Hazed & confused…but it was SO fun!

This past week, the hubby and I took in the Growler Magazine’s event in St. Paul, called Unlabeled: A Blind Tasting Beer Festival. This is a brand new kind of beer festival series, never before seen in Minnesota (or the U.S. for that matter!) which consisted of a blind tasting of 48 (plus one bonus beer they added at the last minute!) Hazy IPA’s from local breweries.

I had been looking forward to the event for weeks, studying up on Hazy IPA’s, what they were looking for when “judging” each beer and “virtually” getting to know the breweries that were participating and what possible beers would be there.¬† I was feeling nervous…I wanted to take it seriously, while having fun and trying NOT to get too inebriated at the same time. Let’s just say, we mostly accomplished all three! ūüėāūüôĆ

We started off with two of the different “color” sample stations, and then decided to take a break and visit some of the education booths they had.

One of those, was the “smell vial” test you could take. 9 jars were filled with different things and you had to guess what you thought each one was.¬† My husband is a super taster/smeller and of course only got one wrong.¬† He claims it was a “green Mango” and that thru him off.¬† I don’t doubt for a minute he is wrong about that.

Next up was the Mighty Axe Hops booth. This is a local hop grower in the Foley, MN area, and had some samples of beer made with some of their hops.  Definitely something I want to learn more about, and this event (see above) might be one I have to check out.

 

After that, we continued sampling…collecting stickers for the beer fridge back home…tried to find some shade…started meeting some super fun people and just continued to enjoy the event!

   

49 beers to sample is ALOT.¬† And the last say, 12, well…we kinda powered thru those and by then, most of it was starting to blur together, in more ways than one!¬† It was fun to see the top picks for the night, including a new brewery close to where I live, called Uncommon Loon.¬† They were the #3 top pick of the night, just behind Omni Brewing and their delicious “FAD” and Fair State Brewing Cooperative’s “Mirror Universe” both in my top list of Hazy IPA go-to beers. And before the evening got too fuzzy, I managed to guess another one of my favorite breweries, Lupulin Brewing and their “Hooey”.¬† That was fun, considering I don’t have the palate of my husbands!

By the end of the night, we made the trek up the hill with a group of attendees, who appeared to have had as much fun as us, and one poor guy trying to get what was left of his keg, back to his car in the parking lot!¬† The hubby and I took turns helping him with it. We think maybe he was with 56 Brewing, but can’t remember at this point, lol!

 

And lucky for us, we thought ahead and rented a room at the Saint Paul Hotel, which oddly enough, after all the years working in hotels in the Twin Cities, I have never stayed there! We LOVED our room and would highly recommend you stay there, if given the opportunity in the future. Elegant, very clean & comfortable…it was a perfect way to end the night! Who knows, maybe we’ll book it again for the next Unlabeled event, coming this October! Buy your tickets here:¬†¬†https://growlermag.com/unlabeled/

See you soon friends, cheers! ūüćĽ

ūüíóShawn

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Summer Sippers, Beer…

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What’s more American than Beer? Okay, well maybe not…

According to Wikipedia, “Ale is one of the oldest beverages humans have produced, dating back to at least the 5th millennium BC and recorded in the written history of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. ¬†Beer was part of the daily diet of Egyptian¬†Pharaohs¬†over 5,000 years ago. Then, it was made from baked¬†barley¬†bread, and was also used in religious practices. ¬†Beer was one of the most common drinks during the¬†Middle Ages. ¬†Today, the¬†brewing industry¬†is a huge global business, consisting of several¬†multinational companies, and many thousands of smaller producers ranging from¬†brewpubs¬†to¬†regional breweries.”

But we American’s do love a frosty cold one, on a hot summer’s day, don’t we?!?! ¬†I’m usually a wine girl myself but lately we’ve been drinking more beer…helping to beat the heat wave that is slightly giving us a reprieve this week. ¬†All in time for the 4th of July! ¬†So I thought what a better time to highlight cocktails made with beer than this week!

Beer

Surprisingly, this post was harder to do than expected‚Ķwe need more cocktails made with beer people!¬†¬†Although, as I said before, not much is better on a hot summer‚Äôs day, then a cold frosty one, noting the picture above, it was a hot day and these Leinenkugel’s¬†Honey Weiss were floating in an icy cold bath! ¬†I originally planned on sharing a recipe for a¬†Dark & Stormy, but as you‚Äôll read below‚Ķit‚Äôs not really a beer cocktail! ¬†So, sadly I didn‚Äôt have time to do a separate recipe myself this week. ¬†I wanted to be able to get this out before the¬†4th of July¬†this week!

DadsKillerMargaritas_thumb1

I did however find this GREAT recipe for Dad’s Killer Beergarita’s, as shown in the picture above, and being an Iowa girl myself,¬†I can totally get behind this drink! ¬†Be sure to visit Kristin at Iowa Girl Eats for the recipe and 25 Fresh 4th of July recipes! ¬†I am loving her blog!

