homestead how-to {queso blanco}

Better known as: The easiest cheese recipe EVER.

Cheese, the oh so beloved dairy-licious decadence that with the exception of the vegans and lactose intolerant among us, tops the charts as one of our favorite foodstuffs. Baked mac n cheese with farmhouse cheddar, made from scratch blueberry cheesecake, PIZZA! And then there is the sweet simplicity of a fresh chunk of mozzarella and homegrown tomato wrapped in a leaf of just plucked windowsill basil. Mouth watering, yeah? You betcha!

For most of us modern day mamas (or papas), a truly delectable cheese is as close as the nearest grocery store gourmet counter, depending of course, on the size of your bank account. But for the adventurous among us, I offer up an alternative. Grab a gallon of whole milk and a good cooking pot, and let’s make some cheese!

The first time I felt the smooth stretch of warm mozzarella between my hands, I was awestruck. Seriously? I am doing this? I made homemade pizza that day. Everything from scratch or grown from the garden. I felt like the most awesome person EVER. And I was rewarded with happy tummys and complements at my table. Take out? Take that! Eat your heart out Digiorno! There is a deep satisfaction from homemade. Try it and let me know what you think.

This week in our Homestead How-To (a new category of awesomeness I’m trying to incorporate into the blog), we’re going to make Queso Blanco, by far the easiest cheese in my opinion, as the only ingredients are whole milk and white vinegar (or apple cider vinegar if you like).

Here’s a complete list: 1 gallon WHOLE milk. 1/4 cup vinegar. *A dairy thermometer. A large stainless steel cooking pot. A strainer. A wooden spoon. **Cheesecloth. (Optional: Salt and/or fresh or dried herbs). The entire process takes about 4 hours and will yield approximately 1 pound of cheese. Alright! Let’s do it!

homemade cheese folkways farm

1.) Gather your supplies. 2.) Pour your milk into your pot and place over medium low heat. You want your milk to heat slowly and gradually to reach a desired temperature of 180 degrees. It takes about an hour when given the patience to be done right. Stir every so often with a wooden spoon to distribute heat evenly and to prevent scalding. 3.) When your milk reaches 180 degrees, turn off the heat. * If you do not have a dairy thermometer, turn off the pot when the milk starts to foam a little, just before you think it’s going to boil. You DO NOT want it to boil. 4.) Slowly add your vinegar and gently stir with your wooden spoon. You should see the curds start to separate from the whey. 5.) Let sit a few minutes. 6.) Very carefully (as it is HOT) pour your curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. If you want to save your whey (which I recommend because it is the cat’s meow as a substitute for milk in baked goods) place another large pot under the colander. **If you do not have cheesecloth you can use a cotton t-shirt. Clean obviously. Just cut it at the seams and use the same way. Come on, you must have an old cotton shirt laying around. 7.) Pull up the edges and ring out to expel the main part of the whey. 8.) Transfer back to your cooking pot and hang from any surface that can comfortably fit the pot and bag of cheese. I use a magnet on the hood of my stove. Easy and convenient, but use your imagination. Let strain for about 3 hours. Less time will give you a wetter cheese, more will give you a firmer cheese. 9.) Yum! Unwrap from the cheese cloth and place in a resealable container to refrigerate. It will keep up to a week cold. Not that it lasts that long.

Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy this cheese:

fresh goat cheese and jam folkways farmMix it with jam. Strawberry is my favorite. Just chop up the cheese and swirl it together with your desired amount of jam for sweetness. Use it on crackers or as a dip for apples or celery.

Grill it. Yep, you heard me right. This cheese has a very high melting point, so you can actually place it directly on your skillet or grill with a little oil or butter. Makes a great snack with a bit of salt or seasoning, and an excellent Indian Paneer.

Form it into balls and roll into fresh or dried herbs. My favorites are fresh dill and garlic, or chives, parsley and dill. But I’m always open to suggestions so if you find a favorite way to enjoy this cheese, please share! If you find a combo that you love and know that’s how you want to season the whole thing, add your salt and herbs after you pour it into your cheesecloth, while the whey is still nice and liquidy. Then give it a good stir with your spoon before it strains all the way.

FYI~ I used fresh raw goat milk. I have never used store bought or cows milk to make this cheese. I would love to know how yours turns out! If you try it, please let me know in the comments.

Good Eats (Bread Pudding)

 

{Good Eats #4}

Bread Pudding

*Feel free to add your own mixins’ to suit your taste or fancy!

Folk Ways Farm Bread Pudding

I used leftover loaves from my baking last week. Feel free to use any kind of bread you have. Just tear it into chunks and leave it out for a day to get crusty. I would guesstimate 4-6 cups of bread.

