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Spent

3 Feb

I wrote this post a almost a year ago, but never shared it.  Obvi not drinking now. Enjoy this new old content! 

One of the ways my husband and I like to spend our weekends is brewing beer.  It’s usually a pretty relaxed afternoon with a lot of waiting around (until there’s a boil over).  Brewing beer reminds me of making jam. It’s a curious intersection between chemistry and cooking that makes it interesting and prone to getting completely ruined if you miss a step.What fun!

One of the downsides to homebrewing is that there’s a lot of waste.  We recently switched from a water bath to an immersion wort chiller. The water bath took a lot of water and so much time.  The word chiller is way faster, but it uses more water.  For five gallons of beer, this is how much water we had leftover from the chilling process:

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We run a hose to a trash can that I use for watering my plants so all that water’s not just going to waste.  I can’t reuse the sanitizing water and I don’t have anything in place to save other wash water, so there’s still some leftover, but not quite so much.

Another byproduct of brewing is the spent grain. At the beginning of the process, you steep milled grain in boiling water.  It’s like a tea that tastes like stale beer! You take the grain out when you’re done.  Lots of people have come up with recipes to use for spent grain.  Every time we brew, I save the grain, and every time my husband asks me if it’s okay to throw it out a month later. Considering it’s usually sprouting a new cure for the common cold at this point, I acquiesce.  This week I decided that if I was going to use it, I would have to do it immediately or I’d lose interest.  Not only that, I was going to use the grain as many ways as I could so I would be familiar with easy ways to use it in the future.  Here’s my experiment with three different ways of using spent grain from easiest to hardest.

Dog Treats

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Luna licking her lips after devouring her treat.

 

Recipe
I don’t have a dog [note from current April: Now I do!], but my in-laws have two.  The dog treats use up the most grains of any recipe and they’re super easy.  I’ve taken to keeping a big jar of cheap peanut butter in my pantry for baking and this was a good use of it.  I only made a half recipe of this since I wanted to try the other recipes, too, and it made about two dozen treats.  I’ll definitely use this in the future when I just want to use up the grains quickly. I can’t comment on the taste, but the dogs seemed to like them.

Bread Untitled
Recipe
Oh, how I love the idea of homemade bread. I love the way it makes my kitchen smell and I love how I can spend the following week telling people I made homemade bread. It makes me sound like I have my life together. Baking bread usually takes too much commitment for me though. I hate waiting around for it to rise. I do not have the world’s longest attention span and after all the waiting that comes with brewing, more waiting from bread does not appeal. This recipe, however, is fantastic. Maybe it’s just the ease of these instructions, but I found a recipe I can stick to. The bread itself turned out great. I brought it to work with some jam made by a family member and it was a hit in the office. I may have eaten most of it.

Pretzel Bites
Recipe
These are the first things I tried since I love pretzels.  The process for making them is really fun, too.  You get to play with yeast like you do with bread and you get to boil the dough.  The timing works out really well with this recipe since you can make the dough and let it rise while the beer is boiling. Then, you can finish up with the dough boiling and baking after you set up fermentation.  I let my dough rise for several hours since I got sidetracked and it still worked out.  We had a baseball game the next day so they were a great snack!

~April

Kitchen Adventure and a Recipe

13 May

Somewhere in the middle of April my friend Grecia invited a bunch of us over to show us how to cook.

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Grecia makes amazing dishes that she learned from her grandmother who grew up in Michoacan Mexico, and we happily eat her food at potlucks while moaning in gastronomic ecstasy. But Grecia is heading to the Marin Headlands soon (lucky gal) and she was gracious enough to teach us how to make a few of these dishes before departing.

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It was a delightful afternoon of friends, laughter, and amazing food.

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This is Marya’s excited face!

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I don’t remember what was happening here, but it was apparently really funny.

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We spent forever trying several different ways to get that stupid lid off. Then Grecia swooped in and rescued us. Yep, she used her teeth.

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Marya is still excited!
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She seriously could not contain herself.

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Flautas con Salsa Verde de Aguacate or Salsa de Papa, y Queso Fresco

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Mole con Sopa de Arroz

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It was an amazing feast.

Grecia even gave me permission to share her recipe for Tamarind Water.

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I wish I had gotten a picture of the tamarinds. I had never seen one, and the bowl of them caught my attention the second I walked into the kitchen. Within a few minutes Grecia had us peeling them and turning them into a delicious sweet and refreshing beverage.

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Agua Fresca de Tamarindo
Ingredients:
2-3lbs of tamarind
Sugar
Water
Intructions: Peel tamarinds and set to soak in water (overnight
preferably). Add more water and squuuuuuezee the juice out with
your hands. Keep adding water until you have squeezed all the juice
out and the seeds are left behind. Strain the juice into a container
and add sugar to your taste. Enjoy!!

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Katie works the tamarind magic.

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Food time. Out of our way!

