Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Homemade Tostitos® With Hint Of Lime

Update, 2/28/2013 -
So, if you haven't already seen it in a more recent post, a friend and I are starting a spice blend company, one in which we'll be selling my Tostitos® With Hint Of Lime clone. We came up with the idea for the spice company fairly recently, like 5 months ago or so, and in the process, I thought that this could be one of the blends we'd carry. The thing is, when you're talking about selling a commercial product to the general public it kind of requires you to up your game a little, especially when your standards are higher than average already. So I revisited the recipe to make sure it was as good as I'd remembered (I hadn't made any in awhile). And while I've always been 100% happy with the recipe as listed here, when I tried it with the goal in mind of selling it commercially, it felt like it needed some work. So I tweaked it a tiny little bit, and now, after much taste-testing by me, my business partner, and my coworkers, we feel like it's really ready for Prime Time. The new recipe is not far off from this one at all (we added an anti-caking agent and don't use MSG, even though we both feel it's negative image is vastly overstated), but, for business reasons, I can't really post it here. However, that's not at all to say that this is not a good recipe or close approximation of the commercial stuff. I think it's both, and I leave it here as-is for anyone who loves the commercial stuff as much as I do (or did, until I started making my own). It's not quite as good as the new formula, but it is pretty damn good, and it's also a good starting point for messing around with your own formula, if you're so inclined. (If you're not, I'll be linking to a pretty good new spice company on my front page here soon, where you can buy an excellent clone!)
Tostitos® With Hint Of Lime- pretty much my favorite chip ever (Keystone Snacks used to make a jalapeño tortilla chip back in the 80's- that was actually (gasp!) hot- that was my favorite chip ever, but seeing as they apparently no longer make them, and seeing as I've come up with my own jalapeño-lime variety, the Tostitos® With Hint Of Lime takes the top spot for me now. I hardly ever buy them anymore though, because if I do I have to eat the whole 13 oz. bag in one sitting. Can't stop myself like I can with most other chips (paired with a little Huy Fong Chili-Garlic sauce, which I buy by the gallon, on the side? Heaven). So I probably shouldn't have tried coming up with my own recipe to make them at home. But I did anyway. And y'know what? It's pretty damn good. Surprisingly, it came out on the very first try- no tweaking at all.

Here's the ingredient list:

3/4 c. sour cream powder
1/2 c. + 1T whey powder
1/4 c. + 1t lime juice powder
1T m.s.g. (Optional, I guess. But I really like the stuff, and haven't taste-tested the chips without it, so can't say what/if there's a difference.)
2t salt (I used kosher, as always, but ground it to a powder in my mortar and pestle.)

That's pretty much it- just mix up all of that and you're good to go. Quarter up some corn tortilla chips and deep-fry in small batches until they're done and douse liberally with the stuff. As far as I'm concerned, the taste is almost identical to the store-bought stuff. Other folks might not think so, but I think it's so close that I have no plans to try and tweak the recipe. The main difference that I notice is the texture. The texture of the chip is obviously different, being made at home and all. Not quite as crispy and brittle as the commercial ones, but I can't figure out how to get them that way (not that I care, I think they're fine the way they are). But the other main difference (besides the fact that the homemade ones don't have little green specks like the commercial ones do) is the texture of the seasoning. The commercial variety is more granular than what you'll get with this recipe. I prefer it that way myself, but until I can find a more granular sour cream powder (not likely) I don't see any way to change things. No matter, I'm happy with the result. If you happen to like the commercial variety, give these a try. I think you'll like them too.

Here's where you can find the stuff, if you don't already know:

Sour cream powder can be had at Perfect Pantry ($9/lb.)
Whey powder I got through MySpicer ($3.68/lb.)
Lime juice powder I got through Spice Barn, though The Great American Spice Company has it too, but it's more expensive ~$10/lb. vs. $7 at Spice Barn. The only difference that I can see between the two is on the ingredients list- GAS lists only 100% lime juice. SB lists 'corn syrup solids, lime juice, and lime oil.' I've tasted both directly from the container and can't tell the difference, so in the future I plan on staying with SB, as long as they're cheaper. (All prices were listed were current at the time of this writing.)

(This is the store-bought variety. See those little green specks? They kind of trouble me. What the hell are they? My lime juice powder is nowhere near that green. None of the ingredients listed on the bag say anything about 'green food coloring,' only red and blue. There's no parsley flakes listed. Nothing. 'Natural flavors,' maybe? Like what?! Well, no matter- I'll still eat them (occasionally). They're just too damn good.)

Peeling Garlic

Ok, first off, let me just say that I've been told, numerous times, that I'm a little weird. I know it. I'm fine with it.

