Friday, October 31, 2014

Hey hey dumpster diving dumpster diving, hey hey diving into a dumpster

I was just on a really cool educational neighborhood walk as part of this recent attempt to actually metamorphasis into my mother sustainability course that I've been doing lately. We went...well, on a dumpster dive.

That's a perfectly gorgeous woodcarving that someone threw out!!!
You still there?

Ok, now that I've rid myself of 10% of my lurkers, let me tell you about this dumpster dive, and explain what it has to do with this blog.

You see, it wasn't *really* a dumpster dive, in the sense that you may be thinking of dumpster dives. That is, the instructor did actually go into dumpsters. But she didn't dive, she took out a bag at a time, nobody got gross or dirty, and the goal was not to take home furniture, food, or other people's trash (though a one of the folks did indeed take home a perfectly good bucket.)

The goal was to talk about garbage, see how much people threw out, and try to reduce the amount we throw out in our own personal lives.

Allow myself to get up on my soapbox for a bit here [gets up on soapbox]:

We, as a people, throw out way too damn stuff. Israel is THE SECOND WORST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD in terms of throwing out food (USA is worse. Haha.)  We think of recycling as a panacea. It's not. As I learned today, it's a red herring. No, it's worse than a red herring. It's a justification to buy more stuff  - and we throw out so. Much. Shit.

It's not about the environment. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that I don't give a rat's ass about the environment. It's about the five-year-olds in China who are sent to work so you can have a new iphone (NO AUTOCORRECT I'M NOT GOING TO CAPITALIZE THE SECOND LETTER.) It's about sweatshops where people can die or lose limbs because they are working in an unsafe environment. It's about rich people at the top of big companies getting rich off of the backs of their workers who are paid minimum-wage because they pulled off the hoax of selling something that FALLS FREE FROM THE SKY, put it in a bottle, and sell it to you for money! It's about living in a world where marriage, friendships, life, and belongings are disposable - where you can just go out and buy another of everything because everything is cheap and nothing has any value. 

Throwing out less isn't just about all of that. It's about living in a world where you know where your vegetables come from and that they weren't coated in wax to make them shinier, where your garbage doesn't disappear from sight the second it leaves your bin, where things have real value and meaning, and real furry creatures from Alpha Centauri are REAL furry creatures from Alpha Centauri!!!

[pant pant pant.]
Let's talk about food for a second here, and let's talk about throwing out food, and not throwing out food. 

We saw a ridiculous amount of food get thrown out on the streets of Jerusalem. We saw a perfectly good package of Tim-Tams (one brave soul even ate one), we saw a package of bread that looked FINE (see my last rant about my opinion on throwing out bread), we saw a really fancy leftover sandwich that hadn't been touched, and  tons and tons of pineapple ends.

I'm going to say this once, and I'm going to state it loud and clear: I FIRMLY BELIEVE FOOD SHOULD NEVER BE THROWN OUT. See my soap box above for more information, but really, it's not about the starving children in Africa. This time. 

There are. So. Many. Good. Things to be made with leftover food. Even at the end, when it's truly gone to meet its maker - it should get composted, not thrown out. Becuase you see, decomposed food turns into compost, and compost gets used to grow new food, and the circle of life continues.
Just without the evil foreshadowing bit

You see, you might not have realized this, but this blog has an Agenda. That's right. I said it. In my ideal world, we would live in that romanticized time in which people didn't throw out clothes - they repaired them until you couldn't repair them anymore.  And then they made them into rags. And then into rag dolls. And then rag carpets. And then finally into wicks, and that's how they kept warm the whole long cold winter. 

So, same thing with food. 

Therefore, I'm going to give you a short list of things you can do with leftover food, and if you don't have time and inclination, give it to me, and I will eat for free for the rest of my life. (That's actually not my agenda. My agenda is for less food to get thrown out. But hey, this is good too.)

Bread -->frozen bread (stays good for ages. Freezers and microwaves are your friends) croutons ◊ bread soup (yum) ◊ bread crumbs bread pudding 
◊ french toast, and thanks to Bishul Bezol for the suggestion

Leftover or bad Wine --> french onion soup ◊ mulled wine ◊ soups ◊ stews 

Almost rotten Milk --> homemade yogurt (blog post pending) ◊ homemade cheese ◊ muffins ◊ cornbread  ◊ pancakes

Tiny bit of leftover Cheese --> freeze (stays good forever) ◊ pizza ◊ pasta ◊ quiche 

Leftover tiny bit of Meat that you don't know what to do with --> Soup ◊ stew ◊ pot pie ◊ burritos

Stale Cookies/cakes --> (First of all, what are you doing with leftover cake? But if you are, then make) trifle ◊ bread pudding ◊ tiramisu   

Dying Fruit --> jams ◊ dried fruit ◊ chop, freeze, make into smoothies

Dying Veg --> a soup. Always a soup. Or pickled things. But it's cold, so now all I can think of is soup.  

