Beer Making 101

A girlfriend of mine recently put together an event for beer making.  There were 5 of us altogether that went to try this.  Beer making consists of three stages; the first, which was held last weekend, involved a taste testing to decide which type of beer we would like to make.  We chose a blonde ale, which tastes similar to a Blue Moon beer.  The process wasn’t quite involved as I was thinking.  The beer mixture had already been boiled so our job that evening was to transfer the mixture into a 10-gallon bucket and then stir.  Later we added the yeast and the bucket was put away until last night.   On our second visit, we took the temperature of the beer, which should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using a laser gun, I measured the concoction and it was a balmy 70 degrees.  Perfect!  The yeast had done its job (so I was told).  Next up was take a measurement using a thermometer type device which was just dropped into the beer.  It bobbed a few times and according to the attendant, it was where it needed to be.  We then siphoned the mixture into a container that looked just like the office water cooler bottle but with a must fancier name that escapes me now.  In two weeks we will return to bottle it.  We got to pick out a label as well and add our names to it.  It will be fun handing out bottles of my own brew when I have friends over for the holidays.

The same shop also allows you to make your own wine.  One of the samples they gave us that first evening was of a black cherry merlot.  Let me tell you, that was one of the best things I have ever tasted!  We are going to return in January to create this concoction.  It should be ready by the time the holidays roll around next year so there is a bit more of a commitment on this one.

beer making

Ode to Moonlit hikes, Pterodactyls and Sushi

Thursday evening my friend Kat and I hiked under an almost full moon. This particular trailhead sits at the end of an industrial park.  While the parking lot is dark, there are street lights surrounding the nearby buildings.  As I sat in my car to wait for Kat, a lone coyote appeared under the light.  He seem to be frolicking in the grass.  A few minutes later, the sprinklers turned on.  What appeared to be play was most likely an attempt to get a drink of water.  There is something special about watching wildlife when they are out and about doing their normal thing.

night hikeKat arrived and we hit the trailhead.  I don’t think there are any pictures that could accurately describe the beauty of a moonlit desert at night.  Everything takes on a silvery tint.  We passed a few other hikers along the way but other than that we had the desert, and this beauty, all to ourselves.  We did a little over 4 miles and with the moonlight, we barely needed a light.  The mountain tops were silhouetted against the night sky, all aglow as if kissed by the moon.  I could have just sat on a rock for a good long while and just basked in all that wonderfulness.  It was so very peaceful.

We rounded one corner and heard the noise of an animal up on the ridge to our left.  We couldn’t figure out where it was coming from exactly.  It continued to squawk as we drew closer.   I asked Kat what she thought it was.  She responded calmly that is was probably a pterodactyl.  It was exactly what I would expect a pterodactyl to sound like, too.  I had this picture of a pterodactyl appearing up over the mountain with its wings darkening the sky.  Luckily these beings have been extinct for a gazillion years so the thought of this actually happening brought about fits of laughter.  So there was our run in with the so-called pterodactyl.  Ha!  We still never figured out what it really was.  Once we passed, whatever it was seemed to think the threat was gone and quieted down.  Dang pterodactyl.

We finished up our hike and headed out to a sushi restaurant that Kat enjoys.  It was a bit of a drive and an even longer drive home, but it was a really fun experience.  At this particular restaurant, you sit at a sushi bar while a conveyor belt moves around the perimeter of the bar.  On the belt are small plates featuring various types of sushi.  You grab what you want and then they charge you based on the color of plates you have left stacked up in front of  you.

In addition to sushi, they had deep-fried jalapenos filled with cream cheese (maybe because this is the Southwest?) and edamame.  I saw a pudding cup go by on a plate, as well as a single serving size of peaches in a plastic cup.  Bottled water was also served on a plate.  I’m assuming it was bottled water because the label was written in Kanji.

sushiYears ago I visited a restaurant in Cupertino, CA where the sushi floated by you in little boats.  A trough filled with water wound its way around the sushi bar.  I don’t remember the name of the place or know if it still exists.  We called it Screaming Sushi because one waiter would yell something and the rest would yell back.  I like this concept.  It was a good way to sample some sushi items that I would otherwise not order at a regular sushi restaurant.  It was very inexpensive, too!  Ten plates later and a bill around $10.  Not too shabby.

 

 

 

A Night of Exotic Olive Oil Tastings

A little over a year ago, a shop selling the most wonderful concoction of olive oils and vinegars opened in my neighborhood.  One of the services they offer are tasting parties.  I did this back in the Spring with a few friends and it was quite a success.  The only ask of the owners is that each person in attendance make one purchase of their items.  Last night I hosted yet another tasting party and it was another success.  The owners are incredibly kind so there is this feeling of being around friends.

How this whole shindig works is that I bring lots of different foods that are devoid of any dressings or oils.  Oil and vinegar samples are set up on a tall table in the center of the shop.  So once my friends pick out the food items from the buffet table they are then able to go up to where the samples are and try the different oils and vinegars to see what they like best.

