Paladini Potpie

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We Like Cheesy Dates

It’s been awhile, and I am looking forward to writing some more posts for Paladini Potpie, but for today I’m proud to introduce a special guest blogger: My very own daughter-in-law, Amanda Paladini!  After you read her post you can click here to find out how Amanda came into our family.51842402_10156068260672393_9123828348634529792_n

But for now, enjoy her writing and then later enjoy her cheese. (I love them both!)

 

We Like Cheesy Dates

by Amanda Paladini

            Like most couples with children, it can be hard for my husband and me to find time to spend together. But it is important for couples to continue dating after they get married. This is healthy for their relationship (and their sanity) to spend a little time as a pair rather than letting the kids take every ounce of their time and energy.

But, how do you date without breaking the bank, or having to pay a babysitter? Sometimes it’s as simple as having a date at home. Or even ditching the kids with grandma and going to the store and grocery shopping together. A “date” doesn’t have to be your stereotypical, dinner-and-a-movie type of thing.

For our five year wedding anniversary, we decided to tour the Hilmar Cheese Company facilities. We brought along our youngest child, who was only a few months old at the time, and had a blast walking through learning how cheese was made, from grass to cow to milk tank. Super romantic, right? We thought so. And to this day, we are still cheese enthusiasts.

goat

We have goats. Nigerian Dwarf goats, to be specific. They are a miniature dairy breed, and we have two of the little darlings in our back yard. That’s right, ya heard me. In our back yard. We live in the middle of town, and we have chickens and goats. Anyway, both of our goats are pregnant for the first time, which means that late this spring, we will have goat milk. I will be outside twice a day, trying to figure out how to milk them while they stand and look at me with “judgement eyes”.

In preparation for what I’m sure will be a vast influx of possibly a quart of milk a day between the two of them, I have been training myself in making my own dairy products. I have now completely switched over to making my own yogurt (because it is way healthier than the sugar-loaded grocery store stuff, and we love the taste). I have also been experimenting with a farmer’s cheese recipe. I have been buying whole cow’s milk for my practice, and every batch gets easier as I make myself familiar with the processes.

I was getting ready to make another batch of cheese, because it actually turns out to be so much cheaper than buying fancy spreadable cheeses, and I can make my own flavors. As I was plotting what seasonings I wanted to put into it, I suddenly had an idea. “Hey, honey. Do you want to have a date and make cheese with me?”

My husband, who is an avid consumer of said cheese, readily agreed, and it was a date. We had had previous plans for our three children to spend the night at their grandparents’ house that night, so it seemed like the stars had aligned. The fates had deemed that this would be a Date Night. (This cheese doesn’t take very long to make, so we could have even done it after the kids went to bed if they had been home.)

Farmer’s cheese is a very simple cheese; it doesn’t require any special ingredients aside from any seasonings that you choose to put in it. Most cheeses require a rennet to make them. Rennet is an enzyme that causes the milk solids (curds) to separate from the liquids (whey). This cheese, however, requires nothing more than whole milk, vinegar (any kind), and salt. And it is so simple to make that it is a great project to do WITH kids if you so desire.

1 (2)To start, you pour a whole gallon of milk into a large pot. You may think that this seems like a lot, but believe me it will be worth it. I get the two-pack of milk at Costco, and usually one gallon goes to the cheese while the other will be yogurt for the next week or so.

Heat the milk on the stove while stirring constantly. This is to prevent any milk from scalding to the bottom of the pot. I have done this with both a spoon and a spatula, and the spatula has won my allegiance, hands down. The wider point of contact does a much better job of moving the milk off of the bottom of the pot, so that every time I’ve used it I have had zero scalding. This takes a while if the milk was in the refrigerator moments before being poured into the pot, so this is a great time to just chat while slowly swirling your spatula through the milk. If you want to cut down on time, you can take the milk out ahead of time and let it get to room temperature. Personally, I’ve never planned far enough ahead to take it out. My kitchen projects are usually crammed into whatever time frame I can squeeze them into, with very little forethought.

