Homemade Fizzy Ginger Beer

Homemade Fizzy Ginger Beer


So, my husband is obsessed with ginger beer, or used to be. But since he almost completely cut out sugar about a year ago, he hasn’t been able to find one that isn’t too sweet for him. I’ve been planning to experiment with homemade ginger beer for a while; I’ve never done any home fermenting (and in fact I tend not to like fermented foods in general), but this seemed like a nice low-key thing to try.

It is in fact a super fun project; you add a little yeast to your ginger syrup and water, and it eats the sugar and generates carbonation. A whole lot of carbonation, it turns out; we left the bottle on the countertop for about two days, and ended up with very fizzy soda. As the yeast consumes sugar it produces gas, which builds up pressure inside the bottle. For this reason, it’s important to use a plastic bottle, which is flexible and won’t shatter if it explodes. Though ideally you’ll prevent your bottle from exploding by letting the air out a few times a day. You can just let the bottle sit on the counter until you get the desired level of carbonation, probably not more than three days, and then move it to the fridge to slow the fermentation.


I made this recipe as written, except I only added 5 ounces of sugar instead of 6. It’s not possible to make this fermented drink without sugar, since the yeast needs the sugar in order to generate the fizz. It still turned out fairly sweet, but definitely less so than commercial brands; my husband was able to enjoy it, so, it was a win for us. It definitely has some bite! If you like ginger ale that has a very sharp gingery kick, it’s worth it to give this a try.

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

Grocery List – Week 7

Hello again!  I’m back from a few weeks hiatus, which wasn’t intentional at all, but the last month or so has been kind of a whirlwind of miscellaneous small-but-urgent tasks.  Finishing up some painting and renovations on our new house, keeping up with some big deadlines at work, and trying to catch up with the fall pruning (which really shouldn’t be a big time sink, but A) we have a lot of bushes and shrubs that haven’t been pruned in about five years, and B) I have no idea what I’m doing).

In any case, the good news is I still made time to cook, and a lot of things turned out fantastic; I’ve been excited to share them, I just didn’t have the time to write them up!  Catching up now – for this week I have a super tasty early-fall menu, including my old favorite creamy tomato soup and my new favorite sandwich bread, which makes amazing grilled cheese.  This soup will give you something to do with your garden tomatoes, if you’re buried under a mountain of them like I am!  There’s also a savory bread pudding to use up any extra bread, and a couple of ginger beverages: a refreshing green smoothie and a spicy ginger beer.  And last but not least, a tasty marinated Vietnamese chicken dish with pickled veggies and rice noodles.  Hope you’re excited to get cooking!


Homemade Fizzy Ginger Beer from Alton Brown

Farmhouse White Sandwich Bread from Gather for Bread

Tom’s Tasty Tomato Soup & Smoked Cheddar Grilled Cheese (from Tom Douglas)

Pan-fried Tilapia Nachos with Tomato & Green Pepper Garden Salsa (adapted from Dinner at the Zoo)

Ginger Green Citrus Smoothie from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Vietnamese Marinated Chicken with Rice Noodles & Nuoc Cham (from Serious Eats)

Savory Cheddar Sausage Bread Pudding from Once Upon a Chef

Shopping List:


6-7 cups fresh tomatoes (see footnote)
1 banana
1 apple
1 orange
2 lemons
4 limes
1 bunch spinach or kale
1 large ginger root
2 medium onions
1 avocado
1 green pepper
1 jalapeno
1 each cucumber, carrot (see footnote)


1.5 liter bottle of filtered water
active dry yeast
tortilla chips
soy sauce
Asian fish sauce
Vietnamese hot chili-garlic paste (sambal oelek) or Sriracha sauce


1 pound cheddar cheese (see footnote)
heavy cream
1 pound sweet or spicy pork sausage meat (casings removed)
1 pound tilapia filets
2 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

Pantry Staples

salt, pepper
olive oil
canola oil
chili powder
brown sugar
white sugar
red chili flakes
rice wine vinegar


Note on tomatoes: The quantity and type of tomato is fairly flexible. They will be used in soup and salsa. You can get 6-8 large heirloom or vine-ripened tomatoes, or up to 10 smaller Roma tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes can be used, but will take more work.

Note on cucumbers, carrots: These veggies will be quick-pickled to accompany the Vietnamese marinated chicken. You can choose any combination you like: I pickled a cucumber, a carrot, and half a red onion, but you could do just one or two vegetable types. Radishes work well too.

