Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's Peanut-Butter Bragging Time! Or, 13 Things You Can Make From Scratch if you Have Time and Inclination

Nothing for 42 days then 2 after 2 days, eh? Bet you weren't expecting that, eh? I guess my old friend Calliope (or would it be Thalia? Oddly enough the Greeks didn't have a specific Muse for food blogs) has come to visit again.

Today is going to be a short one, because, ironically, I actually have some cooking to do instead of just blogging about it. For today's list I present to you, "Things You Can, Actually Cook at Home and Don't Have to Buy in the Supermarket With Lots of Preservatives Like E-212 and E-221 Which are Probably Going to Kill You and Murder Your Loved Ones in their Sleep."

Or, in a less stylized, more click-baiting way of putting it, "10 Things that You Should be Making From Scratch!" Ack. Ugh. Gross click-baiting.

The thing about 'should be making yourself from scratch'ing - and this is a huuuuuuge caveat - it costs you time. I'm not going to lie to you - it does. Any of those dumb websites who are all like, 'Oh, You Can Make Your Own Pizza in Five Minutes or Less, Click Here on our Ads to Find Out How and Also to Lose Tummy Fat' are full of bullshit. Seriously. There's this weird triangle that not enough food blogs pay attention to, and it goes something like this:
You'd think with a degree in graphic design it would have taken less than 1/2 an hour to create this stupid triangle...
This is one of those triangles where you get to choose 2 out of 3 of the prongs, yet not all three. So, for example, I tend to make healthy food that is inexpensive, at the cost of my time. So my chart looks like this:

Get it? Others get healthy food that doesn't take them long to make, but costs a lot. Or (probably not the readers of this blog) buy cheap food that is quick, and crappy for you. I think you all get my point.

Now that we've established that, yes, making cheese and jam and stuff from scratch isn't going to happen in 5 seconds a day, and that if you have 11 kids and a full-time job, you probably have other things to do with you time, let's get to the bragging part of the blog.

Things I always make from scratch because it's worth the time
  • Tomato sauce - so easy. Just chuck tomatoes and an onion in a pot and let them cook to death.
  • Bread - cheaper to make than to buy. Plus I have a recipe that requires no kneading. 
  • Soup broth - really what's the point of buying. Just chuck bits and bobs of veggies into a pot and boil while you are cooking soup. No big whoop. 
  • Pizza - see "tomato sauce" and "bread."
  • Granola - take rolled oats. Mix with nuts and sweet stuff. Bake. Congrats, you've made granola. Why would you spend 20-30 nis on that?
  • Hummus and Tehinni - buy raw ingredients. Stick in food processor. Done.
  • Orange Marmalade and candied orange peels.

Things that can be made from scratch, but aren't always worth the time:
  • Mayonnaise - very cheap and good to make, but when you only want a tsp every week, the homemade stuff goes bad.
  • Pickles - easy to make, but sometimes I don't think about wanting a pickle 3 days in advance.
  • Jam - yes, I make homemade jam, yes, it's easy, and yes, I do it often. But sometimes, just sometimes, you just want blueberry jam.
  • Cheese - when I remember, I make ricotta and labneh from scratch. Otherwise, expensive cheese-shop it is.
  • Yogurt - ack! I admit it! Sometimes I buy it. I am so ashamed. 
  • Croissants - Sometimes I can't wait three days for buttery goodness. (Goes well with homemade orange marmalade.) 

Things I recently learned you can make from scratch: 
  • Apple cider vinegar - is basically fermented apple cores. How cool is that?
  • Ketchup - Turns out it's easy to make! And no icky E-102 etc. (see, Murdering Your Family in Their Sleep, above.)

Things I would love to make from scratch one day, but haven't yet dared: 
  • Tofu
  • Pickled lemons
  • Olives 
  • Hard cheeses (shout-out to Annanas)
Others? Questions, comments, complaints? Ideas for things I should be making and aren't? Complimentary cheese plate? You know how to find me.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Non-snooty Homemade Yogurt

Forgive me, blogging world, for I have sinned. It has been 42 days (!!!) since my last post, and I haven't even fulfilled my promises made for Pesach recipes. (OTOH, I haven't seen any posts claiming that people are starving for lack of Kosher for Pesach vegetarian recipes, so I don't feel too too guilty. Just a little guilty.) Also, I have been privy to some amazing resources for Pesachy food recipes that friends and friends of friends have written, so I don't feel like I necessarily need to reinvent the wheel there.

