Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Red Salsa

I've had a poor showing on the blog lately, but the year's almost over and before I head out I want to post something. For one, I'd like to congratulate my friends who've been wed this year, the baby that was born, my two friends who overcame cancer, all of those who earned degrees this year, and all of those who accomplished things I'm not thinking about at the moment. I feel spoiled to have had yet another good year. I know people who were not as fortunate as me, and it makes me realize just how lucky I am. 

In reality tomorrow is another day like any other. Like birthdays, anniversaries, or any other special occasion, time moves on unaware of the titles we put on individual instances. And yet it's a new year and a time for new beginnings. I hope to make it a good year. 

Red Salsa

4 Dried Red Chilis
1 Anaheim Pepper
2 other Random Green Peppers
3 Cloves Garlic
1 Tomato
Some Cilantro
Salt to Taste

Simmer the Dried Red Chilis until soft. Cut the Anaheim Pepper and Random Green Peppers in half. Broil them until their skin is charred and then wrap them in aluminum foil with the heat off for another hour. Peel off the charred skins of the Anaheim and Green Peppers. Food process the boiled Dried Red Chilis, the Anaheim and Random Green Peppers, the Garlic, Tomato, Cilantro, and Salt. This is the closest I've gotten to the delicious Red Salsas of my dreams. It's not perfect by a long shot, but it's good. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Corned Beef Hash

Life is still quite good for me. For one, my girlfriend and I just celebrated our one-year anniversary, a first in my life. Since I last updated my blog I saw the Cure and Depeche Mode at ACL music festival, saw the Book of Mormon, John Oliver live, a play that an old and excellent friend directed in Houston, a couple UT football games, rocked some assignments, cooked some good meals, and ran the first couple 5 mile runs of my half marathon training. I'll be running that race in February. I brewed an IPA and a Coffee Porter (though I haven't added the Coffee yet). It's been good. It's always good.

I have brief moments of sadness and things bring me down from time to time, but when I have time to put it on paper, more often than not I'm feeling alright. I feel really good right now. The other day I was in the mood for Corned Beef Hash, so I made some- no canned stuff for me this time! Next I'm going to Corn my own Beef, but I'm not there yet! It's a little bit of effort, but it's really good. Really. I found the recipe at http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Corned-Beef-Hash-102822, though I tweaked a couple very (very) minor things.

Corned Beef Hash

1 Russet Potato
1 lb. Cooked Corned Beef
0.5 Large Onion
0.5 Yellow Bell Pepper
2 tbsp. Butter
0.25 c. Heavy Cream
2 tbsp. Chopped Cilantro

Cut the Potato into quarter-inch chunks and boil for about 3 minutes. Chop the Onion and Bell Pepper and saute for about 5 minutes in Butter. Add the Potato and saute for another 5 minutes. Cut the Corned Beef (which I bought from the deli department at Central Market as one chunk- not sliced or anything) into large chunks- maybe a half inch or so- and then slightly pulverize in a food processor. Stir in Corned Beef and cook until mixture is browned. Salt and Pepper to taste. Then add the Cream and Cilantro and cook some more.

This was really good, but it's just as good the next day and the day after that! Above is a Breakfast Sandwich that I made the next day and loved! If you want your Egg to look like mine, Butter a small ramekin, mix the Egg with a dab of Milk, Salt and Pepper, and microwave for 40 seconds. It'll pop right out and be delicious!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sweet Potato Ale

It's rough getting back into the swing of things. I just got into a grad school course that I've been trying to get into since April- I don't understand the bureaucracy, but somehow it always seems to work out. Kicking and screaming. 

One of the most pro moves of my life was to store a couple kegs at my girlfriend's house while we were in DC for the summer. I came back and within a couple days had already gotten A+ beverages on tap. Below is a recipe for my first Sweet Potato Ale. 

I've been making a Pumpkin Ale every year since 2008 and I've got to say, it's getting pretty good. It goes really fast every autumn and I always think I should make more than 5 gallons, but don't. This past year I tried a Sweet Potato Pie and realized that it's not terribly different from Pumpkin Pie and began to wonder if I could make a Sweet Potato Ale- a beer I could make year-round since Sweet Potatoes are always in season. Well, it turns out you can. Everything is the same as my Pumpkin Ale, except for the Sweet Potato, of course. I took it to a party on Sunday and we killed the keg. I only had two beers, so apparently other people liked it, too. 

