Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Potato Harvest!

A familiar sight. :) When I woke up this morning, it really felt like autumn at 4 degrees Celcius. The dogs and I had a great walk up the mountain. They are so obedient, I love this pack. All I say is "Everybody stop" and they stop, then "Everybody sit" and they sit. It's nearly sweater-weather for Jack!

I took this photo last autumn right after I made Jack a hoodie. My hands were still really bothering me so I couldn't knit him anything, but Alex had an old sweater that didn't fit him anymore and I altered it to fit Jack. He'll be wearing this on walks in the morning now until I knit him a sweater, which I started yesterday and will post about on the weekend! :)

Two hours later the sun was out and it was 27 degrees!! I was wearing a sundress the whole day!

I harvested my potatoes today!! I got a varying size-assortment of 40 potatoes!! :) I was conservative in the spring when I planted the seed potatoes because I really didn't know what to expect, so next spring I'm going to amp it up and and maybe get some more garbage bins, they're not expensive at all. I have two bins, I have the potato bag that Dianna sent me as a gift...and maybe 8 more bins and we should be set for the winter at least! Now I have to figure out how to store them without a root cellar and a potential mouse problem in the basement!

The garden cleanup continued today.  I had two dead tomato plants, sigh. So I had room to move the 3 Roma tomato containers into Tomato Land where they'll get more sun. Nice to see some red cherry tomatoes in all that green!

Last night I made a Coq Au Vin from my "Snow Country Cooking" cookbook. I usually make mine in the slow cooker with de-boned chicken breast. But this was more authentic, using the whole chicken and the addition of turnip, which gave a nice flavour.

I planted 3 more pots of lettuce today too. I probably should have done that a week or so ago but I've been busy in cheese land! We still have a few pots left before the slugs get to all of them. Tonight will be a BIG chicken Cesar salad!! What's been on the menu for you all out there? I'm always looking for dinner ideas! :)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Mozza and Colby Cheese; Gardening and Project Updates (YOP Week 9)

Hi Everyone!

A new week is starting and I'm still catching up on last week! :) I finished the back of my beach/fall cover up during the weekend. This is an easy garment, it's just two pieces sewn together at the sides. I may or may not be putting this project on hold for a while because I want to knit us some winter hats and a doggy sweater for Jack. 

As some of you may have already read, I had success with my Pizza Mozzarella! It was my sixth try and I finally got a nice stretch from it. I got three balls of Mozza, just under a pound each I'd say. We're keeping one in the fridge to eat up, another is going in the freezer, and I'm going to try to age one in the cheese cave. The next one I try, I may add Lipase, that's a flavouring agent to give it more of a sharp taste. I also made a Colby cheese which is drying nicely! That ages for six weeks so we'll be able to try it around (Canadian) Thanksgiving. (More details on Rainy Day Cheese Making).

I'd prepared a wonderfully fattening comfort meal on Saturday for a "just in case" the sixth Mozza didn't work out. But what a nice surprise to find out that the Mozza grated well and melted wonderfully on our pizza for Pizza-Ghetti night! :)) The texture was just like the kind you buy in the bricks at the grocery store; and the taste was fresh and mild.

Now that I have the recipe for Mozza and the tools I need, I can make some whenever I like - I just have to get the timing right so I'm not up all night checking PH levels! Goodbye store-bought cheese-food Mozzarella! :)

The ONLY reason my Mozza worked was because I was able to read the PH (the red meter to the left). It worked like a dream, but took 22 hours for the PH to hit the sweet-stretch-spot. I also treated myself to a vacuum sealer. Not only will this come in handy for freezing, it will help me save lots of space in the cheese cave.

I already sealed up my aging cheeses! I also sealed one of the Mozzas for freezing.

Recognize my little fella? :)) I think that, of all the new projects I've started this year, the cheese making is my absolute favourite with the garden coming in at a close second! :) Speaking of the garden...

I cleaned up the garden this weekend too. I've discovered that flowers, root veggies and lettuces are the way to go in this climate. My poor tomatoes are all falling off the vine unripened. I never got one yellow bean or orange pepper. But my chamomile flowers have finally bloomed. They're so pretty!

My buttercrunch lettuce is still thriving! I have to find a way to grow this indoors over the winter, it's the only lettuce that my stomach can handle. And lookie lookie!!! A pun-kin is growing!!! Sometimes I see little surprises when I walk around the garden. This pumpkin was pushing its way out of the pumpkin patch. I tried to look more deeply in there but the stems are so pokey, even with gloves on, so I'm just waiting it out!

This seems like the last of the summer harvest. One little bit of spinach, 5 green beans, 4 cherry tomatoes and ONE cucumber (another surprise find yesterday!). I harvested the green onions too. I'll be harvesting my potatoes this week and we decided on a green onion and potato soup. We love green onions, but really don't use them that often and I don't want to freeze them.

Jack was watching me the whole time through the porch screen. He's a funny little guy, rarely wants to be outside, just likes the comforts of home I guess! :)

After the pizza-ghetti, we needed a nice light meal so with all of the garden goodies, I made a healthy and filling Cobb Salad.  The little cherry tomatoes were SO SWEET, delicious. I really hope we get more before the plants die from the cold nights.

I've come to terms with the fact that summer is more than likely over. I have to cover up the tomatoes and cukes each night now since it's down to around 5C these days. We had to put the heat on last night, ugh, in August! I hope everyone has a fabulous week, I intend to! :) 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

SUCCESS!!!!!!! 😋

After SIX attempts and nearly 50 liters of milk...I FINALLY got my Mozzarella to stretch!!!

I'm on such a cheese high right now I'm discombobulated so I can't write much more lol! Will update soon!!!


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. **