Peace Tree Brewing Co.

As you know my fiancé and I are huge craft beer fanatics so ever since the second Peace Tree location opened in East Village I was dying to get there. The Des Moines location opened on News Year’s day and the same day I made the foolish resolution to avoid alcohol. So I waited. I didn’t have a set time for my deprivation, but once I felt well enough (and was off antibiotics) from having pneumonia, you better believe this was the first place we went to!

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Before Peace Tree opened the second location they were already popular in Des Moines despite their base being in Knoxville. Almost everyone here has heard of Blonde Fatale and it’s become a staple beer at music, art, and any other cultural festival. This Belgian style blonde is a sneaky 8.5% and is my favorite Peace Tree brew. I visited the original outpost in Knoxville about 2 years ago and so I was curious to see the new beers the Des Moines location carried and if I would have a new favorite.

When we arrived on a late Saturday afternoon there was already a good crowd. This was back when the weather was uncharacteristically nice and all the cyclist were out to play. In the parking lot was Miss Molly’s Jamaican Patty food truck, which we came to find out like most taprooms they don’t serve food. No worries, we came for the beer anyway and once inside we ordered the way we always do in a taproom: a flight each.

The taproom is industrial looking with tall ceilings and a wall of windows facing the capitol. The room is divided by stacked wooden barrels (as pictured above) and the perimeter is lined with comfy black chairs. We sat at a table against the barrels with the view of the capitol, and all the increasingly inebriated cyclists, which made for fun people watching.

PeaceTree-flight

Pictured in order is the Brett Simcoe, Orange Gose (pronounced go-sa), Templeton Saison Blanche, Rye Porter, and Blondish. For some reason I didn’t save the picture I took of Curtis’s flight, but he had the Dark Sour, Cherry Gose, Ohh! Pale Lager, Red Rambler, and the Jalapeño Pineapple Kombucha. The Orange Gose was a highlight. The beer was fragrant with citrus notes and though sour it was not punishingly so. Another delight was the Blondish, a subtler version of the Blonde Fatale (as you would expect), but just as flavorful. The one beer that I was disappointed about was the Cherry Gose. It was a too sour for my liking (and I used to drink vinegar straight), and had a medicinal flavor I couldn’t get past.

Overall it was a great experience and though Blonde Fatale has yet to be usurped, it was fun trying. Have you been to Peace Tree’s Des Moines branch? What was your impression? Any beer I missed you think I need to try? Let me know!

Food blogs I love

What attracts me to another food blog is a combination of original content and vibrant photography. When people talk about a blog having a “voice” these bloggers definitely have their niche defined. Also, I’m drawn to the creativity of the dishes and flavor combinations. You can only read the same tired old recipe (especially if it was trendy once: hello buffalo cauliflower bites–or cauliflower anything!), so it’s refreshing when you see something unexpected like buttered popcorn marshmallow s’mores.

Without further ado- and not in any particular order- my favorite food blogs:

  • How Sweet It Is by Jessica Merchant- I follow her on instagram and get so so so excited when I see the beautiful and decadent food she makes. The pictures have this “just whipped up” messy look that can be over the top just like the food it’s featuring. I remember seeing the photos for the chocolate milk iced mochas and I about died.
  • Sprouted Kitchen by Sara (content) and Hugh (photography) Forte- Whenever I want just a good simple meal I always check this blog for ideas. Please don’t confuse simple with boring or bland because that’s not the case here. The recipes are simple because she uses good ingredients so the flavor isn’t masked and doesn’t over work the food into some frankenstein creation. She knows how to highlight an ingredient’s flavor so all that extra stuff isn’t needed.  Bonus: all recipes on this blog are vegetarian or vegan.

Notice anything else these blogs have in common? They’re all by people who have not been professionally trained in culinary school or photography! They were driven by passion (and persistence!) to become unique content developers, expert food stylists, and amazing photographers. This is so inspiring to me and is what I aspire to achieve with Curious Cookery.

How about you? What blogs do you follow? What about them inspires you?

Persian Lentil Soup

Even though February has been crazy since there’s been 68 degree weather and snow in the same week, BUT now that winter is back to acting like winter we can cozy up with this soup.  This Persian lentil soup has sweet potato, which is completely not normal, but when you have left overs you get creative. Besides the whole sweet potato addition this recipe is pretty traditional, and did I mention it’s vegetarian, simple, and healthy as heck?

