You Get What You Need

I have a lot of energy. Once I make a decision I want to make it happen. Sometimes I find myself at odds with what I know and what I want. Sometimes I find myself in the same conflict with Rose: what she wants against what I want.

When Rose suggested staying in Portland for a month I had some concerns. But, the first night in our sublet erased them. We have come here, I think, for good reason. We have experiences that are useful to the people we are living with. Well beyond our goal in this project, these are conversations that Rose and I need to have as people.

June is not a great month for me. One of my favorite people died in June–specifically my father. This year I attended my grandmother’s memorial and found myself leaning on my aunt during the anniversary of her husbands death. Overall this project has been forcing me to slow down.

It doesn’t have to happen today. Just breathe and let your thoughts happen. Getting what you need today won’t stop you from getting what you want¬†eventually.

Homemade chai made easy

I love chai tea. It’s spicy, it’s (usually) caffeinated, it’s full of honey. It’s both physically and emotionally warming (at least, to me). It’s a nice alternative to more coffee in the afternoon, when I need a warm pick-me-up but don’t want to spend the whole night awake.

It’s also ridiculously easy to make. Really.

The first time I made it at home, the recipe I used was really complicated, and involved too many steps of heating and reheating. The finished product was tasty, but the steps involved were burdensome. When I wanted to try again several months later, I couldn’t find the recipe again (oh, fickle internet), but instead stumbled upon a collection of allegedly authentic Indian recipes, which were remarkably easier!

The short version: Make a spice-infused syrup, add milk, steep tea bags, enjoy. That’s my kind of recipe.

I’ve included the spices that I used today, but they’re more of a suggestion than anything else. If you like a spicier chai, use more ginger and black pepper. If you prefer it mild, cut those things back, maybe increase the cardamom. Most of the chai that you’ll find in coffee shops has vanilla in it, but I’m not big on gratuitous vanilla, so I didn’t add any. You should feel free to, of course. I use whole milk; use the milk (or substitute) of your choice. Next time, I might use half and half. Live dangerously!

Gather your spices in a sauce pan:

Add water, simmer until the water is good and fragrant, and taking on color. If you like strongly flavored chai, simmer longer to make a spicier syrup.

Once you’ve got the level of spiciness you want, add your sweeteners and cook until they’re fully dissolved. Then add your milk and bring the mixture back up to not-quite-boiling.

This is a good time to taste it and make sure the sweetness is right for your taste. Then add your tea bags! I’m using generic ceylon from the grocery store. You could use good tea, if that’s what you have. Or rooibos, for a caffeine-free option. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Now it’s starting to look like chai!

Enjoy!

Yes, that’s a Curious George jelly jar.

Crystallized Ginger

I guess this is a week of “why didn’t I do this sooner?” Thanks to Joe’s prodding we’re finally seen the outcome of the long-awaited cinnamon pull-apart bread, and now, the most ridiculously easy thing ever, crystallized ginger.

Seriously, super easy. The biggest roadblock to making this was when I discovered that we didn’t have as much ginger as I wanted, and also laziness. I was inspired by this LifeHacker post, which was in turn inspired by America’s Test Kitchen. I have a serious love-hate thing with ATK/Cook’s Illustrated, I’m not going to lie. Sometimes they offer brilliant solutions that really make home cooking better, but just as often they go down an arcane garden path of nitpicky low-brow food-snobbery that makes me think they’ve never actually encountered a home cook. Luckily, their approach to candied ginger is the former.

First: get some ginger! You know how we feel about ginger in this household, so I used a lot.

Peel it! Cut it into candy-sized pieces!

Make some simple syrup! (One cup sugar, one cup water)

Put your ginger in your syrup! Then discover that you have not made enough syrup for your huge amount of ginger, and add more sugar and water. Then simmer until the ginger is tender, which may take approximately forever. It took several hours for mine to get to the point I wanted it at. Your mileage may vary.

Once it’s tender, fish it out of the syrup and put it on a rack to cool and dry. Then walk away. Go see a movie. Do your Christmas shopping, whatever. Don’t do anything with it until it’s really good and dry. Tacky to the touch is what you want, not any kind of damp or moist. Some of mine stayed on the rack, some fell to the baking sheet. The ones on the sheet didn’t dry right.

At this point you actually have candied ginger. It’s edible! I think there’s a British product that’s basically this stage of ginger in syrup. I’m not sure what it’s used for, but I think it’s something Christmas-y.

