Say CHEESE!!!!!!

After months of researching and experimenting, I am finally happy with my mozzarella making process. So..... time to share! So, get ready for some easy to make yumminess, which will make you refuse store bought mozzarella. Now this is more complex than some methods I found (one celebrity chef's recipe for "home made mozzarella started with instructions to purchase curds from your local dairy. WTF???), but it is still stupid easy. You can do this without a microwave, by using a salted hot water bath to melt your curds.... but I am basically pretty lazy, and the microwave makes is quick and easy. So gather your supplies, and get ready for the goodness. You will need:

Heavy non-reactive pot (I use a lined cast iron dutch oven)
instant read thermometer
colander (I use a pasta pot insert) with a large bowl to catch the draining whey
1 gallon non-homogenized milk (also called cream-top, I purchase mine from a local creamery- they deliver!)
1 1/2 tsp citric acid
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp liquid rennet (I use vegetable rennet- do NOT use Junket brand tabs)
2 tsp cheese salt (fine grain, non-iodized salt. Any non-iodized salt really will work. Iodine will make your cheese green!)
Flat blade long enough to reach bottom of your pot. I use an icing spatula.
Microwave proof plate
ice bath

Mix citric acid with 1/4 cup of water and pour into pot. Add the milk, stir, and place over low heat, slowly bringing the milk to a temperature of 90 degrees. Remove from heat. Mix the rennet with remaining water, add to milk, and stir for about one minute. Cover, set aside, and let it rest for about 10 minutes
You now have curds! If you stick a clean finger into the curds, it will "break" over your finger, leaving the greenish whey visible. Using the knife, cut your cheese (**snort**) into a checkerboard pattern. Place the pot back over low heat, and bring the temp up to 110. Remove from heat, and gently pour into the colander.  Make sure to catch the whey as is drains as it is super high in protein, and can be used in baking, etc. It will keep for several days. Drain as much of the whey as you can.
Take a large handful of the curds, and place on a plate. Put it in the microwave for 55 seconds, or until melty.  Sprinkle with 1 tsp of salt. Use the spoon to knead the hot curds, much like you were kneading bread. Once it cools and becomes more solid, drain off the excess whey, and return it to the microwave for a final 20 seconds. Knead it again until cool enough to handle. Pick it up and let it stretch out of your hand several times. Finally, gather it into a ball, and place it into the ice bath until fully chilled. Repeat with remaining curd.
That's it! So easy! Now go forth and make cheese!
 Ingredients gathered....
 citric acid slightly curdles the milk....
 Rennet makes it separate into curds and whey....
 Checking the temp- see the whey?
 drain away the whey-
 put the curds on a plate zap it
 melty goodness!
 work it with a spoon
 stretching is important before exercise.... and in making mozzarella!
polar bear plunge for da cheese!

Pinwheels keep on turning....

Using the bread recipe I posted, I made crazy good pinwheels today. For the vegetarian hubster, I made them with spinach, 4 cheese blend, and mushrooms. I am currently munching down on one made with loose sage sausage (browned then cooled), spinach, onions, bell peppers, and the 4 cheese blend. So simple, and so yummy.....
For each pan, use 1/3 of the bread recipe. Roll it out to about 12x14". Brush with melted butter, then top as desired, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roll up tightly. Slice about 1.5" thick, and place in a greased cake pan. Allow to rise for about 30 minutes, then bake at 375 for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. So good......


I've been making cheese again..... which means more whey, and more excuses to come up with new ideas. First up, I am sharing a modified version of our family bread recipe. This is somewhat different than what my Grandma used to make, but is a bari-friendlier version. Yes, I really do mean it when I say a handful- the original recipe predates the use of standardized measuring cups in the home. Just a loose handful is all that means. Warm for the whey is about 104 degrees, or as Grandma used to call it, warm to touch. I used GNC whey protein powder. This takes almost 5 pounds of flour, and I use King Arthur's bread flour. So.... for the bread....

Bread    with protein      

In a large bowl, place 1 cup warm (not hot) whey, 1 handful of sugar, and a rounded teaspoon of yeast. Let sit for about 5 minutes, or until bubbly. To this add:

4 cups warm whey

2 handfuls of sugar

1 handful of salt

A fist sized lump of shortening (Crisco, margarine, or butter. Grandma used lard....)

2 rounded scoops of unflavored protein powder

Enough flour to make a cake batter consistency. Beat well.

