Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Into A Cava

We always enjoy a good bottle of sparkling wine, but our picks usually come out of California. Cava is Spain's sparking wine. This cava, Codorníu Pinot Noir Brut Rose, is a rosé, which I thought was a delightful idea.

However, I had been under the mistaken impression was always made from blending a white and a red wine.

Actually, rosés are most commonly made by crushing red grapes and allowing the juice to sit with the skins for just a few days and then removing them before fermentation, which gives it some color, but not enough to turn it fully red.

The blending method apparently was more common in the past, but the method has since fallen out of favor. A recent EU plan to allow blended rosés (promoted by winemakers in parts of France where red and white wine is in surplus) was abandoned after traditional rose makers argued it would bring on the "industrialisation" of wine .

We opened this Codorníu Pinot Noir Brut Rose after an afternoon of pruning. It's a lovely color and light as it can be ... which is a little too light for my tastes. It lingered on the tongue not a bit, and hardly had any weight to it at all. Not much of a reward for a couple of hours of hard labor.

But it wasn't bad at all - it was fun and refreshing and I think it might be especially suited for Sunday brunch or champagne cocktails.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Emergency Drinking Water

Last night, we found that we had no water in the house for several hours. Thanks to Twitter (and not the Cleveland Water District website), we found out that it was because of a water main break that has affected thousands of residents - and sending many of them to the 24-hour grocery store to stock up on drinking water.

The water came back on this morning, but residents are advised to boil their water before drinking it or cooking with it until 10 pm (and again, the only reason I know this is by Twitter).

Fortunately, we did have some emergency drinking water in the house, next to the box of MREs. We had two and a half gallons.

The general rule is at least one gallon of water per person, per day of expected need (with a three day minimum but two weeks is often recommended) - 2 quarts for drinking and 2 quarts for food preparation and sanitation. If you have pets, allow 1 quart per day for each dog or cat. Stored tap water should be rotated every 6 months. Prepackaged bottled water should be rotated once a year.

So, really, we should have at least 9 gallons, but probably even 42 gallons. That is a lot of water to have on hand.

In a real emergency, one could also get water from the water heater, which typically holds 30 and 60 gallons of water.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chobani Greek Yogurt

Chobani recently sent us samples of their Greek yogurt.

I frequently make my own yogurt, but this was my first foray into trying Greek yogurt. What's the difference? Greek yogurt is usually made from sheep's milk, although cow's milk is also common. It is usually more strongly flavored, higher in fat and thicker.

My expectations of this were .... low.

I started making my own yogurt a couple of years ago, and since then, store-bought brands of yogurt have tasted increasingly bad. The more we got used to homemade yogurt, the more store bought brands seemed far too sweet and far too flavored. Even the organic, more naturally flavored brands were hard to take after we got used to freshly made, plain, tart yogurt.

So we were pleasantly surprised to find the Chobani Greek yogurt turned out pretty good.

It really was much thicker than even our yogurt. It wasn't quite as sour and tart as the yogurt I make - it was more creamy and mild. Basically, it was like eating sour cream. (I see now why my brother uses Greek yogurt as a sour cream substitute).

For the most part, I'll take plain any day. But the flavors, which include strawberry, blueberry, peach, vanilla, and honey, weren't bad. Not so overwhelmingly fruity as to overpower the yogurt, and not artificial-tasting at all. Even the peach one was good, and peach yogurts are generally my least favorite.

We might actually buy this yogurt

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Foodgoat's Style of Budgeting


An even more significant portion is allocated to beer and wine.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bacon & Cheese-Integrated Burgers

Foodgoat recently came home from work with an urgent mission: a co-worker had reported to him that he had seen, and tasted, a new, and yes, extraordinary, burger.

A burger with bacon and cheese, not on top, but ...ground up into the burger.

Burger innovations cannot wait! Foodgoat came home and fired up the grill as soon as he could.

Bacon & Cheese-Integrated Burgers

The ingredients:

1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb.bacon, chopped
1/3 lb. cheddar cheese, chopped
1 egg
handful of breadcrumbs
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp paprika
salt + pepper + Worcestershire sauce to taste
(makes 4 burgers)

Mix all ingredients with your hands.

Shape into four balls.

Smooosh into patties.

Put on the grill, along with some sliced onions. Beware! The raw bacon in the burgers drips fat right onto the hot coals, creating bursts of hot flame.

Throw some more cheese on! And if you're Foodgoat, you toast the bun. If you're Ladygoat, you like your buns soft.

Yum yum! A success. As expected, the bacon-cheese-grilled-meat combo was not only fun to make, but delicious. Bacon and cheese within the burger, though, turns out to be more subtle - you don't get the concentrated mouthful of bacon or cheese. What you don't get is the contrast between juicy burger, melty cheese, and crisp bacon. It's much more integrated taste and texture. Good, but kind of the same all the way through - none of the interplay between the various elements. So there is something to be said for having the bacon and cheese separate and on top.

