Thursday, December 30, 2010

Whey delicious.

I made butternut squash pear soup tonight using the leftover whey from yesterday.  Only one word can describe it: DEEEEELICIOUS!  I started with a recipe I found online, but added whey more (haha) to it since I didn't have nearly enough cream cheese that the recipe called for and also wanted to add some of the pears that we canned this summer.  Here is the improved recipe:

1 large butternut squash
3 cups whey
half an onion (chopped up all fine like)
one carrot (also chopped up all fine like)
3 or 4 canned pear halves (and 1/2 cup pear juice)
2 ounces cream cheese
a couple shakes ground sage
a couple shakes cayenne pepper
1 cube vegetable bouillon 
olive oil, salt, and pepper

Directions:  First, cut the squash in half and scoop out the guts.  Put them cut side down on a baking sheet and throw into a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  In the mean time, chop up the onion and saute them in olive oil or butter, pretty much until they are caramelized.  Add the carrots and saute them until tender.  Dissolve the bouillon into the whey and add it to the onions and carrots.  Chop up the canned pears and add those as well, along with the pear juice.

Let this simmer for a little while, and add salt and pepper to taste.  Once the squash is nearly cooked through, skin and cube it.  Add it to the soup and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  This should soften everything up and get it ready for blending.  I used a hand blender, but I'm sure you can do it with a regular blender too.  However, if using a regular blender, you might need to add more liquid since this is a pretty dense soup.  But that's just a reason to add more pear juice or whey.

That's it.  Serve, and enjoy with some home-baked whey bread.  (I also topped it with kale sauteed in sesame oil.) Oh yeah...

Yum Yum Yummy-pants.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Everyone Loves Cheese

For my birthday last year, my sister got me a cheese making kit.  I love it, but I was always a little afraid of it.  I had read about cheese making disasters, and I HATE throwing food away, so it caused me to hesitate in trying my hand at it.  However, considering I have the time now, which I know will be limited later, I thought better now than ever.  In addition to reading through the instruction manual that came with my kit, I did some online research.  Of course, I found a ton of stuff, a lot of which was contradicting and confusing.  After some research and several youtube videos, I found that there are a lot of things that are called "cheese" and are all totally different.  The really easy stuff is barely cheese and more like cottage cheese; NOT the cheese that we all love.

After my research I decided to follow this website, because it didn't claim that cheese-making was "super easy" and it also explained things pretty well.  It gives a list of 7 cheeses to try to make from easiest to hardest and overall, looks pretty legit.  The first 2 "cheeses" it says to make are yogurt and labneh, but I decided to go straight to the rennet cheeses, since the other two aren't cheesy enough for me.

Ok, so here goes.  First, the milk.  I got a gallon of Twin Brook Creamery 2% milk (you know, the stuff that comes in those cool glass bottles?), some buttermilk, 1/8 tsp of CaCl, and dissolved 1/4 tablet of rennet in 1/4 cup of water.  I put the milk in a stainless steel pot and slowly heated it to 65 degrees.  Mind you, this doesn't take long since that's just room temp.  Getting it as close to the temp noted is key.  Get yourself a good thermometer.  Next I added the CaCl, then buttermilk, then rennet, stirring well each time in between the additions.  I took it off the heat, and let it sit overnight.

Just a pot of room temp milk.
Now it's really important to let the pot sit overnight undisturbed to let the magic happen.  I have a hard time with this sometimes and get too impatient with my food.  But this time, I was sleeping so it was ok.  Now, for anyone who has put any thought into making cheese and has done any research has definitely heard of the elusive "clean break."  This is when the solids have successfully curded.  Apparently this is hard to achieve and can only be done when all of the conditions are right.  Considering this is my first cheese making attempt, I was prepared for this to give me trouble.  BUT, when I woke up this morning and checked...
Ta daaaaaaa!  Perfection.  I did what I was supposed to do to check by sticking my finger in it at a 45 degree angle and pulled up.  The curds cracked like they are supposed to and the whey that filled in was clear.  Awesome.  This meant I could move on and cut the curds.



This is done by inserting a knife at a 45 degree angle and cutting all the way down to the bottom, making slices about an inch apart.  Turn the pot 90 degrees and do the same 4 times to get all sides.  Hopefully the picture helps to explain what I'm talking about.
 Now, take a piece of cheese cloth big enough to be able to fold it a couple times.  I used a piece that was big enough to fold twice in order to have a stack of 4 layers.  Lay the cloth in a colander over a bowl and ladle the curds into the cloth.  There were a lot more curds than I though there would be, so I had to do a lot of hand squeezing in order to get it all into my cheese cloth. 
Next, rig up some device that you'll be able to hang your cheese on.  Make sure there is a bowl underneath to catch the whey.  (Save the whey, there are a lot of things you can do with it.  It's apparently full of protein.)  This should hang for 12 hours.  (Or less if you're impatient like me and keep squeezing it every time you walk by.)  If you are going to wait, probably a good idea to keep it in the fridge for the 12 hours.

