Monday, March 23, 2015

Homebrew Crash Management

Photo by Ashley E. Cummings

Funny homebrewing story...ok, terrible homebrewing story!..I went to cool down my wort only to discover that all the water coming from my faucet was now murky! I went to put the pot on the fire escape.  Guess what?  The gate was locked, and I have misplaced the key...yeah, that's safe.  Last resort, just cleared out my freezer to make room for the brew. Just a 1 gallon batch...poor frozen veggies!  Fingers crossed for this one!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What to Do With All This Spent Grain?

Photo Credit: Ashley E. Cummings

I'm experimenting with my own homebrew.  That's one of the goals I set for my 2015...make good beer.  Only started brewing a couple of days ago. No insane amount of stank from far so good.  I've got at least a month before I can enjoy the fruits of my labor, Brooklyn Brew Shop's Everyday IPA. But in the meantime, I'm left with all this used grain=spent grain.  When making beer, you heat some grain blend (barley, wheat) in water.  Once you sift out the grain, you're left with a sugary brown liquid called wort and a whole lot of wet grain.

I don't like waste, specifically food waste, so I was determined to transform it into something.  Union Craft, in Baltimore, works with local farmers who pick up the used grain, so it can be added to their animal's feed.  I won't generate enough to justify a trip, so of course, I'm thinking of repurposing.  The wet grain wasn't too bad on its own, but I wanted to do something a little less boring than eat wet grain for 2 weeks.  Luckily, Brooklyn Brew Shop had a great tip for making spent grain flour.  Everything is going to plan so far.  I put my grain on a baking sheet...well, 2 baking, I'm letting them dry out in a 200 degree oven.  It's been about 6 hours.  Once I let it cool, I'll probably only ground down 1 sheet of the dried grain into flour in a food processor.  I think it'll be fun to play around with 2 different textures. 

The dried grain smells delicious already.  I think I might me a little too hype about crisped up grain!  Good thing though. If making beer continues to be this fun, I'm going to have a lot of spent grain.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Egg Nog Bread Pudding Made with Donuts

Egg Nog Bread Pudding Made with Donuts

Just in case you can't tell.  I'm cleaning out my fridge.  The egg nog must go!  I was cringing as I went to trash some old donuts yesterday. They were an unexpected surprise from some office event.  I received like 7 in total.  The perfect number.  I managed to get through 3.  I was left with 2 glazed and 2 apple-filled.  My love of donuts kicked in right on time.  This must have been done before, right?  Egg nog is just a hooked up custard. 

The stale donuts soaked up the nog well.  I thought about adding more egg, but I had just ran out...and it's raining.  The bread pudding set up pretty well without the additional egg.  Buttering the pan and letting it cool in the tin helped it release a lot cleaner. 

I topped it with some ice organic ice cream that I had in the fridge along with maple syrup and walnuts.  I am definitely keeping this one in the back pocket for next year!  Never waste a donut again!


So Much Leftover Cornbread...What to Do?

Stuffed Peppers
One thing about in-house recipe end up with a lot of leftovers.  I ate so many Hoppin' John Cornbread Muffins the other day.  I decided that in an effort to not waste food, I'd better think of a way to repurpose them.  Stuffing seemed obvious.  I wasn't in the mood for a traditional holiday dressing.  Rather, I did a spin on an Italian classic and stuffed green peppers with some revved up cornbread.  How'd you do that, Ashley?  Oh, I'm glad you asked.  I crumbled up some muffins in a bowl just with a fork.  I'm sure I could have thrown the cornbread in a food processor, but the fork seemed simple enough.   I added cranberries, shredded smoked Gouda cheese and extra virgin olive oil.  I didn't add a lot of oil.  Just enough to moisten it up a bit.  About a tablespoon per jumbo muffin.  Once I removed the tops and seeds of the peppers, I seasoned them up with olive oil salt and pepper.  In hindsight, I would have charred the peppers on the stove to soften them up and get some additional depth of flavor.  I hand-packed the stuffing in the peppers.  I did not hold back.  You shouldn't either!  I let them cook in a preheated 350°F oven just until the stuffing heated through...about 20 minutes.
Stuffed Acorn Squash

I applied the same technique to acorn squash.  I cut a squash in half widthwise for 2 servings.  I hallowed out the halves with a spoon.  The squash was hit with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  I used my hands to rub the seasoning all over the squash, inside and out.  I allowed the squash to roast in the oven by placing the cut side down on a pan.  I lined my pan with foil, because I'm lazy and cleaning out the pan wasn't something I was feeling at the time.  They roasted in a 350°F oven until the interior was soft and turned golden around the edges...about 30 minutes.  The cooked squash was again hand packed with the stuffing mixture.  I added some leftover broccoli this time.  One of my New Year's Resolutions: waste less food.  Once the stuffing heated through, I was ready to enjoy. 

