Monday, January 31, 2011

Brown Bag Bonanza

I do love a good turkey sandwich.  Truth be told, I love a mediocre turkey sandwich, too, but for your sake, I'll try to focus on the good ones as much as possible.

This lunchbox staple often gets a bad rap because it can get a bit monotonous day in and day out.  Sort-of-stale wheat bread.  Schmear of mayo.  Three translucent slices of turkey.  Sounds sub-par even to this sandwich-obsessed gal.

So, let's mix it up, folks!  Check out these tips for adding some flair to the noon hour:

  1. Do you have kiddos?  Keep 'em busy while you're making lunches for the next day.  Enlist their help to decorate a plain paper bag for mom's or dad's midday meal.  No one will try to steal your egg salad from the lunchroom fridge when it's in a bag covered with unicorn stickers and sequins.  
  2. Make a simple swap to revitalize your sandwich.  Sick of Kraft Singles?  Tickle your tastebuds with pepperjack cheese.  Deli meat just not cutting it any more?  Slice up leftover roast beef from dinner.  Is your lettuce looking lackluster?  Try replacing it with cucumber slices for a satisfying crunch.
  3. Bread is not just a vehicle.  Step away from the Wonder Bread and see what else your local bakery has to offer.  Dinner rolls, bagels, tortillas, baguette, kimmelweck...the possibilities are endless.  And have you tried a pretzel roll?  Well.  Get yourself to the store ASAP and buy one*.  Life changing.  
  4. Get crazy with condiments.  Mayo and mustard are good and all, but you have a fridge full of possibilities.  Make a Tex-Mex wrap with some salsa, cheese, and leftover chicken.  
  5. When all else fails, try an old favorite.  You know that half-full vat of marshmallow fluff leftover from your holiday fudge?  Well, flashback to your childhood and make a Fluffernutter Sandwich with peanut butter.  I won't tell.      
Tomorrow I'll share with you one of my current lunchtime favorites.  Until then!

*If you're in Milwaukee, Miller Bakery is a local business that makes fantastic pretzel rolls.    

Friday, January 28, 2011

Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa

When Kelly and Cristoph came over for dinner, we made this delicious concoction to go with our Sesame Asparagus.

Cooking fish is intimidating for a lot of folks.  I know it is for me!  So, a good way to conquer the fear is to cook with friends.  If you mess up, you're all in it together, so no one has to take the blame.  And if that unlikely event does come to pass, you know my rule...pile in the car and head over to McDonald's.  Every likes McNuggets.

But, in hopes of avoiding disaster, here are a few general guidelines for cooking fish:

  1. Typically, cook fish for 8-10 minutes per 1" of thickness.    
  2. Raw fish is translucent; cooked fish is opaque.
  3. When your fish is cooked through, it will flake easily with a fork.
Check out this article at for even more information on how to tell when fish is done. 

Mahi Mahi with Mango Salsa
Adapted from "An Occasion to Gather"
Serves: 4

Mahi Mahi
4 mahi mahi fillets (6 ounces each)
2 limes
3 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Mango Salsa
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon hot chili sauce

In a gallon-sized Ziploc bag, combine mahi mahi, zest from one lime, juice from both limes, wine, and ginger.  Shake to coat.  Marinate fish for 30 minutes to one hour, turning occasionally.  While fish is marinating, make the salsa.  

Combine all of the salsa ingredients in a medium bowl.  (You can store salsa in the refrigerator for several hours until you're ready to serve, but add the avocado close to serving time so it doesn't turn brown.)  

Adjust oven rack to the top position and preheat broiler to high.  Place mahi mahi on a baking sheet.  Broil about 8-10 minutes per inch of thickness, until fish is opaque throughout.  Serve mahi mahi with mango salsa. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roasted Radicchio with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

You came back to find out what I did with radicchio?  I'm so pleased!  Hope this recipe is worth your extra time.

Roasted Radicchio with Goat Cheese and Walnuts
Serves: 4

1 large head of radicchio
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, plus more for drizzling
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Halve radicchio. Cut each half into quarters, so you have a total of eight pieces, and cut out the cores.

Place radicchio on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 minutes, until radicchio is crisp tender and caramelized.  

