Monday, December 26, 2011

grapefruit curd

my grandparents have been migrating to texas every winter since i can remember. upon her return, my grandmother always talked about how much she disliked texas. there was the sweltering heat. the dry, nutrient deficient soil which grew none of the plants she was accostomed to growing back in wisconsin. there was also the distance from her beloved family. there were only a few things that called my grandmother back to texas each year. one was my grandfather. the other was her citrus trees. varieties of oranges and grapefruits that surely could not grow in her wisconsin garden. every spring my grandmother returned to her northern homestead giving gifts of her citrus crop. i was always handed a reused grocery bag full of citrus. each fruit a token of my grandmothers nurturing hands.

my grams has since passed, but the citrus fruit remains, traveling along side my grandpa and his little dog on his long journeys back to wisconsin each spring. maybe it's the spring like weather that sparked my grapefruit memories. maybe it was the fruit box we recieved over the holidays, brimming with varieties of oranges and grapefruits. none the less, i felt inclined to utilize those grapefruits in a simple but fantastic grapefruit curd. grapefruit curd is a multi-purpose refridgerator staple. it can be used to fill tart shells, smeared between cake layers, or slathered on scones. it's great on a toasted english muffin and for flavoring yogurt. whatever purpose this grapefruit curd serves for you, i hope you enjoy the simplicity and refreshing flavors!

Grapefruit Curd

8 large egg yolks
the zest of one large grapefruit
1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
1/2 cup freshly sqeezed lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

combine the yolks, zest, grapefruit and lemon juices, and sugar in a saucepan. whisk to combine. cook over medium-high heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, about 8-10 minutes.

remove saucepan from heat and add the salt and butter- one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly into the surface of the curd. refridgerate until chilled and set.

belly up!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

northern minnesota flavors

we had the opportunity to have a few out of town dinner guests last saturday. two of our guests had just recently moved to minnesota from france. i was overly excited to talk about food with them! we laughed the night away talking about their terrible food mishaps here in the states. it turns out that sometimes things can get lost in translation and the next thing you know, you're opening a can of creamed corn, in udder disgust, hoping it was maybe corn or soup or anything but creamed corn!

we talked about fromage as one of our guests was a cheese buyer in france, for the last six years. when we finally sorted out this conversation, and i found out that there was a cheese monger from france sitting around my kitchen table, i immediately started interigating. we started with brie. they had found a french brie which had the tell tale signs of a good french brie- it has spring in the center. this means that when you gently press down on the middle of the wheel of brie, it should gently spring back. this helps in identifying freshness and the age of your brie. they pointed out that our brie offered at the co-op was a very nice brie! they also referred to brie as a sweet cheese, one to be eaten after dinner, or with sweets.

we talked about life, arcitechture, and even about the bodies of water around france and minnesota. lake superior was really having an impact on our foreign guests, and they were just amazed at it's enormousy. the sound of the waves on the beach. the full moon's reflection in the water. it was providing a very memorable experience for them. i wanted or guests to embrace northern minnesota as much as i wanted to embrace france. so we did what all good minnesotans would do; we bought beer, smoked fish, and made wild rice soup. it was a hit. we noshed on the smoked fish and various cheeses, paired with regional brews, while we finished making the soup. the soup- a creamy rendition of wild rice soup with locally made turkey wild rice sausage, was quickly devoured with warm crusty bread. dessert was an assortment of christmas cookies purchased that morning at a local craft and bake sale. i worried that our offerings would be sub-par, these guests were from france after all. but all was splendid, and their northern minnesota experience was a success!

i wanted to include a few ideas for your nosh plates over the holiday season. i love to graze. it seems that most of my guests do too. i try to provide little bites and bits, such as smoked fish and a variety of cheeses. it's a great way to introduce out of towners to our local fish house, and their smoked fish which is darn tasty! i also like pairing cheeses with fresh fruits, dried fruits, and toasted nuts. there are an amazing variety of crackers and flatbread out there too. a few of my favorites are; mary's gone crackers, any variety of sesame rice cracers, and let's not forget the akmak crackers!

belly up!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

root vegetable and turkey stew

i, along with thousands of other folks, have an abundence of leftovers in my fridge. i love the thanksgiving holiday, leftovers, and all of the wonderful memories that come with both. here's a rundown on what we made for thanksgiving- it will help you envision our leftovers. for the turkey i made a paste with fresh herbs, chilis, lemon zest, and olive oil and slathered it, ever so carefully, between the skin and the meat of the turkey. as the bird roasts, the flavors meld into the flesh, and make for one fantastic bird. i made stuffing, or what i think of as more of a savory bread pudding. it was laced with pork belly and kale. jeremy made his favorite and fantastic green bean casserole (from scratch), and addie and i made an apple pie with honeycrisp apples from bayfield wisconsin. it was the best darn apple pie addie and i have made! it was topped with a cinnamon and sugar dusted pie dough cut out of a bison. bison are her new favorite wild beasts. otherwise there is no association, as far as i know, between apple pie and bison.

so imagine the possibilities, armed with all of those leftovers, as to what transpired in my kitchen. the pork belly and kale bread pudding ended up in scrambled eggs for an amazing breakfast. i made a quick turkey salad with some of the leftover turkey- tossed with toasted walnuts, diced apples, blue cheese, and a bit of buttermilk and mayo just to hold it together, it was great on grilled bread with greens. then there was this root vegetable and turkey stew. sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, baby potatoes, brussel sprouts, turkey, and a smokey-herby broth. this dish was the showstopper of all the dishes created with leftovers. here's how it went down....

1 mediium sweet potato, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 large-ish parsnip, peeled and diced
12 tiny fingerling potatoes, halved
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
a handful of brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
3 cupped of leftover turkey, diced
1 sprig of rosemary, de-stemmed and minced
1 Tbl dried sweet basil
1 tsp dried tyme
1 tsp dried sage
turkey or chicken stock
smoked sea salt, to taste
cracked black pepper, to taste

in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot saute the onion and celery in olive oil, butter, or a dollop of bacon fat which is what went into our stew. add the garlic, the root vegetables, brussel sprouts, and herbs and sute a few minutes more. add the turkey and the stock. season to taste with smoked sea salt and cracked pepper. reduce the heat to a low simmer.

in a seperate pan, make a roux. i used about 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tabelspoons of all- purpose flour. melt the butter in the pan, stir in the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is golden in color. add this as a thickener to the stew. i added it gradually by the tablespoon full, until it was all nicely distributed throughout the stew.

allow the stew to simmer on low until the root vegetables are tender. serve with freshly baked buttermilk biscuits!! belly- up!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

pumpkin pie

there are the most peculiar looking birds gathering in large numbers outside of the house today. they have sort of a parakeet looking head, and the body of a dove. they are a greyish- brown color, and i think i spied some hints of red on the tops of some of their heads. anyway, these birds seem to be pilaging. scouting the terain for nibbles of sustanance to get them through their migration. these birds are reminders of the season at hand, and although i've seen snow accumulation on more than one occasion this week, it is autumn. i have an autumn bounty of pumpkins and squash, so it only seems fitting to include them into my cooking this week, and i've had pumpkin pie on the brain for quite some time. i want to share my favorite pumpkin pie recipe, so here's how it goes.

the recipe i use is from the pie and pastry bible, by rose levy beranbaum. i was introduced to this book about a decade ago, and still use it religiously to this day. it is a great reference book, and if you have trouble with pastry dough, this book will help you out! you can use any pie dough recipe you want. i used a basic pie dough recipe, substituting cornmeal for a portion of the flour. i started by roasting a small pumpkin and a small buttercup squash. you'll need 2 cups of pumpkin pulp for the pie, and this was just the right amount, with a few bites of roasted goodness to spare. roasting your own pumpkins or squash just makes your pie that much greater. obviously canned pumpkin puree is the fall back, and makes a fine substitue. the spices are simple- just ginger and cinnamon. i used a half of a vanilla bean for the vanilla extract, with great results.

the filling:
1 3/4 cups unsweetened pumpkin puree
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup whole milk
2/3 cup cream
OR substitute 1 1/3 cups half and half for the milk and the cream
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract, or half of a vanilla bean

in a small heavy saucepan, stir together the pumpkin, brown sugar, spices, and salt. over medium heat, bring the mixture to a sputtering simmer, stirring constantly. reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes, or until thick and shiny.
scrape the mixture into a food processor and process for 1 minute. with the motor on, add the milk and cream, processing until incorporated. scrape the sides of the work bowl. add the eggs, one at a time, processing just to incorporate, about 5 seconds after each addition; add the vanilla along with the last egg.
pour the mixture into the pie shell and bake the pie for about 45-60 minutes or just until a knife inserted between the sides and the center comes out almost clean. the filling will have puffed and the surface dulled, except for the center. if the crust seems to be darkening too much, protect the edges with foil.
place the baked pie on a rack to cool.

we enjoyed our pie while still warm, with a dollop of honey greek yogurt on top! belly up!

