Friday, August 31, 2012


All of a sudden the backyard and the CSA box have gone from mostly green to vibrantly colorful and rich. A white lily even popped up out of a flower bed like a weed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

wisconsin tomatoes

We've been getting beautiful tomatoes from the farmer's market, the local co-op, and our CSA box. That means almost every meal uses tomatoes--I have to take advantage while they're available! By the way, you can freeze a whole tomato in a freezer bag. When you're ready to use a tomato in a sauce or pasta in the winter, just run the tomato under warm water until the skin slips off and chop it up. Oh, and it's not a bad idea to core the tomato before freezing.

caprese salad

Anyway, here's one of the meals I made with CSA tomatoes--a simple caprese salad. I snagged the recipe from Giada De Laurentis, but used balsamic vinegar in place of the lemon juice (we've had a lot of lemony dishes lately and needed a change). The fresh tomatoes grown nearby and ripened on the vine really make the salad. The basil was also from our CSA farm and the fresh mozzarella is made in southern Wisconsin as well. There will be more tomato recipes coming in the following days.

Edit: When you follow the link, you'll see a platter filled with tomatoes of all sizes and large slices of mozzarella. Since I only had grape tomatoes, I used those and tossed them with cherry-sized fresh mozzarella balls that I halved. In a nutshell, use whatever tomatoes you have available.

Friday, August 24, 2012

this is exactly what i look like every day...


pin & skirt, thrifted
blouse, Target

shoes, Good Style Shop
purse, Etsy

Okay, maybe not every day.

Anyway, here is our delicious meal from fresco on Sunday night. For Restaurant Week, we each got to choose from one of three appetizers, entrees, and desserts.

my appetizer: farmer's market salad with mixed greens, seasonal vegetables, chevre, and balsamic vinaigrette

Matt's appetizer: seared rare ahi tuna, nicoise-style potato salad, tarragon-caper aioli

my entree: sheep's milk ricotta cheese gnocchi, seasonal vegetables, brown butter herb creme

Matt's entree: asparagus, spring pea, butter lettuce, white bean, red onion, campanelle pasta,
prosciutto, summer vegetable butter sauce

my dessert: mint julip creme brulee

Matt's dessert: dark chocolates by Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier

Everything I had was perfectly luscious. I feel silly talking about food that way, but really, if you had eaten those gnocchi, you'd know what I mean. They were so smooth and rich, but not overly heavy like some gnocchi can be. Also, since my creme brulee was flavored with pureed mint, it tasted like a velvety, creamy mint leaf. Which is great, if you like fresh mint, like I do. I surprised myself by trying and enjoying Matt's ahi tuna appetizer (I am usually picky about fish). It was so tender and mild, and the salad was an excellent complement to the flavor of the tuna. I think fresco will become a regular stop for special occasions.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

wisconsin tomatoes #2

herb butter-and-goat cheese linguine with fresh tomatoes
roasted garlic bread

Another tomato-filled meal: linguine with a sauce of butter, shallots, herbs, white wine, and goat cheese. Very creamy and rich. My husband doesn't like dill, so I only topped mine with dill and he used basil. This meal was so close to being entirely produced in Wisconsin. Dang! Only the dried herbs were from outside our area of the state. Please leave me a comment if you try anything and let me know how you like it!

Salt and pepper
1 pound linguine pasta (I prefer fresh)
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (or 4 tsp. dried)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon (or 4 tsp. dried)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. dried)
2 cups chopped multicolored heirloom tomatoes
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the pasta cooking water.

  2. While the pasta is working, in a serving bowl, add the crumbled goat cheese. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the white wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley, dill, tarragon and thyme. Stir in the reserved pasta cooking water.

  3. Add the pasta to the goat cheese. Pour the herb sauce on top, season with pepper and toss for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and toss gently for another minute; season with salt and pepper.

Friday, August 17, 2012

easy french onion soup

Okay, so here comes the second soup post in a row.  But that's because I could probably eat soup every other day.  And it's an easy meal to make hearty and yet vegetarian.  The soup I made used chicken broth, but could easily be made with a nice homemade veggie broth.  I keep scraps of veggies and chicken or other meat bones in large bags in the freezer, then when I need broth, I just pop the contents of the bag into the crock pot, covered with water, and cook it on low for 18-24 hours.  How long you let it go depends on how strong you want your broth and how stinky you are willing to let your house get.  Ha.

french onion soup on Matt's grandma's handmade hotpad

I liked that this recipe was simple, but I thought it was just a tad bit too simple, so I added a couple of garlic cloves and some dried thyme to the onions.  Then it seemed just right.

 you know it's good--look at that doggy snout trying to get at it!

