Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cheese 101

Move over, chocolate, and make room for cheese. And let’s thank those cows for making cheese possible, and Wisconsin for being America’s dairyland, our home of cheese.

Cheese is very popular. In about three minutes I made a list of foods made of or containing cheese, from natural cheese to junk food: pizza, macaroni & cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, lasagna, quiche, cheesecake, fondue, appetizers, soup, chili, soup and soup topping, casseroles, deep fried cheese curds, cheese flavored chips and popcorn…and more.

Apart from eating cheese nearly every day, I have a somewhat remote connection to the cheese industry. Long ago, before I knew him, my late father-in-law was a dairy farmer who named his cows after the Presidents’ wives. He sent their milk to the Arena Cheese Company to be made into cheese. That company continues to function today and exists also at www.arenacheese.com. I bought a package of Arena cheese today at Whole Foods. It’s good cheddar cheese. Arena is west of Madison.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is working to ensure that people will eat plenty of cheese. Its website, www.eatwisonsincheese.com, takes the person on a positive tour of everything cheese related, including how cheese is made. Everyone should know that the website has a Cheesecylopedia, a history of Wisconsin cheese and a traveler’s guide to cheeses.

Cheese has pluses and minuses. On the good side, we can find taste. Of course it tastes good because it is made of fat, and fat makes food taste good. (I don’t include soy cheese in what I just said since I never tried it.) Variety is on the list, on a spectrum including natural, processed, cheese food, and powder. On the nutrition scale, I believe that only natural cheese is good for people to eat, but the other forms have been very good for sales of cheese products. Cheese is widely available with many varieties on grocery store shelves.

Cheese is versatile. Think of lasagna, pizza and the many things I itemized above. It is available in chunks or shreds, in spreads and dips. Some cheeses are good for some dishes and others for others. Cheesecake exalts cream cheese; limburger stands in the corner by itself.

On the minus side are a few drawbacks. Products made with cheese can be junk food and not good for anyone. Cheetos anyone? Some people say cheese is constipating. Cheese must be refrigerated and molds in time. Some cheese companies age cheese for years, which seems to work for them but not for me in my refrigerator. People with dairy allergies probably stay away from cheese, as do vegans who eat no animal products. Processed cheese is among the not-for-us trans fats, although it thrived until someone discovered that trans fats are bad for people. Think of Velveeta and all those grilled cheese sandwiches.

Did I mention saturated fat and cholesterol? That brings us to cheese controversy. Dairy products have saturated fats. For more than half a century the medical people said that saturated fat causes heart disease, especially in full fat dairy products. Skim milk was in; butter was out. Now this view has changed. The medical website, www.mercola.com, says:
“People who eat full-fat dairy may have a lower risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity than those who eat low-fat dairy. When you replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrates, you exacerbate insulin resistance and obesity. There is no conclusive proof that a low-fat diet has any positive effects on health.” (mercola.com, Nov. 18, 2015.) Other doctors agree with this, such as Dr. Mark Hyman, who is promoting his latest book, Eat Fat Get Thin. So let’s all enjoy the fat but in moderation.

Another issue is whether to eat raw or pasteurized cheese. Some stores sell raw milk cheese, but raw milk is mostly unavailable. Pasteurization removes or reduces some nutrients that occur naturally in milk.  In addition, the diet of the cow gets mentioned because it affects her milk; grass fed is believed to be best.

I eat mostly cheddar and Swiss cheese, and cream cheese occasionally. Low fat cheese is an oxymoron.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Dorito Effect - Book Review

It’s no illusion. Food has become blander and flavors have rescued them, with big consequences, including obesity and diseases. Journalist Mark Schatzker gives us a taste of it all in The Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food and Flavor.  He tells us what is wrong and ends with a search for very real food with real flavor.

Schatzker’s book comes to life through some very creative nonfiction writing. He tells about a list of people who moved the flavor problem along and/or tried to improve it. He holds the reader’s interest to help him/her continue to read to the end, when a scientific paper about the same topic might have been left unread. The research is there, sometimes through the voices of the people who did it. I ate it up.

The Dorito Effect is his name for bland food with zest added. He says, “The Dorito Effect, very simply, is what happens when food gets blander and flavor technology gets better.” He tells us about chicken and vegetables being carefully bred since the 1960s for money-making qualities like yield and faster and bigger growth. That produced what he calls the “dilution effect,” which is loss of flavor and nutrients. He also credits intensive farming methods and fertilization.

Doritoes, Schatzker says, arrived when a scientist showed how a bland tortilla chip could be made very tasty with added flavor to suggest a taco. He then shows how other foods that have become bland have been given the same treatment of seasonings and gives credit to McCormick herbs and spices. He tells about chickens and tomatoes. Chickens now are larger than they were in the 1950s and taste like teddy bear stuffing. Tomatoes are like cardboard. These images appear throughout the book.

