Say Cheese

For years I have stuck to the idea that for the most part that cheap cheese was just as good as the expensive cheese. To me, the cheap cheese was the Kraft cheese or the packaged blocks of cheese while the “good” cheese was the type that I would buy at a few dairies or the big hunks you find in the grocery store. The really expensive cheese that I saw was just overpriced.

As my tastes expanded on other foods, cheese remained a forgotten element, then Feta exploded onto my life. This cheese was always the crumbled kind that was as generic as could be found until the day I wanted to try a recipe where crumbled wouldn’t do. I encountered the blocks of Feta and spent time studying the types of cheese that were there. There were American Feta and Greek Feta with some softer than the others. The prices between these two differed by a few bucks at most but were more expensive than the crumbled dust I was used to. Knowing the Feta was to play a major part in this dish in terms of flavor, I went for a Greek type. It was soft and seemed to be packed in a briny type liquid. It was time to take it home and experience it.

Upon cutting this cheese, it didn’t crumble like I was expecting. Tasting it, I noticed an explosion of flavors that was more complex than the blah version I was used to. When adding to the dish, it complimented the other ingredients to make a wonderful dish. Even my oldest son found it to be worth eating plain. Feta is great with olives, too.

What I have discovered with ingredients are that quality matters. If the ingredient such as cheese is going to play a major role in your dish, then splurge and make it a memorable dish. If the ingredient is a mixture of a bunch of other ingredients, you may be able to use lesser quality cheese.

My lesson: the more expensive cheese is expensive for a reason. Just don’t go buying it all of the time.


Sauce Comparison

I have the opportunity to test two types of peeled plum tomatoes in order to see what differences there are if there are any. The first can is the 28oz can of Tuttorosso and the other is Cento San Marzano peeled tomatoes. If I make my standard sauce will I or my family be able to tell the difference?


The first can I opened was Cento. What I got from this can was peeled tomatoes and very little to no water. I have used Tuttorosso on multiple occasions and have never had a complaint. Upon opening it I recognized far more water than what Cento had. This was my first surprise as I had never really taken this into account. As for smell, there is a difference, but sorry, it was difficult for me to determine exactly what I was detecting. I would give the edge to Cento. Overall, Cento had less water and a different aroma that was for a lack of a better word more pleasant. This isn’t to say Tuttorosso was bad, but if I were doing a blind smell test, Cento would win.

Upon the initial taste, Cento had a more acidic tomato taste while the Tuttorosso had a sweeter and more pleasant taste. For Americans, I would imagine the Tuttorosso would be preferred. Overall, I would not turn either one down, but I wonder if the tomato juice in the Tuttorosso gives the sweet flavor. I prefer no tomato juice, but when you buy on price you get what you pay for , I guess. As I cooked my sauce down, the Cento was ahead as it appeared to be thickened from the start while the Tuttorosso was soupy and needed more time to cook down. Cooking the Tuttorosso down to the proper consistency gives you less sauce as you struggle to remove water in a timely manner.

I added as ingredients olive oil, onions, garlic, cheese, and basil to the sauce. Will these ingredients help mask the differences? The image on the left was prepared with Cento while the image on the right was prepared with Tuttorosso. Visually, I found the Cento to appear thicker but upon eating the two with pasta, they both appeared more watery than I thought they would be. When it came down to flavor, here is where I was surprised. There was very little difference between the two sauces. Cento was more flavorful but not worth the cost. The added ingredients altered, in a good way, the taste of the sauce enough to make it a push. I did have others sample and they couldn’t tell a difference between the two.

In the end, I do not appreciate paying for Tuttorosso’s tomato juice and water when I expect all tomatoes. In the past, I have added tomato paste to help thicken the Tuttorosso sauce. Cento’s price is too high to justify buying when I make this sauce even though without the added ingredients it tastes far better and fresher than Tuttorosso.

The Proper PB&J Method

What is the proper method of constructing a PB&J? First, construct the abbreviation as I have done. I would consider myself an expert as I went through an intense training period at a young age and was forced to construct my own PB&Js once I was released unsupervised in the family kitchen as a young tyke. My credentials go even further. I learned how to construct one using several types of toasters and have constructed this food item for multiple people over time and have NEVER once received a complaint towards their taste or construction. So how is it done you ask?

There are two styles of PB&J and those fighting it out on Twitter are mostly wrong. In fact, they are probably all wrong. The first style is the traditional style or hoi polloi and the second is the fancy or ostentatious method. The difference between the traditional and fancy is not much, but there is a huge difference.

