Endless Beer: Top 10 Beers of Winter

Happy New Year, folks. Time to pretend that you’ll hold to those healthy resolutions and become a “better you.” I’m right there with you, as the fiance and I try out “clean eating” for a while. Except for beers — I will NOT stop drinking beers. Which is why I bring you our top ten winter beers of the season. Note that even though Christmas is behind us, those tasty Christmas brews are still available as well as the special winter seasonals. Get ’em while you can. Here ya go:

10. Sly Fox Christmas Ale

ABV: 5.5% (canned), 6.5% (bottled)

A leader in the beer canning industry, Sly Fox offers their annual Christmas ale. The ale is a very “spiced forward” brew with Cinnamon and Ginger at the forefront. Flavors of clove continue throughout, complementing a sweet malty flavor.

9. Victory Winter Cheers

ABV: 6.7%

For those of you that don’t enjoy a winter warmer or strongly spiced ale, the Winter Cheers is a tasty and sweet wheat that takes away some of the booze flavor associated with winter warmers.


8. Deschutes Brewery Jubelale

ABV: 6.7%

Jubelale includes the traditional Christmas spices, but then has a pleasant sweetness of caramel and toffee with fruity flavors of cherry and raisin. The award-winning brew is a solid warmer that gives you a nice warm feeling all the way down. A great brew for after a hard day’s work on the slopes.


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Bizarre Artifacts From the Depths of My Pantry

Okay, sorry, I’ll admit it. I’m kind of a Monica and I love cleaning, organizing, and getting rid of things. Last weekend I decided to clean out the fridge and go through my cupboards, a daunting task given the fact that I am a bit of a food hoarder. Not in the “gross, what is that sheath of mold around that Tupperware?!” way, but in the charming “Oh look at this rare spice, I should stockpile a container of it just in case!” kind of way.

Here are the most surprising discoveries I unearthed while in the throes of my mission:

Not one, not two, but three kinds of nutmeg. Why? WHYYY? How did this come to be? What do I even use nutmeg for? My squash soup, I guess. And various roasted vegetables. Maybe spice cookies sometimes? I don’t know, I don’t know. This is basically a lifetime supply.

Um. Random “souvenirs” from Australia? These are all like three years old and I totally had no idea they were still in my pantry. Maybe I had big plans for the port wine jell-o in the past, but clearly by this point all those dreams have been shattered.

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A Kitchen Carry-On

More often than not, when I cook it isn’t in my own kitchen. I cook with friends; it’s something I enjoy most. One of the biggest problems when cooking in a kitchen other than my own is the lack of equipment and supplies — not everyone has the counter space or the means to have a KitchenAid or Cuisinart at their disposal, or a cabinet full of spices. But who wants to spend $7 on a bottle of garam masala for a one-time use? I know I wouldn’t, but it is something I use and I’d never expect a host to buy a bottle for a one-off dinner party. Solution: over the past few years I’ve built up a kitchen travel bag of sorts, my own goodie bag of kitchen supplies that I don’t expect any of my friends to stock themselves, but I simply can’t cook without.

Keep reading for my must-have list of kitchen items to carry when cooking away from home.

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There’s Nothing Wrong With Being Husky

I was running late for work the other day and realized I didn’t have time to make lunch.  The forecast of sleet and snow all day pretty much assured that I wouldn’t feel like going out to grab something midday so I pulled a few tamales from the freezer and was out the door. It wasn’t until I had unwrapped my first pickled jalapeno tamale that I realized, I had not written anything about  my efforts to make them a few weeks ago!

Depending what part of the country you are from, tamales may be easy to purchase at local restaurants and markets but I assure you that in upstate Pennsylvania, that is not the case. Thankfully part of my family is originally from south Texas so tamales have been part of many holidays and family gatherings growing up. I still get blamed reminded about the first family gathering with Wifey when I forgot to tell her to not eat the husk.

