Sunday, December 19, 2010

Souper Simple Supper

Potato-Kale Soup

During this busy holiday season, I have rediscovered the wonders of soup. It takes so few ingredients to make a great pot of filling soup! Until recently my favorite was a pumpkin soup. Then a friend dropped off a great big bag of home grown fingerling potatoes and I decided to make a Kale-Potato soup with bacon and cheese. This soup has become a favorite in our house, and takes about 30 minutes to make. It can be as simple as you like (try adding Trader Joe's sausage), or more complex with the addition of bacon and grated cheese.

Oh, yeah, and I also made my first apple pie!

But back to the soup:)

3 tbsp oil or bacon fat
1 onion, chopped
8-10 or so fingerling potatoes, washed, and peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups?)
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped
1 clove garlic, diced or crushed
6 cups stock
1/2 cup half and half
salt and pepper

sliced grilled sausage, or bacon and grated cheese to garnish.

To Make
Sautee onion in fat in stock pot until soft.
Add potatoes and stock and simmer about 20 minutes until soft
Add garlic and blend with immersion blender until creamy. Bring back to simmer and add kale, simmer 5 more minutes or so, until kale is tender.
Turn off heat, add half and half, salt and pepper to taste
Serve with diced bacon, grated cheese or cooked sausage slices.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It Takes a Village to make Peanut Butter

I still remember the words of the village women I met 10 years ago in Mali. We sat on the mat-covered floor of a round-walled hut talking about their traditional medicines; I was doing research about traditional environmental knowledge and dance (they are related:). A few minutes into the conversation they turned the tables. "Do you have any medicine for exhaustion?" they asked me.

I didn't fully understand what exhaustion meant at that time in my life, but now, 10 years older and 2 kids later, I think I get it. Well, sort of.

The women in the village of Kolonmalila, on the border of Guinea and Mali, rise every morning at 4 a.m. to start making food for the day. Thump, clap, thump. Thump, clap, thump. Thump, clap, thump. Three women tend each large wooden mortar, making rhythms as they pound millet, amaranth or corn for the day's meal with 5-foot pestles. Each day the women in the village spend about 2-4 hours processing grain for the meals. And that is only a small portion of their daily work. They also collect fire wood, cook the food, farm, repair the huts, gather medicine, winnow, dry and store food and care for animals. And care for their children. The women live in huts separate from their husbands, with the children. And Malians don't tolerate crying babies, so they are fed on demand and tied to the backs of these women as they work.

I probably really don't understand exhaustion.

When I probed further, I learned that they wanted a grinder. They want a machine to help process their crops. As I researched the options, I came across Compatible Technology International, a non-profit founded by ex-General Mills engineers. These retired GM workers have designed and tested grinders, winnowers, potato peelers, water filters, among other items, and have brought hope and a better quality of life to many people in impoverished nations.

A grinder? What's so important about a grinder? Well for one, it saves the women hours of work each day. It can grind in 1/2 hour, what normally takes 4 hours. With their "free" time, the women can process grain for sale in the market, and start to make a small income to buy clothes, medicine, etc. for their families. It grinds grain that is minimally processed, yielding greater nutritional value in the final product, and produces less waste.

Also the women can "rent" it out for a small fee, and earn income that way, too. The grinder costs $350. That is about the average annual salary for a Malian--living in the city. In the village, life is subsistence-based, and they would never be able to afford the grinder.

It was a chuck of change for my family, too, so the people at CTI suggested a great way for raising money for the grinder. Host a peanut butter-making party!

We invited our friends and neighbors to test the machine and grind some organic peanuts, and enjoy some African food. I made peanut sauce (tigedigena) and zame, or seasoned rice and veggies. Other people brought food to share, and in all I say we crammed our living room with about 50 people. Through the generosity of our friends and neighbors, we raised $700, which will pay for the grinder, a flywheel attachment that our friend Peter designed, the shipping and some medicine for the villagers! Our family's gift to the villagers became Madison's gift to the women in Kolomalila. I feel so grateful that people donated. Until you go there, it is hard to understand what a difference one item like this can make. I feel grateful for this opportunity, the generosity of my "village", and I hope that I can continue to work to improve the quality of life of women everywhere!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cupcakes and Gingerbread Houses-Sweets with my Sweets

I realized, bright and early this morning, that one thing I love about cooking is that I feel like I accomplish something. It's most often gratifying, not to mention meditative.

I set to work in the kitchen, mixing, chopping, cooking, and voila, food is made. And it usually tastes good.

I don't feel as accomplished in other areas of my life. I am a compulsive multitasker and list-maker. It runs in my family. When Drummer Man first met my mom and sister, he commented in awe (or maybe it was concern?) that not only does every one in my family make lists, but we are compelled to do what is written on them.

