Friday, January 29, 2016

Beer Friday: Smugglers’ Reserve Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hard Cider

On most Fridays, I'll share a beer I particularly enjoy, and think you might as well. This series will feature beers from all over the U.S. (and when we're lucky, the world). Cheers! 

Smugglers' Reserve Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hard Cider | A Hoppy Medium

We’re switching gears this week – we’re talking about cider today!

Now…for those that know me, you’ve probably never heard me rave about a hard cider. I love non-hard, good cider with all of my New England heart, but hard cider? Besides Downeast Original, I’ve had a hard time finding one I’ve enjoyed sipping on.

Enter this cider that Z and I had before our flight back from Boston on Monday. Not really in the mood to drink – let alone drink a cider – I was pleasantly surprised by this bottle. Here’s why:

What: Smugglers’ Reserve Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hard Cider by Stowe Cider, Stowe, VT

ABV: 6.9%

Tasting Notes: The effervescence in this limited release cider is what initially won me over. It was bubbly – reminiscent of champagne – with an evident bourbon flavor on the backend. I’m a sucker for a bourbon barrel-aged anything, so the obvious booze in this was super appealing to me. The texture was thin yet crisp; it's an incredibly refreshing cider.

Pairing Suggestion: A cheese plate filled with soft cheeses; a melty, buttery grilled cheese; pork chops (I’ve tasted them before, they will work!); roasted winter vegetables; a nice, hearty pasta (risotto, anyone?).

Where Can I Find It?
There was only one batch of this particular cider made this year - and Stowe Cider's distribution isn't that far and wide (understandably so). For my New England friends, I'd call your local beer and liquor stores and see if they have it available. Stowe Cider is also located at 1815 Pucker Street in Stowe, Vermont - check it out on a ski weekend!

Are you a hard cider fan?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Veggie-Packed Red Lentil Dal {Vegan}

We spent a quick four days in Boston last weekend to watch our good friends get married (and to watch Z preside over their wedding!). It was a whirlwind trip, filled with lots of friends, family, and way too much food and booze. By the time we got home late Monday night, I was ready for a diet (and a good night's sleep). After waking up Tuesday, I laughed off the "diet" idea, but still was craving something nutritious. And with that, this dish was born.

Veggie-Packed Red Lentil Dal | A Hoppy Medium

Veggie-Packed Red Lentil Dal
Yields: 4 generous servings
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 medium yellow onion, diced
-3 large garlic cloves, minced
-1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
-3 large carrots, peeled and diced 
-Curry powder
-Ground cumin
-Ground turmeric
-Pinch of cayenne
-1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
-1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
-1/2 cup frozen peas
-1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
-2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, plus more if needed to thin the sauce
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-1 5-ounce package baby spinach
-Chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
-Basmati rice and warm naan, for serving

1.) Add the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened.
2.) Stir in the ginger and carrots, and continue cooking for another few minutes over medium heat.
Add the curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne. Stir well and cook for just a minute, until fragrant.
3.) Pick over and rinse the lentils in a fine mesh sieve. (Or, place a paper towel over a strainer and rinse them that way). Stir in the can of coconut milk, diced tomatoes, peas, lentils, broth, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered with the lid slightly ajar, for about 15-20 minutes, or until the lentils and carrots are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan. (At this point, feel free to stir in a bit more broth if you'd like a slightly thinner consistency). After cooking, stir in all of the spinach until wilted.
4.) Serve garnished with cilantro and over Basmati rice, with warm naan on the side.

Veggie-Packed Red Lentil Dal | A Hoppy Medium

I love Indian food for a lot of reasons, but the aromatic spices, tons of vegetables, and protein-packed lentils really did it for me with this dish. As always, I never actually measure my spices, so just add sparingly at first and taste along the way to make sure the dish is at the spice and flavor level you want. 

What's your favorite veggie-packed meal? 

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium

In early October, Z and I packed up the car and drove cross-country from Boston to Portland, Oregon. It was an adventure we had wanted to do for a while, and being in our young 30s - with no kids as of yet - we knew the time was now or never.

Our anticipation of the trip was incredibly exciting and a little nerve-wracking, and let's just say we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. To make sure you're a little more prepared, if you dare to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime journey, here are a few things to keep in mind before you go:

1.) Your Patience Will be Tested
Traffic, your car companion who you will be in tight quarters with for quite some time, your hanger when there's no food options in sight (see #2), when you just want to get the hell out of the car, but you’re still a few hours from your destination. All of that will test your patience. Breathe, and remind yourself why you embarked on this epic journey in the first place.

