Heather’s Ramblings

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

I have one of the sweetest hubbies in the world. For Valentine’s Day he didn’t get me flowers or candy. Instead he got me something that will last much longer and I will enjoy much more. A new set of pots and pans, All-Clad pots and pans to be exact.

I am not being sarcastic. I like to cook and I like to cook using good quality tools. My mixer and blender are Kitchenaid, my knives are Wustof-Trident, but my pots and pans until today were crap.

I ordered the All-Clad 9 piece set from Cooking.com. The delivery information I got said they would be here the 23rd but they arrived today. Unfortunately, today I worked until after 7 so ended up going thru a drive thru rather than making dinner in my new pans. Otherwise I wouldn’t have eaten until 9pm and that is just to late for me to be eating dinner.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my excitement with all of you and show off my new pans. Aren’t they pretty? I can’t wait to use them. You’ll be getting a lot more cooking entries from me now that I’m not embarrassed to let people see what I cook with. 🙂

all-clad

I’ll be sure to let you all know what I think of them after I use them.

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Last fall I decided that instead of just going to the farmers markets I was going to work on growing my own vegetables.  I started collecting seeds, set aside some potatoes to sprout, and bought and planted three different types of garlic.

A few weeks ago I was cleaning out the closet where I had set the potatoes in a paper bag to sprout.  I noticed the bag was wet so I pulled out the potatoes.  One had started to rot which was where the moisture came from.  I tossed the rotting one and decided to plant the rest before they started to rot too.  Here are the sprouting potatoes.

I put them in a plastic bin and set them in a window.  I wasn’t sure what would happen because I read that store bought potatoes didn’t tend to grow very well.  The potatoes were planted on March 8th.  On March 16th I checked the potatoes and found they had started growing already.

Then today I checked again.  If store bought potatoes don’t grow very well then I don’t think I want to see potatoes that do grow well.

Spring can’t come soon enough, I can’t wait until I can get these things in my garden.   I just hope I can keep them alive long enough for them to make it to my garden. 🙂

Hello all!  I’ve made more mozzarella and this time I took pictures.

It went better this time but still wasn’t perfect.

I started out by adding the milk and citric acid and heating to 88 degrees.  Instead of using milk though I tried the suggested method of using powdered milk and heavy cream.  I had a lot of problem getting the powdered milk to dissolve and I won’t be trying this method again.  Here is the milk and citric acid in the pot.  I use a large spoon with holes in it to mix my milk.  I also use this utensil to scoop out the curds so I prefer to only dirty one piece.

Cheese step 1

After the milk hit 88 degrees I added the rennet.

Cheese step 2

Then I let it set for 15 minutes.  At this stage it should have been one solid mass of curd.  Instead I ended up with a pot of what looked like ricotta cheese and whey.

Cheese step 3

Using my spoon with holes in it I scooped out as much whey as I could.

Cheese step 4

The next step was to microwave the curd and knead them into a chunk of cheese.  I microwaved and kneaded many times until the cheese was shiny and stretchy.   The salt is added during this kneaded and stretching stage.

Cheese step 5

Once the cheese was shiny and stretchy I formed it into a ball and dunked it in ice water to firm up.

Cheese step 6

At this point the cheese was done.  I stuck it in my fridge for a few days until today.  When I shredded it up and used it to make a homemade pizza.

Cheese step 7

It was delicious!

I am still not happy with my mozzarella process though.  One of these days I will get a firm mass of curds like the directions say I’m supposed to.

If anyone reading this is inspired to make cheese I would love to hear how your results turned out.

The cheese saga continues.

This time I learned my lesson.   I didn’t over heat the milk and a proper curd formed.  Yippee!!!  I got thru the draining steps unscathed.  The pressing stage didn’t go so well though.

The recipe for this cheese called for pressing it for 15 min with a 10lb weight, then increasing the weight to 20lbs for 12 hrs.   Because I am incapable of thinking ahead I didn’t find anything that would fit in the cheese mold ahead of time and had to improvise.  My spaghetti noodle cannister was the only thing I could find that would fit the mold but it weighs very little so I had to find something to increase the weight.  Inside of the cannister I put a plastic container full of fish tank gravel (clean, unused gravel, thank you very much :)).   This gave me the 10lbs I needed.  I put the mold in my favorite baking dish (to catch the whey that got pressed out), put the cannister on top of the mold, and set the time.  After 15min had passed I took the bag the gravel had come out of and put the whole bag inside the spaghetti cannister on top of the plastic box.  Then I went to bed because the cheese had to stay like that for 12hrs.  (It was after 1am at this time, make a note, if you ever want to make cheddar do not start it at 8pm like I did :))

When I got to the bedroom I saw a plastic container full of coins and thought that that would work better than the bag so went out to the kitchen, took the bag of gravel off the stack and replaced it with the container of coins.  Then I went back to bed. (Did I mention that this was after 1am?)

