Monthly Archives: January 2013

Epic Failure: My Attempt to Make Squeaky Cheese Curds

Cooking the curds

It started innocently enough.  A friend asked about making cheese curds on Facebook and I jumped at the opportunity to try it.  For those of you who are not familiar with cheese curds check out this description from New England Cheesemaking Supply.  Of course, I have gotten squeaky curds when I was attempting to get another cheese, but I have never tried to make them from scratch.  So, I set out to try a recipe I found online.  Heat the milk, add calcium chloride, add cultures, add rennet.  Wait.  So far so good.

I knew I had a problem when it was time to cut the curd and start draining them.  It just didn’t look right to me.  It seemed too dry and the curd mat was not sticking together even with weight.  I am sure more experienced cheesemaker would have been able to salvage the curds, but it is possible they would have had the same problem.  So, I set out to do what I always do when I have a cheese failure.  I made ricotta!  The best part about cheesemaking is that it is an adventure and you never know what you might get.  Sometimes, even the mistakes are DELICIOUS!

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Draining the curds

My fresh ricotta over pasta

My fresh ricotta over pasta

Have Your Cake and Eat it, too

8th Birthday Sushi Cake

8th Birthday Sushi Cake

When I was little, my mom always made me a homemade birthday cake.  I never had a store bought cake and therefore decided in my own mind that they were somehow inferior.  Now, that I have my own kids, it has always been an unspoken rule that I would make all of their birthday cakes. I take great pride in planning, baking, decorating and serving my homemade cakes (sometimes I cheat and use mixes, but I always decorate them myself).  They never look professional and they always have little finger marks in them,  but they are my creations and they always reflect the theme of the party.  Although I am sure the kids remember the jumpy houses and the ponies and dancing the limbo, the cakes have become some of the fondest memories of my kids’ birthdays for me.

cupcakes       2nd Birthday Cupcakes

Train Cake

Train Cake

I clearly remember sobbing at 10 pm the night before my son’s 2nd birthday because I could not get his train cake out of the pan.  I baked that one 3 times before I actually got one that didn’t break.    I remember the first time I worked with fondant, the tons of decorated cupcakes that outnumbered the guests at my littlest daughter’s 2nd birthday and the replica of Wrigley Field that required my husband’s help (what is an outfield?).  I remember the bird cookies that had to accompany the bird cake and decorating them to look realistic because my 7 year old would know the difference.   I remember begging my husband to help me squish pink and white gumdrops together to mold small shrimp for the top of my daughter’s “Sushi” cake.

So, tonight I am staying up late trying to figure out what kind of cake to make for my soon to be 5 year old.  She is having a gymnastics party and I have lots of ideas, but very little time.  Maybe this year will be the year I finally buy a store bought cake.  Yeah, probabably not.

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Walking to School

Walking to School

When I take my youngest daughter to preschool every morning we have a ritual.  I take her out of the car and she demands to hold my hand before I can even close and lock the car door.  We take the big kids to their respective classroom lines and say goodbye to them.   Then we walk to the back of the school and play on the playground until her door opens 15 minutes later.

My daughter has a bit of Mama-diagnosed OCD so our mornings (and surprisingly just our mornings) are always the same.  It is funny and exhausting and endearing at the same time because it never waivers.  While I try to talk to the other moms on the playground, she commands my attention to tell me that she is either too cold or too hot.  She will then refuse to do whichever thing I suggest to fix her internal body temperature issue.  She doesn’t want mittens or a hat.  She won’t take her sweatshirt off.  She won’t zip her coat. She won’t roll up her sleeves.   No matter what I offer, she refuses.  Reverse psychology usually backfires.  Giving her control, asking other’s opinions or ignoring her do absolutely nothing to provide relief from the potential meltdown.  Miraculously, once she interrupts me from my only daily dose of sane conversation with other frazzled moms, her body regulates and her temperature problem is cured without any intervention.  Then, she will ask me exactly 3 times (spaced about 5 minutes apart) if it is time to go into her school yet. “Not yet, honey, 10 more minutes”.  “Not yet, honey, 5 more minutes”.  And finally, “Yes, honey, it is time now”.

Once, we get into school, she will do four things:  1. Grab my hand and try to get us both to fit side by side through the door that the teacher is propping open even though there is only room for us to walk single file.  2.  Ask me frantically (as if she has asked 20 times and I have not yet answered) to help her take off her coat because her “arms are stuck” and  3. Ask me if her hair is sticking up (that one just started recently and it drives me nuts).  4.  Get in line to wash her hands first, but then let all the other kids go in front of her so she is last.  After the school’s required routine of washing her hands she says hello to her teacher and/or a few select friends, and then gets to work on the morning’s table top activities.  When it is time for me to leave she begins her most complicated, time-consuming ritual.  Some might find  it adorable; some may think it is annoying.  It is not one I instigated.  It is not one I encourage.  It is not one I helped her to create.  But it is the one I love the most.

Every morning before I can leave to go about my day, she asks me to bend down to her level.   She then proceeds to kiss me on every available body part before I am allowed to stand up.  Right hand, left hand, right cheek, left cheek, right eye, left eye, nose, hair, chin, neck, ears and finally lips.  If she misses any spot, she does it again.  Even when I am in a hurry, I try to savor the moment.  Because in a week and a half she is turning 5 and I never know when this will end.

To Bee or Not to Bee

honeybeeI just finished reading The Accidental Beekeeper by Marina Marchese and I just finished having a cup of tea with honey in it.  So, of course my mind is racing.  Could I get a beehive?  Where would I put it?  Is my yard big enough?   How much honey will we get?  How many candles could we make?  When I was younger my uncle kept bees, but he had acres of land so the kids didn’t have ever get too close to the bees.  My kids would be right near the hive and so would all of my neighbors’ kids and dogs. There are probably not enough boxes of peppermint bark to give away if one of my neighbors’ kids get stung.

And yet, I cannot stop thinking about it. I have my eyes on my garage roof.  That one car garage roof has become a mansion in my mind.  I have had so many plans with what we could do with it.  A rooftop garden, a chicken coop, a playroom, a mushroom farm were among the latest.  If only my husband were an architect…oh, wait, he is.   Unfortunately, he is the kind of architect who tells me the roof as it stands cannot structurally support any of my wild ideas or apparently my body weight.  We would need to build a new structure from scratch.  And, it would cost money.  If only my kids were not going to need to go to college in the future.

I am still trying to work out where to put a beehive.  I wonder if we could build an indoor one like they have at the zoo?  It is a hive with pvc tubing to the outside for the bees to come and go.  Kind of like a dryer vent.  There is no way my husband could say no to that, right?  I mean how much damage could thousands of bees really cause if they got loose in our basement?