Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blue cheese "cheesecake"

There are many "lucky" foods to eat on New Year's: Lentils (to bring wealth), fish (abundance), figs (fertility), noodles (long life), pork, and cake (cake always fits a celebration! Check out Megan's AMAZING cakes at Foodalution! I digress.)

I think, living in Wisconsin, I would have to add cheese to the list. I mean, when is supporting our dairy farmers not lucky?

This small, savory, cheesecake is the perfect appetizer for a party and a great way to feature the delicious flavor of blue cheese. Thanks Lori Dumm for providing me with this recipe! My favorite blue cheese right now is Hidden Springs Bohemian Blue. What's yours?

What food do you eat to bring luck in the new year?



1 package cream cheese, softened

1 lump bluecheese about1/2 to 2/3 the size of the cream cheese

¼ cup roasted red peppers, finely chopped

½ cup caramelized nuts (almonds or pecans work nicely)

½ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup tamarind concentrate (you may need to water down the concentrate, it can be like a jell. Then just dilute it a bit to make ½ cup. You want the flavor to be strong, but the consistency syrupy)

cilantro, finely chopped

crackers or bread


Oil the inside of your mold with olive oil

Put red peppers at the bottom of a small mold

Mix together cheeses and press into mold on top of cheeses

Refrigerate an hour or so until cheeses firm up.

Meanwhile make balsamic reduction by heating balsamic and tamarind in saucepan on stovetop until reduced to a syrup, about 15-25 minutes at a simmer.

To Serve

Slide a knife around mold and turn the cheesecake upside down onto a plate.

Drizzle balsamic reduction and nuts over top of cheesecake and decorate plate.

Sprinkle with cilantro and serve with toasted good qualilty white bread or crackers (maybe vegetables?)

A New YearBluecheese "cheesecake"

Friday, December 16, 2011

Warm Winter Salads

My inspiration and motivation seem to have faded with the daylight. Cooking has become my solace, my place of contentment while I stave off the dark and cold. Even cooking gets passed up sometimes, however, and replaced with downright laziness: reheated leftovers, sitting on the couch watching a movie, or, I admit, totally wasted time online. Well, I did make a wreath, but that's because I'm cheap. I mean thrifty. The other thing that has waned? My desire to eat salads. I just don't want the cool crunch, thank you very much. Oh, and my motivation to write about it.

After eating the most amazing warm spinach salad enjoyed at Mermaid Cafe on the World of Flavors Atwood Food Tour, I was re-inspired to enjoy greens in the winter. I loved the idea of a warm salad, and began making them with seasonal greens, and giving them a bit of winter weight with local cheeses, and nuts. I was hoping to share 5 warm winter salad recipes with you, but as I mentioned, my motivation is running thin. So here are 4—I mean 2--good ones:).

Do you have a favorite cold weather salad?

Green and Gold Salad

canola oil

7 large brussels sprouts, sliced

1 large yellow carrot, grated

1 tsp grated ginger


¼ cup slivered almonds

Heat oil in skillet

Add brussels sprouts and salt, cook about 3 minutes.

Add carrots and stir for about 3 minutes.

Cover and let steam for about 5 minutes or until veggies are tender

Add grated ginger and almonds. Cook one minute.


Wilted Spinach Salad a la Mermaid Cafe

(this is my recipe based on what I sampled there—maybe I'll be lucky to get their recipe someday:)

olive oil

6 cups loose leaf, washed baby spinach

1 shallot

2 tbsp goat cheese

crumbled bacon

Cider dressing (I think any viniagrette would work tho)

Heat skillet and add oil. Gently sautee shallot in skillet, stirring often about 3 minutes.

Add the spinach. Let wilt about 1 minute.

Remove from skillet and place on plate with a dollop of goat cheese (I love Dreamfarm and Capri Creamery!)

Drizzle dressing over.

Serve with fresh baguette.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Last night I didn't sleep well.

I often have that problem (and see from Facebook that many of my friends do, too!). My thoughts just seems to get going in the wee hours of the morning, and I cannot fall back to sleep. Hard liquor keeps me up, too, though last night neither my thoughts nor alcohol were the culprit—it was food.

In a moment of efficiency, I started making bbq beef last night. Ah ha! It will be done by morning, and voila, no cooking tomorrow! (Making time to build a water heater for my chicken coop).

Sometime around 1 a.m. I awoke, the smell of barbeque meat wafting into my nose. In most cases that should be pleasant, but it wasn't. I couldn't stand it, and spent the next hour trying to get back to sleep by covering my face with blankets. Then I started to worry that the crock pot was going to catch fire, or that the food was burning. I imagined our fire exit plan, and wondered if I could make it out a window in a robe without tripping.

Finally, at about 2:30 a.m., I went down to the kitchen, and discovered that the vent on the crockpot lid was open. Nothing was burning however, so I closed the vent, added a touch of water and finally managed to get to sleep.

I wish I had slept better, but I tasted the final product, and it is beyond delicious. BBQ beef sandwiches tonight, and a day off from cooking! Maybe I'll go nap...

Slow Cooker BBQ Beef Sandwiches

Amounts are approximate—taste it and adjust!

1 hunk of beef (I used flank steak)

1 large clove garlic (huge), chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 small can tomato paste

¼ to ½ cup apple cider vinegar

3-4 tsp yellow mustard

few shakes Worchestershire sauce

few heaping tablespoons brown sugar

some salt and pepper

2 tsp adobo sauce (from canned chipotles)

2 tbsp ancho-honey marinade (unless you made this for another purpose, I wouldn't go to the trouble. You could just process 2 soaked, deseeded peppers, with a bit of honey and a squeeze of oj)

¼ cup apple cider

Ancho-honey Marinade (great with pork!)

