Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Cream cheese from scratch

Having made bagels from scratch, I decided to look into cream cheese from scratch. I found a write-up from the prairie homestead, which boldly proclaimed:


And you know I had to try it after that. Bonus, I discovered the whole of prairie homestead, which is a delight. I'm pleased to report that I do, indeed, feel like a homesteading rockstar, especially when using local cream from the milkshare herd.

1 quart cream (or half-and-half). Use the highest quality cream you can find. Fresh from a Jersey cow is best, but any will do.
1/8 teaspoon Mesophilic starter culture
Fine cheesecloth (improvised substitutes)
Sea salt (optional)

Make sure you are using a glass container to hold your cream. Gently stir in the starter culture.

Loosely cover (not airtight!) and set it on your counter top to culture for 8 to 12 hours. (It may take more or less time, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.)

You’ll know it’s done when it has set up and somewhat resembles yogurt. (It might not be a perfectly even consistency, but that’s ok.)

Dump the thickened cream into the cheesecloth and allow the whey to drip out for at least 12 hours (the longer it drips, the firmer your finished cheese will be).

(Instead of draining the cream at this stage, you could also turn it into cultured butter. Decisions… decisions…)

Once it has reached the desired consistency, scrape it out of the cheesecloth and lightly salt it to taste. The salt is optional, but it will help it keep slightly longer. Store in an airtight container in your fridge– it will get firmer as it chills.

Because it's fresh, it's easy to spread.
Feel free to blend with fresh fruit or cinnamon or other spices if that's your thing.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Quinoa Tabouli

I love tabouli, especially when I use quinoa instead of bulgur as the base. It's refreshing and light, perfect for taking to a potluck, and an all-around amazing side dish whenever the ingredients are available, which is most of the year where I live. Cucumbers, parsley, and grape tomatoes are a staple all summer into early fall. We don't have lemon trees here in the mountains, but everything else is grown in the yard or at a farm nearby. 

If you haven't tried growing quinoa for yourself yet, I highly recommend it! This superfood is super easy to grow, takes very little land, is simple to harvest, and stores like a dream. And it cooks as quickly as pasta! You can even get more than one crop in a season most places if you plan accordingly. The quinoa cooks in the amount of time it takes to prep everything else (less than 30 minutes), and it's gluten free. You can use any quinoa variety, but the darker the color the stronger the flavor. I tend to use red or black quinoa during spring and fall, and use white when it's blisteringly hot out. But they're all just great.

Note: This recipe, which is really more of an assembly, scales beautifully. Need to feed an army? Just multiply! Need to make a smaller batch? Divide in half and enjoy.

1 cup dried quinoa, any color
1-2 cucumbers, diced 
1 pint grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, diced
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
1-2 medium bunches parsley
1 bunch mint (I use a hearty amount, but technically the mint is completely optional. Use as much as makes sense to you for you taste.)
3-4 scallions, or red onion if you're out of scallions, thinly sliced
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and strained for seeds
1-2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced 

  1. Fill a saucepan with 1.75 cups cool water. Stir in the quinoa and heat to boiling, then reduce to a simmer and cover, simmering for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and remove cover, letting it stand for another ten minutes or so. Fluff with a fork.
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, dice the cucumber and tomatoes. Combine the diced cucumber and tomato in a medium bowl with ½ teaspoon of the salt. Stir, and let the mixture rest for at least 10 minutes, or until you’re ready to mix the salad.
  3. To prepare the parsley, cut off the thick stems. Then, finely chop the parsley and remaining stems, transferring the chopped parsley to a large serving bowl before proceeding with the next.
  4. Add the chopped mint and onion to the bowl with the parsley.
  5. Strain off and discard the cucumber and tomato juice that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl (this ensures that your tabouli isn’t too watery), and add the strained cucumber and tomato to the bowl.
  6. In a small measuring cup or bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Pour it into the salad and stir to combine. Taste, and adjust if necessary—add more lemon juice for zing, or more salt for more overall flavor.
  7. Gently fold the vegetables and herbs together, then fold in the quinoa until combined.
  8. You can serve it immediately but it really benefits from an hour or more for the flavors to blend. I like to chill it in the fridge, covered, for at least an hour.
  9. Tabouli will keep well in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days, or so I hear. Mine is always gone before I can blink.
  10. Perfect for taking to a pot luck!

