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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Easy Shrubs

The first time I'd ever heard of a shrub I was trying desperately to decode Smallman Galley's cocktail menu.  In general, the whackier the cocktail, the more I want to try it.  Smallman Galley (a local "chef incubator" has a bar menu filled with whackiness.

I didn't actually even TRY the drink with the shrub in it...just noted it on the menu as I tried to make sense out of ANY of their offerings.

The cocktail in question, "Here and Now" was a solution of "Market Alley" gin, dry curacoa (don't know how to make the little tail on my c), summer berry shrub, and lemon.  The one I tried instead was Vilified.  I found its contents more exotic.  BUT...I noted the term "shrub".  And learned that it was a way of preserving fruit juices/syrups in a vinegar solution.  It sounded kinda gross if we're being honest.
each ingredient less likely than the last

Except, a month or so later, at a Yelp Elite event at Muddy Waters (an amazing local oyster joint (probably they wouldn't appreciate that appellation, but here we are)), Boyd and Blair Vodka gave a two station presentation...1)  Making a shrub, and 2)  Creating a holiday punch from said shrub.  I tried the shrub.  The shrub was delicious.  I took pictures. 
the shrub

the punch

Right then  and there I vowed to make a shrub.  It was easy!  I would make a holiday punch for thanksgiving from the shrub I'd made (I didn't) or maybe Christmas (I didn't).  But the thought was there.  And I did make a shrub that November.  I just...I just kept forgetting to buy cheesecloth to strain it when I was done.

For months that shrub sat in a 32 ounce mason jar in my refrigerator, and two days after I finally pushed the button on my amazon app purchasing cheesecloth, it arrived on my doorstep (on a Sunday...god bless you, Amazon).  I strained.  I invited my sister over later that week.  And we got to work. Drinking.

Okay...

Apparently the idea of the shrub dates back to colonial days.  Seasonal fruit was preserved using vinegar and sugar, jarred and stored until needed/wanted, straining the fruit through cheesecloth left a mildly vinegar-tasting fruit syrup, or shrub.  Mixed with club soda, or carbonated water, you basically have shrub sodas, or drinking vinegars.  Mixed with spirits...you have excellence. 

Boyd and Blair's original recipe (they handed them out on printed cards at the Yelp event) was holiday-esque, it was spicey and wintery and delicious, and although I wanted to replicate it, I was missing some of the fancier ingredients. 
I still have this card in my recipe box.

Couldn't find it on their website, but they have some awesome drink recipes WITH shrubs.
http://boydandblair.com/recipes/

But you can basically make a shrub out of any fruit/vegetable that's juicy.  The more fibrous fruits/vegetables don't work as well.  I loved the idea of strawberries and basil.  I got a package of strawberries and some fresh basil along with unfiltered cider vinegar and some mason jars and a fruit masher and a canning funnel (that delivered months before I realized I needed to place my cheesecloth order).

There are several ways to make shrubs.  Two main ways...hot or cold.  There are several great posts on the merits of each (easily searchable..."how to make a shrub"), but broken down into very basic terms...cold keeps the brightness of the fruit better, hot minimizes the tang of the vinegar better.  Why I use the cold method, however, is because it's suuuuuuuuper easy.  And I'm a single dad raising two kids, one of whom is autistic.  I like things easy.  Easy is my jam.

Okay...Cold method...there are a couple approaches to this as well:

1)  mash fruit, mix/mash with sugar, let sit a few days, add vinegar, mix, let sit a couple weeks.
2)  mash fruit, mix/mash with sugar, add the vinegar, let sit a couple weeks. 

I picked the easier method of...just throw all the shit together and mash it up and then let the vinegar and sugar do its work. (method 2)

If you look at the Boyd and Blair recipe, there are some decimal places there that I thought were too complicated.  I simplified my own version to be...in essence this:

1)  1 1/2 cups of mashed fruit (take a bunch of cut fruit, toss it in the mason jar and mash the shit out of it until it's down to 1 1/2 cups.  Add more fruit until you get 1 1/2 cups mashed.
2)  1 1/2 cups of sugar (I then take the fruit muddler/masher and mash the shit out of the fruit with the sugar until it's all one big syrupy mulch)
3)  1 1/2 cups of unfiltered cider vinegar (or however much room you have left in the 32 oz mason jar)

Easy.  Close the lid, shake all up until the sugar granules are all fully dissolved (if they weren't already) and put it in the fridge.  I labeled my jar with the date since you're supposed to wait a couple weeks.  Every day I'd grab the jar, mix it all around, and put it back in the fridge.  Until...I didn't anymore.  Because it was months before I had cheesecloth.