Still, it was fun to try. We're always up for burger innovations!
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Things About Cocoa Powder I Wish I'd known Before I Made the Cake

Remember how I said the sourdough chocolate cake was a bit too dry?

I think I know why, and not just because I left it in the bread basket too long.

It's because the recipe calls for natural cocoa, and I used the cocoa powder I had on hand - which is a Dutch-process cocoa.

What's the difference?

Cocoa powder is made by grinding cocoa seeds and removing the cocoa butter from the dark, bitter cocoa solids. This is natural unsweetened cocoa powder.

Dutch cocoa is natural cocoa which has been additionally treated with an alkali to neutralize the natural acids present in cocoa powder. "Dutching" makes it darker in color, milder in taste, and, its big advantage, more soluble for cooking.

But because their acidity levels are completely different, you can't just substitute natural cocoa for Dutch cocoa (as I did). Natural, acidic, cocoa will react with baking soda, an alkali, causing a leavening action that makes cakes rise. Dutch cocoa, since it has been neutralized, won't react with any baking soda in recipes. As a result, when it is used instead in a recipe that calls for natural cocoa, the recipe "will fail to form as expected, and the resulting product may be flat or very dry."

And that's how my cake turned out!

Now, I have currently scribbled into the cookbook:

If you only have natural cocoa but the recipe calls for Dutch cocoa...
3 tablespoons of Dutch cocoa = 3 tablespoons natural cocoa powder plus pinch (1/8 teaspoon) baking soda

If you only have Dutch cocoa but the recipe calls for natural cocoa...
3 tablespoons natural cocoa = 3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa plus 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or 1/8 teaspoon lemon juice or vinegar

If you don't know which kind of cocoa to use in a recipe ...
Look for the presence of other acidic ingredients - if there are no other sources of acidity, the recipe may need natural cocoa.

Does the cocoa need to dissolve easily? It may need Dutch cocoa powder. Natural cocoa needs to be dissolve in hot water or alcohol.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ugliest Cake in the World

I have been baking up a storm lately - cakes, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, all in the past few days. Since I'm usually only in the kitchen to hand Foodgoat his beer or to look for cheese in the fridge, this sudden outburst of baking can only mean one thing - I must be seriously depressed.

What could I be depressed about? Not GoatSpawn (who's a joy) ... not my job (still have one) ...

Must be the Cavs! A delayed reaction to another Cleveland sports team blowing their chance at the championships. Boo!

So, contemplating at least another year in this God-forsaken sports town, I've taken to baking.

Like Cleveland sports playoff games, the results have not always been so pretty:

This horrifying thing is a sourdough chocolate cake with my first attempt at a homemade frosting, which I was disturbed to find out was just butter and sugar. I feel like I should put a paper bag over it.

The cake itself turned out quite tasty, if a bit dry, with the sourdough flavor not quite as pronounced as you might think. The frosting was sweeeet, literally sweeeet, and so strongly coffee flavored it woke me up.

Not bad, but I like cupcakes better - the frosting/cake ratio there favors the cake and less the frosting. Less is more where frosting is concerned.

And as tasty as it is, it seems not even chocolate cake can relieve CSD (Cleveland sports depression).

Sourdough Chocolate Cake & Coffee Frosting
(from King Arthur Flour)
  • 1 cup "fed" sourdough starter
  • 1 cup milk (whole milk)
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 2 large eggs

  • 3 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3/8 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons espresso powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon hot water

1) Combine the "fed" starter, milk, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Cover and let rest at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours.

2) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan.

3) In a separate bowl, beat together the sugar, oil, vanilla, salt, baking soda, cocoa and espresso powder. The mixture will be grainy.

4) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

5) Gently combine the chocolate mixture with the starter-flour-milk mixture, stirring till smooth.

6) Pour the batter into pan.

7) Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes, until it springs back when lightly pressed in the center, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

8) Remove the cake from the oven, and set it on a rack to cool while you make the icing.

9) Sift the confectioners' sugar into a large mixing bowl, and set it aside.

10) In a small saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter and add the buttermilk. Dissolve the espresso powder in the hot water, add to the pan, and bring the mixture just to a boil.

11) Immediately pour the simmering liquid over the confectioners' sugar in the bowl, and beat till smooth.

12) Pour the warm frosting over the cake. Try to be neat. If unsuccessful, eat anyway.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Foodgoat's Flour, GoatSpawn's Flour

King Arthur Flour
recently gave away 2 pound bags of flour in their Bake 2 Share community building through baking promotion (I love that company more and more these days). I haven't posted my story yet - I've been baking up a storm trying to find something worthwhile to share. But I did want to share this photo of GoatSpawn with the 2 pound bag of flour next to Foodgoat's 25 pound bag of flour.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 5, 2009

Happy Doughnut Day!

Today is National Doughnut Day!

I thought it was some holiday made up by the giant doughnut corporations, or the Big Doughnut Lobby, but there is actually a nice history behind it.

