NaBloPoMo

Wordless Wednesday

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Making Creme de Ricotta at Home

My girlfriends and I traveled an hour north of the Bay Area to Sonoma, in the Napa Valley, to take a cheese-making class from Sheana Davis last weekend. Sheana is an epicurean cheese-maker and provides cheeses to the French Laundry and other five-star restaurants in the area. Sheana travels around the country, learning to make different cheeses from women in their 70’s and 80’s, who have been making cheese all their lives, and who have a vast amount of information to share. She is hoping to capture this information so it is not lost when these talented women are no longer with us.

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Sheana first perfected this recipe for Creme de Ricotta to teach mothers who were using WIC (Women/Infants/Children Food Assistance) or Food Stamps how to take milk and a little cream and turn it into a tasty cheese, which could then be used to make nutritious meals for their families. Processed cheeses are very expensive and usually out of the reach of those families with limited budgets, so this is an excellent alternative.

This is how to make your own delicious creme de ricotta at home. You will need:

1 Gallon Whole Milk   (Organic, and unhomogenized, is preferable. You want whole milk that has the cream floating at the top.)

4 cups heavy cream

2 cups distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons sea salt

You will also need a heavy pan (do NOT use a non-stick teflon pan because the teflon causes a chemical reaction which will not allow the cheese to form correctly), a 36 inch square of 200 thread count muslin or cotton (cheesecloth), a slotted spoon or ladle, a colander sitting in a deep bowl, and an all-purpose cooking thermometer.

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Heat the milk and cream over medium heat to 200 degrees F.  This will take approximately 20 minutes. Stir or whisk often to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan.

When the mixture reaches 200 degrees, stir the milk clockwise, and quickly pour the vinegar in and sprinkle with the salt.

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The milk will start to coagulate immediately. White curds will start floating in the whey. As you can see here, it immediately thickened enough to hold up the weight of this large cheese ladle.

Cover the pot and allow to rest for 10 – 12 minutes (but no longer, or the cheese will thicken too much). Do not remove the lid from the pot during this resting time.

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Line a colander with cheesecloth, or a 200-count cotton cloth. Gently ladle the curds into the cloth. When spooning the curds into the colander, gently place the spoon against the side and let the curds slowly slide onto the cloth to drain. The more gently you handle the curds, the better the finished cheese. Each time you spoon more cheese into the colander, put it in a different area so you are not spooning curds and whey directly over the last curds placed in the colander.

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You can let the curds drain for up to 30 minutes, but the longer it sits the more firm the cheese will be.

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For a light, fluffy ricotta, gently pull up on the sides of the cloth, allowing the liquid to drain through the colander. Work around the perimeter of the bowl, very gently lifting and lowering the cheese while it drains.

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When the majority of the liquid has drained from the cheese, carefully twist the ends of the cloth, gently squeezing the cheese. This will mold the cheese into a rounded shape, which can be turned over and placed on a plate for serving. Twisting the cloth around the cheese too vigorously will condense the cheese curds, making the cheese much firmer and less fluffy.

This cheese can be served sweet or savory. For a sweet appetizer, drizzle honey over the top of the cheese, then scatter chopped nuts and dried cranberries over the top of the honey. For a savory option, top the cheese with a layer of pesto and pine nuts. Or layer the pesto over the curds when you are ladling the curds into the colander. The pesto will be compressed as a layer in the cheese while it is being formed. Served while it is still warm with slices of baguette or crackers. This would be a delicious and super-easy appetizer for your next party. This morning I had this cheese with honey and cooked cranberries gently folded in, on a toasted bagel. Heaven! I can hardly wait to see what this ricotta tastes like in a lasagna.

Until next time,

Joan

Have You Been Moved By Music?

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Have you ever been really moved by music? This is the subject of the writing prompt today for the NaBloPoMo blog writing challenge I am participating in for this month. I haven’t used their other prompts yet, but this one resonated with me.

About eight months ago I was convinced by some of my girlfriends to join them at a Cross-Fit gym class designed for women over 45. Cross-Fit is an interesting approach to exercise…pulling tractor tires around the room, carrying around 50 pound bags of sand…well, you get the idea. The trainer is in his late 20’s and selects music from Pandora to motivate us during exercise. Taking our age into consideration, he has chosen what he calls “Ultra Golden Oldies.” This music is from the late 60’s and the 70’s and listening to it several times a week has reawakened memories I had forgotten.

