September 30, 2012

Mini Pumpkin Muffins

With the first wave of colder temperatures this month, I noticed quite a few bloggers making their first pumpkin recipes of the season.  My first of many was mini pumpkin muffins.

I saw the recipe on 52 Kitchen Adventures and made a couple changes, one by mistake and a couple intentionally.  The original recipe calls for raisins which I'm not a huge fan of but I do love baked pumpkin goods with walnuts, so I added walnuts instead. 

This recipe is pretty simple to make.  The only time consuming part is portioning out each mini muffin, which is much easier with a small Oxo scoop.  The original recipe states the yield to be 36 mini muffins, but I got 74 from the recipe!

Granted I did make an error with the buttermilk, which may have changed the yield slightly but it couldn't possibly have made it double.  I mistakenly added a 1/2 cup of buttermilk, so in a panic I decided I should add less oil, so I reduced the oil to a 1/4 cup.  Surprisingly, the muffins turned out perfectly, and as a bonus they have a little less fat :)

Mini Pumpkin Muffins

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 11-12 minutes (per batch)

Ingredients (74 mini muffins)
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses (or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a mini muffin pan with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, ginger, and salt. Add walnuts and set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, combine brown sugar, pumpkin, buttermilk, oil, molasses, vanilla and eggs. Stir well with a whisk. Then add mixture to the dry ingredients.
  • Stir the two mixtures together, just until combined. Add two teaspoons of muffin batter to each paper liner (I use a small Oxo scoop).
  • Bake for 11-12 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove muffins from pans immediately and cool on a wire rack.
Recipe adapted from: 52 Kitchen Adventures
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September 29, 2012

Milwaukee Food Tours: Walker's Point Dine Around

Last night was the launch party for the newest tour from Milwaukee Food Tours, which is a Walker's Point Dine Around.  As you know, there are many restaurants in Walker's Point I've been wanting to try and this tour was the perfect way to sample four restaurants plus Clock Shadow Creamery and Purple Door Ice Cream.

Our first stop was The Iron Horse Hotel, which I've been to once before when I visited The Yard (their outdoor bar), however I had never been inside.  The hotel has two restaurants - Smyth and Branded, and the items we sampled are on one or both restaurants menus.

Our meal started with a choice of wine - Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Johan Vineyards in Oregon (the winemaker is originally from Wisconsin).  We were then served a bread basket, a Sweet Water Organics salad, Blue & Blue (Great Lakes blue gill with Wisconsin blue cheese) and P.L.T (pork belly, lettuce and tomato) served with house chips.

Walker's Point Food Tour, Milwaukee Food Tours

The server we had was really nice and provided interesting details about the hotel.  For example, the flag pictured above was made from 36 pair of Levi jeans, and the swing in front of it was used for a photo shoot.  I also found it interesting to hear that the hotel was a former mattress factory.

Next we headed to Ginger Tapas Bar, where we had sangria, macaroni & cheese with rosemary and miso steak kebabs.  There was a special tofu kebab for me, which I appreciated.  Although I don't eat 100% vegetarian, I did request vegetarian options, which Milwaukee Food Tours has been great about accommodating on each tour I've been on. 

Next door to Ginger, is Zak's Cafe, where we were given a choice of two sandwiches - Ahi Tuna or Pulled Pork.  I heard a lot of rave reviews from others on the tour regarding the tuna sandwich, which is a fresh ahi tuna steak served on a bed of arugula with a vinaigrette dressing.

I chose the pulled pork, which is slow cooked pork, house made bbq sauce, topped with cheddar and fried onion, which I liked.  I made Chris try it too since a favorable review of a pork sandwich isn't as credible from a mostly non-meat eater, and he liked it too.

Walker's Point Food Tour, Milwaukee Food Tours

I was quite full at that point, so the next stop was perfect.  Clock Shadow Creamery opened this past summer and is Milwaukee's only urban cheese factory.  We sampled cheese curds, quark and LaBelle cheese. 

As you know, I love quark.  In fact, I almost bought some at the store because Woodman's has been out of stock for the past two weeks, however Woodman's only offers plain quark and the store had flavored quark options such as tomato basil.

Walker's Point Food Tour, Milwaukee Food Tours
Sharing space with Clock Shadow Creamery is Purple Door Ice Cream, and it's such a great combination.  You can pick up locally made cheese and ice cream, all in one stop!  I love that the flavors and prices are on a large purple door hung from the ceiling :) 
We each received a mini cone and I chose salted caramel, which was awesome.  They had quite a few flavors available for sale in pints, however the selection was fairly comparable to Outpost Natural Foods, which is closer for me, so that's where I pick up Purple Door Ice Cream. 

Walker's Point Food Tour, Milwaukee Food Tours

Our final stop of the evening was at Chez Jacques for dessert, where we sampled crepes with a vanilla sauce and berries, as well as banana nutella crepes.  Coffee was also offered at this stop. 

