Adventures in Making Mozzarella Cheese!

In need of some Christmas gift inspiration, I browsed a few blogs for lists of “what to buy your guy”. Will is a foodie, so when I came across this DIY cheese kit, I thought it would be perfect! The kit I bought came from Urban Cheesecraft and we were really impressed with how easy it was to make. 🙂 It took us less than hour and we had a pound of super-delicious mozzarella. Who knew?!
All you need is the cheese kit and a gallon of milk. We used a gallon or raw milk from Will’s usual market CSA since it’s important that the milk is not ultra-pasteurized for it to work. The kit contains rennet, citric acid, cheese salt, cheese cloth, and a thermometer.

The rennet and citric acid are both dissolved individually in 1 cup of water each. To begin, you heat the milk and citric acid on the stove top. Once it reaches a certain temperature, you add the rennet and continue to heat. The milk will start to coagulate like this…

Once the curd has formed, you cover the pan and let it sit for 5 minutes. Next, you separate the curd from the whey by pouring the contents of the pan through a strainer. Press some of the excess watery whey from the curd.

Now that you have the curd separated, you heat it in the microwave for a minute and then do another round of pressing. You really want to get rid of that whey!

 After you’ve heated the curd and pressed the whey out a couple of times, you will then knead the curds.

We watched a couple of YouTube videos to learn some good technique for kneading the cheese! In the process of kneading, you also add the cheese salt to taste.

The finished product! So delicious! You can eat it immediately after you’ve kneaded it well enough to form a smooth, stretchy ball of cheese. 

Our friends, Josh and Amanda invited us over for dinner that night and we served our fresh mozzarella in a caprese salad. Yum!! It will be fun to experiment with more cheese in the future by adding different herbs and flavors. 🙂

A Merry Memphis Christmas!

A few pics from our Christmas here in Memphis!
Salad with a side of Kinfolk.
Soy noodles, sun dried tomatoes, olives and veggie sausage pasta – Yum!
Roasted delicata on the side. 🙂
Impromptu tractor posing on our hike at Shelby Farms. 
Found this fixer-upper in the woods!

Enjoyed sipping this hot spiked cider by the tree! 
Honey came to investigate what all the excitement was about!
Then she joined in!
Christmas dinner! Cauliflower “rice”, veggie sausage, and beans Cajun style (by Will!),
with sauteed kale and roasted radicchio! 

Party Time!

One of the things I love most about the Christmas season is the renewed sense of closeness between friends and family. Over the last couple of weeks, I have been basking in the good cheer of shared food and friendships. It started with a cookie exchange between colleagues, followed by a Channukah celebration at our friend Josh’s, a food-laden Christmas party for Nutrition & Food Service at work, a graduation celebration for Genevieve and an End of the World party on 12/21/12. In each instance, I feel blessed to have become part of a community of good friends here in Memphis; friends who invite me to share in their lives not only during the holidays, but year round. 
The existence of our families and friendships are not entirely dependent on the existence of [holiday] activities and traditions, but the sustenance of such rituals is the soil in which we cultivate a deeper sense of commitment, history, and meaning. A group of casual friends becomes a community, a family becomes a tribe.” Rebecca Parker Payne, Kinfolk Vol. 6
The Channukah party host, Josh (on the left) shares a bit of the history behind
the lighting of the Menorrah. 
Josh’s girlfriend, Amanda, still got to join in the fun via Skype!
In post-apocalyptic get-up for the End of the World celebration!
Luckily, the end didn’t come!
When we were watching it the other night, I realized I could totally use those tights again if I ever needed to dress up like the Will Ferrell version of Elf…
Have a Merry Christmas!!

Two Years

Can you believe that Christmas is only 6 days away! I have a lot to do between now and then! Yikes! December brings around not only Christmas, but another important date – the anniversary of my first date with Will! To celebrate 2 years together, Will planned a surprise weekend trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I love surprises and this was definitely so sweet and thoughtful of him! Eureka Springs is a cute little town with lots of little shops, great food, hills, and lots of beautiful old Victorian homes. I almost felt like I was back in my hometown in PA! Our trip included a wine tasting at Keels Creek Winery, a tour of Cosmic Caverns (my first cave experience!), and lots of window shopping. It’s been a wonderful two years for sure – what a great way to celebrate! I am so happy I’ve been lucky enough to snag such a great guy. 🙂

Pit-stop in Old Hardy Town!
Love this guy!
Waiting near the fire for our lunch.
Dinner at Local Flavor. Salad in the front… pasta in the back!
One of my favorite pics of us. 🙂
Wine tasting at Keels Creek!
Stalactites at Cosmic Caverns.
Inside the cavern! 

I hope that you are all enjoying the holiday season. I am sad that I’ll be spending it so far from home this year  but by this time next year I’ll be much closer… in Chicago!