Listening to this music has felt like time travel. Bennie and the Jets (Elton John) and Until You Come Back to Me (Aretha Franklin), immediately transports me to late evening drives across the Nevada desert in my Firebird, engine roaring, driving faster than I should (sorry, Mom – I know she is going to read this), with not much else to do but get lost in the music. Mason William’s Classical Gas reminds me of the hours I spent trying to perfect that song on the guitar my parents bought me when I was in high school. Does hearing a particular song immediately transport you to a place and time that is so real, so intense, that it startles you?

I grew up listening to my mom playing Glenn Miller’s String of Pearls on our piano. Every time I hear that song, I am immediately transported to childhood, watching her play a song she obviously loved.  I learned to play the flute in middle school, and continued to play in the high school symphony, and for many years beyond, and I can still remember my favorite pieces of music.  All four of our children have sung in choruses, and have learned to play musical instruments. Each of them have their own personal connection to music. They can sing the lyrics of just about any Dean Martin, Boz Skaggs or Bee Gee’s song, courtesy of their dad.

Music is very powerful. It can produce profound emotional and societal reactions. I would love for you to leave a comment about how music has moved you.

Until next time,

Joan

A Sunday Stroll

Today started out bright and beautiful, then clouded up and acted like it was going to rain…but no such luck! We have gone an unusually long time without rain here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and are hoping for a storm. Unfortunately, it may come later this week when I am driving across the Sierras to be with my mom for her surgery later this week.

It was, however, a great day for a stroll with my daughters at the Point Isabelle Dog Park,  north of the Berkeley Marina (San Francisco in the background) with our English Lab, Cleo, and our Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog, Ramsey.

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This is a short post, but I am striving to achieve my goal of posting a message every day this month for the NaBloPoMo challenge!

Until tomorrow,

Joan

Friends with Additions

With the help of my friend Elizabeth, whom I met through a virtual online bee about four years ago, we have formed a new quilt exchange group on Flickr called “Friends with Additions.” There are 14 members of the group, who live in Australia, the U.S., Canada, England, Switzerland and Germany. The 14 of us have become friends while sewing together over the last several years.

Each member of the group will make a starter block of any size, which will be passed from person to person, until everyone in the group has made an addition to the growing quilt. The additions will be made very organically, with the addition of a single block, a group of blocks, or perhaps a border. It will be up to the group to decide how each quilt will grow. I am very excited about this project. This is my starter block which I have mailed to Juliana in Australia for the first addition.

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This block was inspired by the work of art quilter, Carrie Payne, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Carrie’s website is Believe Magic and it is well worth a visit. Carrie creates a variety of “Art Girl” quilts and posts a photo of a new quilt in her online journal every day. She is amazingly creative and is a very productive artist. Most of her quilts are approximately 8 – 10 inches wide and 16 – 20 inches tall. Many of her Art Girls have features drawn on their faces, but she also likes to use text fabric for the face and limbs, allowing the viewer to use their imagination about the girl’s features.

I have sent my “Art Girl” off to visit my friends and I am very interested to see what they will do and how the quilt will evolve. If you would like to see some of the other “starter” blocks, you can visit the group photo stream, Friends with Additions, and watch while our quilts grow.

Until next time,

Joan

NaBloPoMo – The Cure for Benign Neglect!

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I read the daily posts of a writer named Brent Riggs who writes about blogging. Last week he wrote a post asking if we were responsible for neglecting our blog. The answer in my case is: yes. It isn’t because I have nothing to say, it’s because I am having the trouble finding the time. Or at least that is what I keep telling myself. So, I am going to participate in NaBloPoMo this month: National Blog Posting Month. The idea is to set a goal and try your best to reach it. My goal is to blog every day this month. It may be a photo, or writing about a prompt that is provided for this challenge by the folks at Word Press, or my favorite subject: quilting.  It will help me get back to scheduling the time to show my blog a little love, and re-engage with you, my friends. So stay tuned, and we will see how close I can come to meeting this goal!

If you write a blog yourself, you might be interested in participating. To read more about the project, click here.

Until next time,

Joan