Posts from the ‘My Food History’ Category

Bacon & Butternut Squash with Rice

We’re wrapping up one of the most gorgeous fall weekends in Wisconsin – end of October is always up for grabs, and I am thankful that I got to spend this time on my cousins farm, looking at the view of Vernon County. My cousins all farm, and boy, did I reap the benefits – I brought home a car full of beef (not all for my freezer!), beautiful canned pickles, tomatoes, sauces, and beef tips, and end-of-season butternut squash, fall squash, apples and onions from Tucker & Becky’s Pumpkin Patch.

I was pretty tired when I got home, but decided to start roasting some butternut squash and see if I could figure out a recipe for lunch this week. One episode of “Chopped” later, I remembered that I had bacon in the fridge and maple balsamic vinegar had been pushed to the back of the cupboard waiting for inspiration.

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And inspired I was! This fall dish indicates that my palate is changing a bit, too – I can’t think of a better comfort food, and for some reason the mild squash and rice combo is agreeing with my constitution, helping me feel good physically.

Bacon Butternut Squash & Rice

2 small to medium butternut squash
1 pkg. bacon (I used Neuske’s smoked bacon)
1.5 c. Jasmine rice, cooked
3 tbsp. maple balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. honey

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Poke your squash with a knife and roast for one hour. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle. Slice open and remove seeds and stringy innards. Cube squash and put in bowl.

While your rice is cooking, chop bacon into 1/4″ slices and cook until crispy.

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Do not drain your bacon! Put it into the bowl with your squash and add rice. Add honey and vinegar; mix well. If you need a little more oil, use your bacon drippings.

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Serve warm and enjoy! Would it be too untraditional to make this for thanksgiving? I think it would taste great as a side dish to my turkey!

When you’re too good at making sangria, shit gets broke

Tonight I hosted the Brown Deer happy hour club (yes, I just named it) in my back yard for some cocktails and snacks. It’s August 5, and this is the first time I’ve had people over for a yard gathering – I’ve been delinquent in my landscaping skills this year. They forgave me, I’m pretty sure because I made sangria. The night was perfect – nice and cool which kept the mosquitoes away, and perfect for a fire in the stone fireplace.

We started with a delicious new taco pizza recipe – a few healthier substitutions made for a great treat.

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This recipe was super easy – both layers of “dip” we’re quick food processor blends, topped with my favorite taco fixin’s.

Base: black bean whip

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp. Greek yogurt
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lime, juiced
1 package taco seasoning
Food process until creamy and spread on the bottom of your pan or plate.

Second layer: taco dip

1 block cream cheese
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
1/4 c. Salsa
1 c. Greek yogurt
1 package taco seasoning
Food process until creamy and spread on top of your bean dip.

Add toppings of choice – I did chopped tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and cheese. It was a hit!

On to the important part – Summer Sangria

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4 bottles white wine (I used the cheapest Pinot Grigio I could find)
1 c. Pear brandy
2 oranges, juiced
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced
1/4 c. Agave nectar
2 pears
1 quart strawberries
1 peach
1 bottle champaign

Mix wine, brandy, juices and agave in a big container. Slice pears, strawberries and peach, add to sangria and let marinade in the fridge at least overnight (I gave mine 2 nights). Add the champagne just before serving for some sparkle and bubble.

So here’s what happens when your sangria is too good:

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Someone can’t get enough, and gets a little to eager to get more, and yanks the spout right out of your glass canister.

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And then he is sad. And you have to tip the container on its side to save the rest of the sangria, and hope you don’t get any glass in your mouth.

And then your neighbor yells at you for either laughing too loud, or having a smokey fire. But since its only 8:00 and you can’t figure out what you’re in trouble for, you finish the sangria anyway, and tuck away the memory of the night things got broke.

Lunch boxes and a new whole grain: Kasha is not a pop star

It’s time for another crazy-busy week, and this is once again my effort to be healthy. Let me be really honest: it’s been tough lately to stick to my food plan when things get stressful. It’s almost like the best preparation isn’t enough to keep me from the comfort foods. But one thing I will do is keep trying. And keep seeking out recipes that satisfy me, no matter what I’m feeling.

So here is my lunchbox for the week, filled with Cilantro-lime Kasha salad, grilled chicken and fruit:

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The salad was very easy, and its my first time using Kasha, which is a wheat and gluten free whole grain that was super easy to prepare (were talking less than 5 minutes easy). I would compare it to cous cous or quinoa, a great salad builder.

Cilantro-lime Kasha Salad

1 c. Uncooked Kasha, cooked as package directs
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 bag shredded carrots

Mix all of these ingredients in a large bowl once the Kasha cools.

2 limes, juiced
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. agave nectar
Salt & pepper to taste

Whisk these ingredients together to make the dressing. Pour over the top of the Kasha mixture, toss to coat.

