I’m a Home Brewer! + A Giveaway from The Brooklyn Brew Shop!

I always said my dream job would be a to be a brewmaster. Except I had never made beer.

Making beer at home is something I have been interested in for a long time. A while back, I watched a documentary called The American Brew: The Rich and Surprising History of Beer. It was fascinating, hitting all the highlights of American beer companies, the burgeoning craft beer industry, and even the popularity of homebrewing. For the segment on homebrewing, the documentary featured Erica Shea and Stephen Valand, founders of The Brooklyn Brew Shop. The Brooklyn Brew Shop evolved out of the idea that there just wasn’t a one-stop-shop for folks who wanted to get into homebrewing that offered good quality ingredients and equipment.

I remember the first few times I tried canning. I was nervous. There seemed to be so much that could go wrong. But now I’m totally comfortable doing it, and don’t even need to consult the directions every time. Making the beer was a lot like those first few times I canned: making sure I followed the directions to a “T”.  I was nervous. But now I’m hooked on homebrewing. One sip of beer that I made is all it took.

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The contents of the kit. Everything you need for making a batch of beer.

These kits seriously have everything you would need. Thermometer? Check. Tubing? Check. Sanitizer? Check. You seriously don’t need to buy anything in addition to the kit. The directions for all the beers are on the website. Just download them when you buy your beer kit. You actually will need something to keep your finished beer in. You can use resealable beer bottles like the kind Grolsch comes in. They might be a little bit hard to find. Grolsch beer is still sold out there. My dad found a whole bucket of used Grolsch bottles an at estate sale for like $3, so I just borrowed some from him. You’ll need six bottles.

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The mash. Can you make oatmeal? Then you can make mash.

I had a general idea how beer was made, but after making this match, I understand why things are done the way they are. The science behind it makes sense to me now, which is fascinating and  makes me appreciate good beer even more.

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Once you strain off the grain, you have what’s called wort. This is when things got interesting. You have to boil the wort, adding hops at intervals while you boil it. Did you know this is the step when beer gets its flavor? I opened the packages of hops and took a nice deep inhale. Wow. If you like the taste of hops, you’ll love the smell. Absolutely amazing.

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The last step on this day is to put it in the carboy and pitch the yeast. Now the hard part comes… Waiting.

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I couldn’t help but to check it every day when I got home from work. The first two days, it bubbled out of the tube like crazy. This is a good sign, it means it’s fermenting! Leave it alone for about two weeks.

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Bottling was kinda a messy process, but didn’t take long at all. Now more waiting while the beer bottle conditions.

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Two weeks later, “Ah!” This beer was so tasty. I chose Everyday IPA, and it really is a nice balanced IPA that appeals to even non-IPA drinkers, I think.

Now that I have a kit, all I need are the ingredients to make another batch. You can buy those in a single package from The Brooklyn Brew Shop. They have seasonal brews that they rotate throughout the year. You can even sign up for a Brew Club membership, and they’ll send you a kit every quarter. This is very tempting. I just can’t decide what kind I want next.

There are tons of videos on The Brooklyn Brew Shop’s website guiding you through every step from day one until you are drinking your beer. They truly want everyone out there to give it a try and get a good batch. Homebrewing is becoming so popular, I think as more people are getting back into our kitchens, and becoming aware of where the food (and drinks) we enjoy come from and are made of. This is definitely something that anyone who appreciates good beer needs to try.

So, I know the reason you suffered through all my pictures and ramblings. The giveaway, right?

Maybe you, like I, have dreamed of a career as a brewmaster. Maybe you just like beer. Either way, if you ever needed a push to get you into it, or you just really want to learn about beer making, I’m talking to you, here.

Erica and Stephen, the brains behind The Brooklyn Brew Shop, have graciously provided an autographed copy of their book, Make Some Beer: Small Batch Recipes from Brooklyn to Bamberg for one lucky reader. Even if you aren’t quite ready to brew your own beer, this book is fascinating. Did you know that Erica and Stephen got The Brooklyn Brew Shop off the ground by quitting their day jobs, packing up a suitcase and travelling to all the great beer cities and regions in Europe for a few weeks? I want that life. Le sigh.

