Feb 10, 2009

Mid Winter Thaw

What a difference a few degrees makes. With the temperature getting into the upper 50's the last few days, a lot of the snow has melted. This morning when Molly and I stepped outside to go for our walk in the park we couldn't believe how warm it was.
It smelled like spring!
We even had a fly buzzing around in the house. (Yuk)

Just a few days ago, this sidewalk was covered with hard packed snow.

Not today.

A couple of weeks ago Molly had to share 'her deck' with all this snow.

Not today.

Today, Molly was out on the deck doing what she loves to do.
Surveying the yard and keeping the squirrels away.

We know this mild weather won't last for long, and we sure have enjoyed it while it was here. Ah Spring, only 6 weeks away.

Feb 8, 2009

Easy & Homemade

A few weeks ago we bought a small share of two Jersey cows (Dolly and Harriet). They live on a small farm about 20 minutes from us and this is where we get our milk each week. The milk from a jersey cow has a high cream content which is perfect for making butter, yogurt and cheese.

A dairy workshop is held at the farm a couple of times during the year. On Saturday about a dozen of us met there to learn how to make butter, yogurt, simple cream cheese, creme fraiche, and ice cream.

Karen, one of the farm owners, showed us how to make butter the easy way, using a food processor. You simply pour the cream into the bowl of the processor, put the lid on and press the 'on' button. It only took about 10 minutes to go from cream to butter, and it was delicious!

Here is a small batch of butter that was made in our mini food processor.

The liquid that's leftover is buttermilk that can be used in baking.

She also explained how easy it is to make homemade yogurt.
We have had our Donvier electric yogurt maker for years and it works great.

But it turns out you don't need a fancy machine to make yogurt. Karen makes her yogurt by placing the cultured milk in a quart glass jar. The jar goes into a small cooler that she fills with hot tap water. The cooler is left undisturbed overnight and the next day it is delicious yogurt.

Yogurt cream cheese is made by simply draining some yogurt in a cheesecloth for a few hours (I have used a paper coffee filter instead of cheesecloth with good results). Creme Fraiche is similar to sour cream and is made by adding a culture to the cream and leaving it at room temperature for about 12 hours.

Making your own homemade ice cream allows you to have this wonderful sweet treat without the 'extra' ingredients. If you are curious what these extra ingredients are go here. Modern ice cream machines have containers that can be stored in the freezer and they don't use messy ice and salt. And, no hand cranking! We have had our Krups machine for a few years and although we only use it occasionally, it makes delicious ice cream in about 20 minutes.

Karen shared her favorite recipe for ice cream that only uses a small amount of maple syrup as the sweetener. She also shared with us her recipe for homemade vanilla.

Karens' Vanilla Ice Cream (from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon )

3 egg yolks
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 Tb homemade vanilla
1 Tb arrowroot (can be omitted)
3 cup heavy cream

Beat egg yolks and mix with maple syrup, vanilla, arrowroot, and cream.
Put into ice cream maker and follow machine directions.
The addition of alcohol (vanilla) prevents hard freezing.
Other ingredients such as apple mint (from your garden), fruit in season, nuts, cocoa, etc. can also be added.

Karens' Homemade Vanilla Extract

Split 3 vanilla beans lengthwise. Put into a glass pint jar and fill 2/3 full with vodka ( Karen uses organic vodka ).

Let sit for at least 6 weeks before using.

Feb 1, 2009

A Walk To The Park

The sun was shining and temps were in the 30's this afternoon, so after Church and brunch, Molly and I took a walk over to the park.

Actually Molly doesn't care what the weather is like, she is always ready to go for a walk.

We don't live very far from the park and we walk over there almost every day. Molly knows the routine very well by now. The park pictures are from a few days ago.

The sidewalk we take to the park gets very snowy (and dirty) this time of year. Salty slush from the road gets thrown up on the sidewalk by the passing cars.

During the winter, cars aren't able to drive back into the park. The road is accessable to park employees only. Cars really aren't supposed to park in front of the gate either.

Snowy picnic tables.

Playground equipment sits idle this time of year.

This is one of the trails off of the main road.

A bridge over the creek.

Molly left her bag in the garbage can too.

After our walk we leave the park and head back up the sidewalk to go home.

Back at home, Molly is busy getting rid of those pesky snowballs that collect on her fur.

What a beautiful sunset we had tonight.