10 Things Tuesday

Goodness! It’s been a busy start to December, so I am feeling so behind on blogging! Oi. For a quick recap, I thought I would share 10 things with you today.
1. I had a major brownie failure on Monday! We had a little potluck at work to celebrate a few office birthdays so I made these espresso iced chocolate brownies. Since I needed to take them to work in the pan  I didn’t cut them or try one beforehand. Now I wish I had! For some reason, they were crunchy and too hard to get out of the pan. :-/ I must have omitted an ingredient or else the recipe was off. I was so embarrassed! Our new interns probably think I’m a terrible baker. Lol. I’ll have to make up for it at the cookie exchange next week – no pressure!
2. I’m excited to start PT this week for whatever is going on with my knee after seeing the doc. Hopefully, I’ll be running again around New Years! (Fingers crossed).
3. In the meantime, I have been enjoying this break from running by doing lots of yoga!! I had always been intrigued by this Bikram yoga studio out by Muddy’s cupcakes. They had a great deal for new students where you can get 1 month of unlimited classes for only $40, so I signed up! I’ve been to 3 classes so far and let me tell you, it is tough work! Bikram yoga is a series of 26 poses performed over the course of a 90 minute class in a room heated to around 100 degrees. That heat sure makes you sweat!

Good pic of us with a tree out front!

4. This weekend, Will and I went to the Christmas light display at the zoo. Although, the light show was a bit lame, we had fun seeing some of the nocturnal animals so active!

Yum…

5. I can’t get enough of this apple, cinnamon, sunflower butter oatmeal combo!

6. This song has been running through my head ever since I heard it on the radio a couple of weeks ago…

So pretty!

7. Even though it is winter, I still like finding fun new things at the farmer’s market to try out. This week, I picked up these pretty carrots. I’ve never had purple ones before!

8. I’m loving our newest book club selection – The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. It’s a fictional tale told through the eyes of a girl living through a strange worldwide phenomenon. In the book, without warning, the rotation of the earth suddenly begins to slow and the days grow longer every passing day – wrecking havoc on normal every day life. Such an interesting concept!
9. Christmas is only 14 days away! When did that happen?!?

Mmm…

10. I got this idea from Kath Eats where you add ingredients to a boxed soup to make it a little more interesting. A few day ago I picked up a roasted pepper and tomato soup from Whole Foods with this idea in mind. For this combo, I just sauteed a little kale and garlic and added it to the soup and heated it thoroughly. Topped with a little parmesan cheese, it was so delicious! I will totally keep doing this for a super quick and easy dinner!

The Marathon That Didn’t Happen

So, the reason for the delayed post on the marathon is this…
Last Saturday, I was doing my last long run before the big race day. Around 4 miles in to the run, I started having awful knee pain. I kept pushing through it but by the time I finished the rest of the run, I knew I shouldn’t have. I tried to self diagnose the pain via the internet and figured it was an IT band issue since the pain was on the outside of my knee cap. The rest of the week I avoided running and the stairs, and religiously rolled, iced and stretched that leg. I even went for a sports massage!
I was hoping and praying that it would be better after a week of rest and recuperation, so I met my friends to run the marathon on Saturday. I was so incredibly nervous and excited! This was it. I had been working for this marathon for months. (I can’t even remember the last time I slept in on a Saturday!)

Not the best pre-race pic! The lighting was hard to work with! Haha. 

The first mile and a half were good, but then the pain started to creep back into my knee. Over the course of the next few miles it just got worse and worse. By the time I got to North Parkway at about mile 6, I couldn’t keep up with my friends anymore. I had to start walking a lot longer than I had planned since the pain just wouldn’t work itself out.
At mile 7, I texted Will and said I didn’t think I could make it through the race. I knew he was going to be waiting in Overton Park so I plodded on just a little longer. I debated with myself the whole time about pushing through to the half marathon finish, but I just couldn’t do it. The whole reason that I run and do races is because it makes me happy. The whole time I was on North Parkway I was not having fun… in fact, I was trying really hard to hold back tears.
Once I finally saw Will, I veered off the course and broke down. I was so disappointed. I had come so far and been soooo close. It just wasn’t meant to be.
Let me tell you, having to take a “did not finish” (DNF) for a race was the worst thing that could happen on race day.  The only way you get to celebrate is hiding at home on the couch with an ice pack and Advil. I’m really hoping that I may make a quicker recovery since I stopped though. Fingers crossed!
It’s been hard the last few days explaining that the race didn’t end well to all my friends and colleagues. Luckily, Will’s Dad and Dolly have been in town the last few days, so they have kept us busy – a much needed distraction!  I was also happy that my Star Runners friends all did so well! For now, I’m just looking for the lesson God is trying to teach me in all of this. Plus, I’ll have more time to try out some other non-running activities like yoga!