Tiny House Yogurt

We don’t live in our Skoolie yet, but I do have the Skoolie oven already… the Breville Smart Oven Air.  I’m exploring what it will do and my favorite thing so far has been using the dehydrate function to make yogurt.

Yogurt is great for gut health, however… grocery store brands load yogurt up with sugar, fruit, and preservatives.  Some kinds of gut problems result from a yeast that feeds on sugar (fruit is a natural sugar), and preservatives are a culprit for other gut health issues – Yikes!  So grocery store yogurt can actually feed the problem instead of helping you heal!  Sucks, right?  Take it from someone who has had a real challenge with gut health – real yogurt – the homemade stuff – is part of the solution, not the problem!  And making your own is rewarding, delicious, good for the environment, and good for the gut health of you and your family!  Did I mention it is delicious?  Good!

When we had our restaurant, we used an Excalibur dehydrator to make yogurt for the fresh yogurt smoothies we had on our menu.  (You know how the VitaMix is the best blender?  Well, Excalibur is the best dehydrator!) We also had green smoothies and fresh juices in the restaurant.  I missed having a dehydrator around for yogurt, kale chips, and beautiful pineapple flowers.  It was one of the sacrifices we made in going tiny, no dehydrator.  No room. 

The Breville Smart Oven Air

But when I found the Breville oven with the dehydrate function – SQUEE – I was delighted!  I can have an oven that will bake a pie AND a dehydrator – in one smart package!  We tiny house foodies do enjoy our multi-purpose kitchen tools!!  Plus, this one is $399 which seems like a lot for a toaster oven (it’s not a toaster oven) but when you consider how much less that is than a range it was a no-brainer for us.  (Not for everyone – no worries.)  Since our Skoolie is 128 square feet, we didn’t have room for a full size range, or even a fun-sized one.  I’ve already written about this oven, so check that out if you’re deciding which oven/range/cooktop is best for your tiny haven-home – plus there is a money saving tip at that link as well.

 

Would you like the yogurt recipe I use?

1 gallon whole fat milk.  (I use whole milk because it makes better yogurt and because I’ve read that whole fat is better for you than low fat or non-fat and I’m a purist anyway.  I like things that haven’t been tinkered with too much.)

When I’m ready to make yogurt, I buy some unsweetened whole milk yogurt at the grocery and use that as starter.  Then as long as I don’t eat ALL the yogurt and save some for a starter for the next batch – then there is no need to buy more.  Look on the label for active cultures.

Yep – that’s it.  Milk and yogurt cultures.  Pretty simple, huh?  (And yummy)

I put the milk in my 4.5 quart dutch oven (it just fits) and heat it to 180 degrees.  Since the dutch oven is cast iron, it may continue to rise in temperature a bit once the burner is off but that’s fine.  This step is to kill any bacteria that could be in the milk so that you can add the yogurt bacteria. Getting the milk anywhere between 180 and 195 degrees will do nicely.  Take care to warm the milk gently so that you don’t scald it.  If you think you may walk away and forget about it, set a timer to remind you.  I’ve boiled the milk all over my range before – BIG MESS – that’s why I mention it.  Once the milk hits the right temperature, turn off the heat and let it rest.

Test the temperature periodically until it has cooled to 100-120 degrees.  In my experience this will take about a half hour.  Whisk in the yogurt and transfer the mixture into glass jars.  I like to use the Pint jar with a wide mouth lid, because that way the rings and lids are the same as my food storage quart jars and that way I don’t have to keep two sets of rings and lids around.  Use the 8 ounce size if you want a single serve portion that is perfect to grab and go for a packed lunch.  This is a great way to kick plastic out of your life!  And if you can find milk locally in glass – this is a great zero-waste alternative to all those plastic yogurt containers.  Win!

 

Oh, are you wondering “how much yogurt?” to add to the warm milk?  Yeah, gotcha.  It will work with as little as three tablespoons of yogurt.  I make sure to save one of my jars of yogurt to use as culture – and so I just dump it all in.  Careful not to overflow!

