Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Birthday Eats

Yesterday, March 30, was my 28th birthday. So to celebrate, with the help of my cousin, Becky, who is in town visiting from New York City, I made sure I ate a lot of good food and drank some good beer.

Breakfast was frozen waffles with peanut butter and real maple syrup and a clementine. Sadly, I don't have a picture. Guess I was too hungry!

For a mid-morning snack, Becky and I split a garlic pretzel we got at Auntie Annie's while doing some shopping.

Later, for lunch, we met my uncle at a great Milwaukee restaurant, Beans & Barley. Much of their menu is healthy, vegetarian, and often vegan, fare. I had the TLT, which came recommended by my friend Lisa. The TLT is made up of tempeh, lettuce and tomato with mayo on whole wheat bread. It came with a side of cold couscous with almonds in it.

Then Becky and I went on the Lakefront Brewery tour, where we got to sample lots of tasty Lakefront brews.

Afterwards, because we had a free drink coupon from the brewery tour, we went to Wicked Hop where we met Nate for another beer. We also took advantage of the bar's happy hour, half-price appetizers and ordered some nachos.

Later, when we got home, I popped the spinach pie I had made the night before in the oven. Spinach pie is really, truly one of my most favorite foods. I've had it a lot (including in Greece!), but this recipe my mom gave me is probably my favorite. The phyllo gets nice and flaky and it's good and buttery! The recipe is below.

After dinner, we finished the day off with some Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes I made, also the night before. They're super tasty with a hint of spice. Mine weren't quite as pretty as what you see on the link (where the recipe is), but they were very tasty! For the frosting, I used about a 1/4 cup whipped cream cheese. There is no amount given under the ingredients list.

All in all, it was definitely a tasty day!

Spinach Pie (I'm pretty sure this recipe came from a Betty Crocker cookbook)
10 oz. fresh spinach, chopped or torn up
6 oz. feta, crumbled
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1 small onion, chopped
2 teas. dry dill weed
3 eggs beaten
1 tbs. butter, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 roll phyllo dough
1. Put spinach in large skillet, cover with a bit of water and cook for about 3 minutes or until wilted. Drain.
2. Mix spinach, feta, cottage, onion and dill; stir into eggs.
3. Brush bottom of a 13x9 pan with 1 tbs. butter.
4. Unfold layers of phyllo dough.
5. Lay 1 layer of phyllo on bottom of pan, brush top with more butter, and layer with 10 sheets of phyllo.
6. Spread spinach mixture over phyllo layer.
7. With rest of phyllo, layer piece by piece, topping each one with butter.
8. Cut into pieces; bake at 350 for 35 minutes, and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, March 29, 2010


I feel like I say this about everything, but one of my favorite foods is quiche. I could eat quiche every day. We hadn't made it for a while, so Sunday night, we decided to make one.

I found a recipe in America's Favorite Brand Name Light Cooking cookbook and used that as a guide. Here is the recipe plus the add-ins or substitutions I used.

Spinach Quiche
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup mushrooms
1/4 cup smoked ham, cubed
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teas. butter
1 (10 oz.) package frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 (9-inch) pastry crust, unbaked
4 eggs (recipe calls for 1 cup Egg Beaters)
1 cup skim milk
1 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 teas. dried basil leaves
3/4 teas. hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, saute onion, garlic and mushrooms until tender. Add spinach and ham. Spoon into bottom of pie crust; set aside.

2. In small bowl, combine eggs, milk, flour, basil and hot sauce, pour evenly over spinach mixture.

3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

We served the quiche with a side salad. Yum!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Christie's, a Bar With Food

And not just any food. Really, really good food

Christie's, a southside Milwaukee restaurant, serves up excellent, unexpected food. This review from the Journal Sentinel gives good background information and good review of what it's like.
It's a small place--just a few tables and a circular bar--and everything is prepared by just a few people in the kitchen. The whole experience takes some time, but it's definitely worth it. y family--including my parents, my uncle Mike and his girlfriend Lonnie, and Nate--ate there Saturday night for an early birthday dinner for me. My parents had been before and have been raving about it every since, so we wanted to check it out.

The menu is fairly small, just a few appetizers, salads and sandwiches. The daily special board, on view as you walk in, is where it's at. Both side are covered with the daily specials, including chicken, pasta and fish dishes.
Since we sat at the bar, we each got a wooden tray to make eating a little easier.

