I have cooked so many things. So many! All the things. 

Except yogurt, because I forgot how effing long yogurt takes to cook, so it's going to be simmering in the Instant Pot for another, like, four hours. Hot damn I hope the starter I used was still alive, otherwise I'm gonna have spent eight hours waiting for a bowl of hot milk. 

On the plus I now have probably about three weeks' worth of food in the freezer. Casserole party at Sam's house! 

Today's origami is the Blue Whale, a fold so nice I did it twice. Instructions are here (click on the images to embiggen). 



*whale noises* three-dimensional origami is hard to photograph well. Especially when the paper is shiny. 
I was over at R's tonight, so I almost forgot to post today's origami!



It's a dog's head. I know.

I was describing my recent cooking adventures to R, including the Dubious Ham Bananas that I made and taste tested. I was trying to describe it to him.

Sam: So you take some ham and spread some mustard on it, and then you wrap it around a banana.
R: Yeah!
Sam: And then you bake it.
R: I bet!
Sam: Then you top it with hollandaise and bake it some more.
R: YES. I like all of these foods!
Sam: I'm not sure you'd like them together.
R: It's like you don't even know me.
For Christmas this year, my parents wanted to buy me a slow-cooker, because mine is dreadful and also terrifyingly cheap. So we went shopping around for some slow-cookers on Black Friday, which was fascinating, and we found a slow-cooker. But not just a slow-cooker.

A seven in one slow cooker.

It has specific buttons for rice and porridge and yogurt. It can sautee! It possibly provides a gateway to a dimension of enlightenment. I don't even know what all it does. Why does it have a meat button AND a poultry button?

But the most interesting thing is that it is a pressure cooker, and it uses the pressure cooker to cook many other things. Like rice.

I am pressure-cooking rice.

This will definitely go well.
I've been baking a lot of my own bread lately, for various health and boredom reasons, which means I haven't eaten store-bought bread in a couple of months, and I haven't eaten store-bought white bread in probably a year, if not longer.

Hilariously, this means that I view white bread in the same way children view, say, ice cream or Halloween candy. I decided I was going to buy a loaf of white bread this weekend and have some, and I was super excited about it, weirdly excited about it. So I bought some today at Target, and I got out a lovely, soft, springy slice of white bread and put butter and jam on it and bit into it and gagged.

I have RUINED WHITE BREAD for myself. Oh my god, it's so awful. Even the texture now feels weirdly gluey. It is NOT WORTHY of butter and jam.

I am so sad about white bread.
WELL.

EGGPLANTS are off the "potentially edible" list with an annotation: Taste like badly-steamed broccoli.

I'm pretty sure I salted them right this time, because when I stir-fried them they didn't absorb nearly as much oil as badly-salted eggplant is said to. But when they don't taste like salt, they have a lovely creamy texture and a dreadful flavour. Shame; I had high hopes for eggplant.

ONWARDS TO CELERIAC. I have high hopes for this, too. Supposedly it behaves like a potato. WE SHALL SEE, CELERY ROOT. WE SHALL SEE.
EGGPLANT!

Or if you prefer

AUBERGINE!

I have sliced and salted my eggplant. Spongy motherfuckers, aren't they? Anyway, at the moment all the little eggplant-fries are sitting in a colander, coated in an entire shaker's worth of salt. Later, they shall roast. Indeed. Well, I might pan-fry a couple just to see. This is a very labour-intensive vegetable.

Oddly enough, I usually smell vegetables very strongly -- walking into a Subway sandwich shop is like plunging my face into a bucket of shredded lettuce -- but this eggplant appears to have no odor at all. Maybe that means it has no flavour, which would honestly be a nice break for me.

In the meantime I cooked some bacon and reheated some portobello slices in the toaster oven and had a portobello and bacon sandwich.

HEALTHY.
I HAVE PROCURED AN EGGPLANT.

Well, Trader Joe's didn't have any cabbage. And really if you want to call it an Aubergine, it's overdue.

I intend to make eggplant fries in the oven. And yes, I know about purging. Man, this vegetable may or may not be tasty but it sure is a pain in the ass. The artichoke was less trouble. Though significantly more expensive.

