Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Busy Busy Busy

With the holidays quickly approaching and me starting a brand new and time consuming job, while still at the old one, I may not have time to post this week. 

But I find it absolutely necessary to share with you a great little place in Rutherford, NJ.

It's Sweet Avenue and it is a vegan bakery, with a daily selection of gluten and soy free cakes and cookies.

How they make such a moist and delicious chocolate cupcake and melt-in-your-mouth-like-butter-without-the-butter cookies I cannot say, but I'd love to learn their tricks. 

Go there, get cupcakes, love life!

*There is also a restaurant nearby that has a gluten free menu, Park and Orchard, East Rutherford, which I have heard great things about. Date night?

I promise I'll be back soon :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Great Pickle Challenge

I have a penchant for pickling pints of peppers…and beets...and eggs...and garlic...and beans...and carrots...and…ad infinitum. But apparently, the one thing I haven’t made is plain old pickles. The cucumber variety, dill, kosher, bread and butter, none of it. I guess it’s my need to hit the ground running with everything I do; quite possibly the desire to avoid the mundane like the plague. But there is something to be said for old standbys. The classics became just that for a reason. People like them! 

So upon the request of those nearest and dearest, I decided to try my hand at plain old simple pickles.

Now, of course, I couldn’t just grab a pack of pickling mix from the store, mix it with vinegar and be done…Not me! I made 4 variations on a typical pickle and hope to hone my skill to make the best pickle around.  

I mixed my own pickling spices, including some foraged bay leaf, hit some with the simple dill and another with a chili pepper because some like it hot (namely, me!). And since I was on such a pickling kick, and I happened to have had some cranberries left over from infusing a lovely (though not my best effort at adapting) cranberry Vodka, I pickled those too! Check out Food in Jars blog and the recipe on Serious Eats.

Quick note to those that are completely gluten free, White vinegar is generally made from “grains” which is likely to be wheat. To be on the safe side, maybe try a different one, rice, or wine, or i don’t know what, be creative. I like cider vinegar best anyway, so it’s not really an issue for me.

This isn’t standard format because I wouldn’t know where to start, but this is my best description:

My four pickles


4 pint jars and lids, cleaned/sterilized if canning
½ onion
8 garlic cloves
12 kirby, or other pickling, cucumbers, cleaned
2 teaspoons pickling spice (purchased or see below)
2 teaspoons dried dill
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons pickling (or fine sea) salt
2 cups vinegar (1 cup of each if trying what i did)
2 cups of water

I used 2 recipes in 4 jars with 2 vinegars = 4 different pints of pickles
(plus the ½ pint of leftovers with chili)

For 4 jars I sliced ½ an onion and 8 garlic cloves. This was split evenly between the jars.

For 2 of the jars I put about a teaspoon of dill atop the garlic and onion in each.

In the other two I put the same amount of home made pickling spice. 

I made this a few months ago in an unlabeled jar but I believe that was made of equal parts –
  •   whole cloves
  •   black pepper corns
  •   whole allspice
  •   whole cardamom
  •   whole black pepper
  •   crushed cinnamon sticks
  •   coriander seeds
  •   a few bay leaves
*to this mix you could add dill and or dried hot pepper. I opted to save that option for the day of pickling, depending on what was being pickled and who would be eating it.

To each of these jars I added a pinch of dill as well, and to the small jar, also a pepper. 

I figured on 2.5-3 Kirby cukes per pint. I sliced them into wedges, some quartered, some more, depending on the size. I squeezed them into the pints, tightly, but not crushing them.
If canning, bring a canner or pot of water to boil now, high enough to cover the jars.

In a small pot I brought to a boil 1 cup of water and one cup of cider vinegar, with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 2 teaspoons of salt. If you choose to can these, you cannot mess with the vinegar to water ratio. That is why I added the sugar, as to not have incredibly bitter pickles.

Remove from heat and pour over 1 jar of dill and one jar of spiced cucumbers. cover and process for 10 minutes. Look into water bath canning here or ask me before you try it.

