beer goodness

Sean and I like beer. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Yesterday, we went to a beer fest called Beat The Heat Winter Beer Fest with a couple of our friends. It was held up in Scottsdale and had many of the high end craft brewers at it. I was pretty impressed with the brewers and the selection that each brewer brought. One thing that the local brewers had over the brewers from further away was that the local brewers had people there that were knowledgeable about their beers so they were able to talk to you about them, which was great for Sean and me because we want to learn about them. The brewers from further away, like Vermont and Minnesota, only had volunteers serving their beers, so you couldn’t really get any information about them. Just means one of these days Sean and I will have to get out to their breweries. So, here’s a rundown of the beers that we sampled last night:

Deschutes Brewery
Hop In The Dark – Cascadian Dark Ale (think black ale meets an IPA)
Twilight – Summer Ale
Green Lakes (Organic) – Amber Ale

Samuel Adams Brewery
Octoberfest – Seasonal Amber Ale
Cherry Wheat – Wheat Ale with tart cherry
Coastal Wheat – Wheat Ale with lemon

Unertl Brewery
Muhldorfer – Weissbier

SanTan Brewery
Epicenter – Amber Ale

Telegraph Brewery
Stock Porter
Reserve Wheat – Wheat ale brewed with sour wild yeasts

Rock Art Brewery
Vermonster – American Barley Wine

Old World Brewery
Dark Ale

Odell Brewing Co
St Lupulin – Extra Pale Ale

Dogfish Head Brewery
World Wide Stout – Limited Release Stout
Raison d’Etre – Belgian-style Brown Ale
Indian Brown Ale
Palo Santo Marron – Aged Brown Ale

Full Sail Brewery
LTD2 – Limited Edition Lager
Double Barrel Pale Ale

Firestone Walker Brewery
Humboldt Brown Hemp Ale

Grand Teton Brewery

Bitch Creek ESB

Coronado Brewery
Mermaid’s Red Ale

Grand Canyon Brewery
Sunset Amber Ale


weekly menu – august 15, 2010

Oops! Guess I forgot to post our menu last week. The week kind of got away from me and next thing I knew it was the weekend! Let’s give that a try again. I will admit that this past week was a bit chaotic. With Sean working 2nd shift, if I get called into the office at night, making dinner at home goes out the door very quickly. If anyone has suggestions beyond what I resorted to, let me know! I’m always open for healthy last minute places to get food from.

Monday – Wildflower Bread Company
So, we’re in the middle of testing at work and one of the other Systems engineers and I are splitting up evening shifts to analyze testing. We just didn’t plan out the week until Monday afternoon. So, after an early yoga class, I grabbed the Grilled Cheese Sandwich from Wildflower Bread Company and brought it back to the office to eat while analyzing data. This sandwich is heavenly. It’s a grilled sandwich with cheddar, swiss and fontina cheeses along with arugula and tomatoes. They serve it up with their chips which are the combination of potato and sweet potato chips. I really only like the sweet potato chips in their mix, so it’s not too bad. I know, I know, not the healthiest meal, but it holds up to not being eaten until I can get back into the office and it’s filling.

Tuesday – Shrimp and Spicy Black Eyed Peas
This is a super simple and wonderfully flavorful meal that Sean found once. I found it again while flipping through our recipe book and had to have it again. The recipe comes from The black-eyed peas are from a can, so it’s quick to cook up. The recipe makes enough for 4.

Wednesday – Skirt Steak Dinner Salad
I’m sure you guys really do wonder how we don’t get tired of salads. I don’t understand it either, but it’s such a wonderful healthy staple in our diet. This week I took a skirt steak that we had gotten from our farmers market along with some romaine lettuce, snap peas, red bell pepper and cucumber. The skirt steak was seasoned with Savory’s Mt. Massive Steak Seasoning and seared on my indoor grill pan (I was too lazy to start up the charcoal grill outside). I cut all of my veggies into large chunks and voila! Delicious dinner salad!

