Monday, December 22, 2014

Gingerbread Cookies

I know. I know. Another cookie recipe? I told you about my obsession with making cookies around the holidays, and so I just decided that I would revel in my cookie enthusiasm instead of trying to fight it. With the holidays comes joy, and joy is often found in cookies. There is nothing that I enjoy more than dipping gingerbread men in a hot cup of coffee first thing in the morning. It seems naughty. Or nice? Either way, I can't help myself. The spices of the gingerbread, the dark roast steeped in my French press, and the morbid act of dismembering cookie folks in the darkness of dawn creates this blissful memory. This is how December mornings should be. No matter how sleep deprived, living this memory makes the world right. And so I share with you, my beloved gingerbread cookie recipe, for which to tempt your own holiday memories.

This recipe has been modified from its original in Cooks Illustrated. These cookies are chewy and full of robust ginger flavor!

Gingerbread Cookies

2 cups unbleached flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or just use unbleached flour)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons butter, softened but cool and cut into 12 pieces
3/4 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons milk

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Stop the mixer, and add the butter pieces, and mix at medium- low speed until the mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low, and with the mixer running, slowly add the molasses and milk, and mix until the dough is evenly moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 more seconds.

Scrape the dough out onto a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap. Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap, and roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick. Place the rolled out dough- still between the layers of parchment or plastic, on a cookie sheet, and freeze until firm- 15 to 20 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350. Remove the dough sheets from the freezer and cut into desired shapes. Place the cut outs on another baking sheet, and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the outsides begin the brown slightly and the cookie seems set. Do not over bake. Allow cookies to cool. Dip into a hot cup of coffee early in the morning, or alternately frost and decorate the cookies.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Chewy Gooey Hot Chocolate Cookies

There is something about Christmas that turns me into a manic cookie maker. Cookies of all shapes and flavors come pouring out of the kitchen, and end up in the hands of teachers, coworkers, neighbors, and friends. Cookies are sort of like payments to enhance friendships, rejuvenate bonds between kin folks, and bribe the neighbors. You had a crappy day- here's some espresso shortbreads. Can you borrow me a bale of straw- please stuff your face with these gingerbread reindeer. Your car is stuck in a snow bank because the icy road you drive everyday has you wondering if you're on an episode of ice road truckers- please have some hot chocolate cookies. Yes, I'll fetch you a glass of milk.

Hot chocolate has warmed the souls of many a skier, ice climber, dog musher, and snowman maker. Warm, liquid chocolate adorned with melty marshmallows....the perfect ending to a hard day of snow play. I stumbled upon this cookie recipe on another food blog called, 'Fork, Knife, and Swoon' (super great name!). Laura, the creator, has plenty of fabulous holiday recipes if you are in need of a little inspiration! Hot Chocolate Cookies are not only the work of a master mind, but they are also flourless and full of chocolate. What's not to love?!

My husband photo bombed my cookie batter!

Chewy Gooey Hot Chocolate Cookies

3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 egg whites
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips
large marshmallows

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch, espresso powder, salt and cinnamon and mix together until well combined.

In a separate bowl whisk together the egg whites and the egg yolk until light and fluffy and very well mixed together. Stir the eggs into the dry ingredients until combined. It may seem dry and stiff at first, but it all comes together in the end. Fold in the vanilla and the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter in heaping tablespoons, onto a parchment lined baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the cookies begin to puff and crackle. Then top each cookie with a marshmallow and bake an additional 2 minutes, or until the marshmallow puffs and begins to melt.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking rack to cool completely. Serve warm and gooey to your dearests. Store leftovers in an air tight container. Belly up!!

Chewy Gooey Hot Chocolate Cookies

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chorizo & Cornbread Stuffing

I love Holidays, especially those that are geared towards eating and celebrating our gratitude! This Thanksgiving we have a lot to be thankful for. We are pleased to announce the arrival of the newest member of the family- our 2 week old, bright eyed daughter, Mavis Amellia! Girl power rocks our house as my eldest daughter prepares to teach Mavis all of her tricks, um... I mean skills. I am so thankful for my family! Without them, I wouldn't be where I am today, and I am in a really good place!

As much as I love to cook the entire Thanksgiving meal (the turkey, the sides, the pies- oh my!!), you should know that usually Thanksgiving is a collaboration of efforts. It's a gathering of skills, and my families best recipes, compiled into a magnificent feast. It's the greatest thing ever! We've got Mom's cranberry relish, Addie's famous drop biscuits, Jeremy's dreamy green bean hot dish, Geri's legendary dressing, and HAM from one of our trophy pigs. Ok, our pigs were not actually judged by anyone but myself, and I think they are trophy winners. And yes I said HAM! Maple and spiced glazed to be exact. But if you want some turkey pointers, here's a few:

~Brine the bird. Unless you don't have the refrigerator space to do so. The bird does best sitting in the brine overnight, and that needs to happen in the fridge. You can make your brine as complex as you'd like, but a simple ratio to start with is 1 gallon of water with one cup of salt and one cup of sugar dissolved into it.

~Food & Wine magazine highlights Alex Pope and his Kansas City store called The Local Pig. There Alex tells of his favorite way to roast a turkey; with pepperoni tucked underneath the skin. I think this is a marvelous idea!!

~Roast the turkey, breast side down, for the first hour of roasting time. This has the juices flowing into the breast, adding extra moisture to those sometimes dry turkey breasts.

I have been over thinking my side dish choices, and maybe it's because the center stage will be pork, but also because I just can't choose! There are too many delicious things to be eaten in one day!! How much can I cram into one meal! Uff-da!! I know for certain that I will be making stuffing. One cannot go through Thanksgiving without stuffing! It's mandatory! So this year it will be cornbread stuffing with spicy chorizo! I have to admit, that I can't commit to making the same stuffing recipe each year. There are just too many flavor varieties that need to be created. This year I'm combining the sweet and toasty corn flavor of cornbread with spicy chorizo. Delicious!! If you'd like more side dish ideas, I have a slew scattered in my past blog posts. May I suggest these posts:

~Mom's Cranberry Relish, ~Eat your way thru Thanksgiving, ~Chorizo & Sweet Potato Hash, ~Turkey & Kale & Wild Rice Soup, ~Root Vegetable & Turkey Stew, and ~Pumpkin Pie.


Olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 pound spicy sausage (I used chorizo), casing removed, broken into bite sized pieces
3 cloves garlic
10 sage leaves, finely chopped
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
5 cups stale sourdough bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
5 cups stale cornbread, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups dried cranberries- optional
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream

Preheat the oven to 350.

Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil, add the onions and celery and sauté over medium heat. Season with salt and cook until the veggies start to become translucent and aromatic. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage begins to brown. Stir in the garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes. Add the herbs and cook for another minute, then remove form the heat.

In a large bowl mix together the cornbread, sourdough bread, cranberries, and the sausage mixture. Add the chicken stock and the cream and mix together with your hands until the breads are very moist. Taste to check for seasonings and season with salt if needed before transferring to an oven proof dish.

Bake the stuffing until it is hot all the way through and is crusty on the top, about 30 to 35 minutes. I like a lot of crust on the top, so I lean towards 35 to 40 minutes in the oven. STUFFING GOODNESS!! Belly up!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Carrot Top Pesto

The carrots out of my garden are coming of age. They are beautiful and have the brightest green tops. I often feel slightly wasteful throwing the tops aside. They are very nutritious, and I keep thinking that there has to be something great that those carrot tops can aspire to.  Not one to leave random thoughts about carrots tops alone, I decided to make a pesto. The flavor of the leaves are earthy, with a slight parsley flavor. It's not a knock your socks off flavor, like fresh basil would lend to pesto, so I decided to make the pesto a little lighter on the green side, and with a bit more of everything else.

Carrot Top Pesto

1/2 cup toasted pecans

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese ( I actually didn't have Parmesan on hand, so I used this really awesome cheese from Carr Valley called Caso Bolo Manage. It's a blend of sheep, goat, and cow's milk and it has a really fabulous flavor!)

1 large clove of garlic

1 large bunch of carrot tops, leaves only, discard the stems

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and black pepper to taste

Blend all of the ingredients together in a food processor. Blend it thoroughly to make sure you've really pulverized the carrot top leaves. Add more olive oil if needed to help it blend really well. I served a dollop over roasted root veggies for dinner the other night, and it was great! Use as you would regular pesto. Belly up!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Crabapple Butter with Whiskey & GInger

There is this small and ugly tree in my front yard. For the last two years, I have been thinking about cutting it down. It has been an unidentifiable tree- who knows what it could be. This year, this silly little tree is showcasing branches full of crimson crabapples. Who knew? My daughter and I tasted the crabapples, and sure enough, they delivered that tart flavor that makes your mouth want to instantly reject it. Now that the temps have been low and frost is sneaking in, the tartness has lessened. Perfect time for picking and making some crabapple butter!

I wanted to make a recipe that involved a slow cooker or some may call it a crock pot. I think I have now spent more of my adult life in rural living than urban living, and so with rural life in the mid-west, you must utilize a crock pot. I am still learning to embrace this phenomenon, but I know that good things come with cooking low and slow.

What you'll need to start is a peck of crabapples. This loosely translates into about 13 pounds. You could substitute other tart apples if you can't get your hands on any crabapples.  I use whiskey and ginger and a bit of vanilla and cinnamon to spice up this butter. Rosemary or sage would be good if you wanted to create a more savory butter to slather on say a grilled cheese sandwich or a pork chop. Serve your crab apple butter on a cheese plate, on waffles, on a P.B.&J.! Unlimited possibilities....

Crabapple Butter with Whiskey and Ginger

A peck of crabapples (about 13 pounds)
2 Tbls ground cinnamon
2 Tbls vanilla extract
1/2 cup whiskey- I used Jameson
1/4 cup fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup brown sugar (more or less depending on the tartness of the apples)

Core and halve the crabapples. I leave the skin on- it adds to the color and the flavor.

Place the crabapples in a stock pot with enough water to cover the bottom of the pot- about 2 cups. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the apples are softened through.

Using an immersion blender or a food processor, process the apples until you can now longer see chunks of skin and you have a fairly even consistency of pureed crabapples. Place the pureed crabapples into your crock pot on low. Add the remaining ingredients.

At this point, you are just looking to reduce the crabapple mixture into a lovely, thick butter which could take about 6 hours in a crock pot on low. It's okay, your house will smell fantastic! The color will turn a dark reddish brown, and you should be able to taste all of those flavors like the ginger and the cinnamon and whiskey. Keep tasting your butter as the hours pass by. Some crabapples may require more sweetener, so just adjust it as you seem fit. Feel free to adjust the spices as well.

At this point you could can your crabapple butter. I like to can half, and refrigerate half for immediate use. Share with your friends and enjoy! Belly up!!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Rice Noodles with Seared Tofu and Coconut

I stumbled upon this rice noodle recipe in the September issue of Vegetarian Times. I seldom, and I do mean seldom, pick up an issue of Vegetarian Times, but this months cover screams quick and tasty noodle bowls, and that pulled me in. I love noodle bowls. Mostly I love how you can transform a few simple ingredients into a really great meal. In a bowl. I hope you love this recipe as much as I did! It's easy to put together, and it really is satisfying. To add a little extra protein, I placed a hard boiled egg on top of each noodle bowl along with some garlic chives from the garden. Enjoy!

Rice Noodles with Seared Tofu and Coconut 

8 oz brown rice vermicelli noodles
2 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (I used kale and rainbow chard)
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 stalk celery, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 small shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
8 oz firm tofu, drained and cubed
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tsp sugar
2 tsp sriracha sauce or other Asian hot sauce
3/4 tsp kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
1/2 cup toasted unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Cook the noodles according to the package directions. Drain and rinse noodles under cold water, then drain again. Transfer noodles to a large bowl, and add cabbage, cilantro, celery and shallots. Gently toss to mix.

2. Heat oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu, and cook 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown on two or three sides, turning occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, sriracha, salt and garlic in a small bowl. Pour sauce over noodle mixture and toss to coat. Divide noodle mixture among serving bowls. Top with tofu, coconut flakes and the optional hard boiled egg.

4. Belly up!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Thimbleberry Jam

Just before the rain and the cool breeze came in from the lake, there was warmth and summertime bliss. In that little window of time, I convinced my husband that picking berries was a fun activity and he would love an afternoon dedicated to this berry toil. Luckily for him, we stumbled across several large patches of thimbleberries. Thimbleberries grow tall, and are very easy to pick. They are comparable to a raspberry, only much larger and thimble shaped. They taste a little sweet and a little tart at the same time. They are SO delicious!

Thimbleberries are fragile. They don't hold their shape well. After you pick them, they sometimes collapse into themselves and become a little jam like. Perfect for a thimbleberry jam project! I make jam every year, but this is the first time I have picked enough thimbleberries to make a batch of jam. Plus also, if I don't have a batch of jam made by this time of year, I get a little nervous. You know how it is. Jam nervousness. It's a thing.

So, jam is easy. I use sugar and pectin in my jam because I preserve it and store it for months at a time. You could simply cook fresh picked berries down into a lovely berry reduction, sweeten with a touch of honey and have a perfect jar of  low sugar jammy goodness. That would be an awesome alternative! But as I said, I want to store my jam and the sugar content helps keep it more shelf stable.