Repeat this process with the other vinegar, salt and sugar. Pour over the other two jars and process if desired.

I simply covered, cooled and refrigerated mine as I knew they would be gone too quickly to go to the trouble of canning them.

This extra I was speaking of, I sliced the leftover cuke, a clove of garlic and a bit of onion and put it in a ½ pint. I used the pickling spice with dill And chili and covered with the cider vinegar and water mixture.

However you make these, it’s simple and tasty. I know which one I like the best, but I’ll wait the recommended day or two to get a consensus.

Happy pickling!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Winter Vegetable Soup

It's getting colder out there. The nights are getting longer and worst of all, the big, bright, local, fresh veggies are dwindling! 

It appears it's time to remember our starchy root friends and the comfort they provide in these dark months.

<<<   Remember this guy?

Yeah, he’s not pretty, but man is he tasty! As well being as low in calories and high in fiber, it has 0 fat or cholesterol and is less starchy than many other roots. And did I mention that it’s delicious?

Its many names include celeriac, celery root, turnip rooted celery and celery knob. As you may guess, it is a relative of common celery, bred to have a bigger bulb. It is mild, somewhat like a celery and parsley blend, so it adds a great flavor to this soup (or other stews).

As is often suggested, I paired it with potatoes as a base, threw in some more veggies and roasted. I prepped this two ways, blended and left whole.

This recipe is vegan, gluten free and very easy if you simply use what you have on hand. 

Root Vegetable Soup


1 Large Celeriac
2 Large (or 4-5 baby) Potatoes – I used the ones at the local farm, no idea what they are called
1 large Sweet Potato
2-3 Carrot Sticks – my farm has the fun rainbow kind
5 Shallots
Grapeseed/Olive oil
Dried Thyme
1 Quart Vegetable stock - I make mine, but if you don’t, you should go organic, you never know what’s in that carton
Vegetarian Protein – Use silken tofu if blending, firm or extra firm, or even tempeh, if leaving in chunks.
Alternatively, you could use a few good dollops of creme fraiche or sour cream to get that creamy texture and added protein

***Organic vegetable proteins (tofu, tempeh, ect) are best all around - no genetically modified franken-soy for me please.***

~Optional but fabulous~
Korean Red Pepper for a slight kick in the finished product – I have a huge bag that I use for making Kimchi and thought of it just before I popped the baking pan in the oven. Replace with some chili pepper or a bit of ground red pepper and cayenne if you want to.

As always, sub as desired. Play with colors and flavors. Beets would add great color and sweetness; parsnips have a distinctly creamy texture and taste; throw in some squash in place of sweet potato if you’re feeling adventurous. My second serving was accented with a few tablespoons of leftover tomato sauce that I had wanted to use up.

Peel and Chop

Celeriac is awful looking. You need to pare away the tough skin and deep set dirt to get to the creamy flesh inside. You should rinse it and just start hacking away with a knife, as you would a pineapple. No mere carrot peeler will do. Once it looks mostly clean and white, chop it into large chunks. You can always discard the bits with the dirty creases in them.

Peel and chop the white and sweet potatoes, carrots and anything else you are using, to uniform bite size pieces (especially if you want to keep the final product whole). Peel the shallots and ½ or quarter, depending on the size. I have little ones this time, so halves it was.

Mix and Roast

Toss all veggies with a couple tablespoons of oil, just to keep them from drying out, salt and pepper to taste, and about a teaspoon of dried thyme (or fresh if you have it) and red pepper. 

Lie out on a pan and roast at 350’ for about 30-40 minutes, until everything is fork tender.

Simmer and Blend

While those are in the oven, get your quart of stock up to a nice temperature. You don’t want to boil it or cook it down too much, the water is needed to thin the starchiness of the potatoes. You just want it hot.

Add the roasted veggies to the stock and simmer for a few minutes. You want to make sure there aren’t any hard, sharp edges in there. You won’t lose any of the depth of flavor achieved by roasting, I promise.

