30 October 2011

Fall = Beer Time!

So the last year or so Donald and I have been experimenting with homebrewing. We have most consistantly been brewing an English Bitter recipe from the Microbrewed Adventures. We've played around with it a little bit but we both really like the resulting beer so it's defiantly in our standard rotation. A couple of months ago for our anniversary we had a brew day. Most "normal" people go out for a nice dinner or something of the like for their wedding anniversary, but us, we brewed beer! After a marathon trip out to Adventures in Homebrewing's shiny new location on the west side of Ann Arbor we had three batches that we were going to brew that day. A batch of the English Bitter, a English Strong Ale, and a Pumpkin Ale.

 The Strong Ale recipe called for a yeast starter to make sure that there were enough yeast to deal with the massive amounts of sugar that the recipe had. So "we" (this being the non-royal we of mostly just Donald) decided to do a starter for both the Bitter and the Strong. Got everything prepped and in the buckets, put the airlocks in the top of the buckets and put them away in the awesome pantry of doom to bubble away. Welllll so when you make a starter with your yeast, the yeast are already really happy when you put them into the wort - and they get more excited from there. Luckily before he went to bed Donald noticed that the Bitter was throwing foam into it's airlock. So the Strong Ale and the Bitter both got shiny new blowoff tubes and then we went to bed. We both got up the next morning and then went to work. When Donald got home the top of the Strong Ale bucket was a little bit bowed up. So Donald went to move it out and thats when he discovered that the bottom of the bucket was bowed out as well - so much so that the bucket was basically about to blow. So after a careful extraction of the bucket from the closet he switched the blowoff tube for a much larger diameter one and that seemed to do the trick. Beer that isn't blowing up = good!

The Pumpkin Ale was much more straightforward. I added the optional pie pumpkin to the recipe. We went and got a cute little 2lb pumpkin from the farm stand at the end of the road. After it roasted for about 45 minutes in the oven it got added to the mash and the pulled out with the grain bag so that it added a little bit of pumpkin flavor but not overwhelmingly strong. A touch of pie spices and away we went.

 So after the requisite aging time and then going into kegs for the Strong and the Bitter and into bottles for the Pumpkin Ale. The Strong Ale is still a bit raw after a couple of weeks of aging, so it's in time-out. The Bitter turned out a little bit more "American" then "English", and it's getting a little bit better as it ages, but I still don't know that I really like this batch. The Pumpkin Ale on the other hand, is sooooo delicious! I opened the first bottle tonight and wow. The pumpkin and spice are subtle and balanced, and the mouthfeel is almost creamy. I already grabbed the ingredients for a second batch that I'll be starting some time this week. I am going to be very selfish with this first batch though, no sharing!

24 September 2011

Pasta Sauce and the End of Summer

It's been a while since I posted anything here, but Trase asked nicely and so here it is. I just finished my first big push for the year for canning pasta sauce. The last couple of years I have only done about 30 jars of sauce and inevitably by the time we hit June and July we are rationing sauce because there are only 1 or 2 precious jars left until tomatoes come back in late August. So this year I set out to change that. My goal for this year was 52 quarts of sauce. In the middle of winter it's not that unusual to use 2 or 3 in a week, so when I really got down to it, 52 quarts was not an un-reasonable amount of tomato sauce. A lot of people have asked me for my sauce recipe and so here it is. This is the one that I did this round, every time I make it its a little bit different depending on what I have on hand. That being said, I do not have access to a lab or anything so nothing has been for sure tested as far as safety and such goes. If it is your first time doing any home canning, I highly encourage you to go check out the recipes at www.freshpreserving.com (the Ball Brand website) for canning methods and tested recipes. If you don't want to can it, this is also a sauce that could be stored in the fridge or freezer in portions that make sense for you. Tomato Sauce a la The Rose & Thistle 6 pounds fresh tomatoes, roughly diced (I leave the skins on because I don't mind them, but you could remove if they bug you) 3 large yellow onions, diced 1 head of garlic, minced (use the food processor if you have one, so much easier!) 2 cups celery, diced 1 cup carrot, diced 4 bell peppers, seeded and diced 2 hungarian wax peppers, minced (omit these if you don't want a spicy sauce) 2 cups summer squash, seeded and diced Salt & Pepper 15 oz can tomato paste (or take 2 pounds tomatoes and cook down until very thick) Add tomatoes to large stock pot and bring to a boil (there is no need to add extra liquid - the tomatoes will supply all the liquid you need!). Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about an hour or until they have reduced down by about 1/3. Meanwhile, saute the other veggies in batches. I generally put the batches of sauteed veggies straight into the tomatoes as each batch is soft/brown enough for my taste. In a bowl, combine the can of tomato paste and a ladle or two of the sauce to thin/incorporate and then combine entire contents of the bowl with the rest of the sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Using cider vinegar (or another acid at 5% acidity like white vinegar, bottled lemon juice, or wine vinegar - I just like cider vinegar) add 2 Tbsp to each quart halfway though filling the jar. Fill your jars, process, and cool. After all of your seals have established themselves, store until you desire a taste of those fleeting days of summer!

