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Amber DeGrace’s food and craft beer stories on LNP

I write part-time at LNP, the local newspaper in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Following, find a list of all the stories I have published there. Click through to read them – all of them are food and booze related, making it a perfect fit for readers of Fine Craft Living. 

New stories will be added to the top of this list as time passes, making it easy for you to get the very latest without having to scroll through the entire list.

Raw red beet marinara, a recipe

It’s my favorite time of year: summer.

Insects buzz in the afternoon heat, ice cream shops are crowded and every week my CSA haul contains plentiful fruits and vegetables.

I’ve been getting beets every week, and while I love using my Paderno spiralizer and think every kitchen should have this tool (affiliate link) and eating those beets raw, drizzled with olive oil, sea salt, cracked black pepper and goat cheese, I am always excited to try new ways of eating the rainbow.

Raw red beets are beautiful marbled jewels when peeled: smooth and firm, sweet and earthy. Don’t fear the staining properties of the juices – that pigment’s name is betalain, and it contains antioxidant properties.

raw red beet marinara
red beet

This recipe couldn’t be easier, and as long as you at least have fresh red beets, you probably have just about everything else you need right in the pantry. I think fresh tomatoes taste best, but the first time I made this, I used three cans of diced tomatoes (drained) and it was still delicious.

The color wavers between hot pink and ruby red, and tastes just as good right out of the blender as it does after heating it. Raw or not, the choice is yours. 

raw red beet marinara
raw red beet marinara

Some ideas of what to do with this raw red beet marinara:

  • top spiralized zucchini “noodles”
  • use in place of pizza sauce
  • lasagna or spaghetti pie
  • add cooked meat for a non-vegetarian version
spaghetti pie
spaghetti pie

Please for the love of all that’s holy in the kitchen, don’t substitute fake maple syrup for the real stuff in this recipe. If you don’t have real maple syrup in your house, go get yourself some (affiliate link) because it’s a game changer on pancakes, ice cream and raw red beet marinara. 

What will you make with this red beet marinara?

Raw Red Beet Marinara
Raw red beet marinara, full of brilliant pink color, adds a touch of earthiness to the standard marinara sauce.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups diced tomatoes
  2. 2 medium beets, peeled and diced
  3. 3 tablespoons onion, diced
  4. 2 tablespoons real maple syrup
  5. 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  6. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  7. 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  8. 1/4 cup fresh basil
  9. 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  10. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  11. 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
In a blender
  1. Blend tomatoes until smooth, about 30 seconds.
  2. Add all other ingredients and blend until smooth, one to two minutes.
  3. Serve raw, directly from the blender, or heat and cook as desired.
Adapted from Nutrition Stripped
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
 This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase anything I linked to, I will receive a small amount of money. I only endorse products that I love.

 

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

I received the The Big Book of BBQ: Recipes and Revelations from the Barbecue Belt {affiliate link} as a Christmas gift from my parents. I’m pretty sure they got it for me so they could reap the benefits, seeing as I cook for them often or send leftovers home with them when they visit.

What a role reversal! Isn’t it usually parents who send food home with their kids?

So far I’ve made about half a dozen recipes and all of them have been outstanding. The bacon-wrapped barbecue chicken kebabs are another favorite in our house.

One of the recent highlights was this mocha frosting, used to top a chocolate marble sheet cake for a Memorial Day party. The cake turned out disappointingly dry but with this amazing frosting, who cares? It’s smooth and velvety, rich but not overly-sweet, and complex from the cocoa (I used Hershey’s Special Dark) and coffee.

Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

This frosting is tempting enough to eat with a spoon. Or with your finger. I made small sandwich cookies for the kids using Nilla wafers and a smear of mocha frosting in between. I can also picture this on dessert crepes with freshly whipped cream and some raspberries.

I have a few leftover slices of chocolate marble sheet cake with mocha frosting that I plan on chopping up and folding into homemade vanilla ice cream this week. That seems like a smart thing to do with dry cake and tasty frosting.

This is an outstanding frosting recipe that I’ll make over and over. It’s quick and easy to make, smooth and lump-less, and delicious.

If I was pairing this with a beer, I’d probably choose a Founder’s Breakfast Stout or Brasserie Ellezelloise La Biere des Collines Hercule Stout.

