My dear friend, who has not yet given me permission to mention her by name, is my companion in all food matters.  When the season starts for fresh produce and outdoor markets we are ready at the crack of dawn with bags and baskets in hand.  Our senses are inspired by the smell of fresh herbs, the variety of the produce and the creativity of the specialty foods for sale.  Since the weather here north of Chicago feels like the southern coast we needed to venture to a market.  We headed farther north where the weather was a bit warmer… go figure!  “Brass Ball Fruit” and “River Valley Kitchens” were our stops today.  It satisfied our urge for fresh market shopping and we revisited old friends that we will see at the outdoor market soon enough.

 

BRASS BALL FRUIT MARKET – Paddock Lake Salem, WI

Known for their homemade pies and breads.  It is a very small open market store.  The pies were “HOT”, fresh from the oven and too hard to resist.  I will be back for bread, pancake mix, syrup, more fresh produce and of course another pie.

 

 

RIVER VALLEY KITCHENS – Burlington, WI.

We met this vendor at the farmer’s market in Evanston, IL.  They are mushroom farmers and have a selection of mushrooms you don’t find everywhere.  They pickle their mushrooms, make mushroom salsa, mushroom pasta sauce and “Shroomschetta”.  Their 5-cheese Garlic Spread is out of this world.  I use it for pasta sauce, as a dip and love it on burgers!  They have cheeses, homemade scones, fresh eggs, fresh bacon and so much more.  When the markets start I suggest you visit their booth but in the mean time on a lovely Spring day take a ride up to Wisconsin and visit their store.

 

I have included their “Stuffed Mushroom” recipe:

 

INGREDIENTS:
• 1 pound of medium to large mushrooms
• 2 Tablespoon of Olive Oil
• ¼ cup of chopped onion
• 1 small garlic clove minced (I always add another clove)
• 1/3 cup of bread crumbs
• 1 Tablespoon of chopped parsley
• ½ tsp of kosher salt
• 1/8 teaspoon of dried oregano
• Dash of fresh ground black pepper

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

• Remove stems from mushrooms, place cap side down in a greased casserole dish.

• Finely chop the stems, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.

• Add chopped stems, onions and garlic to heated oil.  Saute until lightly browned.

• Combine bread crumbs, parsley salt, pepper and oregano in a large bowl.

• Add sauteed mushroom mixture.

• Stuff mushroom caps and bake for 15-20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.

 

 

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places to go: a la carte

March 23rd, 2012 | Posted by admin in PLACES TO GO - (0 Comments)
This is a small restaurant/catering/food-on-the-go destination.  Whenever I am near Wilmette I make my way to A La Carte.  The selection is perfect always a variety of salads, sandwiches, dinner entrees and wonderful desserts.  The food is fabulous but so are the people that work there, helpful, happy, and a pleasure to work with.  If you are north on Greenbay Rd… stop in for lunch or a sweet treat.  I had to get a donut muffin.  I love muffins and adore donuts so of course I was hooked as were the other 2 patrons before & after me!

 

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tools: gloves & planting

March 23rd, 2012 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Tools - (0 Comments)

I just was watching a TV segment on how to make your hands look younger for thousands of dollars!  It made me think about an encounter I had at a nursery several years ago.  I had been planting every day, my hands were a bit beaten up from the constant work they were required to do!  As I rung up my cart of flowers for the next job I looked at my hands a bit embarrassed as the nails were cut short, sun spots on my hands and the cuticles definitely needed work, bits of soil here and there. I handed over my money and the salesman said “You have beautiful hands; they are hands that have been working hard.”  I was so overwhelmed by those kind words.  He made me think about myself and how lucky I am that my hands work. I cook with them, dig with them, cut flowers, trim bushes, wash an occasional floor and yes I suddenly saw them not as aging and rough but as a gift I have been given.

This brings me to the garden gloves that I think work the best.  I am not always great at keeping my gloves on during gardening.  So I found a couple of brands that fit close to your hand and make them easy to use while protecting your hands, the “Atlas Nitrile Touch” and the “Bamboo”. Both gloves have worked well for me.  I suggest you creme your hands before a day of gardening and then put your gloves on for protection.  In season my hands will show they are working hard… I am happy to have them a bit rough, a bit beaten up but still beautiful.

 

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As you can see I own every cookbook from the Barefoot Contessa series.  I know at my most successful dinner parties and family dinners I use recipes from her books.  When I am asked to bring something to a dinner party… I go to my stack.  Her series works like a library for me.  I love to sit down in my favorite chair, maybe a cup of tea and go through all of her books over and over again.  I revisit my favorite recipes and sometimes discover new ones I haven’t used before.  Ina’s recipes are easy to follow, with ingredients you can find in most grocery stores.  They are simple but complex and taste as if you had been cooking all day!  Her cookbooks make me want to entertain… and that’s why they have a very important spot on my shelf.

