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Category: Discussion


Blogger potluck

I haven’t blogged in forever! For the last week or so I’ve been really busy cooking and photographing for the book since we’ve had a few more days of sunshine lately. Every time the sun is out I immediately think “Quick! While the light is good, take photos!”

This past weekend though, I didn’t do any of that. Jeff and I spent Saturday morning bottling our first batch of beer and then that evening I attended an Atlanta blogger potluck hosted at Lee’s house (Who also took this photo of us below, so she’s not in it. Thanks Lee!)

everyone at potluck

From left to right we have Emily, Tina, Stacy, Carol, Traci, Laura, myself, and Laura.

As you can imagine, food bloggers make for a really good potluck! We had:

  • Brie and apples on crakers
  • Olive tapenade toasts
  • Sweet potato tot casserole

Potluck spread 1

As well as:

  • a huge greek salad
  • Nutella sandwiched between vanilla cookies
  • chocolate pretzel cookies
  • chocolate zucchini muffins
  • broccoli salad

Potluck spread 2


  • a carrot cake
  • spinach artichoke dip with crackers and carrots
  • Japanese sweet potato casserole
  • WINE

Potluck spread 3

My contributions were the carrot cake and the Japanese sweet potato casserole. This is the same carrot cake that I made for Christmas, however this time it came out much drier than last time. Someone even commented that it kind of tasted “healthy.” Not my best work, but hey, even less than stellar cake is still CAKE!

My carrot cake for potluck

The casserole was a hit though. This is a recipe I’ve been working on for my cookbook so I knew it was pretty good, but I did not expect the rave response it got! Glad to know I’m on the right track!

My Japanese sweet potato casserole for potluck

We all loaded our plates up to overflowing then went back and did the same with the desserts.

My plate at potluck

It was 4 hours of crazy girl chat about everything from our favorite (and least favorite) blogs, to horror movies! This is a really fun group of girls, and I’m so glad we get to catch up with each other like this every so often. The potluck format was perfect for a bunch of foodies that like to talk!

Thanks again to Lee for hosting such a fun get-together!


Blogger quiz

You might have seen this one around. Most recently, I saw it on Tina’s blog. I dont’ know about you but I love reading and filling out these quizzes!

1) What is one of your favorite ways to spend a Saturday?

The best Saturdays are the ones where I laze around in my pajamas until after lunch, Jeff keeps churning out brew after brew of hot tea for us to sip on, and we spend our time curled up on the couch either playing video games or watching funny videos on the internet….and don’t get anything productive done the whole day.

2) List your top three favorite TV shows.

We no longer have cable, but there’s plenty of good stuff on Netflix:

  1. Dexter
  2. Breaking Bad
  3. House (no longer on Netflix, sad!)

3) Would you rather be in pictures or take them?

Definitely take them. I’m really enjoying learning all the ins and outs of photography.

Love my gift!

4) Why do you blog?

While I started for other reasons, I continue to blog because I love cooking and I love sharing my recipes and other food related stuffs with others. It also kind of serves as a living diary/scrapbook to preserve the things that are happening in my life right now.

5) Share five websites that you visit regularly…

  1. Google Reader
  2. Reddit
  3. TheDailyWhat
  4. Foodgawker
  5. Pinterest (follow me!)

6) If you could have lunch with one person from your Twitter list who would it be?

I don’t really use Twitter so I haven’t racked up much of a list. I’d say any of my blog friends that I haven’t met yet would be nice though.

7) List a few of your favorite snacks.

Lately all I ever want is an Alexia frozen biscuit baked up all golden and hot and covered in honey. Normally though; I snack on hummus with crackers, a perfectly undercooked hard boiled egg with salt, or some sort of nuts or fruit.

8 ) Do you have a pet? If so, what kind?

Two chocolate brown Burmese cats, Lucas and Liam. Liam likes to bite the water as it comes out of the faucet and Lucas is afraid of bananas. They are a little weird.

Two Burmese beauties

9) Which three material possessions would you struggle to live without?

My computer, my camera, and because this is Atlanta which has rather crappy means of public transport: my car.

10) What’s your favorite drink?

Alcoholic: I’m really digging brown ales right now, especially Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar. Non: Love me some gingerberry kombucha and Chinese black teas.

11) Do you enjoy cooking?

Oh my yes. I love creating new recipes and nothing makes me happier than for someone to compliment me on my cooking. I do get sick of it sometimes though, but never for long.

Tuna Tartare

12) Do you have children?

Not yet. We have made some tentative plans for when to start down that road, but it still seems too soon the closer we approach it. They are in the cards, but I’m just not sure when.

13) What are your favorite hobbies?

I love reading, cooking, making lists, learning to take beautiful photos, and I’m even starting to really enjoy the gym. I’d like to start doing more creative things too, so I’ve got some plans for art pieces I’m making this year.

14) Would you consider yourself to be shy or outgoing?

This is hard to answer. I am definitely socially anxious but I don’t think shy is the right word for it. I am outgoing in that I don’t tend to let fear keep me from trying something new for too long.

15) If you could change one thing about yourself, what would you change?

I wish that I were more of a go-getter. Jeff is an excellent example of someone who is always motivated and always working actively toward his goals. I have really learned a lot from him about how to stop wasting so much time dreaming and planning and actually take steps to make change, but I still need a lot of work.

16) Who is your favorite actor/actress?

I don’t really pay attention to the careers of actors and actresses very much. I don’t really watch a lot of movies in general.

17) What’s the coolest thing you’ve done this week?