Place radicchio on serving dish.  Drizzle with extra balsamic vinegar.  Sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts.  Serve warm.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

One Man's Trash by Lady of the House

City living isn't synonymous with oodles of storage, or space for that matter. Add to this fact a personal disdain for clutter and a husband raised by total pack rats, and you've got yourself a recipe for minimalism bordering on the brink of austere. We revel in trips to the Good Will, perform regular closet clean-outs, and pride ourselves on our ability to purge.

Next week we are moving for the third time in three years, so with all the packing and taking stock of things, I have donating on the brain. As we head into Spring, you may be gearing up for your own big purge. Here are a few places, ready and waiting to take your donations. You'll be ridding yourself of unwanted items, but you may wind up feeling charitable, environmentally friendly and perhaps changed.

About to hit that white sale? The Wisconsin Humane Society is in need of your old bath towels. (And that's exactly what you'll tell your husband when he asks why you spent $400 at Pottery Barn. "The homeless puppies were in need, honey!")

It can be a horrible head ache wrangling all the cords, cards, discs and electronic debris that we seem to accumulate. Far worse than the 3 computer monitors taking up space in your garage is the fact that most people just toss them in the trash. Electronic waste is no joke. Give thought to what you're throwing away, or better yet, recycle it. This local company offers electronic recycling. Or put an ad on Craigslist. Maybe your old laptop is the perfect thing for a student in need.

Did you know the Boys and Girls Clubs of America want your old sports equipment? They do! Get your children involved in the clean out, and make the donation together.

Free up some room in your closet and make a girl's day with the donation of your party dresses. The Cinderella Project sends underprivileged girls to prom with your help. So seriously. Are you going to wear it again?

A good catch-all is the Good Will or Salvation Army, and if you keep a designated donation box near by, it's easy to fill up and drop it off each month. You'll be an expert in no time.

Lady of the House

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I can tell how familiar I am with an ingredient by how long it takes me to spell it.  Raddicio radichio raddichio radicchio took at least 4 tries.  Shameful, I know.

I've used radicchio before in salads, slaw, whatevs, but this is my first time cooking it, so it's ingredient #3 for my New Year, New Ingredient resolution.  I know, I'm playing fast and loose with the rules of resolutions, but that's how I roll, people.

Radicchio is a type of chicory that's most often used as a salad green.  Ironic that it's used as a "green" because it's a gorgeous shade of purpley-red.  The leaves have a firm bite to them that reminds me of cabbage.  As for flavor, radicchio is bitter, but cooking mellows the taste.  

When I scored a head of radicchio at the grocery store, I decided I wanted to roast it.  I picked this cooking method because it's hands-off, and I was feeling lazy.  In the summertime, though, I'm going to try grilling it.  And if I forget to grill it, you fabulous readers are in charge of reminding me.

Ok, that's a lot of preamble for a simple radicchio recipe.  But you know what?  I'm going to make you wait longer.  Come back on Thursday to find out what I did with my new ingredient!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sesame Asparagus

The Lady of the House wrote a fabulous post about supporting local business.  Well, it's also fun to support the local scene by using a cookbook from your area.

Two of my gal pals gave me "An Occasion to Gather" by the Junior League of Milwaukee, and I am a huge fan. In addition to a plethora of drool-inducing recipes, it's filled with commentary on the Milwaukee social scene.  This "local flavor" gives you a sneak peak into some of Milwaukee's traditions.

One example is Bunco.  This dice game is uber popular in 'sconsin.  It's an excuse to get together for laughter and libations, it's perfect to play during the arctic winters.  "An Occasion to Gather" offers a quip about the game, explains how to host a Bunco party, and provides a menu for the occasion to gather.  (Hmmm...starting to understand the title...)

Although it wasn't for a Bunco party, Kelly and Christoph came over recently to cook dinner.  We whipped up this fab side dish from "An Occasion to Gather."  If you think this looks good, come back later this week to hear about our main course!

Are you interested in some delish recipes served up with a taste of Milwaukee?  Contact the Junior League of Milwaukee to order your copy of "An Occasion to Gather."  ( or 414-289-9242)  Oh, and it's also an opportunity to support the good work that the Junior League accomplishes.  Bonus!  
Yes, I forgot to add the sesame seeds before taking the photo. Sorry.

