Thursday, September 11, 2014

DIY Sriracha Sauce

Rooster sauce? That's the gateway drug, but once you get sick of it, you'll find that there are other sriracha sauces worth seeking out. I made the switch from Huy Fong's sriracha sauce to Grand Mountain last year after trying it at Hawker Fare, so there was no panic in my household when the now averted sriracha crisis of 2014 started to make headlines. Since the only ingredients in Grand Mountain are chiles, sugar, vinegar, garlic, and salt, it couldn't be too hard to make, right? 

Chiles are in season now, hence cheap, so I sauntered over to my market and picked up some beautiful chiles still on the stem (2 pounds for $4 - what a deal). Using this recipe as the base, I cut the stems off a pound of chiles but left their green caps on.


I pulsed the chiles in the food processor until they were roughly chopped, then added 2 tablespoons of palm sugar, another tablespoon of evaporated cane sugar, two small cloves of garlic, and 1 tablespoon of sea salt. I pulsed the mixture until it was wet and the chile skin was about the same size as the seeds.


The mixture was put into a canning jar, and I left it out to ferment for 5 days, tasting each day after the 3rd day until I detected a slight sour tang. There was a bit of white fuzzy mold at the top, but it was easy to discard with a spoon.


I added 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar, and then boiled the mixture for 5 minutes. When I tasted it after the mixture cooled down to room temperature, it needed some more vinegar, so I ended up adding an extra 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar.


After blending the sauce for a few minutes with a splash of water, enough water to get the mixture moving, I pressed it through a fine-mesh sieve. This step took the longest!


The result is a complex sriracha sauce that is hotter (and dare I say better?) than Grand Mountain Strong. It's terrific, and now I want to try this with different chiles and can it so I can have enough around until next year.

Have you made fermented chile sauces? If so, please leave me a comment because I'd love to compare notes and hear about your experiences. I have some green chiles I bought at the same time and I want to make another fermented hot sauce.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Hot Dogs Are Evil


My hands reek of hot dogs on dog school day. Eager to get Sesame back into a training program, I signed up for Canine Circus School, appropriately dubbed "art school for dogs." It has been years, DECADES, since I've purchased hot dogs, and all I can think of is pink slime when I purchase those things as training treats per the recommendation of the instructor. I buy them covertly, ashamed, at places where no one who knows I'm an Alice Water disciple will recognize me.  But of course, the first time I had my cart loaded with hot dogs, I ran into a coworker who glanced at my hand basket (Meyers hand soap, Seventh Generation dish wash tabs, and 4 packages of cheap ass hot dogs - 4 of theses are not like the other).  Then, he proceeded to keep me there to talk about work stuff, while sneaking multiple glances at the hot dogs. Busted! I thought about telling him that they were for my dog, but he's no nonsense guy who probably doesn't know of Alice Waters and who would think it frivolous to buy human food (and I use this term loosely) for a dog, so that would make it worse. 

Still, Sesame works her butt off for a nibble of hot dog, more so then she would if I offered her my homemade, dolphin-free tuna, pastured eggs, and Parmesan cheese treats.  For the first class, I bought organic beef hot dogs, but when the instructor came by and offered her the crap hot dogs, she did back bends for him despite her "stranger! danger!" issues. I was sold. Pink slime hot dogs it is! I bought my second round of hot dogs at Ranch 99, where a cart filled with 3-liters of peanut oil, 4 packages of hot dogs, a carton of fermented rice, and salted turnips doesn't make anyone raise an eyebrow.

Did you know that the cheap, pink hot dogs are made from chicken now? I was shocked! I thought they were pork, because that's what I thought they were when I was a kid, but when I checked out the $2 hot dogs at the store, they were either chicken or chicken/turkey mixes. My childhood memories of hot dogs are fond, and I remember that, as a kid, a special treat was the hot dogs filled with a nacho cheese sauce. I could nuke it myself for an after-school snack, along with Spaghetti-Os and canned beef raviolis. They tasted good, and I'd probably still eat those things today if I didn't worry about things like type 2 diabetes which, unfortunately, is a disease both of my parents now deal with on a daily basis.


