Saturday, October 31, 2009


Homestead dream complete! Remember the last year and a half when all I wanted to talk about was how plan B was to learn to make cheese on a mountain in New Hampshire? But I never did it? Then when I pined for classes at the cheesemaking institute at UVM that were about a thousand dollars above my budget? Those days are over.

As the internet testifies, making your own fresh cheese is pretty much the easiest thing in the world. All you need is some cheesecloth or old tights and a big container of milk. Here's for ricotta-- paneer and queso blanco are basically the same thing but unsalted and strained a bit more.

So here we go. Take half a gallon of pasteurized (not ultra pasteurized) whole milk and put it in a pot to boil. You want some space on top in case it boils and starts to foam, which happened one time I made this cheese but not the other. Enh. Anyway, if your pots are too small then just scale the "recipe" down accordingly.

Ok, when the milk is just thinking about boiling softly, stir in a tablespoon of salt and three tablespoons of lemon juice. Turn the heat down until the cheese starts to form curds. Yum, cheese curds! Don't stir, just let the milk simmer for 5 more minutes or so until the curds really separate and you can see the whey, which is watery and yellow.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and strain the cheese, pouring some cold water over the top to cool the curds and rinse off some of the lemon flavor. For soft ricotta, just a few minutes in the colander is plenty. For a firmer cheese that you can cut into blocks or crumble into tacos or what have you, tie up the cheesecloth and let it hang from your faucet for an hour or so.

Recipe for my bootleg palak paneer to follow, ricotta is delicious all by itself... or with some jam or honey.

Happy halloween, everybody!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

faux-roccan couscous

Well, RealSimple called this a one-pot lamb tagine, and it does have speed and balanced-meal-ness and one-pot-ness going for it. But apparently out here in la holla meat is crazy expensive and fish is cheap cheap cheap. It makes sense, but I was scandalized and cowtowed to the little voice within that says, "NO MORE MEAT." So I made this with seitan, and while I think that made it way less juicy, it also made it easier to freeze and transport to work, both good things. It probably does require a special trip to the grocery store to get some stuff, but again, knowing what you are going to eat in advance instead of eating SEVERAL CUPS OF HALF FROZEN COOKIE DOUGH is worth its weight in... uh, body fat. What have I done?!?!?

adapted from RealSimple Magazine

* 3 cups of so of bite-size-chopped seitan bits (pre-sauteed until browned) OR 2 1/2 pounds of browned lamb cut into chunks, your choice
* 1 teaspoon paprika
* 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
(I didn't have paprika and used "red curry powder" instead of cayenne, don't sweat the spices if you don't have them but the cinnamon and ginger are key)
* a glug of olive oil
* an onion, sliced
* 4 carrots, peel and cut into little pieces
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* about an inch of finely chopped fresh ginger
* zest of 1/2 lemon, grated and the juice of that lemon
* 1 32-ounce container low-sodium veg broth (or chicken, I guess)
* 1 10-ounce box couscous (Trader Joe's whole wheat couscous, will you marry me?)
* 3/4 cup black olives, cut into pieces
* 1/4 cup chopped dried fruit: I used cranberries and apricots

1. Fry up your onions with some salt and pepper and olive oil in a big ole' pan (seriously, BIG) or a pot until they are translucent and oniony, then add the carrots and cook until mostly tender, 15 minutes, let's say.
3. Throw the seitan bits in there, then add the spices, garlic, ginger, zest and lemon juice (just squeeze it right in there) and stir. Smells good, right?
4. Add the whole thing of broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Take your pot off the stove and let the couscous cook for about 10 minutes. Stir in the olives and fruit bits and serve!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

better seitan

Oh, snap! Doesn't our library look like a rocket ship about to take off? I think so, which is why I never spent any time there in case I get launched into space and it's like Rocket Man.

It's been too long, dear blog. My camera died again, but I managed to resuscitate it for a few shots from previous posts... I feel like text-only posts are kind of lame, but maybe they are less lame than watching videos of baby pandas having a physical exam at the zoo. Notice how I said videos plural. Yes.

