Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Relax Milwaukee: We're doing your holiday baking for you

There's no denying it, the holidays are here.
I feel the pace of life escalating, the stress mounting.  I see the red and the green. The holly and the ivy.  And I'll admit that it's making me feel just a little crazy.

And so, we're going to slow it down a bit. Take some time for ourselves. And concentrate on what really matters.

The fact is, the holidays are the perfect time of the year to focus on those special people that truly make a difference in our lives.  It's also a great time to think about ways to really make a difference in the lives of others.

Maybe it's through a generous donation to a good cause.  Or a simple expression of thanks to someone who's touched your life in some way this year.  It could be a simple smile to perk up someone's day.  Or a cup of tea with an old friend.

Or maybe you want to do what we're doing... and plan a bake sale!

Yup, we're doing it again.
Thanks to the generosity of the MKEfoodies, we're going to be pulling out all the stops for another amazing MKEfoodies bake sale.  But, this time, it's all about the holidays.

We'll be making our famous chocolate covered cherries to be sold for the event.  And we have it on good authority that there will be a whole lot of other delicious holiday treats. Including free tea from Milwaukee's Rishi Tea, coffee from Stone Creek Coffee, and some really great cookies and treats from Milwaukee area food bloggers like Nicole from OnMyTableBlog, Erin from Hot Dinner Happy Home, Dan & Melissa from Duo of Chefs, Sarah from Food, Fun, and Life in Waukesha and Karis from Karis' Kitchen.

If you're in the area, come on out to support Cookies for Kids' Cancer while picking up holiday treats and gifts for your friends, family, and colleagues.

We'll be doing all the baking -- so you don't have to!

MKEfoodies Holiday Bake Sale
Saturday, December 10, 2011
12p.m. – 4 p.m.
Best Place At The Historic Pabst Brewery
901 W. Juneau Ave.

Invite your Friends via Facebook!
Can't make it to the event? Give to Cookies for Kids' Cancer at our online donation page!

Interested in being a baker, a volunteer, or an event sponsor? Email

All proceeds from the MKEfoodies Holiday Bake Sale will go to Cookies for Kids' Cancer, a 501(c)3 non profit founded by parents inspired by their son Liam's battle with cancer. They were shocked to learn that the main reason over 25% of kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive is because of a lack of effective therapies. And the reason for the lack of therapies was very simple: lack of funding. They pledged to support the development of new and better treatments by giving people a simple way to get involved.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Panini with Goat Cheese & Cherry Chutney

I promised there would be talk of the sandwiches we made with our delicious Maple Brined Cherrywood Smoked Turkey. And I can't leave you in suspense any longer.  After all, these little morsels were so stellar that you're going to want to try them out for yourself just as soon as you have some of your own Thanksgiving turkey leftovers on hand.

Before we get to the details of the sandwiches themselves, I'm going to take the opportunity to put in a plug for this cherry chutney recipe, which is quickly becoming one of our all-time favorite condiments.

Though it might not be quite as traditional as your usual cranberry sauce, I'm going to challenge you to consider making up a batch to put right out there on your Thanksgiving table.  It's tart and delicious.  And it goes perfectly with turkey. And stuffing.  It's also delicious spread on one of those dinner rolls you're bound to have left over.

Which brings me to the sandwich at hand.  These little beauties make use of leftover dinner rolls, one of the holiday staples that seem to get thrown out more than re-heated.  So, I like to think that these sandwiches are born of thrift.  They're also super fast to throw together, which makes them the perfect dinner for one of those busy weeknights that become inevitable as the holidays draw closer.

Since the goal here is to make you hungry, let me give you a quick glimpse into the sort of sandwich I'm talking about.  Just imagine a crisp, warm panini-pressed sprouted grain dinner roll spread with a liberal amount of fresh goat cheese, dolloped with cherry chutney and topped with delicious smoked turkey and fresh arugula.  Sweet-tart, tangy, smoky, peppery -- all of these flavors come together in glorious harmony as you bite into this crisp little slider.
Reminiscent of the holidays, but definitely more than just a repeat, these delicious snack-sized sandwiches are sure to please. The best part  is that, since they're small, you can even gobble up more than one.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Eat well. Enjoy family and friends.  We'll lift our glasses to you at our holiday table!

Post-Thanksgiving Panini with Goat Cheese & Cherry Chutney

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©BURP! Where Food Happens

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Near Perfection: Maple Brined Cherrywood Smoked Turkey

Since it's never too early to start thinking about what to prepare for the upcoming holidays, we've decided to share our perspectives on the infamous Thanksgiving bird -- the source of much hype, frustration, and experimentation.

When it comes to turkey, it seems everyone is looking for the same thing – a perfectly browned bird with a crisp exterior and a lusciously juicy interior. We want it to taste great and produce collective “ooohs” and “aaahhhs” when it’s taken from the oven. And I'm not sure any of us really want to spend days and days of effort to get those delicious results.  Especially when there are so many delicious side dishes to turn our attention to!

