Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brew it!

Dear coffee shops of the world,

Your chai tea lattes suck.  Really, this includes all of you.  Why do you think we want chai flavored syrup in milk?  Why not call it a chai milk steamer?  It's too sweet.  It's too milky.  When I drink tea, I expect there to be brewed tea  in my cup.  Ok fine, I have been to one or two independent coffee shops where they brewed there own chai, but honestly, I wasn't impressed.  Why spend the five bucks?  I make better chai tea at home. 

Here's my recipe. 

3/4 cup brewed black tea
1/4 cup milk (for richer tea, use whole milk or cream)
2 tbs chai flavoring (You can use chai concentrate or chai syrup.  I've tried different brands, and I don't think it matters which one you use)

See how simple it is?  And the nice thing is, your patrons will actually have some caffeine in their drink.  What a concept.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Harvest Time

Imagine how wonderful my kitchen smelled after I washed, dried, and de-stemmed all this basil.  We went to the farmers market and purchased 10 huge bunches of basil at $1 a-piece.  Cleaning and destemming all that basil took almost an hour.  Then I blended it up with olive oil and pressed it into ice-cube trays.  I needed to add enough olive oil so that it makes a paste.  I think it worked better if when didn't totally puree the basil, but left it a little choppy.  My mountain of basil made about 50 cubes.  Next I have to dump all the basil cubes into a ziplock bag and voila! I will have freshly frozen basil all winter long.  If I just add one cube to a marinara sauce and I will feel like it is mid-July in the middle of winter. 

I am kind of a novice at food preservation.  I can make jam, and like to freeze my pumpkins.  This is my first time freezing basil, but my I used to watch my parents do it when I was a kid.  I decided to give it a try this year because I got sick of spending a fortune on basil in the cold months.  Hopefully, this crop will get me through until the spring.

Do you like to preserve your food?  I'd like to hear more about it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Feminists, Historians, Mothers: Take Note

I found this booklet at an estate sale today.

It is a pamphlet developed by Modess Sanitary Napkins in 1953; a handy little guide for all those tough questions every girl has about puberty but is too embarrassed to ask her mother.

That's right, "Phooey".  The pamphlet goes into the social aspects of growing up, the biology of menstruation, and some helpful advice on how to cope with the changes in your body.  Here are my favorite pages:

It fascinates me how much womens' lives have changed in just 58 years.  I think it would be interesting to compare this pamphlet to a similar "what's happening to my body?" book published today.  The biology is all the same, only the perception of how we may use our bodies is different now.

I have the whole book scanned to a pdf document.  If you are interested in reading more of it, please let me know and I'll e-mail it to you.  It was clearly written by Modess because of the advertising in it, but there are no copyrights printed in it, so I assume it's ok to reproduce for academic purposes.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finally Spring

The month of April was desperate for me.  The dark, cold days weighed me down, made me feel choked and repressed.  I had plenty to be anxious about as it was, and the fact that the sun refused to shine just made everything worse. 

Today, May 2, I finally felt that Spring might actually be here.  We started the morning sunny and 33 degrees, but the temperature quickly rose.  But the time I made it to my friend's house for a playdate with the kids, it was warm enough to play in the backyard.  I basically spent the rest of the day outside.  While the kids slept, I got a chance to weed the garden.  I love weeding.  It's a simple, repetitive task with immediately gratifying results.  I like to pull each weed out by the roots, one at a time.  I consider each root pulled in its entirety a victory for my garden, knowing that it won't have a chance to sneak back later.  Now a good portion of the perennial garden is clean and ready for new growth. 

Now, I don't want to give you any mistaken impressions.  I am not the gardener of my family.  Far from it.  My husband labors all summer to maintain and develop our gardens.  For the most part, I usually look on from my spot in the shade and give unnecessary advice.  But I do like to weed, which works out because it isn't his favorite task.

