Ten Favorite Beers

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Here is a list of some beers I like, as much for my own future reference as anything... I'll add to it as I think of more!

Summer beers:

Abita - Purple Haze
Sweetwater - Blue

Leinenkugel - Sunset Wheat

Hoegaarden (Original)
Julius Echter - Hefe Weissbier

Winter beers:

Lion - Lion Stout

Clipper City - Heavy Seas Peg Leg Stout

Brooklyn - Black Chocolate Stout
Deschutes - Black Butte Porter
Flying Dog - Gonzo Imperial Porter

Honorable mentions:  Left Hand - Black Jack Porter

Growing Your Own

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Anyone will tell you, I've always been a fan of Growing Your Own. Why spend your hard-earned money on expensive imported stuff that's traveled hundreds of miles, when you can grow it yourself, in your very own house?

We're here today to talk about growing your own... live veggie sprouts! Hahaha!!!

If you've ever had a sandwich or a salad topped with raw spinach or broccoli sprouts, you know what I'm talking about. Fresh, live, vegetable goodness!!

And you've probably had mung bean sprouts in your Chinese food at one time or another.

I've grown my own mung bean sprouts in the past, but haven't tried any of the salad seed varieties. I was recently reading some of the info on the raw foods trend (which is a bit too extreme for me to make any commitment to, but interesting nonetheless) and remembered how good, easy, and fun it is to grow your own sprouts. Oh, and did I mention that it is *cheap*?!

Rather than investing the $26 in one of these doohickeys that I was really tempted to get, I just spent the $4.50 or so and got plastic, mesh-like canning jar tops that fit on the wide mouth jars (I got them at Eats, in case you want to get some... though I'd probably just skip it or go the tray route next time, these aren't ideal).

While at Eats I also picked up a small quantity of mixed salad sprout seeds and a small bag of their mixed stir-fry sprout seeds in their bulk spice section. I bought a bag of mung beans on the cheap at the Oasis Food Mart. I started out by soaking the seeds overnight on Saturday night, and the beans are already sprouting (it's Tuesday). I wound up with too many mung beans, so have 2 jars of mung beans and 1 jar of the salad mix. I haven't tried sprouting the stir-fry mix yet.

Above is a shot of sprouting the salad mix, which includes lentils, broccoli and radish sprouts, and a few other unidentified seed varieties (the white "tails" are the sprouts starting to come out). The mung beans:

One last beauty shot of the salad mix...

I can't wait... in just a few more days I'll be eating fresh, homegrown (albeit, small!) produce!!

Quick trip to DC and the Christmas Feast

Monday, December 28, 2009

Posted a few pics from the Christmas trip to DC here.

We found a great flat in Dupont Circle via one of my favorite resources: the VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) site.

Meatless Monday: Easy Zucchini, Tomato, and Cheese Tart

First, a quick update on that onion tart. It was MAGNIFICENT! It froze, defrosted, and reheated marvelously. It tasted phenomenal. I really just can't say enough good things about it. I've been having leftovers every day for the last couple of days, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. That is how good this tart is. Go make it. Now.

If you're still here, this next one is another fantastic recipe from Vegetarian Classics. I made this at the same time as the onion tart. I have to say, it didn't hold up as well, either because of the higher veggie (and hence, liquid) content, or something. Probably because of the variety of pieces and ingredients, too. Though it was a bit more crumbly, the flavor is really good. I mean, really, quite tasty! But... Well... It's no Onion Tart. 'Nuff said.

Here are the details:

Easy Zucchini, Tomato, and Cheese Tart
from Vegetarian Classics

1 sheet (half of a 17-ounce package) frozen puff pastry
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 (14-ounce) can ready-cut diced tomatoes, well drained
3 large eggs
1 cup grated smoked Gouda cheese*
1/2 teaspoon salt
Generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper

1. Remove the puff pastry from the package and let thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until no longer frozen but still cool.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook 5 minutes, or until the onion is slightly tender. Stir in the zucchini and saute just until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Mix in the drained tomatoes and raise the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is tender but not mushy and the juices have evaporated. Let cool.

3. Lightly butter a dark-colored 9-inch with a removable rim or a glass pie plate.

4. On a lightly floured surface roll the puff pastry into an 11-inch square. Fit it into the tart pan or pie plate. Trim off the overhanging pieces of pastry with scissors. Refrigerate the crust, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or up to 8 hours, covered.

5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

6. Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Stir in the cheese, salt, pepper, and cooled vegetables.

7. Spoon the mixture into the tart pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is brown and a knife inserted in the center of the tart comes out clean. Remove the outer rim of the tart pan. Let the tart cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before slicing. It's best to serve this tart very warm rather than piping hot.