We started with the calamari and scallops wrapped in prosciutto, both of which are on the menu.

Both my mom and I ordered one of the specials: crispy chicken with a chipotle sauce, asparagus and homemade mac and cheese.

Mike ordered the scallops and pasta special (I didn't get a picture), and Lonnie had the huge veggie sandwich (which is on the menu) and fries.

Nate and my dad both ordered another one of the specials, a fish I had never heard of, corbina, with broccoli and mashed potatoes.

For dessert, Nate and I split a chocolate and peanut butter mousse. Nate didn't care for the peanut butter part so much, but that was OK by me because I loved it. (Sorry for the stupid picture--I couldn't get it to flip but it was too tasty looking not to post!)

Chrisite's is a really great place. The staff was all really friendly and so were the others sitting at the bar. You can't help but talk to the others sitting at the bar. Don't expect a huge restaurant and expect the experience to take a while. It's worth it!

Pizza on the Grill

Yes, that's right. Pizza on the grill. Directly on the rack. Never tried it? It's delicious! It's like getting a wood-fired pizza in a restaurant.

Nate and I started doing this last year. I can't remember why we started doing it, but I'm glad we did. We've tried a bunch of different pizzas on the grill. One favorite is BBQ chicken. But this time, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to combine my love of Thai food with my loved of grilled pizza. Thus, Thai Grilled Pizza was born.

To come up with the ingredients, I consulted some online recipes and just thought of things I knew we would like. Here is what we used and how we grill pizza.

Thai Grilled Pizza
Already-made pizza dough (Sentry in Tosa carries Peter Sciortino's Bakery dough, which is really good. The Pillsbury cans of dough would work, too)
1 chicken breast
Bottle of spicy Thai peanut sauce
1 carrot, shredded
Some roasted red pepper strips from a jar, chopped
About a half cup of cilantro, chopped
About 5 green onions, chopped
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Olive oil
Red pepper flakes

1. Take dough out of fridge at least an hour before you want to use it. It's much easier to work with when it's a little warm. Heat grill to low and let it warm up.

2. Cube chicken and cook with some of the Thai sauce, garlic and spices until done.

3. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface and make into a shape that will fit well on the grill. Roll it out pretty well, but don't make it too thin. Coat one side with olive oil.

4. Place on grill rack (we use the top rack in our gas grill) olive oil-side down. Cook until dough gets a bit crispy (usually only a matter of minutes).

5. Coat top side of pizza with olive oil and then flip pizza over so olive oil side is down. Top with ingredients--spread some Thai sauce all around, top with chicken, cilantro, carrots, peppers and onions. Sprinkle cheese on top. Sprinkle red pepper flakes.
6. Put grill cover down. Let cook for about 10 minutes, or until cheese melts or to your preferred level of doneness.

Making pizza this way works really well with our gas grill. It may be a little trickier on a coal grill, but I know it can be done. No matter what toppings you put on the pizza, just don't do too much. I've found that too many ingredients, especially too much sauce, makes it really soggy.

French Food

My book club recently finished reading Julia Child's My Life in France, and we've been wanting to go out for French food since then. We finally made it to Le Reve in Wauwatosa. Le Reve (I have to apologize for the lack of accents--I can't figure out how to do it on Blogger!) a cool restaurant that serves great, simple French foods and wonderful pastries.

We started with a cheese plate that offered three kinds of cheeses, raisin bread, pears and nuts (I forgot to take a picture!).

Lisa ordered the pan poulet sandwich, with chicken, pancetta, romaine lettuce, tomato and a caper aioli on a baguette. It came with a side of fries, or "frites." (Sorry for the lack of a picture. I couldn't get the vertical photo to go horizontal, and then I got frustrated!)

Alysha got a French favorite: Croque-Monsieur, the French version of a ham and cheese sandwich. It came with a "petite greens salad."

Sun ordered the "steak-frites au poivre," grilled hangar steak with frites and a black peppercorn sauce.

I got the "legumes printaniers crepe," which had mushrooms, onions and white cheddar inside. It also came with a salad.

We each got some type of dessert--Lisa got macaroons, Alysha and Sun got something I can't remember the name of but it was delicious, I got a citron tart (it was sooooo good!) ...

... and I brought home a caramel and chocolate torte for Nate.

