Friday, September 23, 2011

Plum Kuchen

Photos courtesy of the Girl

A few weeks ago, the girl and I were at Whole Foods and she spotted some prune plums. She immediately asked if they were organic because she had a plum kuchen (German for cake) recipe she wanted to try. Unfortunately they were not, so we left the store without the plums.
The next week at the Copley Square farmer's market, I was looking a the fantastic fruit at the stands and what did I find? Organic prune plums! I left the market with a quart of plums and knew a plum kuchen would be baked in the near future.
The prune plums are Italian and are smaller than the standard plums you see at the store. They have a very nice dark color and their firmness stands up well in the kuchen. The recipe original recipe was changed slightly by the girl (changes included below) to have cardamom instead of cinnamon. She also added vanilla extract for a bit more depth of flavor.

Plum Kuchen
Adapted from The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook
1/4 pound unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 1 or 2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamom or more, to taste
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
24 halves pitted Italian (prune or purple) plums

cinnamon to taste  (can omit this)

1. Arrange a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Cream the butter and the 3/4 cup of sugar until pale in color (5 minutes or more is ideal). Sift the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt together and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Make a well, add the eggs and vanilla, and beat just to combine. Be careful not to overwork the dough - folding is great for this. Spoon the batter into an ungreased 9- or 10-inch springform pan (or an 8 x 8 square pan). Cover the top with the plums, skin sides down. Mix the cinnamon with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and sprinkle this over the top.

3. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired.

4. To serve, let the cake return to room temperature and reheat at 300 degrees until warm, if desired. Serve plain or with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, August 26, 2011

North End Feasts - Fisherman's Feast

One of the wonderful summer traditions in Boston comes out of the North End. Every year there are a series of 'Feasts' starting in early June and continuing through August. The Feasts are celebrations of saints and are organized and benefit North End Religious Societies connected to the saints. They typically close a couple streets and have food, religious ceremonies, games, concerts, and parades.

This past weekend the girl and I went to the Fisherman's Feast . The Fisherman's Feast is "based on a tradition goes back to the 16th century in Sciacca Sicily. The Feast is based on the devotion of the fishermen from Sciacca to the Madonna del Soccorso (Our Lady of Help). When the fishermen immigrated to America in the early 1900's, they brought their traditions with them."

It was the first time either of us had been to a Feast so we didn't really know what to expect. We made our way over to the North End and wandered around (following the noise and smell of food) until we found it. There were lots and lots of food stalls serving all kinds of Italian food. There were huge arancini (rice balls), sausage with peppers and onions, pasta of all kinds, fresh filled to order cannoli and Italian cookies and other treats. There were even ice cream cannoli! We wandered through the streets enjoying the smells of the food, looking at the souvenir stalls (lots of t-shirts and other gifts), and listening to the music. We ended up buying some really good almond cantuccini, basically another name for biscotti.

After wandering through the Feast, we headed for some gelato (the hazelnut was amazing!) from the little shop next to the Citizen's Bank on the corner of Hanover and Cross Street. We took it over to the Greenway and did some people watching while the sun was setting, I was amazed at how busy the area was, it's really nice to see!

This weekend, August 26-29, is the St. Anthony's Feast. It is the last of the big Feasts and is usually one of the biggest. Hopefully the hurricane doesn't completely wash it out! If you have a chance to get down there, I would definitely suggest it, it's a nice way to spend a little time outside.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Beer of the Week: Notch Brewing Saison

Notch Brewing Saison
Beer of the Week 7/23/11 to 7/29/11

One of my favorite beer companies right now is Notch Brewing. They are part of the session beer movement in the US, focusing on beers brewed with an ABV of 4.5% or less (this ABV cutoff could be a very long post on it's own, but I will spare you that!). These session beers are styled after English beers where the point is lower alcohol so that you can have multiple over a long session without getting completely drunk or feeling awful the next day.

Notch is brewed by Chris Lohring, formerly of Tremont Brewery. Notch currently has two standard offerings, their session ale, and a session pils. They have also brewed small batch specialty beers for The Haven restaurant (70 Schilling and a heather ale) as well as a special Dark Mild cask for the American Craft Beer Festival.

