A Little Story of Love & Some Kick Ass Flatbread Crackers and Dip

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Both of the dogs are depressed. Tails are tucked under, ears are floppy, and there has been a lot of napping and sighing going on.

Tony took a flight out of town last night and is now in full work and travel mode.

The dogs have done nothing but mope around and look at me like, “Where is he and when is he coming back?”

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I think I may be a little depressed about the whole thing too. It’s a bittersweet kind of thing, I suppose.

I believe he left his job in New Hampshire sometime in March and then only physically worked for the company here for about a month before being laid off.

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That means that we have been able to spend about 9 months of true, quality time together. It’s only been one day and I miss our time together already.

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That’s the most consecutive time we’ve spent together without him having to travel out of town in the entire 23 years we’ve been married.

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I’m thankful we didn’t allow the stress of it to gobble us up. We didn’t end up resenting one another’s presence and getting on each other’s nerves…too much. You hear that a lot about couples who lose their jobs or retire.

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We’ve even had people say it to us when we’ve told them about our life over the last year, “Oh good, and you’re still together”, they say.  Tony’s answer to that is, “Well, I’m an exceptional husband.”

Which always gets a good snicker of course.

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This time we’ve had has made me look forward even more to retirement. It was something I actually thought about in the past. “Will we like spending all that time together when he retires?” “Will he drive me nuts?” “What will we do?”

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I can tell you I wasn’t bored one time during the last 9 months. We found all kinds of enjoyable stuff to do together and there were only a few tense moments. Those moments were really only due to the fact that he makes noise and watches TV more than I do. Prior to him being off work for so long, I was used to a very quiet house. Evidently I have plenty of noise going on in my head without adding anything to it.

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Overall I think we are better off after this time spent together. In fact, our relationship is stronger than ever. That’s saying something after being together for a total of 26 years…that a marriage can get even better.

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Even when there’s mass quantities of stress and frustrations that are seemingly out of our control. In my mind, in a world full of divorce and all kinds of issues, the fact that a relationship can continue to grow and strengthen after 26 years just seems like a massive blessing.

We’ve definitely put the “T” in Teamwork over the past couple of years. We’ve had a lot of career stress, major extended family issues, and I’ve had and continue to have a battle with Lyme Disease. Even one of those circumstances happening would make the strongest of folks wobble at least a little.

We’ve faced them all at once.

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What I cherish and wish I would remember at the beginning of every stressful season of life, because there will be more…is that when you’re coming out the other side of it and you can look back…not only did you live through it which is celebration enough, but in so many ways you’re better for it.

That’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. As if the rainbow after the storm wasn’t beautiful enough!

So although it’s easy to whine about how I wish I didn’t have a traveling husband and many other things, there’s been so much positive to come out of these 2 years of complete and absolute craziness that I never expected, it’s hard to complain too much because I just really feel so incredibly thankful.

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Thankful for a working, loving, husband and friend. Thankful that I have Romeo and Abigail to mope around with me. Thankful that we’re back in town and 1.5  miles from my mom and our son instead of 2,700 miles away.  Thankful that we took some incredible leaps of faith. Thankful that we made some unbelievably tough decisions. Thankful that even when some issues aren’t resolved there’s still plenty of good pouring over into each day. Thankful for the joy I get from food blogging and hearing from all of you.  Thankful as I sit here in my cozy little library and office that’s just for me. Thankful that as I look out the window I’m being presented right this minute with yet another amazing and beautiful sunset that is filling the sky with bright reds and pinks. And mostly really, I’m just thankful that I have the ability to recognize a blessing and that I have so many, I can’t count them all.

“Blessed is he who is not offended that no man receives what he deserves…blessed is he who gets that joke, who sees that miracle.” ~ Buechner

Herbed Flatbread Crisps

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

1 Box of Chebe Foccacia Mix

1 1/2 Tablespoons of Fresh Chives, snipped

2 teaspoons of Fresh Rosemary, snipped

1 1/2 teaspoons of Fresh Thyme Leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons of Garlic Powder

1 Tablespoon of Chia Seeds

3/4 teaspoons of Sea Salt

6 Grinds of Fresh Pepper

1 Egg

3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup of Unsweetened Hemp Milk

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet. Mix all ingredients together with a fork in a medium bowl until combined. Knead with hand until smooth. Roll out thinly on the parchment to fit as much of the cut parchment as possible. Slide the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet. Bake (I use convection) for 25 minutes. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes before tearing or cutting into pieces.

