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Archive for September, 2012

It’s back!  The first guide we ever undertook for the blog — way back in October 2010 — was our Oktoberfest beer review. We covered a few local beers, some national brews and even an import or two. This year we decided to try a few more Oktoberfests on the market, because who doesn’t want a second round? Prost!

*Note: Our rating system is out of five stars.

Two Brothers Atom Smasher

Two Brothers Atom Smasher

(7.7% alc. by volume)

The Atom Smasher is Two Brothers’ Oktoberfest-style lager. This was the first Oktoberfest beer I had of the season this year. I’m not sure how far the reach is for this brewery, as it’s a local product from Warrenville, Ill. What differs it from the competition? It’s aged in French oak foudres, which are historically used for fermenting and aging beer and wine.

Impressions: This was certainly a pretty smooth Oktoberfest, and pleasantly average. What do I mean by that? I like my Oktoberfests to snap a little more than this did, but it was very easy to put down. I tasted a bit of honey and maybe something along the lines of oak.

Rating: ★★★

— Sarah

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Yuengling Oktoberfest

Yuengling Oktoberfest

(5.4% alc. by volume)

Yuengling’s Oktoberfest is a newbie to the Oktoberfest beer market. It was introduced in 2011. Lucky for me, Yuengling is distributed in Virginia (and a handful of other states, not Illinois. Sorry, Sarah).

Impressions: This was pretty thin for a Märzen-style beer. The flavor was pretty standard, too, with some soft caramel and yeast fragrances. I also found this beer to be a bit sweet, which didn’t bother me.

Rating: ★★★

— Caitlin

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Great Lakes Oktoberfest

Great Lakes Oktoberfest

(6.5% alc. by volume)

Let me start this by saying that somehow we got this all backwards because Caitlin’s from Ohio and I’m from Pennsylvania and she got to drink Yuengling and I, instead, had Great Lakes. What added salt to the wound was seeing Brown’s gear in a picture online of this Cleveland-based brew. So sad.

Impressions: I really enjoyed this and I’ve never found a Great Lakes beer I actually like. You got me, Cleveland! This Oktoberfest (which I also enjoyed on tap) had the crispness I love in a Märzen-style beer. It had a caramel-y, spicy flavor that went great with my cold roast beef sandwich.

Rating: ★★★★

— Sarah

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St. George Brewing Company Oktoberfest

St. George Brewing Company Oktoberfest

(6% alc. by volume)

The St. George Brewing Company is located in Hampton, Va., about four hours from where I live. After trying this beer and deeming it to be my favorite of the Oktoberfest bunch, I’m sad to report that St. George’s beer is only distributed in Virginia and North Carolina.

Impressions: I wasn’t prepared to like this beer so much. It was the last bottle I added to my pick-your-own six-pack. Frankly, I though the label was a little corny. But I took the risk and ended up loving this beer! It poured with a nice thick head and maintained a  sparkly carbonation. I picked up on flavors brown sugar and caramel with just a tinge of bitter hops. Overall, this was a nice, crisp Oktoberfest.

Rating: ★★★★

— Caitlin

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Victory Festbier

Victory Festbier

(5.6% alc. by volume)

I tried Victory’s Summer Love Ale a few months ago, admittedly because I thought the label was cool. This label, on the other hand, I absolutely hate. Had I not been looking specifically for Oktoberfests, I never would have picked this up in a million years. It looks like beer for children.

Impressions: This Philadelphia brewery’s Oktoberfest-style beer fell a bit flat for me (I hadn’t been a fan of its summer ale, either). Definitely the caramel-style notes you look for in a fall beer, but instead of a fuller grain or oak-y flavor, it ended on sort of a green grass note. Certainly not a bad beer at all, but the fact that neither the label nor the taste was impressive made it lose points in my book.

Rating: ★★.5

— Sarah

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Paulaner Oktoberfest Maizen

Paulaner Oktoberfest Maizen

(6% alc. by volume)

Haha. I love the label on this one: rows of women in skirts carrying fistfuls of beer mugs. This is definitely a German beer, and it’s brewed in Munich. Once just a seasonal beer, this Oktoberfest can now be enjoyed year-round.

Impressions: Where the St. George’s Oktoberfest was sparkly and crisp, Paulaner’s is dark and heavy with earthy flavors of nuts, grass and wheat. It’s heavy on the malt taste and left me feeling full.

