The craft beer movement has been part of my life for more than 15 years. In my early 20's, I vividly remember consuming some of the most delicious microbrews in the Pacific Northwest, along with fresh salmon and some of the most delicious sushi I've had in my life. As life moved on, and the scenery changed from evergreens and fresh fish to wide open spaces and corn fields, our love of microbrews and craft beers evolved. The craft breweries were not as prevalent in the Midwest as they were in the Pacific Northwest, so we resorted to creating our own. A sudden move to sunny San Diego once again put us in the center of brewing innovation. Places like Stone and Firehouse Brewing changed our views on bold and unique brews.
There is nothing quite as simple or versatile as homemade vanilla sugar. Vanilla sugar can be utilized in a variety of desserts; from apple pies, snickerdoodles and crème brûlée to light and airy pavlova's. Vanilla sugar can even be used in savory recipes to give a slight sweetness to acidic foods such as barbecue sauce and vinaigrettes. Add to drinks such as coffee or tea - the possibilities are endless!
Panna Cotta is a sweet, creamy and tangy custard-like dessert, minus the eggs! Panna Cotta is a quintessential Northern Italian dessert, perfect for warm summer nights. Panna Cotta can be served with fresh fruit, berry coulis, homemade caramel sauce or simply drizzled with fresh honey. Tahitian vanilla beans enhance the tangy flavor of the cream and buttermilk while lending a slight floral flavor to the dessert. This is the perfect dessert to make ahead and impress your guests!
Do you have a special place from your childhood that your mind wanders to from time to time? I do! I come from a large family of six boys and me. I am the oldest, and the only girl. Lucky me, huh?! Needless to say, this made one-on-one time with our parents difficult at times. Some of my fondest memories were the one-on-one times I spent with my father. Small moments like learning more about who my parents were beyond the everyday moments of being parents stand out in my mind. My dad was a master fly fisherman, and he also was one of the few craftsmen left in America who completely hand crafted and sold custom bamboo fly rods as a hobby. These were truly labors of love from hand planing the large pieces of bamboo that would arrive at our home, to gluing and kiln-drying the entire finished product. There were many more steps to the process, but my favorite step was when he had completed a rod and tested it in our backyard...the fluid motion of his hand combined with the whooshing sound of the lines, so graceful and fluid. When he had finished testing the rod and was satisfied with the craftsmanship, he would treat us to ice cream. This was not just any ice cream shop. This was “dad’s special” ice cream place. The ice cream tasted better than any other place I knew--soft and creamy, full of flavor. The most important part of the memory for me was, and still is, is that I got to spend time with my dad.
I embrace technology whole heartedly. My iPad, iPhone and digital camera rarely stray far from my satchel. I love being connected to anyone and everyone far and near, but I simply can't embrace reading my favorite publications in digital form. There is something about the feel of flipping through my favorite food magazines and cookbooks, and the feel of the pages and the vibrancy of the photographs gracing the pictorials. I have a file of my favorite international food magazines that I often refer to when creating new recipes. The pages are worn and many are dog-eared waiting for future projects, but I wouldn't trade them for an e-reader or the simplicity of the iPad. I recently pulled one of them out looking for inspiration; a beautiful recipe for marinated raspberries and coconut granita caught my eye. Simple, unique and refreshing! I took the concept and adapted it to fit Beanilla and what I think you, the reader, will enjoy!
I recently walked into the grocery store and was immediately greeted by the sweet aroma of strawberries. The sweet smell instantly transported me back to Southern California. The strawberry fields in Carlsbad were in full production this time of year. The kids and I loved to gather up our beach gear, put the top down on the jeep and head to the coast for a day of sun, sand and strawberry picking. Many of the sweet berries never quite made it home, but those that did usually ended up in a simple fruit salad or even homemade jam to savor during the winter months.
I get so excited this time of year! The trees are blooming, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and the fruit is starting smell like fruit. If you don’t live on the west coast, you know what I’m talking about… There is a time in the dead of winter when you walk into the grocery store and the fruit and produce aisles smell like the floor cleaner they used earlier that morning. The strawberries are still red and ripe, but that intoxicating smell of fresh strawberries doesn’t overwhelm you. The raspberries don’t smell like raspberries, and if you’re lucky enough to find a peach, they smell like the packing material they arrived in. But… this time of year the produce aisles magically transform. The aroma of freshly picked fruit greets you the moment you step in. Finally! Fruit that tastes like fruit, and soon tomatoes that don’t taste like cardboard! If you live in the Midwest, celebrate this time (it is fleeting) with a fresh peach crumble. Simply slice the deliciously aromatic peach you can now find in the produce aisle and top it with a simple crumble. Bake to enhance the sweetness of the fruit, and store this memory away for next winter.