Monday, October 27, 2008

Bluegrass and Brews fest!

Erin and I recently (and by recent I literally mean this past weekend) signed for a new apartment. We are really excited about the move and what makes it even more exciting is one of our favorite discoveries since moving back to New England is located just five mins. away.

This past weekend they held a bluegrass and brews festival. Although they are are winery they also have a micro-brewery as well. We tasted some of their beer earlier this summer when we discovered the place and we vowed to make it back for this festival. It did not disappoint. I thought it was only appropriate with all the beer tasting we have been doing to add this to the blog!
When we came for the winery tour we were also offered taste of their beers for free!
Um..yes please!!! Erin strongly remembered like their Wattaquadock Wheat and I of course wanted to sample their seasonal brew, Oakotberfest! The darker of the two is the Oakotberfest. I really loved how light it was for being such an ambered colored beer. They were both really really good!
We went back for 2nds and decided to get another Wheat and a Bolt 117 Lager this time. I made erin drink most of these because I was driving! (that's my oakotberfest on the far left still not finished...I milked it!)
The day was amazing! The weather was warm but crisp and although I never thought I would like Bluegrass music it completely fit with the crowd and vibe of the festival. Erin and I were able to snag a great tall table on the winery porch which made for great people watching. I can't wait for more of their festivals!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Third Round of Pumpkin beer tasting...

So for our third pumpkin beer tasting (1st-Shipyard Pumpkin, 2nd-Smuttynose Pumpkin) we decided to try DogFish Pumpkin Ale. I have been wanting to try Pumking (brewed by Southern Tier Brewing Company,) for the longest time because I have heard great things about it...sadly our local amazing liquor store is always out!! (I guess that just proves how amazing it is).
There are so many seasonal/pumpkin beers to choose from that i assume not all of them are as tasty as the rest. One of our trips to the store a gentlemen felt highly compelled to let us know that DogFish Pumpkin was "the best pumpkin beer out there". We were familiar with this one as I often saw it in NYC on trips to WholeFoods. It comes in a four-pack and typically runs the same price as six-packs...hence why we normally skipped over that selection. Needless to say after attempting to find Pumking again, and failing, we opted to try the DogFish. (the picture is quite literal to that sentance!) I wasn't a huge fan (although obviously in the picture I am fine taking a big gulp :). It was good, and definitely had spice in it, but more of a fall spice than a pumpkin flavor. Erin agreed. She liked it as well but thought it was a bit "heavier" than some of the previous tries.

We drink our fair share of beer and always love to try new ones! I also believe "to each his own". what may taste like pumpkin to me may taste like fall foliage to erin...who knows.
Honestly...keep your fingers crossed we get to try pumking soon! Even BeerAdvocate rated it #1 pumpkin beer, who can argue with a beer advocate? :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Butternut Bowties (or spirals) with a side of Pumpkin Cookie

So on my lovely Columbus Monday off I was lying in bed catching some Rachael ray and she featured a recipe called Butternut Bowties! I love her recipes because they are rather simple to create and always have alot of possible substitutions should someone be looking to cut down on calories and fat. On top of that she toted this one as a "healthy mac n cheese" alternative, and i love me some mac and cheese! Erin was even up to try it so I thought it was a must make.

I still had two butternut squashes leftover from our apple picking trip and I needed to do something quick with them before they rot! (funny fact: i read that squash can stay good for up to three weeks in a dark space...not so much for these ones I suppose. they already have a few questionable spots on them...). Since roasting the squash can take awhile I opted to do that on Monday morning and then have the squash puree needed for the recipe for whatever day of the week we wanted. It baked while I went running! When I returned i took it out and the skin peeled right off nicely. Prep work done.

Here is the recipe: Butternut Bowties

You can follow that link to see exactly how Rachael puts everything together. I wanted to list the ingredients so that I could offer my substitutions:

1 butternut squash, halved and seeds removed
1 tablespoon EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil (skipped, just used cooking spray)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 box of bowtie pasta (I used whole wheat spirals)
2 tablespoons butter (nope)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I switched to Fat Free Chicken broth which was a tip Rachael gave during the show)
A pinch of nutmeg
A pinch of cinnamon
5 to 6 sage leaves, thinly sliced (i only had dried on hand)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (I used fat free cheese...more on that below)
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano (i used shaker parm, not as good but ALOT cheaper :)
A handful toasted almonds, to garnish (optional)
(omitted, although I would probably love that)

Now a few words on my prep...I made the casserole ahead of time so that I could just pop it into the oven before we wanted to have dinner. It made a huge pan of pasta and I also added fresh broccoli to the dish to bulk it up (not that it needed it). I love fresh veggies so this was a no brainer. I think you could have add alot of different options.

So...sometimes I go a bit overboard with the substitutions and things just don't quite work out. In this case it was the cheese. Let me start by saying I really liked the dish, but the cheese didn't really melt that well which happens when the their is no fat!! I put the casserole in the oven for about twenty mins and when I checked on it the cheese looked as solid as can be! Another fifteen mins and when I took it out i realized that it was cooked through, the cheese just didn't melt all that well. Erin still said it was good but we both agreed that adding regular cheese would definitely make a difference!

