How to Make Your Own “Ricotta” (soft Paneer) Cheese

A whiiiiiiiile back I did a post bout freezer lasagna. Mmmmm, lasagna! Anyway, I told you that I had made my own ricotta cheese to use in the lasagna. Well, I really make Paneer cheese, which is a cheese curdled with acid rather than with culture, like ricotta cheese is. I can’t tell the difference between the two when I’m putting it in lasagna. Don’t get me wrong, a wonderful creamy ricotta cheese has an absolutely delicious flavor that is very different than paneer. But for the purposes of lasagna (and a bunch of other baking and savory uses) I like paneer cheese just fine!

So anyway, I thought I’d show you how I make it, even though there are a plethora of tutorials online. Gotta give the people choices!

A gallon of whole milk will yield you about 10 ounces of the stuff, just enough for a big pan of lasagna!

Ingredients:

1 gallon whole milk (you can use other milk, but there’s really no point….the more fat, the more cheese. Skim milk will yield about 2 tablespoons of cheese, so please, stick with whole!)

1/2 cup bottled lemon juice (you can use fresh lemons but the acidity of bottled lemon juice is more controlled than fresh juice….stick with bottled)

That’s it! Now, heat your milk up in a big non-reactive pot (like ceramic coated cast iron or stainless steel, NO aluminum) over medium heat until just before boiling, about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Milk, heating in a pot

If you don’t have a thermometer (WHAT?!? Why don’t you have a thermometer?) just wait until it’s all foamy and steaming like crazy. I’ve make cheese with milk that was boiling all over the place (…oops), and I’ve used milk that was 190 degrees, it’s okay it the temp is a bit off. You’re supposed to stir it the whole time so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, but I’ll be the first to admit that I usually just let it go and DON’T scrape the bottom to leave the stuck on stuff for later (like…..when I do the dishes) Really, either way, unless you actually burn the milk, you can do whatever you want. If stirring for 20 minutes makes you feel more productive, go for it!!! TIP: Leave your milk out on the counter for a couple of hours (GASP!) before making the cheese to allow it to come to room temp, it don’t take as long for the milk to heat up!

When the milk is all toasty warm, dump in the lemon juice and stir briefly to incorporate.

after lemon juice is added

after lemon juice is added

Let it sit for 10 minutes. Strain into a cheesecloth lined colander (one or 2 layers will work) or a fine mesh strainer over a big bowl (if you want to save the whey -it’s the liquid left over- and it’s great to use in baked goods!) or the sink. I usually pour a bit, stir to release the whey, pour some more, stir, and repeat until all of the cheese is in the strainer. Allow to sit for about another 10 minutes. Dump the whole mess (it’s messy) into a bowl and you’re ready to go! Oh, and one more tip here: wash your cheesecloth in COLD water in the sink (NOT with other clothes or towels). Trust me.

yay, cheese!

yay, cheese!

© 2014-2016 Bowls Full of Yummy. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bowls Full of Yummy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Guar gum vs. xanthan gum

So, whats up with these gums, huh? I have no idea, nor do I really care, I just like that they make my baked goods better! BUT I have questions, like which-one-for-what-recipe? and are-they-interchangeable? and what’s-the-difference??? Well, I’m going to do my not-actually-researched-at-all “best” to answer these questions.

I could really care less about the science of these gums and where they come from and why they work (shame, shame). What I do care about is that they work when I bake with them. If you want to get to know the scientific side of these gummy wonders, I suggest a google search. The results will be overwhelming, trust me, which is why I’m sticking to the when-do-they-work side of the story here. I really like dashes today dash-dash-dash!