3 dried anchos

one onion

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp each cumin, oregano, thyme, crushed hoja santa

½ cup oj

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp salt

2 tsp worchestershire

Preheat skillet or dutch oven on stove w/ some oil

chop onion and garlic and set aside.

Mix other ingredients and set aside

Sear meat in dutch oven until browned on both sides (about 3 minutes/side). Sprinkle with salt.

Add onions and garlic for last minute.

Place in crockpot, pour sauce over.

Cook on low for 9 hours.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Five Great Uses for Apple Cider

1. Drink it

Hot Toddy

My favorite is simply warm apple cider with Yahara Bay apple brandy.

2. Dress it up

Balsamic-Maple-Cider Dressing

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

3 tbsp apple cider

2 tsp mustard

1/3 cup oilve oil

1 tsp maple syrup

½ tsp minced gartlic

¼ tsp salt

Mix all ingredients and adjust flavors to your liking.

3. Spice it up

Apple-Chile Chutney

2 tbsp butter

4 tart apples, peeled cored and diced

½ white onion

4 poblanos, roasted and peeled

1 habanero, seeds removed, finely chopped

1 tsp chipotle sauce

¼ cup sugar

1 cup apple cider, reduced to ¼ cup


Heat butter, add onion and sautee until soft

Reduce heat and add chopped chiles, apples and sugar, sautee 10 minutes

Add reduced cider, marjoram and adobo sauce.

Remove from heat and cool.

4. Spread it

Jalapeno-Cider Aioli (adapted from tasting a yummy sandwich at the Alchemy)

1/2 cup mayo (the real deal!)

½ jalapeno, minced, or to taste

1 large or 2 small cloves garlic minced

¼ cup reduced apple cider (Reduce ½ cup by simmering about 10 minutes)

Mix and enjoy!

5. Glaze it (2 for 1 recipe)

Pumpkin-Apple Cake with Cider Glaze

2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch nutmeg clove,

½ tsp allspice

1 tsp ginger powder

½ cup butter

1 cup roasted squash

¾ packed brown sugar

2 eggs

3 tbsp milk

2 tbsp apple sauce

1 apple peeled and diced

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Beat together butter and brown sugar. Add mashed squash, eggs and other wet ingredients.

Mix dry into wet ingredients, stirring just until mixed.

Fold in apples.

Bake about 50-55 minutes, or until knife comes out clean.

Let cool before glazing.


2 tbsp butter melted

2 tbsp cider

1 tbsp apple brandy

1.5 cups confectioner's sugar

Stir together until it has a thick but pourable consistency.

Apple Cider Roasted Squash (from Good Life Eats)
adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

1 acorn squash

1 Tbs butter

1 cup apple cider or apple juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp allspice

dash nutmeg

fresh rosemary, to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cut acorn squash in half from stem to opposite end. Scoop out the seeds. Cut off the stem end and discard. Cut several slices 1 inch in width. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a oven safe pan or dutch oven. Add squash slices, toss to coat with butter.

In a bowl, combine the apple cider or juice, salt, cinnamon, and allspice. Pour over the squash. Add fresh rosemary, to taste (I used about 2 tsp, coarsely chopped). Stir to coat. Bring liquid to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle sugar on top of the squash and cider mixture. Transfer pan or dutch oven to the oven and roast until squash is tender and liquid has caramelized, about 10-20 minutes. Serve!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

I love peanut butter and chocolate. And so does my family apparently!

I made a batch of these perfect peanut butter cookies yesterday, and we're already running low.

I followed the recipe from Smitten Kitchen exactly. They were extra special because I used peanut butter from my our family's farm in Africa. (Yes, it has lasted this long in the fridge.) Smooth, deeply roasted and grown by family.

Mmmm....winter bliss.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth is what we used, but I am pretty sure they use chunky at the bakery)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern (I used the back of a small offset spatula to keep it smooth on top), but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Everything is Better with Lard-SlowPig Madison 2011

“I've cured 13 vegetarians with the power of pork,” said Greg Nadasdy, the bartender from Roots restaurant in Milwaukee, as he stood among the four other mixologists vying for the SlowPig “craft punch” win. Joining them were four chefs, Tory Miller of Graze, Francesco Mangano of Osteria Papavero, Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee, and Paul Zerkel of Roots in Milwaukee, also hoping for the grand prize—a hand-crafted, pig-shaped skillet.

Vegetarians were probably not drawn to the carnivorous event, which was held at Madison Club and organized by Executive Chef Dan Fox. But if they had been, I'm certain the amazing selection of pig-based dishes would have “cured” all of them. Each chef came up with 5-7 dishes from a locally-raised heritage pig. From Sanford's Corn Dogs with Foie Gras Mustard, to Root's Lard Gingersnaps (I got stuck way too long upstairs enjoying samplings from Sanford and Osteria Papavero--and a huge pile of caviar--that I completely, and sadly, missed Root's spread of food.) the samplings went far beyond the pork chops or hot dogs that most of us typically enjoy.

The names of some of the dishes, such as “head cheese” and “tongue confit”, might sound less than appealing even to meat eaters. However, I liked the bold name Tory Miller bestowed upon one of his appetizers-- “face tacos”. The deliciously simple crunch of a fresh tortilla chip, topped with perfectly seasoned shredded meat (from the face of the pig, obviously), garnished simply with radish and pickled onion made it one of the stand-out dishes of the night.

