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Beer Braised Potatoes With Rosemary Beer Gravy

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A reader from Iceland emailed me last week to ask what I listen to when I’m cooking. "You seem like a music girl," she said.

Music, food, beer, it all seems to be a different parts of the same creature and just like food can find a matched pair with beer or wine, music is the same way.

Making these potatoes I was lured to music that was timeless, earthy and effortless. Here is a bit of that list:

Something In The Way She Moves, James Taylor

Tampa To Tulsa, The Jayhawks

Torn In My Pride, The Black Crows

Fortune Teller, Robert Plant

Wicker Chair, Kings Of Leon (this was off a Demo they made before they were famous, handed to me late one night on Sunset by Nathan. I’m not sure if it is still available online, but I still listen to that Demo all the time)

Red House, Shudder To Think

Duncan, Delta Spirit

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Between prep, braise and eating, this is the music that joined me and the potatoes in the kitchen. A slow, lazy Sunday afternoon playlist that was a perfect compliment to a timeless potato dish.

And the beer that came along for the ride was Damnation by Russian River. A Belgian style beer that gave the starch in the potatoes a beautiful push forward in taste. If you’re a craft beer fan, or just starting to grow in curiosity about the subject, Russian River should be counted among the Craft Beer Meccas of the world. Seek out the beers they make, and plan to stop by the brewery if you ever find yourself in Northern California, or the West Coast, for that matter.

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Beer Braised Potatoes With Rosemary Beer Gravy

Ingredients
  

For The Potatoes:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1 large shallot chopped (1/3 cup)
  • 1 lbs red potatoes chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 tsp black pepper

For The Gravy:

  • 2 tbs flour
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 325. In an oven safe Dutch Oven or pot with a lid (check that all knobs are oven safe) melt butter. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the potatoes and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, pour beer over potatoes, add rosemary, pepper and salt. Cover with lid and place pot in the oven until potatoes are fork tender, about 18-20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and return to stove. Using a slotted spoon, remove the potatoes and set aside.
  • Add the flour and stock, whisk over medium high heat until thickened, about 3 minutes. Serve potatoes with gravy.

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Apricot Basil Ice Cream

I’ve always defined the "Perfect Gift" as something you want but would never spend the money to buy for yourself. Things that may not be expensive, but because money is a limited resource no matter who you are , these things just don’t make that "Must Buy Today" list. Things you quietly (or possibly aggressively) lust after but there are always other things that take top billing in your budget.

A few years ago I was given a KitchenAid Ice Cream maker (affiliate link). for Christmas. Perfect. I wanted it, but don’t make enough ice cream to really justify the purchase. I’d see it at Sur La Table, pause for a moment and then end up with something a bit more practical in that brown and purple bag.

Now that I have it, it makes me feel like a brilliant hostess. "You MADE ice cream? From scratch?" it sounds so luxurious  and ambitious. Even though I only break it out a few times a year, I am always so glad I have it. If you agree not to tell anyone how easy it is to make ice cream from scratch, I won’t either. And we can continue to impress people with the long hours we slaved away to bring them such a momentous dessert.

Apricot Basil Ice Cream

Apricot add in:

 4 cups soft apricots, pitted

1 tbs fresh lemon juice

4 large basil leaves

1/4 cup sugar

Ice Cream Base:

2 cups whole milk

4 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup heavy cream

Place the bowl of your ice cream maker in the freezer for at least 8 hours (I store mine in the freezer so it’s always ready to go) or freeze according to manufacturer specifications.

In a food processor, add the apricots, lemon juice, basil leaves and 1/4 cup sugar, puree until smooth, some chunks of apricot are fine.

To make the ice cream base, add the milk, egg yolks, vanilla and remaining sugar  to a cold sauce pan and whisk until the mixture is well combined. Place the pan over medium high heat and stir until the mixture has thickened slightly (will coat a spoon), about 10 minutes, remove from heat. Stir in the cream.

Add the apricot puree and mix until combined. Add to an air tight container and place in the fridge and allow to cool for at least 4 hours.

Add to the frozen ice cream bowl and churn according to manufactures specifications, about 12 minutes in my Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker. Place in an air tight container and freeze until firm, about 2 additional hours.

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Chocolate Porter Strawberry Shortcakes With Beer Whipped Cream

(Chocolate Porter Strawberry Shortcakes With Beer Whipped Cream)

I’m taking a huge risk here.

You may have taken one look at this post and decided that I’ve lost my magic. Chocolate beer cake is as common as Nascar sweatpants in Walmart. But unlike motor sports fashion blunders in public, I loved this dessert.