Sundried Tomato & Spinach Bean Spread

1 15 oz. can of Garbanzo Beans (Chickpeas)

1 Cup of Baby Spinach, packed

2 Large Garlic Cloves, peeled

2 Tablespoons of Bragg’s Organic Sprinkle 

5 Sun Dried Tomatoes in Oil

1/2 teaspoon of Sea Salt

8 Grinds of Pepper

Juice of 1 Fresh Lemon

3/4 Cup of Avocado Oil

Place all ingredients except avocado oil  in food processor. Pulse about 20 times until ingredients are chopped. Turn on High and slowly drizzle the avocado into the mixture. Continue mixing on High for 2 minutes. 

Sunday Snackin’

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My husband’s work schedule is hectic, so like many people, we cherish the weekends.

We try our hardest to set aside time to hike with the dogs, do a little sight-seeing, and most importantly, relax and try to refuel for the week ahead. This weekend we were able to fit in several nice walks with the dogs, some leaf peeping, and a nice relaxing Sunday afternoon in front of the fire watching football.

During the pre-empty nester years, I was often focused on making a big Sunday meal and dessert. But these days, we’ve learned to kind of wing it and do whatever sounds good on the weekends. Sometimes I cook a big meal, sometimes we go out, sometimes we don’t eat dinner at all and are happy with linner in town around 2:30. And sometimes, it’s nice to just have a snacky afternoon in front of the fire with the sounds of football in the background.

What you’ll need for a snacky afternoon:

I didn’t measure anything, so I’ll give just give you the basics and then you can add your own flair.

Chicken Wings

Chicken Wings, Your Favorite BBQ Sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar, Sriracha, Garlic Powder, Salt & Pepper. Grill them slowly so they don’t burn.

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Loaded Potato Skins

Baking Potatoes, Salt & Pepper, Old Bay Seasoning, Dairy Free Butter, Goat Cheese, Olive Oil Mayo, Dried Dill, Apple Cider Vinegar, Sugar, Diaya Cheese, Chives, Leftover Bacon.

Prick the potatoes with a fork and bake until done at 400 for about 1 hour. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slice in half and scoop 3/4 of the potato out and save for another recipe. Baste the inside and outside with butter and garlic powder. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper and Old Bay seasoning. Place under broiler insides up first and broil until lightly brown and slightly crisp, turn over and do the same to the underside. Fill with cheese and bacon and place under broiler to melt.

While cheese is melting add a bit of goat cheese, mayo, and apple cider vinegar to a small bowl. Whisk and mash with fork until combined. Add a little sugar and dried dill and mix. Dollop a bit on top of the potatoes when they’re done and top with the chives.

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Your favorite Kielbasa or Sausage, BBQ Sauce, Tabasco, Maple Syrup.

Slice the meat into a small saucepan, add the BBQ sauce, a few (or many) dashes of Tabasco, a little Maple Syrup and simmer very slowly for 30 minutes.

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And a nice veggie salad with a crisp vinaigrette to balance it all out.

I just grated carrots and chopped red bell pepper, spinach, romaine, and tomato. I made a light dressing with olive oil, fresh lime juice, a bit of Dijon mustard, sugar, and salt and pepper.

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Lemon Lime Margarita

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Ingredients

*Makes 2 Margaritas

4 ounces of 1800 Silver Tequila

Juice of 1/2 Lime

6 ounces of Limeade (I used Santa Cruz Organic Limeade)

Ice

San Pellegrino Limonata Sparkling Lemon

Shaker

Kosher Salt

Sugar

True Lime Crystallized Lime

Mix a few Tablespoons of kosher salt, sugar, and the crystallized lime together on a plate. Run the lime around the edges of your glasses and dip in the mixture. 

Add the tequila, lime juice, limeade, and about 1 cup of ice to your shaker. Shake vigorously. Fill each glass 3/4 full. Finish with the San Pellegrino Limonata.

Garnish with sliced lime and serve with pico de gallo, guacamole, and blue chips.

A few days ago I posted a gluten-free, dairy free, Cherry Braid and for some reason it didn’t go out to any of my email followers. Here’s a picture and a link in case you missed it!

( p.s.   …they were SO good! )

Cherry Braids

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Terrine de Foies de Volaille

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Or in other words…Chicken Liver Pate

Now don’t freak out.

Chicken liver is delicious!

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I have a deep love for chicken liver.

I like calves liver, but in my opinion it can’t hold a candle to chicken liver.

There are a couple of different “traditional” ways to make chicken liver pate. I also ran across many recipes where people just added what they felt like adding. I like that mindset. I thought that the addition of hard-boiled eggs sounded unappealing, so I left them out.