The book is full of recipes from some of the greatest breweries in Europe and the stories that go along with the beers. The book is really incredible. I’m kinda sad I can’t keep it.

But that’s a good thing for you, because one of you will get it. All you need to do to win is to leave me a comment below telling me your favorite type of beer. You might be like me, and have trouble narrowing it down. That’s okay. Simply “not Busch Light” is an acceptable answer. Want an extra entry? Follow The Brooklyn Brew Shop on twitter, and then leave another comment telling me that you do. You can get one more entry for liking The Brooklyn Brew Shop on Facebook and leaving me a separate comment telling me that you did. Finally, you can get a fourth entry by tweeting a link to this post and leaving a comment with the url of your tweet. That’s four entries total. The contest is open until Wednesday, November 5th at 11:59 p.m. The winning comment will be randomly selected and the author notified by email. Sorry, U.S. addresses only. So get to commenting and liking and all that. Good luck, folks!

*This giveaway was sponsored by The Brooklyn Brew Shop, who has provided the book. The opinions and content are, as always, exclusively mine.

 

WINNER! Caramelized Fennel Mac and Cheese + a Dreamfields pasta GIVEAWAY

* We have a winner, folks! The lucky number was 23. That comment belongs to Sonya Morris. I’ll email you with the details. Thanks so much, guys! 

I partnered with Dreamfields pasta and several other fabulous food bloggers to celebrate National Pasta Month. The post and giveaway are sponsored by Dreamfields. Below you can win a variety pack of Dreamfields pasta and a $25 gift card. Also, check out #Iheartdreamfields on Twitter for other Dreamfields pasta recipes throughout the month of October.

The Hubs and I try to do a “date night” once a week. Sometimes we go out, but we really enjoy staying in and “cheffing it up” together on date night. It can be anything from a couple steaks on the grill and a nice bottle of wine, to trying our hand at ethnic food we both love eating. Now that the weather is getting cooler and fall has officially set in, date nights in call for something warm and hearty for dinner, and being being curled up on the couch with a movie.

Enter caramelized fennel mac and cheese. It’s elegant and fancy enough for a date night dinner, but still an old favorite, mac and cheese.

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This recipe happened by accident, really. A while back, I had bought some fennel to make another pasta dish that had long pasta. I can’t even remember what it was, but it definitely called for fennel and linguine or something. When I finally got around to making it, I realized I didn’t even have any long pasta, but I did have elbow macaroni. I totally improvised, and threw the fennel in the skillet to saute while I boiled some macaroni for mac and cheese. I figured I’d just throw it all together and see what happened. Turns out, it was amazing.

Don’t be turned off by the fennel in this recipe. When it is raw, it does have an a bracingly strong taste that some people don’t like. But when you cook it down a bit with some butter, the taste turns mellow and soft, and compliments melty cheese sauce and pasta perfectly.

Fennel shaped like hearts. So romantic, right?

Fennel shaped like hearts. So romantic, right?

Date Night Caramelized Fennel Mac and Cheese (serves 2)

  • 1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped fennel, bulb and stalks (this was about half of a bulb and stalks)
  • 1 cup Dreamfields elbow macaroni, dry
  • 1 1/2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Tb all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 oz. fontina, shredded
  • 2 Tb of shredded parmesan (divided)
  • 3 Tb bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp unsalted butter

Bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. When the water reaches a boil, cook the macaroni according to the package directions. Meanwhile, heat the 1 Tb olive oil and 1 Tb butter in a skillet until melted on low heat. Add the chopped fennel, and turn the heat up to medium high. Stir the fennel constantly to keep it from burning until it begins to turn golden brown and soft. This takes about 10 minutes. Set aside. Add the 1 1/2 Tb of oil and flour to another pot, and turn heat on low. Blend together into a paste and cook for a minute or two. Slowly whisk in the milk, until all the lumps are gone. Season with black pepper and the nutmeg. Turn the heat up to medium and whisk slowly to keep from scorching until the mixture thickens. Add the fontina cheese and 1 Tb of the parmesan to the milk mixture and stir well to melt the cheese, so the sauce is smooth. Add the caramelized fennel to the cheese sauce. Once the macaroni is al dente, remove from heat and drain the water. Mix the cheese and fennel with the noodles and stir well to completely coat the noodles. Add the 1 tsp of butter to a skillet (can be the same one you used for the fennel) and turn on low heat. When the butter is melted, add the bread crumbs, 1 Tb shredded parmesan and paprika, and stir well. Brown on low heat for a few minutes, stirring often until the bread crumbs turn a deep brown and crisp up a bit. Divide the mac and cheese between two dishes and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of each.

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Browned and crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Browned and crunchy breadcrumb topping.

Because mac and cheese is so rich and decadent, it’s nice to get a little help in this dish in the good-for-you department from Dreamfields pasta. You guys know I don’t usually subscribe to health claims, but here’s why Dreamfields pasta gets a gold star, and you should be choosing it when you buy pasta. Dreamfields pasta has more fiber and fewer calories and sugar per serving that other types of pastas. It’s because Dreamfields has formulated their pasta with inulin, a form of vegetable fiber. Everyone knows that fiber is good for you, but the reason is that it helps slow your digestion so you feel fuller and you don’t have a carb crash later like we sometimes do when we heat carb-heavy dishes. I also like it because it cooks perfectly al dente in only a few minutes, and doesn’t get mushy easily.

Voila! Date night dinner.

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Now for the fun part… The GIVEAWAY!

Dreamfields will send one lucky reader a variety (seven kinds!) of pastas and a $25 gift card. All you have to do to get in on the action, is simply leave a comment below telling me what kind of pasta is your favorite. You can get more chances to win by “liking” or “following” Dreamfields on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Just leave a separate comment for each one with your respective Twitter or Instagram username. So, if you do all three of those things, you can have a total of four entries for the giveaway. Just remember to leave a separate comment for each one that you do.

The winner will be selected randomly and notified by email. The contest is open until Monday, October 27th at 11:59 pm. The contest is open to U.S. addresses only.

Good luck!

The legal jargon: This post was sponsored by Dreamfields Pasta. As always, opinions are 100% mine. I received some shwag in the form of pasta from Dreamfields for writing it, and you can receive some too, if you enter the giveaway.

PROJECT RECIPE: Poutine from The Good and Cheap Cookbook

I stumbled on the beautiful Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4 a Day cookbook one day on one of the Internet sites that I like dedicated to sustainable and conscientious eating.

The cookbook was thought up by Leanne Brown as part of her master’s degree project in food studies at NYU. The cookbook is designed specifically for SNAP (Supplemental Assistance for Needy Families, i.e. “food stamps”) budgets. While the problems with our food system are varied and layered, sometimes they seem to pit the “haves” against the “have nots.” This is unfortunate because it shouldn’t matter how much you have in order to enjoy great food.  Sure, money certainly buys some of the finest and exotic ingredients throughout the world, but many of the best dishes we enjoy today started out as peasant food. This is the food of the greatest economy; using what you have and not wasting anything.

The Good and Cheap cookbook bridges the gap between eating wonderful food and budgeting. Often, the most economical way to feed yourself and your family is by cooking whole foods from scratch.  Ounce by ounce and especially calorie for calorie, whole foods cooked at home are the cheapest. Cooking doesn’t always require much time or specialized knowledge. You just really have to have an appreciation for what kind of food you like and where it comes from.

You can download a pdf version of the cookbook for free. I only printed a few recipes, but now that I look at it again, I want to download the whole thing. It’s beautifully photographed, thoughtfully put together, and absolutely full of delicious recipes. This is my PROJECT RECIPE review of the recipe for poutine, and obviously, by how much I’ve gushed about it, it’s a keeper.

