I’m slowly working my way through every single menu item at the British Bulldog

So we go to the British Bulldog a heck of a lot, as it has soccer which must be watched. Many of those visits involve eating foodstuffs. I have A.D.D. of the stomach, however, which means I’m more or less going to eventually try every item they have on the menu.

fish and chips

I’ve actually had their fish & chips a few times, as it is delicious and amazing. The pieces of fish are ginormous, so I’ll generally have a piece to take home. Being all American, I’ve generally been one to just dunk the fish in ketchup, but I’m getting turned on to using creamier sauces for the fish, as well as adding a bit of vinegar.

And for some more British fare, we’ve got bangers and mash.

bangers and mash

So I try to like as many vegetables as possible, but there are some cases where I’m just not a fan. Peas and carrots fall into this category. I like them in certain circumstances (like in fried rice, for instance) but rarely seek them out on their own. In any case, I enjoyed the bangers and mash despite the presence of certain undesirable vegetables. Bangers (aka sausages) are always delightful, and I’ve rarely met a pile of potatoes and gravy I didn’t like. Having these elements sculpted into a majestic mound of meat and starch is always a bonus as well.

saag paneer

There’s a section of the menu dedicated to Pakistani food, and the portions are giant. The saag paneer filled me up for two good meals. Saag paneer, which is essentially chunks of cheese in a spinach sauce, is generally amazing. It also falls into that category of “vegetables I only like in certain circumstances.” Fresh spinach is just fine for me in sandwiches and salads and whatnot, but cooked spinach is a bit disgusting unless used strategically. The only two strategic uses I can think of at the moment are either buried in a massive amount of cheese, as served in dishes like manicotti or shells & cheese, or, saag paneer. Saag paneer also falls under the category of “it’s vegetarian but you won’t really care because GIANT CHUNKS OF CHEESE.” I’ve also not had enough saag paneer in my lifetime to know good saag paneer from bad saag paneer, so I’ll just assume it’s all good until I know otherwise.

chappli kebabs

I’ve had a few other Pakistani dishes from the Bulldog, and sweet Jesus my poor mouth. The chappli kebabs pictured above do mention being spicy in their menu listing, but other items are similarly dangerous, based on my experience. I may have lucked out with the saag paneer, actually. Rumor has it that there are two chefs, one which tends to make the Pakistani food significantly spicier than the other. Mind you, those chappli kebabs were still tasty – I just needed to significantly bolster them with every single side item available, and then have a refreshing beverage very close at hand to cool my flaming mouth. The inevitable leftovers lasted me a decent while, too – I ended up making some of my own basmati rice to accompany said leftover kebabs, and found that adding some plain yogurt to the mix really helped deal with the spice as well.

Anyhow, I think I only have one or two Pakistani dishes left to try. At some point I may venture over to the more American side of the menu (I’ve had a burger, but not too much beyond that), and there’s a whole range of appetizers I’ve yet to explore. It’s not often I have a restaurant I eat at this regularly, and it’s an interesting thing to stop letting yourself get the same dish twice. Anyhow, the Bulldog has pretty good food and you should totally go eat there!

How not to batter and bake cheese curds

So one of the best things about visiting Wisconsin was the massive amount of cheese curds we consumed. And not just the fresh and squeaky ones – I’m talking battered and fried ones that were delightfully gooey in the middle. We came back with a decent supply of curds, and I decided it was high time I did something with some of them.

cheese curd batter

For the batter, I initially whisked together just some egg and milk, with the intention of rolling the curds in that, and then tossing them in panko crumbs. However, I had visions of the curds melting all over the place, so I also whisked in some flour for extra stiffness.

cheese curds ingredients

As I was baking some biscuits (of the standard Bisquick variety) I decided I’d also go ahead and bake the cheese curds. Heathwise, I figured not deep frying them in oil would balance out the fact that I’d be eating a metric ton of melted cheese.

unbaked cheese curds

So I rolled them around in the batter, and tossed them in the crumbs. A few of them were looking a bit thin, so I gave those little guys a second go in the batter and crumbs.

In hindsight, I probably should have done that to all of them.

melted curds

Horrible photo, I was lightheaded and wobbly from the tragedy of my cheese curds being a burbley layer of melted cheese on that pan.