Anyway, yeah, I made some food in the last month. No kidding, eh? My roommate baked 100 potatoes (literally!) for a BBQ and brought most of them home along with a good half-gallon of sour cream, so there were many hash browns and baked potatoes and borscht! Borscht that I ate for so many meals that I started to feel kind of like a Ukranian peasant... it was grim. Then I went to the bulk food store and bought all kinds of marvelous, dirt cheap grains with the intention of making all my food from the bulk aisles... before I realized that I was already all malrourished from 3 days of borscht consumption and eating nothing but bread was probably not a good call.

Anyway, I did buy vital wheat gluten and let me tell you, that stuff is so cheap. Most importantly, it taught me a way better way to make seitan than the previous seitan recipe on this site, for reals. But still with all the healthy-good-vibration feelings and ease-of-having-something-meaty-on-hand feelings.

Better seitan
Based on the recipe from the Post-Punk Kitchen

2 cups vital wheat gluten
a little less than 1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup veggie broth (or cold water)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tbs tomato paste or ketchup

+ the rest of the box/can of veggie broth.

Mix all those that stuff into a dough, then knead it for a few minutes. When you are bored, let it hang out for a sec while you fill a pot with COLD veggie broth + COLD water. If it is mostly water, throw in a little soy sauce. If it's mostly broth, you're all good.

Now plump your blob of fake meat dough (!) into a log shape and cut it into slices... put those in the broth and turn up the heat. After the broth boils, turn the heat down to a simmer and let it get all delicious for about an hour. Take it off the heat and let it cool.

To store: keep it in some of that brothy water in a tupperware in the fridge. I just had some that was fully two weeks old and it was delicious and I'm still here.
To use: take it out of the brothy water and wring it a little bit, then fry in olive oil until browned. Like, you know, meat. Seitan is delicious in sandwiches, tacos, stir-frys, etc. The stroganoff I made was nasty but I blame using a vegan recipe but not having any of the weird vegan stuff (yeast, arrowroot, wtf?) and just basically making some winey mushrooms with sour cream. Where was I? Oh yeah, seitan is mad versatile.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

granola bars

So much to report! California is madness, but I am (somehow) resisting the urge to eat nothing but rice bean & cheese burritos. I have been pretty busy in the kitchen, yes, but the best thing are these granola bars. They are so good I can't believe it. How many granola bars is too many? Three? Four? A whole batch? I started to just take the whole tupperware with me wherever I went, seriously. So here you go! The other thing that is awesome about granola bars is that you can make them with whatever you want and no matter how bad your allergies are (unless you're straight-up celiac, in which case you should buy special "no way in hell these are cross-contaminated" oats), if you make them yourself granola bars are a go. A cheap, portable, delicious go.

Lily's granola bars
Based on Alton Brown's recipe

4 cups oats (not instant)
1/2 cup honey (or agave, for you dirty hippies)
1/4 - 1/2 cup (brown) sugar (ditto)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup-ish chopped dried fruit (apricots, cranberries, figs, oh my!)
1/4 cup-ish nut, soy, or sunflower seed butter

In a 350 degree oven, toast the oats on a baking sheet.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized pot heat the sugar, salt and honey until the mixture is hot and gooey. When the oats smell toasty and are brown (15 min? Turn the oven down to 300!) add them + your fruit to the sweet stuff, and stir. It should be almost but not quite enough to get the whole mass to unite.

Glop in some nut/sunflower seed butter and stir.

Now line a loaf pan or cake pan with aluminum foil and press the oaty goodness in. When you think you've pressed enough, press more. Use another pan for even pressure, if you have one.

Now bake for 25 minutes. After you take them out, press some more! Now let the brick cool. Once it's cool you can break it into chunks and store in your cupboard (a week, if they make it) or the fridge (longer, but also less chewy) or the freezer (for self control).

Get creative! Do you have awesome additions? A kick-ass granola recipe? Let me know.