Sunday, August 20, 2017

Pizza Mozzarella (#4).....Watercolour of Marlene (YOP Update Week 8)

Hi Everyone :)

Firstly, I got very little knitting done the last week so it doesn't merit a photo! I've been really concentrating on other projects. It's been rainy and chilly all week, sigh, so knitting on the porch didn't happen too often! After my cheese making extravaganza last Tuesday, I decided to get out of the kitchen and do some painting. I sketched Marlene with the watercolour pencils. Then I just added water with a brush and you can see how they really resemble good old watercolour painting. All of those colours are the pencils, except I had already started to add paint to her ear before I remembered to take a picture. The set I got was just 12 basic colours, but I may ask Alex for a nice big set for Christmas or my birthday with many more colours.

I added a little more colour with my paints because the pencils alone weren't bright enough. I liked that I could go back to the painting after it dried so that I could pencil in some of her fur, so I guess it made it a mixed-media project! I will definitely continue to use the pencils because they allow me to see all the colours I want to paint and I don't have to wing it too much. I have a habit of seeing greens and yellows blend together beautifully and they ALWAYS turn into a poopy-brown mess lol! 

I'm not great at portraits, but I really wanted to paint our pets. I've already done Jack and Charlie.

And Marlene is now added to my watercolour wall! :) My next challenge will be trying to paint the cats! I did a post a while ago, showing all the paintings I've done in oil, acrylic and watercolours for anyone who is interested. I think that painting is so much fun and it's very relaxing. I started with oils, just following Bob Ross' PBS show The Joy of Painting, then I branched out on my own so to speak! It was hard for me at first, because I'm horribly (and UNNECESSARILY) self-critical...but Alex is really supportive and he egged me on to keep trying so I'm very glad I did! When I posted my art work last March, all of my Blogger friends were also very supportive and sweet and this helps my confidence a lot, so many thanks again! :)

Now that I have FOUR (woohoo!) cheeses aging, I decided to start a cheese making journal. It also allows me some creativity and fun while I write my daily "to do" list! As I continue to make more cheeses, I will really need to keep track of everything diligently. I want my cheeses to really turn out well. I'm really loving this new hobby of mine! Except...

Booo! My fourth attempt to make a nice melty Pizza Mozzarella failed again...but it made a nice Ricotta. Dang. I wrote a more detailed post on Mozzarella on Rainy Day Cheese Making. I think what I'm missing for success is a PH meter to check acidity levels as I make this terribly finicky cheese. Anyway...failures teach you, and I have much more knowledge now than I did a week ago!

I made another Bundt cake yesterday using some strawberries I bought at the local market. I'm into Bundt cakes these days, they're so fun to create!

My attempt to empty the deep freezer continues! I found some fondue meat and chicken in the depths of the freezer, so I made Philly Cheese Steaks for dinner last night (you just fry up some onions and mushrooms, brown your meat or chicken and melt some cheese on top - delicious and easy!) My hopes were not to have to go grocery shopping until September, but we do need some supplies after all. It's been nearly a month since the last shopping day and I can't complain! So I've spent time going through the freezer again and planning menus and hopefully I can have the shopping list ready for Tuesday! Here is my 30-day dinner plan for anyone who wants some ideas. The plan started yesterday and I repeated some things from last month that we didn't get a chance to eat yet.

Don't miss the Total Solar Eclipse tomorrow. Depending on where you live, you might enjoy a total or a partial eclipse! We're hoping for clear skies so we can enjoy it - safely!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Garden News; Mexican Fiesta; New Cheeses!!

Life is giving me lemons! :) This year I'm stunned with 4 lemons turning yella already. I got this little tree a year ago and the first lemon it produced was ready this past spring and it was SO SOUR...😲 I'm very pleased that the tree is producing lemons already - despite the cool nights!

Tomato land: Cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes and Romas...growing bigger but still green! I have to cover them each night now with poly-tarp because the nighttime temperatures are down to the 10's Celcius now...fall is just around the corner. At this point I have no clue what's going on in the pumpkin patch, I can't see in there's just going to have to surprise me in a few months! I may be harvesting my potatoes soon too, I have to look up some more information about that!

Happily due to an overabundance of cilantro, last night we had a Mexican Fiesta! I made my Papas Fritas with a Cilantro Dip and homemade tortilla chips. I don't have a recipe for the dip, I kind of winged it by throwing together some cream cheese, sour cream, LOTS of cilantro, lime juice and S&P. It was pretty good! I hope I can remember how to make it again!