Tonight, however, is sauteed portobello sandwiches smothered in brie. LOOK HOW ALMOST HEALTHY THAT WAS.

Also my new laundry service delivered me some clean laundry. Fluffy! *rolls around in it*

It's like the day of Reinforcing Why Sam Doesn't Want To Leave Chicago.
Roasted brussel sprouts with garlic and basalmic vinegar.

Let us not speak of this foul dish again.

So, my doctor said I need to eat more green things, and avocados and mint chocolate chip ice cream don't count.

The problem is that I'm a supertaster, which comes with some quirks. Like it's difficult for me to distinguish between orange and peach because all I taste is citrus. Or like how you can't actually hide vegetables in other things with me, because the vegetable taste is so strong it's all I taste. Most veggies taste exactly alike to me: faintly rancid, with an overtone of grass. Supertasters tend to stick to bland foods because anything else overwhelms them or tastes terrible. (Some lucky ones get the ability to distinguish between foods as well or instead, like how I wrote Steve in Feed The Body. I am not one of them.) It's not just vegetables; I also have to avoid cinnamon and processed (ie, not whole-grain) wheat bread, since burning sensations in mouth are unpleasant. And in general spicy foods. Hiding vegetables in curry is great, but the amount of spice it would take to "hide" the veggies would make it inedible anyway, for me.

Imagine the food you hate the most in the world. Now imagine that half the food in the world is made up of that food -- imagine there are whole restaurants dedicated to that food, that half the food available in any given restaurant is that food. Imagine you've spent your entire life being mocked and punished for not eating it because everyone else does. That is my world.

But I am tired of doctors telling me this bullshit, so I've started a CULINARY ADVENTUR, whereby I am working my way down the list of vegetables, alphabetically. It's not really that I expect to find myself enjoying eating green things, but at least this way I'll have a spreadsheet I can show my doctor.

I made artichokes last week. That's an awful lot of work for a food that tastes like slightly soggy baked potato and must be dipped in some form of liquid fat to be edible. I made brussel sprouts this week, which are tiny little shitbombs of reeking sauteed bitterness. They smell like rotting flowers but don't actually look unappetizing until you put one in your mouth and realize you are eating something nature clearly intended you not to eat. THE SMELL WAS A WARNING.

I still have half a bag of them. I'm trying to decide what to do with half a bag of tiny toxic bombs.

I'm skipping things I either a) have eaten recently enough to know that either I don't like them (asparagus) or b) can eat under certain conditions (beans, but sadly not the green ones) and have arrived at my next foe: Cabbage. I'm pretty sure I don't like cabbage. I find coleslaw and sauerkraut repulsive, and cabbage has ruined many a fine potsticker for me. But Jean has suggested kimchee, which I know most people find gross to start with but hey: I have to have some results for the spreadsheet. And I haven't actually ever eaten kimchee.

I'm going to be not-eating a lot of vegetables in the near future.
Mum and I went to dinner tonight at the Kendall Culinary College, where for $29 each they stuff you with student-cooked food of delicious if occasionally dubious construction. It was a pretty great experience overall, though the highlight was definitely the apple-pear-rhubarb crisp.

The duck was good but I've had better; Mum's steak had some kind of utterly fantastic sauce on it, but she didn't get it done quite as thoroughly as she wanted. I know chefs think it's a sin to ask for a steak above rare, but it's not like she wanted it charred, she just asked for medium. I will say the crab rangoon I got as an appetiser was spectacular.

END RESULT: I AM VERY FULL OF FOOD.

I will have dreams about apple crisp.
I HAVE MADE PORK MEDALLIONS AND DID NOT EVEN SET THE KITCHEN ON FIRE.

It was a close call. I seared the everloving fuck out of those bastards.

Apparently the secret to making delicious pork medallions is to do almost nothing oneself. I used a packaged teriyaki marinade mix on pre-sliced medallions, so all I did in the end was heat up my frying pan super-hot and give them three minutes per side and then two extra minutes to make sure they at least seemed cooked before I nommed them to shreds. Even then I didn't actually come up with that "recipe". I got it off eHow.

