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Carrie Havranek

writer-editor-cook-baker

The Greenest Goddess Dressing

carrie

green goddess dressing
green goddess dressing

It's spring. Things are greening, finally. Greens galore are here at farmers' markets in Pennsylvania. We'll have to wait for the rest (radishes, herbs, beets, carrots and potatoes, etc.) until it warms up a bit. But for now, we have our pick of greens. A couple of weeks ago, tired of the usual variations on oil and vinegar, I hacked a green goddess dressing. I received some "recipe please!!" comments after posting a pic on Instagram where it was adorning some quasi-grilled romaine (another story altogether; the gas ran out mid-char). I figured I'd return to this project.

Green goddess goes all the way back to the 1920s and had a good run in the 1970s-80s, but is experiencing something of a resurgence right now—with some twists, of course. You typically see it with cobb salads and others with sturdy greens that can withstand a substantive dressing and whose leaves provide all sorts of crevices and crannies for the dressing to get lost in. It would also work well as a veggie or pita chip dip, or as the binding agent for some manner of tuna or chicken salad, should you wanna roll that way, too.

The modern versions, like this one, often include heart-healthy avocado; classic elements typically feature anchovies, fresh spring herbs, mayo, sour cream, and lemon juice. (I think I even recently saw a twist on this with pureed green peas.) They don't typically include water or olive oil, but I found I needed both. By design, this recipe includes the minimum amount of mayo required before it got too gloppy and mayo-ey (plus olive oil lends some fresh zip and helps with emulsifying). And I had an avocado just this side of perfectly ripe and smushy, so the little bit of water helped break things down. As you can see, I didn't make it completely smooth, mostly because I was scrambling to get dinner on the table to several hungry and really tired campers. Sometimes aesthetics go out the window. If I had had more time, I would have snipped off some chives from the yard or the tops of green onions for a little more bite. In fact, why don't you go do that and please, let me know what you think?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 of an avocado
  • Zest and juice of one lemon
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
  • 1/4 cup organic mayo (homemade or otherwise)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 large handful parsley (about a 1 cup, stems included)
  • Several pinches of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

1. Put all ingredients into a food processor or blender, and let 'er rip. You should get about 3/4 cup of dressing, which you can keep stored in the fridge in a sealed container and it should be good for about a week.

Sunday involved yoga, a great big brunch at a friend's house with park time, and an afternoon surprise event involving a swarm of bees in the yard that required emergency rescue and relocation. All of a sudden, it was 6 o'clock and there was no acceptable dinner plan. So, last night's dinner wound up being two take-out pizzas from Sette Luna with a salad I threw together of fresh local spinach from Jett's Produce and not quite baby lacinato kale. The farmer I bought it from, Tom Murtha of Blooming Glen, called it "teenager kale" because it was not the full, frondy lacinato kale we know, nor was it baby kale, whose smaller leaves are sweet and typically tricky to find. They both served as willing recipients of the 2-3 tablespoons of dressing I used here.

spinach kale salad.jpb
spinach kale salad.jpb

Presto! It's Pesto!

carrie

parsleypestopyrex
parsleypestopyrex

I know I'm a bit premature with my proclamation that we're getting close to pesto season, but we'll be greeted by market fresh herbs and greens such as ramps, sorrel and garlic scapes before you know it. Pesto, once you've got the hang of it, is endlessly adaptable: It's just waiting to be tossed with some pasta water with the shape of your choice, spread on a sandwich or around the base of a pizza, or used as a rustic crudite dip. (Ian, this one's for you—it's easily veganized, and I know you have a food processor.)

First things first: Pesto means sauce. It does not always necessarily by definition mean you have to use basil. Okay? Ok. You can even make pesto out of broccoli stalks (what my sister and I used to call tree trunks) and kale ribs (just steam 'em a bit first).

Secondly, I'm putting this forward as something of a loose template, with some caveats. Obviously, if you are on a budget you will look at the price of pine nuts and shudder. If you are following a vegan diet, you'll want to sub some nutritional yeast for the cheese factor; just dial it back a bit in terms of the amount. And if you are allergic to nuts and following a vegan diet? You'll want to use nutritional yeast and sunflower seeds; the latter tend to get nutty when you grind them. Celiac or gluten sensitive? Stay the hell away from nutritional yeast, but you probably already knew that.

parsleypestofoodprocessor
parsleypestofoodprocessor

Here's a combo I happen to like: parsley-walnut pesto. I think of it as an all-year round pesto, simply because I can obtain organic parsley easily and it's one of those herbs I buy regularly without fail and all year round, along with cilantro, thyme and rosemary. (I don't buy basil in the winter because then tomatoes and mozzarella should hang out there, too, and I can't eat a Caprese salad in January. I. just. can't.) This couldn't be simpler. If you're making this for dinner or another meal, you can complete these steps while the pasta boils.

Parsley-Walnut Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh parsley, stems included, loosely packed
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (you can toast in a dry pan over medium heat till they're fragrant first if you like)
  • 1/4 cup Locatelli Romano cheese
  • Zest and juice of one whole organic lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

1. Place the parsley through lemon zest and juice into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times to combine. Stop the machine, taste the mixture, and add a couple of good pinches of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Switch it back on and, using the funnel, pour the olive oil into the food processor and let it go for about 15-20 seconds. It won't take long to come together.

2. Remove the lid and taste the pesto, adjusting seasonings to ensure a fresh, bright and fairly smooth taste. Yield: About 6 ounces or about 2/3 cup.

3. Let's assume your pasta is ready. Remove it from the boiling water with a spider strainer into a large serving bowl. Scoop your 1-cup glass measuring cup into the pot to get about 1/2 cup of hot pasta water. Dump the remaining water out into the sink, return the pasta to the hot pot, add as much pesto as you like (I used about 3 ounces of pesto for 8 ounces of uncooked pasta), and stir to combine. Slowly add the reserved hot pasta water, and stir it all together fairly vigorously. Transfer to your serving bowl and hit it with some grated cheese (please, not the kind in the green can.)

A few words about the pasta. For pesto, I like to use a shape with lots of nooks and crannies, like the gluten-free "garden pagoda" veggie pasta you see here, but anything will work, really. In the last 2 minutes of cooking I added 1/2 cup frozen peas to the pasta water, and then once everything was in the hot pan with the pesto, I added about 8 ounces of thinly sliced organic chicken breast I'd cooked a day or so before.