I didn't sleep well last night. My to-do list from yesterday awaits me.
This was/is my list:
-Photocopy and mail documents to Abdoul,
-Send pictures to print to Camera Company, and
-wrap and mail Christmas presents to my mom and sister.

I accomplished none of that. (But I did take a long bath--hey, I have my priorities). I went to bed feeling the weight and speed of time.

Miraculously, I awoke feeling better. I realized that in the past two days I have managed to have special cooking time with not one, but both of my children!
Two days ago my son had a rare late evening playdate and my daughter wanted to make strawberry cupcakes. Off we went to the kitchen, where we gathered, mixed and stirred ingredients for a basic vanilla cupcake, based on Ina Garten's recipe which I found on my friend Megan's blog Foodalution. My daughter wanted to add strawberry, but all we had was jelly, so I blopped a bit on top before I baked them. Then we added a drop of red food coloring to a basic buttercream frosting, and topped the final product with sprinkles and toasted coconut. Frosting was fun with my new icing tips...

Last night my son and I had a special date night, and headed to the Willy Street Coop for gingerbread house making extravaganza with Kathy. We frosted, built, decorated, blopped candy all over (and ate lots of it). And I didn't have to clean up the mess!

No matter how long my to-do list remains, I accomplished something of great importance--quality time with my kids. Hey, I have my priorities!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Raviolone with Butternut Squash in Butter and Sage

I am having a hard time focusing on my blog these days. Why? Because one month from today my family and I leave for West Africa! ONE MONTH! We will be there for a little over a month.

Traveling to Africa is more than a vacation; it is a journey, a trip, an adventure. This will be my 5th trip to West Africa, the 4th for my hubby, 2nd for our son, and first for our daughter (unless you count her en utero visit.) I can't wait.

My days are filled with planning, shopping, packing, cleaning, and then the usual stuff--taking kids to school, making lunches, laundry...

I am hoping to blog this time while in Africa, but know that my posts will be infrequent since it takes quite an effort to get to the internet cafe. I am most definitely going to learn cooking, dancing, and so much more. I will share as I can.

Cooking has actually been keeping me grounded these days. I recently made a recipe from David Tanis' new cookbook, Heart of the Artichoke. The Raviolone with Butternut Squash in Butter and Sage was just superb. I love squash for its ability to fuse wonderfully with both sweet and savory flavors. I love pasta for its ability to warm my soul. It was also fun to make homemade pasta with fresh eggs from our hens (though I wish I had a pasta roller).

I wonder what recipes I will learn to make using squash in Mali? I'll let you know!

Raviolone with Butternut Squash in Butter and Sage
(Click here for the full excerpt! Page 26/43)

For the Pasta
2 cups flour
4 large eggs
pinch of salt
2 tbsp olive oil

For the Filling
1 large butternut squash
salt and pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup fresh grated pecorino romano
grated zest 1 lemon
1 tsp red pepper flakes

For the Sauce
4 tbsp butter
1 small bunch sage
salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, smashed
juice 1/2 lemon

Make the dough by putting the flour in a bowl. Beat the eggs with a bit of salt and the oil. Add to the flour and stir. Knead until dough is smooth. Wrap and set aside to rest for 1 hour.

Make the filling by baking the squash on a cookie sheet (halve it and de-seed) at 375 for about 45 minutes. Scoop out soft flesh and add other filling ingredients.

Make the pasta by dividing pasta dough into 4 pieces, and rolling it out in a pasta maker. Cut the rolled sheet into 4 equal pieces. Fill with filling and fold in half, sealing well with a bit of water. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.

Put two large pots of salted water on to boil. Add the raviolone to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes. Check for doneness! Cook a bit more if needed.

Make the Sauce by melting the butter in a small skillet. When melted, toss in sage leaves, and season with salt and pepper. Toss in garlic, being careful no to burn it. Turn off heat and squeeze in lemon juice. Pour over raviolone and serve with more grated cheese! Eat, and enjoy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Friendship Pho

The gift-giving season is here. Hard to believe that we have barely eaten our turkey, and all the stores are already decorated with eye-catching tinsel, lights and wrapping.

I have my eye on a thing or two, I admit. Mostly frivolous stuff I don't need—another sweater, new boots, some cookware. But with our family's departure to Mali, West Africa nearing, the excess of gifts being advertised, given and received each holiday season really strikes me.

A West African friend noticed soon after he arrived in the US that many people dump old bikes on the curb, free for the taking. He told me in astonishment, “if you throw out your bike in Africa, you're walking.” Most of us could ride our second bike, skateboard, car, or scooter, I'll bet.

