Remembering The Government’s Commodity Food Service

My grandmother used to get it in Utah until she passed away and my mother would sometimes bring extra back home.

It's made by Land O'Lakes and it's on the government's Commodity Food Service.

My Mom will only buy Tillamook cheese now, because it is the closest to the quality we were getting.

I remember it was a lot of cheese that came packaged in a box kinda like velveeta is packaged in only much larger. They told me that they had to wait in a really long line to pick it up. I don't know if the program is still active at this point.

Cheese from the US Government, but I believe it's been discontinued in favor of other programs like TANF and SNAP.

"Once the dairy program was pulled and the food stamp program switched over to Link cards, Government Cheese was taken off the market."

Until the 90s or so, the government would buy and stockpile cheese to support/prop up the dairy industry, then they'd process that cheese into "government cheese" which was distributed to the poor. It was somewhat similar to Velveeta but would be made with random cheeses so the taste varied.

Published: April 13, 2017 | Comments: 0

A Cupcake Away From A Wonderful Bridal Shower

I recently got hungry for some red velvet cupcakes. And since I hand't eaten them in years I was a little worried if I had the knack for them. They aren't hard to make, but I find that getting the right mix can be a little tricky.

Well I mixed up fifteen and they were gone before I had a chance to put them away.

I was a little bit disappointed, not because they tasted bad, but because the husband and kids gobbled them up. I only got two out of the set.

It is so nice, that Vintage Baby Showers wrote up a piece about taking them to a bridal shower instead of actual cake. I couldn't agree more. Since I had the opportunity to mix up another set (I actually doubled my recipe) for an office bridal shower. One of the young women that works on the front desk was getting married and she didn't have anybody to throw her a shower. Her biological parents are both dead, they died when she was small and her mother's sister raised her. But the woman passed away last fall. So she was all alone.

The wedding is also going to be small, only the bride and groom, no bridal party so that meant no bridesmaids or maid of honor to get her fixed up. So the women and I went about getting a bridal shower setup on the sly. We had a hard time keeping it under wraps but the boss helped and so we were able to do it in her office. This was a blessing because we would not have been able to do it in the common room, nor in the employee area since she can see both from her desk.

I made the cupcakes and then split it into four portions they were small and I gave them to a couple of other ladies so that we could smuggle them past her. It was a lot of fun when you think about it.

And the cupcakes were a really big hit. I don't know how I would have gotten the same amount of cake into work.

Speaking of cupcakes when you look at the ingredients here you will notice that they are not that complicated. But they are guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

I use for my cupcake base which is to say I can modify it to find my needs pretty easily:

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

To make it complete I bake prepare and bake them like this. Though unlike the ingredients this does not vary much from your standard recipe.

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a small mixing bowl and a metal whisk in the freezer to chill.
  2. In a medium bowl, add cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with whisk, and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add eggs and beat 10-20 seconds. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium speed about 30 seconds. Add vanilla and oil, beat.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add about half of the flour mixture. Add half of the milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk. Beat until just combined. Scrap down the side of the bowl.
  5. In your chilled bowl and with your chilled whisk, whip the cream until you have soft peaks, then whip them for another 30 seconds. Mix about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the batter, then carefully fold in the rest.
  6. The batter will be thin. Pour batter into a muffin pan prepared with paper liners. Fill liners about 2/3 full.
  7. Bake cupcakes in pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until your cake tester comes out clean, but moist.

Yields about 15 cupcakes. I usually double it with no issues which is what I did for the bridal shower in the office.

One thing that I did differently with the ones I made for the bridal shower was that I opted for cream cheese frosting. This is actually something that I had wanted to try for years and years. Well, I have tried it. But only when other people made it. For some reason I always got the impression that it is hard to make.

So I set out and looked for a recipe that I liked. What I found was that there are a lot of different options. And this one in perticular really appealed to me. It was from Sallys Baking Addiction and I can safely say I am addicted.

It was really great and it turned out better than I could have imagined.

I have seen some that people have made, they were rather runny and they ended up soaking the cupcake. That isn't anything for me. I feel that they need to be firm. And since I was driving them to work for the bridal shower it would have been a disaster if they had been any softer!

Thanks Sally!

Published: April 11, 2017 | Comments: 0

Bread And Soup

It's raining and cold this weekend and I just made some split pea with ham hocks that was fantastic with a hearty 30% whole wheat, 10% rye and 5% buckwheat sourdough boule (I don't have a name for this bread, I just made it up).

Adding other flours to sourdough adds more depth of flavor and I find plain white sourdough kinda boring.

I like a thick crusted bread with a nice chewy interior to accompany soup.

The interior serves to mop up delicious broth and a nice chewy bread holds together while others might break up on saturation with broth. The solid crust serves as a robust handle for delivering the soup soaked bread to my yap hole.

But you can pick a flavor for your bread depending on what soups you have.

That said, you can really pair flavors however you like. You might like a rye bread with something like french onion soup, but not with a creamy carrot soup. You might like sourdough with chicken noodle but not with mushroom bisque. It's really up to your flavor preferences.

