happiness is when…

you buy the food your body has been craving without thinking whether it was on sale and cooking & eating it without any distraction or hesitation.

 

 

my bread babies

It has been two years that I started to bake bread. I have not bought store-sold breads since then.

First many trials were not so good (except the first oe below, which was amazing to me!), but it eventually came around.

Then I got into sourdough and boy, what a magnificent experience it has been: every weekend with great excitement I baked a loaf or two, shared it with my neighbors, and friends, and I even shared my starter with someone interested in. It sure makes me happy and joyful.

Happy baking! 🙂

IMG_8319
My first ever bread! (with commercial yeast and whole wheat flour – two years ago today:)))))

carrot jam :)

I did not even think that it was possible or tasty, but I was wrong. Carrot jam is must to try 🙂

I was looking for an interesting jam/marmalade to try and it was the carrot jam that intrigued me. Thanking bloggers out there who have posted their recipes. I improvised my recipe and I am very pleased with the end result.

Addition of orange to this jam kind of masks the “veggie” smell/taste of carrot. Next time  I want to try it with some nuts, like walnut, for a much tastier and crunchier version.

Ingredients:

  • 8 mid-size carrots
  • 1 extra large orange
  • 1.5 lemon
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 2 tbs salt

Recipe:

  • peel the carrots and cut in thin stripes – julienne (my new mandolin slicer did not work out well, what a waste of money, so I cut them using a knife)
  • peel the orange, scrap off the white coat, piece and add to carrots
  • add 4 cups of sugar, mix, and let stand for 1-2 hours (continue to mix it every once a while – it should get juicy at the end of the waiting period)
  • add water and salt, and bring to a rolling boil, continue to boil for 30 min at medium heat
  • add the orange peels (once the orange is peeled, put the peels in 1/4 vinegar/water mix, let stand for 30 min, scrap off the white coat, and slice thinly) and 10 tbs of lemon juice
  • boil for another 25-30 min, until it reduces to 1/3 of the initial volume and thickens
  • pour down the sterilized jars, close the lids, and rings.
  • Water or pressure can for long-term preservation. If not, keep it in the fridge and consume within weeks.

Bon appetite!

happy sourdough – III

 

IMG_3460Isn’t it beautiful 🙂

This was the first time that I tried 3 hours of proofing. When I took it out of the shaping bowl and scored, the dough was almost flat. But in the oven it showed a great oven spring and one of the largest air pockets I have ever seen. It even cracked itself on top even though I had slashed it, which tells me that yeast really worked hard this time.

Will continue like this – it has been a great experiment.

it is time to have some plans

Now that I do not get any more (strong) anxiety, I have decided it was time that I come back to my regular routine by re-introducing my small daily life goals.

They literally make me feel like I am in control of my life, I am capable of taking care of my life and myself, and I am capable of making positive changes in my life.

They may be small, but mighty! 🙂

Here they are:

Working at the office, not at home, during the weekdays: Working mostly at home in the last 7 months made me socially isolated. I now feel better if I am in the office and do the work there. I can and will continue to work at home after hours/weekends, but at least my social health will be better. I will also enjoy being at home – lately I went through too many of stressful times while trying to do work at home. It is time that I experience what “home” means.

Taking the bus and walking: Last week was good in terms of taking the bus in the morning and walking in the afternoons (back to home). I do not want to waste anymore dimes on the cab (although I love it – so easy and comfy. Also the cabbies are always nice and very talkative). BUT I want to keep my money for more important things. I must keep my money for more important things.

Eating better: I have done well in the last two weeks by eating a variety and healthy food. I still sometime munch on candy or chocolate, but I cook more and eat more salad. The lettuce seems to be doing the magic 🙂

Stretching and elbow exercises: My physiotherapy continues and my elbow has been feeling better but not quite healed. I was given a new exercise last Friday that aims to smooth the muscles around my elbow (they are very tight). The effect was instantaneous and I cannot think about not doing these exercises! I feel so lucky and hopeful that my elbow will be like new quite soon 🙂

Budget and frugal life-style:  This is a long one.

I have been struggling with keeping up with my budget and that makes me feel bad. Literally bad. I have had a very successful history of highly effective budget and saving as much as I can. Last year was hugely successful.

However, I have not started this year well and I am way above my weekly budget and cannot save much from my pay check. This is ridiculous – I have some payments coming up; one soon for a plane ticket to Europe and another one for an investment account (an annual sum that challenges me each year, but I keep making it knowing that in the future it will be so useful). According to my calculations, unless I save around a good sum of money each month, it looks like I will not be able to make pre-payments and I will have to tap into my line of credit account.

WHAT??

An additional debt? Was mortgage not good enough??

By the way; why did Bank of Canada increased its interest rate? Argh.. Now the major Canadian banks are increasing their mortgage rates and they predict further increases in the future. My term ends in 2 years and with increased tax and no salary increase, how the hey am I supposed to pay my mortgage, invest for my retirement, and have a comfortable life all at the same time ??

……..

Going back to my frugality plan; all I have to do is to start being responsible and motivated about savings again. Which is hard. I meant to do this almost everyday lately. I know that it will happen one day, but when is that day? Tomorrow? Monday? Next week? 

I chose Monday – wish me luck 🙂

 

 

 

Orange jam

Here is my second ever jam trial and first ever orange jam 🙂

I was mostly inspired by the recipe here, with minor changes.

Ingredients

  • 7 mid-big size oranges and 2 navel oranges (I decided to add these later and they were what I have had extra) – total around 3 pounds of oranges (including the peel)
  • 3 1/4 cups of sugar
  • Juice of one navel orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon (around 6 tbs)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup thinly sliced orange peel

 

Recipe

  • Wash the oranges, peel, and remove the white coat as much as possible (also the seeds)
  • Piece the oranges as you please; I have used my hand to have around 2 cms of pieces
  • Pour over the sugar, mix, and put aside for 2 hours. Mix with a spoon every 30 min

Peels:

Put the peels on vinegar-water. After 1 hour or so, take out the peels and remove the white coat as much as possible. I found that putting the peels in water helps remove it with the help of a knife. It is not an easy task, but doable. After that, place the peels on a cutting board with inside up and use the knife the scrap the coat – it is surprisingly easy this way.

  • Cut thinly and put aside
  • At the end of 2 hours, add all ingredients except the peels and bring to a vigorous boil, continue to simmer at medium heat for 45 min – it should be reduced a little bit
  • Add the peels, continue to simmer at medium heat for another 30 min. Mix every few minutes
  • Cool down and pour into the jars, close the lid and the ring.
  • Makes 2 x 500 ml jam

Jars:

I washed the jars, rings, and lids in washing machine. Then placed in an oven at 220F for around 40 min in order to kind of sterilize

Verdict: It was somehow too sweet for me, so feel free to use less sugar, but otherwise, yummy :). I love the peels making a contrast with soft orange. I did not water or pressure canned it, so preserve it in the fridge and consume within weeks.

Bon Appetite!

 

 

 

 

 

fast beet pickles

I have got a great recipe from my mom which I am happy to share.

1. Peel the beets (I do that – many people boil beets in their skin, but I do remove them so that I can use the beet-water later) and chop

2. Put beet bits in  boiling water and boil for 15-25 min. I like my pickles kind of crisp and not mushy; but you can adjust the boiling time as short or long as you please

3. Put the beets in jars that are clean and sterilized (I wash them in the dish washer and let the steam work on them. This time I also kept them at oven heated up to 212F (100C)  for 20 min. I treated the rings the same. As per the lids, I only washed them in the dishwasher and then dried with paper towel)

4. Close the lids but do not tighten yet; let cool the beet-water

5. Brine: per 750 ml jar; peel and grate 3 mid-size garlic; add vinegar+beet water (1 in 4 ratio), 2 tbs of sugar and 1 tbs of salt. Mix well

6. Pour down the brine over the beets (around 1 1/3 cup brine/each jar), make sure it covers them. Close tightly and preserve the jars in the fridge or a cool place (mine are always on the kitchen counter; we have a cool climate and my kitchen is heated up to around 17C).

7. These pickles can be enjoyed immediately. Consume within a short time (2-4 weeks).

 

TIPS:

  1. You know beets will create a mess and you will clean and clean and clean, right? So, be careful and gentle while handling it 🙂 I placed a number of towels around to make sure the mess will be contained, yet sill needed to clean my wall. Oh, well. I may be just clumsy (and I am) 🙂
  2. You can increase the ratio of vinegar to water and reduce the sugar; this will help with keeping the pickle longer. I personally love this ratio; it does not smell like vinegar and tastes sweet. Just the way I love it 🙂
  3. Since this pickle is not sterilized like in water baths or pressure canners etc, it is best consumed soon (like within a month). Always keep in the fridge to protect it from getting spoiled. Use sterilized tools and cans to reduce the chance of spoilage.
  4. I found the long beets rather than round ones make better pickles; I think it is easier to cut them and have decent sized bites.
  5. Use fresh beets – cannot believe what a difference it makes! One of my colleagues had brought me a bunch from her farm and the pickle I have made using these beets were the best. I purchased today’s beets from farmers market. Crunchy beets they were – the best 🙂

 

 

today’s sourdough loaves

Because of my trips lately I had depleted my frozen bread stock. I feel a lot better when I have extra loaves at the freezer. Thus, I baked two sourdough today using the same recipe 🙂

They both turned out to be lovely! Thin crust and soft crumb, with a kick of salt and feeling very homey 🙂 The oven spring was way more powerful that I would imagine, as both loaves had sides cracked despite the fact that I had scored their surface 🙂 Something worked really well 🙂

The catch is that I had run out of bread flour, so I had to prepare the dough with all purpose flour. Now, I  never have had a good rise with all purpose flour, even though I am in Canada (people says that Canadian all purpose flour is as good as the bread flour with high protein content…). That is why I thought I would add some oat or rye flakes to dough – my previous experience with these additions is that they make the yeast somehow happier and dough better and airy.

Recipe:

  • I used 1 cup of rolled rye flakes soaked for 2 hours in 1 cup of water, which was then topped with 5 cups of all purpose flour, 2tbs of sugar, 1.5 tbs of salt, 1 1/3 cups of starter, and I believe 2.5 cups of water.
  • I used the stretch and fold technique to form the dough and left it at room temperature over night to rise.
  • In the morning, I was looking at a puffy and healthy dough 🙂 I cut it into two, one smaller than the other, shaped, rested for 10 min, and then placed them in proving containers. The small one was proven in an oven pot and the other one was formed into a long loaf and placed on a cookie sheet surrounded with items to keep it in shape. I left them at room temperature for 4.5 hours to prove.
  • I scored them and then baked at non-pre-heated oven at 350F for 55 min.

Voila 🙂

let me end this unfrugal spending scheme

I have made more expenses in the last three weeks than any other time since the new year. I possibly spent 3X of my regular allowance. This does not feel good. Most of the expenses are for junk stuff and cab rides while I was trying to keep my head over work and work issues. Throw in a social and hosting two dinners (one last weekend, one tomorrow) and you can get the idea.

I am determined to pay this mortgage off in the next 6 years. This means I am reducing the time into half. I must and can save more while I have a salary. This must be my priority.

From tomorrow on, I will be on shopping ban; no thrift store or other purchases till October, unless absolutely needed. I will not buy any furniture or clothes, either. Absolutely no cab rides!! I will have my hair done, though, since I am transitioning to gray now. The journey has started and will be completed. I do not expect socials either. At least I will not be inviting over anyone. Well, maybe a couple with lovely kids. We will see.

The only purchases acceptable are:

  • baking items (I will need bread flour and whole wheat flour soon)
  • veggies and fruits
  • milk and yogurt
  • eggs and occasional meat products
  • personal hygiene products

I also am going to do another pantry challenge and focus on consuming the food I already have before filling my pantry, freezer, and fridge again. That will be exciting and I am really looking forward to this.

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bread with sun flower seeds

While trying to revive my dried sourdough starter, here is the bread I have baked using the commercial yeast.

 

 

Recipe:

1/2 tbs yeast, 1 cup 2% milk, 1 cup water (warm milk and water together first), 2 tbs sugar; mix well and activate the yeast for 10 min (cover the bowl)

add 3 tbs salt, 9 cups of bread flour, mix and form a dough

cover and stretch and fold 3-4 times (around 20-30 min rest in between)

rest at fridge over night

in the morning. take the dough out and bring to room temp ~3 hours

shape the dough and rest 5 min

work on the shape of the dough, and place it in a bowl with clean cloth and sprinkled with generous amount of sun flower seeds

put in a large plastic bag and prove at room temp for 4 hours (in the last 30 min I put it in an oven warmed to 100F)

score and bake at a non-pre-heated oven at 375F for 45 min (oven on) and an additional 15 min (oven off)

take out, sprinkle some water over the loaf, and let cool down

Bon appetite!

 

PS: since  this loaf is going to a friend of mine, I did not cut it out and hence I have no idea how the crumb is. But the oven spring was amazing and the fact that the loaf kept its round shape, I am hopeful that the crumb too is good 🙂

Day of the sourdough

I have baked two sourdough loaves today: one plain, and one with tomato, bell pepper, and garlic shoots.

Next time I can leave the garlic out, but this sourdough was interesting to bake and eat. I would recommend for those who like a taste of sunny and healthy Mediterranean food 🙂

Mediterranean loaf:

 

Plain loaf:

 

 

looking forward to the long weekend

It is Canada day tomorrow and we have the long weekend with Monday off.

I may be working on Monday but I am so excited for this long weekend! I just feel tired and too strained lately, and I am looking forward to winding down a little bit. This weekend will give me this opportunity 🙂

What are my plans?

Other than the regular stuff (i.e. cleaning the house, doing the laundry, cutting the grass – which I have done this afternoon), I plan to bake an unconventional type of sourdough this week. What could that be? Something that has not been done before…. I do not know really – I will have to really get creative here, or bake a regular sourdough – in any way it will be awesome 🙂

I would like to visit the thrift stores tomorrow and see whether i can find something interesting. I may buy some sewing material.

Sewing… Yes… Why do I not try sewing a blouse again? I have tons of fabric that I hauled last year from thrift stores 🙂 What a great idea – I hope I will not chicken again and do it!

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I may also visit a nearby international food store and get some dry beans and bulghur – these could be excellent choices to prepare office lunch for me. Good idea! 🙂

I also would like to start drying some lilacs from my yard.  I have incredible lilacs that I have been thinking about drying up for some time. I think it is the time…. Once they dry up, I want to hang them on my wall in a frame. The beauty of the flowers and plants in my yard…. How nice is the nature? I have daisies blooming up. They are all so exciting 🙂

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And other than this, I will look ahead my life, and plan and hope for the best. It is time that things change for the better. Now that I appreciate my life, how simple and easy going it is, and how well it works for me, including my budget, increased savings, and investments. There is a lot to be grateful for in my life. This weekend will give me an opportunity to re-think about them and re-feel my appreciation.

