Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blackberry Jam

If you have never been to Madison, Wisconsin, plan a trip. It might sound like a strange place to visit, but there is so much more so be seen than you can imagine. Originally, I was concerned that I was moving to the middle of nowhere. Cowtown, Wisconsin. Would I find things to do? Were there places to go, things to see? What about food? Are there good restaurants in the Midwest?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. While Madison is technically in the middle of nowhere, surrounded on all sides by miles and miles of fields, it is not nowhere. The city breathes life. If you can’t find something to do in Madison, then you aren’t trying hard enough. I had my own personal favorites while living in the Mad-city (it is a city, second largest one in the state of Wisconsin!) and you should plan your trip around what you want to do.

In the springtime head to the Olbrich botanical gardens to see the flowers. Wander the acres, stop in the herb garden to smell the smells, take a moment at the Thai pavilion or warm up in the conservatory. If you come during the summer, be sure to hit the Art Fair on the Square or the Taste of Madison for a late summer trip. Fall is an excellent time to take a bike ride through the fall leaves, on the miles of bike path that criss cross the city. Don’t come in winter, it’s just too cold. No, really, stay away. Go to Florida.

If you find yourself there anytime between April and November, then head to the Capitol. Saturdays from 6am to 2pm you will find the Dane County Farmers Market. It is a mecca for all things fresh and delicious. You can get fresh fruits and vegetables (organic or not), breads, pastries, honey, cheese and so much more. One of my favorite stalls is (was?) located on Main street. A little white tent filled with jewel-colored jars of jam, jelly and preserves. Sparkling in the sun, these jams are all tantalizing, I longed to fill my pantry with all of them.

I don’t live in Madison anymore, but I still have a farmers market. While not nearly as fantastic as the DCFM, I did manage to find some tasty-looking blackberries this past weekend. More berries than I could possibly eat in one week, but just enough to preserve for the whole year. These berries would be jam and my bright summer days would last me through the dark days of the winter.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Raspberry and peppermint marshmallows (2 recipes)

I do not drink coffee. There I said it. In fact, I do not even like the smell of coffee. Telling this to some people leaves them with the question of “how did you make it through grad school without coffee?” Apparently I’m just a naturally hyper person, you don’t want me caffeinated. I get my energy from the gym, not the mug.

Boyfriend is trying to convert me to a coffee drinker. Suggestions from others include starting with Dunkin’ Donuts lattes. Sugary milk with a hint of coffee. I’m all for sugary milk, but it’s that hint that I can’t get past. I’ve been told to be a grown-up and drink coffee. Grown-up? Bah. I’m going to keep drinking my hot chocolate.

Mmm, hot cocoa. What is even better than plain hot chocolate? Hot cocoa with marshmallows! What about fluffy, pink, raspberry marshmallows? Now, that sounds just perfect.

Do not fear the marshmallow. This is one of the most straightforward recipes there are. If you have a stand mixer, then this is super simple. All you need is a candy thermometer and a heavy pot. In my course of making marshmallows this weekend I tested out two different recipes. One is a simple eggless recipe with fruit puree, the second uses egg whites for structure.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Peach and Blueberry Buckle

We are coming to those last precious days of summer. August is winding down and fall is right around the corner. As a kid, I always loved this time of year. As we have previously discussed, I’m a bit of a nerd. By the last week of August I was ready to go back to school. I loved getting my school supply shopping list in the mail. I would beg and plead my mom to go to the store and pick everything up right now!

We would go to Vix (in the days before Target in western New York) and I would look thru the aisles at all the new school supplies. Even though I already had two sets of colored pencils, they simply would not do. It was a new year, I needed new pencils! Same goes for folders and pens, binders and erasers. A new year meant a new beginning.

I was always a fairly simple shopper though. I was never one to get bright cartooned folders or Trapper Keepers (c’mon, you remember). I wanted plain colored binders and a matching folder to go along with it. I had that kind of OCD. The organizational OCD. I would write my name on all my new supplies and lay them out, ready for school to start.

