July 28, 2014

Homemade Mondays - Perfect Creamy Homemade Ricotta

Welcome to Homemade Mondays!  

Each Monday I’m going to feature a new “homemade” recipe – something you probably normally buy at the grocery store but can easily make a better version at home for less than what store-bought stuff costs.  Don't worry, these won’t be super labor intensive projects that will take up your entire weekend.  They’ll be quick and easy delicious little projects that you can tackle in minutes or a just a couple of hours.   

This week, it's super easy, super creamy, dreamy, perfectly tangy, homemade ricotta.  It’s so very simple and once you try it, I promise you'll be hooked!  Like, eating-straight-off-a-spoon-hooked.  And believe me, there’s plenty of ways (other than the spoon idea) to devour this yumminess but more on that in the coming days…

Perfect Creamy Homemade Ricotta
Makes about 1 big healthy cup of ricotta

3 ½ cups whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pour the milk, cream and salt into a large stainless steel or enameled pot. Using a candy or deep-fryer thermometer, bring the milk to a full boil over medium to medium-high until it reaches 190°F.  Gently stir the mixture occasionally to make sure it doesn't scorch on the bottom. Remove the pot from heat and add the lemon juice, stirring it once, gently, just to combine. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

{NOTE ABOUT THE NEXT STEP:  Yes, you can pour the curds and the whey into the lined strainer all at once and save yourself the steps of scooping the curds but I really recommend the scoop method.  These little curds are delicate things and the weight of the whey being dumped on them as you pour can really smash them up and change their consistency.  But the world won’t end if you dump it so if you wanna, g’head.  But, if you are in a hurry for this ricotta to be dry enough to eat, the scoop method is the way to go.  You’ll cut the drying time in half with the scoop method.  If using the dump method, you’ll need at least an hour of drying time for spreadable and 1-2 hours for a really dry product.  On with the show...}

Line a large strainer or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth or paper towels and place it over a large bowl.  Using strainer or a slotted spoon (one with holes, not the big slits), gently scoop out the curds and place into the lined strainer.  Repeat the process until all you have left is the whey which you can toss or use it one of these clever ways.  Drain for a minimum of 30 minutes to get a spreadable ricotta and 1 hour for really dry ricotta.  If using paper towels, you might want to change them out about halfway through your drying time.

Serve or use right away or place in an airtight container for later.  Keep in mind that this a really fresh product and won’t keep for a long time.  You've got a week, max, to gobble up this creamy goodness.  But really, the shelf life of this stuff is irrelevant because it won’t last that long anyway.

July 23, 2014

Mexican Cilantro Lime Corn Crema (Elotes)

Mexican Cilantro Lime Corn Crema - Dallas Farmer's Market

One of my favorite things about summer in Dallas is getting back to weekend trips to the Dallas Farmers Market.  It’s such a great way to laze away a Saturday or Sunday and still be productive.  I love the scene:  the sheds are packed full of vendors, shoppers, strollers and furry babies on leashes but somehow, there’s no chaos.  Nobody’s in a rush.  Just happy folks, nibbling on bits of juicy cantaloupe and wedges of bright red summer tomatoes as they browse the vendors’ stalls.  There are local products like pickles, honey, soaps and jams and they’re all fabulous. 

Of the Must-Do’s at the DFM is hitting the roasted corn, or elotes, stand, just outside Shed 3.  As soon as you get out of your car, follow your nose and you’ll end up in front of Paul’s Sweet Roasted Corn booth, complete with a ginormous metal barrel roaster, just cranking away to get those little ears of corn all nice and roasty toasty. 

You can have your Mexican street corn on the cob or in a cup, plain or loaded.  I take mine in a cup and loaded.  What’s loaded you ask?  Corn kernels soaked in butter – or really, a butter-like substance – and then topped with a healthy squeeze of mayo and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.  Add some paprika and/or hot sauce, stir it all up and you’re in business.  Clearly, no one is losing weight while eating this dish but hey, it’s summer and we all know that calories don’t count during the summer.
Mexican Cilantro Lime Corn Crema - Dallas Farmer's Market
WARNING: That is not butter in that blue squeeze container. It's Parkay. For real.
In an effort to be able to eat more of this tasty dish without gaining 1000lbs, I’ve tweaked the recipe, and although it’s not winning any Healthiest Dish awards, it’s MUCH better and, I think, has even more flavor than the original.  The tanginess of the lime and bite of the cilantro really the sweetness of the corn just pop in your mouth!  Of course, this is a great side dish for anything Mexican or Tex-Mex, but it’s also perfect with steak, grilled chicken or seafood. 

Or just in a cup.

June 30, 2014

OMG Heath Bar Cookies

OMG Heath Bar Cookies
Resistance Is Futile. 

The.  Diet.  Is. Over.


Whew.  It’s been 9 weeks of no sugar, no carbs (except the good for you veggie kind), no bread (!!), no booze (!!!!!) and very little fat.  But considering I’m 35 lbs lighter and *this* close to fitting into some jeans that I haven’t worn since 2002 (shutituprightNOW!), it was totally worth it.  Plus, my skin looks ah-maze-zing, my nails aren't splitting and tearing like crazy and I haven’t seen my hair look this shiny (without help) for a long time.  Totally, totally worth it.

And since the diet is over, I thought I’d celebrate with some cookies!  No, not really.  Well, okay, yes.  Kinda.

June Foodie Pen Pal Reveal Day!

Happy Monday, Kids!

It’s always good to start off the week – even a short holiday one (YAY!) – with something fun, isn’t it?  Sure it is!  And believe me, Foodie Pen Pals is nothing but fun.  I love hitting up my local farmer’s markets and specialty stores to shop for my FPP (truth time: it’s usually a little “one for them, one for me” kind of a shopping trip!) and using my limited packaging skills to upcycle some old containers into shiny new holders for homemade goodies.

This month I was I was matched up with the Queen Bean herself, Lindsay, the host of FPP on her blog The Lean Green Bean!!  Lindsay has a great focus on the healthy side of things and I wanted to make sure her box honored her commitment to good health but, with a couple of treats thrown in for balance. ;)  You can check out my box to Lindsay here:  http://www.theleangreenbean.com/june-foodie-penpals-reveal-day-2/

I was so excited when my goodie box from Lindsay arrived - it really is like having a birthday every month! She really went above and beyond - making sure to find items that not only were peanut-free but were created in nut-free environments.  So very sweet.  Here’s what she sent:

June 16, 2014

Soy-Citrus Grilled Chicken with Summer Fruit Salsa

 Soy-Citrus Grilled Chicken with Summer Fruit Salsa
 Soy-Citrus Grilled Chicken with Summer Fruit Salsa

I seriously have no idea how 2 weeks have just flown by without a post – I suck.  In my *ahem* defense, I will say that it has been stupidly cloudy here in Dallas for the better part of those 2 weeks, thus making photography an impossibility at my house.  I have one set of windows that gets usable natural light and when the sun is gone, so is the photo op.  Now you know why my photos are a little, um, bor-ring.  It’s the lack of natural light.  Oh, and I have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to food photography, but really, I’m certain it’s all the lighting’s fault.

But yesterday there was sunshine.