Monday, January 30, 2012

Cheese making: Mozzarella

So this was my first attempt at making cheese, it was really easy and turned out successfully. To make mozzarella you need milk, citric acid, and renet (I used a vegetable renet so that vegetarian friends might one day enjoy my creations.) Begin by heating 1 gallon of milk on the stove, I used whole.

Add 1 tsp citric acid to 1/4 cup of water.

Add renet to another 1/4 cup of water. I just followed the directions for the renet I had to determine the amount. The recipe I was following recommended 1 crushed tablet of regular renet.

Make sure the milk is at least 50 degrees before pouring the water and citric acid mixture in. Stir for 1 minute. The added an additional tsp of citric acid, stir another minute.

Slowly heat on low to 80-90.

I have no idea what I'm doing here...

Add the renet.

Cover and let sit undesturbed for 15/30 minutes.

When it is ready You will get a "clean break." Poke a finger in and make a line. In a few seconds the sides will separate.

Slice the curds in squares. You won't see much at first, but leave them to sit a bit and they will separate.

Apply low heat until it reaches 108 degrees. Let it sit off the heat for another 20 minutes, stir occasionally. The curds will continue to shrink.

Spoon curds into a colander lined with cheese cloth.

Let whey separate from curds.

Microwave for 30-45 seconds, then gently separate whey using your hands or slotted spoon. Microwave another 15 seconds and repeat. Microwave 20 seconds, then salt the cheese (who knew it was so sweet at first?) and knead like it were bread.

When it turns shiny, you are done kneading. Now cut it in half. You can eat it immediately or throw it in the fridge. Eat is soon though, because it will go bad in couple weeks. The cheese you see below made it onto a yummy homemade pizza and was perfectly gooey and delicious.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Simple Soaps

This is a soap I got at the winter farmers market a few weeks ago. The brand is Simple Soaps and they are from a local lady who uses her own goats' milk in the soaps. I know goats milk soap is pretty popular, so I was curious to try some. They have a variety of scents to choose from, both based on essential oils and others using synthetic fragrances. The essential oil fragrances are very well constructed and very nice, not something all EO enthusiasts are able to pull off. Some people like synthetic fragrances, others avoid them, but you have to admit, they often smell a lot better. I think it just takes a keener scent sense to make an appealing EO blend.

At first I used this just as a hand soap, but lately I've been using it in the shower since I've been running low on my own soaps. It smells very nice, mine is a blend of peppermint, basil, and ??? I would say it is a bit too drying for me to continue to use on my skin, probably only because I'm so sensitive to fragrances. So I think I will return it next to the sink... It will last longer there anyway.

I visited the website for Simple Soaps today and it looks like they just opened a shop in Dover MN. I think that might be worth a visit once the roads shape up. For now, you can order them online, they even do custom batches of 15 bars or more... How nice would that be for wedding or birthday gifts? Check them out

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Music on Monday: Charlie Parr

I can't remember where I first saw him, but I know how I first discovered his music. I used to have a habit of wandering down to Cheapo records at 1 or 2 in the morning when I was restless, bored, and usually a little lonely living in Minneapolis/St. Paul. At the time they were open 24 hours and I was a night owl with a love for music. With no where else to go, I would go to Cheapo. They had listening stations throughout the store and I would spend the night scanning records and listening to anything and everything that peaked my interest. On of my favorite places was the local section, and that is where I scanned and considered disks from Tapes and Tapes, Jasper Loes, Luke Zimmerman, Vicious Vicious, and Charlie Parr.

Parr was one for the win. I bought his second album and soon was tracking him down for shows. Not hard to do as even then he held a regular list of shows. One of my favorites was seeing him at Beaners in Duluth, MN. I traveled up with my roommates, one of whom was in a band at that time called the Godevils. They were playing at Beaners as well that night as well and it was a small, relaxed venue... a real treat. At the time, he still was working to cleverly conceal his youth... and didn't look much older than myself.  I've also seen him at open-air shows at various Twin Cities gatherings and block parties. While he has a solid following, the best part of these show is watching passer-bys stop in their tracks until you can barely see Charlie among the swarm. No matter who walks by, he instantly communicates the talent, depth, and legitimacy of folk music.

I encourage everyone to to follow some of the links I've provided and give this talented man a listen. A quick Youtube search also will lead you to many live performances.

Official website with discography, shows and more:

You tube videos: 1922JubileeJesse James

Albums on iTunes: Music on iTunes

So there it is, give him a listen, you won't regret it. Hell, take a show in with me sometime.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Maple Roasted Roots and Blog Inspiration

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Location:12th Ave NE,Rochester,United States

So I'm trying to figure out a more consistent format for my blog. After doing some thinking this weekend, I think I would get more use out of the blog and it may be more enjoyable to read for others if it were semi-structured. I also feel my blog has too much of some things (How Tos) and not enough of others (local goods). So I did some brain storming, and this is what I came up with:

Sunday: Recipes
Monday's: local music
Tuesday: "soap box" thoughts on topics important to me
Wednesday: local product or store reviews
Thursday: local art (maybe to be combined with music on Mondays?)
Friday: local entertainment/ things to do
Saturday: tutorials and "How To" projects

I will freely admit that above list is kind of a wish list and a bit ambitious.... Being as it is pretty hard for me to get any sort of regular post up each week at the moment. But we will see. I will still include general updates on what I have been up to, but you may have to wait for the details (such as my cheese making post, which you are likely to see on Saturday :)).