A few words about pesto. Sometimes I see recipes that include some part water (in place of the full amount of olive oil), with the aim of calorie reduction. If you have to do this, please be prepared for a flat experience and a watery pesto; the extra virgin olive oil makes all the difference and lends a fruity, herbal taste (depending somewhat of course on the oil you use.) You can certainly add more olive oil if you like—it's your call. And parents, if you're reading, pesto-based dishes are a really sneaky way to get vitamins, minerals and healthy fats into your children's diet and will typically contain far less sodium than jarred, store-bought tomato sauce. If you've made baby food before, you know that pureed veggies and herbs, if prepared well, typically go down easily with kids.

parsleypestocloseup
parsleypestocloseup

New York Crumb Cake

carrie

If you've grown up in the New York metro area (or, in my case, in South Jersey with parents and relatives from said region), you know a few things. You likely know what makes a good pizza: it's foldable, not too greasy and should hold up horizontally with the support of a thin crust. You probably know from bagels (they are not glorified rolls with holes), and what constitutes a killer piece of crumb cake. I don't know what "coffee cake" is. People often use these terms interchangeably, but no coffee cake recipe ever has crumbs like small boulders, and that's what you want. I came across a recipe for this so long ago, I can't remember where I got it, but I've changed it so many times, it's pretty much mine now. So you may not have a brunch coming up like we just did yesterday, for Easter, but whatever. You can make this whenever you like, but don't say I didn't warn you. You really do need a crowd so there are no leftovers.

New York Crumb Cake

Cake Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T milk
  • 3 T. canola oil
  • 1 T. vanilla extract

Crumb ingredients

  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 1 cup plus 2 T. light brown sugar
  • 1 T . ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, melted and cooled

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and butter and flour a 9x12 pan (or douse it with nonstick spray), tapping the pan over the sink to remove excess flour if needed.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour through salt and set aside.

3. In a second, larger bowl (I like to use my 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup for this), whisk together egg, milk, oil, and vanilla. With a spatula, gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones.

4. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, using an offset spatula that you've greased or fingertips that you've also greased. The batter will be sticky and you'll think there's not enough there, but trust me, it will fit.

5. In a third, medium bowl combine the flour, sugar and cinnamon with a wire whisk, or work your fingers through it to break up any sugary clumps. Pour the butter over it, and combine with a spatula. Get your hands in there to form large crumbs and incorporate all that butter and flour and sugar. Take said clumps and distribute them evenly over the cake. You'll have a lot, and you'll be happy you do.

6. Bake for about 10 minutes, rotate the pan, and then bake for another 10-12 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely on a wire rack. Dust the whole thing with a generous shower of confectioner's sugar. Cut it into whatever sized squares you want.

NYCrumbCake
NYCrumbCake

Middle Eastern Buddha Bowl with Honey-Lime Tahini Dressing

carrie

Yeah, that sounds a little ethnographically confusing, doesn't it? For one, what's a Buddha bowl? Recipes for Buddha bowls are easy to find online, and in fact, you can do one without a real recipe—except for maybe the dressing. Basically, the modus operandi here is to combine healthy, nourishing foods in a bowl and unite them with a dressing that almost always contains tahini, as Buddha bowls are usually a vegan thing and tahini packs a protein-laced punch.

Some people take an anything goes approach, clearing out what they've got lying around and throwing it together, which makes the Buddha bowl a good candidate for end-of-the-week farmers' market remnants, grain or protein leftovers and seeds in the pantry. However, I don't believe the kitchen-sink approach always yields the best taste. Let's be honest here, people: Some veggies just don't necessarily belong together. Gasp! I've decided to treat this more like a composed dish, inspired by the flavors of the Middle East/Mediterranean.

Middle Eastern Buddha Bowl with Honey-Lime Tahini Dressing

Middle Eastern Buddha Bowl with Honey-Lime Tahini Dressing

If you like, swap out the beans for tofu, or switch out the greens for what you have on hand, or change the flavor profile altogether with different herbs and spices. I've made it with lemon juice and it's just as lovely. In fact, I plan on making this a bunch of different ways as the growing seasons progresses, but this is one of those endlessly variable dishes that pack well (just store the dressing in a separate container) and easily, happily feeds a crowd—even one with children in it. This one more than amply fed three adults and three kids, ranging from 5-6 in age.

Middle Eastern Buddha Bowl

Serves 4-6

Bowl Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1-2 T of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 bunch of kale, washed, ribs removed and leaves chopped
  • 2 cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained if using canned
  • 2 cups cooked millet
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, cut into thirds vertically
  • 1 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup of Italian leaf parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 T. tahini
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1-2 garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions for the Bowl:

Preheat the oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Toss together the cauliflower, olive oil and garam masala, and season with salt and pepper. Spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20-25 minutes until the tops start to brown and the cauliflower starts to soften a little. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (This can be done ahead of time; Buddha bowls take kindly to room temperature serving.)

Find a large, preferably wide-bottomed bowl, and fill it with the kale as the base. Starting clockwise from the top, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, parsley, pumpkin seeds, and millet in any order of your choice.

Toss with the dressing, which you've assembled per below.....

Instructions for the dressing:

Combine olive oil through garlic in a food processor and blitz till smooth. Add salt and pepper, pulse, and taste. Adjust ingredients according to your liking.

The 10-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake

carrie

Going to someone's house for quick weekday dinner, especially for the first time, means you don't show up empty-handed. At least I don't. I have determined that I have a compulsion, nay, a pathology about this. If I am going to someone's house, chance are I'm packing something edible or potable. It just doesn't feel right to arrive without a consumable offering. Yesterday, I threw together this vegan chocolate cake, which is so absurdly easy, there's no reason why dessert should be relegated to a weekend domestic project. A 10-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake may fit the bill; the 10 minutes refer to assembly time, not baking time—which is hands off, anyway.

A note about substitutions: if you don't have coffee extract or espresso powder, swap it for 1 T of coffee, and add it to the liquid. If you have neither, no worries. Coffee related additions create depth in chocolate desserts and I almost always, with very few exceptions, bring it on. And because I've adapted this from the awesome book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, you can of course make these as cupcakes. Just reduce the baking time to 15-18 minutes.

10 Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • 1 cup almond, soy, or other nondairy milk
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1 C plus 2 T all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder (I like this one from King Arthur Flour)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. coffee extract
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (of your choice; I used light)
  • 1/3 cup oil of choice (I used coconut)

Instructions

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine the milk and apple cider vinegar in a measuring cup, stir, and set aside.

Sift together all of the dry ingredients (flour through salt) in a medium bowl.