First things first, prep your jars. This includes washing them in hot soapy water and then giving them a dunk in some boiling water. This helps further sanitize the jars, but also warms the jars which helps stabilize the glass jars from breaking when you are pouring the scalding hot jam into them. The danger level already sounds high, but I assure you, if you go slow, you'll be okay. Maybe also throw on an apron at this point for good measure. Whatever you do, don't wear a white shirt! Sometimes splatter happens. Warning.

Now let's get the jam going! First I rinsed the thimbleberries. Then I crushed them with a potato masher. I used a total of 4 cups prepared (crushed) berries. Place the berries in a medium- large saucepan. Gradually add your fruit pectin. I used a powdered pectin. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, over high heat, stirring constantly.

Add the sugar at this point, 5 cups of granulated sugar to be exact, stirring to dissolve. Return the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam in necessary.

Now can your jam. This includes pouring the hot jam into your prepared jars, sealing each jar with a lid and placing in a water bath for 8 to 10 minutes. After the water bath, I line up the jars on the counter top to cool. Allow the jam jars to cool completely. Give them away as special gifts to your friends and neighbors. They will love you more!


4 cups prepared thimbleberries
4 1/2 Tablespoons powdered pectin
5 cups granulated sugar

Belly up!!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Blueberry Salad

I made the most amazing salad! It was amazing because it was full of things from my garden, and things from the wild, and things from my family. I didn't think I could make a salad with this much local flavor. And then there's sweet, salty, and crunchy. Trust me, you're going to want to try this one!

Local in Grand Marais, around this time of the year, is definitely the wild berry harvest. The berries are plentiful and many of you already have a healthy supply in your freezers. I was lucky enough to pick some wild blueberries. They adorn this salad, and add an earthy sweet note. The other ingredients are simple, and you can improvise with what you have available in your gardens or your local area. Red leaf lettuce, green beans, snap peas, and garlic chives are all abundant in our garden and so they all played a role in this salad. I also used pecans that were harvested from the old farmstead in southern Illinois where my mother in law grew up. They are sweet and delicious! I love knowing the source of my ingredients, it just makes things taste better!

my daughter's sugar snap peas are enjoying the summer's heat

the red leaf lettuces survived a chicken ambush!


1 cup wheat berries (you could use cooked wild rice, farro or quinoa too)
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar snap peas ( I used both sugar snap peas and green beans)
4 cups coarsely chopped red leaf lettuce ( a variety of greens would work- baby kale, beet greens spinach, etc)
1/2 cup apple cider vinaigrette (recipe follows)
2 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup toasted pecans
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1. Bring several cups of water to a boil. Add the wheat berries and salt, and simmer until cooked- about 25 minutes. Strain, and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

2. Chop the peas and beans into bite sizable pieces.

3. Toss together all of the ingredients with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Serve with remaining vinaigrette. Enjoy!!


1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
a few sprigs of garlic chives  (chives, garlic scapes or green onions will work)
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey (or maple syrup)
2 tsp coarse grained Dijon mustard

Whiz the above ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. You can store this in the fridge for a week. It's really great on grilled fish!

wholesome local goodness!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Fresh Asparagus Pesto

The hours are long, and the days are filled with sunshine and rainbows. It is nice to have summer after a record setting winter. I want to make my summer epic. I want to stretch each minute of each day to maximize my summer bliss. I hope that everyone is making their summer epic and full of adventure, balanced with a good dose of lazy Sundays. On those lazy Sundays, I have a lazy asparagus pesto, to help you make dinner time slow and maybe even beach worthy.

I stumbled across this asparagus pesto recipe from Food & Wine magazine. It is fast and easy, and tastes fantastic! Dollops of this pesto would be great on top of freshly cooked grains or lentils. Stirred in at the last minute, you can also take your scrambled eggs to the next level. I also think this pesto pairs well with fresh goat cheese, fresh mozzarella, or even a slab of brie gently warmed on the grill. I hope you enjoy!! Belly up!!


1 pound asparagus, trimmed and coarsly chopped
1/2 cup extra- virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup basil leaves, torn if large
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a food processor, pulse the asparagus until finely chopped. Transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the olive oil, cheese, basil, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. This pesto is rustic, but if you would like, you can process the combined ingredients in the food processor to make a more traditional pesto. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Coffee Spice Rub

Ah, summertime. How I love your humidity that makes my hair curl and poof, and how I love your thunderstorms. Summertime is rivaling my favorite season, fall. Summer means dipping my feet in the kiddy pool on our deck, in between weeding the garden and splashing my daughter. Sipping sparkling lemonade in antique lawn chairs, and watching my husband mow the lawn. Slowing down and being lazy. Well, for those of you who know me, I can only slow down slightly. And being lazy usually involves balancing several activities, but it's summer time and we have warmth and sunshine on our side. Most days.

oh how I love you summer time

This forth of July has been rainy, which adds to the slowing down/ laziness factor. A good thunderstorm mid-summer can spark a slew of indoor activities like cleaning, organizing, making chai spiced banana bread and smoking ribs. I don't mind. I'm still wearing a sundress and eating Mexican ice pops to stay cool. The festivities have just moved indoors. With our smoker nestled safely in our garage, it was time to tackle a slab of ribs I had tucked away in the freezer from our last butcher. These ribs are from the Red Wattle pigs we raised, and the meat is red and divine, comparative to beef rather than 'the other white meat' of pork. The smoking process I have yet to wrangle into a science, but the spice rub, I think I've got a good grip on how to handle that.

Inspired by a store bought coffee spice rub, I went to work. I wanted the coffee flavor to really stand out, and I wanted to keep the ingredient list simple- I usually go crazy and the next thing you know, I have a list of fifteen ingredients. Geez! Here's the breakdown;

1 Tablespoon coffee, ground fairly fine
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon black pepper
1 Tablespoon chili flakes
1 Tablespoon granulated garlic
1 Tablespoon smoked paprika
1 Tablespoon orange zest

Mix the above ingredients together in a bowl. You will have about 1/2 cup of spice rub. Apply liberally to steaks, ribs, or any cuts of meat about an hour or so before grilling. This mix stores well for several weeks in a sealed jar. If the orange zest seems too moist, spread the spice mix out on a cookie sheet, and allow if to air dry for a few hours or overnight before storing.