26 April 2011

Out of the Frying Pan & Into the Fire

Well any delusions that I had about this week being easier then last are right out. I am in the last week of a huge project at work and this weekend is graduation at U of M.

Sunday: Easter Dinner with the Wilson's
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Split Peas Soup
Wednesday: Anya making Bigos
Thursday: Leftovers
Friday: Pork Roast
Saturday: Leftovers

18 April 2011

Going to Be a Crazy One

This week is going to be crazy. Passover and Easter are in the same week so there will be all sorts of stuff going on at work around both. But I do get a couple of nights where I'm home to make dinner so that's a plus! I just about finished the baby sweater that I started last week and I'm still working on the bag for Ash's Taiko sticks. But there should be some good family/car time to work on those and get them off the needles. See you on the flip side!

Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Pastrami Ruben
Tuesday: Moroccan Lentil Soup
Wednesday: Grilled Chicken & Potato Salad
Thursday: No one is home.
Friday: Pierogi with family
Saturday: Free For All

11 April 2011

Vacation ate my brain

That's really the only excuse I have for not posting the last couple of weeks. I'm super excited about this week though as I am getting a new fridge! The time has come that I finally admitted that my darling Kelvinator just isn't big enough for us. That said, I'm not getting rid of the jolly green giant, it's just retiring a bit into it's new role as beer fridge!

Sunday: Pizza
Monday: Leftovers
Tuesday: Beans with Sausage & Kale
Wednesday: Baked Potato Buffet
Thursday: Donald will fend for himself
Friday: New Fridge day!
Saturday: Minestrone w/ Fresh Bread from Donald's BAKE class

14 March 2011

Seeing Green

It's one of my favorite weeks. It's the week of St. Patrick's Day and I get to break out some of my most loved foods. Plus I got the Feb/Mar issue of Fine Cooking the other day and after drooling a little bit I picked out a couple of things to add to the menu this week.

Monday: Stout & Cheese Meatloaf
Tuesday: no one will be home
Wednesday: Corned Beef with all the fixin's
Thursday: Quinoa Salad
Friday: Potato Leek soup
Saturday: Moroccan Lentil Soup
Sunday: Leftovers

We'll see if Friday's meal plan actually happens. We now have a funeral to attend that morning so I might not get a chance to get everything put together. Something will happen, I'm just not guaranteeing that it will be what I said will happen! So with that I leave you with some lovely pictures of the meat loaf that was dinner tonight before I cooked it and after it came out of the oven. Enjoy!

pre-cooking meatloaf

post-cooking meatloaf

10 March 2011

Knitting is a quiet but powerful thing

I was reminded of this today on the bus ride home. When I first got on the gentleman sitting behind me struck up a conversation about my knitting and when I was making etc.. After a couple of other comments he reassured me that he wasn't staring at me, simply glancing over from time to time to make comments. After about 5 minutes of this pretense he finally admitted that ok, now he was watching what I was doing. And for the next 20 minutes of my ride we sat in relative silence, me knitting - him watching. As he was getting off the bus, he thanked me for letting him watch and share the experience. Next was the woman who moved up to the seat behind me and talked about how she had made afghans and such in the past but was a bit baffled by what I was doing with so many needles (I was working on kilt hose knit in the round on 5 DPNs). We had a bit of conversation which reminded her of a girl she had know in grade school in the 50's who had moved to the school from Germany and was teased because everything she wore was hand-knit by the girls mother, right down to her underwear!