The ingredients! This is an important step to constructing a proper PB&J. It is made with Jif Peanut Butter with crunchy being preferred. You can use smooth, but it detracts on the texture element. Consider smooth to be a bit uncouth. Only the standard or extra crunchy must be used. Sorry Skippy, you’re nothing but an exercise that fattens. Peter Pan, your taste is a childhood fantasy and not reality. As for the other peanut butter varieties, lose them. They do not make a good PB&J even if it is Smucker’s or those foul tasting organic or healthy versions that no one really likes but the health nuts pretend they do. I eat lemons and know they are sour. I don’t pretend them to be the sweetest tasting item on the planet. Moving onto jelly.

Jelly falls into the main flavor and that is grape. You can get away with blackberry or raspberry jelly but you don’t want to go any farther. Strawberry is right out as is plum or any of the other silly flavors. Grape blends well with peanut butter as does blackberry jelly. As much as I like blueberry jelly, this should never be used. Now understanding what jelly is to be used, there is some leeway with the manufacturers. Welch’s grape jelly and well as Smucker’s are equal fine to use. DO NOT use the squeeze bottle variety. Talk about being uncouth!! You can occasionally get away with lesser brands, but you need to taste them beforehand. They will need to have the consistency and flavor of Welch’s or Smucker’s. Again, stay away from the organic style or the health nut style. You do not even have to sample to know they are horrible.

Bread is a vital ingredient with some leeway. If you are trying to be healthy, then the PB&J is not for you. It must always be a white bread, period. You can get away with Maier’s Premium Italian Seeded bread. People will think you’re being fancy if you do. What brands will work? Well, there is Wonder, Sunbeam, Kroger and such. It is the standard white bread you find in the grocery store. Be careful of the Sara Lee or Pepperidge Farm white bread or loaves of bread similar to these. They will not taste right and ruin the PB&J. Off brands can be hit and miss. I am referring to Great Value or the grocery store chain’s version. Stay safe and go with the standard white bread mentioned above. Yes, I said Kroger white bread is okay. All grain or multigrain or combinations of these are no good. They destroy the flavor. Anything with high fiber should not be sued.

Constructing the sandwich must be performed in this order, otherwise, the world will begin to collapse around you. If you don’t believe me, just look outside your window and think about all the troubles going on today. Millions of people screwing up the construction of a PB&J. Children need to be taken away from parents that cannot properly teach their children how to make a PB&J. Jail time is a must in order to save the world.

The pieces of bread must match perfectly, so this means you can’t skip a piece. This is a good reason why you use the bread brands I mentioned. Lay the first slice of bread on the construction zone surface. You need two butter knives as nothing else will spread properly and you NEVER cross-contaminate ingredients. Apply the peanut butter first! It is more heat resistant and spoil resistant compared to the jelly. Spread it evenly over the entire slice of bread. You should not be able to see bread, but it shouldn’t be piled so high that you need to be on the second floor to finish. Lay out the second slice of bread onto the construction zone surface without mixing with the first piece. You take the second knife and spread it on the second piece of bread. Like the peanut butter, the white bread should be evenly covered without excess jelly as this will only fall out of the sandwich as you eat it. If there is any hangover of jelly, you must clean that up with the knife and not your fingers.

You NEVER spread the jelly onto the peanut butter as you cross-contaminate the ingredients. This is like never washing your hands after going to the bathroom and then eat food with your hands. It is a no, No, NO! This is why you have two knives and two slices of bread. The jelly must be applied last as there are conditions where you do not want the jelly out of the refrigerator for excessive amounts of time. Don’t ask me about it, it’s a scientific fact and has been studied by scientists.  This information can be found in the many academic journals. I’ve read them, so trust me.

Upon finishing the spreading of the ingredients, the peanut butter sided bread is to be lifted and placed onto the jelly sided bread and be perfectly matched. You never lift the slice with the jelly and apply it to the peanut butter as you will increase your chances of a mess through jelly droppings and smearing. No one likes a smear let alone droppings especially when you step onto some.

You now have the standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is complete and ready to eat. It is an option to slice it into halves but never more than that. What about the fancy version? Glad you asked.

The fancy version has one extra ingredient and a few additional steps. The ingredient is real butter and the salted variety. Do not use any of that fake butter. If you think of using it then don’t make a PB&J. Tis better to not make it than screw it up. If you can’t do it, don’t do it. Instead of laying the bread onto the construction surface, you will toast the bread. The bread is to be toasted just to the point of being able to hold the butter that is slightly hard. It shouldn’t be black nor barely crunchy. There is some play with the toast. Once the bread becomes toast, place both pieces onto the construction surface and apply softened butter onto each piece. The side you butter is the side that the peanut butter and jelly are to be applied on. The butter should evenly cover the slices without huge hunks of butter resting willy-nilly on the toast. Note, it is no longer called bread. You apply the peanut butter and jelly in the same order as the standard. By applying the peanut butter first, you give it time to melt which add an additional texture bonus while giving time for the toast the jelly is to go on time to cool down and not overheat the jelly. Just as with the standard PB&J, you may only cut it into a half and no more.

