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Kitchen Basics, Lesson 2, Homemade Ricotta!

Take a deep breath.

Yes - that's right, I said homemade.

Now before you get all nervous, hear me out. This recipe is 
s-i-m-p-l-e, not to mention delicious. I can promise that you'll never crave the tub stuff again.

Personally, I love myself some good ricotta. When it comes to sweet and savory versatility, there's just no competition. 

If you've ever added a bit to pancake batter, or eaten a smear on crusty bread with honey and sea salt; you probably understand my obsession.

I'm making myself hungry, let's make some cheese already.

Homemade Ricotta
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Yields about 2.5 - 3 cups

1 quart buttermilk
1 gallon whole milk
(Yes, only two - told you this was easy!)

Special Equipment
Sieve or Colander
Thermometer (optional)

Line a sieve or colander with 5-6 layers of cheesecloth. Leave about 2 inches of cloth overlapping on the sides. Place a bowl underneath. Reserve.

Pour entire contents of milk and buttermilk in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. If using, attach a kitchen thermometer to the inside wall of the pan. 

Stir the milk gently as it is warming up, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides. Once this gets to a certain temperature, you will notice the milk separating into curds, and whey. The curds will rise to the top and resemble cottage cheese - the whey will be all the liquid left behind.

When your thermometer reads 175 degrees, or when the curds have formed a thick even layer on top of the pan, turn off the heat. With a ladle, spoon the curds into your prepared sieve - allowing for the whey to drain. 
Continue until all the curds are out of the pan. Then tie the cheesecloth into a bow and leave to drain at room temperature for about 20 minutes. 

After 20 minutes (or desired texture has been reached), open the cheesecloth and season your ricotta to taste. You may also add herbs here if you'd like.

Your delicious ricotta is now ready to enjoy! Remember to keep refrigerated; best if used within 5 days. 

* This recipe will yield a lot of leftover whey. You can toss it, but I prefer to keep it. This by-product is widely known to be a powerful nutritional supplement containing vitamins, minerals and protein. Add to soups for a tangy flavor, into baked goods for added moisture or as cooking water for rice and other grains. Sprinkle some over your pets food to give them a nutritional boost too!


Miscellaneous Miscellany!

Ah, hump day, you are always here before I even feel like I've fully gotten out of my PJs from the weekend. Elisabeth and I are busy, busy, busy, but all with great stuff (we LOVE our clients right now) and getting ready for her baby to come (do you hear that, baby? ANY TIME, NOW). Anywho, here's some stuff that I'm loving this week:

(silk tee, by rachel rose)
(DIY bracelet, Honestly WTF)
(Bookshelf 42, Jane Mount)
And furthermore:
Run, don't walk; the new Sweet Paul Magazine is out.
Love this blog.
If companies could have crushes on each other, we'd be writing Nina Interiors' name all over our notebooks. Go look at her gorgeous blog. 
Okay, dearies, have a lovely, lovely Wednesday. Mary will be here tomorrow cooking up some serious goodness for you. Could we be any more excited to have her in our test kitchens teaching us the basics? No, no we could not. See you back here on Friday!


Back to the Soda Fountain

Yesterday Miya wrote that February and March are tough months. I wholeheartedly agree; it seems like when winter first rolls around you’re all excited about the holidays, and then it’s January and the snow is a novelty and then it keeps coming and you start to slowly go crazy. Finally you make it to February, it’s the shortest month of the year, yet somehow manages to go on forever. March has such possibilities, all of us remember a March from when were younger where there were a streak of 70 degree days… we’re sure of it, but we all also remember those terrible late March snow storms… Ah March, you are a fickle month! It’s enough to make even the most optimistic among us see the glass as half empty, which makes this glassware posting particularly on point.

I’m a big fan of this glass for a couple of reasons. Yes, the whole half full thing, but I also think it’s great for this time of year for another reason: creamy drinks. Milk based drinks are so yummy, and yet I find when I order one they’re huge, and too rich for me to finish. This glass is a perfect solution to that problem. Another reason for suggesting a milk-based drink – in these dark and dreary months, that vitamin D is going to help combat SAD. Thinking even more about your health, I’m recommending that you make an Egg Cream in this glass. It’s got the dairy AND chocolate, another proven mood elevator (for the record, we at Jackalope solidly believe the “chocolate is good for you” hype).

