Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bowled Over...Again

Peter's and my recent trip to the West Coast to visit Rachel and the Divine Miss M was filled with wonderful moments galore: Maxine's giggles, a visit to Tilden Park's Little Farm (one of the few rainless moments), family dinners, Bananagrams — the list goes on.

But one of the highlights for sure was Berkeley Bowl, which we visited multiple times and felt like oohing tourists every time. For an East Coast resident, this supermarket is a fresh produce Mecca requiring multiple visits for us to pray before the fresh food gods. I remember being awestruck the last time we visited, but this time was — hard to imagine — more special. Maybe it had to do with having left behind the worst winter in recent memory — we did not see one inch of our yard from early December until early March — but I could not get enough of this place. I felt rejuvenated by the absolute possibility of all this wonderful, fresh — much of it local — food. It was breathtaking.

Peter, always positive, proclaimed Berkeley Bowl the FAO Schwartz of Supermarkets. I, clearly a glass half-empty kind of gal, noted that it made me feel as if every other supermarket I regularly shopped in seem — and I will include a fav of mine, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods — like a corner convenience store (and we all know what the fresh options are there!).

I took a few notes. (East Coast reader warning: This is going to depress you.)

* 18 kinds of apples ... IN MARCH!
* carrots: sure, the obvious long orange ones you can get just about anywhere, but also round carrots, white carrots, maroon carrots, mini carrots, yellow carrots and red carrots. Who knew?
* obvious yellow bananas AND burro bananas, red bananas, plantains and nino bananas.
* regular old cucumbers AND English cucumbers, Persian cucumbers, Japanese cucumbers, and pickling cucumbers
* REAL tomatoes, i.e. not the plastic things passing for tomatoes 9 months of the year everywhere else in America, as well as orange tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, and some kind of brown tomato I had never seen before

And this was NOT even the organic section, which is almost bigger than the produce section I regularly shop in weekly.

If you still have a stomach for this, here are some photos to further prove the point. While we desperately hope Rachel, John and Miss M move East this summer, I now know I'm up against more than just a California is Cool mindset. Berkeley Bowl is a formidable opponent.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Dear Karen DeMasco,

We've got beef. Not the kind you cook and devour, but the metaphoric kind.

See, a while back I bought your cookbook The Craft of Baking on a lark. I rarely do things on a lark and, while I know this isn't your fault, it makes my desire for my larks to work out all the greater. It's my issue, I know, but with the delicious looking cover and the frivolity of a cookbook dedicated to just desserts ... well, your cookbook called out to me from the throngs of cookbooks as delectably indulgent.

And it is! It is. It has beautiful pictures, you write in an accessible fashion and the morsels you offer up run a fabulous gamut of the sugar-infused spectrum.

There's a problem, though. Only one of the recipes I've made has ever worked out just the way you describe it.

Your graham crackers are perfection. It's just, you know, every other recipe (and I've made several at this point!) that disappoints.

Because I'm a glutton for punishment, I pulled out your book this weekend to make John's birthday cake. Your recipe for burnt orange cheesecake seemed appropriately festive and so I began the long process of making it. Over the course of two days, I made graham crackers (fabulous as always!), macerated oranges over night, chilled and baked crust, drained cheese...the list goes on. Following your recipe to a "t", I ended up with far too many graham crackers, made a crust that's sticky and soft instead of crisp, generated (laboriously!) too much burnt orange sauce that fell into the cake instead of resting on top of it as you describe, and baked my cheesecake for 2 1/2 hours instead of the 50 minutes you told me it would roughly take. While, in the end, the cheesecake part of the cake was delicious, I felt so misguided by your recipe that I checked the back of your book. I figured there was no way there would be any positive reviews. Not only are there, though, but they're from famous chefs! Interestingly, however, they all seem to suggest they're excited to try your book, not that they've tried it. After so many foiled baking expeditions (and they really do feel like expeditions under your tutelage...John and I started calling your recipes "princess recipes" yesterday, so preciously and precisely rendered are they), I'm beginning to think you made some delicious food and then tried to remember how when it came down to writing your book. For recipes that are intensely precise, the accuracy of the end product is horribly remiss ... admittedly delicious (even when ugly, sugary stuff tastes good), but only ever right when it comes to graham crackers.

