the gregarious homebody

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My Kind of Milk Moustache

M loves butterscotch and caramel (what is the difference, anyway?  Anyone?), so when she asked me for a birthday cake with caramel inside (not icing), I immediately thought of dulce de leche. 

Of course I could have just bought some from the store or I could have tried {this method} to make some from a can of sweetened condensed milk.  But no.  I love making things really from scratch.  Not all the time. Not as a rule.  Please. I'm busy, people, like all of you are. But I've always liked the science of baking.  I love knowing how stuff is made or where it comes from like, for instance, {cream of tartar}.  I couldn't make that shit up.

Anyway, FASCINATING to me. So after I thought of dulce de leche, I thought of {this book} that HH got me for Hanukkah.  I love the fact that these three ingredients, below, (with the tiny addition of a 4th)  make something so different from themselves in their raw state when combined and cooked.  

This recipe is for the Mexican version of dulce de leche, or Carjeta Mexicana. A fun fact: I learned that I'd better never call this stuff just "carjeta" if I can help it, while in Mexico.  "Carjeta" alone means "little boxes" which also means....vagina.  Fun!  I love learning!
Yes, that is {goat milk}.  From a goat.  I don't know why this freaks me out so much since, hello!, I luuuuurrrrrve goat cheese.  But I was nervous to try it because I thought it would be too....goaty.  

But the recipe author insisted that using the goat milk makes all the difference; that the kinds made with just sweetened condensed cow's milk were too sweetly cloying, that they didn't have as much character. And I am a recipe follower (at least the first time I make something).

The woman was right.  Behold, amazing deliciousness:

This stuff is dangerous.  I'm not a huge caramel fan but since it's not teeth-achingly sweet but deep and rich instead,  I could eat a LOT of this.  
Very. Very.  Dangerous.

And here's what she wanted, in all its purple and green glory (her choice):

The recipe:
Cajeta Mexicana
(Mexican Dulce de Leche)
 Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages
(yes, that is the title.  I like weird books.  At least it isn't
The History of Gunpowder...ahem, judy..)
by Anne Mendelson,
with my additions/changes in bold

Yield: about 2 1/2 cups, if you can keep your fingers out of it

1 quart whole cows' milk
1 quart goats' milk
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

In a large (at least 6-qt.) saucepan (I used my 8-qt Calphalon stockpot) thick enough to not start scorching on the bottom before milk is half-cooked.  Pour the milks into the pan, reserving 1/2 cup of one of them.

Add sugar to the pan and stir with a wooden spoon until it is dissolvedPlace over medium-high heat and bring to a low boil.  Stir 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda into 1/2 cup of reserved milk.  Off the heat, add to hot milk, which will froth up at once.  Set over medium hear and continue to cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes.  The mixture will start to look more like a syrup as water evaporates and temperature rises.  After this the recipe says to stir constantly because it will be another mere 30 minutes until the dulce is thickened so much that you can see the tracks made from scraping the spoon across the bottom.  

BULLSHIT.  This fucker took 2 hours in total.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  It was that good.  Anyway....

Gradually reduce temperature if necessary as the mixture darkens and thickens. When a stroke of the mixing spoon exposes the bottom of the pan and the syrup is slow to close (don't wait for this "slow to close" part.  I was tired so I just waited until it exposed the bottom of the pan and it very quickly closed again.  And it was perfection)

Remove the pan from heat and let sit until the molten stuff is partly cooled but still liquid enough to pour into small containers (I would recommend about 10 minutes).  Let cool to room temperature before covering. It will keep for weeks at room temperature (this scares me a little), for months in the refrigerator.  It may, however, crystallize like long-stored honey.  If this happens, set the container in hot water until the crystals melt.  I seriously doubt it will last that long.

Now I'm thinking you're probably freaked out since I told you it took me 2 hours of stirring to make this.  It was honestly no big deal.  I never stirred it constantly until the very end.  I just made sure it was on a medium-low temperature once it started to get caramel-colored.  And think of the caramel deliciousness that could be yours: ice cream sundaes come to mind.  It was so worth it.  Let's take a look again:

'Nuff said.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Girl

From the very beginning, my girl was sassy.

4 months
Under this picture in a photo album, the caption reads
"This girl is FUN!"


She has always had a flair...

2 yrs
...for the dramatic.


She and I often look at the world
the same way.

29 yrs, 3 months

Sometimes that way is just plain nuts.

6 yrs

As she's gotten older, I've often worried that she was lonely
or that something was wrong because she didn't want to spend a lot of time
outside school with her friends.