Since there is a negligible amount of protein in the soup, and I wanted a creamy blended type dish, I added ½ a block of silken tofu to the mix. Between the stock and that, the end result was a thick and hearty soup with a smooth, creamy texture.

Carefully ladle the mixture into a blender and blend until the tofu is completely incorporated and your product is creamy and smooth. It is very quick. Season, if needed, and enjoy.

If keeping the pieces whole, add any protein you like, silken can still work, but firm may be better. Tempeh is good, though be sure to CHECK to see that it’s gluten free. You would be done with this step. Enjoy.

Be careful handing hot soup, in whatever form or step. Burns are easy to come by when you have to keep transferring liquids. 


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pizza Party

Let's get back to it! I hope you all had a great thanksgiving. Are you sick of leftovers yet? I think I promised you pizza.

Yes, the term 'gluten free' can go in the same sentence as pizza - and even beer! Who'd have thought? 

What to do? It was a rainy, cold and cruddy evening as we wandered the isles of Whole Foods and I couldn't think of a thing I wanted to eat. My meat eating, wheat loving boyfriend came to the rescue in the flour isle, grabbing a bag that was above my line of sight (and probably not something I would have chosen alone anyway), suggesting hesitantly, "Want to make pizza?"

Thrilled to death at the idea of making the one thing I absolutely missed more than anything, on top of the fact that I would have a fun evening of food making with great company, I may have literally jumped at the idea. 

Off I went, listing the things I had canned or ready to go at home (toppings and sauce) and the things I didn't (cheese and beer) and planning dinner as an event.

First, off to the beer section of the store for some expensive but delicious sorghum ale, then to another store for some Rennet and Citric Acid for the homemade mozzarella, then home for an adventure in pizza making!

This is less of a recipe and more of a "You can do it (and not believe how much fun it can be)" post!

The Pizza Party 


Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix - I used Bob's Red Mill
(I'll post and link whatever I use next time, or check out the Gluten Free Goddess, her recipes are always amazing, and as I noticed after I'd written this, we agree that dinner rolls and pizza crust are not so different)

             Ingredients that Bob called for
             -2 eggs
             -Yeast packet (included)
             -2 Tbsp Olive oil
             -1 & 1/2 cups of Warm water

Tomato sauce
Tomato paste to thicken, if needed
Mozzarella Cheese - See Cheese
Toppings - mine were thinly sliced green peppers and onions and his were overly thick and eventually cup shaped pepperoni.

It's so simple, really. The cheese may be the most difficult part because you need to keep an eye on the temperature of the milk and do a bit of kneading, but it wasn't hard by any means

Preheat oven to 425'

Dough - His Job

If you are preparing the pizza alone, I suggest checking the Cheese recipe and maybe getting things to room temperature, then starting the dough. You will have to wait for it to rise and the timing should be perfect. Or again, simply buy your cheese. In our case, we started at the same time, I worked on the cheese since I had more experience with it.

The exact package instructions are here (but mine are more fun)

He mixed the water and yeast for a bit, then beat the eggs into it with the oil and added everything to the flour mixture as per the directions. There is already evaporated cane juice in the mixture for the yeast to feed on to rise, so no additional sweetener is necessary.

He mixed it by hand with a whisk, though I'm pretty sure that when the directions said "beat on medium" they weren't referring the effort put forth in whisking. No matter, he got it done, my arm would certainly have been sore, and it made for a giggle when it was all finished.

Continuing to simply follow directions (as well as I can be expected to, now that I was also reading them and waiting around for my milk to warm up) he separated the dough into two balls and covered to rise.

Once risen, this also lent itself to a few giggles

The directions called for 20 minute of rising, but it seemed to have barely changed in that time. Another 10 minutes did the trick, though its certainly up to your discretion.

While we patiently waited for the very sticky dough to rise, I finished up the Cheese, microwaving and kneading to perfection. Be sure to cover and/or wrap the cheese if you are not using it immediately. It will dry out quicker than you can believe. Also, try not to eat it all before getting it onto the pizza! It's a reasonable warning, wait and see.


