Monday, May 31, 2010

More Rhubarb

We keep getting more and more rhubarb in our CSA box. It's OK, though, because up until just a few weeks ago, I had never really cooked with rhubarb, so it's been fun finding different recipes.

I made some rhubarb-cinnamon muffins a few weeks ago. And today I made two loaves of Rhubarb Nut Bread. I still have some rhubarb left over ... and buttermilk, too!

Here is the recipe. I used a bit more rhubarb than it calls for. Also, for the 2.5 cups of flour, I used one cup of whole wheat flour and 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour. And, there is supposed to be a butter-sugar topping on the bread, which I decided not to add. I really don't think it's necessary.

It's pretty tasty!

Brunch at Palomino

Saturday morning, my friend Ann and I went to brunch at Bay View's Palomino. We've been trying to hit up a lot of different brunch places, and Palomino has been on our list.

It was a beautiful day, so we sat outside on their patio. We each ordered a mimosa. Ann had the skillet-ton, which had scrambled eggs, veggies and cheese on top of hash browns. It also came with a bread side--I tried to persuade her to order a biscuit (only because it sounded tasty to me!) but she opted for whole wheat toast.

I had one of the daily specials--Johnny cakes with peppers, jalapenos and peppers. It came with maple syrup and butter, and I got a sunny-side up egg on the side.

Everything was delicious! I'd definitely go back to try a few other things on the menu. the menu was relatively small, but sometimes I think that makes things easier.

Favorite Summer Pasta Salad

I came across this pasta salad recipe a few years ago on It's my favorite go-to pasta salad recipe. It's super easy and you can change up a few things, if you'd like.

Orzo Salad
-3 cups hot cooked orzo (about 1.5 cups uncooked)
-1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
-3/4 cup (3 oz.) crumbled feta
-1/4 chopped parsley (I never add parsley, because I never seem to have it on hand)
-3 tbs. balsamic vinegar
-2 tbs. olive oil
1/2 teas. salt
1/4 teas. pepper
1 garlic clove, minced.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss well to coat. Cover bowl and chill for one hour.

I made this for Friday's Brewers game. There is always a lot left over, so I had some for lunch today. I added a can of tuna for protein, some spinach leaves and some extra olive oil, because it seems to dry out a bit after a while.

African Potluck

As I've mentioned in past blog posts, a group of girlfriends and I have a monthly ethnic dining night, where we usually check out one of Milwaukee's many ethnic restaurants. Sometimes, though, we mix things up and make food at one of our houses. We are also fans of potlucks, so these dinners usually take that form!

This month, we decided to do an African-themed potluck at Leah's house. We started with African Sweet Potato Stew with Red Beans that I made (a Cooking Light recipe).

Then we had Lisa's South African meatloaf (bobotie, I'm pretty sure), which was made with beef and had sort of a custard-like topping to it, made with curry and raisins. I don't know if this was the recipe, but it's pretty close (Lisa didn't use lamb, though). The meatloaf was served with a tomato, cucumber and pineapple salsa and plain yogurt.

Leah made a tasty lentil and vegetable dish that was supposed to be eaten with Ethiopian bread, injera. Unfortunately, the injera didn't turn out so well (it's a very tricky thing to make), so we just had it plain.
For dessert, we went all American--Sun had been wanting to make a caramel-apple cheesecake, and none of us were going to stop her! It was delicious.

We also had a bottle of South African wine I picked up from Outpost. It was from Goats do Roam wine company.

The meal was delicious, and everything came together really well.

Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts

We found this recipe in the most recent issue of Cooking Light. The chicken turned out pretty good. The only thing I might do differently is add a little more pepper and salt to the outside of the chicken before it grills. Also, the recipe makes 8 servings. We wanted only two, so we pretty much guessed on the measurements for everything.

Here is the recipe for Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts. We served the chicken with sauteed spinach with some olive oil and garlic salt and whole wheat noodles with some Parmesan and a few shakes of red pepper flakes.

Tastes of France

A few days ago, a co-worker and I were talking about croque monsieur ("Mr. Crunch") sandwiches for some reason. That night, she stumbled across a Martha Stewart recipe for one and brought me a copy. I've always loved croque monsieur sandwiches--probably because they remind me of my time in France--and Nate had never had one, so we made them for dinner last week.

Sure, the sandwiches are really just jazzed up grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, but they're really tasty. After my first bite, I actually said out loud, "Oh, it tastes like France!"

