Sunday, July 30, 2017

Aging Cheddar - Bursting Garden - YOP Week 5

I hope everyone has had a nice week/weekend and is enjoying the summer weather! I know I am. It's hot and humid and wonderful out! As some of you know, I've been pretty much cheese-sitting all week, but I also had a few mornings on the porch knitting to work on one of my Year of Projects projects. I'm working on the back of my beach cover up and it's going very well! I have about nine more inches to knit before I start making the sleeves. I think I should rename this to a fall cover-up since it will likely only get done in September! It's fun though, and very relaxing to sit on the porch and knit. :)

My container garden doesn't know if it's coming or going! Look at all of these little lemon buds forming!! My lemon tree is really thriving but alas...I don't think I'll get all of these lemons growing to their fullest. This tree needs lots of sun and warmth; my hopes are up, but I think they'll all drop before the end of August unless we have an unseasonably hot autumn (fingers crossed!!).

My third round of lettuce is bursting out of the container too. I have to start another container to make sure we have a steady supply in August. We have to get to eating it!

I made a Mozzarella yesterday morning so we'd have it super fresh for our dinner salad! We eat this cheese far too quickly...I may have to start making half-batches to keep portion control lol...

Last night for dinner I made a Caprese Salad. It's basically a tomato and Mozzarella salad with basil, but we added lettuce. I can't wait until we can use our own tomatoes for this salad! Everything else is home grown or homemade! I also made a few Bianca pizzas with our leftover pita bread. This is just olive oil, garlic, basil and fresh Parmesan.

The pumpkin patch is bursting through the fence...but I do see yellow and orange flowers growing! I still have the chicken wire sitting on top of those leaves...I'm paranoid about the birds. People put up scarecrows for a reason! The leaves are strong enough to hold the chicken wire up without it pushing the plants down anyway, so I'll leave it as is for now. The tomatoes are slowly starting to grow bigger...I counted maybe 3 dozen between the regular tomatoes, Romas and cherry tomatoes.

Alex pitted another couple of hundred cherries and we used the last of them. He made more concoctions with brandy, Amaretto and Absinthe and I asked for a cup to do something on my own. I remembered once having a cocktail that had Irish Whisky and apple so I decided to try that combination with the cherries. We'll see in a few months if my palate is spot on or way off!

Drum roll please!!!

My pride and joy of the day :))  My first Cheddar is now coated and aging in my "cheese cave". (More detailed post on Rainy Day Cheese Making). As I mentioned there, this cheese will now age for three months. Alex and I decided we'll open it and taste it on Halloween and we hope it won't be a frightening experience! :) As it ages, I have to flip it daily, wipe off any mildew and make sure the temperature and humidity levels remain constant. I'll be starting another Cheddar this week and if I get my bacteria order soon, I can start a new cheese! I'm dying to make my own poutine so it might be a curd cheese! :)

Now I'm going to sit and enjoy the sweltering heat while I have it! The huskies are happy in the shade under the trees, getting all nice and dirty. I hope this little heat wave continues!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Black Forest Cake; Frittata and Coating The Cheddar

I made the Black Forest Cake! :) I used some of those brandy-soaked turned out so delicious! Here are some artsy shots for your pleasure:

It was very good, but we like fluffy cakes better than dense ones - and this recipe made a dense cake! Next time I'll try something different. There is only half the cake left and I made it last night!

For dinner I made my very first Frittata. I followed a recipe very loosely for the number of eggs needed and the cooking time, but kind of winged it beyond that. It turned out light and delicious and there will be more frittatas in our future that's for sure!

And the Cheddar is coming along! I'm at the coating stage where I brush it with 3 coats of "cheese coating" which acts to protect the cheese from too much moisture during the aging process. I wrote a more detailed post on Rainy Day Cheese Making about coating and the attempt to make my own cheese cave. The cheese making process, at least the Cheddar, has proven to be much more complicated than I thought it would be. But it is quite a learning experience and I intend to keep learning and keep making lots of cheese!

