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.
This time I decided to make a batch of Ricotta using Rennet Tablets. It was my understanding that a quarter of a Rennet Tablet would be sufficient to curdle two quarts of milk. Unfortunately, this did not happen. When I used the Lemon Juice the heated Milk curdled within about 2 minutes. With the Rennet, I cooked and stirred with the Rennet added (after the milk came to a boil) for about 10 minutes. Getting frustrated I added Lemon Juice and it still did not look curdled so I added the rest of the Rennet Tablet. It finally curdled but did not yield as much Cheese as the Lemon Juice alone did and it was much looser and did not hold its shape. Fortunately I used the Cheese in Sweet Cheese Turnovers so the thickness did not matter as much. To add body to the Cheese I also used about half a carton of Mascarpone (thick Italian Cream Cheese). Next time I will go back to the Lemon Juice.
To make the Turnovers I placed the drained Ricotta in a medium-sized mixing bowl and added half a carton of Mascarpone, (about 4 oz.) along with 1 Egg, 2 Tablespoons Granulated Sugar (this should be to your taste) and some Vanilla. A pinch or two of ground Cinnamon may also be added if desired. Combine the mixture and refrigerate until ready to use.
For the Turnovers I used commercial Puff Pastry but you can use Pie Crust or any other type of Dough that you prefer.
Have a small bowl of cool water at hand to help seal the pastry edges along with a fork to crimp them.
Lay out the Pastry on a cutting board and cut into 6″ squares. If needed you can use a clean ruler to measure. I usually just eye-ball it. Use a long knife or Pizza Wheel. Keep your eye on the end point and you will end up cutting a straight line. If you try to guide the knife or wheel, it is likely that your pieces will end up crooked. (I learned this little trick from my Mother who used to make all our clothes – when she cut out fabric she always said, keep your eye on the place where you want to end – this will guide your hand and keep it straight) It works every time!
Arrange the squares so that they are facing you as a diamond. Place a scoop of the filling on each square. (I used a #30 food scoop – about 1 1/2 Tbsps.) The filling should be placed just below the mid-point which will give you enough room to fold over the pastry and seal the edges without the filling oozing out the sides.
Using your clean finger or a pastry brush lightly coat the edges of two adjacent sides with the water; fold over into a triangle and then crimp with the fork.
If you plan on baking the Turnovers right away preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the Turnovers on the lined baking sheet with at least 2 inches between each turnovers on all sides. Even though there is no leavening agent as such in Puff Pastry, the layers formed by the Butter will puff up tremendously. Once the baking pan is full brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with Turbinado Sugar. Bake in your preheated oven for 20 minutes (DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR UNTIL THE 20 MINUTES ARE UP). The Turnovers should be a golden brown when completely baked – if after 20 minutes they are still too pale then bake for another 5 minutes or until golden brown. The Baked Turnovers are the Feature Photo above.
If you plan on freezing all or part of the Turnovers before baking them you can place them as close together on the sheet that you can as long as they don’t touch each other. Once they are frozen wrap them in plastic wrap or the parchment and place in a freezer bag. You can remove and bake as many or as few at a time as you need.
Now that I had a batch of fresh homemade Ricotta Cheese the next step was to make something with it. I decided to make a batch of Cheese Blintz to serve for Sunday Brunch with fresh Strawberries. The crepes for the Blintz are easiest to work with if the Batter is made at least 1 hour ahead of time and then allowed to rest in the refrigerator. If you try to make the Crepes right after making the Batter there will be too much air in the batter for the pancakes to form properly. Now as far as I am concerned, the thinner the crepes the better, but of course you do need to have them thick enough to hold the filling without tearing. You can use the Sweet Crepe Batter Recipe under the Recipe/Dessert Section of this Blog. deserts/sweet-crepe-shells/ Just reduce the Sugar in the recipe from 1 Tbsp. to 1 tsp.
I made the Crepe Batter with the residual Whey from the production of the Ricotta. This reduces the waste that normally would result from making the Cheese. To make the Crepes, the Filling and the topping just follow the procedure below.
#1 – Make the Batter and refrigerate for at least one hour.