I love crepes, so I thought they were the perfect ending to the tour.  While at Chez Jacques, we took a peek at their outdoor patio area, which was very nice.  I only wish there was still time this season to go back and dine on the patio.
Walker's Point Food Tour, Milwaukee Food Tours
I would definitely recommend the Walker's Point Dine Around, especially this winter when the neighborhood walking tours aren't available.  On a dine around, you travel via bus and the focus is on the food, with just a little bit of neighborhood history shared. 

After attending two previous walking tours, which I really enjoyed, I also like the new dine around concept.  We spent a longer time at each stop, which gave us a chance to slowly enjoy our food and get to know other tour members.  Luckily, we were with a great group of people to chat with.

September 28, 2012

An Everlasting Meal by Tamar Adler

We had another great lunch & learn event today at work.  Tamar Adler, author of An Everlasting Meal, spoke about resourceful cooking and also cooked for us.  It was a fantastic way to spend an hour, and I'm glad she made the trip from Brooklyn!

When I read the description for today's event, I have to admit that I had not heard of Tamar Adler nor her book, however when I saw in her bio that she she worked at Chez Panisse, I immediately wanted to hear her speak.  I'm in awe of anyone whom Alice Waters chooses to work with.

Someone in the crowd asked "how did you become so resourceful?"  Tamar spoke about how her mom worked 1 1/2 jobs, yet made lunch and dinner everyday.  Going on to say that her mom was incredibly resourceful with both ingredients and time.

Her time at Chez Panisse was also an influence because everything gets used there.  The lunch menu is determined from what's leftover from dinner the night before.  I've heard amazing things about Chez Panisse and I hope to dine there someday.

Today's presentation started with everyone tasting hot water.  Sounds weird, right?  We tried three types - plain water, salted water and water with both salt and herbs.  Tamar said the first salted one should taste like pleasant seawater and the second should taste "full on oceanic," like a big gulp of ocean water.

The setup today was great because a camera guy did overhead shots, so we could see inside the pots as Tamar was cooking.  Below is a photo I took from the screen where it was being projected, and it shows people sampling the different types of water.  

Who would have thought boiled potatoes and broccoli could taste so good?  Tamar Adler definitely knows what she's talking about when she states the importance of seasoning the water.  Although my favorite item was the crostini topped with a broccoli stem pesto.

The pesto contained broccoli stems (you could use a cabbage or cauliflower core too), garlic, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, salt and a few chili flakes.  It would have tasted even better if my tongue hadn't been burned from sampling hot water :)

There were comments in the crowd regarding the large quantity of salt and olive oil used.  As Tamar explained, "food shouldn't taste like a punishment for getting hungry."  Use good olive oil and Parmesan cheese because if your vegetables taste amazing, you'll be less likely to eat food that's not as good for you.

We were given a copy of An Everlasting Meal at the event today, and I can't wait to start reading it.  So far, I've only read the Foreword, which was written by Alice Waters.  She says "The book is beautifully intimate, approaching cooking as a narrative that beings not with a list of ingredients or a tutorial on cutting an onion but with a way of thinking."

I have benefited greatly from methodical cookbooks like Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, but am looking forward to reading about a different approach to cooking and one that might be easier for me now that I've mastered the basics.

September 25, 2012

The INdustri Café {Milwaukee}

If you live in Milwaukee and hear about a great new restaurant, it's likely in Walker's Point.  The INdustri Café is no exception.  Chris and I dined there for the first time tonight and we both loved it.  It was the promise of "dueling tacos" on Facebook that lured Chris in :)

He enjoyed both a fish taco and pork taco, which comes with rice and beans for only $5 on Tuesdays.  I chose a grilled chicken sandwich with goat cheese and roasted red peppers, which I really liked.  You might be wondering why a "vegetarian" food blogger would order chicken.  I never cook meat at home, but will occasionally order meat when dining out.
Chris really wanted to get a bloody mary tonight after sampling the non-alcoholic version at Milwaukee's Big Taste this summer but settled for local beer instead (Milwaukee Ale House and Lakefront Brewery).  Below is a photo I took of the sample size version we tried this summer.

I read reviews on Trip Advisor, Yelp and Urbanspoon this evening before going to see if any particular dishes were recommended, but it was the bloodies that everyone raved about in their reviews.  Next time we'll go for brunch and get a bloody mary!

We really liked the atmosphere and decor of INdustri Café.  Too many restaurants are loud and crowded, which can make it difficult to enjoy a night out.  I wish restaurants like this were closer to where we live, but it's always worth the drive to avoid the chain restaurant nightmare that we're surrounded by in the suburbs.
This randomly ended up being a Walker's Point week for us.  We're excited to do Milwaukee Food Tour's first Walker's Point tour this Friday, then on Sunday we're going to both Stack'd and Braise.

