Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Last week while perusing the Netflix instant watch selection, I saw How Beer Saved the World as a possible selection. It looked fairly entertaining and was rated well for me. Nathan was also interested in watching it, so I told him we should save it for the weekend and do a beer-themed snack.

It's a good thing that we had a plan of something happy to watch because Nathan's beloved Packers lost their first game of the season which was sort of sad I guess... I spent my time starting an epic re-reading of the Wheel of Time in anticipation of the final book coming out at some point.

But back to beer! There are a few simple rules to cooking with beer... really there's one rule to cooking with beer.

If you wouldn't drink a a pint of it, don't cook with it.

Seriously, use the beer you drink and enjoy and your beer-using recipes will 100% be more enjoyable than if you use a can of Beast.

We purchased the Sam Adams Winter Classics Variety pack at our local store so we would have a little bit of selection for the day (both for cooking and drinking).

Beer Bread

 Fun fact about beer bread--(almost) any bread can be a beer bread! Just replace part or all of the liquid in the recipe with beer and ta-da beer bread! If this scares you, don't worry I have the easiest bread recipe ever below:

12oz beer
3 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup sugar

garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together beer, flour and sugar with a spoon and then with your hands. The dough is very sticky. Put dough into a greased loaf pan. Cover with a dish towel and let rise on the counter for at least 30 minutes. This isn't going to rise like an actual yeast bread and you can put it straight into the oven if you want, but leaving it on the counter will give it a lighter consistency.

Uncover and bake for about 35 minutes. Spread a little butter, garlic powder, and shredded cheese on top if desired and bake another 5 minutes. Test the bread with a skewer to see if it's done (stick comes out clean). Let cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Slice and eat plain or with beer cheese.

This makes a delicious, moist bread. Because the beer is the only real flavoring, you really get the taste of it. I used the Sam Adams Holiday Porter as I think that darker beers work better in this recipe as the flavor is more concentrated. The smell of this bread is incredible and it held up really well over night just covered by a dishcloth.

Beer Cheese

surrounded by things to dip in it... as if it needs those
Oh magical beer cheese, you are such a delicious dip.  This is another time where the quality of ingredient comes into play. If you are going to use shitty beer and shitty cheese your beer cheese is going to taste shitty. There's no magical combination fairy at work here that's going to take sub-par ingredients and make them delicious. Use good cheese. Use good beer. The result will be fantastic.

16oz high quality, sharp cheddar grated
1/2 cup beer
1 tsp horseradish
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce


Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor. Pulse until cheese is incorporated into the beer and dip is smooth and creamy. Serve with veggies, crackers, or beer bread. Keep any leftovers in the fridge.

Nathan and I have made this beer cheese probably half a dozen times. Sometimes we use REALLY good cheese and sometimes we use ok cheese and the difference is really astounding. Really good cheese makes amazing dip and ok cheese makes ok dip. The type of beer really changes the flavor as well. The first few times we made it, we used Yuengling Lager which is our staple beer. We've also used their black and tans. This time we used the Sam Adams holiday lager and you could really taste the spices used in the beer in the cheese. Really really tasty.

Both of these recipes are really simple but look and taste like they would take a lot more effort. Pair them with one of the beers used in the recipe and you've got a winning combination.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Three Tea Sandwiches

When I was probably about twelve, we went to visit my paternal grandmother. She was the sort of person who kept the sofa covered in plastic so it wouldn't get ruined and did her hair in pin curls every night to sleep on (and tried to convince you that you should also do your hair that way).

On this particular trip she decided that I was old enough that I needed to learn how to make some entertaining sandwiches that I could pull out for the ladies when they came to visit. As I was twelve, my idea of entertaining was to order a pizza and make some microwave popcorn. But that wasn't proper in grandma's world so she taught me to make her version of tea sandwiches. There were two types. The first was bread, a layer of egg salad, bread, a layer of cheese whiz and bread. The second was the same except that the egg salad was replaced by tuna salad. I don't consider myself a food snob, but cheese whiz  is gross and even my twelve year old palate knew it.

Grandma packed up all the sandwiches for us (and there like two enormous Tupperware full of them) as snacks for the road. At the first stop we ditched them.

For years afterwards I thought I didn't like tea sandwiches. And then my mom took me to a high tea service. It was amazing. Dainty sandwiches with fresh flavors and scones with clotted cream and as much tea as you could drink. It was classy and delicious and I was sold.