I’m combining a past evoking childhood treat with my beer loving present tense self, and topping it with beer whipped cream. Strawberry shortcakes were one of my favorite desserts as a kid, but growing up I never had them from scratch. I was raised in a very prepackaged, frozen food section, shelf-stable house, with a mom who was trying to feed all of her 8 daughters (yes, that isn’t a typo, I have 7 sisters) with no time for any culinary adventure beyond reheating and assembling. Completely understandable.

Making my childhood memory of strawberry shortcakes those pre-packaged round sponge cakes, with Cool Whip and chopped strawberries.

So this is the "I cook from scratch and add beer" version of that. Although not a traditional "shortcake," I hope once I top it with drunken whipped cream and fresh berries you’ll forgive the misstep in terminology.

Chocolate Porter Strawberry Shortcakes With Beer Whipped Cream

For the cake:

3 cups cake flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp salt

2 sticks butter (softened)

2 cups sugar

5 eggs

1 tbs vegetable oil

12 oz Porter beer

For the strawberries:

4 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped

1/2 cup sugar

For the whipped cream:

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 tbs porter beer

(makes 10)

 Preheat oven to 350.

In a bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.

In the bowl of the stand mixer cream the butter and sugar. One at a time add the eggs, beating well and scraping the bowl between each addition, then add the oil. Alternating between the beer and the dry ingredients, add both a bit at a time, starting and ending with the dry ingredients, stir until just barely combined.

Grease and flour two 8 inch cake pans.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool.

Invert the cake pan onto a flat surface. Using a 2 1/2 inch biscuit cutter, cut out 5 circles from each cake round (you can also use a large knife to cut them into squares).

Place chopped strawberries in a bowl with sugar, stir to combine. Allow to sit at room temperature for ten minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream, powdered sugar and 2 tbs beer. Whip on high until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.

Place one cake round on a plate, top with strawberries and then with whipped cream.

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Goat Cheese Stuffed Apricots With Honey

I have a message for that guy who decides what day holidays are on. It’s awesome when he picks a day of the week, rather than a date of the month. He did a great job deciding on Thanksgiving and Easter, but a spectacularly awful job for Halloween and the 4th of July.

So I have some changes to propose to…that guy. Whoever he is.

The 4th of July should be celebrated on the first Friday in July, so that the 5th of July never has me sitting in an office trying to participated in work related functions with the remnants of my "casual get together turned late night party" still hanging onto me like a overly tired toddler. I do realize that if you name a holiday after a date, then it really messes people up if it doesn’t occur on that date, as in, "Are you coming over for The 4th of July on the 6th of July?" But, Holiday Naming Guy is to blame for that.

So my suggestion is that Independence Friday is now to  replace (or rather move) Mid Week 4th of July celebrations. All the same patriotic fun with out the comprehensive country wide lack of productivity the following day. I might have to start lobbying for this as soon as I can beat the crap out of who ever invented Day Light Saving time, that Guy is a real A-Hole. 


Goat Cheese Stuffed Apricots

12 apricots

6 to 8 ounces goat cheese

3 tbs raw honey

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Cut the apricots in half and remove the pits. Grab a small piece of goat cheese, about the size of the pit you just removed and roll it into a ball. Place it in the center of the apricot. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with pecans.

I also cut these in half again before serving, but that’s your call.

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BLT Mini Tarts With Bacon Jam

In my world, 4th of July is a lot like Thanksgiving. But with sunburns and pyrotechnics. An underlying feeling of patriotism and national gratitude, a day off work and an evening of food and celebration with friends and family. 

But unlike Thanksgiving, the food is all fair game. There are no requisite poultry centerpieces, or traditional casseroles, you are free to cook and eat whatever you like. Most people gravitate towards easy, low maintenance grill style food, or appetizers and dips that can just hang around the kitchen waiting patiently for attention. 

Here are some of my favorite foods for low key afternoon get together:

1. Brown Sugar Chili Chicken Wings

2. BLT Caprese Slider with Puff Pastry Buns


3. Jalapeno Popper Potato Bites 

4. Boozy (Or Not) Watermelon Stars  

And the Man of The Hour:

BLT Mini Tarts with Bacon Jam, Arugula & Grape Tomatoes

For the tart dough:

2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 1/2 sticks of butter

1/3 cup ice cold water

For the topping:

A double batch of Bacon Jam

1 cup arugula leaves

1/2 cup grape tomatoes, cut in half

In a food processor, combine 1 1/3 cup flour, salt, sugar and butter, process until well combined. Add the remaining flour and process again until combined. Transfer to a bowl and add the water with a wooden spoon (don’t add the water while the dough is in the food processor or your dough will be brittle and cracker-like). If the dough isn’t moist enough, you can add more water, a tsp at a time until the consistency is right. Form dough into a disk, wrap with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 375.

