Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner Pix

Our Thanksgiving this year was... a bit less than than traditional. The purists would be appalled. But, we couldn't help ourselves.

It was a simple affair that started with roasted chestnut and porcini soup (this soup was seriously good... no great... we just might make it again for Christmas).
Dinner included a side of sauteed shaved brussels sprouts with garlic.
And smashed yukon gold potatoes with buttermilk and white truffle oil.
But, the highlight of the meal was the slow roasted pork with melted apples.
No turkey here folks. And our leftovers... well, they are of the porkly persuasion. But, I can't say I'm terribly disappointed. After all, I did buy that holiday turkey (who can argue with Big Bird at $0.38/lb?). We'll just have to cook him up some other weekend.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a rough week here. Peef's job was eliminated early in the week, so we're feeling a bit bruised and beaten down. Despite all of our optimism, it seems that the rough economy has finally nipped at our heels. But, we're hoping that the closing of one door brings the opening of another -- and that this is more of an opportunity than a tragedy. So, we're trudging onward, and enjoying a relaxing holiday together.

Even in the midst of bad news, we've got a lot for which to be thankful. In addition to good health, a warm safe home, and a slew of great friends and family, we're celebrating ten amazing years of marriage today. Yeah -- ten whole years! Hard to believe. We've got a lot to celebrate.

So, without further adieu, let's get down to the menu!

We took a less-than-traditional approach to Thanksgiving dinner this year.
For starters, we've cooked up a nice chestnut and mushroom soup, accompanied by sauteed rutabaga and carrots. We'll follow that up with some slow roasted pork with melted apples, a side of sauteed shaved brussels sprouts, and some buttermilk smashed potatoes with a drizzle of white truffle oil. We're drooling just thinking about it.

We hope that you had the chance to enjoy a feast of your own today. And that you also enjoyed the company of friends, family, and a true sense of thanksgiving. We'll be back later with some photos and recipes.

In the meantime -- give thanks!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mmmmm, Beer....

Here at Burp! we love us some good beers. You may have noticed that we tend to sneak a bit of the old brew into our cooking whenever possible.

Fortunately for us we live in an area where it is pretty easy to find good beers. Fortunately for you, I stumbled upon a very helpful website at Seasonal Beers Throughout the Year and am sharing my find with you today.

Here you simply select the season and choose the state you live in and it will find all of the beer that should be available in your area. Along with excellent descriptions of style and flavor each listing comes complete with a food pairing.

We'll do our best to share with you what we are enjoying this holiday season and seasons to come!

In the meantime, don't forget about these recipe that make use of a bit of the old brewsky.

Brussels Sprouts with Beer & Gorgonzola
Green Tomato Chocolate Cake
Butternut Squash Soup with Beer & Cheese
Peef and Lo's Corned Beef

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Slow as Molasses 'Round Here

Greetings, all!
You've probably noticed that I've slowed up a bit on my postings this week, and it looks like that might be the trend for a while. I'm in the midst of a research project that will probably suck up most of my free time for the next few weeks.

So, I wanted to give you fair warning.
I probably won't be posting quite as often as I would like. I will be making an earnest effort to keep up with everyone's blogs, but I won't be posting here quite as often as usual.

I'm hoping that Peef will entertain you with a posting here or there. And rest assured, I'll be back just as soon as I get the chance!

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Lentil Soup and Rat Bones

It's the beginning of soup season at our house.

How do we know? Well, there are a number of contributing factors. The air has a pleasant chill to it. The heat's on. And the farmer's market is filled with Brassicas, root vegetables, and winter squash. And that means we're moving beyond the namby-pamby brothy soups that can sometimes sneak their way into our late summer repertoire.

This weekend, we thought it might be nice to use up some of this lovely red kale -- along with some carrots, a couple of onions, and a few cloves of garlic. So, let's start there. I also happened to have purchased some of my favorite little legumes -- the adorable red lentils -- primarily because I was having a craving for red lentil soup. These pretty little guys are much misunderstood. They don't hold their color when cooked. And, rather than holding their shape, they tend to cook up into a mass of lentil-ISH-ness, which some people don't like. But, Peef and I both love a nice red lentil soup/stew/pulse, so we set out to cook them up.
"Ew," Peef winced as he was rinsing the lentils.

Since he sounded pretty grossed out, I spun around from my work sauteeing the onions and carrots, and gave him my full attention.

"It's a rat bone!" he shouted, holding something up between his fingers.

Ever the skeptic, I pulled his fingers closer to my face and took a long, hard look at the piece of debris he was holding in his hand. Sure enough, it was a strangely shaped, slightly hollow looking piece of ... something that looked like bone. Ew. I began to get a little grossed out.
Well, I should have known better, because the funky little smirk that began to appear on Peef's face belied the fact that he was completely throwing me a line.