Moving on to the dessert of pumpkin cookies. I made these last year after finding them on Eating Well. They are so moist and a mix of cookie/muffin consistency. I omit the oil and use applesauce and I would definitely recommend using the cake flour I think it makes a difference. Also I added the raisins but you could of course leave those out or add other things instead (cranberries, nuts: all sorts!). I used a tablespoon when scooping these to see if the recipe really made 3 1/2 dozen did! exactly 42! They are little so feel free to indulge in several (erin and I did)!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Apple picking, autumn harvest and the first apple pie

Since October is such a short month i have already booked every weekend to maximize all that New England has to offer in the fall! I am sure you can you tell that I love apples?!! So Erin found this amazing apple picking farm call Honey Pot Orchards. It was a "must visit" on our To Do list for October. It was such a nice brisk fall day, sun shining and perfect for some apple picking fun. This farm also had homemade cider donuts, cider, pumpkin patches, animals (erin's favorite feature), hedge maze (that was actually quite tricky) and apple picking! We concluded our day picking apples because we knew that we wouldn't want to truck that bag around the farm. I also picked up some squash varieties to use later on in cooking.(i love squash as much as I love apples).
As soon as we got home I quickly took a little photo of our autumn harvest buys:
Those apples of course just represent two of the many in our bag!

Although I am known to cook healthy and substitute all fat out of my recipes, there are some that I just don't think I could bring myself to change...i.e. my mom's Apple Pie. Now I call it my mom's because growing up she is the one person who always made the apple pie at any function that called for it! Her pie crust is famous in my family...I kid you not! My mom can do alot of things well, and this is just one more on the list. This is one of the recipes, for whatever reason, that my mom and I now make together. I must say though I have yet to put out a crust that I think even comes close to looks and taste! She literally makes pies that should be shown in a magazine...mine...well you will see below :)!

Although I will always consider it my mom's recipe, some may also call it Betty Crockers Recipe. Whatever. I don't really have to follow the book anymore I pretty much know how its done. I went to work peeling, slicing, cinnamon and sugaring the apples...then the difficult crust. It always starts out so promising, and everyone has their own tricks they use, but it just seems I can't quite get it right. The dough always seems to split, or stick to the counter if I don't use enough flour. Ah my mom says it taste the same going down!

One pointer that she sticks to is to try and not restart rolling alot. The more you handle it the easier it is to start crumbling or splitting.

Here's mine from pre-bake to cooked: (marked with an E for...erin of course!)

Do you like my piece it together edge there?

Now for one pointer of my own (also given to me by my mother :) If you can't do the fun wavy crust like the pros then you can cover the edge of your pie with tin foil until about 10-15 mins. are left to cook. That way the thinnest part of the crust doesn't burn and it all stays golden brown.

It was good going matter what it looked like.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Oh My, Healthy Apple...Cobbler

So, I love apples. i love apple crisp.i love hungry girl. i love fiber one. So, after getting the recipe for HG Apple Cobbler. (And after going apple picking and needing a few ideas to use up those apples) I dove right into trying out this yummy sounding desert. The email challenged anyone who normally didn't like Fiber One to try out this recipe and ensured a change of heart. Since I already heart Fiber One I thought this was a no lose trial!

I think part of the reason I so love apple cobbler is the topping, because it's always so oaty and crunchy and just delicious. I quickly noticed that there was not any oats in this recipe so of course I threw some in on my own! I will say that the serving size was quite large (a 1/4 of that pan!) and there was alot of topping to go around...however the consistancy of the crumble didn't totally impress me :(. I liked the flavor (very healthy as erin would put it), but it just wasn't the same crunchy, oaty goodness that I come to expect from Apple Crisp.

All in all I must say that its a great swap if you are looking to have a really really large portion of desert and keep it super low cal/low fat. I also put it with a bit of Fat free frozen yogurt the next night (i obviously liked it enough to have 2nds...) and that really spruced it up for me! I threw it in the microwave for 15 secs. and then put a few scoops of vanilla FF frozen yogurt on top, and mixed. That was really really tasty.

The 2nd round definitely made me rethink making it a 2nd time!

Pizza Pie and Pumpkin brew

Erin and I love to watch travel shows and the food network and often times the travel shows include food too! We were watching a show last night and Bon Appetit magazine was listing the best bar food in the country. One of the items that constantly made an appearance was of course Pizza! In my perusal of Trader Joe's I had come across 99cent whole wheat pizza dough, how can you beat that. Erin and I also have very different taste when it comes to pizza, so making our own personal pies is always a great option.

I have lofty ideas to make a goat cheese/fig pizza but I ended up just picking up a can of artichokes hearts (which erin and I both are HUGE fans of) and I knew I had some shallots that needed to be used up, and also some homemade pesto that was on its last leg. I opted to make a pesto/shallot and artichoke pizza with a sprinkle of Fat free Parmesan cheese and a few lone peppers. Erin decided to use up some monterey jack cheese/pesto and artichoke hearts on hers.

My oh my how homemade pizza fills a void in someone!
The pizza was delish! I think pizza can be such comfort food and can take on so many different forms depending on your taste.
Since the travel show was about bars we of course had to partake in our favorite fall beer as well! We live near an amazing package store (this is what they are called in MA because they don't sell beer in a grocery store like NY) and it offers so many local breweries and interesting beers. Erin and I have decided to try and taste all the pumpkin/fall beers and determine our favorites. The two we tried that night were Shipyard Pumpkin Ale and Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale. They were both great and different. I started with the Smuttynose but switched with erin for the Shipyard. I guess it depends on your mood. (erin said she was secretly hoping we would switch). I can't wait to go back and try some of the other ones as well.
Fall is here. Fall food is amazing...not to mention the fall beer. Get ready for some fun posts (if I can stay sober :)