This summer, the Hubs and I went to Niagara Falls and tried poutine for the first time. Poutine is a French Canadian dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. It sounds gross, but it’s actually fantastic.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper, for sure. This was an easy weeknight meal, perfect for cool fall and winter nights. Instead of cheese curd, which can be hard to find (and is likely too expensive for a SNAP budget), the recipe calls for fresh mozzarella. There was no difference in taste or texture with fresh mozzarella, having had the real thing in Canada. I made this for Meatless Monday since the gravy recipe calls for vegetable broth, but you could easily use beef or chicken broth. The vegetable broth gave it a nice light flavor, though. It was very filling.

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have any fresh sage, so I skipped that.  I probably made too many potatoes too. I didn’t have russet, but I did have some good size red-skinned potatoes. The next time I make this, I will make the potatoes a little differently. I have always heard that potatoes will get crispier if you soak them in cold water after you cut them into fries, then dry them off and oil them before you bake them.

I will definitely make this again, and I’m going to download the rest of the cookbook. I would encourage you to download it too since it’s free. It’s full of really amazing recipes that are easy to make for weeknight dinners, and definitely won’t break the bank. Can’t we all use a few more of those?Poutine

PROJECT RECIPE: Swedish Meatballs

I love Ikea. Really love it. Smart coffee tables that cost less than your monthly cable bill. Delicious Swedish food. What’s not to love?

The very first time I went to an Ikea, I went there specifically to eat. And I got the meatballs. Because what else do you get at Ikea for dinner?

I’ve been looking for a meatball that measures up to the convenient ones they sell right beside mocked up kitchens and bedrooms. I think I might have found it.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, of course, but it’s from Damn Delicious. I’m not 100% sure, but I think I met her at Mixed one of the times I went. At any rate, this meatball recipe really is damn delicious.

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Swedish meatballs are perfect cold weather comfort food. What makes them Swedish, and not just regular meatballs is the sour cream in the sauce. It gives it a nice little unexpected tang.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. I have a pretty good meatball recipe that is no-fail, and pretty basic. But these are something special. The meatball recipe you get out when you want to impress people. The ingredients are pretty straight forward. Nothing fancy, but that means you can taste all the nuances of the pork and ground beef and spices. I definitely could taste all these things in every bite. Sometimes with meatballs you don’t really get that. But they were delicious. Sometimes the most delicious things are simple.

How I changed the recipe: When most people see browned bits of meat stuck to the bottom of a skillet, most people might be annoyed that the meat was sticking a little. I get excited because that means I can pour a little white wine in the skillet and make awesome sauce. Literally, that’s what people mean when they say “awesome sauce.” Bits of browned meat, white wine and some oil. But, if you’re going to make gravy with a roux, resist the urge to deglaze your pan. Just make your gravy with your flour and butter, and scrape up the bits when you’re whisking in the stock. I did not resist this urge, and my gravy didn’t get as think as it should have been. Also, I was too lazy to chop some fresh parsley, so I used (gasp!) dried. The dish still turned out fine. I didn’t use panko either, I used the bread crumbs I keep in my freezer that I make from old bread. I didn’t notice any difference.

These weren’t hard to make either. I did them in two batches in the skillet. I usually make them in the oven, but you do get a nice brown crust on them in the skillet. The worst part about making meatballs is rolling them out. I hate that, but at least eating these for dinner makes that worth it.

PROJECT RECIPE: Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas

I notoriously hate Buffalo wings. I hate Buffalo sauce. It’s weird, I know. But there’s just something about it that grosses me out. The Hubs, on the other hand, I think could eat Buffalo wings every single day.

So, I either lost my mind, or I am the best wife ever, when I decided to make Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas after I saw a recipe on Pinterest.

I had a feeling that drowned out with enough other ingredients, these enchiladas would be pretty bangin’. I was right.

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PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. These were so yummy and gooey from the cream cheese and hot sauce. I used Crystal, by the way, because it’s not too hot, since I’m a Buffalo sauce hater. I definitely wanted a second serving, but one filled me up.

