Have you tried any of these recipes?

Have you tried any of these recipes? If you have, please leave a comment to let me know how it worked for you and if you suggest any changes!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saffron and White Wine Poached Pears

If you've had dinner with me recently, I'm SURE you've been treated to this dessert, since I can't seem to get enough of it, and I currently have no other imagination for the pears I've gotten from my produce box!

This wonderful dish is easy, aromatic and adds a little "fancy" to your meal.

A little white wine.....
Cardamom Saffron Poached Pears
Spicy; not too sweet


  • 1/2 Tbsp cardamom pods
  • 2 cups dry white wine (I use Simi Chardonnay.  A little pricey, but drink the rest and you won't notice.)
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp saffron threads
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 4 firm pears, peeled, stems intact (firm doesn't mean hard as rocks though; just not mushy)
  • 6 oz creme fraiche (you can buy it at a place like Whole Foods or make it yourself)
  1. Crush the cardamom pods at the bottom of a large pot to release the seeds.  Combine the rest of the ingredients BESIDES the pears and the creme fraiche and stir until the sugar dissolves.  
  2. Bring to a simmer and add the pears.  Add water to cover the pears and partially cover the pot.  Simmer, turning occasionally until the pears are tender, but not mushy (approx 30 minutes).
  3. Remove pears to a plate or serving dishes and raise heat to medium-high.  Reduce the liquid to about a cup and a half (10 - 15 minutes depending on how much water you used).  
  4. Spoon the syrup over the pears and top with a dollop of creme fraiche.  
All of this can be made ahead of time, though I find the aromas of the simmering pears wonderful as dinner is being enjoyed and love the heat of the syrup with the chilled cream.

I recommend this as a dessert to follow the crockpot coq au vin or tuna nicoise salad.

Recipe from: Bon Appetit online, January 2012.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stuffed Trout a la Branch 27

I love when a restaurant really nails a dish.  With local and in-season ingredients and simple yet thoughtful preparation, it is hard to pass up something like the trout from Branch 27 (corner of Noble and Chicago, just off the Blue Line).  This was so good, in fact, that I broke my rule of not turning the oven on in the summer months.  (Just choose a cool day.)

The best local pub
I thought I didn't like trout
This sure convinced me!

  • 1 rainbow trout, deboned
  • 1 small head of cabbage
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 small apples (gala, or the like)
  • 2 handfulls pecans, crumbled
  • butter
  • red peppercorns
  • olive oil
  • corn from three ears
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • fresh thyme
  • red pepper flakes
  • cooking twine
  1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Saute most of the shallot in butter.  Chop and add the cabbage.  Cube and add the apple.  Crumble and add the pecan.  Toss/stir over medium-high heat until the combination is softened, aromatic, and browned in parts.
  2. Rinse fish in water and a little bit of cream.  Place two pieces of cooking twine across a baking dish.  Place fish, open, in the dish and fill with the cabbage mixture (extra mixture can be tucked around the fish).  Close the fish around the mixture and tie.
  3. Brush the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with red peppercorns.  Loosely cover and bake 20 minutes.
  4. While the fish is baking, saute the rest of the shallot in a little more butter and add the corn.  Throw in a nice sprig of thyme.  Cook until the corn is golden and the thyme is a vibrant green.  Add cream and cook to reduce.
  5. After 20 minutes, remove the covering from the fish and cook 5 minutes longer or until fish is flaky.  
  6. Remove the fish from the oven and let it sit a minute while you dish up corn to plates.  Portion fish to plates and enjoy!
This dish is especially lovely followed by a dessert of blue cheese, sherry and walnuts.

Pictures taken by April Faith-Slaker

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fish Sandwich a la McDonalds

But WHY?!? - you might ask.  YOU know why.  There is something about smelling McDonalds when you're already hungry that goes straight to your amygdala and makes you WANT it.  You know.  Like crack.

But then, if you try one, you realize that it is only chemicals you're tasting and you're both stuffed and unsatisfied at the same time.  Fear no more!  Below is a tested and approved version of the "filet-o-fish" sandwich that can be made with all organic ingredients.

Bargain-basement food
McDonald's filet-o-fish
Like mom used to buy!