Everything was so tasty and we had a great time. I highly recommend stopping at Le Reve!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Healthy, Homemade Granola

For Christmas, my mother-in-law--knowing how much I like healthy, vegetarian foods--gave me a great cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health. Moosewood is a vegetarian restaurant in update New York, and there are tons of cookbooks from the restaurant.

There are still many recipes in the cookbook I want to try, but one that I've made twice now is for granola. The first time, I followed the recipe exactly. This time, I did a few of the add-ons. It's the type of recipe that you can make it what you want.

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup (I did 1/4 cup of each)
1 teas. salt
1 tbs. vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely chopped nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts)
6 cups rolled oats (just regular oats--not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (I've only used sunflower seeds)
2 tbs. brown sesame seeds (OK, I never used these, even the first time!)

Variations for this batch:
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut
some golden raisins

1. In a small sauce pan on low heat, warm the oil, honey/syrup and salt. Stir in the vanilla.

2. Place the nuts, oats, seeds and coconut in a large bowl and stir together. While stirring, gradually pour in the warm oil and honey, and stir until all of the ingredients are evenly coated.

3. Spread granola on an un-oiled baking sheet in a preheated 325 degree oven, bake for 30 minutes; stir after about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and to prevent clumping, stir every 10 minutes or so until cool (I only did two stirs). Store in closed container at room temperature.

*I added the raisins to the bowl with the oats and everything else and baked everything together. The raisins got really big and some kind of burned. I think I'd add the raisins toward the end (maybe after the 20-minute stir mark) or when everything is done cooking.

I like the granola with milk and eat it like cereal. In plain or vanilla yogurt is good, too!

Shrimp and Okra Gumbo

We recently received the April issue of Cooking Light, so that always means trying out a few new recipes. One of those recipes was Shrimp and Okra Gumbo. It worked perfect, because we've had some shrimp in the freezer for a while now that I've been meaning to use up. The gumbo was served with Creamy Yogurt Grits--yum! Nate is a huge fan of grits--he grew up eating them in Colorado--so he's always in the mood for grits.

We followed the recipe pretty much exactly except: that we had a little over the amount of shrimp we were supposed to use; we couldn't find fresh okra, so we used frozen, sliced okra; and we just forgot to add the celery, which I'm not sure it's all that necessary.

The Creamy Yogurt Grits recipe isn't found on the recipe page, so here it is:
Uncooked, quick-cooking grits
1 cup Greek-style yogurt

Bring 2.5 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in 3/4 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits; cover, reduce heat and simmer 8 minutes or until thick. Stir in yogurt, 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper. Serve gumbo over grits.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Making Indian From Scratch

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but one of my favorite types of ethnic food is Indian. Nate and I go out for Indian once in a while and also make it, usually with jars from the Indian grocery store or Trader Joe's. But this weekend, I finally dipped into an Indian cookbook I bought a few years ago, called India's 500 Best Recipes.

I made two dishes--one was a chicken and cashew dish, the other had mushrooms, peas and paneer--to take over to my parents' house, where we ate with my grandma, uncle and uncle's partner, who made two dishes as well. He made this vegetarian stuffed cabbage dish.

And a lamb and potato dish (front, left burner).

We also had basmati rice, flavored with spices and herbs, garlic naan from Trader Joe's (so I cheated a bit!), pappadam with tamarind sauce and mint chutney, and mini baked lamb samosas my parents made. And beer, of course! We had Maharaja and Kingfisher beer.
For dessert, we had mango ice cream with some vanilla wafer cookies I got at the Indian grocery store.
Everything was delicious, and the food was a lot of fun to make. It wasn't nearly as time consuming or difficult as I thought it would be. A lot of elements and ingredients go into the dishes, but really, they're pretty simple.
Below are the recipes for the two dishes I made.

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce
2 medium onions (after I cooked everything, I realized I only used one onion, and it seemed to be fine)
2 tbs. tomato paste
1/2 cup cashews
1.5 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 teas. ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1 tbs. plain, low-fat yogurt (I used Greek-style)
2 tbs. oil
2 tbs. chopped, fresh cilantro
1 tbs. golden raisins
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, cubed
2.5 cups button mushrooms (I couldn't find button, so I just used the sliced mushrooms I found in the grocery store, and cut them up a bit)
1.25 cups water
1. Cut onions into quarters and place in food processor or blender and process for about a minute. Add the tomato paste, cashews, garam masla, garlic, chili powder, lemon juice, turmeric, salt and yogurt. Process mixture in food processor for another 1 to 1/2 minutes.
2. In a heavy pan, heat the oil, lower the heat to medium and pour in spice mixture from the processor. Fry mixture for 2 minutes, lower heat a little more if necessary.
3. When the spice mixture is slightly cooked, add half the chopped fresh cilantro, raisins and chicken cubes and continue to stir-fry for another minute.
4. Add mushrooms, pour in water and simmer. Cover the pan and cook over low heat for about 10 minutes.
5. Check that chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick. Cook for a little longer if necessary. Spoon into serving bowl. Serve with rice.

