An exciting day ’round here

What a fun fun day today is turning out to be. Two exciting things have happened today. One planned. One by luck.

First:

I am blogging over at An Oregon Cottage today. I obsessively follow her blog and wish I was half as good at decorating my home as she is. She is also a wonderful cook and, like me, tries to feed her family frugally but well. My favorite trick that I learned from her is that you can cook and freeze dried beans. I haven’t purchased canned beans since I read that post.

homemamde chicken stock in the pressure canner

Today I am talking about making your own chicken stock. I am truly too lazy to let a pot simmer on the stove all day so I make my stock in my enormous pressure canner. Go read the post. It is awesomely easy and then you will always have the very best stock on hand.

Second:

I got picked up by foodgawker.com today. If you are unfamiliar foodgawker is “a photo gallery that allows you to visually search and discover new recipes, techniques and ingredients to inspire your culinary adventures. We publish food photography submitted by food bloggers from around the world. Our editors review hundreds of submissions daily and choose the highest quality, most appealing images to showcase.” In short- your pictures better be good. And mine was. I am over the moon. Just in case you missed the photo yesterday here it is again. FYI this is a complete unedited photo. I am stupidly proud.

lentil pumpkin curry

Thanks for being my reader.

Homemade buttermilk ranch

Contrary to what this blog may suggest we do not eat cakes and cookies every day. In fact I try to stick to real food. This means only food that is either in its original state (fruits, veggies, meat) or has an ingredient list I can pronounce. I try to stick to whole wheat flour and unrefined sugar. Probably close to 80% of what we eat is this way.

Homemade buttermilk ranch

What is amazing is that everything is so so so good. I love when I get asked “what is in this? It is so good!” and I reply with oh just zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic (for example). I make a lot of things other people would just buy in a store- case in point this recipe for homemade ranch.

Ranch mix packets at the store have a long ingredient list and often include stabilizers and anti caking agents. Mine has none. This mix is incredibly simple. I bought all the ingredients at our local natural foods grocery store from their bulk spices section. I just measured out and purchased the amounts I needed. I came home, dumped it all in a large mouth mason jar, shook it up, and was done.

After making the recipe I realized this made ranch mix for the next 5 years for our little family. I put some in tiny mason jars with instructions on the lid and gifted them to friends. I hope they have enjoyed it as much as I have.

Homemade buttermilk ranch mix

Ranch Mix (makes one quart dry mix)

1/4 cup Black Pepper
1 1/2  cup Parsley Flakes
1/2 cup Garlic Salt
2 tbs Kosher Salt
1/4 cup Granulated Garlic
3/4 cup Granulated Onion
2 tbs Dill Weed

Combine all the ingredients in an airtight container (like a mason jar). Shake to mix.

Ranch Dressing

1 1/2 tbs ranch mix
1 cup mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl or jar with a tight fitting lid. Stir or shake to combine. Nom.

Note- You can substitute one avocado for the mayonnaise. The dressing won’t keep long and you will need to process it in your blender but it is SO good!

Homemade buttermilk ranch

 

Homemade Granola

Oh my goodness where has this been all my life?!?

Seriously.

Homemade granola. Simple real food.

Ages ago I feel in love with a breakfast dish at the Glenwood restaurant. It was simple- granola, fruit, plain yogurt. And it was $8. After ordering it many many times I struck on the brilliant idea of making it at home. I am slow sometime- cut me some slack.

Since I have been trying to phase processed food out of our diets I have been searching for a granola that didn’t use a refined oil or sugar. There is none to be found. Finally I decided to make my own granola. I have no idea why it took me so long to make my own. It is ridiculously easy and incredibly tasty. The best part? Much like the previous post this recipe is completely customizable. Add and subtract from it to your hearts content.

I have eaten this multiple times a day since I have made it. Official permanent pantry staple.

Homemade granola. Simple real food.

Homemade Granola (makes about 5 cups)

4 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup honey
4 tbs coconut oil

Preheat oven to 350 F. Melt coconut oil and honey together in a pan till just warm. In a big bowl mix oats, almonds, salt, and any other ingredients of your choice (see list below). Add honey/oil mixture to oats mixture. Stir to combine. Pour out on to a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minute; remove from oven and stir. Return pan to the oven and remove and stir every 5 minutes till the oats are golden brown (somewhere between 20-25 minutes total).

Homemade granola. Simple real food.

Additions:

Flavors (add to warmed oil/honey mixture):
vanilla bean/extract
cinnamon
cardamom
orange zest
lemon zest
cocoa powder

Nuts and Seeds:
shredded coconut (not sweetened)
pecans
cashews
brazil nuts
walnuts
hazelnuts
macadamia nuts
pistachios
pumpkin seeds
sesame seeds
sunflower seeds

Dried Fruit (add after baking):
dates
figs
cranberries
raisins
cherries
apricots

Homemade granola. Simple real food.

Oh and the best way to eat it in my opinion? With home canned peaches and plain cream top yogurt.

