Monday, March 30, 2009

Dilly Dilly Dilly Beans

Last weekend, a couple of my cousins dropped by and we ended up opening one of the last jars of dilly beans from last year. I made them last year at the end of bean season because Rich liked some that we had purchased, but balked at the price. So I looked up a few recipes, consulted the list of ingredients on the bottle we bought and made my own.

The first batch was...spotty. I bought some more mature beans than I would have liked and ended up with two types. One worked really well. The other was...terrible. Really gross, actually. Mealy and icky.

So, this year, I opted to use French beans (haricot vert) instead of green beans (blue lake). The French beans are much narrower, crisper, and just prettier. I found some pretty inexpensive, and bought four pounds.

Dilly beans involves fresh dill, fresh beans, garlic, spices, vinegar, salt, and water. That's pretty much it. And a water bath for the canning part. Oh, and fresh peppers if you want some heat.

I added another variable into the mix.



I bought and dried some lovely chilies last fall and have been grinding them for use in various thing. They have lasted much longer than I expected. I think, based on their heat and size that they may have been cayenne peppers, but who knows. I just think they're pretty. They were fun to have strung up - I threaded them through the stems and hung them up by my old kitchen window to dry.

Anyway, the beans. I trim the stem end at a diagonal so they look pretty and leave the tail end. And then there is the stacking...sigh...that takes forever. But it's worth it. I always put in some dill and some garlic and the spices on the bottom and then start stacking the beans with a whole jalapeno or serrano chile along with the beans. Then jam as many in as I can without smushing or snapping too many beans. I used pint and quart jars so that I could make some spicy ones and not so spicy ones. Then when it's all done, fill the jars with a boiled combination of vinegar, water and salt.

Then insert into a water bath for ten minutes and set aside to seal. The jars will pop on their own as they cool. All of mine popped, so it was all good.

On a lark, since I picked up some beautiful fresh asparagus at the farmer's market yesterday along with the dill, I pickled a jar of spicy asparagus, too.

And voila!



I also picked up one bunch of what I was told was turnip tops. They had some flowers, but more importantly and oddly, they had these little...bumpy things. That tasted like turnips. Almost like the seed pods. They were interesting...so I canned them :)



They look like alien blobs.



Especially compared to the very orderly looking beans.

I put the "leftover" jar of beans in the fridge last night to chill so I could try them. I prefer them to be cold since that makes them crisper. I tried them. Pretty good. Spicer than I had anticipated which makes me wary of the larger jars which have more of the homemade chili powder than the little ones...but maybe ratios will work in my favor?

Last night, I went upstairs to bed a little early and crashed. This morning, I came downstairs and discovered an odd looking jar. Putting it next to the other jars made it look even more distinctive...which of these jars is not like the others?



Yep, Rich got into the dilly beans. And finished off the leftover jar. Sigh. I suppose I should put another on in the fridge. But that might just encourage him.

Here is my tweaked recipe.

Dilly Beans

2 pounds beans (I doubled)
fresh dill
fresh jalapenos or serrano peppers
fresh garlic
whole mustard seed (1/4 tsp per pint, 1/2 tsp per quart)
whole peppercorns (1/4 tsp per pint, 1/2 tsp per quart)
whole coriander seed (1/4 tsp per pint, 1/2 tsp per quart)
ground chile pepper (1/4 tsp per pint, 1/2 tsp per quart)
white vinegar
water
canning salt (I used kosher salt, the ratio of Morton kosher salt to canning salt is 1 cup canning salt = 1 cup + 2 Tsp kosher salt. This is specific to Morton kosher salt.)

Prep the jars (sterilize) and fill with a good hunk of dill (lots if you like it) spices and sliced and whole garlic. (I like to eat sliced pickled garlic, so I slice them. If using only whole, I'd give them a solid whack with the flat side of a knife to open up the garlic.)

Then place the beans in the jars, selecting longer ones for the taller jars so that there is some space above the tops of the beans.