Quick, Light French Onion Soup
slightly adapted from Serious Eats
serves 4

1 pound sweet white or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 cups dry white wine, such as Muscadet
2 tablespoons butter
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1 bay leaf
4 slices crusty bread or baguette
2 cups (5 ounces) freshly grated Gruyere cheese
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Combine the onions, garlic, thymewine, butter, and a large pinch of salt in a baking dish and cook, uncovered, until the wine is absorbed almost completely into the onions, and they are tender and golden, 45 minutes or perhaps a little longer.
In the meantime, bring the chicken or vegetable stock and bay leaf to a simmer in a large saucepan. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
When the onions are finished, divide them among 4 deep broiler-safe bowls. Cover the onions with chicken stock to fill the bowls, and place a slice of bread on each. Distribute the grated cheese over the bread and broil until the cheese is golden and bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. 


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

time for a recipe

I've made enough fashion posts for awhile. It's time to get back to cooking! At my parents' house this weekend, we ate quite well. One morning, my mom made a delicious puff pancake -called krupsua or pannukakku-for breakfast.

Krupsua - Finnish Puff Pancake

5 eggs
1 c flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c sugar (optional)
2 c. milk

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a 9 x 13 pan at 350 (glass pan) or 375 (metal pan). Meanwhile, beat the eggs slightly. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Stir in salt, sugar (if using), and milk. Take melted butter in pan from oven and spray the sides of the pan with cooking spray. Pour in batter. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, until golden brown.

It's a very dense and eggy oven pancake that's great with fruit, syrup, or even just powdered sugar. We ate ours with vanilla yogurt and blueberries. The recipe is a favorite from our family friend, Suzie.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

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Monday, August 6, 2012


Pachamama's is a must when we're in Lawrence, despite its prohibitive pricing. Sometimes we've gone for just dessert or lunch. I've posted about Pachamama's before, but just a dessert. When we visited a few weeks ago, it was only our second full dinner (we forgot our camera at the first dinner). We enjoyed trying some different appetizers and entrees this time.

amuse bouche

The chef's amuse bouche, or first bite, was a poached pear wrapped in prosciutto and topped with truffle creme fraiche. I did not enjoy the combination of the spicy-sweet pear and the salty, chewy prosciutto. Not such a great start.

bone marrow crostini

Next was our appetizer. Matt had been interested for awhile in trying bone marrow. This small plate provided a good opportunity to taste marrow in a fairly non-threatening manner. Marrow, gorgonzola, avocado, and radish slices topped crusty baguette pieces. A carafe on the plate held a bit of truffle-scented honey. For those of you who don't know, marrow (the brown lumps in the photo above) is the most beefy, fatty, melt-in-your-mouth piece of a cow you've ever had. The richness of the gorgonzola was a welcome counter to the intense marrow and the avocado cooled everything off. I'm definitely glad I tried marrow in this dish--I'm not sure I could handle scraping marrow right out of the bone.

wood-fired local lamb sirloin with morel mushroom jus

My entree was a hit. The lamb was perfectly cooked, the sauce savory and rich, and the turnip gratin cheesy and velvety. I loved the peppery crust on the tender lamb. I only wish I would have had more room to finish the gratin.

morita chili-raspberry bbq duck breast with asadero fondue and griddle corn pudding

There's not much to say about Matt's entree. He wasn't blown away by it. The fatty layer between the skin and meat of the duck was not a texture that we enjoyed. Not a bad dish, but not our favorite.

We've really enjoyed Pachamama's desserts before, though I've had varied luck. The first dessert I had there was my favorite dessert of all time: a dense yellow cake, drizzled with brown sugar sauce, topped with rhubarb compote, fromage blanc ice cream, and mint coulis. Nothing has ever been able to top that. I've ordered the molten brown sugar cake another time, and it just wasn't the same. Apparently they oscillate between my favorite cake and a drier, bundt-like cake with bits of brown sugar cooked in.