Rating: ★★

— Caitlin

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Capital Brewery Oktoberfest

Capital Brewery Oktoberfest

(5.5% alc. by volume)

I’d never even heard of Capital Brewery before I picked this beer up. I’ll admit it was sort of a random grab and I almost passed it up entirely. I’m always hearing good things about a lot of Wisconsin breweries, so I figured this was my chance!

Impressions: Another unbelievably average Oktoberfest. This was definitely the first of the bunch where I picked up on the fruity flavors the most (I would definitely say apple). But it wasn’t a very robust flavor profile, and I noticed that I was sipping it almost robotically instead of truly enjoying it. I also realized what was missing most from my Oktoberfest picks this year: No imports. I think my grand lesson is to pick an imported Oktoberfest brew if you have the option!

Rating: ★★.5

— Sarah

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BONUS: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

(7% alc. by volume)

This isn’t an Oktoberfest-style brew, but it’s seasonal, no doubt. True to the description on the label, this brown ale is brewed with pumpkin meat, brown sugar and spices. Dogfish Head is widely available in the U.S. To see if it’s available in your area, consult this distribution list.

Impressions: Everything you need to know about the taste of this pumpkin ale is on the label. It’s got all of the flavors of pumpkin pie: cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, almond and just a touch of yeast. The taste is very smooth and somewhat sweet. This is autumn in a bottle. Delicious!

Rating: ★★★★

— Caitlin

(–% alc. by volume)

Any interesting facts about the beer. Location of brewery, appearance of label if it stands out, etc.

Impressions: appearance, taste. Did you eat anything while you drank the beer? What foods do you think it’d work well with?

Rating: ★★★/5 (copy and paste those stars, they’re not available in wordpress I grabbed it out of microsoft word)

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by Sarah Steimer

I didn’t plan on doing a third PB&J recipe for the guide, but I got an urge to make scones over the weekend and this recipe popped up. I had everything I needed so I figured, why not? These scones were by no means too dry, either, and I think the peanut butter helped with that.

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into small cubes
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (I used natural)
  • 2 tablespoons milk, plus more for finishing
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 – 2/3 cup jam or jelly
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • few tablespoons oats (optional)
  • few tablespoons flaxseed (optional)

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter cubes and mix with your hands until the mixture looks sandy. Mix the peanut butter in with your hands as well. Add the milk and yogurt. The dough should be soft but sticky, and you may need to add more milk as you go if the mixture is too dry.

Place the dough on a lightly floured Silpat or sheet of parchment paper and form into an 11-by-9-inch rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick. Spread the jam over the dough and sprinkle with the chocolate chips. Fold one long side of the dough toward the center, then fold the opposite side over that to form three layers, in the same way you would fold a business letter.

Press lightly on the top of the dough to seal it. Slide the dough, still on the Silpat or parchment paper, directly onto a baking sheet.

Brush the top of the dough with milk and (if using) sprinkle with oats and flaxseed.

Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden.

Once the scones have cooled, cut into either squares or triangles.

Makes about 8-10 individual scones.

Recipe adapted from: Bob Vivant

Dynamic Duo is our nod to the sandwich staple during the back-to-school season of September. Click here for all of our alternative PB&J uses.

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by Caitlin Saniga

These wontons are super-sweet, so instead of filling them with just jelly, I added a raspberry to each to add natural sweetness.

  • 12 round wonton wrappers
  • about 1/3 cup berry jelly (Raspberry, blackberry or strawberry will do.)
  • 12 small raspberries
  • vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter

If you have leftover peanut butter sauce, save it and use it on ice cream or waffles!

Lay out the wonton wrappers on a clean, dry surface. Add about 1 teaspoon jelly and a raspberry to the center of each wrapper. Wet your fingertip and run it along the edge of each circle. Fold each circle and half and press the edges to seal. Use more water if necessary. Next, create 4 small folds along the edge of each wrapper, and use wet fingertips to reinforce each fold. Set the wontons aside.

Pour vegetable oil into a large pan so that it’s about 1/2 inch thick. Place the pan over medium heat and heat the oil until it’s hot, about 5 minutes. In the meantime, prepare a cooling rack by covering it with paper towels.

To check whether the oil is hot enough, you can carefully flick a few drops of water at the oil. If they sizzle and pop immediately, the oil’s ready.

Add 6 of the wontons to the pan, and allow them to cook until they bubble up and turn-golden brown on the bottoms, no more than 20 seconds. Flip the wontons and cook for no more than 20 seconds longer. Using a pair of metal tongs, transfer the wontons to the cooling racks. Repeat these steps to finish the wontons.

