Tuesday, December 6, 2011

recipe: brew-infused apple sticky buns

I recently scribed a guest post for In Search of BeerRyan Hudak's website that details his on-going feat for sampling new beers, all while sharing everything hop-associated, including brew news, event recaps, and even, recipes for cooking and baking with beer. 

Since I too am always on the hunt for the next best beer and strive to incorporate beer in everything possible (talking in dinner, in desserts, and of course, in cocktails), I decided to contribute editorial that tied my love for my PA Dutch culture with my obsession of baking–all of which had to be splashed with beer, of course.

Click here to read up on my time-consuming methods of crafting from-scratch Pennsylvania Dutch Sticky Buns–a recipe I particularly enhanced with fresh apples and extra-special bitter beer. If you can squeeze in the time, for all the glory of dough kneading and dough rising, I promise you that these sweet breads are always a crowd-pleasing hit.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

holiday cookie swaps and bacon chocolate chunk biscotti

There are no elaborate rules to the holiday cookie swap that I host with my best friend. While we together take baking very seriously, an affair that is themed around a sugary spread of everyone's favorite cookies should never be a tense event.

So, if you're a cookie party virgin, do not skip asking for an invitation to our next sweet treat gathering. Whether you're an experienced kitchen crusader or you briefly dabble in dessert-making, no one acts as critics in this get-together, but instead, attendees appreciate each and every contribution, requesting recipes for this and that, aiming to simplify their holiday baking by providing having a fine, diverse take-home sampling for their upcoming parties–or simply, to steal bites from throughout the Christmas season.

For this year's holiday cookie party, I opted to whip up two brand-new recipes for our guests' pleasure. Sometimes, I have lofty baking ideas, and with slim time to actually concoct fine jewels of desserts, they typically end in disasters.

But, I promise you, the following two recipes are crowd-pleasers, perfect to take to any cookie shareeven one of those that all bakers spend entire afternoons prepping for, designing their cookies and their plates, stressing over if their hard-worked contributions will be a raging success.

Monday, August 8, 2011

brunch at cafe luna of cambridge, massachusetts

Until I reached age 23, I never had brunch. Seriously.

I had breakfast, I had lunch, no brunch. I even, when working as a food writing intern in college, mentioned to my editor, "who really goes to brunch?" Her response? "Everyone."

Call me a late bloomer, but do know that while it took me far too long to embrace brunching habits, I am now incredibly hooked.

On a recent excursion to Boston, a pursuit with a purpose to explore another state's beer and attend a Beer Advocate fest (full report here), we stumbled upon a popular brunch spot in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Cafe Luna, petite and packed with endless one-of-a-kind creations that would send any food lover's heart a-flutter, is a go-to spot for local students looking to snag weekend brunch (which also means, they always have quite a wait!). 

Thank god for the hospitality of one delightful manager, we were able to cozy up our six-top outdoors in the summer sun and enjoy a wide sweet and savory sampling. From our lineup of S’mores and Banana Split French Toast, Lemon Curd Topped Berry Waffles, Surf and Turf Eggs Benedict, and their signature “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” breakfast meat platter, we were able to experience a full showing of what the charmed cafe had to offer.

But, if you allow me to digress for one extra moment: The show-stoppers of CL are the sake-swirled Bloody Marys—you’ll forever be addicted and I must leave you with just that bold statement.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

fried sweet bologna sandwich, served up at kutztown folk fest

I am a strange soul, especially when it comes to eating sausages.

I blame it on my past vegetarian diet; the consistency alone terrifies me. But, the taste, especially found in a finely crafted sausage blends, is something I go gaga for and for that reason alone, I continuously attempt to overcome my annoying quirk of straying away from tubes of mouthwatering meats.

So this year, when myself and my dear friend Melissa were attempting to sacrifice any healthy eating habits to explore all the Pennsylvania Dutch eats that Kutztown Folk Festival, I was stuck in a pickle. Was inhaling a hunk of bologna as bad as I thought? This particular (seemingly pleasure-some) piece was served up fried and thick, staring its sink-your-teeth-into-me consistency right in my scared face. 

The gang flipping the "patties" on the griddle were pretty darn jolly, too--how bad could this "can't-leave-the-fest-without-it" gut-buster be?

