Update to Homemade Ricotta – In July and September I posted Blogs about making your own Ricotta Cheese. The first batch that was made used Lemon Juice to curdle it. The second batch I tried using Rennet Tables but that did not work so well, so here I am back using the Lemon Juice which works great! This batch of Ricotta like the first batch made was very delicious and on a par (if not better) than the expensive brand I usually buy. When I buy Ricotta I buy a whole milk product which has much more flavor and body than the lower fat one. I usually pay between $5 & $6 for it. The batch I made at home this time, cost:
Milk – $2.99
Cream – 75 cents
Lemon Juice – free (the lemons were given to me – if you have to purchase the lemons you will need 1-2 lemons depending on the size – also the price will vary from store to store and from State to State.
Cheese Cloth – about $2.00 worth (but I was able to wash it and will be able to reuse it again)
So, my fresh batch of Ricotta which tasted delicious and was made right in my own kitchen cost me about $4.00 to make, not counting the gas and the hot water for washing the pot. Maybe it was as much as I pay for the finished product but it was well worth it as it is delicious. For the directions for making the Ricotta, please visit Adventures in Cheese Making
Now, what did I do with this batch of Ricotta. I made Cannelloni for dinner tonight and was able to freeze half of them for another meal. If you have four or more eating dinner, the whole recipe will be sufficient for 4- 6 people, depending on appetites. If teenage boys are involved, then you will have dinner only for four. If like us, there are only 2 people at the meal, then you will have at least 2 meals out of it and maybe more.
While the Ricotta was draining I made the Crepe Batter for the Cannelloni Shells and then refrigerated it. Crepe batter needs to rest for at least one hour after being made. For the recipe see Crepe Batter
While the Crepe Batter was resting, I started the Meat Sauce that was to go over the top of the filled shells. Next, I shredded the Mozzarella Cheese that was to go over the Meat Sauce. If you need a recipe for the Meat Sauce you can just use my Fresh Tomato Sauce but start out by sauteing a pound of ground beef, chicken or veal before you add the other ingredients. Or you can use only Tomato Sauce.
After the Crepes are made and the Sauce is simmering, prepare your Ricotta Cheese by adding an Egg, some freshly shredded Parmesan, Basil and about 1/2 tsp. Salt and 1/4 tsp. White Pepper or whatever your taste buds decree. The Basil that I added was actually a combo of minced Basil and Garlic in Olive Oil.
Set the Crepe Shells out on a flat surface and place 2-3 Tablespoons of the Ricotta filling on each Crepe (depending on the size of the Crepe). Fold in the sides and then the top and bottom.
Place each filled and rolled Crepe in a baking dish that has been lightly oiled with Olive Oil. Place them close together. When all the shells are filled, wrapped and placed in the baking dish top with the Sauce and some shredded Mozzarella Cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until everything is hot and the Mozzarella Cheese has melted.
Serve immediately with a mixed Green Salad and fresh Italian Bread, if so desired.
This dish will serve from 4-6 people, depending on appetites. We had enough leftover for a second meal and half the Manicotti went in the freezer for a third meal. Of course, we are only two people and so we are lucky enough to have more than one meal out of this dish.
Baking is one of my favorite Kitchen Activities and I especially love making bread and the Winter Months are the ideal time to do it. Not only will the result be a delicious product but your kitchen and your home will be warm with the fresh fragrance of baking bread and the communal warmth your family will feel when sitting down to the table and enjoying freshly buttered bread with their meals.
I love to watch the dough raise up and the smell of freshly baking bread is indeed heavenly. When a fresh loaf comes out of the oven your taste buds perk up and your mouth waters for a slice of that hot, buttered bread!
One of my favorite type of breads is Ciabatta. Ciabatta is Italy’s answer to the French Baguette. It was created in 1982 to stop the influx of French Baguettes into Italy. The Bakers there were afraid that the use of the Baguette would hurt there business. Ciabatta is a crusty bread with a chewy inside texture. It is fairly simple to make, although it does take a little bit of time but if you do spend the time, the dough is so nice and easy to work with it is actually fun, not work to make this bread. And when you eat it with melting butter it is so good you can practically swoon over it.
