Summer Colds Suck

The first waves of Autumn golden light were seen this weekend. Just a hint, a drizzle of amber around the edges of the heat, but it was there. If I weren’t so congested with a stupid summer cold, I probably could have smelled it, too.

An elephant has moved into our house and is living on my chest- damn asthma. Everyone else gets a simple cold, and I get bronchitis and am flattened. I can barely breathe and have needed the nebulizer three times today. I’m so hepped up on cold medicine I ‘m lulu.

David took all three boys and Abby to church today by himself, so I could get some rest. (three? Yeah, babysitting for Mo while she wears her beautiful dress to Heathen’s wedding down in Utah) I ended up sleeping most of the day, and think  tomorrow should be much better. Stupid asthma. Most people get to outgrow it, but NoooooOOOO, not me. On the positive side, it looks like so far, my kids didn’t get that little genetic treat from me. Dad’s lungs are much stronger than mine.

Yard Sale Scores

Well, since no one really cares what to do with your cheese, I’ll just move on to the yardage goods for this week. I’ve been overcome by a summer cold, and feel like dookey, so I skipped yesterday, and only want to a handful today. But! It was evidently milk-glass day in Washington, because here is what I found:

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Large hobnail milk glass pitcher, $2.00. I found it on Etsy when I got home for $42.00

hurricane lamp hobnail milk glass3Also, this hurricane hobnail milk-glass lamp. It was also $2.00 and it is actually already packed, and sitting on my desk to be Happy-Mail for one of my favorite people- someone who really looooves milk glass. Any guesses? She’ll know this week, when it arrives…

Also, two irridescent hobnail candle holders, a pommes-anna french baking pan from Williams Sonoma with the sticker still on,  and a set of mini-tart pans. For 75 cents. For it all. Yup.

Also: In just looking up Fenton milk glass, there is a cake stand on eBay for $280.00 HOLY CRAP! It’s the same one sitting on my kitchen counter. Fluted edges, opalescent glow, white hobnail- I got it for free. I’m not selling, and as a matter of fact, it’s the glory of that cake stand that made me really start loving milk glass in the first place. 280!! I have a whole cupboard of Fenton- two pieces even signed and numbered… maybe I’ve got next months mortgage payed for and I don’t even know it, huh?

Anyway. Someone’s getting a package from me. I’m thinking I maybe should re-pack it- use a little more bubble wrap than I did- this stuff is more valuable that I knew!

Recipe: What To Do With Paneer

So remember the cheese we made?

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Now you need to know what to do with it. Admittedly, it’s not a great eating cheese. But! It is the only cheese the entire Indian subcontinent has ever invented. It’s hard for me to believe that a culture and country with such great culinary adventures only invented ONE cheese- but it’s true. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Moving on…

The first thing you need to do with paneer is to brown it. I know, weird huh? Use a nonstick skillet with a little ghee or just plain old butter, and pan fry your cheese cubes. They won’t melt- don’t worry, as long as you keep them moving and the heat moderate. Get a nice crisp on them, then set aside.

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Now make any, yes ANY curry dish you like. You can make saag, which is creamed spinach, or Gobi, which is cauliflower, or chickpeas with Korma- a coconut cream. You can make tika masala with chicken, best recipe ever, found in Ree’s kitchen. You can pick up a jar of Indian simmer sauce in your market if you’re intimidated by the spice repertoire required in Indian cooking. Any old way you get there is fine. Here is my saag, (pureed spinach, onion, ginger, garlic, cayenne, coriander seed, garam masala, yogurt)

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I know, I know- I’m well aware it’s not the prettiest girl at the ball- but oh, how I love her spice. And spinach! It’s SO good for you! Once you have your sauce of choice simmering away (and have your rice going too) Add your browned paneer cubes to your sauce.

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Serve over pilav rice, which is just jasmine rice cooked with a little saffron and peas. It’s divine. Your house will waft waves of curry, but just open the window and enjoy. I even got JEFF, the boy who picks green flecks of basil off his pizza, to try this. Amazing what cubes of fried cheese will motivate a person to do…

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Heathen’s Wedding

IMG_0234The dress is done. And from here on out, Tracy’s Dressmaking is closed.  At this point in my life, I have too many irons in the fire, and I cannot be a functional parent and wife, while still rasslin’ with piles of silk and tulle. It did come out nice, if I do say so myself.

David picked up a can of spray air, and he says next time I offer to take on a sewing project for someone, he’s going to spray the air in my ear. Like squirting a cat with water. Or something. I’ll probably not think it’s funny when he does it, but it was funny today.

So there. Stay tuned tomorrow for a recipe on how to use your paneer cheese. I’m going to actually go to sleep tonight. Bed, sweet sweet bed.