Sesame Asparagus
From "An Occasion to Gather"
Serves: 4

1 pound asparagus spears
1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus.  Bring about 6 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan and fill a separate medium-sized bowl with ice water.  Cook asparagus in the boiling water for 1 minute.  Immediately plunge the asparagus into the ice water to stop cooking and set the green color.  After a couple minutes in the ice bath, drain asparagus and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high.  Saute the bell pepper for 2-3 minutes.  Add asparagus, and saute another 2 minutes, until asparagus is heated through and bell pepper is crisp-tender.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil.  Stir until combined.  Place asparagus on a serving platter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Queso Fresco

I had some random leftovers in my fridge that I needed to use up.  So, I used my noodle to come up with the following recipe.  Here's how I got from "stuff in the fridge" to "dinner".

These are the ingredients I started with:

  • Quinoa
  • Red onion
  • Queso fresco 
  • Sweet potatoes
Because of the queso fresco I wanted to use Mexican flavors.  So, I thought of cumin, chili powder, and cilantro.  In another quinoa recipe I've made, you soften the onion, add spices, then cook the quinoa in broth to add flavor.  I thought I'd use this technique, stirring in the sweet potato and queso fresco at the end.

Must admit, it was pretty delish.

Quinoa with Sweet Potato and Queso Fresco
Serves: 4-6

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" dice
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1/3 cup queso fresco, crumbled
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Spread the sweet potato on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to combine.  Roast for 15-20 minutes until sweet potato is golden and tender, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in chili powder and cumin, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add quinoa and allow it to toast for a minute or two.  Stir in chicken broth, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until quinoa is tender.

Stir in sweet potato, queso fresco, and cilantro.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

*If you're looking to make this dish even heartier, try adding a can of black beans when you stir in the sweet potatoes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


In one of my holiday posts, I lauded The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook.  Since then, several friends have told me that they also love this tome.  Because I know this is a reliable cooking reference, filled with the answers to darn near every cooking question,  I've given it as a gift on several occasions. 

But I don't want to turn into a one-trick pony when it comes to cookbooks.  Do you guys have a favorite that I should check out? 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Don't Hassle Me, I'm Local! by Lady of the House

One of our dear readers made a comment recently, and it's been on my mind. She said she hopes to shop locally in the New Year, meaning Target may not be her first pick. This is a challenging resolution, but really worth the effort, I believe. Supporting local businesses fosters community, benefits 'mom and pop,' and makes life a little sweeter.

And life is bound to be sweet when you hear about Sugar and Flour, an online bakery in the Milwaukee area. The gal behind this shop churns out a seemingly endless array of darling sugar cookies, iced to perfection. From butterflies to rocket ships--you are SO set for your next shindig. She'll be accepting Valentine's Day orders until February 5th, so pay a visit to Sugar and Flour, and send some local love. (All photos courtesy of Sugar and Flour)

Lady of the House

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Honey-Balsamic Glaze

My grocery store sells these giant-sized carrots in the produce section.  Besides being hilariously huge, they are dirt cheap.  I had to have them.

Since they were so big, I thought the carrots might be on the tough side.  Roasting them seemed like a good way to soften them up and add flavor.  It a big way.  (Cheesy, I know!  I couldn't help myself.)

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Honey-Balsamic Glaze
Adapted from Bon Appetit via
Serves: 8

2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4" coins
2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/4" coins
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1.5 tablespoons butter, melted
1.5 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Position oven racks in the top- and lower-third, and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with foil.  Spread carrots and parsnips evenly on the baking sheets and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and toss everything together.  Roast the vegetables for 15 minutes, stirring the veggies and switching the baking sheets halfway through.

Meanwhile, combine butter, honey, and vinegar in a small bowl.  After the carrots and parsnips have roasted for 15 minutes, pour the glaze over the vegetables and stir to combine.  Place the baking sheets back in the oven and roast another 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender and caramelized.

Serve hot or at room temperature.  If you have any leftovers, eat them straight out of the fridge, and they're still delicious!

Monday, January 17, 2011

It's worth it.