So let’s go through the actual steps of making Ciabatta (the complete recipe is at Recipe for Ciabatta
- You have to make a starter that is called a Poolish. The best time to do this is the night before you plan to make the bread as it has to proof for at least 10 hours.
- Once the Poolish is proofed, add the Olive Oil and mix it in with a Dough Spatula, if you have one; if not, then use the next best tool that you have – perhaps a Wooden Spoon.
Then you add the remaining ingredients and knead the Dough; a standing Electric Mixer fitted with the Dough Hook is the best to go but if you do not have one, then just make use of your Elbow Grease and knead the dough by hand.
Finish making the Dough and let it rest for at least 20 minutes.
Next comes the fun – stretching and folding the Dough to develop the gluten. This is a four step process, although you can shorten the process by eliminating any of the subsequent stretching and folding turns. (If you do this, your bread won’t have the true Ciabatta texture – somewhat like the texture of sour dough but without the sour taste) I figure that if you are going to make the Ciabatta and if you have the time, it is well worth it to go through the whole process and not eliminate any of the stretching turns)
A – Flattened Dough before Stretching
B – Bottom and Top Folds (fold from the side closest to you)
C – Sideways Folds – fold from the right side to the middle and then from the left side over the right side fold
D – Complete fold – cover and let rest 20 minutes before flattening and folding again
Once the stretching process is finished, then you allow the dough to rest for another 50 minutes before placing it on your baking sheet for baking. The Dough can be made into a loaf or cut into rolls – whatever you do, unlike most yeast breads, do not flatten the dough – just gently transfer it to your greased and floured (use cornmeal or Semolina on the pans) baking sheets.
In the photo below left, the loaf is on a Pizza Paddle and below right, the loaf is on a Baking Stone.
The traditional way to bake Ciabatta is to place it on a greased and floured pan and bake it in the middle of the oven with a pan of water on the rack under. The steaming water helps to give the bread its chewy crust. The Baking Stone is an alternative way to bake the bread. It still comes with a nice crusty exterior.
Apple Bread & Muffins: Use the Apple Bread Recipe to make Muffins as well as Bread
Pies: Apple Pies can be made as a Double Crust Pie or as a French Apple Tart
Apple Sauce: the Apple Sauce pictured is not a true Apple Sauce. The Apples have been juliened, not pureed. This gives more texture and flavor. This version of Apple Sauce is good as a condiment with Ice Cream, Cereal or on top of cake. To make the Sauce, peel and seed the Apples and then cut into Juiien strips. If you have a food processor, use the 6 x 6 Julienne Blade to cut them. Place Julienne Apples in a saucepan that is large enough to hold them along with Brown Sugar (minimum amount), some Water or Apple Juice and cook until the Apples give up their moisture and the resulting mixture is of the viscosity that you want. If you do a large quantity pack into sterilized canning jars and seal with caps and rings. Place in a kettle and cover with water to at least 1″ over the tops of the jars and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Carefully remove from the pot and turn upside down on a clean dish towel. Turning the jars upside down will insure that the lids will seal. If you use a pot with a rack inside that can be lifted out, this will be the safest way to remove the jars from the hot water. Let stand upside down until cool. Turn right side up and tighten the lids. Store in a cool dry place. Apple Sauce is great with Pork, Poultry and Seafood dishes.
Tarts: An easy way to make delicious, beautiful tarts is to have on hand some Puff Pastry Sheets. Peel and slice your Apples and then place on Puff Pastry that has been cut into a circle or square, whichever you prefer. Place the prepared Puff Pastry on a baking sheet – if you have Silpat, use that or just put the pastry on the ungreased baking sheet.
Layer the Apples on the Puff Pastry, being sure to leave about 1″ uncovered all the way around.
Sprinkle a little Sugar and Cinnamon on top of the Apples. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until the edges have puffed up to form a rim and are a nice dark golden brown.
Remove from the oven and brush the Apples with Jelly that has been heated to melt it down to make it brushable.
Once the Jelly has set up, your tarts are ready to serve.
Use your Apples for eating, baking or cooking. Have fun and enjoy!
