Ricotta cheese is one of those things that you buy at the grocery store that is expensive and often tasteless. The store bought version is what usually leads people to the conclusion that they don’t like it and then they avoid it like the plague. I was this person as well until I needed ricotta for baking a few years ago. I obviously didn’t have any in my refrigerator and in a fit of laziness didn’t want to go to the grocery store for it so I Googled if you could make it at home and sure enough you can and I did. The result was something that I hadn’t expected. It was creamy, flavorful and satisfying. I’ve since converted many people with this recipe including my dad who I found one night after a dinner party in the kitchen eating the leftover ricotta with a spoon directly from the container.
The recipe calls for only four ingredients and takes about 30 minutes from start to finish with only about 5 minutes of active participation.
Start by combining whole milk, heavy cream and salt in a heavy bottomed pan like a Le Cruset or something similar.* Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
While the milk mixture is coming to a boil, set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth (or a thin dishtowel) with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
Pour the mixture into the cloth lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth (or wash out the dishtowel) and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.
Ricotta is so versatile, I use it in savory dishes like lasagna but also I use it like cream cheese on toast with different topping. My favorite is topped with sliced peaches, drizzled with honey and toasted pistachios and as fall settles in, I swap the peaches out for sliced pears and chopped pecans.
- 4 cups whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Set a large sieve over a deep bowl. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth (or a thin dishtowel) with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.
- Pour the milk and cream into a stainless-steel or enameled pot such as Le Creuset. Stir in the salt. Bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar. Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick parts (the curds) and milky parts (the whey).
- Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined (or a thin dish towel) sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, occasionally discarding the liquid that collects in the bowl. The longer you let the mixture drain, the thicker the ricotta. Transfer the ricotta to a bowl, discarding the cheesecloth (or wash out the dishtowel) and any remaining whey. Use immediately or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. The ricotta will keep refrigerated for 4 to 5 days.
*(The pot I used is from the Martha Stewart collection at Macy’s and is such a great affordable solution for an enameled pot if Le Cruset is out of your budget.)
One of my favorite Field Trips from Sacramento is to head to Apple Hill on a beautiful day. And if you’ve only made the trip in the fall, you’re missing out! June and July are prime blueberry picking season and, once you’ve turned your fingers blue from picking (and snacking), there’s plenty more to see and do in the area.
WHAT: Blueberry Picking
WHERE: Pine ‘o Mine in Apple Hill
There are a few farms to choose from in Apple Hill for blueberry picking but my favorite by far is Pine ‘O Mine. I love visiting with Dennis, the farmer, and he is great with kids too – so be sure to bring the whole family.
Pine ‘O Mine located at 2620 Carson Rd, Placerville, CA 95667.
Phone No. (530) 344-0288 – I recommend calling before you head up there just to make sure the farm is open and it’s a good day for visiting.
update: I’ve heard from a few people that the above number for Pine O’ Mine isn’t a working number. I would stop by there when you’re in the area and if they aren’t open, I suggest checking out the Apple Hill Growers website for additional berry picking farms.
OTHER GREAT FARMS FOR BERRY PICKING:
Rainbow Camino Ridge Blueberry Patch located at 2010 Snows Road, Camino, CA 95709. Phone No. (530) 644-1594
Bolster’s Hilltop Ranch Farm located at 2000 Larsen Dr, Camino, CA 95709. Phone No. (530) 644-2230
WHEN: June and July
WHAT TO BRING:
You don’t need much. Most farms have buckets available for you to put your picked blueberries in and have containers for you to bring home your picked berries. If you’re coming up from the valley, it’s generally a little cooler in the foothills so you may want to bring a light sweater. Wear jeans, tennis shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting a little dirty. I also pack a basket along with mesh produce bags so I don’t have to take home disposable containers but it isn’t necessary.
If you’re making a day of blueberry picking and want to explore the area a little, here are my local favorites:
Just down the road from Pine ‘O Mine is Boeger Winery that has an amazing tasting room, along with space to walk around and explore the winery, grass for the kids to play on and picnic benches to have a snack and take a breather on.
Boeger Winery is located at 1709 Carson Rd, Placerville, CA 95667
BOA VISTA ORCHARDS
Boa Vista is a few minutes drive from Pine O’ Mine and Boeger Winery and it’s a great stop for local, seasonal produce and pantry staples like dried beans, jams, salad dressings, honey, marinades and unique sauces. I personally like to stop at Boa Vista for warm apple donuts that they offer in their bakery year round.