Making Cheese at Home

I’m fighting putting “Easy Cheese!” up for a title- must… resist… the…. power….  So anyway- I’ve gotten some requests for how to make cheese. Now, I can’t make anything fancy, or, alas, with blue veins (don’t think I haven’t thought about it) but I do know how to make Indian paneer cheese, cream cheese, and ricotta- which is so much better than the stuff in the tub, you will never buy it again. And, it’s EASY! Whew. Got that out of my system. So today it’s paneer, and ricotta. I am not as cool as you thought- it’s the same cheese, just one is pressed, one is loose.

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As Ree says, here is the cast of characters. You’ll need a gallon of fresh WHOLE milk, fresh lemon juice, salt, a colander, a large non-aluminum pot (I switch from my enamel pot to stainless in this process today- enamel was too small) a thermometer,  cheesecloth or a stand-in for cheese cloth, wooden or stainless spoons and a little bit of time.

Two things: You don’t need “cheesecloth”- I usually use a cotton flour-sack towel. Paper towels will even work in a pinch. A large coffee filter will work- anything that will hold the curds, and allow the whey to release. You do need a colander though, sorry. No stand ins for that. Nor the thermometer.  The other thing is this: I have junket rennet tablets shown, but you don’t need them. They’re  back-up-  like adding a yeast packet to your sourdough start- it’ll work on it’s own, but the yeast(junket) is insurance.

While I don’t object necessarily to the little plastic lemon squeezie juice thingy, when making cheese you need the real deal. Don’t know why, but the sqeezie lemon just doesn’t cut it. Skip it.

Get the freshest milk you can find. If you have a local creamery, now is the time to make friends with them- ( if you have a creamery and are not already friends with them, we cannot be friends). If you have a cow, I am totally jealous and hate you.

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Squeeze your lemons for 1/3 cup fresh juice. Use a sieve of some sort to catch the pulp and pips- we’re making cheese here, not… gross curdled milk lemon bits. Or something. You won’t taste “lemon” in the cheese- it just acts as an acid to separate things anyway- like a good divorce lawyer? No? OK, nevermind…

Pour the entire gallon of whole milk into your pot. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, and turn the burner on to medium-high. No need to stir, but you can if you want. Watch your thermometer, until the temp gets to 185 degrees. You don’t need a fancy thermometer either- like my bull clip for holding it to the rim of my pot? Office Depot, baby. 12 for a $1.

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When it gets to 185 degrees, remove from heat and add your 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, briefly stirring, then walk away- do not disturb if for the FULL five minutes. Thus:

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Forgive my hideous thumb. I have man-hands, what can I say? I’ve learned to love them over the years, and man, can they make some cool stuff. Moving on…

After five minutes, with the lemon juice, soft curds will be forming. If it’s not separating into distinct curds, add 1 Tablespoon additional lemon juice, and wait again. You may have to do this a few times. The fresher the milk, the less lemon you need. See? Befriend your creamery! Or a cow.

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I added 2 additional Tbsp of lemon to this pot, then, with a slotted spoon or spider, gently lift the curds from the whey (and you always wondered what that meant- the Muffetts were friends with their creamery) into your cheesecloth lined collander, suspended over a bowl, to catch the whey.

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See how this whey looks like non-fat milk now? More on that later… Once the curds are all lifted from the pot, pour the reserved whey back in the pot. You have a decision to make: You can use this as is, as a stand in for ricotta- and it’s fabulous. It’s not real ricotta, (ricotta means ‘re-cooked’) or you can press it and turn it into paneer. That’s what I’m doing here. Cover the curds lightly by wrapping the cheesecloth (or towel) over the top, and pressing with a heavy weight- I know just what to use!

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Let this sit, weighted and wrapped in the cheesecloth, in the fridge overnight. Now, returning to your pot of whey. It has probably substantially cooled by now- but that’s OK, because we are going to make ricotta. Add one junket rennet tablet, dissolved in a bit of the whey, to the pot. (you can use another dose of lemon juice- but it may not work as well) Put the pot back on the heat, and bring to 200 degrees. When it reaches temp, remove from flame and DO NOT TOUCH IT. Let it sit on the counter, or the stove away from the heat, for about 10 minutes.

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When you return, voila! Ricotta! Use your spider to gently lift the curds into a wire strainer so the whey can drain. Notice the color of the whey? Pale and thin- it’s given up its all to make cheesy goodness. (Whey is still a powerhouse of protein- most body-builder protein bars or powders have dehydrated whey protein in them- it’s this stuff)

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What looks like lemonade is really whey. Don’t drink it- I mean, I guess you could if you wanted to- but just don’t. “Palatable” and “whey” are not friends. Let the ricotta sit in the colander overnight in the fridge. Use it as you would any ricotta- in lasagna, calzones, deserts, on pizza- whatever. It’s delicious.