Are there any foods that you buy regularly even though they're more expensive?  Maybe your palate can discern the difference between Cheerios and "Tasty-O's".  Or your sweet tooth is only satisfied with Ben and Jerry's.

For me, it's Honeycrisp Apples. 

Yes, I recognize that they're darn near $2 more per pound than other varieties, but, for me anyway, it's worth it. I love them.  I'll shout it from the rooftops...I LOVE HONEYCRISP APPLES.

Ok, I think the crazy just came out.  I'll be back to normal tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Building a Happy Home

Tomorrow, my brother and his lovely fiancee are getting married.  I spent a few minutes feeling a bit nostalgic, thinking back to the hours we spent playing Legos and kick-the-can, the concerts we performed in the living room, the forts we built in the backyard, his DJ skills on the way to school, the time he wore red shoes to prom...and pulled it off.  Obviously, I'm lucky to have the best brother in the world.

But before I got too weepy and mushy, I decided to think ahead to the happy home that they're building together.  I wondered, what advice would I give to them?  What things have I done to make my home a haven for myself, the husband, our friends and family?  What mistakes have I made that I'd urge them to avoid?  So, here's my list:
  1. Think first.  Speak second.  Unless it involved shoveling in a big piece of chocolate cake, I have often regretted opening my big mouth.  But I have never regretted holding my tongue.  
  2. Say, "Please."  Do you need help with something?  Maybe the laundry?  Instead of telling your partner, "I don't have any clean skivvies."  Try this: "Oh, wonderful love of my life, would you be so kind as to help me wash my underthings?"  Ok, maybe not that obsequiously, but you get my drift.  Asking nicely gets you much farther in life. 
  3. And, "Thank you."  Don't take your significant other/children/friends/family for granted.  What they bring to your life is immeasurable.  In addition to companionship, emotional support, blah, blah, blah, they probably take care of a host of tasks you don't think about on a daily basis.  Does your husband pay the bills when they come due?  Tell him you're thankful that he's in charge of on-line banking so you don't have to worry about it.  Does your mom sew the missing buttons onto your shirts every time she comes to your house?  Let her know you appreciate it.  Does your wife stay home with the kids so you can pursue a career you love?  Tell her how grateful you are for her contribution to the family.   
  4. It is NOT "my way or the highway."  Here's a real life example: I always put the silverware away in the same order in the cubbies of my flatware organizer.  First the big spoons, then small spoons, followed by big forks, small forks, and, finally, knives.  One day, the husband emptied the dishwasher, and he changed the order: big spoons, big forks, small spoons, small forks, knives.  I was flummoxed.  How could anyone think to put the silverware away in such a strange order?  Promptly, I re-arranged the drawer.  Later, I thought to myself, "Erin, you are a moron.  Your husband took the time to empty the dishwasher.  Who gives a rat's rear-end how he put the silverware away???"  Moral of the story: It just doesn't matter.  And also, I'm a little crazy about my utensils.
Wonderful readers, what advice do you have for those just starting to build their nest together?  I'd like to hear, and I'm sure all the newlyweds would, too.

And, to John and Emily, may your home be a joyful and peaceful respite for every person who walks through the door.  I love you guys!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jake's Famous Hot Fudge

This recipe is from my pal, Jake.  A few years ago, he made batches of this delicious chocolate sauce and gave it out with the recipe as gifts.  The husband and I were lucky recipients.

Since that fateful day, I have made Jake's Famous Hot Fudge many times.  This is the stuff of dreams, people.  Having a bad day?  I couple spoonfuls of this stuff straight from the fridge will turn things around. Or, if you're feeling less desperate, spoon the warm sauce over vanilla ice cream and sprinkle with toasted pecans.  Serve that up for company, and you'll have best friends for life.

Jake's Famous Hot Fudge
From: Jake, of course

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
6 ounces Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chocolate chips* (about 1 cup)
12 ounces evaporated milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine butter and chocolate chips in a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir frequently until butter and chocolate are melted together.

Add half of the evaporated milk to the saucepan; stir to combine.  Then add half the powdered sugar, and stir to combine.  Repeat with the remaining evaporated milk and powdered sugar.  Bring this mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 6 minutes, stirring very frequently.

