Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I'm going home to visit my mommy and daddy on Wednesday!! My suitcase will be filled with clothes and Berkshire pork baby back ribs :-) I'll try to update while I'm away.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

we are all screwed

I wish I had more time to blog right now but I'm on the bus on my way to work and blogging while driving makes me ill. Anwyays, please read this link and pass along. This information needs to reach EVERYONE asap!!! This is really happening and we have to make it stop. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/6/17/743564/-Henry-Waxmans-betrayal-of-our-existenceHR-2749

Lots of love, vanessa

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

use the cheese you made!!

So I promised you two recipes using ricotta and I'm going to give it to you but I'll break it into 2 posts so they aren't so long.

My first recipe is probably an unexpected use of ricotta but it is the most amazingly delicate delicious tender wow pancake you will ever taste.

Yes I said pancake

So without further ado let's make

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

You'll need:
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 T. sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
2 large eggs SEPARATED
2 T. vegetable oil
1/4 c. buttermilk
1 c. ricotta (the one you made of course!)
1/4 c. FRESH lemon juice
1 or 2 T. lemon zest (depends how lemony you want them)

Mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another bowl combine egg YOLKS, buttermilk, ricotta, lemon juice.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until dry ingredients are just incorporated. Sprinkle with lemon zest.

Beat the egg whites until stiff and fold into the rest of the batter. Let the batter sit 15-20 minutes (the longer the better to let the lemon flavor really come out)

While the batter is resting make the lemon sauce for the pancakes. These pancakes definitely don't get syrup!! Instead you'll be making a warm lemon sauce to top them. This sauce is basically a lemon curd that you keep warm so it doesn't set up. So for the sauce....

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/4 c. water
1 egg yolk
1 T. lemon zest
3 T. fresh lemon juice
Simply combine all the ingredients in a medium size saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until butter is melted and sugar dissolves. Let the sauce boil and then lower the temp. Allow it to boil for 2 minutes then remove from direct heat but keep warm.

Butter a pan and begin making your pancakes. These pancakes won't get very brown, just golden and they will be a bit creamier in texture even when fully cooked because of the cheese.

Once cooked drizzle with the warm lemon sauce.

I like to add a small dollop of ricotta, fresh raspberries (or strawberries) and a dusting of powdered sugar.

These are some of the best pancakes I've ever tasted and are great for a special occasion! Definitely an interesting use of ricotta. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Happy eating.

xoxo, vanessa

make your own cheese, no seriously!

I want to share this recipe for homemade ricotta cheese not only because it is incredibly delicious (SO much better than what you buy at the store) but also because of the sense of pride I know you will feel from making your own cheese. Its way more simple than you think!!

So to make your own ricotta you will need a couple things you probably don't have lying around at home....

Citric Acid - you can find this at Whole Foods or any healthfood store. Just make sure it is FOOD GRADE citric acid. If you don't have a whole foods or independent health food store in your area check your local grocery store or order it online.

Cheesecloth - you should be able to get this at any grocery store

So after you round up these two things the rest is easy.

In a large pot over medium heat combine 2 quarts of high quality (preferably organic) buttermilk, one gallon of 1/2 and 1/2, 2 tablespoons of citric acid, and a fat pinch of salt.

See I told you it was easy!

Now, you wait. Make sure the mixture never boils and just warms slowly. If you have a thermometer you can suspend it in the center of the pot. You are looking for the center to reach about 180 degrees. But, if you don't have a thermometer that's okay. You will see the curds beginning to form at the top of the pot. Once the curds have formed a "raft" covering the entire top of the pot or your thermometer has reached 180 remove from the heat and let the cheese rest for about 15 minutes.

Line a colander or other perforated pan with cheesecloth and suspend over a larger (non perforated) bowl/pan. Very carefully remove the curds from the whey using a slotted spoon or a fine mesh skimmer put the curds into the cheesecloth lined colander and allow to drain for at least 4 hours but preferably overnight. What your left with is a light, fluffy, tangy, delicious cheese.

