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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Farmers cheese...

I understand that cheese is not something many would choose to take the time to make at home. And I also understand that making cheese is not for the culinary meek in the kitchen department.
However–to make your own cheese is oh-so gratifying. I cannot explain it really. To think–this is how the ancients did it, and have done it for centuries!
Well, maybe its not that big of a deal...although I feel like it is.
This isn't your aged cheese, so no cheddaring here. Its a rustic fresh cheese–often known as farmer's cheese.
So, this is where I learned, and after watching many videos, this guy's is the best. So watch it. I listed the ingredients and brief instructions below.
Video-How to make cheese.
I also included a log of our process in pictures. I recommend, this holiday weekend, gather the kids, make some time and do something like this. Make something that is back to its essence of process, no fake additives, no emulsifiers, no gelatins, or mass mechanization. You will be pleasantly surprised at how gratifying the process is and how enjoyable the end result (on crackers.) You might even think its simpler than you thought!

Ingredients and instructions:
Bring all ingredients to full room temperature before starting.

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1.5 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 quart of whole milk
  • Herbs
  1. Heat 1 quart of whole mlk over low heat to 175F.
  2. Then add buttermilk and lemon juice.
  3. Turn off the heat, stirring the whole time.
  4. The curds and whey will seperate.
  5. Stop stirring and let sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.
  6. Ready a strainer with cheesecloth (doubled).
  7. Ladel in curds and let sit to strain over a deep bowl for 5 minutes.
  8. Tie and hand for 30 minutes.
  9. Open the cloth, and salt and herb the curds.
Here is what I do with mine:
  • Mix with chopped olives and eat on toast
  • Stir with honey (omitting the herbs) for a creamy sweet spread
  • Use as ricotta in stuffed shells
  • Mix with plain yogurt (omitting herbs) for a cream cheese like spread
  • Eat on crackers with salami
  • Roll into balls then roll in herbs and serve as an appetizer

Pictures of our afternoon in the kitchen with cheese:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gluten Free "Lasagne"...

Now, before you fear the food in quotes—as I usually on. Most food in quotes conjures up odd-ball substitutions for things that you really wonder why they even bother to stretch the barriers of science to morph a shouldn’t-be-in-it-food into another so that it fakes you out—but in a good tasting way? (think Tofurkey). It can be—we will say, an adventure.

But we all know the gluten free world is full of substitutions. Some good, some bad, some “well, because I’m gluten free I eat it”. This is not one of them.
Now—I could have settled for basic lasagna with a GF noodle and there you have it. But, my farmshare offered me up a bounty of zucchini squash this week, and I wanted some lasagna. We have vegetarian night once a week and this seemed like a perfect fit—destiny!
So using a peeler, I cut my zucchini into thin ribbons and layered that up the way I would have used a noodle!
This recipe is all about your lasagna recipe, just use the zucchini as noodles.
In mine, I layered zucchini, with my favorite sauce (see my recipes page) mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, and breadcrumb (GF of course—I just crumbled a fresh slice of bread and added some oregano.)
I’ll admit, this lasagna doesn’t hold together perfectly—ok, not really at all due to the moisture in the zucchini. Not like those Stouffer’s slo-motion stratas of noodle and cheese hovering precariously on a spatula in all its glory. I mean mine ends up on your plate in a luscious pile of hot warm sauce and oozing cheese. Is that so bad??
And honestly this is the best picture I could get of it—and you can see this is not my photographic best. So, that said—not every dish has to be perfect—we will call this one rustic…but delicious!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Cracker Crust Pizza...

This might be a little too ambitious for most on a weeknight (I tend to be a bit of an overachiever in the weeknight category at my home) plan this for this weekend.
Take one batch gluten free cracker recipe, to one batch-any old topping you love-and you have the most exceptional cracker-crust pizza.
Its crispy, crunchy, and delightful. Its also light, because there is a small ratio of crust to topping, you don't feel carb loaded. This will please everyone! I promise.
We topped ours with paper thin strips of zuccini, artichoke hearts, olives, herbs, white cheese and parmesean. Use what you love!

The base is my Old World Cracker recipe. Morph it into this pizza crust.

Cracker (this recipe will make two, large 14-inch pizzas. Half it for one pizza.

  • 2 cups GF flour (Tom Sawyer)
  • 1 tbs sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 2 tbs butter, chilled and cubed small
  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tbs buttermilk (or milk)
  • 2 tbs fresh herbs (optional)
Preheat oven to 425-degrees. You will use ungreased cookie sheets/pans. Use the whisk attachment and to the bowl of a stand mixer combine flour, salt, sugar, pepper, and herbs.
Turn on lowest setting and add butter. Let it cut in the butter until it is a course meal consistency.
Drizzle in the milk. Scrape the sides to ensure all dry parts are captured. Add liquid until the dough comes together. Make sure to get all the dry at the bottom of the bowl. Add more liquid 1 tsp at a time if it is not coming together.

