Thursday, May 24, 2012

Curds and Whey

Little Miss Muffet 

Sat on a tuffet,

Eating her curds and whey;

I remember the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet from when I was a kid. My mom used to recite it to me while she bounced me on her leg and I always got so confused by the words. Who is Miss Muffet and what is a tuffet? And what are curds and whey? 

Curds and Whey is similar to cottage cheese. In fact cottage cheese IS curds and whey. Curds are the little globs of fat that form when milk begins to curdle and whey is what is left over after the curds are strained. In the case of cottage cheese some of the whey remains but is washed to remove the acidity. Making curds and whey isn't hard and I decided to try my hand at it late last night.
paneer, curds, whey, cheese, DIY
Click here for the instructions I kinda followed...

I started with 1 cup of milk even though the recipe called for two. I figured if I failed in my attempt I would waste less milk that way. I brought the milk to a boil in a pan on my stove, turned off the burner (leave the pan on the heating element after turning it off) and added 5 tsp of Balsamic Vinegar (it's all I could find in my messy pantry) and 2 tsp of garlic powder. I stirred the nasty looking liquid until it was mixed well and then let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool. 

After sitting for 10 minutes I strained the chunky liquid through several layers of cheese cloth. To do this I lined a colander with the cheese cloth and put a large bowl under the colander to catch the liquid that drained off (whey). It worked great and left me with a nice handful of curds that I then added a pinch of salt to and twisted tight to get the excess moisture out. I hung this curd ball in my fridge over the whey bowl over night and this morning I woke up to a beautiful ball of very balsamic smelling cheese. For lunch today I plan to fry this up (I believe it is called Paneer) with whatever I can find in my fridge. I also plan to try this again with a white vinegar to see how that effects the outcome.

I saved my whey of course as I have heard that it makes good bread. I've been making my own bread at home for almost a year now ($0.45 per loaf compared to $2-3 at the grocery store) and I am always looking for new recipes. If the bread and the paneer both turn out edible I know I will be repeating this process a lot. It's very quick and simple and would cut my grocery costs down even further. 
Now on to slice, dice, and fry some paneer! And as for Miss Muffet...

Along came a spider,

Who sat down beside her

And frightened Miss Muffet away. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Garden Girl

Project One

I've been constantly pinning lovely pictures full of ideas on how to plant useful greens in recycled things. These gardens are all very inventive in the ways that they find to transform ordinary trash into marvelous containers of life. They conjure up visions in my head of how I can transform an empty entry way, use recycle things from around the house, and save my family money on groceries. Today, all of these lovely visions saw a chance to bloom.

As my mother and I shopped I told her about my dreams of having a tiny garden in my unused entry way. The small room is 5' x 8' and completely occupied by concrete stairs rendering it mostly storage right now. The windows are huge though and let in plenty of light and the walls are a lovely semi-flat white. I told my mom of 2-litter bottles turned into hanging planters and egg cartons used to start seeds. I talked of worn out bra's and rain boots with holes all filled to the brim with soil and plants.

"So buy some seeds and start a garden." Mom said.

"Alright, they sell seeds here. I will."

My husband agreed that if it gets too cold in the "green room" this winter we can find a small heater with an auto shut off feature to keep it warm. The electric bill shouldn't be nearly as much as our produce bill the last few months.

This afternoon I carefully set a bunch of tiny seeds into 1" tall Terra Cotta pots and set them in the window to grow. Tommorrow, I will take the 2-litters of Pepsi I saved and start prepping them for the next phase of growth. By the time my little herb garden is ready to transplant hopefully I will have plenty of hanging planters to put them in.

Current Project Expenses: $4.07  - seeds and starter soil

For more inspiration on your own garden or to see the photos that have inspired me follow me on Pinterest at

Shop Tiny Tipis creations on Etsy.


Follow my Garden Girl updates on the Blog Recycled Urban Gardening! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

For the Birds

Baby bird I found behind my trash cans
Yesterday was kind of inspiring. I found a baby bird in my house yesterday. I managed to snap a few pictures before I grabbed a cardboard box to transport him outside. Poor little guy was pretty freaked out.

I was fixing to empty my vaccume cleaner and put some things outside when I noticed him on my front steps. He didn't look hurt so I decided to leave him where he was since he seemed content. I guess I didn't notice him fly inside while I was doing stuff and even though I looked for him when I came back in I didn't see him right then.

