Move over coconut water?


Have you heard about this yet?  Maple water.  Because apparently coconut water is so last year!  Maple water may soon be the new kid in town.  I welcome the new addition to the plant-based-water market.  Personally I can’t stand coconut water.  I want to like it, but the flavor is just a little too funky for my palate.

Newly available in the US, maple water is essentially maple sap.  Pure maple sap, which is water from the ground that has been filtered as it travels up the tree trunk and gets infused with sugar, calcium, potassium, magnesium and manganese along the way.  It’s important to remember the difference between maple sap and thick, sticky, sugary maple syrup.  Maple syrup is maple sap that’s been boiled down and super concentrated.  [Side note: it takes 20 to 50 liters of sap to boil down into 1 liter of syrup…so obviously you can image the difference between the two.]

Drinking maple sap isn’t new, ancient cultures have been drinking this stuff for a long time, promoting it’s many health benefits.  It’s filled with electrolytes and is great for hydration.  It’s high in manganese, and a good source of calcium and iron.  The taste (so I’m told) is just slightly sweet and has very little sugar and is low in calories.

These are the 3 brands I’ve seen penetrate the US market: Vertical Water, Drink Maple and Happy Tree.  It’s only a matter of time until we see this trend pop up in recipes and beverages everywhere.  Maple water popsicles, cocktails and smoothies….oh my!

Have you tried maple water?  What do you think?

The season of saison

Photograph by Romulo Yanes via Bon Appétit

Woo hoo!  It’s that time of year when restaurants and bars all over the country swap dark stouts for crisp, refreshing Belgian-style saisons.  I once heard this style of beer referred to as the “Gatorade of beers” because these earthy and spicy, easy-drinking beers are perfect thirst quenchers in warm, summer temps.

Here are six of my favorite, readily available saisons:


1.  Saison Dupont // ABV: 6.5% // Tourpes, Belgium
Coppery blond, the finest aromas and a strong bitterness transform this beer into a thirst-quencher with no equal, just the way it was created.  (Saison Dupont)

2.  Ommegang Hennepin // ABV: 7.7% // Cooperstown, NY
A moderately hoppy, farmhouse-style ale with a champagne-like effervescence, Hennepin has a crisp start followed by malt sweetness balanced with a firm bitterness. Hennepin has a bounty of great flavors: ginger, spice, orange and toasted grain. Pouring a bright golden color with a spicy-sweet balance of orange peel, sweet malt, hops and ginger, Hennepin makes way for a dry finish with a slight bite of ginger.  (Ommegang Hennepin)

3.  Goose Island Sofie // ABV: 6.5% // Chicago, IL
Fermented with wild yeasts and aged in wine barrels with orange peel, Sofie is a tart, dry, sparkling ale. A subtle, spicy white pepper note, a hint of citrus from the orange peel and a creamy vanilla finish make Sofie an intriguing choice for Champagne drinkers and beer drinkers who are fond of Belgian Saisons. (Goose Island Sofie)

4.  Stillwater Artisanal Stateside Saison // ABV: 6.8% // Baltimore, MD
Stateside Saison pays homage to old world tradition while celebrating new world innovation. Naturally brewed with the finest European malts & fresh aromatic hops from the United States & New Zealand. It’s then fermented using a classic farmhouse ale yeast and bottle conditioned to enhance stability. The outcome is a beer of unique design and exquisite taste, showcasing some of the best attributes of modern-day craft brewing. (Stillwater Artisanal Stateside Saison)

5.  Yards Saison // ABV: 6.5% // Philadelphia, PA
Saisons were originally brewed to keep farmhands happy and hydrated during the warm summer months. True to the style, Yards’ Saison is a semi-unfiltered Belgian style ale brewed with distinctive Belgian yeast. It’s delicate and fruity with a subtle spiciness. Styrian Goldings in the kettle lend a touch of hop to the palate, balancing out this highly drinkable version of the classic style. (Yards Saison)

6.  The Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale // ABV: 6.7% // San Marcos, CA
This Farmhouse Ale traces its roots to the small rustic breweries of Southern Belgium. The word Saison comes to us from the French language and it means season. Lightly spiced with Organic Ginger, Orange Peels, Black Pepper and Grains of Paradise, this brew promises to quench your thirst on the hottest Southern California days or wherever your travels may take you. (Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale)

What’s your favorite saison?



