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DIY bottle cap magnets

My husband loves his beer; I don’t know a session from a saison. I’ve never been able to get into beer but I appreciate the care and creativity many breweries put into their packaging — beer bottles have so much more personality than wine labels. Some bottle caps are really well designed and it seemed like a waste to throw them all away, so I decided to turn my favorites into magnets. They’re super easy to make; the hardest part is waiting for the glue to dry.

I can’t ever have too many magnets since we have a little kid who loves to draw and all these cool metal surfaces in our apartment begging to be decorated. I’ve also given them as housewarming gifts packaged in empty Altoids tins. If you’d like to make your own, keep reading.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1. A variety of bottle caps.


2. Mod Podge Dimensional Magic. Available at your local craft store for about $5. One container is enough for 15 magnets or so. I’ve more commonly seen bottle caps filled with acrylic resin but recommend Dimensional Magic since it’s non-toxic and odorless.

3. Ceramic magnets, 1/2 or 3/4 inch. I get mine from Etsy here under the magnets section. Note: Do NOT use the ultra-strong neodymium magnets unless you want your magnet to sink to the bottom of the glue like a hippopotamus in quicksand. This happened to me even after letting the glue dry for 48 hours.

 

Instructions:

1. Slowly fill the backs of the bottle caps to the rim with Mod Podge. Let dry till hard to the touch, about 48 hours. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. If you try to attach the magnet while the glue is still soft, it’ll be sucked down and engulfed, making the magnet unusable.

2. If necessary, fill any holes with more Mod Podge and let dry. The glue may shrink as it dries, creating a concave surface, which is fine as long as the top of the magnet can lie flush to the rim or higher.

3. Squeeze a small amount of Mod Podge in the center of the bottle cap. Affix the magnet and flood the area around it until the magnet is completely surrounded by the glue.

4. Let dry again.

The finished back should look like the photo above.

 

Left and right magnets: Firestone Walker Brewery. Center: Stumptown Cold Brew

 

Now you’re ready to decorate your fridge/workspace/locker with your spectacular new magnets! I’d love to see what you come up with, too.

 

Pineapple Whip

DuPage County Fair, July 2014

Pineapple Whip is the most unbelievably delicious carnival treat. It has the texture of the fluffiest, most refreshing Italian ice, the creaminess of the silkiest soft serve, and the otherworldly, synthetically-enabled shape holding and melt-resistant ability of Cool Whip. It tastes like sweet baby pineapples and was invented by unicorns and God.

wasabigelatine’s 2013 holiday gift guide

My husband likes to amuse himself by sending me clickbait-style texts on his way home from work: “This Cabbie Knows How To Save the Day — But Will It Cost Him His Life?” I’m a bit behind updating this blog, so in the spirit of playing catch up and because my favorite finds this year are totally sensational, I present to you:

12 FABULOUS FOODIE GIFTS YOU SHOULD BUY NOW

Middlewest is a new food publication founded by two former Time Out Chicago staffers. Self-described as “a modern food magazine, deconstructed”, Middlewest sets itself apart from the current abundance of indie gastronomic periodicals by printing its content on oversized recipe cards, making it easy and convenient to use in the kitchen. The innovative yet practical design and bold photography is a delight to look at and play with. As a big enthusiast of food journals, Middlewest offers something truly original and is one of my very favorites. $18 for issue 1, $20 for issue 2 at middlewestmag.com

 

I’m a sucker for tea in pretty packages and this gift set includes two crowd-pleasing blends, Earl Grey and Royal Air Force English Breakfast teas, as well as an over-the-cup strainer which I greatly prefer to giant sloshing mesh tea balls. $45 at Provisions by Food52

photo credit: Food52

 

Paula Haney, owner of Hoosier Mama Pie Company, has real culinary street cred — she was the pastry chef at Grant Achatz’s former restaurant Trio — yet she admits that years ago (before starting her business, of course) she’d sometimes resort to store-bought pie crusts because they were difficult to make. This disarming anecdote, along with detailed step-by-step pie crust instructions and troubleshooting tips, is one of the many reasons The Hoosier Mama Book of Pie is a must-have reference for any baker and/or fan of the Chicago pie shop. And naturally, there are lots of pie recipes. $29.95 at Hoosier Mama Pie Shop, 1618 1/2 Chicago Ave. or $22.54 at amazon.com

 