Ten minutes later I heard a large crash (the dog didn’t wake up).  I went out to the kitchen, turned on the light and saw my favorite baking dish in pieces on the floor, the cheese mold next to it, and the spaghetti jar and containers with coins and gravel on the counter.  I then took the mold (after inspecting it for pieces of baking dish) and put it in a pan in the sink, put the spaghetti cannister back on top and this time put the coins in the cannister first and the gravel on top.  Then, I went back to bed, and this time I was able to stay there 🙂

After pressing for 12hrs I turned the cheese over the next day and pressed it on the other side for 12hrs.  Then I unwrapped the cheese and let it sit to dry.  This is where I am at now.  I turn the cheese a couple of times every day and will continue to do this until it dries.  After it dries I will wax it and let it sit for at least 4 weeks.  Then I get to eat it 🙂  I will be sure to let you know how it turns out.

Ok, so in my last entry I mentioned reading the book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.” by Barbara Kingsolver. One thing mentioned in the book is cheese making. As I have recently fallen in love with my kitchen again I decided I wanted to try this so I bought the kits Barbara mentioned from the Cheese Queen.  I got the Mozzerella and Hard Cheese kits.

Barbara mentions that the Mozzerella is the easiest to make so that is the one I tried first.  It was very interesting.

I added the milk and citric acid and heated the milk.  I then added the rennet and waited for the curd to form.  All that seems easy right?  Not quite.  At some point I made an oops, I don’t know if my accidentally heating the milk a bit to high or if it was my having to guess at the amount of rennet I was adding (the tablet pulverised when I was trying to break it), but either way the curd didn’t form properly.  After the setting time had passed I was left with a mess that looked like cottage cheese and whey instead of a nice solid mass of curd.

At this point I was hoping that I hadn’t totally ruined it and got out the butter cloth that came with the kit to try to drain the curd as best I could.  I scooped up the runny curds and poured them into the cloth, bunched up the cloth and started squeezing.  A few times I lost part of the folded cloth and had curds and whey gush out the top.  Eventually though, I wrestled the cheese into submission.  After I squeezed out as much whey as I could I was left with a sticky mess.  I scrapped as much of it off the cloth as I could and into a glass bowl.  I followed the directions for microwaving and salting the cheese, kneeding and stretching after each round in the microwave.

My mess soon began to resemble cheese and after a few more kneedings I was able to form and braid it into a mozzerella.

Heather's Mozzerella

Not to bad for a first try eh?  It tastes like mozzerella but needed more salt, I took it easy on the salt not knowing how the rennet and acid would effect the taste.  Next time I will know how much salt to add to the cheese 🙂

I am trying the cheddar tonight and will be sure to let everyone know how it all works out.

Hello,

My name is Heather and I am a hot glass artist, silver clay artist, and jewelry designer. I sell my work on my site Square One Beads. I have a husband and a dog but no children. I also have a confession to make. After four years in this house I just realized that I love my kitchen.

I always knew I had a kitchen, after all, thats where I kept a big white box the kept my wine and soda cold. I just never really cared much about the kitchen except for Thanksgivings when I was on stage to make dinner for my family.

Then I read a book by Barbara Kingsolver called “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”. It’s the story of Barbara’s family and their experiment to eat locally grown food for a year. This book inspired me to work harder at taking care of what I put into my body. My first step in that direction was to start going to farmer’s markets and buying locally grown organic fruits, vegetables, and meat.

The next step occurred when I got home from my first trip to the market and looked at my purchases and thought – “Where am I going to put everything?” So my husband and I bought a chest freezer and I chopped and bagged and froze everything hubby and I couldn’t eat before it went bad. Then my poor new chest freezer looked so empty that I needed to go back to the farmers market for more food.

Multiple trips to various farmers markets later and many hours of chopping, processing, and freezing later I came to realize that I was actually enjoying myself. It was hard work, my hands were stained orange and green, my skin and house reaked of onions and garlic, but I was having fun.

Therapy comes in many forms. Some people drink, some see shrinks, I take very big knives to piles of vegetables and pretend that the head of cauliflower on my cutting board is whomever has annoyed me that day. And when you can feel your troubles drain away while at the same time making something healthy to feed your family, how can you not have fun?

This is why I realized I love my kitchen after all of these years.

If you managed to stay awake thru all of this please come back frequently so you can see what is up with me, my kitchen, and maybe I’ll throw in some other rooms of my house. 🙂

Heather


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