Brewing Professionals

We're becoming beer brewing pros, at least we've decided we are. I found a really great coupon to brew beer at Gallagher's and I couldn't pass it up (my mom's fault I'm sure :) The night before we finally bottled our first beer, a Hefeweizen, the night before and then headed out to this place the next morning. It was great to not have to clean anything we used and instead focus on the beer and its ingredients. There were people there we could ask tons of questions to so that when we go home we can brew our own beer with more understanding.

This time we made an IPA. Joshua thinks I'll convert over to the hoppy IPA's  the more we brew and the more I handle the hops. I hope he's right because there are so so many IPA's out here. Their malt was in big vats and we got to use steam to heat it all up.

 We had a lot of fun and it was a perfect way to pass a rainy afternoon. We go back to bottle it in about 2 weeks :)

This is our Hefeweizen all bottled up!


Charred Pepper Steak Sauce & Warm Citrus Butternut Squash Salad

We had a friend over for dinner the other night and I had planned on making the butternut squash for Joshua and I and then added in the steaks when we invited the friend over. I'm not a huge fan of meat, especially plain meat so I looked up some sauces and settled upon this charred pepper sauce which I now may make once a week. It was really simple but had a big depth of flavor.
But the showstopper was the butternut squash dish! It was definitely a wower. The texture, subtle citrus and roasted flavors all worked together so well in this dish. I almost started eating it off of other people's plates. It also plates so pretty which in my opinion also earns it points :)
Warm Citrus Butternut Squash Salad:
adapted from here
serves 3-4 as a side dish (2 as a main dish)
2 lb butternut squash; remove rind and seeds and slice it
7-8 brussels sprouts; peel off leaves
1 14.5 oz. can cannellini beans; rinsed
handful of parsley
2-3 carrots; diced
1 lemon; reserve zest and juice
3 cloves garlic; minced
1 shallot; diced
1 tsp curry powder
1   preheat oven to 500 degrees F and place sliced squash on a baking sheet
2   drizzle squash with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and a little cayenne
3   roast 20-25 minutes, the tops should brown, flip the slices halfway through while the squash is roasting:
4   grind the garlic in a mortal & pestle into a paste
5   in a small bowl mix 2 tbs lemon zest, half of the garlic paste, and a generous amount of parsley
6   stir in a few tbs of olive oil to bring it all together, this is the gremolata
7   heat a few tbs of olive oil in a skillet and add the shallot, remaining garlic paste for about 30 seconds
8   then add the carrot and curry powder, sauté for a few minutes
9   add the beans and a 1/2 cup water, season with S&P
10 cook until the liquid has mostly reduced, 5-6 minutes
11 remove from heat, mash some of the beans with the back of a fork and put on plates
12 in a small bowl mix brussels sprout leaves with a tbs of lemon juice and a little olive oil
13 divide the roasted squash onto the beans, put on a scoop of gemolata and a sprinkling of brussels sprouts, finish with a little bit of lemon juice
Charred Pepper Steak Sauce:
adapted from here
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow pepper
 2/3 cup fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup orange juice
 2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mustard seed
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1   set your oven to broil and put in your peppers
2   rotate them every 5 minutes and broil until they are charred on all sides, 10-15 minutes
3   remove the seeds and stems from the peppers, keep the skin on
4   slice peppers and place in food processor with remaining ingredients
5   puree the mixture well and then transfer to a pot
6   simmer the mixture on low for 10-15 minutes
7   place back in food processor and puree until it is as smooth as you can get it
8   drizzle it all over a good steak
ALSO I put this in with our extra butternut squash and ate it for lunch- great decision! I think I'll make this charred sauce for a vegetable dish soon, it is really a great versatile sauce and sure to impress)


Creamy Polenta with Braised Vegetable Glaze

We've never eaten polenta (cornmeal based) like this before. I was a little skeptical but the recipe for the veggies intrigued me. Wowza it was so delicious. Like I said I was skeptical but I will definitely make this again. It would be such a great appetizer for 4, it plates so pretty.

Also I've never used demi-glace before, it's a boiled down brown sauce with a ton of flavor (like a stock boiled down to a glaze) I am definitely getting more of this to throw in as sauce for veggies over rice. It's very simple but a big impact.

