Archive for the 'Cooking' Category

Homemade Cough Syrup

Feb 27 2013 Published by under Cooking

Homemade Cough Syrup

Homemade Cough Syrup

This is the cough syrup of good intentions.

I like making homemade things. Since I’ve been fighting some kind of super-illness for the past few weeks, I researched a few recipes for homemade cough syrup.

There are two main varieties: one based on apple cider vinegar, and another based on honey. It should be no surprise that I tried the latter option.

This cough syrup is simple: 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup olive oil, plus about 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. The first two certain soothe the throat, while the ubiquity of citrus in cold remedies gives it a vote in my book.

I combined the honey and olive oil in a small pot on the stove over medium-low heat (about 25%), and cooked until it started to simmer. I then stirred in the lemon juice, waited for it to cool, and poured it into a mason jar.

The result? It’s moderately effective. When I take about a tablespoon, I can feel it coat my throat, and my symptoms ease. However, I still cough a bit, and it doesn’t last long.

I’m a bit disappointed, though perhaps I’m expecting too much. I want to try a vinegar-based syrup next, but for now, I have cough syrup with no weird chemicals or side effects. Success!

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Apple Cinnamon Bread

Sep 15 2010 Published by under Cooking

Apple Cinnamon Bread


  • Bread machine
  • Appropriately-sized pan or a baking sheet


  • 1 small apple
  • 150 grams water
  • 4 Tablespoons butter
  • 520 grams bread flour
  • 3 Tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast


  1. Peel and dice the apple.
  2. Place the ingredients in the above order in the bread machine.
  3. Put the bread machine on the dough cycle and start it.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 425° F.
  5. Once the dough is ready, place it in the pan or put it on a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when knocked.

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The Hyper-Local Challenge

Aug 03 2010 Published by under Cooking

Thought Experiment: Could I get to the point where 100% of the food I eat for myself is made from local ingredients?

It’s an interesting thought. Let’s establish a few parameters:

  1. “Local” means within 100 miles.
  2. This doesn’t count social meals; going out with co-workers for drinks or taking friends or family out to a restaurant.
  3. I wouldn’t force this on my hosts if a guest at someone eles’s house, nor would I force it on my own guests.

First question: How about local restaurants? I can’t be sure that their ingredients are local. So that’s out.

"Summer Vegetable Garden" by di_the_huntress on Flickr

"Summer Vegetable Garden" by di_the_huntress on Flickr

So. Let’s stroll through my fridge, freezer, and cabinets, and see how big of a challenge thus would be.

  • Dairy — I already get my dairy from a local farm.
  • Meat — Ditto.
  • Vegetables — I could freeze and can vegetables in the growing season.
  • Fruit — Ditto.
  • Condiments — Well, Heinz didn’t invent ketchup. I could always make my own; that’s how housewives did it 100 years ago.
  • Flour and cornmeal — There are actually local mills that mill flour, though I’d have to get a lot at once (2 to 5 pounds).  That’s not unreasonable.
  • Sugar — Fortunately, sugar can be substituted with honey in most recipes.
  • Beans — Grow my own, or buy local varieties. Fortunately, I don’t eat a lot of beans, so this wouldn’t be a huge burden.
  • Nuts — I do know of several local nut farms.
  • Rice — Okay, this just can’t be done. So, I suppose, I just wouldn’t eat rice at home.
  • Salt, pepper, and other spices — Also impossible.
  • Flavored extracts

What about other ingredients that simply can’t be grown locally, like coconut and pineapple? For the purposes of this experiment, and for now, they’re banned from consumption.

How do I eat in the winter, when no food is grown? Same as my ancestors: can food during the growing season, or use easily-preserved foods like dried beans. Plus, thanks to my local dairy, I can have meat and dairy in any season.

I could actually get pretty close to my 100% goal, if I wanted to. I don’t, yet.  But now that I’ve worked the numbers, a part of my brain is pointing out how healthy this would be.


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Jul 29 2010 Published by under Cooking

I’ve been eating a lot of Domino’s pizza lately.

I’ve been busy, watching a lot of movies and TV shows, reading, and writing. I realized that I need to focus on chewing through all that material, so I simply don’t have time to make meals from scratch.

But I want to. More importantly, my stomach wants to. Processed foods typically upset my stomach, like drunk tourists messing up the place.

Once I’ve finished enough of my piles, I’ll get back to serious cooking. Meanwhile, I won’t feel 100%.

Life’s not simple.

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Jul 26 2010 Published by under Cooking

My Mom was never much of a soup person.