Notch's current limited release is the Notch Saison. Saisons were originally brewed for farm workers as something to quench their thirst on the fields. As you can imagine, they were brewed at a low alcohol level since drunk field workers aren't very productive!

I first tried Notch's version on cask at the Drink Craft Beer 5th Anniversary party at Stoddard's. I immediately fell in love with it. The saison pours an orange color with a frothy head. The head goes away pretty quickly leaving some lacing on the glass. The smell to me is fruity, some citrus, and yeast. The flavor also has the citrus flavor but there is a wonderful bitterness to it. I really like how it is sour and bitter but I'm not put off by it. The bitterness makes me want to go back for more!

Right now this is only a limited release in 22oz bottles and on draft in select places. I really hope that it becomes a regular beer because it is one of my favorites. I'm going to stock up on some 22 ounce bottles just to be sure!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

German Potato Salad

Potato salad. A New England cookout staple. Chunks of potato, mixed with mayo, maybe some onion or cherry tomatoes, it's a classic summertime side dish. Unfortunately, mayo doesn't keep very well outside in hot temperatures. It has never been my favorite, unless I get the first scoop from the fridge or cooler when I know it hasn't been baking in the sun.

The solution? German potato salad. The vinegar and mustard based dressing on this style of salad keeps it fresh and delicious all cookout long (although it probably won't last very long!).

The recipe we used is from How Stuff Works (the girl also put it in a cookbook of our favorite recipes for our anniversary). This salad goes well with chicken, burgers or Italian sausage. We used some early new potatoes from my CSA and I'm sure we will make it again with our homegrown fingerlings! Give it a try the next time you are tasked with bringing a side dish to a cookout. I'm sure everyone will be happy with the change of pace from classic pasta salad!

Lemon Romano Vinaigrette

In the summer, the girl and I love a simple grilled chicken salad for dinner. Our go-to dressing is usually a basic balsamic and olive oil drizzle. We were flipping through a recent Everyday Food magazine and came across a section full of simple salad dressings. Wanting something different, we decided to try out a lemon Parmesan recipe. We tweaked it slightly (more lemon, Pecorino Romano instead of Parmesan) and lightly dressed our salad with it.

Lemon Pecorino Vinaigrette
Adapted from Everyday Food

1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of sugar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano

In a small bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and a pinch of sugar.

Slowly add 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, whisking until emulsified. Or shake the ingredients in a jar, or whirl them in a blender. (We put all ingredients in a small jar and shook...worked like a charm!)

*Another easy salad idea that goes well with this dressing: Thinly slice a large fennel bulb (I had one from my CSA) and half a Granny Smith apple. Toss together with lemon dressing (as much as you'd like, but I'd recommend a small amount so as not to over power the fennel and apple flavors). This is a great hot weather side dish. Crisp, bright, and delicious!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beer of the Week: Clown Shoes Clementine

Clown Shoes Clementine
Beer of the Week 7/16/11 to 7/22/11

This past week in New England was an absolute scorcher. Temps in the upper 90s and even over 100 degrees. What's better on a hot day than a nice cold beer?! I stopped by the liquor store on the way home and decided to try out Clown Shoes Clementine white ale. This is brewed with coriander, orange peel, and clementine which gives it a refreshing taste. When I first tried it, it really tasted a lot like Sam Adams Summer Ale. The smell was much stronger in orange/clementine than the Sam Summer though.

I really enjoyed the first three quarters or so of the pint, but as the beer started to warm up, I started liking it less and less (same thing happens with Sam Summer). It's hard to explain what happens to the flavors when it warms up, but to me they just become muddled and the coriander takes center stage. Overall the beer was good (best when it is really cold, in my opinion) but not something I would race out to buy again. I would reconsider if I could find it in a 12oz bottle rather than the 22oz bottles that are available now.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Beer of the Week: Harpoon Oak Aged Dunkel (100 Barrel Series #34)

Harpoon Oak Aged Dunkel
Beer of the Week 7/9/11 to 7/15/11

It's time for another beer of the week. I must admit, spring and summer have really kept me busy. I've been spending time in both of the gardens a lot and just enjoying the summer. The beer of the week posts have slipped a bit but I'll be honest, I didn't want this blog to turn into a full on beer blog and lose sight of the bigger picture. Since the last beer of the week post, I have had plenty of beers, but rather than bombarding you all with strictly beer posts, I'm just going to pick up from here and try my best from here on out to give you a beer of the week for the rest of the year!
A few months back I picked up a bottle of Harpoon 100 Barrel Series Oak Aged Dunkel. This is number 34 of the series. The 100 Barrel Series is a pretty cool concept. Every few months brewers at Harpoon make a small batch of a special brew (100 barrels...hence the name). I have had a couple of these in the past (Island Creek Oyster Stout was one of my favorites) and I try to pick them up if I can.

