Monday, February 28, 2011

Purgatory Is Lovely

Rachel here.

Ok, so first off, pardon the photos. I accidentally spilled a giant glass of water all over my camera in an effort not to spill coffee all over my computer (ok, probably too many beverages around valuable and expensive pieces of equipment...lesson learned). While my computer was spared (::phew::), my camera has decided to open but nothing else. Awesome. So these photos were taken on my cell phone. Better than no photos? Probably, but definitely not ideal.

What I made the other night was Eggs in Purgatory. What I will now be making probably once a week is Eggs in Purgatory. You know those bits in your fridge that are still good but instead of trying to navigate the tedium of figuring out a delicious way to use them all you close the fridge door, hoping that by the next time you open it they'll have turned and you can legitimately throw them away? Here is your solution.

Click here for the original recipe that I found on the Food Network. The version I made followed the general form but I had substitutions for most of the ingredients (pepperoni instead of salami, different peppers, no parsley, etc.). Therein lies the brilliance of this dish. I could see it working well with mushrooms or potato, some spinach...really, just about anything.

OH! And it's easy. Really easy. And quick, too. It's like, the perfect recipe for weeknight cooking.

Have you ever made this dish before? A variation on this theme? What do you do with the incredible edible egg?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Janet's Jam Bars

This recipe was supposed to be homemade granola bars, but after they came out, they clearly were more like jam bars, hence the alliterative name — the first recipe I've named after myself by the way.

Anyway, while I might have been disappointed that the recipe didn't work, the minute I bit into one of these babies, that thought melted away. These are so tasty. I encourage you to try whatever combo of fruit you like for the jam part. This one was particularly tasty but I could see trying apricots and mangoes for instance. These last well when stored in an airtight container.

Janet's Jam Jars

1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups water

1 cup walnut halves
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 10 pieces
6 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons flaxseed
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds

To make the jam, put the dried fruit, water and sugar into a pot. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let it sit for about 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse 8-10 times until a chunky jam forms.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes until lightly toasted. Let cool

Leave the oven on. Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter in a food processor if you have one by pulsing about 15 times. I did most of this by hand, however, because I don't have that kind of food processor. Anyway, once it's evenly combined, dump it into a bowl and drizzle the honey on top. Then work the honey in with your hands.

Press about 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Place the remaining 1/3 in the fridge.

Bake for about 35 minutes until it's lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven and spoon the jam on top. Spread evenly. Add the flaxseeds and sunflower seeds to the remaining mix, crumbling with your fingers. Then sprinkle on top of the jam.

Bake for 50-60 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let cool in the pan for about 3 hours. Then cut into bars.

All Bacon All the Time

Janet here:

Clearly winter is getting to me. I am craving comfort food and have been on a baking and bacon binge — although so far not in the same moment, which is probably good. If, however, you see a post here about a bacon chocolate chip cookie some day soon, you will know I have officially gone off the deep end.

While I gave up eating red meat over 30 years ago, I remain a bacon freak and often suggest that my children order bacon when we're at a restaurant so I can snag a piece. It's a weakness I know, but there it is. Anyway, to appease my conscience, I made this dish with turkey bacon. You obviously can use the other kind and all will likely be well.

Mac and cheese is the consummate comfort food to me but for years was — sadly — off limits in our family meal cycle because Rachel got sick once after having this for dinner and basically even the mention of mac and cheese elicited a gag reflex on her part.

Almost the day she left the house, though, I brought it back. This particular version is made not just with grated cheddar but with blue cheese as well. And, then, because I clearly had not added enough calories yet, I added bacon ... lots of it. (I also made a chili with bacon the same week but more on that another time.) The reviews were raves all around. I dare you to feel differently.

