June 30, 2012

Red, White and Blue Layered Drink

I've seen a lot of Pinterest activity lately in regard to this 4th of July drink and I really enjoyed it today with the current scorching hot temps.  The non-alcoholic version is great, but I think a version with blue curacao would also be lovely.

It took me a few attempts before I finally got the layered look. My husband, the scientist, watched me fail and then boasted that he does sugar gradients in the lab all the time, so he'd show me how it was done.

I laughed pretty hard when he made a purple drink just like I had done.  After looking at two different sources, I found a couple tricks that work well.  First, it helps to pour slowly, and second each layer should be poured directly onto ice.

The sugar content of each layer is critical.  Don't forget to pour the beverage with the highest sugar content first, and then end with a sugar-free drink.

June 26, 2012

Artichoke Spinach Pasta

I finished the last of my CSA box tonight, which makes me happy.  I used the remaining spinach in a recipe I came up with this past winter, which I had previously used frozen spinach in.

Combined with pappardelle noodles from Glorioso's and bread from Nino's Italian Bakery, it was a perfect meal!

When making pasta, it's tempting to just top it with sauce from a jar.  However adulterated sauce from a jar is even better, and almost as easy.  The artichokes and roasted red peppers I added both came from Trader Joe's jars.

A side salad would be a great addition to this meal, however I opted for the less nutritious but more delicious option of garlic bread :)

Artichoke Spinach Pasta

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, torn into bite-size pieces or 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 4 oz red wine
  • 26 oz jar marinara pasta sauce
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 10 oz whole wheat pasta
  • Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.
  • In a 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook 2 minutes.
  • Add artichokes, roasted red pepper, spinach, red wine, marinara sauce and seasonings. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add pasta to boiling water. Cook for 7 minutes (or according to package directions), stirring occasionally.
  • Drain pasta, then top with sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.
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June 22, 2012

CSA Summer Salad

Early in the season, salads are a great way to enjoy CSA vegetables.   The salad I made for lunch today included the following CSA items...green leaf lettuce (Panisse), beet greens, and salad turnips.  I also added cucumber and bell peppers. 

I was anxious to try a new vinaigrette with the cranberry pear white balsamic vinegar I purchased yesterday at Oro di Oliva in Wauwatosa.  It was absolutely fantastic combined with their blood orange olive oil and a little Dijon mustard.

I love getting items I've never seen before in a CSA box, and that happened last night when I pulled out salad turnips.  I turned to the CSA newsletter today for advice and not surprisingly, salad turnips are good in salads :)

I'm glad I read the newsletter closely this week because I wasn't aware that there's a variety of beets called Green Top Bunching which are grown just for the tops, with only tiny beet roots attached.   

One suggestion was to add the raw greens to a salad, which I tried today, but wouldn't do again as they were too bitter for my preference.  The remainder will get added to a stir-fry.

I was curious about turnips because this was my first experience ever seeing or eating a turnip, so I read more about them on Homestead Farms site.  Here's some info from their site that I found interesting...

"Turnips are nutritious root vegetables closely related to the radish and rutabaga, with crisp texture and mild flavor.  This cool season veggie belongs to the family; Brassicaceae, that also includes cabbage, kale, brussels sprouts etc.

Salad turnips are usually a cool season vegetable harvested early in the growing season or later in the fall resulting in a smaller tender turnip that lacks that strong smell and flavor larger turnips are famous for.  Similar to a radish, a salad turnip is earthy, crunchy and sometimes peppery.

Enjoy salad turnips as you would radishes in fresh salads and relishes. Salad turnips can also be thinly sliced and sautéed, or pickled with other vegetables. They can also be grated into a slaw or cooked until just tender and still a little crisp with a dash of salt and pepper.

Don’t forget to eat the greens! Turnip greens are tender and flavorful. Chop and sauté salad turnip greens as a side dish, or cook with other greens for added flavor. You can chop them and use in pasta sauces or wilted with some olive oil, garlic, and red pepper and toss with pasta and grated cheese."

