October 31, 2012

Pumpkin Soup Bowls and Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

If you use Pinterest, you probably saw many people recently pinning a recipe for pumpkin sage soup.  I loved the look of it in a pumpkin bowl, so I pinned it too.  I have since deleted the pin because I hated the soup, but bear with me because I'm still a huge fan of using pie pumpkins as soup bowls!

I had remembered seeing pumpkins used for soup bowls on the Daily Garnish, so I followed Emily's recommendations for roasting the pumpkins.

After cleaning each pumpkin out (and saving the seeds for roasting), brush the inside with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast pumpkins for about an hour at 350 degrees, including the tops.

I don't think I've ever saved the seeds when scooping out a pumpkin until now...maybe when I was a kid, but I don't remember.  I've been missing out because I discovered this week that I really like roasted pumpkin seeds.

They're so easy to make to, which is even better.  I followed a method from Food.com, where I added 2 teaspoons of olive oil and seasoning (I chose Penzey's Chicago steak seasoning, which was really good!), then roasted at 300 degrees for 45 minutes. 

October 29, 2012

Black Radish Chips, Roasted Parsnips and Golden Beet Chips

This past week was the final box of the summer CSA season, which marked the end of my third year as a CSA member. In those three years, I had never encountered a black radish until now. 

It amazes me how Farmer Steve keeps coming up with new things to include (or maybe they've only been in the large share in the past).  Googling it, I found several recommendations for radish chips, so that's what I made and I really liked the way they turned out.

These radishes have a rough black skin with hot-flavored white flesh.  To make the chips I thinly sliced the radish on my mandoline, then tossed the slices with a little olive oil and salt in a ziploc bag.

Finally I placed each radish slice on a cooling rack, on top of a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, just until the chips are crinkled around the edges.

While I had the oven on, I looked in my fridge to see what else I could roast from my CSA box and found a parsnip.  I couldn't remember what I had done in the past with parsnips, so I again turned to google and found a recipe that I very loosely followed.

After cutting the parsnip into batons, I tossed the pieces with olive, salt and pepper.  Then I placed them into a foil-lined roasting pan filled with a little vegetable broth.  Cover with more foil, then bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes and you'll have deliciously, tender parsnips.

After the parsnips went in the oven, I decided to take one more look in the fridge and found two golden beets.  Since I had the mandoline out already, I went ahead and made beet chips the same way I made the radish chips.  I loved them, but Chris preferred the black radish chips.


October 28, 2012

Black Bean & Quinoa Stuffed Jack o' Peppers

A couple weeks ago, I saw orange bell peppers cut like jack o' lanterns on Caffeinerd and I loved the idea for Halloween.  So today I made my favorite stuffed peppers recipe and cut faces into orange bell peppers.

I forgot to cook the tops, so in the photo below the top is brighter orange and the stem is still very green.  I wasn't sure how the peppers would hold up during baking, but other than the mixture leaking through the face a little bit, the peppers were still very presentable.

I'm not sure why I cut the tops the way I did, it's definitely not the way I'd cut a top when carving a pumpkin.  The next time I make these, I plan to cut them the way they are shown on this Food and Photography blog.


It didn't take me nearly as long to cut the jack o' peppers as I thought it would.  Using a small Pampered Chef paring knife, I was able to cut the faces quite quickly. 

The photo below got some laughs on Facebook today.  I packed the black bean and quinoa mixture in too tightly for the pepper on the far right, which led to a puking effect. 

I really like this stuffed peppers recipe, in fact this is one of the meatless recipes that "Chris the carnivore" loves too.  When presentation doesn't matter, I prefer to make a deconstructed version, chopping the peppers up and baking in ramekins, which shortens the bake time.

It felt wrong to slice into the jack o' peppers, but they were delicious!

Quinoa Black Bean Stuffed Jack o' Peppers

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients (5 servings)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 5 large (10oz each) orange bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup co-jack cheese, shredded
  • In a small saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1 1/4 cups water into the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan. Cut tops off the peppers, then remove seeds and membranes. Next, using a paring knife, cut a jack o' lantern face.
  • In a large bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Then stir in remaining ingredients (including the quinoa) except the shredded cheese. Fill each pepper to the top with quinoa mixture (do not pack it in or it will leak out of the face).
  • Sprinkle cheese on each pepper, then place in prepared pan, along with the pepper tops (in the water). Bake for 35 minutes, adding water to the pan if necessary. Serve immediately, as they cool quickly.
Recipe adapted from: Taste of Home Cooking School, Spring 2011
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City Tins {Milwaukee}

I first heard of City Tins on the blog Food, Fun and Life in Waukesha, and was quickly convinced that I should buy a 2013 tin.  As luck would have it, I saw a Facebook post from The Ruby Tap this week advising that the 2013 City Tins are now available!

