Tuesday, December 28, 2010

uff-da. holidays are fun, warm, & wonderful, but exhausting as well. i have just returned from a road trip to missouri, to visit my partner's family and friends. it was a great trip, and i found myself warmly welcomed by very dear people, superb food, and regional brews. there was missouri- made cranberry wine served with locally harvested venison tenderloin- that was delightfully wrapped in bacon and tenderly grilled. there were locally smoked hams, sausages made right in the neighborhood, home-made sweets, and apricot wine (that was unveiled from the back of a fridge)that was amazing! i will gladly endure the lull of the jet-lag, to have experienced the wonderful trip to the tucked- away towns of missouri and southern illinois.

celebrate the return of the sun and the new year. give more love. give more hugs. travel more. eat. write. live. this seems to be my list of accomplishments for 2011. i know that it will be a splendid year for myself, and my dears. happy new year, folks!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

cold. simply put, it's the way things roll around here during the winter months. i've been living in and around grand marais long enough to not be surprised by the brisk temps and blustery winds. that said, i am increasingly attracted to pictures of sunny beaches, and warm bodies of water. i'd like to think that the majority of folks who live in cold climates, routinely daydream of sunshine and warmth to get through the days. often with thoughts of beach towns near the equator, come thoughts of the foods and drinks that i would be consuming. seafood. fresh fruit. tamales?

i have a soft spot for tamales. not only are they delicious and good for you, but they come wrapped in corn husks and are great for transporting. throw a few in your brief case. tuck some into your pockets, and your children's pockets. heck, throw some in the glove box too, (the cold will preserve them for months!). finding a source for some great tamales is the tricky part. gone are the days of buying them out of a shopping cart from elderly, latino ladies down the block. no, i don't think that's gonna happen here. the only source i've found is the gunflint tavern. theirs are fantastic, and are complete with corn husk wrappers! if anyone has any other sources that they'd like to share, please don't hold out! give us the scoop!....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

spice is nice

pumpkins are the most wonderful vegetables this time of year. sweet sugar pumpkins roasted in the oven lends character to nearly everything. i was just swooning over a menu item from 'Heartland' restaurant. it was lasagna with pumpkin, kale, wild mushrooms, and mornay sauce. we've been sneaking pumpkins into soups and salads here at the coop, and at home there is a beautiful specimen garnishing our dinner table waiting to be pureed and folded into a pie....
pumpkin pie. this pastry is best eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert. after a few minutes of thinking about pumpkin pie, i had to immediately make one. i found an interesting recipe which has you making your own spice blend, and lightening up the filling with coconut milk instead of cream. paired with a ginger cookie crust, the end result was delicious!! here's the recipe:

ginger cookie crust: 2 cups well- crushed ginger snaps, 1/3 cup melted butter, and 2 tablespoons of honey. whirl all of the ingredients in a food processor, then press into the bottom of a spring form pan. (you could use a traditional pie crust, but i really dig ginger, and so i went with the ginger cookie crust)

2 cups pecans, toasted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tbl pumpkin pie spice blend*
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl arrowroot
1 1/2 cups roasted pumpkin puree*
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
1 cup coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Puree 1 1/2 cups of the pecans in the food processor until they turn into a pecan paste. crumble the pecan paste on top of the ginger cookie crust, creating a layer of toasted pecans that will sit between the dough and he filling.

To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the remaining ingredients, and pour on top of the pecan layer. Bake for about 45 minutes- the center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you move the pie- the edges should be set. allow pie to cool, which makes slicing mush easier (i chilled mine overnight in the cooler). serve it straight up, or with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkling of the remaining toasted pecans.

*the pumpkin spice blend- 1 tbl cinnamon, 3/4 tsp ground allspice, scant 1/2 tsp ground cloves, and 1 1 /2 tsp ground ginger.

