Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Ricotta Cheese...Which To Use

There really is only one rule of thumb when it comes to using different types of ricotta cheese. The less fat it contains, the less flavor it will have.....but not enough for you NOT to replace it in almost all recipes. You may also find the whole milk ricotta to be more creamy, but again, if using with other ingredients, which is generally the case, then you would never miss it. When was the last time you sat down to just a spoonful of ricotta?

Believe it or not, ricotta cheese is considered a fresh cheese because it isn't ripened. It is simply the by-product of cheese making. The leftover whey is heated and the proteins are curdled and strained, often with the addition of an acid such as rennet, vinegar or lemon juice.

The name ricotta literally means recooked, as seen above.


Let me give you a rundown of the dietary facts on the different styles of ricotta.

Per 1/4 cup:

Whole Milk Ricotta:

Total fat-6g
Saturated fat-4g
Trans fat-0
Calories from fat-50
Total calories-90

Part Skim Ricotta:

Total fat-4.5g
Saturated fat-3g
Trans fat-0
Calories from fat-45
Total calories-70

Light Ricotta:

Total fat-2.5g
Saturated fat-1.5g
Trans fat-0
Calories from fat-20
Total calories-60


Fat Free Ricotta:

Total fat-0g
Saturated fat-0g
Trans fat-0
Calories from fat-0
Total calories-50

Want to look into something the science community is investigating in depth? It appears that whey, or whey protein, just may be one of those "miracle" items that may stave off much more than originally thought. Maybe these body builders are onto something as they swig down their whey drinks or munching on high protein bars.

Now that I have given you the low down of ricotta cheese, here are two recipes using this fresh cheese. One of them uses full fat while the other is fat free.


Blueberry-Ricotta Parfaits

Such a great way to for a fat free parfait. I use frozen blueberries here because you really need the soft texture as well as any accumulating juice that usually accompanies frozen berries.

2 cups frozen blueberries, divided
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons honey
1(15-ounce)tub fat free ricotta cheese
1 cup plain yogurt

Place half the blueberries in a small saucepan and toss with cornstarch. Leave remainder of blueberries out to thaw. Add honey to blueberry/cornstarch mixture and stir to combine. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Continue cooking and stirring until thick, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.

Add ricotta cheese, thawed blueberries and yogurt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse, on high, until as smooth as possible. You can also use an electric mixer with a paddle or beaters.

To serve, halfway fill serving glass with cheese mixture. Place 2 tablespoons chilled blueberry mixture on top and repeat with remaining cheese and blueberry mixtures. Chill 1 hour before serving.

Makes 4 small parfaits.


Real Vanilla 'Creme'  
I use whole milk ricotta because of the lack of other ingredients. And as you may notice, I use a vanilla bean. I do realize they are super expensive, but the flavor you get from just one bean will make you a convert as well. This Creme is great simply spooning it into your mouth or as a dip from an apple, peach, fresh berries to your fingertips.

1(15-ounce)tub whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups plain, or flavored, yogurt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped *
1 tablespoon honey
Fresh fruit of your choice, if desired

Place the ingredients in your food processor bowl. Process until very smooth, about 2 minutes. Refrigerate 1 hour before serving. Serve in small, 1-cup dessert bowls or ramekins.

* Slice vanilla bean in half lengthwise. With the blade of a knife, scrape the seeds from the pod into the cheese mixture. You can also use 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract.

Monday, March 21, 2016


There really isn't anything I can say about Easter that everyone doesn't already know. Nor is there anything food related that I should add about this Holiday......other than "Let's dig in!" using a great flavored egg as a base for a couple of remarkable recipes.

Tea Brown Eggs

Not only are these eggs great for your Easter get together, but equally enjoyed during the summer, whenever cookouts are on your menu. Use this umami-style egg recipe in lieu of regular hard boiled eggs for a multitude of recipes, including Simply Yanked Deviled Eggs and Fried Sriracha Deviled Eggs, found below.

6 eggs
3 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic in oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, optional
6 orange pekoe tea bags

Boil eggs until hard boiled. Immediately submerse in cold water until completely cooled. Meanwhile, bring to boiling, over high heat, water, soy sauce, molasses, garlic and sesame oil. Whisk well, remove from heat and add tea bags; set aside. Peel eggs. Place eggs and tea mixture in a large bowl with a lid, or simply cover with film wrap. Refrigerate 24 hours, dunking eggs a couple times to marinate evenly. Drain, discarding marinade and tea bags and enjoy.

Simply Yanked Deviled Eggs   

A smoky, simple addition to any Easter dinner or picnic. If you don't have Chinese 5-Spice powder, simply make your own by mixing 1 tablespoon star anise, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon each of cinnamon, peppercorns and cloves. Pulse in a blender or coffee grinder.

6 Tea Brown Eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or salad dressing
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 cup shredded, smoked Cheddar or Gouda cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice powder

Split Tea Brown Eggs in half and scoop out the yolks. With the yolks in a bowl, mix in yogurt, 3 tablespoons cheese and Chinese 5-Spice powder. Fill each cavity of each egg half with cheese mixture, cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving with remainder of cheese sprinkled over the top.

Fried Sriracha Deviled Eggs  

Sriracha and chili sauce are basically the same thing. Made with chili paste, vinegar, garlic, a sweetener and a pinch of salt, it has been a staple in Thai cooking only for a short time since its first appearance less than a century ago. Always opt for the hot chili sauce, if substituting, because of the heat so often associated with sriraha.