In the midst of the impending holiday frenzy, I had a chance to spend an evening with my friend Thuy, learning to make Pho. Pho, which simple means “noodle” in Vietnamese, is the country's national soup. It features a deliciously spiced broth, rice noodles, and a variety of meats, all garnished with a “salad” on the top. The salad might include romaine lettuce, limes, hot chiles and green onions—sweet, crunchy, hot, salty, sour and bitter intermingle in each flavor-packed bite. Thuy walked me through the Pho-making steps; we started by gathering ingredients at the neighborhood Vietnamese grocery store Viet Hoa, and then returning home to roast spices, chop garnishes and finally assemb the amazing soup.

As we cooked, we talked, laughed, drank wine, and played with my kids. She told me about her mother who had come from Vietnam when Thuy was just a baby, and the difference between Pho in the north and south of Vietnam. She helped us pronounce the words on the package of noodles “Bahn Pho Thui”, uttering strange gutteral sounds that just sounded funny when we tried to copy her.

After she left, I realized that I had just been given one of the best gifts I could ask for— friendship. Friendship has so many components. Learning to cook, sharing the flavors of your history, and the smells and tastes of your family is such a powerful and intimate way to nurture a friendship. That night, when Thuy taught me how to roast an onion over an open flame, she shared a part of herself, her family and culture with me that I will cherish each time I cook up a batch of Pho.

The gift of true friendship doesn't cost a dime. It can be easily re-gifted, and doesn't need fancy wrapping or packaging. When my friend Amy came over the recently, we spent a couple hours making Pho. I showed her what I had learned, and we talked and laughed. Spending time with friends cooking nourishing foods not only feeds our bodies, it also nourishes loving and lasting connections to our family and communities. Cooking together is the perfect holiday gift.

Thuy's Pho

For the Stock

2 chicken breast, bone-in, or one whole chicken.

About 20 whole star anise

5 whole cloves

¼-1/3 cup whole coriander seeds

2-3 T black pepper corns

2 whole cinnamon sticks

1 whole onion

about 2 Tbsp raw cane sugar (lump)


For the Soup

fresh or dried rice noodles

organic beef tenderloin, thinly sliced

5 scallions, finely sliced

1 bunch cilantro chopped(mix cilantro and scallions in one dish)

2 limes cut into wedges

hoisin sauce


basil or mint, leaves plucked

bean sprouts or romaine

Make Stock

Bring water to boil in a large stock pot. Boil chicken until tender.

Remove the chicken from the water. Set aside until cool enough to shred. Set aside meat.

Bring chicken broth back to a simmer.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Put whole spices in pan and heat, turning frequently, until you smell their fragrances. About 5-7 minutes. Do not let them burn! Add the spices to the broth.

Heat a whole onion over gas flame or grill, turning frequently until outer skin peels off and some brown marks are on onion, about 4 minutes or so. Add to broth.

Boil/simmer the broth, slightly covered on medium until the brth takes on the fragrance of the spices, about 50 minutes – 1 hour.

Add sugar to taste—it should be somewhat sweet. I found that about 2 T works for a large stock pot.

Add salt, too, about 1-2 T.

Taste it and adjust salt and sugar until you love it. This can be frozen!

To Assemble

Place bowls of lime wedges, basil, bean sprouts, cilantro and scallion, and hoisin and shrichra on table.

Cook noodles according to directions.

Place some noodles in a bowl. Ladle hot stock over noodles through a strainer.

Place raw tenderloin slices into hot stock, along with some shredded chicken (or tofu if you like)

Top with generous portion of bean sprouts, cilantro/scallion, a wedge of lime, basil, and a hoisin and sriracha to taste.

Slurp and enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dishing with David Tanis: The Heart of a Chef

What could I possibly have in common with David Tanis, co-chef at Chez Panisse? The chef that Michael Pollan so eloquently praises. “There are many chefs in America more famous than David Tanis,” Pollan says, “but there are few, if any, who are more gifted.”

Not much, I was certain. He's a “real” chef. I just cook for my blog, my family and a few cooking classes here and there. Chef Tanis spends half of each year in crunchy California whipping up dishes at Alice Waters' famous retaurant, and the other half in creamy-dreamy France throwing dinner parties, and tops it all with a healthy splash of traveling. I am a midwest girl; I grew up in Ohio, and now reside in Wisconsin. I spend time cleaning up after dinner for a family of four, and rack up most my travel miles driving to my kids' playdates and soccer games.

I had the great fortune of meeting David Tanis at Roots Restaurant and Cellar in Milwaukee, WI. Thanks to an invitation from Paul Fredrich of Burp!, I was among a few food bloggers who showed up to meet and talk to Chef Tanis at the blogger junket (or, as Chef Tanis said, the “jogger blunket.”), where he was promoting his new cookbook, Heart of the Artichoke. His cookbook features menus designed around each season, and are beautifully simple, while rich and elegant. The photography is stunning.

