Saturday, September 26, 2009

Working on Cheddar

It's late at night and I've been working on my first batch of cheddar cheese for almost three hours. Ron is away for the evening and I thought it would be a great time to make this batch that has been years in the making. I'm so used to making mozzarella and having the instant gratification of eating it right away. The idea that I'm going to have to wait a minimum of four weeks to even taste it is painful! Some of the best cheeses in the world have been aged for years, right? I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I'm snacking on some delicious cheese from Love Tree farm in Grantsburg, WI that I discovered at the Mill City Farmer's Market. It is the Trade Lake Cedar, I think. So earthy, silky and rich. I can only hope that my cheese will be half as good as this someday at Good Tree.

In addition to cheese making, I also did a little research. I'm tired of my photos being the same size on this blog. Despite my previous efforts at the library looking for the perfect blogging book that would show me how to change the size of my photos, I had never found the right thing. I discovered this blog that linked me to this blog and her tutorial. Lyndsay is a designer and seems to be able to wiggle around the HTML a bit. I love the size of these photos!
(Just to clarify... the above cheese is NOT mine. It is the cheese from Love Tree. Mine is still in the drying stages.)

Have you found any good tutorials out there lately?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dinner Al Fresco

We had friends over recently and I shared a few prizes from my beet stash. The weather was warm, mostly bug-free and the kids were happy to allow us a bit more than usual of adult-only time on the back patio. Mmmm, savoring one of the last nights of summer in Minnesota with friends.

The menu:
  • Spinach salad with beets, pecans, goat cheese, red onions and Cafe Brenda's maple mustard vinagarette.
  • A fresh baked boule from Artisan Bread in Five
  • Herb-Rubbed Flank Steak with Peperonata from Bon Appetit (Aug. 2007) (Try it! Here's what they say-- Why you'll make it: Because it's special enough for company but easy enough to pull off any night of the week.)
  • Mashed Yukon gold and sweet potatoes
  • Flan

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beet Love

At the Minneapolis Mill City Farmer's Market I found love. Beet love. Actually, carrot love too. There was a man selling a mixed bouquet of five different colors of beets. At the stall next door there was a young girl with mixed bouquets of beets, orange carrots and purple carrots. With bunches of beautiful vegetables like that, who needs flowers? I indulged my inner beet lover and bought both.

My kids aren't into beets and my husband is only a reluctant "if you insist on putting that on my salad" beet fan, so I was able to enjoy nearly every sweet, crimson globe of perfection myself.
Any other beet fans out there?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hey there old friend

Oh my, oh my. I looked back on my notes and it had been nearly a year since I last made cheese. For someone who wants to be a cheese maker, I'm not doing so well. Ron gave me a cheese press for my birthday last year in December. Guess how many times I've used it? Yes... zero. It is still in the box on the floor of my closet. Ugh.

A week ago Gus asked me as we were driving in the car, "Mom, why haven't you used the cheese press that Daddy gave you? Don't you like it?"

Wow. The real answer is that I think that I don't have time. Can't find time. Can't find the right time. Hmmm. Indeed it is a bit more complicated to do with the exact temperatures and hot liquids with little ones underfoot, but no time? I think I must place cheese making up in the category of luxurious things that I shouldn't be doing when there are other tasks to be done. Is the house clean? Is the laundry done? Did I organize the bathroom cupboard? Nope, nope and nope. And since these tasks are generally never-ending, the cheese making never happens.

Until yesterday. Mmm. Boy am I glad I did. Welcome back old friend. I made 30-minute mozzarella and ate more than I care to admit. It was delicate, smooth and warm. As the afternoon sun shone in the kitchen window and our dog reclined in its rays, I leaned against the kitchen counter savoring every last lingering morsel of the cherry tomato-sized mozzarella balls I had made for the kids. Mmmm, so good.

Later I brought a few warm slices (from the large balls I also made) down to the boys who were happily keeping themselves occupied with Legos while I made cheese. "Did you make this Mom? I love, love you! I love, love your cheese!"

Dinner last night was simple and wonderful. Mozzarella with tomatoes from a friend's garden and basil from ours. A white boule made the day before from flour ground in nearby North Dakota. Corn chowder made from potatoes from our garden and corn from our freezer, frozen in time from our trip to Uncle Lon's farm. It doesn't come much more local than that meal. I'm including the recipe for corn chowder from one of my all time favorite cook books: Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special.

And you? Have you eaten anything lately that made you swoon? I'd love to hear about it!

Corn Chowder (serves 4-6) (yields 8 cups)

"A creamy, sunny-hued classic that you can make any time of the year, Corn Chowder is a friendly, comforting soup especially popular with young folks and sweet corn lovers of any age."