But, with my traditional grub lover by my side, an idea sparked. If you load anything with sauerkraut, particularly locally-butchered and -smoked meats, any first-time-noshing experience will be enjoyable (we promise). 

And on that fateful day, it was. Juicy and tender, packaged with a purpose, this bologna blew my mind (not exaggerating here, folks). Boasting with confidence, I must say that this Melissa-and-Amy variety of the 'wich plopped with sweet-and-sour "icing" on the "meat cake" steals the Kutztown show!

We suggest if ever going to a local German food fest, never skip the fried bologna, and don't forget a hearty squirt of mustard, either.

Friday, June 24, 2011

a story on strawberries and strawberry cake

There is something quite nice about being raised a country gal. 

While there are many reasons as to why I adore local cities, and quite possibly, why I should relocate to within Philadelphia, I can't bring myself to actually pack up from the 'burbs. There is something reassuring about passing many, many local pastures and farmlands day after day, being close to my homegrown producers who provide exceptional lineups of fresh vegetables, fruits, honey, grass-fed beef, raw milk and much more.

This bring me to my initial reason of publishing this post: gardening. My family always had a large plot of land, which boasted with a hefty planting space packed with sweet corn, tomatoes, zucchinis, carrots, green beans, potatoes, etc. Excitingly for me, a strip of our summer-time garden was dedicated to planting strawberries, making the act of strawberry picking my favorite past time of the year.

Of course, I rarely made it inside with these speckled rubies and instead, sat dirtying my behind, as I sat cozily within the garden gorging on every ripe strawberry I laid my eyes on. Really, I had little to do with the garden other than the strawberry-associated aspects of it, and the rest of my family (I think?) was okay with this.

Sadly, I can't say that now I have my own strawberry picking plot, but each late May/early June, I still horde my fair share of this gem of a fruit, trying to craft the newest baked good that best highlights this seasonal favorite.

This year? I decided to opt for a simple, sophisticated strawberry cake, prepared in a shallow springform pan and adapted from Martha Stewart, as seen on Two Peas and Their Pod.

Strawberry Cake
Cook Time: 50-55 minutes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top of cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease springform pan. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bow; set aside. 

Cream butter and 1 cup sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in egg, buttermilk and vanilla. Mix until well-combined.

Gradually mix in flour mixture. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Arrange strawberry slices on top of batter. Sprinkle raw sugar over berries.

Bake cake 10 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until cake is golden brown and firm to the touch, about 50-55 minutes. Let cool in pan. 

Serve. If storing, keep cake at room temperature, for up to two days.

father's day dishes and sips at craft ale house

Living in the Philadelphia's 'burbs, we have a much slimmer selection of beer-centric gastropubs than those lucky locals dwelling in more urban areas. 

That being said, Chester County's chefs excel at swirling top-notch brews into finely-crafted creations, and I would amiss if I didn't mention spots like Station Taproom, The Drafting Room, Side Bar, etc. So, that being said, for Father's Day I decided to surprise my fabulous pops (seen here, on left) by taking him to one of these notable spots and opted for Craft Ale House of Limerick.

Since my dear dad had never been to this casual, comfortable ale house that booms with some of the area's best craft beers, I knew he was in for treat. To be honest, even though my father is not drinker, he is a great sport when it comes to new experience (i.e. open to tasting new beers).
So, together with my best friend and her dad, Terry, we tackled a fine share of their above-par pub grub, which included roasted sweet corn soup, fresh spinach dip, house-ground, char-grilled beef burgers, grass-fed hanger steak and the exceptional grilled lamb dish. Terry, who is proud to say that Craft Ale House is his go-to for any celebration, is quite fond of their offering of Funky Farmhouse Mussels, and since I go gaga over all farmhouse ales/saisons, I opted for this entree.
My heaping bowl of shellfish came deliciously dosed in a creamy base comprised of leeks, bacon, blue cheese, garlic, wilted spinach and a heavy pour of saison. Without a doubt, this original recipe won me over, creating me to want to slurp up the thick broth even when I was finished scooping out all of the fresh fish.

Our beer list for the evening included a big bottle of Farmhouse Hatter (New Holland's farmhouse-styled Mad Hatter IPA; I said I'm a sucker for all things farmhouse ales), Malheur 12 (a rich and sweet strong ale), and for my friend, she opted for this year's Strawberry Wheat Ale from Lancaster Brewing Company (which we agreed was a better batch than previous years).