  • Cod filets (1 should be enough for two sandwiches)
  • American cheese (2 slices)
  • Pancake mix (1 cup, plus a little more)
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz sprite
  • mayonnaise (approx 1/4 cup)
  • dill relish (approx 3 Tbsp)
  • onion, finely chopped (approx 1 Tbsp)
  • butter
  • buns
  1.  Cut the cod filet into sandwich-sized pieces.  Coat in a little bit of pancake batter and chill 20 minutes.
  2. Mix the tartar sauce and set aside (mayonnaise, dill relish and onion).
  3. Mix the batter (pancake mix, egg, sprite).
  4. Heat butter in a frying pan.
  5. Dip fish into batter to cover and fry over medium-high heat for 5 - 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, turning to cook both sides (poke fish with a fork and rotate to make sure it is done - it should flake).
  6. While fish is cooking, heat butter in another frying pan and put buns, face down in the butter, to fry for a bit.
  7. When the fish is finished, put each battered filet on a plate, top with the cheese and microwave on medium for 30 seconds.  
  8. Put one tablespoon of tartar sauce on each side of the bun, and put the fish on the sandwich.  Close/cover, and eat!
 This has the same consistency, tartness, sweetness and greasiness of the McDonald's fish sandwich.  We couldn't replicate the sponginess of the bun though - the way it makes noise when you touch it and the way it sticks to your teeth.  The panel all agreed though that it was probably preferable that we didn't replicate that.


(If you're looking for a bottle of wine to pair with your McDonald's, I recommend the Laurent Miquel Pere et Fils Syrah Grenache 2010, at only $10 a bottle, it is a perfect match with the bargain meal!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Creamy Corn Pasta

I don't know what to call this dish.  "Creamy Corn Pasta" doesn't sound all that good; but it IS good!  The noodles you use are going to make a difference, and this recipe needs to be paired with a green.  It is very easy to make, light on the chopping, and doesn't take long at all.  Serves four.

Creamy Corn Pasta
A delicious July meal
When everything's fresh

  • 6 ears of fresh corn, shucked, with the kernels cut off the ear
  • 1 large shallot
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • red pepper flakes
  • black pepper
  • butter
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • fresh thyme
  • Noodles
  1. Heat a large skillet, add butter (approx 2 Tbsp), add shallots.  Saute the shallots until they are translucent and aromatic.  Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.  
  2. Add half of the corn to the pan and stir.  Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the rest of the corn and the cream until blended thoroughly.  
  3. When the corn is softened and some of the kernels are more golden, add the red pepper flakes, black pepper and fresh thyme to taste.  I'd add a dash of salt as well.
  4. Prepare the noodles according to the package directions.  (I like the King Soba Pumpkin Ginger Rice noodles for a gluten-free option with a great kick that complements this recipe.)
  5. Combine the creamy corn with the sauteed corn and heat, stirring until heated through and reduced a bit.
  6. Serve by topping a heap of noodles with the creamy corn.
This recipe is a little sweet, and is best paired with something a little bitter.  I tried it with kale, but should have added some vinegar to the kale.  This would also be good with artichokes or spinach.  For pork eaters, some crumbled bacon would be delicious on top.

I got the idea for this recipe from my mom who found herself with an absolutely gorgeous and robust bouquet of corn from a farmers market recently.  From what I hear, this recipe saves well for days!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Avocado-Dill Tea Sandwiches

Sometimes you just need a few bites to satisfy you.  These dairy-free tea sandwiches are refreshing, fill you up and are a perfect party or picnic food.  I was introduced to these by my friend Megan, and have made them several times since.

Tiny Sandwiches
Perfect Accompaniment
And So Tasty Too!
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped mint
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 large cucumber, diced
  • sliced bread
  1. In a food processor, process the avocado and lemon juice until creamy.  
  2. Add the dill, mint and salt and continue processing.  
  3. Stir in the diced cucumber and spread on bread.  Make sure to use a serrated knife when cutting the sandwiches, as the avocado mixture will splurtch out if pressure is put on the bread.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Polenta & Mushroom Bowl

Warm, savory comfort food is great at ANY time of year.  The days are getting longer and we have definitely already had a taste of spring (and even a bit of summer?) but there are still evenings when cold, crunch, and even fancy doesn't appeal to us.  It is days like that when I make a late evening meal like this.

What is polenta?
Breakfast, lunch or dinnertime
Tasty comfort food

  • 1/2 cup dry polenta
  • 2 cups broth (I used the mushroom broth strained from rehydrating the mushrooms)
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • a bit of olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper to taste
  1. If you are rehydrating mushrooms, like I did, do it earlier in the day with warm water.  They'll make an excellent broth.
  2. Set the broth to boil and soak the polenta in a bowl with tepid water.
  3. Once the broth is boiling, add the polenta.  Lower heat to a simmer and stir pretty consistently for about 15 minutes.
  4. While the polenta is cooking, heat 1 Tbsp butter and a bit of olive oil over low heat in a pan.  Add the chopped garlic and once it is aromatic, add the mushrooms.  Let those cook to reduce liquid and absorb the garlicky buttery goodness.
  5. When polenta is about done, stir in the other tablespoon of butter.
  6. Spoon a quarter of the polenta into each of four small bowls.  Stick an ounce of cheese in each bowl to be melted by the polenta.  
  7. Top the polenta with mushrooms, a Tablespoon of diced tomatoes and a poached egg (you can poach the egg at the very last minute).
  8. A dash of salt and some freshly ground black pepper make the meal!
Leftovers are GREAT.  You can add some greens to it for a larger meal, put it next to chicken for an entree or eat it as it is for a hearty breakfast!  I actually was inspired to make this meal I used to have so often by a posting of a recipe of it by the Green Grocer.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Blueberry Quinoa Muffins

Mmmmm.  Having to give up gluten has meant having to give up muffins.  Not anymore!  Though according to my sister these "taste healthy," I think they're moist and quite delicious!

