14 March 2011

In the world of squiggles and curly Qs

AHHH! Busy, busy, busy.

I had some very stressful weeks recently. I decided to take off blogging and other fun hobbies and attend to my "interesting" personal life. Since you’re here and reading, I appreciate you! (Big squeeze hugs!) It got so busy I had to contact my college and drop a class so I'm not attending full time right now. I just couldn’t do it. I’ll return shortly to full time status. I just know my limits. Some days I’m super-woman, some days I feel sub-human. (It usually has to do with the amount of sleep I get... which ties into how busy my life is.)

At the beginning of the year I like to review the past year. That’s when I decide what kind of goals I have for the next year. I usually line this up for my birthday rather than use New Years. I mean, what’s another month?! I'm usually starting when people start giving up. This year was extra special because in February I turned 30. A whole new decade awaited me!

I know for some women getting older can be depressing. I just don’t get that! All I’ve heard is how women feel more comfortable in their skin in their thirties. You finally are financially stable (or at least not begging mom and dad for cash every week), established in your career (or at least know what you want more than you did in your twenties), you have a family (or are starting one), etc. Being more comfortable in your skin, knowing what you want, realizing you can go get it? None of that is bad so it baffles me why people mourn their twenties. I say good riddance, but my twenties were pretty poopy.

One of my goals was to start eating more fermented foods. Since my hands started exploding into something that looked like a horror film – from eating gluten – it seems obvious I need to do some gut healing. (Your immune system is basically in your gut, in case you didn't know. I think that's why we say stuff like "I have a gut feeling" or "Go with your gut"...) Reece was really sick and couldn’t shake it for a couple weeks this winter. Adding more beneficial bacteria just seemed like the best thing to do for both of us. Lo-and-behold! There was a class online about fermented foods! Ask and ye shall receive.

After freaking out at home, at work, at school and pretty much anywhere else for the past 3 weeks… I took some time out this weekend to make ketchup.


Yes. Ketchup. I bought a massive amount of tomatoes and made paste (recipe below). Then I used whey I got from separating it from yogurt cheese (recipe below again) a few weeks earlier. It was relaxing. I’m excited because it’s something I made completely from scratch! I’m looking forward to eating it, giving the extra away – making more!!! I can make gluten-free, additive-free ketchup! Amazing.

So, this morning I explain that I did this to one of my co-workers. He said “Yes, because when I think relaxing, I think slaving over a hot stove.” Ok, maybe it’s not for everyone. Necessity is the mother of – ketchup, I guess. So we converse about fermentation (why would you ferment ketchup?). Well, fermentation allows the ketchup and other homemade condiments to last for up to 6 months (less or longer depending on what you made) because the bacteria keeps mold and other harmful substances at bay - while pumping your gut full of friendly stuff that keeps you healthy and happy.

That’s when he told me I do not belong in the world of “squares and lines.” That perhaps I should have a cooking show or a recipe book. You know, get my knowledge out there. He might be right. I feel grateful that my job allows me to use one facet of me, and my hobbies allow me to use another side. Some day they might co-mingle a little more. One of the reasons I didn’t start blogging quicker was because I felt that if I could find all this information, so could you. I’ve been told though, that some people just can’t get into this kind of information and retain/relay it the way I can. That really has to do with interests. My soul loves food and anything to do with it – even kitchen math I’m better at than regular math. There are some subjects (like exercise science) that I could really care less about. I leave that to other people whose souls that sings to.

Anyway, I ordered some kefir grains (not really “grains” they just look like them) – both the water and milk kind. Yes, there is a difference. I will be using coconut milk and water to make kefir until I start purchasing raw milk again. (Then I’ll make kefir ice cream! Oh yeah!) And I’m considering growing my own mushrooms. I did purchase some herbs for the kitchen but I’d like to grow my own for healing (drying, etc.). It’s all really not as ambitious as you think. I think the HOA wouldn’t allow me to own chickens or a goat – though that would help keep insects away and I wouldn’t have to mow… *sigh* Well, I’m not big on pets anyway (except for cats and that's because they're pretty self reliant).

