Monday, February 19, 2018

| yes, instant pot yogurt is that great + drinkable yogurt YUM |

So....we got an Instant Pot for Christmas. And, yeah, it’s basically as great as everyone says it is. It doesn’t really make things noticeably faster (except for beans - wow). It just makes them less effort. You can set it and forget it. You can get ingredients together in the morning and do a delayed start. You can put your hard boiled eggs in there and then make the rest of dinner or breakfast without thinking about them. It’s amazing. I’ll probably be talking about it more in the future.

Right now, though, I just want to say that it has TOTALLY gotten us back into making homemade yogurt. The process is the same as all yogurt-making....bring milk up to 185 and hold for a bit, bring down to 110, add starter (i.e. yogurt), then hold at 100 for 6-10 hours. It’s the holding for 6-10 hours that’s always been a pain for me. I’ve tried keeping my yogurt on the porch during hot months, in the oven with a pilot light on and more. I’ve tried crock pot yogurt, but it was never great.

My Instant Pot yogurt is PERFECT EVERY TIME. I’ll share my method below. But I also want to talk for a minute about whey. Because I typically like to strain my yogurt we end up with a lot of leftover whey. I enjoy using it in baked goods, soup, and for cooking beans. I also like just drinking it cause I’m weird.

But the other day I was at the grocery store and they had Siggi’s brand drinkable yogurt, which I’ve never seen before. I ADORE SIGGI’S YOGURT. I could probably go on about it for days. But it’s so spendy, I rarely buy it. This stuff was on sale for 50 cents a bottle, though, so how could I resist? I knew it would be amazing so I bought several bottles.

I was right. It was AMAZING. My first thought was, “This stuff is so expensive when it’s full price.” My second thought was, “I could totally make something similar on my own.”

So it turns out that my yogurt whey is perfect for making drinkable yogurt! I use 8 oz mason jars and put about 1/2-1 teaspoon of maple syrup in the bottom, plus a few drops of vanilla extract. Then I spoon in about half the jar full of my Greek yogurt. Then I add whey to near the top and shake shake shake. I keep it in the fridge to grab on my way out the door in the morning or for an easy packable afternoon snack at work.

DON’T THROW AWAY YOUR WHEY. It’s awesome stuff. And really can be used in so many baked goods. Especially anything you might use buttermilk in like bread, pancakes, biscuits, etc.

Okay, so back to the yogurt itself. Here’s my process.

1) Put 1 cup of water in the instant pot. Seal. Use the steam cycle to sanitize. Then run the outside of the insert in cold water to cool it down.
2) Put starter on the counter top to come up to room temp.
3) Pour 1/2 gal whole milk into the Instant Pot. Hit “yogurt” button until it says BOIL. Put the lid on and wait until it beeps. Check to see if it’s 185 (whisk gently first). If it is, put the lid back on and hold on BOIL for 5 minutes. If it isn’t put the lid back on (still on BOIL) and check again in a few minutes.
4) While the 5 minute timer is running, fill up the sink with ice water. Once the timer goes off, submerge the outside of the pot in the ice bath. Wait until the just-whisked temperature in the middle of the pot is 110. Remove from the ice bath.
5) Add the yogurt starter (2 T of plain yogurt with live cultures) and whisk gently to combine. If you forgot to bring it to room temp, you can temper it by adding a little of the hot milk to your starter at a time until it’s all warmish.
6) Put the lid back on. Push yogurt until the timer shows. Set timer for 6-10 hours. 6 hours is not very tangy. 10 hours is pretty darn tangy. I usually like 6-7ish but your tastes may vary.
7) Go to sleep or go about my day. When the time is up, move the whole pot WITHOUT STIRRING to the fridge and let it rest overnight or at least 6-8 hours.
8) If desired, use a yogurt strainer to make it into Greek yogurt. Or if you like it thinner, just eat it as is.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

| hand-cranked pasta with lentil Bolognese |

We got an Instant Pot for Christmas and we’ve been cooking up a storm in it. I had a fast lentil marinara with spaghetti on the menu for lasted this week but then my son was begging for hand-cranked pasta this afternoon, so we moved it up on the menu (cause I’m surely not making hand-cranked pasta on a weeknight!).

It was SUPER tasty so I wanted to make sure and write down the method for myself to find in the future. Hope you enjoy it, too!