Sweet Potato Ale

11 lb. Maris Otter
1 lb. Vienna
0.5 lb. White Wheat
0.5 lb. Caramunich

1 oz Mt. Hood 4.2% AA (60 min)
½ oz Gr. Tradition 6.5% AA (10 min)
½ oz Gr. Tradition 6.5% AA (5 min)

1 tbsp Yeast Nutrient (15 min)
1 Whirlfloc Tablet (15 min)

12 oz. Molasses (3 min)
0.33 cups Brown Sugar (3 min)

2 tsp Cinnamon (1 min)
½ tsp Ground Ginger (1 min)
½ tsp Nutmeg (1 min) 
7 cloves (1 min) 

Brewed: December 2012
OG: 1.058

Racked: December 2012
Added 10 pounds of Sweet Potatoes. I washed and peeled all the Potatoes, cut them in chunks, shoved all 10 pounds into my Dutch oven and roasted for about 1.5 hours. Then I mashed them (as in: I smashed them into Mashed Potatoes--- not as in the brewing term), put them in a straining bag (IMPORTANT!!!) and racked the beer on top.

Kegged: 12/13/12
FG: 1.010

Tapped: 9/1/13
DELICIOUS! My one concern is that I have no idea how much sugar/alcohol the Sweet Potatoes contribute. It tasted a lot stronger than a 1.058 beer---- not that I'm complaining. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chicken Stew

Sorry for the absence, but I've been in DC for the past few month and was leeching internet from anywhere I could- which basically meant that I rarely had internet. I cooked a bit, but nothing like I hope to be doing now that I'm back in the great city of Austin. 

There's a lot I can muse about, but I'd rather skip it all and put in a plug for buying Whole Chickens. Until recently, I would buy Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, Leg Quarters, and Wings separately. Occasionally I would buy an entire Chicken to roast and would often try to make a Soup or Stew with whatever remained, but I was always left with too much food. Then I got smart and started butchering the Chicken first. 

So here's the deal, Whole Chickens are relatively cheap- I've seen them as low as $0.69 or $0.79 per pound at the Fiesta. The one I bought for this post was a staggering $2.49 per pound. I bought it at Central Market and the label said that it was free range, hormone free, antibiotic free, fed a vegan diet, and all of that good stuff. It was somewhere around $12 total. Expensive, I know, especially considering that you can get an already-roasted Chicken for $6 or so at any grocery store. But if you consider that conventional Chicken Breasts go for $2.99 a pound at most places and organic ones are usually $4.99 a pound, it begins to make more sense. I like my readers to draw their own conclusions, but I personally believe that if you can afford it, it's worth a few extra dollars to support better practices. And it tastes better.

In any case, conventional or otherwise, it's always cheaper to buy a Whole Chicken. From there, you should be able to butcher the bird into the following pieces:
  • Two Chicken Leg Quarters (Two Drumsticks and Two Thighs)
  • Two Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • Two Boneless Skinless Chicken Tenders (shown in one package)
  • Four Wings (Two Drumettes and Two Wings (shown in one package)
  • One Chicken Carcass (often including the Heart, Gizzard, and Neck) (not shown in picture) 

Because the parts of a Chicken freeze so well, I recommend wrapping them in Saran Wrap and freezing them together in a Ziploc bag. It takes practice to get the cuts right, but this was my second Chicken in the past few months and already I feel like they look as good as anything you'd get in the store. The trickiest part are the Tenders. I hadn't realized this at first, but they're directly underneath the Breasts. Ideally, you'd use a thin sharp knife. I use the Wusthof Classic 4" Boning Knife and highly recommend it, but any knife should be fine. Regardless of your knife, don't fight the bones. You're goal is not to cut through them, but around them. There is not a single cut that should require much force.

As for the Carcass, I recommend strewing it. This is one of the healthiest and best tasting recipes I will ever post. It requires a significant amount of time, but very little work and almost anything can be thrown in or substituted. As good as it is, this is not a meal for a date, because there are a lot of bones in it.

Chicken Stew

1 Chicken Carcass (plus Gizzard, Heart, Neck, or anything else that came with the Chicken)
4 Large Carrots chopped into largish chunks
1 Bunch of Celery chopped into largish chunks
0.25 c. Green Split Peas
0.25 c. Yellow Split Peas
0.25 c. Green Lentils
0.25 c. Red Lentils*
Pinch of Dried Parsley
Pinch of Rubbed Sage
Pinch of Rubbed Rosemary
Pinch of Dried Thyme
Pinch of Fennel Seeds
Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes**
Generous helping of Pepper
As much Salt as necessary to make the flavors pop (maybe one or two teaspoons???? I didn't count.)

In a large pot cover the Chicken Carcass (plus Gizzards, etc.) with Water and Spices. Salt generously. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for hours. Originally I was going to finish the whole stew in about 3 hours, but other things kept coming up, so it simmered for about 6 hours. It only gets better with time. With about an hour and a half left, throw in the Lentils. If you use Noodles or Rice, you might throw it in with 20 or 30 minutes left, you know how it is. With about 30-45 minutes remaining, throw in the chopped Veggies.  

