Creamy Summer Squash Soup with Roasted Chicken

img_1827Looking for a way to use all your summer squash and serve a healthy meal the whole family will love, while also freezing tons of extra for later use or gifts? This recipe will meet all those needs. It is a great, fresh way to get the kids to eat your garden veggies. This soup is amazingly satisfying for those on a low-carbohydrate diet or those trying to eat a healthier whole food based diet. I added Jalapenos from our Gospel Garden to our abundant harvest of crook neck squash and onion from our home garden. To this I also added our farm fresh home made raw yogurt. Make extra to freeze for soups and sauces during the winter months. The spicy kick will also serve those who need a nourishing soup during cold and flu season.

Summer Squash Soup                                                              Yield: Approx. 15 Cups

Ingredients:

  • 10-15 Crook Neck Squash, coarsely chopped.

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    My helpers!

  • 1 Small White Onion, diced.
  • 4 Cloves Garlic bruised.
  • 5 Jalapenos, sliced, seeded and cored.
  • 4 Tbs Olive oil
  • 3 Tbs Butter (no margarine please!)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste.
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Cup Yogurt 
  • 1 C Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

Heat olive oil, onion, jalapenos and garlic until onion becomes translucent. Add squash, butter, salt and pepper.

Heat for 20 -30 minutes, ever so often stirring the squash to help break down. Add chicken stock and cook an additional 30 minutes until squash is slightly mushy and cooked through. Let cool and puree in blender in batches. Rinse out original pan. Return puree to pan and place in medium heat. Add yogurt and cheese and whisk to incorporate.

Serve warm or cold and topped with roast chicken breast, and accompanying a loaf of french bread.

For the Chicken : My method for roasting chicken is simple- choose bone in, skin on chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper, a little olive oil and cover with foil. Bake in 375 F oven for 45- 50 minutes, (or until an internal temperature of 170 F). Remove foil and brown an additional 10 minutes. Remove breast from rib before serving in soup if desired, or serve as is on the side!

 

 

 

The “Gospel Garden” and a recipe for Salsa Con Queso

Early winter of 2016 myself and enlisted help including Cody Simar of Central Valley Sustainability and my dear husband met with the director at the Modesto Gospel Mission to discuss a future community garden at their existing 1 acre plot surrounded by employee housing, and located a block behind the mission itself.

Approaching the site I knew this was the spot. Since this time we have been blessed to have many hands volunteer and come together to donate, plant, care for and harvest from this garden. We have affectionately named our garden the “Gospel Garden.”

Some crops have not worked out, we have had weeds overtake some of our lettuce and tomatoes. We have put in a lot of work to keep up with our first year at this new site. Yet, every time I visit the garden, when I feel overwhelmed at the work, at the weeds, at what needs to be done and when I can barely keep up with the kids, animal, and yard at home, I come away with a sense of calm. Chris, a resident at the mission, will usually stroll out and remind me of just how much the garden is giving. He tells me he places tomatoes in neighbors mailboxes up and down the street; that families in the community come to garden and pick lettuce, peppers or tomatoes. Rita a volunteer informs me that the salad bar at the mission has never looked so good. (I owe a huge thank you to Westurf Nursery, Rick Grey of Plant a Seed Foundation and Waterford Irrigation Supply Inc as well as many others!!)

We had the opportunity to have a local Girl Scout troop visit our garden and we took along children from the mission as well. It was a day of discovery for many kids, including one young girl who informed me this was he first trip off the mission without her parents. As we took the five minute walk from the Children’s Center holding hands I couldn’t help but feel prideful as people peered from their windows in a neighborhood that is constantly on the look out for what is wrong, and instead catching a glimpse of what is right.

