Cooking with Beer: Beer Bread and Vegetarian Chili


So we had some nonalcoholic beer in the fridge that I purchased to recreate beer-battered squash flowers and beer-battered avocado fries and so, I used the magic powers of Google to find some uses for it (because just drinking it would be boring).


I found two recipes — a beer bread recipe and a vegetarian chili recipe — that fit the bill. And both are easy as could be–essentially, you just throw everything together, let it cook or bake for a while, and sit back and enjoy an episode of Entourage or two on DVD. Simple.

 Lucky for me, the day I made these was uncharacteristically cold (around 75–it felt like a deep freezer after the >95 week we’d had earlier) and so having the oven and stove running was actually comforting instead of sweat-inducing.


The bread came out delicious–subtly sweet from the brown sugar, with a delicious crust and tender inside. The chili was a bit of an experiment, and I’m happy to report it too hit the spot–three bean, tofu, spice-heavy. Just what the doctor ordered.

Chili and homemade bread. Perfecto comfort meal.

DSCN4411Without further ado:

Beer Bread

Adapted from this recipe

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup brown sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

12 ounces beer

Oven: 350°F. Grease and flour a 9.5×13″ loaf pan.

Sift the flours and combine with sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add in the beer and stir to combine. Pour into loaf pan, smooth out, bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick is clean when inserted and removed from the bread.

Optional: before baking, pour 2 tablespoons of melted butter on top.

Vegetarian Chili

Adapted from this recipe

28 ounces of canned tomatoes (or fresh)

1 15-ounce can garbanzos

1 15-ounce can kidney beans

1 15-ounce can chickpeas

1 cup or half a block tofu, crumbled

1 cup tomato sauce

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 tablespoons cumin seed

1 tablespoon turmeric

sprinkle of parsley

spices to your liking (ginger, etc)

1 12-ounce can of beer

plain greek yogurt, for serving

Combine everything but yogurt in large saucepan. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 20-25 minutes. Serve with a dollop of yogurt.


This was a really, really good meal. Satisfying. Vegan if you omit the yogurt. See the melty butter (er, earth balance)… mm. It’s melty because that bread is still warm from the oven–what a rare luxury to eat homemade crusty bread. No wonder it’s all gone (within two days). The beer bread goes deliciously with the chili… even if it’s not a cold winter night. Summer has some chilly days too. And the chilly days are perfect… for chili. See what I did there…?


Banana Bread: Sugar Free, Grain Free



Back to the dish that started it all.

The humble banana bread. I think this was the first thing that I made, as a kid, “all by myself.” It was tasty, and used up the bananas we had from Grandma Huey. Oodles of banana breads have come out of my kitchen: sugar-free, fat free, sugar-/fat-laden, with/without nuts, mashed bananas, pureed bananas, with/without raisins, but never with chocolate, oddly.

Usually they were spot-on. Sometimes they were lumpy, with all the goods sinking to the bottom. Oftentimes they were seemed cooked on the outside, only to reveal a doughy mess on the inside. The tried-and-true banana bread, from the Family Fun cookbook, contained too much butter and sugar for my liking.


And then I came across this recipe!

Perfect. Only dates and bananas sweeten this batter. Six eggs are a must to moisten the ever-absorbent coconut flour. Coconut flour is fiber-rich, and soaks up liquid like nobody’s business. Almond meal makes up the rest of this bread. According to the original author, one slice has 150 calories, 18 carbs,  4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein — not bad, plus tons of vitamins and minerals from the whole foods included in this bread. There’s no added fat to boot! Could this be possible?


Yes. This banana bread was unbelievable light, fluffy, airy… and still moist and tender. Delicate, but sliceable/won’t fall apart. Its subtle sweetness, a perfect complement for jellies or preserves.


Banana Bread: Sugar Free, Grain Free

Adapted from Girl Gone Country

Scant 1 cup raw almonds

4 small bananas (totaling 10 ounces)

6-8 pitted Medjool dates (totaling about 5 ounces) (soaked is ideal, but not necessary)

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

6 tablespoons coconut flour

Preheat oven to 350°F. Use a silicone pan or line a loaf pan with parchment, or grease/flour a loaf pan (9 x 13)

Add the almonds to the food processor and process until meal-like (about 2-3 minutes).

Add everything else but the coconut flour and process for 1 minute.

Break up any clumps in the coconut flour with a fork, and add to mixture. Process for 30 seconds.

[If you want, sprinkle some raw almonds on the bottom of the loaf pan before you pour in the batter for a garnish!]

Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 55-65 minutes.

Done when a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

Top with Earth balance (or butter, or coconut butter) and jelly, or peanut butter, or whatever your stomach desires.


