Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Sock, Two Sock. . .

I have officially finished one sock. It was meant to be a gift for someone else, but since it fits me quite well, I doubt it will fit the intended recipient. So. . . some re-eveluation is in order!

Complete Sock

I have decided to make the other sock the same size, so at least they'll be a pair.  The only other option was to tear out the first sock and start over, but Clint wouldn't let me.

Half a sock

Anyway!  This is what I'm working on right now in the crafty department.  This pair should be done soon, then we'll have to decide what to do with them. . . Maybe I'm just knitting myself an unexpected pair of socks!

One and a half socks!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Banana Bread

This is seriously the yummiest banana bread I have ever eaten.  I absolutely love it!  I got the recipe off a blog, but I can't remember which one, and I can't seem to find it.  Thankfully it is a recipe I wrote down, because I have tried others since finding this one, but I keep coming back.  It's that good!

6 Tbs butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbs sour milk (to make it sour, add a few drops vinegar or lemon juice)
2 over ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat pastry, to help it be a little softer)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or more!)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or more!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix butter, sugar, egg, and milk until smooth.  Add bananas, mix.  Add flours, salt, baking powder and soda, mix.  Add walnuts and chocolate chips and mix.  Fills 12 muffin cups at 1/3 cup batter.  Bake about 15 min.

Or, grease loaf pans and bake for 1 hour for one large pan or 45 min for two small pans.  Your choice.

I always do sweet breads in muffin form because they just seem easier to eat to me.  Less of a hassle and therefore more likely to get eaten than a loaf you have to cut a slice off of every time you want a bite!  But, that's probably just me. . .


Monday, September 26, 2011

Making Mozzarella

I was inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and encouraged by a couple people I know at work to try my hand at making mozzarella.  I was pretty intimidated by the idea at first, but really, it is very easy to do.  I just followed the directions given at Animal, Vegetable, Miracle's website for 30-Minute Mozzarella

The first thing to do is gather all the required ingredients:

1 gallon whole milk (pasteurized is okay, but not ultra-pasteurized)
distilled water
liquid rennet
citric acid
The milk and water are pretty easy to come by, but I had to go to the home brew supply shop here in town to get the rennet and citric acid.  The citric acid was really cheap, just a couple bucks, but the rennet was a bit more spendy, I think around $12.  But, it lasts for a year in the fridge, and since you only use 1/4 tsp per gallon of milk, it's really not that bad.
Measure out 1 1/2 tsp citric acid mixed with 1/4 cup distilled water in a ceramic cup and 1/4 tsp liquid rennet mixed with 1/4 cup distilled water.
Put the whole gallon of milk into a large pot and gently heat to 55 degrees F.  I only have a candy thermometer, which means it doesn't register temperatures that low, so this part is always a little bit of a guessing game!  At 55 degrees add the citric acid mixtuer to the milk and mix.
Around 88 degrees, the milk should start to curdle.  When it's curdled, add the rennet mixture and mix into the milk with an "up and down motion". 
Keep heating until just over 100 degrees. Good sized curds should be forming by then and the whey shouldn't be "milky" any more.  These pictures were from my first time making it, and I have since gotten better curds by letting it heat a little longer.
I used a strainer to strain the curds from the whey, catching the whey in another pot to be fed to the dog and chickens.  Then, while the curds were still in the strainer, I kneaded them to remove excess liquid.

Then, into a microwaveable bowl the curds went to be heated for one minute.  Then I kneaded (with a spoon, those curds are hot!) again to remove liquid.  Then into the microwave for 30 seconds, then keaded, then microwaved for 30 seconds then kneaded again.
This is also when you add "salt to taste" which I think is the most annoyingly vague direction in the world.  Give me a starting point and then say "or to taste" because I have no idea how much salt these curds will take to taste like mozzarella!  Anyway, I didn't put in enough salt the first time, but since then, I think I've found that about 2 tsp is a good "taste" for me.
Anyway, after all the microwaving and kneading, you stretch the ball'o'curds until it gets a smooth, shiney, elastic, mozzarella-y texture.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle describes it like pulling taffy, but since I've never pulled taffy, I can only guess what, exactly, that means.
Once it's to the proper texture, I made it into little mozzarella balls to be stored covered in whey in the fridge.