This week for snack I made two tea sandwich and one tea roll-up all three of which were delicious and attractive.
I made this cake stand from a plate and bowl at the dollar store plus then sat it on a dinner plate for the bottom row

Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwich


2oz smoked salmon (thin sliced)
6 Tbsp butter at room temperature
2 tsp chopped fresh dill
2 tsp chopped fresh chives
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
8-10 pieces of bread (I used a rye pumpernickel swirl which was really good)

Cut the crusts off your bread.

Mix together the butter, herbs and lemon juice. Spread on two pieces of bread. Top one piece with thinly sliced smoked salmon. Top with the second piece of bread. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for half an hour. Cut into thing strips (about 4-5 strips per sandwich). Serve chilled.

Cucumber Radish Tea Sandwiches


1 4-inch piece of cucumber thinly sliced
2 radishes thinly sliced
4oz cream cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
8-10 pieces of bread (I used a good white bread)

Cut the crusts off your bread.
Mix the cream cheese with the parsley. Thinly spread on two pieces of bread. On one piece, layer cucumbers and radishes. Top with the second pieces of bread. Slice into thin strips.

For both of the above sandwiches, cover with a dampened paper towel until serving to keep the bread moist.
pinwheel of delicious!

Red Pepper Rolls

1/2 cup roasted red pepper
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 oz shredded Parmesan
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup melted butter
10 pieces of bread (I used a whole grain)


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the crusts off of your bread. Using a rolling pin, flatten each pieces of bread.

Dry the roasted red peppers on some paper towels. Chop pretty fine. In a bowl, mix the cheese, parsley, mayo, peppers, and herbs.

Spread both sides of each pieces of bread with the melted butter. Spread a heaping tablespoon of mixture on each slice of bread, leaving a centimeter at one end. Starting on the opposite end from the empty centimeter, roll each slice of bread up and secure with a toothpick. Chill for at least two hours. Slice each roll in half and secure halves with toothpicks. Bake for 10 minutes or until browned on the outside.

Personally, I really liked the salmon and the red pepper rolls and was indifferent to the cucumber radish. I think these would have been better if I had used real cream cheese instead of the non-fat kind. some times it makes a difference, some times it doesn't. I think this is one of the times that it does. That said, these made a really pretty presentation and I wouldn't be embarrassed to serve them to a crowd of football fans or at a baby/bridal shower. Plus they were all really easy and quick to make. Perfection in my world.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homemade Jalapeno Jelly

Every year for the holidays I like to give some sort of gift to my friends and coworkers. It's hard because I don't have money coming out my ears and with my coworkers at least, I don't know their personal preferences well enough to buy them something personal. And, seriously, I don't want a bottle of lotion or a bar of soap, so why would I ever give that to someone else? It seems like it's this generally accepted gift to give people you don't know, but to me it's sort of an implication that the other person smells.

Regardless, a few years ago I took up a tune from my mother (writing this blog has given me some new insight into how much inspiration I've taken from my mom...) and started giving heart-felt, homemade, food stuffs. The past few years I've gone down to the dollar store for tins, plates, buckets etc. to fill with a myriad of cookies.
2010 Holiday Cookies

This year I was cookied out. It's surprisingly expensive in butter, sugar, flour, nuts etc; massively time consuming; and... well have you seen that vidoe where the kids throw flour everywhere? that's pretty much my kitchen at the end of the day.

yep... disaster area
So this year I decided to try something different and make (once again from my mom's arsenal) some little jars of jalapeno pepper jelly. It's sweet, spicy, and colored to be festive! Plus you stick a bow on top and it's an instant gift. It's also relatively inexpensive (you do have to purchase the jars) and involves fewer pots and pans. It does take a little bit more planning and attention to detail, so read through the directions before starting to make sure that you're on a good timeline.

I ended up with quite a bit extra, so I put it in a tupperware and used it this weekend for snack day, also showing two of the ways you can use the jelly once it's made.

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

2/3 to 1 C hot pickled jalapeno peppers depending on how hot you want it
2 small red peppers (I use red because I like red jelly but you can use green if you make green jelly,
1/4 C vinegar
6 C sugar
1 C vinegar (I used half white and half cider)
6 oz bottle of certo (ok... so I couldn't find a bottle of certo, it was a box with two 3oz packets. I found it in my baking aisle at the store, but I saw it at a different store with the dried fruit. Look around, it's there)
red or green food coloring to suit - about 10 drops

Parrafin Wax (also found this in the baking aisle)
About a dozen small canning jars (found these with foil and tupperware)
2 glass measuring cups
Metal Ladle


Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. On a baking sheet, put all of your cleaned jars with tops separated from the body, measuring cups, and metal ladle. Bake them to sanitize for at least 30minutes.

Add jalapenos, pepper, and 1/4 cup vinegar to a food processor and blend until the peppers are finely chopped.

