Category Archives: Healthy Cooking

New Mixer

Just a quick update on my new Bosch Mixer. From all the paperwork that came with the machine I stand corrected with the name. Apparently, it is a Bosch Universal Kitchen Machine. And let me tell you, it is a machine.

In my last post I told you that I had been dreaming of the Bosch Compact Mixer but could not turn this full size one down because of the price cut and gift certificate. I never expected it to be this big.

I put a standard size ruler in front for perspective. It is a foot wide and almost a foot in depth. I had to rearrange the counters in order to find a home for it. But I am not complaining. I can see me having some fun with this puppy.

At first I was terrified. It sat on my kitchen table for two days before I got the nerve to take it apart and wash all the attachments. Once everything was washed I decided to take it for a spin with something very basic and easy, a boxed cake mix.

Red Velvet was probably not the best choice for an all white machine. I did it anyway.

This is what I learned.

1. It is easy peasy to operate once you figure out how all the pieces fit and lock together.
2. It is quiet.
3. It will be much easier to add ingredients to the bowl than it is with a hand mixer.
4. I am going to love making more than one batch of bread dough at a time.
5. It is not worth the cleanup for one box of cake mix.

I am going to love this machine for big batches of cookies, breads, muffins, and the cool attachments I plan on buying. It is going to save me so much time by allowing me to batch bake. I love to bake but I hate the cleanup. With no dishwasher, I play a lot of dish strainer Jenga on cooking, baking, and canning days. The big bowl and high-powered motor on the mixer means multiple batches and only one set of dirty bowls and utensils. That makes it all worthwhile.

Did I really have the money right now to buy this machine? No, I did not. Do I regret buying it? No, absolutely not. As I get older it takes more energy to get things done. If it means investing a little money into tools that help make life go smoother and gives me the chance to make homemade vs. store bought, then I am going to allow myself that gift. Over the hill homesteading is possible with the right tools.

This sale at PHG ends March 31, 2023. Don’t forget to use the code “Bosch White” to receive the discounted price.


Investing in Kitchen Tools

I recently wrote about finances being a huge hurdle to overcome for senior homesteaders. I told you about my experience with not buying a household tool that would have been a game changer (a freeze dryer). I did not want to invest the money at the time and now the cost has at the very least doubled.

I am here today, March of 2023, to tell you about a sale happening at Pleasant Hill Grain. It is a Bosch Universal Mixer. I am not an affiliate of PHG and make no money from referrals

I have been researching stand mixers for some time. The sound of my mother’s Sunbeam humming on the counter is imbedded in my mind with happy memories. Bosch, a German company, has many positive reviews. I have had my eye on the compact mixer on Amazon for a few months and was waiting for my tax return so that I could go ahead and buy it.

However, I received an email from Pleasant Hill Grain highlighting the sale of the Universal machine. It didn’t look much different to me than the compact version but then I came across all the additional attachments. WOW! Blender, Juicer, Spiralizer, and Ice Cream Maker to name a few. My blender, like my hand mixer should be donated to the Smithsonian, it is so old. My husband and I have talked numerous times about buying a juicer and who can say no to homemade ice cream? I thought about it for a day or so, reread the email over and over, and did the math.

For the mixer alone, the code BOSCH WHITE will bring the cost down to $379. If that is not great enough, the following business day you will receive an email from PHG with a $30 gift certificate toward future purchases. The final cost for this top rated stand mixer comes in at $349.00.

Unlike the freeze dryer that I let slip through my hands, I grabbed this mixer up. If you have been wanting or waiting to buy a brand new mixer that will help your tired painful hands knead all that bread dough, this is it.

Mine has already shipped and yes, the $30 gift certificate did arrive in my inbox. Now should I use it to buy the blender attachment or the ice cream maker?

Return to Sourdough

Two weeks back I wrote about the complicated sourdough starter methods that are out there in print and cyberspace. When I decided to learn to make my own sourdough bread that was the path that I traveled down. I took out my kitchen scale and weighed my flour. I tested and measured my water so that it was not too hot and not too cold. I wasted so much flour by throwing out half of my starter each day. YES HALF! Sometimes instructions are overrated.

This is what I learned to do.

1. Measure out 1/4 cup of unbleached white all-purpose flour into a clean container. I have used a mason jar and I have used a medium glass bowl to start. I found the bowl easier to work with when the starter is just beginning.

2. Measure out 1/4 cup lukewarm non chlorinated water and add to your container. Mix until all the dry flour is incorporated.

3. Cover the container with a damp cloth to keep the baby starter from drying out. I learned this trick from Carolyn at Homesteading Family,

4. Repeat twice a day. If you get busy and forget, don’t panic. Feed the starter by following the above steps once you remember.