June 21, 2012

Container Gardening {Part 2}

My container garden has doubled in size since my last gardening post thanks to a garden center roadside stand sale in my neighborhood.  I now have tomatoes, hot peppers, bell peppers and tarragon (the only herb that was left).  Each plant was just 50 cents, which was hard to pass up.

Just after I planted my first containers last month, I spotted herb markers at Target which I thought would be a great addition to my containers.  Since Wisconsin people embrace warm weather full force in May, there were very few herb markers left to buy, so I turned to Etsy.

I ordered the ceramic herb markers pictured below from Jen Cameron's Etsy shop, after browsing dozens of options.  By the way, I love Etsy because there are many artistic, crafty in this world, I'm just not one of them :)

I really like the addition of the markers to my containers, and I think they look a lot better than the Target version.

Flowers were also on sale, and I had an empty large container, so it only made sense to add some flowers to our patio as well.  Chris asked if I planned to put the flowers out front, and that would be nice for all the people walking by our house, but we can enjoy them most on the back patio :)

June 19, 2012

Swiss Chard Gratin

This morning as I was watering my container garden, I noticed the Swiss chard was ready to be cut again.  I quickly checked Pinterest and almost immediately found a great looking recipe from Whole Foods that I made for lunch today. 

I made a couple minor changes to the recipe using olive oil only (no butter), panko for the bread crumbs, and ramekins instead of a 9x9 baking dish.

The quantity of olive oil and cheese used in this recipe is minimal, which allows the flavor of the Swiss chard to really shine through, and keeps the calories and fat within an acceptable range for a side dish.

Swiss Chard Gratin
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes

Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 2 bunches Swiss chard leaves, torn into bite-size pieces (about 8 cups packed)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 tablespoon whole wheat bread crumbs (I use panko)
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9x9 baking dish (or 4 ramekins) with cooking spray.
  • Place chard leaves in a saucepan with the water and cook over medium heat until leaves are just tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Drain and set chard aside. In the same saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until blended. Whisk constantly for 1 minute.
  • Slowly whisk in the milk and 1/4 cup water. Continue cooking and stirring until the sauce thickens, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and stir in half of the grated cheese. Stir in the cooked chard and transfer to prepared baking dish (or ramekins).
  • Sprinkle with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake for 20 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Serve immediately.
Recipe Source: Whole Foods
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June 18, 2012

Wood Orchard Market {Door County}

Chris and I had a great time camping in Door County this past weekend.  If you're interested in reading more about what we did, check out my other blog, KK in MKE

TripAdvisor is a great source of reviews, and Wood Orchard is rated as the #1 thing to do in Door County.  After visiting, I can confirm that TripAdvisors reviews are accurate, this is a great place to visit!

I didn't take any photos inside, but imagine every type of cherry product possible and samples available of almost everything.  The samples were our favorite part because it made it very easy to decide what we wanted to buy.

We sampled sweet cherries from Michigan, apples, cherry donuts (fantastic!), cherry strudel, and many types of salsa, jams, and pretzel dipping sauces.  I took one last photo before we left, and as I forced Chris to pose, he said "My head doesn't fit, I think this is meant for kids." :)

My favorite item that I purchased was a raspberry pretzel dip, which looks like raspberry jam and tastes like a sweet mustard.  I had it once at a potluck, but had never seen it in a store until visiting Wood Orchard. 

As soon as we unpacked the car last night, I was enjoying pretzels and raspberry dip :)  You might be hesitant to buy it because the first ingredient is sugar, but think about how much mustard you can eat at one time.  2 tablespoons is 70 calories, and is likely more dip than you would want anyway.

June 17, 2012

Potawatomi State Park {Door County}

We camped at Potawatomi State Park this past weekend, because we've camped at Peninsula State Park a few times, and wanted to try somewhere new in Door County. There are a lot of great things about Potawatomi and I would definitely camp there again.

