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Random Food Update

I’ve been fairly busy with interviews, rock climbing, and out of town trips so here is a collection of what I’ve cooked/eaten in the past couple weeks.

This is a Greek breakfast burrito from Cafetal on Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz, California. This cafe is right around the corner from my house. They have good coffee, delicious food, and affordable prices. The Greek breakfast burrito contains potatoes, feta cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. The salsa they serve with it is awesome.

Grilled sweet potatoes and sausages from Shopper’s Corner. I’m really enjoying the backyard grilling going on in the summer time.

Monkey bread. Someone at our house said it tasted like Popeye’s biscuits with sugar. They were quite buttery and sugary. They were a tad dry and I would have preferred something hmm…oozier?

Ground buffalo with corn and red bell peppers. I did not eat this but Andrew said it tasted good.

Whole grilled chicken at Peter’s house. These turned out delicious, but there were mango sausages that took over my attention.



Making Cheese…In Your Bathtub?

This weekend I took the plunge. I had been flirting around the edges of homemade dairy products for a while, toying with the idea of making my own cheeses for months. I researched recipes, read about failures and successes, and scoured the blogs for tips and hints to create a delicious cheese at home without any extra equipment or magical chemicals (rennet is a magical chemical that any serious cheese maker is going to have to face sooner or later). Cheese making or dairy alchemy as the dork in me likes to think of it is easier than you would believe.

The recipes and tutorials on-line were lacking for me. Not that they weren’t full of great tips, detailed pictures, or solid recipes, but the majority of the ones I read through required a thermometer and a microwave which are two things that I do not have. I ended up buying a thermometer, but I find microwaves abhorrent and have no plans of owning one unless it is for the pure, unadulterated joy of making grapes turn into floating, nuclear orbs. Instead I consulted my cooking bible: Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: Vegetarian (the original How to Cook Everything also has a recipe for making fresh cheese, but I used the vegetarian edition this time. I am not sure if the recipes differ at all.) His recipe calls for neither a thermometer or microwave.

My cheese making journey continued from the recipe to Whole Foods market in Cupertino. The parking lot at the Whole Foods in Cupertino is almost as bad as the parking lot at Ranch 99 quite similar to a UFC cage fight but with caffeine fueled raging yuppies in Priuses instead of steroid enhanced bulging biceps and sweaty oiled up men wrapping their crotch around another man’s head. I actually found a parking spot quite easily because I don’t care how close to the store I park. Once inside the store I was disappointed that they do not have raw milk and I settled for Strauss Creamery Whole Milk. How many pretentious points do I win for that sentence? In addition to the half gallon of milk, the recipe requires a quart of buttermilk. I used low-fat cultured buttermilk because I didn’t have a choice. It was this or goat buttermilk. I didn’t want mix the teat juice of two different animals together. That didn’t seem kosher to me (it probably is kosher, but I’m not an expert on the exact laws of kosher).

I gathered the rest of my groceries, was assaulted by an exuberant chick in the frozen food aisle (apparently there is a brand of frozen yogurt at Whole Foods that is “the absolute shit”), and insulted by the checker. I don’t know but Andrew and I have managed to be magnets for the yuppie wrath of the Whole Foods checkers. First it was the snooty middle aged woman with the bad bleach job insulting our reusable Target bag and this time around it was a checker snidely commenting to the bagger, “How do you feel about wasting paper?” because I had more items than what could fit in my reusable bag. Obnoxious shaved head, peace sign, gaged ear mother fucker. Needed to get that off my chest.

A very important picture showing the ingredients. Showing off my pretentious dairy.

The first step after buying your products and braving the snobbery of up-scale grocery stores THAT DON’T EVEN SELL RAW MILK, is to bring your milk to a boil. Well, my first step was to actually clean out the rice underneath my burner that was sure to set my smoke alarm off (our smoke alarm is a bit trigger happy and I bet it would be get an erection from a birthday cake) and clean out a large, stainless steal pot. You need a big pot for this. If you have one of those fancy enamel pots go for that. It just needs to have a heavy bottom and I think aluminum does something scary so don’t use that.

1. Bring your half gallon of milk to a boil on medium-high heat, stir to keep it from scalding (aka that nasty burnt milk smell)

Once your milk comes to a boil with bubbles coming up the sides, then you are ready to add your quart of buttermilk. Stir it until the whey and curds start to separate. In other words stir until it looks like a yeast infected vagina has discharged into a giant tub of urine. That is seriously what it looks like. It is not appetizing looking at this point. It was a matter of about a minute for this to happen so you need to have your colander prepared.

