Adventures in Cheesemaking

Happy Friday!  This semester’s classes are now officially over and I only have one paper left to write.  The finish line is in sight!

Last week I made a zip-trip out to Stop ‘n’ Shop, the only place in Boston that carries lactose-free half & half.  While I usually make ice cream with only lactose-free whole milk, sometimes I’ll add a tad of half & half to special batches.  And because going to Stop ‘n’ Shop can be a harrowing experience, this time I bought two cartons to save me another trip.

(I’m not even going to tell you about how I got stuck between the automatic doors and had to be saved by a Salvation Army bell-ringer.  Oops.)

Moral of the story: now I have too much half & half!  So I decided to do what any reasonable person would do– make homemade lactose-free ricotta cheese.

The process was surprisingly easy.  I followed Smitten Kitchen’s awesome instructions but used 2 cups lactose-free half & half and 2 cups lactose-free whole milk.  The only gross-looking part was separating the curds and whey.

In less than two hours, I had a creamy batch of ricotta!

We’ve been enjoying it on a baguette with a drizzle of olive oil and a dusting of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Yum.

Buon appetito!

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Sweet ‘n’ Salty

Last week was filled with savory Thanksgiving dishes, so it seems only fitting that I’ve spent most of this week making sweets.  (And writing papers… don’t worry, Mom.)  Besides lingering leftovers, there’s no longer any “real” food in the apartment.

I’m okay with that.

First came amazingly delicious caramel corn.  This recipe (see below) made a whopping 32 cups!

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DIY Vanilla Extract

With my baking habits, I go through vanilla extract like crazy.  I prefer the real stuff to imitation, but it’s way too expensive for a grad student on a budget!  So I was thrilled to find this recipe for DIY vanilla extract.

After making a one-time purchase of adorable (and inexpensive) swing-top bottles, I was ready to assemble the ingredients.  Vanilla beans, check.  Cheap handle of vodka, check.  (It was so cheap that Gabe said we couldn’t drink any or we would probably die.  This stuff is only for baking.)

The equation: 3 split vanilla beans + 8 oz. vodka + 2 months in the cupboard = 8 oz. homemade vanilla extract!

Vanilla beans kinda look like caviar...

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Twix o’ Treat

I will admit that I was very distracted while making homemade Twix bars.  (Within six hours, I had two papers to write and a class discussion to plan.)  So I set the caramel on the stove and sat at the kitchen counter with my laptop, keeping one eye on the candy thermometer and the other on the merit of visitor participation in museum interpretation.

In the end, my papers were submitted, the class discussion went well, and the candy turned out delicious.  The caramel is a little runny, but I just didn’t have the patience to get it to the right temperature!

Why, oh why, did it take FOREVER to get to 300 degrees?

As long as I keep them cold, they should be okay :)

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Delicious Diversions

It’s a cold, rainy day in Boston, perfect for snuggling up with a latte and my schoolwork.  I’ve spent most of the morning learning about visitor motivation and how to promote engaging experiences for museum-goers… and making (more!) homemade pasta.  We may never eat boxed pasta again.

Our fridge holds a little bit of tomato paste, left over from Gabe’s puttanesca sauce, so I decided to use it to color my pasta orange.

Mixing tomato paste with eggs provides a quick way to impart color

"Rustic" orange pasta dough

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Greetings from Tufts!

Since most of you don’t know what Tufts University looks like, I thought I’d share a few photos.  I acquired these by casually pretending to text on my phone while holding it out in front of me and snapping pictures.  Super sneaky, I know.

The campus reminds me of a combination of St. Olaf and Carleton; the buildings are made of either brick or limestone, and the whole place is on a hill!

East Hall (the history building)

Learnin’ is Fun!

Under the auspices of “research,” my Museums and New Media class gets to try out a whole bunch of awesome websites.  If you’re bored and want to “learn” along with me, check out one or more of these sites.  (Sorry in advance for helping you procrastinate!)

Build Your Own Panda Habitat

Take a Look at JFK’s Oval Office Desk

Travel to the Moon!

Play a Really Addictive Science Game