Roll your dough out on a floured surface. Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter, cut out 20-25 circles. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough circles on the bakign sheet. Prick eat circle with a fork. Bake at 375 for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

Spread each mini tart circle with bacon jam, top with arugula and grape tomato halfs. 

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Stout & Sriracha Beer Barbecue Sauce

Barbecue debates rage on all over the south, even as we virtually speak. The most sweltering of all topics is Sauce versus Rub. Rub people claiming that good meat doesn’t need to be drowned in sauce, and sauce people attesting to the holy balance of flavors between sauce and meat, and then there is the apathetic middle who just shrug and use both.

And even when you eat your way across the Barbecue Belt, sampling the best of both slow cooked worlds, and finally take up residence in a meat preparation camp, the disputes don’t end. If you decide to consort with the rowdy sauce crowd, you have more decisions to make. Are you a vinegar based sauce person or tomato based? Molasses or brown sugar? Mustard sauce or chili sauce?

I’ve decided I’m a sauce girl, but I will never turn away good Slow Cooked BBQ Rubbed Spare Ribs. And although I prefer a deep sweet tomato sauce with a kick of spice, I’ll eat every last bit of a Golden Mustard Pulled Pork Sandwich.

Whether you decide on sauce, or just a great marinade, beer is an ideal addition. Beer is a natural meat tenderizer and a deeply flavored stout is a great way to go.

I used Bear Republic, Big Bear Black Stout. A fantastic stout, and as Beer Store Beer Guy told me last week, "Bear Republic’s Stout is one of the most consistent beers I’ve ever had. It always tastes the same, no matter what batch it came from." Hard thing to accomplish.

Stout & Sriracha BBQ Sauce

Stout & Sriracha Beer Barbecue Sauce

Servings 2 cups

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced
  • 1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tbs worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp sriracha
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup Stout
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp onion powder

Instructions
 

  • In a pot over medium heat, add the oil and allow to get hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and stir until you can smell it, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined. Allow to cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
  • Store in an air tight container in the fridge.

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Coconut Oat French Toast (Dairy Free)


I told you all about my plan to try and limit my dairy intake. There are, however, some things that I will never part with, like goat cheese. I might crawl across broken glass for goat cheese. And homemade whipped cream, especially Candy Cane Whipped Cream, is a joy I will indulge in for the rest of my life.

But milk, I could take it or leave it. In fact, most of the time I would rather leave it. Not just because the idea of drinking a tall glass of un-manipulated milk makes me want to gag, but because I have found so many alternatives that I enjoy so much more.

Coconut milk is an amazing substitute for milk, and the flavor is beautiful. Almond milk adds a new dimension to dishes that I adore.

For now, I will be making my french toast with coconut milk, I loved the way it tasted.

Coconut Oat French Toast

1 can light coconut milk

1/4 cup brown sugar, plus additional 1/4 cup divided

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

12 slices of bread

1 cup quick oats

Add the coconut milk, 1/4 cup brown sugar, vanilla and eggs to a bowl, whisk until well combined.

Place the oats and remaining brown sugar on a plate or in a shallow dish, stir until well combined.

Heat a skillet (with a lid), sprayed with butter flavored cooking spry,  over medium high heat until hot but not smoking.

Two at a time, soak the bread in the coconut milk mixture for about a minute. Remove from the milk and allow excess to drain off, place on the oat plate, turn to coat.

Add the french toast to the hot pan, replace the lid and cook for two minutes. Turn the french toast, replace the lid and cook for an additional two minutes, or until cooked through. Turn the heat down on the pan if the oats start to brown too quickly.

Top with fresh fruit, if desired.

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Strawberry Beer Sorbet

Everything I love about summer is in this dish.

Or, more accurately, everything I love about summer that can fit into a small metal bowl are in that dish.

Fresh produce.

Homemade sorbet.

Beer. Of course, beer.

And when I was buying said beer, Alesmith Anvil, I had an interesting conversation with Beer Store Beer Guy.

For the most part, I really like my chats with Beer Store Beer Guy so much that I forgive him when he makes the assumption that I have no idea how I ended up in the Beer aisle and he must point the poor lost girl back to the Chardonnay section where she has most likely wander off from.  I’m ok with this, the trapping of being tall and blonde and with the egregious mistake of having a brain in my head, I find it amusing. Like when I end up at the mechanics and they have no idea my step dad was ASE certified, or those adorable guys at Home Depot who try to point me back to the paint isle when I really want to buy a new blade for the tub saw so I can finish re-tiling the kitchen floor. The greatest advantage anyone has is to let others underestimate them. I’ve come to find it endearing when Beer Store Beer Guy, Hardware Store Guy and Mechanic Guy try to take care of the lost girl and help her find her way. Because what I really want to be is Marisa Tomei in the last court room scene in My Cousin Vinny saying things like,

"'Cause Chevy didn’t make a 327 in ’55, the 327 didn’t come out till ’62. And it wasn’t offered in the Bel Air with a four-barrel carb till ’64. However, in 1964, the correct ignition timing would be four degrees before top-dead-center."

