Monday, October 29, 2012

You Should Know #6...The Real Me

I've got a confession to make. Mostly to myself. And it's monumental. Or just mental. Whatever it is, it took half of a large-sized chocolate bar (It was organic.), and an entire bottle of red wine (It was on sale.) for me to realize...

I forgot who I am. The real me. Not the me who answers to "Honey", "Momma", or "Nana". Not the me who is constantly answering another question as to how I'm feeling. And certainly not the me who stares back in the mirror. I don't know her. She's just, well, she's just old-looking. And tired. So, I decided to have a talk with myself about who I really am in the hopes that maybe, just maybe I'll find myself again without having to get a tattoo on my arm that just says, "Kim".

Here's what I think you (and me) should know about me.

1. I'm a yeller. Growing up in a house of yellers, I decided early on, that I was not going to be one of those parents. Then I became one. Times 9. Not that I'm excusing the yelling, but it's very easy to judge someone whose shoes you've never walked in. So, I'm working on this. The yelling, not the judging. I'm a mess. But, a mess in progress.

2. I don't like meat. There. I've said it. I like to raise it. I like to cook it. But I do not like to eat it. Probably because I have to floss after eating it. And I hate flossing. It's my own act of rebellion. When the dentist asks, I smile and turn it back to him, "What do you think?" He usually tells me what a good job I've been doing and gives me a baggy with an extra toothbrush and, you guessed it, dental floss. I use it to cut cinnamon rolls. It's a win-win.

3. I am a cryer. Oh yes. Whenever I get angry, I cry. Sad? I cry. Sick? Happy? Ecstatic? Yep, crying. I go to Costco for the sole purpose of buying Kleenex in bulk. It makes me so happy to see all those boxes wrapped together in plastic, so I cry. Then I think about all the dolphins that will die because of all the plastic, so I cry a little harder. Which leads me to bust into the bulk wrapping so I can blot and blow. I can no longer shop at our local Hallmark store, because I've blubbered over every card from Congratulations on Your New Baby, to Just Because I Was Thinking of You. I've now resorted to buying blank cards and signing my name next to a hastily scribbled, Happy Birthday. That's it. No sentiment whatsoever. Because I'll cry. And it would smear my signature.

4. I wear bifocals. Well, not really. I got them. I hear they're cute, but I can't see a dang thing with them. And they make me walk like a drunken sailor. I feel like I need Dramamine just to get to the kitchen. Give me a fishing pole and I'd swear I was on a boat in the ocean. I'll probably regret not wearing them someday. But not today. I'm just thankful they haven't made me puke yet.

5. I like to quilt while I watch episodes of House Hunters International. Too bad I have to choose between seeing the television or seeing the quilt stitches. Maybe I should take some Dramamine and put on the bifocals. But that would be too easy, and I like to do things the hard way. Besides, seeing vacation homes in Jamaica may make me start thinking get-rich-quick-Ponzi-scheme. It's best if I just don't see the t.v.

6. My knees knock when I have to stand in front of an audience. Seriously. I sing on the worship team at church and it always feels like my first time. Thankfully, my knees knock to the rhythm of the music, so it's almost like we have a drummer. Almost. A few years ago, I had to give a little speech. My throat dried up, my lips stuck together, and I developed a stutter I didn't previously have. But, if I get to play a character, I have no fear at all. Sometimes it's easier to play someone else than it is to just be me. Next time I have to give a speech, I'm going to pretend to be Ricky and Lucy Ricardo. So I can yell. And cry.

7. I don't particularly like some of the blogs that I follow. Don't get me wrong, I'm probably not talking about you. But when I first started blogging, I followed everyone. I wanted to learn. I needed to know about real, whole foods. I needed to learn how to use a glue gun and make my junk look like something from Pier 1. I wanted to know how (fill in the blank) cleaned her house, schooled her kids, grew her garden, bought a month's worth of groceries with 2 nickels and a prayer, etc...all without yelling. Or crying. I quickly realized that following all of those people made me feel bad about the job I was doing. It wasn't real. Nobody shows the ugly part of living. Because really, who would read it? Food blogs never show the scorched pans. Or the sink full of dirty dishes. The whole food blogs don't share that their kids actually gagged when mom served up Kidney Pie, or Liver & Onions. And they make you believe that a good old tub of Ben & Jerry's has never graced the inside of their freezers. Most home school blogs don't share the fact that little Johnny refused to do his required reading. Or the science experiment failed miserably. They don't show the exhausted mom or dad at the end of a really bad school day. And we all have them. And for goodness sake, groceries cost more than $40/week for a family of 6. It's a fact. Even if you are a vegetarian, home gardening, canner/producer. Toilet paper isn't free. And for a family of 6, that's half the grocery budget right there. I should know. We buy that in bulk too.

8. I don't like to sit in movie theaters. I can't stand the thought of my seat being sat in during a previous showing. That person may have had a cold. Or sticky fingers. Or didn't wash his/her hands after using the public bathroom. I shudder to think what kinds of germs are covering my chair and I spend the entire movie wondering if any of those germs have legs. For that same reason...

