Happy American Craft Beer Week

Weekend’s over. Time to put away your infused vodka and grab a nice, cold beer for American Craft Beer Week!

Enjoying a Hofbrau Oktoberfest at Epcot on my birthday

It’s no secret I love beer, and this week is for us. American Craft Beer Week is called the Mother of all Beer Weeks on the Brewers Association’s craft beer site.

Since 2006, craft beer has had a week dedicated to celebrating and raising awareness of small and independent craft brewers. For the first time this year there are official events offered in all 50 states! State-by-state and South Florida events are going on this week.

When I just want to grab an everyday beer, I reach for Yuengling. But I also love sampling unique, complex and interesting beers.

When new seasonal brews are released or I spot a limited-edition beer on the store shelf, my eyes light up like I’m looking through my Christmas stocking. When I hear about upcoming releases or a beer that is new to the area I keep an eye out for it. I have some breweries I know and trust and will grab a new beer of theirs when I see it. I’m lucky enough to live near a store that carries a large selection of beers and offers mix-and-match six packs, something I enjoy taking advantage of.

I would consider myself a beer enthusiast, up for trying new and different beers and always wanting to learn more. I learn by following people, companies and blogs on Twitter. I’m always looking for a new great beer. I know what styles I like (pale ales, fall seasonals and German beers among others) but am looking to learn more and try new beers.

When I read about Untappd, a social networking site for beer lovers, I joined right away. It is a great place to track what beers I’ve had and write notes about the beer. And when I put a beer on my “tab,” the site suggests three similar beers. I can put beers I want to try on a wish list. I love the site and recommend it if you want to keep track of beers and connect with friends doing the same.

I really encourage anyone who likes beer to try a new craft beer this week to celebrate. You might find your new favorite beer. Cheers!

What is your favorite beer (any kind or style)? What makes you try a new beer?

Infusing vodka

I am almost always drinking either water, coffee or beer (in that order). Although I pretty much stick to those, I decided to branch out into vodka.

Having come across many resources for infused vodka, I wanted to give it a try. Now that I’m settled into a new and bigger kitchen and the temperature is increasing, I am grabbing infusions from my CSA and tackling this drink.

I first read about infused vodka from The Kitchn, which linked to a pepper vodka recipe by Emeril Lagasse. Twist my arm, this heat-seeking fan was on board! Then 10 secrets to perfect liquor infusions popped in my Google Reader. And drinks enthusiast Cavan posted a fun video about infusing (and drinking) vodka.

I made two flavored vodkas: Jalapeno and garlic vodka and cucumber and basil vodka. I plan to infuse more vodka in the future and think the sky is the limit for flavor combinations. Whatever flavor of drinks or tastes you like can work together. It’s a fun experiment that won’t go to waste either way.

Jalapeno garlic vodka and Spicy Bloody Mary

Jalapeno-garlic vodka

  • Slice 4 jalapeno in half and scrap out the seeds and white membrane (the spicy parts).
  • Peel 3 garlic cloves
  • Put into airtight container. Cover with vodka and place in fridge. Shake every other day to mix flavors.
  • Taste in about a week or continue for a few more days to your liking.
  • Strain vodka into a container to stop the infusion.

I have had this vodka in a bloody mary (awesome) and with a dirty martini. I plan on trying it with fresh-squeezed orange juice and think it would be great in lemonade.

Cucumber basil vodka and Cucumber basil vodka tonic with frozen blackberries

Cucumber-basil vodka

  • One handful basil leaves
  • Two peeled and sliced cucumbers
  • Put into airtight container. Cover with vodka and place in fridge. Shake every other day to mix flavors.
  • Taste in about half a week or continue for a few more days to your liking.
  • Strain vodka into a container to stop the infusion.

I tried this by itself and it was perfect. So cool and refreshing. I added tonic water and frozen blackberries and got a very refreshing and summer vodka-tonic. I think the cucumber and basil would compliment a lemonade nicely.

I really need to get some lemonade!

What cold adult beverages do you reach for on a warm day?

Homemade seitan

After mastering a variety of meat-free burgers with bean, lentil, veggie and rice bases, I thought I would try my hand at homemade seitan.