ANYWAY, a little story. When I first started baking gluten free I used xanthan (yes it’s spelled x-a-n-t-h-a-N) gum cause it’s the only thing I had heard of and all of the recipes I’d seen called for it. Then I started hearing about guar gum (and other gums but xanthan and guar are the only two I use), and seeing recipes calling for it. So I picked some up. I did a tiny bit if research and concluded (along with other bloggers I was reading at the time) that they were each for different applications and behaved differently. Then I started seeing the dreaded it’s-BAD-for-you posts about xanthan gum………so I stopped using it. And stopped baking recipes using it. But I missed my tasties. So I did some more research and came to believe (along with other, different, bloggers I was reading at the time) that xanthan and guar gum could be used interchangeably (YAY) so I made all of my old recipes again. Guess what? FLOP after FLOP after FLOP. So sad. Okay, so I guess they can’t be used interchangeably then. Bummer. Then I started reading more about how there’s nothing wrong with xanthan gum………..wait, what?!? And then, on top of all that jazz, there’s the matter of price, guar gum is SO much cheaper than xanthan gum…….what to do?!?!? SO confusing.

My conclusion: I still don’t care know about xanthan gum and if I’m killing my family with it or something but it’s never bothered anyone I’ve fed it to before so I’mma keep using it. Might-be-GMO-something-or-other aside, I love the stuff. Guar gum has it’s place as well. I have plenty of recipes using it that I love and that would not be the same with xanthan gum (trust me, I’ve tried. Even though I prefer xanthan gum, some recipes just NEED guar gum).

SO, basically, use whatever gum the damn recipe calls for! Why do you………wait, I mean why do I keep trying to mess with the recipes?!?!? I’ve learned my yucky-flop-baked goods lesson trying to interchange them and I do not recommend it. In any recipe I come across that specifically indicates that it’s okay to use either one, I ALWAYS go for the xanthan gum. It seems to hold up a bit stronger and I just like the end results better in most cases.  My advice? Have both in your cupboard and use them according to recipe. Easy-peasy! If you HAVE to use only guar gum for reasons of cost, allergies, GMO, or whatever, use MORE. I’d estimate 1 1/2 times what the original xanthan gum amount is. It seemed like my baked goods would be a little better when I used more. But really, what do I know?

I’m sure I’ve answered absolutely NONE of your questions nor properly addressed any of the issues surrounding gums in the GF community but oh well I guess. Happy Baking! (I hope you aren’t tearing your hair out and/or hating on me by now!)

© 2014-2015 Bowls Full of Yummy. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bowls Full of Yummy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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That's right, there were only 2 cookies left (quickly devoured by my daughter)!

That’s right, there were only 2 cookies left by the time I got a photo (quickly devoured by my daughter)!

These cookies are amazing. And easy. And cheap. And for GF, don’t require a bunch of strange stuff, which helps with the cheap. In fact, I would bet you have everything to make these right now just sitting around, all lonely, in your pantry, cupboards, and fridge. Poor, poor ingredients. Well, lets make them happy (and the rest of your family!) and get to baking some easy oatmeal chocolate chip cookies! Okay?!?!

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes about 3-4 dozen)

1 (4 ounce) stick of butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar (or whey low, coconut sugar, powdered erythritol, date sugar, etc.)

1/2 cup brown sugar (or…..)

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups oat flour (I just put oats into my coffee grinder a little bit at a time and grind them up, a fine grind is NOT necessary)

1 cup quick oats

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix together the butter and sugars until fluffy and well incorporated (2-3 minutes). Add all other ingredients except chocolate chips and mix well. Now you can add the chocolate chips and mix until just incorporated. At this point you can scoop your cookie dough into a zip top bag and refrigerate for up to several days or you can get to baking right away. Scoop well rounded tablespoons of dough 1-2 inches apart onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for about 8-12 minutes, depending on whether your dough was refrigerated. When the cookies are done they will be light brown around the edges and still look wet on top. DO NOT bake until the cookies look “done” and are dry on top, they will be very over-baked by then! Allow cookies to cool on the cookie sheet for several minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack (or dish towel or whatever) to finish cooling. Don’t wait too long to try one though, they are best warm, with yummy-melty chocolate chips and a glass of cold milk. Mmmmm. Your welcome!

© 2014-2015 Bowls Full of Yummy. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bowls Full of Yummy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

PORK BELLY!