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium
We ate all the fried cheese curds in the Midwest.

2.) Food Options Will Be Scarce 
A surprising amount of towns in America have nothing in them (except for Subway…Subway’s everywhere). But for when you just can’t “eat fresh” one more time, the options can be scarce in certain areas – especially for us vegetarians. Be prepared: bring plenty of protein-packed snacks to hold you over until the next place with edible options shows up.

3.) Credit Cards Are Not Accepted Everywhere...Still
There is nothing worse than finally finding food only to discover that that small-town establishment doesn’t accept credit cards. We only ran into this once or twice, but when you’re starving in the middle of nowhere, you’re going to really wish you had some dollar bills on you.

4.) Technology Will Fail on You
Z and I snickered at each other when his parents gifted us an old-school, paper Atlas map for our trip. I mean, who needs anything that archaic when we have iPhones? That clearly don’t work when they lose service in all of those remote areas we drove through?? Yeah…the paper map came in handy on several occasions when our GPS gave out and we needed to find our way.

5.) The Radio Gets Old...Fast
Books and/or comedians on CD as well as podcasts are a great way to pass long car rides. During our trip, we got very into “This American Life.” Z just downloaded a bunch of them to his phone, and listening to all of those varied, interesting, long stories really passed the 9- and 10-hour rides quite quickly.

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium

6.) Cars Can Break
This might be an obvious one, but you never know what will happen. Before we left Boston, we had our brakes and tires replaced, and had everything else checked out just in case. Of course, after putting so many miles into any car, you will run into problems no matter what – flat tire, cracked windshield, a leaky A/C pipe (which actually happened to us...). But for the bigger issues that are in your control, you should definitely get those taken care of before you leave. Safety first!

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium
Beer sampler at Toppling Goliath.

7.) Your Plans Will Change
Like most things in life, nothing will go as you planned it. Case in point: Despite my organized, typed-up travel plans, we ended up changing one leg of our trip on a whim so we could check out Toppling Goliath Brewery in Decorah, Iowa. (A state we never thought we'd love spending time in...but did!). We cancelled our original hotel on the road, and were able to find a new one close to the brewery. In addition to loving the brewery and the beautiful views of Iowa along the road, we ended up spending less time in the car, too! The whole point of driving cross-country is to have an adventure – so be prepared and flexible to change your original plans on a whim.

8.) Bathrooms and Gas Stations Disappear 
Just like a lack of dining options in many stretches of your trip, you’ll also experience random droughts when it comes to bathrooms and gas stations…neither of which you want to experience. Be in-the-know for when you’re about to hit a “dry spell” and plan accordingly. We chatted with locals to get some insight into the more isolated areas, but SitOrSquat and GasBuddy are good app options, too (assuming you have service, of course).

10 Things You Need to Know Before Driving Cross-Country | A Hoppy Medium
Sioux Falls in South Dakota.

9.) You Will Want a [Charged] Camera
You’ll want to capture every beautiful sight you see (and meal you eat, if you’re like me), so make sure you have a charged camera for all of those moments (and there will be a lot of them). Z and I mainly used our iPhones during the entire trip, which worked just fine – but I was definitely bummed out the few times my phone was dead and there was a memory I wanted to capture.

10.) Taking Turns is Key
I know a few people who have driven cross-country by themselves, but honestly, having a partner in crime is key for safety reasons. Z and I had to get to Portland within six days, so our trip was a little more accelerated than most people's, but being able to split up the driving on any long car ride is just plain safer. And way more fun, for when it's not your turn behind the wheel!

Have you ever driven cross-country? If so, what are some of your tips?

If you haven't driven cross-country before, is it on your wishlist?

Thursday, January 21, 2016

My Top 5 Favorite Dishes in Portland (Currently)

Being new to Portland, Oregon, Z and I go out to eat quite often. And with that frequency, a lot of our meals are on the more casual side - food trucks, sandwiches, and the like. (Although, expect a post in the future regarding some of the fancier dishes and restaurants we've been loving so far!).

In that vein, I thought it was high time I shared with you all the dishes that have made me swoon ever since we moved here. Some I've had an embarrassing amount of times already; some, I've recently tried. If you live in Portland - or plan to visit sometime soon - put these on your must-try casual eats list.

1.) The Lox Bagel ($8.75) at Eisenhower BagelHouse, 3990 N Interstate Ave.