Use a round 14-inch pizza pan, or a 13x9 cookie sheet. Using a rolling pin, roll very, very thin, almost to thin to pick up right, you can do this right onto the pan. Or using a pasta roller (my preferred method), roll sheets at #4.
Lay the cracker strips together, with edges just overlapping to form a large crust.
Sprinkle top with salt and lightly press into cracker. Bake in a preheated 425F oven 8 minutes, checking at 4 minutes. It browns FAST! When edges are lightly browned, remove from oven (leave oven on). Place toppings on pizza and return to oven to melt cheese and warm toppings.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gluten Free English Muffins....

Now, before you hem, and haw over the next GF recipe you are sure will be "kinda-close too..." or "its good enough for being GF" or "well, its great if you have to eat GF bread"—kind of recipe. This English muffin is it. No—I mean IT! For all you know--you just pulled a bag of regular old Thomas's off the shelf! They even withstood the true tests—In the fridge (still light and fluffy), on the counter, 1-day old (still light and fluffy). This dreamy recipe is a hamburger bun. This is a focaccia roll. This is an English muffin. This is sandwich bread. Never did I know such a multi-faceted, multi-tasker in the GF repertoire before!
I almost couldn’t believe it at first. The lightness, the fluffiness, the airiness, I mean look at the nooks and crannies! I kept walking back over to the pan and expecting it to morph into the dense, not so light and chewy loaf of GF bread most GF recipes end up turning in to. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love those breads, I make them and eat them all the time. But these—well, frankly—these will change your life.
I could swoon on and on about this bread, but I will spare you any more, but you MUST—no really MUST try this. Then—without hesitation—plan those green-chili-bacon cheddar hamburgers for Thursday night—the ones you know you have been missing for years? …and this time, eat one on a bun.

You’re welcome.

GF English Muffin (Makes 6)


  • 1/4 cups sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup Tom Sawyer Gluten Free Flour***
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/4 cup tapioca flour
  • 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill GF flour blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 scant Tablespoon quick rise yeast (1 packet) 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil 
  • 3/4 cup + 1 Tablespoon warm water
 *** If you cannot source Tom Saywers, you can use rice flour + 1 tsp xantham gum. Note: I have not tried it with this substitution, however it should work just fine.
Some of these steps are critical, so read closely.
In a small bowl, mix warm tap water (100-110F), yeast and sugar and oil. Stir and let set so the yeast can start to work.
Meanwhile blend the flours, and salt in a bowl. When yeast has started to foam and proof (about 5 minutes), pour it into the flour, and using a fork, bring together the batter. Stir till lumps are gone. Prepare the pans.
A note on the pans: I used any oven proof dish I had, a 4-inch cake pan, a four inch square glass baking dish, anything will work that you can put into your oven!
Using a brush or paper towel, coat the pans with olive oil, and dust with some flour or corn meal. Lay them on a baking sheet. Spoon the batter into the pans, dividing among the six pans. Now, let them rise.
Turn on your oven to 150F for five minutes. Then turn off. Place baking sheet with batter in the pans in the oven to let them rise for 20 minutes.
Then, remove from oven, heat oven to 375F. Place them back in the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes until they look dry, try not to brown then, they should be lightly, to not at all browned. Let cool in pans. Split with a knife, toast and enjoy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookes...

These delicious treats come via a dear friend in Texas. This is her recipe. These cookies are a delight. Crispy on the outside, tender and moist and creamy-chewy on the inside, with oozing chocolate chips (when warm right from the oven). You wouldn't know these are gluten free.
Ok--I know that these cookies seem to have very little, to no 'intent' as I like to call it, in terms of nutritional value and eating something with intentional goodness for health and well being. But, we all deserve a deviation once in a while, I say.
Of course, that said, I did make a few minor modifications in order to add ingredients with intent (if you read my blog at all, you didn't really think that I wouldn't add something healthy to these--did you?).
I added flax for fiber--because, why not get extra fiber if you don't even know its there? And almonds, which add tasty crunch, Omega-3s, and all the goodness of nutrition that almonds pack into themselves, and I made the chocolate chips the 60% cacao variety for antioxidents (the closer to 70%+ you get, the better for you the chocolate is.) Besides, the bittersweet chocolate is a great contrast to the rich, sweet dough.
I promise, these will be your new staple gluten free chocolate chip cookie.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • ¾ cup softened butter (1.5 sticks)
  • 1 ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 ¼ cup Tom Sawyer GF Flour (I really prefer Tom's here because it is flavor-neutral, not imparting any of the flavor from the flour into the cookie. However, your own gluten free flour blend will work just fine).
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 bag (about 11.5 oz chocolate chips, 60% cacao.)
  • ¼ cup flax meal
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
Heat oven to 375-degrees F. Cream butter and sugars till smooth. Add eggs, salt and vanilla. Blend till smooth. Add flour and baking soda and beat until incorporated. Add chocolate chips and almonds and fold into batter.
Drop onto a lined baking sheet (I use parchment paper) in 1 tbs. drops. These spread, so don't put them too close together. Bake for 10-minutes until edges are light brown. Let cool on pan for 5 minutes, them move to a rack to cool completely.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Peach Frozen Yogurt...

