Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ricotta cheese

Cheese making has been a goal of the Kitchen Witch for as long as she cares to remember.  Maybe it was reading Little House books, or just the foodie that's always been there, but even as a young teen the Witch has wanted to make her own cheese.  That's normal, right?  Don't you all dream about making your own cheese?  No?  Well...pretend like you do, 'k?  Do you need to make your own ricotta?  No, you don't.  Should you make your own ricotta?  Yes!  Yes you should indeed !   It's easy, quick and really doesn't require any specialty equipment or ingredients.   4 ingredients is all it takes to make the smoothest, richest, silkiest ricotta cheese you've ever been lucky enough to try.

If you aren't a ricotta fan, don't despair.  This ricotta isn't at all like the grainy rubbery ricotta in the tubs at the grocery store.  There is some grain to it, but it's not at all rubbery and if you aren't a fan of the grain, simply drain off more of the whey until you get a cheese that you're happy with.   Other than the noticeable difference in texture there's a taste difference.  Store bought ricotta is bland and rather flavorless to me.  Between the lack of flavor and the nasty texture it's defiantly not high on my like list.  Homemade ricotta, on the other hand, is sweet from the cream and milk, salty and slightly tangy.  It's delicious in lasagna as well as dessert.

Wait...ricotta dessert?  You mean like a cheese cake?  Nope!  I mean ricotta topped with fruit, either jam or berries, your choice.  I had this at my good friend Phyllis' home, she topped her ricotta with a homemade cherry jam and candied almonds.  Holy cow it was delicious!!  So thank you Phyllis for the recipe source as well as the tasty and unexpected dessert idea!   I hope that you all will try to make your own ricotta cheese.  Your friends and family will be impressed to know you made your own cheese, and only we need to know just how easy it is.  Enjoy!

Ricotta Cheese
Source:  Ina Garten
Makes about 1 cup of cheese (approx. 8 servings) ~*~easily doubled or tripled~*~

2 cups whole milk (2% works fine too)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
heavy 1/2 t kosher salt
1 1/2 T white wine vinegar

In a stainless steel pan add the milk, cream and salt.  Bring to a full boil over medium high heat, stirring to avoid scortch spots.  Once liquid is boiling turn the heat off and add the vinegar.  Give it one good stir to incorporate the vinegar and allow to sit for at least 1 minute to form the curd.

While the curd is forming dampen some cheesecloth.   Lay a double layer of cheesecloth in a fine mesh sieve placed over a bowl to catch the whey.  Pour the cheese curds and whey into the cheesecloth and allow to drain undisturbed for about 20-30 minutes.  The longer the cheese sits the finer and less distinct the grain becomes.  Transfer the ricotta to a air tight bowl and use anywhere you'd normally use ricotta like lasagna or stuffed pasta recipes.   Stores in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.

Cheese curds set and ready to be seperated

Whey draining from curds
Curds after draining for 10 minutes
 ~*~Kitchen Witch Tip:  No cheesecloth?  No problem!  Simply drain your curds through a clean wash cloth or kitchen towel.  Paper towels absorb too much and don't allow the whey to drain, save those for something else and use cloth to strain cheese.~*~

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator Amount Per Serving Calories 133.5 Total Fat 12.2 g Saturated Fat 7.6 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g Monounsaturated Fat 3.5 g Cholesterol 45.6 mg Sodium 156.3 mg Potassium 125.1 mg Total Carbohydrate 3.8 g Dietary Fiber 0.0 g Sugars 3.0 g Protein 2.6 g

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


A while ago I won the Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook from a blog.  For the life of me I can NOT remember which blog it was from, and for that I am deeply sorry.  The cookbook however is great!  If you like down home, family friendly food this is the book for you!  The cover has the most delightful pancakes, topped with chocolate chunks.  It's just a taste of the yummy treats you'll find inside!  These Brookies were discovered in this cookbook, and were one of the first things the Kitchen Witch bookmarked when browsing through it.  The Witch has made many chocolate cookies in the past - Death by Chocolate cookies, chocolate crinkles, you get the idea, we love a chocolate cookie here - so when I saw this cookie that was a brownie/cookie hybrid, I knew that I had to make it!

The recipe calls for 'high quality chocolate', the Kitchen Witch used Ghiradelli 62% cacao double chocolate chips.  I had them on hand, and they're our favorites.  Callebaut, Guittard or Valhrona would also be good choices.  Nestles Toll House would NOT be a good choice here.  You really need that depth of deep chocolate flavor in these tasty treats, so do spend a few extra dollars and get the better chips.  You'll be happy you did.

The brookies mix up quick and easily, heck the Witch didn't even use the KitchenAid for this one!   In less than 30 minutes the house smelled amazing and the brookies were done.  The outsides are dry and cracked, just like a brownie is.  The insides are soft, gooey and oh so rich.  If you like chocolate cookies make these. If you like brownies, make these!  I can't say enough good things about these brookies.  They have officially become the chocolate cookie of choice here at the Witches' home.  And that's saying a lot!