I've come back time and again to your book, hoping I was having an off-day during my last encounter. No more, though, Karen. We're through. I'm making your graham crackers forever and often, but the rest of the pages are going to be un-smudged by buttery fingers. I tried, Karen, I really did, and I don't like writing an unfavorable review. But I'm off to different cookbooks ... you know, the kind where the recipes reliably work.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Giveaway Times Two

We're so happy to have a second copy of Melissa Clark's fabulous new cookbook, In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, to give away to one lucky reader. We did a full review of the book here, but if you want a brief recap here's what you need to know: You want this book.

Clark is a wonderful writer (New York Times columnist of A Good Appetite, award-winning book author, for starters) who introduces her terrific recipes with short vignettes from her past. Sometimes they're about family memories; sometimes they're about how she created this particular recipe — whatever they're about, they're funny and down to earth. This is a cookbook for real people in real kitchens.

Our favorite part? She doesn't obsess about every little detail. If she's missing a certain ingredient, she wings it — with obvious great success.

Winning couldn't be easier. Just leave a comment below and we'll pick one lucky winner to receive a free copy of the book. Winner will be chosen at random on Thursday and announced on Friday.

Good luck!

---Janet and Rachel

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Food for Thought: It's Been A While

A week or so ago John and I spent a stupid amount of the late afternoon/early evening arguing. I say stupid because merely a week later I can't even remember what we argued about and because we managed to drag the disagreement out for hours, settling into quiet or other conversation for periods only to revive the spat repeatedly. We just needed to argue, I think, as people who live together and make major life decisions together and see each other day in and day out inevitably need to do from time to time. When all was said and done and M was in bed, we walked into the kitchen together and, for the first time in a loooooooong time, cooked together. We didn't make anything fancy, but what we ate we made side by side, coming together on a plate after a day of disparateness.

It reminded me of the days before M. Pregnant for the better part of the last school year, every Saturday John and I ventured into the kitchen together. With "This American Life" on the radio, we silently spent an hour shuffling about the kitchen, chopping and sauteing and kneading and slicing. Sometimes we prepared something to structure the coming week's meals around. Sometimes we made ourselves something laborious and decadent for dinner that night. Every week, though, we spent Saturdays in the kitchen together. Having met in a restaurant, cooking together was a sort of post to build around, a space to talk in or to silently occupy together. It was familiar and it was ours.

It is familiar. It is ours. And as the dust continues to settle around our foray into parenthood, I hope we find ourselves, stepping around each other and sliding ingredients from one's cutting board into the other's pot, more and more often.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Oh Mr. Postman....

Since I'm a magazine editor, I subscribe to a ridiculous number of magazines. I'm not going to even tell you how many because that would mean counting them myself and openly admitting I just might have a little magazine problem. (Click here if you missed the post on my food magazines alone.) Besides it's for work; I need to see what's going on in the business. (That's my theory and I'm sticking with it.)

I fold down pages of ideas of ideas I like, rip out recipe pages (see above revealing post), and bring magazines to my office to show my designers ideas that I love. It's like Christmas every month when they begin to arrive in my mailbox in a flurry of paper wonderfulness.

A particular favorite is the Food Network Magazine, which Rachel also gets and then we talk about what we're going to make and why. So, here's the point of this post: Rachel, I'm putting you on notice. I expect to have this sandwich sometime this week after your dad and I arrive TONIGHT!!!! in California!!!! to squeeze the Divine 9-month-old Miss M, who we have not squeezed since she was 6 months old ... oh yes and hug you as well. Get the ingredients (turkey bacon of course) and get ready. We are coming.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meatless Monday: Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Janet here: I believe I have discovered the secret to great soup: roast your vegetables first. Seriously, I may never make soup without doing this again. While I'm sure this butternut squash soup would have been lovely without roasting the squash and red onions first, roasting them brought out the flavor so much more fully.

I also love how carefree roasting is. Just cut whatever veggies you're roasting, add a few tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and toss. Throw it in a 425-degree oven and forget about it for 30 minutes or so. Can it get any easier?