There are currently two editions, one for Milwaukee restaurants and one for Madison.  The list of Milwaukee dining choices included in the tin are amazing.  Each restaurant is either one that I already love or has been highly recommended to me.

When you open the tin, the first thing you see is a dinner spinner.  Love it!  I spun and landed on Hinterland, which coincidentally Chef Pampuch was just talking up the other night.  I'm thinking Hinterland might have to be our first redemption in 2013.

Each City Tin comes with 20 coasters to be redeemed for $10 off a minimum purchase of $25.  One aspect I love is that the minimum purchase includes both food and alcohol which many coupons do not. 

There are three coasters that provide a choice in restaurants which are aptly named "Diner's Choice."  For example, below is a coaster with Benelux on one side and Cafe Hollander on the other.  The coaster is good for one of the two restaurants.

Below is the Le Rêve coaster which is an example of what the non-dining choice coasters look like.  Each coaster provides location information, chef names, an indication on price and reservation information.

I'm really looking forward to dining out in 2013 with my City Tin, trying new restaurants and visiting old favorites.  If you're looking to buy one, I'd recommend going to The Ruby Tap...after all, why not enjoy some wine when you buy your tin? :)

October 27, 2012

The Ruby Tap {Wauwatosa}

Back in July, I spotted a "Coming Soon" banner for The Ruby Tap during a visit to Wauwatosa, and I was intrigued.  Then in August, I was with co-workers at Yo Mama! when I noticed that The Ruby Tap was open for business, but it wasn't until today that I finally got a chance to sip wine there.

After visiting, I can tell you that I love the concept, the location and the space.  Today I was there with my friend Sarah who prefers sweet white wine, while I love dry red wine, so their wine machines worked beautifully for us.

There are many things I like about The Ruby Tap, in addition to their wine machines.  The space is divided into two areas, one with tables and the other with couches and comfy chairs.  Sarah and I chilled out on a couch, while sipping our wine in front of a fire place. 

Chris loves venues that offer games, and The Ruby Tap has several such as Scrabble, cards and a dice game I hadn't seen before, but which Sarah told me was fun to play.  It almost felt like hanging out at home, not feeling pressure from a waitress to vacate a table (or couch, as the case may be) and being able to pour ourselves more wine any time we liked.

I ended up trying two different wines, a Malbec from Lote 44 and a Sangiovese from Peterson.  I definitely preferred the Malbec, and am now wishing I had bought a bottle.  I love that the bottles are for sale directly below the wine machines! 

We didn't try anything from their menu this time around, but I really liked the look of it.  It's essentially a build-your-own meat and cheese plate menu that is focused on Wisconsin food producers. 

The cheese is from Carr Valley and Clock Shadow Creamery.  The charcuterie is from Bolzano Artisan Meats and Underground Food Collective, while the desserts come from Simma's Bakery in Wauwatosa. 

What prompted me to finally visit was an article in the November 2012 issue of Milwaukee Magazine, cleverly titled "Oh, Tannin Balm" which reminded me that I still hadn't tried The Ruby Tap yet.

Then a couple days ago, I saw on their Facebook page that City Tins 2013 were available and I knew I needed to stop in this weekend because I've heard that City Tins can sell out quickly.

The Ruby Tap
1341 Wauwatosa Ave
Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

October 26, 2012

MKEfoodies: Iron Horse Local Slow Food Social

Last night I attended my second MKEfoodies restauarant event, which was also hosted by Slow Food Wisconsin Southeast, at The Iron Horse Hotel.

It was my third time at The Iron Horse Hotel (first time was at The Yard, second time was on a Milwaukee Food tour), and I love the venue!  I wish I had a reason to stay there, as I've heard their rooms are fantastic.

Photo Source: http://www.theironhorsehotel.com/photos.html

MKEfoodies events are always fun, but they're even better when you spot familiar faces like Lisa and Molly.  We posed in front of the flag in the lobby that was made with 36 pair of Levi jeans.

The highlight of the evening was a chef talk with Scott Pampuch, who just recently came to the Iron Horse Hotel.  He's a huge proponent of farm to table, not to be confused with pharm to table, as he says. 

Chef Pampuch is passionate about food, and both he and Barb Heinen of Slow Food spoke about how important it is that we as consumers vote with our dollar when shopping. 

For more information on Chef Scott Pampuch, there's a great OnMilwaukee.com article, or you can watch Kyle Cherek's video below.