The Oak Aged Dunkel is a German style of beer and Harpoon used German ingredients for it. The oak comes from the secondary aging where they use "oak infusion spirals" to give it that woody oak flavor.

When I poured this beer, there was a substantial very foamy head (maybe due to the high carbonation...or just my pour!) but it dissipated really quickly and left just a small bit of lacing on the side of the glass. It was a very dark beer but not heavy. The carbonation, as I mentioned before, is very high. I liked this beer more as it warmed up. I felt like I got more of the malt and oak flavor. The oak definitely hit me a bit more in the nose than on my tongue.

Overall, a very good beer. Not something I would drink regularly but for a special occassion, I would drink it again (although I don't think I can get it anymore!). If you are in the mood for a new different kind of beer, I really recommend looking out for the 100 Barrel Series beers, it's fun to see what interesting things the brewers come up with!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Companion Planting: Tomatoes Love Basil

Illustration by the Girl

There are few things that go together as well as tomatoes and basil in cooking. Caprese salad, Margherita pizza, and tomato basil soup are some of the best dishes that come to mind for these two ingredients. But did you know that they compliment each other when growing as well as on the plate in a finished dish?

There are a lot of vegetables, herbs, and even flowers that help each other grow when planted near each other. Throughout this summer I will be posting a series of "companion planting" updates (complete with a hand drawn illustration by the girl).

Planting basil as a border to where you are growing tomatoes will help the tomatoes resist disease and will help to make the tomatoes taste better. The tomatoes will grow better because basil attracts bees which results in increased pollination. Basil will also repel flies and mosquitoes. I've even heard of people planting basil by the back door for the mosquito repellent effect!

Next year when you are planning your vegetable garden, be sure to put some basil with your tomatoes, you won't be sorry!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cream Scones and a Royal Wedding

All Photos From The Girl

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you know that there was a Royal Wedding in London at the end of April. The girl and I decided that we would get up bright and early (5:45 am EST) and watch the wedding of the future King of England. We'd clearly need some breakfast to go along with our tea, so the night before I decided to try my hand at baking up cream scones...with some help from the girl (she's a wonderful baker...I, well - I'm still learning!).

I found a simple recipe for English scones (pronounced "skohns" in the U.K.) and made it as is for the wedding morning. The scones came out okay, but were a little dense. After talking to the girl about the texture, I realized I'd overworked them a bit and that had toughened them. Nevertheless, they were delicious topped with raspberry jam for our morning of wishing we lived in London.

I tried the recipe again about a week later and tweaked it slightly. Instead of the milk listed in the ingredients, I used cream. I also made sure not to overwork them and used the "well technique" for mixing the wet ingredients into the dry (which helped a lot in keeping them lighter). The second batch was even better than the first! They had a wonderful, soft texture with just enough richness, and the butter made beautifully flaked layers. This is now a go-to recipe for me for a breakfast get-together. They are pretty easy to make (even for a non-baker!), and they are sure to be crowd pleasers as you can top them with whatever you like - clotted cream, butter, jam, jelly, lemon curd, or savory cheese and ham!

Scone with raspberry jam

English Cream Scones
Adapted from Taste of Home

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup cold butter or margarine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg
Additional milk or cream

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar and baking powder. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Beat heavy cream and egg; add to dry ingredients using a well technique, stirring lightly. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; roll to 1-in. thickness. Cut with a 2-1/2-in. biscuit cutter. Bake at 425° for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Scones with butter, lemon curd and raspberry jam

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rhubarb Cranberry Conserve

Growing up, I was mystified by the plant in my Mom's garden with bright red stalks and big green leaves. I soon found out that it was called rhubarb. Each year, my mom would harvest stalks off the plant, chop them up, and cook them for hours on the stove with oranges, raisins, and sugar. Eventually, it became something she called "Rhubarb Conserve". I didn't eat a lot of it back then, but as I've gotten older I've learned to love it. Every time she makes a batch, I try to snag a few jars for myself. They get eaten pretty quickly once opened!

