Fall Beer Review

I love beer. I love fall. It follows, then, that I adore fall beer. If you put a pumpkin in some beer, chances are I’m going to love it. If you even just put a pumpkin on the label, I am there for it. I haven’t been drinking too much beer since we’ve been trying to lose some weight, but I swung by the liquor store to grab some fall beer this week to let you know what I think of them.

New Belgium Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin

This is a fall beer so strange, so audacious, that I can’t help but give it a higher rating than I might based on taste alone. It’s a pumpkin ale with cinnamon and habañero peppers, so it’s got that sweet fall beer flavor mixed with some considerable heat. The combination is off kilter and experimental, but also pleasant and homey. We’re living in a golden age, when brewers can feel comfortable enough taking niche tastes to a mass market. 3.75 stars.

Vivi is puzzled over this spicy fall beer

Bell’s Octoberfest Beer

This is your standard Octoberfest, but a really good one. The spice is mellow and restrained, but enough to give you that warm fall beer flavor. Super smooth, super tasty. 4.25 stars.

Freddy is downright affronted by this fall beer

Alltech Kentucky Pumpkin Barrel Ale

This one is surprisingly light for a 10% ABV beer aged in bourbon barrels! Not the perfect late-on-a-work-night, post-workout beer, but you play the hand you’re dealt. It’s light on its feet, but full bodied, and leaves you pleasantly cotton-headed. 4 stars.

I finished this fall beer while writing a review of it

Victory Festbier

A nice mellow amber lager. This would be a really nice staple fall beer for one of those outdoor parties where everyone’s wearing a jacket and Halloween decorations are out. A little sweet, some mild spice, and just a really pleasant beer. 3.75 stars.

Watson was happy to present me with this fall beer

Flying Dog The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale

 

This one didn’t really work for me. It’s beer, so it’s automatically got 3 stars or so, but I wish it leaned a little heavier on the Pumpkin, lighter on the imperial. This is a heavy beer in exactly the way the Alltech beer above wasn’t. It’s 9.0% ABV, and you feel every percentage point. You definitely do taste the pumpkin, but it gets a bit overwhelmed by everything else going on. 3.25 stars.

 

 

Vegan Gluten-Free Pear Gingerbread Pancakes

We first made these gingerbread pancakes during the summer and we absolutely loved them. But we decided it’d be better to roll out the recipe sometime in the fall, since they had more of an autumnal flavor profile. And remember, we love the fall, and fall recipes. Thankfully this past week we got pears in our Hungry Harvest* box, so it was a great time to revisit them!

*Affiliate link. If you click and order and use code HERO5, you get $5 off!

Gingerbread Pancakes: A Seasonal Treat

It’s hard to overestimate just how much of a treat these gingerbread pancakes feel like. They feel like eating fresh-baked cookies for breakfast. It feels like putting on a warm sweater and jumping into a pile of leaves. They feel like going on a hayride at the local orchard. They feel like pure, distilled fall. They’re just spicy and homey and wonderful.

These pancakes also reheat really well. We took them to work for breakfast one day this week, and they’re almost as delicious as they were fresh off the griddle. The bits of diced pear have a nice slight crunch to them. The gingerbread aroma drifts, tantalizing, from the top of the plate. A lot of pancakes don’t reheat well, but these ones are a star in that department.

In short, there’s no reason for you to not be making these gingerbread pancakes right now. They’re easy, they’re vegan, they’re gluten-free, they’re delicious, they’re evocative of fall, and they reheat well. Go. Make them. Live your bliss.

Vegan Gluten-Free Pear Gingerbread Pancakes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup brown rice flour
1 Tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp oil
3/4 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 3 Tbsp water for 5 minutes
1 pear, diced
2 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp candied ginger, finely chopped

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large bowl until combined in a thick batter. Heat a griddle on medium high heat. Once hot, drop dollops of batter about 1/3 cup each onto the griddle. Cook approximately 5 minutes per side, or until done on each side. Serve with maple syrup or whatever you prefer on your pancakes.