Seitan, often called wheat meat, is a high-protein meat substitute made by mixing wheat gluten (from flour) with spices and liquid (water, broth or soy sauce) and simmering in liquid. About an hour later it becomes a very meaty, chewy food. Popular uses include Asian cooking, fajitas, barbecue and in stews.

I found some wheat gluten at the grocery store, and it had a recipe for homemade seitan on the package. I had already found a few other recipes, so I reviewed them and decided to go with one from the Post Punk Kitchen. I left out the nutritional yeast and added onion flakes.

I didn’t know what to expect making this. It was difficult to knead the dough, and I kept a close eye to make sure the simmering didn’t become a full boil, but overall this was very easy to make and worth the time and effort. Hands-on time is about 10-15 minutes, though it needs to simmer 45 minutes to an hour. The result was really good. (Note: Before using in a recipe, saute for a crisp, not boiled, flavor.)

Seitan ingredients

Seitan ingredients

Ingredients

  • 1 cup vital wheat gluten flour
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a microplane grater

For the Broth

  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce

    Seitan simmering

    Seitan simmering

 Directions

  1. Fill a stock pot with the water, broth and soy sauce, cover and bring to a boil.
  2. In a large bowl mix together gluten and yeast. In a smaller bowl mix together broth, soy sauce, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Pour the wet into the dry and combine with a wooden spoon until most of the moisture has absorbed and partly clumped up with the dry ingredients. Use your hands and knead for about 3 minutes until it’s an elastic dough. Divide into 3 equal pieces with a knife and then knead those pieces in your hand just to stretch them out a bit. Let rest until the broth has come to a full boil.
  3. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer. Add the gluten pieces and partly cover pot so that steam can escape. Let simmer for 45 minutes, turning occasionally. Turn the heat off and take the lid off, let sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from broth and place in a strainer until it is cool enough to handle. Slice and use as desired.
    Seitan stir fry

    Have you made this and have an awesome recipe? If you try this, let me know what you think!

No AC equals no baked meals

A month into living in the new digs our air conditioner decided to act weird last week. While waiting for it to get fixed, we have opened the windows and used fans. It’s been a very humid time in our place. At least it is the beginning of May and not, say, mid-August.

I decided the last thing I was going to do was use the oven. Which worked out well because since I was warm, I only wanted cold foods. Luckily we had a lot of leftovers, salad and sandwich fixings, and fruits and vegetables, so we haven’t gone hungry.

One thing I made during this time satisfied one of our current cravings, kale. For two dollars, we can buy a grocery bag filled to the top with kale from our farm, so we always take advantage of this. Kale is full of fiber, iron, calcium, letter vitamins and taste!

For the first time, I used kale as the greens in a salad. I’ve heard that kale can be tough when it’s in place of lettuce, but I didn’t find that with our salad. And the dressing was just right: lemony, cheesy and a little kick. For the croutons, I used homemade rosemary wheat bread, which gave it added flavor.

If your taste buds like this and are ready for some more, kale salad fan Sarah shares some of her favorites.

I had the Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with a zucchini fritter topped with Greek yogurt and sweet peppers. Great flavors all around.

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad with a zucchini fritter

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

From 101cookbooks.com, two large or three medium salads

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale
  • 2 thin slices bread, or two handfuls good, homemade coarse breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino cheese, plus more for garnish
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

To prepare

  1. Trim the bottom few inches off the kale stems and discard. Slice the kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl.
  2. If using the bread, toast it until golden brown on both sides and dry throughout. Tear into small pieces and pulse in a food processor until the mixture forms coarse crumbs, or crumbs to your liking.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle or a knife, pound or mince the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper flakes and black pepper and whisk to combine. Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well.
  4. Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with the bread crumbs, more cheese and a drizzle of oil.

What foods do you make when it’s too hot to cook?

Recipes and searches

Just want to alert you to a few new additions to the blog:

  • There is a RECIPE TAB at the top of the page. If you hover on the tab, a menu will drop down. Pick the  category and a list of links to recipes I’ve featured in my blog will appear.
  • There is a SEARCH FUNCTION on the right-hand side. I’m still updating my blog design, so the exact place might change, but it will be near the top right. I put this in because I needed to search some things, and kept it because I thought it might help others at some point.

 Hope these functions help. If there is anything that might make the blog easier, feel free to let me know. And look for more updates here and there in the near future!