Wells Banana Bread Beer Banana Beer Bread (Whew)

Finished Bread

There is nothing better for my beer palate that spending a snowy Friday night with my bro. On his way home from work, Matt stops and picks up bevs for the weekend; without fail a bottle of something “interesting” makes it into the cart. Though the finds are usually so hoppy they make me want to cry or so thick, they’d stand up to being chewed (read: manly), he found a real winner with the Wells Banana Bread Beer.

Banana bread beer?” I asked, perplexed by the picture of a pint glass being born from a banana peel on the bottle. “That sounds insane.”

Exactly—it’s really bizarre. You’re going to love it.

I’ll be honest: as a beer, it is a bit insane. The toasty banana and hint of caramel were a pleasant surprise when all I expected from the UK import was banana-flavored Runts, but I’m not sure I could drink more than one. For dessert, perhaps or breakfast–definitely breakfast.

Thankfully, beer is not just for drinking. It seems almost too logical to attempt Banana Bread with Banana Bread Beer. But traditional banana bread recipes don’t call for nearly enough liquid to make good use of a whole beer.

But beer bread is a thing.

And Banana Bread Beer is a thing.

The math is simple. The recipe is even easier. And no bananas were harmed in the creation of this banana bread.

Slice 2

Wells Banana Bread Beer Banana Beer Bread

(adapted from the food.com recipe that is amazing)

  • 3 C flour (sifted: sift flour then measure it!)
  • 3 tsp. baking powder (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
  • 1 tsp. salt (omit if using Self-Rising Flour)
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 ½ C Wells Banana Bread Beer (drink the rest while you’re cooking!)
  • 1/2 C melted butter (separate 2 Tbs and save for the end)
  • 1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips (its sacrilege to not include them)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Dough

Sift the flour and then measure. If you do not have a flour sifter, use a spoon to spoon flour into a 1 C measure. (Do not compact the flour when measuring). Mix baking powder, salt, and sugar into the flour. Add beer. Stir in 6 Tbs of melted butter and chocolate chips. Pour into greased loaf pan. Pour remaining butter over the top of the dough. Bake 1 hr, remove from pan and cool at least 15 mins.

The resulting bread is the perfect combination of tastes—buttery, flakey, and crunchy on top with a lightly banana flavored, lightly sweet and soft middle. If you’re not big into sweets, this might be the one to change your mind.

Bread in pan

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Warm Up with Winter Ales

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While partying down in my ugly Christmas sweater, I noticed that the beer I was drinking – a Sam Adams Old Fezzywig Ale – was doing a number on my constant chilly state.

Even though the weekend never really got too cold, I came into the bar with little feeling and little blood in my fingers and toes—a result of some fun circulation issues and backlash from a bit of frostbite I suffered in college. This was only beer #1 so the heat had little to do with the flush that graced the faces of those a few deep. This cold beer was warming me up from the inside out.

Seasonal beers of the fall, winter and holidays typically fall into the category of herbed or spiced beers. They have things in them like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, spruce and even hot peppers that pack just the right amount of punch to get blood moving.

How you might ask? I wondered that myself. So I asked my acupuncturist and Oriental Medicine guru, Sharon Sherman of Empirical Point Acupuncture, how these herbs and spices can have an actual effect on our internal body temps. “The Oriental medicine classification of foods by temperature is evaluated in both the thermal nature of the food itself and the way it is prepared. This measure – expressed as hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold – is an energetic temperature that indicates the effect a particular food has on the body when ingested.

“All herbs are different in their thermal properties; mint is cooling, cinnamon is hot, turmeric is warming, licorice is cooling, green tea is cooling, fennel seeds are warming, ginger fresh is warm—but dried powdered ginger is hot.

“In Chinese medicine, alcohol is described as acrid and hot. While it moves the qi and quickens the blood, it also engenders fluids. This means that in moderation the alcohol invigorates circulation and warms the body do to its spicy and moving properties. Alcohol will synergize the heat in the herbs because the alcohol being used as a vehicle is also considered warming.”

So—in moderation of course—herbed and spiced brews are a good way to stay warm this winter season. I know I’ll be adding them to my regimen of finger saving herbal teas and decoctions. And I’ll be honest: they taste a whole hell of lot better than the herbs I’m supposed to drink every morning and night (think 5 ounces of warm cinnamon, sticks, bile and yogi armpit). Some of my favorites include:

It’s Pumpkin Season…

There is a time and place for every beer. Like seasonal produce, beers appear as the weather changes to match up with the early sunsets, hay rides and naked tree branches that come every fall. But let’s face it: even with fantastic Oktoberfest specials, Harvest ales, and ESBs (Extra Special Bitters)—we all know its pumpkin season.