Anyway, I opted for the lemon creme blueberry-rhubarb napoleon. The lemon creme was incredibly fluffy and very tart. The almond tuile (basically almond brittle) was crispy and nutty and not-too-sweet. The house-made salted caramel almond ice cream was also delicious, but seemed to me like it was a separate dessert altogether. I'm still kicking myself for not ordering the dessert with the fromage blanc ice cream instead. In any case, it was good, but not my new favorite.

lemon creme blueberry-rhubarb napoleon

peanut butter and milk chocolate tart

Matt's dessert totally suited him. If you know him, then you can see that the title of the dish has Matt written all over it. Then get into the details: pretzel crust, banana flambe. Yes. Even the wildcard element, the banana-lime sorbet, meshed well with the overall flavor. Matt was a happy camper. I, on the other hand, would have just eaten the bananas. The tart was too chocolatey for my tastes.

There you have it. Can you believe two people put all that food in their bodies in one evening? Well, we did, and we'd do it again. The creative seasonal menu ensures that there will always be something to pique our interest.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

almost fall

top, vintage
sunglasses, jeans, & shoes, Urban Outfitters

The weather in Wisconsin has been gorgeous--in the 60s and 70s the past week. I love when the time comes that I can bring out sweatshirts and long pants again. Fall is definitely on the way and that means school's about to start. Because of the fresh start at every new school year, it's always seemed to me that fall as much a season of renewal as spring. Along with preparing my classroom for new students, I'm also beginning to do some fall preserving.

When it comes to canning, I'm a bit lazy and a total cheapskate, so I have not made the leap and purchased a canner or canning tools. If you'd prefer the more traditional canning methods, there are fantastic tutorials online, but if you like to take a few shortcuts like me, I've given step-by-step directions for Sweet and Sour Dill Pickles here.

This recipe is from my husband's grandmother--I believe she got it from a friend of hers. It produces pickles (and onions too) that are like pickle-lover's candy, but plenty garlicky and dill-flavored as well. They're the best of both worlds. Being one of those wonderful old recipes passed from friend to friend, the amounts of ingredients are very, shall we say, flexible.

canning jars, lids, and bands (wide-mouthed jars have worked well for me)
pickling cucumbers
onion, cut into chunks
garlic cloves (optional)

1 quart vinegar (white)
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup salt
2 quarts water

First, prepare your cucumbers. I'm guessing I used about 2 pounds, but like I said, things are flexible. Cukes are getting to be a bit large by this point, but choose the smallest you can find. Most will need to be sliced into about 1-inch chunks.

If you're lucky enough to find some true baby cucumbers at this point, you won't have to cut them. However, this recipe does specify that you are to cut the cukes into chunks and I've never used the baby ones in the past. I'm not sure whether the babies will soak up as much brine as the sliced larger ones will. Try it anyway! Be adventurous with me!

I also love garlic in anything, so I also add one large or two small garlic cloves to each jar. Some people like to eat the pickled garlic straight up, but I haven't been so brave yet.

Wash and dry your jars thoroughly, even if they're right out of the package. This will ensure that your pickles are more sterile, and therefore should last longer. I made nine jars this year.

Next, place a few pieces of onion, a garlic clove or two, and a section of dill in the bottom of each jar. You'll need the bristly flower part of the fresh dill, not the feathery leaf part--if in doubt, look for "pickling dill" at your grocery store or farmer's market.

Add enough cucumbers, more onions, and more dill to the jar, leaving 1/2 inch headroom.

Seriously, don't skip the onions. They're delicious on brats, hot dogs, and hamburgers once they're all pickley and sweet.

Finally, you're ready for the stressful part. You'll need counter space for the jars and the hot pot of brine. You'll also need pot holders to set the pot on and to hold the hot jars while you screw the band on. It also helps to have two sets of hands ready. My husband sacrificed to assist me, as he hates pickles. In his words, he did it because he loves me.

Anyway, mix up the brine ingredients in a very large pot and heat until boiling. Ladle the hot brine in over the veggies, again leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace, but making sure everything's covered.

I fill and seal the jars one at a time. Before putting each seal and band on, wipe the edge of the jar clean. If there's any moisture on the edge, the seal may not take properly. Then, center the seal over the jar and screw the band over the top.

Phew! You're done! Let them sit out until all the lids have "popped". If the brine was hot enough, the lids should seal and will no longer pop when touched. Sometimes a slight touch to the lid will help along jars that haven't popped after several hours. Because the lids are sealed, you shouldn't need to refrigerate these pickles until after you've opened the jar. If by chance any of the jars do not seal, those do need to be kept in the refrigerator.

Please post a comment if something needs clarification. Happy pickling!