Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I'm Feeling Cheesy...


So I've teased you all a bit, calling my next endeavor The Great Cream Cheese Experiment of 2017!! Well, it was and continues to be an experiment...could roll over to 2018 in fact. Some of you may know that I made a batch of cream cheese earlier this month and it tasted like sour cream, not cream cheese...very GOOD sour cream mind you! But my love for cream cheese was calling me...so I tried again. 


I was slightly discouraged, but as usual Alex lifted my motivation. He suggested we make two different recipes together. Our first cheese making as a couple! :) The recipes are basically similar, but we used different cultures: buttermilk and mesophilic. (More on Rainy Day Cheese Making).


The cat barrier while we slept. It actually worked, we figured if anything, a loud bang would alert us to feline sneaky behaviour! Cream cheese is easy to make, it just takes a lot of ripening time and "hanging" time to release the whey - a good few days. My big problem is that I LOVE Philadelphia cream cheese a lot. I can't recreate it with just a cream cheese recipe. Both cream cheeses still tasted like sour cream, although the buttermilk version was creamier and less tangy. So I went online to see what I could do about it.


I started with the buttermilk cream cheese. I whisked together the cream cheese (which was 3 1/2 cups), 1 cup of vanilla yogurt and 2 tsp of salt (I found this recipe on several sites). 


I let it drain about an hour, hanging as above, then let it sit in the fridge overnight. Verdict? Sweeter, but not Philadelphia by any means...and too creamy for a hard cream cheese that I can spread a little thickly on a bagel. It had the consistency of a dip rather than a cream cheese.


But I'm making lemonade out of lemons again! My friend Tammie Lee suggested Boursin type cheeses to me. Here is a nice recipe for those herbed/flavoured cheeses, but you can basically add anything you want to it. I decided to make a Chive "Boursin" and a Sweet Cranberry "Boursin". Oooooooooooooooooooh! Success! They were SO GOOD!


I made an event out of it! Homemade bread, the home baked pita chips and some breaded shrimp made the meal very special! You can see what the Boursins look like before I mixed them all up.


We also opened the last Camembert that has been aging 6 weeks. We honestly didn't taste a difference between the 4-week and the 6-week, they were both delicious!


My latest bloomy whites are a week away from being wrapped and aged. They are forming some beautiful white fuzzy mould, it's glorious! :) Two new Cams, ready for Christmas!


With ups come downs. :(  This is what's left of my Baby Swiss. The mould problem was so bad that I made the decision to cut it all out. I lost about half the wheel...but...I remind myself that cheese making is a learning curve and an art. I realize I don't have a proper mold for this type of cheese nor a cheese press, so this is an experiment. This will be sealed on December 10th and aged about 3 months then we'll see!


I got some more Yogurt done today. I found a much simpler recipe that requires no bacteria culture other than some leftover yogurt you have in the fridge. One liter of milk makes one liter of yogurt or so, I'm making one of these a week now so they don't spoil. 


Are you wondering what I did with the mesophilic cream cheese? Well...I'll be honest, I had no clue what to do with it! Three and a half more cups of "sour cream" to use up...Sandi asked if my experiment had to do with cheesecake, so she motivated me to make one! I did the same thing as I did with the other cream cheese...added yogurt and salt and it sweetened it up. Then I made a Cranberry Cheesecake.  Lemonade out of lemons again! I admit I haven't tried this yet, but it looks and smells delicious, we'll be tasting it tonight after dinner. If I don't stop baking we won't fit through the door anymore...is that a good excuse to stay home?  :)

Sunday, November 19, 2017

First Blizzard! I've Been Baking!


It's such a nice quiet Sunday, NO tourists around! How about that huh? :) I woke up to our first little blizzard this morning, it's so beautiful.


For those who have snowy winters...do you take down your laundry line in the winter? I never even think of doing that. The dogs are having a blast in the snow, they just love it!

Charlie

Well, except for grumpy old Jack...I don't blame him though lol!