* the roasted pumpkin puree- 1 3# sugar pumpkin
preheat oven to 4oo degrees. cut the pumpkin into 4 big wedges, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt, and then bake on a baking sheet until tender throughout- about an hour. scoop the flesh out of the skins and puree with a hand blender of mash well by hand.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

pot roast, you ask? well, well, well...that handsom chunk of beef transformed into a fork tender, flavorfull morsel of meat. i was giddy with the end results. i added roasted butternut squash, cannellini beans, onions, chilis, and tomatoes to the beef to create a hearty chili. garnished with ripe avocados and fresh cilantro, the dinner party was awesome! i will never doubt the powers of a crock pot again.

to completely change the story, i have to tell you about this great caesar salad i just ate. i have had caesar salad on my brain for a few days, and so i needed to make one. having no romaine on hand, i switched up the greens. i used spinach, thinly sliced kale, and a few torn leaves of red leaf lettuce all tossed with some croutons, grated parmesan, lemon juice, and caesar dressing. it was great. what have i been doing sauteing my kale? geez-o! give it a whirl with the last stands of greens you're harvesting from your gardens!

Friday, October 15, 2010

before the sunrise this beautiful morning, i was a surly bundle of energy. i was eagerly engaged in searing a chuck roast, dicing onions, toasting spices, and .....utilizing a crock- pot for the first time in my life. now growing up in the midwest, i am more than familiar with the crock- pot. i have eaten multiple calico bean hot dishes, bbq meatballs, and pot roast served out of the crock -pot. still, i have always been one to stick to the old school methods of doing things. when i make a pot roast, i like to go through all of the steps of braising the meat. i like dwadling next to the oven, adding herbs and wine to the pan as the meat slowly roasts and becomes amazingly tender. i'm a hands on kinda gal. i like to be involved with my food. i like to mettle with my food. so the idea of throwing a few ingredients in a crock -pot, turning it on low, and not thinking about them again until i return home from work just seems wrong. i feel like a negligent food parent. what will happen today as i'm at work? will the meat become succulent and wonderful, or will it be chewy, or dry, or will it jump out and run away? no one knows. it's a mystery. i am left to worry the day away, until the moment when i enter my home. i have high hopes. i have doubts. the ultimate outcome with be tender, tasty meat which will be the base of a large vat of roasted butternut squash and braised beef chili. i plan on making a great salad and homemade toasted corn soda bread, so if i'm let down by the crock- pot, i have back- ups. anyway, thanks to the readers for letting me use this blog today as an outlet for my worry. i will keep you up to date with the outcome....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

okay. some of you may be familiar with my obsession over bacon. i try not to let myself obsess over much, but i have given myself leeway with bacon. last night i made a wonderful version of ribolitta, an italian soup made of mostly black kale, white kidney beans, and is thickened with day old bread. i made a few adjustments to fit my mood and the end result was quickly devoured by my roomies...
here's a recipe. feel free to add more veggies & herbs from your garden!

1 lb bacon, sliced
brown the bacon, remove the bacon from the pan, and pour off half of the fat. use the remaining fat to saute the vegetables...

1 large onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
saute the veggies in the bacon fat until tender, then add:

1 can diced tomatoes/ or 2 large tomatoes, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 glass of red wine
1 container of chicken stock ( i used the pacific natural foods brand- 32 oz free range chicken

allow to simmer and meld together-about 20 minutes. then add:

1 lb of fresh kale or chard, sliced thin, almost chiffinade
4 cups cooked white kidney beans

bring back to a simmer, wilting the kale and warming the beans. when it is all warm and wonderful, give it a taste, and add salt and chili flakes to your desired taste. i served this soup over some chunks of old crusty bread with some shaved parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. it will warm your gullet! belly up!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

the golden hue of the leaves waving at me during my morning commute, seem to match the color of my 'check engine' light that gleams at me from my dashboard. in the distance of all this colorful fauna, lay various islands anchored in lake superior. a few weeks ago, i was on one such island- isle royale. it was a wonderful time spent hiking and lusting over our surroundings. i have been meaning to write about the trip, but have been dragging my feet...trying to connect food with thoughts...

there was one night on that island that was unforgettable. sharing a campfire with several fellow backpackers, we all watched as a boat docked, and we all shared thoughts about how exciting it would be if that boat were bringing us a warm cooked dinner and maybe a beer or two. minutes later a crew member of the boat came to shore and asked if they could share our fire. in return for the sharing of the fire, they would bring us some fish (they had caught more than they could eat), and some beers (they seemed to have packed too much). dumbfounded that our daydreams had transpired, we all quickly grew with excitement as smells of grilled fish wafted towards us.

the first side of fish that was brought to us was a freshly caught lake trout, which had been slathered with lemons and herbs , grilled, and was the size of a small child. next came sauted mushrooms, followed by venison steaks fried with bacon and onions. we all ate like hierarchy, with our fists full of wonderful eats, and our thirsts quenched by beers. the dessert was the other half of the previously mentioned lake trout, but this time it had been lightly dusted with mediterannian spices. hints of cinnamon and chili lingered in our mouths after eat bite. it was this dish that has stuck with me. what a great idea! it worked perfectly with the fresh fish. cinnamon, dried chilis, cumin, maybe some smoked paprika...these flavors of the spice trade are so remarkable, and so exciting to experiment with. familiarize your palette with these flavors. you'll find yourself slowly incorperating them into your cooking more and more.....

Monday, September 13, 2010

with the weather background fading into autumn, it is now safe to uproot those root vegetables and give 'em their fair turn in the kitchen. i could live off of roasted root vegetables! tossed with a little e.v.o.o. and a select few spices, they are a superb indulgence. some spice blends that i have been experimenting with would be versions of existing blends. i like the idea of chinese five spice or traditional pumpkin spice blends, so i turn to those often. i also really enjoy spanish influenced blends with dried chili powders, cumin, and smoked paprika. i don't have any recipes for you- i tend to wing these flavors together at the very last minute, but use your imagination to create your own blends....

i will admit that only one carrot has taken hold and flourished in my garden. that said, i can direct you towards the wonderful carrots available from wisconsin growers. they are sweet, crisp, thin skinned, and super tasty!! we also have a wide variety of locally and regionally produced potatoes. i feel that potatoes and carrots don't get enough appreciation. take the time to enjoy the autumn harvest!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I, like many others, have been feeling the effects of summer here in Grand Marais. The constant flow of tourists, whom we welcome with open arms as they support our economy. The constant need to receive as much sunshine as possible before the seasons make their change, and just the endless activities that seem to present themselves everyday! I have found myself bombarded with lists of things I have accomplished, and an even bigger list of things to do! I am feeling tired. Sluggish. Maybe even a bit lost at times. Clearly I am in need of a pick me up! Whenever I'm feeling a little low, I take a look at what I've been ingesting. Coffee, sugar, and bacon. It turns out one cannot survive on these staples alone. Thank goodness it is 'sushi Wednesday'! Paired with some of the new and wonderful produce Jeri has brought in, and a hearty dog-walk, I think I'll be back to my happy-go-lucky self in no time....

Friday, August 6, 2010

Whew! Grand Marais is humming along with activity this weekend. It is Fisherman's Picnic. The last hooray for the summer. Kids are enjoying the amusement rides, adults are enjoying the chainsaw demonstrations, and everyone is enjoying the wonderful weather and the food! The coop will be having a food booth outside tomorrow between 11:00am- 4:00pm. Bison burgers and veggie burgers with all the fixens'! Come join us for a delicious bite!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It is Sunday morning. Breakfast morning at my house. I will sheepishly admit that I am still comfortably sipping coffee in my sushi-printed flannel p.j.'s (thanks again Shelly), in the sun shinning through my window. I have however, started roasting some wonderful, locally grown potatoes-thanks to Adam and Taishaw and their fresh produce at the farmer's market yesterday!! I simply tossed them with a little olive oil, sea salt, and fresh rosemary from A & T's garden, and the smell that is wafting through the oven door is causing excess salivation! They'll be harmoniously joining a fresh picked chard and fontina frtittata in a few minutes.
The day's activities are providing ample opportunities to educate my daughter on the benefits of buying local. Not only can Addie now decifer the smells of fresh rosemary from that of fresh sage, but she is also learning about how wonderful the process of buying local is. She helped pick out the produce at the stand yesterday. She interacted with the growers. She helped me scrub those tators, and soon she'll be eating them too. She had bystanders at the market staring in awe as she eagerly consumed a fresh cucumber as though it was an apple. She is participating in the community of supporting local agriculture, and it feels so darn great! The day is off to a wonderful start.....

