Thursday, April 28, 2011

We've Moved!

This blog has been a lot of fun, but for the time being, we are moving on to our new project:

Food and Brews contains much of the same content, and will be regularly updated with new recipes, food thoughts, beer reviews, and homebrew experiences. Please visit, and let us know what you think!


Elizabeth & Alan

Monday, April 18, 2011

Caldera IPA

Caldera Brewing's IPA
by Alan

As I was browsing around Whole Foods looking for something I haven’t tried, the Caldera cans practically burst off of the shelf with their brilliant colors. High end beer in a can? Who am I to judge until I give it a try!

Caldera's description: 

An American-style India Pale Ale brewed with plenty of body and an assertive hop profile. Malts: Premium Two Row, Munich, Crystal Hops: Simcoe, Centennial, Amarillo; Alcohol by Volume: 6.1%; IBU 94, SRM: 10.1

My tasting notes: 

  • Appearance — Rich gold color with a light tan head, excellent head retention
  • Smell Citrus and floral hoppy smell with from herb notes, fresh grass. Some sweet malty smell
  • Taste Bitter hopiness up front, then the resinous hop flavor shines though. some good toasted malty flavor with it
  • Mouthfeel Crisp, well carbonated nice and smooth
  • Drinkability Great session beer, easy drinker for an IPA

This has made me a believer in the can. While I’ll never shy away from some inexpensive PBR or some High Life, it’s great to see some high quality, high flavor brews in the same light compact container. These will help make by baseball season full (and my wallet empty).

$9.99 for a 6 pack at Whole Foods (prices may vary)

This brew would go perfect with some grilling, and the can is perfect for some outdoors action.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Paulaner Salvator DoppleBock

by Alan

Paulaner Salvator DoppleBock
I thought I would branch out and try something international and not an IPA. With so many options to choose from, I started with a lower price point and worked my way up. Low and behold, the $2.49 Pint of brew was called out my name.
Paulaners description:

"Paulaner Salvator is the founding father of all Bavarian stouts, and the originator of all "-ator" beers. With an alcohol content of 7.9, it is not only the strongest beer brewed by the Paulaner Brewery, but also has the most tradition: Paulaner Salvator has been brewed from 100% Munich malt to a handed-down recipe for 375 years. Today, it is the highest-selling "Double bock" beer in Germany.

Paulaner Salvator is dark, full bodied and strong, and wonderfully malty in flavour and aroma - a perfectly balanced, round, quaffable stout specialty."

My tasting notes:
  • Appearance — Dark copper Amber with a tan colored frothy head. Low head retention
  • Smell — Buttery sweet, Nutty, malts dominate
  • Taste — The Munich malt shines, nice sweet malty flavor bread and honey. Crisp with some alcohol heat in the finish
  • Mouthfeel — Crisp, full bodies, flavor stays with you all the way though. Nice warm drinker with medium to light carbonation
  • Drinkability — with the alcohol content, I probably wouldn’t drink more than one in a sitting, but this is a tasty sipping brew. Great for some cold weather

  • 1 pint .9oz bottle, 2.49 at Whole Foods (prices may vary)
  • ABV 7.%

Grab yourself a Bratwurst and some sauerkraut—this brew needs something with a fair amount of flavor to play off of. Any kind of grilling would be good, or some nice roast beef. Can’t beat the price.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Reviewing Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals, Day 5: Grilled Pork Chops with Broccoli and Beans

by Elizabeth

Grilled Pork Chops with Broccoli and Beans
When we're feeling rich and fancy, we throw in a hearty meat dish into our dinner rotation. At first glance, this meal sounds a bit boring, but it's actually very tastey. I was not able to locate the Purple Sprouting Broccoli that the recipe calls for, so I just used regular 'ol broccoli.

Once again, I wasn't able to get my meal on the table in 20 minutes. It was more on the side of 40 minutes. My pork chops were really thick, and they took significantly longer to cook that the recipe stated. Again, I don't think 40 minutes is bad for a great dinner, but the advertised 20 would have been nice too!

This meal was the second most expensive, $12.35—$8.00 of that was the pork chops. We could have gone cheaper with them, but like I said earlier, we were feeling rich and fancy. Still, the price isn't too bad, we made 3 pork chops, so my husband has a good hearty lunch to take to work today.

I'm not a big meat-eater, but this was very good. I think my favorite part was the Cannellini Beans sauteed in oil, garlic, and chile. They were so creamy and rich - the perfect side for a gnarly pork chop! The broccoli is finished with a squeeze of lemon juice, which keeps it bright so it can hold its own with the rich beans and grilled meat. Time aside, I'll be making this one again.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reviewing Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals, Day 4: Gorgeous Greek Salad

by Elizabeth

Gorgeous Greek Salad
Once a week we usually throw a "big salad" in the mix for our weekday dinners. It's a great way to keep things light, fresh, and fast. Jamie's Gorgeous Greek Salad is full of flavor, colors, and just plain yumminess.

Even considering this meal was a salad, it took me about 40 minutes to get it on the table. Again, I'm mostly being slowed down by prep. There are a lot of items to chop, but this meal is well worth it. The dressing is made bright with lemon juice, and red onions marinated in red wine vinegar give an additional burst of flavor to the salad.

So far, this has been the most expensive meal coming in at $14.65. The pricey items were the avocados, tomatoes, feta cheese, and ciabatta bread. The ciabatta was $3.50, but it was a delicious grilled treat within the salad.

This salad has lots of fun ingredients, loads of flavor, and can stand alone as an actual meal. I did make one little change—I know, already making changes to a recipe—I added sliced cucumber. Cucumber is one of my favorite salad ingredients, and I couldn't stand to have a Greek Salad without it!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sierra Nevada 2011 Hoptimum Whole-Cone Imperial IPA

by Alan

Hoptimum, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
For this beer, we really have to start with the label. Being new to home brewing, I picked up a copy of the Jan/Feb issue of Brew Your Own, and that's when I got my first glimpse at Hoptimum. The label just popped off the page, and I started keeping an eye out at local shops to see if I could get my hands on some of it. As soon as it was available I bought a couple bottles. I immediately drank one, and saved the second for a review.