Boil 2 1/2 cups water with 2 1/2 cups of vinegar and 1/4 cup canning salt (1/4 cup + 1/2 Tbs kosher salt). Pour the hot liquid over the tops of the beans.

Put covers and twist caps on and process for ten minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove and let cool.

These can be eaten as soon as the jars cool - they are thin and pickled immediately.

Rock climber



Sunday, March 29, 2009

Robot Day

Rich dragged us off to Davis on Saturday to see the robots. He didn't know much about it - just that there would be robots. And vaguely where they would be. So off we went!

Anyway, after a bit of a...well, Rich would call it an adventure, I would call it a frustrating direction-less walk, we found it...on the other side of campus, of course. It was a nice day, otherwise...well, let's just say it would have been ugly. I'm the kind of person who expects that whoever plans an event/trip has actually planned and knows where to go with a minimum of fuss. I am all for going for a walk or hike...but if I'm trying to go somewhere, I get pretty annoyed when we are lost or clearly have no idea where we are actually supposed to be going.

In the end, Rich got his adventure. He even got to use my phone's GPS to get us there. He was like Drew with a new toy and outside. Drew and I were a little tired of wandering around in the sun at noon. Rich got us there, though, and we were greeted with a scene I found nostalgic. A bunch of high school kids, wandering about with parents and support and lots of food, waiting to get into a room. Felt vaugely debate-y. Sigh.

In the building, though, this was the first thing we were greeted with.



I don't recall ever having seen this type of sign at a debate tournament.

Anyway, it was interesting. Very nerdy. It was held in the basketball arena. Half the court was set up with the machine shops.



After checking that out, we wandered around a bit. Drew got a nice assortment of little cars that do the wind up thing when you back them up. Chevron was doing some kind of promo. We also checked out the younger competitions. Apparently there are three divisions. The high school, a middle school, and a division that starts as young as 6 years old! Rich lit up at that and learned all about it. Maybe we'll see if Drew has any interest next year. Right now, we're getting ramped up for soccer starting next month.

Anyhow, we watched a few matches. They were...odd. It took a while to figure out what was going on. There are teams. Two teams of three. Red and blue. The goal being to get as many balls into your team's baskets as you can. To augment things, each robot starts along the edge of the competition space and is lined in front of a human opponent team member who has some balls and may throw them into your basket. (That part was really confusing for a while.) Then while the robots are going, the robots themselves put balls into their opponents' baskets. Some were very effective. Others...didn't appear to be doing much of anything.

Here's the video.

video

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Soju


I picked up a bottle of Korean firewater last weekend and thought I'd try it tonight. It's really harsh straight, but went down very easy with a little coke. Amy says I'll have to try it straight if I meet her family in Korea. Guess I better start practicing up.

Robot wars


I dragged Amy and Drew across the UC Davis campus to watch a robot competition today. Each has a trailer behind it and the goal is to dump balls in the other's trailer. It looked like fun, and maybe Drew will get to do stuff like this when he's in highschool.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Thank you thank you very much


Drew got a card from his little buddy Evan in the mail. When you're a little kid, mail that comes just for you is a big deal. Not so much for grown-ups, since it's mostly bills.

With apologies to Dan


Dan came up last weekend specifically to see the geese, but they just weren't out, and the weather wasn't that great either. Tonight the geese were as friendly as hyper puppies.

Reading, a Lifelong Obsession

I love to read. I LOVE to read. I read all the time. And I read for pleasure. I am a bit of a reading maniac, though, because if I’m reading something that I’m really into, I can’t stop. I’ve been known to stay up reading until 4 or 5 AM on weeknights and then stumble into work that same morning, semi-coherent, but satisfied. On weekends, I'll pull all nighters to finish a book or two. (It's really sad I couldn't channel this obsession to read my assigned reading in school.)