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting, Perfect for Cakes and Spoons

Quick and Easy Mocha Frosting
This quick and easy mocha frosting recipe is rich but not overly-sweet and perfect on cakes, cupcakes, and your spoon.
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Prep Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups powdered sugar
  2. 2/3 cups Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
  3. 3 tablespoons strong coffee
  4. 2 teaspoons vanilla
  5. 1/2 cup butter, softened
  6. 4 tablespoons half and half
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, stir together the powdered sugar and cocoa until it's fully incorporated. In a separate small bowl, mix together the coffee and vanilla.
  2. In a stand-mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the softened butter on medium speed until it has lightened a bit in color and is creamy. Starting with the cocoa mixture, add a small amount to the butter and beat on low speed until it is fully incorporated. Add a splash of the coffee mixture to the butter and beat until it is fully incorporated. Alternate between the cocoa mixture and coffee mixture until it has all been combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
  3. Add the half and half, one tablespoon at a time and mix until combined.
Notes
  1. Recipe is attributed to "Big Book of BBQ".
Adapted from Big Book of BBQ
Adapted from Big Book of BBQ
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
 Disclaimer: this post contains an affiliate link and has been labeled as such for full transparency. 

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe

Despite the fact that I enjoy slow cooking and think nothing of marinading pork adobo for three days, taking a week to cure a batch of bacon, or allowing a slow rise of dough in refrigerator before baking, sometimes a quick and easy meal is the way to go. We’re always busy here in our household doing something. School, field trips and outings, entertaining guests, the endless chores that come with owning a largish country house containing four humans and four four-legged animals, work and blogging, playing and having fun … rest assured that just because we are here all day long, it isn’t always easy to keep everything balanced!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe
Ingredients, clockwise from top left: olive oil, garlic, chorizo sausage, pipette pasta, broccolini

There are also my personal hobbies like eating reading books, cooking and baking, and current events.

Yes, I did list current events as a hobby. I have breaking news alerts set up on my phone on certain topics so I know the very latest about what’s happening in the great, big world out there. I’ve enjoyed current events since we regularly had to choose one to share with our class in high school and I’ve been hooked ever since. Right now I’m staying on top of MH370, the Ukraine situation, and a spreading Ebola virus. Oh, and did you hear that the Black Plague was pneumonic and not bubonic?! My world is rocked right now.

Seriously, you should read that article. Fleas didn’t cause it! Amazing! I am fascinated by viruses and have eaten read The Hot Zone about a dozen times, in case you were wondering.

Some days, all I have the energy to accomplish in terms of dinner is a quick and easy meal and this one fits the bill. It makes more than enough for this family of four to eat several times throughout the week. This base recipe stands well on its own but can be easily dressed up to add variety when eating it as leftovers. Add in your favorite seasonings, sauces, or dips to the leftovers for a new spin on a basic, yet satisfying meal. A friend suggested using meatless chorizo, a great idea for vegetarians!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet Recipe
Voilà! Dinner is served.

This is a great and easy weeknight pasta and sausage skillet recipe that shouldn’t take you any more than 30 minutes from start to finish. It’s a keeper!

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet with Broccolini
This is a quick and easy meal to make on a Monday night and change up a few more times throughout the week as leftovers.
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 c. olive oil
  2. 1 lb. sausage, your favorite kind
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 bunch broccolini, washed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 lb. pasta, your favorite kind
  6. 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
While pasta is cooking
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings (discard casings) and add sausage to the hot oil, breaking it apart as cooks through, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic to the sausage once it is no longer pink and cook, stirring constantly for one minute or until fragrant.
  3. Stir in prepared broccolini, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.
  5. Combine pasta and sausage mixture in a serving bowl and stir in cheese.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Notes
  1. This recipe stands well on its own but it lends excellently to different sauces when served as leftovers.
  2. Stir-in ideas: cayenne pepper, spicy dip, white sauce, chive cream cheese, dijon mustard sauce, cilantro
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/


Germaine’s Cheesy Bread Recipe

I had a request last week for this recipe, which I shared a version of once before and is lost on the internet somewhere. This comes from “The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook” (The Association of Walking Epicurean Females Usually Lunching), that I purchased in 2007 in St. Lucia, while honeymooning. All credit goes to the cookbook.

I wish I had a photo but, alas! I do not. I will be making this again soon, though…

Germaine's Cheesy Bread
Deliciously cheesy braided bread. Boom.
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For the dough
  1. 1 egg, then add enough milk to make 11 fluid ounces
  2. 1 tsp. salt
  3. 3 T butter
  4. 1 1/4 tsp. yeast
  5. 1 T. sugar
  6. 18 oz. white flour
Other ingredients
  1. 1 egg
  2. 8 oz. gruyere or sharp cheddar
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the yeast in a little of the warmed milk then mix with the other dough ingredients. When ready, punch down and divide into 3 equal portions. Knead until the air is expelled and shape each into a snake approximately 18" long. Cut cheese into thin straws. Flatten each snake, and place cheese all the way along the length. Roll up dough around cheese trying to make sure there are no holes, as the cheese leaks out in cooking. Place 3 cheese filled snakes to lie one on top of the other at their middle. Plait to each end. Place on a prepared baking sheet. Leave to rise in a warm draught free spot. When dough has doubled in bulk (approximately 1 hour) gently brush all over surface with beaten egg. Bake in 180C oven for 20ish minutes or until golden brown.
Notes
  1. It may take longer for the second rise if you don't live in the Caribbean.
  2. 180C is 350F.
  3. This is super tasty bread.
Adapted from The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook
Adapted from The A.W.E.F.U.L. Cookbook
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea

My Mom’s side of the family has gotten together every year, for as long as I can remember, for an annual tea. Over the years we have patronized several tea houses for victuals, sometimes switching because a business closed and other times just trying somewhere new. We went somewhere two years ago that – in my opinion – was awfully expensive for the quality and quantity of food received. The room was cramped, the decor forgettable, and my then-two year old daughter was seriously in need of a nap (which is a whole other issue, of course). I don’t even remember if we had lemon curd to go along with our scones!

That is a requirement in my book.

It seems as if every year I take on more and more cooking responsibilities when it comes to holidays and such. What started out as a Thanksgiving meal in which I nearly lost my marbles trying to keep every detail together, has turned into my making the occasional Easter and Holiday (my combined Thanksgiving-Christmas … maybe I should dub it Thanksgivingmas) meal along with several other impromptu dinners. I enjoy it. I’m not the world’s greatest entertainer like the women portrayed on commercials who always flit like a butterfly of whimsy around the guests, ensuring plates and glasses are always full. I can’t handle all that. I’m not as outgoing as you may think. But I can organize and execute a pretty good dinner and always welcome visitors with a warm heart. 

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

This weekend we are having our annual Matthews Family Winter Tea at my mom’s house. I’m doing most of the cooking and baking and we asked all the guests to bring one or two of their favorite teas along to share. When all is said and done, the cost of each “ticket” will be around $12.50, much less expensive than the place we went last year. Plus we’ll have more variety and more quantity. 

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

Everyone wins.

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

Some of the recipes I’m using were found on Pinterest. Some from Joy of Cooking (affiliate link). Others from Pampered Chef recipe books. The lemon curd recipe I’m sharing with you is one I adapted from Joy of Cooking, aka The Cooking Bible. I received this cookbook as a gift in the early 2000s and have used it so often that the cover is falling off, there are pages stuck together with who-knows-what, and stains abound. I nearly followed the recipe but upped the sugar amount so I knew it would be more sweet than tart.

I know you, dear family members (I’m not naming names). I know all about you and your sweet teeth. 

Lemon Curd Recipe for a Winter Tea | Fine Craft Living

I never knew how easy it was to make lemon curd. It sounds difficult for some reason but I assure you, it is not. My 4-year old daughter helped make this. She cracked the eggs, measured the sugar, squeezed the lemons as best as she could, and whisked it all up. She’s such a great helper in the kitchen and I love teaching her what I know. All that to say, don’t be afraid to give this a try! If a 4-year old and a woman who never made it before can do it, anyone can.

Do you have any annual traditions in your family that you cherish? 

Lemon Curd
Lemon curd is an essential topping for scones at any tea party, whether it is formal or non-traditional.
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Ingredients
  1. 3 eggs
  2. 1/2 c. sugar
  3. Zest of 1 lemon
  4. 1/2 c. fresh lemon juice, strained
  5. 6 T butter, cut into pieces
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
Instructions
  1. In a stainless steel saucepan, whisk the eggs, sugar, and lemon zest together until the color has lightened. Add the lemon juice and butter chunks and set on a burner over medium heat. Whisk the content constantly until the butter has melted and the mixture has thickened considerably.
  2. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer and into a bowl. Press the mixture through the strainer, leaving only the lemon zest.
  3. Stir in the vanilla and put in refrigerator to cool and thicken.
Notes
  1. *The Joy of Cooking says this will last for 1 week if kept refrigerated.
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/
tuesday talent show

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Chocolate-Nut Spread (à la Nutella)

Who doesn’t love Nutella (except for my husband and son, what’s up with that)? I mean, it’s rich, chocolatey, velvety, and ridiculously decadent. You can add it to cookies, mix it with whipped cream, stir it into hot chocolate, drizzled onto toast, or – my personal favorite – eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon.

Why not? I am the queen of my castle.

“Caramels are only a fad. Chocolate is a permanent thing.” 
― Milton Snavely Hershey

Taking favorite foods and drinks and making them from scratch is, to me, a pinnacle of simple pleasure. Nutella is such a treat and there is absolutely no reason why we all shouldn’t try, at least once, to make a perfectly acceptable copycat right at home in our very own kitchen. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! 