 The human brain gets fooled. Food addiction comes from neurotransmitters in the brain when many people eat food with some added flavorings, he says. “We’re done for. The rise in obesity is the predictable result of the rise in manufactured deliciousness. And no matter how hard we try, we can’t make our outsized desires go away.” Nothing will change until we think differently about food and see that real flavor, produced authentically in nature, is our only road to salvation. Don’t extinguish pleasure; get rid of manufactured flavors in favor of real food. And finding real food means re-engineering the bland foods to bring back the flavor. The solution to cardboard tomatoes is focusing on flavor more than yield. He is not talking about GMO.

At the end of the book we find Schatzker spending much time and effort in a worldwide search for anyone who has tried to produce flavorful food, in an effort to present one wonderful meal. The major players come and it is done.

Finally, he gives us an appendix, which he calls “How to Live Long and Eat Flavorfully.” This should not be overlooked. The list includes: Eat Real Flavor; Eat Like a Utah Goat; Flavor Starts in the Womb; Eat for Flavor; Eat Meat from Pastured Animals; Avoid Synthetic Flavor Technology; Avoid Restaurants That Use Synthetic Flavorings; Organic May or May Not Save You; Eat Herbs and Spices; Don’t Pop Vitamin Pills; Eat Dark Chocolate and Drink Wine; Give a Child an Amazing Piece of Fruit; It will Get Better. The author concludes, “There is only one way Child an Amazing Piece of Fruit; It will Get Better. The author concludes, “There is only one way the overall quality of food we eat will get better: if people demand it. The quality movement has revolutionized the wine and beer North Americans drink. Now let’s make it happen with food.”

Now I am reading food labels more attentively to see what I am eating. As one other food writer has said, don’t eat anything with more than five ingredients on the label. And I suggest that sometimes if the label includes a list of names of flavorings, don’t eat it unless you know what underlies the words.

The book is available at Amazon.com and many public libraries.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Chocolate Brownies

Here is another way to overeat and love it. Plain old chocolate brownies from my disintegrating 1948 cookbook continue to be the ones I like best. One of my daughters has requested the recipe, so here it is with my adaptations, from The Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, by Fannie Merritt Farmer, 1948 edition.

Chocolate Brownies
7-inch square pan – double this for 9-inch square pan

2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate            1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter                                                                ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar                                                                 1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs                                                              ½ cup cut walnut meats (optional)

Melt chocolate over hot water in 2 quart saucepan. Remove from heat. Add butter and stir until melted. Add sugar, eggs, salt and vanilla and mix together. Add flour and optional nuts. Grease the baking pan and spread the mixture evenly in it. Bake about 50 minutes at 300 degrees. When cool cut in squares.

The book says to line the pan with heavy waxed paper, which I have never done. It’s easy to grease the pan.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Year's Language Scofflaws 2015

Television newscasters seem to be leaders in poor usage of our language. Tonight I was listening to a news story about flooding in St. Louis. The reporter used the word “devastated” three times in the same report. Don’t these people have vocabularies or at least thesauri? My late father worked in broadcasting all his adult life. He often said that broadcasters have an obligation to speak correctly because they influence the nation. He was the original grammar police.

It’s not just the media. Over-used words. Decorated words. Altered words. Where is our language going? Here is my year end commentary on words that I have noticed with some pain. Our language is misused daily, especially in the media and everyday speech. Stay tuned. More words are coming up next, sponsored by Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th edition, which probably is already out of date.

Over-Used Words
Gotcha.  Generally this means I understand what you just said. I have not heard this on television news. People everywhere seem to be saying it.
Devastated, devastation. This is a popular word for scenes of destruction or desolation. I understand victims of unfortunate events using the word in interviews, but other people can use it less frequently.
So.  So has become a way to begin a sentence, especially a response to a question. It appears to replace well.  Example: So can we find another way to begin a sentence?

Decorated Words.
I call them decorated because they have been altered with added letters, which I call decorations that do not change the meaning of the words.
Towards is the same as toward. My dictionary defines towards as toward.
Amongst. My dictionary says it is a chiefly British variant of among. It means among.
Amidst. Unhistoric for amid.
Regards is used for regard, as “in regards to.” It is ok to say “as regards,” according to the dictionary, meaning concerning.
Anyways for anyway. The dictionary accepts this, but why bother?

Altered Words.
These are used to replace the original word.
Bemuse. Used for amuse, but they don’t mean the same thing. Amuse means to keep pleasantly or enjoyably occupied. Bemuse is to preoccupy or plunge into thought.
Alright. This means “all right.” The dictionary says it is a disputed spelling of “all right.”
Ginormous. Gigantic and enormous gave birth to this coming together. It isn’t in my dictionary although I hear it frequently.

At the End of the Day.

Been there; done that. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Pumpkin Bread - One Loaf

My daughter Sarah has a shelf filled with canned pumpkin, which she bought for a purpose that is not part of this discussion and no longer matters in her life. In response to her need to find something to do with it all, I offer her and the world a recipe for pumpkin bread. She lives alone with her cats, so this continues my theme of preparing foods for one or two instead of a family of humans. Here is the opportunity to make one loaf of pumpkin bread.

