January 30, 2013

Chewy Sugar Cookies

I should really make America's Test Kitchen recipes more often because they always turn out perfectly.  When I saw the Sweet Endings episode in Season 11, I knew I had to make their chewy sugar cookies recipe, and today I finally did.

The ingredients in this recipe look pretty standard until you see cream cheese listed.  The recipe notes say "Cream cheese is an ingredient not often included in sugar cookies.  But we found it helps their one-note sweetness and round out flavors."

"Another secret weapon in these cookies is oil.  Swapping some of the butter for vegetable oil boosts chewiness considerably because "the two different types of fat create a sturdier structure that requires more force to bite through."

The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of dough to be rolled into a ball, suggesting a #40 portion scoop.  I've never heard of numbered scoops, so I checked my three Oxo scoops to see which would work best and decided on the medium scoop.
Large = 3 tablespoons = 3 1/2" cookie
Medium = 1 1/2 tablespoons = 2 3/4" cookie
Small = 2 teaspoons = 2" cookie

I made cookies earlier this week at a co-worker's house, and was reminded of how much longer it takes to portion out cookies without a handy little scoop.  I love my Oxo scoops and use them so frequently that I find myself surprised when I'm baking in a kitchen where they don't exist.

As expected these cookies are fantastic. I love soft, chewy cookies unlike my mom who prefers crisp cookies and complains that I don't cook mine long enough :) This recipe reminds me of my middle school days, hanging out at West Towne Mall in Madison eating butter cookies from The Original Cookie Company.

Chewy Sugar Cookies

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 24 minutes

Ingredients (24 cookies)
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1/3 cups sugar for rolling
  • 2 oz cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted and still warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, add 1 1/2 cups sugar and cream cheese. Place remaining 1/3 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.
  • Pour warm butter over the sugar and cream cheese, then whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain at this stage). Next whisk in oil until incorporated. Then add egg, milk and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth.
  • Add flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Roll dough into 24 balls, approximately 2 tablespoons of dough each. I use a medium Oxo scoop which holds 1 1/2 tablespoons and results in a little extra cookie dough to snack on :)
  • Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar to coat and evenly space on baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet.
  • Using the bottom of a glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops with a little extra sugar, then discard any remaining sugar.
  • Bake each tray for 12 minutes, or until the edges are set. Let cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.
Recipe Source: America's Test Kitchen - Season 11
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January 29, 2013

Bartolotta's Lake Park Bistro {MKEfoodies}

Tonight's MKEfoodies event was held at the gorgeous Lake Park Bistro, one of the many fine Bartolotta restaurants.  It was my first time visiting and I loved the venue. 

Joe Bartolotta mingled in the crowd and relayed the history of Lake Park Bistro which was quite interesting.  The restaurant opened in 1995 and was the second Bartolotta restaurant after Ristorante Bartolotta in Wauwatosa.

I'd love to visit Lake Park Bistro both in the summer and daylight to see what I've heard are amazing views of Lake Michigan.  Chris loved the food and would definitely like to return.  As is typical for French restaurants the food wasn't vegetarian-friendly but I did enjoy the wine and crème brûlée.

I highly recommend MKEfoodies events.  It's a great way to check out Milwaukee restaurants while supporting great causes.  Tonight's event raised $500 for Alice's Garden, which is an organization I first learned about on Wisconsin Foodie.

The next event is at Mason Street Grill on February 20th.  These events fill up fast, so if you're not already on the mailing list sign up at MKEfoodies.com.

January 27, 2013

Walnut Scones & Orange Curd

When I saw Abby's latest blog post, I knew I needed to make scones and citrus curd today to enjoy while watching Downton Abbey and drinking tea this evening.

I tried a scone recipe from King Arthur Flour, which is my new favorite.  It's a great basic vanilla scone recipe that seems like it would work well with a variety of add-ins.

It snowed all afternoon here, which is ideal baking weather.  I topped these scones with both butter and curd (separate, not combined) and loved them both ways.  The buttery version tasted like dessert, while the curd version tasted like a breakfast treat.

The scone dough comes together quickly, and I found it easy to work with.  Unlike other recipes I've tried which are too wet or too dry.