Anyway, we want crystallized ginger, which is really just candied ginger with sugar stuck to it. Take the ginger! Put it in a bowl! Add some sugar! I used one half cup, the key is to have enough to toss around your ginger and get it good and coated. Then toss your ginger, and get it good and coated!

And that’s it! Crystallized ginger, easy as pie! And, extra bonus: the simple syrup has now been infused with serious ginger flavor. Add it to carbonated water for quicky ginger ale, use it to sweeten your tea, put it in a cocktail, enjoy!

Beyond the “why did I wait so long?” factor, this shares another trait with my last project: active time was probably about 10 minutes, spread out over a couple hours one night and the next morning. Easy and awesome!

Accompishment Unlocked: Cinnamon Pull-apart Bread!

Over the weekend I woke up with a serious desire for cinnamon rolls. Saturday morning is made for cinnamon rolls and cleaning the house. Bonus for me: I get up earlier than the rest of the house, especially on Saturday, so nobody is playing Skyrim, and I get a little quiet time to myself and the dog. I can even play video games, if I want, but I almost never do. Usually, what I do is pick up the house and make some breakfast.

I didn’t take any pictures of the dough-in-progress. I have been really enjoying using the bread machine to do the sticky/mixy/hands-on part of bread making. A tiny part of me feels bad about it, but really, it’s kind of the best. There’s a reason I have the bread machine, after all – I like homemade bread, and I like that the machine makes it easy and efficient. I’ll try to be better about taking pictures of that part of the process.

Aaaaanyway… my quiet toodling around Saturday morning was interrupted right at the point when I had rolled out the dough and covered it in a lake of melted butter and cinnamon-sugar. And honey.

A delicious lake of butter, cinnamon and honey

Me: I’m making cinnamon rolls!
Joe: I stumbled upon this thing the other day that was like a loaf of cinnamon bread, but all in layers.
Me: THAT! I’m going to make that!

So instead of rolling that bad boy into a tube and making rolls, I used the bench knife to cut it into quarters, then cut each quarter into 8 or 10 rectangular pieces. I didn’t take a picture of that, because fail. Then I crossed my fingers and hoped that I wasn’t going to cover my counter in butter-honey-cinnamon-sugar-goo, and started stacking the rectangles.

I stacked them pretty haphazardly, doing my best to keep them approximately upright. At no point in this process did I refer to an actual recipe; I’m sure there’s a better technique for accomplishing pull-apart bread, but this one did just fine.

This is literally immediately after it came out of the pan:

Yes, that’s a big chunk of the end missing, because people were eating it faster than I could photograph it. Except for the part where I wanted a picture of it, that’s not a problem.

Mmm, pretty, pretty cinnamon bread.

I’ll definitely be making this again. The layers mean that there’s no specific portion size, unlike a cinnamon roll. I may have eaten an unreasonable amount of this, but it’s impossible to know. I ate some layers, that’s all! Also, my utter seat-of-the-pants no-plan approach didn’t do it a bit of harm. I could’ve made some icing, but the lack of it was not a problem. And, thanks to the bread machine, the active time on this was probably 10 minutes, total. Not bad for a lazy Saturday morning.

Some things I love this week

Hi!

I’ve been thinking about some of the things that are kind of awesome right now, and that might be of use to you. Has something been totally making you smile lately? Tell me about it in the comments!

This is the best vegetable corer in the world. I have destroyed multiple melon ballers. They are not a particularly well-made kitchen product to begin with (that teeny, tiny weld! So fragile!), and they just can’t stand up to the task of taking the cores out of multiple fruits. Tragic! Not this one, though – This one has been going strong for WEEKS! Maybe longer. It has cored a lot of pears, and shows no signs of slowing down. I think the secret is that the open back means that there’s not a lot of pressure on the little weld, but that’s pure speculation.

Serrated vegetable peeler! It looks gimmicky, and I was, frankly, super skeptical when one was gifted to me. But it’s awesome! It’s particularly awesome if you’re peeling something with a delicate skin. Like, for example, pears. Also does a great job on sweet potatoes and carrots. I feel like it doesn’t get stuck, and despite the fact that I frequently hit my thumb with it, it doesn’t tear up my skin.

Customized tours! Seattle is full of awesome things, how will you choose which ones to do? Nell at Localist Seattle runs an awesome little company that will build a customized tour to suit your interests. I have often been in a new city and felt overwhelmed by the task of choosing what to do. I don’t want to do the tourist things! If you’re coming to visit Seattle (or have family coming!), book a tour with Nell, see the city like a local!