IMG_4116Fill each jar and then carefully clean the jars with a cloth if there is any milk on the outside of the glass, then carefully set them into the Breville oven.  Space them evenly for air flow.  Use the “Select” knob to turn to the dehydrate function, then turn the temperature to 115 degrees.  I set the timer to 15 hours.  You’ll get thin yogurt at 8 hours (overnight works quite well for us) and the longer you go – the more tart and thick the yogurt will become.  Don’t mess with it while it’s in the oven – you won’t be able to tell the consistency while it’s warm anyway.  Just leave it alone in there overnight.  When you get up in the morning, carefully take the jars out to cool on the counter, then transfer them to the fridge.  I’ll put it in there after dinner and let it run all night and I suppose it’s usually in there about 10 hours – give or take.  It turns out delicious!!I suspect this is a project for an overnight where you are plugged in to shore power because it will take some power.  I would not do this while the bus/home is moving.  That could be a rather epic mess.

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My version of “Horse Chow” – our favorite breakfast

I’d love to know it if you make yogurt in your tiny home and what you think of it!

Be well,

29c45-1a2bcarmen

The Tiny House NC Street Festival

Street FestXaver and I had a great time at the Tiny House NC Street Festival in Pink Hill, North Carolina last weekend!  The hospitality of the host, Andrew Odom, and the community was spectacular.  They really did show southern hospitality and it was a joy to be there!

I spoke on Saturday and again on Sunday at “center stage” which was this lovely shaded spot with some bleachers and a sound system.  I spoke on Pain, Pie, Poverty, and Purpose.  We met the most interesting people – plus – touring those tiny homes and skoolies is always energizing to me!

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The best Shrimp & Grits I’ve ever had – from Chef & the Farmer

I tried to get a reservation at the Chef and the Farmer, but they were full.  That was fine, but then Andrew Odom pulled some strings and got us in, and boy are we grateful to him!!  Xaver and I even enjoyed a delectable meal of steak tartare, beet salad, catch of the day, shrimp & grits, and dessert!  That was the best meal I’ve ever had and it challenged me to up my game!  lol!

I’ve been getting really great feedback on the book and that is so gratifying.  After the many solitary months I have invested in getting those words on the page, it really rocks to share this message with the world and see it resonate with other people.  I wrote it to help people navigate the transition to living tiny – and it would appear that it is doing exactly that.  I’m soaking it all up and glowing because of this happy outcome!Screenshot (6)

Tiny houses and festivals are exciting and fun, but the downsizing process may not be.  I created a Super-Simple Kitchen Gear List to help you move gently through the process.  Sign up here to get the FREE PDF.  This is not dogma – just a resource to help you create the simple collection that is right for you.

PLUS, as an added bonusvideo series – here is my Right-Sizing Your Kitchen Video Series.  You will find this practical and helpful as you work through your kitchen at your own pace.  If you find that you need to replace or upgrade a few items, then check out my handy Buying Guide for help in selecting just the right items for you.  I have found that the quality-over-quantity approach really suits me.

I’m passionate about tiny house minimalism because it helped us hit the reset button on our lives and I know there are a lot of folks who would also benefit from a reset.  Plus, TINY house minimalism makes room for BIG dreams!  So I’ll happily travel to meet the people who are interested in tiny house living and I’ll have one message: I’m here to help you navigate through the transition of going tiny – especially in the kitchen.  You can do this, I know you can!

Deek Screenshot

Derek Diedricksen with my book.  His new book is coming out in November, so make sure to pre-order your copy now.

If you’re in the neighborhood, I’ll see you in Fredricksburg, Virginia on May 12th and 13th.  The festival details are here.  Look me up!  I’ll have the FESTIVAL COPY of my book available – and this is the edition that won’t be available anywhere else but a tiny house festival!  Soon enough (June?) it’ll be on Amazon and a lot of other interesting places.  At the moment – visiting a tiny house festival is the only way to get one.  That means I get to meet folks like you and we will talk together about our challenges and triumphs.  It’ll be great fun!

