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 Märzen 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,


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 –  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! 🙂

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!


Beer for a Year, month seven…

Rhubarb Beer Jam & dinner……

Hey beer lovers!  This months beer is Summit Sága 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 Sága, 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’s 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 sautéed 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 sauté 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,


Beer for a Year, month five…

Wow, I know I may sound like a broken record player, but where the heck did April go?  I can’t believe its the last day of the month and here I sit at 8:33pm trying to get this post done before May…which is tomorrow…..


Anyway, this month’s “Beer for a Year” choice is Summit’s Great Northern Porter.  The great folks at Summit Brewing say this beer was “originally named after London market workers who popularized this brew, then dubbed our Porter with a nod to the majestic railway stretching from St. Paul to Seattle. Roasted malts offer up coffee notes leading to a slightly sweet, chocolatey finish. This beer won First Place in the “Porters” category at the 1987 Great American Beer Festival® and Gold, at the 2003 World Beer Championships. They say to pair this beer with soft, creamy cheeses, hearty soups, stews, smoked foods, chocolate”….oh yeah.  That’s where this months post comes in; we are making Beer Brownies!!  Yea for chocolate & beer!

I found this great recipe on a blog called “The Kitchy Kitchen“.  I pretty much followed it as they wrote it, but put in more semi-sweet chocolate chips and less dark chocolate.  Here’s what you’ll need:

3 1/2 oz. dark chocolate, 70% or more

2 tablespoons of instant espresso

8 tablespoons of butter

4 eggs, at room temperature

1 cup of white sugar

1 cup of brown sugar, loose, not packed

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup of Summit Great Northern Porter

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

(the original recipe had 1 cup of walnuts, halved and toasted lightly…I don’t care for them, so I left them out)

You’ll start by gathering all your items and preheating the oven to 350 degrees.  If you are using the nuts, you can toast those for about 5 minutes.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, spices and cocoa powder.

 Meanwhile melt the chocolate, instant espresso and butter in a medium-sized bowl over boiling water.  (homemade double-boiler) Remove from heat, add the beer and vanilla extract then set aside to cool.


In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and sugars until thick and shiny.  Continue beating on low while adding the flour mixture and wet ingredients, alternatively.


Fold in the chocolate chips and pour into a buttered and floured 9 x 13″ pan (and sprinkle nuts over top if using them).  Side note; I used two 8 x 8″ pans…

Bake in the preheated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes.  They are done when  toothpick inserted into the middle of the brownies comes out clean.  Let cool, then cut and sprinkle with powdered sugar if you so please!  (you must note the cute plate I used to showcase my brownie slice…my baby girl made that for me!)

These brownies are not overly sweet, have a rich chocolate taste and are best served still slightly warm with either a drizzle of caramel sauce (or if you are feeling really adventuresome, you could reduce the Great Northern Porter and make a wonderful syrup you could drizzle over the top!) or a big scoop of ice cream.  I had one kid who asked for more and another who refused another bite after the first, so they might be best served to those who appreciate a more gourmet brownie!

Summit gave me a special treat for my next beer…stay tuned!

Until next month…which is tomorrow…..ha!  Enjoy!



Beer for a Year, month four…

Month four…already??!!!  Nooooo!  And, according to the calendar, its April.  I should have had this post in March.  The devil is in the details….who cares right?  Let’s talk beer!

Summit Maibock!  I’ve heard, from quite many people, that this is THE beer.  According to Summit’s website, “this traditional German style beer earned the nickname “liquid bread” because it was brewed by monks to help them get through Lenten fasting. Moravian 37 malts and Czech Saaz hops give it a toasted sweetness with a little spice in the finish.”  They also say this is the “official beer for May Day celebrations”  however, according to the sweet older gentleman who helps me with my beer pick-up every month, “get it before then, as it will be long gone before May!”

So, what to make this month….looking at the info on the Summit website about Summit Maibock, (read more here) they say to pair this beer with “Pretzels, white cheddar, sausage, ribs, pork and smoked meat…” how about Onion Rings?  Okay, yes!!

There’s a few things you need to know about before I can tell you about the Onion Rings.  The first being that I am a little Irish.  The other is that I love Ruebens.  LOVE them.  What do either of these have to do with Onion Rings?  Well, I decided that what would be the perfect side to Ruebens on St. Patiricks Day?  Onion Rings of course!  (yes honey, I know, Rueben’s aren’t Irish….sigh.)

