Monday, May 25, 2009

I Made Butter!!!

Yes I did! So easy, so UNBELIVABLY good!!! I can't even begin to describe the taste, it's almost like butter ice cream, if that doesn't gross you out! After eating this, I can't go back to regular, store butter. They're almost like two totally different entities.

For anyone who has ever been taught to make fresh whipped cream, it's the same process, only longer. Luckily, I have an upright mixer that I can just turn on and not have to hold. So for about 30 minutes I just kept scrapping the cream into the path of the beaters until finally it became butter! Oh the rapture, indescribable!

Let me know if you try it!

Homemade Butter

1 pint of Fresh Cream, (I used raw cream, but I don't think it's necessary)
Electric beaters
large bowl
cheese cloth or clean towel
wide mouth glass jar with a tight fitting lid

Pour the cream into the bowl and beat on high for 30 minutes or more. The cream will move through several stages, thickening slowly until it is thicker than beaten eggwhites and finally butter milk will begin to be excreted and tiny flecks of butter will dominante. Scrape all into cheese cloth or clean towel and squeeze gently to allow to drain. Pack tightly into glass jar, with no air pockets, and smooth top; add cold water on top to seal and cover. Keep refrigerated and drain off water each time you use and replace when done. They say it will last 30 days like this but I can guarantee you that you won't be able to make it last that long!

Love and hugs!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Extreme Frugality, Because the Times They are a Changing

Recently, I discovered a really fun and funny blog that is called "extreme frugality" on Gourmet Magazine's website. I love the sensibility of the writer and his almost maniacal pursuit of the good life at almost no cost. I also completely relate to his burning desire to live within his means (I've been on a cash only basis for nearly two years now, very enlightening experience!) Plus, he's hilarious.

I especially love "What Was I Thinking?" When he drives the family from Maine to Florida on a combined business/pleasure trip. It's quite a treat!

Here's the link to the archive, a new post goes up late Thursday afternoon, and I'm always refreshing the page waiting for it to pop up. Ahh, how did we ever live without the internet to entertain us? Hope you enjoy! (copy into your broswer)

Love and Hugs!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

These are a Few of My Favorite Kitchen Things

My home computer is kaput, so uploading photos of dishes I’ve made is not currently an option. Instead, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on essential cooking equipment.

You really don’t know how amazing life is until you have good sharp knives. I was Dorothy in Kansas before I received a gift of good knives for Christmas. I woke up in Oz the next morning when I first used my big butcher knife to mince fresh herbs. I wanted to mince herbs for the rest of my life! If you’re going to take the plunge, buy the expensive knives – Wusthof are really the best (I have since bought two of those to add to my first collection and they are worth their weight in gold and more.) All good knives are pricey, so my suggestion is to get a cooks knife (pictured above) and if a second one is possible, a smaller, paring knife. Honestly, I could use just those two (and a cheap bread knife) and be completely satisfied.

Cast Iron Frying Pan
Cast iron is the original no-stick pan, with no worries about ingesting dangerous chemicals (in fact the iron is actually good for you!) I know lots of people can be put off by the idea that they have to “season” the pan first, but this is something that only has to be done the first time you use the pan. After you finish with that, it will become your favorite pan in the kitchen. I use mine for pan frying anything – potatoes, saut├ęs, eggs of any stripe, fish, shrimp. You name it, I’ve probably put it in my pan. The best part is that, similar to a wok, you don’t wash it with soap, just rinse (and scrape when necessary) any of the leftover bits after using it. Rinse and then to prevent rust, dry it by placing it on a burner on high heat until all of the beads of water evaporate. Since you don’t use soap, the oil from your frying soaks into the cast iron and creates a natural non-stick surface. In fact, it’s a great indicator that your food is done when it no-longer sticks, meaning that it is cooked enough to have formed a crispy edge.

Most pans have handles of cast iron, which make it easier for placing them in the oven (for making frittatas or cornbread). Mine has a wooden handle, which has burn marks due to my predilection for frittatas. It’s the price I pay!

Seasoning a Cast Iron Pan, Demystified
1. Before using a new pan, wash it in soap and water and dry.
2. Place pan on the stove top on high heat and once all of the water is evaporated and you can feel the heat through the pan, add 1 tablespoon of high heat cooking oil (peanut, safflower), allow it to heat up and then swirl it around to cover the whole pan.
3. Remove pan from heat and with paper towel, well wadded up to protect your fingers from heat, smear the oil into the pan.
4. Reheat pan until no droplets of oil remain.

Unlike a wok, you don’t need to do this several times. As noted above, each time you cook with it, the oil you cook with will begin to soak in, creating the “non-stick” surface.

Canning Funnel and Mason Jars
While I’m under no illusions that my readers will become canners anytime soon (but I’m happy to share tips on that if you like) I would highly recommend using mason jars for storing leftovers and the canning funnel makes this such a breeze. Mason jars as storage containers help me because 1) I can see the food, so am more likely to remember to eat it before it starts to look scary! And 2) while I don’t know the science on this, I feel better with my food in glass rather than plastic.

If you have kitchen equipment that you can’t live without, be communal and share!

Love and hugs!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here's to the Next 1200 days of Obama Presidency

Last week President Obama had his 100th day in office and the media abounded with analysis, polls and assessments of his accomplishments to date. But what most astounds me is that, like so many other Americans, I am a) still awed and inspired by him and his family and b) willing to give him a lot of leeway in time and how he intends to solve our country’s policy problems.

I am also astounded at his ability to handle the constant nervous flap that politics in D.C. engenders and his ability to not only stay calm himself, but to radiate that calm to those skittish Beltway folk we elect to run our behemoth of a country. It really is mind-boggling.

And every time I want to reduce the Obama phenomenon down to something – 8 years of Bush/Cheney terror, disastrous economy, right man at right time – my inner truth-o-meter knows that his phenomenon is indescribable, and will never be pinned down. Not that writers of all stripes won’t try to do just that for decades to come, of which I am completely certain. But I feel sure that I am living during a period of human history for which there is no complete explanation of how and why it is occurring. In short, it is a mystery, a beautiful moment that I simply am filled with joy to be witnessing and living.

Love and Big Hugs!