I had to look this one up on Wikipedia, but Kölsch is a local beer speciality of Cologne, Germany. This, of course, made the title of Sam Adams East-West Kolsch make a whole lot more sense in its reference to Berlin. Further reading revealed that ordering a Kölsch in the wrong town or pub can lead to harassment and has led to violence in the past. Oh those crazy Germans.

I found a couple bottles of East-West tucked away in the Sam Adams Summer Variety pack. I had originally intended to use these bottle to make some bratwurst, but thought it couldn’t hurt to give one of them a try.

Kölsch beers are typically poured into tall, thin glasses because the taste deteriorates quickly in this style and less surface area means the beer lasts longer. I used the thinnest pilsner glass I had in this spirit.

East-West pours a clear, straw yellow that is nearly translucent. There was very little carbonation in East-West (although my picture did catch a beautiful array of bubbles rushing to the top) and virtually no head formed. The only aroma that emerged from East-West was a clean hop taste with very little else present. My first taste revealed what my nose detected – clean, fresh hops, not extremely bitter like a pale ale, but still prevalent. I detected a floral under note somewhere, but it was not strong enough for me to identify. The finish was clean and refreshing.

Generally, I would say this is a light, refreshing beer with a decent flavor profile. On the Sam Adams website, they indicate that this is only the second year East-West has been brewed. They also explained that the floral note I detected was jasmine. They age East-West on a bed of Jasmine flowers to extract a light trace of the flower’s aroma. This is the only Kölsch style beer I have ever had and it makes me want to try others to compare. That said, I can’t say East-West is anything special. East-West is a good beer – well balanced and refreshing. I like it as part of a variety park, but I can’t see myself purchasing a six pack separately.

Grade: C+

Spring is here which means that bikini season is only 8 short weeks away. I know, that’s awful to say, but working in an industry filled with women, I here all kinds of things about the need for dieting or the need to “lose a few” before the summer. I myself will not be sporting a new bikini this year – the children would certainly be afraid – but I am always up for substituting the unhealthy with something equally tasty and 100X healthier.

Kale is a winter vegetable, but thanks to the age of modern farming, we have access to beautiful kale leaves year round. I mentioned in my braised kale post the vast health benefits fresh kale greens can have. Perhaps the idea of braising greens scared some people away because that post did not receive much attention. But ever the vigilant writer, I wanted to post a second way to use kale that I hope more people will try and embrace. Don’t let the name fool you, there is no frying involved in this recipe. Do take the gamble on this one and pick up a small bunch of kale the next time you are roaming through the grocery store. It’ll cost very little to experiment with and the results are simply unbelievable.

Ingredients (serves 4 happily)

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

1. Rip the kale leaves off the stem and into chip size pieces. Some will be big, some will be smaller, but none should come close to being the size of your hand. Put the kale in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil to it. Toss to coat the leaves in oil.

2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place a silicone mat on two large baking sheets (alternatively, you can grease a baking sheet, but I haven’t tried this). Arrange the leaves on the may so no two are overlapping. Sprinkle with salt and other spices as you desire.

Note: You can change the flavor of the kale chips by sprinkling any other spice mix on. This is your chance to experiment, just remember to use spices sparingly.

3. Cook for 30 – 45 minutes or until the tips begin to turn brown. Your looking for baked through and no floppy. Check your biggest leaves first to see if they are done.

Note: Other recipes out there change the temperature and cooking times. This version dehydrates the entire leaf leaving a crispy, crumbling edges with an in fast center. If you prefer more chip like, increase the temperature to 350 degrees and cook for 20 – 30 minutes.

4. Serve without any dipping sauce. These are great on their own.

 

This was one of my dad’s favorite dishes that I can remember from my childhood. It was usually always served for his birthday and maybe one other time a year, but this was not something typically made in the home. For me, Chicken and Dumplings is comforting and healing the way Matzo Ball Soup is for my Jewish friends. I simply cannot get enough and there is no pot that can ever make enough dumplings.

