Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Furry Rotund Mouse

The other day as I was eating some raspberries I found myself waxing eloquent. From strange, to whimsical to lyrical. Case in point:

Tiny finger cap
I wish my fingers had ears
So they would be warmed.

Little raspberry
A burst of sweet on my tongue
A taste of summer

Little raspberry
Your taste evokes summer sun
bursting with sweetness

Hairy little fruit
The cutest fruit in the world
And very tasty

But not as hairy
As the fuzz-covered kiwi
Furry rotund mouse.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chocolate and Coconut-Dipped Shortbread Cookies - Mmmmmmmm

  I made these delicious little chocolate and coconut-dipped shortbread cookies a while back. For some reason I was craving shortbread, chocolate and coconut (When am I not?) so I whipped these little babies up. They came out uber-delicious! Try them!

Chocolate and Coconut-Dipped Shortbread Cookies

Shortbread Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

 Other Yummy Ingredients:
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortning
1/2 cup coconut

In a mixing bowl combine the flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Form the mixture into a ball and knead until smooth.

Press it into a 9x9 pan and bake in a 325 oven for 25-30 minutes (until edges begin to brown and center is set). Let it cool about 5 minutes, then cut into whatever shape you want. I cut it into small rectangles.

To toast the coconut, spread the coconut out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet. Put it into the 325 oven and give it a stir every 4-5 minutes or so. Once it starts to brown (after about 7-8 minutes), it will brown FAST, so keep an eye on it. Once it's light brown and crispy, remove it from the oven.

For the chocolate dip, melt the chocolate chips and a tablespoon of shortning (I did it in the microwave - took about a minute on high).

Dip the shortbread rectanges into the chocolate (you can scrape off the excess, if any, on the edge of the bowl). Them immediately dip/roll them in the toasted coconut.

Eat and enjoy!!


Friday, February 24, 2012

Eating the Neighborhood Rodents

  My poor cat. It's so unjust. Really.

You see, I went out onto the back deck because the neighborhood cat was out there. The neighborhood cat is a very fat, very friendly tabby cat that roams the neighborhood making friends with everyone, eating the neighborhood rodents and when possible, teasing the poor little critters that are confined inside - like my cat.

So I went out to pet him. He rubbed up against me, he meowed, he purred, he flopped onto his back, he wiggled and squirmed, he let me pat his head and rub his ears.

Then he scratched me!

Stupid cat! It was just a very minor wound - didn't really even bleed. But I was mortified. Appalled. Disgusted. That rotten little feline! How dare he come to my house and scratch me! The nerve!

So I stalked inside grumbling and bitching about how much I really hate cats and what foul creatures they are. I told Dutchess that she too was a cat (which she tends to forget) and that my crabbing also applied to her, despite her current state of innocence. She just looked at me and twitched her ears. I could tell she thought I was crazy.

Throughout the day I reminded her that she was a cat at every opportunity. I was being very unfair. She hadn't scratched me. But I know that given the opportunity, on a whim and for no real reason, she wouldn't hesitate to scratch me and is probably, at this very moment, planning her next attack.

So, even though it's unfair and unjust, even though she hasn't scratched me in over a month (more due to her training me, than my training her), even though she did nothing wrong, even though she had big wide innocent eyes, I know it's just a matter of time.

Damn cat!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Cute in a Crazy, Overly-Fuzzed, Paw-in-the-Light-Socket, Einstein-Haired Kind of Way

  So I got this sweater recently. When I first saw it I thought it was cute, but a little furry. But I tried it on. When I put it on, I thought it was cute, but a little furry. The first time I wore it, I thought it was cute, but a little furry. I haven't decided yet if I really like it or not. It was cheap - very cheap (maybe for a reason), otherwise I woudn't have gotten it. It really is rather cute but I can't help feeling like a really really big rabbit. One of those crazy long-haired rabbits with tufts of fur on their ears, poofs of fur between their toes and no visible eyes. But that's not a bad thing, right? Those rabbits are cute in a crazy, overly-fuzzed, paw-in-the-light-socket, einstein-haired kind of way. I can relate.

 I'm hungry. I'm going to go find a carrot.


Monday, February 20, 2012

Oh My God What Is That Disgusting Smell?!?!?