Sierra Nevada's description: 
"A group of hop-heads and publicans challenged our Beer Camp brewers to push the extremes of whole-cone hop brewing. The result is this: a 100 IBU, whole-cone hurricane of flavor. Simply put —Hoptimum: the biggest whole-cone IPA we have ever produced. Aggressively hopped, dry-hopped, AND torpedoed with our exclusive new hop varieties for ultra-intense flavors and aromas.

Resinous "new-school" and exclusive hop varieties carry the bold and aromatic nose. The flavor follows the aroma with layers of aggressive hoppiness, featuring notes of grapefruit rind, rose, lilac, cedar, and tropical fruit—all culminating in a dry and lasting finish."

My tasting notes:
  • Appearance—Pours a clear golden amber with a foamy off white head. Great head retention
  • Smell—No surprise here, lots of hops up front. Grapefruit notes, nice and floral
  • Taste—Lots of hoppy bitterness, with a fantastic malty sweetness. Powerful hoppy flavor throughout with a clean dry finish. As you drink, the sweetness really shines and the floral notes come out more and more
  • Mouthfeel—Smooth and creamy, medium light carbonation with some heat from the alcohol content
  • Drinkability—This is a fantastic IPA for hopheads, not too cheap, and probably not too easy to find. If you can get your hands on some, I highly recommend it 

  • 24oz bottle, 9.49 at Whole Foods (prices may vary)
  • Bittering units: 100
  • ABV 10.4

I'm hoping Sierra Nevada makes this brew annually as a special release. They are doing some great things with their own proprietary hops, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. This was just an all around fun brew.

For a food pairing, you'll need something to be able to stand up to the bitterness. Any kind of spicy food would probably be the best although the hoppiness may enhance the heat a bit. Most BBQ beef would stand up great with this.

Reviewing Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals, Day 3: Szechuan Stir-Fry with Jasmine Rice

by Elizabeth

Szechuan Stir-Fry with Jasmine Rice
Stir -fries are one of my favorite meals—they're healthy, relatively fast to make, and are a fun way to change up the weekly dinner menu. Jamie's Szechuan Stir-Fry makes use of chicken thighs, which is the perfect meat for this dish! The dark meat has more flavor, and really holds up the the spices and herbs in this dish.

This meal didn't make it to the table in 20 minutes, it was a bit more like 45. I'm just not as fast at the food prep as Jamie Oliver! Once all of the food was chopped and ready, the stir-frying was really fast. Jamie once again busts out the use of chopped herb stalks—I gotta say, I'm a fan. It adds so much flavor to the food—try it next time you're working with fresh herbs.

The price of this meal was $9.50, which only came out to two dinners. No leftovers this time, but still, where can you get a fresh and healthy dinner for $5 per person?

Taste-wise, this meal was superb! The use of dried red chile, Szechuan pepper corns, and sweet chile sauce compliment the chicken and red bell pepper wonderfully without overpowering your taste buds. Then you get the background flavor of garlic, ginger, and scallions, oh my...a great thing. Not to mention the lovely aroma of Jasmine Rice as it all comes together.

I'm pretty sure I'll be revisiting this meal in the not-so-distant future—I think it has also taught me some other tricks to try on my standard broccoli, carrot, and tofu stir-fry.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Reviewing Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals, Day 2: Spicy Cod with Lemon Zucchini Couscous

by Elizabeth

Spicy Swai with Lemon Zucchini Couscous
When it comes to fish, I tend to get stuck in a rut where I limit myself to baking it in a dish with some lemon and butter or pan-frying it for tacos. I've never cooked fish fillets like this before, and I'm so glad I did!

Time-wise, it took me about 50 minutes to prepare. I set a timer for 20 minutes, and it was half-way through, and I was still fiddling with my cilantro stalks. I found that the prep for this one took longer than I expected. Also, the step where you fry up the onion and zucchini took longer than it alluded to in the recipe.

The recipe was also incredibly inexpensive to make, coming in at $7.75, it made enough food for two dinners and muchos leftovers. Jamie notes that you don't have to use cod, any white fish will do. Our grocery store was having a special on Swai, and it worked out just great. In this recipe, Jamie once again makes use of the stalks from the herbs. This is something I've never done, but by adding chopped herb stalks to you sauteing veggies is a great thing!

Time aside, I will definitely be using this recipe again. The fish was so delicious in the tomato-based sauce, and lemony zucchini couscous was a great base to catch all of the goodness.

NOTE: If you are viewing this recipe from your Android, I noticed an error in step 10 (for 4 people). It says to add 3/4 cup of boiling water to your 14 oz. of couscous - it should be 1 /1/2 cups of boiling water.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Reviewing Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals, Day 1: Tuna and Tomato Rigatoni

by Elizabeth

Jamie Oliver's Tuna and Tomato Rigatoni
Being a pasta-loving Italian-American, it's of no surprise that my first recipe from Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals app is a pasta dish: Tuna and Tomato Rigatoni.

This dish was so simple to make, yet the use of red onion, red chile, and chopped basil stalks made it complex and delightful. That's right—chopped basil stalks! The best part is, it was very much done and on the table in 20 minutes—5 minutes of prep time, 12 minutes of cook time, and about 3 minutes to get it plated and in front of a hungry husband.

Price wise, this meal cost $9.75—not counting items usually in the average pantry, such as olive oil, spices, etc. Not bad for a dinner and leftovers for lunches too! All of the ingredients were easy-to-find items that you can get at your grocery store. Jamie's recipe calls for a jar of tuna in olive oil, but I was able to locate tins of tuna in olive oil at Trader Joe's. I'm sure regular tinned tuna at the grocery store would work just fine in a pinch.

