One Skillet Italian


What to do for dinner? In the fridge: leftover penne, asparagus, diced onion and homemade butter. In the freezer: house cured pancetta and cubed beef tenderloin. Check the fridge and pantry for staples: butter, minced garlic, canned diced tomatoes, pine nuts and a wedge of parm. I love it when a plan comes together…

Render pancetta and reserve meat after it is lightly crisped. Sear cubed tenderloin with salt, pepper & crushed red pepper & reserve with pancetta. Sauté diced onions and minced garlic. Deglaze with wine.


Reduce and then add tomatoes. Season with parsley, basil, thyme and crushed red pepper. Incorporate butter. Add reserved meat. Add asparagus chopped in 1″ pieces. Add penne. Grate parm over skillet. Apply band-aid (microplane bit me!). Sprinkle some pine nuts.  Heat thru and salt to taste.

Pretty sure that was faster than a box of hamburger helper and much closer to how God intended me to eat, drink and be merry… errr… thankful!

A Bit of Blue and Pepper Curds

IMG_1625My blue cheese is on it’s way to turning into something delicious and decadent.  If you look closely, you’ll see the first hints of blue forming on the closest edge.  You might also notice the many holes in it.  This cheese isn’t pressed – the curds settle under their own weight during several days of repeated flipping back and forth.  This keeps the small spaces inside the cheese to allow the blue to grow.  I used a skewer to poke holes from top to bottom and a few straight and angled holes around the perimeter.  These air holes provide the oxygen for the blue veins to form throughout the cheese.  Now the waiting…

IMG_1614To counteract the waiting game, I made some cheese curds for instant gratification.  Plain on the left and KRC pepper blend on the right.  I’ve eaten a few of the plain curds as is and a few with some garlic salt on them.  Great snacks to help curb the desire to break into the aging cheeses too early!



Chèvre Sampler

IMG_1410The first attempt at a chèvre sampler is ready for a tasting this afternoon.  The 1 quart sample of goat milk made about a quarter pound of chèvre.  Clockwise from the front right are plain, sun-dried tomato, pistachio crumble, and apricot chutney.

Plain chèvre
Sun-dried tomato chèvre
Pistachio crumble chèvre
Apricot chutney chèvre

Like the superbowl cheese trio, I did the easy part letting milk curdle and drain.  Craig did the real work flavoring the logs.  I think we’ll both do the really hard work of drinking the wine…

More Dairy Delights

A quick note… dairy pick up was yesterday.  The 1qt goat milk sample cultured overnight and is draining now for a small batch of chèvre aka fresh soft goat cheese.  I made sweet cream slightly salted butter with one quart of cream while the other quart is culturing at the moment for cream cheese.  Two gallons of milk are waiting to be turned into cheese.  I’m going to try my hand at a Danish style blue cheese.  The question at hand is whether to make (a) a 2 gallon batch of blue cheese, (b) a 1 gallon batch of blue cheese and a 1 gallon batch of cheddar, or (c) a 1 gallon batch of blue cheese and just drink the other gallon.  Decisions, decisions…

A Winter Visit

IMG_1392 (1)This past weekend, I was in Tampa visiting my 93 year old young grandpa and realized I was only 2 miles away from Clearwater Marine Aquarium, the home of Winter, the star of Dolphin Tale.  I spent a couple hours Sunday morning visiting Winter and was lucky enough to be there at just the right time to see her entire physical therapy routine.  I hope you enjoy the looking at the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them!

IMG_1067Winter playing with her hula hoop in one of the side tanks.

IMG_1086Winter heading into the staging tank for a little warm up.

IMG_1119Warm up lap swim before therapy starts.

IMG_1127Winter’s trainer, Heather, getting the prosthetic tail ready.

IMG_1138Heather lubricating the inner sleeve
(that sleeve was the secret that made it all work, if you remember the movie).

IMG_1150…and lubricating the prosthetic outer sleeve.

IMG_1193Heather stretching Winter’s tail to loosen up the muscles before swimming with the tail.

IMG_1205A little bonding moment…

IMG_1212 (1)…and a kiss…

IMG_1219…and a little more stretching with a smile for the crowd.

IMG_1229Winter swimming up to the platform in the main tank to get ready…

IMG_1231…and up to the edge…

IMG_1248Heather showing the prosthesis to the crowd…


…and strapping everything on Winter…

IMG_1268…and she’s all set…

IMG_1281…and she’s off!!!

IMG_1289Winter coming back around from one of her laps using the natural
up and down motion with the prosthesis.


Winter playing with another trainer.

IMG_1329Diving and underwater swimming is also part of her therapy.

IMG_1331Hand signals work above the water and underwater, alike.

IMG_1338I think she likes me… pretty sure she’s winking at me.

IMG_1349Winter swimming right next to the underwater viewing window
for a great close up of the prosthesis.

IMG_1352Another view of the entire prosthesis in action.

IMG_1358All done with therapy… getting her tail removed…

IMG_1392Winter diving and popping up to say hello to her visitors.