Thursday – Whole Foods To Go
So, for anyone in the engineering world, schedules don’t go as planned. This was yet another night of me having to go back into the office. I didn’t want to go back to Wildflower Bread Company. There’s a Whole Foods Market on my way back to the office, so I stopped there since they’ve got a lot of quick options for food that are ready made. I wound up choosing a potstickers and udon noodle salad combo. All I had to do was reheat it in the microwave and it was ready. Not too bad. Obviously not as good as fresh made potstickers, but after an intense yoga class all I cared about was getting some protein into me that didn’t consist of a burger.

Friday – Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
This was an off Friday for me, so Sean and I used it to run errands, which resulted in a big lunch out. I had originally planned on doing the personal pizzas this night, but we had pizza at a great restaurant in downtown Tempe called La Bocca, so we swapped meals around. There wasn’t anything fancy about these sandwiches, just Italian bread from Breadsmith and cheddar cheese from Tillamook.

Saturday – Personal Pizzas
I’ve made homemade pizza dough in the past and it’s usually worth it, but we had a potluck for lunch earlier in the day and after that plus more errands (weekends and off Fridays are the only time for Sean and me to run errands together, so weekends are always busy for us) there wasn’t time for homemade pizza dough. Whole Foods to the rescue again! They make up pizza dough so that all I have to do is let it come up to room temperature and it’s ready to be shaped and baked. We parbake our crust before putting toppings onto it. The crust comes out less soggy as a result, which we’re always for. Saturday’s pizzas consisted of salami, olives, bell peppers, mushrooms and mozzarella cheese. Perfecto!

Sunday – Barbecued Chicken with Veggie Stir Fry
We took chicken leg quarters grilled them with some of Sean’s barbecue rub on them. Nothing fancy. The family barbecue sauce was applied at the table to taste. For the veggie stir fry, I raided the fridge for all of the week old veggies (zucchini, bok choy and scallions) and stir fried them until just done. Sometimes the simplest meals are the best.

weekly menu – 8/2/10

Can you believe it’s already August?! I can’t. Eight months of the year are gone. Phoenix is currently in the midst of what some call summer. I call it hell on earth. Anyway… this post isn’t about horrible summer temperatures. This is about food! My favorite topic. Specifically, this is about Sean’s and my weekly menu from this past week. So without further ado…

Monday – Chicken Quesadillas
So, remember how I was talking last week about how Sean’s on second shift now and how I’ve got to put meals together even on my nights when I get home from yoga at 8pm? Welcome to another one of my super quick meals that I love to fix, quesadillas! There is absolutely nothing fancy about these guys.
I cut up whatever meat I’m putting into them into relatively small chunks and season it with Penzey’s Fajita Seasoning. I then slice up and saute an onion and bell pepper with a little salt and black pepper. Once the veggies are sauteed, I put them aside in a bowl and saute the chicken until well cooked. Setting that aside, I clean out my pan and drop the temperature on the stove down to medium low.
To actually assemble the quesadilla, I put a little olive oil into the bottom of my skillet. After that’s heated up a little bit, I put a burrito-sized tortilla into the skillet and rub it around so that the olive oil gets distributed across the bottom of the tortilla. Cheese goes on to half of the tortilla (it will get folded over later) first as a binder. I like a combination of Tillamook cheddar and pepper jack cheeses, although whatever standard cheese you have on hand will work. Then, a layer of peppers and onions followed by a layer of the chicken go on. Finally, sprinkle a little more cheese on the top to hold the quesadilla together and fold the tortilla in half. Let the quesadilla brown a little bit, flipping once so that both sides get a chance to brown. Remove to a cutting board and cut into thirds. Serve up with a little sour cream and salsa and you’re good to go. This takes me about 20 minutes to prep up and have ready at the table.