I also enjoyed the Sopressana Toacana w/ Balsamic Braised Cipollini (Osteria), and the Crispy Pork Belly with Kimchee and Lettuce (L'Etoile). My favorite dish of the event was Sanford's superb dessert—Laquered Bacon Roast Apple and Fig with Cider Cream and Cranberry Broth. The broth had an imperceptible note of clove, with savory overtones. After a few minutes of playing food detective with those around me, I realized that I could simply ask the chef! Fresh cranberry juice, white wine, bay leaf and mace, he said, along with a pinch of clove and some sugar.

This event brought together farmers, chefs, foodies and food producers in a way that felt, for lack of a better word, awesome. Micah Nicholes, who raises heritage pigs near Blue Mounds and supplied the chefs with their pig of choice, was dressed up and accompanied by his radiant and pregnant wife, Patty. Micah looked equally at ease in the crowd as the Madison Club members.

Representatives from Black Earth Meats, Willow Creek Farm and Underground Food Collective, among others offered samples of their meat selection—and unexpectedly connected me to my own food traditions. I haven't eaten Braunshweiger since I was a kid, when my dad spread it on bread with mayo. And seeing the dry-cured sausages from Bulzano Meats brought back memories of the homemade Tyrolean sausage that my mother's family used to make in Pennsylvania.

Isn't that what slow food is all about: Connecting us to our roots and communities by honoring food traditions and the people in our communities who that make that possible? Though only two skillets were handed out, there were many, many winners at SlowPig Madison 2011.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Black Bottom Key Lime Mousse

I've always loved key lime pie, but I have to admit, I don't love making pies.
I usually settle for key lime yogurt, but need I say it's just not the same?

Well, I discovered something that comes fairly close, and doesn't require much cooking!
Key lime mousse.

I love mousse--light, fluffy bursts of flavor! I decided to make a "Black bottom" key lime mousse because chocolate makes everything yummier, right?

The crumble bottom still needs improvement (I wanted it to stick together more), but it provides a nice crunchy, salty-sweet complement to the citrus mousse.

One bite and I almost think I'm in the Caribbean. Let me know what you think!

Black Bottom Key Lime Mousse

Black Bottom:
2 cups Trader Joe's chocolate cat cookies
1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter

Pulverize all ingredients in food processor til very fine.
Press into bottom of springform pan.

I might try pouring a chocolate ganache over this to "wet" it more, as suggested here.

Mousse Filling:
I used the recipe from Poetry of Food, pouring it directly into crust in springform pan.

¾ cup key lime juice
1 envelope powdered gelatin
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Bloom gelatin in ¼ cup of key lime juice.

Whip 1 cup of heavy cream to soft peak on medium speed and store in the refrigerator while you make the rest of the mousse. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, over medium heat, whisk yolks, ½ cup sugar and ½ cup key lime juice until thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in bloomed gelatin until dissolved.

Transfer lime juice mixture to a bowl and chill to room temperature. While the key lime mixture is chilling. Whip whites in a clean dry bowl with a clean dry whip. Whip on medium speed until whites achieve soft peaks, being careful not to over whip the whites.

Gently fold egg whites into whipped cream. Then fold whites/cream mixture into key lime mixture being careful to not deflate the whites and cream.

Quickly divide among dessert glasses (I used springform pan) and chill to set.

Garnish with softly whipped cream and grated lime zest.

8 to 12

**I love the mix of homemade lime curd with whipping cream and egg whites.
My son suggested topping it with whipping cream. Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

My weekend rocked! You know why? I didn't have to cook. I had one of those Fridays where I chopped so many of our CSA veggies, that I had enough for 2 soups.

I decided to make a chili with ground beef, and a cheesy potato broccoli soup--with beer. Both turned out fantastic and we ate soup all weekend. Bonus: I realized as I tasted the first bite of the broccoli soup that all of the ingredients were local. Love local!

There was even enough for lunch today:) Leaving plenty of time to______. (Blog, procrastinate, Facebook, tweet, tickle my son, go to the park..)

What do you do when you have a few spare minutes and dinner is made?

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

8-10 small potatoes, peeled and sliced
1 head broccoli roughly chopped
1 large leek sliced
1 white onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
about 4 oz Hooks medium cheddar cheese grated
6 oz yummy local beer
1/4 cup 1/2 and 1/2
salt, pepper
marjoram (or was it tarragon?and was it local?)

Sautee onions in oil til soft
Add leeks and garlic and sautee quickly
Add sliced potatoes, sautee some more
Add water to cover potatoes.
Simmer until just soft (about 15 minutes).
Use immersion blender to blend the soup at this point.
Add broccoli, salt/bullion, herbs and beer.
Simmer til broccoli is tender, about 10 more minutes.
Add grated cheese and half-and-half and stir.
Season with salt and black pepper.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bars w/ Almond Streusel

I think people are either pumpkin lovers or haters.

I am a pumpkin lover. I like it in soup, roasted with veggies in salads, and of course in pies—and bars. And ice cream. And ravioli. And sauteed with apples.You get the picture.

I wanted to make a pumpkin pie, but had no time for a crust, so I decided to make pumpkin bars.

I started with a recipe from Kittenkal's Kitchen. It features a shortbread crust, topped that with a delicious pumpkin pie filling, and I took the liberty of topping all of that with an almond streusel topping.

It was quick and easy to make, though the shortbread crust turned out a little hard. I confess I didn't butter the pan, so it is sticking a bit, but it still tastes great.

By the looks of the empty pan, my husband is also a pumpkin lover. My son seems indifferent—I think he would eat it if it were put in front of him. My daughter won't touch the stuff. Hey, more for the rest of us! Happy fall!