1 c. chopped onions
1 Tbsp. canola or other vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
2 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1/2 c. diced celery
scant 1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
3 c. water or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
1 c. diced red and/or yellow peppers
4 c. fresh, frozen or canned corn kernels (see Note)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (optional)
2 cups milk (or half and half to taste, depending on how rich you like it)
salt and pepper to taste

In a soup pot on medium heat, saute the onions in the oil for about 10 minutes, until translucent, stirring often. Add the potatoes, celery, dill, thyme, bay leaf and water or stock. Cover and simmer gently for about 5 minutes, until the potatoes begin to soften. Add the bell pepper and corn and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the basil, if using. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Ladle 2 cups of the soup into a blender and add the milk. Whirl until smooth and return the pureed mixture to the soup pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Gently reheat.

Serve with a few fresh dill or parsley sprigs or decorate with some fresh basil leaves.

Note: If you're using fresh corn, use the cobs to make this lovely stock: Place the corn cobs, 1 chopped potato, 1 chopped celery stalk, 3 peeled whole garlic cloves, a pinch of salt, and 10 cups of water in a large soup opot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer gently for an hour. Strain through a colander. Yields about 6 cups of stock.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fairies, Gnomes and Elves

We went to Moms and Kids camp again this summer at my parents' cabin. My mom has been organizing a trip to their cabin for several years as a getaway for me, my sister and our kids. Last year the theme was Smokey the Bear camp and we learned all about fire safety and Smokey's cool story. This year the theme was Fairies, Gnomes and Elves.

About a week before we left, a birchbark scroll arrived at our front door-- an invitation from the fairies to join them at the cabin for a week of fun. The font was fairy-like and included a few foot prints from the fairies and other gnome friends. My kids were so intrigued!

Upon our arrival at the cabin, we found orange t-shirts for all of us with a Fairies, Gnomes and Elves logo my mom had created. After donning the t-shirts, the kids remembered that they had been invited to find the homes belonging to each family of critters. Off they ran to search for their soon to be friends. Here's who we found:

The Treetrunk Elves live here. The door has a leather hinge that opens to a hole in the tree, about 6 feet up. Their ladder is made of leather and it looks like the elves spent a lot of time drilling little holes in the dowels that make up the rungs on their long ladder.

The Lake Side Fairies built this sweet home on a set of stilts so it hovers at the water's edge, hidden from view by the tall grasses. It includes little shells, glass beads and rocks. I think I'd like to live here.
The Stump Gnome lives here. I think he's into ladders too, just like the Tree Top elves, but this one is made from little twigs. There's a little door way that opens to reveal an inner world where the Gnome lives and plays. My boys say that there is a tunnel that connects this one to the Tree Top Elf house. One of the other boys at the cabin was going to jam a stick into the "tunnel" until his Dad said, "That would be like poking a giant telephone pole into our living room window. Do you think we would like that?" "Oh, maybe not, Dad."

The Woodpile Tomptes live in this little abode. The kids were quite impressed by their advanced roofing techniques employing pine cone petals for the roofing materials. Gus added the bark ramp for easy entrance and exiting. It was tough to find this one as it blended in so well with the wood pile.
Those little creatures were very busy creating our their homes and piquing the interest of our children. Their imaginations went wild creating their own fairy houses later, dotting the landscape around the cabin area with teeny houses at the bases of many trees.

Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dig it.

This spring I took a few old Yukon Gold potatoes that had gotten a bit sprout-happy in my tuber basket and chopped them in pieces. I had a bit of leftover mold inhibitor powder from last year when I actually purchased seed potatoes, so I gave them a little dusty-dusty, then stuck them in the ground. You're supposed to mound the potatoes, generously providing more room for them to expand and grow. There wasn't much room to mound, so I gave them each a little, well, bump of dirt. They didn't seem too angry at me because they surprised me with this lovely little bounty. I left a few plants in the garden to see if they'll continue to grow for another month or so, or until we become a little frosty here.

Some day, I'm going to have a HUGE row of potatoes at the farm where I'll be able to truly heed their every wish. They'll have mounds so big they won't know what to do with them. Until then, we're happy with the buttery goodness these little balls offered us for dinner tonight.

And by the way, have you ever seen a kid looking in the dirt for potatoes? It's better than hitting the jackpot. They think they've discovered gold. In our case, Yukon GOLD.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First Day of School

Ron walked an apprehensive Carl to school on Tuesday for his first day of 1st grade. There had been a few mix ups in terms of his teacher, so he was worried about which friends from last year would still be in his class. They started uniforms this year, or standard clothes. The choices are navy or khaki bottoms and a red, navy or white shirt. Very simple. Nice and easy for me. (Too bad I couldn't find his own sweatshirt that morning... don't tell him that it was too small!)

With the first few days under his belt, he's a much happier guy.

Feliz primer dia del primer grado, Carl.

Te quiero mucho.

xoxo Mama

Posted by Picasa