My mom was gracious enough to pass on a copy of her old recipe card (originally printed with a typewriter!) to the girl and myself so we could make some ourselves. The girl had the idea to use cranberries instead of raisins, kumquats instead of oranges, and a lot less sugar. The result was amazing, both in color and flavor. We gave some to my parents after it was done, and luckily my Mom gave her seal of approval.

It's great on toast or an English muffin, or stirred into yogurt, frozen yogurt, or ice cream. You could also top a plain angel food, bundt, or pound cake with it for a simple dessert.

Rhubarb Cranberry Conserve

1 qt. sliced rhubarb
12 oz. kumquats, seeds removed and sliced into half-moons
3 1/8 c. sugar (probably could make this just 3 c. even, depending on how sour your rhubarb is)
20 oz. crushed pineapple, or 20 oz. pineapple rings chopped in a food processor

Mix everything together and let stand for 2 hours. Boil for 15 mins, stirring often so it doesn't burn.


1/2 c. dried sweetened cranberries
1/2 c. fresh cranberries (you could use all dried or all fresh)
1/2 c. walnuts, broken into small pieces

Cook until thick, stirring constantly so it doesn't burn. (The mixture will thicken even more once it's cooled.)

Let cool and then store in the fridge.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beet Hummus

Photos courtesy of the girl

Two things the girl and I love: beets, and hummus. What could be better than putting them together?! Making your own hummus is pretty simple, and this recipe just uses beets instead of the normal chickpeas.

We used this recipe as a base for our beet hummus and made a few tweaks. Instead of regular black pepper, we used a pinch of smoked pepper for another flavor dimension. (It basically makes anything taste like it's been grilled.) Also, since we didn't have enough lemons, we used the zest from one lime as well.

Cooking the beets is what takes the longest in this whole process, but it's totally worth it. Give this recipe a shot the next time you are having a get-together - the color alone will have people talking about it!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ropa Vieja

The weather is warming up in New England, but since we've still had some cool nights, I recently got out my crock-pot to make a nice, hot meal. The slow cooker is a great way to cook one-pot meals, even in the summer, because it doesn't give off nearly as much heat as cooking a stew on the stove for hours.

I'd been flipping through loose recipes and found a printout of a Cuban Ropa Vieja. The name literally means "old clothes", because you cook the meat slowly for several hours until the meat just falls apart.

The gist of the recipe is simple: sear a piece of steak in a hot pan to get it nice and brown, then chop a bell pepper and an onion. Put it all together in a crock-pot with some liquid and some spices, set it to cook, and walk away!

The recipe originally calls for adding beef stock to tomato sauce and paste. I decided to change it up, however, by using Newcastle instead. I was initially worried that hours of cooking would make the beer's flavor too bitter, but I found that I really enjoyed the addition of it. (Plus, there was some leftover beer to drink with dinner!)

I served this on corn tortillas with shredded cheese and a little homemade lime crema (read: sour cream thinned with lime juice). I think this would also be good served with some rice on the side, or wrapped up like a burrito.

Ropa Vieja
Adapted from All Recipes

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds beef flank steak
1 cup beer (I used Newcastle)
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 small onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon cider vinegar


1) Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the flank steak on each side, about 4 minutes per side.

2) Transfer beef to a slow cooker. Pour in the beer and tomato sauce, then add the onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato paste, cumin, olive oil and vinegar. Stir until well blended.

3) Cover, and cook on "High" for 4 hours, or on "Low" for up to 10 hours. When ready to serve, shred meat and serve with tortillas or rice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Beer of the Week: Goose Island Sofie

Goose Island Sofie
Beer of the Week 2/12/11 to 2/18/11

One of my favorite craft breweries is Goose Island from Chicago. They have a wide variety of beers ranging from standard offerings of IPA and wheat ales to the extreme such as Bourbon County Stout (one of the girl and my favorites). The girl and I have decided that we want to try all of their less standard beers. We decided to pick up a bottle of Sofie. It is listed as a Belgian Style Ale. Neither of us would list Belgian style beers amongst our favorites but we thought we would give it a shot.