Bell Canada is here rewiring our internet lines that were damaged by squirrels...those silly creatures, wires can't taste all that good. But soon our internet will be as quick as a flash! I'm stuck in the bedroom babysitting the dogs and cats while Alex does all the techie stuff with the Bell techie. It's a forced rest for me because I'd much prefer to be in the kitchen watching cheese coating dry lol!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Food, Booze, Cheese and a Funny Little Bird

Alex and I have a monthly ritual. The day after the monthly shopping, we go out for dinner. And we always go to the same diner and order the same food! Pizza and fail. And it's funny because this diner has a great big ol' menu and we always look at it, then each other then order the same thing. Why mess with something that works? :)  So the shopping is done and my energy is back so I can get back to my life again! The fridge, deep freezer and cupboards are packed to the brim...and if I'm lucky, I might even have enough food for the next SIX WEEKS so I don't have to go out shopping again until September! Wouldn't that be nice??? :)

One of the cherry concoctions that Alex made was a Cherry Brandy Liqueur. We tasted it last night and was good! Right now it's the first tasting. We have to let it sit for a while and allow the cherry sediment to pool at the bottom of the jar and keep straining it through cheesecloth until we achieve a nice clear liquid. We've done it twice now and it's getting more clear each day. It's really fun to make your own liqueurs!

Part of the process was draining all of those (now) brandy-soaked cherries from the liquid. They are happily sitting in the fridge, waiting for me to make a Black Forest Cake today! The recipe calls for Kirschwasser, which is a clear cherry brandy - distilled. But I'm going to use the liquid from our cherries, I think it'll be delicious! I'll post photos before we devour it! :)

Here is the latest on the Cheddar (I posted a few more photos and info on Rainy Day Cheese Making). Look! It's turning yella!!! Oh joy! :) It's in day 3 of 6 of the drying process then it ages for 3 months. My darling Alex did something quite generous. He is giving up his bar fridge for my cheese making. This might not sound like a big deal, but Alex's passion is mixing new cocktails, creating fruit liqueurs and aging fruits in spirits and spices - all which require every inch of that little fridge. But we're going to try to pack his stuff into the "big" (lol...not so big) kitchen fridge so I can use the little one only for cheese aging. I love that guy! :)) Now some Camembert, Dry Jack and Blue Cheese may not be so impossible after all! :)

We were sitting on the porch yesterday evening before we left for the restaurant and we saw a little bird on the lawn. We thought he was poking around for seeds or something, but he was actually picking up stray dog hair! LOL...This photo is a little blurry (phone camera close ups are awful)...but you can see he has a beak-full of Charlie's shedding coat. I've never seen that before, I guess he's building a little nest of dog hair! Funniest thing we saw in a while!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Cheddar Cheese Making, Gardening and Knitting (YOP Week 4)

Hello Everyone! :)))

I started my first batch of Cheddar cheese today! Please see my post on Rainy Day Cheese Making if you are interested! First thought? Doesn't look like Cheddar does it? Well, that's okay because this is just the first stage of the process! :) The next stage is letting it dry for a few days, covering it with an orange cheese coating and letting it age for 3 months. I'll keep you posted with the progress! This was so much the next few weeks, I'll be making a few more to age 6 months and 12 months too.

Last night's dinner was the easiest recipe I have ever come up with: Chicken Fricassee. It's just onions and potatoes and chicken all cooked up in butter...after spending the last four days doing the menu planning and shopping list, I actually felt a little wiped out! We ate from the pan lol...less dishes that way. Tomorrow is shopping day and then I'm done for the next month! :)

After last week's fiasco with the dogs playing with my knitting, I restarted my beach cover up and this is my progress. I'm not a fan of casting on, so restarting meant casting on 130 stitches, and I admit I dallied a little, but I've got 2 1/2 inches done on the back of the garment and I'm happy with that! My focus was on the menus and shopping list this week so I didn't get in as much knitting as I wanted to. But honestly...isn't it relaxing to just sit and knit? (as long as I don't have to count!) :)

Want to visit my little garden? :) ROMA TOMATOES!!! Woo hoo!!! :)

My Chamomile is finally coming up! At least I think it's Chamomile. My brilliant idea of putting my plant labels in little baggies failed...the moisture erased everything so I can only guess at this point! :) Reminds me of my grandma who used to buy canned vegetables all the time. When she got home, she removed all the labels so veggie side dishes would always be a surprise. :)

Since this is my first attempt at most plants...the question is: Is it a good thing or a bad thing that my green beans are flowering?

The Morning Glories are really climbing! My Blue Fescue grass and Lavender haven't budged, sigh...but the herb shelf is thriving! I finally have some good basil and oregano!

The pumpkin patch is getting "jungular"! I think I just made up a word. I have to remove the chicken wire because the plants are growing through it...I hope the birds leave them alone. I have no idea what's going on IN there under all those big leaves...

