Friday, May 30, 2014

Day Zero Project #91: Make cheese.

It's pretty much fact that cheese is the world's best food. The Internet says that making an infographic is the best way to display data in a way that people understand and find interesting, so I've compiled the following data, all true:

Cheese Infographic
And if cheese is the world's greatest food, what could possibly be better than homemade cheese? I'd guess nothing, but since I've never had any cheese that was homemade I was happy that someone put this on their list of Day Zero Project goals for me to steal.

Paramount to this project is that it be fast and easy. I didn't want to spend 4 years aging cheddar, so that left me with the soft cheeses (mozzarella, ricotta, etc.). When I had a whole bunch of buttermilk leftover after making crème fraîche this week, I googled "Buttermilk Cheese" and was directed to a recipe from the queen of jail recipes herself, Martha Stewart. And if you can't trust a felon's cheese recipe, whose can you trust? 

You can check that recipe out here, or read on for the recipe for Buttermilk Cheese. At this point, I've probably typed more words than you want to read, so I'll keep it picture heavy from here on out.

First you get your tools of the trade together.

Buttermilk Cheese Tools

Then you get all your ingredients together:

Buttermilk Cheese Ingredients
You mix all that in a pot, and boil for roughly 10 minutes. The recipe says 8, but that wasn't enough for me.

Buttermilk Cheese Cooking

Then, as Miss Muffet can tell you, that will seperate into two things:

You have your curds.

Buttermilk Cheese Curds
And your whey:

Buttermilk Cheese Whey
Whey is garbage. Or you can reuse it somehow, I'm just not sure. But I threw it away. So you take those curds that you've scooped into the cheesecloth and wring all the excess liquid out of it, let that cool and, TA-DA, you have buttermilk cheese.

Buttermilk Cheese
It's kinda plain, so I wouldn't eat it as-is. You could do anything you wanted here, I had a thought to do honey and crushed walnuts. You could go with an herb coating on the whole thing and serve with crackers. I ended up making a blueberry honey sauce to go with it.

Buttermilk Cheese plated
Or if you need a close-up to help you assemble your final product (or if you want them pre-made and ready to serve to your wowed party guests).

Buttermilk Cheese on Cracker
That's it. Very, very simple. If I had it to do over again I'd add a little flavoring to the mixture while it boils as the cheese is very plain in this form. But if you want to make it, here you go (Thanks again Martha Stewart)

Buttermilk Cheese 

Cheesecloth - cut into 3 12"x12" squares
1 quart whole milk
1 1/2 cups buttermilk - I used the lowfat kind and it worked really well.
2 tsp salt


Layer the 3 cheesecloth sections and put them on top of a strainer in your sink.

Mix the whole milk, buttermilk, salt and also throw in some sort of flavoring agent if you want to get crazy (vanilla, etc.).

Heat that over medium-high heat until the curds (cottage cheese looking things) seperate from the whey (milky liquid looking stuff). Recipe says 8 minutes, but it took a little longer for me.

Then you use a slotted spoon to take those curds out of the pot and into the cheesecloth.

Fold up that cheesecloth and squeeze to remove excess liquid and BAM! You can serve it right then and there. Or put it in the fridge for a little bit and it'll firm up more.

And if you want to make the Blueberry Honey Sauce, here you go. I just sort of winged it here, so feel free to change as I'm certainly no Martha Stewart.


Blueberry Honey Sauce

1 cup blueberries
1/4 cup honey
a few squirts of lemon juice (from a real lemon would be ideal, then you could zest it, too, but I had none).

Mix all those in a saucepan and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Then let get to room temperate.

Spoon over whatever would be better with Blueberry Honey Sauce (and what wouldn't be?).

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day Zero Project #101: Have dinner by candlelight

"Who knows where thoughts come from? They just appear." - Lucas, Empire Records.

Or if you'd rather have the video version (and who wouldn't):

Occasionally while I am out and about with my friends someone will ask me about this list in one of two ways. Either they say I'm crazy and then keep a healthy distance from me for the entire rest of the evening or they wonder how I get the ideas for the things that I end up doing (whether it's this list or other crazy stuff I end up posting about elsewhere).

Here's the secret, first I steal the basic premise of the idea. This is a Day Zero Project list, so I obviously have the shell of an idea already formed. Then, I let my overactive imagination go to work and try to come up with the most awesome idea I can. I think to myself "Yeah, dinner by candlelight is cool, but how can I bring it up a notch or twelve."

Let's trace the idea from it's roots to try and show just how imaginative (i.e. potentially crazy) my head is. First, we were talking about foods that we ate growing up. As a native Midwesterner both me and my wife remember eating goulash growing up.

"Ah, but how can that be served fancy?" I asked, since I do love the idea of making food look pretty.

"Impossible," responded my lovely wife. "It's just a delicious, gross looking pile of macaroni, beef and tomato sauce with a little paprika and sour cream thrown in."

To which I responded, "Impossible? I'll show you, I'm going to start a restaurant and serve only super-fancy versions of the Midwestern comfort foods that we ate growing up and...wait? Did you say sour cream in your goulash? That doesn't even make sense."