Breads, pies, cakes, cookies, candles, seeds, soups—you name it. For the next few months, everything will be inundated with the sweet, orange richness of everyone’s favorite squash. With spices like ground ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice dancing through the fall brews in different proportions, pumpkin beers replace dessert with the liquid version of pumpkin pie.

After some kick-ass pumpkin pancakes, I developed a taste for pumpkin in the morning. Naturally, I want my pumpkin (beer) for breakfast. Starting a day off with the best fall has to offer helps ward away the 9-5 blues.

Breakfast beer poses significant issues for most—especially on weekdays when getting to work sober is more than a bit important. There’s something about having an adult beverage before heading out in the AM that is (understandably) socially unacceptable. Though I’m not sure many people could tell the difference between my beer buzz and my coffee buzz, I’m not looking to find out any time soon. But–of course there is a but–if beer is added to a recipe that’s cooked, it will lose most of its punch.

Most pumpkin beers will range from 4-7% ABV (Check out Beer Advocate for some great notes on loads of Pumpkin Beers), and when simmered for 30 minutes, according to this 2003 study by the USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory, only 35% of the alcohol will remain. So even with a stronger beer as an ingredient, that’s nowhere near enough to do any real damage.

I sat down with a pumpkin bottle and a can of pumpkin puree for about an hour to chat about how they could help me have a lovely, pumpkin filled breakfast experience. My beer of choice was the Schlafly Pumpkin Ale for its sweetness and well-rounded spice without going overboard on the nutmeg like some others. It’s a great representative of what a pumpkin beer should taste like. The canned pumpkin puree was there for moral support—in case the pumpkin flavor got lost in the mix.

They didn’t say much.

In the end, it came down to me diving into the can of pumpkin, while drinking the beer—same mouthful, very strange—but I came up with this little beauty: an homage to the jars found lining the “shelves” at farmers markets that are increasingly populating the streets of Philadelphia. Was there a sale on street permits, or what?

Schlafly Pumpkin Beer Butter

…your toast will never be the same

  • 1 Can Pumpkin Puree (not pumpkin pie mix…there is a difference)
  • 1 C Schlafly Pumpkin Ale
  • 1 C White Sugar
  • 1 t ground ginger
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • 2-3 dashes cayenne pepper

Combine pumpkin, beer, sugar and spices in a saucepan and stir well. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes –the mixture will be thickened in the end. Be sure to stir frequently.

Chill in the refrigerator before serving. Great on toast when you’re running out the door and (almost) late for work every day!

Tasty Lil Cow Pie

The beauty of working in a restaurant is that I get my days off during the week and I have time to cook instead of foraging in the refrigerator and cabinets. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig around and make things from what I have. The difference is that on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my dinner won’t be between two pieces of bread.

I stared into the depths of drawers, cupboards and shelves last Wednesday trying to figure out what to do with one steak — it had to feed two people. With not enough vegetables for a stir fry and not enough anything for fajitas, I pulled the single NY strip from the shelf and looked back and forth from it to the smattering of possible partners. “Do we have any potatoes?” I asked my brother without looking up from the refrigerator.

“Did you look in the drawer?” he yelled from the couch.

“…no.”

Sure enough, they were there and along with a sad-looking bag of carrots, I hatched a plan. I’d had a staff meal of shepherd’s pie at work a few weeks before and — while I’m not really keen on lamb — the delivery was genius. The sweet, rich meat, roasted vegetables and gravy all stuck to the whipped mashed potatoes making every bite the perfect bite.

I grabbed the potatoes, peeled and cubed them and put them on the stove to start the mash. With a bag of frozen peas, it was a meal that really began coming together. But what to do about a sauce?

The chef at work used Guinness but we didn’t have any. The beer — with its roasted malt, coffee and bitter chocolate flavor — was the center of the dish. A stout was what I needed. A Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout was what I had. “Hey, Matt–do you think I could use this Chocolate Stout for this?” I asked.

