Friday, March 23, 2012

Vanilla Update!

My vanilla has been brewing for a 2 weeks.  The color has become a rich, chestnut hue and I'm so excited.

I opened the bottle and as you expect the aroma was delicious. A rich vanilla scent with the slight tinge of alcohol. I wanted to dab it on my wrists like perfume (yeah, my husband thought that was odd, too).

I'll keep you posted and I'm searching for the perfect recipe to test out the fresh vanilla.  I'm thinking a vanilla pound cake.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick's Day

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I'm going to share a few recipes from my ancestors (Irish/Scottish/and a few more things-American Mutt).  I've been watching a few shows that have highlighted food and cooking in Ireland. Chefs like Bobby Flay's show Bobby's Ireland is a great example of what Ireland has to offer and how young and contemporary Irish chefs are reinventing Ireland's food.  A few of my St. Patrick's Day specials have been Guinness Stew, Apricot Scones, and Irish Soda Bread.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

This is nothing better than freshly made ricotta cheese.  It is quick and easy to make, taste delish and works with a ton of recipes.  YES, I use whole milk.  YES, I use heavy cream.  If you must reduce the fat in this recipe do 1 quart whole milk and 1 quart skim milk.  Once you make it, you will never eat store bought ricotta again.

  • 2 quarts whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Line a large sieve with a layer of coffee filters (or paper towels, or cheese cloth) and place it over a large bowl.

Slowly bring milk, cream, and salt to a rolling boil in a 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add lemon juice, then reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture curdles, about 2 minutes.  You will be able to see the curdling happen.  Make sure you cook for at least 2 minutes.

Pour the mixture into the lined sieve and let it drain 1 hour.  After discarding the liquid, chill the ricotta, covered; it will keep in the refrigerator 3 to 4 days.

Awesome on pizza or in a pasta dish.  My daughter eats it with a spoon!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Vanilla is a key component of many, many desserts and lushly flavored dishes.  I have always wanted to make my own vanilla and today I did.  When I arrived home and saw the package on my front porch from Beanilla a company that sells vanilla beans and other flavorings.  I also ordered a little bottle to store the vanilla along with lemon extract which I can't wait to use in my Lemon Meringue Pie.

Here's a little history about vanilla. Vanilla is a flavoring derived from orchids of the genus Vanilla, primarily from the Mexican species, Flat-leaved Vanilla (V. Planifolia). The word vanilla derives from the Spanish word "vanilla", little pod.  Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican peoples cultivated vanilla and Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes is credited with introducing both vanilla and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s.

Below is the recipe I used.

-Sterilized Jar or Bottle with a tight, secure lid
-Vanilla Beans in your favorite variety (rule of thumb is 1 bean per 1/3 cup of alcohol) I used Madagascar Variety
-Vodka, but you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy)

1. Use a knife to split the bean in half, leave about ½ inch at each end intact.
2. Put your vanilla beans in your glass bottle or jar and cover with vodka.
3. Close jar or bottle and store in a cool, dry place for at least 6-8 weeks. Give the bottle a shake every week or so. As you use the vanilla, simply add in more liquor to replace what you have used.

I have marked 6 weeks on the calendar because I can't wait to use my vanilla.  I did have 1 1/2 extra of the vanilla beans so I cut them lengthwise, scrapped out the seeds and added the seeds and pods to 1 cup of granulated sugar to make vanilla sugar.

Next time I will summon the Martha in me so that I can have a prettier label.  This is definitely low budget on my end.   I have seen recipes for lemon extract but I haven't tried them yet.  From my research and from other recipes having home made extracts is a great way to enhance flavor and make sure you have fresh ingredients.