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gifs by:https://giphy.com/gifs/flowers-TFA5yuQIIoVUc;https://giphy.com/gifs/life-good-reasons-IUZSvaO2SA6mk;https://giphy.com/gifs/dance-fashion-vintage-Vsxv2SHYkcLSg

 

 

 

The Queen of all bread; sourdough with kefir

IMG_1382
but…but… but… can you see what I see? Is that not GORGEOUS!? 🙂 🙂

I am hooked to this combination and I suspect that I will always bake sourdough with kefir from now on.

I have not tasted anything quite like this, nor eaten a softer sourdough that I have baked. The slight salty taste, the crumb (the best so far), and the smell of this sourdough will fill my dreams – I can tell you that with confidence.

The recipe is quite basic like any other sourdough I have baked;

1. I added to 1 cup of whole wheat starter fed twice (Friday night and Saturday morning), 2tbs of sugar and 1 cup of kefir – mixed well with a spoon until it become somehow frothy (it does become frothy quite easily). Then added 2 cups of bread flour and 1.5 tbs of salt. Mixed and formed a shaggy dough.

This dough formed quite fast without needing to mix too much – I give it to kefir.       Somehow it helped bond the dough and voila! I had that healthy looking and soft             dough. As it was my practice the last few weeks, I made sure the dough was slightly           sticky while adding the flour.

2. I then left it at room temperature covered with a clean towel and stretched and folded 4-5 times time to time. The next day, I shaped it, and left for proving in a bowl covered with a clean cloth and sprinkled with generous amount of sesame and poppy seeds. It proved for 6.5 hours at room temperature in a plastic bag.

3. I baked it in non-preheated oven; 375 F for 15 min first, then 25 min at 350 F (the seeds burn pretty quick if the temperature is high), and then left in a turned off oven for an additional 5 min.

Give it a try and let me know whether you also agree that this is the best sourdough ever! 🙂

 

IMG_1360
mother of sourdough – the happy and active starter
IMG_1362
kefir – I am hesitant to add it but I read that others tried baking bread with kefir, so here comes a fresh batch of kefir
IMG_1363
the initial shaggy dough – do not worry – it will form just fine
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at the end of stretch and folds; ready to rest overnight
IMG_1367
and the next morning it has risen all nice and fluffy 🙂
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shaped and left for proving
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6.5 hours later, it seems to have proven quite a bit – exciting 🙂
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the seeds look great! sadly I also deflated it a little bit while taking it from the bowl onto the parchment paper.. feeling nervous….
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i deflated the dough a little bit more while scoring…. not my best day – next time I will have to handle this dough with a little bit more care
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but…but… but… can you see what I see? Is that not GORGEOUS!? 🙂 🙂
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and the crumb is my finest so far – kefir and sourdough have formed a great collaboration. This bread will be a classic at my house from now on

weekly budget check

It has been good week. One of these weeks where the expenses are quite low because previously I stocked up food.  Oh, well 🙂

I have had a number of #noexpense days this week; I believe Saturday, Monday-Thursday I did not spend money, not even for transportation because I made the choice to walk 🙂

So it is possible to live without the need of spending money? This, my friends, feels really good 🙂 

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Here is this week’s spendings and savings:

Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery): $22.5

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $22.5= $97.5

Fun funds expenses: $54

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $1,108.5 !!! 🙂 

Other expenses: $11.5 (soft drinks for the dinner I was invited to)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $32.75 (these are the savings from expenses that I would normally make, but decided not to; such as having breakfast at home rather than at a cafe, walking rather than taking the bus, using coupons etc.). 

Better than spending them, do you not think 🙂

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Mortgage pre-payment: $225.5!

I am so excited about these payments!

I believe this is my 6th pre-payment since new year. Whatever I can save without much of an effort or planning (e.g. savings from would-be-expenses and the tax return are good examples), I use as pre-payments 🙂 I estimate that I will make around 5K of pre-payments this year – let’s cross the fingers! 🙂

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Pantry and freezer treasures enjoyed this week: frozen chicken meal from the freezer; and bulghur, wild rice, red lentil, and canned corn from the pantry. Talking about #endfoodhoarding!  🙂 

And as part of my “eat more diverse food challenge”  I have consumed kefir (for the first time in my life), corn, lentil, bulghur, wild rice, carrot, meat, green salad mix, and chicken that I had not eaten the week before (and a lot of sweets at the dinner with friends – ooooops! 🙂 )

Happy savings and happy healthy eating! 🙂

 

random thoughts

So they say Puerto Rico has declared bankruptcy.

Hmm…. I understand individuals but a state/country? No idea how that would be feeling for its residents. I am selfishly grateful for one thing – I had looked for jobs at Puerto Rico over a decade or two, and if I had found one, I would have moved there. Now I realize that I am in a much better place – this province did not declare a bankruptcy. At least, not yet…Until then I will keep working, soothing my anxiety over losing my job/pension, looking for alternative income resources or jobs, and saving as much as I can.

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I wore one of the thrifted blouses today and I felt lucky again; I have got that beauty for such an affordable price. I plan to go to thrift stores again this Saturday. I thought today; would I ever buy new blouses or shirts (these are the primary clothes I am okay for buying at thrift stores) from other stores? I have a shirt that I have hardly worn that I bought for over 50 bucks 4-5 years ago. What a waste…. I do not think I would do that again, as long as my experience with the thrift stores continues to be positive. There is something very satisfying and exciting about finding a beautiful blouse or item at a low cost, feeling lucky about this, and having savings building up for my future 🙂

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I happen to get my weekly shopping done today. I could not help and bought more stuff than I would usually consume. The difference this week is that I will start bringing food to office…. I so far consumed usually canned foods and fruits, but this had to change; I do not think canned food is very healthy. Not 5 days a week. So I have been meaning to transition into bringing in real food everyday. 

This, I suspect, will be a challenge for me. My primary concern is that I may forget to pick up the food in the morning, or get too lazy to even bother preparing food everyday….. One strategy will be to bring a week’s worth of food on Mondays – we have fridge on the floor so it should not be a problem to store them. Since I plan to walk in the mornings, this also means carrying them in my back pack on Mondays… I need a new habit, see? I gotta say that I am pretty sure this will be a struggle for some time, but we will see how it will go. The worst thing I will do is to eat nuts and trail mix at the office, in addition to fruit. At least they are easy to carry and always tasty.

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Tomorrow is Friday. This week has passed quite fast. This weekend I plan to continue fixing my yard, shop at thrift stores, clean my house, and walk to a park or something. I may as well start reading a book, who knows? It has been sometime that I read a book, so this may be actually a great activity to do. 

These are what crossed my mind tonite, friends. Hope you are having a great night and have wonderful plans for the coming weekend 🙂

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weekly budget check

I have done well this week, too. I think after a while, being frugal becomes a second nature 🙂

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Here is this week’s spendings and savings:

Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery and a cab ride): $54.5

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $54.5= $65.5

Fun funds expenses: $0

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $1,039.5 !!! 🙂 (a milestone! What do I do with this 1,000 bucks I saved from my weekly allowance? Tell me!!!!! 🙂)

Other expenses: $31.5 (gift and donation)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $43 (these are the savings from expenses that I would normally make, but decided not to; such as having breakfast at home rather than at a cafe, walking rather than taking the bus, the discounts at grocery stores etc.). 

These savings have a special place in my heart because I know that I could easily make these expenses. And, more importantly, every once a while I contribute these saved money as mortgage pre-payments! How about this extra motivation to save? 🙂

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Pantry and freezer treasures enjoyed this week: frozen bread, bean meal, and red lentil soup from the freezer 🙂  #endfoodhoarding; nothing from the pantry this week (ouch! I may have but I just cannot remember…..)

And as part of my “eat more diverse food challenge” I believe I have consumed around 7-8 food that I had not consumed the week before; ones that I can remember are beet, celery sticks, shrimp, carrot, red lentil, green lentil, and rolled oat. I must confess this is hard – to eat a variety of food and then trying to remember them 🙂 But it is all for good, so I will keep going 🙂

Happy savings and happy healthy eating! 🙂

weekly budget check

After 2 months or so, finally this past two weeks I have saved a good sum of my salary and improved my chequing account balance 🙂 This feels good and is highly motivating. I wish to be able to keep doing this so that I can start the summer with a really strong chequing account.

This week I did not take the cab at all; rather I either took the bus or walked 🙂 Walking as usual is a great activity that relaxes my body and my mind. I have never been disappointed by walking. The trick is to be able to “think” about walking 🙂 Once I am in the good mood and decide to walk, then walking just comes naturally.

Those days that I walk to office feels extremely satisfying because that usually means that I have no other expense and as such those days are expense-free. Thus I feel completely self-sustaining 🙂

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Here is this week’s spendings and savings:

Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery): $54

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $54= $66

Fun funds expenses: $0

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $974 !!! 🙂 (next week I hope to reach above 1,000 bucks – this is going to be a milestone for me 🙂

Other expenses: $5.75 (1 thrifted blouse and a piece of scrap fabric)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $65.25 (these are the savings from expenses that I would normally make, but decided not to; such as having breakfast at home rather than at a cafe, walking rather than taking the bus, the discounts at grocery stores etc,).

Mortgage pre-payment: none this time

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Pantry and freezer treasures enjoyed this week: frozen bread, chicken, and meatballs from the freezer; canned beans and rice from the pantry 🙂 Hurrah! #endfoodhoarding

And as part of my “eat more diverse food challenge” I believe I have consumed around 9-10 food that I have not consumed the week before; ones that I can remember are chicken, rice, tofu, beans, beef, potato, apple, oranges, and turnip.

Happy savings and happy healthy eating! 🙂

weekly budget check

I did not post the weekly budget check last week; it is quite similar to this week.

Basically, I keep staying within my weekly allowance and do not make other expenses, such as dining out or purchase of personal/cleaning products unless necessary. Despite my best efforts though, the funds that I can regularly save after my expenses, mortgage, bills, and RRSP/TFSA contributions is not overly significant. This worries me because this is how I increase the money in my chequing account. So far it has been going only up yet slowly, so it must be okay. Yet I wished I could do better, oh well 🙂

Anyways; I am excited to say that I keep making mortgage pre-payments whenever I find a chance. I did one today 🙂 Looks like every month I can do one or two payments with a minimum of 100 bucks. This does not sound like too much, but I would like to think that it is making a positive change in my debt 🙂 

Overall, I am very happy and grateful for my frugal life. It has been somehow rough lately and i have been taking the cab sometimes even though I really do not like the feeling afterwards, but i want to believe that I take the cab because I need to pamper myself. If a 10 bucks ride is going to make me feel better, honestly, there is no need to brag about it. I just am worried that it may become a regular thing – that is all. 

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Here is this week’s spendings and savings:

Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery and cab rides x 2): $62.5

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $62.5= $57.5

Fun funds expenses: $0

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $908 !!! 🙂 

Other expenses: $42 (personal care purchases, such as moisturizer)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $29 (these are the savings from expenses that I would normally make, but decided not to; such as having breakfast at home rather than at the local cafe).

Mortgage pre-payment: $211 🙂

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And, last; I am happy to say that I keep consuming the food I have “hoarded” in my freezer and pantry (e.g. pasta, beans, frozen meals, frozen bread, canned corn and beans, etc.). I have actually replaced some of the food with fresh batches, which feels real good. I plan to prioritize the food in the pantry more – I have quite a bit dried veggies, wild rice, and cracked wheat still to consume, though! Lucky me 🙂

Happy savings! 🙂

having energy and new projects feel fine

It has been a fine day today. I am kind of bored and anxious about something I care a lot, but other than that, it has been going well.

Today I got up around 9 am, had a light breakfast at home, and then walked all the way to one of the shopping mall’s area. There are a number of dollar and thrift stores in that region, which I really love to visit. I did not buy anything today, but it was so much fun to go around the shelves, look at items that are usually unique, browse the books, and checking the sewing items/notions.

I then walked back home. I estimate that I walked around 2 hours today. I think this is awesome 🙂  I feel strong, powerful, able, healthy, and lighter 🙂 Thanks to all vitamin D and iron supplements that I was prescribed two years ago.. What a difference they have made in my energy levels. 

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My interest to consume the food hoarded in the freezer and pantry is going strong. I have consumed quite a bit of the “old” items and have replaced some of them back with fresh ones (like minced beef, chicken, pasta, and legumes). I still have a number of food that I have not touched in the last year or so, including some frozen veggies, wild rice, bulghur, and dried veggies. So I would like to prioritize their consumption in the coming weeks. That is my mental note for today.

My interest in designing new projects continues. Now that I have had all bunch of different projects implemented in my life (decluttering, budgeting, saving money, being frugal, using coupons and discounts, shopping bans, baking bread, taking the bus or walking to go to work, etc.), I am naturally looking for new ones. It excites me, learning about this kind of things, planning, putting an effort to implement them, monitoring my progress, and then improving it if I am still interested in (remember the #superduperleanspendingmonth that I left in two weeks or so because it did not work out for me? 🙂 it is okay every once a while). 

I now am interested in reducing my waste. I have checked a couple of sites and it sounds like I have a lot of extra waste at my hand: I still use paper towel when needed (for cleaning the bathroom for example), wet-disposable clothes for cleaning the sinks and the floor, facial tissue/napkin after meals. I do not compost, though I do recycle paper and other items accepted by our city. I donate what I do not need/use anymore and shop from thrift or second-hand stores as appropriate. I re-use the plastic/nylon shopping bags as garbage liners. I reduced my food waste quite a bit by shopping small amounts (store is 5 min away from me – so it is easy to stop by more than once a week). But I still have waste (1 large garbage bag/week – not too much but it can be less).

So what do I do about it?

I think I should keep reading and continue to be inspired by others’ experience. I will also have a careful look at what my waste and garbage includes. I really want to compost but I will have to see whether I can do this inside the house (no worms or anything) – if I want it to be a continuous activity I must find the most practical way to do so even during our harsh winter.

So these are my new plans 🙂

Shoot a comment if you have ideas to help me reduce my waste/garbage!

weekly budget check

I continue to take the cab in the mornings this week – one gets used to comfort quite easily 🙂

I had forgotten what a blessing it was to get up whenever I want and not worrying about losing time by waiting for and taking the bus. Taking the cab in the morning sure does give me a warm feeling of being pampered.