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I know that bacon fat goes very well with chicken liver, so I used that instead of dairy free butter. I thought caramelized onions and apple sounded like it would be tasty on top.

And it was.

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I keep a large ramekin full of bacon fat in the refrigerator.

Doesn’t everyone?

And by large I mean this isn’t one of those baby ramekins. This is cereal bowl size, folks. Oh yeah.

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If you don’t have bacon fat on hand, this recipe is the perfect excuse for you to make yourself bacon for breakfast. You could also use butter I suppose.

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Keep in mind that chicken livers and bacon fat were meant to be together.

You won’t be disappointed.

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I allow myself fried chicken livers with sautéed onions, mashed potatoes, and gravy twice a year.

Pure Heaven on a fork.

If you haven’t ever tried it you should. They are so tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, salty. Not shocking liver-ee just the right amount of flavor. Amazing. I also like chicken livers chopped up in my Thanksgiving & Christmas gravy.

Pate is a good place to start if you haven’t ever dabbled in chicken livers. Then you can move on to fried chicken livers and before you know it, you’ll be a convert and you won’t be able to live without them in your gravy.

So no more wrinkling of the nose when you hear the words “chicken liver”.

Chicken Liver Pate with Carmelized Apples & Onions

About 1 Pound of Organic Chicken Livers, drained (liver filters the body, better to not have hormones, pesticides, etc . in the chicken)

1 Medium Sweet Onion, diced

3 Generous Tablespoons of Bacon Fat

1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher Salt

A Few Grinds of Fresh Pepper

2 Bay Leaves

About 1/3 Cup Dessert Wine (I used a late harvest Semillon)

1 Granny Smith Apple, diced skin on

1 Medium Sweet Onion, sliced thinly

1 Generous Tablespoon of Dairy Free Butter

Small Pinch of Kosher Salt

Saute the diced onions and bay leaves in the bacon fat until the onion is translucent.

Add chicken livers, salt, and pepper.

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Cover with a splatter guard and saute until browned, about 8 minutes or so. Deglaze with the wine and reduce by about half. Set aside.

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Lightly caramelize the sliced onion and apple in the butter and salt. Cooking on medium low it will take about 20 minutes or so. Set aside.

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Remove bay leaves from liver mixture, add to food processor. Blend until smooth. Season to taste.

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Serve with toasted bread or crackers topped with the apple/onion saute.

I sliced gluten free french bread, buttered it (non-dairy) and toasted it under the broiler on each side.

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I spread the pate into different ramekins. It will last in the fridge for two to three days and can also be frozen for use at a later time.

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Oven Fried Zucchini with Homemade Pizza Sauce

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This recipe has been floating around Facebook for a while now. I’m a fan of pretty much anything fried (who isn’t?) so I thought I’d tweak it and give it a try.

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I would change two basic things the next time I make it:

#1. I would dip the zucchini in dairy free butter instead of almond milk prior to breading.

#2. I would shpritz the breaded zucchini lightly with a good olive oil before placing them in the oven.

If you want to keep it healthy you can just follow the recipe below and it will taste just fine. But I think that the butter and olive oil would add more flavor and moisture to the breading so it would crisp properly. And keep in mind that although the addition of butter and olive oil will increase the fat content, it’s not by much. Certainly not as much as if you were to deep fry them.

Oven Fried Zucchini

1/2 – 3/4 Cup Gluten Free Breadcrumbs

1/4 Cup Dairy Free Parmesan

1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

Several Grinds of Pepper

About 1/4 Cup Almond Milk

1 1/2 – 2 Medium sized Zucchini, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

Non Stick Spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with tin foil and spray an oven safe cooling rack with non stick spray. Lay the cooling rack on the baking sheet covered with foil.

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a shallow baking dish and stir to combine.

Pour milk into a cereal sized bowl. Dip the zucchini slices in the milk and then dredge well in the breadcrumb mixture. Place each slice on prepared cooling rack, don’t allow sides to touch.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned, outside is crisp and middle is tender.

There’s so many different ways you could make this. You could add Italian seasonings to the breading mixture and dip them in a meat sauce. You could add Mexican seasonings and dip them in a spicy chipotle mayo, you could add fresh herbs and dip them in a lemon vinaigrette…

*Don’t stack them while hot like I’ve done for this photo. The steam will make them soft. If you’re serving them to a crowd, allow them to cook just a bit longer to become extra crisp and then you should be able to place them on a platter without them becoming soft. If you’re just serving them to your family, leave them on the rack and family can help themselves.