1 cup flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces ( no subs!)

1 pinch salt


1 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs

1 cup canned pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon flour

1 1/2-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/4 teaspoons allspice

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/4 cup butter or 1/4 cup margarine, melted


¾ cup almonds

2/3 cup sugar

¼ cup butter

1/3 cup flour

Blend in food processor until crumbly

1 cup whipping cream ( whipped, to taste)


  1. Set oven to 350°F.

  2. Set oven to second-lowest position.

  3. Butter an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.

  4. To make the crust: process all crust ingredients on a food processor for about 30 seconds until well blended.

  5. Press the mixture lightly into the prepared baking pan.

  6. Bake crust for 15 minutes, then remove from oven.

  1. Meanwhile prepare the filling.

  2. With an electric mixer, beat the softened cream cheese with 3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar for about 2 minutes.

  3. Add in eggs and beat well until combined.

  4. Add in the pumpkin puree, vanilla and melted butter; mix until combined.

  5. In a small cup combine flour, cinnamon and allspice, then add to the pumpkin mixture; mix about 1-2 minutes.

  6. Pour over the partially baked crust, top with streusel mix and return to oven for about 30-35 minutes, or until just set.

  7. Serve at room temperature or chilled, cut into squares with a dollop of whipped cream on top.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Slow Cooker Thursday: Beef Stew

I've decided that Thursdays should be Slow Cooker Thursdays.

That way, when I have to meet my son at 2:45 after school, get my daughter at 5, take my son to soccer at 5:30, pick him up at 6:45 and get to dance class by 7:15, I feel a little less crazy.

I even have time to blog about it...

Soup's on, folks, help yourself!

Basic Beef Stew

1 beef roast (I had a Trader Joes tri-tip roast)
2 onions
3 potatoes
some green beans
1 kohlrabi
a few carrots
use whatever you have!

bay leaves, 2 cloves garlic
oregano, salt pepper
1/2 cup red wine

Sear salted meat in skillet on each side
Then throw chopped veggies in skillet and sautee a few minutes
throw it all in slow cooker (veggies on bottom)
add wine, herbs, garlic, water to cover
Cook on low about 6 hours or until meat is tender and falling apart.
Add salt to taste, tear up meat and serve.

Monday, September 19, 2011

World of Flavors Food Tours!

My husband once wisely told me, "If one door shuts, another will open." What a sweetie, trying to help me feel better after some rejection or another (was it an article that didn't get published? a cooking class that didn't fill? or maybe just that the babysitter cancelled?)

Well six doors opened last week--doors to some of Madison's best restaurants and cafes. I have been working on developing a walking food tour in two of my favorite neighborhoods, the Atwood Ave. neighborhood and Willy Street. Last week Amy (yoga instructor and partner in crime) and I led seven unsuspecting "tourists" through the Atwood neighborhood, admiring the historical buildings, tasting the delicious fare and enjoying the fall air.

We made our way from Ironworks Cafe (yummy bakery!), to Bunky's (to die for falafel and stuffed grape leaves!), to Lao Laan Xang (Squash Curry. Need I say more?), Alchemy (holy hanger steak!), Green Owl Cafe (BBQ jack fruit? Corn Chowder shooters? Yes!) and finally to Mermaid Cafe (sampled their new Thursday pizza dinner-fresh heirloom tomatoes, local cheese and a great red pepper sauce!). In each place, not only did we get to enjoy the great food (much of it locally produced), but we learned a little bit about the restaurants, their philosophy and history. We also had a great time socializing between stops, and checking out the neighborhood gardens, streets and buildings that were built when the east side was still farm land.

I am excited about the tours. I think that our locally owned, east side eateries have so much to offer; many of them support the farm-to-table philosophy and all have amazing food! The neighborhoods offer a great representation of what makes Madison a wonderful city for foodies and non-foodies alike.

I plan to offer 4 tours this October, and then launch the World of Flavors east side restaurant tours in full swing next April-October, 2012. Stay tuned

Friday, September 2, 2011

Foodie Weekend Awaits!

Glorious food (and beer, wine and chocolate) abound this weekend! Celebrate the bounty of produce, and our great Wisconsin food (and wine and beer) culture. You will almost forget that fall is around the corner. (no, I didn't say it!). Here are four great ways to celebrate. Know of any others?

Farmer's Market/Taste of Madison – Market open around Capitol Square (9/3 only) 6 am – 1 p.m.

Taste of Madison (9/3 and 9/4) to benefit United Cerebral Palsy of Dane County, 2-8:30 pm on 9/3 and 11 am-7 pm, 9/4, Capitol Square. 6-1 p.m.

New Glarus Brewing and LaFortuna Pizza – Sunday Sept 4, 11-4 p.m.

Come enjoy the most amazing wood fired pizza and award-winning craft brews at the Hilltop Brewery in New Glarus.

2400 State Highway 69
New Glarus, WI 53574

Chocolate Chase - 7:30 am-noon, 9/3
TEAMSurvivor Madison's annual benefit 20/10/4-mile bike rides, Pioneer Park, Middleton (registration 7 am), plus refreshments, door prizes. $40 ($30 through 8/15). 333-4016

Wine Tasting - Celebrating Lake Mills 175th Birthday - Saturday, September 3, 2011. 5 - 7 pm

Come and celebrate Lake Mills 175th with us as we sample some great celebratory wines. We will be sampling a Cava from Spain, Meritage from California, Argentinian Sparkling and a Sweet Chardonnay to name a few. $5 per person - drawings and birthday cake! Visit the website for other events. $5 per person. The Wine Vineyard, 217 N. Main St, Lake Mills, Jefferson County. Call 920-648-5481.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chicken Yassa

I recently asked my kids what their favorite food was in Mali, West Africa (we traveled there earlier this year). My son said "Meat pockets!"(pictured)

Meat pockets? Decidedly un-African, but yes, I agree, when the choices are corn mush with okra sauce, or white rice with one of 4 sauces, fried dough with meat and eggs were so delicious and satisfying!