Egg Cream (recipe from Bonni Lee Brown):
Approximately ½ cup of whole milk (it has to be whole or it won’t foam!)
1 cup of seltzer
2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup
Pour 1/2 inch of cold milk into a tall soda glass. Add seltzer or club soda to within 1 inch of the top of the glass; stir vigorously with a long spoon (this will cause it to become white and bubbly with a good head of foam).

Very gently pour 2 tablespoons of chocolate syrup slowly down the inside of the glass; briskly stir with a long spoon only at the bottom of the glass where the chocolate sits. The resulting drink should have a dark brown bottom and a 1-inch high pure white foam top (if you mix it too much, the foam disappears).
Now, if your mood needs a little more assistance to get elevated, you can add Bailey’s, Kahlua or anything else (within reason…don’t add citrus just to test me) you think could be yummy.

So sit back and enjoy, and try to start thinking positively… April will be here soon!


Yeah, We All Shine On

February and March (and sometimes April) are the cruelest months out here on the East Coast. Spring is threatening, but seems to never come, and we're just waiting to pull out our spring fashion and put away our sequins. Except that last part is NEVER EVER true for me. If it were up to me, it would be glitter & sequins season all year round. Luckily, it looks like this spring's trends go perfectly with some glitz. Observe:

This Ikat print would look amazing with a pop of sequins, and you best believe that if I had this chair in my house, I would wear that bracelet just so when I sat down I coordinated without being matchy-matchy.
  (Clockwise from top right: bracelet, pillow, chair)
Up next? The military/desert beauty look that everyone's been digging on. How about mixing it up with these hair ties that can also double as bracelets when you're not wearing them? WAY better than your drugstore rubber bands.
Futuristic shapes and color, you've met your match with a teensy bit of sparkle. In this case, cookies. Let's be honest here, if you're going to wear this necklace, you shouldn't be eating any old cookies, and if you're eating those cookies, you shouldn't be wearing any old necklace.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go online shop for some sequins that will go with my pajamas. Because that's what you'll find me in until this weather decides to turn warm for good. 


Socially responsible, and remarkably beautiful


The first time I came across these prints - it was love at first sight. 

Just like with any worthy crush, I had to find out more.

Fueled by intrigue, I pushed back my sleeves and immediately began researching. My super-sleuthing quickly led me to the source. It was quite the discovery if I say so myself!

As I found out, these textiles were not only gorgeous. They also happened to be uniquely manufactured by small artisan cooperatives in developing countries. 

The company at hand, is known as Proud Mary. It was started by two young ladies with an interest in social responsibility, and textile arts. (umm, rock on - just sayin')...

This sustainable business model allows local artisans to earn fair-trade wages - while creating some of the best textiles out there. 

Pretty cool, huh? Do yourself (and these lovely ladies) a favor, and check out their goods. You'll be swooning too :) 


Queenie Cooks: Spaghetti with Avocado and Basil

I'm not a big believer in the "health food" label. I feel like it makes everything to which it's applied sound like it's made of sandpaper and flavorless-but-nutritious goo, as though the very idea of one's virtuousness makes everything taste like crap. (Yeah, I said it.) And this is coming from someone whose choices actually tend to run toward things like vegetables, red wine and whole grains.

So I'm always a bit suspicious of blogs that tout their devotion to "healthful lifestyles" and the like. That doesn't mean I don't read them, but it does mean I take them with a grain of salt. (After all, where else will the flavor come from? Ba-dum-bum!) Sometimes, though, I'm forced to eat my own prejudices; this time, that eating came in the form of a lemony avocado pasta.

Angela from Oh She Glows (whose incredibly cheerful mission is to show her readers that food and exercise can be fun) adapted this from a recipe she found while poking around on Recipe.org, and I have to say that her version is practically perfect in every way.  It's delightfully garlicky, super-creamy, and the bit of basil she includes hints at the arrival of spring, which, these days, feels just around the corner. (It's supposed to be 51 degrees here tomorrow - FIFTY-ONE!)

So, thank you, Angela, for reminding me that food created under the banner of health deserves love, too. Sometimes even the grouchiest among us need to be schooled.

This recipe takes about 15 minutes to throw together, and would go swimmingly with a beet salad, or even one made with escarole or kale - just to remind you that spring isn't quite upon us. Not just yet.

Creamy Avocado Spaghetti
Adapted from Oh She Glows

1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked to al dente and drained
3 garlic cloves
Juice of one lemon
2 tbs. olive oil
1 ripe avocado, pitted and removed from the peel
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Zest of one lemon, for garnish (zest your juice lemon before you juice it)

While the pasta cooks, combine the garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. (An immersion blender and a tall, narrow container work well for this, too.)

