Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

I’ve never truly been able to understand what happens at the psychological level when an omnivore has a crisis of conscience and becomes a herbivore. But what is even harder for me to fathom, indeed, what I absolutely cannot wrap my mind around, is what happens when an omnivore-turned-herbivore wants to eat something that looks and even bleeds, like real meat, but is in fact, still vegetarian.

But is it gluten free? Guess what–I don’t care because when it comes to meat vs. vegetables I’m a bit like Ron Swanson.

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Lemonade

One cooking blog I follow (really about the only one) is Cooking in the Archives. Two professors from the University of Pennsylvania are cooking dishes based on manuscripts from the 1700-1800s. It is quite fascinating. Recently, they made Lemonade. I thought the recipe was pretty interesting and I may just give it a try. My standard Lemonade recipe is 1 cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of sugar and then I fill the rest of the pitcher up with water.

This older version of Lemonade is much more like the way I make Limoncello. When I make Limoncello, it is the lemon peel that flavors the vodka so I could see that working well with regular water. Definitely something I’ll try…but probably not until next year since it is now Fall and starting to get cold enough that I have hot chocolate on the mind instead of lemonade.

Hollow

I really enjoy documentaries and I watch a lot of them. I’d have to say Hollow is still probably the best documentary I have seen and it is entirely online and interactive.  McDowell County, WV is a fascinating place and we, as a country, can learn a lot from looking at what has happened (and still is happening) there.

Appalachia is a region that has long been on my heart but I know now that I am not called to minister to it. But if I can help disseminate knowledge to others about what life is like there then I’ll at least accomplish something so please, check out this documentary.

 

Gluten free in Pittsburgh

Yesterday Mrs. Wine and I celebrated our 5th Anniversary. Hard to believe it has been five years of marriage! Let me tell you something, marriage is the best thing a guy and gal can do (provided they love each other and are willing to make take the commitment seriously). Anyway, to celebrate we went out for some food and drinks.

For dinner we went to  Gus’s Cafe. I’d read about this place a while back and I have since read many good reviews of the restaurant. The restaurant started out being 100% gluten free but quickly revised their menu and is probably 80% gluten free. I don’t mind that, I imagine a 100% gluten free restaurant is not a sustainable model.

Anyway, we got there early because we wanted to be home in time to put our kids to bed. The place was pretty empty and looked like a….dive bar. That wasn’t what I was expecting. Mrs. Wine, always the positive one, made some remark about how we never go to dive bars anymore anyway so this was still fun. A few other unexpected surprises: they’ve changed their menu and it was primarily burgers and hot dogs. That isn’t their fault, I just hadn’t looked at the menu in a while. Finally, it is a cash only establishment. Whoops! So we only had water to drink and made it just under the bill with the cash we had on hand.

But the good news is the food was very good. We ordered fried pickles (GF) which I thought were excellent and I think Mrs. Wine enjoyed them as well.

gf pickles

(This picture is from Gus’s website)

I had the N@ Burger and my wife had one of the specials, a putrid fungus (mushroom) and swiss burger. We were both happy with our food and I’d recommend this place to someone who is gluten free or gluten oppressed.

From there we headed down the road to Arsenal Cider House. Now this place was awesome! I’ve never been to a cider house (and technically also a meadery) before but I’ve been wanting to check this place out since I learned of it. It is decorated and the ciders are brewed with the theme that it is the Civil War. The ciders seem to be named after Civil War generals and it just had a great atmosphere. I didn’t know it was a bit like visiting a vineyard and so when we walked inside the first thing we learned is that you could sample the ciders before ordering. Well, Mrs. Wine lit up like the sun and enjoyed herself.

After some sampling, Mrs. Wine had the Fighting Elleck which is their flagship (maybe?) semi-sweet cider and I ordered Zu-Zu Oaked, which is a bone-dry blueberry cider. We both liked the Fighting Elleck. The oak flavor for the blueberry was definitely the strongest flavor. In fact, I couldn’t taste the blueberry which leads me to believe that perhaps brewing with blueberry just isn’t a good idea. I have a blueberry mead in the basement that just, frankly, doesn’t taste good. I thought it was me but now I’m thinking it might be a bad fruit to brew with. But either way, we had a good time there and if we weren’t on a strict budget would have definitely purchased a growler of the Fighting Elleck.

Pittsburgh is a great city with a lot of neat neighborhoods with a lot going on. I wish we could get down there more often and explore it. But, I’m grateful for the fun time we had last night and the best part?

Five years of marriage to a great woman. I love you Mrs. Wine!

Slivovitz

In the summer of 2006 I traveled to Serbia to study the language in Belgrade and Novi Sad. While it was a language institute, the instructors recognized that language and culture are intertwined so I was fortunate enough to go on school excursions. On one excursion into the deep back woods of Serbia we stopped to visit a church.

church

(Not this church, but it looked like this)

While we were waiting around afterward–actually, I think we were supposed to be listening to our tour guide but I’ve forgotten by now an old man came rambling up the dirt road. He had with him a glass bottle and a couple of dirty shot glasses. The bottle contained gasoline, though he claimed it was slivovitz. Throughout Eastern and Southeastern Europe, everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) makes slivovitz. Slivovitz is Plum Brandy. It is ubiquitous with the culture, so much so that one morning while visiting a family they asked if I wanted some coffee and I said yes, and they gave me a glass of coffee and a shot of slivovitz because, ya know, that’s normal?