2Check the temperature using any cooking thermometer. I have a digital meat thermometer that works just fine for all of my dairy projects. Keep checking the temp and swirling the milk until it reaches about 190 degrees. Once it does, immediately remove the milk from the heat. 3Then we pour in about 2/3 cup of vinegar. We used white vinegar because it is both what we have and what is least expensive.

5 (1)This is the fun part. Gently stir it just a little bit to incorporate the vinegar into the milk, and watch chemistry happen before your eyes. And I don’t just mean the sparks flying between two people in love. The curds will almost immediately begin to separate from the whey. This is the part where we just leave it alone for ten minutes. This is a good time to prepare any seasoning if you are flavoring it. My husband wanted to make a spicy jalapeno flavor, so he spent the time finely chopping some pickled jalapenos while I fawned over how much I love him for doing such silly little things with me.

After ten minutes check your milk. You should see very distinctive solids floating in a yellowish-clear liquid. Give it a tiny swirl. If you see too much white in your liquid then you don’t have enough vinegar. A small cloud of white will billow in any case, but play it by ear to determine if you need more vinegar. You can’t really have too much, and it won’t affect the flavor. If you need to add more, then add about 1/3 cup and wait another ten minutes.
6Once it has separated to your satisfaction, line a colander with a fine cheesecloth or, in my case, a flour sack towel. I have found these towels to be better suited to this type of cheese. It is a very soft cheese and sometimes wringing it out in a cheesecloth results in cheese mess all over my hands. The towels are fine woven, and large enough for this project. Pour the curds into the towel slowly. 7 (1)The whey will drain as you go, but if you pour too quickly you will overflow your colander and lose curds.

Let it drain for a couple of minutes. Very important tip: Wash your pot while the curds drain! If you forget about it and let it sit on the counter and harden, the bits left behind will turn into cement and be very difficult to remove. Wash your stirring spatula too. If you don’t you really will be sorry as you spend several minutes scrubbing. You can choose to save the whey, but it is a vinegar whey and therefore not quite as useful as others. I discard the cheese whey and save the yogurt whey, with which I spoil the dog and pour over her food sometimes. (*At some future time Amanda promises she will write a post about how to make her yogurt).

Now is the time to salt your cheese, or separate if you are doing multiple flavors. We split the batch into two equal(ish) halves.10

For a whole gallon of milk, you will need a tablespoon of salt. I know that it seems like a lot of salt, but believe me, undersalted cheese is flavorless cheese. And somehow cheese is one of those foods that can absorb salt and still stay bland. So a full tablespoon it is, or if the batch is split then do half of a tablespoon in each half of cheese curds. I happen to have a half-tablespoon measuring spoon, which makes my life easier, but for those who don’t have one, half of a tablespoon is one and a half teaspoons. We also use Himalayan pink salt, which is why the pictures look weird, but you can use regular table salt too.

13This is also the time to add in any special seasonings. For my half, which is a garlic and herb flavor, I used ½ tablespoon of each dried basil and oregano, along with 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder (and if I’m honest, it could have used a little more garlic flavor, but I was afraid of overseasoning my half-batch). So if you want to do a full batch of this flavor then double the ingredients. Hubby put in his jalapenos (I have no idea how many he did, so you can just gauge how much you want into it), along with 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, the ½ tablespoon of salt, and 1/8 teaspoon of garlic powder. Fold all of the ingredients into the curds until you think it is fully incorporated.15

Now comes the squeezing. Now, I know it’s date night, but I’m talking about the cheese here. 18 (1)Twist the towel until whey starts squeezing out, and then twist it some more. The purpose of this is to press out as much of the liquid as possible. This will help the cheese to take on some form rather than being very loose. The end result of this cheese is soft enough to spread on a cracker, but firm enough to crumble into a salad. Be careful, though. These curds will still be HOT!

Be careful not to twist too far, though. This can result in curds getting stuck in the kinks and squeezing out through the mesh. Soft cheese can only be squeezed so hard before coming out any opening possible to relieve the pressure. So a good option is to move your towel full of cheese to the countertop. Place an absorbent towel under the cheese and use your body weight to press down on it, releasing more liquid into the towel.

