About Me

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I am a wife, mother, teacher, runner, baker, fund-raiser, reader, watcher of movies, dog-lover, writer, music-lover and foodie. So - I'm a woman of many moods! I write and share in order to teach and enrich. I currently have two blogs going: The Kitchen Refugee, and A Mile At A Time. The first is about time spent in the kitchen and the second about time spent on the road. Frequently the two roads intersect!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gramma T.'s Barley Salad

In my last post I wrote about the end of the gardening season, and all that fresh lovely produce that will soon be replaced by store-bought, lightly colored, barely flavored, roughage.  Booo!

One of our favorite summer delights is a barley salad my mother in law makes.  When I asked for the recipe, like most good dishes, I found out there isn't one.  Now, when I was a young bride and new cook, this used to frustrate me no end.  Now I understand that many things are made 'to taste' and all you need is the general idea.  Barley Salad is no exception.  I asked if we could make it together, and showed up at her house with notepad in hand.

Gerry had already pre-cooked and cooled some barely, so the rest of the ingredients needed to be snipped or picked from the garden, washed and diced.  Nothing like an hours-old salad!  (This one does need to sit in the fridge for a couple of hours in order for all the flavors to gel.)

Here's the idea:

'Scant' 1/2 cup of pearl barley, cooked and cooled (barley quadruples in size)
Parsley  (possibly 2-3 TB)
Basil leaves (possibly 1 TB - uncooked, it has a strong flavor )
Dill (a little goes a long way - but I love it!)
1 Stalk of celery
Green pepper (1/2 of one?!)
2 med-lrg. tomatoes - skinned & seeded
Cucumber, seeded (how much depends on the size of them - we used about 3 little pickling cucs)
Miracle Whip - 1/4 - 1/2 cup - add as you go so the salad doesn't get too wet
1-2 TB Ranch dressing powdered mix
(This amount served 4 adults with about a cup of extra salad left over.)

On the off chance that I have an novice chef amongst my readers, I'll explain about skinning a tomato;
Drop it into boiling water for about 30 seconds, remove from hot water and drop into a bowl of cold water.  The skin should slip right off.  I saw a chef on Food Network slice a little X on one end of the tomatoes to give her an 'in' to the skin.  It looked pretty easy.  You don't want to cook the tomato, just loosen its skin a bit.

I had never heard the term 'California Salad' before and I don't know from what era it comes.  Gerry says it had to do with fresh ingredients from the garden - whatever you have, added to a grain.  No recipes were passed around, it just became the term for seasonal salads.  The thing I think we really love about this salad - besides the absolute freshness of it, is that each ingredient is minced.  There is nothing in the salad bigger than the barley.  This extra touch makes it  so delicate, it's just really lovely!

I don't know about you, but I haven't had Miracle Whip in my house since...EVER.  My mom used to use it and I think I had my fill as a child.  I'm not much on mayo, but Miracle Whip is something I associate with bologna-white-bread sandwiches.  ICK!  In this case, though, I wouldn't consider a substitution.  Trust me this salad works!

Okay - so barley, chopped veggies/herbs, and then slowly add a plop of Miracle Whip.  This isn't a salad that's swimming in sauce - let the fresh flavors carry it, and the 'sauce' just smooth it together a little.  Even though we've seeded the cucs and tomatoes, they still add quite a bit to the moisture content.  Sprinkle in 1-2 TB of dry Ranch Dressing mix, and just give it a taste.  All of the ingredients depend upon what you love, and what you have growing in your yard.

Friday night we had dinner with both our moms - I made a meatloaf with organic beef from a friend's ranch.  This was also the day of the Chocolate Cream Pie!  Gerry and I made the barley salad together, and the corn on the cob was dropped into the pot of boiling water minutes after it was picked. My mom got to show up empty handed!  This was truly one of those end of summer meals that was just meant to be savored! It  was all good, and it was nice to share it with family.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Beautiful Bruschetta

Our boy, Earl, posing in a pile of leaves last fall.
As long as he's in the back of a pick-up, he's happy!
The daylight is getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler.  I have that melancholy season-change feeling when Summer is ending and Fall begins.  I do love Fall, but it just seems to have arrived so soon!  Eastern Oregon generally has some of its most spectacular weather in October so I'm hoping for a nice, long, Indian Summer.