The boy hates melon as much as I hate hot dogs, so since it's melon season and our CSA is giving us one a week (one too many according to him), I have had to come up with ways for the melon to be useful. Enter infused vodka. I still have a lot of lemon zest infused vodka and some other bottles of plain vodka, so I mixed the vodkas together and added half a chopped melon. Perhaps I've made the most disgusting vodka in the world? Or, just maybe, I'll have a good ingredient for cocktails. I already have some black cardamon infused vodka and a bottle of Thai chile tequila, and those have proven to be good cocktail mixers.


My CSA and my modest garden are providing us with loads of tomatoes, so I've been saucing them, roasting them, and stuffing them. Tonight's dinner is tomatoes stuffed with quinoa, brown basmati rice, fennel, dill, pine nuts, and tomatoes. Currently, it's sunny and hot during the day, but the fog rolls in by dinner time, so it's a good time to have the oven on. Stuffed tomatoes and peppers have become an end of summer tradition here. Any other tomato ideas are appreciated!


The boys like hanging out on the couch, and I've given up on making the couch forbidden. I slays me how each of them has to have their head on the pillow. Spoiled! Totally our fault, though, so I can't harp on them too much. Often, I wish I could join them on that couch instead of working/cleaning/exercising. Someone has to pay for their loafing, though!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Photo Tuesday


Mingus knows that the first rule about being a model is to work it, work it, work it! He can work it with a sleeping person in the background. I have a collection of photos taken with the boy sleeping and various pets draped across him, proof again that the boy can sleep through anything, even suffocation.


Sesame, as always, is more demure when she hams it up for the camera. That squeaky toy lays dormant until 5:30 AM on Saturdays and Sundays. What was I thinking when I bought it for her? It's like buying your kid a drum set!


Greaseball, as always, is boss. What you don't see in this pictures are two large dogs laying off to the side because they don't want to disturb him.


What is this? Why, it's a Soulritto: mac & cheese, fried chicken, collard greens, and yams all wrapped up in a flour tortilla. This is American food at its finest and fattiest, but boy was it good (especially when consumed with hot sauce and Arnold Palmers).

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Roasted Tahini


Tahini is one of those ingredients that either camps out in my pantry for months, or I use it up in a matter of weeks. Since I'm going through the later phase, paying $11 for a small jar of roasted, organic tahini instigated a DIY project. 

1.5-lbs of organic, hulled sesame seeds set me back $6. Since I prefer the deep, nutty flavor of roasted  tahini, I opted to toast the seeds. In retrospect, I could have turned on the oven, but turning on the oven for such a small amount of seeds seemed wasteful.


After 20 minutes on medium heat, the seeds were toasted, albeit unevenly, and ready to blend.


If you do this at home, let the seeds cool. I didn't do this, so I ended up taking 2 sessions to blend the seeds because the container was hot to the touch.


The sesame seeds started off dry and I wondered if I needed to add oil. However, as I continued to blend and scrape down the sides, more oils came out and the mixture became cohesive.


After a few more minutes, the tahini was a smooth butter. Success!


Using 1.5-lbs of raw sesame seeds resulted in roughly 24-ounces (3 cups) of tahini, 50% more than the the jars of tahini I had been buying at the store. So, if I were to buy this, it would cost me $16.50 versus the $6 I paid at Berkeley Bowl West. I love it when a little experimentation leads to a better, cheaper solution!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FIfty-Fifty is a Confused Cat

This was my submission to Confused Cats Against Feminism, and I'm pretty sure that it didn't make the cut. Was it too weird? Probably. It makes much more sense if you are a Dr. Who fan. Although, truth be told, I know more about this fez quote because of others talking about it so much. When I originally designed the hat, the thought of Fifty-Fifty donning the tiny fez was my motivation.

