Thursday, September 30, 2010

Looking for Peace and Harmony

Yesterday's post created quite a stir
amongst my kitchen friends.  They
reminded me that I have many daily
friends in the kitchen and were
very jealous of the blog space and 
attention given to Mr. Blendtec and
Mr. Kitchen Aid.  In an effort to quiet the
green eyed monster in my kitchen,  I need
to give some other "friends" their well
               deserved "pat on the back".

This is Ms. Garlic Press

She is well worn and on the elderly side but 
still works like a champ.  Created by Pampered Chef,
she is by far the best garlic press on the market.  
The best feature she can put an 
unpeeled garlic clove in and press ~
and out comes the garlic with the 
garlic skin left inside.  She is quite the 
flirt as she is constantly meeting up with 
Mr. Blendtec, Mr. Pressure Cooker and all the
mixing bowls in the cabinet.  You have to 
keep your eye on her.  She complains that she never 
gets to hang out in the drawers and in always in 
the dishwasher.  I tell her that it is because she is 
constantly used and never has time to relax...
but I really don't trust her in the drawers
with all those cute wooden spoons!

See what I mean ~ she has her sights set on Mr. Blendtec

Meet Mr. Pressure Cooker and Ms. Wooden Spoon

Mr. Pressure Cooker has been in the kitchen for about four years
and is a great pressure cooker...he is one of my
international friends - German.  The great thing about 
him is the time he can produce a meal in.  He makes 
quick work of the recipes that take hours (like beef stew,
red beans and rice and soups) and can cook them in 
thirty minutes.  Our favorite meal to cook together
is "Twenty minute beef stew"  We just made that on 
Tuesday.  Ms. Wooden Spoon flits about even more than 
Ms. Garlic Press and is my trusty assistant in cooking
just about ANYTHING!!!!

Meet Mr. Alfi  and Mrs. Bodum (electric tea kettle)
We have been friends forever! They are also of Europeon 
descent and are celebrating their 9th anniversary.  
Every morning without fail, they provide a wonderful
cup of delicious coffee.  Drip coffee is, in my opinion,
so much better than coffee from a coffee maker.   Mrs. Bodum
heats up water to the boiling point in about sixty seconds and
I pour it through the filter on Mr. Alfi.  He keeps it nice
and hot all day.

Last but not least....Mr. Tony Chacheres

He is not from any European or royal descent....
he is 100% bonafide Cajun and 
likes everything hot and spicy.  There is not 
a meal that is made in my kitchen that doesn't 
have Mr. Tony's help.  Eggs, meat, marinades, pesto
soups, stews, sandwiches, EVERYTHING!
If I was stranded on an island and could bring one would be Mr. Tony!  I accuse him of 
having a substance in his spice that is addictive
as the more you eat the more you have to use it!  

Butter Update

Ellen got home from school yesterday and was 
taken with my homemade we
decided to walk (she roller bladed) to Guy's 
grocery store and load up on cream.  Five pints of cream 
later, we gave the Kitchen Aid mixer a work out.  He 
did the job and we made tons of butter...I just can't
believe that making butter is this easy and it has taken me 
forty six years to discover.

Ellen is making butter and putting it into a heart mold ~
in her Rollerblades! 

We decided to mix in some fresh basil.

Breakfast this morning!  I always leave my butter
out on the counter as it is much more spreadable that way.
I was a little worried that this butter may not 
hold a good consistency but it works beautifully.
It maintains a great texture and spreads like a champ!

Stay tuned - Pesto making is on the horizon!
~ Now I have to return to my regularly scheduled life ~

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Meet my new Best Friend

Let me introduce my new daily friend in the kitchen!  

Mr. Blendtec

The Blendtec is basically like having a garbage disposal 
in a can pulverize anything - ANYTHING!
You can put any kind of fruit, peelings and all, 
and it grinds it into either juice, smoothies or 
even ice cream - yes, ice cream.  You simply add ice, 
milk, fruit and honey, press a button and 60 seconds
later you have home made ice cream.  If that blows
your mind, get also makes soup!  Just
throw in a whole tomato, a carrot, some celery, 
a chicken bullion cube, some liquid like water
or wine and fresh herbs. Press the soup button 
and again, 60 seconds later, you have hot fresh soup that 
is nothing but fresh vegetables!  I could go on and on
about this blender but I need to get to today's project.