Jeff and I brewed our first batch of beer at home, but that’s more his achievement than mine. I did run my first 5k distance of the year at the gym this week though, working back  into it!

Stirring in the malt extract

18) Do you live near your family or far from them?

Far-ish. Mine are all about an hour or so south of me and Jeff’s are about 2 hours north. So, neither are terribly far but it does make it nearly impossible to see both sides of the family on holidays because we can’t make it to both places in the same day.

19) List three of your talents.

  1. I have excellent mental mapping skills, even when I get lost I can always figure out how to get unlost.
  2. I’m very good at eyeballing the correct quantities of ingredients in a recipe.
  3. I can recite several very long poems from memory.

20) What is your greatest attribute?

I think my greatest attribute is my ability to stay calm through stressful situations, which I think will help me immensely when I become a parent. Sure, things bother me sometimes and I do have a habit of ranting when I’m frustrated, but I tend to immediately start thinking of ways to fix the problems rather than dwelling on how they make me feel.


That was fun! Comment with your own answer to one of the questions if you feel so inclined. :)


Our first home brew!

As you may recall, I got Jeff a home beer brewing kit for Christmas. It didn’t include everything we’d need to get started though, so Jeff has spent the last few weeks diligently studying the beer making process to figure what else we’d need in order to make our first batch. Saturday was the day.

We got up late and didn’t get started until around 1:30, after we had time to have lunch and then clean the kitchen thoroughly to make room for all the stuff that goes along with beer making.

First, you have to clean everything that will come in contact with the wort (the unfermented beer.) Then, you have to sanitize all that stuff too. The number one way you can screw up a perfectly good batch of beer is to introduce it to any rogue bacteria, so you have to make extra sure that every inch of every thing is sanitized completely and properly.

Jeff cleaning lid

Jeff cleaning paddle

We also had to assemble the kettle by screwing in the thermometer and draining spigot. The pot was so big that we had to position it over two stove eyes!

Kettle over two eyes

I then spent the next hour slowly filtering 6 gallons of water through our Brita pitcher to use for brewing. Next time we’ll by pre-filtered water cuz that was a major pain.

The water takes a little over an hour to come up to temperature, at which point it’s time to start steeping the grain. The grain gets poured into a muslin cloth and then gets steeped like a giant tea bag in the hot water. We tied it to one of the handles to keep it from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

Bag of grain

Steeping the grain bag

Next, you add the malt extract. It’s super thick and gloopy and you have to stir continuously to keep it from burning on the bottom of the pot since it’s mostly sugar.

Stirring in the malt extract

Now you wait for the “hot break.” Normally this would be signified but a tumultuous frothy boil, but ours was much more subdued because we used a malt extract that has already reached it’s hot break when it was made.

Hot break

Then you add the hops. The pale ale we were making has hops added in three stages, so we added hops every 30 minutes.

Adding hops

While you add the hops, you can start getting your yeast ready. We microwaved some water and let it come down to the correct temperature before tossing in the dry yeast to wake them up.

Prepping the yeast

It’ll eventually look like this…

Yeast is ready

Before you can add the yeast, you need to cool down the wort to a safe temperature. There are many ways to do this, but the key is to do it as quickly as possible to limit the amount of time the wort is exposed to the air while at a temperature that bacteria can thrive.

We used a wort chiller, which is a big coiled up length of copper tubing that you run cold water through. It brings down the temperature lightning fast in the beginning and then it kind of crawls the last 20 degrees down over the course of 20 to 30 minutes, still faster than just letting it sit to cool off though.

Because our sink faucet doesn’t have a threaded nozzle to allow you to hook the wort chiller directly to it and then drain directly back into the sink, we had to run water from a garden hose instead and catch the used water in a bucket to pour out.

Wort chiller setup

It was madness for half an hour carefully watching that the bucket doesn’t overflow and transferring the hose to another bucket temporarily while we poured the first one out. Non-stop manual labor.

Finally, the wort measured under 80 degrees so we could stop the chilling process. We drained it into the fermenting bucket and added a bit more boiling water to get it to the correct quantity of liquid.

Draining the cooled wort

Draining the cooled wort 2

Frothy beer wort

Now, you clamp on the lid and shake the crap out of it to aerate it. Then, you “pitch” the yeast, which basically just means to pour it in.

Pitching the yeast

You put on the lid tightly and insert an airlock in the lid to let the CO2 created by the yeast escape safely, otherwise you’ve just made yourself a very messy explosive. 😉 We put a bit of vodka in it as a sanitary barrier between the beer and the air.

airlock with vodka

Right now it’s hanging out in our second bedroom which stays at a pretty steady and ideal temperature for beer fermenting. We know that because Jeff actually built a temperature monitoring device just for this purpose! I don’t even know how to use it but I’m still really impressed!

Beer bubbling away

Temperature monitoring device

We also filled a utility bucket with water and Oxyclean to remove the labels from some bottles we’ve been saving.

removing bottle labels

And that’s it! It’ll bubble out CO2 anywhere from overnight to 2 weeks and then you let it sit a few weeks more before bottling, then let it sit some more before drinking.

This process took nearly the whole day to complete, but already we’ve seen how we could shave off a ton of time by doing things differently. For instance, in the spring we plan to get an outdoor “turkey fryer” propane burner which will heat the same quantity of liquid in 20 minutes as opposed to over an hour. We also won’t spend and hour just filtering water!

We had a great first beer brewing experience and I can already tell that Jeff is completely hooked. I can’t wait to sample our finished product!