In hindsight, I really needed a thicker batter. This batter works quite well on catfish. However, catfish aren’t the sort to melt all over the pan. (And if yours does, I recommend not buying that fish again!)

Also, frying. Deep frying, even! These curds had about 10 minutes to melt all over that pan while in the oven. Deep frying would have left them a few minutes at most to do damage, and the flash of heat might have seared up any holes that the batter didn’t cover.

cheese curd detritus

Course, we still ate it all. What we could get off of the pan, that is. I mean, cheese is cheese. And I enjoyed it, too! But, never again, not this method at least. Luckily, we still have a giant bag of curds left in the freezer, and next time I’ll look up a proper batter recipe and deep fry them, as I probably should have done in the first place!

Whereupon I make more hummus, then eat it with “Smartfood Selects”

So hummus is pretty darn tasty, and considering how successful my last attempt at hummus was, I figured I’d give it a whirl again, this time by making my own beans.

Garbanzo beans

For awhile I thought that chickpeas and garbanzo beans were totally different things. But, unless Wikipedia is lying to me, they’re exactly the same. Anyhow, I really had no clue how many beans to make for my hummus, since most of the recipes I’ve looked at just use the beans from the can, so I just guesstimated that a cup would suffice.

cup o chickpeas

I dumped these into a pot along with a bunch of water, let them soak overnight, added more water, and then slow-cooked them for 8 hours or so. Based on my experience with other beans, there’s no such thing as cooking them too long, especially when the end goal is to turn them into mush!

soaked beans

So I got a little cocky this time around. I coulda just followed a recipe like a normal person would, but nope, I decided to freestyle this one. A cup of dried garbanzo beans definitely makes more than your average can – which is pretty awesome pricewise. Not that canned beans are particularly expensive, but a.) I am in general a fan of using dried/fresh over canned and b.) I am a cheap ho. Meaning I’m pretty happy to have a nice supply of dried garbanzo beans to use as I please. Anyhow, these suckers really filled out the ole blender.

beans in blender

I more or less dumped in what I dumped in last time for the rest of the ingredients, with a few additions. Used less tahini than last time, and bumped up both the amount of lemon and garlic. Albeit, I also bumped up the number of beans used, which, in hindsight, I should have thought a bit more about in this process. I also added some water from the beans, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cilantro. Hmm, I think the only new addition to the ingredients was the cilantro, come to think of it. In any case, the ingredients looked like this after all being added:

top view of future hummus

I blended for about 2 minutes, which was a bit less time then the last batch of hummus. And the results? A little chunkier than before, but a good kind of chunky. A little runny for my tastes – will try to use less water next time. And, next time I need to be better about adding ingredients proportional to the number of beans I used. Coulda used a little more tahini, as well as more salt and pepper. Last one’s easily solved, at least! Hummus was still quite tasty, though, and I’d probably do the “not measuring” thing again. It’s the sort of thing where I’d really like to get the skill of being able to eyeball ingredients to make successful hummus – I might need to do the “taste it between blendings and add more of things accordingly” method.

hummus plus Smartfood Selects

This’ll blow your mind: I ate the hummus…with hummus-flavored chips! I got this bag of Smartfood Selects for free at the Taste of Colorado festival. And, let’s just say I have mixed feelings about these chips. I actually found them to be really tasty, but I think it’s awful that you’d never know that by looking at the package. The naming is just awful – “Smartfood Selects” sounds like the sort of thing you eat when you’re on a strict diet and want to convince yourself you’re enjoying a snack when you’re really just choking down flavorless styrofoam. Adding “All natural” is just slapping another nutrition buzzword on there. And the “Smart Combinations” circle adds even more overkill. It’s a shame, too, because they’re rather good.

So, take SunChips. They’re pretty darn tasty. Also, more nutritious than regular potato chips. And I bet they’d be completely off the market right now if they’d been named “Smartfood Selects.” Mind you, some of this is just my annoyance at the way some thing are marketed. But still, you can say something is healthy without saying it a gazillion times on a package. OK, rant done!