I laugh out loud when I read. I totally cry all the time. And I just…live in it while I’m reading it. It was really my refuge when I was young. I’d go to the library and check out a stack of books, read them all, and go get more. The library we would go to was so small that after a while, they started asking me which books to buy when they were getting ready to buy some new ones since I had already read the ones they had. They still remember me, even though the library is now very large and shiny and new, and I am now the age they were when they met me and they now show me pictures of their grandchildren.

My tendency to read until I drop is probably why I don’t really read mysteries. With most books, unless they’re written by some of my favorite authors, I can willfully tear myself away to go to bed. I’m normally pretty good at managing my reading and stretching the books out over a few days. Most of the time. With mysteries, the suspense…it just kills me. I HAVE to know how it ends. Esp. since mysteries these days don’t always wrap up things nice and tidy at the end.

Where I care about the book for whatever reason, I read compulsively and can’t stop. I literally read while I do things that let me multitask with a book in my hand because it causes pain to have to stop. It calls to me when it is closed. I’ll read while brushing my teeth, eating, listening to Rich play on the PS3…pretty much anything.

Last night, I finished off a book written by one of my favorite authors from my “young adult” reading years, Tamora Pierce. Her first quartet of books was about a girl who traded places with her twin brother and went to learn to be a knight in a realm where girls did not do such things. It is one of my favorites in that age range and genre. It spoke to me at a time when I needed some heroine stories instead of hero stories in my life. (Incidentally, she started SheroesCentral.com which is an online community dedicated to promoting female heroes in literature.) She has since written many more books I polished off one story line last night.

Anyway, the point of all this is that I’ve married a man who finds me staying up late to read rather ridiculous. I finished reading at 2:10 AM, which I considered pretty good. I thought it was going to be a later night than that, but found that the last fifty pages were lists of characters and background that I had already picked up in the prequel.

To help Rich cope with his reading maniac wife, I gave him a lovely silk oversize eye-shade so that he can sleep while I’m still up reading. That isn’t quite as effective as I’d like. For the last fifty pages or so I took pity on him and turned off the lights after 1 AM and trudged to my closet and read in there. (To be clear, it wasn’t much of a sacrifice. My closet is the size of a small bedroom and has plushy carpeting.)

I stay up to read. Rich stays up to play PS3. All in all, I think we’re just trying to do our thing while in our family unity. It’s been interesting how that works. The funny part to me is that I know a lot of people who read the way I do and can’t stop when it’s interesting. I suppose it must be the case that the percentage of my friends who stay up really late to read may be slightly larger than that of the general population. Maybe a lot.

Sigh. That’s one of many reasons why I love you!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Tat


Drew and I got matching tattoos this weekend. No way I'll regret this a year from now.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Clouds



Elevator attendant



The Orange Cow


One cup of milk, one heaping spoon of tang, stir well, drink before it curdles. Delicious, it tastes like a creamsicle. I've wanted to try it since I heard about it in middle school, but never took the opportunity until now.

Woman + car


Scary results.

Engrish


We took a trip to the Korean market this weekend. I proposed to Dan a game, in which we try to find the best Engrish on a product. I thought I had it locked down with this little baby, until Dan found an exercise hoop that blew me out of the water. Still, this was a terrific entry.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Memory Evoking Foods

When I was working back at DR&A, one weekend, I went up to Tahoe with  Anthony, Hadley, & Josh. I don't remember quite how it happened, though. It was snowing in Tahoe and Anthony had never been in snow before and Hadley had taught me to ski one day just before I graduated, and well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Since it was snowing and I didn't particularly trust my car, we rented an SUV, piled in and went. As it turned out, the SUV was overkill - Josh's car probably would have made it.

In any case, we went up to Tahoe and I vaguely recall having fun. I remember that Josh ended up on Alex's air mattress and it lost air throughout the evening. The other thing I remember is that this was trip where I had strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar for the first time. It was either Josh or Hadley that made me pick up all three things from the store on our way up to the mountains. It sounds...not particularly tasty, really. Why waste a perfectly good strawberry with sour cream of all things?

