Thursday, July 24, 2014

Homemade Yogurt: easier than expected.

If you've never made your own yogurt, it's very simple.

Recently, due to some ongoing health issues, I've had to make a lot of changes to my diet under the recommendation of a doctor.  This mainly includes eliminating processed sugar and grains entirely from my diet, and for the most part it's probably not that bad of an idea.

Yogurt is a really easy way to have something ready-to-eat in the morning that is high in protein and calcium.  Store-bought yogurts tend to contain extra lactose, which can be hard for some people to digest.  In addition, flavored yogurts tend to have lots of sugar and, in general, be kind of on the more expensive side.  I have always wanted to try making my own yogurt, but I assumed it was expensive, difficult, and required some type of special equipment that I didn't already have.

Not true at all.  You need:

A regular pan with a lid
a thermometer (mine is a meat thermometer, but it totally worked)
a bunch of milk (in my case, a half gallon carton of organic milk which was on sale)
some already existent yogurt (You only have to buy this part once if you time it well)
a big jar - some recipes direct you to sterilize it, some do not.  I did just to be on the safe side.

Heat the milk to 180 degrees F.
Let it cool to 115 degrees F.
Stir in the yogurt.
Pour your mixture into a jar. No lid yet!
Put it somewhere warm-ish and wait.  I set my oven to warm a few minutes before my yogurt was ready to be put in the jar, then I turned it off and let it cool down a bit. This is important, because you don't want to kill the microbes working on turning your milk into yogurt. I put the yogurt jar wrapped in a tea towel inside there for about 5 hours.

After the 5 hours in a warm or at least out-of-the-way place, you can put a lid on it and stick it in the refrigerator and just wait until it gets cold.  I will say that it is a totally different texture from the yogurt at the store, because there are no thickeners in yours.  The flavor is all there, though, and you can add whatever you want, as far as flavors go.  I had some old vanilla beans waiting to be used, so I added those and a tiny bit of honey to mine this morning.  I recommend, of course, that you try to use some yogurt that you like the flavor of, because yours will have a similar taste since you are using all the same bacteria. (I am not 100% sure if that statement is a fact, but I thought the one I made had a very similar taste to the starter I used.)

I didn't take any pictures yet, but here is a good recipe: David Lebovitz's Homemade Yogurt Recipe

Friday, June 13, 2014


Yes, I'm still alive.

Lots of things have happened.  Weird things. Unplanned things.

For example, we finally decided we were miserable enough in our old neighborhood, in our old house. And we sold it.  In two weeks.  Such is the housing market in Portland.

Yes you read that correctly.  Here's some snotty FAQ to help you deal with it:

  • But don't you feel like you are throwing money away on rent?  No and don't ask again.  Gutter re-attachment (and not replacement) cost 300 dollars alone.  Contractors are hard to come by in Portland, and may take weeks to months to reply to your personal request to pay them outrageous quantities of money for labor.  While your gutters are pouring water directly into your basement.
  • Sub question:  But why didn't you do it yourself?  The roof was so tall we couldn't buy a ladder at conventional stores that would safely reach it for less than 300 dollars.
  • Isn't homeownership the goal of every living, breathing human being on planet earth?  Yes.  No.  Maybe, but we're still not 30 yet, so there is plenty of time.  Plus our new landlord is that dude.
  • Wow, but Sellwood is so cool.   Have you been to Alberta or Irvington, or even the Lloyd District?
  • But your house was so cozy/cute/nice/amazing/quaint!  Please spend one depressing, dark winter there and tell me that again.  Everything needed to be replaced within the next 5-10 years and it was not comfortable.  It was a 80k house on a 220k lot.  End of story.  
  • Don't you miss it? The paint job was pretty cool though, right? (The last owners used the wrong kind of paint, and it was causing the plaster to chip off in many places, but I digress.)  I do miss my built-in display cabinets, but nobody but me ever saw them anyway.  I also miss Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge.  That's nearly it.  I feel so much more like I'm in the city here.  

So after we sold our house to some needy high-maintenance empty-nesters that annoyed the crap out of even their own realtor, our house closed a month before our apartment was set to be move-in ready.  The buyers were pretty adamant about that date, and we were just really glad to be at the end of the selling process.

After a gently pleading conversation with our new landlord, we got the move-in date set for two weeks earlier than we were meant to.  That still left two weeks for us to find a place to stay.  And store one three-bedroom house worth of stuff.  And three cats. I will not lie and say it was easy, but I will truthfully say it was probably worth it.  It forced us to get rid of (i.e. charity donation) a large quantity of things we didn't need, didn't intend to keep, hadn't looked at in four years, or had been given as gifts.  (Note: please do not ever buy us gifts)  Sounds harsh, but any professional organizer or decorator will tell you sentimental clutter ruins lives.  It took two storage units, two u-boxes (the cheap-o U-Haul branded pod), and several truck rentals to get it all done.  We moved out of our house with literally nine minutes to spare before we had to give up the keys.  Hot potato.

So we decided to rent an RV because that is a thing that you can do.  And drive to Big Sur, because that is a thing that you can do.  And Zach had the week off.  Coincidence or divine intervention?