Ridiculously Cheesy Mac and Cheese
serves 4 or fewer if you have teenage or older boys in the house

3/4 pound elbow macaroni
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
3/4 cup blue cheese, crumbled
5-6 pieces of bacon, cooked and broken into bits
3-4 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk (or you could do half-and-half if you felt really decadent)
salt and pepper to taste
about 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Fill a large pot with salted water. Bring to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Remove from heat and drain out the water.

While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter. When it's melted, add the flour and stir to make a roux. Add the milk and stir so there are no floury blobs and until the mixture begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the cheddar. Stir until the cheddar is melted in. Add the blue cheese and stir until melted.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta in a casserole dish. Add the bacon pieces and stir it all together. Taste for salt and pepper needs (likely not much salt due to the bacon and the cheeses). Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until the top is brown and the whole delicious concoction is bubbling.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fake It Til You Make It

One recipe is an anomaly. Two suggests a pattern. Three and you're full on into a lifestyle, which is why we decided that the third post by our friend Susan involving a "fake" recipe, ie a recipe that isn't entirely from scratch, deserves a nickname. And so it is that we introduce Susan, Miss Fake It Til You Make It.

I need to make one thing clear immediately: All three of these recipes have been very tasty. It's just that Susan is the same friend who literally went into my freezer one night while having dinner at my house and pulled out a container of Cool Whip and proclaimed to the seated group something like, "AHA! I KNEW this wasn't real whipped cream!!!" And she has brought that story up more than once while enjoying a tasty meal at my home with others.

It was scarring.

So I have found it, um, ironic that she's perfectly fine with faking it with her desserts. Curious, don't you think? I will also add that Susan brought a cake plate to display her "fake" recipe for the blog photo. So presentation is important but having all real ingredients is apparently not.

Anyway, here's the latest in Susan's fake cooking life. I have eaten more of these than is healthy and plan to make them one day soon for sure. You'll like them, too, and you don't have to tell anyone that the whole thing didn't take you hours in the kitchen. :)

(If you want to see Miss Fake It Til You Make It's other recipes, click here for Fake Cake and here for fake turtles candy.

Apple Streusel Cheesecake Bars

1 pouch Betty Crocker oatmeal cookie mix
1/2 cup firm butter or margarine
2 packages (8 oz ea) cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vaniilla
1 egg
1 can apple pie filling or 1-2 granny smith apples, diced
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 13x9 in pan with cooking spray.
Place cookie mix in food processor. Cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the crumbs; press the remaining mixture in the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 mins.

Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese, sugar, flour, vanilla and egg until smooth. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the partially baked crust. Mix the apples with cinnamon (and a little sugar if using real apples). Spoon the apple mixture over the cream cheese. Sprinkle with reserved crumbs and nuts.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool for 30 min. Then refrigerate to chill and store.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Zippy Pizza Dinner

Want to have dinner on the table about 20 minutes after you start and have it be nutritious? Make this super simple spinach and cheese(s) pizza. I did it the other night and it's a new favorite pizza. (I also didn't take a photo because I first thought it was too easy to share, but obviously have gotten over that.)

First I am a fan of the thin Boboli pre-made pizza crusts. If you have an issue with that, you can pick up some pre-made dough or, if you're really a purist, you can make your own from scratch, at which point this is no longer a super simple/fast dinner options but obviously will be tasty nonetheless.

Anyway here's the "recipe." You can lie and tell your family it took hours to prepare :)

Sauteed Spinach/Cheese Pizza
serves 2

1 Boboli pre-made pizza crust or the crust of your choice
1 package fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, diced
red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste
about 1 cup of feta cheese
about 1 cup of grated mozzarella
4-6 slices of provolone

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat the olive oil in the pan. Add the spinach, garlic, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper. Toss for a few minutes until the spinach is just wilted.

Crumble and spread the feta around the pizza crust. Feel free to add more cheese in general to satisfy yourself. My suggestions are approximations. Spread the spinach/garlic mix over the pizza dough. Lay the provolone on top and then sprinkle the mozzarella around the top.