Add the extracts to the measuring cup with milk and ACV. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugars, milk, and oil. Slowly add in the flour, gently folding it in with a rubber spatula. When it's mostly combined, switch to a small wire whisk to get out any last minute lumps but don't overmix it.

Pour into into a well-greased and floured 8-inch round pan (I used a Springform) and bake for 22-25 minutes until a cake tester or toothpick comes out mostly clean (a couple of small crumbs are fine) and the cake has started to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes and then remove the cake from the pan to cool completely.

Vegan chocolate cake with vegan chocolate frosting

Vegan chocolate cake with vegan chocolate frosting

You can serve this as is, with a snowy dusting of confectioner's sugar, or actually make some frosting. Or if it's berry season, quickly chop up some fresh organic strawberries, toss them with a squeeze of lemon juice and a tablespoon or so of granulated sugar, and serve them alongside the cake.

Chef Jason Hook's H2O Kitchen is Back in the Valley

carrie

I apologize for the late notice, dear readers, but you must know about this. Jason Hook of H2O Kitchen has partnered with Artisan Wine and Cheese Cellars in Bethlehem for monthly multi-course tasting dinners paired with West Coast wines that will invariably blow your mind. Trust me. The first time I tasted his food, my palate was not the same for days. He is a whiz in the kitchen, transforming it into a laboratory of delicious experimentation where he concocts truly inspired flavor combinations unlike any others you may have experienced. Trust me on this. It's $75 well spent, and if I know Chef Hook, there will probably be more than the number of advertised courses here. He lets himself get carried away, galvanized by late-in-the-game whims, and then follows them. The result is always a surprise. If you want to go, seating is limited and reservations must be made through Artisan.

h20artisanwine
h20artisanwine

The Virtues of Braised Chicken Thighs: Dinner #2

carrie

pomegranate molasses chickthighs
pomegranate molasses chickthighs

If you saw my previous post, you know what's going on here. If you just stopped by, hello! Never fear: let me explain.

On Friday, my friend Ian asked me for quick and easy dinner options, some of which may or may not be vegan (his girlfriend is.) I promised him five super easy suggestions, including the incredibly versatile chicken thighs which are typically cheaper and juicier than their white meat counterparts. I'm not even going to call these recipes or write out ingredients, and I'm not going to worry about photos. Passing along simple cooking instruction is so important to me, I don't want to let these things impede the sharing. I'm trying to keep it unfettered, easy to follow. If you do this, you can have a meal for several days. If you are familiar with the flavor profiles of various cuisines, you can embellish and fill in the spices, herbs, condiments and veggies accordingly to suit your tastes.

Start with bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs which you've covered in Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper in a medium sized pot with a covered lid (such as Dutch oven or even a simple 4-quart stock pot will work). Add them to a pan that's been coated with oil over medium-high heat. You want a serious good sear to take place here. Don't be afraid to let it get nice and hot. You want that skin crispy. This should take 5-10 minutes.

Now it's time to start building your sauce. Remove said chicken from the pot to a warm plate. Add in your chopped up aromatic veggies of choice—mirepoix, or even garlic with peppers, or other suitable combo. Let them soften and become, well, aromatic. Once that happens, add in your flavor base. Think dried spices, herbs, mustard, curry powder or paste and stir together for a minute or two.

Next, deglaze the pan with a little bit of liquid such as any kind of good cooking vinegar (red wine, sherry, apple cider), wine, beer, you get the idea—scraping from the bottom with my husband calls "the burny bits" and I like to call flavor crystals. Regardless of what you call them, these will form the base of your sauce.

Add back in the chicken thighs, and then more liquid such as stock, water, apple cider, beer, coconut milk or some combination thereof. Get creative. (I've seen my friend Stacey do this with a jar of salsa verde and then eaten the results. Good stuff!) Make sure the liquid comes up to about halfway the pot. Bring it all up to a simmer, cover it, and let it go.

When you return, about 20-30 minutes later, you should have super tender meat that's great for a variety of applications and which you should be able to pull off the bone with ease. Serve over pasta, rice, noodles, couscous, bulgur, quinoa, you name it. Toss it with veggies or canned beans (which you can add during the final simmering stage.) Shred it and add to salads or serve as a filling with tacos. Cook up an entire package at a time so that dinner or lunch is never a chore; you simply eat what you can, refrigerate the rest, and have the base for your next meal. Cook once, eat several times, right?

Five Easy Dinners That May or May Not Be Vegan

carrie

I was talking with my barista friend Ian today, who asked me for "five dinner ideas that I can do." To spare him and his digestive system from having to order cardboard with cheese for dinner (a.k.a. Domino's), I've taken our conversation between the espresso machine and bakery case, where I endorsed the merits of braising chicken thighs and the versatility of lentils and he shared his disdain for tofu, to the next level. We all have this problem. And in less than five minutes I learned a lot about him. Well, I mostly received confirmation of things I already knew: he wanted something simple, direct, unfussy, delicious, and easily executable after standing up and interfacing with humans all day. I will add some veganizing tips for those nights when he's cooking for his main squeeze. That being said, I decided I'm not going to write a recipe; I'm just going to write instructions, and I'm going to start with one recipe, today, and post another one Monday. If anyone wants more specifics, ask away. I'm happy to provide. But in the interest of keeping this simple and knowing he can do it, I've taken this fast and dirty approach. I made this the other night—sorry, no photos, this is strictly utilitarian stuff, people—so it was on the brain. Adapted from Cooking Light's black bean and goat cheese quesadillas. I've made this dozens of times, and usually a little differently each time.

Here's the first one. I'll post another one on Monday. Enjoy!

1. Black Beans and Goat Cheese Mexican Tortilla Filler

Take  a can and a half (or two cans, it's your choice) of black beans. Rinse them and set aside. With a tablespoon of your favorite cooking fat or oil, saute a small onion (any kind, including a whole bunch of scallions will do) over medium heat in a 8-10 inch skillet or cast iron pan until they soften. Add your seasonings of choice: chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika (I like cumin); add the beans, 1/2 cup to 1 cup of salsa of your choice. You may not need salt, between the beans and the salsa, but taste it. Let it simmer. It will come together fast. If it looks like it's getting dry, add some hot water. Finally, crumble a 4-ounce log of goat cheese into the pan and let it melt over medium heat, stirring to combine. Turn off the burner, and add about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of chopped fresh cilantro and stir to incorporate. If you have a lime, it won't hurt to squeeze half of it over the finished product.

