Whatever!

What to muse about today?

December 5, 2014 ~ Say Cheese!

Say Cheese!

Today, I finally used one of the more awesome Christmas presents I’ve ever received and made cheese. Yes, cheese.  Fresh Mozzarella, even!  I’m not sure why I hadn’t tried before.  Maybe it was because I had one or both girls whenever I was mostly awake, or the fact that the package came with rubber gloves.  I don’t really know.  And I’m kicking myself about it.

The cheese was fantastic.

Small curd

And not very difficult to do, maybe an hour for the first batch.  And yes, I said first batch, because, oh yes, there will be more.  I’m sure that when I make the Mozzarella again it will only take about half the time. I will need to get a better thermometer – a digital one, that goes below 100°F.

It seemed crazy to start with one full gallon of milk, but that was the recipe. After adding in the citric acid and heating it up, small curds formed. Once the rennet and calcium chloride were added it changed pretty quickly to much larger curds with clear whey.

Curds and Whey

Straining the whey and getting the curds quickly into a separate bowl was a bit tricky, but eventually I got them all separated. I was amazed at how little cheese curd there was.  Almost all the volume of the gallon was whey.

A quick run through the microwave and it was ready to mix and form into balls.

Warm mozzarella. Omnomnom

I tried some when it was still warm and gooey.  Oh.  It was lovely. Yum.  I haven’t had mozzarella like that before.  Stu also got to try some still warm and thought it was very good.

 

I decided to make just three balls from the batch, I didn’t have much time before needing to go get Ashlin.  They got nice and shiny as they cooled and I dropped them into the brine just before I left.

Ashlin didn’t believe me when I told her I made cheese while she was in school.  I let her try some after it was brined and she approved.  She may have been impressed I actually made cheese.  (It’s not marshmallow fluff or cookies!  LOL!)  She was sad she didn’t get to help though.  I told her that she could help next batch.

Balls brining

We may be making home-made pizza tomorrow.

I have two thirds of it in the fridge, in brine, and the last third is wrapped in plastic in the freezer.  It may not last the weekend.

 

PS.  The cheese making kit came from Standing Stone Farms, and their recipe is similar to this one.

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3 Comments »

September 8, 2014 ~ Fluff!

It’s so fluffy!

I made fluff! Home-made marshmallow creme! From scratch. It wasn’t too difficult at all.  Surprisingly easy, actually. I’m not sure where I came across the recipe, but it caught my eye and I pinned it.

While Ashlin was upstairs for a bit of quiet time – or morning nap – I set up all the ingredients, pulled out the stand mixer and opened up my shiny, new candy thermometer.

Ashlin helped me put most of the ingredients together, though I did separate the eggs.  She really enjoys helping to cook.  She did get a bit tired watching the corn syrup and sugar boil, getting the mixture to 240°F took a bit too long for her attention span.  I don’t blame her.

Not quite 240F

Eventually, the mixture did get there, and the egg whites peaked softly.  Tempering the whites wasn’t too bad, though the syrup was very sticky and spun strings when it got cold.

I mixed till glossy, added the vanilla and let it whip away.  I did stop to scrape down the sides once, but other than that, an easy enough recipe.  Other than getting the syrup to the require 240°F, spooning the mixture into a jar was probably the most difficult thing.  Not an easy task, it was thick and sticky!

The recipe made about 2 1/2 cups of fluff.  I will probably make this again, and I’m sure it will take about half the time.  It’s always easier the second time.

Ashlin claimed it “deeeeelicious!” while licking the spoon I gave her.  It had a fresher taste, texture, than the store bought fluff.

Then, while eating her much wanted fluffernutter, she said that that it made a “tasty sandwich, mama!”

That’s good enough for me!

 

Tasty!

4 Comments »

February 14, 2014 ~ Post-Storm Brownies

Brownies

Ashlin’s turn!

Yesterday, once we got home, we made brownies.  Getting home was a challenge.  Much more of a challenge than I thought it would be, even though there was a lot of snow.

Day care was open in the morning, and we both had so much work, sending them in wasn’t a question.  Picking them up turned out to be.  By 11:30 we had a good six inches of snow.  Stu went out to clear the car and driveway, as I tried to get off a conference call.  A call about Safety.  I ended up telling them that I had to go, ironically, to go and be potentially unsafe.

