Thursday, April 25, 2013

My New Project ~ Sourdough Starter

I have been wanting to begin a sourdough starter for some time, but always lacked the get-up-and-go, to get-up-and-get-on-with-it!   Over the last few weeks I finally got around to doing it.  I did a ZERO research before I began, thinking that it would be easy.  Hmmm...

Let me give this to you straight; it is not so easy!  Well, based upon what I've read, at least not for most people.  For my first attempt I began using a recipe out of one of my favourite reference/recipe books.  It was a flop...literally!  The instructions neglected to mention that I needed to throw most of my mixture away each day, and so my mixture was enourmous by the time I got to day seven.  On that day, after some research, I realised that my starter had failed.  *sniff sniff*

I took this failure as a personal challenge to succeed the next time around.  I did quite a lot of looking around on the internet for recipes, noting what they had in common, noting variables...etc.  And so I began again, this time with more emphasis on keeping the mixture warm.  Not so easy in Ireland!  But even just twenty-four hours later my mixture was showing promising signs of life!  Hoorah!

Here is what I did:

Day One ~ Began with two cups of lukewarm water, to which I added 1 cup of organic whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of organic rye flour.  I set it on a small towel (folded into quarters) directly on top of our wood burning stove.

Day Two ~ I woke to my "pet" having a layer of brownish water lying on the surface.  Apparently that is a good sign and is called the "hooch".  I simply stirred this back in with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Then I poured about 3/4 of my mixture down the sink and added 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of rye and 1/2 cup of wholewheat to the mixture and stirred well.  I popped the lid back on and set it back on the stove.  **note that I only built a small fire at approx. 4pm and let the fire die down at bedtime - I did not keep it lit continually**

Day Three ~ More "hooch".  I followed the same directions as the day before and set it back in it's place on the stove.  Within a few hours I noticed bubbling on the surface and top 1cm.  Starting to smell "fermented". 

Day Four ~ No noticeable "hooch" today.  Followed same directions as previous days.  By the evening time however, my mixture has grown considerably in size and had bubbles throughout; it actually spilled out of my glass jar!  The mixture smelled distinctly "fermented".  As it was late I simply stirred my mixture and poured out half into another glass jar. 

Day Five ~  Even though I knew my starter was "active" I fed it again just to be sure.  I left them both on the stove for the day and by evening they were both frothy and smelly (the good kind).  I popped them both into the fridge.

Since then I have baked with my starters multiple times, as I usually bake two loaves of bread, every other day and each time they have turned out just lovely!  I love baking sourdough!  To me, it is nothing short of miraculous to see bread rising, even though there is no yeast in it!  Yes, yes, I'm easily pleased, what can I say?  Whole-wheat sourdough recipe coming soon...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

My Approach To Dieting

Someone recently asked me about my approach to dieting, or losing unwanted weight.  So for those of you who want to know, here it is...



Yes, I do absolutely nothing!  This is not because I don't have any unwanted weight, nor because I am in peak physical shape...but simply because "dieting" does NOT work!  Some of you may disagree, and that is fine, but this is my blog after all, so it is my opinion that forms the bulk of this post. Ha!
Of course the word "dieting" can mean different things to different people, so first I'll address the extreme interpretation: crash dieting.  Crash dieting or adhering to faddish diets does not work, because they are based on the strict limitation of foods or food groups eaten.  Crash dieting will/may:
  • Initially seem to work (mainly due to loss of water), but most often than not, the dieter gains back the weight they lost...and then some!

  • Lower your immunity.  Crash or yo-yo dieters are always ill!

  • Dieters feel emotionally worse, compared with their non-dieting friends.

  • Increase your risks of muscle loss, mental instability, blood pressure issues, cardiac stress, osteoporosis and organ damage.

  • Cause you to become malnourished. 
The other way in which I'd view the term "dieting" would be weight loss programs that are less extreme, such as "Weight Watchers" or similar.  I know ladies personally, who follow diet programs such as these, who have seen good results in losing excess weight.  However, I personally do not think that these are the best option for ladies wanting to lose weight and be healthy.  Often these programs advocate eating lots of denatured, nutritionally defunct foods.  Skimmed milk is one example of foods pushed by "healthy eating" programs - yuck!  I also remember many years ago, my mother buying "weight watchers" bread - this stuff was brilliantly white, sliced as thinly as possible and contained more air than anything else!  Bleurgh!  Remember, eating an additive laden, low-fat, small portion of frozen lasagne will probably help you cut your calorific intake, but it cannot be viewed as a healthy option.