Anyway, everyone gathered around this stranger and started drinking slivovitz with him and before you knew it the bottle was empty and he was gone. I had one glass of it and immediately ran to a blackberry bush and started eating blackberries in the hopes of putting out the terrible burning spreading throughout my body.

What’s the point of this story? Well, me and slivovitz have never got along but I’ve always wanted to try to reach a point where we have a healthy relationship. Mrs. Wine purchased a bunch of plums to turn into baby food but never did anything with them so I made my own version of slivovitz today. Please understand I’m using the term very lightly here.

Pseudo-Slivovitz (Plum Brandy)

  • 2 cups of vodka (New Amsterdam)
  • 6 plums thinly sliced.

Immerse the plums in the vodka and then store in a dark, cool place for 2-3 weeks. I’ll probably leave it for 3 weeks. After the allotted time, strain the vodka into a new container and possibly add 1/4 cup of simple syrup to make it more palatable. But I’ll taste it first to see if it needs that.

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Freezing in the late summer

Mrs. Wine and I have been filling our freezer with food. 

Earlier in the summer we bought 11 whole chickens from Lamppost Farm. These are very small chickens, about 2-4lbs each. So we cooked 4 of them the other day, had two meals out of it and picked the meat off of the others and got 4 1/2 quart bags of meat for the freezer. Mrs. Wine then took the chicken carcasses and made 18 cups of chicken stock. 

9 of those cups promptly went into Cauliflower soup using cauliflower, onions and potatoes we purchased from Janoski’s Farm Market and Greenhouse

Then we took 4lbs of ground beef from our 1/4 cow we buy from a farm down the road and made a huge batch of chili. That went promptly in the freezer.

That same day we cooked 2 chuck roasts from the same farm and the next day made beef and vegetable soup that also went into the freezer.

This weekend we hope to make our 5 bean bake and freeze that for some rice and bean (translation tasty and cheap meals) for us to enjoy this fall and winter. 

There is something very satisfying about storing food away and being prepared. 

Ice cream, books and beer

A few updates and thoughts to share with you, my very small audience. 

 

Ice Cream:

        I made gluten free Cookies and Cream ice cream the other day. It turned out even better than I imagined it would. Sooo good. 

Beer:

       So I haven’t brewed any beer in a while which has resulted in a lack of posts. The simple explanation is that I have more than enough right now. Probably at some point in the early winter I’ll brew another dark beer but right now, what I have is sufficient. I plan on visiting Auroch’s Brewery this month and I’ll probably pick up a growler there and my brother-in-law has a 6 pack of Woodchuck Cider’s Belgian White waiting for me in Ohio which means I’ll have even more and not need to brew any more. 

…That being said since Fall is approaching us I’ll probably make some sort of cider. It just seems like the right thing to do this time of year. 

Books

    I put reading The Drunken Botanist aside so there will be no formal review forthcoming. I do recommend the book if you are interested in botanical history or the history of alcohol or appreciate a good writer. The book is a wonderful resource and I stopped reading it because I decided it would better serve me to purchase it and not check it out from the library. That way, I can make annotations and write in the margins. 

   On Facebook I notice a number of people “challenging” other people to list the 10 most influential books they have read. No one has challenged me to that but I thought it looked like fun so I’ll list them here. In no particular order:

  1. The Bible by God the Spirit
  2. The Leap of Faith and the Limits of Reason by Soren Kierkegaard (without this essay I wouldn’t be a Christian)
  3. The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
  4. The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen 
  5. A Time of Gifts/Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor (okay, technically those are 2 books but..)
  6. The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham
  7. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  8. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton (especially chapter 4)
  9. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  10. Beau Geste by P.C. Wren

Pizza!

We had pizza tonight for dinner. I used a Namaste pizza crust someone gave us as a gift. I usually use Bob’s Red Mill because Big Lot’s always has it cheap. I’m not sure which one I prefer: the Namaste or Bob’s. The Namaste made a thinner, crunchier crust. Bob’s is more heavy. I guess it depends on your mood.

We were out of pepperoni so I improvised: caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, bacon and 3 types of cheese. I must say, it may be the best tasting pizza I’ve made yet. I guess pepperoni isn’t a requirement for pizza!

Update

Namaste’s does not reheat well in the microwave and Bob’s does so I guess Bob’s wins since there are always leftovers!

Limoncello and other Liqueurs

Because Christmas is right around the corner I bottled a batch of limoncello today which we will give away as gifts. Limoncello is a great Italian liqueur that is best enjoyed on a hot summer afternoon. It is also super easy. Here is the recipe:

  • 1 bottle of bottom shelf (literally!) Vodka
  • 1 bag of lemons

Zest or peel the lemons, make sure you don’t get any of that white junk that is on the other side of the peel. Pour your vodka into a mason jar or bowl you can cover and then dump all of the lemon peels in there. Let that sit for approximately 2 weeks.

Then make up some simple syrup.

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups white sugar

Pour the lemon vodka through a strainer to remove all of the lemon peels. Then add the (now yellow) vodka to the simple syrup. Stir to combine nd bottle! That’s it. Store it in your freezer and (I prefer) to serve it over ice.

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The last time, my limoncello was more yellow in color. I’m not sure if that is due to the type of lemon or the season (it is now December) but it still tastes good.

Incidentally, that is also how you make basically every other type of liqueur. I’ve experimented with pineapples (which I didn’t really care for) but I know there are recipes for peach, cherry, walnut, apricot, and hazelnut just to name a few. All of them follow the same principle: super cheap vodka with the ingredient soaking in it for a couple of weeks, then strained and sweetened with simple syrup.

Enjoy!