You can serve this loose, with more water/salsa in it, as a dip with tortilla chips or the chip of your liking. You can cook off most of the water and it makes a great filling for tortillas. You can land it somewhere between dippy and dry and slide it in between the folds of a tortilla and turn it into a quesadilla. Or just eat it with a spoon. I don't police it; I just share it.

To veganize: take half the mixture and put it in a medium bowl, add half the cilantro, and stir. Add half the package of goat cheese to the black bean mixture left in the pan, and proceed as directed. But you probably figured that out on your own.....

Corked Wine Bar & Steakhouse

carrie

Have you been to Corked in Bethlehem? It is the topic of my Inside Dish column for the April issue of Lehigh Valley Style. I found its chef-owner, Joe Grisafi, to be surprisingly candid about the process of opening a new restaurant, especially one that's as ambitious as Corked and a definite switch from the previous family restaurants he's worked in and, in the case of Roma, started. If you've been there, I'd love to hear your feedback about the experience. Restaurants are works in progress, especially in the first year. In the meantime, here's a photo of the Kobe beef sliders I had, along with those potato wedges tossed with truffle aioli and dusted with Parm.

The sliders, at Corked Wine Bar and Steakhouse in Bethlehem. 

The sliders, at Corked Wine Bar and Steakhouse in Bethlehem. 

Retro Food Love at Mitzi's Table

carrie

mitziswindow
mitziswindow

In case you are wondering, Mitzi does indeed refer to a real person. Mitzi's Table, a vibrant retro spot from beloved local food luminary Susan Roth (NCC culinary program, formerly of Susan's Catering in Nazareth) and chef husband Matt, is an homage to Matt's late mother. Serving breakfast and lunch on weekdays and weekend brunch, Mitzi's Table (and old-school diner counter, for that matter) offers comfort foods from around the world, rendered with an updated, fresh spin and local ingredients whenever humanly possible. Mitzi's opened about a month ago. On a recent weekday lunch hour, it was jammed. And for good reason. Mitiz's is the kind of place that's tinged with just the right amount of nostalgia; the Americana, vintage kitchen knickknacks behind the counter is evocative but not overwhelming, steering very clear of kitsch. It makes sense, because Mitzi's is retro in vibe but not in its execution. You may be able to take home some rice pudding (her recipe, naturally), order Coke in a glass bottle, or a side of baked beans (also her recipe), but you'll also find duck confit flatbread and four different versions of fries, ranging from classic and Old Bay to honey chipotle and parmesan and garlic. Furthermore, how many places have a menu that lists Philly roast pork with broccoli raab on a genuine Amoroso roll, followed by fish tacos with a sriracha slaw, a Kentucky Hot Brown and then a Vietnamese banh mi? (The latter is veg-friendly: order with tofu or roast pork). For breakfast, you're going to encounter items such as biscuits and gravy, chicken and waffles, a daily quiche selection, house granola with Greek yogurt, but then you will also find vegan-friendly tofu scramble and a seriously updated rendition of creamed chipped beef, with wild mushrooms (Huh?!). While I was there, I tested out their black bean and quinoa burger, and picked a house salad as my side (the house dressing is a tangerine balsamic; oils and vinegars come from Seasons). See what I mean? You can have a lot of fun here, and I haven't even talked about desserts.

mitzisvegburger
mitzisvegburger

You'll want to get here early, because they don't take reservations (call ahead if you have a big party, though) and the soft turquoise -and-red colored place seats about 40-50. If you've lived here long enough or traveled here frequently, you know this already about breakfast places. And you likely know the Lehigh Valley is suffering from a serious dearth of breakfast joints; I can think of fewer than ten, not counting diners. The customary waits at places like Jumbars, the Quadrant, Billy's and now, Mitzi's, are indicators that we haven't even begun to saturate this particular market. (I can't speak for Griddle 145; I haven't been there.)

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I agree, which is why I often cook it for dinner. Now if these diner-like places would just stay open for dinner, too, then they'd really be tapping into an underserved market around here. C'mon, people: We're the third-largest metro area in the Commonwealth, and we're growing. We can support this. Let's do it. Breakfast for dinner. Brinner is a winner.

Mitzi's Table,  3650 Nazareth Pike, Bethlehem, PA, 610-730-1670; Hours: Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, breakfast 8-11; lunch 11:30-3; Saturday-Sunday brunch 10am-3pm.

Eat Down on the Bayou, Right in Bethlehem

carrie

bayouchalkboard
bayouchalkboard

Right now, Southern cooking is hot, hot, hot. Many of the country's most innovative chefs and cookbook authors are emerging from that tradition and reinventing it, bringing it to the 21st century. Yet simultaneously, food's many superpowers include the ability to transcend time and place, and evoke memories. This juxtaposition—the past vs. the present, authenticity vs. innovation—is all over the menu at the Bayou in Bethlehem. Of course, the irony here is that I type this post while the wind is whipping, dropping the temperature even lower than its 20 degrees. I'm trying to recall warmer weather, and imagine that I am sipping a Sazerac on a porch swing, with the breeze gently ruffling my hair... But I digress. Time travel isn't possible here, so instead, the Bayou, which opened for business on Monday, March 10 after a soft opening late last week, offers the chance to recall your childhood, your travels, your grandma's cooking. Or none of the above. More likely, it will create brand new associations with the South, filtered through a couple of industry vets who are northerners, one white, one African-American (Does it matter? This is another question entirely), and a motley kitchen crew headed by 27-year-old executive chef Tyler Baxter, who is young enough to take on such an enterprise with ambition and creativity (and who has spent time in Nola cooking in Emeril's restaurants). The question of authenticity is guaranteed to come up, but this is entirely subjective and not really my point here. All I can tell you is that I enjoyed what I ate, and I quizzed everyone I encountered on a lazy Wednesday afternoon about what they ate, including two guys who likely work with their hands (navy blue Carhartt was involved)  at the bar who ordered the gumbo of the day and the buttermilk fried chicken. They dishes evoked high praise and memories of childhood.