20When you feel that you’ve gotten as much liquid as you can out of your cheese ball, it is time to unveil your work of culinary art. It will still be very soft, since it is still very warm, but you will see a very distinct impression of the fabric from the towel printed into the side of it. Now you can transfer it to whatever container you want to keep it in, pressing it down into the container to form fit it if you so desire. Then take a picture of the two of you with your creation(s) and put it in the fridge to chill. Then descend upon the little cheese bits stuck to the towel that were too small to fuss over getting into the container and enjoy. 22 (1)

As soon as possible, throw the towels into the washer. I made the mistake once of forgetting to take care of the flour sack towel. I had made a batch of cheese just before Thanksgiving, and we left the next morning to spend time with family for a couple of days, and the towel sat in my sink the entire time, turning my kitchen into a place that smelled like a nasty combination of dirty diaper and dog vomit. The towel never recovered and had to be thrown away. Moral of the story: DON’T FORGET TO WASH THE TOWELS!

My husband and I had a lot of fun making cheese together, joking and talking the whole time. Generally just enjoying being together. We didn’t have to spend a lot of money; in fact, we saved quite a bit. Breaking it down, one gallon of whole milk from Costco cost a little more than three dollars, we used only pennies’ worth of vinegar, the seasonings were all already in our kitchen, and we ended up with enough cheese for our snacking needs for probably a week (if we eat it every day).  That really makes for a very stress-free date, as we are both very conscious of what we consider “unnecessary spending”.

23 (1)We’ve been married for almost ten years now, and we are still dating. Maybe not going on “traditional” dates, but we’re taking the time to just be a couple still. We wear many hats now as we enter our thirties: provider, parent, personal chef, chauffeur, landscape engineer, handyman, animal handler, hair stylist, launderer, maid, etc. But our most important roles to each other are still to be each other’s spouse, support, best friend, sounding board…

Don’t get too caught up in responsibilities and expectations. Remember to take the time for “cheesy” dates.

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Sourdough Lore

Happy birthday to my starter! Thirty Nine years today, and still going strong.

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It all began in November of 1979. Or maybe I should say, it all started. I made a batch of sourdough starter that has been going strong now for almost 33 years. It has made hundreds of beautiful braided loaves of bread and countless pizza crusts. It’s also the matriarch of dozens of smaller jars of starter that have been given to friends over the years.

Gold prospectors in Alaska and California during the 1800’s were nicknamed sourdoughs because among their provisions there was always a bucket or jar of sourdough starter. In the absence of yeast and baking powder, they used sourdough starter as leavening for biscuits, bread and pancakes.

So there I was in 1979. I put 2 cups of milk into a jar and covered it with cheesecloth and set it on the counter for 24 hours. Then I stirred in 2 cups of flour, covered…

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Paladini Potato Rolls

The Saturday before Thanksgiving is a good day to make dough for potato rolls. They have been a Paladini family favourite now for more than 21 years.

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These potato rolls have been a Paladini tradition for at least 15 years. We make them every Thanksgiving and again for Christmas dinner. They are awesome!

3 medium potatoes ( I cook them with the skin on, but you can peel them if you prefer.)

2 Tbsp yeast

1 ½ cups butter

1 ½ cups sugar

1 Tbsp salt

3 large eggs

3 cups hot water *part of this will be “potato water” (the water potatoes were boiled in)

About 9 cups of flour

Cut unpeeled potatoes into small cubes and boil till very soft.

Lift potatoes out of hot water with a slotted spoon and mash into a 2 cup measuring cup to make a solid 2 cups.

Scoop the mashed potatoes into a very large bowl

Add butter

Add 3 cups hot water, (including the potato water)

Add sugar

Add salt

It will be very hot.