Jack 

Marlene

Pavlov

Stella
The dog walking had to stop, sigh. Since Alex and I are on different schedules, we're finding it hard to find a time to walk them all together. I tried to do two walks each morning, three dogs, then two dogs. Morning is when I have my energy...but I'm finding that my leg and knee ache a little too much these days. Five dogs is a lot of work. So, now I take the "day shift" and try to play with them in the yard. Alex takes the "night shift" with some before dinner playtime. We're committed to caring for Pavlov and Stella until the summer...but if their owner doesn't come back, we will find them new homes. 😩


I'm sad about it, but we have to be realistic. And I accept that my walks in the woods are just on hold for the next 6-8 months. Some comfort food always helps! It's really nice having two slow cookers! Last night I made myself a Harvest Time Chicken and Apple Stew; and for Alex, I made a Cottage Beef Stew. Just a reminder, on my sidebar, I have a link to all of my recipes and I always try to remember to add the links in my posts as well! These stews were perfect with some bread and butter for dipping! And we have meals for a few more days.


This week's Christmas cookies are Gingerbread Cookies. Hmmm...they look a little naked don't they??? Well, as I took them out of the oven, I said to Alex "I really wish I had a cake decorating set so I can decorate my cookies!". He disappeared upstairs and came down with something hidden under his shirt. He said "come hug me" and I felt some kind of box there...this is what it was:


A cake decorating set!!! Talk about being on the same wave length...that's why we are soul mates! 😊😊 This is an early Christmas gift. He figured I'd get more use of it before Christmas so he wanted me to have it. Now I just have to figure out how to use each of these tips...this is my first set, how fun!!


The baking didn't stop there...I've often said that baking can be therapeutic for me and when I start, sometimes I can't stop!!! In an effort to clean out the fridge and freezer a little, I made a variety of chips. Pita, Tortilla and Potato. The potato chips, we could take them or leave them, they just never cook evenly in the oven, but they were okay. Alex loves the pita chips and I love the tortilla chips. How much do you pay for a mediocre bag of chips at the store? Here a bag of Ruffles is $3.50 plus taxes ON SALE, and that's the standard bag. The "family size" (which is what the standard size USED to be) is $7.50. The pitas cost me $1.25 for the same amount. The tortillas are a little more and came to double that, but still much cheaper than the crap at the grocery store that's filled with mysterious ingredients! They're a snap to make too.


Can't make chips without a dip though! πŸ˜‹ This is my homemade Nacho Cheese Dip. Everything is from scratch...I love how far I've come with my kitchen skills! And again, this is so much more delicious than any store bought dip out there! It's such a simple recipe and I added some of my Homemade Salsa to it as well. Again...affordable and delicious...and I know what's in it.


What on earth am I doing now? The Great Cream Cheese Experiment of 2017...stay tuned for that! Are you in suspense???  :)

The snow is falling, the pets are all snoring, the fragrance of homemade bread should wake Alex up very shortly :), and I'm spending the day budgeting to ease my mind; and then knitting some more Christmas stockings for the dogs! How is your Sunday going?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fondue Night! Scribble Picnic and Winter Garden


This week's Scribble Picnic theme is "Gift Wrapped/Unwrapped". Since Christmas is coming up, I'm sure everyone is on their best behaviour to be on Santa's "Nice List". If you are on the Nice List, you may want to check out other artist's versions of this theme - and why not join in yourself? :)  If you are on the "Naughty List", and I know some of you are πŸ˜, you're in the right place! That gift is for YOU. Go ahead...go get your gift. 😱 You just have to be quicker than the monsters lurking in the dark! Oh, and you have to make it to the end of the tunnel...but who knows what's on the other side...


The Winter Garden:  The cold frames that I made are doing their job so far! I have greens and roots...some have stalled, some are still growing, despite the deep freeze. The garlic patch is snowed in and I'll have to see if I have success in the spring. Tomorrow there is a break in the weather and it'll be above zero. This may be my last chance to water the winter garden before next year. I have a feeling the only veggies I'll be harvesting will be the winter lettuces and the carrots/beets that I'd started in the summer. Still though, this is a fun experiment!


By pure chance, Alex was looking out the window yesterday morning at the lilac tree and saw a cardinal couple! We rarely see those birds in this area, he managed to get one photo from the cell phone before they took off. That was a nice bit of luck! Native lore says that if you see a cardinal, then a romantic encounter is imminent. :) Another bit of lore is that if a cardinal visits you, he's telling you to start that project that you've been putting off!


