Automatic Yogurt

 

Tired of paying high prices for yogurt?  Interested in being more involved with your own food supply?  Sick of tiny containers and lots of artificial ingredients?  Don’t have the time for a complicated cooking project?

Try automatic yogurt!

It’s really easy.

All you need is milk of some kind, a spoonful of unsweetened yogurt to use as a culture, and a Thermos style insulated bottle.

That’s it!

How?

The process is simple and even a little fun.  Just heat up the milk to just above body temperature, then stir in a spoonful of your favorite plain yogurt.  Finally a use for those tiny containers that go on sale at the grocer’s.  If you use a microwave to heat the milk, add the culture after you already have it warm.

You can use nonfat dry milk to make yogurt, then you can just use warm tap water to make your milk.  Mix it double strength for a really awesome texture.

Then, cap the Thermos tightly and set it in a warm place overnight.  I usually use the top of my hot water heater.  In the morning, you should have a nice amount of smooth, thick yogurt.

Uses:

You can add fruit or honey to your new yogurt, mix it into recipes, use it as a substitute for sour cream, or make it into sauces like tzatziki.  It can be made into a type of cheese, too, if you drain it for several hours in cheesecloth.  Make sure to save the whey for adding to soups or bread.

Tips:

If you’re looking for a wide mouthed Thermos bottle, it’s best to choose one that’s made of stainless steel.  You can use other kinds but plastic holds odors and bacteria a little too well, while steel is easy to sanitize.  Here’s a good example for you.

Some people also use a Crock Pot style slow cooker, which is great for when you need large batches, like if you’re making yogurt cheese.  Here’s a nice, high quality, low cost example.

Common problems:

If you have an issue with mold, make sure your container is well sanitized with a weak bleach solution. Clean every nook.

If your yogurt won’t set, either your culture (the spoonful of yogurt) is weak, or you killed it with excessive heat or cold. The best temperature is about body tempoerature, maybe a little above.

If your yogurt tastes funny, clean your container.

Almost all problems with yogurt can be corrected by cleanliness, waiting a little longer, or getting the right temperature. The key is to remember that the bacteria that make yogurt are living organisms, and make an ideal environment for them to grow.

 

(Disclaimer:  If you follow the links to Amazon and decide to buy something, I get a small amount from the purchase.  There’s no additional cost to you.  I looked for the best value for the money and shared that, rather than picking the most expensive thing.)

via Daily Prompt: Automatic

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A Star Wars Allegory – The Padawan’s Tale

A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away, there lived a young Padawan named Jo-kwan. He was Human, and though he enjoyed learning all the skills needed to be a Jedi, at times he tired of learning. He was particularly sick of something his Master told him every day.

“Jo-kwan,” his master would smile and say, “as a Padawan you must learn one thing every day.”

Jo-kwan was rather tired of that, to be sure. “Perhaps, when I’m a Knight, I’ll be able to learn a little less,” he said. “So I’ll try hard, and become a Knight, and then I’ll relax a bit.”

Jo-kwan was true to his word. He worked hard, learned something every day, practiced with his saber, and readied himself for his Trials. Finally as he stood before the Masters, newly knighted, he heard their words of wisdom.

“Knight Jo-kwan, you have done well,” said his Master, smiling. “Today you are a Knight. Now remember, as a Knight, you must learn two things every day.”

Jo-kwan bowed calmly to them, but he couldn’t smile back. Inwardly he thought “No! I’m tired of this! Two things every day? It’s not fair!”

Still, Jo-kwan was loyal and diligent, so despite his inner misgivings he workd hard as a Knight. He learned two things every day, he trained his own Padawan, he brought honor to the Jedi Order. While doing these things, be began to see the wisdom of his own Master. One day, as he was watching his own Padawan’s knighting ceremony, he was pulled aside by the Grand Master of the Council, a noble and kind Togruta.

