Archive for February, 2011

February 27, 2011

The States of Craft Beer

by Amanda

I’ve professed my love for craft beers already. But when I saw this graphic GOOD magazine put together featuring the most popular craft beers in each state, I had to share. You all know how much I like maps of the United States. To those of you who have never had a craft beer, seek out the winning beer in your state and start there. To those of you who think you don’t like beer, seek out the winning beer in your state and reassess.

craftbeer

[Click to enlarge.]

Did you know that Americans prefers beer as their alcoholic beverage? The rest of the world likes spirits the most. They don’t know what they’re missing.

Have you tried your state’s craft beer? Did the GOOD readers correctly pick “the most awesome, best-tasting, sustainably brewed, independently owned, community-oriented craft beer brewed in your state?”

February 25, 2011

Link Love: Feb. 25

by Amanda

It happens every year: I call up my mom and tell her which Girl Scout cookies to buy. She tells me she already ordered them, and she doesn’t remember which ones she chose. The girls show up to our house with boxes of Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas and occasionally Do-si-dos. I never satisfy my craving for Thanks-A-Lot or Lemon Chalets. I really should have just stayed a Girl Scout. Sadly, it wasn’t even my choice when I stopped in the seventh grade. My troop disbanded leaving me stripped of my patches and cookie-selling abilities. I really only was in it for the cookies.

This week’s link love includes a recipe for Tagalongs, the cookie I unscientifically deem as most popular in my what’s-your-favorite-Girl-Scout-cookie poll. Maybe I should create my own recipe for Thanks-A-Lot or Lemon Chalets. If only I had a sample of the real deal to work off of…

Homemade Tagalong Girl Scout Cookies from Cakespy for Serious Eats

artichokegoatcheesestrata

Artichoke and Goat Cheese Strata from Cooking Light

PBfull Banana Bran Muffins from Gracefulfitness

Moroccan Skillet Quinoa and Chicken from Simply Gluten Free

shrimpsaganaki

Shrimp Saganaki from Eating Well

What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

February 21, 2011

Baked Brownies

by Amanda

Brownies hold a special place in my heart. They’re not my favorite dessert. They are–and always have been–my sister’s favorite dessert. They were also the first food I ever baked for a boy. My high school boyfriend devoured the brownies I gave him. I never told him they weren’t technically made from scratch. Instead, I cut out the front packaging of the boxed mix I used in order to remember which brand of brownies he claimed were the best brownies ever. And then I only bought and made that brand.

Brownies were also the dessert my elderly neighbor across the street made for our family as a thank you for helping her out with something, a special treat on our birthday or a way of welcoming us kids home when we visited from college. Those were made from scratch, and she refused to give us the recipe. She recently passed away, but her memory will live on whenever I try a brownie. Because my family and I claimed her brownies were the best brownies ever.

bakedbrownies

Baked Brownies

from Brown Eyed Baker adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

bakedbrownie2

Ingredients:

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder

11 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder

1½ cups granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

5 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9×13-inch baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and cocoa powder together.

3. Put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso powder in a large bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl over the water and add the sugars. Whisk until completely combined, then remove the bowl from the pan. The mixture should be room temperature.

4. Add 3 eggs to the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Add the remaining eggs and whisk until combined. Add the vanilla and stir until combined. Do not overbeat the batter at this stage or your brownies will be cakey.

5. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the chocolate mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour mixture into the chocolate until just a bit of the flour mixture is visible.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it.

bakedbrownies3

bakedbrownies4

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I always think food tastes better when it’s not made yourself. I also think food tastes extra better if it’s made for a special reason or given to you out of love. Therefore, nothing will probably top my neighbor’s brownies. But if I can’t have her brownies, the ones from Brooklyn bakery Baked may just have to do. Oprah agrees with me. So does my chocolate-loving roommate. As for my high school boyfriend? I have no idea. But now I don’t regret throwing out the box package front after our break up. Because I’m confident that this recipe can very well make someone claim that these are the best brownies ever.

Do you have a go to recipe for certain desserts? If so, please share! Also, have you ever pretended something you made from a mix was homemade? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

February 18, 2011

Link Love: Feb. 18

by Amanda

I wish:

  • For my hand to no longer need a cast
  • To be done with my last four assignments so I can graduate
  • That I will get time off from my part-time job so I can celebrate graduation with a trip to Austin, TX
  • I didn’t have excuses for not posting as often as I would like, but unfortunately I do, and they are listed above

The good thing is other awesome people find plenty of time to post regularly, and I am finding time to read their posts. I spend probably 80 percent of my time on the Internet looking at food, and I figured I may as well have something to show for that. Thus, I decided to do weekly link love posts where I direct you to my favorite posts and recipes from the week.

