Brown Sugar Beer Bread

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Beer bread has become one of my favorite recipes in the past couple months, and it’s my second favorite way of consuming beer. (1. Drinking it, 2. Eating it in bread, 3. Eating it in cheese.) It’s such an easy recipe and the beer lends this quick bread a really wonderful hoppy bite. It wasn’t long before I discovered that the slightly sweet addition of brown sugar is a great complement. It all started with an impulse purchase of Lagunitas Brown Shugga’ beer. I loved the festive name and label, as well as the promise of a sweet finish. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite what I expected so I figured if I’m not going to drink it, why don’t I eat it? And it’s called “Brown Shugga” so why don’t I add brown sugar?!?! Thus, brown sugar beer bread was born. It’s wonderful shortly out of the oven when it’s warm, but it’s just fine with me toasted or warmed in the microwave in the following days. It’s a hoppy, slightly sweet dense bread with a somewhat crunchy exterior. Definitely a winter guilty pleasure–although I’m on a healthy, whole foods kick, I wanted to share this recipe because it’s just so easy to make and very appropriate comfort food for the cold months. (Um, try it with chili and you’ll never be cold again.)

Just a note: you don’t have to use this particular beer. You can use what you have on hand. It comes together in less than 10 minutes (and it’s especially easy using a standing mixer though it’s certainly not required.)

Recipe after the jump!

Continue reading Brown Sugar Beer Bread

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All the Small Things: Pupusas Stuffed w/ Vegan Chorizo & Platanos Maduros

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Sometimes in a small moment, I wonder if I am creating a lasting memory.  I did this upon my first visit to Chicago almost two years ago, standing with my little brother in his first apartment kitchen eating slices of deep dish pizza from around the corner.  I asked myself, will I remember this years from now?

Yesterday I sat at my brother’s table sharing a giant cinnamon bun we got from Whole Foods because the frigid day gave us a craving for one and Ann Sather’s was closed.  We listened to a Nina Simone record and he taught me about Wong Kar Wai’s films and sure enough I turned inward at one point not only to remember that time in the kitchen, but also to wonder if my brain would randomly call upon this current moment sometime in the far future.

Because of this strange self-awareness, I inevitably make memories out of many small moments.  These moments don’t really have much significance.  There’s really no reason for me to remember that the post office clerk yesterday answered my question of “How are you doing today?” with the cool, smooth enthusiasm of an old jazz radio DJ. “I’m supercalifragilistic!” And how he bid me a farewell as if signing off his show. “Have a great day, a great weekend, and a Happy New Year.  I’ll see you on the flip-side.”

There’s no reason for me to remember that on my personal brunch at 3rd Coast Cafe today, while enjoying my coffee and magazines, my thoughts were interrupted by the punching and ringing of an old-fashioned register I hadn’t noticed before.

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These are small moments with little significance, but pausing to ask myself if I will remember them, while makes me an observer of my own life for a second, forces me to appreciate the present.  And appreciation allows me to enjoy laid-back lovely weekends such as this one when I can just do whatever my whims call me to do without the pressure of what a fun weekend for a 20-something is supposed to be–whether that’s buying myself brunch and magazines, or making vegan chorizo and frying up the plantains that are finally ripe enough for maduros.

Because I’m trying to use up what’s in my fridge so I can start fresh for the new year, I had to get creative with dinner.  I fried ripe plantains in a little vegetable oil to make plátanos maduros and afterwards the vegan chorizo I made a couple days ago using Terry Romero‘s recipe from Viva Vegan.  Then I chopped it into smaller pieces and used them to stuff them into pupusas.

Pupusas, a traditional Salvadorean dish, are essentially fat corn tortillas stuffed with various fillings.  They’re simple to make since you just add water to Maseca (which is a maize flour you can usually find in the Latin foods section of the grocery store) until it forms a damp dough that you can shape into patties, stuff with whatever you want, and pan fry.  Shaping them is a little tricky, but this is a good step-by-step tutorial.

I haven’t made them in the traditional Salvadorean way quite yet; I have been opting to fill them with whatever I have on hand–in this case, chorizo and plantains!  Since I didn’t have the customary tomato salsa or slaw (curtido), I opted to blend a couple chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with a little vegan mayonnaise, slather it on top, and garnish them with some extra chorizo and plátanos maduros.

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It wasn’t the healthiest of meals, but it was pretty delicious for an iron-cheffed dinner.  I also made some hot chocolate with a bar of Olive & Sinclair (a Nashville-based artisan chocolate company) for dessert, just to make extra damn certain that I would spend the rest of the night in food coma.  Highly effective.

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Bacon Jam Crescent Rolls

I know what you might be thinking: “Bacon? Again? What’s with this woman?”

But if you’re cool, which you are, you’re probably thinking, “Bacon! Again! I love this woman!”

