cooking

Powdered Coffee Creamer

It’s been one of those years where I look up and it’s early May. It’s not inherently a problem. However it is reminding me of that folk statement about time moving faster as you age.

I’m 32. I don’t want to think I’m at that point where I’m losing months.

I’ve been fighting this monster and am too stubborn to give up.

Dyngus Day has come and gone.

It’s iced coffee season again and I keep throwing money away on liquid creamer I forget to put back in the fridge. Powdered doesn’t need to be cold.

This is basically flavored powdered milk. I do use S.wagbucks to food prep via Amazon and order full fat powder. I don’t know where I grabbed this from, I did drop the added fat.

Powdered Creamer

1 cup dry milk

Spices- favored, I used pumpkin spice and turmeric

2 or 3 packets stevia
I put everything  [a tablespoon or so or spice and maybe half a teaspoon of turmeric] in a jar and shake hard. I reshape before use. I don’t miss the mouth feel of the extra fat, but I also use the full fat powder.

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5. Bake an Apple Pie

breakfast

We are finally sleeping at the new place. We’re not fully moved out of the old apartment, but we have officially started living in my new home.

The shininess of it all is still shiny enough that I feel special and sort of woo woo positive about setting up new housing and home based rituals. I have not had a formal kitchen table since I had an on-campus apartment in grad school so I’m still enjoying the ability to actually set a table and eat at a table. We made a rule based on both an attempt to keep our new furniture as nice as possible for as long as possible, and the summer of bugs, that we wouldn’t eat in the living room. We have a small space built into the kitchen that’s big enough for a small table to act like a separate dining space.

I needed a break from packing last night, plus it was raining and already dark by the time I got out of work [I’m one of those people who work four ten hour shifts between Wednesday and Saturday]. I hadn’t tested the oven yet and decided it was time for a pie.

pie

I don’t scratch my pies, not really. Pie crust is one of the products I fully admit to buying in a box. Mine are terrible, on a level where the amount of years necessary to improve them daunts me and I just find it easier to buy a box of crusts. I don’t peel my apples unless I’m really bored or looking for ways of filling time. I normally toss them with sugar, flour, and pumpkin spice but I just went with cinnamon this time [better quality cinnamon than I normally have in the house, however]. A little bit of butter.

It came out of the oven around 11 last night, and I went straight to bed. This morning I got up before Mid, set up his plate for breakfast, made his coffee. Wandered off to do whatever.

When I came back into the front of the apartment he was sprawled in front of Star Trek, on the couch. With the pie.

Our plan of not eating in the living room made it a full 24 hours.

Stocking a Kitchen

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For whatever reason, I can blog without guilt.

I can’t do much else without guilt right now-if I’m at home, I feel like I should be cleaning, packing, or sleeping. You’ll notice eating isn’t on that list. Ha. Ha. [Now is not the time to talk about mental health and homesteading/intensifying homesteading, but I feel an entry coming on at some point.] I can’t even unwind with a movie or a book for a few hours without feeling like I’m wasting valuable time. We went to a free Shawn Lennon concert…do you think I could relax enough to recharge? Of course not.

But blogging seems to be ‘productive’ enough to let me unwind a little and regroup without kicking the guilt into gear.

This may be a 101 entry-but there are several situations that I can think of without really trying as to why you would be looking for information on stocking a basic kitchen. Fires, fast/long moves [quickly or across country, or both], first households, natural disasters are all situations where you might find yourself suddenly having to flip a kitchen with little guidance. If this isn’t the first household you’ve set up, this will be easier, but if you’re finding yourself interested in hearthcraft and have no idea where to begin, this will hopefully be helpful.

-Buy the best you can afford, and upgrade if you can

I feel like all of my lists lately have an entry that I mentally label ‘the cloth toilet paper’ entry. It’s the point where I feel like if I’m going to get any push back, it’s going to be that entry. What I mean here is really literal-whatever your price range is, buy the best you can at that point and then upgrade from there. You can almost always upgrade [or not, if the pieces you have are completely functional and holding out fine for you]. Here’s the thing, though-I am fully aware, having lived that reality, that the dollar store is sometimes your current price point. The dollar store is actually good for starter pieces, as long as your careful with the plastics. They’re flimsy and not going to go for years-but they’re cheap and available.

