Monday, September 19, 2016

The Craft Critique: Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy from Traveler Beer Company

While not technically fall, the temperatures are starting to dip, Oktoberfests are being celebrated and almost nightly the smell of a distant bonfire drifts through my open windows. No, fall isn't here just yet, but it's close enough for me! The first of many pumpkin spice lattes has already been enjoyed, my sweatshirt collection is slowly but surely making an appearance into my wardrobe and the chatter of Halloween costumes is filling the air as my kids try to decide what they want to be for trick or treat. Since I had a short day at work yesterday, I decided it would be the perfect time to break open the bottle of Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy that the good folks at Traveler Beer Company sent me to review.

Traveler Beer Company describes their fall seasonal as :
"Representing the darker side of Shandy, Jack-O Traveler is an alluring wheat beer illuminated by the tastes of fall. It strikes the perfect balance between bright refreshment and seasonal spice. Jack is made with real pumpkin for a delicious dark-hued, Shandy-inspired beer."

Here are my thoughts on this brew.

APPEARANCE: Jack-O Traveler pours a rich burnt orange hue that is deceiving to the eye. The color hints at a heavier drink than is what actually delivered. A large, airy head sat atop the beer that quickly gave way to almost no lacing on the glass.

SMELL: This brew obviously smells reminiscent of a pumpkin pie with a citrusy lemon twist. Notes of traditional pumpkin pie spices shine through-cinnamon and nutmeg make their presence immediately known and dominate the more subtle notes of pumpkin and wheat.

TASTE: In true shandy form, the first taste of this beer was more lemon than anything else. Subsequent swallows were all pumpkin pie flavor with just a hint of the lemon shining through. The flavor of actual pumpkin hides behind the spices instead of being allowed to shine through. While I love pumpkin beers, I found this particular one to be too sweet for my liking.

MOUTHFEEL: I felt that Jack-O Traveler embodied everything a shandy should feel like: light, crisp, medium carbonation. It is a very easy drinking beer. As mentioned above, the color of this beer is deceptive, I was expecting a heavier feel than what was delivered.

OVERALL: Not a bad beer, but not my cup of tea. Some drinkers will love this, some will hate it. But that can be said of every beer. Personally, I fall in the middle of the spectrum. It is not a beer I would go out of my way to track down, but I would certainly not turn it down if another was offered to me. I believe pairing this beer with the proper foods to help cut through its sweetness would have greatly enhanced my enjoyment of it. I would recommend trying it with a rich New York style cheesecake or a baked brie.

For more information about Jack-O Traveler or any of the other shandies offered by the Traveler Beer Company, please visit their website, Facebook page. Twitter feed or Instagram account.

Disclaimer: A sample bottle of Jack-O Traveler was provided to me by Traveler Beer Company in exchange for a review. This free sample in no way influenced my opinion and review of this beer. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Tomatoes Are Rich In More Than Just Great Flavor

Tomatoes are an edible fruit that hail from the nightshade family. Yes-I said fruit. As in not vegetable. Botanically, the tomato is a fruit, while for culinary purposes it is treated as a vegetable. Although the tomato plant originated in the South American Andes, its use as a food crop dates back to at least 500BC in southern Mexico. It continued to spread throughout the world after the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The word tomato comes from the Nahuatl word “tomatotl” and first appeared in print usage in 1595. The earliest discovered cookbook that includes recipes for using tomatoes dates back to 1692 and came from Naples.

While tomatoes were a popular plant for ornamental uses in Europe, they were not eaten for centuries because the mistaken belief that they were poisonous. They were also once believed to be a new form of eggplant. Once the fruit of the tomato plant was determined to be safe for human consumption, Italy began to develop many unique varieties to be used in sauces, pizza and for drying. There are approximately 7,500 varieties of tomatoes being grown for various purposes worldwide. While tomatoes are synonymous with Italian cuisine, China is actually the largest producer of commercial tomatoes in the world. Major producers in the United States include Florida and California and it has become one of the most common garden fruit grown in the country.

