Next On Tap

Well, the decision’s been made: we will brew not one, but two beers for our next batch.  The first one will be a Bavarian Hefeweizen, thanks to my parents that got the kit for me for Christmas.  This particular beer is a “wheat beer,” so if you’ve ever had a Boulevard Wheat or a Blue Moon, you generally know what it will be like.  The flavor will probably be more like a traditional German wheat beer however, so it likely won’t have the “fruity” nature of the aforementioned beer examples, but the texture, consistency, etc. will be very similar.

Secondly, I just ordered an India Pale Ale (IPA) kit.  This one will be quite a bit “hoppier,” which is the bitter flavor you get.  If you’ve ever had a Pale Ale, this one will be even more bitter.  Over the years, mostly due to the influence of Schlafly’s Pale Ale, I’ve grown to enjoy hoppy beers more than others, so I’m rather excited to try my hand at an IPA.  It gets the name because hops helped prevent the beer from spoiling they were shipped from England to India back in the 18th century (although that claim is disputed), so they would add a ridiculous amount of hops to them to preserve the beer for the long trip.  Apparently, that style of beer was also well-regarded amongst the people of India, increasing its popularity abroad.

We’ll brew both of these over the long MLK weekend.  Thanks to my Dad, I’ve got a few glass carboys I can use for extra brewing volume, allowing me to ferment multiple beers at a time.  The Hefeweizen should take 6 weeks, but if it goes anything like the Honey Brown Ale we brewed earlier, it’ll probably be ready before then.  The IPA, on the other hand, could take 2 months.  It’s a beer that needs a Secondary Fermentation, meaning that we will transfer from the Primary Fermenter into a Secondary vessel to allow the beer to age for upwards of a month before we bottle it.  This is where it’s nice having multiple fermentation vessels available, so that while one beer is “coming off the line” into bottling, the other one can continue aging and be ready for bottling by the time I’ve got more bottles available to put it in!

The timing will be interesting, as the IPA can handle 62 F temperatures, while the Hefeweizen prefers slightly warmer temperatures in the mid- to high-60s F.  The basement of our house is running in the mid- to upper-50s F, so once fermentation begins (i.e. bubbles start appearing in the air lock, due to yeast generating carbon dioxide), I’ll move the vessels downstairs where they can continue on their merry way.  However, as the temperature is cooler downstairs, the yeast will probably act a touch slower than we would otherwise prefer.  Therefore, it could take longer to complete…but, the Honey Brown was done ahead of time, so the temperature downstairs didn’t seem to matter all that much.  We’ll just have to see!

Regardless, I’m excited to try a few more beer varieties.  Assuming we get it all done between January 14 – 17, we should expect that the Hefeweizen will be done and drinkable toward the end of February and the IPA will be ready by mid-March.

This is the general plan for brewing, methinks.  We’ll generally try to have one “long-term” beer fermenting, and then supplement with a “short-term” beer in between.  Kinda depends on how many bottles we’ve got lying around for them.  The Honey Brown aged very well over time and has definitely improved since bottling, so we’ll do our best to leave some bottles downstairs aging at all times, including some of the Honey Brown to see how it does months after completion.

Hooray, beer!

New Year’s Day Food

Andy gave me a directive that I couldn’t produce lots of dishes while making dinner for yesterday’s dinner. So, I made breakfast dishes instead! We had chocolate chip pancakes (mine were a la Papa…with molasses and maple syrup), bacon, and pineapple. The pancakes were half whole wheat and had ground flax, so sort of healthy. The dishes were done before lunchtime, so no complaints from Andy!

Then, dinner was leftover chicken noodle soup. It was once made from homemade broth and homemade whole wheat noodles, so I did do work a couple of months ago for it!

New Year Dinner

In case you didn’t know, I like to cook. I’ve tossed around the idea of adding a separate section of this site just for our nightly meals to be recorded, but never got around to it, especially since my job has had me out at night more frequently, leaving Andy to eat leftovers or things he can make for himself (mostly frozen pizza). However, I have a couple of people under me now who get to work the odd hours and I thought last night’s New Year’s Eve fancy dinner is just as good a time to start sharing as any! If I keep up with this, which is honestly doubtful, then Andy will make a separate section, but for now, here’s the first night!!

We started with roasted garlic shrimp and crusty French bread while Meg ate her dinner:

Then, after the baby was in bed, we had fillet mignon, stuffed clams (from Aldi), fresh steamed broccoli, and roasted garlic cous cous.

Dessert was this recipe, which was really easy and REALLY good, especially with homemade, sweetened whipped cream on top. We just finished mine from last night tonight for dessert and it was still wonderful!

A Busy Saturday

Thanks to my recent incessant PBS watching, I found this recipe for whole grain bread from America’s Test Kitchen.  I want to make our sandwich bread, but haven’t seen a recipe I like that’s also easy until now.  This one is definitely a keeper (ATK makes you join to get their recipes, but you can do it for free and get everything from this season if you want!)!

I also picked the first several-tomatoes-at-a-time crop today.  Andy took this shot of some of them in the window sill ripening a little more.  I’ll process them tomorrow, hopefully.

