Monday, January 23, 2012

Restaurant Week Jan 22-27th

I don't know about you, but it takes something special to get me out of the house during the winter. Putting on all those layers, scraping windshields and shoveling sidewalks are pretty good motivators--to stay inside!

How about a three course meal for only $25 ($15 for lunch) at some of Madison's favorite restaurants? Yes, it's Madison Restaurant Week, one of Madison Magazine's fun food events. Perfect reason to get out!

With so many restaurants to pick from, how do you choose?
Here are the places I would love to try:

Sardine - They got me at Mushroom crepe, leeks, Mornay sauce and petite salad, and Cherry butter cake, chantilly crème and cherry reduction sauce. Enough said.

Avenue Bar - Right in our neighborhood, yet I've never been. My husband, Drummer Man, and I love pub food, and beer. It must be those Irish and German roots! Fish and chips, and carrot cake? Heaven.

Inca Heritage - South Park Street is full of great ethnic eats, and Inca Heritage earns rave reviews. I've yet to go, but doesn't rice tamale seasoned with amazonic spices, olive, egg and wrapped in banana leaves accompanied by crispy duck confit garnished with exotic Cocona fruit reductions (fruit from Amazonic region), and handmade truffle with tempting manjarblanco of Lucuma fruit, Maracuya cheesecake sound amazing?

La Brioche True Food - Any restaurant that cares about the feng shui as much as they do about the menu sounds intriguing. Especially when the menu includes Pork confit, apple, daikon radish, gruyere, rye crouton and Beef brisket, house polenta, cherry demi glace. Plus I never venture to the West Side to eat. And I should.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Champion Pancakes

I should preface this by saying that cereal does not count as breakfast in our house. If you were a fly on the wall here the other morning, you would have heard this exchange:
Me to the kids, "No, you can't have cereal right now; we're about to eat breakfast." My husband says, "When I was growing up, cereal was breakfast!"

I guess that explains things a bit. Growing up, cereal was an after-school snack. My mom's breakfast repertoire included "toaster pizza"--sauce and mozzarella on bread, broiled in the toaster oven--eggs-in-a-nest, or chipped beef on toast.

Most mornings nowadays start with fresh eggs, and include mix-ins such as onions, mushrooms, spinach and cheese. I eat mine with greens and dressing, while Drummer Man and children enjoy bagels. Sometimes we throw on some salsa and wrap 'em up--instant breakfast burrito!

We generally bust out waffles on Sundays--the latest was a bacon-cheddar with apple-brandy compote--and we make pancakes at least once a week.

I got a little carried away the other day and made cottage cheese-apple pancakes. We topped them with an apple compote, yogurt and caramel sauce. We have found the perfect pancake recipe, if I do say so myself, that lends itself well to add-ins. Try it and let me know what you come up with!

Basic Pretty-Perfect Pancakes
(add ins for cottage cheese pancakes are in parenthesis)

1.5 cups flour (all purpose,with 1/4 cup wheat)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cane sugar
2 eggs
3 tbsp canola oil
1.5 cups milk (this is where I mix in/sub other liquids/dairy. Here used 3/4 cup milk, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup yogurt, any flavor or plain)
1 tsp vanilla
spices (cinnamon, cardamon, nutmeg, etc.)
You can also add in sliced banana, chopped bacon, nuts, or 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin, banana or grated cheese! Play with your food:)

Sift together dry ingredients.
Mix eggs, milk and oil until fluffy. Add in vanilla.
Mix dry into wet ingredients.
Cook on griddle until done.
Top with apple compote, or other fruit sauce of choice, whipped cream, syrup, honey or yogurt!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eggplant Gratin w/ Poached Eggs

On Christmas day we lost a chicken (Dora, a Rhode Island Red) to a hawk. Our neighborhood hawk saw an opening in the netting that covered the run, and swooped in. We had left for the day, but our neighbor came over later to find Dora's carcass, and a few other very scared chickens, as well as some scattered eggs. Merry Christmas, hawk!

I love being able to go outside and collect eggs. I love the way the chickens follow me around the yard when I let them out. And I miss Dora, even though the other Rhode Island Red is also named Dora. It's just not the same without her (Dora, not Dora).

We eat eggs almost every morning, and for about one year from the time they started laying, I never bought eggs. This past fall the chickens molted, and their egg production decreased (feather production however increased. Yuck!). Now with the days so short, they are also laying fewer eggs. Sometimes I supplement with a dozen store-bought eggs, and I feel so thankful for each egg that I find in the coop.

Though we generally eat a scramble in the morning, I was really craving eggs the other night. I was making pizza for my family, but because I am trying to reduce my flour intake, I decided to make an eggplant dish layering sliced eggplant, cheese, tomato sauce and some of the pizza toppings. I know, it sounds weird, but it was really good! And to top it off, I plopped two eggs on top to poach during the last 10 minutes of cooking. It was so delicious. Thanks, chickens!

Eggplant Gratin w/ Poached Eggs

Preheat oven to 350.