 Blueberry Muffins
A delicious breakfast treat
Small and portable

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup rice flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 milk
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly grease 10 muffins cups or line with paper baking cups.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together cornmeal, rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together cooked quinoa, maple syrup, milk, applesauce, lemon juice, and oil.
  4. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined.  Fold in blueberries, spoon batter into prepared tins, and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove muffins from pan and place on a wire rack to cool.
Recipe from Yoga Journal, March 2012.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mixed Beet Salad a la 25 Degrees

If you go to 25 Degrees, you're probably going for one of their fantastic burgers (try the number 1, which has jalapeno bacon, arugula, blue cheese and thousand island dressing on it) or one of their spiked milkshakes (I'm fond of the salted caramel).  However, there ARE other things on their menu, and one of the sides that I have really enjoyed has been their mixed veggie salad.

When I find new ways
To enjoy a mixed salad
It is a good day

Fresh, with veggies that actually pack some nutrition, and the perfect side to share, I thought, if you don't mind the chopping, it might be worth making at home!

  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 4 Tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 cups beets, steamed and cubed
  • 1 can white beans, rinsed
  • fresh grated paremesan cheese
  • buttermilk vinaigrette (see below)
  1.  The steaming of the beets is what takes the longest, but you can half the grapes and tomatoes while that is happening.  
  2. Whisk together the ingredients for the buttermilk vinaigrette (see below) and combine.  Grate a bit of cheese over the top and Serve at room temperature. 
Buttermilk vinaigrette
  • 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp orange juice
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  1. Whisk together the above ingredients and pour over the mixed salad!
Mine isn't as pretty as the one at 25 degrees, and it is a little redder, since I could only find red beets and they use a combination of red and golden, but it WAS tasty:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fig and Brie Burgers a la Rockit Bar and Grill

It has seemed to me for some time now, that restaurant goers are pretty content with a few standard burgers - the traditional with cheese, pickles, mustard, onions etc;  the bacon and barbeque sauce burger;  and the mushroom and swiss or blue cheese burger.  An egg topped burger has become more standard these days too.  But I love it when I find a really inventive burger.  [There used to be a place down at University of Illinois that had 50 different burgers.  I tried to order one with cottage cheese but they didn't have any cottage cheese because nobody ever ordered that one.]

I'm pleased these days by the number of burger places opening up that have really wonderful ingredients and a fresh take on this typical American meal.  Rockit Bar and Grill is one such place (and their fries and bloody mary's aren't too bad either!)

Anything with brie
Makes a really fancy dish
Even a burger
  • Lean ground beef (grass fed) or bison (1/2 lb per person)
  • brie (3 oz per person)
  • fig preserves (1 Tbsp per person)
  • black pepper
  • arugula
  • stone ground brown mustard
  1. I'm sure you already know how to make burgers.  So, do what you normally do!  But mix the fig preserves in with the ground beef and form into patties.  Add a little black pepper and maybe some salt to make a nice crust.
  2. Grilling the burgers are the best, but pan frying them will do as well.  As soon as they're just about done (I recommend medium-rare to medium) top each with a bit of brie and let it just melt.  
  3. Serve with arugula and stone ground brown mustard.
Rockit serves this burger with truffle fries, but I actually recommend it with sweet potato fries.

The Original

Sweet potato fries

While deep fried French fries aren't great for your health or your waistline, baked sweet potato fries can be, and are a tasty and satisfying alternative.  They're easy to make too, and can satisfy everyone from those with a sweet tooth to those looking for a more savory snack.

Sweet Potato Fries
Great for any occasion
Or just on your own

  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt
  • black pepper 
  1.   Really, this couldn't be easier!  Skin the sweet potatoes and rinse.  Halve each potato and with the cut side down, cut into strips.
  2. Toss the strips (like french fries) in a large bowl with the olive oil.  Lightly salt and pepper the fries.
  3. Bake in a 375 oven for 25 minute or until tender, golden, and/or crispy.  Serve immediately alone or with sauces.
I served mine with a horseradish cream sauce (sour cream, Worcestershire sauce, and horseradish (either raw or powdered) to taste), truffle mayo (black truffle salt, black pepper, and mayo), and a maple sugar cream sauce.

They're best straight out of the oven, but can be easily reheated in a toaster oven or even eaten cold.  These are excellent served with a kir if it is a light meal or snack. 
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