Put the pizza in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, until the crust is a little crusty and the cheese is nicely melted and browned. Slice and serve.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Oh Sh*t It's Valentine's Day...

Rachel here.

Ok, so before I go any further, I feel like I need to disclose the fact that we--as in John and I--do not do Valentine's Day. Never have (except that one year that John broke the rule and got me a present and I felt horrible for not having broken the rule myself and gotten him one...) and most likely never really will. It's just not really our style. We don't do anniversaries, either, and I am here to say that despite our shirking of these social norms, we are still completely in love and there is plenty of romance.

But anyway...that's really neither here nor there because today is Valentine's Day and most likely you are here reading because of the title of the post which, most likely, means it has snuck up on you (either that or you're just a loyal reader and we *love* you for that). Anyway, if there's a person/people/whatever walking around today with hearts in their eyes and a bounce in their step because they just know you're going to do something sweet for them, I--the anti-valentine--am here to help.

There's a meal that we eat from time to time and, at least for my part, it's not only because it's delicious but also because it reminds me of the early days of John+Rachel, back when we went to the grocery store every day to pick out dinner, back when we lived in a studio apartment, back when there were no kids or kittens...ahhh, back in the good old days. It's really phenomenally simple but it's just decadent enough to feel out of the everyday, to feel a little bit special. Turn it into an impromptu picnic on the living room floor with some candles and wine (and hey, if you've got a little time, some homemade peanut butter can do it!) and everyone will be feeling love-ly in no time.

Here's what you need:
1 fresh baguette
1 heirloom tomato, sliced
1 small red onion, sliced very thin
arugula (2 handfuls? I don't know...)
balsamic vinegar
very thinly sliced rare roast beef (or skip this for a vegetarian's scrumptious either way)
blue cheese
salt and fresh pepper

Here's what you do:
Slice baguette in half and then into pieces roughly 6 inches long. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Pile arugula and onion and top with tomato. Fold roast beef on top and sprinkle salt over. Crumble blue cheese before a dash of fresh pepper. Eat and watch the sparks fly.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Soup Anyone?

Lest people think Rachel and I are only obsessed with desserts and sugar, I thought I'd put up this tasty, easy soup that I made the other night for dinner. I served it with a frittata and life was good all the way around.

Roasted Tomato Black Bean Soup
serves about 6

7 tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 large onion, cut into about 6 pieces
3 cloves of garlic, whole
about 2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
4-5 cups broth, veggie or chicken (how much depends on how soupy you like your soups)
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the tomatoes, onion and garlic into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and salt/pepper. Place on a baking pan and roast for about 30 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the onions are beginning to brown slightly. Garlic should be soft too.

Meanwhile drain and rinse the beans. When the tomatoes are done, place them in a large saucepan with the beans, spices and broth. Let simmer for about 10 minutes. Then place in the blender in batches and puree. Add a little fresh cilantro if you're so inclined and you're ready to go.

What's your favorite go-to soup for supper?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Operation Perfect Peanut Butter Cups

Rachel here-

So, as my mom posted about yesterday (click here), I have been--no wait, I am--on a mission to make perfect homemade peanut butter cups.

I've come a long way since my first batch, but I haven't quite nailed it yet. My mom wants the chocolate a little darker, my brother wants the peanut butter a little creamier, and John wants the peanut butter to be a little bit sweeter. I'm not sure I completely agree with them all, but the quest clearly continues. I won't have made perfect peanut butter cups until somebody agrees with me that I have is the way I'm figuring it.

Anyway, the good news--besides the fact that I can consume pounds of chocolate and peanut butter without any issue (before I made the batch I sent my mom I had already made a few trial batches...I kept telling my friend Shirley I'd share them with her but that never happened...I cannot cohabitate with peanut butter cups for very long, whether they're perfect or not)--is that these are insanely easy.