Instant Pot Lentil Bolognese 
half an onion, diced
Half a red pepper, diced
4 oz portabella mushrooms, chopped pea-size
Oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, garlic
1/2 c French lentils
15 oz tomato sauce (organic tomato sauce is more flavorful and worth the extra cost)
Splash of red wine vinegar
1-2 T sugar, to taste

1) Turn on sauté feature on IP. Once it gets hot, add 1-2 T olive oil. Sauté onion, red peppers, mushrooms for 3-4 minutes until they start to soften.
2) Add about  1 t dried oregano, 1 t dried basil, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and 3-4 cloves garlic minced.
3) Add French lentils, tomato sauce and about 8-10 ounces water. Stir.
4) Pressure cook for 9 minutes. Natural release.
5) Stir. Add more water if you’d like a thinner sauce. Add the vinegar and sugar. Salt and pepper to season.

HAND-CRANKED PASTA TIPS
There are about a million recipes online for homemade pasta. If you have a hand-crank I wanted to share some tips I’ve learned over the years, along with my regular method.

Basic recipe (to serve 4 people)
2 eggs
2 c flour (half AP and half semolina works nicely - semolina makes it easier to work with)
1/4 t salt
1 T olive oil
1/4-1/2 c water


  1. In a food processor, pulse the flour, salt, and egg until it’s crumbly. 
  2. Turn the processor on and drizzle in the olive oil. 
  3. Keep it going and drizzle in the water until it starts to ball up around the blades. It should still be crumbly but should be starting to gather. 
  4. Take out of processor. Kneed gently into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. 
  5. Once the wrap is on the dough, press the dough together tightly and flatten into a large disk. 
  6. Let the dough rest at room temp for 15-30 minutes while you have a cup of tea. 
  7. Cut dough into 4 sections and remove one from the wrap. Wrap up the rest so it doesn’t dry out. 
  8. Work the section through your pasta maker down to the thinnest level (see tips below). Set it to the side. 
  9. Repeat with the other three sections, ensuring to keep the not-yet-used ones wrapped up. 
  10. Cut each loooooong piece into chunks that are 10-12 inches long (probably 3 chunks per sheet). 
  11. Cut into noodles. Place onto a floured cookie sheet and swirl around so they can stay separated while you continue to work. 
  12. Boil in batches for 3-4 minutes each. Strain and run cold water over each batch. 
  13. Eat. Die happy. 
Tips:
- The method of egg/flour THEN the water is really important. It works great. 
- Do NOT skip the step of letting the dough rest. You will regret it. It makes it so much easier to work with. 
- I like to run mine through the thickest setting on my crank about 3 times before moving on. Each time I just run it through, fold it into thirds and then run it through again. This helps it get very smooth before moving on and helps everything hold together. 
- Keep a little flour on your table as you work and periodically rub down each size of your sheet of pasta dough with it to ensure that once you get to the thinnest setting it won’t all stick to itself. 
- The backs of ladderback chairs make nice places to let the big sheets rest while you finish up. I find that it’s more efficient to do all the sheets first and THEN cut into noodles. 



Saturday, August 5, 2017

| behold: i finally made pizza |

As a pretty confident home cook, I've been discouraged for a long time by my inability to make really good pizza. My whole family LOVES pizza and, in particular, I really adore all kinds - Chewy, multigrain crust? Yes. deep dish? Yes. Chicago style deep dish? Oh, my, yes. NY style? Yes. Greasy? Yes. Crispy? Yes. Wood-fired? Yes.

I really can't think of a style of pizza that I don't love.

Since having kids, I've REALLY wished I could perfect a home recipe because it's the kind of thing that's so perfect for a quick meal that is a crowd-pleaser. If you make the dough ahead of time, it takes less than 30 minutes start-to-finish to make several pizzas and everyone can pick the toppings they want. Plus, depending on how you make it, it's pretty healthy and very cheap. And it's a complete meal....protein, veggies, carbs. It's all there in one delicious slice.

And it goes well with beer.

So I've been trying to find the best crust recipe and technique for years. I've asked friends for recipes. I've scoured the internet. But my homemade pizzas always come out so-so. Usually, too puffy and doughy. Blargh.

But today. TODAY I FOUND MY RECIPE AND TECHNIQUE. And I'm writing it down before I forget or try to experiment. (Note to future me: do not alter this. It is perfection as is.)

I started with this classic Neapolitan Pizza Dough recipe from Peter Reinhart. I found his blog through a google search and the dude clearly knows his pizza. I was a little shocked to discover two things about this recipe: 1) so few ingredients (he says true Neapolitan dough only has four - flour, yeast, water, salt) and 2) the cold water. What the heck? I am pretty comfortable working with yeast but rarely do this cold-start thing. But, again, dude seems to know what he's talking about, so I decide to give it a go.

