Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese, Cheese Spread, and Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

I know we haven't updated in forever, but things were pretty crazy for us over the past month. Anyway, there will be 3 new recipes in this post because I had a lot of time on my hands last Monday and John had a daytime shift at work. So I was nice and decided to use my day off to make him dinner.

The first one is for Homemade Ricotta Cheese, which we will use for the cheese spread. Homemade ricotta really does taste a lot better than the store-bought kind, and it's very easy and cheap to make.

Also, there are only 2 ingredients! And the only vaguely special equipment you need is cheesecloth!
2 cups of buttermilk
2 quarts of whole milk (or, a half gallon)

First, line a wide colander with the cheesecloth. It should be folded so that it's 4 layers thick, and so that you'll be able to gather up the sides to make a little pouch later.

Next, dump the ingredients into a big pot and start cooking them on high heat. You're going to have to stir often, but you don't need to stir constantly. You should also scrape the bottom to make sure there aren't any curds that'll scorch on the bottom.

As the milk heats, curds will rise and clump up. Once the mixture is steaming hot, stop stirring.

When the mixture reaches 175˚ or 180˚F (if you're using a candy thermometer, which I did), the curds and whey will separate. It'll look like white blobs floating on grayish water. I didn't use the flash for this one, so that the separation could be seen.

Once that happens, turn off the heat and start ladling the curds into the colander, which you should place in the sink for this.

Wait 5 minutes: basically until dripping has slowed, and then gather the edges of the cloth and twist it. I used 2 twist ties tied together to make the edges stay together. Don't squeeze it though! Leave the little bundle in the colander for about another 15 minutes, maybe a bit more. Get rid of the whey.

Untie the cloth and put the ricotta in an airtight container. It'll last for about a week in the fridge.

That's what it looks like, basically, and it's awesome.

Ok, on to the next recipe.

Ricotta Cheese Spread with Herbs

This is really good for making yourself a snack, or for a party. It's cheap and it's waaaaayyyy better than those packaged cheese spreads.

1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. dried parseley
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried sage
dash pepper
dash sea salt

I forgot the garlic powder in the picture, sorry.

Anyway, dump all the ingredients into a medium bowl and mix them. That's it.

Make sure you taste it as you add things so that you can adjust the recipe if you want too!

Recipe #3

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta
Ok, so this recipe is VERY quick and is quite cheap to make as well.

1 small onion, diced
2 tsp. dried parseley
2-3 tbsp. fresh basil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 16 oz can of roasted and diced tomatoes
dash pepper
dash salt

First strain the tomatoes. I like to use the roasted tomatoes because I think they have more flavor and they taste richer. Anyway, make sure to get most of the liquid out, because you don't want the bruschetta to be watery. Then, dump the tomatoes in a large bowl.

Then, dice the onion, cut or tear up the basil, mince the garlic, dump that all in and add the parseley

Then, mix.

Toast up some slices of a baguette in the oven with some olive oil, spoon the brushetta (and the cheese if you made it) onto the toast and eat!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ina Garten's (Barefoot's) Guacamole Salad, but a Bit Cheaper

I saw this recipe on Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network and thought it would be a great vegetarian meal for John and I to make. However, we tweaked a few things about it to our tastes and also made the dish less expensive.

You can find the original recipe here.

Our ingredients:

1 can black beans
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1-2 tbsp. fresh cilantro
1 small/medium red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
2 limes or lemons
1 jalapeno, diced
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 green bell pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
tortilla chips (optional)

Ok, this recipe is honestly so easy. It's basically putting a bunch of things in one bowl and then putting a few other things in another bowl and dumping the stuff in the other bowl into the first bowl.

First, drain and rinse ALL of the canned vegetables. In the case of the tomatoes, press the juices out gently with your fingers. There really shouldn't be extra moisture because the dressing will make the salad moist enough.

Also, we used the roasted tomatoes here because John is a little iffy about tomatoes, but since these are roasted, they're nice and rich, and not really watery.

Anyway, dump all of those in a mixing bowl. Then de-stem the green bell pepper, cut into chunks and dump that in the bowl too. Besides using canned vegetables,

John and I used the green bell pepper because it's about $1 per pound cheaper than other bell peppers, and it tastes similar. If you want to use the more expensive ones though, go ahead.

Then dice up the red onion. If the teariness gets to you, stick your head in the freezer for a few seconds. It makes it go away. Anyway, dump the onion in there too, and mix everything together.

For the dressing, chop up the cilantro, and add as much as you want really. This is a lot of salad so you may find it needs more that 1 tbsp.

Apparently, Barefoot doesn't like cilantro, but I don't think guacamole is complete without it.

So, John had a lemon already, so we just used the juice of that and we bought a lime and squeezed that too.

To that, add the minced garlic, diced jalapeno, cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Then, whisk together.

Next, cube up 3-4 avocados and dump them into the salad. We added more than the original recipe because we wanted it to really taste like guacamole. Make sure to add the avocados at the last minute because they go brown fast and you want them to be fresh. Then add the dressing and mix.

Then, if you want, crumble tortilla chips over the top to complete the guacamole flavor.

