FOOD! refrigerator pickles

I made these today.

I don’t love pickles, not really.  Something about dill pickles just doesn’t suit my palate.  Dill itself I think is quite divine, but dill pickles don’t interest me at all.  Bread and butter pickles (I think this is the type, the sweet ones?), on the other hand, I do like these.  Which are basically the same as refrigerator pickles.

All summer long I’ve been splitting a CSA share with a friend.  Every week we’d get something different – lemon cukes, edamame, kale, thyme, what-have-you.  More than anything else though, we got BEANS.  Every damn week, BEANS.  Green beans, wax beans, I don’t know the exact nomenclature, but there were OODLES of them.  And I loved to eat them, but I wasn’t creative enough, and got bored, and a lot of beans went to waste, unfortunately.  The whole time though, I was thinking how great it would be to pickle them! But it seemed too daunting, and so I didn’t.  I think I’m a little scared of canning because of something I read in a book once about botulism, maybe in East of Eden, or similar.

But, I digress. Refrigerator pickles, on the other hand, so easy!  I found a few recipes, like this one, and just adapted it, because some of the recipes I found seemed like they wanted to be fancy and I just wanted the most basic one I could find.  No fanciness of ingredient for me, just a plain old McDonald’s burger, thankyouverymuch. Also, I had this big old jar, so I adapted for the size of the thing.

Easy Refrigerator Pickles

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 cups cucumbers (pickling cukes are great, but no need to discriminate), thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups vinegar (I used 4 cups white, 2 cups apple cider to cut the tartness)
  • 3 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoon celery seeds

Prep:

Place cukes and onion in a gallon jar.  Combine remaining ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Carefully pour liquid into gallon jar and refrigerate.  Let chill 3-4 days.  Pickles can be kept for up to 6 weeks.

Voila! I tried mine after they’d been in the fridge for about 12 hours.  The cukes were still very raw and crunchy, but the flavor of the wash tastes about right, so I’m excited to test them again in a few days!

Are you a pickler, or a canner?  Leave your tips in the comments below!

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American Woman, redux.

So many good things today.  But this was a  highlight:

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I had lunch with my friend, Russ, today at the lovely Indian restaurant Gandhi Mahal, in South Minneapolis, near Lake St. and Hiawatha.  We ordered the lunch buffet, which was loaded up with all gluten-free choices, plus a few dairy-free options. And dessert: 3 options, all gluten free.  And some kind of magical fried chickpea patties, also gluten free. He had read an earlier post re: this album, and just happened to have it in his collection, and gifted it to me (Thanks Russ! Cherishing this as we speak!). A funny bit in this: Russ and I worked at a coffee shop together back when blogs were just becoming a thing. And I lamented them endlessly! How boring to read about what some joker had for lunch, or went on vacation… Clearly, I didn’t understand the depth and breadth of what one is capable of communicating via this commendable medium.

wagon wheel, 1st ed.

Happy Friday, friends!  Here are some nuggets (or nougat, if your taste buds swing that way), that I’ve happened upon during this week’s frolicks amidst the interwebs. 

The 5 Creepiest Urban Legends (That Happen to be True)

Cracked is one of those horribly wonderful sites that ropes you in with some random Facebook post (in this case 6 Great Old-Timey Comics for [Traumatizing] Kids) and then keep you sucked in by peppering each and every page with lists of stupidly innocuous things that for some reason you MUST find out about right this very second.  I found 5 Creepiest when I navigated over to their Horror section, seems like it might actually be worth a read.

Radiolab : Crossroads short

I love me some radiolab.  Topics are usually pretty obscure but well researched, and the production is kind of campy and odd, so it makes for a fun and experiential listening experience.  Perusing podcasts this week to facilitate my morning toilette (which, in French, means getting ready, and not anything gross or poop-related), I came across this short which piqued my interest ginormously.  The subject is Robert Johnson, a 1920s Blues musician who, initially, was really, really bad.  Until, that is, he sold his soul to the devil.  He is still considered today to be one of the best Blues guitarists who’s ever lived.

