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We Made Mozzarella! 3

Posted on July 03, 2010 by crankycheryl

It was an early summer day and there in the cheese section was a bright and cheery box of ingredients put together by Ricki the Cheese Queen.  It was about $25, said it made 30 batches of mozzarella and/or ricotta and I had a little extra money and couldn’t resist.

So I got some milk, invited friends over and off we went.

We thought the boys would love making cheese, but the process turns out to be a lot of cooking and then touching hot things.  Instead they turned out to be more interested in this:

So we mom-types got a look at the ingredients in the box …

And then, repeating to myself, “pay attention, pay attention, — ooh look, a glass of wine! — pay attention,” we got started.

We learned this is really important before you start:

  1. You can use raw (if you’re a fan) or pasteurized – but not ultra-pasteurized – milk.
  2. Get thee some chlorine-free water, either by buying filtered or letting your chlorinated water sit uncovered for a few hours to let the chlorine evaporate.  I don’t know why this matters but the Queen hath spoken.

We dissolved 1/4 rennet tablet in 1/4 c. of that chlorine-free water.

Then mixed the citric acid in with 1 c. more chlorine-free water.

Then we poured the milk into a big stainless steel pot, stirred in the citric acid, and heated the milk to 90F.  First it looks like this:

And then before I knew it, it looked like this.  This was definitely the first time I’ve ever been excited to see curdled milk, and the first time I can remember ever considering that “curdled” doesn’t mean “went bad” but does in fact mean “form curds as if to make cheese.”  Awesome.

Then it was time to stir in the dissolved rennet.  Ricki’s instructions say to stir with “an up and down motion,” and I have no idea what the hell that means since I’m pretty sure that stirring means something that happens in a circular fashion.  So I stirred, making sure to sort of fold the top part of the stuff into the bottom part of the stuff and hoped that was good enough.

Then it was time to cover the pot, leave it alone, and wait five minutes.

After 5 minutes, it was supposed to look like a custard, with the liquid (whey) separated from the curds.  It didn’t look like custard, and the whey was pretty milky looking (apparently not desirable), so the lid went back on for 5 more minutes.  Then it looked better.

We were supposed to next cut the curds in a sort of grid fashion, but ours were not so solid that they were really able to be sliced, so we stirred it around.

Then the pot went back on the stove to stir and to heat the proto-cheese to 115F while stirring, then stirred it off the heat for a few minutes more.

There is no picture of this.

Then Her Majesty said to “drain the whey” off of the curds, which seemed a little crazy because the whole thing was mostly liquid.  We poured it over a strainer instead.

Next a big pot of water got heated to 185F, and then the curds get dipped in and stirred around.  This was super-exciting because they quickly start to melt and look an awful lot like mozzarella.  Then there’s more dipping and folding and dipping and folding and stretching, some adding salt and herbs and before we knew it we had some cheese.

There’s no picture of this because I was dipping and folding and adding salt.  But look:  video!

We thought, “Why not bocconcini?”  so after it was thoroughly cheese-like we started forming those.  They were hard to get round and it was hard to make them without lumps and bumps and seams.  But by then we were on our second glasses of wine so we pressed bravely ahead.  We mixed up some garlic and olive oil and kosher salt and Annie chopped up some basil from the garden to marinate our little mini mozzarellitas.

And we threw together some edible flowers and greens and currants and thawed some biscuits from the freezer and turned it into dinner.

It was lovely, and I’m happy to report that every day since then Z. has asked for homemade cheese.  And it will most definitely be coming.

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Beet, Fennel & Goat Cheese Crostini 2

Posted on June 25, 2010 by crankycheryl

Well, not crostini exactly since the bread isn’t crisp.  Maybe canape, but they anyway were what I brought to a veggie potluck this week.  I skipped the crisping because I always kind of hate the inevitable crumble and collapse of bruschetta and crostini after you take one bite and before you know it you’re dripping tomato cubes and apologizing to the hostess about the carpet.

Not only was I taking such care of my future co-eaters, but then I felt myself simpering with smugness about being able to combine thawed roasted beets from the freezer, fresh snipped fennel fronds from the garden, a Brie-like goat cheese from our CSA share, and apricot preserves from last year.

Character flaws aside, what’s really nice about these is that they can be an inspiration for all sorts of summer eating.  A piece of good bread, crisped or not, a slice or schmear of cheese, a tart and fruity something on top, and a sprig of some fresh herb or other – lots of possibilities.   I made this version thinking about how the different kinds of sweetness of beets, apricots, and fennel would play with the creamy cheese on baguette.  But you of course will adapt it to use what you’ve got around.