Tamales are as much about the time and comraderie that goes into making them as they are the rich, flavorful and sometimes spicy result. Years ago, I put no thought into how they were made but lately, I have  made a point in figuring out  a pretty decent version. Slightly intimidating due to the time required, if you take the time to try, you can easily test them in small batches and come up with all sorts of tasty combos. This last time we went with pickled jalapeno and peanut chipotle chicken varieties. The basic prep is below but feel free to play around with these true  hot pockets.

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Daddy, Where Does Sausage Come From?


Sausage. We all love it, laugh at it, and sometimes shudder at it…but when it comes down to it, we’re always left with the same question — just WTF is it anyway? The old joke goes that sausage is the parts of the animal swept off the factory floor after everything else is made, but the truth is it’s much more complicated than that. Fortunately, Kim from Good Bite is here with a guest blog to demystify the whole sausage-making process — for home cooks.

The ingredients

The first and most important ingredient is the meat. Whether making poultry, pork, or lamb sausages, fat is key in the success of the final product. Ample fat content (about 15 to 30 percent) is responsible for creating a smooth consistency and complex of flavor. For red meats, choose higher fat cuts like Boston butt or shoulder, and if opting for chicken or turkey, choose the darker cuts like the thigh.

The meat will need to be ground, so you have a few options here. Ask the butcher to grind the meat at the counter (which should be no problem at all), or take the meat home and grind it in a food processor. No grinding machines necessary.

Seasonings will make up the rest of the flavor profile, so decide what type of sausage you are aiming for and go from there. Common spices include any mixture of peppercorn, fennel, anise, cloves, garlic, thyme, cayenne, sugar, and allspice. It may be necessary to add a drizzle or two of olive oil, depending on the fat content of the chosen meat, as well as a trickle of water to keep the moisture locked in.

The process

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Cilantro or Cilant-no?


Is cilantro the bacon of 2009?

That’s what our pal So Good was wondering last week, and he’s got good reason. The world’s most controversial herb has been burning up the blogosphere in 2009, most notably on Fuck Yeah, Cilantro, a new tumblelog with perhaps the most specific food porn focus we’ve ever seen: daily money shots of cilantro-covered foods, from pizza to hot dogs and even drinks. Fuck yeah, indeed!

But not all is well in cilantro-land. Over at I Hate Cilantro, anti-coriander activist Erin has been chronicling her hatred for what she calls “the pubes of Beelzebub itself,” even creating a cilantro-free restaurant guide.

I’ve always been intrigued by the passionate feelings this simple spice elicits. I don’t think there’s any other food quite like it. Half the people seem to think it’s the nectar of the gods; the other half think it tastes like soap. I’ve heard it said this is due to some kind of weird genetic split, but wiki says this has never been proven. Ah, cilantro. You are a mysterious one.

So let’s do a highly scientific survey. What do you think? And why?

[poll id=”34″]

(Photo: Chrismar)

Hummus That’s Not Ho-Hum


About a year ago, I found out about Sabra hummus. My life has never been the same since.

I don’t know how I missed this product for my first 26.5 years, but somehow it just slipped under my radar. I’d dipped the Tribe, the Athenos stuff, and all the others, but somehow this particular brand just never crossed my path. But one dip in and I was hooked. So rich, so creamy, so fresh-tasting: for me Sabra stands heads, shoulders, knees and toes above the rest of the hummuses (hummusi?) Plus, they have versions that come with chopped red peppers, garlic, or pine nuts on top (although not enough pine nuts, if you ask me). Nevertheless, hummus instantly went from something I would try at a party if there was a good dipping vehicle, to something that is an perpetual presence in my fridge (except for when I eat the whole container in one sitting).

I realize this sounds like an advertisement, but I swear it’s not. My purpose isn’t to convert everyone to Sabra, but rather to rant about why the hell every other hummus can’t taste this good. I’ve been on a bit of a hummus-making kick myself lately, thanks to a few lessons from my Dad and Gansie (but not DAD GANSIE). I just food process chickpeas + tahini + lemon + garlic + olive oil + salt + pepper, and pine nuts if I’ve got them on hand (hey, it’s the recession). The result is always good, but never Sabra good. Seriously, what do these bastards put in their damn hummus to make it so tasty? And why can’t I recreate it at home? Being a good investigative reporter, I went straight to the source:

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