November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I'm sad to have arrived at the end of a long Thanksgiving weekend.  I'm on call at work today and my sister is heading back to Green Bay.  I really enjoyed hosting my first Thanksgiving, and am thankful there were just three of us this time around.

I made pomegranate balsamic brussels sprouts, ciabatta herb stuffing, cranberry-orange relish, maple sweet potato puree, carola mashed potatoes, raspberry chiffon pie and mini pecan tarts.  Oh, and Chris the carnivore made cornish game hens wrapped in bacon for him and my meat-eating sister.

The weather here in Wisconsin was gorgeous on Thursday, so we headed to Pike Lake in the afternoon to hike.  This was my first time seeing QRcodes while hiking...we learned all about gray squirrels :)

The remainder of our weekend involved movies, games and putting up our Christmas tree.  I watch Love Actually every year while decorating for Christmas, which my sister had never seen! 

I really like Christmas, but I prefer Thanksgiving which focuses on family and food, instead of gifts and maxing out credit cards.  The appeal of Black Friday shopping is lost on me.  Shopping from the comfort of my home on Cyber Monday is different though :)

November 16, 2012

Friday Five

Hope everyone had a great week, I'm thankful it's Friday and am looking forward to spending the weekend in Madison!  My mom and I are attending the women's expo tomorrow and I'm going to a UW women's volleyball game on Sunday with my friend Tracy and her kids.

1 - Purple Smoothies
If you like adding greens to smoothies, but don't care for the unappetizing green hue it creates try adding purple kale instead.  I made a smoothie this week (4 cups total) with 1 bunch of purple kale, 12 oz of frozen mixed berries, 2 apples and 1 cup of orange juice.  Loved it!

2 - The Must List
Entertainment Weekly is one of my favorite magazines, and pretty cheap at only 50 cents an issue.  The Must List is typically dead-on with their recommendations, so I use it as a guide for my DVR, Netflix queue and Amazon wishlist.

Have you watched Martha Stewart's new cooking show yet?  I've seen the first 3 episodes (eggs, sauces and vegetables) and I really like the format and style.

3 - Cupcakes
Cupcake shops have become quite popular nowadays, which I think is great :)  I hadn't heard of Miss Julia's Bake Shop until I saw it recently in the same strip mall as my tailor in Brookfield.

My favorite shop is still Sprinkles Cupcakes in Washington, DC, however I will definitely stop into Miss Julia's again (this time I tried vanilla coconut which was great!)

4 - Food Magazines
A recent top ten list of food magazines surprised me because Taste of Home has the most paid subscribers and it's one of my least favorite recipe magazines.  Eating Well is on my favorites and it came it at number 10. 

I wasn't surprised by number 2, as I always tear out quite a few recipes each month while reading Cooking Light.  Reading not really the right word...skimming for non-meat recipes is more accurate.

5 - Beaujolais Nouveau
Did anyone else celebrate the release of beaujolais nouveau yesterday on the third Thursday in November?  I know at least one of my friends did because she posted a photo of her bottle on my Facebook page. 
Her photo (on the left) cracked me up because it looked like it could have been taken in my kitchen.  To demonstrate that, I posted a photo (on the right) too after retrieving my Wine Bible from the bookshelf :) 
Unfortunately, this year's release isn't great. I still remember how wonderful the 2008 version was, and I've been disappointed every year since then.

November 14, 2012

Review: Tomato Soup and Pesto Grilled Cheese

Wisconsin weather has taken a chilling dive into winter this week, which led me to the much-loved combination of grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch.   

I love how this combination instantly warms you up, especially when you're at home for a quick bite to eat and it doesn't make sense to turn the heat up during that short time.

Have you ever tried adding a little pesto to your grilled cheese sandwich?  I received a recipe suggestion from Campbell's for pesto grilled cheese and was intrigued.  It looks really strange when spreading pesto on cheese, but the final result is fantastic. 

I live very close to work, so it's fairly common for co-workers to join me at home for lunch.  This week Jake joined me and he opted for a standard grilled cheese and also enjoyed sun-ripened yellow tomato soup.

He insisted on eating his soup with a spoon, whereas I prefer to drink tomato soup from a mug.  I served his in a mug, just in case he changed his mind :) 

Cheese singles are perfect for making grilled cheese, but I rarely buy them because the cheese often tastes like plastic.  Organic Valley just recently introduced American Singles made with real cheese, and the difference is very noticeable.

