Friday, March 26, 2010

How to Make Paneer!

For the Indian feast I made in my previous post, I made my own paneer (cheese)! I got the recipe from one of my cookbooks, though subsequently I found plenty of recipes on the web. It's just milk+lemon juice+technique!

I specifically got some whole milk for this project.  Whenever I'm making these milk-thickening recipes, I assume when they say "milk" (especially in my old 60's recipes!) they mean whole milk. I don't mess around with lowfat versions that might not work until I make it properly at least once!

First you bring 4 cups of milk to a boil on the stove. I won't bore you with a picture of this. Then you add 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice, and "stir gently" until it curdles up and thickens.  I won't gross you out with a picture of this, because it looks pretty nasty! It didn't exactly "thicken", but the curds got more numerous.  I had it going maybe 20 minutes, but subsequent research shows that you probably only need about 5.  Oh well, I wasn't sure what I was doing and the recipe didn't specify. Anyway, now the fun begins!

After you get your curds, you strain them out from the whey.
I read afterwards that you can keep the whey and do other projects with it, but it seemed kind of gross to me so I dumped it down the sink. Maybe next time!
You lift up your curds and squeeze out more whey, then gather everything into a sort of patty. I think I should have folded or rearranged the cheesecloth so as not to have that twist, results of which you'll see below.

Next, you press your cheesecloth bundle under something heavy! I also sandwiched it between 2 cutting boards (seemed like a good idea) and used a cookie sheet for a drip tray.  I have some vague memory of cheesemaking from Reading Rainbow and lots of whey is still extracted as it sits there!

My cast iron dutch oven is really heavy, and you want something like this, to really press it down!  And sure enough, I was glad I had the tray. Leave it sit for 1.5-2 hours to do its thing.
Next, you unwrap it and you're pretty much done!
I used the paneer in a malai palak recipe, and it was super tasty! Pretty much identical to paneer I've had in restaurants.  Now that I've gone through this process, I think it's pretty hard to go wrong. That is to say, it's easy!! The paneer on its own was a bit boring; I highly recommend putting it in a flavorful dish (and heating it up a little).

Oh, and be warned: as with all milk-reducing recipes, the milk goes away!  4 cups only yields about a 4" diameter by 0.5" tall little wheel.  But that was all I needed for my other recipe, really.

Now that I've done this, I'm curious to try some of the other fresh cheese recipes out there, like mozzarella!  Has anyone done this? Don't you need rennet, which doesn't seem to be available anywhere? Tips? If I could have my own mozzarella with my own basil and own cherry tomatoes this summer, I would be SET. :)

By the way, if you want any of the recipes in the previous post, let me know!

More springy fun and a feast!

This week: I took care of some RevolvingDor stuff, A. was supposed to go on a biz trip but didn't (yay!), we played tennis (!!) at some nearby courts, continued on in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, oh and I made some zany and delicious Wheat Thins candy (yes, it is goooood!), and enjoyed a few days of really nice weather!

Oh, and despite some major setbacks in the "freelance" area (tsk . . . annoying!!) I am going to take my entrepreneurial spirit and SOLDIER ON with my shop and my ideas and just make my own success.  So there. Just watch me!!!

Onward to photos!

OK, so now we get to the Indian food feast that I made on Thursday night! I just felt like cooking, and I ended up making 4 dishes (5 if you include the homemade paneer, details next post), with A. contributing a cucumber raita. I know, I'm crazy, but sometimes I do crazy things to get my "accomplishment" high. Don't you? Oh, you're not a perfectionist? Nevermind. I know all my fellow high-achieving weirdos understand; you know who you are!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Master Gardener Project Revealed!

This week is light on photos again, but to compensate, I feel like revealing my Master Gardener Surprise Project!! I don't know why I kept it a secret for so long (maybe to make sure it didn't fall through), but there's really no reason to anymore.

I drew some artwork for the 2010 WSU Master Gardener Advanced Education Conference (click link)!  It's statewide, and Vancouver is hosting this year! That cartoon you see will be on . . . everything.  They tell me there will be T-shirts, hats, aprons, gift cards, garden flags, on and on!


I love the MG's, and so should you!  If you like gardening, I highly recommend doing the MG training in your area (and then volunteering!).  And don't forget, I will donate HALF the proceeds from my Spring Plant Sale artwork in the RevolvingDor shop to the MG Foundation of Clark County, so shop away!

On to the photos!

Friday, March 12, 2010

March bits

Here are a few photos from this week. Between getting back from my trip, being simultaneously excited and anxious over some upcoming freelance work, and doing a thorough studio cleaning, I didn't really have my mind on the blog. But at least I'm back from my trip, I have upcoming freelance work, and my studio is (sort of) clean!

Other general things: we've taken to enjoying a coffee at Dolce Gelato when we walk down to Esther Short Park. They have a nice little stealth patio out back where we can take Moxie!

Having come from the healthy world of the spa, I'm inspired to eat right.  So when I was at Costco I got a big tub of spring mix greens and some feta, and have been eating salads (those 2 things plus craisins and seasoned rice vinegar) with most meals!

Mix 'n' Match

Well, my blog continuity has faltered lately, but here is a catch-up post!  This covers things from my last post up to last week.

I went home last week and went to a spa in the Berkshires with my mom and her women executives group; very very cool and relaxing!! While I was gone, A. took some photos for me, assembled a pair of bookcases we got for our dining room, and did whatever else he does, like his job.

Can I just add that I still don't know why my photos all show up at different sizes, even when I've sized them the same width and set them all at "large" (or X-large as needed)?!  Does anyone know?