Challenge accepted week 5.

So as regular readers know, I’m trying to set myself a challenge each week for the whole of 2014. They can be anything – diet or exercise related, reading books, not using Facebook for a week, etc. One friend has challenged me to go a week without buying anything with plastic, and another has set a challenge of not using my bank card, only withdrawing cash from the bank when I need it.

If you want to look at past challenge posts just click on the tag “challenge accepted”. And if you have any suggestions please comment with them. Rules are pretty basic – it has to be achievable, keep within my vegan ideals, and also it has to be practical e.g I can’t do a week long vow of silence due to work. Each week I’ll post a review of the week gone and let you know what challenge I’m doing this week.

Last weeks challenge was to make a sourdough starter and bake a loaf of bread. I started this one early to give the starter time to develop before attempting bread. It’s gone really well!

I used the River cottage method. It’s a bit wordy on the link but really it’s very simple. I think I baked my first loaf a tad too early as the sour flavour was too strong. I made the sponge on day 6. For the next loaf I fed my starter (named Tim) as normal then made the sponge on the night of day 8 and let the bread rise all of day 9. It was better tasting, and the starter was smelling more yeasty and less acid – in fact on day 9 it smelt like beer!

My second loaf was superior in taste however I made it a little too sticky and didn’t prove it in a tea towel lined dish as recommended. This meant that when I wanted to remove it, it stuck to the (floured!) bowl and I had to handle it too much which knocked some of the volume out. So it was a little more dense than it would have been.

I’ve achieved the lovely crunchy crust I wanted so I’m pretty happy. I will continue my adventures in sourdough.

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Lil’ Timmy version 2.0

so, for the week ahead… I’ve spontaneously set this weeks challenge, pushing aside another challenge because I feel I need this one more.

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Unfortunately, this is not the case. I am saying I have been watching too much Doctor Who.

I need a bit of a Doctor Detox. I finally decided to get off my butt and watch some of it and I’m four seasons down in a week and a half. There’s plenty more to go so it’s time for a break. I used to read the books multiple times when I was a kid so I’m familiar with the book Doctor, I just hadn’t seen any of the show yet (although the “geek” category on Pinterest keeps me well up to date with it… And supernatural… And Sherlock… None of which I had seen).

I would like to point out that I use my tablet all the time to watch things off my hard drive while I’m cooking or cleaning or whatever. But it’s usually things I’ve seen a gajillion times before (eg Game Of Thrones) and I can just listen – it’s background noise for me. But being that I haven’t seen this before it’s incredibly distracting and instead of washing dishes I’m standing there holding the same plate for 40 minutes.

So my challenge this week is no Doctor Who. And in fact, no TV with one exception – if Gary wants to watch a movie with me on the weekend.

Let’s see how I go!

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Sourdough Tim.

So I have made a sourdough loaf.

Tim has given birth!
I’ve been using the River Cottage recipe… Closely enough anyway.

I figured my starter was 6 days old and using Gary’s superior sense of smell we determined the started was at the “yeasty” point. To me it smelt like apricots. Sometimes I have a hard time pinpointing smells. I can tell you if things smell good or bad but can’t always work out exactly what the smell is. It is supposed to start smelling “fruity and yeasty” when it’s ready so between me thinking it smells like apricots (fruit) and Gary saying bread (yeast) we thought it might be time to trial some bread.

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I moved Mr Tim to a glass jar. Firstly so I can have my mixing bowl back, and secondly because it’s interesting to be able to mark the starting point for the day and then see how much he grows by the next morning.

I started with mixing some starter and fresh flour into the “sponge” according to the recipe linked above. I used plain flour and a touch of spelt because I ran out of plain flour (whoops).

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Mr Spongy sat and bubbled away all night.

Then in the morning I brought some bread flour (higher protein than standard flour, apparently). I added this into the sponge with some oil, salt and water and kneaded it till nice and smooth.

I let the dough sit and rise.

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Then I showed the dough who was boss and punched that sucker back. I let it rise once more then the magic happened.

I put a pan in a rather hot oven, popped the bread into the hot pan and sprayed some water in the oven. 40 or so minutes later and it was done.

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It did crack near the bottom.

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And it was maybe a tiny bit more dense than I would have preferred, but certainly not too dense.

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The bread was also a little too much on the sour side but it was fantastic toasted with the lentil Spag Bol that I made last night. All in all I’m pretty happy. And tonight I’m making a start on lil’ Timmy 2.

Sushi for dinner.

What do you do when you don’t want to heat up the kitchen with the stove?

Throw on your rice cooker, grab some seaweed and some bits and pieces and make this:

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the only fish involved is on the platter which came all the way from Finland. Thanks Annika!

Technically speaking these are nori rolls, not sushi but…. Sushi seems easier. I’ve been big on these lately. I made some for lunch the other day as well with some edamame and some raw veggies.

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Fun fact: in a metal container and an air conditioned office, frozen edamame in the top compartment works well – it’s defrosted by lunch but it keeps the sushi cool without getting cold. I prefer them at room temperature.

Anyhow, nori rolls are a simple thing.

You will need:
rice. Medium or short grain rice can be used – often it’s labeled as sushi rice. Just don’t use any variety of long grain rice. It won’t work.
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
nori sheetsmmmm seaweed. Tasty tasty seaweed.
optional extras for the rice – I use raw nori flakes and black sesame seeds.
fillings whatever you feel like – I used carrot, cucumber, avocado, and tofu.
condiments- wasabi paste, soy sauce and pickled ginger

Step 1: cook sushi rice. I use my rice cooker now because I can pop it on while I do other things and it will just keep it warm till I’m ready. I generally have about a cup of uncooked rice to 2-3 rolls – but I like a lot of rice in my rolls.