Monday, October 31, 2011

moose t-bone au poivre

while reading a book called 'cleaving', my interest in butchering has increased. i was wondering just the other day about how difficult it would be to break down a carcass into quarters, and then break it down from there. i've done basic butchering in culinary school and in restaurants, but i want to experience the whole deal from start to finish, which i'm sure i'll have the opportunity to partake in during the future hunting of deer season.

on a smaller scale, i had a fantastic moose t-bone steak last night. the t-bone and porterhouse are steaks of beef (or moose in my case), cut from the short loin and including a t-shaped bone with meat on each side; the larger is a strip steak and the smaller a tenderloin steak. porterhouse steaks are cut from the rear end of the short loin and include more tenderloin, while t-bone steaks are cut from farther forward and contain less. if you think about it on the human body, which may sound grim, but let's face it- a carcass is a carcass right?..anyway, it would be the lower back area surrounding the vertebrae. obviously it's a bit different on a large beast, but just to give you an, this was one great steak! it was almost fork tender and the flavors were more like an 'earthy'- meaty flavor rather than a 'gamey' flavor associated with game meat. i was immediately thankful, for these steaks were a gift, and a gift of meat is just really fun!

my only task in the preparation of these steaks was to make an accommodating sauce or compound butter. we decided that mushrooms should play a role too, so i made a twist on a traditional french preparation called steak au poivre. traditionally this preparation would have you loosely coating your steak with cracked peppercorns, and searing it in a hot pan at a high temperature to create a sort of peppercorn crust. a pan sauce made with cognac, heavy cream, and pan-scrapings would be served with the steak. dijon mustard and butter are common ingredients in the sauce as well. here's how my version went down. since we were grilling the steaks, i'd have no pan-scrapings to help flavor the sauce, so i used the mushrooms. i halved the mushrooms, left them whole if they were on the small side, so they'd be substantial. i gave them a saute in a little butter and olive oil. i then added a few glugs of brandy, 1 hefty tablespoon of stone ground mustard and allowed the brandy and mushroom liquids to cook down and to also burn off the alcohol. i then added a few dollops of butter and several grinds of cracked pepper, and allowed it to melt and meld with the pan reduction. what i was left with was a tangy, earthy, creamy sauce which pooled around the mushrooms and was heavenly with the grilled steaks!

happy hunting and a toast to the animals in which we eat! belly up!

Monday, October 17, 2011

montana & coffee

vacation. oh how they do such wonders! our exotic destination for this trip was montana. and oh how montana delivers! most of our time was spent in and around yellowstone national park. as our nations first national park, there is a lot of history embedded in the culture and landscape. there were geysers, snow- capped mountains, frosty rivers, and herds of bison meandering throughout everyday. i spent a lot of time just staring out across the vast and diverse landscape. golden wheat fields expanding to the horizon where they were met by magnificent mountains. trout fishermen casting their flys in those ripples that lay near the overhanging marsh grasses. purple asters peeking through inches of snow. roaming steers lazily grazing. bull elks standing firm around their herds. prairie dogs foolishly parading the prairie.

it has been almost a decade since i last ventured around montana. it seemed very peaceful this time of year, as though local residents were preparing to settle in for the long and unforgiving winter that is soon to follow this prolonged fall, much like us here in grand marais. i really like traveling during the off-seasons, or when peak tourist season is coming to a close. shop keepers tend to be a bit more relaxed, and don't mind telling you where the trout are biting, or their funniest stories. i shared micro-brews, laughs, and of oddly enough, my favorite culinary memory has to do with the morning mocha that was brought to us by mike freed. mike is 70, and has been backpacking across the nation for about 15 years. he stops then and again to catch up with his family and friends at his home in hawaii, hastings, or hovland, and to to do a little fishing here and there. these morning mocha's were such a treat. such a warm, welcoming way to start the day. mike also likes maps, and so as we sipped our mocha's we were usually swooning over maps, deciphering which mountain passes were passable and which were not due to snow and road closings. we planned relentlessly, going over trails, trying to locate desolate logging roads and sections of the continental divide trail. my focus was typically diverted by chocolate laced espresso.

it's not an exaggeration to say that our trip was fueled by coffee. there was a lot of traveling and adventuring happening in a weeks worth of time, so it's only natural that coffee would come into play. coffee is my one addiction. i drink it everyday, throughout the day. i'm okay with that. i'm usually just a coffee with cream kind of gal. enough cream so as the color of my coffee resembles the color of a jersey cow. to feed my increasing coffee addiction, i found myself huddled over an msr pocket rocket, eagerly watching water come to a boil. i then had my one cup reusable coffee filter full of fragrant, ground coffee. i did this through wind, snow, and sunshine. the little camp stove proved itself again and again. we also visited a serious number of espresso joints. mike has a way with finding these great quaint coffee shops and eateries. he would wake just before dawn and wander off to the nearest source of coffee, long before anyone else awoke. he always returned bearing gifts of mocha and lattes.

i seek out co-ops when i'm traveling. i spent some time in billings montana, where they have a great co-op with a great coffee selection. comparative to other co-ops, our very own co-op pulls it's weight with it's coffee selection. what i am looking for in a coffee selection is variations of roasts and if there is regional coffee offered. cook county whole foods co-op offers both. our regional coffee offerings are supplied by peace coffee which is roasted in minneapolis. peace coffee does a great job with their roasting, and their mission statement is heartwarming. you can check out their website, and get all of the details. here's a favorites list of coffee beans from the co-op:

dark roasts: Peace Coffee- Guatemalan Dark.
this is a dark roast coffee with low acidity. some flavor notes; dark chocolate, caramelized cherry, anise, smoke, bittersweet chocolate

Equal Exchange- Love Buzz.
this is a french and full city roast coffee. some flavor notes; sweet velvety layers of chocolate brownie, caramel corn, malt, and toffee

medium roasts: Peace coffee- Sumatran.
this is a darker roast coffee with low acidity. some flavor notes; tobacco, dark chocolate, black pepper, fresh figs

Equal Exchange- Mind, Body, and Soul
this is a medium and Vienna roast coffee. some flavor notes include; smooth, and creamy balanced blend that has hints of almond, malt, and dark chocolate

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Apple-Plum Butter

i am scurrying around a bit now as i plan for a trip to Montana. am overnight travel on a train will be our means of transportation. i've never traveled that distance on a train before so i'm very excited. a friend is currently traveling by train now to meet us in Minneapolis, to travel with us on our journey. he attended a wine and cheese tasting last night on the train! my daughter has already decided to name the train 'Thomas', and is sure that our final destination is strawberry shortcake's house, with a dinosaur museum or two thrown in for fun. so it's pack, re-pack, shuffle things, and then pack again. amidst the chaos of our household, i've also been planning for a class i'll be teaching on thursday. the class is 'canning up the fall harvest'. after several conversations with folks in and out of the co-op, i've learned that not everyone knows what to do with their garden bounties. this class will offer up ideas and we'll go through the process of canning. unfortunately, the class is full, so maybe we'll offer this class again in november. i'm posting a simple recipe for apple-plum butter from the preserving the harvest cookbook that we have here at the co-op. it seems that both apples and plums are plentiful now, and their flavors pair nicely together. belly up!!

Apple-Plum Butter

2 1/2 pounds (about 15 medium) plums, washed and pitted
1 cup water
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
5 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt

1. in a covered 3- quart saucepan, combine the plums, 1/2 cup of the water, and 1/4 cup of the lemon juice. cook over medium-high heat until the plums are soft, about 20 minutes.

2. meanwhile, in another 3- quart saucepan, combine the apples, the remaining water, and the remaining lemon juice. cook over medium- high heat until the apples are soft, about 10 minutes.

3. let both mixtures cool slightly; combine in a blender of food processor and puree.

4. pour mixture into a heavy 8-quart flameproof roasting pan along with the sugar, spices, and salt.

5. preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

6. cook on top of the stove over medium heat until all of the sugar dissolves.

7. transfer the roasting pan to the oven.

8. bake uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens. this will take 1-3 hours.

9. test for doneness by spooning some onto a plate. if no liquid appears on the edges, it is ready.

10. ladle into sterile jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. cap and seal.

11. process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Monday, September 26, 2011

perfect roasted chicken

as i took my dog for a meander in the blue light that is dusk taking over the afternoon sun, the aromas that lingered in the air around our house were intoxicating. all of the scents associated with the chicken that i had previously roasted were recognizable and blended ever so gently with the smells of decaying foliage and lake superior. the rosemary that was stuffed in the carcass, the smoked sea salt that flecked the skin, and the root vegetables that roasted in the rendered chicken fat were all so alive in the air. i couldn't wander past the smells, and eventually i just became lazy and went back inside to be hugged by the memories of my roasted chicken.

my daughter and i sat side by side at the dinner table. we lit a candle for ambiance. she had a princess glass with a silly straw. i had wine. it was beautiful. we savored the crispy skin, the buttery-tender flesh, and homemade biscuits dripping with butter and homemade jam. i didn't want the moment to end. eventually it came to a close. three year olds aren't as into reflecting on vivid moments as their parents, and so stuffed tigers and baby dolls had a tea party, and i embarked in clean up.

this picturesque roast chicken is very easy. it's really an equation of love and neglect. i put some effort into flavoring the chicken in the beginning. i rubbed smoked sea salt and cracked pepper into the skin and shoved a few sprigs of rosemary into the chicken, gave it a couple of love pats, and sent it into a 425 degree oven. you could elaborate more with herbs and spices, but i was a simpleton, and needed to balance the love with the neglect, and so i kept it stream-lined. the most important little maneuver that helps with ever-so-tender flesh is roasting the chicken up-side down for half of the duration of the baking time. i start the bird out upside down in the roasting pan. the white meat of the breasts cooks in all of the juices and fat that pools at the bottom of the pan. then i neglect the chicken for a little while. i usually give my daughter a rock skipping lesson, we explore the back woods a bit, and then return inside and flip the bird over. i also turn the oven down to 375 degrees, and add a mix of root vegetables to roast alongside the chicken. as the chicken finishes roasting, the skin surrounding the breast meat crisps up, and the root veggies get tender and slightly crispy as they catch the chicken fat rendering off of the bird as it roasts. another round of rock-skipping and an episode of dora, and the chicken was done! i whipped up a batch of whole wheat buttermilk biscuits and baked them while the chicken rested.

we not only savored the aromas and flavors of the roast chicken once, but twice as i made a roasted chicken stock. as the evening came to a close, i added the remainder of the bones and carcass of the chicken into a stock pot. i threw in generous amounts of herbs and garlic and covered the lot with plenty of water. i allowed the stock to simmer over-night, and strained the stock this morning before breakfast. we awoke to our noses full of humid air smelling of roast chicken and herbs, prolonging the memories of our roasted chicken. i'll use the stock later in the week, or freeze it for future soup. belly up!!