I recommend making chocolate-nut spread (à la Nutella) for yourself or for a gift. Go crazy and make a double batch! This is a quick and easy recipe but there are a few notes I should go over with you first.

a) I used a variety of nuts, about 1/4 c. each of walnuts, pecans, cashews, and almonds. You can use all of one kind or more varieties, I really don’t think it will matter.

b) I roasted my nuts at 350F for about 7 minutes, until I could smell them in the kitchen. You can do this or not, that’s your call.

c) I used a combination of chocolates: Ghirardelli semi-sweet, Ghirardelli bittersweet, Hershey milk chocolate chips, and Wilbur dark chocolate chips. Bottom line – use what’s in your pantry if you have it. You can always adjust the amount of sweetener if needed.

d) I’m leaving this out at room temperature because it got too hard in the refrigerator to use and I had to reheat it in order to spread. A little microwave time will help soften those coconut oils up if your house is on the cool side. I have no idea how long the shelf life will be but I’m confident it won’t last long enough to spoil. 

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” 
― Charles M. Schulz

 

Got it? Good!

 

Chocolate-Nut Spread (à la Nutella)
Yields 1
A delicious version of Nutella that is quick and easy to make in your own kitchen.
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Prep Time
45 hr
Prep Time
45 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 c. nuts, your choice of variety
  2. 10 oz. chocolate, your choice, chopped if in bar form
  3. 3 T. coconut oil
  4. 4 T. powdered sugar
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  6. 1 tsp. fine sea salt
Instructions
  1. If roasting the nuts, preheat oven to 350F and spread on a baking tray. Roast for ~10 minutes, until the nuts become fragrant.
  2. Combine the chocolate and coconut oil and melt in a double boiler or in the microwave. Allow to cool.
  3. In a food processor, whir the nuts until a fine, dry paste forms. Add the powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and sea salt and whir until nicely combined, scraping down as needed. Add the chocolate mixture to the nuts and process until that is combined and smooth.
  4. Grab a spoon!
Notes
  1. Disregard the calories below. That cannot be true. ;)
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/

Homemade Sriracha Recipe, aka Rooster Sauce

I’m a big fan of hot sauces and add one or another to almost everything I eat. We like hot sauces so much that we trade with a friend who lives in California. While I dig trying new hot sauces, one of my favorites will always be sriracha sauce, aka rooster sauce, aka cock sauce. It has such a nice warm heat but the vinegar cuts through sharply and the underlying garlic is ever present. 

Homemade Sriracha Recipe

In last week’s CSA there was a bag of beautiful, ruby red cajun belle peppers. I bought a bag of jalapeño peppers too but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with all of them. Stuff them? Make salsa? I started Googling hot sauce recipes and came up with one for fresh sriracha at Food52 via a Huffington Post article. I had to adapt it because of the peppers I had on hand and because I’ve never had palm sugar in my house in my life. This is what I came up with and believe me, it’s worth making. 

Homemade Sriracha

The heat is stronger than your traditional sriracha so if you prefer it to be more similar then I would recommend removing the seeds from half of the peppers before brining. As it is, this recipe has some serious heat but it’s not going to melt your face off or anything. I wore gloves while preparing this sauce, and standing back from the steam while cooking was necessary, but I didn’t have to open up any windows in order to breathe.

Homemade Sriracha

The color in your finished sauce will be more of a creamy orange than the brick red you’ll see in a sriracha container because of the addition of green jalapeños. If you use a different combination of peppers then the heat will be different than what I ended up having. It’s okay! Experiment and play around with your peppers. I just did a side-by-side between the real deal and my homemade sriracha and the only differences are the heat factor, color, and that my homemade sriracha is considerably less salty.

homemade sriracha

 

I should bottle this stuff to sell … who wants some?

homemade sriracha

Easy Weeknight Pasta and Sausage Skillet with Broccolini
This is a quick and easy meal to make on a Monday night and change up a few more times throughout the week as leftovers.
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Total Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 c. olive oil
  2. 1 lb. sausage, your favorite kind
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 1 bunch broccolini, washed and coarsely chopped
  5. 1 lb. pasta, your favorite kind
  6. 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
  7. Salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
While pasta is cooking
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Remove sausage from casings (discard casings) and add sausage to the hot oil, breaking it apart as cooks through, about 5-6 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic to the sausage once it is no longer pink and cook, stirring constantly for one minute or until fragrant.
  3. Stir in prepared broccolini, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Remove the skillet from heat and set aside.
  5. Combine pasta and sausage mixture in a serving bowl and stir in cheese.
  6. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Notes
  1. This recipe stands well on its own but it lends excellently to different sauces when served as leftovers.
  2. Stir-in ideas: cayenne pepper, spicy dip, white sauce, chive cream cheese, dijon mustard sauce, cilantro
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking
Fine Craft Living http://www.finecraftliving.com/