Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Eat Drink Read Write Festival

Mark your calendars... this looks like a really fun event for Alabama foodies! The Birmingham Public Library is planning to "feed the mind, body and soul" during its Eat Drink Read Write Festival planned for September 8-15, 2012. They've got a bunch of partners in the project, including our good friends over at the J. Clyde. Here are some of the highlights:

Saturday, September 8
Time: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon
Pepper Place Saturday Market
Storyteller Katie Elkins will perform stories related to food. Desert Island Supply Co. (OMG! Check out their new headquarters. Office Envy!) will lead informal produce-themed writing workshops for children and adults, and BPL will offer food-related crafts.

Tuesday, September 11
Time 6:00 p.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Birmingham Foodie Book Club presents The World in a Skillet by Paul and Angela Knipple. The Knipples will lead a discussion of their book The World in a Skillet: A Food Lover's Tour of the New American South which focuses on restaurants run by first generation immigrants in the South. Birmingham’s own Mr. Chen’s restaurant is featured in the book. (which, by the way, is one of our favorite restaurants in town.  Check out their reviews. Well worth the drive down to Hoover, imho.)

Wednesday, September 12
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Woodrow Hall, DISCO Office, 5504 1st Ave North, Woodlawn
Food Stories
DISCO (Desert Island Supply Company) will host a live storytelling modeled after NPR’s popular program, The Moth(if you haven't heard the show - it's great!). Food Stories will bring together local storytellers, each of whom will have five minutes to tell a true story in the first person — no props, no notes. The story subject must somehow involve food. Cash bar.

Thursday, September 13
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Eating Alabama
We’ll screen the documentary film Eating Alabama, in which a young couple sets out to eat the way their grandparents did – locally and seasonally. But they soon realize that nearly everything about the food system has changed from the past. The film-maker, Andrew Beck Grace, will be in attendance to discuss the film.

Friday, September 14
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Bards & Brews Poetry Performance/Beer and Cheese Tasting
Featuring Beer and Cheese Pairings by Chef and Bread Guru Corey Hinkel, Bards & Brews is the popular monthly poetry performance/beer tasting hosted by BPL. This special program will begin with a discussion of beer and cheese pairings with Chef Corey Hinkel of Mix Bakery featuring Yellow Moon Cheese from Wright’s Dairy in Alexandria, Alabama. A slam and open mic for poems related to food and drink will be held. First place winner of the slam receives $100; second place $75; and third place $50. Back Forty Beer Company and Bell’s Brewery will furnish beer. Bread and dishes prepared by Chef Dupont of MIX Bakery using ingredients supplied by Whole Foods Market. Beer service coordinated by J.Clyde. Music performed by the Reflections, a band made up of BPL staff.

Saturday, September 15
Time: 11:00 a.m.
Birmingham Public Library, Central
A Taste of Honey with Brenda Palms Barber
Brenda Palms Barber is CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, which produces honey in urban settings in the Chicago area and manufactures and markets honey-based personal care products under the beeline® label. The company also provides transitional job opportunities for those who struggle with barriers to employment. Whole Foods Market will sponsor a honey tasting. The Jefferson County Beekeepers Association will provide information on urban beekeeping. J.Clyde will offer a sampling of mead.

Saturday, September 15
Time: TBD
Birmingham Public Library, Central
Tamar Adler

Monday, July 30, 2012

Easy Garlic Chicken with Stone Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds

"All kinds of yummy smells are wafting up from the kitchen tonight."

That was my Facebook status at 6:30 tonight.   Miranda and Jason were making dinner. Which sounds like such a basic statement, especially for a family food blog.  Unless you're a regular reader of Necessary Pleasures and you know that Miranda rarely eats dinner with us, let alone cooks dinner.  

Proof??  She missed Homemade Mac 'n Cheese, Thai Noodle Dinner, Martha Hall Foose's Peanut Chicken and Michael Tzimmis, and a whole bunch of other meals. 

Oh to be 17, have a car, a little money, and friends who love to eat.  

But, you see, Miranda has a plan.  A college survival plan that goes something like this: When I go to college next year I'm going to offer to cook really good dinners for people as long as they buy the groceries and agree to let me eat some once I'm done cooking.   

The only problem with this plan? Miranda doesn't really cook that much. Sure, she's developed a taste for good food and she can read a recipe (she is going to college, afterall), but in terms of actual "in the kitchen hours" she doesn't have a whole lot to hang her apron on. 

But this week, when Jason asked if there was anything she needed at the grocery store she said "chicken", "garlic" and "brown sugar". 

Jason: What? 

Miranda: I want to make dinner. 

Jason: WHAT?!?

Miranda: I found a recipe on Pinterest and I want to make it. 

Miranda is a huge Pinterest addict -- follow her boards here.  This tweet from yesterday about sums up her feelings: 
@mirandafulmore "I'm pretty sure if you're a girl and you don't have a Pinterest then you also don't have a life."
So, armed with chicken and garlic and a couple other ingredients, Miranda set about making tonight's main course - Easy Garlic Chicken. And although she would have been perfectly happy having a Meat Fest, Jason insisted on adding fruits and vegetables, hence the Stone Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds. 