Back to School with Hungry Harvest

Our kids aren’t old enough for full time school yet. Watson is starting preschool, so we’re feeling back to school season for the first time since childhood. He’s learning a lot at school (for today’s show and tell he had to bring something that begins with the letter C). We want them to learn about good eating habits just as they learn letters and numbers and more at school.

We’ve been really glad to start every weekend with a Hungry Harvest* delivery to go through with the kids. They’ve had such fun unloading the boxes with us and helping us put fruits and vegetables away, and they get the chance to learn what everything is and how we use it! The weekends are usually all about cooking and other food prep for the week, and we try to involve the kids as much as possible in that. The fact that Hungry Harvest gives us a good variety every week means the kids are always learning about new foods instead of just seeing the same old ones.

*This is an affiliate link. If you click it and use the code HERO5 you’ll get $5 off your first Harvest!

We’re also trying to get better at feeding them what we eat. We feel it complements their school learning to learn about new healthy foods. Vegetables help them grow, and they taste better than kids think! Watson frequently gets out of his chair to show us how he grew a little bit taller every time he eats a bite of broccoli.

We watched an episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood where the focus was on trying new foods. Watson and Vivian have taken it to heart enough to try little bites most of the time. Freddy, on the other hand, eats anything we put near him.

With their excitement about food and learning, each of our kids has been a #hungryharvesthero. Back to school season is a good time for us to remember that we’re always teaching our kids. Hungry Harvest gives us a really good means to teach them how to eat delicious, healthy food.

Baked Sweet Potato with Shiitake Bacon

We got ourselves a surfeit of sweet potatoes this week. We decided to dice and roast some for adding to grain bowls, but we were still left with a few big ones. Jocelyn had the brilliant idea for a baked sweet potato recipe, covered with toppings that feel decadent but are actually really healthy.

Baked Sweet Potato: A Sweeter Take on a Classic

Turns out a baked sweet potato is just like a baked potato! People probably already knew this, but I’m slow. Don’t judge me. Anyway, we all know that what makes a baked potato isn’t the potato itself, but the toppings. We were determined to find a combination of toppings that felt rich and delicious, but was also decently healthy. We settled on some “cheese” sauce, avocados, crispy fried onions, and some shiitake bacon.

Now I, like all right thinking people, was skeptical of this whole shiitake bacon idea. Before we started eating vegetarian, I was a fan of bacon. The internet’s extreme enthusiasm for bacon in everything ever blunted my appreciation, but I still had fond memories of it. I was skeptical that making something out of mushrooms and calling it bacon would be anything but a cruel joke.

Guys? This shiitake bacon is no joke.

For real, it’s meaty and salty and smoky and just really wonderful. Much more than I could ever have imagined. So run, don’t walk, to your nearest sweet potato monger and demand several of his or her finest sweet potatoes. You’ve got a meal to make.

Baked Sweet Potato

Ingredients:

Two big sweet potatoes
One batch nacho cheese sauce
4 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tsp smoked paprika
Avocado, cubed or mashed
As many crispy fried onions as you can handle

Directions:

Bake sweet potatoes (about an hour at 350° F, or you can microwave if you’re in hurry).

While the potatoes are baking, marinate mushrooms in soy sauce, olive oil, and paprika for about half an hour. Sautée until crisp (about ten minutes). This is the shiitake bacon.

Cover the sweet potatoes with all the toppings and shove in your face.

Pasta and Vegetable Casserole

I love casseroles and I can’t get enough of ’em. I used to think I didn’t like them when I was a kid, but man, I was wrong. They’re a beautiful melange of flavors, all mixed together and adding to each other and creating a whole new experience. Ever since we started getting big boxes of delicious vegetables from Hungry Harvest*, we’ve had to find creativeways to use lots of veggies. It turns out a delicious vegetable casserole is a great place to pack a ton of healthy vegetables into a meal.

*The link above is a referral. If you click on it and order a Hungry Harvest box, you and we both get $5 off!

Vegetable Casserole: Homey and Healthy

The great thing about casseroles is that you can get a ton of flavor from just a few simple ingredients. For the filling here, we mixed our vegetables and pasta with some vegetable stock, salt, and garlic, and that was it! Reducing the stock concentrated all that wonderful flavor, and then we topped the whole thing with a sunflower seed crumble that browned nicely in the oven. The ingredients are simple and healthy, but it tastes like one of the hearty casseroles my grandparents made when I was a kid.