Now I promise I’m not obsessed. The sound of sizzling bacon doesn’t make me tremble. The smell of sizzling bacon doesn’t make me weak in the knees. Actually, when I’m at home, I usually eat vegetarian or vegan meals. But I saw this recipe for bacon jam on Ezra Poundcake, and I could not resist. I mean it’s JAM made of BACON!!!

Excitedly I told two friends about it, and they had the opposite reaction. Their faces scrunched up as if to say, JAM? Made of BACON?

This only made me more determined. It was even enough to get me out of my self-imposed Saturday morning coma to get some biscuits from Target.

Now Target is a trap. I go in for one specific reason and end up battling the urge to buy things I don’t need, like a donut hole/cake ball pan. True story. Now I’ve never wanted a wedding or thought much about getting married, but as I looked longingly at the kitchen appliances and gadgets, I realized that maybe I do want one someday…because I can register for some epic kitchen swag and get it FO FREE. Then I realized that it’s not really FO FREE because I have to pay for the wedding. Touché, frugality. Touché.

Anyway, Target did not have biscuits, and the thought of bacon jam hadn’t empowered me enough to make them from scratch, so I saw the crescent rolls and thought, why not?

I followed the recipe for bacon jam on Ezra Poundcake with no variations. And she’s right, it does smell pretty bad at first, but when it’s done, it mellows out and the flavors intensify. I won’t go into detail because I can’t do a better job describing it than she did. Much, much later I spread some on the crescent roll triangles, rolled up those suckers, and popped them in the oven. Easy.

I felt a little Sandra Lee using one of those tubes of pre-made dough, but whatever…call me Sandra Lee if you dare, because it was good. Buttery and bacon-y, and really, what could be better? These could be a great addition to a brunch menu, and quite simple if the bacon jam has already been made. All they need is a tall glass of orange juice, some scrambled eggs, and hash browns. Next time.

Edit: These also taste fabulous when you come home from dancing at 2 in the morning. :)

Happy Holidays

“Ms. B, I think you’re as excited as we are about Christmas break…”
As one of my students very astutely observed, teachers are just as excited, if not more excited, about breaks.  The three weeks between Thanksgiving break and Christmas break is an agonizing time, but I got through it and now I am eating bon bons in my new pajamas.
One of the obvious reasons I love the holidays is the copious amounts of delicious food.  The leftovers tend to linger around the fridge for a week, but I decided to save the leftover yuca to make some frituras de yuca, or yuca fritters.
Yuca is a root with a similar taste and texture to potato.  A traditional way to cook it is boiling it and making a mojo sauce (garlic, onion, and other seasoning) to go over it.  I used the leftover yuca from Christmas Eve (Nochebuena) Dinner to make fritters.
I didn’t need to use much seasoning since the yuca already had the mojo.  First I reheated it in the microwave to make it easier to smash.  After smashing it I added some chopped leftover Christmas ham, sea salt, black pepper, paprika, dried parsely, 1/4 tsp baking powder, and 2 beaten eggs.  I mixed and mashed it all together while I had about an inch of vegetable oil heating up in a deep saucepan for frying.
Once it was well mixed and the oil was hot, I shaped the batter into small little patties and fried them in the oil until they were golden on both sides.  I took them out of the oil with a slotted spoon and placed them on a plate lined with paper towels.  Finally, I sprinkled them with a little sea salt.  I really wish I would have had some lime juice to sprinkle on top but we didn’t have limes.
The result was a fluffy, crispy fritter.  I served them to my family and they really enjoyed them.  I had felt like making something because I had been leafing through my Christmas present How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman and felt inspired to cook.  I didn’t do much cooking for the Christmas dinner but I did make my flan.  I hadn’t made it in a couple years so I was a little worried but it turned out just fine. : )

Lentil Soup and Tostones

Mother Nature is going to make me fat if she keeps this kind of weather up.  It’s a good thing I’ve been dragging myself to the gym on a semiregular basis.  Anyway, today I actually had a hard time figuring out what I wanted for dinner.   I was actually craving ramen, but then my roommates started talking about tapeworms so…yeah.  I figured I better start cooking something or I’d starve.  I ended up doing a spicy lentil, broccoli, and mushroom soup.  Unfortunately I had no stock so it could have been so much better but it was warm, spicy, good and filling so it did the trick.

I fried some tostones (again).  That’s pretty much no fail; and delicious.  All you need are green plantains, canola oil, and salt.  Warm up some oil in a frying pan medium-high heat (enough to reach halfway up the plantain slices).  Cut green plantains in about one inch thick slices.  (They have to be green.)  Put them in the oil to fry, flipping them over to get them golden on both sides.  Next you’ll want to take them out of the oil and find something to crush them down with.  There are special tools for this but I just used the bottom of a bowl.  Once you’ve squashed them, put them in the oil to fry again until nice and crispy.  Place on paper towels to absorb some of the oil and sprinkle with salt.  Dee-lish.