**Update: Since I got so many guest posts, we’re stepping it up a notch for the month of December! Now the blog with have guest posts for The Holiday Project every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday (reader, blogger, reader, blogger) until the end of the year! 

Today’s Reader Guest Post for The Holiday Project:
Amanda from Davis, Calfornia and Will from Chico, California

[The first homebrew I tried was made by Will, and Amanda spoils me with some of the most delicious dinners about once a week. Why wouldn't I be friends with these two?! Oh, and they're pretty fun to hang out with too sans the food and beer. Win-win. Enjoy!]

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Hello Life Tastes Like Food blog readers! I’m Amanda and I am very excited to be guest posting on Stephanie’s awesome blog because I love reading it and sometimes eating her delicious creations! I am a master student at UC Davis studying viticulture (wine grapes). I love food, wine (duh), beer, ginkgo trees, Harry Potter, and traveling. And I kinda like my co-blogger.

I’m Will. I graduated UC Davis in ‘010 and am applying for law schools. I grew up on a blueberry farm and have placed a premium on quality food my entire life. I like the outdoors, beer, and sleeping in. Amanda is okay too, I guess.

Will brews, Amanda cooks, and sometimes we help each other, and all the time we enjoy what the other makes. So when Steph asked us to write a blog post, we naturally said, “YES” and then debated what to brew/cook. After a couple of discussions, we couldn’t decide between a stout and an IPA and which one to cook with, so Amanda just decided it would be easier to cook with both while Will took to brewing a new IPA since he brewed a stout the weekend before. So now you will get 3 recipes (2 food, 1 beer) for the price of 1!

There has been a relatively recent push toward knowing where your food comes from and how it’s made. People have always swapped recipes and shared their best cooking tips with one another. Beer is one of those things that people never seem to realize is made. It shows up in a bottle, keg, or can and nobody dares question its magical presence. Like peaches in that POTUS song (“Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man, in a factory downtown…)

I first became aware of the brewing process when I took a Beer and Brewing class at UCD my freshman year. I’ll give you a brief rundown of the process before I delve into the recipe.

You can make beer with a minimum of 4 ingredients. In Germany, back in the day, they had a purity law called the Reinheitsgebot that limited the brewers to only Water, Barley, and Hops. At the time they didn’t know about yeast as it was too small to see so they didn’t include that in their law.

First you take the grain and steep it in some hot water. While the grain is steeping the starches in the kernels are breaking down into fermentable sugars. This is called the Mash.

Because the all grain method requires some extra space and gear that I don’t yet have, I brew using the partial grain partial extract method. The extract is made by using the same method as above and then removing some water through evaporation. If you remove all the water, you create Dry Malt Extract (the white stuff in the picture). The syrupy brown stuff is the Liquid Malt Extract. Both are used in combination to make beer.

Dry Malt Extract

Liquid Malt Extract

When the conversion from starch to sugar is complete the brewer halts the process and rinses the grain with water. The whole process is called lautering.

The runoff from rinsing the grain contains all the necessary sugars, proteins, enzymes, and goodness to create beer. At this point you’ve got a pot full of wort. You throw it on the stove and get it up to a rolling boil. Once it starts boiling you add the hops. This is my personal favorite. I love hops. I love beers that use that crap out of hops. The smell when hops go into the boil is my favorite sensation along the entire brewing process. Hops are this magical plant that contribute a lot to a beer’s flavor, aroma and bitterness. The English discovered hops’ antibacterial properties when they were occupying India (a slightly different occupation than the one occurring throughout the country). They would make a super hoppy beer and send it off on the train. Upon arrival the soldiers would dilute it with water and have themselves a brew. The soldiers started to get a taste for the undiluted beer (which, by the way, was generally higher in alcohol content) and left out the dilution process before pouring their pints, thus creating the India Pale Ale style.

The hops added at the beginning of the boil give the beer it’s bitterness. Different strains of hops have different bitterness characteristics. The hops added in the middle of the boil affect the flavor and the hops added in the last minutes change the aroma.

Once the wort is boiled with the hops, the beer needs to cool. After it cools it is racked into a fermentation vessel (usually a bucket or a carboy – a giant glass bottle – for homebrewers). You pitch the yeast and then you have to do the hardest step. You wait. And wait. And wait. At this point the yeast have to do their job. Their job is to turn all those sugars to alcohol. Once they finish up you can bottle or keg the beer.