"Of COURSE it's not a rat bone," he said, as if it wasn't entirely possible that an unsuspecting rat climbed into my bag of lentils and decided to die there.
"It's a stick.""A stick, yeah," I said, "Of course. A stick."
Feeling a little bit silly, I decided to take a picture. You can decide for yourself whether or not it looks like something that belongs in a bag of lentils or not.
In the meantime, let's take a look at the final product.
This is stick-to-your-ribs red lentil soup. A little bit chunky. Nice and thick (though not quite thick enough to stand a spoon up in). Perfumed by the scents of cumin, coriander, garlic, and turmeric. This is the sort of soup that is perfect when served alongside some na'an or other flatbread for dunking. Don't forget a little bit of lemon juice to brighten up all the flavors.
So, heck, make some of your own :)
Red Lentil Soup with Kale
The leftovers made a great side over rice with a bit of throw-together saag paneer.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Eat Your Brussels!

Brussels sprouts get a bad rap. Seriously. And I can tell you why.

The first time almost any of us had brussels sprouts, they were overcooked. They smelled of cabbage. Their consistency was a bit, er, slimy. And the flavor. Well, let's just say that their Brassican roots got the best of them.

But, not every brussel sprout dish is created equal. And some can make this humble vegetable taste downright fantastic. This is one of those dishes. So, I want you to listen closely. And open your mind up as far as it will go.

First, you want to start off with the freshest brussels sprouts you can find. These happen to be from a batch I picked up at Saturday's farmer's market on the stalk. I LOVE buying brussels sprouts on the stalk. Not only do they look really cool, but you know they're at the peak of freshness. You want to wash the spouts, peel back any yellowing leaves, and trim off the ends. Then, you'll want to slice each little cabbage in twain.
Heat up a skillet, add a bit of oil, and saute a few onions. When they are starting to get tender, make sure the heat is on the higher end of medium, and add the brussels sprouts. I like to flip them over so that the cut side is down in as many cases as possible, as this promotes the lovely browning you'll see in the photo below. That browning is the beginning of what makes this dish so fantastic. You've never had brussels like this.
Now, when the brussels sprouts look fairly nice and browned, you'll want to add another secret ingredient -- a splash of beer. I like a darker brew here, but almost any beer would work. Splash the beer right into the pan, and cover the brussels sprouts for 5-10 minutes, until they've steamed and are fairly tender. Then get out a block of bleu cheese.

I love this Mindoro Gorgonzola. It has a nice, smooth flavor, and it's just perfect with the brussels sprouts. Now, I don't want to lose you here if you're not a fan of bleu cheese. If that's the case, I want you to substitute a small block of feta cheese.
Either way, cut off a bit of it and make sure it's nice and crumbled.
Then, throw it on top of those unsuspecting brussels sprouts.
When you take your first bite, the salty bleu cheese will greet you on the surface, with the subtle sweetness of the caramelized brussels sprouts lingering underneath. This is the perfect dish to serve alongside anything grilled. But, it also makes for an exceedingly nice topper for baked or mashed potatoes. And, if you have leftovers, they're not half bad piled into an omelette.

I could be wrong. But my bet is this might be just enough to make you rethink your previous opinion of the much-maligned brussels sprouts.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Marscapone Stuffed French Toast with Fried Apples

We've been on a pancake kick at our house lately. First it was the pumpkin pancakes. Then, we made those delightful whole grain pancakes with a touch of whole grain pancakes with a touch of granola. It was starting to feel as if we were stuck in a rut.

So, this week, we decided to change gears and make up a nice batch of French toast. Initially, it started with a pretty basic craving (which I probably wouldn't have considered particularly blog-worthy). But, by the time I got to the store to buy the loaf of bread to get us started, the French toast concept had gotten a bit out of hand.

First of all, I fell in love with a loaf of cranberry nut bread. But, really -- take a look at that --is it any wonder?
I also remembered that I had a container of marscapone cheese in the fridge that needed to be used. So, I got to thinking -- maybe the two would play nicely together. I sliced the cranberry nut bread quite thick, leaving enough room for a pocket. Then, I mixed a bit of cinnamon and sugar into the marscapone... which, of course, made me all drooly inside.
I packed a nice amount of the marscapone inside the neat little pocket I'd made in each slice of bread.
And I tossed together a couple of eggs with some milk and a bit more sugar.
And, because he likes to be involved in the more violent aspects of cooking, Peef was good enough to whip it into a frenzy.
We nestled the stuffed bread into the eggy batter, and coated both sides nicely.
And then we threw the french toast onto a hot griddle, which had been rubbed down with a pat of butter.
While the French toast was cooking, I did my thing with a couple of sliced apples, which I figured would make a decidedly delightful topping. And that turned out to be true enough.
These slices of French toast were quite the indulgence. The cranberry nut bread caramelized nicely on the outside, the fruit in the bread offered intrigue, and the creamy marscapone mingled with the slightly firm, tart apples... making it feel like a genuinely special occasion.