Sadly, it also means that I am spending more than I would like to 🙂 

I know this is just temporary so I am not worried, but I wished I had started walking or taking the bus, rather than taking the cab, starting tomorrow. Let’s see how it will go.

Anyways, this week the spending is higher than before because of the extra cab expenses, but other than that I continue to spend consciously and keep saving.

Here is the week’s account:

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Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast, and a cab fares): $104

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $104= $16

Fun funds expenses: $0

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $788.5 (🙂)

Other expenses: $84 (health-related and social expenses, in addition to personal care and cleaning product purchases)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $60.75 (these are the savings from expenses that I would normally make, but decided not to; such as having breakfast at home rather than at the local cafe, not picking up the bill for others at socials).

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Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: soup (x2) and bean meal from the freezer;  quinoa from the pantry 🙂 Thank goodness, I am done with quinoa…..

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Happy saving! 🙂

joy journal – April 1, 2017

There I am – writing to my joy journal again today 🙂 

It is because in the last one hour or so, I started to feel a lot better. I was reading one of my self-help books that opened my eyes again. The message is that “the more you dwell in negative experiences, thoughts, and emotions, the more they are pronounced in your life.”

How true.

I knew it. Yet, I needed to be reminded it. 

The opposite is also true – the more we dwell in positive experiences, thoughts, and emotions, the more they are pronounced in our lives. I realized that while I am scared of being fired, I actually have no reason to be fired – I am productive, creative, and very well contributing to all aspects of my organization, as expected from me. So why do I have this negative self-suspicion about my own worth? I am worth it; I deserve this job as much as anyone else, even sometimes more than many. I should start pushing away my inner critique and other poisonous people around me.

Very well.

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1. I am grateful that I have not given away the book that I am reading when I decluttered my books last year 🙂  This is a book that I bought in 2015 and it seems timeless and very beneficial for me. Thank you whoever wrote, published, distributed, and sold it.

2. I am grateful for waking up early this morning, around 7.45 am. Quite early and that means the day is long and opportunities are limitless 🙂

3. I am grateful for the coffee I brew at home and enjoying it. I like my morning routines – coffee, browsing the news, and checking the emails before I start doing more serious work. Lovely routine 🙂

4. I am grateful for cleaning my home and doing the laundry. This is my Saturday routine and it works well with me. I am lucky that cleaning my home is usually very easy and does not take much time or effort.

5. I am grateful for speaking with my mom and sister and having lots of laughter. I told them what one of my co-workers said to me this week. I was having a stressful and defensive conversation about something that negatively affected both of us and my co-worker said ” life is so big“. He did not continue but when I heard what he said, I knew how I interpreted it “life is so big and this is such a small issue. Like a little point in the entire universe“. What a beautiful thing to say!  Visualizing this little point in a big circle puts everything in a realistic context for me and many little issues lose their importance right away (do you want to give it a try? – see below).

 

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look at this beautiful upbeat life symbolized by the circle and the small “issue” symbolized with the dot; is it really worth focusing on it so much while there are so many other “points” in life? What is this dot’s worth really when compared to the whole life?

6. I am grateful for taking the bus and going to a mall. I broke the frame of my eye glasses and luckily could find the same frame. All I need to do is now to have the glasses fit in a store.

7. I am grateful for buying canned fish (that I snack at the office), personal care products, and canola oil from a store today.

8. I am grateful for preparing two dough today; one sourdough and one commercial yeast dough. Tomorrow I plan to bake 4 mid-size loaves; two for myself (the sourdough) and two plain bread; one for my neighbor and one for a colleague of mine. It was too much trying to deal with both of the dough at the same time, but both are looking very strong and it will be exciting to see them in the morning all fluffy and risen 🙂

9. I am grateful for the healthy meals I have had today; I did not eat for breakfast, but I have had beans and rice for lunch and quinoa salad with greens and turnips in the evening. The fact that I eat a variety of food that are usually prepared in a healthy way (e.g. not fried or so) should be credited for. I should credit and appreciate myself for these healthy choices.

10. I am grateful for consuming up quinoa! My goodness, I am not buying it again. Such a tasteless and expensive grain. Good bye! 🙂

11. I am grateful for trying to fix a collar that I messed up a while ago. Basically I wanted to see whether a binding tape could make it better and it looks like it is not a bad idea. I just need to make sure to stretch it a little bit so that the collar will hold itself well. This is a progress – there is hope, my friends! I will make it! One day! 🙂

12. I am grateful for having lots of smiles on my face this evening 🙂

13. I am grateful for feeling a lot better today; very positive, and content. Even a little bit silly but yes, I am feeling good and this feels fantastic. Feeling good is a birthright – even though I am guilty of being a perfectionist and a worrying type of person, and thus, usually not feeling good. This being said, it does not mean that I do not enjoy and appreciate it when I feel great. This evening is such an evening. After feeling down for a long time, and dealing with one issue after the other since new year, I take this opportunity to breathe well and put a smile on my face. Till next time.

14. I am grateful for having the night to myself and tomorrow. Tomorrow my plan is to get up early again and walk to a store to get milk and eggs. Then I will bake my breads and a cauliflower dish. I also would like to try another neck line to improve my skills. Yes – sounds like a good Sunday 🙂

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I appreciate myself for the followings today:

  1. I appreciate myself for being healthy
  2. I appreciate myself for having books and benefiting from them
  3. I appreciate myself for re-realizing my worth and the great things about myself
  4. I appreciate myself for taking excellent steps to ensure that I eat nutritious and healthy food
  5. I appreciate myself for not having expensive hobbies or wants
  6. I appreciate myself for constantly expanding my understanding about myself and life
  7. I appreciate myself for smiling 
  8. I appreciate myself for not making unnecessary expenses today
  9. I appreciate myself for being lighter today than yesterday (by one pound)
  10. I appreciate myself for laughing together with my family today

sourdough with a touch of rolled rye

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What is a Sunday without a home-baked loaf of sourdough?

You got it right – it is almost impossible!!!!! :))))

Since I started sourdoughing last August, except one weekend and when I was away for vacation/business trip, I baked a loaf or two every…single…Sunday! 🙂

I keep experimenting with the rolled cereals/grains in my sourdough loaves. My recent a couple trials including the soaked rolled oat and flax seed in sourdough (for example, here and here) have been quite successful. I think they help with  the moisture even though they lack the gluten so they take up only a small part of the total dough (other wise the loaf does not rise – I know by experience – unless you want a flat and stiff loaf, do not try to have a loaf with only rolled oat).

Anyways, I saw and purchased the rolled rye a couple of weeks ago. Honestly I have no idea what it could be used for, but I thought it would be a nice addition to my baking adventures and a nice ornament for the crust. I was not wrong.

This is the biggest loaf I have ever baked so far; thus rather than a boule I opted out for a baton loaf (I thought it would bake more evenly). Also, I proved the dough in a large plastic bag that kept it somewhat warm (something like a greenhouse effect). I am glad I remembered to do this as I think it reduced the proving time.

Recipe:

  • tend to the starter and prepare the levain as explained here
  • mix 1 cup of rolled rye with 1 cup of water, soak for 30 min
  • add the rye mixture,  1 1/4 cups of starter, 1 cup water, and 2 tbs sugar together and mix well
  • add 4 cups of bread flour and 2 tbs of salt. Mix and form a shaggy dough. It will be a little bit sticky dough
  • stretch and fold 4-5 times at 30-60 min intervals
  • cover, wrap with a thick towel, and rise at room temp over night. My kitchen is around 17 C
  • the next morning, take the dough on a floured surface, expand and form a rectangular dough, and then fold over itself to form a baton shape
  • cover and rest for 10-15 min at room temp
  • re-shape if required and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet
  • cover with a thick towel and place in a large plastic bag; tie the ends of the bag and rest for 5 hours at room temp
  • pre-heat the oven at 375 F
  • wet the surface of the loaf with your hands and sprinkle with rolled rye. Gently press to make sure the flakes will stick. Score the loaf as you please
  • bake for 55 min
  • cool down and enjoy!

Happy baking!

Weekly budget check

Another #leanspending week 🙂

This was a week with the least amount of grocery expenses; I had fresh produce left from the week before, which I decided to consume before I bought new ones. It was a good decision; I wasted neither the produce nor the money 🙂 I also cashed loyalty card points, which dropped my grocery bill this week (don’t you love them?).

This being said, I have had a social that costed me a little bit. I am not complaining about this, knowing that it happens only rarely and I usually enjoy the food.

And, the most exciting part? The pre-payment I made to my mortgage! This week I made the biggest pre-payments ever; a total of $1,662.5. Almost all of this is my tax return. I am so excited and proud of myself…..

This is my 4th pre-payment done so far. I started in the new year; my motto is that whatever extra I get (from coupons, waivers, tax return, tempting expenses that are not done etc.) will be used as pre-payment. Before I know, they accumulate.

Anyways, here is the week’s account:

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Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast, and a cab drive in the snow storm day): $37

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $37 = $73

Fun funds expenses: $0

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $757.5 (Yahooo !!!! 🙂 )

Other expenses: $178 (health-related and social expenses, in addition to shopping for personal care and cleaning products at a store)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $27.5(these are the savings from expenses that I would normally make, but decided not to; such as walking rather than taking the bus, having breakfast at home rather than at the local cafe etc.).

Maybe a small amount, but a penny saved is a penny earned, right? 🙂

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Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: soup (x2) and brown lentil meal from the freezer; bulghur (x2), canned bean, and pasta from the pantry 🙂

Honestly, I am very excited about consuming the food that I already have. Since I started prioritizing the food in my freezer and the pantry in the last few months, I have consumed quite a bit of it. This helps me not only with saving money but also with an opportunity to refresh them. Like, last week I shopped for dry food (beans, lentils, seeds, rolled oats etc.) with great joy (oh, the joy of shopping cannot be under-estimated!). I have great and diverse food that can be enough for a couple of months and I am feeling incredibly abundant and grateful! 🙂

Happy saving! 🙂

The day of sourdough – Sunday

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You know I bake sourdough bread every Sunday. Since each dough, each loaf is different, Sundays are usually very exciting times for me 🙂

This baby is part semolina sourdough – my second take on semolina.

My experience with semolina flour has been consistently good really, but it is true that it does not rise, so I used only a cup in this loaf. There is something nice about it that helps yield a great dough, even though I cannot put my finger on it. Let me know if you have any idea 🙂

Recipe:

Like other times, I fed the starter on Friday, and then again on Saturday morning.

On Saturday afternoon, I added 3/2 cup starter, 1 cup water, and 2 tbs sugar and mixed it well with a fork. Then I added 1 cup semolina flour, 3/2 cup bread flour, and 1.5 tbs salt and mixed everything well using my hand. 

The rest is very similar to other times (check this) except that I proved the loaf at room temperature for 8 hours today – only because I stepped out for a quick shopping trip, bumped into friends, and spent (lovely) time with them, so when I returned back home it was already 8 hours of proofing 🙂 

I was scared that it would be over-proved, but it was not – the loaf turned out to be great; I think if it was sticky, it would not shape this well and would possibly end up being over-proven. So I feel lucky this time 🙂 

Happy baking! 🙂

 

 

 

weekly budget check

When it rains, it pours.

No, not the rain – I am referring to my spending pattern 🙂 

This past week was a relatively high spending week.

Let me explain:

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Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast/coffee at the cafe, cab rides- if ever, and other little miscellaneous expenses): $87

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $87 = $33

Fun funds expenses: $0

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $597.5  (dance with me here! Wohoo 🙂 ) 

Other expenses: $111 (social/dinner)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $46.5 (these are the savings from expenses that I would normally make, but decided not to; such as walking rather than taking the bus, having breakfast at home rather than the local cafe etc.)

Notes: it is interesting that sometimes spending money feels right. For example, on Tuesday morning I took the cab to office for the first time in 2017 (I usually would take the bus or even walk). It felt right and I am not resentful about its fee because I woke up at 6.45 am and by taking the cab I started my work-day at around 7.20 am. It was a very efficient day and I am very happy about this.

Also the dinner expense I have made (today) was well worth it. I took a couple out for a simple dinner tonite. They are very nice people, I enjoy spending time with them, and I have been to their home many times. It was my turn. Also, they just bought a house, which I wanted to celebrate!  It was a great night with great people – so all is well 🙂

Mortgage pre-payment: I paid an additional $270 today as mortgage pre-payment 🙂 This is my third payment this year totaling $870. I am very excited about these payments and am motivated to save more from my regular expenses so that i can keep making these payments 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: rolled oats, flax seeds, soya beans, and green lentils from the pantry 🙂 I love, love using the food at home! 🙂 

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Happy budgeting and happy savings 🙂

oat and flax seed sourdough

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I surprised myself with this loaf; if you are looking for a change in the taste of your sourdough loaf, I would highly recommend you to give this one a try. This loaf tastes very realistically “nutty” because of the oat. I plan to bake a loaf only with oat and levain next time – let’s see how that will turn out.

I think it is true when they say that salt brings in the flavor. Salt level in the recipe may be too much for many, so feel free to use less, but for me it was great. 

 

Recipe:

Friday: feed the starter with 2/3 cup whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup water, wrap in a towel, and rest at room temp overnight.

Saturday: The next morning, feed  the starter again and divide into two; one part to go to fridge and the other one to rest at room temp, wrapped in a towel for a few hours, which will be used in bread.

Once the levain seems bubbly;

  • Add 1 cup rolled oat and 1/2 cup of flax seed to 1 cup of water, mix and let stand for 30 min or so
  • Add to the oat/flax seed mix, 1 cup levain, 1 cup water, 2 tbs sugar and mix well
  • Add to this mixture 1.5 tbs of salt and 3 cups+2 tbs of bread flour. Mix and form a shaggy and sticky dough, cover with a towel, and rest for 20 min. At this step the dough does not have to be perfect and there is no need to knead.
  • Stretch and fold ever 20-30 min 4 or 5 times. Honestly I put my hands on the dough whenever I had time 🙂
  • Cover with a towel and rest at room temp over-night

Sunday: In the morning:

  • Take the dough on a counter sprinkled with flour, stretch and form a rectangular dough, and then fold over to form a round dough. Cover and rest for 10 min
  • Check the shape, re-shape if needed, and try to form surface tension by pulling the dough towards yourself on the counter, repeat 10-15 times till it feels alright. I also “swirled” it around with the hope that it would keep its round shape
  • Wet your hands and touch on the surface to make it a little bit wet. Apply rolled oats and gently press on them to make sure they stick, turn the dough upside down, and place it in a proofing basket (in my case a mixing bowl) covered with a baking towel. Cover and proof at room temp for 3.5 hours 
  • Turn on the oven at 375 F, take the dough on a baking sheet/parchment paper seam side at the bottom, score, and place in the oven. I no longer pre-heat my oven.
  • Bake 50 min uncovered, then 10 min covered, and then another 10 min without cover.
  • Take out of the oven and cool down.