Tuesday – Skillet Lasagna
This is a recipe that Sean and I discovered on America’s Test Kitchen several years ago when we still had cable. This is a great TV show on PBS done by the same people who write Cooks Illustrated, which is also a phenomenal cooking magazine. Unfortunately, this recipe is now only available on their website if you have a super-duper premium subscription. I have a subscription and don’t mind paying for it with how often I use their site to find a recipe, but I do mind all of a sudden making some recipes “premium” and even paying customers have to pay more. So, here’s another location that you can find this recipe from. The dish is super simple, takes about 30 minutes to make and easily serves 4 (which for Sean and me means at least 2 leftover meals).

Wednesday – Shrimp and Rosemary Bacon Grits
Mmmm…. Comfort food. Even better, this is quick comfort food. I love grits. I know that everyone from the South doesn’t necessarily like them, but I love them. I always have. I love how my great-aunt would make grits with milk so that they would taste creamier. I take it one step further now and make them with milk and then add cheese to make cheese grits. This meal, though, is an enhancement on one that Sean found a little while back. The recipe is for the Rosemary Bacon Grits. I take it one step further and season up some shrimp with Savory’s Creole Seasoning and then saute them up and put them on top of the grits. Life just doesn’t get better (well, maybe a glass of strong sweet tea could make it better).

Thursday – Omelette
I don’t think I can say this enough, omelettes are not a breakfast item. At least they aren’t in my house. Omelettes are a great way to use up leftover foods in your fridge. I pull out whatever veggies are about to go bad, dice them up and then saute them. Reheat a meat leftover from a previous meal and then toss all of that in an omelette with whatever cheese I have on hand. This week’s was leftover chicken and peppers and onions from Monday’s quesadillas. There was also some spinach that was about to go bad, so that got cooked up. I finished it off with cheddar and cotija (a crumbly Mexican cheese that’s kind of like feta) cheeses.

Friday – Chicken Pot Pie
I love chicken pot pie. I do not, though, love the pot pies of today where the “crust” is a piece of puff pastry placed on the top of the pie. I’m old fashioned. I want a true pie with a nice flaky crust wrapped around the creamy filling. I start off with Joy of Cooking’s flour paste pie crust. Half of this gets rolled out to be my bottom crust and the other half is saved for the top. The bottom crust is blind baked and then allowed to cool while I prep the filling. I use this recipe from Bon Appetit for the filling. Once the filling’s in the crust, I roll out the top of the dough, crimp and seal and the pie’s in the oven until the top is nice and golden.

One thing that I like to do with this recipe is split this recipe across 4 medium sized ramekins that I have. It essentially creates little mini pies that are easier to serve up. These take a bit more time to do, but they also are a nice presentation for chicken pot pie.

Saturday – Metro Brasserie
Sean found a Groupon for a winery up in Scottsdale. It was two wine flights (5 tastings) and an appetizer for some ridiculously good price. We decided to forgot whatever my original plan for this day was (I think it was Polenta Gratin) and instead have a nice evening out. We had some nice wines at Su Vino Winery in the Old Town Scottsdale area and afterward decided to finally try a restaurant that I’d read good reviews on called Metro Brasserie. The restaurant is meant to make you feel like you’re in France at a local little brasserie. Not having been to France, I can’t vouch for that part, but it was a very nice atmosphere. Our waitress was very friendly. We chose a special that they offer. Dinner for Two for $42. What does that entail? 500mL of your choice of their house red or white wine, a choice of beef burgundy or cassoulet as your entree and then 6 beignets for dessert. We chose the house red and the beef burgundy. The wine was pleasant. Not too strong, but nothing weak and worthless to drink either. The beef burgundy was served in a cast iron pot with large chunks of meat that had been braised to perfection and then served with braised onions, carrots, potatoes and turnips. This is twice now that I’ve found a recipe where I will gladly eat a turnip. They were delicious. The whole dish was delicious. I only stopped because I knew I had to save at least a small amount of room in my stomach for dessert. I was glad I did. These beignets were tender rounds of dough fried to perfection, filled with a vanilla cream and rolled in confectioner’s sugar. They were served along with three sauces, Nutella sauce, a creme anglaise and raspberry coulis. Sean and I were both in heaven. Our waitress was kind enough to offer that if we couldn’t finish them ourselves that she would be glad to finish them for us. I think Sean almost growled at her. Definitely a restaurant we will return to.