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cheese. Simply put, it is the epicenter of my world these days. I consume it quite regularly. In some form, it happens into most things that I cook up. Take for instance the garlic lover's pasta that I just whipped up for the deli case. Noodles noshing with parmesan cheese, regional cherry tomatoes, and an herby, creamy dressing. Yum. Or the Warm pasta salad I made for my dear Addie, with sauted spinach, a heavy dose of garlic, canneli beans, lemon, thyme, and a dollop of chevre. It was a victory dish ( a victory dish is one that will be consumed by a 2 year old)! I should mention that I'm currently snacking on a crisp, organic pink lady apple that I've slathered with Fromager d' Affinois double cream cheese. It is blowing my mind!

So it seems that as I'm growing with my culinary creations, I am always turning to my trusty cheese sidekick for a little reassurance. I think of cheese as a staple. Something to always have on hand. An ingredient to add another level to a dish, or one to feature.

If I was to close my eyes and think about the staple cheeses that I've currently on hand in my fridge at home.....Widmer's aged cheddar, Eichten's smoked string cheese, Montchevre fresh goat cheese, and a chunk of a run of the mill parmesan. Nothing too extravagant. A working class cheese collection. I think you can do a lot with these cheeses. Smoked string cheese and a two year old, well that's a no brainer. Two year olds are completely satisfied by the task of 'stringing' cheese. Try it sometime. Plus it travels very well, so no hike is complete without a couple of pieces tossed into the bottom of your backpack! The chevre is awesome smeared on everything. It has made an appearance on sliced fruit, graham crackers, pancakes, frittatas, bison burgers, and warm pasta recently. Widmer's cheddar. It is my go to cheese when I need a companion for my glass of wine. Throw in a bowl of popcorn and we are now talking about my favorite dinner. Not only can this cheese be the star of a cheese plate, but it also melts well, and I love the way it works with dried fruits and spiced nuts. The parmesan is more of a flavor layering compound. I really enjoyed the spark of flavor it added along with lemon, to the roasted cauliflower soup I made. Throw a bit in broths to pick up the flavors for soups. Shave some on a salad. Think cheese.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Warm sunshine. Cool lake breeze. Grand Marais feels wonderful today! I just returned from a little trip to southern Wisconsin. I can't tell you how many absurdly large 'cheese' signs that I had passed along the roadside, but I must admit there were plenty! Of coarse my curiousity combined with my need for caffeine had me pulling into one such cheese haus somewhere along the way. I was instantly reminded that Wisconsin holds its reputation for cheese production/ consumption. There were so many cheeses, plenty of locally grown produce, and of coarse local brews! A little slice of heaven that little cheese haus was! I knew this when I saw a t-shirt in the corner for sale, that simply read, "Eat Cheese or Die." I was satisfied when I left, and I was comforted knowing that most of the featured cheeses at this little cheese joint, were ones we have in our cheese cooler. And most were produced on a small scale by regional craftsmen. It seems I cannot let go of my Wisconsin heritage, and couldn't help but dream up some thoughts on how one could devour more cheese....here's one such thought.

It sounds a little weird, but grilling a wedge of Widmer's aged cheddar, along with some fresh outta the garden tomatoes would be super tasty! Serve it up with some grilled artisan bread, fresh herbs and greens, and a hefty drizzle of the ol' extra virgin, and I think it would be a great summer dinner. Of coarse add some bacon to this mix, and a fabulous B.L.T. would be in short order....

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ah, ha! Travel to 2010, and the Cook County Whole Foods Coop Deli now has a blog!!! We'll keep you posted on all the happenings, such as:

Remember that Wednesdays are 'sushi day'!! Our wonderful volunteer/ rockstar Joyce Yamamoto rocks out delicious nori rolls for everyone to indulge in!! Hurray for Joyce!

The summer is upon us, as is the beautiful weather. We've stock piled fresh and tasty bites in our grab and go deli cooler for easy picnics on the beach! Paired with fresh organic produce and a plethera of snacks through out the store, your picnics will be posh! Belly up!!