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There’s a ton of fiber from the lentils and sweet potatoes and there’s nothing processed added. But, that doesn’t mean it’s bland. No way– not when there’s all these warm spices like cumin, coriander, sumac, and cinnamon. I really wanted to make this meal since I just got my hands on some home ground sumac from my dad’s personal pantry. Sumac has a peppery, flowery smell which I love, and it has a tart taste to it.

Also, though there’s cinnamon in the soup, it’s not sweet- cinnamon is not sweet. If you don’t believe me, try a dab of it alone. Maybe you’ll perceive as sweet, but that’s only due to the constant paring of cinnamon with sweet things so you’ve trained your brain to expect it!

Ingredients

  • 1lb sweet potato
  • 1 small white onion diced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cup of uncooked lentils (I used green)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained
  • lemon- to squeeze on top

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While it’s preheating peel and dice the sweet potato into medium size cubes. Place on a sheet pan and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and a dash of salt. Cook for 20minutes or until the sweet potato is tender, but not mushy. Note if you cut the pieces too small and try roasting them they will be mushy and fall apart in the soup! So don’t do that!

In a medium sized stock pot warm the tsp of olive oil on medium heat. Add the white onion and sauté until translucent- not caramelized. Add the spices and warm up for a minute in order for them to release their oils and “wake up” the flavor. Next, add the vegetable broth and water and bring to a boil. Add the diced tomatoes and lentils to the mixture and reduce to medium-low heat. Let the soup cook for 25-30minutes until the lentils are tender. Salt to taste.

Enjoy!

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Update & Mushroom Bolognese

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I have had one heck of a February. It started with the flu which progressed into pneumonia and after 2 weeks with a fever, 4 days of PTO, and a prescription of antibiotics I’m finally on the up and up. You know it was bad since during that time I had no appetite (!!!) and lost 4lbs.

Since I started feeling better I wanted to eat something other than a smoothie and PB&J. Not surprisingly,  I began craving the thing which was obviously absent from my diet: vegetables. With this in mind I knew I needed to check one of my favorite blogs-  Sprouted Kitchen– a mostly vegetarian blog centered on simple recipes which highlight great ingredients,and not masking them.

I came across the mushroom bolognese and thought the recipe looked easy (it was) and involved a lot of ingredients I already had on hand. Bonus: this was also one of the few times I cooked with wine where it didn’t taste like I spilled my drink into the dish.  Head over to their website for the full recipe.

 

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Here’s to getting better and enjoying food again!

Book Review: Taste

When I first started this blog I said I wanted to have/do all things food related, but then it turned out to be mostly my recipes. So to stay true to my promise I’m going to start a book review segment. If you have any recommendations on what food/culinary/cooking books to read nonfiction or fiction let me know!

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Taste by Barb Stuckey is a book for anyone interested in how his or her senses contribute to how we perceive food. The first part goes through each of our five senses: taste, smell, touch, sight, and hearing, and how they contribute to our experience during a meal.

Something that is apparent, but not truly noticed, is how a meal is a complete sensory experience where if one of our senses are off it can ruin the meal. Think about the sight or presentation of a dish. Food is generally not appetizing when it’s monotone, or an unpleasing color like gray, or if it’s shapeless.  In regards to touch, the graininess of an apple, toughness of a steak, or on the other end -creaminess of a creme brûlée all affect whether we like a food or not.

Our sense of taste is obviously is a huge factor to food- which we will discuss more in depth later- and second to our sense of taste is our sense of smell. Usually when people are asked if they had to give up a sense what most choose is smell. But what people don’t realize is that without smell you wouldn’t be able to recognize most of the food you love.  If you were having soup you could feel it’s creamy, see it’s red, taste it’s salty, but wouldn’t know it was tomato soup unless your sense of smell is working. Smell is actually what determines a food’s flavor. To be clear, this isn’t smelling through your nose, but through the back of your throat called retro-nasal olfaction.

The second part of the book went through the different perceptions of taste which are salt,  sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. Salt is pretty straight forward and exactly what you would think, same with sweet. Sour is where things get interesting. First to distinguish sour from  bitter think sharp/pungent vs. unpleasant. Sour is also synonymous with acidic and the reason your mouth waters with sour food is that it has a higher acidity level than saliva so in order to balance the acidity level you need more saliva, hence mouthwatering!