Now for those of you who were tuned into WTIP the last time I chatted about food with my favorite hosts, Julie and Mary, Julie challenged me to a vegetarian BBQ. Here's what I've discovered. Every vegetable tastes better grilled. Cauliflower cut into thick 'steak' pieces, sprinkled with the above spice rub and olive oil, and grilled until tender= fantastic. Asparagus and cherry tomatoes hold up to the bold spice blend above too. I have been playing around with our smoker as well, and there are several veggies that are so fantastic smoked, and they take only a fraction of the time of meat, to infuse a great smokiness. Smoked tomatoes are great tossed into your favorite salsa or marinara recipes. Smoked onions are one of the most ridiculous wonders of the world, and should be used in everything.  I think I'll combine smoked onions and blue cheese to stuff into burgers at our next grill out! Belly up!!

keeping it real, pool side.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Mexican Ice Pops

I just went to a conference in Austin Texas. Let me just say, Austin was awesome! They have this phrase, "keep Austin weird", but I think the words "cool" or "unique" would be a better fit. I had these ideas of what Austin would be.... cowboys, big trucks, Tex-Mex food, and republicans. Fortunately, that was the minority. Most of Austin is progressive, hip, and locals are doing their own things, and they aren't driven by revenue necessarily, but by their own dreams and visions of creating things that are great and unique. That is just down right cool!

I ate my way across Austin, as any good food blogger should. I had some of the best mini donuts ever at Little Lucy's pink food truck. I ate the legendary Franklin Street BBQ, which my husband waited 3 hours in line for (don't worry, he said the waiting in line part was as fun as tailgating, and if you know my husband, he met everyone in line). The brisket puts to shame any other brisket I had eaten previously, and makes me want to study up on my BBQ! At Bangers we indulged in some of the best tasting sausages, handmade in quirky combos like the duck, bacon and fig sausage, or a vegan roasted eggplant and red pepper sausage that is tempura battered and served with caramelized tamari. Whew! We had excellent pizza at Home Slice, fantastic fried chicken at Ms. P's Electric Cock, and Curra's Mexican restaurant was hands down the best Mexican food I have ever eaten, serving up ridiculous breakfasts of eggs with carne guisada, tamales, and chilaquiles or tortilla strips fried with green and chipotle chilies, goat cheese, onions, cilantro, and eggs. The food scene was incredible!

If there is one thing Austin has besides an awesome food scene, it's heat. Good ol' hot and steamy weather. This northern Minnesota girl was toast. That is until I discovered the Paleta, or Mexican ice pops. Fruity and refreshing, you can easily whip these ups in a couple of minutes, and have the best popsicles to ever invade your freezer. Your children and friends will thank you.

Mexican Ice Pops

1 cup simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil to dissolve sugar, then cool)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 pints fresh berries

Puree the above ingredients until smooth. Strain through a fine- mesh sieve into a large pourable container. Pour the puree into ice- pop molds, insert popsicle sticks, and freeze until solid, at least 6 hours.  Yields 8 ice pops.

To spike these ice pops, add up to 1/3 cup alcohol to a batch. Try gin with fresh blackberries or vodka with fresh raspberries.

Fresh herbs would be a great add in as well. Think strawberries and fresh basil, or blueberries and lemon thyme.

Refresh. Enjoy. Belly up!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Thai Cucumber Salad

This weekend I laid on the warm beach rocks along the shore. As the cool lake breeze blew, I was secretly thinking that this is what summers are made of. Every summer season I try to get as much of this as I can. Even if it's only 10 minutes here and there, it helps heal my mind and soul from the winter season. Things are growing! Grand Marais is alive! Summer is here!

Time to put away the pot roast recipes, and time to freshen up the way I eat. When it's growing season, I am trying to fit in as much seasonal produce as possible. This week I'll share a Thai Cucumber Salad recipe that we've been making at the Co-op. Full of fresh flavors, this salad is screaming summer!

Thai Cucumber Salad

2 1/2 pounds cucumbers, seeded and sliced into crescents 3/8" thick
1 jalapeno pepper, raw, seeded and chopped fine
1/2 bunch green onions, sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, washed and chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, washed and chopped
1/2 cup peanuts

3 Tablespoons rice vinegar
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1 to 2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder

Slice the cucumbers lengthwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds.

Combine the cucumbers, jalapeno, green onion, parsley, cilantro, and peanuts. Mix together.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, sugar, garlic, salt, and curry powder. Add the dressing to the salad and mix well. Belly up!!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thai Turkey & Wheat Berry Lettuce Wraps

Working here at the Co-op has turned me into a slight grain-iac. Have you seen all of those grains we have to offer? I can barely keep up. Wheat berries are my new favorite. They are rich and nutty, and  so darn good for you! This recipe is fresh and summery and since warmth has FINALLY arrived in Grand Marais, you can eat these outside on the deck, and watch the ice melt off of the lake. You could leave out the turkey in this recipe, and just sub in more wheat berries if you want to keep it vegetarian. You could also just eat this recipe straight up as a salad, and skip the lettuce leaves wrap.

Thai Turkey & Wheat Berry Lettuce Wraps

1 lb ground turkey (I used Ferndale Market ground turkey from Cannon Falls, MN- turkeys raised without antibiotics + free ranging deliciousness!)
3/4 cup cooked wheat berries
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-1 inch knob of ginger, peeled and minced
2 Tablespoons tamari
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1-2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 Tablespoon honey
2 tsp chili paste
salt & pepper to taste

Lettuce leaves- I used red leaf lettuce from Victous Farms in Silver Bay, MN.

Fresh basil and mint, chopped for garnish

In a non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the turkey, season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat, stirring until cooked through, about 5 minutes.

  Add the onion, garlic, and ginger and sauté a few more minutes until the onions begin to turn translucent.

Turn the heat down to low, and add the remaining ingredients, creating the sauce in the pan. Remove from heat.

Spoon the warm turkey & wheat berry salad into the lettuce cups. Serve with fresh lime wedges and a sprinkling of fresh basil and mint on top. Roll 'em up and eat them! Belly up!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Browned Butter Waffles

Mother's Day is a beautiful thing. I appreciate my dear Mom to no end. She put up with me and my brothers through thick and thin. She kept us looking presentable. She nurtured, and raised us up into fine adults. Now we have children, and as we wrangle them through life, we can't help but think of how much we gave our Mom a run for her money. And how our children return the favor, in a much more brilliant and graceful way. As each generation progresses and grows, Moms still have their work cut out for them. I'd like to share this browned butter waffle recipe in hopes that you make them for your Mothers. Moms need waffles and hugs. Always!


Makes about 6 large waffles.

Preheat your waffle iron before beginning.

In a medium bowl, mix together:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 TBLS sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Beat in a separate bowl mix until light:
2 egg yolks

Add to the yolks: 
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
8 TBLS butter, melted and allowed to brown up until fragrant and golden

Combine the liquid and the dry ingredients with a few strokes- not fully mixing.

