One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, a cookbook review

I have a weird fascination with faux cheeses.  In case you’re not sure what I’m referring to, I mean products made with nuts and nutritional yeast, and label themselves as cheese for people who are vegan or dairy free.  It might be because, while I like cheese, I am not obsessed with it. I have friends who can eat nothing but cheese for days and they’d be happy.  Me? Not so much. I like mozzarella and queso fresco, but I’m not interested in feta and really dislike goat cheese.

To be fair though, it’s less of an obsession and more of a “how close does this taste like the real thing?” curiosity.  Or maybe even, “could I like this better than the real thing?”  (I would love a goat cheese replacement that I liked.)

I’ve made faux cream cheese and faux grated parmesan, both of which were really tasty and I plan to make again.  But this time around, I thought I’d try a Claudia Lucero recipe.

First of all, Lucero is a cheese maker of the traditional kind.  I didn’t realize until I had a copy of her new book in my hands, One Hour Dairy Free Cheese, that she’s also the author of One Hour Cheese, a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up a copy of (and has been sitting on my Amazon wish list for over a year now).    I won’t lie, her background makes me want to experiment with her faux cheese recipes even more! In my head, I think if a cheese maker can make a faux cheese that she’s proud enough to put into print, then surely the recipe has some merit.

Here’s a quick rundown of the book.  The chapters are divided between:

  • Chapter 1 – The Basics: Equipment, Ingredients, and More
  • Chapter 2 – Wheels, Blocks, and Rounds
  • Chapter 3 – Melts and Dips
  • Chapter 4 – Schmears and Spreads
  • Chapter 5 – Shakes and Grates
  • Chapter 6 – Inst-Cheeses
  • Chapter 7 – Just for Fun
  • Chapter 8 – Make It Yours
  • Chapter 9 – Basic Fermentation
  • Chapter 10 – Bonus Cultured and Aged Cheeses
  • Chapter 11 – Cheese Platter Pairings

One of my favorite features of the book is that every recipe seems to include substitutions, variations, and follow-up recipes.  For example, the ingredients for the Lemon Garlic Feta are listed as blanched almond flour, water or dairy free yogurt, sauerkraut, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, tapioca starch, red wine vinegar, sea salt, garlic, oregano, white pepper, lemon zest, and agar agar.  Don’t have almond flour? Lucero offers ideas for using almond slivers, cashews, macadamia, or sunflowers instead. No sauerkraut? Fake it with onion and lactic acid. No nutritional yeast? Still not a problem, because you can use garlic, tahini, or miso. Then, the recipe variations included are rosemary feta, and kalamata peppercorn feta.  Once the feta is made, you can use it in her recipe for Spicy Beet Salad.

For recipe testing though, I went with the simplest recipe in the book which was the One Bowl Ricotta.  It only has four ingredients and a fifth optional ingredient. I used blanched almond flour, sea salt, lemon juice, water, and miso for my batch.

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Faux cheese on cracker

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In some respects, while the easiest, this recipe could be the worst to start with.  I think for someone who has experimented with faux cheese before, this one might seem almost boring.  I tasted it straight, and I tasted it on a cracker. The flavor was quite mild. It probably would have tasted better with lactic acid and dairy free yogurt, but I didn’t have those on hand.  (And again, I was purposefully going as easy as possible.)  But for someone who hasn’t experimented with faux cheese before, it’s a fantastic beginner’s recipe.

While I don’t think it’s the best faux cheese I’ve made, it’ll probably be the one I’ll end up making the most.  It’s just so easy that I’m not sure I’ll be able to give it up, especially if I’m making something for my vegan or lactose sensitive friends.  It’s also given me momentum to experiment more with faux cheeses, and given me the inspiration to work with less familiar ingredients to make a more convincing product.  I am not saying this lightly.  I even ordered some lactic acid online this week just to make more faux cheese.

So, yeah, I highly recommend this book.  I’m not sure which recipe to test out next though as they all sound good.  (Oooh, maybe I’ll make the Margherita Pizza Melt once my lactic acid arrives at my house.)  If there’s a recipe in particular that you’d like to see me make, just drop me a line with your suggestion!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.urbancheesecraft.com/collections/cheesemaking-books/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

https://www.workman.com/products/one-hour-dairy-free-cheese

Disclaimer – I received this book from Workman Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

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Soup Swap 2019

Soup Swap 2019 has come and gone.  I’m currently unable to find online evidence but I think I attended my first swap in 2008.  Holy cow!

I haven’t managed to go every year but I’ve been to a lot of them.  And I think there was a year or two where there was no swapping to be had because the host was working on a master’s degree.  

