I told you I was going to buy a healthy cookbook. It wasn't as easy as I thought to find one. At Barnes & Noble, it seemed like they were all Paula Deen-ish (by the way, it irritates me that people criticize her for not revealing she had diabetes. It's not like all the other cooking gurus have to reveal their respective health statuses. Everyone knows too much butter or sugar is bad for you...seriously, let the woman live how she wants to live. You can't tell me everyone thought that following a diet based primarily on her recipes would make them the picture of health. Please...& for crying out loud there's even that cliche about a skinny chef). The only healthy non-diet specific cookbooks seemed to be the Naked Chef's, and they were a little too wild for me at this point. So then I looked through the diet books thinking there might be hope there, & I didn't find anything either (not trying to lose weight, though a few pounds would be a fantastic side effect...just trying to cut out the preservatives and refined business). I could've missed the perfect one, but I'm happy with what I got: The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook.
One of the Michael Pollen rules is that if you can make it, you can eat it, so I did. Above are the cinnamon rolls from the new book. They were (to invoke Parks & Rec's Rob Lowe/Chris) literally, the best I've ever tasted (I should add that there was a moment when the dough was stuck to everything & I wondered what I was doing trying to make cinnamon rolls by scratch when there were perfectly good ones to be had in the refrigerated section just down the street). I'm sure their tastiness has nothing to do with the amounts of butter and sugar in them. So there's white flour and powdered sugar in these--refined, refined, refined, but I can't do this all at once right now. I'm beginning by eliminating packaged stuffs (& coke) & then (post bar), I'll start incorporating wheat flour. It does have recipes for wheat bread & pizza dough (latter is on the menu). I also made snack humus this morning & chicken salad for lunch. Both excellent...although I really need a food processor (making humus in the blender is not the way to go). And, in the Cook's Illustrated corner: our fridge is stuffed with vegetables (from Sprouts)...two drawers almost completely full. Chris thought that our grocery bill would be much more shopping there compared to the commissary & I am happy to say he was totally wrong...cutting out the packaged stuff made up for going organic, etc.
Happy weekend. Back to the studying. Love, Sara
Last night I couldn't sleep & so, because I've been feeling old (34 & Not getting younger) & unhealthy lately (fast food for the 3 squares And in-betweens: thank you Kaplan for your grueling study schedule), I downloaded Michael Pollan's Food Rules & read it all (it's a crazy fast read- and that's not just compared to the contract outlines I've been mired in for 3 days now). What, Mr. Pollan, no cereal that changes the milk another color? Some of the Other rules won't be so bad: I've never been sucked in by the low fat or low carb diets. Butter is awesome.
No time to take photos lately so I drew a tomato & some peas for you. You're welcome.
I had resolved to change my diet once bar study was up, but screw bar study (not altogether, just a little), I'm changing it now. I could very well fail anyhow, & it's not worth completely neglecting my health. Because of bar study, it'll be a slower change, but I'm not waiting around for my arteries to do whatever bad things they do when one's diet is primarily fast food.
The first difficulty is that I hate wheat bread and milk and spinach and lots of other healthy foods. I like coke, chocolate muffins (hello, breakfast!), and cheeseburgers. The second difficulty is I like to jump into things head first- no taking it step by step. As in, if I had my way, & didn't have other concerns (like studying), I would start a garden, begin composting, canning, hunting game, and all that --all at once. If there was a little failure here & there, no big deal. A little failure is okay when I know my plan is insanely ambitious because even then I've achieved ambitious, right?
Anyway, today I quit coke and will buy a healthy cookbook. Then I'll make a menu & shop properly this weekend. It's on. Oh, I need advise: what cookbook & what stores have decent produce here in El Paso? P.S. It's not the least bit ironic that I began my healthy cookbook search yesterday while I was eating Ruffles & French Onion Dip. See, this is not going to be easy. Here's to hating what I eat for a good while, Sara
Fredericksburg is my best & I want to live there forever, I think. Affording a house there might be another matter. I took a break from bar study yesterday to take a day trip with Chris. Not only is the town charming, but the German food is amazing (Chris likes the German beer too), the shopping is fun (there's a yarn shop I didn't get to), the architecture great, and it's near both Enchanted Rock & Llano (which is where Cooper's BBQ is located...no one has anything on Coopers, which we ate on our way back to Priddy. Not only is the bbq the best ever, but it's served on paper sheets & you don't get your own table- we ate next to a couple of Canadians [who drove the whole way just for the cue...or not- I made that up] and Bill from Tow [pronounced t-ow as in owl], TX who is going to see Willie today at Austin City Limits. Jealous. I'll be watching video on Oil & Gas. On to that. Love, Sara
Last year Auden's class (before Auden was part of this class) assembled gingerbread houses at their Christmas party and we thought that it would be a good idea to do it again. Last year they purchased kits, but I thought that was a waste of money and offered to bake the house parts at home. I used a Martha Stewart recipe and templates and they looked pretty great, I thought. Turns out that precision is practically as important with baked houses as it is with actual ones. It was a disaster. I didn't even bring enough icing (in my defense, they needed more than the usual gingerbread houses) so first grade came to our rescue by donating the unused icing from their kits (thanks, guys). For a good 15 minutes we parents were sitting at the short table holding roofs together while they dried...and the kids played outside. Some required non-edible structural supports- you may have noticed the knife & plastic bubble holding up one roof and silly bands holding Matti's house together. I kinda like the silly bands :). Gingerbread houses never again (they did taste good though). Love, Sara
Tea bag pants. Genius.
