Monthly Archives: May 2014

Homemade Cheese, Sourdough and Fermenting Food


Since I made my first ricotta and went on to make cannoli with it I have been fascinated with the whole process.  I found that when you drain the cheese you end up with not just cheese, but also whey.  I have been using it as a substitute for other liquids in recipes.  It is great in grits, bread and anywhere you need moisture.   I also discovered while researching uses for whey, that you can make your own fermented foods that are good for you, like homemade probiotic.  So far the sauerkraut is the best but I haven’t really eaten the gingered carrots as they are still pretty fresh.  The recipes I  have found on the web refer to whey that has been drained from things like yogurt so I started draining it off of greek  yogurt and Kefir.  Now I have found that you can get kefir grains and make your own.  This led to reading about cultivating mother cultures for different cheese starters so you don’t have to keep spending money on them and the latest was making blue cheese from homegrown blue mold  made on a piece of sourdough bread.  So first thing I did was pull out the sourdough starter, thaw it out and feed it.  It didn’t seem to be active enough last time so I  added 1/2 cup of rye flour mixed with 1/4 cup distilled water before bed and then did it again with bread flour in the morning.  I’ll do it again before bed and then bake some sourdough tomorrow.  It smells good and the rye flour really seemed to kick it back into gear.  From what I have read both rye and bread flour are good for that.   Next I will smear a dab of blue cheese on a slice of the sourdough bread and start growing some mold.  They say that the sourdough inhibits growth of the wrong  types of mold.


Right now  I have a lactic cheese draining on the counter, the sourdough next to it and am about to shred some cabbage for more sauerkraut and start picking herbs to make a garlic and herb cheese spread.  I can’t afford to buy those expensive cheese spreads so I am going to give it a try.  There are a bunch of very similar recipes out there so I just picked one that sounds good and am going from there.  Since I grow my own I am not using dried herbs.  I also make jelly once or twice a year and then have a jelly strainer sitting there for the rest of the year.  I have started using the frame for hanging cheese to drain, the bag for straining yogurt and small amounts of cheese and also as a cover for my sourdough starter when it is out on the counter.

So here’s the sauerkraut recipe:

In my food processor, I shred a small head of green cabbage and a large carrot.  I discovered today that it is better to use the largest opening of my feed shoot as it leaves the shreds of cabbage longer.  Put it in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 TBSP of pickling or kosher salt.  Mix well and beat down with a potato masher until  the cabbage has really started to soften and release it’s juices.  Also learned this time since  my back hurts so bad today that you don’t have to mash down the veggies for 15 min. like most recipes say to.  Sprinkle in the salt and let it sit for 1/2 hour and do something else.  Mash it down for a min. and then do something else for another 1/2 hour.  I did this 3 times and made 3 dozen lemon cookies in between mashing and the liquid is doing pretty good.


As you can see the cabbage is too small here because I used the smaller feed tube instead of taking my time and cutting the chunks of cabbage to fit.  I will eat it anyway and do it right next time.

Toss in a tsp of caraway seeds and 4 TBSP of whey.  This time I am using Kefir whey.  Put it in a 2 qt. jar with a lid.  If there is not enough not liquid to cover then mix 1 tsp salt (kosher or pickling) with 1 cup of distilled or filtered water and add enough to cover cabbage.  Close and sit on the counter for 3 days.  By then it should be ready to go in the fridge where is can keep for at least 2 months.  Use your nose for all this stuff, the sauerkraut, the sourdough.  If something doesn’t smell good get rid of it.  Since I am learning all this stuff from the internet (other blogs), cheese making websites and trial and error I try to post the things I have questioned or discovered.  Like it really helps to have a canning funnel when putting things in the jar to ferment.


The only way I am able to do all this today is…..I started the cheese last night, the sourdough months ago, started straining the kefir two days ago and  took out a package of frozen, pre-seasoned and formed hamburgers that my very good friend and taste tester will cook on the grill for dinner tonight.  I made cabbage rolls and homemade pierogi a couple of days ago so am taking a mini break from big dinners.  Will try to work on the cabbage rolls and pierogi post tomorrow but as many back breaks as I had to take today there are no guarantees.

I forgot to finish the cheese so here it is after draining for 8 hours.



I put the herbs in my salad spinner, sprayed with the sink sprayer, spun them and dried on a kitchen towel.  I chopped by hand but then put the herbs in my mini processor (dry) and chopped them a little more.  I didn’t go out to pick peppers, but they were ripe  and pretty so I left them in the picture.  I used:

16 oz. of the lactic cheese

1 overflowing TBSP dill

2 TBSP parsley

1 1/2 tsp thyme

2 TBSP chives

2 tsp basil

1/2 tsp dried marjoram

3 cloves grated garlic

3 TBSP fresh grated parmesan

cracked pepper and salt to taste  (very important)

It’s in the fridge getting to know each other (the flavors).  This is not quite the same as the recipes I found out there, but then most of the things I make have my own twists and changes.  That’s one of the things that make cooking or anything else fun.  Make it your own!