As I said before, I had planned on making a Dark & Stormy for you this week, as I have been dreaming about it¬†for quite some time! ¬†So I¬†was surprised to learn that Ginger Beer isn’t actually Beer, and thought about not including it here in this post, but it’s so prevalent when you search for “cocktails made with beer” that I wanted to include it, but giving you the information that I learned along the way…

Wikipedia noted on this page that “The ginger beer soft drink may be mixed with¬†beer¬†(usually a British¬†ale¬†of some sort) to make one type of¬†shandy, or with dark¬†rum¬†to make a drink, originally from¬†Bermuda, called a¬†Dark ‘N’ Stormy. It is the main ingredient in the¬†Moscow Mule¬†cocktail (although in some cases¬†ginger ale¬†is used as an alternative, where ginger beer is not available). Another variation is a mix of three bar shots of Canadian (rye) whisky to four parts Crabbies Alcoholic Ginger beer, to make a cocktail called The Angry Teacher. This drink originated in Canada in the early twenty-first century.”

ginger beer photo

So there. ¬†You’ve been schooled in Ginger Beer! ūüôā

If you want to try one for yourself, this one from Nutmeg Nanny includes a Lime Bitters and looks delish! ¬†She’s also got her own series going, The Boozy Days of Summer with some great cocktail ideas!

The Irish in me loves a Guinness and the thought of putting anything other than another Irish beer to make a Black & Tan,¬†into it, makes me feel like I am violating the Irish rule of beer drinking…but this Pineapple Mint Beer Cocktail made with Guinness by Food Fashion and Fun¬†looks ridiculous!

Here is a link to a couple of beer drink ideas, the Briar Patch and the White Plume both from the Chilled Magazine site.

One thing I am constantly craving is a good Bloody Mary, (you know, the kind with a meat stick, cheese, olives…a salad on the side almost!)¬†and this Michelada¬†on Food52 looks just as delicious without the fuss of a beer on the side! ¬†This post also walks you through the process of making it!

And oh, this Pear Ginger Beer Cocktail and the pictures that go with the post on Use Real Butter looks SO delish!

Wishing you & yours a wonderful, hot eats, cool drinks and a safe & happy 4th of July!

Cheers, Shawn

Beer for a Year, month nine…

Yikes, month nine already!

Well, here in Minnesota, we recently had a week or so of fall-like weather and it had me thinking of Oktoberfest…this months beer!¬† Summit Brewery describes this beer as “Brewed in the classic M√§rzen style with Northern Brewer hops from Germany. Rich, toffee malt flavors up front with a clean hop finish as crisp as the autumn air.” ¬† It’s gorgeous color had me at first glance…much like the Minnesota landscape in October!¬† Read more about it here.

So, thinking of cooler temps (because we are again back in the heat here) I wanted to do something that would go good with sausages or pork…and because I had just picked up a whole head of purple cabbage from my CSA, I thought Beer Braised Red Cabbage would be perfect!¬† I found the original recipe here, but as I do with most recipes, I doctored it up to suit my needs.

Beer Braised Red Cabbage

1/2 head purple cabbage, thinly sliced

1/4 pound of bacon, diced & fried until almost crisp

2 tablespoons of butter

1 whole onion, (I used red), sliced thin

1 green apple, peeled, cored & thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of sugar (or honey & more if needed)

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of chicken stock

1 bottle (more or less) of Summit Oktoberfest beer

1 whole cinnamon stick

salt, pepper, (more bacon) dried fruits, etc!

So you’ll need to begin by slicing up the cabbage, as thin as you like it either by hand or in your food processor.¬† Slice the onion and apple as well.¬† Put a fairly large pan on medium heat and when warm, add the bacon.¬† Once the bacon has given off most of its fat, add the onion and continue cooking until the onions have started to caramelize and the bacon is almost crisp.¬† At this point, add the butter…yum!¬† Sorry, I get distracted by butter sometimes…and bacon…

At this point, you’ll then want to put in the cabbage and apple; Stir until fully coated in the butter etc.¬† Let this start to wilt down a bit and then add your chicken stock, vinegar, cinnamon stick and sugar.¬† Again, stir a bit to coat and let wilt for a couple of minutes.¬† The add your beer, turn the heat down and cover to simmer for 30 minutes (plus or minus depending on how you like the texture of your cabbage) stirring every so often and ensuring it’s not losing liquid and/or sticking to the bottom of the pan. About halfway thru this time, taste the cabbage to check for adequate sweetness & “done-ness”.¬† Both of which are very selective.¬† Adjust as necessary and feel free to add a bit of salt & pepper at this point as well.¬† Continue cooking until the cabbage is as tender as you’d like it.

This dish could be made more amazing by adding more bacon, more apples or other delicious fruit (figs, apricots, etc.) fresh herbs like Thyme and even some fall seasonings like clove, nutmeg. The picture above is with Mission Figs & Thyme (in addition to the above ingredients) that I actually cooked in my cast iron skillet on the grill the other day!  Provided you add enough liquid and really keep an eye on it, you could cook this under a small pork roast in the oven as well and the cabbage can absorb all those succulent meat juices while it cooks!  YUM!

So my friends, I hope you give this recipe a try, and find a nice place to cozy up, eat it outside, and enjoy the changing weather and beautiful landscape in your part of the country!

Until next time,

Shawn

Beer for a Year, month eight…

Greetings beer lovers!

If you are checking the calendar, you’ll see I’m a few days late on my July beer post…this has honestly been the craziest summer!¬† I am sorry, but am trying not to beat myself up about it, thinking you’ll understand and can relate.¬† Won’t you?