Our motley crew included Nicole from On My Table and Neil from Stream of Consciousness, Anna from Tallgrass Kitchen, as well as Paul, Chef Tanis and his publicist. We never did decide what a “junket” was, but had a great time chatting around Roots' large table and sampling food from their impromptu and glorious lunch menu. Many of us favored the delicious blue corn crusted perch sandwich with bacon relish. Both the maple-dressed frisee salad with cheddar dressing, and the breaded egg salad with greens and a biscuit were popular sides.

Chef Tanis acknowledged he has come along way since his meals of tater-tots and chicken nuggets as a youth in Ohio. Wait, did I say Ohio? Why, that's what we have in common!

When Chef Tanis mentioned that he grew up in Dayton, Ohio, I immediately wondered if he had spent time in my hometown, Yellow Springs, which is less than 30 minutes from Dayton. Indeed he had. Yellow Springs is known for many things, including hippies, vegans, artists, the Glen Helen, Antioch College, a sweater the townspeople knit for a tree, and it's liberal vibe—oh yeah, and another famous Dave(id), Dave Chappelle.

Within minutes we were fondly recalling nighttime tromps through the Glen, a small nature preserve, followed by midnight runs to Young's Dairy for 10-cent day-old donuts (yes, mom, it's time to confess that's what I did during my teen years). He remembered the Little Art Theater which shows wonderful foreign and art films, and the summer eco-camps at the Glen, where I had been a camp counselor, though not while he was there. It took me back to cherished days in a great town, and down the roads that led to the very table I shared with a great chef and other foodies and bloggers. Cool! It was inspiring to realize that Chef Tanis traveled some of those same roads.

During our casual conversation around the table, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions, and hear his words of wisdom as he casually, and with great humor, talked about cooking, the local food movement, traveling and life. Between the questions, the topic meandered from the importance of eating locally, to ways to get kids involved in healthy cooking and eating, to the food blogging craze—and whether Chef Tanis should start a food blog (yes! we all agreed).

Chef Tanis on France

He enjoys taking a breather from fast-paced restaurant cooking while away from Chez Panisse, but says he loves cooking for friends, family and the occasional dinner party at his private dining club, Aux Chiens Lunatiques, in France, cooking in his very small kitchen. “It would be sad to walk through the markets in Paris and not be able to buy or cook anything.” He admittedly enjoys the slower pace of life there. You mean the 2-hour lunch breaks? I might like that, too!

Chef Tanis on “fusion” food

He prefers to keep various culture's cuisine separate, and to exercise restraint in order to show off the distinct flavor of each cuisine. Drawing on his experience cooking around the world and in different regions of the U.S., his cookbook provides many wonderfully diverse recipes, while emphasizing seasonal menus, local ingredients and fresh flavors. Just to be sure, I made his Raviolone with Butternut Squash and Sage-Butter Sauce. Divine!

Chef Tanis on cookbooks and recipes

He says that recipes in his books are his “take on a traditional recipe. There's originality in the book. Dishes are public domain, but you extract from those recipes to make your own.” He wanted to write a cookbook that would inspire people to cook, rather than write a detailed how-to with specific step-by-step instructions. I'd say he succeeded. Very well.

Chef Tanis on cooking seasonally

It's natural, he says, 'We just forgot how.” He joined the bloggers in saying how glad he was that more stores were providing locally grown options. It just makes sense.

Chef Tanis' 5 essential ingredients

Salt, garlic, olive oil, chile and wine. I could live with that.

Chef Tanis on learning to cook

Everyone can cook, David says. “Except those people who don't have the gene.” Not to name names, Drummer Man, but I know a few of those!

Chef Tanis on food blogging

As each of us pulled out our cameras to snap a picture of our meal, he said, “Can't people just enjoy their meal? What happened to just eating without blogging and taking pictures?” Chef Tanis, you're so French!

His path and mine have crossed twice now (though I never met him in Ohio); what's to say I can't become a world renowned chef—if I want to? I guess we'll just have to see where this road takes me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tatsoi, the Beautiful

I made a very superficial decision this past week: I bought something purely for its good looks.

No, it's not a new pair of shoes (but that's not a bad idea!). Thankfully, it was much cheaper than new shoes.

Despite what people say, I think that impulse decisions, if made from the heart, are usually spot on. Not that I condone wild purchasing frenzies, or recommend them. I have regretted a impulse buy a time or two. But when I plucked a gorgeous rosette of Tatsoi from the produce aisle at the Co-op, without having a clue what I would make with it, I couldn't have been happier.

I tenderly placed it on top of my grocery bags, giving it celebrity status. I took it home and stared at it. Wow. Perfect oval green leaves accented by cream-colored stems. It was larger than a dinner plate, opening fearlessly to the world.