She’s always liked soups, but in the same way that people like cocktail peanuts or turf grass. When I think of my Mom’s cooking, I remember her chicken cordon bleu, her strawberry whipped cream cake, her divine chocolate fudge cake, her crusty French bread, her unimaginably soft homemade pasta. I don’t remember any soups. I’m sure she made some, but none glued themselves into my memory.

I’ve never loved soups in the same way that, say, the French seem to obsess over them. Soup’s always operated like a cream sauce for me — tasty, in its own way, but never a main dish.

Then I read Molly Wizenberg‘s A Homemade Life, in which she makes a strong case for soups. In particular, soup for lunch. Suddenly, soups make sense.

I always have a tough time with lunch at work. Offices never seem equipped to properly reheat leftovers, and I find myself eating like a hobo out of a sagging plastic tub. Plus, so many things really shouldn’t reheat at the same temperature; I want my roast beef hot, not the bread and lettuce as well.

(Sure, I could separate them, but then I become That Guy, the one who spends twenty minutes assembling his leftovers.)

Soups, though, are perfect for leftovers. Pop them in a big container, bring it to work along with a bowl and spoon, and you’re good to go. Bring a bag full of sliced homemade bread, and lunch becomes a meal.

Now my problem lies in finding a good soup to make. I’ve picked three tomatoes from my garden, so I’m contemplating a tomato soup. Unfortunately, I’ve never liked tomato soup. But maybe that’s because of my upbringing. No offense to my amazing cook of a Mom, but I think I need to get over my soup complex, and learn to love soup.

My Dad loves clam chowder, but that’s another story.

2 responses so far

Homemade Stuff

Jul 06 2010 Published by under Cooking,Self-improvement

"Cooking" by HilaryQuinn on Flickr

"Cooking" by HilaryQuinn on Flickr

I like to make my own stuff. I’d love to make my own furniture, clothes, etc., and I’m starting with food and daily household items.

Here’s what I currently make myself:

  • Food (very little homemade in the past few weeks, as I focus on finishing up my RPG materials for the month)
  • Laundry detergent
  • Fabric softener — I use 1/4 cup of baking soda in the basin and 1/4 cup of vinegar in the dispenser.
  • Dishwasher detergent — Unfortunately, it leaves spots. Big, obvious spots. Haven’t found a solution.
  • Vegetable wash — Vinegar and water, I think in a 1:4 ratio.

Things I’d like to make myself:

  • Granola bars — Done it before, and I’d like to replace the Clif bars I eat every morning.
  • Cookies — I like to take tea in the afternoon at work, and homemade chocolate chip cookies are the perfect accompaniment.  Used to do this a lot; haven’t done it in months.
  • Yogurt — To replace the  yogurt I always eat in the morning. I actually already made this; I’ll try to remember to blog about it shortly.

None of this is difficult, or consumes large amounts of time. It’s just easier, quicker, more expensive, and less satisfying to grab a box off a grocery store shelf.

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Gingerbread Hot Cocoa Mix

Oct 12 2009 Published by under Cooking


My Mom still fills a Christmas stocking for me every year. It’s the same stocking I’ve had since I was little, one that she knitted for me herself (and it’s the biggest one, of course). Every years, she fills it with candy, bags of tea, and goofy little things. Last year, one of the things in it was a box of gingerbread hot cocoa mix.

It was delicious. I wanted more, and while my first impulse was to head online to buy it, I thankfully stopped and remembered that I make my own regular hot cocoa mix, so why not try to replicate this deliciousness myself?

I flipped over the container to the ingredients list. Besides the cocoa, sugar, and multi-syllabic wonders of modern chemistry listed, I discovered the two magic seasonings: ginger and cinnamon.

Well. That made sense.

So, here’s a recipe for gingerbread hot cocoa mix. Dump all of the following into a container and shake, shake, shake:

  • 2 ½ cups powdered milk
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (Dutch-processed, if possible)
  • 1 tsp salt (fine-grained, if you can)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ginger

Note that you may have to use a whisk or something similar to break down clumps of the confectioner’s sugar. Just look at the mix for clumps; if you see any, whisk away.

To make normal hot cocoa mix, skip the last two ingredients and add a little cayenne pepper.

May it comfort you on a cold day.

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How to make bread of any size, in any form

Oct 10 2009 Published by under Cooking

I’ve blogged before about my nascent bakery business and the process for putting ingredients in a bread machine. Now I’m going to share the secret formula for bread.


It’s 3 parts water, 5 parts flour, a little yeast, and a little salt.

