My co-workers tease me a lot because (a) I like to cook and (b) I refuse to take shortcuts in the kitchen;  No box mixes or pre-packaged food for me - that just spoils that fun of it all.  The razzing escalated recently when I shared the fact that I had made my soft pretzel recipe over the weekend;  "You made soft pretzels - from scratch"?  Yup!  And they were very good.  Then, knowing that this co-worker likes beer - I shared the fact that the recipe I have developed for soft pretzels incorporates beer in addition to yeast as a leavening agent for the dough.

That got me to thinking about some of the other ways I use beer in the kitchen.  Just like wine, brandy, fruit juices, meat stock, or even water - beer deserves a place in your kitchen cupboard.

A lot of bread and dough recipes obviously use beer for it's leavening properties.  But have you ever made ice cream with it?  I found a recipe that incorporates flavored beer in that sweet dairy treat.  Click here for more details.

But I've also added beer to meat marinades.  One common use for beer with meats is as a "holding bath" for grilled polish or brats on the grill;  Used in this fashion, beer nicely keeps your grilled sausages warm while you complete the rest of the meal - while adding flavor and depth.

Ever made cheese soup?  Beer is one of the ingredients there, too.  Similarly, a lot of fondue recipes utilize beer as an ingredient.

Deep-frying?  Consider making a tempura batter;  Most recipes utilize beer to lighten the batter.  Tempura works well for deep-fried vegetables like cauliflower and beans or even shrimp.

The possibilities for beer in your kitchen are endless.  Be brave and substitute it in place of other liquids.

Oh - and that soft pretzel recipe - I'm not sharing!  Sorry.  But, maybe I'll make you a batch or two sometime.

If you love beer, here's a great chance to sample more than 100 different varieties in one place.  It's Twin Ports On Tap - and it's coming to Barkers Island Inn in Superior on Saturday, June 28.  Get more details here.