#2 – Rinse, dry, slice and sugar the Berries. If using Blackberries, Boysenberries or Raspberries eliminate the slicing procedure. Place the Berries in a bowl and squeeze the juice of 1/2 of a lime (for every pint of berries) over the Berries and then toss with 1/4 cup of Superfine Sugar. Taste and add more Lime Juice and/or Sugar as desired.
#3 – Make the Cheese Filling for the Blintz. /deserts/cheese-filling/
4. Make the Crepes –
Heat the crepe pan until a drop of water splashed on it sizzles; melt the Butter and stir into the Batter.
- Use approximately ¼ cup of Batter (the exact amount depends on the size of the pan)
- While you are pouring in the Batter, tilt the pan with your other hand to cover the bottom of the pan.
- When the edges begin to dry and bubbles appear on the crepe surface, turn it over with a heat-proof spatula and cook a few seconds more on the turned side. (Cook one side to a light brown and the other just enough to set the batter. This side should still be almost white when you remove it from the pan.)
- You will be browning the Blintz in Butter before serving them so you do not want the second side to be cooked too long.
5. Filling the Blintz –
- Lay the Crepe Shells on a flat plate or work surface
- Place a scoop of the Cheese Filling in the middle
- Fold in the sides and then fold over the top and bottom. You should have a square package.
6. To Serve –
- Melt enough Butter to make a thin sizzling layer in the bottom of a medium to large frying pan. When the Butter starts to sizzle add the Blintz, leaving about 1/4 – 1/2″ between each one.
- When the bottoms brown gently turn and cook the other side.
- Serve while hot with the sliced Strawberries and Sour Cream or Whipped Cream as a Garnish.
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.
Oh my gosh! It has been at least three weeks since we have had Pizza! The last time we had it was the first week we were on Maui and we have been almost two weeks now. So, what did I make for dinner tonight! Pizza, of course! If I do say so myself (and everyone else says so too) I do make the very best Pizza and my husband doesn’t like anything like he loves Pizza! I made the dough this afternoon around two o’clock, put in a greased plastic bag and stuck it in the refrigerator. Then I went out and did some errands. Around 4:30 I took out the bag of Dough to allow it to warm up and the prepared the toppings for the pizza. Then I shaped the Dough and dressed it.
Pizza Dough shaped to fit the Peel
Crushed San Marzano Tomatoes
Dried Oregano & freshly ground Pepper
Bulk Sweet Italian Sausage Meat – cooked with diced Onions.
Shredded Whole Milk Mozzarella Cheese
Sliced Crimini Mushrooms & Sliced Black Olives
Dinner is served.
To make the Pizza follow the recipe at /dinner/cheese-pizza/
Then just add any toppings you wish.
Last Night’s Dinner was Teriyaki Pork Tenderloin with sautéed Spinach with Mushrooms and Onions. I had been busy most of the afternoon baking Gingerbread House Parts so my husband Ev, went to the store for me to pick up the Pork Tenderloin and a Vegetable. I had asked him to get whatever Leafy Vegetable he preferred and it could be fresh or frozen. He picked out frozen chopped Spinach. Now, I love Spinach, but chopped is another story. Anyways, I sautéed it with diced Onions and sliced Mushrooms. It came out pretty good, but the whole leaf would have been better. Anyways, I always cook too much for two people and there was a good size portion of the Spinach leftover. When we discussed what we would like to have for Dinner tonight, Ev wanted Pasta. I said okay but didn’t tell him what kind of Pasta we were going to have. Here is where the Makeover comes in. Listed below are the leftovers that I incorporated into the meal along with the additional ingredients that I had to purchase:
ON HAND PURCHASED
Lasagna Noodles Ricotta Cheese
Mushroom/Spinach Sauté Canned Diced Tomatoes
Egg & Cream Ground Veal (optional)
Fresh Basil & Garlic
Dried Oregano & Bay Leaves
Salt & Pepper
This was probably one of the easiest meals I have prepared in a long time. Below is the order in which I prepared this dish:
I – Making the Tomato Sauce
- Sautéing the Veal in a small amount of Olive Oil
- Crushing the Garlic and adding it to the Veal
- Add the Crushed Tomatoes along with the Dried Oregano & Bay Leaf
- Add half can (3 oz.) Tomato Paste along with Salt and Pepper to taste
- Allow to simmer until the Sauce is of the desired consistency
- At the end, add about 1/4 cup minced Basil
II – Spinach/Ricotta Mixture
- In small bowl I mixed 1 cup of Ricotta with 1 beaten Egg and then added about 1/4 cup of Cream.
