Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Food, Toppings

Homemade Farmer Cheese

When my children were young, I used to watch all of the PBS cooking shows during their afternoon nap. I’d fold clothes, wash dishes, clean-up the toy rooms, or catch up on laundry while some of my favorite TV cooking personalities demonstrated current techniques along with new and unique recipes. When I saw a recipe that I wanted to try, I quickly jot down the main ingredients and search the library for similar recipes to combine and develop. One such recipe, Homemade Farmer Cheese…

I recently ran across this hand-written recipe in my recipe binder and decided to revisit the idea of making my own cheese. I had pots of beautiful fresh herbs that needed to be trimmed and used before the cold weather made its way to the Midwest. The result was a creamy, flavorful, spreadable mixture that beats the flavor of any store bought variety.

A word of caution… Don’t use ultra-pasteurized milk as it will not curdle as needed for this easy recipe. Also, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk.

Homemade Farmer Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice or vinegar

Pour the milk into a large pot, and stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

When the milk begins to simmer and then reaches 190 degrees, turn off the heat. Stir lemon juice or vinegar into the milk. The acid will make the milk curdle. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Line a sieve or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth, and pour the milk through the cloth to catch the curds. The solid within the cheese cloth is the cheese (curd) and the liquid released from the mixture is the whey. Gather the cloth around the cheese, and squeeze out as much of the whey as you can. Tie up the cloth to form a cheese ball or disk, refrigerate in cheesecloth for several hours. Remove from cloth and wrap in plastic, or place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Before serving, drizzle with good quality olive oil, sprinkle with course salt and fresh chopped herbs of your choice. I usually use basil, rosemary, and oregano. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes or chopped green onions. Serve on toasted Italian bread or hearty crackers.

For a sweeter flavor, drizzle with honey and serve with bagels, jam, and fruit.

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Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Cake, Desserts, Food

Apple Cider Donut Cake

Several weeks ago, a local orchard hosted a day of free apple-picking. Our family took a leisurely ride out to the farm and picked oodles of gorgeous red apples in the late summer sunshine. After it was all said and done, we had picked nearly seventy pounds of apples. Our canvas bags were overflowing as we loaded them into the car and headed to the farmhouse for a hearty lunch. As we waited for our table, I thought about all of the delicious treats I could make with our lot. I would make applesauce in the pressure cooker, several spicy applesauce quick breads, a special Bundt cake that holds an array of wonderful fall flavors, peanut butter and apple slice sandwiches, and lots of other apple flavored items.

This cake is one of our family favorites. I often bring it along to various outdoor parties hosted during the autumn months. It’s a great Thanksgiving dessert. Served up with a piping hot cup of tea or coffee, this one is a winner!

Apple Cider Donut Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

¾ cup apple cider

½ cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 eggs, slightly beaten

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup coarsely shredded peeled tart apples (2 medium)

Cinnamon Sugar Topping

3 tablespoons butter, melted

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350°F. Generously spray a Bundt cake pan with cooking spray.

In large bowl, beat together the first 6 ingredients. Stir in apples. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Let stand 20 minutes; loosen Cake and remove from pan to cooling rack or large, round cake platter.

Brush top and sides of cake with 3 tablespoons melted butter. In small bowl, mix sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until blended. Carefully and generously distribute sugar and cinnamon mixture over the top and sides of the cake. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

This recipe is adapted from a recipe found here:

https://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/apple-cider-doughnut-cake/7d9dadd5-834d-469e-9485-3356d8f028c4

A beautiful day for a drive…Beautiful red delicious apples…

Posted in Food, One Pot Meal, Soup

Country Corn and Chicken Chowder

Living in the Midwest, there is always an abundance of corn available this time of year. A short trip down a country road will lead you to several pop-up farm stands or an old Ford truck sitting with the tail open, piled high with beautiful ears of corn. The honor system is used when payment is needed. An old coffee or a clear mason jar sits atop the bed of the truck. Country customers put their dollars in and take change as they see fit. It always makes me smile to see trusting neighbors and friends supporting local foods.

This week, on my way back from the University, I expected to see the above mentioned vendors dotting the roads on my way home. Due to the late hour, all had packed up and headed home for supper. I had hoped to purchase a dozen ears of corn for a soup recipe I was planning to make. To my surprise, as I turned at a country crossroad, I spied an old truck filled with corn just waiting for my arrival. I grabbed a bag and filled it up. Inside the bed sat an old pretzel container with a twist lid. I popped in my cash and headed home. Here is the delicious recipe I love to make with fresh or frozen sweet corn. It is an adaptation to a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks.

Country Corn and Chicken Chowder

1 cup diced bacon (nearly 1 pound)

1 medium onion, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

½ cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (or 1 can diced potatoes)

8 ears of corn, carefully remove kernels (or two bags frozen roasted sweet corn)

2 cups cooked chicken, diced

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon marjoram

2 teaspoons parsley

ground black pepper to taste

2 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)

Place the bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat, and cook until crisp. Drain and crumble, reserving drippings in the pot.