In case you're curious about the nutrition facts or ingredient list, here's a photo of the back of the package.  With the crazy low-calorie bread that Chris (mister carb-phobic) buys, one grilled cheese sandwich is only 140 calories sans pesto.

I really liked the flavor of Campbell's new sun-ripened yellow tomato soup, but if I was blindfolded, I don't think I'd be able to discern the difference between their regular tomato soup and this new soup.

I found it interesting to see some of the Campbell's soup facts in the graphic below, such as 17% of all grilled cheese sandwiches are served with tomato soup.  Soup and sandwiches really are a great lunch option.  It's quick, satisfying and can be fairly low in calories.

Whether you like your soup in a mug or a bowl, the new sun-ripened tomato soup is definitely worth trying.  By the way, I just got my glass mugs from Kohl's and I'm loving them for hot beverages as well as soup!

Disclaimer: Organic Valley and Campbell's provided the American Singles and Sun-Ripened Yellow Tomato Soup at no cost to me.

November 12, 2012

Potato Leek Soup

I made this soup for the first time last year, and I think it's a great way to cook with leeks. The recipe comes from one of my favorites sources - Simply Recipes

It's pretty quick and easy to make.  I also like the fact that it makes just 4 servings, so you don't have a stockpot full of soup for only 2 people.  Leftovers are great, but I prefer not to eat the same thing for an entire week.

I hope everyone had an enjoyable weekend. The weather here in Wisconsin was amazing, with highs in the 60s. I should have done something outside, but instead I cooked and watched movies which was enjoyable.

I would recommend all three films that I watched, which includes Your Sister's Sister, First Position and Peace, Love and Misunderstanding. Now that we've joined this decade and purchased a blu-ray player, it's so much easier to watch movies instantly on Netflix and Amazon.

I have a hard time using all the potatoes I get in my CSA boxes.  In fact, I think the potatoes I used in this recipe were from at least a few weeks ago, but they stored very well.

As I was wandering the winter farmers' market on Saturday, I realized that I'm now much more aware of the wide variety of produce available because of my CSA membership.

For example, I saw vendors selling carola potatoes, and komatsuna and tatsoi greens which I previously would not have recognized and likely would not have purchased.  Just one more benefit to being a CSA member!

Potato Leek Soup

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 large leeks, chopped and cleaned (using only the white and pale green parts)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 lbs potatoes, peeled, chopped into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/8 teaspoon of marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • In a large sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add leeks, salt and pepper. Cover pan, reduce heat to low and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add water, broth, potatoes, and dried herbs. Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Add a few dashes of chili sauce, if desired, and salt & pepper, to taste.
Recipe Source: Simply Recipes
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November 11, 2012

Sunday at Rocket Baby & Trader Joe's

As I was sipping tea at Rocket Baby Bakery this morning, while chatting with Lisa, I was thinking about what an ideal way it was to spend a Sunday morning. 

I ordered a savory scone with goat cheese, scallions and walnuts, and I'll likely have the same thing next time because it's really good!  This was my first time trying Rishi peppermint tea, and I'd order that again too.

Rocket Baby has very short hours on Sundays, 8am - noon, so if you're wanting something specific, I'd recommend arriving by 10am because when we left the options were very limited.

Next, Lisa and I headed to Brookfield to check out the newest Trader Joe's.  Like many others in the Milwaukee area, I was really excited when I heard that we were getting a second Trader Joe's.

When I profess my love, people often ask me what's so great about it (and 99% of them have never been to a Trader Joe's).  I've found that they have high quality, low priced items, which is the perfect combination.

I stocked up on some favorite pantry staples today, picked up a few new things (really liked shopping with Lisa and hearing her suggestions), and am currently enjoying the $4 Spanish wine I bought :)

Do you love Trader Joe's?  If so, I'd love to hear what your favorite products are.  I really need to get out the Trader Joe's cookbook I was given as a birthday gift.  The new store has inspired me to start trying some of those recipes!

November 10, 2012

Apple Tarts with Vanilla Ice Cream & Caramel Sauce

This dessert would be perfect for Thanksgiving.  It's much easier to make than apple pie, yet has the same great flavor and if you have small tart pans, each serving is ready to go.  I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this dessert!

This apple dessert is one of my family's favorite recipes.   The recipe comes from my grandma's friend who brought it to many church potlucks, and is a dessert she called "dutch apple cake."