Ahh-the ever-quest for the satisfying indulgent that is also good for you. Although, if something were good for you, would it even be considered in the indulgent category? It’s a bit of an oxymoron one could argue, a contradiction in fact. I’ll leave that to you, and while nothing should be consumed with abandon, this treat could and should be consumed without thought to “Well….I really shouldn’t…”
You need a special tool for this…yes, yes I know—not another tool! But this tool is so worthy of precious real-estate in one's kitchen. This is what I have, and I love it, zero complaints (tip: buy the second freezer bowl--you will want it to make enough for parties). It has so many uses for frozen yummies—all for healthy alternatives to ones that we buy at the store that are something we need to say "Well….I really shouldn’t…”
This frozen yogurt is creamy and smooth, rich and tangy-with a perfect balance of tart-sweet.

So here it is. Peach Frozen Yogurt. Its truly—yogurt that is frozen! It's really that simple We all know the health components of yogurt, and of peaches. Buttermilk is low fat, has calcium and Vit. D and adds to the ‘richness’ of this yogurt without using cream.
Here is how I do it:
  • 2 cups fresh peaches (large chopped with skins, they go into a blender)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or use 1/3 cup agave syrup or honey)
Place these two ingredients in a blender, and pulse to puree. Do not puree until smooth, leave it very chunky and rough—it takes just a few pulses. Remove puree to a large bowl.
  • One half of a 32-ounce tub of plain yogurt
  • 1.5 cups of buttermilk
Stir together until combined. Pour into your ice cream freezer tub and place in freezer unit and turn on.
In 20-minutes of magic you have soft serve peach frozen yogurt! You can eat it right away, or transfer to another container and place it in the freezer for about 4-hours and it will become scoopable.

Fun notes:
  • Put it between GF gingersnap cookies for a fantastic ice cream sandwich!
  • Put it into popsicle molds and they make the most fantastic yogurt pops!
Want another ice cream freezer recipe?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Grilled Locavore Vegetables...

At first glance, these grilled vegetables that I served as a side dish on Memorial Day don’t appear to be to overtly extraordinary. Sure—they taste delicious. The charred, yet caramely flavor of the seared zucchini, the sweet-tangy pop of the roasted tomatoes, the earthy-fresh flavor of the fresh chopped herbs, and then the bright tang of the fresh lemon. It’s really a remarkable balance of flavors. And from such simple ingredients. And that is the point really—a few things, all at their best, make a very great dish.

But the extraordinary part about this dish is that it is a true locavore’s dream. Locavore has become a bit of a trendy thing, I know. However it’s really just a return to the true way things were always done. Once upon a time, a person only had lemons for 2 months out the year, and then only if they lived in a place that grew lemons!
Now, I didn’t set out for this dish to be locavore, but that is the other point I will get to in a minute. As I begin to think about the components of this dish, one-by-one…I realized, the zucchini—came from my local farmershare, the tomatoes—from my aunt and uncle’s bush a few block’s away, the lemons—from my neighbor across the street, the herbs—from my own backyard, and the olive oil from a local olive mill here in town. I stepped back for a moment and realized that through simple, small changes over time, my food began to evolve in such a way that without even trying to, it became local, fresher, organic, and sourced from places other than a grocery store! And that would be my oher said point. By making small changes, we can transform the way we eat, and our relationship with food and nutrition.

I know some would debate me, but I’m pretty sure a lemon from my neighbors tree, plucked moments before its use, clean and fresh—with no chemicals or waxes on its skin, is far better for us than a lemon picked green, then ripened artificially, shipped for a week, waxed and massed transported to a grocery shelf.

• Grow some herbs

• Get to know your neighbors (and their trees)

• Find a local farmer and buy a few veggies

Pick one of these and start small. Over time, other things will evolve themselves into each other and you will find it easier and easier to transform. You may even find a dish like this on your table one evening and think hmmm….this is easier than I thought.

How its done:
This ‘grilling’ happens in a skillet on the stove over high heat.
  • 4-5 medium zucchini or summer squash, cut into thick slices
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped herbs, any variety. I used basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
  • Juice of one large lemon
  • Few tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
This will probably take two or more batches to cook all vegetables, repeat steps for each batch.
In a large skillet over high heat, place a tbs or so of olive oil. Place the zucchini in the pan. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Add about half the tomatoes. Let the zucchini brown on each side, flipping when one side is browned. Remove browned zucchini and roasted tomatoes from pan and place on a platter. Sprinkle with some of the fresh herbs, and while hot, juice some lemon juice over the veggies. Repeat, stacking the grilled veggies on the platter.