Sunday, January 29, 2012

Who doesn't love butter?

When I think of butter, I think of Paula Deen.  I think of toast, bagels, and filling every nook in my waffle with butter.  I love butter.  But who doesn't?  
(note: this is a purely rhetorical question, I really don't want to hear about anyone who doesn't love butter)

In Ashely English's Homemade Living : Home Dairy, she walks you through how to make fresh, homemade butter.  Delicious.  Butter is so easy to make.  You probably made it way back in preschool (or at least kids who grew up in MI did...) by shaking a jar with a marble and cream in it.  It's so easy and so good.

I had some leftover heavy cream sitting in my fridge from when Alisha and I made cheese last weekend.  And since I don't really use heavy cream, I decided to whip up some butter!  It turned out wonderfully and now I have 2 balls of butter and 1 jar of fresh buttermilk.  Yum.

The entire process is pretty darn fun to watch.  You start with whipping the heavy cream.  And then it starts to look like this:

Then like this:

Then like this:

And then like this:

And finally like this:

It took about 10 - 15 minutes to whip the cream into butter.  There came a point when I started to worry it was never going to turn into butter.  Then I drank another cup of coffee and before I had time to finish it, the butter was done.

It is pretty grand waking up and having fresh butter and marmalade on your toast. 

Life is good.  Happy weekending.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reduce, Reuse, Have Fun

Ever since I started canning again, I began to save all my glass jars from pasta sauce and the like.  Unfortunately, you can't safely use those jars for canning, but I've been finding many other ways to make good use of them!

I began storing my grains and dry beans in the glass jars in my cupboard.  It makes things look far more organized, plus  it helps save on space since we don't really have a pantry at our apartment (oh the joys of LA apartments...).  Then I figured, why not use them for decoration?  So I threw a tea light in each of the jars and put them out on our back porch table.  

What to do next?  Maybe pour wax in the jars and make giant candles?!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Adventures in Home Dairy

I recently acquired Home Dairy, a fabulous book all about how to make yoru own dairy products ranging from cheese to sour cream.  Let me tell you, it is amazing.  If you are at all interested in making your own dairy products this book is a huge help! Ashley English does a fantastic job of laying out all you need to know about your favorite dairy items and how you (yes, you!) can make them at home.

Making cheese has been something I've done twice before, both times a simple farmer's cheese.  I was feeling ready to take on something a bit more challenging...but not too much more.  So my friend Alisha came over and we decided to tackle the Indian Paneer cheese recipe in the book.

We got to work. We brought the milk to a gentle boil, which took quite some time, but we were being extra cautious and kept it on pretty low heat to avoid scorching the milk.

The best part of the process was hands down when we added the lemon juice and saw the milk coagulate before our very eyes.  Gets me every time.

 Then we drained the curds in a cheesecloth.

And pressed the curds with some weight.  We used some heave books and heavy votives.

And three hours later, voila! Paneer!

Another great thing about the Home Dairy book is that after giving you a number of recipes for cheese, yogurt, and ice cream (among various other delicious dairy delicacies...), Ashley includes recipes that incorporate the dairy products you just made, such as Saag Paneer.  It's a delightful combination of Indian spices, spinach and the paneer cheese.  Mmmm.

The day was a raging success.  Next we will try our hand at another cheese - goat perhaps?  Then onto the complicated cheese section - swiss and gorgonzola here we come!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

DIY Vanilla Extract

If you haven't noticed, I love baking.  One of the things I don't enjoy about baking sometimes is the price of the ingredients, mainly pure extracts. That stuff is expensive. So what better way to cut down the cost than to make your own?!  I decided to start with making my own vanilla extract.

You will need:
1 - 2 vanilla beans
Approx. 1 cup vodka
1 glass jar to store your extract

It is actually surprisingly easy.  It's just vodka + 1 split vanilla bean.

I used 1.5 Madagascar vanilla beans to make the extract. First, cut your vanilla bean in half lengthwise so that it will fit into your glass jar.  Then cut along the bean exposing the inside.

Then put your beans in a clean, glass jar. I reused an old jam jar. Pour vodka over your beans. I read that you should use about 1/3 cup vodka per bean. I used almost a full cup for my 1.5 vanilla beans. I then made sure all my beans were fully submerged in the vodka.

Now, it's just time to wait until all that vanilla goodness is sucked out and into the vodka, about 2 months stewing time. And when you think of it, give it a gentle shake every once and a while.

Here it is after 1 month of stewing.  You can see it's already much darker from all that vanilla-y goodness.

I'll be sure to let you know how it compares to the store bought variety when I can use it in a month.  It smells sweet and delicious already!

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Solvang trip

Part two of my travel escapades include a fantastic trip with wonderful friends to a little Danish town here in California called Solvang.  It's a frickin' cute town. We walked all around town and ate lunch, complete with aebleskivers, before we headed to wine country for some tastings.  Yes, this was the second weekend in a row of wine tasting for me and Ryan, and no, we weren't complaining.

Here are a few picture highlites of our fun little weekend getaway.

That is supposed to be a recreation of the Danish mermaid behind us.  We have crazy faces in the picture because the sun was shining so brightly.

Yay for wine tasting!


Life size chess, anyone?


And you can't go to Solvang and not ride the standing clog.  Ryan may or may not have almost fallen off. (hint: he did)

And we ended our fun little journey at this gem: Andersen's pea soup.  It was delicous and pea-soupy.


It was sad to see our friends leave, but we are so glad they got to spend a fun-filled week with us!

Sidenote: I will resume my usual crafty blogging soon! 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Catching up...

A very happy 2012 to everyone!  I am so thankful that I was able to ring in this new year with Ryan over a 4-day weekend - woo! We had a blast celebrating up in San Francisco and exploring the surrounding area, including Napa and Sonoma Vally.

Here is a quick photo-review of our trip!

Wine tasting...yum.

Naturally, we ended our little va-cay at the Walt Disney Family Museum.  It was an amazingly well done museum and we loved it...especially Ryan. :)

It was a glorious time and I have a feeling that 2012 is going to be one heck of a year.