Make some peanut butter (or don't! Just use your favorite kind from the store...I won't tell). To make a dozen large peanut butter cups, melt 16 ounces of chocolate. I used a 50/50 mix of milk chocolate and bittersweet, ultimately trying to make a sweeter chocolate instead of a sweeter peanut butter because I really like the peanut butter I've been making as it is. As the chocolate is melting, line a muffin tin with paper liners. Coat the bottom of each muffin cup with a thin layer of chocolate and place tin in the fridge until chocolate solidifies (this is pretty quick, though varies depending on the thickness of your chocolate layer). When chocolate base layer is hard, form peanut butter into circles that are flat on the top and bottom and slightly smaller than the layer of chocolate they're resting on (this is key for getting chocolate down all of the sides). I used really generous tablespoons of peanut butter for mine, but the nice thing about making these is you can make them in whatever chocolate to peanut butter ratio suits you. Pour chocolate over the top, doing your best to get it to drip down on all sides. Place in the fridge again until solidified and then taste to make sure all is well (it will be, I promise).

I've already got ideas for variations. Cashew butter? Orange zest or sea salt on top? This could clearly become an obsession. I'll keep you all posted.

Are there any variations that sound good to you? Have you ever tried and tried and tried until you've perfected a recipe? Do you have any tips on making peanut butter cups?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hooray for the U.S. Mail

Janet here:
Rachel has been talking about, and experimenting with, making her own peanut butter cups ever since she visited around the holidays and had some from the Chocolate Moose, a now-defunct (sadly) chocolatier who once had a store but now only makes her chocolates a couple of times a year. (She also makes the BEST almond crunch in the world, and believe me I consider myself somewhat of an expert having consumed this particular type of confection for years and from all over the place. Suzanne's is to die-for.)

Anyway Rachel had one of the peanut butter cups and proclaimed that she was going to learn to make them herself. Ever the supportive mother, I encouraged her in this endeavor, figuring I would reap the benefits at some point. Rachel started by making her own peanut butter. From there she began experimenting with the chocolate covering. Dedicated cook that she is, Rachel has apparently made several batches of these babies before finally sending me a few. (She also sent me shortbread because, as regular readers know, I have given up ever being able to make my own after several epic fails. I choose to think her sending me these is because she loves me rather than that she wants to rub my face in my shortbread failure.)

Anyway I am happy to report that Rachel is well on her way to nailing this peanut butter cup recipe. The chocolate is damn close to the right mix of dark and milk chocolate (I would vote for a tad more dark myself), and she'll be posting about it tomorrow for all to try. In the meantime, this photo will just have to tide you over. I'll think of you all during my next tasty bite.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hallelujah! I am Cleansed!

Janet here:
My 3-week purification cleanse ended Saturday and from my perspective it wasn't a moment too soon. While I did fairly well following the plan and only cheated a few times (like the time one of my colleagues surprised me with a tall skinny caramel latte, my favorite Starbucks drink, and I allowed myself three sips, which practically killed me), the plan was pretty limiting and didn't allow for a whole lot of creative cooking. Baking, meanwhile, was just something I could dream about. (In case you didn't read my post, I gave up caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy and wheat for three weeks.)

I'm not going to lie: I had some weird moments during the cleanse. For instance, I bought the people I love in my family about seven different kinds of seriously good chocolate items. I don't buy this much chocolate in my non-cleansing life but for some reason, buying it made it easier not to eat, despite the fact that the stuff was literally sitting in front of me on the table. It was not rational.

That said, I can't deny some things did improve in my life. I lost some weight of course, but surprising — at least to me— is that the joints in my hands and fingers stopped hurting for the first time in years. I also stopped having some post-menopausal symptoms and my sinuses were decongested more than they have been in about 30 years, no joke.

These were all happy changes so as the cleanse end-date loomed, I began to think about how I would incorporate more normal, interesting eating but not lose the benefits. Just continuing to eat this way was not one of the options. (Apologies to all the healthy vegan/non-caffeinated/teetotalers out there but living without all those tasty items is not on my schedule.) I also began fantasizing about what food I would eat first that was not on the list. What was the thing I wanted most?