On one field trip morning, I remember feeling particularly overwhelmed and disappointed; that the corn had all died, that weeds were overtaking our garden, and that there was a huge leak in our drip causing mud and more weeds to grow among the melons. As I took the kids to the garden that same day I was again reminded of of useless our doubts are.  The kids could have cared less about the weeds, or the dried up corn, instead they exclaimed over tomatoes, melons, and bravely tasted jalapenos. One boy asked with hope, “Can we come next week again, and bring cheese this time for the tomatoes!” The joy this boy had found here replaced any feelings of failure I had had just an hour ago. What a reminder that God requires of us not to be perfect, but to simply give what we can and look for the blessings in each small thing; and that all our anxieties need to be reexamined, surrendered to and handed over to something much greater than ourselves. Something that says its ok, and that is satisfied with the smile and thank you of a child.

In looking for a delicious and versatile way to use our tomatoes and jalapenos harvested on our last field trip with the Children’s Center, I thought of Salsa Con Queso. This one is dedicated to Angela who gives her heart and soul to her kids at the mission, who made an amazing salsa to share with the Children’s Center, (made from vegetables from the Gospel Garden), and and who loves cheese. I give you the best of both worlds. img_1652

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Salsa Con Queso

  • 6-10 Ripe Tomatoes (of any variety)
  • 5 Jalapenos (more or less depending on desire for heat) Cored
  • 3 Large Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Large White Onion
  • 3 Large Squash (yellow or zuchinni)
  • 1/2 Head Roasted Cauliflower (optional)
  • 3 Tbsp Butter
  • 3 Tbsp Flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 Cups shredded cheddar cheese or blend.
  • 1/2 C Greek Yogurt (see recipe for homemade)

Directions: Coarsely chop all vegetables. In heavy bottomed pot heat vegetables with salt until softened. Add butter, melt and then add flour. Simmer until easily pierced with fork. Use immersion blender to puree vegetables.

May use blender for smoother consistency, cool to room temp before blending. Add Cheese and yogurt. Stir until melted and incorporated. Serve and enjoy! Use as a dip for bread, crackers, or chips. Best served warm. Try on your favorite sandwiches, tacos or as pasta sauce tossed with olive oil.

Lemon Curd and how to use it!

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“Lemon Curd”- This does not sound appetizing, but this traditional English fruit spread makes a breakfast, dessert or snack extra special. This recipe is very simple to make, I recommend Meyer lemons, and I tearfully  used the last of our home grown lemons for this recipe. If you have excess lemons consider making a large batch and preserving. You can always double this recipe, although this is a large recipe designed to have extra for later use or gifts, so you can also cut this in half! There are many uses for this curd. Make a sheet cake, poking holes in cake while still hot and poured the lemon curd over and topped with fresh whipped cream for an Easter dessert. You can also use with pancakes, as a spread for muffins or scones, as a dip for crackers or fruit, as well as a marinade or salad dressing when mixed with basic balsamic and olive oil. Mix into yogurt or oatmeal, try my easy method to make your own yogurt.

img_0248 I loved this curd with my recipe for Brown Butter Maple Oat Muffins, place a dollop of the lemon curd on top of the batter before baking. Try it and enjoy!

Ingredients                                                                                     Yields 6-8 Cups

  • 6 lemons
  • 2 1/2 C Sugar
  • 2 Sticks of Butter
  • 8 Large Eggs
  • 1 C Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 Tsp Salt

Directions

Zest the lemons, being careful not to get too much of the white pith, which will create a bitter taste. Mix zest and sugar in food processor until incorporated. With stand mixer cream butter and and sugar with zest. Add eggs 1 at a time and finally the lemon juice and salt. Pour the mixture into saucepan over low heat until just thickened and hot to the touch (around 8 minutes on lowest heat setting). Remove from heat and place in jars for refrigeration and preserve if desired.

