Thursday, August 28, 2008

Homemade Root Beer

What would I do without the Internet? While the boy was driving us to another adventure, we started talking about how far we could take our "no processed food" experiment. Soda pop came up since the boy likes it, but I never purchase it. He wanted to know if soda pop could be something we could make, which made me immediately think of the all natural, home brewed root beer I had enjoyed at Picante a few days before. So, using my handy dandy phone with Internet access, I had our answer a few minutes later. Yes, we could make our own root beer! We could also make lots of our own sodas using extracts, sugar, and yeast.

A quick trip to the Oak Barrel yielded the key ingredient: root beer extract. I had read that the supermarket root beer extract did not have the best flavor, and I knew that Oak Barrel would have a better product.

As with most things, making soda from scratch is much cheaper! It was just under $6 for enough extract to make 4 gallons (over 15 liters) of root beer. The other two ingredients are sugar and yeast, items that regularly reside in my pantry. (OK, OK... Time is not accounted for in this "it's so cheap!" equation, but it took less than 5 minutes to toss everything into the clean, 2 liter bottle and the trip to the Oak Barrel was on my chore route.)

By Sunday, we should be guzzling root beer floats! It will be our little homage to the Slow Food festival in San Francisco.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Local Flour and Materials for the Breadalong

I'm over the moon at the news that I can now buy flour that is 100% local! This article from has me ready to embrace the crowds at the Ferry Building's Farmer's Market and bring back a 50-lb bag of wheat berries on BART. I need to find a convincing argument for the boy to be my wheat berry mule.

Before, the closest I could come to Bay Area flour is flour that is milled locally at Guisto's in South San Francisco. The wheat berries that they grind do not necessarily come from California, though, but since it was the best option available, that's what I used. But not anymore!

This food mill that attaches to my mixer is on my wish list now.

For those of you interested in the breadalong, it is still going to happen! In preparation, here are the items that you'll need on your bready journey:
  1. A glass jar or plastic container and a loose fitting lid (gas has to escape) that will be your starter's home. If you do not plan on making bread every 2-3 days, then this container will also live in your refrigerator. Your starter will double in volume when it is fed, so use a container that can hold at least 6 cups.
  2. A spatula or spoon long enough to mix the contents of your container
  3. A dry erase pen (optional) for marking your container
  4. 5-lb bag of bread flour. Bread flour has more gluten than your average flour, a plus for bread as its name implies, but you can also use all purpose flour. King Arthur unbleached, white flour is a great product that is not too hard on the wallet.
  5. A teeny, tiny bit of yeast for kick starting your starter. Just a pinch will do.
  6. Water. I use unfiltered tap water since it tastes good and that is what we drink around here, but if your water tastes chlorinated or you regularly drink bottled or filtered water, use that for your starter and bread.
  7. Some means of measuring your wet and dry ingredients. My favorite method is a baking scale. I use the scale exclusively for measuring out my wet and dry bread ingredients because I know how much the required amounts of water weigh - I'm all about making less dishes to wash!
  8. A draft-free place in your abode that is not in direct sunlight and that ranges between 65-80 deg. F.
  9. A baking stone (optional)
  10. A spray bottle or a pressurized sprayer that is only used for water (optional)
  11. A stand mixer, like a KitchenAid or a Bosch (optional)
  12. Salt, but not the kind with iodine
If I've forgotten anything, which is very likely, I'll update this post.

Do you have everything you need for the breadalong? Then, mosey on over to Part 2 and Part 3!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Teeny Tiny Bit of Knitting

My MIL (and FIL and my parental units) stayed with us this week. It was a party! A big party with only one bathroom. Eek!

I did manage to knit another hat for my MIL, though, so rest assured that not all of my knitting mojo is gone.

This hat starts off the same as the Floppy Brim Hat, but I changed the brim a bit to make it ruffly. The ruffle effect is a result of knitting consecutive increase rounds for the brim, and then binding off loosly.

I also hope to finish my two at a time, toe up socks soon. And I also have what I hope is a funny idea for some cat toys, so stay tuned...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

What a dork!

Can you guess who this is? He even copied my format. Methinks someone has a little too much time to kill.