Beat until stiff but not dry:
2 egg whites

Fold the egg whites into the batter, being careful not to over mix.
Pour the waffle batter into the prepared waffle iron, in several batches, and cook until golden and crisp.

I like to top the waffles with roasted strawberries and honey- Greek yogurt. To roast strawberries: clean and de-stem strawberries. Toss with a light sprinkling of olive oil and browned sugar. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 425, until soft and lightly browned. Pile onto waffles. Gift to your Mother. Belly up!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Honey & Whiskey Glazed Roast Duck

I have made a discovery. It's not like I discovered  new prehistoric remains in my basement walls or anything, but I did discover that roasting a whole duck is amazing. No more complex than roasting a chicken, roasting a whole duck leaves you with tender, juicy duck meat that is completely unbeatable! I also have a thing for crispy skin, and this recipe will deliver lots of crispy skin, with a sweet, salty, spicy glaze. I joke about making sandwiches with crispy skin and mayo, but seriously, that would be totally awesome with the duck skin. just saying.

This roasting a duck recipe starts things off low and slow. After a few hours of slow roasting and rendering, you crank up the oven to a reasonable 425 degrees and crisp up that skin. You get about a cup of rendered  duck fat and crispy skin!! What more could a girl ask for? What to do with duck fat? I use it in the same way I use bacon fat. It is also excellent to rub all over a chicken before you roast it. Don't buy duck very often? Most of us are cooking up whole chickens not ducks, so I do save duck for special occasions like....I think the snow is melting, for real this time!.....or Mother's Day,.....or we need to castrate a pig so please come over friends and help us with that! Whatever the occasion, duck is the answer.

First make the glaze. You'll need:

1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup molasses
1 Tablespoon tamari
3 Tablespoon whiskey
1 Tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce

Combine all of the ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly until thick and syrupy. It should be able to coat the back of a spoon. Set this aside for later glazing the duck.

 Prep your duck by removing the innards conveniently placed inside the carcass by your butcher. I set these and the neck aside for making stock. Do a rinse with cold water and pat the duck dry.  Place your duck on a rack, in a roasting pan. By placing it on a rack, the fat can render off of the duck and collect in your pan without the duck sitting in a pool of fat. That isn't a terrible thing, but it can affect the outcome of crispy skin. With a sharp knife, score the skin on the duck's breast. Be careful not to cut too deep. Just cut the fat, not the flesh. Now take your knife and poke your duck all over the place, penetrating only the skin. This will help the fat to render out and produce crispy skin. Are you catching onto my LOVE of crispy skin?. I give my ducks a good sprinkling of smoked sea salt at this point. I like the added flavor of the smoked sea salt, but regular salt is just as well. Now it's time to roast!!

score the skin on the duck's breast 

Place the duck in a 325 degree oven, breast side down, for 1 hour.
Flip the duck over, so it is breast side up and roast for another 1 hour.
Flip the duck over, so it is breast side down, and roast for another 45 minutes.
Crank the oven up to 425 degrees, flip the duck so it is breast side up, and roast for about 10-15 minutes.
Slather the glaze all over the duck and roast another 5-10 minutes.

At this point, you should be able to wiggle the duck thigh and have movement, and you should have crispy skin. If your skin isn't crispy, bake in 5 minute increments until crispy skin is achieved.

Rest, carve, and enjoy!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Roll Salad

I don't know if it's because I am craving spring, or if it's because I am craving rolls, but I definitely can't get enough spring rolls. They are so simple, so versatile, and so tasty. Whenever my husband leaves town, I insist his return include spring rolls. He doesn't mind. We talked about this phenomenon at length, while I shoveled spring rolls into my mouth of coarse, and peanut sauce dripped down my chin.  He doesn't understand. They are so simple he says. Why of all things, do you love spring rolls? It's just rice noodles and some herbs, and a few veggies. That's it. It's like a salad. He is brilliant! If you deconstruct a spring roll, it IS like a salad....with rice noodles, and some herbs, and a few veggies.....brilliant I say!

So the whole construction of a spring roll is inevitably the reason why I don't make them at home. They become fussy. I'm not a huge fan of fussy right now. Maybe when I have more free time, like in 40 years. Anyway, my brilliant husband had me thinking about deconstructed spring rolls for quite some time. Way more versatile. I had to make one for lunch. One giant spring roll salad. It brought me so much joy and sunshine, words cannot describe. My daughter thought it needed ranch dressing.

I made a simple peanut sauce/dressing to dress the bowl of spring roll salad goodness. What are spring rolls without peanut dipping sauce? The sauce whirled up quickly in the food processor, and the salad can be assembled as fast as you can chop veggies! All and all, it was a great day with spring roll salad! Use the freshest produce you can get your hands on. I had on hand a slew of mixed greens, cilantro, avocado, sweet peppers, carrots and beets. BEETS! Yes, I love beets. They were tasty, grated raw, into the salad. Try it, I dare you.


1 package rice noodles ( I used Annie Chun's brown rice pad thai noodles. They are the sturdiest when it comes to tossing the noodles around in a salad. Thin rice noodles would work too.)

A few large handfuls of mixed greens, about 6 oz., chopped (romaine and cabbage add a nice crunch, while spring mixes or baby kale add more flavor)

A variety of veggies, peeled, chopped, or grated

Cook the noodles according to the package. It is usually something like...bring water to a boil, add noodles, turn off heat, and drain after 5 minutes. Easy. Rinse the rice noodles under cold water immediately. Drain very thoroughly. Toss with a few splashes of rice vinegar.

In a large bowl, toss the noodles and the greens. Divide among 4 bowls. Garnish each bowl with a variety of prepped veggies. 

Douse with as much or as little peanut dressing as your heart desires.


1/2 cup Peanut Butter
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
1/4 cup water
2 Tbls Tamari
2 Tbls Rice Vinegar
1 Tbls Lime juice
1 Tbls Maple Syrup
1 Tbls Fresh Ginger, grated
Chili Flakes to taste

Whirl the above ingredients together in a food processor or blender. Apply liberally to your spring roll salad.
Enjoy! Belly Up!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


My daughter turned 6 last month. SIX! I think of all of the adventures we've had....and she's 6! This year to celebrate, my daughter requested ponies and chocolate cake. Luckily, my awesome neighbors supplied the ponies. I just had to make chocolate cake.

Chocolate cake? You might be thinking that there are about one thousand chocolate cake recipes out there, and it's true, there are a whole bunch. Some are fudgy, some are dry, and some may contain peculiar ingredients that leave you wondering. I love to try new recipes, but this is my go to chocolate cake recipe. It turns out perfect every time! It's moist, chocolaty, and bakes well in any form, be it cupcakes, cake layers, or a big ol' pan of cake.