As it turns out, the sour cream and brown sugar make the strawberry sweeter and juicer, somehow. I mean REALLY tasty, even when the strawberry itself isn't the ripest, bestest strawberry.

Today, after lunch, I had a craving for something sweet, but not too sweet. We bought some strawberries at the Korean market this morning and I had some sour cream, so...I had strawberries with sour cream and brown sugar. And it all came back tome. Tahoe, snow, and good friends.

It always surprises me what memories certain foods evoke.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Birthday card


That's Optimus Prime on the lower left, the black mark is a rollercoaster.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

On Corned Beef

My first taste of corned beef (that I am aware of, anyway) was my junior year of college. I had returned from my semester abroad in Korea and was assigned to room with someone who did not want a roommate, much less me. I attempted to make the best of things by simply avoiding the room as much as possible. That turned out to be easier than I would have thought because of other people living in the dorm, Ruth & JJ. I felt adopted and got back into the swing of things thanks to them. I don't know if they remember how totally out of it I was when I came back, but I distinctly recall that they kept me sane that semester.

Among other things, Ruth & JJ introduced me to bridge. And to late night runs to Jerry's Famous Deli. On my first trip, I waffled on what to try. The menu is epic in size and if you don't know what you want, well...it's the worst place an indecisive person could go because of the volume of options available. Anyway, I was just happy to have been invited and noshed on a variety of pickles. Ruth tried to educate me on the differences between them, but I just liked their pickley deliciousness. So crunchy and fresh, they were the kind of pickles that set expectations for the rest of the meal.

I ended up getting a half sandwich and soup. Matzoh ball soup, of course. For the sandwich, Ruth ugred me to try the corned beef. Since the rest of the recommendations had gone so well, I went with it. And it was wonderful. Salty, but not too salty, I'd never had such tender meat. And well, I don't think I had ever had anything that even remotely resembled actual meat before in a sandwich. I grew up in the household of pressed meats and sandwich slices that came perfectly circular in shape and never really fit the bread.

Amusingly, Ruth was vegetarian by this point. She was a senior and having done a DC semester and a semester in Zimbabwe, she was back at CMC and going vegetarian. So she was guiding me along my carnivorous path but not partaking. It was a puzzlement to me as I'd just spent a semester in a definitively carnivorous country full of relatives who would have disowned me if I had gone vegetarian.

Ruth also introduced me to real life New York deli's when I visited her over the summer and she took me on a walking tour of the deli scene. We had lunch at Carnegie Deli after having disclosed that Stage Deli was within walking distance. Apparently you can learn a lot from someone's preference between the two. Since I had never even heard of them prior to that trip, I was just fascinated to be in NY and eating, period. (Ruth is also responsible for my inability to resist a black & white cookie. She took me to pick up cookies to take somewhere and the bakery had just finished them. The cookies had been freshly baked and glazed and were ridiculously good. I can't resist one, now, because I always hope that it's freshly baked. It never is, but I still try it, hoping.)

When I moved back up to the Bay Area after graduation, it took me a while to realize that Saul's in Berkelely had good corned beef. How long? Four years. It just never really occurred to me that Saul's was a deli to begin with and that this large restaurant looking thing next door to my favorite patisserie was worth checking out. I think it might have been a dinner with Alex & Alysia that re-introduced me to Saul's.

For a while, after I moved up to Sacramento to go to law school, I would get a craving for corned beef and just pick up a pound or so, sliced, from Saul's and take it home to dole out over a few days. I'd pick up a nice loaf of rye at Acme, while I was in Berkeley and take it all home. There, I'd slice and toast a piece or two of rye, smear it with a lovely mustard and then put a few slices of corned beef on each and eat them open faced. They were perfect for satisfying the corned beef cravings.