All my best,

TinyHouseFoodie.com
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#6 Vinnie Vlog: Choosing the Right Oven for our Skoolie Kitchen

breville-smart-oven-air-oWhen a retired pastry chef and restaurant owner chooses the oven for her Skoolie… which one does she choose?  Ha!  It took me a while and a stack of research, but here are the reasons I choose the Breville Smart Oven Air (not an affiliate link).

  1. Since it will be the only oven in the Skoolie, it needs to be able to actually bake things.  In other words, it needs to be more than a toaster oven.  We had a glorified toaster oven in our first Tiny and it was good for many things but sometimes the limitations were vexing.  I read the product material and the reviews until I was confident that this oven could handle any baking challenge we are likely to throw at it.
  2. Size: It’s a small oven that is roughly the same size as the larger toaster ovens on the market.  It takes less space than a small size range, and since our Skoolie will have less than 130 sq ft of living space, that was important.  It still has enough space inside the oven to roast a 14 pound turkey, as long as the turkey is square.  LOL!  Just checking to see if you’re paying attention.
  3. Power: It takes less power than a small range.  It may still require more power than a small solar power system can handle, however… we have plans for an off-grid bread oven outside.  No worries.  And this will still be great for those times and places where we are able to plug in an umbilical cord.  I won’t use it at the same time as a hair dryer or curling iron (obvs, as I don’t own those things) or when the heater is on.  We already have that habit so that won’t be a problem.
  4. Features: This oven has some really fancy features!  The one that really caught my attention was the dehydrate function.  When we sold the restaurant, the new chef/owner wanted my Excalibur dehydrator and so I gave it to him.  I’m still kicking myself – can you tell?  I’ve missed having fresh yogurt, kale chips, and pineapple flowers (among other things).  Now FINALLY, I can do all of those things again – without an additional appliance in my home.  SCORE!  As a bonus – there is an “Air Fry” function and I think that might be fun to explore.
  5. Price: The Breville Smart Oven Air is $399 pretty much everywhere.  I checked.  This is not a cheap item but there are cheaper oven models in the product line.  Less bells and whistles = more affordable.  It is still a better value than buying a full size (or even a fun sized) range.  And we already have a induction cook top.

NOTICE: There is a lot included in the box with this oven, so wait to purchase bits and pieces until you’ve seen what comes with it.  I didn’t realize that and now I have an extra air fry basket that I don’t need.

MONEY SAVING HACK: I bought the oven using the ibotta app, so I got money back on my purchase making the price $339 instead of $399 – every bit helps!  Referral link: get your $10 bonus when you sign up and get started.  I have loved using the ibotta app at the grocery and online stores.  I have gotten $134 back since I downloaded the free app 47 days ago.  YAY!

Xaver and I will enjoy using this cute little oven in our new haven-home!  I think it is the right oven for us and I can’t wait to move in and get cookin! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

#5 Vinnie Vlog – How we Designed the Interior of our Tiny House.

 

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I love designing homes and spaces and I love the renovation process.  So of course I’m eager to get going on designing the interior of our new Skoolie.

I’ll walk you through the steps of designing the floor plan for your tiny house in this video. First – measure everything. Then draw up your plan on Floorplanner.com, or any CAD program, or use graph paper. Draw the floor, mark where the windows go, and mark things like wheel wells, etc. Then measure the furniture or elements that you plan to use, and begin placing them in the space to see how they fit. Explore your options until you’ve found the option that suits you the best. Then get busy building!

This video isn’t really designed to teach you how to use the Floorplanner.com (or any other CAD) interface – it’s more just to show you how a tool like this can help you design.  It’s also really fun that you can look over the 3D version and see what you think.  It’s not going to be exact but it is enough to give you a feel for how things will look. From here you can make decisions on electrical and plumbing design, and choose your finishes.

It all starts with a sketch and a few good ideas. In our case it helps that we’ve already lived in 125 sq ft for 3+ years so we know what we need and what we want. Plus, this bus has 128 sq ft of livable space in it, so it’s not that different from what we are used to.  The design process is fun and invigorating and I think you’ll enjoy it. 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #4 – Floor ~ Power ~ Mess

IMG_3403We’ve made some progress on the Skoolie this week.  The floor is down, and the wiring is underway!  We’re making progress!  We’ve got a little more work to do so stick around!!

