Wednesday, June 6, 2012

My Week in a Ramble...

Staying "busy" this week!  Well, not as busy as  I "could" be, but I have got a few things accomplished so far.

Yesterday, I put together a cheap shelving unit to hold all of our "needs charging" stuff (cell phones, Nintendo DS, iPads, Nook, etc...).  Really, it's a shelving unit to hold CD's and DVD's, but it was just the right size to stick at the end of our hallway!  Once we get the offices moved downstairs, it'll be nice to be able to charge cell phones and such near where we sleep and spend most of our time...though that may change with moving the offices downstairs!

I also got a small batch of Banana Chips made using my new Food Dehydrator!  I only bought 3 smallish (medium) bananas, so only got one and a half trays out of the bananas.  It was enough to make maybe 3/4 of a cup once dried, I'll get lots more next time!  Eight to 10 bananas should fill my dehydrator. 

I also (finally) got around to trying that fresh cheese recipe yesterday!  I used half a gallon of Whole milk (the recipe called for raw milk, but store-bought pasteurized milk worked fine), 4 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar (also known as 1/4 cup, but I used my "measure from above" cup that is marked in tablespoons), and 1/2 Tablespoon of Salt (table variety, but to be different I could have used the Black Salt...).  I wasn't really sure how long to let the milk go at a "slow boil", so once it was immediately starting to produce tiny bubbles when I stopped whisking (I used my silicone coated  whisk so I didn't scratch my pot, the original recipe says to stir...her photos looked to have larger curds than I got, but I love the texture I got).  I turned off the heat and started to drizzle the vinegar in, stirring the whole time.  I had added about half the vinegar before the curds and whey started to separate, in fact I was just beginning to think I had messed something up when it "magically" became two distinct textures in the pot (the curds are solid and the whey looks like a pale yellow liquid)!  To strain it, I layered a tightly woven tea towel into a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl.  Then, I laid a double thickness of cheesecloth in the towel.  You really don't need both the cheesecloth and the towel, one or the other would work fine, I just don't think my cheesecloth could handle the cheese on its own (it's the cheap stuff you can get at the grocery store in a little package).  Next time, I'll use just the towel!  To make a harder cheese (think cheese ball here), I added the salt (as suggested in the recipe).  However, next time I think I won't out quite so much salt in, it made the end product very salty!  I dumped my curds into an empty bowl to mix in the salt, it was still too hot to really handle, and I wanted to make sure the salt got distributed.  The recipe says to hang the cheese for several hours (after a few other "get the moisture out" steps.  I'm plain out of places to hang things in my kitchen (ding room, living room, bedroom, office, etc...), so I had to do a bit of thinking about how and where I was going to hang my cheese.  My solution came in the form of my banana hook!  My particular hook happens to be attached to a basket (for fruit and veggies), but since we have never been really "good" about having a spot to keep said basket, it normally just hides in a closet.  It made the perfect place to hang my cheese though!  I set the large bowl I used to catch the Whey under the cheese (in the basket) and tied the towel around the hook for the bananas!  Not only was it out of the way, but I could transport it to other locations (since it was sitting on my stove-top, that came in really handy).  The cheese is now in the refrigerator, along with the (cleaned out, empty) half gallon container, which now is nearly full of Whey!  I was a little surprised with how much Whey came out of the process!  I really don't know why I was though...the cheese ball that was produced was actually quite small, roughly one cup of cheese was produced using one-half gallon of milk.  Without the salt to help harden the cheese, this same recipe makes fresh Ricotta cheese.  It's an extra step, but if I was going to try my hand at making a Lasagna...I think this would be perfect in it!

Today, I have already cleaned the dehydrator's trays (sticky bananas and no wire mesh inserts) and drug out the meat slicer (I guess I should just call it a slicer).  I started peeling my apples because I generally don't like the skins on Apple Chips, but after one apple, I decided to leave the rest with their skins on!  So, I got the slicer set up and began slicing away at the bag of small, red apples I bought over the weekend.  After the bananas yesterday, I was assuming I could do the whole bag of apples (8 apples in total), but was so glad I stopped slicing after 3 apples to load a few trays!  My 3 small apples filled my dehydrator!  I'm glad I got this batch going early in the day now, I'll have an idea of how long they take to dry and came hopefully do another batch overnight tonight.  We're going out of town this weekend for an overnight trip and I want to take some dried fruit with me for snacks!  I also still have a Cantaloupe and a small (personal sized) Watermelon to dry out this week (though one may have to wait until I get home based on the time I have left and other things going on toward the end of the week).

