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Archive for June, 2011

I made cheese!

You are probably really amazed and impressed right now, and if not you should be, jerk.  But honestly cheese making is pretty simple (for this kind of cheese at least) and also pretty cheap!  We went to a cheese making class at a local cheese and wine making shop, where we also bought supplies (http://www.curdsandwine.com/), I am pretty sure you can find your own local source via google.

What you will need:

  • a gallon of whole milk: about $3
  • one packet of fromage blanc starter (basically the rennet and bacteria): $5.95 for five packets, so about $1.25
  • cheese salt (or non iodized sea salt, very fine) (cheese salt can probably be purchased where you get your starter):  $2.95 for 8 ounces, of which you will use 2 teaspoons

  • cheese cloth:  ours was $5.95, but can be used over and over
  • a big ol’ pot, preferably with it’s own strainer (you know like the ones that come with a steamer or whatever, but you never use?)
  • a kitchen thermometer
  • herbs (optional)

You will be so stunned at how easy this is.  It takes at least 24 hours, but it’s so simple!

First get your big ol’ pot (make sure it’s bigger than a gallon), and dump the gallon of whole milk in.  Heat very slowly to 86 degrees.  This should take around 45 minutes.  On my gas stove, it took almost 45 mins exactly on the lowest possible burner setting.  We basically just set a timer for 35 minutes and started checking the temperature to make sure we were on the right track.  Then all you need to do is sprinkle the contents of the starter packet in the milk, then stir gently in an up and down motion for one minute.

Adding starter

And thennnnn, you wait.  For at 12 hours.  I told you it took a long time!  Just cover the pot and let ‘er chill for 12 hours.  We just left ours on the stove.  Make sure you don’t have to get up at 230AM for the next step like we* did – be better planners.  *and by we I mean BF 🙂

After 12 hours, get out the cheese cloth and you may need to get inventive with this one.  Basically the soon-to-be-cheese needs to hang in the cheese cloth for another 6 – 12 hours (longer = dryer, harder cheese).  So once you have the cheese in the cloth, tie a knot at the top and hang it somewhere, over a sink, or a pot (if you save the drippings or whey – ricotta can be made).  We heard a few tips like fashioning a hanger with a metal clothes hanger over the sink from a cabinet, which seems pretty good.  Luckily my big mama All Clad is a giant and big enough to just let it hang, tied to a wooden spoon placed over the top.Binder clips are so awesome, by the way.  So now you wait… again.  We waited for 9 – 10 hours, and still got a very soft, moist cheese.  The consistency is somewhere between cream cheese and goat cheese.

Only one more step!  After the whey has drained, take the cheese out of the cheese cloth (which can totally be cleaned and reused) and transfer to a bowl.  Stir in the cheese salt and herbs (if you are going that route), then pop in the fridge for a few hours.  We chose to do half plain and half with garlic and herbs.  I think I much prefer the herb version, but if you were going to cook with it, you would want some plain cheese.  That’s it!

Here is what the cheese will look like when you unwrap the cheese cloth: And here is the end result (with garlic and Italian herb seasoning).  Might I add that it’s seriously freaking delicious.

homemade fromage blanc with garlic and herbs

Also, you will get a lot of cheese, like 5 or 6 cups of it, and it will probably stay good for 2 – 3 weeks.  I am going to try and freeze some, which I am sure will be fine, since I have frozen just about every other type of cheese or dairy product without problem.  And don’t forget to make ricotta from the whey (post on that coming next time we make cheese, the way we made the ricotta this time was ridiculous and frustrating).

Here is a really easy, but impressive idea to use some of this delicious fromage blanc:  cheesy bruschetta!  Only I hate tomatoes, so I used cucumbers. 

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So maybe this is a quiche type thing, or a frittata?  I dunno, I just know that I love breakfast for dinner.  And after visiting a local place for brunch and having one of the most delicious “omelets” ever, which was baked in a mini cast iron skillet, I HAD TO TRY IT.

This is insanely easy — I didn’t look up any recipes, just kind of did what I thought would work best. This is also really great because it’s kind of kitchen sink, throw in whatever you want/ have/ need to use and still have a delicious meal.  For example, I had a leftover baked potato that I cut up and threw in.  You really should have eggs, cheese and some veggies at all times in your kitchen, so just do what feels right.  Other things to try: sausage, tomatoes, onion, pesto, other kinds of cheeses, olives, ham, zucchini or squash, peppers, etc.

First I started pre-cooking some delicious, delicious bacon in the cast iron skillet (here is the skillet that I have and highly recommend, btw).  Oh, and preheat the oven to 425!

Frying the bacon

As you can see I used five pieces, but there are incredibly thick.  If you have normal cut bacon, maybe bump it up to 7.  But as I said earlier, you can just throw whatever you want in!  The great part about the bacon though, is that now you have delicious fatty grease to saute veggies in AND it’s a spectacular way to season and coat your skillet so that you can actually get the omelette out of the pan later and eat it.