-Use your thrift stores

This is a great option if you have them available. The same idea applies to garage sales, estate sales, and the like.

I have a thing for measuring spoons with molded/raised size markers. I have destroyed more than one set of measuring spoons by washing off the markers. I can eyeball sizes fairly accurately but with canning, I don’t want to risk throwing off a recipe. I have upgraded several sets of spoons with trips to the thrift stores. I have also found small pieces of cookware, and when I was first starting out after school I bought all my plates and coffee cups at the Salvation Army. You do have to be careful with pricing-thrift stores are notoriously expensive for things like canning jars where they try to charge per piece.

-Give up form for function [or save it for gifts]

I love most of the stuff in gourmet cooking shops. I love the cookware, the amazing ladles, and the coffee makers. The only thing I really have my eyes set on, truly, are good European canning jars and a coffee maker. I spent six years working as a barista, loved it, and learned the value of a truly good brewer. However, about those ladles. I have an Oneida solid metal ladle that after 8 years of my mediocre household skills is still puttering along fine. I can’t justify the price difference to upgrade a solid metal ladle to another solid ladle just because it’s shiny and pretty.

But. There is something to be said for what could be called heirloom quality tools. And knives especially are aided by a little more money being put towards the cause. If you’re the type of person who celebrates gift giving situations, ask for these tools [or gift cards towards them] as your gift. People might think it a little odd that you want a $20 ladle, but you might get it.

-Shop beyond your normal zones [or your normal stores]

Goya sells a lot of inexpensive staple cooking supplies like spices, sofrito, and beans. In fact, a great many of the food staples in my kitchen are cheaper in ‘specialty’ sections of Wegmans or specialty stores. Target and Tops both want $5 a bottle for sesame oil for drunken noodles, whereas it’s $3 a bottle at T&T Grocers up the street, who specialize in several Southeastern Asian cuisines. In fact, I get my instant coffee strips for baking and camping at T&T-they’re less than half the price for high quality instant coffee compared to mainstream American grocers.

-Buy a cookbook

The Internet is a beautiful thing, but get a solid cookbook. Just one, to start. You can flesh out your collection once you figure out what you want to be cooking [unless you already know]. I actually like the workhorse basic Betty Crocker red and white cookbook, but Cook’s Illustrated have several huge, well tested cookbooks on the market.

-What fits your style?

Do you need a waffle maker?

This has actually been a running battle in my household for years now, and with getting a much larger kitchen in the new apartment, I fear that Mid will ultimately win this war and we’ll get a waffle maker when the Christmas sales start up. So basically tomorrow in American shopping reality.

Do not buy things just because you feel like a well rounded kitchen should have one. If you don’t see yourself using it, then don’t spend the money on it. It causes clutter and eats up money. I do feel like you should have a good quality stand mixer, preferably one you can get attachments for like a Kitchenaide or similar. But I honestly can’t think of anything you need beyond that. You can live without a microwave, you don’t need a toaster oven, and I know that even my beloved coffee makers are optional.

Unless of course you actually do need those things in your household. Then get them, but ignore the waffle makers of your world.

-Multitasking items

I used my graniteware canner so infrequently as a canner and so frequently to corral kitchen cloth that during one of the waves of purges over the past two months getting ready for this move I got rid of it. I use a stockpot for most of my water bath canning. And the beauty of it is that I use the pot for more ‘normal’ pot things. Buy items that you can get more than one use out of.

-Out of the box and into the basket

One of the very, very few things I do enjoy about moving is finding the farmer’s markets and CSAs. I…have never actually subscribed to one but I like to find them and daydream. And then forget about actually signing up because I almost always find them in January when all we’re growing is lake effect snow. I do have friends however that swear by them, and for someone like me who now works Saturdays during most farmer’s markets, it might be on my to do list for next summer so I can still get my local produce without scheduling conflicts.