Once you have done this for a few days the amount in your bowl or jar will have increased enough to remove some, especially if you are using a mason jar. Instead of dumping half of that valuable flour gold into the trash, pour it into a separate jar. Cover the jar of discard and store in the refrigerator.

Take the remaining starter and give it a clean new home. Feed it with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of warm non chlorinated water as usual. As the starter gets more mature and stronger you can cover the container with a dry breathable cover like a coffee filter or a piece of clean muslin.

Once this jar of discard starts adding up in volume in the refrigerator, you will need to figure out something to do with it. I tried to make bread. Even after adding yeast, it only rose to about four inches and after baking, resembled a brick. I made a lot of flat breads. I topped them with garlic, onion, butter, cinnamon and sugar. They were ok, but honestly not like the flatbread I was craving.

Then it happened. The waffles.

Wait until you have the needed amount for the recipe, 2 cups of starter or discard, then make up a batch of the best waffles ever. If it makes more than your family can eat at one sitting, flash freeze and save for later. There is only two of us so one batch makes one fresh made breakfast and one breakfast ready in the freezer.

Here is a pdf directly from Melissa K Norris. I will never go back to store bought frozen waffles or that store bought premade mix. These are just as easy and one hundred times better tasting. Top them with local maple syrup, local honey, or for a surprisingly great dessert, ice cream or fresh fruit and cream.

Now you wonder what to do with that sourdough starter that is living on your counter? That takes some time to become fully active and strong enough to make bread. At least one without additional yeast.

Differing factors contribute to the time. The temperature in your kitchen, the regularity of your feeding schedule, the kind of flour, and I personally think the age of your flour. Continue feeding twice daily and watch those bubbles appear. The key is to not give up.

There are many resources for sourdough recipes on the internet. I am still a fledgling bread baker myself, so I have stuck to a few basic ones. Sandwich bread, sandwich buns, and english muffins for now.

*Important note – If you have forgotten about your starter for a few feedings, you may notice a brownish layer of liquid on the top. That is hooch.

It is fine. It just means that your sourdough is hungry. You can pour it off and feed your starter or you can mix it in and feed your starter. The choice is yours. However, if you notice any kind of fuzzy growth on the starter or the sides of the jar, toss it and start over in a clean container. Fuzzy means mold. Not something that you want to feed your family.

I hope this has taken some of the scariness out of sourdough. I am no expert but believe that you can do this. It is much smarter to make the mistakes now while you still have an opportunity to grab for the yeast and fall back on your tried-and-true recipes. As the last three years have shown us, take nothing for granted and expect the unexpected.

Flour and Water Pride

Is it weird to be proud of flour and water? It isn’t when that flour and water makes an active sourdough starter.

Recently I read a post in a Facebook group from someone who was having a hard time getting her sourdough starter to become active. She said it was not doubling like it should when it was at its peak. She explained her steps, when she had started the process, and her disappointment. She was ready to throw in the towel and abandon this healthier way of bread making.

The responses from other members of the group were well meaning but very technical. For anyone who is new to working with sourdough and floundering this is not what they want or need. Simplicity is the key. I know this because.

I was in her shoes a few years ago. Yes, I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon during c*vid. After all there was no place to go, the store shelves were bare, and I was going a bit stir crazy. I realized I needed another skill in my new “independence from the norm” treasure chest. I took out every sourdough book in the CW Mars library, both print and digital. I read, I studied, I watched professional bread makers create artisan loaves so beautiful they were like works of edible art. Then I broke out the flour and filtered water and began.

I weighed everything out precisely, mixed it in a mason jar and watched all day. Patience is not one of my strong character traits. I fed it again in the evening and hoped it would be bubbly in the morning. It was not.

My tastebuds were waiting for sourdough bread like I had tasted on a high school class trip to Spain, but instead I was staring at a jar of the clay mixture that I used to make with the kids. I hit the books and You Tube once again.

Every set of directions was complicated and said to discard half of what was in the jar. I didn’t know any better, so I took out half and threw it away. This went on for days or maybe weeks before I started questioning why I was wasting so much of this precious substance that was now very hard to come by. My starter had also not gotten all big and alive. I was getting discouraged. Then it happened. I found a recipe for waffles using the discard.

No more storebought frozen waffles for this house. No more prepackaged mix that contained a bunch of who knows what. I could whip up a bunch all at once and freeze them for later. It was the accomplishment that I needed to stick with it.

Eventually I was able to move on to English Muffins. Not the prettiest to look at but they were homemade, and they tasted just like the famous brand.

As the starter got stronger, I finally was able to make the most delicious dessert chocolate bread, rolls, and sandwich bread.