A beautiful day, perfect timing for the visit, and an adorable dolphin named Winter.  I encourage everyone to watch the movie and to visit Winter whenever you are in Tampa!

Superbowl Cheese Trio

IMG_1018Superbowl cheese trio of flavored fresh cow’s milk cheese.  This is very similar to what most people recognize as goat cheese.  There are in fact numerous cheeses made of goat’s milk, but the soft, fresh goat cheese also known as chèvre (French for goat) is what most people think of when you say goat cheese.  This version is made of cow’s milk instead of goat’s milk.

This is a lactic cheese meaning I let the milk culture and curdle in the acid produced by the culture with little or no rennet.  I added the culture and very few drops of rennet and let it sit overnight for about 14 hours.  I spooned the curd into a muslin lined colander and let it drain for a bit.  Once some of the whey had drained off, I tied up the muslin and again let it go overnight.

IMG_1126I put the curd in a bowl and crumbled and lightly salted the cheese.

IMG_1135My brother of Cerulean Indianapolis fame was in town for the Superbowl and used the plain cheese as his canvas for the cheese trio we took to the Superbowl party.

IMG_1018On the left is a chive and garlic cheese and on the right is a sun dried tomato and basil cheese, both with the flavorings mixed throughout and then formed.  The middle cheese is formed and coated in a pistachio crumbled for a salty sweet crunch to contrast with the creamy tang of the cheese.

I snapped a quick picture at the party before it all disappeared.  We put the cheese on a wood cutting board so we could call it a cheese board and be all trendy like.  The ramekin on the top right is extra crumble… the hostess of the party was quite partial to that flavor.







IMG_0993Ebelskiver (Danish for apple slices) are a traditional Danish food made with apple bits or applesauce in the batter.  They are like pancakes or waffles made in the shape of a sphere.  I don’t put the apple bits or applesauce in the batter, and, according to Wikipedia, neither do modern Danish folks.  Instead, I make a something resembling a buttermilk or Belgian waffle batter and put chocolate chips inside for a little sweet treat when you bite into them.  This morning was a “bachelor dad ‘n the boys breakfast” (how’s that for alliteration?!), and Logan asked for ebelskiver.

For the batter:
1 egg
1 tsp raw sugar
1/4 c whole milk yogurt
1/2 c whey
1/4 c milk
2 tbs butter
1 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla

I whipped the egg with the sugar to give the batter a little bit of an airy feel.  Then I mixed in the milk, whey, yogurt and butter to finish off the wet ingredients.  I added the dry ingredients and mixed just enough to incorporate all the flour.  I added the vanilla at the end because I forgot to add it with the rest of the wet ingredients… nothing bad happened, though.  No kitchen police raided my house because I didn’t follow the recipe.  Good thing, since I never do…

Batter poured in the hot cast iron ebelskiver pan with chocolate chips on top:

IMG_0990And a few pictures of the finished ebelskiver with maple syrup from Beachler’s:




Hard Cheese is Easy

IMG_0988Last week, I embarked on my first hard cheese adventure.  I’ve decided that cheese is even more difficult than wine when it comes to understanding the names and styles.  It seems that all the cheese recipes follow very similar steps with slight variations in times and temperatures and proportions of the same cultures… pick a combination and name it… and voila! You have a new kind of cheese.  So, this is Fromage Gareiss Uno.

1 gal raw milk
buttermilk direct set culture
liquid animal rennet

I heated the milk to 88 degrees and stirred in the culture and let it ripen for an hour.  I stirred in the rennet and let it sit for another hour.  Once the curd was formed, I cut the curds (which is more fun than cutting the cheese and doesn’t smell as bad… bad joke, sorry).  I let the curds rest for about half an hour to let the whey separate.  I slowly heated the curds up to 100 degrees and held them there for about a half an hour stirring them slowly.  I let the curds rest again for about half an hour.  After all the waiting, I drained the curds and wrapped them in cheesecloth.  My freshly diapered curds then went into the mold and for pressing at 5 pounds for an hour and 25 pounds overnight.  Here is the mold with the 5 pound weight (iPhone photo – I was in a hurry):

Cheese Press

The next day the cheese came out of the mold ready to dry and form a rind.

IMG_0350I sprinkled salt all over the surface of the cheese, wrapped it in cheese cloth, and put it in the crisper drawer of the beer, charcuterie, pickle and now cheese fridge downstairs.  I unwrapped, flipped and rewrapped the cheese almost every day for a week.  A nice dry yellowish rind formed and it’s ready for aging.

IMG_0960If you look close, you’ll see a little notch cut into it (or out of it to be exact) on the right side on the bottom.  I had to taste test it even though it hasn’t been aged yet… I could have eaten the whole pound right then!  I managed to stay disciplined and move on to waxing the cheese for aging.

IMG_0975IMG_0976IMG_0988Back into the fridge it goes for 1-2 months, depending on how long I can stand to wait.  I’ve got a pile of cheese curd draining now for a soft cheese, so that will be my next post… something like fresh goat cheese, only with cow’s milk.