Friday, September 23, 2011

tomato, tomato, tomato

thanks everyone! the tomato class was awesome! we cooked some really good food and had a blast! i was able to try out this crazy recipe idea that i've been swooning over for a bit. caramelized heirloom tomatoes and plums. both fruits come into season together, and the rule seems to be what grows together goes together, so we gave it a whirl. i'm glad we did! yum!! we are always open to ideas and suggestions for class ideas. what do you guys want to learn about today? let us know! here's a quick and simple recipe we did that won the popularity contest hands down! cherry tomato confit. a great way to use up the handfuls of cherry tomatoes from your garden. belly up!!

cherry tomato confit

2 pints cherry tomatoes (any variety will do)
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 hearty sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and stem discarded
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
sea salt and ground black pepper

preheat oven to 325 degrees. spread tomatoes and garlic out on a baking sheet. drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with rosemary, crushed red pepper, a large pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper. nake until tomatoes are wrinkled and fragrant, about 45 minutes, shaking pan once or twice. transfer tomato pan to a rack to cool. discrad garlic. use confit in salads, or serve over dishes like pasta, fresh goat cheese or polenta, or on grilled meats, fish, or fowl.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

soup's on

i have to admit that i have been in a bit of a blogging rut. i cook during the day for my wages, i cook at home, i teach cooking classes, i blog about food, and then i involve my recreational time towards reading about, exploring and cooking food. this food engulfed practice has left me a bit burnt out, or frazzled- i'm not sure which. i love food. i love being completely absorbed in the culinary world in some form, all of the time. this said, i've been thinking a lot about balance. the fragile balance of life. life seems to be one big juggling act, and keeping everything tilting, and hurling through thte air, and spinning in harmony is really my everyday challenge. metaphorically, i have of coarse, compared this circus performance to a pot of soup. throw all of life's factors into a pot, a few dashes of this, more salt, and hugs and bang- soup's on. yeah, i like thinking about life as soup. it seems fitting, especially since it seems as though the clouds could release some rain or snow anytime now. perfect soup weather. so let's talk soup.

today i morphed out of my slump. and when i morph, i morph. i made two soups today, trying to please the array of soup eaters here in cook county. a creamy, herby roasted local tomato soup was first. then, inspired by a case of wisconsin grown, white sweet potatoes i started combining flavors. poblano peppers, roasted sweet corn, fresh sage, cumin, and black beans made for the second hearty soup. there is something energizing about excitedly cooking soup, or excitedly cooking anything for that matter. you get a bit of pep in your step- like you've just downed a whole lot of coffee, but without the caffine crash. i was rejuvinated as i perfected my dicing skills, toasted spices, and ultimately got lost in the making of soup. maybe it was the mini vacation i've been waiting for! anyway, in lue of "the art of tomato cookery" class i'll be teaching later tonight at the co-op, i'll share the roasted local tomato soup recipe. play around with the varieties of tomatoes, the fresh herbs you can get your hands on, and focus on balance. the acidity of the tomatoes go great with say- creamy, salty, and tangy- blue cheese or chevre would be a great finish for the soup. you don't have to make this a creamy soup either. the condensed flavors of the roasted tomatoes stand on their own. a garnish of fresh herbs would do the trick too!

Roasted Tomato Soup:

2 large onions, julienned
5 # tomatoes (any variety), roughly halved and chopped
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 pint of heavy cream
2 cups half and half
1/4 cup sherry
sea salt and black pepper to taste

combine the onions in a large bowl with 1/4 cup olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper. spread the onions on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 degree oven until browned and toasty-roasty.

combine the tomatoes in a large bowl with 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup roughly chopped garlic, a sprinkling of sea salt and pepper, and fresh chopped thyme and rosemary. spread the tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast in a 425 degree oven until browned and the juices start to condense.

remove the onions and the tomatoes form the oven and combine in a stock pot. pour in the stock and bring the mix to a simmer, and simmer until the onions and tomatoes are happy together- about 15 minutes. add the sherry and another sprinkling of fresh herbs. allow to simmer a few more minutes.

turn down the heat, and add the cream and half and half. with a hand held blender, puree the soup as little or as much as you'd like. taste, and add more salt and pepper if needed. ladel into bowls and garnish as desired. belly up!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


someone once told me that the weather in northern minnesota will always be an interesting topic for conversation, and will always have people guessing. that statement is completely true. yesterday addie and i spent the afternoon on the beach, soaking up the sun and skipping rocks. we watched as the storm clouds rolled in, but not before we had a couple of hours to lounge around the sand and the pebbles. the rain storm that followed was a mix of storm and wildfire smoke, and the sight was unruly and perplexing. this morning there was a cool fall breeze sneaking in our windows bringing in the smells of wildfires and changing seasons, reminding me that we are always guessing.

we had fantastic weather this weekend- very sunny and warm, perfect for the co-op's food booth at the radio waves music festival here in grand marais. grill'n up bison burgers and dancing to live local music is a great way to spend a weekend, and all of the profits are going to the local food shelf! thanks to all of the volunteers and families that helped out! it wouldn't happen without you!

with the seasons changing comes a change in produce. the peaches and nectarines are wrapping up their season, and pluots, tomatoes, and figs are moving in. i love this time of year. i start unpacking the sweaters, and start relying on figs. they are one of my favorites. their appearance alone makes people curious. cut one in half and examine the insides, and you'll be even more baffled. there is this juicy, seedy, weird interior that i love! they have this sort of sweet nectar that oozes a bit out of the wonderfully ripe ones. they are sort of earthy. sort of fruity. the interior sometimes reminds me of the consistency of jam. figs are suttle. they pair really well with things like balsamic vinegar, blue cheese, bitter greens, and salty components like bacon or prosciutto. i've included an ingredient list for an appetizer i made here at the co-op for a fun little staff snack. figs are versatile and fun, so play around with them. they pair so well with so many flavors, so don't limit yourself! get down with your figs!

figs with bacon and blue cheese:

bacon, chopped
figs, halved
blue cheese crumbles

crisp the bacon in a saute pan. remove the bacon form the pan, and add the figs, cut side down. the idea is to sear the figs, and caramelize the sweet interior a bit. once that has occurred, remove them from the pan, and place them on a paper towel to remove the excess grease. on a platter place the figs, browned side up. sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles and the crisped bacon. you could stop here and serve as an appetizer with some bubbly wine. you could also place the figs on a bed of bitter greens like radicchio or arugula, drizzle on a little balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, sprinkle on some fresh herbs and have a really nice salad. just a few options! belly up!!

Monday, September 5, 2011


it always seems that this time of year folks are over-zealous to pawn off a few zucchini. they are perhaps, the most abundant producing vegetable in the garden. this phenomenon seems to be common with all summer squash and zucchini varieties. one hill of three plants can supply at least three dozen fruits in a season under the right circumstances. the more frequently you pick, the more you are encouraging production and extending the season. unpicked squash will quickly grow to impressive baseball- bat size and retard new fruits. allowing a few fruits to uninhibitedly grow this big could be used as a technique to slow production when the pantry is over flowing, you've exhausted all available squash and zucchini recipes, and your friends are trying to give you their surplus.

i went south this weekend to a family shin-dig in my hometown in rural wisconsin. zucchini was a popular topic for discussion. what do you do with three dozen zucchini laying around your garden? it seems as though you cannot have too many zucchini recipes! my brother, the one i pegged as being a more adventurous eater, is developing a distaste for zukes. he and his nemesis have never seen eye to eye. he accuses his wonderful wife of lacing their evening dinners with the zucchini. you have to admit that zucchini is a great add in to soups and stews. their delicate flavor harmonizes with most foods, and the abundant yields enable the cook to use them without reserve.

double chocolate zucchini cupcakes revolutionized the zucchini, or the way people seem to misjudge this harmless and tender fruit. paired with chocolate, warm spices, and baked into submission- the zucchini rules. no one, and i mean no one will question these cupcakes. glaze them with dark chocolate ganache, and you rule too. this recipe is a slight alteration of the chocolate zucchini cupcake recipe from here's how they go:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup yogurt
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup cocoa, shifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease large muffin pans and line with muffin cups.

In a medium bowl mix together the sugar and canola oil. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla, yogurt, zucchini, and chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl mix together all of the dry ingredients. Add the liquid ingredients and mix until well combined. Spoon batter into large muffin pans. Bake in the center of the oven for about 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack, while prepping the icing if you go that route....

Monday, August 29, 2011

the trestle inn

as a birthday surprise, i was taken on an adventure friday evening. my destination was completely unknown to me. it was a long drive along quiet and curvy gravel roads. i wasn't in charge of navigating, as it was a surprise, so i took advantage of the picturesque views from my passenger window. it was a perfect late august evening when we reached our destination. the trestle inn, located amongst the forests, lakes, and wilderness just outside of finland, minnesota, is a gem. the rustic inn and saloon is built from the timbers of an abandoned railroad trestle that was last used in the 1920's. the douglas fir timbers are estimated to be 300 years old. susan butler and her family purchased the trestle inn in 2000. sue is just as much of a legend as the inn itself. she raised three children, on her own, far from most of the thrills and luxuries most of us are used to. sue has just recently added electricity within the last five years!

we had a memorable and entertaining experience. everything about the trestle inn has a bit of history to it. there is this amazing wood stove at the end of the bar, and an even more amazing loft area upstairs, filled with antiques and wooden furniture, that is used for special events. memories were abound from floor to ceiling. we were lucky enough to share some stoop time with sue the owner, and her wonderful waitress. they told us tales from the past, and shared with us their love of the land and the lives that they live. hardships are a plenty, but with their hilarious outlooks on life, things are going well. the funniest animal sighting that a guest has reported to sue in the past: a camel.

about the was great! i couldn't resist the quirky 'minnesota burger', which had me thinking about my mother's tater-tot hot dish! it was a picture perfect burger topped with a giant, crisp tater tot, fried onions, and smothered in cream of mushroom soup! there's a variety of offerings on their menu. a great burger list, steaks, ribs, and walleye are all available, a hearty menu-not for the faint of heart- perfect after a long day fishing, paddling, or hiking. the saloon has draft rootbeer on tap, as well as a variety of brews.