But you don't have to take my word for it. Try this and you won't be disappointed. Add a little bread and a salad and you are good to go. Enjoy!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
serves 4-6

1 medium red onion, cut into large pieces, maybe 1/8ths
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into large pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
4 or so cups of vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon or so curry powder

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the onion, squash and olive oil in a large rectangular pan. Add salt and pepper; toss well until the veggies are well oiled. Put in oven. Roast for about 30 minutes or until the veggies are just tender and lightly browned.

Add the veggie mix to a blender in batches along with some of the stock each time. Puree and then place into a large pot. Do this until it's all pureed. Then add stock as needed, depending on how thin you like your soup. I like mine fairly thick but so it goes. Add the curry powder to taste and warm the soup. That's it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring

In a week of horror and concern about Japan and the havoc there that will/is being felt around the world, it's hard to know what to say in general. And then a small moment at Trader Joe's on the East Coast when I walked in and saw strawberries that actually looked ripe and for just one moment, the world was filled with hope, with possibility, with tomorrow. Sometimes it really is the little things. Happy Spring!
--Janet and Rachel

Friday, March 18, 2011

Birthday Memories

Janet here:

We're doing a joint post today in honor of S's 19th birthday. S was home last week for spring break from college, so there were plenty of food requests on his part. "Will you make that dank macaroni and cheese with blue cheese and bacon you made Dad and G?" he asked. "And will you make my birthday cake?"

The answer, of course, was yes. My days of making our children's birthday cakes (or ice cream pies in our case) and special meals are dwindling. And it makes me just a little sad. The last 26 years of my life have circled around our children, seeing to their needs, helping them grow, watching them take flight and sometimes fall. They have been the earth to my moon, steady in their place as I revolved around them.

Now they are leaving my universe. It is all as it should be, but on this day — S's 19th birthday, the last year of my youngest child's years as a teenager — I am feeling just a little adrift. I will find my own orbit, of course, just as they will find theirs. And the orbits will intertwine at different points than in our past, as we create different paths as a family, as siblings, as individuals. I wonder what the stars will bring.

Rachel here:

All I will add to the beautiful sentiments my mom shares today is this: May your day be happy, S. May it feel festive and may you know you are loved (you are, endlessly). And know, that though we are all dispersed around the country, we are all celebrating you today, we are all making note of the incredible fortune we have in knowing you. Though a man in every sense now, it feels appropriate to quote John Lennon: you are a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy. I love you.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Happy Meatless St. Patty's Day to You All!

Janet here: I grew up in a house where St. Patty's Day was a big deal. My mother's father, Michael Aloysius Martin, emigrated from Ireland to the States as a young man so she took the day seriously, requiring that we all wear something green. I also remember her drawing green freckles on my nose and that I actually went to school that way. Needless to say I not one of the cool kids.

Not surprisingly, we always had corned beef and cabbage on St. Patty's Day. I remember liking it, although as I look back on it I wonder why. Everything was boiled for God's sake.

As a vegetarian, I no longer think corned beef on St. Patty's Day. I do, however, love cabbage, especially served in this tasty, meatless meal inspired by one of my go-to early vegetarian cookbooks, The Moosewood Cookbook. The sauteed cabbage with onions and caraway seeds adds a wonderful zip to the comforting mashed potatoes. Enjoy and Erin Ga Bragh!

Cabbage Casserole
4 medium potatoes, cut into pieces, skin on
2 tablespoons butter (this is not a time for olive oil my friends)
1 plus cups diced onion
about 3 cups of sliced cabbage
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3/4 teaspoon dill
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups low fat cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream.
2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
paprika to taste

After cutting the potatoes into boiling pieces, add to water and boil until just done. Drain and put into a bowl with the cottage cheese, sour cream, dill and salt and pepper. Mash up into mashed potatoes.

While the potatoes are cooking, saute the onions for a couple of minutes. Add the caraway seeds and cabbage and saute until the cabbage and onions are just done. Add to the bowl of mashed potatoes with the cider vinegar. Mix well.

Place into a casserole. Sprinkle sunflower seeds and paprika to taste on top. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until hot.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My First Foray Into "The Flavor Bible"

Rachel here.

My brother, S., gave me a cookbook for Christmas that I've been meaning to dive into as soon as I found myself with a little leisurely time. The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg is unlike any other cookbook we own. Instead of recipes, as one might expect, it offers flavor combinations, ingredient by ingredient. So cool! So often I find myself cooking and unsure of what to pair with what absent a step-by-step recipe. This book is just the ticket for such moments.