Chicken Enchiladas with Green Enchilada Sauce

I started with a recipe for green enchilada sauce that I found at The Shrinking Kitchen, which appears to be a cool site that has a cool sister site.  Check it out.  Link at the bottom to the original recipe.  I decided when I made the stoneware roasted chicken to make enchiladas with the leftovers.
Leftovers is a great way to make it through the week when you are in pain or out of energy or your legs are soooo full of fluid that they are actually weeping enough to need towels on the floor.  They are even better when all three of these things are happening at once as it was this week.  After being on steroids for years my skin has gotten really thin so things like this happen too often.  I was moving a chair and the leg scratched my leg.  Not hard enough to tear my lovely compression stockings that I wear whenever I’m not in bed, but just enough to scratch the skin underneath.  It’s like my leg is crying.  That’s also why I am up to 36 fractures in 24 months.  My little sister who also has as an invisible illness told me about the spoon theory.  It is a wonderful way to help people actually understand what it is like to be sick, especially with illnesses that others can’t see.  I highly recommend that you read the entire article.  It has helped me a lot to be able to explain in a way that people understand.  When I say I am low on or out of spoons those close to me know that I am almost to the point that I can’t go on.   The link to the spoon theory is below.
Part of what makes this so easy is that the enchilada sauce and salsa can both be made and sitting in the fridge for a week or so. Last night I used Ree’s salsa to make Spanish rice. I just added a cup to the liquid. It was so quick. I try to do that type of thing whenever I can for when I have no energy.

On to the enchiladas.

I love Mexican food so have been trying new recipes.  I have found that ever since my cholesterol got high I crave salsas and other things with chiles, onions, tomatoes and whatever else naturally lowers your cholesterol.  My favorite is Ree Drumund’s Restaurant Style Salsa.   I just wish I had a psychedelic bird dish like she does (link at bottom).  Next I found a recipe for green enchilada sauce. When I saw the recipe and the comments I had to try it but as usual I also had to change it.  And it is so good I could eat it with a spoon, but chips would be great too.
Green Enchilada Sauce
1 T olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 pound green tomatillos, husked, washed and sliced into quarters
2 to 3 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed (depending on how hot you like it!)
1 can chopped green chilies
1 large fairly mild pepper (poblano, banana, yellow bell), seeds removed and coarse chopped
juice of 1 lime (and I used the zest two)
handful of fresh cilantro
4 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about 5 min. Add garlic for last min.
2. While the onions and garlic are working, throw the tomatillos, cilantro, jalapeno, poblano, green chilies and lime juice and zest into the blender.
3. Blend on high speed until smooth. If needed add T olive oil to get things moving.
4. Pour the tomatillo mixture in with the onions and garlic.
5. Add the chicken broth, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
6. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer on low heat for about an hour to thicken the sauce.
7. Blend with an immersion blender or throw the mixture back into the regular blender for a smoother sauce.
So the day after I made the stoneware roasted chicken I used the left overs for the enchiladas. I can’t find my pictures and it has been so long since I made them that I am just posting it anyway.

Chicken Enchiladas
4 large green onions, chopped
3 cups diced cooked chicken (1 breast, leg quarter, wings and whatever is left on bones – dinner leftovers from roast chicken)
2 cups packed grated cheeses (about 8 ounces) Mexican blend, sharp cheddar, Colby jack
1/2 8-ounce package light cream cheese, softened
½ to 1 can diced green chilies
15 8-inch-diameter corn tortillas
2 cups grated cheeses or whatever amount you prefer for topping
1 recipe of green enchilada sauce

1. In a non stick skillet on medium high heat, cook tortillas for 10 seconds on each side (to soften).
2. Spread enough of the enchilada sauce to cover the bottom of a 9X13 baking dish.  Mix green onions, chicken, grated and cream cheese and chilies in large bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Spoon 1/4 cup filling down center of each tortilla.  Roll and arrange seam side down in prepared dish.
4. Spoon remaining enchilada sauce over enchiladas.  Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.
5. Bake at 350⁰ for 30 min or until cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.
6. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.
7. Serve with sour cream, green onions, black olives tomatoes and lettuce and whatever else strikes your fancy.
Enjoy! I sure did!


Saving Time by Cooking Ahead (Stock, Rolls, Sauce)

I made potato rolls for the first time about a month ago.  There is not usually more than two of us for dinner, so the recipe makes way too many rolls (24).  I let them rise the first time, shape them and put the ones I’m not going to bake that day on a cooking sheet covered with a silicone mat.  I then place it in the freezer until they are frozen enough to not stick together.  Then I place then in a large zip top freezer bag.  About 3 hours before I want them done, I take how many ever I want to bake, out and put them on a small buttered pan, cover and allow to rise.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and bake for 10 min.  Quick easy and fresh home baked rolls.   I am about to mix up some “Crusty Italian bread” and bake one and freeze two.