* You can substitute any hard cheese you may prefer - I followed the recipe exactly.

Meatless Monday - Onion Tart

Monday, December 21, 2009

This is a recipe from the awesome book, Vegetarian Classics. In all honesty, I can't tell you how it tastes just yet, because I made it to travel... I want to be able to pack it up and eat it later. I'll post a follow up on how that works out (!). I can tell you that it was relatively easy and the finished product *smelled* fabulous!!

Notes: I used my mandolin* to make my slices, and they didn't turn out as thin as I would've liked. Next time I'll try using my fantastic KitchenAid food processor with its slicing attachment.

*Not the musical instrument. Duh.

Now for some pics:

Onions before:

Onions after:

Everything about the cooking seemed to take a lot longer than described in the recipe. And, by a lot, I mean double to triple the amount of time. This could be a variety of factors (accuracy of my stovetop and oven temps being just one). Make sure the onions look caramelized when cooking on the stovetop, and be sure to do the "done" test that is described before you pull the tart out of the oven.

Onions mixed with the cheese (m'm, cheese!):

The finished product:

Looks and smells PHENOMENAL!! Here's the recipe:

Caramelized Onion Tart

1 sheet (half of a 17 ounce package) frozen puff pastry
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 pounds onions, thinly sliced (9 cups sliced)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
Dash cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated swiss cheese

1.) Remove the puff pastry from the package and let thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until no longer frozen but still cool.

2.) To make the filling: heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and partially cover the pot. Cook, stirring often, for 40 minutes, or until the onions are a deep caramel color and very soft. Turn down the heat a little once the onions begin to soften so they can cook slowly, and scrape the bottom of the pot as necessary. When done, the onions will be evenly brown and almost jamlike. Let cool. (The onions can be prepared and refrigerated up to 48 hours in advance. Bring to room temperature before placing in the filling.)

3.) Lightly butter a dark-colored 9-inch tart pan with a removable rim or glass pie plate. On a lightly floured surface roll the puff pastry into an 11-inch square. Fit it into the tart pan or pie plate. Use scissors to trim off the overhanging pieces of pastry. Refrigerate the crust 15 minutes or cover and refrigerate up to 8 hours.

4.) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

5.) Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Beat in the cream, cayenne, and salt. Stir in the cheese and onions.

6.) Spoon the mixture into the tart pan or pie plate. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the custard is set and the crust is deeply golden. If your pie plate is glass, you can peek at the bottom of the crust to make sure it is cooked in the center.** When the tart is done, remove the outer ring if you used a tart pan with a removable rim. Cool the tart on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes before serving because it should be served warm, not hot.

** I used the "clean knife" test to check if the tart was done. This is where you insert a clean knife into the center of the tart and if it comes out clean (clear and shiny moist is ok) it is done. If there is any eggish residue means it needs to stay in the oven a bit longer.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

We got our second big snow of the year already - it started on Friday afternoon and kept going right on through the better part of Saturday, dumping about 14" here at my house. Charlie is a huge fan of the snowy weather and seems to want to stay out in it as long as we'll let him, and then some. It was sort of a mess - I had trouble getting home on Friday, and it took John 2 or 3 hours to get a good portion of the driveway cleared today. But it sure is beautiful!!

I managed to get out to the grocery today to get a few things I needed for some recipes I'm working on. In the works right now: On onion tart, a zucchini-tomato-cheese tart, and some butter cookies. Whew! Well, to be honest I prepped the dough for the cookies this morning and it is chilling in the fridge right now.

We're thinking of going to DC for a couple of days over Christmas, since (for the first time ever, I think!) we have no one visiting and no real time or money to fly and visit others. I'm hoping the tarts and such will travel well and we can make them our Christmas meal... We shall see!

Time is passing...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's winter now. This morning the trees were sparkling silver with ice. It was like a dream.

We have a new Welsh Terrier puppy, Charlie (that's him in the picture, along with our Mini Schnauzer Grace). He was born on August 28th and came home with us on November 8th. He is a rascal, but I'd expect nothing less.

Life comes in ebbs and waves for me, times that I can't stop doing a certain thing (e.g. reading books, posting on my blog, cooking) and then the times that I have no interest in those things. After Murphy died on May 5th, I lost interest and sort of went undercover for a while. Now I'm trying to work myself out of the ebb, so here I am, trying to write.

One light on the horizon is that I'm going to an awesome retreat in April, a wonderful birthday present from John (my fortieth birthday is in January, shh!!). It is the Celebrate Your Light Women's Self-Love Retreat. I couldn't be more excited. My favorite author/artist of all time will be leading one full day of sessions - SARK. I'm looking forward to it. I want to spend my 40th year reconnecting with myself and realigning. I'm ready.

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