Enjoy 🙂

verdict on quinoa as salad filler/base

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Quinoa is something that I wanted to try for some time – many people talk very positively about this staple. As someone who likes legumes/beans/dry food as salad material I thought it was time that I bought a pound or two and give it a try. Luckily, it did happen this weekend when at a bulk produce store I managed to find organic quinoa (not that I am particularly interested in organic food – it just happened to be so. Anyways..). 

Recipe: 

boil and bake 1.5 cups of quinoa in 3 cups of water for around 20 min (stir frequently), add 2 tbs of chili sauce, a pinch of salt and chili pepper, juice of 1/2 lemon, 6 small radish, 1/2 cup of shredded lettuce, 3 stalks of celery, 1 bunch of fresh coriander, 1.5 small onion, and liberal amount of olive oil.

Verdict:

Quinoa does not have a strong taste, smell, or aroma. So it serves very well as a base/filler for salad. However, it did not appeal me and I could certainly live without it. (These being said, I think considering its protein content, I would give it a try every once a while.)

Also, I think fine bulghur (cracked wheat) makes a better base for this kind of salad (simply boil water, pour it over bulghur, cover the lid, wait for 10 min, and mix with a fork/spoon, and then add the other salad items).  C’est Simple! 🙂

Plus, I wonder whether the price would worth it (i bought around 500grs of organic quinoa for 4.5 bucks). I am pretty sure that its being organic inflated the price this time, but I am certain that I could get bulghur much cheaper.

If you like it, I hope you will continue to enjoy it for many years to come. Me, on the other hand, will stick with bulghur 🙂

 

improvised two loaves of sourdough today

 

Yesterday I visited a bulk-produce retailer and bought myself some flax seed, rolled oats, and some other dry food at very affordable prices!!!

This excitement had to be experienced – I love it when I can get great food at such low prices. I feel grateful 🙂

This being said, I have bought the rolled oats and the flax seed to experiment/improvise new bread recipes. So, today I baked two different sourdough loaves – one with oat+bread flour and the other 100% whole wheat flour+flax seed. 

Boy – they are beautiful, do you not think? So soft, so nicely risen, such great oven spring, and the air bubbles inside are making me fall in love with each one of them.

It is official; I have the greatest sourdough starter ever, which I hope to bake with forever and ever… 🙂

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Recipe

Levain: I have a 100% whole flour “Monster” starter that I feed with 2/3 cup whole wheat flour+1/3 cups+1 tbs water on Friday afternoon. I then let it rest at room temperature overnight wrapped in a thick towel. The next day I feed it again the same way; one hour later divide it into two: one part goes into the fridge till use next week, and the other continues to rise at room temperature for 5-6 hours. At that point it becomes very bubbly and that is always exciting to see this 🙂

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Prior to preparing dough, I mix the levain with water and sugar to make the liquid base for dough (my measurements were: 1+1/4 cups of levain, 1 cup of water, and 1.5 tbs of sugar)

Sourdough with rolled oat:

add 1/2 cup rolled oat and 1/2 cup water- mix and let stand for 20 min

add 1+1/5 cups of levain/water/sugar base, 1 cup of water, 2 cups of bread flour, and 1/2 tbs of salt. Mix well and form a shaggy dough – do not worry about kneading or forming the perfect dough. Just cover, rest, and *stretch and fold every 20 or 30 min or so for 4-5 times.

*I lately started to “slam” the dough to the mixing bowl 7-8 times during each stretch and fold, which I kind of feel like helps stretch and form the dough. It is a strange feeling to do this to my dough and yeast, but then it feels also right…Try if you wish.

Then, cover, wrap with towel, and let rise at room temperature over night (my kitchen is usually cold around 17C. If you are in a hot climate, you may rise the dough at the fridge).

 

100% whole wheat sourdough with flax seed:

Rinse 1/2 cup of flax seed and add 1/2 cup water, let stand for 30 min

add 1+1/5 cups of levain/water/sugar base, 1 cup + 3 tbs of water, 2.5 cups of whole wheat flour, and 1/2 tbs of salt. Follow the procedure above.

Since whole wheat flour requires a little bit more water, I wet my hand before each stretch and fold to humidify the dough a little bit – it did help with a relatively softer dough. Alternatively you can add an additional 1-2 tbs of water while preparing the dough.

 

The next day; gently place the dough on a surface sprinkled with flour, deflate, stretch and form a rectangular shape, and fold & shape. Cover and let rest for 10 min. Shape again and place in proofing containers (i used a small mixing bowl for the oat loaves and a baking dish for the flax seed loaf).

Proofing time: 2.5 hours for the oat loaf, and 3.5 hours for the flax seed loaf

Baking: I recently started not to use roaster to bake my loaves. It gives a thinner crust and the oven spring is equally successful. I used a non-pre-heated oven for the oat loaf (375F, 50 min, baked uncovered). Once I was done with it, then I placed the flax seed loaf (pre-heated oven, 30 min open lid, 15 min closed lid, and 5 min open lid at 375F.)

Results, observations, and verdict: both loafs are gorgeous and better than what I thought I would get.

I know it is difficult to get the whole wheat flour rise so I was pretty impressed with the oven spring and the overall crumb of this lovely bread. It also had a nutty flavor and was an absolute delight even though for some the 100% whole wheat bread may sound a little bit intimidating.

The oat loaf was a delight from the beginning on – so easy to handle and the first rise was amazing with big air bubbles that I only had experienced with commercial yeast in the past. The taste of oat was undetectable but that is perfectly fine with me.

In both cases (oat and flax seed) the resting them on water prior to adding with flour and water produces a little bit sticky and mucus-like liquid, which I kind of think that helps with “binding” the dough. But of course we need a scientific proof for that.

I would certainly try these two loaves in the future and perhaps with the oat loaf I would increase the amount, just to see how the dough would respond.

Happy baking everyone! 🙂

 

oat sourdough

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smooth dough at the end of the stretch and fold episode
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what a beautiful loaf, waiting to be enjoyed 🙂 )

 

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100% whole wheat and flax seed loaf

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at the end of the stretch and fold episodes – kind of tough dough. would be better if I had added an extra 1-2 tbs of water to dough. I made up for this by wetting my hands prior to handling it each time so that it could get some more hydration. it did work 🙂

weekly budget check

This week is the one with the highest grocery spending yet.

I also bought myself a dinner and breakfast this past weekend – ooops 🙂

I owe this mostly to the bad mood – food, after all, is an effective remedy to help feel good.

Nevertheless, I continue to make excellent choices considering the circumstances and keep spending much less than before.

This week I also made a pre-payment order, using the funds saved by my choices or by luck 🙂 That feels great!

Overall, my mood was negative, I needed to pamper myself, I spent more, but I am always eager to curb my spending. I think this week will be such a week 🙂

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Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast/coffee at the cafe, cab rides- if ever, and other little miscellaneous expenses): $111.5

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $111.5 = $8.5

Fun funds expenses: $19

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $464.5 

Other expenses: $0 🙂

Savings from would-be-expenses: $91 (these are the expenses I would normally make, but decided not to, or just by chance did not need to make. A large chunk of these savings is a discount I asked for for a monthly service 🙂 )

Of note; I am making use of these savings – every once a while they are being paid as mortgage pre-payment 🙂 this is so exciting! seeing the seemingly small savings making such a positive difference in my debt levels. Very satisfactory 🙂

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*Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: canned beans from the pantry; frozen green beans and minced beef from the freezer 🙂

*I am noting this because a while ago I decided that I needed to use the food I stocked up in my pantry as well as the freezer (this will hopefully help with my savings as well as limiting my food waste). By recording this activity here I hope to keep doing so.

 

Happy budgeting and happy savings 🙂

weekly budget check

Overall, I am keeping with #TheLeanSpendingMonth  plan 🙂

I think I am doing okay! 🙂

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Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast/coffee at the cafe, cab rides- if ever, and other little miscellaneous expenses): $63

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $63 = $57

Fun funds expenses: $14

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $475  (yay! wow! can you believe in this? I have saved so much. Wow!! 🙂 )

Other expenses: $86.5 – paid for cleaning products and food at a store that I visit once a month or so. These were needed so I am okay with these expenses 🙂

Savings from would-be-expenses: $137.5 (these are the expenses I would normally make, but decided not to, or just by chance did not need to make. For example, a large chunk of these savings is a repair that I was offered for free through my work place – I am so grateful! 🙂 here comes my next mortgage pre-payment!)

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*Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: bread (from the freezer), rice and canned beans from the pantry 🙂

*I am noting this because a while ago I decided that I needed to use the food I stocked up in my pantry as well as the freezer (this will hopefully help with my savings as well as limiting my food waste). By recording this activity here I hope to keep doing so.

 

Happy budgeting and happy savings 🙂

7th and 8th Day of #TheLeanSpendingMonth

Today I realized I needed to be kind and nourishing toward myself.

Not that #TheLeanSpendingMonth plan is hurting me; no. I enjoy challenging myself, finding new ways to save, getting excited about the things I can do; and overall I seem like saving a dime or two along the process (though it is not too much – I will write about this later).

But I, like anyone else, wake up with issues and negative feelings on my mind, go thru life as it is, work hard, and get annoyed by people or events. So, there are times that we just need to support ourselves a little bit better. Whether that would mean to care less about money and eat something unhealthy or luxurious, or do something that requires a little bit more money.

Today has been such a day; I decided I did not want to eat the same things as I have in the last few weeks. So even though it know well that it is unhealthy, I bought hot dogs and ate them with a large salad.

I ate the entire package (around 12 of them) without cooking… I know it is gross…. But, I wanted to do that – it is a manifestation of how much I do not care. And I can say now that I am not eating hot dogs again (at least for some time)…..

So I spent $4.5 for bus fare (yesterday and today) and $8 for food this afternoon. I am still doing strong and frugal.

And now I am craving for sweets… go figure….

 

I Dont Care GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

weekly budget check

One day belated, but here is my weekly spendings 🙂

Overall, I am keeping with #TheLeanSpendingMonth plan and as of Feb 1st, I also am recording my daily spendings.

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Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast/coffee at the cafe, cab rides- if ever, and other little miscellaneous expenses): $55.5

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $55.5 = $74.5

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $432  (yay! wow! so much saving – thanks me! 🙂 )

Other expenses: $0 for the third week -A miracle! 🙂

Savings from would-be-expenses: $37 (these are the expenses I would normally do, but decided not to – I am proud of these 🙂 They may be small, but you know what I plan to do with them? Make a mortgage pre-payment!)

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*Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: I have been consistently using the food in my freezer and pantry in the last few weeks 🙂 This week I have enjoyed the followings: canned bean, canned soup, cracked wheat, dry red kidney beans, dehydrated pepper and eggplant from the pantry and frozen carrots and frozen chicken soup from the freezer! Yaaaay!! 🙂

*I am noting this because a while ago I decided that I needed to use the food I stocked up in my pantry as well as the freezer (this will hopefully help with my savings as well as limiting my food waste). By recording this activity here I hope to keep doing so.

 

Happy budgeting and happy savings 🙂

random thoughts and #TheLeanSpendingMonth

It is going well – this quiet and relaxing weekend I mean 🙂

Weather is good; I walked yesterday for 25 min or so and am planning to do so again this afternoon; I cook and eat healthy with lots of raw veggies; house is cleaned and laundry is done; a number of movies are enjoyed; world news are followed; better spending choices are made; food in the pantry/freezer is being consumed; and life feels overall not too eventful and is peaceful.

Of course, the world news are interesting. What the hey has been happening in the USA? I sometimes think that all the little problems of mine are unnecessary – I guess this kind of mentality and actions are the ones that will fuel a much larger world-wide conflict, unrest, and violence. So who cares about whether I will be able to do every thing I want to do this year? Save that much and invest this much? Nope. We may be looking at a much bigger and global problem to erupt (not to mention the pain and suffering by the people most needed the safety). I am sorry if I sound pessimistic (which I usually am).

Nevertheless, I try to focus on what I can control so that I can not feel hopeless altogether. That brings me to my #TheLeanSpendingMonth challenge I assigned for myself (a.k.a. super-duper lean spending month).

I initially had decided to try it on February but more or less since new year I am on it.

What is #TheLeanSpendingMonth challenge?

As the name implies – it aims to challenge me to spend the least amount of money on non-essential expenses (for me that would mean taking the cab, eating breakfast outside, buying coffee or other treats, buying more grocery that I can consume, and buying anything new while I still have a working copy at home).

I am not 100% lean in my spending; I decided a while ago that fully restricting myself was not a good idea. So I am buying one treat a week as I please (like peanut butter which is not essential for my diet). But I am quite conscious of my spending, and I am making it a choice to calculate the cons and pros of each of my expenses and think about how I could benefit from by not making the expense.

For example, I walked yesterday 15 min away to get eggs on sale, also thinking that walking is a great exercise that I am looking forward to anyhow. Yet, today I decided once again that baking dry beans would not worth it and the canned beans is a much better option for me regardless of the cost (it takes so loooong to cook beans…)…

I also needed an extra and quite clear benefit of not spending unnecessarily and so I come up with the mortgage prepayment account; I note my savings each week which will be later used to make a prepayment whenever I have more than 100 bucks in the account. I did this for the first time 10 days ago and I am excited about it 🙂 So I have more than enough motivation to keep going. 🙂

If anyone had asked me whether I could budget stricker than what I used to have last year, I would say no. But I am proving myself wrong now – I see that I can save more. This cannot be a long term plan for me though, so I rather see the #TheLeanSpendingMonth challenge as some kind of “shopping ban”. After  all I also have a life to enjoy and I would love my weekend breakfast to come back sometime 🙂

So my advice to you, if you are interested in this kind of challenges, is to learn about yourself and your choices as much as possible. Also think about it as a temporary thing; who knows maybe it will turn into a long-term habit, but if not that should be okay, too. I should also say that it is fun to challenge myself and finding ways to cut my expenses. I hope you too will have a similar and positive experience.

Have a great Sunday everyone!

 

 

 

weekly budget check

Another great week of my super-duper lean spending month:)

I have had some extra expenses (a.k.a. non-essential) but I am okay with that as this is the best budget yet. I not only have stayed within my budget, but even managed to save from my weekly allowance:) While the super-duper lean spending month officially is February, you know I have started early and it feels alright. I will post about its details later.