For those of you not clued in to the Confused Cats Against Feminism phenomenon, rest assured that Fifty-Fifty really is a feminist. The confused cats are meant to parody the Women Against Feminism website, which, sadly, is not a parody.

Thanks to Carey for her Photoshop skills. I tried adding text to the photo myself, but it made my eyes bleed. Photoshopping, wrapping gifts, and folding laundry are tasks that take me 10 times as long as anyone else, and the result is as ugly as if I had spent 1 minute doing the task. It's my anti-superpower. Now you know.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Whimsical Doorway


This tiny doorway appeared on a day I was determined not to let a chain of minor issues mess with my mood. I had a glorious day off, and I intended to squeeze as much as I could out of it by starting it with a morning yoga class. I arrived at the gym 15 minutes before the class, but I ended up circling the gym for 20 minutes trying to find a parking space.  (Later, I found out that the class I was interested in isn't scheduled to start until 2 weeks later, but I still could have bouldered at the gym.)

Ok, no yoga. Fine. Now, I told myself through clenched teeth, I can try out the boba from Asha Tea House since it's been on my list of "must-do's" for a few months. 20 minutes later, I park 1.5 miles away because I couldn't find a closer parking spot. Ok, no problem. I needed the walk anyway to compensate for the lack of mind-calming yoga, although now I'm feeling weird about walking about town in yoga clothes because I'm a poser.


The boba was as perfect as I anticipated: they use freshly brewed tea, chewy boba boiled with sugar, and none of that non-dairy creamer crap. I had a slow walk back to the car. Only then did I notice that I parked next to a tiny door! 

The moral of this story? I need to ride my bike or take the bus to town.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tomato Sauce Season Begins


30-lb boxes of roma tomatoes are available now through my CSA, so tomato sauce season is here! This time, I timed each step to track the time I spend making and canning 5.75 quarts of tomato sauce.



Chop 20-lbs of tomatoes and throw them into the giant beer pot. 15 minutes of active time.


Simmer the tomatoes for an hour. There isn't anything for me to do except clean up the knife and cutting board and give the sauce a stir every 20 minutes or so. 5 minutes of active time. I used the boy's beer pot, which can probably hold 60-lbs of tomatoes. I contemplated making a double-batch, but it was cumbersome lifting the huge pot with the 20-lbs in it.

Since these pots are thin, I did burn some of the skins on the bottom of the pot, but luckily it wasn't enough to leave a scorched taste in the sauce. The other near accident was that I didn't close the spigot, but I noticed the tomato water coming out before if flooded the kitchen floor and fixed the problem.


Strain the tomato seeds and the skin. Active time, including clean up, is 1 hour. Clearly, this is where I need to speed things up.

The final steps had very little active time: reduce the sauce for 1 hour, and pressure can the sauce (10 minutes of active time, and 1 hour for canner to finish).

5.75 quarts of sauce takes roughly 4.5 hours, and the majority of the active time was spent putting the chopped tomatoes through the food mill. Although I have mostly an automated set up, it still was annoying to operate the food mill for an hour, but it is much quicker than using a manual mill as I've done in the past. For my next batch, I'm going to try straining the through the food mill first, and then reducing the sauce.

Last year, I canned 140-lbs of sauce, and we only have a small bit left. This year, I want to can more quart jars since I used them up quickly last year for pasta sauce.  I had to ration them. Half pint jars were also a hit because they were the right amount for paella or a single serving of quick pasta sauce, but because I'm short on reusable lids, I'll probably can mostly pint jars.

Is it worth the time and the effort? It's something I ask myself every year because I feel a little crazy doing all this work, but I keep on doing it because I like the taste and I enjoy the process. Plus, I can reuse the jars and lids (Tattler lids really do work!) year after year, so I can give myself a green pat on the back.

I have closet space devoted to my canning efforts, and JarBoxes keep it all organized and secured. I'll need to buy more Tattler lids because now that I can more than tomatoes (chickpeas, black beans, and an assortment of stocks), I'm running low. I'm waiting until they have the red lids again because, well, red! However, I may have to cave in soon because I don't have enough for tomato season.


