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January 4th, 2012
Making Yogurt

I love to eat yogurt. I like it plain, with just a smidgen of raw honey mixed in. Yum. HOWEVER. I am not a fan of buying individual yogurt cups – wasteful plastic! I solved this problem by making my own yogurt at home.

There are plenty of resources available on the interwebs for DIY yogurt-making using quart jars and coolers and thermometers and towels. Me? I’m a plug and play girl at heart, set it and forget it. I invested in a yogurt maker.

There are a lot of yogurt makers on the market, and the one I chose meets my specific needs. There are only three adults living in my household, and I’m really the only one who eats the yogurt, so I don’t need to make more than a quart a week. I also like individual servings, because it helps with portion control. When I used to buy yogurt by the quart, I had a problem with eating too much at a time… (It’s sooo good and sooo easy to scoop out more than you need!) I have this Deni yogurt maker. It’s one of the more inexpensive models out there, and do shop around online to find the best price.

The Deni yogurt maker comes with six glass cups (no plastic cups, yay!) with rubbery plastic lids. The lids are good – they “stick” to the glass well without being rigid and thus likely to break. I’ve seen complaints on various sites about the jar shape being hard to clean, hard to eat out of, etc. Whatever. I don’t have this problem, I think the jars are fine. They go right in the dishwasher, and I store the empty jars in the yogurt maker until it’s time for the next batch. Easy peasy.

The recipe that comes with the machine is very simple. 1 qt of milk is heated to just under a boil, let cool, add 1/2 cup of active culture yogurt, stir well to combine, then pour in the jars and plug in the machine. The timer starts at 6 hours and goes to 12. I use the full 12 hours, because I like a tart yogurt. I used Nancy’s Yogurt as my starter because it has the most variety of live cultures of pretty much anything on the shelf at the store. I reserve a jar from the previous batch to start the next batch – which is a bit overkill, but it’s easy. When I’m down to one jar, it’s time to make more!

If you need to make more than 1 quart at a time, or cook with yogurt a lot and the jars are inconvenient – I read a nifty idea of using glass quart jars, wrapping in a towel and setting atop your heat-producing electronic equipment like a computer. That seems clever and a fun way to harness wasted heat…

I like making yogurt. It’s inexpensive, it’s tasty, and no more wasteful plastic. I want to get some non-homogenized milk and make cream top yogurt for a treat, soon…

Posted by Claire at 12:35 AM | Good Eats | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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December 8th, 2011
Liver Musings

Did you know liver is the best food for rebuilding from depression? I didn’t know either. But I read the book, and decided that it was worth a try to get more liver in my diet. The book is really good. The author cites her sources and there isn’t anything in there that’s really outlandish or not in line with current nutritional thinking. What the book does is tie it all up for you in a nice little easy to understand package.

There’s just one little problem: I really dislike liver. I thought about what it is I dislike and settled on texture and flavor. I decided that this problem could be solved by grinding the liver with hamburger and making something with a lot of spices. Kibbeh seemed to be the likeliest way to go.

First, I bought organic beef liver from Whole Foods Market. My preference is meat from New Seasons Market, but I happened to be at Whole Foods. It came sliced, and the container was 0.8 lbs. Using the meat grinder attachment on my KitchenAid mixer, I ground the liver. This looked really gross, btw. To this I added one onion (pre-chopped in a food processor), 1/2 tsp-ish fresh ground pepper, 2 tsp. cumin and 2 tsp. allspice, and about 1/2 tsp salt. Stir. Then I ran it through the grinder a second time with one pound of very lean ground beef. While the meat was slooooowly working its way through the grinder, I was boiling one cup of bulgur wheat in two cups of water for around 10 minutes, and then I turned off the heat. Once the meat was ready, I layered meat, bulgur (straining off extra water), meat, and bulgur. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil on top and baked it for around 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

The verdict: quite tasty. It had a kind of flat flavor to it (I can’t really describe it, it wasn’t bland at all with all the seasoning) which I assume is the liver. It needed something tangy to offset this, so next time I plan to use a recipe that has tamarind paste in it, or else serve it with a lemon-juice heavy tabbouleh. Another alternative would be to squeeze lemon juice on top before serving.