Mix onion and celery into the pot with reserved drippings. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Do not brown. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes; do not brown. Pour in the broth, and stir in potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season with marjoram, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add chicken, corn, and cooked bacon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover pot. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and carefully add half and half.

Posted in Food, Gardening

Harvesting Honey

Today we had the pleasure of experiencing our first honey harvest. Our bees have been busy visiting fields of clover and Queen Anne’s Lace over the past several weeks. After watching hours of video focused on harvesting honey and rendering beeswax, we finally took a leap of faith and carefully extracted the liquid gold produced by our very own bees.

Here’s a step by step look at the process:

We carefully swept the bees off of the short, capped honey frames to prepare for extraction.

We set up the extractor and a screened sieve to remove the honey and filter out the wax and other unwanted items. A clean and organized area is imperative. We had buckets of soapy water with sanitizer and tarped surfaces in the extraction area.

After the extractor does its work (we have a hand crank version), the gate can be opened to pour unfiltered honey into a clean, food-safe bucket. The sieve and filter will take out the impurities.

We cleaned and sanitized our honey containers prior to setting up our bottling station.

The filtered honey is ready for bottling. We used 12 and 16 ounce jars. We wanted to try a mixture of plastic and glass jars.

We were able to bottle 12- 12 ounce, 12- 16 ounce, and 2- 4 ounce jars. What a delight to get so much honey from just 8 short frames.

I order a few different labels from Amazon to finish off the process. I think I’ll order a set of more personally printed labels for next year.

Now, it’s time to render the filtered wax to make our own beeswax blocks for future projects.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Desserts, Food, Kids in the Kitchen

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

As the temperatures rise and children return to outdoor play, this simple recipe provides a healthy dose of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. Adding a few tablespoons of local honey makes for a sweet and nutritious summertime treat.

If your family is anything like mine, these fruity popsicles won’t last long in the freezer!

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced (frozen bananas work best)

12 strawberries, cleaned, trimmed, and halved

1/2 cup pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons honey

Combine fruit and honey in the food processor. Purée until smooth and creamy. Fill and cap popsicle molds. Freeze for four hours. Loosen popsicle molds by briefly running under warm water. Serve immediately.

Posted in Baking, breakfast, Brunch, Desserts, Food

Puff Pastry Cups with Cherry Crumble

Cleaning out my freezer proved to be a positive experience this morning. In the far left corner of my freezer compartment, I found a box of puff pastry cups that I had purchased several weeks ago and completely forgot about them (as they slowly made their way to the back of the freezer). I’m sure many can relate to this. As we pack our freezers and pantries with new items, other items are slowly shuffled “out of sight, out of mind”. I’m thrilled that I was able to quickly assemble this easy recipe for a Sunday dessert. Use any fruit flavored filling for this delicious treat.

Puff Pastry Shells with Cherry Crumble

1 package (6) Puff Pastry Cups, prepared according to package directions

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 can (21 ounces) cherry pie filling or your favorite flavor

Puff Pastry Cups with Cherry Crumble

Cool pastry shells on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Remove center tops. Do not turn off oven. Keep temperature at 400 degrees. In a small bowl, stir the flour, sugar, cinnamon and butter until crumbs form. Sprinkle evenly over pie filling within each pastry. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until the crumb mixture is golden brown and filling begins to bubble. Remove from oven and let the pastries cool for 10 minutes. Return tops to the pastry. Sprinkle with powder sugar when completely cooled, if desired.

Posted in Food, Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

This past week we took the opportunity to leave the bitter cold of the Midwest to fly down to our favorite vacation spot. As Disney Vacation Club Members, we frequently visit the land of Mickey and Minnie to enjoy the warm southern breezes and bright Orlando sunshine. Our visit is most relaxing as we love to grab a cold drink and visit the pool, hang out on the deck while reading the latest novel, use the boat system to travel to various hotels and marvel as we view the beautiful flowers and unique shrubbery. We try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the theme parks. “Been there, done that…” is my motto. As our children were growing up, we always made a few trips to the parks. These days, I’d much rather sit back and relax.

The DVC homes are spacious and bright. They have all of the amenities of home. Most nights, I cook in our beautiful villa, other nights we take a short ride to a neighboring hotel to enjoy a meal or dinner show. This year we enjoyed the Ohana dinner show at the Polynesian Hotel. Another evening was spent sharing a meal at Artist Point in the Wilderness Lodge. One of the appetizers served during the “storybook” dinner at Artist Point was a mini vessel of winter squash bisque. The garnish; a “lollipop” marshmallow stick. What a delightful treat. We had a fun night celebrating with Snow White, Dopey, Grumpy, and the Wicked Queen.

Arriving home, the Chicago winds were incredibly cold and the icy rain was pouring from the heavens. Running from the courtesy bus to our car in the economy parking lot, The rain had soaked through my clothing and I was, once again, freezing. I really wanted to turn around and jump back on the flight to return to the warmth of Orlando. I decided then and there that I would make a trip to the grocery store and purchase ingredients to make a big pot of Spicy Butternut Squash Soup to warm our bones and remind us of our last evening in Disney World.