Speaking of using things up...I had all that curd cheese in the fridge from the failed Mozzas! I've mentioned previously that Alex and I celebrate all of the little things as well as the big celebrations. Well, last week was our 4 years and 5 months "anniversary" so I made a special poutine with Toulouse sausages and we shared a bottle of white wine. The sausage in the poutine was SO DARN GOOD...we had a side salad to get some greens in there (really Mama Pea, we DID!) 😁 I always try to make the 14th of each month special in some way - usually with dinner!

And once again on the suggestion of my dear friend Sam, I acquired some watercolour pencils! I've been playing around with them to see what they can do and they are so much fun. I used to draw with a regular pencil, but hated that it showed sometimes in my paintings. This solves it! I can use the pencils to sketch my design, then add water and they really look like they've been painted on. Thanks Sam for the suggestion! I hope to get a few paintings done before the end of the month!

Now for some fun! Here are my aging babies!!! The two original Cheddars on top; and two new cheeses on bottom. On Tuesday I had a cheese making insanity day and I made a red wine infused Cheddar; AND a Dry Jack!! (More detailed post on Rainy Day Cheese Making) Thirteen hours in the kitchen...sounds grueling but my gosh I was enjoying myself to bits...and might I say...what failed Mozzarella? Hee hee...well, we'll see - the sting of failure is now gone (hopefully for good!). Tomorrow it's going to rain all day so that'll be my fourth (and final?) attempt at making Pizza Cultured Mozzarella. I may age the red wine Cheddar for a year, and the Dry Jack will be ready on May Day of 2018. I LOVE cheese making!!! I can't wait to taste these beauties!

If there is something you want, go for it. You might find challenges, failures and struggles...but my gosh, sometimes you find strength, success and passion at the same time! Life is too short for regrets and self-doubts! I jumped back on the cheese horse and I'm so glad I did!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Feeling Back To Normal, Cultured Mozzarella, Knitting on the Porch (YOP Update Week #7)

Hi Everyone :)

Well, it's been quite a week. As I type this, Jack is still recovering from his week-long illness but I'm happy to say he's on solid food again! Phewf. For the first time in eight days, I could walk all three dogs together again! But that little bugger started to eat grass when we were on the trail - I have to watch him like a hawk!

I'm surprised I found any energy for anything else than taking care of him and sleeping this week - but I did. :-p

After THREE attempts and 16 liters of milk...(oh my gosh, my poor budget!)...I finally got some kind of Cultured Mozzarella completed. This is my Pizza Mozzarella attempt (more on Rainy Day Cheese Making). It didn't stretch...none of the three did but at least this one is more of a hard cheese than the Buffalo-style fresh Mozzarella. I have yet to try to grate it, but it's a nice consistency and I hope it'll melt nicely on our pizzas.

After doing hours of research, online and on the forum, I decided to download this E-book. I need some answers. But one thing I DID find out on the forum - Mozzarella is a very finicky cheese to make and though it's called a "beginner cheese", more people than you think have trouble with it! I won't give up though.

Comfort food was necessary this week - after the stress of Jack being sick and the failed cheese attempts. Each Cultured Mozzarella process was just about 8 hours. And I tried three...I followed the recipes to the word and it was very frustrating when they didn't turn out...I actually felt like quite a failure for a few days there, but I'm okay today. :) We made some pizzas the other day. Six-cheese (yes SIX!) for me (goat, Blue cheese, Parm, Cheddar, Monteray Jack and my Mozzarella); and Buffalo Turkey for Alex, he loves that spicy stuff! It's turkey soaked in Frank's Red Hot Sauce, with Mozzarella, a wee bit of Cheddar and Blue cheese.

We had our scheduled burger night...but I had no appetite because it was after my first 8-hour cheese failure. So Alex salvaged the failed Mozzarella and turned it into Curd cheese and made me a poutine with an onion gravy. It was really good! The failed Mozza made a nice squeaky Curd, go figure last attempt at Curd wasn't squeaky at all!

What are these three little fur balls looking at???

Knitting on the can I knit with Charlie's big head on my lap? I thought she was just using me as a headrest, but it was really nap time and I was her pillow.

Out like a light and my knitting on hold!

Hmmm...can't knit on the "pet couch" either...more napping!

Despite my lack of energy last week, I did get more done on my cover up. :) I started the sleeves!I hope to have the back finished by next weekend! With things a little calmer around here I can relax a little more. My next cheese attempts will be both the cultured Mozza again (can't give up, I just can't!); and a Dry Jack. I may also make my third Cheddar that will age a whole year - if I have time! :)

**If anyone would like to join the Year of Projects (YOP) group on Ravelry, just create an account there and follow this link for the YOP Group. **

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I'm Being Devilishly Spoiled...😈

I have three new cookbooks! This, by far, is one of my favourites! Did you know that Vincent Price was a noted cook? He and his wife put out a handful of cookbooks over the years and Alex got me one of them! So much fun. We love his movies, and I love his cookbook! He also had his own line of wines and wine-tasting books.