Recipe Numero Uno:

Filo dough IPA Chicken Pockets with Cranberry Sauce, Carmelized Onions, and Melted Brie

Ingredients (Serves 4 big eaters)

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • 1 Package Filo Dough (found in freezer section)
  • 1 Homemade IPA bottle/can (or your favorite brew, 12 oz)
  • 1 cup melted butter (more or less)
  • 1 wedge of Brie Cheese (divided into 4 portions)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 package cranberries (not the jelly kind!)
  • ½ – 1 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt, Pepper to taste
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick, Cloves, Ginger (optional spices for cranberry sauce)

Directions

  1. Pound the chicken breasts, season with salt and pepper to taste, and add to a large zip-lock bag with beer from one bottle of your favorite IPA. Set in fridge to marinate for a few hours.
  2. Make the cranberry sauce according to the directions on the back of the bag. Boil water and sugar and add cranberries, cinnamon stick, cloves, and ginger (all to taste) and set on simmer. Take off heat once all the berries have popped and set aside to cool.
  3. Caramelize onions. Set aside to cool
  4. Pre-heat oven to 350*
  5. Layer 1 sheet of filo dough on a working surface (while keeping the other layers under a damp towel to prevent them from drying out) and brush with melted butter. Add 3-4 more filo sheets, each time applying more butter.  Then add pounded and marinated chicken breast. Top with caramelized onions, cranberry sauce, and brie cheese. Fold up filo sheets and brush with more butter. Place on a buttered baking sheet (Wow, I am starting to sound like Paula Deen). Cook for approximately 35 minutes or until the filo dough is brown and toasty!
  6. Serve with a nice IPA or a dry Riesling (can’t forget the wine)

Last winter (has it already been a year?) Will and I took off for a four month adventure in South America (We had a blog too, pretty amateur compared to this one!  http://chicoychicaensuramerica.wordpress.com/). We saw penguins, glaciers, waterfalls, ancient dead cities, Inca dwellings, salt flats, mountains, Jesuit ruins and more. We ate a lot of amazing beef, drank a lot of great wine, drank some okay beer, and enjoyed everything from alpaca, guinea pig, ceviche, to llama, and other critters. In any case, we were inspired in our cooking by our travels, so I will share with you my version of chipa, or Paraguayan cheese bread along with some tasty beer infused pork.

Stout Infused Pork with Chipa

Ingredients

- For Pork Butt

  • 1 8-10 lb Pork Shoulder/Butt
  • 1 bottle of Homemade Pacha Mama Stout (or your favorite local stout)
  • 1 bunch of cilantro (save 1/3 for garnish)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 head of garlic (or less depending on your love for this stinky bulb)
  • Small handfuls of cardamom, cloves, and
  • 2 whole jalapenos
  1. Chop the onions and cilantro.
  2. Add all of the ingredients to a crock pot and set on low for 8 hours. Pull out bone, shred meat with a fork (it should be super tender), and serve with Chipa and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro!

-For Chipa

  • 3 ½ cups Tapioca Starch or Flour (can be found at your local Co-op)
  •  3 ½ cups of Corn Meal (found in Mexican aisle at grocery store)
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup of grated semi-hard to hard cheese (I like the Mexican cotija cheese, but parmesan would work just fine)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 tsp anise seeds (This is the traditional ingredient, but if you do not like this taste, you can eliminate it, but I wouldn’t suggest it)
  • Salt to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 425* F
  2. Grease 2 or more baking sheets (depending on size of chipa)
  3. In a large bowl, add the tapioca starch, corn meal, and butter. Begin to knead.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue kneading. Add the cheese, salt, and anise seeds and continue kneading.
  5. Sprinkle some tapioca starch on a working surface and transfer dough. Continue to knead (tired yet?)
  6. Right before your hands are about to fall off, shape the chipa. This is the fun part. Shape some into small balls (for rolls for the pork). Shape some chipa into doughnut shapes and braided breadstick shapes (traditional)
  7. Brush with some melted butter and pop into the oven for 15 minutes or until golden brown on the top. Serve along side the pork and a tasty Stout!

I have no kitchen right now to whip up tasty treats or savory meals, so I have decided to share with you my thoughts! Bear with me, all, it’s been a crazy three weeks! I’ve been apartment hunting, and man, does it take a lot out of you. But fear not, once I find the perfect apartment and wonderful kitchen, I will be back in full swing! After all, what’s life without a little change and adventure, right?!