I proceeded to wash it, sautee it and add it to a batch of coconut milk curry soup I had made the day before. It was tender and delicious, and I could feel its beauty and life force resonate through my body. Tatsoi, nice to meet you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday Mad-town Meals

Happy Birthday to me,
I went out to eat times three,
Though I enjoyed the rest (from cooking),
I like eating at home best.

Thank you to my friends, children and husband for indulging me in some great eats this weekend. I can't believe that I celebrated another year. And no, I'm not 25...again. But I wouldn't want to be. I love my full and blessed life, and all the roads that have led to this place.

I explored some fun new places (to me) in Madison, including Marigold Kitchen, and the Underground Kitchen. I loved the pork loin sandwich and the simple red cabbage slaw at Marigold. And the company of a good friend. The grilled pork was topped with eggplant caponata, greens and mayo on a hearty roll, while the slivered red cabbage was tossed with a delicious anise seed-infused viniagrette.

At the Kitchen, as the Underground Catering's new restaurant is called, Drummer Man and I sampled a selection of their fresh and inspired recipes. We ordered a “deconstructed” sandwich, which featured chicken breast, gently tossed salad greens, goat cheese, a pesto, and thick slices of bread un-assembled on a large platter. The pancetta salad offered sweet roasted squash and crusty bread on a bed of market-fresh spinach. We topped off the meal with a delicious and moist almond and corn meal pound cake with mascarpone and apricot sauce.

Oh, that was not all. (Yes, I will never be able to afford to eat out again.) Sunday morning our family hit Sofia's, one of my favorite little brunch spots in Madison. Little is the key word, and family-style dining is the norm. The lines usually head out the door and seating for about 15 people is in high demand. Once we got our table, I devoured my breakfast tacos, and some of my husband's portabella omelet. Roasted sweet and red potatoes on the side added a nice touch of sweet and salt.

Despite all of the delicious food I managed to sample at restaurants around Mad-town, one of my favorite birthday meals was the delicious spread of Indian food that my neighbor piled on her table. Okay, so this was not exactly for my birthday, but I am lucky that Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, happened to coincide with my birthday. The vegetarian spread included about five chutneys (including my own green tomato-chutney), saffron rice, dal, homemade paneer, saag, and eggplant stew. We finished off the meal with a great cardamon-coconut layer cake.

While I enjoyed eating out, and lessening the kitchen mess, what I most treasured was sharing these meals with my family and friends. I think that is what I love about cooking at home—I cook from my heart and share my food with people I love. As David Tanis, co-chef at Chez Panisse so eloquently states in his book, A Platter of Figs, “...the overriding mood of friends at the table still trumps a bad—or just okay—restaurant meal. I'd rather go to a friend's house for dinner. But, really, I'd rather eat at home.”

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Restaurant Re-creation: Northeast Social's Brown-Butter Shallot Dressing

I've always thought I'd make a good detective. I remember quite a few yeears back when I tracked down an ex-boyfriend at a hotel in Oklahoma. We were living in Arizona, and he had gone on the road with a bike racing crew. He called me from Oklahoma one night, and left a message telling me simply that he had made it to that city (can't remember which city now). I wanted to call him back (not sure if that was mutual!) so I set to work finding him. Ten minutes later his hotel room phone was ringing. Poor guy. You know how I did it? I called the Chamber of Commerce, which eventually led me to his hotel.

I'm usually pretty good at figuring things out, though now my detective work is more likely to involve finding my husband's glasses or wallet, than finding my husband.

I felt pretty excited, and a bit sneaky, when by some stroke of luck I managed to overhear the chef at the Northeast Social, a great gastro pub in Minneapolis, MN, telling a neighboring table his ingredients for his salad dressing.

Let me preface this by saying that it was the most exquisitely dressed salad I had ever eaten. Each bite of roasted beet, candied pecan, goat cheese and greens offered a sublime creaminess, hint of sweet and subtle acidity. The dressing was solid, holding the tender leaves together in a tall pile. I tasted a morsel of dressing carefully, letting it dissolve on my tongue. I said to my husband, “I think this might be made with butter.” But what else was in it? I had to find out.

Well, it didn't take great detective skills to overhear the chef—that was pure luck. But to recreate the same flavor at home did take some investigative work—and a dash of mad scientist. I repeated the chef's words to myself, “butter, sugar, lemon juice and shallot.”

As soon as we arrived home I hauled out my food processor and minced a small section of shallot, then added about ½ stick of butter, a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of sugar. Pulse. Oops. The butter separated from the acidity of the lemon and the shallot gave a kick that overpowered the gentle butter flavor.

Then I remembered—he said browned butter! Determined to recreate this delicious dressing (I did call them for the recipe, assuring them I would post it on my world famous blog, to no avail), I tried again.