The pasta looked beautiful and appetizing—I was proud to put it on my table. It was even better to eat, we tucked into it like nobody's business!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Russian River: Pliny The Elder

by Alan

Pliny the Elder, Russian River Brewing Co.
On most Wednesdays, our local Whole Foods gets their small shipment of Russian River. Sometimes we get some Blind Pig, sometimes we get some of their Belgian stylesDamnation, Salvation, and Redemption—but we almost always get some Pliny the Elder. I do my best to make it in for the shipments and get whatever might be new as well as some Pliny the Elder.

I couldn’t find a specific description of Pliny the Elder from Russian River Brewing's site—not that it needs one. Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig both fall into the heavily hopped California ale styles. If you're an IPA fan from California, you probably know this beer fairly well.

My Tasting Notes:
  • Appearance—Brilliant gold with a bright fluffy white foamy head, perfectly translucent
  • Smell—Fantastic floral hops with some citrus notes, Orange/Peach
  • Taste—Some sweet maltiness before the hops smacks you in the face. Wonderful balanced bitterness with great hoppy flavor. The hops bring out some grapefruit citrus notes
  • Mouthfeel—Very smooth medium bodied with perfect carbonation. Some light alcohol heat. Very well balanced
  • Drinkability—This is a world class beer, I continue to buy this whenever I can get it

The folks at Russian River make some fine brews, and there will be many more reviews as I get my hands on more of them. Hopefully I can make my way up to the brewery sometime to enjoy some right from the tap.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Food, Meet Technology

by Elizabeth

Last week while I was browsing my Twitter feed, I saw that Jamie Oliver (@Jamie_Oliver) posted that his "20 Minute Meals" app was on sale for Android. Being a proud owner of an Android phone, I thought - "what the hell, let's give it a try." This is actually the first app that I've ever paid for on my phone. I'm a cheap S.O.B, so this is kind of a big deal to me.

Image from

After spending some time browsing the recipes 'n such, I decided it would be fun to test these out during the week. My husband and I both work full time and go to school, so 20-minute meals are sort of our thing. Starting tomorrow, I'm going to test a dinner recipe each day for five days. The recipes will be reviewed based on:
  • Price of ingredients
  • Ability to locate ingredients
  • Time to cook- was it really done in 20 minutes?
  • Loveliness of the food
  • Yumminess of the food

I'm very excited about this experiment. From the looks of the recipes, I think it's going to be great. I love Jamie Oliver and his passion for cooking with quality ingredients. And if it's done in 20 minutes, even better - cheers!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale

by Alan

I'm a big fan of beer, and I have been a big fan of Morimoto since I started watching the original Iron Chef many years before they brought it to America. I had not heard of the Morimoto series of beers until the beer buyer at our local Whole Foods alerted me that they were getting some of the Soba Ale in stock. I've been saving this for week or two, and after a big sushi dinner with the wife, this seemed like the perfect beer to crack open.

Rogue Ales Description:
The delicate flavor of our roasted Soba brings a nutty finish to this light and refreshing ale. A perfect accompaniment to lighter cuisine.

8 Ingredients:

  • Malts - Roasted Soba, Harrington, Metcalf, Munich & C-15
  • Hops -  Crystal
  • Yeast & Water - Rogue’s Pacman Yeast & Free Range Coastal Water

My Tasting Notes:
  • Appearance - Light Amber, with some small bubbles. Not overly carbonated, nice and clear but very light head
  • Smell - Earthy smell which makes sense with the Soba. Lighy sweet smell, peachy
  • Taste - You can certainly taste the earthy buckwheat from the Soba, but its not off-putting or overpowering. Some lightly citrus tones, quite refreshing
  • Mouthfeel - Smooth, Medium body, average carbonation, finishes dry
  • Drinkability - Great pairing with some sushi, easy drinker and refreshing

I certainly enjoy soba noodles, and I'll be picking up another bottle of this for some warm summer days for a Soba dinner. If I could find it on tap or in the bottle at a Sushi restaurant I would gladly order one up. This was an interesting beer, very enjoyable.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beer Beginnings, Issue 3 - Blackberry Wheat Ale

by Alan

I'm trying to take my small amount of home brewing to something I can put more of a personal touch on, however, I still had a few more Mr. Beer Hopped malt extracts. It may not be the degree of difficulty of other brews, but my Mr. Beer experiences have ended up with some pretty good beer. The Blackberry Wheat experiment was fairly odd, and from the start I wasn’t sure what I was going to end up with. Here's how it went down:
  • 1 Can 19.4 oz Mr. Beer Golden Wheat Malt Extract - 5-minute boil with 1 liter water
  • 1 Can 19.4 oz Mr. Beer "Whispering Wheat Weizenbier" added after boil
  • 1 Can 15 oz Oregon Fruit Blackberries - Pureed with a hand mixer added after boil
  • 1 packet SafBrew WB-06 Dry Wheat Yeast
It was a very simple recipe to work with, and the fermentation was fun to watch. It was bubbling and foaming like crazy - it even bubbled out the top of the keg. It clogged-up the airlock a bit, which was slightly difficult for bottling, but it all worked out in the end.

I've tried a couple bottles now, and it’s certainly different. I'm surprised how much blackberry nose and flavor came out. I know there are a lot of purists out there that wouldn’t dare use fruit, but I'm just a beginner and I enjoy the odd experiment or two. This was my fourth batch of homebrew and I’m having a ton of fun!

Wife's Notes:
It turned out fruity, but held a good beer flavor. I will definitely drink this again - it will be great on a warm afternoon!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Penne with Burrata

This recipe was an experiment, but how can you go wrong with garlic, tomatoes, basil, and cheese? The light sauce sticks to the penne, and makes every bite a very special treat!