I was going to harvest then dig up the basil for the last time today, but my husband suggested we hold out until the first frost.  I have more pesto in my freezer than I know what to do with and I'm getting tired of the process.  We have been enjoying fresh basil in a lot of dishes, and on our pizza, so I decided to leave the pots alone for now and we'll see how much longer we can grow herbs.

My mother in law has a counter full of ripe tomatoes, and my little cherry tomatoes came on all at once.  Since it's cool enough to bake bread, I figured I'd bake up a crusty loaf and make some Bruschetta.
Now, I thought Bruschetta was always topped with a tomato-basil mixture, but I did a quick look on Wikipedia (I know, not the most worthy of informants) and found this definition:

Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brusˈketta]  is a hearty appetizer from central Italy whose origin dates to at least the 15th century. It consists of grilled bread rubbed with garlic and topped with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Variations may include toppings of spicy red pepper, tomato, vegetables, beans, cured meat, and/or cheese; the most popular recipe outside of Italy involves basil, fresh tomato, garlic and onion or mozzarella. Bruschetta is usually served as a snack or appetizer.

(JJ if you want to weigh in on this, please do!)

I don't really have a recipe for this, but there are plenty on the internet.  It's just one of those things that if you know what you like, you'll figure out how much of each ingredient to use.
I start with a mixture of tomatoes - cut in small pieces and seeded.  I like to use a variety if I have them - I  add in cherry tomatoes or the yellow pear tomatoes for a festive look.  Then I chop fresh basil leaves, add a small drizzle of olive oil, some salt and course ground pepper.

Crusty artisan bread hot from the oven!
Next I prepare the bread.  I cut it in thin slices and either brush it with olive oil, or if I'm feeling really decadent, I spread it (lightly) with butter.  I brown the bread on both sides in a frying pan.  When the bread is still hot from the pan, I cut a garlic clove in half, and rub the cut side against the hot bread.  This is where true magic happens.  I've seen this done on cooking shows, and never really understood the value of this small gesture until I tried it.  No chunks of garlic to eat, just the nice essence of garlic on the bread.  Mmmm...

Top the garlic/toasted bread with the tomato mixture and just smile to yourself.  It's such a nice way to take advantage of the end of summer abundance.  I always savor it - I know how much snow and freezing temps I'll have to endure before I see and taste another blood-red tomato again.

This is clearly an internet photo - I can never leave my
bruschetta alone long enough to take its picture!

Friday, September 17, 2010

I'm not Julie OR Julia!

I am so in love with the movie, Julie and Julia, I could honestly marry it.  I don't know what it is exactly, but perhaps it's just the simple notion that food can soothe the weary soul.  We all have our go-to comfort foods, and even certain foods for certain emotional occasions.

I can so identify with writer, Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) and how she takes solace in Chocolate Cream Pie.  To borrow a quote from the movie:
"You know what I love about cooking? (What's that?) I love that after a day when nothing is sure, and when I say nothing, I mean nothing, you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick.  It's such a comfort!"

Oh, yes, Julie, it is indeed a comfort!
In my current life of un-sureness, the sheer magic of combining ingredients for the greater good just sets my motor to a gentle hum. It is a comfort.

I currently have Fridays off as I'm working 4/10's with the City of La Grande as a temporary grunt laborer.  I spend my work days running a weed whacker, painting fire hydrants or even spreading soil with precision in prep for lawns of perfection.  I do so with a heavy heart, missing the class I was supposed to be teaching this year, worrying about how they're managing all mashed together in one big class all in the name of saving money.  Budgets: Ba-Humbug!  By the end of each day I look like the Charles Schultz character, Pigpen, and the brooding lines are heavy on my dirt-caked forehead.  But Fridays are mine.  Brian is at work, and although I look forward to our weekends together,  Fridays are the days I can really commune with the kitchen.

Today was a day that surely called for Chocolate Cream Pie!  I put myself back on the substitute teaching list, and tried to make peace with how this year is going to go.

I did an internet search for "Julie and Julia Chocolate Cream Pie" and found many recipes that claimed to be 'it.'  Finally, genious that I am, I had the bright idea to become more specific, and looked up Julia Child's Chocolate Cream Pie, and voilà!  I found a recipe adapted from Gourmet Magazine, April, 1994.  I think this is the one.

Just to warn you, this is no ordinary puddin'-pie!  It's a giant custard of delicious, creamy, comfort.
Now, I don't know who they're kidding with the pie-plate measurement.  The recipe calls for a 10" pie plate.  As I was mixing the crust I knew it would never fit, so I transferred it from my brimming pie plate into a spring-form cheesecake pan.  Crisis averted.  No crises allowed in this chocolate-therapy session!