Etc. etc. I could go on. But I think you get the basic idea? Or do I have to preach more to the choir? 

Please send on more ideas, and I will update this list. But basically? Please don't throw food out. There were starving children in the Holocaust.   

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

In Which There is Chocolate Cake That Won't Break the Bank (But First, a Rant)

I'm sitting here baking a cake.

Ok, not entirely accurate. I'm taking a break from baking a cake, because really it's impossible to bake a cake while sitting. I have a cake in the oven, and I am now sitting and I've got a rant coming on. There aren't going to be many pictures, unfortunately, and I know some of you may wonder what good there is in a blog entry if there aren't any pictures, so I'll do my best to find some stock photos.

There. Happy?

As some of you may know, I like to watch listen to TV while I bake, to fill all this damn silence. And, as I am in the midst of super fancy cake (goal is layered chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, maybe raspberry jam filling, and if I have time some chocolate meringue thingies and shavings), I thought, I know, I'll watch The Great British Bake-Off. I'll even watch an episode about cake, and then I'll be inspired, and everyone will be happy, yes?


I. HATE. the Great British Bake-Off.

Many, many people have recommended I watch Grrrreat Brrritish Bake-Off. They thought I would love this show. They love baking...I love baking...perfect match, right?

If you do not roll the Rs properly they will put you into a pudding and serve it to the queen.

Here's the thing about that show. Two things, and I hate both. One - IT'S NOT A COOKING SHOW. It's a reality TV show. It's a 'let's make people feel bad about themselves, and how their cake crumbs aren't the PERFECT SIZE cake crumbs, and now let's talk about how their mother didn't raise them right because OMG they can't make a perfect croquembouche.

Second, and it's closely related to the first, that show makes me feel like I don't know how to bake.

Let me reiterate that. It makes ME feel like IIIII don't know how to bake.

It is full of stupid game show people saying stupid things like, 'oh, if you don't whip that cream precisely right, it's going to be a complete disaster. That cake is soooo delicate. It is so difficult to make that sauce. Buildings in China are going to collapse and kill five million little children if she doesn't get that sauce right.'

Here's what I have to say to TGBB-O:

Calm the fuck down.

Here's else I have to say to you, dear readers, who may also be feeling like they don't know how to bake because if you don't get that crumb right then you are single-handedly responsible for the apocolypse: 
a) bake a cake if you want to, buildings aren't going to collapse;
b) If you want to bake a $#@ cake, and you're afraid it's going to be a disaster - well, guess what. Baking isn't rocket science. Cakes can be fixed, myriads of evils can be covered up by whipped cream, and powdered sugar fixes everything else. 

I can't even begin to tell you how many imperfect cakes I have made in my time. Underdone, overdone, slightly burnt, slightly falling apart, melty imperfect ganache - and guess what. They have all been eaten. Not a single one was so terrible that I did not get accolades afterwards. And it's NOT about me being such a great baker. It's about using a decent recipe, and following it within reason.

Here's the main things you have to know about not ruining a cake:
  1. Don't burn it. If you do burn the top, cut it away.
  2. (This is the important one. If you make this mistake, there truly isn't any saving it.) Don't confuse the salt with the sugar.
That's it. Now I'm going to go back and bake a probably imperfect cake, but before I do, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite cake recipes. Favorite because it uses no eggs - which I care about not because of vegan tendencies, but because it's cheap and I'm stingy.

If only I had a cake to feed to my starving children.

Depression-Era Chocolate Cake

(From I don't think I've even made any changes)

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda* 
  • 2 cups flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla*
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 1/2 cups water 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

 *pet peeve alert! 1 and 1/2 tsp is EXACTLY equal to a 1/2 tbs! So why the $#@ don't they just write that and save me having to use another measuring spoon! ARGH.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In an ungreased 9 x 13 pan- yes UNgreased, sift all dry ingredients. Despite the fact that, yes, this makes for fewer dishes, I don't like doing this. It's harder to sift. I recommend stirring in a bowl with a whisk if you have it, a spoon if you don't.
  3. Add the liquids and stir just until blended.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes or until passes the toothpick test. (Tookpick test = stick toothpick in the middle of cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. If it comes out a little gooey, stick it back in the over for 5 more minutes, continually until it's no longer gooey.)
  5. Frost with your favorite frosting, cake is extremely moist so care must be taken that you don't tear up the top of the cake.
 Here is my favorite cheap cake topping recipe. Credit to my friend and former flat-mate, L.  
Cheap Cake Glaze: 
  1.  Take powdered sugar. Mix in a cup with a fork with a little bit of water until it's runny enough to spread on the cake, yet not so runny it's like a liquid. If you want to get fancy, use a bit of cocoa or alcohol instead of the water. Done.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Let's Talk about Bread, Baby

Let me start off by saying, I love bread. I seriously love bread. I pity you all you glutards out there, and I look upon atkinsians with derision and contempt. (Actually, if you are gluten-intolerant, you should probably stop reading right now, because this post is basically an ode to bread.)