In these last few days of August, there is something else to revel in. Stone fruits are at their best right now. I’m talking peaches, nectarines, plums. Those fruits that, when eaten by hand, make an enormous mess of everything in a five foot radius. I find myself in the grocery store or at the farmers market, fondling and smelling the peaches. Keep your peaches away from me, I just might accost them.

When I find some good ones I have a hard time deciding what to do with them. Do I eat them fresh? Do I slice them up and put them over breakfast? How about simmered on the stovetop with cinnamon and nutmeg and eaten warm with ice cream? No, today we make a buckle. There are so many different types of fruit cobbles that I have a slim understanding of how they differ from each other. I think it easiest to define each, as I make them. So for today…

Fruit Buckle – A single layer of cake, generally with berries added to the batter, topped with streusel. Also known as a crumble.

Now that you know what you are baking, head out to the store (or the farmers market) and get yourself some peaches. And some blueberries. There, now we’re ready to bake.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Soy Lemon Broccoli

There are quite a few things that my father and I have in common. We have the same brown eyes (although I often long for my mother’s green eyes), we are both huge nerds (c’mon, PhD chemist here and chemical engineer there, there’s no denying it) and we both excel at calculus. Maybe that last one falls in with the second one… There is one thing that we share that no one else in my family does, a love of broccoli. My mother and brother won’t go near the stuff.

Broccoli (aka little trees) has long been a dinnertime staple in the Wilde kitchen. It just was never made in very large bunches. Growing up, we would get the packages of frozen broccoli from the giant and boil it up for dinner. The little trees would be passed around the table, mostly missing one half of the table. Mom, being a grown-up, was allowed to pass. Brother, being only a year older than me, was forced to put a few trees on his plate (where they would be pushed around for a while before being tossed in the garbage). My Dad and I would generously pile those little trees on our plates.

Personally, I was a big fan of the “leafy” part. I thought they had more flavor and were also way more interesting. The trunk of the tree was less appetizing, but I ate it nonetheless. Broccoli would make the rounds in the vegetable cycle. Corn, peas, green beans, broccoli, anything that the giant had frozen and sent to Wegmans, they all made their appearance in the vegetable cycle. Broccoli was a favorite in the line-up, I could have done without the frozen peas, they were gross.

It wasn’t until years later, living on my own, that I discovered the virtues of fresh broccoli. Buying a crown of broccoli and cooking it up yielded a far more flavorful result than frozen broccoli. Adding things to the broccoli, rather than just eating it plain? Genius.

This dish takes a whole of ten minutes to prepare. Make it when you have no idea what else to put on your plate; you will be very happy with yourself. It is the perfect combination of salty soy sauce and bright lemon. Try not to pair it with an overwhelming main course. Something simple like a roasted chicken or a plain steak would do the trick.

Soy Lemon Broccoli

2 cups broccoli florets

1 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp soy sauce

1. Heat olive oil in sauté pan to medium heat

2. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes

3. Add broccoli and 3 tbsp water. Cover and allow to cook for 5 minutes

4. Add lemon juice and soy sauce and cook uncovered for another 2-3 minutes.

5. If you find that you added too much water, but your broccoli is done, remove the broccoli and allow sauce to reduce and thicken, then pour over broccoli.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chicken Piccata

Nothing says summer to me more than lemonade. If you were to offer me a glass of lemonade in the winter I would scoff at you. Lemonade? In the winter? Why would I possibly want that? Winter is a time for hot drinks and stews, although I could go for a Starbucks apple cider anytime of the year (the baristas think I’m weird for wanting hot apple cider in July). Summertime is time to drink lemonade and limeade. All those tart fruits speak summer to me, although I’m not quite sure why.

Lemonade is one of the least thirst-quenching drinks around. This is not the beverage you should reach for after a long run or while moving your friends couch up three flights of stairs. You should also not have it with salt and vinegar potato chips while sitting in the sun, then go to the gym and teach a class, bad idea.