Boa Vista Orchards is located at 2952 Carson Road, Placerville, CA 95667
One of my favorite and easy places to stop for lunch or an early dinner after blueberry picking is Z Pie serving gourmet pot pies and artisan salads. They have a casual dinning room to eat there or you can also get the pies to go – either heated up or frozen. I usually buy a couple frozen pies to throw in my freezer for a rainy day.
Z Pie is located at 3182 Center St., Placerville CA, 95667
THE FARM TABLE
One of my favorite little stops in Apple Hill WAS Smokey Ridge Charcuterie and Farm Stand. Smokey Ridge offered the best locally produced specialty meats, sausages, preserves, had amazing apples in the fall and delicious picnic style lunches from their farm stand.
I was so sad to go by last fall and see that they only offering apples at the time and had discontinued their other products. However, I was told they the charcuterie chef had gone on to open The Farm Table and – friends – it does not disappoint. You can take a peek at their menu here.
Also, while researching for this guide, I found out that The Farm Table offers a CSA like membership box called Our Gourmet Club that is offered 4-6 times a year and includes sausages, pates, specialty meats, preserves, wine, and other seasonal goodies and a separate Seasonal Sausage Club package offers several different types of hand made sausages (4 times per year). I think I know what I’m asking for, for Christmas 😉
The Farm Table is located at 311 Main St, Placerville, CA 95667
When you’re done eating and drinking your way through the area, you can stretch your legs walking and stopping into the little locally owned shops along Main Street in Placerville. My favorite stop is Placerville Hardware, which is the oldest hardware store in Northern California and the oldest general store west of the Mississippi.
It is packed from floor to ceiling with anything and everything you can think of. From clothes lines, oil cloth, cast iron pots and pans, to any and every hardware thing you would ever need. Honestly, you can spend hours poking around in there. I’ve done it a time or two!
Placerville Hardware is located at 441 Main Street, Placerville, CA 95667
Spring has officially hit Northern California which means it’s spring dress, sipping rose and grilling outside weather. Last night I was at a loss for dinner. I had just done a Costco run which meant I had the basics but I was tired and wasn’t sure what to make out of what I had. So I started with the spiralizing the zucchini that I needed to use up. I decided to make a quick pesto for the zoodles out of the basil I had in the backyard but after heading out to gather it, I realized I didn’t have as much as I needed so after doing a quick vegetable drawer raid, I decided to substitute the rest of what I needed with arugula. A few whirls in the Vitamix later, I had a easy pesto for my zoodles. I didn’t need all the pesto for the zoodles so I used the rest of it as a quick marinade for chicken thighs that I had in the fridge and grilled up after letting them marinade for about an hour. I diced up a container of cherry tomatoes and had a perfect colorful spring dinner that came together quickly and easily.
When I make a batch of pesto, I always have extra. Here are a few ways I like to use it up:
My favorite sandwich from a hole in the wall bakery in San Francisco is a grilled fresh mozzarella, tomato and pesto sandwich so that’s always first on my list to make with leftover pesto. You can also swirl a few tablespoons into your ranch dressing (I love this yogurt ranch) for salads and mayonnaise for sandwiches. I also fold it into meatballs and use as a sauce for noodles, diced vegetables, as well as marinade for chicken and fish. Pesto freezes well so I sometimes spoon into ice cube trays and freeze for future use. Note: I have ice cube trays that I use just for savory things like broth, pesto and minced garlic.
- 2 cups basil - washed and spun dry in a salad spinner
- 2 cups arugula - washed (I buy the bag of preached organic arugula)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 3 cloves)
- 1 cup olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 lemon
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Toss arugula and basil in a blender (or food processor) along with garlic, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil and pine nuts. Blend for about 30 seconds, then with the blender going slowly drizzle in oil until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides of your machine a couple of times until you get the consistency you want. Add the cheese and lemon juice and pulse a few times to incorporate.
You can substitute walnuts for pine nuts if you don't like pine nuts or don't have them at home. You can also leave out the cheese if you are dairy free.
Lemon isn't a traditional ingredient for pesto but I like to add it for a brightness of flavor and to also to keep the pesto from oxidizing and turning brown.
I’m personally not super into Valentine’s Day. It always feels like such a forced day to me. Every year I declare that I’m not going to participate and inevitably the day or two before, I have a flash of inspiration for little gift ideas and give in. This year was no exception. This morning I woke up thinking that I should decorate some cookies for a busy day of meetings tomorrow. Which lead me to remember seeing plain heart sugar cookies being sold at my local bakery, which then lead me to think that I could make a quick icing for them, package them up and hand them out tomorrow.