There is no argument to be had about the construction of a PB&J. There is a real way of constructing one and the wrong ways. At best, any other ingredient or method is nothing more than an imitation PB&J or an iPB&J which looks more like an imaginary PB&J. You now have the proper method and ingredients to make a PB&J. Now go out there and enjoy the world while eating a true PB&J!

The Search for Kansas City BBQ Sauce

For years I have purchased Sweet Baby Ray’s barbecue sauce. Of all the sauces I have tried, this one is the one I absolutely enjoy. Kraft, Heinze, KC Masterpiece, and Stubbs are not up to par. In fact, I found that Stubb’s was my least favorite. The search for a sauce has had me making different versions from time to time without a great love for the sauce. Most are horrible while a few are just okay. Carolina sauce, Eastern style, isn’t my favorite, either, but it has a unique flavor that I don’t mind from time to time. My introduction to it was in North Carolina a few years back. The locals led me to a place and told me what to get.  My favorite has to be the Kansas City style and I wondered if I could make my own.

Barbecue sauces are not only regional but personal. I find that each region’s sauce has a unique flavor and style is enjoyable. The personality of the sauce reflects the individual that made the sauce. In my attempt to understand the Kansas City sauce, I selected twelve recipes from online and broke them down to find what the base is and what unique ingredients people use. I discovered there was much variety in ingredients as there was in the base. Some of the recipes may not even be considered KC style even though they are labeled as such.

My first surprise was the variety of ingredients between the twelve as there were 42 different ingredients used between the 12 recipes. Some of the ingredients were surprising to me as butter, vegetable oil, mace, allspice, and especially steak sauce was used. One recipe had bourbon. Of the twelve recipes, two did not have ketchup while one used water. The most common ingredient was black pepper. Molasses had a heavy showing with it being found in 8 of the recipes. The top five ingredients (7 as the last 3 were in 8 of the recipes) are black pepper, ketchup, chili powder, brown sugar, molasses, and salt. The next 3 ingredients were apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and liquid smoke.

One interesting note is the ketchup versus the tomatoes ingredient. In two of the 3 recipes, the tomatoes replaced the ketchup while the third had equal amounts of each at two cups. Also, the mace, allspice, and curry powder were found in one recipe only. As for the ingredient list, these ranged from eleven items to eight items. If it really matters, the mean and median are 13.5 items with 11 and 14 being the mode with 3 recipes each. That is enough statistics for now.

What I found within these main ingredients was the personality of the designer of the sauce where a specific type of ingredient was required. There were dark molasses and “unsulfured” molasses. The brown sugar had special meaning as did the chili powder. The black pepper was both coarse and fine. Even with the lesser ingredients, the type of hot sauce, paprika, and red pepper were specified. When you are adding a teaspoon or less of an ingredient, do you actually notice that the ingredient is something special?

I did break down the vinegar into apple cider, white, and red wine vinegar. Even the tomatoes from paste to the sauce to crushed tomatoes were broken down as these are enough of a difference to make it necessary. A few recipes used garlic and onion while the bulk of the recipes used the powder form with one recipe requiring onion salt.

There is definitely a primary ingredient list for the Kansas City style sauce and I would say that the top 12 ingredients are part of this style. These are black pepper, ketchup, chili powder, brown sugar, dark molasses, salt, apple cider vinegar, garlic powder, and liquid smoke. Onion powder, paprika, and ground red pepper were in 6 of the recipes, but it is not conclusive enough to say they are mainstays. I do believe if I search for more recipes these three will be primary ingredients, too.

Going forward, I may look into a few more recipes, but for now, I will develop my own recipe based off of the primary ingredients. I will tweak it some with minor ingredients to determine if they have an effect and if so, improve my sauce. As for the amount, most of the recipes were about the same with one that made about three quarts of the sauce. This is where I will use the other recipes to correct the amount of any “special” item found in the larger recipe. The biggest issue I have going forward is finding the time to do this. My best chance is in late July or early August. As I have brisket in line for cooking during that time frame, I may make a few test batches and if none work, the brisket will have Sweet Baby Ray’s to dip if anyone should choose to do so. I actually like my brisket with only the dry rub.