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
2/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp white vinegar
2 cups cold water, or cold coffee

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside.

In a large bowl, shift together the dry ingredients.

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the oil, water or coffee, vanilla and vinegar.

Slowly whisk the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to over mix. The mixture will be wet, but that's ok. That's how it's supposed to be!

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups until about 2/3 full. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with little girls and ponies, or family and friends. Belly up!!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Homemade Cream Cheese

I have always wanted to be an artisan of cheese. Maybe it's my Wisconsin roots, or the fact that cheese is my favorite food group, or that I can't go a day without cheese consumption. I always have a stock of cheeses in our house. Today I have pesto gouda, honey goat cheese, smoked string cheese, herby cotswald, and a very small chuck of gorgonzola. I get nervous if supplies run low! What I don't have on hand is cream cheese. I heard a rumor that it is easy to make cream cheese. Maybe cream cheese will be my gateway cheese into creating some artisan cheddars down the road. But to get things started, cream cheese is today's challenge.

If you Google cream cheese recipes, you will be overwhelmed by the assortment of guides, ranging from very complicated to very easy. I am interested in easy. Basically if you add an acidity; be it vinegar, lemon juice, or tartaric acid to heated cream,  you will separate the curds from the whey. Add some salt for seasoning, and you've got an amazing cream cheese.  From here, who knows what you'll be inspired to mix into your fresh cheese. I'm opting for Ames Farm single source honey and some dried lavender flowers. Does that suggest spring? Yes please!

Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift had the best recipe that I found, of coarse! The ingredient list is short, the recipe easy to follow, and the ingredient list is made of basic things anyone can purchase anywhere. Perfect! Tools you will need before you start include a pot that can hold at least a gallon of liquid, a colander, and cheesecloth. I have all of these things on hand in my kitchen at the Co-op, except cheesecloth. I used giant coffee filters which worked wonderfully. Improvising is good!

Homemade Cream Cheese

2 quarts heavy cream
1 quart 1/2 & 1/2
1 quart whole milk
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Line a large colander with a layer of cheesecloth and place in the sink or over a bowl if you want to save the whey. *The whey can be saved and used in soup, stews, curries, or to cook pasta and rice!

Over medium heat, bring the cream, 1/2 & 1/2, milk, and slat to a gentle simmer in a heavy large pot. Stir in the lemon juice and continue to simmer gently until curds begin to form and float to the top, 1 to 2 minutes. They will first look like spatters of white, then gather into soft, cloud-like clumps. When you see the liquid begin to clear of cloudiness and the curds are firming up but not hard, scoop them out with a slotted spoon or sieve.

the curds separating form the whey in a giant coffee filter lined sieve
Let the curds drain thoroughly in the lined colander. If very soft, press gently to extract a little moisture, but take care not to dry out the cheese. Turn into a bowl, cover and chill. I allowed the curds to drain for about 3 hours. As you drain the cheese it goes from creamy to firmer. Just decide how you want yours to go. Go home, make cheese, consume with bagels, and have a nice day!! Belly up!!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Dark Chocolate Nut Butter

I've been eating a lot of Nutella lately. True confessions. My entire family is hooked. It is so good slathered on waffles, baguette ends, and every kind of fruit....we've tried apples, bananas, strawberries, blackberries, and pineapple to date. It has been my winter warmer. My seasonal affect cure all. A heaping spoonful with my morning coffee is such a great start to my day. With this chocolate nut butter becoming more and more of a kitchen staple, and less like a luxury item, I decided that I needed to make my own. Of coarse.

Making your own dark chocolate nut butter is not only one of the easiest tasks that I have conquered today, but also makes for a healthier alternative to Nutella. Don't get me wrong, calling chocolate nut butter healthy may seem conflicting, however this version is lower in sugar and doesn't contain any of the fillers common in store bought nut butters. With just a handful of ingredients, you will be blown away by the simplicity and the flavor. Have a jar on hand, it keeps for 4 to 6 weeks in the fridge! Belly up!!


1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and cooled*
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 Tablespoons sunflower oil

In a food processor, process the hazelnuts until they become a smooth butter, about 3 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl, making sure to grind the hazelnuts uniformly.

Add the cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, salt, and oil and continue processing until creamy, 1 minute or so. Transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerated, it will keep for 4 to 6 weeks.

* To toast the hazelnuts: Place the hazelnuts on a sheet pan and toast in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until they are fragrant and the skins loosen. Remove from the oven and immediately cover with a clean kitchen towel. Rub the hazelnuts in the towel, between your hands, to remove the skins. Don't worry if you don't remove all of the skins- getting the majority of the skins removed is fine.



So, I also did a variation using almonds. Actually I used almond butter. I wanted to see what would happen if a person was feeling lazy, and just wanted to fancy up a jar of almond butter. Plus it was a slow day at work. The results were great. Being lazy here still makes a fine dark chocolate nut butter! I substituted 3/4 cup toasted almond butter for the hazelnuts. Everything else remains the same. My coworkers were thankful. Enjoy!!


Monday, February 17, 2014

'Get rid of your cold', Beet Juice Cocktail

I need a rebound. A vacation. A little pick me up. Everyone I know, and their children, are sick with the flu, cold, scarlet fever, or strep throat. Seriously. It's gross. Instead of succumbing to the inevitable fate of becoming sick myself, I've launched a battle against the germs. I am winning! But not in the beginning....

At first I thought that consuming enough caffeine and sugar would  help get me through. Constant pick me ups. It seemed to be working for a little while. Then I crashed. One can only consume so much dark roast before it seems to reverse its affects. It's puzzling to me how that works, but that is exactly what happened. Not even the best made latte could snap me out of that 'I have a head cold and my head is really fuzzy feeling'. It's the worst.

Then I made juice. No, like I really juiced some fruits and veggies to make a delicious juice cocktail that helped ward off evil doers and the cold. I did some research on beet juice, and it is what Superman survived on, I'm pretty sure. It has been shown to help the body respond better to exercise, by balancing oxygen use and increasing stamina. Beet root juice is one of the richest sources of antioxidants and naturally occurring nitrates. These naturally occurring nitrates improve blood flow throughout the body, which in turn helps lower blood pressure.  Woo-hoo!! The juice was great! I used a blend of fruits and veggies that I had on hand. Carrots, beets, apples, lemon, ginger, and kale is the ingredient list. I am very partial to beets, and besides their amazing health benefits, they lend a sweet and earthy flavor. While ginger makes everything better, the lemon rounds out the flavors and adds a dash of refreshing citrus. The juice isn't overly sweet, so if you prefer a sweeter tasting juice, add another apple or two to the blend.

