Update on the brined cheese: I think my brine was too salty. Overall the taste is decent, similar to feta, but not smooth (the queso has a different texture). I poured off the brine yesterday and will consume as is. I think this idea has lots of possibilities, though.
January 13 - Day 10: Homemade Gray
When we first got married, I thought gravy had to come in little packets, and if we were being REALLY fancy, it came in a jar. Since then (ten years now) I have learned a thing or two about making homemade gravy. It isn't really hard, but mine always came out sort of paste-ish. It wasn't until I had dinner with a friend recently and watched HER make gravy that I figured out the secret ingredient I had been missing...
PATIENCE! In my effort to speed things along, I was adding too much flour, instead of patiently waiting for the flour to thicken things up on its own. AHA!
For the gravy I made, I used liberal amount of olive oil mixed with bacon fat to saute a whole chopped onion and 4 or 5 baby portabella mushrooms. Once soft and translucent, I moved the veggies to another dish, added a bit more oil to the pan, and added several tablespoons of flour (you could use half the amount of cornstarch) and whisked to combine. Once the oil was absorbed into the flour, I added chicken broth and milk in equal portions, whisked to combine, and then kept it over medium heat, stirring frequently, until thickened. I added back in the onion and mushrooms, some precooked chicken, and served over brown rice.
January 14 - Day 11: Milk Kefir
Milk kefir is a cultured milk product, similar to yogurt but thinner and drinkable. It's pretty sour (like plain yogurt) but the little owls like to drink it sweetened with fruit and honey. It is also what I use for soaking grains for baked goods. Kefir requires a starter culture of kefir "grains" (really a colony of yeast and bacteria that culture the milk... kind of like yogurt starter but the culture is clumpy... it looks like grains). Making kefir is really easy. Add the kefir grains to a mason jar, fill the jar with fresh milk, and leave on the counter for a day or so until it sets (I use a coffee filter rubberbanded (is that a word?) on to keep out dust and flies). I then strain mine through a colander to retrieve the grains. The cultured milk (the kefir) goes into a jar in the fridge, and the grains go into a clean mason jar and the whole process starts again. We use raw milk for ours, but you can use any milk that isn't ultra-pasteurized. I'm not sure how skim milk would work, since the kefir grains seem to be pretty fat-loving. Mine are always in the cream that rises to the top of the milk. If they are kept happy, the kefir grains will fairly quickly reproduce and you can share the kefir love with your friends by giving the extra grains away. Or, you can use them to make even MORE kefir!