Add the avocado and basil and continue to puree until smooth and evenly incorporated. Salt and pepper the sauce liberally, tasting for seasoning as you go.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, return it to the pot and toss with the sauce.  Taste again for seasoning, then divide the pasta between two bowls. Top with a grind or two of fresh pepper and the lemon zest.

Serves two.


Wednesday Miscellany

Hello there.  It's a good thing it's miscellany day over here on YOU + ME* Equals because my mind is having trouble focusing on one thing at a time right now.  Is it because we're so swamped with fantastic projects that I can't make the ideas stop popping into my head or is it the I'm-about-to-have-a-baby-like-any-minute hormones?  Hmm, maybe it's both. 

Birds of a feather merit badges by Lee Meszaros

I am in LOVE with these merit badges by Lee Meszaros (via Etsy Finds).  Shhh, don't tell, but a certain toddler may have to gift one of these to her adorable toddler pal for Easter.  Even better than friendship bracelets, no?  Don't stop there though. There are merit badges for "barking up the wrong tree," "pushing the envelope," and "being the best thing since sliced bread," among others.  Ack, I want to give everyone I know a merit badge!

Poppytalk Handmade Art and Home Lookbook
Poppytalk Handmade's newest market has a gorgeous lookbook!

Sweetery NYC
Did you know that Sweetery NYC is parked just a few short blocks from me right this very second?  I know thanks to the beta version of Zagat Food Trucks.  Not only does Zagat review food trucks for you, but it gives you a map with their real time locations.  Don't you wonder what kind of deliciousness could be parked in your neighborhood as you're reading this?

Red Stamp Thank You App
I'm not sure how I feel about this.  On one hand, I think thank you notes are incredibly important and a bit of a forgotten (or at least slightly neglected) art at this point, so anything that makes them a little more likely to be sent is valuable.  On the other, the old fashioned part of me thinks a thank you note is supposed to be handwritten and mailed.  Care to weigh in?

Let's all have a fantastic end to the week, shall we?


Art that You Can All Love

Dear ME*,
I am putting together my first baby's room (a daughter, yay!), and am wondering how to add some art that's not too baby-ish. Any suggestions?

Dear R.,

First of all, congrats on your impending new arrival! Second. you've come to the right place. We both feel strongly that though kids' rooms should be whimsical and fun, but not run-of-the-mill babyish. By starting an art collection for your baby now, you can create walls that will grow with her through her childhood (and into her adulthood). Here are some picks that we've got hanging in our tykes' rooms.

(Beastie, John Murphy)
I love John Murphy's collages. I just added a piece to the art in Emi's room this weekend when I was at the Brooklyn Flea. All of his collages strike just the right balance between sweet and saucy. 
(New to This World, Freya Art)
Elisabeth has a few Freya pieces in her home, and they are just lovely. The sentiments are crushingly beautiful, and the colors are perfect for a baby's room. 
(Zebra Screen Print, Foxy and Winston)
I met Jane of Foxy and Winston when I was a million months pregnant with Emi. I bought a few prints from her that Emi loves, as well as a t-shirt that, although it is WAY too small for her, I still stuff her into because I love it so.

(Night Sky, Seattle Show Posters)
I know I've written about this poster before, but the moon glows in the dark (and if you look closely, you can see that the moon's got craters), and it's just such a lovely print that captures so much about childhood. It's a great option for a growing art collection in a nursery.
Good luck, R.! Send us pictures when you've hung your art! 


Bringing Home a Piece of New York

Do you have today off of work?  Me too!  Ok, not really since my work tends to blend with the rest of my life, but all the tasks on my list for today are fun, fun, fun.  They'll have me running all over New York with my partner in crime, er design, which happens to be one of my favorite ways to spend a day.

Even after living here almost seven years, I still love exploring the city.  I know I share that sentiment with a whole lot of New Yorkers (as well as many of you who are New Yorkers at heart), so I can't be the only one who loves the idea of being able to take home a piece of the city's vibrancy.  These industrial designers/artists have tapped into that concept by repurposing pieces of New York.

Armchair and Dining Table with Stools by Made of New York
How can you not admire Made of New York?  It's a collaboration between three incredibly talented individuals: John-Michael Ekeblad, design strategist and creative director of Daytime Projects, Inc, formerly creative director of IKEA Sweden; Jonathan Locke, a furniture designer for Timehri Studios; and Brian Kane, a timber sourcing and construction effort from Gotham Forest Projects.  Together, they salvage timber from all over the city, build each piece by hand, and only use environmentally friendly production processes in an effort to sustain the wood's "naturally worn out beauty and charm."  Not only do I want to take home a number of pieces from this collection (can we just talk about this catch-all organizer for a minute?), but it has me completely inspired to take up woodworking.  Seriously.