I use the word 'cocktail' leading you to believe that this beverage could contain alcohol. I think it would be really great if you used this juice as a base for cocktails. Cocktails are not what they used to be. Beet juice has its place in say a whisky and ginger with extra lemon muddled in. Or maybe blended with grapefruit in a salty dog with a rim of smoked sea salt. Or what about a wonderful Bloody Mary with tomato and beet juice and extra horseradish? Fresh juices are not only super great for you, but they are fascinating, and they lend another venue for culinary deliciousness.

'Get rid of your head cold', Beet Juice Cocktail
makes 4 servings

4 medium sized beets, scrubbed and cut into manageable chunks
2 large carrots, scrubbed and chopped
2 apples, chopped
2 inch nub of fresh ginger, sliced
1/2 bunch of kale, chopped
1 lemon, quartered

Organic fruits and veggies seem to carry the most flavor. If you have a stash of root veggies from your garden, use those. Fresh from the garden is best, but this is a juice made up of storage veggies, and it's winter in Minnesota. Do your best to source the best produce you can find. It can be tricky this time of year!

Scrub the carrots and beets. There is nutrition to be found in the peels, so I leave the skin on. Just be sure to scrub them up  a bit. The other prep is just to make sure to chop the fruits and veggies into manageable chunks for your juicer.

Run the above ingredients through your juicer. You'll be amazed at the amount of juice extracted from the beets! Your end product will be a crimson juice full of everything nice, with hints of ginger and lemon. Give it a taste. If you want to adjust the flavors do so by adding more apples, ginger, or lemons to the mix. A glass to start your day makes the colds go away! Belly up!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

the right amount of rural/ the right amount of urban and smoked lake trout pasta

it's a balancing act really. life, i mean. we struggle through the work day only to be left juggling the rest. life happens, hopefully for most of us, and i can barely keep it all contained. which is a good thing. i get bored easy, have a short attention span, and find multi- tasking thrilling. with that insight, you can possibly understand how i worry about getting in the right amounts of rural and urban. what i mean is that i love rural life. i love running into my friends while snowshoeing up a frozen river, only to take a moment to chat about raising pigs and ice climbing. i can't get enough of this life. wide open spaces with room to roam. then there's the pleasures of urban life. i love when we visit friends in the city and we eat beef tongue tacos from the 'Taco Taxi' food truck, look for buried treasures at architectural antique stores, eat lobster poutine and drink local brews during happy hour, all the while soaking up art and culture. i love them both. a whole bunch!

living in an slightly isolated harbor town can be challenging. finding my bliss in sub- zero temperatures while struggling with the rigorous chores of rural life can be one of the days biggest challenges. i've learned to improvise. a lot. it makes your mind more creative and your hands more callused. and bliss can be found. weather it's in fire wood stacking, creative snow removal, or finding the chicken eggs before they freeze- bliss is there. there is also bliss in travel which is a must for us. the lure of the unknown and the never before tasted. getting away. it's a much quicker and more satisfying way to a good bliss buzz. a way to break up the day to day. it's how i incorporate the right amount of urban.

right now i'm surfing airlines for tickets to key west. after a phone conversation with a friend who makes his living fishing the beautiful blue sea, it took little convincing that i needed to retreat to stone crab season and sun on my skin. stone crabs are amazing! they are also a sustainable resource. the fishermen who catch the stone crabs are only harvesting the claws, which then the crabs regenerate within a year. i like that story. it makes me feels good about covering a table with newspaper, getting out a mallet, and going to town on fresh stone crab! but as our friends in the keys will tell us, even they come down with cabin fever, or island fever as they say. it turns out that when you're living in extreme climates in isolated areas, it gets the best of you. when our friends joined us in grand marais for a visit this summer, during the peak heat of the keys, they were thrilled with our local fare as well. they loved the locally caught lake trout we dined on! it made me  realize that everywhere you go, there is good food to be had. and some of the best is right under my nose, or in my freezer- like smoked lake trout.

 lake trout are found in lake superior as well as deeper, colder inland lakes. they are a thrill to catch, but even more thrilling to eat. the pink flesh of the lake trout always reminds me of salmon, and i often cook them the same. smoked lake trout is my favorite. i like a sweet and salty brine and a slow cool smoke. it makes for great smoked lake trout, and the flesh of the lake trout is hearty and can hold up to bold flavors. once smoked, fish stores well in the ice box. it's a treat to find in the dead of winter, when all one can think of is being somewhere else. there's a multitude of things you can do with smoked fish, but one of my favorites is a simple smoked lake trout pasta. this is what our friends from the keys enjoyed, and as i may not be able to be there right now, i can still eat this dish in front of the wood stove and dream.

Smoked Lake Trout Pasta

1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2/3 cup dry white wine
1- 8 oz package cream cheese, cubed
1/2- 1 cup heavy cream
8-10 oz smoked lake trout, flaked
salt to taste
1 pound dried pasta- something hearty like penne, tagliatelle, or paparadelle
garnishes: zest of 1 meyer lemon, fresh chopped herbs like lemon thyme, basil, chives, italian parsley, grated parmesan

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and saute the onion until golden and it starts to caramelize, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cherry tomatoes and saute for about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add the cream cheese whisking until melted. Whisk in the cream and bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat slightly and add the smoked lake trout. Cook ,stirring frequently, until the sauce is quite thick, about 5 minutes. Taste and add salt as needed.

Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water until just al dente. Drain the pasta reserving a little bit of the pasta water. In a large bowl, or the empty pasta pot, toss the pasta with the sauce, adding some of the pasta water as needed to help the sauce coat the noodles evenly.

Serve immediately, with the garnishes. This sauce doesn't reheat very well, which is a great excuse not to have any leftovers. Belly up!!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Red Velvet Beet Cake

If you were to take a peek into someone's root cellar this time of year, you would most likely find, as the name implies, roots. Root vegetables in a variety of shapes and sizes are our savior this time of year. As the snow piles grow taller and taller, we resort to those heartier roots that can deliver us a taste of fresh garden and earth, in a landscape buried in months of accumulation.

I've been thinking a lot about making red velvet cake. Except I think that red velvet cake is nothing more than a basic white cake heavily laced with artificial red coloring, with a hint of cocoa. That doesn't get me excited. But I've been thinking about lacing the cake with beets, to add a natural red hue, and lend a subtle sweet earthy flavor. Beets are a plentiful storage vegetable this time of year. My friends thought it sounded too weird, so I dropped the idea. That is until my latest issue of Food and Wine arrived, and there lies a recipe for Red Velvet Beet Cake. Get outta town!! I couldn't resist! I will show those friends of mine that beets + cake = delicious!

