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+++Enter At Your Own Risk+++ At the gentle nudging (I said gentle y'all) of a few friends, I have started these blogs in order to share my culinary goings-on and daily misadventures through my own brand of humor (ok, sarcasm). I just write about stuff! At 50, I have learned that living has gotten in the way of life - and I am going to blaze my own personal trail to fun (hopefully)! If it is feminine, great. If it is not, so much the better! Hopefully fun that does not land me in jail............

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Beer is Proof that God Loves Us

Drinking beer doesn't make you fat, It makes you lean....
Against bars, tables, chairs, and poles.
” ~Unknown

I finally got around to having a beer with cheese, pate’ and water crackers for giggles.

Okay, I do not drink beer as a rule. I do like Belgian Lambics in peach, pear and cherry flavors, but beer in general – no.

Now, being that I am always trying to push my personal envelope instead of falling totally into my usual comfort zones and because I bought a crap load of beer in RI while visiting my daughter, I am having a little fun.

I can tell you I have no idea what I am doing – I do not know the lingo and am not sure I will venture into learning it.  I will just tell you what I, the unlearned non-beer drinker, thinks and experiences.

Today I pulled a chilled bottle of 2010 Chimay Grand Reserve beer.
1PT. 9.4 FL. Oz. thick brown bottle with cork closure
$10.99+- a bottle
9% alcohol by volume
This beer is a representative of one of only six Trappist breweries in the world. Brewed in a cloistered monastery by monks at Scourmont Abbey in Belgium as it has been since 1850.  This beer is bottle conditioned (meaning they allow the beers to ferment further in the bottles to develop more flavor and carbonation). Because this beer (unlike most so it seems) is considered vintage the production year is noted on the individual bottle or closure and can be kept in low to no light for a few years to further develop the beer’s flavor. In case it matters, this beer is not pasteurized.

The cheese I paired with it was actually a cheese I had in the refrigerator from a trip a few months ago. Sweetwater Valley Farms 2008 Reserve Yellow Cheddar Cheese (Extra Sharp). This cheese is made in Philadelphia Tennessee.
$6.00 +- a package. Weight unknown.
Read about Sweetwater Valley Farms here:  http://www.sweetwatervalley.com/

The pate’ was dug out of the freezer. It was a purchase last Christmas from D’artagnan. Mousse Truffle pate’ made from organic chicken and turkey liver plus duck fat, port wine and 2% black truffles.
8 Oz. $7.99

The Chimay beer had an almost fruity smell about it. When poured into the glass, it was dark walnut color and foamed like mad. Yea, it had a nice head on it J.  The flavor was fruity at first with a bit of a bitter finish. The flavor was much milder than the color suggested it would be.

Before opening this bottle, I did a little research at “Google-University” and found that sharp cheese was a good pairing with this beer. I decided to go nutty and add a pate’ while I was at it.

When I paired the cheese with the beer, the flavor of the beer mellowed to that of a flower flavor. The flavor was like licking a lilac. I know that sounds nutty, but that was what it seemed like. And no – I have never licked a lilac.  All I can tell you all is this pairing was worthy for sure.

The pate’, while silky and tasty, did not add nor detract from the beer experience.  It was quite good but would have been just as good without the beer and cheese.

Alrighty y’all, let me just tell you, if you like beer, you need to take this Chimay for a taste-drive. If you like wheat beers/lighter flavored beers, you will be shocked to find this dark beer may be to your liking. If you are not a big beer fan, but would like to have a few beers in your notebook for drinking with beer-swilling friends, go for it. I do not think anyone will be disappointed by this beer.

Friday, December 24, 2010

In The Cheese Now

“Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality”.
     ~Clifton Paul Fadiman

I just returned from a trip to see my daughter and her beau in Providence RI.  On this trip I was treated to some really wonderful meals and food items from all manner of sources.  One night as I was sewing on a skirt for daughter, beau served up adult slim jims (preserved meats) and this one cheese. The cheese was granulated - almost crunchy. The flavor was great! When I say great, I mean both big and wonderful!

I was forced to go on the search for this cheese!  OK, daughter and beau knew exactly where to find it - but I sure was obsessed about getting some of this cheese!