The beer pours a very nice champagne/golden color. It held a nice frothy head for a bit and the carbonation was a bit higher than normal as Goose Island describes it as a "sparkling ale." There are some definite citrus and pepper notes in the taste and smell. Overall we really enjoyed this beer. I have to admit that as it started to warm up, the flavor started to change (started reminding us of warm Sam Adams Summer Ale..) but I would definitely get it again.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beer of the Week: Fuller's Organic Honey Dew

Fuller's Organic Honey Dew
Beer of the Week 2/5/11 to 2/11/11

I've recently been trying to sample different varieties of beers made with unique ingredients. The Fuller's Honey Dew pictured above was given to me as a gift by the girl's Mom, and was specially selected to help me with my goal - it's brewed with real organic honey. While beer normally has some kind of sweetener, I'd never heard of using this one. Honey is usually used for mead instead (also called honey wine).

I poured this into a nice oversized wine glass (the Fuller's website showed it in that style glass so I figured it was a good choice). It pours out a nice dark orange, with a frothy light head. The head disappears pretty quickly and leaves behind very little in terms of lacing. I could definitely smell the honey right away. The flavor is sweet, with some hops in there as well. This beer is definitely very drinkable, but I would suggest keeping it cold. I found the flavor was not as good as it warmed up. However, I will be keeping this on hand for summer drinking for sure!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Beer of the Week: Long Trail Brewmaster Series Coffee Stout

Long Trail Brewmaster Series Coffee Stout
Beer of the Week 2/19/11 to 2/25/11

One of my favorite types of beer has to be stouts. Especially in the winter, there is nothing better than pouring a nice dark stout and sipping it through a cold winter night. The Long Trail Coffee Stout is listed as an Imperial Stout by Long Trail which generally means that it will have a slightly higher alcohol level. This coffee stout comes in at 8% ABV but since I like to sip these beers, it doesn't really feel that strong.

The smell of the beer is definitely coffee. You know for sure that you are about to drink a coffee stout. I've read reviews of this beer that liken the smell to that of coffee left in the pot from the day before. That sounds about right. The taste is also bitter like coffee but then you do get some sweeter notes of chocolate and even some coconut. It is mildly carbonated and pours a nice head. I haven't had too many coffee stouts before but I definitely would like to try some others. This one was definitely a good one!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beer of the Week: Stone Brewing Company San Diego County Session Ale

Stone Brewing Company
San Diego Session Ale

Beer of the Week 1/29/11 to 2/4/11

One beer trend that is starting to obtain a strong foothold in the market is "session" brews. The term was coined in England, and describes a beer that you can drink over a long session without getting "pissed" as the Brits say. In contrast, a lot of the beers on the craft beer market have a very high alcohol content. I, for one, am happy that these lower-alcohol beers are appearing in stores as they still have a lot of good flavor.

The session beer pictured above is a collaboration by three San Diego based brewers. Stone Brewing Company joined up with Balast Point Brewing and the home brewer Kelsey McNair. This ale comes in at a 4.2% ABV and is sold in 12 oz. bottles (generally in singles).

It pours a nice orange color with a small white head. The nose and taste are definitely hoppy, with lots of grapefruit. While I'm not usually a huge fan of such a strong hop flavor, this was still pretty good as it's light and not overly carbonated. (I think the low alcohol helped). I can't wait to try out some other session beers as they come out!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Chicken, Spinach, and Pear Stew

What's better on a cold winter night than a nice bowl of stew? I would say pretty much nothing. No set recipe here, just more of a basic idea from a dinner we had recently.

The girl and I browned off some chicken thighs in one pan while sauteing onions and carrots in another. We then added the thighs to the veggie pot, and added enough chicken broth to create a stew-like consistency. The girl seasoned it using yellow mustard seeds and a few spoonfuls of mostarda (we modified this recipe slightly).