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Brown Butter Maple Oat Breakfast Muffins; Learn my Quick, One Pot “Blank Canvas”  Recipe, and a lemon version

img_9499I’m bringing muffins back! Some of you may be thinking, I never knew muffins were out, neither did I! That was until I went to research muffin recipes in my new cook book and nada! Looking further online, it seems the culinary world has turned its back in this American staple. The muffin  is underrated and seen as creation that takes little skill that has now been confused with its trendier counterpart the cupcake. Muffins were created in America, different from the English version, this muffin was a batter that required a tin, and baking powder, which wasn’t invented until the late 1800’s. Muffins were traditionally made by hand, but modern bakeries wanting to make them more light like the much desired cupcake,  added more sugar and used a mixer to add dry to wet ingredients. Personally the muffin means a lot to me. It has been a wonderfully easy way yo be creative as a busy mom, and feed my kids a wholesome snack at the same time. Muffins are versatile and a great way to use seasonal fruits an vegetables. The possibilities are endless, and in using traditional methods with high quality  ingredients its like creating a work of art. It has taken me time to be able to not have to look at a recipe, creating a stand by muffin recipe that I can make quickly,  being able to get creative with what I have, and double easily to share. My recipe takes one pot, little mess and little time. I usually can make these in 10 minutes or less and you can too! Think of this recipe as a blank canvas. The ingredients should be the freshest you can find. If you can take the time to make fresh yogurt  I encourage it. See my recipe for homemade yogurt. Besides added health benefits, yogurt tenderizes baked goods. The homemade yogurt makes this muffin special, and creates a feeling of accomplishment. Get cookin’!

Ingredients

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Everything here except the Baking Soda and Powder

  • 3 C flour
  • 1 C Rolled Oats
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1/4 C Maple Syrup
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 C yogurt
  • 1/2 C Butter (melted)
  • 1/2 – 1 C add ins- see below.

For Lemon Oat Muffins:

  • Juice and Zest of 2 Meyer Lemons
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting.

Other ideas for ad ins for both sweet and savory muffins include ; Apple sauce, Fruit puree or whole berries, chocolate chips, almond butter, roasted nuts, pureed vegetables like carrot or cauliflower, cheeses, grated zucchini, and the list goes on! You can adjust the add ins by decreasing the amount of yogurt or butter used. For example if you want to add 1 C apple sauce use only 1/2 C yogurt.

Have fun creating new muffins to try with your family. The portable nature of a muffin makes it such a great convenience and a way to pack nutrition into your day without hitting the drive thru, taking time and money. Remember these also freeze great for later use so stock up when you have some extra time to bake!

Directions;

In large pot melt butter. If making Lemon Muffins as pictured above, add lemon zest and juice. Let butter cool slightly. Add sugar, yogurt, maple syrup and oats, stir.

Place sifter over pot and sift in flour, salt, baking powder and soda.

Make a well in center of flour crack in 2 eggs. Using a fork beat the eggs until yoke and whites combined, then fold into dry and wet ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix, batter should be lumpy and this is OK. Spoon into buttered tins.

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You can never over fill and muffin tin!

bake 350 F for 15-20 minutes, or until tooth pick comes out clean. For Lemon Muffin sift tops with powdered sugar and additional lemon zest. Enjoy!

 

Split Pea Soup with Horseradish and Tarragon

img_9386In the heart of everyone is a little country and a desire for simpler things. I don’t care where you are from or where you are now, this is true in all human beings. A soup like this is meant to be created and not ordered. This is as old school and traditional country as it gets. I spiced this up with fresh grated horseradish root and Verde sauce (courtesy of my mother and inspired by the taco Christmas eve shared with employees at dairy).  The spice cuts through the sweetness and richness of the ham and peas. I also brighten it with Meyer lemon and tarragon from our garden. Fresh garlic, onion, bay leaf and a little nutmeg add warmth. I did not have any carrot at the time, but if you have some add a couple large carrots chopped, as this is a great addition! I love this as a meal served with crusty bread and fresh butter.  Make an extra batch to share!