Outside Mag + Gluten-free feature

And, heading back into the known world… I’m pretty sure pre- and post-race festivities (read pasta feed and beer gardens) are not nearly as fun for gluten-free runners they appear to be for the non-allergic counterparts.  It’s been an interesting challenge to find advice suitable to my needs, to the extent that I basically stopped trying, and just rely on my Clif and Luna bars to get me through.  This article (Are You Too Sensitive? The gluten-free movement isn’t just a fad. It could be the performance boost you’ve been missing.) popped up in an email and, while it’s a bummer that more and more peeps are becoming sensitive/allergic to gluten, it does make me happy that there’s more exposure and thereby more info available.

Pre-run eating, quelle PITA.

In case you’re wondering, I’m basing the quelle above on my belief that pain, in French, is douleur (and I’m totally not even bothering to look this up right hyeh), which would make PITA (aka pain-in-the-arse) feminine, necessitating an appropriate, um… ah, I don’t have any idea what form of speech or whatevs that would be.  Rejoinder?  Nope.  It’s quantifying something.  Again, not looking it up, yo.

Back to the original point: trying to figure out when and what to eat before runs makes me want to stab myself in the groin with an icepick.  It really doesn’t, but it’s fun to think about, isn’t it?  Yes, yes it is.  Anyhoo, this is a good post to check out if you want some suggestions about how long in advance to eat stuff if you’re doing a long run, or a shorter run, or what-have-you. Basically, I think it all comes back to this: eat a Clif bar.

1 space after a period. It’s a real thing (and yet it feels so wrong).

This is a real thing.  It’s not just laziness.  And yet… I simply DO NOT WANT to do it.  It’s in my make up to double-space after the full stop!  Yes!  I did learn to type on a typewriter!  It was in a dingy old classroom at Harding High — on green typewriters, I’m almost certain of it!  Alas, I must move with the times.

And finally, in honor of 2 beautiful babies born to friends this week, a bit of Monty Python irreverence:

kombucha experi-fermentation, bottoms up!

Despite my lack of posts, the kombucha is coming along nicely.  I have bottled a few batches, and even had the nads to drink a few bottles!  I’ve only allowed others a sip here and there, and then only those whose composition is tried and true, by way of raw-food retreats and Master Cleanseses.

Here’s the bottle of the stuff I drank tonight.

liquid gold, texas tea.

Bits and pieces I’ve picked up along the way:

  1. It’s important to taste the brew regularly.  I didn’t realize this until after the first big growth batch had passed its prime and tasted very much like vinegar.  For some reason I was hesitant to do this at first, as though I was growing some exotic cocktail I’d never tried before.  Now I taste it every few days, and am getting a better sense of the process just by looking at the scoby and the tint of the liquid.
  2. Bubbles aren’t automatic.  I was surprised to discover my first batch was flat.   I thought this was just another benchmark I had missed, but a friend recommended a little beer-brewing trick, which worked.  I then corroborated the tidbit by looking it up on the ‘net.  You know, the internet?  Yeah, I’m connected.  (you have to forgive the wackedness, I really just want to update the dang blog, and it’s late, and I’m loopy.)  It’s simple: just add a little sugar to the bottle, close it up, and let it sit for a few days.  I don’t know exact ratios right now, I’ve just been adding a scant teaspoon in each 16-oz bottle.  What it comes down to, I suppose, is that the little buggers have food (sugar) to eat, so they’re happy, and the by-product is the fizzies that can’t escape from the bottle because it’s closed.  There are laws of gas and physics here, that I could possibly explain.  No, I really couldn’t.
  3. Stockpile bottles in advance.  My roomies have been saving Snapple bottles for me for the finished tea.  But you also need a good amount of filtered or clarified city water (boiled then left uncovered to allow chems, etc. to escape) when you start a new batch, so you’ll want to have a place to keep that as well.  Ideally, you would have enough water to bring the temp of the sweet-tea mix down to tepid before adding it to scoby/wash.

