Monday, August 07, 2017

Home Made Gnocchi

It's rare that an Italian restaurant is my first choice when dining out....mostly because Italian food is so easy to make at home.    That being said, I have never made my favorite pasta, gnocchi, at home from scratch.  Instead, I always end up buying that overpriced vacuum sealed product at the grocery store for $4.   My Italian friend Patty said she made hers from scratch, so I decided I'd give it a shot.

I googled around for some recipes, and I really liked the basic ones that included just 3 ingredients: potato, all purpose flour, and an egg.   I was curious about how to form the gnocchi with the ridges in it......but it was super easy!  Just roll it down the tines of a fork with your thumb smushing it down....
I quickly got my gnocchi formed and it was ready to cook in boiling salted water:

I'm at our lakehouse on the Keweenaw this week, so I made a pasta sauce from scratch with the great UP favorite Italian sausage cudighi, but any Italian sausage would be great.   This serves 4 people.

Cudighi Sauce

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced small
1 red bell pepper, diced small
1 lb.  cudighi or Italian sausage
1 large can (29 oz) tomato sauce
1 small can (6 oz) tomato paste
2 T chopped fresh basil

In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium high heat and add onion and pepper, saute until soft.  Add sausage and brown until cooked through.   Add tomato products and simmer on low.

While the sauce is cooking, make the gnocchi.   Super easy!

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 c. all purpose flour
1 egg

Cook potatoes in salted water until soft.   Drain and mash in a medium mixing bowl.   Add flour and egg and stir until well combined.   Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough becomes smooth.    Divide into 6 pieces and roll out into 1/2 inch thick snakes, just like you did as a kid with Play Dough.   Cut each snake into 1/2 inch pieces.   Roll the pieces down a fork like shown in the video above.  At this point, you can freeze them on a baking sheet, or cook them in a large pot of boiling salted water, a half batch at a time.   Boil them until they float, and then strain them out of the water and put them in the sauce.    If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water to it to thin it.  Plate gnocchi and garnish with basil.

It really didn't take much time at all to make this.....about an hour, start to finish.  And the texture is so much better than the plastic pouch gnocchi.  

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Copper Country Strawberry Festival Muffins

We are always glad to be in the Keweenaw for strawberry season.   There is something about the hard winters and late springs up here that make for really outstanding strawberries.   I have fond memories of strawberry shortcake and margaritas made with the local ones.   This year, I made 12 half pint jars of jam using my outdoor canning rig.

I still had lots of berries to use up, so I tried a variation of a recipe I once made for blueberry lemon ricotta pound cake.   I updated it to use whole wheat flour and strawberries, and I baked it in a muffin tin.   Fantastic!  And good for you, too.

Strawberry Lemon Whole Wheat Muffins
makes 1 dozen

¾ cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons lemon zest
4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons packed confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.  Beat sugar and butter in a large bowl  until creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Beat in ricotta, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and vanilla until just combined. Sprinkle flour on top, then evenly sprinkle baking powder and salt over the flour. Beat until almost combined. Add berries and gently fold into the batter. Transfer to the prepared muffin pans, filling cups to the top.  Bake the muffins until starting to brown around the edges and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about  25 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, remove from pan.   Clean the bowl, add confectioners' sugar and whisk in the remaining lemon juice until smooth. Drizzle the the glaze on the muffins.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Lemonade Icebox Pie

I've been very busy this month of June, and I just realized I needed to make a pie for Liz, the highest bidder at my church's silent auction for my Pie of The Month.   I make a home made pie for 10 months each year, and deliver it to the winner's home.   Since I am out of town this weekend and next, I had to make a weeknight delivery.   I needed something quick and also I wanted something light and refreshing, so I turned to Southern cuisine.

I've never tried to make an icebox pie, which is a refrigerated (or frozen) creamy pie, but a recipe caught my eye for lemonade flavored one.   I was a little put off by the use of sweetened condensed milk, lemonade concentrate and Cool Whip as I don't usually use convenience foods ingredients, but I figured the southern belles knew what they were talking about, so I went with it!  I made my own graham cracker crust, at least, instead of the premade one called out in the original.


1 1/4 cups Keebler® Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup margarine or butter, melted

In small bowl stir together crumbs and sugar. Add margarine or butter. Toss until combined.  In 9-inch pie plate evenly spread crumb mixture. Press onto bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake at 375°F for 6 to 8 minutes or until light brown. Cool

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup thawed lemonade concentrate
1 carton (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
Lemon, for garnish

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and milk until smooth. Beat in lemonade concentrate. Fold in whipped topping . Pour into crust. Cover and refrigerate until set.  Garnish with lemon

This pie was delicious!  Perfect for a hot summer day....both rich tasting and light at the same time.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Pickled Shrimp

I spend a lot of my work time in the south these days, which has enhanced my appreciation of southern food.   I think I really got interested in it when I read the Lee brothers epic cookbook Southern Cuisine, and now wherever my business travel takes me, I am always wandering around bookstores looking at local cookbooks to add to my collection.    It was courtesy of the aforementioned Brothers Lee that I first heard of pickled shrimp, and I had it bookmarked in my brain to try for a while now.   The other day a recipe from Cook's Country popped up in my feed that I was inspired to try out, with my own adaptations.   I like my food a bit spicier than they do!

