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Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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I have always been intrigued with the idea of making my own cheese. Well, really any kind of staple that you would regularly buy at the store, but can make at home. I have previously made yogurt, and have tried my hand at butter, and now I wanted to move on to something that seemed, in my head at least, more difficult.

Ricotta cheese is probably the easiest thing in the world to make.

Really! Just throw everything into a pot, heat it up, strain, and voila! Deliciously creamy, homemade ricotta cheese. From Food52, this stuff is seriously amazing. Yum.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Ingredients

4 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add all of the ingredients to a 4-quart pot. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, line a sieve or fine mesh strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth (or good quality paper towels, like me, who happened to not have any cheesecloth) and place it over a deep bowl or pot. Note, I got probably 5 cups of liquid out of the cheese.

Once curds begin to separate from the whey (liquid temperature will be between 175º and 200º), remove from heat. Gently spoon or ladle the curds into the cheesecloth-lined strainer. You may need to gently gather the cheesecloth at the top to help the curds drain.

Let curds sit in cheesecloth to drain liquid 15 to 30 minutes (I left it for 20 minutes and loved the result), depending on how creamy you’d like your ricotta. Store in refrigerator up to two days.

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Rosemary and tomato frittata

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Sundays in my house always involves breakfast for dinner, a tradition that I inherited from my lovely mother. Usually this means French Toast (you can get that recipe here), grits, and either scrambled eggs or an omelet, but last night I decided to shake things up a bit and go all out with a frittata. I really didn’t want to have to make a trip to the grocery on a Sunday afternoon, so I began perusing the endless results on the internet. After reading through several different recipes, I came up with a basic recipe and decided to go from there and make my own flavor combination from what I had on hand. Being blessed with an overachieving rosemary plant in my backyard, I definitely wanted to go the ultra savory route. Digging in my fridge, I found an onion, cherry tomatoes and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Perfect. Oh, and did I mention that this is also healthy? No milk, only 2 tablespoons of butter (which you could easily swap with vegetable or canola oil), onions (supposed to help fight cancer), tomatoes (filled with plenty of vitamins) and eggs which are full of protein. Eating healthy is easier than I thought!

Rosemary and tomato frittata

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
Half a medium onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
15 – 20 cherry tomatoes, halved
7 eggs
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven broiler to 500°F.

In a medium cast iron skillet, heat the butter until melted over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and cherry tomatoes and saute until onions are soft and tomatoes have relaxed and released some of their juice. While this is cooking, whisk together the eggs, Parmigiano-Reggiano, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Once the onions are softened, add the egg mixture to the pan and reduce heat to low. Cook until the edges have started to crisp up, 5 – 7 minutes. Place pan in the oven under the broiler for about 4 minutes, or until the top is golden and the eggs are just set.

Serve immediately in wedges. I also served a baby greens salad and toasted garlic bread. Enjoy!


Skillet Pizza

Saturday, my hubby and I made the most amazing pizza. Well, more like I made the pizza while he watched and offered little encouragements as I went along haha. I got the recipe from my new favorite blog, Kitchen Konfidence. They have gorgeous photography, and great recipes – you will all be seeing several more recipes inspired by them popping up on my blog in the future. I love them!

This pizza took literally 2 minutes to cook, and it made the best crust! My hubby said that it was like cheesy pizza bread. The hardest part in the whole thing is getting the pizza from the cutting board to the skillet. Mine kinda fell apart on the way there, but honestly, just roll with it and it will still taste amazing!

Skillet Pizza

Ingredients

1 ball of pizza dough (I just used the Jiffy pizza dough mix, but you could buy it fresh from Publix or your local grocery store.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Pizza sauce
Whole milk or part skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh basil, coarsely torn

An hour before making your pizza, drizzle your pizza dough with a little olive oil and let rest.

Get all of your toppings together. Once you start cooking, it’s going to move fast, so you have to have everything laid out and ready to go. This includes opening your jar of pizza sauce, grating the cheese, tearing the basil, etc. Any other toppings you decide to add, have them ready to go. Trust me, it makes it a whole lot easier.

Place your oven rack as close to the broiler as possible while still leaving enough room for your skillet. Test turning your skilling in the oven to make sure that it’s easy to maneuver.

Turn the broiler on high and preheat a dry, ungreased cast iron skillet on high for 10 minutes (if it starts to smoke like crazy, turn the heat down to just above medium and open a couple of windows! Once you begin heating the skillet, lightly flour a wooden (do not use plastic – the dough is bad about sticking to it) cutting board.

With about 5 minutes of heating time remaining, start assembling your pizza. Stretch the dough to about the size of your skillet (or a little smaller). It should be a little thinner on the inside and thicker around the edges (don’t make it too thin though or it will tear and you will lose all of your toppings when you try to transfer it to the skillet). Lightly sauce your dough, and the mozzarella, additional topping that you may want, and a little salt and pepper to kick up the flavor (store-bought pizza sauce needs a little help sometimes). Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan, and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Now the tricky part. Slide the pizza into the skillet using a large, floured spatula. I kind of folded mine over on itself and picked it up by the sides (this is where a second person in the kitchen can come in handy!) and dropped it in the skillet (do not try to fix it once it hits the skillet! It will still taste yummy, don’t worry).

