Saturday, July 21, 2012

Who knew heavy whipping had so many uses?

Heavy Whipping Cream
Heavy whipping cream isn’t just for coffee and chefs. You can make whipped cream, butter, and buttermilk.

“Butter? Seriously? Why not just buy it?” hubby asked somberly.
“Why not?” I said. “It’s not like I’m buying a cow or anything, but the fresh cream…”
“But the neighbors said they would help!”

Well, the kids love experiment just as much as mommy and I needed something to entertain them. As I was surfing the web, I came across Free Range Living’s blog on making butter. I knew we just had to try it once I saw how easy it was!

Making butter is very easy and quick. Most people buy butter because heavy whipping cream is just as expensive as butter itself-just no dishes to wash. Another convenient item from the grocery store. Even if you don’t make butter for your daily dishes, it’s a wonderful experience on homemade bread-white, wheat, cinnamon raisin, etc.

You can make butter either by hand or by Kitchenaid. By hand, you will want to check out this YouTube clip: How to Make Butter with Robert Krampf.

Although I haven’t done it by hand, it too looks easy. I knew my kids wouldn’t want to shake it vigorously for so long, so we used the KitchenAid (they never tire of moving the switch). You need: jar with a lid, a marble, a strainer, and salt. Place the cream in the jar, shake vigorously until the cream becomes a solid. It takes awhile. Did I mention vigorous shaking? For at least five minutes. I’ll let you watch the video and determine which course of action you want to take.

For the KitchenAid method, you’ll need: cream, a KitchenAid (paddle attachment), salt, raspberries or garlic (optional).

First step is to let the whipping cream get to room temperature. I’ve made butter when it’s cold, but its better if its room temperature. It also helps if the bowl is cold, but I found it doesn’t matter if it is or not. Some people use the whisk attachment, but to me, that’s one more thing to clean (by hand).

Turn on your KitchenAid (or have your helpers do this). After about 2-5 minutes, you will have whipped cream! No wonder my friend, A, doesn’t buy the can stuff. All those preservatives-yuck! If all I am making with my cream is whipped cream, I use the whisk attachment.
Before buttermilk seperated

If you don’t want/need whipped cream for your fresh berries, cakes, etc., keep mixing! After another 5-10 minutes, you’re whipped cream will turn into a dough-like substance and a few more minutes later, your butter will transform before your eyes! You’ll notice a liquid at the bottom of the bowl. This is buttermilk. You’ll need to take the butter out of the bowl and strain it. You can save the buttermilk for other uses if you want. Otherwise, it goes down the sink.

This is why I don't use the whisk to make butter
People say to squeeze the buttermilk out of the butter, but I’ve never had any luck doing that. Squeeze if you can and rinse the remaining buttermilk out of the butter until you only see clear liquid draining off the butter. Make sure you get most of the water off the butter as well. See-not hard at all so far!


If you want unsalted butter, you’re done! If not, one more step. Wipe your KitchenAid bowl with a paper towel to get the remaining buttermilk. Return the butter to the KitchenAid with paddle (wipe that as well) and add salt. Add a pinch at a time. You do not want to oversalt!  Free Range Living says “add 1/2 a teaspoon of salt for every pound of butter (remembering that 1 quart of cream will yield about a pound).” I make butter out of leftover heavy whipping cream so my amounts always vary. This is also the time to add your optional ingredients (garlic, raspberries, etc).

Put in a container- I use plain ole Tupperware/glad containers, Free Range Living has a French butter bell. Amazon has a bunch of really cute buttersavers for $10+ dollars. What a way to present your homemade butter!

Check out how to make homemade whole wheat bread and enjoy!

You can freeze your butter- just make sure its sealed!

Free Range Living:
Amazon: butter bell

Homemade Wheat Bread

Mmmmm. As hubby walks through the door, his stomach rumbles. "The house smells wonderful" he usually comments. There's apparently no need for us to buy candles to make our house aromatic. I just throw some flour, yeast, and a few easy ingredients into our wonderful bread machine. I love my bread machine so much I could sing about it! I promise I won't though.

In my house, my kids eat PB&Js every day for lunch so bread is a necessary staple. Do I feed them $1 store bought white bread/fish bait? No! Number 1. If they are going to eat that much bread, they need whole wheat. 2. As I am trying to simplify my pantry/life and get rid of the preservatives, homemade is the only way to go. Plus, it's just a few simple ingredients other than flour and yeast. You don't even need bread flour for most recipes (this recipe does call for bread flour though). After searching for a good recipe online, I finally gave up the search because all I have in the pantry is white whole wheat flour.