Chocolate Cream Pie
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
6 TB butter
1/3 cup sugar (I left this out)

I have more success pressing a crust into a spring form pan by using the bottom of a measuring cup. It's nice and flat, and the roundness of the side allows you to press the crust against the side of the pan.

Bake the crust at 350º for 15-20 minutes.  Cool on a rack.

5 oz. bittersweet chocolate (as high a quality as you wish - I just used chocolate chips!)
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 tsp. salt
6 large egg yolks
4 1/2 cups milk (2% or whole - don't skimp - save skinny pudding for another day!)
3 TB unsalted butter, cut into cubes, and softened
1 1/2 tsps. vanilla extract

In a double boiler set over simmering water, melt the chocolates and stir until smooth.  Remove the bowl from the heat.
Chocolate before...


and after.

In a heavy saucepan (that can hold 3 quarts) whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, salt and egg yolks until just combined.  *I had a hard time with this, and had to add 1 cup of milk to get it to 'whisk' rather than form a hard ball.*  Add the rest of the milk, while whisking.  Bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.
Remove from heat and whisk in the chocolate mixture, butter, and vanilla.  Pour into prepared crust and cool completely.   Cover the surface with wax paper or plastic wrap to avoid the formation of 'pudding skin.'
Custard mixture 
mmm...nice and thick!
                                                             A match made in heaven!

I now pronounce you Pie and Crust.  
You may now lick the bowl!

Top with whipped cream and let the day melt away!

Chill for at least 6 hours before serving.  For being a pudding filling, this is really almost fluffy.  A most delightful, if not spectacular dessert!

In the spirit of  my 'Cook, Eat, Share' motto - we had both our moms over for dinner, and had enough Chocolate Cream Pie to send them each home with some.  Then I took a nice big chunk to my friend, Celine (I waited until after she'd put the kids to bed).  Her husband has just been deployed to Iraq, so if anyone needs some comfort pie - she does!  We had a nice, chocolatey visit.

I was smiling to myself as I thought about Julia Child's signature catch phrase, Bon Appétit!  When my daughter was in Montessori preschool, before having snack the teachers would say, "Bon Appétit, it's time to eat!"  Alli's classic misinterpretation was, "Bone up your teeth - it's time to eat!" :-)

For more recipes or movie trivia, go to:

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

I just love those chewy, nutty granola bars from the grocery store, but really don't want to pay so much for them, or their lovely, excess packaging.  I have been experimenting with granola bars, and think I've finally gotten the recipe just right.

As always, when monkeying with a new recipe, I start with a base recipe that seems to work well.  I want to make sure my ratio of wet to dry ingredients remains the same, and that substitutions I make won't ruin the whole thing.

My base recipe for granola bars comes from Food Network Chef, Alton Brown.

His Recipe reads as follows:
• 8 oz old-fashioned oats - approx. 2 cups
• 1 1/2 oz. raw sunflower seeds, approx. 1/2 cup
• 3 oz sliced almonds, approx. 1 cup
• 1 1/2 oz. wheat germ, approx. 1/2 cup
• 1 3/4 oz. brown sugar, approx. 1/4 cup packed
• 1 oz. butter (1 oz. = 2 TB)
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
• 6 1/2 oz. chopped, dried fruit

Butter a 9x9 glass baking dish and prehat the oven to 350º.

Spread oats, nuts and wheat germ on a sheet pan and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a sauce pan, combine honey, brown sugar, butter, extract and salt.  Cook until the brown sugar is completely dissolved.

Once the oat mixture is toasted, reduce the oven temp to 300º.  Add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit and stir to combine.  Press this mixture into a greased baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Cut in squares and store in an airtight container.

Now - here's what I did:  I started by doubling the recipe!

Mrs. T.'s Peanut Butter Granola Bars
• 4 cups rolled oats
• 1 cup peanuts
• 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
• 1 cup large flake coconut
• 1 cup wheat germ
Toast oat mixture @ 350º for 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

In saucepan, heat:
• 1 cup honey
• 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
• 4 TB butter (1/4 cup)
• 1/2 cup peanut butter
• 2 tsp. vanilla
• 1 tsp. salt

*Now, I realize I've added an extra 1/2 cup to the wet ingredients, but I've also added to the dry ingredients as well, so it worked out okay.  AND - I was going for CHEWY!

