Thursday, May 23, 2013

Easter 2013 - It's All About Bread!

This post has been 1.5 months in the making.  Well, that's how long it has taken to get it written and uploaded! ;o)  And now I'm so fed up with rearranging photos that they are staying as they are... all higgledy-piggledy.

I made the mistake of taking the boys with me when I shopped for Easter eggs this year.  Once J had seen them, it was all he could talk about, and he was bugging me to eat them.  Having let the incentive chart on our fridge for potty training lapse, he suddenly wanted a chart so he could 'earn' those eggs!  It didn't seem to make much difference to the nagging, but it helped keep us occupied.
Here's the last of the hot cross buns we made. We gifted some away, knowing there was more bread to come this weekend.
I found a cheap egg-dyeing kit so we tried this for the first time.  I'm not sure if we'll do it again.  Neither of the boys liked hard-boiled egg, and the dye scratched off far too easily.  They both had fun sticking Easter stickers on the eggs and standing them in a little cardboard 'cuff'.  I don't know how many times C dropped his ones on the floor.

On Saturday, both boys were keen to help in the kitchen.  J helped measure the ingredients.
C helped stir the dough (in the early stages)

Then I cut the dough into ropes, rolled them and twisted them into bunnies.  J rolled all the tails and stuck them in place.  (We've been playing with playdough lately.)  You may spot a poinsettia with raisins... J saw the Christmas picture in the book next to the bunnies.

Then they baked, and were drizzled with sugar glaze.  Yum!

On Easter morning the boys hunted for the Easter eggs and chicks we had hidden around the living area.  One had a clue to find a big bunny in their bedroom.

J found them all eventually.  The chick in the pot plant was the hardest to find.
C enjoyed the bunny after lunch.

And finally, a not-so-successful gift.  I can't remember if I've blogged about this yet.  I gave N 12 new types of bread for Christmas - one each month of 2013.  I'm a bit behind, but this was the the Easter offering - an Italian wreath with a nut praline on top.  A lot like pannettone, but a bit overcooked.  I made sweet breakfast strata (bread pudding-ish) for breakfast later in the week.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

March Adventures

Here's the round up of our adventures for March (in pictures):

J started trying to colour inside the lines
One day I couldn't find J during nap time (when he usually doesn't sleep) and it took me a moment to spot a hand and foot here.  He slept for 2 hours!
We went with friends to the new Perot natural history museum in Dallas.

J liked the interactive screens.
C liked the magnetic puzzle.
We had a picnic at the airport...
so we could see Auntie Naomi as she passed through
She brought presents!
We visited the Dallas Zoo with friends.
We had lots of fun.
J got up the courage to pet a native Texan possum.
After the keeper gave her talk.  Did you know they not only play dead to avoid predators but also let of a 'dead scent' to make the act more realistic?
The children's zoo had a fun spiderweb so our budding Spiderman had a go...
and was joined by his brother.
The weather has got warmer, and C has decided he likes air on his skin... a lot!
We went to a friend's 5th birthday party.  J discovered 'little legos' and was quite happy building with and without assistance.
The lego theme included a cake of 'bricks', chocolate bricks, gummy bricks and men, straws and streamers with lego-man faces, favours of lego-man soaps and crayons and lego notebooks and 'tattoos'.  E had fun getting ready!
And she lent us her silicone molds so we melted down some of our old crayons and made our own bricks.
And that was all before Easter weekend.  More on that later.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Making Mozzarella

Ever since a brief mention in our now-abandoned first blog, I've been fascinated with mozzarella cheese.  On our tour of Italy we had lunch at a farm south of Naples where they served food primarily produced on the farm itself - tomatoes, basil, salami, cheeses, fruit, limoncello, and wine are mostly what I remember now!  (We consumed rather a lot of limoncello since it was soooo good.)  Behind the restaurant there were two women stirring giant stock pots on gas burners, making mozzarella and a by-product, ricotta.  So when I saw this easy recipe for mozzarella online I was keen to try it.

I wasn't sure how to find rennet tablets, but discovered some in the clearance section of our supermarket for 99c, that were good until 2014. :o)  I found that kosher salt can be a good substitute for cheese salt, and I had some in my pantry. I borrowed a candy thermometer from a friend and I was good to go! The photos and instructions in the link are far better than mine, so I won't go into the process here.  My one 'hiccup' was that the "8-10 minutes" for the curd to set was more like 3 hours, so my 30 minute mozzarella took more like 7 hours as I worked around dinner prep and bedtimes!  Here's my finished mozzarella:

 I gave some to my friend who had lent me the thermometer, and there was still plenty for a couple of meals.
We had some on our favourite artisan pizza (corn and garlic 'sauce' on a homemade base with tomato, mozzarella and basil on top).
 It didn't seem to melt as well as commercial mozza, but it sure tasted good.
Then I grated much of what was left and sprinkled it over seasoned tomato slices, grilled (broiled) them and served it over pasta tossed in olive oil, garlic, roasted yellow peppers and lemon.  The boys loved the pasta and cheese but left the tomato.  The grown ups loved it all.

The day after the marathon mozza session I followed the directions in the rennet tablet pamphlet and made ricotta with the whey and curds I had strained off during the mozzarella making.

I made about a 3/4 cup of ricotta,
 which then was substituted for most of the yoghurt in my favourite lemon cake.  (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the finished cake!)
By the way, my friend has 'made over' the lemon cake recipe and I'm looking forward to trying it out soon!

On a side note, I'm not the only  member of the family currently obsessed with dairy.  N is know for his late night habit of being "cheese hungry" and I caught C eating the butter I'd accidentally left out after lunch - straight!  I reckon he got about a tablespoon's worth before I caught him.  Blech!  No adverse effects immediately apparent, though some hard arteries may be on the cards if he keeps this up.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sunrise Marmalade

Along with the family fun we had in February I also had fun in the kitchen making some marmalade from blood oranges that were part of our co-op basket one week.

The basic recipe (below) comes from my Grandma Heath.  She makes the most fabulous lime marmalade (for all those who love lime or can't have grapefruit) and when I asked for her recipe she said she just substitutes the limes for any other citrus in a recipe!  So I dug out her grapefruit recipe and went to town on my blood oranges.  It only calls for a small amount of fruit so it is perfect for my small batch preserving capacity. :o)

Beautiful fruit - the whole lot diced, flesh, rind and pith.
 Water added and simmered until tender
 Same volume of sugar added - yikes that's a lot!
 SLOWLY heated until sugar dissolves.  (Learned my lesson last time when I ended up with glace' peel rather than marmalade because I heated the sugar too fast!) Then boil until desired setting point is reached.
Pour into sterilised jars to within an quarter inch of the top.  Clean rims of jars if needed.
 Screw on sterilised lids.
Wait for them to seal.  Then open just one jar and enjoy the beautiful blush glow on your morning toast!

Grandma Heath's Marmalade

Mince no more than 1.5 lb grapefruit/lemons/oranges/limes.
Add 3 lb water per pound of fruit. (Yes, weigh both fruit and water.)
Stand overnight then cook until tender, about 30 minutes.
Add 1 c sugar per cup of fruit.
Boil approximately 1 hour until setting point is reached.  (If necessary, add the juice of a greenish lemon to help set.)