Back to the polenta, days later and I still wish I was eating it. Lots of interesting flavors in this one dish. I bet you'll be surprised by how tasty this is- make it :)

Creamy Polenta with Braised Vegetable Glaze:
recipe from here, serves 2

18 oz. Trader Joes' precooked polenta or 3/4 cup uncooked polenta
3 carrots; sliced into about 2" pieces and halved
6-8 brussel sprouts; halved
5 oz. oyster mushrooms; cut in slices
3 cloves garlic; minced
fresh thyme
2 tbs butter
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbs tomato paste
3 tbs vegetable demi-glace
olive oil

1   in a saucepan bring 3 cups of salted water to boil
2   once it is boiling whisk in the polenta, stirring until there are no clumpsy, stir occassionally
3   then simmer for 10-12 minutes
4   while it is simmering sauté the vegetables in a few tbs of olive oil, 4-5 minutes
5   then stir in the tomato paste and a handful of thyme and cook for about another 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently
6   then pour 1 cup of water and the demi-glace into the vegetables, stir well
7   bring it to a boil and simmer until it has thickened, 3-5 minutes
8   stir the butter into the polenta and then stir in the parmesan, add S&P to taste
9   pour the creamy polenta into 2 bowls and top with the vegetables and sauce
10 top it off with a little parmesan and thyme


San Fran Bike Tour

About a month ago I was feeling bogged down by boring work and life busyness and I convinced the hubs to book us ticket so San Francisco for a break. Our friend Andy was awesome enough to host us and lend us a few of his bicycles.

On Sat & Sun I think we biked around 15 or more miles a day, we also biked 5 miles on Fri. So I truly feel like we went to San Fran and got the best bike tour ever. He knew how to get everywhere which was amazing so we just got to tag along, weave ferociously through traffic, run all the lights, hop the trolley tracks, and just enjoy the ride.

We stopped at the top of a few of the parks including the Full House park, Corona Park, & of course Golden Gate Park.

My top priority for the trip was to bike across the Golden Gate bridge & we did, and it was deeply fulfilling :) Also we were really lucky and it was a beautiful day. We biked past the piers and all the parks catching lots of different views of the bridge.

Mostly we enjoyed the sunshine and lots of Mexican food as well as spending time with one of Joshua's good friends. Thanks San Fran & Andy (&friends) for a great mini vacation!


Mushroom Hunters

For Christmas Joshua bought me some field guide books, one of them being mushroom so the Northwest. So this past weekend after some rain we headed out to Evergreen Trail to give it our first go as mushroom hunters. It turned out to be really entertaining and we really got into it! Below are the mushrooms we think we identified :)

The fairy rings were my favorite they had such pretty gills. The Artist's conk was cool because, as you can see in the photo, you can draw on it. Also the Liberty cap was the only hallucinogenic one found. And the witch's butter was funny because it was all fattened and globby from all the rain it soaked up. Overall a very successful afternoon trotting though the mossy woods! Pretty soon we'll be mushroom hunting pros :)





Homeade Leather Clutch

We have some leather left over from anther project Joshua & I did (that I'll share soon) So Friday afternoon when I got home from work I drug out all the supplies and decided I was going to make a clutch for the evening. I sketched out my design and made a paper version of it and fiddled around until I was happy with it (took about 45 mintues) Then I got to work.

And I wrote down all the steps below so anyone can make one!
What you'll need:
thick leather, such as belting leather
4 rivet that are thick enough to hold 2 thicknesses of the leather
anvil or small piece of metal to hammer the rivets on
carnauba cream
1   print out the template I've made on 11"x17" paper
2   then trace the outline out on the leather with chalk
3   cut out the main shape in one color and the small strap/closure in another hide color.
I had a metal "E" lying around that I hammered into the leather a few times ( I LOVE IT)
4   rub in carnauba cream over the leather with a cloth, let dry completely

5   drill holes in the middle of the x's on the template (a hole about the size of your rivet heads)

6   fold it all up like an envelop and creased the folds

7   using an chunk of metal as an anvil hammer in the rivets that hold the sides to the bottom & repeat the process for the attaching the strap

8   slid a few things inside the clutch and closed the top under the strap

After I had my pattern down the whole think took around a half hour & then I took it out for the night.

(Also I was thinking- I bet you could make this out of a really nice cool placemat :)

I love it and it was so fun to complete a project I could then take out finished that night. I've been wanting a leather clutch for awhile and instead of paying tons for one I got to do it exactly how I wanted. mmm so many ideas now, Joshua & I are going to buy another hide and see what else we can come up with. Also brass rivets- how pretty would those be! Also we want more metal letters so we can write fun things on them and personalize them.

Ah so excited to take it out! Make one!
And this is where I took my clutch :
our friend was performing at a goofy little café that night.
She was stunning!