Mix the wet with the dry, and pour the whole mess into a 9x13 baking dish.  *I lined the dish with parchment paper, to avoid cleaning, and to make sure it all came out of the pan.  (I had a previous granola bar mishap that lead to my chiseling the mixture out of the pan!  Lesson learned.)  To press the mess into the pan in a uniform manner, I sprayed the bottom of a bread pan with Pam, and used it to push the granola mixture evenly into the pan.

Bake at 300º for about 25 minutes.

If you want crunchy granola bars, spread the mixture into a large cookie sheet, so they are thinner and easier to bake to your preferred crunchiness.  If you want them chewy, make them thicker by using a smaller pan.  This is not rocket science!  :-)

I cut my granola bars into rectangles instead of squares so they are more like the serving size you would get in a store-bought bar.  I'm really happy with how these turned out!  I think they are a little sweet for my liking, and the next time I try it, I may eliminate the brown sugar and just rely on the sweetness of the honey.

When I'm at a loss for equivalents I generally turn to the back of my dog-eared copy of A Taste of Oregon, by The Junior League of Eugene, OR. If you don't have a good reference manual at your fingertips, try
http://www.foodreference.com/html/tweightmeasure.html.  I've found it useful.

Now pour a cup of coffee and enjoy your granola bar!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Simply Scones

 I picked up this little cookbook on a sale table at a book store - as I do many of my favorite finds.  The pages are falling out, and have butter splotches on those tried and true recipes that I use over and over again.  Currently available at www.amazon.com, this is my go-to scone book.

After picking another bounty of Mt. Emily huckleberries, I knew I had to add them to some butter, flour, and sugar and make some breakfast magic.

On page 26 of Simply Scones, by Leslie Weiner and Barbara Albright, is a very basic recipe that I use all the time.  While the book is full of specialty scone recipes, the plain old Buttermilk Scone recipe is one that I find to be the easiest - I almost always have the ingredients on hand, and can easily make substitutions when needed.

Buttermilk Scones - Preheat oven to 400º
2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
6 TB *Unsalted Butter (I ALWAYS use salted, and then don't add the 1/4 tsp. salt - I'm not a butter purist!)
1/2 cup buttermilk (Don't have it? Substitute 1 TB vinegar to 1 Cup milk - in this case 1/2 TB/1/2 Cup.)
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

When adding blueberries or huckleberries, I almost always add some lemon zest - it just gives it that little extra something!

In a large bowl, stir together all of the dry ingredients.  Cut the (cold!) butter into small pieces and add to the flour mixer.  Using a pastry blender, crush the butter into the flour until it resembles course crumbs.
*This is when I add fresh or frozen fruit, and lightly coat it with the flour mixture.  Try not to over-stir, or you'll end up with scones the solid color of your fruit.

 In a separate bowl, mix together the liquid ingredients: buttermilk, egg, vanilla.  Stir into dry mix, just enough so that no powdery-dry ingredients are left in the bowl.  Again - over-stirring breaks the fruit, and warms up the butter.

*At this point, the recipe book calls for the cook to shape a disk out of the dough, with lightly floured hands, score it on top (like cutting pie slices, but not all the way through) and bake.

I prefer a more rugged looking scone, so I spoon-drop them (big spoon) onto an ungreased baking sheet. Then I sprinkle the scones with sugar - if you can find the course, decorative sugar in your area - it makes it prettier.  I live in 'Podunk', Oregon, and have yet to find it in a store!  :-(

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and they can pass the toothpick test.  Cool scones on a wire rack for as long as you can stand - then pour the coffee and enjoy!  This is one of those recipes that makes me feel like I never need to visit a bakery again!


Love Bread

Okay – this recipe isn’t really called Love Bread, that’s just what my husband calls it!  He claims he can taste the love in his sandwiches!  It’s worth making it each week just for a compliment like that.

It’s actually called Setpoint Bread, from the 1980’s book, The Setpoint Diet, by Dr. Gilbert Leveille.  I got the recipe from a friend of mine, but have never actually read this book.  It’s also quite possible that the recipe has been tweaked from its original.  But – it’s good, and as far as bread goes, I think it’s fairly easy.

