Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cultured butter

While i was at Expo West a few weeks ago, i was fortunate to meet the great folks of Straus Creamery. I am a big fan of their dairy products using them for all of the cheese classes-LOVE their glass containers (great for my various booze projects) and the quality is amazing. At the Expo, i was going on-and-on about my love for them and they hooked me up with a few coupons which I recently used to make butter.
 (Straus containers make EXCELLENT containers for bitters!)

I used to make butter by shaking cream in a little jar with a few pinches of salt, but this time I wanted to use my KitchenAid to save my arms and make a little more than a single serving (although jar churning is a great project for kids).  I also wanted to experiment making the "European-style" butter, also known as cultured butter which has a more complex flavor with a hint of tang and just simply, a more intense butter flavor. I for sure recommend taking the extra step to make this kind of butter once you have made quick butter.
(thick, creamy and ready to churn)

What Happens When You Make Butter...
Butter is the fat of milk or cream.  Agitation of the cream or churning, separates the milk fats from the liquid part of the cream (buttermilk). The more you churn, the more the fats try to connect with other fats until you have large particles that can be brought together by hand. Some people call butter, "an overwhipped-whipped cream", and they are pretty much right. There are a number of ways that you can churn butter: a jar, Cuisenart, old-school butter churner (expensive but mucho cute factor), or in my case the Kitchenaid.

 (getting there...)
European-style cultured butter is not as widely available however, and if you do find it, can be a little pricey (at least as far as butter goes). Making it yourself is simple, flavorful and pretty inexpensive, especially since you can use the leftover buttermilk to make other yummy things like bread!

(whipped cream stage: almost there...)

  • 1c. organic cream (I used 2c. and I ended up with almost 2c. butter!)
  • 1t yogurt culture
Let the cream sit for an hour in a bowl and cover with a towel. Add 1t culture (some people add yogurt-try it!) and mix. Let it sit out to develop for 10-14hrs, the cream should start to thicken on top (still covering). If you cannot mix right away, put it in the fridge. Once you are ready to churn, make sure the cream is around 60F. Add to mixer and put a towel on top (you will thank me later) and keep checking on it, in less than 5 minutes you will see the fat develop.

 (we've got butter!)
 (buttermilk mess: keep your eyes on the mixer!)

Once there is enough of the butter formed, strain the butter from the liquid (make sure to keep the liquid) and work the butter over and over, you will see more buttermilk released, allow to drain for 10 minutes.
(first stage draining)

After the first draining, rinse the butter over cold water while mashing/squeezing the butter. The fat will stay, but the liquid will come out. Once you feel you have enough liquid removed from the butter, wrap in plastic and store in the fridge. I like to separate the butter in 1/2 adding salt to one batch and leaving the other plain.  The fat of the butter will make it last much longer than cream if you keep it cold and wrap it well (plus it won't adopt certain fridge flavors!)

(second stage straining)

 Now that I am into cultured butter I am going to try clotted cream, ghee and I have already started looking into some cute butter molds!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CSA cooking: blackened tilapia tacos w/ hot mexi pickles

basket inventory: 2 bags of strawberries (lasting approximately 20 minutes), chard, radish, carrots, limes, lettuce, kale, beets, leeks, oranges, blood oranges, kumquats, avocados

We have had some frozen tilapia in the freezer for a little bit and i thought that we might use those with a few of the CSA items to make something super yummy-fish tacos! This is a great recipe, not only is it incredibly good (like double-take-did-I-just-make-this), but it used a number of things from the basket and is pretty quick to make (you might need about 1 hr prep for the veg). The following recipe is good for 2 people pigging out or 4 people w/ an appetizer. What is also great about making the pickles is that you can enjoy them for the next few months in the fridge.

(for the pickles)
  • #1 carrots, radish or combination of sliced (we had about #3 total)
  • 1-2 white onions sliced (if you like onions then do 2)
  • 4 jalapeno peppers sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic smashed
  • brine: a mix of 1c water and 2 c vinegar (add more vinegar if you need more liquid)
  • 1T ea: salt & black peppercorns
While slicing the carrots and radish, start cooking the onions and peppers in a pot with some olive oil. Add the carrots and radish and cook for a few minutes more. Add s & p, garlic and over with brine. Simmer for 10 minutes. Store in a glass container in the fridge where it will keep for a month and then some.
 (pouring the veg in to marinate & stuffing the leftovers in canning jars for the fridge)

 (for the salsa)
NOTE: freestyle means i used whatever crap i had left over in the fridge you dont have to do this and buy your own
  • minced: 1 red onion, 4 cloves garlic, 4 tomatoes/cucmbers, 1 jalapeno or other peppers (we added 2 Hungarian peppers) and mix together in a bowl.
  • squeeze the juice of 2 limes and 1T salt
(for the tacos)
  • 3-4 fillets of tilapia defrosted
  • olive oil 
  • 3T grill seasoning (i used something my sister made me for Christmas)
  • corn tortillas (you can use flour, just don't let me find out)
  • a mix of chard, kale and lettuce shredded
  • toppings: cheese, avocado slices, sour cream, cilantro
     Wash the fish and toss with oil and seasoning, let it marinate for a 5-10 minutes. Preheat a skillet on the stove over medium heat, add the oil and then the fish, turning after 2 minutes. Warm the tortillas on a comal or another skillet. Assemble the tacos with fish, add shredded greens, top with freestyle salsa, top with avo, add a few pickles (i like them on the side) and whatever else you have.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    uber-clean sink