9. I don't use public restrooms. Unless it's an emergency. Then I'll only use the bathroom at Lowes. Because it's nice. And clean. And I get some really great decorating ideas while sitting in the stall. I usually feel guilty about just using them for their bathroom, so I end up buying something inexpensive. Like sandpaper. I currently have enough sandpaper to sand down the entire outside walls of our 2-story, 5600 square foot house. Probably the inside too.

10. I am technologically challenged. See that rooster at the top of my page? His name was Elvis. Emphasis on was. He's dead. Coming up on 2 years in fact. We now have another rooster. His name is Moonshine. And he looks nothing like the dead Elvis. But I can't remember how to change the picture at the top of the page. So dead Elvis stays. I spent an entire weekend Swagbucking "How to create new banners for blogs." Which left me yelling at the computer. Then crying. I think there was chocolate involved in there somewhere, but the wine obliterated that memory.

In conclusion, I've decided to dye my hair. Because really, that was all this was about. Finding the real me. Under all that gray.☺

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Making Mozzarella

Lately, my life has been about cheese. Pounds and pounds of cheese. With gallons to spare, mozzarella has become one of my favorite ways to use up the excess milk that seems to multiply overnight.

And, it seems that pudding for breakfast, lunch, and dinner isn't an acceptable form of excess milk usage in the United States of America.

Go figure.

Since I do not have a cheese press (yet!), I researched recipes for soft cheeses before settling on mozzarella. Then I had to sift through all of those recipes for one that made sense to me.

After a couple hours of internet use and a postponement of a history lesson I needed to teach, I finally found the one. Like a light shining from up above, my eyes went to the DVD stand and landed on a copy of Homestead Blessings: Dairy Delights. The West ladies know how to make cheese. And ice cream. And butter. While smiling.

And they don't have any fancy-schmancy gadgets to do it.

Mozzarella is a very easy cheese to make. If you have a source of fresh milk, use it. But if you don't, don't fret. You can still make mozzie using store-bought milk! Just be sure to not use ultra-pasteurized or high-heat pasteurized milk, as all the "good stuff" has been killed.

The Ingredients~

2 gallons of cold milk (Use raw, whole or 2 %)
citric acid
*liquid rennet (see below)
filtered water

The Process~

Pour milk into a large pot. Mix together 2-1/2 t. of citric acid (which can be found in any health food section or sprouting section of a store) with 1/4 cup filtered water until citric acid is dissolved. Pour citric acid into the milk and stir with a long-handled wooden spoon for about 2 minutes.

Begin to heat milk on medium low to 88*F, stirring gently. This could take up to 20 minutes.

Use a dairy or digital thermometer to determine the temperature. (Stir well before reading so the heat will be evenly distributed throughout the milk.)

Once 88*F. has been reached, turn off the stove.

Mix 1/8 t. liquid rennet with 1/4 cup water. Add the rennet solution to the warmed milk, stirring for 15-20 seconds. Set a timer for 30 minutes.

Then, walk away. Seriously. Take a shower. Call your mom. Sneak into your secret chocolate stash, or read a book. Just don't come back and stir the pot. You'll have to trust me on this one. After 30 minutes, the milk should look like a large pot of tofu. But better.

Using a long knife, cut through the curd (all the way down) into 1-inch strips. After that is done, do the same crossways. Like this: #

Let this sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the burner on to medium. Stir, without mixing, to keep the curds from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Put your spoon straight down into the curds and lift up.

Once the curds have reached 108*F. (this won't take long since they are already warm), turn off the heat. Let the solution sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Drain the curds in a colander for 15 minutes. My picture didn't turn out, but I set the colander in a large bowl and drained the whey into that for my pigs. They LOVE the whey! (Chickens love it too!) While the cheese is draining, mix 1/2 gallon of water with 1/2 cup of fine sea salt and heat to boiling. You can use the same pot that the cheese was in without washing it.

At the end of 15 minutes, cut the cheese (which resembles a big, hot blob of goo) into strips.

Dump the strips into a large bowl and add half of the boiling saltwater. Stir with wooden forks or spoons for about 10 minutes.  After 5, drain the water off and add the other half of the saltwater. This is the one time where playing with your food is a good thing, so stretch, pull, tug, and swirl away.

Drain the cheese into the colander to start kneading it. It will be extremely hot, so use the wooden forks/spoons until cool enough to handle. This will get all the water out of the cheese.

As soon as you're able, turn the cheese out onto a counter/cutting board and knead by hand. You will want to stretch and pull this to allow any water bubbles to escape. I fold the cheese over and into itself, kind of like shaping loaves of bread. Remember, that as the cheese cools, it will become more difficult to shape the cheese, so work quickly. When I'm done, I place the still-warm cheese into a Pyrex loaf pan and cover it with a piece of wax paper and a lid.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

This recipe makes approximately 2 pounds of fresh mozzarella cheese that is solid enough to be grated or sliced. If you won't use it all up within a week, mozzarella can be frozen for up to 2 months if wrapped in plastic and placed in a freezer bag.