All in all, I’d say attempt no. 1 at getting more liver in our diet was a success. While the liver was noticeable at the quantity I used (almost 1:1 with the ground beef) it wasn’t objectionable in flavor or texture. Of course, I prefer kibbbeh MORE without the liver addition, but the goal here is to eat the liver so this is a decent disguise. Also, Theo the cat really liked it too, he jumped on the counter and was tearing in to it before he got busted. :-/

Liver Kibbeh a la Claire

Between 0.5 and 1 lb of beef liver
1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp (many grinds, in my case) fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp (or more to taste, we are low sodium in our house) salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground allspice
1 cup bulgur, cooked
olive oil
lemon juice

See above for rough instructions :)

Posted by Claire at 12:01 AM | Depression, Good Eats, Page Turners | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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November 25th, 2011
Random Blather About Black Friday

Apparently it was an okay Black Friday this year – no one died. There were just muggings, and pepper spraying from a crazy bitch who decided to pepper spray her fellow shoppers to get them out of her way. I also read about store security pepper spraying for crowd control, and I think I saw mention of a taser.

Really? Really? Anyone who can read that and NOT think that society is going to hell in a handbasket has an optimism I don’t share.

Consider the picture (commentary added is mine): this was the scene at a local store after their midnight opening. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? Why do they have to destroy the display so that no one else can shop it too? How can anyone think it’s okay tear merchandise out of boxes and then to throw it on the floor? Are we toddlers?

This is one of the reasons I had to take a break from retail. I was afraid if I worked another holiday I’d be taking hostages, because people’s entitled behavior is just getting worse and worse, and retail workers just have to take it and take it because their corporate overlords want the customer’s money.

It’s not just in stores either. Apparently Sephora’s website was unavailable for some part of the day and the level of vitriol on their fan page was awe-inspiring. I guess it IS the worst thing in the world to not be able to shop the day after Thanksgiving.

People can really suck.

Posted by Claire at 10:01 PM | Rant | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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November 21st, 2011
Shop Handmade

Usually this time of year I’d start getting twitchy because we would already be playing the holiday music at work and we’d be getting ready for Black Friday. Six years of Holiday At The Mall, and I was basically ready to take hostages. This year will be different, because I’m not working at the mall anymore. I was thinking of writing up some screed supporting Buy Nothing Day but honestly, with the economy what it is, I think Buy Handmade is a better message.

A lot of people have taken to opening Etsy shops and going to craft fairs, and finding other ways to start their own small, often one person, business. Since I’ve been there, done that I know how hard it is, but it can also be really gratifying. This year, stay out of the malls and stop supporting large corporations that treat their employees like shit and buy all their stuff from sweatshops in China. Instead, go the places like Portland Saturday Market or a market local to you, and shop online at places like Artfire and Etsy. You’ll be directly supporting an individual, not Corporate America. Plus, you’ll get some awesome usually one-of-a-kind unique gift.

Try it. It’s a good plan.

Posted by Claire at 11:32 AM | Activism | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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November 18th, 2011
Trying To Go Green

The trick for me, when trying to figure out how to be more “green” and eco-friendly, is balancing convenience and effectiveness with green-ness. Take dishwasher detergent, for example. I haven’t been a fan of powder dishwasher detergent because it isn’t very effective (at least, it didn’t used to be when I tried it years ago) and the gel stuff worked better. So I’ve been buying gel dishwasher detergent for years. But I hate that it comes in big plastic bottles, very wasteful. Plastic is just evil, evil stuff, in my opinion.

Poking around the net, I’ve found a recipe for powder dishwasher detergent you make yourself. It’s pretty easy, just mix up four readily available and cheap ingredients, and voila! Dishwasher detergent that’s cheap and eco-friendly. I’ll be testing it out to see if it actually works. If it does, then yay! I’ll make the switch.

I’ve tried using a variety of eco-friendly cleaners for my shower. Despite what they claim, none of them really work on soap scum without excessive amounts of scrubbing – the same amount needed if I’d used nothing at all, really. So, it’s Scrubbing Bubbles for me, even though that’s not the “greenest” choice. It does come in a metal can, so there’s that at least. It’s recyclable.

Hot water and white vinegar is effective on my hardwood floors, so no need to use special cleansers in plastic bottles. A couple drops of peppermint essential oil helps with the vinegar smell, which isn’t my favorite.

I mixed up a batch of laundry detergent using my handmade soap. So far I’ve only used it on non-clothing items like throw rugs and towels, but it seems to work pretty good.

This page has other helpful ideas. Some have been effective, others not so much (bathtub shower… see above, lol).

Posted by Claire at 02:16 PM | Activism, Housewife | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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