But for now, all I have to offer is the insight I’ve learned and discovered within the past three weeks :) Here it goes…

Boston, MA. Madison, WI. Japan. Brooklyn, NY. Santa Barbara, CA. Germany. Eugene, OR. Sonoma County. India. Los Angeles, CA. South Africa. Davis, CA. Korea. Canada. San Diego, CA. Vietnam. Hawaii. New Zealand. San Francisco, CA.

These are only some of the places where my friends and family currently call home. It’s incredible, really. We all started out in the same area and within a span of 5 years, we’re all scattered across the globe! What’s also amazing is the fact that no matter what part of the world my friends/family are in or where I am currently, I have managed to stay in touch with almost all of them. And although I’m in transition, trying to find a place of my own to call home, the people around me truly make me appreciate life and all it has to offer. Plus, this week has been especially special because I got to see and visit with 4 of my close friends that live outside the Northern California region!! And with everyone’s support and encouragement in the past month, I feel ready to conquer this new goal, this new chapter, and this new city.

However, since I’ve started the search for a place in the wonderful city of San Francisco, there have been a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions: Is this where I should be? Will I truly be happy here? How will I afford it? There’s no where else I want to be right now. I know I’m going to love it. Why are all the closets so small here?!?!? I need the change in scenery, and SF is perfect. But am I really ready to go from 98 degree weather and wearing shorts everyday to the foggy Bay Area weather where I’m sure I’ll need 4 coats when I walk outside? I love the city! This is the perfect place to start the next chapter in my (post-college) life. Yep, this is definitely right. It feels right. I truly believe I am making the right choice. Rinse and repeat all those thoughts again.

I’ve been graduated for over a year now but bought some time by staying in Davis another year after being offered a great job opportunity. But now it’s time to take a risk, trust my instincts, and take that leap. So as I keep the mantra, “I won’t back down,” (from the wise Tom Petty) humming in the back of my mind, I refuse to back down, especially when striving for my goals, happiness, and contentment. It’s simple, you just have to work hard to get where you want to be.

So here I am, in a coffee shop in San Francisco, sitting across from a cute, old man in suspenders and round spectacles sipping on his foamy drink, between apartment showings, hoping for the best, and knowing that soon enough, I’ll get to where I want to be. :)

More reflections and thoughts to come soon…because I can’t cook! Ugh!! Thanks for reading but more importantly bearing with me, wonderful readers :)

 

The following post is written by my dear friend, Ryan, over at Boundless Abundance. He is writing to us all the way from Vietnam! Ryan’s adventures in food, scenery, history, and an overall perspective of each culture he encounters is something that should not be overlooked, and it’s wonderful that he has taken the time to give us a little taste of the Vietnam region. His blog is inspiring, beautiful, and brings out the wanderlust in all. To read more about his adventures, click here!
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Eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, phở is a staple in Vietnamese cuisine if not its most popular dish. At its heart the soup is composed of a hefty portion of rice noodles submersed in a large bowl stock and it’s the additions to this base that are the source of variety—meat and organs of beef, chicken, pork, shrimp and fish cakes seemed to be the most popular though I’ve also come across duck, goat, dog and horse as well as some mysterious animal byproducts of unknown origin. 

Pots used to cook this dish

On the hunt for good phở a Lonely Planet Guide is little help, its suggestions are usually more expensive and less authentic so don’t bother, just wander the side streets and eat where the locals are, it’s unlikely you’ll have to go far. Many hole-in-the-wall restaurants and transient street carts that appear on the sidewalks at sunset specialize in the dish and serve nothing else. For a visual gauge of cost, generally speaking, the shorter the plastic stools and tables the cheaper the phở (a rule that conveniently holds for beer also), and if the crowds aren’t an obvious indication of quality seek a venue with plenty of trash below its tables—no joke, the dirtier the better. In Vietnamese restaurants napkins, cigarette butts, toothpicks, wrappers and any other garbage generated at the table is thrown on the ground and swept out at the end of the day, so a dirty floor is the sign of high patronage and good food turnover.

Menus at most phở spots are simple and easy to decipher even with a limited grasp of Vietnamese, but the meats offered are usually on display so if all else fails you can window shop and point to attain the desired results. Since everything is cooked ahead of time there is little wait after ordering before a bowl is placed before you along with a stacked plate of trimmings. Mint, basil, lotus shavings, Asian spinach, lettuce, bean sprouts, limes and diced chilies or chili paste are common accompaniments allowing diners to develop the taste to their liking. I personally go heavy on the greens and bean sprouts for crunch, add chilies to just below an eye-water and squeeze in half a lime to balance the burn and round out the flavor.