While the bacon is a-cookin’, it would be a grand idea to clean and chop your delicious veggies.  I used broccoli, scallions and some spinach.  I only used half the broccoli, but all the spinach (about an oz) and all of the scallions, chopped.

Veggies!

I also whipped my eggs with shredded mozzarella cheese, salt, pepper, and milk while waiting for the bacon.  I used 8 eggs, about a cup of milk (maybe less?  I just poured some in, it was not more than a cup for sure), generous amounts of pepper and about half as much salt.  If I had to guess, I’d say a teaspoon or more of pepper.

Scrambling eggs

Finally the bacon was done, I took it out and wrapped in a paper towel to absorb some of the grease.  Then I threw in the scallions and maybe 8-10 minced cloves of garlic to saute for a few minutes on medium.  While it was sauteing, I went ahead and chopped up the bacon.

Sauteing garlic and scallions in bacon grease

Before I added the other veggies, I made sure to coat the sides of the skillet with the bacon grease.  I did this buy just taking a wooden spatula full of scallions/ garlic/ grease and running it all over the inside of the skillet a few times.  Then after the garlic turned a bit dark, I added the other veggies to cook for about 5 mins (or until the spinach starts to wilt, if you use it).

pre-cooking all veggies in bacon grease

Next I poured the eggs in.  Stir the contents around a few times, to make sure everything is evenly distributed.  Then I added more mozzarella on top!

Ready to bake

I let the whole thing cook on high for 7 – 8 minutes, until the eggs were more or less set.  Then I stuck that sucker in the oven.  As for the baking time, I had intended for it to bake for 15 – 20 mins… which after being extended in intervals of 5 mins eventually added up to about half an hour.  Bear in mind, I had an extremely DEEP skillet very, very full.  Not only was I starving by the time it was cooked throughout, but I had also sustained a very painful oven burn…. WAH.

All done!

I think it was worth it, though…

Like a breakfast pie

It was seriously delicious, you guys.  Also filling… we only ate about half and remember that one half of “we” is a giant (not me).  I served it with simple toast.  I wanted to make cheddar drop biscuits, but the lazy took over instead.  When I had the version that inspired me at Cafe 21, it was complemented by the most delicious potato pancake I have ever had in my life.  A good, easy substitute are the frozen ones at Trader Joe’s… plus, you already have the oven on, anyway.  Enjoy!

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Shaved Asparagus Pizza

So this is from smitten kitchen: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/05/shaved-asparagus-pizza/

I read that post forever ago, and have since made only the raw, shaved asparagus as a side dish.  I made the pizza a few days ago and it was delicious!  I just realized now that I added scallions because I needed to use them, and they are actually part of the original post.  This either means I am thinking like a chef (or reallyreallygood food blogger), orrrr I am a subconscious plagiarizer.  Yes, that is spelled correctly, I know it looks weird.

Anyway, I just use plain cheese pizzas that I buy in a 4 pack at Costco (they are Kirkland brand) for $9 or something like that.  We usually do make your own pizza night with tons of ingredients to choose from, but asparagus was on sale and I have wanted to try this forever.

I know you wanted to see the plain cheese frozen pizza...

Basically you just peel strands of asparagus off with a vegetable peeler.  I actually prefer a normal one to a Y peeler.  It takes a few stalks to get the hang of it, and they will probably be uneven but it doesn’t matter!  I peel mine over a large bowl (saves a dish to clean), then simply add some olive oil and salt and pepper.  I also added sliced scallions and parmesan cheese to the pizzas.  As for the baking time, whenever I add my own stuff to the cheese pizzas, I always add a few mins (up to 10 depending on how much stuff you add) to the suggested baking time.  I highly recommend this super easy pizza dinner!  Plus it LOOKS super fancy and impressive.

Before baking

See? Doesn't it look fan-cay?!

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I am sitting here eating my smushed and bruised banana, wishing I could be eating dinner last night again.  It was nothing special and I hadn’t planned to write about it (so no pics, sad face), but it was SO good and SO simple, I thought maybe I ought to share.

What you need:
yukon gold potatoes (1 per person)
shrimp (1/2 lb per person)
butter
salt & pepper
olive oil
1 juicy lemon

(I also served it with a simple green salad)

  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Place a square of aluminum foil down, with a clean potato in the middle, spray (or drizzle) with olive oil and throw some salt on
  3. Wrap completely in foil and bake for at least an hour
  4. Clean and peel shrimpies and place in a bowl
  5. Drizzle olive oil on top, along with a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Squeeze the crap out a lemon over it to get all the juice out (trick: roll your lemon on the counter or cutting board while pushing forcefully on it – this is get you more juice).
  6. Grill the shrimp on any type of grill you have; propane, charcoal, stove top, for a few minutes… not more than 5!
  7. Put the shrimpies and potato (with BUTTAH) on your plate, eat, enjoy then dream about it tomorrow morning.

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