When I finally had the cheesecloth...I strained the syrupy mashed fruit mix through it into another jar and I had my shrub.  It smelled amazing...strawberries and basil...and yes, a hint of vinegar.


I encourage anyone who wants to try a shrub to start with strawberries and basil.  It's amazing...

My sister and I collected some mixers together and made the following:
1)  Strawberry basil shrub mule (with ginger beer, vodka and a bit of lime juice)
2)  Strawberry basil shrub old fashioned (bitters, bourbon, teaspoon of sugar)
3)  Strawberry basil shrub with rum and lime juice
4)  Strawberry basil shrub margarita (tequila, cointreau, lime) (not pictured below)




They were ALL.  UH.  MAY.  ZING.  Seriously, I would have thought at least one of those things would have sucked a little.  None did.  None sucked.  They kicked ass.  No sucking.  All kicking.

So...I made more...blueberry ginger, cherry, grilled pineapple with jalapeno, and, in honor of Donald Trump...peach mint!  mmmmmpeachmint.  All soooo good.
peach/mint...skins...no skins...no worries!

blueberry ginger

cherry

And then I was at another Yelp Event at Tres Rios where they served a roasted red pepper margarita.  "Nobody else in the city is making this margarita," they said...NOT.  SO.  FAST, Tres Rios...I roasted red peppers and jalapenos...I mashed, I mixed...and right this very minute there is a roasted red pepper/jalapeno shrub aging in my refrigerator waiting for its turn in the margarita merry-go-round.  It smells soooooo good.


It's gotten a bit out of hand, I'm not going to lie.  The other day, Emma tried to put something away in the fridge and she said, "Dad, can we move all your 'special juices' to the basement fridge?  There's no room for food."  And she's...she's sort of right.

I'm taking a brief break from shrub-making and transitioning over the fourth of July holiday to shrub DRINKING.  But there will be more.  So many more.

If you decide to shrub here's the equipment you'll need:

1)  32 oz mason jar
2)  Fruit masher
3)  cheesecloth
4)  canning funnel (optional...but it's less messy)

The recipe is constrained only by your imagination and budget.  Healthy people are drinking unfiltered active yeast vinegars these days, and while I can't speak specifically to any health benefits I'm observing...I did feel pretty amazing after my sister and I finished our cocktails.

Despite the health benefits of the unfiltered cider vinegar, nothing is holding you to it.  Use champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar...whatever you think.  The same is true of the fruit the sugar and any spice you use.  The recipe amounts to:

1)  fruit or vegetable you want to preserve/shrub
2)  spice (optional) you want to mix with it (I recommend basil/mint/jalapeno...it cuts the vinegar smell and taste and if you pick well, pairs really nicely with your fruit)
3)  sugar (this can be any sugar...cane sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup...whatever you think would be a nice mix with the fruit/veggie you selected)
4)  vinegar (again...any vinegar will do, but I highly recommend the unfiltered cider vinegar)

and that's it...1 1/2 cups of mashed fruit veggie of choice with spice of choice, 1 1/2 cups of your sugar of choice, 1 1/2 cups of  your vinegar of choice....mash/mix...refrigerate two weeks, mixing daily.  Strain and mix in cocktails or carbonated water.
mash up your fruit

add sugar

mash it all up

add vinegar

label with the date (if you're forgetful...like me)

refrigerate two weeks, mix every day or so
strain a couple weeks later!  voila!

Experiment with how much you want to use.  With cocktails we basically used 1:1...1 shot of shrub with 1 shot of liquor.  With carbonated water, there weren't any other flavors so 2 shots of shrub made a nice fruity flavorful summer ...shroda (props to Kate for the portmanteau name).
cherry shroda!

Great for summer bbqs.  Kids or adults...

Drink responsibly.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dance Recital

We also...and I promise...shrubs, but later.  We also had a dance recital.  Dance has been rough this year.  Emma's high school schedule has been more demanding of her time.  Whether it was school work, the play (Cyrano de Bergerac) or the musical (Les Miserables), Emma just always had somewhere to be and something to do, and although people stepped in to give rides to and from where needed...I often felt like I was just sort of being carried along like parental schedule flotsam.