I feel cooking is fun and relaxing. I get to listen to my audio books, music, or talk on the phone while I cook. I know what goes into the food and soil. Maybe it’s the long-lost farmer in my genes. ( Michigan was farmland before it was car-land and my families on both sides were farmers for as far back as I know.) I get to control the ingredients. I get to see something made out of random parts and see how it all fits together. Maybe that’s the engineer part of me (all the men in my family up to my grandparents are engineers).

Recipe part:

Ok, so the ketchup recipe said to use several cups of paste. I’m not sure what was cheaper – canned or homemade. I just decided to go whole hog and make my own paste. I couldn’t find a recipe I liked so I combined two. (I didn't save the sites where I got them from on accident so if this is a combination of yours I need to thank you.)

Here’s my tomato paste I made and it smelled delicious! (I didn’t taste so this could turn out disastrous. I trust my nose though.) I didn't write this down like normal so you'll have to read through it first. (Sorry - I told you my brain wasn't working properly due to the stress!)



1 cup onion, quartered
2 cloves garlic (I might have used 3)
4 red peppers, membrane, stem and seeds removed

Into your food processor. Finely chop everything. Place in a heavy bottomed pan on the stove.

Here’s where it took some time. I peeled the tomatoes, de-seeded them, and discarded the extra water. All 4 lbs of tomatoes.

To peel a tomato you need a pot of boil water. Once you've got the pot to a rolling boil (not a puny boil but big bubbles) stick the tomato in there for a minute, then take it out and put it in the bowl of ice water you have sitting next to you. Wait another minute, then you can peel. Come to find out, you can find canned peeled tomatoes (oh yeah, um, I forgot. Where'd that brain go?), but sometimes I like to do things the hard way. I guess this was one of them.

Then you put the tomatoes in a blender/food processor. Whir until slush. Put the tomato slush in the pan with all the other ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a few bay leaves (I used 3).

Slow simmer/Boil down for 2 hours. The original recipe said 3.5 hours but when it was really thick I figured it was done. I had it on 3 or 4 on my stove (which goes to 8  not 11, Spinal Tap) the whole time. I might be impatient. Stir once in a while. It’ll make you feel better. I think it also keeps things from sticking on the bottom… but that doesn’t make sense since the acid in tomatoes helps you pull stuff that burned to the bottom of the pan up (deglaze). Whatever.

When it’s thick and pasty add some lemon juice and put it in jars. Make sure to discard the bay leaves before you put the paste in jars.Ta-da! Paste.

And now for yogurt cheese and whey
Get some yogurt. I use Stonyfield Whole Milk Yogurt because it was on a recommended list from WAPF and it’s what I can find at my store.
Put some cheesecloth in a fine mesh strainer – over a bowl. Dump the entire carton of yogurt into the cheesecloth. Walk away. Just walk away. The whey separates into the bowl and the left over stuff on the cheesecloth is yogurt cheese. I do this process over a work day. When I get home I usually squeeze the remaining whey out of the cheese by ringing it. I think you’re supposed to hang a spoon over the bowl, but my fridge is not deep enough for that and I don’t have bowls that will accommodate that kind of rigging. Go with what you have.
The whey lasts for 6 months so mark the jar you put it in and make sure the lid is tight. Then store it in the fridge. Then ferment something with it or use it in homemade formula.
The yogurt cheese lasts about a week (I wouldn’t push it longer than that). It can be used whenever you would use cream cheese. So we’re talking herb dips and spreads, mixed to make a chopped meat salad (rather than using mayo), a really nice low-carb no bake cheesecake, jalapenos wrapped in bacon, to make a cheese ball, inside an omelet…  really the possibilities are yummy and endless.

What a post! No pictures (boo!) but you did get to learn how to make 3 things. Yay!

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