Things have been a little quiet in the Beetle’s kitchen. I’ve been making peace with my sacrifice of meat for Lent. I’m not a big meat person like my husband, who, by the way, effortlessly gives up meat every Lent. I don’t crave meat normally whereas my husband NEEDS meat with every meal. The day I cook a vegetarian meal, the first question he’ll ask is, “where the meat at?”, regardless of how delicious the dishes may be. For him, a meal is not complete without meat.
Majority of my cooking is based on what my husband would like to eat because left on my own, I’ll survive on instant noodles or takeout for every meal. So, I thought giving up meat would be easy, given that (a) I don’t crave meat and (b) I wouldn’t really feel like cooking meat just for myself. But, ever since Lent began, my eyes have been involuntarily hunting for meat. I have to literally fly past the meat section at the grocery store because I look like a kid standing at the candy store with no money from mom to get candy. It doesn’t help when I’m reading my favorite blogs and you have irresistible pictures of chicken, steak, beef or the 5-letter B-word (my favorite). Yeah, even saying it makes me cringe with temptation.
Every day I stand with the fridge door open, hoping the contents in the vegetable drawer will talk to me and tell me what delicious dish I can put them in so I won’t miss meat. The ungrateful things aren’t really helping, so I grabbed the bottles of beer that had been pushed to the back of the fridge and hunted for a beer bread recipe.
I’m not fond of beer and the husband drinks beer depending on what his mood dictates. So, these bottles had been sitting inside for quite a while. Now, I’m aware of what people say about not cooking with ingredients you don’t care about, but, I couldn’t care less about that right now. My good friend, Alton Brown, had this lovely video on how to make Beer bread and I got down to business.
While Alton made a cheese and dill beer bread, I switched up the flavor components and decided to throw in cranberries and chocolate. I needed the chocolate to appease my meat cravings. One thing I would note about Alton’s video and recipe are that he uses one whole 12 fl oz bottle of beer, but, to get the texture from his recipe video, I had to leave a few sips behind. Otherwise, it got soggy. So, watch out for that. You want a gooey texture and not a smooth, flowy texture.
I wasn’t stopping at the beer bread because I was pulling the big guns out for this one. I remember watching Bobby Flay demonstrate an orange-honey butter on The Worst Cooks in America. I decided to make a cranberry-honey butter to go with my bread. Best. Decision. Ever. I can eat the cranberry-honey butter all by itself, if I wasn’t reminded of the fact that it is still butter! Sigh
The combination of the cranberry-honey butter and the bread is amazing, to say the least. You could also overload on chocolate and toast your bread a bit before slathering with some chocolate sauce. *SLURP* Pure yum!
Choco Cranberry Beer Bread
(adapted from Alton Brown’s Beer Bread recipe)
Ingredients and instructions
- Nonstick spray
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw if frozen)
- 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
- 12 ounces cold beer, ale or stout
- 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, optional
Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with the nonstick spray and set aside.
Whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cranberries and stir in the beer just to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds, if using.
Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Cranberry Honey Butter
(adapted from Bobby Flay’s version on The Worst Cooks of America)
Ingredients and instructions
- 1 cup cranberry juice, ready-made or home-made*
- 3/4 stick butter, slightly softened
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- Pinch salt
Place cranberry juice in a small non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons. Place butter in a bowl and add the cranberry syrup, honey, and salt; mix until combined. Scoop into a large ramekin, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.
*Home-made Cranberry Juice
If you’re feeling all adventurous and have your kitchen mojo on, make your own cranberry juice as well. Mind you, I’ve just learnt that cranberries in their fresh state or on their own are very sour and bitter. So, constitute the right amount of sugar according to your taste. I like mine sweeter than bitter so I added more sugar. Taste as you go.
Ingredients and instructions:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
In a soup kettle, bring water and cranberries to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until berries begin to pop.
Strain through a fine strainer, pressing mixture with a spoon; discard berries. Return cranberry juice to the pan. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and orange juice. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until sugar is dissolved.
Remove from the heat. Cool. Transfer to a pitcher; cover and refrigerate until chilled. Yield: 1 cup.