Monday, May 30, 2011

One Fish, Two Fish or Chillin' and Grillin'

On this the (un)official kick-off of summer, many people officially move their kitchen outdoors for a summer of grilling. Under that scenario, here are two ways to serve the fleshy fish of your choice (i.e. tuna, swordfish, salmon, etc). They're both fab and super easy...which is the way summer is supposed to go, right? Right.

First an ode to my mother-in-law, aka Rachel's grandmother. She served this regularly with swordfish and it was/is mighty tasty. I served it with tuna and it worked just fine. Also it works best when tomatoes are fresh off the vine rather than those faux red things that we live with in the Northeast for most of the year.

Jan's Tomato Salsa
serves 4

1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup green olives, diced
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons lime juice, olive oil, scallions

Mix it all together and then when the fish is cooked, spoon it over the top. Yup, it's that simple.

If you'd prefer something a little moister, try this mayo based "sauce" that you smother on the fish before you cook and it adds a lovely piquant flavoring and helps keep the fish moist.

Mayo Mustard Sauce
serves 4

1 tablespoon mustard
2 tablespoons mayo
1 teaspoon capers, drained

Mix it all together and then slather it over the fish and cook. Yup, again it's that simple because, after all, isn't grilling in the summer about the gin and tonics more than the cooking? That's my theory and I'm sticking with it.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Ok- so when i eat i stuff my face. STUFF MY FACE. Every time i sit to eat my intention is obliterate all semblance of my appetite. I get nervous before i eat that there will not be enough food for me. This is not rational. i was never oliver twist asking meekly for more please. I grabbed and stuffed my way though hundreds if not thousands of pizzas and breadsticks( in case the pizza alone left me wanting). I have never gone without food or been forced to make do with just enough. Which brings me to my topic today, just enough.

But first a little more about me. I have been practicing zen meditation for around 11 years. only recently have i gained the courage to attend berkeley zen center's morning sittings and service. On saturdays the schedule includes breakfast in the zendo. I was told that i would have to ask the vice abbot for instruction on the eating ritual. this made me nervous. I have to talk? Not only did i have to talk but i had to remember the name of the ritual, oryoki for a week until the following saturday. would i say origami? karaoke? i went home and googled it immediately so i wouldn't forget. Oryoki translated means just enough. a great idea.... eat just enough, but was i up to the task? I sat zazen the following week, asked the vice abbot for instruction (i remembered the name...phew) and was on my way. After the instruction i went back to the zendo found my spot with my borrowed bowls and began the process. Starting with a wrapped package of three nesting bowls, a spoon, chopsticks, a small spatula and three cloth napkins the package is unwrapped and arranged in front of me. the food comes one dish at a time and a mutual bow is exchanged between the server and the served at every delivery. We ate cornmeal grits, mango smoothy and a tofu scramble silently and delicately until we were all finished. we used to spatula to scrape the bowls clean and eat the scrapings. After the licking clean a person comes around and pours hot water in the first bowl. Using the spatula we cleaned the bowl and then poured the water into the second bowl where we washed our other utensils and scraped that bowl clean. The third bowl is much smaller than the others so only a little water is transfered, the rest we drank. after the third bowl is cleaned the water is poured into a large bowl as an offering. the bowls and utensils are now clean and stacked and the oryoki set ends just as it started.

This was the first time i ate a meal mindfully. i was satisfied, felt recharged and certainly not about to pass out from a gorging. i will not eat every meal this way but i will at least once a week.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rhubarb and my Dad

Janet here: I've been missing my dad — Pop Pop to you, Rachel — recently and I'm not sure why. He's been dead for nearly 25 years, almost as much time as we got to spend together. Maybe it's because we just filled a two-ton dumpster with all kind of junk from over the years and some of the treasures among the trash were photos of him and my mother. I also found a love letter he wrote to my mother just a few weeks after their honeymoon had ended. I was blown away by the declarations and open romanticism; this was not the dad I remembered!

Anyway my dad was a rhubarb fan and I can remember him cooking up some rhubarb on the stove in the spring. He'd add sugar and we'd have it for breakfast as a kind of fruity stew.

I decided I'd make something with rhubarb in his honor. There was just one problem: I had never ever cooked rhubarb. I also knew I didn't just want to stew it. So I did a little trolling on the web and came up with this rhubarb cheesecake, a combination of a few different ideas.

