Thursday, October 30, 2014

Homemade Paneer Cheese

Making cheese at home is fast, inexpensive, and fun! Stop the endless search for paneer cheese - you're just 2 ingredients from your own batch.

I (stupidly) tried in vain to find fresh paneer cheese locally. Even Whole Foods didn't carry it! Before throwing in the towel, I Googled how to make it just for kicks and found out how easy it was. And really, it's not only easy, it's like doing a science experiment in your kitchen that results in a big ball of fresh cheese. If we had made cheese in high school science class, I probably would have been more interested...

Paneer is SO delicious - like all Indian food! It's a fairly soft, mild in flavor, crumbly non-melting cheese. Similar to queso blanco but without salt. Since it doesn't melt down or become gooey, it's perfect in hot dishes where you want a big bite of creamy cheese (like saag paneer). I used it in an AMAZING enchilada recipe I'll be posting in a few days!

Since paneer is not aged you can be eating it in 30 minutes. Which is much faster than running all over town looking for it :)

Though not typically salted, you may want to salt it prior to pressing if you plan to eat much of it plain. 

Homemade Paneer Cheese
8 cups whole milk
1/4 cup lemon juice

Line a large colander with a double layer of cheesecloth and set in your sink. If you'd like to save the whey, place a bowl under the colander. 

In a large pot, bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom to avoid burning. This takes awhile so be patient.

Once barely boiling, add the lemon juice and turn down to low. Stir gently and you should almost immediately see the curds and whey start to separate. The curds are white milk solids and the whey is a greenish liquid. Try to stir the curds together instead of breaking them apart.   

If the milk doesn't separate, add another tablespoon of lemon juice and turn the heat up again. 

Once the milk seems to be separated, pour the contents into the prepared colander. Gently rinse the curds with cool water. Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and twist to remove the liquid and create a ball of cheese. Tie the cheesecloth to your faucet and allow to drain for 5 minutes.

Once drained, place the (still wrapped in cheesecloth) cheese on a dinner plate with the extra cheesecloth gathered on the sides of the cheese (this is so your cheese is nice and smooth). Put another dinner plate on top and weigh it down using cans or something heavy. Place it in the fridge and let sit for 20 minutes. 

Unwrap it and it's ready to go! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chicken Fajitas

An easy, no fail recipe for proper Texas fajitas! A quick marinade results in a weeknight friendly AND family pleasing meal!

Awhile back, I had the joy of having not one but two friends hand deliver me fresh flour tortillas, straight from Texas. We were in heaven! I lamented the lack of good tortillas awhile back. It's a serious problem :)

Now with this load of fresh tortillas, I got to menu planning a TexMexPalooza of meals for the coming days. And what is more Tex Mex than good ol' chicken fajitas? When ordered at a restaurant, they come out on these sizzling hot plates that fill the restaurant with this drool-worthy aroma. I haven't mastered that at home yet but I didn't hear any complaints coming from my other half when I served up a plate of these, straight off the grill.

There are a lot of fajita recipes out there but I'd argue that this is one of the best marinades I've tried. And it couldn't be easier! It only needs to marinate an hour or two which helps those of us who forget to thaw the chicken in time to marinade it before work.

Don't have a grill? See the note below for stove-top instructions. 

Chicken Fajitas
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
4 dried chiles de arbol, stems removed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs
2 bell peppers, seeded and halved
1 yellow onion, quartered
flour tortillas, fajita size
toppings: salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese

In a food processor, combine the lime juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, cumin, and chiles de arbol. Blend until smooth and add the salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a gallon sized resealable bag and pour the marinade over top. Seal and refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Drain the chicken from the marinade and discard. Grill the chicken until cooked through, about 7 minutes per side. Grill the onion and peppers until tender, turning often, about 10 minutes for the peppers and 15 minutes for the onion.*don't have a grill? see note below*

Transfer the grilled chicken and vegetables to a large cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the onion and peppers into thin slices. Slice the chicken crosswise into strips.

Warm the tortillas and serve with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheese.

*If not using grill: Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil over medium heat in a large heavy skillet. Add the chicken and cook, covered, for 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the onion and peppers into thin slices. Heat another tablespoon of oil and add the sliced peppers and onion. Cook until tender and soft, around 7-10 minutes.    

Source: adapted from The Homesick Texan's Family Table

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Walt Disney World Food and Wine Fest 2014 Reviews

I love Walt Disney World anytime of year but especially for Food & Wine Fest! If you're not familiar with Food and Wine Fest, here's a brief overview: you eat your weight in food and then go home, 20 pounds heavier. Kidding. Sorta. World Showcase (a large portion of Epcot, which features 11 countries) is turned into a food fest. Booths are set up around the lagoon and each booth features large sample sizes of various cuisines from that country/region. The sample sizes range from $3-$7, with various beers, wines, and cocktails also offered for $3-$12. In addition, there are lots of ticketed events you can attend including demos, dinners, and desserts. 

Much of the booth food is repeated for several years so if you're planning to visit soon, check out my post from last year here. We tried to pick different items this year.

Mexico: Sweet Corn Cheesecake - $3.50

I'm a cheesecake fan and I loved this version! Doesn't taste "corny" at all - just sweet and creamy like a traditional cheesecake. Also a decent portion for the cost and a great crust. 

Italy: Ravioli all Caprese: Cheese ravioli, tomato sauce, mozzarella, Parmesan, and basil - $6.00

This was just 'eh' to me. It tasted fine, but no different than a (dare I say it) frozen ravioli dinner. It was nothing special for sure and we would not order it again.