Note on cheese: Some of this cheddar will be going into grilled cheese sandwiches and some is for bread pudding. You can get one large brick of your go-to cheddar and use it for both, or if you want to splurge a little, you can get plain cheddar for the pudding and a small brick of smoked cheddar for the sandwiches. I found some double-smoked cheddar at our local superstore, and it added a nice autumn-y touch. But it’ll be delicious either way. 🙂

Antipasto Salad

Antipasto Salad


This has to be the richest, most decadent salad I’ve ever had; I almost feel like it doesn’t count as salad. I mean, there are leaves in there, which is technically the only requirement; but with all the rich toppings, it is, as advertised, basically an antipasto plate in salad form.

I got a local parmesan salami from our little corner grocery store (which I’m completely obsessed with; it might be the best part of moving here to rural New Brunswick). It’s called Kredl’s Market in Hampton. The interior has a great, old-fashioned, hewn-wood general store vibe, and the bakery inside turns out these incredible picture-perfect croissants and breads that smell amazing. They have all kinds of hard-to-find staples in bulk (hazelnuts, saffron rice, four different colors of quinoa), and they have a little cafe outside that uses local produce from the store. It’s also a garden center, which seems to magically have every plant I want in stock at all times, and they even deliver soil & compost. We spent hours one day last week driving around to every nursery in town, trying to find soil for my new raised beds; a few places had bulk prices, but they weren’t particularly good deals, and none would deliver. I was feeling pretty unhappy at the prospect of hauling 900 liters of soil in our car in bag form, but we stopped at Kredl’s for lunch and of course they had exactly what we needed. Best store ever; definitely worth a visit!


Anyway, I digress. The key to this recipe is really high-quality ingredients, because the presentation is so simple. The dressing is a tasty mustard vinaigrette, very similar to my favorite Jamie Oliver jam jar French dressing:


I only added a little bit of the salami, which is super rich. My other toppings were kalamata olives (which I love and will add to almost anything), artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, and feta cheese. Pepperoncinis would have been great, but I couldn’t find them at my grocery store. I did throw on some roasted red peppers, which I made last week using this excellent tutorial by Tory Avey:



I’m absolutely crazy about roasted vegetables; I was a vegetarian for many years, and I appreciated the way roasting concentrates and sweetens the flavor of even the most boring vegetables. (Zucchini, I’m looking at you.) I picked up some extra peppers last weekend (from Kredl’s!), and it was super easy to roast them using Tori’s oven method. It takes about an hour from start to finish, but most of that is what programmers call “wall time” (as in, the amount of time that passes according to the clock on the wall) – you only need to actively pay attention to them for five or ten minutes total. Definitely worth it; I’ve enjoyed having these on hand, and they’re great on burgers, salads, pizza, and lots of other stuff.

All in all, this was a tasty salad that I’ll definitely make again; very substantial and satisfying, in a way that salads usually aren’t.

Deliciousness score: 6
Easiness score: 7

Buddha Bowls with Tahini Sauce

Buddha Bowls with Tahini Sauce


Like all the recipes on this week’s menu, this one comes from Dinner at the Zoo. This blog is one of my favorite resources for quick-and-easy dinners, but it’s pretty chicken-intensive. Which is no problem, but I’m usually not in the mood for a full week of chicken dinners, even if they’re all done in various different ways. So when I spied this simple vegetarian quinoa bowl, I figured it would be a nice healthy way to round out the menu. With an ingredients list that included tahini *and* maple syrup, I wasn’t sure it would be a home-run flavor-wise. But cashews, avocado, and sweet potatoes are all favorites of mine, and I was curious enough that I decided to give it a shot.

Fun note:  I got to try out my Black Sheep dark maple syrup, which I found at our little corner market in Hampton.  It’s locally made and is smoked, which I never knew was an option for maple syrup, but it has a really amazing, complex, deep flavor.  A little more savory than your standard grocery store syrup, but still very sweet and perfect on pancakes, as well as sauces like this one.  Canada knows what it’s doing when it comes to maple syrup.


A couple of notes for next time: I found that the sauce was not remotely drizzly. I must have had a thicker tahini than hers to start with. I tend to add lemon juice in half-lemon increments, rather than tablespoons as recipe authors usually direct. So I added a half-lemon’s worth of juice, which I think was about 2 tablespoons (twice as much as written), and it was still paste-like. I tasted it and found it a little bitter and also a little too sweet, so I tried adding some soy sauce. That tasted better but was still pretty pasty, so I added just a tiny bit of water to thin it out. It still didn’t exactly drizzle; it was more of a gloopy consistency. (Technical term.)