Continue to add flour until a ball forms. Turn out onto a floured surface, and knead well, until smooth and elastic. Place in a very large, well greased bowl, and then turn the ball over so that both sides have now been greased. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm spot to rise until at least double in bulk. “Punch it down”- squeezing it several times to remove most of the air. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces, and then into pans for rolls or loaves. Allow it to rise again, or you can freeze it at this point. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes, until golden brown. Enjoy.

When you make cheese.....

Three of my cousins came up for a visit following the funeral for their mom/gran. Of course, being in my house meant we spent a good part of the weekend playing with food. We made CHEESE!!!! We were such geeks, feeling up the curd, getting so excited about the process.... I got the directions off of  and although somewhat time consuming, the end product could not be beat. I did find that it required a full tablet of rennet, and more like 10 minutes for the curd to form. To eat it I then sprinkled the top with fresh, chopped basil and parsley, sea salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Served it with fresh tomatoes from the garden, and multi-grain crackers. It did not last long! When we were done making the cheese, I was left with a gallon of whey, from a gallon of non-pasteurized whole milk. Whey is very high in protein, and can be substituted for  water in most recipes. The first thing I did with mine was to make oatmeal for Saturday's breakfast. It was super creamy and filling. Then I made bread- in no way was this low carb, but ended up with 4 loaves of cinnamon raisin bread, and a pan of rolls. I am planning to make the cheese on a fairly regular basis, so will from time to time share more ideas.

Punkin' brownies (low carb, natch!)

Nothing is better, really, than pumpkin, dark chocolate, and pecans..... well, almost nothing! The hubster reports that this is super moist, with lots of layers of flavor. Pretty high praise from my engineer honey.

3/4 stick of butter, melted
2/3 cup pumpkin puree
4 eggs
2 cups splenda
1 cup Carbquick
2tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate morsels, divided
3/4 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 350, and grease a 9x9 pan, set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine butter, pumpkin, and eggs, beat lightly. Add splenda, carbquick, and beat again. Stir in the vanilla, then 3/4 cup of chocolate, and the pecans. Pour into pan, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched. Remove from oven and scatter remaining chocolate over the top. Once they have softened, use a butter knife to gently spread over the top of the brownies. Allow to cool, then slice and enjoy.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Crust Pumpkin Pie

Oh yeah... it is fall, and that means pumpkin goodness! And pecans... and cinnamon.... yummmmm....
So anyway, I wanted to play with some ideas to get a guilt free pumpkin pie, and the hubster tells me I have nailed it with this.

2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 scoop unflavored protein powder
1/2 cup splenda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
1 can fat free evaporated milk
1 can pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 425, and spray a 1.5 qt casserole dish with Pam. Combine above ingredients, and pour into dish, place on center rack of oven and bake for 15 minutes. While this is baking, in food processor bowl combine 3/4 cup Carbquick, 3/4 cup splenda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 3/4 stick cold butter. Process until bread crumb consistency, then stir in 1 cup chopped pecans. Spread over pie mixture, reduce temp to 350, and bake for 35 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Now if you have no need to make this bari-friendly, you can leave out the protein powder, replace the splenda with sugar, the carbquick with bisquick, and use full fat milk. However, I challenge you to serve this to non-ops without telling them it's healthy, and I doubt they would ever guess!


Preparing for my MasterChef audition

I have decided to try one more time for MasterChef, and will be auditioning November 2nd in Philly. I have learned that Graham, one of the judges, had a sleeve earlier this year, so I hope this time he is the one at my audition. At past auditions, my cooking was tasted by Joe Bastianich, and Gordon Ramsey- and they both loved my dishes. Hopefully I will be able to wow them with my personality, such as it is, and they will give me a shot. This is a complicated process, so I have not been posting as much as I wish. This is my headshot, and I still need to complete the 15 page application. I am having a tasting on October 19th to help me determine what dish I am making. Neither recipe is in the least bit low carb/bari friendly. However, one of the things that makes my sleeve such a fabulous tool is that I can enjoy little bits of such dishes, and that is enough. I used to be able to sit down to huge dishes of either one, and go back for seconds- which is why I ended up weighing over 300 pounds. Now a few bites, and I am done. I love my sleeve! It is the tool that has given me back my life! Anyway, let me know if you would like to see my recipes for Shrimp and Grits and/or Mango Madness (coconut poached salmon dish) posted here. Also, if you are in the Maryland area next weekend and want to come to the tasting, contact me for the address. Otherwise, wish me luck as I attempt to conquer MasterChef!