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Homemade Pizza Sauce

I don’t have a written recipe for this sauce, I just wing it each time. So I’ll give you my basics and then you can add your own flair.

Canned Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Canned Tomato Paste

Sun Dried Tomatoes

Dried Basil (or fresh if I have it)

Dried Oregano (or fresh if I have it)

Minced Garlic

Kosher Salt and a Little Pepper to Taste

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until somewhat smooth.

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Sit And Have Lunch With Me, And I’ll Give You An Update!

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I’ve missed you! Every time I try to bake you something wonderful, or even sit down with a few Fall photos to say hello, something else calls for my attention. But a girl has to eat lunch, right? This gives me the perfect opportunity to sit and relax for a few minutes and give you an update on our upcoming life change.

In 11 days the movers will arrive to pack all of our breakables and load the semi truck. I opted to pack all of the non-breakables because it just kills me to give away money for something I can easily (?) do myself. The packing will begin this weekend.

My husband is in New Hampshire  for the third weekend in a row to look at houses. Let me just say that there are an abundance of homes for sale in NH. There’s also an abundance of blue counter tops, purple carpet, wallpaper, and houses that more than likely have ghosts (which I don’t believe in…but why chance it, right?).

People also have so much stuff. I mean so much stuff that it’s hard to see past all of it and envision what the house would look like if you lived in it. Another interesting thing about NH is that unless you live in Manchester, pretty much the entire state is rural. This means that almost every single house is on at least an acre of land. And hundreds of houses on the market are on 3+ acres. Plus going all the way up to 27!  At first we thought we wanted a lot of acreage. I had dreams of huge organic gardens, chickens, maybe a goat for fresh goat’s milk cheese, a barn to lay in the hay and contemplate life…. Then, reality struck. We are used to having dinner parties and family over to the house regularly where we live now, but when we move, it will just be the two of us, two dogs, and a cat. We talked about it and decided that we thought it would be a better idea to downsize. Why have all that to take care of when we would rather spend our weekends and our $$$ traveling around the east and seeing what there is to see? Enter an issue…it’s actually HARD to find a small house in NH. Every house Tony is looking at today has at least 1 acre. And they all have more square footage than we have now. Hmmm…well, if we don’t want a haunted, dusty, wallpapered, purple carpet, blue counter top kind of house, then we’re just going to have to go with it. On the plus side, we’ll have plenty of room for visitors.

So although there are a lot of houses on the market back there, there are not an abundance of houses that we would like to live in or take on as a project. I have searched through at least 900 homes on the internet. Yes, you read that right. Out of those 900 homes, I believe after this weekend Tony will have looked at less than 20 in person. So that gives you an idea of what’s out there. We have a decent price range too. But I keep telling my husband, “Gee honey, if we could just pop it up a notch (several) to a million, we’d have a lot more to choose from.” Ha! Needless to say, that got a good laugh.

If we can find one this weekend and our offer is accepted, then depending on the weather, we will either head to NH or North Carolina to wait it out until it closes. If we don’t find a house, then really, our only option is to try to rent something, somewhere in NH, on a month to month basis until we can find something that is a good fit for us.

I’ve been trying to keep up on all of your blogs every few days! If I haven’t left a little note, please don’t think I’m not looking. I love to see what’s happening with all of you. Things will be getting more hectic, but I’ll try my hardest keep up on all of the exciting things that you guys are all doing too!

Hope you all have a lovely weekend!

~ April

Focaccia with Olive Oil, White Balsamic, Roasted Garlic, & Goat Cheese

This is incredibly easy. In an hour tops you can have freshly baked focaccia bread dipped or spread with whatever you like. I used a half portion of  my favorite gluten-free french bread mix (add any type of herbs, garlic, seasonings that you like in the bread dough). It was left over from pizza the other night. I used half for the pizza crust and then just sprayed a ziplock with olive oil and stored the remaining dough in the fridge.

First, take a whole head of garlic and slice off the top. Set it on a piece of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil and herbs. Close up the tinfoil and bake in a small dish (the olive oil will leak)  for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees. While the garlic is baking, get the dough ready.

It will be really sticky when you take it out, so you’ll want to have gluten-free flour handy. I covered a small baking sheet with parchment, patted out the dough with floured hands, and lightly poked holes all over it with my fingers. Then, drizzled it generously with olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt, garlic powder, and herbs. I used basil, thyme, and rosemary, because that’s what I had on hand. I also sprinkled it generously with dairy free Parmesan. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and place on top of your stove to rise.

