Friday, October 4, 2013

Day Tripping: Liberty Science Center

Sunday we took a day trip to one of our favorite places, Liberty Science Center.
Not sure why, but we never really noticed the
 Skyscraper exhibit until the last time we were there.
The Hubby likes the crane, but acts like he's "helping" the Peanut play with it.

In missing the Skyscraper exhibit, we also missed out on the
Curtain Wall Test: A Hurricane in a Box.

Apparently, it's one of two in the country and
I believe the only one with the water feature.
You get to wear a big poncho and goggles and feel
what it's like to be in a category 2 hurricane.

You can watch it here, but it's better in real life.

Upstairs, you can get harnessed up and walk on these beams.
It doesn't seem scary until you're out there.
Ying and Yang are fine, but I have a mini-stroke every time. 

They even have a beam from the World Trade Center.

The last few times we missed the Wildlife Challenge, for one reason or another.
Usually the Peanut was too distracted with other exhibits
so we never made it back in time.
But we made sure to hit this up early in the day.

It's a huge obstacle course outside.
Easy enough for out of shape parents and fun for kids.

We also did the Touch Tunnel five million times, as usual.
And then the Peanut went by herself and did it another five million  times.

We also always miss out on the Infection Connection exhibit
because they're booked up.
Today we were first on the list.

She learned about viruses and infections.
If you have a home school group, these hands on experiments are a must.

We even timed it right, and got to take the Subway Car exhibit
and learned how the things we do can spread disease.

I love this display on filtering water.
I don't know why, but it makes me want to try this setup in our backyard.

Tortellini is getting so big!

They searched for dinosaur bones.

This PixelPalooza thing was weirdly fun.  They have this postcard screen that
you can email yourself.  Which I did, but I can't figure out how to post here.

The Gridiron Glory exhibit was beyond amazing.

The activities were fun, of course.
 But the memorabilia was just incredible.  And I'm not even a football fan.

I loved the old uniforms and the back stories.
There was a room (that I badly photographed or I would post it)
with a ton of TVs showing old games at pivotal moments
and in that room were all these uniforms and helmets and whatnot.

All the history is just fascinating.  Truly.

Towards the end of the day, we went to see Flames, Foam and FOOM!
I can't find anything about it on their website, but holy crap, it was amazing!
The woman doing the show was so energetic!
And there was fire and explosions and everything...wowza.
We happened to get free tickets, but it would be worth paying for.

In addition to the usual exhibits and the new Gridiron Glory exhibit,
for the little ones, replacing Curious George was the
Bob the Builder Project: Build IT Traveling Exhibition.
I don't know what happened to those pics, but it is
definitely geared to younger kids.
They even have a Bob the Builder's work trailer!

I swear the girl in this picture looks like the back of my Peanut!
If it is, that's cool.

Anyway, as usual, we had an awesome time.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Homemade Wild Yeast Ginger Beer

I don't like buying soda.  Too much sugar and too much crap in it.  The Hubby could drink it all day everyday.  But since I do the grocery shopping, we don't have soda in the house very often.  We only have it if we're getting take out.  I know...he's so deprived, blah blah.
So I decided to start making ginger beer...ginger ale...I don't know exactly the difference is.  What I do know is that it's incredibly easy to make and tastes a million times better than store bought stuff.  I use a recipe from Sandor Katz who is a huge proponent for the consumption of fermented foods.  I'll blog about his new book, The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World eventually because it is a fascinating read.  But back to the point.
For the Ginger Bug
  1. I put a cup of filtered water into a mason jar.  I let it sit over night so the chlorine and what not will evaporate out.  I don't know if that's necessary, or if it works, but it's what I do.
  2. Then I add a two teaspoons of sugar and ground up fresh ginger.  (I threw a bunch of ginger in the food processor, skins and all, ground it up and keep in the fridge.)
  3. The I stir it up, or put a lid on the jar and shake it, which I think works better.
  4. Everyday I add another teaspoon of ginger and sugar and shake.  Keep the jar covered with a cloth so you can let air and natural, wild yeasts in but dust and fruit flies out.
  5. My mom leaves hers in her warm garage and it starts to bubble in a day or two.  I leave mine in my kitchen and it takes three days to a week.  It won't look like the picture above, I just shook the jar before I took that pic.  But if you stick your ear on the jar, you will hear the bubbling.
Now to Make Ginger Ale