I think my dad would have been pleased. I hope you all are as well.

Rhubarb Cheesecake Pie

about 12 Oreos ground up
1/4 cup melted butter

layer one
3 cups rhubarb, cut up into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour

cream cheese layer
12 ounce cream cheese softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

8 ounces sour cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Grind the Oreos in a cuisinart. Melt the butter. Then combine and pat into a 10-inch pie plate.

Combine the rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar and flour. Place into the Oreo pie crust. Bake for 15 minutes.

While it's baking,prepare the cream cheese filling by beating the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Then pour over the hot rhubarb mixture, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 25-30 minutes until it's almost set. While it's baking, combine the topping ingredients together.

Take the pie out of the oven and spread the last topping over the hot layer. Let it sit for a while and chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A New Day

Rachel here.

The other night, for the first time ever, John and M and I sat down and shared a meal together. And not just any old meal because, realistically, all three of us have found ourselves eating at the same table at the same time, but the same meal. The same meal. It. Was. Awesome.

It felt so nice to sit around together, eating the same stuff. It felt good to eat dinner before M was in bed, too, at which point John and I usually find ourselves with grossly diminished regard for this meal called dinner due to exhaustion. It felt right and it felt whole. Oh, and we ate really healthily, too. M's a good influence on a meal.

I made a stir-fry, clean and simple. Eggplant, white onion, summer squash, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, basil and tempeh all simmered together until they were good and cooked (for M I made sure everything was completely teeth here still). I made a quick side of whole wheat couscous for John and me, served the whole thing up and sat back and relaxed over dinner while M delighted in feeding herself and feeling like a big kid because she was eating the same stuff as we were.

Afterwards, John and I looked at each other and declared the baby food days over. With M willing and able to eat such a broad variety of foods now, we are heralding the days on family least until she asserts otherwise and refuses to eat anything of interest for a decade.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quick and Easy Pasta

It's Friday. I don't know if you're like me but it's my least favorite night to cook. I pray that no one has dug into any of the leftovers I deliberately made sure existed earlier in the week with Friday in mind. The less I have to cook the better.

But if you have to cook — or maybe you like to cook on Fridays because it signals the beginning of the weekend rhythms — here is an easy pasta dish I was inspired to make after looking over one of my many Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. It's a variation on her Bolognese and seriously didn't take more than 25 minutes to put it on the table.

What's your go-to easy I-don't-really-want-to-cook dinner? We'd love to know.

Ridiculously Easy Bolognese
serves 4-5

a couple of tablespoons olive oil
1 pound ground turkey (you could obviously use beef; we just don't eat that)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
red pepper flakes to taste--1/4 teaspoon or so
1 1/4 cups dry red wine, divided
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3/4 pound dried pasta (some kind of shell works best)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup cream or half and half
1/2 cup fresh grated Parmesan


Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground turkey and cook, stirring occasionally. Stir in the garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour 1 cup of the win into the skillet. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir until combined. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt, a little olive oil and the pasta. Cook until done.

While the pasta cooks, add the nutmeg, basil, cream and remaining 1/4 cup of red wine to the sauce and simmer about 10 minutes. When the pasta is cooked, drain, and pour into a large bowl with the sauce and Parmesan. Stir it all together and serve.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mexican Stir Fry

It was the end of the work week and I was thinking e.a.s.y. was the way to go for dinner. I had been planning to make a frittata, but then G, on his way to a shower, said, "Hey you should put together these ingredients to make a Mexican amalgamation." And he ticked off some chicken, rice, onions, egg and seasonings. After a chat about the word amalgamation (is it a word? It is. And didn't he really mean amalgam? He didn't and he was right or we would have been eating something with mercury in it, and yes, this is how our family rolls at times. It's both a trial and a tribulation, depending on the word conversation. Someday I will tell you more about Easter and Shakespeare egg hunts.)

Anyway, I decided to go for it, and I have to tell you it was reviving, which completely surprised me. I got into thinking about the recipe and how much and what type of seasonings I would use. At one point, I yelled up to G, "What do you think about black beans?" and he yelled, "Go for it."

G, a newly-minted college grad and a young man with a growing awareness of his body and mind and how they operate (ideally together), has been interested in cooking since graduation, and it's been fun to share that with him. We've cooked more together and he's had more suggestions about healthy eating. As he used to say as a boy, "It's all good." It really is.