Hot chocolate! I shouldn’t have caffeine late in the afternoon. But I am cold, and I love coffee. Compromise? Victrola’s barely-sweetened, just-hot-enough hot chocolate. Good gravy, a good hot chocolate is a thing of beauty.

Making you pie! Yeah, OK, I haven’t actually started making these pies yet (it’s too soon!) but even the planning stages are awesome. And yes, I do think I’m awesome. Do you not think you’re awesome? You totally should.

Never a dull moment

Hello!

Are you guys excited for another day of beautiful autumn weather in Seattle? We got to start enjoying it especially early, when some kids on their way to school woke us up to tell us there was a dog on our roof. And indeed, the upstairs neighbors’ dog had let himself out a window and was pacing frantically along the gutter.

Good times.

The dog on the roof has been the funniest, but not most disruptive, feature of our week. I reached into the oven on Tuesday and thought, “hey, it’s been a long time since I burned my-” Yeah, you can guess how that one ended. Then there was the thing with the pumpkin in the road, which has resulted in my being unable to tolerate wearing a shoe today. (I’m not going to go into detail about that story here. Suffice it to say: my foot hurts, but I am otherwise uninjured. I’ll tell you in person, if you need to know.)

Oh, what a week. At least it’s beautiful outside. And I’ll say this: in a month full of thankfulness, I am deeply grateful for the good people around me, both friends and strangers. Not every teenager would have taken it on themselves to knock on the door of a house with a dog on the roof, rather than just laughing about it in the street. High fives to the people raising the kids that did it this morning. (Will say this: despite living quite close to a high school, we have very few problems with teenagers. It’s a nice feeling.)

Now that everybody is off the roof and our excitement is over, it’s back to making pies for me. If you have a chance to get outside, take advantage! Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and windy (but at least you’ll be able to comfort yourself with pie cookies!).

The McDistasterous is Real

This is so not pie, hell, it’s not even food by many peoples standards. I submit for your amusement the McDisasterous (2x McRibs and a medium french fries). The Internet claims no one has ever died of McRib poisoning.

I am hopeful that the pain in my stomach is not the early warning system for my eventual death. But, if I don’t make it please share my stories so my death won’t be in vain.

McDisasterous and Turducken of Pie

Last year due to a slow work schedule and being next to a KFC I challenged myself to eat what I called the Quadstrocity. The Quadstrocity was two KFC Double Downs smooshed together. It took me 17 minutes and I was unable to excrete properly for 2-days.

This has lead to two new semi-obsessions:

  1. Inventing the Turducken of Pie
  2. Eating a McDisasterous
Rose has yet to make the turducken of pie for me, but I’m sure if you make lots of comments she will be forced to make me one. And then I will eat it on camera. The McDisasterous, in my mind, is two McRibs¬†and a Medium Fries all smooshed together. My goal is to consume the entire McDisaterous in < 5 minutes. I will do it and recorded it if even one person asks for it in the comments.
Sincerely,
Mr. Pie

Competition pie!

Aaah, it’s almost showdown time!

Entering competitions is really weird for me. I don’t like losing. I don’t even like the possibility of losing. My ever-eloquent friend Geraldine put it very well in a tweet that I just spent an inordinate amount of time finding: There are only going to be winners in this battle. If nothing else, I have already triumphed over my aversion to competition. (though you’ll notice that I have no aversion to trash-talking. What is wrong with me?)

Anyway, best of luck to everyone competing today! I look forward to stuffing my face with lovingly crafted baked goods!

mmm, pie crust

I may be a little OCD

Shiny and New!

Hi there!

You may notice that things look a little different around here today. We’re so excited!

You know I love making you pie, right? It’s fun! You love pie! I love pie! This job is awesome!

If you’ve been following the adventures over here for a while, though, you probably realize that pie is not my only love. And the best thing about love is sharing it, right? So I’m happy to announce that Grumpy Pie is going to start bringing you more of the things that I love, in more ways.

In addition to our existing Custom Pie Delivery service, Grumpy Pie will now be providing home instruction in a variety of skills.

Want to learn to bake a great pie? Maybe you love pickles and want to try your hand at making your own sauerkraut! Or perhaps you’re ready to start knitting?

I love the richness that these skills bring into my life, and I want to share them with you. Let’s make some stuff!

Let's get to work!