Bike MS training update: The Real Ale Ride

This past Saturday, at an ungodly early hour, I loaded up my bike and headed out to Blanco for the annual Real Ale Ride that leaves from the Real Ale brewery. The ride motto? “Up the hills, Down the beers.” Definitely fitting. I was hopeful as the ride started that maybe the wind wouldn’t get as bad as promised. And around mile 35, with a tailwind, I climbed a THREE MILE long hill that I hoped was the worst that I would experience. Ha. No such luck. Soon after climbing that hill, we turned again and were greeted with a gusty headwind. There were moments where I questioned my resolve. I even pulled over on the side of the road (not at a rest stop) to have a snack and rest, something I’ve never done on an organized ride. The hills were good training (see the Garmin route here), I suppose, for the Bike MS event Ride the Rim that I will participate in out in Canyon, TX on June 22nd. There is a very very nasty hill on that ride. In support of the fact that I will not SAG up that hill, please consider making a donation to the MS Society in support of my participation! (SAG = support vehicle that I could choose to ride in)

The good news is that I finished after 65 miles in one piece and got to enjoy lunch, beer, music and italian ice. By that time of day, it was downright hot and the humidity was still ridiculous so the italian ice from Rita’s was a special treat. The other fun part? I won a contest to be a “Beerbassador” sponsored by Real Ale and Bicycle Sport Shop. I got a free Real Ale Phoenix jersey, entry into the Real Ale Ride, a cool bottle opener and a very heavy case of Fireman’s 4.

Warning: this post has many pictures because I got yet another handlebar mount for my GoPro. This one is supposed to swivel but once I tightened the set screw, I couldn’t loosen it, so I couldn’t swivel the camera on my bike. Sigh.

Do you see me in the crowd of beerbassadors?

Classic cars, rolling down the main street in Blanco right after the ride started.

Classic cars, rolling down the main street in Blanco right after the ride started.

Classic cars, rolling down the main street in Blanco right after the ride started.

Classic cars, rolling down the main street in Blanco right after the ride started.

The day started out extremely humid and very hazy.

The day started out extremely humid and very hazy.

The haze slowly started to clear.

The haze slowly started to clear.

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Lots of wildflowers on the left side of the road.

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It’s hard to tell here, but you can see hills off in the distance.

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Pretty clouds and a great view.

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Small cliffs along the side of the road.

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Rolling into a small town, where the first rest stop I stopped at was located.

First rest stop! At a cute little general store type building.

First rest stop! At a cute little general store type building.

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Hills in the distance and the haze was back.

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This picture is for my father-in-law. There’s an old thresher on the left side of the road. Can you see it?

Tandem riders. Maybe I'll have one of those someday. I'll have to be the front rider through.

Tandem riders. Maybe I’ll have one of those someday. I’ll have to be the front rider through.

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Hills…

Wildflowers!

Wildflowers!

The second rest stop I paused at had a table with a high school boy serving Rita's italian ice. I think it's the only reason I got back on my bike to fight the headwind to the finish.

The second rest stop I paused at had a table with a high school boy serving Rita’s italian ice. I think it’s the only reason I got back on my bike to fight the headwind to the finish.

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The Blanco river is on the right side of the road. It’s hard to see here.

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That blue sign says “Ride your bike hard today” from Clif bar. Don’t worry, I did.

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When I first pulled up to the finish the food line was SO long. Luckily it moved pretty quickly.

The finish party had a band, dancers, food and beer. Plenty of tents to sit in the shade too.

The finish party had a band, dancers, food and beer. Plenty of tents to sit in the shade too.

After making it home with my prize, Mojo   was king of the Fireman's 4 beer mountain.

After making it home with my prize, Mojo was king of the Fireman’s 4 beer mountain.

Thanks for reading! Please consider a donation to my Bike MS fundraising!

 

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Surprise sugar cookies

Can you guess the surprise ingredient?

Can you guess the surprise ingredient?

Now that you see the cookies, can you guess the surprise? Actually, they’ve got two surprises. One is that they were made with beer and the second is that I tried a butter substitution to make them healthier. I know that applesauce can be substituted for butter in many baking recipes, but applesauce makes cookies have a more cake-like texture. After reading suggestions, I settled on using mashed avocado to replace half of the butter in the recipe. That’s right, those cookies have avocado! You can almost make out a very faint green tint in the picture. I even served these beauties at our superbowl party and no one caught on to the fact that they had avocado in them. They disappeared like hot cakes. The cookies were pleasingly soft and delicious. Avocado are fruits after all, so their sweetness is a nice addition to baked goods. Even if they add a green tint.

Recipe: Beer Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Bella Online

Ingredients:

  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup mashed avocado
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 bottle malty, fruity style of beer
  • Parchment paper
  • Some sugar and cinnamon mixture to sprinkle on top

Method:

Reduce beer of your choice by simmering on the stove top until consistency resembles syrup. This can take a while. Be careful not to let it boil over (from experience).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream together sugar, butter, and mashed avocado until smooth and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In another bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix together. Gradually mix in dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

After all ingredients are combined, add beer syrup and stir it in by hand, the batter will look marbled.