Easiest appetizer ever

Over the weekend we met up with some friends to cheer on California Chrome…womp, womp!  While the thoroughbred came up short, the appetizer I brought to share was certainly a crowd-pleaser.


Living in South Philadelphia, not far from the Italian Market, I’m fortunate to have Di Bruno Brothers at my disposal.  Di Bruno Brothers has been serving up gourmet goodness since 1939 and are well-known for their exceptional cheeses, meats and other Italian specialities.  I picked up a few simple ingredients: marinated mozzarella, roasted red peppers, salami, Roman artichokes, and pitted Kalamata olives – then I got to work!  Simply assemble ingredients on wooden skewers and violà….the easiest appetizer ever!  Easy to pick up and eat, each skewer is exploding with flavor.  And the best part – they can be made in advance and you can easily find all of these ingredients at your local supermarket.

The combinations are endless – here are a few other tasty ingredients to help you customize your skewer:
-Cherry tomatoes
-Artichoke hearts
-Mozzarella (marinated or plain)
-Roasted red peppers
-Tortellini (cooked, chilled and dressed with Italian vinaigrette)
-Italian bread (cubed and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil)
-Sun-dried tomatoes
-Pepperocini peppers


Buon appetito!

Love, lemon & thyme


I finally found the perfect match for my homegrown lemon thyme…sweet and savory lemon thyme shortbread cookies!  These buttery delights are super simple.  With a little help from BHG, here’s how to make ’em.




Lemon-Thyme Shortbread Cookies //

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon fresh lemon thyme or thyme leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 cup butter
Coarse sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.   In a large bowl, stir together flour, powdered sugar, cornmeal, thyme and lemon peel.  Drizzle with honey; do not stir.  Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs and starts to cling.  Knead dough until smooth; shape into a ball.

On an ungreased cookie sheet, pat mixture into a 9-inch square.  Using a pastry blender, sharp knife or cookie cutter, cut into desired shapes; do not separate.  If desired, sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until bottom starts to brown and center is set.  Remove from oven.  While warm, recut shortbread.  Cool completely on cookie sheet or wire rack.  If desired, drizzle honey over each cookie before serving.  Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Kitchen hack – get more juice from your citrus

Photo by Dennis Skley via flickr

This is so simple, yet I had no idea!  Spoiler alert…cut your lemons and limes lengthwise!  You’ll get way more juice from them!


App alert – Untappd

Three cheers for beer!  This new app is perfectly timed considering we’re in the midst of Beer Week here in Philadelphia.  I’ve been seeing this app gain a lot of praise all over the place and after trying it out for myself, I’m a believer.

Meet Untappd, your new best drinking app.

Photo by Gaelen Norman via flickr

This free app allows beer enthusiasts keep track of the brews they drink, save beers to try, and read reviews.  You can also check in to bars with the beers you’re drinking and earn badges while leaving tips and reviews for your friends and other app users. It give you the ability to easily find nearby craft beers and bars, see what beers are trending, as well as see where your friends are drinking.  After a short while, the app learns your palette and makes recommendations based on your preferences.  Prepare to take beer drinking to a whole nother level!


Cinnamon vinaigrette

Cinnamon vinaigrette.  Sounds a little strange, right?  Stay with me here, this easy vinaigrette is addicting.  It packs a powerful punch, with just enough sweetness and spice to spruce up sliced fruit or salads.


Try this on a spinach salad with fresh strawberries, green apple slices and grilled chicken, delish!

Cinnamon Vinaigrette //

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon agave syrup

Whisk all ingredients together and enjoy!