Step 2: make your seasoning by gently heating 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp salt on the stove until it all dissolves together.

Step 3: mix the rice with the seasoning – add it to taste. The amount of seasoning generally does me about 2 cups (uncooked) rice. This is best done in a non metallic bowl. Fold some of the vinegar through the rice and taste – add more if you feel it needs it.

Step 4: extras! I tend to mix some raw nori flakes through the rice and also some black sesame seeds. Just for some extra crunch and nutrients.

Step 5: lay your nori sheet shiny side down. You can use a mat if you wish but I don’t usually bother. Lightly brush some water over the nori
Spread rice in a thin even layer, leaving a gap at one end. Use a spoon or your fingers dipped in water so it doesn’t stick.

Step 6: fillings. Spread a tiny bit of wasabi on your rice, down the middle. It’s hot so if you haven’t tried it before go very easy on it. Top that with your chosen fillings. Avocado, carrot, cucumber and tofu were my choices last night.

Step 7: roll. Take the end you have rice to and roll it tight enough to keep everything in but not so tight that it tears. You’ll get the habit of it the more you do. Wet the free end and seal your roll. Slice gently with a wet knife into whatever size you want.

Dip in soy sauce and enjoy pickled ginger in between rolls.

Enjoy!!

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Challenge accepted week 4.

Whoops. I ended up missing week 3.

There’s no excuses really – work was flat out, I felt unwell and unmotivated and it just didn’t happen.

So back on the horse for week 4. My challenge actually started yesterday so it’s kind of the Monday and Tuesday of week 3 and then all of week 4.

Which works well as my challenge is to grow a sourdough starter and then bake a sourdough loaf. This may take up to a week to develop the starter. Given the forecast heat for the week – high 30s and low 40s it may not take that long.

Meet Tim:

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apparently it’s bad luck not to name your starter

I started with about 100g of plain flour and enough (filtered) water to make it the consistency of thick paint. I let that sit most of yesterday to activate then added 100g fresh flour and water to maintain consistency this morning.

Then it’s a matter of refreshing it daily for up to a week by discarding half and adding fresh water and flour each day until it’s ready. Then I can start baking!

I love the idea of sourdough as it’s making bread with just flour, water, and a touch of salt. The starter ferments and grows the natural yeast in the air and that’s what makes the bread rise. It’s vegan in the sense that there’s no animal products involved and great because there’s no additives unless I put them in. Mind you, the starter is often considered to essentially be alive and people refer to feeding it and looking after it. Kind of like making yourself a little bread friend… And then eating it…

Anyway, creepiness aside, it sounds like a fun challenge! I’ll try and report every few days and let you know how Tim is going.

Melting

Attention those of you in the northern hemisphere: I would love to trade places. I don’t care how cold and dark it is. Please swap places with me and my peeps right now.

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Today is the peak of our heat wave this week. Now I know some people (Gary) love the heat but I’m not built for this. I’ve got Scottish blood on both sides. Give me cold, give me rain, give me drizzle and fog. I rock it. Winter is my friend. Yes I get cold. But I’m happy when I’m cold. I run better. I sleep better. I’m not cranky and nauseous and feeling like I need to shower every 10 minutes because I sweat so much.

Monday was 37 degrees C and I did a 5km run, calf cramps and all. I had to stop to soak my headband in water and also to have a drink. Then I drank a whole bunch of electrolyte drink when I got home and water and still felt faint and crappy (but good about running… Know what I mean?)

Yesterday was 40 and I couldn’t bear the thought of running outside so I paid the $12.50 for a gym entry and treadmill’d it in the air conditioning.

My body is not happy in the heat. The only thing worse is heat and humidity. Thankfully it’s generally not too humid here.

Anyway, whining aside I’ve been pretty concerned about the doglets. I came home at lunch to give them fresh water and I fill the leaky shell pool when I get home so Zeph can cool off. Her fur is black so I’d say she feels the heat! She even let me hose her off today so she was in struggle town too.

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I made an ice block for the dogs too. I put regular food, some chicken treats and some carob pieces in it. Although I supervised them – it’s almost a week now but I want to be cautious about the whole sharing food thing – they were polite to each other and shared it well. Zeph started it off, then she got in the pool while Ollie licked it and got most of the carob out (it froze into the bottom and was the top when I flipped it out of the container), then Zeph went back for round two. She got her teeth into it and broke it up then they shared the pieces. I popped the last few bits into the pool then Zeph had fun trying to fish them out.

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I think they appreciated it. Ollie isn’t too keen on getting into the water but he did let me splash some on his belly to help him cool off.

I’m going to get some takeaway as it’s too hot to cook, and then I might have a cold beer. Ollie looks like he’s already had a few.

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Challenge accepted week 3.

Week three starts today.

For this week I’m going to eat at least one piece of fruit a day.

Might seem easy, but I’ve never really been a fruit person. Veggies yes, but not fruit. Which I feel means I miss out a little. Fruit is great – full of natural sugars too! Also plenty of different nutrients. A vegan diet should include as much variety as possible so I really should get some more fruit into me.

I’m starting today with an apple. They are always a great place to start. I’ll let you know how things go at the end of the week.