Sunday – Salsa Verde Braised Pork
Sunday “dinners” for us have become just a late lunch. This way, Sean gets a nice freshly prepared meal before heading off to work for the evening. It also means I’m not preparing anything fancy just to be consumed fresh by me. This recipe is super simple and while it takes about 3 hours to cook, you spend about 5 minutes in the kitchen. The rest of the time, it just sits and braises away on the stove top. We serve this with tortillas, cotijo cheese, freshly chopped cilantro and sour cream. Sean even admits that this competes with his smoked pork shoulder that he prepares.

A note for anyone who wants to try this. The recipe calls for a 3.5 pound pork butt. The smallest I ever see in the grocery is between 7 – 8 pounds. If you ask your grocer, though, they’re usually very nice about cutting a pork butt in half. Take both halves home and freeze the part you don’t need for another use (like trying this recipe again).

I hope you guys are once more inspired to try some new recipes at home!

weekly menu – 7/26/2010

I’m going to try something new with the weekly menu. Instead of posting what we’re planning on having, I’m going to post what we had the past week. Since we try to experiment with new recipes, this gives me a chance to pass along any ideas on the new recipes.

Monday – Turkey, Brie & Arugula Paninis

Paninis are a great way to jazz up the standard sandwich. Turkey, brie and arugula is a combination that we tried recently with another recipe and fell in love with. Super simple and yet delicious. We served this with some chips and that’s it. Not totally balanced, but it’s a quick, simple and delicious meal.

Tuesday – Chicken Broccoli Ziti Skillet
This is an old standby recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. Everything is cooked in a single skillet which keeps this an easy meal to clean up after. The dish also gives us leftovers for lunches.

Wednesday – Salmon BLTs
Well, we would have had salmon BLTs if our power hadn’t gone out right as Sean was starting to cook the salmon filets. We settled for BLTs with pesto mayo. Still very tasty sandwiches and after the power came back on we still cooked up the salmon for leftovers.

Thursday – Date Night
Every once in a while one of our favorite local microbreweries does a special half-barrel tap. This was one of those nights, so we planned happy hour at Sleepy Dog Brewery. After sampling a tasty beer, we also tried an Indian restaurant called Royal Taj. Sean had to convince me to go in because it was dead when we got there, but the food was quite tasty and the service was quick, so we’ll definitely be trying that place again.

Friday – Arrive Derci
We had made plans to introduce friends to our favorite local Italian restaurant. Arrive Derci is this small Italian restaurant where all of the waiters are awesome and the food is always delicious. If you’re ever in Phoenix it’s definitely on our top 5 list of places to try.

Saturday – Prosciutto Arugula Risotto
One of our wedding gifts was a set of Williams-Sonoma cookbooks. One of those cookbooks is for risotto and has a collection of rather good recipes. This was one we hadn’t tried yet. The risotto is really just a basic recipe cooked with chicken stock. The serving bowl is lined with prosciutto and then arugula and parmesan shavings are added to the top of the risotto once it’s served. The heat from the risotto cooks the prosciutto just a bit and also wilts the arugula. Nice flavor combination although the prosciutto was a little hard to cut through. Another option would be to fry up bits of prosciutto and sprinkle on top of the risotto with the arugula.

Sunday – Ribeye Steak Dinner Salad
You didn’t really think that we would get through a whole week without a dinner salad did you? Sean grilled a couple of ribeye steaks that were just seasoned with Butcher’s Rub from Savory Spice Shop. These topped a salad of arugula, spinach and Bibb lettuce with tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumbers and croutons. It was a nicely well rounded salad with a bit of a splurge topping it with thinly sliced ribeye steak.

Hope this inspires you to cook one more meal at home this week!