January is ‘National Wheat Bread Month’. What better time than now to start making and baking your own bread. With what the prices have risen to in fresh bakeries you could make 2-3 loaves for the same price and very little time. If you have a Food Processor or Kitchen Aid, making your own bread is simple, quick and economical, and much more tasty than what you buy in the markets. If you don’t have one of the above appliances, you can still make your own bread with just a little elbow grease and it will help to rid you of any anxiety that you may have incorporated into your body.
Just to show that the bread is easy to make and it doesn’t have to turn out perfectly formed to taste good. Today i made Wheat Bread Dough and then my husband informed that he had just bought some at the market the other day and hadn’t told me about it. Okay, so what do I do now? Make my dough into rolls which really was perfect because we were having Pulled Pork Sandwiches for dinner and they don’t really have to be on French Rolls or regular Hamburger Buns. So here goes – follow the process and see the results. As you can see far below, the rolls are not so perfectly shaped, but this just adds to the interest – they taste good and because they are different shapes you can have them different uses.
The complete recipe can be found under recipes /breads/whole-wheat-bread/
Cold Winter Weather always makes me want something hot and hearty – today it is Vegetable Soup. When I was teaching High School Culinary Arts, one of the things I taught my students was to make ‘Clean Out the Refrigerator Vegetable Soup. Now, that may not sound too great, but how many times have you had small amounts of many Vegetables that you really did not know what to do with? Making Vegetable Soup is the best way to use up these odds and ends and at the same nourish your family and keep them warm. So, here we go with ‘CLEAN OUT THE REFRIGERATOR VEGETABLE SOUP’.
The Vegetables that I had on hand were Celery, Carrots, Red Cabbage, and Onions. Small amounts of Red Cabbage or any other color for that matter are good for Vegetable Soup. You do not want to use too much or it will overpower the other Vegetables in your soup.
The Vegetables that I purchased for the Soup were Golden Beets and Mushrooms.
The Golden Beets are pictured before being peeled and the Onions are pictured with the
Mushrooms. I also used Frozen Peas, Crushed Tomatoes and Turkey Broth.
The Turkey Broth was my hold-over from Thanksgiving. It is a waste to just throw out the carcass because there is always some pieces of meat clinging to it and the bones themselves do provide some flavor and of course gelatin. To make the Broth, I placed the Turkey Carcass in my largest pot along with Onion, Celery, Carrots, Bay Leaves, Peppercorns and Parsley. Just cover it all with water, place a lid on the pot (offset) and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, remove the lid and turn the flame down to a simmer and just let it cook until the liquid has cooked down to at least half. Even more is better. Shut off the flame, let it cool to room temperature and then pour through a colander into a clean container. Refrigerate if you are going to use within a day or two or freeze until you are ready to use it.
Before starting to cook the Soup, wash and towel dry your Vegetables and then prep them.
- Onions -peel and dice
- Celery – remove any loose strings and then cut into 1/4 to 1/2″ thickness.
- Mushrooms – Cut up your cleaned and dry Mushrooms (how you cut them depends on the size and type tht you have. Mine were small brown Crimini so I mostly quartered them. Cabbage – cut into pieces about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick and about 3/4″ long.Beets – Peel and then quarter and then slice the quarters into smaller pieces. (The beets are actually easier to peel if they are par-boiled first or microwaved. If you do par-boil them, Scrub them clean first and then save the water to add to the soup.
- Carrots – either scrub or peel and then slice in half lengthwise and then cross-wise into about 1/4 to 1/2″ pieces depending on how small you want them or on how large your carrots are. Generally, the smaller carrots have more flavor and are sweeter. The larger ones are older and tend to lose flavor as they age – also they are less tender
To cook, start with the Onion -by sautéing in a small amount of Olive Oil. Add the Mushrooms to the Onions and add a little Salt. The Salt not only seasons them but helps them to release their water and cook down faster. Add the Cabbage and Celery and then the Carrots and Beets. Adding some dried Basil (fresh is best, but mince and add at the end so the flavor is not lost) After all the Vegetables are in the Pot, add your cooking liquid and a couple of Bay Leaves (dried or fresh – remove them before serving). You can also add some garlic to the vegetables while they are sauteing, but this would be a personal choice. Not everyone likes garlic. After the soup has cooked for a while, taste for seasoning and add more Salt and some freshly ground Pepper. Oregano is also good added to Vegetable Soup. If you are using canned Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce or Crushed Tomatoes, add it now and then thoroughly mix in. If desired, you can add some tiny pasta at the end or cook it first and then add. Add the frozen peas and or corn if desired at the very end. They need only minutes to cook.