The curds separating from the whey. Curds are the chunky part and whey is the liquid. Whey can be added when cooking bread to add extra protein. 

This is not delicious looking at this point. 

Once the curds and whey have separated remove your pot from the heat. Add salt. Be liberal with the salt. I was not liberal with the salt and my cheese I think lacked for it (that’s a nice way of saying it ended up bland). At this point you should have prepared your draining situation. Your draining situation should consist of a colander and three layers of cheese cloth. You can get fancy with additional accoutrement such as a dowel and some twine, but I prefer to keep it simple. Make sure you have enough cheese cloth to cover your cheese completely and be able to knot it.

The curds as the whey drains away.

Carefully pour the mixture over the cheese cloth. Make sure you are doing this over the sink or a bowl if you want to save your whey. Tie your cheese cloth in a knot so none of the curds are going to escape. Now tie it to a place where you want it to drain. I started with mine draining over the kitchen sink but then realized that I had dishes to wash so I moved it to the bathtub. And I thought the only thing you could make in your bathtub was moonshine. Let it drain wherever you set it up for about an hour to an hour and a half then refrigerate.

My kitchen sink draining situation. 

My bathtub cheese draining situation. 

Homemade fresh cheese! Yum!

Thinking Outside the Box: Creative Ways to Enhance Store Bought Macaroni and Cheese

I go through food phases. The last month I have hardly cooked anything, be it from scratch, from a can, from the freezer or from the box. Most of my meals have consisted of Subway sandwiches or a combination of bananas and beef jerky bought from my morning pre-work 7-11 foray. I have had time to cook since classes ended in May, but I just haven’t felt the desire, the passion for homemade food lately. In the past week things have gotten better and I found myself “cooking” a little more at home. This cooking consisted mainly of boxed macaroni and cheese with added ingredients to make it more interesting, flavorful, and healthy. There was also one ramen dabbling that did not end well.

Annie’s Shells with White Cheddar, broccoli, and hot Italian sausage

First of all, I think it is important to start with a better brand of macaroni and cheese. I know Kraft Mac ‘N Cheese brings back memories of childhood with its nuclear orange powder and almost tinny taste, but there are better, healthier brands of boxed macaroni and cheese out there. The brands I use nowadays are Annie’s and Safeway Organic (I think Safeway Organic has more flavor than Annie’s to be honest and it’s much cheaper).

10 Ways to Enhance Store Bought Macaroni and Cheese

1. Add green vegetables. These not only makes it taste better, but fresher and healthier. I generally add broccoli or asparagus because they are not only some of my favorite vegetables but they cook quickly and can be tossed in with the pasta while it’s cooking or even after it’s done. What I generally do is put the cut up broccoli pieces in the colander then pour the pasta with water over it. The broccoli comes out crunchy, but slightly cooked. Frozen peas would also be a nice addition, but this is something you can experiment with.

2. Add cooked sausage or hot dogs. Slice these up and add in after you’ve mixed the pasta with the cheese powder or sauce. I generally make mine with hot Italian sausage.

3. Add tabasco, tapatio, or any hot sauce for a spicy, cheesy dinner.

4. Shred cheddar, jack, colby, or pepper jack for more cheese in your Macaroni and Cheese. I think this is especially nice with Annie’s brand because I found it distinctly lacking in cheese flavor.

5. Grill up some onions or shallots while your water is boiling for a more robust flavor and a different texture. I think this would go great with some sliced kielbasa in there as well or a bratwurst.

6. Add roasted bell peppers or hot peppers for a smoky, spicy flavor. Either use jarred or make your own fresh in the oven or on the grill.

7. Cut up luncheon meat such as ham, salami, roast beef, or turkey and toss it in. I think ham would complement the flavor best.

8. Make a macaroni and cheese grilled cheese sandwich. This definitely is overkill on the cheese factor but think of the different textures. Butter up some of your favorite bread, add a slice of your favorite cheese to each piece of bread and add your prepared macaroni and cheese. Press sandwich together and go forth as you would with a grilled cheese sandwich.

9. Add crumbled bacon, canadian bacon, or get fancy with pancetta. This will add a smokey flavor along with some crunch.

10. My friend Ian introduced me to this last one. It is definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone. Add sliced up hot dogs and brown sugar to the prepared macaroni and cheese. This creates a salty/sweet and smokey flavor that some people might have a hard time wrapping their taste buds around, but I found it delicious.

Homemade Chocolate Donuts

No recipes here, just pure food porn: homemade chocolate glazed donuts. These donuts were made by my friend Marcus. Delicious!