The Lox Bagel, Eisenhower BagelHouse, Portland, OR | A Hoppy Medium

You can get this beauty on your choice of housemade (and boiled!) bagel, or housemade English muffin. I went with the Montreal Spice bagel, and the saltiness complemented the toppings beautifully. The bagel was piled high with cream cheese, fresh, thinly sliced lox, chunks of tomato, salty capers, fresh dill, and sliced red onion. If I could start all my days with this, I would already be in heaven.

2.) The Out to Lunch ($7.50) at Wolf & Bear's, multiple locations 
Um, everything I've eaten at any Wolf & Bear's food truck has been amazing...which probably explains why Z and I have eaten here countless times already. But the Out to Lunch is my absolute favorite so far. Inside a fluffy, warm pita wrap lies creamy labneh, gorgonzola crumbles, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, falafel, salad greens, tahini sauce, and olive oil. Thanks to the tin foil all of their sandwiches are wrapped in, it's not a messy experience, either. Just downright delicious, indulgent, and addictive.

3.) Blueberry Bourbon Basil Doughnut at Blue Star Donuts, multiple locations

Blueberry Bourbon Basil Doughnut, Blue Star Donuts, Portland, OR | A Hoppy Medium

Everyone raves about Voodoo Doughnuts here in Portland - and although I've yet to go there, I've heard it's over-hyped compared to my beloved Blue Star. We are lucky enough to have a location right down the street from us here in NW Portland, and it's wonderful...yet dangerous. All of their doughnuts are surprisingly light, fluffy, and unique yet successful when it comes to flavors. The Blueberry Bourbon Basil has been my favorite so far - the tart blueberry complements the sweet basil and kick of booze quite nicely. (I forget the price, but I believe their doughnuts typically cost between $3-$4),

4.) Beet Tartare ($9) at Portobello Vegan Trattoria, 1125 SE Division St.

Beet Tartare, Portobello Vegan Trattoria, Portland, OR | A Hoppy Medium

Picture this: creamy cashew cheese topped with diced, roasted beets, carrot aioli, fines herbes,
and capers - all drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, and served with crostini. Nothing gives me greater joy than scooping a huge dollop of this vegan tartare onto a toasted slice of baguette. Even if you're a meat eater - who likes beets - you will forever be dreaming of this dish.

5.) Chickpea Fritter Banh Mi ($8) at Double Dragon, 1235 SE Division St.
Located right across the street from Portobello is Double Dragon - and Double Dragon has made me a lot of these banh mis. They're just that good. A crusty baguette chock-full of almost-perfect chickpea-and-roasted-vegetable fritters and pickled vegetables = my idea of heaven on earth. The sandwich is also ginormous, usually leaving me with half for lunch the next day. Usually...... (Z always gets the Orange Sesame Soy Curls Banh Mi ($8), which is also fantastic!).

If you're from - and/or currently live in Portland - what are some of your favorite casual eats in or around the city?

Wolf & Bears Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Blue Star Donuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Portobello Vegan Trattoria Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato Double Dragon Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Nutella Energy Bites

For years, my go-to "healthy" snack was LARABARS. I loved them because they contain only a few, legible ingredients; they're tasty; and there are a ton of flavors, making my weekly haul consistently varied. But as time went on, I began to discover that LARABARS never filled me up - they do have quite a bit of [natural] sugar in them. And, as an extra bummer, they're also quite expensive.

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Nutella Energy Bites | A Hoppy Medium

Over the last few weeks, I've become especially interested in finding a more satiating (and cheaper) alternative. So, when I stumbled upon these No-Bake Energy Bites from Gimme Some Oven, I was immediately inspired.

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Nutella Energy Bites | A Hoppy Medium

I tweaked the recipe to include what I already had in my kitchen, while still keeping these bites healthy and low on sugar. I also added just a teeny bit of Nutella for flavor, but the peanut butter and oatmeal are the stars here. These have been the perfect treat to pop before or after a workout, and have also been enjoyed with a cup of coffee as I try and wake up my brain for the work day.

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Nutella Energy Bites
Yields: 12 balls
-1 cup old-fashioned oats
-1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
-1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter (or smooth, if you prefer)
-1 teaspoon Nutella
-2 tablespoons honey
-Pinch of sea salt

1.) Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
2.) Once chilled, roll into balls about 1-1.5" in diameter. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

No-Bake Peanut Butter-Nutella Energy Bites | A Hoppy Medium

Easy to make, packed with protein, and tastes like a treat? Count me in!

