Home Cooked: Corned Beef & Cabbage

You don't want to get between this kid and his dinner. Seriously. 

You don't want to get between this kid and his dinner. Seriously. 

St. Patrick's Day came early to our house this year!  My partner, Chris, is ambitious at work and at home, which means she often has the patience and focus to do things like: research the science of curing meat safely, invest in some supplies and tools, and make corned beef from scratch.  And I am so glad about that, because dinner was delicious.  Even our kid loved it.  While he has an unusually large appetite for a toddler, he doesn't usually eat much meat.  Yet even he was shouting "mo' beef!" throughout our meal. 

Simmering on the stove with a continuous read thermometer to help keep the temp around 190F. 

Simmering on the stove with a continuous read thermometer to help keep the temp around 190F. 

 

 

 

Last week, Chris brought home a plain, raw brisket. She set out to cure it, a process that takes 7 days  (Luckily, after the initial set up, the process is completely passive).   Chris learned to brine and cure by reading AmazingRibs.com, especially this article "The Science of Curing Meats Safely."  The article will school you on basics like killing botulism, nitrites vs. nitrates, and it even includes a handy calculator for setting up your curing solution.  

Add the hard veggies for the last hour of simmering.  The cabbage only needs 30 minutes.

Add the hard veggies for the last hour of simmering.  The cabbage only needs 30 minutes.

 

Today, the  meat was finally ready to be cooked.  Chris followed this recipe, which calls for the cured meat to be simmered in water for 3-4 hours (the meat is so full of seasonings and salts from the week in the fridge, there's no need to add anything else).  You throw the root veggies into the pot for the last hour, and then the cabbage for the last thirty minutes.  Slice up the meat, then serve with veggies and some generous spoonfuls of the simmering liquid.  

 

 

 

Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots! 

Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots! 

I thought the meal was perfect, but Chris felt the meat—while very tender—should have been falling apart more.  Next time she plans to cook the cured (aka corned) beef with our sous vide device for 10 hours, following the advice of Serious Eats, instead of simmering it on the stove.   

Mini Adventure: Tilden Park's Little Farm

Chris & Dino feeding a cow at Little Farm last summer. 

Chris & Dino feeding a cow at Little Farm last summer. 

As a Realtor, weekends mean working for me. Between hosting open houses, showing property, meeting with my buyer clients who work long hours all week, and catching up on the paperwork, there's never as much time for adventuring as I'd like!   But since Chris works traditional hours during the week, and Dino is in daycare, we make sure to prioritize a little time every weekend for family fun.  

Lettuce and celery are the only things you're allowed to feed the animals, and you'll want to have a lot of it.   

Lettuce and celery are the only things you're allowed to feed the animals, and you'll want to have a lot of it.   

Today we ventured to Little Farm up at Tilden Regional Park after Dino's nap. It's a perfect mini-adventure:  Little Farm is very little, so it doesn't take much time to visit every animal. It's completely free, there's plenty of parking (& you can even take the 67 bus!), and since the whole thing is open, there are no lines to wait in even when it's busy with visitors. 

 

My father grew up in the Berkeley Hills just a stone's throw from Tilden, and my grandmother lived on Grizzly Peak for 60+ years, so I visited Little Farm countless times with my cousins when I was a kid.   Today was Chris and Dino's second visit: we first took Dino when he was about 8 months old, but at that age he wasn't old enough to really engage with the environment.   Nowadays, he's walking, talking, and knows the names of several animals by sight, so we thought it was high time for a return visit.

We saw a lot of cute animals today, but I'd say this one was definitely the cutest. 

We saw a lot of cute animals today, but I'd say this one was definitely the cutest. 

The cows are the first animals you'll see when you arrive, and Dino was very skeptical about their size and their friendliness.   He warmed up as we gandered over to the ducks and geese.   Chris and I marveled at the very young piglets, but Dino wasn't as impressed, and he got scared when the roosters started cockadoodling.  The goats and sheep were his absolute favorite: he kept saying "Hi Goats!" and "Hi Shee[p]!", and he even tried to climb into the sheep's pen at one point. 