Like I said, I challenge you to find anything unhealthy about this meal and it really is good. There's a rich and vibrant taste in it that you won't find in store-bought Chicken Broths. For those of you grossed out about eating a Gizzard or Heart, I sympathize, but the fact of the matter is that after 6 hours it's basically fallen apart and you won't see it or taste it. They add lots of good flavor and you have the joy of knowing that you didn't let any of the Chicken go to waste. As for the meat itself, the Chicken literally falls off of the bone. There's a lot of small bones, so you can't remove them before you begin eating, but if you don't mind spitting some out, the flavors are quite rewarding.

*Feel free to use more or less Lentils, all one kind or another, to use Rice or Noodles instead or in addition, there is no wrong answer.

**Use any combo of Spices you want. Curry it. Give it a Greek flair. Again, there's no wrong answer.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pasta with Scallops

Son, sit down and let me tell you how to properly romance a lady.

It starts with a sale at the Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom on fresh Scallops. Let me start by saying that everything in DC is overpriced. It's true for rent, for food, for drinks (a happy hour beer should not be SIX DOLLARS), for flowers- that's right, I went there- and for almost everything else. But really. Anyway, the Whole Foods has a special item on sale every Friday. They advertise it all week and expect you to get excited about it. I don't want to get excited about anything at this Whole Foods, because they don't know how a line works and people constantly go out of turn and act like they can do whatever they want, but that's another story. Point being, last week's sale was on Scallops. $15.99 a pound instead of $21.99. Do you see what I mean? Even sales are overpriced. In any case, I walk by this Whole Foods every day on the way to work and I'd like to share my thought process with you:

Monday: Whole Foods wastes my time in line. $15.99 a pound for Scallops? Ha!
Tuesday: This Whole Foods sucks. Even their sales are overpriced, but I should pick up some Scallops somewhere.
Wednesday: Mmm... Scallops.
Thursday: I don't want to pay $15.99 a pound for Scallops, but I can definitely see where someone would find this a good deal.
Friday: I can't wait to cook these Scallops that I'm in the process of buying!

So that brings me to Saturday. Tonight.* I made the most awesome dinner. My lady-friend was duly impressed, as well. It's one of those times where you have a vision and actually make it come true. I want to share it with you. I'm supposed to be on the couch cuddling and watching a movie, but the meal was so good that I want to document it for all posterity first.

Pasta with Scallops

1 lb. Scallops (14 individual Scallops in this case)
5 Cloves Garlic
3 Green Onions
4 tbsp Butter

0.5 lb. Linguini Pasta
~20 Grape Tomatoes cut in half
Olive Oil

~1/3 Large Lemon
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan Cheese

Red Bell Pepper on the side (at least I liked it...)

Bring Water to a boil and start cooking the Linguini Pasta. Meanwhile, melt the Butter in a large frying pan. Finely chop the Garlic and the Whites of the Green Onions. Sauté until tender with Salt and Pepper. Gently place the Scallops on this mixture and cook for about 2-3 minutes per side on a medium-low heat.

When almost fully cooked, drain the Linguini. Add a small amount of Olive Oil, the Grape Tomato halves, and the Greens of the Green Onions, chopped. Salt and Pepper to taste. Sauté for a short while whilst finishing the Scallops. Squeeze Lemon onto both the Scallops and the Pasta. Serve the Pasta with Scallops on top- making sure to spoon a little extra Butter-Scallop Sauce over the Pasta. Garnish with Parmesan Cheese, Red Bell on the side, and enjoy your meal. I only served 5 of the Scallops, so you DO NOT need a full pound for two people. That should've been obvious, but what do I know? I expect the leftovers to be delicious!

*Internet sucks at my DC pad, so by "tonight" I mean the next day when the internet actually allowed me to post this.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Real Men Eat Red Meat and Stand With Wendy

I've been in DC for a few weeks now and have really enjoyed myself. I've met a Senator and a handful of Representatives and have been impressed with all of them- shocking, I know. But I feel like my heart's still in Austin. 

I don't cook as much meat since I started dating a vegetarian several months ago, but I like to go a little crazy when she's not around- she's in Texas for the next couple days. Last night I ate like a Stark of Winterfell. I like my meat rare and last night was no exception. Does it make me a man? Don't be silly- what you eat has nothing to do with whether or not you're a real man. I do however believe that real men support women's rights. At this very moment Texas State Senator Wendy Davis is filibustering an insanely restrictive abortion bill that will pass if she stops speaking. She's been talking for over 10 hours straight- without water, food, or even a bathroom break- and has a little less than three hours left. I hope she dropkicks the entire Republican party in the face when she's done. I stand with Wendy.

In the time I took to write this post, the Republicans stopped Senator Davis's filibuster. I still stand with Wendy. 