Yes, it's true. I wanted Dannon coffee yogurt with my homemade granola (no nuts on this cleanse either). I have eaten coffee yogurt with granola for breakfast for decades. The only time I eat other yogurt is if the store does not have Dannon, and whatever yogurt it is, it's a poor substitute and that's just a fact. The only time I don't eat yogurt is if I'm away from home or out for breakfast.

Anyway as soon as I decided what I wanted for the First Meal, I started thinking about it. A Lot. Now here's the thing: Dannon coffee yogurt is not always available. (which is why I usually buy at least 5 or 6 containers when I see it so I've got the week covered.) So I was a little worried when I went shopping. I rounded the corner in the dairy section of my supermarket, headed to the yogurt section and my heart sank. Plenty of fruit on the bottom Dannon but NO. COFFEE. YOGURT.


I headed to the checkout with my other groceries, loaded up the car, and without a moment's hesitation drove an extra 10 miles to another grocery store to see if it had coffee yogurt. The only question I had was whether or not I would drive to yet another grocery store if the local Stop and Slop didn't have coffee yogurt either. In my internal conversation, I was allowing as how driving to a third store would be kind of pathetic. I decided to just wait and see.

Happily, the coffee yogurt was there ... although I did have a moment of panic because it was hidden behind the peach fruit on the bottom type. I bought 4 containers, went home and had it lunch. After three weeks, the culinary planets were lined up once again.

Oh and in case you're wondering: Driving to a third store? Yea, that was going to happen.

Do you have something you'd drive to multiple stores to get? C'mon, share your secret.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beer for All

As part of our plan to add more bloggers to the LTIR mix, we're happy to introduce Mike, the Gay Beer Guy, as a regular columnist. He first posted a fabulous beer/food pairing post in December and we got a good response from folks, so we asked Mike, who we've known for years, if he'd be game to become a regular. Happily he was.

If you've ever thought about brewing beer but weren't sure how to go about it, or maybe you just like to think about beer and drink it, this column is for you. Mike will be posting the first Friday of the month, offering ideas on how to brew different beers and letting us know how he's doing in his beer experiments. Let him do the failing for you! You can just pick up on the successes. (Oh by the way, Mike is a mighty fine homebrewer. He just entered 3 beers in the Upper Mississippi Mashout, a beer competition out of Minneapolis that is the 2nd largest in the USA, and his Barleywine won a silver medal, and his Light Belgian Ale (which we've had the pleasure of tasting) won a gold.) He'll also periodically add some food ideas to go with his beers. So, without further ado, heeerrre's Mike!

Thank you both SOOO much for including me in Life Told in Recipes; I’m so excited that I’m not quite sure where to begin ... maybe describing how I got started brewing, especially since I’m not the stereotypical person to do something like this. First a bit about my formal background: I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in violin performance (technically, I also have a performance certificate) and have studied with some of the greatest musicians and teachers in the world. In addition, to being a professional musician (I have a very nice freelance and teaching career so far), I also have interests in food (that’s why I get along so well with LTIR) and in long distance running. I have completed a few half-marathons and one full marathon. Oh, and by the way, I’m gay (not that it’s anyone’s business, but don’t you think it’s odd to have a gay long-distance running violinist who also brews beer?!?!?!?!).

So what does this have to do with beer? Well, absolutely nothing. But after grad school, I found myself working with a few beer guys. We were working as stage managers for a music school (as a musician, this was great!! I heard every major artist to come through Boston — Gil Shaham, the Emerson Quartet, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players — just to name a few), and often we would find ourselves at a pub after closing the concert hall for the evening. These guys who I worked with (no no, they weren’t gay, too) had brewed together before; I tried to get them to brew with me, but they kept putting me off. So I took it upon myself to research (like the good Virgo I am) the craft, order equipment and ingredient kits, and away I went!