Setpoint Bread  (Preheat oven to  375º)

1 TB yeast
2 C warm water
2 TB vital wheat gluten
3 TB honey, molasses, or sugar
3 TB oil
2 tsp. salt
5-6 cups of flour – 3 are whole wheat, the others, white

Proof the yeast in one cup of warm water.
Add the other cup of water, along with gluten, oil, honey and three cups of wh/w flour.  I sprinkle the salt in at this point.  Although bread machine recipes have you dump everything in at once, on the advice of pastry chefs, you really shouldn’t put your salt in direct contact with your yeast.

Add the rest of the flour a little at a time until you must knead the rest in by hand.  You want a firm dough, that isn’t sticking to you or your counter.  I never count minutes of kneading – I just knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic.

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap, or a warm, damp towel.  Let the dough raise until doubled – 2-3 hours. 

Shape dough into two loaves, and place in greased bread pans to raise again – until the dough rounds above the pan. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes – until well browned, and if you’re not sure – thump it like a watermelon - if it sounds hollow, it’s ready.  Allow the bread to cool on racks for 3-5 minutes before you remove the loaves from the pans to cool the rest of the way.  (Leaving them in the pans to cool will build condensation inside the pans and make for a wet crust.)

*If you wish – you can make additions to the dough –
sunflower seeds
Extra bran can be added to the mix – I just count is as part of my flour measurement – maybe adding a ½ -1 cup to the recipe.  

Cook, Eat and Share the Love!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Gorgeous Granola

I used to believe that the only way I would purchase oats in a 25 lb. bag would be if I owned a horse.  Now, here I am, buying oats in bulk and making both granola and granola bars.

I started by looking up several granola recipes - mostly to get an idea of the ratio of wet to dry ingredients.
Jackie, at  www.homesteadwannabes.blogspot.com offers this recipe:

Homemade, Healthy Granola Recipe:
6 cups rolled oats
1/2 to 1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup any combination of pecans, walnuts, sliced almonds, cashews or other nuts
Then combine in separate bowl:
1/2 cup sucanat (If you don't have any you can substitute with more honey or brown sugar)
1 cup honey (or you can add another 1 cup of sucanat instead)
1/2 cup melted coconut oil (expeller pressed)
1/3 cup water
1/2 to 1 tsp Celtic sea salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger (optional)
Mix both sets of ingredients. Place in 2 greased 9 x 13 pans (I use my stoneware because it cooks a lot more evenly and you don't have to grease the pans). Bake at 350 for approx. 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes once you get past the 12 minute mark. You want it lightly toasted throughout. Cool thoroughly. Add raisins or any other dried fruit and mix. Store in an air tight container or I use a 1 gallon glass jar. We use this as our cereal when we are in a hurry. We just add fresh berries, bananas and milk. Our kids love it and it is way healthier than the granola you buy at the store.

I found many, MANY, more at www.allrecipes.com and began to tweak my own to fit our liking, and my husbands growing intolerance to various nuts & seeds.

Here's what I make:
Preheat oven to 350

12 cups rolled oats
1 cup large-flake, unsweetened coconut
2 cups wheat germ
1 cup each: sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and pecans

Stir it all together.  For a bowl big enough to fit this many ingredients,
visit a restaurant supply store.
I happened to find this and my big cookie sheets at Cash & Carry.

Dig a well in your dry ingredients and add:
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups honey
1 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup water
2 tsp. sea salt
3 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cinnamon

Stir it all together and place on large, greased baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring every
5 minutes.  I bet I actually bake mine for 30 min.
or more - we like it darker and toasty-tasting.

Dried ginger (above)  or
Candied ginger (below)

We really like ginger in our granola.  Even in a recipe this large, a little goes a LONG way.  If I use candied ginger, I use about 1 TB. minced fine, like pixie dust.  If I use dried ginger, I use 2 small slices - also minced like pixie dust.  Ginger is good, but a big old mouthful can taste a little like soap!

After it's done baking, let it cool completely!
Add fruit once cooled, and store in an airtight container.

Before making a trip to Winco's bulk food section, I asked my husband what kind of fruit he would eat in granola.  His answer: "Nothing yellow."  Okay - so I went for dried blueberries and dried strawberries.  I do NOT bake the dried fruit in the granola - it's dry enough, so I add it at the end.

My husband has been making several changes in his eating habits, and even he is surprised how easily granola has become a daily habit.  He said he doesn't wake up thinking about meat and eggs anymore.  That must mean I have the nut/seed ratio high enough that it's actually filling for a big man.  I consider that a victory.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Curious Curds

I know I started my last post this way, but...