How time flies, it was fondue night again last night! That means another milestone celebration. :) Alex and I have 4 years and 8 months under our belts. :) As corny as it may be, I love to celebrate our monthly "anniversary"! I made a Roasted Garlic, Cheddar and Zinfandel Fondue last night...holy garlic, it calls for two entire roasted garlic bulbs....and this one uses red wine. I used to be an old school fondue type of gal: Swiss, white wine, bread cubes. I'm happy that I'm branching out now, the red wine gave the cheese such a nice flavour! If I make this again though, I'll cut the garlic WAY down!


I used a bottle of Ravenswood Zinfandel that I found by coincidence here in Quebec in August. I first tasted it at a wine show in 2013 and we finally have it on the shelves! Delish! If you are a red wine drinker, do you have a favourite type of wine, a favourite country? Italian Primitivo is my absolute favourite red...did you know that Zinfandel is the same grape as Primitivo? When it was brought overseas to the States, the name changed, so if you love California Zinfandel, you'll love Italian Primitivo too. :)


Alex made us some Irish coffees for dessert too, it was such a nice meal!


My "boys" on my lap...Jack and Pavlov. They are like velcro on me wherever I go. Last night we watched a great movie called The Lodger based on the Jack the Ripper story. There have been many versions made over the years, including a 1927 silent by Alfred Hitchcock, one of his first movies. Here is the You Tube link, I don't know how long it'll be up there, but I highly recommend that movie. It was made in 1944 and stars Laird Cregar, a pretty unknown actor who died way too young with so much potential. The last half hour is pretty suspenseful, turn the lights off for this movie! :)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

It's Cookie Season! :)


'Tis the season to bake cookies! For three years now, I've held up a very delicious tradition. From about mid-November, I make a different cookie each week in preparation for the Christmas eating frenzy that will definitely happen around here! :) Today I baked Alex's favourite Cherry Icebox Cookies. I'll probably ramp things up in December and bake two different cookies each week. I'll do some of our favourites, but each year I like to try a few new cookies. 


Also, based on the success of my recently devoured Camemberts, I made two more wheels, they'll be ready in time for Christmas!! :)


We are currently in a deep freeze. The other morning I woke up to -22C and it was so windy...that wind was devilish, it felt like it went right through my bones. Am I the only one who grows physically intolerant of cold as each year passes??? I've decided no dog walks under -5C from now on...my lungs were aching when I came home!


I was sure the snow would melt by now, but no such luck. I think winter has hit the Laurentian mountains! The huskies and Pavlov have thick coats and it doesn't bother them a bit, but Stella (in the middle) has a thin coat like Jack and she was shivering...I will have to knit her a sweater too. :)


Speaking of knitting, I found some time again! I love knitting, it's so relaxing and very therapeutic if you ask me! I found a very easy pattern for Little Christmas Stockings (6" version). Aren't they cute? I have two done and now I have six more to go for the pets. If I have enough yarn, I'll triple up the pattern and make two bigger ones for Alex and me. And if I have time, I may embroider names in them too. Does this count as my very first ever pair of knitted socks??? :) Just for fun, I timed myself. With some canine, feline and cheese-related distractions, each stocking took me just over 2 hours to do. I'm feeling normal again now that I have time for my hobbies! It's hard to believe we've had the two new dogs about 2 months now...that's how long it took for life to get back to somewhat normal!


Look what Alex got for me this month! He orders me a new cookbook each month, usually from Amazon or Thriftbooks. This is more of a joke book than a cookbook, with recipes like "Rotten Eggs" and "Burnt Toast"...but there are excerpts from the shorts and movies, and fun pictures to see. It's a collector's item that's for sure! So what are you all up to these days? I know my American friends have Thanksgiving coming up. I'm in Christmas and Yuletide prep-mode right now.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Camembert Success!!! πŸ˜€πŸ˜€πŸ˜€


Oh my gosh, this wheel of Camembert that I made on September 19th is a thing of beauty! After all the cheese fails lately, I was actually considering giving it up. Really. But we opened this Cam last night and I have to say, I'm re-motivated to keep making cheese!!!


