cheese is very much a love gift

As Melissa (aka Yummy Goods)’s husband says,

Cheese is very much a love gift.

On tv and all over the Internet, various people have been touting the ease & deliciousness of homemade mozzarella for ages. Recently, the almighty Pioneer Woman, blogged about her adventures in cheese making. She said it was simple, and I tend to believe what she says. She also posted lots of photos. I like photos.

After reading Ree’s post I was on a mission to make cheese. I went shopping on my lunch break. I went to our local country department store and found the citric acid easily. I couldn’t find the rennet, they must have it, they have cheese making books and boat loads of canning supplies, alas, no rennet. I went to the grocery and all I got there was blank stares, rennet??, and a gallon of whole milk.

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On my way home from work, I called three more stores and stopped in at two others. No rennet. I asked everyone I know where to find rennet. I googled and the internets told me buy it online but, I wanted it NOW.

The next day we drove to NY for a party. On our way home we stopped at all of the fancy stores, Whole Foods and Trader Joes. All I found there was chocolate covered espresso beans and the famed cookie butter. Yum.

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We even stopped at Stew Leonard’s, the sign said, World’s Largest Dairy Store, as featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. They make pounds of mozzarella everyday, they had to sell rennet. Nope. My hopes were dashed.

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When we got home, I resigned to ordering the elusive rennet online. By all accounts, New England Cheesemaking Supply Company is THE place to buy rennet and it happens to be about an hour from my house.

I ordered the rennet, the last piece of my cheese making puzzle. They shipped super fast & I had it in my hands by Tuesday. I had Wednesday off from the day job, perfect timing!

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With all three ingredients, a day off from work and a whole lot of enthusiasm, I got down to business.

I used the same recipe as the Pioneer Woman and it really was easy.

Add the citric acid and milk to a NONREACTIVE pot (no aluminum), the ingredients can eat little holes in your pot, then bacteria grows, then you get sick, blah, blah…

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Heat it up. Pour in rennet/water mixture. Heat it up some more. Then let it make magic. Take obligatory hand pressing cheese curd photo.

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Mine didn’t seem to come together as nicely as other photos I’d seen, a little more cottage cheesy. That may be because I used pasteurized milk instead of raw.

Then you cut the curd.

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Then stir.

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Oh, shit! Why did I stir?? This isn’t going to work, I’m going to have crap cottage cheese like mush.

Scoop out the curd.

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Strain.

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Then you have almost a gallon of whey. Attempt to force boys in the house to use in their protein drinks. Fail. Feel bad about dumping. Leave in fridge for week.

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Microwave the curd a few times & drain the liquid. Squish & knead a bit.

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Next, freak out because holy shit, it’s working, you’re making mozzarella!!

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Play with it too much because it’s so cool.

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Plop in ice water to cool it down.

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Taste test.

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Brag to everyone you know that you made cheese.

Make grilled pizzas with slabs of fresh, homemade mozzarella & veggies from the garden. Brag some more.

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Things I’ll do differently next time: microwave one less time. My cheese was a bit drier than I would like.

My Perfect Chicken Salad

Monday night I was home alone for dinner so I made what I wanted instead of tons of meat and potatoes and veggies and bread and…..

I made chicken salad and a sort of fruit salad to go along side, they were both divine! When I decided to make chicken salad I knew I wanted to share my recipe with you. So I knew I would take photos of that. What I didn’t know was that the summer salad would be just as delicious and I would also want to share that recipe with you. Alas, I have no photos of the summer salad but it’s so easy, trust me!

MY Perfect Chicken Salad – because it’s just the way I like it.

(If you are a vegetarian or just want to try something a little different check out the comment section of this post. Britt tells us how to make this recipe with out meat!)

Grab a handful or even two of tarragon. I grow this stuff solely for this recipe. Chop like crazy.

Chop a handful or two of dried cranberries. If they are too sticky you can spray your knife with a little cooking spray.

Pretty.

Squirt, dollop a bunch of mayo into the bowl.