Mushrooms, Peas and Paneer
6 tbs. vegetable/canola oil or ghee (I used 3 tbs. canola oil)
8 oz. paneer, cubed (paneer is cheese made from a rice milk)
1 onion, finely chopped
a few fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
3 fresh green chilies (more or less to taste)
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1-in. piece ginger root, sliced
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garam masala
3 cups tiny button mushrooms (I used the same mushrooms as above, cut up)
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted and drained
3/4 cup plain yogurt mixed with 1 tsp. cornstarch
1. Heat the ghee/oil in a frying pan and fry paneer until golden brown on all sides. Remove and drain on paper towel.
2. Grind the onion, mint, cilantro, chilies, garlic and ginger in a food processor to a fairly smooth paste. Remove and mix in the turmeric, chili powder, garam masala and salt.
3. Remove the excess ghee/oil from pan, leaving about 1 tbs. Heat and fry the paste until the raw onion smell disappears and oil separates.
4. Add mushrooms, peas and paneer. Mix together well. Cool the mixture and gradually fold in yogurt. Simmer about 10 minutes. Can also serve with basmati rice.

I can't wait to try more out of this cookbook. There are 488 more recipes, after all ...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patty's Day!

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, Nate and I made an Irish meal, and while doing so, had some Irish beer he made and listened to Irish music. And we still have Bailey's Irish Cream custard from Gilles is still waiting for us!

We made some soda bread over the weekend and with that, we had smoked salmon with a tangy horseradish sauce, a recipe from the March issue of Cooking Light. Here's the recipe. I'm usually not a big horseradish fan, and I'm just starting to like Dijon mustard, but this sauce was super tasty and the smoked salmon was great.

We had asparagus on the side as well as potatoes topped with some curry sauce I brought back from Ireland (yes, we were there in April 2008, but it's a dry mix to which you add water. Tasted OK to me!).

Everything was delicious!

Two Adrian Specialities

The appetizer my mom always makes when we have "company" come over is one of my favorites--artichoke dip. I started making it I think when I was in college, and it's one of the few recipes I can whip up just off the top of my head. We received a mini crock pot as a wedding present a few years ago, and now like cooking the dip in that. It's nice and hot all the time!

Artichoke Dip
1 can artichokes, drained, squeezed of excess water and chopped
about 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
about 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3 oz. cream cheese
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste, paprika for color on top
bread or crackers

Mix everything together with just enough mayo so that everything sticks together. Cook in crock pot for about 1.5 hours, or put in small baking dish at bake at 350 until hot and bubbly.

Another thing we made while I was growing up was what we called, simply, a "cottage cheese." Nate thinks I'm weird for liking this, but it's so good and really a pretty decent meal. We have it for breakfast (maybe that's what he thinks is weird).

"Cottage Cheese"
1 slice bread
cottage cheese
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350. Toast slice of bread. Top with cottage cheese (however much you want), sprinkle Parmesan on top and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes then turn broiler on for about 3 minutes. Yum!

If anyone tries it, let me know if you like it!

Root Vegetable Soup

For Christmas, knowing how much I like to cook, my friend Ann gave me a cookbook: Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source. It's a great book--it's mostly broken down by season and lists recipes that contain ingredients that are in season. There is also an extra section on "anytime" recipes. The recipes are all vegetarian and many of them are vegan. I still have to go through the cookbook in detail, but I've paged through the winter section a number of times, and the recipe for root soup caught my eye. I'm a sucker for anything that contains sweet potatoes!

The recipe was really, really easy. The only downside is that it took a lot of time to peel and cut all the vegetables. I followed the ingredients list as it says, but if and when I make this again, I think I'll cut down on the number of vegetables, unless I'm making it for a party. I think it probably ended up making 10-12 servings, which is a lot of two people!