I liked the taste of the coriander seeds they suggested.   I didn't have any lemons or dill so I skipped it, and I reduced the oil and used a heavier hand with the hot pepper flakes.   Here's how I made it:

Pickled Shrimp

2 pounds extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined
8 cups Ice
1 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon allspice berries
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 T red pepper flakes
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 T capers
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 cup thinly sliced red onion

Combine 4 cups cold water, shrimp, and 2 teaspoons salt in Dutch oven. Set pot over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until water registers 170 degrees and shrimp are just beginning to turn pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let sit until shrimp are completely pink and firm, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir ice into pot and let shrimp cool completely, about 5 minutes. Drain shrimp in colander. Combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, bay leaves, allspice, coriander seeds, and pepper flakes in large bowl and microwave until hot, about 2 minutes. Stir to dissolve sugar. Let cool completely. Whisk in oil, capers, mustard,  hot sauce, Worcestershire, and 1 teaspoon salt until combined. Stir onion, and shrimp into vinegar mixture until thoroughly combined. Push to submerge shrimp in marinade, then place small plate on top to keep submerged. Cover and refrigerate, stirring occasionally, for at least 3 hours or up to 48 hours. To serve, remove shrimp from marinade using slotted spoon.

I really loved how this came out!  We ate it for supper with garlic bread, but it would make a great party appetizer/

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Upper Peninsula Books

Here's a list of books about the Upper Peninsula or set in the UP.   I haven't read all of these, but I compiled them from our MTU Parents facebook group suggestions
Gertie Johnson Mystery Book Series by Deb Baker is set in Escanaba...."laugh out loud funny"
Gathering Prey by John Sanford.  This book in the thriller series is set in the UP
The Sweater Letter by Dave Distal.  True crime book set in the UP.
The Worth Series by Mara Jacobs.  Romances set in the Keweenaw.  You'll immediately recognize the setting....The Ambassador is called the "Commodore" for example
Joseph Heywood Woods Cop series mysteries about a conservation officer Grady Service set in the UP.  Also Red Jacket, a historical thriller set in the Keweenaw
Wolf's Mouth by John Smolens a thrilling story of good versus evil: part Upper Peninsula woods adventure, part rags-to-riches tale, part love story.
Y is For Yooper by Scott Reddinger.   An ABC book for people of all ages
South of Superior by Ellen Airgood.  Heartwarming novel set in Grand Marais
The Way North:  Collected Upper Peninsula New Works edited by Ron Riekki. Poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from memorable, varied voices that are writing from and about Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  Also check out Here: Women's Writing on the Upper Peninsula.
Anatomy of Murder  by Robert Traver.   This courtroom drama set near Marquette was made into a movie starring James Stewart.   Traver was the pen name of John D. Voelker, a Michigan Supreme Court Justice.  He wrote many books under that name, often about courtroom dramas, or fly fishing, or both! Check out Trout Madness
Many books by arguably Michigan's most famous author, Jim Harrison are set in the UP.   He lived near Grand Marais for many years before moving to Montana.   Check out his novella series Brown Dog
Death at the Lighthouse: A Grand Island Riddle by Loren Graham.  True crime story set in the UP.   Also check out his book A Face in the Rock: The Tale of the Grand Island Chippewa
MTU Grad Tom Maringer wrote A Superior State of Affairs, a futuristic state of affairs that is set in Houghton/Hancock area. 
Misery Bay by Steve Hamilton part of the Alex McNight series is a thriller set in the Keweenaw and features MTU students as characters.
The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich is a historical children's book set in the UP about life as a Native American
Snow Country by Kristin Neva.   A Christian romance set in Copper Island (aka the part of the Keweenaw north of the lift bridge)
Wall of Silver by Richard Kellogg.  Suspense treasure hunting story set in the Keweenaw
Sweet Girl by Travis Mulhauser is a novel set in the UP, one of Michigan's Notable books of 2017
Nevada Barr's Superior Death and Winter Study part of the Anna Pigeon series of mystery thrillers.
Nonfiction books about the Keweenaw's mining history by MTU professor Larry Lankton 
So Cold a Sky: Upper Peninsula Weather Stories by meteorologist Karl Bohnak, Check out the chapter on MTU alumni's favorite weather story about Thanksgiving Drive '85
My Brother's Mountain by John Timmerman,  Middle school level historical fiction novel about the C&H strike in Calumet 
Rock Down, Coal Up by Chuck Pomazai. History of the Quincy and Torch Lake railroad
Boom Copper by Angus Murdoch. Vintage classic book about Keweenaw Copper Mining
Mine Towns by MTU professor Alison Hoagland about the area's copper mining towns
Any of the books about the UP by local writer Lon Emerick
Is This an Agate? by Susan Robinson.   A must for Lake Superior rock hounds
Michigan's Upper Peninsula and Copper Harbor  coffee table books featuring beautiful photography by Steve Brimm
Yankee Yooper on the Keweenaw by Phillip J Howard Enjoy the adventures of a surgeon working and exploring the land around the lake, the Keweenaw, the Copper Country history, the Okibwa and Chippewa Indians, and more.