Anyway this is the rough recipe. It's loose because I was winging it as I went along and because, frankly, this recipe screams for some ad libbing. Let us know what you decide to add....

Mexican Stir Fry
serves 4-5

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 chicken breasts, no skin, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, diced
1 red pepper, sliced
1 yellow pepper, sliced
1 cup rice
1 16 ounce can black beans, rinsed
about 1 teaspoon chili powder
salt, pepper, red pepper flakes to taste
a couple of good dashes of Frank's hot sauce to taste
4-5 eggs, one per serving
about 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese

Put two cups of water and a little salt in a pot. Add one cup rice and cook.

While the rice is cooking, heat up the oil and add the onions and chicken in a large skillet. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and spices. Continue to saute, stirring periodically. When the rice is done, add it to the skillet and stir around.

Now you can either add the eggs to scramble them in (G's original idea, which I didn't get) or do what we did, which is fry the eggs in a separate pan just before you're ready to eat. Then dish out the stir fry, add some grated cheese, and plop the egg on top. Maybe add a little more Frank's and all you need is a cervasa to complete the meal. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On Watching M Eat...And, You Know, An Applesauce Recipe

Rachel here.

There is something about being a parent that offers the world up anew through the eyes of your child. For eleven months now, John and I have had the incredible fortune--and unfathomable undoing--of walking through our days infused with the perspective of M. She notices so many things we take for granted--the splattering of water hitting a puddle from the gutter, the tiny flowers in our grapefruit tree, that fingers bend and when they do we can use our hands in different ways.

Lately, though, as M transitions out of baby food and into the realm of food the rest of us enjoy, I find myself marveling at tastes and textures in their simplest forms. Eggs are slippery and elusive in a mouth without teeth; blackberries offer a juicy burst before a bit of chewiness emerges; plain tofu is actually delicious. In a food world without salt, I find myself tasting in a way I can't recall as I nibble on M's meals or eat her leftovers and rejects. Cinnamon is a powerful spice and coconut is surprisingly creamy. Potatoes are warm and wonderful mush. And apple juice? Nothing beats it in its purest form.

M eats for sustenance and M eats to learn. She eats what she wants and discards the rest, stopping when she's full even if she loves what she's in the middle of eating. She pokes and prods at the food in front of her, trying to figure it out. She remembers, too--noting that potato cubes are not the same as banana cubes even if they're sharing a spot on the table before her. Her relationship with food, while mediated by what we offer her, remains so uninhibited. It is a lesson on eating to watch her, a lesson in noticing what goes in my mouth, in considering it, on eating to tend to my needs. As she learns, so do I.

Do any of you parental types know what I'm talking about? Have you ever had one of those moments with food where you become conscious of your relationship with it and of different possibilities? Kids aren't the only way to these considerations, i know. M has just been my personal invitation.

Anyway, in honor of M, I share a recipe that's entered the weekly rotation in our house. Applesauce is such a simple thing to make and so delicious, too. Hot off the stove with a dash of cinnamon is my personal favorite way to eat it.

makes roughly 6 cups

15 apples (I'd recommend Granny Smith, but this week I'm trying Gala in hopes of making it a little less tart for M)
apple juice or water

Peel and core your apples, slicing them into similarly sized pieces. Toss in a pot. Add liquid to coat the bottom (this prevents burning). Cut a piece of wax paper and press down over the apples. Cook over low heat, stirring periodically, until your desired texture is reached. Add cinnamon to taste (if you'd like). Devour! Oh--and if you want your applesauce to be a little extra awesome, stir in a little bit of maple syrup. So so good.

Monday, May 16, 2011

We Remember ...

Inspired by Momalom, which ran a post last week in which the author wrote for 10 minutes without editing starting with the phrase I Remember, we decided to do our own We Remember post about food. We hope you'll chime in with a food memory or just do this exercise on your own. We think you'll be surprised/intrigued by what comes up.

I remember the first time I breast fed and being so awestruck by the fact that I was literally able to provide life for this little tiny baby from my very own body.

I remember sitting at the kitchen table, ice cold fish on my plate, long after everyone else in my family had left the table because I had to finish what was on my plate and I didn't like it. I learned an important lesson: fish does not get better as it gets colder.

I remember deciding then and there that I would not make my children clean their plates and that I would only ask them to try one bite of something rather than forcing them to eat it all.