So in honor of my new attempt at organization, here is a recipe for this Sunday:

Maple Roasted Root Vegtables

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp maple syrup (I use pure maple syrup, not sure how the fake stuff would turn out)
1 Tbsp Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
1 Tbsp ground or minced ginger root
3 lbs root vegetables of your choice (carrots, turnips, parsnips, rutabaga, celeriac, sun chokes, etc)
1 sweet potato

Combine the oil, syrup, and soy sauce in a large bowl. Skin and cut vegetables into chunks. Toss in the mixture and distribute onto a baking sheet. Roast at 450 for 40 minutes or until tender. I like ginger so I added extra to mine.

These are absolutely delicious and hard to walk pass without snitching a bit.... Isn't that a refreshing way to think of veggies?

Well, wish me luck as I put forth my best effort at daily blogs. Tomorrow I am going to highlight a favorite musician of mine, Charlie Parr.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Update, Cheese Making Begins!

Well, as I write this, my curds and whey are separating on the stove. I will be sure to have a separate post up on this in the future, but I'll give a brief synopses here. I am participating the cheese making challenge on the blog Another Year Without Groceries. For the January challenge I chose to try make ricotta, but in researching how to do this I discovered that ricotta is usually made from leftover whey, often after making mozzarella. Never one to miss a "two for the price of one" project, I found some resources online for making mozzarella. So while I have been doing some documents for work and writing on this blog, I've been doing my best to photograph my first cheese making attempt.

I got some time to sit down and knit with my good friends Jesse and Amber today. I haven't knitted in a long time, so it was nice. I mentioned one adventure I'd like to take in: Hobgoblin Music, near Redwing, MN. I happened to drive past it a few times this fall. It's a large barn where, evidentially, they hold folk shows and sell instruments. It sounds fun, but I haven't the nerve to go alone. I suggested it for maybe s summer time adventure. Both wanted to see House of Hidden Treasures, which Amber went with me two a few months ago. Jesse also mentioned the Minnesota opera, and sitting in North East Minneapolis at Diamond Coffee house, I'm reminded just how broad and varied "local" can be in Minnesota. The blog is sort of developing itself organically, truthfully I haven't found its complete focus just yet, so we will see what future posts bring. I love local MN music and am a great fan of the arts, so I would love to include more regarding them in the future.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

General update and new recipes

I have quite a few blog post backed up and in need of editing, but for now I think I will just add a general update. As you can probably tell, I've been doing a lot of cooking lately... I'm tryin my best to get recipes up for those that read this thing too. I jsut made a great roasted root veggie dish today that I hope everyone tries, it was very, very good. (You know when Equah starts stalking the bowl and snitching pieces like they were candy that I've done something right!)

I also read a blog called Another Year Without Groceries which has a great cheese making challenge I am really interested in trying. Starting this month, several bloggers are trying their hand at making different cheeses... They start easy and increase in difficulty as new challenges are posted. I think I should at least try the first one... It sounds like such a good way to learn a new skill. Even if I just do a few, it should be fun. So expect more posts regarding that. You can read about the challenge here. I've been so busy lately that I will have to scrounge up the time somewhere to try this!

One project I got done recently was my rag bins. I don't know how people got away from this, but it was common practice as I was growing up to rip up worn-out clothing and pile them somewhere. They were the paper towels of old... you wipe up a mess with them, pile the dirty ones together and every so often wash a load of rags to reuse. In a pinch, you could throw them away as well. I don't have any dreams of giving up paper towels, but I guess a rag bin just makes sense to me.  They are less wastefull than paper towels, more hygenic than kitchen towels, and cheaper than both.

My compost bin froze shut. Yep, boo to that. I tried right? And I was doing pretty good, it smelt like dirt in there, not rotten food. I guess I will have to wait until next spring; and no chance of free fertilizer for the garden. Next time it is warm out I will try unfreeze it. Besides being a hippy right of passage, it allowed use to go down to a small trash bing and save some money. I guess composting apeals to me because the way I see it, we are supposed to litter the ground with food waste. That's how nature is meant to work. Now to avoid being unsightly and to also reap rich imputs for gardening, composting is better than just throwing food out the back window :).