Michigan's Columbus by Steve Lehto.   Biography of Douglass Houghton

   Time By Moments Steals Away by Robert Root. 1848 jounral of Rugh Douglas, who lived on Isle Royale

   Diaries of an Isle Royale Fisherman by Elling Heglem Journal written about his live in the 1910s on Isle Royale.

   Naked in the Stream: Isle Royale Stories by Vic Foerster.  After thirty years worth of visits to Isle Royale National Park, Foerster records his experiences in this narrative. Funny and poignant, riveting and heart thumping, these true stories entertain and inform the reader

  The Wolves of Isle Royale: A Broken Balance by Rolf Peterson Fascinating first-hand account of the relationship that exists between the wolf and the moose on the island.

  A View from Wolf's Eye by Carolyn Peterson Her reflections of spending 30+ summers on the island. 

  Spaghetti on Mondays by Tom Flaminio (MTU grad), about their family of 10 kids growing up in Iron Mountain.

  Copper Country Journal: The Diary of Schoolmaster Henry Hobart, 1863-1864 Read about some of the people buried in the old hidden Cliff Mine cemetery and then walk out in the woods and find the specific grave. Really makes the history feel real.

  Local history booklets by Clarence Monette

  The Page One mystery series by Nancy Barr are set in the western UP

   Drummond Girls by Mardi Link, a notable Michigan author.   This memoir is about the exploits of her BFFs on the island.

    Dandelion Cottage by Carol Rankin.  First published in 1904 children's novel. She first wrote the story for her own children, based in Marquette

   Lake Superior Journal by Jim Marshall  Essays about the Big Lake

   Island Life: An Isle Royale Nature Guide by Ted Gostomski and Janet Marr

   Strangers and Sojourners: A History of Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula by Arthur W. Thurner

   Lake Superior Profiles : People on the Big Lake by John Gagnon


Monday, May 08, 2017

Signs and Seasons

"Uh oh....Venus in Pisces....not a pretty sight!" sighed Margaret, one of my college friends who was consulting her astrological charts regarding my love life.  "What does that mean?" I asked.  "Venus in Pisces means you will forever be unlucky in love" she said, shaking her head.  "The best thing you can do is look for a Gemini or another Aquarius and see if that works", she proclaimed with a sad finality.   I wondered how I could have such a bad prognosis when we were supposedly living in the Age of Aquarius.....  and I am an Aquarius...isn't that supposed to be good?

Flash forward 30 years later, and I do think I was lucky in love, as I've been married to the same man for almost 25 years. Perhaps it worked out because he is another Aquarius, like Margaret suggested?  Otherwise, I haven't paid much attention to my astrology, but I was intrigued when the good people at Harper Collins asked me to review a new cookbook they sent to me, Signs and Seasons.

I had my family over for dinner yesterday, and consulted the book to determine what I should make.   The recipes are organized by star sign (seasonally) which is fine, but I wasn't sure if I was supposed to make Aquarian recipes because that's what I am, or Taurus recipes because we are in Taurus right now.   My daughter, currently pursuing a BFA, noted that the artwork is beautiful in this book.  Indeed, one of the authors, Amy Zerner is an award winning artist.  The recipes looked promising, they are written by John Okas, a personal chef in the Hamptons.  I saw a recipe for peas, but forgot to mark the page, and couldn't find it later.  I checked the index under "peas" and it wasn't there.   The book needs a better index.   I was trying to remember if  I was looking in the Taurus section, so I looked up "Taurus" in the index and there was nothing there! No listing at all for Taurus.  I looked in Aquarius....nothing there either.  I wondered if my confusion must be happening because Mercury is in retrograde.   Finally,  I started paging through the book and eventually found the recipe I was for "snap peas" .   And it was in Gemini, not in Taurus!  Oh well.

I didn't have any snap peas, but I made this recipe instead with green peas, and everyone loved it.  Here's how I did it:

Sesame Green Peas

3 T sesame oil
1 lb frozen peas
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T sesame seeds
2 T soy sauce

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and when hot, add peas, garlic and sesame seeds and stir fry until pease are hot, about 5 minutes.  Dress with soy sauce.