They were blackened but delicious.

It's been a good food day. I did food trucks for lunch and got samosas and a tamale.

I DEMAND ALL MY LUNCH FOODS BE WRAPPED IN DELICIOUS CARBS.
Last night I was about to make brownies when I got an email from a friend with a photo from their field trip to a maple syrup farm. And I thought yes. Maple syrup brownies.

So I made your standard "sugar, eggs, chocolate, other stuff" brownies, nothing out of the ordinary, but I substituted maple syrup for a quarter of the sugar involved. I figured that wasn't so much liquid it would change the content of the brownies, but wasn't so little syrup that the taste would get lost in the chocolate. Because maple syrup, goddammit.

The brownies came out fine, but between sampling one last night and packing one in my lunch this morning I forgot that I'd used maple syrup. So I took a big bite of the brownie at lunch today and made A Face.

What the hell was that taste? It wasn't bad, just...not something often found in brownies. What did I put in these --

Ohhhh. Right.

Winning Monday, that's me!

But I do have maple brownies.
I AM HOME FROM POUTINEFEST.

Poutinefest: your gateway to ADVENTUR!

The trains are all effed up this weekend, or at least the red line trains are, so it was a bit of an adventure getting down to Haymarket Pub, where it was being held. Worth it though. There were eleven different high-end restaurants serving a variety of poutine, which for the sadly uninitiated is fries covered with cheese curds and then doused in brown gravy. I KNOW.

MY REVIEW OF POUTINEFEST '13 )

The funny thing is I paid $50 for my ticket, which is not inexpensive, but I figured that money was going towards renting the space and the free drinks (two free beers and a bourbon). Turns out it also went to give us a crapload of swag. I got a PoutineFest sticker, a button with the logo, a Jim Beam commemorative glass, some stickers, and

WAIT FOR IT

YES

YOU KNOW IT

A POUTINEFEST TOTE BAG.

I'm considering sending it to my mum.
I have made THREE ATTEMPTS at dinner tonight and all have failed.

Admittedly the first attempt at dinner was some candy that a coworker brought back from China; I imagine dragon's beard tea cakes are an acquired taste, but it was a bit like chewing on finely-ground styrofoam sprayed with flowery perfume.

So I thought, I have some spicy shrimp steamed buns I bought from Trader Joe's in the freezer, I'll make those! Which was fine until I took them out of the microwave and smelled them. They smelled like raw shrimp, which is not the most appetising of scents, but I thought perhaps that was just a quirk and bit into one.

I think possibly the shrimp that went into mine didn't get cooked? At any rate I couldn't finish chewing the first bite, so into the trash those went.

Then I opened a tupperware tub of meatballs I had in the fridge, the last substantial food that was defrosted, and found mold on the top.

OKAY FATE I GET IT I WILL ORDER SOME SUSHI.
There is a NEW BURGER JOINT in town! Like, up in my neighborhood, a block south of my train station.

It's called VOPS, I don't know why. It can't have been there long, because as a hamburger aficionado I monitor the beef-related activities of this neighborhood very closely. I stopped off for dinner and they make quite a good burger, plus their fries are plentiful.

At some point I'm going to risk my delicate fucking constitution and order the TURDUCKEN SAUSAGE they claim to serve.

It was jammed with hipsters while I was there, but such is my lot in life at this point. Our neighborhood is not gentrifying; it's hipsterfying. Every day more skinny jeans and ironic beards walk into and out of my life. I must learn to peacefully coexist, somehow.

I worried a little bit about Byron's, my best beloved horrible burger joint that is a block north of the train. The greasy spoon is a dying breed, in part because a true greasy spoon is always two points from failing a health inspection, and people understandably want to eat somewhere clean and hygenic. But I love Byron's and so I worried that VOPS was going to put them out of business.

And then I realised, no they won't.

No burgers-and-dogs place in Wrigleyville will ever go out of business as long as the Cubs are there. We could be wall to wall with Vienna Sausage signs from here to the stadium and on a summer afternoon there would still be a line at Byron's preventing me from getting onion straws with alacrity.

