Thursday, March 31, 2011

Homemade Greek Yogurt

This recipe comes from my new Food & Wine Annual Cookbook, 2011. It's attributed to Michael Psilakis, who wrote a cookbook I've been coveting for a while now: How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking. (And what do you know, my birthday month is coming right up!)

I was excited to try this, and I finally remembered to buy both whole milk (I got organic cow milk) AND good live yogurt at the same time.

The method is surprisingly easy. I mean, it really takes less than 15 minutes total of active, working time. Way less actually. It's mostly waiting time.

I used my Le Creuset pot, mainly because it doesn't have a non-stick finish the way my saucepans do. I don't know if it was a legitimate concern, but it was mine. Boiled the milk, let it cool a bit, followed the steps, then stuck it in our oven. The hard part for me was figuring out when I needed to start the yogurt so I would have power for the oven light for the whole amount of time. (We run a generator for power and turn it off at night). So I had to start my yogurt around 6am. I ended up taking it out of the oven an hour or two ahead of time because I wanted to go to bed, but it still turned out great! I skimmed it (more like scraped the skin off) and ladled it into a strainer. I left the strainer over a bowl in the fridge overnight, instead of just for four hours, because it was my bedtime. I ended up with a nice thick, bowl of actual yogurt! Amazing.

I suppose it was actually on its way to becoming yogurt cheese with the extra straining time, but no matter, it turned out creamy and delicious! I was wondering what to do with all the whey that had drained out...but that will have to wait until next time, because while I was gone, my husband dumped it out! I will report back with all the uses for whey...

The only thing you need to know: this recipe doesn't make very much yogurt.

Another good thing to know: you can use 2 tablespoons from this batch of yogurt to make your next batch of yogurt! You'll never need to buy yogurt again!!

I can't wait to try this with goat or sheep milk, if I can ever find any!

*will add more pictures after the next batch!

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Homemade yogurt requires surprisingly little prep and keeps in the fridge for a month.

Start with 1 quart whole goat's, sheep's or cow's milk, transfer 2 tablespoons into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt (with live active cultures).

In a saucepan, bring the remaining milk to a boil. Let stand off the heat, without stirring, until it registers 100 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 15 minutes; a skin will form on the surface.

Make a small opening in the skin with a table knife and carefully pour the yogurt mixture into the milk in the saucepan. Cover the pot with a kitchen towel; transfer to an oven. Turn the light on and close the oven door. Let stand for 16 hours.

Using a skimmer or slotted spoon, lift off the skin and discard it. Carefully ladle the yogurt into a sieve lined with a double layer of cheesecloth and refrigerate until much of the whey is drained and the yogurt is thick, at least 4 hours. Transfer the yogurt to a bowl and serve.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Taste & Create: Baked Potato Soup

It's Taste & Create time again! And this time, I can happily tell you that I recently spent two whole days in person with my friend, Nicole, the creator of Taste & Create!! We met in a small town in Colorado, where she was vacationing with her family and inlaws, and my family and I, well, we just went over there to hang out with them! Nicole and I took turns cooking meals for everyone, made fabulous cookies, and just talked for hours while our kids played together. It was so much fun, and I can't wait to see her again.

Taste & Create is Nicole's fabulous food blog event, in which participants are randomly paired up. Each participant chooses a recipe from their partner's blog, makes it, and blogs about it. You never know who you're going to be partnered with, and participants are from all over the world, which makes things interesting! You should definitely participate in this event! Go here for How it Works and sign up!!

My partner this month was Carol of No Reason Needed. Carol is from Canada, and she has some great recipes. We've been paired together for Taste & Create before, but I always like to check all the new recipes she's posted since the last time!

I was seriously considering making the Strawberry Shortcake Cookies (even though she didn't like them), or many of her desserts, actually. I will totally make her Chocolate Waffles for my boys this weekend (topped with strawberries and whipped cream). But for now, I was intrigued by this recipe for Baked Potato Soup.

Like Carol, I have never been to a Tony Roma's...we may be the only two people who can claim this, but that's okay. This soup sounds good. I really had to remember to plan enough time ahead to bake the potatoes.

I would like to make this soup again, without cornstarch and probably without instant mashed potatoes. I just like my soup to have ingredients that aren't processed, and adding that much cornstarch kind of grossed me out (although I did it anyway to follow the recipe).

My husband and I liked the soup, H-Bomb did not like it, and Sawed Off refused to try it. It was easy to put together, even with the baking potatoes ahead of time and scooping out the insides. And it tastes great with the toppings! I'm just not convinced about the need for adding more starch to starchy potatoes, but that could be in my head.

So, how would you tweak this recipe?