I went about my day as usual and a few hours later decided to let my son play with the ferret. Oz, the sweetest ferret alive, is one of my sons favorite toys. I kept having to remove the ferret from the corner where I keep my trash cans. He seemed really interested in it and was getting more worked up than normal. I thought maybe there was a bug back there he wanted to get at so I put him back in his cage for a moment to grab a tissue for whatever bug I thought he cornered.

He hopped away quickly when I set him down outside
When I moved the trash can I saw this poor little bird.  I can only imagine what that ferret looked like to him while he was trapped in that corner. He gave me a few peeps and tried to fly showing me that his wings were healthy, just not mature. I grabbed a cardboard box knowing I shouldn't touch him with my hands and herded him into it. He chirped and squeaked all the way to the spot where I plopped him outside.

He looked at me with surprise as if he just knew I was going to eat him and then hopped his way away from me as quick as possible. Momma bird and several others swarmed the area. They had missed him.

One of the adult birds that kept watch
I checked on him during the day to see if he had managed to get off the ground but he mostly just sat next to the front stairs kind of hidden until my husband came home. As dark neared his fellow birds kept coming back to him and encouraging him to climb into the trees and rose bushes. I watched for a while as panicking mama bird frantically pushed him from behind to go higher and higher. Each time he would fall out of the tree a different bird would swoop down to help him up and keep making him try.
I need to clean behind the trash cans...

I stepped away for a bit to make dinner and when I returned to the window I had been watching him from I saw him no where. The mass of angry birds had gone as well. I hope he made it to safety but I will probably never know. I'm just glad I got the opportunity to witness such inspiring and heart warming teamwork in nature. Maybe someday he will come sit on my doorstep to sing. I'ld like to think so anyways.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Personal Growth

Big Rig Jig by Mike Ross

I grew up with a wasteful attitude. I didn't know it, I was American. I lived life big, always wanted the newest and best of everything. Shopping used and recycled meant poor to me. I can remember ducking my head whenever mom wanted to shop at Goodwill just in case someone from school would see me. The word handmade was usually followed by the word "crap" when I was younger as I saw homemade gifts as cheap knock-offs. I stupidly thought as a child that people only move up in this world. Once a solid middle-class girl, now I am a struggling lower-class artist.

With age comes appreciation though. I live in a tiny house with a walk in closet for a nursery and an oven that is older than sin to cook on. One of our built-ins used to be a window and it never got properly sealed so if I forget to spray it with bug repellent I sometimes have the pleasure of fending off a line of ants that comes in the cracks. Eventually I will caulk it myself but at the present time I don't have money in my budget for even that.

My mom still can't believe I manage to buy groceries for three, diapers, and formula on a $300 per month budget. Sometimes I don't think I believe it either. The key to that is actually making sure to buy only what you need and NEVER waste. Single serving casserole dishes are a huge help as well as having access to a large freezer. I almost never buy meat at full price and instead make sure I get to the store early enough to have first pick of the sale items and then I can put them in my sub-zero freezer when I get home. After graphing my monthly food expenses I found that between non-obsessive coupon clipping, shopping sales, saving scraps, and doing the eCoupons through Safeway's website I can save myself an average of 30% of my bill. Potatoes that sprout no longer look like trash can liners to me. Shredded, soaked, and frozen between wax paper will save that bag of spuds and give me a side dish for breakfasts.

Recycling is not some lofty concept for me anymore. I can't afford new canvases to paint on which means I definitely can't afford a new frame to put it in. Instead I frequent Goodwill, the Arc, and other thrift stores. It feels better to only spend $5 and walk out of a store with 2 canvases and frames that fit. Then I watch out for free sample quarts of paint in the papers so when I redo the frames it costs me nothing but time. I make it a goal to only fill a bag a week with trash so the landfills aren't as filled by me. I started using Chickory in my coffee too which saves me a few bucks a week. Heaven help the world if I don't get my coffee.

The other day a friend of mine called to say he was moving and to see if I wanted anything from his house that he wasn't going to take. The old me would have scoffed at the food that wasn't directly from the supermarket, anything I already had, or something that I might need to wipe the dust off. I would have taken the office chair I'm sitting in and that's about it. The current me however took everything and then blushed as I said thank you. It still feels weird sometimes to take "handouts" but I just remind myself that it's better that I use it then it get tossed out. "It's not greedy if you use it, it's thrifty" I keep telling myself.

Never again, I promise myself, will I walk by a penny on the ground and kick it further into the street. Never again will I use a freezer bag once and toss it out because it has condensation droplets inside. For the days ahead; I hope to be thrifty while leaving a smaller footprint on the planet. It's not just necessity anymore. I feel a passion for living small and being within my means. Life is more rewarding when my waste is less.     :)