Tag Archives: lasagna

For Calling Birds

When I was younger I thought they were collie birds – dog birds as it were …

Lassiebw

Lassie – best collie EVAH – just add some wings to make her a bird…..

Hey – there are Catbirds and Bird Dogs, aren’t there?

Green_Catbird_-_Lamington_NP_-_Queensland_

Green Catbird of Australia

birddog330px-English_Setter

English Setter trained as a bird dog

Bird_Dog_single_cover

Bird Dog was also a hit single for the Everly Brothers the year I was born

 

Calling birds isn’t much clearer

tweety.bird.aminated.phone.and.alarm.clock

Tweety Bird on a combination phone/alarm clock.

In some versions of the song, they’re colly birds, which just might be a black bird, colly another word for black, being related to coal, which brings us back to the collie dogs who herded sheep with noses that were black like coal…

4-calling-birds

Colly or calling, these birds have it covered

There were no birds of any other kind at my sister’s table Xmas day. We just don’t do turkey or goose for Xmas; we’re a lasagna/stuffed shells/manicotti kind of crowd

There were 4 generations of family, all present and accounted for, 30 some odd altogether.

There was food, glorious food.

I had my list to pack and take:

Cinnamon Rolls (Grandma B’s recipe made by her grandson); Shrimp Rings; Sweet Potato Chips and Marshmallow dip and Dunkin Donuts  coffee & ½ and ½ (notice how much is store boughten – and I didn’t really make the cinnamon rolls, I just provided space and equipment, and there were issues with each this year, just to keep things interesting. The next time I make the dip I’mma gonna try cream cheese instead of the sour cream, a suggestion/variation that came up at the table, but with so many talking about soooo much, I’ve lost track of who, but sounds great.)

None of this food was lonely when it got to the party….

There were charmellas and cannoli, although the cannoli had chopped nuts on one end and mini chocolate chips on the other, so they seemed to be trying a little too hard. Not that it slowed down their consumption any.

italian-cookies-0081

Charmella

cannoli

Nuts or chips – or melted chocolate dipped in chopped nuts

There were sugar cookies made from the package because that’s what we used to make, back in the dim dark ages, and no one is particularly fond of them (there is one brother who is a noteworthy exception) but we all expect them to be there and we all had one. Or two as the afternoon wore on…because it would be not quite as Christmassy without them;

sugar-cookiesPillsbury

The infamous cut out sugar cookie of our youth. Which is why we still need to have it.

The Santas had spread out to almost life-size size in baking

sugar cookie santa Pillsbury

Much MUCH bigger then a hand…the heads were almost head size

and the candy canes were

HUGE.

sugarcookie candy cane Pills

These are what they were supposed to be – but they spread out MUCH MUCH larger. And still we ate them.

We’re blaming on the unseasonably warm weather…we had a serious conversation about turning on the AC Xmas day. We didn’t, but it was an option. Almost everyone mentioned that they weren’t wearing what they had planned, but something more LESS.

There were also oatmeal cookies, and chocolate chip cookies, and cookies with white chocolate chips and dried cranberries mixed together, a gingerbread house made for eating…..there was a point where I couldn’t see the other end of the table and I didn’t care…..Pies, lemon meringue and pumpkin and homemade  arrived and were made welcome.

It wasn’t all sugar….there was fruit, too. Covered in chocolate…..

edible arrangements boxes

Oh, yes.

But it wasn’t just sugar

Nonnie meatballs and sausages, made ahead and kept warm in a slow cooker.

Pulled pork (a new addition and very nice, very nice indeed) in a slow cooker – my sister is a genius! (She takes after me.)

Calzones – chicken, cold cut – something with peppers….I was saving room for the

Lasagna – and a bowl of sauce. Excellent Lasagna, not too cheesy, not to meaty, not too soggy noodlely – everything just right and very nice indeed. The sauce was also a good dip for the chips…..

This is just what I remember and not a complete list.

santa headband

It was not too hot for Santa headbands

and as for for calling turkey birds:

ClifftBoxCalls002

Hand made turkey call by Robert Clifft in Bolivar, Tenn. His Shop is called: ‘The Last Call’ . I read about him in my new  Xmas cookbook  Smoke & Pickles by  Edward Lee. More about Smoke & Pickles later……

 

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Filed under Christmas, Dinner, Holiday

Homemade Ricotta

This is seriously easy and exceptionally good.

For REAL, authentic in every detail ricotta, first you milk your cow…..

Woman milking a cow - Karel Dujardin - 1650 Dutch

Woman milking a cow – Karel Dujardin – 1650 Dutch

or your sheep or water buffalo OR you could got to your favorite market and pick up a gallon – whole milk, please, regardless of beast of origin.