France: Crème brûlée caramel fleur de sel: Sea salt caramel crème brûlée topped with caramelized sugar – $4.25

This is one of Jason's favorite desserts so he was not skipping this booth! He really liked it - and I don't think I even got a bite! 

France: Gratin de crozet de savoie: Wheat pasta gratin with mushrooms and Gruyere cheese – $4.95

This was probably one of my favorite F&WF dishes to date! It was creamy, cheesy, and loaded with mushrooms. Good portions size, too.

Ireland: Kerrygold® cheese selection: Reserve cheddar, Dubliner with Irish Stout and Skellig – $4.00

In year's past, they had a cheese booth as part of the festival. They didn't this year for some reason but some booths still offered a cheese selection. Kerrygold cheese is one of my favorite brands (plus their butter is amazing!) so this was a no-brainer. This was a substantial plate, with large portions of each cheese plus bread/butter and the chutney. Very good!

Ireland: Lobster and seafood fisherman’s pie – $6.25

Someone in our group ordered this and said it was delicious. I was too busy gorging on cheese to ask too many questions - I apologize :)

Scotland: Seared sea scallop with spinach-cheddar gratin and crispy bacon – $4.50

This was another favorite of mine. The scallop was perfectly cooked and the spinach was ridiculously tasty. They worked well together. My only complaint? I wanted 4 of them :) Definitely would order again!

Scotland: Fresh potato pancake with smoked Scottish salmon and herb sour cream – $4.25

My mom ordered this and said it was delicious. Smoked salmon is rarely not delicious, IMO.

Terra: Chocolate-blood orange cupcake with tofu icing – $2.25

Just a couple of years ago, Terra made it's debut at the festival featuring all vegan food. We are meat and cheese loving people so we typically ignored it but this year, mom couldn't pass up the chocolate orange cupcake. I was afraid she'd hate it, since it had tofu icing, but she LOVED it. Said it tasted just like a "regular" cupcake. It must have been a hit because the lady behind her in line was getting her 3rd of the night. They aren't huge but still, that speaks volumes!

We also saw Fuel in concert! If you're going to the Food and Wine Fest, be sure and check the schedule for the Eat to the Beat Concerts. They are free and a lot of fun!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

One Pot Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Ground turkey, beans, peppers, corn, and pumpkin are simmered together in this simple, healthy, and warm chili. Easy enough for a weeknight meal but tastes like it's been cooking all day!

I have to be honest; I hesitated even putting pumpkin in the title of the recipe because it scares some people off. Matter of fact, as I was working on the graphic my husband peeked over my shoulder and said "that had pumpkin in it?!" The pumpkin works beautifully in giving it a thick, nutty richness that also helps cut the calories and up the nutritional value but doesn't taste anything like pumpkin. If you don't care for pumpkin flavored things - like my husband - please don't overlook this recipe.

This recipe can be tweaked heavily and still taste delicious. If you like a lot of spice, throw in some cayenne or up the pepper count. Have some extra veggies on hand? Chop them up and toss them in!

Don't you love one pot meals?

Turkey Pumpkin Chili
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
6 baby bell peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped (use red, yellow, and green combo for color)
2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1-2 cups water
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
ground black pepper, to taste
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn
sour cream, for topping
chopped cilantro, for topping

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, jalapenos, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the turkey and cook until browned.

Add the tomatoes, pumpkin, 1 cup water, chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and add the beans and corn. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes, adding additional water if desired. 

Top with sour cream and cilantro before serving. 

Source: adapted from Whole Foods   

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte Baby Bundt Cakes

The popular seasonal drink - in a bundt cake form! Coffee, pumpkin, and spices are blended together to create a moist and delicious fall treat. Thanks to the help of a cake mix, these only take minutes to whip up! Once topped with a cream cheese frosting, you'll be hard pressed to resist eating the whole pan.

Are you on pumpkin overload? Pinterest right now is seemingly a collection of ALL THINGS PUMPKIN and here I am, adding another one to the chaos!

I'm slightly addicted to my baby bundt cake pan and this was a great excuse to use it. I've started to actually prefer baby bundts to cupcakes but this recipe easily translates to a cupcake if that's your thing.

I went round and round with my icing and as you can see from the picture, mine ended up thin and pooled in the center. This meant that when you stuck a fork in it, the icing ran down the middle and was fairly amazing but I know a lot of people like a "firmer" icing (and it's a lot easier to transport!). The recipe below is for a more traditional fluffy cream cheese icing. If you want it thinner, just add small increments of milk.

Pumpkin Spice Latte Baby Bundt Cakes
For the cakes:
1 box spice cake mix 
1 can pumpkin (15 ounce)
3 eggs
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup strong brewed coffee, cooled (I used cold press coffee)
3 tablespoons espresso powder

For the frosting:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup milk (plus more if needed)
3-4 cups powdered sugar

For topping:
Caramel syrup
Ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly grease a baby bundt pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, oil, coffee, and espresso powder. Using your hand mixer, beat on low for 1 minute then increase to medium and beat for 2 minutes. Pour the batter into your prepared pans about 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven, let cool for 5 minutes and the transfer to a wire cooling rack until cooled completely.

In a second large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, butter, and milk. Using your hand mixer, beat until well combined and smooth. Add half of the powdered sugar and beat well. Add remaining powdered sugar and beat until well combined, smooth, and fluffy. If too thick, add a tablespoon of milk and mix again. Don't add too much milk at one time - it thins very easily.

Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cakes, drizzle with caramel sauce, and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Source: adapted from BruCrew Life 

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