Some people believe that cheese goes with anything (full disclaimer: I may be one of those people). I remember my cousin introducing me to the strangely delicious combination of cheddar and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and experimenting with strawberry mozzarella pizza. While some cheese-making requires a special relationship with a goat or fancy kitchen equipment, other varieties of heavenly curds are easily made right at home. Give these a try and let us know what you think. ~ Ashley Owen/Moonshine Ink

Ricotta Cheese

My Italian ancestors would be proud and satisfied, if I do say so myself, thanks to this ricotta recipe. Ricotta is the perfect cheese, ideal with fruits and pastas, creamy enough to make a pie yet bold enough to stuff a manicotti shell. Try it out and get creative. Mangia! ~ Ashley Owen/Moonshine Ink

INGREDIENTS

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1 gallon whole milk

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp distilled white vinegar

1 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp nutmeg (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Pour the milk and cream into large pot. Heat on medium high until just before boiling, continually stirring to prevent burning. Steam will rise and the top will foam. Remove from heat right before it boils; thermometer will read just below 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Add vinegar and stir for 30 seconds (lumps form quickly); add salt and stir 30 seconds; add nutmeg (optional) to taste. Cover with a towel and let sit at room temperature for two hours.

Line a colander with cheesecloth and hold over a large bowl to catch liquid. Use a slotted spoon or mug to sift mixture through the cloth, draining as much liquid as possible. I ended up with two pieces of cheesecloth filled with draining ricotta, and I used twist-ties to turn the cloth into closed pouches that I hung from my cabinets. After letting drip-drain for 30 minutes, squeeze out excess moisture until pieces of ricotta come through cloth. Store in airtight container. Keeps for around five days.

Vegan Basil Cashew Cheese

My daughter was diagnosed with dairy allergies about nine months ago. I heard of a recipe for cheese made with cashews, which at first did not sound very appealing. However, after nine months without cheese it starts to sound pretty good, so I gave it a try and my whole family loves it. This recipe is actually more like a pesto than a solid cheese, but it is rich and creamy and can be used as a substitute for cheese in any Italian dish. ~ Gretchen Kydd/Whole Treats baker

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup vegetable broth (or more as needed)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup nutritional yeast for cheesy flavor

3/4 to 1 tsp salt and freshly ground pepper

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves lightly packed

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 30 minutes or overnight

DIRECTIONS

Drain and rinse the soaked cashews. Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender or food processor. Blend until smooth and use as cheese for lasagna, stuffed shells, and more.

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