Cold-brewed tea soda

A while ago I got a SodaStream water carbonator to replace my slowly-failing iSi siphon. While I haven’t used any of SodaStream’s own flavor syrups (as I have heard they are generally nasty, and all of them use sucralose which tastes bad and gives me a headache), I have of course made several bottles of soda flavored using Torani syrups. However, I found those to be a bit sickeningly-sweet, not to mention overpriced, but after a bit of experimenting I discovered a very simple means of making soda which is quite delicious and also much healthier: herbal tea!

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Piña Colada, reconstructed

Once upon a time, cocktails were very simple, elegant things with only a couple of key flavors combined in a balanced manner. For example, the classic martini (gin, vermouth, and an olive) and the classic daíquiri (rum, lime, simple syrup) are favorites that will last forever.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, mixed drinks started to become these ridiculously cumbersome things which involved blending and puréeing and so on, and from the 60s to the 80s we started to even see classic cocktails be ruined by this trend (now “martini” seems to mean “any horrible concoction in a martini glass,” and a daíquiri might as well be a strawberry smoothie).

With that in mind, I looked at the mixed drink which probably started it all — the piña colada — and attempted to reinvent it as if it were a classic cocktail. I served several of these at a small party last night, and they were a success.

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חֲרֽוֹסֶת

Tonight was of course פֶּסַח and so I went over to Berkeley for my cousin’s סֵדֶר, which is a large enough affair that he does it as a pot luck. Since I didn’t have any ideas for what to bring, he assigned me to do the חֲרֽוֹסֶת, which is one of the vital staple symbolic foods (it represents the mortar the slaves used to assemble the pyramids, never mind that the pyramids probably didn’t use mortar).

2020 update: Also it turns out that enslaved Jews didn’t build the pyramids, and the people who did build the pyramids probably weren’t slaves. It’s important to correct this misconception and decouple those two facts. Apparently חֲרֽוֹסֶת originally only symbolized mortar and adobe in general, as the connection with the pyramids was apparently only made in the 1970s. But do note that the Jews who did construction for the Egyptians were slaves, and פֶּסַח remains an important celebration of their liberation.

Growing up, eating חֲרֽוֹסֶת always seemed like something of a chore, so I decided to kick it up a bit and make it something people would actually want to eat. Since I didn’t know how many people were coming to dinner I made a whole bunch (which turned out to be about twice as much as needed). On the plus side, it was the hit of the dinner and people were commenting about it non-stop.

I ended up leaving all the leftovers with my cousin, since I don’t have any מַצָּה‎ to put it on and no inclination to eat it on its own.

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Easy sausage soup

When making soups it’s more a matter of technique and knowing what to combine and in what order, but some variations are good for seeing what sorts of experiments to try.

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Chicken andouille gumbo

There isn’t much authentic about this recipe (and technically it’s more of a jambalaya, being roux-thickened rather than using okra or filé), but this one gets rave reviews so I’m sharing it anyway.

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Tuna noodle casserole

Easy to make, filling, and doesn’t taste horrible. The ultimate cheap grad student food.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes of work, 30 minutes start to finish
  • Ingredient cost: around $4
  • Makes 4-6 servings
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