This (last) month’s beer is Summit Pilsener.¬† A Bohemian Style,¬†lighter beer perfect for summer and what I am making…Fish & Chips! ¬†You can read more about this delicious beer here.

Our house is abuzz with Olympic excitement!¬† The kids jump out of bed early and beg to stay up late, absorbing every minute of coverage they can digest.¬† Favorites of theirs include any of the swimming events, all of the gymnastic events, track events and beach volleyball…I even came home one day to this sprawled across my driveway…gotta love their enthusiasm!

So in honor of the Opening Ceremonies, I decided to make a ‘little spot’ of Fish & Chips to have that night for dinner.¬† The Pilsener was a great beer to use for the batter; light & bubbly, not too bitter.¬† Here is the recipe for the batter:

“Olympic-style” Fish & Chips:

(this makes enough for two servings of fish, so feel free to double it if necessary)

1 egg

3/4 cup of flour

1 & 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder

6 oz. of Summit Pilsener

2 Р 6 oz. fresh fillets of cod or other fish

2 teaspoons of seafood/fish seasoning (I used Chesapeake Bay seasoning from Blue Crab Bay Co.)

sea salt

You’ll notice this batter is similar to the Beer Battered Onion Rings I made here.¬† We (really my husband cause I suck at it) like to make our own sauces because it never fails that we buy a whole bottle of whatever sauce and we use two tablespoons of it and there it sits for months until it lands in the garbage.¬† Plus, making your own sauce is not only easy, but you know exactly what is in it!¬† Too many times we’ll buy a dressing or sauce that has some weird flavor to it and when checking the label, it will say “blah, blah, blah & herbs” …yah, so do your own.¬† For this dinner we needed both Tartar and Cocktail sauces, because you may notice I snuck in some battered shrimps, hence the need for cocktail sauce. ¬†Although I don’t think real Fish & Chips are even served “over the pond” with either sauce and of course in my shopping for this meal, the one thing I forgot, was the¬†Malt vinegar… note to self for next time!

So, for the “chip” portion of this meal, I sliced up some red potatoes and just started those off in about an inch of oil I had placed in a large pan (I used canola oil) while I cut up the fish and got the batter ready. ¬†(you can cut your “chips” a little smaller so they cook quicker) I also decided to make fish “bites” instead of whole pieces. ¬†Once the “chips” had browned a bit, I pulled them out, gave them a sprinkling of sea salt and thru them in the oven to hold.

After I removed the “chips” I cleaned up the oil and added a bit more, bringing it back up to a good frying temperature.¬† (please be careful when frying things in oil, wear an old shirt and keep small children away from your pan…do you know what to do in the case of a grease fire? ¬†If not, read this post) Once the oil was ready, I popped the fish in gently and flipped them over, once one side was golden brown.¬† Place them on a paper towel lined plate to drain and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt.

                        

So, another blog post that is totally late is the one I want to do about our recent (and first ever as a family!) camping trip we took to the North Shore!¬† The first day, we drove all the way to Grand Marais and had to eat at the Angry Trout Cafe.¬† I had fish & chips there and could have just eaten a bowl of their Tartar sauce and been happy!¬† (well maybe not…that actually sounds gross now reading this!)¬† I googled the recipe and found what appears to be the recipe below, on this website.¬† Not sure if it’s authentic, but I thought I would post it anyway!¬† I think the addition of the dill is what I loved most about this sauce.

Angry Trout Cafe, (as written by the Mother Nature Network) Tartar Sauce:

1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise

6 tablespoons pickle relish (you don’t have to buy this either, just chop up some dill pickles and add a bit of sugar)

1 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons dried dill weed

The hubby’s homemade Tartar Sauce:

Mix together Mayo, pickle relish (or chop up your own dill or bread & butter pickles), lemon juice, and a splash of Worcestershire sauce. ¬†Yep, play with it until it’s the way you like it! ūüôā

The hubby’s homemade Cocktail Sauce:

Mix together ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce and a little splash of Tabasco or other hot sauce.

This would also be good as a sandwich with some really great coleslaw on the side! ¬†I hope you’ll try making this Fish & Chips at home one day! ¬†Let me know if you do!

As always, until next time…go for the gold!

Shawn

Beer for a Year, month seven…

Rhubarb Beer Jam & dinner……

Hey beer lovers! ¬†This months beer is¬†Summit S√°ga IPA¬†described by Summit as a beer with “Epic hop character”. ¬†I love anything that is referred to as “epic”! ¬†Usually I am not a fan of big hoppy beers, but this one is so clean & bright & fresh, that the first sip I had, I knew I liked it! ¬†Further description from the Summit website says “Named after the Norse goddess S√°ga, drinking companion of the God Odin. With a divine tropical fruit hop aroma and clean, assertive bitterness.” ¬†Assertive indeed! ¬†Give it a try, it’s a great beer for summer!

