Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Ever since reading, Animal,
Vegetable, Miracle I wanted to try making my own mozzarella. It seemed so easy, and the idea of a fresh caprese with tomatoes and basil from my own garden sounded so delicious!


I asked for cheese making supplies for my Birthday last year, but Hubby heard "hard" when I said "soft", so I had the opportunity to make some hard cheeses this winter. I made gouda and Monterey Jack. That was fun, and the taste was awesome, but it takes…all……..and then you have to wait - 2 months for Monterey Jack and 4 for gouda - for the cheese to age. I was drawn to the instant gratification of mozzarella.


So, this summer I finally tried it, and it was very cool! The cheese gets all stretchy, just like Ricki's pictures!


The first few times I made it, it worked, but the flavor was kind of…blah! The curd didn't form very well. And it didn't melt which was not only weird but disappointing! I was very excited about make Fettunta, but the bread burnt & the cheese didn't melt.


The problem is, I didn't really have a great source of real milk. The milk from Costco and Trader Joe's are both rBST-free, but that's the best I can do...or so I thought. I bought mine from Costco the first time, and Trader Joe's milk worked too, though it didn't make as nice of a curd. Recently I tried Oberweis, and that was far tastier. It was a "milkier" taste. Oberweis claims to be rBST-free, hormone free and to have lower somatic (dead) cell counts than organic milk standards require. It's then pasteurized, but at a much lower temperature than most dairies. Their goal isn't to extend the "best by" date but rather to get it to consumers within 36-48 hours. This is a good goal, one that's in line with my goals.


Oberweis is expensive, about $3 a *half* gallon, plus $1.50 for the (refundable) bottle deposit. It's definitely worth it for cheese making, but switching to it for drinking is a more difficult decision.



Monday, August 24, 2009

A Plan for Blogging

So, I've been a bit AWOL lately…as you can see from my menu plan I've been a bit busy! Somehow we're going out to dinner 5 of 7 days this week. You would think that would make life easier, but not for me. My challenge this week has been to get all the veggies (from the CSA from almost two weeks ago) processed and into meals. My second challenge is to get this blog up and running again.

When I started the blog I had a goal to post 3 times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. So far, I'm doing a terrible job of meeting that goal! In order to get back on track, I have created a new blogging plan and schedule. Taking inspiration from SimpleProductivityBlog, I've made a commitment, set up a calendar, and learned to use the future-posting feature of my blogging tool.


SPB suggested figuring out the minimal amount of posting I can do, and if I choose to tie that commitment to a calendar of days I will post. My commitment is to post three days a week, and I find that posting to a calendar helps with ideas and routine.


Menu Plan Monday: an article related to menu planning and my menu plan

Wednesday: Free Day, an article on any topic relating to food, cooking or organizing

Fight Back Fridays: a post related to real food

Blog schedule:

Because the blog has mainly been about my menu plan, my blogging schedule and menu planning schedule are closely tied together.

W: Meal plan draft. My goal is to at least get the paper one out and put our existing plans on it. I've printed a bunch of my menu
planning worksheets on colored paper so that they catch my eye in the folder that I carry every day. I've also added a weekly reminder to www.rememberthe On Wednedays I will begin drafting an article to post on Friday.

R: Type meal plan. Even though I don't know exactly what will be in the CSA, I have a pretty good guess by now. On Thursday I will also draft an outline or put some ideas down for the blog post to accompany my menu plan.

F: On Fridays, I have received the CSA and can finalize the menu plan and make a shopping list. I can future-post the menu plan and finalize and post the Fight
Back Friday article that I drafted earlier in the week. Then, I'll do the shopping any time between Friday and Sunday with other errands or on the way back from a weekend trip.

Sat/Sun: The weekends tend to be very full, but not completely without down time. My plan is to spend some time either researching, writing or planning around at least one of the "archived topics", one of the topics I have outlined or made note of during the week. This will help me get ahead, so I'm not always writing from scratch!

M: Link to Menu Plan
Monday. Draft Wednesday's article

T: Finalize Wednesday's article and future-post it.

So, I'll see how this plan goes. I'm always posting the night before, so I shouldn't find myself posting in the morning before leaving for work, or distracted during the day to finish an article. This should fit in well with my regular routine. Though I am doing something almost every day, I am actually drafting/writing on the days I have set aside for blogging.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Out all week

This was a pretty easy menu to plan because we are BUSY! this week. We are out almost every night at some event or another. The couple of nights I do have I am using up veggies from last week's CSA: cabbage, zucchini, blueberries. I'll also roast beets and have a beet and feta salad for lunch one day. I think that's about all I can squeeze in!