What’s your favorite part of a Skoolie conversion?  The power? The furnishings?  The Kitchen or Bath?  Stick around.  We’re taking it all on – step by step!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Why we Drive Vintage Vehicles

Living in a tiny house is just one of the ways we have chosen to live outside of modern systems, automobiles is another.  I thought I’d ramble on about cars a bit, if you don’t mind.  The tiny house community is full of folks who have chosen a slightly less conventional approach to life and that’s one of the reasons we love it so much.

030 (2)We buy old autos built before there were computer systems in them, which means our cars are much simpler and can be fixed with parts from Autozone.  No pricey dealership mechanic needed.  We don’t use an auto loan to purchase a car, and with the reasonable prices of antique autos – we don’t need to. This helps us avoid the costs of interest.  We have a number of cars and are able to keep antique tags on most of them, which means one tag, no stickers, and no inspections – all of which saves us money.  Did I mention the insurance was cheaper?

IMG_20161110_130507832Here’s an example: one of our cars is a 1985 Mercedes 300 CD (coupe diesel) with turbo, design #123.  It has a in-line 5 engine, which some folks consider the best engine ever made.  This engine can and has gone one million miles without rebuilding.  In fact, one of these cars passed the million mile mark not long after it was made.  Mercedes tried to buy the car back to put it on display in their show-room and the owner refused.  He was not willing to part with his car.  Mine is 33 years old and has already gone 286K miles and can reasonably be expected to go another 200K miles over the next ten years.  There is no modern car that will, as a matter of course, go 400K miles without a change of engine, or be used as a daily driver for 40 years.  In addition, it seems doubtful that any modern car made today will be worth $5k in 30 years even if it was still running.  We’ve chosen this particular make and model of Mercedes because it is an excellent car at an excellent value.  It doesn’t hurt that it’s a sedate but powerful car that is very comfortable for longer drives and high speed interstate driving.

2012-05-12 14.40.25I also have a cute little 1979 MGB British roadster that is ridiculously fun to drive.  It’s a simple 39 year old car, and it is not complex to fix.  I purchased this darling little car for about $3,500 and to this day I can pull up to a light beside someone in a very posh modern car and they will be admiring my ride.  It happens all the time.  A car doesn’t have to be valuable to be a joyful experience.  In fact, I have come to believe that driving an adorable little roadster on one of the first warm and sunny days of Spring is one of life’s simple pleasures.  This zippy little roadster is a delight on curvy back roads and tree lined avenues.  I love how it puts me in touch with the world around me in a very tactile way.  I don’t feel as if I’m in a cocoon separated from everything when I drive this car.  In fact, the experience of driving this car feels like a purposeful interaction with the sights, sounds, smell, and feel – even the temperature – of every place I pass through.  To me, this is a vibrant and wonderful experience, part of the joy of being alive.IMG_2491

Modern cars have become so ubiquitous that even a super expensive car doesn’t stand out.  Xaver asked if I noticed the Maserati that had just turned past us.  I said “you mean that Honda?” There was nothing about that car that was interesting unless you happened to notice the logo.  It just looked like every other sedan on the road that day.  If you want a car that expresses something of your originality, choose a vintage car.

2012-09-23 12.21.26The 1969 Opel Rekord is one of Xaver’s favorite cars.  This is a rather rare car, clean lines and simple systems. The body design is simple and beautiful.  It’s never been a status symbol car, but it has performed very well for nearly 50 years and shows no sign of stopping now.  In fact, one of the fun parts of going for a drive in this car is that we meet folks who remember these cars and have stories from “back in the day.”  We end up having these wonderful conversations with random strangers because of the car, and that’s a lot of fun.  Plus, he’s right – it’s a cool looking car.

