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That’s so cheesy! (the one where I attempt to make homemade mozzarella)

A few years back I decided I couldn’t live without an ice cream maker because my kitchen counter didn’t feel crowded enough with the makers I already owned. You know, basic makers like the blender, food processor, coffee maker, waffle maker, rice maker, toaster, dirt maker (compost!), baby food maker, s’mores maker, ect. (ok fine, I’ve never had a s’mores maker, but I secretly want one)

I initially got the not another useless kitchen contraption eye roll from the husband, but I’m a maker kind of girl – and, well, I clearly needed to start making my own ice cream.

That summer, I got an ice cream maker and have made ice cream a couple times a month ever since. I’ve only had one flop (avocado, ew), and even if buy an ice cream maker solely to make cereal milk ice cream, it will pay for itself in just a few uses. Because you can’t find cereal milk ice cream at the store, and that’s a damn shame.

And lately I’ve been dreaming, pinning, (because that’s how we all dream now, in pins, right?) about making my own cheese. I mean, how hard could it be? I mean, Casey recently pointed out to me that her little Vivi was so fat she came out of the womb making her own cheese under her neck rolls.

Ok, sorry, couldn’t resist a your baby’s so fat… joke.

Anyway!

So I recently got myself a cheese making kit. Not a maker per se, but instead a kit.

The kit came with everything I needed, except for the gallon of milk. We get our milk delivered, so I had plenty of milk to spare, given cheese making day conveniently coincided with milk delivery day.

The contents of the kit (oh, plus a recipe booklet not pictured). Enough for 30 batches.

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Gage insisted on being my helper (oh the joys of having a 3 year old sous-chef), so I gave him the task of reading me the instructions in his best pirate voice.

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Basically, it’s a bunch of bringing the milk up to temperature, stirring the milk, letting it rest, bring the temp back up, mixing in a few key ingredient, draining whey, melting curds, and then some fancy rolling and stretching.

milky weh

It was suppose to be easy. And I believe it is easy, when you do it right. Except I made it hard.

Note to future cheese making self: Don’t attempt to make fresh mozzarella while single parenting through spaghetti and meatball dinner + 4 kids in the same tub at the same time night.

Because you guys, it will explode your head all over your super out of control kitchen.

messypaulPicMonkey Collage

Trust me, it’s a recipe for disaster.

(I’m convinced this is the side of food blogging food bloggers leave out. You know, the photos of their ticked off and making epic messes, and shots of every pot in their kitchen dirty. They only show the pretty photos. But nope, not me! You get it all…)

But despite my poor timing to make cheese through dinnertime, I did it. Four balls, to be exact.

Screen shot 2013-06-13 at 1.43.59 PM

You guys, it’s good. In my opinion, it turned about a bit more like a fresh ricotta (which, come on, is not a terrible thing AT ALL)  than mozzarella, but it’s still super tasty. We’ve been slicing it up, drizzling balsamic vinegar and chopped backyard basil over top. Even baby Paul digs it, which is excellent.

Next time, because of course there will be a next time, like tomorrow. I’ll be tweaking the recipe up a bit, hopefully achieving a more “stretched” mozzarella texture. Also, I hope to be all zen-like and make my cheese in the right environment. Post-kiddo bedtime with calming music playing in the background. While I sip on a glass of pinot noir, because nothing can go wrong when drinking in the kitchen.

*And just because you didn’t ask, this is the ice cream maker I use, and this is the book I typically grab for (baked rhubarb froyo, page 42, doooooo it).

**This post was sponsored by the Indiana Family of Farmers. These words are my own, just like those ugly cheese balls above. I TAKE FULL CREDIT.

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suddenly I see’s (and eats) candies

Last night one of my little girl dreams came true. Only 29 years after my 5th birthday, I was given the chance to eat all the chocolate in the candy shop. No, literally. I went to a real live candy shop and could unabashedly eat whatever my little gooey heart desired. Picture the scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Augustus Gloop starts drinking out of the chocolate river. Basically, that’s what I looked like and felt like last, sans the part where he gets sucked up the pipe and sent to the Fudge Room.

You see, I was invited to a little media preview for the new See’s Candies store that recently opened at The Fashion Mall in Indianapolis. (Side note, if you love shopping, this mall in itself is worth a trip to Indy. I’m talking West Elm, Anthropologie, LUSH, Nordstroms, Urban Outfitters, Saks, JCrew, Apple, and now See’s Candies. I think you get the picture, don’t forget to pack life’s savings.)

sees candy shop in Indianapolis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Any-who, back to the chocolate.

Until yesterday, I had never heard of See’s Candies and in hindsight I can’t believe I’ve survived this long. And while it’s a new company to me, it’s been around since 1921. Ninety years is a long time to be making and selling chocolate, which means it’s probably a household name to many of you. And for those of you that knew about this candy company and forgot to tell me about them? SHAME, I THOUGHT WE WERE BETTER FRIENDS.

But last night, I rocked the candy shop Willy Wonka style. Or was it Lucy and Ethel style? Remember that scene from I love Lucy? Yeah, Casey and I went head-to-head competition style.