if you are in need of an adventure off of the beaten path, take a meander to the trestle inn. there are several lakes and trails to explore in the area. every season has its own adventure there. for more history, stories, and information visit their website:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

sunday brunch

every friday morning, during the summer season, folks can savor the local special up at ryden's border store cafe. the special on friday mornings is 'steak bites'. these marinated bites of tender beef are served up with eggs and hashbrowns, and it seems that they sell out around 9am. i haven't actually been able to make it to ryden's on a friday morning before 9am, so i have yet to get in on these delicious bites. however, my fella and his coworkers have, and i'm told weekly, about just what i've been missing.

we decided to recreate the 'steak bites' for a sunday morning brunch. (i actually didn't have any background for which to recreate from, so jeremy did most of the work with the steak bites). i wanted a well rounded sunday brunch, so the menu looked something like this: venison 'steak bites', herb roasted new potatoes, fresh fruit salad with lime juice and vanilla sugar, and mini bloody marys.

we were given a gift of venison back strap from my aunt, and decided that was a great substitute for the beef used at ryden's. we sliced the back strap into 1/2 inch thick steaks. they were sort of mini steaks -to replicate the 'bites'. we wanted to marinate them a bit too, so some tamari, garlic, toasted sesame oil, chili flakes, and herbs did the trick. i don't have a recipe for the marinade, but you should be able to wing it at home. we let the venison marinate for about 45 minutes, then fired up the grill. you could pan fry these, but i really enjoy the flavor of grilled venison, so once the grill was preheated, on went the venison. it probably didn't take more than a few minutes on each side, to make perfect medium-rare/ medium venison bites. finished with fresh cracked pepper and a little smoked sea salt, and voila'! venison steak bites.

the herb roasted potatoes, which are a personal favorite, are super easy to do. just make sure to get your hands on some great quality new potatoes, or dig up a few from your garden. the young potatoes that you could harvest from your garden now will be tender and earthy- perfect for roasting! toss with enough olive oil to coat all of the potatoes evenly. throw in whatever fresh herbs are growing in your garden, sea salt, cracked pepper, and roast in a 425 degree oven until golden brown and cooked through.

the fresh fruit salad. i was a minimalist here. depending on the fresh fruit that you use, a fresh fruit salad has a pretty short lifespan, so i only made enough for brunch. i used bananas and fresh picked blueberries-both were perfectly ripe and required very little work to make them taste fantastic. a few squeezes of fresh lime juice and a few sprinklings of some vanilla sugar i had stashed in the cupboard. it had a slightly tropical vibe, yet mid-western with the fresh picked blueberries. simple. good.

sunday brunch is one meal that i really enjoy making because it seems to bring us all together on a day which could potentially be very busy with chores and beach time. my daughter really likes to get in on the event, delegating who gets to cook what items, as she is busy picking blueberries, playing dress up with our beloved dog, and whipping up a pretend brunch of her own. i speculate that my young multi-tasker might be ready to work in a restaurant sooner than i would've thought....

Monday, August 15, 2011

Balsamic Onion & Bacon Jam

my ambitions for cooking today are dwindling. i love cooking. i love coaxing the flavors of grains and fruits and meats and vegetables into morsels that cannot be refused by my palette. i love over-thinking the possibilities of an onion, for example. so, today i did just that. i over-thought my beloved and dear friend, the onion. the onion enters in and out of my life, repeatedly, all day- every day. we have a relationship. my all time favorite way to prepare onions is to caramelize them. whenever i caramelize onions, i make certain to prepare more than i need. that way, i have a stash in the fridge that i can dollop on, say, a bagel with chevre. or folded into mashed potatoes. or draped over leftover pizza. however i choose to roll with my onions, they are fantastic, and they hold a special place in a heart, soul, and belly.

i am also currently obsessed with making jam. i have now picked a slew of wild berries, which will soon be transformed into preserves. as wonderful and magnificent as fruit jams are, why limit one's self? i really think that onions- caramelized and paired with say balsamic vinegar, rosemary, and BACON would make a mighty fine jam. this was my task for the day. must make caramelized onion and BACON jam. here's how it went....

i researched a few different recipes to give myself some guidelines. the balsamic onion marmalade from the book, 'wichcraft' was easy and a great place to start. i substituted brown sugar for their granulated sugar, made a few adjustments, added bacon and fresh rosemary, and the end result was awesome!!

1 Tbl olive oil
4 slices bacon, minced
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tsp smoked sea salt, or plain sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp fresh rosemary
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed skillet with the olive oil. saute the minced bacon until browned and crisp. remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the bacon fat.

* i suspected that by mincing the bacon, i would get a more even bacon flavor throughout the marmalade. my tasters detected the bacon, but a few folks suggested that bigger chunks of bacon might be better. so go with your preference. if you like big bits of bacon, don't mince the bacon.*

add the onions, salt and pepper to the skillet. cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until the onions are soft. add the sugar and reduce the heat to medium-low. cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the onions appear dry. add the vinegar, rosemary, and the cooked bacon and reduce the heat to low. continue cooking, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes, until the vinegar is reduced. the end product should be creamy-thick, onion-y, sweet, and slightly salty. i spooned the jam into cute little 4oz jam jars, allowed them to come to room temp, and stashed them in the fridge. belly up!!

Monday, August 8, 2011

German Potato Salad

she was hungry, so hungry, she was trying to think clear. she kept opening the fridge door, and looking at the mustard and the beer. and then finally she went out into the rain. carrying her bicycle chain. and her feet worked the pedals while her appetite steered. after that she just followed her nose. and fate is not just whos cook'n smells good, but which way the wind blows.-ani difranco.

as customers are led into the co-op, following the aroma of smoky bacon sizzling in our skillets, i always think of that little ditty. we've all been there. nothing but mustard and beer in the fridge, and our hunger unruly. the reason for the bacon? i re-created a german potato salad here at the co-op, that i've been making frequently this summer at my home. it's quick and delicious, and is the perfect salad to whip up for those last minute shin-digs on your deck.

i like to use baby/new potatoes, whose availability is becoming more and more as summer slowly slips away, and potatoes are being harvested from your gardens. there are several different varieties you could go with, but i really like the buttery characteristic of the yukon gold varieties of potatoes. i also toss in fresh kale, and lace the salad with a bit of the reserved bacon fat. belly up!!

German Potato Salad
-makes enough for a crowd-

4.5 baby yukon gold potatoes, halved
1 lb. bacon, chopped
1 bunch kale, thinly sliced

Bacon Vinaigrette:
6 Tbl bacon fat
6 Tbl olive oil
6 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cracked black pepper
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, minced

Whisk together the above ingredients and set aside.

Boil the potatoes until they are just barely done. Strain them, place on baking sheets, and let them cool in the fridge.

Fry the bacon until crisp. Strain the bacon, reserve the bacon fat, and cool the bacon.

In a large bowl combine the potatoes, bacon, and kale. Toss with the vinaigrette and enjoy!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

wild blueberry scones

as i grab my morning coffee, meander around town, and guzzle my best friend, i can't help but overhear conversations about blueberry picking. someone had some luck at their favorite spot up the trail. another hit the jackpot up the caribou trail. wherever you pick, the picking is starting! addie and i harvested a few handfuls right outside our backdoor, with very little effort, and we'll more than likely be making a batch of wild blueberry scones.

anyone who has made scones, or in my case, worked for a meticulous, austrian trained pastry chef, you know that there is an art to making scones. there is a certain amount of technique that needs to happen to make scones wonderful. scones are meant to be shaped, so forget those 'drop' scones that has you just dropping piles of dough on a baking sheet, and don't go near the scone pre-mixes. but don't fear scones, as they are a breeze to make! here's our basic recipe we use at the co-op.

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbl baking powder
6 Tbl sugar
10 Tbl butter
1 cup wild blueberries
2 cups heavy cream

in a large bowl mix together the four, sugar, and baking powder.

next, cut in the butter. this is an important step. you want to work the butter into the dry ingredients, but not too much. when the butter is worked down into pea sized chunks, stop working the butter. to work the butter, i like to use my fingers and mash and sift the butter and dry ingredients through my fingers.

next, add the fruit. wild blueberries are our choice this time.

make a well in the center of your ingredients, and pour in the cream. with a spoon, stir the ingredients together, and when they start to come together, ditch the spoon, and use your hands to gently work the dough into one giant dough ball mass. take this dough ball, and gently knead it about 2 or 3 times. now put the dough down, and don't mess with it anymore!

place the dough on a lightly floured surface, and gently pat it into a disc, about an inch and a half thick.

cut the disc into 8 wedges-like you would cut a pie. sprinkle turbinado sugar on the tops of each scone and place on a baking sheet.

bake in a 425 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes. devour while still warm! save a few for your neighbors! belly up!!