I've been wanting to make soup for a while (ok, all winter). With the aid of The Flavor Bible, I concocted a totally delicious chicken, mushroom and white bean soup in a lemony garlic broth.

To start, I made chicken stock. I'm yet to find a store-bought version that comes anywhere near the homemade stuff and so, for the time being, homemade is how we're rolling when it comes to chicken stock in our house. I piled a stockpot full on chicken bones and one complete breast, big hunks of celery, wedges of onion and halved carrots. A few bay leaves and brimming with water, I let the stuff simmer for hours until our whole house smelled warm and welcoming. I strained the vegetables and bones out, shredded the chicken from the breast and set it aside in the fridge along with the strained stock until evening.

The trick to making your own stock, as I learned from my Great Uncle David, is to leave time for it to chill in order for the fat to solidify on the top. Then, before you put it back on the stove to generate your soup, you can scrape the fat from the top quite easily. It is far preferable to the oily skimming I've done in the past, both in terms of ease and effectiveness.

For the soup proper, I diced up half an onion and a few stalks of celery and sliced three carrots. Into a saute pan they went until they were browned and softened, at which point I added them into my stock pot. Then I sliced and sauteed mushrooms, adding these to the soup once they were browned along with the shredded chicken and the juice from one lemon. I minced a few cloves of garlic and thinly sliced another lemon (a la my grandmother's chicken soup), tossing these in towards the end along with a rinsed can of white beans. I simmered the soup a bit longer, adding a generous dash of hot sauce and salt and pepper to taste until everything came together. John (using store-bought pizza dough) whipped up some breadsticks (rolled in parmesan and fennel seeds and other delicious things that he can't recall...he doesn't need The Flavor Bible's help the way I do) which finished baking just in time for us to heap soup into bowls and sit down for a cozy dinner on a rainy night.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Books That Make Us Hungry: In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

It's been a while since we chatted about a book that was making us hungry, but Melissa Clark's new cookbook, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite, is worthy of note. When I asked to get a copy of the book from the publisher, I figured it would be a typical, but tasty of course, cookbook. What I didn't realize was that Clark has written the book we'd planned to write. Dammit!

So I was prepared not to like the book or Clark. But instead we had a lovely chat on the phone AND I love her book! A food columnist with the New York Times, Clark peppers her food escapades with recipes and memorable anecdotes. Sometimes they are about her life and her family’s; other times they focus on food trends and ideas. It’s a chatty, down-to-earth style that immediately makes her recipes seem equally accessible.

The book’s chapter titles—titles like Things with Cheese, There’s Always Room for Pie (and Tarts) and My Sweet Tooth and Me—further reflect Clark’s down-home approach. She opens each one with a memory before moving on to recipes and more stories for each one. The chapter My Mother’s Sandwich Theory of Life, for instance, describes her mother’s premise: “Good sandwiches are like interesting people, unpredictable and filled with surprises,” writes Clark, “Each bite should be a little different; otherwise it gets boring. It’s like a conversation. If you can anticipate the next sentence, why bother? If you know exactly what the next bite of a sandwich will taste like, why eat it?”So true, don't you think?

Clark moves on to her favorite sandwich recipes, opening each with her own recollections. The recipe for pan bagnat, a traditional tuna and vegetable sandwich hailing from Nice, France, is prefaced by a tale of her family’s yearly trek to France for the summer where they essentially ate their way around the country. (Not what was happening in my family, I can tell you, where the Jersey shore was the annual option, not exactly a place known for its culinary wonders.) When her mother made this flattened sandwich, she relied on Clark or her sister to sit on the well-wrapped sandwich to mash it down to just the right consistency of olive oil and vinegar mixing. Today, Clark relies on a filled kettle placed on top of a baking pan to achieve the flatness she desires, but I just loved picturing a squirming little girl schmooshing a sandwich.

Switching a kettle for a butt is no biggie for Clark because she is the consummate relaxed cook. No capers for that soft-shell crab sandwich? No problem. Use the jar of caperberries sitting in the fridge instead. I love that about her and her cooking.

