Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Kids Ideas: Breakfast Pancakes

I know, "Aren't all pancakes, breakfast pancakes?". Well...

It's Canada Day and my son's birthday. This is the first year of living apart and I have enjoyed making things with the kids in the kitchen. Both of them are in the early stages of recipe creation. They have passed the whacky ingredient stage of putting a pile of things together. Now they are headed into the substitution stage. It is interesting to see how they develop their own sense of how recipes work and how you cook. I'm learning a lot about how people see cooking and recipes.

The substitution phase: You take something you know and swap out ingredients. It is an easy thing but it shows them how stuff works. My son wanted to make pancakes for his birthday breakfast but a cold and the lure of computer time interceded. His idea was to have something like a chocolate bar or jam in pancakes. So, dutifully I brought home a bunch of chocolate bars and several cans of pie filling. Hopefully, one of them would catch his fancy. On this day, his capricious self choice the Fruit & Nut bar. I'll leave the pictures to tell the story.

Look it even says on the back of the package that you an add stuff. Funny, I don't see any chocolate, candy or jam on the back. Most have been an oversight on the whole grain pancake mix. I could be all defensive and say the only reason that I bought the mix was the losing battle with grain moths but the real reason is the obvious one. I don't trust myself to get everything together enough to make pancakes in the morning. That gives me an idea on making my own pancake mix.

Also, when you have too hot of a pan and the butter starts to burn, turn down the heat and call it beurre noissette or browned butter. Tell the kids you pay extra for that in restaurants. Also note the lumps of treasure. Treasure pancakes is a good family name for this recipe, I think.

And this is what the final one of the batch looks like. I am sure there is a scientific explanation why the first few turn out a bit dodgy but by the end everything seems to work out. In reality, it is probably practice.

And this was our Canada Day and Birthday breakfast. It was fun to come up with the recipe with the kids. They do have a few more ideas for this one and a whole lot more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Pepperoni is the New Bacon

I had an aha moment a while back when I was messing around with pepperoni. Being a long time fan of the ideas in food blog which often prominently features pepperoni, I shouldn't be surprised by the versatility of pepperoni.

In the last, I have rendered the fat to use in cooking vegetables, added the crisp pieces to burgers, and of course, pizza. Pepperoni adds a little snap to meat loaf, spaghetti sauce, casseroles and even vegetables.

Other cured meats will work in the same way. Smoked sausage, salami and of course, bacon's cousin, hams such as proscuitto. I believe that the ideas in food people also have a recipe for pepperoni oil to flavour a neutral oil with pepperoni spices.

Think about that for a while. It could be used in baking, making salad dressings, frying and so many other applications. A savoury cheese doughnut with a hint of pepperoni or popcorn seasoning. Anyways, I'll leave you with a notion for a recipe that hasn't quite worked out. Pepperoni with oven roasted vegetables. The problem is to get the pepperoni crisp. Maybe the pepperoni has to be rendered a little bit before the vegetables are placed in the oven or chose vegetables that take a longer time to cook. I first tried this with asparagus.

The leftovers were chopped and used in a frittata cause that is the way I roll.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Recipe: Pepperoni & Eggs

I've been wanting to do a "Pepperoni is the New Bacon Post" for a while but never seem to get it together enough to write one. Pepperoni is one of my son's favourite flavours. It may not seem it but I would argue that pepperoni is its own flavour. Anyways, when I finally write that post, I will argue for the versatility and utility but in the meantime, my kids made me a breakfast for Father's Day.

The pepperoni was fried first to render the fat off a little bit. In went a knob of butter and then an egg. My son is trying to figure out frying so we tried to do a sunny side egg. He plopped the egg in and I showed him how to spoon the hot fat over the egg to ensure the albumin got cooked.

The toast went into the toaster for a second time. Note the darker shade. All that was left was to plate and eat. The salt and fat from the pepperoni gave eggs the kick it needed. No need for seasoning. Pepperoni, in the breakfast egg context, could be used in omelets, quiche, like a meat side or as a crust for baked eggs.

Really pleased with my Father's Day treat of breakfast.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Recipe: Better Than Twinkies

What is better than Twinkies? This of course...

Made a quick sauce with butter, bananas, salt, and rum. First you melt the butter and add a pinch of salt. Put in cut bananas. Fry to brown (which I didn't do a great job) and add a little bit of rum. (151 proof cause I want the kinders to sleep well tonight). Added a splash of lime juice too to stop it from becoming too rich.

When the sauce comes together, remove Twinkies from package and put bananas over. Spoon sauce and then listen to your son say that he ate too much of the bananas and might be too full for the Twinkies. He goes on to finish it because, it is a Twinkie.