To prepare the peanut butter sauce. Heat the water and sugar in a small pan over medium-low heat. When the sugar has dissolved, stir in the peanut butter with a wire whisk until the peanut butter is entirely incorporated and creamy. Serve the sauce in a bowl, or drizzle it over the wontons. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings, 3 wontons per person.

*Dynamic Duo is our nod to the sandwich staple during the back-to-school season of September. Click here for all of our alternative PB&J uses.

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by Sarah Steimer

There isn’t much physical work involved in this (cutting, blending), but it’s best to start your prep work early. My vegetables needed to be in the oven for quite a while longer than I expected. But it makes the house (or in my case, apartment) smell awesome in the meantime.

  • 4-5 cups fresh tomatoes, cut in half or quarters (about 4 regular tomatoes)
  • 4-5 medium-large carrots, peeled
  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced into large wedges
  • 5-6 medium or large cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (hot or sweet)
  • 2 slices of hearty bread
  • 2 slices fresh mozzarella

Arrange the tomatoes, carrots, onion and garlic in a baking dish or pan (I prefer a baking dish for the higher sides). Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil and season with salt, pepper and most — but not all — of the thyme. Toss to coat the vegetables, keeping them in a single layer.

Roast the vegetables at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until a fork can be easily inserted into the carrots (my vegetables took closer to an hour for whatever reason — have patience!).

Remove the vegetables from the oven and let sit while you bring the stock to a simmer in a medium pot or dutch oven. When ready, add the vegetables and the pan juices to the stock. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, sprinkle the bread with olive oil and top with the mozzarella slices.  Place the bread on a metal pan or right on the your oven rack under the broiler. Allow the bread to toast under the broiler for about 2 minutes — always keeping an eye on it as it will toast quickly. Remove and sprinkle with the remaining thyme.

Once the vegetables have simmered, add the contents of the pot to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot and stir in the paprika. Season again with salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve the soup with the mozzarella and thyme toasts.

Makes two-three servings.

Recipe adapted from: The Gouda Life

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by Caitlin Saniga

Day-old bread (or older) is best for bread pudding. The dryer the bread, the more egg mixture it absorbs. And use whatever leftover bread you have on hand. Some ideas: baguette, sourdough, rye, cornbread, etc. And kale, chard or beet greens can stand in for the spinach.

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing the dish
  • 8 ounces dense bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (I used a sun-dried tomato bread from a local bakery.)
  • 5 ounces baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 5 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a medium baking dish. Spread the bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, until dry but not browned. Let cool, then transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the spinach and 1/4 cup of the feta.

In another bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the mustard, lemon zest and lemon juice. Add the eggs and beat until blended. Add the milk and season with 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and stir until they are evenly moistened. Transfer the bread mixture to the baking dish and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.

Sprinkle the remaining feta on the bread pudding and bake in the center of the oven until risen and set, about 40 minutes. Turn on the broiler. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and broil until the bread pudding is golden and crispy on top, about 2 minutes. Scatter the oregano on top, cut into squares and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Recipe adapted from: Food & Wine

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by Sarah Steimer

This dish was the result of waking up late from a nap and realizing I had no plan for dinner, but just odds and ends in the fridge, including leftover ground chuck that needed to be cooked ASAP. Worked out pretty well, I’d say.

  • 1/2 pound ground chuck
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, roasted and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 banana pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 1/2-inch slices of precooked polenta (the kind that comes in a tube)
  • 1/2 ball fresh mozzarella

In a medium bowl, mix together the ground chuck, red pepper flakes, egg, breadcrumbs and oregano. Season with salt and pepper. Form the mixture into meatballs that are smaller than a golf ball, about 1 inch in diameter.

Heat enough olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the meatballs to the pan and cook until browned on all sides, turning as they cook. The meatballs should only take about 10 minutes to cook, but cut one in half to ensure it is cooked through. Remove the meatballs from the pan and let drain on a paper towel.

Clean out the pan and heat more oil over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic to the pan, letting both soften. Add the roasted red pepper, banana pepper and tomato. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook until the banana pepper has begun to soften, about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the mixture to a blender and pulse just enough times to create a lumpy sauce. Return the mixture to the pan and adjust the seasoning (just salt and pepper in this case).

Arrange the polenta slices on two plates, three slices per plate. Microwave just until warm, about 20 seconds.

Top the polenta with slices fresh mozzarella. Add the meatballs on top, followed by the pepper-tomato sauce. Serve immediately.

Makes two servings.

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by Caitlin Saniga

“I didn’t have any chocolate chips, so I used Snickers bars and marshmallows instead.” My friend Suzanne declared this her favorite combination of words of the day when I handed her a stack of three of these cookies.