How I changed the recipe: I only had 5 whole wheat flour tortillas (leftovers from who knows what), so I just filled them a little extra. I definitely recommend doing this because they were just right. I put them in a 9 X 9 pan instead of the 9 X 13 pan, so they’d be nice and snug. I also didn’t have the tomato sauce, so I subbed a couple splashes of white wine and some salt and pepper when I was cooking the tomato and pepper mixture.

Perfect with a cold beer and hockey on TV. Just like if you'd gone out for wings to watch the game... Almost.

Perfect with a cold beer and hockey on TV. Just like if you’d gone out for wings to watch the game… Almost.

If you like Buffalo-y dishes (or even if you don’t) this is definitely your game. Trust me. If I am reaching for seconds of anything resembling Buffalo sauce, that’s a true testament to how good they are. Click the embedded link above to get the recipe yourself.

That time I made laundry detergent.

I love Pinterest. I like to think it brings out the best in me. Like I’m super creative and crafty and all that. It’s the worst to look at it right before lunch. So. Many. Delicious. Dishes.

At any rate, I found a pin about making your own laundry detergent, and I was intrigued. I love trying this kind of stuff, and I’m trying to be all green and stuff, so I decided to give it a try.

Turns out it was EXTREMELY easy. Like way easier than I thought it would be. And, ounce for ounce, it costs a fraction of the store bought stuff. Pinterest success.

Here’s how I did it.

You need:

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1/3 bar Fels Naptha

1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax

1/2 cup  Washing Soda (not baking soda)

A bucket (I used an empty and rinsed cat litter bucket)

A container like an old detergent jug for your finished detergent (optional, but makes easier use)

Grate the Fels Naptha soap on a cheese grater. Heat about two quarts (or so… measurements don’t need to be exact) in a medium sauce pan and add the shredded soap. Don’t let the mixture boil, just stir until the soap is melted. Add the borax and washing soda and stir well. Remove from heat. Pour a quart of hot water into your bucket, then add the soap mixture and stir well. Now add another 5 quarts of hot water and stir it up again. Let it sit for several hours (or overnight). When you check your detergent the next morning (or whenever) it will be all gloppy and gelatinous, but it is pretty much done. Stir it pretty vigorously again to break it up and make it relatively smooth and even. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Now you’re ready to use it. Fill up your old detergent jug if you have one to make it easier to pour and use. Pouring or dipping from the bucket each time you use it is a little unwieldy. Use 1/2 cup per large load of laundry.

Put the rest of your soap away for the next time.

Put the rest of your soap away for the next time.

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Heat until the soap is just melted and blended.

The finished product!

The finished product!

While I’m at it, if you want to be a totally green DIY’er, you don’t need to buy expensive fabric softener either. You can totally use white vinegar. No, your clothes won’t smell like a pickle. You won’t even notice a difference. I have a Downey ball, so I just fill that up with cleaning vinegar (6% acidity, as opposed to 5% acidity of regular vinegar). I bought two gallons of it when it was marked down a few months back. Regular vinegar works just fine, too. Just don’t use cider vinegar. If you don’t have a Downey ball, simply add about 1/2 of vinegar to the rinse cycle. Supposedly it makes your whites whiter, but I’ve only used it a couple times on whites, and I haven’t noticed a difference yet.

The cost for this DIY detergent is pennies on the dollar compared to store-bought. My calculations are pretty rough, but here goes. I can do about 100 loads of laundry with the batch I made. The Fels Naptha was 1.99. One third of that is about 66 cents. The Borax was 8.99. A half a cup is about 1/16 of the box. That’s about 56 cents per batch. The washing soda was 9.00. Half a cup is 1/4 of the box, so that comes out to 64 cents per batch. This comes out to a whopping 1.8 cents per load. Two cents if you round up. That’s about 1/20th of what the store-bought stuff costs if it’s not on sale. One tenth of the cost if it is on sale. With buying one box of Borax and one box of washing soda, I’m pretty much stocked up for about five years with detergent. Hard to argue with that.

PROJECT RECIPE: Spicy Tofu Hotpot

I found this recipe for Spicy Tofu Hotpot on Pinterest, and because I love slurpy Asian noodles of any kind, I decided to make it.