That’s it.

What about the punching down and the rising and all that? That’s easy: 2–400. Mix it, let it rise, then “punch it down” (push it into itself). Do this a total of 2 times. Then put it into a 400° F oven until it’s golden brown and delicious.

You now know the Secret Formula. Use small amounts of water and flour for a small loaf, or a lot of water and flour for a large loaf. How much yeast is “a little”? Oh, maybe 2 teaspoons for a large-sized loaf. But it doesn’t really matter that much.

That’s part of the secret: Bread really isn’t as finicky as most people suggest. Keep to that formula, and you’ll have great bread.

What about variations? Fine; just add them to that formula, or replace if it’s similar to an existing item. So, if you want whole wheat bread, just replace some of the flour with whole wheat flour. If you’re adding lemon juice or syrup, count that as part of the water. But if you’re adding seeds or raisins or whatever…just add ’em.

Hey! You can now bake all kinds of bread. Congratulations!

I’m always here to answer any questions you may have, too.

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Cooking and The Flavor Bible

Oct 05 2009 Published by under Cooking

Cooking is hard. Well, no, the actual act of cooking isn’t particularly hard; it’s the knowledge. How long does an omelette need in the pan? How hot should the pan be, and within what range? All that stuff.

Plus, once one moves on in one’s cooking life from rotely following recipes, one is confronted by the bewildering jungle of choices known as flavor. What goes with what?

Along comes The Flavor Bible to help. Simply, this is an alphabetical list of flavors along with their accompanying flavors. So, if you’re making an apple dish, flip to the Apple section for a list of flavors and ingredients that pair well with apples (caramel, raisins, cinnamon, etc.).

Interestingly, each section is accompanied by the names of dishes from famous chefs using that ingredient. No recipe; just “Baked Pear Torte with Caramel Sauce.” Not only does it make your mouth water, the mind responds with, “Now, how would I make that?” Perfect.

Of course, if you always want to follow the recipe, this book is pretty useless. But if you like to experiment, this is manna from heaven. You can learn the basic process for, say, making a cake, and use The Flavor Bible to come up with dozens of variations without ever touching a cookbook.

I’m definitely glad I bought it.

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How To Make Any Loaf of Bread In a Bread Machine

Nov 29 2008 Published by under Cooking


As part of my constant quest to learn cool, new things, I bought myself a bread machine several years ago. How’d I afford it, you ask? Easy: I bought it at Salvation Army for $20. Got a few weird looks from the cashier, who asked if I’d ever use it, but that’s fine.

Problem: No manual. So I hopped online, where I discovered that you don’t need a manual. You can make any bread machine recipe in any bread machine, as long as you know two things: the order of the ingredients, and the size of the loaf.

First, the order of the ingredients. All the ingredients should be added in the following order:

  1. Liquids (including butter)
  2. Flour
  3. Remaining dry ingredients (except yeast)
  4. Yeast

Why? Because as soon as the yeast hits the water, the yeast will “bloom,” or start to ferment. You don’t want that to happen until the bread machine says so. By putting the flour on top of the liquids, the flour will form a barrier, keeping the yeast dry on top.

And that’s it. Literally, you can use any recipe in your bread machine now. Unless, of course, the loaf would be too big for your machine.

This required some experimentation, but the key lies in the amount of flour. That will determine the size of the final loaf (plus a few other variables, but that’s the primary factor).

So, when you first make a loaf of bread, a 2-cup recipe is a great place to start. That’ll make a small loaf. Put the ingredients into the bread machine (in the order listed above), then turn it on for a normal loaf. See how much space the final loaf takes up, and you can adjust accordingly.

One final tip: If you buy a kitchen scale, you can measure by weight instead of using cups and measuring spoons. Not only is it more accurate, it’s faster and requires less cleanup: You just dump in X grams of an ingredient, reset the scale, dump in Y grams of the next ingredient, and so on. I regularly make bread with about 10 minutes’ worth of effort.

And here’s one of those recipes now!

Bread Machine Ciabatta

Prep time 10 minutes, total time 2 hours


1 and ¼ cups (150 grams) water

1 and ¼ cups (210 grams) bread flour (or all-purpose flour)

¾ tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp yeast


Bread machine

Put the ingredients in the order listed above into the bread machine, making sure to sprinkle the flour evenly over the water so that the top of the flour is dry, and put the machine on the “dough” setting. Pre-heat the oven to 450° F as the bread machine makes the dough, then when it’s ready, remove the dough, stretch it into a log, and bake for 18 minutes. Voila!

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