Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Easy Vegan Eggnog

Vegan Eggnog
This creamy vegan eggnog is so thick that it basically requires booze to thin it to a drinkable consistency. It is fairly easy to put together and does not require much in the way of speciality ingredients. It's an eggnog for true nog lovers! 

5 tablespoons flour
1 cup water
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/3 cup aquafaba (liquid from unsalted canned chickpeas) 
ground nutmeg
booze of choice

Combine flour and water in a pan over medium high heat. Stir constantly to remove lumps. This mixture will smell like toasting flour and then start to clump together in clear-ish blobs. Stir consistently until mixture forms one sticky ball then remove from heat. Remove mixture from hot pan. Combine 2 tablespoons of flour mixture with milk, sugar, and vanilla and blend together in a blender. Once combined set aside. Combine icing sugar and aquafaba in a stand mixer and mix until soft peaks form which will take anywhere from 7-15 minutes. Combine two mixtures in a mug and top with ground nutmeg and booze of choice. This recipe makes one serving but 3 portions of flour mixture which will keep for a few days in the fridge. 

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lessons from a Newbie Woodworker

My first woodworking projects have taught me a lot --- here are a few things I've learned!

Friends are Your Best Resource: I was having a very difficult time removing 4 inch nails from the reclaimed wood I planned on using for the bench and I made a random Facebook post asking not-at-all seriously for advice and some seemingly unlikely folks offered some tremendously helpful advice.

Approach Every Project as an Opportunity to Learn: I am shocked at how much I learned from only a few successful wood projects. A lot of this 'learning' is abstract and non-tangible which means it is hard to qualify the lessons learned but your ability shows when you approach a new project. When I built my reclaimed wood bench I researched the project extensively and had a detailed plan to follow but when I built my second project (a dog leash organiser) I designed on the fly. To me, this depicts how much my woodworking knowledge has grown from a few simple projects.

Start Small to Build Confidence: Starting with small, easier projects is important to ensure success and each successful project accumulates into woodworking confidence! A bench is a bit much for a beginner project as a bench has to withstand use and weight. I would suggest smaller, decorating items for the absolute beginner woodworker.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Plot 13: Garden 2016

As 2016 was my first year gardening, I had one simple garden goal for the year - GROW SOMETHING!

This was my first year gardening so I wasn't even sure I would enjoy it - but thankfully I love everything about gardening.

I planted these 'Red Russian Kale' on 2 May 2016 - which is remarkably early for Yellowknife - under home made pop bottle cloches. That seemed to work remarkably well as they guys have lived through several frosts. As the weather warmed up they grew quickly!

Another project I tried in the garden was the use of olla pots - which are simply buried clay pots as a form of irrigation. I picked up some unglazed terra cotta pots from the store and buried them in the garden. They seem to be working quite well and have been keeping my kale nicely watered. 

My garden was a bit thin when compared to other folks in my community garden site but I think this is a wonderful and successful first garden!  

You can read all about my garden plans, adventures, and misadventures in my new zine. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Plot 13 Zine Release!

2016 was my first ever gardening season and my successes and failures are documented in this 20 page, 1/2 sized black and white zine. I have a community garden plot (Plot 13) in Yellowknife, NWT. The subtitle of this zine might lead you to believe that there is a lot of location specific information in this zine but most of the information presented is general gardening information, experiments and results.

Topics include
... an overview of the Yellowknife Community Garden Collective
.... my 2016 Garden plan
.... an overview of the results I saw in 2016
.... my 2017 Garden plan
.... a list of resources I found helpful 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Kombucha: Brewing Basics

Kombucha Overview: 
Kombucha success depends upon three ingredients. 

1. SCOBY: There is no substitute for this symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) but thankfully SCOBY's are easy to acquire, grow or purchase. 

2. SUGAR: White cane sugar is the most common type of sweetener used in kombucha brewing but many individuals have success brewing with alternatives such as brown sugar, molasses, maple syrup and agave nectar. If you are having difficulty brewing kombucha, revert to white can sugar for the most reliable results. 

3. CAFFEINE: Most sources cite the necessity of real tea (camellia sinesis) but as I have successfully brewed coffee kombucha it seems that the necessary ingredient is caffeine.

The SCOBY feeds on the SUGAR and CAFFEINE during fermentation.  