Once the mixture came up to a simmer, we added torn spinach leaves (remember, spinach cooks down a lot, so don't be stingy!). Since the mostarda already has pear in it, the girl decided to roughly chop up a pear and toss it in towards the end to enhance the flavor. We didn't let it cook for too long after that, however, because we didn't want it to become mushy. We let it cook just long enough to soften the pear and the spinach, and then it was time to eat! We toasted up fresh whole wheat rolls to soak up any broth left in the bowl.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Beer of the Week: Fraoch Heather Ale

Fraoch Heather Ale
Beer of the Week 1/22/11 to 1/28/11

This week's Beer of the Week is a bit out of the ordinary. The girl and I went to a traditional Burn's Supper, and while enjoying our haggis, neeps, and tatties (I'm not swearing at you, I promise!), we drank Scottish Williams Brothers Brewing Fraoch Heather Ale.

Heather is one of Scotland's beloved national symbols. It grows wild all over the country, and turns the landscape purple when it flowers in the summer. There are over 5 million acres of it! Rarer white heather is considered lucky, and a sprig of it is often worn for good fortune.

The Williams Brothers website describes their ale and how they infuse it with this flower:
Brewed in Scotland since 2000 B.C. heather ale is probably the oldest style of ale still produced in the world. From an ancient Gaelic recipe for "leann fraoich" (heather ale) it has been revived and reintroduced to the Scottish culture.

Into the boiling bree of malted barley, sweet gale and flowering heather are added, then after cooling slightly the hot ale is poured into a vat of fresh heather flowers where it infuses for an hour before being fermented.

While reading that, you might have thought, "Beer brewed with heather? That could be really floral!". However, this is definitely not the case. You can taste the heather, but it's not overpowering. On the other hand, the beer is not quite as drinkable as others I've recommended here because of its dry finish.

Fraoch is not available in many liquor stores or restaurants, so if you do see it, pick up a bottle and give it a try!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Graham Cracker Candy

Photo courtesy of the girl

Looking to make your girlfriend smile this Valentine's Day? Skip the boxed chocolates and make her this delicious candy! The girl and I made this for Christmas, but it's perfect for any occasion.

It's a variation on the well-known saltine candy recipe, made instead with graham crackers and almonds. Don't be shy about adding the salt! It may seem like quite a lot initially, but the salty finish really makes the whole thing come together and keeps it from being overly sweet.

Graham Cracker Candy

Adapted by the girl from “Homemade Candy from the food editors of Farm Journal”, and the blog "Not Without Salt"


4.5 graham cracker sheets
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup + 2 T butter
Sea salt or any fine finishing salt (we used pink Hawaiian sea salt)
3/4 bag bittersweet or dark chocolate chips


1) Lightly butter a 9 × 9 baking dish, and pre-heat the oven to 325*.

2) Arrange the graham crackers on the bottom of the dish and sprinkle the toasted almonds on top. Put aside.

3) In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and boil for 3 minutes. Then pour this mixture over the crackers and almonds in an even layer. (I recommend drizzling in up and down rows, then using what's left in the saucepan to fill in the gaps.)

4) Sprinkle with a good amount of salt. You want 3 - 4 grains in every square inch. (The salt keeps the candy from being too sweet, as it's the last flavor you taste.)

5) Place the dish in the oven and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, or until the sugar mixture is bubbling all over.

6) Remove from the oven. Once it's stopped bubbling, sprinkle on the chocolate chips and let the residual heat melt them. Use a spatula or knife to smooth the melted chocolate chips so they cover the entire surface.

7) While still warm, score the candy with a sharp knife. (I'd recommend small squares, as the candy is very rich.)

8) Place in the freezer for 10 minutes to set. Remove, and use the sharp knife again to cut along the score marks.

Serve immediately, or keep in an airtight container for up to one week. The candy can also be frozen for up to one month.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beer of the Week: Maine Beer Company Peeper Ale

Maine Beer Company Peeper Ale
Beer of the Week 1/15/11 to 1/21/11

A few years back, I decided I wanted to try my hand at making beer, to learn the process - so I took up homebrewing as a hobby.

One part of the process is to bottle condition the beer. This means the beer is finished in the bottle, left unfiltered, and carbonated naturally (without being injected with gas). However, it can take quite awhile to get the beer properly carbonated.

I was at the liquor store recently and noticed that Maine Beer Company's Peeper Ale is bottle conditioned. I immediately picked one up as I rarely see this type of beer sold in stores. While the Portland, Maine company is committed to producing good bottle-conditioned beer, they're also committed to using 100% wind energy and donating 1% of their sales to environmental non-profits as stated on their label. This is a beer company I can get behind!