The donuts before they were glazed. They even look delicious at this point. Marcus did a double raise, then fried them and then glazed them with chocolate.

Marcus chopping baker’s chocolate for the chocolate donut glaze.

Whisking the glaze.

Donut glazing action.

Delicious. Delicious.

In addition to donuts last night, I brought a cheese that hints of horseradish, a dry Italian salami, kalamata olives, and crackers. Yum!

SF Underground Market

Last night Andrew and I participated in a most hipster event: the SF underground farmer’s market. The SF underground farmer’s market is essentially that: it is a below the table, slightly illegal farmer’s market that takes place in various venues in San Francisco. They get around the illegal thing of selling food made in non-commercial kitchens by making you sign up as a member of a club. You also have to pay a five dollar cover charge to get in.

This was my first time going and it was quite an event. Tons of people were squished into the Public Works building at Erie and Mission (a part of San Francisco that I’ve never been to) along with vendors and musicians. We drove up to Millbrae and took the BART into the city which is much better than having to try to find parking on a Saturday night in the city. We got there early so were one of the first people in line so we got to check everything out before it became too packed. We also got a free sample of waffles from Angry Man Eats.

While the population of eaters was not too varied, mostly people between the ages of 25-40 white and hipster, the food ranged from charcuterie to raw and vegan. I probably ate too much, but it was so hard not to! I wouldn’t say the food was amazing or anything that you couldn’t get at your local farmer’s market, but it was still good and there were some standouts.


While standing in line in between two groups of hipsters, one computer programming types and other flannel decked, bearded kind, we were offered a free sample of waffle from Angry Man Eats who does fried chicken and waffles. I really regret not getting in line immediately once inside the building because I missed out on getting some later.

Once inside we sampled some potato slices from Wolf Creek Potato Slicing, which is just a fancy name for a potato chip. They were great!  I think I slipped past their stall three times to get more. They were crunchy and flavorful without a lot of grease or salt.

Next we went upstairs to get away from the already forming crowd downstairs. Upstairs we checked out homemade poptarts, bolani, charcuterie, and something called bacon crack. We didn’t eat the poptarts or bolani. I can make damn good poptarts at home and the bolani had cilantro in it which is the kiss of death for us. At the charcuterie stall, Boucherie, we sampled some bacon, it was lacking, and Andrew bought some gumbo, which I found to be lacking in flavor and overly mushy.

Gumbo from Boucherie charcuterie.

Now onto Bacon Crack. Bacon Crack, according to the man behind Nosh This, is a bacon toffee with almonds covered in dark chocolate. I did not buy any Bacon Crack because I do not like bacon and chocolate. Yes, I know that bacon and chocolate has taken the Foodie world by storm, but I’m just not a fan of the flavor combination. I did buy some balsamic and sea salt chocolates as well as some black pepper and sea salt chocolates. I ate these chocolates the next day and they were absolutely amazing. I had been worried about the balsamic being bitter but it was sweet and tangy, a perfect compliment to the cloying sweetness of the caramel. The black pepper and sea salt was also good with the peppery spiciness of the black pepper balancing out the sweetness of the chocolate and caramel. My friend Maddy is thinking about recreating these.

Balsamic Salted Caramel

By this time in the night my friends Maddy and Nan along with their friend Nikki had joined up with us and we made our way back downstairs. They wanted to check everything out, get a sample of a few things, and move onto the bacon wrapped mochi from Jordan Grosser. Another thing that I regret not trying because it looked absolutely delicious.

We then moved on to get something to drink because it was incredibly hot and we were all thirsty.  We pushed our way through the skinny jeans and clever monogrammed t-shirts to Morgans Menu which was selling Hawaiin food including hibiscus tea, homemade spam rolls, and something called a loco moco. Now, I usually do not go for decadently over the topic heart attack food, but this I just had to try. They won me over with a fried egg. I love fried eggs. Unfortunately, this fried egg still had runny whites when I ate it, the gravy was room temperature, but tasty, and the beef patty had huge chunks of onion in it which does not float my boat. The mixture of the gravy with the rice was great though. I think I could have just eaten a plate of the rice and had been happier. The hibiscus tea from this stall was one of the real winners of the night for me; it had a slight cinnamon flavor added to it which was just perfect. It was also incredibly refreshing.

The Loco Moco from Morgans Menu.

During the time I was waiting for my loco moco, Maddy and Nan picked up croque monsieurs with french fries fried in duck fat from Boffo Cart. I did not have a chance to sample their croque monsieur sandwich, which looked incredible, but I did sneak a duck fat french fry. I’m not sure if I understand all the hoopla surrounding duck fat. It was a good french fry flavor wise but could have been a lot crispier.