Just an easy way to schmancify a dry cake dessert.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Teff Beer Attempt - Step 5

So for those of you joining in late, we'll wait for you to catch up with the class. I promise the notes are at least entertaining.
 In Step 1, we decided on an idea for a beer and in Step 2, we looked for a recipe. In Step 3, we went shopping for equipment and ingredients. Step 4 was when we decided to malt our own grain. 
In this exciting episode, we will do the Mash and Boil which sound like a dance craze but results in standing around and measuring things. It is best to have a beer while doing this. It is like eating eggs and chicken, a bit perverse but pleasurable.

Had to decide on a date to do this and the beer festival season is upon us. The Only was having a beer fest and it started at 5 pm, so I invited a friend over for 2 pm to help me. I mean the next two pieces seemed easy, make a porridge, takeaway the scuzzy stuff, do another boil with hops and then add yeast to the cooled down liquid.

The day before, I did a check of ingredients and equipment. Had the kit but I was missing a strainer. Given the grain used, teff, I knew that whatever I used would have to catch 'em all (Pokemon reference). The dollar store provided. Might as well check on the other ingredients. Looked at the date and preparation instructions on the yeast. Need to take out for a few hours before, blah, blah, blah and expires June 2014. Wait, that was LAST year. Before we panic, a little breath to talk about what I have done so far in terms of a recipe to make 1 gallon beer.

~ 1 lb of malted teff
White Labs Belgian Ale Yeast
5 g US Fuggle Hops (split into half)
6 g Williamette Hops (split into half)
.25 lb of Belgian Candi sugar

That wasn't my intended recipe but that it what it turned out to be. The yeast... yeast is a living being and I am so glad for my cooking experience because I have used bad yeast before and most of the time it works out. There are some tricks and one is written on the bottle on how to create an activator. If you have made pizza or homemade bread you are probably aware of how to do this. Put the yeast in some water and add a little sugar to kick start it.

Like baby delivery in movies, the first thing I did was boil a lot of water. A whole stockpot of water. About 4 times what I thought I would need. I boiled it to make sure the chlorine was all gone.

I used a little of this water with about a teaspoon of sugar and set it on the counter. The vial was for 5 gallons and I was making 1 gallon. Should remember to put in 1/5th of the yeast later on.

At around 1pm, before my buddy was set to arrive I started down the merry path to get everything going. Added the grains to about 1 gallon of water and got it to between 140 and 155 degrees for most of the mashing process. The goal is to keep it in this range to get the sugars out. Normally, you try for a slightly higher range but teff malts at a slightly lower temp with the pocket being around 142. I have read all sorts of stuff on how different temps will affect the brew but the goal is to get all the sugar out. I slipped a few times below the 140 but never for long. It was hard to keep at a great temp, and I tried to err on the lower side so that I wouldn't stop the reactions necessary to convert starch to sugars.
Lesson 1: There may be a better way to keep a constant temperature. The oven. I think that is something to investigate for next time. 

When this liquid was tasted about 40 minutes into the process, it was sweet but a grassy sweet and not horribly sugar sweet. Not sure if that makes sense but there is something called the iodine test where adding some iodine to a sample of the liquid and stays brown then there is no more starch. This process is supposed to take around an hour and a half. I boiled for around 1.75 hours and still not fully converted. That is when I decided to add candi sugar to the boil. This conversion factor is really important for commercial brewers but for one gallon as unconverted starch is money. It is important to get the flavour for home brewers but sugar provides the food for yeast farts of alcohol and carbon dioxide.

At this time, you need to get the gunk out. I poured the liquid from the stock pot to a canning pot using the sieve to hold back the grains. Then you get help from your friend to put some warm water to rinse the remaining sugar from the grains. So, I get my friend... oh wait, he didn't arrive yet.
Lesson 2: Get better friends or only make 1 gallon batches. If this was a 5 gallon recipe, this part called sparging would have been horrible. And I would have to get a bigger sink. 
Make sure you boil a lot of extra water. I found that soooo much evaporated. So, I'll use the oven or lids or something next time. It doesn't matter that much as you can always add water into the overly sweet wort (that's what the official beer porridge name is) at the end of the process.

This process of sparging, well there has to be a better way but I'm not sure I know what it is. Some research will be necessary.

So, now you have this sweet liquid. I added some more hot water, the candi sugar and brought it to a boil. Looking at a bunch of recipes, I settled on 11 g of hops for an 1 gallon batch. Looking at a lot of recipes that used these hops, I decided on putting half the hops at the beginning and the remaining about twenty minutes before the end of the boil. All boils seem to be for an hour. So, I put in the first bit and stirred and waited and my friend shows up. We have a few beer while waiting. I put in the second set of hops and create an ice bath in my sink because the next part is to cool the wort so I can put yeast in and not kill it.