I helped shovel out the end of the drive, and clear the car and we headed out.

Getting out of the driveway, the development, was interesting. The hill was fun. We lucked out and had one plow width down the hill and most of the way.  I took the more main roads, with right turns, to get into the parking lot.  By the time we got there, there was at least 8 inches.  Above the lower edge of the car.  Stu said there were pretty fans of snow coming from the car as I drove on the nearly empty roads.  I didn’t get to see them.

We got to the day care with little issue, parked, picked up the girls and strapped them in the car.  I got the car backed up, and tried to take the back exit from the parking lot, we knew the front was plowed in and totally impassable.  I didn’t get very far.  After some rocking, then pushing (thank goodness the day care people helped push!), shoveling and more pushing, we got out.  Then we helped push one of their cars out.

I ended up skidding through the turn onto the road home, so tried turning into a parking lot, only to get stuck there.  More rocking, a bit of skidding and trying to turn the wheels back and forth to get traction.  No luck.  No one offered to help.  Eventually a guy in a truck with a front plow offered to plow behind me, and I was able to back up, then around.  Aiming for the exit, we had to pull to the side to let another car by, and got stuck again.  I almost gave up, parked the car, for us to wait it out in the CVS – Ashlin was in dire need of a change by then.  Someone in a truck saw me trying to get Ash out and asked if we were stuck.  He offered to plow behind us and make a path to the exit.  Stu pushed me to the path and I was able to get enough traction.

SnowFrom then on, we were fine, a few fish tails here and there, but up the hill and into our driveway.

All during this, the girls were anxious.  I wasn’t too worried, not really.  We’d only be stranded for a little bit, until the plows came, and then stranded somewhere warm, where there were probably toys for the girls.

Ashlin napped, and napped well.  Teagan got to watch some weird cheap movie off Netflix while we tried to work a bit more.  I had a 1:15 conference call to run.  I told her once Ash woke up, we’d do valentines cards for her classmates and then make brownies for today, for the party.

Yay.

Teagan was good in the kitchen.  She was tentative when breaking the eggs, so gentle they almost didn’t break.  She was very careful pouring in the liquid and mixing the batter.  Ashlin was a bit rough when breaking the eggs, crushing the shells instead of opening it to get the egg out.  Luckily, neither of them got shell in the cup.  Always break your eggs in a cup and not the batter!

Cards done, both girls signing their names in their fashion, we started up popcorn and a movie.

I ended up yelling at the girls during the movie more than I’d like, I was trying to finish up some urgent analysis for work and they kept asking me things, interrupting, touching the laptop.  Not watching the movie like they were supposed to.  Gah.  I need to be better about that, maybe if I had gone into the other room, I would have been done before they realized I wasn’t there.

Anyway.  We survived the storm, though Stu is a bit sore from shoveling and pushing cars.

There was a card for me when I got downstairs today… We’re such geeks.  Or nerds.  Or both.  Whatever :D

Geek Love

4 Comments »

January 19, 2014 ~ Boat

Two girls in a boat

Today was a pretty good day.  The girls were good, and this helped.  While I snuck a morning nap in the living room, they played nicely in the playroom.

Stu was also in the living room, not sitting in the dining room keeping half an eye on them as he usually does when he works on Sundays.  But he was listening to them play.  They ended up pulling almost all their toys down, out of the bins, shelves, and put them into a pile.  This is where their baby dolls, (Peaches and Baby, though sometimes she’s also Peaches,) were hiding, and safe.

They will need to help clean it up.  Tomorrow.  Today was too busy!

After her nap, I took Ashlin to the store to get eggs and flour.  We were going to make cookies!  And cheeseburgers.  She requested cheeseburgers for dinner.  I ended up making meatloaf.  Close enough!

I sent them both up/Stu took them up for some quiet time and another nap while I set up the cookie stuff.  Pulled out the mixer, the ingredients.  Pre-measured everything.  I did leave the flour in the sifter, thinking maybe Teagan would be ok sifting it.  She had a bit of trouble with the side to side of the sifter.  Maybe if I had one of the crank ones, she wouldn’t have.  Oh well.

