Posts Tagged ‘fall’

Half off all draught microbrews at redFlame Pizzeria in beautiful Lincoln Park, IL gave me an opportunity to try Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. There was a host of other breweries on the menu ranging from the well known (Dogfish Head) to the local (Goose Island), but I wanted to give Sumpin’ a try mostly because it gave me an opportunity to be completely lame and mention to the waitress “Can I get a little sumpin sumpin.” White men around the world are all slowly shaking their heads in shame.

Sumpin’ is a beautiful reddish orange color and is described as an American wheat ale. I know those of you who have tried Sumpin’ are thinking that this is an IPA and I did at first as well due to the weight, feel, and taste. But Lagunitas has a trick up their sleeve which makes this an incredibly unique and tasty beer. There was a nice frothy head on my draft and it was bursting with grapefruit aromas. The taste maintains the flavors of the aroma with subtle hints of grapefruit and the bitterness of the peel. It finishes clean and makes for a very easy drinking beer.

Sumpin’ is a beer that I would gladly throw into my summertime and fall rotation regardless of the $11 per six pack price tag. The 7.3% ABV packs a nice punch as well, making this is a better value, similar to other beers at this price point. According to the Lagunitas website, you can now find this year round, so ensure that you’re favorite distributor has this on its shelves or can get it for you. I couldn’t imagine drinking this beer out of a bottle and I would highly recommend it be poured into a proper pilsner  glass with a narrow mouth to capture the aromas. Do yourself a favor and go get yourself a little sumpin’ sumpin’. You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A-

I think bacon makes nearly anything taste better and with Thanksgiving shortly coming, I wanted to inspire people to make one last attempt to enjoy Brussels sprouts as an accompanying side dish. Brussels sprouts are incredibly healthy and contains sulforaphane which is believed to have tremendous anticancer properties as well as indole-3-carbinol which boosts DNA repair in cells and blocks the growth of cancer cells.

If you’ve tried Brussels sprouts before in the past and didn’t particularly enjoy the flavor (or lack thereof), I encourage you to try this recipe as a last-ditch effort.


  • 1 lb brussels sprouts
  • 4 or 5 rashers of thick sliced bacon
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Set four or five pieces of bacon on a sheet pan and cook until crispy. Remove and lower the heat to 350 degrees. Crumble the bacon in pieces and set aside.


2. Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and add to a large mixing bowl. Tilt the sheet pan slightly and collect  2 tbsp bacon fat. Add it to a bowl with the Brussels sprouts.


3. Toss the brussel sprouts with the bacon fat until well coated.  Spread the brussels sprouts out on a clean sheet pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Cook for 15 minutes and then turn the Brussels sprouts over. Some will have begun to caramelize and others may just begin to show signs of wilting greens. Cook for another 15 minutes.

5. Serve the Brussels sprouts hot with the crumbled bacon pieces on top.

Dogfish Head generally makes amazing beer and this seasonal ale did not disappoint. I ordered a pint at my 30th birthday dinner at The Gage – a gastropub in downtown Chicago. As a general rule, I tend not to enjoy pumpkin ales, but Dogfish Head has produced a sophisticated flavor profile that utilizes the delicious spices found in pumpkin pie blended together into a perfect balance.

The pour is a medium orange color topped with a light foam. The head begins to fade quickly leaving a nice lace on the glass. The initial taste reveals hints of nutmeg and cinnamon supported by a foundation of brown sugar, ginger, and pumpkin flavors. This is a phenomenal seasonal ale that unfortunately is pretty hard to find for most non-metropolitan areas. Punkin ale comes as a 4 pack for around $9 and on draft at your favorite beer bar. The 7% ABV doesn’t overwhelm your palette, but provides a little more punch than most pumpkin beers.

This is by far my favorite fall seasonal beer and I’ll be hard pressed to find anything I enjoy more.

Grade: A

I have long maintained a love affair with apple crisp. As I mentioned in the applesauce post, my family had an abundance of apples in the fall and apple crisp was just another family favorite. Whenever I see it on the dessert menu at a restaurant, I can’t help myself but order it. This had led me to some pretty awful crisps, as well as some magnificent meal enders.

For this recipe, I decided to update the classic by adding ginger to the apples. While not an in your face, stand out flavor, the ginger adds a playful undertone that comes out in one bite and disappears the next. I’ve also eliminated the use of nutrient lacking white sugar by using gala apples. Between the crumble and the natural sugars in the fruit, there is just enough sweetness. Apple pie bakers will tell you that macintosh or pink ladies would stand up better to the baking process, but following the rules of bakers has never really appealed to me.


  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 c instant oats
  • 1/4 c flour
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter
  • 4 gala apples, peeled and cut into slices
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger (about 1″ worth)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. I’ve been asked to demonstrate how the apple peeler/corer/slicer works. I will note this last time that I do not advocate for many unitasker kitchen gadgets, but this one makes me wish I had invented it. If you will not be using one of these to slice your apples, slice your apples in uniform thickness to ensure even cooking. Thicker slices will have more bite in the finished product than thin slices.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel about 1″ worth of the ginger and grate fine. Ginger is a wonderfully versatile ingredient that can be used in nearly all cuisine. If you have not played with ginger, it’ll cost you the better part of 50 cents for a reasonably sized piece. Like hot peppers, a little goes a long way.