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Chicken and Dumplings

There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a dish of Chicken and dumplings. The dumplings can be used with leftover roasted chicken and vegetables to make a second delightful, hearty, satisfying dinner. This is also perfect for stretching a small amount of meat and vegetables without resorting to a more traditional stew or the ubiquitous soup. If you raise your own hens, simmering is the perfect way to serve the meat, leaving it tender and letting all the flavor have a chance to develop. If you want to get the truest flavor from the simmer, let it cool to rom temperature after cooking.

Time saving option that doesn’t sacrifice flavor: Put the vegetables and chicken in a crock pot on low for 6-8 hours (high for 4-6).  Debone the chicken and set everything from the crock pot in the stock pot that you will use to finish the recipe on the stovetop. Place stockpot in the refrigerator if making this step the day before. I like to measure and mix the dry ingredients for the dumplings ahead of time and then all that left is to whip up the dumplings while the chicken comes up to temperature.

Chicken & Stock:
1 whole chicken
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf (optional)
1/3 cup butter
1 cup finely diced celery
1 cup finely diced carrots
1 medium onion, diced
1/3 cup flour
1 1/8 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

Cook Chicken & Prepare Stock:
  1. Add chicken, broth, water, salt, pepper, garlic powder and bay leaf to a wide stock pot or dutch oven. Cover then bring to a slow simmer over medium heat. Once broth is bubbling, reduce heat to low then cook, covered, for 2-3 hours, or until legs and thighs are pulling apart from the body and the chicken is very tender. See notes.
  2. Remove chicken from broth; set aside. Strain broth into a large bowl or pitcher, discarding bay leaf and loose bones or skin; set broth aside.
  3. Melt butter in the (now empty) pot then cook celery, carrots and onion over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add flour, stir well, then continue cooking for 5 minutes.
  4. Slowly stir reserved broth in with vegetables. Continue stirring until completely smooth. Reduce heat to low and cover.
  5. Remove skin and bones from chicken then shred or cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Prepare dumplings.
  7. Heat pot with broth over medium-high heat until it starts to boil. Add chicken. Gently drop dumplings, one at a time, into gently boiling broth. Take care to drop dumplings away from other freshly dropped dumplings as they will stick to each other before they have a chance to cook.
  8. Once all of the dumplings are in the pot, sprinkle with additional pepper then cover pot. Reduce heat to medium-low then allow to cook for 10 minutes or until dumplings are cooked through.
  9. Serve immediately.
  10. Prepare the Dumplings:
  11. Place milk (1/8 cup is 2 tablespoons) in a wide, shallow bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes to chill. 
  12. Melt the butter then set aside.
  13. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and thyme in a mixing bowl then whisk to combine; set aside.
  14. Slowly drizzle melted butter into chilled milk, stirring with a fork until combined. The mixture should look like curdled milk or cottage cheese.
  15. Add milk mixture to flour mixture then stir with a spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.
  16. If making Drop Dumplings: scoop portions of dough with two teaspoons or use a cookie scoop (I used a 1” cookie scoop in the ones pictured here) then drop into gently boiling broth.
  17. If making Rolled Dumplings: Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface then sprinkle with more flour. Roll into desired thickness (anticipate they will double in thickness when cooked). Cut into squares or rectangles (however your nana did it) then drop into gently boiling broth.


  • You can absolutely cook the chicken faster than the directions but the secret to tender, flavorful chicken and delicious stock is to slowly bring everything to temperature and to never allow it to reach a full, rolling boil. 
  • Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or thighs can be substituted but I don’t recommend boneless, skinless chicken. If you simply must use them anyway, omit the water and broth then use chicken stock instead and add a stick of butter. Or consider adding 6 chicken legs or wings to flavor the stock.
  • Drizzling melted butter into ice-cold milk will separate the butter into little fat globs. This accomplishes the same thing as cutting the butter into the flour as if making biscuit dough. We want the dumplings to be as tender and delicious as homemade biscuits. 
  • The dumplings will continue to soak up the broth the longer they sit. If you plan on making this ahead of when you will be serving it, consider preparing with 8 cups of chicken broth (rather than 4 cups broth and 2 cups water).
  • If you don’t love the idea of the finely chopped vegetables, feel free to just rough-chop a few carrots, stalks of celery and an onion then throw them in the pot when the chicken cooks. If you decide to do it this way, still cook the butter and flour for 5 minutes over medium heat. This just makes a little roux to thicken the stock a bit. You’ll see a lot of recipes that call for a can of Cream of Something soup – this is the homemade equivalent to that.
  • For an especially Southern spin on Chicken & Dumplings, add several sliced boiled eggs after adding the dumplings.

Storing Vegetables without Plastic