This is the earliest mention on this blog that I could find:

https://awesomesauceeats.wordpress.com/2009/01/28/chinese-black-sesame-soup-dessert-soup/

 

But I know the first thing I ever made for Soup Swan was French onion soup.  I remember crying through 5 pounds of onions and vowed “never again!”

For those not in the know, Soup Swap is a gathering to boost our spirits in the heart of the winter season. All of the attendees bring six quart-sized containers filled with a frozen homemade soup/stew of their choice. If you’re really ambitions, you can bring twelve quarts and secure yourself two picks per round.  All of the soups are lumped together in a spot in the room. Attendees pick out a random number, and proceed, in their numbered order, to explain what they brought in. The dear host likes to call this the “Telling of the Soup.” You can also win bragging rights for best telling.  Once the telling completed, the guests then take turns, in same numbered order, picking out a new soup container to bring home. To be fair, the dear host likes to run backwards during the last two rounds. So, you bring over six quarts of your soup, and you bring home six quarts of someone else’s soup.  It gets a bit competitive and a lot of strategic after the first round because there’s usually 12-14 flavors available, only 6 quarts per flavor, and some flavors are extremely popular.

And true story, I’ve been enough times to soup swap that I printed out my own inventory sheet this year.

I am proud to announce that this was the very first year where I got ALL THE FLAVORS I WANTED!  This was probably definitely only made possible by my severe dislike for cilantro. (A couple of the very popular flavors had cilantro in the ingredient list.)

This year, I made a pumpkin curry soup with black beans.

And here were my “winnings.”

 

I’ve had the Green Monster and the Porq-ue soups so far.  Tonight, I’ll be having the Eatin’ Big Time. I can’t wait.  🙂

If you want to make the pumpkin curry soup that I did, it’s a Libby’s Pumpkin recipe.  The only difference was that I added canned black beans, rinsed and drained, at the end of cooking.  If you want to make six quarts of it, just multiple the recipe by 3.  I will say that I think your results will heavily depend on the quality of your spices.  I am personally fond of Penzey’s house curry blend.

https://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/28476/pumpkin-curry-soup/?recipeSortBy=Relevancy&keywords=pumpkin+soup

https://www.penzeys.com/online-catalog/penzeys-curry/c-24/p-3037/pd-s

2018 in review

I have a lot of thoughts about 2018, but since this is a food blog, I’ll keep it to food related things only.

Here are my highlights:

1. Eating bugs with the Nordic Food Lab!

 

2.  Curry biscuit sandwich.  I’m still trying to figure out the right recipe for home re-creation.

 

3.  Ok, this one isn’t food related but it was definitely a highlight – a workshop with Dr. Jacob Harden.

 

4.  This Bon Appétit salad recipe:

 

5.  Finally making Kenji Lopez Alt’s vegan ramen recipe.

 

6.  Meeting Yvette Van Boven.

 

7.  And Kakawa Chocolate House finally opened their MA location in Salem.

 

What were your favorite food memories of 2018?

Fit Men Cook, a cookbook review

I don’t watch a lot of traditional television anymore, but I do watch a lot of Youtube videos.  Some of the channels that I regularly keep up with are Bon Appetit, You Suck at Cooking, NPR Music, and (yes) Fit Men Cook.

I love Kevin Curry’s onscreen personality, and his content.  I’ve mentioned this in passing before, but the thing I love next to food is fitness.  I’m not a total gym rat, but I workout regularly for both general health and mental health. “Healthy cooking” at that point is a natural intersection of interests, which is how I found Curry’s Youtube channel.  I can’t remember if I was looking for a certain recipe, or just for meal prep ideas (most likely the later). And later when the FMC app was made available, I immediately downloaded it onto my tablet.

Hilariously, I never got around to making any of his recipes until the release of his new cookbook, which is also named Fit Men Cook.  I’m not sure why. A few of his recipes are on the to-do-list but I guess “out of sight, out of mind”? (This is the main reason why I will never give up my physical cookbooks.  I easily forget all the things I want to make if I’m just bookmarking a web page.  I’m more likely to flip through a cookbook when I’m looking for ideas.)

The recipe section is broken down into these chapters:

  • Breakfast
  • Poultry
  • Land and Sea
  • Salads, Soups, Sauces
  • Grass Fed AF
  • Comfort Food Makeovers
  • Sides
  • Sweets and Snacks


Every recipe has flags for:

  • Blender
  • Dairy free
  • Follower favorite
  • Gluten free
  • High Protein
  • Keto friendly
  • Low carb
  • One skillet/pot
  • Quick and easy
  • Slow cooker
  • Team #nowaste
  • Plant based

More importantly if you’re tracking your food, every recipe comes with nutritional information for calories, protein, carbs, fat, fiber, sugar, and sodium.

