Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ricotta Cheese - You can do it!

 Ricotta cheese is the second easiest cheese to make. The easiest is Queso Fresco, but this is a very close second. I've been getting a lot of questions lately about how I make cheese. I can give out all my recipes for cheese except one; it's not my recipe to give out. So I'll give you a recipe for my Ricotta. This can go in stuffed manicotti, pizza, lasagna, and even spaghetti. The only hitch to this recipe is you will need citric acid. Citric acid is available at some health food stores, sometimes with the canning stuff in stores, and you can always contact me and I can sell you some. It is relatively inexpensive. You can also order it from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. So really, there's no excuse for not giving this a try...

Ricotta - Recipe from Home Cheesemaking by Ricki Carroll

1 gallon whole milk (can not be ultra pasteurized or it will not work)
1 tsp. citric acid dissolved in 1/4 c. cool distilled water (yes it needs to be distilled, boil tap water if you have to)
1 tsp. cheese salt (optional, you can use plain, non iodized salt as well, I do not add the salt as I'd rather salt the meal instead)

Yes, really, that's it!

So first gather your ingredients and cooking gear. Make sure your measuring spoons, cups, and pot are very clean.

Put your milk in a large saucepan (the one you cook lots of spaghetti in.) Get out a 1/4c. measuring cup. Put 1 tsp. of citric acid in the measuring cup then fill up half way with distilled water. Mix the water and acid together until dissolved. Then finish filling up the measuring cup. Pour the citric acid mix in the milk. If you want to salt the cheese, add the salt too.

 Stir the milk up really good to get it all mixed up. Start heating the milk up on medium-low (my gas stove gives 1-7 and I heat it up on 2) and stir often. You don't want any milk to stick to the bottom.

Heat the milk up to between 185 and 195 degrees. I usually go to 190. Just make sure you don't boil it. As you heat the milk, you will see the curds gradually begin to form. Don't do the happy dance yet! Keep stirring it often until you see the curds and the whey separate.

The whey has a yellowish color - not white. When you get that separation, turn off the heat. Cover the pot and leave it alone for 10 minutes. Seriously, don't touch it.
The curds have sat and are now ready to separate.
Put some butter muslin (or an old pearl-snap-type-shirt) in a colander in the sink.

 Carefully ladle the curds into the colander. Once you've got it in, gather the corners of the cloth and tie them in a knot. Hang the cloth on your faucet to drip and drain for 20-30 minutes.

 The time difference will be determined by if you want your cheese real dry or slightly creamy.

After that small wait, you are ready to go. Grab a chunk and chow down. If you want to keep it for a recipe, put it in a covered container in the fridge. It will stay good for a week.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Cream Cheese Mints

This all started with Kylie and her OCD. She went to a birthday sleepover party at a hotel last year. They were the only ones in the hotel and apparently the staff was bored. They made the gals cookies and gave out a crazy amount of hotel mints. And the girl got obsessed. She wanted me to figure out how to make them and so I started to try to find something we could both live with as "mint" isn't my favorite flavor - especially for candy. I found this old recipe and we love it. Kylie has made these and sold them at school and when we made them for Antique Alley last April, she sold out. Yep, mints that are that good!
These are pretty easy to make, they just require some counter space overnight.
Cream Cheese Mints
1 pkg.  (8 oz.) cream cheese
1/4 c. soft butter
2 lbs. powdered sugar
few drops food coloring
1/2 tsp. peppermint, wintergreen, or lemon extract
So first you need to combine the cream cheese and butter in a pan.

 Melt it over low heat, stirring til the cheese is soft and the butter melted and blended.

 Add the powdered sugar.

 Stir til well combined. Add the food color and flavoring of your choice. If you want, you can divide the whole batch to make it 2 or 3 different colors and either flavor each color differently or just have one flavor with different colors. Either way, mix it up really good.
 Roll up the mix into 1" balls and put them on wax paper. Press the ball with a fork. Now, this makes a lot, so think ahead before you start rolling the balls. I get out lots of cookie sheets and put the wax paper on those so that I can move the candy around while it is drying if the sheets are in the way.

  Let stand, uncovered until each candy is dry on the outside and firm to the touch. You do want the inside to still be moist and creamy. The drying time is just going to depend on how thin you squash them with a fork. I usually let them dry overnight and they've always been great. I'd think it'd take at least 4 hours for thin mints. So make them a day ahead of when you need them.
 These are great for parties or kids' school lunches. We've wrapped them in plastic wrap and frozen them. When we want them (for lunches) I sit them in the fridge to defrost.

