Tag Archives: cheese

Cheese Curd. Everywhere.

The cheesemaking process is something that has always fascinated me, despite my aversion to hot milk. As I would stroll through Pike’s Market in Seattle, my destination was usually the fishbowl that is Beecher’s cheesemaking room, to marvel at the SHOVELS full of curd that 2 men in oompa loompa suits were pushing around in a giant stainless vat. It wasn’t something I ever saw myself trying though, since the joke on the gal from the dairy farm is that she’s lactose intolerant…


A mad scientist friend of mine suggested we try making fresh mozzarella this weekend and I jumped at the chance. I had no idea where to start, and was given a simple list for shopping. Buy a gallon of pasteurized whole milk and lots of tomatoes. Yup. Tomatoes.

You can probably guess that there’s more to making cheese than milk. And that tomatoes probably don’t have much to do with making cheese. And you’d be right. The mad scientist showed up with citric acid and rennet, 2 ingredients instrumental to creating cheese curd. He also makes a mean tomato sauce.

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Mozzarella Cheese Curd

After a bottle of homemade Elderberry wine was uncorked, poured, and partially consumed, we set to making cheese. We probably should have waited to open the wine, as our first batch of curd, well, didn’t really “curd” the way we needed it, because we were too busy being silly, and not busy enough watching the thermometer. In fairness to the scientist,  I should note that as we were reading the directions online, the guy switched from Fahrenheit to Celsius, and this critical after-the-fact find isn’t helpful if you have a sensitive concoction on the stove. So I won’t blame the mad scientist for either mishap. I enjoyed the wine and we didn’t let the first batch of curd go to waste.

The mad scientist went to work quickly on our mishap, straining and draining and squeezing and kneading, and the result was a boursin-like cheese that with a little roasted garlic butter (which we had made a few days earlier to put on our flat irons) and some basic herbs, became a delectable spread that tastes amazing on just about anything.

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

Solid Mozzarella Cheese Curd

So, did we actually make mozzarella? Yes! After another trip to the store for more milk, and another glass of wine (or 2), we went through the whole process again, and the curd formed a nice solid chunk that we were able to cut with a knife. We then proceeded to go through the strain, reheat, strain, reheat, knead process and the result was cheese curds everywhere and an incredible full-size ball of fresh mozzarella.

Mozzarella Success!

Mozzarella Success!

And it TASTED like mozzarella. It actually sliced much cleaner than what you would buy in the store, and because it had not been sitting in a brine for weeks, our palettes were expecting it to be  little more salty, and so we decided that next time, we would add just a touch more.

Homemade Pizza

Homemade Pizza

What we ultimately created was a wonderful afternoon full of good food, wine, laughs and lots of dishes. The mozzarella landed on grilled pizza where the sauce, caramelized onions and the dough were also made from scratch, as well as a few fresh sliced tomatoes with basil and vinegar. We hatched a plan for more cheesemaking in our future, that included buying a few goats (ok – maybe that was the wine talking), and we’ll share that whole experience with you too! For now, see a quick list below of what you’ll need for making your own mozzarella, as well as a link to the instructions we followed.


  1. Large stainless or enamel stockpot
  2. Large mesh strainer
  3. Candy-making thermometer
  4. Stainless measuring cups & spoons
  5. Microwave safe bowl


  1. 1 gallon of Pasteurized milk (NOT Ultra Pasteurized)
  2. Sea salt
  3. Unchlorinated water (we used Pelligrino)
  4. Citric acid
  5. MALAKA BRAND Liquid Vegetarian Rennet, 0.5 Ounce Bottle (Pack of 2)

Kneading the Cheese Curd

Kneading the Cheese Curd


  • It is extremely important to watch the heat and the time. Don’t let the milk get above 90ºF.
  • Have lots of towels around as making cheese curd is messy business.
  • It really helps to have 2 people. The straining process is a lot of back and forth, and it really helped to have one person holding the big pot, while the other holds the strainer and kneads.
  • We used this website as our basis for the recipe/process. I suggest you read it through carefully from start to finish because timing and heat is crucial to success.

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Pizza Suggestions:
For our grilled pizza, we made 2 batches of  basic white pizza dough ala Cuisinart, and then topped the first with the mad scientists amazing homemade tomato sauce, fresh basil, and dried Italian salami. The other pizza was half BBQ sauce, my homemade caramelized onions, blue cheese, and the other half more red sauce, mozzarella,

Grilled Pizza

Grilled Pizza

Greek olives, basil and salami. We heated the pizza stone on the grill, but would suggest pre-cooking the crust for about 5 minutes before adding the toppings and putting it back on the grill. Watch the bottom! It will burn fast if the heat is too high. Add a couple of cold beers, and a great view and you have yourself a really nice afternoon.