When the garlic is done, remove the plastic from the dough and bake for about 35 minutes or so, but don’t over bake it! You want it to feel “springy” when you touch the middle.

Slice and enjoy however you like. I dipped mine in good olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, spread the roasted garlic on top, and sprinkled it with crumbled goat cheese. And yes, I ate the entire head of garlic in one sitting, by myself. 

Herb Cheese Logs

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Guess what? You can freeze goat cheese. Who knew?

I had no idea. According to the internet, soft cheeses freeze quite well, actually. This opens up all kinds of ideas for different types of goat and sheep’s milk cheeses. This cheese is mild and delicious. Not overly “goaty” like a lot of aged goat or sheep’s milk cheese. Perfect on crackers, toasted baguette slices, on top of a baked potato, in your favorite salad, sprinkled over your favorite pasta dish…the options are endless. You can make it sweet with zest and agave nectar or savory with herbs and spices. I’ve used sweetened goat cheese with breakfast crepes and it was amazing. Get creative!

Goat’s Milk Cheese Logs

*Makes four 4-5 inch logs

1 Gallon Raw Goat or Sheep’s Milk

3 Tablespoons Kosher Salt + more for seasoning later

Juice of 10 Organic Lemons, about 1 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Chives, chopped

About 2 Tablespoons Organic Flat Leaf Parsley, chopped

About 1 1/2 Tablespoons Organic Thyme, chopped

About 2 teaspoons Chopped Garlic ( I used the organic garlic that comes in the jar)

Ground Pepper

I have a new obsession. Making my own goat’s milk and sheep’s milk cheese! Once you try it, you won’t believe how incredibly easy it is.

I’ve read that it’s important to use raw milk because pasteurized milk doesn’t clot the same way. If you’re able, I would suggest trying to find a local organic farm where you can buy the raw milk.  And then of course, use organic lemons and organic herbs. I buy organic and all natural whenever possible. It just makes sense to eat pure, clean, food as much as I can.

But as you probably already have experienced yourself…pure, locally grown food comes with a little sticker shock.

I paid $16.58 for 1 gallon of raw goat’s milk. One gallon of goat’s milk made into cheese gives you about 12 ounces of cheese. That’s about $1.38 per ounce. Expensive, but really no more than you pay in a grocery store. And the satisfaction of making it yourself and knowing exactly what is in it and where the ingredients come from…priceless!

So give it a try, you won’t be disappointed, I promise:

In a large dutch oven or stainless steel pot (do not use aluminum) add several inches of water and bring to a boil. Boil for about 5 minutes to sanitize.  I carefully sloshed it up and around the sides. Drain, add the milk and salt, stir. Heat to 185-190 degrees stirring frequently. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t scald on the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, line a large strainer with the cheesecloth. I used all of the cheesecloth in the small package I purchased. Just fold it over and make sure it drapes over the sides. Place the strainer over a deep bowl.

When the milk reaches 185-190 ish degrees, remove from heat.

Slowly stir in the lemon juice. It starts to curdle right away.

Add a pinch of parsley, chives, and thyme, reserving the rest for after the cheese has drained. Allow to rest for 25 minutes in the pan.

After it has rested, pour slowly into the cheesecloth. Allow to drain for about 30 minutes.

Do yourself a favor though…keep an eye on it and don’t go check your blog or your Facebook page while you’re waiting for it to drain. Because you’ll end up with this:

And more importantly this…

Carefully pull the sides of the cloth in and twist into a ball, carefully squeezing out some more of the liquid. Allow to rest and drain for another 25 minutes or so checking and draining the bowl every so often so that it is not sitting in its own liquid.

Remove the cheesecloth from the strainer and scrape the cheese off with a spoon into a bowl. Add the remaining herbs and garlic and stir to combine.

Taste and add a bit more kosher salt and a few grinds of good peppercorns.

On a clean working surface pull out a piece of plastic wrap and fold in half. Spoon goat cheese onto the middle of the plastic wrap in a small row.

Gently roll up one side of the plastic wrap and snuggle it over the log. Roll the log to the other end of the plastic wrap, twist the ends tight and tuck under.

Continue to do this with the remaining cheese or if you’re going to use it within a couple of days, you can also make it into one large log or any shape you like, really.

Once all of the cheese has been rolled, refrigerate for three hours. Remove from fridge, roll in one more layer of plastic wrap, cover in tin foil, enclose in a freezer bag and freeze up to one month.