I remember eating dinners out on our family porch and my dad cooking steak on the grill for delicious steak sandwiches and corn on the cob with oodles of butter.

I remember my dad making pies at Thanksgiving and having apple and pumpkin pie for breakfast until they were all gone.

I remember eating dinner with my sister and mother in high school, my nose in a book because I was so angry at my mother for drinking. If I was reading, I didn't have to talk to her and I could pretend she wasn't drunk.

I remember taking one look at the tomato aspic my mother had put on the table, nodding at my sister and the two of us just saying we were going to go to bed without supper because there was no way we were going to eat that. We headed upstairs, the summer day still filled with promise, and found some rock hard Jujubes in a drawer. That was dinner and it was totally worth it.

I remember discovering onion dip the morning after a cocktail party my parents gave and sticking my finger in it for breakfast. It seemed so exotic. I also remember my surprise years later to discover it was just dried soup mix and sour cream.

I remember feeding my dog, Sunshine, the brussel sprouts we had at Thanksgiving every year for 15 years running. I carefully pulled them off my plate one by one when no one was looking and dropped them into her mouth.

I remember complete and total happiness sitting at the table with Peter and our three children around us. It all just felt right and full.

I remember making ice cream pies for our children's birthdays.

I remember hating myself for eating breakfast/lunch/dinner — fill in the blank — if I had gained a pound in my daily weigh-in.

I remember the humongous chocolate chip cookie Rachel made with the babysitter the time Peter and I went away overnight.

I remember the thrill of dumping my Halloween pillowcase onto the floor and rifling through the candy. I remember my mother grabbing all the Hershey bars with almonds because they were a favorite. I didn't mind.

I remember deciding to stop eating red meat and being so surprised it was as easy as it was.

I remember the babysitter trying to make me eat cold rice with cinnamon and mushrooms and telling my mother about it when she came home from work. She fired Mrs. Crawford the next day, but the damage was done. I couldn't eat rice for a decade and I still hate mushrooms.

I remember being told children were starving in India and that's why I had to finish what was on my plate.

I remember the candy drawer my mother had in our kitchen and always being excited to see what she had bought on grocery shopping day.


I remember dewy grass on bare legs, picking blueberries in the old cabin by the lake in the early morning. I remember blueberry pancakes, brimming with berries in spite of how many we'd stuffed in our mouths while picking

I remember birthday ice cream cakes and the year my brothers ate mine before I got so much as a bite.

I remember Dad coming home with bags full of goodies for road trips. I remember feeling extra special when they were for my birthday trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame and sitting in the backseat with Jen, free to eat as much as our little 5th-grade hearts desired.

I remember sushi lunches with Dad after trips to the museum in high school. I remember feeling adventurous and sophisticated and special for having this shared food love in common.

I remember the first time I baked Mjurk Pepparkakor, teary-eyed at growing up and the continuity between my mom's kitchen and mine, clear across the country.

I remember afternoons at Jessica's eating cookies. Lots and lots of cookies, talking until the sun set and homework called. And I remember hours spent over cups of coffee, discussing religion and boys and dreams.

I remember grilled sausage and vegetables, wine in red cups and a glorious cake that afternoon in the park a few years back when John and I got married and all of our friends came together for a meal.

I remember baking muffins and not eating them.

I remember lunch at my grandparents' house, feeling that everything was just right and a little bit fancy.

I remember afternoons by the lake, a sand-encrusted cooler storing lemonades and potato chips for G and me from our Grandy. All summer was filled with these excursions and for each one she prepared us a treat.

I remember no one believing that I didn't like broccoli growing up. I feel satisfied when I remember this now, now that everyone believes me.

I remember when John and I talked over dinner, drinking wine and listening to music instead of haunting the table together like we do so many nights now, bleary-eyed and with little to report other than what M has eaten and said and done.

I remember when M was born and Nancy came. Three meals a day just appeared before us, homemade and sustaining and delicious. I remember feeling intense love in that food; I remember feeling seen.

I remember when M was born and our friends here stopped by, bringing food and congratulations and leaving us with one less thing to figure out.

I remember when M was born, nurses poking and prodding and hassling me about how nursing was going. I remember trying to shield her from them, recognizing that she knew everything she needed to know and, simultaneously, that I did, too.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pantry Week and Impending Birthdays (Obviously Belong in the Same Post)

Rachel here.

