August 30, 2011

Tomato Basil Soup

Neither Chris nor I had ever tried tomato bisque soup until going on a food tour this year.  Now that tomato season is in full swing, and the weather is getting a little cooler, I decided tonight was the perfect night to try making it.

Chris nearly had a coronary, figuratively speaking (he would say literally), when he discovered that the recipe I followed called for 1 cup of whipping cream and a 1/2 cup of butter.  It's really not as bad as it sounds. 

I carefully measured out each serving, and calculated the calories to be 238 per serving.  Granted, we only had 3/4 cup of soup, but when combined with a salad and Chris' mom's homemade bread, I thought the meal was perfect.  If you divide it into 4 servings of 1 1/4 cups each, as the recipe calls for, it's about 400 calories per serving.

Printer-Friendly Recipe

3 tomatoes
15oz can of diced tomatoes
22oz V-8 juice
14 leaves fresh basil
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

I did not peel and seed the tomatoes, as the recipe calls for.  Online reviewers indicated it wasn't necessary, and I always trust Mark Bittman, so I turned to my favorite cooking reference (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) for a second opinion.

In a section titled Adding Tomatoes to Soup on page 113 , Mark Bittman writes "The most elegant (and time-consuming) way is to peel and seed the tomatoes first (see page 373).  I rarely bother with that, though; usually I just chop up a couple and stir them in (the seeds are a little bitter, but a little bitterness isn't a bad thing)."

This soup is fantastic, but probably does not need as much butter as it calls for.  Next time, I plan to add 1/3 cup butter instead, which I've indicated in my printer-friendly version of the recipe to help me remember :) 

August 28, 2011

Naan Pesto Pizza

Ever since learning in a cooking class that naan bread makes an excellent pizza base, I've been making naan pizza quite often!  My favorite place to buy naan bread is Trader Joe's.

We took Chris' parents there this weekend because his mom likes checking out different types of grocery stores.  Unfortunately for them, the nearest store to their home in South Dakota is 3 hours away in Omaha, NE. 

There are also no Trader Joe's in Colorado either, which blows my mind because Denver or Boulder seem like an ideal location.  That why Chris' sister in Colorado asked her parents to stock up on Charles Shaw wine to bring during their next visit.

To make the pizza, I first made a double-batch of spinach basil pesto, which in my opinion is the best type of pizza sauce!  Now I have 16 oz of it frozen, which can be used on naan pizzas in the future :)  On a related note, naan bread freezes really well and there's no need to defrost before baking. 

I topped each pizza with pesto, spinach, red bell pepper, sweet onion, mozzarella cheese and Italian herbs.

The meal was completed with a salad, comprised of CSA lettuce, mushrooms, CSA tomatoes, cucumbers, CSA sweet onion, and feta cheese.  This was Chris' first time trying my pesto naan pizza and he and his parents all loved it.

My favorite comment was when his mom said something like "so that delicious meal was all meat at all, hey?"  Meatless can be delicious!

August 25, 2011


Ratatouille is such a perfect meal to use the abundant vegetables of late summer.  Tomatoes, eggplant, green pepper and summer least those are the veggies in the version I made tonight.

Chris' parents arrived right on time this evening, and then patiently waited for me to make ratatouille for dinner (Chris also made pork chops for the three meat eaters).  They both liked it, so that's 4 thumbs-up from the Kuckleburgs :)

I followed the same recipe as I did last summer because we loved it then.  I was very tempted to try a new version which was e-mailed to me yesterday by Food 52, but Chris convinced me not to try anything new on our guests.

Printer-Friendly Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 medium eggplant (about 3 cups), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
salt to taste
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 zucchini, sliced and then cut in half
1 medium onion, sliced into half rings
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 green bell pepper, cut in strips and then in half
2 large tomatoes, chopped

From what I understand, ratatouille is supposed to be like a stew, which this version definitely isn't.  However, it tastes fantastic and I think I prefer it non stew-like.  We ate it just as you see below, however I was reading on Food 52 that it makes a great topping for pizza and pasta, which I look forward to trying.

I was curious about the history of ratatouille, and found this interesting bit of information on Gourmet Sleuth.   "Although the Disney animation hit of 2007 brought this term to the forefront of the American population the name refers to a French dish dating back to 18th century France.

The name is derived from the French words ratouiller and tatouiller which according to Alan Davidson (The Oxford Companion To Food) are expressive forms of the verb touiller which means to stir up. Further, Davidson states the first appearance of the word in English was found in Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery, 1877.

Actually at that time the word was misspelled as 'ratouville' and referred to a meat stew. In the 20th Century later authors such as Heyraud described the dish as "a ragout of aubergine (eggplant) with tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini) and sweet peppers" eaten throughout Languedoc and Provence. This author also states that the name Ratatouille was given by the citizens of Nice.

