home brews

November 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

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My boy likes to make beer. He has taken on a new hobby and decided to join me in the kitchen. It is this new passion that has us trekking out for grains, hops and Irish moss, for tubes, filters and sieves. And spending four hours in the kitchen on Sunday afternoons, with football on in the background, boiling grains. The beer making tools have taken over our little condo. Our closets are overflowing with buckets, empty glass bottles and growlers and our fridge is stocked full with a number of homemade varieties.

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I should start by saying that Ross is great in the kitchen if you tell him what to do and are very specific with your instructions. I love him for his eagerness and helpfulness, but he still has a lot to learn. His cooking instincts, while improving, are not always on par. So I am in awe when he makes his beer. His kitchen clumsiness seems to disappear and he instinctively just knows what should and shouldn’t be happening. Like an experienced chef who can adjust on the fly, he watches his brew with the same intention. I have learned so much from him already. I know what hops smell like; they can be musty and overpower the nostrils. I’ve gotten to taste tons of different grain varieties, all with their own unique flavor. I even like the taste of them after they’ve been boiled and become wet and sweet. And we have learned a few things together as well, like what happens when you don’t have enough sugar in your brew and carbonation showers liquid everywhere.

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We have even gone as far as buying a little hop vine that we planted it in my parents’ garden. Who knows if it will last the winter, but the smile it brought to Ross’ face when he got to pick his first fresh hops was worth it.

I don’t have a specific recipe to share here, but there are tons of them out there. You do need a decent amount of equipment to get started, but once you have the base of tools it’s just about buying new grains and hops. Something maybe worth trying if your loved one wants to join you in the kitchen!

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chocolate banana shake

October 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

ChocolateBananaShake_1

I read on the train every morning and each night on my daily commute into the city. It’s actually quite nice to have an hour each day to spend reading. I never used to be a reader and I know the only reason I am now is because of my commute. So I guess I am thankful for the subway in this way, because I have fallen in love with reading, and know I wouldn’t keep up with it if I didn’t have this free time. I just finished You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt. What is so wonderful about her book is it made me ponder while I was reading it. It made me stop throughout the day and rethink my actions and days after I finished the book I can still feel myself trying to adjust.

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I have read a few good inspirational books that make you stop and really analyze your day-to-day assumptions, but it was the practicality of Eleanor’s words that seem to be sticking a bit better for me. Typically what happens is, I read a book, feel great while reading it, and then once I’ve finished I forget to apply the things I’ve learned. The issue quickly becomes forgetfulness or even laziness over application. I found most of the things Eleanor had to say about improving your life stem from just a few areas of improvement for me. I need to pause for just a moment before I react, so that I take into account all sides not just my own. I need to have the desire to learn something everyday, to want to interact with people, and strive to stay engaged as much as possible.

This sounds so easy in theory, but in application the desire to say no, go home, just relax, can overpower this need to be engaged very quickly. Boredom for me can lead to so many other negatives; the ripple effect can last for days. I have found doing just one more activity a week has had a huge impact in my level of happiness. Saying yes to things rarely has a negative outcome and so I am trying to say yes to most things these days. I have also found that a negative response rarely gets a positive reply. In Eleanor’s words, all of these ideas make up one’s level of maturity. I think my maturity level is somewhere in the middle. Here’s hoping that some subtle adjustments have a much greater long term impact.

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Serves 1
Inspired by Self Magazine

1 banana, frozen
1/2 cup orange juice
1/3 cup greek yogurt
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

With a sharp knife, remove the peel from the frozen banana. If the banana is too hard to cut you can microwave for 15 seconds, but no longer, just to soften the peel a bit. In a blender combine all the ingredients. Pulse until everything is blended. Serve chilled.