It also is comforting that, like his onscreen personality, none of the recipes sound intimidating.  

The recipe I was going to make for this review was his Chicken Crust Pizza (also available on his website at the time of this post).  But then the coldest week this season hit the Greater Boston area, and I quickly changed my mind. I tried the Lean Tex-Mex Turkey Chili as my inaugural FMC recipe.  

The ingredients are fairly common for a a chili: garlic, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, a can of chopped green chilies, broth, and tomatoes.  This particular recipe uses ground turkey, but Curry mentions 95% lean ground beef, ground chicken, or TVP as substitutes. I did not make any substitutions.

It was very easy to make and the results were tasty.  I do think that it was more watery than what I was accustomed to in a chili, but it proved to be a minor detail for me.  I chose to bulk my bowl up with half of a roasted sweet potato… and consequently made it less healthy by adding queso fresco.  (Ooops?) But in all seriousness, the sweet potato and cheese paired great so I don’t have much by way of regrets. That is to say that this chili is more on the basic/fundamental side of things but it’s easy to tweak it to your liking and with little extra effort.

Then in a rare move, I made another FMC recipe during my following meal prep day.  This time, emboldened by the chili results, I made the Chicken Crust Pizza. (Also, the weather isn’t as miserably cold this week.)   

It smelled amazing when it was cooking. It looked kind of amazing too when it was done. However, I’m not sure this recipe is really my thing as I generally despise (DESPISE) chicken breast which is used as the crust in his pizza recipe.  I think it has a lot of potential and I think I need to experiment some more.  My chicken crust was too dry.  (For this recipe, I did not follow strictly as I wasn’t intending to add it to the review.  Next time I will add more sauce and hope for the best.) But if you’re counting macros or just trying to meal prep a healthier version of pizza, then I would recommend this recipe.

 For me, I’m glad I started off with the chili recipe as it was the better of my two results.

Other recipes that I want to try (probably after the holidays… when I’m trying to get off the junk food wagon):

  • Quick protein granola
  • Slow cooker banana chai oatmeal
  • Thyme cheeseburger breakfast casserole
  • Pulled chicken mole
  • Spicy un-Texan black bean chili
  • Cold coconut curry in a jar
  • Tempeh and butternut squash ginger fry
  • Red coconut Dahl
  • Mac and chili bachelor(ette) bowl
  • Chocolate-crusted strawberry cheez-cake
  • Nut butter cookies

 

Overall, I’m really enjoying this book and wish Kevin Curry continued success with his Fit Men Cook brand.  I highly recommend the book to anyone who looking of meal prep ideas, or anyone who needs to be a bit more careful with their eating habits.  I’m not sure if I’d recommend this book to someone who is a complete beginner in the kitchen, but with a few basic skills, all of the recipes are very accessible.

 

Reference Links:

https://fitmencook.com/

https://www.youtube.com/user/fitmencook

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Fit-Men-Cook/Kevin-Curry/9781501178726

Disclaimer – I received this book from Touchstone for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

 

Cook90, a cookbook review

Have you heard of the #cook90 challenge?  I hadn’t until very recently. It’s a cooking challenge put forward by David Tamarkin and Epicurious.  I’m not 100% sure, but I think this was Tamarkin’s first post on it:

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-cook-every-single-meal-in-january-article

The rules, as stated online, are:

1. COOK EVERY MEAL YOU EAT THE ENTIRE MONTH
If you’ve transformed raw ingredients with heat, you’ve cooked. Likewise, if you’ve taken two or more raw ingredients and combined them to make something greater than the sum of their parts (a salad, a sandwich, etc), you’ve also cooked. On the flip side, heating a frozen pizza in the oven, or warming a can of soup on the stovetop—these things are not cooking.

2. NEVER COOK THE SAME THING MORE THAN TWICE…
That’s right, you can’t make cacio e pepe night after night (though that does sound sort of nice). Forcing yourself to cook new recipes is exactly the thing that will earn you new skills, new favorites to put in your repertoire—and maybe even some new accolades from your family.

3. …EXCEPT WHEN IT COMES TO BREAKFAST
Breakfast is its own beast—you can eat the same thing for breakfast for the entire month. As long as you’re preparing your own breakfast and not buying it—no BECs from the corner deli, no McMuffins—you’re good.