Easy Garlic Chicken 


  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil

  1. Preheat over to 500 degrees (F) and lightly grease a casserole dish
  2. In a small saute pan, saute garlic with the oil until tender
  3. Remove from heat and stir in brown sugar
  4. Place Chicken breasts in a prepared baking dish and cover with the garlic and brown sugar mix
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stone Fruit Salad with Toasted Almonds

  • 1 cup riesling or other sweet white wine (Jason used a Chardonnay - it's what we had on hand)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp almond oil (though we used olive oil, since he couldn't find almond oil)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens
  • 3 plums, sliced (we only used 2)
  • 2 peaches, peeled and sliced (we only used 1)
  • 2 nectarine, peeled and sliced (we only used 1)
  • 2 apricots, peeled and sliced 
  • 3/4 cup pitted fresh cherries, halved 
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  • 2 tbsp sliced almonds, toasted
  1. Heat wine in medium saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons (about 10 minutes). ** Jason had a really hard time getting it to reduce. He ended up just pulling out 2 tbsp.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.
  3. Toss salad greens and fruit with dressing. Sprinkle with goat cheese and sliced almonds. Serve immediately. 


Chef Miranda - Um, I made it! That's all you need to know.   No, seriously, it wasn't creamy enough, but it was good. Next time I make it I'd make it more creamy. (Jason: how would you do that?) By making it more creamy! (Tanya: How?) Okay, I'm done. We ate... let's get off dinner! 

Chef Jason - I thought it was okay. The chicken was a little dry. I think Miranda's idea of making the marinade creamier is probably good. I'd be very cautious about how long you cook it.  The salad was pretty good. Not bad. Good summer salad. 

Olivia - I liked it. I like goat cheese.  I thought the dressing on the salad wasn't that good. I don't know, it was, like, too heavy. 

Tanya - Funny! I thought the dressing was too light. I could barely taste it.  I liked the salad a lot, but then I'm a huge fruititarian.  The chicken was meh.  It was a bit too garlicky for my taste. I didn't taste the brown sugar and I would have liked to have more interplay between the garlic and the sugar. 

And finally, playing the role of the 17 year old meal misser this week is Hannah, who's away at Camp Nana & Papa this month. 

Pork with Cherry Couscous

Cherries, cherries everywhere!   They're in season right now and pies aren't the only way to soak up their sweet goodness.  Check out this easy (and healthy) recipe from our new favorite cooking magazine.


  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops (or, if you're like us, a really nice organic, humanely raised tenderloin bought on sale)
  • 1 tsp salt, divided (we prefer sea salt)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pitted cherries (a great job for kids! just make sure they're dressed for the job and understand that cherry juice stains everything it touches.)
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/3 cup dry-roasted almonds, chopped
  • 2 tsp grated lemon rind
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  1. Preheat grill to medium-high heat
  2. Brush 1 tbsp olive oil evenly over all sides of pork and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper.  Place pork on grill rack coated with cooking spray and grill until done (click here for current guidelines on suggested temperature for cooked pork).
  3. While pork cooks, start boiling water. 
  4. Let cooked pork rest at least 5 minutes before cutting.
  5. Place couscous in a large bowl. Add 3/4 cup boiling water; cover and let stand 5 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.  
  6. Stir remaining 2 tbsp oil, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, cherries and remaining ingredients into the couscous. 
  7. Enjoy! 
Chef Jason - The fresh cherries really work well with the couscous. The lemon was a bit overpowering. I paired it will Gnarly Head Zinfandel. The tastes went together really well.

Sous Chef & Cherry Chopper Extraordinaire Olivia -- Can I have a second helping? This is really, really good! 

Tanya -- Very good!  My only beef would be the nuts.  Jason accidentally bought pine nut couscous, so we deleted the almonds. I'm not sure I liked the pine nut taste with the cherries and lemons.  Something seemed slightly off to me. I'd definetly make this recipe again, but with almonds. Definitely a keeper. And the wine was excellent too!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Beer Beat: Duck-Rabbit Porter

(note: this post may say "posted by Tanya", but it's really Jason. Though Tanya agrees, the Porter is something special!)

Alright so I drink plenty of beer - but rarely do I blog about it. The reason is ... many beers are similar. IPA's taste like IPA's. Most Russian Imperial Stouts (RIS) taste very similar and so on. Now that isn't to say that there isn't a difference between Back Forty Frecklebelly and Good People IPA, but in my mind they are not significantly different.

I like to try things from new breweries and share those, but for the most part I drink very "standard" IPA's, 2x IPA's, etc. I say "standard" because I can usually find a Founders Centennial or Green Flash West Coast IPA (or the two IPA's listed above) and will drink those pretty regularly.

It is a rare occasion that I come across a beer that really makes me pause - this past weekend I was fortunate to find a 6 pack I tried a few weeks ago ... and tonight I tried the first one out of this batch. If you get an opportunity try Duck Rabbit Brewery Porter (http://www.duckrabbitbrewery.com/) please make a point to do so.