Since I'm not seriously into astrology, I don't think I can comment much on the writing.   The artwork in the book is lovely and the recipes look promising    I wish the book had a better index and food photography.    I think this book would make a great gift for a person that is really into their star sign.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Tart Lemon Cake with Fresh Lemon Frosting

I have been a part of a great online community on facebook called Michigan Tech Parents because my son is a student there.  Everyone is so supportive and I have made some new friends on the list.   Last weekend, the students came home for the summer, and parents were talking about the food they were planning on making.   One mom said she was making a lemon cake and I adore lemon, so I asked her for the recipe.   She kindly posted pictures of her handwritten recipe for me to try.  It was delicious.   I tweaked a few things, and here is how I did it:

Tart Lemon Cake

1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 c. granulated sugar
4 c. all purpose flour
1.5 t. baking soda
1 t. granulated salt
6 lemons
4 eggs
1 c. milk

Preheat oven to 350 F. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.   In another bowl, mix together the flour, salt and soda with a fork.  Using a lemon zester (I love my Microplane) zest the lemons until you have 4 tablespoons. then juice the lemons.   I like to use a lemon squeezer for should have 1/2 cup.   If not, add water to make a half cup.   Divide the zest and juice in half and reserve the remaining for the frosting.     In a small bowl. whisk the eggs until the whites and yolks are well mixed, add 1/4 cup lemon juice, 2 T. zest and the milk and mix well.  

Add half the dry mixture and half the liquid to the the mixer bowl with the creamed sugar and butter, and mix well.  Scrape down the sides and add remaining dry mixture and and lquid.   Mix until well incorporated.   The mixture will be thick.  

Grease and flour 2 9" cake pans.  Using a spatula, divide the batter into both pans and vigorously tap the pans on the counter until level.   Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack 15 minutes, then remove from pans and continue cooling on wire rack.

Fresh Lemon Frosting
(you will need to make 2 batches)

2/3 c. softened butter
9 c. powdered sugar
half of reserved lemon juice mixture
half of the reserved lemon zest
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. milk (approximately)

In a stand mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar.   Add lemon juice and zest and mix until creamy.  Add enough milk to make a softer icing for piping,   Make up second batch.  Frost using a Wilton 1M tip as described in my other blog post.   It really is pretty easy.....I'm not a great cake decorator but the big tip doesn't require much precision.

I really liked this recipe....I think next time I make it, I'll make it with the cream cheese frosting in my other post.   Thank you fellow MTU parent Cindy for the inspiration!  My family loved this cake.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rhubarb Custard Pie

This is my second year of donating a "Pie of the Month" to my church's annual silent auction.   For this month,  I tried a new recipe for rhubarb custard pie.   I really enjoyed Beth Howard's book Making Piece: love, life and pie and her cookbook Ms. American Pie.   I've always fantasized about opening some kind of pie emporium like Linda Hundt and her Sweetie-Licious Pie Cafe in DeWitt.  But the fact is, when I retire, I really don't want to be responsible for anything.   Making a pie once a month is good enough for me.  

I'm usually a rhubarb strawberry in my rhubarb, thanks.   But Beth Howard's rhubarb custard pie sounded really good to me today, so I made 2 for us and one for the  Pie of the Month Club winner Liz.   Here's how I made it:

Rhubarb Custard Pie

For the crust:  one double crust Vodka Pie Crust recipe

For the filling

1.5 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 t cinnamon
3 eggs
5 cups (or thereabouts) fresh rhubarb, chopped in 1/4 inch slices

1 beaten egg, to brush on top of crust

Prepare the pie crust.  To make the filling, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a large bowl.   Beat eggs and mix with dry ingredients.  Add rhubarb and pour into crush.  Cover with top crust and brush with beaten egg.   Bake at 425F for 20 minutes and then turn down temp to 375 and bake for 30 minutes longer.   

Happy spring!  Enjoy!!!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Yellow Owl Workshop's Make It Yours

My New Year's resolution for 2017 was to make a craft every month.   I've been having some decent success with my much so that I started an Etsy store to sell my work...

I also have reviewed cookbooks for an outfit called "Blogging for Books", and when they asked me to review a craft book, I jumped at the chance.   They provided me a copy of one of the latest books:

It is written by an artist named Christine Schmidt who is the founder of a California based paper goods company known for its "sophisticated and playful aesthetic" (or so says the jacket cover).   Upon receiving the book, I can see what they meant by "playful aesthetic" because most the stamp and stencil projects all look like something a kid would make.   Try as I might, I didn't find much to inspire me.   Maybe it will inspire you?   So, the end result it is is not really my thing, but it does describe the stamping and stenciling techniques well, which I hope to apply to projects that actually match my aesthetic, whatever that might be...perhaps it is best described as "vintage geek"?

Bottom line: Solid techniques, not really my style  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Morels and Ramps!

Today I went morel hunting with my friend Ellen and we found these beauties!  We also found lots of ramps.  I wanted to make a pasta dish with the morels, so I stopped at Zingerman's on the way home to get some cheese and was confronted with a line....

