Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Homemade Cheese

My kitchen productions have been pretty mediocre as of late.

I've been traveling a lot and incredibly busy with school and work.  And it's really interfering with my kitchen time.  I've felt kind of blah about the things I've been making and I really needed a pick me up.

And last night I found it.

Homemade cheese was the answer.

I nervously stood within 5 feet of the milk to make sure it didn't get too hot (for 45 minutes...not a waste of time right?) and then poured in the vinegar and paced the kitchen for 8 minutes praying that it would actually curdle.  But then there were the tears of joy that started streaming when I went to stir and found beautiful curds (hate that word) swimming around.  Tears pre-taste test is an automatic win.

Who knew a half gallon of milk, some vinegar, and a bit of salt could put such a shining smile on my face?

After I sprinkled it with a bit of salt and tested it out I decided I needed to go a step further.  But not because it wasn't delicious.  Because I was excited.  And didn't want the process to end.

So I marinated the baby cheese in olive oil and herbs.

And...Oh...My...Goodness.  You can't understand until you make it yourself.

So do that.

Makes: approximately 3/4 lb cheese
Cook Time: 45 minutes + 8 minutes for curdling
Strain Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 8 minutes

{Printable Recipe}

1/2 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1/6 cup apple cider or white vinegar
kosher salt

  1. Pour milk into a large nonreactive pot and set over low to medium-low heat.  Heat milk to 170-175°F stirring every so often.  This could take 45 minutes + but don't rush it!  If you don't have a thermometer to test the temperature every so often you can tell the milk is ready when little bubbles start to form on the sides of the pot and the top has a glossy but unbroken layer.  When it reaches this point remove from heat and add vinegar.  Let sit for 5-8 minutes to allow the curds to separate from the whey.
  2. Meanwhile grab your cheesecloth.  Make layers of 14 inch squares.  For a drier cheese use 2 layers and for a softer cheese use 6 layers.  I went for in the middle and used 4.  Place these layers in a strainer.
  3. After 8 minutes, spoon curds into cheesecloth over the strainer and push down lightly with the spoon to release some of the whey.  After all of the cheese is in the cloth, pull the top of the cloth together and tie in a knot.  Tie this to a wooden spoon and place over a pot to drain for 10-15 minutes.  The longer you let it drain the drier it will be.
  4. Remove from cloth and add kosher salt to taste.
  5. Add herbs (recipe below) or keep it as is.
  6. Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Marinated Cheese

1/2 - 3/4 lb homemade cheese
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
2 teaspoons fresh mint, minced
2 teaspoons shallot, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh chives, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Mix everything in a bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Giveaway Winners Announced

Due to an incredible, but very late evening at a Spirit Family Reunion show last night in Portsmouth, NH there will be no Meal Plan Monday this week.

But don't fret.  Sometimes there are better things than Meal Plan Mondays.

Like...Spirit Family Reunion.

You love them right? And what about giveaway winners?!  I think those are pretty great too.

So a big thank you goes out to everyone who entered the giveaway last week!  I've said it before but I wish you could all win.  Because that would be beyond wonderful.  But...that's not possible...so the winners are...

Oliva from Life as Liv and Dana T who is a fellow Boston blogger!  Congratulations to both of you!  If you'll get in touch with me I'll get your beautiful new cookbooks in the mail as soon as possible!

And for everyone else...stick around!  There should be some new recipes coming soon!

Monday, February 18, 2013

SFF's 2nd Birthday, a Chocolate Fudge Cake, and a giveaway!

I feel like it was just yesterday that I was writing {this} little post.

But it's been whole year.  And guess what that means? This little blog is turning two today!


Can you believe it?  Because I can't.

It's been such a great adventure.  Making food.  Getting to know you.  Learning about the wild world of food photography.  Destroying my teeny kitchen on a daily basis.  Creating recipes.  Hearing how much you love a recipe.  Pulling my hair out after a recipe goes bad and I really need to "blog about it".  Submersing myself in a food culture that I could've never dreamed of.  Teaming up with other bloggers.  Eating glorious food...

I could go on and on.

But I won't because there are cake and presents to be had.

Just know.  I love this little blog.  And I adore you even more for reading.  Because without you I wouldn't be sharing these things.  So thank you.  You're the best readers ever.  And I hope you'll stick with me as this little thing continues to grow.
Now for the good stuff.  I've said it before, but a birthday wouldn't be complete with out cake and presents.  Obviously.

So, today in celebration of year number two, I'm giving away two copies of Katie Quinn Davies's Cookbook, What Katie Ate: Recipes and other Bits and Pieces to two lucky lucky ducks.

Seriously though.  Have you seen this thing?  It's beautiful.  Beyond beautiful actually.  Please go take a peek.  Click here...now...please?