Sweet and Savory Root Vegetable Stew
1 tbs. olive oil
6 shallots, diced (I used 4)
2 tbs. grated fresh ginger
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
2 medium rutabagas, peeled and diced
2 turnips, peeled and diced
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 celeriac (celery root), peeled and diced (I couldn't find this at the store, so I use three small potatoes)
1 fennel bulb, halved, cored and diced
1 cinnamon stick
Vegetable stock/broth (best to get two 32 oz. cartons--I had only one vegetable one and had to use the chicken broth I had in the fridge)
ume plum vinegar (I'm not sure what this is, but it suggests serving the soup with a couple dashes of it (I did not)

In a large pot over medium heat, saute shallots and ginger in oil for 5 minutes or until soft. Add vegetables and cinnamon stick. Add enough stock to barley cover vegetables. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 25 minutes.

Remove from heat, discard cinnamon stick and gently puree soup 3 seconds using handheld blender to slightly thicken liquid and blend flavors (I ended up blending for maybe 15 seconds). Season to taste with a few dashes of vinegar and serve.

We served the soup with some soda bread.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Mexican in Bay View

Saturday night, with our friends Ann and Craig, Nate and I checked out a restaurant we had never been to before--Guanajuato in Milwaukee's Bay View neighborhood. It's not much to look at from the outside, but it's a cute, very small restaurant that serves up a lot of good stuff with a very nice waitstaff.

We, of course, started with guacamole and drinks--I opted to try something I've never had before, a micheleada drink. It's a beverage made with beer (I had Bohemia), lime juice, spices and tomato juice or, in my case, clamato juice, served in a salt-rimmed glass. It tasted like a fizzy bloody Mary. I didn't think it was too bad, but I'm not sure I would order it again.

I also opted to order food I've never had before--sopes. The base of it is made from fried, ground maize, and is topped with beans, meat (I had one with chicken and one with pork), cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and guacamole. I also added some of their smokey, hot sauce on top. It was super tasty, and something I would definitely try again. It seems like you don't see it very often on Mexican restaurant menus.

Nate had the bistec ranchero, strips of steak smothered in hot ranchero sauce, peppers, tomatoes and onions, and served with corn tortillas. I had a bite--it was also very good!

Ann got a chicken enchilada and Craig got a shredded beef muy grande, as the waiter said, burrito. Both were very good, they said.

Best of all, the place was really pretty inexpensive for everything we got and the size of the dishes. From our window seats, we even saw a guy walking down the street with a ferret on his shoulder! I'd definitely go back.

Casablanca Part Deux

My sister-in-law, Ali, was in town Friday night, and it's become a bit of a tradition to take her to a fun, ethnic restaurant for dinner. So far, we've done sushi, Mongolian and Indian with her. Friday, we did Middle Eastern.

Nate's new favorite place is Casablanca, and I'm always up for Middle Eastern food. We were just there on Valentine's Day, but no matter--there is always something great to try on the menu!

Everything we had was great, and Ali really liked everything she tried. We got the spinach pie appetizer to start with.

We each had a bowl of the fabulous lentil soup.

Ali had the vegetarian Casablanca Combination, which I had last time. Nate had shawarma, which is like a Middle Eastern gyro (below).
I got a combination of chicken kabob and beef kifta kabob, which came with veggies and really tasty rice (below).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bao Wow!

Ever heard of bao (or, technically, baozi)? They're steamed, bread-like buns filled with, in this case, meat, onions and lots of herbs and spices. I hadn't heard of them either until a few years ago, when Nate, me and our friend Adam stopped at a bao-to-go place at a mall on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. They were delicious, but it never occurred to me I could make them at home.

Fast forward to early this winter, when Nate and I were going through Cooking Lights dating back to late 2008. We decided to go through and rip out any recipes we knew we would make at some point and ditch the rest of the magazine. A recipe for Steamed Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao) was one Nate ripped out, and I was all for it.

We actually made the baos a few months ago (above), but put four of them in the freezer to keep for later. Today, we took those baos out, and from frozen, steamed them (below) in a bamboo steamer on the wok. They tasted as though they were freshly made. The recipe includes pork tenderloin coated with a five-spice powder, green onions, hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, ginger and more.

Today, we served the buns with an Asian-y salad: romaine lettuce, red pepper, pea pods, broccoli and tomatoes with a spicy peanut vinaigrette dressing from Trader Joes. I like dipping the buns in extra hoisin sauce.