Now I have a sunburn on my nose, and a list of things I need to gather together to prepare my family for spring weather: buy new sunblock, sunglasses (I lost my prescription lenses last year), tupperware for the outside toys, umbrella for the picnic table (because we left it open in the wind last year and ruined it).  I also need to wash the outside blanket, hook up the hammock, find the sidewalk chalk...and on and on.  But still I feel that I came out ahead today.  My list of things to do is only a list, and does not gnaw away at my tummy and keep me up at night.  For now I am relaxed and happy.  Tomorrow: 63 and sunny.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Brown Sugar

I made peanut butter cookies last night with my kids.  I love peanut butter cookies, but even better than the cookies themselves is the dough.  I think it is the best cookie dough of all.

I struggled a little but with my dough this time, though.  A while back, I accidentally left my brown sugar bag unsealed, and it got rock hard.  I wrapped the hard rock with wet paper towels and resealed it, hoping this would bring the moisture back to the sugar and save it.  It sort of worked.  There was a lot of sugar that became loose and moist, but there were a ton of little hard sugar rocks.  If I picked them up with my finger, they wouldn't crumble.  I tried sifting them...I actually tried three times with different sized strainers, but the sugar was too moist; it didn't sift well. 

So finally I gave up and decided to use white sugar and molassass.  I read on wikipedia that if you mix one tablespoon of brown sugar with one cup of white sugar, it is the same as one cup of brown sugar.  I tried this ratio, but the result was not nearly dark enough for me.  I doubled the molassass, and the mixture was sufficiently dark, but still not as good as brown sugar. 

Mmmmm, I love the way brown sugar mixes with peanut butter.  Sometimes when I'm craving peanut butter cookie dough, I'll dip a tablespoon in peanut butter and then dip it in sugar, and then eat it up.  :)

Anyway...I was concerned about my cookies because they seemed too light in color, but they actually turned out great.  They are really moist, and they didn't seem to get hard the next day.  Maybe the extra molassass made it softer?  I've definately consumed more than my fare share in the last 24 hours...but the kids don't seem to complain.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Making Yogurt, part 1

I am on doctor's orders to eat yogurt every day.  Well actually, she told me to eat yogurt three times a day, but I just can't consume that much yogurt.  She recommended that I try to make my own yogurt because it's easier, cheaper, and tastes better than store bought.  I bought some freeze dried yogurt starters, and I finally got around to trying it out.

My first attempt was a total failure.  What I ended up with was essentially stinky milk.  Why didn't it congeal?  You are supposed to heat up the milk to the boiling point and let it cool to 108 degrees.  Then you add the packet of bacteria and let it incubate for four hours. 

I think this is where I failed, "incubate".  Am I supposed to have some sort of yogurt machine that keeps the milk warm while it is incubating?  Great, one more appliance to clutter up my cupboard.

What do you all think?  Have you tried this before?  What am I missing?  Your advice is much appreciated.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A little break

March is a month of longing.  We know that spring is around the bend, but winter seems interminable.  My husband and I like to go to the Carribbean for spring break, but we decided we had to take a few years off until our kids are a little bit older.  Desperate to get away, we decided to do something simple:  a mini hotel vacation right here in town.  Our plan was to head Dowtown St. Paul after naps, check in, go for a swim, have dinner, swim again, sleep in the hotel, and then swim one more time in the moring before we left.  We decided to stay at the Embassy Suites.  The pictures on the web showed they had a nice pool and affordable prices.  We like staying in a suite because we can put the kids in the "living room" in their pack-and-plays and we get the "bedroom" to ourselves.

When we arrived at the Embassy Suites, we were more than happy with our choice.  The pictures on the web had not done justice to the beauty of this hotel.  It's a very classy looking building.  It is designed in courtyard style; all the suites have windows on the inner courtyard and on the outside of the building.  The inner courtyard is centered around a pretty waterfall and includes a patio for the Irish pub attached to the hotel and the hotel's breakfast dining area.  But what really sold me was the duckies.  I knew as soon as I saw them that I would have two well-entertained kids for the weekend.  "Look, duckies!" I told them in a dramatic whisper, and they were hooked.  When we weren't swimming, we were in the courtyard, running around and watching the ducks swim, prune themselves, and eat. 

We had a really nice weekend, and it was a great way to get away without going away.