Happy Cheese Curding!
~ Gal Foodie

And the Winner Is…

Wow you guys can cook!
I received recipe submission’s for last month’s “Comfort Food” recipe contest from all over the world! I really enjoyed the variety of dishes that inspired comfort in all of you, from Diet Coke cake, cheese balls, tuna casseroles (a myriad of combination’s) to chocolate frosting (eaten right out of the bowl!).

What I really enjoyed were the stories that accompanied the recipes. Food is such a memory-jerker. It was clear a lot of you hold very fond memories surrounding the recipes you submitted. Here’s an excerpt from one:

Grandma Gladys Christmas Ball
For about 45 years, my family and I spent Christmas Eve with a neighbor who became our family’s grandmother by proxy. She made this appetizer every year. We never found the exact ingredient amounts written down, she told us the ingredients a few times. Since she passed away in 2001, we have made this same ball and served it every Christmas. Grandma Gladys and Grandpa Harry had no children of their own, we were their only family. My memories began in the early 60’s, the cocktail era. Grandma always had a “toddy” in her hands on Christmas Eve, usually Southern Comfort and Cranberry Juice. The 80’s became my children’s memories, but Grandma and Grandpa were still stuck in the 60’s with their decorating tastes, cocktails and bouffant hair. Imagine sitting at their retro bar, paneling on the walls, red fur pillows on fake leopard print couch and a blazing white rock fireplace. Fabulous.

After reading through all the recipes, trying our favorites, and eating lots of leftovers, Ben and I have chosen the winner. We based our decision on a few key factors. One, we loved the recipe. It was easy, delicious, a pantry cleaner-outer,  and very comforting, especially with the current weather we are having in Maine. Second, we also agreed with the author – it can fix a bad day. Especially with extra cheese.

So congratulations, Lisa Speer! You are our Gal Foodie Favorite pick for February’s Comfort Food Recipe Contest! Hold the cheese!

The Winning Recipe…

Had a Bad Day Meaty Noodles by Lisa Speer
1/2 Pound Ground Beef (80/20 fat ratio)
1/2 Pound Ground Pork
1/4 Teaspoon Oregano
2 1/4 Teaspoons Fine Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Back Pepper
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Tablesoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Can Whole Plum Tomatoes, Preferably San Marzano
1/4 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Large Sweet Onion, chopped
2 Bay Leaves
1/4 Cup Light Cream
1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
4 Large Fresh Basil Leaves, chopped
Hot Prepared Egg Noodles
Grated Parmesan Cheese
Chopped Flat Leaf Italian Parsley

After really bad day, heat butter and olive oil in in large saute pan over medium heat until butter is melted.  Raise heat to medium high. Add meat, salt, pepper and oregano. Brown meat, add onion, garlic and celery and cook until onion is almost translucent. Add wine, tomatoes and bay leaves. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add cream and Parmesan and simmer an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if desired. Serve over egg noodles topped with plenty of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with parsley. If carb-a-phobic, omit noodles. AAaaaaahhhh!!!!

The Story
“This recipe is pure comfort food to me. I vary the ingredients with whatever types of canned tomatoes and pasta that I have around, usually whatever has been on sale in the previous weeks. When I’m feeling on the heavy side I omit the pasta and pretend the cream and cheese are my friends. It is guaranteed to make me feel better when I need comfort food, every time. If this recipe doesn’t win the Silver Palate Cookbook that I’ve wanted for twenty years (I don’t have the original either), I will have some. With pasta. And extra cheese.

Thank you to everyone who entered, and watch for the March Recipe Contest: Recipes for Celebrations

Meatloaf. Feel The Love.

This is one of my more favorite childhood memories of my Dad, and funny enough, it involves meatloaf. I think I was around 7 or 8, and my brother was probably 4. Dad was left to his own devices when it came time to cook the 3 of us dinner one night. He decided on meatloaf, which seemed an easy crowd pleaser.

My Dad, with his beloved grandson, Drew.

My Dad, with his beloved grandson, Drew.

How hard could it be to throw some ground beef in a bread pan and bake it? But with 2 distracting, rambunctious kids in feety pajamas bouncing off the walls of our tiny kitchen, the meatloaf became more of a “work in progress” than he had bargained for.