The soup does not need to cook for a lengthy time – one hour is more than enough – 30 minutes will probably suffice. This soup can be eaten right away or you can cool it and refrigerate it – the flavors will intensify if held overnight in the refrigerator.
Serve and enjoy – this will easily make a delicious and hearty one-dish meal. Serve with Garlic Bread or Croustades.
Thanksgiving is one of those Holidays that we celebrate with food and usually with an abundance of food – more food at the table than can possibly be eaten. Ah- but those leftovers are probably some of the best leftovers of the year. Just think:
Turkey Sandwiches with Cranberry Sauce and maybe Hot Gravy.
Mashed Potatoes – are good for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner. For Breakfast yo can turn those Mashed Potatoes into Pancakes or Waffles. For Lunch just eat them with the leftover Turkey and Gravy and for Dinner turn them into Potato Bread or more Turkey Sandwiches.
Cranberry Sauce – Use to make Fruit Bread or Biscuits or eat them with your Mashed Potato Pancakes or Waffles.
Sweet Potatoes – Eat as is or again make Pancakes or Waffles. Sweet Potato Waffles for Dinner with Creamed Gravy on top. Yummy!
Use your imagination and come up with your own ideas to use those Thanksgiving leftovers or try my recipes below:
Turkey Frittata: turkey-frittata
Turkey Croquettes: turkey-croquettes
Turkey Pot Pie: dinner/turkey-pot-pie
Cranberry Biscuits: cranberry-sauce-biscuits
Potato Bread: breads/potato-bread/
Cranberry Cornbread: cranberry-cornbread/
September is ‘National Biscuit Month and today is the last day of September so we have to take last minute advantage and promote Biscuits. Biscuits are just one of those foods that provide comfort and joy – they are good for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner or even Snack Time. Most Biscuits are made from a Baking Powder or Baking Soda Recipe but there are some that are leavened with Yeast. There is one of each in the Baking Recipe Section of this Blog. Try them and then let me know how you like them or don’t.
Baking Powder Biscuits are more commonly made and served than Yeast Biscuits. Baking Powder Biscuits are made from a shortened Dough, which means that a Shortening Product either animal or vegetable is cut into the flour to shorten the wheat fibers which in turn helps to tenderize the product. A Flour and Water product would pretty much taste like hardtack whereas a product that has a fat in it will be tender and flaky, if made properly. The recipe referred to within this blog is a standard Baking Powder Biscuit and can be enhanced by adding other products to the mixture such as herbs or cheese. Try them in various ways and see what you can come up with. In addition to using them as a bread product for dinner or lunch, they can also be used as dessert. Strawberry Short Cake is called ‘Short Cake’ because a traditional Strawberry Shortcake is made from a shortened Dough which means that some type of fat has been cut into the flour to tenderize it. For Strawberry Shortcake you can make one large biscuit in a 9″ round pan and then cut it in half to make two layers. Fill the middle with Whipped Cream and sliced Strawberries and do the same to the top layer after you put it on the filled bottom layer. You can also make individual portions by making 4 or 5″ round Biscuits.
Pictured below are the ingredients needed to make Baking Powder Biscuits:
Ingredients Needed – Flour, Baking Powder, Salt, Butter & Buttermilk
Pumpkin Yeast Biscuits are unusual in that they contain Pumpkin, a product which is not usually found in Biscuits and they contain Yeast. Most Biscuit products are leavened with Baking Powder which is a chemical leavening agent.
One of my sons who lives in a country where Cheese is not a commonly found product has experimented with making his own. His adventures have inspired me to try my hand at Cheese Making even though Cheese is readily available where we live. So the first Cheese that I tried making is Ricotta. Ricotta or Cottage Cheese is probably the simplest of all Cheese to make. It took about an hour and a quarter and that includes draining time.