Additionally, my sweet potatoes and chickpeas were not as roasted as I wanted them to be after 20 minutes at 400. I actually turned the temp up to 440 with about 10 minutes to go, and cooked them an additional 5-10 minutes for 25-30 minutes total. I think that roasting at a higher temp from the start is the way to go. Heads up: my sweet potatoes released a lot of hot steam, so when you open the oven be sure to wear an oven mitt!

I have to admit that as I was dishing this up, I was feeling skeptical. The sauce still tasted bitter to me, and with a lot of understated flavors in the dish, I was expecting it to taste… well, you know, healthy.

But my fears were totally unfounded. I took the first bite and it was loaded with amazing flavor. (Granted, the liberal splash of soy sauce I added might have had something to do with that.) The roasting brought out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the nuttiness of the chickpeas. I was about halfway done with my plate and thinking, “Man, this is great, but I kinda wish it had another green vegetable in it…” and then I realized I’d forgotten all about the spinach. I threw on a handful, and the rest of the plate was perfect. It might sound implausible to suddenly crave a green vegetable, but it was just a little heavy without. The extra greens brightened it up; and because I don’t actually like greens that much, I’m always happy to find an opportunity to eat them without hating my life. 😛

I had plenty of leftovers after eating one bowl of this, so I dished the quinoa, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas into three serving-sized tupperwares with the remaining sauce. They kept well in the freezer; I ate some a few days later with fresh toppings, and they tasted basically the same as when they were made. Definitely a convenient healthy lunchtime option; I would definitely make this again.


Deliciousness score: 7
Easiness score: 7


Healthy Burrito Bowls with Amazing Spiced Chicken

Healthy Burrito Bowls with Amazing Spiced Chicken


So, as mentioned in yesterday’s review of tilapia tacos with pineapple salsa, if I’m making one Mexican recipe in a week, I usually like to make at least one more so I can use up all the toppings before they go bad (cilantro, sour cream, etc.). These burrito bowls seemed like a good followup; pretty simple, a little bit on the healthier side with no tortillas or cheese, and I could use the remaining pineapple salsa from the taco recipe.

To be honest, I didn’t have super high expectations at the start; I mean, it seemed tasty enough, but I was mostly looking for an easy way to use up leftovers. But! The marinade for this chicken is absolutely bonkers delicious. I’m a sucker for smoked paprika; I love the savory, complex, hint-of-barbecue flavor it lends to everything it touches. This marinade had a pretty large amount of it, and it worked perfectly. Garlic, onion powder, smoked paprika, and chili powder is a pretty foolproof combo, actually.

I marinated my chicken for the full eight hours, so it had plenty of time to soak up the flavor. (I also ended up having to cook the chicken almost twice as long as she suggested, because my pieces were super thick.) Just this week, I finally bought a meat thermometer; considering that my husband is basically a carnivore, I’m not sure how we didn’t have one until now. So far I’ve mostly used it to monitor oil for deep frying, but it’s already changed my life. In the same Amazon order, I got both the meat thermometer and a kitchen scale, and I’m so relieved that I never have to rely on my intuition again. (Wait a minute, you say – you seem like at least a semi-serious cook, how is it that you didn’t have a scale *or* a thermometer?) The official answer is that last year, we were trying to get ready for an international move, so we were pretty intentional about not acquiring anything we didn’t urgently need. We had already filled every inch of space in our tiny condo kitchen, and didn’t want to shove anything else in there if it could reasonably wait until we got into our new house. In retrospect, a thermometer and a kitchen scale take up almost no room, and if I’d realized how much I would enjoy using them, I would have made the space and gotten them much sooner. But, the past is past, and I expect I’ll make up for lost time by obsessively measuring all the things every day from now on. 🙂

In any case, the meat thermometer would have been really handy to have for this recipe; as the outer coating on the chicken grew increasingly charred, I was paranoid that I was going to end up with a dry, inedible mess. But it turned out fine, luckily. I kicked myself later for totally forgetting to put the beans on; I must have been frazzled from worrying about the chicken. But it was tasty anyway; just a simple combination of rice, chicken, salsa, and avocado, topped with sour cream, cilantro, and lime. (And diced red cabbage, which I did not remember in time for the photo but did add later.) I can definitely see myself throwing this together in the future any time I have Mexican toppings that need to be used up, and it’s very easy to configure based on what you like and have on hand.