Butter a 2 quart casserole dish and throw in your bread bits. Scatter over the top the following (or create your own concoction: 1/2 cup date pieces, 1/2 cup dried apple pieces, 1/3 cup shredded coconut, 1 cup chocolate chips (I do this so Daisy will eat it), & a small handful of flax seeds.

Whisk together in a bowl: 4 large eggs, 3 cups milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg & a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture over the bread and let stand for 30 minutes, occasionally pressing down the mixture to help it absorb the liquid. Bake in a 350 degree preheated oven for about 55 minutes or until a fork comes out clean. If desired, serve warm with ice cream, whipped cream, or a caramel sauce. Yum. Or, like the photo above, slice into a hot buttered skillet until toasted and drizzle with maple syrup.

puddingmix

Good Eats (Kale Paneer)

{Good Eats #3}

Saag Paneer (w/ Kale) & Homemade Naan Bread

We love Indian food, and I do it justice fairly often. This was my first hand at Saag though. I didn’t have spinach, but thought that kale would substitute nicely. Although the texture would be different, the taste would still be divine.

I was a little nervous about Naan. I’d heard it just couldn’t be done without a Tandoori oven. (I think that’s what it’s called.) They SLAP it against the side of the super HOT pit. They took us back into the kitchen at our local Indian spot, Little Nepal (Go there. Yum.) and showed us the process. Way cool.

But with a little help from Joy of Cooking, I got a boost of confidence. Here you go:

For the Naan: Combine in a large bowl, 2 cups flour (I used a mixture of og white and wheat), 1/2 tsp of salt, 1 & 1/8 tsp active dry yeast. In another bowl, mix: 3/4 cup yogurt at room temp., 2 tbsp melted butter, 1 tsp to 1 tbsp water as needed. Add this to your flour mixture.

Mix by hand until a soft ball is formed. Knead for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 to 2 hours. (It won’t double like bread. Don’t worry.)

Punch down your dough and then divide it into 4 balls. Cover and let rest while you prepare your Saag.

Folk Ways Farm

Saag Paneer: Make your cheese: Bring 4 cups whole milk to 185-190 degrees, or just before a gentle boiling point, stirring often so as not to scald your pot. Remove from the heat and add 3 tbsp lemon juice. Stir gently. Let stand 5 minutes. Pour through a fine cheese cloth and set over a bowl or hang to drain. (Save your whey for future baking) When it’s cool enough to handle, squeeze as much whey out as possible, then press flat on a plate and cover with another plate. Place some weight on the top and let stand for 20 minutes.

Prepare your kale. Separate the leaves from the stems of and chop leaves into small pieces. (Chop up the stems and give them to the chickens or compost bin) and emerge them in a bowl of cold water. Drain and then do it again. This is a great way to remove soil from all greens. Drain and set aside.

The Naan Preheat over to 450 degrees. Place your oven rack on the lowest setting and if you have a pizza stone, place that in the oven now. Roll out each ball into an oval shape. Melt 1-2 tbsp butter and rub onto the top of each flat piece. Place as many ovals onto the pizza stone as will fit without touching. Bake for 6 minutes, or just beginning to golden and puff. Remove and fold in half. Wrap the bread in a towel to keep warm until the Saag is done.

Back to the Cheese: Remove the weights and the plate and cut the cheese into 1/2 inch cubes. Heat 1/4 oil in a skillet and add 1 tsp of cumin seeds, partially crushed, stir lightly for about 15 seconds. Add the cheese and toss to coat. Shake the skillet every now and then until the cubes are golden brown. About 5 minutes or so. Remove the cheese and set aside. Add 1 medium onion, thinly sliced, to the pan. Stir until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add your kale, a little at a time, until wilted, then add some more until you’ve gone through all of it. Cover until it is well wilted. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt. Cook, uncovered, until most of the water is evaporated. Fold in the fried cheese and serve hot over cooked brown rice. (I usually make 1 & 1/2 cups of dry rice to 3 cups water for this dish.) Don’t forget your Naan! Enjoy!

Folk Ways Farm

Good Eats (Lavender Lemonade)

{Good Eats #2}

Lavender Lemonade

Folk Ways Farm Lavender Lemonade

I kept seeing these lemons on the counter, and besides the regular use of hummus making or soft cheese, I wanted to do something different. It’s summer. It’s definitely Lemonade season!

I love Lavender. LOVE. And so wanted to try to mingle the 2 in a passionate taste bud embrace. Mission accomplished.

Bring to a gentle boil, 1 half gallon of filtered water.Turn off the heat and add, 1/2 cup of Organic Lavender buds. Let steep 1 hour. Squeeze the juice out of 4-6 lemons, not minding the seeds or pulp, right into the pot of steeped Lavender. Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of sugar, depending on your sweet tooth and mix well.