It's so easy, healthy, cheap, and reeeeaaaallllyyyy good.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fried Tofu "Cutlets"

This is actually Katie, but I just added John as an author!

Anyway, we made these tofu "cutlet" things cause one of John's comfort foods is chicken cutlets.

Here are the ingredients:
1 pound of extra firm tofu, cut into cutlet shapes.
1 egg
olive oil
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup flour
dash salt
1 cube vegetable bullion and water / vegetable stock or broth
1 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. paprika
dash black pepper

We recommend freezing the tofu two or three days beforehand and thawing it in the fridge for a day. This gives the tofu a meatier texture.

Regardless, you have to drain the tofu. To do this, put some paper towels on a plate and put the tofu on top. Then put a few paper towels on top and weigh the tofu down with another plate and more weight. Let it sit for 1/2 hour. If you don't do this, the tofu will not absorb the flavor of the marinade, and it will not taste like anything.

Meanwhile, get 2 cups of water and boil it. Then, add the bullion cube. Once the cube is dissolved, take the broth off the heat and let it cool.

When the tofu is done draining, put it in the broth and let it marinate for at least 1/2 hour.
While that's marinating and stuff, you can make the breading. Just dump the panko, flour, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano and onion powder in a bowl...

...and mix it with a fork or whisk to evenly distribute everything.

Next, crack an egg into a good-sized bowl and whisk it.
When the tofu's all good and marinated, get your dipping/frying set up like this:

We dumped out the broth too, you don't want to use that stuff afterwards.

And heat some oil up in a frying pan. We used olive oil, cause that's what John had and we forgot to get vegetable oil, but we highly recommend using a vegetable oil because the flash point on those is higher and you won't get little bits of really hot olive oil jumping up at you.

Then, take a tofu cutlet, and coat it with egg.

And then coat it VERY well with the breadcrumb mixture.

Then, repeat the process for each cutlet. When they're all done, place two cutlets in the hot oil, CAREFULLY.

You only want two in there at once, because otherwise the oil will get too cool and it'll be harder to turn and handle the tofu. When one side is golden brown, flip it.


When each side is nicely fried, maybe 3-5-ish minutes on each side, place the cutlets on some paper towels to drain.

And serve! We served ours with mashed potatoes and this great recipe for vegetarian brown gravy. Also, adding a bit of gralic salt on top is a great idea if you find it not quite salty enough.

It really was wonderful. Great vegetarian comfort food.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Katie's Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

Alright so last year, I started making hummus. Originally, I made The Joy of Cooking's recipe, but found that it needed tweaks. Now the recipe is pretty much my own. My friends love it, and it's how I won over John's friends when I brought it to a Halloween party at his apartment. Also, my dad used to be THE hummus maker in my house, but now he doesn't even want to know how I make it, he just wants me to make it.

You can leave out the sun-dried tomatoes if you just want regular hummus, or maybe add some roasted red peppers instead. I, however, love sun-dried tomatoes and some people in my family get upset stomachs from red peppers, so I usually stick to this one. Also, this recipe is easily doubled for a big party with leftovers.

Alright, now the ingredients:
1 16-oz can of chick peas.
1/3 cup of tahini
1/6-1/4 cup of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of cumin
1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried parsley or 1/2-1 tablespoon of fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon of sweet paprika (or 1/2 teaspoon of half-sharp paprika, if you want it spicy)
olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, roasted if you want
sun-dried tomatoes to taste
optional: a pinch of salt

First, drain the chickpeas:

and wash them too, cause the liquid from the can smells like cat food.

Next, put them in the food processor (or blender, if you are food processor deprived) with a bit of water (just a splash really, you'll be adding lemon juice and oil later so you don't need a lot) to help them puree a bit. Then puree. Obviously. It'll look kind of like this:

Now add the tahini. It is expensive but one jar will make LOTS of hummus and other dips too! It's also essential for the flavor of the hummus, so don't skip it.

Then, add the lemon juice, to taste really.

Next, add the parsley (fresh is good too if you have it!), paprika and cumin

I feel the need to talk about this paprika I have though. I'm half German-Hungarian and my Oma (grandma) is from Hungary. One of her friends brought this paprika back from a trip to Hungary. It's super fresh and really red and we keep it in the freezer.

It's really awesome.

Anyway, then add the garlic. If you have a blender/crappy food processor, I recommend chopping it up. I just minced it cause I like using the garlic press :D. Anyway, roasted garlic is also a nice option, but I'm too lazy for that today.

Then, puree and stream in a few tablespoons of olive oil for creaminess. It should look like this:

If you like plain hummus, this is where you'd want to stop. If you like to add stuff, then continue, but you should definitely taste it at this point and adjust the recipe to your liking if needed. You can also add a bit of salt here or maybe some red pepper flakes.

Add as many sun-dried tomatoes as you like. The oil they're packed in is also wonderful to use in place of/in addition to the olive oil this recipe calls for if you have some left.

Puree well, and then you're done!
Serve with warm pita, tortilla chips, or vegetables. You can also garnish with extra paprika or parsley.


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