The Bayou is blessed with good bones: high ceilings and exposed brick lend a rustic, industrial-chic vibe. Warm-toned walls grace the small space, which seats about 40-50 including the bar. This intimacy suits the food well; it facilitates easy, affable conversation with those around you, the owners, or whoever passes you by. Co-owners Cristian Duarte and Mo Taylor, a couple of friends who've clocked many nights behind the bar with the former Starters Sports Bar group, knew they wanted their own spot and talked about it for years. Independently of each other, they had investigated the property, which had previously operated as the Hawthorn House until it closed in 2009 after a fire. Their admitted greenness at ownership, however, is kind of sweet to see—they are eager to please, eager to engage, and eager to learn. Duarte says, "I have a lot to learn about food. Tyler is opening my eyes and teaching me every day," and even acknowledges the chef has gotten him to eat vegetables. (But when you're talking about pickled veggies and collards cooked with bacon, how can you go wrong?). Taylor, on the other hand, seems more familiar with the food itself. The Jersey native says, "This is the food I grew up eating." Geography be damned.

bayouinterior
bayouinterior

It wasn't always a Southern affair, though. Taylor and Duarte were friends with Baxter, who had logged time as co-exec chef at Cosmopolitan in Allentown. They enlisted him early in conversations and asked for menu drafts. The two noticed a thread of Southern staples coming through, and the concept organically emerged. The menu is designed with plenty of variety both in scope and size: snacks, small plates, soups and salads, sandwiches (many an iteration of a po boy) and large plates. They want you to share, graze, hang out, and listen to some live jazz and blues. The 24 craft beers, most of them American, regional and/or indigenous to the cuisine (you'll find a couple of Abitas, including its grapefruit IPA), should help. And maybe, too, one of the expected players on the cocktail lists will do: the Hurricane, the Sazerac, and a jalapeno margarita for the adventurous, among many other creative iterations (Cucumber Fizz, Maple Peach Sour). When the weather finally breaks, anticipate jockeying for position on the adjacent covered patio.

blackeyedpeas
blackeyedpeas

Back to the food. Baxter, a Coopersburg native, hits just about all of the required notes. You will find grits, catfish, po 'boys, cornbread (with spicy tomato butter), pickled veggies galore, pork, pork, and more pork (pulled, smoked, ribs, belly, and bacon, which they make in-house for the mac & cheese), fried chicken, gumbo (rotating), black-eyed peas (flash fried and tossed with lemon, cayenne and fines herbs), brisket, oxtails with fried green tomatoes, andouille shrimp, hush puppies, and more. Its homage to its roots is honest, but it's definitely filtered through a modern lens (the house bbq sauce is made with root beer), one with a training in the classics and a degree from Northampton Community College's culinary program. The dessert menu balances old and new, too, with a traditional take on Chess Pie (rendered in squares like a bar and served with tart, creamy housemade lemon ice cream), a peanut butter mousse that Duarte says "stops people in their tracks, that's how good it is," a Guinness chocolate cake (St. Patty's is coming), and brown sugar beignets with maple creme anglaise. (Unfortunately, I was so taken with the chess pie I forgot to take a photograph of it. Trust me, it was lovely.)

smoked pork rib
smoked pork rib

We all bring our own experiences, expectations, and sense memory to everything we eat, no matter whether it's a snack on the run or a fancy-pants meal. But here's a place I can imagine that will bring a lot of different people to it—first dates, groups, barflies, parents with kids (lots of small plates=no need for kid's menu, although that's still being debated in-house).  Even a vegetarian could find something here if you're willing to stay on the small plates, starters, soups and salads side of the menu. Nevertheless, in the hour or so that I was there, eating various samples of the menu and listening to New Orleans jazz (think Preservation Hall), I witnessed a wide swath of customers. The clientele ran the gamut from middle-aged ladies out for lunch to women out with their young children to working-class men sitting at the bar, on their lunch hour, or after their shift. The full menu is right on their website, for perusing. I'd get there early for dinner; it's a snug little spot and they only accept reservations for parties of 8 or more.

The Bayou Southern Kitchen and Bar, 702 Hawthorn Rd., Bethlehem; 610-419-6669; Hours: Sun-Thurs, 11am-11pm; Sat-Sun, 11am-2am.

Five Reasons Why I Love the Easton Farmers' Market: Winter Edition

carrie

There are many reasons to love a farmers' market. Perhaps you've got your own. This past weekend's gathering of the Easton Farmers' Market was especially cool. I can always count on serendipity there. However, two small, remarkable things happened that inspired me to take a step back and express some gratitude for what these farmers and food purveyors bring forth Saturday after Saturday, through one of the harshest winters in recent memory. And this was so after-the-fact, that I don't have many photos. 1. As much as I know about food, I am still learning. This is one of the most rewarding, and humbling, things about working with food and writing about it. It has so much to teach us. Since the market moved indoors in early winter, I have bought at least two different kinds of produce I'd never seen before. One of them is called a bottle onion, grown by Josie Porter Farm. It looks like an elongated shallot; it's like a cross between a shallot and a standard yellow cooking onion (Several days after I bought this, I noticed Nigella Lawson calling them "banana shallots," on her Nigelissima program)  I've been roasting them with veggies because they become especially sweet that way. They're also great minced finely and tossed into a vinaigrette.

The other item is something called claytonia, a.k.a. miner's lettuce, grown by Jett's Produce. This little green beauty grows in the cold of winter and the miners used to take it down with them into them mines to prevent scurvy, because it's rich in Vitamin C.

claytonia
claytonia

2. Related to number one: Thank you to Blue Moon Acres for connecting with Eat This! to supply us with some microgreens, including arugula and sunflower microgreens--a first for me. With the absence of Blooming Glen Farm, which took a hiatus this winter and had supplied us with microgreens and pea shoots last winter, this has provided a nutritional windfall to smoothies and alongside eggs.

3. We stocked up on apples from Scholl Orchards because it was the last week for them after a remarkable season from this Bethlehem farm. The Scholl Brothers Ben and Jake are so affable and great with my kids in general, but this week they thanked us for being such good market customers and just gave us a quart of apple cider, along with a couple of small cups, so we could sit and drink it right there (because with kids, you cannot wait.) Supermarkets don't do that, people. Nor do they make such amazing cider. And oh! Have you had their applesauce?

4. Stephanie Smith at 4th Street Foodworks filled up the pockets of my boys with organic kettle corn, who regularly make a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of popcorn mess leading from their table. If you have never tried their popcorn, you gotta do it. Vegan. Coconut oil. Gluten-free. Organic corn. And varieties that include chocolate, kale (yes, you read correctly!) and a spicy one I've seen now and then, too.

5. Two weeks ago I purchased something new, a honey corn loaf, from the Flour Shop Bakery, and Josh said to me, "Let me know how you like it." I came back and shared my experience--it was gone in 24 hours. And then bought another one.