Source: Clinton Street Baking Company Cookbook
makes about 30 cookies
2 cups high quality 62% cacao chocolate chips
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 T oil
1 t butter
1/2 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F

Melt 1 cup chocolate chips with the oil and butter until melted.  Stir well to melt all chips.  Allow to cool slightly.

In a small bowl mix the flour, salt and baking powder together.

In a medium work bowl mix the eggs and brown sugar together.  Add the melted chocolate, stirring well to thoroughly mix.  Scrape down sides before adding the flour mix.  Whisk it in until just in mixed, then add the remaining chocolate chips and stir well.

Transfer batter to a shallow pan, like a pie pan and put in the freezer for about 10 minutes to firm up batter before scooping.

Scoop cookies onto either a parchment or silpat lined sheet pan.  Using a 1T size scoop, form cookies.

Bake  10-11 minutes, until tops are dry looking and cracked like a brownie.  Remove from oven and allow to rest on tray for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.  The centers will be very soft and brownie like in texture.  These cookies are best consumed in the first 12 hours, they begin to dry out after that and lose that brownie like texture.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator Amount Per Serving Calories 75.6 Total Fat 3.4 g Saturated Fat 1.8 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.2 g Monounsaturated Fat 0.4 g Cholesterol 12.7 mg Sodium 30.4 mg Potassium 26.0 mg Total Carbohydrate 13.7 g Dietary Fiber 0.6 g Sugars 11.1 g Protein 1.2 g

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Zucchini Cakes

It seems that the Kitchen Witch has a love/hate relationship with zucchini.  If you've read this blog for any length of time you'll know that zucchini is something that is a staple in the Witches' garden.  Every year I say I won't worry or over plant, and yet every year I have a mini freak out -  will they grow?  Will they produce?  Will I have beautiful zucchini this year? And because it's me, every single year I over plant, too, just in case one or 2 of the plants don't do well.  In 3 years, I've never had an unsuccessful zucchini crop.  They're always TOO successful!  Despite my fretting over the wee plants in the early days they grow and become big time producers.  Before I know it I've gone from "oh my I hope they grow" to "holy shit someone needs to come get some of this zucchini!!" If you remotely like zucchini I highly recommend growing them yourself.  It's SO easy, they're very low maintenance plants, and have never failed to produce.  Oh, and the love/hate thing is because I absolutely love zucchini but as the season wanes on I grow to hate it...after all zucchini for 3 meals a day is only awesome for a few days.

Now that you've been informed about the trials and tribulations of zucchini growing, let's get to the point of today's post, shall we?  Zucchini cakes!  Oh sure they've been done before but boy, are they good!  A few weeks ago my girlfriends and I were out to lunch.  I spotted zucchini cake sliders on the menu and thought now that sounds good!  I ordered them and indeed, I was right, they WERE good!  So promptly I went to the store to buy zucchini (it's not zucchini season in Colorado currently, much to my dismay) so I could recreate these babies.  They seemed pretty basic in their ingredients, zucchini, red bell pepper and feta cheese, with some binders to hold it together.

The Witch decided to use an egg as one of the binders along with some panko breadcrumbs.  Not much, I wanted the veggie to be the star of this cake, but enough to hold it together.  The panko is very light in texture, not dense like traditional bread crumbs can be.  It helped the cakes have a nice firmness to them with out being dense or heavy.  The crunch of the red onions provided a nice contrast to the soft zucchini.  As the cakes brown the zucchini takes on a fantastic flavor, browned zucchini is the only way to eat it in this Witches' opinion!  As the cakes cook the feta softens and melts, adding it's salty flavor to each bite.  These zucchini cakes are a taste sensation, low in calories and vegetarian!   Sounds like a great lunch or side dish idea to me!

Zucchini Cakes
makes 4 cakes, 2 cakes per serving
1 medium zucchini (about 7-8 inches long) shredded
about 2T diced roasted red bell pepper
scant 1T fine diced red onion
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c panko bread crumbs
1/4 c feta cheese
approximately 1/2 t kosher salt
a pinch pepper, or to taste
about 1-2T olive oil for cooking

Shred zuccini using large holes on a box grater.  Squeeze zucchini to remove excess liquid.  Put squeezed zucchini into a small work bowl.  Add the diced roasted red peppers, garlic, onion, panko, feta and S&P.   Pour the beaten egg over top and using a fork, gently mix.  You'll want a cohesive mixture with no obvious pockets of dry bread crumbs or uncoated veggies.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Once hot scoop zucchini mix into 4 patties, about 1/4 c each.  Make about 1/2 inch thick by 3-4 inches diameter.  Cover skillet and fry cakes on first side until golden browned, about 5 minutes.  Cakes will still be very fragile so be careful when you flip them.  Gently flip and continue cooking covered on second side, until browned and cakes hold together.   Serve and enjoy!

Nutrition Facts provided by SparkPeople recipe calculator Amount Per Serving Calories 223.8   Total Fat 16.8 g Saturated Fat 4.9 g Polyunsaturated Fat 1.5 g Monounsaturated Fat 9.3 g Cholesterol 109.2 mg Sodium 562.1 mg Potassium 339.6 mg Total Carbohydrate 11.4 g Dietary Fiber 1.6 g Sugars 2.4 g Protein 7.3 g
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