No matter who is credited with the dish or the name it became exceedingly popular throughout France. Most agree the popularity grew because it was easy to make with abundant summer ingredients and that it could be served cold as well as warm."

August 21, 2011

Milwaukee Photo Walks

The weather today was gorgeous! An ideal day for our tour with Milwaukee Photo Walks this morning, which led us from the Third Ward to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

I had purchased a Groupon last month for the photo walk after enjoying a Milwaukee Food Tour by the same company. Today's tour was enjoyable, but I prefer the food tours and hope to do another one soon.

As expected, I took a lot of photos on our tour. 233 to be exact. Here's a link to 25 of my photos from the tour, if you're interested.

Our tour started at the old fire station in the Third Ward.

We then moved inside the Milwaukee Public Market.

Below is a photo of our tour group...the three guys on the left were on the tour, and on the right is our guide, who is talking to the owner of Milwaukee Food Tours.

We saw some very interesting architecture along the way.

Our tour ended at the Milwaukee Art Museum. We arrived at by noon to see the Burke Brise Soleil because the "wings" close/reopen each day at noon...but only when they're working and unfortunately it was closed for maintenance the day we visited.
Love the view of Lake Michigan from inside the art museum.
If you're interested, all of my photos from the walk can be seen in my Picasa album.

August 19, 2011

Pesto Romano Beans

As soon as I saw romano beans in my CSA box yesterday, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them.  Making pesto beans is so easy when you have frozen pesto. 

While bringing water to a boil in a large saucepan, trim the ends of the beans and cut each bean into 2-3" long segments.  Boil the beans for 5 minutes, then drain, return to pan and mix with pesto.  Easy and delicious!

We had pesto beans with dinner last night before heading to a water safety course at the Urban Ecology Center.  The class is mandatory for anyone who wants to borrow canoes or kayaks through their equipment lending program.

Chris and I just became members because we both love to kayak, and the membership is an unbelievably good deal!  We paid $25 for both of us to be members, and now we can borrow boats anytime for up to 3 days.  Equipment available also includes bikes, snowshoes, cross-country skis and much more!

August 14, 2011

Vegetable Lasagna

Do you ever get part-way through a recipe and wish you could quit?  Let me backup and start my story with our first visit to the Menomonee Falls farmers' market.  It's just a few blocks away from our gym, so after pounding out an hour of cardio this morning, we headed over.

It was quite dead, which is unfortunate because everything being sold looked amazing.  We picked up eggplant, a cucumber, kohlrabi and tomatoes (aka God's Candy).  I definitely want to go back because the Sunday timing is a nice way to supplement what I receive on Thursdays in my CSA box.

With my newly acquired eggplant, I decided to make vegetable lasagna which I had just read about last night in the September/October 2011 issue of Cook's Illustrated.  At 6pm, I decided I'd better get started because the cooking/cooling time was 1 hour.  I figured I had an hour to put it together and we'd be eating by 8pm.  I was wrong.

At 7:30, I asked Chris for his help because I was still working on the vegetable filling and hadn't made the tomato sauce nor cream sauce yet.  Asking for help turned out to be a mistake.  Chris immediately complained that I hadn't chopped the basil that was needed, and also complained that he was getting carpal tunnel from shredding parmesan cheese.  I love our rotary grater, but shredding 2 cups of parmesan cheese will definitely leave you with a sore wrist.

The photos below are as far as I got before I realized that I needed to stop taking photos, and get moving in the kitchen.  Everything with this recipe took so much longer than I thought it would.  When I finally added the last layer of mozzarella cheese, I breathed a sigh of relief...only to have a tub of baby spinach catch my eye on the counter.  I had completely forgotten to add it :(

As I pulled the lasagna from the oven at 8:30pm, I discovered that the sauce and cheese had run over and was burning on the bottom of the oven.  Lucky me.  Then as I removed the aluminum foil from the top, I found that the top layer of cheese was stuck to the foil, despite me spraying the foil as the recipe instructed.

By the time the lasagna cooled and was ready to eat, I wanted to say screw it and have something else for dinner, but I'm glad I stuck with the lasagna because it was really, really good.  Which is not surprising because America's Test Kitchen recipes are always top-notch, however I am certainly not anxious to make this again anytime soon.

Black Bean Burgers

There was recently a great article in the local paper about veggie burgers, featuring a black bean burger recipe from the blog Peas and Thank You. Chris and I both loved the flavor of this recipe and they were really easy to cook!