“Um…that’s my dessert beer,” he answered with sadness in his voice “And it’s out of season so I can’t get any morebut if it means you’ll cook and I’ll have food soon, go ahead. If you must.”

Satisfied with the plan, I sliced and browned the meat with some onion and garlic, added in the beer and waited. I leaned in to see if what I was doing was working and my whole face was filled with the sweet swirls of singeing beef, earthy chocolate, and garlic.

“How’s it going in there?”

“I think you’re beer would be pleased with how it’s being sacrificed.”

With meat braising (read: to cook by browning in fat and then slowly cooking in a covered pan with a some liquid), I mashed the potatoes with butter and cream and layered the ingredients in a casserole dish — meat, carrots, peas and potatoes — covered and put in the oven. I pulled the lid off for the final few minutes to get a good crust on the potatoes and to make it look as I’d seen in the weeks before at work.

We dove in to find the meat dissolving to the lightest bite, full of the deep, woody, bittersweet chocolate of the beer. The creamy mashed potatoes held onto the gravy for dear life; the carrots and peas little life boats of respite from the richness.

Matt looked at me in disbelief. You just made this up?

I shrugged. I was hungry, he was hungry and I was afraid the meat was going to go to waste if we didn’t cook it. “Yea?”

You can make stuff up any time you want to, ok?

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout Shepherds Pie

  • 2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 T butter
  • 1/4 C cream
  • 1 8 oz NY Strip Steak, cut into strips
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 bottle Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout
  • 1 C Baby Carrots, chopped
  • 1 C Baby Peas

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Peel and cube potatoes. Place in 4 qt. stock pot with enough water to cover them and boil until potato is tender to fork — about 20 mins.

While potatoes are cooking, dice carrots and onions and set aside. Remove large portions of fat from outside of NY Strip. Slice steak into 1/4″ strips. In a frying pan, heat olive oil and garlic on high, stirring to ensure garlic does not burn. Add meat — cooking until lightly browned. Add onion and 1/2 bottle of beer. Cover, cook on low until potatoes are ready.

When potatoes break easily when pierced with a fork, remove from heat and drain. Return potatoes to stock pot and mash until no lumps are visible. Add butter and cream. Beat with electric mixer until smooth.

In casserole dish, layer meat, carrots, peas, the rest of the beer and the potatoes. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Remove lid and broil for 5 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

*The only sad thing about this dish is that Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is only released in the winter — it’s a bit heavy for the summertime. BUT so is this dish…enjoy!

next to of course pb&j chili i

love you.

The high heat, full mouth fire that burns into my nose and smoulders in my belly warms me to the core and fills me right up. It’s also a meal that requires one pot and very little attention. So, what’s not to love?

The difficult thing with chili is to narrow down exactly what I put in it — it’s a gut-feel kind of meal. Sometimes, I only put one type of kidney bean or only a green pepper instead of an assortment of colors. I have, on occasion, completely forgotten onions. Sometimes, my guts are feeling risky and I add a few more chili peppers.

Oh, the chili peppers.

When I first asked my mom how to make her chili, she rattled off the ingredients and instructions. Meat, onion, chili powder, kidney beans, tomato paste. I was shocked. She used McCormicks Chili Powder. No actual peppers were invited to her pot. Finally, I knew then why toed the line of being a spicy Hamburger Helper with beans. I’d head chili that made me sweat and my stomach burn for days. That’s what I was looking for. So, I took the basics from her recipe to create my own.

My chilis of choice: Guajillo, Chili de Arbol and Chipotle peppers, respectively. The guajillo peppers add a very light touch of sweetness but have a slap-in-the-face of heat once swallowed. Chili de arbol provide more spice up front that fill the entire mouth, give that tongue tingle and burn up into your nose and eyes (in a good way). And the Chipotles — well they just give the whole thing a greatsmoke. The chipotle pepper is really just a smoke dried jalapeno, but the smokiness is bolder than any hotness of the pepper. If you don’t like it really hot, you can split the peppers and remove some or all of the seeds. Taking them out of the pot after a few minutes also helps if you don’t want to sweat.

My gut also tell me that whatever I’m drinking, the chili pot should, too. My favorite addition to a chili pot is a IPA (Dogfish Head 60 Min to be exact) for it’s slight bitterness and lemony notes that slice up some of the spice and pull at the zip from the bell peppers.