Here is the full recipe (we halved everything so we made only two sandwiches. I'm not sure these would be so good as leftovers):
-2 tbs. unsalted butter, but more for spreading, room temperature
-2 tbs. all-purpose flour
-1 cup milk
-1/2 teas. coarse salt
-pinch of each: nutmeg, ground pepper, cayenne pepper
-8 slices rustic French or firm white sandwich bread
-1/4 cup Dijon mustard
-1/2 pound cooked ham, thinly sliced
-1/2 pound Gruyere cheese, thinly sliced, plus 1 cup freshly grated (we ran out of Gruyere and I couldn't find it in two grocery stores, so I settled on emmental cheese)

1. Make bechamel sauce: melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until just starting to bubble. Add flour and cook, whisking constantly, until smooth but not browned, about 3 minutes.

2. Whisking constantly, slowly add milk; continue cooking while whisking until mixture has thickened, about 3 minutes more. Remove from heat, and add salt, nutmeg, cayenne and black pepper. Transfer to a bowl; place plastic wrap directly on surface of sauce, set aside.

3. Heat broiler. Heat a griddle or large skillet over medium-low heat. Smear one side of bread slices with mustard. Top 4 slices with a layer each of ham and cheese; cover with remaining 4 bread slices, pressing gently to adhere. Generously butter outer sides, spreading it all the way to the edge.

4. Place sandwiches on griddle or in skillet. Cook until golden brown and cheese has melted, 3 to 4 minutes a side. Transfer to work surface; divide bechamel sauce evenly over tops, spreading to edges; sprinkle with grated cheese.

5. Transfer to broiler, and cook until topping is melted and golden, 2 to 3 minutes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Produce, Produce and More Produce

We got our second CSA box this week. I get really excited about getting the box each Friday! It's fun to come up with recipes based on the produce in the box.

This week's was a lot of the same as last week, like asparagus, green garlic, radishes and and rhubarb--plus spinach, one leek and red lettuce.

Also, I did some planting last weekend.
I planted three herb plants: basil, cilantro and dill.

And I planted a few hot peppers, including jalapenos and habaneros (I can't think of the third right now ...).

I also planted a tomato in a Topsy Turvy. Last year, the jalapenos and the basil did really well, and, to my surprise, the tomato. I hope everything turns out well this year!

I can't wait to get to the Saturday Farmer's Markets soon. We frequent the West Allis Farmer's Market. This year, I really want to check out the Fondy Farmer's Market as well as the South Shore Farmer's Market in Bay View. I've heard really good things about both markets. And there will be a new one nearby: Tosa Farmer's Market.

Spicy Beef and Bell Pepper Stir Fry

We got the newest issue of Cooking Light not long ago, so of course we found about 20 recipes we want to make!

Nate picked out this one, Spicy Beef and Bell Pepper Stir Fry, and it turned out really, really well. It was really tasty, and the beef and veggies were perfectly cooked.

Here is a link to the recipe. We just made a few adjustments: instead of chili garlic sauce, we used Sriracha. And we added about a half a pound of asparagus because we got some from our CSA. We also used green garlic (also from the CSA) in place of green onions.
We served it over brown rice made in our rice steamer. This is a definite keeper!

A Bit of the Caribbean in West Allis

Nate and I had a little date night Saturday night. We did some bar hopping in West Allis, which isn't far from our house, and then ate dinner at the Painted Parrot. Neither of us had been there before, and I had picked up a $25 gift certificate a while ago. We had to spend a minimum of $35 (which didn't include alcohol (gasp!)). It was kind of fun to splurge and try a few different things.

We started with the "island snack," which was pretty much mozzarella sticks in a wonton wrapper with a side of "spicy" (not really) Jamaican salsa and some sweet potato fries. It was good, but I think it was mostly good because we haven't had mozzarella sticks for a long time.

For the main courses, Nate got the jambalaya, which was really good, but a bit soupier than versions I've seen elsewhere. This version included rice, veggies, shrimp, crab, andouille sausage, chicken and spices along with garlic bread.

I ordered something I love having at Caribbean restaurants: jerk chicken, and pork, too, in this case. I got the "We Be Jammin' Jerk Platter," which included a huge portion of chicken and pork, some plantains, rice and steam veggies. It was really good, but I would have prefered it to be spicier. I added hot sauce to the leftovers I had for lunch today. There was no hot sauce on our table Saturday night.

We still had to get to $35, so we ordered the peanut butter panic dessert: peanut butter ice cream, peanut butter mousse, chocolate sauce and chopped peanut butter cup. It was delicious, but really rich. I forgot to take a picture right away, so this is what it looked like when we were done with it.