4. RELY ON LEFTOVERS, BUT NOT TOO MUCH
#Cook90 is all about fitting home-cooked food into a hectic, busy life. Leftovers—and nextovers (more on that here)—are key to the strategy (half the point of making a killer chicken parm is so you can eat it again for lunch the next day). But also key to #cook90 is branching out and really flexing those cooking muscles. So eat leftovers once. Eat them twice if you need to. But after that, it’s time to move on.

5. TAKE 3 BREAKS
You get three passes on #cook90—three meals that you can eat at a restaurant, order in, or just have somebody else cook for you. You don’t have to use these, of course, but #cook90 will probably go easier if you do.

6.COOK WITH OTHER PEOPLE!
Making dinner with friends and family totally counts, and it can prevent you from feeling isolated in the kitchen. So plan a few dinner parties , or just invite a friend or two over on a Tuesday night. As long as you cook a reasonable amount of the food (we’re working on the honor system here), it counts.

Much like Bon Appetit’s Food-Lovers Cleanse, the challenge and its curated recipes were popular enough and printed into a book.  The book is divided into three main sections:

  • Part One – Welcome to Cook90 (Introduction, Rules, Fatigue, 12 Questions, etc.)
  • Part Two – The Four Part Plan for Cooking Everyday (Meal Planning, Shopping, Pantry, “Nextovers”)
  • Part Three – A Month of Cooking Everyday (Suggested Meal Plans, Recipes, Breakfast, Lunch, Weeknights, Weekends)

There is also a front recipe index is divided into 30 min or less, 15 min or less, and main ingredients, which makes recipe perusal easy when you’re not sure what you want to make.

Things to I’d like to try:

  • Blueberry – Tahini – Oatmeal Smoothie
  • Ricotta with Tomatoes, Lemon, and Mint
  • Savory Yogurt Bowl
  • Mojo Chicken with Rice and Beans
  • Quick Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Quick Sesame Chicken with Broccoli
  • Sweet Potatoes with Chorizo, Mushrooms, and Lime Cream
  • Braised Rotisserie Chicken with Bacon, Tomatoes, and Kale
  • Vietnamese Port Patty Salad with Rice Noodles
  • Smoky Beans and Greens on Toast

I can’t comment on any recipes that I’m not interested because the review copy of the book I have is not the final copy.  There might be misprinting, and there is a little bit of missing content. So, I cannot make any criticisms in good conscience.

For the purpose of this book review, I made the grain bowl with spiced squash, mushrooms, and curried yogurt.  (I did not realize until just now that the same recipe is available on the Epicurious website.)  I used some quick cooking Trader Joe’s farro for the grain portion, acorn squash (because I couldn’t find delicata), and used arugula over watercress because it was already in my kitchen.

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Pre-oven

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It was a simple recipe but not boring.  My kitchen smelled amazing the whole time the veggies were in the oven.  Regarding the final results, I found the flavors to be a little busy.  I felt like the mushrooms, arugula, and curry yogurt dominated all other flavors.  But still, I feel like I won some random non-scale victory here. I’ve used the curry yogurt on other things, and I’m now tempted to cook acorn squash with onions and cinnamon more often.

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Post oven

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Do I think this is a fun book?  Yes. I’m not sure I’d ever do the real challenge, but aspects of it appeals to me.  I cook all my own meals Sunday through Friday, and have done so for the last couple of years. I pretty much eat the same thing for breakfast everyday because Tamarkin is right on the mark – breakfast can be a beast!  I technically don’t cook the same thing in one month, but I have been known to cook the same protein twice in a row with different dry rubs (just enough of a difference so I don’t get completely bored).  I go out to eat maybe only twice a month. Probably against the rules, my family likes to meet up once a week for dinner and it’s typically my mother who does the cooking. Sometimes, family meals is take out from Chinatown.  lol!

But the one rule I know I’d have trouble with not breaking is no. 4 for “don’t rely on leftovers.”  I cook just for myself, so I’ll typically cook a standard 4 serving recipe and eat it throughout the week.  Tamarkin might call it leftovers but I prefer to call it meal prep. A lot of nights, I’m starving and not getting home until 6:30p.  I can’t wait to cook and then eat. Getting “hangry” is not an option.  So, food has to be re-heated quickly, which means employing some help from Chef Mike (“Mike” as in microwave).

Overall though, the recipes aren’t intimidating and they shouldn’t be because the authors want you to succeed.  The recipes are also good meal prep recipes.  Tamarkin and the Epicurious team isn’t totally against meal prep. They just call it “nextovers.” That is to say that “the portions you don’t eat are your nextovers—ready for you to turn into something different than tonight’s dinner the very next day.”  I’m just… unlikely to do that.