Like most of my pasta recipes, this starts out by sauteing garlic in a bit of butter and olive oil, but in the end, you mix in chopped Burrata Mozzarella in with the warm pasta and sauce!

  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves - sliced thin
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 5-6 Tomatoes, chopped
  • Splash of White Wine
  • 8 oz. Burrata Mozzarella, roughly chopped
  • 1 lb. Penne Pasta
  • 10 Basil Leaves, sliced

Saute the garlic in the butter and olive oil while the pasta water is heating up. Saute the garlic for about 10 minutes - don't get it get brown or crispy. Add in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Let they tomatoes saute and simmer for about 5 minutes before putting the penne in the water - which usually cooks for about 12 minutes.

Once the penne goes in the water, pour a decent splash of white wine in the tomatoes. Bring them to a boil, and continue their simmer until the penne is done.

Toss the sauce with the pasta, then add the Burrata - miss it all up until combined. Stir in the basil leaves before serving.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Island Brewing Company Blonde Kölsh style Ale

by Alan

Before our horrible Sant Barbara weather hit - two days of light rain - I stopped by to pick up a few brews for the weekend. Given our nice warm weather at the time, I was feeling summery and went for something lighter and local. 

Island Brewing Company's Description:

A Kolsch-style ale brewed from five different types of malt, with a liberal dose of Czech Saaz hops. The result is one of our most popular ales and a nice balance of lingering malt flavors and a subtle hop finish. So light and smooth the first glass invites a second.

1st Place, 2004 CA State Fair
4.8% Alcohol by Volume

My tasting notes 
  • Appearance - Golden clear yellow with a nice foamy white head, fizzy
  • Smell - Crisp slightly spicy smell of the Saaz hops, slightly sour and somewhat earthy
  • Taste - Crisp, lightly hopped with some citrus/lemon character and a sweet malty flavor
  • Mouthfeel - Nice and light, with a somewhat dry finish
  • Drinkability - Easy-drinker, great for a summer day at the beach, or head to the Carpinteria for a few pints. Would be a great session beer
I think I need to head down to Carpinteria to try some pints on tap. This was an easy-drinker, and I cant wait to try some more Island Brews.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Green Flash Hop Head Red Ale

by Alan

One of my first stops at the 2010 Santa Barbara Beer Festival was the Green Flash tent. I was still plenty sober and the already-long line early in the day looked like a good sign. The couple  beers I tried were excellent, but it’s awfully hard to judge things from a day with so much beer. Since then I've been on the lookout for any Green Flash beer on tap at restaurants or anywhere else I might be able to find it. One of my favorites that I keep coming back to is their Hop Head Red Ale.

This San Diego Brewery appears to be on the forefront of beer trends. I've also seen some of their Belgian inspired Ales around, but Green Flash seems to be known for having very hop driven beers. I'd say it's somewhat like Stone Brewing or a number of other San Diego beers. Being somewhat of a hop head myself, I'm all for it.

Green Flash's Description: 
"Resinous hop character and bitterness balance the rich caramel malt base. We took it a step further and Amarillo dry-hopped the brew to 45 ibu's, creating refreshing and savory hop flavors and aromas. Is it red IPA? That's your call."

My tasting notes:
  • Appearance - Deep red-amber beer with some nice carbonation; pours with a thick foamy medium tan head
  • Smell - Powerful hoppy with its strong Dry-hopped Amarillo right up front; nice malty smell behind all those hops
  • Taste - Wonderfully bitter with hops all over the place; nice smooth malty backbone behind the hops; you can taste all the layers of hops within
  • Mouthfeel - Thick, bold but goes down quite smoothly; the bitterness from the hops leaves a nice dry finish
  • Drinkability - I love hoppy beers and I could easily drink a few of these. Not super high, but not exactly light at 6% alcohol, I'll probably be doing most of my drinking firmly planted on the couch (newsflash, I do that anyway)
Overall, this is one of my favorite regular drinking brews. The only problem I have is that this was the last of my 4-pack.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ain't Nothin' Like Homemade Chicken Soup

This has been a pretty challenging week for me. I just started a new job, my classes are ramping up, and to top it all of, I'm getting sick. It was during my new-hire orientation on Tuesday that I started to get that familiar tickle in my throat. The following day I had sinus headaches and a sore throat. I've been battling it with loads of tea, juice, and all the Vitamin C I can handle. So far it hasn't gone "full cold," so I'm determined to get rid of this thing before I go back to work next week!

My awesome husband offered to make me some chicken soup - it's one of my favorite things, so how could I refuse? Over the years we've worked hard at perfecting our soup. Back in the day, we'd just throw a whole chicken in a pot of water with vegetables and spices, and let it boil for a few hours; but in recent years, the process has gotten more sophisticated. If you have a day where you're just at home doing "house things," this is the best dinner to make! And it makes your house smell amazing!

  • Chicken*
  • 2 Onions, quartered
  • 4-5 Garlic Cloves, whole
  • Fresh Herbs**
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Water
  • Chicken Hearts and Gizzards (if not using a whole chicken)
  • 3-4 Carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3-4 Celery Stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 Bunch of Parsley, roughly chopped
  • 8 oz. Tomato Sauce***
  • 1/2 lb Small Pasta****
  • Grated Pecorino Romano*****

Rinse off your chicken, and place it in a baking dish. We found a super good price on a big pack of drumsticks, so that's what we used. Arrange the quarters of one onion, all of the garlic cloves, and the herbs around the chicken. If you're doing a whole chicken, put the onion, garlic, and herbs inside the cavity. Spray or drizzle everything with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put the baking dish in a 450° oven and roast for an hour.

