Last updateTue, 23 Jan 2018 4pm

Quick breads deliver flavor for beginners

Rita Held/Special to the Town Crier
Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread maximizes flavor with minimal effort.

Even if you’re not an avid baker, quick breads are not to be ignored – especially during busy times of year.

They are simple to prepare, yet they usually deliver so much flavor and enjoyment.

A toast to independent craft brews like Clandestine

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
A mural paying tribute to brewing ingredients and process adorns Clandestine Brewing’s new tap room in San Jose.

As I shopped for my last column in 2017, ending up with beers from three breweries that have been bought out in the past two years, it really struck me just how far the large corporate ownership of craft breweries has advanced.

For the past four and a half years, this column has focused on California-brewed craft beers. In the spirit of showcasing unique, local, independent breweries, my New Year’s resolution for 2018 and beyond is that future columns will include only beers produced by breweries that meet the Brewers Association’s definition of craft brewers.

Paleo brownies start new year indulgently

Photos Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s brownies use “secret” ingredients such as protein powder and pumpkin. She suggests adding fruit and yogurt to make a sundae.

I have grown frustrated with throwing so-called healthy brownies into the trash. Fibrous black-bean brownies; funky, reddish, beet brownies; mealy garbanzo-bean brownies; and even greenish spinach brownies have all met their demise after one bite.

The mantra in nutritious recipe forums goes like this: If you grind up a vegetable long enough and add some sugar, cocoa and whole-grain flour, you are all set for a no-guilt brownie.

Holiday hot pots return the chef to the party

Courtesy of Christine Moore
Prepared ahead of time, a hot-pot dinner allows everyone to cook and visit together rather than confining a sacrificial chef in the kitchen.

“All is bright.” It’s a phrase deeply linked to the holiday season – and for good reason. Despite the early hour of sunsets this time of year, the holiday season is one of brightness.

I see it in the sparkling lights twinkling from windows, hear it coming from the holiday songs on repeat in our home and feel it in the animated excitement of anticipating children.

'Pampered' tart combines savory and sweet

Photos Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s Baba Ghanoush Tart combines smoky, sweet, salty and nutty flavors.

’Tis the season for dinner parties and indulgences, when turduckens or, worse, piecakens end up on some entertaining menus. A piecaken is three different pies baked into a cake. But why not have just one so rich and flavorful that you won’t yearn for an extra pie or three?

As a food writer and host of the YouTube cooking show “Feast in the Middle East,” I usually feel extra pressure to step up to the plate (no pun intended) and really deliver on a unique dish that will wow all of my guests. One experimental afternoon I had all of the ingredients to make the eggplant dip baba ghanoush as well as a sack of almond meal – and my Baba Ghanoush Tart was born.

Beer first and last : Pairings highlight Thanksgiving meal

Derek Wolfgram/ Special to the Town Crier
Cleophus Quealy Beer Co.’s Cranberry Weisse pours a celebratory purplish-pink color and brings a lemony tartness to the glass.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s time to start planning your beer pairings for the family feast.

Like any beer/food pairing, there are two main approaches you can take – flavor profiles of your brews either can be complementary or contrasting with the food. For Thanksgiving, that either means something light, crisp and refreshing to cut through the richness of the meal, or something big and strong that can hold its own with the intensity of the dishes. Following are two examples of each pairing strategy.

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