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Many Good Noms.

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Clean up? No problem. Mila is on it.

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Such a great afternoon.

~Robin

Sexy McGregor

4 Oct

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The inspiration for this concoction came, oddly enough, from one of Rebecca’s students, who informed her that in Scotland banana boats are filled with Bailey’s Irish Cream instead of the typical chocolate and marshmallows.

We thought this was a swell idea and gave it a try. Unfortunately this resulted in a smokey mess, and let me tell you, the odor of burned Irish Cream is as tragic as it is acrid. Fortunately for everyone, we didn’t give up and instead tried heating the ingredients together in a double boiler. Somewhere in the process we decided to add chocolate and dump the concoction over ice cream and the results were, well…

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It was like a night of romance in a highland castle with a tall, dark, kilted, stranger who is quite possibly named something like “Duncan Fionnlagh McGregor.*” Our friend Margaret dubbed it the “Sexy McGregor” and by that name it shall forever be known.

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Sexy McGregor
Two bananas, chopped
1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
1/4 cup chocolate chips and/or chocolate sauce (optional)
Ice cream (Also optional. We won’t judge if we catch you eating it with a spoon if you promise to return the favor.)

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Combine bananas, Bailey’s, and chocolate in a double boiler. Stir until the concoction gets bubbly and your knees go weak with desire. Dump over ice cream immediately. (Or if you have the patience and chastity of a nun, chill and serve later.)

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The version of this with melted chocolate chips doesn’t look as pretty, but it’s good enough to give you a case of the vapors.

~Robin

Strawberry Ginger Lemonade Popsicles

24 Aug

I know I’ve mentioned this already, but it’s been a hot summer.

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When it’s this hot popsicles are a daily part of my sanity-maintenance-routine. When the temperature started rising I splurged on popsicle molds, and all summer I’ve been slurping down homemade popsicles of all flavors and colors.

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Although my popsicle obsession has been running strong since spring, I haven’t shared any recipes because I haven’t bothered to actually follow any recipes. Most of my concoctions were pretty tasty, with the exception of these Night of the Living Dead Ginger Beet Juice popsicles. They didn’t taste that great, but it was fun to watch Jackie eat them.

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After a few weeks of experimentation (and many more of forgetting to measure out and write down the ingredients) I am finally ready to share my favorite popsicle of the summer.

Strawberry Ginger Lemonade Popsicles

10 oz (approximately 2 Cups) Fresh or Frozen Strawberries
4 Teaspoons Lemon Juice
2 Tablespoons Strawberry Jam
2 Tablespoons Agave Syrup
1 Teaspoon Dried Ginger Powder

Combine ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and pour into popsicle molds. Freeze.

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Enjoy!

~Robin

P.S. These proportions made enough to fill my Zoku mold, which makes six popsicles that are about 1/3 of a cup each.

Just Beet It!

23 Nov

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“You’re pickling what with what now?”

This was my roommates reaction when I started making pickled eggs and beets. I didn’t realize that you wouldn’t know about this dish if you didn’t grow up near amish country. I guess you could pickle eggs without adding beets, but why miss an opportunity to eat something fluorescent pink?

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I started with this recipe but I didn’t have any cinnamon stick. Instead of using ground cinnamon I decided to omit it entirely and added a bit of pepper. I found I had way more beet juice than the recipe predicted so I added a bit more sugar and vinegar and tossed in a few more eggs. In total I pickled eight eggs, but I probably could have fit more in the batch. In the future I’ll probably add a clove or two of garlic.

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Mostly I just eat them straight from the jar, but I did manage to act like an adult one night this week and put them on a salad. I don’t know if they’ll last long enough for me to try them with any other dish.

~Robin

Outbreak

3 Nov

My roommate Rebecca reacted to the Great 2013 Canning Bender with the same sassy bemusement that she reserves for, well… all of my antics. She would walk into the kitchen and see me sweating over the stove, elbow-deep in slimy peach goo, and just shake her head and quietly chuckle to herself. She must have thought I didn’t notice.

I first suspected she was up to something when I saw her CSA veggies overflowing the fridge week after week. How could a single person (even a vegetarian) eat all of that produce before it spoiled? My suspicions grew after I saw her eating pickles. Homemade pickles. Pickles that I didn’t make.

Then I found this in the kitchen:

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She was definitely up to something. I laid a trap (by which I mean I sat on the counter with my camera until she walked back into the kitchen). She moved so quickly that the photos are blurry but here it is folks: photographic proof of my darkest suspicions.

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This canning thing is contagious.

Alert the CDC.

~Robin

P.S. She was making this recipe.

Millions of Peaches

22 Sep

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I wanted to take my quest to can seasonal food to the hyper-local level. With that goal in mind I romped a few hundred feet up the hill to my friend Sarah’s house armed with a fruit picker. Sarah’s house has a peach tree growing in her yard that caught the attention of a local bear last year. She offered free fruit to anyone willing to pick it before the bears found it again.

