Saturday, September 14, 2013

Making Ricotta Cheese

I got it into my head that I wanted to make ricotta cheese this weekend. I think it was partly because my favorite cooking blog posted a tutorial about it recently and partly because I would be up on the South Hill where I could get milk from a local Spokane dairy:
I met the woman who owns this farm with her husband last March when I took a cheese-making class. The milk is pasturized only to 145 degrees, not homogenized, and has the cream on the top like in the good old days. I used a recipe from a blog called Annie's Eats. The ingredients are simple: white vinegar, milk, salt, and lemon juice. 
After mixing salt and milk, I heated the milk to 185 degrees, took the milk off the heat, and stirred in the lemon juice and vinegar. After leaving the mixture to curdle for about 10 minutes, I poured it into a curtain-lined colander over a bowl to catch the whey. I used the curtain in place of cheesecloth and it worked perfectly.
Here is the colander over the bowl of whey:

Here's me squeezing more whey out of the cheese. I have to admit that it was ridiculously fun to squeeze out the warm whey. My housemate was laughing at me.
It's amazing how much whey is left over after making the cheese! Good thing my co-worker sent me a link to a blog with 16 uses for whey. I'm thinking of freezing some of my whey in ice cube trays, using it to water my house plants, and cooking potatoes and oatmeal in it. I tasted it, and I can hardly describe the taste: fresh, slightly sour, rich.  

And here's the finished product!

It's amazing that eight cups of milk makes only two cups of ricotta. It made me realize how precious cheese is and why it's expensive. I have several ideas for how to use my cheese. I'm thinking of spreading it on sliced ciabatta bread with salami (from Trader Joe's!) and garden tomatoes. I'll let you know how it turns out. :)

Have you made something from scratch before? How did it turn out? Was it worth the effort?

Friday, September 6, 2013


In this season of late summer bounty, a post about gratitude seemed necessary. In fact, the words were chomping at the bit to get out on the "page" and the pictures practically leapt off my camera. Without further ado, here are the things I'm grateful for with hope that they will inspire your own gratitude.
1. Fresh summer flowers. I'm thankful to have planted zinnias and cosmos in my garden this year. I'm even more grateful that miniature black-eyed Susans, snapdragons, marigolds, and nasturtiums appeared in my garden as if by magic (also known as re-seeding to the practical among us). I've tried to keep a fresh bouquet on our dining room table at all times. 
2. Simple and creative summer meals. The top photo is caprese, which is simply stacks of sliced fresh mozzerella and tomatoes sprinkled with basil. The bottom picture was my dinner tonight: zucchini nachos with garden tomatoes, zucchini, and green onions and lots of cheese.

3. Provisions for winter. My mom willingly threw herself into two huge canning projects with me over Labor Day weekend. We canned 23 quarts of peaches and 20 quarts of applesauce. It gives me joy to see the bounty of summer stored up for the cold and dark days of winter. 

4. Garden bounty. Today, I picked all the veggies you see below in Dottie's and my garden. (I'm harvesting veggies in Dottie's garden while she's out of town.) Lots of green beans, four cucumbers, four zucchini/summer squash, and a bowlful of Sun Gold and Juliet tomatoes. That being said, does anyone have zucchini recipes they'd like to share with me? :)

5. A working kitchen sink! We were without a kitchen sink for exactly a week. As I made dinner on Wednesday night, I had several impulses to take my dishes to the bathroom to wash them. I was so happy when I looked over my shoulder and saw this shiny new faucet to dispel all thoughts of inconvenience. 
6. Visiting with old friends. I've gotten to see my friend and former housemate Heidi four times in the past week for which I'm very grateful as she's now started a busy semester of school and work. On Tuesday, I spent time with my friend Sam and her husband Andrew. Sam and I went to Whitworth and studied abroad in England together. Tomorrow morning, I'm having breakfast with my freshman year roommate and her husband. (I'm also grateful we're meeting at the Petit Chat bakery!) Old friends are comforting because they remind me of the good ol' times, but also of the new ways in which friendships are preserved over time and distance.
7. My first-ever baby shower for a friend. It's a new season of life I'm entering with marriages of friends and now the babies of friends. Tomorrow, I get to attend two baby showers, one for my college friend Angela and another for her sister-in-law Karinda. I had my first experience with gift registries at Target today and, despite being confused about baby stuff in general, I managed to buy some pretty cute duds. For the record, the baby bib says "Revved up for Snacktime." I thought that was perfect coming from me. :) 

8. My ice-cream maker. I have to say that my impulse kitchen purchase of the summer has turned out to be brilliant. In the past week, I made Thin Mint Peppermint Ice Cream and fresh peach pie ice cream with chunks of cinnamon sugar pie crust. My mom and I enjoyed both ice cream flavors over the weekend.
9. Inconveniences and struggles. On Sunday, my pastor talked about the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:10-19 in a sermon titled "Eucharistic Repentence." He used "eucharistic" to reflect its root meaning of gratitude and "repentence" to mean an action needing a 180 degree turn. Gratitude, especially for the hard things, does take effort, a 180 degree turn to recognize that even inconvenience and suffering come from the hand of a good God. Sometimes, like in the case of the 10 lepers, "eucharistic repentence" means turning from a lesser good to a greater good. The nine lepers probably ran back to their families and were full of graitude for health and wholeness. That's good! But the tenth leper who returned to Jesus was the only one to direct his gratitude in the most proper place: to the only One through whom healing and wholeness was possible. The sermon gave me a lot to think about. In this season of late summer, I have many good gifts for which to be grateful. But there will be seasons of life that aren't as cheery and the call to be grateful will be no less.
10. The Giver of all good gifts. "Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:17, NRSV).
What are you thankful for in this season of your life?