Bible Observation

Over the years, I have read the Bible multiple times and not continuously each time. It may be that I have never read the entire Bible in a continuous manner, but I have read it multiple times. There are parts of the Bible where I never recognized or noticed or paid attention to what was being said. Interpretation of the Bible can be difficult as Jesus spoke in parables, literal terms, and other methods of discourse. This is one section that was pointed out to me, and I could quote it.

Often we hear of the differences between Protestants and Catholics, of which the body and blood of Christ is one major difference. Protestants believe in remembrance while Catholics believe in transubstantiation or the changing of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Much of what Catholics believe in is found in the Bible and an understanding of how to interpret the Bible as the society and culture need to be taken into account and this is often forgotten.

After the miracle of the five loaves and two fish, Jesus and his disciples moved across the Sea of Galilee where there were crowds, disciples, and the apostles. The disciples and apostles had moved across the water and the crowds would follow afterward. This is where Jesus makes a literal statement that is too much for some. He states,

“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.  But I told you that although you have seen [me], you do not believe. Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day.”

The Jews were aghast and murmured about him because of what he had said, and Jesus reiterates what he had said, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Upon saying this, the Jews went from murmuring to quarreling as they openly questioned what he was saying. They were incredulous at what Jesus has repeated for the second time. They were questioning how Jesus could give them his flesh to eat. This is not symbolic speech by Jesus as the followers, the Jews, were getting very upset at what he was saying. Jesus was being taken literally as they questioned his statement, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”

Now Jesus amps it up to let them know he was serious and did not say in any way that was not being literal. His approach is to emphasize what he means by repeating himself and making the solemn oath. He repeats to confirm what he means by stating,

“Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

At this point, even his disciples struggle with what Jesus is saying, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” If this were a symbolic statement, the disciples would not be questioning what Jesus is saying. What is Jesus’ response? “Does this shock you?” This simple question by Jesus enforces the literal meaning of what Jesus was saying. We find the followers and many of his disciples returned to their previous way of life, thus abandoning Jesus. There are thousands of people leaving Jesus as they could not accept what Jesus was saying. Jesus isn’t finished as he turns to his apostles as asks, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter’s response is, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.”

One final thought is “Do this in memory of me” or the “… do this in remembrance of Me.” First, we need to understand the background of Jesus. He is Jewish. For the Jews, this term has a more in-depth meaning than recalling the past. It is the bringing of the past to the present and celebrating together and not recalling past history. Second, remembrance, as we understand it today, had a different meaning for the Jews in the context Jesus used the term memory. This memory definition is directly tied to how the Jews viewed Passover. A third point to make is that the memory was a reminder that the apostles were to continue to proclaim the works of God, and this idea is again tied with the Passover.

What we seeing in this is Jesus unwilling to change for the multitude of people who could not accept what Jesus was saying. Jesus was not speaking symbolically or in parables. His “Amen, amen” emphasize how serious he was when he applied this oath. Jesus was speaking literally and the followers understood it to be literal and not some form of an analogy. What Jesus was saying was a promise of what needed to be done for you to go to heaven. There was no remember only the past in his words, but a far deeper meaning.

This is a simple biblical observation that I noted. When you study history sometimes you pick up on something and spend a little time on it. Taking a break from other areas of history, I looked at the bible and found time to write a little nothing on one element of Jesus and the bible. You may or may not agree, but it is still worth pondering.

Categories: Theology Tags: , ,

Am I An Adult

Am I an adult? There was a vlog that I was watching where the young man was questioning whether or not he was an adult now that he had moved into a house with his girlfriend. Now, he is about 25, so to me, that is quite young. Technically, he is an adult but is he really? Some of his decisions indicate to me that he has some growing to do.

At eighteen we are generally called adults, but how accurate is that and what defines us as an adult, besides age. Puberty could be considered the point where one becomes an adult. Brain development may be another area where we can determine when a person has become an adult. What about education or the moment we no longer rely on our parents for assistance? What constitutes an adult?

Biology or physiology is one element of adulthood. Structurally, we are adults once we stop developing which is about 18 or so. There is another aspect of adulthood that cannot be pinned down to a specific or narrow range of time. This is the mental aspect of it from knowledge to wisdom. Even today at my age, I am not adult-like all of the time. I do silly and stupid things that are not ascribed to adults. I even make poor decisions, but compared to my adult son and soon to be a younger adult son, I am very much an adult.