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So here’s the deal. I cooked chicken tenders seasoned with some Pampered Chef Jamaican Jerk Rub in my grill pan, chopped it up, and put about 1.5 oz. in each box. Add some cherries or raspberries and you’ve got it.

I’ve got six of these stacked up in the fridge, ready for lunches and dinners this week, while I’ve got too much going on to think of my own well being. Wish me well. Here’s to all of you keep trying, keep striving for health and balance. I know how hard it is. This is my one step forward.

Friday Night Tasting: Crazy Water, Blue Jacket and Meritage

Friday night took me on a food and beverage adventure around Milwaukee – such an awesome experience! I got to sample three restaurants that I’d never been to before: Crazy Water, Blue Jacket and Meritage.

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We started with an early first course at Crazy Water (www.crazywaterrestaurant.com) which is located at 839 S. 2nd St. In Milwaukee. Walker’s Point seems to be an up and coming little foodie neighborhood just south of the 3rd Ward, and the restaurant has a non-assuming exterior on the corner. The tiny kitchen is in one I’d the front windows, and the other is filled with a dining table. The interior dining room and bar is absolutely decadent – gorgeous wall papers, dark wood, beautiful fabrics…would be a great place to snuggle up with a date in the middle of winter with a hot toddie. Since its summer, we chose to check out the exterior seating area – a lovely little covered courtyard filled with intimate seating, a fountain, lots of plants and great music.

When we sat down, the first thing I noticed was the great silverware – the knife was created with a handle so that it sits blade down, rather than on its side. I love me some details. Our server came for our drink order and we asked about martinis – although they don’t have a list, he asked what we’d like (something refreshing and cucumber or citrus based, with gin) and returned with a lovely creation. We decided to start with the soup of the day, which had an exotic name that I can’t remember. It was a creamy summer squash soup with the perfect amount of jalapeño to make my taste buds dance, served with a fresh and delicious dinner roll.

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We couldn’t resist ordering an appetizer as well, and settled on the garlic chicken wontons with julienned vegetables and hijiki sauce. This also had some special flavor – the bed of vegetables was a wonderful compliment to the crunchy fried wonton and the sauce was peppery and smooth.

I would absolutely return to Crazy Water. The ambiance was right up my alley, the service was spot on and the food that we sampled was delicious and interesting to taste. Entrees range from $22-$28, appetizers and salads are in the $10 range and they’ve got a nice wine list, as well as a talented bartender to make custom drinks. When we asked our server what he’s enjoying in the area, he mentioned a new restaurant, Blue Jacket, just a few blocks away. Off we went.

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Blue Jacket (www.bluejacketbar.com) is located at 135 E. National Ave. in Walker’s Point, right next door to La Merenda. I was in love with the space as we walked up to it, a very open concept on another corner lot, offering huge windows and a very airy feel. I also appreciate the “Live from the Third Coast” mentality honoring our Great Lakes tradition. One of the first things that I noticed and thought was missing was music – until I realized the sound system was based on a turntable surrounded by a large collection of records behind the bar. Stole my heart a little bit.

Upon arrival, we were able to be seated at a high top table near the bar. It took more than 5 minutes for anyone to check in with us, which was a little disappointing as we were eager to peek at the menu. We decided on another round of fancy drinks: the London Fog (smoked tea infused Bombay Sapphire, lemon, grapefruit, yellow chartreuse, sparkling wine) and a Lake Bluff Gimlet (North Shore Mighty gin, lime, lavender syrup and Bittercube Door County Hop bitters).

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We decided we didn’t need anything heavy at this point in the evening, so the fish themed artisan plank it was. I was impressed with the selection at the $14 price point: herring, trout, salmon and whitefish, accompanied by pickled peppers, beans, asparagus and beets, tartar sauce, candied walnuts, raisins and a generous portion of warm bread and flatbread slices. The fish was delicious and well presented, and we also noticed that for an additional $4 you could combine two of the planks (fish, cheese or meat) for an even larger starter. They also have a nice selection of small plates ranging from $8-$20.

Despite being happy with the food and drinks, I will put Blue Jacket at the back of my restaurant rotation and wait a few months before I return. I really enjoyed how open the space was – the breeze was moving around us the entire time. The service had a lot of flaws – very slow and inattentive. I noticed the host in a bit of a panic with a couple of servers – something I don’t want to know about as a customer. I hope they pull everything together, as I think this would be a great place for happy hour or a dinner with friends, especially in the warm months.

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The final stop of the night was Meritage (www.meritage.us) in Washington Heights. There is nothing unbelievably different about the interior of this restaurant, but it feels comfortable and friendly the minute you walk in.