Umami is a fairly new recognized sense. Barb talks about how it was acknowledged before as something separate, but there wasn’t a name. It’s described as being savory, meaty, and brothy. It’s what rounds out a dish.

What I loved about this book is it wasn’t afraid to get into the science of things, but explained the concepts in laymen terms so it was easily accessible to someone without a culinary/flavorist/chemistry background. Learning about how different tastes interact with each other and how to really differentiate between them really helped my understanding of how to combine ingredients for the best flavors.

Overall I would recommend this book, especially if you’re an aspiring foodie without a culinary background. Next on the docket: The Audacity of Hops by Tom Acitelli.

 

Ham & Swiss Quiche

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This recipe is so rich and flavorful you would never guess how easy it is to make. Most of the ingredients you probably already have on hand anyway and it’s just as lovely as a frittata (crustless)!

Ingredients:

  • 7 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 yellow onion
  • 1 and 1/3 cup shredded swiss cheese
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound of deli shaved ham
  • 1 frozen pie crust
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Thinly slice the yellow onion parallel to the root section to form rings. Heat a sauté pan on medium with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil. Sauté the onions until brown and sweet, adding the second tbsp of vegetable oil when the pan runs dry.

Scoop the onions out of the pan and place on a plate to cool. Julienne the deli meat and add to the same pan the onions were in to brown. Cook until crispy then remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large mixing bowl beat 6 eggs until blended. Add the heavy whipping cream along with a good pinch of salt and pepper and mix until combined. Next add the 1 cup of shredded swiss mixing until distributed.

Remove the frozen pie crust from the freezer and place a layer of ham on the bottom, alternating with the onions until gone. Pour the egg mixture on top of the layers. Last add the remaining 1/3 cup of shredded swiss to the top of the quiche.

To give the quiche crust a nice brown toasty look beat the last egg in a small bowl and using a pastry brush paint the crust.

Bake for 32-35 minutes until when an a toothpick is inserted it comes out clean.

I recommend eating it with slices of salted tomato for some freshness and acidity. Yum!

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Cheesy, Garlicky, White Pizza

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Oh my gosh you guys. We have to talk about this pizza. It’s so cheesy and flavorful you won’t be able to stop at just one piece.

I will tell you a secret. Please don’t take away my American card, but I haven’t always been the biggest pizza fan. I think it comes from years of eating bad pizza. This is pretty much the same for Italian food in general. All that jarred processed marinara sauce ruined it for me since it’s not particularly tasty and mostly salty. Anyway, since I’ve began cooking for myself I discovered how amazing Italian food and pizza can be.

This pizza combines all my favorite things: cheese, garlic, and onions. Maybe not the best pizza to prepare for a date, but then again maybe they’ll be so impressed they can look past your breath.

Ingredients

  • Bechamel Sauce
    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 2 tbsp flour
    • 2 cloves garlic minced
    • 1 cup cream
    • 1/4 finely grated parmesan
  • Store bought pizza dough
  • 1-2 tbsp cornmeal
  • 8-14 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 cup grated gouda
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

For the béchamel- in a medium sauce pan melt the butter. Do not burn. Once melted add the flour until it has soaked up all the butter. With a whisk slowly add the cream and continue whisking until all the clumps are gone. Add the garlic along with the parmesan. Stir until combined. Turn down to low and continue to stir every 5 or so minutes. The béchamel is cooked by this step, but you don’t want it to cool or else it’ll harden and get a film. You just want to keep it warm until you’re ready to add it to the pizza.

In a small bowl mix the garlic cloves with the vegetable oil. Put on a lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until the garlic is gold and tender. This might vary depending on the size of the cloves you’re using. Remove from oven and set aside.

As the garlic begins to bake, peel and slice the yellow onion parallel to the root. I used a mandolin on 1/8″ setting to form rings. Warm a tbsp of vegetable oil in a medium sauté pan. Add the sliced onions and cook until brown and tender. Remove from heat and place on paper towel lined plate.

Prepare the pizza dough according to the package.

On a large baking sheet spray cooking spray and sprinkle the cornmeal to cover.  Place the pizza crust on the sheet and add the béchamel, cloves of garlic, and onion evenly across the crust. Last, sprinkle the gouda on top. Bake for 12-15mins or according to the pizza package.

Once the cheese is golden remove from the oven and allow to cool before adding the arugula.

Enjoy!

P.S. the second photo below was liked by Top Chef on instagram! How cool is that? I can’t blame them though, they have good taste 😉

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