This recipe yields about 3 or 4 cups of ricotta (I'm guessing a little here) you'll have a lot of whey waste but its totally worth it once you taste the cheese!

Once your cheese is drained you're ready to season it. For me, I usually think the cheese needs more salt. Black pepper is fabulous with ricotta and a drizzle of high quality olive oil is all you need.

Use the ricotta in lasagna, stuffed shells, or your favorite recipe. I'll share 2 of my favorite recipes using ricotta in another post!

So seriously TRY THIS its so simple and quick and the result speaks for itself.

Oh, and you can brag to your friends that you make your own cheese!

Happy cheesemaking!

Love, vanessa

Factory Farming

Please go to this link and watch the video. Its really a great, simple explaination of factory farming. Please watch and pass along!! http://www.themeatrix1.com/

lots of love, vanessa

Friday, June 5, 2009

fun at the grocery store

I live in a working-class neighborhood here in Chicago so unfortunately there isn't a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods within reasonable distance for someone without a car. So, when I need a few quick things and I don't have all day to spend on a grocery trip I go to the Jewel down the street. Don't get me wrong they are really moving in the right direction when it comes to offering organic items at a reasonable price. Honestly, I've been pretty impressed with the progress they've made over the last couple years. But, with that said it can still be quite a chore to find products that don't contain Genetically Engineered (GE) products (mainly modified corn and soy) which I guess shouldn't be too surprising when considering the vast majority of corn and soy grown in the united states in GE.

I used to challenge myself to buy items that didn't contain high fructose corn syrup for health reasons. Now, I challenge myself not to buy a product with any modified corn or soy. This means no .... glucose syrup, maltodextrin, crystalline fructose, ascorbic acid, lecithin, dextrose, maltose, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), MSG, caramel color, xanthan gum and that's just what comes from corn....

In fact there are an average of 45,000 items in an american supermarket and over 25% of them contain some form of corn. Sad.

And don't think that if all your purchases come from the produce aisle that you haven't purchased a GE corn product. The vegetable wax used to give fruits/veggies their pretty shine is made of GE corn. (Thanks to author Michael Pollan for this information)

So, back to my trip to Jewel. Like I said they're doing a good job getting on the organic bandwagon. But, its still a hunt to find stuff that's truly healthy and not just masking itself as a healthy product. Example - yogurt. Almost every major label of yogurt contains HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Thankfully Jewel stocks a huge supply of organic yogurt sweetened with GASP real sugar imagine that.

Another one - snack crackers like triscuits, wheat thins, fiber one, etc. Every single one contains all sorts of modified corn and HFCS. Today it took me awhile but I did find one called back to nature. No hydrogenated oil, no hfcs, or preservatives. And quite tasty.

My big issue with Jewel today was over cream cheese. They only have 2 choices. Philadelphia and store brand. Both contain stabilizers made of corn. Sorry but I just want cheese in my cheese.

Like I said, whole foods and trader joe's and other health food stores offer many more organic/natural products I just wish major chains would see the importance of carrying these products. For example, Jewel carries several types of organic milk and yogurt but no organic butter, cream, or buttermilk. No good.

Today I also found something that really excites me. Ginger Ale containing NO HFCS. Its sweetened with clover honey and pineapple juice. It contains 17 grams of fresh ginger per 12 ounce bottle and is REALLY tasty!! (Reed's Ginger Brew) Maybe I just have a highly sensitive palate but I can definitely taste the pineapple notes which make for a fun twist on regular old ginger ale.

Oh, and apparently the packaging looks too much like beer. I got carded buying my 6 pack today. HA

Today I challenge you to be more discerning when reading your labels at the grocery store. Move beyond calories and read the ingredients! Don't you deserve to know what's going in your body? And if you can't pronounce it do you really want to injest it?

Good luck on your quest to becoming a better eater. Not just for the health of your body but the health of this planet.

Happy eating!

And grocery shopping (I hope)