Strain mixture into 2 half gallon glass Mason jars, filling both up half way, and then fill both up with filtered water. Mix well. You may choose to add a sprig of mint or basil to the jars to add a nice subtle flavor. Refrigerate and ENJOY!

*Tip* ~I used my milk strainer because it fits so well into my mason jars, but you can use a coffee filter or maybe even cheese cloth. You might have to scoop out the pulp every now and then to keep it draining.

Something pretty for a party or summertime treat would be to freeze lavender buds, berries, or sprigs of mint in ice cube trays, and serve them in your lemonade glasses! Lovely!

 

Good Eats (Granola)

Friday is for food. As I continue to try and wrap my head around this whole blogging thing, I’m working on some regular themes that are almost second nature. Filling our bellies is one of those things. It is not an after thought. Food is on the front line and nourishment is key. I’m really proud of the cook I am becoming, and I’d like to share a recipe every now and again. So Fridays are for good food. I hope you enjoy.

{Good Eats #1}

As always with my cooking, I use a handful of this, a pinch of that. Play with the recipes I offer. Never feel like you have to follow exactly. I’m certain I never do.

Granola

granolaWho isn’t a fan of good ol’ fashioned oats? I know I am. And I usually have them in abundance. The former hippie in me is also a big fan of granola. Yum. Here’s my most recent endeavor, modified from a recipe I found in The Homemade Pantry.

Preheat oven to 250*F. Position rack in the top setting.

Combine well: 10 cups old fashioned rolled oats, a handful of each (my handful is around 1/2 cup): sesame seeds, flax seeds, sliced almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, add 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1.5 tsp cinnamon.

granola3

Mix together in a small bowl, 3/4 cup of melted butter (1.5 sticks), 1 cup Grade B maple syrup, 1.5 tsp each of vanilla and almond extract. Add wet to dry and mix until well coated.

Pour onto 2 parchment covered baking sheets in a relatively even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, shuffle around and turn the trays, bake for another 30 minutes, repeat once more. Turn off the oven but leave the granola in for a couple hours (if you can bear to wait) and then enjoy with some yogurt or milk. Store extra in covered container. I doubt it will last long if you love granola as much as we do, but just in case, it stores well for about 3 weeks. If you don’t think you’ll go through it all, cut the recipe in half, or share some with your neighbor. :)

granola2

Best One Yet!

So I gave up on trying to make my dough in the round and just fit it onto an oiled foil on my baking sheet. Turned out to be my best homemade pizza yet! Oh my YUM!

Spinach, tomato, garlic, feta & white cheddar.

Spinach, tomato, garlic, feta & white cheddar.

ode to pot pie

Enveloped in your flaky crust and steaming fresh from the oven,
your scent melts my taste buds open…

Oh, yes, y’all. I am under the decision of late that this scrumptious wonder may indeed be the perfect meal. I mean, you can make a Pot Pie out of anything! I am reminded at this moment of the scene from The Cat in the Hat movie where they’re in the kitchen making cupcakes. If you’ve seen it, the words are playing over in your mind (anything? anything!).

Anyway, :) the key to an awesome pie, is an awesome pie crust. Am I right, or am I right? I’ll toss in my recipe at the bottom of this post, in case you’re interested. Once you have your crust, let the fun begin. It’s the perfect opportunity to use up those veggies that are almost chicken food, or that leftover chicken and rice from dinner a few nights ago. Oh, yeah! Throw it all in. Of course, you’re welcome to start from scratch with an idea or a recipe and buy fresh ingredients to suit your needs. But let’s face it, we’re all looking for ways to use the produce that we forgot about in the crisper.

Once you have your veggies (and meat if desired) in your pie dish, pour in a can of cream soup mixed up with a cup of broth. Anything will do. I like to use cream of mushroom or celery because I’m a vegetarian. If you don’t have a can of soup on hand, you can always mix up some creamy gravy with milk, flour, butter and maybe some onions and herbs for flavoring.

All that’s left is to cover it with a top layer of crust, pinch the edges, and throw it in the oven! Presto! Awesome homemade goodness that your family will salivate over. Heck, I just made one 2 nights ago, and I already want another!

My Favorite Pie Crust Recipe (adapted from Mother Earth News):
(Cold is key! The colder the better so put your flour, water, mixing bowl and whisk in the freezer about 15-30 minutes prior to mixing.)