Whereupon I make tiny apple and chocolate pies with buttermilk biscuit dough

closeup of pies

So I guess I’ve been thinking a bit about pie crusts. Or pies in general, and how much I like pies, and how homemade pies are so much better than storebought pies. And how it’s a giant pain in my behind to try making pie crusts. And I could just buy a pie crust, pre-baked even. Which works fine if you’ve got a bunch of filling, but is way too much when this is all you have to work with:

Wrinkly apples

Two apples. Kinda soft, kinda wrinkly, I knew they’d be rather unpleasant to try eating in the standard manner of eating apples. But, still good for baking, right? It’s kinda the best part of buying too much fruit – if some of it gets too ripe, there’s a world of baked goods that can be made from it. So I skinned these apples, chopped them up, and tossed them in a pan with what I estimated was a respectable volume of sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

unbaked apples

I baked them at 360 for awhile, and then baked them a bit longer. I think, in a misguided attempt at health, I used less sugar than I ought to have. Not only were the apples not super sweet, but they also weren’t as soft as they could have been. Anyhow, I kept at it until they were tolerably soft and appetizing.

baked apples

So I had this idea about pie crusts. Like, I know that you can make some amazing pie-like things with crescent rolls. So, why not biscuits? So I got that tube that’s pictured alongside the baked apples above. I sprayed down a cupcake tin with some Pam, and squished those biscuits right on in. They didn’t spread as easily as they could have, but I got them to be a tolerable cup shape after enough prodding.

After dumping the apples in, I still had half the biscuit cups sitting empty. So, I made some improv chocolate chess pies. Well, I kinda guessed at it, cause sometimes it’s fun to make something up and see what happens. I combined a few eggs, some milk, a bunch of cocoa powder, a little bit of flour, and a bit of sugar, and poured that into the remaining cups.

pies unbaked

I topped the apple pies with some crushed walnuts for bonus flavor. Then I baked everything at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or so.

pies baked

And the end result? Kinda weird! First, my fillings were less than on par. I already mentioned the kinda-but-not-really sweet apples – sticking them into a less than sweet dough didn’t really help with that. Also, I’m really bad at inventing chocolate pie. Instead, I think I invented custard! It was thicker than pudding, probably due to the eggs, and another unfortunate victim of my “hey, let’s not put in too much sugar!” mentality. In the future, dessert = more sugar. On a related note, when making dessert, make sure to thoroughly mix in the eggs. It’s a bit discombobulating to be eating something chocolate-pudding-like and come across a large chunk of egg!

two baked pies

Sorta mixed feelings about the biscuit dough as pie crust. I mean, I really like buttermilk biscuits. But, in in the end, I think they’re meant more to be savory than sweet. I could maybe see this working better with a cheesecake filling, actually. Or something quiche-like, if you’re into that sort of thing. I can’t exactly write it off as a failure, as I still ate these little pies and enjoyed them. But, I don’t really see myself trying this particular combination of items again. Well, you win some, you lose some!

Gorging ourselves in Chicago: Part 2

So the first post on eating too much in Chicago that I made a few days ago was primarily of the “Hey we’re walking around in touristy areas and eating what dem tourists eat!” kinda post. Well, this one is no different, except by this point, we’d fully mastered the art of the ‘L’ and could successfully ride it to Chicago’s various illustrious neighborhoods.

Podhalanka

I’ve always had positive experiences with Polish food, so upon finding out that Chicago has a sizeable Polish immigrant population, I decided food must be had. We ended up at Podhalanka based on a random recommendation from some article I read about Chicago neighborhoods. Not fancy at all, had a diner feel to the place. We sat at the counter and watched the evening news as we waited for our dinner while dining on some fresh bread and butter.

polish soup

And Holy Crap do they like their dill at this place. Not that I mind, especially when it comes to soup. I believe this was a white borscht soup, with pieces of sausage in it, and it was amazing. I really need to try making Polish soup sometime, as every Polish soup I’ve ever had has tasted amazing. This one was creamy and flavorful with soft chewy sausages.

pierogis

The only pierogis I usually ever eat are ones from the frozen food section from King Soopers. Still tasty, mind you, but nothing compared to these babies. They were super stuffed with potato and cheese, with some bonus dairy on the side in the form of sour cream. Major comfort food here. Incredibly filling, too. I managed to eat five of them, fed Chris one, and then had two as leftovers. Totally ate one of them the next morning, cold, for breakfast, and it was still good! OK, not as good, being all cold and all, but I’m also not too picky at 9am when I’m hungry. On a related note, I should try making some homemade pierogis sometime. They’d be perfect for making a gajillion of, and then packing the extras away in the freezer for easy mealtimes.

ribs

Chris went with some ribs, with potato on the side, plus a few scant carrots stuck in there. The ribs were super soft, and though I enjoyed the potatoes, he seemed a bit put off by the massive volume of dill involved. His meal also came with a salad, but I totally forgot to photograph it. Oops!