This time I melted four tablespoons of butter in a saucepan. I browned it slightly. Quick, the shallots. Oh, s*!t, don't let them burn. I rapidly poured it all into a Pyrex cup. The warm butter mellowed the shallots without burning them. Now add the sugar? Sure. One tsp. Stir. Let solidify. Stir again and add lemon. One squeeze. Not enough. Two squeezes? Perfect! It tasted exactly like the dressing I had at Northeast Social, with a delicated frosting-like quality. I gently mixed it in some greens, added some goat cheese and cranberries, and devoured.

I think there might be two futures for me—detective, and mad scientist.

Brown-Butter Shallot Dressing

1 small shallot (1-2 inch piece) finely diced

2 tbsp lemon (to taste

sugar (1 tsp, or to taste)

5 tbsp butter

Brown butter in saucepan watching carefully. Remove from heat and add in shallots and sugar. Stir and let cool. Add lemon. Stir, taste, adjust and use!


Originally I made candied pecans as they had at the restaurant, but they are not pictured. And I highly recommend the roasted beets, too.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Apple Cake and Pumpkin Bars

I am falling for fall!

I made two delicious fall desserts using my two favorite fall fruits--pumpkins and apples. Take your pick.

Pumpkin Bread with Maple Cheesecake layer

enjoyed these from Chez Us!
They fed a very hungry soccer team.

Note one substitution. Also, I made this in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. I poured most of the batter in, then swirled the cheesecake right on top, and added the remaining pumpkin batter over the cheesecake.

Maple Cheesecake Layer

10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons dark amber real maple syrup, we use grade a
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 large egg

Pumpkin Spice Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda (I used 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp baking soda)
½ tsp salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon, freshly grated
1 teaspoon ginger, freshly grated
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup pumpkin puree, plain, not pumpkin pie
½ cup canola oil
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease and flour loaf pan. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the maple cheesecake ingredients, beat until smooth. Set aside. In another bowl, sift together dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix together pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl of an electric stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat for about 2 minutes until fully mixed. Add flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture and mix just until combined.
Fold in the pecans. Pour half of the pumpkin bread batter evenly into the loaf pan. Spoon cream cheese mixture on top of pumpkin batter layer and then pour on the remaining pumpkin batter. Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for about 15 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack, let cool to room temperature. Serve. Eat.

Otehlia's Skillet Apple Cake
This is the best apple cake I have had. If I may say so myself.


4-6 medium apples, peeled, cored and slices.
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup Yahara Bay Apple Brandy

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
3 tbsp vanilla or plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt

Crumble Topping

1/3 cup butter, cold
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix apples pieces with 1 cup cane sugar and brandy, set aside.

Mix flour with dry ingredients in a bowl..

Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl.

Pulse all crumble ingredients except butter in food processor until crumbly. Add butter and pulse til well mixed.

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients, then add apples.
Pour into 12 or 14" skillet. Top with crumble topping and put in oven for 30-40 minutes, until knife inserted into center comes out clean.
Let cool a few minutes, and serve (with whipped cream?).

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Apples, Pumpkins and Venison, oh my!

Apple-Venison Chili and Pumpkin Bars with Almond-Graham Crust

I have fallen hard for hard cider this year. After having Furthermore's Fallen Apple on tap at the Malt House, it has become one of my favorites. I have never been a big cider fan, but am enjoying it this year as an alternative to white wine. Drummer Man bought me a bottle of organic hard cider recently (dare I tell you that he told me he bought it for me because it is cheaper than wine?!--he better not admit that on my birthday!) At any rate, I couldn't finish the whole bottle, and not wanting to waste it, was inspired to pour some into a pot of chili I was making.

The chili itself was inspired by a beautiful pack of Four Corners Gold beans that Betsy sent me from Native Seeds /SEARCH. I used to work there, and their mission stays dear to my heart: Preserving Native American heirloom seeds in the Southwest. These beans are so beautiful, mottled like a pinto horse. They retain their coloration even after cooking, and pair beautifully with a bit of onion, tomatoes and venison in a big stew pot.

What is dinner without dessert? I had a few pie pumpkins left over from my last CSA box (don't even remind me how badly I fell off the write-every-week-about-my-CSA bandwagon. Oh well. I was too busy cooking.) Anyway, this pie pumpkin called to me. So I baked it, scooped it, mixed it with some yummy ingredients, poured it over a crumbly, buttery crust, and baked some bars.

I LOVE fall, and was very happy to finally have an weather-related excuse to make soup and bake.

I can't wait to try more recipes with hard cider, but will enjoy sipping a nice, lovely glass of wine while I cook, too. (hint, hint)

Apple-Venison Chili

½ pound beans (four corners golden), soaked and boiled until soft
1 lb ground venison (or meat of your choice)
1 onion
1 large can diced tomatoes.
ancho chili powder (1 tbsp)
cinnamon (½ tsp)
chili powder (to taste)
unsweetened dark chocolate powder or bar (1-2 tsp)
1 tsp oregano
salt to taste
2 cans water (tomato can)
½ cup hard apple cider

Soak bean overnight, or do a quick soak by bringing to a boil in water, then turn off stove and let the beans soak for an hour.
Rinse the soaking water, then boil bean in fresh water til soft, about 2 hours.

Saute onion in a large soup pot in olive oil until soft. Add ground meat and saute until brown.
Add chili powders, cinnamon and cocoa powder and saute a couple more minutes.
Add tomatoes, cider and water and simmer for an hour or so, partially covered, until it's yummy.
Salt to taste.
Venison on FoodistaVenison

Pumpkin Bars

Preheat oven to 350.


1 cup ground graham crackers
½ cup ground almonds
1 tsp sugar
½ cup butter, softened
pinch salt

Okay this is approximate. Basically pulse the crackers, nuts in processor until you have the quantity you need. Add in butter and spices, pulse again.
Press into 9x13 pan.
Bake at 350 about 5 minutes.


Scoop and clean pumpkin halves. Turn cut side down onto oiled baking sheet and bake at 350 til soft.
Scoop out about 1.5 cups of pumpkin—or use canned:)
mix with 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1/2 cup each sugar, brown sugar
pinch or more of cinnamon, ginger, vanilla
pinch salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp masa harina (not corn meal!)

Mix pumpkin with all other ingredients until blended well.
Pour over pre-baked crust.
Bake at 350 about 30 minutes until filling is set.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Love at First Bite-Milwaukee

My husband, Drummer Man, and I spent a weekend last month in Milwaukee. Without kids.
We were there for a very special occasion--our anniversary, and the celebration of our dear friends' wedding. And celebrate we did.

I have never spent much time in Milwaukee, even though it is just over an hour from Madison. We stayed downtown, right along the river which is a beautiful part of the city--whether you are a partying college kid, or grownups celebrating another year of marriage.

But first things first. We started the weekend right after work Friday. My mom stayed with the kids, bless her heart, and my husband and I drove straight from Madison to Milwaukee for a night on the town.

At the recommendation of Lori from Burp! we went to Crazy Water. Lori recommended so many places that sounded great, but we like the name, and the menu, at Crazy Water.

I loved it. The atmosphere was lively, yet cozy, and the wait staff seated us in a little bench-nook. It was the best seat in the house. We must have been giving off the married-couple-spending-anniversary-without-kids vibe.

The food was great, featuring lots of local flavors combined in delectable ways. We started with a bacon, escarole and apple salad with cheddar cheese dressing. And wine. For the main course I had a perfectly sweet and tender pulled pork with rice, and Drummer Man had lamb medallions and risotto. Great food in a great spot.

Fast forward 12 hours. Though tempted to stop in a brew pub or two, my husband and I spent our first morning at the Milwaukee Public Market. What a great place! An old warehouse converted into a market where you can buy anything from fresh cheeses, to sweets, to amazing baked goods, to meat and fish. We decided to grab coffee and a pastry--a chocolate sticky bun, I think--and take it to the burrito place near the front entrance. We had a hard time choosing between all of the amazing burrito options, but settled on a Chipotle Chicken burrito and a Steak Burrito Verde.

I enjoyed our weekend a lot. We reveled in the luxury of finishing sentences, thoughts and meals together. And we shared our love with our friends by drumming and dancing at their wedding.

We have been married 3 short years, but it is as if our love has grown like a tree; a strong trunk supports bountiful, supple branches and sweet fruit. But enjoying the sweet reward of the (sometimes very) hard work of marriage wasn't my favorite part; it was sowing new seeds of love.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dancing for Love and Shrooms

I raked in more tips after dancing last weekend than ever before.

Hey, not that kind of dancing—it was African Dance! WADOMA had the great privilege of performing at the annual Monroe Street Festival in Madison, WI.

And since I don't usually receive tips, two tips—both money and food—was a lot.

We had a great time dancing, although I have to say it chalks up to one of the weirdest performances of the season. We usually dance barefoot, but October 2, 2010 proved to be a chilly day. So we donned sneakers and fleece-lined boots. And vests, and long sleeve shirts. And then stuck some cowrie shells on top to make it look African, which it did not, and we are not, so it was a bit of a stretch.

It was a very family-friendly performance. Many of the kids in the audience decided that they would also like to perform, and danced their way onto the stage. Every once in a while we had to scoot them over so we would not kick them. I think they did a better job of capturing the audience attention than we did.

My husband, Drummer Man, and I often bring our two kids, King of the Mountain and Queen of the World, to these performances, and usually they do a good job of “letting” me perform. But not this day. Queen Fiona clung to my leg, oblivious to the jostling as I danced. King Jarra mouthed, mid-performance, “I'm thirsty! Mooooom! I'm thirsty!” I tried to mouth back, “Wait!” but it was lost on the back of his head as he turned to climb a wall after a friend. Queen Fiona returned to her post at my leg and whispered, “I have to pee.” We are smack in the middle of our coupe decaler number. But professional I am, and as I continue to dance I ask my friend, who is seated about 12 inches from my nose, to take her. Whew!

I guess our performance earned the generous tip one youngster gave me. As she handed me a shiny nickle, she whispered, “You dance beautifully.” I love that girl. It made my day.

The icing on the cake was the large hunk of Maitake (Hen of the Woods) mushrooms that Donovan gave me. He had been pushing a cart loaded with ruffled-edged mushrooms around, selling them for $12/pound. I never, ever experiment with mushrooms, but these beauties were handed to me. Did he know what that meant to me? He instructed me to soak them in salt water, then simply saute in butter with salt, pepper. I didn't want any of the mushrooms to go to waste—the chunk probably weighed about 5 pounds—so I shared with another dancer, and a friend.

The rest I soaked and sauteed as instructed. The first night, we ate them on top of organic beef burgers. Their meaty flesh was like a burger itself. They were so flavorful. The next night they topped homemade pizza. The favorite? A flame-grilled pie topped with homemade sauce from golden tomatoes, the Hen of the Woods and provolone cheese. The one pictured here has olive oil, pesto and sun-dried tomatoes. Simply delicious.

Earning these tips, weird as they were, gave me such a feeling of love that the chill of the October air just seemed to disappear.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

POM Wonderful Moose Track Mousse

Looks can be deceiving. Take the dragon fruit, for example, the spiny, magenta fruit that many of my fellow food bloggers such as Megan at Foodalution have been sampling lately. Spiky and dangerous on the outside, sweet and creamy on the inside.

POM-Lime Mousse is another example. At least the way I made it. I started out with high hopes after the generous people at POM Wonderful sent me a box of POM juice. My mind immediately went to beautiful, whipped magenta mousse. Perfect, I thought.

Lime and pomegranite juice seemed like a marriage made in heaven. Tart, crisp flavors, beautiful colors all melded into a light, frothy dessert.

I followed the basic recipe I found on Kevin Week's Seriously Good blog; it seemed easy and straightforward.

I replaced some of the lime juice with POM juice (I did not have key limes, but used regular lime juice instead.) The color was brilliant. I was psyched. In another sauce pan I heated the egg yolks (some mousse recipes only use whites, but since these eggs were fresh from my very own chickens, I couldn't bear to waste the yolks). The minute I added in the POM and lime juice to the egg yolks, I realized my mistake. The concoction turned a beautiful shade of...brown.

I forged ahead, making a mental note to add the POM juice later next time. I dissolved the gelatin, added it to the thickened yolks and let it cool. Maybe a little too much. The yolk-juice mixture quickly turned into a stiff glop. This was not looking good, but the flavor, upon testing, was delicious. Waste not, want not.

I beat the egg yolks into stiff peaks, whipped the cream, then folded them together. Now, to add the gelatinous brown glop. So I did. At that point, I decided that I couldn't name this mousse POM-anything. It looked more like Moose Track ice cream, white and creamy with brown chunks throughout. Hence, the name Moose Track Mousse. It was not pretty. But it was tasty. Very tasty. Sometimes our failures are, in fact, great accomplishments.

If I did again, I would do differently. I would be ready to mix in the yolk mixture before it congealed. I would also mix POM into the whipped cream and then fold that gently into the egg yolk/white mixture to retain the beautiful color. Or I would use an egg-white only mousse recipe.

POM-Key Lime Mousse

1/3 c fresh Key lime juice (8-10 Key limes)

1/3 cup POM
3 tbsp warm water
1 pkg unflavored gelatin
4 ea large eggs — separated, at room temperature
1 tbsp lime zest
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c sugar
1 c chilled whipping cream

Sprinkle gelatin over warm water and set aside to soften.

Whisk yolks in a small saucepan to blend. Then whisk in POM-lime juice, 1/2 cup sugar, and lime zest. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens to the consistency of heavy cream. Remove from heat and stir in gelatin and vanilla extract. Set pan in cold water and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.

In another large bowl, beat whipping cream until soft peaks form, add remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until stiff.

Fold egg whites into whipped cream. In increments of a third, fold lime mixture into whites and cream. You can either divide the mixture into 6 individual serving dishes or leave in the large bowl. Chill until set. Serves 6.