Paul McGee’s underground (literally, it’s in a basement) tiki lounge Three Dots and a Dash is the kind of magical place that’s so thoroughly relaxing and transformative you want to take a piece of it back with you into the real world. And you can by purchasing any of the tiki mugs you see there. Following the tradition of other long-ago tiki lounges, Three Dots releases exclusive, limited-edition mugs several times a year, a wonderful gift for the avid collector or a jolly knickknack to brighten up your cube at work. $15-$20 each at Three Dots and a Dash, 435 N. Clark St.

photo credit: Three Dots and a Dash

 

The problem with macarons is they’re so light and airy and tasty they disappear almost instantly. Lucky for us, Chambre de Sucre offers these adorable macaron trinket boxes made of Limoges porcelain, perfect for storing little treasures. $13.95 each at chambredesucre.com

photo credit: Chambre de Sucre

 

When my three year old complained that grown up forks were too big and I grumbled that kids’ utensils were too plastic, I grabbed a set of these lovely gold cocktail forks as soon as I saw them at West Elm despite the slightly steep price tag. Then I learned they’re 24 karat gold electroplated, so they’ll be fancy enough for oysters at your New Year’s Eve parties. $28 for a set of 4 at West Elm stores (1000 W. North Ave.), sold out online

photo credit: West Elm

 

Another example of great object, great packaging: this Letherbee spirits gift pack includes a bottle of limited edition Autumnal Gin made with Lapsang Souchong tea and mace, a flask of the original label gin, and another one with their rendition of the bracingly bitter Chicago hipster favorite Malört, all done up in a handy wooden crate with leather strap. $65 at Provenance Food & Wine, 2528 N. California Ave. and 2312 W. Leland Ave.

 

Moose bottle stopper. $13 at potterybarn.com

photo credit: Pottery Barn

 

I don’t usually care for chocolate and caramel sauces because they’re typically too sweet or too heavy, but this year I discovered Fran’s Chocolate & Caramel sauces and always keep a jar of each in the fridge now. The chocolate is smooth, bittersweet and not too thick — nice melted for dipping strawberries, drizzling on ice cream, or even straight out of the jar. I’ve used the caramel on apple pie and oatmeal, and it’s just the right amount of buttery and salty. $20 at franschocolates.com

photo credit: Fran’s Chocolates

 

It seems that every year I include some sort of dish towel in my gift guide because, well, you can never have too many. Nourishing Notes, based here in Chicago, creates Food Philosophy kitchen towels screenprinted with witty and inspirational phrases such as “Trust your gut, not the recipe” and my personal favorite “When life gives you lemons, make limoncello”. They’re sturdy enough for every day use and pretty enough to put on display. $15 each at etsy.com

 

These clever Icelandic sea salt flasks by The Reluctant Trading Experiment remind me of one of my first foodie obsessions years ago — Dean and Deluca’s iconic test tube spice rack. What I love about this design is that the flask serves as a salt cellar but you can easily grasp it and shake a few grains into whatever you’re cooking. Speaking of, the website says they’re Walter White approved. $13.50 for 3.5 oz, $20 for 9.17 oz at reluctanttrading.com

photo credit: The Reluctant Trading Experiment

 

Short Stack editions are wonderful stocking stuffers for people who love to cook. Each booklet focuses on one ingredient and provides a wide variety of recipes, emphasizing the versatility of that particular food. They’re authored by well-known food writers and professionals so the directions are easy to follow and enjoyable to read. $12 each, $35 for a trio, or $75 for a 6-edition subscription (includes free shipping and additional goodies) at shortstackeditions.com

photo credit: Short Stack

 

 

My year in canning

I started canning in late 2011 because my favorite grape jam had been discontinued. Actually, I hadn’t been able to find American Spoon grape jam for at least four years and everything else I’d tried, from mass market to small batch artisanal varieties, just didn’t stack up. The one closest to ideal was a big disappointment — $10 for a half pint that developed a nasty white fuzz in less than three weeks.

Earlier that year, a couple of friends and I decided we’d teach ourselves to can, but our kids were really little and it was impossible to find a time we could all meet up and a place where there wouldn’t be toddlers in close proximity to boiling hot sugary liquid. Summer came and went and we never did get together, but as I walked through the farmers market one Saturday morning in September, intoxicated by the musky sweetness of Concord grapes, I was determined to have a pantry overflowing with my very own, homemade grape jam to make up for the years of deprivation.

