Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Movin' on and movin' out

So, I've moved my blog here. In fact, it's technically no longer a blog but my very own .com! Very exciting stuff. It'll be the same humdrum material, just hopefully more frequently updated. You'll have to be patient with me as I learn Wordpress. Please update the little links on your blogs and get ready for some super fun Cami blogging! Ha. It's really just to make my grandmother happy, which is a pretty darn good reason in my book.


Simmons, out!

Monday, June 02, 2008

For All You Ginger People

A delicious find if you love ginger, which I do very much: Ginger Chews from the ginger people. A strong burst of that yummy, spicey-sweet flavor in a fun-to-eat chew that sticks in your teeth like crazy. But when it tastes so good it's kind of nice to keep it around awhile...even if between two molars. You can definitely find them at Target, not sure where else. Plus, the little mascot is adorable.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thursday Night Fun Times

I'm a pretty lazy gal so instead of spending time writing a mediocre review of our Thursday trip to Athens for an amazing New Pornographers show, I will let my husband do it...except his is great, not mediocre like mine would be, just to clarify. BTW - he's started updating his blog again (and switched from blogger so update your links!) if you want to add it back as one of your "procrastination destinations". He also took this pic of the marquee outside the show....well done I think.

I will just add this about the show: it was the first time I have known every song start to finish and I realized there are two things that make me smile uncontrollably: amazing music and roller coasters. I end up sporting a seriously silly, enormous grin on my face that I absolutely can't get rid of....and why would I want to? Anyway, it was truly fantastic and 100% worth the drive and shock that ensued when the alarm went off Friday morning. We are like so rock star and stuff.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

She's Alive!

Hiya. So, as my grandmother reminded me this week, it has been quite a while since I last posted. All I can say is trying to keep up with life has me exhausted every week night and spending weekends catching up on everything I didn't do during the week due to the aforementioned exhaustion. I know, excuses, excuses, right?

In my time away from my blog, I have been on countless work trips, one very fun personal trip to congratulate Dr.Hofer in Nashville and have baked lots and lots of bread. I'm still finding myself very affected by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and have made some small, positive changes in my eating & purchasing habits. I am baking at least a loaf or two of bread every week, eating a ton of vegetables (and trying to be wise about only choosing what is in season), buying fair trade coffee, and I even planted raspberry & blackberry bushes, have seeds growing on my back deck (lettuce, collards, turnips, peppers, tomatoes, etc) and just tonight purchased a half dozen eggs from a lady in the neighborhood that raises chickens & ducks in her back yard.

There is still a ton I could be doing but I am taking baby steps for now. Oh, and I finally broke open the cheese! Zach, ever the jet-setter, was in town between stints in Costa Rica and Spain (yawn) and wanted to see it. I had almost forgot that I had it aging in my liquor cabinet so I showed it to him and figured we should try it out....totally forgetting about his epicurean background and highly sophisticated palate. All I know is, I thought it tasted pretty darn good, so did he (at least he was nice enough to tell me it was), so did Charles, so did Erin and so did Kerry & Mark even though they were VERY drunk when they tried it. All in all, I think it was a great success. Now that I know it is edible and you don't die from eating it, I think I will take another stab....assuming I can find another 5 hours to devote to cheesemaking.

The Simmons' April calendar is ridiculously busy but I am looking forward to an upcoming visit from one of my favorite cousins, a visit from a far-away friend (a couple far-away friends, actually!), multiple fun parties with new friends and ending up the month with our family's annual cousins weekend in Mississippi.

Charles and I are feeling out of control at the moment on many levels so I am hoping a calmness can come over us soon and we can feel a little more stable & organized.

I will try to update more but no promises Momma Dot!

Here are some pictures of my food endeavors.

a loaf of cuban bread and my lovely monterrey jack cheese!
braided white loaves
can you guess which are store bought? the big blue one is a duck egg

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I like 17 Year Old Boys

Ok, maybe not ALL 17 year old boys but I am falling in love with this one. So much so, I am willing to let you all know that, yes, I am a closet American Idol watcher. I don't even like it all that much...I find myself cringing a lot and am so thankful for my sweet little TiVo so I can fast forward through most of the show. Last night, however, this kid killed it. I had goosebumps listening to him sing. Also, he happens to be freakin' adorable. I mean pre-cious! I predict this little cute, cute, cutie will be there at the end. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oh My Gouda.....

Cami has made her own cheese!!! Monterey Jack actually, not gouda...although that's on tap as soon as I can figure out what household items laying around will add up to 20lbs of pressure...

