Nothing to do with anything

Flew home today for the first time since I moved.  Plus some new paint, everything smells as I remembered.  And the frogs are delightful!

Any fun stories, anecdotes from traveling home?  I’m interested to hear!

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KOMBUCHA!

A coworker of mine has recently become obsessed with “the ‘booch”, as she calls it.  I was able to gift her a scoby baby, which lead to more in depth instructions as to how to make kombucha. 

 

Thankfully,  it’s really easy.  And I thought I should post it here!

 

Kombucha is fermented sweet tea.  It relies on a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) that does all the work.  The scoby itself is a lovely gross slimy thing.  Treat it as a pet; you’ll be taking care of it so it can make kombucha for you!

 

First, we need some tea.

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I use Lipton.  It’s cheap and easy for the scoby to break down.  Add some tea bags to boiling water, let them steep for 3-5 minutes and remove.  Compost the tea bags upon removal.

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Add 3/4 of a cup or so of sugar to the hot tea, stirring so it dissolves.  My first go around, I was using cheap cane sugar (pictured above), but I’ve been experimenting with other sugars.  My last batch was made with local honey (expensive, but delicious).  The resulting kombucha was drier than I expected, but incredibly good.  Feel free to play around.  I have a friend who uses only organic cane sugar and claims it’s the best.  Regardless of your sugar choice, the scoby needs sugar of some sort to eat as food.

 

Let your tea cool.  Patience, however annoying, is a virtue.  And it leads to good things.  Your tea should be about 80 degrees when you add it to your scoby.  Anything hotter will kill off some of the bacteria and yeast.  (Commercial yeast dies at 120 degrees F, but the bacteria in a scoby can be damaged  at temperatures above 80 degrees F.)

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On the left is a scoby I gifted.  In the jar is kombucha plus my mother scoby, and in the french press pot is kombucha ready to be bottled in the bottle to the far right.  (Back right is a ginger beer starter, but that’s another post…)

Add your freshly brewed (and cooled!) tea to your scoby.  Try to leave about 1/10th of the kombucha from before.  This gives your scoby a semi-familiar home environment and keeps it from being shocked too extremely by the new environment (sweet tea vs. fermented kombucha).

 

Let everything sit for a week or two, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  My kitchen is about 55 degrees F right now, so it takes two to three weeks for the kombucha to be finished.  Taste periodically to check if your kombucha is done.  It should be slightly vinegary to the taste and not too sweet, but where you consider done depends on your personal taste preferences. 

The scoby will grow, adding new layers to the top.  Once it’s established, feel free to pluck off a layer and gift to a friend.  Remember, though, to wash your hands before touching it.  It’s easy to introduce new (possibly bad) bacteria.

Enjoy your hand crafted kombucha! 

 

 

 

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No Nonsense Dal Recipe

As requested, a recipe for Dal, courtesy of my friend Amy.

Ingredients:2 Tbs butter (or olive oil or sesame oil)

1 T ish Cumin Seeds

3-5 cloves garlic

1 onion, finely diced

1 tomato, finely diced

1 C. lentils

4 C. water or broth

salt and other desired spices to taste
  (ex. Ginger, turmeric, pepper)

Instructions:
Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.  Add cumin seeds and fry until cumin becomes aromatic, 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and onions and cook until translucent.  Add tomato and cook until everything becomes a delightful mush.  Add salt to taste

Meanwhile, boil lentils in water or broth, covered, over medium high heat until tender. 

Combine lentils and sauce, season to taste, and simmer 5-10 minutes, to let flavors combine.

Remove from heat and serve with yogurt and rice, naan or chapatti!

 

Enjoy your easy and delicious Dal!

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Demolition

I woke up far too early yesterday morning to awful crunching sounds through my window.  I was able to tune it out at first, but then I realized someone might be breaking into my house. So I looked outside my window, and I saw a backhoe and half of what remained of the abandoned house next door. When I left that day, there was one man in a backhoe and another man playing with a bowling ball in the wreckage.

On the up side, I now have a delightful view of the Cascades.

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Change and Warmth are good.

I’m sitting in a sunny window, but it’s freezing outside.   This Sunday’s This American Life was dedicated to the beach, and it reminded me how much I’d rather be somewhere warm and cozy (without wearing 5 layers of clothing).  I’m taking steps to change my cold weather living situation, but change comes dripping slowly.  Or melting slowly.  Or cracking with the freezing and thawing of the earth. 

In the mean time, I’m watching this guy, Cliff Mass, for local weather updates.

And I’m dreaming about sunsets on the beach.

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Dough is NOT Scary!

It has been suggested to me, numerous times, that baking is scary.  In my foolishness,  I disregarded these comments until I realized that not everyone grows up in a household dedicated to home cooked meals and a seemingly endless supply of homemade bread. Thank you, mom. 