Insider's tip: when there is a line like this, just walk up to the green door and tell them you are there to buy cheese and they will let you right in.  Way ahead of all those people.....they will shoot you with hateful stares.  You will feel like a celebrity! But the fact is, we locals know that if you are just going to the deli counter, you can walk right in anytime.   Don't wait in line for an hour to get a $20 sandwich!  Instead, just get cheese and deli meats from the counter and some bread from the bread counter and make the sandwich you want for much less!  I was looking for something Parmesan, but not actually Parmesan, for the pasta dish I had in mind.   Zingerman's is always staffed with lots of enthusiastic "foodie" types, and I met the eye of the young, clean shaven ginger gent behind the counter that sporting a maize and blue Zingerman's T shirt.  From his accent I could tell his was a rich UM student from the east coast, and his name is probably something like "Declan" to reflect his proud, but wealthy, east coast Irish heritage.  Like all young bucks that work at Zingerman's, I bet he brags to his friends about his amazing palate.  His dudes in the Conservational Ecology program or whatever he's in at Michigan probably call him "Deek" for short.  I got more death stares from those waiting to place an order for their $20 sandwich, and I stepped up to the counter to summon some cheese mongering from my new friend Deek.   Zingerman's has the best cheese counter in Michigan, no doubt.  They have hundreds of cheeses and they will give you samples of anything you want.    So I told Deek that I was looking for cheese to put in a pasta dish with the morels I just foraged, and he stared at me blankly. "I am not familiar with that recipe".   I wanted to tell him that there was no recipe yet, I was just thinking of something from food I gathered from the forest floor, but I figured it was going to take too long to explain to the lad what a morel was.   So I told him this instead:  "I want something Parmesan-y that isn't actually Parmesan" and he gave me a knowing look!  He suggested this cheese:

I took a sample and it was just what I was looking for...perhaps Deek is new because he accidentally cut me .71 lb instead of the half a pound I requested, but he apologized and have me a sweet discount.   I didn't mind, I'll put it to good use.  Perhaps I had him all wrong.... maybe his name isn't actually Declan after all.   Maybe he's just Dave and he goes to Washtenaw Community College.   So much for my stereotyping!  I stepped in front of the hundreds of people waiting to pay for their Georgia Reubens or their Pimento Cheese with pretzels (don't wait in line for the pimento cheese, make it yourself with two-year-old raw milk cheddar from Grafton Village you can get from the cheese counter) and paid for my cheese and left. It took all of 5 minutes.  Remeber this: only the tourists let Zingerman's make them a sandwich.   When you live in Ann Arbor, you make your own sandwich with their stuff!

Deek, or Dave, or whatever his real name is, did me right with the cheese.  He might not know what a morel is yet, but this cheese he selected was excellent!  If you can't find this special Italian cheese, a Parmesan or an Asiago would work just fine. 

Spring Pasta with Peas and Morels
Serves 4

8 oz. fusilli pasta, cooked and drained, reserve 1 c. pasta water from cooking
8 morels, sliced in half vertically
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. dry white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. grated Piave cheese (or Parmesan)

Saute mushrooms in butter and olive oil until lightly browned in a saute pan, about 5 minutes.   Add frozen peas and cook until peas are hot and bright green.  Add pasta, pasta water, wine to the mushroom mixture and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 7 minutes.   Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.   Mix in cheese and stir until melted.    

I'm looking forward to making using my ramps and some diced potatoes in a frittata for breakfsat tomorrow, along with the rest of that delicious cheese.  Thank you Deek, or whoever you are.    You know your cheese, even if you don't know what a morel is!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Check out the history of the D.W. Ferry Seed Company 

I made a great soup the other day, said my husband who doesn't like a) soup for a meal and b)  stuffed peppers.    I was reminded of this soup the other day, thanks to FB "On This Day" feature, since I saved a recipe last year at this time.    I can remember years ago, when I bought a half bushel of green peppers right before the first frost from a farmer up in Romeo, and I struggled with what to do with all of them.   This recipe would have been a good answer, had I known about it.   The FB recipe I saved  via Pinterest save I had seemed to have a lot of issues, so I just used it as a guide and went my own way.  Note the brown sugar is key!     

I realize that my soup isn't very photogenic, but it was really delicious.   Even my husband, who shouldn't have liked it at all, really did enjoy it.  Here's how I made it.....

Stuffed Pepper Soup
Makes 10 servings

2 lb. ground beef
1 c. white rice
2 c. water
4 green peppers, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped similarly
28 oz. can diced tomato
27 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1 teaspoon pepper
2 c. water

Brown ground beef in a large Dutch oven   Meanwhile, in another pot, cook rice in water until tender.     Add peppers and onion to beef and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.   Add rice and remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes.  

I ended up freezing the leftovers for my son to enjoy when he doesn't have time to cook.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Michigan Tech Wives Cookbook

Being a fan of old cookbooks, I am always on the hunt to find new items to add to my collection.   One day I was googling around and found this recipe for Michigan Tech Wives Brownies which intrigued me because it mentioned a cookbook.   Down the rabbit hole I went.....and sure enough, I found that there was an organization called the Michigan Tech Wives Club that became popular after the war and the influx of GI Bill students. As an MTU student,  I had heard stories of young families living in quonset huts on the east end of campus.   Evidently the MTU Wives Club were very active and organized the first nursery school on campus, called the Michigan Tech Cooperative Nursery.  It was located in the barracks behind the Institute of Mineral Research.  I'm in Houghton this week, so I went to the MTU Archives to see what I could find out about the group, but they didn't have much.    I kept looking on line for the cookbook to buy somewhere, and I couldn't find it for sale, I was lucky enough to find that someone had scanned it in.  So here it is, for your reference Happiness Is....A Tech Wives Cookbook.   Ironically, the Michigan Tech Wives Brownies recipe wasn't in there.    I suspected it wouldn't be.....the last reference of the MTU Wives Club that I could see anywhere was in the late 1960s MTU Winter Carnival Pictorials (the wives liked to enter into the skits competition) and the recipe calls for mini chocolate chips, which I am pretty sure are a relatively new invention.  This book was published in December 1967.   I don't even remember mini chocolate chips being around in Houghton when I went to MTU myself in the 1980s.   In fact, it was hard to get peanut butter chips up here back then for my favorite chocolate cookie recipe.   Whenever I could find them at Jim's Food Mart, the only grocery store in town back then, I'd buy as many as I could, or I would bring them up from downstate.    There are others in the book that look tasty I'd like to try, although there wasn't any local recipes like pasties or chow chow in it.  

