sour cream

Organic Tightwad Homemade Options Update

If you've been following the blog, you know I've been experimenting with homemade, healthier, thriftier options to storebought products this summer, and I thought it was time for a results round-up.

HOMEMADE ARTISAN BREAD. Experimenting with ArtisanBreadinFive.com's books and recipes, I whipped up white artisan bread, a mixed-grain, and a mostly whole-wheat version. The white version comes out the most beautiful, but it's hard to justify white bread nowadays, so I stick with the mostly whole-wheat recipe. The recipe calls for sprinkling it with mixed seeds--now I just use one kind of seed and it mostly falls off when you slice the bread.
Effort Rating: Minimal
Taste Rating: Delicious
Tightwad Rating: Highly Recommended

HOMEMADE SANDWICH BREAD. I used the recipe for mostly whole-wheat bread, which is enough to make two sandwich loaves like you might buy at the store. (The nine-year-old did not like the bread made from their "Soft Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread" recipe because she said it was too crumbly. Therefore I used their basic healthy bread boule recipe.) Bake, cool and slice. Excellent crumb and flavor. None of the sugar and additives and preservatives found in even the best storebought sandwich breads. Tip: after slicing, slip a piece of waxed paper between each slice, then reassemble loaf and freeze. Whenever someone wants a sandwich or toast, they can easily pull off as many slices as he needs.
 Effort Rating: Minimal
Taste Rating: Delicious
Tightwad Rating: Highly Recommended

Sliced, papered, and frozen!

HOMEMADE WHOLE-WHEAT BAGELS. Another use for the mostly whole-wheat recipe. ArtisanBreadinFive.com's recipe was for cinnamon-raisin bagels using the basic boule dough, but I couldn't be bothered to add those in, and besides, no one in the house but me likes raisins in baked goods. Real bagels require both boiling and baking, and these were real bagels.
Effort Rating: Considerable but not difficult, because of the shaping and multiple steps. 
Taste Rating: Delicious (My kids have requested I make another batch, but I haven't yet.)
Tightwad Rating: Recommended

HOMEMADE SOUR CREAM. In my zeal to get rid of plastic containers, I gave homemade sour cream a whirl. Same recipe, two attempts. The first was pretty good and actually thickened up nicely after a week(!). The second tasted okay but never thickened at all. In neither case did I like it as well as storebought, with all its thickening agents. Might try a different recipe in the future.
Effort Rating: Minimal
Taste Rating: Fine
Tightwad Rating: Storebought is actually cheaper

HOMEMADE POWDERED LAUNDRY DETERGENT. Tried this here. Ingredients are found at Fred Meyer.
Effort Rating: Minimal
Effectiveness Rating: Great! Couldn't tell the difference between this and storebought.
Tightwad Rating: Not a whole lot cheaper than storebought, when storebought is on super sale.

HOMEMADE LIQUID LAUNDRY DETERGENT. A little more work than powdered detergent, but a whole lot cheaper! Pretty easy to cook up. The concoction thickens on cooling and setting, so it takes some squeezing to get it out of the container, but then I just hold it under the pouring water as the machine fills, and that breaks it up.
Effort Rating: Involves the stovetop, but pretty straightforward.
Effectiveness Rating: Great! Couldn't tell the difference between this and storebought.
Tightwad Rating: Highly recommended. Much cheaper than storebought.

The consistency of phlegm, but it works.

HOMEMADE GENERAL HOUSEHOLD CLEANSER. Tried recipes from a couple different books (scroll down). Nothing kills like harsh chemicals, but if your house isn't a pit like mine, these will probably do the trick.
Effort Rating: Minimal
Effectiveness Rating: Mild, general-purpose cleanser.
Tightwad Rating: Recommended

CHLORINE BLEACH ALTERNATIVE. Substitute 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide per load. Not homemade but still pretty cheap and easy on the environment.
Effort Rating: Uh, you buy it.
Effectiveness Rating: Not as blinding as chlorine bleach but just fine and no stink.
Tightwad Rating: About the same as chlorine bleach.