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Once your disk of pressed cheese has been sitting overnight, you can cut it into chunks and use it in any curry or Indian food- I love me some Saag Paneer, which is spicy spinach and cheese. Maybe for my next recipe? Go forth and make!

p.s. I recommend this recipe, for artichoke ricotta calzones from my friend Michelle, in Alaska. Mmmmmmm….

Pulling in the Plackard

576586267_46bbe7f700The sun is turning the horizon bluish gold, like tepid pondwater. It won’t be all the way up for another hour, at least- but the heat from yesterday still lingers, night having done little to cool the parched house.

It’s 4:53 a.m. I’m not up because I’m doing something cool, like making buttermilk syrup and monkey bread for my kids. I’m not up to watch the sprinklers drench the yard, in a valiant attempt at keeping our grass on the greenish side of the summer color wheel. Nope. I’m up, and have been all night, because I don’t how to say “I can’t, I’m overloaded.”.

All night long, I’ve been wrestling with some lovely dupioni navy fabric, and an absolutely beautiful silver that really should be looking more like a bride’s maid dress and less like a pile of frustration. It’s my fault, and I don’t want the person I’m making it for to feel bad- I thought about not writing anything, but I need to, I need to vent, so that I can pick the pile of tulle and silkiness back up and whip it into something pretty. Hopefully.

See, the problem is, the pattern is about three sizes too small. Strike one. Patterns run that way, for anyone curious. They just do. It’s dumb, but true. So for starters, I have to alter the pattern to measurements I only have jotted down on a piece of paper. I also have to fit it to a body that is not at my house, and hasn’t been since buying the fabric. (Again, not her fault- life is like that.)  Strike two. The wedding is in Utah. On Monday. Strike three, at least for me.

I ran to the store to buy more fabric, making it just before they closed. Last night? Yeah, it was, I’m sure, but since I haven’t been to sleep yet, it’s hard to remember. Anyway. I’ve spent the whole night making a dress that isn’t going together right, that I cannot try on to see if it fits, and has to be done ASAP.

I’m up here writing because my frustration levels were getting to the point where the seam ripper was looking like a mighty fun problem-solving tool. So I’m taking a little break. Hopefully it will go better after I have a little snack and clear my head.

None of this is my friend’s fault. I could have said no. I could have returned the pattern when I realized how small it was. I could have done a lot of things. At this point, if I could just buy her a dress, I would. I would I would I would. It would be easier on my tear ducts.

My Personal Pickle Parable

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First, when making pickles, you must have the perfect pickle recipe. I happen to have one- it’s my great-grandmother’s recipe, from many a hot Iowa summer, written in my grandfather’s own hand, which somehow makes it cooler than cool, and guaranteed to make magic pickles. It’s also helpful to have a wooden-handled vintage pickle cutter. Helpful, but not necessary. Cooler, but everyone will live if your poor pickles have straight sides. They’ll feel sorry for you, but they’ll still like your pickles.

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Like many old recipes (and patterns too) it’s short on details, long on flavor and success. It assumes a certain familiarity with the kitchen. It assumes you know what kind of cukes, how to prep them, and what a quart of cukes looks like. I love this about old recipes- it feels like the writer is talking to me over a painted wooden table while we share tall glasses of sweet tea, with ice tinkling and melting in the late afternoon sun. “Put the cookies in a medium hot oven…”, “Pack in hot jars…”, “Process your jam…” All of these assume a certain shared intimacy. You KNOW how to pack jars, dear. You KNOW that a med-hot oven lets you hold your hand inside for only so many seconds. It’s… intimate.

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My pickles, onions, garlic and pepper are chilling in the salty ice, while I suds and bleach my canning tops. If you’re going to pack, and don’t want broken glass all over the kitchen, jar and food must be the same temperature or thermal shock will make jars pop into a million pieces. Icy pickles never go in hot jars. Never.

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You need all of this stuff. And after you follow the directions, you get the best sweet pickles on Earth. (and I hate sweet pickles. Really, I do- but not these. Maybe it’s because they’re so wrapped up in gossamer memory, or maybe it’s because they really are that good. Does it matter why?) Make them. I have given you a gift. Make them.

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This is what you get. Blessed, delightful, little briney, sour, sweet gems from the garden. You can hot process them, and make them shelf-stable. I do that sometimes. This batch I cold-processed, and they will have to be refrigerated, but cold processed pickles stay much crunchier. If you’ve got the cold space, I prefer them- but the shelf-stable ones are almost as good- AND you can ship them to all your favorite pickle people. We’ve already busted into our second jar.

This is a recipe the kids can totally help with- especially if you have a nifty vintage slicer- it’s not sharp enough to de-finger anyone, but cuts the cukes into great shapes. Now go make some pickles. Don’t tell anyone I gave you the recipe. You’re welcome.