A Cheesy Adventure

So in the latest installment of my crazy life, let me tell you the story of how I came home from a normal work day yesterday, and unexpectedly woke up early today to watch a cheese demo in a town 40 minutes north of me.

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Generic photo from the Mother Earth News publicity kit.  🙂  Did I mention I brought my camera and neglected to take any shots?  Never again!

After work yesterday, I hung out with my friend, Charity, then went to bed early.  Word to the wise, this is what happens when you leave your phone unattended around Charity.  Anyway, I was lounging in bed catching up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube- you know the drill- my friend Tara messaged me.  I met Tara a few weeks ago when I went to the bread class, and we hit it off so well, it didn’t seem too weird or stalker-y to friend her on Facebook.  It’s so fun making new friends who share my same interests!

Anyway, she messaged me about the Mother Earth Expo happening in Belton today and tomorrow. I have to say, I had not ever heard of Mother Earth, but I was willing to hang out with a friend doing something fun together.  She was super excited, because Cary from The Ploughshare was going to be giving a demonstration on how to make Mozzarella Cheese.  Tara is a lucky duck, she’s already taken their soft cheese class.  Below are her own creations of cheese and butter.  Maybe you need to write a guest blog post, Tara!

So that’s how I came to spontaneously buy a weekend pass to the Mother Earth Fair.  And you guys, the cheese!  It was amazing, and I don’t say that lightly.  The process is fascinating.  Basically, you warm up a gallon of milk, add citric acid and rennet, and 5 minutes later, the entire pot turns from a liquid to a solid!  Crazy!  The teacher, Cary, took her knife and sliced up the solid milk into strips in the pan.  One stir with a spoon and the curds immediately separated from the whey.  She gathered them, stretched them, and bam- mozzarella cheese just like that.

Tara and I had a fun morning, walking around the vendors, looking at the baby chicks and piglets and gorgeous roosters.  Food trucks were scattered everywhere outside, while demos were happening inside.  People could make their own brass spoons, or even carve their own wooden spoons, and weave small baskets.  There was one lady who was spinning cotton on an improvised spindle made with a bicycle tire frame.  It was so soft and thin and pretty.

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Stock photo, but the cotton looked just like this!

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A great lecture on designing a homestead from the Ploughshare.

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Isn’t this adorable! I would totally need one of these if I had chickens.

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This is a stock photo, but I did see piglets nursing!  They were so adorable.

There were lots of sessions about organic gardening, raising your own backyard chickens, and even a session on how to butcher an animal and make the most of all the pieces.  For real. I didn’t go to that session, ha!

The experience combined so many strands of study in my life.  One year, I read Michael Pollan’s book The Ominvore’s Dilemma.  In the book, he talks about an innovative farmer, Joel Salatin from Polyface Farms.  And Joel Salatin is actually one of the speakers at this event!  Plus, on the way to the expo center, I was listening to a lovely podcast called Living Homegrown.  The host, Theresa Loe, was interviewing Shawna Coronado about her organic gardening hacks.  And surprise, Shawna Coronado was on the schedule as well!

It felt great to do something spontaneous and to hang out with a new friend.  The weather was amazing, too.  And while I failed to take many pictures, boo, it was a great day!  Do I plan on raising my own chickens and growing my own food?  No, at least not any time soon.  I have a brown thumb and chickens aren’t allowed where I live.  But I love to learn and gain new perspectives, so it was a lovely day!

I am sooo adding mozzarella cheese to my list of things to do!  But, I do think I will make another loaf of my cinnamon bread first, because we are sadly out of that.  So many things, so little time.

 

Bread, Glorious Bread!

Ya’ll.  I’m writing this post and looking at the pictures, and it’s making me want to get up and go to the freezer right now where my  last piece of Cinnamon Raisin bread is waiting for me.  I want to toast it up and slather it with butter because it is YUMMY!

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So, I didn’t seal the bread well enough and some of my cinnamon and sugar melted out onto the pan, whoops!  The surprising thing to me was how lightly sweetened this loaf is.  It’s got 3 tablespoons of sugar total- not bad for a sweet bread.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  So in my quest to have the most nutritious food, I started looking into grains, in particular whole wheat.  I have mostly been eating the whole version of these for the last year.  I might have cooked wheat berries or occasionally steel cut oats, but not regular bread made out of flour.  The thinking behind this is that the more processed something is, the higher the insulin rush in your body, which can lead to excess fat storage.

But I’ve been wondering if there are perhaps shades of nutritious whole grain flours, as an occasional slice of bread is a glorious thing.   I began wondering if I could freshly mill my own flour from quality wheat and then feel good knowing that it hasn’t been stripped and bleached.  I’ve come to think of modern white flour as “dead” flour, which isn’t far from the truth, since it is stripped of the fiber and bran and then bleached so it will remain shelf stable.