Beet, Fennel & Goat Cheese Canapes
About 25 pieces

Arrange on a platter:

  • 25 (or whatever) thin slices of baguette, lightly brushed with
  • extra virgin olive oil (you’ll need about 2 T.)

Place on bread:

  • 1 slice Caprella, Camembert, Brie, or any soft cheese you like

Set bread aside.

Combine and puree in a blender, or a bowl that will accommodate an immersion blender:

  • 1/4 c. apricot (or other fruit) preserves
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. sherry (or other mild) vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • pinch sugar

Pour dressing into a medium bowl.

Cut into small dice:

  • 2 c. worth roasted beets (or plum, peach, apricot, melon, tomato, etc.)

Combine dressing and beets or fruit with:

  • 2 T. finely chopped fennel fronds (or basil, lemon balm, nasturtium leaves)

Place a heaping teaspoon of the beet mixture on top of the bread and cheese and top with:

  • 1 small sprig of your chosen herb.
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Rhubarb Cake & 5-Minute Apple Pie Ice Cream 0

Posted on May 19, 2010 by crankycheryl

Why am I making sweets during a week that includes Restaurant Week, a foodie tour with a food-blogger who just moved to the area, AND our elementary school’s biggest sugarfest of the year?  Just no self-control around here at all, I tell you.

Still, the freezer clean-out continues while the local farmers are showing up with great fresh food and what’s a food-loving mom to do?

So it was 5-Minute Ice Cream with:

  • 12 oz. apple pie filling from the freezer (you could freeze your own if there’s none lurking in yours)
  • 2/3 c. soy milk
  • 2 T. maple syrup

And it was Rhubarb Coffee Cake from the FarmPlate blog, using Champlain Valley Mill pastry flour, and olive oil for all but 3 T. of the butter.  (That’s Glenn Russell from the Free Press in the background beside E. eating his lunch.   Glenn was over to get a shot of a local food blogger in action.  E. insisted he also get a picture of his 2-hot dog, 3-strawberry lunch – we’ll see what makes the cut.)

And now for more eating.

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Rhubarb Baklava for CoHousing 2

Posted on April 30, 2010 by crankycheryl

What I probably should have made was strudel.   Sticky soft things do not go into baklava.  Nutty, crunchy, crumbly, sweet: yes.  Gooey and tart: no.

But today it was my turn to make the meal for our cohousing neighbors and I found myself stunned with spring sunshine and a taste for fresh food.  There was dessert to consider.  What if I made something with rhubarb?  But not a cake, and I didn’t feel like custard, and I wanted something to go with the Greek veggie burgers I was making.   Baklava is actually so easy to make, and why not with rhubarb?  Why not maple?

One of the great things about living in cohousing is that my neighbors tend to be an adventurous sort.  There are hard things too, of course, because we’re a feisty and passionate bunch.  But we’re very, very good at eating food around here, at trying new things, especially when they’re sweetened.  So why not rhubarb baklava?  I couldn’t think of a good reason.

Rhubarb Baklava
about 40 gooey pieces

Defrost 1 box of phyllo dough according to package directions.

Place in a heavy pot, bring to a boil, and then cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes or until very soft:

  • 2 lbs. rhubarb, chopped into 3/4″ pieces
  • 2 cups maple syrup

Strain the rhubarb very well, saving the liquid.

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix together in a medium bowl and place aside:

  • 6 C. chopped walnuts
  • 2 T. maple syrup
  • 1 t. of ground cinnamon

Pour into a small bowl:

  • 1/2 c. olive oil

Have a pastry brush ready.

Oil the bottom and sides of a large baking pan, at least 10 x 15. Place a sheet of phyllo in the pan and brush with a little oil.   Allow any overlap to hang out the sides. Repeat until there are 4 sheets on the bottom.

Spread one half the nut mixture across the phyllo, then repeat the layers of phyllo and oil until 8 more sheets are on the top.  Spoon the drained rhubarb on the top, then cover with 4 layers of phyllo and oil.  Spread the remaining nut mixture, and then place the remaining sheets of phyllo on top with olive oil brushed between.  Do not oil the top sheet.

Score the pastry in pieces using a razor blade, and follow up with a sharp knife, cutting all the way through. To make triangles: cut the pastry into squares, then, cut squares in half diagonally to make triangles.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden.  While it’s baking, heat the reserved syrup.