There is a difference between whole wheat and white whole wheat. The white whole wheat flour does have the same fiber and nutrition as wheat, it's just not as "whole" as whole wheat. White whole wheat is a little more grounded for a lighter/whiter taste. Some people use half white whole wheat flour and half whole wheat when making bread, but I had no problem with white whole wheat + the bread flour in this recipe. I didn't expect this bread to turn out the way it did and I will experiment with the white whole wheat more so I can convert hubby to eating more whole grains.

Off the computer, I took Betty Crocker's Cookbook out of my cabinet and turned to the whole wheat bread recipe on page 88. It's not a new recipe, but I really wanted to experiment with my white whole wheat flour. Maybe I could trick him into thinking its white bread.
Here is the Betty Crocker Recipe on Page 88: I couldn't find it on their website

Whole Wheat Bread

1 C + 2 T water
3 T Honey
2 T butter
1 1/2 C bread flour
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat and it came out perfect!)
1/4 C walnuts (optional)
White Whole Wheat Bread
1 t salt
1 1/2 t bread machine yeast

Put ingredients in bread making pan as ordered (wet always goes first).
Use whole wheat or white setting on bread machine.
Medium or Light cyle.
DO NOT use rapid cycle!
Remove from rack to cool and cover with a towel to keep moist. (I left the bread in the machine overnight and it turned out moist as a cake)

Good luck and let me know how yours turns out!


Simplifying Life in General. It all starts with your house, your rooms, your cabinets, and drawers. Scary isn't it?

A few household items

De-cluttering. It seems like a scary word for most of us, but slowly and surely, we can make it happen! It takes one day at a time and a goal. My goal when I first moved to our new house over two years ago was to be organized and simplified- much unlike our last house of chaos. We've lived here for a little over two years and it seems the only organized room in the house is the guest/kids bathroom. 

I have so many projects and goals that I want to do with my life and to me, it seems, they all need done right away (please don't tell me I'm the only one who does this)! Then I get overwhelmed and give up. Well, not anymore. Let's look on the positive side. The guest/kids bathroom is organized. That's one less area/room that's done! 

I'm also trying to simplify my pantry and eat healthier. We don't buy junk food (I haven't bought potato chips over a year) and the pantry seems full of canned and bottled food. Olive oil, canned oranges (for salads every night), jello, and a TON of condiments. We are always buying fresh produce (patiently waiting for the garden to produce) and it seems we are always spending hubby's hard earned money on bills, gas, and groceries- in that order. 

I went to look in my pantry to organize it and under the kitchen sink. The twenty bottles and cans of cleaners, detergents, canned and bottled never-expiring food made me realize we have so much and waste it all! We really need to get back to the basics! How did people survive in the 1950s? They didn't buy bottles of ketchup or run to the store because they ran out of butter!

One of my cabinets

I'm determined to go green- maybe not 100%, but a little at a time. Do I really need to spend $30+ on Tide detergent or $20 on dishwasher detergent gel pacs? I would love to spend that $50 on a Christmas gift for my husband or re-plaster the house (stucco exterior).

Our four year old daughter is starting to think that everything you ever need is at the store and that Daddy will always be able to buy those things. That's not how my husband and I grew up. Our parents did buy most to everything (food and household cleaners) at the store it always seems a lot of money went down the drain, all over the floor, etc. I don't want my kids to waste their money and support the outrageous advertising for commercial products. So in order to save money (I'm a stay at home mom with a 2 and 4 year old) I'm willing to experiment and teach my kids (and husband) that homemade is worth the effort!

I've done a lot of online research and I'm not going to make all these tomorrow, but weekly. I will have weekly goals and other projects on the list, so please be patient with me. 

My monthly goals are practically a to-do list. I'm not forcing myself to work only on certain days or hours, but as long as I can cross it off the list (I love lists)! These goals will be done Monday-Friday only- unless I need hubby's help. 

Each month I will clean and de-clutter one room, garden and pull weeds (sections), experiment with a new household/homemade cleaner, a from-scratch food, and overall, teach my kids and hubby what its like to not be reliant on commercial products.