Homemade butter!

After my great success in the yogurt department, 
I decided to venture out to butter.  Like yogurt,
I have tried to make butter in the past with little success.
But with the confidence knows no bounds.
So, I opened up some cartons of whipping cream, 
added a pinch of salt, pressed 
a button and waited for my butter.  Sixty
seconds later, no butter.  Now, Mr. Blendtec
was bowed up and flexing...
"press the button again", Mr. Blendtec said.

Success did not come to me today....
After pressing the button several times, it became 
clear that for the first time in the two months I 
have owned my Blendtec, a wonderful creation 
was not coming out of it. Not to be discouraged,
I quickly poured my cream into what used to be my 
best kitchen buddy - the Kitchen Aid mixer.
Sitting in the corner, dusty and out of shape, 
I think my mixer smiled to see that he was still 
needed and not totally cast aside for my new BFF.

Mr. Kitchen Aid got right to work and within a minute had 
done his usual job of whipping cream.  With
a satisfied smirk on his face, he grinned at Mr. 
Blendtec.  "Not so fast",  Mr. Blendtec said back to 
him...."she wants butter, not whipped cream".  Now
we were into uncharted territory, but always up 
for the task, Mr. Kitchen Aid started mixing again.

The cream got firmer and started lumping together

Wow, it was actually starting to look like butter!
"I think I can, I think I can" was just barely audible
over Mr. Kitchen Aid's steady hum.  And the little engine that could ~
DID! (make butter)

But wait there is more....making butter is a two for one
special!  What do you get when you make butter ~
(of course)
This is no joke....buttermilk is the by-product of making 
butter.  All these years, I never knew what buttermilk 
was.  Now that I think of it, the name is self explanatory;
but I didn't know that is how it is made.

And if you like buttermilk, you get a bit more of 
it by rinsing your new homemade butter with
cold water and saving the runoff water to add to 
the original buttermilk ~ who knew!

Drain the runoff to get the small bits of butter out.

I took the butter and filled the "butter crock" that my
 mother gave me years ago and
 now have to think of a yummy recipe to make 
with my homemade buttermilk.   
"Buttermilk pancakes",  Mr. Blendtec excitedly yelled.
"Remember, I made them the other day and they 
were delicious?  And don't forget the banana and chocolate
chip muffins we made, that recipe calls for buttermilk too. The 
cross country team went crazy over those muffins!" 
Mr. Blendtec was looking so shiny!  
A quite little voice coming from the direction 
of Mr. Kitchen Aid said; "Make new friends, but keep 
the old, one is silver and the other is gold!"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Creativity running rampant!

We were cleaning out our bookshelves and came
 across our Harry Potter book that had fallen apart 
(maybe from the fact that all three girls 
have read the entire series about seven times each
 and carried these books all over the world....literally). 
 With half of the chapters missing, we all 
were silently trying to decide what to do....none
 of us could bear to throw it away but
 it was completely unreadable!  
All of a sudden, Sara said
"I know what to do with it!"
Problem solved!  I gave it to her and finished the cleaning the
 bookshelf (which by the way, 
looks fabulously neat and clean). 
 The next morning, she
 proudly came down with this!  

Sara and Ellen took quotes from the book and lined the inside, 
then hodge podged the whole book, cover and all.  
Sara hot glued fabric on the sides 
and braided the strap 
and there you have it...a true 
"Harry Potter purse"

Sara is sharing it with Ellen but she got 
first dibbs to take it to school!  
Needless to was a hit!

Not to be left out of interesting, creative projects......
let me introduce Elizabeth's venture!  She has
been writing a book for the last year and is around 30,000 words 
into it.  Any spare time she has, which 
is not much, she carries her 
"sketch book",  laptop and notebook around. 
 Her sketch book contains sketches of
all the characters along with their attributes 
and character descriptions.  I personally
have not seen it, as she is very private with it.
But from afar, it looks really cool!  
I have read her "rough draft" of the book
 and I say with bias, that 
it is awesome and she has a real shot 
at getting this thing published.
So what is this a picture of?  Several weeks ago, 
she came downstairs asking for duct tape. 
 I procured it for her and didn't bother to 
ask for what.  The next day when I entered her room, 
I was greeted with walls of index
 cards duct taped all over her room! 
 She now has so many characters in her book, 
that this is her invention to help her keep them
 straight!  You won't see this decorating style in 
Pottery Barn!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Making Yogurt