  1. Once your Ginger Bug is bubbling, strain the liquid for the ginger and squeeze the ginger to get all the liquid out.
  2. Then boil about 2 liters of water (technically 8.45 liters) with the ginger you saved (if you want it more gingery, use more ginger...duh), plus sugar.  Now, most recipes say use a cup of sugar.  That was too sweet for me and a half cup wasn't sweet enough.  Three quarter cup was perfect for us.  I read somewhere that the yeast continue to eat the sugar, so in the end you still wind up consuming much less sugar than what you put in.  Let this boil for 15 minutes, then let it cool down to room temperature.
  3. Now there's a big debate on what type of bottle to use and I am always trying to stay away from plastic, but in the end, I didn't want to risk exploding glass bottles, so I went with plastic.  Pour the cooled down mixture into the washed and dried out 2 liter soda bottle, along with your saved ginger bug and the juice of 2 lemons. 
  4. Close the cap very tightly and leave it in a cool spot undisturbed.  Depending on how strong your ginger bug is, you'll start feeling your bottle go from squishy to hard in about two weeks.  Once the bottle is rock hard, you should be able to drink it.  I've left it in there for well over three weeks and the fizz you get is crazy.  Obviously, refrigerate before you drink one likes warm soda...
So how's that for easy?  Some notes:
  • You can buy commercial yeasts, but I'm cheap, and I like the idea of using naturally available wild yeasts that are in the air.
  • You can buy special glass bottles meant for bottling beer.  I don't know...the idea of glass shattering and bottles exploding doesn't do it for me.  Plus ying and yang over here are happy to have soda whenever possible, so I already have a handful of used soda bottles laying around waiting to be repurposed, so I just use them. 
  • Some people sterilize everything.  I do not.  I've been making ginger beer for over six months, and we've survived.  Knock on wood.  Reading The The Art of Fermentation has made me less anal about sterilization.  But that's certainly your call.
  • It might seem like your ginger bug will never bubble, but it will, be patient.  If you put your ear on top of the jar as if it's a sea shell and your trying to hear the ocean, you will hear the popping, bubbling Rice Krispies...after a few days.
  • It might seem like your soda bottle will never get hard, but be patient.  It will in time.  Sometimes it takes longer than others.  I make one bottle every week so we always have some available and ready to drink.
  • I did try using 2 cups of water when I started my ginger bug.  I was able to keep it going for a month or two, but then I got a film of thin, white mold.  I tried scraping it off but it came back right away so I threw it out.  Now I just do a cup at a time.
I'm no expert on making ginger beer, but feel free to ask if you have any questions.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Homemade Pickled Cherry Tomatoes

I am not a fan of cherry tomatoes. I only grew three cherry tomato plants this year, and I still spend and enormous amount of time harvesting those tomatoes.  It's annoying.  I told the Peanut and the Hubby, for whom I am growing these tomatoes, that they are in charge of harvesting them.  So far, that hasn't panned out.  I told them no more next year, they complained.  Blah.  We'll see.
In the meantime, I have 5 million cherry tomatoes from just three plants.  I've been slow roasting them in the toaster oven, because I'm too lazy to turn on the oven.  And then I throw them in a mason jar with olive oil.  But this is like a freaking all day process!  Yeeesh.
Then as I was perusing the web, I came across Pretty Prudent.  When they say their recipe for pickled cherry tomatoes are the best and the easiest, they aren't kidding.

Their site is super pretty, with lovely pictures and a more detailed description so I would definitely recommend checking out their page and the full recipe there at Pretty Prudent Pickled Tomato Recipe
My slightly less labor intensive, semi following the directions, half recipe version involved boiling:
 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup filtered water
1 TBS kosher salt
1 TBS white granulated sugar
3 garlic cloves, sliced
a pinch of coriander powder
6 peppercorns
I let it cool down, which is not something I normally do when pickling.  I 'm going to maybe try it again with the liquid boiling hot...anyway...
I did not poke holes in my tomatoes as per the recipe because I'm too lazy to do all that.  I just cleaned and washed them and threw them into a pint sized mason jar.  Then I poured the brine on the covered about a half pint worth as you can see.  I didn't use a sterilized anything, but I'd bet both the lid and jar were recently in the dishwasher.  Use you're own discretion, or FDA guidelines, for what should and shouldn't be carefully sterilized.
As you can see, super easy, and seriously good.  I don't know what you're supposed to eat these with, but I like to have a few while I'm wasting electricity standing in front of the open fridge deciding what to make for dinner. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Homemade Fermented Sriracha

I came across a sriracha recipe on the America's Test Kitchen Feed website which inspired me to make sriracha.  But then I got to thinking about how they tend to ultra-Americanize ethnic food, so perhaps I should look elsewhere for a recipe.  That's when I came across Viet World Kitchen and  their Sriracha Chile Sauce Recipe.   As I am now facinated and somewhat obsessed with fermented foods, I had to try it out.  The green jar is made from jalepenos (it looks greener in real life) and the other two are Thai chilies.  I didn't mean for them to come out traffic light colored, but it's kinda funny.  Well, to me anyway.