At least they'll scare off the hipsters.
So Sprinkles Cupcakes, which is an entire chain of stores dedicated to selling you $3.50 cupcakes, installed a Cupcake ATM at their Beverly Hills location. Not to be outdone, Chicago decided it had to have one of these.

It's...it's so pink. The first thing you notice on the grey Chicago street early in the morning (because it would be no fun to visit the Cupcake ATM while the Cupcake Store was open) is that it's so pink.


Because a cupcake from the cupcake ATM costs $4, which is too much to pay for a cupcake at any time of the day or night, they make it an experience. And mock me if you must, but I've paid way more than $4 for a way less satisfying experience that I did not even get a cupcake at the end of.

Once you tap the screen, it brings up photos of various cupcakes they sell. You navigate through the touchscreen to select your flavour of cupcake from whatever they loaded it up with the night before (so yes, you are paying $4 for what is essentially a day-old cupcake) and then swipe your credit card.

At this point the screen blanks into a sort of horror-film black-and-white video shot from the point of view of the mechanical arm retrieving your cupcake. You can watch on the video screen as your cupcake is pulled off the little shelf, lowered to a ramp, pushed gently down the ramp to the receptacle, and then spins around with the receptacle, at which point the little brown box holding your cupcake is revealed unto you.

And then it sings you a song. I didn't make special note of the song but the lyrics go something like

We love Sprinkles, yes we do
Nummiest cupcakes in the world!
This is a harbinger of the end
Bow and make peace with your gods!


I may have made up those last two lines.

And I have to say, it's not like I'm the only person indulging in this madness. As soon as I stepped away from the ATM to put my cupcake in my messenger bag and post an instagram photo of the ATM, a woman stepped right up into my place to buy her own cupcake.

Well played, Sprinkles. Well played.
I HAVE DISCOVERED THE HORSESHOE SANDWICH.

About a week ago, a post went up on Serious Eats and then just as mysteriously vanished -- I couldn't say why, there was no offensive content or anything, but fortunately Google Reader saved the text. It was about regional sandwiches, and I like to try local specialties, though usually I'm let down. The most traditional Boston Baked Beans I could find tasted exactly like the tinned baked beans I could get from Campbells, which has its canning plant in New Jersey, and don't get me started on the disgusting nature of Chicago deep dish. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I made a note to look up some of these sandwiches.

The jibarito, for instance, which was supposedly invented in Chicago, is a bit like a Cuban only instead of bread you use fried plantain. I have sampled many a fine Italian Beef sandwich, which is marinated, shaved beef served (sometimes with peppers) in a bun that's been dipped whole in au jus. Al's is the best. They're rumoured to use nutmeg in their marinade.

But I had never heard of two of the sandwiches on the list: the Horseshoe, and the Mother In Law.

The Horseshoe: Two pieces of toast, topped with meat (apparently ham originally, though usually hamburger patties now), topped with french fries, TOPPED WITH CHEESE SAUCE.
The Mother In Law: A tamale. In a hot dog bun. Smothered with chili.

We are hearty eaters in Chicago. Well, it supposedly gets cold during the winter.

I WILL HAVE ONE OF EACH PLEASE.
Oh my god that was some epic dire Chinese food.

I read a review of 65 Asian Kitchen that lauded it as really good food in large portions, convenient in the Loop, tucked away behind the Board of Trade in downtown. I was headed that direction anyway, to pick up some new library books, and there was a Groupon, so technically it was a free meal because I have credit on the Groupon website.

Ohhh, what a waste of seven Groupon bucks. Well, you win some, you lose some.

Mind you, I'm sure that this place is way better for lunch, because they must get a HUGE lunch crowd and have everything hot and ready to go in massive amounts. And to be fair to them, since it was so dead in there at 4:30 on a Thursday, they did cook most of my food on the spot. But the shrimp fried rice was so gross and full of shrimp shells which, while I know they can be eaten, I don't actually care for and don't usually expect to find in fried rice. The crab rangoons were a despair. And expensive.

And now I feel gross, when I didn't even eat that much.