If I remember correctly, all of this plus our drinks cost somewhere in the $25 range, including tip. Would totally go back to this place again if I actually lived in Chicago!

Cafe Hoang

The day before we left, we didn’t really have any plans aside from seeing a Chicago Fire game in the evening. So I was all like, “We’re getting Vietnamese!” and off we went to whatever the heck neighborhood we ended up in where there were several blocks of solid Vietnamese restaurants and shops. OK, not completely Vietnamese – I wasted way too much time in some shop that was packed full of Hello Kitty paraphernalia. Plenty of Vietnamese restaurants though.

We ended up picking Cafe Hoang at random. For a beverage, I ordered “Young coconut”, thinking I’d get a glass of coconut juice. Instead, I got this!

young coconut

So I knew that, in Mexico, there are street vendors that’ll sell you coconut in the style of “we crack it open for you and hand you a straw.” I hadn’t been aware that this was a Vietnamese style of coconut consumption as well. Really tasty! Great way of avoiding preservatives, too. Then, when you’re done drinking the juice, you can scrape out the coconut as well. So it’s like you already have dessert too.

bun

I love me some bun. This particular bun had a spring roll along with shrimp. I was expecting “just shrimp”, but instead I got “skewered shrimp with grilled peppers and onions.” Which is a pretty sweet surprise if you’re into grilled and skewered food. This was so much food, I got through 2/3 of it at best and had to stop.

pork

Chris went for some pork and egg with steamed rice. The pork was flavorful, the sausage was a bit too greasy for my tastes, and I did not try the egg as a.) I’m sure it tasted like egg and b.) you all know how I feel about egg. In any case, I preferred my entree.

I swear I gotta find some really crappy places to review sometime. I feel lame being all like “this place was awesome!!!” every place I eat at and review, but Cafe Hoang was totally awesome. Kinda wanna go back on vacation so I can continue to stuff myself silly at random places in Chicago.

Gorging ourselves in Chicago: Part 1

So as far as I can tell, it’s pretty hard to find a bad place to eat in Chicago. Albeit, we were working off of some general recommendations along with the guidance of Yelp. Nonetheless, some delightful food was eaten on this trip.

This is essentially the “fatty food plus salad” post. We had an itinerary of what we wanted to eat that is best eaten in Chicago (deep dish, Chicago dog, Italian beef and popcorn), and sorta branched out from that. And by “branched out” I mean “whatever place was nearest when we got hungry after walking around all day.”

Alas, no photos of the deep dish (the restaurant, Gino’s East, was rather dark, and I was lightheaded from lack of pizza, so that photo didn’t happen!) However, we had to eat something at Wrigley Field, so hot dogs it was!

cubby dogs

And, you can take a guess as to which was mine and which was Chris’. (hint, mine’s the one that actually has toppings!). It’s weird, I used to only ever eat hot dogs with ketchup and mustard, nothing else. And then at some point my mouth decided it preferred hot dogs with crap dumped all over them. Wacky!

ASo, on our “Go to the zoo” day, we were walking around Lincoln Park, and Chris had the sudden revelation that he was hungry. So we picked The Dog Joint in Chicago based on my desire to finally get some Italian Beef, and Chris’s desire to shove another hot dog down his throat.

Italian Beef

This definitely had a different feel than the thinly shaved beef I’ve generally had in Italian beef. Had more of an “I’m chomping down on some steak” feel to it, if that makes any sense. Bread was also a bit thinner, less bun-like, gave the feel of “I’m sitting at a dinner table and wrapping this roast been in this slice of bread.” Roasted peppers were thick and juicy. Could have possibly used a bit more of a kick to the sandwich (or a bit more flavor, at least), but as it stood, this was an amazingly satisfying sandwich.

cheesey hot dog

Chris went for a hot dog – with cheese on it this time! I’m sure this sort of thing is delightful to those kinds of people who actively enjoy eat cheese on wieners. I, however, shall stay silent on the issue.