Then summer happened.

I put my first starter in the refrigerator and forgot about it. I tried to revive it in the fall but, Yeah, I killed it good. I started all over, but since I was back to work the constant feeding, discarding, and baking when it was at its peak was too much. My poor starter never stood a chance. I killed another one.

When Homesteading Family held a sourdough challenge, I had to participate. I was still craving the taste of real sourdough. Carolyn teaches using a bowl instead of a jar and there is no science degree needed. Simple measurements and simple directions.

I did it! I had accomplished a loaf of sourdough sandwich bread.

There was no turning back. I have returned to using a quart mason jar with a coffee filter on top because the bowl was taking up valuable countertop space. It is the easiest and perhaps the laziest method I can think of. A heaping 1/4 cup organic all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup filtered water. Mix it well with a wooden spoon, cover with the coffee filter, and throw it back in the corner.

When the jar gets too full, I pour half into another clean mason jar which lives in the fridge until I can make something that does not need fully active starter. When I pour out half, I transfer the countertop starter into a clean jar and work the feedings and baking around my schedule. Easy peasy.

So, if you think that you cannot balance sourdough and real life stay tuned. I will write a separate post giving you tips to get you on your way. If I can do it with my crazy schedule, so can you. Soon you will have Flour and Water Pride too.

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The Skill of Cooking

The garden is done for the year and the preserving is done, other than some tomatoes that are in the freezer. I have no chickens or livestock to process or care for over the winter, so lately I have been overcome by the feeling of this is no homestead. This is just old people getting ready for winter in the northeast. Frankly I am having a difficult time thinking of subjects to write about because I’m not doing any homesteady things. What do modern homesteaders do during the winter months? They slow down some, enjoy the accomplishments of the past year, and plan for the next. They take this time to work on inside projects and learn some new skills.

There are a lot of skills that I want and need to learn. Being that I just started getting serious about living this life, I am a floundering newbie. There are so many basic skills to work on, and I am way behind. You all are probably better equipped to teach me some things.

For instance, real meals from raw ingredients were something I made, but not often. I believed that a home cooked supper was a box of Hamburger Helper and a canned or frozen store-bought veggie, or a can of condensed soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. It wasn’t take-out so I thought that was home made. I grew up eating a lot of the prepacked chemical sh@t storm foods that were convenient for my mom to cook. She worked outside the home, and I have come to believe that cooking was not really something she enjoyed. A trait she handed down to me. THERE I ADMITTED IT!

Cooking is not something that I like to do, especially after working outside all day or coming home from my job in the late afternoon. But it is a skill that I am desperately working on so that I am eating as little processed food as possible.

One of the ways I learned how to make that happen is to get the main part of the meal cooking in a crockpot and any veggies peeled and cut so that I can pull them from the refrigerator, and just add them to the crockpot or put them on to boil, bake, roast etc. I am also trying to make enough at once to have leftovers one night and freeze the rest for a later date.

Another strategy is to plan a day off as a cooking day. I prep two meals to make along with regular chores like making bread. One meal is for that day. It’s usually Sunday, so a football game type meal that can be simmered for hours. Chili, spaghetti sauce, or a hearty soup is always good during the winter. Crock Pot Pasta Fagioli, got us through three weekday meals and enough frozen for a future lunch for me. I added a fresh baked breadstick, and it was delicious.

While the Sunday meal is cooking, I will make something like lasagna that can be cut into serving sizes and frozen. When there is only two people in the house a 9X12 lasagna is a lot of meals. To get it all done and still have time to sit with my feet up for a few minutes, I get up close to my regular time and get prepping as soon as I have my first sip of coffee.

Another thing I added to the playbook, and this is a game changer, I have learned to safely can meals. I’m talking open a jar, pour into a pan, heat, and eat. Of course, things like rice, quinoa, or noodles, can be cooked to go with what I have canned, making it a full meal, but sometimes it’s whatever I grab from the closet.

Depending on how many people you need to regularly feed you can make these meals in pint or quart size jars. Plus, these meals are shelf stable, so they are not taking up freezer or refrigerator space. BONUS! I learned how to make some of the tastiest meals from Caroline Thomas at Homesteading Family. They have tons of videos on You Tube, a blog, and a regular podcast that are free. They also have a paid membership that is filled with courses and a very active community.

If you are a person like me that struggles with a dislike of one of the main pillars of homesteading, good healthy meals cooked from scratch, I invite you to challenge yourself. It’s never too late to learn this new skill. You will feel better once you stop eating the chemical laden foods from the grocery store shelves. You will also feel more food secure, knowing you can throw together some basic ingredients to create a healthy meal. Make 2023 the year of real food.