And so an idea was born. An impossible idea to create a restaurant with delicious goulash. But before I go public with my restaurant I should probably do some recipe testing, right?

That reminds me, I have  a Day Zero goal to have dinner by candlelight! I'll pretend I have a restaurant, light some candles, and cook some food. And now I have my new restaurant Comfort.

 And every restaurant needs a menu (and bourbon cocktails), right? Done.

And, of course, there has to be food, right? Done.

For the record, the menu item pictured here is my Midwestern Comfort Trio. Which consists of (from left to right

1) Runza - bread dough filled with seitan (fake beef), onions and shredded cabbage. This recipe needs major work.

2) Goulash - aforementioned basic ingredients with homemade Crème fraîche and paprika. I don't like to brag (actually, I do), but I knocked this one out of the park. So good.

3) Loosemeat sliders - slider bun with homemade pickles, spicy mustard and seitan. Just a bit salty, but I've almost got it figured out.

So, basically, that's how a crazy idea is formed. Spend a few minutes, come up with something a little weirder than your first thought, make a restaurant and then let your significant other go to the coffee shop and brag about their partner.

It's really that simple.

Also, if you happen to decide you want to make a fictitional restaurant, take a tip from the real deal and hire someone to do the clean-up because this is no fun...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Day Zero Project #11: Attend a pig roast.

Before I start I'd like to offer a quick warning. If you are a card-carrying member of PETA or have a pet pig, you probably don't want to continue reading this.

Seriously, click away. I'm pescatarian now and was vegan for a dozen years or so before that, so I know what I'm talking about. Rather than read on perhaps you can just click on over to the Reggae Shack website and read all about their curry tempeh. It's amazing and you should make it a point to get to Gainesville, FL and try it.

Now that we've taken care of that, lets get to the pig roast part!

As previously stated, I don't eat pigs. Thankfully the goal that someone had was to "attend" a pig roast, not to "eat some pig" at a pig roast. That would have been substantially more difficult. But, I've been to a pig roast before and I have no problem with it.

As a matter of fact, I'm much more open to a pig roast than one might assume for the simple reason that I think it's important to know where your food comes from and how it gets to your table. Meat isn't something that just happens to show up pre-ground or sliced and ready for your table, so if you can go to a place, pick out the pig, roast the whole thing while it still looks like a pig and then enjoy the fruits of that labor, more power to you!

And when you start off with this, you are pretty sure you are making a pig:

Last time I went to a pig roast years ago the thing still had a head on, so I was a bit bummed this time around. I could have had much freakier pictures, plus it would seem that the cheeks are good eatin'.

And how do you take this weird pinkish blob of animal and turn it into something you can eat? You use a magical device called a Caja China.

Or if you are real old-school you can just bury the pig underground. But this version seems much more sanitary to me.

Pig goes in looking like this:

Pig comes out (many hours later) looking like this:

Then you carve it up and eat it. I was a few beers, a shot of rum, a misguided tasting of some weird apple ale, 6 games of Beco Ball and about 20 games of cornhole in at this point, so I completely forgot to take a picture of how it looks post-carving. Let's just say it looks a lot more like the stuff one is used to eating.

And did I try it? Absolutely not. The great part about a pig roast is that it's like a giant pot luck and I was able to fill up with all of the sides, including the two that we brought:

Vegan-style Mofongo
Sweet Rice Fritters
Oh, and did I mention the best part about a pig roast, even for you vegan-types? The day is centered around cooking something that takes hours and doesn't require a lot of attention. So what does that mean? It means you get to spend a full day with people that you like doing whatever it is that you like doing. And any day spent like that is a good day in my book.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day Zero Project #45: Create a Scavenger Hunt

I had big plans for this particular goal. I was going to invite friends over and have a whole Downtown St. Petersburg scavenger hunt that would have had everyone running around my town having fun. But, alas, sometimes the world has other plans so when my wife was recently home for a number of weeks recovering from surgery and sitting around growing increasingly bored I figured I'd take the opportunity to create Katie's "Spending '14 In a Sling" Scavenger Hunt

I came up with a number of pretty easy things that someone with only one arm could do and gave it to her with the hopes that she'd have some fun, pass some time and maybe meet a few interesting people and see a few interesting things.

There's no need to type it all out, but a few of the things on the list included: "Take a picture with 5 stranger's dogs" (she ended up loving dogs and taking about a dozen of these!), "A giant painting of Bill Woo" (a mural on the 600 block of our alley), and "4 different sites on the National Historic Register", plus 11 others.

All-in-all, I think it was a successful scavenger hunt. I know that she had a lot of fun and that's the important part.

"Cheers-ing" a stranger - Bonus points for him being from Australia
Bill Woo mural 
One of her favorite dogs, Winston. I don't think he likes her much.
 And I did promise her a prize if she accomplish all 14, so there was the added benefit of a fully planned, fantastic weekend in Bourbon Country for two. Visit Kentucky. Seriously. It's beautiful there. Maybe don't live there, but definitely visit.