The Iron Horse Hotel
500 W Florida St
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

October 25, 2012

Pumpkin Cream Liqueur, Macarons and Smoothies

This past weekend I was introduced to a delicious beverage made with pumpkin cream liqueur.  When I went shopping this week, I discovered that it's a very popular item this time of year.  One store was completely sold out and the other store had two bottles left...I almost bought both bottles :)
Pumpkin cream liqueur is great as a warm drink with frothed milk, or as a cold drink, with ice and milk in a cocktail shaker.  However a pumpkin cake martini is my favorite way to drink it, which just requires the addition of a cake vodka, such as UV Cake or Three Olives Cake. 

Until this week, I had never tried macarons...you know, the French cookies that Americans tend to call macaroons.  If you're looking for more information, The Kitchn has an interesting post on macarons vs macaroons.
I hadn't planned to get macarons from two different places the same day, it was just a happy coincidence that Chris was going to Rocket Baby for a baguette and I had lunch near Le Rêve.  I preferred the taste of Le Rêve's, especially the pistachio one.

This week I have gotten back into the habit of making smoothies for breakfast.  A vegan friend of the family recently shared a smoothie recipe that I'm now making.  The ingredients include an apple, an orange, flax seeds, frozen berries and greens (I've been using frozen chopped collard greens).

Oh, and cup of juice.  I've used both orange juice and apple cider this week.  I like to pour my smoothie into a 20 oz plastic container, so I can drink some for breakfast and take the remainder with me to work.

October 24, 2012

Balsamic Acorn Squash

I picked up a recipe card the last time I was at Oro di Oliva, which caught my eye because it called for cinnamon pear balsamic which I was buying.  After receiving an acorn squash in my CSA box last week, I knew it was time to try it.

Once you get the squash hacked apart, this recipe is really easy.  Just bake for 30 minutes, then drizzle a balsamic reduction and bake for 5 more minutes.

Chris and I both thought this recipe was a little too sweet, in fact he said it tasted like dessert.  Typically I wouldn't share a recipe that we didn't love, however I think this is a great alternative for those who don't like the taste of winter squash as much as we do.

A drizzle of a balsamic reduction just might change your mind!  However, Chris and I will stick to salt and pepper, which is our preferred way to eat acorn squash.

The ingredients for this recipe are minimal -
  • 1 acorn squash,
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Cut squash into four rings; discard seeds.  Arrange rings in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. 
In a saucepan combine brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.  Cook and stir 2-3 minutes, until it starts to thicken.  Spoon over squash.  Bake, uncovered, for 5 additional minutes.

October 22, 2012

Sweet Chili Stir Fry

After spending a lot of time in Sheboygan over the weekend, I was worried about finding time to use everything in my recent CSA box.  I needn't have worried because this recipe was the perfect use for my CSA carrots, broccoli, green peppers, and savoy cabbage.

A new goal of mine is to start using some of the random things I've picked up at Trader Joe's over the past few months, and one of those items was sweet chili sauce.  So I googled it and stopped at the first recipe link because it was from one of my favorite blogs, Daily Garnish.

I modified the recipe based on the contents of my CSA box, but in general followed Emily's recipe pretty closely.  Photographing the veggies is excellent motivation for me to have everything chopped prior to turning the stove on.  I have a terrible habit of chopping as I go, and I always fall behind.

One issue I commonly have when making stir fry is that I'm not sure how much longer to cook some veggies than others.  Following the time frames in Emily's recipe, I cooked the broccoli and carrots first for 3 minutes.

Then I added the peppers and water chestnuts, cooking for another 3 minutes before adding the cabbage.  I'm happy to say that the veggies were done perfectly!

After having this stir fry for lunch, Chris commented that we don't eat stir fry nearly as often as used to.  A couple years ago, we were making stir fry all the time because we weren't sure what else to do with our CSA veggies.  Thankfully we have now tried many recipes, so we have more options!

Sweet Chili Stir Fry
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves 3-4)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 2 large carrots, julienne
  • 1 large green bell pepper
  • 8 oz can of water chestnuts, drained
  • 1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce (such as Trader Joe's)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • Prepare brown rice according to package directions.
  • In a deep saute pan (or wok), heat olive oil or medium high heat. Add broccoli and carrots, cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add peppers and water chestnuts. Saute for another 3 minutes. Add cabbage and stir to combine. Cover with lid and steam for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the sweet chili sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil. Drizzle the dressing over the stir fry and stir to coat.
  • Remove from heat and salt if desired. Serve over brown rice.
Recipe adapted from Daily Garnish
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October 21, 2012

Kohler Arts Center and Stefano's Restaurants {Sheboygan}

I really enjoyed visiting Sheboygan this weekend.  The America's Test Kitchen event was great, but that was only an hour-long, so I had plenty of time to check out other places in the area.

After watching a Wisconsin Foodie episode on Stefano Viglietti's restaurants, and also hearing multiple recommendations, I knew I needed to stop into at least one.  Chef Viglietti has a total of four restaurants in Sheboygan, with three on the same block of 8th Street.