In scouring the internet for recipes that contained beer, I came across this one, on the Tasting Table website but originally adapted from the Paul Virant‚Äôs cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen that¬†had another of my favorite things…Rhubarb! ¬†And, since last weekend I cut my teeth with my first jamming experience, I thought this would be a great idea! ¬†But what to use this jam with? ¬†I can’t just give you the jam, with no direction as to how to use it, can I? ¬†So, I started thinking about dinner. ¬†I knew this jam, no matter how much sugar went into it, would be more on the savory side. ¬†I wanted to use it as a sauce more so than a jam. ¬†And I wanted Pork. ¬†We actually had some Pork Tenderloin, in the freezer, leftover from the gorgeous Crown Roast we had for Christmas dinner. ¬†All I did to prep the Pork was tossed it in Olive Oil with salt, pepper & garlic. ¬†I then threw it on the grill.

So I mentioned I was thinking about dinner…this week we picked up our first CSA share from Natura Farms. ¬†In that share we had baby Rutabaga & Garlic Scapes, amongst other things. ¬†I was super excited about the Garlic Scapes as I keep hearing about people using them for a variety of things, even pickling them! ¬†I tweeted out the other day questions as to what to do with the Rutabaga and Garlic Scapes we had received. ¬†The lovely Emily Anderson said I should try pesto with the Garlic Scapes (as did a couple other food friends) and maybe a Gnocchi with the Rutabaga? ¬†Oh yes, that sounded wonderful! ¬†So those were the two other additions to this meal, not to mention the Brown Butter Ice Cream with candied Raspberry Chipotle Bacon that I made…but that’s another post!

Okay, so first let’s talk about the Jam. ¬†Now, I said that I wanted it more sauce-like right? ¬†So yeah, I basically did my own thing with this one. ¬†If you read the original recipe, you’ll see they strained the mixture, but I like texture and left mine a little chunky. ¬†I used the same ingredients, but I didn’t can it. ¬†I put it in a jar, planning to use it for dinner and try freezing the rest for a future meal. ¬†So here’s my recipe:

Rhubarb Beer Jam

2 cups of Rhubarb, diced

1 cup of Summit Saga IPA beer

1 1/2 cups of Sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

The juice from 1/2 of a lemon

1 tablespoon of butter

First thing you’ll do is clean & cut your Rhubarb, into a small dice. ¬†Place that into a saucepan and add the beer. ¬†Get this going good and hot and then add the sugar & lemon juice, zest & butter. ¬†The butter helps with reducing the amount of foam the mixture creates, but because I didn’t make an actual “jam” I didn’t really need to use it. ¬†It was also not in the original recipe, but I remember doing that with my Strawberry Jam session last week. ¬†I LOVE butter and will use it any chance I get! ¬†Alright, moving on. ¬†So your mixture should come to a small boil (enough to encourage the mixture to reduce, but not enough that you can’t get anywhere near it for fear of being splashed) and from there I just kept using my potato masher and smashing the mixture down and let it reduce by almost half.

This makes about a cup and a half so you really have almost three meals use out of it, if you aren’t canning it. ¬†Otherwise, I would recommend using the smallest jam jars you can find. ¬†That way you aren’t pulling a big jar out and then having to use it all up over the course of a week. ¬†The original recipe also talks about the red hue in the end result. ¬†Mine obviously wasn’t that color but I think that is because I used a more greener variety of Rhubarb. ¬†I also thought that some herbs would be good in the jam, maybe Thyme (I love Lemon Thyme) or Tarragon? ¬†I kept those out, the first time in, but might do that next time around. ¬†I also think a heavier beer would work great too. ¬†In keeping with the Summit theme, their Horizon Red Ale would be great with this. ¬†The original recipe used a wheat beer, but didn’t say what brand. ¬†I think this jam/sauce would be great as a base for a unique flatbread or bruschetta. ¬†Have fun!

Okay, so let’s talk about the Rutabaga Gnocchi! ¬†I have never made Gnocchi. ¬†Yep, I can’t quite believe that myself! But this isn’t your usual Gnocchi. ¬†It’s actually a very delicious way to use Rutabaga! ¬†I found the original recipe on a food blog called Food and Passion. ¬†I also found another recipe for Turnip Gnocchi on a food blog called Well fed, flat broke that sounds really good! ¬†I might try that one this fall.

So the original recipe called for Spinach, but I decided to use Mustard Greens. ¬†We have this flourishing in our garden right now and I am trying to use it as often as possible. ¬†I’ts heartier than Spinach, so it might need to cook a bit longer than if you were to use fresh saut√©ed Spinach. ¬†The original recipe used frozen Spinach. ¬†Here’s what you’ll need to make this:

Rutabaga Gnocchi:

1 cup of finely grated Rutabaga (I used a “baby” Rutabaga about the size of an orange)

1 cup of flour

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1 cup of Ricotta cheese

2 cups of fresh Mustard Greens (washed thoroughly) or Spinach, finely chopped

2 eggs

1/2 nutmeg

Olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of fresh chopped garlic for sauteeing

You’ll start by grating the Rutabaga, because it’s somewhat like Zucchini in that it will release a bunch of water, you’ll also want to squeeze it all out. ¬†I used my box grater to grate the Rutabaga, but the original recipe said to use a Microplane if you have one. ¬†I do, but didn’t know how to change the blade… ¬†Set the grated Rutabaga aside once grated. ¬†Take the Mustard Greens or Spinach and remove any longer stems. ¬†I chopped mine up, as small as I could, so that you don’t have huge chunks of it in your Gnocchi. ¬†Get a saut√© pan going on your stove and when hot, add a drizzle of Olive Oil and throw in your greens. ¬†Spinach won’t take but a minute or two to cook, but you’ll want the Mustard Greens to go a bit longer. ¬†Just before you pull it off the heat, add the salt, pepper & garlic. ¬†Set this aside for now. ¬†You’ll want to get a big pot of water going on the stove for boiling the Gnocchi. ¬†Once it’s up to a boil, carefully add a good handful of salt tot the water, just like you would do with pasta.