The scones are cut right on the baking sheet, just be sure to use a nylon knife if you're cutting on a Silpat.  I got mine from Pampered Chef, and it's great for cutting on non-sticks pans and pastry mats too.

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you already know that I got my first Silpat this weekend.  So far I've baked biscuits, croissants and scones on it, and I'm loving it as an alternative to parchment paper.
The recipe calls for an optional topping of milk and cinnamon sugar.  I added it to half not knowing which way I would prefer these scones.  As it turns out, I could barely detect the difference both in taste and appearance.

Orange curd is a tasty topping for these walnut scones and it's quite easy to make.  You start by zesting six oranges.  You'll likely end up with a little extra zest, which I used to make cranberry nut muffins.

After zesting, slice each orange in half and start juicing.  I really like my juicer from Pampered Chef, however it's the only one I've ever owned, so I don't know how it compares to other types. 

On Martha's PBS cooking show, she swears by using a citrus press, which I'm curious about.  It seems like her method is faster, then again she is Martha Stewart, so everything she does in the kitchen is faster :)

Orange curd is delicious on these walnut scones, but somehow I don't think I'll use all 2 cups of it on scones, so I went looking for other ideas and found some great ones at Good Life Eats.
  • Breakfast - on oatmeal, as a pancake/waffle topping, swirled into yogurt, spread on toast, inside donuts.
  • Dessert - drizzled on fruit with whipped cream, as macaron filling, between cake layers, inside crepes, in a tart shell, served with panna cotta, as a cupcake filling, with ice cream, marbled with cheesecake.

Walnut Scones

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (12 scones)
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup cold butter
  • 1 cup walnuts (1 to 2 cups chopped dried fruit, chocolate chips, nuts or a combination)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup milk or half & half
  • optional topping: milk and cinnamon sugar
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender. It's ok for some large chunks of butter to remain. Stir in walnuts (or fruit, chocolate chips and/or nuts).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla and milk (or half & half). In the summer add the lesser amount of milk, in the winter add the greater amount.
  • Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough holds together. Toward the end of this step, I used my hands to finish combining the ingredients.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or a Silpat). Sprinkle a bit of flour atop the parchment (not necessary with a Silpat).
  • Move dough to the floured parchment and divide it in half. Round each half into a 6-inch circle, about 3/4-inch thick. If desired, brush each circle with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  • Slice each circle into 6 wedges (I use a nylon knife with a Silpat). Then space each wedge apart about a 1/2-inch on the baking sheet.
  • Place the pan of scones in the freezer for 30 minutes, uncovered. While the scones are chilling, preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Bake the scones for 20 minutes, or until they're golden brown. Then cool briefly on the pan. Serve warm. When they're completely cool, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to several days.
  • Scones are best served warm. They're delicious as is, but also great with butter or jam. To reheat room-temperature scones, place on a baking sheet, tent lightly with foil and warm in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
Recipe Source: King Arthur Flour
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (2 cups)
  • 6 medium oranges (for 2 tablespoons zest and 1 1/4 cups juice)
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Zest and juice all of the oranges. You should end up with approximately 3 tablespoons of zest and 1 1/4 cups juice.
  • In a small saucepan, stir together 2 tablespoons zest, orange juice, sugar and salt. Over medium heat, stir until the sugar is dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the corn starch in water. Then add to the saucepan. Also add coconut milk, stirring well to combine. Cook for 8 minutes, stirring constantly (I use a heat proof spatula).
  • Add butter and continue stirring constantly for 3 more minutes. Transfer the mixture to a heat proof dish, cover the surface with plastic wrap and let cool completely before chilling.
  • Chill orange curd for 2 hours in the refrigerator before using. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for about a week.
Recipe Source: The Frosted Vegan
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January 23, 2013

Milwaukee Cooking Classes

I was excited when Braise (one of my favorite restaurants) launched their cooking school this past fall, and today I signed up for my first class.  I've attended a few cooking classes in Milwaukee, but there are so many more I'd like to try.

September 2012 - Braise Restaurant

There are 12 venues in the Milwaukee area that I'm familiar with, which are listed below or Google Docs, if you prefer.  Please leave a comment with any that I have missed!  I've attended several classes at the Milwaukee Public Market, and so far it's my favorite location.