One eggplant. Slice, about ½ inch thick and soak in salt water for 10 min.

1 pint tomato sauce

Sauteed veggies (I used spinach, mushrooms, onions, garlic)

Grated mozzarella

Grated parmesan


2-4 whole eggs


Remove eggplant from salt water.

Lightly fry the eggplant slices and set aside

In a tall sided baking dish, layer sauce, eggplant, veggies and cheese, ending with cheese and walnuts on top.

Bake in oven for about 30 minutes, or until bubbly, and just slightly golden on top.

Crack the eggs into the gratin and cook another 8-10 minutes.

Enjoy with fresh bread!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Food Friday-WPR


I had just written a list of New Year's intentions (I hate resolutions), and was discussing with my husband how I really wanted to bring my cooking, writing, blogging and food tours together to do something really great and fulfilling, when my phone rang.

Kalpana, the producer of Here on Earth-Radio Without Borders, was asking if I would like to be a guest on their Food Friday show. Would I???!! Are apples green? Is chocolate addictive? Do my kids drive me crazy? Is my husband..., okay, okay. Enough.

With great anticipation (butterflies galore!) I sat down with the amazing Lori Skelton On Jan 6th to talk about my view on food, and my experiences that have shaped the way I think about food.

Here's a link for the podcast of the show!

I was nervous, for sure. I had no idea if I was making sense, but felt grateful that I had a chance to bring my thoughts to light. Why me? What do I really have to offer? Geez, I just am a woman who follows my passions, and somehow, food, dance and conservation have all come together. Who've thought?(I know my parents were wondering if I was ever going to use my edumacation!)

I thought the interview went well, all things considered, and my mom was quick to call and congratulate me after the show (she even sent flowers!!). She of course had to comment on what I said about the food we ate as kids. I mentioned how my mom cooked most things from scratch, which impacted me greatly, but I thought some of that was for economic reasons. When my mom called after the radio show, she insisted we had plenty, that we “were just thrifty.” Ahem. Is that why we used duct tape to keep our car windows up, and rope to hold the door closed? Is that why we never had a couch? Or bought fresh seafood? Anyway, I am not complaining. I did plenty of that as a kid.

I feel grateful for all of the experiences that have brought me to where I am, and look forward to a great, giving, successful year.

What passions will you follow this year?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Looking Forward to 2012

Happy New Year!

It's almost too late to write a New Year's post; people are already breaking their resolutions (you know who you are!) Okay, I am too, I admit. I was going to, make that AM going to, go on a cleanse, but I keep nibbling on chocolate. Chocolate is decidedly not part of my cleanse. Or is it?

Anyway, instead of recapping 2011—I don't really want to look back, anyway—I decided that I will share what I look forward to in 2012. Not resolutions per se (those just get broken), but, um, intentions (sounds corny, I know). It's not like 2011 was bad, it's just that the end of the year was a bit rough. I heard about some kidnappings in Mali in the city of Timbuktu, and that really affected me. And there were some family stressors that just got me down.

But looking forward, my husband reminds me that we planted lots of seeds in 2011 (not just the vegetable kind), and I think things are really going to blossom this year.

Here's what I'm looking forward to:

  1. More cake. I resolved to make more cake in 2012. I started yesterday by making a chocolate cake (top photo). The frosting, from Foodalution, is the bomb!

  2. Enjoying the time I have with my kids. It goes so fast.

  3. Unifying my foodie exploits. I am teaching cooking classes at Orange Tree Imports, and Milwaukee Public Market. I will be regularly contributing to Madison Magazine, and I think my restaurant tours will grow! I want to add farm tours, and really do something food-ilicious to help my community, and my family in Africa. I am looking to organizations like Kabillo Community Center, Culture Kitchen, Slow Food and The Goodman Community Center for inspiration.

  4. Kombucha. Yep, I am going for the 30 day challenge! You know, adding more NessAlla Kombucha to my diet is not a problem. It's what I'm going to give up. Coffee, or wine? Or chocolate.

  5. Dancing! You know, I dance weekly with an amazing group of women (WADOMA), and I hope I never have to give that up. I also get to share my passion when I teach African Dance class each week at Dance Fabulous. Sometimes we bust out Jazzercise routines, too. I think we are going to take our dancing to another level, branch out, have fun and live in joy! Dancing is my moving meditation and source of love!

  6. Visiting friends and family. More than any thing, I want to spend time with my friends, especially those I haven't seen (you know who you are, and you probably don't read my blog:), and my cousins who I used to visit so regularly as a kid. Clean your guest rooms people!

  7. Faith. Have faith that I am loved, that I have something greater to offer the world, and that I can make a difference in my community and in other communities through food and dance love.

  8. Growing my looking at blogs I love. Here are some of my faves, though there are sooo many that I admire. My Little Space; BURP; Cakewalk; FoodGal; Fresh, Local and Best; A Plum By any Other Name; Serious Eats; Adventures with the Allens...

Happy New Year everyone! May it be your best yet.