I also need to make another batch of Dog Food up today, mostly because we are down to one serving left of the Hamburger/Veggie/Pasta food I made last weekend.  We actually have a large bag in the freezer with three and a half days worth of the pasta meal in the freezer, but I am/was trying to get ahead of the game (again because of the trip out of town).  So, I need to start the "Pumpkin Barley with Turkey" recipe soon so it has time to cool and I can bag it up.  My plan is to keep out three day's worth of food (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) and freeze the rest in single day bags.  That way, when we get home of Sunday, I can pull out a few bags and they will be thawed and ready to serve by Monday morning.  For her stay at the vet, I'm not sure what we will do about food...Rosie has been getting a bag of homemade food in the morning and a can of food in the evening.  Plus, as treats (and pill pockets), she has been getting bits of hot dog and other softer foods that I know she likes.  This morning, I broke up one of the apple slices into "easy to swallow" bits for her, the whole slice was just too hard for her to eat!

In the realm of "those pets that live under my deck"...Clyde has decided to go broody!  Gah!  Of course, she waits until I am going to be gone and can't really do anything about it...  I know she just wants to hatch out some cute baby chickens and be a Mom, but I can't have any more chickens, so the answer is no right now!  I noticed it "for sure" yesterday and immediately went down and pulled the fake eggs out of the nest.  This was all I had to do when Henrietta did this in the Fall, so here's hoping!  I've also been making sure I go get the eggs as soon as I see one has been laid.  This morning, when I went to get the egg I saw I also turned the coop lights on to make it not as dark and "homey" for brooding in, I'll turn the light off tonight when I go down to put any stray nesters back up on the roost for the night.  When Clyde decides to sleep in a nest box, unfortunately, so does Henri!  But, last night all I had to do was put Clyde on the roost and Henri followed her up there too (they really are each others shadow), they even stayed on the roost the rest of the night, so I don't think she's as set on brooding as she thinks she is...

My plants are in a love/hate relationship with this weather lately!  The tomatoes are doing well up on the deck, growing inches a day it seems!  But, the lack of sunshine this week is really taking it's toll on them!  As is the colder weather...just past noon today and it is currently warmer in Anchorage, Alaska than it is at my house!  The Rhubarb is thriving in this weather though...especially the set of 6 plants that don't have a hose going out to them yet!  We did buy hoses this last weekend, but I'm not going out in the rain to set them up.  Even the Raspberries are enjoying the added moisture, or it could have been the buzzing bees from a few weeks ago, but I have little fruits forming!  I wasn't expecting any fruit from them this year because they are still such tiny plants!

My weeks just keep getting busier too!  While the weekdays look fairly "clear" if you were to peek at my calendar, they are really filled with my trying to be domestic and all that entails...I hate laundry (putting it away, I actually like washing it), so I have been avoiding that for a few days.  I love to cook, but hate to do the clean up.  But, with only a few really "good" pans, I have to wash dishes just to make the things I need to make (like the dog food)!  Cleaning...this is really something I don't mind, but I have to be "in the mood" for it and it never seems to coincide with when (or how) Garrick gets the same bug!  It's also not something I have been in the mood to do for quite some time, lol.  I'm not a complete slob, we don't live in a filthy, stinky mess...bu it is cluttered and "full".  This week has it's on "busy-ness" too.  On Friday we have our ultrasound!  This is the one where we will hopefully see girl or boy parts!  Yikes, that came up fast (and oh so slow at the same time)!  Because we'll be out of town this weekend, we won't be registering immediately, that will have to wait until next week at some point!  However, the baby shower is right around the corner (first weekend in July), so I can't put it off too long!  We also have plnas to go out to dinner with friends on Friday it'll be a long day.

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