The recipe calls for roasting the beets, and pureeing them. This creates a wonderful beet puree that blends evenly throughout the cake, adding exactly what I wanted; a natural red hue, and a subtle sweet earthly flavor. The cake has a bit more cocoa than traditional Red Velvet Cakes, and the recipe has no leavening. Do not fear! Eggs combined with sugar, slightly heated, and whisked until quadrupled in volume does the trick! It's amazing actually, and when I made the cake at work, the kitchen staff and I stood by, being amazed as the fluffy eggs teetered at the brim of the bowl. Can we whisk them anymore? I whisked on high speed until the egg and sugar mixture was cooled and the volume was AMAZING! Gently folding the remaining ingredients into this wonderful egg fluff is key to keeping the volume of the egg mixture. The cake bakes up wonderfully with a moist and tender crumb, and a great flavor! Don't let the beets intimidate you. It's delicious!

We should talk about the frosting.....the recipe has a Crème Fraiche Icing. Since Crème Fraiche isn't readily available, I substituted sour cream. It was VERY great. The original recipe from Food and Wine is for making a layered cake, and I have modified the recipe to a single 9x13 baking pan. With this modification, you only need half of the original frosting recipe. The frosting is VERY great, so if you want to make the bigger batch and have some on hand, there is nothing wrong with that. Sour cream icing slathered on a warm toasted blueberry bagel? Yes please!


1 pound medium beets
1/2 cup plus 2 TBLS whole milk
6 TBLS unsalted butter
2 cups plus 2 TBLS all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp. salt
10 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 3 TBLS granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 TBLS light brown sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups crème fraiche, or sour cream
2 pounds confectioners sugar (8 cups), sifted
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 ounces cream cheese, cut into tablespoons

1. MAKE THE CAKE: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the beets in foil and bake for about 1 hour, until tender. Let cool slightly.

2. Peel the roasted beets and cut them into chunks. Transfer to a food processor and let cool completely (I had better luck pureeing the beets while they were still warm). Puree until smooth. Measure out 1 1/3 cups of the puree, reserve any remaining beet puree for another use.

3. In a medium saucepan, bring the milk just to a boil with the butter. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the 1 1/3 cups of beet puree. In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the cocoa powder and salt.

4. Prepare a 9x13 pan by spraying it with pan spray and setting aside. Add the eggs and the granulated and brown sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer. Set the bowl 2 inches above a saucepan of simmering water and beat until smooth and the sugars dissolve and the mixture is slightly warmed, about 4 minutes.

5. Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with the whisk. Beat the warm egg mixture at high speed until thickened and cooled, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a large bowl and ,using a rubber spatula. gently fold in the dry ingredients just until no streaks remain. Fold one-third of the batter into the beet mixture in three additions.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan in an even layer. Bake for 20- 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the baking pan to a rack to cool completely.

7. Meanwhile, make the icing. In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter at medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the cream fraiche or sour cream just until incorporated. Add the confectioner's sugar in two batches and beat at low speed just until blended. Beat in the vanilla. With the machine at high speed, gradually add the cream cheese by tablespoons until the icing is smooth.

8. Frost the cake using half of the frosting recipe. Reserve the other half for a later use. Refrigerate the cake until well chilled, at least two hours or overnight. Slice into 12 very generous portions. Belly up!!

Red Velvet Beet Cake is available in the grab and go case at the Cook County Whole Foods Co-op along with a variety of tasty treats and eats!!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Addie's Fabulous Brownies

When the weather outside is frightful, and I do mean frightful, we retreat to the indoors. That is satisfying for my five year old and myself, for about 5 minutes. Then we start bouncing off of the walls. We have dance parties, picnics by the woodstove, and we play dress. We read, we doodle, we chit chat. We discuss current events, like what would Scooby do? I start to loose my mind and break out into song whenever it feels right. My daughter starts to doubt my sanity. That's when I turn to my best friend. Her name is Butter. Butter helps get us through even the toughest cold snaps. I am pretty sure without it, mankind could not exist. Just a thought.

Addie and I lounging on a collection of "icebergs" which washed up along the shore.

Addie decided it was time for brownies. Wise choice! She's a smart one, and I revel at her kitchen skills. It must have been all of that practice with the Easy Bake Oven. Or being stuck in the kitchen with me since birth. Either way, it's a win, win. Addie chose a new recipe from a new cookbook I received for Christmas. It's called, Choclatique by Ed Engoron. The cover photo is a whisk dripping with chocolate. I fell in love at first sight. We made Double Chocolate Brownies.

 The recipe has you first making a dark chocolate ganache. Ganache is a sacred word. Not really, but it sounds like it. Ganache (gah-NOSH) was created when a chocolatier discovered that when hot cream is poured over chopped chocolate, and the mixture is stirred until velvety smooth, an ingredient is created that can be used in a tempting and mouthwatering variety of desserts, pastries, and confections. It's a thing of beauty. When ganache is warm and liquid, it can be poured over a cake or torte for a smooth, seamless, shiny glaze. If cooled to room temperature, ganache becomes a spreadable filling or topping for cakes, cookies, and bars. You see, ganache is your best friend too. Together with butter, you are in for a good day!

chocolate fingers. chocolate face. mmmmm chocolate!

Once you've made the dark chocolate ganache, the brownies are nothing more than melting our friend butter over a double boiler (a bowl placed over a pan of barely simmering water), beating eggs and sugar, and folding in a bit of flour. You've got this! You will have left over ganache, which Addie dipped things in, like bananas and also all ten of her fingers. The ganache keeps covered in the fridge for months. It's a good thing to have on hand when the temperatures drop and you need a confidence builder. A spoonful does wonders!

Double Chocolate Brownies

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Dark Chocolate Ganache (recipe to follow)
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour, (I substituted almond flour with great results)
1 cup coarsely chopped milk chocolate

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter and flour a 13x9 inch baking pan.

Combine the butter and Dark Chocolate Ganache in a double boiler set over barely simmering water and stir until melted. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on high speed until creamy, 2 to 3 minutes.

With the mixer on low speed, beat in the salt and melted ganache, followed by the vanilla. Gradually beat in the flour just until no white streaks remain in the batter. Stir in the chopped milk chocolate.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Bake for 25- 30 minutes, or until the brownies are set in the middle and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out slightly moist with batter. Cool in the pan, then refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Cut into 24 brownies.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

1 1/4 cups water
2/3 cup honey, maple syrup, or corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla

In a large, heavy saucepan, bring the water, honey cocoa powder, and salt to a boil over medium heat. Whisk until blended. Remove the pan from the heat.

Immediately add the chocolate and vanilla to the pan and whisk until smooth. Set aside for about an hour to cool completely, whisking every 15 minutes or so to keep the ganache emulsified.

When cool, transfer the ganache to a rigid plastic or glass container, cover, date, and refrigerate for up to three months.