Ashlin was a bit fearful of the stand mixer, too loud.  But she found courage by the time we needed to add the chocolate chips!  Teagan broke an egg, and did a pretty good job for her first egg.  Ashlin didn’t want to.  She just watched for a bit.  They had a pretty good time dumping things into the mixer, or watching them go in.  Teagan had a hard time not touching the stuff in pots and jars – she got flour all over the table, her hands, herself.

I tried hard to not get too worked up, too stressed out, but there were a few times that I didn’t do so well.  I took over a few times, told them – when I should have asked them – to watch for a step.  I need to remember that they really don’t know anything about cooking, and are very eager to learn, to explore.  They don’t know not to take a bite of the stick of butter, or taste the flour, or pour it all in at once, or why they need to be sure to sift over a bowl.  I need to remember this and try not to freak out.  I’ll get better.  They’ll get better, and more patient, or obedient.  Still, it was fun.

They weren’t very interested in dropping the cookies on the tray, but it could be the double spoon method we had to do.  I don’t have a fancy scoop yet.  But I’ll get one.  For next time.  There will be a next time.

While I scooped out and baked nearly 6.5 dozen cookies, they played in a box.  Their boat.  Quietly “reading” and looking at Highlights magazine.  Well after they got in trouble for trying to play in the kitchen while I was finishing up the cookies and dinner.  Touching everything, hot cookie sheets, oven, pots.  Gah.

Still, mostly a good day.  With cookies.  Peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies.

Cool!

PS. Stu is still humming “Let it Go.” Ha ha ha.

8 Comments »

November 10, 2013 ~ Cooking Day

New baby!  Need to break it in!! #nerdycook

New Baby!

Yesterday my 15th anniversary present from work arrived at the house. I picked a cast-iron dutch oven by Le Creuset.  It is cherry red, and lovely.  It also made me want to cook something new and exciting today.

The other day, Yahoo! had a recipe that peaked my interest – Spatchcocked chicken with chickpeas.  You take the back out of a chicken and then roast it flat.  It cooks up super fast.  I asked Stu to run to the store to get me an unfrozen whole chicken, and we tried it for dinner.  He got me a 7 pound chicken, which is probably a bit bigger than the recipe calls for, though it didn’t really specify.  It wasn’t too difficult to cut out what I thought was the back, though I couldn’t get enough leverage to break the breast bone to have it sit flat.  It still had a bit of space underneath.

One chicken less backbone. Let's go! #spatchcocked #chicken

No backbone

So, the chicken took a bit longer than the 30 minutes the recipe called for. Could be the size of the bird, the fact that our oven doesn’t go to 500°F, only 475°F.  Or it could be that I cut the wrong side out… At least, I think I may have. The legs didn’t sit the same way as the recipe pictured.  I’ll try the other side next time!

Yum! #spatchcocked #chicken

Yum!

The recipe was super simple.  Spatchcocked chicken, salt, pepper, can of chickpeas, lime.  The chickpeas go in the pan after the chicken is in the oven minutes.  They get a bit crispy and take on the taste of the chicken.  Very.  Interesting.  I ended up transfering a bunch into a shallow baking pand.  They were soaking in the chicken juice towards the end when I needed to put the chicken back in longer, and not getting crispy.

It turned out really good.  Very tender, very juicy.  I took some of the pan juices and made a gravy, adding in some lime juice.  I didn’t chop the parsley fine enough for that to go in, but it was tempting.  The girls really liked their chicken legs, though they weren’t fond of the chickpeas or the fresh lime juice.  Stu devoured the wings and some white meat, a big spoon of the chickpeas and used both the gravy and brown sauce.  Crazy Englishman.

I'm a baking fool. #brownies two ways

Brownies!

I was a bit sad I didn’t need to use my new pot.  But soon!  Soon!

Earlier in the day, I baked.  Yeah, I know!  I did a repeat of the apple brownie recipe I had made a few weeks ago as well as a pan of chocolate brownies.  The apple ones were for work, but the regular ones were dessert!  Ashlin helped me make both, Teagan was up in her room reflecting on the merits of listening.  Turns out, Ashlin is a very good listener, and a pretty good help.  She was very careful pouring in the ingredients, as well as whisking them together.  She really loved mixing the apples in.