In a larger mixing bowl, add a half cup of the flour, the eggs, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and a bit of salt & pepper. ¬†(you could even add in any fresh herbs you have like basil & chives) Now back to the Rutabaga…take a couple of paper towels and wrap the Rutabaga in it. ¬†Squeeze to release as much water as you can. ¬†Then place it in the bowl with the other mixture. ¬†Once the greens have cooled, you can try to chop them up again if you feel you they are still too big. ¬†Add this into the other mixture as well. ¬†Once you’ve mixed everything up real good, grab a plate and put the other half a cup of flour on it. ¬†Using a teaspoon, make small balls out of the Gnocchi mixture and place onto the floured plate. ¬†Roll them around so they are fully coated in flour and carefully place five or so into your boiling water. ¬†They are done when they pop to the top of the water. ¬†Use a slotted spoon to remove them and set aside. ¬†Looks like alot of work, but its really very easy!

The original recipe said to top the hot Gnocchi with Olive Oil and more parmesan cheese, but again, I wasn’t about the take the easy way out with this either! ¬†In our recent CSA share I mentioned we got Garlic Scapes. ¬†I decided to make a Pesto out of that for the sauce of the Rutabaga Gnocchi! ¬†Many of you might be asking what Garlic Scapes are…you are not alone! ¬†In the past, most people have thrown them away. ¬†They are the curly tops that grow out of the garlic planted in your garden. ¬†Don’t throw them out anymore! ¬†Make this instead! ¬†Anyway, I found this recipe here, on the Epicurious website, and doctored it up to my liking. ¬†There were quite a few Garlic Scape Pesto recipes out there when I googled the name. ¬†I found recipes made with almonds, pine nuts, walnuts…I chose the recipe here because it had Pistachios, one of my very favorite nuts! ¬†Plus, I think it added to the bright green look to this pesto!

Garlic Scape Pesto:

10 large Garlic Scapes, diced (remove & discard the top seed pods)

Fresh Basil (as much as you want to add or leave it out)

1/3 cup Pistachios

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon of Lemon juice

1/3 cup Olive Oil

Salt & pepper

Place all ingredients, except Olive Oil, into a food processor and puree. ¬†Once mixture looks like the picture above, and while the food processor is running, add in the Olive Oil. ¬†Taste the mixture and add salt & pepper as needed. ¬†You’ll end up with about a cup and a half of pesto that should keep in the fridge for about a week. ¬†Now, the original recipe (man I’ve said that a million times in the post…) used this with pasta, and added about a cup of pasta water to the mixture. ¬†I took some of the water I boiled the Gnocchi in and used that the loosen the sauce a bit. ¬†If you use it on pasta (it would be great as a dip, or again as a base for flatbread or Bruschetta) just be sure to add a bit of the pasta water to make a sauce. ¬†Isn’t it a gorgeous Pesto?!?! ¬†It was really good on the Rutabaga Gnocchi!

There you have it! ¬†I was a whirling dervish in the kitchen today and managed to use four new recipes, that’s a first for me! ¬†I hope you’ll try at least one of these! ¬†Today I will finish up that Brown Butter Ice Cream with candied Raspberry Chipotle Bacon that you’ll see in a post next weekend that highlights my #OinkOuting adventure earlier this month. ¬†If you are liking what I am making these days, post a comment and share this blog with your friends! ¬†I am going to be adding a Facebook Page for my blog later this week as well!

Until then,

Shawn

Chronicles of a crazy 20 days!

Wow, it’s been a CRAZY month so far and it’s only the 20th of June! ¬†I constantly complain about the months of May & June, as every year, they completely derail me with field trips, the end of school, parties etc. ¬†This year, I threw in a couple extra new events, just to challenge my strength…or because I am crazy. ¬†I know the days have been ticking by, still no post since last month….and now that I’ve had the chance to catch my breath, I thought it would be fun to, instead of the usual post, do a little recap of my activities! ¬†Yea! ¬†Hope you enjoy the ride…….

June 2, 2012#TECHmunch, an event I had been anxiously waiting to attend. ¬†It is a one-day conference for food bloggers, sponsored by BakeSpace.com and was held at Studio 514 in Minneapolis. ¬†You can read more about it here. ¬†Because I have never learned the art of “sitting on my hands” (like they used to say in Girl Scouts so you wouldn’t volunteer for everything!) I decided to volunteer to help with set-up the day before and during the event! ¬†All kidding aside, let me just share one piece of advise I have learned over the years…if you really want to make the most of an event you plan to attend, volunteer to help. ¬†It exposes you to (work, which oddly enough, I actually enjoy-so be prepared if signing on in this capacity) many more people than if you just came as an attendee. ¬†I met & got to know better, some really great people (Babette, Tammy, Lisa, Brenda, Meghan, Emily, Joy, Cathy, Stephanie, Scott, Molly & anyone I forgot (so sorry!) and all the food-famous speakers & panelists!) that hopefully over time, I will become better friends with! ¬†I helped with the manual labor part of set-up the day before, something of which after my years of banquet management/service I am very familiar with. ¬†The next day, I was assigned to help with AV. ¬†That stands for Audio-Visual….yeah, for those of you who know me, not exactly my forte. Ha! ¬†I managed through and the only real glitch of the day ended up not even being my fault!