This is my nervous face, psyching myself up for the competition:

Clearly, Casey is not phased.

nervous to compete

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is me in action:

You can’t see my hands, because they’re moving too fast.

Just kicked @mooshinindy's candy covered trash in a chocolate packing competition.

You can see my determination, and you can also see Casey’s hands. (*ahem*)

So guess who won all the bragging rights forever? THIS GIRL!

(I attribute my success to my time spent as a carnie, and the fact that I have suspiciously small hands.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*victory dance photo snagged by @justshireen.

So what did I learn? Well, other than realizing I missed my true calling as a chocolate candy boxer-upper (that’s the term, right?), I learn that I have a new chocolate addition so intense it might take the place of my past desires to eat all the hot wings. Specifically, I can’t stop thinking about the fruit centered ones.

But I also learned that every time you visit, you get a free sample (over 1 million pieces given away annual). And I learned that at any time you can custom make your own box, which means you can get 12 pieces of lemon truffle (or raspberry cream, which is a close second in my favorite book) and nobody can stop me.

Also, they hold the world record for the largest lollipop.

You guys, See’s candy is a must. If you’re privy to living close to a local store (over 200 nationwide), you must stop in, at least to nab your free sample. And if See’s Candies is new to you, well, Valentines Day is right around the corner and they have an online store. DO IT.

Disclaimer: I’m a chocolate eating professional. If you try eating as much as I did last night you might really hurt yourself, and I wash my hands of your stupidity.

Disclaimer 2.0: All the chocolate was provided to me by See’s Candies. My opinions are my own, just like my love-handles.

Grandma loves dessert

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Thank you COOL WHIP for sponsoring this post. Join us on Facebook for inspiration and recipes for everyday treats. What you add makes it. #coolwhipmoms

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There are foods that bring me back to my childhood. Foods that my grandma’s, aunts and my mom would make for family gatherings. I can close my eyes, and can picture myself there. The dining room table filled with food, and a train of relatives carrying plastic trays and paper plates making their way around the spread.

It’s the late 1980’s. I can see the dark brown shag carpet. I can feel the gigantic homemade bows perched on top of my too tightly pulled pig tails. My uncles will soon retreat to sitting in the living room watching a hunting show on the TV, while the ladies gossip and swap recipes in the kitchen.

My grandma would almost always bring dessert. I remember like it was yesterday the first time she made this cookies and COOL WHIP Whipped Topping dessert. And if anyone would compliment my grandma and tell her you like something she’s brought, she would (and still does) immediately tell you how easy it was, and exactly how to do it.

Right then, right now, in the middle of the party. Get out a pen and paper.

“Kid, it’s so simple! I learned it from the lady on the Talk of the Town radio show!”

And she’s right, it’s so very simple. 3 ingredients and about 10 minutes is all it takes:

1 pkg of crunchy chocolate cookies

1 container COOL WHIP

Milk

Dip cookies in a shallow bowl of milk, and cover bottom of a 9×9 dish with the soggy cookies. Then cover first layer of cookies with a layer of COOL WHIP. Repeat with COOL WHIP and milk soaked cookies until you’ve filled the casserole dish. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.

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It’s not the prettiest dessert, but it’s incredibly tasty. And it’s super simple, the perfect dessert to let the kids help assemble.

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Thank you grandma, and thank you Talk of the Town lady from Zeeland, Michigan circa 1987. I’ve come a long way in the kitchen, but this will always be a well loved and cherished dish. This and pickled beets, deviled eggs, pig in the blankets, balkenbrij and sherbet punch. Ah, food of my ancestors.

One of my favorite quotes from an author I very much admire (Michael Pollan) goes: “Don’t eat anything that your Grandma wouldn’t recognize as food.”  And while Michael Pollan might cringe and give me the stink eye, I think I found a loophole in his system. Good thing for me, Grandma knows and loves Cool Whip.

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What foods do you love because of tradition? I would love to hear about them.

Sponsored posts are purely editorial content that we are pleased to have presented by a participating sponsor. Advertisers do not produce the content. I was compensated for this post as a member of Clever Girls Collective, but the content is all my own.

chop it, blend it (till it smokes), slurp it down.

I’m 4 weeks postpartum, and I’m starting to fantasize about getting back in shape. While I love a good plate of nachos (washed down with a cold beer) any day of the week, I do feel better both physically and emotionally if I exercise and eat right.

I’m excited to re-join my YMCA, start the Couch to 5k program again, and even possibly take some yoga classes at this yoga studio just a block from my house.

Oh, and fitting back in to my jeans again would be super nice too.

Before I got pregnant with Paul, I was on a health kick that included mid-morning smoothies. Drinking a smoothie was an easy way for me to get energized without reaching for a Diet Chemical Coke.

Earlier this week, I saw a particular green smoothie getting pinned on Pinterest like 100o times over, and I knew I had to try it. Unfortunately, it was the biggest PinterFAIL ever. Totally nasty. So sad.

