Archive for April, 2011


Project 17: Delay

April 28, 2011

I apologize for the lack of a project post this morning. I had a day off yesterday and used it to get the bulk of my work done for next week’s project.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working on my cross stitch! Today I brought Jupiter to DownTown Knits so I could join Cheryl of Knitting My American Dream for part of her April knitting marathon. It was fun hanging out in a cool yarn store with another crafty friend while we both raced to finish our projects.

Then this evening I finally gathered my thoughts about the coasters and purchased some supplies to finish them. I’ll pull out the sewing machine tomorrow (Friday) and see if I can get the first four done. I hope to continue past the end of this week so I can finish all nine (yes, including Pluto).

I hope to post some finished coasters tomorrow!


Project 17: Planet progress

April 27, 2011

Planet progress

I started this project the first week of April because I had a hunch it would take me longer than a week to cross stitch 9 planets. What I learned is that it takes me about a week to do each one. I hope to finish Jupiter by Friday and will continue as I find time until all of them are done. Mine are a little bit bigger than the ones in the example photo. The pattern creator was able to find 14 count fabric (14 stitches per inch) and all I could find in the black was 18 count. I also haven’t yet quite decided how to make them into coasters. Hopefully by the time you check back tomorrow I’ll have some done!


Project 17: Materials

April 26, 2011

Embroidery flossBuying materials for this project was a lot of fun. When I was a teenager I used to buy embroidery floss to make knotted friendship bracelets — this shopping experience took me right back. I had a list of colors for the project in hand and just stood in front of the wall of flosses picking out the ones I needed. I was even able to find a black fabric instead of the usual white, thus saving me a lot of little black x’s. The cost of all of these materials was well under my weekly budget.

If time is money, however, this one may be the most expensive yet.  Check back tomorrow for my progress so far.


Project 17: Needlepoint

April 25, 2011

Heather Murphy planets

This week I am going to take advantage of these great cross stitch instructions for all 9 planets* and probably turn them into coasters. I may not get them all done by the end of the week, but stay tuned to see how they turn out!

*including Pluto

Photo by Heather Murphy of the Nerdy Needle


Project 16: Finished cheese Pascha

April 24, 2011

Cheese Pascha

Yay Pascha! My cheese Pascha turned out great this year. The texture was smooth and creamy and it wasn’t too sweet. We barely made a dent in this one and there is a whole second one in the fridge for the picnic later today.

Lessons learned:
– Be sure you have all of your equipment before starting this project. I’m pretty sure I made the recipe with too much fromage blanc because our kitchen scale is missing. Also, I think I don’t have to make 4 gallons of milk worth of cheese next year. Two may be plenty.
– This cheese is worth the hard work when you see the looks on your friends’ faces at 3am on Easter morning. Yum.

See you next week for something non edible.


Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 2011

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day from 50 First Crafts!

My mind is much more in Good Friday today than in Earth Day, but enjoy this teaser from project 17 (starting Monday).


Project 16: Still draining

April 22, 2011

The cheese Pascha is now cozy in the fridge and will stay there until it is time for us to bring our Easter basket to church late Saturday night. I’ll post a final picture on Sunday.


Project 16: Making cheese Pascha

April 21, 2011

Here is my recipe for cheese Pascha (adapted from Taste and See: American Orthodox Cooking):

A few days in advance, clean and oil the cheese Pascha mold. If you don’t have a fancy cheese Pascha mold like mine you can use a very clean plastic or terracotta flowerpot.

Prepare pascha mold

Using a double boiler, make a custard with 5 egg yolks, 2.5 Tablespoons of half and half, and 1/4 cup sugar. I use a bowl in a pot of simmering water. Let it cool slightly.

Double boiler

Move your drained fromage blanc to a large bowl. I had hoped to measure out exactly 4 pounds but our kitchen scale is inexplicably missing. (Did you borrow it? We need it back!) I ended up using all of the cheese which was probably too much.