One of my favorite West African dishes is Chicken Yassa, which is actually Sene-Gambian in origin. African Lemon Chicken, if you will. The rendition I learned in Mali starts out with a base of parsley, black pepper, garlic and onions--like most sauces--with the tasty addition of lemon and mustard. Marinate, grill and stew.

This also happens to be a fave of my husband, and seeing as it was his birthday yesterday, I made it for him. By the way, he swears he made it for me when we were dating. I am trying to remember in the deep recesses of my mind when he ever cooked for me! Maybe he'll pull out his rendition for my birthday?

Oh, and my daughter's favorite dish? Plain rice. So much for opening their minds!

Chicken Yassa

Chicken pieces of your choice (4 breasts equivalent)
2 large onions, chopped
2 carrots
1/2 lemon
2 habaneros

1 large bunch flat-leafed parsley
4 large cloves garlic
1 tbsp black pepper corns
1 small white onion
4 tbsp yellow mustard
juice 1 lemon
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup veggie oil

Mash parsley, onion, garlic and pepper corns in mortar or food processor. Stir in remaining ingredients. Coat chicken pieces and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

For skinless chicken: Remove from marinade (keep marinade for sauce) and grill just to brown each side. Do not cook through. Cool and dice.
For skin-on chicken: The Malians fry the pieces to seal in juices. You could pan fry or deep fry just to seal juices then set aside.

Heat about 1/4 cup oil in large pot
Stir in chopped onions until soft
Add in chicken pieces and carrots, marinade, juice of 1/2 lemon, water to cover and salt/bullion cubes and habaneros.
Cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until tender.
Taste for salt.

Serve over rice.

You could alternately just grill the chicken and make the sauce separately

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kale Alterna-slaw

Sorry, I don't have time to blog too much. And why not? 'Cause, it's summer vacation. No, I'm not sitting home eating bonbons getting a tan. Nor am I watching all those movies on my Netflix queue. Nope, it's just that my kids aren't in school.

Though I am a former homeschooler, I have to say I love public school. Or any activity that occupies my kids and gives me a little time each day to focus on my own life and work.

Speaking of work, the other reason my blogs are in short order is that I am starting a restaurant tour business! Watch for World of Flavors restaurant tours starting this fall--or maybe spring. Madison's eclectic and flavorful eastside, first up. I am so excited!

I have made time to chop kale. I am thoroughly addicted to kale slaw. I have made it with various veggies, but kale and apple are the base. Takes 10 minutes. SOOOOO good.

Kale Alterna-slaw

1 bunch fresh, tender kale
1 yummy apple
1 large carrot (I substituted tomatillos one time--pretty yummy)

1/2 cup mayo
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup (maybe a little less?) rice vinegar
1-2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Finely chop kale (very thin!), grate other veggies, or finely chop. Mix dressing ingredients and pour over veggies. Wait about 3 minutes for juices to release and mix, and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Drinks for Everyone!

During the winter I drink tea. I love sipping on a nice, hot cup of herb tea. Come summer, I usually just go for water, but this summer I have had fun experimenting with some refreshing—and pink—drinks.

I started out trying to make a smoothie that I could pass off as “fun” and possibly even “ice cream” to my daughter. Out of my mouth came “Yogi Bear Milkshake.” Out of the blender came a mixture of fresh-frozen raspberries, vanilla coconut milk (like the beverage in a box, not the canned stuff for cooking) frozen bananas, and a touch of honey. It was bright pink, and delicious in it's simplicity. The kids loved them (please ignore the corn dogs:)

In Mexico, the agua frescas are addictive. Light, refreshing and full of natural fruit flavor-mango, pineapple, even cactus. I love watermelon, and after hearing about cold watermelon soup on Splendid Table, I decided to make a soup/agua fresca combo drink. Lynne Rossetto Kasper mentioned that she always adds citrus, some spice, a bit of fish sauce (!) and the sweet fruit to a cold fruit soup. I blended about 2 cups of watermelon with a squeeze of lime, a tbsp of sugar, a dash (¼ tsp) fish sauce and grated ginger (1 tsp). I then added a bit of mint as a garnish. It was so delicious—and pink!

Hibiscus juice is another beverage that I have had in the tropics, Mexico as well as Africa (in Mali they call it “dableni” or red mouth.) I decided that I needed an adult beverage (after all it is hump day!). I made sweetened hibiscus tea mixed with a ginger simple syrup. Then I poured some over ice, added a squeeze of lime, a splash ( a large one) of tequila and garnish with mint. Also pinkish.

I love summer, and am trying to make the most of it. What are you drinking this summer?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sweet Potato and Kale Gratin

I didn't have much faith in my ability to garden as I scattered seeds into barely thawed soil early this spring. My parents were avid, successful gardeners, and I have gardened most of my life (or tried). Every year however, I feel like my harvest is sheer luck. Some years the squash are prolific, some years they don't even flower. Some years the tomatoes ripen in mass, some years they succumb to blight. (The strawberries never, ever even set fruit. I think I'm gonna give up, but that's another story). This year my garlic bulbs are small, whereas last year they were quite beefy. It's not the size, though...right?