So at some point we’re doing the tourist thing, hitting up a museum and walking around a bunch. Also doing the tourist thing in not realizing how far away things are on a map, and being hesitant about catching a bus cause we don’t know how the bus system works yet. Anyhow, we had walked a crap ton of miles. (And yes, ‘crap ton’ is the technical term). Also, Chris’s shoes were falling apart. And it wanted to rain. It then turned into a game of “Let’s get to where there’s restaurants sooner rather than later.” Which led us to the Artists Cafe.

So I started off with a Hacker Pschorr Weisse, random beer I’ve never had before.

Hacker Pschorr Weisse

Tasty! While I’m not a huge lighter colored beer person (I’m really bad at knowing their types unless it’s a stout – guessing this is an ale or lager?), I did enjoy drinking it. Having alcohol in it helps, of course.

feta plate

As the last few days had been a nonstop assault of dairy (mostly in pizza and cheese curd form), I figured that it was high time I tried to actually get a bigger variety of nutrients. So, feta plate. Offscreen is Italian dressing which tasted homemade, and a little cup of hummus that may or may not been homemade. Nothing too spectacular, but definitely better than your average “pile of plants plus Greek items.”

At some point Chris ate a burger, which I did not photograph (I blame the beer for that one).

The combination of excessive walking plus salad had the resulting effect of actually leaving me hungry enough to get dessert. I went for the baklava.

baklava

While it seemed to be your standard flaky nutty baklava, the presentation and additions pushed it from average to delightful. Just in case the baklava wasn’t sweet enough, there was a bunch of bonus honey added to the dessert. That plus the whipped cream and bonus cinnamon made it worth it.

brownie a la mode

Chris went with a brownie a la mode. I tasted it and found the brownie to be chocolatey and tasty. Chris even gave me the reject nuts! Ice cream was soft serve. Sorta surprised by the soft-serve, in hindsight – the restaurant definitely had a “Euro” feel to it, which makes me think it more likely to have scoop ice cream. I’m assuming that soft serve is more traditionally American? Just has that “this was invented in a fast food restaurant” feel to it. A delicious feel, mind you, but nonetheless that’s the feel I get.

And, coming at some point in the next several days will be Part 2, whereupon I force Chris to eat Polish and Vietnamese food!

Pigging out in Minneapolis

So I’ve been away on vacation for the last week or so. Took a road trip with Chris up to Minneapolis, and then through Wisconsin to Chicago where we stayed for the better part of a week. As a result, my camera overfloweth from all of the photos of the godawful amounts of food we managed to consume in that time. The vast majority of the food we ate on the trip was rather good (thanks to the wonders of Yelp combined with sheer luck), and I will now write about some of it.

Emily’s Lebanese Deli

As our diet of recent had consisted mostly of the sort of food that gets eaten at interstate exits, I was going for something a bit healthier. So, despite the temptingly easy option of stuffing our faces at the Mall of America, we instead decided to check out Emily’s Lebanese Deli. Just north of downtown Minneapolis, it was near empty when we showed up for our 2:00pm Sunday lunch, but more people started flowing in soon after.

tabouli and pita

Meals come with tabouli and pita as appetizer. As I was famished at this point, I had to restrain myself from devouring all the things, as pitas had to be strategically reserved for the scooping up of the impending entree! Anyhow, the tabouli was delightful.

stuffed grape leaves

I freaking love fresh stuffed grape leaves. The ones I generally eat are from the olive bar at ye local King Soopers – still tasty as far as I’m concerned, but a bit mushy and rather drunk with vinegar. These were more “buzzed with vinegar” (to stick with the alcohol analogy here), and not at all mushy. The grains of rice were distinct and firm, with tangible pieces of lamb dispersed throughout. Quite satisfying!

lebanese green beans

This was our first stop in a long day away from refrigeration. So while I was hungry, I had to strategically calculate exactly what I could order and successfully finish off, so as to have no leftovers. I failed miserably at that task. I had assumed that this half-order of Lebanese green beans (green beans with lamb in a stew), priced at a mere $5.50, would be easy to finish off. Nope! Despite how delicious it was, this plus the stuffed grape leaves ($3.00) plus the tabouli and pita that came with did me in. I still took a takeout box with, which quite tragically I had to throw out later due to it sitting in the car the entire rest of the day. Albeit, I was willing to try eating it anyhow, but Chris preferred to not have to deal with me potentially vomiting profusely from food poisoning.