Note: The texture of this shake takes on a completely different consistency if you don’t drink it immediately. So this should only be made when ready to consume.

sweet & spicy herbal latte

September 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

HerbalTea

It’s definitely getting cooler out. Friday morning, Ross and I had this long discuss on our walk into work about seasons. I made the claim that it was officially Fall, being that I was in a long dress and sweater. I pointed out men on the street with collared shirts and sweaters over top of them. My argument was there is no way I could wear shorts and a t-shirt on a day like today; therefore, it’s no longer Summer. Ross being the stickler that he is, informed me that there were 14 more days of Summer. He boasted about how he planned to get his iced coffee, per usual, and that he’d continue to get cold drinks until December. We didn’t really come to any seasonal conclusion. The only thing we could agree upon was that I was cold.

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Which brings me to one of the great things about Fall, the desire for warm drinks. I read somewhere that drinking something warm doesn’t actually make you warmer, well technically it makes you 5% warmer, aka nothing you would be able to really feel. But psychologically speaking, a warm drink can take the chill off of almost anyone. And they always seem to work for me. I don’t get into anything crazy drink-wise this early in the season. Pumpkin can’t be consumed before October and I save my hot cocoas for December. So for my light transition into Fall, I drink tea.

I never use to like tea. However, I have transitioned over time to really enjoy it and this recipe was one of the first drinks I made that helped me along. It has just enough kick from the spices to give it some real depth of flavor. And it always does the trick of making me snuggle up and enjoy each sip.

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Serves 1
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen

1/2 cup water
1 herbal tea bag
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves

Warm water in a tea kettle. Once hot, pour water over tea bag, filling half of your tea cup. Allow the tea to steep while you prepare the milk.

In a small sauce pan heat milk over medium heat. When milk begins a slight boil add the honey, cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Allow the milk to continue to simmer lightly for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally (the milk should get a little frothy).

Remove the tea bag from your tea cup and pour in the hot milk mixture, removing the 2 cloves.

Enjoy hot with your morning breakfast or in the afternoon with a tea cookie.

blueberry smoothie

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

BlueberrySmoothie-1

It may seem a bit early in the year to be pulling out the blender to have a frozen drink. Maybe after spending five days in the Florida sunshine, where you crave a cold drink, I just didn’t want to leave that feeling behind. We had a lovely time getting away from the Boston snow, which is almost all gone, and spending a few days with the rents in The Villages (a 55+ community). It might not sound like the most glamorous vacation, but we enjoyed it just the same. We spent our mornings waking early and running in the cool air, my dad leading the way on his bike. Our afternoons were filled with activities and more activities, zumba class, pickle ball, shuffleboard, bocce, polo matches, oh and two for 1 drinks every afternoon starting at 4. Not a shabby way to live. It’s always a pleasant feeling to not have to do anything or not have to be anywhere at a certain time. You just do what feels right in the moment. And that’s what we did.

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Another great feature of this vacation was that I’m spoiled whenever I’m with my parents. They always do those little things to make their guests feel so welcome. And just like when I was a kid, they make me fabulous breakfasts each morning; waffles piled high with syrup and strawberries, sweet banana bread and Florida orange juice from Florida.

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So I’m not sure if it was my need to hold on to some of that relaxing, vacation feeling or just sheer laziness that had me turn to this blueberry smoothie, either way I was happy to be sipping it in almost 50 degree weather.

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Serves 1
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
juice of 1 orange (about 1/3 cup)
1 teaspoon chia seeds (optional)*

Juice the orange and combine in a blender with the blueberries and yogurt. Pulse until everything is smooth. Add the chia seeds and pulse until just combined. Pour into a tall glass and serve with a straw.

*I first heard about chia seeds in the book, Born to Run. If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s about crazy runners, runners who can go 50 miles one day and then turn around and do another 100 miles the next, insanity. Chia seeds were a big piece of the Tarahumara Indians’ diet, a tribe in Mexico, a tribe of runners. Theses little black seeds are now quite the rage in the U.S., especially with long-distance runners.

Learning a little bit more about the seed, it’s loaded with Omega-3s and antioxidants; you know that stuff that you get from fish, that I’m sure I don’t get enough of. They have been called “one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the market.”

I guess you can add them to almost anything: drinks, breads, baked goods. They didn’t change the flavor of the smoothie so I’m assuming across the board they are just a nutrious add, more research on that to come.

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