Yield: Approx 6 large servings                               Time: Preparation; 30 min. Cooking: 4 hours

Ingredients: img_9375

  • 2 1/2 C Split Peas Dried
  • 2 1/4 Quarts Water
  • 1 1/2  Lbs Cubed Ham plus Ham Bone
  • 1 Tbsp Chicken Bouillon
  • 2 Tsp Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 2 Stalks Celery
  • 1/2 Medium Yellow Onion
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Grated Horseradish Root
  • 1/2 C Verde Sauce
  • 1 Tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Tarragon or 2 Sprigs Fresh Tarragon
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbsp Meyer Lemon juice

Directions:

Melt butter in dutch oven or large stock pot. Add chopped onion, garlic and celery. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and saute until transparent and softened. Grate fresh horseradish into vegetables. Add cubed ham and ham bone. Saute an additional 5 minutes to render flavor. Add Split peas, and cover with water. Add chicken bouillon and stir. Bring to boil an then turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for one hour.

Add bay leaf and tarragon, (I use something called a soup sock for herbs to be removed) and simmer an additional 3 hours, or until peas are cooked through and soup has thickened. Stir in Verde sauce and lemon. Garnish with additional fresh grated horseradish and serve with crusty bread and fresh butter! Enjoy this warm country meal and share with friends! May freeze for up to 4 months.

Dad, Uncle Jack, Aunt Angie and the kids at dairy Christmas Eve. Enjoying Oysters and fresh tacos with homemade Verde and guacamole prepared by the workers to share in celebration. A feast at the shop!

 

 

 

Habanero Limoncello

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A little sunshine for this holiday season! I just love the hue that limoncello turns  as it marinates with lemon zest. Limoncello is essentially an infused vodka, a traditional drink originating from Italy. Using our Meyer lemons, I wanted to try making limocello for the first time. A suggestion from a friend, thanks Ellen! I added a kick by using habenaro vodka, which I had on hand. It turned out great, and not too spicy, but you can also use regular Vodka as well. Lemoncello can be enjoyed by itself, or as a mixer with champagne, ginger ale, (think moscow mules), or create your own!  Lemoncello only uses the zest of the lemon, so juice the remaining lemons to create other holiday treats, lemonade or freeze juice in ice cube trays for future use. This makes a unexpected gift and freezes well once made to enjoy during summer!

Ingredients:

  • 10 Lemons
  • 750 ML Premium Habenaro Vodka (Regular Vodka ok as well)
  • 3 1/2 C Water
  • 2 C sugar

Directions:

With very sharp knife or potato peeler remove the outer rind of lemon, trying to avoid the inner white pith. Too much pith in the vodka will make a very bitter drink. Place rinds evenly in jars, and add vodka till 3/4 way to top. Place on lid and allow to rest in dry dark place for 1-3 weeks. Then make a simple syrup by adding the water and sugar and heating sugar until dissolved. Stir often. Allow to cool. Pour vodka with rind through strainer into the pan with simple syrup. Stir and pour into jars. Allow to rest further an additional week in refrigerator. Enjoy and give!

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Christmas Jam; Persimmon and Pomegranate

This is a recipe that if you are fortunate to receive or have large amounts of this special produce should be made with care and given with love. It is literally so good you can eat this by the spoonfuls! It has just the right amount of sweetness.  I don’t even like Persimmons, or so I thought. This will be used in many recipes from a cheese cake to a turkey glaze, so stay tuned, and get creative using this in your own recipes!  This was truly a blessing and joy to make. Our Meyer lemon tree is almost ripe, and the juice in the lemons worked well to bring some tartness to the super sweet persimmons. We picked the persimmons from a ranch in Knights Ferry that my aunt so graciously lets us visit anytime. The persimmon tree has been there for ages and is a sight to behold as you wind your way down to the valley on the ranch. The boys helped pick a bunch. We eagerly tasted one, big mistake. Not quite ripe,  I liken it to eating a bitter cotton ball!  The persimmons set out a week they became mushy soft, which is what you want for this variety, also known as Hichiya,  before you try to eat or bake. They were super sweet in a delicate way. Little did we know we came upon a fortune, as at the grocery store persimmons were going for 2$ each! My sweet neighbor, Barbra, brought us a large bag of pomegranates from her beautiful tree, these are the best I have ever had. Store bought does not compare, I can barely taste the seeds in these there is so much fruit inside. I thought combining these two seasonal fruits into a Jam that will serve as a gift and an ingredient in holiday baking would be festive and appreciated!