Friday, June 8, 2012

The easiest, most fabulous Chocolate Cake

I think the most universal attribute of all people is a love for chocolate. Now, I will admit that I'm not obsessed with chocolate like most people - give me some salty tortilla chips and a loaded baked potato and I'm yours! - but I still can appreciate chocolate. Kylie (my self proclaimed center of the universe) has a serious chocolate problem. This recipe was my answer to her constant complaints for a chocolate dessert. I don't have a lot of extra time around here. Many times I don't get a chance to relax until well past dark so I don't have much extra time to make dessert. This is for all of you who don't have time to bake, don't have the confidence to bake, or just want a real easy chocolate cake that will have your friends begging for the recipe.

Chocolate Cake

3 c. all purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. cold water
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a big bowl, mix it all together until well combined.

(Seriously, so easy, it's ridiculous.) Pour it into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish.

Bake for 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

You have several ways you can serve this:

warm with vanilla ice cream (my toes just curled)

warm with powdered sugar sprinkled on top

cold with powdered sugar

cold or warm by itself

straight from the fridge at 1 am with a fork in one hand and the pan in the other

Make this today and thank me tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

May 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge - Challah

Sorry guys, we are experiencing severe problems with out internet. Basically, we want it to work and it doesn't go our way. Not sure why the cows thought the phone line would taste good, but they were convinced and I hope they're bitterly disappointed. Anyway, here is the May challenge. Not as fun or tasty as Nazook, but what could be?

The "deal" with challah is the braid. There is a three strand braid (what I did), a four strand braid, a six strand braid, and a four strand round braid. There might be more. There is religious/ spiritual significance to each type of braid. I'd tell ya about them all, but I won't even pretend to know that much about it.

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from "A Taste of Challah," by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Here's a recipe you can try:

Easy Challah (from

4 cups (960 ml) (360 gm/20 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 cup (240 ml) warm water
1 package (2¼ teaspoons) (11¼ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) package rapid rise yeast
½ (120 ml) (115 gm/4 oz) cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water

Directions: 1. Measure flour, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl.
2. In a separate bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer) combine water and yeast, allow to sit 5 minutes until foamy.
3. Add 1 ½ cups of the flour mixture to the water and yeast mixture, beat until well combined. Cover with a dish towel, let stand 30 min.
4. Add two eggs to the dough, beat again.
5. By hand or with your dough hook knead in the remaining flour mixture. Knead approximately 10 minutes.
6. Transfer to oiled bowl, cover, let rise one hour.
7. Punch down dough, knead approximately 3 minutes.
8. Divide dough in two. Shape each half as desired (3, 4, or 6 strand braid).
9. Place loaves on parchment covered or greased cookie sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise one hour.
10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
11. Brush loaves with egg wash.
12. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees, bake until golden crust forms (about 25-30 minutes).
13. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Here's what mine looked like. My egg wash was on the watery side and someone thought it should be "patted down" (mishap that we won't talk about, well, yeah I will - thanks a lot for your help Jake!), but it still tasted good!

And no, the tomatoes in the background have nothing to do with challah. This was just the tomatoes that had been picked in the garden today and since they are so pretty (and tasty too) I thought they'd be a better background than a bare countertop.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day

So my incredibly talented and artistic son, Zach, made me the best Mother's Day card. He did it in a way that screams "Zach". He made it out of Lego's!

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce

   I am such a fan of Mexican food that it has really become an obsession. My favorite restaurant is El Campesino in Grandview. The food is fantastic and the people that work there are so nice that they make you feel like you are sitting down at the family table when you have a meal. Chicken Enchiladas are hands down one of my favorite dishes. The tender bites of chicken with a mild sauce just make my toes curl.
   I used to go out to eat with my dad quite often to eat Mexican food. Mom was out of town as a flight attendant and Heaven forbid we cook too often. I always had a play practice and he had to work. So we ate Mexican food. If we went to On The Border it was always fajitas, but anywhere else and it was chicken enchiladas all the way!
   I have tried almost every recipe out there for the sour cream sauce, many of which were incredibly disappointing. My neighbor, Ginger, gave me this recipe and technique, so enjoy it like I do. If you want you can make extra and either freeze it, put it in the fridge for the next day, or let the kids take it to school for lunches and make their friends jealous.

Chicken Enchiladas with Sour Cream Sauce

1 whole uncooked chicken
3 cans of Mild Green Chili Enchilada Sauce (I use mild because my kids are wimps, use the heat
your family likes)
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
1 c. of sour cream (or more to taste)
corn tortillas
shredded cheese (I make my own; your can use Cheddar, Colby, Monterrey Jack, or any combo)

Don't ya like how technical and exact this recipe is?

