Friday, March 25, 2011

“Moms In Business” Grant Helps Relieve #1 Pain Point for Women Entrepreneurs

I just saw this and thought of it as a good idea. If you are a mom and want to set up a business or have one - you have chance to get a $10,000 grant by applying to this. Click the link below

“Moms In Business” Grant Helps Relieve #1 Pain Point for Women Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

My favorite Venezuelan dessert: Quesillo!!! Warning: This is NOT a flan.

Quesillo Venezolano - Venezuelan Quesillo

Hmmm Quesillo, without a doubt my favorite Venezuelan dessert! I can eat a whole quesillo just by myself. Over the years I've tried lots of quesillo varieties and I even created my own version. I like the creamy quesillos, the creamier the better. Here in the USA and in  the UK many people eat flans and think that flan and quesillo are the same. It is difficult to explain the differences until you try a true Venezuelan quesillo, which tastes like milk and is not watery as the flan is. Do not get me wrong, I also like the flan, it is just that Venezuelan Quesillo is a completely different dessert.


The women in my family have been making Quesillos forever. My grandmother did a pineapple version that although it is very tasty, it is not creamy enough for me!

When I moved out of Venezuela, I took with me the recipe for the pineapple quesillo. I make quesillo for all birthdays parties, for me it is as important as the cake (and you know how serious I am about cakes). I also prepare them for special events. The English and Scots like it a lot, but the Americans refuse to try it too often. They do not know it is not a flan. Initially this used to bother me, but little by little I learned, that the less my guests eat, the more left over quesillo for me!!

As for my own recipe, a Colombian friend told me that in Colombia they do something similar to quesillo, called him cheese flan, and the secret was to put cream cheese to the mix (and not pineapple). I began to invent and now I use cream cheese in my quesillos, with or without pineapple. I also change the preparation method from oven to stove top.
Too much talking let's cook!

By the way, you will need a quesillera: a pot with a close fitting lid. In Venezuela it is sold everywhere. If you do not have one, you can use a tin of saltines crackers.


Quesillera



Recipe: My Cheese Quesillo ( A variation of Venezuelan Quesillo with Colombian influence!)

Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 package of cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of rum or whiskey (optional)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • half cup water

Preparation:



In a quesillera (see photo) put the sugar and water to low fire to make a caramel. Do not stir, just watch. 


When the caramel  is ready  (sugar will melt and turn amber brown), remove from heat, turn the quesillera to its sides so the caramel stick to all sides - leave to cool.



Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender and mix well.


Put this mixture in the quesillera with the cold caramel. Close the quesillera .



Put the cheese quesillo in a double boiler (Bain Marie). Put a little water to boil in a big pan and put the closed quesillera inside. (the amount of water must be low enough so when you put the quesillera inside the water reaches only to half of the side - be careful with this, if put you too much water, it will go inside the quesillera when it boils and ruin the whole thing). Close the big pot and boil for an hour (check the water from time to time to make sure that it has not evaporated)

After an hour, insert a tooth pick on the quesillo - if it comes out clean it is ready, if not keep it boiling for another 5 minutes and try for doneness again.


Once ready, remove the quesillera and cool the cheese quesillo for 20 minutes (if you do not wait until it is cold, it will split when you take it out of the quesillera). When the cheese quesillo is cold, turn it into a plate to serve. (Put the plate on top of the open quesillera - holding the plate and the quesillera in place, quickly turn it upside down and it will fall nicely on the plate)


Recipe: Grandma's pineapple quesillo (A true Venezuelan quesillo)


Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 can of pineapple juice
  • A splash of rum (2 tablespoons) and a little bit (1 teaspoon) vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • half cup of pineapple juice (or half and half with water)
Preparation:

In a quesillera (see photo) put the sugar and half cup of pineapple juice to low fire to make a caramel. Do not stir, just watch. When the caramel is ready (sugar will melt and turn amber brown), remove from heat, turn the quesillera to its sides so the caramel stick to all sides - leave to cool.


This quesillo cooks in the oven (350 degrees) inside a tray with water.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a blender and mix well. Put this mixture in the quesillera with the cold caramel. Close the quesillera . Put the cheese quesillo in a double boiler (Bain Marie). Put a little water  in a big cake pan or tray and put the closed quesillera inside. (the amount of water must be low enough so when you put the quesillera inside the water reaches only to half of the side - be careful with this, if put you too much water, it will go inside the quesillera when it boils and ruin the whole thing). The cake pan with the quesillera will go in the oven.

After an hour, insert a tooth pick on the quesillo - if it comes out clean it is ready, if not keep it boiling for another 5 minutes and try for doneness again. Once ready, remove the quesillera and cool the cheese quesillo for 20 minutes (if you do not wait until it is cold, it will split when you take it out of the quesillera). When the cheese quesillo is cold, turn it into a plate to serve. (Put the plate on top of the open quesillera - holding the plate and the quesillera in place, quickly turn it upside down and it will fall nicely on the plate)

That is all!!you can now choose to make 2 different types of quesillos!

If you like this post, you may also like other Venezuelan dishes:
Venezuelan style pork shoulder: El Pernil

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gardening 101: Preparing the soil - The path to a self sufficient organic vegetable garden in 2011

Ready to start preparing the beds?

I started preparing the soil today. If you do SFG properly you are not required to do this as you will be creating nice boxes with brand new soil. However, I am starting with my old raised beds so I am sort of stuck with it. The first thing I did was to clean the beds up. I did not remove some of the plants in the fall so I had to do it now.

