Homemade Ricotta Cheese

We have about five inches of snow on the ground this morning here in our little corner of the Eastern Shore. That may not seem like much to many of you, but to us  it might as well be 2 feet! It’s days like this where I’m so thankful I’ve gone down the path of DIY more and more often. To be able to make a kitchen staple from the comfort of your own kitchen, without having to venture out to the store, is really a blessing.

Take ricotta cheese for instance. All it takes is some milk, lemon juice, vinegar, and a few minutes of your time. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make, and how delicious it turned out. Creamy and flavorful, unlike that rubbery gunk that comes out of the container in one chunk that you buy from the supermarket. Now that I’ve made this at home, I don’t think that I’ll be able to go back to purchasing it.

I used it in a lasagna, but it really is delicious on it’s own – smeared on a piece of crusty bread. The recipe calls for whole milk, but I’m interested to try it with 2% to see if it turns out just as well –  as that’s usually what I have on hand. Will probably add a bit of heavy cream to up the creaminess factor, which I’ve noticed that other tutorials mentioned to do as well.

If you’re snowed in like I am, and stocked up on milk – make yourself feel productive and give this a try. You’ll be patting yourself on the back for days afterwards, I promise!

Black Truffle Macaroni & Cheese

This macaroni and cheese has been on my “to make” for years, since seeing a rendition of it on Top Chef Season 1. Dave made it, and I remember just being in awe of black truffles as an ingredient. I’d had black and white truffle oil, and loved the flavor it lent to dishes. But, a whole black truffle? I figured that I’d never have a chance to use them in my kitchen.

Then a few years after that, I discovered Wegmans. If you don’t know what they are (they are regional), it’s a high-end grocery store where you can find pretty much anything. Including fresh black truffles…just hanging out in the produce department like it ain’t no thang! Whenever I visited the store, I’d gawk over them – but due to the high price tag I was afraid to buy one. How much did one weigh? What if I got up there and it was $500? That’s definitely too rich for my blood…

I went ahead and took the plunge a couple weeks ago when my girlfriend and I visited a huge craft fair in the mountains at Thurmont, MD. Came home with all kinds of goodies – apples, fresh pressed cider, and one black truffle. It cost me $15.00 for one  pretty good-sized truffle. While expensive, definitely do-able as a treat once in a while. Was thinking I might like to try infusing my own truffle oil at some point!

So, the macaroni and cheese I’d been dreaming about for 7 years finally transpired. And it was worth the wait. Rich and earthy, yet not overpowering. The combination of white cheddar and Gruyere is a great combo that adds plenty of cheesy flavor, but still lets the truffles shine. Black truffle butter is easier to find than  whole truffles, and more affordable. That in combination with a drizzle of the truffle oil would be a good substitution. Or really this macaroni and cheese is delicious on it’s own – with no truffles!

But, it’s getting to be that special time of year where we love to splurge to make a meal a little fancier, or the ingredients a little more special for the Holidays. My mom always called it “the horn of plenty”, and it’s something that I look forward to every year. Can you guys believe it’s November already? Where has this year gone?

Cherry Merlot Pork Tenderloin and Egg NoodlesThis time of year things get so hectic. With all our favorite Fall activities, soccer games and practices, school obligations …often I find that my meal planning falls by the wayside. So, when asked to try a recipe from the Marzetti KitchensSM website to share with you guys – I jumped at the opportunity to try something new! But, it also had to be quick and easy, to accommodate our hectic schedules these days!

So, I’m glad I hopped on over there and checked it out. Because they really do have so many great recipes! I’ve always been a huge fan of their Caesar salad dressing that’s in the refrigerated produce section of the grocery store. Can always find a bottle in my fridge, still working on finding a homemade recipe that lives up to it!

I happened to have a pork tenderloin that I needed to use, so this recipe immediately caught my eye. I adapted it a bit, mainly because I was feeling lazy and just wanted to sear the tenderloin in one piece. Then a quick sauce is made using Merlot, cherry preserves and dried cherries. The pork finishes cooking while the sauce reduces, and then at the end you whisk in butter to make the sauce thick and luxurious. Easy peasy, and so darned impressive! The flavor of the sauce was absolutely delicious, both sweet and savory. Served over a heaping pile of warm egg noodles and a side salad, it made for a hearty and filling meal that didn’t completely weigh you down.  A perfect seasonal dish that comes together quickly for these hectic fall months!

Everyone enjoyed it, and leftovers were killer made into a panini using some brie cheese. So if you’re like me, and in a bit of a recipe funk – head over to the Marzetti Kitchens page to check out all their delicious recipes! I know you’re bound to find something that will “Wow!” your family, just like this meal did for us!

Cherry Merlot Pork Tenderloin and Egg Noodles

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Bacon Pimento Macaroni & CheeseHomemade pimento cheese is one of my very favorite things on this green Earth. I would also say the same for a good homemade macaroni & cheese. So, to combine the two – and then add bacon for good measure, just seemed natural.

I made crab cakes for dinner the other evening, and as I’d mentioned in Monday’s post – I’ve been kind of seafood-ed out lately. So I wanted to do a side dish that was amped up enough to be a meal on it’s own. I kind of threw this together with things I had on hand, and it turned out so unbelievably wonderful. I know it will be one we come back to again and again!