But...we made it.  And Emma and Lily both had their recital and both did great (Lily even went as far as to audibly proclaim "nice job everyone" before being escorted from the stage by her new TSS (who seems very nice).

And just like that...we're here.  We're in that place where kids start narrowing their foci.  Where Emma must also.  Gone are the days of soccer, lacrosse, softball, and dance...trying things out just to try them.  There's no more time.  She has work.  She has schoolwork.  She has dance.  There's not much (if any) room left. 

I'd love to give her opportunities to try new things.  But...if she juggles that ball, another will fall from her grasp.  It's a milestone.  She can't do it all.  Some day she'll probably regret not...trying out for the lacrosse team...or something.  But she can't.  There's no more room.

As it is, I've told her she can pare down her dance schedule, focusing on the dances she loves and leaving those that she...doesn't love...behind. 

Leslie always wanted her to continue with ballet.  Her reasoning was that all the other movements were derived from that sort of basic balletic movement.  And she was probably right.  And I'd love to bounce this decision off her...but I think ballet has to go. I think she'd get it. 

Emma told me, "I'm not going to be a professional dancer," and I agree.  She is a beautiful dancer, emotes in a way that I don't think can be taught...but lacks some of the skills and flexibility of some of her peers.  She'll continue to dance.  She'll get stronger and more skilled.  But...it's not going to be her job.

She loves tap and contemporary...even jazz.  But ballet has been sort of an afterthought for her for years.  And I'm ready to let it go.  Given everything else, I think it makes sense.  She's AMAZING to watch tap.  She can focus on that.  She loves it.  And it's a hobby, basically.  She's getting in shape, part of team, gets to perform...but a hobby.

It's sad that things have to fall out of our schedules, but the demands on these kids' time is incredible.  And she needs time with friends too.  And with her family.








Tuesday, June 20, 2017

I Lied

I told you guys I was going to wax rhapsodic about shrubs, but as I was pulling pictures for the last post, I realized all the shit we haven't talked about that's more important than shrubs (sorry shrubs, but it's true).  Anyway, I lied and I'm sorry, and I'd tell you I'll never lie again, but that would also be a lie, and you see how this kind of stuff can really snowball on you?

Anyway...We had the walk!  It was just after...or maybe before the last post about EEG's and Seizures and stuff.  Not the most recent last post, but the last post before the last post.  The second to last post. I guess that's what they call it.

Anway, we walked, and if you really really feel guilty about not walking (participation was at record lows for the team despite the tshirt kicking significant ass this year) then you can basically catch the whole (almost literally) thing because I Facebook-Lived like...28 minutes of it.  I'm super entertaining.  At least...at least my mom said I am.

Probably you can't link to this if you don't have facebook.  I don't know.  Maybe you can.  Facebook Live: The Walk

Anyway, we had a good day.  Raised some money (though not as much as usual...slackers...) and had a nice walk.
Standing on my tiptoes to appear taller
It's Kenny!  From Kennywood.  I...I think
Finish Line!  Like...like it says in the picture.
Post "race"
Sure...NOW you sleep.

Summer Break

Hi it's me.  Jim.  Jim Walter.  The...guy with the ...hair?  I know, I know, it's been a while.  I've been writing, but the writing I've been doing has been for Healthline and not my blog.

So...to update you.  When last we left our hero, she had a seizure at school and I took her to the ER and stuff.  And since then I've learned...nothing.

I scheduled an EEG.  This was done...jesus...a month ago maybe?  Probably.  I've heard nothing.  I scheduled an MRI.  That's Friday.  Not looking forward to sedated Lily.  It's hard to watch.  But that's Friday.  Then all the doctor visits...geneticists, neurologists, pediatricians, oh my!

But they're so far out that I'm probably going to call someone and ask them to tell me what, if anything, they found prior to the appointments (I think I'm in August for the geneticist).

School is out and Emma got her first job.  It's fucking adorable if we're being honest.  It's a huge pain in the ass getting her there, but my folks have been helping, and friends.  So far so good.  She's been making it to work on time whether it's me sending her or not.  She hasn't gotten paid yet.  I'll be curious what her reaction is.  Honestly I think she'll just be excited.  She's a very laid back kid.  If it had been me, I'd have multiplied hours by rate and been crestfallen when I saw the damage income tax does...but Emma?  She probably doesn't have any idea how many hours she's worked.  Or how much to expect.  She'll just be like..."money!" and run off to the mall to spend it immediately.