2 cups COLD flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp crushed rosemary (optional, but SO worth it)
6 oz COLD chopped butter (a stick and a half)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 cup ICE water, as needed

*Whisk flour, rosemary and salt in a large bowl. Using your hands, begin to cut in butter until your mixture begins to look like coarse sand or at least until there are no butter pieces larger than peas left.
*Sprinkle in vinegar and 1/2 the water. Form the dough into a thick ball that barely holds together. Add a tbsp of water at a time just enough for it to stick together and then press into a circle flattened to about 3/4 inch thick. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least an hour.
*Unwrap dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thick. You may need to let it thaw for 5-10 minutes first. Ease pressure as you come to the edges. Butter the pie pan and line with the dough. Trim off the excess and roll out again to use as the pie cover.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until golden brown.

how to make a great salad

I know what you’re thinking. Salad? Seriously? How hard is it to make a salad?

And you’re right. It’s not. I’m just sharing, is all. Because I am The salad maker of the household (though the husband’s gettin’ pretty darn good). And we don’t tolerate no measly side salads ’round these parts.

So… without further ado:

Grab some greens and wash ‘em up. Any kind of greens will do. Except of course the harder winter greens, but that’s another post for another time. Preferably these greens come from your backyard or local farmer’s market, and of course, organic is ideal. (Bring on the bugs! Just don’t linger or you’ll get squished.)

Here's what landed in mine tonight: Og greenleaf, beets, carrots, radishes, red and green onions, blueberries, and good white chedder. Yum!

Open up your fridge and take out all edible produce. Especially what might be going (waste not want not), but is still hanging in there pre-chicken scrap. Chop up said produce. Throw on top of greens.

If you have any nuts, seeds, dried fruits, etc., throw those babies on, too.

Toss with your favorite dressing. Tada. Side salad my foot. That’s a meal, folks.

P.S. Don’t be nervous about mixing in what might not be a “normal” salad fixing. Just do it. I’ve had my best salads with just such random ingredients. Betcha won’t regret it!

good eating

I know that I said I’d be posting menus and recipes awhile back. If you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a bit of a procrastinator with all things computer. For one thing, it’s Summer. We’re outside DOING, for another, that little bug of mine has some aversion to me stepping anywhere near the office.

Even now, I’m not lingering. I’m recording. I wrote this blog earlier on a pad at work and now I’m just typing it out. Not very sustainable I know, the whole wasted paper and all. But it’ll be used to start a fire later or something. Maybe line the chicken coop. Or… just straight to the recycle bin. :(

So what have we been eating? Last night, dinner consisted of heaping greens from the farmers market piled with just sprouted beans (remember the photo?), green and red onions, carrots and a homemade maple mustard dressing, served with a side of toasted bread with soft fresh goat cheese. Mouth watering, yes? Yes.

Earlier in the week I made curried lentil and sweet potato stew, black bean quesos, tomato and basil linguine, more salad, spinach and feta frittatas, and an open faced baguette type sandwich thing with fresh bread. Not too shabby.

For my recipe, I’m going to share a favorite lasagna that I like making when we have dinner guests. I made it a few weeks ago.

************************************************************************************************************************************************

*Harvest Lasagna

Harvest Lasagna

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and cut a large butternut squash (probably around 1.5 – 2lbs) into thin slices and place it in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until squash has softened. Remove squash from oven, keep oven on. (Or if you prefer, just slice the top and bottom off the squash, place in a shallow baking dish filled with about an inch or 2 of water. When squash has cooked and cooled, peel and slice.)

While squash is roasting, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 8 oz of lasagna noodles and cook for about 7 minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water to prevent sticking.

In a medium skillet, heat 1.5 tsp oil over medium high. Add 3 cloves of minced garlic; saute 2 minutes. Stir in 4 cups kale (rinsed and cut into ribbons) and 1 tbs sliced fresh basil. Add 1/4 cup water to skillet and cover; cook 5 minutes. Remove cover, reduce heat to low; cook 3 minutes more. Set aside to cool.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tbs oil over medium high. Add 3 tbs flour; whisk for 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 2 cups milk and a pinch of salt; bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Continue whisking for 2 more minutes or until white sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Stir 2 cups ricotta cheese into kale. Add 1 large egg and 2 tbs minced fresh oregano; stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Coat a 9×13 baking dish with butter or oil. Spread 2/3 cup of sauce over bottom. Arrange a layer of noodles over sauce. Gently spread half the ricotta mixture over noodles; top with roasted squash. Sprinkle 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella over squash. Top with remaining ricotta, followed by noodles. Top with remaining sauce, another 1 tbs basil, and another 3/4 cup mozzarella. Either cover the dish with a lid, or tent a sheet of foil over lasagna. Bake 25 minutes. Remove lid or foil; bake 15 more minutes to brown cheese slightly. Let rest about 5 minutes before cutting.

*note~ I found this recipe in a Yoga Journal. I very rarely stick to recipes and therefore add way more herbs and spices than called for. For example, I usually put in like, 6-8 cloves of garlic, a heaping handful of basil and oregano, and usually more squash and kale than it calls for. Just go with your gut. It’s damn yummy, folks.