Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Chocolate Pudding Cake

I have to share this recipe with the world, because it is amazing! It makes this brownie-like chocolate cake with its own pudding baked right in. Perfect served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. And it's vegan (or not)!

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix:

1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa
1 T baking powder
1/4 t. salt

Add wet ingredients to dry:

1/2 c. melted butter or margarine
1/2 c. milk or soymilk
1 t. vanilla

Mix that all together in the baking pan. I use a casserole dish.

Sprinkle on top of the batter:

3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa

Gently Pour 2 c. of boiling water on top of the sugar/cocoa mix. This will be the pudding.

Bake for 40 minutes. Serve Warm.

A Dream for the Future

I want to build my own house sooooo badly. And I'm frustrated as hell that it is going to be many, many years before I am in a position to do so. But I figure there's no harm in building the house in my head in the meantime. And before I even start, I know how naive and boring this is going to sound to most people. I'm just working through the ideas in my head. Bear with it or don't read it!

There are some general principles I know would have to be incorporated into my house:

-All building materials would need to be used/renewable.
-Solar power, rainwater collection, greywater system, passive solar heat
-Small! Well-designed so that you don't need a lot of space
-Outdoor areas would also be important. Large garden, underground cold storage (root cellar!)

Ideally, the house would not need to be on the grid, and all sources of heat and power would be renewable.

An idea I got from Tumbleweed Houses (http://www.tumbleweedhouses.com) would make the house built on wheels, so that I could move without abandoning my home. They also had a pretty cool tiny bathroom design. The whole bathroom is the shower, and you pull little plastic sheets over the counter to keep your stuff dry.

Ideally I would be living in such a way that I would not need a refrigerator, or at least not a full-sized one. Tristan and I have talked about building a refrigerator that was cool by pumping cold water from a stream through the cooling coils, or something of that nature. A composting toilet would be pretty cool, too.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Cat Toy!


I've been wanting to make a toy for Lionshead for awhile. Now, I am a terrible knitter, but was in a determined mood yesterday and decided to knit her something. I was going for a mouse, but I couldn't understand any of the patterns I found online, so instead I decided on a 'wonton' that I found on knitty.com. You basically knit a square and then sew it into a triangle, stuff it, sew it shut, and tie the corners together.

Well. It took me an hour just to figure out how to cast on, and longer to get all 30 stitches on properly. Then even longer to figure out how to purl. But I finally got the hang of it and less than 24 hours later, Lionshead is very happily attacking her little blue wonton. Hopefully I'll manage to keep improving my knitting.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Yogurt Attempt #1

I've been wanting to make my own yogurt for awhile. Partly because it's fun and easy, and partly because it's cheaper than buying it and when you make it you can avoid accumulating all those pesky yogurt containers. At least where I was living last, they were not recyclable. I just bought a glass bottle of milk (the kind you can return for a bottle deposit) and a glass yogurt container to use for my starter and to refill with my next batch.

My first attempt at making yogurt was semi-successful. The milk thickened into what looked like yogurt, and the final product was edible, but it lacked the distinctive tang of any yogurt I've ever had.

A couple of possible reasons for this:

I used whole milk instead of reduced fat.
I used a starter culture from a quart of yogurt that had been open for a few days. Maybe the culture wasn't fresh enough.

The process is relatively easy. You take the milk, heat it up to 180 F, and then let it cool to a temperature conducive to yogurt-growing (90 F or so). Then you add 2T of starter for every 2C of milk, stir to incorporate, and place in a jar. Then put the jar in a cooler full of hot water, and leave it undisturbed for 3-6 hours. Then put it in the fridge, and leave it overnight before you eat it (that keeps other organisms from setting up camp before the yogurt is cooled).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Kombucha

Edit: Due to popular demand, I will explain what Kombucha actually IS. Kombucha is a fermented tea made from a knarly looking SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) that floats in sugared tea, converting its various components into various other components, including CO2, vinegar and the tiniest bit of alcohol. I'll post a picture of mine soon. But I think it's dead :(

I got my Kombucha culture from my friend Siena's brother, Noah. I carried it on the subway from his apartment in Brooklyn in a little glass jar, rather amused to be sitting on the train with my little container of slime, unbeknownst to my fellow passengers. I managed to get the SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast) back to West Philly, where I brewed my first batch.

Then the winter came, and the house became too cold for Kombucha to thrive. So I neglected the thing--didn't feed it, just left it sitting in a cabinet with my apple cider vinegar experiment.

When it came time to pack up and move west to Santa Fe, the jar of Kombucha went into the box with my houseplants and came with (the vinegar, which tasted like dirty socks, did not). During a pit stop in Austin, I divided the SCOBY and left some with my new friend Zack, and decided to give my own culture a fresh food supply. The liquid tasted like pure vinegar at that point, so I tossed most of it and left a little to get the new batch started.

Now that I'm settled into my new home in Santa Fe, I've been paying better attention to my Kombucha culture. Hopefully in a few days I'll have a drinkable batch...

How I make my Kombucha:

-Preserve 2 cups or so of liquid from the previous batch
-Add sweet tea (I use black tea with 1.5 cups of sugar dissolved into it)
-Let sit covered with a handkerchief or cheesecloth until it tastes like Kombucha!
(hint: use a container with a spout on the bottom so that you can easily decant the finished product)

The best way to get a SCOBY of your own is to find a friend who has one. Make sure you like the way their Kombucha tastes--a neglected SCOBY might yield nasty tasting brew. You can also order SCOBY online.

The First Post!

So, I've decided to start a blog, mostly to document my attempts at reducing the amount of trash I accumulate, the energy I waste, and the money I spend, while improving the food that I eat, honing some new skills, and learning to have fun without consuming so goddamn much.