In addition to the food, we each had mojito--I had the passion fruit and Nate had the pineapple. The drinks were almost as much as the entrees--they were $8 each!

The restaurant was really pretty good, and the service was good. I'd definitely go back. There's a lot more on the menu I'd like to try.


On Friday, we made a quick but delicious dinner of frozen Mamasita tamales from Outpost. Mamasita's tamales are made in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood.

We had the sweet potato and pinto bean tamales. All it took was steaming in the bamboo steamer for about 20 minutes. With it, we heated up some vegetarian refried beans and I used up the last of of the frozen corn we had. To make it flavorful, I cooked it in the microwave for about three minutes with some chicken broth, garlic powder and chili powder.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Portabellas in Place of Meat

My friend Leah has been taunting me (just kidding, my friend!) with her tales of grilled portabella mushrooms and veggies and serving them with goat cheese. I knew I had to try it for myself.

So tonight for dinner we made grilled portabella sandwiches. They were delicious and turned out just as I hoped they would. Here's what we did:

Grilled Portabellas with Veggies and Goat Cheese
2 portabella caps, stems removed
About 2 cups of sliced red, green and yellow bell peppers and red onion
Sun-dried tomato and basil goat cheese, about 2 oz. crumbled
2 hamburger buns
olive oil
cooking spray

Brush olive oil over the portabellas and/or spray some cooking spray on them (we did this since we put them directly on the grill rack). Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. Grill at low to medium heat for about 10 minutes or until desired doneness. Top with goat cheese and let the cheese melt a bit (it won't melt too much).

Meanwhile, in a skillet, saute peppers and onions coated with a bit of cooking spray for about 15 minutes over medium heat.

Toast buns for a few minutes in the oven. Top with portabella and veggie mixture. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar (we used our fancy pomegranate balsamic).

We served the sandwiches with homemade potato chips (made with potatoes from our CSA) and some leftover asparagus. This is how we made the potato chips. We've made the bleu cheese dipping sauce before. I liked it; Nate did not. We just had them plain this time, and that was fine with me!

What to Do With All That Rhubarb

It seems like lots of people have rhubarb growing wildly in their yards or are getting it from farmer's markets or CSA boxes. We got some rhubarb with our box. Neither Nate nor I have ever cooked with rhubarb, and I don't remember the last time I hate it (although I do remember not liking it ... but I was probably in grade school!).

Since it came in our box, we knew we had to try it. Nate found a recipe via some phone app for pork chops called Sauteed Pork Chops with Sherry-Berry Pan Gravy and Rhubarb Chutney. Here's the recipe.

I can't really comment on how it was to make and all that--Nate made it all while I was at a meeting, along with some fresh green beans. But it turned out really well and everything was tasty. The rhubarb chutney had a nice flavor and wasn't too bitter but not too sweet with the preserves. The leftovers heated up nicely, too.

Eggs, Cheese and Veggies, Oh My!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we got our first CSA box last Friday. With it, came great veggies like arugula, asparagus, parsley and green garlic. We decided to use those four things for a frittata.

I kind of combined/used two Betty Crocker recipes to come up with ours. It turned out well--didn't take long and the eggs set nicely. The only thing is that it lacked a bit of flavor. I probably should have added more salt and pepper while it was cooking, if nothing else. Some garlic would have been good, too. I ended up adding some Sriracha sauce to my leftover piece.

Here's what we did:

Asparagus and Gruyere Frittata
3/4 pound asparagus, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup arugula, sliced thin
3 stalks of green garlic, sliced thin (kind of like scallions)
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
dash of pepper
1/4 teas. salt
about a 1/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
some parsley to sprinkle on top

In a 10-inch skillet, saute asparagus in a bit of butter for about 7 minutes (until crisp tender). Add arugula and green garlic, continue to saute until arugula wilts.

In a box, beat eggs, milk and seasoning. Pour mixture over veggies. Cook over medium heat, 6 to 8 minutes, stirring gently until eggs are almost set. Reduce heat to low. Top with cheese. Cover and cook about 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and eggs are completely set.
We served the frittata with a salad and some seasoned roasted potatoes. It would have been good with crusty Italian or French bread instead of potatoes, too.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Beer, Beer and More Beer

As many of you know, Nate, my wonderful husband, has been brewing his own beer since December, when I gave him a home-brew kit for his birthday.

