Archive | April, 2012

Ingredient predicament | Hey, where’s the…?

7 Apr

We recently made these brownies to bring to a “Jaws” movie party. We topped them each with smattering of vanilla buttercream icing and a Swedish fish candy & affectionately named them “minnow brownies”. They were a hit. But I digress…

We always have baking essentials on hand (butter, eggs, flour, sugar, baking chocolate, etc.) so I don’t often think twice about ingredients until I pull down a baking book & start to gather them up by the armful. 

Here are two pantry substitutions (plus a bonus!) we used successfully in the above recipe.

  1. Unsweetened baker’s chocolate: We had 4 ounces and the recipe called for 6. For each ounce of baker’s chocolate, we substituted 3 TBS of unsweetened cocoa power & 1 TBS of oil. We used canola but any vegetable oil will do (except for olive oil!).
  2. Butter: We only had enough for the buttercream icing so in the brownie recipe, for the butter, we substituted 1 cup of shortening and 2 TBS of water for 1 cup of butter.

Another helpful substitution/DIY ingredient we’ve made in the past is buttermilk. Make your own buttermilk by adding 1 TBS of apple cider vinegar, white vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup of milk. This can also be successfully done with soy milk as Jess did her Vegan Irish Soda Bread recipe last month. 

What’s your favorite baking or cooking ingredient substitution?

DIY Cheese | Homemade Ricotta

5 Apr


Recently, my friend, Emily, told me about Salvatore Bklyn. They make fresh artisanal ricotta cheese daily in Brooklyn, NY, using the finest whole milk sourced locally from upstate. After doing more research online, Kate & I fell in love with their story, product and website. Martha Stewart has proclaimed, “It’s my favorite ricotta in the whole world!”, and has featured them on her show. It made me want to attempt to try to make my own ricotta.

(Recipe courtesy of Betsy Devine Salvatore Bklyn)

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

1 gallon whole milk (I used Shaw Farm milk from my hometown, Dracut, MA)
healthy pinch of salt
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Steps

1. Pour the milk into a large, nonreactive pot and season with salt (a healthy pinch). Cover the pot and place it over high heat. Heat the milk to 190 degrees (use a thermometer), stirring it every few minutes to keep it from scorching. Turn off the heat, remove from hot burner, and add the lemon juice. Stir slowly until you see curds beginning to form. (This should happen almost immediately; you’ve now created the curds and whey.) Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

2. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over another bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least 1 hour, then discard the whey. Eat the cheese right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

The results were amazing. This ricotta is delicate and fluffy, best eaten with a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. yum.

Meals featuring this amazing ricotta:  

#1: Toasted baguette slathered with roasted garlic topped with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and a heaping of ricotta.
Sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper and add a drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil. Tasty with a simple side salad of mixed greens dressed in olive oil and champagne vinegar.

#2: Toasted baguette rubbed with a fresh garlic clove and topped with 2 tsp of pasta sauce, ricotta and a sprinkle of sea salt, pepper & oregano. Drizzle with olive oil.

#3: Egg white omelette with ricotta, sea salt and cracked pepper. (Courtesy of our friend, Cobi!)

Weekend Project | Sewing Table Redux

2 Apr

I’ve been reorganizing our shared office/studio for the past few months. Things are coming along — we installed a pegboard using this post and hung a wall o’ artwork — but my new-to-me (salvaged from behind our building!) sewing table still needed a makeover…big time.

I had an amazing piece of fabric (designed by the author of one of my favorite blogs) I’d stashed away just waiting for the PERFECT project. Yay!

 Lowly old table + cute fabric + vinyl + a little elbow grease + a couple of hours = Awesome sewing table!

Supplies

Table that needs a makeover

Sharp scissors and/or sewing shears

Double-sided tape

Fabric in a fun print (You’ll need enough fabric so that it will lay flat on your table & fall over the edge a few inches — I left ~ 4 inches on each side)

Clear vinyl (Same size as the fabric, see above note —  available at any sewing/fabric store – the stuff I used was fairly heavy weight)

Drop cloth or old flat sheet

Heavy duty staple gun & staples

Lint roller 

Steps

1. Prep: Make sure your table is nice & clean – the underside too (you’ll be all up under there!). Iron your fabric. If your vinyl has any creases or wrinkles in it, now would be a good time to lay it out on a clean flat surface in a warm room.

2. Drape: Drape the fabric (right side up) over the tabletop allowing it to hang over the edges.

3. Trim: Using sharp scissors or sewing shears, trim the edges of the fabric so that only about 3-4 inches hang over the edge.

4. Anchor: Cut a piece of double-sided tape & peel the paper off one side. Lift a section of fabric & stick the piece of double-sided tape to the edge of the table. Remove the other piece of paper & press the fabric down, holding it for a few seconds to make sure it sticks. The goal here is simply to keep the fabric temporarily positioned in order for you to turn the table onto the floor.  You can skip this step if you’re not worried about the print/pattern lining up on the finished piece. 

5. Flip: Lay your drop cloth/sheet down on the floor & flip the table, top side down, on the cloth. Do this carefully so your fabric doesn’t come un-taped or shift as you flip.

6. Staple: Starting with one of the longer edges of the table (about an inch from the corner), gently but firmly pull the fabric over the edge of the table & staple it down with the staple gun about 1-1.5 inches from the table edge. You want to pull the fabric tight but not too tight or you’ll distort the print. Continue stapling along the edge, stopping about an inch before the corner. Repeat this step for the opposite edge & then the 2 other sides.

7. Corner up: Pull the fabric up at a 90 degree angle and pull firmly inward. 

If the corner is rounded (like mine), it will naturally make a little pleat of sorts when you pull up & in, it’s okay, just roll with it but feel free to adjust how it looks before you staple it down. Staple it a few times to anchor it securely to the table.

If your corner is sharp, pull one edge in towards the center of the table & staple it down. Tuck & fold the fabric however you need to get a nice crisp corner before stapling the heck out of it.

8. Trim: Using your fabric shears/scissors, trim the edge of the fabric to even it out a bit & get rid of any floppy edges. I started using a straight edge & rotary cutter on one side & soon realized it was silly so I eyeballed the rest. It will be hidden, after all!

9. Flip: Turn your table right side up & use a lint roller to catch any stray fabric bits or dust (or pet hair) from the fabric. It will drive you nuts if you accidently trap a hair or thread forever in the next step!

10. Repeat steps 2-8 using the vinyl. You can be a little firmer with the vinyl because you want to pull it taut. Especially in step 7 – you’ll want to pull a little tighter on the vinyl so it stretches nicely over the corners.

11. Turn the table right side up & admire your work!

Maker’s notes:  
I was oh-so-excited to get this project started, I forgot to take a “before” picture! Oops! 
I ran out of the right staples as I was about 3/4 of the way into the project so I finished it with staples that weren’t quite meant for the job (they had little arcs at the top for fastening cords to a surface). I smashed the extra metal flat with a hammer. I’d recommend running to your nearest home store for a refill instead of making due as I did.

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