  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 regular-size Snickers bars, chopped
  • 3/4 cup mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a large mixing bowl and a hand mixer), combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and add the salt, vanilla and egg. Beat the mixture until it’s well mixed, about 1 minute. Add the flour mixture and mix in until it’s just combined. Stir in the chopped Snickers bars and marshmallows.

Drop heaping tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, about 10 minutes (Remember: the cookies will continue to cook after they are removed from the oven!). Remove from the oven, and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let them cool completely. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20 cookies.

Recipe adapted from an earlier post.

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by Sarah Steimer

These are almost brutally sticky – but surprisingly good. The peanut butter definitely stands out, and we actually also dipped them in some hot sauce as we ate them. Definitely something worth trying just because it’s so strange (and I tested them for you, so you know they’re not a flop).

  • 10-12 chicken wings (tips discarded or drummettes
  • 5 ounces raspberry jelly, about 8 tablespoons (original recipe called for grape jelly, so really just make sure it’s a fairly smooth jelly without any fruit chunks)
  • 1/4 cup smooth, natural peanut butter (do not substitute with regular)
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Whisk together the jelly, peanut butter, vinegar, hot sauce and salt, making sure there are no lumps.  Add the chicken to the bowl and combine so the chicken is well-covered with the mixture. Refrigerate for at least one hour or as long as overnight.

Do not forget to cover the pan with either parchment paper or aluminum foil, or you will end up with an absolute mess to try and clean.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Set a metal cooling rack on top of the pan and place the chicken on the rack. Do not discard the leftover sauce – place it back in the refrigerator. Cook the chicken at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the oven and brush the piece with the leftover sauce. Flip the wings/drummettes and brush that side with the sauce as well. Place back in the oven and cook for an addition 20 minutes, or until the chicken is browned.

Serve the wings immediately with vegetables and extra hot sauce, because you could always use more hot sauce.

Recipe adapted from: Noble Pig

*Dynamic Duo is our nod to the sandwich staple during the back-to-school season of September. Click here for all of our alternative PB&J uses.

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by Caitlin Saniga

When I first saw purple bell peppers at the farmers market, I knew I had to give them a try. This colorful salad was the perfect solution. You’ve probably heard that different colors of produce offer different health benefits. I’m wondering if that holds true for purple peppers as opposed to other types of bell peppers. If it does, the nutrients in purple peppers boost the immune system, improve calcium absorption and limit the activity of cancer cells, among other things.

  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup cooked black rice
  • 4 large kale leaves, thinly sliced
  • 12 grape tomatoes, halved (gold or otherwise)
  • 1/2 cucumber, cut into half-moons
  • 1 bell pepper, cut into thin strips (purple or otherwise)
  • 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Toss the onions with the vinegar in a small bowl; set aside about 10 minutes.

While the black rice is still warm, toss it with the kale, tomatoes, cucumber and bell pepper. Add the red onions and stir to combine. Pour the olive oil over top and season with salt and pepper. Toss one more time. Serve immediately. Sealed in an airtight container, this salad lasts 1 day in the fridge.

Makes 2 servings.

Recipe adapted from: Everyday Food

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by Sarah Steimer

I made the full recipe so Bill and I could eat it throughout the week. I noticed him break some tortilla chips in it one day, so I assume that’s a good upgrade if you’re looking for one. This is a vegan recipe, FYI.

  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth/stock
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed for less spice
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle sauce (if you don’t have it, you can skip it or use hot sauce instead)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1 avocado, cut into 1/2 inch cubes (optional)

Roast, peel and chop the poblano and red peppers. (see Caitlin’s video if you need a how-to)

Heat a dutch oven or heavy, large pot over medium heat. Add enough olive oil just to cover the bottom and, once heated, add the onions. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they have caramelized. Every once in awhile you may have to de-glaze the pan (keep the onions from sticking) by adding a little of the vegetable broth.

While the onions are cooking, combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.

Add the remaining vegetable both to the dutch oven, along with the tomatoes, garlic, jalapeno, poblano, red bell pepper, chili powder, coriander, cumin, bay leaves, cinnamon and chipotle sauce. Bring everything to a boil (you may need to put the lid on for this, that’s a lot of liquid to get boiling). Reduce the heat and let the soup simmer for about 25 minutes, uncovered and stirring occasionally.

Remove the bay leaves and add the cooked quinoa. Mix well and serve, topped with the cubed avocado.

Makes about six servings.

Recipe adapted from: Prevention RD

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