Being a bit rough on the dough

On that lovely greased cookie sheet you are using, or pizza pan if you have one (or two), it's time to lay out your crust. My experience was that this was a bit too much dough for one 16' pizza, as it recommends. Try a cookie sheet, if you don't care about the shape, make two round ones or save some extra dough for dinner rolls, it has the perfect taste and texture for that (and pizzeria's do it all the time!). Basically, you want to make sure the dough is not too thick in the middle as the crust is around the edges. It will cook more evenly and it won't be doughy.

The one suggestion that is ever important with GF baking, use wet hands when shaping your dough. Since you can't flour them, water is perfect. Your hands will glide over the dough like Demi Moore's over clay in a steamy, ghostly love scene. Maybe it's a bit dramatic, but that's what I think of. 


Don't skip this step! You need to par-bake the crust to have a crispy final product. about 9 minutes did it, though my crust was a bit thick. Just check it and be sure its at least dry and firm.


I mixed a bit of the tomato paste in with my sauce as freezing had it made it too watery to work for this pizza, then spread it, leaving about an inch or so for the crust.

If it were still available as an option, I would have preferred my stewed tomatoes from the garden this year, but they all went to late night GFree wrap pizzas and as gifts to friends (not next year!).

We sliced the cheese and arranged it in an aesthetically pleasing manner, though a bit thick. Did you know it's tough to slice soft, warm cheese thinly?

Next time, refrigerating it, then shredding. Easier and it melts more evenly.

We then popped the pizza in the oven for another 18 minutes, but, due to the thickness of everything, put it back in for another 10.

To stop the peperoni from curling, if you happen to use some,
just slice a nick on one side, from the center to the edge, while still cold.
It will cook flat.

We then sliced, ate and enjoyed some tasty, fun, homemade gluten free pizza! But not before a few more pictures, of course.

*After having this crust mix, I will say that it is not bad and that I may use it again for some quick dinner rolls, maybe even pizza as long as I make it a bit thinner in the center, but I will definitely make my own flour mix next time.

Although the health advantages are not as apparent in this one, you are getting as big a dose of veggies as you choose to pile on the pie, as well as a serving of whole grains and some great protein, along with the fat of the cheese. 

You are also getting the sense of calm and normalcy that comes from spending time with good people and eating a favorite comfort food. Sometimes you just need a little gluten free gluttony!

Home Made Mozzarella

Making cheese is fun and easy. It really doesn't take very long, especially this recipe, and you get the satisfying feeling of saying "Yes, I made that!"

I have used this on Pizza, Lasagna, crackers, my hand, anything at all, etc. I really love cheese. I go through phases, and right now my phase is home made! I am lucky that I'm not one of the many with gluten sensitivity that also have lactose intolerance.

While cheese will always have more than it's fair share of fat and cholesterol, and be a product of a living being, it can still be safer, free range, organic and delicious. It all depends on the milk you start with.

For my cheese, I used a gallon of plain, Whole Foods brand 365, whole milk. You can used nearly any kind, low-fat, whole, regular, organic, raw, goat or buffalo (prized throughout much of the world). You may need to adjust your proportions a bit if you do this, though I'm sure you can find directions in my links below or elsewhere. I will be experimenting with more types as soon as I can and be sure to update the post with my results. I also used the stove then microwave method here, where I will try the totally stove top one as well.

Home Made Mozzarella


1 Large pot - non-reactive
1 candy or digital thermometer
1 gallon of milk (I used 365 whole milk)
1 & 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid - dissolved in 1/4 cup NON-Chlorinated water
1/2 teaspoons liquid Rennet
2 tsp Salt or to taste
Strainer with cheese cloth
Rubber gloves - for kneading hot cheese
Large bowl
Slightly smaller bowl

The Additives

Citric acid and rennet are what make the milk into cheese.

Yes, citric acid is the thing in lemons, limes and our own bodies. It is a mild acid and natural preservative. Wikipedia can get into the chemistry of it, but it is absolutely necessary. The reason lemon juice is not used is that it is not easy to regulate the strength and therefore not suitable for usage for something as precise as mozzarella.