So many places in Walker's Point have been recommended and we're doing our best to try them one-by-one.  That list includes C. 1880, La Merenda, Chez Jacques, Zak's Café, Crazy Water, and The Noble.

Almost next door to INdustri is the Clock Shadow Building which houses both Clock Shadow Creamery and Purple Door Ice Cream.  I really wanted to visit during Doors Open Milwaukee this past weekend, but didn't get a chance to.  I hope to make it there soon!

CSA Box - Meal Ideas

CSA boxes become heavy this time of year and I was blessed with even more CSA produce after attending the CSA potluck and farm tour last weekend, so I have been making an extra effort lately to find a use for each and every CSA item.

My go-to CSA breakfast is scrambled eggs with peppers, onions and greens (though greens are not pictured below) with a side of potatoes.  For a quick weekday breakfast, substitute toast for the potatoes.

When I'm not sure what to do with say 3 pounds of eggplant that I ordered from the CSA webstore (totally hypothetical), I start looking at which recipes I could make substitutions in. 

Lentil pilaf with carrots & greens seemed like a great choice, and eggplant worked beautifully instead of carrots.  For the greens I added kohlrabi leaves, arugula and Asian greens.

Have you ever tried radishes with egg salad? I highly recommend it and even Chris loved it. My egg salad is pretty simple. I add a little mayo, brown mustard and green onions...or leeks the size of green onions which were planted too close together, either one will work :)

Oh, and I follow Elise's method for the perfect hard boiled egg.  It's an easy method that really does result in perfect hard boiled eggs.  I have trouble remembering to order eggs each week, but I definitely prefer the eggs that are available for delivery with our CSA boxes.

One of my recent favorite dishes is a simply sauteed vegetables with pesto.  Lately, I've been sauteing peppers, eggplant and onion.  Delicious!

When I first made this combination, I intended to have it with pasta but it was so tasty I decided to have it sans pasta which is very unusual for this carb lover.

If you're still stumped on what to do with your CSA veggies, I recommend soup...especially this time of year.  Our heat kicked on recently for the first time this season, and I got out my crockpot the same day.  I added summer squash, carrots, kale, onions and kohlrabi, in addition to cannelinni beans and barley.

I recently purchased two Kindle books that I really like.  Ok, so technically I don't have a Kindle, but my computer works just as well for reading these e-books for only $2.51 each :)

The first is Put 'em Up!: A Comprehensive Home Preserving Guide for the Creative Cook, from Drying and Freezing to Canning and Pickling.  I'm scared of canning but the freezing advice is really helpful.  My recently purchased FoodSaver has seen a lot of action these past two weekends.

I liked the look of Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables because the fall/winter CSA share will be here before I know it.  It's easy to lose steam after 20 weeks of summer share deliveries, so some new recipes for a bargain price are appreciated.

What's your favorite way to use CSA vegetables?  Advice and suggestions are always appreciated!

September 23, 2012

Oktoberfest Truffles

I made truffles this weekend for a really fun Oktoberfest party that Chris and I attended on Saturday.  I know, I know, there's nothing German about truffles, however I did decorate them in German flag colors :)

I made the same three types of truffles that I made last February, so there would be a variety for people to choose from.  Here are links to the recipes -

Coconut Truffles - tastes like an Almond Joy
Cake Batter Truffles - tastes like delicious raw cookie dough
Peanut Butter & Pretzel Truffles - tastes like peanut butter and pretzel :)

Everyone seemed to have a favorite last night, with peanut butter and coconut leading the way.  However, I love cake batter, so that's one type that will always get made...with white chocolate that is :)

When making these truffles, I find it easiest to make all the balls ahead of time, and store them in the freezer until I'm ready to dip them in melted chocolate.  If you do the same, be sure to only remove one type from the freezer at a time so they don't soften too much .

I purchased red, yellow and black nonpareils to create my German flag.  I typically wouldn't sprinkle so many on, but I wanted to ensure there was enough color to resemble a flag.  I also added all three colors to the cake batter dough to create a funfetti look.

And now a few photos from the party...below are the hosts on the left, and Chris and I on the right.  I wish it had been just a tad warmer this weekend.  It's hard to tell due to my dark jacket but I'm wearing gloves in the photo. 

I loved that each type of home-brewed beer was labeled, as well as the food.  Everything was authentic, and the hosts even drove to Madison to purchase German sausages and mustard.  Chris loved the sausages, while the homemade soft pretzels were my favorite.

Have you ever played hammerschlagen (aka "the nail game")?  I've played it at the Old German Beer Hall and was impressed that the hosts found a tree stump so we could play at their Oktoberfest party!

September 21, 2012

Restaurant: Joey Gerard's {Milwaukee}

When MKEfoodies descend upon a Bartolotta restaurant, you know a good time will be had. Have you heard of Joey Gerard's which opened less than a month ago in Greendale? It's a spin on an old-fashioned Wisconsin supper club and I loved it.