We finish our beer and my friend helps by almost pouring the wort into the ice bath.
Lesson 3: Don't get sloppy drunk and try this. There are two mistakes that I made after this point and one meh moment. Yes, this stuff is simple but not foolproof.
We cooled the wort down to room temp and move it into the container that I am going to use as my primary. We take a sample and I try to use the hydrometer. The only thing I actually can comprehend and figure out is that it bobs at the 6% level for beer. I have to figure out how to calculate the specific gravity better.

The temp is  as recommended on the yeast and I add the yeast that is sitting on the cupboard. All of it. Go back up and read the piece where I talk about how much yeast I was supposed to use. The good news is that I know that yeast will only eat the food that is there and then stop. Also, since it is old, I am expecting that it will underperform anyways. We will have to see.

I put the liquid into a carboy instead of the plastic pail because I wanted to watch it ferment. I have a few old fashioned jugs for the next step which I follow up with later. For now, I have this...

Stay tuned for the next few weeks where this becomes beer and I taste it.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Radlers Everywhere!

Two summers ago, a radler was brought into this great land and saw that it was good. It became fruitful and multiplied. Now, like the mustard seed, it is growing into a weed.

Radler: fruit juice and brew. Named after cyclists. Drank after workout to quench thirst and make beer stretch if legend is to be believed. Okay, we'll stop there and start to stray from the general narrative of beerosophy and get into my own personal rhetoric.

My feelings on radlers are all over the place. I have very little reason to buy one especially since so many of them taste more like lemonade than beer. There is very little of the beery and hoppy goodness of the products on the shelf.

Putting a link to search LCBO - Radler Search at LCBO. As of writing, there were 5 there.
Putting a link to BeerStore (Yeah, I know but I'm making a point here) - Beer Store Radlers, 8 as of writing. 

Homemade is usually reserved for an overly aggressive IPA or a poor lager. The juice hides the hops or kills skunks and sweetness. It is something to do with a drainpour except... sigh, there is some interesting things that can be done with beer and juice. I rely on this trick when coming up for beer cocktails for people who don't like beer by itself. I also like it when you can use the flavours to balance each other or to complement.

Hey, I have made blog posts on these things that I like when it works. With Christmas flavours! or Mother's Day flavours! I had written and then junked a post on cottage beer that made the same statements. Sometimes, you want something juicy and alcoholic but not too alcoholic. Chagrined, I admit that sometimes I like my beer to taste like something other than beer.

The thing is... after reading a lot about pairing flavours, I wonder if most porters and stouts that are high in the ABV could use some Ribena and its currant flavour to enhance the malts and lower the fall down quotient? It could also entice some people to try stout as a summer drink and shed that dark beer is heavy bit of malarkey and bologna. (Malarkey and boloney sandwich with a side of stout - sounds delicious, btw). Maybe even pave the way for the return of the mild as a decent workman's summer drink.

I guess I feel about radlers the way I feel about any premix canned booze; it's lazy, convenient and never to my taste. Sure, I'll drink it but I'll never love it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day 2015 - Food Memories

So, Mother's Day has come and gone. I rushed on Friday night to get a post out for Saturday so that it would be ready for Mother's Day. It is here at

On Sunday, it would be the first time in over a decade that I wouldn't be 'helping' small hands make breakfast for my ex wife. I'm not very good at the sap, pap and flower crap but I am a good cook and put my love there. I must admit I felt a little sorry for myself and not making the fried bread in bacon drippings along with various meats and eggs served on a tray. I missed it.

Then something happened before I began to write this post. My kids' great grandmother (my ex-wife's grandmother) passed. She had battle Alzheimer's disease and had died on Friday night. Battled isn't a word to use with this disease as it is more of a war of attrition where you know you will lose.

When I met Grandma Leitch, it was at a family affair and there was tourtiere. She was French. The type that is from rural Ontario or rural Quebec, all bluster and good times. The pie was delicious. Every region makes it slightly different. Hers was a drier version with veggies and lots of cloves and cinnamon. We got one to take home that I had with ketchup.

I also got to try a mock apple pie made with saltines that was spot on. It had the right texture and flavour showing the resourcefulness and playfulness that the baker exhibited. It was the last good pie. The next Christmas, the tourtiere was off so slightly and the bright, cheerful jabs turned into something a little more mean. Alzheimer's affects the personality. It was that year or shortly after that the diagnosis came in. Since I normally saw her only at family functions, it was both less obvious and more impactful.

When she went into a care facility, every year the family would gather and bring treats and celebrate Christmas. Her memories were regressing. The newest memories often fade first and the partners of her grandkids were amongst the first forgotten. There was joy at seeing the kids even if they weren't recognized.

Today is her funeral. I am looking up French Canadian recipes to create dishes that my kids never had a chance to eat so that there are joyful memories for them.

I would love to tie this all together in a sweet bough and be witty and light but sometimes food memories are important and somber. I mourn both the loss of my relationship and the relations it had and naturally, it is days like this and Mother's Day that are the markers of those memories.