Absolutely delicious! The texture is just amazing. Even though I burnt the outside (first time using my pretty new IKEA silicone loaf pan), it wasn’t noticeable and the inside more than made up for it. Definitely will keep this recipe in the “make again” list.







Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine (with yogurt-based, whole wheat crust and yogurt-pesto sauce)


I think my favorite way to cook is to…

A) Use up ingredients that are… on their last leg.

B) Use up ingredients that are in major surplus.

C) Cook an ingredient that I have never cooked before… or better yet, seen!

D) All of the above.


Answer D. But today, we’re having fun with C.


I guess Yellow Zucchini isn’t totally outlandish. But I’d never seen it before. Zucchinis are green! Not only was this yellow, this zucchini was yellow — super bright, golden yellow, even more so than our mainstay summer squashes.  I got one from a local farmer’s market, but I didn’t know what I’d do with it. It would have to be something interesting, new, exciting….


So I did a little digging and found this lovely recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini.


Check out that crusssstttt


But as usual, I did some tweaking.

Yellow Zucchini Tarte Fine (with yogurt based, whole wheat crust and yogurt-pesto sauce)

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini


180 grams or 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

120 grams or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/4 cup (half a stick) unsalted butter, cold, diced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg


2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1 cup yogurt, mixed with 1/4 cup basil pesto

a dozen fresh basil leaves

1 yellow zucchini, about 10 ounces or two very small zucchinis, mandolined into thin rounds

salt to taste

Place flour in a medium bowl, and make a well in the center. Add yogurt and diced butter and salt. Using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter (by slicing the knives together) and combine with flour. I eventually used my hands to really get that butter merged with flour–not sure if this is proper, but it worked. Form into a small disc and wrap in plastic wrap; chill for an hour or up to a day.

Allow the dough to come to just below room temperature. Place on parchment paper, add another piece of parchment on top, and roll out thinly. Crimp the edges.

Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds all over, and place parchment paper back on and roll a few times to ingrain them into the dough. Yay sesame-seed-flavored, crunchy crust!

Leave the top piece of parchment on. Put baking beans all over to weigh it down, or dried kidney beans. You can probably leave them off if you don’t have any.

Bake at 360° (not 350!) for 25 minutes.

Beat egg. Brush egg wash on crust. Bake two more minutes.

Allow to cool completely.

Meanwhile, grill zucchini, or leave raw, if fresh enough; I chose to grill.

Next, spread the yogurt mixture thickly all over. Top with zucchini rounds. Sprinkle basil leaves and leftover sesame seeds, if you have them, on top. Cut with a kitchen scissor (my favorite apparatus for pizza and the like) and SERVE!


So good. The crust–flaky, light, delicate yet rustic, which superb flavor from the sesame and butter. The crust held up well, even after a few hours of having been assembled with the topping ingredients. You can’t even tell yogurt is in the crust. Whole wheat pastry flour wins again!


Combination of ingredients–also delicious. The caramelization of the zucchini rounds truly brought out their sweetness and elevated the dish. Just a wonderful play of flavors and textures. Would totally make again.


prebaked / posteggwash / readyformangia

Spaetzle (Whole Grain) with Mustard Cream Sauce and Scorched Garden Veggies


So I was watching Chopped last night (surprise, surprise) and on the episode, one of the contestants made Spaetzle. 

Spaetzle? What? And everyone seemed to know what it was. 

The contestant dropped ribbons of batter into boiling water, drained them, and then pan-fried them as a bed for whatever the secret ingredient was (duck confit, I think). 


It looked really cool to attempt… and easy enough to accomplish!

Apparently I have to get out from under my rock, because according to the interwebs, spaetzle is delicious comfort food originating from Germany (I’m part German…) and brings back fond memories of grandmothers making spaetzle for (others, not me) them as youngun’s. 

And guess what, you only need three ingredients.


Unless you make the sauce. Please make the sauce. It’s freakin’ amazing. As the Chopped judges always bemoan, you need a sauce to tie elements of the dish together, to make sense on the plate as a cohesive meal.



Well, I’ve learned my lesson from the many episodes I’ve watched over this summer:

Sauce, check.

Dropping things on the floor, thus rendering them inedible, and throwing them away, check.

Using all the secret ingredients… which in this case happened to be things that NEED TO BE USED BEFORE BECOMING SPOILED and included: snowpeas, wax beans, heavy cream, and shallots. 

And the crowd (er, me and my lunch companion, madame mamadukes) goes wild!



Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

4 eggs

3 tablespoons Silk unsweetened soymilk

Pinch each of nutmeg, pepper, and salt

Combine all the ingredients and chill for 1 hour or overnight. When chilled, bring a pot of water to boil and prepare an ice bath. 

I used a colander for the majority of the batter–what you must do is spoonful some of the batter into a colander with large holes and allow the little batter drips to fall into the boiling water, and cook for at least 30 seconds (longer, up to 5 minutes, if you want a softer spaetzle). But either my batter was too thick, the holes too small… because the resulting driblets of batter looked like reminscent of something else instead of typical spaetzle.

Towards the end, however, I switched and simply used a spoon to drip batter into the boiling water directly–a lot easier, more fun, and more pasta-like.

After cooking, immediately chill in the ice bath and then drain. Storing? Toss with a bit of olive oil to keep from sticking; it’ll keep for a day or two.

Eating? Try this:

Pan-fried Spaetzle

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Several cups of spaetzle

1 shallot, minced/diced finely

Two tablespoons dried parsley

2 tablespoons butter or earth balance

Heat earth balance in a large skillet. Add spaetzle (you may need to work in batches), let sit for a minute, and then sauté until golden brown on all edges. Add the shallot and parsley, salt and pepper, and cook a bit longer (about a minute or two). Serve immediately.

Unless you make the…

Mustard Cream Sauce

Adapted from Robert Irvine on Food Network

2 tablespoons Earth Balance (or butter)

1/2 a small yellow onion

1/4 cup white wine

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2-3 tablespoons honey dijon mustard

1/3 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a small saucepan, sauté the onion in the Earth Balance until it turns brown. Deglaze with white wine; once deglazed, add thyme, mustard, and heavy cream. Stir and lower the heat, cook for 5-6 minutes until thickened. Spoon over spaetzle. Now you can serve.

But don’t forget the… 

Scorched Veggies

Pan that you fried the spaetzle in

Boiled/steamed garden veggies such as snowpeas and beans

Simply add the cooked veggies to the pan and toss occasionally until they brown (scorch). Serve with your delicious spaetzle.


I have a thing against ugly food. I’ve cooked a LOT more things this summer than I’ve shown on this blog. This is due to the fact that I only feel like photographing food when it’s pretty, and also due to the fact that I’m hungry and just want food in ma belluh. 

I took pictures of this at the last minute, when Mamadukes was like “Did you take pictures yet?” and my blog-guilt set in. But I’m glad I did. Taking pictures of ugly food is probably a good exercise, and makes me get more creative in plating and angles. 

That being said, this food tasted anything but ugly. It was SO GOOD!! The spaetzle was delicious and hearty, full of protein (thanks to… whole wheat flour, eggs, and soymilk!) and just screamed comfort food. The sauce… absolutely delicious. It tasted like restaurant sauce… chock-full of FLAVOR. I wish I could have veganized it somehow but I wanted to use up the heavy cream. 

I love how simple this dish is (even though it ended up taking me a very long time… but if I make it again, it’ll probably take half the time). Just a few ingredients and you have yourself a meal. I’m building my repertoire of from-scratch grad school eatin’, which currently includes lots of quinoa salads, fried eggs, veggies steamed in the microwave, roasted veggies, and now… spaetzle. Who knew?

I’m also thinking of doing an ancestry series on this blog. I’m German, Irish, Scottish, English and Chinese. Got the German dish down… Next up? If you need me, I’ll be Googling. 

Sunflower Seed Butter (Sunbutter) Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies


Sunflower seed butter is made from roasted sunflower seeds. NOT RAW. Found this out the hard way… after trying to pulverize raw sunflower seeds in the Vita-Mix to only come out with grayish, powdery, thick … something.

I roasted the unappetizing mess at 350° for 25 minutes to try to redeem myself, and it worked! The roasted seeds dispersed their oils beautifully, and in no time I had roasted sunflower seed butter. Two cups. From 12 ounces of seeds.


What to do, what to do? Besides shoveling it in by the spoonful taking little licks from the knife?

A paleo cookie! Naturally. A paleo cookie = a flourless cookie, usually made with a nut butter, an egg or two, some baking necessities (powder, soda, vanilla, etc), a little bit of sweetener and some spices. Generally, a very delectable treat. However, something kind of turns me off from eating what is basically straight-up nut butter in cookie form. Filling yes, but high in fat… Even though it’s good fat. I like to have fifths seconds or thirds of desserts like cookies… especially healthier cookies.

So, this led to the addition of oats! No longer strictly paleo, but I don’t subscribe to any one “diet/lifestyle” and just eat what I find works for me. And I LOVE oats.

And what goes with peanut butter, or sunbutter?

… Ginger. Obviously.