Once it has drained, it will look like this.  This is when you add the flavor.  You can add, garlic, herbs... whatever.  I kept it simple and mixed in 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt.  Once mixed in, I put it back into the cheese cloth, but this time in a round mold.  I set a bowl with a weight in it on top, to squeeze more liquid out.  (Sorry, no picture of this.)

And that's it!  Once you've waited as long as you can wait, and as much moisture as you wish is out of it, it's finished.  I took some to a dinner party tonight, along with some baguette slices that I made with some of the leftover whey.  (It's true, whey makes delicious bread.)  I took a quarter slice of my cheese and drizzled some olive oil and served it with a sprinkle of pepper.  Pretty gourmet, if I say so myself. 

So there you go.  Simple fresh cheese.  Like the website says, this is a good beginner cheese.  I'm happy it was a success and feel more confident to try my hand at the next step on the list.  Now what to do with all that whey...

Monday, December 27, 2010

School's out! It's Christmas time!

Merry Christmas everybody!  Ours was quite nice.  My grandma came up from California and as usual, we've had too much food and too little sleep.  Grandma is going home today (tear) and slowly but surely real-life is showing itself again in the form of messy houses and ongoing master's projects.  Here is a recap of the last couple days,

Christmas eve was started with lunch with my fam, then Shawn and I drove over to Poulsbo for dinner with his very loud and proud relatives.  Christmas morning started with the regular breakfast-crepe-pigfest back with my family, then after clean up was present time.  There was a surprisingly similar theme of sustainable and eco-friendly things among the gifts that were shared and half of them were hand-made.  I could just list them, but I feel like being a little creative.  It's not like there aren't enough remakes of the 12 days of Christmas anyway.

The 12 Gifts of Christmas
For the first gift of Christmas, my sister gave to us,
A bucket of elephant poo.


For the second gift of Christmas my sis and I were given,
Two chicken books,
And a bucket of elephant poo.


For the third gift of Christmas I gave to my ma and sister,
Three Harry Potter passes
Two chicken books, 
And a bucket of elephant poo.


For the fourth gift of Christmas my Parents gave to gave to Als,
A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
Three Harry Potter passes,
Two chicken books, 
and a bucket of elephant poo.


For the 5th gift of Christmas, I gave to my Shawnie,
Five months of XM radio!

A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
Two chicken books, 
and a bucket of elephant poo.


For the 6th gift of Christmas my parents gave to Shawn,
New Zealand Rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!
A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
Two chicken books, 
and a bucket of elephant poo.


For the 7th gift of Christmas, we gave to my papa,
A hand-made viking lawn game,
New Zealand Rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!
A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
Two chicken books, 
and a bucket of elephant poo.

For the 8th gift of Christmas, we gave to my grandma,
A giant book of memories,
a hand-made viking game,
New Zealand rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!

A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
Two chicken books, 
and a bucket of elephant poo.

For the 8th gift of Christmas, Als and Zack gave to me,
A sustainable surge protector,

A giant book of memories,
a hand-made viking game,
New Zealand rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!
A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
two chicken books,
and a bucket of elephant poo.

For the 9th gift of Christmas, my Shawnie gave to me,
A mate gourd and bombilla,

A sustainable surge protector,
A giant book of memories,
a hand-made viking game,
New Zealand rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!
A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
two chicken books, 
and a bucket of elephant poo.

For the 10th gift of Christmas I gave to parents gave to us,
Wool and possum gloves,

A mate gourd and bombilla,
A sustainable surge protector,
A giant book of memories,
a hand-made viking game,
New Zealand rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!
A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
two chicken books, 
and a bucket of elephant poo.

For the 11th gift of Christmas, my parents gave to us,
A dual toilet flusher,

Wool and possum gloves,
A mate gourd and bombilla,
A sustainable surge protector,
A giant book of memories,
a hand-made viking game,
New Zealand rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!
a 45,000 year old rolling pin
three Harry Potter passes,
two chicken books,
and a bucket of elephant poo.

For the 12th gift of Christmas, my sister gave to her man,
12 flying ninja hippos,
A dual toilet flusher,
Wool and possum gloves,
A mate gourd and bombilla,
A sustainable surge protector,
A giant book of memories,
a hand-made viking game,
New Zealand rugby pride,
Five months of XM radio!
A 45,000 year-old rolling pin,
three Harry Potter passes,
Two chicken books,
and a bucket of elephant poo.