We weren’t hungry in the slightest at this point, so we decided on an after dinner drink instead. The drink list is fascinating with creations like the jala-poblano margarita, coconut-curry martini and Nutella cocktail. The bartender asked what we were in the mood for and recommended his off-menu rhubarb pie martini. We were quick to agree, and reminisce about our Grandmothers and rhubarb (freshly picked and dipped in sugar, baked into a cake for Memorial Day every year).

The martini was fabulous (we learned that it was a simple recipe: home-made rhubarb infused vodka, sour mix and simple syrup) and I was slightly disappointed that my stomach couldn’t hold another course. Appetizers like ricotta gnocchi with scallops and entrees like bison stuffed chile caught my eye, bringing this restaurant to my “visit again” list.

Supper Club – fresh summer food & Limoncello

Each month, I’m lucky enough to have a supper club date with my good friends Mary, Jim, Lindsay and Jon. Our honorary members Whitney and Bob moved to Iowa, so they join whenever possible. We’ve been off schedule for a few months as summer got busy, so it was a joy to be back together in Jon & Lindsay’s new home in Cudahy on Friday night. Despite the heat, we enjoyed the best summer has to offer, and Jim, in true supper club fashion, created a delicious new drink using Mary’s home made Limoncello.

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This colorful plate looks like summer. We started our meal with a green salad topped with tomatoes, patty-pan squash and a pomegranate balsamic vinegarette. Jon worked his magic with chicken on the grill – marinated in a special mix of soy, BBQ and hoisin sauce and cooked about 10 minutes per side. His other secret: Two Fat Guys BBQ sauce (www.ilovetwofatguys.com) which is made by our friends to the south in Illinois, and is gluten free, high fructose corn syrup free, fat free and cholesterol free. Pair that with fresh farm stand corn and watermelon, and you’ve got a perfect summer feast.

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I would consider Jim a master mixologist, despite his armature status. Every time we get together he’s concocting something special, and he’s even considerate of my “nothing sweet, my tastebuds are broken” requests. I will admit, this little cocktail was a bit sweet for me, but still a lovely summer mixer. It included a base of Mary’s home made Limoncello, poured over a few frozen strawberries and topped with champagne. Here’s Mary’s recipe:

15 organic lemons, well scrubbed

2 bottles (750 milliliters each) 151-proof or 190-proof alcohol, such as Vodka or Everclear

4 cups sugar

9 ½ cups water (divided)

Pat lemons dry and, using a sharp vegetable peeler, remove the peel, being careful not to lift up any of the white pith, as this imparts bitterness.

Place peels in a large 4-quart jar or divide evenly between two 2-quart jars. Pour in one bottle of alcohol over peels (or divide between jars accordingly), pushing them down with a spoon to ensure they are well covered. Cover mixture tightly and let sit in a cool, dark place 3 to 4 weeks.

Add second bottle of liquor (or divide evenly accordingly).

Boil sugar and 7 ½ cups water in a large saucepan 5 to 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until liquid is clear. Remove from heat and let cool. Add to alcohol mixture. Let mixture sit another 3 to 4 weeks. Eventually liquid will absorb the flavor of the peels and turn bright yellow.

Strain liquid through a fine-mesh strainer or coffee filter. Add remaining water to mixture, using 1 2/3 cups if you used 151-proof alcohol or 2 cups if you used 190-proof. This will turn it a desirable cloudy, pale yellow.

Transfer liqueur to decorative 1-liter bottles and seal tightly.

Recipe for True Love

Recipe for True Love

A perfect recipe to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary! Love you Gordy & Barb!

Wisconsin Brat & Curd Omelette

I won’t deny it. I have a problem. A cheese problem. I wish I could eat it at every meal. Seven courses at my last dinner party were based on it. I actually have a “cheese guy” (gal). Plus I’m a serious Wisconsin girl, so it’s no surprise that this crazy concoction came out of my kitchen tonight.

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I got home from a long day, forced myself to go to yoga, and when I got home, I looked into the fridge and started pulling random leftovers:

1 grilled beef brat (I purchased 1/4 of a cow this spring from the Gretebeck farm in Westby, WI…best decision ever)
2 slices onion, chopped
4 mini peppers, chopped
1 egg, 2 whites
A handful of cheddar cheese curds from my favorite: Decatur Dairy http://www.decaturdairy.com/ if you’ve never had this cheese, order some NOW!)

Start sautéing your chopped up brat, onion and peppers in a pan over medium heat, add salt and pepper to taste. Once the veggies are softened, whisk together your egg and whites and pour over the top. Let it firm up a little and sprinkle your curds on top. When the egg is firm and the cheese is slightly melted, fold and plate.

YUM. I can’t believe I never thought to do this before. So good. So easy. Dinner in under 10 minutes, straight from my Wisconsin heart.

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