Ok, so, first of all, pantry week is done. D-O-N-E. It was surprisingly easy, I must say. Being resourceful doesn't seem to be quite so difficult when you anticipate having to be. And so, night after night, we just made it work. And for those of you who followed our week on Facebook, you know we didn't even have to eat the same thing day in and day out. Nor did we have to live off the grapefruit tree in our yard as I told John we'd probably have to the night before pantry week began (me: Well, I guess the first step is to go and pick a bunch of grapefruits. ::sigh:: John: Really? You guess that the first step to pantry week is living off the land? ::laugh::). Interestingly, when I returned to the grocery store yesterday, I spent $100 less than we usually do. The best part was that it was effortless. I wasn't keeping track of how much I was spending and felt like I was doing a regular old grocery shop. Imagine my surprise at the check out! I'm thinking we might need to do pantry week more often. My theory on this grocery purchasing miracle was that I went into the experience with an actual awareness of what we already had at home to work with. Instead of starting from scratch, then, I built meals around what was back in the cupboards and refrigerator at our house. Additionally, after buying M food during our pantry week, we became aware of how much we spend on baby food. A LOT is the answer in case you weren't sure. And so another byproduct of pantry week is that we're re-entering a much more home-cooked sphere for M's eating. We started out there and we're coming back in now that she eats chunky food without any issue and now that I'm almost done with school. The convenience of jarred baby food was awesome, but fresh, local organic food will definitely do her growing baby-kid body better.

Speaking of M, I have a question for all of you out there. She's almost one (I'm pretty sure I just had a small heart attack when I wrote that sentence) and, though I always swore that we wouldn't throw her a birthday party, I'm singing a slightly different tune now. It seems...I don't or something. Plus, there's something about marking having survived this first year as family and as individuals--not just M, but John and me, too. So my question, really, has three parts. First, did you have a birthday party when you turned one/for your own kid(s) when they turned one? And second, if you did, what the heck did you serve? M doesn't do flour (gives her hives), which leads me to my third question. Does anyone have any killer desert recipes that are gluten-free and/or flour free?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Shopping Schizophrenia

Janet here: I went grocery shopping yesterday and had a little epiphany: I'm schizophrenic. On the one hand, I buy organic veggies and fruits and organic, or at least antibiotic-free, chicken and cage-free/antibiotic-free eggs. And then I buy pound bags of peanut M&Ms, double stuffed Oreos and Doritos. Or some combination of the above.

What is up with that?

I blame my kids. (Hey, they blame me or their father for most of their "issues." Now it's my turn.) The treats, aka "bad" foods", are for them. Yes, maybe I occasionally have a few M&Ms or one of the homemade cookies I baked this afternoon for S's arrival home from his freshman year in college, but really these goodies are for them. It's a game we all happily (and complicitly) play: They're happy to have the goodies in place and openly acknowledge that, and I in turn feel good about providing them. It's all good.

Except that what it really means is that food becomes an emotional buffer, precisely the thing I planned to make sure NEVER happened once I became a parent.

I probably should have been stronger. More focused. Just better at the whole thing. But I was only as good as I could be at the time, and at the time, I was still struggling with "good" foods and "bad" foods myself, and so this is what we have: mostly good food available and some sugary bits thrown in besides.

It's an imperfect world. I take solace in the fact that I did not make my kids clean their plates and did not say — at least I don't think I said it — that they could have dessert if only they finished what was on their plates. These, too, were on my list of no-nos when I was deciding exactly the kind of parent I would become, you know right around age 16 when I was oh-so-smart and my parents were oh-so-stupid.

Anyway, that's the way I'm feeling as I write this. I'm not sure what I've done is wrong, but I'm also not sure I couldn't have done it better either. Mostly I feel it's been a bit of a muddle.

What do you think? Are you an all or nothing kind of parent? Or do you have a place you trade off the good with the bad regarding food?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Soup and Beer

It's the first Friday of the month. You know what that means: Mike the Gay Beer guy is back to post, this time about veggies and IPAs....

As Janet and Rachel can attest, I grew up in the mountains of Connecticut (actually to be quite honest, our house was just around the corner from their house). Surrounded by the woods, bugs and small town New England, every other home seemed to have its personal garden for summertime, home cooked, veggie goodness! My next-door neighbors were the sweetest people; I forget what the husband did, but the wife was the retired home economics teacher for the town’s high school. They maintained a garden (to me, it was a small farm... but they referred to it as a garden), and always had fresh fruits and veggies throughout the spring summer and fall!