But, the fact remains that turkeys are notoriously easy to overcook and they often come out of the oven dry and tasteless (Admit it, this has happened to you! It's definitely happened to us!). In addition, your typical grocery store turkey is a mass-produced Broad Breasted White Turkey, factory-farmed and injected with a slew of chemical antibiotics and hormones. So, it’s not necessarily the most healthy or sustainable choice.

So, what's a food-loving, perfection-seeking blogger to do?   Well, we think we might have some suggestions.

First, we opt for a locally raised organic turkey. These birds might be more expensive than regular grocery store birds, but they're well worth the cost. Not only are they good for the environment (just an added bonus, in this case), they are more flavorful than your average bird.  To add to the magic, we like to brine our bird for about 24 hours before setting it up to cook in one of our favorite “kitchen” tools, our Orion Convection Cooker, an outdoor barbeque tool that uses indirect heat, generated by charcoal, to cook (and optionally hot smoke) foods.
I should probably clarify before I begin all my raving that we haven’t been paid to talk about this cool gadget. In fact, it was just dumb luck that got us hooked on backyard convection smoking. We got the Orion Cooker a few years back after spending some time reading the entries in the Orion Community forum while looking for a recipe for ribs. After drooling over entries about succulent smoked ribs, brisket, and chicken, we decided we needed one for our very own. So, we splurged on one for our 10th wedding anniversary. And gosh, we’re glad we made the leap.

Not only does the cooker produce stellar smoked ribs and absolutely fabulous smoked summer corn, but it’s an absolute wonder for cooking turkey. Moist, juicy, and delightfully smoky, we’ve never had a bad turkey come out of the Orion. The best part is, we can produce a full cooked, smoked 12lb Thanksgiving turkey in about an hour and a half.

The biggest time investment we now put into making turkey is tied up in the brining process – and even that is pretty minimal. Our favorite brine is made with maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, and freshly grated ginger. It provides the perfect subtle flavor for the turkey, and it ensures that even the breast meat of the bird is ultra-moist.

And, oh my, you should smell it while it’s cooking… To. Die. For.

This bird was smoked with cherrywood for an early Thanksgiving celebration with friends. And trust me when I say that everyone was scrambling for the leftovers. We’ll be blogging about an awesome sandwich we made with some of ours in the next few days.

Since we realize that not everyone has access to a smoker or convection cooker, we’d like to assure you that a maple brined turkey roasted conventionally in the oven is also pretty darned impressive. For crisp skin, be sure you start the bird off at a high temperature (and unplug your smoke detectors for a bit) to get the bird nicely browned. Then proceed for the remainder of the cooking time at 350F.

It will take about an hour, but once your kitchen fills up with the smell of that delicious maple turkey, you will wonder why you ever did it any other way.

Maple Brined Turkey – Smoked or Roasted

And be sure to pay a visit to our friends over at Haute Apple Pie.  They're doing a Thanksgiving recipe round-up that shouldn't be missed (including our turkey recipe!)

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Blue Cheese Rosemary Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage

Autumn in Wisconsin is a glorious and fickle time of the year.  It generally begins quite mildly with breezy but sunny days and cool evenings. But, as October winds pull the last of the burnt umber leaves from the trees, the weather takes a turn.  Days turn cooler. Evenings become crisp. By November, chilly rains, reminiscent of early spring, bid even the outdoorsy folks among us to seek solace in the warmth of our homes.

I'm a huge fan of this time of the year -- not only of the ever-changing weather, but also the metamorphosis that autumn sets into motion. Plants give off their fruit. Flowers go to seed. Dried leaves crumble beneath our feet. The chlorophyll in our garden plants degrades, revealing stunning yellow and orange pigments.  We marvel at the unexpectedly bright colors of death, as the world enters into its slumber, preparing for the stark silence of winter.

However, despite the beauty and bounty that late summer and autumn brings, I sometimes find myself at a loss in the kitchen. There are no tomatoes littering my counter, needing to be used.  No end-of-season produce from the garden begging to be turned into weeknight meals.  I no longer have to keep up the lively, reactive pace of canning and preserving. And sometimes I find myself uninspired.

Fortunately, there is always something that comes along to pull me out of my cooking funk.  This dish, for instance, was inspired by an unusually brilliant head of freshly picked local organic cauliflower -- stunningly white, with compact florets surrounded by a wreath of green leaves.

While I adore the simplicity of steamed cauliflower -- drizzled with a simple mustard sauce or spritzed with citrus -- I absolutely can't resist the toasted caramelized flavors that roasting brings to the table.  So, after a liberal douse of olive oil, into the oven went the cauliflower.
 Since the sweetness of cauliflower pairs so famously with cheese, and because I was craving something with a strong profile, I decided upon a simple cream sauce flavored with rosemary and gorgonzola. 

Although this dish would be lovely as a vegetarian main, we happened to have a few smoked sausages in the refrigerator that needed to be used.  And they turned out to be a perfectly complementary addition.  Their salty, smoky flavor accentuated the sweetness of the cauliflower and pulled the herbal flavors of the rosemary right to the forefront.

Save this pasta dish for a cool autumn evening when the cold winds beckon you to the warmth of home.

Pasta with Creamy Blue Cheese Rosemary Sauce, Roasted Cauliflower and Sausage

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