At the time, my roommate and I were renting the basement apartment out of a house in Brookline. We had a microwave, convection oven and electric hot plate nicely furnished by our landlords who lived upstairs, but that wasn’t going to cut it for boiling 3-4 gallons of wort (aka unfermented beer). I approached my landlords with the idea of using their kitchen and gas range for my new interest, and they welcomed me with open arms. Ah, my first batch...I vividly remember the smells, nervously transferring the liquid from kettle to fermenter, and anxiously checking to see if fermentation had started, finished, and of course if I had ruined anything!

I maintained somewhat of a musical life, even though I was working full time. Although I was out of school, I sometimes took lessons with my former teacher, and religiously attended his summer festival in Maine during the month of July. At this festival, I met my good friend Tim, professor of viola at Penn State (ironically, in the last few weeks, he and I have been having many a conversations about brewing. His wife bought him a startup kit for the holidays, and I’ve been coaching him through his first batch). In addition to being a fantastic musician and violist, he is an expert on beer, has a palate like none other, and I trust his opinions exclusively. If my beer could pass his tastes, I knew I had something going for me! He took one sip, and ever since has looked forward to my latest concoctions every summer (and tried to convince me to open a pub!). He has even encouraged me to enter some competitions, make styles I had never thought about, and even asks my violin playing every now and then.

Eventually I moved to Kansas City, and here I am. My violin playing has GREATLY improved and my beer making has evolved not only into personal enjoyment but is a crowdpleaser for all my friends. I certainly don’t think of myself as an expert on beer or brewing (although I find I have no trouble talking to anyone about the subjects!), but I have, since starting out, won a few medals from competitions!

The artist in me LOVES spaces: With beer, much like a blank canvas or a quite concert hall, I can work in a flavor space. What experience do I want the drinker to have? What food might it go with? Even technical aspects: what yeast, what hops, what color? There are so many things to think about. Only once did I have a recipe I loved after the first batch. For most it’s like sanding down the chiseled marble sculpture; I always return to it, working out the rough edges until it’s smooth. For a violinist, always striving to produce the ultimate for the craft, much translates to the beer world (ok ok, I admit it’s not EXACTLY the same worldliness as playing Brahms or Beethoven). But I DO think that being a successful brewer, like being a successful chef or painter or whatever, requires 80% artistry. The other 20% is a balance of technical skill, chemist, mad scientist, and of course someone who likes to drink!

Hope you enjoy this month’s recipe!

-Mike TGBG (The Gay Beer Guy)

Recipe of the Month
Dry Stout
Brew sometime in February so it’s ready to serve by St. Patrick’s Day.

In the United States, the two most popular styles to brew, whether at home or in the professional brew pub, are pale ales (or a stronger version being an IPA) and stouts; both can be made with their traditional European roots, or Americanized as we’re finding more and more. To be honest, I usually have very little interest in stouts. If I want something easy to drink but still with a lot of flavor, I usually turn to the Scottish ales or British pub ales. But I’ve always brewed this recipe around St Patrick’s Day (always meaning in the last 3 years I’ve been brewing, of course!). It’s an instant crowd pleaser (come on... who DOESN’T like a Guiness). It’s also very smooth, so you can drink a few pints and not fall over! But best of all, with dry stouts you can throw out the stereotype that all dark beers are thick, syrupy and full of alcohol. Of course there are other styles of stouts, and other dark beers, that do fall into this category, but not this one! Because I brew this beer in the cold winter months, I don’t think I’ve ever done an all-grain batch (there’s nothing quite like standing outside over my propane burning in sub-freezing temperatures!).