I've also listed the price for each class, however the cost can be somewhat deceptive because a full meal is included with some classes and at Braise a cocktail and appetizer are included.

July 2012 - Milwaukee Public Market Demonstration Kitchen

The American Club in Kohler ($35), about an hour from Milwaukee, is another great option especially since classes are on Saturdays. I'm familiar with the venue from attending the America's Test Kitchen demonstration this past fall and I'll attend my first cooking class there this spring.

November 2012 - The American Club Demonstration Kitchen

I feel like I still have a lot to learn in the kitchen, and as much as I love PBS cooking shows such as Martha Stewart and America's Test Kitchen, I find that I learn best in-person.

For the most part, I prefer demonstration style classes but if you prefer hands-on, you're in luck because half of the venues I've listed above offer hands-on classes.

Have you attended a cooking class in the Milwaukee area?  If so, what's your favorite venue?

January 12, 2013

Saturday in Milwaukee: MAM, Swig, The Rep

We spent the afternoon in downtown Milwaukee today, catching the Rembrandt exhibit on its last weekend, eating a late lunch at Swig, and seeing Sense & Sensibility at The Rep.  It was a fun way to spend the day and easily doable as it was only 1.7 miles between all three places!

The Milwaukee Art Museum was crazy busy today!  This was the first time we weren't able to park on-site, so we ended up across the street at a parking garage connected by a bridge.  Due to high wind speeds, the Brise Soleil was unfortunately closed but even with it closed, the architecture of the museum is still impressive.

The Rembrandt exhibit was ok.  We've previously seen a lot of similar work in European museums, so I spent some time outside while Chris lingered in the exhibit.  The spring-like weather we're experiencing in Wisconsin right now is amazing.

From the museum we headed to the Third Ward to dine at Swig.  It was our first time and we loved it.  So much so that we're really looking forward to going there again!  I chose Swig because of its proximity to the MAM and The Rep, but also because it's one of the 2013 CityTin Milwaukee restaurants.

As promised my City Tin coupon was easy to redeem, and I can't wait to try more new restaurants.  People seem to have two mindsets when redeeming such coupons.  Either they try to order exactly the minimum amount ($25 in this case) or they view it as an opportunity to order something they typically wouldn't get.

I definitely fall into the latter category and ordered a peartini which equaled the value of my coupon :)  A mix of grey goose le poire, triple sec, sour and fresh lime juice, it's a drink I'd definitely recommend ordering.

Small plates (tapas style) is what Swig is known for, so Chris and I selected three small plates to share.  We ordered rustic flatbread (pesto, snap peas, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, mozzarella and parmesan), black bean cakes (with cilantro sour cream and salsa) and tempura snap peas (with tarragon sour cream).

The food was outstanding and almost the perfect amount for us.  We ended up taking just two small flatbreads home with us.  If I had to pick one item to definitely order when you visit Swig, I'd have to say the tempura snap peas.  Lightly breaded and delicious on their own, no sour cream needed.

We had a little time to kill before our show at The Rep, so we walked over to the Milwaukee Public Market after lunch.  I bought a cookie from C. Adams Bakery to enjoy during intermission, and we had hoped to check out the used books for sale on the second floor but the live band playing was blocking the carts of books :(
I really like seeing plays at The Rep because the venue is intimate.  Check out the view from our cheap seats in the balcony.  We had a great view of the stage for only $20, compared to $45 for the lower seats.

The performance of Sense and Sensibility was really good.  With each visit to The Rep, I'm amazed at the quality of actors they're able to get.  I guess I just assume that talented actors would be most attracted to the coasts and would not reside in a flyover state.

I'm thankful to live in a great city that offers so many things to do.  Thanks to our museum membership and CityTins, it was a pretty cheap day which made it even better!

January 11, 2013

British Dinner: Bangers & Mash with Shredded Brussels

Chris loves themed dinners, so much so that he'll eat things he doesn't like in order to keep with the theme.  For example, mister high protein/low carb is willing to eat potatoes.  Tonight the theme was British and yes, that's two weekends in a row :)

It all started when I told him I wanted to watch Sense & Sensibility because we're seeing the play tomorrow.  He told me he'd watch the movie with me, if we could have bangers & mash for dinner.  I love Elise's recipe for mashed potatoes, so that was an easy sell.

