Monday, December 20, 2010


I picked up an oyster mushroom grow kit two weekends ago from Easy Grow Mushrooms at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market. I've been interested in trying an indoor mushroom kit for a few years now, after living in a house that had shiitake mushroom logs in Massachusetts. The logs were really cool but they only produce when the weather allows for it and I tend to use mushrooms year round. After ogling the kits at the farmer's market for several months, I finally got one. We put the bag in our bathroom, since it's the most humid place in the house. The bag exploded about a week after we bought it!

This is the first batch I picked weighing in at 550g.

We're trying to remember to weigh what we pick, just for curiosity's sake. My housemate and I buy heaps of mushrooms, so I'd like to see if it's more or less cost effective to buy these kits or to get them at the grocery store. If we get more than we can use, I think I'm going to try drying them out. The bag is supposed to keep going for a couple of months, and then we're going to spread it over some compost. We'll see how it goes!

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Sourdough Survives!

When I first drove out to the Midwest from the East Coast in June I forgot my sourdough starter. Gasp! I know, how could I? It's like a pet and I was very upset about leaving it and worried it would die before I could get back to MA to get it. Luckily for me I have a very good friend (and former roommate) who was kind enough to feed it for me. About three months later it made the 12 hour trip with me in a cooler in my car in the August heat. I had fed it a few times before leaving MA and lo and behold if it didn't perk right up! The long period of dormancy doesn't seem to have harmed it much. The first time I used it here in MI it doubled on the first feeding and more than doubled with the next. It smells a little different, so perhaps some of the microbes etc have died out. I'll have to make a few batches of bread to see if it tastes or behaves differently.

For my first sourdough loaf in the new place I made a seeded whole wheat sourdough from The Bread Bible. It was a really hearty loaf with a great texture and nutty flavour. I think I'm going to convert my starter to whole wheat next time so I can get even more whole wheat flour in it (I think the recipe is about 50% whole wheat).

I actually let the loaves proof for too long because I was ready to bake them but then had to put them in the fridge at the last minute (alas, life comes before bread), but they seemed to turn out okay anyway. I could detect some off flavours maybe from the dead yeast/overfermenting but my roommate couldn't tell. Overall it turned out well.

homemade pasta

My roommate visited a friend recently who had a pasta maker and loved making pasta so much that she bought one of her own! Needless to say, I was very excited by this decision. I had never made pasta before with a proper pasta roller and as much as I love the hearty thick egg noodles I can make with just a rolling pin, they're not really appropriate for most pasta dishes.

So this is the pasta machine from Italy. It's a hand crank pasta maker, which means it's much easier for two people to make the pasta than just one. D's working on the dough here.

We don't have a drying rack for the freshly made pasta, but hangers work fine for now. D made lasagna noodles first (and made some amazing lasagna the next day).

And then we switched to fettuccine. My involvement at this point consisted of turning the crank. After just a couple pasta making sessions, D's become quite good at getting a feel for the dough in terms of moisture content and thickness. I haven't tried my hand at it yet but I plan to soon.

We let the pasta dry then packed in in ziplocs and put it in the cupboard. It'll keep for a while this way, which is great.

For dinner one night my housemate made this incredible ragout. She grilled eggplant (we had some trouble getting the charcoal hot enough) and then cubed it and added garlic, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh herbs (I think that's everything). The eggplant had this incredible charred flavor and was really meaty without being tough or rubbery. I'm still learning to cook eggplant well and have had my share of mess ups.

Here's the fresh fettuccine in some boiling water. It took longer to cook than either of us expected, but that could have been in part the pot we were using.

We put the ragout on the pasta, added some grated parmesan, and a Bell's Oberon for an incredible summer meal!

Monday, September 6, 2010

great summer lunch

I made polenta for dinner the other day and (as always seems to be the case when I make polenta) was eating leftovers for days. I sauted some garlic, red onions, and red pepper in evoo, then added the water, cornmeal, & salt (whisking etc to keep it from lumping). I diced up a couple of tomatoes and various herbs and tossed them in (oregano, rosemary, thyme, basil). After the cornmeal was cooked I added about half a cup of grated parmesan then poured the mess into a lined cookie sheet to cool (put it in the fridge).

For dinner I cut the polenta into triangles and put them on the grill (very tricky but delicious) and my housemate made a summer veggie ragout (yellow squash, mushrooms, red peppers, greens, red wine & other deliciousness) that we put on top.

For a leftover polenta lunch I made a quick and light lentil soup that was a really tasty companion to the polenta. I sauteed some onions, garlic, and two jalapenos, then added 2-3 cups of water and about 3/4 a cup of red lentils (probably less, I didn't really measure). Brought the lot to a boil until the lentils were done, then added a handful of torn basil and sliced cherry tomatoes (they're super sweet). I actually spooned some of the soup onto the polenta, which was also quite tasty.