Rare Steak and Brussel Sprouts

1 lb. Boneless Beef Sirloin Steak
1 lb. Brussel Sprouts
Olive Oil
Garlic Pepper (because it's what the guy I'm subletting from has)

Slice Brussel Sprouts in half. Drizzle with Olive Oil. Sprinkle with Salt and Garlic Pepper. Roast at 375 until charred and delicious (maybe 15 minutes- I didn't really check).

For the Steak: heat some Butter on a skillet (I still have no grill access...). Sprinkle Salt and Garlic Pepper on the pan. Cook each side for just a couple minutes. Enjoy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Red Beans and Rice

Just a few more days until the legislative session is complete. Then I have a few days to pack and get up to Washington, DC. I can't wait- despite the fact that I've thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the legislature so far. 

New Vampire Weekend and Daft Punk is rocking me hard. Frozen Synapse on the iPad is rattling my brain and making me happy. Trying to learn Eclipse, a board game which has been released on iPad. Enjoying the heck out of Plants v. Zombies. Embarrassingly so. The new Star Trek movie was really fun and I recommend it despite what the critics say. I haven't seen the Great Gatsby yet, but the Colbert Report episode about the book was really good. 

This is the stuff you think about during the lulls at work. Session is a funny beast- you may not have much concrete to do for the first eight hours of the day and then all of a sudden intent comes out and you're here past midnight. I like to think I do good work- I certainly try, but you hear stories of people who pass amendments and bills without knowing what they do or vote for something they sincerely oppose only to have their base storm in and demand they kill the bill they passed or change their vote or whatnot, and it scares me. I like being prepared and I want my boss to feel prepared, too. I'm fortunate to be in an office that takes its responsibilities seriously. I'll remember these past few months fondly.

Red Beans and Rice

This recipe came from: http://www.thecookingphotographer.com/2011/03/spicy-smoky-red-beans-and-garlic-brown.html. My girlfriend really enjoyed it and I thought it was really good, too... but it lacked something. It's vegetarian, so maybe I just wanted some meat in it. I don't know. 

2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 Onion chopped up
5 stalks of Celery cut up
1 Orange Bell Pepper chopped up
4 Cloves Minced Garlic
2 Chipotle Peppers from a can of Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
1 tbsp Adobo Sauce from aforementioned can
2 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Oregano
0.25 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Liquid Smoke
12 oz can Pearl Snap (Lite Lager Beer made in Texas)
2 tsp Tabasco Sauce
3 Bay Leaves
4 (15.25 oz) Cans Red Kidney Beans
Salt and Pepper

Sautee Onion, Celery, and Bell Pepper in a heavy cast iron pot. Once they’re soft, add Garlic and cook until fragrant. Then add the Adobo Sauce, Chopped Chipotle Peppers, Thyme, Oregano, Cumin, and Liquid Smoke. Cook for a couple minutes, then add the Beer. Mmmm…. Beer. Also add the Tabasco Sauce, Bay Leaves, and Kidney Beans (just the Beans, strain the liquid). Simmer for 45 minutes.

Salt and Pepper to taste. Then remove 1 cup of Beans and junk and puree it. Return it to the pot. This will increase the thickness of the liquid.

1.5 c. Brown Rice
1 tbsp Butter
0.5 tsp Garlic Powder
0.5 tsp Onion Powder
Salt to Taste

While Beans are simmering, cook the Rice with the Butter and Spices.

Serve Beans on Rice like a vegetarian champion. 

***Here are my musings about the dish:
First of all, I'm not convinced that the Liquid Smoke does anything. I don't trust Liquid Smoke. According to Wikipedia, the European Food Safety Authority is investigating the safety of Liquid Smoke. I wasn't aware of this until just now, but it comes as no surprise. I don't like the stuff and would suggest Smoked Salt or just more Peppers to get this effect. Plus, we didn't use enough to make it taste particularly smokey to me. 

Second, I don't think adding Spices or Butter to the Rice does anything. I may be wrong, but there's enough stuff in this recipe to make it unnoticeable. 

Third: the beer didn't add much. They suggested Corona. That would add even less. I'm sure I would taste the difference if we didn't use it, but I'm not yet sold on using a Lite Lager. 

Lastly: try to have something lined up for the remaining Chipotle Peppers; I didn't and I suffered for it. Next time I make Chili, however, I'm totally using them since they're amazingly hot, smokey, and delicious! 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Kit-Kat Kookies

I don't believe I've mentioned this yet, but I'm heading to Washington, DC, in three weeks to start a summer internship with a very reputable private firm doing government relations work for them. I'm excited for any number of reason, but top of the list is definitely getting to live in DC for a summer. My girlfriend's going to be there, and we're actually going to share an apartment. which slightly scares me- commitments and all- but also excites me. I think we're going to have a pretty awesome time and I can't wait to see the Spy Museum! Our place is centrally located, so we can walk or ride out bikes to work each day quite easily, and I also found out that one of my best friends works just a couple minutes down the road from me, so we should be able to hang out a bunch. 