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, (www.animalvegetablemiracle.com) I was captivated by the idea of home-made cheese.  It had never occurred to me that the average Joe/Josephine could make cheese in their own kitchen with no experience necessary.

Kingsolver uses a recipe for 30-Minute Mozzarella from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company,  (www.cheesemaking.com).  I ordered my Mozzarella & Ricotta kit from the company, and eagerly entered the world of cheese making.  (You can find this recipe at either site.)

I first began by running an add in the local Nickel asking for raw goat milk for human consumption.  I had several calls from around the area and was able to price shop a bit.  I went for the caller offering $5/gallon. I have tried the mozzarella with whole goat milk, and with plain old 2% milk from the store.  Here's the key - the milk you buy must NOT be Ultra Pasteurized.  If I understand correctly, this means the milk has already been heated at too high a temperature to separate into curds and whey.  I found it interesting that all of the organic milks I found at the store had been ultra pasteurized, so I just bought the cheapest milk I could find @$1.99/gallon.  I prefer mozzarella & ricotta made from cow's milk, so I save the goat milk for other goat cheeses.  Some people don't like goat cheese - one of my friends swears she can taste "too much barnyard!"  I like it and still marvel that I can make such a delicacy in my own kitchen.

I'll leave you to your own devices for the mozzarella and move on to my favorite goat cheese: Chevre.  I ordered the Fresh French Goat Cheese Kit from (www.cheesemaking.com).  This site has many recipes so if you choose to order supplies but not kits you'll still be able to find what you need.  I figured since I was a cheese novice, I would order a couple kits.  They run between $15 - $25 and come with enough supplies for up to 30 batches.

Making Chevre is one of those things that is counter-intuitive; it seems so wrong to leave milk out overnight!  I realize that cheese is an aged product and one that actually does need to sour, but I have to admit it gave me the creeps the first time I did it.  Warning: I have noticed that the directions on the Chevre Direct-Set product do not exactly match the recipe in the book.  I had one batch that never formed a curd and I had to throw it out.  I have had the most success following the directions on the Direct Set, and then adding the seasonings as directed by the recipe in the booklet/website.

Heat milk to temperature as per directions.  Add the Direct-Set.
Cover with lid.

I put my pot of milk in the oven over night - it's airtight and
temperature-controlled.  Threaten 'mayhem' on anyone who dares to disturb the curds!
This process can take anywhere from 12-20 hours.  I generally start this cheese at night.
Now, go to sleep and try not to think about bacteria.  :-)

When you wake up in the morning, you will find a pot filled with curds and whey!
It really is about the coolest science experiment ever!!

Using a long knife, CUT THE CHEESE!  Ha ha - I had to say it!
This particular batch got a pretty firm set.  The next batch I made looked more like
Ricotta, but I was able to drain enough liquid to make it useable.

Butter muslin comes with the Goat Cheese Kit - it's finer than cheese cloth
and for good reason!  Drain as much whey as you can from the curds.

I believe I ordered these spiffy little cups separately.  I gently pressed the curds
into the cups, set them on an oven rack inside a baking dish, and let them drain for up to 6 hours.
I know - bacteria...it's all I can think of!
Funny how it never crosses my mind when I'm eating Blue Cheese.

Once the cheese has drained to your satisfaction, add the spices.
I add 2 tsps. of sea salt, 1 tsp. tarragon, and 3 tsps. Herbs de Provence.
I really love the hint of lavender in this mix - totally worth it!
At this point, your curds are about the consistency of cream cheese.  I stir in the spices with a fork.
Spoon your curds into whatever little shaping devices you have.
I line a ramekin with plastic wrap, spoon in the cheese, wrap and pop it out.
The size of cheeses you make is up to you.  Since there are only two of us in the house now
it makes sense to make small ones.

This is the yield from one gallon of raw goat's milk.  Once I have shaped
and wrapped my cheeses, I freeze them individually like this until they are set.
Then I transfer them into a big zip lock and thaw them as needed.

Now, I admit I am a total novice at this and there are far more experienced cheese makers out there to help us all.  I'm still learning from these kits and using the cheesemaking.com website a lot.

Another blogger at http://homesteadwannabes.blogspot.com/ clearly has way more experience than I.  Follow her lead to Raw Dairy Recipes, and you'll be in hog heaven (or goat heaven!)