“Knight Jo-kwan,” said the Grand Master, “The Council has observed your deeds and we have decided to elevate you to the rank of Master. You have trained a good Knight and your other accomplishments are worthy of merit.”

“I thank you, Grand Master,” said Jo-kwan, filled with the wisdom of all the things he’d learned.

“Furthermore,” said the Grand Master, his eyes twinkling, “I want you to remember a very important thing. As a Master, you must always learn at least THREE things per day.”

This time, Jo-kwan simply nodded and smiled back.

 

Epilogue:

After long years of serving loyally as a Master of the Order, Jo-kwan was finally elevated to a seat on the Council.  Then, he found that to keep up he needed to learn TEN things per day.  By that time, learning was such a joy that he minded even less.

 

via Daily Prompt: Ten

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“Success” might be nearer than you think

Some want private jets, some want huge houses, some want a six figure income, some want a spouse and kids and enough money to live on.  Some want to run everything in the world.  Some want political office.  Some want a private island.  Some want vacations in exotic lands.  Some just want a steadily paying job.

My definition of “Success” has changed a lot over the years.

Once, I would have thought that I had to be rich.  “Rich” meant a few million in the bank, a fancy car, trips to exotic places.  I thought I’d probably never see “real” success.

Now, I can see that I have met many of my own definitions of success.  I work a steady job and feed my little family on one income.  We  have a bit to put by each month.  I have a paid off car, a little old, it’s true, but paid off.  We eat good food and live in a place that suits us, and that we like.  We don’t take any kind of government assistance.  We have a few published books to our credit.  We have time for art and living.

How did we get there?

By not giving up.  By not becoming enmeshed in credit. By jumping on opportunities when they arose. By living frugally.  By saying “no” to cable bills and smart phones.  By saying “no” to the huge TV and the false need of a new car every few years.  By standing by our friends and building loyalty with them.  By not living beyond our means.

Some would still consider us poor, but it’s all in how you look at it.

What would greater success mean for us?  Our dreams are still fairly simple.  We want more exposure for our books, more books of ours on the shelf, more art of ours on the wall, one more nice computer.  Someday we want a home that costs maybe two to three hundred thousand dollars.  We want a bigger nest egg.

Those dreams are not so grandiose.  They can be achieved with hard work and ingenuity.

Why not take a few minutes to measure the places where you are successful?  Think about what real success means to you.  Think about the paths to get there.  Maybe the path is shorter than you think.

 

via Daily Prompt: Successful

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When you want Exposure – don’t use ads!

I’m going to tell you a secret.

I don’t buy anything I see in ads.

If you make something and want to share it with people, or have a business you want people to use, ads generate very little business.  These days, most folks have an ad blocker up anyway, or even if they don’t, the ad blocker in their brains is working full force.  That’s one of the reasons why my blogs and websites are ad free.

Sometimes I’ll share something in a post that I think my readers might like to know about, or I’ll let them know about a good deal, but I do not allow outside advertisers to put up ads.

If you want exposure, what does that mean for you?  

It’s really good news when you think about it.   Engagement is the key to building trust and getting sales.  Posting on forums about something OTHER than your business, whatever it may be, but including a discreet signature link can work wonders.

Guest posts, blog reviews, casually talking to people, those all work too.  If done well, it can be very successful.  Spammers are now trying to copy this technique, with little success.  Now they are trying to make their responses topical!  This shows that it does work, and you can be far more successful by being honest, engaging with people, and discussing things they are interested in.  Once they like you, they want to know more about you.

A note:  I’m not talking about saying something in a forum such as “I really liked your post.  It was interesting.  By the way, I have a book to sell…”  That’s just crass and intrusive.  What you want to do is go to forums/blogs/message boards of people who might be interested in your book.  Enjoy discussions, give advice, help people.  Then let them notice your signature.

I wanted to share this secret because I know there are still people out there who can use it.  Honest, sincere engagement helps everyone.  It improves the quality of forums and message boards, it helps those who have services to offer, and it reduces reliance on annoying ads too.  It’s more work to do it right, but it’s far, far cheaper.