Are you excited? Well, you should be! Pork belly is fabulous when cooked the right way. I’ve never been able to cook it the right way. Bummer. I’ve tried and failed at least 4-5 times. But chin up, I’m trying again. I found a wonderful and EASY recipe on a lovely woman named Bee’s website, Rasa Malaysia. I love her website. Go check her website out for the recipe, and TONS of other awesome recipes, I’ve never been disappointed by her recipes (I even have her book).

Here are some pictures of the belly in the works

So pretty. See the spice on the side?

So pretty. See the spice on the side?

That's a lot of salt for one little belly!

That’s a lot of salt for one little belly!

All ready to go. My oven element looks like purple neon. Cool!

All ready. My oven element looks like purple neon.

So I didn’t follow the recipe exactly. I didn’t use the garlic. I just wanted my belly to taste like pork. Nothing against garlic of course (I love the stuff, can’t get enough of it….well except in pork belly I guess), but I like my pork belly simple. I did use the Chinese 5-spice though, that stuff is magic!

Looking good, only 40 min to go!

Looking good, only 40 min to go!

The salt crust after I took it off

The salt crust after I took it off

Succulent, gorgeous pork.

Succulent, gorgeous pork.

 

So, what do you think? Pretty – no, beautiful. Tasty too!

GF Rice-A-Rooni Beef Stroganoff Copycat

Did any of you ever have Beef Stroganoff Rice-A-Rooni? It’s pretty old school, I think they discontinued it sometime in the 90’s. So sad. My mom used to make it and it was one of my favorite meals as a kid. She made it with ground beef, it was the recipe on the side panel. Well, in honor of Beef Stroganoff R-A-R, I’m making a knock off! Try it! If you remember it from when you were a kid I hope you like it, but if you’ve never heard of this rice-stroganoff business it might be a bit strange. Try it anyway.

GF Rice-A-Rooni Beef Stroganoff Copycat

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/4 cup cremini mushrooms, minced (or any variety of mushroom, or 1 tablespoon mushroom powder)
  • 1 cup long grain rice (I like Jasmine)
  • 2/3 cup GF vermicelli (or broken spaghetti), browned (or regular pasta if you don’t need GF, see Recipe Notes below for instructions on how to brown pasta)
  • 2 tablespoons butter or oil of choice
  • 3 teaspoons beef base (or enough to make 3 cups of broth, or homemade beef stock, if homemade stock is used a bit of salt may need to be added)
  • 1 tablespoon minced dried onions (or add 1/4 cup minced yellow onion to ground beef, I prefer the dried for a more authentic flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • A few grinds of pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup sour cream (or plain yogurt, 1/2 a cup of each, I like a mixture of the two)

In a large, deep skillet brown the ground beef and mushrooms until you see crispy browned pieces of meat, a while after the meat simply turns brown. Melt butter in skillet with ground beef, add rice and vermicelli, cook over medium high heat for several minutes, stirring often and watching closely, until rice and vermicelli start to brown and turn translucent.

rice2

 

Browned hamburger with rice and vermicelli

Browned hamburger with rice and vermicelli

Add all other ingredients except sour cream, and stir well until combined. Bring to a boil and cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes. Slowly stir in sour cream until well incorporated. Now it’s ready to be enjoyed! You’re welcome for the memory flashback. When I made it (and tasted it for the first time in probably 15-20 years) I was very happy and thought it tasted exactly as I remembered. My daughter on the other hand thought it was weird, but she’s a sour cream hater so that may be why.

 

Recipe Notes: to make the browned vermicelli just take a pound (or whatever) of GF spaghetti noodles and break them into about 1 inch pieces. Scatter on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about……I have no idea, maybe 10 minutes??? Sorry, when I made mine I forgot about them and my husband was like “Did you forget about those noodles in the oven”, proceeded by me running to the oven and opening it with a sigh of relief because they were’t burnt, they were perfect. You are looking for a golden brown color, darker than the original color of the pasta.

© 2014 Bowls Full of Yummy. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bowls Full of Yummy with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.