Ginger Beer!

This weekend my housemate and I bottled the first batch of beer we brewed in our new place! It's a ginger beer we brewed on August 16th. It's not technically beer because they're no grain in it so I suppose it's more of a fruit wine. But comparable non alcoholic ginger drinks (like Reed's) are called ginger beer so I think the name calls to mind the appropriate flavour.

We started with something like 1 kilo of ginger, 2 lemons, some cloves, cinnamon, and maybe nutmeg (my housemate did the recipe mostly off the top of her head so the details are sketchy).

We couldn't find a good brew pot in the area that didn't cost an arm and a leg so for now we're using a Ball canning pot that has about a 5.25 gallon capacity. It's working fine so far, but the size means we can't do any all grain brews.

All the ginger needed to be ground up. It was tough work for my food processor. The stringy ginger kept getting caught up in everything. The house smelled incredible though.

The lemons were sliced and tossed in water (about 2 gallons) with the ginger and spices and about 2 kilos of raw sugar.

We boiled the crap out of it for a while.

Then we strained it and brought the temperature down so we could add the yeast. We used a champagne yeast (another brewing first for me) so it could handle the high sugar content.

Then we let it ferment away! It bubbled quite a lot for two weeks. The lid on the top bowed out because of all of the air pressure that built up inside the bucket. We bottled it into 12oz bottles and I think we ended up with 55 bottles total, so the batch was a bit more than 5 gallons. We tasted some when we bottled it and it was really good (pre-bottling the beer is alcoholic but not carbonated or cold, so it doesn't taste quite like the finished product). It has a solid ginger flavour with a spicy kick to it. Definitely a good way to start the year.

Saturday, July 31, 2010


My housemate brought back a bunch of cucumbers from a friend's garden so I decided to try to make pickles! I'm trying to do it via natural fermentation (lactic acid based) in a brine solution rather than canning them with vinegar. We'll see how it goes.
I used about 4.5 lbs of cucumbers, a bunch of fresh dill, black peppercorns, garlic, kosher salt, and some sliced jalapenos in one jar. So there's one jar of regular pickle slices, one jar of hot/spicy slices, and one jar of slightly spicy pickle spears.

It's been pretty warm and humid so I'm keeping the jars in a foam cooler with ice packs to try to keep the temp under 70 degrees (above that isn't good for fermentation). I can't find my food thermometer because all my kitchen equipment is packed up, so it's mostly guess work. I'm hoping the intense cold spots aren't a problem. I'm going to rotate everything around and swap freezer packs. Fingers crossed they come out tasting good!

homemade pesto and local pizza!

I made a batch of pesto today with basil from my 4 plants and several handfuls from a friend's garden plot. I sadly had to use all of my basil right away because the basil blight had attacked my little plants, causing the leaves to yellow. I composted all 4 plants and salvaged what leaves I could. Since I'm in the midst of moving, my food processor is still in Ohio and my mortar and pestle are in a box somewhere, so I wasn't sure how exactly I was going to make the pesto. I happened up on this recipe however while googling that uses neither processor nor m&p. I used my own basil/cheese etc proportions, but I did try the chopping technique. It took a long time and I can honestly say that I can't taste a significant difference from how it would be in a food processor, but it worked just fine and was quite tasty pesto.

I decided to use the pesto to make a pizza! On Thursday I picked up a 1.5lb ball of fresh mozzarella at the Westside Farmer's Market in Ann Arbor and yesterday I bought a couple of local tomatoes at the People's Food Co-op. All ingredients that demand pizza, right?
so here's the freshly made pesto spread on the crust (I used the KAF recipe).sliced two medium tomatoes from the Co-op.added the mozzarella. (I was actually rather disappointed w/ this cheese. The farm packed it in way too much salt so even after rinsing it the cheese was way too salty. The outside was mushy and the inside was dense. It didn't string/tear the way mozzarella should. Sad face. But I chopped it up and it did the trick!)The finished pie fresh out o' the oven! It was quite delicious.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

easy dinner: vegetarian hot dogs, sauerkraut, & beer

vegetarian hot dogs, sauerkraut, & beer.

chopped onions (1/4 c)
sauerkraut (drained & rinsed if canned)
two soy dogs chopped
dijon mustard (1T)
black pepper (1/2 t)
caraway seeds (1t)
beer (1/3 c)
butter (1T)

  • melt butter in pan, add onions and saute for a few minutes
  • add all other ingredients and simmer in pan until most of the beer has evaporated/absorbed
  • taste and adjust seasoning
  • serve w/ a slice of rye bread
I used Arcadia Ales Sky High Rye, which seemed like an appropriate choice. It's a tasty, super drinkable summer ale, but a little lighter on the rye than I would have expected.The sauerkraut dish came out super tangy and yummy, a bit sweeter than I would have liked so I added more pepper and mustard. Definitely going to try variations of this in the fall. My homemade kraut should be ready in a few days. **Edit! I added more beer and let it simmer a little longer. This took care of most of the sweetness and gave it a nice bitter bite. Just goes to show you that the solution is always more beer.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Curried Red Stuff (but not a red curry)

Curried red quinoa, red lentils, and a red apple.