I stopped off at my local bakery during my morning errands, picked up the cookies, came home and rummaged through my cupboard only to find out that I was out of my vegetable based food coloring and I had no interest in running to the store. Crap. Now what? I’d been seeing a big trend on Instagram lately to naturally color baked goods with beet juice. It’s a creative idea but I don’t like the taste of beets and because I don’t eat them, didn’t have them in the house. I started going through my pantry for another creative idea and found a bottle of tart cherry juice. Eureka! The deep red color of the juice lead me to believe it could work so I started experimenting. To one cup powdered sugar, I wisked in the cherry juice one tablespoon at a time until I got to the desired thickness of icing. For me I liked the ratio of 1 cup powdered sugar to 3 tablespoons of tart cherry juice. The color came out less intense than the beet juice icing but I actually like how the tart cherry juice creates more of a blush pink and the juice adds a slight cherry flavor as well.
I laid the pre bought sugar cookies out on a cooling rack with a cookie sheet underneath and drizzled the icing using my whisk that I used to mix the icing with (you can also use a fork dipped into the icing) over the cookies in a free form, Jackson Pollack way. You could be more precise if you wanted and pipe the icing on with a pastry bag but I didn’t have the patience or time for that today. I also experimented with dipping the cookies in the icing, laying on the cooling rack to let the excess drip off and that worked as well.
Let the icing set for a few hours before packaging up, I find the longer the better. I made these this morning and will package up tonight when I make dinner.
A few notes:
The next time I do this, I will reduce the cherry juice to get a more deeply colored syrup to color the icing.
If you are out of powdered sugar, you can blend 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a food processor or Vitamix until the sugar is the same consistency of powdered sugar.
If you don’t have beet or tart cherry juice around, don’t run to the store. See what you have. If I had been out of juice, I would have used frozen raspberries by boiling them in a sauce pan with a splash of water until cooked, quickly blended in my Vitamix and pressed through a sieve to make a raspberry sauce that I would have added a tablespoon at a time instead. Be creative!
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 3 tablespoons tart cherry juice
- Measure powdered sugar into a small mixing bowl. Using a small whisk, add tart cherry juice (or another naturally red colored juice of your choice) one tablespoon at a time to powdered sugar until you get the consistency that you need for your project.
If you are out of powdered sugar, you can blend 1 cup granulated sugar with 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a food processor or Vitamix until the mixture is the same consistency of powdered sugar.
If you don't have beet or tart cherry juice around, don't run to the store. See what you have. If I had been out of juice, I would have used frozen raspberries by boiling them in a sauce pan with a splash of water until cooked, quickly blended in my Vitamix and pressed through a sieve to make a raspberry sauce that I would have added a tablespoon at a time instead. Be creative!
This past week it's been hot here. I haven't wanted to cook at all and have been craving a good chicken salad with lots of crisp vegetables. I came up with this recipe and have become a little obsessed with it and have had it for lunch and dinner the past three days. I'm even snacking on it as I type this post...it's that good.
Here is the recipe so you can make it yourself and become just as addicted to it as I am.
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts – I used a rotisserie chicken to make my life easier
- ½ small head green cabbage, shredded
- 1 large carrot, shredded
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- ½ cup green onions, roughly chopped
- ½ cup chopped salted peanuts
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- ¼ cup peanut butter
- ¼ cup water
- Shred chicken breasts with two forks and put aside.
- Slice the cabbage into very thin strips, like it would be for coleslaw. Peel and grate the carrots. Roughly chop the cilantro and green onions. Toss the chicken and vegetables in a large bowl and keep chilled.
- Place garlic, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar, lime juice, sesame oil and peanut butter in a blender. Blend until smooth.
- Toss the salad with the dressing or serve dressing on side. Add the crushed peanuts to the top of salad. Serve chilled. For best results, keep the leftover salad and dressing separate until ready to serve.
This recipe serves 3-4 but is easily scalable. You can add more beef to serve more or cut recipe in half for one or two people. If you can’t find Thai chilies you can substitute jalapeño peppers, omit all together or even add thinly sliced Shishito peppers for more crunch and less heat. This dish comes together quick, about 15 minutes, so have your ingredients prepped and ready to go to make it easier.
- 2 tablespoons avocado or coconut oil
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 red Thai chilies, thinly sliced, seeded for less heat
- 1 pound ground beef
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 cups fresh basil, divided
- 2 medium carrots, julienned or shredded (I buy shredded carrots in the produce department)
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 limes, juiced, divided
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or soy sauce alternative
- Steamed rice or cauliflower rice and lime wedges for serving
- Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and 1 chile and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until cooked through, 8–10 minutes. Deglaze pan with juice of one lime and add 2 cups basil and cook, stirring, until basil is wilted, about 2 minutes, stir in soy sauce and pull off heat.