What's your favorite pre- or post-workout snack to have?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Beer Friday: Toaster Pastry by 21st Amendment Brewery

Every Friday, I'll share a beer I particularly enjoy, and think you might as well. This series will feature beers from all over the U.S. (and when we're lucky, the world). Cheers!

Toaster Pastry by 21st Amendment | A Hoppy Medium

i originally tried this beer when Z and I were in San Diego (remember the pizza leftovers we ate for breakfast? My first slice, the night before, was washed down with a pint of this). I was initially intrigued by the name, as my childhood breakfasts regularly consisted of Pop-Tarts and/or Toaster Strudels. However, we learned just this week where the name comes from: this was the first beer brewed at 21st Amendment's new brewery space, which just so happens to be the former toaster pastry factory. (In other words, no Pop-Tarts were harmed in the brewing of this beer).

Anyway - onward! Here's the good word on why you may want to drink this:

What: Toaster Pastry by 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco and San Leandro, CA

Style: India-style Red Ale

ABV: 7.6%

Tasting Notes: I really wanted more jam out of this - I was expecting Pop-Tarts, after all. However, I do have to say the very subtle strawberry jam was nice (I'll take what I can get). The mouthfeel wasn't too thin, although it was just thin enough to make this dangerously drinkable...without being boring. An apparent maltiness also gave this brew the "crust" flavor I was looking for. 

Pairing Suggestion: Pizza, of course! But really, this beer is light enough to pair well with a variety of foods, especially pub grub-style - think burgers, sandwiches, salty fries, and happy hour snacks. 

Where Can I Find It? Toaster Pastry is brewed by 21st Amendment year-round, and can be found via can or on tap at a variety of places throughout the U.S. Click here to see where you can grab a liquid Pop-Tart near you. (Local to Portland, we had a happy hour pint at Lightning Will in NW).

Have you tried Toaster Pastry yet? If yes, what's your review? 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Brunch at Rae's Lakeview Lounge

$1 mimosas. Need I say more?

I still got a Bloody Mary...because I cantstopwontstop...but come on! How can you go wrong with ONE DOLLAR MIMOSAS?

That's what you can get at Rae's Lakeview Lounge in NW Portland (my neck of the woods). Situated in the hilly 'burbs, it's the place to be for Saturday or Sunday brunch (served from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). When we walked in last weekend around 1 p.m., the one-large-room place was bumpin' with twenty- and thirty-somethings. (During the nicer, drier seasons, their large outdoor patio is also open).

There was a short wait for a table, so we opted to sit at two out of the four seats at the intimately sized bar. Despite a short wait to place our orders, our round of drinks came out quickly (my weekend brunch beverages always include coffee, water, and a Bloody).

Rae's Lakeview Lounge, Portland, OR | A Hoppy Medium

The Bloody Mary Deluxe ($8.50) is made with house Bloody mix, Crater Lake Pepper vodka, and garnished with a salted rim, olives, and citrus (despite the description also boasting banana peppers and house-pickled green beans. Humph!). Despite the lack of promised garnish, this Bloody hit the spot - wonderfully strong and spicy. (Z got a $1 mimosa, and it was also tasty).

Rae's Lakeview Lounge, Portland, OR | A Hoppy Medium

When it comes to brunch entrees, Rae's has quite the variety, including omelettes, French toast, sandwiches, and salads, to name a few. I went with the Westover Omelette ($12), chock-full of poached Pacific shrimp, roasted red pepper, caramelized shallot, and house creme fraiche - all topped off with slices of super fresh avocado. On the side were perfectly crispy roasted potatoes and 9-grain toast, served with butter and jam (you also have your choice of farmhouse white toast or a biscuit). Everything was seasoned very nicely, and I appreciated how the portion size was reasonable yet filling.

Overall, we enjoyed our first time at Rae's, and will definitely be back again soon for brunch (and/or happy hour, which is daily from 2-6 p.m.!).

Which would you choose: a $1 mimosa, or a Bloody Mary?

Rae's Lakeview Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes

Whenever I make Sloppy Joes, this song gets stuck in my head for daysss.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes | A Hoppy Medium

Growing up, I loved when my mom made Sloppy Joes for dinner. Granted, those Sloppy Joes were piled high with hamburger meat, but at the time, they were delicious, comforting, and, well, messy.