Published: April 7, 2017 | Comments: 0

Thats Not Smoked Gouda That’s “Hotdog Cheese”

When we first started eating "smoked" cheese we would call the smoked Gouda "hotdog cheese" because it both looks and tastes like a hotdog.

I'm not sure what is about Gouda but the smoking process really gives it a meaty flavor. It's not that way with other smoked cheeses. But definitely stick to what you like. Search for the Beemster XO. It's a beautiful orange color, aged 3 years out of holland.

So the smoked cheese gets its flavor from smoke. That could be done with actual smoke, and may well be the same equipment used to smoke Ham and Bacon. Although often now liquid smoke is just mixed into the cheese.

Liquid smoke is a substance produced from smoke passed through a tube from a combustion chamber filled with select wood chips to a condenser. In the condenser, the smoke cools and forms a liquid, aided by the addition of water. Liquid smoke is used for both food preservation and flavoring.
The European Food Safety Authority has found that some liquid smoke products contain In Vitro but not In Vivo carcinogenic genotoxic compounds.

Liquid smoke itself isn't necessarily bad but it's like oak chips in a steel vat for aging wine…it's a much faster process resulting in a flavor way too strong.

Aged cheeses get their flavour from enzyme action on fat and protein. Over time enzymes from the bacteria chop the protein up into smaller tastier pieces. You will see changes in texture as well as taste as a cheese ages. Takes ages though, and all that time cheese has to be stored somewhere, so is usually more expensive.

Some products, like cheese flavoured chips contain "enzyme modified cheese", which is basically young cheese that has been powdered and exposed to enzymes that chop up the proteins to give an intense "cheesey" flavor.

Much cheaper than the real deal.

Published: March 25, 2017 | Comments: 0

Mac n’ Cheese Without the Milk

You are sitting there, you have a nice provolone and you want Mac n' Cheese but wait. You don't have milk. The horror!

Can you still make it taste great?

You can do it without milk. Maybe add a little bit of extra butter, and be careful how much water you add, start with less, and add more as you need. It just might not taste as creamy.

For the future, I might suggest picking up a small box of powdered milk. I very rarely keep milk in my house, but I keep a box of powdered milk in case I'm cooking something that calls for it. It virtually never goes bad, and it's really convenient to have around, sometimes.

A can of evaporated milk, unsweetened, does wonderful things in Mac n' Cheese as well as mashed potatoes and gratins. I assume the powdered milk adds the same missing flavor and thickening properties to water?

I make a Mac n' cheese recipe with no dairy. One cup of provolone, half pound of macaroni, and two tablespoons of butter.

Boil the macaroni in salted water then drain and mix in the butter and provolone back in the same pot with the drained macaroni and that's it. I really like it a lot.

For milk itself, plain Greek yogurt instead of milk works really well if you happen to have it. I like it more than milk actually.

Published: March 25, 2017 | Comments: 0

Mexican Tacos Need The White, Shredded Cheese

If it crumbly find shreds it's probably Cotija. If it melts really well and has a mild flavor it's probably Oaxaca if it melts well and has a more "earthy" flavor it could be Chihuahua.

Depending on the brand cheeses labeled Quesadilla, or Asadero tend have a more salty flavor. I tend to stick with Oaxaca since some unscrupulous creameries label Monterrey Jack as Quesadilla and charge more for it.

  • Queso Chihuahua: white, mild, melts really well like American cheese.
  • Queso Oaxaca: white/yellow, stringy, melts okay.
  • Queso Fresco: white, crumbly, mild, doesn't melt well.
  • Queso Cotija: white, crumbly, salty, doesn't melt well.

Most of the time it's queso chihuahua people love — it's basically American cheese. Super creamy, smooth, wonderful.

It's soft enough you might think it was white american until you tasted it.

I know what you're talking about. But it's different from you can normally get. They get it from a food distributor. Just like you can never find cheeses as good as what they use at pizza places or burger joints. At subway they have american cheese that's amazing, nothing like store bought american cheese. Used to work at a place and the normal sounding things they ordered were just so much better than anything you'd find at a grocery store. Used to order this amazing blue cheese dip, I miss it so much, but you can't get it anywhere except from a distributor.

Hope this helps explain why when you try all the cheeses others have mentioned, none of them will really live up it to the real deal american Mexican restaurant white cheese dream.

Cotija is another great one that blows fresco out of the water flavor-wise. If you're ever thinking about oaxaca or fresco you should try chihuahua and cotija instead for better flavor/texture.

And as you surely know Mexican tacos don't have cheese, it's an American thing, but I love cheese on mine.

Published: March 22, 2017 | Comments: 0

Chilling With The Crumbs

Try chilling your cake before you crumb coat, and then after. I highly recommend Yolonda Gammps' recipe for Italian meringue buttercream, it's velvety and light so it won't drag on the cake causing more crumbs.

I brush a simple syrup over the cake while its still warm, wrap it tightly and chill overnight, and brush another coat of simple syrup over the cake right before I crumb coat.

The syrup moistens the cake and as a result, very little crumbs get caught in the crumb coat. It's 1 cup water 1 cup sugar. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a saucepan, stirring constantly.