See how my whey was still a bit "milky"?  I have since gotten it less so during the "heat to just over 100 degrees" stage.  Theoretically, you should get about 1lb of cheese from 1 galon (10lbs) of milk.  I weighed my efforts the first time I made it and came up a bit short, but I chalk that up to not getting the best curds, too.  I haven't weighed since, but I think I'm probably getting closer to the 1lb of cheese mark.  At least that's what I'll tell myself!

Anyway, we have used this cheese on pizza, baked pasta dishes and for caprese salad.  It usually shreds nicely (I do bigger balls of mozzarella when we're planning on shredding it) and melts great.  Only one time I made it and instead of melting when baked, it sort of just dried out and got crusty.  I don't know why.

Well!  That, so far, has been my foray into the culinary genius of dairy products.  Next, I hope to try making yogurt.  I'll be sure to update you all when that happens : )


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Friday, September 23, 2011

European Yarn Extravaganza!

So, while we were in Europe, I kind of went crazy buying yarn.  Mostly because they have such awesome little specialty yarn shops with amazing selection when it comes to natural fibers.  Plus, the price on the real stuff was so much cheaper than what I normally see.  I think the most we spent was about $8 for 50g on the Alpaca yarn.  I love Jo-Ann's and Michael's craft stores, but they just don't have very many options for wool and cotton yarn.  So, I thought it might be fun to do an overview of the different brands and types of yarn I purchased in Europe . . .

My selection of European yarn. . . yum!

100% Alpaca by Wollgarnspinnerei Ferner from Austria
I bought this yarn to make a sweater for myself.  I don't have a pattern picked out yet, but once I've finished up a couple of other projects I will be sure to share!  Their website is all in German, but I don't think that you can order yarn from them on-line.  Unfortunately.

55% Cotton, 45% Acrylic
This yarn is from Denmark.  I bought it without a specific purpose in mind, but it was in the clearance basket, so I got a great deal on it.  What that deal was, I can't remember now (especially since it was in Danish Krone), but I know it was a deal!

60% Merino Wool, 20% Silk, 20% Bamboo
This yarn was also in the clearance basket, so I bought it, again without anything specific in mind, but it's awesome nonetheless!

100% Baby Alpaca
Oooh!  Those baby alpaca's make such soft yarn!
Now for my sock yarns!

75% Superwash Wool 25% Nylon

80% Super Merino Wool 20% Nylon

80% Virgin Merino Wool 20% Polyester

75% Virgin Wool 25% Polyester

25% Nylon, 75% Superwash Wool Hjerte

Unfortunately, the websites are all in foreign languages, so it's a little difficult to navigate, but Google Translate dose help some.  I still haven't figured out how to purchase, however, so I'm still searching for a good way to get these brands on line.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Tale of Tom the Turkey

Wednesday afternoon Clint, my dad and sister slaughtered and butchered our three remaining turkeys.  We had one tom and two hens that managed to survive to butchering time.  I was at work when the killing commenced, so I wasn't able to help (I'm not sure I would have been around for the actual killing, but I would have helped with the rest), but Clint was good enough to take pictures!

The brown hen was laying eggs pretty regularly.

Tom protecting his harem

Tom calmly waiting for his demise due to the abnormal amount of
blood rushing to his head

Katie weilding an axe. . . they used the stump as a chopping block

A Warning:  The next few pictures are a little bloody, so if you're not a fan, scroll over quickly.  Actually, the rest of the post depicts the birds dead, so if you're squeemish, I won't be offended if you stop reading.

The turkey (I'm not sure if it's the tom or a hen) was convulsing after it's head was chopped off. . . I think it's kinda cool, but I didn't see it in person, so you know, maybe I wouldn't like it so much then. . .

Dad and Katie plucking the Thanksgiving turkey

Clint getting ready to bag up and freeze our share of the meat

One of Tom's breasts

I didn't take a picture of it, but we used Ziploc's cheap version of vacuum sealing, and it seems to have worked pretty well.  I suppose we'll see next summer if our meat has freezer burn or not!


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