Lily is still sleeping like shit.  I'm in phase two of the "fix lily's sleep" plan.  I talked to her doc, and he sent me a great list.  In fact...in fact, let me grab that list and post it for you folks who have kids who struggle with sleep.  He has some great bullet points and pros/cons of different fixes.  Some of you even posted some of the stuff he's got marked on the list as possible things to try.  From his email:

    The options for supporting sleep in children have greatly lessened over the last few years:
  1. Atarax / hydoxyzine-basic science indicates risk of arrhythmia if used nightly.
  2. Benadryl / diphenhydramine-risk of dementia in elderly…risk of neurocognitive dysfunction in children.
  3. Clonidine and Tenex: only last 4 hours, causing awakening. She did poorly on Tenex in past.
  4. Risperidone-may be tried in the next week, must consider side effects of atypical antipsychotic agents.
  5. Remeron-not recommended for young adolescents
  6. Trazadone-may be tried in the next week at 25 mg orally q evening, but many side effects….some overlapping atypical antipsychotic agents.
Plan:
  1. 5-HTP supports serotonin increase, and a 25 mg capsule opened into food ½ hour before bed may be helpful. Kirkman, Thorne, Pure Encapsulations, Metagenics are good companies for this product. Occasional paradoxical nighttime awakening occurs….but worth a try and otherwise benign.
  2. Assure that all nutrients but Magnesium are given in the am or afternoon, and none after 6 pm, as many are activating. Try moving Magnesium 180 mg / ½ tsp to ½ hour before bedtime, as it is often calming.
  3. Turn off any nightlight in the room, if tolerated.
  4. Deep pressure massage of back for 10 minutes prior to bedtime can sometimes increase relaxation (no training necessary).
  5. Decrease any food that she craves greatly, as an IgG antibody to that food can come off the brain in the middle of the night, causing night awakening. This often happen with dairy, wheat, and soy products.
  6. Emerging clinical experience supports the use of a form of essential oil, lavender, a few drops rubbed into the feet, as helpful.
  7. Stop Melatonin SR (which usually works 8 hours, not 4 hours, for my patients). When she awakens in the middle of the night before 4 amMelatonin 1 mg orally can be given.
  8. If no improvement after a week of the above, we will discuss the Risperidone and Trazodone alternatives.
This is one doctor's opinion, and please don't take my list and run with it, because...results may vary...but if you're struggling with your own sleep issues, or your child is...these would be some great talking points to bring up with YOUR doc.

So where I'm at is...I stopped the sustained release melatonin.  I started giving her 1.5 mg (half a 3 mg tablet) when she wakes up in the middle of the night.  I started giving her 5-HTP (though they only sell 100 mg capsules, so it's pretty dicey about exactly how much she's getting.  other people sell 50 mg, but are like twice as much as the kirkman capsules).  I started giving her the Mg supplements at night.  I started turning off her nightlight when I first get her to sleep.

Annnnnnnd...I don't really know that I've seen any improvement.  Last night she got up at 2 a.m.  By the time I staggered back to bed it was 3:30.  I KNOW I didn't live through anything close to 1 1/2 hours of struggle, so I must have dozed off at some point, but it's hard getting that mid morning wakeup interruption and then dragging ass out of bed at 5:30. 

This is still a work in progress.  

Lily's aide is working out well so far.  SO much less stress worrying about parents and in-laws driving 40 minutes to watch her every day so I can complete my work day.  There's still the issue of Emma's work schedule, which Lily's aide doesn't support, but so far that has been workable.

I've been cooking more.  Shrubs, pies, ceviche, bbq jackfruit for fucksake!, and I enjoy it.  My niche is typically...what can I make ahead and get leftovers of, and I'll probably post a recipe or two in the near future.  Next blog I'll wax poetic about shrubs.  Not the kind Sean Spicer hides behind...the fruit/vegetable syrup that can be used in cocktails or sodas.  They're awesome.
Grilled pineapple and jalapeno shrub margarita
That's it for now.  More later.  I won't promise I'll write more here...because I always seem to go in fits and starts, but I feel like writing more, so it's certainly more likely.