Monday, November 29

how is it,
that one person
can have such a tremendous effect on you?

Thursday, November 25

Blue Eye

It seems that a trip to my Mema and Poppa's house is unlike any other trip. When traveling some places, I can anticipate a certain way things will look. However, when traveling here, to Blue Eye, MO, it seems that my memories are much clearer; I can remember the way things will look and smell. I even anticipate the way the temperature is a bit cooler than I am used to, in their house, but there is always a cozy twin-sized bed warmly awaiting my arrival. This time, we arrived at 4 o'clock in the morning, but this did not prevent my Mema and Poppa from greeting us upon our arrival. 

Traveling here also seems to have this delightful sense of nostalgia. Every time we come, I feel transported to an age where responsibility doesn't matter and the most important thing is to make caramels with my Poppa while my Mema makes jokes and we all laugh in the kitchen. Where midnight ice cream treats are only normal and you can sleep in until you can't sleep anymore, but you don't because you can't wait to see Poppa who is surely already awake and lounging in the office, watching the morning news with his coffee.
My family, I am thankful for: Mema, Mom, Dad, Poppa, Ben
Today, Thanksgiving, Poppa and I are making his specialty caramels. Let me just tell you about these caramels. When I was a kid, we would sneak as many as we could until our mouths were so full of caramel that we could hardly talk. Now, our family pretends that if you cut them into smaller pieces, that maybe they aren't so bad for you after all. But it doesn't really matter how bad they are, because whatever negative health effects they have, they make up for it in positive spirit effects: the holidays are just not quite complete without my Poppa's caramels. Hopefully you will appreciate them as much as we do!
My Poppa
Poppa Clark's Caramels
4 cups of white sugar
1 quart of white corn syrup
1 pound of butter
1 quart of half and half cream; split into 1 cup and 3 cups
1 teaspoon of vanilla

1. Place the sugar, corn syrup, butter and 1 cup of the cream in a large, heavy bottom saucepan. The pan should be at least 8 quarts or larger. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Then, gradually pour the remaining cream into the boiling mixture, in a fine stream, stirring constantly.

2. Continue boiling while stirring until the mixture comes 247 degrees (medium-hard ball stage), approximately 1 hour.

3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into a well buttered 9x13 inch cake pan. When thoroughly cooled (a few hours; be patient!) invert the pan and remove the caramel onto a cutting surface. Cut the caramels into long 1 inch strips with a buttered pizza roller. Then cut the strips into 1 inch squares. Wrap them in waxed paper and share with your friends.
Note: If you accidentally heat the caramels too hot, not to fear! Just allow them to cool. Then, reheat the caramel mixture with an additional 3-4 tablespoons of water and bring to 247 degrees. Add the vanilla again, and allow to reset. If the caramels aren't heated high enough, then not to worry, just reheat them again to 247 degrees and add the vanilla again and allow to reset.

Want to get on your friend's good side before the holidays? Slip them a few of these and they will surely appreciate you even more than before!

Happy eating (and Thanksgiving!)

I am thankful for my family and friends, love and laughter, and traditions!

Wednesday, November 24

Potlucks galore

Here is a short list of some of my most favorite things:
friends
food
community
laughter

I am constantly thankful for these things, and it seems that potlucks magically incorporate the very best of these in a wholesome way! How lucky for me then, that Sunday, both of my meals were in potluck form. A delightful brunch potluck at our dear friend Alicia's home, followed by a warm and cozy Thanksgiving dinner potluck at the garden unit: I couldn't be happier. And one of the very best things about potlucks, is that when everyone is gathered, even those people most important to you who could not attend are ever present in there glowing spirits.