2. After you peel, core, and slice the apples, place them in a bowl with the cinnamon and ginger. Place the mixture in the bottom of a 9 X 9 glass pan. Then proceed to make the topping.

3. Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a saucepan. If you choose to do this in the microwave, do be careful not to overheat the butter as it tends to explode and will make a mess of your microwave. Once melted, add the butter to a bowl with the brown sugar, flour, and oats. Mix with your hands until all the ingredients are combined to a delicious crumble.

4. Top the apples with the crumble mixture and place in the oven for 35 – 45 minutes or until golden brown on top and the apples are bubbling. Let cool on the stovetop for 10 minutes before cutting into. This is to give the syrup time to thicken. If you cut too early, it’ll bleed apple goodness.

5. Serve with whipped cream, ice cream, or my personal favorite, straight up with a fork. This will probably not last long in your house, so you may want to consider doubling the recipe.

Making it last

This recipe freezes well. If you find there is simply too much crisp (which is crazy to even ponder), let the crisp cool on the counter completely. Place in the freezer for 3 hours. After the crisp hardens, you can cut it into whatever sized portions you want. This is great for sending homemade desserts to school with your kids (let’s face it, it’s really for you). By the time they/you eat lunch, the crisp has thawed. I guarantee no kid/adult in their right mind would trade this.

Growing up in New England, picking apples fresh off the tree was a yearly event that announced the official end of summer and meant my days spent inside a classroom would not end for more than half the year. On an average trip, my family would bring home anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds of apples that would sit in large plastic bags in the basement for weeks waiting for their time to become pies, crisps, or cobblers.

Much later in life, I created an applesauce recipe. Applesauce is both incredibly delicious and easy to make. Unlike it’s jarred step-brother, homemade applesauce is adaptable to any ingredient changes you’d like to make including tartness of the apples, sweeteners used, and other flavor additives. This recipe uses gala apples because of their natural sweetness which allows me to cut down on the amount of sugar used. I’ve added a variation at the bottom of this page which uses bourbon as a sweetener and additional flavor.

I would like to first mention that I have long held an anti-unitasker philosophy when it comes to kitchen equipment. For those that do not know, Alton Brown coined this phrase on his show Good Eats. A unitasker is a kitchen gadget that can only be used reasonably for one thing. I have rid my kitchen of unitaskers with the exception of two that I could not live without. The first is a waffle iron and the second is an apple peeler/corer/slicer combination tool (pictured above). The advantage of this tool is that there is no usable fruit wasted when peeling or slicing the apples. If you work with apples annually or just simply love making apple pie, this is a must have tool that can be found in most stores that sell kitchen gadgets. If you do not have one, a regular peeler will do fine.

Ingredients (makes about 3 cups)

  • 6 large gala apples
  • 1/3c Light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter + 3 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp whole cloves

1. Start by peeling and coring the apples. Then, slice apples about 1/8 inch thick. Set aside.

Note: You can see in the pictures below the product of the apple peeler mentioned above. As it peels and cores the apple, it simultaneously spiral cuts the fruit as well. Run a knife down the middle and you have perfectly uniform slices.

2. Melt 2 tbsp unsalted butter in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). When melted, mix in sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Stir until combined. Let cook for two minutes.

3. Add 1/4c water. Do be careful as there will be quite a bit of steam rising from the molten sugar. Stir to combine.

4. Add apples to pan and mix until apples and spices are incorporated. Turn the heat down to simmer (a 2 or 3 on your dial). Cover and cook for 30 to 45 minutes until the mixture has reduced in size by 1/2.

Your house will be filled with wonderful smells after about 10 minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if neighbors started inviting themselves to dinner. I also would like to note if you are selling your home, this would be a great way to prepare before an open house. The aroma will fill your house and make it more inviting. This gets the same results as cooking an apple pie, but is much easier to prepare and cleanup is a snap.

5. Once the apples are cooked, remove from heat. Remove the cloves. While cloves are edible, they are woody and not pleasant to bite into. Let cool for 10 minutes.

If you would prefer chunky applesauce, use a potato masher to mash apples until desired consistency. Serve warm.

6.If you would like a smooth silky applesauce, place applesauce into a blender or food processor. If using a blender, wait until the apples have cooled a bit. The steam will blow the top off the blender and potentially could cover you will scalding hot sugar and apples. This would not be a pleasant part of your day. While pulsing, add 3 tablespoons of butter (one at a time) until incorporated into applesauce. Serve warm.

This can be made days ahead of time and warmed right before serving.


Eliminate clove and water and reduce brown sugar to 3 tbsp. Use a sweet-tart apple like macintosh or empire. During step 3, replace water with 1/2c bourbon. This is what I call Drunken Applesauce. Don’t worry, this is kid friendly as the alcohol will cook off during the simmering process.