:-)  Cheesy Grin!

Friday, September 3, 2010

BBQ Pizza

Ever since reading Animal Vegetable Miracle, by Barbara Kinsolver, I’ve been dreaming of a self-sufficient lifestyle where we grow our own food, and or buy only local, organic products.  We’re not there yet, and may never be.  While healthier products are better for us, and buying local helps the local economy, we’re still in that place of needing to pay only what we can afford.

A few of the recipes I’ve used from this book/website all revolve around the Friday Night Pizza.  At our house, we had a long tradition of Friday nights being reserved for pizza and a movie.  The pizza came from Papa Murphy’s.  Now our Friday night pizza is only homemade, and lately, it’s been so good, it’s also Saturday lunch or dinner, and sometimes Sunday.  We love our pizza!

Instead of copying each recipe, I’ll direct you to the website; animalvegetablemiracle.com
Look for:
Family Secret Tomato Sauce
30-Minute Mozzarella  (more about this in the next installment!)
Friday Night Pizza

I made up a batch of the Secret Tomato Sauce to use as pizza sauce and/or spaghetti sauce.  I may not have been patient enough to cook it long enough to thicken up, and ended up adding a big can of prepared tomato paste.  It freezes well and is pretty tasty, but it’s a little sweeter and fruitier than I would like (I think the lemon zest is something I would omit), but I have a lot of it in the freezer, so I’ll add some salt and use it up.

The crust listed in Kingsolver’s book has a good flavor and consistency.  If you want a whole-wheat crust, this is a great recipe to use.  I’m sorry, but unless you want to see through the crust – I wouldn’t split this recipe into two.  I use it all for one.  I used this recipe for quite awhile, but that’s an area where we’ve continued to evolve to our new favorites.

Our next favorite crust came from the Food Network website, Grill it with Bobby Flay program.  If you want to read it exactly as they printed it do a quick search for Bobby Flay’s grilled pizza.  (I have edited the directions, because once again – I don’t know how he made 4 pizzas from this recipe!)

Pizza Dough
Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay

    * 2/3 cup lukewarm water 
    * 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    * 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    * 2 tablespoons olive oil
    * 1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
    * 1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal
    * 2 teaspoons coarse salt

In a large bowl stir together 1/3 cup water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 3/4 cups flour, cornmeal, and salt and blend until the mixture forms a dough. Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour, as necessary, to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth about 5 to 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly oil the sides and bottom of a large bowl with oil, add the dough, turn to coat in the oil, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently punch the dough down and form it into a ball, and roll it out to a circle (to fit your pizza pan!)  I always roll the dough out on cornmeal because we like the extra grit.

I really like how firm this dough is to work with.  I can roll it out, fold it in quarters and carry it to the pizza stone.  This dough is tasty, and really easy to handle.

Now – for our new favorite dough – I will refer you to a cook book about Artisan Bread.  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  You really need to read about how and why it works (I’m not trying to be difficult, here, but it’s the first cook book I’ve ever actually read – not just recipes – but the theory behind the dough.)  The pizza dough we use is The Master Recipe: Boule dough.  I cannot say enough about how fabulous the texture is.  It’s much softer and, therefore, more difficult to work with, but the cooked texture is chewy and crispy and just so perfect!  AND it’s a dough that stays in the fridge for up to two weeks so you can pull out what you need per use.  This book is worth having!

So – now that you have the scoop on dough – you know what to do next - top it with whatever you love, and change it up depending upon what’s available. Right now, I'm enjoying the fresh basil and tomatoes. Since we’ve been eating pizza more often, I’ve been using Italian Turkey Sausage so we don’t die of pepperoni-clogged arteries. 

With homemade crust, sauce, and yes – even CHEESE – homemade pizza is simple.  Store bought pizza just holds no appeal.  In the winter we bake our pizza inside, and during the summer months, we bake it on our gas grill.  Set all burners on low and preheat your pizza stone with the grill.  (We bought our baking stone at Bi-Mart for about $11.00)
With the softer dough, it's easiest to shape it on a pizza peel
dusted in cornmeal or flour.  Be generous with the dusting!  

Add your favorite toppings, and gently transfer the pizza
to your pre-heated pizza stone (also dusted in cornmeal)
Bake until the bottom is as dark as you like.  Use a pizza
peel to remove the baked pizza from the stone.  Turn off
grill and let it, and your stone cool off while you eat!