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It was worth it.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper. I was skeptical because it doesn’t have any fancy exotic ingredients, but it was soooo tasty. It hit all those umami notes. And it was super easy and on the table in no time. Perfect for weeknights. Like perhaps Meatless Monday. And it was pretty healthy, to boot.

How I changed the recipe: I didn’t have lo mein. All I had was linguini, so that’s what I had to use. Also, I used chicken stock because I was making some in the slow cooker from the carcass left from the coq au vin I made earlier in the week. That added lots of flavor, but I’m sure it would have been good with vegetable stock. Also, I didn’t have any fresh ginger–had to use the powder. All these things apparently didn’t take away from the dish a bit, as it was delicious. For the chili garlic sauce, I used Sriracha.

If you are new to Asian cooking, this would be a great recipe to start with. It didn’t take any hard-to-find ingredients. Bok choy is found in the the produce section pretty regularly, and if you can’t find it, you could use any bitter green like kale, which is easy to find.

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Actually, the bok choy was from one of the Hubs’s coworkers who grew bok choy in his garden this summer. He was sick of eating so much of it, so he brought him two bunches. I gladly accepted it. Homegrown free bok choy? That’s a no-brainer.

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The recipe says it serves six, but I’d say it’s more like four for a meal. Nonetheless, I cannot wait to have the leftovers. It’s a glowing endorsement anytime you are looking forward to leftovers, in my book. Click the link at the beginning of the post to get the link to the recipe and try this one yourself.

Coq Au Vin Blanc

The title sounds fancy, right? It’s French and all. But the truth is, this dinner couldn’t be simpler.

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Want to impress a dinner guest by making a fancy dish that tastes like you slaved over the stove all day, without all the fuss? This is your game.

Almost all the recipes you see call for red wine, but I like it better with white. It’s a visual thing. I’m sure red wine makes a fine coq au vin, but purple chicken doesn’t look that appetizing. Cooking chicken low and slow in some wine in the oven with some aromatic vegetables and herbs makes it absolutely heavenly. The meat stays juicy when you braise it, and the juices that do run out of it mix with the wine and make a velvety rich sauce. (Don’t worry, heat cooks the alcohol out of the wine.) You’ll seriously be amazed how easy it is to get this dinner on the table. And now that weather is turning cool, this is the perfect weekend dinner.

Coq Au Vin Blanc (serves 4 generously)

  • 1 four-pound whole chicken (or 1 whole chicken already cut up, about 4 pounds)
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb bacon fat (or sub olive oil)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • about a handful of parsley, chopped fine
  • 2 cups of decent white wine, not too sweet (I used Riesling)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Pre-heat oven to 325. Cut up the chicken if it’s whole. Pat dry. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat olive oil and bacon fat in a large dutch oven on medium heat. Put the pieces of chicken in the pot, skin side down. If you cannot fit it all in the pot at one time in one layer, work in batches. Brown the skin in the hot oil until it’s golden brown. Turn the pieces over and brown the other side. Once the chicken is all browned, remove to a plate. Turn up the heat to medium high. Pour 1 cup of the wine in the pot and scrape up the bits of chicken and skin stuck to the bottom of the pot with a spoon. Cook for a minute or so. Add the vegetables, parsley, thyme and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Add the chicken pieces back to the pot and the remaining cup of wine. Bring the pot back to a boil. Remove from the stove top and place in the oven with a lid. Braise an hour and half to two hours. Remove from the oven when the chicken is tender and cooked through. Let rest on the stove top with the lid on for ten minutes before serving to allow sauce to thicken a bit.

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It’s important to pat the chicken skin dry to get the golden brown skin. Make sure your chicken is in a single layer.

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Add the wine and bring back up to a boil before putting it in the oven. Your house will smell amazing and your stomach will be growling. I guarantee it.

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Finally, it’s done and you can put it on the table and look all smug while your dining companion raves about how amazing it is. Or, if you’re all by yourself, pat yourself on the back at this fancy French dinner you just made and fantasize about the leftovers in your lunch the next day.