I think it’s because the length of cook time can be incredibly long if you make your own chicken stock (which I cannot recommend enough). But if you utilize a pressure cooker, this dish can be put together in about 75 minutes from start to finish. And if you don’t have a pressure cooker, do yourself a favor and still make your own chicken stock ahead of time.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 lbs chicken, shredded
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp thyme, fresh
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4c chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

1. Place the chicken stock and shredded chicken in a large stock pot. You can add some of the vegetables from the chicken stock or you can add some fresh celery, carrots, and/or onions to the pot. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. If adding fresh vegetables, allow 20 minutes or so to soften before eating.

2. Place the butter in the bottom of a medium size stock pot over high heat. When the butter has mostly melted, add the chicken stock and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and then add the flour, baking powder, and salt. The flour will immediately soak up the liquid and form a dough. Cook this until the color turns a mustard-ish yellow.

3. Place the dough in a mixing bowl with the two eggs. Mix with a hand mixer until the mixture just comes together. The batter should be thick like cake batter. You do not want to over mix this. Season with pepper if you wish. Add the thyme to the dough and fold in with a wood spoon.

3. Drop heaping tablespoons of the batter into the simming chicken stock. When you have filled the pot, cover with a tight fitting lid. Allow the dumplings to cook for 10 – 15 minutes until they are puffed, but firm.

4. Ladle the soup mixture into a wide mouth bowl. Ensure everyone gets a sufficient amount of dumplings. Garnish with more fresh thyme.

I love this bottle. What could be better than a bulldog in a tuxedo wearing a monocle toasting with a fine porter. Overall, I’m pretty disappointed with Boulevard’s packaging for the majority of their beers, but somebody in the marketing department was a thinker when they came up with this one.

Like a classic, this porter does not disappoint in revealing a thick sticky mass of tan head. An incorrect pour would have yielded a glass full, but unlike Guinness, this dissipated faster. The aroma was filled with sweet malts.  I detected also chocolate and roasted nuts, but the aroma was otherwise muted. My first taste reminded me of every other porter I’ve had in the past, but I appreciated the sweet caramel notes that played well with the malt. Bully has a decent mouth feel, not too heavy, not too thin, but it does go down silky smooth and leaves a wonderful aftertaste.

Bully! is a rock solid effort from a rock solid brewery. I would gladly begin to buy this by the case and fill my refrigerator with it.

Grade: B

It’s very easy to make your own chicken stock. I’m as guilty as every one else in that I just don’t want to be troubled. You have to buy the ingredients, simmer for hours upon hours, and in the end, you still have to put the stock into containers and freeze them. This is not nearly as easy as picking up a box at the supermarket that you can keep in your pantry until you open it.

But in the spirit of healthier living, I wanted to experiment with making my own stock. The results were astonishing and I don’t think I can ever really go back to the boxed version unless I’m in a pinch. The flavor is much more rich and if you have a particular palette, you can tailor the stock to your exact specifications. Have a low sodium diet? This would work wonderfully for you too.

To speed up the process, I’ve used my pressure cooker here which cuts the entire experience and saved me more than 3 hours.

Ingredients

  • 3 – 4 lbs chicken legs or thighs
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 8 peppercorns

1. Place the chicken in bottom of your pressure cooker. Cover with the vegetables, pepper corns, and 2 tbsp salt. Pour in 2 quarts of water (it should cover everything). Close the lid of the cooker and bring up to high pressure. When the pressure cooker is steaming, lower the heat to the lowest setting and allow to cook for 45 minutes.

2. After releasing the steam safely, line a colander with cheese cloth and place over another large pot or container. Pour the contents of the pressure cooker into the colander and let strain for 5 minutes. Keep the chicken for a future meal. Or, if you are making soup or chicken and dumplings perhaps, these vegetables are wonderful additions.