Friday: Out

Saturday: Pizza

Sunday: Buffalo burgers, beets, Grilled Zucchini Rolls with Herbs and Cheese, Grilled Blueberry Upside Down Corn Cake (the recipe is for cherry pie, but who wants to pit 4 cups of cherries?)

Monday: Ravinia for Pat Benetar and Blondie! Bringing Malnatti’s, cold zucchini rolls, and Giada’s chocolate honey almond tart (used only almonds for the crust, graham crackers are really processed.

Tuesday: Pan roasted salmon with ginger and curry, curried cabbage, rice

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday we are out!

Monday, July 27, 2009

CSA #4, or What to do with all this Zucchini!

This summer I bought a half-share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) , so I get a bushel of veggies every 2 weeks. It has been a challenge for meal planning, since I never quite know what I’m getting! Last Thursday, I was dealt the following veggies:

Salad greens

Small tomatoes

Small Onions

Beets with greens


Radishes with greens

Patty pan squash

Beet greens

Chard and stems

Salad greens





The veggies arrived on Thursday night, and we were scheduled to leave Friday afternoon for a weekend camping trip. I was behind on the menu planning, so I didn’t really know what I was going to do with everything yet. I decided to just wash and store all the greens, wrapping them (separately) in a plastic baggie with some paper towel. I spent the car trip ruminating over what to do with them and I came up with a pretty good plan:

Salad greens: Half went to a salad with cucumber salad that I made last week, instead of putting into wraps. We ate the other half on Sunday night with the tomatoes and beets.

Small tomatoes: cut into wedges and used in salad

Beets with greens: Roasted beets for the salad. When we came home on Sunday night they went straight into the oven and were ready to go by the time we unpacked and made the pasta dish. The greens went into the radish pasta sauce.

Radishes with greens: I sliced up the radishes and brought them along to snack on. The greens went into radish pasta sauce (will post on this later), along with the beet greens.

Patty pan squash: The patty pan squash is adorable! I’m tempted to stuff it, but that seems so involved. Perhaps over the next week I’ll make a stuffing-type side, and double it so that if I get patty pans again I can stuff them. Too much work for just me and hubby. I’ll slice them and use in Heidi’s Summer Squash Gratin (does that seem any less putzy than stuffing them?)

Chard and stems: A few weeks ago I made beans from scratch and used them for Giant Crusty and Creamy White Beans with Chard…I think I’ll do this again. Then, I’ve been using the stems in a gratin, but I think this week I’ll try putting them into a frittata. I’ll post the recipe if it works out!

Zucchini: Tuscan zucchini pasta! I have 3 from the CSA, and my garden is starting to fruit…I think I will need to start researching some new zucchini recipes!

Basil: I’m sure I can find a use for basil, you can never have too much! If I don’t come up with something by the end of the week, I’ll make pesto for the freezer.

Rosemary: this will store in the fridge for a while.

Cucumbers: Salads and sandwiches for lunches.

Small onions: These will go in salads, the frittata, and cucumber salads/sandwiches.

Turnips: My mom used to make rutabagas, and the smell made me turn green. I would chase each bite with a few swallows of milk—hated it. These turnips look different, smaller than the rutabaga that came from the store. I found a recipe (p. 152) for mashed turnips with apples; it promises that the “apples lighten the sometimes strong taste of turnip”. We will see…

So based on that, here is the plan!

Saturday & Sunday Breakfast: instant oatmeal, yogurt, blueberries

Saturday & Sunday Lunch: pbj, power bars, gorp, fruit leather/dried fruit, carrots. This gives us the flexibility to eat out if we see something promising, but have real food on hand.

Saturday dinner: Chicken sausage, sautéed zucchini (sliced thin with garlic and olive oil), bannock, grilled pineapple, dark chocolate squares

Sunday dinner: Tuscan zucchini pasta, green salad with roasted beets, onions, tomatoes and honey balsamic vinaigrette

Monday: White beans and chard, crab cakes (I buy these frozen)

Tuesday: Chard stem frittata, braised chicken sausage

Wednesday: Summer Squash Gratin, quinoa

Thursday: Cucumber and onion sandwiches, turnip apple mash

Friday: Pizza. I might try Rachel Ray’s Zucchini-Roni on my Pizza Crust.

