Saturday, June 30, 2012

Brewing Beer

I finally started my Midwest Brewing Red Irish Ale brew kit that I got on Groupon a few weeks ago. 

My dad came over to help me.  I remember him brewing when we lived back in Nevada and the whole house would stink.  Now, my whole apartment smells WONDERFUL.  I guess it's an acquired scent. 

This kit was much more involved than the kits he's used in the past.  In fact, we had to watch a DVD and take notes, just to get it all down.

First of all, we had to heat up the water and soak the roasted barley (in that little cheesecloth bag) at 150 degrees.  Not quite boiling, but getting nice and brown. 

Then you take out the little baggy and add the malt sugar.  We put the carton in warm water to loosen it up a little.  It made it easier to pour. 

Then you get your dad to stir it up.  He's stirring so fast that his hands are blurred!!  

 Here's the tough part.  Get this giant pot of ooey gooey liquid to boil.  And don't let it boil over! Boil-overs are a HUGE mess, not to mention, you're losing liquid gold here, folks. 

Once it starts to boil, put a bag full of bittering hop, that look like bunny crap before you soak them.

And baby crap after...  (I will save you that image)

Then you add the aroma hops for just about 5 minutes.  They look exactly like the other hops.  Surprise, surprise.  

Boil away....

Pour it all in a CLEAN (make sure it's clean, and then clean it again) bucket.  The kit I got came with this powder that you mix with water that cleans it really well.

Then you want to cool this stuff, and cool it FAST. The faster you cool it, the clearer your beer is.  (Or so says the DVD we watched.) We sent my mom off for some ice cubes. 

Cool it to somewhere around 80 degrees... Or room temp.  This sticky thermometer didn't really work...  So we just ballparked it.  

Here's where we took a hydrometer reading.  This helps us know when the beer is read to be bottled, and the alcohol content when it's done.  

After that, we sprinkled the yeast carefully over the top and plugged it up.  

Once this little guy on the top starts to bubble and rumble, it's ready to be transferred into the carboy.

So that's where I leave you.  The apartment smells great, the beer is hanging out on my kitchen table, and I'm getting thirsty!  Now, it's just a waiting game.


Friday, June 29, 2012

Homemade Chicken Stock

It has been hotter than hot here in the Midwest lately.  I'm talking 110 heat index, yuck. 

So naturally, I've been eating warm, comfort foods... what?! Yes... That's what I've been craving.  Stick to your ribs sort of warm soups and meat. 

So here's a little peak into my daily dinners... 

Minute steak and smashed potatoes covered with gravy.

Homemade "Hamburger Helper" with couscous and aged Gouda.

Vegetables and dumpling soup in homemade stock! (The dumplings are just cut-up biscuits)

The stock was SO SIMPLE.  I put the frozen chicken carcass from my roasted chicken along with some veggies I had collected into my crock pot.  I filled it with about 8 cups of water and 2 T white vinegar.  I left it in the crock pot overnight (about 12 hours) and then strained the water into my Tupperware.

8 cups of perfect stock.  I made some soup and froze the rest!

Take that Food Network stars that all have your own packaged chicken stock.  I got it for free from stuff I would have normally thrown away.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Berry Crumble in a Jiffy

I've always had a sweet tooth.  I always get the 2 cookies instead of the chips at Subway.  After a big meal I can always go for dessert.  If I'm going to a pot luck, my dish-of-choice is always a sweet one. 

That is why I don't keep sweets in my house very often... 

And that is why I've become an expert at baking them... 


Today I was craving something sweet, so I dug around in my freezer and found those berries from the Berry Patch that I froze a few weeks ago and made a quick and easy Berry Crisp. 

Here's how it's done:
2 Cups of mixed berries
1 T flour
1 T sugar

1/4 Cup brown sugar
1 Cup oats
1/4 cup butter, diced

Layer the berries in a greased glass bread pan.  Sprinkle flour and sugar over top. 
in a separate bowl, combine brown sugar, oats and butter.  Get in there with your hands and squish it until you have a crumbly mixture without any big butter chunks. 
Spread the crumble over the berries and pop in a 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes. 

Quick, easy, sweet and delicious.  Plus, think of all that goodness you have with the berries and oats.

I'm gonna go eat some more before I get ready for work. 

You could also call this baked oatmeal and eat it for breakfast.... That's what I plan on doing. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Got some extra thyme? Make biscuits!