The inscription in the front cover is really touching...

Even though MTU is much different now and the MTU husbands are just as likely to be cooking as the MTU wives, I love the fact that these ladies got together and made this book.   I'd love to see another MTU cookbook.....maybe this will be my next venture.  I couldn't find a picture of the MTU Wives Club, but this photo of MTU's Winter Carnival Queen Candidates evokes the same vibe for me

MTU Winter Carnival Queen Candidates 1965

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Pie of the Month Club: Cherry Pie

Once again this year, I donated a pie of the month for St. Joseph Catholic Church  Silent Auction.   My friend Liz bought it for her husband's Christmas present. So once a month, I bake him a pie and deliver it to their house,   One of my favorite pies to make is cherry, and I was really interested in trying out an awesome looking lattice top I saw on Serious Eats.  I found their instructions to be very difficult to follow, however.  I had some leftover vodka pie crust dough in the freezer, so I thought that would be good to use.  I didn't want a crust recipe that would crack with all the handling this lattice top requires.  

To make the lattice top, I rolled out the dough into a rectangle, and did my best to cut strips using a pizza cutter that were 3/4 inch wide.   I used a quilting ruler to do it:

Then, I started to lay out the herringbone lattice by using Serious Eats description, but they left much to be desired.   I eventually just figured it out my eyeballing it and making each row have 3 over and 3 under and staggering the weave by one each strip.   

I then gave it a quick fork crimp and egg wash....

And that was it.  If you get your weave off, the vodka crust is very forgiving.    You can keep trying until you get it right.

I made my filling from frozen Michigan pitted sour cherries.

Cherry Pie

Vodka Pie Crust

For filling

4 c. frozen sour pitted cherries
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix together in a bowl until frozen cherries are covered.  Let stand for 15 minutes until cherries are partially thawed but still icy.  Fill the pie crust as level as possible, do not mound.    Make lattice as shown above, cover edge with foil and bake for 50 minutes.   Remove foil and bake for about 20 more minutes until top is golden and the fruit is tender.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

One Part Plant

Za'atar Sweet Potatoes and Garlicky Kale

One of the great things about having a food blog is that occasionally, I get to review cookbooks.   The good people of TLC books sent me a copy of the book One Part Plant to review.    This cookbook was written by Jessica Murname, and she advocates eating one meal per day that is plant based.    She had success with her endometriosis by modifying her diet to exclude  what she calls "inflammatory foods".  A quick Google search tells me that there are no hard and fast rules regarding what is and isn't "inflammatory" fact, there is a lot of pseudoscience out there in this space.   I did find a source I could trust in Andrew Weil.   So I approached this cookbook with some trepidation.   I just cooked a meal for 70 people yesterday at church and was overwhelmed at the special requests.  It seems everyone is looking for a magic bullet these days.   

However, if this mode of eating helped the author with her health issue, I'm fine with that.   I think the book would have been better if it just focused on the concept of eating one plant based meal per day (and skipped the gluten free) message because eating more fruits and vegetables is good for everyone, not just women with endometriosis or people that want to dabble in the gluten free space.

That being said, once I got into the recipes, I was really pleased with the book!  It came to me just in time for Lent, as I don't eat meat on Fridays during this time.    I tried out her recipe for Za'atar Sweet Potatoes and Garlicky Kale (see picture shown above) and it came out delicious.    I loved the combination of sweet potato and kale - never thought to put them together.   Her recipe for za'atar isn't my preference, but I included it here in case you can't get your hands on the good stuff.   The author is from Charleston, SC, so my guess is she doesn't have access to the great Arabic food I have in the Dearborn area.      Also, I streamlined her recipe to make it quicker by precooking the sweet potatoes in the microwave instead of boiling them and improved the recipe by adding the garlic after cooking the kale to insure better flavor.

Za'atar Sweet Potatoes and Garlicky Kale
makes 4 servings

2 c. peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
1 T. za'atar (or use her recipe below)
6 c. kale, destemmed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Olive Oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Put sweet potatoes in a microwave safe dish and cover loosely and cook on high for about 5 minutes until tender.   Coat potatoes with oil and spread out on a cookie sheet.   Roast them for 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Sprinkle with za'atar.