In recent years, I have discovered that making corned beef is kind of easy and I should just make it. The whole prepackaged corned beef package sold in grocery stores, complete with spice packet, repelled me for a long time. It looks...well, radioactively pink. REALLY unnaturally pink. Meat should not be that pink. But Rich talked me into it last year and so I dutifully looked up recipes and read up on the general idea and made one.

Huh. Not bad. At that point, I recalled Jessica making corned beef and cabbage and some Irish soda bread in Beckett for St. Patrick's Day one year. Huh. I remembered!

And Rich loves a good corned beef hash, so he'd take leftovers and make it. Only...there weren't any leftovers the first time we made it. So we made it again, this time with two packages. There was just so much fat that in the end, there wasn't anywhere near as much meat as it looked like there was before it was cooked. So we figured by making two, we'd be set.

Sure enough, there was a lot of corned beef! And it was tasty. And there were leftovers. It turns out that corned beef hash, good corned beef hash, take some real effort. And, as with many things, I have some high standards. I still remember a delicious bite of an awesome corned beef hash that I had with David in Boston, where I was dumb and didn't order what he ordered, but he kindly shared a bite and it was just spectacular. (This was just one of many culinary highlights from that trip to Boston. David was an excellent host and I left Boston well fed. It was very exciting when David called me a couple of weeks later for the name of the store where I had told him to get decadent bath stuff to impress a girl. And now he's engaged to the recipient of the Lush stuff he bought!)

Now, I know that a good corned beef hash takes effort. It can't get too dry, don't want it too wet, either, and needs enough potato-y goodness to hold it all together once you place the quivering sunny side up eggs on top. So far, corned beef hash has not been my favorite use of really good semi-homemade corned beef.

A few weeks ago, in preparation for St. Patrick's Day, the Food Network broadcasted Alton Brown's episode on corned beef. I, of course, fell asleep almost immediately after starting up the episode. Rich, on the other hand, watched the whole thing. And is now determined to make some good corned beef hash. The base is still a store-corned beef brisket, but when I was cooking it, he made me add a ton of other stuff; celery, carrots, and potatoes and then come cabbage at the end. Apparently Alton's hash recipe involves taking all the veg and making hash out of it AND the meat. Rich's mission was reinforced by Julie's confirmation that she also uses all the veg when she makes hash.

The only problem is that he bought only one piece of corned beef. And...well...it's gone. Not completely - I packed a couple of lunches for us for tomorrow. But after our really early dinner and packing lunches, all the meat is gone. There's plenty of veg left, though, so Rich has decided that he will make the hash anyway, and use some canned corned beef to augment the meat side of the dish.

I will admit to some degree of skepticism when it comes to this plan. Not only does the idea of hash made with cooked cabbage sound...well, not good, but throwing canned corned beef on top is not likely to improve my view. He is impatient, however, and so Tuesday night, he is going to make corned beef hash for dinner. Yes, dinner. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Later this week, I will make another pot of corned beef when our friend Dan comes to visit. And maybe there will be enough actual meat left over for Rich to make some hash for breakfast without resorting to canned meat.

Maybe.

And maybe this year I'll corn my own beef and not have to look away while rinsing the pink prepacked corned beef. We'll see how long this corned beef kick lasts.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Appertizers



Oakland


Oakland docks in the foreground, San Francisco in the back.

San Mateo Bridge



Evan


Aka Chubs McCutie

Friday, March 13, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dinosaur hair



Sacramento River


I'm not sure what Drew is doing with this pose.

3rd grade humor


Well, maybe 9th grade. It's kind of an advanced topic.

At the park


Drew is showing off his Venom happy meal toy to a new friend.

Apple pie



Chevy's


Across the river

E85


An ethanol pump in West Sac. If they can hold it at 1.99/gal, that would be nice, but I have doubts it will stay that low.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Now this is spring


Very nice day. If the camera were better you could see the snow capped Sierras in the back.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

OMG


Cholesterol!