We used some multicolored fall pasta that our son picked out for this casserole, and I think it made it look really beautiful! It’s a shame that it didn’t make him want to try any, but we expected that.

Pasta and Vegetable Casserole

Ingredients:

2 cups pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups vegetables (we used sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes)
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup flour
2 cups vegetable stock
1 15-oz can cannellini beans
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp coconut oil
Salt and garlic powder to taste (or go nuts and use Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel spice mix*)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Cook pasta. Meanwhile, sautée vegetables and garlic until cooked through. Sprinkle flour on top, stir in stock and cook until thick. Add in beans and pasta and pop into an oven safe casserole dish. Mix sunflower seeds, coconut oil, and seasoning in food processor until a crumble forms, and sprinkle on top of the casserole. Bake until golden and bubbling, about 25 minutes.

*The link above is from Amazon Associates. If you click on it and buy something, Amazon will kick back a percentage of your purchase to us!

Fried Onions, How I Love Thee

Neither Jocelyn nor I are crazy about onions. I’ve mellowed on my opinion about them over the years, but they’re still not my favorite. I love cooking with them, but that’s usually only been the case as long as they’re hidden deeply enough in a dish to be mostly imperceptible. A little while ago, we made a recipe that called for crispy fried onions, and that all changed.

Fried Onions: A Garnish Whose Time Has Come

These are the simplest things to make, and they’re basically the most delicious food that has ever been devised by man. We’re lucky if they last long enough to make it to the main dish they’re being made for, since they’re so easy to absentmindedly snack on. I honestly can’t stop going on about how good these are.

See? I’m still going on. They’re salty and crispy and a little bit sweet, and on their own they’re delicious, but they also help add a depth of flavor to all sorts of dishes. I’ve honestly got to stop or I’m going to run downstairs and devour the whole big container we made to last us all week*.

*In the interest of integrity and transparency I feel it is incumbent on me to tell you that I did go downstairs right after writing this and eat a handful of these things. I have neither pride nor shame.

We use these things on top of tons of dinners. We’re going to have a lot of veggie and grain bowls this week, and these will make a perfect accompaniment. Last night we had a baked sweet potato (about which more later), and these were just a stunner of a topping. Seriously, go find some onions, cut them up, and make these. You won’t regret it at all.

An onion, unfried Fried onions

Ingredients:

3 onions
1/3 cup brown rice flour
Generous amount of salt
Oil for frying

Directions:

Slice the onions as thin as you can make them without slicing any part of your fingers off. Toss with flour and half your salt. Heat the oil until shimmering. Fry onions until golden or darker, whatever your preference. As they cool toss with more salt. Try not to eat all of them, with the expectation that you’ll probably deliciously fail.

Friday Links

Here’s what we’re reading this weekend!

Creamy Cauliflower Pasta with Garlic and Roasted Tomatoes from The First Mess looks amazing and I want it in my face right now.

Tempeh Tacos from My New Roots. I know we go on about tacos all the time, but for real, start living your best taco life.

Ever been confused by the difference between “sell by” and “use by”? Join the crowd (this particular crowd is called “everyone”). A new plan aims to curb food waste by harmonizing those labels.

So as we all know, fall has officially fallen, and we couldn’t be happier! The temperatures, the food, the holidays, it’s all great. I was all set to write about some of my favorite fall beers, but then I realized it’s shorter to just say “anything with pumpkin in it.” There’s approximately a billion pumpkin ales every year, and I love all of them. So raise a glass for us this weekend if you’re so inclined, and celebrate the equinox!

Carrot Cake Energy Balls

We eat a fairly restrictive diet, so it’s important to find ways to branch out and have fun. We’ve written about energy balls before, and they’re a great way to have a little bit of fun with our day. They always give us a boost, and if we make them right, they taste great. And brother, this week, we made them right.

Energy Balls – A Power-Packed Snack

The trick about energy balls is to make them these tiny, dense, delicious morsels. If they’re tiny, then they’re not going to overload you. If they’re dense, they’re still going to be substantial. And if they’re delicious, they just make you feel great.