So, I've been plowing my way through our book club's January book (yea, I know it's almost the end of February and I'm still on the Jan book....in fact, we had our Feb. meeting this morning so I think Peace Like a River will have to wait till August or something), Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The book that got Wendy excited about joining a CSA, has inspired me to try my hand at home cheese-making.

Apparently there is a woman in New England affectionately dubbed the "Cheese Queen" who has been making her own cheese since the late 70's, holds cheese-making classes out of her home and has simplified and demystified the art of cheesemaking so that twenty-something Corporate city-dwellers can walk into the office on Monday and answer "Oh, just made some cheese from scratch" when inevitably asked the "so, what did you do this weekend" question. I must say, I was very skeptical when reading the section about Barbara and her family taking the Cheese Queen's class and the fact that they whipped up about 7 different types of cheeses in one afternoon. No way it could be that easy, right? But the more I read and the more I thought about it, I decided "why not", hopped online and ordered the $29.95 Basic Hard Cheese Kit.

The next four days of waiting for my precious kit to arrive were excruciating! I couldn't wait to get my hands on it and launch my successful cheesemaking career and start my own line of specialty cheeses, quit my job and be known from here on out as the Cheese Princess of the South. Maybe I would buy a goat and a cow to keep in the backyard so I could really nail the whole process down from start to finish and build a little dairy barn in the backyard.....oh, the possibilities were endless! My little excitement bubble deflated a bit when, finally, we arrived home to find my package waiting for me on the front porch...it was so small!!! I had imagined a huge box for some reason, but instead had a little 7" x 7" package containing the following items:
  • recipe booklet
  • cheese mold
  • pocket thermometer
  • coarse cheesecloth
  • vegetable rennet tablets
  • direct set mesophilic
  • direct set thermophilic
  • calcium chloride
I also had purchased cheese wax and a special wax brush as these items are apparently necessary when making hard cheeses (for aging).

The package arrived on Friday and as we had already made dinner plans with the in-laws, I had to wait until Saturday morning to tackle my first cheese. Luckily I had just enough time between coming home from work and leaving for dinner to run up to the Hop 'n Shop near our house and buy a gallon of whole milk. I was a little concerned they wouldn't have what I needed because apparently you need to buy pasturized, not ultra-pasturized milk to make cheese. I was in luck, however, and not only did they have the type of milk I needed but it was from a LOCAL dairy! Barbara would be so proud! So, 8:00am sharp on Saturday morning I set to making my cheese.

The kit I purchased actually makes 8 different types of cheeses: Farmhouse Cheddar, Gouda, Monterey Jack, Feta, Cottage Cheese, Colby, Parmesan and Whey Ricotta. I had read through all the recipes the night before and settled on Monterey Jack for a couple reasons...1) it only required one gallon of milk vs. two and with the price of milk these days, I didn't want to waste two whole gallons if my first try was a complete disaster and 2) i was dead-set on starting with an actual hard cheese vs. cottage, feta & ricotta even though it will be several weeks before I'll actually get to EAT it.

I won't go into the details on the whole cheesemaking process but I will tell you it is time consuming, it ties you to your kitchen and, at times, you feel like you are in an episode of Mr.Wizard....oh, and you feel totally cool and accomplished at the end of the day. I was in doubt with each step that what was supposed to happen would actually happen but over and over again, it did! The milk curdled, the whey was the right color and I now have a little one pound block of cheese air-drying on my dining room table. I nibbled on a couple pieces of curd yesterday and it definitely tastes and smells like cheese so that is a good sign.

The last step of the Monterey Jack process is waxing the cheese so as soon as it is dry, I will melt my block of wax, paint it on my cheese and then let it sit for several weeks until it has aged to my likeness and can finally be eaten. It sucks to have to wait but I am hoping it will totally be worth it. Maybe I'll make a little event out of the whole thing like finally popping the cork on a fantastic bottle of wine you've been keeping for a special occasion. Good or bad, I'll definitely write a post about and and let you know how it goes....in the meantime, I bought another gallon of milk last night and am thinking about entering the wonderful world of large curd feta tonight, wish me luck!

Here are some pics of the kit and the process (mind you, this is just a couple of the steps...I didn't start taking pictures until after I realized everything was actually working!)

the curds & whey

draining the curds

1 can shortening & 1 can refried beans = 4lbs pressure

cheese air-drying...you can see the color changing as it dries

the kit....