Salt & Pepper

Chicken. Most of the time I just boil about four chicken breasts in salted water. (This stuff is good, I make a big batch.) I boil the chicken because I don’t like to have any sort of crust-like consistency in my chicken salad. It’s also way faster than baking. The best chicken to use by far however, is left over rotisserie chicken. Oh. My. The rotisserie chicken just has a great depth of flavor & really makes this chicken salad phenomenal. We don’t have rotisserie chicken around here often so boiled breast it is.

Chop your chicken to bits.

I like to have every flavor in every bite so I chop all of my ingredients super small.

Mix everything together.

I like to chill it for a little bit in the fridge. It tastes so nice a little cold.

Then throw it on some yummy bread, or my favorite, wheat crackers. Yummmm

Summer Salad

Slice 1/2 red onion

Cube 1 small cantaloupe

Cut/hull 1 package strawberries

3 or so big hand-fulls of baby spinach

Toss!

Sprinkle salt & pepper

Serve with a balsamic vinaigrette

Ta Da! A perfect summer supper. YUM.

(The light in the dining room is obviously far better than in my sewing room huh??!)

Cookies!!

It’s cookie season!  I have been craving all kinds of cookies lately and I finally got in the kitchen and did some baking.

Here’s what came out of the oven this year.

Chocolate Marshmallow Pillows

Chocolate cookies with marshmallows on top and covered in chocolate.  Mmm….  So chocolate-y you need a whole gallon of milk to wash them down!

Buckeye Delights

Chocolate and peanut butter. Can’t go wrong with that combination.  They are supposed to be covered in chocolate too but I left that out on these ones because the Chocolate Marshmallow cookies were a bit too chocolate-y.

Raspberry Thumbprints

I love raspberry jam!  I skipped the white chocolate drizzle.  I’m not really a fan of white chocolate. I think next time I will find different recipe for these, they were too sugary.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal Cookies

The cream cheese frosting really makes these oatmeal cookies reminiscent of carrot cake.  Chewy and delicious.  I left out the nuts and I might add a little nutmeg next time. These were definitely my favorite this year!  Yum, yum, yum.  You need to try these.

Caramel Macchiato Thumbprints

For this I used a bold instant coffee in place of the instant espresso.  I would recommend cutting it in half though because these have an intense coffee flavor.  The caramel and chocolate do a good job cutting the coffee flavor though.

Peanut Blossoms

This recipe is from a cookbook put out by the town I grew up in.  I’m not sure which year it was put out but it was at least 15 yrs ago.  Everyone from town was encouraged to put in their favorite recipe and my Grandma was on the book committee.  Here’s the recipe:

Sift together:

1 3/4 cups sifted flour

1 tsp. soda (baking soda)

1/2 tsp. salt

Cream together:

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Add 1 unbeaten egg

2 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla        Beat well.

Blend in dry ingredients gradually.

Shape by rounded tsp. into balls Roll in sugar, place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 375 (F) for 8 min. Remove from oven and put solid milk chocolate candy kiss on top of each cookie, push down so cookie cracks around edge. Bake 2 to 5 min. longer.

Contributed by Edna Woodward

Everyone loves these classic cookies.  I made these ones with a twist using caramel filled kisses!

Snickerdoodles

Basically jazzed up sugar cookies.  Sugar cookies rolled in cinnamon and sugar. Yum.

There were two more cookies on the list that haven’t been baked yet.  Empire Biscuits, cookies that my Grandma would bake every Christmas.  She just passed away last month (the reason I didn’t blog much).  They will have to be made another day.  And Rainbow cookies (seven layer cookies)  a New York favorite that no one up here sells.  I love them but they are hard work to make, maybe another time.

The green platter in the photos was made by my mom.  Last year my sister and I gave her a gift certificate for classes at the local pottery shop.  She loved it, had a great time and made a bunch of pottery.

Wow! We have a lot of cookies now.  Everyone in the house took a platter full to work to share with their coworkers but there are still tons left in the house.

What has come out of your oven lately?  What’s your favorite cookie recipe?