It is a drink that you must enjoy while doing absolutely nothing. Sitting by a pool and enjoying lemonade is even better. This way, you can have a sip of lemonade, and then jump in the pool to refresh yourself. Summers of my childhood were filled with tall glasses of lemonade, condensation pooling around the base of the glass, letting you know that it was cool and delicious.

Now, in the last hot days of the summer, I find myself wanting citrus. Drinking pitchers of lemonade aside, there are other options for enjoying a refreshing meal. Namely, Chicken Piccata. This dish is lemony and buttery. It can be salty too, if you remember to add the capers, which I did not… The first time I made this dish I fell in love. It’s unbelievably simple to put together (it takes about 15-20 minutes to complete) and is best served simple, alongside a fresh salad.

Enjoy the last warm breaths of summer. Go to the store and get yourself some lemons, get yourself a whole bag. Then make some lemonade, and chicken piccata. Just don’t have them together, or you’ll be drinking glasses and glasses of water for the remainder of the day.

Chicken Piccata
Adapted from: Everyday Italian by Giada DiLaurentis

1 lb chicken breast – either butterflied, or pounded to ½ inch thickness

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

All-purpose flour

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

½ cup chicken broth

1/3 cup lemon juice

¼ cup capers

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper

2. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess

3. In sauté pan, melt 2 tbsp butter with olive oil over medium-high heat

4. Add chicken and cook just until browned, about 3 minutes per side

5. Add broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil

6. Return chicken to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes, until completely cooked

7. Transfer chicken to a platter and add remaining butter to sauté pan (add capers, if you remembered to buy them)

8. Pour sauce over the chicken and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Spicy Brownies (High altitude)

When I made the move from Wisconsin to Colorado it was a big change. Well, some things were the same. When comparing Madison, Wisconsin to Boulder, Colorado, someone once told me that “the only difference is swapping out lakes for mountains.” Madison and Boulder both have the same college town feel, the same hippies and each their own pedestrian –only streets downtown. If you took Boulder and plopped it down in the middle of some lakes and fields, you would have Madison.

The big difference between the two cities however, is altitude. An avid baker, this difference affected me to a great extent. Why were all my cookies paper thin? How come my muffins were concave? Why are my cakes falling? Cooking at altitude (as we’ve discussed before), is lame. While most of my baking forays were edible, they were dense and made me sad. Sad baking.

This is how the first few months at altitude went, until I discovered Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy. This cookbook is just what I was looking for. Susan spent an enormous amount of time testing and re-testing her recipes at sea level, 3,000, 5,000, 7,000 and 10,000 feet. I was even more encouraged knowing that she did her 5,000 ft cooking in Denver. Not only was she at the same altitude, but she was testing these recipes in the dry Denver air, perfect.

Sad baking soon turned to happy baking. Pie in the Sky also taught me how to adjust other recipes (like in our Franken-cupcake journey). So for my high-altitude friends, go buy this book. Your kitchen will soon be a happy one!

When you want brownies don’t go out and buy a mix, homemade brownies are so much more fantastic. They require so few ingredients and take mere minutes to whip up. Making brownies this weekend, I was in the mood for something a little different. While spinning thru my spice rack I settled on adding some cayenne pepper to my regular brownie recipe. The pepper adds a very subtle kick to the chocolate, while the chocolate chips send you on chocolate overload.

Spicy Brownies
Adapted from Pie in the Sky by Susan G. Purdy
(High-altitude adaptations in red)

½ cup Cocoa powder
½ cup All-purpose flour (plus 1 tbsp)
1 cup sugar (minus 1 tbsp)
1/8 tsp salt (1/4 tsp)
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 eggs (3 eggs)
1 tsp Vanilla extract
6 tbsp butter (8 tbsp) – melted and cooled
1 cup chocolate chips

- Mix cocoa powder, flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add eggs, vanilla and butter
- Mix ingredients until blended and add chocolate chips, maybe add some nuts too!
- Scoop batter into an 8x8 pan
- Cook at 325 for 30-35 minutes (375 for 20-27 minutes at altitude)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream

It has to be said, I love ice cream. Luckily I have a morsel of self control when it comes to eating my ice cream. I can bring home a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and it will last a number of days in the freezer. Usually day one and two are pretty good. Once you get to that third day, and there is half a container left, that it gets a little tricky. Leaving just a bit in the bottom seems silly, so day three I eat it all.