Modern Day Milk Jug

Modern Day Milk Jug

What I’m going to suggest isn’t EXACTLY ricotta, but 1,000 times better then anything in a plastic carton

The particular brand is not important - if you ave a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then there. Otherwise, keep reading.

The particular brand is not important – if you have a local dairy that is making fresh cheeses, you may stop here and then go there. Otherwise, keep reading.

I’ve been working a lot with curds and whey lately, partly as part of my job and partly because it’s the fresh dairy time of year.

A small time out before I go any further.

RICOTTA MEANS ‘RE-COOKED’

IT IS A CHEESE MADE FROM WHEY LEFT OVER FROM CHEESE-MAKING.

First you have milk, then you add rennet,then you have curds and whey, then you take the whey and with THAT you make ricotta (at last!)

Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the keratin proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin. Thus, ricotta can be eaten by persons with casein intolerance.

Thus speaketh Wikipedia, the most complete and least technical explanation I could find. In English. True ricotta is more complicated and involved than what I’m about to suggest.

Two simple truths:

  1. It is easy to curdle milk.
  2. Fresh is better then packaged, especially for dairy products.

Cook’s Illustrated to the rescue.

Because I keep back issues, and because I’ve been reviewing them, I rediscovered  simple, easy homemade ricotta.

Cook's Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

Cook’s Illustrated September 2009. Influencer

The reason I LOVE Cook’s Illustrated  and consider them an Influencer?

Things like this:

This technique will yield 3 1/2 cups of a superior-tasting ricotta facsimile (true ricotta is made from whey created as a by product  of cheese-making) that can be used in recipes from lasagna to manicotti to cheesecake and ricotta pie.

And if this isn’t a lasagna/manicotti/ricotta pie time of year, when is?

Homemade Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk

1 tsp salt

2 lemons, juiced,  for 1/3 cup lemon juice plus another tablespoon (1/3 c lemon juice = 5 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon. 2 lemons = approximately  6 T)  OR 1/3 cup white vinegar

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta - wash them first so you can use the zest after. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you'll get more juice out.

2 lemons should give you enough juice for this ricotta – wash them first so you can use the zest after for something else. Warm them for 10-20 seconds in the microwave before squeezing and you’ll get more juice out.

thermometer (or trust your impeccably clean fingers )

cheesecloth (flour sack towels work even better, cost less and wash up more easily, if you’ve got them. If you’re going to be making cheeses at home, you’ll want some of these. K-Mart, Vermont Country Store – they’re everywhere)

Flour-sack towels - evidently they're quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd...You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two.....or dry a dish.

Flour-sack towels – evidently they’re quite the thing with the cloth baby diaper crowd…You can also use them to boil up a Christmas Pudding or two…..or dry a dish.

 

  1. Juice the lemons and put the juice aside.
  2. Heat the milk and salt to 185° over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed pan. If you’re doing this  Old-School and not using a thermometer, the milk should be at a simmer, not a boil and not still still. Use your impeccably clean finger, dip it in and the milk should be hot  – not warm, hot, but not boiling. Heating helps, boiling hinders.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Add the lemon juice, stir it in.
  5. Allow it to stand, undisturbed, for 5 minutes.
  6. Solid white curds should now be visible above  liquid translucent whey.
    Curds and whey - where's Miss Muffet?

    Curds and whey – where’s Miss Muffet?

     

  7.  IF it is not setting up, add another tablespoon of lemon juice, stirring gently and let stand for another 5 minutes.
  8. Once there are curds,gently scoop them up with a slotted spoon and place them in a cheesecloth lined colander (over a pot or a bowl or in the sink; there will be more whey dripping).

    If it's very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows...but get it into the fridge before to very long long. This is food prep, not science experiment.

    If it’s very drippy, hang it over the sink till it slows…but get it into the fridge before to very long . This is food prep, not science experiment.

  9. DO NOT try to speed things up by dumping the whole pot of curds into the colander – the weight of the whey will destroy the beautiful, delicate curds, you’ll have a mess and be stuck with buying packaged ricotta.
  10. Drain without pressing (which will essentially give you paneer, a soft cheese that can be sliced) or squeezing. Let drain overnight in the fridge over a bowl (do I really have to say that out loud? Since I’m the one not always good with The Obvious….at least for one)

    Ricotta draining baskets - you could invest or you could improvise....

    Ricotta draining baskets – you could invest or you could improvise….

  11.  Keep refrigerated and use within five days.
  12. Makes about 3 1/2 cups of ricotta.

 adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, September/October  2009, p. 31.

 

Go to University of Cincinnati Clermont College ricotta making site for Real Ricotta .

 

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Filed under Holiday, Influencers, Recipe