And you can really only have that once someone decided to underestimate you.

Something else you shouldn’t underestimate is the flavors in the Anvil. It may seem like a strange choice for this sorbet, giving the matlier, toastier flavors but I love the balance it gave.

Choose a beer that has notes of citrus, fruit and spice. A citrusy IPA would be a great choice as well.

And don’t be offended when others underestimate you, use it to your advantage.

StrawBerry Beer Sorbet

Strawberry Beer Sorbet

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries hulled and chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups beer pale ale with notes of citrus

Instructions
 

  • In a sauce pan over medium high heat, add the strawberries and the sugar. With a potato masher, or mallet, smash and stir the strawberries until well macerated and combined with the sugar.
  • Allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring and mashing until all the strawberries have broken down, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, stir in the beer and allow to cool. (If you want to strain the pulp and seeds, do so now. I didn't strain.)
  • Place the strawberry mixture in the refrigerator until completely cool, about 2 hours.
  • Churn in your ice cream make according to manufactures specifications. Place in a freezer safe container and chill until ready to serve.

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Crab Stuffed Baked Avocado

There is something about the raw exposure that blogging brings that forces you to face and deal with emotional handicaps that you didn’t even know that you have.

It may be the contrast between complete strangers showering you with compliments and adorations, and other complete strangers raining down harsh criticism. When in reality, neither is wholly accurate. You are, to one degree or another, somewhere in the middle.

And as harsh and those nasty comments can be, the overly positive ones have always been more difficult for me to deal with. Those readers who send compliment saturated emails about how much they love my recipes, or how great my life must be, are with no doubt a highlight of blogging. But I am always left with the fear that the pedestal will crumble and I will be exposed as the ordinary person that I truly am.

Self worth is supposed to be an isolated container, unaffected by the thoughts of others. But I’m not sure anyone has really figure out how to do that, and if he does, I’m not sure I want to meet that guy.

The truth is, sometimes we need a mirror of honesty to see how great we are, and place that value in our container of worth. And to really start to believe it.

Take a second to think back on your life and write down all the best compliments that you have ever received.

And then take the rest of your life to truly believe them.

Crab Stuffed Baked Avocado

4 oz cream cheese, softened

6 oz crab meat (drain well if using canned meat)

1/4 cup tomatoes, chopped

1 tbs scallions

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

pinch cayenne pepper

3 large ripe avocados,cut in half, pits removed

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400.

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients except the avocados and the parmesan, mix until well combined.

Fit the hole in the avocado with crab mixture, top with generous amounts of cheese. Place avocados in the wells of a muffin tin, bake at 400 until the cheese has melted about 8-10 minutes.

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Parchment Paper Red Snapper

I worked at a little cafe in college. It was a run by an odd man, who was largely absent, with questionable ethics and strange business practices. Which all ended up working to my benefit. I was young and slightly lazy, as long as I showed up for my shift and turned in the appropriate amount of money every day, I was lavishly ignored. There were no comment cards, focus on customer service, or unnecessary protocol, I did what I wanted. And what I wanted, other than giving out free muffins every time I forgot to ring in an order, was to spend time in the kitchen.

It was a small, poorly run brunch spot in Old Town Pasadena, right on the Rose Parade route. Our biggest draws were Granola French Toast with Vanilla Bean Sauce, Sour Dough Toads in A Hole With Chorizo Gravy, Pumpkin Pancakes year round and fantastic cappuccinos as well as a kitchen expertly managed by our overworked chefs Nacho & Sergio.

I take pride in the fact that I was one of the few waitresses that they liked. I brought them "water" when we were busy, made runs to our inappropriately far away walk-in and took the blame for spoiled food when the boss would eventually show his face. The cooks, after all, were the heart of the place. I could be replaced in a heartbeat, but the entire restaurant pulsed through Nacho & Sergio.

Late one afternoon, as our new and overly ambitious new manager-of-the-moment decided to dust off the chalkboard sign to institute a Daily Specials program, I begged Nacho to teach me something. He laughed. And then put me to work making Red Snapper packets with parchment paper, butter and some vegetables. To this day, I still make these. Easy, healthy and ready to adapt to in-season produce.

I’m guest posting for Claire of The Realistic Nutritionist today. You can get the recipe on her site.