Great recipes often turn up in church cookbooks. Often the contributors to these books have simple and delicious ways to prepare foods. I found this in a book that I bought long ago in my Green Bay years, St. John the Baptist Church Family Cook Book, created by the church in Howard in 1982. I shrank the quantities and revised ingredients a bit. It is sweet and almost cakey.

One problem might be what to do with the other half of the can of pumpkin. I suggest pumpkin soup, which exists elsewhere in my blog. On the other hand, one can double it and make more pumpkin bread.

For Sarah and not her cats, but maybe her deceased dog, here it is.

Pumpkin Bread – One loaf

1/3 cup shortening                                                          1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar                                                                         ¾ teaspoon salt
2 eggs                                                                                   ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup canned or cooked pumpkin                             ½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup water                                                                    12 teaspoon ground cloves
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour                                            ½ cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour one standard loaf pan. I learned the hard way that just greasing the pan caused the baked bread to stick to the pan, so I suggest sprinkling a dusting of flour on the bottom and sides as with cake.
Stir together until well mixed the flour, soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and cloves. In a large bowl cream the shortening and sugar. Add eggs, pumpkin and water and stir until blended. Mix in the flour mixture. Last add the raisins. Nuts can be added. Pour it into the bread pan and bake about 70 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the loaf from the pan immediately.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Turkey Quiche for Two

Leftover turkey is the aftermath of Thanksgiving cooks. Our family gathered at my home and ate plenty, but still I have leftover turkey. I made a big pot of turkey soup and still have leftover turkey. I thought of something else to do with it, and here is a non-traditional quiche that is easy to make and won’t last all week. It has more refined processed food than I prefer (Bisquick), but it tastes good. It’s non-traditional because there is no crust to roll. The Bisquick makes crust while the quiche bakes.

This recipe is a reason to have an 8-inch pie tin in the cupboard even though stores don’t sell them anymore. To solve the 8-inch pie dish dilemma, I think the quiche can be baked in a six by eight inch glass baking dish that Pyrex sells. I didn’t try it since I have a round 8-inch pie pan.

Leftover Turkey Quiche for Two

Put into blender container and blend for ten seconds:
2 eggs
1 cup milk (I prefer whole milk)
1/3 cup Bisquick – regular or gluten free
1/3 cup melted butter
¼ teaspoon salt approximately

Pour the blended mixture into ungreased 8-inch pie tin or 6x8-inch baking dish.
Distribute on top:
¾ cup or more chopped cooked turkey (chopped cooked chicken works too)
½ cup or more grated Swiss cheese – or cheese of your choice

Bake it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Eat it hot.
It is possible to find 8-inch pie plates in thrift stores such as Goodwill.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Meat Loaf for Two

It appears that meat loaf is a favorite American food. The evidence is in cookbooks and some restaurants. Bluephie’s restaurant in Madison serves Meatloaf of the Gods, and it appears in the cookbook from Monte’s Blue Plate Diner of Madison, which has the same owner as Bluephie’s. My culinarily inclined granddaughter, Dana, ate it at Bluephies and lived to go on to cooking school.

Better Homes and Gardens has dressed it up. The 15th edition of Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 2010, has a recipe with thirteen ingredients. If that’s not enough, the book has an illustrated page with ten glazes for meat loaf. That tells me that Americans like meat loaf in excelsis, not just plain. The above mentioned Meat Loaf of the Gods has eighteen ingredients.

Twentieth century cooking celebrity James Beard presents six different recipes for meat loaf in James Beard’s American Cookery, published in 1972. He also tells us that meat loaf is a product of the twentieth century that coincides with the popularity of ground beef. He then gives pointers about good meat loaf. It should be highly seasoned and firm but not dry. He likes it cold in sandwiches. It may be served hot with good tomato sauce, mushroom sauce or onion sauce. When cold, horseradish sauce or Cumberland (what’s that?) sauce is appropriate. James Beard’s book contains the only page-long essay that I know of that is about meat loaf.

I am fond of meat loaf. I horrified my mother when I was about ten years old when I asked it for my birthday dinner. She thought it was too dull. Since Mother was a champion cook, she made it for me and it was very good even without sauce on it. This week I found myself trying to figure out how to make meat loaf for one or two people, when all the cookbooks expect a small army to be at the table. I didn’t want to be eating meat loaf and its leftovers every day for a week, so I sat down and invented a plain meat loaf that would feed one or two people, unless one of them eats like a horse as my late husband did.

Meat loaf is somewhat like stew. One can put a great variety of ingredients into it and it will be good. That is shown in the cook books mentioned above. Here is my version.

Meat Loaf for Two

½ - ¾ pound lean ground beef                   1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup rolled oats                                           ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
½ cup tomato juice                                          pepper to taste
1 egg                                                                     ½ teaspoon ground thyme
1/3 cup chopped onion                                 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Mix it all together and put in a greased baking dish. Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees.

The cook book authors have suggested many more ingredients, including spices, mushrooms, vegetables like green pepper and carrot, catsup, cream, other meats to combine with beef such as sausage, and more. It is a wonderful experience if one is not vegetarian.