Tony Roma's Baked Potato Soup
Serves 6 to 8

2 medium russet potatoes
3 Tbsp. butter
1 C diced white onion
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 C chicken broth
2 C water
¼ C cornstarch
1½ C instant mashed potatoes, dry
1 tsp. salt

¾ tsp. ground black pepper
½ tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. dried thyme
1 C half-and-half

½ C shredded Cheddar Cheese

¼ C crumbled cooked bacon
2 green onions, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake the potatoes for 1 hour or until done. When potatoes are done, remove them from the oven to cool.

As potatoes cool, prepare soup by melting butter in a large saucepan, and saute onion until light brown. Add the flour to the onion and stir to make a roux. Cook and stir for one minute.

Add broth, water, cornstarch, mashed potato flakes, and spices to the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out contents with a large spoon. Discard skin. Chop baked potato with a large knife to make chunks that are about ½-inch in size.

Add chopped baked potato and half-and-half to the saucepan, bring soup back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the soup for another 15 minutes or until it is thick.

Spoon soup into bowls and top with shredded Cheddar cheese, bacon and green onion.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Freshness of Eggs

Fresh Eggs!

There have been some questions about the freshness of eggs, particularly on facebook, since we have laying hens who are quite productive. We have eggs of varying ages in the house, and I really try to keep them in order in the refrigerator. I only sell the freshest eggs, and use the older ones in my home (along with some fresh ones, but I try to use the older ones first).

There was some confusion the other day when a friend of ours stopped by to pick up her eggs, which I had packed for her in a cooler. The cooler didn't make it outside, and Number One, not knowing there were eggs in the cooler, gave her two dozen eggs from the fridge. Two dozen of the older eggs. Oops~

When I have older eggs or eggs that may be questionable, the first thing I do is put them in water. The ones that float are older, but may or not be bad. As eggs age, the air pocket inside them gets bigger, so the older an egg is, the higher it will float. You really can't tell if an egg is bad until you crack it, the yolk and/or white won't look right, or it will smell bad. In short, it will be quite obvious.

I don't wash the fresh eggs right away, because there is a coating on them from the hen that helps them keep longer. I found information about putting food-grade mineral oil on the eggs to "seal" them and help them last longer--up to six or eight months! While I don't plan to do this with the eggs we sell because they are only days old, I am doing it right away with the older eggs that we've accumulated and are going through here at the house. You really don't use very much oil at all.

Here is the information, from

"The surface of an egg shell is covered with thousands of microscopic holes which makes it quite porous. A natural coating referred to as the 'bloom' helps seal the holes, preventing bacteria from entering. As the egg ages, the bloom is worn away, which allows moisture to slowly escape and air to enter, forming the 'air cell'. Bacteria may also enter, and contamination may result.

"When eggs are washed to remove germs that may be on the surface the bloom is also removed, so a thin coating of oil is applied to take the place of the bloom. This works in the same way as the bloom, keeping the contents fresh for longer periods. The bloom also provides eggs with a natural luster or shine. Mineral oil not only protects your eggs as a sealant but it also restores the luster, the shine of the egg."

I also found this information on buying eggs commercially (from the grocery) in my The Best Make-Ahead Recipe cookbook, and I thought it was interesting, especially given the conversations we've been having. So here it is, word for word:

"Freshness: Egg cartons are marked with both a sell-by date and a pack date. The sell-by date is the legal limit for when the eggs may be sold and is within 30 days of the pack date. The pack date is the day the eggs were graded and packed, which is generally within a week of being laid but, legally, may be as much as 30 days. In short, a carton of eggs may be up to two months old by the end of the sell-by date. Even so, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, they are still fit for consumption for an additional three to five weeks past the sell-by date. Sell-by and pack dates are thus by no means an exact measure of an egg's fitness; they provide vague guidance at best.

"How old is too old? We tasted two- and three-month-old eggs that were perfectly palatable. At four months the white was very loose and the yolk "tasted faintly of the refrigerator," though it was still edible. Our advice? Use your discretion. If the egg smells odd or displays discoloration, pitch it. Older eggs also lack the structure-lending properties of fresh eggs, so beware when baking. Both the white and yolk become looser. We whipped four-month-old eggs and found that they deflated rapidly."

The Cook's Illustrated folks also said the Pack Date is the three-digit code stamped above or below the sell-by date. The number run consecutively, starting at 001 for January 1 and ending with 365 for December 31. So if eggs had a pack date of 078, they would have been packed on March 19. With a little math, you can figure out approximately how long your supermarket eggs have been sitting around (don't forget to add a week to 30 days for the time between being laid and packed!)

Rest assured, farm fresh eggs are nowhere near as old as supermarket eggs. And they taste much better too!

Let me know if you'd like to buy some, our chickens are laying like there's no tomorrow!

