Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Pancakes are my absolute favorite thing to eat for breakfast. I make them all the time. And this week I made two new variations. Above, I made blueberry pecan pancakes, a pretty standard fare for us. But the new part is that I used some of my leftover whey from cheesemaking in the batter as a substitute for buttermilk. It worked great! I have stored some of the whey in the freezer so I can try using it more in baked goods. Oh, also in the above photo, I want to point out my most recent kitchen acquisition, a crepe pan, that we were able to snag on super duper clearance. It's a fantastic pan, and yes, I have made crepes with it already; crepes that turned out better than any I have made before... but this is a posting about pancakes. So I will refocus.

I topped the blueberry pancakes with some cinnamon-spiced apples sauteed in butter and maple syrup. Nice! I cannot share my recipe for pancakes, as DH highly objects. Pancakes are serious business at my house!!! So I will refer you to this recipe that Ana posted, as it is quite similar.

Above is a photo of the whey I have poured from the curds. The whey is in the square plastic bowl in the sink, and it is yellowish in color. This is to clarify that I am talking about fresh whey, not the powdered whey that can be purchased.

And above is the other new pancake variation I tried this week, to celebrate my batch of freshly made ricotta cheese: Lemon Ricotta Panckaes! They are super! They have a very fluffy consistency, and because they have FIVE, yes five eggs, they are almost a mix of omelette and pancake, pretty cool! For splendid photos of how glorious these pancakes can look, see Aimee's photos and recipe here.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Homemade Ricotta

I am really getting into cheese making! Yesterday I tried making ricotta, mmmmm! Even my kitty Frida couldn't resist, seen above. I used the freshly made cheese to make this dish I saw highlighted on Tastespotting last week and just had to try: Three Cheese Polenta Pie. Best of all, with the recipe I was also able to use some of my homemade mozzarella too. Absolutely scrumptious! I served it with zucchini that I stewed in tomatoes and herbs, and it paired very nicely.

So here are a few photos of the ricotta-making process. Above I have heated the milk w/the salt, etc to the proper temperature and let it curdle. Then I ladeled the curds into a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Above I have tied the cheesecloth around the curds and let it hang from my kitchen sink faucet so the rest of the whey could drain from curds, for about a half hour.

And here I have unwrapped the cheesecloth and have my ricotta! I have been using the book Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses by Ricki Carroll. It is possible to make ricotta using the whey leftover from making mozzarella, if you use the whey within 3 three hours of making the mozarrella. Otherwise, ricotta can be made using this recipe or others, such as this very simple recipe.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Homemade Pizza with Fresh Mozzarella

This is how we ate the freshly made mozzarella from the previous post, on homemade pizzas. DH made the whole wheat crust using a recipe from Peter Reinhart's latest book, Whole Grain Breads. We made the sauce by simmering a small can of crushed tomatoes with olive oil, lots of garlic, and herbs from my window garden. And we also topped the pizza with roasted red peppers and sundried tomatoes sauteed in olive oil. Simply divine!

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Mini Pumpkin-Sage Balls

As a subscriber to Vegetarian Times Magazine, I was invited to vote for my favorite recipes submitted by culinary students for the Chef's Challenge 2008, the results of which appear in the March 2008 issue, now available. The recipe that won for the appetizer category was the Mini Pumpkin-Sage Balls, submitted by Mian Catalano of the ICE, New York. I have found that this recipe not only makes a great party appetizer, but it also can be used as part of the entree if made into either patties or larger balls. Also, I have found that these work nicely with a cream-based dip as an alternative to the recipe's recommendation of green pepper Tabasco sauce.

Pictured above is a pumpkin and a squash that I have roasted in a pan coated with a bit of oil for close to an hour at 400 degrees F. Then I scooped out the tender flesh into my food processor and processed until smooth. I used the resulting puree to make a double batch of the above Pumpkin-Sage Balls and also some Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins. I still have some puree leftover, which I have placed in my freezer to use for a future dish.
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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

I roasted some pumpkin and squash the other day to use in another dish, and had some left over. So, I looked through my cookbooks for a recipe to make use my leftovers, and I chose this recipe for Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins. They are deliciously moist, fluffy and full of flavor!