And, in conclusion, Emily’s Lebanese Deli is both cheap and delicious, and you should eat there should you find yourself craving some Lebanese while in Minneapolis.

But wait, there’s more!

The Malt Shop

Later that day, I was seriously craving some ice cream. Chris, however, wanted Real People food. Our compromise ended up being another Yelp discovery, The Malt Shop. I was immediately enamored with the ginormous list of possible flavors you could get in your malt. I went for a pumpkin malt, and Chris (who generally plays it pretty safe food-wise) went for a chocolate shake.

milkshakes!

On a vaguely related note, as much as I enjoy some nice dim mood lighting in a restaurant, it’s awful when you want to take some decent food pictures. That’s my excuse for the above, anyhow!

So the pumpkin malt was amazing. But then, pretty much anything with pumpkin added tastes amazing. Well, I’m sure there’s exceptions. Heck if I can think of any, though!

fried cheese curds

So as far as I can tell, half the point of anyone living in the midwest is the amazing access to dairy products. Those delightful looking items above? Deep fried cheese curds. Most brilliant concept ever. They tasted as good as they looked, too! The chunky marinara sauce on the side was a nice touch as well, made me almost feel like my meal of malt and cheese was healthy! Mind you, dairy and fat are all part of a nutritious diet, but probably not in the volume at which we were consuming them!

And, this may as well sum of half of the things Chris ate on this trip:

burger and fries

I stole a bite of the burger, and deemed it tasty. Can’t really remember much about the fries – I think that by that point my brain was loopy from calcium overload, so I may have blocked that part out. In any case, The Malt Shop was delightful, and highly recommended if you enjoy malts and constipation!

Homemade Hummus For Fun & Profit!

I have been a proud owner of a Top Secret Recipes book for over half a year now, and have barely made a dent in its recipes. So, after an extended period of excessive carnivorism (Cow Appreciation Day will do that to a girl), I decided it was high time I stuck to vegetarian proteins for a bit. And thus, hummus. Or specifically, this cookbook’s version of Sabra Classic Hummus.

The recipe’s pretty easy. You essentially take all of these ingredients and dump them in a blender: can o’ chickpeas/garbanzo beans (plus about 1/2 cup of the leftover liquid in the can), 3 tbsp tahini, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/2 tsp garlic, 3/8 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 3/8 tsp citric acid.

I’d like to say for the record that it’s near impossible to find tahini. Pretty much every hummus recipe I’ve ever looked at calls for tahini, which led me to assume that tahini can be found anywhere chickpeas can be found. Cause everyone makes their own hummus, right? Apparently not. Suppose I shouldn’t have expected to find it at Walmart, but I did have higher expectations for King Soopers. Alas, none to be found at either place. I ended up finding the tahini at Marczyk Fine Foods, a market that, while filled with delicious European items, also makes my wallet cry. Doesn’t help that I went there for just the tahini and ended up impulse buying five other things. Oops!

Anyhow, tahini is some funky stuff.

tahini

It’s sesame paste, and has a flavor not dissimilar to almond butter. This particular container of tahini was a bit separated, with oil floating atop the rather thick paste below. I tried to blend it together as best I could, but the paste part was less than cooperative so I was only partially successful. This made it mildly difficult to measure out the 3 tablespoons I needed, as my scoops were mostly either solid paste or still liquid. So I just added in a mixture of both.

Also, that citric acid? Totally didn’t use it. I actually forgot I needed it, so I never bought any, and decided it was for the best that I hadn’t tried – considering the poor luck I had finding tahini, I couldn’t imagine that citric acid would be any easier to find.

hummus ingredients in blender

Anyhow, everything done got blended together. The recipe recommended 10 minutes of blending, but I wussed out after about 5 minutes. And the final product? Probably needed that citric acid to really get the Sabra-like flavor. Also, shoulda put in a bit less tahini paste and a bit more tahini liquid. Aside from that, it was pretty darn good. Went fast, too. This is because hummus is delicious and amazing.

hummus!

Ricotta Cheese is Fabulous and Easy to Make

I think it’s pretty much impossible to screw up making ricotta cheese. This is because, if you screw up making other cheeses, you end up with ricotta cheese! Rather than having ricotta be the end result of some failed cheese attempt, I decided that this time around I’d make the end goal be ricotta, for guaranteed satisfaction.