Bread is awesome. (Not a huge fan of sandwiches, but that's another story to be told another time.) Bread is so awesome that there was a whole exhibit at the museum a few years ago dedicated entirely to bread that I had to go see as part of my degree (may or may not have had something to do with the fact that my professor was also the curator of that exhibit.)

I call this 'Pantry Cleanse' Bread
I do NOT love store bought bread. Haven't bought it for years. Feh. Ptooey. Yuck.

The difference between store bought bread and homemade bread is like the difference between erotic and kinky (erotic is using a feather, kinky the whole Am I the only one with that cultural reference? I hope not, because if so I sound weird.)

Store-bought bread, especially slightly old and stale store-bought bread, is sad. It tastes kinda blah. You just KNOW there's a million chemicals in it, it barely has any flavor, and they charge about 200% more than the cost of the ingredients. I don't get it.

It's a flower! It's the rosetta stone! No, it's tear-apart bread!

There's just so many things I love about homemade bread. Taste is just the know what? This sounds like a lengthy one. I'm going to make a list:
  1.  I love how cheap bread is to make.
  2. I love the aroma that wafts over the home when you've just made bread.
  3. I love kneading bread - you can really punch and get all your aggression out on it.
  4. I love how forgiving bread is - it's very hard to ruin bread. Trust me, I've tried.
  5. I love how the ingredients can be changed ever so slightly to make vastly different breads.
  6. I love how many things there are to do with bread leftovers (bread thrown out on the side of the road, as people often do here, makes me want to cry.)
  7. I love a nice crunchy crust.
  8. I love sourdough, both the eating and the making.
  9. I love how yeast is alive.
  10.  I love how there are so many customs, superstitions, traditions, and cultural significance about bread. 
Oh, also, I love how it makes the house nice and warm while baking. (I'm a little cold right now. It's only 23 degrees out there.)

I haven't always had success with bread. Oh yes. FEAR NOT OH YOU NON-BAKERS. I too, have failed. So many times. Seriously. So so many times. I've made bread that was hard as a rock; bread that was gooey inside; bread that didn't rise; bread that rose too much. I've done it all.

And I'm still here. Baking distinctly edible bread. So you can do it too, and if you're afraid, call me. I'll hold your hand.

As we walk off...into the sunset...though, um, not in a weird way.

For now, though, since I'm still doing that pantry cleanse, I'm not going to post a bread recipe, even though I baked one today. First of all, because I have about a gazillion bread recipes, and it would be hard to choose just one to post here; and second, like I wrote before - bread is so versatile and forgiving, that you make a slight change - and boom! different bread recipe. Which basically means that I have no idea what I baked today.

Instead, I'm going to post a bread pudding recipe. Because I had tons of bits bobs and the other of about a zillion different end pieces of bread in my freezer, and something had to be done about it. I used some leftover challah, a leftover muffin, a leftover (very stale) pita, and I think some savory nutty bread too. It came out delicious. (I'm going to start that diet...tomorrow.)

Mark Bittman's Bread Pudding

(Have I mentioned that MB just recently joined my line-up of kitchen gurus?  Welcome, MB.)
  • 700 ml milk*
  • 55 grams butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 8 slices stale bread (or, approximately that much bread comprised of whatever is left in your freezer)**
  • pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
 *Yes, ml and grams. If you don't have scale, go here.
**Yes, freezer. Always keep leftover bread in the freezer. NOT the fridge. It crystallizes in there or something.

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C. 
  2. Butter your baking dish - use whatever fits. Then break up the leftover bread bits and put them in there. Smush if necessary.
  3. Heat together milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, salt until the butter melts. Pour over bread, let sit for a few minutes. MB says to 'occasionally submerge any pieces of bread that float to the top.' I says to shmush it. 
  4. Beat the eggs. Stir and shmush in with the rest of it.
  5. Top with the sugar-cinnamon topping.
  6. You want to bake it in a water bath - and if you're not sure what that means, you should probably consult one of my gurus - I recommend Alton Brown in the cheesecake episode. Basically, FIRST put in the pan on the oven tray, THEN pour in the water on the side while it's already in the oven. Do it wrong and you risk a watery death to your dessert (been there...done that.)
  7. Bake 45-60 min, or until it mostly passes the toothpick test
  8. Try not to eat it all and save some for your spouse so they can get fat too. 

 (The picture did not come out nice. Just picture something really appetizing and creamy and delicious here.