Pozole Verde Guerrerense

Shell recently returned from a humanitarian trip to a tiny village in Mexico. I told her the food would be great! Here's a recipe she found that I've translated for her--I can't wait to see how it turns out, Shell! Follow the link below for the original recipe in Spanish.

Pozole Verde Guerrerense
(Green Pozole from Guerrero--this is the traditional recipe from the Mexican State of Guerrero, and is "officially" consumed on Thursdays.)

½ kilogram of Hog's Head
½ kilogram of pork backbone
500 Grams Green Tomato
1 kilogram of hominy
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
100 grams Pork meat (possibly ground)
1 bunch radishes
3 bay leaves
1 Lettuce
2 Poblano Chiles
Salt, oregano and lemon to taste

Pozole: A Mexican dish that dates back to prehispanic times. Pozole in Nahuatl means foam, by the appearance of Cracked grains in stock. Originally white and pork, but now is made with beef or chicken, among other ingredients.

1 Place the hominy (corn) in a pan with enough water, add bay leaf, garlic, onion and salt to taste after the first boil. *(does this mean you boil the hominy separately first? I don't know) Let cook for 3 to 4 hours.

2 Prepare a sauce with tomatoes and peppers and pour into the pot with the corn. It is important that it's hot.

3 In another pan, cook pork along with the ground, a bit of onion and garlic. Shred the pork and add it to the other cooking pot when the corn pops.

4 Allow to cook a little longer and serve your pozole accompanied by lettuce and finely chopped radishes. Add oregano, salt and lemon to taste.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Salmon with Thai Rice Salad

We had this salmon with rice salad back in December, when the season wasn't right but it sounded good anyway. This is a fantastic spring/summer dish, with the cold and flavorful rice salad underneath a nice piece of salmon.

If you're not used to the flavor of fish sauce, the first bite of rice might taste a bit odd, but just keep eating it in between bites of salmon and you will fall in love...that's what happened to me. I can't wait to have this again when the weather warms up!

Salmon with Thai Rice Salad

Rich broiled salmon rests atop a lean vegetable-and-rice salad to make a beautifully balanced meal. The Asian dressing includes big impact flavors--fish sauce, lime juice and cayenne--but very little oil.
Wine Recommendation: Rieslings are among the most versatile of white wines and one of the few that work well with salads. With this Thai-inspired dish, try a simple kabinett from Germany's Mosel region.

Serves 4

1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
3 tablespoons lime juice (from about 2 limes)
3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Pinch cayenne
1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 carrots, grated
4 scallions including green tops, chopped
6 tablespoons chopped cilantro or fresh parsley
2 pounds skinless center-cut salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Stir the rice into a medium pot of boiling salted water and cook until just done, about 10 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the lime juice, fish sauce, 1 tablespoon of the oil, the sugar and cayenne. Let sit for about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice, cucumber, carrots, scallions and cilantro.

Heat the broiler. Oil a broiler pan or baking sheet. Coat the salmon with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Put the salmon on the pan. Broil until just barely done (fish should still be translucent in the center), about 5 minutes for a 1-inch-thick fillet. Put the rice salad on plates and top with the salmon.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Chicken and Gruyère Turnovers

Yet another recipe from my friends at Real Simple. Tonight I pulled one of my Herb-Roasted Chickens out of the freezer and cut up part of it for this recipe. The boys ate the legs and wings, we'll use the remainder somehow. I found a hunk of vacuum-sealed Gruyère while cleaning the fridge this afternoon, so part of that went into these turnovers. I also had a package of puff pastry in the freezer, needing to be used. I think these turnovers were fate.

The only change I made was to add a little cream (actually half-and-half) to the beaten egg for the tops of the pastries. It just seemed like a good idea to me.

The turnovers are super simple to put together, and quite honestly I usually have most of the ingredients around the house. I'm excited about the note (below) that you can make these ahead and freeze them for 3 months--I might just do that when it gets closer to my parents visiting or something like that.

I think I baked them about 5 extra minutes to get them nice and golden brown.

Chicken and Gruyère Turnovers

Adapted from Real Simple

Serves 4
Hands-on Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
1 1/2 cups grated Gruyère
1 cup frozen peas
2 sheets (one 17.25-ounce package) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten with 1 to 2 tablespoons half-and-half or heavy cream
1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1. Heat oven to 400° F. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, Gruyère, and peas.

2. Cut the 2 sheets of puff pastry in half to form 4 rectangles and place on a baking sheet. Dividing evenly, top half of each rectangle with the chicken mixture. Fold over and seal the turnovers; brush the tops with the egg. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve with the mustard.

*To make ahead, prepare the turnovers (but don’t bake them). Tightly wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. Let the turnovers thaw 20 minutes at room temperature before baking.