Since then, he's been making lots of beer (I believe he's on his 6th batch) and learning a lot about home brewing and beer, in general. With that, comes going to more events and getting more involved.
On Saturday, we ventured to Racine with my parents to go to Hop-a-Tui, a fantastic beer tasting event with all Wisconsin craft brewers. We tasted lots of beer from about 10 different brewers, including from Ale Asylum, Stonefly Brewery, Vintage, O'So, Potosi and Tyranena.
In addition to the beer tasting from those vendors, each person was supposed to bring a couple bottles of home brew or micro brew beers. So from 9-11 p.m., one of the guys in charge busted out these bottles and we got to taste whatever we want.

A bunch of people got to try Nate's beers--including those he made from scratch--his Smoking Loon, a creamy, smoky beer, and Port No. 9, a bourbon barrel porter. Everyone responded really positively to them, and he was happy with that.

The event also included a band, complete with three accordion players, free brats, tasty beef sticks and sandwiches, like Italian beef and pulled pork. It was a really fun event, and we can't wait to go back next year.

Then today, we went to the American Home brewers Association's (AHA) rally at Lakefront Brewery. We became AHA members there, and with that, we got a Lakefront tour, two free pint glasses with two free beers, and--what Nate was most excited about and, frankly, me too--almost six gallons of Riverwest Stein wort. With the wort, all Nate has to do is add yeast and let the beer ferment. Then we have about 60 bottles of Riverwest Stein. Woo hoo!

Our Riverwest Stein strapped into the backseat (sorry for the turned picture--I don't have the energy to figure out how to flip it. :))

All of this beer stuff and the events has been a lot of fun. We can't wait to do more!

First CSA Box

This year, Nate and I decided to go in on a community-supported agriculture (CSA) share with a co-worker and his family. The deal is, we pay an up-front cost (or, in payments, as we elected to do) for a summer's and early fall's worth of fresh, organic produce from a Wisconsin farm--our farm is Tipi Produce in Evansville. Each week, the farm delivers boxes of CSA produce to whatever pick-up site you choose. Ours is Outpost in Tosa, which is really nice because it's close and we shop there regularly, anyway.

We got our first box last Friday and it runs through early fall. We can even elect to get a winter share. It's becoming more and more important to us to eat organic, local produce that supports local farmers. This is an easy and even economical way of doing that.

In our first box, we got: asparagus, arugula, green garlic, rhubarb, radishes, parsley, green lettuce and potatoes. I think it will be fun, each week, to figure out meals based on the produce. Tonight, we're making a frittata with the arugula, asparagus and green garlic, and having a salad and some potatoes on the side.

Stay tuned for more about our CSA food!

Cumin Chicken and Tomatillo Sauce

I had never cooked with tomatillos before, and this recipe piqued my interest--including the accompanying chipotle rice. Here is the recipe we used: Grilled Cumin Chicken with Fresh Tomatillo Sauce. The recipe for the Chipotle Rice is below the chicken recipe.
Everything came together really well. We ended up cooking the chicken on the stove since it was a cool, rainy day. Other than that, we followed the recipe as it was stated. I thought the tomatillos smelled pretty bad before we started cooking with them. But after they boiled with the chicken broth and we blended everything, they no longer smelled.

The sauce was amazing--I'd make it again just to have with chips.

Oh yeah--and we had everything with steamed broccoli and leftover creamy garlic sauce from the Mother's Day grilled pizza. It was delicious on the broccoli!

Trader Joe's Pasta

This isn't much of a blog post, but I just wanted to share how tasty--and easy--these Trader Joe's heat-and-eat pasta meals are. As I think I've mentioned before, we make monthly or bi-monthly trips to Trader Joe's and usually end up stocking up on frozen meals like this.

This pasta dish is tasty and takes only minutes to make. You heat a skillet, drop in a few tablespoons of water and dump in the pasta. Cook for about 5-7 minutes. Pair with a side salad and/or garlic bread, and you're done!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mother's Day Meal

For Mother's Day, we had my mom, dad and grandma over for dinner. We decided to make one of our favorites: grilled pizza.

But first we had a delicious Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, basil leaves and tomatoes, all drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
For the pizza, we made two kinds. The first had BBQ sauce spread over the dough, then cooked chicken with spices and a bit of sauce, sauteed red onion, chopped cilantro and shredded sharp cheddar.
The other had a creamy garlic sauce, sauteed yellow and green peppers, mushrooms, artichokes and a bit of Parmesan cheese.
With the pizza, we toasted some roasted garlic bread we got at Outpost.

For dessert, I cheated a bit, and bought--rather than baked--an angel food cake with strawberries and organic vanilla ice cream. Angel food cake is one of my favorites!

Everyone really seemed to like everything. We were pretty pleased!