Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cheesemaking 101

Do you know that you can make your own cheese without turning on a stove or stirring or separating curds from the whey? Well, you can and it's as easy as buying a tub of Greek yogurt and having a little patience.Here is what I learned in the latest edition of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine. Take a tub of Greek yogurt, either whole milk or 2% which is what I used, and put it in a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth. Put the colander over a bowl and put a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the yogurt. Then set a plate a 1/2 inch or so smaller than the diameter of the colander on top of the yogurt and set a something heavy on top of that, such as some canned food product. Let this sit in the refrigerator for 48 hr. Once it has drained, you get the most lucious soft cheese which can be used in a variety of ways. It has a taste very similar to goat cheese, with that yogurt tang but it is so much creamier and smoother than goat cheese. I used mine as a substitute for mozzarella on top of crackers with basil and tomato, a sprinkle of olive oil, salt and pepper. You could also roll the balls in herbs or perhaps poppy or sesame seeds for an attractive addition to an appetizer plate.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Baked Caramel Egg Custard

I've been obsessed lately with recipes utilizing the wonderful eggs my co-worker has been bringing in by the DOZENS. His hens, eight of them, are laying an egg a day. Some he claims are laying two a day. They must be very happy chickens.

Today's recipe is an old fashioned baked caramel custard. It is sublime. Eggy, creamy, sweet with a light caramel sauce on the bottom and fairly easy to make. The secret to a very creamy custard is to cook it in a bain marie, or water bath. This just means to put the cooking vessel, in my case a casserole dish, in a larger pan and surround the casserole dish with water about half way up. This is then baked at a low temperature so as not to curdle the delicate mixture.

After it is thoroughly cooled, you just scoop out the custard into individual serving dishes and then spoon the wonderful, caramel syrup over the custard. Enjoy!

Baked Caramel Egg Custard
3 whole eggs and 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups very hot milk
1/2 cup sugar for caramel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy frying pan put 1/2 cup sugar over medium high and swirl sugar around until it turns liquid. Watch very carefully and swirl often or the caramel will burn and be bitter and unusable. Pour this caramel sauce into the bottom of a 3 quart casserole dish sprayed with vegetable spray and set aside. The caramel will harden but that's okay, after baking it turns liquid again. Heat the milk in a saucepan until very hot but not boiling. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and salt together until combined. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, until combined then add vanilla. Pour the custard mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Place the dish into a larger pan, put in oven then pour hot water around the casserole to fill up to half the sides of the dish. Cook for 50 minutes until custard is totally set but still somewhat jiggly. Take out of bain marie and set aside to cool for an hour then put in refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Healthy Sundae

Our town is somewhat limited in health food options, but we do have one health food stores where we can find most of the the things we need of the organic nature. This store is called LifeSource. It is staffed by very helpful and friendly people and the atmosphere is always relaxed. Besides fresh organic fruits and vegetables, grocery items, and vitamins and supplements by the dozens, they also have fresh made food in their deli section. It is a great place for a quick lunch.

I chose to make my own granola recently as The Husband enjoys it very much and the packaged stuff never has all the things he likes and it is really expensive as far as cereal goes. So off to LifeSource I trotted and I was able to buy the exact quantities of the various ingredients in their bulk bins at a very reasonable cost.

Putting the granola together is ever so simple. Just throw everything in a big bowl, give it a very thorough stir and then spread it out on a parchment lined tray and bake. The quantities in this recipe makes about 7 cups of fresh, delicious granola. I choose to eat my granola as part of a yummy sundae which includes honey, granola and non-fat plain yogurt topped with fresh fruit.
4 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cups honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit to your liking)
1/2 cup sliced, unsalted almonds (or any other nut to your liking)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup coconut shardsPreheat oven at 300 deg. F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a slipat baking sheet. Mix all of the ingredients very well in a large bowl. Make sure everything is well coated. Spread granola out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Watch carefully the last few minutes as this can burn easily. Let cool on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Asian Noodle Soup with Chicken and Snow Peas

One of my go to sources for quick, easy and tasty recipes is Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine. It has usually has such a great variety of different items each month, from main meals to desserts and the ingredients used are easy to find in most peoples cupboards or at the local grocery store. They are also usually fast on a weeknight which is a "good thing" as Martha would say.

A recipe I recently tried was the Asian Noodle Soup with Chicken and Snow Peas in the latest edition, May 2009, issue 62. I am a big fan of Asian noodle soups, be it Chinese noodle soup or my very favorite - Vietnamese Pho beef noodle soup which I get at a local Vietnamese restaurant. The trouble is with every recipe I see for Pho, there is usually such a long list of ingredients and lengthy cooking time, I've always been too lazy to tackle it.