Pick up a copy of Cook90 if the challenge is something you want to tackle.  Or pick up a copy if you’re just looking to expand your arsenal of “everyday friendly” recipes.

The book is officially released on December 11th but, in the meantime, you can and should check out the related content on the Epicurious website.

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Little, Brown and Company for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/grain-bowl-with-spiced-squash-mushrooms-and-curried-yogurt

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/cook90-2017-week-1-article

https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/the-official-cook90-2018-meal-plan-gallery

https://www.littlebrown.com/titles/david-tamarkin/cook90/9780316420136/

 

Recent food adventures

 

 

:: Did a koji and miso fermentation workshop with OurCookQuest.  I really enjoyed it, and it was fun being around other food nerds.

:: I’ve attended a few of this semesters Science and Cooking lectures, presented by Harvard University’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  So far, I’ve seen Margarita Fores, Wylie Dufresne with Ted Russin, and Vicky Lau.  I’ve learned that the nipa palm looks like a torture device, and don’t make donuts unless you’re crazy.  lol!

:: And most recently, I attended a lunch at Juliet in Somerville, MA.  It was a stop on Yvette Van Boven’s Homemade Christmas book tour.  The lunch menu was inspired by the book.  Both Yvette and her husband, Oof Verschuren, are wonderful people, really friendly and down to earth.  I’m so glad I got to meet them both.

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a cookbook review

Bread is something I dabble in regularly but not with any mastery and I’m ok with that.  But maybe because I’m an average bread baker that I have very, VERY few recipes that I remake.  I’m always experimenting.

And while I’ve made no-knead breads before, I never got around to making anything from the “Bread in Five Minutes a Day” books by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, even though I remember their first book on the best seller list.

Well, that’s finally changed.  I recently received a copy of their newest book, “Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day.”  While the book focuses the more decadent breads (think ricotta-stuffed savory doughnuts and king cakes), it starts with the basics (like a white bread master recipe and Pullman sandwich loaf).  Here are the chapter titles to give you a better idea:

  • The Master Recipe
  • The Basics
  • Small loaves, rolls, and buns
  • Flatbreads
  • Challah and babka
  • Gooey, sticky goodness
  • Doughnuts
  • Christmas breads
  • Easter Breads
  • Celebration and Brunch breads
  • Fancy stale bread
  • Flaky dough
  • Quick jams and fillings

The recipes I really want to take a closer look are in the challah chapter: whole grain challah, tahini swirl bread, and coconut chocolate twist.  I would have made some challah as my first recipe out of the book except that I’m completely without eggs in the house, and I keep forgetting to pick some up.

For the purposes of this review, I made the buttermilk bread recipe.  Overall, it was very straightforward.  I chose to use my mixer instead of hand-mixing just to get everything mixed well.  Then, I let it sit on the counter, covered, for two hours before popping it in the fridge.

I chose to halve the recipe so I didn’t have to cut off half of the dough for baking.  Also, two loaves of bread is too much for just 1 person (and I still have challah to make in the near future).  When it came time to bake, I pulled it out of the fridge, shaped it, and let it sit for 90 minutes.

So, the method (not the concept) is new to me.  I’ve made no knead breads where you use a scant amount of yeast and just let it sit for 16 hours.  Francois and Hertzberg are using a fairly normal amount of yeast, and letting it develop gluten on its own at two different temperature ranges.

The buttermilk bread recipe was pretty sticky, even when cold, which I feel is common for no-knead breads but feel free to correct me.  But I’m not sure if the other recipes in the book are just as sticky.  While I recognize the benefits of a high hydration dough, I personally find it a little intimidating to work with.  I’m pretty bad at shaping dough to be begin with, and a sticky dough just makes it harder.

Having said that, I really do like the general ease of this method.  It just requires some forethought.

As for the buttermilk bread itself, I really liked it.  It gave me a sense of Wonder Bread nostalgia (the bread my mom used to buy), even though I know it’s not like Wonder Bread at all.  To be fair, I can’t do a side by side comparison, as I haven’t eaten Wonder Bread since I was probably in high school (… and high school happened a long time ago.  lol!)

Overall impression of the book?  I highly appreciate the variety of recipes.  The recipe layout is easy to read – it’s a grid with volume, weight in ounces, and weight in grams.  The photos look appealing – really clean, soft light, no weird HDR, and no weird retro photos.  I fully recommend this book to anyone who wants to make bread at home.

In fact, I think I’ll peruse the previous books in the series.  I bet I missed some fantastic sounding breads.

Disclaimer – I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

 

Reference Links:

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/holiday-and-celebration-bread/

https://artisanbreadinfive.com/

https://zoebakes.com/