 

Here is the account for this past week:

Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast/coffee at the cafe, cab rides- if ever, and other little miscellaneous expenses): $74.5

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $74.5 = $45.5

Total fun funds accumulated so far in 2017: $367.5  (yay! 🙂 )

Other expenses: $0 for the second week -a true miracle! 🙂

Savings from would-be-expenses: $22.5 (these are the expenses I would normally do, but decided not to – I am proud of these 🙂 They may be small, but you know what I plan to do with them? Make a mortgage pre-payment!)

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*Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: I have done so well this week consuming quite a bit of the food that I have hoarded at the pantry and freezer! These included; pasta, canned bean x 2, and canned corn from pantry and two containers of soup, mixed veggies, and croutons from freezer. Not bad, is it not? 🙂

*I am noting this because a while ago I decided that I needed to use the food I stocked up in my pantry as well as the freezer (this will hopefully help with my savings as well as limiting my food waste). By recording this activity here I hope to keep doing so.

 

Happy budgeting and happy savings 🙂

while waiting for the snow storm

We are waiting for a snow storm.

Well.. This is winter and snow storms happen all the time. So, I wonder whether you asked yourself what the big deal is and why I write a dramatically titled post about it? 🙂

I will tell you what the big deal is.

Everybody is shopping and there is nothing much left in major stores. It is as if we will never get food anymore.

I usually do my grocery shopping on Thursday. So yesterday I have been to my store. The store was filled with 3X more people than usual. And for the first time in my life I could not find milk.

Milk.

How can you not find milk in a store?

 

And how can this continue the next day; obviously some of my co-workers came in work late, stating that they were out shopping and their line was too long. I checked my store this evening to see whether I could get milk and it was the same (except that I found milk this time). The cashier and I were chatting. I told her what one of my co-workers had said this morning; people shop because for a couple of days the transportation (of food) is affected by the storm. So, it ensures that we will have food after the snow. Hmmmmm. The cashier said that this was not true (though I am not sure how independent her thoughts are)..

Anyways.

It is possible that there may be something really catastrophic  happening and we may not have access to external food and other basic needs for some time. But I am hoping the chances of having such a situation is quite slim. So, I am cool about the entire stuff and I am glad that I have food at my house, and I did not get crazy about the entire shopping thing.

 

pantry/freezer treasure finds from the last 10 days

My plan and efforts to consume the food I have hoarded in my pantry and freezer are going well.

I am happy that I am taking steps to actually implement this plan 🙂

I originally wanted to record how well I have been doing re; eating the “pantry/freezer treasures” in my weekly budget check posts. Last week I have not posted it, so I thought I would have this separate entry here. I also aimed for eating at least one food per week.

Overall, I have consumed more than one item per week. For the last ten days, this list included canned corn, pasta, dehyadrated soup, frozen minced beef, frozen chicken, frozen bread loaf, and frozen breakfast calzone.

I congratulate myself for this highly satisfactory performance and I hope that I will keep doing this in the weeks to come 🙂

hoarding food

I cannot believe how much frozen and dried/canned food I have….

I have decided lately that it has been time to start consuming the food I already have at home.

A quick inventory showed that I have frozen beef, bones (for stock), chicken, cooked meals, green beans, mixed veggies, bread, bread crumbs, zucchini, carrots, and celery sticks, and another set of green beans, in addition to phyllo dough in my freezer. If I was to consume them, I believe they would be enough for two months or longer…..

Another inventory, this time of the pantry showed that I have a lot of rice, bulghur (cracked wheat), dry beans, dry eggplant, dry peppers, dry okra, dehydrated soup, pasta, other soup materials, lentils, many cans of beans (which I love), canned soup, tomato paste and others (not counting around 20 kg of flour). Another month or two’s food…..

I am making an effort to consume these before they expire or go bad. I must do that to limit my food consumption. I have stopped buying frozen food, beef-chicken, and dried food for now. My plan is to not buy any of these items till I consume the half of the stock….

I must admit it is boring to think that I must eat what I have.

Why is that?

I have been trying analyze this and I realized that I like to buy and stock up food. I guess it makes me feel good about myself. I think I feel safer that way. I should also mention that I like the pleasure of choosing, buying, and storing them. Was I subjected to famine in the past life? (just joking – I do not believe in past lives 🙂 ).

But when they are not consumed and hoarded like this, the entire fun starts to diminish…

There are important lessons that I have learnt along this process.

Some of these food, like chicken, is not something I regularly consume. I will never stock chicken again – when I want them I can purchase fresh ones and cook whatever I want. But no more hoarding.

Freezing veggies (by blanching) is a great idea and I enjoyed doing this. But I must make mental notes to eat them after that. I started blanching and freezing veggies to limit my food waste. It is sad to see that unless they are eaten, they are still wasted….

The same goes with the frozen meal. I have 4 containers of chicken soup… What was I thinking? Since i do not enjoy eating the same food more than twice a week, that means, it will take me a month to fully get rid of them…..

I want to have a practice of cooking at least one meal using the pantry/freezer treasures (a.k.a. hoarded food) every week. i started this last week and it is going well.

Honestly, while it is valuable and gives me a sense of security, the food I have is too much this time. I really gotta find a balance of a healthy level of stocking  food up and consuming them 🙂

 

 

weekly budget check

The first weekly budget check record of the year 2017 🙂

Like last year, I have started 2017 with a wonderful budget and limited expenses. Hence, overall the numbers look quite good this week 🙂

The only difference between this year’s budget and the previous ones is that this year I will not be counting as savings the cab fare expenses that I have not made (i.e. money saved by rather walking or taking the bus) in my “would-be-expenses” category.

The reason for that is that now walking or taking the bus have become my “normal” (compare this to last year or the year before when it would be a miracle if I had not taken the cab in the morning and evening 🙂 )…While I will be still saving, since these savings will not be recorded, the numbers in the “savings from would-be-expenses category” below will be lower, but that is okay. This being said, I still include savings such as by the store discounts, coupons, sales, or loyalty card discounts in this category.

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Anyways; here is the snap-shot of the financial situation last week:

Weekly allowance: $120

Expenses related to the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast/coffee at the cafe, cab rides- if ever, and other little miscellaneous expenses): $35

Fun funds saved this week: $120 – $35 = $85

Total fun funds accumulated so far: $72.5 (from last week; I started my budget recordings for 2017 in late December) + $85 = $157.5 (yay! 🙂

Other expenses: $11.5 (food and snacks purchased for hosting a couple of friends for a light dinner)

Savings from would-be-expenses: $219. A large portion of this savings is the reimbursement I have got for my credit card’s annual fee 🙂 Go ahead and ask for it friends! Banks sometimes waive it 🙂

*Pantry/freezer treasures enjoyed: a tasty meal prepared by baking dry beans and using the carrots that I had frozen sometime ago.

*I am noting this because a couple of days ago I decided that I needed to use the food I stocked up in my pantry as well as the freezer (this will hopefully help with my savings as well as limiting my food waste). By recording this activity here I hope to keep doing so.

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So; not bad my friends; I keep my frugal life style and my hopes for my future:)

 

financial challenges I assign to myself this year

I love assigning financial challenges to me and then seeing how I am doing 🙂

In the recent years, my first such joyful challenge was shopping freeze – I first applied it to books and then to shoes/clothes. I still did purchase a few of these items during the year, but hey, I had assigned these freezes for only a short time and they were needed when I purchased them. It is interesting that these freezes become habits quite soon after I first started them. Human attitude is quite plastic – it does change easier than we would like to think.

Anyways; the two things that I would like to try this year are the followings:

1. super-duper lean spending month. A fellow blogger suggested a no spend month, who I unfortunately cannot remember (raise your hand if you read this! 🙂 ).

Honestly I have no idea what no spend month means. I only think that the grocery, medication, transportation, and other essentials are excluded from this challenge.

Knowing my budget and daily life and requirements, I am pretty sure I cannot keep up with this – there will be at least work-place or socialization-related expenses; somebody will require some sort of gifts/donations, or I will find myself needing something all of a sudden. So, I do not have an interest in no spend month challenge.

So, why the hey am I talking about it here?

I want to give it a try and see whether I can rather aim for a “super-duper lean spending month“. That would mean finding alternative ways to contribute/donate/gift people; refuse or deflect social encounters (this is a challenge, but doable); and think really, really hard before I open my purse for anything other than essential grocery, cleaning and personal care products, transportation, medication and so on.

Certainly doable! 🙂

I am thinking February is a great time to do this challenge. And, no, not because it has less days than a regular month 🙂 I chose it because right now I have a good momentum in terms of spending (i.e. I shopped and stocked up quite a bit in Nov-Dec; that means in January I project to spend quite low anyhow).

I am curious how it will fold up 🙂

2. Pantry/freezer challenge: I have many food stored in my pantry and freezer. I have been meaning to consume them during the holidays, but time flied and things/socials happened. But I have not stopped thinking about it. My plan is to eat at least one meal per week prepared by the food already stocked up at my home. I also plan not to stock up any further until I consume half of the entire stock (then I can start stocking up them when they are on sale).

I kind of started it today when I baked a bean dish with the dry beans and frozen carrots 🙂

I know if I can put it in my to-do-list, I will make an effort to work on this challenge.  That is why I plan to record my pantry/freezer challenge activities within my weekly budget check posts.

If you have other challenges, please feel free to comment 🙂

 

minimal spending plan till new year

Holiday season is coming. That means; a) I am socializing more often than usual, and b) shopping! In both cases, I will be spending money 🙂

I want to take advantage of the sales and the fact that I will be off for two weeks during the holidays means that I have time to go around and shop without rush. it is quite fun actually!

My plan is to purchase a new dining set, mixing bowl, sifter, french press for home, tea kettle, and other small stuff. I also would like to stock up my cleaning products, such as garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towel, dish detergent, and others. The regularly consumed food, such as canned food, are also in the list. Sure, I will also buy new pants and shirts when they are on sale. And socks.

The list was actually bigger than that, but I felt that I must trim it….Considering the fact that my biggest financial aim till new year is to make an additional payment to my mortgage, while I am excited about the idea of shopping and purchasing stuff that I will need, I am also aware that I may be financially strained if I am not careful and cut some of these expenses.

Since it is more beneficial to take advantage of the sales (and to socialize with great people), I have just decided I should implement a “minimal spending” plan. It is not as strict as “shopping ban“. It just aims to be more resourceful by using the food in the pantry, freezer, and fridge, and eliminating my weekend breakfast-related expenses till new year. I am not against occasional set-back, but I am determined to do my best.

I have been toying with this idea this past weekend (in order to save for my sewing machine) and it actually went okay. My grocery bill is lower, yet I have everything I need. I was okay brewing my own coffee and have breakfast at home. I also seem to have stocked up a lot of cleaning products/dry food/frozen food, so the timing is good. As a matter of fact, it is actually quite good that I will be consuming what I have; this will give me a chance to help replenish them with fresher ones.

I have 6 weeks to keep my weekly expenses low, to my best, and then leverage these funds to shop.

When it is a short period of time, I know it is doable. When I first had shopping ban on purchasing books, I was not sure how long I could keep up with it. But it did happen and is still continuing voluntarily. I hope that this minimal spending plan will work out just fine, too 🙂

carrot sourdough loaf

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I am excited to write this recipe 🙂

It gives a strong, slightly sticky dough that forms a great crust and very soft crumb (the softest I have seen in a sourdough). The carrots, I believe, help with the moist crumb and with a fairly good rise. I also believe that yeast loves the carrot (or carrot juice coming out of the grated pieces). In anyway, I suggest you give this loaf a try and see how you like it 🙂

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Recipe:

1. Grate 4 mid-size carrots

2. Add 1.5 cups of sourdough levain to carrots (I fed 2/3 cups fridge-stored starter with 2/3 cups of whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup+1 tbs water and let rest over-night at room temperature. In the morning it was risen and bubbly. I fed it again two hours before I prepared the dough)

3. Add 1 cup water, 4 cups bread flour, and 1.5 tbs salt. Mix by hand or using utensils.

4. Leave at room temperature (covered) to rise: I had a social to attend, so left it for 4 hours and stretched and folded it twice in between.

5. Place in the fridge over-night

6. The next morning, take it out and rest at room temperature for around 1 hour

7. Shape the dough (I formed a baton today), cover with kitchen towel, and let rise for 1.5 hours

8. The last 20 min; pre-heat the oven and the roaster (if you are using one) to 375 F. Flip the loaf upside down on parchment paper

9. Score the surface, and bake in the roaster; 35 min closed lid and 25 min open lid. Turn off the oven and leave the loaf in the roaster/oven for an additional 1 hour (since this is a moist loaf, I found that this step helps with baking inside the loaf)

Enjoy 🙂

spicy tofu and sour green beans

img_0235

I had heard somewhere about the spicy tofu and decided to give it a try today. It was well worth it; tofu had not ony a great texture but also a nutty falour. I improvised the sour green beans (sour because of the vinegar) and I am glad I have – they were interesting and surprisingly tasty 🙂

Enjoy!

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Recipe:

  1. slice up firm tofu (I used around 1 cup for this dish)
  2. coat them with the spice mix consisting of 1 part chili powder, 1 part turmeric, 1/5 part dry dill, and salt to taste
  3. fry both sides for 2-3 minutes in vegetable oil; set aside
  4. coarsely slice 1/2 onion and fry for 1-2 minutes in vegetable oil
  5. add 300 grms of green beans and add 1/2 cup of water – simmer for 5-10 min
  6. add 1/3 cup of vinegar and salt, simmer for an additional 2-3 min

Serve immediately

joy journal – Oct 23, 2016

I am feeling very joyful and I cannot wait to share it 🙂

1. I am grateful for the warm weather. It has been raining yesterday and today. There is a lot of humidity and surprisingly a relatively high temperature. My window is open right now to let the cool and fresh air get in. What a luxury for a late October day 🙂

2. I am grateful for sleeping well and waking up not too late. I was refreshed and ready to walk and work my body. It is a great feeling for someone like me who is usually not a morning person. I give half of the credit to the warm weather.

3. I am grateful for going to two stores and getting stuff that I would be needing soon. One of them were eggs, which were on sale. Since I consume eggs quite a bit, I was happy to find them on sale and stock up for the coming weeks. I love it when the food I love is on sale; it makes me very abundant and grateful 🙂

4. I am grateful for walking like 30 min in the morning to the stores. It was a fine day; my body enjoyed the walk and the sweats, and I was convinced once more that my iron and vitamin D supplements are doing a great job keeping my energy levels up. I lived in a minimum energy levels for almost 7 years… It is hard not to feel sorry for yourself when you do not even want to walk 10 min to a store. It is actually a horrible feeling, as I was prior to that time quite active and energetic. I am so grateful for my doctor putting me on these supplements and making me feel alright again. May they find the help and support when they most need it.