I normally just post links, but I've noticed every time I just post a link, something changes and then you can never find it again.  But I also don't want to be accused of copyright infringement or whatever.  So, I would recommend going to the Viet World Kitchen site.  They have a whole background story on the making of this sauce, plus a fresh, non-fermented version.  The also have a boat-load of other amazing sounding recipes with pictures...much better, more professional looking pictures than mine...
I didn't exactly follow their recipe, but here's my lazy-person's take on it:

Fermented Sriracha Sauce
¾ pounds chilies
2 cloves garlic
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
 1. Grind everything but the vinegar in a food processor, then dump it in a mason jar.  Cover it with a dish cloth to allow in the wild yeasts, but to prevent bugs and dust from getting in.  After a few days it'll start to bubble a little.  Not ginger bug kind of bubble, but small bubbles.
2. Once you notice bubbles, combine with the vinegar and bring it to a boil.  Then simmer it for 5 minutes.  Use a immersion blender to puree.  I didn't strain it like they advised, it seemed like more work than I was willing to do.
3.  When it came to room temperature, I put it in a jar and let it sit a few days before trying it.  The green was hot, the yellow pretty hot, the doesn't describe it.
See...easy and good.  Definitely check out Viet World Kitchen for the original, more accurate and detailed version.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Canning, Canning and More Canning

Yesterday afternoon, we went out to the garden and picked this.
I weighed, bagged and froze almost five pounds of string beans this morning.
Many too big because I waited too long, but certainly still edible.
And who knows how many pounds of tomatoes.
I see more canning in my future...
So far I've canned over 30 quarts of tomatoes...whole, crushed and sauce.
And many quarts of tomatoes, sliced peaches in syrup,
peach jam, hot dog relish, cantaloupe jam, pineapple jam and peach bbq sauce.

I've also been making ginger beer, bread and butter as well as
fermented pickles, fermented hot sauce,
and a whole bunch of other crap,
but I'll post those pics with the recipes.
It has been a busy summer!
I know I've been MIA but I hope you've all been having fun.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Garden Tour - June 16

I am aware that it is July. Everything is bigger.
 But I had these pics, so I thought I'd post them anyway.
The Peanut's sugar snap peas are over 5 feet tall.


I have so much zucchini I started grating and freezing it.

The forest of mint.

We have picked buckets of sugar snap peas.

Onion flower.

String beans.

More zucchini. Sooooo much zucchini....
I know, shut up. I'm not complaining. 
It's awesome to have so much.
And my co-workers are happy to take the extra ones.

The yellow squash is not doing so great.
Not sure why...


A lovely girl at work brought me 20 pepper plants.
I'm interested to see what kind of peppers they wind up being.

Pickling cukes.  I have a batch of pickles
fermenting on my counter as we speak.

I have over 25 tomato plants.  We've started picking some red cherry tomatoes.

Here are the girls picking strawberries.

The artichokes continue to get big.

This is one of the first big projects the Hubby and the Peanut did.
This might be a Roma.
I think this is a Prudens Purple

This is a Matt's Wild Cherry.
I have newer pics.  Everything is even bigger.
The Big Red tomato plant keeps falling over.
I've frozen over 20 pounds of zucchini.
I spotted a groundhog the other day.
Rat bastard better stay out of my garden!
The pickles are good according to the Hubby.
I've also been making yogurt, sauerkraut, honey mead and ginger beer.
But that's a tale for another time...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Garden Tour - May 27, 2013

We went away on a weekend vacation to Williamsburg, VA. We came back to very tall peas.



The peas are ready for shelling.

More string beans.

Yellow squash.


Fuzzy pics of pickling cucumbers.

The tomatoes are getting very big.

Sugar snap peas.

Strawberry popcorn.


Did you notice some extra fencing? 
A little weird looking and hard to step over, but necessary.
I have a million and one rabbits in my yard.
This cute one is the size of my hand.

We had to add the extra fencing to stop them from getting into the garden.
As I am looking out my window, there are four of them.
I think they live in the neighbors yard, under their shed.
The Peanut said they think our yard is the supermarket.
I think she's right.
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