Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Dinner!

    We had a birthday here recently! We're not so much about the present-giving on birthdays anymore in my family, and more about the good food and company. While I personally do love presents, I can do without if family is involved :) It was pretty casual, with 4 (out of 8) of us there, but it was nice.

    I did the meal planning this time around. I went with something fairly simple due to picky eaters around here. Here's the pictures!

apples, watercress, ginger, lemon juice, raisins

    I made it into a psuedo 3-course meal (mostly just to sound fancy). The first course was an apple dealio. I totally stole this idea from a flickr photo I saw, but I don't know who did it. Either way, it was so tasty! I'd add honey next time, since it was a bit tart. I cut both stacks down the center and served it like a salad.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Who Doesn't Like Bento?

    On a very rare occasion I'll make a pretty bento. I don't do these as an every day, pack-your-lunch-to-be-healthy type thing. I don't have the stamina for that! I just think they're totally adorable and I'm somewhat (completely) obsessed with them. I have two bento boxes that I rarely use but love to death. Food looks so good in them. So! When I actually do happen to get one together, I'll post it here because they are lovely :)

Top: rice with salt/black sesame seeds, a Polish salad of tomatoes, onions, dill, vinegar, olive oil, etc.
Bottom: Kebabs with teriyaki-marinated beef, yellow squash, zucchini, yellow grape tomatoes and onions, fruit cup of peaches and bananas.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spaghetti Napolitan from Cooking With Dog (Yum!)

    If y'all don't watch cookingwithdog for tasty inspiration, you REALLY need to start. Most of the recipes are Japanese (for, uh... obvious reasons) but she has great technique and ideas. I've made quite a few of her recipes and they have been pretty much great every time. Plus Francis the poodle is so cute :)

    I love spaghetti of any variety, but this Spaghetti Napolitan is one of the best variations I've ever had! You can put whatever the heck you want into it (I added yellow squash. Broccoli and zucchini would have been yummy as well). It's a good way to sneak in lots of veggies!

A few notes:
    -I only put just a tiny squirt of ketchup (and got complaints about even that!) and the rest was just tomato puree, home-canned tomatoes and a dash of vinegar. Personally I liked the ketchup (you could barely taste it, of course) but people in this house didn't like the sweetness it gave. If you like ketchup, go for it!
    -I used canned ham since I had it on hand. Leftover ham would work perfectly, too.
    -The noodles are Ancient Harvest Quinoa Spaghetti Noodles. They're my favorite!

    I highly recommend this one!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Super Simple Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

    Ah... Flourless. That's a beautiful word these days; full of promise. And what I love most is when I hear of flourless desserts that are usually supposed to have flour. For instance, flourless chocolate cake, or flourless cookies. Whenever I see these recipes I feel as though my eyes open up wider than humanly possible and sparkle with wonder. Wait... these are flourless?! You just made my day!

    This peanut butter cookie recipe is the easiest thing ever to make. I don't even know where I got it from - I've just had the recipe in my head for ages. Super simple and super good. It's worth using good quality peanut butter in these cookies, but whatever ya got is going to work great (these particular ones were made from the cheapest of cheap ingredients, but they turned out spectacularly!).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Don't let it go to wheyst! 10 Ways to Use Your Whey

UPDATE 5/17/11: Gjetost can only be made with sweet whey! I attempted it myself and it produced something akin to sour butter. Not at all desirable!   

    Here's a list of 10 (mostly) simple things to do with whey. I have not tried all of them, but just for the ideas. (For the record, the whey I have is acidic, which comes from making soft cheeses. Sweet whey is produced by hard cheese. I believe things like ricotta can only be made with sweet whey.)

    1. A brown Scandinavian cheese (Brunost) commonly called Gjetost in the States is made entirely from whey! It's like a mixture between cheese and caramel apparently. Sounds good! (Here's a recipe. Just remember, you can't make it with your acidic paneer whey.) 
Just ignore all the gluten surrounding it... Bad friends.

    2. Replace water in any bread recipe with whey. (I saw one suggestion to proof yeast with warm whey and honey and then add to flour for flatbread.) Whey is said to give breads a softer texture. It's especially helpful in slowrise breads like sourdough because of the bacteria it contains.

    3. Also because of this bacteria, whey is great for pickled things like onions, sauerkraut, and regular ol' dill pickles.

    4. You can replace buttermilk with whey in essentially any recipe (take ranch dressing, for instance).

    5. Once again thanks to its healthy bacteria, whey can be added to the soaking water of legumes or grains, which improves digestibility.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yes! Paneer!

    Family visiting is always good motivation to try something that you've been meaning to try. My sister was up this weekend and was pursuing an Indian cookbook (1,000 Indian Recipes) I had out for Mother's Day planning. She came  across the paneer recipe and we reached the conclusion that it would be easy, so we tried it out. Usually when I make these sorts of conclusions I end up being desperately wrong, but this time it actually was really easy! Today for lunch we had Saag (well, some spinach and mostly chard) Paneer with cardamom and cinnamon served over rice. It was heavenly and I am gutted that there isn't any of it leftover.

    The cheese was basically just... cottage cheese pressed into a block. Last night it was very soft, but after sitting in the fridge until lunchtime today it firmed up quite a bit, creating a really nice, firm, chewy texture. It was even easier than I suspected at the outset. Considering the fact that there isn't an Indian market close at hand (as in, closest one is an hour away), this is an encouraging success!

Paneer Cheese (taken from 1,000 Indian Recipes by Neelam Batra)
makes about 8 oz

1/2 gallon milk (non-fat will not work)
souring agent, 2 c plain yogurt, any kind, whisked until smooth, or 1/4 c lemon juice, or a mixture of both
1 piece fine muslin or 4 layers cheesecloth