Easy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

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.

Easy Homemade Ricotta Cheese

2 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Instructions

  • 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.
https://www.caracrowley.com/easy-homemade-ricotta-cheese/

*(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.)

Arugula and Basil Pesto

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.

Arugula and Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

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.

https://www.caracrowley.com/arugula-basil-pesto/

Arugula & Basil Pesto Recipe

Summer Thai Chicken Chopped Salad

Summer Thai Chicken Chopped Salad

2 Servings

Summer Thai Chicken Chopped Salad

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.

Ingredients

    Salad
  • 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
    Dressing
  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
https://www.caracrowley.com/summer-thai-chicken-chopped-salad/

Summer Thai Chicken Chop Salad Recipe

Thai Beef with Basil

Thai Beef with Basil

4 Servings

Thai Beef with Basil

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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.
https://www.caracrowley.com/thai-beef-with-basil-2/

Thai Beef with Basil Recipe