My dad refers to it as dutch apple pie, and I think of it as being more a tart, which is what led me to try it out in my 4" tart pans.  

These tarts come together really easily.  A couple notes - the crust and topping will both be crumbly, don't worry about trying to make it smooth or having large chunks of butter.  Also, the topping will obscure the apple slices, so no one will be able to tell if you arranged them in a pretty pattern :)

For this recipe, I chose to use Golden Delicious apples since I had them from my recent trip to Barthel Fruit Farm.  If you prefer to use tart apples, such as Granny Smith, I'd recommend increasing the amount of sugar in the topping as noted in the recipe below.

We typically just top this apple dessert with vanilla ice cream, but after picking up caramel sauce from Becky's Blissful Bakery yesterday, I wanted to try that too, and it was heavenly!

Even better, after drizzling each tart, you'll have to lick the spoon.  You will then discover that Becky's caramel sauce tastes like an amazing melted version of her caramels.  If I were you, I'd pick up a jar for everyone on your Christmas list...and if you're not in the area, she'll ship it to you!

I feel like I should point out that I do not know Becky, nor am I in any way being encouraged to promote to her caramel sauce.  I just really, really like it.

Apple Tart 
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients (five servings)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and sliced
  • cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup sugar (1/2 cup sugar if using tart apples)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • vanilla ice cream (optional)
  • caramel sauce (optional)
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. In a measuring cup, combine oil and milk in measuring cup, whip with a fork. Pour into flour mixture. Mix with fork until dampened.
  • Divide among five 4" tart pans, pat out to cover the bottom of each tart pan. Arrange apples over pastry, then sprinkle some cinnamon over the apples.
  • In a small bowl, mix sugar, flour and salt. Cut in butter with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle mixture over top of apples.
  • Bake for 15 minutes (25 minutes for an 8x8 pan). Apples will barely brown, do not over bake.  Serve with vanilla ice cream, drizzle with caramel sauce, if desired.
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November 05, 2012

Cookies for Kids' Cancer - Bake Sale & Cookie Swap

Cookies for Kids' Cancer is a great organization I first became aware of when Lori and Paul of Burp! hosted a bake sale in May 2011.

Their next bake sale is December 8th, so if you're in the Milwaukee area, I hope to see you at Best Place that day.  You can buy many different types of baked goods, including cake pops, which I'll be making :)

MKEfoodies Holiday Bake Sale - Saturday, December 8, 2012
12p.m. – 4 p.m. - Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery
901 W. Juneau Ave, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I got a tad behind in blog reading on Google Reader, and just came across a post from Love and Olive Oil today about The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2012.  I'm looking forward to participating for the first time this year.

The cookie swap also benefits Cookies for Kids' Cancer, with Oxo matching dollar-for-dollar, up to $100k.  I read about it just in time, because the deadline to sign up is midnight today!

November 04, 2012

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

So simple, so delicious, I love this recipe.  Carola potatoes are wonderful on their own, but the addition of fresh rosemary was brilliant on the part of White On Rice Couple.  I had these for both breakfast (with eggs) and dinner (with a salad) today, and they were great with both meals. 
Slicing the potatoes is the most work this recipe requires.  Throw them on a pan, roast for 25 minutes, and they're ready to go!

If you're looking for a tasty, simple Thanksgiving side dish, I highly recommend making these potatoes.  You just need rosemary and some gold potatoes.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients (4-6 servings)
  • 2 pounds Carola potatoes (or gold potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Scrub, dry, and slice potatoes into 1/4″ slices. In a large ziploc bag, toss potatoes with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.
  • Spread potatoes out in a uniform layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the potatoes. Roast for another 10 minutes.
  • Pick up the parchment paper by the edges and slide the potatoes onto your serving dish.
Recipe Source: White on Rice Couple
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November 03, 2012

Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce & How to Cut a Butternut Squash

When I reached in my fridge this morning for orange juice and saw leftover butternut squash pasta, my first thought was "would it be weird to eat that for breakfast?"  That's how much I enjoyed this meal last night for dinner.

The look of the pasta sauce reminds me of a macaroni & cheese sauce, but this creamy sauce is simply roasted butternut squash, broth and half-and-half.  I followed Martha Stewart's recipe, but had a large butternut squash so I added part to the sauce, and served the remainder with the pasta.