5. I am grateful for the milk I drank this noon – it was fresh and so tasty. Milk has never tasted so great to me, so I savored it for some time…

6. I am grateful for talking with my family and sharing laughs 🙂

7. I am grateful for my family being safe and sound.

8. I am grateful for my no food-waste policy. I admit that I am not 100% successful in this, but since last year I have come quite a long way. Today, I prepared a nice dish with the stalks of the swish chard that were left from yesterday’s baking. Basically, fry a large onion in vegetable oil, cut and mix in the stalks, add 1 cup water, let them soften for 5 or so and then add salt and chili flakes. Yummy 🙂

9. I am grateful for being 194 pounds.. I am steadily and slowly losing weight and I am excited about this. The tricks were: a) limiting late-night eating, b) eating raw veggies (like celery, red cabbage, cucumber, tomato, herbs, lettuce, carrots etc.) every day. I believe both of these are working just fine. I also think increased calcium intake helps with weight loss, though I have no idea whether this is a scientific fact or a statement from the milk lobby?

10. I am grateful for my new hair; for the first time in my life I have long bangs now. My hair is neck-length and my bangs too. For the first time in my life.. And I am loving it 🙂 Go try something new and surprise yourself 🙂

11. I am grateful for the food I have had today; all fresh, healthy, and tasty.

12. I am grateful for the sourdough I baked today; I should have baked it a little bit longer but it was just fine. I added a little bit more salt this time, which really suits this hearty bread. I hope to remember to continue with it.

13. I am grateful for having so many food and pantry items at home. I believe I do not need to purchase anything for a month or so (except the fresh produce and milk). Looks like I have done very well in terms of stocking up things that I regularly use. I feel very abundant and excited about it 🙂

14. I am grateful for the TV show I have been watching since yesterday – The legend of the Seeker. I remember this show from many years ago and I am loving seeing it again. Thank you youtube for making this pleasure possible.

15. I am grateful for having an uneventful and relaxing sunday. It may be a work day tomorrow, but that also is fine.

16. I am grateful for being safe, healthy, and felling good about myself, my body, and my life.

17. I am grateful for being grateful and feeling excited and happy 🙂

 

 

Aims and plans: 3) eating healthier and losing weight

I continue to tackle my recent aims and plans to make my life better, as I wish it.

The third item on the list was: 

3. eating healthier and losing 25 pounds and keeping it off

I have always been a chubby girl, but not overly over-weight until something like 8 years ago when I moved to my current city and I gained weight – around 30 pounds to be exact. I am not sure what exactly caused this; I am thinking possibly the increased stress levels as well as the reduced physical activity levels. In anyways, two years ago my doctor informed me that my blood sugar levels were borderline and even 5% fat loss would make a positive difference in my sugar levels. I took this to my heart but I could not really implement any weight loss/better diet strategies for a long time. Luckily last time we checked it had improved but I was advised to lose weight if I can and increase my exercise levels.

I have made several attempts in eating better and exercising more over my life. Long story short; I know: a) exercising does not make me lose weight, b) if I can limit my night-eats and if I limit carbs, like bread, rice, or even sweets, I feel lighter, c) there is something about chewy raw veggies that helps with water retention or fat dissolution (not sure which one), d) I keep consume the same types of food, which needs to change.

Knowing these I now am ready to remind myself that I can do better and in fact lose the dreaded extra weight. I just need to get more conscious about these, that is all. And this post will just function to do so.

Plan: 1) Shop for 6 different veggies/fruits that I have not consumed in the last 1 week. I did that in the past with success; it aims to facilitate me consume a variety of food

2) drink not one but two glasses of milk every day – I read somewhere that calcium helps keeping the bone health as well as managing weight. I want to see how that goes

3) keep walking in the afternoons and if I can, in the mornings to the office. Make an attempt to walk at the weekends too, even for 10 min.

4) everyday eat at least two raw veggie in the form of salad or snack: lettuce, onion, herbs, spinach, carrots, tomato, and others. There are many options to choose from.

5) For mid-night snack, continue to choose yogurt, milk, and fruits.

6) Continue with the reduced intake of bread (now that I bake my own bread, interestingly I consume less of it..)

7) Have 2 refined carb-less (bread, rice, pasta, etc.) days per week: I just came up with this idea right now and I wonder how that would work….. Since my weekends are usually pleasure-oriented, I guess what I need is to focus on the beginning of the week. Maybe Mondays and Thursdays – how about that? Exciting 🙂

I am currently 200 pounds (ooops 🙂 ) Let’s see where I am gonna go from here.

joy journal – Oct 15, 2016

When was the last time I wrote my joy journal? Honestly I can not remember.. I believe it must be at least 3 weeks ago or so; first the work had gone crazy for a couple of weeks and then I was away for a trip to Europe. I am assuming I did not write during these times..

yet today I am joyful and cannot wait to write 🙂

1. I am grateful for getting up before 9 am! I never thought I would be grateful for this. It is partly because I have a little jet lag since my return from Europe and it makes me get up earlier than my usual 9 – 9.30 am routine. i note that there is something peaceful about mornings…. This is very surprising for this night owl 🙂

2. I am grateful for the public transportation! I took the bus to a nearby shopping centre this morning. How convenient and affordable is it? Are we not lucky that we have such a service available to us?

3. I am grateful for the coffee and bagel I have had this morning at the shopping centre. Man, they felt especially delicious today. I am so lucky to have these almost everywhere and they cost me only a few bucks.

4. I am grateful for the two pairs of fluffy slippers I have got today! They will keep my feet warm in our cold Canadian winter 🙂 I am so lucky that they were on sale 🙂

5. I am grateful for having a hair cut. Finally.. It has been 4-5 months that I have been meaning to have one. The cut itself is not great or special, but my hair sure looks way better than before 🙂

6. I am grateful for shopping today 🙂 Shopping always makes me feel great and excited! I bought lots of durable food and other items that I needed. I am feeling happy, excited, and abundant in my life right now 🙂

7. I am grateful for not waiting for the bus too long on the way back and having totes and a backpack to carry my shopping items to home. I felt like my life was very functional and easy today. very rare blessing 🙂

8. I am grateful for talking with my family and sharing laughs

9. I am grateful for the green bean meal I have cooked today. I had frozen the beans after cooking them lightly with tomato (my mom’s idea). They turned out to be incredibly delicious! I would love to get 10-15 bags frozen next summer.

10. I am grateful for the sourdough that turned out to be really good today 🙂 I am genuinely excited about it and would love to replicate the recipe next week.

11. I am grateful for relaxing the entire afternoon, watching movies and reading blogs. There is something so soothing coming out of this that I am awed. I think the stress of the last 3 weeks has lifted and now I am ready to roll again

12. I am grateful for today being Saturday; I can go to bed whenever I want and I can get up whenever I want. What a freedom.

13. I am grateful for my warm house, fluffy socks, and comfy couch that make this cold autumn night easier to bear.

14. I am grateful for being safe and sound, and having a shelter, and enough food and water.

15. I am grateful for my family, my house, my job, my salary, my benefits, my furniture, my clothes and shoes, my friends, my abilities, and all the food and other items I have in my life.

16. I am grateful for having dreams that put a smile on my face.

17. I am grateful for being grateful and having the excitement to write this journal.

 

my finest sourdough loaf

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does it not look awesome? 🙂

This is my finest sourdough so far. I could not be more excited 🙂

For many, the amount of levain in the recipe may be too much, but it just worked wonders for this loaf. I added this much this time because I had extra starter that I did not want to waste.

I reduced the oven temperature to 375 F this time as I am a little bit annoyed by the 400 F (too high; not sure what happens to the roaster at such high temps).

The dough was a little bit sticky but not runny and there was a very nice oven spring, which always pleases me; it is magical 🙂

I note that while the majority of the flour is white flour, the colour and the texture of the whole wheat (from the starter) is quite dominant.

This was the softest sourdough I have ever baked and the crispy crust was surprising and very welcome 🙂

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Levain: 3/4 cup of Monster sourdough starter, 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup water. Mix well and place in a clean glass jar. Left at room temperature over night. The levain should have risen ( around 2x), smelling a little bit sour, and bubbling the next day.

Sourdough loaf:

Add to the levain (around 1 1/3 cup), 3/4+2 cups bread flour, and 1 cup water. Mix well with hand or a spoon. Leave at room temperature covered with a lid and stretch and fold 4 times every 30 min. Leave at room temperature for an hour and then place in the fridge for the night

In the morning take the dough out and let rest at room temperature for 5 hours or so. It should slightly rise

Add 1 1/2 tbs of salt and gently knead and shape (I tried a baton this time). Place on a parchment paper and let rise for 1 1/2 hours at room temperature

Pre-heat the oven with a roaster (or dutch oven if you have one) at 375 F.

10 min before putting the loaf in, place another sheet of parchment paper on top and flip the loaf (I do that because I think it helps with the air packets to occur on both top and bottom of the loaf.. any ideas anyone?)

Place the loaf in the heated roaster and bake for 30 min with closed lid and then another 20 min with open lid.

Enjoy 🙂

cauliflower dish

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Absolutely one of my favorites dishes:)

I was inspired by a recipe by my sister, which I modified for a healthier version. My sister’s recipe calls for frying the cauliflower covered with the batter. I instead opt for slightly boiling them on stove and then baking with the egg-flour-olive oil-water batter in the oven. I love fried version as well – give it a try if you wish)

 

Recipe:

  • Wash a head of cauliflower and cut florets
  • Boil for 5-6 min; it should not be too mushy. Then drain
  • Mix 3 eggs, 2 tbs of olive oil (or vegetable oil), 3 tbs of flour, 1 tbs of salt and 1/2 cup water
  • Pour the mixture on the florets and make sure they are covered all over
  • Bake at 350F for 45 min
  • Serve with chili pepper flakes, yogurt (add 1-2 cloves of garlic, minced, for a lovely kick) and greens of your choice (I have coarsely chopped parsley in the photo)

parchment paper disaster and a wonderful loaf

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this is the second loaf, which was baked in the roaster and thus did not get affected by the parchment paper disaster….

Today I learnt that the smoke detectors in my kitchen work just fine because I burnt the parchment paper in the oven!!!!

Never though that would happen. I recently started using it, always in a roaster without any problem; this was the first time I tried it on a cookie sheet.

I had placed the cookie sheet lined with the parchment paper + loaf on the lower shelf of the oven; is that the reason I wonder (oven was at 400 F – many people say that parchment paper is safe to use at this temperature)…

Anyways; a lovely loaf is gone to garbage (the one on top of the burnt paper); luckily I have had another loaf baking in the roaster at the same time, which turned out to be just great 🙂

This loaf is the same as last time where I used milk rather than water in the dough. This time I also increased the amount of yeast, sugar and salt (2 tbs of each for 4 cups of flour), and baked 15 min at 400 F (until I realized parchment was burning…); took out while still in the roaster for 10-15 min until I cleared the oven from smoke; and then baked it at 350 F for an additional 15 min (lid open).

I think I have reached consistency in terms of baking a soft and beautiful loaf, which also happens to have excellent oven spring. I would recommend this recipe to everyone, especially those that are new to baking bread; it is much easier and more forgiving than the bread prepared with water (which I could never bake well) 🙂

 

 

collard greens and potato pastry

An easy, tasty dish that is sure to warm the stomach 🙂

I prepared the dough myself, but if you wish, you can rather use pastry sheet.


Dough: 

Add 1/2 cup and 1 tbs of warm skim milk, 0.5 tbs of sugar, and 0.5 tbs of dry yeast. Mix well, cover, and let rest for 10 min

Add 1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour, 0.5 tbs of salt, and knead for 2-3 min

Place in a warm place covered for 1 hr 15 min

Divide the dough into two and roll in rectangular shapes

 

Filling:

Skin and cut two mid size potato and boil for 3 min (do not over-boil)

Chop 1 mid size onion and lightly brown in 1 tbs of vegetable oil

Add 1 tbs of chili or tomato paste

Add 1 bunch of collard greens, washed and cut, stir for 2-3 min

Add the potatoes and simmer for 4-5 min until all the liquid evaporates

Add salt and crushed chili pepper to taste

Pour down the filling on top of the first pastry sheet and cover with the second

Whisk one egg and brush over, sprinkle with sesame seeds and nigella seeds

Bake at pre-heated oven (375 F) for 35 min or until the top browns

Enjoy 🙂

 

joy journal – August 28, 2016

joy 🙂

happiness 🙂

peace 🙂

I am feeling very good today and one of the things that can increase that feeling is to be able to remember and contemplate on things/people/experiences that have been giving me joy, comfort, happiness, and peace. So, here they are:

1. I am grateful for sleeping well and waking up feeling peaceful

2. I am grateful for buying myself a cup of nice coffee and not eating muffin or bagels (I wanted to, though… 🙂 )

3. I am grateful for finding the receipts for the items that I had bought a while ago, which were not  needed anymore (and were not used, either). I have done this a couple of times lately; not that I like the extra effort to return stuff, but it is just awesome to be able to get rid of extra stuff from home and also get the money paid back. Win-win!

4. I am grateful for taking the bus to the stores and back. I am glad that I did not need to wait long for the bus today – I feel lucky 🙂

5. I am grateful for speaking with my family 🙂

6. I am grateful for putting some items for sale online. I am not asking for a lot of money and I hope that the items will be gone soon. Guess what I am planning to do with the money? Donate it to the animal shelter! 🙂 What a great cause, what a great happiness!!

7. I am grateful for eating well today

8. I am grateful for baking yet another steel-like sourdough loaf 🙂 I must pay more attention to the critical points of baking, rather than improvising I guess. I sure will try to eat it, and if not, turn it into croutons 🙂

9. I am grateful for preparing another batch of frozen green beans with tomato. Green beans and tomato were incredibly cheap this week and I could not help but think about freezing them. I feel very content and excited about this food freezing practice (which I started only lately). In my freezer in addition to the green beans, I have blanched carrots, zucchini, bone broth,and bread all prepared by myself. I am loving this no food waste and preserve food adventure of mine 🙂 I feel so able and so abundant!