Happy Communicating!

 

via Daily Prompt: Exposure

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Cooking in a small space

It’s possible to make some really amazing meals in a small room even if it doesn’t have a kitchen. All you need is a power outlet and a nearby water source such as a sink. While I love my kitchen with its counters and full sink and gas range with oven, I have fond memories of cooking in my dorm.

Provided you can safely get away with having one, an electric wok is a great choice for cooking in a small space. It’s deep enough you can use it as a steamer, just put a round rack in the bottom with a shallow layer of water, put the food on the rack and close it tightly. That way you can steam vegetables, dumplings, fish, bread, and any number of things. You can make stews in the electric wok because of its depth, you can fry, and you can of course use it for normal wok things like stir frying. This one item, plus a small cutting board, a good knife, and a cube fridge will allow you to do some amazing things. Having a couple of metal bowls also improves your abilities tremendously.

Some writers have also talked about crock pot cooking, making omelettes in a waffle iron, and making grilled cheese sandwiches or fried bacon with a clothes iron and aluminum foil. However, for sheer versatility I think the electric wok is still the best!

I once steamed a cake in my wok. I used a metal mixing bowl for the pan.

My best meal was probably steamed salmon, cooked on a bed of baby bok choy, served over rice. The salmon cooked on the bok choy in the wok.

Once I turned the wok into a double boiler and melted chocolate in it- using the venerable metal bowl.

I cooked eggs in it, fried bacon, made pancakes, as well as countless soups, stews and stir fries. This saved me money because I didn’t have to eat at the cafeteria every time I wanted something, and gave me hours of fun. I also had some pretty spectacular failures due to some overly adventurous taste buds.

There are two secrets to using an electric wok for cooking: planning ahead so everything can be cooked in the right order, and always using utensils of wood, metal, and other heat resistant materials. That way bowls can double as pans, and you have more versatility.

Story: The Greatest Roommate in the World

Violet coughed, her hand covering her mouth as she walked up to the front door of her flat. The deep tickle in her throat was maddening and she was looking forward to a cup of hot tea. As she swiped her key card in the lock, she mused to herself that if humanity could go to the stars, then why in the world couldn’t they finally eradicate the common cold? She sniffled for what seemed like the thousandth time, then went inside.

Dropping her bag near the door and kicking off her shoes, Violet sighed and suppressed another cough. She was glad to be home where she could rest. She looked around the flat, seeking her roommate. He was a little odd, generally quiet, and might be almost anywhere. The living room was comfortably furnished with a well padded couch in a medium blue color, two matching chairs, a low coffee table, a desk over in the corner, and a large, elaborate, carpeted cat tree. The art on the walls was a bit uninspired, but Violet had no one to blame but herself – she had picked them, and there was something restful about the various nature scenes. Right now the coffee table was a bit cluttered but she was too weary to want to do anything about it.

A sharp “ding” snapped Violet’s head around, then she groaned at the intensified headache. So, he is here after all. “Juan, are you cooking something?” she called.

“Yes. Tea, for you.” The voice was a bit gravelly and was coming out of the back bedroom. “I heard you barking this morning before you went to work, figured you could use it. Honey’s on the counter for you.”

“Thanks,” said Violet, going into the kitchen and opening the microwave. “Sorry if I woke you. ” A steaming hot cup of tea, made in her favorite mug, sat inside. She took it out, added honey, breathed in the steam, then carefully sipped. She coughed twice more, deep coughs that tore at her lungs, and sipped again. She went to the couch and sat down, adjusting her pistol comfortably as she did so. The tea felt great on her throat.

Soft footsteps came out of the back bedroom, and Violet heard Juan hop up onto the back of the couch. Small paw-hands began digging and kneading at her shoulders, easing the tensions of the day.

 

For sake of space, the story continues here!

Also, January 18 is the last day for my free book promotion.

via Discover Challenge: The Greatest _______ in the World

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