Boil for about 1 minute, or until reduced slightly.

Let cool and store in a covered container for up to a month. Use it on cakes, to sweeten coffee, or any other time you might need to dissolve sugar in something.

Published: March 20, 2017 | Comments: 0

Gluten Free Baking

Can you have gluten free bread? I'd say you've got yourself worked into a corner here. Because of how gluten acts in dough, you either have to use gums to create that elasticity, or a blend of ingredients that can mimic some of the properties.

Gluten free baking, particularly yeast bread, is a completely different proposition than its gluten-y counterpart.

If you don't want to use "a million and one different flours," then a pre-mixed flour blend is your best bet.

However, most pre-mixed flour blends contain gums. If you don't want gums, you should expect that you're going to have to use multiple flours.

Personally speaking, I make my own blend, based off of Shana Ahern's recipe. It's six different flours: brown rice, sweet rice, potato starch, tapioca starch, almond flour, and sorghum (or teff, or millet, or buckwheat) in a 40% whole grain/60% starch ratio. I make about 5lbs at once, for significantly less than the cost per ounce of the ridiculously overpriced Bisquick/Cup4Cup/King Arthur/pick-your-brand-since-they're-all-the-same-three-ingredients-anyway. Tastes a whole lot better, too. Is it a pain in the ass? Yeah. It's better than paying $5 for less than a pound of flour, though.

I also like Shauna's recipe for multigrain yeast bread. It's a good hearty bread without being gummy or otherwise funkily textured. The flaxseed/chiaseed slurry makes a much better substitute for gluten than any gum I've ever tried, and it adds a nice nutty taste to baked goods.

Most pre-made gluten free flour mixes are a mix of brown rice, white rice, tapioca starch and potato starch. It may be difficult to find pre-mixed GF flours without xantham gum premixed with it, so you may need to mix your own flour. Here's a good, simple, starting mix. You can add in other grains later for flavoring as desired. Millet, Buckwheat, Amoranth, Sorghum, are all good choices to experiment with.

Some Tips: Finding the right amount to add of the binding agent you choose may be difficult, expect to experiment, but always start with the recommended measure on the packaging. I have no tips for anything other than Xantham Gum, which is to not use too much – it gets slimy and rubbery. Too little, and your dough will crack when rolling or kneading.

If you do yeast/egg breads, use an extra egg – I don't know why, but it yields better results.

Give the yeast longer to rise than wheat.

Published: March 20, 2017 | Comments: 0

Skip The Machine

I like to thrift shop and from the number of donated bread machines I think they aren't very useful. I have one and honestly, it doesn't encourage you to make more, as it's not very tasty and sort of comes out slightly on the cake end in terms of texture.

My main complaint is nothing smells like bread, just yeasty.

Rice is not that difficult. Bread is difficult to make worth doing again. There is no such thing as good enough bread. It's either excellent or not.

If you want to continue use the manual first, as it will have recipes tailor-made for that machine. Also, some require dry ingredients first, some want the liquids first. So go ahead & try the booklet you have. King Arthur is awesome! Don't forget your local library as a source of cook books.

My 2 cents, if you need 'instant' bread, buy the stale pre-sliced plastic wrapped stuff. I've made some excellent bread, but it is all good used for toast

Published: March 14, 2017 | Comments: 0

Adding Egg Whites To My Bread

All my egg white increases have been in quick breads, so that isn't helpful. But – in case your goal is adding protein to your bread without negatively impacting the texture: using the whey from homemade cheese is a flavorful replacement for water in yeast breads that has not resulted in dryness, flatness, or scorch risk for me.

I don't recall the impact on crumb.

Don't expect egg whites to strengthen the gluten structure. Any old protein won't form a springy dough that can handle air bubbles the way gluten can. Gluten is special because it has long strands that can line up and link together.

This is why dough gets tight and stiff as you knead it; all those gluten strands are being lined up.

I'm not sure if your goal is using egg whites or getting bigger air bubbles… if you just want to use egg whites, make a soft enriched bread. If you want a nice chewy loaf with an open crumb, make a high hydration lean dough.

I don't have a scale so it is a little bit more about eying it. My challah recipe, which I use on a regular basis:

  • Tbsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg white (set aside the yolk for the wash)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 5 1/2 cups flour (wheat or white)
  • 6 cups fir high altitude
  • 1/4 cup gluten if using a high percentage of wheat

(I make this using the bread machine dough cycle) Combine water yeast and sugar. Mix and let stand for 10 minutes until it is very foamy. Add the rest of the ingredients in order, mixing well after each one. Once the dough is formed, knead for 5 minutes. Cover and let rise until doubled. Heat oven to 350 F. Punch down and shape as desired. Cover and let rise for 10-15 minutes Mix the yolk with a little water and paint it gently with a brush. Sprinkle with seeds (poppy ,sesame, sunflower, etc) Bake in preheated oven until bottom is hard when you tap on it.(about 25 min.) Remove, place on rack to cool for at least 15 min.

Published: March 11, 2017 | Comments: 0