Personally, even though I’m not very into sweets anymore, I like mine on the sweeter side. If they’re almost too sweet, then I find I’m satisfied by one and don’t have any temptation to go further. My sweet cravings have gone way down, and a well-made energy ball satisfies them completely.

Carrot cake energy balls

Ingredients:

1 medium carrot, grated
1 c dates, pitted
1/2 c rolled oats
1/2 c walnuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c raisins or craisins
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until you’re good and satisfied, you maniac. Then scoop out the mixture and form it into, you know, balls. This amount made about 15 for us (obviously the picture above was taken after we’d been at them a little).

We like to bag them up individually and put them in the fridge so that we can grab one and go super easily for work. You may prefer to do it another way, which, whatever works for you works for me.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad with Olives, Cauliflower, and Chickpea Pasta

We like to be inclusive here at Our Chaotic Kitchen, and in that spirit we’d like to extend a recipe for gluten-free pasta salad to our gluten-free friends. Over the weekend we saw dried chickpea pasta* at the store, and we had to give it a shot! We also tried making some homemade chickpea pasta ourselves, if you’re feeling adventurous.

*The link above is an associate link at Amazon; if you click and buy something, Amazon will kick a percentage of your purchase back our way.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad – Delicious and Nutritious

This gluten-free pasta salad is packed with flavor and is healthy as all get-out. We were able to make use of the cauliflower and tomatoes that we got from Hungry Harvest, and topping it off with a nice olive tapenade gave it just the right amount of pizzazz. You could almost call this a deconstructed takeoff on our cauliflower veggie flatbread, if the concept of “deconstructed” dishes were something other than a cruel lie to make diners finish making their own food. But I digress.

Vegan gluten free pasta salad

Ingredients:

Roasted Veggies:

1 pkg chickpea pasta or 1/2 batch of our chickpea flour pasta
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup olive oil

Olive Tapenade:

1 cup olives (green or kalamata, your choice)
1/2 cup nuts
Big handful of fresh herbs (we used parsley and basil)
1 clove of garlic
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Toss vegetables in olive oil in a large bowl. Once coated, lay out on a lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile cook pasta and process tapenade in food processor. Toss hot veggies with pasta and tapenade.

Apple Vegan Donuts with Peanut Butter Glaze

We’ve featured vegan donuts on the blog before, because donuts are the most delicious. They’re beautiful and perfect. The donut, that glorious torus, reminds us that mornings can be joyful, and not just something we have to slog through on our way to quitting time.

Vegan Donuts: All the Flavor, No Regrets

I don’t know about you guys, but I always feel awful after I stop at a drive thru donut store on the way to work (note: this does not include the exquisite Duck Donuts, which just opened a location near us). Don’t get me wrong, the donut is always delicious while I’m eating it. Endorphins explode in my brain. For a collection of moments, there is only chocolate and glaze and all is right with the world. But mere seconds later, regret sets in. I didn’t really need that donut, did I? And even though it tasted good, I knew my stomach wouldn’t feel that good afterwards, didn’t I?

To solve that, we simply make some delicious donuts at home without the ingredients that make us regret them elsewhere. What you see below is a vegan, gluten free apple donut with peanut butter glaze. That’s right, I said peanut butter glaze. It’s an amazing miracle.

Apple Vegan Donuts with Peanut Butter Glaze

Ingredients:

Apple Donuts:

1/2 cup dried apples, finely chopped and soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 cup brown rice or spelt flour
1 Tbsp flaxseed
3 Tbsp water
1 Tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tsp cinnamon
Generous grating of nutmeg
1 Tsp vanilla

Peanut Butter Glaze:

1/4 cup peanut butter
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F. Mix together all donut ingredients in a large bowl. Pour batter into a donut baking pan and bake for 30 minutes. Take out and let cool in the pan for a bit and then transfer onto a wire baking rack to fully cool.

While the donuts are baking, combine glaze ingredients in a small saucepan until well combined. Allow glaze to cool. When everything is cool, pour glaze over donuts. Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge and serve within a few days. As though they’ll last that long.