As for the beer itself, the Peeper Ale is of the American Pale Ale style. It pours a golden, almost orange color with a very frothy head that dissipates quite slowly with good lacing on the glass. The smell is very hoppy, which I generally don't like in a beer. However, when you take a sip, the hop flavor is not nearly as strong as that of an Indian Pale Ale. (The Maine Beer Company uses 100% American hops for their beers, although I couldn't find out the exact type.) The hops lend a nice citrus flavor and are also slightly floral. You can taste the malts as well, which give the brew a nice body. Peeper Ale does have a slight bitterness at the end, but it will not keep you from wanting to drink more. The aftertaste stays with you for awhile as well, but it's a pleasant one. This is definitely worth picking up a bottle of if you see it in the store!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Candied Orange Peels

These candied orange peels are an easy-to-make treat for any occasion, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe. I picked up a bag of organic oranges for this, as I wanted to avoid using peels that may have wax or chemicals on them.

Martha says to take off all of the white pith of the orange rind before blanching and boiling in the sugar syrup. While it's a good idea to get as much of it off as you can, it's fine if some of it is left on. The slight bitterness of the bit of pith actually pairs very nicely with the sweetness of the sugar.

If you really want to go all out, you can dip the candied peels in melted dark chocolate (to create "orangettes") instead of rolling them in sugar.

Candied Orange Peels

4 oranges (organic are best)
4 cups sugar plus extra for rolling
4 cups water


1) Using a paring knife, make 6 slits along curve from top to bottom of each orange, cutting through peel but not into fruit. Using your fingers, gently remove peel. Reserve fruit for another use. Slice each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. Again using a paring knife, remove excess pith from each strip and discard.

2) Place the strips in a large saucepan, and cover them with cold water. Bring them to a boil, then drain. Repeat this twice.

3) Bring the sugar and water to a boil, stirring the mixture occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Then stop stirring and wash the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Add the strips to the boiling syrup, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently until the strips are translucent (about 1 hour). Remove the pan from the heat, and let the strips cool in the syrup. (The strips in syrup will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 weeks.)

4) Using a slotted spoon, transfer the strips to a wire rack placed on a rimmed baking sheet. Wipe off any excess syrup with paper towels and then roll the strips in sugar. Arrange them in a single layer on a wire rack, and let them dry for at least 30 minutes. The sugared peels will keep, covered at room temperature, for up to 2 weeks.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Beer of the Week: Carlsberg Pilsner

Carlsberg Pilsner
Beer of the Week 1/8/11 to 1/14/11

The girl and I popped into Grendel's Den in Harvard Square recently for a pint. Grendel's can get pretty crowded with students and tourists, but there are a few tables tucked away in the back by the bathrooms (and we managed to grab one of them). The bar has a wide selection of beers, both in bottles and on tap. I was in the mood for something light, so I decided to order a pint of the German pilsner-style Carlsberg. My only previous experience with this beer was seeing its name on the front of a Liverpool jersey, but the girl recommended I give it a try.

It pours a golden color, with a slight haze and a thin white head that quickly disappears. I immediately was hit with the smell of yeast, hops, and a bit of citrus. It's easy to assume this beer is going to be bland in flavor because of its color, but I was pleasantly surprised. Carlsberg is a very good example of a German pilsner, as the flavor was malty and hoppy but neither was overpowering. It would be easy to have a few pints of this as it has a fairly low ABV (anywhere from 3.8% to 4.6%), with only a slight bitterness. If you're looking for a lighter beer that still has good flavor, give Carlsberg a try.

My pint...I guess it's a half pint at this point!

A bottle I picked up at the store

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Beer of the Week: Anchor Brewing Company Christmas Ale 2008

A new feature of the BostonFound blog in 2011 will be a Beer of the Week. I will be checking in to different liquor stores around the city to try to find unique and interesting beers to highlight. I will tell you up front that this will not necessarily be a 'review' of the beer. I am not going to pretend to taste all the subtleties of every beer that I post and there won't be a rating. Think of it more like an introduction to something you maybe have never heard of or seen. Or, if you have seen it, it may be a reminder that you should pick it up again. With that disclaimer out of the way, I bring you the first Beer of the Week!