Monday, July 18, 2011

stuffed turkey burgers

i know that the sweltering heat may have folks in a comatose state, on their couches, in front of an a.c. unit, but i know better than to let the heat get the best of me. it won't be long before the cold winds take over and we are under frostbite warnings. instead, i'm learning to embrace the weather- one season at a time. after a days work, we head down to the beach and let the cool waters of lake superior chill us down. the icy waters pair wonderfully with the hot sun.

i was thinking about friends who work in restaurants, and how ridiculously hot it will be in their kitchens. the warm weather, the hot grills and ovens turning their kitchens into sweltering infernos. i remember those days when i was slinging hot saute pans around restaurants in the twin cities. the heat is so intense, it gets into your bones, and it takes hours of soaking under cool water and slurping cold brews before your senses return. i want for all of them to jump into lake superior.

during warmer days, when it is not an option to fire up the oven or stove top, i rely on our trusty grill. it is perched on our deck, where the cool breezes and fogs roll in from the lake, and gently blow across our faces. yesterday i was in the mood for burgers. i love grass-fed beef, but i didn't have any on hand. what i did have was ground turkey. i know, i know....but let me explain. turkey burgers can dry out a bit while you're cooking them, so you need to add a bit of fat the the lean ground meat to keep it moist. i did a little research, and in the test kitchens of cook's illustrated, they added cream soaked bread crumbs and bacon fat for the ultimate results. armed with this knowledge, i added a small amount of bacon fat and butter, along with some fresh chopped herbs and garlic, and the end results were fantastic!! oh, did i mention that i also stuffed the burgers with some eichten's smoked gouda i happened to have in the fridge? topped with avocados, spinach, and horseradish mayo we were happy with the results!

stuffed turkey burgers

1 pound ground turkey (preferably dark meat)
1 Tbl bacon fat
1 Tbl butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
1 spig fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp smoked sea salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper

in a bowl, combine the above ingredients. divide the turkey mixture into four equal portions. with each portion, remove about 1/3 of the portion and set aside. with the remaining amount, form into a patty, top with a thick slab of smoked gouda, and using the remaining 1/3 of the turkey burger potion, place it on top of the cheese and smooth it together with the rest of the patty, creating a stuffed burger. make sure all of the cheese is encased in the burger! repeat with the remainder of the burgers.

preheat your grill! when the grill is ready, place the burgers on the grill, and grill for approximately 5-7 minutes on each side. you don't want to over-cook the burgers, so watch them carefully!

we served our burgers on grilled wild rice buns, but foccocia or some really good sourdough bread would be great. just give them a drizzle of olive oil and toast them a bit on the grill. we topped our burgers with avocado, spinach, and a dollop of horseradish mayo. enjoy!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

my travels had me in bayfield wisconsin this week. the weather was good. the island was fun. the strawberry picking was fantastic. well, okay. i know that going out into a hot and buggy field to pick strawberries in a bent-back stagger is not everyone's cup of tea. in fact, we were pretty much the only ones out there with the strawberries that afternoon, but i must confess that i love it. this year's crop was stunted from the wet and cool conditions of spring, but the crops have rebounded and are producing very small gems of strawberries with very sweet and condensed flavor. we picked at a farm called 'rocky acres', and the teal blue tractor from the 1970's? was the eye catching mascot.

when i see rows and rows of red, ripe strawberries, it is very difficult to regain my attention if you were looking to do so. i start swooning over the strawberry-rhubarb-vanilla bean jam i'm going to make as soon as i get home. i think about strawberry shortcakes laced with...maybe fresh basil and blue cornmeal. my mind is flipping through my flavor card catalog, combining the flavors of various things i have tasted. i can't help but think about how great sweet, ripe strawberries will taste with tangy, salty cheeses. you get the idea. so i approach pick yer' own strawberries with gusto, and this field was really there for me.

i did go home and make jam. a vanilla bean laced- fresh picked strawberry jam. i like to have homemade jams on hand for gifts, for thanking the many people who grace our lives. the jam takes a few days to set up, but i usually cannot resist opening up a jar and slathering the sweet berry goodness on buttery toast. here's a very basic recipe for the jam. i used sugar and went very traditional, like grams used to make. there are so many alternative sweeteners out there if you want to play around with the recipe. i used liquid pectin as i always seem to get better results. jam on!!

4 cups crushed strawberries
7 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut lengthwise
juice of 1 small lemon
1 packet of liquid pectin

*prep your canning jars before you start! this means washing all of the jars and lids with hot soapy water, and then boiling those jars and lids so they are completely sanitary and clean. any impurities left on the jars can result in moldy- funky jar. you don't want that!

combine the strawberries, sugar, vanilla bean, and lemon juice in a large pot. place on high heat, and while stirring frequently, bring to a rolling boil. add the liquid pectin, bring back to a boil, and boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently. remove from heat, and place into prepared jars. wipe the rims of the jars, put the lids on, place in your canner, and process 10 minutes. *i do not have a canner, so i just submerge the jars in a large stock pot of boiling water, and let them hang out in the boiling water for 10 minutes.*

jam on!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

ukulele songs, rainbows, and grilled chicken

i was in a euphoric state this weekend as the sun warmed grand marais like never before. the rocks on the beach were warm, and with our sun-kissed skin, we looked alive! then we jumped into lake superior and almost ruined our sun buzz. thankfully though, the sun stuck around, and warmed us back up. it was wonderful. i was thinking that the world was all rainbows and teddy bears. we finished our day listening to eddie vedder and his new 'ukulele songs'cd as we lounged about outside next to a grill. there is something about the combination of ukuleles and sunshine that seem to make grilled chicken taste better. it could have been the marinade as well....

i made a simple marinade with lemon and chilies that was wonderful with the chicken thighs we had, although i think it would go well with all parts of the chicken. maybe even veggies too. here's the recipe for simple lemon marinade;

juice and zest of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 heaping teaspoon of *sambel oelek- use more or less depending on preference
1 sprig of rosemary, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil

*sambal oelek is a fresh ground chili paste that is available at the co-op and most specialty food stores

whisk together all of the ingredients. i placed 6 chicken thighs in a ziplock bag with the marinade and allowed it about 2 hours to marinate. you could leave it overnight, and the flavors would be even more intensly infused.

grill your marinated chicken for those char-grilled, crispy edges and a wonderfully moist and tender interior. i didn't take long, maybe about 15 minutes for the thighs. just enough time to steam some broccoli or throw together a salad. you'll be serenading your marinaded chicken with eddie and his ukulele in no time!! belly up!

Monday, June 27, 2011

i've been a bit busy lately. nature adventures, beach time, and general summertime lolly-gagging has taken priority over my intent to cook a healthy dinner for the family each night. i've found that watermelon on the shore under the warm sun to be just as tasty as homemade savory chicken cobblers around the dinner table. it has taken me quite some time to reach this realization. i get stuck on wanting to make dinner every night, and i feel a bit failed when i lack to provide this. don't get me wrong, it's not like i am giving up cooking dinner, but i'm able to substitute melon, sunshine, and good ol' fashion fun for the later here and there. this weekend provided such opportunities.

we live in a unique area, full of magic and wonder. i feel as though it would take me decades to explore all there is to explore here. so i need to get going. i've put away plenty of adventures, but moving around cook county gives me new areas for discovery. currently residing in grand portage i have picturesque adventure spots at my fingertips non-stop! this weekend we explored a red rock beach about a mile from our home. it was amazing! woodsy trails to hike, cozy coves, small pebble beaches, and a rock skipping competition that lasted most of the afternoon. for such adventures we need sustenance. we went prepared.....

at the bottom of a backpack, between the heart shaped rocks we've collected and the random feathers and driftwood bits you will usually find cheese. most cheeses travel well. a few of our favorites from the weekend; caramelized onion cheddar from england, eichten's smoked gouda, and widmer's 6 year cheddar. all are very unique. all are very tasty. casual beach meals with a three year old are usual very, very casual. i have plenty of time to ponder the dynamics of flavor for every morsel i'm savoring, while addie is usually smearing hers into a sandcastle. so these cheeses. we have a small but progressive cheese selection at the co-op. we try new varieties based on wants vocalized by our customers/ owners. i thought i'd share a favorites list this week in replace of a recipe!

Widmer's 6 year Cheddar- this fabulous cheese is distributed by Widmer's Cheese Cellars in theresa, WI. They make younger cheddars, but this one....this one has flavor crystals as we like to say- bits of condensed cheese goodness in tiny flecks of magnificent cheese magic speckled throughout the cheese. it's awesome. the best cheddar we carry. it's a little spendy, but a little goes a long way.

English Caramelized Onion Cheddar- this is my favorite cheese! i often reference it as 'cheese candy'. something about the sweet caramelized onion jam which is infused with the creamy, salty, tangy cheddar that makes me have to take a time-out every time i eat the stuff. we've started cutting smaller wedges and stashing them in a basket in the deli cooler for quick grabs for the picnic basket. do not let the seagulls nab this one!

Eichten's Hidden Acres Gouda- we have several varieties of this one- herb, caraway, wild rice, sundried tomato, smoked, etc. all of them contain the classic gouda goodness. a creamy, cow's milk cheese which is milder than cheddar, but still containing character and flavor. it goes melty very well. think fondue.

Cypress Grove Chevre- 'Purple Haze' is the variety we currently carry. it's a goat's milk cheese infused with springtime herbs such as lavender buds and wild fennel pollen. it is great eaten on it's own with a bottle of pinot griggio. you could also slather it on everything from grilled asparagus to artichoke raviolis.

Manchego- ours comes from spain. it's a sheep's milk cheese, and we actually carry a younger variety which is aged over 3 months. this is a slightly harder cheese, and it's bright, parmesan-ish personality is an over all splender. it's great grated on spicy pork tacos, or with most of your favorite spring time veggies.