-Give up on matching

Pick a color. Or a color family. Or a generic print family like ‘flowers’ or ‘fruit’ or ‘flamingos’. Great. You now have your kitchen theme. My theme for the new kitchen is fall colors and harvest themes-fruit, pumpkins, golds, dusty jewel tones to pull in the colors from the living room. So now that I have a rough idea in my head I can mix and match items that I find on sale or are gifted without trying to fit things I find on sale into my kitchen without throwing off the visual of the place. You don’t need to give up personal style or your budget, you just have to be flexible with what you’re willing to work with [this is also why my Kitchenaide is egg shell white. It was less than half price because the color was discontinued.]

-Shop online

I buy my loose leaf tea in bulk via Adaigo. I know people who swear by Mountain Rose Herbs. I actually ordered both my bed and my mattress online (which I understand is not a kitchen item but you get the point). Don’t be afraid to shop online for good sales on items that you don’t need in the immediate short term. You can often get good sales on bulk items like spices, and you will most likely be able to get access to supplies you can’t get locally-I can get a lot of herbs at Penzey’s down the road, but I can’t get dried scorpion peppers or Carolina Reapers, like I can online.

Candied Nuts

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This has been one of the hardest, most mentally challenging periods of my adult life.

I am fighting one of those battles where you finally face a choice-stop, recharge, and figure out how to be more productive or continue throwing energy at the situation until either it or you breaks. I will be moving in the near future, though it remains to be seen if it will be my choice or my landlord’s. I spend so much time cleaning and organizing and purging personal items that I have literally gotten to a point where I can’t tell if the place is actually dirty or if it’s all in my head.

Like I said. It has not been a good month.

I have finally made a decision, however. If constantly running on so few resources that I have allowed my own body to trigger my anxiety disorder is not winning the war, then I might as well pull back and start giving myself the grace that I would be giving other people in this case-that advice that if 10 is good, 100 is probably not going to fix anything either, if 10 is ten times more than what most people would be putting in anyway. I’ve been already grieving the loss of my fall since my future seems to be nothing but scrubbing floors and looking for new housing [or worse].

I found a bag of raw nuts at Target, and today is my normal day off anyway. I miss the feeling of sliding into autumn and I miss my normal excitement leading up to the season. So I made candied nuts and called it an act of self love and self care.

Candied Nuts

Note: I bought the ‘normal’ sized bag of raw Planter’s mixed nuts. This made enough sugar mixture that I probably could have used double the nuts and still have been fine. You can coat a lot of nuts with the sugar mixture as written.

At least 1 pound raw nuts

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon pumpkin spice

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

 

Preheat oven to 250

Mix dry ingredients-the sugar, spices, salt

Add nuts, egg, and water

Toss until well coated

Line a tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Bake an hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Let cool, and place in a jar.

 

 

Making Bone Broth in the Crock Pot, the Long Way

  1. It’s getting near the time of year where you realize it’s almost time for camp. Which means it’s your normal week for deep cleaning.
  2. Realize, for a lot of really complicated melodramatic reasons it’s time to start looking for a new home. So you start cleaning like you’re moving, because eventually you’re going to be. And -really- clean.
  3. Realize that you have pantry moths, so you start to freeze all your grains and decide that after your week at camp you’re to start shifting every loose food item into glass jars-including your spices.
  4. As you’re freezing the grain you realize that you need to get the bones out of your freezer to make room so you decide to make bone broth.
  5. That requires going through your cupboards to pull out spices…and realize that you have larger pest issues than just pantry moths. Whatever it is, it doesn’t look like WNY roaches. Which is comforting, and you find out that they really hate bleach cleaner.
  6. Set up your bone broth, and spend an hour and and a half bleaching cupboards and putting spices in glass jars.
  7. Spend some time googling roaches because what if the five bugs were roaches?

cupboard

 

The fruit of my labor is an apartment that smells of bleach, a bag full of empty spice jars, and more information than I wanted to know about roaches. The upside, such as it is, is that I am mildly comforted with the knowledge that in a modern global reality where things are carted here there and everywhere a lot of bugs just hitchhike into your home and stay there. It’s not a filth issue though that certainly doesn’t help-they can show up pretty much anywhere, because roaches and such love cardboard boxes. This is however not how I wanted to spend my summer.