The day consisted of seven different topics: ¬†Eating your way to the top; a Fireside chat with Andrew Zimmern & Jason DeRusha, Mastering your Story, with Daniel Klein of the Perennial Plate. ¬†SEO for food writing; with experts in the field of SEO Lee Odden, Joshua Unseth & Erik Deutsch. ¬†A panel discussion on creating, distributing and syndicating mouth-watering content with Shaina Olmanson, Zoe Francois, Amanda Rettke & Brenda Score. ¬†Design & Page Optimization with the Geek Girls, Meghan Wilker & Nancy Lyons. ¬†Lessons in partnerships & monetization with Babette Pepaj and Erik Deustch. And finally, a session titled,¬†How to get on a Food Editor’s Radar, with Stephanie March, Lee Dean, Rachel Hutton & Joy Summers. ¬† It was a GREAT event and I was thrilled to have been able to attend.

Of course a food blogger conference isn’t complete without amazing food, which you see a bit of above. ¬†We had beautiful pastries donated by Patisserie 46 and gorgeous berries from Driscoll’s Berries. ¬†Fresh squeezed juices ¬†were provided by Whole Foods, Joia Life donated some of their amazing natural sodas, Bull Run coffee helped us all stay fueled up and I cannot forget that Sangria…made by Scott Pampugh. ¬†A backyard picnic lunch was catered by Tastebud Catering and included Chicken & fresh Corn off the grill (with a couple of amazing butters to spread), two awesome salads (a carrot slaw I NEED the recipe for!) and a refreshing Basil Lemonade that I am totally recreating at home! ¬†Dessert, decadent chocolate brownie¬†like confections was sponsored by (and eaten early by many of us standing in line for lunch!) Bogart Loves. ¬†An afternoon nosh, consisting of pita breads, hummus, olives, cheese and roasted veggies was provided by Whole Foods and served along with more of that magical Sangria. ¬†We had swag bags donated by and filled with nourishing snack bars, natural produce bags and awesome coupons from Land O’ Lakes &. others. ¬†(sorry I didn’t link any of those….& hopefully I am not missing anyone but holy crap we had a lot of great sponsors that day!!!)

A geeky moment of the day, pictured below, is where I asked the legendary Scott Pampugh (who was also volunteering that day) to take a picture with me. ¬†We are both from Winona, MN (that automatically makes us kindred spirits right? Although he was a Cotter boy…I won’t hold that against him!) and if you don’t know much about Scott, he’s out to change the landscape of food as we know it. ¬†Read more about him here. ¬†The day finished off at Fulton Brewery, where attendees got to tour the facility, dine on Hola Arepa & Anchor Fish & Chips food trucks, conveniently parking outside and of course drink beer!! ¬†There’s gonna be a #TECHmunch in Philadelphia in October…hmmm maybe I need to plan a trip out to see the Pennsylvania relative contingency!

   

I got a day to rest up, (although I spent most of it standing in my kitchen prepping for dinner the next night!) after being on my feet at that event for 13 hours, before my Dad and his family, packed into their new RV, rolled into town. ¬†We got him for one night, and he requested his Mother’s Rhubarb Pie.

¬†Oh that pie. ¬†What did I ever do before that pie… Want to make this pie? ¬†Check out my previous post with recipe here. ¬†And this time I made it with homemade pie crust, another first for me. ¬†He said “his Mother never made it better” which I guess means he liked it. ¬†ūüôā

This is my almost 7th grader, just after finding out she tied for first place in overall books read for the year with her class. ¬†When I look at this picture I just want to wail…she is growing TOO damn fast. ¬†It truly takes my breath away. ¬†The kids last day of school was June 7th and took the day off to hang out with them. ¬†They both had carnivals, and my daughter had a 6th grade graduation picnic that I helped with. ¬†It was bittersweet watching her with her classmates. ¬†I know that next year I won’t be able to volunteer like I had this past year, going on field trips etc. ¬†I also know that Junior High is tough, not like grade school. ¬†At the beginning of this year I felt like there was no way she would be ready to take on the challenges of 7th grade, but now, I feel differently. ¬†My baby, growing up so fast

   

On Sunday June 10th, we went to our first ever Minnesota Twins game. ¬†Yeah, I know, lame. ¬†Lame that we hadn’t gone in the last two years! ¬†I had bought tickets through the kids school and as luck would have it, ended up sitting right next to our close friends and their kids! ¬†It was a HOT day and I worried about us actually making it through the whole game (at one point I looked over at my daughter, and if you have kids, you’ll know the look she gave me…something between “I am about to puke or I am about to pass out”) ¬†It was a bit terrifying, but we persevered and made it through the game! ¬†The pictures above are of my first ever Big Ginger¬†a delicious drink made with 2 Gingers Whiskey & Ginger Ale (again lame, that I work at the hotel, connected to The Liffey and haven’t had one yet!) and the Nacho Helmet helped! ¬†(seriously $14 well spent!)
  