It was a daunting endeavor. Canning isn’t in my bloodline and I didn’t have any friends in the area to show me how to do it. There are certain things you can learn on your own, from a book or video (rolling out a pie crust, patching up a bicycle tire) but for other activities it’s much better to have hands-on instruction (the entire process of baking bread, knitting). I thought canning would certainly fall into the second category but it was literally as easy as stirring fruit and sugar in a pot. Of course, I had excellent resources — particularly Liana Krisoff’s Canning for a New Generation — and encouragement from out-of-state canners who assured me I wouldn’t kill anyone with botulism as long as I adhered to proper sanitation.

Concord grape jam is one of the trickiest, most time-consuming jams for a beginner since it involves skinning the grapes and straining out the skins and seeds in addition to figuring out when your jam has reached the gelling point. Call it beginner’s luck, but by the end of the week I had three half-pints of lovely, thick, intensely flavored grape jam. Not exactly a pantry’s worth, but that would be my goal for the following summer.

When I learn something new and it clicks with me, I tend to get a little obsessive. I canned 20 batches of jams, preserves, and fruit in 2012, beginning with little jewel-bright strawberries in June and wrapping up the year with tiny Seckel pears bathed in spiced vanilla syrup.  I hadn’t planned on canning that much, just strawberry jam, more grape jam and maybe blueberry, but curiosity got the best of me. Every time I stopped by my favorite fruit stands at the farmers market, I’d pick up a few baskets of whatever was in season, meaning to enjoy some immediately and also thinking “What sort of jam can I make out of this?”

My canning sessions quickly became the solace of long, busy summer weeks working and caring for my darling, lively daughter who doesn’t like to sleep. On canning days, when she’d finally drift off around the time most adults are turning in for the night, I’d my haul out my preserving pan, dump in the fruit and sugar, fire it all up, and stir and stir and stir and let the repetition and warm sweet simmer lull me into a Zen-like calm. And in the morning, I’d be greeted by the sun illuminating the brilliant reds and purples and golds of the jars resting on the table, almost as beautiful as my daughter’s smile when she’d wake up and run into the kitchen and know that she would have fresh jam on toast for breakfast.

 

June: strawberry Pinot noir, strawberry, strawberry rhubarb vanilla jams
 

July: blueberry Meyer lemon jam
 

July: spiced bourbon cherries
 

July: Rainier cherry + white nectarine preserves
 

August: chocolate raspberry jam
 

August: peach oolong butter
 

September: Concord grape jam
 

November: spiced apple butter
 

December: Mountain Rose apple butter
 

December: Seckel pears in vanilla, pink peppercorn, and star anise syrup

 

Sweet mung bean soup

One of my favorite summer meals is a simple, refreshing bowl of chilled soup — gazpacho, cucumber-avocadocurried carrot and other veggie-based soups are lovely ways to enjoy the season’s bounty. When my sister and I were growing up, our mom would serve us sweet, cold mung bean soup in the summertime. We were fond of it since it was basically dessert to us; I’m guessing my mom preferred its nutritional value. It’s filling, satisfying, and has been my breakfast staple for the past few days in this ridiculous Chicago heat.

Mung beans are used in many Asian cuisines; you may be familiar with them in the form of bean sprouts or cellophane noodles, made from its starch. They’re high in protein, contain a significant amount of calcium and iron, and according to traditional Chinese medicine, have a cooling effect on the body by flushing out excess heat, which is why mung bean soup is typically eaten during summer.

Unlike a lot of dried legumes, mung beans don’t require soaking so they’re quick to prepare. Just stick in them in a pot with some water, start the rice cooker, and walk away. You can use all that extra time to whip up a batch of ice cream or another cool treat. In fact, they make great popsicles — they’re exactly like the red bean variety except they’re green, of course. After the soup is done, pour and freeze in popsicle molds. The frozen beans add a delightfully crunchy texture.

Sweet mung bean soup (and/or popsicles)

1 part dried mung beans, rinsed (you can buy them at any Asian grocery store or Whole Foods)
3-4 parts water (use the lower end if you’re making popsicles)
natural sweetener of your choice (I use brown sugar but white sugar or agave nectar would be fine, too)

Combine beans and water in rice cooker pot. Start rice cooker. When it shuts off, it’s done. If the beans aren’t tender enough to your liking, cook another few minutes. Add sweetener to taste (you may want to add a little more if you’re freezing this into pops). Serve cold (or frozen).