So I've been experimenting in the kitchen lately. I made homemade yogurt the other day and that came out fantastic. In my quest to find out what to do with the leftover whey I discovered that you can use it to make homemade ricotta cheese. I also discovered that in order to use it to make homemade ricotta cheese you need a lot. Like gallons of it. So instead of making homemade ricotta cheese with leftover whey, I made it with milk. And let me tell you it was a piece of cake cheese. Really, it was very easy to do. Ridiculously easy.

  • You start out with milk. I used a gallon of whole milk, but you can use 2%, or even skim if you want. I like the full-fat kind.
  • You pour it into a nice big pan and heat it up to 170 degrees F.
  • Then you remove it from the heat and pour in 1/2 cup (verify amts) of lemon juice or white vinegar.
  • Let it sit for 5 minutes. It will start to seize up like, well, like ricotta cheese.
This was point where the hubby and I stood over the pan with wide eyes, breathing in deeply, saying 'it smells just like ricotta cheese!' while the kids said 'oh my god what is that disgusting smell?!?!?'
  • After it sits for 5 minutes, pour the whole mess of it into a cheese-cloth lined collander. Since I don't have cheese cloth I used an old clean white pillowcase. Let all the liquid (whey) drain out. If you want to keep the whey for future recipes (you can use it as liquid in all sorts of recipes I've heard) put a bowl underneath to catch the whey. Let it sit for about an hour. The curds will remain in the pillowcase-covered collander and voila - there's your ricotta! The longer you let it sit, the drier and thicker it will become. I found that 50-60 minutes was just the right amount of time to get it to the same consistency as what you'd buy at the store.
 And the plus is, that for $4 for a gallon of whole milk (I mistakenly bought the more expensive milk) I got 4 cups of ricotta. About half what I'd pay for ricotta at the store. What a deal! And it was delicious to boot!

I ate some right off a spoon and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then for dinner, I made some homemade crepes and wrapped up some ricotta (and mozzarella, and egg, some parmesan cheese and some spices) into nice little rolls and had homemade manicotti. My favorite

It was delicious!

Up next? More yogurt! And homemade mozzarella! That's right. I'm going to attempt to make homemade mozzarella. If you see nothing else about it on this blog ever, then assume it was a horrendous failure and I'm avoiding the topic. But I'm hoping it's a wild success and I plan on blathering on about it endlessly. I know you can hardly wait! Stay tuned!


Friday, February 17, 2012

Yuck! It Sounds Like Boogers!

So, for some crazy reason the other day I decided it would be a good idea to make homemade lemon curd. I found a good recipe and bought myself some lemons and limes.

When I announced it to my family I heard this:

Sweet Pea: What's curd?
Hubby: Yuck! What's lemon curd? Sounds gross!
Snickers: Curd? Yuck! Is that like boogers?
Doodlebug: Ew! Mom, you're gross!

So, of course I had to make some!

I explained that it's kind of like lemon pudding.  This is what they had to say:

Sweet Pea: Yuck!
Hubby: Yuck! Sounds gross!
Snickers: Lemon curd? Yuck! It sounds like boogers!
Doodlebug: Ew! Mom, you're gross!

So, of course I made some! I also made lime curd!

(I'd post the recipe, but really, how many of you reading this are going to make some? Hmmm? And besides,
I'm too lazy to type it all in. I apologize to those of you who found me via Google and are now cursing me for not including a recipe. But all I did was use a standard recipe I found online. A quick Google search will get you several fine recipes.)

But anyway, let me tell you. This Is Good Stuff! Incredibly good! Apparently I love lemon and lime curd. I made a batch of each. The lime especially is so uber-yummy, so incredibly tasty that I almost fell over upon tasting it. Wow! Tangy and tart, but also sweet.

I also made some citrus pound cake (basic pound cake recipe with some lemon and orange zest added) and spread the curd on thickly. I also spread it on some leftover crepes from my ricotta and crepe bake-fest of the other day (of which I will blog about someday), rolled it up and devoured it. Of course I also ate some right off the spoon. And it's awesome in my homemade yogurt!

I was unable, despite my best efforts, to get the kids to try it. Sweet Pea was a little gun-shy after the failed custard attempt and refused to even consider it. The boys raced out the room screaming something about boogers. But the hubby! My hubby! Hater of all things lemon and lime, actually tried it. I almost fainted! I half-heartedly offered him a taste, knowing he would refuse, but after hearing my moans of pleasure he decided to give it a try. (It was kind of like that restaurant scene from 'When Harry Met Sally'. He couldn't not try it at that point.)