If you haven't visited Craft Ale House as of yet, whether you are looking for a special occasion place or a casual night out, hurry over! The beer list is always eye-catching, food's always extremely fresh (biggest freezer in-house is big enough to only hold a pint of ice cream) and their to-go by-the-bottle selection always has me gushing!

Find Craft Ale House at 708 West Ridge Pike in Limerick or online at www.craftalehouse.com.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

chester county farmers' market season in bloom

Yesterday, May 7, marked the opening of two of Chester County's farmers' markets, the West Chester Growers Market and the Phoenixville Farmers' Market. Since I am slightly obsessed with attending all the farm markets I can in one day, I was sure to hit up both wonderful spots in this county!

As I previously mentioned here, B and I are fiends for a fine loaf of sourdough bread, and thanks to Big Sky Bread Company at the WC market, we almost gobbled a whole loaf of apricot, raisin and walnut wheat bread in an easy ten minutes. I adored seeing the wide assortment of Amish cheese across from the doughy stand, too, but saved my cheese purchases until I hit Phoenixville borough.
It is always a pleasure to see Sue Miller, cheesemaker of Birchrun Hills Farm. Being that it was opening day of the market, Miller was slinging a brand-new, incredibly-creamy (and a must-try) raw milk cheese, Little Chardy, as well as my favorite, the Truly Blue, a 60-day aged collaboration cheese made as a farewell for Amazing Acres Goat Dairy with half-raw milk and half-goat milk.
Did you attend either market? What were your favorite vendors amongst the bunch? I was also floored to nibble on Miller's spicy grass-fed beef sticks, and additionally, pleased to see  first year vendor, Mompops, in the Phoenixville roundup.

local roasted, people focused: a visit to one village coffee

As I reached for what's left of my Sulawesi Toraja coffee beans this morning, a fantastically-roasted bag of caffeination from One Village Coffee, I developed an instant ping of sadness. 

The moment you realize you are grinding the last petite batch (well, "last" until I go to the store for more) of a coffee blend that you would go into a frenzy for is an earth-shaking moment. The adoring feelings I developed for Sulawesi, a blend conceptualized by their Chief Roaster/coffee guru Woody (seen below), followed similar suit to the crush I didn't keep pent up of another one of their varieties, the Smart Blend.

While the Sulawesi marvelously mashes together cocoa and clementine, the Smart is profound amongst its rushing of blueberry, dried fruits and cocoa. However, both are perfect for different days and my work days seem far better suited by having both on hand.
And, being a coffee fiend, I was honored to visit their HQ in Souderton on a Tuesday morning a few weeks back. While the intention for that visit was a feature for here and here (which I will link to in the coming weeks), I couldn't help but share a few scenes of my deliciously intoxicating morning, which also hosted a favorable meet-and-greet with the lineup of their personable staff who devised the coffee operation 4 years back.
You may source One Village Coffee for yourself in Philadelphia coffee shops (and in my 'hood, in Artisans Gallery & Cafe), as well as in Whole Foods markets and various other wonderful independent businesses. Click here to grab a bag or two online, too!

And please do, you'll be in for a beautifully-roasted treat! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

philly food & drink blogger meetup at supper

My first brunch experience at Supper was wonderful and well thought out—specifically on January 1, 2011. Following an awful, awful evening packed with a series of unfortunate events, B and I decided to journey into Philadelphia on New Year's Day and while heading to South Philly on this particular day of the year may be either insane or mandatory (whichever sort of person you are), I had some fun-infused festivities to make up for and kindly, Supper did not let me down.

We played the late-morning/early afternoon brunching cards right, handpicking all the perfectly darling dishes speckled throughout the farm-forward eatery's menu. Aside our friends LeeAnne and Ryan, we loaded up our tabletop with everything mouthwatering, from pumpkin pie french toast and red velvet waffles, crispy apple beignets and cornbread hush puppies, a three egg frittata and a Supper Benny, wild mushroom toast and of course, a Supper Dog (see below). 

While, from just rattling off our menu items, it may appear as though we ordered the entire brunch lineup, and I wouldn't have wished for a better start to the new year. Since the year has so far followed with loads of blissful scenarios (thank goodness), when I recently was invited to a food & drink writer meet-up at Supper, I easily became giddy over revisiting.