That’s all I can think of, though I’m sure there’s more.  At some point, I will add some info on the water kefir, which has been a great addition to the kombucha.  It takes much less time (1-2 days) and is infinitely tinkerly-able!

kombucha experi-fermentation, every now-and-then

Happy Friday!  I’ve been been mildly absorbed in my new fermentation adventures (NEW and IMPROVED!  Now with KEFIR grains!), and the butch hasn’t been doing a whole lot this week.  In part, I realized round about Wednesday, because there wasn’t any food in the larder, the cupboards were bare.  I courageously took a sip yesterday morning and confirmed that it was leaning more toward vinegar than is desirable.  I brewed up a fresh batch of sweet tea and added it into the mix.

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Sorry for the mash-up, still working on a system to get things from the phone to the computer, whilst maintaining date/time info.  And… yes, I was too lazy to walk upstairs to get the USB cord this morning.

kombucha experi-fermentation, douze(y) du jour

It’s definitely happening now, it wasn’t just a fluke yesterday.  The mushroom is definitely both gromandizing and aggrandizing (sorry, sleepy and in need of a little alliteration).  True to my word, I checked it just as many times today as usual.  And changed the location.  But it seems to be a resilient bugger and keeps on keepin’ on.

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I think I’m getting very close to being able to brew a batch of the coveted kombucha!

kombucha experi-fermentation dia diez

I was gone a few days at the cabin, so I took advantage of my absence to set the temp a bit higher in the room wherein resides the nascent scoby.  I’ve been gone since Friday morning, so you can imagine how excited I was to have a look this afternoon when I came home!  This is what I found:

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When I first looked, the mushroom was floating nicely at the top, but drooped because I moved it.  Kind of amazing though, that it grew that much just over 48 hours!  I should probably leave it alone rather than constantly checking on it… yeah right, that’s gonna happen 😉

kombucha experi-fermentation, days 1, 2 und 3.

Immediately after posting my desire for the home-brewed bucha, a friend let me know that he happened to have a little SCOBY on hand (this stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, I believe, but I’m too tired to go look it up.  So we’ll go with that, shall we?) that he would be happy to share.  Since I wasn’t able to pick it up that exact moment in time, I picked up another bottle of tea after work on Thursday so I could get the tinkering started that night.  Getting some of friend Tom’s SCOBY would be easier, but you know, it’s just so much more fun to have grown one, or at least to have tried!  It’s the small things that excite me.  Such as, and I don’t know if I mentioned, but last summer I scored an amazing 70’s sun-tea jar, complete with etched-on sunflowers and a green molded-plastic spigot and screw-on lid with built-in handle (see below).

The first bottle of kombucha I had this week was the classic GT’s, and it sounds like tons of people use this to start their own mother.  On Thurs, however, I happened by the Wedge, where I found the only plain brand on the shelf was NessAlla, which I’m excited about because it’s much closer to home (ok, I don’t actually know where GT’s is brewed, but it can’t be closer than Madison, WI). I tried as best I could not to drink any of the bottle, but I failed, so there was only an inch or so to start, which I’ve let it sit for a few days.  Here’s the progression: I checked again that afternoon:Then again this morning: I was thinking about it a bit today, and a vague little tickle in the back of my mind told me I was missing something.  I just haven’t read enough about this process, basically.  I had it in my mind that you can toss it in a jar and just let it grow!  But it is ONE BILLION living organisms, and the little buggers need food.  I did a bit more reading, specifically on starting a SCOBY this way (on this awesome site), and got learned.  In consequence, brewed up some sweet tea, and added it to the mix.  I also moved the jar into the furnace room, where it tends to be warmer (which whole living suggests is better) than other spots in the house, and also more remote, lest my roomies come upon it.