After the hour, remove your baking dish from the oven. Place all of the goodness from the dish into a large stock pot. If you have one of those stock pots that has a strainer you can put inside, use that! Throw in your chicken hearts/gizzards, second onion, carrots, celery, parsley, tomato sauce, and some more salt and pepper. Cover it with water until everything is swimming. You don't need to fill it to the tippy-top of the pot, but make sure everything is covered. Turn that bad-boy on, and get it to a boil. Once it boils, give it a stir, cover it, and turn it to a low simmer.

After an hour or so, taste your soup - does it need more salt? Pepper? You can always add more spice to your bowl of soup, but it's really not as good as getting it spot-on when you're cooking it.

It might be good after an hour or two, but you really want to let it go for a long time. I find that when you give it 4-5 hours of simmering it really pays off. When I do turkey soup after Thanksgiving, I'll let it go for a super long-ass time.

Once your soup is done, remove the strainer that is full of the soup makings. We usually put it in a bowl because some people enjoy picking at the pieces of chicken and veg and adding it to their bowl of soup. Now that you have a pretty strained soup, you can add some cooked pasta if you like and start serving, or you can strain it again through something finer. I like to have a really clean broth with just pasta and some cheese on top. Some folks like it chunky and don't mind a broth with some herbs and bits in it. It's all up to you and how you dig your soup.

SPECIAL NOTE: As you let your soup cool down, you'll notice oil surface at the top. I do urge you to do your best and spoon off as much oil as you can. If you eat a bunch of oil, you can end up with the trots like nobody's business. Sometimes I make the soup a day or so ahead of time, so when I take the soup out of the fridge the oil has solidified and is really easy to remove.


*Get your chicken in any form you like. We often buy whole chickens when they are on sale, but they can be expensive. You can also buy a bunch of drumsticks, thighs, breasts, etc. I recommend something with bones, but again, whatever is on sale.

**Any fresh herbs that you enjoy will be good with this. I tend to use Rosemary, but I'll use the "Poultry Herbs" package if it's available and also on the cheap.

***This is optional - my dad always put a can of tomato sauce in his soups, so it tastes like home to me. I recommend it, but it's not necessary.

****Pasta is optional, but I enjoy my soup as a broth with just pasta in it. Again, it's what taste like home to me. Not to be a total advertisement here, but Barilla has recently come out with all sorts of "mini" pastas that are perfect for soups. My favorite are the tiny stars!

*****In my family, we top pretty much ever dish with cheese. Yep, even our soups.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ninkasi ReNEWAle 2011: Mason’s Irish-Style Red Ale

by Alan

My brother-in-law's girlfriend was kind enough to give me Ninkasi's SLEIGH'R Dark Double Ale as a Christmas gift, and I've been keeping my eye out for other Ninkasi beer since then. We recently had a Bev'Mo open in our area, and I was excited to see that they keep a couple different Ninkasi beers in stock. During my last visit I picked up a seasonal brew, the Ninkasi ReNEWAle 2011 version. It has been nice and cold, and we even had some snow on our southern California mountains, so this seemed perfect.

Ninkasi's description:
"A New Year a New Beer! Each year ReNEWAle will be something new and special to enjoy while winter runs its course. For 2011 we brewed a delicious Irish-style red ale that’s smooth and refined with a hint of toasted malt and a clean finish. A great beer for a new year, cheers!"

My tasting notes:

  • Appearance - Clear Copper red with a light tan frothy head 
  • Smell - very light aroma, the hops aren’t at the forefront like other Ninkasi beers I’ve had. Slightly earthy 
  • Taste - Lots of bite, fairly bitter but light bodied beer with a dry finish 
  • Mouth feel - thick chewy beer, a perfect smooth warming beer for the winter 
  • Drinkability - Easy enough to drink, not a very high alcohol 5.2%, A couple pints in a pub or a nice 22oz by the fire on a cold night is perfect.

Overall, it was a good beer, and I'll be looking for more Ninkasi beers in the future!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Beer Beginnings, Issue 2 - IPA

by Alan

I have been drinking more than my fair share of IPAs in the recent months, and I thought I'd try out brewing one on my own. This was my first outside of any Mr. Beer type brews, but I am still using the fun little keg fermenter for housing the brew. I did make one addition, getting a better spigot and a bottling wand so I could bottom fill my bottles. The new spigot locks, which really cut down on thumb fatigue for the bottling process.

So here we go...


  • 1 lb. Milled Crystal 60L grain
  • 1 Lb. 11 oz Gold Malt Extract
  • 1 Lb. 5  oz Amber Malt Extract
Hop Schedule
21 g Chinook      60 Min
 7 g Simcoe         30 Min
 4 g Cascade       30 Min
 7 g Simcoe         15 Min
 7 g Cascade       15 Min
 5 g Chinook         0 Min
 5 g Simcoe          0 Min
 5 g Cascade        0 Min
 7 g Simcoe          Dry Hop 7 days before bottling
 7 g Cascade        Dry Hop 7 days before bottling

  • 1 Packet Safale US-05 Ale yeast
Having no clue what I was doing with steeping grains, I read as much as I could on beer blogs, forums, and in my Joy of home brewing book I got for Christmas from my Mother-in Law. The more I read the more options I seemed to run across for the proper way to steep grains. The best I could figure, I needed to keep the grain below about 170 degrees and keep that consistent for about 20 minutes. I put my crystal grains in a grain sack, and heated up about a liter and a half of water with the sack of grains in it. The water quickly turned a nice red color. After about twenty minutes I removed the grains and removed the pot from heat.