For food last night, I brought spinach salad, strawberries, apple slices, bruschetta fixings and of course cheese and crackers.  For desert, I had pumpkin bread slices, brownie bites and vanilla ice cream.  And yes, all of these items can be enhanced with different oils and vinegars.  That was the biggest surprise to me.

Both strawberry and blueberry vinegars went great on the spinach salad.  The pumpkin pie flavored vinegar was amazing on the pumpkin bread.  Believe it or not, the chocolate raspberry vinegar was divine over vanilla ice cream.  I also enjoyed a banana-walnut-caramel vinegar over the ice cream.  Definitely a bananas foster taste without the added calories.  Who knew?

My favorite ended up being a lemon flavored olive oil drizzled over apple slices.  With baking season ahead this could be added into a number of things.  And finally, here is a recipe using the oil pictured here.

Lemon Oil

Ingredients:

  •  1 tbsp. butter
  • 3 cups plus 2 tbsp. flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup Meyer Lemon Olive Oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 3 tbsp. Grand Marnier
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • lemon zest

Preparation

1.) Preheat over to 325.  Grease a 3″-deep round 9″ cake pan and the outside of a heavy 3″-deep 3″ ovenproof ramekin or bowl with butter, then dust with 2 tbsp. of the flour, tapping out excess. Put ramekin or bowl upside down in center of prepared pan.  Alternatively, grease an 11-cup Bundt pan with butter and dish with flour.  Set prepared pan aside (Guess you have two choices here).

2.) Beat eggs and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until pale yellow, about 1 minute.  Add remaining 3 cups flour, lemon zest, oil, milk and liqueur and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.  Add baking powder and stir until thoroughly combined.

3.) Holding ramekin or bowl firmly in place, spoon batter into prepared pan around ramekin or bowl or spoon batter into Bundt pan, if using, and smooth out top with the back of the spoon.  Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.  Transfer cake to a wire rack to let cool completely, in its pan.

Dream Big

Okay, so it’s been over a year since I posted.  It’s really started to hit me that I need to get back.  For the past year I’ve been in deep thought but didn’t feel the need to record those thoughts.  Sometimes you just have to let it be.  So here I am.  I’m back.  Hopefully to stay this time.

A little over two weeks ago I finally made the decision to end my marriage for good.  I had been separated for almost two years and in that time I kept waiting to see what he’d do.  Of course nothing changed.  It’s funny how we can fool ourselves into thinking that if we give it enough time that it will work out.  When I was done being angry about the situation I grew very sad.  Maybe these were the so-called phases of acceptance of the situation.  After all, no one goes into a marriage with expectations of things ending several years later.  I sometimes wonder if there were things I could have done differently.  I’m not sure.  He had an addiction problem.  I can’t fix that although, my gosh, I tried.  I often told him that it was no different than my trying to wrestle a knife out of his hands so he wouldn’t hurt himself.

When I first moved to Arizona 12 years ago, I remember passing a billboard for a sign that made a divorce look like it was so easy you could go out and get one as if you were running to the store for milk and bread.  I thought it was insulting to marriage in general.  How disposable our society has become!  But here I was, in the same business 12 years later, and it was as easy as it sounded.  Just a few signatures later and voila!  Over.  A girlfriend came with me that day.  We entered the building that looked like it hadn’t had an update since 1987.  I gave the pertinent information and they advised me to return the next day once the paperwork was printed up.  I went on my lunch break the next day with the same girlfriend.  We sat in a room in front of desk that showed no sign of any personal aspects.  Just a cold plain room with an old newspaper clipping from 1996 mounted on a faded frame exulting the business to be made off of divorces.  I found it a bit insulting.

After realizing the paperwork printed was incorrect and waiting for the correct paperwork to be printed, I sat in the room and had this feeling of dread.  There was a deja vu feeling.  When had I felt this way before?  I remembered bringing Monsoon to the vet for the final time a little over two years ago.  I remember holding her precious ill body to my heart for the last time knowing that at any moment the vet tech was going to come in and take her from me for the last time.  That is how it felt.  In moments a woman was going to arrive with the correct paperwork and would end my marriage.  Ironically enough, on the day of the vets the ex couldn’t be there because he was working.  So he said.  Finding a charge on the bank statement a few months later revealed where he really was that day.  Heartless.

The door finally opened and a too cheerful of a woman arrived and set the paperwork in front of me to review and sign.  She commented on our handbags.  When she left I told my friend that they were way too happy for this.  She agreed.  In tears I signed the paperwork.  My heart felt so broken but on the way back to work I started to feel like a weight was taken off my shoulders.  He received the papers this past week and he took it better than I thought.

Anyway, in these past two years I have discovered so much about myself.  I’ve become an avid hiker and kayaker.  My attitude is so much healthier and I have met some wonderful people.  I’ve also weeded out some negative ones as well.  It was time.  Perhaps beyond time.  I talked to my Dad this past week.  He told me he was proud of me and that it was time I dream BIG.  Sound advice.

I look forward to getting back to blogging and reading blogs.