When you mix spicy chilies, a bowl of hot liquid and Vietnam’s humid climate the outcome is always the same: a serious phở sweat! It’s a strange state of content discomfort that is oh so gratifying. A bit time after finishing the meal is always allotted to linger and let the momentary meltdown to subside, a local beer or the ubiquitous iced Vietnamese tea helps. It’s an opportunity to savor the flavor and take pause to absorb the scene—I’m in Vietnam!

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 Ryan’s blog, Boundless Abundance, is a casual chronicle of his year-long adventure abroad. After recently finishing university he feels extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to pursue a different sort of education than academia provides. Exposure to contrasting worldviews, cultures and contexts yields new vantages for a fuller awareness of Self and how he perceives of the world, as well as a richer understanding of the state of the planet and what it means to be a human alive today.

[A note from Stephanie: If you want to give homemade pho a try, click here for the recipe (via Allrecipes). If you want to skip making the broth, this canned broth works well, and it can be found at local Asian markets. If using canned broth, you can skip steps 1 and 2 in the recipe. Enjoy!]

Our final stop before the end of our East Coast trip was Brooklyn, NY. We bused back to Manhattan from Boston so we could fly out of JFK later that day. To my most delightful surprise, I was able to meet up with one of my closest friends from high school who currently lives in Brooklyn! It was seriously one of the best gifts of the entire trip! We didn’t waste a second and headed straight to the Brooklyn Public House for brunch. When I say brunch, I am understating the quaint atmosphere and savory food that makes up the Brooklyn Public House. We soaked up the sunny day by taking the table with the window bench and ordering three types of eggs benedict! To my further amazement, our dishes included a complementary mimosa or bloody mary with our meal (I have yet to find a place in California that offers that!!!). So as we sipped our bloody marys, feasted on our eggs and potatoes, and indulged on much needed life updates, the rest of Brooklyn seemed to be having just as wonderful of a day–families and kids eating and laughing, people walking their dogs, and an overall lively presence on that Saturday afternoon.

Eggs Florentine at the Brooklyn Public House

Eggs Benedict

Maryland Crab Benedict with crab cakes and red pepper sauce!

After gaining a few pounds, we headed towards the local farmer’s market. Here we enjoyed tasting some freshly whipped honey, smelled some of the best scented soap I’ve ever smelled, admired some fresh produce, and contemplated on purchasing some starter herbs for a garden. The Farmer’s Market was a small isle but nonetheless gave a great vibe of the community within Brooklyn.

Hand-made, sweet smelling soaps and whipped honey at the Farmer’s Market!!

Fresh herbs that released wonderful aromas as we walked by!

Delicious apple cider and fruit

We then ventured over to the Brooklyn Flea. This outdoor market has everything from clothes, to trinkets, to food, to furniture. It was just lovely to see what neat items were there, and I was pleasantly surprised with the food selection they offered! Home beer brewing kits, shaved ice that is actually shaved for a huge block of ice when you order, an outdoor pizza oven that my friend’s friends helped design, fresh prosciutto sliced directly from the bone and placed on bread, hand-made raw chocolate from Brooklyn, and so much more. We probably could have spent hours there wandering the area and admiring the scene. Here are some pictures from the Brooklyn Flea!

Raw chocolate handmade in Brooklyn

Handmade belt bucks made from match boxes from around the world!

Home Brew Kits

Beautiful mirrors galore!

Outdoor Pizza Oven (in the back) and pizza assembly line!

Anyone interested in buying a pink elephant???

Fresh prosciutto sliced right in front of you! 

Amazing Vintage Boxes!

Order up! Shaved ice from a huge block right there on the spot. So fun!

And after the wonderful experience at the Brooklyn Flea, we ventured over to a local coffee shop, Tillie’s. As we sipped our iced drinks, we sat outside and did one of my favorite things: people watch! Taking in the Brooklyn neighborhood, kids zooming by on their scooters and bikes, observing how poorly some people are at parallel parking, looking down the streets at the rows and rows of stoops (I LOVE the stoops!), and soaking in the nice weather. We got to catch up on some well-needed and overdue conversation, and simply enjoy the last couple hours we had left on the East Coast. On the side of Tillie’s, we also got to see a wonderfully painted mural of a map of Brooklyn. The colors are amazing!