Croque Monsieur and Duck Fat Fries from Boffo Cart

Nikki bought some macaroni and cheese from SF Delicious Chef which was hands down one of the best food bites from the night. I should have gotten a whole plate of that instead of the loco moco. Man, my mind keeps going back to how disappointing that loco moco plate was. Such high hopes.

We went upstairs to eat all our food, taking shifts to leave and come back with more. The place was packed and we were lucky to find a place to breath let alone sit.

It was packed.

Andrew got a slice of chocolate pecan pie from Marge’s and Nan bought a mini chocolate pecan pie as well. I had a pecan pie and it was delicious. They were also selling other kinds of pie and homemade pop-tarts.


After the pecan pie, I sent Maddy off on a mission to find a pork belly banh-mi from Kitchen Sidecar. This must have been incredibly popular because it took her about thirty minutes to get them and come back. Definitely not worth the wait I have to say. The roast pork in the sandwich was incredibly tasty and the smaller pieces of pork belly were crisp and delicious, but the larger pieces were chewy and fatty. The sandwich itself had far too much mayonaisse on it, which both Maddy and I agreed upon. Any mayonaisse is too much for me, but Maddy likes the mayo and said it was too much for her. Another thing I did like about the sandwich was the inclusion of pickled ginger. We should have just shared one sandwich.

Bad picture of bad sandwich

The last food item I tried for the night was a bite of Andrew’s tri-tip sandwich from Hubie Q’s. I really wished that I had known there were food booths outside because if I knew there had been tri-tip sandwiches and ribs outside I would have totally passed up on the banh-mi.

Overall it was an incredibly fun experience that I would probably never do again unless I were a vendor which would be amazing.

Where Have I Been?

I have some new photos and recipes to post soon. I also have a blog coming on about the foodie things I miss about Santa Cruz. I’ve been on hiatus from cooking due to work and school stress. Don’t lament, I will have a new post up soon.

I’ve got a question: What special food things do you relate with where you live, where you grew up, or a place you used to live?

Bagels and Butterflies

I have waxed poetic about how amazing the Bagelry is. I don’t know what they put in their bagels, but it is something magical, probably some happy herbs from the new Happy Herb Shop around the corner. Yes it has to be some sort of happy magic herb.

Andrew and I made today our Valentine’s Day since I have to work tomorrow and Monday is also a work day. We repeated what we did last year: went to Lighthouse Field State Beach to watch the monarchs. Here is what the California State Parks’ website says about monarch migration:

This is one of the places where Monarch butterflies winter along the California coast. Monarchs are unique because they migrate each winter to avoid freezing weather. The Monarchs wintering here, come from west of the Rocky Mountains. Monarchs east of the Rockies go to central Mexico for the winter.

There are hundreds of monarchs that come Lighthouse Field State Beach every winter. They fill up the branches of the cypress (not redwoods, dumb tourist) and eucalyptus trees. They also apparently use this time to mate since I caught a few couples copulating; this was the only time they didn’t flutter away before I could get a picture.

Before we went to the beach, we first took a trip to the downtown Bagelry location. For more information on the Bagelry read this article from MetroActive: . Located on Cedar Street, the downtown location is the busiest and has a quiet, outdoor patio in addition to its indoor seating. When I lived downtown I used to enjoy the convenience of buying a six pack day old bagels and a tub of reduced fat cream cheese. I also have a friend who works as a baker and a janitor there.

This morning I was feeling something savory. I opted for a half serving of the Pink Flamingo on a garlic bagel. The Pink Flamingo is reduced fat cream cheese mixed with lox and dill. I always get a half serving of the spread because they put far too much on the full serving.

The Pink Flamingo

Andrew ordered to salt bagels and ate them plain without even getting them toasted or sliced. He is a strange one sometimes.

Salt Bagels

I decided to read some reviews on Yelp about the Bagelry. The main complaint of people on there seems to be they don’t accept credit or debit cards (cash only) and that they’re bagels are dense and chewy, not fluffy on the inside. This is definitely not the bagel place for you if you think Noah’s Bagels or bagels from the grocery store are the end all be all of bagels. These bagels are prepared the traditional way: boiled first and then baked. This makes them extremely dense and chewy. To address the cash only issue: that isn’t atypical of Santa Cruz. There are lot of places there that only accept cash.

I also like the Royal Palm which is the same reduced fat cream cheese with dates, honey, and walnuts. Delicious.