Printing Tips

Check out my printing tips if you're having problems printing to the right size
If you'd like to support this site and all the free things I post- please check out my Don't Eat the Paste Mandala collection coloring book for 9.99 at Amazon.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Smoking Cheese - Electric smoker


smoked cheese in an electric smoker

Oh! It's been a long time. Sorry about that. 

But hey, it's that season again and my family is gathering food and doing summer stuff and one of the big summer things is smoking cheese. 

We don't have a cold smoker. Our smokers are both electric, and both are Smokehouse Products smokers. One was bought off season at a heavily discounted price- but honestly, it would have been worth full price for how much we use it. The other one is smaller and I got it from a garage sale for free. 

The primary thing we use our smokers for is CHEESE. My family loves smoked cheese but it's expensive. Locally it's about 17 dollars a lb. With a coupon, I can get cheddar cheese for about 3.00 a lb. 

So when it comes to smoking cheese, I've used green apple wood that my son and I whittled into chips, purchased chips, and purchased hardwood for smoking and grilling- also whittled into chips. 

The Chief line of smokers from Smokehouse Products use chips in a small pan on top of an electric element. Fairly low voltage at 450W in my Big Chief model. You set it up on a non-combustible surface for smoking. 

The big issue for smoking cheese in this kind of smoker is that it is NOT a cold smoker. In fact, it runs about 165F, and cheddar melts at 150F. Well, that's kind of a big problem if you want pretty and yummy blocks of smoked cheddar. 

So what we do is get blocks of cheese and cut them down to the sizes we want and put them on the top two racks ONLY. Then under that on a shelf, we put a big pan of ice. The ice helps cool the smoke- and we leave the top open an inch or two so it draws the smoke out of the top across the cheese. 

We like our cheese a little smokier, so we run 3 pans full of chips through it then let the cheese cool a bit before wrapping it in plastic wrap. 

I can do 4 or 5 lbs of cheese this way at a time, and it might be 3 dollars worth of wood chips if I used purchased chips instead of apple wood or other types of woods that are good for smoking that I can get for free, and at 450W, for a full 2 hours costs less than 20 cents to run the smoker. So if I get the cheese for 3 lb a lb, and do 4 lbs, finished cost is less than 4.00/lb to smoke it myself. 

My youngest LOVES our smoked cheddar. So it does get more expensive that way. She eats about twice as much cheese when it's smoked! 

Friday, July 14, 2023

The Amazing Turnip Girl's Very Special Birthday Cake


Oh that's a mess isn't it? It's also very delicious. 

See, for the Amazing Turnip Girl's birthday, being in July, we do either ice box cakes or ice cream treats. 

This year has been well, interesting. To say the absolute least. 

She asked for a "Twinkie Cherry Cheesecake". And I was going to give her whatever she wanted. 

So that meant coming up with a recipe for an icebox Twinkie Cherry Cheesecake.

Recipe first! Then all the story. 

TG's Twinkie Cherry Cheesecake

  • 1 box of Twinkies, sliced in half across the top, lengthwise. (so both sides have the round top and flat bottom and creamy filling) 
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 can tart cherries packed in water (drained
  • 1 box cheesecake flavored instant pudding
  • 1 8 oz brick cream cheese
  • 1.5 cups of milk
  • whipped topping or whipped cream
Mix cherries. 
Blend together milk, instant pudding and cream cheese. 
In a 9x13x2 inch pan, put a layer of twinkies, cream side up. 
Spread cherries on top. 
Second layer of Twinkies
Spread cheesecake layer on that.  

Cover and put in the fridge for at least 4 hour. Serve with a spoon and add whipped topping as you like. 

It's honestly just that simple. No cooking involved. 

So icebox cakes, as per the name, started before refrigerators were affordable and common. Most recipes are teeth achingly sweet though. Which makes sense. When it's very warm, we want sugar for the energy rush, or at least that's the theory. 

That said, I definitely needed this cake to not be too sweet, which is why I added the can of tart water packed cherries to the pie filling layer and the whole brick of cream cheese to the cheesecake layer. That helped balance out the sweetness of the Twinkies. 

Honestly, it was DELICIOUS. I was kind of impressed. TG was thrilled of course, and the rest of my family enjoyed it a lot. 

Monday, August 29, 2022

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly Recipe


2 jars of spiced crab apple jelly with crab apples on a plate

Sorry I haven't updated in a while. It's harvest season. The berries, the mushrooms, all those other things wild and cultivated that my family picks and creates the jams, sauces, syrups and jellies we use through out the year and give to our friends. Also, I'm going to do something weird and give you the recipe before the back story.

This is actually a TECHNIQUE and a recipe both. The technique is for easily juicing the crab apples. 

Juicing the crab apples in an Instant Pot

This method will not be as clear as traditional juicing methods, more of a "cider" than a juice.

You will need: 

  • 10 lbs of crab apples- ornamental are fine, we used ornamental for this batch
  • water to cover
  • strainer
  • Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker
We have a Ninja pressure cooker that's large enough we did this in 2 batches, which wound up being 2 cups of water per batch to cover the apples. 

Prep apples by removing stems. For larger crab apples, you can cut them in half too. Seeds and skins will be discarded with the pulp, but can add natural pectin to the finished jelly. 

Bring up to pressure and cook for 8 minutes. Natural release. Using a bowl to catch the juice, strain out the solids. A mesh strainer will work, you can line it with cheese cloth if you want a clearer finished jelly. We just strained and smooshed it through. The pulp and the discarded stems all went into our compost heap. 

Juice can be frozen to keep to process into jelly later. Also if you really, really like sour, go ahead and try it. It is sour though. 

Jelly Recipe (makes 12 half pints with a little leftover)

You will need:
  • 9 cups of juice. Measure out your juice, add water to make 9 cups if necessary
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 11 cups of sugar
  • pinch each allspice, cinnamon and either mace or nutmeg (we used mace, I'm very fond of that vintage spice) 
  • 2 packages of pectin- we used powdered Sure-Jell
Mix crab apple juice, lemon juice, and sugar in a large heavy bottomed pan. Add in spices. Stir, heat slowly to mix completely and dissolve sugar completely. Stir in 2 packages of pectin. Bring to a rolling boil (a boil that can't be stirred down) and boil for exactly 1 minute. 

Skim of foam and put into prepared jars with a half inch headroom. Water bath process for 10 minutes.  

Crab apples are pretty new in our harvesting. Last year at a virtual plant symposium, someone told me approximately where her Dad had planted crab apple trees decades ago. My daughter went out exploring and found them and also found out that other people weren't picking them. Over the course of the next few weeks, she and her brother picked about 30 lbs of them. They were dried, used in pie, used for jellies and apple butter. 

Those trees aren't ready yet. But a friend of our offered to let TG and William pick at her house and they got 16 lbs total! We gave some to a friend, and used the rest to make this jelly. 

It's delicious. This would be amazing with moose, caribou, or if you're down south, venison. It's also a natural for pork. The sweet, tart, spiced combination is a natural with sharp cheese too. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Coloring page- chess board


colored example of chess board coloring page

Oh it's been a while. Sorry. This has been a good summer for my garden and I've been spending a lot of time out there. 

Anyway, here's a new coloring page. The big blank spot at the bottom of the chess board is so it can be personalized as you wish as a sign for a bedroom or whatever you'd like to do with it. 

Click the images below for larger versions to print and color. 

Chess board coloring page small jpg version:

chess coloring page, free coloring page, available in png and jpg

Chess board coloring page large transparent png version:

chess coloring page, free coloring page, available in png and jpg