Meanwhile, add some more olive oil to a skillet and saute kale until soft, about 5 minutes.   Add garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant.  Mix potatoes and kale together and add salt and pepper if needed.  


mix together
1 T. toasted sesame seeds
1 T Sumac
2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. sea salt (I used kosher)

If you want to check out this cookbook, you can at do so at HarperCollins.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Road Food

I've always loved Road Food, the media shared by Jane and Michael Stern.  The Sterns, who had no formal training in cuisine or journalism, met at Yale University in 1968, married in 1970, and graduated in 1971, after which they left academia to explore the USA. At first, their focus was on popular culture in general, but after traveling around the country for a few years, they realized they had been keeping an informal diary of unknown and unique places to eat: inconspicuous restaurants that were, at the time, of no interest to the food-writing establishment. After three years of travel in a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle, staying at seedy motels, and occasionally sleeping in the back seat of the car, they drafted the manuscript of Roadfood, a guide to restaurants that were neither fast food nor gourmet dining, but were an expression of local foodways.  And I've enjoyed what they have shared ever since.   So when the good people of of Blogging for Books asked me to review their latest venture of Roadfood, their 10th edition.    I am looking forward to trying their recommendations in Kentucky and Georgia, where I spend most of my time when I am not in Michigan.   I'll let you know what I find out!

Sunday, March 05, 2017 Upper Peninsula delicacy

Frequent readers of my blog know that I love the UP and the food served here.   Lately, I've been on a mission to master cudighi which is a spicy Italian sausage that can be bought in links or served as a sandwich on a long, hard roll, often with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Although it originated in Italy, it is now primarily served in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   I like it in marinara sauce served with pasta.

But how to make it?   Whenever I'm in the Keweenaw, I get some at  Pat's IGA in Hancock or Calumet.   This is all I had to come by:

That's not a lot to go on, so I searched the internet.   I found a recipe in the fb group"Yooper Pasty", and then I found another from a generous woman nicknamed the "Venison Vixon" and then I found a kind soul that posted his recipe from the Gwinn cookbook called "Pete's Cudighi".   After much iteration, I think I found out the spice blend that tastes the best.

Cudighi Spice Blend

3 T.table salt
1 T. ground black pepper
1 T. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t, mace
1/2 t. dried oregano
1 t. paprika
1/2 t ground ginger
1 T. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. cinnamon

Mix these seasonings together in a canning jar with a lid.   Add  1 1/2 T per 2 lb of ground pork (or 1 lb ground pork and 1 lb ground turkey)  and 1/2 c. red wine and mix thoroughly.   Refrigerate for a day, and then use it to make a cudighi sandwich or as meat for marinara sauce or meatballs.    To make the sandwich, brown a patty of cudighi, and top with grilled mushrooms, onions and marinara sauce.   Put on some Italian bread and melt some mozzarella on top.   Delicious!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lemon Meringue Pie + Meringues

It's January and 50 degrees, which is just plain wrong.   Everything is muddy and foggy.   I want real winter! I want people to quit being jerks on facebook!  I want women to be respected by our president!  When life gives you lemons, they say make lemonade.   Jimmy Buffet says to pass the tequila and salt.    I say make lemon meringue pie.

I made this pie for my friend Liz who bought my "Pie of the Month" club donation at my church's silent auction.   I really like a meringue with attitude, like this one.   I originally got the idea from Cook's Country magazine for a super tall meringue that relies on a cooked syrup.  Think of it as a giant marshmallow perched on top of the pie.  Their recipe called for more egg yolks than I usually use, so I went for it.  Can't go wrong with a more rich custard, along with a generous amount of lemon rind.    Their recipe was a bit more cumbersome than it needed to be, so I adapted it to suit my  way of cooking.  And since there were extra egg whites to be had, why not make meringues for myself?


Lemon Meringue Pie + Meringues

For Lemon Filling

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice (from 6 lemons)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
8 large egg yolks (reserve 4 whites for meringue topping and the other 4 for meringues)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 (9-inch) pie shell, fully baked and cooled

For Meringue Topping
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
pinch table salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch, and salt and lemon zest  together in large nonreactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture becomes translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 2 minutes.  Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

To make meringue topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Once syrup comes to rolling boil, cook 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside while beating whites.

With electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl at medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat, gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into whites (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk or it will splash). Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 5 to 9 minutes.

Using rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches edges of crust. Use spatula to create peaks all over meringue. Bake until peaks turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

To make meringues, use my recipe here with the remaining 4 egg whites.  

After dropping off the pie at my friend's house.   I took to facebook and started unfollowing people that spew vitriol on social media.   It's a great day!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Upper Peninsula Inspired Glass Magnets

I'm the kind of person that goes to a craft sale and doesn't buy anything, because I think "I can make that!" but I never actually do.   My 2017 New Year's Resolution is to complete a craft each month.  I have never considered myself "crafty", although I guess I have some key skills needed to make crafts, such a sewing or cookie decorating.   I am good at copying other people's crafts.   I'm also the kind of gal that starts projects and never finishes them, and tend to be a perfectionist.    So for 2017, I am going to try to tap into my creative side and also work on my perseverance and try to complete a craft each month.  To help me,  I started a craft club on fb with some of the other Michigan Tech parents called Michigan Tech Inspired where we create an MTU or Upper Peninsula inspired craft each month to create.   My son is a sophomore at MTU and it is my alma mater, so this should be great fun!  Anyone is welcome to join....even if you don't have a connection with MTU and are interested in making crafts with an "Up North" theme.   Join us!