I also got the last two of the "Outdoor" Williams Sonoma collection. Two more wonderful cozy comfort cookbooks! (say that three times fast...) Out of the four in this collection, the Snow Country Cooking is definitely my favourite. Makes me want to hide out in a cabin on a snowy mountain and eat stew all night...I know, I'm likely jinxing myself considering we had snow until May this year!

And look who is on the mend! I can't express my relief and happiness that my Jack is feeling better! He's not 100% yet, but much better than the last few days. I think we'll all have a good sleep tonight. Today is definitely a good day. :)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Curd Cheese, Aging Cheddar, Baking Therapy and a YOP update!

This is my Year of Projects update! I have quite a bit done on my beach/fall cover up. Honestly though, I've been so focused on other things the last week, I didn't get as much done as I really wanted to. I have 5 more inches to knit before I get to the arm holes, this is the back of the cover up. Slow and steady! :)

Well, my cheese making took a new turn the past week! I made curd cheese! (I wrote a post on Rainy Day Cheese Making in more detail). This is a cheese that Alex and I really love to snack on. It's so expensive at the store. My batch yielded about 4 cups, and my cost was $7.50. A bag at the grocery store for one cup is $3.99.

I decided to make a homemade poutine (fries, gravy, curd cheese). Usually we only enjoy poutines from diners, but the homemade one was really good. I'll be working on it over the next few months to get it just right though. We have the fries that we love, I used my Bangers and Mash gravy, but I need to perfect the curd cheese. It turned out well in the flavour department, but that squeaky texture wasn't consistently there and I'm breaking brain cells trying to figure out why. I got some advice from the cheese supply shop and I found a very well recommended recipe that I'll try next time. My motto is to never give up! :)

I also tried a new recipe the other day too, potato pizza with Blue cheese and rosemary. Verdict? Could use a personal touch! It was good, but a little dry due to lack of sauce and cheese.. I'll add some Mozzarella and maybe some bacon next time. When I get it yummy I'll post my recipe! Speaking of food...well, first things first...

My favourite little fella in the whole wide world, Jack, is sick. :(...he ate something...we have no clue. But Alex stayed up with him until 3am, then I woke up and took my turn because he had to go out almost every half hour poor thing. At 7am, my nerves were bothering me so I decided on some baking therapy. So speaking of is what I did all day:

Alex bought me a bundt pan last week with the new cookbooks, so I made my very first Mixed Berry Bundt Cake with a Brown Sugar and Butter Glaze. I searched high and low for a non-powdered-sugar glaze and this one was really sweet and delicious! I also made Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies. Mmmm...Hopefully these sweets will last us the week! :)

I am trying to empty the deep freezer. I defrosted a bunch of ingredients to make tonight's dinner, Potato, Ham and Gruyere Tart - this tart is so amazing, we can't get enough of it! I also used up the last of my Mozzarella to make a few frozen pizzas - I used my Thin Crust Dough recipe. So we're all set in case there are nights where I don't feel like cooking.

I also made a bunch of Joyce's Homemade Hamburger Buns. We decided to make 16 buns instead of the called-for 8 in her recipe so we can have some smaller burgers. We also use these as dinner rolls for stews and chilis. I love this recipe Joyce! :)

So, my first Cheddar is beautifully aging in a nice DRY orange coating! It'll be ready on Halloween. I made a second wheel which will age for 6 months and we'll try it on Valentine's Day! I have another Cheddar planned to age a full year, I will make that in the next week too.

Another pet in dire straights, poor Marlene...even with her Thunder Shirt, she really suffers during thunder storms. We've found the Thunder Shirt does help her but during long persistent bouts of thunder and lightning, not much will help. She stays with me in the kitchen and won't leave my side, though she runs upstairs occasionally for some comfort from Alex, then right back down again, curled into a ball and shaky. I wish I could wave a magic wand and make them all feel better!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Making Cheese, Garden and Cookbooks

It's Friday and it's thundering out there! I'm glad I got my dog walks done before the storm started. I'm spending the day indoors working guessed it, CHEESE!!

This is my feline barricade. My second Cheddar is behind all of that during the 12-hour, 40 pounds of weight pressing. This Cheddar will age 6 months. And I'm in the process of making curd cheese for homemade poutine! Stay tuned, I'll post more this weekend! :)

These are what my pumpkins currently look like.

And lookie here! I have a green bean! Another first! :))

Alex is spoiling me with cookbooks...I got these two in the mail today and they are fabulous! He bought four as a set, the other two are coming next week, I can't wait! Hope everyone has a nice weekend with nice weather, good company and delicious food!