Thursday, May 31, 2012

New Brew Thursday - IPA Double Tap . . . Goose Island IPA and Ghandi Bot

The first IPA is Goose Island IPA . . . It's served on tap at our Wednesday wings-n-beer hangout and it's a good honkin' beer.  

This is my second Goose Island review (see other review).  Goose Island was once a little upstart company but is now Anheuser-Busch.  A downside in my book but I still like the brews.

Goose Island’s IPA is an English-style IPA. Although this is an English IPA it is brewed with Centennial and Cascade hops along with a pair of English style hops, four varieties total. It's the Centennial and Cascade hops that give Goose Island IPA a distinctly American flavor.  

The beer is a rich golden color with a white head that hugs the side of the glass leaving very nice lacing behind.   This is an earthy tasting beer with piney, floral, almost grassy flavor with a kind of citrussy pineapple finish.  

It's a pleasant beer to drink, it's perfectly carbonated, medium bodied and refreshing.  Goose Island has very good IPA taste with out being overpowering; not bitter and nicely balance.  

Overall, a good IPA and fits the bill when I'm looking for a little extra flavor.  5.9% ABV

Visit the Goose Island website for more information on this or their other offerings.  Be sure to check out their Facebook page, as well.

The second IPA is Gandhi-Bot which is brewed by New England Brewing Company (see my other NEBC review).

Gandhi-Bot is a heavy hitter as far as IPA's go . . . it's an Imperial style double IPA.  It packs quite a wallup in both flavor and alcohol content (8.8% ABV)

Gandhi-bot pours an amber color.  The full, long-lasting head grabs the glass.  Layer after layer of lacing appears sip after sip.  It looked like a strip mine excavation in my beer glass.

The aroma is OMG hoppy with the flavor to back it up.  My first reaction to the first taste of this beer was "WOW!"  and then "wow!".  Then I settled back and very much enjoyed this brew.

The very piney, very grapefruity, slightly sweet flavor was incredibly well balanced and smooth.  The intense of flavors . . . not for the light weight IPA drinker . . . finish with a lingering hoppy bitterness that begs for another sip.  And then another.

A seriously good IPA.  NEBC has out-done themselves with this one and I'll be keeping a few on hand for an IPA emergency.

I really, really like this one!  Grab yourself a pack and prepare to be wowed!

For more information check out NEBC's website or visit them on Facebook.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How my garden grows - The questionable carrot

Questionable Carrot
While pulling out the never ending crop of weeds invading my garden space I came across one was that was incredibly stubborn.  It was so impossible to pull up by hand that I had to resort to using a shovel to dig the thing up.

I pulled it out only to discover what looked like a carrot . . . a really big carrot.  It was logical for me to assume it actually was a carrot based on it's location.  You see, I had planted carrots in that same spot last season.

Queen Anne's Lace
I showed my hubby and he insisted that it wasn't a carrot but Queen Anne's Lace  . . . i.e. a wild carrot from which today's cultivated carrots owe their roots.  Roots . . . heheh . . . get it?

Anyway . . . since cultivated carrots and wild carrots are so similar in appearance and our garden spot has a proliferation of the weeds, I suppose it is possible that he may be correct . . . but I still think I'm right.

Carrots and Queen Anne's Lace have similar foliage, similar roots, smell distinctly carrot-like and both are edible.  Although, the wild carrot is most palatable while still young and tender as it get's a very woody texture as it matures.  Much of this woodiness has been bred out of the cutlivated carrot.

Queen's Anne's Lace are most recognizable because of it's flower; so called because the flower resembles lace.  The flower itself is actually many smaller flowers clustered together to look like one large flower.

Carrot Flower

Cultivated carrots do flower but they are generally harvested before the flower gets a chance to set.  This is because they are biennial,  meaning they will flower in their second year but not in their first.

Poison Hemlock

A word of warning:  poison hemlock . . . which is indeed poisonous, even deadly . . . looks very very similar to Queen Anne's Lace.  The biggest differences between the two are Queen Anne's Lace has fuzzy stems and smell like carrots when broken.  Whereas, poison hemlock has a smooth, purple splotched stem and smells terrible when broken.  If your not sure . . . don't eat it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How my Garden Grows - You've got to be kidding me!

Four days ago on a lovely . . . if not hot . . . Saturday morning, I planted beautiful, healthy cucumber plants.  I've watered and weeded around them every day.  They've looked nice and happy in their new homes since I put them in the ground . . . 

until this morning.  This morning at 0
'dark:30 I went to the garden to do my daily maintenance . . . pulling weeds, watering, checking the plants.  I was in for a bit of a surprise . . . a nasty one.  