Fixing a vintage car isn’t as complicated as it might seem.  Autozone has lots of parts for older cars as well as modern ones, and they lend tools if needed.  Books are available for most makes and models, and this is often a helpful tool.  If you run into a problem that you can’t figure out with the help of the good folks at Autozone or using the book, there will be a forum online or a youtube video where someone shows you how to fix this exact problem.  Often the cost of repair is very low and the biggest investment is the little bit of time spent doing the research.  I think it is empowering to be able to drive an interesting car and fix it yourself.  I love it.  I’ll admit that I’m not the one doing the fixing though, lol!   IMG_20161125_163704706

Safety is a major concern when purchasing a car, and car makers have added lots of safety features over the years.  Whatever you do, do NOT google the dangers of airbags, or the number of deaths caused by those things.  Especially in older cars as the plastic in the airbag system begins to deteriorate.  Do not look at that information if you are locked into driving a modern car, because it is absolutely horrifying.  Folks driving modern cars are lead to believe the car they drive will protect them from anything, and that is sometimes true.  We witnessed an accident earlier this year where the gentlemen at the wheel walked away, and that seems pretty miraculous considering the rather spectacular ballet moves of his truck.  After looking over the available information, we’ve come to believe that vintage cars may actually be safer than modern ones.  Airbags are one example.  There are other safety features that have been around for a very long time, even if modern companies want to recycle those features and call it innovation.  Xaver would be better at detailing all of that information than I am.

IMG_20160518_090303066_HDRPerhaps the biggest safety feature of driving a vintage car is the way we drive.  We don’t drive as if our cars are disposable, and we have noticed that a lot of other folks do.  We drive like we want our cars to last another decade. While that’s not enough to keep bad things from happening, I think it makes a difference.

A car that can be in constant use for 30 – 40 years or more is the best choice for the environment.  For every decade a car continues to run, there is no reason to manufacture a new one.  My MGB gets 35 miles per gallon, the Opel Rekord gets 28 miles per gallon, and Mercedes gets 28 miles per gallon – diesel.  The Mercedes diesel runs much cleaner than modern dirty cars (“dreckschleuder” Volkswagon and others) and is nearly indestructible.

DSC00238I could go on and on.  The computer system in your modern car doesn’t belong to you, only the hardware.  It can be hacked.  Your modern car has systems that record your every move.  I’m starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist, but this information is all out there readily available.  Insurance companies have a tremendous amount of information on where a car has been, how fast it got there, and all kinds of minutia.  I’m comforted by knowing that where I drive my car and how fast I get there is still my business, and mine alone.  I’m comforted that my car can’t be remotely hacked because there is no computer on-board (except my cell phone).

029 (2)I drove a Honda for years, and it was a good car.  It wasn’t the least bit interesting though, and I don’t miss it at all.  And if you drive a Honda and love it, I’m not here to talk you out of it.  I couldn’t even if I were inclined to try.  Cars – no matter how old they are – are a means to get from point A to point B.  It might as well be an interesting journey, and it shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

We love taking the back roads and driving interesting cars.  It suits us, just like living in a tiny house suits us.  We can give you all the intellectual reasons we prefer these vintage vehicles, and I’ve listed a few.  But until you get in and ride with us a while, it may be difficult to understand our passion.  No matter what you drive, if you are here reading this – you are a friend –  not a foe.  Choose the back roads, and enjoy the journey.  In the words of an old Celtic blessing: “God be a smooth way before you, a guiding star above you, a keen eye behind you, this day, this night, and forever.”IMG_20161130_125703

What’s your favorite vintage car?  The one you’d most love to drive every day if you could?  What is it about this car that speaks to you? 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #3 – Choosing the Floor for the Skoolie

Welcome back everyone, today I’m talking about the choice we made for the floor of the Skoolie. We ended up with Kronotex USA American made laminate flooring, the color name is “Wilson Pine” that we purchased from The Habitat Store in Charlottesville, Virginia. Plus, Xaver takes over the camera while I give the tour of the space as I’ve imagined it – even a sneak peek at the kitchen! One of his favorite cars even makes an appearance. lol!  We’re having great February weather here in Virginia, so we’ve been able to work outside very comfortably to get the seats taken out and the flooring down.  It looks great so far!