Rennet is a bit different. Let me start with saying I use liquid vegetarian rennet. It is easy and a little goes a long way. It is a derivative of what was originally used when cheese making was discovered.

As I understand it historically, in the middle east, milk was stored in pouches made of the stomachs of young cows or goats in the hot desert by traveling herdsmen (they did not waste the "unsavory" bits as we do). They found that it turned the milk into curds and whey and that the curds could be formed, pressed and preserved. It was the earliest form of preserving milk. The area of lining that produced the strongest effect was isolated and eventually, the rennin extracted for more commercial use. More, again, on Wiki, or the links below.

There are also vegetarian and microbial versions of this coagulant, the former of which, I am using.

I purchased both at a wine and beer brewing specialty store. I guess cheese goes hand in hand with brewing. If you cannot find these items at a local specialty or health food store, you can always order them online, from dairy farms, cheese makers or of course, Amazon.

The Milk

As previously mentioned, the milk choice is yours. Mine was simple whole milk as I assumed it would be the easiest. Pour the milk into a pot and get the thermometer into it. It should be 50' or above before you add the citric acid. Be sure it is dissolved thoroughly before mixing it into the milk

Turn the heat to medium and bring Slowly up to 90'F, No Higher, stirring often so the bottom neither sticks nor burns. At 90 remove from heat and add the 1/4 teaspoon of liquid rennet, mixing for about 30 second to fully combine the coagulants.

Let rest for 20-30 minutes, or until the milk has formed a fairly solid mass that you can slice (in the pot) without it crumbling and the sides have pulled away from the pot. It's called a clean break.

Scoop into the strainer lined with cheesecloth to drain briefly. You don't need it too dry. Simply dumping the pot WILL result in unpleasant burns, from steam and cheese. You want your only lasting memories to be the cheese, not the scars. Be careful.

Once again, save the whey, as I mentioned in my lasagna post, it can be very useful.


Transfer the curds into the smaller bowl. They will shrink in the next few steps, trust me.

Microwave for about 1 minute. You will see more whey around the curds. Drain this off and mix the curds a bit by hand (gloved hand, trust me).

Fill a separate bowl with very cold water, maybe throw a few ice cubes in there. Have it ready.

Return curds to the microwave for 30 seconds. Repeat draining and mixing, attempting to knead.

Microwave for  30 seconds one last time. When you remove the cheese, drain off some whey, salt curds then fold and knead like dough until you form a ball and stretch. Have fun with that part.

Do not over work, as you will remove too much moisture and have dry cheese. It will be edible, and meltable, but not nearly as pleasant. Also keep in mind that it will firm up once refrigerated.

 You can now roll it into smaller balls or one large one, depending on your needs.

Once you reach a consistency that is just slightly softer than you want it, shock in a bowl of cold water. If not using the cheese immediately, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, then again in either a second layer or a plastic bag (it may release more whey), and refrigerate.

Now you have a ball of the freshest mozzarella you can get! Eat it, share it, save it for a recipe, but please use it within 10 days and keep it refrigerated. A gallon for me has yielded between 14oz and 16oz of finished cheese and one happy me.


Some notes on not so terrible cheese and mozzarella making:


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

More To Come...

Stay tuned for

  • A Gluten Free & From Scratch Pizza Date  Done
  • Mozzerella Making Done
  • Thanksgiving Mini-Cini Cornbreads
  • Killer Kabocha Pie
  • Celeriac Soup - Very Random Done
  • Saurkraut - I need to get this one made!
  • Overnight Yogurt - I'm thinking Thursday
  • And More

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Indian Spiced Roasted Sprouts

I'm hungry and fresh from the farm again, this time with a small bag of brussel sprouts, some sweet potatoes and this thing...

Celeriac, or Celery Root

I'll figure out what to do with him later!

In the mean time, this cold rainy day calls for some warm and spicy roasted things. With a bit of garam masala and side of quinoa (the wonder "grain"), I'll have the perfect fall meal.

