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Category Archives: iPhone Photography

How To Make Butter Using a Mixer

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Good morning!

I am busy doing my last-minute preparations for the Nourished Food Blogger Conference and the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo later this week, but I wanted to post this easy basic how-to on making butter. Now, I realize that I’m not reinventing the wheel here, but my How-To Basic posts seem to consistently be some of the most popular posts.

*NOTE* You can use however much cream that you like. I used about 2 cups of cream, which produced 1 cup butter and 1 cup buttermilk. Also, use cold cream.

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INGREDIENTS:
Heavy whipping cream, cold
Pinch or two of sea salt to taste, finely ground

DIRECTIONS:
Pour the cream into your stand mixer, and blend on setting 2 (low, above stir) using a flat beater (I used my flex-edge flat beater). Continue stirring for pretty much forever until you are basically ready to give up.
It will finally begin to thicken and resemble sour cream, and then in one magic moment it separates into butter and buttermilk – which prompts you into doing a celebratory dance and then calling every member of your family into the kitchen to view this marvelous thing that you just did.
It takes about thirty minutes of constant stirring to separate and make butter.

Pour the buttermilk into a container with a lid and reserve for another use (I make GF buttermilk pancakes the next morning). Scoop the soft butter into a small dish, and cover.

Enjoy!

In Defense of the Lowly Dandelion

*NOTE: I originally wrote much of this February 26, 2009 as a note on my personal Facebook page. Today just seems like a great day to share it here, with you all. I hope you enjoy it!

WEED. Pronunciation: \ˈwēd\
Function: noun
Date: before 12th century
1 a (1) : a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth; especially : one that tends to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants.
Source: Merriam-Webster

See that? A weed is a plant that is not valued where it is growing. I have a Bluebonnet “weed” that comes up in my driveway every spring, and I love it.

Okay. Dandelions. Ahhh.

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I admit it. I have always had an affinity for the things. I adore dandelions.

When I was a young girl growing up in Great Falls, Montana, a neighbor boy dared me to drink the milk from the stem. I bravely did it, and discovered that I actually liked the earthy natural taste.

I would spend hours in the yard, lying in the grass and braiding them. I would make crowns, necklaces, belts, chains that were taller than I was. When my parents’ yard wasn’t producing the supply I required for my creations, I would scavenge in the neighbors’ yards (they didn’t really seem to mind). I could not understand why so many people seemed to despise this incredibly simple, delicate yet determined, happy little plant.

As I’ve grown older, I have rediscovered my affectionate obsession for the dandelion. After years of growing my own herbs and plants (and all the blood sweat & tears it has taken), it never ceases to amaze me that the dandelion never ceases to show up – unannounced, uncared for and definitely not coddled. It survives the harshest of winters, the most sweltering of summers. It is often among the first things to grow and flower in the early spring, and it multiplies rapidly all through the summer. It always appears cheerfully, inner strength and sheer will simply oozing from it. It is the underdog of the plant family. How could I not fall for it?

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RAWR. A card my mom framed for me in high school.

The name dandelion comes from the French “Dent de lion” referring to the teeth of the green leaves. The French folk name is “pissenlit” which any of my French-studying friends will know it refers to the plant’s diuretic effects. The medicinal history of the dandelion is quite fascinating. I will not go into detail here, but it has been used extensively in many different cultures all around the world.

All parts of the dandelion are useful and edible. They are bitter, so soaking or blanching first is a good idea. As I mentioned before, it is a strong diuretic. The leaves are best when very young, before flowering occurs. Pick a few and toss them in with your salad greens. You can blanch or steam them first if preferred. Or try dandelion tea! Soaking the young leaves in oil or vinegar will remove much of the bitterness. Young roots can be tossed into a stir fry. I suggest starting slow – they are quite bitter, especially the older they get. The leaves are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A and C. Also, a benefit of using it as a diuretic is that dandelions contain high levels of potassium. The flowers, minus all green parts, supposedly make delicious wine. I haven’t tried this one yet – perhaps this summer. In addition to its diuretic properties, it is also used medicinally as a digestive tonic, a laxative, to stimulate liver function, reduce inflammation, relief for urinary disorders, heart weakness, chronic skin complaints. . . In Chinese Traditional medicine it is used to treat breast and lung tumors, mastitis, jaundice and UTIs. Externally it can be used on snakebites. *NOTE* I am obviously not a doctor, and haven’t used it for these complaints. I have found it useful FOR ME with regard to UTIs, however.

*ANOTHER NOTE* I highly recommend getting your dandelions from an organic farmers’ market or your own backyard, IF pesticides have not been sprayed on them. Hopefully this goes without saying.

So, there you have it – my thoughts on this incredible undefeatable little beauty of a plant. How can one hate something so obviously useful and bearing oodles of inner strength and determination? What I haphazardly discovered that warm Montana summer day was a rite of passage I think all children should have the pleasure of experiencing.

Hmmm. . . I think my next tattoo will be a dandelion.

My 1920s Upright Piano

20120405-082223.jpgWhen I was a girl, I loved to play piano. In elementary school my parents bought a used piano for me to practice on. Found in a newspaper ad at a reasonable price of $250 and kept in someone’s finished basement in Great Falls Montana, I absolutely fell in love with it. I mean, come on. It had been refinished in the 70s in AVOCADO GREEN before I was even BORN. At the time, I recall Mom telling Dad we would strip it and refinish it.

I love older things. They don’t have to be worth much in the views of antique experts to appeal to me – if it’s unique, old, and quirky, I’m bound to at least consider adoring it. Check out a photo of my 64 Streamline here.

We had it professionally tuned for years, and it has moved with us. We learned a bit about it. It was made in 1920. Solid mahogany is underneath the avocado. It can be completely taken apart, piece by heavy piece. L. Ricca & Son in New York provided the warranty. The previous owner said it was originally used as a saloon piano in Montana.

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My piano teacher was an amazing lady named Leslie. She was very tall, slender in her Lycra leggings and bright tops and colorful heels, with terrifically long nails always painted in fantastic designs. She was so sweet and kind and fun. No piano teacher could hold a candle to her. She came to the house once a week, and I learned to really play on my piano. I played Bach, Beethoven, Christmas music, and Richard Marx, Bryan Adams, Janet Jackson, and more late 80s/early 90s music. I practiced for competitions and performances. It helped me to win a few trophies in elementary and middle school – before my social life intervened and I deemed myself “too busy” to take lessons.

When I got married, it came with me. When my children were born, it used to distract them from whatever they were crying for while they sat on my lap. Later it was pounded on by toddler hands. Then some years passed and the keyboard stayed closed; only recently has it been rediscovered. It gets played from time to time now. At parties, a wedding we hosted here last December, and whenever my kids want me to teach them something on it.

It has never been refinished – by me, I mean. The green is part of its personality. Part of its identity.

I absolutely adore my piano.

Texas Bluebonnets

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Rural Roadside Randomness

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cashew butter chocolate strawberry bites

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Press cashew butter (Mmmm…cashew butter=new favorite food) into small cups. Pour melted chocolate chips into the center. Place chopped strawberries atop the chocolate. All gluten free, of course. Enjoy!

1 spoon of cashew butter for each “bite”
1 tablespoon melted GF chocolate chips for each “bite”
2 strawberries, quartered, for each “bite”