I still have to get through my current job at the capitol, but there's only two weeks left and even if we find ourselves practically living in our offices during this time, it's been an easy session overall and I can't complain. If anything, I want to complain that it hasn't been crazy enough! Still, I've learned a ton and have really enjoyed it. Maybe I'll have an office in that building one day, too...

Hey look a distraction!

These cookies turned out baller. I based it on Nestle Toll House's recipe that I found here: http://www.verybestbaking.com/recipes/18476/Original-NESTL%C3%89-TOLL-HOUSE-Chocolate-Chip-Cookies/detail.aspx

Mint Chocolate Chip Kit-Kat Kookies

1.125 c. Flour
0.5 tsp Baking Soda
0.5 tsp Salt
1 Stick Butter
0.2 c. Brown Sugar (all I had remaining)
0.55 c. Sugar
0.5 tsp Vanilla
1 Egg
All the remaining Mint Chocolate Chips I had- maybe 0.5 c.???
3 Fun-size (6 Sticks total) Kit-Kats, crushed up, because they had to go!

Mix Flour, Baking Soda, and Salt in a bowl and set aside. Beat Butter and Sugar until it's whipped and creamy. Add the Egg and Vanilla. Incorporate the Flour mixture. Add the Chocolate Chips and Kit-Kat  pieces. Bake at 375 for 9 minutes and then for how ever long it takes to finish the page of the Hunger Games that you're currently reading. The Hunger Games is a kick-ass book that I recommend all people read. You laugh, you cry, you realize that it's silly that you're reading a teenage romance, then you remove cookies and eat and laugh about how much your life resembles those of the residents of the Capitol.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Excellent Pasta Sauce

I have over a half dozen recipes typed out and ready to post, but I haven't felt like I had anything to write about- diary-wise- until today. Now I feel like I have all too much stuff to write about, but allow me to go back a little more than a week ago...

Around noon on a Tuesday I get a phone call from my best friends. He suggests I sit down and then tells me that his father had passed away. I've been fortunate to have lost very few people in my life- a great aunt who died of cancer, my grandmother to Alzheimers, and an uncle to cancer. All three had terminal illness that allowed me to come to terms with their mortality months- or even years- before they passed. That's not to say that it was easy, but I've never gone to bed one evening thinking all was well and woken up the next to a loss. My friend's dad was young- just 52. Nobody could argue that he was in the best health, but I don't think anybody expected him to die. I've known him since I was five or six years old. I remember playing Nintendo with my friend and him. The original Nintendo. He was my present age when I first met him. I remember playing Monopoly with his new family when he remarried, and I remember him getting pissed at me for always trying to cash in my smaller bills for hundreds and five-hundreds. I remember the German Chocolate Cake he made for my friend's 16th birthday, and I can't count the number of times I was hanging out with my friend when he called to see how his son was doing. 

The funeral was yesterday. It was nice. He was cremated and buried in my friend's mom's family's ranch cemetery. Everybody thought it was what he would've wanted, and I agree. It was very nice, and I couldn't help but cry. I spoke at the funeral as someone who didn't know him terribly well, but know his son better than almost anyone. I love that family like I love my own. My friend's blessed with many good friends who accompanied him to the funeral. I'm grateful for their presence, and I know he was, too. One of them, one of the goofiest people I know, missed the back three loops of his belt. I noticed it while my friend's sister was speaking about her dad, and I couldn't help but laugh. Apparently someone tied his tie four or five years ago and he hasn't retied it since. He's a perfect friend to take to a funeral. Also, I need to give a shout-out to my girlfriend for coming with us. She's truly amazing; comforted my friend, comforted me, help drive, and is just all around fantastic. 

I'll let that be the transition to something much happier. I was grabbing a drink with my roommate today at the Flying Saucer when we got a call from a mutual friend to tell us he just got engaged. I won't be able to do justice to this milestone tonight- maybe not ever- but he's a lucky guy: his fiancee is brilliant, incredibly pretty, and suites him ridiculously well. He's always done a good job picking girlfriends, but this one is special, and I'm so happy for them. 

Anyway, in terms of meals... apparently this sauce has been floating around the internet for years, always getting excellent reviews for being so simple and so delicious. I tried it and everyone's right. It may be the best pasta sauce I've every had. Make it. Make it now! I found the recipe here: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/01/tomato-sauce-with-butter-and-onions/. 

Oh, and at the funeral (always a good segway), one of my friends suggested I check out the new Justin Timberlake album, The 20/20 Experience. I'm listening to it now; it's incredible.