So tonight is dedicated to the ease of home made pizza!  Waiting for the dough to rise takes the longest, but it’s worth it. 

To make the dough, you’ll need:

1 c. Warm water
1 T. Yeast (I used Red Star active dry yeast because it was the cheapest option at my overpriced grocery store)
1 t. Sugar
1 t. Salt
3-3 1/2 c. Flour (I used a mix of whole wheat
Spices!  Italian seasoning, garlic, etc…

Start proofing the yeast first.  Add the yeast and sugar to the warm water,  mix and set aside.

  Once your yeast has foam on top, usually 5-10 minutes, mix it with the remaining ingredients.  Add the flour slowly, mixing them kneading with your hands until the dough is no longer sticky.

Feel free to keep adding flour. . Dough is more about the proper consistency than following the recipe exactly, which is part of what makes baking fun!

Once you have the right consistency, clean out your bowl,  add the oil, and re add the dough.  Place a towel on top and let it sit and rise until it doubles in size or until the dough doesn’t spring back when you poke your finger into it. 

Split the dough into two; it’ll make two pizzas. Roll it out with whatever you have available.  I usually use a wine bottle, but a 22 ounce beer bottle worked as well.  I like to put cornmeal between the crust and the pan so it cooks better and doesn’t stick, but that’s optional. 

Add your toppings, and bake your soon to be delicious pizza for 17-25 minutes, or until the top cheese  is slightly brown and bubbly.

Most importantly,  enjoy your delicious,  handcrafted pizza.  After all,  it really wasn’t that hard.  🙂

Ps.  Photos to come. .. my phone is being silly.

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Growing Apricots from seed (er, Pit!)

Farmer Jerry sold me a delightfully delicious bag of apricots at the West Seattle farmer’s market this summer, which were too good to wait until I got home to eat.  There was a sad lack of compost bins on my route back to the bus, so I started collecting the pits, originally thinking I’d compost them when I got home.  I’ve been inspired by seed saving over the past year, and I decided to try to grow some trees. 

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They worked!!

                                             and so

 

How to Grow Apricot Trees from Apricots

 

1.  Buy some delicious apricots from you friendly neighborhood farmer.  If it’s not farmer’s market season, or you don’t have that option, try to find something organic or non GMO.  Many GM foods are biologically engineered not to reproduce, which is exactly what we’re NOT going for. 

2.  Eat those apricots.  Enjoy them raw or grilled or put into salads.  Any way you please, really!

3.  Collect the stone pit seeds and let them dry somewhere.  I picked a sunny window shelf in my kitchen, and my house mates contributed their own stone fruit pits to the pile.

4.  When the pits are sufficiently dry (maybe 3 days, but I left mine for a week) you can hear the seed inside the pit if you shake it.

5.  Crack the pits open.  I used some pliers, which were not the best tool, as I broke a bunch of the seeds while trying to crack them open.  A nutcracker, perhaps, with a towel wrapped around the entire cracking operation (to keep pit fragments from flying into yours or any innocent bystander’s eyes) seems like it would be most helpful.

6. Once you’ve safely extracted the seeds from the pits, soak them for about three days in a bowl of water, changing the water each day. 

7.  Remove the soaked seeds from the water and place them in a gallon sized bag that zips.  My bag was about 1/3 full of soil for maybe 10 seeds that survived the cracking.

8.  Close up the bag and place it in your refrigerator, somewhere you can semi forget about it for 6-9 weeks.  

9.  When you remember, or roughly two months later, remove the bag from the fridge, open it up, and peek inside.  You may need to move some dirt around to see if anything’s sprouted.  On my first check in, only two seeds had sprouted, so I removed those to plant and replaced the bag of soil and unsprouted seeds on my refrigerator shelf to forget about for another two months.

10.  Plant the sprouted seeds in some good, nutritious soil (compost/gardensoil/vermipost/manure mixture of some sort), and wait until your seeds sprout up into little trees!  I used 4 inch plastic gardening pots, but milk boxes or any small container would work.  

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11.  Be kind to your baby apricot trees, being sure to water them often enough.  I wait until the surface soil down to roughly a centimeter is dry. 

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12.  Once outside temperatures are hospitable, or if the tree grows too tall for its small container and begins to look unwell, plant it outside, or repot it into something larger.  (I’m repotting my big trees later today!

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13.  When you think about it, check in the bag that’s been hanging out in the refrigerator and repeat the process.  

14.  PS.  More official/less silly instructions can be found here!

15.  Ideally, the trees will produce fruit within 3-4 years.  In the mean time, though, I’ll be visiting Farmer Jerry. 

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