3. If you want to remove a large portion of the fat, let the chicken stock cool and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, the fat will have hardened which you can remove easily.

4. Stock will keep refrigerated for up to a week or freeze up to 6 months.

I may get fire bombed for this, but I find the French to be the epitome of civilization. I say this, of course, as a generalization because 1) I come from a French background, 2) I know there are counter culture within the French culture that play against this, and 3) the French are generally portrayed as nasty, nasty people. But when I first tasted Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale, I couldn’t help but be transported to the French countryside where the elderly are respected, the villagers are cordial to each other, and there isn’t a need for anything fussy.

Domaine DuPage pours a deep orange-red, almost the color of a perfect sunset. There was very little carbonation rising from the glass resulting in very little foam. The aroma indicated a fresh, clean taste, with very little overwhelming hop or fruit flavor. My first taste was mystical as described above, but it was the middle of the glass that helped me to see what this ale really was all about. If you think about the French countryside and the life of its inhabitants, you have to first block out all of your misconceptions of the French and everything you have ever heard about Parisians (they are what give the French a bad name). French country life is a humble life, simple, but full of life and daily appreciation for seeing the sun every morning. This ale captures that by putting its floral hop flavors out in front and backing this up with the taste of fresh baked bread and orchard fruits such as apple and pear. While none of these may rise to the top at any given time, they work together in harmony to create a pleasant embrace.

This particular beer may be brewed and bottle in Midwestern USA, but it captures perfectly the essence of what I only imagine is French countryside life. It’s like seeing an old friend after so many years and picking up right where you left off or like spending an entire day taking a stroll through the fields and rolling hills without a care in the world as to who may be calling your cell phone or what’s the latest gossip. This is a simple beer that has the power to remind all of us what we’re missing when life gets a little bit too much.

Domaine DuPage is an easy drinking beer that does not take it’s toll given the moderate 5.4% ABV. A six pack will run you around $9 and I do hope Two Brothers get more distribution so other parts of the country can experience their superb quality beers. As everyday drinking beers goes, this is a wonderful beer that I highly recommend.

Grade: A

You have probably seen summer rolls before but with beautiful halved shrimp displayed on top. This recipe utilizes ground turkey to change the flavor profile a bit and be a bit more cost effective. This dish is full of Asian flavors and utilizes some ingredients people tend to be afraid of. Fish sauce is not something to fear, but something to embrace. The key is to use it sparingly in your Asian dishes. One bottle will probably last the typical household more than a year unless you tend to cook with it weekly.

Summer rolls may appear labor intensive, but once you get an assembly line going, they come together in no time and the results are beautiful and delicious. These would make a fantastic appetizer at your next dinner party or something you can put together with the kids.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/4 c golden raisins, chopped
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper
  • 1″ fresh ginger, diced
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • rice paper skins (I used 6″, but 9″ would be much easier)

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp sesame oil over high heat. When heated, add the onion and ginger and continuously stir until the onions begin to be translucent. Then add the turkey to the pan and cook until the turkey has browned. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and vinegar to the pan. Stir to combine. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated.

2. Turn off the heat and allow the turkey to cool until easily handled. Add 1 tbsp parsley if you wish for some extra color. Cut the bell peppers and seeded cucumber into 2 inch matchsticks.

3. To wrap the summer rolls, dip the rice paper in warm water as indicated on the packaging. Lay on on a flat surface and pat dry with a paper towel lightly. Place 1 – 2 tbsp turkey mixture, and 2 – 3 matchsticks each of the vegetables. Wrap like a burrito.

Note: If the rice paper is tearing, you are either leaving it in the water too long or are being just way to rough with it. Rice paper is delicate, so be gentle. A little tear here or there is no big deal, but do not try to salvage one with a large tear in it. They are cheap enough to play around with until you get the hang of it. And don’t forget to replace your water frequently when it gets cold.

4. Serve the summer rolls with one or all of my trio of vietnamese dipping sauces.