Biscuits is one of those foods my mom used to make all the time, along with pancakes, waffles, texas brownies, Dr. Cookie's cookies.... We were a carb family. 

I had a salad for lunch today, and I was doing my dishes and found the biscuit cutter.... I knew that salad wasn't going to suffice, so I had to whip up some biscuits.  I JUST HAD TO. 

I thought I'd dress them up with a little thyme.  It didn't take much thyme at all! Or much time for that matter. 

Plus, it's a one-pot wonder.  I made it all in the food processor. 

Here's how it's done...

Thyme Biscuits


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • handful of fresh thyme leaves
 Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor.  I used 1 cup of wheat flour and the rest white because I only had a cup left of wheat.  Feel free to mix and match your flours.  I love a biscuit made completely with wheat flour, but I find a completely white biscuit a little gummy. 

Make sure to really mix the dry ingredients.  You can't over mix at this point, but as soon as you add the butter, you have to mix as little as possible. 

Add the butter in marble-sized chunks.  Pulse until you have a crumby looking mix. 

Slowly pulse and add the milk and thyme. Mix just enough to incorporate all the ingredients. 

Dump everything out on a floured surface and fold over a few times.  Pat or roll to about an inch thick, cut, and slap those babies on a cookie sheet.  Bake them at 400 degrees for 13-15 minutes. 

I wish I would have added more thyme but I didn't have much left on the plant I'm trying to grow... 

That seems to always be my problem... Not enough thyme...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Little Things in Life

Sometimes something comes along and flips your mood around in an instant and reminds you of who you are, what you want and what makes you happy. 

I've had a rough go of it.  I've had strep for three days now, and this guy hit me like a pile driver. I thought it might be Mono because this is the same week I got mono last year... The week before the Copper Creek Triathlon that I had trained my rear off for, my New Years Resolution that I had actually kept. 

I was pretty bummed today that I couldn't attend the funeral of one of my dad's good friends and former coworkers.  I just didn't have the energy to make it to Ames. My dad spoke at the funeral and told some great stories.  My mom said he did great.  I'm pretty proud of him!

I brought a bad attitude and a tired body to work today for a few hours at a time, but my first cheek-hurting smile came at lunch.   I got to see one of my bestest friends and her daughter for a little bit.  When I got in the car and her daughter had drawn me some pictures. 

I think the one on the right looks like a Paul Frank monkey!

Oh, did I mention she also made a song about me that she sang while she was riding here from Chicago?  Yeah... Adorable. 

Don't mind the sheer exhaustion in my face...  I was running on fumes and energy that I acquired through osmosis.

When I got home I had a fun surprise in my mail box: my favorite mag!! 

It's the only magazine that I don't mind them automatically re-subscribing me to it every two years. 

And my last little present of the day was my prince charming, waiting outside in the parking lot at 11:15 pm after work. 

I literally squealed when I saw him.  I have my coworker's brights to thank for the great lighting.  We all know I'm not this good of a photog.  But this little guy reminds me of hot summers jumping around in the creek by my house and playing ghost in the graveyard.

I'll tell you one thing, I didn't touch this guy.  Not because I'm afraid of warts... because they almost always pee on your hands immediately when you pick them up!

But I did find some energy from deep down inside of me to giggle and jump up and down at the sight of him. 

My coworker said she was surprised I saw him, but I have a fantastic critter eye.  I get that from my dad.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Check out my visit to the zoo!

 I came down with a wicked case of strep throat this week, so I haven't been doing much cooking.  So instead, I am posting pictures of adorable animals from the Henry Doorley Zoo.

First, this monkey was hanging up close and personal. One guy was feeding him grapes! Right next to the sign that said to not feed them...


We heard something that sounded like a baby crying, and then we came across these guys, just wandering around on the walk ways and on top of garbage cans.  

There were rumors of a brand new baby seal, so we had to go track it down and we got there just in time for feedings.  

They even did tricks! 

And there's the wittle bitty babay!!!

We rode the little sky lift.  It was pretty cool to be above all the animals.  But I'm sure it looked to them like we were just fresh meat dangling just out of reach.  

I didn't make it to the aquarium last time I was at the zoo, so I made sure to check it out this time. 

This is one of my favorite pictures.  I had to wait a little bit for this big one to come out of hiding. 

By the time we got to the rainforest, the 6-year-old we were with was losing it, and honestly, so were we... So we power walked through it.  

The zoo was fun! And strep is not.