Maybe this? I'm just waiting and seeing at this point!!! :)

And in all the hub-bub over my NEW garden...I forgot to update you on my little Meyer lemon tree! It's a year old now and I have 4 lemons growing this year! (one is hiding) Oh and look Mama Pea...I DO have weeds!!! I guess I can be thankful that those little clover dealies are the only weeds I need to pluck out of my containers once in a while!

Alright...that's it for this week. Tomorrow will be eight hours or so of grocery shopping and driving. I have to say I'll be glad when it's over! Alex made us some cocktails today so we could relax on the hammock together. He made his own creation, a Vanilla Flip (made with brandy and an egg white with sugar); and he made me another of his creations, and Apple Brandy Punch with brandy and Calvados. Cheers! :)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Tomatoes! Monthly Meal Planning Nearly Done

The last three days have been hot, humid and (finally) SUMMERY!! Everything in the garden seems to have popped! I saw a few regular tomatoes growing in Tomato Land.

And some cherry tomatoes too! :) The Romas are flowering now since I pruned off the yellow leaves, fingers crossed!

My potatoes are starting to flower too, aren't those flowers pretty?

I've been spending most of the last few days with my nose in cookbooks and flyers. This is my baking and cheese making list for the month. I usually always make more stuff but these are the planned items. Alex and I have made so many different cherry concoctions lately! One of the liqueurs will be ready to taste on Tuesday which means we'll have lots of brandy-soaked cherries - thus the ice cream and the cake!!

Speaking of cherries, we're at it again! They're back to being a good price! I'll have to check the quality at the store, but if they're good, we will be making more spirit-infused cherries and various liqueurs!

Monday is my monthly shopping day so I had 30 days of meal planning to do. I'm on Day Three of the Planning. 

Day One: Download and look through all the grocery flyers for this week; make a list of things we need and update the freezer and pantry inventory. - done!

Day Two: Go through the cookbooks, my online recipes and my recipe idea list and plan 30 dinners based on flyer sales and what I have on hand. - done!

Day Three: Make a shopping list for each dinner, baking and cheese making item, make a list of what needs labeling and "reserving". Schedule each dinner to a date. - done! 

If anyone wants dinner ideas, I'm starting to post my menu planning on separate pages. Here is my 30-Day Menu for July 24th through to August 22nd page. I've included links to recipes where I could, if they're online or I've posted them before.

I always schedule the fresher meals right after I buy the produce. If necessary though, I'll drop by the local store to buy more produce if I need it. I can't wait until the day that I don't have to plan to BUY day... :)

So the last step is to make an actual shopping list and estimate the prices based on flyer sales and past shopping bills. If I'm over budget, I need to cut things out or change the meal plan a bit. That's Day Four of my process!

It sounds like a lot, but I've found I'm less stressed when I take four days to plan for a month, then get it all over with in one day. It works for me.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Pea and a Beet Walk Into A Bar...and a Cheesy Weekend

So a pea and a beet walk into a bar.
Pea: "Hey, you're looking tired my friend."
Beet: "Yeah, it's been a long day, I'm just beet."

Har har...Yes, I made that one up on my own. My talents are endless! ;)

This was yesterday's harvest. I think my peas are done for the year! But...I did get my first ever beet! I also noticed that the green beans and yellow beans are starting to show some buds! Exciting!

Boo hoo...Pavlov is gone. :(  Our friend decided to take him home. I'm really going to miss him! I hope our little husky Charlie is okay, she really clung to Pavlov...every young gal needs a crush!

Here's Alex with the 5-pack. We had one last walk in the woods with the big pack. Pavlov was reunited with his mom Stella after they were apart for two months, they're pretty happy! There were a few grumblings between Mom Stella and Charlie in Charge (maybe over Pavlov? lol)...but other than that, it was a nice visit!

We made the Spoiled Dog Cake again for Pavlov's "bon voyage" party! Mmm...bacon-flavoured Pupperonis! It was funny, Alex kept saying how moist the cake looked...I told him to dig right in, but he respectfully declined saying he didn't want to take anything away from the dogs! :)

For dinner on Monday I made my version of a Cobb Salad. I used my homemade Mozzarella, home grown lettuce, chives and parsley too.

After a walk in the woods yesterday morning and then a dip in the river, we came home to a beautiful cheese and paté board with fresh strawberries and homemade bread! I didn't realize until I looked at the photos today how cheese-heavy the weekend was! (no complaints!)

Note: I was going to change the last sentence because our friend came on Monday...which is not really a "weekend" visit is it? But it's just a testament to the fact that time means nothing to us here in the mountains!