I refuse to give up. This morning, I brushed off my gag reflex, and searched Pinterest for a more tolerable green monster smoothie recipe.

Speaking of Green Monsters, have you ever cloth diapered a 1 month old and a 2 year old?

(oy, I digress…)

So today, I’m attempting another green smoothie,based off this pin, with slight adaptions.

My (slightly adapted) from the original recipe Green Monster Smoothie:

  • Handful of fresh baby spinach
  • diced pineapple
  • 1 banana, peeled and cut up
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 kiwi
  • tablespoon-ish of honey
  • 1 raw egg
  • Handful of ice cubes

Ok fine, who am I kidding, I majorly adapted the original recipe, and changed it completely. It’s not remotely the same drink.

Blend it till the blender smokes (what? You’re blender doesn’t smoke after 30 seconds in use?)

Make it look like this:

green smoothie

And then drink it down…

A green smoothie a day...

I mean really, one of these puppies every day will have me back in my pre-pregnancy jeans in no time. Right?

Overall, this smoothing was a PinterSCORE, opposed to a PinterFAIL. I suggest you give it a try.

Have you made anything cool off of Pinterest? Do share.

*I’m being Pinteractive thanks to my dear friend, Nanette.

 

It’s a rice cooker! But it makes eggs too!

So I feel almost ridiculous writing a “how-to” on making hard boiled eggs in a rice maker. I mean, it’s so easy, I should just post a one-liner on facebook or twitter. If I did, it would go something like this:

Eggs placed in top steaming basket above, 2 cups water below. 21 minutes to steam, prompt ice bath soak to follow. Chill & Enjoy.

(that was only 129 characters, I might add)

But what fun is a boring status update, when you can make a whole post out of it’s simplicity!

So let’s do this (for all you visual learners out there):

1. Haul out your trusty rice cooker. I have the Cuisinart 8-Cup Rice Cooker. It retails for around $100, but I got mine off Ebay for I think $35. Shop around, or add it to your Christmas list.

rice cooker it

2. Prop the steaming basket up. Now it’s ready for the raw eggs.

prep it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Delicately place raw eggs in the basket. Return glass lid.

steam it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Turn on rice cooker, set the timer to 21 minutes. Walk away.

time it

5. After 21 minutes is up, carefully (hot! hot!) remove eggs.

remove it

6. Transfer to ice bath until chilled.

chill it

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. Store in refrigerator.

I’m super particular about the eggs I buy. In my opinion, fresh eggs from small local farmers are far superior to the cheap ones you find at the grocery store. (I know, call me an egg snob, it’s ok)

Truth be told, the best egg candidate for hard boiling are eggs that are over 5 days old. Buy a dozen, let them hang in your refrigerator for a week, then boil them up. Trust me, they will be so much easier to peel.

Like I’ve said before, I make around a dozen hard boiled eggs every Sunday night to use for lunches/snack throughout the week.

Ok, enjoy your eggs!

The great Freezerpalooza of 2011

I refuse to admit I’m already nesting. Although I’m 25 weeks along, I think 15 weeks is a little excessive to be in a perpetual phase of cooking, cleaning and baby preparing. But are you ready? If you find yourself hungry, stop over at my place.

It’s time again for FREEZERPALOOZA!

What’s Freezerpalooza, you ask? Great question!

It’s where we eat everything old, nasty, gross, left in the freezer over the past year (or so). I have only one solid (or frozen, tee hee) rule to Freezerpalooza, Gage has to be older than the “packed on date”.

I know, that’s so gross, I really shouldn’t admit to that.

So what will we be eating the first two (or so) weeks of October?

deep freezerpalooza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folks, what you’re looking at is lots of food located in my basement deep freeze.  Let’s see, you have about 30 pounds of corn, strawberry jelly, various soups and stews, about 100 cheese sticks, waffles, lamb meat, and of course, frozen pizzas.

And then we travel upstairs to my kitchen freezer. Basically, it’s where the vodka and snacks live.

standup freezerpalooza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First of all, I am ashamed to admit that I have those Trix yogurt things. It was a moment of desperation, where I was at the grocery store with all three of my children. I begged them to be good while we shopped, and in turn, I would let them pick out a treat.

Ok, moving past the frozen yogurt cups and bottle of vodka…

In this freezer, you will find things like homemade chili, lots of prepackaged Trader Jo’s snacks and meals, more frozen veggies, and oh, ice cream. This freezer is my favorite, especially around 9pm.

So the game plan is to eat (almost) everything in both freezers over the course the next few weeks. Then, my mom and I are going to make like 20 casserole dishes to replenish my stash, so I have something to feed my family during that cumbersome “dark days” of pregnancy, aka, the third trimester.

I need your help. I have like 3 or 4 go-to frezer meals that I always make, but they’re getting tired and overused. I would love any and all new suggestions you might have. If it’s tasty, if your kids will eat it, it if fits in a bowl or a 9×13 dish, I want it.

I would love you forever if you could leave a link to a recipe. I might even name my 4th child after you.

Side note, anyone got a good boy name they’re not using?