So, I got everything ready (cut, soaked the onions-measured and mixed the coatings)  to take to our friends for a St. Patrick’s Day celebration.  The husband loaded the car, so I assumed that he got everything…you know what they say about assuming right?  Yeah, so I should have double-checked he had everything.  How was he to know that I had the onions soaking in buttermilk, in a container at the back of our ridiculously small refrigerator.  How was he to remember that I was supposed to be bringing the Maibock with, because I was blogging about these incredible Onion Rings?  He grabbed all the other beer (it was St. Patty’s day and we were going to have Black & Tan’s!), the two Corned Beef Briskets we made the day before, just for Ruebens, the cheese, the sauerkraut, the special 1000 Island Dressing, the loaf of Rye bread and the loaf of Pumpernickel I bought for the sandwiches.  Oh and the Irish Cheddar Cheese plate with toasted Irish Soda Bread I had painstakingly cut for the appetizer plate.  You get the picture.  So, thankfully I had already drank a bottle of beer before we noticed the missing items (so I couldn’t drive back home) and thankfully my friends grew up around River Falls Wisconsin and always have Ellsworth Creamery Cheese Curds on hand (which we usually eat raw…but this time fried).  All was good.  But, in the back of my mind, I kept thinking of those sweet Vidalia rings, soaking in their buttermilk bath, at home.  Were we really going to have to make & eat all those Onion Rings on our own?  Gosh no, we have neighbors!  So, let’s start!

Beer Battered Onion Rings:

Recipe adapted from Guy Fieri’s version you can find here.

You’ll need….

2 sweet onions, sliced to 1/2 inch thick rings

2 cups buttermilk

2 cups all-purpose flour, (divided in two)

1 teaspoon garlic, granulated

I also added seasoned salt, pepper and probably more garlic…..

One bottle of Summit Maibock (and more drinking with the rings!)

3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese (really optional, but who doesn’t love cheese!)

(The original recipe had a dip with it, but I didn’t make it…if you are interested in that, click on the original recipe link above.)

This recipe makes ALOT of onion rings…so you may want to cut back on the amount of onion you are using if they are large Vidalia’s like mine were.  Or just plan to share them and you’ll be good!

Using a bowl large enough to hold the buttermilk and onions, separating the rings and soak them for at least an hour.  (In my case, they were soaking for over a day…and were just fine!)  If you have a fryer, preheat and get ready as usual.  I used my Dutch Oven and added enough oil that the rings would be able to submerge.  (the recipe calls for 4 cups of oil….which just grosses me out, but I guess you might need that much)  I don’t even want to think of the calories in these beauties…they are worth it!

Using two separate mixing bowls, place a cup of the flour in each.  In one of those bowls, add the bottle of beer.  In the other bowl, add the salt, pepper, garlic and any other seasonings you’d like to the flour mixture. (note the plastic containers…I thought I was going mobile with these…)

Once the onions have soaked in the buttermilk, remove them, shaking off the excess and dredge in the seasoned flour mixture and then into the beer batter.  Carefully drop a few into the oil and fry until golden brown.  Be sure to leave enough space around each one as it fries, or they will stick together.  Once done, remove to a paper towel lined plate and let cool slightly before grating Parmesan cheese over them.  And of course, serve & enjoy them with a frosty cold Summit Maibock!

Until next month…(oops, later this month I mean…)



Beer for a Year, month three…

Greetings beer lovers!

This month’s special brew is Summit’s Horizon Red Ale.  The brewmasters at Summit Brewing call this beer “an inspired hybrid that blurs the boundaries between IPA and Amber styles. The exceptional blend of American hops (including the harder-to-find Horizon variety) gives it an intense pine, citrus and earthy character in the nose and on the tongue.”  Read more about Summit Horizon Red Ale.

As I mentioned in the first blog post about my beer winnings, I am not a huge beer drinker normally, but if I do drink it, it’s gotta be something I can “chew” on if you know what I mean.    I was excited to try this Red Ale, as I usually like Red beers and it definitely showed it’s character right away!  However, I knew I would have my work cut out for me, because, as with the Summit Extra Pale Ale, there was a bitter note I would need to overcome when cooking with it.  So, we talked and talked (the hubby & I) about the options we had.  We talked about making a batter out of it, which we will still may do, but then I stumbled upon this recipe from Taste of Home for Swiss Beer Bread.  Then the hubby said he could make Beer Cheese Soup.  I know what you are thinking, but you said you wouldn’t go there?  And you are right, I hadn’t planned on it, but I thought would be a perfect compliment to the bread!  I usually try to stay away from bread (gluten) whenever possible but I am weak when it comes to freshly baked bread…, let’s get started!

This is what you’ll need to make the Swiss Beer Bread:

4 ounces Swiss cheese-grated

1/4 cup caramelized onions-finely chopped

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 bottle (12 ounces) Summit Horizon Red Ale

2 tablespoons butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper.  Stir beer into dry ingredients just until moistened. Add the caramelized onions and almost all of the cheese, keeping a small handful aside to put on the top as soon as it came out of the oven.  Transfer to a greased 8-in. x 4-in. loaf pan. Drizzle with the butter. Bake at 375° for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove from oven & sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. 

