Kettle’s on: Brewing Four More Beers, the White House Honey Ale

Four More Beers

I’ve been wanting to get up a post about brewing beer for a while (heck, I’ve been meaning to get up a post about anything for a while). This is a beer I actually brewed a year ago, but it’s also the one I took the most pictures of during the process. This post is for one purpose only: to show you that brewing beer at home is incredibly easy and that more people should be doing it.

I’m nowhere near an expert at brewing beer. I’ve only done about seven batches total where I was one of the major contributors and another few that I assisted on (read: drank beer while other people did all of the work). Of those seven batches, the first two were terrible. Four More Beers was the third batch, and everything since then has been great. Anyway, this post is the story of this beer. It’s going to be a little different from most of my posts because I’ll probably just ramble for a bit and then post some pictures. If brewing sounds like something you’d enjoy, there’s gonna be a ton of information about how you can get started down towards the bottom of the post.

Read the rest of this post »

Slow cooker pulled pork

slow cooker pulled pork trimmed meat

BAM! Look at that beautiful hunk of meat. There are few things that make me happier than pulling out a giant slab of pork shoulder and getting it ready for the slow cooker. First of all, it means I’m about to eat a large number of pulled pork sandwiches slathered in one of my favorite condiments (BBQ sauce!). But since anything made in a 6 quart slow cooker produces a large amount of food, it usually also means that a large number of friends are about to descend upon my apartment.

My original inspiration for slow cooker pulled pork came from the always excellent An Immovable Feast. He doesn’t give recipes so much as just say what he made, but with pulled pork that’s not an issue. At its core, this amazing meal involves a giant hunk of meat, some kind of liquid, and about 9 hours.

Read the rest of this post »

Walnut pesto

Pasta is one of the easiest things in the world to make, so I do it often. I thought it might be nice to get a little variety in the types of frozen sauces that I have on hand, so after the Italian Sausage sauce I decided to go for a pesto.

For those out there who have never made pesto before, it’s incredibly simple – as long as you have a food processor. We do, and as luck would have it, one of my friends from college had just posted a recipe for walnut pesto on her site. Pesto tends to have only a few ingredients (mostly basil!) and just takes a couple minutes to make, so it’s hard not to recommend trying it!

Read the rest of this post »

Italian sausage pasta sauce

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to give myself a reason to cook more. Unfortunately, most of the time I get home from work too tired to do anything constructive, so I end up ordering out or just not eating. Recently I decided that I would solve this problem by making large amounts of different meals and freezing them in small servings.

So far, it’s been going pretty great. I’ll be keeping track of these with the Freezer Meal category, and adding some thoughts about freezing to the end of each post.

Pasta is always an easy meal, but store-bought sauce never really does it for me. I love a sauce with some meaty goodness to it, so the highly-rated Jo Mama’s World Famous Spaghetti instantly caught my attention. The Italian sausage came from an excellent local butcher, Olympic Meats. They make the sausage at the store and use casings that are easy to split and pull the meat out of, which spreads the meat out through the entire sauce rather than leaving it in larger chunks.

Read the rest of this post »

Double chocolate chip cookies

Sometimes, chocolate chip cookies just don’t have enough chocolate. I’m a massive chocoholic, so this is true for me a lot of the time. After trying a few different recipes for the extreme chocolate flavor I was looking for, I stumbled across this dangerous recipe from Leela Cyd for double chocolate chip cookies.

As always, I went way overboard with the chocolate and just used an entire bag of Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips. This results in there being almost more chocolate chips than batter. For me, that’s not an issue. Use your best judgement!

Read the rest of this post »

Beecher’s cheese sauce homemade mac and cheese

Last time we made mac and cheese it turned out pretty good, but we thought we could do better. Digging around on my favorite food site in the world, foodgawker, I found this recipe from My Cooking Quest in the #4 all-time most gawked slot. We had just stopped at a cheese place in Wisconsin and picked up some 4-year aged Cheddar, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try this sucker out.

The important part of this (and probably most) mac and cheese is the cheese sauce. As My Cooking Quest informatively points out, we actually make a couple of key components of many sauces along the way, namely a roux and a béchamel. Neat! Don’t be concerned by those fancy French names, they’re quite easy to make! A big thanks to our friend Dooms for tending to our cheese sauce as we were frantically grating and pasta making!

Read the rest of this post »

New York Times chocolate chip cookies

Everyone has a chocolate chip cookie recipe that they swear by. Unfortunately, everyone, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong (just kidding… kind of). I made these New York Times chocolate chip cookies at the advice of someone in college, and they started me on a baking journey that has continued to this day, resulting in me being dubbed “The Baker” around my office.

I don’t know what exactly it is about this particular recipe. I’ve even simplified parts of it, using all purpose flour instead of bread and cake flour and using a whole bag of Ghiradelli’s 65% cocoa chocolate chips instead of any fancy chocolate (I use these for everything. They are the best), and the results are still amazing. Anyway, this recipe results in delicious, thick, chocolate-filled cookies that can’t be beat.

Read the rest of this post »

Sun-dried tomato turkey meatballs with walnut pesto

Continuing our quest to get rid of the massive amounts of ground turkey in our freezer (who am I kidding, this is a problem I love to have!), we decided to make some meatballs.

Abby has been doing Crossfit lately, and Crossfitters are all about the Paleo diet. She found this recipe from Everyday Paleo on her gym’s message board, and it looked delicious so we decided to try it out. We didn’t have any coconut cream, but the internets state that sweetened condensed milk and coconut extract is a viable substitute. We thought that might be a better idea for baking than cooking but went for it anyway.

Read the rest of this post »

Spiced turkey burgers with goat cheese and honey

In a recent trip to Peoria Meat Market, I picked up a ton of on-sale ground turkey, so expect to see a bunch of turkey dishes coming up on the blog. For our first feat, we decided to make turkey burgers. For some reason I was craving goat cheese, so I specifically sought out a recipe that used goat cheese as a topper, settling upon this one from Hungry Girl por Vida.

As the day wore on, I decided I wasn’t willing to take the time to make the homemade cranberry sauce on this particular night, but I took inspiration from the recipe and came up with the idea to add some spiciness to the burger and to top the whole thing with a little bit of honey. My intention was to use the creaminess of the cheese and a little bit of sweetness from the honey to counterbalance the spice of the chicken.

Read the rest of this post »

Triple D homemade mac and cheese

I’ve been stopping in at the excellent cheese store Pastoral on my way home from work once every few weeks. On a recent trip I picked up some of Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze cheddar (better description from Pastoral), which the cheese guy told me to try making a mac and cheese out of. I was planning on doing that this weekend anyway, but yesterday we went down to Fox Valley Winery and found some Bacon and Ranch Cheddar in their fridge (evidently the owner’s favorite). With the power of these two cheddars combined, we pretty much had to.

The whole reason we were down at the winery was that Abby’s dad had a Groupon for a tour of the place. When I mentioned my mac and cheese dreams to him, he mentioned he had always had great luck with a recipe from Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip . . . with Recipes!, which I luckily received for Christmas last year! We decided to go with a slightly modified Smoque BBQ Mac and Cheese recipe, using the Prairie Breeze for the sauce and the Bacon and Ranch Cheddar as a topper.

Read the rest of this post »