Frankly, I have been feeling a little disheartened with the blogging thing lately. There are soooooo maaaaaaaany good food blogs out there these days, and I don't know how much I'm going to contribute. Lil 'ol me. Just now, for example, I was scrolling over to Smitten Kitchen looking for sidedishes, and that made me feel bad about myself, and want to kick myself for not putting up my own recipes on the internet since before blogging was big, and how stupid it was that I hadn't gone out and gotten an amazing camera, because isn't she about my age and now she's big and famous and the queen of cooking things at home from scratch and isn't she just doing things that I could have done myself had I thought of it, dammit?

And then I imagine a heavenly voice calling out that reminds me that nobody expected me to be Rav Zusha, just to be me. Which makes me feel a little better, but also a little cynical because I don't believe fairy tales anymore, and I don't have a fancy camera anyway.

Also, blogging has become a lot of work these days. The last few posts I've posted have taken HOURS to write. Cuz, you know, there's the writing part, and that's fairly easy. But then there's the making the recipe, so I can have nice photos to post (I don't know about you all, but when I read food blogs, I don't really read them. I just go for the photos.), and then my crappy camera is really my crappy phone, so I have to instagram or canva the photos to make them somewhat less crappy. And then I have to play with graphics and fidget and stuff and that makes writing blog entries a pain in the butt less fun. Less fun makes me less inclined to blog.

So there you are. It's not that I haven't been cooking. I have been. Most of it has been edible. I just haven't been able to bring myself to invest an entire day in food blogging. Also, I have a thing about inspiration and writing when the mood strikes, which lately it hasn't been. But I do want to be writing more, and for that I think there needs to be fewer pictures so that blogging becomes more fun for me again, less of a hassle. You all okay with that? Okay? Okay.

So I've been making yogurt from scratch, did you know you can do that? You can. It's not difficult. Worst comes to worse you get it wrong and then you just use spoiled milk to make muffins and they come out fine and nobody dies. So I'm going to tell you about yogurt, but there will be no photos. Just imagine something white and milky.

 I has no photos. Here, have a video.


Here. Homemade yogurt recipe. Harrumph. 

Hypothetically you do need some specialized equipment for this one, namely a thermometer and a thermos. You might be able to do without the thermometer, just play it by finger; and in place of thermos I've read that you can use a heating blanket or oven. Basically just some way of keeping yogurt at an even temperature for a few hours. Feel free to experiment and let me know what works or didn't. If you want to go to a snooty source which will tell you to buy yogurt cultures and to use a yogurt maker, you can go here. Just take them with grain of salt.

  • milk
  • old yogurt - very important that it has active bacteria in it. I think, though I'm not certain, that that's any plain yogurt marked 'bio.'
  1. Pour milk into thermos. This isn't necessary for recipe, it's mainly just to measure out how much yogurt your container can handle
  2. Pour milk into small pot. Heat until it reaches 185 degrees F. This, like, kills bacteria or something. I've read that if you don't have a thermometer, you can stick your finger into the hot milk, and when it's hot enough that you immediately want to take your finger out (ouch!) it's hot enough. Sounds like fun, eh? Or you could invest in a thermometer.
  3. Let it sit until it cools to 110, or "just warm to the touch" in snooty blogger speak. Whisk periodically so it doesn't get that icky foam at top. At this time start your kettle going, to heat some water.
  4. Stir yogurt into the milk. How much? Some. I usually use about 2 tbs. Or more. Whatever. Some. 
  5. Now, I like to first heat my thermos a little. Dunno how strictly necessary this is. I just pour in some heated water, swoosh it around, and then pour it out. I think it helps the thermos stay hot.
  6. Pour runny milk thing into thermos. Close thermos. Let sit somewhere between 4-8 hours. The last time I left it overnight, and it was fine. Delicious, even. 
  7.  Cool yogurt in fridge. 
  8. Eat yogurt.
 The cons of this yogurt is that it doesn't stay good quite as long as commercial yogurt (duh) and sometimes it's a little piecey or chunky. But the pros are that it's SO MUCH WAY CHEAPER than the store-bought stuff! This is coming from someone who just blew 50 nis on about 3 yogurts the other week. Sheesh. So make this. Then make homemade jam. Then combine the two to make flavored yogurt, and STICK IT TO THE MAN CUZ YOU JUST MADE YOUR OWN HOMEMADE YOGURT.

Oh, and then reserve some yogurt, cuz once you've made it once, you can use the old yogurt to make new yogurt, ad infinitum. It's the gift that keeps on giving, like herpes.