Saturday: Lunch - out; dinner- Picnic- Bring Bulgar salad

Sunday: Sailing- Bring snack for the boat, eat dinner out. Any ideas for a good boat snack to share?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Keeping it Simple

For the last couple weeks, I have written *KISS* (Keep it Simple Silly) at the top of each of my menu plans. This is meant to be a reminder to myself to use the shortcuts that I have created. My problem is that I love to cook. This is a problem because I've had a lot of unstructured time these past few weeks and I find myself wandering into the kitchen and whipping up a buckle or a loaf of bread, just because I feel like it. Well, that's fun, but takes away from time spent on other things I need to do. And, even though I have a bit of flexibility in my schedule now, this isn't usually the case. My life is likely to go back to normal soon, and in normal life I can't cook 3-course dinners every night of the week. So, this week, I will focus on keeping it simple.

We cooked burgers Sunday night, and there was something amazing about the combination of the honey wheat rolls and the toppings—we used garlic cheese (made on the Buffalo farm), tomatoes (from the farmer's market), Mayonnaise (TJ's organic) and salt and pepper. Hubby reckons it was the salt. As I was wrapping them up for lunch, I wondered how we would recreate the combination. If you wrap all that stuff together it gets really mushy, and if you wrap it separately it's a pain in the neck and a lot of stuff goes unused. Hubby said, "Why don't you switch lunch and dinner?" Eureka! So simple, and yet saves so much work of putting each condiment and topping in a separate container and packing it all up! So, I put the burgers in a baggie and put them in the fridge. We'll have the freezer meal for lunch and the burgers for dinner! Mmmm…maybe a strawberry shake to go with that! That's certainly something that wouldn't work for lunches!

This weekend we are going camping at the Waterloo Pickney Recreation Area and to a Steam Train festival I made the camping menu quite simple, with room for the unknown CSA bounty. I suspect there will be many zucchini and cucumbers!

Saturday lunch: Eggs with basil and goat cheese (got my eggs from the Mount Prospect Farmer's Market last weekend), Niman Ranch bacon (I've been curious about trying this since reading Righteous Porkchop.

Saturday dinner: Mustard Roasted Fish (adaptation: I use 7Tbsp of yogurt and 1 Tbsp of mayo to sub for the crème fraiche), green beans (from the garden, yum!), quinoa, red onion, rosemary and goat cheese foccacia (dimple a large pizza crust), strawberry ice cream

Sunday lunch: cucumber salad wraps

Sunday dinner: Buffalo burgers, grilled mushroom, caprese, raspberry and blueberry crumble

Monday lunch: Beans and greens (from the freezer)

Monday dinner: leftover buffalo burgers and cucumber salad, strawberry shake

Tuesday lunch: Pasta with radish greens sauce (from the freezer)

Tuesday dinner: out (we signed up for a wine-tasting/dinner)

Wednesday lunch: spaghetti (from the freezer)

Wednesday dinner: sandwiches--Buffalo BLT's (bacon from the freezer), cucumber salad, chopping extra for Thursday and Friday sandwiches and salads, but not mixing it together (to keep it from getting soggy)

Thursday lunch: cuke sandwiches (just need to assemble, created Wednesday night)

Thursday dinner: Pizza from the freezer, with italian chicken sausages from Trader Joe's, home made pizza sauce from the freezer, onions, mushrooms and home made mozzarella

Friday lunch: BLT sandwiches (make extra Wednesday night)

Friday dinner: cucumber salad wraps, on the road

Saturday & Sunday Breakfast: oatmeal, yogurt, bananas

Saturday & Sunday Lunch: pbj, power bars, gorp, fruit leather/dried fruit, carrots

Saturday dinner: Chicken sausage, something green from the CSA, bannock, grilled pineapple, dark chocolate squares

Sunday dinner: Tuscan zucchini pasta if we make it home, Road food (Chipotle, Noodles & Company, or Panera) if we don't

Monday, July 20, 2009

Cucumber and Onion Salad

This is the second cucumber recipe I'm writing, though I'm actually not that fond of the cucumber! This salad works well on its own, mixed into lettuce, or in a wrap. Just don't leave it too long or it will get very wet.


1 large (English) or two small (Kirby) cucumbers

½ a large or one small onion

Mayonnaise, house made or organic


Cheese – 2 oz (sharp cheddar is best)


If using a cucumber variety other than English, remove the seeds. Chop the cucumber and the onion. Dice the cheese. All three (cucumber, onion, cheese) should be about the same size.


Add a dollop of mayonnaise, about 2 tablespoons. Add a few grinds of pepper to taste.


This salad will last 1-2 days. If you're making it for a party, best to add the mayonnaise an hour before serving to give the flavors time to blend but keep it from turning into soup.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

New Feature: Real Food Article Round-Up

I added a new feature to the Mostly Real blog this week: an article round-up. This will be an ongoing list of articles I come across that feature issues around Real Food. It's on the right sidebar of the page. Hope it's helpful!