The products you need are readily available at your local grocer and you probably have the cooking vessels and containers that you need at home. Listed below are the groceries that you need and the equipment you should have.
Let’s start with the Equipment so that when you go out to buy the groceries, if you don’t have all the equipment, you can purchase it at the same time you purchase your groceries.
5-6 Quart Cooking Vessel
Large Colander or Sieve (Strainer)
5-6 Quart Bowl
The Groceries that you will need are:
1/2 Gallon of Milk (preferably from a local dairy and is not over-pastureized
1 cup of Heavy Cream
1/2 tsp. Salt
3 Tbsps. Lemon Juice
Start by combining the Milk, Cream and Salt in your large cooking vessel. Place it over high heat and bring to a rapid boil, stirring continuously to prevent burning.
Once the mixture comes to a rapid boil, stir in the Lemon Juice, lower the heat and cook (again stirring continuously until the mixture curdles completely. (About 2 minutes)
Remove from the heat and pour into the Cheese Cloth lined colander. Allow to drain for one hour.
Wrap in the Cheese Cloth and plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. This Cheese will keep for only 2 days, so plan on using it as quickly as you can.
You can see that the drained Cheese has taken on the shape of the colander and is formed into a perfectly round parcel. This is not so important with Ricotta Cheese as it usually gets mixed with other ingredients to form a filling for Ravioli, Lasagna or Blilntz, but if you are making semi-hard or hard cheeses this is a bonus.
After the Ricotta had completely drained I had about a quart of the residual whey (the portion of milk that does not form the curd) Some people feed this to their chickens ( if you have them), their cats or dogs (again if you have them). I no longer have pets but I did find uses for the Whey. I made a loaf of Wheat Bread with some of it and used another portion to make Crepe Shells for Blintz which I will show in my next blog.
This was the best Ricotta Cheese I have ever eaten and I usually buy an expensive brand that is made from whole milk and is very good. This at least matched it, but I think it was better. It costs no less to make it at home than it does to buy, but it is good and it is fun.
Check my next blog to see what I did with this Ricotta.
The other day my husband said “you know what you haven’t made in a long time and I would like to have”. No, what? “Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast’. Now, quite honestly, I have never ever made this particular dish for him. However, I did make it once or twice for my sons’ Father. Well, I don’t like it now and I didn’t like it then. But I do know where their desire for this dish came in. This is one of the few dishes that they both remembered from their Navy days. Why, I don’t know.
So, I told my husband that I would make it for him for dinner the next night. “Dry Chipped Beef” anyone? I don’t think it exists anymore except maybe in ‘camping stores’. I went to three markets and no one had anything close. Then, I figured that if I am going to make this dish, I would make as close to a Gourmet Version as possible. So I purchased some Rare Roast Beef from the deli and went home and made Creamed Chipped Beef on Toast for dinner.
I sautéed some diced Onion and Celery and some sliced Mushrooms in a combination of Olive Oil and Butter.
While the vegetables were cooking, I cut up the Beef into small pieces. Once the Vegetables were done, I added 3 Tablespoons of Flour to the pan and stirred it all around until the Flour had absorbed the Fat and coated the Vegetables. Next I added 1 ½ cups of Milk and Half & Half and stirred and cooked until a thick Sauce (Béchamel) had formed.
Next I added 1 cup of Petit Pois (baby peas) and the Beef. I seasoned this mixture with my ‘Basil Salt’ and White Pepper. I kept this mixture on low heat while we made the toast and put together a salad.
Since I had just made a ‘Country French Bread’ the day before we decided to use it for the toast. This was dinner, one of my least favorite ones, but Ev loved as did Arnold before him. I did tell him though that he would have to wait a long time before I made it again – at least one year. I can’t think of anything that I would like to eat less.
The Roast Beef would have been so much better as a sandwich with olive spread, mustard, mayo and tomatoes! Actually I did save a few pieces and that is what I will have for lunch tomorrow while Ev eats the leftover Creamed Beef!