It behooves a vendor to know what his or her customers enjoy, and what doesn't work. Feedback is king, and this old-school display of customer service-driven commerce is just one of many components of a successful farmers' market.

What about you? Inquiring minds wanna know. Why do you love farmers' markets? If you shop at the Easton Market, you know what I'm talking about here. If not, please share where you shop, and why you love it.

Irish Cooking from Cooking Light's Global Kitchen

carrie

FinalCover
FinalCover

This is what happened when I handed my husband a copy of Dave Joachim's new cookbook, Global Kitchen. I asked him to pick a couple things that looked good to him. One of his selections was Beef and Guinness stew. Is it global? Technically, yes. In my house? No; it's a winter staple. However, this is what happens when you marry an apostrophe. And this is what happens when it's a Sunday in March and you're expecting (but gratefully don't get) more snow. (Side note: The other dish he picked was like a Filipino risotto, and I am angling to make shrimp fried rice. Stay tuned.) It's all good. A quick word about the book itself. It's a compendium of all the world's best and signature dishes and foods, rendered with creative twists and licenses taken, with an eye toward ingredients you can easily purchase at any supermarket. That's how full circle we've come these days. And it's a Cooking Light title, so you know it's going to offer a healthy balance for mind, body and spirit.

Without further ado, I'm reprinting the recipe here with permission, along with something you can make while the stew is, well, stewing: Brown Soda Bread. This dish is hearty, as you would expect, but also has a depth of flavor that the previous stew recipe I made did not.

Beef & Guinness Stew

Ingredients

  • 3 T. canola oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • 5 cups chopped onions (from about 3 onions)
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 4 cups fat free, lower-sodium beef broth
  • 1 12-ounce bottle of Guinness Stout
  • 1 T. raisins
  • 1 tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2 inch thick) diagonal slices carrot (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 cups (1/2 inch thick) diagonal slices parsnip (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup (1/2 inch) cubed peeled turnip (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 T. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add  1 1/2 T. of oil to pan, swirl to coat. Place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 tsp. salt; dredge beef in flour. Add half of beef to pan; cook 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove beef from pan with slotted spoon, and repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 T. oil and beef.
  2. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in tomato paste; cook one minute, stirring frequently. Stir in broth and beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Return meat to pan. Stir in remaining 1/2 tsp. salt, raisins, caraway seeds, and pepper; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil. Cook 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrot, parsnip and turnip. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and bring to a boil; cook 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with parsley.

The Numbers: Serves 8; Hands-on time: 33 minutes; Total time: 3 hours, 3 minutes.

Beef & Guinness Stew. Photo by Iain Bagwell
Beef & Guinness Stew. Photo by Iain Bagwell

During the hands-off part of the process, get your ingredients ready for Brown Soda Bread; this recipe comes to the book from Margaret M. Johnson, author of Flavors of Ireland.

Brown Soda Bread

  • Cooking spray
  • 11.25 ounces whole wheat flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 2 T. brown sugar
  • 1 T. wheat germ
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Line pan with parchment and coat that with cooking spray.
  3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through salt). Combine buttermilk and egg; add to flour mixture. Stir until just combined.
  4. Spoon mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325 for about an hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Invert bread onto a wire rack; cool completely. Remove parchment; slice bread into 12 pieces. Serves 12.
Brown soda bread--my photo
Brown soda bread--my photo

Notes about the bread:

  • I did not have buttermilk but made my own easily by adding a tsp. of apple cider vinegar; lemon juice also works well here, too.
  • While I was at it with the wheat germ, I added 2 T. of ground flax just because it is right next to my wheat germ in the refrigerator and it seemed like a good idea.
  • If you have a convection oven like I do, you know to drop the temp by 25 degrees and check it at least 5 minutes before any recipe says so. This one baked in my oven in a little under an hour.

Flourless Triple Nut Butter Cookies

carrie

I have become the kind of person who has three different nut butters in her house at one time. I'm not sure how this happened, but because it did, we now have these cookies. A version of this—called something like flourless peanut butter cookies—has been kicking around the Interwebs for a few years, and I even remember making them when I worked at Sugar, in Phillipsburg, very briefly, years ago. The basic recipe is a cup of peanut butter, a cup of sugar, one egg, and some combination of baking soda, vanilla (optional) and salt. Some also have oats. Some also add chocolate chips. I first made them a week ago with equal parts cashew butter and oats, and although they were delicious, they were too dense and dry, despite the addition of a few splashes of milk at the end. Cashew butter is less oily than almond and peanut butter. I decided to approach them this time with a combination of nut butters, thinking the different textures and moisture levels would work better. And they did.

nut butter before oven
nut butter before oven

Oh, one caveat to share. It's important to note that I used all natural, organic versions of these butters, which don't contain sugar. If you aren't using the same, you should expect a slightly different texture. You might also consider cutting back on the sugar, unless you want them super sweet. You can negotiate that with your tastebuds. Peanut butter tends to be an all-encompassing taste, taking up your entire mouth when you eat it; I like how the nuances of each nut complement each other here.

Flourless Triple Nut Butter Cookies

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup organic all natural cashew butter
  • 1/4 cup organic all natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup organic all natural almond butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup rolled oats

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment or use Silpat, or grease them with butter.

2. Combine the egg and the sugars in the stand of a mixing bowl fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed just to bring everything together, about a minute.

3. Add the nut butters, and mix again until they're all incorporated. Then add the baking soda, salt, and vanilla, mixing briefly to combine. Add the oats and mix just until they're evenly distributed.

4. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheets. Lightly press the back of a fork onto the tops of the cookies, so they look like every peanut butter cookie you ate as a kid. Bake for about 9 minutes, rotating the trays about halfway through. You want them lightly browned around the edges and no darker than that. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the sheets for a few minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

close up nut butter
close up nut butter

I imagine this would double easily, without much trouble, but I have become a fan of recipes that yield 2-3 dozen. It's just enough for a couple nights of dessert for the boys, or for snacking randomly without becoming too much of a sabotage. These come together in a flash, and you certainly don't need to haul out the stand mixer if you don't want to or don't have one; these mix together easily with a wooden spoon.

If you cannot eat gluten, you likely buy oats that are gluten-free. Oats themselves do not contain gluten but they're often subject to cross-contamination dangers in places where gluten is present. Bob's Red Mill makes some.