NEAPOLITAN PIZZA DOUGH (adapted from Mr. Reinhart's recipe)
500 g AP flour
138 g bread flour (cause I already have five types of flour in my home and wasn't about to go on a quest for this special -00- flour he speaks of, thought it sounds pretty cool)
2 t kosher salt
1 t active yeast (I didn't have instant, so I just went with what I had)
1 3/4 c + 2 T cold water (Reinhart said "cool" but when I actually measured 65 degrees it felt pretty darn cold to me. I even had to use a couple of ice cubes)

1) Put all the ingredients in a stand mixer. Mix with a paddle (not dough hook) for 1 minute. Let rest for 5 minutes.
2) Switch to the dough hook. Mix for 2-4 minutes, until it's smooth. Should be slightly tacky but not sticky. Add a little flour or water as needed to achieve consistency.
3) Transfer to a lightly oiled work surface and hand-knead for another minute or so.
4) Move to an oiled bowl and let rise for 30-45 minutes. Punch down. Put in fridge overnight or up to three days.
5) 2-3 hours before you're ready to bake, remove the big ol' dough ball from the fridge and divide into sections. I was able to make six 10-12 inch pizzas. I used a little flour on a clean surface to make the six dough-balls. Then I put them on slightly-oiled baking sheet and covered with Saran Wrap (sprayed lightly with olive oil). Let rest for 2-3 hours until you're ready to go.

BAKING TECHNIQUE
(I didn't get this from the blog above. I made it up based on my previous knowledge.)
1. Arrange your racks on the two lowest rungs. Preheat oven as high as it will go. For me, that was 550 degrees. Place a large, flat baking stone on the top rack. Place a very heat-resistant small crock on the lower rack (you'll use this later to generate steam).
2. Get your toppings and work space ready. Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal.
3. Once the oven is pre-heated, work with one pizza at time. Turn it out onto a floured surface. Shape it into whatever shape you want with whatever technique you like to use (rolling pin, pulling, tossing, pressing, etc.)
4. Put your shaped pizza dough onto the peel and add your toppings.
5. Check with a spatula to make sure it's loose enough to slide right off. It it's not, peel it back and add a little more cornmeal underneath.
6. Open up that hot, hot oven door. Slide the pizza onto the stone and drop 2-3 ice cubes into the crock on the lower rack. You may be wondering, why not just water? You can. I just find the ice cubes are easier than trying to pour water into a very hot oven. You may be wondering, do I really need to do this at all? No. But it does make the crust chewier, which is one of my very favorite pizza properties, so I do it.
7. Once it's in there and you've shut the door, don't go too far away. This baby will be done in 4-5 minutes. I usually check after about 3 and then move it around a bit with my peel to get an even browning.
8. When it looks done enough for your tastes, take it out using the peel and put it on a big cutting board.
9. Start over again at step #3 with the next dough-ball.
10. Side note: if you want to make fewer pizzas at once, you can put the dough balls into the freezer. Wrap in Saran Wrap and then put in a heavy zip bag. Take them out at least 24 hours before you want to use them in the future.





Friday, July 28, 2017

| summer recipe roundup |

I can hardly believe summer is almost gone. Before it ends, I wanted to be sure and write down some of my favorite recipe discoveries of 2017 so I can dust them off next year!

Turkey Burger Recipe
My SIL got me hooked on turkey burgers last summer (okay, not ME because I'm a vegetarian, but the rest of my family loves them). I had been buying those super-convenient frozen, pre-made patties but one week they were out at I had already promised burgers. So I bought ground turkey and looked up recipes for seasoning. This one from the NYT was a major winner. After trying it once, I bought 3 pounds of ground turkey on sale (I like to get the 85% lean kind for some extra moisture) and make up a whole tray of patties. Froze them on wax paper and then put them in a big ziploc bag. Now I have my own frozen, pre-made patties for a lot less money and just a little more work.

For each pound of ground turkey, add the following.
1/2 onion, finely minced (dried works, too)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste
I also like to add some bread crumbs for a little bulk.
Mix well with your hands and form into patties.

Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce
Why have I never made spring rolls at home before??? It's so easy. I just cut up bunches of stuff and put them in little bowls. Then everyone made their own at the dinner table. I took the leftover stuff and made a few for lunch the next day (wrap in a damp paper towel before storing in a container in the fridge).

You can, of course, put whatever you want into them. All you really HAVE to have are rice paper rolls. You soak each one in warm water for 5-10 seconds and then spread it on a plate. Fill it with goodness and roll tightly like a burrito. I had the following on our table for fillings: small cubes of tofu, peanuts, cilantro, cooked rice noodles, cabbage, shredded carrots, a salad mix that was shredded cabbage, carrots, kale, and broccoli. I bought a rotisserie chicken and they kids also experimented by putting the chicken and some fresh mango in theirs.