10 yrs
But I've learned that she likes being with herself,
that alone-time is precious to her.
It's funny because I'm like that now, as a grown up. 
I used to feel like I always had to be with someone.

It's taken me a long time to learn to like my own company.

It took my girl just a few years.


This is my girl a month ago, at almost 11.

It's gone by so fast.

And even though every morning I don't know which girl
is coming down the steps...

Baby Girl who is nervous and needs her Mommy 
"Teenage" Grump who is embarrassed by her family's (MY) existence
Goofy nut who is all about fun and psyched about life

Even though it can be challenging, knowing how to react,
how to be Her Mother..
Even though I know she'll sometimes hurt my feelings
because she just can't help herself...
Even though ...

Life with My Girl is interesting. 
And fun.
And messy.

And, it's pretty cool knowing that your kid is someone who you'd want to know
even if she wasn't your kid.

Happy Birthday, Pie


love xoxo

Friday, January 22, 2010

Wanna Swap Again?

Interested in getting in on a swap?  My friend Laura is suggesting a Springtime Swap over at {A Dozen Eggs.}  Laura's thinking some time in April.  Go visit {her blog} (see an example of our last swap) and let her know if you are interested in participating in some swappy fun!

Monday, January 18, 2010


What the flock?  From {Design*Sponge}

I can't believe it only took 3 years (*envy*).  From {Mrs. Limestone}

I would sincerely like the opportunity to get tired of this. From {House to Home UK}

I could park myself into this renovated kitchen and not change a thing. From {whatever}

I wish I could justify this purchase because it is so stinking cute.  From {etsy}

Oh Joy!  From {Joy the Baker}

So much more than just a food blog.  From {use real butter}

Dried blackberries and lots more for baking and snacking (and my order arrived the next day!). From {Nuts Online}

For next year's homemade gifts. From {Paper Source}

So friggin ADORABLE. From not martha, via {EpiCute}

I'm going to make this today with nonfat condensed milk.  From {Angry Chicken}

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I Could Have Just Asked My Husband

HH reads my blog religiously because sometimes we're both so tired/disgruntled after work that we go to our separate corners and don't talk.  So between my blog and facebook, it helps us know what's going on with each other.  Don't judge us.  When you talk all day, you don't want to necessarily talk at night.  At least I don't.

Anyhoo, he was just reading {my post} about my technical problems and told me the problem was "easy" to figure out.  Which is why I didn't ask him in the first place.  Why?  Let me illuminate:
  1. I am stubborn.  I hate not knowing how to do shit.  I hate being told how.  I am immature.
  2. HH loves knowing how to do everything.  He loves telling people how.  He is annoying.
I call his "tone" when he is "explaining" something his INSTRUCTIVE tone and he gets it from his father.  When I am really pissed I call him Elliott (--my father-in-law's name.  I said I was immature).  I feel myself wanting to claw his eyes out or at least withhold dinner.

All THAT being said, HH is a great guy.  He honestly doesn't seem to realize he's doing it since he "heard it from his parents his whole life," although since we've been together 22 years, he has about 1 more year in which he can use that excuse.  After that, he will have been with Wonderful Me more than with his parents.  And I put the work in, so I should get the reward of husbandly perfection.

Again, immature.

So he's apologetic as I point out his INSTRUCTIVENESS.  Again, good guy.  And, in the end, quite handy to have around. Plus, he's got that great hair (right, Judy?) and those twinklingly shifty eyes.  *sigh*  This is me totally sucking up.

My point for all of this is I can now post the other swap pictures!  Yay!  Thanks anyway, Laura and Dave, but I guess I really should've looked closer to home and spoken to my husband.  See?  I'm growing up.  So here are some more:

How friggin cute is that packaging?  {Jen} really took her time with it and it shows.
Here's what she included (from Jen's email):

FIKA Chocolate Covered Hazlenuts from {Greenpoint Food Market} (GFM)
(holla Brooklyn!--love, The Gregarious Homebody)
Chocolate Almond Toffee from Bean and Apple from GFM
Quinoa Bark from Keen-wah a quinoa company from GFM
Bread and Butter Chocolate Bar
Homemade Spiced Candied Pecans
Homemade Cherry Brandy Holiday Cake from GFM
("this is kind of a joke, had to send a fruit cake")

Love that!  And I would eat that entire fruit cake because I am unique in that I LOVE them as long as they don't have any disgusting {green cherries}.  That's just weird.

But here's a picture of my favorite part of her swap,
which I left out in the list above so that they didn't have to share the glory that is:

homemade molasses ginger cookies!

As my friend Jenni would say, I just want to curl up with
those cookies and go to sleep.