We spent our 4 year anniversary on the West Coast just chilling.  In an RV.  In a park or whatever.  Which is not something I could have dreamed would happen when I moved here in 2010.  Or that I would become everything I've ever hated.  But that's a different blog entry for a different day.

What did we learn? (more bullet points)

  • Being kind of sort of even a little bit homeless is really shitty.  I have a real feeling for genuinely homeless people now.  It's something you barely think about until something disrupts your routine of awesome hot showers and comfy beds.  Sorry if that sounds douche-y.  I know I wasn't broke or down on my luck, but I felt out of sorts, and it really changed my perspective.
  • No risk, no reward:  You can be happier with less, even if it looks dangerous or goes against what other people think is right. Our new place is smaller, but has a nicer feel.  I feel, surprisingly, more like a grown-up here in a place that is definitely less grown-up than our last residence.  I almost feel like I could raise a family here.  I never felt that way in our last place.
  • There is an entire industry centered around RV camping, at all levels of luxury that could exist while still having to do with RVs.  Well of course there is, but how would I have known that?
  • Big Sur = Awesome but remote.  
So since you're bored and you didn't expect to read this much text in a blog post, here are some pictures for you to look at:

Big Sur hiking.
Lunch looked like this one day.
New bed.  Very comfortable.

Nice afternoon with Balloon.  Who still gets to go outside because she is responsible.

Reading on my new porch.  Where nobody will tell me to get back to food.

So that's it.  Now I have some things to do in real life.  Hopefully I'll write again real soon.  But maybe not.  My diet and cooking have become complicated?  Everything is gluten and dairy free, and I feel like it might not be that enjoyable to read about.  Other than that, I don't have much to say.  We'll see.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sit right down and stay a while...

It's time to bring this blog back from the dead.  A few people have asked me to post more things, and so I shall not disappoint.  I took a look at my last post, from way back in October.

A lot has changed since then, so I will try to post some interesting things that happened to me, but I'm not even sure where to begin.  Recipes?  Cat stuff?  Here goes.

Zach and I spent a really nice Christmas Day with friends in Silverton, which is about an hour south of Portland near Salem.  We went to see Silver Falls in a gorgeous park.  There is a pretty great looking hiking trail in this park that we plan on returning to some time in the future.

Freyja got big.  And then she got bigger.  There was an entire fiasco surrounding her spaying that I won't go into.  I assure you it was emotional and expensive.  But she is ours.  And she is better now, and back to eating both food and non-food items such as candles, envelopes, boxes, yoga mats, yarn, etc.  She is almost full-grown now, and she'll be turning one sometime in the spring.  All my cats still hate each other.  It's noisy here.

Fishtown neighborhood in Philadelphia.

Pizza face in the floor.


Baby Jesus


Then there was my epic trip East.  I flew into Philadelphia, PA to stay with a friend from library school who lives in a hip neighborhood with her husband (above) and two lovely kitties.  I had missed winter for the last four (yes FOUR) years, but it snowed plenty the last day I was in Philadelphia.  The true irony of this situation, of course, is that while I was away, Portland got their first snowstorm since 2009.

Somewhere outside of Harrisburg

Horseshoe Curve

I had planned my trip so that I could ride the train from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.  It took about 8 hours, but as there is free wireless internet on Amtrak these days, I really had few complaints.  Did you know they also sell beer and mini bottles of alcohol, too?  Really, if you have the time I totally recommend train travel.  Yes I know it's 2014.  

I also stayed with my grandmother for what is probably the last time.  She is, for now, going to live with my Aunt Linda in Orlando.  While I think having someone to take care for her is going to improve her situation,  I am not entirely convinced she should live by herself in PA anymore.  Actually, I will probably never live in PA again myself.  

It was sad and also amazing.  In a way, even though I was helping her this time, I felt like I was 13 again.  I never realize how much I miss family until they are right there with me.  We just watched TV and looked at old pictures.  A few nights I went out with friends from high school, but mostly I just knitted and cooked at got away from my own life for a while.  I needed it.  I also got a lot of old photos of myself as a baby, and family members at various stages of history.  I currently have them all in a photo album, and I may try to take pictures of them and put them up at some point.


Amon Amarth

Some pictures of the show I went to in case you were interested.  This was literally the reason I chose to go home the week that I did, and I wasn't disappointed at all.  Portland doesn't get too many metal shows, and the scene can be kind of miniscule.  Lots of Canadian doctors, though.

CCAC Boyce

When I got home, everything was the same, but then it wasn't.  Something happened to me on that trip that I just really can't put my finger on.  I feel like a different person.

I've still been cooking...This was the Lobster Colorado that I made for Valentine's day.  You will notice on that recipe page that there is literally no review of this recipe that is less than four stars.  There is a reason.  While this was expensive to make, and it's something pretty seriously fattening that you shouldn't really eat every day, I can say that it was totally worth it.  The best filet mignon I've ever had was the one I made myself.  

Our Valentine's Day weekend took place after the fact.  We went snowshoeing again up on Mt. Hood. This time, we took the wrong path and ended up snowshoeing for about 5 hours.  Ouch.

I've also been working on my hula hooping.  Why? 

That's why.  

And only in Oregon would there just be a goat on my neighborhood run.  Well, maybe also in Russia.

And Andrew finally just got his Oregon Driver's License!  He moved here the same year that I did...

That's all for now.

The end.