New Year, New Intentions

carrie

choose love
choose love

Hi there. That photo is from one of our many walks this past year. And I put it there to set the tone. I'm not going to revisit last year's list of intentions for a number of reasons. Let's just say things got a little bit away from me. My own cookbook project about the farmers' markets has been on the back burner because I needed to get my house in order. And because I did not have a whole lot of energy in 2013 to devote to that back burner.

Basically, awakening to my own mission and spiritual growth sort of took over almost everything in 2013, giving me more information about myself, illuminating my past and therefore my path. Last year was all about trust, starting right in January, when I lost the most valuable jewelry a married woman owns inside the gearshift of my car, and going all the way through, seeing what I saw, hearing what I heard, putting all of these messages together. We got it out, but little did I know it was setting the tone for the entire year's lesson: TRUST.

But here's what I'm thinking, for 2014. It's going to be a year of major shifts for many reasons; first of all, John and I are both hitting a milestone birthday in March.

1. Let's just say that I'm still planning on getting that farmers' market cookbook out there. The motivation has ebbed and flowed in the past year. The definition of the project itself is up in the air; so is the idea of self-publishing vs. someone else legit doing it for me. I am going to investigate all options. But the one thing I learned? If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.

2. And that I would like to receive at least a level 1 Reiki attunement.

3. And that I would like to go through yoga teacher training in the fall.

4. And I would like to go to the IACP conference in March (That's International Association of Culinary Professionals). Check! Christmas present! (Thank you!) I think that's the biggest thing. I'm trying not to have high expectations and just take it all in, but people network like crazy at this thing and I need to plan now for what I'm doing there because it's a big scene. Mostly, I feel like every time I turn around I'm going to stumble into someone I deeply admire and turn into a puddle of geeky-fan-girl-goo who can't. stop. talking or totally clams up. Intimidating and exciting at the same time.

5. I'm going to figure out a way to update and merge all my sites (I'm using an embarrassingly old version of WordPress) and make peace, one way or another, with the whole blogging thing. I wish I were better at it. I came up with a great concept that merges my love of cooking real food that sustains you with my love of yoga and all the enormous door that opened to the universe. I am thinking it's supposed to be a website/brand, and this would require $$ to hire a web designer, create a whole site, and do something: one of those somethings is blogging, something I'm itinerant about, at best. It seems like the way people get cookbooks anymore; if you don't have a blog, you don't one of your legs of your personal marketing platform. (I have a good Twitter and FB platform, though. Does that count?)

But maybe it's not supposed to be a brand. Maybe it's supposed to be a company name. I don't know. I assume I knew, when I came up with it, but we are not totally in control of our ideas here, people. Let's just face it.

6. There may be another cookbook project on the horizon. That one hasn't been discussed in a while, and it's not for public consumption just yet. It is still an idea.

All of these things require enormous pushes—really, it feels like moving boulders—to get past personal hurdles and the recurring narrative of negativity that we all have on some level. Mine has been taking up too much real estate lately and is far too loud. (Also, I realize that I may have inherited these behaviors; have you read about epigenetics?) Two smart yoginis I admire greatly recently put it this way: "My inner party pooper gets way too loud sometimes," (amen, Alicia!) and "I decided to rewrite my narrative," (I'm trying, right there with you, Susan!) I am paraphrasing them, and I'm sure I didn't get it 100 percent right, but you get the idea. How do I balance my inner pusher, the one who wants to just keep going and doing and feels like what I'm doing is never good enough or just enough, period, with the inner critic who fears judgment and failure and says, "Are you crazy? You don't have enough time, money, resources, talent, blog posts, etc. to get this thing published! Why bother?"

I think I have to silence them both and boot them, for good. How? That's a day to day thing. Some days are easier than others. Today is not one of them.

So you see, my list is short this year, shorter than last year. But it's full of Really. Big. Things.

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes

carrie

I saw canned organic sweet potato puree in Wegmans a few weeks ago. And then I judged a cupcake contest in which one of the cupcakes was inspired by Thanksgiving flavors (and bacon), and contained sweet potato, among things. I decided to go old school and conjure up some nostalgia, with a twist—in the form of cupcakes.

Full and complete disclaimers needed here! I'm posting this because people have been asking for a recipe. The cupcake part is easy, but the frosting, I just eyeballed. So I am going to try to recreate from memory what I did, which shouldn't be too hard. As they say with diet programs: results may vary. In the meantime....

This recipe was adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, but they are decidedly NOT vegan. Again, NOT vegan, on account of the gelatin in the marshmallows. And the butter. But you can find vegan butter and vegan marshmallows if that's how you roll.

Sweet Potato Casserole Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sweet potato puree
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond milk (or soy)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Marshmallow frosting

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • About 1 cup of marshmallow fluff
  • About 2 cups confectioner's sugar
  • 2-4 Tbsp. milk, as needed
  • 6 large marshmallows, pulled apart in half (no need to get knives involved here)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake/muffin pan with liners or grease well with butter and flour.
  2. Stir together the sweet potato puree, oil, sugar, almond milk and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Sift the flour and rest of the dry ingredients right over the bowl. Mix together with a spatula; do not use a stand mixer for this or you will render these cupcakes tough.
  3. Fill the liners about 2/3 full and bake for about 18-20 minutes. I always check mine a few minutes before I think they will be done because I don't want to serve dry, overbaked cupcakes. The tops should spring back lightly when touched and a cake tester should come out fairly clean. Transfer to a wire rack and remove from pan after 10 minutes, allowing them to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to the broiler setting.
  2. Cream the butter for a minute or so until it gets a bit fluffy. Add the marshmallow fluff and mix at low speed until combined with the butter. Add the vanilla extract and then slowly add the confectioner's sugar, mixing on medium-low speed until it's all combined. Drop in a couple of Tbs. of milk if necessary to thin it out. Keep in mind, though, that this frosting is going to be thick, almost paste-like, but still spreadable. That's the consistency you're looking for.
  3. With a small offset spatula or a non-serrated knife generously spread the frosting over the cupcakes. You'll notice that it won't get completely smooth but instead will form little tufts and peaks like tiny mohawks all over your cupcake. Repeat.
  4. Put your cupcakes on a wire rack over a baking sheet in your oven to catch possible marshmallow-y drips and globs. Break off a large marshmallow and put each half, ripped side down, on top of the cupcake, and repeat until all cupcakes are covered. (You could also easily do this with mini marshmallows; whatever you've got). Put in the preheated oven/broiler and set your timer for a minute. You will know though if that's too long because it will start to smell like burned s'mores in your kitchen.
  5. Remove from the oven when the marshmallows turn golden brown. If you like a more charred effect, keep it going until it's darker than that.