Ingredients:

(You can triple this recipe to give as gifts for Christmas)

  • 1 C Persimmon Puree (6 large persimmons)img_8703
  • 1/3 C Sugar (or to taste, depending on how sweet fruit is, can also be left out)
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • 1 Tbsp Corn Starch
  • 2 Tbsp Lemon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/2 C Fresh Pomegranate Juice

 

Directions:

Peel persimmons into blender. I find it easiest to use my hands and kind of mulch out the innards.  Seed the pomegranates by cutting in half and using a large wooden spoon to whack until seeds fall into bowl.

Will seem messy at first but once you get the hang of this it will go fast. Make extra and freeze the juice for later or for drinking.  Puree Persimmons until smooth. Using juicer juicepomegranate  seeds to extract juice. (Or use store bought!)  Place puree in sauce pan, add sugar and pomegranate juice over medium  heat until incorporated. Add water and corn starch in separate bowl and whisk until dissolved. Whisk into puree. Add lemon juice. Boil on low until thickened, approx 15 minutes. Let jam cool to room temperature and pour into sterilized jars. Can if desired, or store in refrigerator.  Enjoy and share the love!

Harvest Short Ribs; Braised in Brown Butter and Tarragon on Bed of Creamy Yogurt Polenta

img_8608Tried to sound fancy; got you didn’t I?? This is simple as food gets, but we can make it sound pretty elevated. This is “peasant food,” which by the way is the kind of food I love to eat and cook. It is about using what you have, making the most of it. When cooking my recipes, have fun be creative. Don’t have nutmeg? Don’t drive to the store, use something you may have, cloves or coffee can warm up this dish with flavor just as well, then it will be truly your creation.

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The short rib is by no means a fancy cut, but when cooked right it is buttery melt in your mouth divine. I used the last of our garden vegetables as I prep our garden beds for a fall garden. I roughly chopped up the vegetables, letting them cook down through out the day, and then puree in a blender. I plan to use the other half for a vegetable based soup. The ribs are braised with tarragon,  butter and coconut oil, then allowed to stew with the sauce until tender. The coconut oil allows the butter to get to a high temperature without burning. I serve this over polenta. My mother and grandmother always had polenta, I was shocked at how little other people use this Italian staple!  I like my polenta creamy, but not watery, similar to a thick “grits,” with the grain of polenta is finer. I stir in my yogurt made fresh from the dairy farm to give the polenta extra creamy.  If you haven’t tried to make your own yogurt try it using my method! This is a perfect meal for a cold fall night. Make extra and invite friends!

Ingredients:

  • 4-8 Qts vegetable puree. (A full 8 Qt Pot of chopped vegetables)
  • 4- 6 lbs Short Ribs
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Tarragon
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
  • 1/4 C wine
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/3 C molasses
  • 1/3 C balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 C sugar

Polenta:

  • 1 1/2 C Corn Meal
  • 6 Cups of Chicken Stock
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Yogurt
  • Parmesan Cheese

Directions: Roughly chop what vegetables you have on hand (carrots, celery, onion, kale, garlic, eggplant, zucchini etc) Add olive oil, salt and pepper and cook until all vegetables are tender. Puree in blender or with immersion blender in pot.

In separate pan, brown short ribs. I will explain the method of braising; start by heating the butter and coconut oil in saute pan. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Chop tarragon and add to pan. Pace ribs in pan and let brown on one side, then flip. Approx. 3 minutes a side at very high heat. Make sure you get a nice “crust,” this will allow the ribs to seal in any juices and lead to tastier meat. Now you will have some burnt looking bits, this is the fat that has been rendered and is full of flavor. Add a little liquid of your choice, wine, water or chicken stock. About 1/4 cup. Using spatula scrape these bits with the liquid and let it reduce a bit. Add ribs and browning liquid to vegetable puree.