Second thing- my preferred way of peeling garlic is just to not do it at all- I like to buy those 1+ lb. containers of already-peeled cloves and just use those. Saves time, and you never end up with all those tiny little cloves that are too small to bother with in the first place (or if you do, so what? They're already peeled). But I just happened to have a sleeve of bulbs that I bought recently at the Asian store that needed using, so I thought I'd share my newest way of peeling garlic. You've maybe seen those E-Z garlic peeler tubes that sell for $6.99 (and could possibly double as a cheap sex toy for men, not that I would know anything about that)? Yeah, I've seen 'em too and I've heard they work really well. I wouldn't know, I'm too cheap to buy one. Plus, my old method for peeling a bunch of garlic was either just to do them individually by hand, or to put all the separated cloves in a stainless steel mixing bowl, cover with another bowl and shake it all like the dickens (my brother learned that trick off of Dinner: Impossible. It works ok, but unless you're doing a whole bunch at once, or just need a decent upper body workout, I'd just stick to doing them by hand). So anyway, having been doing some kitchen wares shopping recently for my new apartment, I was at Bed Bath & Beyond not long ago and saw that E-Z garlic peeler sleeve/sex toy contraption, and it reminded me of something- I just happened to have an old bicycle inner tube sitting around at home that I wasn't doing anything with. Actually, I had already hacked it up a bit for some other project I was working on, but I thought, 'Why not?' and so I gave it a try (after washing it thoroughly, of course). It probably would have been better if I'd not sliced it open lengthwise, but what was done was done, and I didn't have any more. But hey, it works! Generally only a couple cloves at a time, but but you just slap them on at the lower end, fold over the length of the tube, and slide up once or twice.

Once is usually enough, though. The skins are pretty well shredded off of the clove, and all you do is brush them off and throw away.

Again, if I hadn't sliced it open lengthwise, it would probably be even better, since you could fit in as many cloves as the length of the tube would allow and roll 'em like a rolling pin. Anyway, if you're weird and cheap, like me, and don't buy the pre-peeled cloves, unlike me, it's worth considering since an inner tube generally only costs about $2.50. Just remember not to slice it open lengthwise.


In unrelated news, do you like Tostitos® with Hint of Lime tortilla chips? I love 'em. So I came up with a recipe for making your own at home. They're really good. Hopefully that post will be up later today. If not today, then soon (sometime this week). Stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

How to kill fruit flies.

See that? That right there is a fruit fly drowning pool. And that is how you get rid of the fruit flies in your home. Safe, cheap, easy, and fairly quick.

Here's what you do- take some small container (I used a 1/4 c measuring cup) fill it to just below the rim with apple cider vinegar (I like to use 50/50 cider vinegar and water- cuts down on the strong vinegar smell, but still attracts the flies like a magnet). Set the cup somewhere kind of nearby where the fruit flies are at, but still out of the way of stuff, and kind of away from wherever it is they happen to want to be (usually around the kitchen sink or trash can, in my case) - because remember, this will attract them, so you want to attract them away from a busy area. I set mine under the sink, near the trash can, which is where they happened to be anyway, but it was still out of my way. Anyway, once you've got it in place, take a bottle of ordinary dish soap and add just a single drop to the center of the cup. My bottle of dish soap is kind of big and tends to dispense way too much at one time, even when using it for doing dishes, so I filled a small pump bottle that works beautifully. Alternately, you could dip a toothpick or something in the soap and let a drop fall of of that into the center of the cup of vinegar. (I've actually tried coating a toothpick in the soap and then dipping it right into the vinegar, but I found that letting a drop fall in seems to work better for some reason.) What the soap does is break the surface tension of the liquid- fruit fly goes down to take a drink, falls in and drowns! Obviously it takes a little time for it to kill them all completely- depending on how bad your situation is, it could take several days to get rid of them all (or longer, if you've got it really bad like we do at work every spring). But generally I've found that after the first night of setting out the trap, I get well over half of whatever's flying around my kitchen, and then the other half is usually gone in the next day or two. I think I counted about 17 in this picture, and the trap was set out for less than 12 hours. I've seen a couple more flying around the kitchen area, but that's it. Fruit flies are cautious- but also stupid. If you set one of these traps out and watch them as they get attracted to it, generally what you'll see is that they hang around the edge of the cup for awhile, then walk on down to the edge of the vinegar to inspect, then walk back up to the edge of the cup, then walk around the edge of the cup and back on down to the vinegar. It goes on and on like that for awhile, but eventually they can't seem to help themselves, and even when it's obvious that a couple dozen of their buddies are clearly dead at the bottom of the drink, they'll still go on in for a taste, and end up joining their buddies. It's only a matter of time.

One of the (many) things I really like about this method, unlike using toxic chemical sprays to kill them, is that there's no dead flies lying around your kitchen waiting for you to clean them up later- you just dump them down the drain/toilet, lickety-split. Cider vinegar isn't the only thing that works, obviously. They really, really love balsamic vinegar (but even the cheap stuff is more expensive than cider vinegar, plus you can't see how many you've caught). Red or white wine work well too, but again, more expensive than cider vinegar. There are other, similar methods to this one that will work too- making a paper cone and setting it into a jar with cider vinegar in the bottom as bait, as described here and other places, but I much prefer this method- simpler, and they're already dead so you don't have to try and drown them yourself once you've caught them.