Chris was unable to join me, so he and I need to return another time because everything about this supper club is perfect for Chris. We'll likely visit their Mequon location, which opens October 3rd and is closer for us.

I had never been to Greendale before and found it to be a charming community.  I arrived a little early, so I took a walk around the neighborhood.

I also popped into the Taste of Home Outlet Store across the street from Joey Gerard's.  The store offers a decent selection of cooking gadgets and cookbooks, but at no better prices than other stores.

It's been quite awhile since I've been to a supper club and I really like Joey Gerard's updated version.  Starting the meal with a relish tray is mandatory at a supper club and reminded me of special occasion dinners at my grandma's house.

The kitchen tour was one of my favorite aspects of the event.  We got the chance to see their Josper charcoal oven (only one in the Midwest) in action.  This 700 degree oven can cook a thick steak in 8 minutes!

I've been told the intense heat and coals produce fantastic steaks, but being a mostly non-meat eater, I didn't test that theory myself.

Instead, I sampled food from the relish trays and bread baskets.  Everyone else enjoyed Steak Diane, which is a pan-fried filet mignon and often flambéed at the table in restaurants, though not at Joey Gerard's.

I got a kick out of their "Drink Like It's 1958" cocktail menu and tried the Jack Rose, which I loved.  Both Inger and I talked about how it's a cocktail we'd like to make at home.

We were also treated to a cocktail demo, which was fun to see.  I think it's great that Bartolotta's is using locally made whiskey and gin from Great Lakes Distillery and Death's Door.

Below is a short video I captured during the cocktail demo, in which the concept of a Wisconsin Old Fashioned is explained.

A couple people at my table recommended a movie called Wisconsin Supper Clubs - An Old Fashioned Experience, which is being shown on PBS. According to the schedule, there are no future showings scheduled, so hopefully that changes.

September 20, 2012

Herbed Compound Butter

Looking for something to do with excess fresh herbs?  Farmer Steve was very generous this past weekend during our tour of HighCross Farm and snipped quite a few fresh herbs for everyone.  I decided to combine the thyme, rosemary, oregano and sage to make herbed compound butter.

There are so many recipes and methods online for making compound butter with herbs.  I chose Alton Brown's recipe because it gave specific quantities and types of herbs.

Too many recipes just said "add chopped fresh herbs" which seemed like a surefire way for me to overpower the butter or create an unpalatable combination of herbs.

I love that compound butter can be stored in the freezer, so you can easily just cut off the amount needed each time.  I saw mixed messages regarding refrigerating versus freezing, so I chose to store my herbed butter in the freezer.

How to Use Herbed Butter -
  • Crusty French bread
  • Bake with roasted vegetables
  • Saute with onions before adding other vegetables
  • Serve on top of mashed potatoes
  • Melt onto vegetables such as green beans or edamame

There are also numerous suggestions online for ways to use herbed butter when cooking meat.  However, I don't cook meat, so you won't find them here :)

September 19, 2012

HighCross Farm - CSA Potluck and Farm Tour

I've been a CSA member of HighCross Farm since 2010, yet until this past weekend I had never visited the farm.  Each year Farmer Steve and his wife Kath host CSA potlucks and farm tours, but the timing hadn't worked for us in the past. 

I'm so glad we were finally able to visit because both Chris and I had a great time!  It was so much fun touring the farm, chatting with Farmer Steve and his family, and enjoying a potluck dinner with fellow CSA members. 

The event started with a tour of the farm via a hay wagon ride.  We passed by their horses and then traveled into the woods.  Check out how many kids were on one of the hay wagons!  Definitely a family-friendly event.


The Milwaukee River meanders through the farm, and we crossed it twice on our hay wagon tour.  HighCross Farm is 80 acres, with 20 tillable acres and a half-mile of river frontage.

Pictured below are the hoop house and vegetable fields.  The bottom right photo is a good look at their drip tape irrigation system, which feeds from the house well.

One of my favorite parts of the day was the walking tour through the fields led by Farmer Steve.  He suggested that everyone bring a bag along and he shared his harvest, cutting lavender, digging up potatoes and letting everyone pick berries.
We haven't gotten melons in our CSA boxes yet this year, but check out the cantaloupe and watermelon that we should be getting soon!

It was cool seeing everything growing that we receive in our boxes each week, such as tomatoes, rainbow chard, berries and tomatillos. 

We even got to meet the family pets during our visit! 

Another aspect I really enjoyed about the event was getting the opportunity to chat with other CSA members.  For example, when the topic of purslane came up, it seemed that everyone either loved or hated it.

I recently came across a great Garden Fork video, which provides more information on purslane.  From a quick look at their website, it appears they have other interesting videos as well.