So first you want to boil your chicken in a big pot of water til it's done. I like to add chicken bouillon and Sazon Goya spice to the water to give it a little kick. If you don't have that, then it's fine to not use it. After the chicken is done, set the chicken in a bowl or on a plate to cool. SAVE THE BROTH!
 (I skim the fat off the top of the broth and save as much of the broth as possible. It's great for soup, mashed potatoes, and rice.)
  Once the chicken is cool enough to touch, shred it off the bone and put your chicken in a separate bowl.

Then you want to mix up your enchilada sauce, sour cream, and soup in a bowl. Set that bowl aside. In another bowl, put your shredded cheese in. You want to get the cheese out of the bowl instead of the bag because your hands are going to be dirty and you don't want to get sauce on cheese that you want to use another time.  You are going to want to make an assembly line on your counter top. Get a 9x13 baking dish and lightly spray it with cooking spray. Spread a little sauce on the bottom of the pan. You are just wanting to make sure that none of the enchiladas stick to the pan when you try to take them out.  Beside that pan you need a clean plate.
  Put about 16 corn tortillas wrapped in paper towels in a tortilla warmer and cook on hi for about 2 minutes. You want the tortillas to be soft so that when you roll them up, they don't crack. If they start to crack, warm them up some more. (If you don't have a tortilla warmer, wrap the tortillas in paper towels and place a bowl upside down over the tortillas in the microwave. We are trying to steam them a bit.

  So your assembly line will have your baking dish, a plate to work on, your tortillas, a bowl of chicken, a bowl of sauce, and a bowl of cheese.
  The first thing you do is grab a tortilla and dip both sides in sauce, then lay it on your plate.
Now take some chicken and put it in a strip down the middle of the tortilla. Then put a pile of cheese on the chicken.

Tightly roll up the tortilla around the filling and place it in the baking dish seam side down. Repeat for the rest. The number of enchiladas you will have will depend on how much filling you put in and how tightly you roll.
When you have the pan filled, pour the sauce over the top. Sometimes I use all the sauce and sometimes I don't. You don't want to make a soup of your dish, but you want plenty of sauce for your enchiladas to cook in. Sprinkle extra cheese over the top. I've figured out since I made this that a little sprinkle of paprika really brings the enchiladas to a new level.
Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. You want the sauce to really be bubbling and the cheese to be melted. It will be tempting to take it out early, but don't. You want that sauce to really cook in to your enchiladas.
Add a side dish of the Mexican Rice and some refried beans and you have a fantastic dinner. This reheats fantastically - if there's any left.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Daring Bakers' April 2012 Challenge - Nazook

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

We had the choice of making either the Nazook or the Nutmeg Cake or both. I wanted to try both but the garden has taken almost all of my time. If I didn't have the lights in the garden, I don't know how much more behind I'd be. So, I got the Nazook made with the intent of trying the cake, but just didn't get to it.

But Oh, am I glad I did the Nazook. This just might be my new favorite recipe. I hope you try it. It might sound like it makes a lot, and it kinda does, but it was all eaten in less than 18 hours of being made (this includes the time we spent sleeping!) So, please try it! Here is the recipe I had to work with:

 Makes about 40 pieces
Pastry dough
3 cups (720 ml) (420 gm/15 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
2½ teaspoons (12½ ml) (7 gm) (¼ oz) (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) sour cream
1 cup (2 sticks) (240 ml) (225 gm/8 oz) softened butter (room temperature)

 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (210 gm) (7½ oz) all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (340 gm/12 oz) sugar
3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) softened butter (room temperature)
2 teaspoons (10 ml) vanilla extract

1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)

 Make the Pastry Dough
1. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
2. Add the dry yeast, and mix it in.
3. Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
4. Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
5. If using a standing mixer, switch to a dough hook. If making manually, continue to knead for
about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl or your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
6. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.

Make the filling
7. Mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla extract.
9. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.

Make the nazook
10. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.
11. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
12. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
13. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not
14. Spread 1/4 of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer. Try to spread the filling as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, but keep some of pastry dough uncovered (1 inch/2.5 cm) along the long edges.
15. From one of the long sides, start slowly rolling the dough across. Be careful to make sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Roll all the way across until you have a long, thin loaf.
16. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
17. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.
18. Use your crinkle cutter (or knife) to cut the loaf into 10 equally-sized pieces. Put onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

19. Place in a preheated moderate oven for about 30 minutes, until the tops are a rich, golden
20. Allow to cool and enjoy!

This was my Nazook...

The pictures just don't do this justice. This is a fantastic treat that will soon become a staple dessert at our home.