Meanwhile in another pot I boiled up about 1 liter of water for the Hop tea. I tossed in the 21g of Chinook hops and the whole thing quickly started to foam up. Luckily I didn’t boil anything over, but it got pretty close. I got that down to a rolling boil and popped open a beer. With the grains and hop tea going, I felt it was well deserved. What better beer for a IPA brewing day, Russian River Pliny the Elder. Easily one of my favorite brews. Right, back to work. I kept adding the hops to the boil at the schedule I had written out. While that was going I added the Amber Malt extract to the water with the steeped grain when I had about 20 minutes left of the hop tea boil. With about 10 minutes left on the hop tea, I added the Amber Extract to the extract boil. At the end of the hop boil, I removed it from heat and strained the hop tea into the extract boil to remove all the spent hops. I also added the 5g Chinook, 5g Simcoe, and 5g Cascade (this time in a hop sack so I didn’t gunk up my beer too much). Everything was way too hot so I put the lid on my wort in the pot and plunked the put into my sink that I had filled with cold water and ice to try and chill it down.

While that was cooling I filled the Mr. Beer keg to about 4 Liters with cold water, then poured in my slightly cooled wort (with hop sack). I poured more cold water to bring it up to its 8.5 liters and checked the temp. I was right around 75 degrees at the point and ready to pitch the yeast. I sprinkled in my Safale US-05 yeast, let it sit for about 5 minutes then stirred the hell out of it to aerate. Closed up the keg, put it in warm place, then I turned around the see the aftermath of the mess I had created. I was doing dishes and cleaning up the kitchen for about an hour after.

7 days later, 7 days before bottling. I cracked open the keg to just drop in another hop sack of 7g Simcoe and 7g Cascade for some aroma. It already smelled like a bucket of grapefruits.

At the time of writing this, it has already been bottled, and I am about a week away from giving it a try. Who knows what it will actually be like, but I can’t wait to try it anyway. So far, aside from all the dishes, this is getting to be a fun hobby.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Special Day: Clam Dip

Word on the street is that it's Super Bowl Sunday. My family has never been much into sports, but I recall Super Bowl Sunday as a time for bunches of snack food and hilarious commercials. Both of which I still look forward to. In addition, I'm super excited for the 7th annual Puppy Bowl. If you haven't heard of it and you love dogs, you must check it out.

Back to bunches of snack food. In my family, a holiday is not complete without Auntie Vera's clam dip. It's at every Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthday, you name it! I know it sounds weird - "clam dip." I remember the first Christmas I had with my husband in which he first encountered the famous bowl of clumpy, creamy goodness. He respectfully declined, and the rest of us were all too happy to have more for ourselves. The following year, he gave it a try, and now he's hooked. Drat!

Auntie Vera's Clam Dip

  • 1 tub of whipped cream cheese*
  • Miracle Whip**
  • 1 or 2 cans of chopped clams***
  • Reserved clam juice from the cans
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Paprika
  • Ridged potato chips****

Start by combining the cream cheese with 2 scoops of Miracle Whip in a large bowl with a spatula. You need to mix it well so the two ingredients combine into a smooth consistency. Then pour in a couple splashes of the clam juice, and mix till combined. Then add a couple splashes of Worcestershire, and mix well. Now you need to taste it - the rest is completely up to you. It's usually at this point where I add significantly more clam juice and another scoop of Miracle Whip. Mix it well and taste it again. Again, I'm probably going to add another splash or two of clam juice. Once you have the taste that you want, fold in the clams.

Put your dip in a pretty bowl and sprinkle with Paprika. I don't use a fancy type of Paprika, as it's just for a bit of color.

Enjoy! If you try this, please let me know what you think!

* My genius Auntie Vicki let me in on a secret in which she uses the "whipped" version of cream cheese. You can use a block of cream cheese, but it needs to be at room temperature and you'll need a hand-mixer. That's just too much darn work if you ask me.

** I loves me some Miracle Whip. For you haters out there, I really wouldn't recommend mayo for this recipe since you need the sweet tang (heh, tang...) of the Miracle Whip as opposed to whatever mayo tastes like.

*** Completely depends on how much you love clams. Some people don't like the chewiness of clams and opt for the minced versions

**** Now you must have chips with ridges to hold up to this badass dip. If you go cheap, you're going to end up with broken chips and people stickin' their fingers in your lovely dip. It will be like the Christmas of 1997 all over again!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Adios, Thanksgiving

I know I said I was at the end of my Thanksgiving-leftover adventure with the turkey pot-pie, but there wait, there’s more! The other day I decided to make risotto, and I needed some sort of stock. Low and behold, there in my freezer was a half-quart of turkey stock made from our Thanksgiving turkey! It made a delicious risotto – I’m sure this would work with any stock, but I’d like to think that my special turkey stock made it extra good.

Portobello Risotto


  • ¼ Cup Butter
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Portobello Mushroom, chopped
  • 1 Cup Risotto
  • ½ Cup White Wine
  • 2 Cups Stock (or water)
  • ¼ Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

Put your stock or water in a saucepan, and start it to a boil. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, melt half of the butter, then sauté the onion until translucent and soft. Add in the mushrooms, and sauté until soft.

Add the risotto into the onions and mushrooms, stir it up so the rice doesn’t stick, then add the white wine. Constantly stir until the liquid is gone, and then add a ladle of stock. Continue to stir until the liquid is gone. Repeat this until the rice is cooked to your liking. It took me until all 2 cups of stock were gone before this happened. The recipe can vary depending on the amount of onion/mushroom, so taste it as you go.

Once the risotto tastes done to you, take it off of the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan cheese.

I guess this isn’t the complete end of Thanksgiving as I still have some of the turkey pot-pie filling in the freezer for to make another pie down the road, but it’s the end of creating fun dishes. Adios Thanksgiving, catch ya on the flip side!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Frank's Pepper Bread

This Italian family-favorite comes to you from my late grandfather, Frank Marotta. My grandfather was strong, tough – yet loving, and one of the best bakers I ever met. An Italian-American born in New York City in 1925, he learned to be both street and book-smart while growing up during the Depression. He served in the Navy during World War II, and shortly after the war, he started a family. He learned the art of baking from his mother, Antonetta. Though he worked long hours as both a city and school bus driver, he always found time to bake – he was best known for his pepper bread. I still remember going over to my grandparents’ house and knowing right away that pepper bread was in the oven. He would bring it to every family gathering, and the guests could not wait to get their hands on it.