Okay so now you're in love and need the cookbook.  Well here's how you can get your paws on it:

1 - Follow this blog (using Google Friend Connect on the left hand side of the screen or follow by email directly under GFC)
2 - Leave me a comment.  No stipulations.  No questions to answer.  Just tell me something.  Anything.

And then of course to receive extra entries:
1 - Tweet about this giveaway and include @emilie_bell
2 - Share the giveaway on Facebook
3 - Follow me on Bloglovin

Just make sure to leave a SEPARATE comment for each entry so that I can put your name in multiple times! 

The giveaway will close on Sunday February 24th at midnight so don't be late!

Now the super delicious cake.

Chocolate.  Fudge.  Yum.  Drool.  Happy.  Birthday.

Adapted from What Katie Ate

Makes: 1-9inch two layer cake
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 40 minutes + 20 minutes cooling time
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

{Printable Recipe}

for the cake-
1 1/4 cup self rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup good quality cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large tablespoon blueberry jam
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk

for the frosting-
170 grams 70% chocolate
1 1/4 cups unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon strong coffee 

  1. Preheat oven to 325°.  In a bowl combine the cocoa, sugar, brown sugar, flour, vanilla, melted butter, and jam.  Whisk to combine.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each addition and then pour in the milk.  Mix until batter is smooth.  Place mixture into a greased 9" round cake tin and bake at 325° for 35-40 minutes or until the center of the cake springs back when touched.  
  2. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Once cool, slice in half horizontally to make two layers.  (If you want a three layer cake, make double of the above mixture and divide into 3 tins, cooking each layer separately.)
  3. To make the frosting, combine butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until smooth and creamy.  In a separate bowl melt the chocolate over a pan of lightly simmering water, making sure to keep a close eye on the chocolate.  Once the chocolate has melted, remove from heat and add the vanilla and coffee, mixing it all together.  It will get lumpy but don't worry!  Add this to the butter/sugar mixture, beating on low speed until the frosting is glossy and smooth.
  4. To frost, place the first layer on a cake place and spoon icing onto the top.  Spread evenly and start to bring it down the sides with a knife or spatula.  Place the second layer on top and repeat with the remaining frosting until the entire cake is covered.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Scallops with Qunioa and Pomegranate Gastrique

Ever since I purchased the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook last fall, I've had my eye on this recipe.

It's been bookmarked and calling my name for at least 4 months now.

So, after an overwhelming desire to have a sweet little scallop melting in my mouth, I made the decision to run my tush down to the fish market and pick up some of most beautiful scallops I've ever seen.  Yes.  I said it.  Little white blobs of shellfish can indeed be beautiful.  Especially when you know you'll be devouring them within several hours.

I occasionally order scallops when I go out, but for some reason these scallops blew most others I've had out of the water.  I can only assume that it had to do with the freshness (what ever will I do when I don't have fresh Boston seafood??) and not the perfection of cooking. 

I'll admit that I was a bit timid going into this thing.  I've prepared scallops before but they aren't just an every night kind of meal.  I needed them to be absolutely perfect.

And as you can already tell, I was pretty darn happy with them.  And in fact, they were absolutely perfect.  But the kicker is that they were easy and didn't require any sort of skill.  I plopped them in the pan and kept a somewhat close eye on them.  That's it.

They may pile a few dishes in your sink but...if you're making scallops...someone else should be doing the dishes.

Okay.  So you're going to make these.  Please and thank you.

One last thing.  As I mentioned on Monday, I'm heading to Missouri tomorrow to throw my sister's bridal shower!  So I'll probably be absent for a few days.  But...guess what.  Monday is this little blog's 2nd birthday!  Can you believe it?  She's growing up so fast.  And birthdays mean presents...for you...so I'll be doing a giveaway...so you should come back on Monday and celebrate with me!

Adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

Makes: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

{Printable Recipe}

16 large scallops
1 cup red or black quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 cup finely chopped green onions
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or olive oil)
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 cup pomegranate juice
3/4 cup vegetable broth

  1. Remove scallops from the refrigerator and let them rest at room temperature.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the honey and vinegar, stirring to combine.  Add the pomegranate juice and bring to a boil.  Cook until reduced by half, about 8 minutes.  Add 3/4 cup vegetable broth and reduce to half again, about 8 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer.  In a saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth to a simmer over medium heat.  Add the quinoa, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed. 16-18 minutes.  Remove from heat, let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
  4. While the quinoa is cooking heat a tiny bit of olive oil in a pan and saute the mushrooms and green onions until soft.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. Pat the scallops completely dry and sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper.  Heat the coconut (or olive) oil in a pan (the same one you just cooked the mushrooms in) over medium-high heat.  Add as many scallops as you can and cook for 3-4 minutes, flip and cook on the other side until a crust as formed and they are starting to pull away from the pan, another 3-4 minutes.  Repeat with the remaining scallops.
  6. Stir the mushrooms/green onions and pomegranate seeds into the cooked quinoa, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  7. To serve, divide the quinoa and scallops among 4 plates and drizzle each with the pomegranate gastrique and garnish with chives.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meal Plan Monday - Valentine's Day

I mentioned last week that I'm not a huge fan of the whole Valentine's Day thing.  If you've been reading for a while or know me in the slightest, you know that I don't do mushy gushy very well.  Or ever.  But that doesn't mean that I'm not all for a Valentine's Day themed feast...or drinking party.