Drop tablespoon sized scoops of cookie dough onto the baking sheets. Flatten down a bit (they don’t flatten out on their own much) and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake for 10 minutes, or until a bit golden and set in the middle. Place on racks to cool.

I used Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing, a winter warmer style.

I used Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale from Anderson Valley Brewing, a winter warmer style.

Reducing the beer to syrup.

Reducing the beer to syrup.

 

Getting ready to beat the butter, sugar, and avocado.

Getting ready to beat the butter, sugar, and avocado.

Wet ingredients all mixed up. Notice the slightly green batter.

Wet ingredients all mixed up. Notice the slightly green batter.

After mixing in the dry ingredients.

After mixing in the dry ingredients.

Adding the beer syrup.

Adding the beer syrup.

Marbled batter after mixing in the beer syrup.

Marbled batter after mixing in the beer syrup.

Mmmm... the final, slightly healthier cookie.

Mmmm… the final, slightly healthier cookie.

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Beer cap ornaments

I have a HUGE collection of beer caps because not only do we drink a lot of beer in our house, our friends also save their caps and give them to me. Because we have a beer theme going on in our house, I got the idea to make Christmas ornaments with beer caps. Here’s how I did it – make some of your own!

Supplies:

  • Ornament hooks (I found some fancy ones at World Market last year)
  • Beer caps (preferably holiday themed or colored)
  • A drill
  • Some easy to bend wire
  • Scissors
  • Small pliers (I have some jewelry pliers)

Process:

First, I sorted my caps. I made each ornament from 3 matching caps. Here you can see my supplies:

Next, I drilled holes in the caps. For each set of three caps, I drilled two holes in two caps and one hole in the third cap. The third cap is the bottom cap so it only needs one hole.

Then I used the wire to attach the caps together. I just twisted the wire together on the back side of the caps and cut off any excess. I made sure to point the wire ends toward the cap so it wouldn’t scratch anyone. For the top cap, I used a longer piece of wire so that I could make a few twists before attaching the ornament hook. That way, the directions that the caps faced could also be adjusted relative to the hook direction.

The finished product!

 

Making beer bread… again

After my last attempt at beer bread I decided to try again, this time with fresh baking powder. This time I made the plain variety from Bake at 350 using Anchor Christmas Ale:

I only baked the bread for 50 minutes at this time, in the hope that would make the bread fluffier with a softer crust.  The bread was somewhat less dense this time but still had a rather hard crust. I’m not certain why the crust is so hard but the bread is pretty tasty warm out of the oven:

Making beer bread

Since I came across this recipe for different types of beer bread on Bake at 350, I knew I wanted to try it. My previous experience with beer bread was delicious. A softball party for team “Beer Me” was the perfect opportunity to bake up a batch, or two as it turns out.

I decided to make a loaf of the orange nutmeg for the party and a loaf of gruyere and rosemary for my husband to take to work.

The recipe calls for self rising flour which we don’t have and I’ve never used it before. My husband pointed me to wikipedia which says you can make your own self rising flour by adding 1 tsp of baking power and 1/2 tsp of salt to regular flour. I combined those ingredients with a bottle of beer (Avery White for the orange nutmeg bread), 3 tablespoons of sugar, zest from an orange and freshly grated nutmeg.

For the gruyere and rosemary bread, I used a bottle of Real Ale Pale Ale.

I then baked the breads for 1 hour at 350. The bread smelled wonderful.  When I took it out, the orange rosemary bread was drizzled with a fresh squeezed orange juice and powdered sugar glaze.

The gruyere rosemary bread was covered with butter.

While the bread looked tasty, it wasn’t quite as good as I hoped.  The baking powder must have been too old because the bread turned out too hard.  I also think a sweeter bread would have been better.

Making stout into cake

Yes, I really did bake two cakes this week. The second one was for my husband’s birthday. This is the second time I’ve made this chocolate stout cake from use real butter.  Yes, the recipe really is in that blog post after you scroll past all of the pictures.

This year, I changed two things from what I did last year. I substituted half of the butter for applesauce to make the cake moister (which worked) and I used a milk chocolate icing that my husband bought rather than the fudge icing I used last year. I recommend the fudge icing. Both years I used Guinness in the cake because we happened to have some and it’s not fancy enough for my local beer snob to drink.

Guinness, butter, and applesauce, oh my!

Heating the stout and butter, and then after the butter melted, adding the applesauce:

Mixing in the cocoa powder:

Mixing eggs and sour cream:

Adding the chocolate mixture:

Ready for the oven!

Out of the oven!

First layer iced:

Done!

The making of a new obsession…

Remember my new gifts? I’ve began phase one of using them for a new project. I’ve started drawing beer things. Many ideas are floating in my head about how this will play out.

A bottle of Fireman’s 4:

The Southern Star logo (not yet traced with darker lines):