Best Pasta Sauce I've Ever Had

28 oz can San Marzano Whole Peeled Tomatoes
5 tbsp Unsalted Butter
1 medium Onion cut in Half
Salt to Taste

Heat Tomatoes with Butter and Onion and bring to a simmer. So about the Onion--- cut it in half and drop it in the sauce cut-side down. Do not do anything else with it. Stir frequently and crush Tomatoes as they cook. If you have an immersion blender, feel free to use it to get a smoother texture. If you do not, mash to your heart's content or enjoy a chunkier, yet still delicious sauce. After 45 minutes, remove the Onion.* I served the sauce over Central Market's Organic Gemelli Pasta and added shredded Parmesan Cheese.

*Unlike most cooking n00bs, pro rampers would not throw away the Onion. Rather, they would cut it and serve it on bread. I ate the entire Onion for breakfast the next morning. That was probably a little too much Onion, but boy oh boy was it good!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Lentil Medley

Working the Lege is not conducive to cooking. My apologies. ...just a couple more months. I did something different with this entry. Sorry for the poor handwriting and picture quality!

Lentil Medley

And because I love the capitol squirrels---

Squirrel Nuts

1 Acorn

Hide it for winter. Find it. Climb a tree. Eat it. Like a boss.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cheesy Quinoa

I chaperoned my first bill out of committee the other day. It's not a controversial bill and it shouldn't have much of an impact on anyone's life, but it makes tax evasion just that much more difficult and it was really cool to see the system at work. Cool and scary.

Yesterday a couple state senators busted into the three-person office I work in and claimed to be maintenance workers. They proceeded to commandeer a desk to discuss finance issues. I tried to follow what they were looking at since I recognized that at least one of them was a senator, but it was beyond my knowledge level. Still, it was a neat experience.

I'm really enjoying my job. But I haven't cooked in a week since they feed us so much. When I think back at all the incredible people I've met so far, it's truly amazing. I'm a very fortunate man.

And speaking of good things, check out this excellent recipe (it's perfect for those times when you're fed a lot, because it lasts for ages in the fridge):

Cheesy Quinoa

My girlfriend introduced me to the recipe that I've adapted, but she found it here: http://www.howsweeteats.com/2012/06/grilled-corn-cheddar-quinoa/

1 c. Quinoa
2 c. Water
1 c. Frozen Corn
1 bunch Chopped Cilantro
8 oz. Shredded Smoked Cheddar
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil as needed.

Bring two cups of Water to a boil, add the Quinoa, and cook for 15 minutes. Then add the Corn, Salt and Pepper, and Olive Oil. After a short amount of time, add the Cheddar and Cilantro and stir until Cheese is melted.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Fried Rice

I'm just finishing a nice weekend. I spent a lot of time with my girlfriend and attended a party with people she biked across the county (and Canada) with. Yesterday we celebrated a bunch of classmates' birthdays with them at the Crown and Anchor, and then I had the pleasure of attending one of my absolute best friend's apartment-warming parties, where I had the honor of providing a keg of (if I do say so myself, which I always do...) ridiculously good Brown Ale.

I knocked out 54 miles biking in the rain and cold with my girlfriend yesterday morning, we baked cupcakes together for the party, and also enjoyed a killer meal at Hopdoddy where I had an impressive Bison Burger and she enjoyed the best Veggie Burger I've ever had. This Veggie Burger was so good, because it wasn't trying to taste like meat. It knew what it was and was the best that it could be. I'd take that Veggie Burger over most normal Burgers, but Hopdoddy's Burgers are not normal, so what is a guy to do?! Eat meat? Yep.

This evening I got to talk to my ma for the first time in ages, iron my clothes for the week, enjoy Lagunitas' Gnarly Wine, and watch Flight. Flight was really good. All in all, I really can't complain. Like I said the other day, life is really good and I recognize it.

Fried Rice

1 c. White Rice

1 tbsp. Sesame Oil
1 Shallot Diced
Dash Ginger Powder
Dash Garlic Powder

1 Carrot cubed
1 bunch Green Onions Diced
Handful Frozen Peas
Handful Frozen Corn

1 Egg

3 Hot Dogs cubed
0.57 lb. Shrimp peeled and diced

Splash of Soy Sauce and/or Oyster Sauce

Cook the Rice in 2 cups of Water as you would any Rice. Since Fried Rice is better with old Rice, I put  the cooked Rice in the fridge for an hour or two to cool off and get hard.

Heat the Oil and fry the Shallot and Dried Spices.

Add the cooled Rice and fry for a second. Then Add the Carrot, the harder (closer to the root) parts of the Green Onion, the Frozen Peas and the Frozen Corn.

While this mixture is cooking, shove everything to the side of your wok. Crack the Egg and cook it on the side of the Rice. Don't mix until the Egg is cooked. Then add the Hot Dog. Cook for another minute and add the Shrimp. If you feel the need for Soy Sauce or Oyster Sauce, add it now. Once Shrimp is cooked, add the remaining Green Onion.