It wasn’t until I was much older, in my mid-twenties, that I began an interest in these family recipes. My boyfriend at the time, now husband, was particularly interested in learning more about baking. Unfortunately, at that time, my grandfather was very ill and no longer baking. My grandmother passed the recipe to me, but in her old-world fashion, it consisted of a list of ingredients with no measurements. Instructions such as, “make it like you’re making pizza dough” filled the page. For someone who doesn’t know how to make pizza dough, this was not very helpful. I spoke to her over the phone to get more details, but I could tell she’d never measured anything out, and it was all in her head as it was for my grandfather. Relying on my notes from my conversations with her on her hand-written recipe, my husband and I began recreating it.

Through trial and error, we figured out how to recreate this family favorite. Most of the credit needs to go to my husband who knows the chemistry of bread-baking – I was just the taste-tester and pepper sauté-er. I think that if this isn’t spot-on to what my grandfather made, it’s pretty darn close. Just a single bite of this delicious savory bread transports me right back to backyard barbeques with my family, weekends with my grandparents, and basically my entire childhood. I hope you enjoy Frank’s Pepper Bread as much as we do.

4 ½ Cups King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
2 Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Sugar
3 Tsp Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast
1 ½ Cup Warm Water

2 Green Bell Peppers
¼ Tsp Salt
¼ Tsp Pepper
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
¾ Cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
2 Tbsp Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

For the Bread:

1.)   Wisk together the flour, salt sugar, and yeast in a large bowl – create a well in the middle.

2.)   Warm your water to 110° and pour it into the well. Mix the ingredients until combined. Let it stand for 5 minutes to let the water absorb.

3.)   Knead for about 10 minutes it until it’s a smooth ball – you can also knead it with a stand mixer using the dough hook attachment for about 7 minutes until it forms a ball.

4.)   Place the dough back in a lightly oiled large bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap – let it rise for 90 minutes.

5.)   Punch down the bread and let it rise again for 45 minutes.

While your dough is in the long rising stages, you can start on the filling for the bread – see Step 6.

6.)   Wash the bell peppers, cut them in half, remove the seeds and membranes, cut them into ¼ inch slices, and toss them with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the peppers until soft – about 10-15 minutes. Allow them to cool to room temperature before proceeding to the next steps.

7.)   When your dough is ready, divide it in half. Take one of the two sections of dough, and roll it out in a rectangle like you’re making a pizza.

8.)   Place half of the peppers evenly over the dough. Sprinkle it with half of the cheddar cheese, and then sprinkle half of the pecorino on top.

9.)   Roll the dough up long-ways – tuck and fold the ends of both sides in. NOTE: Leave a couple of inches at the end of the dough to avoid the filling bursting out.

10.)   Follow the process above for the second loaf of bread.

11.)  Let the loaves rise on parchment lined cookie sheets for 20 minutes, brush them with olive oil, then slice the loaves with razor blade three times.

12.)  Bake the loaves for 30 minutes in a 400° oven – the bread should be a golden brown color when done.

NOTE: If you’re not going to serve the bread right away, store in the fridge or freezer. Heat it up in a 300° oven for 15-20 minutes to toast up the crust and melt the filling before serving.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beer Beginnings, Issue 1

by Alan

In the late 80's my Parents opened a small microbrewery and pub. I was around 10 years old at the time, and a brewery meant little to me. At around 13 I began working at the restaurant; cleaning it up before school and helping out with the brewing process in the summers. I was there for every part of the brewing process from grinding the grain to bottling the end product; but I wouldn’t say I actually learned how to brew beer. My parents retired and shut down the operation about 5 years ago; I was plenty old enough to drink beer by that time, but I had just barely started to enjoy it.

It was for my 29th Birthday that my wife got us tickets for the first Santa Barbara Beerfest. That event was my big push into really liking beer, although I don’t think I could look at beer for a day or two after that one. Since that point I’ve been trying out almost any big brewery beer, weird beer,  craft beer, or anything I can get my hands on.  The beer budget is probably a little out of control, but I drink much less beer than I used to with the 24 packs of cheap stuff each weekend (not that I don’t enjoy the cheap stuff beer on occasion). 

For my 31st birthday, my Mom and Dad gave me a Mr. Beer Homebrew kit - basically it's a little two-gallon rig to have some fun with. My Dad wasn’t too stoked with the mention of something that looked kinda hokey coming from the 100 barrel system he had just a few years back, but my mom bought it anyway. I made my first brew a couple days after I got it. After two weeks of hanging out in the plastic keg, it gets bottled with some sugar for bottle carbonating, a day or two in the fridge and viola. I wasn’t wild about the flavor of that first bottle, it was kinda fruity not much backbone, and a cider-ish carbonation. Each bottle after in the next couple weeks just got better and better, and all I could think about was brewing more. Then, what to do after those first couple cans of Mr. Beer pre-mixed extracts were done...?

For Christmas, my awesome wife gave me three more cans of the basic Mr. Beer cans of malted hop, but I wanted to step it up a notch. The wife seemed kinda disappointed at the prospect of not just using what she gave me alone, but after much badgering either she just gave up, or I got through with my argument of doing all malt beer with the gift. I bought some quality yeast, hop pellets, and base malt extracts to do some homebrew. Yesterday was finally the day - I had got my box of goodies from northern brewer the day before and planned my kit for the first brew. 