Unfortunately, due to our busy itinerary on Saturday we didn't get to explore much of the park. We did climb the tower, which was a lot scarier than I thought it would be. The tower was shaking quite a bit as we made our way toward the top, which I assume was due to strong winds.

My only complaint would be the distance between campsites. We have camped at many state parks, and Potawatomi is by far the most crowded. I could not believe how close the campsites were to each other! Although there were some sites that were better than others, such as 48 and 50, and site 55 was even better.

The camp store at Potawatomi has everything you could possibly need, so you don't need to worry about forgetting anything. They also rent bikes, canoes and kayaks. Camp stores often jack up prices for their captive consumers, so I was impressed when I found very reasonable prices at the Potawatomi camp store.

Cana Island Lighthouse {Door County}

Cana Island is a place I never would have stopped if it weren't for the reviews on TripAdvisor. After seeing that it was ranked #4 on things to do in Door County, I added it to our itinerary and I'm glad I did.

Admission to the 8.7-acre island is $6 and includes access to the original home of the lighthouse keeper and his family. It is an additional $4 to climb the 89-foot-tall light tower, which unfortunately was closed due to rain during our visit.

After touring the lighthouse keeper home, we ventured down to the water. Upon seeing the rocky shoreline and waves breaking quite far out, it was evident why a lighthouse is needed (still an active navigational aid).

I found it amusing that we seemed to see stone piles at each beach we visited during out stay in Door County.

Whitefish Dunes State Park & Cave Point County Park {Door County}

I first visited Whitefish Dunes State Park a couple years with my sister. It was March and it was really cold, however I remember being impressed and wanting to come back.

This weekend I got the chance to go with Chris, and he liked the park just as much as me. Below are photos of the beach area.

Cave Point County Park is just north of Whitefish Dunes State Park, and unlike the state park, Cave Point is free to enter. It is known for its underwater caves and wave-worn limestone cliffs.

I highly recommend going down below the cliffs and getting close to the water. The power of the waves is phenomenal.

Cave Point is unique in Wisconsin and definitely worth a stop during a trip to Door County.

Sailing at Peninsula State Park {Door County}

This weekend I sailed for the second time with Chris, and both times have been at Peninsula State Park in Door County. The photos below are from 2009, when Chris' parents were with us and took photos from their kayak. 3 years ago we had gorgeous weather and a really great sailing experience.

This time around, the winds were strong and a storm was moving in. We ended up flipping the boat twice, tearing the sail and being towed in by a very helpful guy who happened to see us.

Actually three people made there way over to us and asked us if we needed help, including the owner of the rental company we got the boat from. We felt very safe, and well taken care of.

Here's a photo before the sail tore. It's much harder to get photos on a small sailboat when you don't have anyone in a kayak nearby :)

I'm not sure if I'd go sailing again, but I would definitely rent a canoe or kayak at Nicolet Beach in Peninsula State Park. We have camped at the park twice before and loved it. There are great biking trails, beautiful places to watch the sunset and it's in Fish Creek with lots of great dining options.

June 13, 2012

FUEL Milwaukee: Boat Cruise

Tonight was my third Milwaukee boat cruise, and my third event with FUEL Milwaukee. I'm really glad Chris and I joined. It's a great group of people and their events are a lot of fun.

The three lovely people smiling for my photo are a co-worker, her brother and her friend. Behind them is Chris deep in conversation with a guy who turned out to work one block away from me.

Boat cruises are a great way to get a different view of Milwaukee. They start on the Milwaukee River, head through the Third Ward and then out into Lake Michigan.

There are a lot of great restaurants in the Third Ward with patio dining, including Milwaukee Ale House, Rustico and Ryan Braun's Graffito.

I've dined at Rustico three times, including once on the patio. Love the food there, but the patio is tiny!

