Mini Spinach Lasagne

You are going to want to run out right now and make this! Its delicious! Its easy! It’s meatless (for those meatless Friday nights, or every night for some of you.)

I have made this twice now and keep forgetting why I dont make it more often. Probably because I just plain…forget.

The only hitch is, you should be using a brownie pan. You know, those square muffin type pans used to make brownies. Like this…


They are more shallow than muffin pans and hold the square ravioili’s perfectly. I tried them in the round muffin pans and I couldn’t get them in there. You would have to use smaller ravioli’s, like some fresh ones I found at the store. Continue reading “Mini Spinach Lasagne”


Caprese Salad

So last night we had patty melts, which around here means hamburgers on sourdough toast. Add some grilled onions, a slice of cheese, okay, some bacon too and blue cheese. (mm, blue cheese!) These are Patty Melts, with attitude.

But Patties alone are not enough for my he-men. So I doctored up some baked beans. Now it was looking better, but the nutritionist mom in my head noticed there would not  really be any vegetables on those plates.

I want to enjoy my Patty Melt, not live in guilt. So lets see. Having some tomatoes on my windowsill, I sliced some up, added slivers of basil and slices of fresh mozzarella from Trader Joes. (Luckily I had just gone shopping the day before.)

Here is what it ended up looking like. Quick and easy. The guys liked it. I know, they are not home grown tomatoes. It’s too early still. I rarely buy store bought tomatoes, because really, you know they aren’t tomatoes, just imposters. But these ones were from a farmers market and they did at least smell like the real thing.

Caprese Salad

Oops, forgot the Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette. My bad. Here it is:

Ah-ah-ah! Wait...
Hubby size melt. Caramelized onion...fontina cheese...garlic mustard...drool


Lets zoom in on this one…

Just missing some grilled mushrooms.

Homemade Mozzarella, the summer cheese of choice

Taste of summer

String cheese, pizza topping, Caprice salads. All thanks to the humble cow. Today is the day to whip up a little home-made mozzarella. You just need a gallon of milk. Oh and some rennet. And some citric acid. That is it though. (and did you know there is no ‘T’ in mozzarella?  It is not mozzarella, like I thought).  I have only made this twice before and it has been almost a year. But it is so fun to watch the transformation of the crumbly cottage cheese looking stuff into sleek shiny mozzarella.

You start with the citric acid. Its dry and granulated, like salt. You mix a tiny bit of rennet, 1 1/2  tsp. in a 1/2 cup of cool water. Set this aside.

Mix 1/4 tsp of citric acid in 1/4 cup of cool water. Set that aside too.

Now take a gallon of whole milk and pour it into a large pot. Pour the citric acid solution into the milk.  Put the heat on high and stir vigorously to mix well. Stir while heating the milk to 90 degrees. (remember to use your instant read thermometer now!) When it gets to 90, remove the pot from the heat, slowly stir in the rennet solution, stirring in one direction for about 30 seconds. Cover the pot and leave for about 5 minutes.

Did 5 minutes go by? Now you lift the lid and see this custardy stuff. It’s the curds. Take a large spoon and using the back of the spoon, gently press the curds and see if it is set. If the curd is too soft, the whey too milky,  put the lid back on and wait a few more minutes.

Now take a long knife and cut the curds into about 1/2″ squares, creating a checkered board.

Put the pot back of the stove, and now heat to 110 degrees, while slowly and gently stirring the curds in one direction with your spoon. When it reaches 110 degrees, remove from heat and keep stirring for 2-5 more minutes. The curds broke up when I did it and I thought something was wrong. It wasn’t.

Ladle out the curds into a colander or strainer, pouring out the whey. This takes a while because now the curds are broken (or may be) into little chunks. It seemed to take forever, using a small screen colander to sift out the curds.  Put the curds into a piece of cheesecloth, laying this into a larger small holed strainer. I have used white paper towels, but prefer a cloth of some kind. Squeeze out the whey. The more you squeeze out the drier the cheese. I twist the top of the cloth, gently squeezing it out and shaping it into a big ball. You can put the whole thing into a plastic bag and put in the fridge for now if you want and do the next step later. Fresh mozzarella  breaks apart after only a couple of days. You want it fresh.

Anyway, its time to shape the cheese. You might be worried because it looks more like cottage cheese at this point. But do not worry.

Heat a medium pot of water to 185 degrees. This is just below a gently simmer. When the water is warm enough, either turn it off or turn in off very low.  Salt the water a bit. Cut off a chunk of the curds and lower into the water. Let it sit for 3-5 minutes. You just need it to warm through. With a slotted spoon, lift it out.

Now you might want vinyl gloves. This stuff is HOT.  If is does not stretch like taffy, put it back in the water. It needs to be 135* (that means degrees for me).  After tossing it back and forth going “ah-ah-ah hot!” you start to knead it, folding it over and over itself, bending, folding, stretching. Sprinkle some salt into it and continue to knead. Suddenly it is shiny and stretchy! Its mozzarella! Form it into a ball, or knot it or whatever shape you want.

Set this ball of cheese aside and cut the rest of the curds into chunks and drop into the salted water. After they are warm, pull them out one by one and salt, fold, knead. Soon you are done! How proud you feel. You are a cheesemaker! Not just anyone is a cheesemaker you know. But you are after this! It feels good. You are an alchemist, changing milk to cheese. This is even cooler than making butter, which is pretty cool. I put the cheese ovals in a baggy and put it into the fridge. When I took it out a little later to make the caprice salad, it had melded together into a large blob. Next time I would wrap it in plastic wrap to help hold its shape.

Now you take your garden tomatoes and slice them, put a slice of cheese on it and a leaf of basil. Drizzle a little olive oil over it, maybe some salt and pepper or just garlic salt. Yes, if you want, you can drizzle balsamic vinegar. It is wonderful, not matter how you shape it. Different salt gives it different flavor.


Summer on a plate, caprice salad

What is this you might ask? A fish? A bird? A plane?

Look closer. That is a home grown tomato, after soaking up the summer sun, is picked, sliced and dried in the oven.

Topped with homemade mozzarella. Yep, made by yours truly.

Topped with basil from the garden. Just a few minutes ago it was waving its leaves under a summer sky watching the lady bugs and wasps fly by. It graciously let me remove a few of its leaves to feed us. (Actually let Melissa pick them. see below) 

And finally, a few drops of my own Italian balsamic vinaigrette. Ahhh.

It feels good.

Caprice salad anyone?

The rest were being eaten  up by hungry grizzly bears. (they looked a lot like my husband, kids and me).

The tomatoes were sliced, layed on a parchment lined baking pan, drizzled with olive oil and baked for at least 2 hours in a 250 dgree oven. Let cool. Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella, some shredded basil and more good olive oil or vinaigrette. Sprinkle with some good salt. Mama-mia, its wonderful.

Be sure to use good tomatoes, from your garden, a friends garden, a farmers market…

Melissa, my third hand