Not that cheese has EVER lasted more than 2 days in our house.☺

*Rennet can be found in most health food stores or online. You can use either the calf rennet, made from the lining of a calf's stomach (ew.) or vegetable rennet, which is made from a type of mold.

This post is linked to the Homestead Barn Hop, The Farmgirl Blog Fest, and Farmgirl Friday Blog Hop.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Genetic Roulette~The Movie

It isn't very often that I post links to youtube videos or movie trailers. In fact, I think this is a first.

That should tell you just how important I think this movie is. Genetic Roulette is free for viewing for 1 week. And it should not be missed.

I am pretty passionate (that's a nice term for it) about the food our family eats. While we are in no way perfect with our food, we are aware. Which is what this video helps to do. To educate us on the effects of genetically modified foods. (And there are many.) Genetic Roulette explains it in a way that the whole family can understand.

And it is a start to opening the eyes of the ones who haven't wanted to know.

Right now, California is trying to pass a GMO labeling law. If passed, this will set the stage for many other states to pass their own labeling laws. The truth is, I believe that real food should not be called "organic". I believe that farmers/companies should NOT have to pay big $$$ to say their food has no added chemicals. It should just be called food. Period. But...if food is not what it appears to be, it needs to be labeled. And those chemically dependent companies need to pay for that. Because we have a right to know. I would no more offer my children a drink of turpentine than I would knowingly allow them to eat an ear of genetically modified corn, pumped full of Bt. And since it may be more difficult to convince the GMO companies (Monsanto) to put a skull and crossbones on their products, a label will have to do.

For now.

Please spend some time with your family this weekend and watch this movie. Then make whatever changes necessary to keep genetically modified foods out of your home. After watching the movie, you'll understand my passion and why this is just too important to dismiss.

Genetic Roulette~The Gamble of our Lives

Don't forget to pop some non-GMO corn first...☺

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Gluten-free Spiced Oatmeal Cookies

Now that the weather has cooled, it's time to get back in the kitchen and start baking again. Baking has taken on a new set of challenges since my gluten allergy was diagnosed, but it is still one of my favorite things to do. One of the cookies that I have loved since I was a kid, is oatmeal cookies with raisins and cinnamon. Whenever I think of fall baking, I can't help but think of oatmeal cookies. My kids say they smell like an expensive candle.

I think they smell like Autumn.

And after a little tweaking of an old family recipe, I can do more than just smell them.

I can eat them too!☺

~Spiced Oatmeal Cookies~
~The Players~
*use organic, if possible*
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup organic shortening (Tropical Traditions or Spectrum~but not Crisco!)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 t. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups *gluten-free flour blend (*see below)
3/4 t. xanthan gum
1 t. baking soda
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. sea salt
3 cups gluten-free rolled oats (I use Bob's Redmill)
1 cup organic raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and shortening. Add the sugars and mix well. With the mixer still running on low, add the eggs and vanilla; mix until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour blend, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar mix, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.

Stir in the raisins and nuts until well incorporated.

Drop by rounded teaspoon onto a parchment lined cookie sheet or a baking stone. (LOVE my baking stone!) Bake for 10-12 minutes until a light golden brown. (I found with a baking sheet I needed the full 12 minutes.) Do not over bake! Let them cool on the cookie sheet/baking stone for several minutes before removing and placing on a wire rack.
Pour yourself a glass of cold milk (or coffee!), grab a favorite book, and enjoy all that Autumn has to offer.

Especially the cookies.☺
*Gluten-free flour blend: 1 cup brown or white rice flour
2/3 cup sorghum flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour/starch
Sift together. Store in a sealed container.
Makes 2 cups GF flour.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

a day, or two, in the life...

Please excuse my absence of late, things around the homestead are hoppin'! And mooing. And oinking. And...well, pictures sometimes speak louder than words.

The corn not only grew taller than me, it even produced edible ears!!
Since this was our first successful corn harvest, everyone wanted to participate in the harvest.

The shucking took much longer than the, harvesting.

Heather (& Mandie who was on her mandatory union break), washed the corn.

The Mister and son #1 showing off their knife skills.

Fresh cream

The boys are becoming expert butter-makers.

1 cup of fresh buttah, ready for the freezer!

The Anaheim peppers did great this year~I can already taste the enchiladas.

Grapes from my brother-in-law's vines~We picked 3 boxes that are currently being made into adult grape juice.

And finally, a bittersweet good-bye. My son-in-law took a youth pastor position about 250 miles away. After having my precious daughter and her family with us for a year, 250 miles seems like another continent away.
Madison enjoying her chocolate milkshake in her new town.

Emmie showing me her "ed cawler".
 Even Frank thinks it's way too quiet around here.

We're both waiting for Christmas.☺