By the time I was done with In the Kitchen, I felt as if Clark is a friend, someone I could easily chat with at a party or over a meal. Oh, and I also had a 150 tasty recipes to try.

Now, dear readers, here's the good news! You, too, can have this fabulous cookbook. Just leave a comment below and we'll be picking a reader at random on Friday to have a copy mailed to them. It's Free! Free! Free!

In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite, 150 Recipes & Stories About the Food You Love, by Melissa Clark, Hyperion Books, 444 pages, $27.50.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hot Wing Chicken Salad...Or, Unfathomable Failure

Rachel here.

The other night John made hot wings. Deeeelicious as they were, he made enough for an army larger than two and so we found ourselves not with a few leftover, but a ton. While we both have a thing for hot wings (this may be the secret to our successful partnership), this leftovers thing was a new problem.

No joke. We have never not eaten all of our hot wings. Never.

We entertained the idea of just continuing to eat them for days on end, but both felt intrigued by the idea of trying to innovate a little with our leftovers. And so we concocted hot wing chicken salad.

We peeled the chicken from the bones (umm...this was tedious), diced up some celery and then mashed it all together with blue cheese dressing. Piling mountains onto squishy buns, we sat down certain that we had just created the greatest thing since chocolate ice cream (ok, I thought it was the greatest thing since chocolate ice cream...John probably was thinking of some other food, though, since he is simply unable to do the things to ice cream that I effortlessly endeavor).

We hadn't.

Everything was fine except that we both found ourselves feeling like we were eating these giant piles of mush. Maybe it was the buns (these were like, I don't know, little fluffy buttery clouds), or maybe we should have made the celery crunch more prominent. Maybe we needed another flavor--onions came to mind for both of us independently. While we maintain that the idea is certainly not at fault, the missing piece eludes us.

I guess we'll just have to give it another go around the next time there's a giant tupperware of leftover chicken wings in the know, if that ever happens again in our lives.

Friday, March 4, 2011

We'll Have Beer with that Chicken Please

Mike the Gay Beer Guy is back for his monthly posting on fabulous pairings with beer. Up this month, a delicious chicken dish. You don't have to brew your own beer to make this, of course, although if you're inspired to take that one, Mike's the guy to show you how...

Hi Janet and Rachel -
First off, I have an announcement to make! Due to the GREAT success from my entries in LTIR, I have decided to start my own beer blog. Basically, it comes down to this: I have received so many great comments about my posts, but so many folks read the beer lingo like a foreign language. In order to go into more beer related detail (and to cover a wider range of ideas), it became necessary to go down a new avenue. Of course I’ll still be writing for LTIR once a month, but I’ll make sure the focus is food related.
Check in at regularly for posts about beer, brewing, eating, and everything else out there!

One of my favorite styles out there is the Belgian Dubbel — one sip and you can taste so many things: malt, dried figs, raisins, spice, amongst others. I have made my Dubbel recipe a few times, but by far the best batch is the first one from 3 years ago. I didn’t really know what I was doing back then, so I’m surprised the bottles I have left are still palatable. As this is a GREAT beer to drink, it is also pretty easy to cook with, too! How do I justify cooking with a beer I’d want to drink? Not easily! But this one certainly lends itself quite well to the purpose (maybe that’s why I have so many bottles around the house?!?!?!). Like wine, I recommend saving the REALLY good stuff for drinking... I would never cook with a Trappist Dubbel, but there are some great domestic varieties available for both as an ingredient and consumption that don’t carry the subtleties of great Belgian beers and, quite honestly, don’t cost as much.

For this recipe, I thicken my sauce with a roux, but feel free to omit the extra fat
and reduce the sauce naturally; keep in mind that as beer boils, it’s going to get more bitter, and you might find it necessary to add some sugar or honey to compensate. You also don’t need to use a Dubbel. A nice amber or brown ale would work nicely! Just make sure the beer is balanced towards the malty end of the spectrum, rather than the hoppy end. I’ll list some possibilities in the ingredients! Bon apetite!