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 7

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Tilapia Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Tilapia Fish Tacos with Pineapple Salsa



As you all have probably picked up by now, one of my not-so-secret pet peeves is when recipe blogs publish a weekly menu consisting of seven recipes that share no common ingredients. I get that if you’re cooking for a big family, using up ingredients is less of a concern; you can make bigger batches of everything, and worry less about whether the leftovers keep well. But I’m only ever cooking for myself and my husband (and really, since there’s so little overlap in the foods we both like, it’s usually just myself).  So, when I’m building my list each week, and especially when I’m considering what kinds of produce I’ll need, I do my absolute best not to buy anything that will only be used in one dish and then spoil by the end of the week.  And ideally, I try to find a bunch of recipes that all use the same ingredient in different ways.

This week, red cabbage was the star player. (How often do you hear that? Has that even been said before, ever?) I really like the crunch and color of red cabbage on tacos, but I often skip it because I know I won’t use it for anything else. This week, I was delighted to find four different recipes which could all benefit from cabbage. Two of them are Mexican, one is a hearty salad, and one is an Asian-inspired veggie quinoa bowl. It’s exciting to be able to use up a full head of cabbage (or close to it), but not be locked into tacos for the entire week.

That said, I’ve got nothing against tacos! These tilapia tacos with tropical salsa are some of my favorites; I’ve made this recipe several times, and keep coming back to it when I’m in the mood for a unique summery taco. This fruit salsa is another exception to my rule about savory fruit dishes. I typically avoid fruit in salads or any savory dish, but in this case I enjoy it. The spice of the jalapeño and the light taste of the tilapia pair really nicely with a little bit of citrusy sweetness.

I usually prefer corn tortillas to flour, but in this case I had flour tortillas on hand and wanted to use them up. They were fine, though in the future I will stick with corn. I was surprised that I couldn’t find corn tortillas in my local grocery store; possibly another casualty of moving to Canada, where Mexican food isn’t as popular. Someday I’d like to try making my own. It’s a more complex process than you might think, and the history and chemistry behind it are totally fascinating. There’s an amazing Alton Brown episode all about it if you want to know more:

If/when I get a tortilla press and actually try this myself, I’ll post a full breakdown, but in the mean time Alton explains it pretty entertainingly.

Deliciousness score: 7
Easiness score: 7

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Grocery List – Week 6

Well, I’m back from our honeymoon, and my fiance is now my husband.  Pretty exciting.  🙂  We had a fantastic time touring around Prince Edward Island – definitely a great place to check out if you’re looking for a summer vacation destination!  We saw so many beautiful ocean views (with that amazing red sand), visited adorable alpacas and goats, saw Green Gables, and of course had some delicious meals.  Our venue was The Grand Victorian in Victoria; the owners there are super sweet, and we couldn’t have asked for a more stress-free day or a more beautiful spot for photos.


Anyway, on to this week’s menu.  Full disclosure:  I did cook this past week, but all the recipes I tried were kind of duds.  Not terrible, but nothing I’d want to share with you here and suggest that you spend your own time on.  So this is a menu I wrote up a little while ago.  All the meals this week are from Dinner at the Zoo, which is my go-to source when I need relatively fast and easy fare.  Most of her recipes are designed to be made without a lot of fuss, while still being tasty and healthy.  Definitely good for weeks when you have a lot going on.


(All from Dinner at the Zoo)


Buddha Bowls

Antipasto Salad

Tilapia Fish Tacos

Burrito Bowls

Shopping List:


3 medium-large sweet potatoes
baby spinach
purple cabbage (shredded or whole)
3 avocados
red bell pepper
2-3 limes


2 cans chickpeas
roasted cashews
6 corn tortillas
white or brown rice
1 can black beans
kalamata olives
roasted red bell peppers (jarred or homemade)
marinated artichoke hearts
pepperoncini peppers
dijon mustard

Refrigerated / Frozen

1 lb tilapia fillets (or other white fish)
1 cup diced tropical fruit such as pineapple or mango (fresh also good if it’s in season)
1 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
sour cream
fresh mozzarella balls

Pantry Staples

olive oil
maple syrup
chili powder
smoked paprika
onion powder
red wine vinegar
garlic powder