And how gorgeous is {Jen's} photo?  NICE.
Not surprising, though.  Be sure to check out {her photography}
(as she is a PROFESSIONAL).
Seriously, {WOW}.

*And here's the cool stuff Michele sent to {Donna}:

All dressed up...



Be sure to click on the photo--the small package almost in the center
with the royal blue label is
I could die from such cuteness.
Michele  went all out.

So now that I know what the eff I'm doing, I can post the rest of the photos
without losing any hair or brain matter.  Keep sending them in! 

You can also go to {Laura's blog} to see what {Sarah sent her} 
all unwrapped and see the mastery of Laura's packaging
(I have a serious thing for {brown kraft}) of Sarah's packages.

*edited because apparently in addition to being a technotard, my reading skills suck too.  Sorry Michele and Donna!!

But Wait: There's More!

Several of our swappers received their packages already and were THRILLED with their haul.

This is some of what {Bev} sent Jenni. 
Jenni's first baby "girl" is her dog Whitney,
so those {dog biscuits} were greatly appreciated.

And here's some more from {Bev's} state, Washington. 
I think it's always great to get stuff that's from your swapees area. 

I'd really really REALLY like to show more  of the awesome stuff from the photos the rest of you emailed me but much to my fucking frustration (there has been much inward and outward swearing around the Gregarious household computer), I haven't been able to save the pictures in order to blog them.  I have a serious love/hate relationship with Picasa.  {Laura}, my darling, and her fantastic husband {Dave} are attempting to help me with this problem.  Despite having a blog, I am a well-documented technotard.  I apologize to the other swappers and hope to get the pictures up soon!

::Michele:  I have not received your emailed pictures,
so can you send them again?::

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Nice Booty!

Today's the day that all the swapees should have gotten their booty in the mail so I don't feel too bad showing 2 of them (SPOILER ALERT FOR JENNI'S SWAP PARTNER).  Hopefully, y'all will be sending me your pics of the stuff you got/sent this week so I can keep posting them!

I said it before, but I had so much fun putting together or making all my swap stuff!  I really hope everyone else did too.  Just like during the gift-giving holidays, I often forgot that I would be getting something in the mail too.  The choosing and the sending were that fun.

So here's the stuff I sent to my swap partner, {Mamacita}, all wrapped up
(click the picture to see all the goodies close-up):

I love all the snowflake stuff out right now and cool blue is so pretty, I think. 

(Here's a "secret" about me: If you {packaged poop} in a pretty way, I'd be impressedAsk my husband:  I can often be heard saying, "but I love the packaging!" about the stupidest crap.
Who cares what's inside?  Well...not crap, but.....)

So, after shopping ({Crate and Barrel sale}--holla!) and baking (granola, cookies) and making (homemade chocolate marshmallows, hot chocolate on a stick) , I packaged everything up all pretty.  I also thought it would be cool to include a touch of where I live.The card in front has a recipe for {Moravian Sugar Cake} (which I did not make for the swap because it gets stale fairly quickly) because {Bethlehem, PA} was settled by Moravians eons ago and I added a Moravian star origami thingy to hang somewhere in Mamacita's home.  

While the Moravians were NOT known for {Origami}, (shocking, I know) they were known for these {stars} that are {mucho dinero} and made, usually, of glass.  

I love {Mamacita} but not that much (ch-ching!).

Anyway, I hope she enjoyed her goodies!   If I get her for another swap, I'll be sure to send {alcohol}.

Here's a picture of Jenni's swap, ready to be packaged up:

Jenni is known around our office as The Go-To Woman for anything crafty.  She knits, she crochets, she sews amazing {Mad Men-esque dresses} and today she tormented me and our office with delicious-looking {Buckeyes} she made (blast this weight watchers regimen!!).

Jenni's swap included some of those great crafts.  She managed to whip up some eco-friendly produce bags from some groovy retro fabric, make some washable washcloths and bake some treats.  All this while preparing for her very first baby to arrive (a girl!  YAY!).   

Baby Julianna is going to be one lucky little girl with all the outfits, {amigurumi} and other amazing handmade things she gets from her mommy.

Stay tuned for more swappy goodness!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Swap Deadline Looms.... :o)

If you signed up (click on the post title for the list of swapees)
for the Winter Gastronomy Swap (I still hate the name),
then remember that all packages should be in the mail no later than

Monday, January 11.

I have had so much fun buying, making and wrapping! 
And I love that it's after all the holiday hubbub
so there's no pressure (and there are sales!!!!).

I hope you all have been having fun.
Remember to take pictures and send them to me
or post them on your blog and let me know
so I can link up to them!

Here's a hint about one of the things I made:



Related Posts with Thumbnails