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It’s a…

Cookbook!

In February, this really incredible thing happened. I was asked to help write a cookbook. Mind you, I’m merely a small piece of a big project; it took a talented team to pull off this feat. Yet, here we are. It feels like a dream to see my name listed on the title page but, somehow, it’s real.

I half-jokingly compare it to a gestation period. In the course of nine months, I felt like there were big and exciting changes but the world around me wasn’t privy to this in the same way I was experiencing it. I’ve tried to distill it down but it was exciting, rapidly changing, at times chaotic – as the few paragraphs below are, and not easy to fully explain. And, as they say happens with childbirth, I seem to have forgotten any frustration and would happily do it all over again.
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A Shrimp Lover’s Scampi

Fall is for birthdays, at least in my family. My love’s birthday is in September, my mom and sister both celebrate October birthdays, I have a cousin who has a birthday is this week, and my grandmother was born this month too.

In my immediate family, we always celebrated individually…but now that we’ve grown (and our family is growing too, with some good men), we are consolidating the celebrations.

Shrimp is a favorite for all of the family, save two of us. I have a weird dislike of cold shrimp but do enjoy it as an accompaniment to warm dishes. My soon-to-be-sweet-sixteen (oh yeah, we also have an early November birthday!) sister hates it but happily settled for the pasta, shrimp-free.

So, what makes this a shrimp lover’s scampi? Doubling up on the shrimp, of course. You could absolutely make it with half the shrimp but, really, why not indulge?

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Herbed Beer Bread

I’ve spent the last few months involved in a big, exciting work project. In case you don’t already know, my job marries my passion for food with my love of writing. I wear a few different hats, as I think anyone who works for a growing company does, but a big part of what I do is writing for Savory Spice Shop. I’m excited to finally be able to share this labor of love…we’ve written a cookbook! Spice to Plate is hot off the press and not yet available for sale but will be in stores and online in just a few short weeks.

I’ve experienced a few side effects of being involved in this project. First, I’ve become much more focused on flavor, noticing how different ingredients “play” together and thinking about how a single ingredient can alter a dish. Second, I haven’t wanted to cook or eat much. You see, when you spend so much time taste-testing, you just aren’t inclined to go home and eat a full meal. (My favorite snack dinner being popcorn and wine.)

But, the seasons are changing. Fall is in the air and, with the taste-testing tapering off, I’m ready to dust off my pans and get back into the kitchen.

A while back, I adapted an old recipe that is found in my grandma’s little wooden recipe box. It’s such an easy recipe that it invites tweaks, based on your mood or the type of beer you’re using. I’ve had an herbed saison hanging around my fridge for a while and figured the sweetness of the saison and the herbal notes of the beer would be perfect for bread. I’ve highlighted the subtle herbal notes with an infusion of dried herbs. It’s fantastic with a smear of honey butter but also makes a pretty good (if somewhat crumbly) sandwich.

If you need an excuse to make this, here in Denver it’s GABF week. This bacchanalia of beer means an excess of food and beer pairing events. If, like me, you didn’t get one of the golden tickets (which sold out in near record time – a mere 32 minutes), have your own beer Fest. The bomber I used for this bread will leave you an ample pour for drinking!

Herbed Beer Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups self-rising flour
1 tablespoon dried Herbes de Provence (or other herb blend of your choice)
4 tablespoons honey
12 oz. saison style beer (preferably infused with herbs)
1 egg, beaten
Flake salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In medium bowl, mix flour and herbs. Add honey and gently stir in beer.

Pour mixture into greased loaf pan and brush with egg. Sprinkle salt over top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. Let cool before cutting.

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Keeping up with the “to do” list

This summer has been fun and exciting, big on plans and short on time. Fear not, the wheels have continued spinning. But, what is there to do when you just can’t keep up with your own “to do” list?

How about a quick recap of excuses and a few teasers of things to come…

Much of my culinary enthusiasm has been diverted to a big, exciting work project. I can’t wait to share more details on this. Soon, I promise!

It’s been a summer of joy. With four weddings, there’s been plenty of flowers, heels, champagne, dancing, and smiles. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it truly is an honor to be able to share in these events and absolutely wonderful to witness such abiding love and abundant joy.

Oh yeah, one of the blushing brides was my sister! Our family has grown this summer. And this guy absolutely adores my sister. So, even if nothing else worth mentioning had happened over the past few months, it still would have been a pretty excellent summer.

Stay tuned for “Campfire Fish Fry.” This one is a recipe from my man’s repertoire and, while fairly simple, has an impressive presentation aspect. Oh, and it’s absolutely delicious!

This engaging book (which I’ve been meaning to read for nearly a year) is currently on my nightstand. I’m not that far in but I already have a recipe idea inspired by it…

A friend had a bountiful tart cherry tree. With the help of a few volunteers, we picked well over 5 pounds. My boozy cherry recipe may take another year to perfect, we will just have to wait and see…

So, there you have it. Like everyone else, much to do and little time. But, check back soon as there are good things coming.

Cheers!

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A Dandy Shandygaff

Beer cocktails. No other words spark controversy in the world of craft brew aficionados quite like these do. Beer cocktails have gained traction in the United States in recent years, thanks to creative and skillful bartenders. Still, detractors argue, “Why would you want to ruin a perfectly good craft beer?”

I used to be one of those people who considered beer cocktails blasphemous. However, some summer days are so uncomfortably hot that even a crisp, light beer seems too heavy. Mixing it with fresh juice or sparkling water renders it lighter and more refreshing. It’s a small point, but true enough.

A classic British beer cocktail, poolside is a perfect place to enjoy a shandy.

Poolside is a perfect place to enjoy a refreshing shandygaff.

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Beef & Stout Stew

Ah, springtime in the Rockies. That glorious time of year when it’s 60 degrees one day, snowing the next morning, and melting by afternoon. I almost held this recipe back as it’s a hearty recipe and would probably be better shared during the cold, dark, can’t-curl-up-without-a-blanket days of winter. But it’s too good not to share, which is to say that I lack the restraint to wait another six months before posting this recipe. To be fair, it’s likely we will have at least one more snow here before spring decides to stay. It’s still quite cool in the mountains, with the last of spring skiing just finished; it’s supposed to be chilly and rainy on Monday, so conditions still warrant a hearty, warm meal.

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