‘Tis the season… for pumpkin flavored drinks

While we’re slowly but surely coming down from our 90+ degree summer days, it’s clear that everyone has fall on their minds. I can’t begin to tell you how many blog posts I’ve read within the last two weeks boasting delicious pumpkin recipes and fun foods including the oh so yummy fall flavor. Even though it’s only the third week in September, cool crisp weather and warm flavors are definitely on their way.

For me, fall usually means beautiful colored leaves (that need to be raked, boo), the perfect clothing weather (not too many layers, but just the right amount), perfectly ripe apples, and of course, pumpkin! To be honest, I wasn’t always a huge pumpkin fan. Matter of fact, for a large part of my life I completely avoided it. Yup, that’s right – I turned down pumpkin pie (gasp!). However, last year, my taste buds seemed to change, and I hopped right on the pumpkin loving bandwagon. It started innocently with a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks, and continued from there – pumpkin bread, pumpkin brownies, pumpkin french toast, pumpkin beer… you get the point.

So on Sunday, I started my pumpkin fix of the season off right – the first stop was to get a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks! I can’t wait to get myself more of these badboys.

From there, my fiancé and I headed to a local wine store that has a pretty decent beer selection as well, and picked ourselves up TWO types of pumpkin beer! First, we grabbed a six pack of Shipyard’s Pumpkin Head, which we both had for the first time last year and loved. We also grabbed a four pack of Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale, which neither of us had tried before. The store actually had a few other options (such as Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale), so we’re looking forward to heading back after we finish these two.

Even though both of the beers are pumpkin flavored, they  are definitely distinctive in their own rights. The Shipyard has a strong cinnamon flavor making it sweet, while the Weyerbacher has a more nutmeg flavor, making it a little more savory. I really enjoyed them both, and even though it’s Monday morning, I could definitely go for another one right about now!

Aside from drinking pumpkin, I have a ton of recipes up my sleeve courtesy of fellow bloggers that I need to try. Everything from pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin macaroni and cheese, pumpkin overnight oats, to pumpkin smoothies. It seems like pumpkin puree with some spices can really be added to almost anything, and I’m more than okay with that.

Happy pumpkin season!


Vegetarian Black Bean Chili w. Dark Ale

As I mentioned in yesterday’s Vegan post, I decided to go veggie two days in a row. Tonight’s selection is from one of Vegetarian Times‘ e-mails I get a few times a week.

As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew I had to make it. I love chili; so much so that my fiancé and I often buy Hormel’s  canned chili just to have on hand in case we run out of dinner ideas. Seeing that this recipe didn’t have too many ingredients and was pretty straight forward, I thought I’d give it a shot.

My thought to make Tuesday night’s dinner on Monday really paid off. For whatever reason, my body has been fighting some sort of cold that comes and goes as it pleases, and yesterday and today was one of those days it decided to come out and play. So, after suffering through Monday, I decided to stay home Tuesday and relax. No point in pushing myself through work when I’ve got a marathon to run in a month!

Most of the ingredients were canned, but you could of course go for the more natural route if you’re willing to spend the time slicing and dicing. Plus, since there weren’t too many ingredients, it was cost effective. I often times hear people complain that eating vegetarian is too expensive. Well, here it is folks! An affordable and filling vegetarian meal! Another draw was the use of beer in the recipe. I knew it’d be a quick sell for my fiancé, and I was all about it too.

Since buying chipotles in adobo for the Chocolate Cinnamon Chipotle Cupcakes and then also using them in my Chilaquiles Fritatta, I had one left, which was exactly what I needed for this recipe! Throw in some corn, garlic, onion, pepper, and black beans which are always on-hand, and you’ve got yourself some vegetarian chili!

The recipe called for a gluten free dark ale, but I went with just a regular dark ale; Flying Fish ESB Amber Ale, to be specific. I enjoy Flying Fish beer on it’s own, so I figured it would definitely work in the chili.

I was a little worried while it was simmering, since all of the beer was soaked up by the vegetables, not leaving any type of broth/sauce. I’m used to at least a little bit of liquid in my chili. But once I tasted the final product, all my worries dissipated! I’m not a huge meat fan, but I definitely don’t think it’s missed in this dish. It was hearty and flavorful, and everything you would expect from chili. Each of the ingredients can be tasted individually, but the combination is really what makes the meal. Everything from the chipotles to the black beans to the beer work perfectly together.

I decided to serve the chili just with two small Pillsbury crescent rolls, and as always, a simple green salad with balsamic vinegar. No, not vinaigrette, just vinegar. Weird? Maybe. Delicious? Definitely.

If you have an hour to devote to a meal, and are in the mood for something hearty without the calories, I definitely suggest this. If you’re a total meat junkie, I’m sure you could add in some ground beef, but if you’re willing to try it meatless, go for it – you’ll be glad you did!

Black Bean Chili w. Dark Ale
(Serves 8)

2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, drained and minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. ground cumin
1 large onion, finely chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 medium red bell pepper, diced (1 cup)
5 cloves garlic, minced (5 tsp.)
2 14-oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
24 oz. gluten-free dark beer
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup fresh or frozen corn

1. Heat oil in 3-qt. pot over medium heat. Add chipotles and cumin; season with salt, if desired. Cook 1 minute, or until fragrant.
2. Stir in onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Sauté 5 to 7 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Stir in beans, beer, tomatoes, and corn.
3. Bring chili to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes, or until thick.

Each serving is under 200 calories with only 5g of fat, 8g of protein, and 10g of fiber!

Happy healthy nomzing!

Christmas Gift Review 3: Mr. Beer

I had almost forgotten about my last Christmas gift review, because it took about a month for my fiancé and I to prepare it. Technically this was a gift for him from me, but I assisted him and am reaping the benefits by getting to drink the beer!

This particular gift was something I knew he’d love. As a guy, he of course enjoys a good beer. A bunch of our friends brew their own beer, and he mentioned a few times how he’d like to try it, but was afraid of how involved it might be.

So, I set out to find him a reasonably priced and first timer friendly kit. I wound up getting him the Mr. Beer Deluxe Kit, which included two batches, and everything you would need to brew them.

Cleaning the equipment and actually making the mixture to pour in the jug was pretty easy. We decided to go with their American Lager first. It took us only about an hour to prepare and put the soon to be beer in it’s jug. The hardest part came next; waiting.

In terms of waiting, the kit recommends 2 weeks. A few friends suggested a lot longer, more like 4. So despite being anxious, we took their advice.

Once those two weeks were up, we had to bottle the brew and add sugar, then wait another 2 weeks. We did, and then per the recommendation of the kit’s fine print, we refrigerated it for a week as well.

When we finally got to crack one open, it had more if a cider rather than beer taste. However, the great thing about brewing your own beer is that the flavor is ever changing. So the next time we had some, it definitely tasted more like beer, and was pretty good for our first attempt!

It was definitely a lot easier than we both thought. Granted, this kit was pretty straight forward; open, mix, pour, repeat. Mr. Beer does sell everything separately, so you can defintely be as involved as you’d like. There are also tons of other sites that offer kits, that seem pretty promising.

We have one more mix from this particular kit, and after we make that, I think we’re going to branch out and try some different brands. The Brooklyn Brew Shop has some interesting flavors available, so I think that might be our next adventure.

If you’ve ever even had a thought about brewing your own beer, go for it! You just need about an hour or two to prepare it, and then have enough patience to wait for it to ferment and be drinkable. The Mr. Beer site offers a few different kit options, depending on how involved and how many brews you want to make.