2 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
4 green onions, sliced thin
1 stalk celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon blood orange vinegar*
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 avocado or tomato per person
  • Combine chicken and celery in mixing bowl.  
  • Salt and pepper generously.
  • In a small food processor blend garlic, green onions, lemon juice, vinegar, oil and sugar until well mixed.
  • Pour vinegar mix into mixing bowl and toss well.
  • If using tomatoes carve out centers with sharp knife.  Slice insides onto plate.  Salt and pepper generously.
  • If using avocados carefully scoop out of shell with a large spoon and arrange on plate with tomato slices.  Salt and pepper generously.
  • Fill centers with chicken salad.
  • Serve with garlic toast points.
*or flavor of your choice

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Winter Lentil Soup

I realize the name of this soup says "Winter," and I am really anxious for Spring, and indeed have some little flowers sprouting outside, but this soup sounded so good I just couldn't pass it up. I don't think you'll be able to pass it up either, it has a powerhouse healthy ingredient list, including kale, sweet potatoes and leeks! YUM.

The recipe comes from Real Simple, I received it in their Daily Recipe email. I don't have to tell you how much I love Real Simple, do I?

The leeks I got were huge, so I only used two of them. If you'd like to know a good way to clean those dirty things, check out my About Leeks post.

Just a note, it took me longer than 20 minutes to put this together. I'm not sure why, but plan for some extra time. Also, next time I will double the lentils. It's more vegetable than lentil, not that there's anything wrong with that, but the name is a bit misleading. I forgot the parmesan at the end...

Delicious and satisfying, and healthy with all the dark green leafy and dark orange vegetables. We will eat this soup a lot.

Winter Lentil Soup

Serves 6

Hands-on Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 1hour

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
  • 1/2 cup brown lentils
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce; optional)

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes.

2. Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

3. Spoon into bowls and top with the Parmesan, if using.

Tip: Basic brown lentils retain their shape better during cooking than pricier red and yellow lentils, so they're terrific for soups. Or you can substitute green lentils, which taste slightly peppery.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Herb-Roasted Chickens

Since we can no longer buy roasted chickens at our teeny-tiny grocery store, I've started roasting extras of my own. (mine are better than the store's anyway, but it's just so convenient to buy a pre-cooked chicken) Usually when I know I'm going to roast a chicken, I roast two at the same time, so I'll have one for later. I've even frozen the extra chicken, which has really come in handy when I've been craving some Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas or Cashew Chicken Salad. I even used a chicken that I had roasted for those much-raved-about Chicken Wraps with Chipotle Mayo. It makes everything taste so much better. The possibilities are endless!

So, if you're going to roast a chicken anyway, why not roast two? I use different recipes for roasting the chickens, there are lots of different ways!

Here's a recipe I tried recently, from my trusty Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook. (I've listed a bunch in the link, because mine is the 11th edition, 1996-ish). I'm sure there's a similar recipe in most of the editions, but if not, that's what this site is for!

This chicken is flavorful, so if you're looking for a less savory chicken to add to a dish you're making, try a different recipe.

Herb-Roasted Chicken
Prep: 15 minutes
Roast: 1 hour
Serves 6

1 2-1/2 to 3-pound whole broiler-fryer chicken
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed
1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning or pepper

1. Rinse chicken; pat dry. *Here the recipe tells you to skewer and tie things together, but I don't do it.* Place chicken, breast side up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Brush with melted butter; rub garlic over bird.

2. In a small bowl stir together basil, salt, sage, thyme, and lemon-pepper seasoning; rub onto bird. Roast, uncovered, in a 375 degree F oven for 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until drumsticks move easily in their sockets, chicken is no longer pink, and meat thermometer registers 180 degrees. Remove chicken from oven, cover loosely, and let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Smoked Salmon Frittata

When you have a lot of chickens, you have a lot of eggs. When you live in the middle of nowhere, with no neighbors to whom to sell/give/unload your eggs, you have A LOT of eggs. Therein lies my motivation. Besides calling for a dozen eggs (woohoo!), the recipe just sounds good and I happened to have every single ingredient~bonus!

This comes from Ina's Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I love Ina, and I love this cookbook.

I made this back in December, and it was delicious. We'll have it again very soon. Although we had it for dinner, the frittata would be excellent for brunch or any time of day!

Smoked Salmon Frittata
Serves 8

1 medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
12 extra-large eggs (I threw in an extra egg for good measure)
1 cup heavy cream
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 pound smoked salmon, chopped
3 scallions, chopped, white and green parts
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (I used 3 teaspoons dried dill)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sauté the onion and butter in a 10-inch oven-proof omelet pan over medium-low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the heavy cream, goat cheese, smoked salmon, scallions, dill, salt, and pepper and combine. Pour the mixture over the onions and place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake the frittata for about 50 minutes, until it puffs and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve hot directly from the pan.
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