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Beer Tortillas

 

Tortillas are one of those glorious foods that I have found myself continuing to make from scratch. It wasn’t an epiphany that wakened me from my supermarket tortilla grabbing slumber, it was a gradual process. Tortillas are easy, and you probably have all of the ingredients in your kitchen already. And the end product will finally convince you that you no longer need that plastic bag full or pre-made taco vessels.

So why the beer? Beer is a leavening agent, mild in a way that is the perfect strength to lightly leaven a tortilla. And a beer with bread, wheat of notes of crackers will add a fuller flavor then the typical baking powder that is called for in most homemade tortilla recipes.

You only need a few ingredients to make these, so you need to choose carefully. Most people use lard, and this tends to give the best results. After I cook bacon (a weekly occurrence) I pour the rendered fat into an air tight container and store it in the fridge. Once it cools and solidifies, I use this to make tortillas with. If you are vegetarian or vegan, vegetable shorting makes a great stand in.

The beer you choose needs to be carefully considers as well. Because it has a slight cracker like taste, I use Hair Of The Dog’s Ruth. Choose a beer that has notes of yeast, bread or crackers. A wheat beer would also work well.

Beer Tortillas

Servings 6 to 8 tortillas

Ingredients
  

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup fat lard, vegetable shortening, rendered and cooled bacon fat
  • 3/4 cup warm beer Plus 3 additional tbs

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Add the fat and rub it into the flour with your hands until it forms course crumbs and all the fat has been distributed.
  • Addr 3/4 of a cup warm beer into the flour mixture, mixing with a fork until all of the flour has been moistened (adding the additional 3 tbs if needed). Knead for about 3-5 minutes or until the dough becomes shiny and slightly stiff but not firm.
  • Pull off pieces of the dough just smaller than a golf ball. Roll into balls and place on a plate, continue for the remaining dough. Cover the plate with a towel and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.
  • Heat a griddle or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Roll the tortillas out until they are thin enough to see through. On a lightly floured surface, flatten a ball of dough with the rolling pin, then roll forward and back across it; rotate a sixth of a turn and roll forward and back again; continue rotating and rolling until you reach a very thin consistency. Alternately, you can use a tortilla press.
  • Throw onto the griddle and allow to cook until lightly brown, about 1 minute per side. Don't over cook or your tortillas will be crispy.

Make a batch of Chipotle Stout Braised Beef and make Tacos.

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Chocolate Coconut Brownies (Vegan!)

To see my Coconut Oat French Toast, click on the picture:


Why would a meat eating cheese monger such as myself want to make something vegan? Several reason, not the least of which are my friends and family who can’t or wont eat dairy. As meat eaters, it is even more important for us to experiment with vegan and vegetarian food and not hang on the crutch of animal products with the exclusion of other foods. We need to have all types of recipes in our arsenals, not just to accommodate those who might be guest at our tables, but in order to discover foods that we didn’t know we loved, because we didn’t think food with "vegan" labels applied to us. In exploring vegan cooking I have discovered what an amazing texture vegetable shorting lends to frosting, how rich and beautiful coconut milk tastes, and how fruit purees can be a flavorful stand in for butter. 

Dairy free baking is something I want to lean towards more. Only using milk products when other substitutions would compromise the overall product, but in many cases vegan substitutions make the end result just as good or even better. Plant based foods just feel better in my body and if the taste of the food isn’t harmed then why would I make any other choice? 

I started exploring dairy free cooking when three friends where coming over for dinner. One was kosher (meat and dairy can not be served together) one was allergic to cow’s milk and the other was breast-feeding a baby who couldn’t have dairy. All three needed a dairy free meal. I realized how much dairy I use. Why? I love plants, produce, vegetables, fruit…why all the milk? 

These brownies where really good. Not just "good for vegan" but just really good. So fudgy and intensely chocolatey, even Tater couldn’t keep her little fingers off them. 

She took a bite and then carefully put it right back where I had place it. So cute, I love that kid. 

Chocolate Coconut Vegan Brownies

1/3 cup coconut oil

1 cup agave nectar 

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk (can sub coconut milk)

1/3 cup strong coffee*

1 cup cocoa powder

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 tsp salt

In a bowl, beat together the coconut oil and the agave nectar until well combined. Add the soy milk and coffee and beat again. in a separate bowl, add the cocoa powder, flour, shredded coconut and salt and stir to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined, don’t over mix. 

Spray a 8×8 inch baking dish with cooking spray (or line with parchment paper) and pour bater into prepared pan. 

Bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes. You don’t want to overcook these or they will be too dry. Allow to cool before cutting into. 

For an extra treat, serve warm topped with coconut milk ice cream. 

