This is the season for reflections, musings, and generally looking back over the past 12 months as the calendar turns to a new year. While 2010 was an action packed, wonderful year, I must confess that I do not find myself spending much thought on the past right now. Instead all thoughts, excitement, (and a wee bit of trepidation), are focused on the year ahead. 2011 is going to be a big one for Mr. B and I as we bring a new life into the world and begin the long journey of parenthood. We both have decade-changing birthdays in 2011 and sense that this next year will be unlike any other.

 

 

Not only have I been exploring the world of sparkling non-alcoholic beverages, but I have also undertaken a quest to taste my way through every ginger beer I can get my hands on. When craft brewing exploded onto the beverage scene it also opened the door for a wide variety of non-alcoholic ginger beers. Originally ginger beer was indeed alcoholic, the product of fermenting ginger, sugar, and water with a yeast known as “ginger beer plant”. In the 20th century this process changed as ginger beer moved from a true beer into the soft drink category. A few producers of modern ginger beer still use a brewing process to achieve complex levels of flavor but stop short of producing an alcoholic beverage. For a pregnant lady this creates the perfect balance of a beverage with interesting beer-like complexity without the negative effects of alcohol. So in the name of science, pregnancy, and for all those out there who are searching for something exciting to drink when alcohol is off limits, here are the results of my ginger beer taste-off:

 

 

If I could ever be tempted to join the dark side, this is the dish that would do it. Normally I am a card carrying member of the lemon-heads; people who choose lemon desserts whenever possible. Yet, when staring at a silky dark chocolate mousse that melts in your mouth, each bite an oxymoron of dense fluffiness- my lemon-loving-lips begin to quiver. A whiff of the chocolate-meets-coffee-and-cream aroma and I’m done for. In plunges my spoon and with the first taste of mousse my eyes close in rapture. I’ve stepped into the dark side and there is no going back.

 

 

If I close my eyes and imagine the perfect slice of prime rib it never sits alone on the plate. Nestled alongside the pink juicy meat is an ethereal creation. Not quite a roll and definitely not a muffin it is a tender-yet-chewy gravity-defying popover. Golden brown and filled with nothing but air it begs to be torn apart and pressed down into the juices on my plate. Soaking up every beefy dripping it conveys to my lips the savory pleasure of meat, bread, and herbs mixed into one fluffy bite.

 

 

Way back in August, when The Kitchen Witch and I visited Babbo, we encountered a most unusual dessert. A small olive oil zucchini cake was paired with orange infused olive oil gelato and a drizzle of vanilla flecked honey butter.

 

 

First a frog invasion and now a colony of muskrats- you never know what you are going to find when driving the back roads of South Dakota! This photo was taken earlier in the fall (all the water is now frozen solid) when we stumbled across a flooded corn field that was filled with tiny little muskrat dens. We counted over a dozen of the furry rodents swimming, sitting in the sun, and busily chewing away on twigs and corn stalks. Can you spot the two in this photograph?

 

 

If you are serving roast beef for Christmas dinner then it is almost inevitable potatoes will make an appearance too. We all know that beef and potatoes go together like salt and pepper but what if you add horseradish into the mix? Then the combination is a holy trinity of rich comfort food.

 

 

The last 7 months have been interesting to say the least- not only does pregnancy make your body feel like it is no longer your own, but it also requires foregoing many of my favorite things. Espresso, green tea, alcohol, sushi, downhill skiing, hunting, jeans that fit; the list goes on and on. Yet, on the upside, having these limitations has introduced me to a whole new category of beverages which I previously overlooked.

 

 

If turkey reigns supreme at Thanksgiving, then Christmas belongs to beef. An herb crusted beef roast cut into thick juicy slices with steaming popovers and a garlic spiked au jus conjures up images of a classic Christmas dinner. The best part about a beef roast at Christmas is that it takes very little effort to prepare yet the results are worthy of celebration.

 

 

This sourdough dinner roll is everything a good dinner roll should be- soft, squishy, and the perfect vehicle for sopping up savory meat juices on your plate. How did I end up making a big batch of sourdough dinner rolls? Well it had everything to do with an abundance of wild yeast, or in my case- yeast gone wild.

 

 

 

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