And these little conversations reminded me that knitting might be a quiet and generally solitary practice for me, but is still a powerful thing. Not only does it connect me to the men and women who have come before me and passed the craft along, but it connects me to complete strangers in my everyday life. As a generally introverted person this is huge for me. Many times there are situations where I would never say a word or interact with others around me for any number of reasons, but with my knitting out, I do. It starts conversations and is something I can talk about with practically anyone.

Knitting is a powerful thing.

09 March 2011

Portents of Spring

This week so far has included some of my favorite portents of spring. First was weather warm enough to start tapping the maple trees for sap. Last year Donald and I tapped our trees for the first time and even when imperfect the joy of having home-made waffles with syrup that you boiled down yourself is so special. Second was Fat Tuesday and the beginning of Lent. Though neither of us were raised Catholic both sides of my family have strong Catholic roots and so over the years it just kind of slipped into my personal traditions of observing the period of Lent as a time for reflection and restraint. This year once again I have given up frivolous spending. It means no eating out for the entire 40 days of lent and no big indulgences. The basics of food and bills and such will still get paid for but the rest is set aside in savings. The nice thing is that my new years resolution fits nicely with the "fiscal fast" concept. This week's menu is:

Monday: Roast Salmon with Green Salad and Carrot-Fennel Rice
Tuesday: Spanish Mushrooms with Rice and Lentils
Wednesday: Pot Pies
Thursday: Roast Chicken with Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes
Friday: Chili
Saturday: Ash will fend for herself
Sunday: Leftovers

28 February 2011

A Weird One

The weather is supposed to get better this week. I hope. But we won't be home much to enjoy dinners together this week so I guess I better make the ones I am home for count!

Monday: Sweet Potato & Chickpea Stew
Tuesday: No One Home
Wednesday: Venison Stew with Dessert Custards
Thursday: No One Home
Friday: Moroccan Glazed Lamb with Green Beans & Mashed Potatoes
Saturday: Pancakes & Bacon for Breakfast
Sunday: Leftovers

21 February 2011

The Weather Lies

So after a couple of days of above 40 degree days with sunshine Mother Nature decided that was enough of spring for the moment. Over a foot of snow later we are digging out again, but that was a really cruel trick. But other then that this should be a good week. Ash got us tickets to see the Kodo Drummers at Hill Auditorium this Wednesday and I am super excited. When I was in Osaka in 2002 I had a chance to see a traditional drumming performance as part of the musical culture exchange trip that I was on and this should be just as awesome.

Monday: Pasta with Tomato Sauce
Tuesday: Spanish Braised Lentils with Sausage and Chard
Wednesday: Venison Burgers and Oven Fries
Thursday: Polenta with Taleggio Cheese
Friday: Chickpea and Tomato Stew
Saturday: Corned Beef Hash with Backyard Eggs
Sunday: Leftovers

14 February 2011

The Sun Came Out!

If you do or ever have lived in Michigan you know how precious the sun can be in the months of January and February. And in a winter where the sun has not been much in evidence two whole days where the sun came out and the air outside wasn't quite as frigid might just mean that winter will end eventually. Not that this cook is holding her breath. So with a shred of hope I am starting to incorporate more veg and greens into the menu. Just a little bit here and there, but it may be time to come out of the brown food days.

Monday: White Beans with Sausage and Kale
Tuesday: Beer Braised Venison Chops with Smashed Potatoes
Wednesday: Maple/Ginger Squash
Thursday: Carrot & Fennel Rice Pilaf
Friday: Slumgullion
Saturday: Homemade Corned Beef Hash with Backyard Eggs
Sunday: Leftovers

Saturday has become a bit of a non-day around here. Donald and I usually work closes that night and Ash has game nights out usually so I've been planning bigger brunches for us at home and we all eat packed dinners or eat out that night.