Brussels sprouts are another one of those good for you guys that not everyone loves. In the same family as kale, cabbage and broccoli, it helps lower cholesterol, protect your dna and seems to affect the thyroid less than the others.

Roasting is a great way to bring out the nuttiness that was often missed out on when we had these as kids. Out of the box, frozen, then cooked until mushy is no ones idea of a good time. Try this, it's yummy, healthy and different.

Indian Spiced Roasted Sprouts


Some Brussel Sprouts - Sorry, I didn't weight them, it was about a bowlful - see pictures
1/2 Red Onion
1/2 Sweet Potato
Mushrooms - I used 1/2 a package of Beech Mushrooms - again, see pictures, or use whatever you have handy
1 Garlic clove
1 1-inch piece of ginger
2 teaspoons of Garam Masala - A hot Indian spice, may have been too much, will cut back to 1 next time
1 teaspoon of Tumeric
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup Quinoa (I used red/royal) - rinsed
1 1/2 cups water

Once again, I used what was convenient, that's how I cook. Feel free to adjust the ingredients or even spices. For example, omit turmeric and garam masala and replace with oregano and thyme for an Italian roast, or sub regular potatoes for sweet ones and shallots for onions, throw in some carrots, be creative. Nearly every vegetable is tasty roasted.

Preheat the oven to 400'F

Slice and Dice

Trim the sprouts by lopping off the bottom stem and tossing aside any stray, dirty or dark leaves . As always, save for stock!

Slice in half and soak in water to clean any dirt out while you prep other items.

Cut the onion into chunks large chunks and the sweet potato into small ones. Everything has a different density and you want them to all cook evenly. if you have large mushrooms, 1/2 or 1/4 them as well. I had small skinny ones that I used as is.

Finely chop the garlic and ginger, either in a food processor or with a handy chefs knife and quicker than the eye can see movements.

Mix and Roast

I usually line pans with tinfoil when roasting tender veggies. They seem to stick less, and the clean up is obviously easier. I know it can be wasteful, so it isn't a necessary step, but always recycle it if you use it.

Drain brussel sprouts and combine all veggies and spices in a large bowl with oil. Mix well to fully coat then spread on baking sheet.

Roast for about 40 minutes, mixing half way through. Keep checking that they don't burn. You can take them out whenever they are cooked to your satisfaction.

While they are roasting, cook the quinoa, just like rice but quicker. Combine the water and grains and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover for 15-20 minutes, until the water is absorbed.

The quinoa will provide the nutrients, protein and complete amino acids that your veggie focused body needs.

Eat and Enjoy

You can mix the veggies with the quinoa, or serve them over or along side of it. Either way, you have a healthy, complete, bone warming meal for a cold, wet day.

Read and Learn

Brussel Sprouts

Monday, November 21, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing

While at the local farm checking out what they still had on hand this late in the season, I found cauliflower for $2 per head. What's a girl to do but buy the biggest one she sees? And I did. Now, I have a cauliflower bigger than my own head! I wish I shot a picture of it before I chopped it up, but instead, I just showed it to everyone I could, in person. It was ridiculous.

After cleaning and chopping it for any kind of cooking, I was struck with the anxiety of what I could possibly do with all that cauliflower. I detest waste! I also love a good deal, which leaves me in these predicaments at times.

 I figured some Indian Aloo Gobi would do it (a cauliflower and sweet potato version),

With Lemongrass Jasmine rice and tasty Indian spiced pickles

Then maybe Veggie Korma.

Yet there I was, with tons of Indian leftovers and 1/2 a giant head left and a picky, All-American eater coming over for dinner. Me, a foreign-focused foodie, gluten free and vegetarian, with more cauliflower than I knew what to do with needing to be cooked, and Soon, scrambling to make something 'normal.'

Scattered about the table were a zucchini (last one from the garden and getting soft), a few other veggies, some rice paper wraps and a bit of milk in the fridge. It was all I could think of...Veggie Lasagna.

