So many adjectives! Cheesy, brunch-y fresh, easy, versatile, quick, unpretentious egg bake recipe is a great way to incorporate the vegetable bounty of your garden, CSA or grocery store. This time of year many are looking for ways to use up squash, this recipe will tackle at least four to five cups of that prolific gourd, along with tomatoes, onions etc. Simply aim for about 8 cups of chopped veggies (little less if using leafy greens). This recipe also halves easily.
2 tubes crescent roll dough
12 ounce shredded mozzarella cheese (amount, type of cheese is flexible)
1 1/2 tablespoon Herbs de Provence (or other favorite herb combinations)
Butter or olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a 13 x 9 baking dish and line with crescent roll dough, along the bottoms and sides. I put my dough ‘on point’ but this isn’t required.
In a large saute pan, heat butter or oil (or both!) and saute the chopped onions for a few minutes to start to soften/brown. Then add the rest of chopped veggies. The goal is to soften but not cook to point of mush/soggy.
In a large mixing bowl, beat with a fork, the eggs, herbs, salt and cracked pepper.
Mix in the sauteed veggies, adding a couple scoops at a time, so easier to mix. You can also put a couple cups of cooked veggies on top of the prepared dough and mix the remaining in the whisked eggs.
Add the cheese and stir to combine.
Pour egg/veggie/cheese mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes or so until top starts to brown and a toothpick inserted comes out pretty clean.
Thanks to Lemon Tree Dwelling for crescent roll dough idea!
Second homemade cheese adventure – ricotta! Arguably much easier than my maiden mozzarella batch but does not have the “play with your food” step. This ricotta needs just three ingredients (milk, citric acid and salt) and about 45 minutes. Once done though the uses and recipes are limitless – to corral some current and future favorite recipes, I started a Pinterest board – Say Cheese! Feel free to send me some of your cheesy ideas to pin or just ask to be added as a pinner to the board. Here is how to make you own homemade ricotta. Recipe can be easily doubled or halved, just adjust the proportions.
Simple Homemade Ricotta – Makes 2 cups
½ gallon or 8 cups, whole milk, try to not use ultra-pasteurized
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon citric acid OR 1/3 cup lemon juice (from 1 1/2 to 2 lemons) OR 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
Optional: some recipes also had a 1 cup of cream to the mix
Large sauce pan (not aluminum or cast iron)
Wooden spoon or spatula
Large mixing bowl
Jar, for storing
Ladle or slotted spoon
Twine or yarn to tie the muslin
HEAT! Pour the milk salt and acid (citric acid, lemon juice OR vinegar) into saucepan. Heat on milk until it reaches 195 – 200 F. Stirring frequently to prevent it from scorching or burning. When the curds separate from the whey (which is pretty obvious) turn off the heat and let the contents of the pan sit for about 5 minutes. Resist the urge to stir!
DRAIN! Line your calendar with muslin or cheese cloth and set it in a large mixing bowl. Spoon or ladle all the curds into the lined colander. Tie up the muslin full of curds and hang a few inches over the mixing bowl. This will allow more of the whey to separate and drain from curds. I tied my muslin to a wooden spoon and suspended it lengthwise between to open drawers in the kitchen (see photo below).
WAIT! Let the curds drain for about 30 minutes, less if you want the ricotta creamier. Check it after 15 minutes to check the consistency to see if it matches what you desire.
ENJOY! The cheese is now ready to eat or store. Place it in a lidded container and store in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Ricotta can also be frozen but I doubt it will last that long in your home.
My maiden voyage into home cheese making: mozzarella. I started with a kit, for the pure ease of having all the necessary components delivered to my door: Amazon reviews to support, rennet, citric acid and cheese salt. The box itself even looks cheesy. (Sheesh punny but true, they could come up with a more chic box…) Have no desire to make your own but love to eat? See the resource section at the bottom.
First time through, I followed the recipe included in the kit, except added more salt and didn’t do the microwave version. This was billed as 30 minute cheese, I was pretty close but the first time through it took me a bit longer to figure out the set up etc. I am not going to rehash, what they have already displayed so nicely on their website. While the kit was handy, I thought their booklet could have been better and have provided some other resources below.
My next tries will be incorporating herbs, using goats milk and playing around with making a burrata or ricotta version. I will also save the whey – it appears to be healthy for hens, and my girls are worth it! I also made smaller packets but will try doing one big ball, kneading and pulling the cheese like you would to form a round loaf of bread. I think I might embrace the microwave for a few more tries as well, until I get a bit better, than back to the stovetop. Lastly, do a cultured version using my homemade yogurt (3 T to a gallon milk).
So what happens to make milk turn to mozzarella? Well, one batch hardly makes me a novice, just engaged enough to search around about cheese making science. It really all boils down (actually, don’t boil, you will kill the enzymes) to using chemistry (acid-base) to change the protein structure of milk and make it so that they stick together and get stringy with it… J trapping the fats, expelling the whey, going for liquid to solids in liquid.
There is definitely no shortage of ways to cook and eat mozzarella. We made pizza at home, using up ingredients in our fridge. I tried out a different pizza crust recipe, on my quest for the perfect pizza pie. The Pioneer Woman recipe turned out ok, but was still thicker that the hubs likes… I probably just need an oven that reaches 900 F (get right on that). Toppings included prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, mozzarella, basil, mushrooms, garlic and olive oil.