I start with ground turkey meat — some fat here is needed, so a 93% lean is what you want — a big stock pot and some olive oil. Once it starts to brown up a bit, in goes about half a bottle of beer, the chilis, and some cayenne powder for good measure. I let them sweat for a bit while I chop (and open) up everything else. A few different types of bell pepper, some onion, kidney beans, diced tomatoes and voila!

Now here’s the only hard part: not diving in right away. The chilis need a while to release all of their oils and get the spice to cook into everything. I add the rest of the beer, cover and drop the heat to low to cook for about an hour until it looks more like it should…might not be so pretty, but its sure to get folks hot and bothered.

Spills Chili

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey, 93% lean
  • 1T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
  • 1 Guajillo Pepper, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 2 Chili de Arbol peppers, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 3 Chipotle peppers, split down the center, seeds removed if desired
  • 2 T Cayenne Powder
  • 1/2 small white onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 15.5 oz can dark red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 15.5 oz can cannellini beans
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • Grated chedder cheese to garnish

In a large stock pot, heat olive oil. Add ground turkey. Once almost all meat is browned, add chili peppers, cayenne powder and 1/2 of the beer. Simmer 15 minutes. Add diced onion, bell peppers, kidney beans, cannellini beans (with liquid from can), diced tomatoes and the rest of the beer. Cover and simmer 45-60 minutes or until desired thickness is achieved. Top with cheese and serve.

“Miles Away from Ordinary” Shrimp

With 80 degree days in the middle of March this year, my itch for bare feet and beers in the sunshine is strong — and the bizarre flip back to normal chilly, rainy spring days has me looking for summer anywhere I can find it. Wearing flip flops on days when my toes turn blue is not working out so well though.

So I started looking for summer at the market. Reading Terminal Market is my go to for great meats, fish and vegetables — and I get a student discount on Wednesdays to boot. I like to go in the morning, after the 9-5’ers rush in and out for breakfast — it’s quiet, everyone is still happy since their days’ haven’t had much chance to be bad yet, and navigating the stalls is managable. Forget about going at lunch time.

With my craving grumbling, I made my way over to John Yi Fish Market and eyed up their case for some ideas. And there they were…

Glorious piles of shrimp. I was raised on this stuff. Pink foods were my thing for a while — shrimp and salmon were all I wanted. When picking my poison, I asked why some were pink and others blue. The answer: different species–but they all will turn pink when cooked. I’ve worked with both before and find that it’s easier to tell when the tiger shrimp (read: blue shrimp) are cooked because they turn pink…so I ordered a pound and headed home.

With the shrimp split up the back and cleaned, and Corona in hand — because I deserve a beer after that process — I readied my double boiler and jumped up on the counter in search of some Old Bay. I spotted red lid, caked with remains of crab boils past and muscle memory took over; the salty, peppery chili spice watered on my tongue.

I grabbed the can and jumped down, excited that in a few minutes I would be feasting…but something was off — the can was too light.

The Old Bay was gone. Why else would it be in the back of the cabinet? This is what living with your little brother is like.

I had to try something else. So I dumped the remains of my beer into the bottom pot of the steamer in place of the water, squeezed the juice of half a lime and crossed my fingers.

Like shrimp, Corona and lime make me think of summer time.This might just work, I thought to my self as I placed the top pot with the shrimp over the beer and set my timer for 8 minutes.

And work it did. The green, citrus cut the fishiness and gave most of the flavor (kind of like it does with the beer) but grain and corn flavors from the pale lager just made it to the meat. My intention was to put these shrimp onto a salad, take a new beer out to the back deck and listen to the hum of I-95 — which, if you close your eyes can be confused with the sounds of the ocean — but I never made it.  My brother came home and we ate them all out of the pot, right off of the stovetop. Just like we used to in the summer when we were kids.

Miles Away from Ordinary Shrimp

  • 1 lb Fresh, Raw Tiger Shrimp, cleaned and de-veined (if possible)
  • lime, cut into slices
  • 1 bottle Corona

If you are able to get cleaned and de-veined shrimp, do it! Otherwise, cut the shrimp along the back with a paring knife or pair of kitchen scissors and clean the black vein out. In the top/steamer pot of a double boiler, rinse all of the shrimp well. In the bottom/sauce pot, pour the beer and juice of 1/2 of a lime. Stack pots, cover and cook on med-high heat for 8 minutes. Shrimp will be completely pink when they are finished. Remove from heat and serve, squeezing extra lime to taste.