Monday, May 25, 2009

Can You Make Quiche With Milk?

I've been getting a lot of traffic to my blog from people looking for healthier quiche recipes replacing cream with milk.  So I'm just doing a quickie post on the subject.

I posted my frugal quiche recipe here.

I recommend against using cream in your quiche.  Use milk only.  If you prefer, you can even make it with powdered milk.  

The creamy, custardy texture that you get in a really good quiche does not come from cream.  It comes from the right proportion of milk to eggs.  Generally more milk and less eggs than what is called for in most recipes.  The objective is to make a smoothly textured cheesy custard (much like a creme caramel).

To make sure the custard sets properly during baking, you can just add a teaspoon of cornstarch to the milk/egg mixture before pouring it in to the crust.

Simplifying My Homemade Bread

I've been making Jim Lahey's artisan bread lately.  It is as good as any crusty fresh artisan bread I have ever tasted from a high-end bakery.  It costs almosts nothing to make, and requires almost no effort.

I just mix 

3 cups of flour
1.5 cups of warm water (straight out of the tap)
1.5 tsp of salt
.25 tsp of yeast

I mix it for a few seconds with clean hands...then walk away for 12 hours or so.

In Lahey's video, he cooks the loaves in a HOT oven in VERY EXPENSIVE cast iron pots.

I looked into buying one of these...and I still might.  But for the sake of frugality...I've been making mine in terra cotta planters.  

I went to my local garden center and picked up a shallow clay saucer (the kind used for catching the water that drains out the hole in the bottom of the pot), and a mid-sized planter pot that had no hole in the bottom. 

The pots stand up to the extreme heat and are a good container for bread baking.  The bottom saucer also works perfectly as a pizza stone.  I can use it easily in my oven or on my barbecue.

Harvesting Yeast From The Air

Sure, you can buy yeast in little packets and use it to make your bread.

Or you can harvest wild yeast from the air.

My next loaf of Artisan bread will be made with my own sourdough starter.  I've just poured some flour and warm water in a cloth-covered jar and set it out to harvest yeast and bacteria that feed on the flour.   It takes time....a few days to a week to get your starter ready, but very little effort.  I just feed my starter morning and evening at the same time I water my sprouts and brew myself a pot of green tea (for drinkingor as an antibacterial flouride mouthwash).

The yeast and bacteria are actually quite difficult to kill once you have established your colony.  You just feed them once a week or so with more flour and water.  As the volume of the starter increases, you just pour some off, and use it to whip up a loaf of fresh crusty homemade bread, using this recipe from

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Seeking Solutions for Bloodshot Eyes

As I've gotten older, all kinds of minor health complaints present themselves.  One of them is bloodshot eyes.

Could be the late nights, the early mornings, the hours in front of a computer, some kind of dietary deficiency...or just old age.  But whatever the cause, I am no longer able to spring out of bed after a few hours sleep looking fresh as a daisy, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. an extension to my beauty products research, Ive started experimenting with home remedies for bloodshot eyes.  

It all started with a call to the vet.

I adopted a kitten recently, and she came to us with a winky eye.  When I asked the vet what I should do about it, he first recommended that I get an eyedropper and put drops of...cold tea.

Cold tea in my cat's eyes?  
According to various sources on the Internet, cold tea is a good remedy for itchy red eyes. 

But is it good for your eyes?

If you've read any of my posts on green tea, you know I have lots of it lying around.  I drink it for its antioxidant properties, use it as an antibacterial mouthwash (rich in flouride), and then sprinkle the dried leaves into my kitty's litter box to control odours.

So starting now I'm also going to put a few drops in my eyes.

Ocular Rosacea?

One possibility is that I suffer from a condition known as ocular rosacea.  Rosacea affects something like 14 million individuals in the United States.  It's characterized by red, blotchy skin.  Itchy flaky patches.  Fine capilliaries on the surface, and a tendency to flush easily.

The reason I think maybe I am suffering from ocular rosacea is that I have a chronic dry, ithy patch of skin on my face.  If left alone, it gets rough and patchy and itchy.  Apparently sufferers sometimes also get this chronic ailment in their eyes.

I've read a lot about the causes and cures for ocular rosacea.  The prognosis is mostly...unexplained, progressive and incurable.  Great.

For years I used a hydrocortizone cream to try to control the patchy skin problem.  It helps, but I don't really like to use it.   So lately I've been sourcing home remedies.  I suspect that years of loading my body with "toxic" beauty products has caused or worsened the skin condition.  