I've had great luck with kale this year. The seeds for the Russian blue kale that my mom sent gave rise to sturdy, beautiful leaves (perhaps because it's a gift from my mom?). I have watched them all spring with excitement--and actually some trepidation. Kale? Why did the kale have to do so well? Why not the melons (fail), or the strawberries (I'm having trouble letting go)? Who likes kale in this family but me?

Apparently, mixed with the right ingredients (read 'butter'), my entire family likes kale. Except the 3-year old--she only likes bagels with cream cheese and jelly. I headed to Smitten Kitchen's blog for ideas, and found a Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin. I substituted kale for the chard, and it turned out beautifully! The creamy sweetness of the heavy cream, butter and cheese perfectly complemented the hearty sweet potatoes and the tender kale. Yep, butter, cream and cheese. It's good. Here's the recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Happy harvest!

Serves 12

3 tbsp butter
1 large bowlful of kale, stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups heavy cream or whole milk
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 medium red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper, ancho chili powder
1 1/4 cups (about 5 ounces) coarsely grated Gruyére cheese

Prep greens: Heat 2 tablespoons butter in skillet over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add kale, pinch of nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook, stirring, until vegetables are tender but not browned, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper then transfer greens to a colander to drain well and press out liquid with back of a large spoon.

Make sauce: Combine cream or milk and garlic in small saucepan; bring to simmer; keep warm. Melt two tablespoons butter in a medium heavy skillet over moderate heat and stir in flour. Cook roux, whisking, one minute, then slowly whisk in warm cream/milk and boil, whisking, one minute. Season sauce with salt and pepper.

Assemble gratin: Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter deep 9×13 baking dish. Put a bit of bechamel on bottom of dish. Spread half of sweet potatoes in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, a quarter of the herbs and a kale. Top with remaining bechamel sauce, herbs, half the cheese, then remaining sweet potato pieces. Sprinkle with the last bit of cheese and ancho chili powder if desired.

Bake gratin for about 40 minutes (I cooked covered about 30, uncovered last 10)until golden and bubbly, and most of the liquid is absorbed. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Picnic Time

Well, if July 4th isn't upon us already. Wasn't it just cold and rainy?

Somehow the weather heated up just in time for a great 4th of July picnic. Sometime back in December when it was cold, I was doing research for an article that just got published in Madison Magazine (yay! my first!). It features recipes from a few of Madison's favorite chefs. I loved all of the recipes that the chefs submitted (many did not get into the article:(. The Black and Bleu Tenderloin sounds especially yummy right now, so I printed that recipe below.

What are you taking on your picnic?

Black and Bleu Tenderloin Sandwich

From Andy Drobac, executive chef, Brocach Irish Pub

1 sourdough baguette (Madison
Sourdough makes a good one)
2 lbs. beef tenderloin
1/2 lb. of your favorite bleu cheese (we
use Cashel Bleu)
1 stick butter at room temp
Baby arugula
Olive oil

Season tenderloin liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot. Sear tenderloin on four sides, for two minutes a side. Remove tenderloin from pan and allow to cool (this can be done a day ahead of time, store tenderloin in cooler). Mix bleu cheese and butter and spread on both sides of baguette. Slice tenderloin and place on baguette. Dress arugula in olive oil and place on top of roast beef. Close sandwich and wrap tightly. Eat within a couple of hours.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I admit I have a little competitive side. (I hear some of you saying little?). In all fairness, I am usually competing with myself. I want to be a better dancer, stronger, a better writer, and of course a better chef.

When my husband asked me to make something to take to a work meeting I felt the heat. (Although my competition is mostly baked goods from Costco, I hear). It took me only a few minutes of browsing to decide on blueberry crumble bars, and the recipe on Smitten Kitchen looked perfect.

They turned out delicious, if I say so myself. Picture perfect and tasty with warm whole berries sandwiched between a slightly crunchy crust. I added a layer of homemade blueberry jam since I didn't quite have enough berries. I'm pretty sure I have Costco beat. Hope you and you co-workers enjoy them, babe!

Here's the recipe direct from Smitten Kitchen's site:

Blueberry Crumb Bars
Adapted from

Recipes like this make me wonder why I don’t use more. After seeing a blueberry crumb bar on another site, I immediately wanted to make them but the first recipe seemed overly fussy. I knew there was a simpler way to do it, and lo and behold, All Recipes had it. Once I swapped the shortening for butter–of course–and dolled it up with some lemon juice and lemon zest, they were just as heavenly as the 176 commenters promised they’d be.

I could imagine easily swapping another fruit or berry for the blueberries–I’m especially thinking something tart like sour cherries or cranberries in the fall (I’d use orange instead of lemon with cranberries). But if you have blueberries on hand, do not miss a chance to make these.

These are easiest to cut once chilled, and store even better in the fridge than they do at room temperature–something unusual for cookies!

Yield: I cut these into 36 smallish rectangles

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. (This took an extra 10 to 15 minutes in my oven.) Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Culinary Tour 2012 - Cooking in the Land of the Gods

Plan now for your culinary and cultural adventure! Up to $100 off the tour price if you book before June 30, OR book with a friend and receive up to a $300 discount! Ask for details....

2012 Culinary Tour to ISLA MUJERES and VALLADOLID, Mexico FEB 11-22, 2012

**EARLY BIRD SPECIAL**REGISTER BY JUNE 30th and receive $100 off your trip cost. Register with another person and receive $300 off the total cost for two people.