Anchor Brewing Company Christmas Ale 2008
Beer of the Week 1/1/11 - 1/7/11

On New Year's Day, the girl and I decided to stop into the Blanchard's Liquor store in Allston. This place has everything a classic Allston hipster casual beer drinker could want. They have also have a ridiculous selection of liquor and wine as well. We were only there to look, but with such a large selection, I couldn't go home empty-handed.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of Christmas or "winter warmer" beers because I find that they usually have way too much spice. I've tried a few over the years but have never really found anything that I've completely enjoyed. I can now gladly say my search is over...maybe: Anchor Brewing Company puts out a new Christmas Ale each year. The recipes are different (and top secret) for each one.

The beer pours very dark brown with a light head. Since this is an ale, the head is not as thick as you might see in a porter or stout.
It's a medium bodied beer, with mild carbonation. The smell is that of roasted malts with a little bit of spice - think ginger or nutmeg. Taking a sip, you immediately get a raisin-y flavor with more spice (but not "spicy"), and a little vanilla. While the beer is only 5.5% ABV, you still need to drink this slowly as the finish is very dry.

Anchor says that with proper refrigeration, the beer will stay good for years. I picked up the 2008 vintage at Blanchard's and, I have to say, it is still good. I wish I had tried it when it originally came out for comparison.

All in all, this is a good beer and I am definitely making a note to try this every year (and maybe even pick up an extra to let age for a year or two). Whether you are a fan of Christmas/"winter warmer" beers or not, I would recommend giving this a shot!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Candy Cane Marshmallows

Photo Courtesy of The Girl

As part of the Christmas food making, I made some candy cane marshmallows adapted from Martha Stewart (I kicked up the peppermint flavor!). The girl and I made some vanilla marshmallows last year and they were so easy to make. Try one of these in a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, it's to die for!

Candy Cane Marshmallows
Adapted from Martha Stewart

These can be made by one person but I found it easier to have a second person helping (thanks to the girl's Mom!)

Vegetable-oil cooking spray
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4 packages (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons red food coloring
1 cup confectioners sugar (for tossing cut marshmallows)

1) Coat an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray; line bottom with parchment paper. Coat the parchment with cooking spray, and set pan aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, and 3/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Stop stirring; let mixture come to a boil. Raise heat to medium-high; cook until mixture registers 260 degrees on a candy thermometer.

2) Meanwhile, sprinkle gelatin over 3/4 cup water in a heatproof bowl; let stand 5 minutes to soften. Set the bowl with the gelatin mixture over a pan of simmering water; whisk constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Remove from heat, and stir in extract; set aside.

3) Beat egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Whisk gelatin mixture into sugar mixture; with mixer running, gradually add to egg whites. Mix on high speed until very thick, 12 to 15 minutes.

4) Pour mixture into lined pan. Working quickly, drop dots of red food coloring across surface of marshmallow. Using a toothpick, swirl food coloring into marshmallow to create a marbleized effect. Let marshmallow stand, uncovered, at room temperature until firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

5) Cut into squares 1 to 1.5 inches square. Toss the cut marshmallows in confectioners sugar to keep them from sticking to each other.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Spicy Guinness Mustard

Photo Courtesy of The Girl

Do you love mustard? Is it on or in everything you make? Well as I found out, making your own mustard is really pretty easy and tastes much better than what you get from the store! I found this recipe in Saveur Magazine and decided to make a batch for my Dad for Christmas (and of course some extra for myself!). It was really simple and was delicious with the day after Christmas ham sandwiches!

Spicy Guinness Mustard
Adapted from Saveur Magazine

1/2 cup Guinness Extra Stout
1/4 cup brown mustard seeds
1/4 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/3 tbsp. kosher salt
1/3 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger

1. Combine ingredients in a nonreactive mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1–2 days so that the mustard seeds soften and the flavors meld. You can leave this in the refrigerator for another couple of days and it won't be a problem.

2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, until the seeds are coarsely ground and the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. If the mixture is too thick, add more vinegar (I used some malt vinegar). You can process this to whatever consistency you like. We left it very thick as we like that texture but you could certainly grind it down to a smoother consistency. Transfer to a jar and cover.

3. Refrigerate overnight and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 6 months. (The flavor of the mustard will mellow as the condiment ages.)
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