As soon as the baklava comes out of the oven, pour 2 cups of the hot syrup carefully over the entire pan.  It will crackle as it absorbs.  This is one of the most exciting parts of making the whole thing so be sure to take a moment for a satisfied grin.  But don’t burn yourself.

Allow the baklava to cool thoroughly and absorb the syrup before serving (at least 3-4 hours).  It’ll be a little goopy, but neither you nor your eaters will mind.

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When in Doubt: Fritters 3

Posted on April 23, 2010 by crankycheryl

We were out to dinner the other night and a friend pulled a couple of crinkly plastic bags out of her purse.  She had a share of a wild-crafting CSA, and declared that she needed some help “appreciating” the coltsfoot and sedum with which she had been gifted that week.

We nibbled at bites, furrowed our brows, and concluded that frying was the answer.  Definitely frying.

Two days later, Z. and I were having our usual Monday at home and it was time for breakfast when I stumbled on the bags in the fridge.  Fritter time.

So I beat together until smooth:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 c. white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt

And then stirred in a cup or so of the mixed wild stuff.

Then heated up in a large skillet until it was slightly rippling:

  • 1 T. butter
  • 1 T. olive oil

Then poured the whole mix in, and let it sit until the underside was set and the top was starting to bubble, when it got flipped.

Then I cut it into wedges and ate half of it. It was really good – the coltsfoot has a sort of cumin-like taste that I found delicious.  The sedum tasted most like wilted thick spinach, pretty green but unoffensive.

And this is when the really startling thing happened.  Z. was watching Sid the Science Kid when he started wrinkling up his little nose and said, “I smell something yummy, Mommy!”  Hmm.  I asked if he wanted some.  I gave him a little slice, which he promptly devoured.  And then he ate the rest!  Hardly picking out the greens at all!

Truth be told, I’m still a little stunned.

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Dandelion Greens, Potato & Egg Breakfast 0

Posted on April 09, 2010 by crankycheryl

The spring greens are up and I am a weed-picking fool.  Would you join me please?  Seriously – just go outside and pick a pile of dandelion greens before the flowers bloom and leave thgreens terribly bitter.  Then you’ll wash them very carefully.  Maybe even a soak in a water-bath with 1/4 c. of white vinegar in it.  Keep rinsing and soaking until they’re clean enough for you. (Over here, that was 4 times.)

Then you can go ahead and make yourself a breakfast worthy of a spring celebration.

Dandelion Greens, Potato, & Egg Breakfast, with or without Bacon
Serves 2

Wash repeatedly until clean:

  • 4 – 6 c. dandelion greens

If you want to eat bacon, cook until desired crispness and then remove from pan:

  • (For a vegetarian version heat 3 T. olive oil until rippling)

Cut:

  • 2 large potatoes into medium cube.

Saute in oil or cook in bacon grease over medium high heat, until browned, then cover pan with a lid and cook for about 20 minutes or until done.

Add to pan and cook until greens are wilted:

  • those dandelion greens you washed so well
  • generous sprinkle of kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Scramble and then add to pan:

  • 4 large eggs

(Vegan? Mash up and add  1 package of firm tofu instead.)

Cook until eggs are done (or tofu is heated through).  Scramble together.  If using bacon, crumble and mix in.  Serve with your favorite hot sauce.

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200th Blog Post! Deviled Eggs Three Ways 2

Posted on April 05, 2010 by crankycheryl

[4/8/10 — This picture was included in the march of gorgeous spring holiday food over at Photograzing.  If you too are a lover of food-porn take a look!]

I’d like to nominate deviled eggs for the next food craze.  They’re cute, only slightly naughty, portable, adaptable, and individually sized.  What’s not to love?

For our annual Easter brunch-egg hunt extravaganza, I wanted something simple, special and spring-like and this is what we got.  They went fast, and I think I’ve found my brunch potluck standby for the season.

Do remember that the freshest eggs are harder to peel.  If you have time to think ahead, get the eggs you’re likely to want for this a week or so before you make them.

Deviled Eggs Three Ways
yield: 36 halves

Boil eggs your favorite way, or else try this technique that allegedly preserves more of their protein and other nutrients.

Place in cold water to cover by at least an inch:

  • 18 room temperature eggs

Bring water just to a boil, stir vigorously once or twice, then cover and turn off.  Let sit for 20 minutes. (I’ll admit that I often let them sit for an extra 5 to ensure they’re done.)