On Saturday, April 2, many enthusiastic food lovers piled into the gorgeous upstairs setting at Supper, B and I included. With the lovely, vibrant second-floor as our backdrop, it was a pleasure attending such an event (thank you Wendy for organizing it). It was marvelous to mingle with several locals who I have shared tweets with in the past, and even more so, meeting a bunch of new friends who I hope to share drinks with in the future.
lovely blogging ladies with Supper's  Jen Prensky

cheesy photo with my cheese-loving comrade

 B admiring the Supper dogs

Of course, a midday soiree for a grub-loving gang would not be complete with unforgettable snacks, and this time around at Supper, I was happy to lengthen my list of lovable dishes I have sampled. We can skip my in-person gushing over the red velvet waffles and Supper dog (again), and speed to my Saturday favorites: the Dock Street pancakes topped with candied apples, vanilla foam and housemade crack jacks; and the Dixie Biscuit, big sandwich bites bursting with two scrambled eggs, country ham and pimento cheese.

Dock Street Pancakes 

Dixie Biscuit served with grits & housemade pickles

I can't wait to go back and binge of the best of Supper's brunch—time and time again. I will—without a doubt—continue to pair the brunching experiences like I had the past 2 times, with many, many marvelous mimosas. Also, a big thank you goes out to Jen & Mitch of Supper: Your hospitality, welcoming atmosphere and incredible bites made our blogger bash a success!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

right this hunger-craving second ...

I am off to enjoy a mouthwatering brunch amongst fellow food and drink bloggers of the Philadelphia area. While, in all honesty, I have been an awful blogger for Apples and Cheese, Please as of lately, I am on a mission to pop by more often--even if my main source of writing (seen here) can get hot-and-heavy/slightly time consuming.

But really, there is no better way to spend a Saturday than heading to Supper (where blogger meetup happens to be) for their Red Velvet Waffles, which are delicately topped with an airy cream cheese frosting, pecans and insanely-addicting bourbon-soaked cherries.

Mitch and Jennifer Prensky (chef/co-owners; seen below with pup Bennie) offer a welcoming and casual, farm-to-table experience right off of South Street, which always hints at sheer perfection, whether I'm looking for an upscale dinnertime tasting menu or several fine brunch bites.
Visit Supper at 926 South Street of Philadelphia or online at supperphilly.com.

the girl behind the pink door: deliciously diving deep into the cakes and candies by maryellen

Only steps away from the hustle and bustle of West Chester Pike, a pretty-in-pink sign hangs on one of the petite highway shopping strips reading, vibrantly, “Cakes and Candies by Maryellen.” As an edible labor of love for a former occupational therapist who cherished the flavors and aromas of her afternoons spent in her grandmother's kitchen, Maryellen Bowers began embracing her hereditary skills as an artisan baker and confection creator almost 16 years ago, but it was only in 2009 that she considered taking baking orders full time.

My Nanny would watch my brother and I, and she would seat me in a booster and I would sift sugar on all the Chruscikis [Polish fried cookies] she had made,” said Bowers. “She would bake everything and I would always help. Every time I came home, I looked like a ghost.”
Influenced by the heartfelt moments of her past, Bowers always embraced baking and candy making as a hobby, clinging to the kitchen trades as an escape from her full-time therapist career. But, with the constant growth of her word-of-mouth baking business over the last several years, she knew that her self-taught craft (some of which sourced from her grandmother) would lead her to soon peddle her bountiful baked goods and confectioneries in her own dessert boutique.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

amy marie strauss, in 30 pictures

While haunting around my usual lineup of regularly read blogs, I came across a few bloggers who recently tackled the "30 pictures" assignment. I know, I know, it is such a task that may come across similar to surveys scribed by teens, but trust me -- it is a thrill to comb through your photographs and retell important pockets of memories of your past.

01 / someone i spend a lot of time with:
 02 / a picture of myself:
 03 / a picture of someone in my family:
 04 / a picture of something that makes me happy:
05 / an old picture of myself: 
06 / a picture of my sibling:
 07 / a picture i never posted on my blog before:
 08 / a picture of a person i miss:
09 / a relative of mine:
10 / a picture of my favorite place: