Friday, May 31, 2013

I've moved...Find me at!

I've moved!! Finally after months of empty promises. Or no promises. My new site is live! Please visit Madison Eats for all the information about my new and expanded business.

I offer Food Tours, B-cycle Brunch Tours, Cooking classes and more!! All right here in Madison, WI.
Hope to see you there.

Thanks for all your support,

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Amazing Chili-Spiced Brownies (and my Future:)

Hi. I have not been posting regularly lately, and I'll tell you why. No, it's not because I have nothing to say (My husband wishes:). No, it's not because I am not into this anymore. On the contrary, I am working on building a business that will not only include a blog, but many other food related endeavors. The blog will be a part of the picture, but not the whole picture. So what is it? Well, here's a few hints.
  • My business name is changing to Madison Eats 
  • I will be hosting many different food-related events in and around Madison, WI. 
  • I am adding some online cooking classes--with a twist 
  • There will be some other cool stuff...
Meanwhile, you can catch my recipes and blog online in Madison Magazine. And I'll try to post a decent recipe here and there. My blog is called Local Flavor , and you can find my monthly recipe in the Habitat section of the magazine.

Photo by Martha Busse
Oh, by the way, I do suggest you try this amazing recipe for chili-spiced brownies. They will not disappoint!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Cooking with Chef Tory Miller (video) - Fra Diavolo

I recently had a chance to spend a bit of time in the kitchen with Madison, WI-based, award-winning chef Tory Miller, from L’Etoile and Graze. He whipped up an amazing dish for the holidays--or the apocalypse. The original recipe was published in Madison Magazine’s December issue. For those of you who like a little video assistance, check out our kitchen session here and enjoy a cooking lesson with Chef Tory. Happy Holidays!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Stuffed Bell Peppers

My little pumpkins!
 I spent part of last weekend gleaning. I like that word. Kind of like “cleaning” but more glamorous.  Tipi Produce, in Evansville, WI, has supplied my neighbor and me with vast amounts of produce for the past few months via our shared CSA. On a recent weekend, in the throes of harvest season,Tipi Produce founders Beth Kazmar and Steve Pincus invited all the CSA members to their farm to take the remnants of their organically grown produce.  While my kids were enticed by the promise of pumpkins, I was looking forward to picking some peppers. 

Whipping his sisters into shape
Forty-five acres is bigger than I thought! Rows of carrots, fennel, tomatoes, peppers, kale, broccoli, watermelon, raspberries and many other vegetables stretched out across the farm,  creating a rainbow of green ribbons. Immediately after we arrived, the kids ran to pick out their pumpkins. After loading them into our car, I took my son to the farthest part of the farm to pick peppers. As we jogged out there, he said, “we should make stuffed peppers!” Onions, beef, garlic, tomatoes, brown sugar...he rattled off the ingredient list. How could I refuse to take this opportunity to cook with him? I couldn’t. We picked 5 beautiful red bell peppers, added them to our bucket of carrots, watermelon, poblano peppers and raspberries and headed home, our mouths watering as we talked about our meal.

Chopping peppers
The next day when my son came home from school we got to work. He chopped garlic, peppers, and onion. We browned beef, added herbs, tomatoes, grated cheese and cooked rice. We boiled the peppers briefly and in no time, they were ready to stuff.  We popped them in the oven at 350 for about 30 minutes, and presto--dinner. The greatest reward? Cooking with my son. 

Stuffed and ready to go

Warm Cheesy stuffed peppers

Stuffed Peppers

4 red bell peppers, top ½ inch and ribs and seeds removed

olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound ground beef
1 ripe poblano, seeded and chopped
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp each dried oregano and thyme
½ cup grated cheese
salt to taste

Prep your pots and pans!
Heat oil in skillet.
Bring stock pot of water to boil.
Put a little oil in bottom of a baking pan.
Preheat oven to 350

Cook it up!
Brown beef in skillet. Add onions and cook until softened.
Add minced garlic, poblano and diced tomatoes, and cook a few minutes, stirring as needed.
Add remaining ingredients except cheese. (though I would actually add cheese to it next time to increase yummy factor.
Add salt to taste
When water is boiling, submerge cleaned, cut peppers for about 3-4 minutes.
When peppers are cool enough to handle stuff them with the meat mixture, then top with cheese.

Bake it!
Bake in a baking pan uncovered at 350 for 20-30 minutes til cheese is golden.

Eat it!
I think you got that part figured out. Though my son tried to eat his like a burrito.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Winnowing Seeds

cilantro seed

I’m turning into my mother. Not that that’s bad. (Mom, if you are reading this, I love you!) I’m getting thrifty. My mom excels at thrifty. Since I was a kid, embarrassingly taking my lunch to school in an old bread bag, she has pretty much rocked the thrift world. Now we think of thrift as being “green” or “economically conscious”, but it was just the way she was raised. And I was raised. And that sh*t hits you like a brick as you grow older.

The excitement I felt as I discovered that I could use an old plastic sled to winnow and save seeds for next year, or for my spice rack, was a little scary. Double duty thrift. At any rate, saving seeds does make sense. It is green, if you put the dried seeds in a re-used plastic baggie or envelope. And it is of course economical! There is a lot of information out there about winnowing, using more "conventional" tools. Check some of them out!

I wrote a bit more about my version of thrifty winnowing, and saving seeds in my online blog for Madison Magazine. There’s even a video (mom, it’s on a site called You Tube on that thing called the “internet”:). Check it out. And then you can tell me that Mom always knows best.  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Epic Four-Layer Birthday Cake

Sometimes we just need to be told what to do
I like this message. I grew up in a family where many major decisions and choices were put off until the right time—and though my parents did their very best, so often the right time never came. Maybe that's why I can sometimes be impulsive and determined. That attitude has served me well, and also not so well. My first impulsive move to Arizona as a twenty-something landed me a job with Gary Nabhan, a renowned ethnobotanist, and all around incredible person. On the other hand, my determination to work in the food field has left me with a time deficit. Writing, blogging, cooking, testing, leading tours—well, sometimes it's hard to balance it all.

Layers of goodness
When it comes to making a cake however, I have been going large—with great results. Yes, I can be satisfied with a simple pound cake or a crumb cake if I just need something for a quick dessert, or a breakfast treat. But special occasions call for something bigger. Like a four layer cake. With triple chocolate-hazelnut frosting. And Banana Cream filling. And Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream filling. Both my daughter and husband celebrate their birthdays this month--what better occasion to go large? The cake was truly epic. The trick to going big, and feeling balanced? Starting well ahead. I froze the layers 2 days ahead, and made the frostings/fillings the day before, leaving them at room temperature.
Enjoying one of our favorite places on hubby's birthday
The cake layers featured both white angel food cake and chocolate cake. I love this angel food cake recipe, and had made the cupcakes for my daughter's birthday. For the epic cake, I simply poured the batter into two cake pans, and the layers were perfectly thin. Then I look for a great chocolate cake recipe. This one from Smitten Kitchen never disappoints. I halved the recipe so that I could bake 2 thinner layers. 

The filling was dreamed up by me and my husband after I hinted that I was going to make a nutella frosting. What goes with Nutella?, I asked. Bananas, we said simultaneoulsy. Weird. Anyway, banana cream filling it was.
And I has some amazing Strawberry Meringue Swiss buttercream left from my daughters cake (which was half as epic, but then again, she's only 5). And, last but not least, I was super proud of myself because I made up my own chocolate frosting recipe!! I wanted a Nutella frosting with the consistency of a great chocolate frosting. It worked.

The cake, topped with fresh pansies
Here are the parts and pieces.  Though I waited for a birthday to make this incredible cake, you don't have to. Why not go big today?

Epic Four-Layer Cake

Cake Layers

Angel Food Layers (makes 2 thin layers) from Amanda's Cookin'

2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease 24 muffin cups or line with paper liners.
Whisk together cake flour, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together egg whites and buttermilk.
Place the sugar in your mixer bowl and add the lemon zest. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until moist and fragrant. Add the butter to the sugar mixture and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes, until very light.
With mixer on low, add one third of the flour mixture, then add half of the buttermilk mixture. Add half of the remaining dry ingredients, then the rest of the buttermilk mixture, and finally the remaining dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl then beat on medium-high for 2 minutes to ensure it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Spoon batter evenly into 2 cake pans
Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
Cool cakes for 5 minutes; transfer to cooling rack to finish cooling. 

Chocolate cake layers from Smitten Kitchen

5ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate such as Callebaut
3/4 cups hot brewed coffee
1.5 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper.
Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well.
Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 30 minutes.
Cool layers completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. 

Fillings and Frostings

 Banana Cream Filling

3/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp butter 
1 mashed banana (I use at least 2) 
3/4 cup chopped nuts (personally never used nuts, it doesn’t need them!)
1 tsp vanilla

Cook milk, sugar, egg yolks and butter over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick (12 – 17 mins). Add banana, nuts and vanilla. Cool stirring occasionally until of spreading consistency.

Strawberry Swiss Meringue Buttercream Yield: ~5 cups

5 large, fresh egg whites (150 g/5 oz) 
1 1/4 cups (250 g/9 oz) sugar 
3/4 lb (3 sticks/340 g/12 oz) butter, cut into cubes and cool, but not cold 
2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup (or to taste) strawberry puree (I used strawberry rhubarb jam) OR a handful (about 1 cup, or more to taste) of fresh, washed, and dried strawberries, chopped 
pinch of salt 

If using strawberry puree, place a handful of frozen strawberries in a food processor, and process until a smooth puree. Measure approximately 1/4 cup and set aside (you may want to add more puree to taste).
Wipe the bowl of an electric mixer with paper towel and lemon juice, to remove any trace of grease.
Add egg whites and sugar, and simmer over a pot of water (not boiling), whisking constantly but gently, until temperature reaches 150°F, or if you don’t have a candy thermometer, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
With whisk attachment of mixer, begin to whip until the meringue is thick, glossy, and the bottom of the bowl feels neutral to the touch (this can take up to 10 minutes or so). *Don’t begin adding butter until the bottom of the bowl feels neutral, and not warm. 
Switch over to paddle attachment and, with mixer on low speed, add butter cubes, one at a time, until incorporated, and mix until it has reached a silky smooth texture (if curdles, keep mixing and it will come back to smooth). *If mixture is too runny, refrigerate for about 15 minutes and continue mixing with paddle attachment until it comes together.
Add vanilla and salt, continuing to beat on low speed until well combined.
Add strawberry puree to taste or the finely chopped strawberries, and blend until combined.
Add small amount of pink food colouring, if desired.

*Note: I used strawberry puree from frozen strawberries for my buttercream. 

Triple Chocolate Frosting

16 tbsp butter
1 cup confecioner'st sugar
4 oz chocolate melted
¾ cup cocoa
2 tbsp corn syrup
cup nutella

*enough to frost one 2 layer cake -- outside only
Heat chocolate over pan of water until melted, set aside to come to room temp.
Beat sugar, cocoa powder and butter until mixed and fluffy, add in vanilla, corn syrup, nutella and melted chocolate.