Binge-Worthy

Curling up on the couch to watch big ticket movies on the small screen is quite arguably America’s favorite pastime. Theaters are hurting as ticket sales plummet and uneaten popcorn goes stale, but it’s hard to compete with the instant gratification of home viewing. “Netflix and chill” is more than a libidinous euphemism, but a genuinely innocent evening activity, as 158 million global subscribers would agree.

Well, I don’t have a couch, nor a TV, but I do have a cozy queen-sized bed and fully charged smart phone. While movie night at Chez Hannah looks a bit different than most, it’s no less glorious of an event. Of course, snacks are a mandatory, essential element, no matter how how late the featured flick drags on. Unlike concession stand limitations, having a full kitchen at my disposal allows for every craving to be satisfied, hot off the stove or fresh from the freezer.

Naturally, as I work on my seventh cookbook all about ice cream, I find myself wrapped around a frosty pint more often than not. Apparently I’m not the only one with such cool inclinations, though.

Connecting the dots, Ben and Jerry’s has just unleashed an exclusive new flavor, Netflix & Chilll’d, upon the world. Showcasing a peanut butter ice cream with pretzel swirls and fudge brownies, the conventional pint has been released alongside a non-dairy, certified vegan variation!

Not gonna lie, Ben & Jerry’s gave me the full hook up.

  • Fluffy slipper socks? Check.
  • Wireless bluetooth speaker? Check.
  • Double-wide stainless steel spoons? Check.
  • Insulated pillow with built in pint holder and phone stand. Oh CHECK yeah!

It should come as no surprise this dynamic duo knows how to chill, no holds barred.

What really matters most, of course, is the scoop itself. Finely ground pretzel pieces combined with the creamy peanut butter base evoke the sensation of biting into a creamy butterfinger candy bar. Notes of malt linger with each lick, compliments of the burnished pretzel’s surface. Soft brownie chunks give way easily into the ice cream, melting like chewy squares of fudge. Nutty, crunchy, gooey, and decadent above all else, I think the critics would give it a standing ovation, even if they had to crawl out from under the covers to do so.

Full of sweet and salty twists and turns, this pint plays out like a good drama with a happy ending.

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All-Access Pass

This blog post is sponsored by Wine Access but as always, the opinions and experiences expressed in this post are my own.

Still feeling a bit depleted following the holiday havoc? The dust has settled and the days of 2020 valiantly soldier on, but something seems to be missing. Plagued by an undefinable emptiness, once spirited conversations suddenly fall flat, marred by a pervasive emptiness. Don’t worry, it’s in your head- It’s simply not in your wine cellar, either! Pouring generous glasses all through December and popping the cork on New Year’s has no doubt depleted your secret stash, leaving the choices for imbibing scant at best.

As a total wine novice, the idea of buying even a single bottle is daunting, let alone a half dozen at once. How do I know I’ll like it? Is a lower-priced option a great value or just plain cheap? If you’re suffering the same sort of dry spell, here’s something to cheer about. The great “Restock Your Cellar Sale” is on at Wine Access, this week only, offering 15% off all Store Wines. These carefully curated bottles are sourced from producers both large and small across the globe, tasted, vetted, and selected from only the best stock.

To the discerning, the undecided, and the dubious alike, Wine Access has done all the hard work of collectively tasting thousands of wines each year to offer only those that exceed expectations typically defined by price. That means you always get the best deals on the best bottles, with a huge variety to pick from, no matter your preference. We’re not just talking about red or white, but a wide selection of affordable rosés, and even fine sakes coming in straight from Japan. If sparkling is more your speed, then you have options bubbling up all over, too!

If the affordable labels give you reverse sticker shock, fear not; there’s no bottom of the barrel, two buck chuck in here. The Wine Access team has spent decades cultivating relationships with producers from the US, Argentina, Chile, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and beyond. These personal connections unlock access to the most out-of-reach wines from First Growth Bordeaux estates to Napa cult icons with the longest wait-lists and impossibly rare treasures.