I made a simple peanut sauce to go with mine. Didn't really write down the proportions but I think it was something like this:
1/2 c peanut butter (chunky if you like!)
1-2 T soy sauce
1 T minced ginger (we always keep some in a tube in the fridge)
1 t sesame oil
1 t sweet chili sauce
1 T brown sugar
Water to thin

Greek Dressing
Speaking of sauce, that peanut sauce also goes great on warm rice dishes, noodles, etc. Another stellar summer sauce that can go on hot or cold foods is this Greek dressing I cobbled together. I like to eat it on salad with kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers or on a pasta salad (cheese tortellini, please) with tomatoes, cukes, olives, etc.

1/4 c olive oil
1/4 c vegetable oil (or more olive oil)
1/3 c rice wine vinegar
2 t sugar
1 T Dijon mustard
1-2 T lemon juice
1 t each of dried basil, thyme, oregano, garlic powder (unsalted!)
Black pepper to taste
Shake in a jar and enjoy. This makes a lot!


Pioneer Woman Ranch Dressing
But that's not even my favorite dressing. My favorite dressing comes from the land of Oklahoma where Pioneer Woman really knows what's up. She has a delightful explanation on her blog about how to make this and tailor it for your own tastebuds. A word of warning: this recipe will likely turn you into a total ranch dressing snob and you may never want to eat bottled ranch again. I suppose this isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's certainly cut down on my overall ranch consumption.

What I usually do ends up looking something like this, depending on what I have on hand:
Stir together 1 c full fat mayonnaise with 1/2 sour cream. Add buttermilk to desired consistency (you know you can make buttermilk by adding 1 T lemon juice or vinegar to regular milk and letting sit a few minutes, right? Right.)
Add the following and shake:
1-2 cloves finely minced garlic (see note below)
1/4 c minced fresh parsley
2 T chives (see note)
1-2 T fresh dill (see note)
1-2 t dried oregano
1 T Worcestershire
Notes on the garlic and herbs: The garlic, if you use raw, is going to get REALLY potent once it rests overnight, so use caution. Or roast your garlic first (see below). Ree Drummond suggests using fresh everything for the herbs but, to be honest, if I don't have them growing in my yard, I don't feel like paying $12 for a bunch of herbs at the store. That's some mighty-expensive ranch. I usually go with fresh parsley and dried for the rest (reduce quantities a bit if you're using dried). In a pinch, I have even used dried parsley and as long as it rested overnight in the fridge, it was just fine.

Roasted Garlic
I don't turn my oven on much in the summer, but when I do, I always put a few heads of garlic in alongside whatever else is cooking. This stuff is so good. I like to eat it plain, on bread, on salad, or mixed into anything that calls for garlic. It's heaven.

Preheat oven to 350.
Tear off one square of aluminum foil for each head you plan to roast.
Cut the top off the garlic so you can see down into all the individual cloves.
Put the head of garlic in the middle of the foil and start to pull up the edges like you're making a little bowl around the garlic.
Pour 1-2 T olive oil right into the garlic cloves it'll drip down the sides, too)
Pull the rest of the foil up like a little packet and twist at the top.
Place directly on your oven rack or on a sheet and roast for 30 minutes.
Let cool.
Squeeze out of the skins and eat. If you have any left over, it can go in a little olive oil in your fridge. I don't know how long it will last because mine is always gone in 48 hours.

Easy Creamy Dressing
So sometimes I haven't made a big batch of ranch but then I'm craving it (see above problem with no longer liking bottled ranch). This simpler recipe doesn't have to be made ahead of time and is awesome. The original recipe from The Kitchn says this makes enough for two side salads but, um, this is a single serving for my lunch.

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, or other grainy mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise or full fat yogurt
Pinch salt
Pinch sugar
Fresh pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar (despite having at least 5 kinds of vinegar in my cupboard, this is not one of them....so I usually just use red wine or apple cider or rice vinegar)

Kale Salad
When I don't feel like making any kind of dressing at all, I make a massaged kale salad. This is particularly good in my lunches when I just need some veggies on the side. Basically, you make sure all the stems are trimmed off your kale and chop it up small. Then you massage the kale with olive oil and lemon juice. Once it starts to soften up, add your toppings. It's really pretty and yummy. I usually throw on whatever random leftovers I can find in the fridge or cupboard, which often includes many of these things:
Seeds: chia, flax, pepita, sunflower
Slivered almonds
Dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries
Jarred roasted red peppers, olives, small pickles, or artichoke hearts
Any number of fresh veggies, including leftover cooked ones like corn, peas, Brussels sprouts, asparagus
And I usually top with a hard boiled egg.