But anyway, he tried it and get this! He actually liked it! Wow! I almost fainted again. He actually agreed it was yummy. He drew the line at putting it on stuff, like toast, cake, crepes, waffles, steak, hotdogs, etc, but he did agree that it was yummy. That's enough for me.

And did I mention that lemons and limes were on sale? And that I bought a 2 pound bag of each? Well, I did. So, I have enough curd to have some in the fridge for when the urge strikes, some in the freezer so I always have some on hand, and some spare lemons and limes for future baking. Yum!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Taking Your Yogurt For a Jog

I'm all about making homemade stuff lately - like food kind of stuff. I know - what the heck am I talking about? I always make homemade food stuff. But usually I make home BAKED stuff - like cookies and cake and pie - you know, the sweet stuff. This time I'm talking about REAL food - stuff that's good for you - maybe not beans and brocolli good, but certainly way way way way way way above double dark chocolate brownies with chocolate frosting and sprinkles good.

Anyway, I posted recently about my adventures with custard. Well shortly after that strange idea popped uninvited into my head, another curious idea popped in. It's getting quite crowded in there! Really! You have no idea what's swirling around in that maelstrom inside my head. It's quite wonderful and frightening. But back to the topic. So, NOW what am I making, you ask? Yogurt! That's right. Yogurt! That awesome, bacteria-filled (or probioitic if you prefer) goodie.

Why on earth would I make yogurt? They sell it in the store you know! Yes, I know that, but I'm appalled and somewhat disgusted by the amount of sugar added to most yogurts. I eat yogurt every day. I make homemade granola and mix it into my yogurt for a nice breakfast (or lunch). I eat it, but deep down I'm cringing at the amounts of sugar - 25 grams or more isn't uncommon! That's the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar!!) Like I said, I normally bake a lot so I get quite enough sugar in my diet from that stuff - I don't want it in my 'real' food too! I know that yogurt, even plain yogurt, has natural sugars in it. But most commercial yogurt is overly sweetened with all sorts of added sugars. I know I know - eat the 'light' yogurt. But that has artificial sugars in it which I try to avoid (sucralose, aspartame, saccharine, etc, etc) OK, then just shut up about it and eat plain yogurt! Well, OK. But if I'm going to eat plain yogurt I may as well make it myself. So I did:

It's really easy. I poked around online a bit and got some tips from a friend. This is what I ended up doing:

(I made a small amount to start with just in case it failed utterly, a la the first custard attempt, or just in case it tasted so terrible I couldn't bring myself to eat it. Neither happened so the next time I will make twice as much.)

  • Pour 4 cups of milk into a saucepan and heat it up to 190 F, stirring frequently. (I used a candy thermometer. Also, some sources I found said to heat it to 180 F. Some said to boil it. Some some said to never boil it. Some said 190 F. I went for 190 F since it was in the middle ground.)
  • Once it gets up to 190, remove it from the heat and let it cool down to 105-110 (about 40-50 minutes)
  • While it's cooling, stir together 1.5 tablespoons of store-bought plain yogurt with active cultures to 2 tablespoons of milk and set it aside.
  • Once the heated milk has cooled to 105-110, add in the milk/yogurt mixture, stirring it into the milk completely.
  • Now, in order for those wonderful little bacteria to do their job and thicken up that milk into yogurt, they need warmth, time and privacy. That's right! Privacy! Yogurt does not like to be disturbed or rushed while it's procreating thickening. (Really, let it sit quietly. I don't think complete silence is necessary, but try to refrain from peaking in, poking at it, jiggling it, dancing with it around the kitchen or taking it for a jog. It prefers to just sit and think for a bit.)
  • To get it prepared for it's resting phase, I warmed up my crockpot slightly - just so it wasn't ice cold, then put my bowl of yogurt into the warmed crock (bowl and all - I didn't dump it out into the crock). I filled in the spaces around the bowl with towels to keep it cozy and warm. I covered it, pushed it into a corner of the counter and let it snooze in cozy, undisturbed warmth overnight. (You could use an insulated cooler, or just towels or any slightly warm location. The goal is to keep the temperature as close to 105-110 as possible so it can do its thing. A nice down comforter, mug of hot chocolate and a good book would also work.)
  • Now, I was pretty sure that in the morning I would have yogurt, but that still didn't quell my surprised delight when I opened the cover in the morning and discovered actual yogurt! Wow! It was very exciting! I squealed like a little girl on Christmas morning.
  • Then I moved the yogurt (sans crock) to the fridge to chill for a couple hours.
  • And since I like my yogurt on the thick side, I decided to greek-ify it, which basically means I drained out some of the liquid (whey).
  • Line a strainer with cheese cloth. If you don't have cheesecloth (like me) just use coffee filters. I had a double thickness of them in the strainer.
  • Then, put the strainer in a big bowl (to catch the drippings) and dump the yogurt in. Cover it and move it to the fridge to sit for a couple hours.
  • When I checked on it after a couple hours I was pleasantly surprised (I know, a lot of surprise going on with this particular venture) to find a nice quantity of whey had drained out.
  • Now put your yogurt into a container for storage (I put mine into some glass jars) (or, you can just eat it now if you prefer)
And, I also saved the whey (the liquid that drained out) in some other glass jars. You can just discard it if you want. But I got online to find out what I can do with whey - it's full of all sorts of healthy goodness. (That's my next adventure - just wait until I tell you what I'm doing with the whey!)