This was some of the best weekend French toast I've ever had. And considering the chill in the air, I'd say it was downright perfect. So, I wrote it down. Cuz we'll definitely be doing it again.

Marscapone Stuffed French Toast with Fried Apples

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Quick Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

Tomatillos weren't on my radar for a very long time. Sure, I'd eaten salsa verde, and indulged in chiles verde at my favorite Mexican haunts. But, I never stopped to think about the little green nightshade veg that made my favorite dishes so very delish.

And then, one unusually dreary spring day, I found them in a seed catalog.
Mexican husk tomato, prolific bushy plant 3-4' tall and across. Green 2" sweet fruits are ripe when the fruits burst through husks. Blended with hot peppers to make traditional Mexican green sauce. 90 days from transplant.

My interest was picqued. I grew four tomatillo plants in my tiny backyard garden that year (and yes, those of you who know how prolific tomatillos tend to be can laugh). And I froze enough tomatillo sauce to last us almost two years.
We were eating tomatillo sauce on everything. Straight from the container as a salsa. Into the crockpot with pork loin. Mixed with roasted poblanos for chiles verde. Over the top of enchiladas. As an accompaniment for fish tacos. In chili. As a sauce for stewed chicken. You name it, we put tomatillo sauce on it. And life was good.

These days, I'm a bit more modest in my tomatillo growing habits (in fact, this year, I had to buy tomatillos from a woman at the farmer's market, since I hadn't planted any). But, I still make tomatillo sauce. And I still think it's one of the best things ever.

This sauce recipe is fairly quick to throw together. If I have time, I like to add a few sauteed onions and a bit of garlic, and give the sauce a bit of time to sear in a hot pan, which I think deepens the flavor and gives everything a bit more time to meld. But, sometimes I'm just looking for the fastest route to dinner, and that's when this recipe serves me well.

Quick Roasted Tomatillo Sauce

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Green Tomato Chocolate Cake

I always have mixed feelings when it comes to cleaning out the vegetable garden at the end of the season. On the one hand, I do get to a point where I've tired of all the work that goes into gardening. On the other hand, it's difficult to bid farewell to the fresh produce that has been growing right in my backyard for the past five months. Like many other gardeners, I do my best to save the last of the summer bounty by harvesting every possible vegetable before we get a hard freeze. Inevitably, that means I end up with a pile of green tomatoes. This year, we had some real lookers.Inevitably, some of the tomatoes will end up sliced, covered in cornmeal, and fried up in a skillet. But, others... well, they end up as chocolate cake. Yes, folks. Green tomatoes add a little special something to the dessert table. But, first you've got to puree them up a bit. And then, you want to get together some other key ingredients -- some flour (some of that great locally milled organic ww pastry flour, in fact), sugar, a couple of eggs, some baking chocolate, a bit of butter, and a nice dose of beer. And before you get on my case about how beer seems to make its way into EVERYTHING at Burp! these days... may I reming you that I live in Milwaukee, WI, one of the brewing capitals of the world. :) You'll want to trust me when I tell you that, between the beer and the tomatoes, this recipe really does make up one of the best chocolate cake recipes you've ever had. And here's a sample --right before we pop it into the oven. Once you get that cake tester to come out clean, you've got a cake that's just screaming to be layered with a bit of chocolate ganache frosting. So, that's exactly what I did. And what do you know? A bit of ganache and some white chocolate drizzle makes it into one looker of a cake. And you haven't even tasted it yet! This isn't a fudgy flourless chocolate torte. Or a sexy chocolate-filled molten cake. Or a rum-soaked diva of a cake. This recipe makes a fine old-fashioned cake. The sort of cake that your grandmother used to make. This cake is quite happily accompanied by a bit of vanilla icecream, but it feels truly at home with a nice tall glass of ice-cold milk. I'm just sayin'.

Green Tomato Chocolate Cake 

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Don't Forget to Vote!

Yeah, I'm up early today. I'll be heading out to the polls in a bit (I'm hoping to beat the long lines by playing "early bird"). I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage all of you US citizens to do the same: if you haven't voted already, be sure to set aside some time today to locate your polling place and cast your vote.

If you're in the state of Wisconsin, you can look up your polling place and/or voter registration here. Once you look up your registration, you can also access a sample ballot.

There is too much at stake.
Please, don't forget to vote!
(for those of you outside the States, cross your fingers and enjoy the view! This promises to be one wild day)

And, when you're done, check out the chicken pot-pie recipe below :)

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Monday, November 3, 2008

Roasted Vegetable Chicken Pot Pie

Is there anything more comforting than a chicken pot pie?