Deviled Eggs
Speaking of eggs, I'm obsessed with deviled eggs and frequently whip up a couple for lunch. If you don't yet have a foolproof method for hard-boiled eggs, I recommend this.

I love to put the following in my deviled eggs. And, if I do say so myself, they are really top-notch.
I use about half-mayo and half-plain Greek yogurt (full fat)
Mash that with the yolks and then add a little olive oil and whip really fast with a fork to get a creamy consistency.
Then I add a dash of vinegar, whole grain mustard (or Dijon), and a dash of curry powder. Stir to incorporate.

By the way, if you're making a big batch to take to a party or potluck, there's a really easy way to travel with them. Peel and halve your eggs and them put them in a platter. Cover TIGHTLY with Saran Wrap so they don't slide around. Put your yolks and other ingredients into a bit ziplock bag and mash. Bring a long a pair of scissors and when you're ready to eat just snip the corner of the ziploc bag and pipe in the filling like you're decorating a cake. Voila! This is my go-to summer potluck dish.




Thursday, June 1, 2017

| perfect boiled eggs |

I adore hard-boiled eggs. I've been a quest to develop a foolproof method for years now. I hate when they won't peel. These suckers peel in one solid piece every single time. The peel just slips right off. It's amazing. I learned my method from this awesome article. It may contain waaaaay more information that you really want, though, so feel free to read and use my TL;DR version below.

1) Start with older eggs - not brand new, fresh ones.
2) Bring a large pot of water to boil.
3) Once it's at a rolling boil, carefully lower your eggs in. I use a spider to avoid splashing and cracking, but a large spoon or ladle would also work.
4) Let the water return to a LOW boil (rolling will crack your eggs) and watch them for 1-2 minutes.
5) Turn the water OFF and cover. Let it rest for 10-12 minutes, depending on how hard you want your eggs to be set.
6) When they are almost done, fill a sink or large pot with lots of ice and water. Enough to cover the eggs.
7) When your timer goes off, carefully move the eggs directly into the ice bath (again, this is where the spider is handy).
8) Let them rest in the ice bath for 15 minutes to overnight (if they're in a pot).

Enjoy!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

| hearty spiced lentil and spinach soup |

Started to make one of my favorite soup recipes tonight and then experimented and ended up with something else entirely. This turned out to be one of my favorite soup creations ever, so I'm going to write down the recipe for once.

HEARTY SPICED LENTIL AND SPINACH SOUP
2 T butter (oil, if you'd prefer)
1 diced onion
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/4 c dry lentils (I prefer French)
3/4 rice (I used a mixture of wild rice and white cause that's what I had on hand)
2 t smoked paprika
1 T curry
6 c vegetable broth
2 T tomato paste
1 can of coconut milk
10 oz frozen spinach
Salt and pepper to taste.

1) Sauté the onion in the melted butter or oil. When the onions are soft, add the garlic, lentils, rice and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant.
2) Add spices, broth, tomato paste, and coconut milk.
3) Add spinach and bring back up to a simmer. Cover and stir occasionally until rice and lentils are cooked (about 30-45 minutes)
4) Salt and pepper to taste.



Wednesday, November 30, 2016

| vegetarian mushroom stroganoff |

I was craving comfort food and sour cream, so this seemed perfect on a chilly fall night. I looked around at several recipes online and then made it up as I went. It turned out SO good.....and the whole thing came together in less than 30 minutes. Enjoy!

MUSHROOM STROGANOFF
3 T butter
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
16 oz sliced mushrooms
2-3 T flour
4 oz red wine
2 T ketchup
Dash vegetarian Worcestershire
4 oz sour cream
½-¾ c chopped fresh parsley
Noodles or rice for serving


  1. Melt butter in large skillet or sauce pan. Start boiling your water for noodles or rice in another pot. 
  2. Once butter is melted, add onions and sauté over medium heat until they start to soften. Add garlic (MEDIUM heat so it doesn’t burn). Cook 1-2 minutes. Add smoked paprika, salt, pepper. 
  3. Add mushrooms. Stir often while they cook down. Once they are about ½ the size of when they were raw and you have a fair amount of liquid they are swimming in, add your flour and whisk.
  4. Add the wine and turn up the heat. Allow to cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. 
  5. Turn back down to medium heat. Add the ketchup, Worcestershire, sour cream. Cook until warmed through. 
  6. Add parsley. Stir. 
  7. Serve over rice or noodles. I also added some crispy chickpeas for protein.