This is a pretty simple one pot dinner that doesn't take very long to cook and is really delicious! In spite of many of the ingredients being red, the tumeric usually turns it an orangish-green color.

This was also the first time I used my new (to me) cast iron pot! The pictures aren't very good, but this is what a cell phone in a dim kitchen will get you.

Half an apple diced (should have cut this smaller). Minced ginger (1T), garlic (1T), chili pepper (1t), and chopped onion (1/2c). Red quinoa (3/4-1cup), red lentils (not pictured, 1/2-3/4c). Curry powder, tumeric, salt. As per usual, I didn't exactly measure things. Saute the onions in some veg or olive oil. Check out the cast iron pot!

Add the garlic, ginger, and chili.

Then the apples and spices.

I like to saute the quinoa briefly before adding water. Don't know why, just habit.

Add water and red lentils.
Cook partially covered until quinoa is soft and apples dissolve (if you use a different kind of lentil you might have to cook it longer, but red lentils tend to dissolve fairly quickly).

I served it with a scoup of greek yogurt (which was delicious) and on top of a couple of corn tortillas (not so delicious). Probably would have been better with rice or just by itself.

Cast Iron Pot Resurfacing Project!

Right before I left Massachusetts a friend gave me an old cast iron pot that had seen better days. It was covered in rust and the surface was flaking in places. Since I was moving across the country and all, what better thing to acquire than a large heavy pot that needed to be refurbished? Right?
Stripping it down was a trial and error process but a lot of fun. I had a Dremel with an assortment of tips, a power sander, and another air compressor powered rotary tool of my dad's. The first few Dremel bits I tried were too harsh and cut into the pot's surface too much. The power sander was great for an even grind over a large surface, but I could only get at the flat parts with it. The air compressor rotary tool worked pretty well but I only had 2 attachments for it, one of which worked well and the other not. All in all I tried a lot of different approaches and you can see that in the finished surface, but now that I've done it once I think the second time around would go much quicker.

After resurfacing:

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Thanks Mom!

Happy Mother's Day, mom! I just wanted to say thank you for being such a great cook and baker while I was growing up (not that you've stopped since then, but you get what I mean) and for giving me the tools and inclination to pursue cooking now that I have my own kitchen so many miles away.

It wasn't until I reached college that I found out how unusual it was for people my age to have grown up with parents who cooked most meals at home and sat down to dinner each night. I took it for granted that everyone knew how to boil pasta, chop an onion, and roll out cookie dough (not to mention doing laundry and cleaning one's room!). Boy was going off to a small liberal arts school on the east coast quite the wake up call! I can't even count the number of times I helped out housemates who were perplexed by a box of mac and cheese or a roll of premade cookie dough.

Now that I'm all of 25 I think I can safely say that knowing how to cook, eat right, and take care of myself is more important (and perhaps scarcer) than having a college degree. So thanks Mom! You taught me so much more than any of my professors, with or without a PhD!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

roasted acorn squash and caramelized onion tart

I had some leftover pie crust dough in the fridge, so I made a tart and a mini blueberry pie for dinner tonight.

caramelized shallots (2 medium, thinly sliced)
roasted acorn squash (remove seeds, slice, toss w/ evoo, roast until soft)
1/2 c shredded gruyere
3 eggs
1/4 c milk
1/2 tsp thyme
1 T parsley
black pepper
I didn't really measure anything, so amounts are an estimate. 

I pre-baked the shell for 5-8 minutes at 350 before filling. I half tore/half smooshed the acorn squash and layered it on the bottom of the crust then layered the shallots on top.

Ground some pepper and sprinkled a bit of salt over the top along with 1/2 tsp or so of dried thyme and fresh chopped parsley.
Sprinkled the cheese on next.


Whisked 3 eggs with some milk then poured it evenly over everything. Topped it with an acorn squash round, put it all into the oven for about 20 minutes until a knife came out clean. 


Cheese browned a little, topped with more parsley, let it sit for 10 minutes to cool and settle. 


Had a slice with some sauteed kale and the blueberry pie for dessert. Super tasty!