Post canning, I made myself a whiskey smash. And then I made another one. Meyer lemons, pineapple mint, rye, and gum syrup make a heavenly libation. Gum syrup isn't cheap ($1.40 per ounce) and I've gone through 1/4 of the bottle already, so that may be my next DIY project.

Have you seen the magnificent blog Confused Cats Against Feminism? I need to think of a clever caption for a Greaseball or Fifty photo so I can submit it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Potential Hoodie



I can almost feel this sweater on me, but I still need to seam it together, add the zipper, and knit the hood. So, I'm not very close to wearing this in Mendocino, but I'm much closer than when I started Granville on Christmas 2013. Usually, I blaze through clothing I make for myself, but the arrival of Sesame and a slew of other early 2014 happenings made my knitting take a backseat. Just in time for… Summer?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Happenings


When you live in an area that's not too hot and not too cold, it's easy to be blasé about summer. However, it's still my favorite season of the year because waking up in the light and coming home with at least an hour of sunlight left makes it feel like I can do anything! Garden? Sure! Walk or slowly jog? Sure! Play ball with Sesame? Sure! Make a cocktail and sit on the deck? Always!

The Bee's Knees is the bee's knees
Sesame has gone through 3 months of training classes now, so two diplomas are on the refrigerator: one for basic obedience, and another one for intermediate obedience. This dog loves to train, which is good because it keeps the pressure on me to find fun classes for us to share.  Next up will either be Rally-O or an off-leash beginning course. She has come a long way from the fearful, stressed dog she was in January, but she still has a ways to go to become the dog I know she can be.



She is such a smarty pants! While out on a walk, we came across a water fountain. After she watched me take a drink, she copied me.  Maybe she knew this from her previous life?


Because so much of this year has been Sesame-focused, we are making sure that Mingus doesn't feel left out.
No one is excluded from being Sesame's pillow
Again, he was the mascot for the Balto race car, and he soaked up all the attention. He also came with us to Pints for Paws, a beer tasting event where dogs were not only included, but part of the event's allure. Mingus has such an awesome temperament: dogs are sniffing him, people are hugging him, and he has that dopey grin on his face the entire time.



The food experiments commenced after we had Sesame for a few months. My new favorite toy is a pasta extruder, although I need to work on the fusilli form factor.  Although the pictured pasta dish was delicious, it looked like a dish Martha Stewart would feature on her twitter feed.


Less time has also translated into many dinners out, and one of my new hangouts is Dumpling Express in Berkeley. I wouldn't rate them as the best dumplings ever, but I do appreciate that they are made to order. Their xiao long baos and their shrimp garlic chive dumplings are my favorites. There are also a number of rice plates and noodle plates here, but I only go for the dumplings.


Currently in the fermentors, we have two different types of plum wines, sauerkraut, two types of beer, kombucha, and some soured beets.


These beets are destined for a barley beet soup. I made that soup years ago and am still thinking about it. 

Happy summer, everyone! What have you all been up to?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Welcome, Sesame!


Sesame is officially our dog! She is a work in progress (aren't we all?), but in the 3 weeks she's been at our house, she has learned the basic commands, how to be nice to our cats, how to ride in a car, and house manners.


Of course, I also taught her how to shake because every dog should know that! Little smarty pants got the idea in 5 minutes, and now she's a shaking fool. Anytime my hand approaches her, she daintily offers up her paw. 


Sesame came from Grateful Dog Rescue in San Francisco. I don't get on my soapbox often, but let me reiterate that there are plenty of great pets in shelters and rescue organization that are waiting for a home. Please consider them first when you have room in your family to add a new member.


She has claimed the purple recliner as her own, and I am hoping that she'll pull a Mingus so we can kick that nasty chair to the curb.


Although I tried to convince myself that we were a 1-dog family, the speed at which this all happened proves that we had a black hole the size of a GSD lurking in the background. Once again my life is full of obedience classes, my hands smell like dog treats, and my heart is full.

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