Usually I am not a big Porter fan, but this beer is excellent. Beer advocate has 330 reviews with an average score of 85. In my opinion that is far too low. I have yet to met its equal in this style - if you have a suggestion please let me know.

An aside - I have a Stone Smoked Porter in the basement ... according to beer advocate it gets a 91 (and is rated as exceptional). Perhaps I will break it out this weekend and compare the two.

Sweet & Spicy Shrimp with Rice Noodles

I am toast today.   Not "ate".   AM.

The Morning Edition schedule 
lots of important stories to cover 
kids home at all kinds of odd hours of the day 
everything else summer throws at me 

complete and utter exhaustion...
and frustration...

Well, suffice to say that I really needed to find some zen tonight. And what better way than grabbing a great big knife and chopping the stew out of some shstuff!

This recipe comes from Adam Hickman at Cooking Light (Aug 2012). You can click here for the nutritional info.

  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste, such as Huy Fong -- we made ours from scratch using this easy recipe from the Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.)
  • 1 tablespoon lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 12 ounces peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • 4 ounces uncooked flat rice noodles (pad thai noodles)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped unsalted cashews (bought small amount out of bulk bin at grocery)
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped peeled fresh ginger (we used refrigerated paste, since we already had it)
  • 1 green Thai chile, halved
  • 12 sweet mini peppers, halved
  • 3/4 cup matchstick-cut carrot (might normally buy already matchsticked, but remember - I need to cut stuff today!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 3/4 cup fresh bean sprouts


1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add shrimp to vinegar mixture; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

2. Cook noodles according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Rinse with cold water; drain.

3. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add cashews, garlic, ginger, and chile to pan; stir-fry 1 minute or until garlic begins to brown. Remove cashew mixture from pan with a slotted spoon, and set aside.

4. Increase heat to high. Add sweet peppers, carrot, and salt to pan; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add shrimp mixture (do not drain); stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in noodles and peas; cook 1 minute, tossing to coat. Return cashew mixture to pan. Add bean sprouts; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, tossing frequently.

5. Enjoy!


Chef Tanya - Very tasty!  I did the chopping and Jason did the cooking and he and I have differing opinions about how long you should cook shrimp.  These were a bit chewy by my bite. But still, this recipe rivals Surin's Shrimp Pad Thai for me.

Jason - I thought it was very good.  One of the things I really liked about it was that the meat was not the center of the meal. It was much more flavorful because of the carrots, peas and especially the peppers. All those things in combination with the shrimp, garlic and ginger really melded well.

Olivia - Even though I don't like shrimp I actually liked this dinner. I liked the noodles and the snow peas.  Actually, I liked the shrimp!

Miranda - (already left the house tonight -- it's summer and she's 17! -- but her bowl was mostly empty, save a little noodle/pea remnant, so I'm going to say she liked it)

Hannah - (was saved from all the veggies by Nana & Papa, who are taking her to the beach for the week.  um, hello?!? where was my invite??)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is Obesity the Government's Problem?

Why, yes. I AM listening to a robust debate about whether obesity is the government's problem WHILE eating a chocolate chip-rich Energy Power Mix from Earth Fare and blogging about beer.

What We Spend On Booze

Did you know that out of every $100 American consumers spend, about $1 goes to alcohol. NPR reports that "hasn't changed much over the past 30 years. But where we spend our money on alcohol has changed quite a bit. We spend a bigger chunk of our booze money in bars and restaurants. We spend less money buying alcohol at the store to drink at home."

Now, here's an interesting graphic:

Interesting, because while the rate of beer consumption hasn't changed much over the last few decades, the type of beer has. Let's hear it for craft beer! Some of our recent favorites:

Swamp Head Brewery's Big Head IPA (for Jason) and Midnight Oil (for me)

The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery Baltic Porter

Sierra Nevada Hoptimum

Note: that last beer was for Jason. I am not a hophead. It's got to be dark and a hold a spoon upright for me to like it.

Spicy Basil-Beef Salad

Again, hangs head in shame over the photo... but I wanted to share another recipe we tried recently (but apparently didn't shoot): Spicy Basil-Beef Salad.

Review: It was good, but a little intense. Go light on the dressing (trust us!). The only thing we did differently from the recipe was include romaine hearts with the basil. Even though we have a basil plant that's nearly tree-size, we just couldn't stomach the idea of so much basil.

Chicken, Sausage & Peppers

Just one of the benefits of being married to Jason. He returns from a three day business trip, walks straight into the kitchen, and starts making me this for dinner.

Chicken, Sausage and Peppers = #luckygirl

I'm not going to post the full recipe here because, honestly, I'm already feeling guilty about ripping off their photos (above). I can't find the photo we took. Which bums me out because it was one of the first Jason took with his new camera and fancy schmancy lens. Boy, do we have some food porn to share with you! This new camera is soooo coool! (maybe even cooler than the Chicken, Sausage and Peppers)