How To… make any jam.

This post is part of the Nutritional Health Series, check the tag for the other posts!

Jam is a great way to make use of large amounts of fruit or slightly damaged or defrosted fruit. Many people don’t think they have the time for jam, but really, it’s fast, simple and will save you a lot of money on wasted fruit and buying jams!

1: The basics.

Jams come in three distinct forms. A jelly, made from only the juice. A jam, made from crushed fruit and juice. And a compote, a jelly with whole fruit preserved in it. They are all made largely from fruit and sugar, but sometimes use gelling agents like pectin or gelatine to help them along.

2: Fruit.

You need fruit for a jam or jelly. At least 500g or 1lb of fruit is needed to make a large portion of jam, but with the microwave method you can make smaller batches! Fruit juice is also an option.

In some jams, like marmalade, you use the rinds of the fruit as well as the flesh and juice.

3: Sugar.

The most efficient sugars for jam are crystal sugars, like white sugar, demarera sugar or brown cane sugar. But soft sugars like honey, palm sugar or maple syrup can work too, with a bit more patience.

The perfect ratio for jam is between 50/50 and 1/3 sugar to 2/3 fruit.

4: Gelling.

If you’re really not sure your jam will set, consider using a gelling agent.

  • Pectin is a natural fruit gelling agent you can use to firm up a jam.
  • Gelatine comes from animal bones and collagen, but may make your jam too solid.
  • Packaged jelly is easier to use for a bit of flavoured firmness.
  • Agar is a seaweed product that is used instead of gelatine in veg*n dishes.

5: In a pot.

The traditional way. You put your fruit in a pot and simmer until it begins to break down and release fluids. Then you add the sugar slowly, stirring the whole time. Reduce the jam and let it cool.

6: Microwave.

Small batches of jam can be made in the microwave. Just crush the fruit and sugar together in a microwave-safe bowl, cook for a minute at a time and stir in between until it becomes viscous.

7: Raw.

If you combine gelatinous fruit, like bananas, persimmons or lychee, with your sweet fruit and sugar of choice, you can make a tasty raw jam. Just blend 1/3 gelatinous fruit with 1/3 fruit pulp (mash the sweet fruit and squeeze the juice out) and 1/3 your sugar of choice. A viscous sugar like palm sugar, maple syrup or honey works best.

8: Jars.

Traditional jams can be preserved in a jar. Be sure to soak the jar in boiling water first and fill and seal it while it’s still hot. If you have a canning station, this may be the best option, but otherwise hot jam into a hot jar and seal works fine. My jams last a whole year like this without going off.

9: Fridge.

Microwave and raw jams are best kept more aerated in a bowl with a lid in the fridge. They keep 5-10 days, less if less sugar is involved.

And that’s how to make any jam you fancy. Almost all fruits can be jammed, but gelatinous fruits, apples, pears and berries will jam easier due to their high pectin content!

What’s your favourite jam or preserve?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

5 Ways To Use Up Milk.

This is part of the Nutritional Health Series, check the tag for the other posts!

Seeing as I’m actually trying to reduce the amount of dairy I consume, what with being lactose intolerant and all, we sometimes hit some trouble using up leftover dairy. And milk is a big one. When Jon is having porridge, we will buy in whole three and four pint jugs of milk, just for that. When he isn’t we tend to just need one or two at a time and even then we may throw some away.

But there is often an overlap between when we need a lot of milk and when we don’t need any. And I can’t exactly drink two pints of milk overnight so as to not waste it. So here are five recipes to use up any leftover milk so it doesn’t go to waste.

1: White sauce.

Ingredients per pint of milk:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp herbs (optional)

Recipe:

  1. Mash the butter and flour together until fully blended.
  2. Heat the milk in a pan.
  3. Slowly incorporate the butter-flour.
  4. Simmer until the milk thickens. Stir continually.
  5. Season and simmer a little longer.
  6. Use or preserve.

This one works well for fish, chicken and cured pork, but can also make a nice base for black pepper sauce, which goes with anything.

2: Froth pudding.

Recipe:

  1. Boil the milk until a froth forms.
  2. Scoop the froth and place to one side.
  3. Repeat until little to no milk is left.
  4. Leave the froth to set in the fridge.
  5. Flavour with fruits, honey, nuts and seeds, chocolate, fudge…etc.