The fruit of the tomato is as versatile as it is colorful. Ripened fruit come in a wondrous variety of color, including red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, black, white and bi-colors, each possessing its own unique texture and flavor. Home grown tomatoes are chosen for flavor above all else while commercially grown fruit are chosen for uniform shape and size, disease and pest resistance and the ability to ripen after harvest. There are two main types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. A determinate tomato bush tops off at a specific height and produces a full crop at one time. It is the preferred type of plant for commercial growers and home canners. Indeterminate tomatoes develop vines that do not stop growing and continue to produce fruit until the plant is killed off by frost. This is the preferred type for home growers and farmers who wish to sell their produce at farmers markets for an entire season.

Unfortunately, not all tomatoes are created equally. Those grown by commercial farmers are harvested before they have ripened on the vine. Ethylene gas is used to ripen them artificially, resulting in a fruit that has a longer shelf life but less flavor and a mealy texture. Tomatoes picked at the peak of the season tend to have both the best flavor and texture. Tomatoes should be stored, unwashed, at room temperature. Avoid direct sunlight and place them stem down to slow rot. Tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator if at all possible, as this leads flavor loss.
Unripened tomatoes should be stored in a paper bag to speed the ripening process. The benefits of a diet rich in tomatoes has been well documented. Most notable is the fruit’s abundance of lycopene, one of the world’s most powerful natural anti-oxidants. Benefits of a diet rich in lycopene include:

  • Decreased risk of prostate cancer 
  • Decreased risk of breast cancer 
  • Decreased risk of head and neck cancer 
  • Skin is better able to protect against UV rays 
  • Protection against neuro-degenerative disease 
  • Decreased symptoms from urinary tract infections 
  • Reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetics

Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, folic acid, vitamins A, C, E, K and B6 as well as thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous and copper. The benefits of these nutrients are numerous and include stronger bones and the ability for them to repair themselves after being damaged, improving vision, prevention of night blindness, reduction in the risk of macular degeneration, prevention of kidney and gall stones, a decrease in inflammation and allergic reactions and a boost in weight loss hormones. As if that wasn't enough, tomatoes are also low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.

If you are looking for some inspiring recipes to help you add more of this amazing fruit to your diet, consider trying any (or all) of our enticing tomato recipes!

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Friday, August 5, 2016

Rice and spinach stuffed zucchini boats recipe

These delicious "boats" are a yummy and healthy summer entree when its simply too hot to eat meat. 

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup white rice, rinsed
  • 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of excess liquid
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 4 medium zucchini
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large saucepan, saute garlic in olive oil with salt, pepper and cayenne until fragrant. Add rice, spinach, water and additional salt and pepper if desired. Bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to low, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Fluff rice and stir in half and half, tomatoes and cheese. Add additional half and half if needed. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. The halves will resemble a boat. Place the zucchini boats on a baking sheet and fill with the rice mixture. Bake until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with a little more Parmesan. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Watermelon margarita recipe from Fruit2O

Here's a new take on a classic summer cocktail from the folks at Fruit2O

  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce St. Germain
  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 cup chilled Watermelon Fruit2O
Combine all ingredients in a shaker and give a couple shakes to combine. Serve on the rocks with salt and a small slice of fresh watermelon.

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Cheesy chicken enchilada recipe

This hearty dinner is a great way to use leftover chicken, or purchase a roast chicken from the deli to cut down onyour prep time! It has just enough heat to make it flavorful without overpowering more tender tastebuds. If you wish to warm it up more, use two cans of jalapenos instead of one jalapeno and one of green chilies.Recipe, En

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 1 small can green chilies, chopped
  • 1 small can jalapenos, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup Mexican cheese blend, divided
  • 12 small corn tortillas
  • small can black olives for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Saute onion and green pepper in olive oil until tender. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, if desired, and combine with chicken, green chilies and jalapenos. Combine flour and coriander in a sauce pan and add broth. Stir until smooth. Cook over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened then remove from heat. Add sour cream and half of the cheese and stir until smooth and creamy. Add 1/2 cup of the sauce mixture to the chicken mixture and combine. Warm tortillas and fill each with approximately 1/3-1/2 cup of the chicken mixture. Roll and place seam side down in a 13 X 9 baking dish lined with foil. Spoon remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas and sprinkle with cheese. If desired, top with black olives. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cheese is melted and enchiladas are heated through.