Chicken and Herbs in a Belgian Dubbel Sauce

Makes 4 servings

2 tablespoons butter (Everything tastes better with butter!!)
2 tablespoons (plus maybe a bit more) Flour
2 tablespoons EVOO (maybe more)
4 boneless/skinless chicken breast halves, cleaned and patted dry with paper towels
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium shallot or 2 small shallots, minced or in thin slices
1 12-oz bottle of Belgian Dubbel Beer
1-2 teaspoon dried tarragon (or whatever herb you having available... Thyme? Sage?)
1 bay leaf
Salt/Pepper to taste
For the beer, I of course use my own (the recipe follows)... if you don’t brew or have a seemingly endless supply in your beer cellar, the classic Dubbel example comes from
Westmalle, one of the six remaining Trappist breweries in the world. Other examples you
should try come from Chimay, New Belgium, or even Allagash breweries. I’m also a fan of
the Bornem Dubbel, but I would save it to drink... I don’t think it would taste good in cooking, although I admit I’ve never tried it! You might also consider trying Dogfish Head’s Raison d’Etre or maybe even Newcastle; I have tried this also with some of my English-style beers with GREAT succes!

Start by making your roux. Melt the butter in a small pot over low heat. When the butter has melted, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon (or a whisk) until you have a creamy paste. Although ideally you should have equal amounts of fat and flour, I often need a touch more flour. Continue to cook the mixture over low heat for 10-15 min, or even a little longer. Your roux should come to the consistency of light peanut butter, but a little lighter or darker is fine! I’ve read that you shouldn’t use butter if you want to cook the roux past a light brown stage, but I’ve certainly gone darker and never had a problem... feel free to substitute a different
fat for the butter if you feel uncomfortable (or suddenly health conscious).

In a 12-inch skillet or dutch oven (make sure whatever you use has a lid), heat the EVOO over medium/high heat. This should be done as the roux is cooking, maybe a few minutes into the whole process. Reduce heat to medium or less and brown your chicken on each side (make sure it is seasoned with salt and pepper), maybe 4-5 min per side. Once the chicken is browned, remove it from the pan to a plate. Add the shallot and garlic to the now chickenless pan and saute for a few minutes until everything has been cooked through; you may need to add some more EVOO.

When the shallot and garlic have cooked, deglaze the pan with the beer, scraping up all the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the tarragon and bay leaf, and bring the pan up to a boil. Add your roux and reduce the heat to low (simmer); cover and cook for 20 minutes. When adding the roux, start by incorporating about half; if you want your sauce thicker go ahead and add more. (You can actually store unused roux in an air-tight container in the fridge.) During the last 5-8 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken breasts are, add the chicken back to the pan to finish cooking and to heat through. Serve with rice, mashed potatoes, asparagus, green beans, roasted carrots, butternut squash, even corn (as we used)... the ideas are endless!

Although you could drink a nice Dubbel with this dish, I actually think it would be more interesting to go with something somewhat sour — a nice Lambic (please nothing too vinegary), either straight (hahaha, even I laugh) or with fruit, would be great. Maybe try something from Jolly Pumpkin Brewery or possibly even a Saison, the classic example being Saison Duont. For our dinner, I paired this dish with a bottle from my first even hard cider. I still think it needs a few more months to go, but overall it worked well; you might want to try Woodchuck or possibly Ace Pear.

(Beer) Recipe of the Month

This is the first recipe for a Dubbel that I brewed; since I was then a new brewer, the
recipe is based on 5 gallons at the end of the boil, rather than the 6 I use now for most of my recipes. Don’t hate me. I’ve tried a few different yeasts for this too... but I keep coming back to the Chimay yeast, which you can buy commercially or even culture from the bottle! I’m not worried about IBUs (bittering units) for this recipe, since most of bitterness drops out as you age this... I’m sure this Dubbel will keep for at least 5 years, if not longer! The bottle I used for making the chicken was from 2009... notice how it was CRYSTAL clear just a bit longer than 2 year later!

Belgian Dubbel
OG 1.068, FG 1.010, ABV 7.5%
10 lbs Base Malt (try to find something European)
1 lb Dark Candi Syrup
½ lb Cara Munich Malt
½ lb Special B Malt
½ lb Cane Sugar (Table sugar)
1 oz Tradition (usually 5-7% AA) for 60 min
WLP500 - Trappist Ale Yeast (make an appropriate starter!!!)
Mash at 149*. Ferment starting in the upper 60*s and let the sucker rise up to ensure
fermentation has completed! Traditionally, this beer is served with a high carbonation, but I like something in the mid range. Honestly, it’s your beer, it’s up to you...