This is a common Indian street food, requires nothing but milk and home-made treat and goes well with any sweet dish.

3: Dulce de leche.

Ingredients per pint of milk:

  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp coffee or cocoa (optional)

Recipe:

  1. Bring the milk to a boil.
  2. Dissolve the sugar in it.
  3. Continue boiling as it evaporates.
  4. Once the mix goes amber, start stirring continually.
  5. Cook until a thick, smooth paste the colour of fudge results.
  6. Cool.

This Spanish dish is very similar to a thicker, less chewy toffee and goes very well in ice-cream, on bread, in cakes and in puddings.

4: Milk jelly.

Ingredients per pint of milk:

  • 100g jelly mix or soft gelatine
  • 2tbsp sugar

Recipe:

  1. Put the jelly in a jug.
  2. Add boiling water to the 1/4 pint mark.
  3. Stir to dissolve the jelly.
  4. Add the milk. Stir in.
  5. Pour into a mold to set.

This one is great fun, sets really quickly and kids tend to love it.

5: Pan de leche.

Ingredients per pint of milk:

  • 1 cup self-raising flour or flour and raising agents
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp sugar (for sweet version)
  • 2 tsp pepper (for savory version)
  • 1 egg (for glazing)

Recipe:

  1. Mix the dry ingredients.
  2. Fold in the milk.
  3. Mix until the mass is firm and only a bit sticky.
  4. Form rolls.
  5. Paint the rolls with a beaten egg.
  6. Bake in an oven preheated at 150C for 20-25min.

Another Spanish recipe. Great breads, nice both in sweet and savory forms, lovely with jam.

And those are five ways I use up leftover milk when there’s a risk it will go off.

Dulce de leche and milk jelly last almost indefinitely.

Pan de leche and white sauce last four or five days.

Milk froth pudding lasts only a couple of days and needs to be refrigerated.

You can freeze dulce de leche and white sauce, as well as turn milk froth pudding into an ice-cream (that lasts ages).

Generally, all of them will lengthen the life of your plain milk and make it a different type of food you can use faster.

What do you find you need to use up at home? Feel free to say in the comments and I’ll find a few recipes from my repertoire to help you make good use of leftovers!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Just Enjoy Yourself.

Literally.

Every human has their nuances. Every human has their own idea of perfection. Every human has their own goals.

We’re not here to please everyone. That’s an impossibility. We’re just here to please ourselves, whether we do it by having fun, seeking enlightenment, acquiring knowledge, making friends or preening ourselves.

There will always be someone who disagrees or disapproves.

The idea is to decide on what you want to become and to find people who like you both for who you integrally are and for who you wish to be. Then, just keep going, keep striving to reach your own ideals.

Because whoever you are, whatever your goals, the only thing that definitely matters at the end of the day is whether you enjoyed yourself for who you were. Enjoy your looks, your quirks, the voice inside your head that runs commentary on things you can’t talk about, the things you’re great at, the guilty pleasures that only two close friends know about, the ridiculous goals and the way things just sometimes work out. Enjoy the process of improving, of getting closer to your ideal. Enjoy the time spent reading, watching TV, preening, debating, working and relaxing.

After all, it isn’t like you’re getting it back.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… use eggshells, banana peels, etc.

This is part of my Nutritional Health Series. Just check the tag for the other posts!

Oftentimes we throw away the outer shell of a food because we can’t think of what to do with it. But many peels and shells, especially from organic, local foods, are clean, healthy and rich in nutrients. The issue is: what do we do with them?

The different types of waste we have are…

  • Hard mineral shells. Like the shells from eggs or shellfish. Rich in minerals like calcium, selenium and zinc. Soak in water or lemon juice for 24h. Discard any shell that remains, keep the water.
  • Peels. From fruits or vegetables. Have many vitamins and antioxidants. Wash and chop.
  • Kernels and seeds. From fruits. Rich in minerals and healthy fats. De-shell, wash and roast lightly. Always check online as some seeds are poisonous.
  • Soft bits and ugly plants. From fruits and vegetables. Same nutrients as the rest of the plant. Process normally.
  • Bones and gristle. From meat. High in collagen, healthy fats, minerals and protein. Steep and then boil in water until the bone is clean and the gristle melts and is soft.