To give us some comfort after having to say goodbye to Pavlov, Alex and I had a fondue dinner! Have you ever had Welsh Rabbit? It's a melted cheese sauce poured over bread. In our case, it's a Cheddar and ale fondue. We made ours with Newcastle brown ale and added some bacon to it. It was pure comfort, mind you we had trouble doing much else but nodding off after! Don't plan on operating large equipment after you make this about a food coma!!

I served ours with sausages, apples and homemade bread. Correct me anyone if I'm wrong, but I read that the name has been changed over the years to Welsh Rarebit because the general population in North America got confused over the fact that is was a cheese sauce and not an actual rabbit from Wales that they were preparing and eating. Sounds silly doesn't it? I'll still call it a Welsh Rabbit!

We're going to take a break from the cholesterol party for a while this week and eat more clean for a few days. I always say we just need a little red wine to counter the fat cheese effect, it might have merit to it right? ;)

I may have mentioned this in one of the comments, but it's kind of nice having our "small" pack of three dogs and three cats again. I do miss Pavlov but it was a good lesson to learn that four dogs would be too much for us as this point. We got back to our routine of a morning walk in the woods and it felt great! I've just been bragging about the hot summer weather we've had the last few days and as I type this, it's cooled off and is pouring rain again...sigh...I built shelters for my tomatoes for long rainy days, I hope that gets them back on track and the yellow leaves don't come back (I pruned them).

My monthly shopping day is coming up quick so I'll be planning out breakfasts and dinners for thirty days plus the shopping list and budget for the rest of the week! I hope everyone is enjoying their week!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Garden and Year of Projects Update (YOP Week 3)

Enchiladas! I made these slightly different than I normally do. I usually use black beans, but had none so I used corn instead. They were delicious! We're still using store-bought Monteray Jack cheese until I can figure out how to make my own. :)

Speaking of is an update on two of my Year Of Projects projects. (I'm a day early for posting, but the next few days will be kind of busy preparing for a house guest!) I have links on my sidebar to other members who have posted so far if you would like to check out their projects too! (YOP-ers, if your link isn't there, let me know please!)

1. Beach Cover Up: I got some good progress done, I started the back and knitted about an inch. See the arrow? See all the loose yarn and slipped stitches? Who was responsible?

GUILTY: my lovely pack of bratty canines decided to have a little fun with my knitting bag. fault for leaving it within I will be starting over again this week! I can't stay mad at them!

2. Cheese Making: SUCCESS!!! I made my second batch of Mozzarella and it was amazing! Please read the whole post on Rainy Day Cheese Making if you're interested! (I'm so happy about this batch!) We put together a little plate with some homemade bread and sprinkled fresh chives on the cheese - oooh la la!

My Cheddar adventure begins this week! I'm just waiting on a 12-quart pot that I ordered - I neglected to even think that my 6-quart pot (5.6 liters) was too small for anything, but each batch of Cheddar requires 2 gallons (7.5 liters) of milk plus other stuff...(Dianna, you might want to note that!) I had to return an 8-quart pot I bought last week because it would have been a little too small.

Those are my two summer projects and I'll post my progress weekly. On to the garden!

Check out my garbage bin potatoes! This is one of the bins and the other is behind it..they are really growing tall. I "hilled" them as much as I could, so now it's the waiting game!

The pumpkin patch is also thriving! It's not too visible but the plants are starting to flower, I can't wait to see some pumpkins!

From left to right in the round containers: Orange peppers, Chamomile, Strawberries, Ground Cherries:

BUBKIS: officially definition of bubkis: nothing, lame, goofy; all of these apply!

Either they have stalled or I'll get nothing at all. The rectangle bin with the third round of lettuce is doing well though! All of my other plants are slow to grow. My tomato plant's leaves are turning yellow...way too much rain and not enough sun this summer. I will have to build "umbrellas" to protect them from now on. The Romas look so sad... :( But my herbs are thriving...I take the good with the bad!

Aah, young love :) Our husky Charlie has taken a real shine to our house guest Pavlov. She was kind of a loner for a while, but when Pavlov came to visit, she brightened up so much and the two of them are joined at the hip, always playing and wrestling. Our friend is coming over on Monday for a few days; and we'll see if he decides to take Pavlov home with him or not. There is a small chance he'll leave Pavlov with his mom Stella for the summer while he gets his life more organized. I have to admit, a small part of me would love the rest of the summer with FIVE dogs in the house! I know Charlie would!