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Mix mix

Though, not as much as she enjoyed licking the spoon!

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Spoon!

2 Comments »

December 30, 2012

Sugar Cookies!

Sugar Cookies!

Today Teagan and I decorated sugar cookies.  I had found a Christmas package of sprinkles, little trees and sugar.  Glittery!

We didn’t make them from scratch, maybe next year.  Maybe Easter.  I sliced the dough up and Teagan helped pour the sprinkles on.  It was fun, even though Teagan kept wanting to eat the sprinkles off the cookies, not the little pile I gave her.

I tucked the cookie cutters away for next year.  I may try a different season, or no season at all, to do cookies from scratch with her.  The pre-made worked very well for now, especially with a little girl with a very limited attention span.

They tasted lovely.

9 Comments »

November 12, 2012

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Peeled

Today I made some Apple Jam.  I found one recipe that tempted me with apples and caramel…  I’m a sucker for caramel.  We had lots of apples, still.  I haven’t been able to go through all the 20 some odd pounds of apples we picked.  I’ve tried!

Anyway, I finally remembered to get pectin, and had a few hours, so I pulled out the big canning pot and the peeler.

The recipe was pretty easy, dice up the apples, cook them down, add the pectin, sugars and process.  The worst part was dicing up the apples, tiny tiny.  I’ll admit that I did use the immersion blender a little, just to take some of the bigger chunks out…

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Diced

Not too bothersome though, I was able to peel and dice while waiting for the water to heat up to a boil in the canning pot. Man, that takes a LONG time.  Eventually, the jars were sterilized and laid out, waiting for the jam to be ready.

It took a bit longer for the apples to cook to tender than I expected, but eventually they were ready for the pectin to go in.

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Cooking down

Once the pectin was in, I needed to bring it up to a boil before mixing in the sugar. After a few minutes it came up to a rolling boil.  Sugar in, and it was time to mix, mix mix.  I did cheat a little, and add some splenda along with the white and brown sugars.

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Is it caramel yet?

The recipe said it would make 7 pints. I got two 1.5 pint jars along with the 4 pints and one half pint jars. I needed to do this mish-mosh because I forgot to check to see if I had lids before starting. I only had six regular size, and then four wide mouth. The half pint jar is a wide mouth jar. I’m lucky I had enough! And very glad I did.

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Processing!

Anyway, I think the canning pot took almost an hour to get to the boil I needed to process the jam. The jars sat on the counter a bit longer than probably was necessary between being filled and being able to be processed. But eventually they were done…

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All done!

… And I could have a decent taste (from the funnel and pot which had cooled off). It tasted more like apple pie filling than caramel. Oh, well. It’s still quite yummy. A bit sweet, but yummy.

I’ll be buying some caramels so I can try the other recipe, and see if it’s more like eating a caramel apple. Maybe I’ll have time next weekend. Now, I have to crochet a pig.

16 Comments »

November 2, 2012

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Fringe!

Today I was able to finish Stu’s scarf. Yay for fringe! He’s been wearing it already, but now it has it’s fringe. I was really happy with how it turned out, just a simple single crochet and then a double crochet make that nifty waffle-like pattern.  It’s delicate without being feminine, very nice.  I’m going to need to try that with another scarf, or even a blanket. Yes, maybe a blanket.  I’ve got three baby blankets and three-quarters of a toddler blanket under my belt…  Maybe it’s time for an adult one?  Though I do have my eye on a circle in a square pattern…

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Apple Cheddar Meat Pie!

For dinner tonight I made Apple and Cheddar meat pies! I had a package of the Goya discos and oh, so many apples.  They turned out pretty well, considering.  I think next time, I’ll try with rolled out pizza dough, maybe do a Stromboli type roll.

I bought some puff pastry, so will use that to make some more apple hand pies.  It seems more of a sweet pastry than savory one, so I’ll be making more hand pies soon…  maybe with Teagan this weekend.  She asked about them, while eating her dinner tonight.  Also, if I could make a broccoli pie.  Um.  Ok.  I could, I’m sure.  I’ll find one with cheese.  Everything is always better with cheese.

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Can you make broccoli pies?