6 Tea Brown Eggs
3 tablespoons sriracha or hot chili sauce
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon horseradish, optional
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup milk
2 eggs
Oil for frying

Heat oil(if using a deep fryer)according to manufacturer's instructions to 350-degrees F. Or use a sturdy pot, and 2-3 cups canola oil, and heat oil over medium heat with a thermometer attached to the side. Meanwhile, cut each egg in half and remove yolks into a bowl. Thoroughly blend with sriracha sauce, red pepper flakes and horseradish. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Whisk milk and eggs until well combined. Dip each egg half into milk mixture and into cornmeal. Dip it back into the milk mixture a second time and lastly back into cornmeal. Gently lower 3-4 breaded egg halves into hot oil and fry until golden brown all around, about 3-5 minutes, turning once or twice to ensure even cooking. Let oil get back to temperature before continuing with remainder of egg halves, Place fried eggs onto a serving plate with the cut-side facing up and evenly distribute prepared yolk filling. Serve immediately.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A Taste of Timeless New England

Even more revered than molasses and corn, maple syrup was the most widely used of all foodstuffs in New England since its colonization, and even long before.

The production of food products from this deciduous tree is almost exclusively limited to North America.

Long before the arrival of colonists, the natives knew about the sap that ran from a hole in a maple tree. They boiled it down until most of the water evaporated and they, in turn, showed these white men how to do the same.

By the early 19th century, the yearly sugaring that began anywhere from January to March, became a reason to hold festivals throughout Yankee-land. Many authors, journalists, diarists, historians and poets have joyfully regaled of the original maple candy, when, in the old days, hot syrup was poured on the snow, left to harden for a minute then eaten with pickles(of which most sap-houses still do today. Or of the fun sport of sleighing during the end of winter to an event held in every New England town at someone's home or business to celebrate with friends and family the first trickle of sap.

Everyone went home with a jug or two of real maple syrup to enjoy in almost every dessert made by mother. Two of my favorites are the long forgotten Maple Skimmer and Crisp Maple Cookies.


Crisp Maple Cookies

Once of the most amazingly "homy" cookies you can make, winter or summer, and one of the easiest. This cookie ranks as high as gingerbread, apple pie and molasses cookies when it comes to New England comfort food.

Nonstick cooking spray
3 cups flour
1/3 cup granulated or brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon each cinnamon and nutmeg
1/2 cup(1/2-stick)butter or margarine
1 cup real maple syrup *
1/3 cup apple jelly, whisked smooth
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. Blend the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.
Cut in butter with a pastry knife, two forks, or your finger tips until it resembles large crumbs. Combine maple syrup, apple jelly and lemon juice in a separate bowl. Add to flour mixture and stir it with a sturdy spoon, or a paddle attachment on a mixer, until to comes together in a cookie dough.
Dollop tablespoon measures of dough onto prepared cookie pan, leaving at least an inch in between cookie dough mounds. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned and crisp around the edges. Remove from oven to cool slightly before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

NOTE: This cookie is great as a 'rolled' cookie as well. Simply roll a tablespoon measure of the dough between your palms. Place dough ball on prepared pan and flatten to 1/4-inch thickness with the bottom of a glass, dampened by water to prevent sticking. Continue as directed for baking.

* The darker and more intensely-flavored maple syrup, the better

Maple Skimmer

This beverage tops any flavored coffee I can find in any coffee house, and is also a welcome treat hot, during the colder months. Simply omit the ice cubes and plop a big fat marshmallow into each mug before serving. But try this during the hot months.

Coffee Ice Cubes
2 cups freshly brewed, strong coffee
1(15-ounce)can evaporated milk
1/2 cup real maple syrup *

To make Coffee Ice Cubes, do I really need to tell you to pour brewed coffee in an ice cube tray and freeze? Add remainder of ingredients in a pitcher, mix well and chill until completely cold. Pour over coffee ice cubes and serve.


I also like to heat maple syrup in a saucepan and any one of my favorite jellies, jams, preserves or all fruit. Whisk well, and let cook over medium heat until hot and the jelly has dissolved. Remove and serve over your pancakes, French toast or waffles. Or dip some homemade biscuits into it.

Here are some great links to further your interest in the making of maple syrup, the particular festivals held all around New England and to order pure maple products.

Bet you didn't know there was a museum dedicated to maple did you?

Here is a great link to show you what is involved in maple sugaring. My great friend, Kim Knox Beckius is a New England writer and a self-confessed Yankee who truly loves her profession.

How about keeping that "home and hearth" smell in your home year round? Yup, even Yankee Candle has the fragrance, although it is mingled with another great Yankee favorite, but delightful none-the-less.

Mainah' ya' go! Everything you could possibly want using maple as the key ingredient. Hey, Canada can't take all the glory!

The BEST pepper I have ever had, and one that you have never heard of. Take a peak inside.....

A more in-depth look at all things Maine and Maple.

For all my friends in Vermont, you truly are greatly, and widely, known for maple syrup and all its glory.

The Granite State is a top contender for maple products as well. YOU go!

Looking for a festival near you? Visit this site not only for what's happening in the way of maple, but a great place to learn so much more about our New England heritage.