I have two food memories from them...well, three: Every Halloween they would hand out fresh apples from their trees, our family was invited over every summer for the freshest strawberry shortcakes EVER, and their mini-farm/garden ALWAYS included rows and rows and ROWS of corn! There was always an abundance, so my sister and I would go over a few times a week and pick the sweetest and freshest corn I think I’ve ever ha, certainly fresher than the supermarkets, and it possibly could rival the road-side farm stand.

Since I’m a big fan of summer soups, I thought I would include this recipe. You can almost throw anything into the pot and have it be fantastic, but make sure you find the freshest ingredients possible. I try to include corn, squash, and fennel; for our summer produce, we head to the City Market in Kansas City. Saute, blend, simmer, can’t be simpler!

Fresh Veggie Summer Soup
Makes enough for 2 with leftovers

6 pieces of bacon
2 earns of corn
1 yellow squash
1 large or 2 small Ppotatoes
1 fennel bulb
3 - 4 cups chicken stock
¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
fennel fronds for garnish

Prep all your ingredients: dice the bacon and set aside, remove the corn from the cob, and cut the rest of the veggies into a medium dice.

Brown the bacon in a large dutch oven or large soup pot. After the fat has rendered, remove the bacon and set aside. (Since my getting-ready-for-summer diet hasn’t being working as planned, despite training for a half marathon in a month and then a full marathon in October, we’re omitting the bacon ...use your healthy oil of choice) Saute the corn, squash, potato, and fennel in the bacon fat (or oil) until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the stock.

Now you have some options. If you want more of a chunky soup, you can bring the pot to a simmer and serve once everything has cooked through. You can also blend part or all of the soup in a blender (being very careful as hot liquids in a blender have potential to cause injury). Whatever you decide, finish the soup by cooking it through and season with salt, pepper (I like adding red pepper flakes in addition to black pepper), and the cayenne. When ready to serve, garnish with the bacon (I admit, the soup was still good even without all the bacon... it’s your choice) and fronds!

Beer Style and Recipe of the Month

IPA (aka India Pale Ale)

This is one of my favorite styles to drink and brew because it is so versatile; almost every brewer makes a few different versions of these, and it has become the standard measure for most commercial operations in the United States. Saying you will brew an IPA is like saying you’re going to bake bread...will it be wheat, rye, raisin, sourdough? All of them are bread, but each version will taste different. An IPA is much the same way: You can vary the grains, hops, and yeast, and still call the result an IPA (assuming you stay within a broad set of guidelines).

That being said, there is such a thing called “good taste,” and, although there are many variations, it all has to come together for a worthy product. IPAs can be sweet or dry, light or dark (relatively), high or low in alcohol... more often than not, they are hoppy with full hop aroma. In the United States, this usually includes citrusy hop aromas... mmm mmm good!!! In my opinion, a crisp, clean IPA on a summer evening is just FANTASTIC. If you’re not able to make your own, check out these fine comerical examples: Dogfish Head’s 60 Minute IPA, Stone’s Arrogant Bastard,

There is so much to discuss regarding requires more space than I have here and on my blog. But I’ve tried to at least start the ball rolling! Check out my blog at: for additional info. I briefly discuss the history, variables, and a mini formula for how to create one of your own!

When I designed this recipe, Amarillo Hops were in abundance. Now they are very hard to find. You can sub Cascade (one of my other favorite American hops) or any one of the American “C” hops. But here is the original version:

Batch of the Moment

OG: 1.067

FG: 1.017

ABV: 6.5%

IBU: 59

15 lbs American 2-Row

4 oz Crystal 60

4 oz Crystal 40

1 ½ oz Columbus Hops - 60 min

1 oz Amarillo Hops - 10 min

½ oz Amarillo Hops - 2 min

½ oz Columbus Hops - Flameout

½ oz Amarillo Hops - Dry Hop

House yeast (Pacman)

Mash dry at 149* F or lower for 60 - 90 min (feel free to add ½ - 1 lb of table sugar to help dry the beer out). Sparge and lauter as usual. Follow the hopping schedule. To ferment, I suggest a low temperature; I’ve used Pacman as low as 60* without any problems, but if you sub WLP001/WY1056/US05, maybe try in the 62-65 range to ensure full attenuation. After fermentation has completed, add the dry hops. When everything has become nice and happy (yes that’s the technical term), bottle or keg; carbonate in the medium range.