I was terrified to open this to be honest. You know when your confidence has been squashed? I felt like that last night...Alex cut it open while I closed my eyes lol...I actually got emotional when I saw that it was looking just as it should be!! I will have to transcribe this recipe on my cheese blog soon, because I got it from a wonderful member of the Cheese Forum who was very helpful and gave me a lot of good tips. I think that for the most part, I'm done with the New England Cheese Making's recipes. All the ones I made from them didn't turn out well at all. Life and Cheese Lessons Learned! :)


I made a loaf of my bread last night too, and Joyce from October Farm's Rustic Olive Bread Sticks. Thank you Joyce, they were delicious!!! What a nice meal!! The Camembert stunk up the village that's for sure! That made me nervous that it could be too strong, but the taste was between mild and strong - just perfect!! Now I just have to perfect a patΓ© recipe of my own! That Imperial Cheddar spread though...that's one store-bought cheese that still tastes good, so for now, we'll keep buying it occasionally for a treat!

Marsha from Lefty Crafter, asked me a while back about cost. When I made the Camemberts, I made two of them. Each wheel takes half a gallon of milk and half a cup of full cream. Including the small amounts of bacteria cultures, I calculated that my cost is about $5.00 Canadian per wheel. VERY reasonable! As I post about the cheeses we try, I'll post my costs too. It's hard to figure out the Cheddars at this point considering my first two babies were trashed. But I'm going to concentrate on the successes now! This cheese is easy to make also. We are letting the second wheel age another 2 weeks to see if the flavour changes. I will be making these regularly! In fact I have to get some milk to make more tomorrow! :))


It started to snow this morning during my first dog walk. The woods are so beautiful under a blanket of snow. I can take the dogs in the woods until the new year usually, then it gets too deep to walk in.


So much to see, smell and hear for these sweet dogs in the woods! I'm so happy I can do this for them...and for me! By the way, the regimen of daily fish oil, B vitamins, leg massage, yoga and gentle strength training for my legs and core is really working! I can sleep through the night without that zapping pain all down my left leg and knee! The walks are still a little gimpy, but I feel that I'm healing. I just have to make sure I keep it up and be careful. I don't want to ever miss a morning like this! :) I hope everyone is having a very nice Sunday! :)

Friday, November 3, 2017

Mexican Dinner & Marlene's Birthday!


Here's the birthday girl! :) We don't really know her age, we are guessing she is close to 9 years old. Yesterday was the anniversary of when we adopted our anxious little Marlene! We don't know any of the pet's actual birth dates, so we celebrate on the adoption days. :) Marlene had a tough life. She was back and forth in shelters often, so we were told. The last family that adopted her wasn't prepared to own a dog. They didn't have time for her and kept her locked in a basement for endless hours when they were out of the house. She often broke through windows and opened doors to run away. But she was always found sleeping next to the car of her owner where the owner was working (thankfully in the same town). She wasn't as much a menace as just lonely and desperate for love. When we found her, she was just so sweet, we couldn't resist taking her in. She is still a little insecure, afraid of the dark and terrified of loud noises, but she is now so much more well-adjusted and happy with her pack! She's never once tried to escape here so we know we're doing a good job with her! :)


As per usual, I made the Spoiled Dog Cake. :)


The pack all had to "take their place" while Alex served the cake into their dishes. I kept trying to get their attention for the photo, but they wanted nothing to do with me lol...I didn't have the cake in my hands!! Marlene was allowed to go first, then the rest...the cake was devoured in less than 20 seconds lol!


The dogs had their treat, we gave the cats some chicken so they wouldn't be left out...then it was our turn! I'd made my first Homemade Salsa yesterday morning and it turned out so wonderful! I followed a recipe more or less, but ended up winging it, so I can safely say it's my own recipe! :)


I used the salsa to make Baked Chicken Enchiladas. They were delicious, and that salsa was something else. No more store-bought! (That seems to be my new philosophy these days lol!)...I wanted to make something Mexican because, see up on the left? That is my homemade sour cream. Well...I actually followed the recipe for Cream Cheese...but it did not taste like a cream cheese I'm used to at all. I'm sure that most homemade cream cheeses don't taste like Philadelphia cream cheese...which most of us are used to. I did some research and learned that Kraft adds a sweetener to make it palatable. I'm not giving up though. I found a few tips online to make the "sour cream" into a sweeter cream cheese. I'll update next time I make it!