As soon as the pizza is in the skillet, transfer it to the oven. Close the oven door quickly. After 45 seconds, rotate the skillet 180 degrees. After a minute and a half, check your pizza. The crust should be slightly charred. Transfer to a cutting board to cool, and add the torn basil leaves.

You should definitely try this soon because it really is very easy, and very quick!


Pretzel Bites

I made this yummy appetizer this week for a get-together with some of our friends. They were a huge hit! They are filled with ham and cheese – who wouldn’t love that combination?? They were pretty easy to make, the only thing that took a while was just the 2 hours for the dough to rise. The recipe is from epicurious.com. Serve them with some honey mustard and have an instant hit! Chewy, salty yumminess – you have to try this!

Ham and Cheese Pretzel Bites

Ingredients

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon pack light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110-115°F)
1 cup warm milk (110-115°F)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped (or shredded) country ham, divided
1/3 cup finely chopped sharp cheddar, divided
6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 to 2 tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse salt

Stir yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t start to foam, start over with new yeast). In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour and milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms, adding up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently  knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and bubbles appear on the surface, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400°F with the rack in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two 4-sided sheet pans with parchment paper.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut into 4 equal pieces. Lightly dust your hands with flour, then gently roll and stretch 1 piece of dough to form a 12-inch-long rope. Flatten dough and arrange so a long side is nearest you, then roll out to a roughly 12-by-4-inch rectangle with a lightly floured rolling pin. Gently press one fourth of ham and cheese into lower third of rectangle, leaving a 1/2-inch border along bottom edge. Stretch bottom edge of dough up over filling and press tightly to seal, then roll up as tightly as possible to form a rope. Cut rope into 12 pieces and transfer to a sheet pan. Make 3 more ropes with remaining dough, ham, and cheese and cut into pieces, transferring to sheet pans. Let rest at room temperature, uncovered, 30 minutes (dough will rise slightly).

Bring water (6 cups) to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and stir in baking soda. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to sheet pans.

Bake until puffed golden-brown, about 15 minutes (cheese may ooze slightly). Brush warm pretzel bites with butter and sprinkle with salt. Serve warm or at room temperature with honey mustard sauce for dipping.


No-Bake Summer Lasagna…and what’s new

I hope all of you had a good week! I tried out a few new recipes which I’ll be posting this weekend. One of them is some Pineapple Lime jam. I’ve gotten this recent canning “bug” and am trying my hand at it! Tomorrow I’m going rouge and doing a pear preserve – with no recipe to go by!!! I’m going to do it all by just being in the kitchen and being inspired. I’ve done some research on what flavors compliment pears the best, and depending on what I can find in my kitchen, that’s what I’m going to work with. I have a big bowlful of pears that my husband and I picked from his grandparents’ land. I’m not sure what they are called, so maybe some of you can help me out! They are a rounder pear, a little bit bigger than an apple, and are very tart. I’ll post a picture of them tomorrow, along with (hopefully) a successful pear preserve recipe.

I made this lasagna recipe after seeing it on Martha Stewart’s website. It was pretty easy to make, although a little messy trying to eat it. I’ll definitely make it again, but I think I will add a marinara sauce to it. Enjoy!

No-Bake Summer Lasagna from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup ricotta
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 lasagna noodles, broken in half crosswise
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved if large and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon torn fresh basil leaves, plus more for serving

In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, and 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to package instructions; drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high. Add garlic and tomatoes; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until slightly broken down, about 3 minutes. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and zucchini to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to another bowl and stir in basil.

Place some tomatoes on four plates; top with a noodle and small spoonfuls ricotta, zucchini, and more tomatoes. Repeat layering twice, then top with remaining noodles and tomatoes. Garnish with basil.

 

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!


Shells with Corn, Scallions, and Bacon

Yep, how yummy does that sound? Anything with bacon sounds good to me haha! This dish was easy to put together, and it tasted amazing. The original recipe is from Martha Stewart Living. I’ve changed it up a little bit as usual to make it easier to find at the grocery. Hope you enjoy it!

2 cups canned or fresh corn (I used gold and white)

1/4 cup chicken stock

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2-3 pieces smoked bacon

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

salt and pepper

1/2 pound small shell-shaped pasta, cooked until al dente, 1/2 cup cooking water reserved

2 scallions, white and pale-green parts only thinly sliced

1/2 – 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano or Parmesan cheese, grated (amount depends on how cheesy you want it)

Purée 1 cup corn and the chicken stock in a food processor. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate and let cool for a few minutes.

While the bacon grease is still hot, add the corn purée, remaining cup of corn, and 1 tablespoon butter. Stir to combine. Break the bacon into bite sized pieces and add back to the mixture in the skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until corn is soft, about 5 minutes.

Toss in the pasta, reserved cooking water, remaining tablespoon of butter, and cheese. Cook until sauce is creamy, about 3 minutes. Toss in scallions and garnish with more cheese.

 

I hope you try this – especially while we can still get fresh corn from the farmer’s markets! I had some leftover corn, and instead of wasting them, I made my corn salad to go along with dinner. So good!


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