The overall goal is to become organized, de-cluttered, and somewhat self-reliant with a two- and four- year old mixed in! 
My weeds never seem to stop growing!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

Over the mountains and to the coast we go! Nothing says coast like a lighthouse. Lighthouses aren't my number one interest, but being from the US Midwest, they are an extremely important aspect of history that isn't explored excessively. Light stations were used to help navigate ships and help prevent ship wrecks along dangerous coastlines.

View from Highway 1

As soon as you get over the mountains retaining the very unpleasant smog, it's a breath of fresh air. It's not quite salty air yet, but its fresh. You'll find hills, trees, orchards, and farms between the mountains and the Pacific and very curvaceous roads. To me, its mesmerizing going from the searing valley desert to freezing Pacific water in just 2-3 hours.

Driving on Highway 1, north of Cambria and Hearst Castle, is a lighthouse. Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, meaning "White Rocks", is owned/managed by the BLM. Its a great place to take the family for a day trip or a weekend. You can't sleep in the lighthouse, but not too far is San Simeon State Park if you're into camping.

Two and a half hours from Bako, the drive is long, but well worth it. As soon as you step out of the car, you'll more than likely need to put your sweatshirt or long sleeve shirt on if you're like me- use to the warm weather (Hubby is well insulated, so he can get away with just a t-shirt). The fresh salty breeze and barking elephant seals is not something you get to see everyday when you live in the valley.

Walking up to the tower you'll notice several buildings surrounding the lighthouse. Some of those buildings are original and some were added in the 1940s by the Coast Guard (who use to operate the lighthouse). 

Inside Stairway Looking Up
There are a few missing buildings such as the carriage house, water tower, the main lightkeeper's house, and a few others, but those will eventually be rebuilt through volunteer hours and donations. A few original buildings do still exist on the property and when taking the guided tour, the staff will explain and show you not only about the light station, but also the elephant seals. You'll be able to hear different light stations' signals, touch four different animal skins, and use binoculars to see elephant seals on the famous "Painted Rock".

The lighthouse isn't the quite the same as when it was first built. A nearby earthquake in 1948 damaged the lighthouse, leaving it un-structurally sound. The actual Piedras Blancas Fresnel Lens is still intact -just not at the actual lighthouse. Cambria, south of the lighthouse on Highway 1, has the Fresnel lens on display on Main St.

It wasn't easy being a light station manager, according to our tour guide. To me, it sounded like taking care of a big baby-waking up all hours of the day and night to maintain it. What a job! However, whenever a new station manager moved in, the government provided everything-furniture, dishes, all the way down to a dustpan. Not many provisions remain at the Light Station since the house was taken down decades ago. A few items are on display in the lighthouse itself, including the dustpan, photographs of the original light station property, the half spiral stairs, a replica of the Fresnel lens, and other lighthouse memorabilia. If they needed food, they had to wait under a government tender brought supplies- three or four times per year. Plus another ship would dock there, but not regularly. Didn't they hear of homesteading? I would have at least raised a cow or chickens!

It might sound like a wonderful job, but it was definitely hard work! Unlike a few of the other light stations, Piedras Blancas had two-story triplex house for three families. At least they had company!

Piedras Blancas Fresnel Lens in Cambria, CA
Don't forget to walk the trail around the lighthouse as well. When the native plants are not in bloom, they convey their coastal exuberance year round. Volunteers put in hundreds of hours replacing invasive coastal plants (ice plant) to the native species (seaside poppies, tree lupine, etc.).

If your lucky and the kids stay quiet, you'll find a variety of insects and animals other than the elephant seal. Every time I go to the light station with the family I see tons of yellow-faced bumble bees. It's usually too windy for the white crowned sparrow to fly in the high winds, so they stay around the trees mostly. You'll also find ground squirrels and western fence lizards if you're lucky. We usually are too busy identifying the flowers to keep quiet with a 2 and 4 year old.

Lighthouse from Side
If you take your kids, the gift shop has a little booklet that contains information and puzzles and identifies the plants and animals. If you have any questions, the tour guides can answer any question you have. I've never gotten a better tour anywhere else. Plus, you're out of the smog!

Make sure you make an appointment, because the property is in a locked and gated area (mostly to protect the native flora and fauna). It's quite easy to miss so set your GPS accordingly.

Here is the contact information: Piedras Blancas Lighthouse Information