Monday, February 21, 2011

Flexing my -tarianism

I was a bad boy this weekend.  I started the weekend off pretty well, vegetarian-wise.  Things became increasingly carnivorous as the weekend progressed.

Friday I dropped Nicholas off at Ontario Airport around 5:00PM and then proceeded to have an epic trip getting home.  Traffic got the double-whammy of thunderstorms at the start of what for many is a three-day weekend.  Thanks to a missed on-ramp and several detours intended to evade traffic, I ended up taking about two hours to finally get home.

I was completely beat from the workweek and had planned on picking something up for dinner, too tired to either cook or dine out.   By the time I reached my exit,  however, I just wanted to get home.  So, I sat around procrastinating until about 8:30 before finally deciding to cook something.  I ended up making Spinach Omelettes with Manchego Cheese and Sour Cream, using up some of the spinach, green garlic and spring onions from the CSA.

Saturday I was in Riverside for the More Beer Brewday.  Leaving the demo, I drove right past (well, not quite past) the Fatburger on University Avenue.  What the heck, I hadn't had lunch and it had been a little while since my last burger, so I went in for a large chili cheese with everything.  It filled me with cholesterol and self-loathing, but man it was delicious.

Saturday evening we invited Mr. Pim over for dinner, since he's been home alone for quite awhile with spouse and child off to Mexico.  Larry is a meat eater, but a good sport, so he has sat through several vegetarian offerings at our house.  This weekend however, I decided we should feed him something for the carnivore.  Denise went through our freezer and found several items that have been cooling there heels, so to speak, in there ever since this whole vegetarian thing started.  None of them, unfortunately, sounded much like anything to feed a guest.

She did find a boat load of tasso, a hold-over from the days when Jacob was still eating meat and we were making Red Beans and Rice on a pretty regular basis.  So, I sort of decided that we should make Red Beans and Rice and try to use up at least a portion of the tasso.  (We have enough tasso left over to make about five more batches.)   I say "sort of decided" because I also bought a grass-fed beef chuck roast.  Why?  Well, because I wasn't sure we would have everything I would need to make Red Beans and Rice and because I wasn't sure I shouldn't serve Larry cow.  He is very much into westerns.

I ended up making the Red Beans and Rice and it was damned tasty.  Denise made a huge salad with CSA greens and I finished the evening off with a Rhubarb Crisp.  No, not with the rhubarb I've been growing.  Linda gave me a whole bunch last weekend when we were in SB.

Sunday, I had more of the RB&R for lunch.

Denise made herself some green beverage concoction with some of the CSA kale, pineapple and God only knows what else.  I had a taste and it was not bad.

We're going to have to come up with more things like this to do with all this produce I suppose.  The fridge is still full and another load is scheduled for Tuesday.

For dinner, well, I had this chuck roast in the fridge.   So, we ended up with a pot roast in the oven.

It was not all bad though; carrots were from our garden and there was a side of some more sauteed greens of one kind or another from the CSA.  A little Cabernet Sauvignon.  It's nice to have something that pairs well with red wine for a change.

I did do one nice thing on Sunday however.  I started brewing a batch of American Brown Ale.  Since I had just learned about making dog biscuits with the spent grains, I did a quick Google and came up with a Spent Grain Dog Biscuit recipe.  Not much too it; 2 cups spent grain, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup peanut butter and one egg.  Mix them all up, press the dough onto a sheet pan, score into the shapes you want and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  Then, snap them all apart along the score lines and place in a 225 oven for about 3 hours until they are nice and hard.

I made some nice interesting shapes, that is, if you think rectangles are interesting.

Leo seems to like them.

Next time I'll have to find a dog bone cookie cutter.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

More Beer Demonstration

I decided that since rain was in the forecast and my laborer (Nicholas) chose to fly up to see Tee this weekend I would take the day mostly off.