We are big yogurt eaters in the Gambel family...especially me; I eat it at least once a day and now that I have my fancy dancy Blendtec (post coming soon) we use it for smoothies in the morning.  I have a yogurt maker but it only makes six small containers at a time and takes forever!  I have read about making yogurt online and it was an intimidating process....heating the milk to a certain point and then letting it cool to 110 careful adding the starter cause if you add it too soon, it kills it but too late and it won't work.  I don't even own a cooking thermometer so that didn't work for me.  However, I came across some yogurt directions that seemed to easy (despite my yogurt making intimidation) I tried it and it worked like a charm.  Lots of yummy yogurt for the price of a gallon of milk!  
This is how it is done!

Heat quart of whole milk until it is barely bubbling
 and forms rich looking "scum".  
I tried this with 2% too, and it tasted and looked 
better with the whole milk.  

After milk is good and hot, bubbling but not boiling, 
turn off burner and skim the 
fatty goodness off and put in a bowl to the side.

Here is the part of directions that I loved as it doesn't involve a
 thermometer and takes the stress out of yogurt making. 
 Let milk cool and when you can place your pinkie tip into the milk and it is warm (not hot)
 add a cup of store bought yogurt with active cultures.  
The online directions did say unflavored. 
 (I used vanilla because I had it) 
and  it also said not to stir but I had to divide the yogurt into 
two containers so mine was not unstirred.

Take the milk you skimmed off when it was hot and top your yogurt off with it. Place yogurt in warm place.  This is my contribution to recipe....I turned on empty oven and heated for a few minutes (just slightly warm) and then turned oven off.  Oven should be just slightly heated as if it is too warm you will kill cultures (don't let that stress you out); just follow my directions and it will work.  You can just put the pot you cooked yogurt in the oven but I put it into my plastic containers
and it worked great.  Leave it in oven for six to eight hours.  About half way through, I turned oven back on at 200 degrees for a few minutes, then turned it off. 

And here it is!  Keep in mind that it is unflavored!  
I put honey and vanilla in it and it is better than any yogurt
 I can buy here! I am wondering how long it will 
keep in the far it has been a week.

My other new passion is rooting herbs!  I have been clipping and placing bunches in water.

In about five days, roots should appear.  A few secrets that help to root herbs better are
to strip the leaves to the water line (do as I say not as I did in the picture) and freshen water every other day.  After about a week to a week and a half, you should have a good root system and it is time to plant them.  I have a pot outside so I transfer them and water several times a day.  It has really worked well and I have a mountain of basil due to my diligent rooting this summer.  So far I have rooted a lot of basil and rosemary but I want to see if it works with other herbs.  

These are all from clippings.  My bed in the country is 
completely full of basil and I have made some awesome pesto in my "Blendtec" with all the basil. 
 I hope to make enough and freeze it for the winter.  
We use it on everything...sandwiches, pasta, and sauces.  
Blendtec post is coming soon but right now I have to finish my taxes...yuck!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Only in Louisiana - Part Six

Just when you think there can't be another single crazy post about Louisiana; there is!  We spent the weekend with some friends on the Zourich and what to our wondering eyes should appear? 
 An eleven foot alligator!

Don't worry, these girls didn't wrestle him to the
 ground and ride him around.
We just happened to catch some real "alligator hunters"
 coming in from  a good days work.
 They had four gators, but this one was the largest.

We also have a new family member that is 
quite a bit calmer than the critter above!

Ellen has been researching Cockatiels for about a month
and after much discussion finally convinced
her "big push over of a" Mom to let  her 
buy it with her "Bunny Money".
 Felix came home yesterday and she was
one excited girl.  She told me she felt like bursting
all day at school cause she couldn't wait to go 
pick him out at the Feed and Seed.

Felix isn't quite to the point where
we are comfortable handling him without 
gloves but Ellen already had him riding 
around on her shoulder last night, so 
it won't be long.  She also assures us that
she will have him talking very soon and sets 
her alarm for a 6:15 AM date with Felix
every morning for her training sessions!