For our first craft this month, we made glass magnets.  It was a true test of my perseverance.    I found instructions several places online, and I talked to friends that made them with their 4H or Girl Scout troop so I thought this was going to be a snap.  If kids can do it, surely I can!  I headed out to Michaels on my lunch hour one day to buy supplies.   I found the glass gems in 1.5" size, and some strong disk magnets.  I saw that some people use thin magnets with adhesive on the back that can be cut with scissors, but these glass gems are heavy and I wanted them to stay put, so I went with beefier magnets.    Next stop, the adhesive aisle!  Being an engineer, I have a glue fetish.   I love to get the exact perfect fixative for every project.   Which glue to buy?   Online, people were raving about E6000 and Quick Grip, so I got some of that.   Also there is the crafter's favorite, Mod Podge.   I remember Mod Podge (or as I used to call it, "Modge Podge") from my own Girl Scout Holiday Bazaar crafting days myself.   We used Mod Podge to make Holly Hobbie plaques to sell.  So I got some of that, too.   I left the store with enough glue to make crafts for a lifetime!

To prep for my year long crafting extravaganza, I actually cleaned and organize the spare room I like to call the "craft room" (my husband calls it the "crap room") and set forth.  And that's when my inner  perfectionist reared it's ugly head.   The downside of being an engineer is that it makes you constantly look for how things can go wrong in any situation, and prevent them.   So, before I could unleash whatever artistic vision I might have deep down inside my soul, I needed to first determine which adhesive worked best.    I decided to use a vintage postcard image of the Keweenaw that I love as my prototype.  I used Microsoft Publisher to make my image, and spent more time than I should have trying to exactly match the blue of Lake Superior to fill the rest of the circle.   Did you know that there are apps you can get that will tell you the exact Pantone color of something?   I now know this, but I didn't need to learn this, because that kind of color matching doesn't need to happen when you are making an image this small that will be viewed under a blob of glass.   Just get it close enough!   Once I was able to move on, I printed a few copies on paper to test adhesives.    I had read online that Mod Podge tends to make ink jet print ink run because it is water based, so I was hoping the other adhesives wouldn't.    Then I started to wonder if E6000 and Quick Grip were actually the same thing, just sold under different brand names, so off I went to find the MSDS sheets on them to figure that out.   See this is why I never get crafts done!  (I'll cut to the chase: no they are not the same).   Then, I noticed that the ink printed on paper seeped through the back side, so I also tested printing on card stock and glossy photo paper.    I had read on the internet that putting the printed paper in the freezer would prevent it from running, which sounded like bullshit to me, but I tried it anyway:

No freezing required

The bottom line?   Mod Podge on card stock worked the best!  I was correct, the freezer idea didn't work....the other 2 adhesives resulted in clouding of the image with some crystal residue.   The Mod Podge didn't stick at all to the glossy photo paper.  Also, when I used some E6000 to stick the magnet on the back, it showed through on the other side.   Another downside to being an engineer is that we are very thrifty, so I decided to repurpose all my prototypes except the one that worked best by soaking them in hot water to remove the image.  Lesson learned: if you make a magnet you don't like, you can start over.   It even worked on the glue that is supposed to be waterproof.

So now it was time to get down to the art.   What images to pick?   The other crafters in my group were already well on their way making many Michigan Tech Husky related magnets and sending theme off in care packages to their students.   Since I knew I wanted to go with my vintage Keweenaw Land postcard image, I decided to stick with the vintage theme.  I found some great images of Houghton establishment logos to use, plus some mid century winter sport scenes.   My son is a hunter and a fisherman, so some old school hunting images would be great, too.  The lift bridge, the miner statue....the MTU logo of my 1980s was fun to find images.   Remembering that I don't need to match everything perfectly, I made a template of 1.5 inch circles in Microsoft publisher, and then used the shape fill with a picture option to make the images.   I found that rectangular images with a lot of space on the periphery tended to work best.  For those that didn't have that, I just filled with a color that looked close enough, and then placed the image on top of it.

I printed them out on business card weight card stuck I had in a cream color that further enhanced the vintage look, and cut them out with scissors.  I wet the back of the glass gem with Mod Podge (it was opaque white) and then pressed them down on the image, making sure to get all the air bubbles out.   I let them dry overnight, and then used the scissors to trim them.   I stuck the magnets on the back with Quick Grip, but I am sure E6000 would work just as well.    Voila!  I completed  a craft!!!  YAY!

Glass Magnets
I packed up a care package to send to my son, including these magnets and some snacks.  I'm looking forward to our February craft.  Meanwhile, I've got tons of requests for these magnets, so I put them up for sale in my Etsy store.   Check it out!