When you visit Little Farm, you'll see lots and lots of families with young kids.   Many kids visit with their grandparents, and today there were even some teenagers on awkward dates plus a big group of Cal undergrads, who seemed to be there for some kind of class assignment. If you have a couple of hours, you can pair your visit to Little Farm with a trip to the Merry-Go-Round (1 mile south of the Farm via Central Park Drive) and the incredible Redwood Valley Railway, a 15-gauge train ride (3 miles further south via Grizzly Peak Drive).  Don't forget to bring lots of celery and lettuce so you can you feed the animals! 

 

 

Blog Intro: What do you mean, adventure?

 

Lately, I've been very tempted to start a super serious Real Estate Blog.  Before I was a Realtor, I worked as a writer and editor, and I love educating my clients and friends about the finer points of personal finance, property tax laws, the real estate transaction process, and making the most out of your home life.   But as much as I would enjoy researching and writing a lengthy treatise on the pros and cons of Prop 13, I realize it'd be more fun for my readers if I took a different approach: focusing on day-to-day adventures. 

OK, I'll admit it: I'm being pretty generous with the word "adventure."  When I was 17, I spent a month traveling around Europe with nothing more than a JanSport backpack and 25 Euros per day, including lodging.  That was definitely an adventure (I also lost a lot of weight without meaning to, as you can imagine). 

These days, "adventure" means something like this: an afternoon at  Telegraph , one of our favorite kid-friendly, dog-friendly beer gardens in the Uptown/KONO neighborhood of Oakland. Chris says their burgers are "the only burgers I enjoy, except yours, sweetie." 

These days, "adventure" means something like this: an afternoon at Telegraph, one of our favorite kid-friendly, dog-friendly beer gardens in the Uptown/KONO neighborhood of Oakland. Chris says their burgers are "the only burgers I enjoy, except yours, sweetie." 

  My idea of what constitutes an adventure shifted dramatically when I had a baby and it became a major feat just to get out the door on time with clothes unsoiled and wallet in tow.  In fact, I'll never forget the first outing my partner and I took with our son, to his pediatric check-up when he was 5 days old.   While we were waiting for the doctor, Chris opened the diaper bag, which I had packed.   "Damn, this is so heavy!" she exclaimed, pulling out three, 24-ounce water bottles,  "Um, what's with all the water?"  I indignantly explained, "What if something happens to us, and we need water?!" Luckily I quickly became aware of my absurd sleep-deprived, postpartum over-preparation.  I had packed enough water for a hundred mile bike ride (something we did before becoming parents and will probably never do again)  even though our trip entailed only a 1 mile bus ride from our apartment to the doctor's office! For the record,  I'm still an avowed  over-preparer. 

There's no question that having a baby, and now a toddler, puts limitations on our ability to have spontaneous, complicated, and somewhat rugged adventures.  At the same time, these logistical limitations have given me a renewed appreciation for quotidian fun, for all the enjoyable things we can do with a toddler in tow.  One of the most surprising parts of parenthood for me has been how much more observant, mindful, and appreciative of ordinary pleasures I've become.  I see living in the East Bay as an immense privilege: there is so much here, from pleasant weather to rich networks of community organizing and activism, natural beauty, tons of activities, tons of high and low brow cultural happenings (equally important in my eyes), and of course, delicious food and drink.  

In this blog, I'm going to focus on sharing with you all the projects and day trips and happenings about town that my family and I participate in,  how we make the most of our time together, and of course our favorite spots and activities in the East Bay.  General speaking, my partner and I are both invested in sustainability, financial integrity, and cultivating a fulfilling home-based lifestyle.  What that means in practical terms is that you can expect posts from me about biking for transportation, cooking, crafting, beer-making, DIY home improvement, personal finance and budgeting.   In the midst of all this, real estate topics are bound to come up and I will arm you with a with a healthy dose of pragmatic resources.  Now, for the adventure!