  • 1 Can Mr. Beer Canadian Draft
  • 19oz Northern Brewer Gold Extract
  • good water (don’t be shitty)
  • 12gm Sterling Hop pellets
  • ~6 Gm Safbrew T-58 yeast

Since I'm not doing any grain boiling or hop schedules, the actual brewing took about 5 minutes. I spent the majority of the time sterilizing the equipment before and cleaning after. Although I expect to spend much more time enjoying the end result, its about a month wait.

I have plans for another three brews, two with Mr. Beer extracts as the base. It's a far cry from brewing with my Dad's system, but the smells of the process really take me back. I'm remembering a lot more about the process I used to follow as a kid, and I'm having a ton of fun actually learning what each step means and reaping the benefits.

Have you ever home brewed? If so, do you have any tips or advice for a new-brewer?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ringing in 2011 with Butternut Squash Ravioli

I know that I already mentioned this amazing meal in my last blog post, but I just had to share it again. I cook a lot, and I think this is the most amazing thing I've ever made!

Yesterday my husband and I were making our weekly grocery list, and I sat looking at this butternut squash that my mother-in-law gave us at Thanksgiving. I recalled having amazing ravioli made with the squash at a friend's wedding over the summer, so I asked my husband if he was up for making some pasta. Since getting the pasta attachments for our mixer a few years ago, he pretty much jumps at the chance to make pasta, so it was no surprise that he was down for it.

Since I'd never made it before, we both started searching online for recipes. It was funny that we both came back with the same one! Here it is - Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce, courtesy of Emeril Lagasse via

    •    9 tablespoons butter
    •    3 tablespoons minced shallots
    •    1 cup roasted butternut squash puree
    •    Salt
    •    Freshly ground white pepper
    •    3 tablespoons heavy cream
    •    3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus 2 ounces
    •    Pinch nutmeg
    •    1 recipe pasta dough, rolled out into wide ribbons, about 1/4-inch thick
    •    12 fresh sage leaves
    •    1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

To make the butternut squash puree - start by cutting your squash in quarters and scooping out the seeds and sticky stuff. Drizzle the quarters with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place squash on a baking dish and put it in a 400 degree oven for about  50 minutes. When it's cool enough to handle, scoop out the squash, run it through a food processor to puree it, and voila!

In a large saute pan, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add the squash puree and cook until the mixture is slightly dry, about 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cream and continue to cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons cheese and nutmeg, to taste. Season with salt and pepper. I went back and forth tasting at this point adding a bit more nutmeg, and salt before it was where I wanted it. Be sure to taste your food! Let it cool completely before making your ravioli.

Make a normal batch of pasta dough, and roll it into sheets - I think my husband used the 5 setting on our roller.

Place 1-2 teaspoons of filling for each ravioli - size depending on how big your cutters are. Either fold them by hand, cut them with cutters, or just do whatever you do to make ravioli!

When all of your ravioli are made, add them to salted boiling water - cook them for about 3 minutes or until they float and look done.

Remove the pasta from the water and drain well. Season the pasta with salt and pepper.

In a large saute pan, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter. Add the sage to the butter and continue to cook until the butter starts to brown. Remove from the heat.

Place some of the pasta in the center of each serving plate. Spoon the butter sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle the 2 ounces of cheese over each plate and garnish with parsley.

I can't even tell you how amazing this dish is! The recipe made so much ravioli that we froze 1/2 of them and even had leftovers of the cooked ones that we ate for lunch today. Seriously good stuff here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year, New Mindset

I'm coming to the realization that I'm a grown up. This is disturbing, and it makes me what to crawl into a hole and pretend it's not happening. The fact is, it is happening. I have a husband, a dog, a mortgage, a car payment - shit is getting real. As much as I'd like to just act like a selfish princess, I need to start thinking about myself as part of a family unit. My husband and I need to make sure our decisions are based on what's best for us.

The reality of our current situation is very good. We are both employed, and we never go without - I need to keep this in mind when I start to complain about how crappy things are.

I make new year's resolutions every year, and I don't think I've ever stuck to one. Well, that's a lie - when I was 24, my resolution was to have more fun - I'm pretty sure I rocked that one until December 31st! Other than that, I usually fail. This year, instead of trying to lose weight or quit smoking for good, I want to change my way of thinking about things.

First off, I want to stop taking the stress of work home with me. When I'm home, I can't do work, so I just need to stop worrying about it. Work stress makes me quiet, drink more wine than I need to, and ignore my loving husband and loyal doggie - it's no good. To get work off my brain, I'm going to work-out when I get home. For goodness sakes, we're lucky enough to have an exercise room, I might as well use the darn thing! This will help my health, hopefully knock off a few pounds, and improve my stress levels.

The second part of my resolution goes in-hand with the first - I want to start listening more. I find myself getting so preoccupied with work-thoughts that I miss out on things. My husband will often be talking to me, and I will honestly have no idea what he's saying. It's just not right. He needs to be number one in my life, yet work is always making its way into my brain! This needs to end now - it's just not healthy to keep on in the direction I'm heading.

So far I've gotten this year off to a good start. I don't think I've talked about work much, and my husband and I have been working together as a team all day! We started by taking down all of our Christmas decorations, then going grocery shopping, which was followed up by a day of cooking. I saw that King Arthur Flour was promoting a bread recipe contest, so I got the idea that we should work on perfecting a recipe together. It was a lot of fun working out the minute details - we probably still have a few more bread making sessions until we can call our recipe "final." Since so many of our recipes are in our heads, it's hard to actually create the recipe. I'm looking forward to working with him more on it.

We also made the most amazing dinner - Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Brown Butter Sauce. Seriously, It has to be the most amazing dinner we've ever made. There's nothing like homemade pasta to get the year off to a good start.

Here's to 2011, and actually keeping my new year's resolution to keep work at work where it belongs!

Now onto keeping up with the second part of my resolution. My hubby is downstairs playing Donkey Kong by himself right now, and I need to get down there! Look out jungle - we're gonna reclaim our banana hoard as a team!