Il Ritrovo is the restaurant I've heard the most recommendations for, which is a wood fired Neapolitan styled pizzeria that opened in 2000.  It pains me to say that I've now been to Il Ritrovo but have not yet tasted their pizza, but I will be back soon to do so!

In fact, the only thing I ordered was an "Ironman" juice (beet, apple, carrot, lemon and ginger) from the raw juice bar at Field to Fork, which is a cafe serving breakfast and lunch that opened in 2005.

I also browsed the market in the shared space between the two restaurants for quite awhile, which has lots of great local items, as well as Italian speciality items.  While browsing, I literally bumped into Stefano Viglietti, who was quickly moving between the kitchen and the wine bar. 

Across the street is Trattoria Stefano, which is Chef Viglietti's original Italian restaurant that opened in 1994.  Locally it's known simply as Stefano's, and is known for authentic Italian food.

Not far from Chef Viglietti's restaurants is the Kohler Arts Center, which is a great art museum!  I really liked their current exhibit called The Kids Are All Right, which closes January 20, 2013.

"The Kids Are All Right addresses the bedrock theme of family as it is experienced in an age when love defines the family unit more than tradition, convention, the law or even blood."

My other favorite exhibit was Markus Hansen's Other People's Feelings (click Portrait), which closes December 2, 2012.  Using photography and video the artist created an empathetic image of himself and a paired individual. 

"By dressing like his partner subject and adopting their posture and facial expression, he achieves an uncanny expression of their feelings.  The end results are astonishing likeness, revealing such marked similarities that Hansen appears as though he is biologically related."

America's Test Kitchen at Kohler Food & Wine

This weekend was my first time attending the annual Kohler Food & Wine Experience, and I loved it.  More specifically, I loved the America's Test Kitchen cooking demonstration, which is the only event I attended.
There are so many options at the festival, but most events require a ticket and they don't come cheap.  The average price was $40 per one-hour event. 

I arrived early and was surprised to find all three America's Test Kitchen cast members hanging out and chatting.  Sitting in the front row, I was fascinated by their conversation, such as a discussion on the Amazon ranking for their newest book.

Before the demo, a woman who appeared to be about my age and also their biggest fan ever, excitedly asked if she could have her photo taken with Chris Kimball, the host of America's Test Kitchen. She returned to her seat, and said to me "you probably think I'm a huge dork."  I told her I was jealous that she had the courage to do that. 

She then encouraged me to the same, and I completely lucked out that all three cast members were available for a photo at that moment.  I have a huge grin on my face because I was so excited to be there.  Bridget Lancaster, Chris Kimball and Jack Bishop were so personable!

The one-hour event had four components - a beef stew demonstration, a cheese tasting, a wine tasting and a carrot cake demonstration.  Chris Kimball kicked things off by showing us how to make Catalan-style beef stew.

I was sitting in the very first seat, so a large sample was put in front of me before I could say no.  Luckily, the woman sitting next to me really liked it, so she had my portion too.  There are some types of meat that I don't mind the taste of, but beef is definitely not one of them.

Next, Jack Bishop led us through a cheddar cheese tasting.  It was fun participating in something that I've previously only seen him do on TV.  We sampled three artisanal cheddars, which are cheeses that should be eaten straight from the package and are not intended for cooking.           

We voted, and the clear favorite was Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery, which I also voted for.  The overhead mirror was handy for capturing how the front row voted :)  It turns out that two rounds of starter cultures have a huge influence on flavor.   

The vast majority of people voted for Prairie Breeze, but a decent percentage instead voted for Jasper Hill Cheddar from Cabot Cellars which shocked me because I found it to be revolting, and couldn't swallow my small sample fast enough.

Unrelated to America' Test Kitchen, Maria Ponzi then led us through a wine tasting of Pinot Noir from Ponzi Vineyards in Oregon.  The family moved from California to Oregon in 1970 specifically to make Pinot Noir and in 1974 they produced their first two barrels.

The wine was very good, but the last demonstration was my favorite.  Bridget Lancaster demonstrated how to make a layered carrot cake, which I found interesting because the version she made uses an 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet, so layers don't have to be cut horizontally.

The New York Times recently had a fascinating article on Chris Kimball, called Cooking Isn’t Creative, and It Isn’t Easy.  I'm a big fan of America's Test Kitchen and the related empire (Cook's Illustrated, Cook's Country, their online cooking school, etc), but the article kind of makes Kimball out to be a jerk, so I was pleasantly surprised to find him to be very nice in person. 

After the demo, all three signed books and I was wishing I had brought my copy of the The New Best Recipe, which is my favorite America's Test Kitchen cookbook.  An annual appearance at Kohler seems to be a tradition for America's Test Kitchen, so I plan to bring my book next year.