Jill, Kelsey and I, often host potlucks at our apartment and just about every aspect of hosting them is wonderful. Even cleaning seems fun, when it is in anticipation of a potluck. However, I must say, that the preparation of food is my most favorite pre-potluck preparation. As our potluck was focused on Thanksgiving, Jill, Kelsey and I chose to prepare classic Thanksgiving favorites with a homemade spin. While Kelsey made homemade cornbread and Jill's and my family's recipe for "party potatoes", Jill prepared stuffing. I (have lately been loving to make pies) made an apple pie. Of course, we also sipped on mulled wine, our fall and winter favorite... Here are our recipes:

Party potatoes (a Patrick family-Clark family Hybrid recipe)
4 pounds of potatoes
1 cup of sour cream
8 ounces of cream cheese
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of pepper
2 tablespoons of butter

1. Cut the potatoes into large chunks (don't peel em, you can do that in a minute!) and place them in a pot of boiling water. Boil them until a fork is easily poked through the center of the largest potato. Then, strain the water off and allow the potatoes to cool for a minute. After they are cooled, you can easily peel the potatoes.

2. Then, mash the potatoes and add remaining ingredients. Place them in a casserole, and bake them at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If you'd like, you can sprinkle some cheese on top before the last 5 minutes of baking for an extra tasty topping!

These potatoes can be refrigerated for about 5 days after made, and let me say they are even better with age! This is surely one of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.

Apple Pie
For the crust:
2 cups of flour
1/3 cup of butter
4 tablespoons of ice cold water

1. Blend the flour and butter with your hands until the mixture forms pea-sized pieces of dough.

2. Gradually add the water and gently work into a ball. Don't over blend the dough at this time, or it might be too tough.

3. Roll out the dough into a large circular sheet. Then, to easily place the dough into a pie dish, gently fold it into quarters, place in the pie pan and unfold.

For the filling:
4-5 large apples
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of butter, plus 1/4 cup of butter
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
2 tablespoons of flour, plus 1/2 cup of flour

1. Slice apples into thin slices and lay into the unbaked pie crust.

2. In a small dish, mix honey, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, nutmeg and 2 tablespoons of flour. Pour over the apples.

3. In another small dish, blend the remaining butter, cinnamon and remaining flour into small crumbles. Sprinkle over the apples.

4. Bake at 425 degrees for about one hour or until the apples are sufficiently cooked and the topping is crispy. Enjoy!

Holidays are such a special time, and they are even better with delicious recipes. Hopefully your holidays are filled with good food and great friends and family!
Mara and I, with our pie!
Happy eating

Monday, November 22

Creative environment

It seems that I am the luckiest girl around town: my roommates are constantly creating an environment in our apartment that fosters creativity and positive energy. Last night, after quite a long week of school-related things, I was so fortunate and revitalized to spend the evening in the garden unit, creating with my roommates. While Kelsey worked on a painting, Jill reupholstered a chair for our dear friend Neal (as a part of a time exchange!). Meanwhile, I worked on (and completed) a book I was working on. I will share more on this book at another time, but I must say, that I needed a night like last night to be able to add the final words to complete the message.

And for dinner? It was quite delightful as well. While Kelsey and Jill gathered upholstery materials, I created a homemade cheese pizza! I think you could safely say that cheese pizza is the pinnacle of comfort food, and homemade cheese pizza is even better. Here was the recipe I concocted:
Pizza
For the crust:
2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pinch of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of salt
Water
Corn meal

1. Mix the flour, olive oil, garlic powder and salt together, save the water. Then, gradually add water until the dough sticks together.

2. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to your desired consistency. Then, place on a cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal.

Toppings:
I topped mine with thick tomato paste and homemade mozzarella! Then, I baked it at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes (until the cheese was bubbly and brown and delicious). Spruce it up a bit, with your favorite pizza toppings. This is sure to be a favorite.

Sunday, November 14

Cheese-making adventure

Oh goodness, I must say that Jill and I (and Pat and Catherine) started a great food adventure this morning. Recently, the four of us (and more of our friends too) have been looking into home cheese-making. Jill initially brought up the idea for making homemade cheese, after reading about it in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Over a cup of coffee a few years back, I had found out that a good friend of mine, Trevor, was a cheesemaker. When Jill brought up the idea of cheese-making, I started first by chatting with Trevor and asking him to share his knowledge in the artisan craft. Trevor not only shared with me his cheese-making equiptment, but he also referred me to a fellow cheese maker, Steve Shapson. Though I had been meaning to get in touch with Steve, classes and such prevented me from doing so.