For example, I never would have found out about, let alone tried out, the Crémant de Loire Brut NV that has become a new personal favorite. A juicy white that sparkles with notes of grapefruit and tangerine, it has all the body of a crisp champagne. For fellow novices, each bottle comes with helpful hang tags that include tasting notes and pairing suggestions, along with in-depth descriptions with room to write in your own thoughts. Just add snacks and you’ve got yourself a party waiting to happen!

The Katafune Tokubetsu Honjozo Genshu Niigata is another pick that stands apart from the pack. I’ve never seen it in any restaurants, nor for sale in any other bottle shops. Unlike most brews based on fermented rice, each sip is bold, rich, and strong enough to pair with a hearty, deeply savory meal, like an umami portobello mushroom steak. If you think you don’t like sake, this one just might change your mind.

That’s not even a drop of what’s in store here. Don’t forget, shipping is included on orders over $120 or 6+ bottles, so now is the time to fill up your digital cart. The arrival of those carefully wrapped bottles dropped right at your doorstep will be a reason for celebration in and of itself.

With Wine Access, a world of classic, new, and rare wines awaits the turning of your corkscrew.

Pearls of Wisdom

Some dishes just have no right to be so good. They’re too simple, too ordinary, too easy to yield such spectacular results. No matter how uninspired the ingredients look on paper, a jolt of bold flavor belies such humble components. It’s the kind of dish that makes you wonder what magic has conspired in the kitchen, or perhaps, some secret MSG is spiking the punch.

Such is the case for the curried couscous salad at Mendocino Farms. The creamy, golden yellow pasta pearls don’t even look vegan at a glance, but lo! Clear labels reassure eaters that it’s vegan mayonnaise carrying the torch.

Decadent to a degree that would make the average side salad blush, a large part of me wants to hate it on principle. One should never add sugar to a savory dish, and at such a lethal dose! Mayonnaise should be used sparingly at best, a breezy whisper across a slice of bread, barely detectable by the human eye. Then, to go ahead an add even more oil on top of that fatty spread sounds purely excessive, unnecessary, uncalled for, hedonistic in the worst kind of way…!

But, falling prey to the offer of a free sample, I cast all common sense to the wind, letting go of those ingrained notions of decency just long enough to get hooked. I can’t get enough, and I don’t quite know why.

Perhaps the appeal is exactly for all those reasons. It’s because it flies in the face of preconceived boundaries of health and balance, that somehow, it manages to simply WORK.

I can’t claim to understand the compelling appeal of the curried couscous salad, but I can’t deny it, either.

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Chickens Come Home to Roost

Wasn’t it hard to give up meat? Didn’t you crave your old favorite foods?

Asked about my conversion to a plant-based diet, the questions are as predictable as they are consistent. When I went vegan, despite what my culinary background might suggest, I was not the least bit interested in food. In fact, I was a terribly picky eater, shunning all green vegetables, most fruits, and yes, any sort of meat that resembled the original animal. It wasn’t hard to make the switch because I barely ate anything to begin with!

Staple foods like ramen, mac and cheese, and hotdogs were my primary sustenance, despite my mother’s valiant attempts to expand my palate. Only after making the switch did I declare that veganism would not become a limitation, and declared that I would try absolutely everything cruelty-free.

Prior to that moment, however, one dish that would bring everyone to the table was chicken paprika. Despite the difficulties posed by two fussy children and one equally discerning husband, my mom did enjoy cooking, and tried repeatedly to find something that we could all eat together, in health and happiness.

Chicken posed the least threat; bland and anonymous, it’s really the tofu of the animal world, and thus got a pass from all of us. Onions were a bit contentious, but she was very carefully cut them into large chunks, so us kids could easily sweep them aside on our plates.

It’s incredibly basic, as the most comforting dishes tend to be. In tough times, when I miss my parents, my cozy home back on the east coast, and all the tenderness they showed me as I grew into a self-sufficient little herbivore, I do crave these flavors. Swapping out the meat is effortless now, thanks to the rapidly expanding array of plant-based options in stores.

I still don’t miss the chicken one bit. All I’m missing now is the company.

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