This recipe looked like it might be a good chickeny subsitute without all of the time and trouble. It turned out well but there were certainly not the complex flavors and aromas of a Pho. It is a nice light soup with lots of good, slurpy noodles to satisfy that craving. I do recommend a shot or two of chili sauce to finish it off and give it a bit of a kick.Asian Noodle Soup with Chicken and Snow Peas

8 oz. rice noodles
2 cans (14.5 oz) reduced sodium chicken broth
1 piece of lemon grass (3 inches) smashed
1 piece of peeled fresh ginger (1 inch) cut into matchsticks
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 lb. snow peas, trimmed and halved
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves (I didn't use this ingredient)
Asian chili sauce (such as Sriracha)

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles per package directions. Drain noodles and set aside. In a saucepan, combine chicken broth, lemongrass, ginger and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until fragrant, about 10 minutes.

In a fine mesh strainer, strain broth and return to saucepan. Add chicken and snow peas and simmer until chicken is cooked through and snow peas are tender. Remove soup from heat and stir in lime juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, pour soup over noodles. Top with mint, additional lime wedges and chili sauce if desired.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Key Lime Pie-O-My

Time to make another pie though this is a cheating kind of pie as it has no pastry crust. This is actually my own invention; a key lime pie utilizing my all time favorite recipe for Cheery Cherry Cheese pie which I wrote about some months ago. I saw this product, Nellie and Joe's Key West Lime Juice, in the grocery store while wandering aimlessly through the aisles (a dangerous thing to do) and decided to purchase it and see what I could make. The recipe on the bottle for Key Lime Pie sounded okay but I decided to experiment with my tried and true recipe, substituting the lime juice for the usual lemon juice. Let me say, it was delicious and very easy to make. Even my first attempt at piping on whipped cream with a pastry bag turned out just fine. All in all, a good experiment.Key Lime Pie-O-My

1 graham cracker crust
1 8 oz package cream cheese at room temperature
1 can condensed milk
1/3 cup bottled lime juice
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup whipped cream for garnish
2 Tbsp. lime zest for garnish (optional)

Beat the cream cheese in electric mixer until softened. Add condensed milk, lime juice and vanilla and fully incorporate in with cream cheese. Put mixture into graham cracker crust and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Garnish with whipped cream and serve.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Baking with Dorie Greenspan

I purchased a marvelous cookbook a few months ago called Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I have followed for many months the wonderful blogs of folks who participate in an interesting cooking experience called Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD). Each week a member selects a recipe from this comprehensive baking cookbook and they all cook the selection and post it on Tuesday. It is so interesting to see the variations for the same recipe and read people's comments on their successes and failures.

Well, reading these recipes made me decide I must purchase this book and so I did utilizing Amazon and through the used books option I was able to purchase the book brand spanking new for $7.99 plus shipping. Once received, I was so thrilled with it I turned around and had another copy shipped to my dear friend Warren, who also likes to whip up magnificent pies and cakes on occasion.

I have made a few things from the book and last weekend made the Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake featured on page 286. It turned out to be an extremely moist, rich chocolate cake with a nice cherry jam filling and a tangy, intensely chocolate fudge-like frosting. I must admit I did have trouble getting it out of the pan, most likely due to not letting it cool enough before attempting it's release. Fortunately, the photo of the end product does not reveal this issue. Thank goodness for photo cropping!

I am not going to post the recipe but instead suggest that anyone interested in a very thorough and easy to follow cookbook on baking, run to your nearest bookstore or keyboard and purchase Dorie's book immediately. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Happy Cinco de Mayo

We are lucky to live in a town where there is an abundance of Hispanic restaurants, markets and bakeries. Over the years I have discovered my favorites in all categories. One establishment called Salvador's Bakery, is a hybrid of both a restaurant and a remarkable bakery. They have a limited menu of Mexican favorites such as tacos, tamales and burritos as well as take out food and the most remarkable selection of pastries.

For our Cinco de Mayo celebration at home, I purchased some carnitas from Salvador's Bakery and we had a taco bar utilizing this very flavorful shredded pork, homemade guacamole and all the other accompaniments that go into a good taco. With a fresh squeezed lime juice margarita, the meal was complete. Thanks to The Husband for his food styling on the taco plate!Guacamole

1 ripe avocado, scooped out of peel
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp. finely minced white onion or 1 green onion finely chopped
2 Tbsp prepared salsa
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepperPut all of the ingredients into a bowl and mash with a fork to the desired consistency. We like ours chunky. Serve with tacos or along side salsa and sour cream for nachos or plain tortilla chips.