So, to make most cheeses, you generally need some sort of special ingredient (usually rennet, or a starter culture of some sort). Not so with ricotta! All you need are these four ingredients that are most likely chillaxing in your kitchen as you read these very words.

-1 gallon o’ milk (whole milk, ideally)
-1/4 cup vinegar (regular or apple cider)
-3 tbsp melted butter
-1/2 tsp baking soda

So you pour your milk in a pot and heat it to 195 degrees F.

milk for your ricotta

By the way, if you start with cold milk and heat as slowly as I did, this might take awhile. You’re not supposed to boil the milk, so I was super paranoid about heating it at too high of a temperature. It eventually made it up that high, at which point you add in your vinegar slowly, stirring as you do it.

In theory, your milk should be separating by now. If it still looks a bit too much like milk, try heating the milk up to 205 F. It should look something like this:

ricotta separating into whey

Once your milk is no longer milk, but resembles squishy chunks of goo floating in yellowish water, you’re good to drain! Take a colander and line it with muslin – you can totally use netting of the sort that you can buy in fabric stores to make tutus. Or I bet pantyhose would totally work as well. Actually, if you were really desperate you might just be able to use your colander naked (rawr!) though you could potentially lose some cheesy goodness this way.

Stick the colander in a container (assuming you want to catch the whey), and, using a slotted spoon or similar orifice-lined utensil, scoop the curds on in. Let drain for a minute. I sorta roll the curds around for a bit as it drains, just to help get a bit more of the liquid out.

ricotta cheese

Dump the curd mound back into a bowl. Mix in the butter and baking soda. If you’re feeling saucy (err, salty?) you can also mix in a bit of salt for flavor. Aand, voila! Cheese. Refrigerate it, and use within a week or so. Or, stick a spoon in and eat straight until gone, and be constipated for a week or so. The discomfort is worth it, I promise!

By the whey (see what I did there?), if you saved your whey, you can totally use it for…things! Actually, every time I’ve made cheese, I’ve ended up having to throw out whey. I’ve made bread with it (yum!), boiled rice in it (kinda worked?), still need to try making pasta with it, but there’s always some left over. Rumor has it that dogs and cats dig it. I’d try to water my plants with it but they might hate me. Alas!

If You Are Five Years Old, Then You Too May Enjoy This Sandwich

(I’m Chris, and this is a guest post. Of course this is a guest post, you think Virginia would make something this horrifying?)

Well hello there, loyal Tasty Niblets readers! If you’re unaware, I’m the schlub that Virginia happens to live with. Virginia enjoys making me eat things that go outside of my usual food comfort zone, so I figured one evening I would show her the horrors of what I happen to enjoy.

I should preface this by mentioning that I am secretly five years old, at least in the taste bud region. My favorite foods include Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Trix. I had told Virginia the tale of a sandwich that I created at age five because my dad wouldn’t allow me to have some of my favorite snack foods and candies. Being the clever child that I was, I decided to just shove all of said snacks and candies onto a sandwich so nobody would notice I was still getting my sugar/cheese fix.

For reasons unknown, I took a hearty liking to the sandwich even after I stopped being five and have enjoyed making it every so often ever since as a guilty pleasure. The ingredients required are white bread, turkey, mayonnaise, Cheetos and M&M’s. (Puffy Cheetos and regular M&Ms are preferred if possible!)

I imagine that half of you have already closed this article and ran off to vomit, but hear me out here.

There’s a very specific method to making the madness that is this sandwich. One slice of bread is covered in turkey and then the Cheetos are put on top of it in either the shape of an X or the shape of a plus sign.

The other slice of bread is slathered in mayo and then M&Ms are pressed into the mass of whiteness so that they can be put easily on top of the other slice.

And because I also have the appetite of a 15 year old, I made it a triple-decker as you saw from the three slices of bread in the first picture. Witness the horror, completed and ready to scarf down!

If you’re wondering how it tastes, it’s very hard to explain. I believe Virginia said that the Cheetos were all right with her, but the Turkey/Chocolate combination didn’t really jive in her mouth. And honestly, I’m pretty sure that if I were trying this for the first time in my life right now I would probably hate it as well. Acquired tastes are best acquired when you’re five years old, right? (Note: This does not hold true for Whiskey.)

Also, I have no way to segue into this so I’m just going to shamelessly plug my soccer blog here at the end right out in the open. Hope you enjoyed.