A Special Valentine’s Dessert

Matt was home for the weekend…I know this because I did 5 loads of his laundry. lol

Since he was home, and we were all together, we decided to pull-ahead our special St. Valentine’s dinner. Every year since my kids were toddlers, we have prepared a fun Valentine’s dinner. Everything heart-shaped, pink or red, little tokens of affection ~ just silly things, but my grown kids still enjoy this family tradition and have come to expect it.

Meatloaf is comfort food at my table so,

…heart-shaped meatloaf along with ‘pink’ mashed potatoes, heart-shaped sliced beats (which Katie cut-out with a mini cookie cutter), heart-shaped biscuits, pink/red beverage of choice, etc. I’m sure you can think of a few of your family’s favorites and start your own little St. Valentine’s tradition? I even pulled out some of the hand-made Valentine place-mats the kids made years ago. I know, I’m such a sentimental slob!

But, for dessert, we tried something new ~ Coeur a la Creme.

I found the recipe for Coeur a la Creme (which translates to ‘Heart of the Cream’ in French) on Ricki’s Cheesemaking website. Basically it’s Fromage Blanc cheese with a little sugar and egg whites folded into the cheese. You can also buy the heart-shaped cheese molds on her site, but I think you can use any heart-shaped (economical) mold. It’s important to line the ‘mold’ with cheese cloth to easily remove the cheese dessert from the mold! Katie spooned some of our garden strawberry preserves as topping, but you could also use sliced fresh strawberries (or any fav fruit) or chocolate drizzled on top.  Here’s the recipe: 1 cup Fromage Blanc, 1 T granulated sugar, 1 T heavy cream, 2 egg whites, beaten until stiff. Combine the cheese, sugar and cream. Fold in the egg whites. Spoon into your (butter muslin/cheese cloth) lined mold. Let set for 6-10 hours in the refrigerator. Gently pull up the butter muslin to remove the heart from the mold. Serve with fresh fruit, syrup or melted chocolate! YUM!

Winter has arrived!

Brrr…baby it’s cold outside with temp’s in the teens and sub-zero if you factor in the howling wind!

Here in southeastern Michigan, we’ve been enjoying a somewhat extended fall with only an occassional dip in daytime temps. That was last week; more recently we’ve had some snow flurries on & off, freezing rain, high winds, certainly hinting of more winter-like weather on the way, or shall I say, here to stay? I guess you could say that this recent cold snap ~ pre-curser to winter: let’s not push it since winter doesn’t officially arrive for a couple of weeks ~ took me by surprise these past few days! 

Last weekend we worked with a purpose to catch-up on winterizing-type chores like draining the house water spigots, put away the last of garden hoses, swap out water troughs for smaller buckets, added wood shavings to the dogs’ house, move the remaining ‘tender’ plants from the un-heated greenhouse to the house…and so on. Wouldn’t ya know our barn yard hydrant decides to ‘act’ up and seemingly requires some repair/replacement parts and of course we’ll wait until the sub-zero temp arrives before we can finish that little job!!!! I don’t think I would survive as a pioneer woman. I like my modern conveniences like running water and electricity!!! Oh well.

Since the temps have plunged and worried about freezing, I decided to make several batches of applesauce from the apples I had stored in the garage. I simply washed and quartered the apples – peels and all –  into a large dutch oven with about a cup of water, sugar to taste and a couple of crushed cinnamon sticks. Bring to a slow simmer and cook ’til soft. I allowed the cooked apples to cool and put it all through the food mill. YUM. The apple peels & pulp was a nice treat for the chickens. I probably put about 3/4 of it in the freezer for later…

The latest project we’ve embarked upon – is the systematic dismantling of our kids’ (the two-legged variety) play fort and re-construction/re-purposing the usable lumber into a kids’ (the four-legged variety) play fort. If you know anything about goats…it’s that they love to climb. The previous owner/breeder of my Pygora, Brutus, had a sweet two-story goat house that seemed both entertaining and practical. My friend who owns one of our wethers, Jet, also constructed a ramp and shelf-type ledge in the barn for Jet to keep watch over his sheepy stall-mates. We ‘borrowed’ a little from both of these ideas to come up with our own design for a two-story goat house of our own…with a platform or deck instead of stairs leading to the second level ‘dog-house’…er, goat house, that is. There’s always a need for a little bit more housing to shelter another critter!

Here’s what’s left of ‘his’ and ‘her’ fort which was connected by a tower  and swinging bridges (first to go and no longer visible) between them. It was the stage for many family summer get-together water-balloon fights and wonderful memories! In truth, I’m glad to be taking them down. Visitors to my shop allow their kids to ‘wander’ the farm…and they soon discover the play fort. OMG, what if someone fell off and hurt themselves… ?

I’ll post some pics of the goat fort as soon as we finish – we seem to have many detours along the way, in spite of our plan and best intentions. HA HA

Talk about planning…like, Scherehazade, our Alpine doe, having been bred November 1, to kid in April. Hmmmm, apparently she came back into heat today????? So, drop everything, Katie skip school (at least 1st hour), load Scherehazade into the back of the Explorer (hubby has the truck) and off down the road we go. Just hope she doesn’t pee in the back of the truck! Thank goodness our friend’s buck is only 30-minutes away! We’re on a Nelly ‘watch’ next week TOO. This breeding stuff, predicting their heat cycle, is not an exact science, ya know! But, Rox, she’s ALWAYS wagging her tail…she’s sooooo happy to see me!!! lol

Earlier this week I also made – first time – fromage blanc, which is French in origin and means “white cheese”.  The word fromage is derived from the Greek word ‘formos’ which is a type of wicker basket used by the Greeks to drain whey from the cheese solids. Fromage blanc is easy to make – very similar to chevre (which is French for goat), but made with cow’s milk. It’s a soft cheese made with a mesophilic (low temp) starter/culture, similar to cream cheese and may be mixed with herbs or used plain as a substitute for cream cheese or ricotta in a recipe. Also similar to chevre, the cultured milk is allowed to ripen for about 12 hours and then drained anywhere from 6 – 12 hours depending on the desired consistency. 

I’m fortunate to live just down the road from Crooked Creek Dairy, a family operated Grade A Dairy. I thought it would be nice to make a fresh cheese to bring to our spinning guild’s monthly meeting/XMas Party. We had delicious soup, lamb stew (most of us own fiber animals), sloppy jo, all sorts of sweets and confections…and my home-made cheese. I made both a sweet (mixed with apricot preserves and blanched almond slices) and savory cheese with the fromage blanc. YUM! The savory (a blend of herbs, fresh green onion and garlic) was voted as everyone’s favorite. While I prefer to use my own fresh goat’s milk, it’s nice to know (during my goats’ winter down-time) that I have a local dairy right down the road and by purchasing their farm-fresh milk I’m supporting local farm lifestyle and Ag business while pursuing my cheesemaking adventures! Got Milk?

Happy weekend!