Pear-Vanilla Brown Butter Bars from Piece of Cake

Salmon Corn Chowder with Quick and Healthy Cornbread from Clean Eating

Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta from Oh She Glows

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake from Miss Lemonie

misogingerwildrice

Miso-Ginger Wild Rice with Carrots and Cabbage from Whole Foods

Feel free to let me know in the comments section any good recipes you made or spotted this week!

February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine’s Day…

by Amanda

…to my staple in life, bread.

Because very few things are better than sliced bread. That’s why the saying exists, right?

February 11, 2011

A Sweet Surprise

by Amanda

Vosges

My mother can read my future thoughts. How else can I explain the fact that the day after I wrote about having an uncharacteristic craving for a box of chocolates, these show up on my doorstep? She ordered them the week before. See, moms really do know best.

vosges

I know Valentine’s Day is kind of the box-of-chocolate holiday, but because of my apathetic opinion of chocolate, I don’t usually receive any. I’m really glad I did this year. I’m also really glad they were from Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a Chicago-based chocolatier. Check out these flavors for the exotic truffle collection.

vosges

The chocolates came with instructions on how to eat a truffle. Fun fact: I once gave a 45 minute presentation on how to eat chocolate for one of my classes in high school, complete with a taste testing demonstration. Chocolate is serious business and clearly worthy of academic study.

vosges

I know some people don’t like Valentine’s Day (“it’s a manufactured Hallmark holiday”), but I don’t see what’s wrong with a special day devoted to showing people how much you love them. Especially when that love comes in the form of chocolate when you really need some.

What’s your favorite chocolate company?

February 7, 2011

The Gift of a Gift-Giving Website

by Amanda

I don’t love chocolate. I don’t dislike it either, that’s for sure, but I’m not a person who hoards bars of chocolate in her pantry, only orders chocolate off the dessert menus and prefers chocolate fudge over chocolate cake with chocolate icing. That being said, I do enjoy chocolate from time to time.

I also love gimmicks. You know those seasonal items and promotional tie-ins marketers dream up so people buy things? I buy those things. They’re a small way to make myself just a bit happier. So, when I saw this Wine Tasting Chocolate Kit on one of my favorite gift websites, UncommonGoods, I couldn’t help but share the link.

winetastingchocolatekit

The site has awesome, unique products that make great hostess, birthday or just because gifts. There is a particularly great selection for those of us who love things like embroidered kitchen towels and weird-shaped bowls a little too much.

In other news, T-minus two weeks until my hand escapes from its imprisoning cast.

cast

Hopefully the time goes by quickly. I’m going through serious baking withdrawals. Maybe I should take my own advice and buy this gimmicky chocolate set to boost my mood.

February 3, 2011

A Brewing Question for You

by Amanda

I’ve never been a huge juice drinker. Growing up, I didn’t enjoy drinking my glass of milk with dinner. I normally saved it until the end, and that’s what I was told I had to finish before I got ice cream for dessert (apparently I didn’t mind dairy in dessert form). And after an epic two-year battle, I’ve overcome my addiction to soda.

But I love coffee. And I love beer.

coffeebeer

Yes, I am hugging the beer.

Some of my favorite coffee companies include:

Some of my favorite microbreweries include:

For some unknown reason, I always put my love for supporting small coffee companies in the same category as my love for trying craft beers. Maybe it’s because the two are acquired tastes? Quintessential American beverages? To some degree, adult beverages? I can’t quite figure out the connection, but Starbucks also seems to think there is one since they starting selling both in some of their stores last year.

It’s a strange thing to want to figure out, I know, but it’s actually my assignment for mygasp–last undergraduate journalism piece. So, if you wouldn’t mind, please share your opinion in the comments section. Are you a coffee and beer drinker? Or do you just like one kind of brew? Is there a connection or is the coupling of these two drinks as greatly exaggerated as Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock’s recent love story? Let me know your thoughts below.

Also, feel free to mention some of your favorite beers and coffees. Let’s toast to the good stuff!

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