For a discussion on IPAs...check out:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Veggie Cheesecake = Yummmmm

Janet here: When I stopped eating red meat over 30 (!) years ago, the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook was my bible. Mollie Katzen's hand-scrawled recipes with quirky drawings was my go-to spot for figuring out how to serve a meal to my new live-in boyfriend (now husband) after we left working at a private school and actually had to fend for ourselves. What does one put on a plate that does not have meat as its centerpiece? I couldn't just serve salad — my mainstay at the boarding school. We needed to eat a "meal."

Moosewood came to the rescue big time. I went through just about every recipe in the iconic lilac covered book (except those with major mushrooms because I can't stand mushrooms) and bought the second — and third and fourth books — as soon as they came out. I had only one failure in all those recipes — zucchini pancakes that just turned into glop in the frying pan.

Moosewood took a back seat when we had children because, well, I didn't have children who liked vegetables that much. So we added chicken and fish into our meal plan. It was just easier than fighting.

But now that they're gone, we're back to eating more all-veggie meals. I pulled Moosewood a couple of weeks ago. It was like reconnecting with an old friend: instant ease and lots of good memories. I made a variation on Moosewood's vegetable cheesecake and it was just as good as the first time I pulled it off.

Do you have a go-to cookbook? What makes it so special?
We'd love to hear. I'm always looking for another cookbook. :)

Vegetable Cheesecake
serves at least 8

1 cup each grated carrots or zucchini or whatever you like. I did carrots and some leftover cauliflower. If you do zucchini, be sure to put in a sieve with a little salt to get rid of excess moisture. Don't do more than 2 cups of veggies altogether.
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup minced onion
2-3 gloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon basil and oregano
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 large eggs
1 1/2 medium tomatoes slices
bread crumbs

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan and saute the onions, garlic with the flour. Add the veggies with spices and cook for a few minutes until just tender.

In a large bowl stir together the eggs and cheeses. Add the sauteed veggies and pour the entire bowl into a spring-form pan that has been dusted with bread crumbs.

Cook for 30 minutes at 375. Then add the tomatoes, which you have dredged in bread crumbs, to the top. Lower heat to 350 and bake for another 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and open the oven door. Let sit there for 10 minutes. Then take out and let rest for another 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Moratorium on Grocery Shopping (Or, We Have Enough, We Do)

Rachel here.

Every week we go grocery shopping at least once. If I'm being honest, it's often twice. And then there are days like yesterday when we go thrice in one day and not one of those trips involves a real, true grocery shop. Yesterday was exceptional and so, you know, generally fine, but it did leave me thinking about all of this time and money we spend at the grocery store.

Why do we go? Because we have no food. Every week we are simply completely devoid of things to eat, on the brink of starvation until one of us traipses the grocery store and carries home sustenance for the family.

Oh wait. That's a total lie. We have tons of food--stocked cupboard shelves and a refrigerator that utilizes its door space to the fullest extent. So this week John and I (M is exempted...her food situation ain't broke so we ain't fixin' it) are embarking on a challenge of sorts. We are going to make it through the week without a trip to the grocery store, come hell or high water or endless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I'm going to post our concoctions on Facebook each day. Tune in there to see how we're faring...and whether or not we end up eating M's baby food out of laziness.

On a more serious note, food waste is a pretty major deal in this world we all share. According to the EPA our country generates 34 million tons of food waste each year. 34 million tons. And this is the same country in which 1 in 4 kids don't have access to enough food. This disparity is frightening--terrifying, even. Our household is certainly guilty of tossing food, from scraps to whole forgotten and unopened items. This challenge we are embarking on this week, though certainly not going to solve the deeply problematic distribution of food in our country, is an effort, then, to become more conscious about our own habits of consumption. It is an invitation to remember that, perverse though it may be, we are lucky to have food AND food to throw away. It is an invitation to remember that we so often vote with our wallets in this country and so we need to open them thoughtfully. It is a moment of taking inventory, of considering how our footsteps impact the world outside our home and family table, of pausing to feel grateful for enough instead of longing for what we might find on a whim at the grocery store.

Will you join us? We'd love to hear from you on Facebook. Let's all take inventory and say thanks together.