My cucumber plants, which up until yesterday were unmolested and thriving, looked sad and wilted and chewed up!

You have got  to be kidding me!  

Upon closer inspection, the culprit was looking me square in the face . . . literally.   Squash and cucumber beetles.

This is the first time they've invaded my garden but this is the first time they showed up so quickly and devastatingly. (see related posts here, here and here.)

I haven't seen any larva . . . which are revolting!  So, I'm guessing they made their way into my plot by wing.

In their adult form they look colorful and friendly . . . in some forms they actually look very similar to our beneficial friend the ladybug!  Don't be fooled!  The bugs will destroy your cucumber and squash plants in very little time . . . as evidenced in my garden over the past day.

There are plenty of pesticides . . . like Sevin . . . that are extremely effective in eradicating this disgusting pests.  However, I am faced with the challenge of being in an organic community garden that restricts using chemical solutions.

A satisfying but impermanent method is squishing any bugs, larva and eggs you see on the plant.  Obviously, this will not deter them or prevent them from coming back.

Companion planting helps as well, but it is not immediate nor is it full proof . . . cucumber beetles and squash bugs don't like garlic, chives, mint nasturtiums, marigolds and radishes.  I would strongly caution about planting, mint in your garden as it is as invasive as any weed and is nearly impossible to get rid of.

Some natural solutions are Neem Oil Soap and Hot Pepper & Garlic Solutions and Orange Oil Solution. 

The one I've used in the past with moderate success is a homemade Orange Oil Pesticide:

1 Gallon of Water
2 oz. of Orange Oil
2 Bulbs of Garlic
2 Cayenne Peppers

If you want the satisfaction of making your own orange oil, it is really quite easy . . . please see my blog post on this subject. 

Place the garlic bulbs and cayenne peppers in a blender and liquefy.

Mix the garlic/pepper liquid with one gallon of water.

Add your orange oil to the water and mix all of the ingredients together. This makes a concentrated natural pesticide.

Place three tablespoons of the concentrate in an empty spray bottle. Fill the spray bottle with water. Use on your plants.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 28, 2012

How my garden grows - Garlic

Last summer I planted garlic in the spring.  I was disappointed when they never emerged.  Later in the summer I found some bulbs that had gotten lost in the fridge and had started to sprout.  As an experiment, I planted in the garden to see what would happen.  Again with the disappointment . . . not much.

But this spring when we went to the garden to get it ready for the planting season I was surprised and pleased to find that the garlic had not only survived the winter but was thriving!  Woot!

Overwintering garlic is a great way to keep a crop of garlic going from year to year.  Ideally, plant the garlic bulbs late in the season before the ground freezes.  Plant the cloves flat side down, pointy end up.

Come spring just leave them alone, water them and let them grow.

Besides being pungent and delicious after the harvest, garlic is beneficial to other veggies in your garden.     Garlic discourages aphids, fleas, Japanese beetles, and spider mites.  But attract good insects like ladybugs.

Scapes are the curling part of the plant right before it flowers. Cut them off before they flower to force more energy into the bulbs.  But don’t throw the scapes away . . . use them in recipes to add mild, garlic flavor. 

Later in the season, when the leaves start to brown, you should stop watering them.   When the stems start to wither but are still a little bit green your garlic is ready to harvest.  

Enjoy your home grown garlic, but be sure to save some of the garlic bulbs to replant for overwintering. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

How my garden grows . . . more from the garden

Flowers look pretty in the garden but that's not why I plant them there.  I plant them for the good things they do for my edible crops.  Marigolds repel bugs and rabbits, so I plant them up close to my plants.  Nasturtiums, besides being edible in their own right, attract aphids and other bugs away from the other plants.

I had some concerns about the peas I planted last week being duds . . . well, my concern was unfounded . . . yesterday there were no sprouts and today . . . well, see of yourself . . . pea sprouts!

This morning I planted more seeds . . . 

pole beans from seeds that were donated from a friend. I shoeved some stakes in the ground and strung up some string for them to climb.  I planted six seeds around the base of each pole and will thin them out when they grow and I can determine which plants are most viable.

I also planted beets, lettuce, and basil.  All easy to grow and will show quick results.  I'm looking forward to the early crops they will provide.
The best  . . . and most important . . . part of working in the garden is watering.  It's vital to make sure you give your plants a good soaking.    A good soaking allows the roots to grow deep and strong.   Too little water and the roots will grow shallow and you'll have weak plants that don't produce a good volume of vegetables.   

How my garden grows . . . week two . . . happy plants and new entries.