Hooker & Co. coffee table with cash register drawer

Hooker & Co. also uses reclaimed materials from throughout the city, but has a different aesthetic. While Jesse Hooker's custom pieces still pay tribute to their origins, they tend toward clean and modern, rather than raw and unfinished.

Buying a piece of furniture made from reclaimed or repurposed materials is one way to connect with your city, but it reminded me of the yet another way of putting rejected materials to good use.  It's as simple as keeping your eyes open while walking down the street and the best part is it's free. Yes, I'm talking about bringing home your neighbors' (and I use that term loosely since I've definitely lugged things home from well outside what could reasonably be referred to as my neighborhood) cast offs.  To avoid bed bugs and the heebie-jeebies, I'd definitely avoid anything with upholstery, but solid wood items are fair game.  In fact, our office recently benefited from the addition of two beautiful wooden ladder shelving units rejected by someone in my building (I'll have to owe you a photo since I'm writing this from my dining room table instead of the office).

If you're not so sure about picking up perfectly good furniture off the street, consider this: you know those amazing end tables you saw at the flea market yesterday for 75 bucks a pop?  The guy selling them picked them up while trolling the upper east side on garbage day.  Really, it's true.  Found furniture also makes a great excuse to go to the gym.  You'd hate to pass up the perfect console table due to weak biceps.

Happy President's Day!


Kitchen Basics, Lesson 1, Knife Skills!

These days, it seems like you can't turn on the TV without coming across a new cooking show. 

Or enjoy a dinner out without witnessing an iphone documenting every step of the way. 

I don't need to state the obvious, but I will. Food, my friends, is in - and it's not going away anytime soon. 

I am a true believer that anybody can cook. Yes, that's right. A little basic knowledge, and a desire to learn can go a long way. That's why every other week, right here, I will be dishing out the nuts and bolts of savvy and confident cookery - to get you grooving in the kitchen!

Let's start by talking about that oft-anxiety ridden object, the knife. It's finally time to get over your fear and learn how to have a healthy relationship with this kitchen staple.

Before we start, always make sure your hands and knife are dry, and your cutting board is stable. (Here's a trick - dampen a paper towel or napkin and place it under the board to keep a slip-free grip). With these parts in check, you're now ready to roll. Make sure you've got a good, sharp multi-purpose chef's knife as well. It should be heavy enough to easily slice through tough foods - but light enough for comfort. 

The Cutting Hand:

Take your index and thumb fingers and pinch them together with the top of the blade held in between. The pressure here should be firm. 

With the other three fingers, hold the handle. Do not grip too tight, a looser grip will actually allow for more stability and control. Your index and thumb fingers should be doing most of the work.

The Guiding Hand:

The guiding hand is just as important as the cutting hand.  Having proper form will keep your food stable, control the size and consistency of your cuts AND most importantly, reduce those pesky nicks and cuts!

To do this, you will start by tucking your fingers under just slightly. Hold the food to be cut with your thumb - which should be positioned just slightly behind the rest of your fingers. This is called the "claw."

Rest the knife blade against your knuckles. Yes, I know this sounds crazy - but it works. The blade will remain stable and your fingers will stay out of the danger zone. Believe me!

To Cut:

Okay, so now that you've got the form down, it's time to cut! The movement should largely come from your wrist. In fact, the arm/shoulder/elbow should barely move at all. With momentum, practice "bouncing" your knife up and down (keep your guiding hand out of the way for this exercise). How does that feel? Most likely a little strange at first. Don't worry - it will become natural soon enough. 

Now, grab a hold of whatever you need to cut. Make sure that it contains at least one straight and stable surface. If it does not, create one. This will be the side resting on the cutting board. Having a stable surface prevents injuries, and significantly improves the consistency of your cuts.

Place your guiding hand on the object, and line up your cutting hand alongside it. With a slow and even momentum, begin cutting by pushing the tip of the knife down first and following through with the rest of the blade. (If you were to watch your wrist it should be rhythmically bobbing up and down). Each time you come up to the start position, glide your guiding hand back only as far as you'd like the size of your slice to be.

Keep practicing, and try not to get discouraged! Your skills will improve with every recipe you conquer. That's a guarantee. 

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