And all these types of waste can be repurposed. You just need to know how to do it.

1: Stew and broths.

Bone broths and vegetable broths can be easily made by boiling leftover trimmings from animals and plants. At the end you can either blend the remainder in to make a nice soup, strain and keep the broth or strain and use it as a basis for a stew.

2: Smoothies.

Ugly fruits and vegetables, seeds, vegetable trimmings and peels can all be blended into your morning smoothie. Cucumber peel, unwaxed lemon peel and melon rinds and seeds go lovely in a banana and melon smoothie.

3: Dirty water.

You can always use water from eggshells or seafood shells, soaked seeds or blended plants as a basis for some nourishing, rehydrating “dirty water”.

4: Pasta sauce.

Ugly vegetables, peels and trimmings can be boiled and then blended into a tomato base to make a pasta sauce.

5: Chutneys and jams.

Most peels, rinds and bruised or ugly fruits and vegetables can be easily made into a jam or chutney by just boiling with sugar and/or salt and vinegar.

And that’s how to sneak some of the less pretty looking leftovers from cooking into your meals. After all, they are often packed with nutrients, so why not?

What nutrient dense “kitchen waste” do you enjoy?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

7 Things Dogs Can Teach You About Life.

Having a dog is a good reminder of the realities of life, from the good to the bad to the essential, bare-bones of existence, if you can pardon the pun. So here are seven things my dog reminds me of on a daily basis.

1: There’s no such thing as unfair.

If we’re playing tug of war with a rope and I use one hand and she grips with her mouth and uses her paw to loosen my hand, she isn’t cheating. If she shakes her head violently, she isn’t cheating. If I shake the rope and pull it away, I’m not cheating. If I hold it out of her reach with both hands I’m not cheating. There is no such thing as fair or unfair in reality. You can’t explain these concepts to a dog. They’re human ideas designed to keep a human social order, that vary from culture to culture, person to person and day to day. In life, anything that gets you ahead is fair. All anyone can do is stop you getting ahead.

2: Violence is necessary.

Puppies and dogs play by fighting. Their games involve ripping, tearing, pouncing, chasing, crushing, pinning… They learn the pressure points on each other and on you. They learn bite inhibition: how hard they can bite before it hurts. Their entire entertainment package is fight, fight, fight.

Because violence, whilst not completely inevitable, is necessary. You need to be able to vanquish your enemies, kill your prey and scare off your predators. You need to learn to be violent even if you’ll never use it, whether you’re a rabbit, a dog or a human.

3: Prioritize your long-term survival.

The average dog doesn’t think twice about stealing your food when you aren’t in the room. It takes a long time to teach them not to steal because their basic instinct is to eat. You need to teach them that their wellbeing is at risk if they steal. This is because a dog puts its long term survival ahead of anything else. The main drive is to survive as long as possible and whatever gives the best odds of that, wins.

4: Don’t hold grudges.

Whether you “cheated” in a game, punished them for stealing food or unknowingly hurt them, they don’t care. After the act, once the order is re-established, they just want to carry on as normal. If you are repeatedly hurtful, they adapt their behaviour but do not become vindictive. A dog lives in the moment, adapts to change and, as such, does not hold grudges against you, even if you hurt it.

5: Learn as much as possible.

The puppy can’t keep anything out of under her feet, in her mouth and up her nose. Leaves, dirt, dead animals, flowers, bottles, toys, ropes, wires… It takes a long time to chase her away from exploring.

On the flip side, she is always eager to please. It may take 20 or 40 goes, but she will learn that command and enjoy learning it, whether for praise, treats or just the fun of it.

The point is, she’s always ready to learn. The more you know and adapt, the healthier, more efficient and happier you are as an organism. And dogs have this nailed. Learning is a pleasure to them.

6: The pack order is your existence.

Dogs are constantly vigilant for changes in the pack order. They work out who’s in charge very early on and act according to the perceived pack order. Some dogs may decide that the teenage son is clearly running the house and some bitches put themselves before the children after their first season. The pack order dictates every part of their life and it needs to make sense to them.

There is always someone leading and if you refuse to lead they will lead for you.