Oh, and chocolate.


Sunflower Seed Butter (Sunbutter) Ginger Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Eat Well, Adventure Well

1 cup sunbutter (or other nut butter) (I used my homemade one, to which I added some sea salt and roasted flaxseed)

1/3 cup honey

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon

dash salt

1/4 cup minced ginger, chopped finely

1 to 2 cups oats

chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350° and line a pan with parchment paper.

Mix everything but the oats and chocolate chips in a medium-sized bowl. Add the oats, more or less depending on the consistency and how you prefer your ratio of oats to nut butter.

Dollop the “dough” by the tablespoonful and top with 4-5 chocolate chips per cookie; press down to flatten a bit.

Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.


These were SO good… Really, truly reminiscent of the texture of Kashi cookies (but of course, much better). They are lightly sweet, and the crystallized ginger adds to much depth and deliciousness. The small amount of chocolate on top is perfect–just enough, not overdoing it.

Plus, they’re vegan [if you sub maple syrup for strict vegans], babe. Even if no longer Paleo.

Summer Squash Soup


When life gives you summer squash…

… Squash upon squash upon summer squash…

You really have no choice but to make soup.

We have four summer squash plants in our garden. Every day I go out and find some ginormous summer squash that I somehow missed the day before.

To make this soup, I used three VERY BIG squash, about four MEDIUM-ISH squash, and 3 very tiny baby squashies.

It worked out well for this soup, a very light and refreshing (and hydrating) soup. I think it would also serve well as gazpacho if you are so inclined (and with temps in the mid-90s this week, I am definitely so inclined).

Summer Squash Soup

Adapted from a recipe on Taste of Home

Two large onions, chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

6-10 garlic cloves, minced or thinly sliced

A lot of summer squash, cubed (the original calls for 6. I used the amount I said above. I think you can go with pretty much any number, as the recipe is forgiving, so long as it’s a decent number. Also, you can leave the seeds in; it’ll all be puréed anyway,  and who doesn’t like a little extra fiber and nutrients from the seeds?)

4 cups of water

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons dried thyme

A few sprinkles of sea salt

2 tablespoons lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)

Grated or shredded Parmesan or Pecorino romano cheese

Lemon zest from 1 lemon

Two fistfuls of basil, sliced (chiffonade-d)

In a large, nonstick pot, sauté the onions until tender and nearly translucent (about 5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté a minute or two longer. Add the squash and cook for 5 minutes. Add the water, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, covered, until tender.

Remove some of the liquid and reserve; you can add it back in if the soup is too thick.

Using your handy immersion blender (or in batches, in the food processor), purée the soup until smooth as can be. If too thick for your liking, add some of the reserved liquid back.

Stir in the lemon juice and basil. Taste-test and add salt, pepper, etc. if necessary.

To serve, top with a pinch of lemon zest and cheese.


This soup is homegrown, in the sense that the squash and basil both came from our garden–and so delicious. The lemon is surprising but adds some needed brightness and tang, and the cheese complements with its saltiness. This is a perfect light lunch or dinner.

I can’t wait to try it cold!

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies


Portable strawberry shortcake. What could be better? I made these for my grandmother who loves strawberry shortcake, but at her senior living center, it’s either not made or not made “right,” and restaurants rarely offer this gem for a dessert.


Fresh strawberries, rich butter and cream, zingy lemon zest, crunchy biscuit… In delectable cookie form. These are actually more scone-like than cookie-like, what with cutting in butter and barely-there mixing. Either way, these won’t disappoint… or last very long.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Adapted from and seen on many, many blogs like Sweet Pea Kitchen and Martha Stewart

12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces (2 cups)

2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (half a lemon)

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Lemon zest of half a lemon

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2/3 cup heavy cream

Coarse sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375° and line a sheet with parchment.

Combine the strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons sugar and allow to macerate while you prepare the batter.

In a separate bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar and lemon zest by rubbing the sugar and lemon zest together with your fingers until combined and fragrant. Whisk in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Add the heavy cream and mix until just combined. Don’t fret if the dough remains clumpy and seemingly unmixed; the macerated strawberries will wet the batter. [I added an extra tablespoon of heavy cream because I did fret, and this made the baking time much longer… by about 10 or so minutes!!! Do not do this!]

Fold in the strawberries. Dollop 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough on to the baking sheet and bake 12-15 minutes until golden brown on the tops and edges. Let cool on a baking rack, and devour as soon as possible.


If you are a fan of cookies eaten minutes after their departure from the oven, then these are for you. Sadly, they tend to lose their crunch before long.


But, that’s nothing an extra bit of whipped cream can’t fix.