There were other gifts, but these are just the notable ones that would fit into the song.  They may not seem that exciting, but we were all pretty happy with this year's haul.  It was definitely a little more low budget than usual, but I don't see anything wrong with that.  Sometimes it's the most inexpensive stuff that means the most to someone.

There was a lot of cooking done too, and almost every meal that was dined on had some element that came from someone's backyard.  Breakfast always included berries (blueberry and raspberry) out of my parents awesome berry patches, eggs from our chickies were used as often as possible, and pumpkins from our garden made a reappearance in a couple pies.

But don't be fooled.  We don't just eat and open presents in our family.  We also play LOTS of card games.  Countless rounds of scotch bridge were played, each one full of drama and shouting and no one won or lost a game twice.  (Well, I may have lost the last two we played, but oh well.)  Cribbage and Pedro also came into play here and there, (Pedro is a Portuguese card game that brings out the competitive spirit in all of us) and all in all, we had tons of fun.

With all the festivities coming to a close, I am definitely feeling a little sad, but also ready to get back into a calmer, more reliable schedule.  A lot of things have been neglected, the chickens haven't had as much outside time and my house is a mess.  I still have one week until school starts, so I plan on really doin' some fun stuff, like trying my hand at cheese-making.  I'll make sure to let you know how that goes.  Until then, happy homesteading!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

School's out! It's friends time!

I can proudly say that I have spent the last two evenings, count them, TWO evenings in company of good friends.  Last night was printmaking-crafty-time with some good people from school.  Everyone brought their speedy cut, carving tools, and bench hooks and we all worked on our projects together.  It was fun and nice to be able to have conversations about something other than school.  I decided thank you cards are always nice to have, so I made this print:


Tonight was spent hanging out with old friends from waaaaay back.  I was in charge of dessert, so I made almond cookies and candy cane chocolate bars.  There was a new addition there, of course, with baby Carmen making her appearance.  We made sure she felt nice and comfortable.  So comfortable in fact that she pooped and peed her pants 4 times!  She's cute.

I also have a dog friend staying with me, while his mom (Shawn's mom) and the rest of Shawn's family visits Grandma in Arizona.  He's a little high maintenance, too sensitive, and won't eat his food, but he's cute.
He stands up like this when he wants me to pet him.
We got three eggs again today.  That's becoming pretty much the norm. Having a two-egg day is almost rare.  So that puts us at 45 eggs in 27 days.  Oh yeah.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

School's out! It's cooking time!

I cook a lot.  I pretty much try to cook something for dinner every night.  Some people, it turns out, think I'm crazy.  But my parents did that for us growing up, so I thought it was the norm.  What, you don't cook every night?  But, the last three weeks saw a major decline in my cooking due to the major increase in school work.  We ate a lot of frozen stuff and mac 'n cheese.  But now, since school is officially done (for now, not including stuff I have to keep up on for ongoing projects), I can cook again.  Yay.

I had been saving my last sugar pumpkin because I always wanted to make pumpkin soup and serve it in an actual pumpkin.  I took on that challenge last night.  I looked up how to do it online and followed the directions.  Well, not for the soup but for the pumpkin prep.  I cut off the top and cleaned it out like a jack-o-lantern.  I sprayed the pumpkin with cooking spray and put it in a 325 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  During the hour, I sauteed my onions and celery, blah blah blah... whatever, I made the soup.

After 45 minutes or so, I checked the pumpkin and it looked perfect.  Still nice and firm but also starting to soften up.  I took some of the meat from the inside and added it to the soup, making sure to leave it nice and thick to help keep the pumpkin's structural integrity.  I ladled the soup in the pumpkin and it looked great.

So why don't I have a beautiful picture of a glistening golden pumpkin filled to the brim with delicious creamy pumpkin soup?  Because the pumpkin failed.  Apparently, pumpkins cook a lot faster on the bottom than the sides, and the bottom of my pumpkin just gave way, letting all of the soup pour all over the stove.  Lickily, 80% of it ended up on the cooking sheet so I was able to save most of the soup.  FML.  I cleaned out the pumpkin and threw it back in the oven to cook the rest of the way so I could puree it like the rest of its friends and use it for more delicious things.

So that's it.  I'm never going to try it again.  The need is out of my system.  My sister made me feel better though.  She pointed out that in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver did the same thing.  That must mean I'm just like her.  I'm cool with that.

Since I am vehemently opposed to posts without picures, here's a picture that has nothing to do with what I just talked about:

Nikolai, cock down.

Monday, December 13, 2010

School's out! It's crafty time!

First of all, I wanna congratulate everyone who just finished or is about to finish with fall quarter!  A giant e-five goes out to all!  Booyah!