Ski Queen- Gjetost Cheese- yes, there is a cult-like following from the scandinavians. this is made in norway of a blend of cow's and goat's milk. it's creamy, nutty, tangy, buttery, and unusually addictive. it is packaged in bright red packaging in a perfect cube shape. it's coloring is that of milk chocolate or coffee and cream, and i visualize those flavors when i'm eating it.

those are just a few varieties that i very much enjoy, but we have a variety of raw milk cheeses, goat's milk cheeses, and also a variety of tasty bites that go very well with our cheeses. try the marcona almonds in rosemary infused honey- good stuff! the fig jam and our olive selection rock the house too! belly up!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

aged cheddar & pickled onions

i am in the middle of moving right now, but i wanted to write a little bit about the food that gets me through the move. moving is always hectic. there's packing and un-packing and endless hours of cleaning. i am greatful to be moving into a beautiful house, and i will be even more thrilled when there is running water! amungst the boxes and furniture i always make sure to have a clear path to the kitchen. when i am obsessively cleaning windows and pacing around in circles wondering what to do next, i always retreat to the kitchen. there, i take inventory of what's available and today, i must admit, it's slim pick'ns!

a few days ago, a season of jamie oliver's 'oliver twist' arrived in my mailbox via netflix. yes, i think jamie oliver is entertaining. i appreciate his enthusiasm and energy towards food and its preperation. i really have been hung up on some of the 'junk' food snacks that he sneaks into a few episodes to satisfy his cravings. the one that i can't get outta my head is a cheese and pickled onion sandwich. he makes a quick snack of toasted bread and butter, wonderful aged cheddar, arugula, and pickled onions. i have some wonderful raw-aged cheddar in my fridge. it's one of the few highlights in there. so instead of moving, i started pickling onions. we've all done it-come on...

here's the quick pickled onion recipe i used:
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup rice vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 medium red onions

combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, except the onions. place pan on medium heat. while the brine is coming to a boil, prep the onions. trim both ends of of the onions. peel, and slice into uniform slices as thin as you can, making sure the slices are less than 1/4 inch thick. when brine has come to a boil. add all of the onions, all at once. remove the pan from the heat and cover. allow onions to hang out in the brine, covered for about 25 minutes. Place the onions in a bowl and allow to cool to room tempature. when the onions are fully cooled place the onions and their brine in jars with tight fitting lids and store in the fridge. they are ready to eat when they are fully cooled!

for the pickled onion and aged cheddar sammy:
2 slices of bread. brioche would be awesome. i happened to have some caraway rye, which was very tasty.

butter for slathering

cheese-i used the raw-aged cheddar from the co-op

pickled onions

arugula or spinach

slather bread with butter and toast if desired. layer on remaining ingredients and inhale immediately. for a more civilized touch; make sandwich in a grilled cheese fashion. add caramelized apples. serve with a side of sassy mustard.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

i may not live at the end of the road, but i can see it from my house. entertainment is dependent on how much of it you can create on your own. this morning there was a house, or half of one at least, blocking my driveway. this is entertainment at it's finest. i never had moments like this when i lived in minneapolis or st. paul. i never imagined i would experience moments like this. as i stood outside with my cup of coffee, the reality of the situation becoming clearer in my head- i would never be able to drive around this home in my driveway, i won't be able to be to work on time, i will be late bringing my daughter to daycare, and the big bummer that i wouldn't be making it in time for my precious radio- food chat time. ugh. this is where the creating your own entertainment is very important. instead of wallowing in remorse because of all of the things that will be delayed and pushed back or aside in my busy day, i started reveling in the utter hilariousness of a house in my driveway. i made sure a few snap shots were taken for future postcard fun, and then started daydreaming about a bloody mary.

the night before as i was walking the dog, chasing after my 3 year old daughter, cleaning the house, making dinner, and trying to provide the best phone conversation that i could to a friend on a cross country motorcycle adventure, i decided to create the best bloody mary that i could. it was bothersome to me that previous bloody mary experiences were not that exciting. some were simply bland tomato juice with too much vodka. others had far too much pickle juice. i wanted a happy balance of fresh tomato, horseradish, and cracked pepper. i had a fresh bundle of locally harvested rosemary that i kept moving from table to counter to fridge. this is how it went down. i muddled the rosemary into the bottom of a large pitcher. dashes of tabasco, horseradish, and fresh cracked pepper followed the tomato juice and vodka. i rimmed the glasses with smoked sea salt, added plenty of ice, poured in the fresh and beautiful tomato juice and vodka blend, garnished with more fresh rosemary and a beef stick from thousand hills cattle company, and i had reached bliss. i served them up, and as we ate fresh snap peas and cherry tomatoes alongside our beverages i couldn't help but think that fresh peas and cherry tomatoes would be great garnishes. maybe even going with indian spices and fresh chilies in replacement of the horseradish, and fresh mint to substitute the rosemary. oh i have opened a can of worms as they say, and i will have to report back with the varieties that i create. any great bloody mary secrets anyone out there has to share? let us know!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

grilling the black fly blues away

black flies are a northern minnesota treat. i say that with complete sarcasm. and i know that some folks say that they pollinate blueberries but seriously, why can't this be left to the butterflies? as i'm typing this, peppered with multiple red spots from head to toe, black flies are all i can think about. there seems to be a bumper crop this season, and they kept me company while i planted my garden. my peaceful daydreams of county fair winning turnips and eggplants were replaced by annoying swarms of tiny biting flies making laps around my head. my hopes of spending relaxing, sunny afternoons with my gardening hat on, meddling over weeds and pampering my sprouts was soon over taken. i set record planting speeds as i tried to hurry myself and family out of the black fly fog that was engulfing us. what was actually planted is a vague memory. i remember negotiating with my daughter, daisies or swiss chard?, and i'm pretty sure we just threw in both before our retreat.

i am now happily starting my patio garden. i can mill around the patio, cocktail within reach, as i lazily lug around the watering can, gardening hat on. the outdoor grill will also be within reach, and so as i may not be growing a bumper crop of veggies, i will be grilling them....

inspired by an episode on the perennial plate (check it out @ the, where chef Daniel Klein documents socially responsible and adventurous eating, i decided it was time to grill up some shrooms. i choose portabella mushrooms because of their size and durability. i gave them a toss with a green garlic oil, smoked sea salt, and black pepper. we currently have wisconsin grown green garlic, which is basically a young form of garlic. it's garlicky fiest goes ever so well with the earthy mushrooms, and so macerating the young garlic with olive oil and slathering it on various foods is a great way to invite those flavors into your food. so with my mushrooms slathered and grilled, i started building. grilled, thick slices of tomatoes grown at Bay Produce in Superior, WI, slices of buttery avocado, thin slices of fresh radish, sprouts, blue cheese crumbles, and finished with a sunflower-green garlic vinaigrette to seal the deal. i was originally thinking that i was going to use horseradish, but it never made the team, however i think it would fit in very well. a little arugula salad or micro greens would be a great replacement for the sprouts as well.

happy gardening, er.., i mean grilling!

Monday, May 23, 2011


crimson red stalks of this crisp, tart, flavorful vegetable are creeping into our lives. rhubarb is quite the mid-western tradition. it's rich history is one of crisps, pies, & crumbles. every child has endured rhubarb sauce and rhubarb bars. i remember my grandmother handing us little dishes of sugar, straight-up, to dip our stalks of fresh picked rhubarb into. not everyone is a fan. not everyone is celebrating. soon, we will all be deeply engulfed by the masses of rhubarb that folks kindly, but concerningly bring us, free of charge, by the armloads.

i would just like to share a few comforting ideas. if i can bring calm and peace to even a few folks, or if i could regenerate a new generation of thinking about this bumper crop, i will feel a little more at ease. rhubarb is magnificent paired with a multitude of ingredients. fresh ginger, vanilla beans, black pepper and pinot noir are spectacular rhubarb companions. fresh berries add a helping hand, and even fresh rose petals, orange zest, and cornmeal can liven up the unrulely rhubarb. armed with this insight, you can turn the standard rhubarb fair into rhubarb wonders!

rhubarb compote & jams are much better when a splash of pinot noir and a vanilla bean are added during the cooking down process. the vanilla bean makes the rhubarb gentle and kind, while the pinot noir adds depth and excitement and rounds out the flavors. spoon your wonderful compotes over homemade shortcakes or slather into warm crepes and top with a dollop of honey- greek yogurt. your rhubarb dissing days are over! when making rhubarb chutney, don't forget the fresh ginger. rhubarb and ginger are friends, and they shine together in chutneys. grilled pork chops nestled in warm rhubarb chutney- can your day get any better?

crisps & crumbles are perfect vehicles for rhubarb. often rhubarb is rightly paired with fresh spring berries such as strawberries and raspberries. if you still have a few blueberries from last picking season tucked away in your freezer, they too would love to share in the crisp and crumble fun. i've included a crisp/ crumble recipe for you to experiment with. crisps & crumbles are perfect when thrown together at the last minute with simple ingredients that are on hand. fresh rose petals from your garden would add a fragrant and lovely touch. make sure you are only using fresh, organically grown roses. roses from a florist are typically sprayed and treated to preserve their freshness. orange zest mingles greatly in the crisp & crumble mixture too!

a few last minute rhubarb ideas: thinly shave fresh rhubarb and ginger over beef at the very end of cooking. it will sort of melt and meld into the beef adding a unique and tasty flavor. try whipping up a simple rhubarb dressing for a fresh spring greens salad. whirl fresh rhubarb, olive oil, red wine vinegar and a hearty amount of black pepper and smoked sea salt in a blender. pair with the beautiful bunches of watercress that just arrived at the co-op. yum-o!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
a few twists of fresh cracked pepper
pinch of sea salt
1/3 cup butter, melted

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 lb. fresh strawberries, halved or quartered
12 ounces rhubarb, trimmed and sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup pinot noir

Preheat oven to 375F. Butter a 9x9 square baking dish.

Combine the flours, pine nuts, oats, sugar, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. Stir in the butter until crumbles occur. Set aside.

Make the filling by whisking together the cornstarch and sugar in a large bowl. Add the strawberries and rhubarb, and toss until evenly coated. Wait a few minutes, add the wine, and toss again. Transfer the filling to the prepared pan,crumble the topping across the top of the filling- make sure you have big and small bits.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the topping is deeply golden brwon and the fruit juices are vigorously bubbling. You'll want to let things cool slightly before serving. Top with a dollop of honey-greek yogurt or maybe some ginger ice cream....