- Stir in the Mushroom/Spinach Mixture
III – Assembly
- Place a very small amount of Olive Oil at the bottom of the baking dish and spread it with a paper towel to cover the entire bottom surface.
- Arrange a layer of Noodles on the bottom
- Add a layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Add a layer of shredded Mozzarella
- Add another layer of Pasta and top with another layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Sprinkle some Parmesan Cheese on this layer
- Add another layer of Pasta and top with another layer of the Spinach/Ricotta mixture
- Add Mozzarella Cheese
- Half hour before serving bake at 350 degrees until the Cheese is melted and slightly browned and the dish is hot all the way through – (about half hour)
IV – Serving
- Let the Lasagna rest for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving it.
- Serve with the Veal/Tomato Sauce and additional Parmesan Cheese as desired
My Stepdaughter was scheduled to come over our house for a belated Birthday Dinner Tuesday Night, but Monday afternoon at about 3:45 Tina called and said she had forgotten that she had concert tickets for Tuesday Night and that she was working all the rest of the week. (She works 12 hours day in the Emergency Room of our local hospital) Could she come over tonight instead? She had requested Lasagna for dinner along with Chocolate Cake for dessert. My plan was to spend most of Tuesday baking and cooking and I was going to make home-made pasta for the Lasagna.
Well, plans got shifted dramatically. Fortunately, I had done the shopping for dinner on Monday except for the Lasagna Noodles which my husband went out to buy. At 4 in the afternoon I started cooking Lasagna (usually an all-day project) for dinner at 6:30. Here is how it went.
This was going to be Mushroom Lasagna and I had purchased 4 different kinds of Mushrooms for it. We had:
Crimini (Baby Portobello
I put on a big pot of Water so that it would be ready when my husband returned. I then diced an Onion and started sautéing in Olive Oil in my Dutch Oven.
While the Onion was sautéing, I cleaned and sliced the Mushrooms. The Brown Crimini were first. While they were sautéing, I then cleaned and sliced the Lobster Mushrooms. The Lobster Mushrooms are named, not because they taste like but Lobster, but look like Lobster Meat. These Mushrooms are somewhat denser and tougher than the Brown ones and need to cook for a bit longer.
Next came the White Mushrooms and then the Oyster. Again, the Oyster are named for their appearance. They have the shape of an Oyster and when growing are clustered together almost like Oysters do in the Oyster bed. I did salt the Mushrooms while they were sautéing. Salt not only adds flavor but tends to pull out the excess moisture from the Vegetables.
Next I crushed some Garlic and added it to the Mushrooms. To this I added some Marsala Wine and cooked it on high heat to reduce it down to just its flavor. To all this, I added 2 cans of Crushed Tomatoes. You want to use a good quality of crushed Tomatoes (or use fresh and crush your own). Lesser quality Tomatoes will be watery and you want to avoid this. I turned the heat down to simmer and let it cook while I prepared the rest of the ingredients. The time now was about 4:45. At the end of the cooking period I added some fresh minced Basil. Fresh Herbs should always be added at the end so that they do not lose their flavor.
Usually I will make a Béchamel Sauce (White Sauce) as a vessel for the Ricotta Cheese but today I did not have time, so I just added two Eggs to 1 lb. of Cheese and thoroughly mixed them in.
Then I shredded the Parmesan Reggiano and cut up the Mozzarella. Usually I will chop the Mozzarella in the Food Processor but the Cheese I had purchased this time was sliced, but sliced too thickly so I had to cut it up into small pieces.
The Water had come to a boil and my Husband had returned with the Pasta. I put a good portion of Salt into the Water (this was a big pot) and added the Pasta. Salt not only adds flavor to the pasta but also helps to increase the temperature of the water and therefore shorten the cooking time. This particular Pasta took about 10 minutes to cook. I recommend using Italian Pasta for all your Pasta dishes, unless you prefer to make your own which in that case is the ‘best’.