So I began experimenting with:

baking soda to gently exfoliate my skin once a week or so
a solution of borax for gentle cleansing daily
green tea and glycerine to moisturize, and heal 
zinc oxide cream (diaper rash cream) to soothe, and protect from further sun damage

The results?  The skin is smoother, the flaky patches are gone, and the itching is much better (but still present).  The texture and the pigmentation are more even. 

Not a miracle cure...but a HUGE improvement....and all of this using stuff I have lying around my house.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Quickie Post: Check Out This Gorgeous Garden

I just wanted to take a moment to share this.

This was posted on Suzanne Forsling's fabulous vertical garden from reclaimed gutters.

I don't have any gutters to reclaim, but boy would I like to try this.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Budget Science Projects: What I'm Working On

an 'almost' geodesic fort... shrink-plastic crafts from recycled takeout bag 'fabric' fusing...geometry fun with toothpicks and jujubies.

I am addicted to a website called Instructables. A place where people go and post instructions on how to make stuff.

Yesterday my kids and I made shrinky-dink jewellery from recycled take-out containers. Turns out they are made from the same kind of plastic as the Shrinkydink sheets they used to sell when I was a kid. I'm tempted to say polypropelyne...but it might be polyethylene. I spent quite a bit of time in the grocery stores reading the recycling symbols on the back of packages as I was doing my food shop. You need a number 6 or higher to get good shrinkage.

We made an assortment of beads that my daughter will turn in to necklaces.

The rest of the day was spent on building them a playhouse from recycled materials.

The Geodesic Fort Saga

Speaking of recycled plastic, I now am finely attuned to the different kinds of plastic used in plastic bags (mostly number 2 plastic...LPED).

Why, you ask? Well, because today I spent the day assembling large tarp-like sheets of plastic by heat-fusing plastic bags (in a well-ventilated area). All part of my recycled materials kiddie fort....inspired by a post on Instructables.

The basic framework is a geodesic dome made of rolled up newspaper struts. After some research, I decided to make the wall panels out of fused plastic bags. I got a little carried away collaging, and fusing on little hearts here and there. I also invited my kids to cut out shapes to fuse on to the plastic, as a way to engage them while keeping little fingers away from the hot iron, and melty plastic.

If you decide to do this project: don't make the same mistake I did. At one point, the instructions read as follows:
The topmost layer now has ten points. You now need to arrange tubes in an alternating fashion - two green from the first point, then one red, two green, then one red - all the way around.
It DOES matter which point gets the two green (long), and which point gets the one red (short).

I had a 50/50 chance...and guessed wrong...and the result is a FAR less stable structure, as the load is not carried to the floor without interruption. I have diagrams to show you what I mean. I'll try posting them below.

This is the right way to do it. The longer struts run in an uninterrupted arch from floor, across the top, and back to the floor. Yellow points represent the load.

And this is how I screwed it up. I attached the long structs to the short ones from the previous layer. The yellow dots represent stresspoints in the dome.

I'll have to go back and fix those.

A Play Fort For Less Than A Buck!

The fort is almost 8 feet in diameter, and could comfortably house both my kids and a couple of friends. Plus I got to teach my kids some lessons in geometry and save about a zillion plastic bags from the landfill.

This whole project cost me only $3.50 pesos...less than a dollar which I spent buying a copy of the Saturday National Newspaper, La Nacion to use in making the struts.

Oh, and $700.00 bucks for a new camera to replace the one my daughter dropped on the flagstones when I suggested she might like to document the building of the fort.

Right now I'm hoping that if I just put it away, the camera will miraculously heal itself-- or that it can at least be fixed.

Start with a Miniature Model

My children are 4 and 6 years old. To get them engaged in the project and help them visualize what we were going to build, we built a miniature model before we got started -- with toothpicks.

I gave them a pile of 65 toothpicks and a bag of jujubes to use to join the 'struts', and we laid out a mini model of the dome/fort on the kitchen table before we started assembling the real deal. It got them enthusiastic about helping me to build it...(ok, mostly about getting to eat the jujubes).

Let me know if you tried this.

This has been (and continues to be) a really fun and worthwhile project...and the kids will have a really great fort to play in when its all done. They're already asking me if they can sleep in it.

I'd love to know if anyone else tries building one of these, or a variation on the theme.