*you can substitute spelt or maybe buckwheat flour for the wholewheat flour. brown sugar would probably add a lovely flavor instead of the natural cane sugar. play, play,play!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


it has come to my attention that people have been consuming more and more eggs. maybe it's the increase in price of grass fed beef, pork, and chicken that has caused all the rage. maybe it's the amazing versatility of the egg. maybe it's the availability of more and more locally raised eggs. you have to admit it, when the neighbors bring you fresh eggs from their coop, they taste one million times better than conventional eggs from the grocery store. whatever the case, eggs are great.

humans have probably been eating eggs for millennia. they are high in omegas, a great source of protien, contain lots of vitamins and minerals, and they supply all essential amino acids for humans. The diet of the laying hens can greatly affect the nutritional quality of the eggs. For instance, chicken eggs that are especially high in omega 3 fatty acids are produced by feeding laying hens a diet containing polyunsaturated fats and kelp meal. Pasture raised free-range hens which forage largely for their own food also tend to produce eggs with higher nutritional quality in having less cholesterol and fats while being several times higher in vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids than standard factory eggs.

armed with a dozen eggs fresh from a neighborhood coop i set out to make breakfast for my parents and family whom were up for a visit this weekend. there are dozens of dishes that i have made that feature the humble, yet wonderful egg. the 'iron-chef' scramble is one of my favorites. pretend that you are a featured guest on the 'iron chef' television show (it helps that we don't have television, so our imaginations soar for this event). your secret ingredient is the egg. you have only whats in the fridge to work with. now go!

typically ninja skills and a sharp knife are crucial here. i found half a slab of smoked bacon, a bundle of swiss chard, baby swiss cheese, and various herbs. it was go time. i made quick work of the bacon, roughly chopped and sauted, it was the base. i strained off most of the fat, but left a little in the pan for which i sauted and wilted the swiss chard. then i whisked up those beautiful, amber yolked eggs with a bit of cream, a few pinched of thyme, fresh cracked pepper, and smoked sea salt then added it to the bacon and swiis chard. i then scrambled as i had never scrambled before. once the eggs were almost cooked through, i topped with grated baby swiss, through the pan in the oven to melt the cheese and finish cooking the eggs. the end result was spectacular. paired with fresh fruit and java, and our sunny morning was inviting a picnic breakfast out on the deck.

get your 'iron chef' on! egg scrambles are not only exciting, but entertaining too. and what better way to use up those half bundles of fresh produce that were maybe going to make it into a soup at best. eggs are often overlooked and under utilized, so make room for them in a meal or two this week. throw a lightly poached egg on top a fresh greens salad for an extra protein boost. add a couple of hard boiled eggs in your brief case for a snack. eggs are incredible and very very edible. belly up!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

spring onions

my grandpa is 82 years old- give or take a few years. he has spend a large portion of his life traveling. he started his gypsy life as a riding performer on his motorcycle. have you ever seen those fellas who ride their motorcycles speedily in circles in a metal, circular cage? that was my gramps. he was a whippersnapper to say the least. he then traveled about the world while working for the navy. from my understanding, he has been to several european countries, but probably not under the best of circumstances. he came back to the states after ww2. somewhere in those travels, my grandmother entered the scene, and gave the gift of gardening and really good food.

my daughter and i took a little road trip this weekend to rural wisconsin, where we met up with my gramps. he was in wisconsin for a little visit after a long drive from mission texas. i grew up in rural wisconsin, along with my parents, siblings, lots of cool aunts and uncles, and my grandparents. my gramps really doesn't get along with the winter months anymore, so for decades he has escaped to his second home in texas. while my grandparents were in wisconsin, my grandmother had established an extraordinary garden. fresh produce from gram's garden was a summer staple. as a child i spent a great deal of time weeding the garden at my grandmother's side, grazing my way across the garden. my grandpa would always try to convince my brother's and i to eat the spring onions, which were always too sassy for our young pallets to endure. my grams took the gardening with her when she was in texas for the winter months and grew various chilies and citrus fruits. no matter where my grandmother was, she was sure to have something growing.

this weekend, my gramps came with armloads of citrus fruits from his texas crop. he also had a small handful of those spring green onions from my grandmother's garden in wisconsin. i happily ate the spring onions with him this year. of coarse i then wandered into that part of my brain that thinks about food 100% of the time, and i started putting together options for those sassy spring onions. instantly, spring onion oil came to mind. macerate those onions with some great olive oil, season lightly with sea salt, dried chilis, and maybe a shot of lemon juice or zest. drizzle on everything. it would make a great flavor booster for soups, risottos, pastas, and a fried egg sandwich with grilled bacon and roasted tomatoes. belly up!

Monday, May 9, 2011

gila wilderness granola

a few months ago during the dog days of march, i found myself soaking in natural hot springs in the gila wilderness of new mexico. it was awesome to say the least. i was proposed to on top of a mountain- which contributed ridiculous amounts of joy. i backpacked, soaked, meandered, and soaked some more. the temperature in the gila wilderness changes quite dramatically when transitioning from day to night. the daytime sun was perfect for adventuring, while as the evening snuck in, so did very cool temperatures. besides the early morning soaks in natural hot springs to get us going in the morning, we also relied on granola. if there is ever an adventure to be had, you can pretty much guarantee that i will have some sort of food association to go along with it. this time it's granola. i am not the kind of person who likes to buy granola. i'm the kind of person who likes to make it. so as we started planning our trip, i started planning food.

i like the idea of throwing in a variety of ingredients to maximize the amount of energy and nutrition out of our granola. i usually throw in flaxseeds or flaxseed meal for an extra omega boost. i also prefer to make granola, which will be eaten while backpacking, a heartier variety by throwing in a lot of seeds and nuts. there are so many varieties you can make. a few flavor combos that i like are; apricot and almond, cashews and fresh dates, & cranberries and walnuts. granola is super easy to make. you can adjust the ingredient list to your preference. behind every face is a different variety of granola. here's the recipe for our gila wilderness granola:

6 cups oats
2 cups almonds, chopped
2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup flaxseeds
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup sunflower or canola oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large bowl combine the oats, nuts, coconut, pumpkin seeds, flaxseeds, and brown sugar. In a seperate bowl, combine the maple syrup or honey, sunflower or canola oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Bake for about 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes to acheive an even color. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before storing.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

food is a doorway....

...pick your passion- mine is food- and use it as your's a doorway into understanding the world you live in- getting inside of people, places, and cultures....eating is the most prevalent shared activity that happens to every single living being on earth. you cannot live without eating and drinking. -lynne rossetto kasper

i will proudly admit that i make dinner nearly every night that my daughter is with me. in our house we take playtime, nap time, and eating very seriously. i love watching my daughter out of the corner of my eye, peeking from behind me to see what exactly is going on with that marinated chicken. i love it when she sneaks handful after handful of the perfectly julienne peppers that are sitting on the cutting board. i love that she secretly eats the organic butter straight-up, hold the bread. mostly i love watching her eat. the way she dives into her gorgonzola mashed potatoes. how she disregards her spoon altogether when she is power eating peas. i have even seen her eat whole cucumbers as though they were apples.

last night adalin was leaning on the open fridge door, pondering its contents, before declaring the need for a snack. the contents of our fridge vary, but last night there was a bowl of freshly made cookie dough waiting to be baked. i imagined addie diving in face first. instead she reached for cheese. food is a doorway into understanding the world in which we live. food helps people connect. without food, my daughter and i would not spend an hour or so every night hassling each other as dinner was being prepared. i would never have guessed that cheese would be the snack choice of a hungry 3 year old, when cookie dough was readily available. i would never know about gooey geysers, unicorns that eat rainbows, or penguino the penguin over our dinner time chats. in our busy lives, filled with busy days, i highly suggest indulging in food. not just food, but also the process of preparing it. think of italian mamas making homemade pasta as they sit around drinking table wine and relentlessly gossip and laugh. these are the moments. live them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

super greens pesto

happy easter to everyone. usually i find myself traveling here or there, visiting family and friends over the holidays, but this weekend i was able to stay around our home with the family and cook a lot of great eats! i have so many recipes and ideas to share!!

influenced by my most recent trip to st. louis and the massive st. louis farmer's market, i decided i needed to make some sort of pesto to toss with some fresh spring peas and pasta. i scanned over the contents of our fridge...half a bundle of fresh kale, baby spinach, scallions, and some fresh basil...perfect! i immediately went to work filling up my food processor. with the addition of some fresh garlic, parmesan, a little lemon zest, a small handful of macadamia nuts, and some beautiful organic sunflower oil from pulaski wisconsin-it was a done deal.

a side note on the ingredients- the sunflower oil adds this great nutty flavor, and with the seeds carefully harvested, stored, and processed in a small facility in rural wisconsin, it's hard not to want to use this product. it will soon be available at the co-op. the macadamia nuts were sent to us from a friend in hawaii, so the freshness and richness is unbeatable, and all of the greens were fresh from the co-op which means they're organic and brimming with flavor!

i tossed the 'super greens' pesto with fresh spring peas and pasta, but please go out on a limb and try different variations. this pesto would be great tossed with fresh steamed asparagus or green beans, roasted baby potatoes, or even as a dressing for a simple salad of cherry tomatoes and greens. i also think the pesto would make a great topping on toasted or grilled bread with a slather of fresh goat cheese. i'm already thinking about making some kind of chicken salad with the leftovers, which would pair great with that bottle of pinot gris in the fridge! the possibilities are endless!

super greens pesto:

1/2 bunch kale
2 cups spinach
1/2 bunch scallions
2 cups fresh basil
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup macadamia nuts
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup sunflower oil
lemon zest, salt, & pepper to taste

place all ingredients except the oil in a food processor. process the ingredients until things start to blend together well, about 1 minute. scrape down the sides of the processor, and with the processor running, slowly drizzle in the sunflower oil. taste your pesto, and adjust the seasonings to your taste. if you're running low on kale and spinach, substitute swiss chard, mustard greens, or rapini. enjoy!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

St. Louis

I just arrived back from a wonderful weekend trip to St. Louis. It was a last minute trip, that my fella' and I found when searching for really cheap plane tickets to, well, anywhere. Milwaukee and St. Louis were the runners up, and as much as I'd like to see a Brewer's game, St. Louis seemed a bit more....exotic?