All the stuff I cleaned

Once the dead plants were removed, you need to turn the soil in preparation for adding some compost and/or manure. I use an edge spade as it is easier to me than a shovel. I work in rows, insert the spade/shovel in the ground and then lift the earth up, turning it as you go. Work in row until you cover the whole area. The earth underneath should be darker and the whole area will look lumpy.


The beggining


Finished Bed


Leave the area like that until you are ready to put the soil additives. I will put the compost from the horse and some sand as I found some clay soil when turning the beds. You are supposed to test the soil for PH, etc. I am going to risky as I have been growing vegetables there for a couple of years so I know it is not bad!

I will get the free composted poop at the weekend. I will let you know how it goes then. I am not sure if I will rent a rototiller or if I will do the mixing by hand yet. Stay Tuned.

If you liked this post, you may also like:
Gardening 101: Seedlings and planning
How to find free compost?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Free Poop!!!!

I never thought I was ever going to get so excited about getting Free Poop!!!! Horse poop that is!!!

As you know I have just started my vegetable gardening for the year, so I had soil preparation in mind. I was driving past an equestrian center nearby and decided to go in and ask the weird question: "Excuse me please, what do you do with your poop?"

I thought they were going to look at me with a "this woman is a martian look" in their faces. But nope! I am officially not the only woman in this world looking for free excrement. (Nice to know).

I, off course offered to buy a few bags of the horse droppings as it was my grand mother's preferred manure of all! But they surprised me once more. Not only they had free poop for me but they had variety - YES!!! you can choose what you want. Their offerings are:
  1. Fresh week old poop - Nice and steamy and wet... Yikes
  2. 6 Month old poop - kept outside so it will retained moisture and still semi wet with all the snow on top - still too smelly for my liking
  3. 12 Month old poop - kept inside and dry as a bone - cool hay like texture - no smell (a bonus)
  4. Composted poop - This was the winner!!! A nice composted soil which they turn and combine with all their grass clipping, extra hay and off course horse poop!
I will do my soil preparation in a couple of weeks and will be sure to go there with a few big plastic tubs to get the composted one.

I was also told that some towns also offer free compost and mulch , which they make from their spring and fall leaves and brush collections.

If you like this post you may also like:

Gardening 101: Seedlings and Planning

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gardening 101: Seedlings and Planning - The path to a self sufficient organic vegetable garden in 2011



I have set myself a very challenging goal for my vegetable garden in 2011!! I want to make my vegetable garden this year organic and best of all, I want to achieve self sufficiency...

So I will describe all the steps of what I will do this year to achieve my goal. So here is the first post:

PLANNING

The first thing I did was draw the design of my garden in paper. I am trying a new method this year called the square foot gardening (SFG). Basically, you build this square box of 4x4 feet and divide it into 8 1x1 spaces. You plant different arrangements of plants in each of the 1x1 boxes. As I have already built-in beds in my house, I modified the process and measured my boxes and divided the area in as many 1x1 boxes I could fit in.

The idea of SFG is that you can increase the yield of your garden by planting together instead of in rows. As I want to be self sufficient and I have limited space, this seems the way to go.

I ended up with lots of 1x1 boxes. I then put the name of the plant I want to grow in each square. In order to do this I took into account the following:
  1. My family's preference in vegetables - no point on growing something nobody will eat!!
  2. The size of the plant (visualize the full grown plants)- as my boxes are against my house, I put the tallest plants close to the walls so they do not shade the others.
  3. What I planted last year in the space so I can achieve a good rotation and not deplete my soil of nutrients. I normally rotate as follows: year 1- brassicas, year 2 -roots, year 3- others and start all over again in year 4.
This year, I will have onions, garlic (planted in the fall), herbs, 3 types of tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cucumbers, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, arugula, okra, strawberries, potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, zucchini, spring onions, corn and more....

SEEDLINGS

I have just planted our first set of seeds for the garden. I am starting all the seeds indoors, off course as it is still freezing out there. I live in Zone 5 so snow is still in the ground. I have started with the cold season vegetables as there are the first ones that are going to be planted outside.

This is what I just planted:
  • 2 different types of peas (sugar snap and a round one)
  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli
  • Onions - from seeds collected from my onions last year
  • Coriander (this I will keep inside for longer - not a cold season crop)
  • Beans (my kids got these as a project at school so they will also stay indoors for longer)
To plant, I used recycled materials to be as green as possible. I put some of the small seeds inside egg cartons and for the bigger seeds I have been collecting my used paper cups from the office!! You only need to open some holes at the bottom of your egg cartons and cups, put on top of a plastic tray and voila! the egg cartons are particularly cool as you can close them for the first few days and they keep your seeds warm so they sprout quicker. Remember to leave open once they sprout so they can get some sun.



I am also trying to not be wasteful with my seeds, I collected as many seeds as I could from last year's vegetables (if you need any home grown seeds let me know!). I am putting only 2 or 3 seeds per container vs. seeding outdoors hundreds of them only to have to thin them all!

For seedling medium - I refused to buy the ohh so expensive (although I know is good) stuff they sell at garden centers, so I did my own with garden soil and free composted horse poop!!! (this one is the subject of another post)

In the next couple of weeks I will prepare the soil - Stay tuned.

DAY 3 Photo - Onions and Arugula sprouted already

DAY 12 Photos: A few more seddlings



4 weeks later:




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