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As it turns out I didn’t even need the fruit picker. All it took was a sturdy shake, and the tree rained peaches. Within a few minutes I had more peaches than I knew what to do with.

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I learned the hard way that preserving a five gallon bucket’s worth of tiny peaches is an enormous undertaking. If you’re going to try it you had better be committed (to the task, but possibly also to a place with padded walls). Blanching and coring them was a huge pain. These little peaches aren’t the freestone variety that you find in the supermarket, so getting the pit to surrender the fruit is easy as ripping a chronically bored teenager away from their smartphone.

I froze a few pounds for smoothies but the rest of that five gallon bucket went into cans.

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Peach Butter from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving

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Peach Salsa

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Brandied Peaches from The Preservation Kitchen

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Andy is excited for peaches. I’m still exhausted by the very thought of them.

~Robin

The Great Tomato Canning Adventure

19 Sep

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Aside from it’s rampant popularity, there were two reasons why canning piqued my interest. I like the idea of eating seasonally and locally, and I would love to reduce the number of jars I pitch into the recycle bin. I realized that I use a lot of canned products, particularly marinara sauce and salsa. The rate at which I accumulate these jars is frankly alarming. Fortunately my canning bender and tomato season hit about the same time.

I started with this salsa. I had never heard of Anaheim peppers before reading the recipe.

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As it turns out Anaheim peppers are a bit grumpy.

The best part of this recipe is the roasting. I have a bit of experience roasting peppers, but I had never even considered roasting tomatoes before. It was a revelation. It filled the house with an amazing tomatoey aroma, and the tomatoes tasted incredible. I even enjoyed munching on the leftover tomato skins. In the future I will be looking for any excuse I can find to to roast tomatoes.

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Happy Spoon also approves of roasted tomatoes.

I was so happy with how the salsa came out that I decided I wanted to roast the rest of my tomatoes. I had originally planned to make marinara sauce with them, but I was horrified appalled outraged shocked when I saw that the recipe called for ten pounds of tomatoes to make three itty bitty pint jars of sauce. I have never made marinara sauce from scratch before; I had no idea that the jars of store bought sauce that I crack open nearly every single week use so much.

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Instead I opted for this recipe which calls for roasting then canning the tomatoes whole. This does mean that when I want to use these suckers I’m going to have to go through some extra work to turn them into sauce.

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Happy Spoon promises to be there for me when that time comes. I hope it’s worth it.

~Robin

In a Pickle

17 Sep

The great 2013 Yosemite canning bender all started with my friends Lauren and Glikin. They recently bought a beautiful patch of dirt in Cathey’s Valley and started Raw Roots Farm. When I got back into town I stopped by their table at taco night and bought a few of these cute little cucumbers. Little did I know that those cucumbers would be the tiny little pebbles that started the avalanche.

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I took them home and made them into refrigerator pickles. I used fresh dill because I didn’t have any dill seed and because fresh dill is one of the most magical things on earth.

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The recipe also said to let them cure for at least a day before eating them but I got curious about twelve hours later and tried one. With the help of a few roommates and friends that first jar barely lasted a day.

Thanks for the cucumbers guys! If you hurry I might let you try some from the last jar before they disappear.

~Robin

I’ve Caught Canning Fever

15 Sep

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In case you haven’t noticed canning is in. I don’t know if this is the direct result of the Mason jar craft mania that’s been rioting all over Pinterest or because everything is in season and now is the time to can. In any case it must be contagious because somewhere in the middle of all the insanity of the past few weeks I decided that it was high time that I tried canning. (Also, I’m pretty sure April is at least partly to blame here.)

My quest began, as most great quests do, at the library where I found The Preservation Kitchen by Paul Virant. Of all the canning books I’ve scoped out recently (and there have been a lot) this book is my favorite so far. I love that he gives ingredient lists in grams, ounces, percentages, and regular old cups and spoons. The recipes are pretty enticing, and it doesn’t hurt that the photography is gorgeous.

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I was visiting family in Ohio, so I headed to the Countryside Conservancy Farmers Market at Howe Meadow in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I was thrilled to see that the farmers market has more than doubled in size since I was last there.

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I knew I wanted to start with pickling, so I just bought a bunch of whatever was in season and I had a recipe for.

After a few hours in the kitchen with the (much needed) supervision of Amanda I had my first canned goods.

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Pickled Candy Onions and Grilled and Pickled Sweet Peppers.

Ironically, because I had to hop on a plane back to California without checking luggage, I couldn’t take them with me. I gave a few cans to Amanda; she’s going to have to tell me how they turned out because I won’t be able to taste them for awhile.

Any sane person would have probably stopped here right?

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I am clearly not sane. After I had gotten settled back in Yosemite, I went on a canning bender of epic proportions. Brace yourself.

~Robin