Fromage blanc

Add the custard to the fromage blanc and also add: 1/2 lb very soft butter, 1/4 cup whipping cream, 1/4 cup sour cream, and one more cup of sugar. I always have vanilla sugar made up in the pantry (put scraped vanilla bean pods into a container of sugar) so I use some of this in my cheese Pascha. If you don’t have vanilla sugar you can pour in vanilla extract. Start with 1/2 teaspoon and adjust to taste (or to smell if you’re not eating dairy while you make this).


Stir well. I sometimes need to use my hands to work in the butter and the sour cream depending on how soft they are. At this point my official taste tester lets me know if the batch needs anything. We added some salt and some more sugar to this one.

Filling the mold

When you are sure everything is perfect it is time to fill the mold. Place it in a bowl or on a shallow dish, line it with a double sheet of moistened cheesecloth, and fill to the very top. Your cheese will drain a few more days in the fridge, so don’t be afraid to really fill that mold. You can make a mini cheese Pascha with any leftovers (we had enough left over to make a whole second one).

Ready for the fridge

Put that baby in the fridge and monitor closely over the next day or so. You’ll need to empty your dish out before the sticky whey leaks out onto everything on your lower shelves. It will lose the most moisture in the first 12 or so hours (you can see in the photo that mine was already dripping when I took this picture).

My cheese Pascha mold has a lid and that helps to weigh down the cheese. If you don’t have a lid you can use a plate or another flat item to help it drain. I pile it up with all sorts of random things by the time I’m done because there is nothing worse than a wet cheese Pascha that slumps when you take it out of the mold in front of its adoring crowd.

Now: the waiting.


Project 16: Draining the whey

April 20, 2011

When we last visited our future cheese it looked like this:

Milk in pots

We let it sit for close to 24 hours and it got nice and gloopy (technical term). The next step was to strain it. We usually use a double layer of cheesecloth in a metal strainer, but for some reason this batch lost a little bit too much cheese with the whey. I switched to clean dishtowels for the rest of the batch, like so:

Full strainers

Dishcloth on left, cheesecloth on right

We had four strainers going in total. The two on the stove were over bowls so we could keep some whey. The other two were in the sink.

Straining the cheese at this point is very important. You’ll want your fromage blanc to get as dry as possible before you turn it into cheese Pascha because eventually you’ll want it to hold its shape. Drain it like this for as long as you can.

After about 12 hours it looked like this:

Less full strainers

The cheese lost a serious amount of whey! The half gallon jar you see there was from the bowl on the left. We figured that was enough and dumped the rest.

The texture of the cheese at this point was like a good whipped cream or a very soft cream cheese. Because it had lost so much volume, and because I wanted it to be drier, I combined all four strainers into one and drained for another 12 hours. This time I weighted it down so it would drain more (sorry, no photos).

Check back tomorrow as I add the ingredients to turn this plain cheese into cheese Pascha.


Project 16: Adding some culture

April 19, 2011

Pouring milk

The first ingredient in my cheese Pascha recipe is farmer’s cheese. During the 12 years that I have been making this dish the availability of commercial farmer’s cheese has varied. No two cheesemakers can even agree on what farmer’s cheese is. Eventually my husband, the homebrewer, realized that it would be easier for us to make our own rather than hunt through stores every year. We settled on a culture from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company (available for purchase locally at American Brewmaster) for a simple soft cheese called fromage blanc.

Fromage blanc culture

Making fromage blanc is simple: just add the culture to milk that is slightly warmer than room temperature, let sit, and drain. We started with four gallons of milk and four packets of culture to hopefully end up with the four pounds of farmer’s cheese I’ll need for my recipe.

Cheesemaking rig

First we heated the milk to 86 degrees in two stockpots outfitted with thermometers.

Adding culture

Then we added the culture to the warm milk and stirred it in thoroughly. Now we let the milk sit overnight so the culture can work its magic. Unlike yogurt, fromage blanc doesn’t care so much what the overnight temperature of the milk is. We just left the covered pots out on the counter.

Tomorrow: draining off the whey.