10. I am grateful for stretching my body and getting some relief from it

11. I am grateful for getting a second hand pantry today! Boy, I have been meaning to get one for sometime and this one looks like a good fit. It is a little bit taller than what I ideally would like to have (to fit a corner in my laundry room), but I decided I could make some arrangements and still make use of it. I needed storage space to store some items here and there (like the laundry detergents that lie on the floor) and this pantry looks just fine to me. The couple brought it right to my home and I guess it was a great deal. Exciting! 🙂

12. I am grateful for relaxing whole day without stressing about anything. I realized, thanks to a couple of weeks lately that were stressful and emotional, that I usually feel quite good…. What a blessing

13. I am grateful for all the food I have in my fridge, pantry, and freezer. I am abundant:)

14. I am grateful for having the night to myself and enjoying it so far

15. I am grateful for my family, friends, job, salary, benefits, insurance, bank, house, all the furniture and services (cable, phone, internet etc.), bus service, neighbours, colleagues, food, clothes, and many others in my life that make my life fun, safe, healthy, and lovable.

16. I am grateful for being grateful!

🙂

 

 

quiche with spinach and mushroom

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I have been meaning to try this quiche recipe for sometime. Finally, that day arrived 🙂

I have had some modifications:

  1. added 5 tb of chilled water to the dough rather than 4 tb
  2. used 1 cup of chopped mild cheddar as the only cheese source. And since I was kind of lazy, rather than grating it, I cut it out 🙂
  3. added 1 tsp of baking powder to the dough
  4. added chili pepper to the spinach-mushroom mixture. Also added it on top 🙂
  5. rested the dough for 1 hour at the fridge (I was buy with something else at that time) rather than 30 min
  6. used raw spinach (not frozen); first applied salt (around 1/2 tb) on it and mushed well, rinsed well, and squeezed hard to drain off water.  Then, I added it to the mushroom-garlic mix on the stove.
  7. Overall, I cooked the mix longer (around 10 min for the mushroom first and then added the spinach and cooked for another 10 min)

Yummy 🙂 very hearty and high calorie meal. I could not eat more than 1/4 of it at once. Ensured to feed 4 people.

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Added after the post: Next time, I would make some modifications to this recipe. First, I would have the dough a little bit more hydrated and perhaps add another 1-2 tbs of water. Also, I would remove all the liquid from the filling (mushroom – spinach) and reduce the milk to may be 3/4 cups. The egg mixture would benefit from more vegetable oil. I think the dough could have been thicker or the filling would have been thinner.

weekly budget check

I am almost back to my regular budget after my vacation two weeks ago.

Last week has been good, yet I am aware that I made extra expenses that did not enrich my life. They could have been avoided, but I preferred not to. My choice. Like any other choice in life, I am responsible for it and since the effects are not detrimental, I am also okay with it 🙂

Anyways, here is last week’s account:

expenses within the weekly allowance (grocery, breakfast/coffee etc): $108

savings from expenses that I was tempted to but did not: $204

weekly fun funds savings: $120 (my total weekly allowance) – $108 (this week’s total expense): $12

fun funds spending: $165 (these are the expenses I regret…But hey; fun funds are here to help me have this flexibility in my spending. I had fun making these expenses, so even though I may not feel the same excitement right now, I am sure at that time it was the right decision)

total fun funds accumulated so far/left: $18

Other expenses (such as cleaning and personal care products as well as clothes): $188


Overall, I am pleased with keeping up with the weekly budget; comparing prices at different stores or following the sales and shopping at thrifty stores (for clothes) to increase my savings; walking or taking the bus rather than taking the cab and saving a significant amount of money every week; cooking and baking at home rather than dining out (except weekend breakfast). This week has been a little bit expensive, but this does happen time to time, so all is well 🙂

lemon – raisin teabiscuit

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Well… when it is boring, one thing that comes to my mind is food 🙂

I wanted something sweet, so decided to improvise tea biscuit. Tea biscuits are easy to make and bake. Thus, when the time is short, they are my favorite.

Since it is boring to repeat the same recipe and exciting to try something new, I improvised a recipe based on a previous one with some changes/additions.


Preparation time: 10 min

Bake time: 35 min

 

Recipe:

2 cups of all purpose flour

3/4 cups of raisins

1/2 cup white sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1 tablespoon of baking powder

100 grm unsalted butter (melted)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 cup yogurt

3/4 cups of skim milk

zest of a lemon + around 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

 

1. Mix all ingredients (except zest of 1/2 lemon) with the help of a spoon

2. Brush inside of an oven pot with vegetable oil and pour the mixture in

3. Sprinkle top with the zest of the remaining 1/2 lemon

4. Bake at a pre-heated oven at 400 F for 30-35 min, or until the top starts to brown

 

*you may shape the biscuits if you wish; I was rather in hurry so rather baked without shaping.

**for a more tangy version, add the juice of 1/2 of lemon

***for another version, sprinkle the top with crushed nuts

Enjoy! 🙂

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right before putting in the oven – looks pretty shaggy 🙂
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soft and juicy inside, chewy outside – excellent companion for a nice cup of tea 🙂

 

joy journal – July 31, 2016

Here is another joyful entry! 🙂

1. I am grateful for sleeping in late. Man, have I been tired the last two days. A good night sleep has been the most welcome remedy 🙂

2. I am grateful for the coffee and bagel I have had this morning as a breakfast. Nice and easy. No complication. Always available. Always affordable. Always fresh. Always desired and always enjoyed 🙂

3. I am grateful for the cool day. Time to time it became hot and humid, but generally speaking today has been cooler than the rest of the week. I love cool weather 🙂

4. I am grateful for the bus, which did not let me wait too long at the bus stop and safely transported me to shopping mall this morning.

5. I am grateful for buying many useful and needed items today. What is it about shopping that makes us energized and excited? One thing I like about it is I feel like I am taking care of myself. Another reason is that I sometimes, only sometimes, I find something that I really love…. Today’s most exciting catch was a measuring cup set that I much needed! I checked two brands, one steel and the other plastic. The first one was expensive and the other one did not feel good. Plus, I did not like the colour, which was dark blue. I checked the aisle for the second time just before leaving the store and I find a third set; it is plastic too, but this time its color is green, which I liked. It would be nice if I had purchased the steel set, but honestly considering the fact that the cups will only transiently touch the flour, I opted out for the cheaper set, that is the plastic. I am fine with that decision.

6. I am grateful for the canned beans, yogurt, bread flour, whole wheat flour, raisins, the lipstick, eyeliner, and face moisturizer I bought. I will enjoy consuming the food and they were at very affordable prices. I am trying a new shade of eye liner this time (green), which I have not used since my youth. It is exciting 🙂

7. I am grateful for catching the bus back right at the last second. Since it is sunday, the bus schedule is particularly bad – buses are very infrequent. There was only one bus left at the station, which I had hoped was my bus. And it was! If I had missed it, I would have to wait another hour, or take a cab. I am happy that neither of these were required.

8. I am grateful for talking with my family. We are missing each other, but it is awesome that with technology we have the opportunity to speak and connect.

9. I am grateful for the bread I baked today! It is one of the best I have ever baked; tasty soft, and good looking 🙂 I have hope – I will manage to bake the perfect loaf one day 🙂

10. I am grateful for continuing to declutter today. Today, I dumped 3 pairs of old boots; an old pair of shoes; a couple of old jackets; and many small items forgotten here and there. I also noticed 4-5 nice jackets that I had ignored for many years! They are in good shapes and honestly look very pretty. I hanged them at the front to make sure I will see and wear them when the fall/winter comes.

11. I am grateful for the veggie meal I cooked this evening. It was healthy and tasty – good job 🙂

12. I am grateful for stopping working around 5pm and starting to relax and rest after that. The last few days have been quite productive but also tiring. I feel much better right now and ready to start the new week.

13. I am grateful for all the jars I have. because of the recent pest problem, I am keeping all my dry food and spices in jars. Those that are in large amounts, like rice and flour, are currently in the fridge. I looked for large jars today but could not find suitable ones. I guess I will just keep going as it is.

14. I am grateful for noticing my dry food yesterday and today. I have a lot of dry food, which I can lovingly consume. I will have one or two days this week designated to only cook with these food. I will be happy to replace them later with fresh batches.

15. I am grateful for the space I have created by decluttering and reshuffling stuff around. I used to think that my kitchen cabinets and pantry was not large enough, yet it turned out that this was not true 🙂

16. I am grateful for the rain this evening; hearing the droplets hit the asphalt was therapeutic 🙂 it also cooled it down a bit – I am looking for a temperature-wise comfortable night. What a delight 🙂

17. I am grateful for my t-shirts and pajamas that make summer heat bearable. We always complain about winter, yet summer, when hot and humid, is equally annoying. Proper clothes to cope with the temperature is essential. Since our winters are rather long and summers are short, I often times forgot the existence of summer-clothes. I am glad that while decluttering I found them in the drawers and gladly wear them. That also means that I better do two decluttering activity per year: one when the summer starts and another when the winter starts. This will help me not only to get rid of the old and unwanted items, but also to locate my seasonal clothes when they are most needed.

18. I am grateful for my internet connection and computer that make blogging, reading, writing, and learning possible – all exciting!

19. I am grateful for being grateful and taking time to note this list today.

joy journal – July 26, 2016

Been a while… There are many things to note yet I will keep it to the things/experiences/people that have been giving me excitement, hope, and happiness lately.

1. I am grateful for the day. It has been just the right temperature; neither hot nor cool, with a little breeze and lots of sunshine. A perfect summer day :).

2. I am grateful for getting up earlier than usual and not getting crazy about hastily leaving the home a soon as I wake and dress up. I spent around 30 min at home in the morning, browsing the internet while waiting for the next bus at 8.30 am. It is awesome to note this (waiting for something/someone makes me crazy usually. waiting for the bus, which is scheduled for every 30 min used to make me extra crazy. But I seem to have tamed… at least for now… is that not awesome?)

3. I am grateful for taking the bus and arriving the office earlier than usual. I have had a peaceful morning when I brewed my coffee and enjoyed it, worked productively, and felt overall good about work and life.

4. I am grateful for walking back to home in the afternoon and taking care of some emails and other paperwork after that. Working at home is usually a very relaxing practice for me. I am so lucky to have a job that gives me such a flexibility.

5. I am grateful for watching TV this afternoon. After my back problem that occurred early in the new year, I had hardly spent time in my living room, or sat on the couch and watched the TV. Couch is not good for my back so it was not long before I moved up to the bedroom again, but nevertheless this change was very welcome 🙂

6. I am grateful for cooking a healthy meal for myself today. I tried a new recipe that I have got from a neighbor while I was on vacation. Pretty tasty stuff made with cracked wheat (bulghur). Hope to post the recipe one day.

7. I am grateful for the open windows and the fresh air filling my home. What a luxury it is! (old man winter does not let that to happen very frequently.)

8. I am grateful for my new throw, couch covers, shirts, and socks; tea, spices, seeds to be used during baking (nigella, sesame, poppy seeds etc.), corn flour, rice, hard salt to be consumed;  decorative artwork that my sister has given me as gifts; the bowl that I had picked up from my dad’s house as a memorial; the walking shoes and the winter boots that will last like for ever. It feels great to remove any hesitation about having/finding comfy shoes and winter boots- I feel blessed to have found and purchased them 🙂

9. I am grateful for my laptop and the internet connection that make it possible to write, read, and learn 🙂

10. I am grateful for not gaining weight lately. Hope to drop more of those resistant fat particles 🙂

11. I am grateful for having food in my fridge, freezer, and the pantry. what a blessing to know that I have more than I can consume and I am abundant.

12. I am grateful for my friends here whom I have called or seen yesterday. It is so relaxing to know that I am surrounded with good and kind people. This is particularly important for me to realize, as I have just come back from a family visit. i do not feel lonely and I feel like I have a life here 🙂

13. I am grateful for the hand moisturizer that makes the wonders all the time. My hands are prone to get dry yet this moisturizer is just right and it smells awesome. I am lucky to have found it 🙂

14. I am grateful for my plans to shop this weekend. Shopping is always a delight (if done responsibly, of course) 🙂

15. I am grateful for my back feeling good and being pain-free in the last month or so.

16. I am grateful for getting sleepy now. I may have some kind of jet-lag, which is okay… if you have ever experienced difficulty falling asleep, you will know why I am excited about getting sleepy. Long live the jet lag! 🙂

17. I am grateful for being safe and sound.

18. I am grateful for my family; we may be a hard ball together but we sure love and care each other. I am extra grateful that they are fine, healthy, and safe, too.

19. I am grateful for being grateful and being excited to have written this post.

🙂

joy journal – June 6, 2016

1.  I am grateful for sleeping well and getting up for a new day 🙂

2. I am grateful for taking the bus and getting excited about it 🙂

3. I am grateful for my coffee and my office that makes brewing my own coffee easy 🙂

4. I am grateful for my glass water jar that makes drinking water a delight. Water remains cool and fresh – way better than the plastic bottle I used to store my water. I am very happy about this progress 🙂

5. I am grateful for working with a strong focus in the morning and submitting two important documents this afternoon. I am very relieved 🙂

6. I am grateful for walking to home from the office and continuing to work at home.

7. I am grateful for having no mice activity in the last few days. I hope it will never return back!!

8. I am grateful for deciding to pick and dry the flowers from my yard this weekend. Next year, I will bring dried lilacs from my yard (in a picture frame) to my mom as a gift – I think she would like this 🙂

9. I am grateful for cooking a healthy meal and eating with love 🙂

10. I am grateful for the food in my fridge and freezer that nourishes and feeds me 🙂

11. I am grateful for having a lovely chat with my neighbour.

12. I am grateful for reading bread recipes and getting excited about making a new loaf this weekend. I plan to prepare the initial dough on friday and leave the dough in the fridge over night. The next day I will rise, proof, and bake it. I am aiming for a high-hydration bread (80-85%) – let’s see how this adventure will develop 🙂

13. I am grateful for being relax and peaceful today. Since I am taking care of important stuff prior to my vacation, I am feeling more confident that till then I will finish all I aim for. This is a great feeling 🙂

14. I am grateful for not eating too much today 🙂

15. I am grateful for being a couple of pounds than last month. I hope this is a permanent fat loss, but not transient water loss 🙂

16. I am grateful for my facial moisturizer that nourishes my face and skin 🙂

17. I am grateful for being grateful and taking time to reflect on these beautiful things 🙂

 

shopping weekend and green bean for freezer

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final product 🙂 – once cool down, I will put it in a freezer bag and place into the freezer for later use

I have been shopping this weekend and I love it 🙂

It is not a secret that I love shopping. There is something nice about looking at all the products, compare prices, and then purchase those that will provide my life with comfort and value. Do not get me wrong – I am not into purchasing things that are not useful to me. I am on a frugal adventure myself 🙂

But when needed, I love shopping 🙂

For the coming family vacation, I needed to purchase a couple of gifts, which I was happy to. I loved every single thing I have purchased and the nice thing is that they do not cost too much. I happen to shop along the year for gifts and accumulate them over time. I love looking at them and the positive feelings they will create in the people for whom they are purchased.