What I love about this bread, besides the fact it is delicious, is that you can add pretty much anything you want to it.  You could swap out the Swiss cheese for Cheddar, you could add crumbled bacon to the batter, chives or other herbs.  I slathered it with butter while still slightly warm, but it would be delicious with honey or even a fruit butter.

Now let’s talk about the soup……this took a bit more of our patience and perseverance, but the finished product is amazing!

Here is what you’ll need for the Beer Cheese Soup:

1/2 small sweet onion, finely diced

1 small carrot, finely diced

One 12oz. bottle of Horizon Red Ale

3 tablespoons of Worchestshire sauce

4 cups of milk (we used 2%)

1 cup of half & half

3 cups of chicken stock plus 2 tablespoons of chicken base

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

16 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese

4-6 thick-cut bacon, cooked & crumbled

olive oil at the ready and salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup of butter & 1/2 cup +/- of flour for roux*

Preheat your large stockpot or Dutch oven on the stove top.  Once heated, add a good coating of olive oil and sweat the onions & carrots.  Then add the Worchestshire and reduce the liquid until just about syrupy.  Add your beer and continue to cook  for a bit.  Add your stock and once up to temp, add a tablespoon or two of your roux.  Using a whisk at this point, you’ll want to slowly add the milk and then the cream.  Tasting along the way and adjusting the flavors as you go.  Continue to add the roux to thicken.  Once you feel you are where you want to be flavor wise, add the cheese and continue to whisk until smooth.  Turn off heat and ladle into soup bowls.  Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and any other items you’d like to add!  (you won’t ever see me putting popcorn on as a garnish….I have never understood that, but feel free to do it if you like it that way!)

One thing I need you to be sure to do, is to taste this as you go along.  Recently, a question was posed to a group I belong to, the Minnesota Food Bloggers about what advice you’d give a novice cook or baker.  My answer should have included-taste as you are cooking!  It’s so important.  You’ll want to keep the awesome beer flavor while toning down the bitter aspect of it.  We got three meals out of this soup, (nice large bowls we ate with bread or a salad) meaning one batch will either feed 6-8 or split up like we did.

*To make the roux, melt butter in a small sauté pan.  Slowly add the flour, using a whisk, cooking until the mixture has thickened and is caramel in color.

Enjoy & see you next month!!



Beer for a Year, month two…

Greetings beer lovers! This months special brew is one of my most favorites, Summit Winter Ale. They describe this beer as being nutty (I’m a little like that) with a roasted malt flavor and hints of coffee, caramel, cocoa and a dash of hop spice–wow, no wonder I am bonkers for it…I love all those things! They say to pair this beer with Stews, (a hint of what we are making with this!) soft or smoked cheeses, ham and heavy roasted meat, and holiday feasts. (oh yeah, there was some of that in December!)

I found a groovy little handout that tells more about Summit Winter Ale, you can download it here.

So, lets get started! We are calling this our Beer-Braised Beef Stew; not real clever, but straight to the point is sometimes better. I can’t take all the credit for this one either, my darling husband did all of the cooking. I just finished it up with some gorgeous buttery chive-mashed potatoes & sautéed asparagus.

You’ll start by trimming up a piece of beef chuck roast, (just like the kind you’d make pot roast or stroganoff out of) we used a piece that was just about 2.5lbs.

We also added sliced carrots, fresh chopped parsley, 3-4 cloves of garlic-crushed, chopped sweet onions & a big handful of baby portabella mushrooms, quartered. You’ll want to get a dutch oven going on high at this point, as you’ll want it screaming hot when you add the meat to it. Cube your meat into roughly 1″ pieces.

Like this….

Mmmmm……I love meat…….sorry, okay, next step, drizzle a bit of olive oil in the bottom of your dutch oven (or really any heavy duty pot will work) get ready for some smokin’ and throw in that meat! We seasoned it once it was in the pan, but you can do it after you get it all cubed up. A good sprinkling of salt & ten or so cracks of pepper will be all you need.

Get a good caramelization on the meat and then start adding the onions. Let that rock for a bit, then add the carrots….then a bit later, the mushrooms. After just another bit, add the parsley & garlic. Once they’ve partied a bit together, and everything is lookin’ all cozy, grab that gorgeous Summit Winter Ale and deglaze that pan baby!