Rates from $2399 (double or twin beds)-$2550 (king bed on Isla Mujeres) / person

Enjoy Isla Mujeres and Valladolid, Feb 11-22, 2012

from $2399 OR choose from either destination:

Isla Mujeres, Feb 11-18 (7 nights, 8 days)

$1799 or $1950 (oceanview king room)/person. $500 extra for single occupancy, $200 less for non-cooking companion

Participants will stay at on Isla Mujeres, Mexico in Casa de las Palmas. It is an incredible, luxurious villa that looks out over the ocean. The multi-level salt water pool is the perfect place to take a refreshing swim, or relax in a hammock under the palapa. Each exquisitely decorated bedroom has a private bath. The villa includes a kitchen and large dining table so we can have cooking classes on the premises. Classes emphasize a variety of traditional Mexican food as well as Latin fusion cuisine. Take a look for yourself

Valladolid, Mexico, Feb 18-22 (4 nights, 5 days)

$799/person ($599 if participating in Isla Mujeres tour). $500 extra for single occupancy, $75 less for non-cooking companion.

Participants will stay in the quaint and “undiscovered” town of Valladolid, just one and a half hours from Cancun. Casa Hamaca offers luxurious Mayan-themed rooms just a few blocks from the town square, where we will have Yucatecan and Mayan cooking classes, and observe traditional Mayan cooking techniques. Enjoy festive dancing and celebrations during Mardi Gras, the ancient Ek Balam ruins, or walk to the local food and craft market, before retiring to your peaceful room. Book a massage or facial at the hotel, and enjoy swimming in the nearby cenotes.

Please go to or email me for further details about the trip, or for registration forms.

Looking forward to winter in paradise!


A World of Flavors, Culture and Cuisine

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lao-Laan Xang's Mobile Fare

As if all the reasons we already love Lao-Laan Xang weren't enough—the delicious mango sticky rice, the savory curries, and the great atmosphere—there are more. If you need still convincing, just go and eat the food:)

Mobile Lunch

They have a food cart! I visited their fire-engine-red cart today on UW-Madison's southeast campus, and devoured some mango-pineapple curry with tofu. Sone Inthachith, co-owner of Atwood's Lao-Laan Xang, started his mobile food operation only two weeks ago. The cart is located just east of the corner of Mills and Johnson.

Ethnic and Local

Lao Laan Xang buys as much produce from local farmers as they can during the summer season. “We go to the farmer's market twice a week and stock up. We have farmers who are growing peppers and squash for us,” Sone explained. Their specialty items have to be shipped in, of course.

Curry for the Community

Sone was ready to pack up as I arrived today—he was on his way to the protest at the Capitol Square to donate his delicious fare to the protestors. (You might still get some if you hurry!)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Malian Seasoned Rice

Zamé (Malian Seasoned Rice) w/ Piri Piri

The first bite of the tomato-infused rice took me back to the year I spent in Mali studying dance. Just as they are here, weddings are huge and joyous occasions in Mali. Shade tarps are set up on the sides of dusty streets, under which families, musicians and friends gather to celebrate. The drumming resonates for miles, seemingly carried on the red dust that is kicked up by the dancers’ feet. During the course of the celebration, prayers and blessings are said for the couple, praise songs are sung by the griot, and all but the most elderly participate in the dancing. The bride is usually inside her husband’s house during the wedding ceremony, starting her life as a married woman inside the place where she will spend most of her time. A wedding in Mali provides an opportunity for people to dress in their finest clothes, usually wax-pounded cotton brocades for the women, adored with intricate embroidery, and suits for the men, or long tunics and pants.

As the drumming continues, the high heels and sandals get kicked off, and everyone takes a turn dancing in front of the drummers, both solo and as a group, each demonstrating their best moves. When the sun sets, the food comes out, large bowls of seasoned rice, or zamé as it is called in Mali, and frozen bags of ginger juice and dableni, a hibiscus juice whose Bamana name means literally “red mouth”. The bowls are placed on the ground and groups of friends and family gather around each bowl, scooping up handfuls of the delicious rice. In Mali, zamé is usually served with fish and vegetables such as carrots, eggplant and pumpkin. The Malians told me that eating with your hands from a communal bowl represents the equality of all people in the community. It definitely felt that way.

Ingredients (serves a crowd)

1 cup canola oil

½ lb beef stew meat

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

5 peeled roma tomatoes (fresh or canned)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 small carrots, peeled and chopped

1 yucca root peeled and cut into large wedges (can sub potatoes)

6 okra pods

1 cabbage quartered

1 small piece squash, pelled and seeded

5 habanero peppers

3 buillion cubes

6 garlic cloves minced

3 sprigs flat-leafed parsley

1 green bell pepper

6 bay leaves

2 tbsp mustard

salt, black pepper

3 scallions chopped

½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped.

2 tsp vinegar

6 cups or so broken rice (Asian markets)

6 cups water


Heat 1 cup oil in a pot

Peel and slice yucca, and fry wedges in the oil.

Remove from oil and place in bowl to drain

Add beef and onion to oil

Let brown a few minutes

Add tomatoes and paste and let fry a few minutes.

Add veggies and about 3 cups water (to cover veggies), 2 buillion, and habaneros,fried yucca and cover.

Let simmer until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile in mortar, pulverize garlic cloves, green bell peppers, parsley top,

Remove veggies that are soft, leaving meat and hot peppers.

Add bell pepper mixture to sauce and about 6 cups of water and 1 bullion, 1 tbsp salt. Bring back to a simmer.

Rinse broken rice and set in a colander over boiling stew to steam. Tie a cloth around edge of colander, cover lightly, steam about 15 minutes.

Remove rice and set aside.

Add salt if needed, black pepper and about 1 heaping tbsp mustard and 6 bay leaves.

