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I did not eat dairy – read CHEESE – for the entire month of January. It started as a personal experiment. And ended up with confirmation that dairy and I are not of the best of friends. Insert heartbreak here.

As a long-term cancer survivor of fourteen years, hormone imbalance has been part of my medical path. Sometimes it doesn’t bother me on the outside and then others, like this past September  kicked my butt. I started to break out like a teenager. Actually, worse than any acne I ever had before. Working with a dermatologist confirmed my hormone related skin explosions. I tried to identify what was making my skin change in my diet. And after a few months of ignoring it, I said it out-loud  “I break out the most when I eat cheese.” Heartbreak. Almost immediately, I saw an improvement in my skin and system after removing diary out of my diet.

In our country, most foods, especially dairy products are laden with hormones. There has been very little research done to show the side effect of hormones in food on humans. This Huff Po article from last year was a good breakdown of what we do and don’t know. This also showed me I need to read more about hormones in general from reliable sources. And go see the endocrinologist who can actually calculate my hormone levels and give some educated feedback to what I already know.

As a foodie, we all have our “thing.” For some it’s homemade kumquat jam or homemade pasta or butternut squash ravioli or chocolate ganache. My greatest indulgence has been cheese. All different kinds. All different smells, tastes and colors. Cheese o’ glorious cheese. I’ve made my own ricotta, read cheesemonger tales and dedicated many a glass of wine to the pairing experience. I do not see myself with any extreme dietary changes at the moment, but I do think my hormone crusted foods, especially cheese, will be less and less.

As I re-introduce dairy products back in, to see what bothers my system and skin the most, let’s pray for the cheese.

Murray's Cheese Shopw


Cheesecurd at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Crows perched at the Oregon Coast.

Sweet and cool sand on the west coast.

Best BELT (bacon, egg, lettuce and tomato) ever at the Love Joy Bakery.

I could get used to this Oregon place.

“We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again. But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live. Or if you do have to move in to live, don’t tell any of your neighbors where you are going.” ~ Governor Tom McCall, 1971

Anyone that comes in contact with me, my kitchen or my ordering habits knows I heart cheese.  I love the texture, the smell, the styles, the history, the purity of it all. I like that the smooth just has much as the hard and the stinky just as much as the faint odors. On my list of things to do in the cheeseworthy category:

Visit Murray’s cheese caves

Make homemade mozzarella

And finally one I can cross off the list:
Make homemade ricotta
[Insert proud and large beaming smile here]

I came across a recipe from Smitten Kitchen on how to make homemade ricotta and thought it would be a nice intro to the cheese-making-world. I am still looking for the right citric acid for the mozzarella anyway, so I had some time for another challenge.

The ingredients were easy to collect…

3 cups of whole milk, 1 cup heavy cream, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 3 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, candy thermometer, cheesecloth and a strainer

I combined the milk, cream and salt into a saucepan, attached the thermometer and turned the heat on low. There is a warning about the bottom of the pot scorching. It’s funny how the first time you make something I follow directions and then by the third or fourth time around I tend to wing it. I carefully monitored the mixture, stirring it occasionally, until it reached 190 degrees F.

I turned the heat off, added the lemon juice and stirred it a few times to incorporate. I left the pot alone for 5 minutes.

I prepped the cheesecloth, strainer and bowl while I waited. I also used this time to clean up the counter. I can’t help myself.

I then poured the curds and whey into the strainer lined with cheesecloth and let the curds strain away from the whey. Can we discuss how happy I am to really know what ‘curds and whey’ are? I mean all of these years of  “eating her curds and whey” and now I know and can attest to what that actually is. It really is the little things. Who knew Little Miss Muffet had this going for her.

The original directions said to leave the mixture for at least an hour. At one hour it is supposed to be tender, spreadable ricotta. At two hours, it is supposed to be spreadable but a bit firmer,  like cream cheese.

I left my curds hanging out for about 3 hours, since the whey kept separating from the curd, I figured it was safe to leave it alone for longer. You can’t judge the texture based on this point anyway as the ricotta will firm up more when it is refrigerated.

Here is the finished product! The most amazing ricotta you have ever put in your face. I served it on a spoon to my mouth when it was just me and then on amazing garlic bread with salt, pepper and truffle oil to my dinner guests. One you go homemade, you’ll never go back.

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” ~ Harriet Van Horne

1. I want to go to Cheese Louise on Route 28 in Kingston. Thanks to Hudson Valley Good Stuff, I came across a new CHEESE store. Cheese and store and new. All in one sentence.

2. I want to order photo note pads. For everyone. Thanks to Joanna at Cup of Jo, who recently posted about Pinhole Press, I will be ordering the ultimate list pad. I just have to decide on a picture. That’s the hard part.

3. I want to eat at 36 Main. My dear friend Derek is the bartender there and after tasting their amazing wine list and signature cocktails, I  need to taste the menu. Chef Adam Steinberg creates interesting and dynamic dinner choices such as Bresaola, a Italian-cured beef, soft goat cheese dressing, baby Arugula and white truffle oil and Orecchietta Fontal, a house-made pasta, creamy Bechamel, wild mushrooms and broccoli raab. I’m coming Derek, I promise.

4. I want to drink a Hemingway Sidecar at Shadows on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie. Apparently the bar is known for the large televisions on the wall and some younger than desired clientele, but the fancy cocktail menu reminds me of my favorite hole-in-the-walls in the city that I miss 0-so-much.

5. I want to shop at Dig in Saugerties. They have cute clothes in the window. Enough to peak my interest. And on more than one occasion I have asked a girl in a cute top where did she get it and the answer has been, “Dig.”

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