Then, about two weeks ago, Pat, Jill, Catherine and myself (again, with several other dear friends) attended the Milwaukee Mushroom Growers meeting, in Bay View. At the meeting, Catherine happened to be sitting next to none other than Steve the cheesemaker. Steve shared his contact information with Catherine, who then later mentioned that she had met a cheesemaker. An uncanny encounter, to say the least, has led us to our current adventure: 

This morning, the four of us along with two of Catherine's friends, ventured north to Steve's home. He then brought us to his friend's dairy farm. This was the most delightful surprise, as we were able to buy our milk directly from the farmers (Harold and his son). It was so fresh, that it was still warm! The group of us enjoyed raw, fresh milk: like nothing I had ever tasted before. It was something similar to melted ice cream with a different kind of sweet. 
Harold and his cows

There is something so wholesome about making your own cheese, but even more so when you are making it with farm-fresh milk, and with the guidance of a cheese enthusiast. How blessed am I to have been able to have both of these elements in my premier cheese-making experience. Steve shared with us many tips on how to make our cheeses, and also generously shared the appropriate supplies necessary to prepare mozzarella and ricotta. Needless to say, the afternoon has been filled with plenty of cheese-making. Also, with the remainder of our raw milk, we pasteurized it in order to be able to safely enjoy our farm fresh milk for longer. 
Catherine and Jill collecting fresh milk for cheese making
Here are our recipes:
Mozzarella 
3 teaspoons of citric acid
1 cup plus 1/2 cup of cool water
2 gallons of raw, farm-fresh milk
1/4 teaspoon of sharp lipase powder
1/2 teaspoon of rennet (we used vegetable rennet)

1. Dissolve the citric acid in the 1 cup of cool water. Also, dissolve the lipase With the milk at 55 degrees, add the citric acid solution and mix well. 

2. Heat the milk to 90 degrees over medium to low heat. At this temperature, the milk will begin to curdle. 

3. Gently add the rennet solution. Using a large spoon, stir with an up-and-down motion. Continue to heat the milk until it is between 100 degrees and 105 degrees. Then, remove from heat. At this point, the curds should be able to be easily separated from the whey. 

4. If the whey is clear, you are ready to remove the curds from the whey. However, if the whey is still creamy, allow the curds to set for a few more minutes. When ready, scoop out the curds with a strainer, and place into a microwaveable bowl. Using your hands, press out any excess whey from the curds. Reserve the whey! This is what is used to make ricotta. 

5. Microwave the curds on high for 30 seconds. Then, again use your hands to press out excess whey. Repeat this two or three more times. Sprinkle with salt and gently knead the curds, as you would with bread dough. 

6. Begin to pull the cheese. If the cheese is not pulling well, reheat it again in the microwave. Repeat this until the cheese pulls like taffy. When the cheese is at your desired consistency, you are all set! You can either enjoy your mozzarella warm and fresh, or you can store it in the refrigerator. To store them, place the curds in a bowl of ice water for about a half hour. Then, after a half hour or so, replace the water with a salt water solution (brine). Enjoy! 
Pat pulling the mozzarella (enthusiastically!)
Ricotta
Whey (left over from mozzarella; use within 3 hours after making mozzarella)
1/2 teaspoon of citric acid or 1/4 cup of white vinegar per gallon of whey

1. Warm whey until it is foamy on top, right before boiling (about 190 degrees). DO NOT BOIL. Add citric acid or white vinegar. Remove from heat and allow to set for 15 minutes. 

2. Pour through a cheese cloth and reserve excess whey. Allow to strain for 15 minutes. 

Note: if you are using whey left over from mozzarella, you will not yield a whole ton of ricotta. But what you do yield, surely is a treat! 