This is pretty darn tasty, so enjoy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chicken Mole

As is often the case with my life, I can't complain. I'm working this semester in the Capitol and am having a really great experience. Without saying more than I should, suffice it to say that some things are nothing like you thought, while others, well, are. It's the first time in my life that I have a job that demands I sit in front of a computer all day. Things will change once the session picks up a little, but I'm told that I should appreciate the time that I have while it lasts.

Otherwise, I continue to date an amazing woman. I still can't believe how good this chick is to me. She tells me that I'm good to her, which I hope is true, but too frequently I find myself crippled by self-doubt. For some reason I don't want to believe her when she tells me how happy she is with me, although I have no reason to think otherwise. It's scary how good we are together. The woman I've written about innumerable times from college still has a piece of my heart. I'm no longer in love with her- hell, I'm not even sure that we've communicated in two years- but there's a part of me that doesn't want to love after loving her. But this is the most I've liked anyone since, and I suspect that what I have now is better and stronger than what I never had then. 

My girlfriend helped me make this Mole. Actually, I basically showed her the recipe I found here: http://www.thebittenword.com/thebittenword/2012/09/chicken-with-puebla-style-mole-sauce.html and then she made it for me. I did some of it- she's a vegetarian and won't mess with the Chicken, for instance- but I can't take credit for this. We used some of the Sauce on some Vegetable Enchiladas that we made, but this, to me, was the star of the show. If you've got a solid afternoon, it tastes really great!

Chicken Mole

2 oz. Dried Mulato Chiles
1 oz. Dried Ancho Chiles
1 oz. Dried Pasilla Chiles
2 Cloves Garlic
0.5 Tomatoes
0.5 Tomatillo
0.25 White Onion
2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
0.5 tsp. Whole Cloves
0.5 tsp. Whole Allspice Berries
0.25 tsp. Coriander Seeds
0.25 tsp. Peppercorns
0.25 tsp. Anise Seeds
0.5 Sticks Cinnamon
0.25 Ripe Banana diced
0.5 torn Corn Tortilla
3 tbsp. Almonds
1.5 tbsp. Sesame Seeds
2 tbsp. Raisins
1 Slice Wheat Bread torn
1 tbsp. Canola Oil
1 tbsp. Lard
2 oz. Abuelita Chocolate
1 tbsp. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Salt
1 Chicken butchered
Toast Mulato, Ancho, and Pasilla Chiles in a dry cast iron skillet. Bring some Water to boil. Remove Water. Add the toastest Chilis and let sit for 30 minutes. Remove the Chilis, but keep the Water. Core and seed the Chilis, saving at least a teaspoon of seeds for later. Food process the Chilis with 1 c. of the Chili Water until smooth.
Whilst doing the above, roast the Garlic, Tomato, Tomatillo, and Onion until nice and charred. Food process this mixture separately from the Chilis. 
Melt butter in the Dutch oven and add the Chili Seeds, Cloves, Allspice, Coriander, Peppercorns, Anise Seeds, Lard, and then cook until nice and fragrant. Add the Banana and cook until browned. Add the Tortilla, then the Almonds, Sesame Seeds. Next add the Chili puree, roasted Vegetable puree, Raisins, and Bread. Bring to a boil and then cook until all ingredients are nice and soft. Now puree with 3 cups of Chili Water. Be careful that your food processor does not explode. Maybe you use a blender. Maybe you do it in batches. Maybe you just clean up after yourself. (Thanks, babe!). 
Heat up the Lard in your dirty Dutch oven and then add Mole and fry slightly. Whisk constantly and then add Chocolate, Brown Sugar, and salt. Cook until everything is smooth.
Put Mole and Chicken in a Crook pot and cook overnight. Enjoy the next day with Beans and Tortilla. Maybe a little Sour Cream and some Avocado. Way too much work, but really quite nice. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Obama Ale

Dun dun dadun dun dadun dadun dadun dun.

That's right, hail to the motherbrewing chief. Let's get one thing straight: Barry O'Brewer is not a good brewer. He leads the free world, so I don't hold it against him, but he's got a ways to go before he brews like Tommy K. You can find two of his recipes here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/09/01/ale-chief-white-house-beer-recipe. Behold the true power of the Freedom of Information Act.

Anyway, I frequent two homebrewing stores; one down here in Austin and then the one where I used to work when I'm back home. Both of them say that orders for Barack's brews are flying off the shelves. Unfortunately, his recipe is meant for beginning brewers and you can tell that they were made by some homebrew shop or beginning book and need some tweaking. Also, who boils the Honey with the Malt? Wow.