This recipe is certainly not the same as Disney’s version, but it is a favorite. I add lots of ground black pepper to balance the sweetness of the maple syrup and brown sugar. Garnish with pine nuts, walnuts, maple syrup, or pumpkin seeds.

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

2 large butternut squash (seeded and roasted)

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup chopped shallot (about 2 medium shallot bulbs)

1 tablespoon salt

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 teaspoons maple syrup

1 tablespoon brown sugar

¾ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Lots of ground black pepper, to taste

4- 5 cups chicken broth (or water mixed with chicken base)

½ – ¾ cups half & half

In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat until. Add the chopped shallot; stir and cook until the shallot has softened and begins to turn golden in color. Add garlic; stir and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add butternut squash, maple syrup, brown sugar, nutmeg, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Pour in chicken broth. Bring to a boil and turn down heat to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cool slightly before using an immersion blender to cream the soup. Stir in half & half and serve immediately.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, Brunch, Cake, Desserts, Food

Peanut Butter Blondies

Everyone in our house loves peanut butter so this recipe is definitely a family favorite. A few simple ingredients come together to make a delicious bar great for lunch time or snack time. If you’re a peanut butter lover… pour a giant glass of cold milk, grab a serving-sized blonde, find a quite spot to sit and enjoy a little slice of heaven.

Peanut Butter Blondies

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

2 cups brown sugar, packed

4 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13X9” baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, beat peanut butter and butter together with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually mix in brown sugar, eggs and vanilla extract. Add flour and mix until well combined. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly in the dish. Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Optional: Microwave until spreadable, 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter. Spread over warm bars. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Cool before slicing into bars.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Chicken, Dinner, Food

Spicy Chicken Roll

On Sunday afternoons, I often set up my crock pot to cook several pounds of chicken to be used for various meals during the work week. I load up my slow cooker to let the chicken simmer away for 8 hours and then chop or shred the poultry for chicken salad, chicken lasagna, spicy buffalo chicken sandwiches, or to be used as a green salad ingredient. This is a complete time saver when trying to juggle a full work day and a lengthy commute, while working to get a decent meal on the table in a timely manner.

I usually serve this Spicy Chicken Roll with a fresh green salad. My children will often take a slice for their lunch bag, to be eaten cold or heated. The mild spicy flavor is a family favorite.

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 cups chicken breast, shredded

1/2 cup hot sauce. (I use Franks brand)

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

2 cans crescent rolls

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In small saucepan, mix cream cheese, hot sauce, chicken and shredded cheese. Heat on medium-low until combined and cheese has melted. Cool.

Unroll both cans of dough; separate into 16 triangles. On cookie sheet, arrange triangles in ring so short sides of triangles form a circle in center. Use a small oven- safe bowl to guide and maintain a circle. Dough will overlap. Dough ring should look like a sun.

Spoon cream cheese mixture on the half of each triangle closest to center of ring. Bring each dough triangle up over filling, tucking dough under bottom layer of dough to secure it. Repeat around ring until entire filling is enclosed.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until dough is golden brown and thoroughly baked. Cool 5 to 10 minutes before slicing into serving sized pieces.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, breakfast, Brunch, eggs, Food

Farmhouse Breakfast Squares

During the Christmas holiday, I assembled quite a few casseroles to feed the army of family members that were home for the holidays. Many of these recipes had their fair share of carbohydrates nestled throughout. I, on the other hand, try to watch my carb intake as I always seem to have severe migraines when I consume refined sugar and loads of carbs. This recipe is quite simple to assemble and chocked with flavor. A bit of Frank’s hot sauce added to the egg mixture is a welcome addition to the recipe. A few teaspoons add a hint of flavor. If you like a spicy egg dish, feel free to kick up the heat by doubling or tripling the sauce. One other trick, try to seed and core the tomatoes before dicing them. This helps eliminate a soupy casserole.

The serving sized squares are compact and great as leftovers. Super for breakfast lunch or dinner. Serve along side a cup of yogurt with granola, a field greens salad, or a few hash browned potatoes.

Farm House Breakfast Squares

1 pound breakfast sausage

12 large eggs

½ cup heavy cream or half & half

1 ½ cups cheddar cheese

2 teaspoons hot sauce

1 medium green pepper, diced

½ cup onion, chopped finely

1 medium tomato, seeded and cored

In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook the breakfast sausage for about 10 minutes, breaking apart with a spatula, until fully browned. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13×9” baking dish, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, half & half, and hot sauce. Add the pepper, onion, tomato, and cheese; whisk thoroughly. If desired, set aside a few veggies and a bit of cheese for garnish.

Pour the egg mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle cooked sausage evenly over egg mixture distributing all ingredients. Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until center is set. Cool slightly and cut into serving sized squares.

Optional: Garnish with a bit of cheese and leftover chopped veggies. Salt/pepper to taste.