Looking back at my notes, I did 2 extract batches which produced an “OK” result, and 1 partial-mash batch with some extra ingredients that produced an AWESOME beer! My recipe is based on Jamil Zainasheff’s recipe from Brewing Classic Styles, but I’ve changed it slightly over the last few years to suit my tastes. I make it a little more bitter/hoppy and then use my house yeast, which rounds out the malt characteristics and accentuates the hoppy and minerally flavors (I feel this blends very well with the roastiness of the dark grains). When I brew this in the next week, I’m going to split my batch (or maybe even brew a double batch) so I can try WY1945, which is Northern Brewer’s proprietary NeoBritannia strain (re-pitch from a few other batches I’ve done). Based on what I’ve tasted so far, I think it has potential to be good! Cheers!

Dry Stout - Partial-Mash
OG 1.041, FG 1.009, IBU 34, ABV about 4%

2 lbs Base Malt. Although I use American 2-Row for just about everything, this beer needs a little TLC. Use something British!
2 pounds flaked barley
1 pound roasted barley
2 ½ pounds Light DME
2 ounces 5.4% AA East Kent Golding hops - 60 minutes
Pacman Yeast. Use WY1056, WLP001, or US-05 as a sub. You could also try an English or Irish Ale yeast (Jamil recommends an Irish Ale yeast), but it probably won’t attenuate as much, resulting in a possibly sweeter and more estery beer. Again, this time around I’m going to use a pitch of WT1945

Mash grains low around 147-149* F. I’ve fermented Pacman as low as 60* without any attenuation problems, resulting in a very clean profile that works well for this style. I would ferment any of the other American yeasts around 65*. When I try the WY1945, I’ll ferment it in my basement, where the ambient temperature is around 65* as well. Carb it low and serve on Nitrogen if possible!

Here’s what I’m working on now. I’ll let you know how they do next month.

On Tap
Keg 1 - Nut Brown Ale kit from Northern Brewer
Keg 2 - Scottish 60/-
Keg 3 - Dark Saison Ale with Brettanomyces (aging)
Keg 4 - Light Belgian Ale with Brettanomyces (aging)

Brown Porter

On Deck
Dry Stout with WY1945. I’ll brew it this week so it’s ready for St. Patrick’s Day and my next post
Maybe a Belgian Dubbel
Maybe a Belgian Tripel. I’ve never brewed one of these before

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

In the Details

Since I started back at school I've become a serial boxed cereal eater. I'm sure I'll return to the glory days of granola baking, but for the past several months the name of the game has been ease. Needless to say, breakfast is a little less exciting when it's poured straight from a box, particularly when it's the same box day after day, week after week.

The excitement--the feeling of self-tending--then, comes in the little details.

I love vintage Pyrex. Love it, love it, love it. Durable and kitschy, it's something I can get behind on a number of levels. Over the years I've been making this interest known and have managed to accumulate what is surely becoming a respectable collection. Over our visit to Connecticut my mom added to our stash, gifting us with cereal bowls (and the original primary-colored storage containers...*swoon*) which brought the collection into tableware, a kitchen arena that up until then was devoid of any Pyrex save a lonely butter dish.

Now every morning I pour my unexciting and super healthy boxed cereal into a vintage Pyrex cereal bowl. It makes me smile a little bit and think of my mom and it makes breakfast feel just that little bit special which, I think, is an excellent addition to the start of a day.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Quest Continues

Janet here:

Some of you may remember my bewailing the loss of my chocolate chip cookie mojo in this post. And Rachel's proclaiming that apparently she, according to the people who were in her birthing class, makes "the best chocolate chip cookies they'd ever eaten."

I have to tell you ... it's been kind of bugging me. So I've been thinking about how to get my chocolate chip cookies back up to snuff.

Which leads me to this new development and a secret ingredient that just could change the way I make these cookies forever. The idea comes from one of my colleagues, who told me that she puts a 1/2 cup of applesauce in her cookies instead of the 2 eggs typically in a Toll House recipe. She also switches out the 1 teaspoon of baking soda for 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder. The rest is the same.

The result, however, is not.

These cookies are amazing. Try them. You'll be wowed.

Rachel, the glove has been thrown down.