Into the pan went the lump of meat and other ingredients he had combined and shaped into a loaf. Satisfied that he had accomplished the feat of dinner, the meatloaf went into the oven. I don’t exactly know what kick-started his memory of the meatloaf recipe after the fact, but I DO remember him suddenly exclaiming “The eggs!” as he leaped off the couch, and out came the meatloaf. It went on like this for several more attempts. “The ketchup!” “The cheese!” And each time the exclamation was followed by the meatloaf coming out of the oven, being remixed and put BACK into the oven. It was fun. And funny. And the meatloaf was pretty good, Dad. The memory, that much better.

I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve made meatloaf in my adult life. Ben made a request for it this weekend, and with winter well underway here on Mount Desert Island, it sounded like the perfect comfort food for a snowy evening. When I say this is the best meatloaf I have ever had…Heck, when BEN says it, we know we’re on to something. Juicy, savory, bacony, speechless.

Meatloaf Love.

Meatloaf Love.

Little did we know how amazing and versatile my meatloaf recipe was going to be. We squeezed a meat and potatoes dinner, 2 sandwiches, and a pasta dinner out of one loaf.

The Meatloaf of Love
Serves 8
1lb of Ground Turkey
1 lb of Ground Beef (90% lean)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup Panko bread crumbs
2/3 cup Ketchup
1 tbsp Italian herb mix*
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
4 strips of bacon, cut in half
* I got this herb mix from Rossi Pasta, in one of their gift baskets. it’s basically a smidgen of all of the following – enough to make a tablespoon: Basil, oregano, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme. Dried or fresh – it’s up to you.

1. Mix the wet ingredients with the dry until combined.
2. Knead in the meats until blended. Over kneading, however will produce a chewy result.
3. Shape into a prepared loaf pan and put strips of bacon over the top
4. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer reads 170 (remember you are cooking turkey which needs a higher temp to be safe.)
5. Remove from the oven and drain off excess fat. Serve with mashed potatoes and smothered in gravy.
6. Fall in love. Eat too much.

Other Fab meals from this recipe:
1. Grill a slab of meatloaf in a dab of olive oil, on both sides. Place between two slices of bread slathered with ketchup and mayo, and grill on both sides. Fall in love.

2. Grill a slab of meatloaf in a dab of olive oil, on both sides. Place atop a pile of linguine and cover with red sauce and Parmesan cheese.
Fall in love.

Feel the Love,
Gal Foodie

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Salad So Good, You Need a Steak Knife.

Last night was “clean out the fridge” night, and after a weekend of heavy eating (I’ll be blogging about that shortly), Ben and I were both ready img_2755for a little green in our diets. I whipped up this healthy and hearty steak salad in about 20 minutes. The fun came when Ben and I decided to add our own “flair” by using up stuff we found in the cheese drawer. What resulted was a delicious salad for each, and an emptier fridge.

Gal Foodie’s Steak Knife Salad
Makes 2 servings

1/2 of a 10oz bag of baby spinach
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
1 tomato, quartered
1/4 onion, sliced
6 white mushrooms, sliced (would be delish with Baby Bellos, too!)
1/4 red pepper, sliced
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
Montreal Steak Seasoning
Worcestershire Sauce
1lb London Broil cut, about 1 inch thick (you’ll probably have leftovers, or you can beef up the recipe and make enough for 4)
Cheese of Preference – I chose Buffalo Mozzarella. Ben chose Mango Ginger Stilton from Sawyers Specialties. (decadent!)
Josie’s Balsamic Vinaigrette

1. Season steak with olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and Montreal Steak Seasoning. In a frying pan (I love to use my cast iron skillet) on high heat, sear steak on both sides (1-2 minutes per side) then reduce heat. Cook until done to your liking. We prefer ours medium rare.

2. While steak is cooking, or if not enough room, remove steak, and add peppers, onions and mushrooms to the pan. Cook 5-8 minutes, or until desired crispiness.

3. In 2 bowls, divide spinach. Slice the London broil thin and layer on top of the greens. Top the steak with grilled veggies. Add tomatoes, cheese, avocado and Josie’s Balsamic Vinaigrette.


Josie’s Balsamic Vinaigrette
In equal amounts whisk olive oil together with balsamic and red wine vinegars. Add dashes of salt and pepper, oregano, basil, and 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard. Whisk until completely combined. Will keep in the fridge up to one week.