 

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simple orchid

March 21st, 2012 | Posted by admin in FLOWERS | Indoor - (2 Comments)

A simple orchid to brighten a March day. I love an orchid in the kitchen making every day feel festive.

 

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I have to give the credit for this recipe to a great cookbook “The Family Chef” by Jewels & Jill Elmore. I am not known to follow any recipe to the tee. I changed up the tomatillo sauce because I like it blended raw not cooked. You can season your meat with additional spices. The credit goes to the Elmore sisters. My family is a big fan of these peppers. Give it a try & let me know!

My recipe is a bit different but my inspiration is from their recipe.

 

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS:
• 6 Chicken Breast halves, boneless skin on
• Kosher Salt & Pepper
• Dash of Olive Oil
• 8 Poblano Peppers
• ½ cup of chopped cilantro
• 1 sweet onion finely chopped
• 3 ears of corn, kernels removed
• 1 cup of Tomatillo Sauce (recipe follows)
• 3 ½ cups of shredded cheese mixed Cheddar, jack, & cotija

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

• Season Chicken with salt & pepper… Roast on a sheet pan with olive oil for 40 min             or until done.

• Roast and Peel the poblanos.

• Then cut a slit down the middle of each pepper and remove the seeds.

• Take the cooled chicken and shred removing the skin.

• Add the onion, cilantro, corn kernels, and tomatillo sauce then add 2cups of shredded         cheese. Use a wooden spoon to mix, add salt & pepper to taste.

• Stuff the roasted peppers with the chicken mix & top with the remaining cheese.

• Put the peppers on a sheet pan & bake for approx 25 minutes.

• If you make these the day ahead then wrap tightly with plastic wrap & take out of fridge to   come to room temperature before heating.

 

TOMATILLO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:
• 8 medium tomatillos husked & cleaned cut into quarters.
• ½ medium sweet onion finely diced
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 large garlic clove minced
• ½ cup cilantro
• ½ avocado
• Juice of 1 lime
• Salt & pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:
• Blend in a food processer and this sauce can be used for everything! Over steak…               to dip… with tacos just be creative.

 

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Favorite: Raspberry

This product is not easy to find, at least where I am from.  So when I see it available at our  local Sunset grocery store I pretty much clear the shelf.  I send it to my sister who also remembers the delicious taste.  For me this is a childhood memory, my mom is Danish and more times than I can remember we made “Junket” not Jello.  The difference is hard to explain but it is less jelled and more creamy.  I can best describe it as a pudding Jello.  I know it sounds strange but if you have a chance try it!  When my kids had a stomach ache or flu we made Junket.  When I am feeling like a cool sweet but not too crazy sweet treat… I make Junket.  You can serve it with fruit or my favorite way to eat it is with a dollop of fresh whipped cream.

For those of you who are over 40… take a look at the packaging.  This product has not changed its look since my earliest memories and that’s the 60’s.  It now has a retro feel and I love it.  Such a treat… really another pantry staple.

 

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Favorite: Real French Vinaigrette

First I usually make my own dressing.  I  love homemade but in a pinch when I have no time and I need to use something pre-made, this is my go-to vinaigrette.  I can use this as a simple salad dressing or put on a cold pasta salad with fresh mixed vegetables.  I marinade veggies to grill in this dressing.  Brianna’s vinaigrette also works as a marinade for fish       or chicken.

It’s a go to product and another staple in my pantry.

 

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Favorite: Ginger Peach

I love this whole brand!  But my favorite flavor is ginger peach.  This is a scrumptious sorbet that melts in your mouth with a perfect taste of candied ginger & peach.  I am a sweetaholic… but I know that I can’t have a high-sugar, butter, flour dessert too often so this is my go-to “calm my sweet tooth” pick.  It is fat free and only 100 calories per ½ cup. They have so many great flavors another favorite is the blood orange.  They sell blood orange sorbet bars… only 60 calories per bar, perfect!

 

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Favorite: Honey Creamy

Its peanuts, honey & salt.  NO hydrogenated oils, No trans fats, and gluten free.  I was making my own peanut butter after studying the labels of other popular peanut butters.  My amazing friend who cooks and is also a corporate honcho… makes her own peanut butter. My boys went crazy for hers and it was just salted peanuts crushed and creamed into a perfect butter.  I enjoy cooking, but my house went thru that peanut butter so fast it made me crazy.  Then I found this Parker’s brand.  I love the addition of honey (although you can buy it without) and I also love crunchy but creamy is also available.  I keep the Honey Creamy and Crunchy in my fridge at all times.  Really you need to try this brand, it is worth every penny.

 

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