Black Bean Burgers

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes

Ingredients (makes 4)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • ½ cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/3 cup minced onion
  • 1 ½ teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (vegetarian version available at Whole Foods)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • Place black beans in a large bowl and mash with a fork to a chunky consistency.
  • Grind oats into a coarse flour using a blender or food processor and add to bowl with beans. Add remaining ingredients and combine with a fork.
  • Place bean mixture refrigerator to chill and to allow flavors to meld for at least 20 minutes.
  • Using your hands, divide bean mixture into four portions and form each portion into a patty.
  • Place a large skillet coated with vegetable oil spray over medium-high heat, add patties and cook 6 to 7 minutes on each side until patties are crisp and lightly browned.
  • Serve burgers on whole wheat buns and top with ketchup, mustard, lettuce, pickles, tomato as desired.
Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 8/3/11
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August 13, 2011

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Both Chris and I really liked The Baker Chick recipe I made today.  I had a little trouble with sticky dough while making them, but other than that I think this is a really easy way to make cinnamon rolls.  I definitely want to make this recipe again, possibly in a mini muffin pan.

Cinnamon Roll Muffins

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (12 muffins)
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used 1 cup milk, 1 tbsp lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups flour plus more for dusting
  • 2 tbsp. butter, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp. milk
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Add the brown sugar, baking soda, salt, vanilla and egg to a large mixing bowl and mix with a fork.
  • Then add the buttermilk, and mix together with a fork.
  • Add the flour, stirring with a wooded spoon until thoroughly combined (do not over mix). Add a little more flour if the dough is sticky.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two.
  • Roll the dough into a 12-inch by 24-inch rectangle. Then using a rubber spatula, spread with butter.
  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle the buttered surface evenly.
  • Roll the dough into a log and stretch slightly. Cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces and put the pieces into greased muffin tins.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the muffins to cool for 5 minutes, and then remove from the muffin tins.
  • In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar and milk with a fork. Add more milk if the icing isn't thin enough to drizzle. Then drizzle each muffin with icing, when cool.
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August 12, 2011

Kale and Gnocchi

I've been an enjoying a very lovely evening outside on the patio.  Reading magazines, listening to the rain (we're under our gazebo), chatting with Chris, sipping Chianti (the wine, not my cat).  A nice relaxing end to the workweek.

So relaxing that I had no desire to cook dinner.  However, while I was outside I came across an article in Whole Living that said Americans waste the greatest quantity of food of any country, which got me thinking that there was probably something quick I could make from items already in my fridge and/or cupboard.

Sure enough, tonight's dinner took 10 minutes to make.  While I waited for water to boil, I washed, spun and tore kale.  Then I cut up a cucumber for a salad, and added it to a bed of lettuce along with feta cheese and my favorite balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Here's the recipe for my quickly improvised dinner tonight...

  • 18oz whole wheat potato gnocchi
  • 18oz marinara sauce (leftover from last Friday night)
  • 8 cups CSA kale (loosely packed), torn into bite-size pieces
  • salt & pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

  1. Bring one gallon of salted water to a boil. 
  2. Place kale in boiling water for 1 minute.  Add gnocchi, and cook for 1 more minute.  Drain kale and gnocchi in a colander.
  3. Add marinara sauce to the pan, and the drained kale and gnocchi.  Stir together over low heat until sauce is warmed through.  Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and salt & pepper.

August 09, 2011

Summer Squash Soup

Loved the flavors in the soup I made tonight!  I found the the recipe on Martha Stewart's website, which has been a reliably good source of recipes for me.  The only modification I made to the recipe was to use an immersion blender instead of a food processor to puree the soup.

Printer-Friendly Recipe

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 medium leek (white and pale-green parts only), thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed
2 small garlic cloves, minced (divided)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 1/4 pounds yellow summer squash, trimmed and cut into half moons
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup olive oil

August 08, 2011

Oven-Fried Zucchini Sticks

As promised, I've now added my version of the awesome zucchini sticks we had the other night to Recipage for your printing pleasure :)  This is another great recipe from my favorite CSA book, From Asparagus to Zucchini

Printer-Friendly Recipe

2 medium-sized zucchini or summer squash
3 tablespoons panko
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons canola oil
marinara sauce (optional)

This is a great summer appetizer, and a fun way to use zucchini or summer squash.  I used Newman's Own Marinara for dipping, but the zucchini sticks tasted great on their own.

August 01, 2011

Tortellini & Zucchini Soup

I really liked the combination of zucchini and tortellini in the soup I made tonight, along with my new favorite Alexia whole grain roll.  However, the soup recipe is not yet a favorite because it needs a couple modifications.  I'm hoping to make this recipe better and report back with an improved version soon...or at least before summer squash season ends :)

First of all, the soup has way too many tomatoes!  Granted you can't really trust my opinion because I hate tomatoes, however Chris agreed and he loves tomatoes.  Second, the rosemary seasoning didn't seem quite right.  I'd like to try Italian seasonings, such as basil and oregano, next time.  Overall, the soup needs more carrots (bigger than finely chopped), way less tomatoes, and more broth (or water).