Which is just what this Meal Plan Monday equips you to do.

I actually wish that every Meal Plan Monday could have a theme.  Because I really enjoy spending ridiculous amounts of time putting together a well themed meal plan.  No sarcasm.  I'm not sure why I enjoy it so much.  Maybe it's the coordination?  I mean...I do really enjoy when things match...oh, hello OCD.

So, what are you doing for Valentine's Day?  Going out?  Staying in?  Making one/some of these yummy things (like that octopus...oh my goodness...that octopus!)?  Unfortunately, I won't be making any of these things on Valentine's Day because I'll be on my way to Missouri to celebrate my sister and her fiance at her (their) shower!  However, you better believe I'll be digging into some of these recipes in the near future.  Like that wine braised octopus washed down with a blood orange french 75?  Yes, please.  Valentine's Day not required.

Enjoy the food, your week, and the "holiday"!

P.S. - I'll be back soon to give you the recipe for the scallops featured below.  They're to die for.  And I wouldn't want you drooling over a picture with no recipe!

the important things...drinks

Blood Orange French 75

Hot Blooded: Jalapeno & Blood Orange Whiskey

Godiva Chocolate Infused Vodka

the morning things...breakfast

Raspberry Smoothie and Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits

Strawberry Nutella Poptarts

DIY Sugar Cubes

the main things...dinner

Scallops with Quinoa and Pomegranate Gastrique
-from Scarborough Food Fair (recipe coming soon!!)

Red Beet Gnocchi with Meyer Lemon Pesto

Moroccan Stuffed Squash

Wine-Braised Baby Octopus with Saffron Polenta Cakes

the sweet things...dessert

Lemon Ricotta Cake with Chocolate Glaze and Fresh Figs

Blood Orange, Prosecco & Thyme Sorbet
-from Roost

Chocolate Stuffed Poached Pears
-from Bake Me Blush

Chocolate Whiskey Pots de Creme
-from Tartelette

Lemon Beignets with Strawberry Vanilla Sauce

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Upside-Down Banana Cake

Oh um...it's Wednesday?  You mean I missed Meal Plan Monday?

Oops.  Super Bowl Sunday really threw off the beginning of my week.

Next week though...I could almost promise that there will be one.  And you can bet that it will have a certain lovey dovey theme to it.  I may not adore Valentine's Day but, I do adore themed food.

But that's next week.

So let's talk about this cake.

I spent hours trying to figure out what I would make with the disgusting looking bananas that were rotting away in my fruit bowl.  I was feeling a little more adventurous than just whipping up some banana bread.  But not adventurous to the point that I might have to venture outdoors in the horribly frigid weather to grab ingredients.

I was leaning toward Banana Cream Pie.  Because come on.  How good is Banana Cream Pie?

But Banana Cream Pie meant going outside.  And like I said...I wasn't feeling that adventurous.  So I decided to go with this Upside-Down cake.  I've seen plenty of upside-down cakes but never one with bananas.  And I like going for the unknown when baking.

I knew within the first five minutes that this was going to be gold.  I may have started drooling while I was melting the butter and brown sugar that quickly turned into caramely goodness.  And then pouring it over those super sweet and super ripe bananas.  The delicious cake on top was just a bonus.

But let me tell you a secret.  You'll want to know this when it comes out of the oven.

The outside "crust" is the best thing in the entire world.  So I highly suggest taking it out of the oven, cutting all the way around the cake, and saving the "crust" for yourself.  The caramel pushes up the sides when baking and forms this crunchy, caramely, heavenly, super delicious thing that should be kept entirely to yourself.

Unless you're one of those sharing types.

Adapted from Gourmet Magazine via Foodess

Makes: 1 10-inch cake
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Bake Time: 30-35 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

{Printable Recipe}

1/3 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
3 large, ripe bananas, sliced
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Melt 1/3 cup butter in a large skillet.  Add brown sugar and 2 tablespoons vanilla; stir briefly and then allow to bubble and caramelize for about 5 minutes, until it becomes golden brown in color.  Remove from heat.
  2. Arrange sliced bananas in a 10-inch baking pan and pour toffee over bananas.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using a hand mixer), beat 1/3 cup softened butter and white sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Add vanilla.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, add one-third of the flour mixture, and then one half of the milk.  Repeat, ending with the flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
  6. Pour over toffee and bananas and bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes before inverting onto a plate.

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