Stir until butter is melted and…

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March Forth to Carrot Cake

We celebrated my father-in-law’s 92nd birthday over the weekend, and this cake was a hit as usual. I’m reposting this at the request of two of my nieces.31171459_10155541796027076_2846552499110201992_n - Copy

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If it’s true that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach then this carrot cake might be the main reason John and I have been married for 32 years.  I made it for his birthday on March Fourth, a few weeks after we met. And I’ve made it for his birthday every year since!

It’s pretty easy and very delicious! – and it freezes well even with the icing. (If there is any left!)

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Preheat oven to 325°

Grease and flour two 8” round pans, and cut a circle of wax paper to fit on the bottom of each pan.

Cake ingredients:

¾ cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 ½ cups flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp cinnamon

½ tsp salt

2 cups shredded carrots

1 cup chopped walnuts or almonds

½ cup raisins  (optional)


Directions:

 Beat eggs, oil and…

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Pasta Shuta Lasagna

December 26 is our traditional Pasta Day. Most of our extended family like to extend our Christmas celebrating, so I make a huge pot of Pasta Shuta for dinner. The Paladinis IMG_5976 have good appetites, but there is always some left. This year I put the leftover in the freezer, with a plan to try something new – Pasta Shuta Lasagna. A few days ago I told my grandson, Caleb, that was what I was going to make for dinner, and he was so excited. “I want to help you make Mazanya!” He clapped his hands. How could I resist such enthusiasm? “How about if you make it,” I suggested, “and I will help you a little bit. But first you need to go wash your hands really good with a lot of soap.”

Here’s the ingredients:

A 9×13 Pyrex dish

A 9 oz. box of Barilla Oven-Ready Lasagna

About 6 cups of leftover pasta shuta sauce.

1 small can of tomato sauce

1 pound frozen spinach, defrosted

3 cups cottage cheese

1 egg

1 tsp. dried basil

About 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese

Here’s how to make it:

Slice any leftover Italian sausage links, and stir the tomato sauce into the pasta shuta sauce so it will be more spreadable.

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Spread a thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the lasagna dish.

Place four uncooked pieces of lasagna on top of sauce. Spread another layer of sauce on noodles, and top it with four more pieces of lasagna.

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Squeeze excess water from the spinach.

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Cover the noodles with a layer of spinach.

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Mix the cottage cheese, egg, and dried basil. Spoon this mixture on top of the spinach.

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Place one more layer of lasagna noodles on the cottage cheese.

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Cover the noodles with the remaining sauce. Top with shredded mozzarella.

We covered it with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for the rest of the day.

dinner

When it was time to prepare dinner we baked it at 350° for one hour.

Nathan and Audrey were home from school by that time, so Nathan spread butter on garlic bread, and Audrey arranged an antipasto.

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It was a group effort, but the biggest kudos went to Caleb, who “made the Mazanya” all by himself.


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A Mark, a Yen, a Buck or a Pound

I came across this post that I wrote almost exactly six years ago. The economy seems to be much better than it was back in 2012, but it was still fun to reread about these financial gymnastics. Enjoy!

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I don’t know where it originated, but my my cousin in Scotland sent me this economics analysis.  I must have laughed for 20 minutes…then I started to cry.  Now all I can do is pray.

Her story is based in Greece but maybe we can all relate.

It is a slow day in a little Greek village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough; everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a £100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the £100 note and runs next door to pay his debt…

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Not a Flat Adventure – Part 2

Robin, the park ranger’s daughter of this story moved to Florida a couple of weeks ago…and is now in the path of Hurrican Irma. Not a flat adventure!

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The storm warning over the Bay Area wasn’t going away. John had been checking the weather on his smart phone several times a day. “Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked me more than once.  To be honest, I was a little nervous about backpacking in the wilderness under the threat of severe storm warnings. But I wasn’t going to be the first woman to throw in the towel.

Emily, Robin, Kathy and I had been planning this hike for several months. Robin is a teacher, so Easter break was the perfect time for us to go. Up until now we had been pretty secure in the fact that the weather had been unusually warm and dry this year.

So far…

Now the forecast began to look more and more ominous. We kept sending  texts and facebook messages to each other. “Are we still on for this?” “Rain…

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