Brooklyn Map Mural

And then we walked back, said our goodbyes (to my friend and the city) and hopped on the subway to the airport! What a trip!!! It was so amazing, and I will remember it for a very long time. I would say that it was a very successful first experience to The Big Apple and Boston. And not only was I able to find adventures in a completely new environment, I had the chance to catch up with old friends (in Boston and Brooklyn!), build an even stronger relationship with my fellow travel mates, and just have fun! After all, that’s what life’s about, right?! Sometimes we need to remember to take time out of our busy lives and let in all aspects of greatness that surround us. And I believe that this trip allowed me to do that! I am so lucky. Ah, sweet bliss!!!

Thanks for reading, Everyone!

This is part 6 out of 6 about my recent visit to the East Coast. Normal posts will resume shortly!

While visiting Boston, we just knew we had to make a trip out to the Sam Adams Brewery! We were running late but luckily, we were able to make it to the last tour of the day at 3pm! This brewery did not disappoint, and it was so much fun learning about the history of the beer and establishment. Also, since this was my first brewery tour, I may be a little bias in saying it was the best I’ve ever been to!!! Jokes aside–the crowd was lively, the tour guide was witty, I learned many things I never knew about beer, and we got extra beer for waiting at the very end! All-in-all, I’d have to say it was a glorious day in Boston.

While waiting for the tour to begin, the entrance is filled with the history of the beer, the awards they’ve won, a very nice gift shop, and a place where you can send as many postcards (free of charge) to whoever you want! And when the tour starts, you get to walk through this tunnel that takes you into the back of the brewery–enchanting really. The brewery is actually contained in one giant room which is a lot smaller than I had imagined. Apparently, they have two other breweries in the U.S. that are a lot bigger. The one in Boston is, of course, the original brewery but smaller and the only place that they test recipes and create specialty beers. For example, this location is where they create and age their famous Utopias, where each batch is aged up to 10 years in oak barrels (like the ones pictured below). Utopias is only sold every other year, and is about 27%ABV. Although it is considered beer, it more closely resembles a port or cognac. We didn’t get to sample that on the tour…

This is what you see right after you go through the tunnel into the back of the brewery!

One of the beer vats that stores beer!

Hops and malted barley that we got to sample

We also got to go to another section of the brewery, smell the hops that they use, and try some of the malted barley they put in the beer for flavor. I got to try a coffee malt too which was really tasty! With the hops, I learned that in order to smell the flavor, you have to rub the leaves in your hands quite vigorously and then take a deep whiff of your palms. What a fun way to get flavor out of something! So for the rest of the day, my hands smelled like fresh beer!

Tap Selection in the Tasting Room

Sam Adam's Tasting Room Bar

A taste of Boston Brick Red. Only Served in Boston! The picture also shows what our taster glass looks like!

Then we got to enter the tasting room where we got an awesome little taster glass. We got to sample almost all the beers they had on tap there, and it was especially exciting to sample their Boston Brick Red beer! Apparently, it is only served in the Boston area, and with each pint bought, they donate a potion to The Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream Fund! Yum and guilt-free!! We also got to learn about the history of the Sam Adams logo (for all you graphics enthusiasts out there, apparently they manipulated the face of Samuel Adams to make him seem younger and more handsome because they felt that they wouldn’t be able to sell beer if they put what he actually looked like on the bottle! Poor Sam!). Then, our tour guide introduced to us the official Sam Adams lager glass. This glass was specially designed to extract the full flavor of the beer down to the last sip! It took about 2 years to design, and although I am far from a beer connoisseur, I think it does make the beer taste better! Click here for more information on the glass. Needless to say, it was not hard for me to purchase two glasses after learning about it.

After the tasting, we wandered around the gift shop, and then headed towards Doyle’s Cafe, a restaurant and bar that the brewery has teamed up with to accomodate Sam Adams patrons. If you show them your tour ticket and order any Sam Adams pint for about $4.50 a glass, they will serve it to you in the specially crafted Samuel Adams glass I mentioned earlier, and then you get to keep the glass! As we were walking there (because it is not around the corner from the brewery like they said!) we kept running into people from our same tour that were also heading to Doyle’s! So we made some new friends on our walk, drank some more great beer, ate some wonderful food, and toasted to a great day at the Samuel Adams Brewery.

This is part 5 out of 6 about my recent visit to the East Coast. Normal posts will resume after this series!

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