I also purchased freezer bags for the time first time for myself. I wonder why I have not noticed them before… I am interesting indeed 🙂 I will use these bags to store my food. I was once interested in canning but with the freezing route, I will feel better as it is easier and there is no health hazards like botulism. I am not saying canning will always lead to this health problem, but knowing how inexperienced I am, after reflection I decided not to can.

I so far could blanch and store carrot and zucchini in freezer. This time I am going to try green beans with tomato. Beans were on sale yesterday and they really look fresh.

Basically:

  • wash and cut 1 lb of green beans
  • grate or cut in small cubes 2 tomatoes
  • cook on the stove till the beans change their colour, tomatoes are cooked, and the liquid evaporates (around 16 – 20 min at medium heat). I closed the lid during the first 10 min and then removed it to let the liquid evaporate.
  • stir occasionally
  • Do NOT add oil or salt
  • cool down and put in freezer bags and store at the freezer.

When needed, take out from the freezer and prepare your meal as you like. I plan to fry 1 medium onion in vegetable oil, add the beans and tomato directly, add 1 cup of water, add salt to taste, and cook until beans are soft and tender.

Excellent way to preserve vegetables when in season and on sale. Credit goes to my mom 🙂

Bon appetite!

lentil and celery with eggs

Looking for a way to consume left-over veggies or legumes?

Improvise and make up a meal with eggs – eggs make everything delicious 🙂

I love eggs. I know there is a controversy around consuming eggs and risen cholesterol levels – make your own judgement or listen to your doctor (re; eggs).

As part of my “no food waste” policy, I was looking for a way to use whatever I have in my fridge and my pantry and I decided to come up with an oven dish involving green and red lentils, eggs, and celery.

It turned out to be delicious if you like this kind of food combinations. The celery gave a nice crunchy kick and lentils/bread crumbs formed a soft base. Egg, of course, was the glue that held everything together. It also gave a nice taste to this dish.

If the liquid is drained well, it can also be turned into a “patty”, which can be fried or baked in the oven. I love patties yet today I wanted to see whether I can come up with something less greasy and more healthy.

For variety, replace the celery with fresh herbs.

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Recipe

  1. wash 1/2 cup green lentil and 1 cup red lentil under cold water (the amounts are different only because I have had more red lentils and no more green lentil)
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here they are; the lentils nicely bubbling 🙂

 

2. add 3 cups of water and boil until they become soft and fluffy. Let rest and cool down 15 min

3. add bread crumbs or flour to have a consistent mix. If the liquid is more than 2/3 cup, you can strain the lentils a little bit and directly work on them without needing flour or the crumbs

4. wash and slice 5 sticks of celery and add to lentils. Add salt and a pinch of black pepper

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crunch and chewy – you gotta love celery 🙂

 

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this is the mix of lentils, celery, and bread crumbs. Eggs to be added now 🙂

 

5. add 3 eggs and mix well.

6. Place everything in an oven dish. Spread vegetable oil on the surface and bake at 350F for 50 min

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a hearty and healthy meal with left-over veggies, legumes, and eggs 🙂

Bon appetite! 🙂

 

joy journal – May 27, 2016

1. I am grateful for sleeping well and getting up in a relatively good mood – priceless 🙂

2. I am grateful for taking the bus and being happy about it.

3. I am grateful for my office coffee! I cannot get tired of this. i am so lucky that I have an office for myself and I am accountable to only myself… That is great to note this as I have not particularly noticed it before… Coffee makes my mind work well I guess 🙂

4. I am grateful for having a long but nevertheless useful meeting.

5. I am grateful for walking back to home right after the meeting. It was kind of chilly but that is alright. Better days will come!

6. I am grateful for checking my home and finding no pest activity during the day. I feel good about this but I am not naive enough to  think that it is over yet. nevertheless, this is a peace of mind for today.

7. I am grateful for the cat next door that shows up in my yard time to time. I wish she could visit my home too so that the pest would have an extra motivation to leave my premises! 🙂

8. I am grateful for the misty weather today, which allowed me not to water my seeds in the yard.

9. I am grateful for not eating too much today. My appetite is not there in the last few days. I am feeling great about this, though I should make sure I eat healthy stuff. I noticed that I do not eat fruits as much as I would like. Gotta solve this problem this week 🙂

10. I am grateful for the fish I have baked this evening and it is being affordable and quite tasty.

11. I am grateful for the relaxing atmosphere of my home. I have everything I need and want (except the pests! 🙂 ).

12. I am grateful for the comfy bed I have that allows me to both relax and sleep on.

13. I am grateful for making new plans for my saving. As soon as I come back from my vacation, I will do some adjustments to further save and use my own hard-earned dollars. I deserve this.

14. I am grateful for my computer and internet connection that makes my life easy and enjoyable.

15. I am grateful for my job that allows me to have a comfortable and safe life.

16. I am grateful for all the savings I have made since the last one year. At the beginning of June, it will be a year that I started budgeting in a serious manner According to my records, in the last one year I have saved roughly 7K…… That is an amazing amount of money that I would have otherwise thrown away. I am proud of myself 🙂

17. I am grateful for being alive, healthy, safe, and sound.

18. I am grateful for my back feeling better and not needing exercises. being pain-free is an amazing feeling 🙂

19. I am grateful for being grateful and taking time to write my joy journal.

joy journal – May 25, 2016

1. I am grateful for waking up feeling alright 🙂 This is a rare occasion and I fully appreciated it. I am so very grateful for this feeling 🙂

2. I am grateful for taking the bus this morning. Weather was awesome and i went to work by wearing a jacket rather than winter coats! 🙂 is that not great?

3. I am grateful for working well. I was distracted by a couple of meetings here and there, but all worked out well. One of my team members and I are working on a challenging project. he moved it quite a bit but then like any other things that are done for the first time, we needed to in detail check our approach, methods, and the assumptions/limitations. It is no fun and both my team member and I were quite annoyed but also somehow excited. Once this “confidence building” phase is over, then we will be able to move really fast. I must explain this to my team member better as he is frustrated that we are still not clear about our approach. Fortunately (!), this is a necessary part of the process and we will be done with this phase soon. It is good to have experiences! 🙂

4. I am grateful for my coffee – what a blessing to be able to have an office that allows me to brew coffee whenever I wish 🙂

5. I am grateful for walking back to home early afternoon and continuing to work at home.

6. I am grateful for seeing the nice flower that bloomed in my yard today 🙂

7. I am grateful for chatting with one of my neighbours while I spent time in my yard.

8. I am grateful for my back feeling better and being pain free.

9. I am grateful for not eating too much today 🙂

10. I am grateful for spending the evening and the night relaxing and also reading and writing about my work plans – things are getting clear as I continue to reflect on them. And as they get clear, I also realize how much we have progressed in our projects – that is a great feeling, very satisfying and encouraging. I also realize that I am in a better shape than I thought I was 🙂 talking about self-confidence!

11. I am grateful for being excited about a report at my hand, which I plan to finish in the coming two weeks or so. I really would like to end it before I leave for my vacation so that once I am back, I can focus on new stuff. Finishing things and having its satisfaction are awesome, so are starting new things and experiencing their excitement 🙂

12. I am grateful for it raining today – I did not have to water my seeds 🙂

13. I am grateful for tomorrow being one more day close to the weekend, when I am planning to shop for my yard 🙂

14. I am grateful for the water that quenches my thirst, the food that I can afford and nourishes my body, and my home that provides me a safe shelter.

15. I am grateful for being grateful and finding the opportunity and time to write my joy journal today 🙂

joy journal – May 21, 2016

I woke up cranky this morning too and I remembered that the best remedy for this feeling was to remember and note things/people/experiences that I was grateful for. I have not been writing my joy journal as frequently as before – will try to write more often 🙂

1. I am grateful for sleeping well and waking up right after 9 am – neither too early nor too late.

2. I am grateful for my morning coffee at the cafe. I did not buy anything to eat this time. I used to buy bagels or, lately, tea biscuits . I realized that I needed neither of them – I had decided not to eat bagels anymore because the bagels of that cafe are not great. I also decided today that my tea biscuits were much better than theirs. So i would either bake for myself or unless I was hungry, I would not put any of these products in my system.

3. I am grateful for spending time in my yard, cutting the grass and cleaning the pieces here and there. Do not get me wrong; I do not like cutting the grass at all. It makes me tired (my arms especially) and I do not enjoy the scent of cut grass. Yet, today was special as it showed me clearly that Spring was here! 🙂 I gotta do this chore for many months now every two weeks, but at least the weather is nice, I get to exercise, and I get exposed to sun. Plus, I get to feel great about seeing all the life forms blooming in my yard 🙂

4. I am grateful for getting motivated to plant some herb seeds tomorrow. I have a small part in my yard suitable for this purpose and I do hope that this year I will see some seeds germinate. Please, please, please! 🙂

5. I am grateful for checking the internet and seeing that I can use my cut grass as a mulch in my yard. i should be buying wood mulch to help shape around my trees and maybe cover an area in the yard where I have unwanted plants growing. I do not know when I can do that but until then, I will look for ways to make my yard look better and my soil nourished.

6. I am grateful for talking to my family and getting recipes. As a matter of fact, I tried a soup recipe by my mom and I must say it was great. I also did something unusual and cooked another healthy dish (very unusual for me to cook two different food at the same day…). I am very happy about these choices I have made today.

7. I am grateful for my first soda bread trial!  It did not look good at all, but, hey, it sure tasted awesome. I am very excited about this trial 🙂

8. I am grateful for trying my first poolish tonite. Poolish is a prefermenter used in baking. I hope it will work out well, as I am planning to try two other small breads tomorrow; one plain and the other with green olives+rosemary. Exciting 🙂

9. I am grateful for doing my laundry and airing the home today. Weather was awesome and warm so it made it an easy job (i.e. no need to adjust the temperatures of each room while the windows were open).

10. I am grateful for doing grocery shopping in the morning. I did not buy a lot of things, but shopping has always had a therapeutic effect on me 🙂

11. I am grateful for relaxing whole day and not thinking about work. It is great to have exciting hobbies such as baking or working in the yard that make me more connected to nature and life. I have been reading a blog today where the blogger defined making bread as helping him to get into a simple life mode….. It really clicked with me – the less commercial and dependent-on-others my daily life is, the better and simple life I feel like having. Do you not think?

12. I am grateful for my home for providing me a shelter, my furniture for giving me comfort, my kitchen items for allowing me to enjoy my life with baking and cooking, and my computer, internet, TV, and cable for making me learn and entertain.

13. I am grateful for being grateful 🙂

my baking adventures and excitement in life

I have written a couple of days ago; excitement is a lovely thing 🙂

I have been thinking since then that that is actually very true and I seem to like excitement (planning, thinking, reading or writing about future plans, whether it is my budget and savings, or currently, my baking adventures).

I like this kind of excitement because honestly I am too stressed to enjoy my life. My mood is pretty much dependent on how the work goes and what hurdles we face. This gotta change and I gotta find a balance in my life between work-related emotions and life-related emotions. Eventually I am hoping that they will balance and when one of them sinks, the other can still keep my mood at a healthy level. That is why it is important for me to find things that will excite me. Who knows what it will be next day, but nowadays it is baking. I

I am planning to bake yet another bread tomorrow with baking powder based on a recipe I found on the net. I hope that this time I can do this as I really am not interested in buying another store-baked bread.

While at the beginning of my baking saga, I was only interested in yeast and how it works, I later got determined to bake my own bread all the time, dwelled into other recipes (such as tea biscuits), and now I can see that I am actually getting interested in dishes where oven is involved.

Not sure why that is but I am kind of thinking;

First, my subconscious mind. For years I have been saying “I cannot cook. I do not like cooking.”. Now the term is different (baking) and I believe that is why I am not negatively reacting to it and I in fact am okay with preparing food by baking.

Second, the availability of all kinds of recipes on the internet makes it easy and convenient to select and try dishes/bread.

Third, I am really in love with yeast and how it works, even though I have failed brutally once I was trying to bake bread/baguette. Baking powder is also interesting for me – improvising with these two is an interesting adventure, with lots of learning and all.

Fourth, baking enables me. I can bake for myself and I can bake for others. This morning for example, instead of buying something to eat with my coffee, I opted to bring in my own biscuit and enjoy it with my coffee at the cafe. Yesterday, I baked for a social. These are new abilities in me and I like this feeling.

Fifty, there is an excitement in planning to bake, choose a recipe to try, shop for ingredients, and actually try it. Considering the fact that baking does not require anything expensive and can be done at the comfort of my home, I am extra excited.

Sixth, I am eating better. Well, maybe not the tea biscuits 🙂 but the bread I made and the zucchini dish I tried today are healthier than what I would otherwise eat. I will never try those store made breads full of who knows what. Less chemicals to consume and more confidence in what I am eating. And any veggie that stays in my fridge while relentlessly waiting me to cook, can now be included in an oven dish or a veggie bread. I can trick myself eating more veggies by baking – I am excited about this.

Seventh, making use of what I have and not wasting food/veggies.

Do I have to say more?

🙂

I wish you to have such excitements in your life that make you healthier, happier, learning, and excited about life.

fluffy zucchini and savory dish

Baking and oven dishes are becoming my current, newly found excitement in life 🙂

I have had two small/medium sized zucchinis that have been waiting in the fridge. As part of my self-imposed no-food-waste policy, together with my recent interest in baking and experimentation with flour and baking powder, I decided to improvise a dish.

Here is the product 🙂

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*1 dessert spoon = 0.8 table spoon

Recipe:

1. Grate two small/medium sized zucchini – I left the skin on

2. Coarsely chop a small onion and mix with zucchini

3. Add salt, a pinch of black pepper, and 3/4 dessert spoon of savory

4. Add two dessert spoons of whole wheat flour and 1 dessert spoon of baking powder (in both of the cases, the spoons were over-flowing with the flour/powder)

5. Add 1.5 dessert spoon of olive oil and 1/2 cup of water. Mix everything

6. Whisk 2 eggs with a fork and add to the mixture. Mix all together.

7. Place in an oven dish and bake for 75 min. At the beginning I was not sure what temperature to use or how long to bake. So the first 30 min I baked it at 350 F. Since it did not look well cooked or brownish on top, after 30 min I increased the temperature to 375 F and baked for another 45 min.

Voila!

Bon appetite 🙂