Put the sugar, vinegar, and pepper mixture into a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rolling boil (one which can not be stirred down). Add the certo and let go at a rolling boil for one minutes. Remove the pot from heat and skim off the foam.

Use your sterilized measuring cups and ladle to pour the mixture into the sterilized jars. Do not pour down sides and make sure that the top of the jar (where it touches the lid) stays clean (otherwise you will not get a solid seal). Leave an 1/2 to 1 inch at the top.

Using a double boiler, melt the parrafin wax according to the package instructions. It will turn super clear when it is melted. Pour 1/4 inch of wax on top of the jelly making sure it hits the sides of the jar. Seal with lid immediately. Let the jars come to room temperature (over night). If they have sealed the middle of the lid should be indented slightly.

You can store jars at room temperature, but try to keep cool and in a dark place. After opening, refrigerate.
it's almost like it glows from within

Okay, so you have your jelly made and it looks amazing! But now what to do with it? Two easy and delicious snacks ideas are below, but it's way more versatile than that! You can use it as the glaze on chicken or pork, as the topping for a meatloaf, or really for anything that calls for jelly!

Sweet and Spicy Meatballs
1 package frozen pre-cooked meatballs or your own recipe about 1" meatballs
1 cup jalapeno jelly

In a pot or slow cooker, add frozen meatballs and jelly over medium heat. Stir until coated with jelly and heated through. Serve.

Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Jelly
1 softend block of cream cheese (I used non-fat)
1 cup jalapeno jelly (more or less)
assorted crackers

alternately, you could serve cream cheese with a small bowl of the jelly
Place your softened block of cream cheese on a plate. Top with the jelly. Serve on top of the crackers.
about 3 second before it went in my mouth

See, once you've made the jelly the appetizers come really easily... I guess you could buy it from somewhere or you could become good enough friends with me that I make you some next Christmas.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cheese Fondue

I love cheese. Other than its unfortunate caloric count, I think that it is one of the best foods ever. Cheese has the amazing ability to pair with pretty much any other food. Seriously, what other food can you pair with sweet, salty, spicy, or savory dishes? What other food is a part every course from appetizer to dessert? It's good hot, cold, room temperature! It's a miracle food!

Ok, so enough about my love affair with cheese. Have you ever been to the Melting Pot? It's a fondue restaurant where you will spend a somewhat absurd amount of money to cook your own food at your table. I mean, I guess they buy the food and prep it and clean it up which is totally worth something.... Anyways... I've been there probably eight times which is more than I've been to pretty much any other restaurant of any substantial cost. It's because I love fondue! Now making an oil fondue at home is sort of difficult if you don't have the correct fondue pot etc. and a chocolate fondue isn't a very good snack (melted chocolate is good for few bites but not snackday). So I chose to make a cheese fondue this week because 1. Cheese is delicious and 2. you can make it with kitchen items I already own.

Cheese Fondue

8oz baby swiss cheese
4oz gruyere cheese
2oz sharp cheddar cheese (get this from the nice cheese section of your grocery store. Standard American cheddar cheese = fail)
1 1/2 Cup white wine (use what you've got)
2 T all purpose flour
1 t garlic powder (or one clove garlic minced)
1 t mustard powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1 t lemon juice (I actually used lime because I didn't have any lemon... make it work)

assorted vegetables, fruit, bread etc. for dipping (I used celery, carrots, cauliflower, granny smith apples, and rye bread)
assorted dippables!


Cut up all of your cheese into about 1/4 inch cubes. Alternately, you can shred the cheese but I find that cubing it is faster because my grater is kind of shitty. Toss the cheese with the flour, cayenne, garlic powder, and mustard powder in a bowl.

"Preheat" an empty slow cooker on high (if you have a traditional fondue pot, you can use this--I don't have one, so I'm going to serve my fondue in a slow cooker to keep it hot as it is eaten. If you don't have a slow cooker or a fondue pot then you should probably stop thinking you're going to have fondue and start preparing to turn your cheese into a delicious mac n cheese).

On your stove top, heat your wine in heavy bottom pot on medium heat until it begins to bubble. Turn heat to medium low. Begin stirring in the cheese mixture a little bit at a time, adding more as the cheese incorporates into the liquid. After all cheese has been added, add lemon juice.

Pour your cheese mixture into your preheated slow cooker or fondue. Let it sit on high heat for half an hour.Turn temperature to warm and serve (keep it plugged in at the table with an extension cord). I don't have fondue forks, so I used long skewers as my dipping implement. Forks would also work.
melty :)

This was delicious. If you have it sitting out for a while, you may want to turn the slow cooker up to high occasionally and keep the lid on to make sure it stays hot and melty