Prepare a platter by rinsing and arranging:

  • about 4 c. torn lettuce or mesclun salad on a large platter

Cool the eggs by plunging into a bowl of cold water with some ice in it.  Peel, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the yolks into a medium bowl.  Add to the yolks:

  • 3/4 c. mayonnaise
  • 2 T. yellow or other fairly mild mustard

Beat with an electric mixer until very creamy and smooth.

Using a spoon or pastry bag, fill 24 of the egg white halves with the yolk mixture.  To the remaining yolk mixture add:

  • 2 – 3 T. pesto (I used the local Bella Pesto I picked up at a recent winter farmer’s market, which was incredibly fabulous), depending on how strong and green you want the flavor and color.

Fill the remaining 12 egg halves with the pesto mixture.

Slice or rip into 12 small square-ish pieces:

  • 1 1/2 oz. good quality smoked salmon

Curve into a small roll and tuck next to the yolk mixture in 12 egg halves.  Place next to each salmon piece:

  • 1 caper per egg

Serve, and watch ’em go.

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Spring Fever Weekend 0

Posted on April 01, 2010 by crankycheryl

This is the time of year when I always reflect on having a non-existent religious upbringing.

Spring celebrations in my family meant a new Easter dress (I have no idea why since we weren’t going anywhere but am sure I insisted on it), matzo, gefilte fish (I liked the Manichewitz stuff from the jar – what can I tell you?), and an Easter basket with marzipan fruit and a chocolate rabbit in it.

But no matter what we believe, doesn’t this time of year just demand a celebration?  The mud and the returning birds, the fuzzy buds just starting to emerge on the trees, and the tulips’ leaves reaching for the light.  Every day a bit more sunlight and some other animal or plant awakens.  The garden is calling and already the days of snowsuits are passing.  Every year, these spring days are their own renewing miracle.

Z. and I were driving around last week, and he asked me what Easter was.  I started talking about spring and how people have celebrated the Earth’s waking up from winter for thousands of years, and I talked about how half of our family is Jewish and how the Jewish people celebrate surviving a really hard time during Passover and I mentioned the seders we’ve been to, and then I talked about how Christian people believe that this is when Jesus Christ came back to life and that that’s a very important holiday for them.  I was pretty sure that I had talked entirely too much, when Z. said:

“Mommy – I know the true meaning of Easter.  The true meaning of Easter is an ogre in a bunny suit and he gives candy to kids.  He loves kids!”

“Loves like to eat, or to play with?,” I wanted to know.

“That’s silly!  Who would he have to play with and give candy to if he ate the kids.”  [disbelieving giggle]

I’m pretty sure he didn’t get this in his pre-school class at our Unitarian Church, but who knows?

And we’re gearing up for the weekend.  Today I’m shopping for ingredients for a flock of assorted macaroons:

I can’t promise that they’ll all be free of crazy flavors.  I’m having a minor obsession with the idea of orange and star anise in the maple, though I’m sure I should restrain myself.

And then there will be colored eggs and deviled eggs and a potluck brunch and an egg hunt and Easter baskets that contain marzipan though neither boy likes it.

And then there’s the matter of finding the ogre and a bunny suit that will fit him so he can join us as we cavort in the mud.

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Maple-Ginger-Bacon Blondies for the Maple Cook-Off 2

Posted on March 29, 2010 by crankycheryl

UVM decided to host a cook-off to celebrate the launch of their library’s new Maple Research Website and, what the heck – I hadn’t entered any contests since last year so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

The categories were Savory, Sweet & Judges’ Choice, and the criteria were simple: Appearance (25%), Taste (50%), and Use of Maple (25%).  I liked the straight-forwardness, and think it’s a nicely democratic approach that encourages all sorts of folks to participate.  There was music and Island Ice Cream and a cool tasting table set up where you could try your hand at identifying the mineral content of the soil upon which various saps were grown.  (I didn’t try, though I was geekily tantalized by a geological thrust on the terroir of maple syrup – why is Vermont’s product so good?  Maybe it’s because of our dirt’s mineral content.)

The competition was good-natured but serious.  There were around 30 entries, a few from UVM students, from local restaurants and bakers, and from local folks and families.  The mix was a great snapshot of the food-world of Vermont, with beautiful, sculptural entries like individual Maple Cheesecakes with Maple-Caramel Glaze alongside traditional humble fare like Maple Baked Beans and Butternut Cake with Maple Meringue frosting.  My personal favorite was a pork tenderloin with maple-habanero glaze.

I’m sorry I didn’t get more pictures, but you can imagine the stampede when they let guests help themselves after the judges had been through.  Here were some of the entries I was able to snap before we hordes descended with forks.