This is where a photo of our dinner should appear, however bangers & mash doesn't photograph well and sausages aren't exactly friendly on a vegetarian blog, so use your imagination :)  Instead I'll share a photo of happy hour at the Kuckleburg house on a Friday night before a British themed dinner.
While British cuisine doesn't rank at the top of my list of favorites, I really like Jamie Oliver's most recent cookbook called Jamie Oliver's Great Britain.

We lived in England for two years and reading through it brought back many fond memories.  I currently have a copy from the library and would like to buy it for my bookshelf.

We quickly decided on bangers & mash, but weren't sure what vegetable we should have with it.  I scanned the index of Jamie's book to see which vegetables are common in British recipes and here's what I found...

Asparagus, beetroots, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, carrots, celery root, cucumbers, fennel, parnsips, peas, potatoes (the largest number of recipes), rutabaga, sweet potatoes, turnips.

I didn't really notice while living there, but root vegetables are really popular.  Presumably because the climate makes it difficult to grow other types of vegetables.  After looking through the various options, I decided to make "Tasty Shredded Brussels."

My final result looks a little different than Jamie's because I omitted Cumberland sausage from the recipe and added dried cranberries, which is a Christmas variation that he suggests.

Chris and I both really like roasted brussels sprouts so I was leery of preparing them a new way, but we both loved Jamie's recipe and I would definitely make it again.
Tonight was also my first time using the slicing attachment for my food processor.  I was amazed at how quickly and easily I could slice both onions and brussels sprouts!  I was at little unclear as to why I wouldn't use the shredding attachment to make shredded brussels but I trust Jamie :)
In the tea swap this past weekend, Molly shared a tea that her parents brought all the way from England when they recently moved back to the States.

I really liked Twinings Royal Wedding blend which was the perfect end to our British dinner.  It's a white Earl Grey tea with a light rose flavor, and it's a shame that it's no longer available. 

Shredded Brussels
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients (6 servings)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (or a few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 pound of brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • In a food processor, slice peeled onion, using the thin slicing attachment. Then, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and thyme, cooking for 8 minutes and stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, run the brussels sprouts through the same slicing attachment in your food processor. Set aside.
  • Add honey and vinegar to the onions, cooking for 2 minutes. Next add sliced brussels sprouts, salt and pepper. Pour in 2/3 cup water, then cover with lid and simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Next add cranberries, stir together and cook an additional 5 minutes or "until the brussels are tender and a pleasure to eat" as Jamie Oliver says :)
Recipe adapted from: Jamie Oliver's Great Britain
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January 03, 2013

Lentil Burgers & Sweet Potatoes Fries

A new year means a renewed interest in eating healthy and menu planning, right? :)  First up on my menu plan this week was Jamaican jerk lentil burgers, which are the ones I concocted in an attempt to replicate my favorite dish at Cafe Manna.

At Cafe Manna, the lentil burger is served with vegetables.  I should have done the same if I were serious about new year's resolutions and all that jazz.  Instead, we tried out the sweet potato fries we bought at Trader Joe's recently. 

Previously we always purchased Alexia's sweet potato waffles fries, but we both preferred Trader Joe's sweet potato frites.  In fact, as we were checking out even the cashier raved about how good they are.

It took me exactly an hour from start to finish to make dinner, which is longer than I'd like for a weeknight meal, especially after my first day of work after a long holiday break. I was wishing I had enough ingredients to double the recipe because I'm guessing these would freeze very well, just like black bean burgers do.