Lastly, I scooped some yogurt out into a bowl, added a touch of honey to kill a bit of the tartness, added a squirt of lime juice (I love lemon and lime yogurt!), mixed in a little granola and it was awesome! It was really really good.

I'm sure my mother is right now, this very minute, cursing my name and shaking her fist at her computer screen. She made homemade yogurt for years in these awesome little ceramic heated yogurt cups. And would I eat it then? No! Would I even consider that it was maybe an edible thing? No! I made disgusted faces, wrinkled up my nose and refused to even consider it an edible thing. And now here I am, making my own homemade yogurt! Curse you Ginormous Duck!


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

These crackers are just begging for a peanut-buttering. Mmmmm.


Monday, February 13, 2012

That Was Not The Intention

Three related haiku to explain this picture:

A new chair for me?
What? Why do you look at me?
Surely it is mine.

It is in my house
I fit nicely, all curled up.
It must be for me.

A chair for the cat
That was not the intention
But she has claimed it.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Um - Your Head is a Little Wet

Our cat likes to drink from the faucet. She has her own bowl of water, but she prefers the faucet - where the water is cold and fresh. Everytime anyone enters the bathroom, she runs right in behind us and jumps up to the sink where she patiently waits for us to turn the water on for her. It has to be a thin trickle, if it's on too high she won't drink it. But if it's a nice thin trickle she'll stick her little hairy head right under the faucet and lap up the water. She doesn't seem to notice or mind that it's hitting her little hairy cat head and dribbling down her face. She happily laps it up as if she weren't a water-hating feline.

When she's done drinking she will often spent a minute or two batting at and biting the stream of water. And when she is done with that I get to have fun. I come at her with a towel and rub her little furry head to dry it off. Not because I mind a wet-headed cat, or because I think she minds being a wet-headed cat, but mostly because I love scrubbing that furry little head dry. She of course hates every minute of it. But for a cat she's smart enough and has learned to realize it's coming. That means she immediately jumps off the counter and races for the basement, or if she's too slow and I catch her, she patiently submits to the scrubbing, then stalks off afterward.

This picture almost begs for a haiku. So here's one:

Funny little cat,
Drinking water at my sink.
Your head is all wet.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

That Coffee Was a Little Fishy

You know how different fish tend to live in different parts of an aquarium? Like Whiskers and Zoidberg the albino catfish, Cord, our loach and Creepy and Crawly the ghost shrimp. They were bottom feeders and rarely ventured from the bottom. Then the tetras tend to stay in the middle of the tank along with the guppies and the mollies are always up at the top, sipping air and blowing bubbles and having a grand ol' time.

Well, I was reminded of that the other day while drinking a cup of coffee. No, it didn't taste fishy, nor were there bottom feeders in the cup, nor was I watching anyone in particular when the thought crossed my mind.