07 February 2011

Changing up my habits

So as part of my goals to have a menu and do more cooking another goal has emerged. Over the last year I got into the habit of just doing my grocery shopping at the local Kroger. It was easy to get into the habit and I only had to go to one store. Part of this was due to the fact that Donald was out of work and so money was tight, but it was also just me not taking the time to use my local food-shed and it's resources. During the summer we get a full CSA share from Valley Family Farm, and so we are usually pretty good in the summer, but during the winter I don't always make as much of an effort to support my local farmers. But this weekend Donald and I undertook a household improvement project of building a new pantry. It was an exercise in repurposing badly used space. When we moved in to the house the space was a hallway/coat closet. Over time it just became a junk closet where everything and anything could be put. So armed with a tape measure, hammer, circular saw, and power drill we set out to turn a junk closet into the pantry of my dreams. And a strange thing happened while we were doing the construction project. I realized that I was spending more money outside of my local food-shed then I was in it. And so I decided to change. This week was week one of my shopping local sources personal challenge. As the person who does the shopping and menu planning most weeks I figure if anyone is going to make a noticeable difference in this area, it's going to be me. So I made my list and got most of my shopping done at the Co-Op (where everyone in my house has a membership), with the exception of a couple pieces of meat. Those I will be getting later this week - fresh chorizo from Dos Hermanos market in downtown Ypsilanti, and pork chops from Sparrow Market. So with all that local foodie goodness what's on the menu this week?

Monday: Bacon-Asparagus Quiche with Green Salad
Tuesday: Minestrone Soup
Wednesday: Black Beans & Rice
Thursday: Eating out, going to see Battlefield Band at the Ark
Friday: Falafel
Saturday: Brown Rice Pilaf and Pork Chops
Sunday: Leftovers

And so I leave you with a view of my new pantry, as I go off to re-organize said pantry and run the dishwasher and laundry.

Finished Pantry

31 January 2011

Things I Love #1

This week is going to be interesting... It looks like Tuesday night we are expecting the latest in the litany of snow storms this winter which has been dubbed #SnowofDOOM on Twitter. I'm not too worried at this point, I work early on Tuesday so I should be home before it really gets bad and then mid-day on Wednesday where I can depend on the bus system here in town to do the icky driving for me. As a result the food this week defiantly skewed towards cold weather comfort food.

Monday: Split Pea Soup
Tuesday: Risotto with Sun-dried Tomatoes & Smoked Mozzarella
Wednesday: Crockpot Gumbo with Cornbread
Thursday: No Dinner Planned (no one will be home this night)
Friday: Falafel w/ fixings
Saturday: Ash or Donald to decide (I won't be home)
Sunday: Leftovers

Previous to this I have been just writing out the week's menu on a divided sheet of white paper. But this past Saturday I got a chance to hang out with Donald downtown for a bit and visited the new(ish) kitchen and home section of Hollander's in the Kerrytown Shops. When I was there I found this awesome Weekly Menu Notepad that I just couldn't say no to! If you follow that link you'll get to the website of Knock Knock, a company that I have just fallen in love with. Their paper products are fun and functional and do it all with a charmingly dry wit. I already loved doing a weekly menu, but this makes it even better!

24 January 2011

Still going..

So far this is going pretty well. And the dinners have been pretty darn delicious too! I haven't gotten a whole lot of knitting done this week, but I did get all of my laundry taken care of and got to some spinning! I have 4oz of superwash merino singles from The Ranches on Etsy. Unfortunately it looks like they may not be on Etsy anymore, sad as I liked their eye for color. Not sure how I'm going to ply the singles but they'll tell me what they want to be eventually. On the menu this week:

Monday: Polenta with Tomato Sauce & Sunny-side Up Eggs
Tuesday: Chickpea and Lentil Stew
Wednesday: Chicken Curry
Thursday: Roasted Vegetable Couscous
Friday: Kielbasa with Sauerkraut
Saturday: Falafel
Sunday: Leftovers

The Polenta tonight went over fantastically well. It only took about 20 minutes from start to finish and was incredibly delicious. I think it helps that the eggs that we used were less then 24 hours old and out of my backyard. Yum!