Ta-da! Ricotta! "Ricotta" translates literally from Italian to mean "cooked twice". Since the whey is reserved from the mozzarella process, it is re-cooked for you. So simple, and so logical. The excess whey from this process can also be used: simply use in a soup base, or to cook your rice in. There is plenty of healthy proteins left in the whey and it would be silly for that to go to waste. I used my excess whey from the ricotta to make a delicious little "rice pudding". I just covered the bottom of an oven proof dish with uncooked rice. Then, I covered this with about twice as much whey-liquid, and added raisins, brown sugar and cinnamon. I then baked it at 300 degrees for about 40 minutes. Add extra liquid if necessary. So tasty and so nutritious (for you and the planet). 
Pasteurized Milk
Raw Milk
A digital thermometer
A double boiler
Plenty of ice

1. Place a smaller pan inside of a larger pan and fill the larger pan with water so the water level is equal to the liquid level in the inner pan. The inner pan will hold the raw milk. 

2. Over medium-high heat, bring the milk to 145 degrees and maintain this temperature for 30 minutes. Stir regularly to ensure the milk is being heated evenly. 

3. After 30 minutes, remove from heat and place the inner pan in a sink full of ice and cold water. Bring the temperature down to 40 degrees. At this time, place the pasteurized milk into containers and keep refrigerated. 
Pasteurization helps to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria that may be present in the milk. Though raw milk is a delightful treat and likely not to cause problems, it needs to be consumed within 48 hours of being milked from the cows. In our attempt to reduce our food waste, pasteurization seemed to be the best option (as the three of us won't be drinking a gallon of milk in the next 48 hours...). http://www.flickr.com/photos/eskimoali/5178436367/

Friday, November 12

Disconnection

It seems that I haven't posted any recipes for a while. I have been reflecting on this lately, and have concluded that this is because I have been a bit disconnected from my food lately (amongst other things). It is something that I am very conscious of, and am working to recalibrate myself by eating more deliberately. 

With further reflection, I really thought about why I was off balance to begin with. It seems that it was a combination of many factors, but there are several key elements that I have identified. First, it seems that I have allowed myself to get caught up in the hustle bustle that is school. There are so many important things that I gain from being in school, but it can be so easy to get caught up in it. By that I simply mean that it is so simple to forget other important things in your life and only focus on school and assignments and grades. Don't get me wrong, I really value my education, but I recognize that in order to take as much from my in-school education, I need to allow myself to learn from my surroundings. In order to do this, I must further allow myself to be fully present in the here and now. Lately, I feel that I have not been so fully present. In refocusing myself and my food, I hope to be able to be fully present at all times. 

Second, it seems that again, the transition between fall and winter is taking its seasonal toll on me. Every year (as so many Wisconsinites, I'm sure can relate) my body responds to the fallen leaves and the cooler air by slowing down. In the past I have really struggled with this. That is, it seems that my body shuts down. Recently, Jill and I were talking about this and Jill shared with me a new insight on the fall-to-winter transition (and thank goodness!). Jill recently read a book which described this transition in terms of trees. Jill was reading a book entitled Horticultural Therapy Methods (2006). Here is a short snippet:

"A nature ceremony is one that aligns us with the season ... We might consider if there is something to be gained by the dark moods we experience during the winter months. After all, if we look at a deciduous tree in the middle of December, it would be easy to diagnosis it with depression. It has no fruits or leaves, and looks close to death. However, we know that the tree's response to the season is to draw its life force to its roots deep within the earth. Here it conserves energy and prepares for renewal in the spring." (17)
This fall I am faced with another challenge; that is, Jill and I are still working to eat non-packaged, local foods. It has been going so well, though we have been thinking a lot about how we will remain healthy through the winter time, without a bountiful of fresh produce. We have quite a bit of canned foods, but it seems that this winter will not be quite as colorful as past winters. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as there are many delightful winter treats. For instance, we have loads of local potatoes, canned tomatoes and canned fruits. We have plenty of dried beans and grains and are planning to do some home-cheese making. Also, we are in the process of raising some oysters mushrooms! This has been quite the adventure. This coming weekend we are going to try our hands at cheese making and hopefully soon we will start sprouting some grains.

I hope to be rebalanced and reconnected with my food soon. I feel confident that my reflections and recognition of my in-balance will be help enough to recalibrate myself. Look for more recipes soon!

Happy eating