Don't get me wrong, these are well worth the effort.  However, it sure would be nice to have some in the freezer for a quick weeknight dinner...although I think it could be dangerous to have Trader Joe's fries stocked in my freezer :)

Jamaican Jerk Lentil Burger

Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients (4 burgers)
    Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon onion powder
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
    • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2/3 cup lentils
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 cup quick brown rice
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 large shallot, minced
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk seasoning
    • 1/4 cup carrot, shredded (1 large carrot)
    • 1/2 cup panko
    • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
    • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
    Spicy Aioli
    • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
    • remaining Jamaican Jerk seasoning (about 1 tablespoon)
    • 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
    • 4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted
    • In a small bowl, combine spices to make Jamaican Jerk seasoning. Set aside.
    • In a large saucepan bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Meanwhile, spread lentils out on a light colored plate to check for, and remove, small stones or debris. Then place lentils in a strainer, and rinse thoroughly under cool running water.
    • After the water comes to a boil, add the rinsed lentils. When water returns to a boil, cover with the lid tilted, and turn down the heat to gently simmer. Green lentils usually take about 25 minutes, while red ones require 15 minutes. When the lentils become slightly mushy, remove from heat, drain any excess water and set aside.
    • When the lentils have approximately 15 minutes cook time remaining, place rice and 1 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover, and cook for 7 minutes on high. Let stand 5 minutes. Set aside.
    • In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add shallot, ginger, and garlic, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Mix in 1 tablespoon Jamaican Jerk seasoning salt and continue cooking for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the cooked rice and cooked lentils.
    • Pour mixture into a large bowl and add carrot, panko, parsley, and lime juice. Then mash together with a potato masher until mixture can be shaped into patties. This recipe makes four to six burgers, depending on the size of the patties.
    • Heat a large skillet (same one as before) coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Saute patties for 3-4 minutes on each side. While patties are cooking, make the spicy aioli by adding the the mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce to the small bowl with the remaining Jamaican Jerk seasoning. Mix well.
    • Spread the spicy aioli on the top and bottom of each toasted bun, then add a burger, and lettuce, onion and tomato, if desired.
    Recipes adapted from: Spark People -Jamaican Lentil Burger, All Recipes - Jerk Seasoning, Food Network - Spicy Aioli
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    January 01, 2013

    Rose Bowl Food

    Although neither Chris nor I watch football, we both like an excuse to eat game day snacks :)  So with the UW Badgers playing in the Rose Bowl today, we filled the coffee table with our favorites.

    We had a very quiet New Year's celebration last night, so we were awake in plenty of time to watch the Rose Parade, which is my favorite part.

    As we were driving home from the Twin Cities yesterday (my brother's wedding was a lot of fun!), Chris said to me "I'd like to buy a mortar and pestle."  This coming from the guy who complains that I buy too many kitchen gadgets. 

    He had guacamole on the brain and picked up the necessary ingredients during a Trader Joe's stop on our way home.  It was so cute earlier today when he asked me if I wanted to photograph the ingredients before he made it.

    While shopping at Trader Joe's I picked up English Coastal Cheddar and a Spanish cheese tapas sampler.  The English cheddar is one my new favorites.  They were sampling it a few weeks ago and I've purchased it three times since.

    In fact, I just bought it this past weekend because I was in charge of snacks for the girls' room during the wedding prep time and every bridesmaid and both flower girls loved the cheese.

    Yesterday was the first time I noticed the tapas sampler cheese pack at Trader Joe's.  We fell in love with Manchego during a visit to Madrid in 2007, so I was fairly certain we would like the Iberico and Cabra al Vino cheeses also in the pack.  It turns out that all three are delicious!

    Wisconsin is known for excellent cheese, so I couldn't have a "Wisconsin Cheese" cheese board with only English and Spanish cheeses.  Therefore, I included two La Clare Farms varieties that were delivered with my last CSA box.

    Hummus is one of the few items I've found that is better store-bought, especially Trader Joe's edamame hummus (I also like Sabra hummus).  It's good with carrots and Kashi pita chips, but my particular favorite is pretzels.

    While shopping at TJ's last night, they were sampling Parmesan Pastry Pups.  As you know, I dislike the taste of most meat, but both Chris and I both loved them so we bought a box.  Frozen snacks like this are ideal for football parties because you can cook a few at a time throughout the game.

    Despite our lack of interest in football we cheer for the Badgers because we both graduated from the University of Wisconsin.  Me in 2001 with an undergraduate degree in Consumer Science and Chris in 2006 with a PhD in in Comparative Biomedical Sciences.

    Bucky needed to come out of winter storage for the game today.  I bought a hand-painted Bucky lawn ornament at the Menomonee Falls farmers' market a couple years ago from Joyce Gollakner, who can be reached at 414-321-2682 if you're interested in getting your own Bucky :)