    People always ask me at the shop, "what do you clean with?"
    (this is it: baking soda, lemon juice, scrubber/old toothbrush, Modern Mermaids, vinegar & dish soap)
    i think i have written about this in the past but just recently I was reading the popular LA-based Urban Homestead/DIY living blog Root Simple about sink cleaning.  Normally I have had a stainless steel sink, where I have only used baking soda and water to make a homemade "soft scrub", with a few drops of tea tree for added smelly/antiseptic goodness.
    Now that we are in our new apartment Homestead, the sink is a bit older and it is porcelain-you can for sure see a lot more stains! I was inspired by the Root Simple post on the "soft scrub" mix but with lemon-brills! Baking soda combo is great on its own, but with lemon juice-talk about hit of natural bleach power!
    (sink before: cute but worn)
     (after: pearly white!)
    (look at the stains being lifted by some small elbow grease on my part)

    I decided to take this on our new-but-getting-a-beating stove...check-check.
    Just wipe with a wet cloth and DONE, so cheap and so simple!

    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Expo West 2011

    This past weekend was the big natural products convention Expo West at the Anaheim Convention Center.  For 6 years, I have been braving the crowds, getting goodies and seeing lots of new items that will be making their way into you local natural/alt grocery store. Here are the my faves, tips and other things that I have noticed at the show (in addition to some items we will carry in the shop soon)!

    • BEST OF SHOW: the Ecotensil: a biodegradable, foldable spoon that is seriously brilliant...already vendors at EW are using them. Mark my word, you will see this somewhere within the year.
    • mushroom kits: you know i am all about the mushies in the Apartment Homestead...well they are now coming to our shop! In a few weeks you can buy your own mushroom growing kits!! Made from old coffee grounds and in recycled packaging, after you grow you mushies-the whole thing composts!  Give it a few weeks but they will be in the shop very soon.
    • Fentimans: this soda company has FABULOUS "tonics" seville/mandarin orange or burdock/dandelion brews anyone??-very yummy!
    • Dehydrators, yogurt makers and more: found a local carrier of cool dehydrators, soymilk makers and this cool grain/bean cooker...all coming soon!
    • awesome kitchen gear: i found this incredible sponge maker AND we will be getting dehydrators, grain mills and cookers in the next few months-LOVED it!
    • prickly pear juice: LOVED this and uber yummy.
    • Fresh Ginger Ale: had a great talk with owner Bruce Cost who seems to be totally into all things ginger-i want his book!

    • love more culture: there was a great collection of products from Mexico as well as more Korean-grouped booths...lots of global!
    • salts n/ spice: a number of salts of all different flavors (see a fave above) and more spices coming out.
    • probiotics and more cultures: greek yogurt is happening along with kefir...i am sure there is more on the supplement area, but i didnt make it to that area.
    • agave: you are going to see a lot of agave!
    • *NEW* you are kind of an a$$: Giovanni Cosmetics-after watching a staff person give out a number of samples to an exhibitor, I asked if I (a buyer, who is a fan, recommends and buys from) could have a sample of something new or a shampoo (which I now USED TO LOVE). I basically had to give an interview deeming myself a small 2" sample. I left before i could get it. Sorry Giovanni, you just lost a fan-DOUCHES.
    and finally, for those who want to go in 2012...

    • if you can, take a taxi to the show, especially if you have a group of people. Meet somewhere where you have free parking or you can even meet at the parking next to our shop, we are SUPER close to the convention. you will save yourself waiting in massive traffic for parking, paying for parking and saving your feet because you will be doing lots of walking! if you split the cab with 3+ people, you spend about $10 round trip, less if you have more people.
    • speaking of walking: this isn't a fashion show, leave the heels at home!
    • the outer part of the convention (the booths against the walls and the first few isles/booths in) is where you will see the "new" people who are just starting out...lots of good stuff here. also....
    • the lower level of the convention: is where you will see all the indie and really new peeps-VERY MUCH worth it.  
     other great finds:
    (BEST BOOTH and ATTITUDE: Hugo Naturals )

    (local chica Deanna with Simple Peace making a debut)

    (at the same booth were this wooden ties)

    (zero cal, vegan, gluten-free and shelf stabilized noodles)

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    farmers' market AND Expo West contest: March 2011

     (Fabio is NOT the answer)

    This past weekend I was at the big Natural Products Expo (aka Expo West aka lots of processed foods) in Anaheim as well as the Hollywood Farmers' Market. At each location I noticed 2 famous faces, each guess wins you a bottle of my homemade bitters.

    1. EXPO WEST: This is a hard one, unless you watch Bravo...unless you watch The Real Housewives of______  and Millionaire Matchmaker (and yes I do partake in this bad TV from time to time).

    2. HOLLYWOOD FM: I usually don't care about what movie star/actress this-and-that, but i really wanted to ask this one what is was like to work with 2 of my total crushes (who just happened to win academy awards within the past 3 years (including this year).