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I'm a guy who likes to cook, eat, and drink, but not necessarily in that order. This blog is nothing fancy; just my random thoughts about anything that can be baked, roasted, or fried. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


© 2015 Laura Flippin
A few years ago, I developed this sudden desire to make cheese. I bought a book on cheesemaking and read it cover to cover. But like many of my other stillborn hobbies (e.g., painting, fountain pens, Civil War re-enacting), neither curds nor whey ever graced my kitchen. So it was interesting when I opened up my newest food magazine to which I’ve subscribed—I think I’m up to five now—and saw an article on homemade ricotta, and then just a few days later, I came across this piece on ricotta by the New York Times’ Melissa Clark. (Watch how Melissa Clark makes ricotta.). Maybe the food gods were trying to tell me something. 

The word “ricotta” literally means “re-cooked” in Italian and has been made there since the Bronze Age. Traditionally, it is made by reheating the whey left over from cheese making and adding an acid, like lemon juice or even vinegar. It is technically not cheese but a diary product.

Ricotta cheese is slightly sweet and low in fat—similar to cottage cheese. You can make it as creamy or as dry as you like, with small curds or big curds, depending on your preference. When I made it, it was soft, with small curds and spread on a slice of fresh French bread, it was delicious. Because of its sweetness, ricotta makes an excellent “cheese” for dessert, either simply with fresh berries and other fruit, or in cheesecakes.

Of course, you probably don’t have extra whey sitting around because you, like me, aren’t making cheese. Also, it’s not like you can drive down to the local Piggly-Wiggly and buy some whey. (Even Whole Wallet doesn’t carry it.) So most recipes for making ricotta at home call for whole milk and cream, which is probably close enough. It is also ridiculously easy to make. Here is the recipe from Fine Cooking (Apr./May 2015) I mentioned above:

Homemade Ricotta

With so few ingredients, the quality of each is very important. The better your milk and cream, the better your ricotta will be. A high-quality sea salt will also make a difference. This recipe is easily halved. 

Yield: about 4 1/2 cups ricotta


1 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs. flaky sea salt,such as Maldon
1/2 cup fresh, strained lemon juice (from two large lemons)


Line a colander with 3 to 4 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth, and set it in a clean sink or large bowl.

Clip an instant-read or candy thermometer to the side of a heavy-duty 7-to 8-quart pot. Put the milk and cram in the pot and slowly warm it over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a silicone spatula, until its’ 185 degrees, about 20 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the salt, and then slowly pour the lemon juice over the surgance of the milk. Once all of the lemon juice has been added, stir gently for 1 to 2 minutes to encourage curds to form.

Gently ladle the curds into the prepared colander. Fold the ends of the cheesecloth over the curds to loosely cover. Drain until it reaches your desired consistency, 30 minutes for a soft ricotta and up to 24 hours for a very firm, dry, and dense ricotta. Transfer the drained ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Stack 'em High!

Pancakes. Flapjacks. Hotcakes. Griddle Cakes. Whatever you call them in your neck of the woods, they are awesome in their deliciousness. Seriously, have you ever met someone who didn’t love a good pancake? In fact, the whole world loves some kind of version of the pancake. The French have their crêpes, those delicate, thin pancakes perfect for wrapping around fresh strawberries or Nutella. The Chinese also make thin pancakes—Mu Shu Pork would be the same without them. And in some real sense, even a Mexican flour tortilla is a pancake.

Then there’s the question of syrup. For the kids I would keep Aunt Jemima on hand, even though you can’t beat real maple syrup. Growing up, we were a Log Cabin family, but somewhere along the way I strayed and became a fan of Aunt J. Finally, there’s also the issue of which goes better with pancakes. Sausage or bacon? I’m a sausage guy myself (wow, that sounded bad!), but only sausage links. My boys, on the other hand, are solid bacon supporters.  

Pancakes have been a staple with my kids for some time. When they were little, I would take them to the local McDonald’s—one of those with the playground—on Sunday mornings and get them “hot cakes” (what McDonald’s calls pancakes) with sausage. I’d watch them crawl around those plastic tube thingies while I read the Sunday New York Times. I would have joined them but my middle aged dad-butt would have gotten stuck. Other times, I would take them to IHOP or The Pancake House, and many times I would make them from scratch at home.

©2015 Chris Terrell
A Labor of Love!
The kids, now 13, have outgrown the McDonald’s playground, replaced with X-box and soccer. So Sunday morning pancakes have fallen by the wayside. But that changed on a recent Sunday morning.  I decided that, after a long hiatus, I would make pancakes. I had everything I needed: flour, eggs, vanilla extract, sugar….but wait. The recipe called for milk. I had no milk! While I did have a pint of skim milk, it had expired about 16 days ago. The local grocery down the street is closed on Sundays, and I was too lazy to get in the car and drive to the local Piggly Wiggly. And then I remembered that I had a big box of Mini Moos from Costco! And while it only took about 75 Mini Moos, I got the required cup and three quarters of milk required for the recipe. Mission accomplished! And this time, Forrest wanted blueberry pancakes.

Here’s the recipe I used. It’s from The Joy of Cooking, and I’ve been using it since high school—it’s never let me down.


About sixteen 4-inch pancakes

Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Combine in another bowl:

1 1/2 cups milk (or 75 Mini Moos)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Mix the liquid ingredients quickly into the dry ingredients. Spoon about a 1/4  to 1/3 of cup of batter per pancake onto a non-stick pan at medium high heat. 

Here are some good tips from The Joy of Cooking:

  • Ignore lumps and don't over mix the batter—it will make the pancakes tough.
  • Superior results are achieved when batter is rested, covered, and refrigerated for 3 to 6 hours before cooking.
  • To test if the griddle is hot enough, place a few drops of water onto the surface. If the water bounces and sputters, the pan is hot enough. If it the water sits and boils, it is not. If the water evaporates quickly, then it is too hot.
  • If the griddle is not hot enough, the batter will spread out too thin and the pancakes will not rise enough. 
  • Turn the pancakes only once.