After a week of rain, rain, rain the plants and seeds I planted last week are healthy and happy.  The green beans have sprouted, the tomatoes are growing and the zucchini plants are happy.  The peas have not sprouted due to one of two factors . . . my son planted them too deep and they are still making their way to the surface or they just haven't had time to germinate . . . I'll give them until next weekend to make an appearance before I decide what to do.

Last week I also planted some heirloom tomatoes called Mr. Stripey . . . they're doing well, too.
Today I planted 10 mounts of pickling cucumbers.  I'm looking forward to a big crop because I plan to  . . . dum dee dum . . . pickle them!

Can't wait!

I planted four variety of peppers . . . sweet bells, habaneros, jalapenos and hot Hungarian wax peppers . . . obviously, we love our hot stuff and I'm looking forward to stuffing, pickling and drying these babies!

In the midst of weeding I came across a very large and well entrenched weed.  With the help of a spade and muscle power I wrenched that sucker free . . . it wasn't a weed!  It was a carrot that over wintered.  

The garden is loaded with worms!  I couldn't be happier . . . worm casings make the best fertilizer and they aerate the soil.

Weeds . . . the bane of my garden . . . they are all over and they are entrenched with deep, long roots.  Half the time I get lucky and manage to get a good pull and end up with long roots.  It will be a long battle all summer long . . . I hope I win the war!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A clean house is a sign of a wasted life

Nobody likes to clean . . . well, I don't so I just assume nobody else likes the chore.  Anyway, one of the worst parts of cleaning  . . . besides the dirt, grime and grossness . . . are all the harsh chemicals in cleaning products.  Admittedly, they are effective but they're not good for you and they're not good for Mother Earth.

A simple, extremely cheap and all-natural cleaning combo are a couple of items that you probably already have in you kitchen . . . lemons and table salt.

On their own or combined together they kick  dirt's butt!

Salt all by itself is great for cleaning.  It's a mild abrasive and kills germs.  Salt sprinkled on spillovers and oven drips while they are still liquid absorbs the drips.  Simply, wipe the mess away when it cools.  Salt is also especially good at breaking up grease and oils.

 Lemon juice is an acid.  It not only cleans, but smell great, too.  Clean surfaces that are susceptible to scratches by rubbing with lemons or lemon juice for gentle cleansing.

Lemon and salt together can be used for many general household cleaning jobs, such as cleaning sinks and tiles and glass.  (not good for waxed or marble surfaces).

Sprinkle salt in your kitchen sink and use a lemon cut in half to scrub the surfaces clean.  In the shower or tub just dip that lemon in the bowl of salt, rub on all the surfaces. The lemon juice, with the help of the abrasiveness of the salt literally eats the soap scum!

Give it a shot.  You'll be impressed with how powerful these two completely natural cleaners are.  Enjoy the extra jingles in your pocket.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Firewater Friday - Quote this

When I was a teenager everything was like this or like that . . . like like like like like . . . yeah, like that.  In fact, I so abused the word like that my mother forbade me to speak it . . . it was so impossible that I was practically speechless for like an entire month.

The use of 'like' in this manner is called the “like quotative”.  It's most prevailant in the United States among teenage girls . . . but the phenomena is global in English speaking countries.

A quotative is grammatical tool to notate reported speech and is typically enclosed in quotations in written speech.

The use of 'like' is . . . uhm . . . like a conveyance of an attitude or an approximation of a statement as opposed to an exact quote.

Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like "whoa", and we were like "whoa", and you were like "whoa..." 

]It's interesting to note that in the mid 20th century another word became a new quotative . . . 'go'. 

Much like teenagers today say . . . She was like, "that was totally rad" and then he was all like, "nah, it was so dry".

People then were saying:  And he goes, "that dame is the cat's meow" and then he goes "be careful, she's a moll"

The use of 'like' has become a linguistic tsunami . . . the like quotative has gone from practically nonexistent usage to a common manner of speech in a relatively short period of time.  And although it crested in the 80's 'like's' usage is receding.

A newer quotative is the 'all' quotative.  You know he was all, “I don’t know.”

The English language ebbs and flows . . . it gets used and abused.  I admit I abuse it all the time . . . but I'm all like whatever.  

White Zinfandel-Infused Strawberry Ice Pops 

6 to 8 large strawberries
4 ounces of raw cane sugar
4 fluid ounces of water
8 Ounces white zinfandel  

Combine sugar and water in saucepan. Gently heat while stirring until sugar completely dissolves.

Remove from heat and allow syrup to completely cool.

Rinse strawberries and pat dry. With paring knife, remove stems.

Lightly puree strawberries with wine.  

Combine puree with cooled syrup.

Pour into molds, add sticks, and freeze until solid (about four to 6 hours). 

Unmold and serve, or place in plastic bags for storage.