- While beef if cooking toss carrots, scallions, juice of one lime juice, and remaining chili, 1 cup basil leaves, and 1 Tbsp. oil in a small bowl and set aside.
- Top rice (or cauliflower rice) with beef and slaw. Serve lime wedges alongside for squeezing over.
- 3 lbs. peaches, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup mixed berries
- 1/2 cup vanilla sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, from one lemon
- A pinch of salt
- 1 egg yolk combined with a splash of water or heavy cream to make an egg wash
- Sugar to sprinkle over egg wash before baking
- 1 double pie crust or packaged pre made pie crust, I like Immaculate Baking Co.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, combine vanilla sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Prep peaches by peeling and slicing thinly and combine with vanilla sugar, cornstarch and salt mixture along with the berries you are using; let sit for 15 minutes. If using your own pie crust, lightly flour a rolling pin and work surface and roll out half the dough to a 12-inch round. Place in a 9-inch glass pie plate and brush with egg wash. Pour in fruit filling.
- Roll out remaining dough to a 12-inch round and place over fruit filling. Trim excess and crimp edges to seal. Brush egg wash over the top of dough and dust with sugar. With pairing knife, cut several small slits on top to vent. Set on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake until crust is deep golden brown and juices are bubbling, about an hour. (Tent loosely with foil if crust browns too quickly. Let pie cool completely on a wire rack, about 3 hours.
It’s starting to feel like fall here in Northern California. Let the baking and comfort food commence!
I recently saw these pumpkin muffins with dark chocolate chips on Everyday Reading and mentally filed it away until I needed a quick fall treat.
Fast forward to tonight when I realized I was supposed to bring something to a morning meeting tomorrow. I was tired and didn’t want to spend a long time making something so I was in luck that these muffins take just a few minutes to mix together and by using an ice cream scoop to quickly divide the batter into muffin tins, I was done in about five minutes from start to finish.
I made a few changes and substitutions from the original recipe, the biggest swap that I made was to swap out the 1/2 cup of oil out or a 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce. The applesauce keeps the batter moist as well as drastically cut the calorie count and ups the fiber in this recipe. See my tips below on how to use applesauce in place of oil in baking recipes.
Image Credit | Everyday Reading
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 cup canned pumpkin
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce*
- 1 3/4 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line your muffin tin with squares of parchment paper or parchment paper cupcake liners and set aside.
- Whisk together the sugar, pumpkin, eggs, and applesauce until smooth.
- I used my Kitchenaid mixer but this batter is really easy to mix by hand if you don’t have a mixer or don’t want want to go through the trouble of getting your mixer out.
- Pour the flour, soda, baking powder, salt, and spices on top of the wet ingredients and then whisk until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips just until combined (don’t overmix).
- Divide between the muffin tins and bake, about 25 minutes, or until the tops are lightly-browned and spring back when you press them gently with your finger.
- Let cool for a few minutes then remove from the muffin tins. Serve warm.
You can also substitute dried cranberries for the dark chocolate chips.
*I used a ratio of 1:1 to substitute unsweetened applesauce for oil in most muffin, quick bread recipes like banana bread and cakes like spice, gingerbread or chocolate cakes to make recipes healthier.
I try to always have client gifts on hand at all times. These gifts range between fresh flowers cut from my garden, to homemade cookies, to homemade granola and even fresh tomato tarts when I am overloaded with fresh garden tomatoes in the summertime. My clients invite me into their homes on a daily basis and I try to never to arrive empty handed. Recently, I made a large batch of granola that I packaged up and brought with me to my client meetings. Granola is one of my favorite things to make, or I guess I should say assemble since there really isn't any cooking involved. It's simple to create a big batch of it and for me it comes out differently every time since I use more of a ratio formula to use up what I have in my cupboard instead of a rigid recipe.
- 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
- 2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
- 2 cups chopped nuts ~ I've used pecans, walnuts and even pistachios
- 1 1/2 cups dried, chopped fruit ~ I've used dried cherries, cranberries, raisins
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup good, local honey
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- Toss the oats, coconut, chopped nuts, and chopped dried fruit together in a large bowl. Pour the vegetable oil and honey over the oat mixture. (To prevent the honey from sticking to the measuring cup, I measure my oil first and then the honey, the honey will slide right out of the measuring cup. I promise) Add the cinnamon, and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated with the honey and oil. Pour onto a sheet pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. stirring occasionally with a spatula, until the mixture turns a nice, even golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool and then package into bakery bags for gifts or an airtight container for your pantry.