For info on how to brew beer, check out my blog at!!! Other future topics include yeast starters, pairings, gadgets, and all other things beer related!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Stuffed Cookie Chronicles

I took one for our blogging team this week, making several variations on the stuffed cookie idea that's been percolating in the webosphere in recent weeks. It's a tough job but someone had to do it.

Jenny over at Picky Palate is the person who apparently started this food phenomenon. And if you want to see some of her concoctions, please click here (after reading our post I certainly hope).

I decided to go beyond Oreos (because, really, once you start contemplating stuffing a chocolate chip cookie, why stop with just one of your favorite food items?) and stuffed some with Reese's peanut butter cups and some with mini-Heath bars. It was one of my wiser moves.

You start with your standard chocolate chip cookie dough recipe. (I've included the link to Rachel's here because as you know she is — for now — the chocolate chip cookie queen in our duo and I am feeling magnanimous.) Patsy changed hers slightly to include more flour and more vanilla (always a good idea in general I've found). I followed hers to see what it was like, but think I might amend this going forward to use a little less flour. While you need a lot of dough to cover your stuffings, I felt like this was a little drier than I'd like. Here's what they look like before you play with the dough a bit to cover them entirely.

Admit it--you're salivating just a little bit right now aren't you?

Now, slight dryness (to my palate anyway) aside, this is not to say that these were not edible by ANY stretch of the imagination. Peter grabbed one out of the oven and swooned (although he did comment on the dryness the next day — after he ate three of them, which begs the question of how dry is dry).

I also served them up to the ladies of the Wild Women Reading Book Club and here are just couple of their comments:

That chocolate chip cookie/Oreo combination was a childhood dream come true. The only question is whether you still try to unscrew the Oreo and eat the vanilla cream first and save the chocolate chip cookie outside for last.

Janet, your cookie was quite the experience! Having selected the cookie stuffed with Reeses peanut butter cup, I should've known to wait until I made it home and enjoy it with a milk chaser. But no, no sooner does Tracy step out of my car, than I grab the baggy and start gobbling this huge, super soft and sweet cookie. I tried to stop two thirds into it so I would have something to look forward to when I arrived home, but I lacked the required self control. I wish I had asked for a second cookie but having just met you didn't want to come across as greedy. So big thumbs up on your stuffed cookie but I do recommend having beverage handy!

So clearly the overall vote is a yes for stuffed chocolate chip cookies, a recipe I'm obviously going to need to devote more time to fine tuning. As I said earlier, a tough job....

What do you recommend we try stuffing next?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spicy Chicken Soup

Janet here:

I'm officially done with winter. Yes, I KNOW it's only the beginning of March and that this means the likelihood of more snow and yuck for at least a month here in the Northeast, but I've really kind of had it and am trying not to think about how I am not going to a Caribbean island this month as I have for the last two years, which clearly is what I SHOULD be doing and the gods are just against me.

Anyway, I needed a tasty soup to satisfy my clearly Vitamin-D depressed soul and came up with this one on Sunday. Warning: If you don't like spice, this one isn't for you. On the other hand, you can amend to make it as mild as you want so there it is. I served it with ciabatta with melted cheddar and tomatoes on top, and a nice salad. We ate by the fire and for a minute, I could forget that freezing rain — yes, freezing rain — was in the forecast for later that night.

What do you cook up when you're trying to feel better about the weather?

Spicy Chicken Soup

serves 6

olive oil for sauteing
1 medium red onion, diced
2-3 red chili peppers, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2-3 chipotle peppers, diced
1 15 ounce can black beans
1/2 bottle of beer (Dos Equis would be in keeping with the Mexican flavor but all we had was Bud so Bud it was)
1 heaping teaspoon paprika
1 heaping teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 rotisserie chicken, skinned and shredded
28-ounce can of fire-roasted tomatoes
2-3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock

Saute the onions and peppers in olive oil for a few minutes. Then add spices, beans and beer. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Simmer some more. At this point, I put about half the mixture into the blender to make the soup a little thicker. Add the stock and chicken and simmer for a while until you're ready to serve.