Finished Lasagna

Gluten Free Roasted Veggie Lasagna

Pretty easy, super delicious and made with yummy, stretchy rice paper, spring roll wrap thingys. A decidedly Non-Vegan recipe.


A huge head of Cauliflower (or any small one will do just fine)
1 Large Zucchini
1 Large Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
1-2 Bell Peppers
Some Greens - Kale, Chard, Spinach
Any other veggies you feel like throwing in or substituting that might be on their last legs-
     Maybe broccali, kohlrabi, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, etc
A jar of Tomato sauce (I had canned mine a few weeks earlier from garden tomatoes. I'll eventually get to a recipe for that)
About a cup of Ricotta cheese (I made this on the spot, see step Cheese)
A hunk of Mozzarella (I'll get to that one to, or you could just buy it)
An egg
A bit of milk
Fresh ground Parmesean
Olive or Grapeseed Oil
Salt and Pepper
Italian seasoning and/or Oregano, Basil, Thyme, 
6-8 pieces of rice paper


-Lemon juice

All I had was 1/2 a quart of milk, so that's what I used. Homemade ricotta is insanely easy. Heat some whole milk over med to med-high heat until just boiling, stirring often so it does not burn. A perfect exercise while preparing other items for this meal.

As it starts to boil add a 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and stir constantly. As soon as the curds separate from the whey, remove from heat and gently mix for a few more minutes. Drain in a few layers of cheese cloth in a strainer over a bowl for about 10 minutes. You don't want it too dry, but you can always add more milk or whey later if it is. Put it in a container and refrigerate immediately for later use.

Curds Separating from Whey - this persons picture

*** Save the whey! It's the liquid that is left in the bowl. It is a a gas-stopping way to soak beans, a protein packed additive to shakes or smoothies, a replacement for buttermilk in baking, a starter for lacto-fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi, among a slew of other uses. I will definitely post the many uses and values of whey in the near future.***

Drained Curds - Finished Ricotta


In order not to burn the cheese or under cook the veggies, I decided to roast the latter before assembling the lasagna, starting with the hardest ones, then adding the softer ones to the pan towards the end. You could certainly steam them, but they won't have that lovely nutty, sweetness that only roasting brings out.

In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower, onion and other dense veggies (such as kohlrabi, peppers and carrots) with a couple tablespoons of oil, salt, pepper and whatever seasonings you decided on. Spread them on a high edged baking pan and roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

While these are cooking, prepare any other softer veggies and toss with the same oil mixture, adding more if needed. Carefully remove the pan, after the 15 minutes, and mix in the softer veggies (garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, zucchini) in with the others. Steal a few just to "make sure" they are on the right track then return the pan to the oven at the same temp and cook for another 15 minutes, mixing once.

This is about the point that my brother walked it and demanded to have whatever it was that I was cooking. That is incredibly helpful and best for the final dish, if you happen to have a hungry and demanding brother stopping by.

More Cheese

While the veggies are in their final stages of delicious roasting, combine the Ricotta (I won't be mad if you didn't make it, but you might be), the Parmesan and egg in a small bowl. Add some milk or whey if the mixture doesn't look like this:

Slice the Mozzarella in order to be able to layer it over the vegetables and put aside.

Remove the veggies when they are done and lower the oven to 350 degrees F.


 In a large baking dish you will now assemble the lasagna. I am preferential to Pyrex (and alliteration apparently) so that is what I usually use. You will need to wet each sheet of rice paper before layering them, under running water in the sink is fine, or in a large bowl of the same.

I use these, which I find in my local Asian market. My pot is round so it works out. There are other shapes and sizes as well, but these are the most common (and cheap at about $1-2 per pack of 30 or so, depending on the day and sale) 

I spread a layer of tomato sauce first to keep the rice paper from sticking. After wetting each sheet, allow to soften, either in your hand or on a surface that they wont stick too, be careful of that! Layer 2 rice sheets, then mixed veggies, then greens, then ricotta mixture, then mozzarella, then sauce, then 2 more sheets of rice paper, then veggies, cheese, sauce, rice get the point...until you are out of mostly everything.