Fish with Cornbread Stuffing
The fish was another good and quick way to use up the muffins.  I loaded the center of a seasoned fish fillet with the stuffing and simply had rolled the fish around it.  I gave the fish a quick drizzle with some oil and baked it at 325°F until the fish firmed up and cooked through.  Should take 12-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

So, to wrap up, there are tons of things that you can do to repurpose leftovers.  Get creative in the new year and leave nothing to waste!

Photo Credits: Ashley E. Cummings

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hoppin' John Cornbread Muffins

Photo Credit: Ashley E. Cummings

Hoppin' John Cornbread Muffins

Traditional components of the Southern New Year's staple, Hoppin' John, work in harmony to create these yummy muffins.  What a way to ring in a year of prosperity!  Serve warm with butter as a brunch feature or hearty on-the-go snack.  You can also serve them with soup to complete the meal.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6 jumbo muffins


6 slices of bacon, roughly chopped
½ cup white onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ pound collard greens, finely chopped
  salt to taste
  black pepper to taste
  hot sauce to taste

1 ¼ cup cornmeal
½ cup white flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons, butter melted
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup canned black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained, and slightly smashed


1.)  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease the inside of a jumbo muffin pan.

2.)  Slowly cook the bacon in a wide skillet over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon and place on paper towel.  Carefully pour off all but a tablespoon of the resulting bacon drippings.  Reserve the drippings for later use.  Sauté the onion in the pan drippings.  Once the onions are tender and begin to brown, add the vinegar to the hot pan with the onions.  Watch out!  The steam from the vinegar is going to hit you in the face!  Stir the onions and vinegar around while removing any brown bits from the pan.  Reduce the vinegar until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Add the greens to the pan.  Slowly move around the greens with the onion.  The volume will decrease.  Cook down the greens until the stems are soft.  Season the greens with salt, pepper, and hot sauce; set aside to cool.

3.)  Whisk together the cornmeal, white flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.  In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, melted butter, honey,  vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of the remaining bacon drippings.

4.)  Combine the contents of both bowls until just incorporated.  The batter will be thick and somewhat lumpy.  Coarsely chop the cooked bacon and fold into the batter with the beans and cooled greens.

5.)  Evenly distribute the batter into the greased muffin cups.  An ice cream scoop works great for this.

6.)  Bake until tops turn golden brown and a toothpick can be cleanly removed from the center of the muffins.  About 30 minutes.

NOTE:  A standard muffin pan for 12 can also be used for this recipe.  The baking time will go down to about 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

For National Cookie Day...Almond Shortbread Cookies

I went to one of my favorite quirky discount stores yesterday.  In addition to some interesting combinations of consumer packaged goods, they also have a pretty nice assortment of gluten-free flours.  So, I picked up some coconut flour yesterday.  Also, I've been staring at this package of almond paste for months. I decided to kill 3 birds with one stone by 1) experimenting with coconut flour, 2) getting rid of this almond paste, and 3) paying homage to National Cookie Day. 
Let me know if you give this recipe a try.  It's pretty easy.  The subtle flavor of coconut is pretty nice.  If you decide not to do the sandwich cookies, just take a moment to slather a couple of cookies with cocoa hazelnut  Enjoy ;-)
Almond Shortbread Cookies, inspired by Odense

Preparation: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 8 minutes

Yield: 36 cookies

  • 3.5 ounces of almond paste
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Kosher salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder


Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor, break up the almond paste into crumbs.  It tends to clump up into a hard mass.

Add the butter, sugar, extract, and salt.  Process until combined.  With the processor still in motion, add the yolk.  Continue to process to incorporate the yolk. 

In another bowl, sift together the flours and baking powder.

Add the flours and baking powder into the food processor with the other ingredients.  Process to combine all the ingredients.  Take a break, and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides.  Process a little longer to incorporate.

Transfer the dough to a pastry bag.  Portion the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Greasing the baking sheet with butter works, too.

TIP: You can use a plastic freezer bag if a pastry bag is not available.  Just fill and cut one of the bottom openings.  What? You don't have that either?  Go old school and place the cookies on the paper using a couple of spoons.

Smooth out the top of your dough with a small amount of water on your finger for presentation.

Place the dough in the preheated oven for about 8 minutes or until the edges have begun to brown.  Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on a cooking rack before enjoying.

OPTIONAL: Create sandwich cookies by placing 1/2 a tablespoon of cocoa hazelnut spread between 2 cookies.  These cookies look great with a quick dusting of powdered sugar.