Our first stop was at the Soulard Farmer's Market. It's located in a historic French neighborhood in St. Louis, and is one of the oldest communities in the city. This picturesque neighborhood is filled with restaurants, pubs, shops, and the farmer's market. As soon as we jumped the curb we were greeted with a jazz musician playing his saxophone, a man frying up fresh pork rinds, and a guy hawking tulips. My kinda place! I immediately immersed myself in everything. We tasted St. Louis' best mini donuts, Irish coffee and Landjaegers. There were fresh goat cheeses from a local dairy, vibrant green asparagus, and the most beautiful specimens of portobello mushrooms! With our arms loaded with fresh produce, we decided to head south.

An hour drive south took us to Appleton, MO, where my fella's family resides. We gave their grill a workout, grilling up marinated pork loin and the fresh asparagus we bought earlier. We took those portobello mushrooms from the farmer's market, grilled them, and stuffed them with the wonderful goat cheese (also from the framer's market), and created some tasty bites. The blooming dogwood trees, the good eats, and of coarse the good company made the rest of the day very enjoyable!

The next day was one of leisure. Imagine the lazy Mississippi river, sunshine, and a 630 foot man-made monument known as the Gateway Arch. If that is not an equation for fun, I don't know what is. What made the famous Arch so remarkable is the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which is the 91 acres of park along the Mississippi, in which the Arch resides. As we meandered through the greenest grass my eyes have seen in months, we took in the city.

I'll write another entry as I sort through my notes and thoughts, and post some fabulous pictures to put to the words. I am still slightly meandering along the Mississippi in my mind, though I know the brisk temperatures outside will shock me back into line in no time....

Monday, April 11, 2011

got sap?

it's SPRING! an official declaration is in order! the snow is decreasing, the sun is increasing, and i can't even think about down parkas for one second more! thoughts of sock-less shoes, picnics in the sun, and maple syrup cross my mind. maple sapping is in full swing! folks are collecting and boiling down sap over fires, in large cauldruns, all over cook county and beyond. last week our generous neighbors across the bay gave us a jar of their maple syrup, still warm! we were given a taste of some maple candy, made from the same batch of syrup, and it was awesome!

with a jar of maple syrup, which i now think of on a majestic level, i am immediately thinking about what good eats this sap is going to be a part of. as i am flipping through recipes, ideas, and notes that i have been writing myself on various scraps of papers and napkins,i remember this cocktail recipe. it involved muddling maple syrup with cooked bacon, and finishing with whiskey. this sounds great, however, i'm thinking about something a bit more along the lines of schmarren. schmarren, or scrambled pancake, is an austrian treat that my grandmother used to whip up for my brothers and i. it is literally a scrambled pancake, and when it's adorned with a dollop of butter and a drizzle of fresh maple syrup, i have flashbacks of all the comforts and quirks that came with my grams. she was one righteous babe, so as a tip of the hat to grams and our awesome neighbors, let's make a round of schmarren.....

6 eggs, seperated
2 cups milk
pinch of sea salt
1 Tbl sugar*
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour*
1 Tbl butter

preheat the oven to 400 degrees. place a cast iron skillet in the oven to preheat as well.
beat together the egg yolks, milk, salt, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. gradually stir the flour into the egg mixture. gently fold in the egg whites.
pour the batter into the preheated cast iron skillet, place into the oven, and allow to bake about 15 minutes.
remove the pan from the oven, and tear the pancake into bits, and allow the bits to scramble in the hot skillet. add the butter, and toss the scrambled pancake until it's coated in melted butter. drizzle with maple syrup, and belly up!

*don't be afraid to use sugar substitutes! replace the sugar with maple syrup or honey.
*i use a blend of the whole wheat pastry flour and all purpose flour that we carry @ the co-op. i'm sure buckwheat flour would be great too!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

spring olives

flowers are one of the few simple pleasures that i can't live without. any fella's out there who don't buy their ladies flowers, should really start. with their vibrant colors and scents, it's no wonder that flowers can be so uplifting, mood-altering, and the key to instant happiness.
flowers in grand marais aren't always at our fingertips. we can grow our own, during the un-snow season, and we can buy them at the local flower shop. i have taken to finding flower replacements. today, it is olives. I just received some castelvetrano olives. they are produced and packed in sicily, and they are at the top of my favorites list. talk about vibrant, these neon green olives resemble the first sprouts that peak out of the soil during the growing season. they almost appear unnatural with their bright color, but they are all natural. their flavor is buttery, a bit citrus-y, and there is a slight tang at the finish. for those of you who swoon over olives, i think they resemble lucque olives.
come and get yer own package of pick-me-up olives today!! i'm already visioning a beautiful bowl of olives on my dinning room table. i'm also visioning an olive tapenade. here's a recipe that would make beautiful green olive tapenade that would be absolutely fantastic slathered on....well, on most things.

2 1/2 cups castelvetrano olives, pitted
1 Tbl minced garlic cloves
2 Tbl capers
1/2 cup italian parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil

Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor. with the machine running, drizzle in the olive oil. i like to do all of this fairly quickly, as to make a more rustic and chunkier version of this, but you can make the texture to your liking- as smooth or chunky as you want. i also think a few turns of fresh cracked pepper would be great, or a small pinch of chili flakes. you could also add some fresh citrus zest. i would go for meyer lemon or maybe white grapefruit. play around with your new key to happiness, and tell the fella's that a nice bowl of olives will do....

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Romanesco @ The Co-op

Think spring! We just received some wonderful, beautiful, and delicious Romanesco. Romanesco broccoli was first documented in Italy in the sixteenth century.

Also known as broccoflower or coral broccoli, Romanesco broccoli is rich in vitamen C, fiber, and carotenoids.

Romanesco broccoli is usually prepared like conventional broccoli, with a texture more tender than cauliflower. Eat it raw. Cook it up. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


citrus is in full swing! we've received all sorts of great varieties of citrus this week. we've been sampling the vibrant, red fleshed, and sassy flavors of blood oranges and cara cara oranges. the sweet and juicy satsuma and clementine mandarin varieties are refreshing. the juice of the gold nugget tangerines drips down our arms after each bite. we have pommelos, rio star grapefruit, and white grapefruit. there's mineolas and navel orange varieties. whew. lots and lots of citrus.

meyer lemons are the citrus which i anticipate every year. they are a lemon variety, but not as tart as a lemon. their rind is thin and fragrant, and their flavor is calm, earthy, and reminds me of the older, wiser sister of the lemon. it is my favorite. i have found that meyer lemon zest mingles well with a lot of things. i've been using the zest on pastas, as it pairs wonderfully with parmesan, fresh herbs, and toasted pine nuts.

i've also decided to try out a meyer lemon bar recipe from 'the big sur bakery cookbook'. i think this cookbook is amazing, and i had to borrow it more than once from a co-worker, just so i could get my fix. the photos are great, and i immediately want to travel to california and spend a week eating there. not only are the photos and recipes spot on, but their views on supporting local everything is inspiring! anyway, please enjoy these magnificent meyer lemon bars.......

for the dough:
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup pine nuts, otasted
2 3/4 cups all- purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbl sugar
1/2 cup yellow corn meal
1/4 tsp sea salt
2 egg yolks
2 Tbl heavy cream

for the meyer lemon filling:
3 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
grated zest of 3 meyer lemons
1 cup meyer lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 whole eggs
5 egg yolks

Pulse the flour, sugar, cornmeal, toasted pine nuts, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor until the pine nuts have broken down into smaller pieces. Add the butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Transfer it to a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Whisk the yolks and cream together in a seperate bowl, and pour the mixture into the well. Knead with your hands until the ingredients are fully combined and the dough is uniform and smooth. Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic. Chill for at least an hour.

Roll the chilled dough between two pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper into a 15 by 17 inch rectangle, 1/4 inch thick. Drape the dough inside a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, working it into the corners and up the sides. Trim off the excess dough with a paring knife, and chill for 30 minutes

While the crust is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake the crust until it's a rich golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set it aside until completely cool.

Reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees.

Make the filling: in a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, meyer lemon zest, and juice, heavy cream, eggs, and egg yolks whisking away until frothy. Pour the filling into the cooled crust and bake until the filling is set but not browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Let it cool completely in the baking dish.

Using a chef's knife and wiping the blade clean with a wet twel between cuts, cut into 3 inch squares. Transfer the bars to a platter, sprinkle generously with powdered sugar, and serve.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

cabin fever

the relentless lull of winter is here. we shovel snow. we ski. we snowshoe. we slide down icy hills on flimsy plastic sleds. we shovel some more. we pretend to be content with the reduced amount of sunshine that we receive everyday. we shuffle through the hums of the day, with the anticipation of spring or a vacation to warmer climates. it's called cabin fever, and if not addressed, odd behavior will ensue.
to combat the winter blues, i've been making hearty soups and soda breads. there is something therapeutic about whipping up a loaf of multi-grain irish soda bread, when the cold wind is voicing it's opinion against our single pane windows. the added warmth of the oven is always welcomed. i've started making soda breads because i seem to have less and less time lately, so the thought of making homemade bread is out. soda bread is quick and very easy to throw together, and finishes in just about the same time as the remainder of the dinner i'm creating. it's fun the play around with the various seeds and grains that are available here at the co-op. Feel free to use whatever seeds you have on hand! Belly up!!

2 1/2 tablespoons of Each: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and flax seeds

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400F. Place a rack in the center of the oven. In a small bowl combine all the seeds and set aside.

Stir all of the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Stir in all but 2 tablespoons of the seeds. Make a well in the center of the flour, pour in the buttermilk, and stir until the dough just comes together. If you need to add an extra splash of buttermilk because the dough is too dry, you can. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly for about a minute, just long enough to pull it together into a loose ball but no longer- you need to get it into the oven while the baking soda is still doing its stuff.

Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet and mark it with a deep cross across the top, cutting two-thirds of the way through the loaf with a serrated knife. Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle with the remaining seeds.

Bake for 35- 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden crusted on top and bottom.

*I divided this dough into two loaves, following all of the above procedures, just divided into two smaller loaves.