HOMEMADE DRAIN CLEANER. Tried this here. Totally effective and environmentally harmless!
Effort Rating: Involves the stovetop, but pretty straightforward.
Effectiveness Rating: Great! Couldn't tell the difference between this and storebought.
Tightwad Rating: Highly recommended. Much cheaper than storebought.

A Horse of a Different Color

Horse: It's What's for Dinner

The latest brouhaha over finding horse DNA in European IKEA meatballs got me thinking two things: (1) if food processors can't stretch meat with pink slime, what alternatives do they have?; and, (2) why do we have repugnance toward eating certain animals, and not others? Some time back I discussed Jonathan Safran Froer's book Eating Animals, in which he points out, tongue-in-cheek, that Americans process plenty of meat to feed their pet dogs--so why not save a step and just eat the pet dogs? By the same token, why not eat the horses? We've got to do something with them, and how much glue can the world possibly need? Nor does the New York Times article I linked to answer my most burning question--how did they suspect there was horsemeat in the meatballs in the first place? Was someone eating in the IKEA cafe, debating whether he should buy the bunkbed with the funny name or the rug with the funny name, when all of a sudden the person thought, "Hold up! This meatball reminds me of the time Grandma made my favorite pony into stew! Better run some tests."

Maybe it's not just the thought of eating Black Beauty or Trigger that gets us. It's probably also the fact that we are being hoodwinked once again. Something we thought was beef is actually only X% beef, and that not traceable to any one source. Methinks we are protesting too much. Anyone who's ever had an IKEA meatball (or many storebought brands) surely must notice those processed meatballs taste nothing like homemade. The smoother texture, the milder flavor, the uniformity and how they hold together--we shake off our doubts, drown the suckers in sugary sauce, and move on.

Basically, if it bugs you to eat pink slime, horse, "textured soy protein," or whatever, you have two alternatives: (1) go vegetarian, and then you only have to eat the textured soy protein; or (2) get your meat from a reliable source--go right to the farmer. Alternative #2 is definitely pricier. It costs money to raise cattle, especially if you let them eat grass and don't stuff them with corn, soybeans, and prophylactic antibiotics. They gain weight much more slowly, and time is money. But any family can afford to eat meat if they eat it less frequently. Instead of eating meat 7x/week, how about just 5 or just 4? Or eating it six times a week, but s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g it? I don't mean taking out the ponies at the nearby petting zoo, either, but rather doing a soup that just has some chunks of ham or a little bacon. Cooking that roast, but only serving half of it one night, so that it can be made into tacos or tostadas the next?

Thank heavens the Market opens again in May, if you haven't been doing Skagit River Ranch's Bellevue Buyer's Club (and check out their revamped website!). Not only do I look forward to seeing Skagit, but also Samish Bay Cheese and Meat and Olsen Farms. Cannot wait. Especially since our family was out of town last week and I had to miss the Skagit delivery date. (Now we'll see how long I can stretch that meat in the freezer...) But even in California my mind was on food. We visited The California Museum in Sacramento, where they had, among other things, an interactive exhibit on health.

Including...
 

What vending machines oughtta say...

We also visited the wonderful, Kelsey-Creek-like Emma Prusch Farm in San Jose, where chickens ran amok alongside goats, pigs, peacocks, ducks, geese, bunnies, and sheep.

Now, that's a rooster

Good stuff.

An unrelated postscript: remember my sour cream? I thought I'd have to toss it after being gone a week, since it had no preservatives, but, no, it's holding up great! In fact, it even set up more, into a thicker consistency. Just used it yesterday for a delicious spinach salad dressing.

Spinach Salad Dressing
(Makes enough for more than one night of salad)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mustard powder
scant tsp sugar
1 tsp dried parsley or more fresh
1 minced garlic clove
lots of ground pepper to taste

Mix it all up and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours.