Belly Flop in the Kitchen: Paneer

You know how there’s always that one thing you want to try in the kitchen, but you never get around to? Well, today I attempted something I’ve wanted to make for a long time – homemade Indian Paneer! Paneer is a very simple farm cheese made from milk and some sort of acid component – you can use lemon juice, vinegar or yogurt. The steps were simple – heat 2% milk until boiling, add yogurt, and stir until curds separate from whey. Then drain the mixture in cheese cloth. This part was easy enough, and I felt like Mario Batali with boobs as my homemade cheese drained in the kitchen sink.

The cheese drained and then I got ready to cut it into cubes – so far so good.

Freshly made paneer

Like any good chef (or hungry person), I sampled the fruits of my labor and was pleasantly surprised with the simple, milky taste of the cheese – and the fabulous squeak squeak as I chewed. I cut it into cubes to use in my recipe for dinner.

Paneer was a success! ... So far.

I decided to follow the Paupered Chef’s Matar Paneer recipe, and I diligently ground up ginger, onion and garlic in my trusty food processor. Do you have a food processor? If you don’t, you should get one, because my food processor is hands down one of my top three favorite kitchen accessories/appliances; along with my lime squeezer and OXO vegetable peeler. I browned the paneer and set it aside, continuing to mix all of the other ingredients. The recipe was coming together nicely, filling my house with aromas of India.

After everything was cooked and mixed, the recipe said to add the paneer to the mixture and let simmer gently for 20 minutes. I placed the paneer in and noticed it was starting to crumble a little bit, but I didn’t think too much of it. Unfortunately before I even knew what was happening, the paneer fell apart and disentegrated into tiny little crumbly curds. Sad, sad, sad. The curry still tasted fine, but it definitely wasn’t good. I was so bummed! There’s nothing worse than putting a lot of time and energy into a new dish and then having it be a total belly flop at the end. I ended up tossing the whole dish, because I just couldn’t get over the grainy texture and mismatched flavor. Lame.

The finished product - Matar Paneer

However, I did have one kitchen success today – homemade salsa with veggies from my garden. Lime juice, green pepper, cilantro, onion, jalapeno, tomato, garlic, salt – that’s all you need for an amazing homemade salsa.

Garden Grown Salsa Saves the Day

So yeah – unfortunately my first paneer recipe was a flop. I’m going to try it again though, and this time, let the curds and whey soak longer, and avoid cooking the finished product as long in a recipe. I hate it when a new recipe turns out sucky, but I have to remember that that’s part of learning the cooking and kitchen process. Stuff gets screwed up all the time – and even master chefs have belly flops every once in awhile. (Usually all my belly flop recipes come from Pinterest!) What was the last kitchen belly flop you had?

3 Day Weekend Recap

Hi everybody – I hope you had a great weekend! I was lucky enough to have Friday off, and I used this weekend to completely recharge, do some fun things, and finish a few projects around the house. On Thursday night, we went to the LA County Museum of Art to see a surrealistic wonderland exhibit. Some of the highlights included seeing work by Frida Kahlo, including Las Dos Fridas. Her work has such a visceral feeling to it, and it’s even more intense in person. This painting is about five feet wide and staggering in person.

Las Dos Fridas at LACMA

The biggest project we crossed off our list this weekend is our garden! Every year Matt and I spend a lot of time working on our garden, and we reap the benefits in late summer when we’re practically begging our friends to take tomatoes. This weekend I put in cucumbers, green beans, peas and zucchini – now growing in two boxes filled with hot peppers, green peppers, and six different kinds of tomatoes (I know, excessive much?!). Matt also put down weed block and mulch to keep the area a little nicer. Doesn’t it look good?

Our garden - ready to grow!

After a long day of ripping weeds, planting plants and general putzing around the yard, we celebrated Easter with a ham, mashed potatoes, peas and rolls. It was tasty, and we have tons of ham leftover – time for frittata and split pea soup! That was Saturday… and then on Sunday, we spent our actual Easter at the beach! How spoiled can we get? We live about 45 minutes from Malibu and we spent our day reading on the sand and walking up and down the coast.

Zumba Beach Malibu

While we were there we saw a beached seal – this poor little guy didn’t look too hot. A crowd of teenagers had gathered around him and were trying to figure out what to do. Being old and jaded, Matt and I had a feeling he had come out of the water to die, but we didn’t want to say that… so we kept walking. Haha. I hope he’s okay – but any seal that’s beached itself and doesn’t even move when strange, loud humans approach it is probably not in the best health. 🙁

Sick beached seal - poor guy

We spent a couple of hours relaxing at the beach and then came home and made pizza. This pizza had caramelized onions, garlic, olive oil, mozzerella and asiago cheese. It was delicious – but so savory we both stopped after a piece and a half!

Savory caramelized onion and garlic pizza

It was a great long weekend and exactly what I needed to plow through this last month of the Spring semester. I’m also geared up to get back on track with healthier eating and fitness. I officially ended Weight Watchers and am back to calorie counting and cardio. I’ll do a weekly weigh in a little earlier this week since I still owe you two from the past two weeks! Please don’t forget to enter my EatSmart Scale Giveaway – and share it with your friends! There’s only one day left, so enter now!

I hope you have a wonderful Monday – Chin Up!

 

Grown Your Own Marinara Sauce

It’s almost August and our garden looks like this: A big, sunburned, sprawling mess – but this is when all the best stuff comes out of it! (Can you spot my gnomey?)

Floppy Plants

I’ve been slowly collecting a massive harvest of roma tomatoes and have been meaning to make marinara all week. I don’t know if it’s really “marinara”, but I roughly chopped up all the tomatoes, added 2 tbsp olive oil, a couple of leaves of basil, 7 garlic cloves (Yes – it is shameful – I will never have a torrid love affair with vampire Erik Northman.), 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 a red onion and some coarse sea salt and pepper. I let it simmer down for awhile until it got really juicy and then added one can of tomato paste.

No Ragu Up in this Hizzy

I mixed it with the pasta I had on hand – mini rotini – some leftover garlic bread – and voila! A delicious, carbolicious dinner. (How many WW points? 7. (5 for pasta, 2 for sauce) But the garlic bread was 6.) Home made pasta sauce tastes so much more rich and has a delightful tang.

Nom Nom

Here I am enjoying my dinner – don’t judge on the frazzled “Almost the end of a crazy week” face.

Mmmmm dinner!

And because I think they are the coolest things on earth, here are my new hot dog boxers that I scored for only $7.95 from Old Navy. If I can’t eat Chicago hot dogs every day, at least I can wear ’em.

WEINERS!

I weigh in on Saturday and am hoping to have better results this week. My pants are feeling loose and I was able to twirl my wedding band around my finger which usually tells me I’m not bloated like a water balloon, so I consider these good signs. I’m avoiding salt tomorrow and I’m heading to the gym right after I hit “publish”. Cross your fingers for me – hope you’re having a great week!

How does your garden grow?

I love my garden, and have been known to spend several hours digging in the dirt on weekends… emerging in the dusk hours with mud streaked all over my arms and plant pollen dotting my hands. I did today, in fact.

My Garden - and Yes, that is a mooning gnome.

I do this for the chance to grow my own food – which is the coolest thing ever. Last night, our dear friends Jason and Juan came over for an Italian feast, part of which was my homemade pesto tortellini. The pesto was superb – and made from 2 bunches of my own backyard basil. It’s such a neat feeling to eat something that you lovingly grew yourself – and it’s cool to know that you’ve essentially made a meal that cost only the price of the seed packet and occasional waterings.

Thanks basil, for making a delicious pesto!

Here’s a small sampling of some other things I hope to be harvesting soon, beginning with tomatoes. The ones shown here are a cherry variety, called “Matt’s Wild Cherry.”. I also have a Roma plant (that’s the biggest plant in the image above), an heirloom Brandywine, and a striped variety called Tigerella.

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomatoes

I have about 9 cucumber plants, from the “burpless” variety (that always makes me giggle – you’d never think cucumbers would be something that would make you burp), to a Persian, to a “tendergreen hybrid”. They’re just now starting to grow, about the size of a baby carrot and covered with the funny little spikes.

Baby "Burpless" Cucumber

My strawberries are hanging in there, and I was excited today to see one tiny little green berry. Strawberries don’t seem to do well in the San Fernando Valley, or maybe I’m just making that up, because I guess 40 minutes north in Ventura County is the strawberry growing capital of the world. Maybe I’m just not cut out for strawberry plants.

Little Green Strawberry

And last but not least, a favorite of mine… ARTICHOKES! This massive plant started from a tiny seedling I bought at the farmer’s market for $1. Now, it’s easily one of the biggest plants in the yard, and as you can see, loaded with artichokes.

Don't choke up over the beauty of my artichokes.

Some of the other goodies I have growing that aren’t shown include yellow squash, zucchini, green onions, green peppers, hot peppers, yellow corn and chocolate mint. I can’t wait for the days I spend digging into the vines and rummaging among the thickly-scented tomato leaves for ripe fruit. Should be about a month and a half and I’ll be posting pictures of my harvest. You better believe there will be some great food porn images then!