*Note: Coffee intensifies the flavor of chocolate, with no trace of a coffee taste. If you don’t like coffee, or don’t have a coffee maker, stop by a Starbucks and order a black coffee, use 1/3 of a cup and freeze the rest in ice cube trays for use in future chocolate baking. 


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Beer Soaked Chocolate Covered Cherries

Last week I was able to sit down with a guy, who in just two years went from a home brewer who was opening the doors to his first bar, to owning three bars and the fastest growing craft brewery in California.

If you live in Los Angeles, and you’re a craft beer fan, I’m certain you have heard of Tony Yanow of Golden Road. If you haven’t you are going to want to acquaint yourself with him and what he’s building. Here is my article for your craft beer research indulgence.

He is also the man who helped create one of my favorite IPA’s. Golden Roads, Point The Way IPA.

As I’ve hammered into you several times before, IPA’s make terrible cooking subject, which is why I rarely use them. This is a recipe that doesn’t require cooking, and the tart hoppiness of the IPA is a great compliment to the cherries.

And, as a salute to my fellow beer lovers who happen to be vegan (more vegan beer fans exist than one would expect) this is an easy recipe to veganize.

IPA Soaked Chocolate Covered Cherries (vegan option)

2 cups fresh Bing cherries, pitted

1 cup IPA

8 oz Dark Chocolate (60%) (For vegan, use vegan chocolate. Most higher end brands are vegan at 60%, but make sure to check if you want to make sure)

Pit the cherries and add them to a loaf pan in one tight layer. Pour the IPA over the cherries and allow to soak at room temperature for 2 hours and up to 6. Drain and allow to dry for about 20 minutes (they need to be dry before chocolate gets involved).

To temper the chocolate: (*Note. Tempering chocolate makes it shiny and gives it a nice snap. If you don’t care so much about that, you can just add the chocolate to a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds, stir and repeat until melted)

In a double boiler melt the chocolate over medium heat. If you don’t have a double boiler, add a metal bowl over a pot of water, making sure the bottom of the metal bowl does not come in contact with the water in the pot.

Chop the chocolate into chunks and add about half to the top of the double boiler. Heat the chocolate to 115 degrees (use a clip-on candy thermometer to do this). Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until all of the chocolate has melted and is now down to about 90 degrees.

A few at a time, add the cherries to the chocolate with a fork, roll around until coated, remove with the fork and allow to drain a bit, then place on a piece of parchment paper to harden. Repeat for all cherries. Chill until ready to serve.

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Orzo Caprese In Tomato Cups

When I was a kid "Pasta Salad" was just a requisite side dish at family gatherings that was hastily bought at the grocery store and remained in it’s plastic tub beside other more appetizing offerings while slowly making it’s way to room temperature. I never really understood how macaroni noodles, eggs and mustard where always such an important part of every barbecue I went to. And while these little gatherings were being planned, there was always a mention of it, "Who is going to bring the pasta salad?"  Pasta salads have so much variety and take so little time, you don’t ever have to resort to grocery store tub again.

Instead of that I offer you this. Orzo pasta and a fairly traditional Caprese salad, mixed together and served in a hallowed out tomato (feel free to bypass the individual serving size vegetable dish for larger gatherings.)

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Orzo Caprese Salad in Tomato Cups

1 cup dry Orzo pasta

2 cups (10 oz) grape tomatoes, halved

2 cups small mozzareall balls (ciliegine sized) cut in half or quarters

5 basil leaves, chopped

3 tbs pesto sauce

1 tsp balsamic

Salt & Pepper

4 beefsteak tomatoes

Cook Orzo according to package directions until al dente, put in a bowl with the grape tomatoes, mozzarella balls, basil leaves, pesto and balsamic. Toss to combine, salt and pepper to taste.

To serve in tomato cups, cut the beefsteak tomatoes in half widthwise and use a melon baller to scoop out the insides.

Fill with Orzo Caprese Salad and serve.

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Homemade Beer Marinara From Scratch

 

The first time I made marinara was a complete accident.

Just a few months after I nearly accidentally graduated college, I got a job working with teenage gang members in South Central Los Angeles. You are free to laugh at the idea of a very white girl, who grew up on a farm in Eastern Washington, working in South Central. With gang kids.

I sat on one side of a light oak dining table in a small Group Home, a transitional respite for kids who had been released from jail but who were still on probation, to talk with Dominick. He was from a rough area of Compton, and had found his way to the seat across from me via a GTA charge and a hot temper. But to me, he was a baby faced 14-year-old who secretly liked Whitney Houston. This was our first meeting, and part of my job was to compile a list of his "Triggers." Anything that made him angry enough to lash out, to do something that could land his ass back in jail. We both had the same goal: get him back home. Most kids, in my short 4 months of experience all had a very similar trigger. This usually centered around someone "talking shit" about them, their mom, or their crew. Maybe a handful of other miscellaneous and understandable offenses.