Making this dish really takes about 25 minutes or less of active cooking time, the oven does all the heavy lifting for you. The wine gives it such a rich and decadent element that makes it seem way fancier than it really is. It’s hard to mess up braising. You’d be remiss not to try this on a lazy Sunday for dinner. Makes me wonder why I don’t do it more often.

Scenes from the farmers market

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I hadn’t been to the local farmers market, The Capitol Market, all season long.

It’s just that I have had lots of veggies come my way from my father-in-law’s garden, and I sometimes order from the Monroe Farm Market, which delivers to Charleston.

I think late summer and early fall are the absolute best times to visit the Capitol Market, though. The market is absolutely bursting with vegetables from the peak of the season, plants, flowers and farm products. I stopped by on my way home from work to check the selection and price a few things I plan on getting in the next few weeks–winter squash for storing, a box of apples to make into apple sauce and can, and some plants.

I found a true feast for the eyes. Beautiful late day light, so many colors and textures, and some really great people to talk to.

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Garlic from one of my favorite producers. I’ve never bought their garlic before, but they have fabulous hydroponic tomatoes that are available before any other fresh tomatoes–key when you are longing for that first ripe tomato in May, and the field tomatoes won’t be ready until the end of June.

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The booths were all fully stocked with fall farm products; Indian corn, winter squash and pumpkins. A lot of people seem to buy this stuff to decorate their porches with it. I buy the winter squash and pumpkins to store. Last year, I had a Long Island Cheese squash in my garage until February. They are supposedly some of the best for storing.

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I chuckled because I knew a lot of these varieties. I think it’s because I’m a seed catalog nerd. I pour over those in January and February when the snow is flying. Guatemalan Banana squash, blue hubbard, cushaw, turk’s turban (not in this pic). But there was one I didn’t recognize.

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This big bright orange boy in the middle. It was like the color was fake or something it was so bright. Gorgeous!

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Of course, fall produce and products aren’t the only things left. There were still tons of tomatoes, peppers, beets, zucchini, green beans, eggplants and the like. August and September are prime months for the full summer bounty.

Look at these beautiful October beans! So pretty!

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I walked back to my car through the inside. It’s open year-round. There are so many neat things for sale inside. There are permanent booths selling a variety of things; a meat shop, a seafood supplier, a wine and cheese shop, a local choclatier, and a produce supplier that carries lots of neat dried beans, pastas, olive oils, dried goods and other goodies.

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It’s hard not to be in love with this place. At the end of October, the produce booths outside will clear out to make way for Christmas tree farms to bring in Christmas trees and other evergreen products. Then, the outside booths will be empty until spring flowers are ready about April. I’ll be back next week to pick up a box of apples to can and probably a rosemary plant to put in the ground.

It’s Greens Season.

One of the many things I love about this time of year is that greens are back. A lot of greens don’t like hot weather, so shorter cooler days mean greens are growing again. Kale is my favorite, but I’ve gotten some interesting varieties from the Monroe Farm Market that I would not have picked up otherwise. A couple years ago, I bought kohlrabi greens from the market, and I didn’t even know people ate them. They turned out fantastic in a stir-fry.

Recently, the market had broccoli greens. Again, I didn’t realize you could eat those, but I love that these farmers are using everything from the plant. Nothing gets wasted. If I was the person growing the broccoli, of course, I’d compost the roots and use the tough stalks in vegetable stock, too.

broccoli greens

broccoli greens (4)

I had a big bunch of broccoli greens, and I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. I added about half to some pasta with ricotta cheese , caramelized onions and white wine.

broccoli greens (3)

They have a little bit of the bitter bite like broccoli, but mellowed out some when I wilted them down with the white wine. The ricotta and caramelized onions were a nice sweet note against the broccoli greens’ bite.

broccoli greens (2)

I think I’ll use the other half of the bunch for a stir fry. Bitter is great for Asian flavors. You get that umami thing going.

Now that it’s fall (technically today), you’ll start seeing some of these cool weather veggies. Don’t be afraid to try the broccoli greens. You won’t be sorry!