Follow Up [Fermented Soda]

I told y’all I would write a follow up post if/when I got a batch of fermented soda to go successfully.

fermentedsoda

Well look at that. Fermented soda.

Fermented soda has a lot going for it-you can adjust the fruit flavors, there’s less sugar…and it’s kind of a cool project to watch.

This is a multiple step project-

First you have to make a root bug. This is a simple though time consuming step.

  1. Grate ginger or turmeric root for about a tablespoon’s worth root.
  2. Add about a tablespoon sugar [white is fine. It’s feeding the ferment so it doesn’t matter.]
  3. Add about 3/4-1 cup filtered water [you can let tap water sit for a few hours and it’ll work]. Stir until sugar dissolves.
  4. Add sugar and grated root once a day for about five days [and really do wait the five days, unless it’s really warm]
  5. After five days feed it every other or every three days, adding water as necessary
  6. It’ll be really foamy and yeasty when it’s done

To ferment soda:

  1. Add about half a cup’s worth root bug to a jar. [Make sure you stir it]
  2. Add about a quarter pint’s worth syrup [or you can use several cups juice, but use 100% juice or steam/boil your own with plenty of sugar]
  3. Add water to make up volume in the jar
  4. Cover semi tightly, and let sit. It will eventually get fizzy and the sweetness will start to fall. Stir once a day to check-this batch took about two days in a fairly warm kitchen
  5. Add to a demijohn or a soda bottle, and ferment several days [or less] to increase fizz [soda bottles will be hard when they’re ready]
  6. Refrigerate, keeping in mind it’s going to get less sweet the longer it sits. -Open over a bowl or sink-

Jalapeno Mash

It actually is that shade of green

It actually is that shade of green

It’s not exactly any sort of secret that I love hot food, and I am the type of person that thinks that if 10 bottles of hot sauce are good, 25 will certainly ensure that I will never have to be without both variety and heat.

I’ve been slowly getting back into fermentation again. This is a simple enough project, that can be scaled to fit the amount of peppers you have-which means it’s a good project to have in your box for summer harvests.

This can be done with any peppers, but I used jalapeños because I found organic at a decent price.

Notes:

Doing a fermentation in this style requires the produce to stay under the water level at all times. The easiest way I’ve found to do this, for the amount of peppers I ferment at any given time, is to weigh the peppers under with a small (quarter or half pint) canning jar. Clean a wide mouth jar, at least pint size, place the peppers into the jar, cover with brine. I like to skim off as many seeds as I can but I’m not actually sure that it’s necessary. I then place the [cleaned] smaller jar, which will fit into the mouth of the larger, into the larger jar. It will push the peppers to the bottom of the jar and brine will displace around the jar and make sure they stay submerged. Do this in a sink in case it floods. If you pack loosely enough you can cover it with a lid.

jalepenos

Fermentation:

Make a brine-I used warm water and salt, at a ratio of 4 cups water to 3 tablespoons salt. Sea salt is best.

Cut the tops off the peppers and if fermenting whole cut a slit in each pepper. You can also chop or slice.

Cover with brine, and cover with a lid. See the notes regarding weights [you can see the smaller jar in the above photo]

Ferment for at least a week, or to your normal time frame for peppers

Mash:

Drain the peppers but don’t rinse

In a blender add 1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, dried turmeric (about a tablespoon), 3 to 4 cloves of garlic, and the peppers. Blend until pureed. Place in the refrigerator.