When I asked Dominick what triggered him, what drove him to a rage that welled up in him a feeling of violence that once caused him to send a chair on a journey through a class room window, his face fell flat.

"What?" I was so curious, "What makes you that mad?"

He took a deep breath and lowered his voice, "When those mother fuckin' girls make human pyramids."

I laughed so hard I felt bad about it. His young face broke open into a sweet smile, "Jackie, I’m not gonna lie.." He started to giggle, "Pisses me the fuck off, I have no idea why. I want to push those chicks right over."

Fair enough. My job was to teach him how to deal with his anger, no matter what triggered it.

He wanted to learn how to cook, and he wanted to make Spaghetti. He thought that cooking might help him channel his anger. We didn’t have any sauce, but his group home staff had just come into ownership of 10 pounds of tomatoes, so we made do.

Because of Dominick, and his human pyramid hating ways, I will always love a good, homemade, can free, marinara.

Homemade Beer Marinara From Scratch

3 lbs tomatoes

1 large head of garlic

1 tbs olive oil, plus 2 additional tbs, divided

1 large white onion, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled and diced

16 ounces wheat beer (Golden Road Hefeweizen is a great choice)

1/3 cup chopped basil leaves

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 400.

Rub the head of garlic until about half of the papery white skin comes off. Cut a small amount of the tip off the head of the garlic, just enough to expose all of the cloves. Place on a small piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with about 1 tbs of olive oil. Fold the foil tightly around the garlic, place on a baking sheet. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and place them on the baking sheet along with the garlic packet.

Roast the tomatoes and the garlic at 400 for 20-30 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft and the skin starts to peel back from the flesh. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

The skin of the tomatoes should be very easy to remove at this point, peel the skin off the tomatoes and discard. Place a fine mesh sieve or strainer over a bowl. Scoop the seeds into the strainer and place the remaining part of the peeled and seeded tomato into a bowl, repeat until all of the tomatoes have been seeded. Allow the seeds to continue to drain while you make the rest of the sauce.

In a pot over medium high heat, add 2 tbs olive oil. Add the onions and carrots, sauté until carrots are soft and onions are translucent. Add the beer, seeded and peeled tomatoes and whatever juice has accumulated in the bowl beneath the tomato seeds. Discard the seeds. Remove the head of garlic from the foil packet and squeeze the soft head until the cloves comes out and into the sauce. Add the salt, pepper and basil.

Reduce heat to maintain a low simmer, allow to cook and reduce until thickened, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If you want a smoother sauce, add to a food processor and process until smooth.

Use this with my Homemade Beer Ricotta to make a beer infused Lasagna or stuffed Rigatoni.

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Drunken Strawberry Tart with Beer Lemon Curd

Being wrapped in a world filled with food people, the lovers, academics and fanatics, I’ve often lost my footing. Forgotten the simple pleasures of small, honest meals for the sake of a journey towards the creation of an epic recipe. While surrounding myself with people who strive to reinvent the world of food as we know,  I’ve been so entranced that I’ve stepped away from the core of who I am and the food I fell in love with.

I am not a moderist cook.

I am not a chef.

I may never create an epic recipe.

I am OK with that.

It was through a process, not of self discovery but of self remembrance, that stumbled upon a memory that I had almost lost within my catalogue of food experiences. Under the thousand dollar dinners, PR events, celebrity chefs, and world renowned restaurants was a small Italian city, and a home cooked meal.

Years ago, on what turned out to be a 16 hour layover, I was stuck in Pescara Italy. A girl about my age, just past 21, took pity on a broke and confused American in her tiny local airport and asked if she could show her town to me. It began with a home cooked meal, from her own mothers hands on a rickety folding table in her living room, the only place in the small apartment that would accommodate us all. Homemade bread, a small green salad, smashed peas and a roasted chicken.

For dessert was a lemon tart. Simple, beautiful and tangy, made by the hands of a woman who didn’t speak a word of English, but who took time to cook for me even though we would never have the ability to have a conversation, and I could never properly thank her. This is the food that I fell in love with, and I am reminding myself to stay true to that.

I’ve done my best to make the beer infused version of the tart that was made for me in Pescara, and chose a beer that is nearly as fascinating to me. Cooney Island Lager has flavors that remind me a great meal made in spring, orange, citrus, bread and apples.

If you can’t find this beer, look for a low hop beer with notes of citrus, tropical fruits and bread.