18 January 2011

Busy Weekend

This last weekend was a busy one! We hosted a party and did some great chocolate and whiskey pairings. Then it was back to work for MLK weekend and a Monday that was un-characteristically busy too. But I got to do some fun things so it was all worth it. I used my new rice cooker for the first time last night and I am totally in LOVE! I have had a rice cooker for a while now, but over the holidays my brother mentioned that he was looking a buying one and was kind of excited. I seized the opportunity to gift (and then upgrade) the rice cooker that I had, as it was a bit too small for 3 adults who really like rice. So I went to the local Asian grocery in Ann Arbor and got a fab 10 cup cooker. Last night's dinner was my first chance to test it out and I am very much in love - there's sooo much room! So, with out further babbling the week's menu:

Monday: Spanish spiced rice, steamed salmon fillet, roasted asparagus
Tuesday: Shepherd's pie w/ leftover colcannon
Wednesday: Sloppy Joes
Thursday: Brisket with horseradish cream, rutabaga and mushrooms
Friday: Chili
Saturday: Going out to a friend's Burn's Night celebration
Sunday: Leftovers

I also suspect that Sunday is going to become leftovers day for a while. Between mine and Donald's work schedules we aren't home at the same times and trying to plan a dinner either requires a crock pot (which I happily will do - it's just a pain some days and I like my sunday morning beauty sleep) or someone else stepping up to do the cooking and trying to get them to commit is sometimes like herding cats! Well, it's really early in the morning and I need to get to work, so until next week!

14 January 2011


After being out of work for around a year, my husband just got the news that he was hired for what might be his dream job. So excited!

10 January 2011

What's For Dinner?

So week two of my endeavor to record my menu every week and so far so good. Our weeks start on Monday around here at the Rose & Thistle and so tonight was the first night of a new week. We had a lovely dinner tonight of potato pancakes with a green salad. Last week overall was pretty good but the menu broke down over the weekend when I was at work during dinner time. Anyone who is paying attention will note that the potato pancakes were originally on the menu for last night (Sunday), but were indeed made and consumed today. Such is life, but it's ok - they were still delicious! So this week's menu is as follows:

Monday: Potato Pancakes (from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Tuesday: Ham & Bean Soup (from Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes
Wednesday: Rotini with Home-made Pasta Sauce
Thursday: Falafel with Lavash and Tabbouli Salad
Friday: Hosting a Party so Dinner will be Party Food!
Saturday: Split-Pea Soup
Sunday: Sloppy Joes (from Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes

In knitting, I got a pair of mittens done for my brother's girlfriend. They turned out pretty fab and she really loved them. I posted about them on Ravelry, with pictures. I am almost done with my brother's sweater but I broke a needle and I'm currently waiting on the superglue to dry so that I can finish. In an effort to be calm about the broken needle I started a pair of kilt hose for Donald. I'm almost through the calf shaping on the first one and it's going along swimmingly. In general I'm fighting a huge case of startitist (I blame the Yarn Harlot for spreading this pernicious disease via the internet!) I have all sorts of things that I want to start for myself, now that I'm not needing to knit for others for the holidays, but I am trying to limit myself to a reasonable number of projects.

03 January 2011

I'm still here

The last quarter of last year was a doozy. There wasn't much time for me to take for myself and the little that was, was spent recharging for the next day or the next event. But I made it to the other side of the year and it's a brand spanking new year. For now I'm going to try and post each week's menu that I write here on the blog and I'll pepper in some knitting and such when I get the chance. So in the spirit of starting as I mean to go on here's the menu for the first full week of the year:

Monday: Lamb and Lentil Soup (adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens Low-Carb Slow Cooker book)
Tuesday: Pasta with Tuna & Tomato Sauce (sauce from the summer canning and ortiz tinned tuna)
Wednesday: Lasagna with Chard & Eggplant (from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison)
Thursday: Leftovers from the Fridge
Friday: 7 Bean & Barley Soup with Beef (mix from our local co-op)
Saturday: Falafel with Hummus
Sunday: Latkes with sour cream (from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

My New Year's "resolution" is to take advantage of my prodigious cookbook library and to cook at least one recipe out of a cookbook that I own at least once a week. So here is where I hope to keep track of my progress on that goal.