Turn off the heat, and stir in vanilla.  Serve warm over ice cream.  This hot fudge will keep for a week or so in your long as you don't get to it with a spoon first.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

*I'm sure you could use another brand of dark chocolate chips, but Jake recommends Ghirardelli.  I listen to Jake.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh Baby! by Lady of the House

My sister phoned me this week and asked me to compile a little list of my can't-live-without baby items. Maybe, like her, you're wondering what to get for your friends venturing into the wonderful and often mysterious world of parenting. Let's break this down into a few categories: gear, fluff, and life-savers.

Gear, glorious gear.
I, though not extremely germ conscious, love to have this in the trunk so I can clip our little one to any table around town. I also have this bolted to the kitchen island, and I try my best to channel Erin while I whip up baby food. You can take off the whole fabric portion and throw it in the washing machine.

This is one of those things I wanted because I thought it looked fun. Turns out it's actually a priceless tool I use every day. And yes, it's fun too.

Let's move on to Fluff.
I'm not sure why, but this little lady is a favorite for children. She's iconic. She's apparently delicious. And she's the only way to get through the teething phase. Phase! Ha, that's funny. I guess I mean from about 5 months to 2 years of age.

We live on a city street with buses, horns and sirens screaming past the nursery window at all hours, so Lambchops, as we like to call her, is a fixture.

Life-Savers, or things you're buddy will likely call you about again and again, thanking you profusely.
Yes, this is a snot sucker, but it is the absolute best of its kind. I can't tell you the relief it is to be able to basically blow your baby's nose. They certainly can't do it!

These are the yummiest, best quality blankets that get better and better with each wash. Our baby has always slept amazingly well, and we have these blankets to thank.

If you want to give in another way...
-Drop off a home-cooked meal. And by drop off, I mean literally putting the grub on the doorstep, ringing the bell and running. You'll get to meet the baby eventually.
-When the baby is a bit older and on some sort of routine, call or email with a few dates you have open to babysit. This is so much easier for the parents to take you up on the offer.
-Call from the mall, the market, anywhere in civilization and see if your unshowered, exhausted, hungry mama friend is in need of anything. If she needs even a loaf of bread, you are so meeting the baby!
-Did I mention dropping off a home-cooked meal?

Be fabulous.

Lady of the House

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mom's Cheesy Potatoes

I was driving to work the other day, and the temperature was 16.  SIXTEEN.  Since I'm a glutton for punishment, I then had to check the weather online.  With the wind chill, the temperature felt like 2.  TWO!!

This kind of weather requires cozy food.  Enter Mom's Cheesy Potatoes.

I'll admit, this isn't the classiest dish I've made, and it has one or two minimally processed ingredients.  But nothin' beats Mom's Cheesy Potatoes when you need to warm up your middle.
Mom's Cheesy Potatoes
Serves: My brother and one of his friends or 8 other people

1 can cream of chicken soup
16 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
32 ounce bag of frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups Grape Nuts Flakes cereal*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, whisk together soup, sour cream, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in potatoes and cheese.  Pour mixture into the baking dish.

In a separate bowl, stir together butter and Grape Nuts Flakes.  Spread on top of the potatoes.

Bake the cheesy potatoes for one hour.  If the topping is getting too brown, cover with foil and continue baking.

*Make sure you get Grape Nuts FLAKES and not regular Grape Nuts.  Using cereal on top might sound odd, but it's reeeeeaaallly good.  My mom would substitute Wheaties, my dad's favorite breakfast cereal, in a pinch, though.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas with Queso Fresco

I have to confess something.

Although this is the second week of the year, I'm already cheating on my resolution to use a new ingredient every week.  Today's ingredient is from last week.  If I average one new ingredient a week, don't you think that's good enough?

My second new ingredient was queso fresco.  I love cheese, so this was right up my alley.  This soft cheese crumbles like feta and, actually, tastes a bit like mild feta.  I wasn't sure how it would melt, but it melted pretty well on top of my enchiladas.  I am definitely going to use it again.

Have you ever used queso fresco?  If so, I'd love to hear how.

