Could we change our attitude, we should not only see life differently, but life itself would come to be different. ~ Katherine Mansfield

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Goat Milk Cajeta. Oh yes.

So, are goats a little louder than we'd planned on? Sure. More trouble than we'd anticipated to catch, collar, and milk? Yep. Do they poop a crazy amount and waste more feed than even the chickens? Yes again.

So why on earth, you may be thinking, would someone willingly keep goats? Well aside from their inherent sweetness, a frisky take on life, and personality galore, the only logical answer is cajeta. And what is cajeta? Only the most glorious thing that goat milk can achieve; a caramel sauce that by its sheer perfection will put all others to shame. And, you only need 4 cups of milk to make it, so even our tiny haul was more than sufficient after a few days of hoarding.

For the duration of this demo, picture me with the air conditioner cranked (we're having a heat wave) and a nice mix of alt country power ballads blaring over my stereo. Or maybe I'm belting out the lyrics to "Let It Go," Eddie Vedder style...My secret is safe with me.

First, gather your 4 cups of goat milk.

Then, place milk, a scant cup of white sugar, a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla into a 2.5 or 3 Qt pan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring to prevent scorching.

When the milk boils, remove from heat and add 1/4 tsp of baking soda that has been dissolved in a TB of water. Stir stir stir - it will foam up. Then return the pan to the stove over medium heat and prepare to cook and stir for the next hour or so. Earn that cajeta!

At roughly 40 minutes, the milk started to take on a caramel color.

At about an hour, the milk had reduced to roughly under 2 cups and it was getting close!

And then, glory of glories, it was done. The milk had reduced to about one cup. Rumor has it that the longer you cook the milk, the sweeter and thicker it will be, but my arm gave out at 75 minutes, and it was damn good. Carefully pour the cajeta into a glass jar and let it cool.

While the cajeta cools, keep singing along to Idina Menzel...or someone more adult since the kids aren't home...and scrape the cajeta from the bottom of the pan and put it in your mouth.

The cajeta will thicken as it cools. After a few hours in the refrigerator, you will be rewarded with this. Well done, you. You deserve it. Cajeta is delicious heated over ice cream, as a fruit dip, or you can rely on my favorite pairing, a spoon. Dig in. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Easy summer dinner: New potatoes and peas

We all have a button, some kind of trigger, that immediately catapults us back in time to a moment from childhood. One of mine is peas.

For two glorious weeks in the summer, nature aligns and a garden will give you all of the sweet peas and new potatoes you can ask for. As a kid, this occurred during summers in Idaho at my grandparents' house and all I have to do is see a pea on the vine and I am transported. Nothing tastes like a young pea, straight from the pod.

When we put in the garden four doors down, my mom's sole request was to plant peas and potatoes. She's making memories with my boys, much like her own mom did with my brothers and me, teaching them how to pick the fattest pods and split them down the seam with their thumb to reveal the perfectly straight row of plump peas hidden inside.

And this weekend, we finally sat down to a meal of new potatoes and peas. What was once a staple on my Grandma's summer table has made it to my own weekly menu.

It's a great option for Meatless Mondays and a simple way to show off produce from the garden or farmer's market. And, if you're lucky like me, it will take you right back to being a kid.

New Potatoes and Peas - a loose recipe (the kind I hated when I first started to cook)

To serve a family of 4 with leftovers I dug up roughly 30 new potatoes of various sizes, and as many peas as were ripe. You can never have too many peas, so pick more than you think you'll need.

Wash the potatoes, quartering the larger ones, cutting some in half, and leaving the littles whole. Boil in a pot of heavily salted water until easily pierced with a fork. While the potatoes cook, shell the peas.

When the potatoes are done, turn off the heat and add the shelled peas to the hot water.

Make a roux. I used 4 TB butter and half a cup of flour, mixing over medium heat until it was a golden brown. Then whisk in whole milk - taking care to smash the flour chunks - until you have a thin gravy. There should be enough liquid to act as a sort of soup when combined with the potatoes. Liberally salt and pepper the gravy to taste.

Drain the potatoes and peas. Put in a serving dish, pour the gravy over the top, and serve.

Happy eating. Let the memories begin!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

It's my flag, too

In honor of the recent Fourth of July barbecue frenzy weekend, I am doing something drastic. Today I am reclaiming the flag. Granted, it's a Pinterest-inspired project made from an oh-so-trendy pallet and cast-off spray paint, but I'm doing it. And for me, it's a big deal.

Over the last few years I have come to associate the American flag -- be it on a porch, a bumper sticker or a t-shirt -- with the following ideologies:
  • Republicanism
  • Christianity
  • The far right
  • Pro-gun activists
  • Anti-choice activists
  • Conservatives
  • Fox News
  • Bullies
  • The Tea Party
  • Climate change deniers 
  • Creationists
  • Southern traditionalists
  • Haters in general

Because of this, I have given up the flag as something that doesn't represent me. My ideals. My beliefs. My way of life. And I did this willingly, blindly, and stupidly. Because the flag, and what it stands for, is bigger than just me.

The American flag does, in fact, encompass a set of ideals I would never claim as my own. But as this is still the land of the free and the home of the (not-always-but-we-try-to-be) brave, then it also stands for:
  • Democracy
  • The Green Party
  • Hinduism
  • Judaism 
  • No religion-ism
  • Pro-choice activists
  • Gay rights activists
  • Community activists
  • Pacifists
  • Slow Food movements
  • Ecologists
  • Scientists
  • Dreamers
  • Bronies
The flag represents the freedom to believe - or not believe - in whatever we choose. By its very definition, it stands for all of us. And that's the point.

No party or group owns it. Rush Limbaugh does not have more of a connection to the American flag than Jon Stewart does. Republicans can't exclusively claim it; Progressives don't automatically forsake it. Our country, as these fifty united states, houses thousands of ideals and nationalities and belief systems. Together. As one nation (that until 1954 wasn't required to be "under God"), indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. And that utopian message, an ideal to aim for and struggle to achieve, I can get behind.

There is room here for all of us; for all of our beliefs. Beliefs that we are legally allowed to voice without fear of pain or imprisonment. (Really, how freaking lucky are we?!) Beliefs that make us stronger even when they don't bring us together. I can have Obama - or Hillary! - and you can still have Romney. Or Palin. And while that last option makes me want to throw up in my mouth and pass out condoms at churches, she has her place in America too.

So yes I am taking back the flag, and in doing so realize that I should never have let it go. As much as it is yours, and hers and his, so too it is mine.