I made my own version. I wanted it out for the election, but was too slow so I only recently tapped it. I don't like my version very much. Technically it's fine, but the recipe needs a lot of tweaking and Honey Ales aren't something I crave very often, so it's likely I won't brew it again for a long time. Anyway, mine's too dark. It has a pretty copper color, but I wanted it lighter and I should've know that my Specialty Grains were too dark. It's also too sweet. It either needs more Hops to balance, or I shouldn't have used the 1 lb. of Honey in the secondary. Really, the Honey Malt imparts all the Honey flavor this beer would've needed. Similarly, it's too strong. President Obama's is strong too, clocking in around 5.8% if I remember correctly. Mine's pushing 7%. It's too much. Simmer down, remember that Honey Ales should be light, slightly sweet, and refreshing, and don't try to one up the Commander in Chief.

President Tommy K's Honey Ale

11 lb. American 2-Row
1 lb. White Wheat
12 oz. Crystal 40
8 oz. Biscuit
8 oz. Honey Malt

1 oz. Kent Goldings 6.7% AA 60 min.
0.5 oz. Fuggles 4.8% AA 10 min.
0.5 oz. Fuggles 4.8% AA 5 min.

Safale US-05

1 lb. Honey

Mash at 149 for 60 minutes. Collect 7 gallons batch sparging. Ferment at 68. Add the Honey when racking to the secondary.

Brewed: 10/19/12
OG: 1.060 (1.060 on Hydrometer and 15.5 on Refractometer)
This is before adding the 1lb of Honey.  

Racked: 11/2/12
SG: ???
Added 1 lb. Honey with about 1 quart of water

Kegged: 11/17/12
FG: 1.009

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Baked Ziti

A long while ago one of my closest friends suggested I post a recipe for Baked Ziti. I did a little research and felt like Baked Ziti was boring and below my skill level. I made something else and posted it and that was that.

Or was it?

So I've been dating this chick and we get along really well and I like her very much and she's pretty much the best baker that I've ever met and cooks really well, too. She's a little more devoted to measuring cups and such than I am, though, which makes sense since she's a baker. I think it's cute. If she reads this, she might be all like "what are you talking about?" It might be in my mind and I might just not want to admit that she's a better chef than I am, too, and has intuition in the kitchen every bit as good as mine if not much better.

As usual, I digress. The point is that we made Baked Ziti together and it was some of the best stuff I've ever had in my life. The recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated originally and was reposted on this site: http://thefloursack.blogspot.com/2012/07/baked-ziti.html. We changed a couple things.

As a practical manner, I normally buy the HEB brand tomato sauces. HEB, as you've seen me write before, makes some damn tasty stuff. But I saw Newman's Own for $1.88 a jar. I thought that this was a really good price, because for some reason I'd thought these were normally $4.98 a jar. So we use this stuff and it's pretty much world-dominating. For all I know, the Baked Ziti recipe sucks and Newman's Own salvaged it. I'll make it with Newman's Own again.

Just so you know: Blogger is doing something funky with the design of the ingredients. I'm too lazy to correct the html. TLDR: I'm lazy.

Baked Ziti

1 lb. Cottage Cheese2 Eggs beaten
1.5 c. (or much more) Grated Asiago
0.25 c. Kosher Salt

1 lb. Ziti
2 tbsp. Olive Oil

7 Cloves Garlic Minced
24 oz. jar Newman's Own Tomato Sauce
8 oz. can Tomato Sauce (store-brand relatively bland rubbish, it is!)
14.5 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
1 tsp. Oregano
1 tsp. Sea Salt
0.5 tsp. Pepper
0.125 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Sugar
Big Bunch Basil
1 c. Heavy Cream 

1 tsp. Cornstarch
10 oz. Low-Moisture Mozzarella cubed

Boil the Ziti with 0.25 c. Kosher Salt. When Pasta is close to completion, pull out. Of the heat. Drain and set aside.

Mix Cottage Cheese, beaten Eggs, and 1 c. Asiago Cheese in medium bowl.

Fragrantize the Garlic in the Olive Oil for about 30 seconds. Don't brown. I was trying to brown it and then my lady hit me and said "don't brown it. Can't you read!" I can read. I just happened not to have. Stir in Newman's Own Tomato Sauce, Diced Tomatoes, Oregano, Salt n Pepper, and Cinnamon. Allow to thicken for a few minutes, remove from heat, and stir in the Basil and Sugar.

Whisk Heavy Cream and Cornstarch and simmer until thickened. Remove from heat add Cottage Cheese medley, 1 c. of the Tomato Sauce, and 0.75 of the Mozzarella. Add Pasta and mix well.

Pour everything into a baking dish or Dutch oven and pour the remaining Tomato Sauce and Cheeses on top. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350. Remove foil and bake another 30 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes, if you dare, and then gorge.