Rob from More Beer demos
all-grain brewing on
the BrewSculpture.
More Beer, in Riverside, was having a Brewday, demonstrating an extract and an all-grain recipe.  This was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the brewing craft and would normally be an opportunity to drink some free beer.  Sadly, I found out during the demo that their beer fridge recently took a dump and was awaiting repair, so no samples on this Saturday.  Bummer, but at least I stayed sober and somewhat focused.

Extract recipes are what I have been making all along (not entirely correctly, as it turns out after watching the demonstration) and are the easiest recipes to make.  All-grain is more involved, with all sorts of interesting things like mash tuns and sparging and what not.  All-grain is supposed to be sort of the holy quail of brewing, offering cost savings, greater creativity with your recipes, etc.  It also offers the chance to spend more money on brewing gadgetry, always a bonus.

Among the things that I learned were...
  1. Don't squeeze the steeping grain bag when you extract it.  (I have been squeezing mine, thinking to extract all the last bit of grainy goodness.) Turns out that that can introduce tannins, which you would want if you were making wine, but not so much in beer.
  2. Stir the liquid constantly while adding the extract so that it doesn't caramelize on the bottom of your pot.  (I've been kind of hit or miss with this.  It's hard to stir and add extract at the same when you're working alone.)
  3. Put the cooling coil in at the start of the boil.  The recipes I've followed previously have recommended adding the coil with about 20 minutes left in the boil.  Rob, our instructor, said that adding the coil later causes some possible problems, e.g. adding the cold coil in the middle of the process stops your boil and then you have to recover.
  4. You can add yeast nutrient to help your yeast get a quicker start on fermenting all the sugars into alcohol, which is good, because the faster the conversion to alcohol the less likelihood of bacteria getting to the sugars and causing funky flavors.
  5. The spent steeping grains have other uses, e.g. dog biscuits.  I've been just throwing mine into the compost bin.
  6. You can buy some really cool equipment to make your brewing easier.
I restrained myself somewhat and only purchased 1) a line cleaning brush, 2) a carboy brush, 3) a bag of bottle caps and 4) a vial of yeast nutrient, under $25.

I did add several items to my future shopping list, key among them being a BrewSculpture.  Yes, for $5300 you too can have a stainless steel beer brewing system with everything (well, maybe most everything) you need to run a semi-professional brewing operation out of your own backyard.

This thing really is pretty cool, but I think it is a tiny bit out of my league, at least until I really figure out what I am doing.  And actually, I think I can build a lot of this thing myself, so maybe I could make one for, oh say fifteen-hundred.

Sparging the grains in the mash tun.
At the low end of the all-grain brewing spectrum it would appear that an investment of maybe $300 will be required.  Again, I could probably DIY something, but I'd probably just aggravate myself.  $300 might be money well spent in avoided aggravation.

Whatever the case, I do really want to try an all-grain recipe.  After all, who wouldn't want to sparge.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weekend to the North

We spent last weekend out of town, starting off on less than pleasant business; we were in Santa Barbara to attend a funeral for Denise step-mother Alberta.

The services were held at the Santa Barbara Women's Club.  A very nice venue and a very nice service.  There were many reminiscences about Alberta, summed up by the three words, "Grace, class and love."

Denise and I endeavored to bring down the class a bit by arriving with Leo.  We didn't really have a choice.  Nicholas was heading out of town to Lost Wages and Alma, our regular dog-sitter, was out of town in Mexico.  So, we dragged Leo along and let him stay in the car during the service. During the  reception following the service, I skipped out to check on the boy, who was stressing as usual.  Leo drools a lot when he's upset and there was a small pool in the back of the car.  I snuck some cheese from the buffet, in an effort to ingratiate myself with my little puppy.  With the help of the cheese I was able to lure him out of the car and onto a short walk.  We ended up back in front of the Club, where he was a big hit with the children and some of the women.

After the reception we headed back down to Ojai and spent the evening with Pam and Bear.

Saturday, Denise and Pam met their friend Pat for their annual visit to the cemetery in Santa Barbara and their Mom and Dad's plots.