Pea Pesto

My garden is completely wild. In a good way. Well, mostly. My wonderful, dear, sweet husband planted way too much squash then never thinned it. We can’t find the cucumbers because it has taken over the back half of the garden. All the plants are enormous. The tomatoes are taller than I am (that isn’t saying much), the carrots are doing wonderful (see previous post about carrot cake cupcakes), the bean are going for broke, and we have more peas than anyone should ever have at once. Unless you are in possession of a killer pea pesto recipe- which also freezes well.

Pea pesto

We harvested the garden this past weekend. Some of the harvest was thinning (carrots and chard), some was trying to stay on top of what was producing (beans and zucchini), and some of it was pulling what was at the end of its season so we can replant something else (peas and lettuce). As previously mentioned the carrots were made in to cupcakes, the lettuce was gifted far and wide, the beans were canned, the zucchini sauteed, and the peas (all 5+ lbs) were turned in to this pesto.

I am so looking forward to pulling this out mid winter and having a delicious taste of summer. Now if the tomatoes would just ripen.

Pea pesto

Pea Pesto (makes enough for generous appetizers or 12 ounces of cooked pasta)

I used sugar peas that I grew and threw them in pod and all. You can use fresh shelled peas or even frozen peas. This is a recipe for one batch (I made four).

10-ounce of peas of your choosing
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons walnuts
1 large bunch of basil
1/2 cup (1 1/8 ounces) finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup olive oil
Prepare an ice bath, a large bowl filled with ice water. Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2-4 minutes (this depends on your type of peas- whole pods take a tad longer). Drain peas then add them to the ice bath and drain again.

Pea pesto

 

Whirl the garlic, walnuts, Parmesan and salt in your food processor until chunky, about 5-6 pulses. Stuff in the basil and  process till somewhat smooth. Add the peas and, again, process till somewhat smooth scraping down the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, drizzle in olive oil. Divide in to small ziplock bags and freeze.

You can serve this on crostini, as a dip, put it in soups, or toss with hot pasta. All is ridiculously delicious.

What are you doing to preserve your garden bounty?

Pea pesto

Homemade Ricotta

I want you to make your own ricotta. It is easy. I promise. It is not something just the Martha Stewarts of the world make. Everyone can (and should!) make their own ricotta.

We make this at least once a month. The taste and texture of homemade ricotta doesn’t even begin to compare to what you can find in stores. Make this once and you will never ever buy it again. Also it is infinitely cheaper to make your own.

A few years ago Nathan and I took a cheese making class at Cooks, Pots, and Tabletops. It was a riot. We pulled mozzarella, learned to make marscapone, and were introduced to the simplicity of homemade ricotta. We haven’t attempted the marscapone or mozzarella since but I can’t count the number of times we have made ricotta. We will be making mozzarella sometime soon though and I promise to share that adventure.

Here is the recipe followed by a  picture by picture tutorial.

Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
1 tsp salt (to taste really but 1 tsp is a good place to start)

Ingredients for Ricotta

It is three easy ingredients. Salt, milk, and white vinegar. Use whole milk. The flavor comes from the cream. It is worth the calories. Make sure the milk is just pasteurized not ultra-pasteurized. It will say on the box which it is.

Pouring Milk in Pan

Rinse a large non-reactive pan with cold water (will help prevent the milk from scalding), add milk and salt. Stir. Place over medium heat.

Thermometer in Milk

Place a thermometer in the milk. We rig up a system with some foil. Make sure it doesn’t touch the bottoms or sides. A probe thermometer works great although a candy thermometer will do as well. Heat to 180 degrees F stirring occasionally.

Adding Vinegar
Stirring Ricotta

Remove from heat add the vinegar and stir for one minute and one minute only using a metal spoon (not wood). Use an up and down motion rather than stirring around and be gentle. We are encouraging the curds to form so we don’t want to break them up.

Covered Ricotta Pot

Once done stirring cover with a clean dry towel and allow to sit undisturbed for a few hours. We have made it in the morning before heading to work then strained it when we got home or even made it before bed and strained it in the morning.

Removing Ricotta from Pot
Ricotta in Baskets

After it has sat for however long (at least two hours) get a straining basket or line a colander with a damp cheesecloth (a thin kitchen towel will work great, a couple of layers of paper towels will work in a pinch). With slotted spoon gently ladle the curds out either in to the colander or basket. Let it drain freely for a couple of hours or so depending on how creamy you want your cheese to be.

Finished Ricotta

Once it is done draining unmold and place in a sealed container for up to 7 days. Refrigerate. It does not freeze well so use right away. Makes roughly 4 cups.

That’s it! Simple right?

Note- If making ricotta to use in a desert or a sweet application reduce or omit salt. You can replace 1 pint of the milk with 1 pint of whipping cream for a more decadent, creamier cheese. The longer it sits the more separated the curds will become. Let it sit 3-4 hours for a creamier cheese, 6 or more for more cottage cheesy like texture.

A recipe for what to do with all this cheese will follow next week!

How to Make Ricotta