Chicken Enchiladas
Serves: 6

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in very large pieces
4 cups enchilada sauce
2 cups crumbled queso fresco cheese*, divided
4 ounce can chopped green chiles
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
Salt and pepper
12 soft corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Pour enchilada sauce into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Add chicken.  Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and shred it with two forks.  (Alternatively, cut it into bite-sized pieces.)  In a medium-sized bowl, combine chicken, 1 cup queso fresco cheese, 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce you cooked the chicken in, chiles, and cilantro.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Wrap the tortillas in damp paper towels and microwave for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until tortillas are pliable.

Place about 1/3 cup chicken mixture on each tortilla and roll them up tightly.  Place the rolled tortillas, seam-side down, in a 9x13 baking dish, and pour 1 cup enchilada sauce over top.  Sprinkle with queso fresco.  Cover dish with foil and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove foil and bake 5 minutes longer, until cheese is melted .  Serve with remaining enchilada sauce.  

*Can't find queso fresco?  Not attempting to use a new ingredient every week?  Substitute your favorite cheese and let me know how it works.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Jicama Slaw

As I mentioned, I wanted to have a kitchen resolution for 2011.  Well, "resolution" sounds too strong.  Let's call it a kitchen goal.  Anyway, after much soul-searching, my 2011 kitchen goal is to use a new ingredient every week.

It's only a few days into January, but so far, I'm sticking with it.  Check back in March, and I might be telling a different story.

My first new ingredient was a fun one.  Jicama.  Here are my observations about it:

  1. The "j" is pronounced like an "h".  And, yes, I did pronounce it "jick-ahhhh-ma" the first several times.  My Buffalo accent made it sound even more unpleasant.  (Hang head in shame...)
  2. It is crunchy!  And refreshing!  And in a strange way, a little bit sweet.
  3. Verdict: I like jicama.
Jicama Slaw
Serves: 6

1 pound jicama, peeled and shredded in the food processor (or julienned if your feeling classy and/or patient)
1 pound carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 small red onion, halved and very thinly sliced
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
3-4 tablespoons lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, and toss gently to combine.  Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to several hours.  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Pot of gold?

Sometimes when I'm in the kitchen, the food that I'm slicing/dicing/sauteing/frying/whatever reminds me of something else.

I was cutting up this onion the other day, and all I could think of was the double rainbow video on YouTube.  I wonder if the husband finds hot dinner as inspiring as that?

This picture is also a sneak peak at tomorrow's recipe.  Come back to find out what's at the end of this double rainbow.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Duly Noted by Lady of the House

I used to say I didn't keep a journal for fear of someone reading it and discovering what a crazy person I am. Then I got pregnant, and found great comfort in writing TO this unborn someone rather than the typical stream of conscious I thought was meant to fill the pages of a diary. Yes, I'm still crazy, but I'm so glad I've got a running log of my pregnancy. It's something I've kept up, and because my focus is in recording things for my daughter, I find a huge sense of freedom in getting things down on the page.

I think the New Year is a great time to start this practice of documenting your life. You can make it what you want, maybe just a few pages every week or so. I've noticed that the smallest memory takes on significance when it's transferred to the written word. Pages written a month ago already seem to have a patina that my faulty memory will never match.

A journal is also a terrific household tool. No one touched the gazpacho you slaved over for your friend's baby shower? Write that down! You planted your bulbs on what date last year? You gave Aunt Greta a lovely pair of mittens for her birthday? Note it, and you'll not only have an interesting little tale of a year, but a really useful reference for all occasions.

Call me sentimental, but I think anything bound and full of handwriting becomes a treasure. Here are some charming journals I've spotted. You know me, I always have a website or two up my sleeve.

-The One Line a Day journal by Chronicle Books for someone who likes to keep things short, sweet and poignant.
-Another Day Cloudy Memory Notebook for someone who just needs a place to keep her thoughts in a no-rules manner.
-Buttery Leather and Posh journals by Graphic Image for someone that may as well pen a novel, like our fearless leader, Erin the great.
-Pocket Pads by Random House for someone that jots down funny things she sees on the bus, her grocery list, and what she's packing for Mexico.

Be fabulous, and put it in writing!