Soap updates! The deer soap is done, and it makes for decent hand soap, but not so much for face and body. There is a slight smell of the fat still... perhaps not enough lye? I am on my last bar of castile soap, but I don't think that's too bad since the small batch I made in September has lasted me until now. I really need some more, since this is the stuff responsible for saving my skin. I may try out a hot-process method (because then you don't need to let to soap age) to make some more, if only I found the time. In the mean time I can try use the deer soap. My intention was never to use this as face and body ("toilet") soap though... since it is full of saturated fats it is perfect for laundry soap, but not ideal for skin. About 2 more weeks and my "super fat" shea soap will be ready! I am excited to use this, I may even end up prefering it to my castile soap if it comes out as intended. My shampoo soap is still going strong. I've only used 1 out of 4 bars (they were pretty large) since September. Well, actually, I'm not even done with the first bar. I really like it, but I do need to follow with conditioner still. I'm actually thinking my shea soap may be a good shampoo/conditioner bar. I will at least give it a try.

I didn't get too much done this weekend; Equah and I went to Welch Villiage and went skiing- had a blast! We're doing our best to build a healthier lifestyle, it was great to get out and do something that is both fun and positive. Felt good to get soem fresh air and I slept like a babe last night!

Recipe: Mushroom and Pecan Venison

The recipes have been quite popular, so here's another! Just made this last week and both Equah and I like it a lot.

Ingredients: 1 tbs olive oil 2 lbs venison tenderloin (approximately) 8 oz mushrooms, sliced 1 medium onion, chopped 1-2 cloves garlic, minced 2 cups chicken broth 1/2 cup cream 2 Tbsp arrow root powder (or corn starch) 1/3 cup pecans

In case you haven't seen venison before, this is what it looks like, very lean. Cut it into chunks or medallions. Heat oil on medium heat. Season meat with salt and pepper.

Sear meat, or until rare. Note meat will stick to the pan at first, it will "release" easily when it is done searing... No need to pry it from the bottom or worry about sticking if you use a bit of oil.

Move meat to plate, add mushrooms and onion and cook fir 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 more minutes.

Add chicken broth, simmer until reduced by half.

While that is simmering add arrow root powder to a few tablespoons if the cream and whisk together.

Add the plain cream first, simmer 5 minutes. The whisk in the arrow powder and cream mixuture, cook 2-4 minutes.

Let it thicken...

Add the meat and pecans. Simmer until meat is cooked through and sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve over pasta or rice. This dish has a rustic quality that I really like, but not everyone may appreciate. I was surprised that Equah enjoyed it as well. This could be made with beef if you don't like the "gamey" taste of venison.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Recipe: Thyme Potatoes

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Location:7th St NE,Rochester,United States

This one is too simple.

Cut up 6 large potatoes, with or without skin. Drizzle about 1-2 Tbsp olive oil on them. Sprinkle with course salt and thyme. Bake at 350 until tender.

I'm not sure this is even a recipe per say, but I'm the type that adds way too much butter and sour cream to her potatoes, and this is much healthier and soooo yummy! Enjoy!

Recipe: Green Beans and Cream

Another simple recipe, this one was a win. Admittedly, there are no local green beans right now. But the cream and onion are local and the chicken broth I made.

1 lbs green beans, trimmemd
1/2 onion, chopped thyme
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 1/2 Tbsp cream
Salt and pepper to taste

First, boil the beans in salted water for 10 minutes. The submerge in ice water.

Heat the oil over medium heat, then add the onions. Cook until translucent.

Add the green beans a cook a bit in the onion. Then add the stock and cream. Season with salt and pepper and allow liquid to reduce.

Haha, uh no final picture... They were gobbled up in minutes!

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Location:5th St NE,Rochester,United States

Ferndale Market

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One of my favorite little grocery stores, even though they are way up in Cannon Falls. The shop is located on a turkey farm and it's primary focus is on local food and local products. It's a bit different than what co-ops carry because local goods take spotlight here.

This picture was take last week when I ran though, I bought a face scrub made of wheat and turmeric and a lip gloss.

For more information:

Recipe: Cardamon Carrots

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Location:5th St NE,Rochester,United States

I'm hoping to get some more recipes up on my page, for now I'm trying to post some of the recipes I've been making lately. I made these a few days ago and the cardamom really complimented the carrots. Equah and I are trying to eat healthier so I'm trying to amass a collection of good, healthy vegetable recipes. (We qre getting sick of reheated freezer veggies.) This one has a little fat to flavor them, but once you portion it out, it isn't too much. The carrots and butter I used are from local farms.

6 lbs carrots, sliced
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp cardamom, ground (I used seeds, but I think ground will be better)
1/2 tsp salt

Put the carrots in oven safe baking dish, spread the butter over them. Sprinkle seasonings over carrots. Mix a bit to distribute seasonings. Bake at 350 until carrots are tender.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Local popcorn

Quick blog update. Again I'm trying to blog more, but that's easier said than done some days.

So I'm stuck in front of the computer documenting, and was wanting a healthy snack. Despite not having any paper lunch bags around, I decided to try pop the popcorn I got at the farmers market in a plastic container. Well the container came open and it just ended up popping in the microwave, I just had to gather it all put when it was done. But boy, is it good stuff. No oil or butter, just some salt. The funny thing is I bought this in the name of trying more local foods, I didn't really expect it to surpass store quality. So yeh, totally going to buy more when I run out...

I'm also going to get some paper lunch bags :).

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Location:5th St NE,Rochester,United States