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Freshly milled whole grain flour made with a lovely sourdough starter- there’s nothing dead about this bread.

Looking into milling my own flour lead me to The Homestead Heritage.   They call themselves an intentional Christian community dedicated to sustainability.  They have one of the only working stone ground mills left in the United States.  The other weekend, I went to visit.  Watching the millstone grind the wheat, feeling the vibrations in the floorboards, and hearing the miller talk about the nuances in the smell of the wheat, was truly an enriching experience.  Come to find out, the saying “keep your nose to the grindstone” comes from a milling background- who knew?!

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I signed up to take the sourdough bread class, which was an all day affair starting at 8:30 and ending around 5:30.  We had a tour of the bakery, hands on experience with several recipes, and even got to take home our very  own starter from theirs.

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I wish I could bottle the smell and share it with you!

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Here are the pitas going into the 500 degree oven! High heat for a few minutes only, and they puffed up beautifully.

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They have the perfect top to stuff goodies into the pocket!

I learned so much from the day!  I haven’t made a loaf here at home, as we sliced and froze the glorious loaves and stashed them in the freezer so as not to eat them all in one weekend.  Ha!  I left with a cookbook of recipes and a determination to eat only the best.

I hope to go back soon and re-visit the mill with my family and walk the campus with more leisure.  It was such a beautiful place and the people were very kind and welcoming.  They also have a cheese class and I suspect that this might be next on my list.

I ended the day with a sack full of flours from the mill and a car filled with the heavenly scent of homemade bread.  One of the best parts?  We made a pizza, so I didn’t even have to cook dinner!

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Lentil soup two ways!

Lately, I’ve been trying to increase my plant based protein.  I’m not a vegetarian, but looking back through my whole life I can see I have leanings that direction.  I remember turning up my nose at barbecue chicken and pork chops on a regular basis. I’m sorry, mom, for being so picky about the great meals you made!  Add that to the growing list of things you appreciate about your mother after the fact.

Some of you also may remember that I’ve mentioned the book Always Hungry? By Dr. David Ludwig. I highly recommend it as a moderate approach that is neither exclusively high carb or low carb.  It’s rare to find an approach that is in the middle, and I encourage you to check it out from the library or buy your own copy. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon:

One of the things that I love about the Always Hungry approach is the inclusion of vegetarian options for protein.  Dr. Ludwig’s wife, Chef Dawn Ludwig, worked with vegetarians and vegans for years and has put together amazing recipes for the book. I have cooked several of them and love them.

So, that is how I found myself wondering what else is out there for protein options to add to my repertoire.  Enter the humble lentil!  Until recently, I had never cooked with them before. But I’ve found two outstanding lentil soup recipes in two different books that just taste so good and are perfect for this cold damp weather.

The first recipe is from The Heart of the Plate by Alana Chernila.  It is a savory, hearty recipe that starts with what I consider to be the ultimate trifecta of a soup base: onions, carrots, and celery. She suggests a lovely dumpling recipe to top off the soup.  Instead of regular white flour dumplings, I used chickpea flour, also called besan flour.  Because it is made out of beans, it’s got a high protein profile, which also makes me happy!

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Lovely dumplings for the soup!

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I’m getting hungry all over again just looking at this!

The other lentil soup recipe is called Curry Lentil Soup from Run Fast, Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. It is a savory, hearty recipe that uses coconut milk and kale. I’ve always been a fan of creamy soups, and while this one isn’t over the top creamy and rich, it adds the perfect amount of creaminess to keep things interesting.

I hope you try both recipes, they are amazing!

The photo challenge is going slowly and I have to remind myself that slow is okay. Forward progress is the goal.  I’ve heard it said that your first 10,000 photos are bad. That may be the case for me!

We went camping in Bastrop, Texas this past weekend and the weather was perfect!   We hiked, rode bikes, sat by the fire, and hung out together. I was so glad to have some time to play with my camera. Here are a few shots from our adventures.

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Gorgeous blue sky!  I’m so glad we finally had good weather.

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We had so much fun playing our tiki toss game!  Will got really good.

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I love my boys!

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It’s hard to believe that it’s January, but that’s Texas.

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These little mushrooms were everywhere.  They were so pretty, but I didn’t touch them.

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I can’t vouch for the QR code, don’t know where it will take you.

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By this point, Will was getting impatient with all my photography.  He would say, “oh, wow, look at that blade of grass, you should take a picture of it!”  Silly goose.  I didn’t know it at the time, but when I zoomed in on the computer, he’s sticking his tongue out on this picture.  Ha!