And, for your viewing pleasure, here’s Meg, in her bouncy seat where she spends a lot of time while I’m cooking and whatnot!  You can tell how excited she is about the BLTs we had for dinner.

Chocolate Cheesecake

DSCN1110

Earlier this week when I was looking for something to make, I remembered this really easy recipe from an old Arch UMC cookbook, but I couldn’t find it. After a frantic search of my recipe box, I finally located it and promptly made it! So, just in case I ever lose the recipe again, I’m putting it here for your enjoyment and posterity’s sake.

Ingredients:
1 box chocolate cake mix
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
16 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Process:
Separate 1 cup of the cake mix and set aside. To the remaining mix, add 1 egg and oil. Mix well and press into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. In a mixing bowl (an electric mixer really does best for this one), cream sugar and cream cheese. Mix in 3 eggs, then add milk and the 1 cup of cake mix. Pour over mixture in pan and bake in a 300 degree oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Let cool at room temperature, then refrigerate to serve cold with Cool Whip (real whipped cream would be a waste for this one).

Soup!

Last week, in an attempt to cheer ourselves up amidst 3 days in a row of rain, my coworkers and I went out to lunch at The Piccadilly a few blocks from our office.  The food was great, especially the beer cheese soup.  So, last night, I tried my best to recreate it and did a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.  I wasn’t expecting such great results, so didn’t take any pictures, but here’s the recipe anyway:

1.  Make a rue in a big pot (my enameled cast iron is great for this).  Melt about 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then add about 2 heaping tablespoons of flour to the butter, stir, and let cook until it doesn’t smell like raw flour and turns a golden brown color.

2.  Add 1 bottle of beer (we had an Oktoberfest in the fridge, but I think a pale would be awesome too) and a cup or so of chicken broth to the flour/butter mixture, keeping the medium heat going.  Bring to a boil until it begins to thicken, then add 1/2 cup to a cup of cream, half and half, or milk (depending on how rich you want your soup to be).

3.  Lower the heat a bit and add 3 cups of cheese (something with a lot of flavor, especially with a darker beer, like the sharp cheddar I used).  Stir together, adding a spice cabinet raid (I used white pepper, mustard powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and a tiny sprinkling of nutmeg) of whatever sounds good.  Keep stirring until the cheese is incorporated and not stringy.

This recipe made enough for two dinner sized bowlfuls and enough for my lunch today.

Maid Rites!

Growing up, Mom made “maid rites” pretty often for dinner.  They’re loose meat sandwiches made with ground beef and onions and served with pickles, ketchup, and mustard.  The Mark Twain Dinette in Hannibal serves them, as well as various Maid Rite franchises around the country, but it seems like very few people know what they are when I mention them.  So, for your eating pleasure, here’s the how-to:

porkStart with a pound or so of ground meat.  Traditionally, maid rites are beef, but we had this pork from the Columbia Farmers’ Market in the freezer.

onion choppingChop a medium white or yellow onion into smallish chunks.

cooking 1Add the meat and onions to a skillet on medium heat and season generously with seasoned salt and pepper.

cookedContinue to stir the meat/onion mixture until it is brown and the onions are a little bit brown.

mealServe on hamburger buns (the cheaper the better if you ask me….nothing fancy needed for these sandwiches).  We had homemade french fries and California blend vegetables, but I like to order onion rings and a rootbeer with them at Mark Twain Dinette!!

Not bad…

…for an on-call Saturday!

I started with about $20 of these:
berries

And ended up with all of this:
jam

My kitchen looked like this (which isn’t as bad as it normally is, but still not as clean as Andy would prefer):
messy kitchen

So, I did all of these:
dishes

Amidst all of this, I also made about 150 phone calls to fill open shifts that came up at the last minute, prepped a chicken for Andy to grill, made 10 cups of broth from that chicken, made the rest of dinner, and killed some zombies.  Whew…I’ll sleep well tonight!

Time for a BBQ

Well, Brooke and I went to Hannibal yesterday for Tom Sawyer Days…yes, they have a festival about Tom Sawyer… They had some interesting stuff going on and it was gorgeous outside, so it was a good day overall…just really long… Regardless, we made it back here late last night and we’re checking out a new church this morning…hopefully I can play some drums sometime in the near future, eh? This afternoon, we’re gonna BBQ a bit and go down to Fair St. Louis…Switchfoot is performing tonight and then, of course, fireworks…

On a side-note, Friday went pretty well when I went to SLU to investigate professors to work for. Dr. Ariel does some fascinating stuff with turtles, so I will probably work for him, but I’m still meeting with another guy Tuesday morning. Now, the catch is that I can’t start work for another week (July 11th), which leaves me quite open for this week…therefore, I think Brooke and I are going down to New Orleans as a semi-honeymoon-type deal… We’ll probably leave Tuesday late-morning and come back on Saturday. We found a couple hotels within a block of the French Quarter, so this should be really cool (actually, quite warm, sadly…).

Oh yeah, apparently, some Japanese guy set a new record and memorized and recited 83,431digits of Pi…seriously, some people have way too much time on their hands for their own good…