The music played, the judges sampled, E. & Z. ended up sticky and covered with frosting and finally sat staring into space, unsure how they had been allowed to consume so many sweet treats.  Then the winning entries were announced: Maple Pulled-Pork Sliders, excellent looking wraps with meat and root vegetables called The Beef Explosion (long gone before I could get one), Maple Baked Beans, and Maple Bars (didn’t get one of these either).

It was an opportunity to teach the boys about how to act when we lose.  After I coached them on applauding and congratulation, Z. told me, “Mommy, when we lose I’m just going to say, ‘phooey,’ quietly like this: phooey.”

Yeah, phooey, but yum.

Maple-Ginger Blondies with Maple Glaze, Nuts & Crispy Bacon

2 dozen

Butter 9 x 13 pan and set aside.

Melt together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until nicely blended:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 c. brown sugar


Let cool for a few minutes then beat in until well-combined:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/3 c. pumpkin puree


Sift in:

  • 1 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. powdered ginger

Put into prepared pan.  Bake for 25 minutes, then cool on rack completely

In the meantime, prepare the glaze and topping:

Cook until crisp then crumble and place aside:

  • 6 slices thick cut bacon

Very coarsely chop:

  • 1/2 c. maple-roasted or salted nuts

Make glaze. Sift:

  • 2 cups confectioners sugar

Beat in on high speed:

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 T. maple syrup
  • 1 T. milk

Adjust by adding more confectioners sugar, or milk, until thick but pourable. Once blondies have cooled, spread with glaze, top with nuts and bacon and serve.


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Steamed Buns 3

Posted on March 10, 2010 by crankycheryl

How often does life remind you of the old New Yorker cartoon of the man sitting at his desk, looking at his calendar and saying “How about never?  Is never good for you?” into his phone?  This is how it feels to try to schedule dumpling-tasting events.  And I do intend to schedule them, because I will honor my pledge to try every dumpling in Burlington in 2010 … no matter how the itineraries of the world try to foil me.

And while I’ve been working to get our next event on the calendar, I thought I’d give steamed buns a try.    The ones we had at Joyce’s were just so very delicious, kind of uber-dumplings, really.  I got a look at a couple of recipes and gave it a whirl.

I almost always find the recipes over at About.com reliable, so I used theirs for the dough.

Then I came across Joyce’s filling recipe, which she had sent me after our visit there:

Mix together in a medium bowl:

  • 1/2 lb minced pork meat
  • 1 c. finely chopped Chinese Napa cabbage
  • 4 scallions, cut into small rounds
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. soy sauce
  • 1 t. sesame oil
  • 2 t. chopped fresh garlic (not in Joyce’s recipe, but I felt compelled to put it in)

I found the dough nice to work with by hand, so I skipped the rolling pin and flattened each small piece into discs by hand on a floured cutting board and then placed a spoonful of the topping on each.  (Start with a teaspoonful and work from there.  You won’t get good coverage if you overstuff so err on the stingy side.)  Fold over two opposite sides to meet in the middle and pinch together.   The dough should be sticky enough that it sticks easily; if not, place a little bit of cold water in a small bowl and put a small dab along the edges of the dough.

Pick up the bun, and pinch the open sides together, squeezing all around to make sure you have it well sealed.

Repeat for the remaining dough and filling, keeping the finished ones on a plate or cutting board that’s well-floured.  When all are formed, start water boiling in a steamer.  I am the lucky recent recipient of a big-ass Chinese steamer, but you can use any steamer-insert pot or insert in a pot as long as it’s nice and level.

When the water reaches a boil, line the steamer with cabbage leaves to prevent the buns from sticking.  Don’t use purple cabbage, which will turn your buns blue, and obliterate any chance of your seven-year old trying the buns.

Steam for about 25 minutes.  Don’t peek early and release the nice heat and steam that will have built up.  The buns will be nicely puffed up and the meat will be cooked through when done.

To serve, cut a little slit in the top of each bun, and drizzle a tiny bit of:

  • white or rice vinegar
  • soy sauce in each.

And I don’t mean to brag, and it may be unrelated, but two days after 4-year old Z. polished off 5 of these, he presented me  with a World’s Best Cooker trophy made of an empty play-do container and a crayon.   Give ’em a whirl and let me know how it goes in your house.

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    Cheryl Herrick's brave Vermont quest to bring together food-love and mom-life. All original content (written, graphical, recipes or other), unless otherwise noted, is © and/or TM Cheryl Herrick. All rights reserved by the author. Want to reprint a recipe? Just get in touch and ask.

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