The serendipity of this recipe? There was just enough fluff in the frosting to allow it to melt and congeal with the butter and confectioner's sugar but without getting too gloppy. The cupcakes wound up being gently, smoothly enrobed in the frosting.

If you make these, please please let me know in the comments field. I'm curious about the frosting!

Weyerbacher Brewing Gets an Upgraded Visitors' Center

carrie

Ah, how lucky are we here in the Lehigh Valley? This past weekend, we just had an amazing Baconfest at the Easton Farmers' Market, with attendances in the tens of thousands. We have great restaurants. And we have great beer. Now, it will be even easier for beer tourists—and Lehigh Valley residents, let's not forget—to get in on the Weyerbacher love during the week. The Visitors' Center has expanded, there are new, bigger signs reflecting the updated logo, there are new family-friendly bathrooms, and there are 28 taps (14 on each side--redundant taps) to serve you. Not to mention a gorgeous, concrete-topped bar. But perhaps the most significant improvement is the fact that you can now buy beer from the brewery almost any day of the week: Weyerbacher's hours have expanded from Monday-Saturday, 12pm-7pm.

Currently, on tap and available in six-packs—and this could change at any moment—is the first of the new brewer's select series, called Aries. It's mix of Imperial Pumpkin Ale and Old Heathen. It's a "black and orange," says Bill Bragg, who's the general honcho of the visitors' center and in charge of Weyerbacher's publicity. "It was born out of the creativity of our sales reps, who started mixing them. It doesn't pour like a black and tan, though," he says. And like all of their special brews and seasonal selections, once it's gone, it's gone.

Bill Bragg, beer baron of the Weyerbacher Visitors' Center.

Bill Bragg, beer baron of the Weyerbacher Visitors' Center.

Fans of Weyerbacher may remember the first brewers' select series went through the military alphabet. Upon tasting some Aries (and then purchasing a six pack), I asked if they're going through the entire zodiac, and Bragg says no, they're going through all of the 44 constellations in the Northern Hemisphere. That's ambitious, but unsurprising given the creativity of head brewer Chris Wilson and his staff. The next one up? "Augira, a strong ale," he says. Stay tuned to Weyerbacher for his updates on availability.

And if you haven't visited in a while, or you aren't aware of this change, you can now buy one bottle or an entire case. Pennsylvania's liquor laws used to dictate that you had to buy an entire case at Weyerbacher. (You could of course mix it up.) Now, as Bragg puts it, "You can buy it by the 12-ounce bottle or the truck. We prefer the truck," he says. Their beers are available in various forms, depending on type, from two-ounce free samples to growlers, bottles, six-packs, 750ml cork-and-cage bottles, to sixtels and kegs.

boxes
boxes

If you go, you can get the full tour on Friday nights and during Saturday afternoons, and maybe during the week if there's time. Mostly, Bragg says that he hopes that residents in the area will come during the week for free tastings and sales, which will make things a little easier on the weekends when the visitors' center is much more crammed and people are elbow-to-elbow looking for a taste of the latest Weyerbacher elixir. "We really want locals to come during the week—you get more one-on-one attention that way," he says.

The expansion also bumped the physical plant out toward the back, garnering the brewery an additional 6,500 square feet, with floor drains, so they moved production over there—from fermentation to bottling and kegging. These changes can only mean good things for beer lovers. Just in time for the holidays!

For more information: Weyerbacher Brewing Company, 905 Line Street, Easton, PA; 610-559-5561. Tours: Fridays, 5:30; Saturdays, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm; weekdays, based on availability.

Deconstructed Noodle Stir Fry/Salad

carrie

Don't be put off by the word "deconstructed." I know that stir fries are fast. But this one takes the idea of a stir fry and breaks it down and reassembles it. I think I made this in about a half an hour, including the time it took for the water to boil and for me to chop the veggies. In fact, it happened so fast, the table wasn't even set by the time dinner was ready, which was okay. This dish tastes good hot, cold, and at room temperature. It doesn't really matter. The kids loved this. Score! This comes together quickly if you follow the directions and carefully plan out the order in which you complete these tasks. Half of successful cooking is thinking things through and planning properly. This recipe started out as a Cold Soba Noodle Salad from Whole Living but then pretty quickly took a turn toward something else once I realized I didn't have a cucumber (ixnay on the salad) and that I wanted the veggies steamed.

soba noodle stir fry
soba noodle stir fry

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces soba noodles
  • 8 ounce boneless chicken breast, preferably organic, cut into chunks
  • 2 sweet bell peppers, seeds and stems removed, sliced  lengthwise
  • 4-6 ounces of yellow (or green) beans, stems removed and sliced in half
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • 2 T. rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Instructions
    1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, add the soba noodles and cook until al dente (about 4 minutes.)
    2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, cut the chicken into small chunks and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T. of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook until the chicken is no longer pink, 6-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
    3. As the chicken cooks and the water boils, chop up your veggies and place them in a steamer basket that will fit over your pot of boiling water. Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette (sesame oil through rice wine vinegar) in a large bowl.
    4. When the noodles are finished, transfer them with a spider or spoon to the bowl with the vinaigrette. Place the steamer insert over your pot, put the lid on it, and steam the veggies for 3-4 minutes until they have brightened in color and are crisp tender.
    5. Toss the noodles in the vinaigrette, which will prevent them from sticking and distribute the flavor quickly. Add the chicken, veggies, and chopped cilantro. Serve with wedges of lime, if desired.
    Serves 4.

Corn and Roasted Tomato Soup, or What to do with All Those Tomatoes

carrie

corn tomato soup
corn tomato soup

I'm going to integrate my blogs eventually, I promise. In the meantime, for those who may have this page on an RSS feed, I wanted to let you know about this awesome soup that I adapted from Cafe Santosha. Sarah Collins makes damn good food. And this uses up all of your tomatoes and corn, and puts a bunch away for the winter. How cool is that? Here's a tease!

Shameless Promotion for My Friend Jason Hook @ H2O Kitchen

carrie

This weekend, my chef friend Jason Hook of H2o Kitchen is doing Cook Philly. Here's the link with more information. And more photos that showcase his artistic eye and his mad cooking skills. He's partnering with Blue Moon Acres and featuring corn. Dinner starts at 7pm. You won't want to miss it! Here's something delicious....

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1009863_704454309569381_394584489_n

Scallop/Littlenecks/Braising Greens/Pickled Corn/Mussel-Fennel Fumet Photo by Jason Hook