Beemster X.O. Extra DOUBLE Aged artisan Dutch Gouda
Produced in the Beemster Polder lowland in North Holland.
Cows that produce the milk for this cheese graze on pesticide-free pastures growing on blue sea clay. This gives the milk a sweeter flavor and a softer/creamier texture in the cheeses. Like real champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France, Beemster cheese can only come from the Beemster Polder. How fru-fru is that?

Beemster and Ben & Jerry’s Europe joined forces creating the Caring Dairy Initiative. Cows graze freely Spring thru fall. This results in a better milk and better treatment of the cows producing the milk. It sounds to me like the California Happy Cows campaign is not that original!

Now, most sites will say that the flavor of the Beemster X.O. Gouda hints at Butterscotch, whiskey and pecan.  I say IT IS JUST PLAINLY GREAT TASTING CHEESE!  I have no idea about these delicate nuances. I just know that I really like the cheese.  Considering that I have issues with consuming aged cheeses it says a lot that I risked it - and so far so good!

This cheese would work well grated and served in the place of parmesan…
Aged 26 months
$17.99 per pound
Texture: Brittle

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Oh No She Just Didn't....

(Or, “Oh no she did NOT just write that!!!)

So, for giggles and grins, I am going to include a couple more facets in my little blog – just to change it up a bit.

Alcoholic Beverage Factoids (at least as I understand them)
Places to eat (or maybe seriously to avoid)
Little food bites (pun intended)

Yea, there are plenty of places to glean information about booze and eateries; I know this. But, sometimes it is fun reading or hearing of experiences from different people, especially from people that fall into “drama-tic” situations easily.  Yea, I know a few of you reading this know what I am talking about.  “You just can’t make this s#!t up”, “Hey Shannon-Rae, watch this” or “ you will not believe what happened when the elephant stepped out”! If it isn’t that interesting, I will promise to make some tale up (then let you know that I did).

These might include future fun, past disasters, stories from way long ago. One never knows what my mood is and what will come out!


You all know I get rude, in trouble, push the envelope and etc.  Enter at your own risk of a coronary…


Marinated Bean Salad

Marinated Bean Salad

Okay, this bean salad has many names – and they usually include the number of bean types incorporated into the recipe.  My thinking is if you like the bean/pea/legume at all – include it. If you do not like it – leave it out. If you have to make this for a large gathering – use one can of each of MANY items even if you are not keen on them because you won’t taste them with all the other goods going on anyway!

This item is seen on many salad bars and usually does NOT taste that good. Either it is not made with enough of the good stuff (salt, sugar, vinegar and etc.) or it has actually been made but only right before it hit the bar. No marinating happened. No flavors soaked in. No fun to waste stomach space with.

This bad boy is EASY as hell. You do not have to understand physics, chemistry, baking, or why the chicken crossed the road. You just mix, chill and go.

If you are on a bit of a budget, and you need to take a dish to a gathering of say 5 or more people, buy the store brands of the ingredients, mix it up when you have time a day or two earlier and watch people be impressed with your COOKING ABILITY!

If you are only serving maybe 3-6 people, only use maybe 4 of the canned ingredients. If you are serving more, add a can of something per every 2 people expected.  If you add canned goods, make a little more of the marinade. If you love this, make more using more cans because you have about a week or so to eat it.  I stuff my face with it at night when I am too lazy to make anything.

This is the easiest thing to make - and it is SOOOO good IF you let it marinade a day or even two. It simply gets better as it sits. THAT, my friends, is the key!

Marinated Bean Salad

1 can cut green (or French) beans
1 can bean sprouts
1 can lima beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can shoepeg corn
1 can baby corn ears
1 can garbonzos
Ok, pretty much put in 3 or 4 cans of whatever you like up there…
1 onion cut up
1 green pepper cut up
1 cup oil (light olive, corn, etc)
1 cup vinegar (white)
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar

Mix oil, vinegar, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Drain veggies and put everything in a large container (big enough to hold this nightmare)
Pour liquid over veggies.

Marinade AT LEAST 24 hours. Stir occasionally. This gets better as it sits. So, again, this can be made a day or two early instead of rushing the last minute!

Keep refrigerated after mixing...

Okay – the disclaimer?  Yeah, the fine print…

This will make you a gassy gopher baby!  So, if you have to live with any of the people eating this – make them sleep in the guest room…

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Was it Worth it? -OR- Beef Burgundy Part Deux

Yes, It has taken me over a month to follow-up on this first edition (technically second – but
who is counting?).  Since I was trying to finish up my graduate degree and work full-time, I sort of fell off the “living-wagon” for a month or so.