June 12th brought another day I had been looking forward to for a long time, my #OinkOutings trip! ¬†I had been so looking forward to my Oink Outing, not only because I love pigs…(loved them since Wilbur & love to eat them, in any form), but also because I had never been on a pig farm. I had no idea how pigs were birthed, raised etc. I’m happy to tell you that my expectations were met! I was well-educated that day & although it wasn’t the life I pictured, (Wilbur) I was happy to see the care taken by the Bode family both towards their pigs and staff that tends to them, 365 days a year. They are meticulous about the safety of those pigs, so that the end result, that bacon or pork loin you are cooking for your family is the best quality & safest it can be. Technology has changed pig farming; helping farmers raise pigs that are lean & delicious. Something dictated by consumer desire for leaner meat while still preserving the flavor.

It was a great day, getting to know everyone involved that advocates daily for the Pork producers of Minnesota. We started at Brackett’s Crossing where I met Chef Bryan who had cooked us delicious Pork Carnitas which we then had in that gorgeous taco shell pictured above. ¬†From there we set out to Rebco Pork, the Bode family farm. Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!¬† We made a pit stop on our way down at Schmidt’s Meat Market were we toured their smoking facilities, sampled their delicious summer sausage & were treated to their award-winning Raspberry-Chipotle Bacon as a take home gift! ¬†Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!

June 15th brought yet another birthday for me…sigh. ¬†I am thirty-six this year. ¬†LOL! ¬†Really though, birthday’s aren’t a big deal for me. ¬†I don’t expect to be lavished with gifts, but I do like to spend the day doing something I enjoy. ¬†And, if you know me, that’s eating, drinking & shopping! ¬†I decided We haven’t been to Stillwater in quite some time, so I thought, because it worked out that the hubby was on vacation that day, we were free! ¬†I knew for quite some time that I wanted to check out a place called Swirl Wine Bar. ¬†It is located in the sleepy and gorgeous little town of Afton, MN ¬†So, that was stop number one. ¬†There I purchased my first birthday present, a Redneck Wine Glass. ¬†Yea, I know….don’t judge me. ¬†I LOVE using jam jars to drink out of. ¬†We were doing that before it was cool. ¬†We also ordered a couple of glasses of wine, and three delicious appetizers which were devoured by the four of us. ¬†I HIGHLY recommend making the trip and be sure to order the Grape & Brie Flatbread & the Truffle Fries…DELISH!
We then moved on to Stillwater, ducking into a few shops after strolling along the river. ¬†One store we visited for another birthday treat was the Stillwater Olive Oil Co. ¬†I love how these little shops have popped up all over and hadn’t actually been in one until that day! ¬†They had many different varieties of Olive Oils, some infused and Vinegars-rich, syrupy aged Balsamic’s and a great variety of flavored white Balsamic’s. ¬†We chose a bottle of Persian Lime infused Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon white Balsamic vinegar. ¬†The vinegar just exploded the second it hit my tongue… I thought it would be fun to start a hashtag to chronicle my day; you can find my posts by searching for #BirthdayNosh and the picture collage above was some of the deliciousness of the day!

Gorgeous Strawberries! ¬†Ever since I was young, I wanted to learn to can. ¬†It’s been one of those things on my food bucket list, that I have been scared to try. ¬†All it really takes is patience and organization. ¬†The Strawberry Jam I made this weekend was SO good! ¬†Stay tuned for a future post on canning. ¬†I plan to do a Rhubarb Beer Jam for my next ‘Beer for a Year‘ post, and just last week, we signed up for a CSA share from Natura Farms and they have Currents and Elderberries, so hopefully I will get the opportunity to use those in future canning endeavors. ¬†I also plan this summer to make Chow-Chow; a pickled vegetable deliciousness I had back in Pennsylvania Amish country. ¬†Again posts to follow…..

And finally, June 17th, Father’s Day…..

The hubby loves ribs, so I decided that I would break out the smoker and attempt to make a scrumptious dinner for him. ¬†The weather forecasters said “a gorgeous day is on tap for Sunday” and guess what? ¬†It rained on and off ALL day! ¬†The picture above was taken by my daughter, as she came out laughing at me standing there with the umbrella. ¬†Yes, I could have let it go, but seriously at one point it rained for over an hour. ¬†I know this because I stood there that long…and for the first time ever, I was maintaining a consistent temp on the smoker and didn’t want to ruin that! ¬†The things we do for love…..

Oh yeah, his present? ¬†The gorgeous cookbookVolt Ink” written by brothers Michael & Bryan Voltaggio of Top Chef fame. ¬†It was really a win-win gift. ūüôā

So, there it is people. ¬†The last crazy 20 days of my life.…hope you enjoyed following along. ¬†I promise to get back on my regular schedule of posts, none of which hopefully will be this long!

