Category Archives: mixed results

Making cheese!

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Cost: $1.70
Success:  3/5

Making my own butter got me pretty excited about the other things I could make on my own. The next thing on my list was cheese! I followed this article on Wikihow, which produces a cheese that looks absolutely nothing like the one in their photo.

What excited me most is that I could make the cheese using things I had around the house anyway; whole milk, butter, sugar, salt and lemon juice. The process was simple. I boiled the milk with some butter and sugar. Once it was bubbling, I put in a bit of lemon juice, then let it sit on the burner contemplating its fate. The acid in the lemon juice separates the curds from the whey, so when I poured it through the dish towel above a strainer, I had little clumps of cheese!

It smells very good at this point.

I let the water drain…

And was left with a miniscule amount of cheese! For scale, this is a teaspoon.

I mixed in a bunch of salt to give it some character, then put it in the fridge.

It was similar to feta, but softer. It was not as smooth as cream cheese or as disgusting as goat cheese. It mostly tastes like lemon. I could have also used vinegar to separate the curds from the whey. I imagine that would have been disgusting!

I made myself some potatoes with onions and garden herbs, and put the cheese on top with liberal amounts of salt. It was not really that exciting or tasty.

I’m curious what would happen if I used heavy cream instead…

Party platter stir-fry

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Cost: $1.50 for the chicken breast
Success: 3/5

I’ve been bad… lazy and not proactive.  Since cleaning the house and hosting two housewarming parties, I’ve been mostly laying around, sleeping, eating chocolate and watching tv.

After my housewarming parties (one on Saturday and a smaller one on Sunday for people from my church), I was left with some limp vegetables and hard-edged cheese. I was considering boiling and blending it all into a soup, but I decided the vegetables were intact enough to stir-fry with one of the chicken breasts I had defrosted for the party.

In theory this sounds like a great idea, because I eat a lot of fried vegetables anyway. In practice, it was a weird combination, and the cheese I smothered it with could not hide its sins. Next time I may just turn it into soup, or sauce the heck out of it.

I have more money-savin’ stuff to write about from my housewarming*, but now I’m going to lay around… and watch some TV. Maybe with chocolate.

*SPOILER: Housewarming parties are not cheap!

Growing my own herbs

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Cost: $2++ per plant
Success: 3/5 with the potential to be 5/5

Lavender

My frustration with buying herbs is that they cost about $1 – $2 a bundle, and they wilt before I can use them up.  I started growing my own because it’s pretty awesome to have a constant supply of fresh herbs.

It’s not that hard, but it’s taken me a while to figure out each herb’s preferences. Some like sun and some don’t. Some don’t mind a bit of snow, and others wilt quickly if they’re outside on a cold night.

Richmond (BC) has a temperate climate. It hardly ever gets below -5 C, and there is plenty of rain during the winter. Half of the city is designated as agricultural land, so it must be a good place to grow things.

These are the herbs I’ve grown outside so far. One day I’ll work on an indoor herb garden.

Still alive:

Rosemary
It grows quickly and can survive through winter without wilting.

Oregano (shown below)
It has flimsy little leaves, but it’s surprisingly hardy. The leaves wilted and died during the cold snap some weeks ago, but new ones started quickly reappearing once I brought it inside.

Lavender (shown above)
Lavender is a herb too. Wikipedia told me so. It has long thick leaves similar to rosemary, so it can live comfortably outside during the winter.

Lemongrass
I didn’t even have to plant it and it took over the garden last summer. I hear mint does this too.


R.I.P:

Dill
I really love dill, but it doesn’t love me back. It seems like there is an optimal time to pick dill, and after that it gets overgrown and stalky. It has to be replanted each year.

Cilantro, basil (cilantro shown below)
I was excited to find cilantro and basil plants on sale at the farm market. A couple weeks later they died because I forgot  to take them in during a cold snap. I don’t think they’ll be coming back. Basil is notoriously picky, so it would probably work much better indoors.

Parsley
It grew great in summer. Next time I grow parsley, I’ll remember to bring it in over winter.

Chives
My chives never took off, but I haven’t given up. My Mom grows lost of them every year.

I’m sorry I left you out during that cold snap, oregano. I’m glad to see you’re coming back so quickly!

Oh, cilantro. It just wasn’t meant to be. I’m sorry.

Do-it-yourself chair upholstery

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Cost: $34 for camping foam, $28 for 4 yards of fabric (2 yards used), $4 for staples.  Total = $52
Success:  Better than expected. Also more expensive than expected.



Sometimes I get a whim that I just can’t shake out of my head. One day I decided I wanted to add cushions to my hard, ass-flattening Ikea chairs. I had yards of lovely velour, and I had the chairs. I just needed foam and a staple gun. I acknowledged that I had no upholstering experience, and that my do-it-yourself projects have a spotty track record.

I borrowed a staple gun from a co-worker for the cost of a coffee, and headed to Canadian Tire for the foam. Things were looking a little iffy until a sales associate pointed me towards the camping section, where they had 1″ and 3″ thick foam. It cost more than I would have liked – $31 plus tax for about 6 feet of 3″ thick foam. I sat on the roll of foam while I waited for the bus in the pouring rain. I’m happy to say it kept my butt warm and dry.

To cut the foam, I took apart the chairs and used a pencil to trace the part I would be upholstering. I found the best way to cut it out was by using a bread knife to cut the entire length in one direction, over and over until I cut my way through. This wasn’t ideal and there is probably a better way to do it. I cut fabric to fit the cushions, with about 4 inches to spare on all sides.

Once I got over my initial fear of the staple gun, it was pretty cool. I quickly discovered that the side I stapled first would have the least slope, so I started with the back of the chair. I stretched the fabric around and stapled under the front. Velour worked well because it’s stretchy. As an added bonus, it reminds me of Zapp Brannigan. It was hard to get both sides even, and I still can’t say I’ve mastered that skill.

The chairs went together again pretty easily, and everything looked smoother and nicer than I imagined! They’re not perfect, but I likes ’em anyway!

    

    

Homemade instant lunch mixes

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Cost: Varies
Success rating: 4/5 so far…

I used to spend quite a bit on instant lunches – noodles mixes and soups and things like that. Some soup bowls were as cheap as 99 cents, but I figured I could do things even cheaper. And better.

I went to Famous Foods in Vancouver, which has a good selection of freeze-dried, dehydrated and powdered ingredients like backpackers would use. I also used powdered soup stock, garlic, herbs, parmesan cheese and other things from around my kitchen.

Minute rice and couscous work perfectly. Vermicelli noodles work well too. Egg noodles need to be rinsed first to get rid of that egg-noodley taste. It’s best to cook and drain the pasta before putting on the seasoning. I do this in the microwave and in a glassware container with a lid that clamps on. I undo a couple of the clamps to drain the water.

I’ve had mixed success with my recipes. I’ll post some as I refine them.