There is always someone issuing commands and if no commands are issued they will worry.

Every position in the pack is always moveable and if they think someone has dropped out, they are eager to fill in.

And even in human society, if we adopt the same approach we make progress.

7: Enjoy life.

Ultimately, whatever you’re doing with it, strive to have fun. Dogs will turn training into games, enjoy learning new words, practise fighting and role play as different pack members. They will run and jump when there’s free time, grab the best bites of food when they can, cuddle anyone who’ll cuddle them back and try and ensure everyone else is doing the same thing.

After all, whether you’re on this planet for fifteen or eighty years, it’s way too little time to have it all and way too much time to be so serious about it.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Shame and Reframe to Maintain Social Order.

This one was requested a while ago by asdgamer and, having given it some thought, this is my opinion as to how and why the common “shame and reframe” debate tactic became such an important element to female debate arsenal.

Shame and reframe (S&R), as a tactic, is composed of two parts. There is the shaming element, which involves taking another person’s viewpoint, character or even their debate tactic and trying to make them sound bad. There is no substance to shaming, it is simply the act of saying “bad, bad person” until they are ashamed enough to withdraw their comment or rephrase the argument.

The reframing argument involves taking an actual question or topic and avoiding it by bringing up another one. Common forms involve answering a question with a question, turning the question on the person asking it or creating a false simile to work from.

S&R allows someone who is in an uncomfortable position to avoid explicitly stating a controversial opinion, agreeing openly with their debate rival or accepting a flaw in their logic.

For example, in a parenting group a mother may say: “I believe infants and mothers should be together until an age when the child would have naturally weaned, say, a year or two years.”

Most of the other mothers disagree. They think that the advantages of extra work and resources outweigh the disadvantages of missing out on that early bonding. The logical response would be to simply say this.

But then feelings get in the way. The feel bad about not spending more time with their kids. They feel offended that someone might consider them worse mothers. They feel judged and persecuted.

So instead of responding rationally and giving “the enemy” more ammunition, they S&R.

“You only say that because you’re a stay at home mother.”

“If you got your degree, you would be out here earning money with us.”

“Fathers don’t spend that time with kids, why should we have to?”

“Weaning can happen at any age now.”

“It’s rude to imply all mothers can breastfeed.”

What have they done? Well, instead of addressing her actual point they try and make her ashamed. They use her lifestyle (stay at home mother), education (if you got your degree) and even twist her words (imply all mothers can breastfeed) to make her embarrassed, so that she takes back her words and doesn’t upset them any more. Instead of admitting they put resources before bonding, they reframe the argument. They use false similes (fathers), diversions (its rude to…) and technicalities (weaning can happen at any age now) to direct the argument away from the issue the first mother raised.

In debate, this is a pretty awful tactic. Nobody would ever reach consensus, work out theories or convert nonbelievers if we all debated like this. Life would be stagnant.

But as an evolutionary adaptation, S&R is actually very useful and protects the integrity of the group.

You see, when that mother was shamed, it was expected that she would take back what she said. Why? So that the majority opinion can win. The majority state that work is favourable over bonding, therefore, if the minority converted the majority, an entire way of life would be thrown out. She needs to understand that she is the minority, the outcast, and cannot overthrow the majority opinion. A majority cannot be shamed like this. It doesn’t work on them. But a minority will often take back their statement when shamed. This is the most basic form of democracy.

Reframing takes the debate away from a topic that the majority wish to avoid. In essence, by reframing the majority are stating that this topic is taboo. In any social group, a taboo enforced by a majority is a cornerstone for social order. In this case, the taboo is the feelings of the mothers. Naturally, biologically, they wish to be with their children. Yet on a logical level, they feel that working for resources is the best option. If they wish to continue working for resources with which to feed their children, they must avoid all discussion on the biological reality of motherhood.

In short S&R stagnates and kills debate because that’s what it’s meant to do. S&R enforces the status quo and defends the right of the majority (democracy) and the cultural norms of the society (taboos), keeping the group operating the way that has benefited them until now.

However ineffective it is for philosophical, theological, sociological or political debate, S&R persists because it’s one of the best ways of creating and maintaining order.

And that is my analysis of shaming and reframing.

Anyone have anything to add?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… make “dirty water”.