I have since tried this with another recipe for plain old yeast dinner rolls.  I used twice the yeast, skipped the first rise and froze the ones I wanted to right away after kneading.  Works great.

I save my bones from all types of meat and poultry and make stock.  I reduce it until it is well concentrated and freeze in zip top bags.  If you lay it flat when freezing, you can just break off a hunk when you need it.

The coming post on chicken with leeks and mustard wine sauce came out GREAT with the condensed chicken stock.

I made the green enchilada sauce a couple of days ago.  I keep seeing Aaron Sanchez on the queso fresco commercials and want to try some cheese enchiladas.  I have 8 little chicken empanadas in the freezer too.  I may fix them both.  No other side dishes, just lettuce, tomato, sour cream, scallions and black olives.

They were so quick and easy it wasn’t funny.

I do this type of thing with everything I can.  I have my freezer full of things that normally take a long time but can now be thawed and on the table in short order.  I have kale, collards, strawberries both whole but cleaned (for smoothies and sliced and macerated (covered with sugar and let sit til syrup formed and fruit got soft) for ice cream, strawberry shortcake or whatever.  I have empanadas, ravioli, egg rolls, pot stickers and other time consuming dishes that I can pull out and bake or fry or boil without even thawing.  I make a big pot of marinara sauce and divide into quart zip top bags.  I took one out and can either add some browned ground meat or take out a bag of meatballs that I made last month.  That gives me the time and energy to make the homemade pasta and bread.  Both are way easier than you would think.  I have the pasta drying on the counter and will later post about how easy it was and how I just found out today how to make it nice and uniform.

Stoneware Roasted Chicken

I have this great stoneware chicken roaster that I got at a yard sale for $5 and a chicken that weighs 4 lb. 4 oz.  I’ve used the roaster before for all sorts of meat but I always have to keep checking it with a thermometer because I have no roasting chart for this or any covered stoneware roaster.


As it turns out there is no difference in the roasting times in or out of my covered stoneware roaster.  I took my chicken out of the freezer last night, got a friend to stop at the grocery store a get me a few lemons (and a gallon of skim milk) and looked at a few recipes online.  There are many for roast chicken but not a lot for stoneware roasted chicken.  I checked the website for the manufacturer and nothing.  They don’t even have the roaster listed.  They did have a nice “Sicilian pizza stone” that I would love to get for $39.99 but being on disability I will have to hold out for a birthday or another yard sale.  I decided I would document this particular roast chicken just because I don’t want to follow the one recipe I found that uses a covered roaster but takes several hours.  This is late April in Florida.  Get Real!!  Who wants their oven on for that long.  Maybe the other cook lives up north or it was winter.  I prefer to cook a little hotter and not as long.  I went to the garden, carrying my oxygen tank, pushed my sticky window closed so the AC will work better and ripped out a handful of thyme because I forgot to bring my shears out with me.  I had set a stick of butter out earlier and it was as soft as butter (almost melted).


I put the butter in a small bowl, added a very small palm full of salt, about 17 twists of the pepper mill and the zest of two lemons and set aside.  Sliced a head of garlic in half and quartered the lemons.  Since poultry can have bacteria I did as much as I could before I got it on my hands.  I rinsed inside and out and patted dry the bird.  Butter won’t stick to wet skin.  I salted and peppered the inside (as best I  could) and I stuffed the cavity with the thyme, lemons and garlic.  Tucked back the wings, tied the legs together rubbed the butter all over the skin.  I think a whole stick was overkill, but  too late.

DSC00082I’m going with 350 degrees.  I recently got an oven thermometer and discovered that my oven needs an extra 5 min to reach temp and 15 degrees higher than the knob says.  This info has made a big difference with my baking and just to be accurate  I have started to make the adjustments whenever I used the oven, but I forgot this time.   At 1 hour, I removed it, measured the temperature in the thigh near the bone.  It was 145 degrees.


I left the lid off, started basting every 15 min. and by 1 hour 30 min total cooking time, it was up to 167 degrees.  I pulled it out, put the lid back on cocked so steam wouldn’t build up but the heat would stay in.  It turned out to be just barely under at one spot in the breast.  If I had adjusted the temp it would have been close to perfect.  That turned out to be what is recommended for roasting any chicken in any pan (20 min per pound).  So it stays very moist and browns better if you just leave the lid on.  I was pretty hungry and am still new to this so the picture was a little late.  You could taste all the ingredients stuffed in the cavity and I used the leftovers for chicken enchiladas.  I made a home made green enchilada sauce that was so good I could have just eaten it with a spoon.DSC00090