, and this time was no exception. I am happy that regardless of the issues at work, I still seem to like my life and sometimes take my mind away from the issues and focus on the present and enjoy what it may present to me.Β 

6. I am grateful for inviting a couple of my friends for a dinner this weekend. We have the long weekend this week (Victoria day) in Canada. I hope to cook some great dishes and host my friends with confidence πŸ™‚

7. I am grateful for eating healthy today; I have eaten eggs in the morning, fruits (apple, orange), chicken, and raw veggies/salad in the rest of the day. It feels great to eat healthy food, even though my scale this morning showed that I had gained weight this weekend πŸ™‚ It must be the carbs and desserts I had. Argh! πŸ™‚

8. I am grateful for my kefir grains πŸ™‚ I had fed them yesterday with 1% milk and I was not sure whether they would strive in it. The majority of the sites on the net mention that the higher the fat content of the milk is, denser the kefir gets. I had some density this afternoon, which was good to see. However, not sure whether I should have expected more, so I will monitor this for a week or so and if it does get worse, maybe I will try the 2% milk.

9. I am grateful for feeling lucky for having been given the kefir grains πŸ™‚ I believe that they are healthy and by caring for them and drinking them in the evenings, I am doing something great for my body. This is a very positive feeling. Many years ago when I was in Toronto, I was big on healthy life-style; each healthy food I purchased, every tea IΒ drank, every walking and cardio exercise I didΒ would make me feel great (and approving) about myself πŸ™‚ Sometimes I miss those times; like checking the health and organic stores; finding those really rare but healthy products, and being grateful for being able to afford them… πŸ™‚

10. I am grateful for being healthy and free of acute or chronic diseases.

11. I am grateful for taking the stairs (2 stories) up today πŸ™‚

12. I am grateful for having the evening and the night to myself and my ability and opportunity to relax.

13. I am grateful for today being a #noexpense day.

14. I am grateful for my hand creams that keep my hands moisturized and give me healthy-looking skin.

15. I am grateful for flossing and loving my floss!!

16. I am grateful for being grateful and taking my time to note this here today.

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What am I thanking myself for today?

  1. I like the fact that I make an effort to be healthy by walking and eating better
  2. I like the fact that I like to work and find satisfaction in it
  3. I like the fact that I have the time, interest, and patience to have fermented food (i.e. sourdough bread) and drink (i.e. kefir) at home
  4. I like the fact that I enjoy walking in nature
  5. I like the fact that I dream and my dreams are helping me to solve problems, even though sometime they are annoying or scary

my kefir grains :)

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My friend who we visited yesterday gave me kefir grains!Β 

I am so excited!

Last year I had looked on the net for information about it. I was hesitant to purchase it, so I let it go from among my plans. So when my friend yesterday asked me whether I have had other fermented food (she knows that I have a sourdough starter),and whether IΒ would like some kefir grains she has had,Β  I was like, yes – please!! πŸ™‚

A wish came through.

Unexpectedly.

I m grateful for my friend and my sourdough starter – it will keep company of my second house pet πŸ™‚

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