In my book, there are a number of things that conjure up the warmest of feelings -- a roasted chicken, a baked winter squash, a warm bowl of soup, and a pot-pie.

I have childhood memories of pot-pies. But, these pot-pies weren't homemade. They were the Banquet pot-pies that you find in your grocer's freezer case. And we were only allowed to have them on special occasions. Namely when Dad went out of town and Mom didn't feel like cooking. On those special nights, we'd find ourselves snuggled on the couch with a rented movie and pot-pie -- hot from the oven, and flipped out (upsidedown) into a soup bowl. I liked to eat the filling first, saving the crisp, buttery top crust for last.

Oh, yeah. I have great memories of those trans-fat-filled treats. But, these days, I think I can do them one better. By making my own.

This weekend's pot-pie making affair started with a load of chopped vegetables -- some carrots, a few tender white turnips, a butternut squash, and a few freshly dug Yukon Gold potatoes. You can see that our grown-up version already beats out those Banquet pot-pie imposters -- and we haven't even gotten past the first step!

But, don't think that I'm entirely virtuous. These vegetables went into the oven to roast with a splash of bacon fat (oh, yeah! that's for flavor, babe) and a bit of dried thyme.
Meanwhile I chopped up some previously roasted chicken and put together a nice sauce. Some sauteed onions, a nice roux, and some flavorful chicken broth. When the vegetables came out of the oven, we put the whole shebang together.
The next step is to stir everything together. And this is no small feat... after all, the smell is already too intoxicating to resist.
Once everything is adequately combined, I haul out my trusty 10-inch cast-iron pan. This is one tool with which an ordinary pie plate can't even begin to compete.
I roll out my first round of pie crust, and lay it down into the pan, tucking it nicely around. I might be tempted to stop to admire my work... but the smell of that pot-pie filling is making me hungry. So, I pour it in on top of the crust.
I roll out a second crust, place it over the top, crimp the edges, and give the pie a few slash marks in the top for good measure. After about 40 minutes in the oven, the pie is nicely browned and ... almost... ready to eat.
After waiting patiently for 10-15 minutes while the filling sets up, I allow myself the indulgence of cutting the first slice. And then another for Peef. We sat down with our pot-pies and watched a movie. Just like old times. Well... almost.

Roasted Vegetable Chicken Pot Pies
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Random Thoughts on Local Eating

I just realized today that the October Local Eating Challenge is (technically) over. But, I also realized that, after a month of making a real effort to eat as locally as possible, I've begun to think differently.

When I go to the grocery store, it's no longer just about getting foods on my list. It's about reading labels, asking questions, and getting excited when I find a new local product that I've never tried before. It's even better when that local product surpasses all my previous expectations and makes me look forward to purchasing it again.

That's how it's been with my Great River Organic Whole Wheat Pastry Flour. I was fairly doubtful that this product could actually live up to its hefty price tag. But, I've been pleasantly surprised. I used it to make biscuits a weekend or two ago. And this weekend, we used it for our granola pancakes. The flour has a lightness that I've not previously experienced with whole wheat products -- and the flavor is simply outstanding.

We've also been pleasantly surprised with the Aged Gouda we discovered from the Edelweiss Creamery. And we've made the switch to non-homogenized/cream line milk from Crystal Ball Farms... and OMIGOSH it's good!

We've also had a great time developing relationships with farmers, like Jen Ehr (check out a video featuring their farm on YouTube), through our visits to the local farmer's market. We'll be sad to bid farewell to the market at the end of November.

I also read a great entry on the Eat Local Challenge site about sustainability. Check it out. Sophie has some great wishes when it comes to the future of local eating, and I like her thoughtful approach. Right now, it's fairly difficult to be a purist when it comes to eating locally. But, that doesn't mean it's not worth trying.

Here's to a bright future of local eating!

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Whole Grain Granola Pancakes

When I was a girl, growing up, pancakes were a Saturday morning staple. My dad would get up early and whip out a boat-load of flap jacks. If we weren't already awake watching Saturday morning cartoons, the sheer smell of dad's pancake batter sizzling on the griddle was enough to lure us out of our snuggly beds on a chilly autumn morning..
Peef is the pancake maker around our house. While I have a tendency to wince at the thought of flipping pancakes (for fear of flipping them righ off the griddle), he wrangles them like an expert. And he's gotten pretty good at creating interesting pancake variations to boot.
One of my favorites is the double banana pancake -- banana puree incorporated into the batter, with sliced fried bananas and maple syrup on the side. But, his whole grain granola pancakes are a close second. They're chewy and hearty and ever-so-slighly sweet. And. unlike some wimpier pancakes. they really stick with you.

I'll bet these pancakes would be great with a side of fried apples. Or even some of those chopped fried bananas. But, they're also pretty darned good on their own. With a nice pat of butter and a bit of syrup.

Whole Grain Granola Pancakes

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