Add molasses, nutmeg, sugar and vinegar. Simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Place in 350 F oven for 2-4 hours. Make polenta by boiling chicken stock and butter. Add Polenta slowly with whisk to avoid lumping. remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve short ribs over polenta with extra juice and a little parmesan if desired! Enjoy.

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Because if I ever become a mother who keeps their family from eating to get a good picture, please tell me to stop

 

Yogurt Bread Calzones

img_8102This recipe was inspired by a traditional Georgian  bread called “Cheese Bread” I came across the recipe for “Cheese Bread” in my favorite cook book “Feast” by Nigella Lawson. I adapted it based on what I had. I had left over Pasta sauce and hamburger thawed out in my fridge I decided to add them to the cheesy filling in this bread. The filling is a mixture of feta, mozzarella and ricotta. The dough is made with yogurt, butter and flour. A dairy lovers dream! I also had my yogurt and ricotta made fresh from our dairy farm on hand. You can of course use store-bought, but look for best quality ingredients, or try my recipes for home-made yogurt and ricotta. If you are not a fan of the Feta tang, you can always substitute more mozzarella and less feta. This recipe creates either one large monster calzone to bring to a large table a feast, or individuals,  it’s up to you!

img_8104Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 3 1/2 C Flour
  • 1 C Yogurt
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 C Butter at room temperature
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Salt

Filling:

  • 2 C Feta
  • 7 Oz Mozzarella chopped ( 2 C shredded )
  • 1 C Ricotta Cheese
  • 1/2 Lb Ground Beef
  • 1/2 C Pasta Sauce

img_8106Directions:

Pre heat oven to 350 F Cook ground beef until browned through and leave to cool. In large bowl combine butter, yogurt and eggs with hands. Add flour to mix, 1/2 C at a time. Add baking soda and salt. Knead dough until pulling away from sides of bowl. Cover and let rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes. May leave for up to 3 days before using. In a separate bowl combine feta, mozzarella, ricotta, ground beef, and sauce. Cut dough into fourths. Place on greased baking sheets. Pat into disks approx 3/4″ thick. Pur 1/4 beef mixture on one half and fold remaining half over top, creating a half circle. Crimp edges with a fork. You can also make mini cheese balls as I did for my kiddos! Bake in oven until golden brown. approx 30- 40 minutes.

 

 

Simple Cheese Making: Ricotta from our Farm

img_8103Feel like doing a science experiment? This is such a fun thing to do and with kids or a partner even better! Such a simple cheese to learn.  You can get the hang of this after a couple of times and always have fresh ricotta on hand. Use ricotta similarly as you would use yogurt, in baked goods, and of course lasagna. Try with my Cheese Bread Recipe also. I love the process of making cheese, it really takes you back to a simpler time. I use raw milk fresh from our dairy farm, but you can also use store-bought pasteurized as well, just stay away from ultra pasteurized! Some grocers are carrying raw milk or non homogenized, low pasteurized milk which gives a much better flavor and texture for cheese making. I’ve included  a link below for ordering liquid animal rennet online.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Tsp Liquid Rennet 
  • 1 1/2 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Gal. Fresh Milk
  • Tsp Salt (Cheese Salt is ideal)

Directions:

Place milk in sterile 5 qt. pot. Slowly heat milk until milk is too hot to touch, (or 200 F on candy thermometer). Remove from heat. Slowly add rennet, lemon juice and salt. Stir gently. Leave pot to sit for 10 minutes. Check to see if whey (liquid) is separating from curds. Add more lemon juice if separation has not occurred and wait a few minutes. Scoop curds out with slotted spoon into strainer lined with tea cloth. See photograph for example. Strain for 60 minutes and place in air tight container. Store in refrigerator and use within one week. Enjoy the rewards of you experiment and try different recipes!