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Food Facts Archives - Mackin' Cheese

Category Archives: Food Facts

My Cookbooks: Part 1

I thought it’d be fun to do a small post about my modest collection of cookbooks! The past summer, I really started collecting them. Then, in the fall, my parents shipped this collection from California to Chicago. The package never came. USPS lost all of them.

Since then, I’ve been rebuilding. Some new, some old. New ventures and replacements.

The saddest part was losing my dad’s original copy of The Moosewood Cookbook from the 70s. That one I’m still looking for; I want to find a 70s copy at a used bookstore to replace it.

I spend most of my recipe-hunting time online, through blogs, Pinterest and Tastespotting. The variety available online is astounding. You can literally type in any combination of ingredients and find something, somewhere. Most of my ideas come from inside my own head, and then I search to see how other people have executed that idea. But that doesn’t guarantee the recipe has been tested, or will even taste good! I’ve had several cooking fails from recipes online (usually from larger publications, rather than personal blogs), due to poorly written or poorly tested information.

Cookbooks, though? You can put a litte more stock in them. They’ve got a reputation to uphold. Their authors have (hopefully) had time and money to test them, and have only included the best of the best. Not everything will turn out great, but there’s certainly a much higher success rate with cookbooks than recipes online, in my opinion!

Below are three of my most commonly used cookbooks! In the another post at a later date, I will dive into the more obscure cookbooks I have.
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On Vegetable Stock

Last year I did a silly thing. I bought vegetables to make vegetable stock. I measured out water. I meticulously chopped. But with the big bags of carrots, I ended up with MORE vegetables than I started with. This year I learned an important thing. Something every grandmother knew but we forgot. Never buy vegetables to make vegetable stock. Save (almost) all of your scraps – every little bit – and soon you will have everything you need for vegetable stock. FREE vegetable stock.

One of the greatest benefits of homemade vegetable stock is the nutritional value. The more vegetables you use, the wider range of vitamins and nutrients your stock will have. And since it’s salt-free, you can determine how much salt to add while you’re cooking. It is also a great way to mellow out a recipe that is over salted.

It takes me 3-4 weeks to fill up a one-gallon freezer bag of scraps, and the 6-8 cups (~2 quarts) of stock I get out of it usually lasts me until the bag is full again. Maybe it won’t last me as long now that the season of soups is upon us, but it’s certainly working out so far.

Since onions, carrots, and celery make up the backbone of vegetable stock, it is important to have a good amount of them in your freezer bag when you go to make the stock. If I’m using carrots or celery in any recipes during the month, I try to chop up 1-2 of each and put them into my freezer bag for when it comes time to make stock! That way, I don’t have to go out and buy a big bag of the two and get stuck with leftovers and nothing else to use them in.

If you’re going to use the vegetable stock within a week, keep it in the fridge. Longer, keep it in the freezer. I freeze my stock in 1- or 2-cup amounts in tupperware containers, then pop them out and put them in a big freezer bag. It takes a couple rounds to get all of the stock frozen, but it saves a lot of containers from filling up my tiny freezer!

Vegetables to use: Onions, carrots and celery are the basic ingredients for stock, but the more vegetables you use, the greater the flavor and nutritional value. Save any scraps (roots, stalks, leaves, peelings etc.) from other vegetables like leeks, scallions, garlic, fennel, chard, lettuce, potatoes, parsnips, green beans, squash, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, and asparagus. You can even add corn cobs, winter squash skins, beet greens and herbs. Vegetables that are wilting (but are NOT spoiled) are perfectly fine to use.

Vegetables to avoid: Bitter vegetables are overpowering in the stock and better off avoiding. You don’t need to save cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, or artichokes. You may want to avoid beet roots and onion skins, because they turn stock dark red/brown. Don’t include anything that has spoiled.
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Strange Cheeses from America

Considering my blog’s name is about cheese, I thought I should do some casual research about this wondrous milk-based food product… Where to start? American cheeses, of course! But Wikipedia’s list of cheeses from my beloved country is slightly disconcerting. There are a few that I recognize, but for the most part, Americans have invented processed cheese products with highly descriptive names like “Pizza cheese,” “Government cheese,” and “Spray cheese.”

So, in honor of the nation’s enthusiasm surrounding the Olympics, I thought I would provide you with a brief overview of some of our most patriotic cheeses.

Illustration: Alex Eben Meyer

Pizza Cheese

A pasteurized processed cheese designed to melt and remain chewy on pizzas. Similar to mozzarella, but lower in quality and a lot easier to make… The reason why Domino’s and Pizza Hut ads can film the quintessential “cheese pull” that makes our stomachs growl.

Government Cheese

Processed cheese given to welfare and food stamp recipients from the 1960s – 1990s. It sounds like the pink slime of cheese… remnants of other surplus cheeses are combined into one mysterious potpourri cheese. Occasionally kosher!

Spray Cheese

Cheese… made Easy. I’m not surprised that Kraft was the one to invent the distinctly American “Easy Cheese” dispensed from a spray can. The container design, however, is Swiss (like the cheese), and ensures that the cheese “product” can be dispensed when the can is upright or inverted! How could it get any easier?