As a vegetarian adult, I've come to miss these satiating, spill-all-over-your-plate sandwiches, so I decided to come up with a version that I can eat now - sans the grease and animal parts. (On my former blog, I also came up with a lentil version, if you're interested. Just don't mind the missing photos).

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes | A Hoppy Medium

Here, tofu is crumbled and loaded up with all of the Sloppy Joe flavors we know and love. And then topped with vegetarian baked beans. You know, to make them even sloppier (and more delicious). This recipe can also be vegan-friendly, if you opt out of the melted cheese and brioche buns.

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes
Yields: 8 servings
-1 16-ounce package extra firm tofu, drained
-3 tablespoons ketchup
-1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
-1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
-Salt and black pepper
-Chili powder
-Dried oregano
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1/2 large yellow onion, diced
-1 large garlic clove, minced
-1 bell pepper, chopped
-Salt and black pepper
-1 heaping cup vegetarian baked beans
-Sliced bread and butter pickles, for garnish
-8 slices cheese (optional; we used Havarti)
-8 brioche buns (or your favorite vegan-friendly buns will do!)*

1.) Press the tofu for 20 minutes (if you don't have a tofu press, just place a heavy pot on top of the tofu). This will get a lot of the moisture out so it crisps up nicer in the pan. Once drained, crumble the tofu into a bowl and mix with the ketchup, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, salt, black pepper, chili powder, and dried oregano (aka, the marinade!). Place tofu in fridge for 30 minutes.
2.) Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, just until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add peppers and season with salt and black pepper (I also added some extra chili powder, for an additional kick); cook until peppers begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add tofu and cook until tofu begins to turn golden brown, about 5-7 minutes.
3.) Lower heat to medium-low; add baked beans and stir. Cook until heated through, about 3-5 minutes.
4.) Toast your buns (if using cheese, place cheese slices on one half of the buns before toasting so they melt nicely). Pile each bun with a few generous scoops of the Sloppy Joe mixture. Top with sliced pickles. Grab many, many napkins and dig in.

*One note: For the non-vegans, I highly recommend using the brioche buns, if you can find them. They're a little sweet, super soft, and stand up to the sloppiness quite nicely. 

Vegetarian Sloppy Joes | A Hoppy Medium

Packed with protein and flavor, these Sloppy Joes gave us dinner - and lunch! - for days. We ate the last bit of leftovers on our snowboarding lunch break this past weekend, and it was the perfect pick-me-up for a day on the slopes, too.

What was one of your favorite meals growing up?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Beer Friday: Seventeen by Central Waters Brewing Co.

Every Friday, I'll share a beer I particularly enjoy, and think you might as well. This series will feature beers from all over the U.S. (and when we're lucky, the world). Cheers!

Seventeen by Central Waters Brewing | A Hoppy Medium

First things first: Who else is INSANELY excited for the season premiere of "Shameless" this Sunday night?? Z and I have had a Sunday night TV tradition for years now - all our favorite shows tend to air on Sundays - and "Shameless" is my all-time favorite. And, as part of the "experience," we always crack open a good beer - which, this time of year, is almost always a stout.

This particular bourbon barrel-aged stout - Seventeen - was one Z randomly picked up at our neighborhood bottle shop, and it was an unexpected gem that we both really enjoyed. Here's why:

What: Seventeen by Central Waters Brewing Co., Amherst, WI

ABV: 11.5%

Tasting Notes: A smooth, creamy mouthfeel complemented by bourbon, vanilla, caramel, and chocolate. It's seriously sultry, not-too-sweet yet decadent, and delightfully boozy without too much heat. If you like heavier, no-joking-around stouts, this one's for you. 

Pairing Suggestion: Uh, nothing. Drink it by itself and enjoy the heck out of every sip. 

Where Can I Find It? Seventeen is a Cellar Session brew from Central Waters, so it may not be as easy to find as some of their other brews. i recommend calling your local bottle shop to see if they have it in (Central Waters is based in Wisconsin, but i'm not positive how far their distribution goes). You can also visit their tap room, but I'd call ahead to see if they have this available. 

Do you watch "Shameless" too? HOW EXCITED ARE YOU?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Able Ebenezer Brewing Company | Merrimack, N.H.

Growing up in Merrimack, New Hampshire = growing up right around the corner from Anheuser Busch. On a hot, humid summer day, we could actually smell the yeast from the beer being brewed. That might sound disgusting, but the smell of stale beer in the air is actually quite nostalgic for me now. (Maybe that's why I'm such a boozehound?).