I know, I know; Chicago has a Chinatown and there are tons of great places to get Chinese there. And Chinese food in America is very much a matter of taste, since it varies so much from restaurant to restaurant. It's not like I was looking for something authentic, just something yummy. But I wasn't in Chinatown, I was in the South Loop, and I think I can safely say that, even compared to places that are not in Chinatown, it was dreadful.

Peking Kitchen, I will not forsake you again. (FYI, Peking Kitchen has for my money the best Chinese on the northside, and their portions are more than generous, even if their hunan beef is mostly hunan and not much beef.) Plus I can't imagine why anyone would go to 65 Asian Kitchen or its neighboring McDonald's for lunch when the basement of the Board of Trade has a delightful lunch cafeteria with the best battered fries I've ever eaten.

Basement dining, I've come to believe, is what it's all about in the Loop. Tons of buildings have basement cafeterias that you would never know existed if you didn't work there. Equitable and Trump have good ones, and of course there's the Secret Food Court beneath 111 W. Wacker, but the Board of Trade has the best.

Essentially, give me french fries and no windows and I'm a happy man.
THIS IS AN AMAZING MILKSHAKE.

So, about a week ago I made some ice cream, or I suppose some frozen custard, because I made it with an egg base. The custard requires five egg yolks, and of course the problem is always "What do I do with the egg whites don't say meringues I don't own a stand mixer". (Yes, I know you can make them without a stand mixer, but it's way too much work.) Then [livejournal.com profile] foxxydancr piped up that she had a cake recipe that used egg whites, and I was all over that shit. This is some magnificent fucking cake, you guys.

But! It was a little on the dry side, so I soaked it in a lemon glaze, which kind of helped but not totally. And the ice cream was a little bland, because I forgot to add flavoring, and also homemade ice cream, once frozen, is not as easy to scoop or eat as commercial ice cream. At least, mine isn't.

So then I made a cake milkshake.

I put a slice of cake in the blender and turned it to crumb, then added a few scoops of ice cream which made a very pretty slurry, then added some milk and poured the whole thing into a cup and VOILA. THE MOST LABOR INTENSIVE MILKSHAKE IN THE COUNTRY.

Thus, in the end, the eggs were reunited.

I shoulda just made a really big omelette.
Why hello there, half-written blog post I forgot I had started.

So, don't judge me. When I order my groceries every month I usually order four packs of pre-sliced apples (because four is the number of packs I can eat before they start turning brown). Yes, I know that pre-sliced apples are ridiculous, but eating regular apples hurts my mouth and slicing them is messy when I'm at work and all I want is a damn apple slice. And the pack of slices, which is about equal to one medium-sized apple, only costs ten cents more than an actual apple that has not been pre-sliced for my convenience, so I don't feel too badly about it.

The point is, I usually get four little bags with an apple's worth of pre-sliced apple in them, and I eat them the first week of the month, and I am happy with my apples.

Except apparently this past month they ran out of those, so they substituted a different item (PeaPod does this, it's always kind of an adventure). The item was a pack of apple slices whose only significant difference seems to be that they're organic, except that each bag also has about two apples' worth of apple slices which is way more apple than I can eat in a sitting.

And also PeaPod gave me twelve bags of them instead of four.

There I was with, basically, twenty-four pre-sliced apples for $4, and four days in which to eat them, and also I don't know where they're sourcing their apples but they were tart enough to border on sour. And also they don't list the kind of apple you get in the bag, so I couldn't make pie because you can only really use certain apples for pie. So I made applesauce!

It might actually be more accurate to say I invented applesauce, because the recipes I found on the internet varied wildly. One called for four apples and 3/4 cups sugar, while another called for eight apples and five tablespoons of sugar, et cetera. I like sugar, so I put about sixteen apples in the slow cooker, covered them with a cup of brown sugar and one of white sugar, added about half a bottle of dried valencia orange peel and a generous sprinkling of lemon juice, poured a cup of water over the whole thing, and let it all stew for like ten hours before pureeing the crap out of it.

And now I have a gallon of applesauce I did not intend to possess when the month began.

HOW D'YA LIKE THEM APPLES?

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