Spiced Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins (Vegan), adapted from More Great Good Dairy-Free Desserts Naturally by Fran Costigan
makes 12 to 13 muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup unbleached white flour (or a mixture of whole grain flours)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup soy milk
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon pumpkin puree
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
the zest from one tangerine or from 1/2 of an orange OR 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup dried cranberries (or mix of other dried fruit, like cherries or apricots, etc)

1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Oil the top and insides of a 12 cup muffin pan (or equivalent). The cups can be lined w/paper liners, but still grease the top of the pan.
2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the dried cranberries and gently coat the dried cranberries with the dry ingredients, using two forks to toss them around like tossing a salad.
3. In a small bowl, add the lemon juice to the soy milk and let sit for 2 to 3 minutes to clabber (clabbering results in a buttermilk substitute).
4. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, oil, maple syrup, vanilla and the zest or orange extract. Add the clabbered soy milk and whisk until well blended. Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir until just smooth, don't overmix. (Note: if you used only whole grain flours, the batter might be too dry, as whole grains will sometimes soak in more of the liquid. If that is the case, add a few tablespoons of extra soy milk so that all of the dry ingredients will become saturated).
5. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Any batter than doesn't fit into the muffin tin can be baked in an oiled ramekin or custard cup if needed. Bake for 12 to 13 minutes or until well risen and golden and passes the toothpick test. (My pumpkin puree was very cold when it was added to my batter, and I think it was because of that mine took around 18 to 20 minutes to cook, rather than 13.)
6. Place the pan of muffins on a wire rack to cool for ten minutes. Slide a thin knife around the sides of each muffin and then and lift each out of the pan to cool on the rack completely.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The tart that turned into a crumb cake

Once upon a time, let's say yesterday, Kathleen tried to make a strawberry tart. It is still strawberry season in Florida, after all. Long story short, the tart crust was accidentally dropped and broke into tiny pieces. All was not lost, most of the crumbs fell on the counter, rather than the floor. So, she put the crumbs in a cake pan and made a makesift crumb cake.

Here is the tart crust, intact, pre-fall.
And here are the crumbs in a cake pan, with vanilla custard and lots of strawberries on top. Not a bad result!

For the Vanilla Custard, I followed a recipe provided by Smitten Kitchen, who shared this Pastry Cream recipe by Dorie Greenspan. For the tart crust, see below:

Almond Tart Crust, adapted from Quick Vegetarian Pleasures, by Jeanne Lemlin

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons maple sugar (or other sugar)
2/3 cup almonds, finely ground after measuring
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup other flour (all purpose, oat flour, barley flour or other)

1. Grease a 9 or 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom or a pie pan.

2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolk with the butter, sugar and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Add the ground almonds and flours and combine until just mixed. It will be crumbly, don't overmix. Gather into a ball, then press it into the bottom and sides of a tart pan or pie pan. Prick crust with fork all over. Chill for an hour in the refigerator, or cover and freeze for up to 2 weeks.

3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove crust from refrigerator and cover with foil, then place pie weights or dried beans on top. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove foil and weights/beans. Bake for an additonal 10 minutes or until golden.. Cool completely on a wire rack. Remove outer rim from tart pan before filling, if desired.

Best used as a crust for a filling that doesn't need to be baked. And, if your crust crumbles before you fill it, you can always use the crumbs like I did!
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Recommended Reading

It has been a bit since I have posted, but I am still cooking, as you can see from the above photo. Sometimes I think even a bouquet of flowers cannot compare to the beauty and excitement of fresh fruits and vegetables. My friend Carmen sometimes refers to the salads she makes as Happy Salads. And she touches on something very important. Fresh produce is not only visually appealing, but also mood enhancing.

It is in this framework that I would like to recommend a couple of books.

The first book, I haven't even finished yet, but I am so excited about it that I feel compelled to mention it. Amazingly, it explores so many of the concepts and ideas that I have taken to heart over the last year; ideas about food that have contributed in my losing so much weight and feeling healthier than I have in ages. When reading the book, hang on, as the first few chapters lay framework, whereas the middle of the book is where things really start to come together. Here it is (with a warning that the title is a bit off-putting):

In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan

The next book is by an author I really enjoy, Barbara Kingsolver, in collaboration with her daughter and husband:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

It contains some (but not all) of the same ideas as Pollan's book, but with a homegrown quality that only Kingsolver can convey. As an admirer of her novels, I especially enjoyed getting to know more about her daily life. She is an inspiration. I no longer feel alone or old fashioned when I am spending hours in the kitchen making food from scratch.