Both girls enjoyed the meat pies. Ashlin ate three quarters of hers, in something like 1o minutes, while Teagan ate about the same amount in 30 minutes.  She almost didn’t get her treat – Sherbert – because she was taking so long with her dinner.  Stu liked them too :)

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Taped on shoes! Really?!?!?!?

Teagan had a great day at day care, a great week actually, hence her treat.  Ashlin, well, I’m not sure what happened for her today at day care.  She came home with her shoes  taped – yes, I said TAPED! – on. AND they taped her socks on too.  Stu didn’t notice when he picked them up tonight, but you can be sure I’ll ask why they felt they needed to tape them on.  Yes, the shoes are a bit big, she’s outgrown the size 4’s and is a bit too small for the 5’s, and she does love to take her socks off, but still.  It just doesn’t seem right.

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AND socks!?!?! WTF??

AND her socks?!?!?! WTF??

9 Comments »

August 13, 2013

Bowl of Basil

Bowl of Basil

Yesterday I harvested basil. It was well past time, my little container garden has been growing, even with all the neglect they’ve received these past few weeks.  I wasn’t sure how to preserve so much basil – I had a huge colander harvested and cut – other than in pesto.  I really didn’t want to make that much pesto, even if it was the easiest way.

Hello Google.  I found this site that showed two different ways to freeze basil.  I had so many leaves that I figured I’d try both methods.  Couldn’t hurt.

The first is by chopping up the basil and putting it into ice cube trays and then freezing with water.  It was suggested to put enough water to cover most of the basil. Though the basil would float, the water would “trap” the bits, and then once that was frozen, you add more on top, to seal all the freshness in.

Thanks to all the baby food making, I had a few spare ice cube trays I could do this with.

Chopped basil in tray

Chopped basil in tray

Frozen basil cubes

Frozen basil cubes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had enough leaves to do two ice cube trays of chopped basil.

Then I tried the second method, which is freezing whole leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  My edged cookie sheets are a bit worse the wear, so I lined it with wax paper before putting the basil leaves down.  They froze quickly, in maybe 20 minutes, and were easy enough to pluck from the sheet and put in a bag.

Cookie tray with basil leaves

Cookie tray with basil leaves

Frozen basil leaves

Frozen basil leaves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I now have two bags of basil in the freezer.  I’m not sure which method is the best, I’ll be trying both versions in a few weeks, once my plants stop producing.  It looks like each will have it’s pluses, the whole leaves can be rolled, when defrosted, into chiffonade, the chopped, added to soups and sauces, even in the cube form, there’s so little water to dilute the food, and that will have some basil essence thanks to the cut edges.

I love fresh basil, and hope that these two methods will keep me in fresh herbs all winter!

I wonder if either method would work for mint?

7 Comments »

August 5, 2012

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Dinner

Tonight was one of my favorite dinners. Cheese and pâté.  Stu found one of my favorite cheeses, a goats milk bucheron, as well as a very lovely goats milk Brie.  Our grocery store doesn’t seem to carry the bucheron at all, whereas our former store did, as well as the one in the town over.

The piece of goat cheese that Stu picked was thick, with a nice creamy ring around the outside.  The middle was solid, but not crumbly.  It was a strong, but rich taste, but not overpowering.  Definitely one to eat after the brie.

And oh, the brie!  It was very creamy and rich.  Mild, but more along the lines of a Camembert than a Brie, but still, a very lovely cheese.  Both went nicely with the Champagne pâté, a mild  yet satisfying pâté.  I paired my dinner with a hard cider, Stu with a beer.  I had a quick thought about maybe some wine, but it is Sunday night, and we didn’t get to sit down for dinner until late.

One reason Teagan was up so late, I figured out how to get some of the Olympic events on the iPad.  I showed her the Synchronized Swimming, and she was in love.  She started doing the leg lifts on the floor, some of then hand motions, asking why they do that? What’s their name?  She was very impressed with how long they could hold their breath.  To be fair, I am too, and I did my fair share of synchronized swimming (water ballet!) when I was younger.  Nothing along these lines, but we had shows with all the groups doing a routine.

Maybe she has a bit of Olympic spirit after all.

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Creamy Brie

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Goat’s Milk Brie

 

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