This is a super easy appetizer recipe that can be modified to match the ingredients you have on hand. Below I included a table with substitutions, alternatives, modifications – you name it. The ideas of savory, sweet, crunch and herb can be repeated in many ways. I made these recently for a dinner party with items I just had on hand and an almond/apricot/basil version for a baby shower. Make a lot or just a few but be sure to taste a prototype to ensure that you like the flavors all stacked up.
Take the whole fig and cut in half lengthwise (top to bottom
Open and flatten the fig half to form the base of the “bite”, skin will be down and inside fruit and seeds showing on top
Spread cheese on top of fig
Put a dot or dollop of reduced balsamic (not too much, just for a flavor tang) on the cheese and then push in a pecan half. You can roast the nuts beforehand for an even deeper nut flavor (or buy them roasted J)
Drizzle just a tiny bit of honey on top and sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves
Key points: you are making one bite at a time so apply the flavors sparingly. There is a lot of flavor in each of these, so the goal is to balance with fig and cheese as the highlights.
There is something about mini “things” that is appealing yet mysterious and fulfilling still delicate all in a big way. Like short quotes with big lessons…..
If you take care of the small things,
the big things take care of themselves.
You can gain more control over your life by
paying closer attention to the little things.”
~ Emily Dickinson
And, of course, a quick and easy vegetable dish, inspired by a recipe on the back of a bag of mini squash!
Squash sauté with basil and feta flare
2T Extra virgin olive oil (a little more than you “normally might” per the hubs)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups mini squash or chopped full size squashes
1 cup mushrooms, whole or roughly chopped
½ cup (or so) halved cherry tomatoes
2 T thin sliced shallots
2 T chopped fresh basil
3 T crumble feta or other cheese
Salt and pepper
Heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil for about 30 seconds on medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, cook about 30 seconds. Add chopped squash and mushrooms and cook about five minutes on medium high heat. Add in tomatoes cook and stir about 1 minute. Lightly salt and pepper – remember the cheese might add to the salt. Remove from heat, add feta and basil. Voila! Flare and flavor!
The mini squash will take a little longer than normal to sauté but only by a minute or so. You could do this in the wok, add snow peas, use only squash etc.
“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” – Napoleon Hill
Another related quote and might words of motherly wisdom status post tween boyfriend breakup: “A girl needs a boyfriend, like a fish needs a bicycle.”
What is your favorite quote about the “small things”? Need a quote: here is a Pinterest search on said topic.
This is a family favorite and in its honor, my mom is the star chef (note her hand performing the tasks with surgical precision) and we are posting from her (guest) kitchen. The origins are unknown but the recipe is loved by many. There are some many variations, but today I share with you the basic framework.
Essential Summer Pea Salad
4 cups shelled peas, fresh or frozen (don’t worry about defrosting before hand – probably not canned mushy IMHO)
½ cup cheddar cheese (choose a camp: cube or shredded)
¼- ½ cup ranch dressing (premade or powder mixed with yogurt or mayo), depending on how saucy you are
½ cup diced onions, any color
3 hard-boiled egg, cut into chunks
Mix everything all together!
No really. That’s it. Serve chilled.
Mods and Variations
Different cheeses: goat, parma, bleu
Celery or carrots
Fresh mint or basil
Ingredient staging “bloopers” – my mom is coachable though!
Melty, brown cheesy goodness? Oui, s’il vous plait!!!
I have been reading and enjoying my Clementine in the Kitchen cookbook. Another member of my vintage collection….
Inspired by the Clementine’s brief recipe and description of Croque Monsieur (roughly “Mister Crunchy”), my own taste memories from Café Presse (Seattle), a corner café in Paris, and some Gruyere loitering in the fridge, I set out to make a “basic” toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Definitely more advanced than a Kraft single grilled cheese, but pretty simple given the results.
Clemetine’s recipe calls for Swiss cheese and milk, then dipped in egg, sounds simple but I wanted more “Frenchiness” and looked to a few other recipes for inspiration. Thank you to Food Network’s Ina Garner and Simply Recipes, here is my version. Not too shabby, next time a little lighter on the sauce, touch more nutmeg, a little béchamel hiding under the sandwich and broiling with the rack down a little lower.
1 Tbsp butter (salted)
1 Tbsp flour
3/4 cups milk (I used ½ cup skim and the rest half-half, since I had some)
Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
Nutmeg (~ ½ tsp) or more to taste
~ 1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated (doesn’t have to be exact)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 slices of French or Italian loaf bread
Ham, sliced, ~ 2 per sandwich depending on your love of ham
Dijon mustard, don’t go cheap
An egg per sandwich – If you would like a more “feminine” Crunchy
Heat the oven to 400F.
Make the special sauce – aka Béchamel
Melt butter in a saucepan on medium/low heat. Add the flour and stir stir stir until smooth, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking or stirring continuously.
Keep stirring/whisking until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat.
Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg to sauce.
Add in the about ¾ c Parmesan and about ¼ cup of the grated Gruyère. Stir. Stir. Set aside.
Make the sandwich
Place out the bread slices on a baking sheet lined with foil and toast them in the oven, a few minutes each side. Buttering is optional.
OR assemble the sandwiches as follows and grill them on a skillet with additional butter, followed with just a broil in step 9.
Spread half of the bread slices with mustard. Add the ham slices and most of the remaining cheese. Add the other half of the bread.
Place sandwiches on foiled baking sheet. Spread the béchamel sauce on the sandwiches.
Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
If you didn’t grill them in step 5, bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese topping is bubblicious and lightly browned.
To make it a Madame, and add even more heart, fry an egg and place on top of the finished sandwich. Or crack on top then broil (not my recommendation)