Instead, I was at a Starbucks at Barnes and Noble. I've been there many times before, and I'm usually a fairly observant person (or so I thought), but I somehow managed to overlook, in all the times I've been there preparing my coffee, at that very same counter, the fact that there are several little spice shakers. There's the usual creamers and milks, a slew of different varieties of sugars and artificial sweeteners and right there along with the rest of it there is cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla powder and chocolate. Right there in front of my nose. Basically waiting to be noticed. Doing everything but jumping up and down. And somehow I missed them. WTF!

But anyway, I noticed them on my last trip and was very excited. I love cinnamon! I love nutmeg! I often add them to my homemade hot chocolate and bake with them all the time. So, in my excitement I added cinnamon AND nutmeg AND vanilla to my coffee along with the usual sugar and creamer. I guess I'm one of those people who drink coffee under the pretense of liking coffee, when I actually only like covering up the flavor with other flavors. But in any case I was just so excited to see them that I went a little crazy and added a bit of everything. It's a good thing the onion powder, garlic powder and minced peppers weren't out.

But anyway, I added the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. It smelled heavenly!

And now you're expecting me to say that it tasted god-awful and I couldn't even drink it, aren't you? Aren't you? I know you are. But you're wrong. It was actually delicious! Hot and slightly spicy (not in a cajun, hot pepper way, but in a hot baked cookie fresh from the oven way).

And to tie things up, why on earth did that make me think of fish? Well, by the time I was done I noticed that the cinnamon had a tendency to float on the top in the first few inches of the coffee, whereas the nutmeg sank towards the lower 1/3 and formed a gross  nice sludge on the bottom, along with the undissolved sugar. It was an unexpected surprise - it was like two coffees in one! I was jumping up and down with excitement. Just when I began to bore with the cinnamon coffee, I reached the nutmeg layer. It was intriguing. It was entertaining. It was delicious. It was downright fascinating! But truth be told, it was a little fishy.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Custard's Last Stand

  Friday I posted about my failed experience with custard. This weekend I gave it another try. I used another recipe with just egg yolks (no whites), some milk, some cream, a little vanilla and some sugar. Other than the absence of the egg white, not much else was different. The ingredients were basically the same, the cooking method was basically the same. But this time . . . success!

It was delicious! It was creamy! There was no eggy taste. There was no strange lumpiness. It was pure, smooth, vanilla heavenly goodness. The hubby agreed and even sweet pea declared it acceptable.

I have won! I have beaten custard! I shall not be defeated! Muah ha ha ha ha!


Friday, February 3, 2012

I Will Not Be Beaten By Custard!

  The other day I had a craving for baked custard. What?!? What a strange craving! I know, right? I agree completely. Very strange. I don't know if I've ever even had baked custard before (if I have, it was many many many years ago). But for some reason it sounded yummy.

So, I printed out a recipe and got to work. And Wow! Let me tell you - it was a resounding . . .


That's right! A failure. I mean, it looked OK and I liked the flavor - slightly vanilla-y with some nutmeg and cinnamon on top, but the texture was weird - it was kinda lumpy, when I expected smooth. The hubby and Sweet Pea hated it. They thought it was too eggy - like eating cold scrambled eggs with cinnamon.

So I poked around some more and discovered the importance of cooking it very slowly. Now, I followed the instructions to the T (which is unusual for me) so I think it was partly a bad recipe. I know I know - blame it on the recipe, right? But really - I followed it to the T and it was definitely not right.

I also found some other custard recipes online and the majority of them are made with just egg yolks and not whole eggs. That may have made a difference too. And while I'd like to just drop the whole thing, call it a day and move onto other yummy things I find myself curiously challenged. I can't be beat by a mere custard! No way! So, I'm going to try again, knowing full well that I'll be the only one eating the result, no matter how good or bad it comes out. But that's OK by me. I'll experiment. This time I'll follow the recipes with just the yolks and will bake it at a lower temperature and maybe for a slightly shorter amount of time. I've done my research! I know what to do! I'm going to try it again. I WILL NOT BE BEATEN BY CUSTARD!


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sometimes You're Better Off Not Knowing

The other day as I was doing something very important (I'm sure) in the kitchen, I overheard the boys playing with their new Nerf sword:

"I almost neutered you!"
"Shut up old man!"

I briefly wondered what they were playing, then decided I was better off not knowing.