Vegetable Lasagna with Bechemal Sauce

This recipe took up all our burners at once, but mmm worth it.
 It's not very complicated and it has a big impact with a lot of flavors
+ bubbly cheese on top (always a win)

I also liked it because it didn't use ricotta or a lot of cheese
in general but it still had the impact you'd want it to.

While this recipe has a lot going on at once you can't really mess any of it up if you are a little off, it's quite resilient and if stuff gets cold remember you're just going to put it all in the oven so it's no big deal.

Vegetable Lasagna with Bechemal Sauce:
inspired by a recipe from here

8 oz, no boil pasta sheets
4 cloves garlic; minced
1 shallot; diced
1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 eggplant; cut in 1/4" slices
8 oz. cremini mushrooms; sliced
2 tbs butter
3 tbs flour
2 cups low-fat milk
4 oz. mozzarella; cubed
2 oz. parmesan cheese; grated
bunch of fresh basil
olive oil

1    preheat oven 450 degrees F and grease an 8x8 dish with tall sides
2    turn a saucepan, preferably cast iron, on medium-high and add a few tbs
      of olive oil
3    sauté the eggplant slices in a single layer for about 2 minutes, flip and
      repeat with other side
4    move them to a plate and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices
5    while you are sautéing eggplant pour a tbs of olive oil into a small pot and
      sauté the garlic and shallots for 3-4 minutes
6    then pour in the crushed tomatoes and cayenne, add S&P to taste, simmer
      for about 8-10 minutes (once it is done turn off heat)
7    on another burner bring a pot of water to a boil
8    once all the eggplant is sautéed, put in some olive oil and cook the mushrooms
      3-5 minutes (once they are done turn off heat)
9    in another small saucepan melt the butter and then whisk in the flour
10  whisk for about 1 minutes, until the mixture thickens and turns a little golden
11  then slowly stir in the milk
12  cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring frequently
13  I had never used no bake noodles & didn't trust them because I wasn't putting
      them in the oven for very long so I went ahead and boiled them for a few minutes
      in the water
14  once the milk mixture has thickened whisk in 2 oz. of the mozzarella and 1 oz.
      of the parmesan, mix until smooth (once it is done turn off heat)
15  now time to assemble :
      put down a 2 noodles to cover the bottom of the dish
      a good scoop of the tomato sauce
      a layer of eggplant & a scoop of mushrooms
      scatter basil leaves
      drizzle on the béchamel (cheese sauce)
      repeat until you only have 2 noodles left
      top it with the noodles, put 1 more scoop of tomato sauce on
      then sprinkle on remaining mozzarella and parmesan
16  bake for 15-20 minutes/until the cheese is brown and bubbly


Felted Garland

While Joshua was still in Portugal for work I found real wool in the Japanese dollar store (a dollar for wool is awesome) They all came with 3 colors in each pack and I nabbed them all. I've loved the felted ball garlands I've been seeing but didn't want to pay for one- enter dollar store. Easy to make and a fun way to spend a husbandless rainy afternoon.

step 1 : get a bowl of warm water & 2 tbs of soap

step 2 : rip off a palm size ball of wool & pull it into a big fluffy ball

step 3 : dip the ball of wool into the soapy water and start to roll it
around in your palm until it is half the size

step 4 : wipe off your hands and roll the ball a few more times

step 5 : keep makin em until you use all your wool

step 6 : let them sit overnight to dry out
step 7 : using an embroidery needle & thick thread to string all of the balls onto
step 8 : hang it up & enjoy!


A Clamming Expedition

This past weekend we took a ferry over to Whidbey Island with our small group and went clamming. It started pouring down rain all morning but as we were unloading for the beach it stopped and we got to dig rain free. We've never dug for clams before so it was fun to be taught and fun to see water squirting from the rocks and sand to run over and dig hoping to find the clam that did it. There were 3 different types of clams and we were only keeping one kind so we had to decide which were which. The thrill of finding one was exciting, but sometimes it was just a "sander" (full of sand). I think we all truly enjoyed it. Something about being outside all day by the ocean digging around with people you love made for an amazing morning.

 (I was feeling optimistic about sunshine, so I was wearing the wrong type of hat :)

We all headed back to a cabin on the island to whip up salads and steam the clams. We spent the rest of the day lounging about watching the waves out the windows and talking. There's something beautiful about not having a timeline and just getting to chat after a day of being outside.

I was told the clams were tasty, I touched one to my tongue and chickened out :)