Okay so here is what I do, or don't do, for those who are still interested:

  •  I buy/prepare foods that are organic, homemade and nutritionally beneficial for our bodies.

  • I don't count carbs, calories or anything else. 

  • I don't eat junk!  - though I will confess to the occasional McDonalds *hangs head in shame*  

  • Post-partum weight loss is a total non-issue for me.  It took nine months to go on, so I am quite happy for a year go by, in order for the baby weight to disappear naturally.

  • I try to educate myself on what is actually beneficial for our health, rather than modern, trendy advice given by "nutritionists" and based upon bad science (i.e animal products/fats are bad - margarine is good).

  • I don't ever weigh myself.  I think this is counter-productive and can lead to someone to become fixated on their weight. 

  • We do not buy any baked goods.  I bake all the bread, tortillas, pittas, cakes and cookies we eat.  This means that the cakes and cookies we eat, are usually vastly healthier (not to mention tastier!) than those made to last months, on the shelves of the supermarket.

  • I don't eat gigantic portions, neither are they stingy. 

  • We do not generally eat after our evening meal; times when I have, I've noticed that I often wake up hungry in the middle or the night.  Weird, but true.

I'm not advocating that anyone follow my dietary advice, but this is simply what I do and what I'm happy with that at present.  I'm happy with my body shape and size and so is my husband.  There is more to life than worrying and feeling guilty because I ate an extra slice of cake!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

If You Like Cows...

My Girl "Red" And Her First Calf
People often say that you can tell a lot about someone by what kinds of animals they like.  Dog lovers are often thought of as friendly and loyal, cat lovers portrayed as cold and selfish, reptile enthusiasts as odd and...scaly?!??  Ha, I don't know whether any of that holds true...but I do know that I like cows!  

Having A Nice Scratch!
We have had a lot going on with our cows lately.  Buying our own bull last year, really is paying dividends this year.  Having a bull within the herd, ensures much more success with breeding and is also much more cost effective.  As we are in our calving season at the moment, our bull is being contained within our walled garden (two acres) with a female companion.  My husband felt that this was the wisest and safest place to keep him whilst the new calves were being born. 

One Of Our Oldest Girls; She Gave Birth Just Days Later

On St. Patrick's Day we were thrilled to welcome two calves (one male, and one female) onto our farm!  One birthed easily (as most other births we have) and the other needed a small bit of assistance from my husband.  We named them "Paddy" and "Shamrock".

It is not uncommon for our pregnant cows to go a week or so over their due date, so during those times my husband often wakes in the early hours to go check on the girls.  Last weekend was one of those times; he woke early Sunday morning to go and check on them, but soon came back to bed saying that nothing was going on (save a little slime, which can go on for days proceeding birth).  We went to church as usual, once we were back and had eaten, my husband went back out to check.  He was looking at one of the cows who was waiting to calf, and saw her lowing gently toward to hedges, and sure enough when he went to check a little calf was nestled in there!  He rang home to tell us straight away.  As he went on with his chores he noticed the other expectant cow also acting oddly; this time she was standing right beside the hedges.  When he went over he found another calf had been born!  They had both calved whilst we were at church!  The kids and I were eating dinner at this stage and were delighted to receive yet another telephone call, letting us know the lovely news.

This weeks exciting news, is that we have begun to milk one of our cows!  I am so delighted!  Raw milk is almost impossible to buy here in Ireland, and even if you managed to source some, it would almost always be non-organic.  While Ireland is labelled as a "GM free" country, the government does allow GM food trials and GM foods are freely imported.  That is a whole other post, in and of itself!  EU rules state that GM animals feeds do not need to be labelled, this means that the majority of Irish meat and dairy, has been sourced from an animal that has been fed a diet of GM corn/soy meal, in addition to its usual diet of grass/hay/silage. 

So back to milking...  My husband and Amy have been the ones who have done the milking so far, and they have been triumphantly bringing a lot of milk back for us to use!  Even though we have left the calf with the cow 24/7 at this stage, and only milk once per day, we have been getting on average 4-5 litres of good, fresh, raw milk!  Amy plans on buying a brush within the next week, so that she and Dylan can treat our cow to a nice daily brushing in exchange for her yummy milk!  Even though farm life can be challenging at times, I am so thankful that God has placed us here.