To celebrate, (and to reward myself,) I went to the art store on 45th by Petco.  What an amazing store!  First of all, it's HUGE and everything is super cheap.  On top of the already crazy low prices, ALL of their printmaking supplies are 50% off until Christmas!  I bought what I thought was a lot of stuff, but it only ended up being 7 bucks.  Super sweet.

Anyway, being a poor grad student, I have been busy hand-crafting a lot of my gifts for the season.  Each year I usually go into mass production of something that can be appreciated by many just to keep costs down and be efficient.  I've made fudge, truffles, and fingerless gloves in the past, and this year it's cards made from block prints.  Did I just give away a surprise?  Maybe I should have waited until after Christmas to post this.  Oh well.

I learned the basics of printmaking last year at IslandWood, and I've become obsessed.  I have about 6 or so prints, some I made at the 'Wood, some I've made since I've been home.  I just made a Christmas one, you know, just in case I feel like sending some out this year.  Today was just a printing day.  Here are the fruits of my labor.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chickie ER visit #2

Abby had to go to the chickie ER today.  Let me tell you in fairy tale form:

Once upon a time, there are three chickies.  Abby is the alpha.  She always follows the humans, chases intruders out of the yard, and is super smart.  Frannie is the big one.  She looks like a scary vulture but is actually really sweet and is the best mommy.  Mabel is the dumb one.  She's very vocal and sometimes picks on the other two, but she sure is purdy!  One day, Lady Owner came home to find Abby with an injury on her head.  Oh no, thought Lady Owner, who looked closely to find Abby's comb partly torn off.  Lady Owner couldn't help but panic, since Abby is her favorite. (Don't tell the other two.)  She called the vet who said there was a cancellation that evening and she should bring Abby in to get it checked out.

At the vet, Abby acted her usual self and hammed it up.  Everybody thought she was super cute, just the bees knees.  The doctor looked at her, gave her some gas, sewed her up, and gave her a pain injection.  Luckily Lady Owner was able to get her in so quickly that antibiotics were avoided.  All was happy again, and Lady Owner was relieved as she took Abby back home.

However.... When Lady Owner and Abby got home... oh no!  Abby's stitches were busted open!  Bad girl Abby!  Even though the vet's office was closed, Lady Owner (and Man Owner, since he was home from work,) had no choice but to take her back in, this time as an emergency.  Poop.  A different vet looked at Abby this time and sewed her up nice and tight, and even added glue to make sure it stayed together.  Even though she's a bad girl, Abby was able to win over this dr's heart as well with her tender, mild-mannered attitude.  Man Owner made sure to keep an eye on sneaky Abby during the car ride home so she couldn't ruin all the dr's hard work for a second time. 

Lady Owner and Man Owner were super hungry so they decided to drive through the giant golden M on their way home, (much to the chagrin of Lady Owner.)  The cashier at the M thought it was funny that there was a chicken in the car, especially since Man Owner ordered chicken nuggets. 

Once home, Lady Owner and Man Owner had to sit and watch Abby for a while so she or her sisters don't try to rip out the stitches.  Frannie and Mabel seemed ok, but that Abby, she's still tryin' to scratch 'em out.  The two tired owners tucked them into bed with hopes that when they check on her in a few hours, everything will be in one piece.

It was an exciting night.  Lady Owner is down $300 had to miss an important event at her great learning establishment.  But it's ok, Abby's owner's love her and will do what they have to do to keep her happy and healthy.

The. End.

Here are some pitchures.  They're hard to take when no one is holding her.

Dinosaur eyes.
This is her Badass face.
(You might be wondering why this is ER visit #2.  #1 was by Frannie when they were still babies.  She got really sick and had a bad fever, and was pretty close to dying.  But she got antibiotics and got all better.)

In much happier news, today was our first 3-egg day.  That puts us up to 16 eggs in 15 days.  This is official proof that Mabel is now laying.  I know for sure who laid which eggs today, so I can compare them to see any differences in them.  Maybe I'll be able to tell who lays what from now on, when they're not all in sync.  Fannie's are the darkest, Abby's are a little lighter, and Mabel's are the lightest and a little rounder and smaller.  (They're all brown.)  Frannie lays first around 11am, Abby lays around noon, and Mabel lays sometime in the afternoon.  Or so it's been so far...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wish Granted!

I had one of the most exciting days of my life yesterday.  Well, maybe not ever, but definitely up there.  I got to see both Abby and Frannie lay an egg!!!  These were egg #'s 8 and 9.  It was so fun, even though I ended up sitting out in the cold waiting for about 45 minutes.  It was totally worth the numb fingers and toes.  I took video of it, and decided to have fun with the editing.  Enjoy!

If the quality is not so good, blame blogger you can watch it here on YouTube instead.

video
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