Lady of the House

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Amish Friendship Bread--Part II

Yesterday, I promised the recipe for Amish Friendship Bread.  Today, I deliver.

If you have received a bag of starter from a friend, skip the first portion of the recipe below (for the starter) and skip straight to "Amish Friendship Bread."

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1 cup milk

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water.  Let it stand for 10 minutes.  In a large glass, plastic, or ceramic bowl, thoroughly combine flour and sugar.  Mix thoroughly so it doesn't get lumpy when you add the milk.  Very slowly stir in the milk and dissolved yeast mixture.  Cover loosely, and let it stand at room temperature until the mixture bubbles.  Consider this day 1 of the 10-day bread cycle.

Amish Friendship Bread
Important Note: Don't use metal spoons or bowls.  Don't refrigerate.  If air gets into the bag, let it out.  It is normal for the batter to rise, ferment, and bubble.

Day 1: Do nothing.  This is the day you receive (or create) the yeast starter.
Day 2: Mush the bag.  (Some say "mash" the bag, but doesn't "mush" sound like much more fun?)
Day 3: Mush the bag.
Day 4: Mush the bag.
Day 5: Mush the bag.
Day 6: Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 cup milk to the bag.  Mush it all together.
Day 7: Mush the bag.
Day 8: Mush the bag.
Day 9: Mush the bag.
Day 10: Follow the instructions below:

Pour the entire contents of the bag into a non-metal bowl.  Add 1.5 cups flour, 1.5 cups sugar, and 1.5 cups milk.  Stir to combine (using a non-metal spoon).

Write the date on four gallon-size Ziploc bags.  Measure one cup of batter into each bag.  Keep one bag for yourself and give the other three bags to friends along with a copy of the recipe.  (Please note: according my my (ridiculously extensive) reading on the subject as well as a hot tip from my friend Kathi, you CAN freeze the starter if you don't want to keep baking bread every 10 days.  Just begin the cycle where you left off once the starter has thawed.)  You should have a little over a cup of batter left in your bowl at this point.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease two loaf pans.

In a separate small bowl, combine the following:
1/2 cup sugar
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon

Use half of the cinnamon sugar to dust the greased pans.

To the remaining starter batter in your bowl, add:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce)
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients:
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 large box OR 2 small boxes of instant vanilla pudding
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.  Evenly divide batter between the greased pans.  Sprinkle the remaining cinnamon sugar over the top of the batter.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.  Cool until the bread loosens from the sides of the pan (about ten minutes), and remove from the pan.  Serve for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until it's gone.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Amish Friendship Bread--Part I

My friend, Jennifer, brought Amish friendship bread to work the other day.  Although I'd never heard of this cake-y concoction, I sliced myself a hefty piece and scarfed it down between conference calls.

Oh. Em. Gee.

I like to think of myself as a coffee cake connoisseur of sorts.  And this Amish Friendship Bread was the Best. Coffee Cake. Ever.  Every time I needed to pass Jennifer's desk, I had to look away from the blinding, sugary light emanating from the bread, plug my nose to avoid inhaling it's gloriousness, and RUN.  Even still, by the end of the day, I had eaten so much Friendship Bread, I had total gut rot.

But I still wanted more.

So, I took home one of the bags of bread "starter" that Jennifer had brought in.

"What in tarnation is starter?"  You're probably asking yourself.  Well, I'll let you in on the secret of Amish Friendship Bread.

Although it appears to be a regular, old quick bread, Amish Friendship Bread is nothing of the sort.  Wikipedia describes it as the chain letter of cooking because your bread begins with a flavor-enhancing yeast starter that you receive from a friend.  In order to keep the starter alive, you need to feed it.  Like a pet.  Or a small child.  Of which I have neither.  So the analogy makes sense to me.

After caring for the starter for 10 days, you make the best bread you'll ever taste, and you also have more starter...enough to share with friends!  Then your friends make the best bread they'll ever taste and continue to share.  And the cycle continues for infinity.

Have I piqued your interest in Amish Friendship Bread?  No?  Well, look at this sugary goodness:

If this doesn't get your socks going up and down, I don't know what will.  Come on back tomorrow for THE RECIPE.  I tracked it down from the Amish.  And by "Amish," I mean internet.