I haven't been to Graffito yet, but there's a FUEL Milwaukee event there in August and non-members are welcome. By the way, I think it's funny when people wave from restaurant patios.

There were a lot of sailboats out on the lake tonight. I saw MCSC on many of the sails, which means the boats came from the Milwaukee Community Sailing Center. We looked into joining when we first moved to Milwaukee because Chris loves to sail, but never did due to the cost to join.

Pictured below is the Hoan Bridge. It went many years without connecting roadways, and was known as "the bridge to nowhere." It's unfinished state made the perfect site for the car chase scene in the movie The Blues Brothers.

In the forefront of the photo below are Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The boat we were on was part of the Milwaukee Boat Line, which I would highly recommend. The other boat cruises I've been on have too many indoor seats, and not enough outdoor space. The cost is $15 for a 90-minute cruise, and there's a fully stocked bar on-board.

If you're interested in seeing more photos from the boat cruise, check out my Picasa album.

June 12, 2012

Quinoa Stir-Fry

I realized tonight that I've become a better cook in terms of using CSA vegetables.  In this recipe, I used yukina, baby pac choi, and green garlic from my box, Swiss chard from my container garden and a red bell pepper that was languishing in my fridge.

Asian greens, such as pac choi (bok choy), yukina and mizuna, work beautifully with garlic and ginger, which is the base of any good stir-fry.  Although all of these greens can also be eaten in salads, steamed, sauteed, or cooked in soups.

Quinoa Stir-Fry 

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 8 minutes
Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
  • 3 cups of greens (such as yukina, pac choi (bok choy), Swiss chard, spinach), torn into bite-size pieces
  • 1 bunch green garlic (or green onions), sliced
  • In a large saucepan, combine quinoa and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes.
  • As soon as the quinoa reaches the end of its cooking time, heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, bell pepper, garlic, almonds and sunflower seeds. Saute until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 7 minutes.
  • Add soy sauce, fresh ginger, greens and quinoa. Mix well until greens are wilted, about 1 minute. Divide among four plates and top with green garlic.
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June 11, 2012

Container Gardening

Last year was my first attempt at container gardening, and I grew basil and lettuce.  This year I planned to only do herbs but the persuasive farmers at the Menomonee Falls farmers' market talked me into more and I'm happy they did.   

Gardening is satisfying because you can see growth in just a short amount of time.  My Swiss chard has exploded and makes me wonder if I planted too many for the container size.  Three weeks passed between the top photo and bottom photo below.

I attended a class on container gardening last month at Wendland Nursery, which covered some things I never knew, such as:
  • Place 2" of packing peanuts in the bottom of small containers (4" in larger pots) to facilitate drainage and prevent water build-up that could damage the roots of your plants.
  • Use a slow-release fertilizer (Osmocote was recommended) at the time of planting. 
  • Add a layer of mulch, after placing plants in the soil, to help keep the soil moist.
  • Water every day during warm weather, and water each plant until you see water come out the bottom of the planter.

The photos below show 4 weeks of growth on a container of herbs I made during the class.  We were advised to add 3 herbs to the 14" container.  I chose cilantro, parsley and basil.

Now that I have a full pot of herbs, I really need to start using them.  Here is some advice that was shared on how to clean herbs:
    • Select leaves with good color, nothing yellowed, wilted or with holes.
    • Place herbs in a deep bowl of cold water. Let them soak long enough for the dirt to settle to the bottom of the bowl.
    • Once the herbs are clean, spread them out on a towel. Blot the herbs gently before rolling them up in the towel.

Another tip mentioned during the class is to buy a watering can with a narrow opening which allows you to water the soil and avoid getting the leaves wet.  On hot days, water on leaves will burn and leave yellow spots.  I previously used the watering can on the left and have now switched to the one on the right.   

Does anyone have any other advice on container gardening?  I still have some empty containers, and would like to grow even more this summer!