Spindles and Gears

Got a bike question? Leave him a comment and he'll answer it!

Wrenchy is another creative type whose focus is mechanical design. He's a regular DIYer with an artsy tilt, when the muse strikes (that would be me). Enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Where's Fifty?

Fifty-Fifty and Vespa have a dysfunctional relationship. On one hand, Fifty loves Vespa and Vespa loves Fifty. On the other hand, one is a spazzy cat and the other one is a dog with a strong herding instinct.

This is what happens around the clock.

F: Oh, Vespa? Where am I? Can you catch me? Watch me run! Watch me! Watch me!

V: Must. Herd. Cat.

Fifty: Neener, neener, neeeeener! You caaaan't catch meeee!

Vespa: Wanna bet?

Rinse and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

If I tell Vespa to leave it, she will. However, Fifty is just awful and she'll rub herself all over Vespa while Vespa is in a time out for chasing. What a brat!

After Vespa and Fifty play a few rounds of their pointless chase game, they snooze near each other so they can play "you can't catch me" at a moment's notice.

The weirdest part of this game is that Fifty will let Vespa nibble behind her ears and on her throat. Who has ever seen a cat willingly lift her head so a giant dog can nibble on her throat? Does my cat have a death wish? It's like the circus man who puts his own head within a lion's mouth. I will provide photographic evidence soon...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dude! Duuuude! DUDE!

G: Dude, Fifty! This nip is wicked wild. Where did you score it?

F: Dude, Greaseball! The boy brings it to us. He grows it!

G&F: Duuuuude, we see dead people!

F: Dude! I'm a panther!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mutant Loaf Takes Over

This is what happens when you do not flour your bannetone well during the dough's second rising. You get a dough that will not release from the basket, resulting in a mutant loaf.

We'll call this loaf, Fred. No, Fred is not the name of a bad ex-boyfriend or the black sheep of the family. "Fred" is just a name I picked out of thin air, so please accept my apologies if "Fred" happens to be your loving husband or your cherished son. I'm sure that your Fred is very handsome.

What my Fred lacks in looks, he makes up for in (you guessed it!) personality. Now 25 days old, Bertha has grown more complex and she is making bread that has good chew and, most importantly, a nice tang. This loaf tastes like French pain au levain! Fred is delicious! It took a little over 3 weeks, but my starter, a little salt, water, and flour has finally resulted in some bread that is kick ass, if I may say so myself.

I just wished I had floured my bannetone better. Drats.

More bread musings: as much as I enjoy kneading bread by hand, using a mixer to do most of the job results in a much better product for me. Why? Because I add just barely enough flour for the dough to become a ball. It's a wet, sticky dough that is hard for me to handle. I let the mixer do most of the work, then take it out and knead it for, at most, 3 minutes. Even after the dough is mixed well, it is hard for me to handle. Sticky and wet are good things for a dough to be, for they will result in a loaf of bread that is chewy and full of holes instead of a paperweight.

The tutorial is coming soon! I'm thinking about doing it in parts, so those of you who want to follow along may do so. We'll have our own bread along! It would be really cool if we could all post pics and our notes in our respective blogs. If you're game, let me know in the comments section and I'll link you so others can follow your progress. We can decide on a start date together Tuesdays are a good start day because Tuesday through Thursday, you make your chef from scratch. On Friday, you transform your chef into a starter. On Saturday... BREAD!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mutant Cucumbers Take Over

These cucumbers were left on the vine too long, so alas, they became worm food. However, their colors were bright and summery. I need sock yarn in these colors.

RIP, Faceless Stuffy Toy

It started with an ever so subtle invitation to play.

Mingus offered up his precious ball, but it wasn't enough.

He played keep away with his faceless stuffy toy, one of his most favorite toys ever.

Scarlet, however, has jaws of lightening. There's no keeping anything from that girly. It became a battle of wills and jaws.

And in the end, the most innocent player paid the ultimate price.

RIP, Faceless Stuffy Toy.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Flattery will get you everywhere

LadyPatsFan is a digital scrapbooking whiz! She created some pages featuring the International Cat Hats. Below is just a taste.

Greaseball is very honored.


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