This is the first in a series of posts. Check the tags for “Nutritional Health Series” and you should find all the current posts.

No, it isn’t a joke or a euphemism. What I mean by “dirty water” is water that, technically, isn’t clean.

Allow me to explain. The water we currently drink is filtered for impurities, salt and parasites. In short, we strip out of it anything that would make us ill. But we’re also stripping out of it many beneficial elements. Some of the “dirt” found in the natural water our animal friends and tribal relatives drink is actually great for our health and by only drinking cleaned, processed tapwater or carefully decontaminated mineral water we’re missing out on it.

We still want to drink dirty water. This is why we enjoy slightly flavoured drinks over water and why we feel more hydrated by sports drinks and coconut water than simple H2O. But whilst we don’t want to miss out on the good dirt, we also really, really, really want to miss out on the stuff that would make us ill.

So why not make our own dirty water? With a few simple steps we can create our own lightly contaminated, flavoured water that contains various extra nutrients, salts and balance-restoring elements, just like water from a wild spring. But without worms.

For these mixes, take note of two things:

Firstly all measurements assume you’re making a pint of dirty water.

And secondly, you don’t need all the elements every time. You can do just fine only using minerals, fats and salts, for example.

1: Minerals.

The first step to healthy dirty water, is to replace trace minerals. This can be done by using mineral water or coconut water as your base. You can also dissolve eggshells in water or use milk. A mineral mix in water works well too.

2: Salts.

Your body actually needs a tiny amount of salt for proper hydration. Ever feel really thirsty, but water passes through you and you still feel thirsty? That’s a salt deficiency. You will need literally a gram or two of salt, less than 1/8 of a teaspoon. Sea salt is best, but iodized salt is beneficial for people who rarely consume salt with their food. If you’re using coconut water or aloe vera, you will not need much if any extra salt in your drink.

3: Sugars.

Again, can help with proper hydration. As a sports recovery drink, consider two teaspoons of sugars, but in general half or one should suffice. Good sugars include palm sugar, brown cane sugar, maple syrup or honey.

4: Fats.

Some fats are almost absent in our diets and we can add these back in with our healthy dirty water. 1-5ml of any of these is good, but always consider your diet as a whole and try and supplement the fat you’re lacking. Omega oil compound, omega 3, olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter or shea butter can all add great nutrients. I sometimes use a whole egg yolk as well.

5: Acids.

Some acidic-tasting foods can carry a lot of nutritional density and healthy enzymes. In small doses, they will taste lovely in your dirty water. A teaspoon of lemon juice, pineapple juice, pineapple pulp, kiwi pulp or orange juice could do you some good.

6: Alkalines.

If you find your stomach is burning like a furnace but it’s not time to eat yet, consider adding something for the acid to work on a bit. Again, eggshell water or milk (if you’re lactose tolerant) can help here. Aloe vera is also very good, as are most blended green vegetables. Just use a couple of tablespoons.

7: Leaves and infusions.

Tea leaves and most flowers and herbs can add nutrition and antioxidants as well as flavour. You don’t need vast amounts, just enough that your water is lightly coloured and/or flavoured. For best results, soak around a tablespoon in the base water overnight.

8: Spices and blends.

But it’s not just greenery that has antioxidants. Plenty of spices and even blends like coffee or cocoa also have them. However we don’t really need that much. A total half a teaspoon of spices at the most should be fine.

9: Fruits.

You can’t actually get much out of fruits from infusing them in water, but fresh fruit and fruit juice can make it taste awesome.

10: A few examples.

-1 pint of mineral water, a few grams of himalayan sea salt, a teaspoon of lemon, a few grams of cloves and a dash of orange juice

-1 pint of water, eggshell water, a few grams of himalayan sea salt, a teaspoon of coconut puree and a teaspoon of honey

-1 pint of coconut water, a teaspoon of honey, a dash of orange juice

-1 pint of weak tea, eggshell water, a dash of lemon juice, a teaspoon of honey

-1 pint of water, aloe vera pulp, a few grams of himalayan sea salt, a teaspoon of lemon and a couple of tablespoons of berries

And that’s how I make my drinking water dirty, creating a nutritious, mineral and micronutrient rich drink.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!