lately: brew-do weekend 2015!

Another beer festival for the books! Although we’ve been a bit behind the curve with festivals this year {we’ve been busy!}, we make sure to never miss one of our favorites. The best part?! – it’s local! While we love travelling far and wide, especially in the name of craft beer, it’s nice to be just a few minutes away from such a celebration. We had glorious weather, delicious food, and of course…SO.MUCH.BEER.

The weekend was extra special this year, too – we had a surprise visitor on Sunday! My youngest sister was in the area, so we met up for a solid 8-mile Sunday hike, followed by {you guessed it!} more beer at one of our favorite local breweries. It was a fabulous weekend, and sister time made it extra special. 

Here’s a look! 

Alicia xo

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thirsty thursday: crafting the perfect beer flight

We’re talking beer today, y’all! And being a typical lady {and lover of all things autumn}, I thought – why not share some ideas for creating the ideal beer flight? After all, the start of September means ALL.THINGS.PUMPKIN.

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I was doing my weekly grocery shop a few days ago and couldn’t help but notice all of the fall seasonal beers beginning to make their appearance on the shelves. From local brews, to popular craft breweries, and all the way up the chain to the national/international names that everyone knows, it seems that everyone is dedicating a vast majority of their brews to seasonal fall beverages. I am certainly not complaining, but the choices can be a little lot overwhelming! So naturally, I’ve brought in the hubs as my “professional” consultant on today’s post, and together we’re sharing how to kick off autumn with the perfect seasonal beer flight!

Question: What makes pumpkin beer so special? 

Answer: There is only a small window during the harvest year where pumpkin is accessible. You should NEVER use canned pumpkin puree – there is a substantial amount of flavor {and appreciation!} that comes with roasting fresh pumpkin for using in brewing. It’s also a great way to carry that pumpkin flavor out, and stretch it over a few months.

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Question: What are the main differences in the kinds of offerings? Shouldn’t they all taste the same if they’re all technically “pumpkin” beers?

Answer: That’s like saying “all chocolate cakes are the same!”. In all seriousness; the foundation of the beer, that is the pumpkin, is the same…but that is where the similarities end. Each brewer, whether on a large or small scale, has crafted their own recipes to suit their flavor profiles and taste preferences. Many on today’s market rely heavily on traditional pumpkin pie spices – this gives them a much sweeter taste than say, one that is brewed with roasted pumpkin and fewer ingredients. For a true experience, you want to ensure that your pick is made with 100% pure roasted pumpkin, and flavored according to your taste buds. Be on the lookout for labels that say only “pumpkin flavor” or “pumpkin pie spiced”, as these typically do not include fresh pumpkin in their batch.

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Question: How many varieties of beers {ales, IPAs, etc.} can we expect to see in our local stores?

Answer: The most common would be a pumpkin ale. Other ones worth looking out for {but may be harder to find} include: shandies, lagers, stouts, porters, and wheat beers. Truth be told, any type of beer can be crafted into a pumpkin beer – the style of the brew is what will make the biggest difference. My best advice is to pick a style that you like, and go from there!

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Question: What are some of your top suggestions?

Answer: In no particular order…Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, Schlafly Pumpkin Ale, Southern Tier Pumpking, Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and New Belgium Pumpkick.

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And now….taking all this information and building it into your beer flight!

According to the hubs, here are some good things to keep in mind…

“Pour all four {or however many beers you’ve selected!} into separate glasses. At this point, order doesn’t matter – we are looking mainly for color and heaviness. Because we’re talking pumpkin beers today, the heaviness will all be pretty similar; so we’ll next look at the ABV {alcohol by volume}. **sidenote: if we were doing a more traditional flight, you would start with a lighter beer {like a lager}, then move on to ales and darker beers**  From this point, you’ll line up your beers from lightest color and lowest ABV, and gradually move up to darker colors and higher ABVs. Just like in any beer flight, you want to progress towards your strongest-flavored beer, so that the flavors build on each other as you go. Make sure to take an initial sip between glasses, before your second {longer} sip, so that you can clear your palette for each flavor. 

…and if all else fails, just drink them in the order where you finish with your favorite!”

Happy beer drinking, friends!

butternut squash enchilada casserole

This is a rainbow of colors, flavors, and deliciousness…all layered up into one glorious casserole.

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For me, it’s simply impossible to not get excited about a dish when it has so many colors, flavors and textures. I happened upon a large stash of butternut squash not too long ago, and rather than going my usual course of roasting {for a side dish} or pureeing {soup style}, I knew I had to try something different. In the past, I’ve had great success incorporating it into mac-&-cheese recipes, but it just didn’t feel right. With unseasonably warm weather, I was craving something hearty but not heavy, light but full of flavor.

I set about searching for the perfect casserole, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for what I’m sharing today, I knew I had found a winner. This casserole is the perfect one to start for your season of autumnal flavors – you’re still using fresh produce {corn, tomatoes, peppers, and onions} but starting to introduce the flavors of fall; creamy beans, luscious squash and bolder spices.

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This dish is more or less a one-pot wonder; very little preparation is required, too! I like to roast the squash ahead of time {say, the night before I plan on making it} so that it is ready and waiting for me and not the other way around. Simply prep, assemble, bake and voila! – dinner is served.

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Butternut Squash Enchilada Casserole {recipe adapted from Making Thyme for Health}

An unusual but delicious option to use up an overabundance of butternut squash, this casserole is a dream for any lover of Mexican-style cuisine! Not to mention, it’s a great way to pack in a vegetable punch.

Ingredients:

1 medium sized butternut squash, peeled and diced

1 onion, sliced

1/2 a large red pepper, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small can of diced green chilis

1 {15-ounce} can of black beans, drained and rinsed

2 cups of corn

2 cups salsa

6 large tortillas, quartered

1-1/2 cups shredded cheese {optional}

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. cumin powder

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

salt and pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Place the diced butternut squash on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin until evenly distributed. Roast for about 40 to 45 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove from oven and lower temperature to 350 degrees.

In a large non-stick skillet, drizzle in olive oil. Add in onions and garlic and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add in the corn and red pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until slightly tender. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder and oregano. Transfer to bowl and set aside, allowing to cool slightly.

Into the same bowl as your sauteed vegetables, add in the diced green chilis, drained black beans, and one cup of the salsa. Toss gently to combine.

Spray a glass baking dish, and begin to assemble the casserole. Spread 1/3 cup of the remaining salsa along the bottom, then cover with a layer of tortillas. Tops with 1/3 of the roasted vegetables and then 1/2 cup of cheese.

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Layer two more tortillas on top of the vegetables, then top with 1/3 cup of salsa, then another 1/3 of the roasted vegetables, then 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese.

Lastly, layer two more tortillas, the last 1/3 cup of salsa and the last 1/3 of the vegetables on top. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then cut into squares and serve. Top with sliced avocado, plain Greek yogurt, or sour cream. Enjoy!

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**don’t feel limited to the ingredients listed out here – use what you have on hand! It doesn’t get much easier than that. I also think that, should it fancy you, a bit of seasoned taco meat {be it chicken, beef, bison, etc.} would make a wonderful addition**