FOOD! Broke Bean Stew

It’s difficult to say broke bean, isn’t it?  Don’t you really want to say Brokeback?  Like this is a clandestine comfort food?  It’s not, of course.  There’s no shame in the Broke Bean Stew!  Well, barring any adverse reactions to the level of highly-soluble fiber provided by the magical fruit.  The recipe is from The Biggest Loser, which I have never watched, not once.  But the stew is really good!  Basic recipe, they’re not reinventing the wheel here, but a hearty, easy staple for a week’s lunches.  Also great fiber, low fat, freezes well, yadda yadda.

Per usual, I couldn’t be bothered to follow the recipe exactly.  Actually, the store I visited didn’t have kale or swiss chard and I wasn’t feeling the spinach.  The only alternative was collard greens, which works just as well, though I still would have preferred kale.  For beans, I chose 2 cans of navy/white beans and 1 can of black beans to blend for the broth.  I also made it a little easier by browning onions, blending the specified ingredients, then tossing it all into a slow-cooker overnight.  I can’t imagine it makes much difference.

A few notes to ensure gluten-freedom: packaged foods can be tricky, so check labels for canned beans.  Also, soups, broths, and bouillons are notorious for containing wheat and/or MSG (which I’ve read is unrelated to gluten sensitivity, but many people are highly sensitive to it, so why risk it?), so ensure these are safe!

Visit the Biggest Loser site for more info and other low-fat/cal/sodium/etc. recipes. (There are actually several that sound really tasty, including this chocolate-raspberry deliciousness.)

Broke Bean Stew

(makes 10 1-cup servings)

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1 can (28 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
3 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas (or kidney beans, black beans, white beans), rinsed and drained (or 4-1/2 cups cooked beans)
4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped kale or Swiss chard

Instructions
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in 4-quart saucepan. Add onion and saute about 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Do not brown garlic.

Add spices and tomatoes and simmer about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups (2 cans) of beans and 2-1/2 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer.

Place remaining beans and broth in bowl of food processor or in blender. Add cilantro and puree until smooth. Add mixture to stew. Add spinach and heat just until wilted. Stir well and serve hot.

Nutritional information (per serving)
Calories: 160
Protein: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 26 grams
Fiber: 7 grams
Fat: 3 grams
Saturated fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 0 milligrams
Sodium: 330 milligrams

Click here to download the recipe.

Adapted from “The Biggest Loser: 6 Weeks to a Healthier You” by Cheryl Forberg, RD. Copyright © 2010 by Universal Studios Licensing LLLP, The Biggest Loser™ and NBC Studios, Inc., and Reveille LLC. Reprinted by permission of Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098.

FOOD! Sesame Ginger Salmon Burgers

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, nothing sounded (or smelled) worse to me than salmon burgers.  I remember my Gram used to make them sometimes for family dinners, when the smell would overtake you at the front door.  Somewhere along the line, I started to like salmon and now the thought of Gram’s burgers make me very, very hungry.  I’m pretty sure they’re made with some manner of bread-fixative, so this recipe is an excellent substitute:

Sesame GingerSalmon Burgers1 lb salmon filet with skin removed
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 egg yolk (I’ve also used the whole egg)
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
vegetable or peanut oil for cooking

Finely chop salmon by hand or in food processor, transfer to mixing bowl with ginger root. Whisk egg yolk in small bowl. Whisk in mustard, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Add to salmon and combine well. Gently form into four patties. Heat vegetable or peanut oil in large nonstick skillet over high heat. Carefully slide patties into pan with spatula. Reduce heat to medium-high, and fry until golden all over (about 4 mins. per side). Serve hot.

Can be served on country bread with mix of mustard and mayo and topped with watercress.

I think this came from the food section of the newspaper one day, and I don’t know what kind of crack this person was smoking when they suggest chopping salmon by hand, but it doesn’t work.  I should actually just delete that part of the sentence, but the idea of it it is just so dang silly that I want to leave it in!