I hate cutting butternut squash and I've got a scar to prove it, but believe me, it's so worth it to make this pasta sauce.  Plus, I saw a handy one minute video on Facebook yesterday which makes cutting winter squash so much less painful.

How to Cut a Butternut Squash -
  • Pierce squash with a fork a few times.
  • Microwave for a minute or two depending on the size of the squash.
  • Chop off both ends, then stand it up and slice it down the middle.
  • With a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works best), remove the seeds and discard.
  • Chop each half into thirds, then run the knife down the side to peel the skin away.
  • Use a vegetable peeler to remove any remaining skin.

I was amazed at how easy this method was, and it's now my go-to way to cut a butternut squash.  That means I no longer need to wait for Chris to get home to hack the squash for me.

A couple years ago I saw a tip to use a ziploc bag to season vegetables that were going to be roasted, and it's such a fantastic tip that I've used that method ever since.  I know, I know it's not green to throw away a bag each time I roast vegetables, but it works really well.

Pasta with Butternut Squash Sauce & Greens

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 1 butternut squash (about 3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, peel on
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 12 oz of any short pasta, such as penne
  • 6 quarts water
  • 5 cups of hearty greens (such as chard or kale), chopped
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees. Pierce squash a few times with a fork, then microwave for two minutes. Cut the ends off, then stand it up and slice it down the middle.
  • With a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works well), remove the seeds and discard. Chop each half into thirds, then run the knife down the side to peel the skin away. Finally, use a vegetable peeler to remove any remaining skin.
  • Cut squash into 1/2-inch chunks and place in a large ziploc bag. Add oil, sage, salt and pepper. Shake bag until squash is evenly coated.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, then arrange squash in an even layer. Add garlic to one corner of the pan. Roast for 15 minutes, toss once, then bake for another 15 minutes until the squash is very tender.
  • Remove and discard skin from the garlic. Divide squash in half, removing half to a small bowl and adding the other half plus peeled garlic to a blender (use the foil to funnel it into the blender), along with half-and-half and vegetable broth. Process until smooth.
  • In a large pot, bring water to a boil then cook pasta for 5 minutes. Add greens to the pot and cook pasta and greens for an additional 3 minutes.
  • Drain pasta and greens, then return to the pot. Add the butternut squash pieces and butternut squash sauce. Toss to coat, and serve.
Sauce recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart
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November 02, 2012

Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins

I love all the aspects of seasonal cooking in the fall, including apples and apple cider.  That's why I recently purchased a gallon of apple cider from Apple Barn Orchard in Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

At that time, I figured I'd have at least one recipe pinned on my Fall/Winter Recipes Pinterest board that called for apple cider.  Not that apple cider isn't delicious on its own, but a gallon is bit much for me to drink by myself (Chris doesn't like cider unless it has booze in it).

This week a friend commented on Facebook that Barthel Fruit Farm was almost out of apples, so I headed there the next day to ensure that I got another batch this season (my previous trip was in September).

This time around I picked up a 1/4 peck of Golden Delicious and a peck of Honeycrisp.  The apples pictured on the left below are Cortlands that were lingering in my fridge, so that's what I added to my muffins.

Despite both apples and apple cider being added to the muffin batter, there's just a faint apple flavor.  In fact, next time I'd likely add more apples, and perhaps some walnuts too.

In general, I think is a great recipe, I just have a couple gripes.  First, I think the original recipe should make more than 12 muffins because my muffin pan was way too full.

While the tops were delicious, I thought the bottoms were overcooked, which is bound to happen when making such massive muffins.

My second gripe is that the apple cider glaze makes these muffins too sweet.  Unfortunately, I glazed half before taste testing, and found myself wishing I had stopped at one.  If you really love sweets, you'll probably like the glaze, but I highly recommend trying the muffins plain first.

Apple Cider Doughnut Muffins

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15-17 minutes

Ingredients (18 muffins)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 cup diced apples
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees. Line muffin tins with 18 paper muffins cups.
  • In a stand mixer bowl, cream together the butter, oil, and sugars until smooth. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating to combine.
  • In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt. In a glass measuring cup, combine the milk and apple cider.
  • Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the milk/cider, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined. Fold in diced apples.
  • Add batter to muffins cups, so they are approximately 2/3 full (I use a large Oxo scoop).
  • Bake muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove muffins from pan, and place on a cooling rack.
Recipe adapted from: My Baking Addiction
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