National Doughnut Day started in 1938 as a fund raiser for the Chicago Salvation Army to help the needy during the Great Depression. It honored the Salvation Army "Lassies" of World War I, who served doughnuts to soldiers behind the front lines in France. The Lassies were female volunteers who made home cooked foods, comfort and support to the homesick troops - the only women outside of military personnel allowed to visit the front lines.

It started in August, 1917, at the battle near Montiers, France. Salvation Army lassies made donuts using left over flour, a wine bottle as a rolling pin, a baking powder tin for a cutter and a tube for making holes (later, a seven-pound shell fitted with a one-pound shell was used to cut out the donut holes). Donuts were fried - seven at a time - in soldier's steel helmets on an 18-inch stove.

They made 100 donuts before their tent collapsed in the rainstorm, but it was an immediate success, and before long, 9,000 donuts were being made around the clock ... and the tent became the first 24-hour donut shop.

Soon, Salvation Army lassies were making donuts wherever the war was being fought.

Here is the original recipe, which is admittedly scaled a little large for the typical family:

Famous Salvation Army Doughboy Doughnut

    7-1/2 cups sugar
    3/4 cup lard
    8 eggs
    3 large cans evaporated milk
    3 large cans water
    18 cups flour
    18 teaspoons baking powder
    7-1/2 teaspoons salt
    8 teaspoons nutmeg
Or, you could just go get your free donut at one of the many doughnut stores offering free donuts today.
Cream sugar and lard together, beat eggs, add evaporated milk and water. Add liquid to creamed mixture. Mix flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in large sieve and sift into other mixture. Add enough flour to make a stiff dough. Roll and cut. Five pounds of lard are required to fry the doughnuts. Yield: approximately 250 doughnuts.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Pom Wonderful

A case of Pom Wonderful recently landed on our doorstep.

The pomegranate juice is being promoted as an antioxidant superdrink, practically a vitamin in a bottle, but Foodgoat's first reaction upon trying the Pom Wonderful juice (provided by the company for review here):

"This would be great with alcohol."

Foodgoat, in fact, liked Pom Wonderful all around. It's similar in taste to grapefruit juice - tart, not too sweet, refreshing. In fact, he even liked it better than grapefruit juice.

I, on the other hand, don't care for grapefruit juice. So, I didn't care for Pom Wonderful.

I wanted to like it, because I think it's marketed towards me - female (the bottle even looks feminine, doesn't it?), subscription to Shape magazine, likes the word "wonderful" - but the taste just didn't do it for me.

But had they not sent us a case of POM Wonderful, would Foodgat, who did really like it, have tried it on his own? Would he have purchased that girly bottle with a big red heart in the middle of POM Wonderful on it?

No, he probably would not.

Perhaps he might have if they had called it ...

POM Awesome

POM Sport


Bomb-egranate (Maybe with a grenade-shaped bottle?)

There you go, POM Wonderful, some rebranding ideas for branching out into new markets.

Fortunately, Foodgoat likes it enough now that he would in fact buy it again. A tart, fruity drink, perfect for hot summer days, for cocktails, and even for men.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A Not-So-Great Great Lakes Glockenspiel

The latest seasonal 4-pack to come out of Foodgoat's favorite brewery, local or otherwise, is the Great Lakes Glockenspiel, a Weizenbock, which is a strong wheat beer.

Sadly, Foodgoat didn't like it.

While he likes the fact that it's 8% alcohol, as opposed to the usual 5%, it's one of their rare misses.

The problem?

Too ... German-y.

Actually, the Glockenspiel just doesn't taste like a Great Lakes beer. Not that it was bad, per se. But it lacks their signature ... something. Hand any other Greak Lakes to Foodgoat, and he could instantly taste the brand. This? Not so much.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Sorry Beginning

One of Foodgoat's current favorite dishes is something he calls Blade Runner soup - an Asian noodle soup inspired by what for me is the most memorable scene in the film.

But our very first time making an Asian-style soup was a rare abject failure.

I read Saveur because the food is as authentic as it gets, it hasn't been emeril-ified or americanized or low-calorie-inated. Alas, that's the reason I don't often cook from Saveur: the ingredients are so exotic that I don't know what they are or where to find them.

That's the point where I usually give up. Fortunately, there is an Asian spice stand at the West Side Market, and she not only had kaffir lemon leaves and lemongrass and palm sugar, but she asked me if I needed galangal too, thereby sparing me from having to try to say it correctly.

Too bad the recipe didn't work out.

We neglected to rinse out the shrimp thoroughly, resulting in a gawdawful bottom of the sea taste. And the jalapeño we threw in made burn all the way down my throat, which is just too spicy. And we added too much water.

We ended up actually throwing the whole dish out.

Good things though: palm sugar in the soup rocked. And we discovered a new ingredient in galangal, a root related to ginger. Both are now in Foodgoat's repertoire, and Foodgoat managed to make Blade Runner soup, quite tastily and successfully, several times since then.

Monday, June 1, 2009

GoatSpawn's New Eating Tools

Two, slightly crooked, lower central incisors. To be used in the future for biting into food; currently being used now to scrape bits of food from Foodgoat's finger into GoatSpawn's mouth.