Next, I’ll rattle-can the “baseboard” that came on the bus and the wheel covers, then those can go back in.  I’ll also give the antique a fresh new look to prepare it for it’s next life as the kitchen cabinet in our Skoolie.  I’ll take the camera with me each step of the way so stick around for more stories from our world.  I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.

Where are you in your tiny journey?  Looking, building, living?  Have you chosen a floor?  If so, let me know what you chose.  Thanks for following along, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #2 Another NEW BUS?!

It’s true, we bought another bus! We happened upon another one that we liked better because it’s longer, therefore it will be a more spacious home for us.  Plus, it’s also in great shape mechanically, and in even better shape cosmetically.  Yep, we’ve got a bus for sale!  lol!

Thomas Jefferson's tiny HouseOur new (older) bus used to be a shuttle bus at Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.  This is fitting because one of my favorite folks in the tiny house movement is Thomas Jefferson!  lol!  I’ll bet you didn’t know he was one of us tiny house folks, did you?!  He bought land, and built a tiny one-room house that was 18 x 18 feet, and moved right in.  This little home became known as “The Honeymoon Cottage” when Jefferson married Martha Wayles Skelton. They lived so happily there that they soon welcomed their daughter Martha to the family.  Enjoying the perks of tiny house life, they worked on another house on the property – Monticello – a project that would be in progress for the rest of Jefferson’s life.

Stay tuned!  We’ve got the ceiling hatches sealed and we’ll be getting those seats out and putting down a new floor soon, it’ll be great!  I’ll bring you all the gritty details, so stick around!

I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can go tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.  Thanks for watching, I appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

 

Happy Birthday Bekki!

A birthday message for my friend Bekki that is an excerpt from chapter four of my new forthcoming book, Kitchen Simplicity.  In the video I mention visiting a lovely yarn shop, Baa Baa Sheep in Norfolk, Virginia… and I mention a skein of Embrace yarn from Raywa Fibers which is 100% yak down and is amazing – for a number of reasons.

I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.  Thanks so much for watching, I really appreciate it!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #1: Introducing Vinnie #3, our new Bus that wants to be a Skoolie!

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Interior of Vinnie 1

I’m starting a video log for our Skoolie project so here is an introduction to Vinnie 3.  Vinnie #1 was a van that I made into an RV back in 2010 or 2011 or so.  I fully intended to be a van-dweller and quietly live in plain sight but along came a handsome gentlemen and that was that.  I named that van “Vincent, my Van that Goghs” because I thought it was funny and artsy, but in time he became simply “Vinnie”.  Vinnie and I had many wonderful adventures together and I was sad to sell him, but he went to a traveling band of young musicians in spandex and big colorful hair.  So I know he is happy with his new family.

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A cup of tea in Vinnie 2

Our tiny house of 125 square feet became Vinnie #2, and we’ve been enjoying that one since the fall of 2014. We’ve been parked in various places around the area and have really loved our little haven home.  We’ve been though a lot in the last three years, but no matter what happened in a day, when we turned our car toward home, we were always glad to be back together in our haven home.

Thursday I decided I really wanted to consider the idea of a Skoolie a little more, so I took a look around Craigslist.  I texted a guy and made a plan to visit him the following morning.  I mentioned it to Xaver and away we went the next morning to meet Vinnie #3.  It was love at first sight for me, but Xaver walked around it complaining that it needed new tires and it was going to cost a fortune to put six good new tires on it.  The gentlemen lowered the price.  Xaver complained some more, and the price went down some more.  It was all I could do to keep from squeeling “SOLD!” but I kept my mouth shut tight with heroic effort.  Naturally we bought it.

IMG_20180118_171653038_HDR (2)I’ll keep a video blog of the process so be sure to swing by YouTube and subscribe so that you don’t miss a single episode.  Thousands of ideas, two artists, and one bus.  It’s going to be a real adventure!

I’m Carmen Shenk, the Tiny House Foodie, reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.  And we’re building a Skoolie where we can do just that.  Stick around, it’ll be fun.29c45-1a2bcarmen