Leo and I headed to Linda's house and spent some time scaring Linda's cat, breaking patio chairs and harvesting rhubarb.  We ended up at Cold Spring (no 's') Tavern for lunch; burgers, beer and chili.  With real meat!  And Linda treated!  Very nice.

Leo was a little stressed by all the people, but popular as ever.

Linda tells me that Geico recently rented out the tavern to shoot a commercial.  She did not get to meet the Gecko, but I'll have to keep an eye out for the commercial anyway.

I have to apologize for the quality of the Cold Spring photos.  They were taken from my phone, which I was unsuccessful in replacing at the Verizon store in Santa Barbara.  It's a long story, but suffice it to say that the wireless carriers have us all by the family jewels.

Later in the afternoon, we headed up to Doug and Sue's in Los Olivos.  It being Los Olivos, I decided to harvest olives from Doug's trees.  More on that in a later post.

We ended up the evening in Buellton at the Firestone Brewery, Susie's place of employment.  We had a dinner reservation at the Tap Room Restaurant.  We had quite a group; Doug, Sue, Denise, Pam, Linda, Denise's cousin Harvey, his wife Sandy and me.  The food and beer were very good.  I started off with an IPA and a cup of chili (yes, more chili) and the Salmon Carpaccio and side salad for dinner.  Finished up with a very tasty Walker's Reserve Porter for dessert.

Sadly, Leo was not invited and had to spend the evening with Doug's dogs Hershey and Wiley.  Poor Leo.  He was being hounded (and humped) mercilessly wherever he went.  Leo will put up with a lot of shit, but he was actually starting to lose a little patience by the fifty-seventh time Wiley tried to mount him.

Leo was well ready to leave by the morning.  We beat a hasty retreat and headed for home.  Leo was tired and I had olives to cure.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Inertial Saturday

Sometimes I hate my job and other times I'm asleep.  And lately, I'm not getting nearly enough sleep.

I suppose most of my job issues are my own fault as I are, 1) too stupid to say NO when someone piles on another request, 2) too stupid to ask for help, 3) on the rare occasions when I do ask for help and none is forthcoming I'm too stupid to escalate to management, and 4) too stupid to figure out a way to eliminate my commute.  Anyway, I have way too many balls in the air and my juggling skills are overtaxed.

Consequently, I am having trouble overcoming inertia this morning.  Slept in, made a late breakfast, ombled eggs with real Jimmy Dean Sausage.  (Ssshhh, Nick's not here today so I snuck some real meat.  Not that he cares, but I try to keep up appearances.)  Ombled eggs, for anyone not an immediate member of the family, is just a scrambled omelette stemming from my early days of experimentation in the kitchen when I could not actually form an omelette, so I just scrambled everything together.

Anyway, today's were decadent and delicious.  Ombled Eggs always make me happy!  And a little Yucatan Sunshine on top!  (I made a nummy sound just now.)

Got involved in a couple work related incidents after breakfast, so when I finally checked the time it was too late to head over to the Murrieta Homebrew Emporium.  There was supposed to be a brewing demo and I need to start planning for my attempt at an all-grain brew.  Oh well, some other time perhaps.

Nicholas and I bottled a batch of Extra Special Bitter this week, unfortunately too late for service during the Super Bowl, but it will probably be ready for Valentine's Day.  We have ingredients for an American Brown Ale that we need to get started so maybe it will be ready for St. Patty's.

My inertia is complicated by procrastination; waited too long and were not able to get tickets to the Stone Brewing Company's Calm Before the Storm breakfast on Super Bowl Sunday.  I'm not sure I wanted to travel anywhere tomorrow anyway, but it did sound like it would have been pretty entertaining.

For now I think I will get my inertial ass off the couch and force myself to run some errands.  I have  books due at the biblioteca and a large void in the liquor cabinet crying out for a BevMo run.  Maybe I'll even take a swing by the Black Market Brewing Company and see if I can pick up a growler.

More tomorrow.  Go Chargers!