I was lucky when embarking on this cooking-fest. My mother volunteered to do the grocery shopping. No people, I do NOT like to grocery shop. Yes, that makes it difficult to do all the cooking I like to do. No, that does not change the fact that I do not really grocery shop.

We started on a Friday night after I drove the hour home from work. My reasoning for cooking on a Friday night for a meal to be served Monday at work was two-fold.
  1. I wanted the stew to develop in flavor – as it does over a few days in my opinion.
  2. Pearl Babeeeez
  3. I had a date Saturday/Sunday, thus would have no time to cook those days.
We doubled the recipe that I posted in November. That means there was a lot of extra work when it came to cleaning and preparing the sheer number of mushrooms and pearl onions.

The only “not so authentic ingredient” was mom used smoked bacon from the freezer for the lardons. I was not keen on this, but it did work fine apparently.

The dollar amount for this meal topped $90 when the wine was included in the bill. Not cheap for a recipe, but when you consider I probably managed 20 good servings...

My mother did some of the sous-chef duties such as peeling most of the pearl onions, cutting the carrots, prepping mushrooms, slicing the large onion and the whole moral support thing like “we are NOT doing this again” and “this is taking 10 times the steps and time any recipe should”. She did all this while I worked on the lardons, cut the beef (not cheese), cooked the beef and etc.

I’ll not chronicle the whole and complete process since it has been over a month ago. I will say that it took upwards of 8 hours to prepare. That number is not adjusted to account for two people working at once and does NOT include the time after all was prepped and the pots sat in the oven baking before or during my over-sleeping a little. It also does not include the time I took driving too and from Knoxville in the middle of it to get the wine bottle opener because mom could not locate hers.

I will tell you that I did crowd the mushrooms when cooking them. I learned that everything Julia Child writes about cooking the mushrooms is correct.  Turn the heat high enough to sear the flavor into mushrooms. Do not crowd them or they will simply steam and lose flavor. The mushrooms do soak up the flavorful hot oil when they start to heat up, cook a bit and then release moisture.  An amazing process you simply need to try.
I did rinse off and dry the beef before cooking it. Julia Child states “Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown properly if it is damp”. My daughter has informed me that
adding a little bit of baking soda to the water used to rinse raw meat gets any meat “stink” off and acts as a tenderizer.

I did cook the stew in the oven in two enameled cast iron Dutch ovens. I made a small portion
sans ‘shrooms’ for a pregnant coworker who is avoiding fungi as well!

A list of the most insane concept in this recipe for me follows:
  1. The lardons must be boiled then fried and removed from their own hot fat in order to cook the beef in the oil.
  2. You must cook the pearl onions and a sauce in a very specific manner prior to adding them to the main dish.
  3. You must cook the mushrooms in a very specific manner prior to adding them to the main dish.
  4. Once the whole recipe is done cooking, you must sieve the contents of the stew, reserving the liquid separately.
  5. The liquid must have the fats skimmed off then reduced only to be added back to the
The normal options for serving BB include serving over new potatoes, rice or flat noodles.  I opted for new potatoes because I think that is a more authentic option and rice is Asian, not French. We were going to dig potatoes from the garden if any were left, but it rained and left a swamp. We decided to skip that knee deep in water field trip and simply bought potatoes to boil whole or halved.

The whole time mom and I worked on this – and up to the point my coworkers tried it – I was paranoid that the red wine flavor would put the benefactors of the meal off. That was SOOOOO unnecessary on my part.  Way too much paranoia.

That Monday morning I took to work bowls just for the stew, mismatched spoons, the stew in an electric crock to heat it and the potatoes to serve it over. I heated it back to hot for several hours.  It was dished out to the first five people at lunch. It earned rave reviews. All in all, I believe 12 people ate this over two days and everyone loved it. I should not have stressed.

We did have a few casualties. Two spoons and two stew plates disappeared from the common area when left to be washed. Oops.  Sorry mom! I will be replacing those...

Twelve out of Twelve thumbs up. The process is long, exacting, even annoying. The end product is still just as wonderful as I remembered.  I am not convinced I will make this recipe again, but I do plan on moving on to make any easier versions I find - just to see if shorter variations come out the same or fall short of the flavor found in Julia Child's version.
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