Top with 2 sheets of rice paper, a bit of sauce and some mozzarella, or whatever cheese you have left, cover and stick in the oven, which should be at 350F, for about 40 minutes. You really just want the cheese to melt and the minimal egg in there to cook. You can even take off the cover for a bit so that the top browns.

Take it out and let it cool before you cut it.  It will save your mouth and retain its shape better, trust me on both counts.

This was my final product. Sorry for the fuzzy picture, but I was obviously in a hurry to dig in! 

Have fun! 
Be creative! 
Enjoy your food and the process of it.

A Winter Pesto

As I look for a healthy snack, something quick, easy and flavorful, I wander to my freezer for an all time, garlicky favorite, Kale Pesto.

Kale is a hardy winter green and one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat, full of vitamins, nutrients and flavor.
"One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus." -
Hard to argue with that! It is a superfood for sure, cancer fighting, cholesterol reducing, blood cleansing, etc, etc. But not everyone loves the taste, or even mildly tough texture of kale on its own. Remedies to this are to steam it briefly then add it to soup, lasagna, stir-fries, omelets or dips, or absolutely anywhere else you can sneak it in. 

I make this easy pesto not to hide the flavor of kale, but more as an excuse to eat raw garlic. 

Kale Walnut Pesto


It's almost too pretty to eat
So few ingredients, so much pesto!

    1 bunch of kale
    5 cloves of garlic 
(more or less to taste, I Always use more, to the detriment of my 
    loved ones, or anyone I speak to that day)
    1/2 Cup walnuts
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Olive or grapeseed oil 
   1 hunk of Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, or other favorite hard cheese, grated (omit and add more nuts for Vegan)
    Food Processor

Wash and Chop

Be sure to rinse your kale thoroughly, as dirt and sand loves to hide in those curly crevices. I rinse the leaves first, then de-stem and chop them, then rinse again in a colander.

 My Process for de-stemming is simple. I grip the outer stem at the bottom with 2 fingers and slide them up, taking the leaf off with me. I used to cut way the leafs but that was messy and wasteful. This seems to be the fastest way, as long as it is healthy kale with strong stems.

Be sure to save the stems in a bag in the freezer to make free veggie stock, or add to meat stocks.
Finely chop the walnuts and garlic in the food processor, in that order. Simply add one to the other.

Steam, Process, Repeat

For a quick steam to soften the kale, boil about an inch of water in a Large pot. If your pot is too small, the kale may fit, but it will not cook evenly, in which case, you can just cook it in batches.  Steam it in the boiling water, with a quick flip or stir after a minute so it doesn't get soggy. If you have a steamer basket, simply steam it in that for a few minutes, until it turns a very bright green. Don't over cook.

If you have a big enough processor, you can add  kale to the garlic/nut mixture now, a bit at a time until it is all in there, slowly adding oil and lemon juice for taste and consistency while processing. Finish with cheese, if using and give a good final blend.

I have a small one, so I make it in batches. I remove about 1/2 of the nut/garlic mixture to a separate bowl. I then add a solid handful of the washed and steamed kale, a bit of oil, lemon juice and cheese and process well. I then remove most and add some garlic/nut mix and repeat the process. I do this until I have achieved the texture and taste I want, adding back the already mixed batch, combining and tasting the whole time. It is more of an experiment than a science, every time. And I end up eating about 1/4 of it in the process. 

It freezes well and defrosts quickly, if it makes it to a container! I use it on rice cracker, veggies, omelets and a spoon. Try it for a different and colorful h'orderve or to liven up some fish.

 Pesto on Garden Tomatos
Pesto Pizza on GF Wrap with Provolone



Kale, in all its glory.

Some other ways I enjoy kale:

Steamed Kale with Grape Tomatoes and Tilapi with Chili-Lime-Butter

Kale "Saag" Paneer (homemade paneer)

A Winter Pesto on Punk Domestics