Kombucha Brewing Basics: 
The process of kombucha brewing is very simple. First you need to brew tea. Bring a pot containing 4 cups water to just below a simmer on the stove. Add 1/4 cup sugar and stir until dissolved. Turn off the heat and add the teabags. Let cool to room temperature. Remove the tea bags. Do NOT add the SCOBY until the tea is at room temperature. 

Now it is time to ferment. Remove the SCOBY from your previous batch and separate the baby from the mother. It should be fairly easy to separate as the top portion should be creamy white and firm while the lower portion should be grey and flabby. Place the white firm SCOBY in a clean container and cover with a portion of fermented kombucha. Bottle your fermented kombucha and clean and dry your fermentation container.

(SCOBY on right is the baby, while SCOBY on left is the mother. Use the baby to brew your next batch)

Transfer the sweetened tea to the fermentation container. With clean hands, transfer the SCOBY to the fermentation container. Pour in the fermented tea which was covering the SCOBY. Now it is time to wait.  Allow to sit undisturbed and lightly covered for 8-14 days or until desired level of fermentation is reached.  

Grow a SCOBY: 

1 bottle raw, unpasteurized Kombucha with no fruit juice added
2 bags caffeinated tea
1 T sugar
Large glass jar
Piece of breathable fabric
rubber band

Place your sugar and tea bags in jar. Pour in 2 cups of boiling water. Allow the tea to steep for 10 minutes then remove the tea bags. Stir to dissolve sugar. Allow to cool then pour in the whole bottle of store-bought Kombucha. Cover jar with fabric and secure with rubber band. Place bowl in a warm, dry space free of drafts and sunlight. Let sit for a full two weeks without disturbing it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Preserving Citrus

Dried Orange Peels

Before eating oranges, I've taken to peeling the rind with a vegetable peeler (taking only the orange part and leaving the bitter pith behind). This is laid out on a cookie sheet to air-dry over the course of few days. After which the curled, hard peels are ground in a food processor. The bright orange powder is then added by the teaspoon to baked goods (like chocolate chip cookies) and coffee drinks which imparts a delicate but powerful orange flavour.      

Candied Orange Peels

Peel three or four oranges, trying to keep the peel in large pieces. Cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 minutes or until peels are tender. The pith begins to look slightly opaque when the peels have boiled long enough. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Use a paring knife, to cut off the white pith. You should be able to take the majority of the pith off in one piece. Cut the peel into strips. Boil 3/4 cup sugar, with reserved cooking liquid and 1 cup of water until the mixture begins to thicken. Add peel and boil another five minutes. Drain and coat the strips in granulated sugar.

Orange Chocolate Biscotti

2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground flax
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk sugar, ground flax, oil, and orange juice until well blended. In a separate bowl, mix baking powder, flour, cocoa and orange peel. Fold dry ingredients into wet until just mixed. Scope unto baking sheet and, using damp hands, form into a log. Bake for 30 minutes. The surface of the biscotti should be cracked. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice. Bake for an additional 15 minutes. Enjoy! 

Preserved Lemons

Lemon juice

Cut lemon into wedges, but do not cut all the way through the lemon. This creates a lemon that has open surface area but is still attached at the bottom. Stuff lemon with salt. Stuff salted lemons into a glass container. Cover with lemon juice. Leave undisturbed for a minimum of two weeks. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Homemade Pasta

I grew up with homemade fresh pasta. Upon first moving out of my parent's house, homemade pasta became the only type of pasta I consumed. I had purchased a 12 dollar hand-cranked pasta machine and spend many university nights rolling out fresh linguine. I made pasta in small quantities and consumed it immediately after making. Then I began to freeze it in batches which is very reminiscent of the way I consumed pasta as a child. My current favourite way to consume pasta is to dry it before eating.

(buckwheat noodles)

Vegan Pasta Dough (from 'How to cook everything Vegetarian' by Mark Bittman

2 cups pasta (semolina is a personal favourite)
pinch of salt
splash of oil
1/2 cup hot water

Mix ingredients by hand and knead until smooth. Let rest for 30 minutes before cutting and shaping pasta.

Drying Pasta
Spread out on cookie sheets and let dry for 24 hours. Cook like regular, purchased pasta.

Bowtie Pasta
Roll out the pasta dough as thinly as possible. Let rest uncovered for 15 minutes. Cut into squares. To shape into 'bowties' simply squeeze the dough in the centre of the square. If it doesn't stick, wet your fingers and try again.
(semolina flour bowtie pasta)