Anyway, fast forward to many years later - meaning, to the summer of 2014 - and in walks Able Ebenezer Brewing Company. Located a few miles down the road from its giant predecessor, Able Ebenezer is serving small batch ales in a pre-prohibition-style setting (meaning, an abandoned garage-warehouse-type space). And when we visited on Christmas Eve, it was delightfully warm enough to have the garage doors open.

Able Ebenezer Brewing Company | A Hoppy Medium

The tap room offers pints, 1- and 2-liter growler purchases/fills, samples, and flights. Z and I had both heard great things about Able Ebenezer's beers from our friends who still live in the area, so we were excited to each have a flight and see what all of the fuss was about.

Able Ebenezer Brewing Company | A Hoppy Medium

Both our flights included:

-Victory Nor Defeat, Double IPA (8% ABV)
-Burn the Ships, Smoked IPA (7% ABV)
-Broad Arrow, IPA (6.5% ABV)
-Auburn, American Red Ale (4.5% ABV)

I actually really liked all of these beers - even the Burn the Ships, despite the fact that I rarely like anything with a smoky flavor. (Hello, hot dogs). Burn the Ships was able to have some subtle smoke in the background, without overwhelming everything else. All of the other brews were clearly fresh, quite drinkable, and interesting enough to keep me intrigued. It's clear the folks at Able Ebenezer's know their beer, and are giving Merrimack the small craft brewery they've been waiting for.

For the local-to-New Hampshire readers, Able Ebenezer's is also available on tap at several restaurants and bars throughout the area. Click "Find Us On Tap" to see where.

And if you make it to the brewery, make sure to leave enough time to play some board - or video! - games while you're there. The space is large enough and setup accordingly for groups to drink and play.

Oh! And before you go - this is the sunset we got to see after our beer flights. Thank you, warm New Hampshire Christmas:

Did you discover any new-to-you places over the holidays?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Detox Vegetable Soup

My apologies for disappearing there. I was lucky enough to be home for the holidays, and then Z and I made the most of a long, New Year's holiday weekend. I hope you all enjoyed some much-needed downtime as well!

Home for the holidays! Pictured: me with our niece, Truley; me and Z by my parents' giant tree; me with my cousin and two of my siblings;  and Z with Braylee, one of our other nieces. 

A chilly - but sunny! - hike in Multnomah Falls over New Year's weekend.

Now...on to 2016! I'm not big on resolutions, but I do feel the need to eat a bit healthier thanks to all of the beer, wine, cheese, and baked goods I threw down my gullet over the holidays. Who's with me??

This soup may not actually detox us all, but the copious amounts of vegetables in it does help make up for all of those still-lingering holiday calories. The added pasta and cannellini beans only add to the soup's satiety. And the cheese rind added to the broth gives every spoonful a sultry, comforting flavor. (Because who said eating healthy had to be boring? And cheese-less??).

Here's to a healthy - and very happy - new year!

Detox Vegetable Soup | A Hoppy Medium

Detox Vegetable Soup
Yields: 6-8 servings
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 yellow onion, diced
-2 carrots, peeled and chopped
-2 celery stalks, chopped
-1 large clove garlic, minced
-Salt and black pepper
-Generous pinch of crushed red pepper flakes 
-4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth + 2 cups water
-1 cheese rind (optional; I used Gruyere)*
-1 16-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (roughly chop tomatoes before adding)
-1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
-1 cup frozen peas
-2 cups cooked rotini pasta (cooked to al dente)
-Extra olive oil, for drizzling

1.) In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until it begins to soften. Add carrots, celery, garlic, and spices; cook until all vegetables are mostly softened, about 5 minutes.
2.) Turn heat up to high; add vegetable broth, water, and cheese rind; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer; add tomatoes, beans, and peas. Let simmer for at least 20 minutes; add pasta about 5 minutes before serving. 
3.) Remove the cheese rind. Spoon soup into bowls and drizzle each serving with a little olive oil. Enjoy!

*I save leftover cheese rinds in my freezer and throw them into soups for added flavor. This ingredient isn't completely necessary, but highly recommended!

Also: I highly recommend stirring in some fresh herbs before serving. We used cilantro (not pictured), because it's what we had on-hand, but parsley would work too.

Detox Vegetable Soup | A Hoppy Medium

Healthy yet filling and delicious. 2016 is looking great already. ;)

One note: When heating up the soup for leftovers, you will very likely need to add more water or broth (that darn pasta soaks up a lot of the liquid!).

Do you have any goals for the new year?