The same cannot be said about all ice creams. If I buy a pint of Blue Bunny ice cream, it is difficult to only eat a single portion. The reason behind this must be the quality of the ice cream! Ben & Jerry’s is so rich, just a bit will do. Blue Bunny is what, a dollar for a half gallon? Cheap ice cream requires more to satisfy!

Homemade ice cream is the most satisfying of all. Not only do you control the quality of the ingredients, but you get that satisfaction that you made it! You invite people over and serve them some ice cream, proudly saying “I made this!” You tell your coworkers that you made ice cream this weekend. Ooo’s and Ahhh’s follow, pride fills your body.

So dust off your ice cream maker and whip up a batch of rich, delicious Oreo cheesecake ice cream. Enjoy it with some friends and feel all warm and fuzzy when they compliment your churning skills.

Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 cup sugar
4 ounces cream cheese
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup milk
1 ½ cup heavy cream
1 cup crushed Oreos

- Beat sugar, cream cheese and egg together
- Bring the milk to a boil on the stovetop then slowly beat into the cream cheese mixture
- Return to the stovetop and cook on low, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened
- Remove from heat and pour through a mesh sieve into a clean bowl
- Add cream
- Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight
- Freeze in your favorite ice cream maker, adding the Oreos when the ice cream is semi-frozen, then transfer to a container and freeze solid

Friday, August 13, 2010

Spanish Chicken with Mustard-Green Onion Sauce

As a child, I thought that raw chicken looked like so much fun. It was all slimy and wiggly. It also looked pretty tasty in my younger self’s opinion. I imagine that it would have a similar texture to chewing gum, which, as a child, sounded pretty interesting. Chicken chewing gum. Perhaps I’ll work on that idea for another post. Luckily for me I never decided to taste test the raw chicken and have thus lived to adulthood.

Over the years I have discovered many better ways for eating chicken. I am a huge fan of coating it is Buffalo sauce and eating it in many forms (as I exemplified in my recent two week visit home). It is also quite excellent right from Wegmans. Buying one of those whole roasted chickens from the grocery store is a fantastic plan when you have no plan. However, after eating a lot of chicken, I have discovered my favorite recipe. It’s quick and easy, the only thing holding you back from making it now is probably a lack of one of the spices.

This dish consists of a spice rub, a mustard-green onion sauce and chicken. The sauce is a simple vinaigrette which is also wonderful on salads. Sometimes I make it just to pour over lettuce. The spice rub is a combination of six spices, three of which you probably already own. Since this is such a simple dish, this post will also be a simple one. So here it is, my go to meal, Spanish Chicken.

Spanish Chicken with Mustard-Green Onion Sauce
From Bobby Flays Restaurant – Bolo

Mustard-Green Onion Sauce
½ cup white wine vinegar
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ thinly sliced scallions
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Spice Rub
1 ½ tbsp Paprika (Spanish if you have it)
½ tbsp cumin
½ tbsp ground mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt

4 Chicken breasts

To make the sauce, whisk together the vinegar and mustard, slowly add in oil until emulsified (combined). I used my fancy salad dressing blender, but you can do this by hand. Season with salt and pepper then add scallions.

To make the rub, combine all the spices and mix thoroughly. You can use the seeds; just grind in a coffee grinder!

Heat your grill to medium (I used a grill pan since I live in an apartment; I imagine that using an outdoor grill would only produce even better results!).

Brush a little olive oil on both sides of the chicken and rub each side with the spice rub. (You should use all of your rub) Place on the grill and cook for 5-6 minutes before flipping. Cook for another 7 minutes or until cooked through.

Spoon some of your sauce onto a plate (and on your salad!), then place the chicken on top. Enjoy!
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