Until then,

Shawn

Beer for a Year, month six…

Being a huge lover of food, I think about it constantly. ¬†What I want to eat, what I am actually making to eat (sometimes the two don’t match) and what others are eating…I am obsessed! ¬†Seriously, it drives me crazy, because I am always hungry! ¬† ¬†This month’s post has been on my mind, not because it’s just food, but because it’s one of my ultimate favorite things to eat. ¬†But, it’s also one of those simple dishes that I am bittersweet about. ¬†Not just because of the fat factor. ¬†No, I won’t be skimping on the ingredients in this post, so don’t even think about the calorie count. ¬†But also because a really good, homemade Mac & Cheese has always eluded me in my kitchen. ¬†I either over cook the noodles, which results in mush, or the sauce is too thin going into the oven so that when it comes out, it’s dry. ¬†You’d think homemade Mac & Cheese would be a no-brainer! ¬†Well, maybe it is for some and maybe because it’s one of my cherished foods, I tend to over think it. ¬†Either way, today, I am going to ROCK this Mac & Cheese!! ¬†I have big plans for it, starting with the fact it will include BEER! ¬†Yes! ¬†And, this month, Summit Brewing gave me a special treat; Dunkel Weizen! ¬†Let’s talk about it!

This is what Summit Brewing has to say about this beer: ¬†“For Summit Unchained 9, brewer Eric Blomquist created a genuine Dunkel Weizen ‚Äď an often-overlooked German wheat beer style. Similar to Hefe Weizen but darker (‚ÄúDunkel‚ÄĚ means ‚Äúdark‚ÄĚ), this brew offers up complex and rounded flavors like biscuit, toffee and chocolate from the malts along with hints of banana and clove esters. ¬†Batch 9 was inspired by a memorable brew Eric enjoyed while on his honeymoon in Bavaria (yep, he married his true soul mate). Eric also created Unchained Batch 2, 90/- Scottish Style Ale.” ¬†And like with all of the Unchained series, it is only available for a limited time…

I found this recipe on this website; www.livelovepasta.com¬† I am always searching for recipes with beer and was excited to find this one! ¬†Of course I kicked the original recipe up a bit….(Truffle Oil, Pancetta & Garlic) but that’s what is great about pasta dishes, you can make it your signature dish!

Beer Mac & Cheese:

2 and a half cups uncooked pasta (I used Cavatappi)

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

8 ounces of Milk (I used 1%)

8 ounces of Beer, (I used Dunkel Weizen, but you could use any Amber)

1 tablespoon or more of Truffle Oil (optional, but OMG it’s SO good!)

8 ounces of freshly grated sharp Cheddar cheese

4 ounces freshly grated Gouda cheese

1/2 cup of freshly grated Romano cheese

1/4 teaspoon of paprika

pinch of black pepper

pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup of Panko bread crumbs

1 teaspoon of granulated garlic

4 ounces of Pancetta, diced (I partially cooked…see note below)

handful of chopped fresh parsley (garnish)

Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees and getting your pasta water ready on the stove.  Remember to cut back the cooking time of whatever type of pasta you use by 1-2 minutes, as it will continue to cook in the oven.  Cook according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

At this time, I like to get all my cheesy goodness ready……including the Panko topping. ¬†Mix together the Panko, Garlic, Romano cheese and Pancetta. ¬†For this attempt, I actually partially cooked the Pancetta, but I would say you could try putting it on raw and if you feel it needs a bit more cooking at the end, you can pop the broiler on and finish them off. ¬†I just like them a bit more tender than how they turned out for me….

Heat a small saucepan and add butter. ¬†Once the butter has melted and is starting to sizzle, whisk in the flour to create a Roux and continue cooking & stirring until the mixture is golden in color. ¬†Add milk and beer to mixture and continue whisking. ¬†Add the Cheddar & Gouda cheeses and stir until melted. ¬†Turn heat down to low and and continue to stir until mixture thickens. ¬†It won’t thicken like normal Mac & Cheese, because of the Beer, but it will a bit. ¬†Turn off heat and add the Truffle Oil, Black Pepper, Paprika and Nutmeg.

Place cooked pasta into casserole dish and pour cheese mixture over top, mixing gently to combine.  Sprinkle entire top with the Panko mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown on top.  (I actually doubled this recipe because I was making some for two very lucky girls at work!)

I was SO excited how this turned out! ¬†As my husband put it best, you could taste all of the flavors, from the beer to the Truffle Oil, to the Pancetta. ¬†I am glad I didn’t use bacon (yes, I said that) as that might have been a bit overwhelming. ¬†However, next time, I might add some Cream Cheese or a higher fat content milk so it would be a bit more smooth & creamier. ¬†And maybe some fresh herbs…or Blue Cheese…or….. Oh geez, there is so much you can do with Mac & Cheese!!!

As a side note, I found a new favorite food love today….Coconut Oil! ¬†Oh my gosh, if you haven’t tried it, GET IT!! ¬†I saut√©ed the fresh green beans you see with the Beer Mac & Cheese in a tablespoon of Coconut Oil tonight and some fresh chopped Garlic. ¬†It was out of this world! ¬†Sigh. ¬†I might just do a post using this magic oil…

Anyway, I hope you’ll give this Beer Mac & Cheese a shot and join me next time for Beer for a Year, month seven!

Cheers,

Shawn