When it comes to a boil, remove habanero peppers, and add the par-steamed rice and cover.

Remove stems from habaneros and mash with 2 tbsp mustard in mortar. (THIS IS HOT!!!!!add a bit of garlic, lemon and olive oil to dilute).

Mix scallions, cucumber and vinegar in separate bowl.

To serve:

Spoon rice onto plate. Top with veggies and a bit of hot pepper sauce, if wanted.

Garnish with green onions-cucumber mix.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tera's Whey

You think a smoothie makes you feel good? Try a smoothie using Tera's Whey protein powder. Not only does it pack a nutritional boost, but it's made in a company that does as much good for the world as for your body. For example, Tera's whey comes from small artisanal cheese makers and farmers, using the waste by-product from the cheesemaking process. The “green” facility filters and re-uses the water extracted from the whey, and they use mainly equiptment that was manufactured in Wisconsin for the production of the protein powder. It is a woman-owned business right here in Wisconsin. Pretty cool.

And it is delicious. I love the rGBH free Acai Berry myself. Smoothies made better! (and no one paid me to say this, but it would be cool if they did).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Heart Willy Street

Willy Street is under construction for the summer, all the more reason to stop in at any number of Willy Street's great shops, bakeries, and restaurants. Here are my top 10 foodie picks for Willy Street from East to West. What are yours?
  1. Batch Bakehouse – where to begin, where to end? The baguettes and croissants please my Francophile husband, while the dense apple cake makes my Midwestern heart sing.

  2. Mickey's Tavern – Everyone raves about the “sexy fries”, but my favorite is the Bloody Mary. Is that food? Oh, and the Malian Blues music every second Wednesday.

  3. ACE – ACE is the place. Stop into this very friendly neighborhood hardware store for, well, just about anything, including treats for your kids, local honey and coffee from Just Coffee.

  4. Ha Long Bay – Love the Pho. Huge menu, great flavors!

  5. Lazy Jane's – scones, need I say more? Okay, fine, scramblers, too.

  6. The Kitchen Gallery - I love this store. Find your inspiration to cook, or even just to serve your take-out on something beautiful.

  7. Willy Street Coop – Best price on organic strawberries, period. We go through about a pint/day.

  8. Star LiquorYahara Bay distillery's Apple Brandy makes any baked good better, and I'll get a 6-pack of New Glarus' Stone Soup for Drummer Man.

  9. Roman Candle Pizza - I'll take the roasted red pepper soup over pizza anyday, but my son loves, loves, loves their pizza—especially the supreme.

  10. Madison Sourdough – Grab fresh bread, or a raspberry tart for a light snack. Better yet, meet a friend for lunch. They use lots of locally sourced ingredients. I loved the roast beef sandwich, and I don't even like beef.

  11. There are too many to stop at 10, but I did. Feel free to add on!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ground Chicken Lasagne w/ Market Spinach

I refused to turn on the heat the last few weeks, holding out defiantly against the rainy, cold days. I just couldn't bring myself to switch on the thermostat. I didn't even want to wear a coat outside—c'mon, it's May!!! I empathized with the plants, their leaves poking out in hopes of a nice sunny day, but greeted instead by cold rain.

So I stayed inside and baked up a pan of lasange instead. I heralded summer by using tomato sauce that I canned last year, encouraged spring by adding fresh steamed spinach from the market, mixed it with sauteed, ground Gold n' Plump chicken and red onions, and layered a simple ricotta-egg mixture. It was so delicious!

And now that the weather has warmed and the sun is out, well, all I have to do is pop the leftovers in the microwave. Lasagne—and the sun—two gifts that keep giving.


2 tbsp olive oil

1 pound Gold N' Plump ground chicken

1 medium red onion, diced

1 clove garlic

1 lb baby spinach, steamed and drained

16 oz container ricotta

8 oz cottage cheese

1 egg

¾ pound shredded mozarella

1 package no-boil lasagne noodles

1 jar tomato sauce

salt, pepper

oregano, thyme, basil, other yummy herbs


Preheat oven to 350.

Mix egg, ricotta, cottage cheese, salt, pepper and spices in a bowl.

Sautee red onion until soft, add in ground Gold n' Plump chicken and cook until done. Squeeze garlic clove and mix, salt to taste, some oregano if you like.

Layer it however you wish.

Here's how I did it:

Put a bit of tomato sauce in pan. Layer noodles on top, then cheese mixture, then meat mixture, some mozarella, then sauce

Add another noodle layer, more cheese mixture, spinach, sauce and mozarella

Top with final noodle layer, sauce and mozarella

Bake covered about 30 minutes, then uncover and bake about 10-15 minutes until just golden around edges.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Teriyaki Chicken Burger

Where's the beef?

When the sun is shining and you have 4 pounds of ground chicken (courtesy of Gold n' Plump) left in your freezer, who needs beef? The secret to a nice juicy chicken burger is adding enough liquid to the mix. I found a combination that I really love. Summer, I'm ready for you!


1 pound Gold n' Plump ground chicken

1 shallot chopped

1 clove garlic

1 egg whisked with ¼ cup milk

¼ – 1/3 cup bread crumbs

salt, pepper

herbs such as oregano, basil, or any others you like

3 tbsp each soy sauce, Worchestershire sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp corn syrup (I'm going for something like a teriyaki sauce)


Mix well and let sit about 20 minutes, covered.

Oil your grill and form patties (they will feel wet, but they will hold together, I promise)

Grill on one side 'til golden. Flip after 5 minutes or so, then cook until golden on both sides and cooked through. Top with cheese and other condiments. I like a wasabi mayonaise, lettuce and grilled onions.