Wisdom is a key component of adulthood, thus to be an adult you must have wisdom, and this wisdom is relative. As we gain wisdom, better decisions are made and the choices we make are less harmful or negative. Within this last statement, we find the problem with wisdom and why it is relative. Experience provides wisdom, so we are only as wise as the experience we have encountered which is usually proportional to our age. My oldest child will make poor decisions in comparison to me but will be on par with those in his age range.

Adulthood is primarily dictated by our culture and physiology or independence are attributes used to define adults. If you search the globe you’ll see societal differences concerning who is an adult. These range anywhere from 15 to 21. Society provides freedom upon reaching this arbitrary moment, but it does not necessarily mean you are an adult.

To answer my question, “Am I an adult?”, I recognize that it relative to those observing me. To some, my physique shows that I am an adult as well as the wisdom I have accumulated. To others, including my wife at times, I am still an immature kid who acts like an adult at times. To my sons, I am the adult when they are in a pickle and need my help, a compatriot when I am a partner in their game or “crime”. For some “adults”, I am still a young pup with much to learn. To me, I am still 25 in an older person’s body who has much to learn.

Categories: Humanity, Uncategorized Tags:

Tomato Sauce

Growing with pasta being a side or even the main element of our meals, I am accustomed to eating tomato sauce for every meal. It was spaghetti for meals and rigatoni as a side, though, we did eat rigatoni for meals, too. There was also the other pasta from ziti to gnocchi. The sauce was the biggest element of the pasta.

I have spent years looking for the ideal sauce. At one time, my wife, a non-Italian, was given a recipe for homemade sauce from cans. We all can’t have gardens or fresh tomatoes on hand. It was time-consuming but tasty. As much as I liked it, it lacked the character from my mother’s sauces. To be honest, my mother had different types from those made with pork or other meats to a simple sauce and even on a few occasions, we had the jar sauce when necessity called for it. The emergency sauce was quite rare.

There are plenty of recipes for a sauce all over the internet with people advocating one ingredient over the other. My sister and I have even argued over the idea of sugar. I said my mother didn’t add it while my sister says yes. Truth be told, it depended on the taste of the sauce our mother was making, and you can’t taste sauce without a hunk of Italian bread dipped into the sauce. Oh, how I remember getting a bowl of sauce to eat with bread.

San Marzanos from Italy is the popular selection of tomatoes. Growing up I never heard of these and even more likely were not available. If they were, my family probably couldn’t afford them, so we did without those. Funny how the flavor didn’t change that much.

I never liked onions in my sauce, but my mother most definitely added onions. She would have finely chopped them so I would not have recognized them. Eating a hunk of onion in my sauce ruins the experience for me. Going along with onions is garlic, and there were certain varieties she used in the sauce. These two seemed to go hand in hand.

Olive oil was another ingredient she used. I can recall the huge tin of oil and how my family purchased the olive oil with frequency. The olive oil was never missing in the sauce.

When it comes to herbs, we had basil and oregano. There may have been rosemary, bay leaves, and a few others but this was never mentioned. Red pepper flakes could be an element of the sauce. Of course, she added salt, not an herb. The amount was dependent upon the flavor.

We never had ground beef in the sauce but would often find pork in the sauce and sometimes combined with meatballs. These meatballs were on the small side and were never cooked in the sauce. Sausage was another item that could be found in the sauce. In fact, you could find any combination of meat in the sauce.

One item we never had in the sauce was wine. I suspect this comes from my grandfather who did not drink. Funny, he did have a bar in the basement but never drank. This is one item that my mother never mentioned, and I have tried without great success.

When it comes to carrots and celery, well these were never included. I’ve tried both and found them to be sometimes offputting with the texture. I really don’t have an opinion of them one way or the other. There is one ingredient I have tried with mixed results.

Anchovies have imparted interesting flavor in my sauce. My mother didn’t use them in sauce, but I have found several people that have. Too much and you have a fishy sauce. Just right and you get a unique character that isn’t bad. For now, I’ll leave this out. Another item, unrelated to anchovies, is sugar and I detest sugar in my sauce.

As I wind this post down, I recognize that I missed a huge opportunity and that was never asking my mother about her sauce and how she made it. She was always there, so I didn’t have to worry, however, I somehow forgot that once I got married I no longer had access to her sauce. In my search to find a good sauce, I have discovered the many methods of making a sauce but with none that have been worthy of my taste. I will continue to search for the perfect red sauce, but I have learned a few things.

Most ingredients are not needed especially sugar. As much as I don’t care for onions in my sauce, they do add a sweetness that isn’t overpowering. There are three basic ingredients and they are tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic. From there, you can add to your heart’s content or at least until you reach your level of taste. For me, onions, basil, oregano, and salt are four additional items I will add.