Drunken Strawberry Tart with Beer Lemon Curd

Ingredients
  

For the tart crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups of flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick of unsalted butter cut into small cubes
  • 3-5 tbs ice cold water

For the curd:

  • 1 tbs lemon zest
  • 2 whole eggs plus six yolks
  • 1 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice about 6 large lemons
  • ½ cup beer
  • 2 tbs corn starch
  • 1 stick unsalted butter cut into cubes

For the Strawberries

  • 3 cups strawberries
  • ½ cup beer
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

For the Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbs beer
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Instructions
 

  • In a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the cubes of butter and process until combined, about 1-2 minutes. Your dough should resemble course meal.
  • Start with 3 tbs of water, pulse until combined. If the crust doesn’t hold together add more water, a bit at a time, until it does.
  • Dump the dough into a 4 inch deep, 9 inch wide tart pan with a remove-able bottom (you can also use a pie pan). Starting with the sides, form the crust inside the pan, trying your best to make it all as even as possible. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for a least 3 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 375.
  • Place a sheet of parchment paper inside your tart and fill with pie weights. If you don’t have any, dried beans work great.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until your tart is a light golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly. remove pie weights.
  • Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, beer, sugar, corn starch, whole eggs and yolks to a bowl and whisk until well combined. Add the lemon mixture to a pan over medium/low heat along with the butter. Whisk until thickened, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  • Add the curd to the crust and chill until set, about 4 hours.
  • Just prior to serving add the berries to a shallow bowl of pie pan and cover with 1/2 cup beer. Allow to stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes. Drain and return to bowl with the sugar, stir to combine.
  • Add all of the whipped cream ingredients to a stand mixer and mix on high until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes.
  • Top tart with berries and whipped cream just prior to serving.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts With Goat Cheese

Every foodie mom wants to raise an eater. A kid with a profound appreciation for food who can tell you the difference between a Béarnaise and a Hollandaise. 

I love that my two year old’s favorite food is bacon, that she’ll pick the carcass of roast chicken clean if I let her, that she prefers to snack on roasted Nori sheets over Oreos if given the option, but it’s not my biggest focus. I want her to respect food, but I want her to respect people more.

I’m grateful that I have the ability to buy organic whole produce, spend the extra five bucks for the organic free range eggs, that I always make cakes, frosting, ricotta cheese, bread and pasta from scratch, and I’m thrilled that I get to be that type of mom. But I wasn’t that type of kid.

I was the kid who’s family lived pay check to paycheck, who once sorted through boxes of canned food sent over from the local Mission when the funds ran really low, who waited in the 12 passenger van while mom ran into the bakery to buy twenty-cent day old bread so our family of ten could make it through the month. And I never had a friend who made me feel bad about it.

When my seven sisters and I would have friends over on a friday night, and mom would make Bisquick pancakes for dinner, it was seen as charming, not as a cheap way to feed the fifteen mouths that were now at the table.

That’s what I want for Tater. To be able to sit at anyones table and see the food as what it is, a gesture of care and affection. I don’t want her to ask for aged Reggiano to add to the Rice-A-Roni that her friends mom served. I don’t want to raise a kid who wants to add a honey balsamic reduction to ice berg salad mix she is given by the next door neighbor.

I want her to eat what she is served, and feel grateful that someone took the time to offer her food from their home.

I want to raise a kid who would eat boxed macaroni and cheese if that what she is served, and clean her plate, without ever pointing out that her mom makes it from scratch.

And if she is at summer camp and a group of weary, under paid cooks serve her chicken nuggets and tater tots that only made a brief stop in the kitchen after a long ride on a Sysco truck, I hope she is able to see warm food that people took time away from their families to make for her. 

And if someday her mother in law serves her a burnt lasagna that is still frozen in the middle, with Kool-Aid out of plastic tumblers, I hope she say thank you. And I hope she means it.

Food is more than just an experience of taste and the pleasures that it brings, it’s about a respect for those who serve it. Everyone has different abilities, concerns and limitations but we all bring food to those we love with the same motivation, and no amount of foodie intolerance should ever diminish that.

I have the privilege  of spending time and money on the food that I want to serve, but the love I bring to my table is no different than the busy, over worked mother or 5 who serves spaghetti from a jar and a box twice a week.

I want her to be gracious and appreciative, no matter what is put in front of her, thanking her hosts, because others did that for me.

That’s what food is about.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts With Goat Cheese

3 tbs olive oil

3 cups Brussels sprouts, cut into quarters

1/2 tsp course salt

1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper

small pinch of cayenne pepper

2 oz goat cheese, crumbled 

(makes 4 side dish portions)

In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat until hot and shimmery. Add the Brussels sprouts, tossing frequently until browned and fork tender. Turn off heat, add the salt pepper and cayenne, toss to coat. Add to a plate and top with goat cheese. 

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