Oh, that smell………yeah, that’s the stuff! Sorry, I get excited about this. We used just about two full bottles of the Summit Winter Ale, but you could do a bit more or a bit less, depending on your taste. At this point, you’ll want to add a couple cups of beef stock, or just as much as you want it be saucy. (make sense? more stock, saucier, less, not so much) Plop on that lid and let er’ buck (as the hubby would say) for a good hour at a slow simmer. Check the meat after that and if its tender enough for you, you are good. If not, carry on a bit longer. Once the meat is tender enough for you, you’ll want to thicken the sauce. The best way to do that, is to make a roux. In a small sauté pan, melt two (+/-) tablespoons of butter. Once the butter is melted, add two (+/-) tablespoons of flour and stir. The key to roux, is to cook the flour in the butter…the longer you do this, the darker & more caramelly (yea, not a word…) the roux will become. For this dish, you don’t need it to be too dark, just cooked-a light brown color. Once you’ve gotten there, add the roux starting with a teaspoon or two and wisk into sauce mixture. Add more to thicken more, but stop when you have the consistency you are after. (thick for a “stew” like dish, less-thick for a “gravy”)

Spoon over fluffy, gorgeous mashed potatoes and enjoy! You could also spoon over buttered egg noodles or maybe even some creamy polenta…YUM!!!

Until next month, (hint, the color of February, matches the color of our next beer…)



Beer for a Year!

Wait, what? Yes, that’s what I said, Beer for a year! I was at an event at the end of November, where I won Beer for a year, from Summit Brewing. Even though, as most of you that know me, I don’t really drink beer, I was still so excited! I love our local, hometown brewery- Summit Brewing and was thrilled to be able to share this wonderful gift with my friend’s & family that do drink beer! I got my first case, Summit Extra Pale Ale and decided I wanted to blog about this each month. I am not only going to tell you about the beer I choose each month, as I get to pick from some great options, but I am going to challenge myself to cook with the beer.

So let’s talk about the first month’s brew, Summit Extra Pale Ale. On their website, they call this, “the brew that launched a brewery.” Also stating it is a pioneer in craft beer, Summit EPA has been gracing the pint glasses of serious brew lovers since 1986. Bronze in color, with a gold medal-winning flavor. With caramel, biscuity malts superbly balanced with an earthy hop bite and juicy citrus. They suggest pairing this beer with sharp cheddar, grilled meat, fried seafood, soft, ripened cheese.

I decided, to start small. Cooking with beer can be easy and can be challenging. There’s always Beer Cheese soup, or some version of Beer bread. I can braise Chicken or Sausages in beer. But I wanted to challenge myself and respect the beer along the way. What could I make with Summit Extra Pale Ale, that would accomplish both? How about a little Mushroom Ale Risotto! Yes!

I adapted this recipe from this Jeff Smith recipe. And major adaptations it was….really the only thing I followed was the measurements for the rice, chicken broth and beer…and I used a lot more beer than he did! As you get to know me and my cooking style, you’ll see I am more of a “little of this, little of that” kind of cook, but I know some of you want something you can follow, so here is a list of the ingredients:

1 cup of arborio rice

Baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced (as much as you want, and you can really use any type of mushroom for this)

2.5 cups of chicken stock, warmed slightly

1.5 cups of room temperature Summit Extra Pale Ale (see notes below about using one of the other delicious Summit Beer offerings)

1 T. of butter

2 T. olive oil

2 medium shallots, finely chopped (or one small sweet onion)

3 garlic cloves, minced

A good heaping handful of Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano cheese

Salt & pepper as needed

The first thing you’ll do after assembling the ingredients is start by melting the butter & olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots (or onion) and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft being careful not to burn the garlic. Add in the rice and cook for approximately 2 minutes or until the rice is translucent. Combine the stock with the beer and season a bit with salt & pepper. Begin by adding one cup of the beer broth to the rice, stirring constantly until nearly absorbed. Continue this process, adding the broth mixture, one cup at a time, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy liquid, most likely around twenty minutes after beginning. (Switch arms, or stirring partners during this process so you don’t wake up the next day wondering what the heck you did the day before!) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in as much rice as you’d like. I love using the Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano cheese because it imparts a nice sweet flavor profile. I’ve had lots of Risotto in my day, all of which was either made with wine or stock, but never beer. I love how unique this dish is; the beer lingers on the tongue once you get past the rice & mushroom flavors! If I were to do anything different, I would try another type of Summit Beer that maybe wasn’t as bitter as the Extra Pale Ale (not saying I don’t like that!). Or, it might be nice to add cider or something sweet instead of the stock….so many options!

Pair this gorgeous Mushroom Ale Risotto with a frosty Summit Extra Pale Ale and a nice crispy salad and enjoy!

See you next month when I try my hand at another delicious Beer dish…going darker on you then…stay tuned!