I LOVE food, so the first thing I did after registering for the race was to scope out the local food scene. Must eats: The hot brown and derby pie. No mint juleps for me (bourbon is gross).
We stayed at the Brown Hotel, (not as cool as the Driskill in Austin- but ok) where the hot brown that was created in the 1920s (recipe and history: here) is still served. I was lame and left my camera in the car, but it was awesome. I was pretty sure I'd love it because I'd made a Cooking Light version a few years ago and it passed muster. The real thing did not dissapoint. In fact, I could go for one right now.
Also popular for good reason: Derby pie, which is only served at a few restaurants- like Lynn's Paradise Cafe. The only way out of the half hour wait was to eat at the bar, so we did (and the poor bartender wasn't even close to keeping up with all those mint julep and derby pie milkshake orders).
I had the meatloaf and Chris had the catfish and we were both happy (so much so that we had to take our Derby pies to go). I was so stuffed that I never recovered that night and had to eat my piece for breakfast. Had to.
That yellow block is mac and cheese- it was ok (the meatloaf and mashed potatoes made up for its ok-ness).
PS...I've been sewing my fingers to the bone piecing that quilt top. Maybe, just maybe I'll finish in time to show you next week. Have a great weekend. Love, Sara
GUEST POST by Chris!
I've got a thing for bourbon, more so than the other adult beverages that I enjoy from time to time. It seems to have a character to it that other spirits lack. More on that in a minute. So when Sara came up with the idea to run the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon, it didn't take much to convince me to go along, knowing that a tour of Bourbon Country would likely be part of the trip. And the tour we took of the Woodford Reserve Distillery only strengthened my appreciation for this uniquely American whiskey.
One thing that struck me during our tour is that the bourbon making process, at least at Woodford Reserve, hasn't changed much over the years. The only real exception would be the "assembly line-style" bottling process. And at Woodford Reserve, even that is less automated than one would think.
And making bourbon is a PROCESS. As best as I can understand this process breaks down into three major phases: fermentation, distillation, and aging. Fermentation is shown in the two photos above. What you see in these antique looking vats is a mixture (known as a mash bill) of ground corn, rye, malted barley, and water. At least 51% of that mixture must be corn, or else the end product cannot be called Bourbon. Finally, yeast is added to the vat providing the catalyst to begin the fermentation process. We learned that the same strain of yeast has been used at Woodford Reserve since the 1920's. If that strain were ever to become contaminated or lost, this whiskey would never taste the same again.
Once the fermentation process has brought the mash to a 9% ABV (alcohol by volume) level, the mash is pumped to these copper stills to begin distillation. The liquid is then heated, vaporized, and circulated through them, becoming more refined and potent along the way. Woodford Reserve is the only bourbon distillery that uses a triple distilling process.
When the liquid comes out of the stills, it is know as distiller's beer, oddly enough. It doesn't resemble beer in any way though, as it is completely clear, relatively tasteless, and its alcohol content is somewhere between 65 and 80% ABV. The color and taste of Bourbon comes about by the aging process it goes through in the barrels you see here. Bourbon barrels are made of white oak that is charred on the inside to open the wood's pores and allow the liquid to be absorbed. When the liquid is absorbed into the wood, it takes on the brown coloration and unique flavor we are familiar with. No spices, no extracts, no additives, just a pure reaction between alcohol and white oak. Beautiful, huh?
Another unique thing about bourbon, is that the barrels can only be used once. If a barrel were to be re-used, the end product would by law be required to be labeled as whiskey. So all of the barrels you see here, will be sold to other companies to be used for aging other whiskeys and spirits. From what I gathered, the average aging time in barrel for bourbon is 5-6 years. This is not a hard and fast rule though, as the whiskey is aged to a taste standard not a time standard. Some barrels can be left for up to 10 years to meet the standard of a distillery.
As you can see, the facilities at this distillery reflect much earlier times. Being a history guy, I feel a little embarrassed that I can't tell you when everything was built. I guess I was more interested in learning about the process. Sorry.
The nice gentleman you see above is Bill, and I feel very fortunate that he was our tour guide at Woodford Reserve. So if you are able to get a tour of Woodford Reserve, I recommend trying to get into Bill's group.
Complementary samples that we were treated to upon completion of the tour. Sara (after a tiny sip) gave me hers, and I gladly accepted it. I will admit that I'm not much for sipping whiskey, or drinking it straight at all for that matter, but I don't think that drinking it with Diet Coke prevents me from being a connoisseur.
Chocolate Bourbon Balls that came with our free samples, even Sara liked these. -Chris
Chris and I bought the book (by Sean Connolly) for the boys: 64 daring experiments for young scientists. We finally got around to doing the Cola Geyser (first experiment in the book) because we don't usually have a 2 liter of Diet Coke (corn syrup in regular Coke ruins it) and mentos just laying around. It was awesome and we're totally going to have to do this again.
1. Slide mentos into freshly opened 2 liter.