While the Pasta was cooking I washed the package of Asparagus that I had purchased and cut off the bottoms to save for Cream of Asparagus Soup. I then placed them in a oven-proof baking dish and sprinkled with Sea Salt and Olive Oil. Over this I added a package of Beech Mushrooms, diced Tomatoes and African Blue Basil Leaves. You can use any kind of Basil. The African Blue has small leaves and does not need to be snipped or crushed to use. I covered this with Aluminum Foil and set it aside to put in the oven when the Lasagna was half-done.
Next I drained the Pasta into my largest Colander and rinsed it just enough to keep the pieces from sticking together. Next oiled my Pasta Baking Dish and started assembling the Lasagna. First came a lengthwise layer of Pasta which was then topped with the Ricotta Cheese Mixture. Next came a layer of Sauce topped with Shredded Parmesan and Mozzarella.
On the next layer the Pasta was laid cross-wise (this makes it easier to cut the Lasagna when serving) with a layer of Ricotta, Sauce, and Parmesan. The next layer repeated the first except that no sauce was added. Layers one & two were repeated with Mozzarella being on top. I could have gone another layer but there were only four of us for dinner and I didn’t want to have too much left over.
I then set the Lasagna aside to prepare the Salad. The time now was 5:15.For the Salad I had a mixture of different types of Organic Baby Salad Greens. Added to this were diced Home-Grown Tomatoes & Cucumbers. The dressing was a Balsamic Vinaigrette which was added just before serving.
Since this was a Spur of the Moment Dinner, Appetizers were re-heated Vegetable Tempura from the night before (Mushrooms, Carrots and Home-Grown Asian Egg Plant.
The Bread that was served was an Olive Bread that I made from leftover Pizza Dough. Purchased Olive Salad was spread on the Pizza Dough that had been rolled out to a thin rectangle and then rolled up Jelly Roll fashion. It was baked at 400 degrees until the bread was well-browned. About 30-40 minutes.
Dessert could not be the Chocolate Cake that was planned for today, but we did have Chocolate Brownies that I had made the day before and since this was the cake version of Brownies, they worked perfectly for dessert.
Out Beverage was home-brewed Iced Tea. All in all, in spite of the short time notice, dinner turned out very good and everyone loved the Lasagna, especially my Step-Daughter for whom the meal was made. I figured this could be a rehearsal for a Cooking Competition Show in which the contestants have a limited amount of time to prepare their dishes. Watch out guys! I may give you some competition!
What to do with all those ripe Tomatoes you are about to start picking or are already picking! Our Tomatoes have started to ripen a little early this year and so it is time to start using them. Sunday for lunch I made a beautiful BLT with one of our Red Beefsteaks and Monday night for dinner I made a fantastic pizza with fresh red and yellow Tomatoes.
Making the BLT was pretty simple, but making Pizza with fresh Tomatoes takes a little bit of extra work (well worth it!) Fresh Tomatoes when ripe, can be very juicy. While juiciness is good when you are eating Tomatoes out of Hand, it is not good when they are used in baked goods as the Tomato Juice will make the Crust soggy.
So, in order to avoid a soggy Pizza, I first peeled the Tomatoes http://www.sylveeeskitchen.com/cooking-tidbits/peeling-tomatoes/ and then I sliced them and placed them in a colander to drain. Salting them slightly will help to remove the excess liquid faster, but be careful with that salt!
Listed below are the steps involved in making the Pizza so that it will be tasty and not soggy.
- Stretch and shape the Dough onto your pan or peel.
- I applied a layer of chopped Basil combined with Olive Oil, fresh Oregano
- Next comes a layer of shredded Parmesan Cheese and then a layer of shredded Mozzarella Cheese.
- On top of the Cheese went the Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives and a Meat Product such as Pepperoni, if desired.
- Bake the Pizza in your usual way (I use a pizza stone heated for at least half an hour at 500 degrees)
- Time of baking will vary per the method you are using; in my oven with the pizza stone I interrupted the baking and added diced Bell Peppers (red ones), sliced Shitake Mushrooms and diced sweet Onions. (The reason I add these items later is so that they will not have a chance to loose much of their water and thus prevent the Pizza from becoming soggy.