Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My new blog

As most of you know, my new blog is http://www.teaspoonofspice.com/! Come join me (and my business partner Deanna Segrave-Daly) on our fun new food finds and recipes and kiddie kitchen adventures!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Wedding Tea

Princesses at tea
I was just a little girl, but I remember watching Princess Di's fairy tale wedding on TV with my mom and sisters.  We weren't up at 4AM to watch the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate; but my girls and I and a dear friend did don big hats and pearls and watched internet clips last night.  Then we sat down to a tea party (for dinner!)  The food wasn't 100% British.  But it was absolutely delicious.  Here's what we ate:

Radish and thick butter teas sandwiches with Union Jack toothpick flags
Pimento Cheese on white bread sandwiches
Tea with crumpets
Crumpetts with Lemon Curd Napa Cabbage and fennel salad with lemon vinaigrette
Prince Williams Imposter Biscuit Cake (we didn't have time to make the cake, so spread tea biscuits with Nutella)
Strawberries and brown sugar
Ginger tea
A sunset orange cocktail of Tanqueray's London Dry Gin with a splash of fresh orange juice and a drop of Angostura bitters

One final note, the crumpets were amazing; even though we accidentally added the baking soda with all the other dry ingredients - instead later with the milk.  Any Brit would've recognized them as a homemade crumpets:  Golden and chewy on one side and spongy and blond on the other side with holes (similar to English muffins) throughout.  Warm and spread with butter, they were royally delicious.
Imposter Prince William's Biscuit Cake and crumpets with strawberries
Royal Cocktail ingredients

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Smoky (as in smoke-alarm) Artichokes

I’ve always known my three kids to be good sleepers. But tonight my cooking set off the fire alarm after they were in bed and nobody woke up!

I’ve been trying to pre-cook Easter dinner this week. The hope is that I can spend more time hiding eggs tomorrow instead of cooking. So I was making these chili, oregano and garlic olive oil infused Roasted Artichokes tonight.

At first the roasting vegetables filled the entire house with the heady smell of garlic and vegetables caramelizing. But at a roasting temperature of 500 degrees, caramelization eventually turns black. Thus, the smoke and the smoke alarm.

I threw the roaster of artichokes out on the back deck and ran upstairs to open all the windows and fan the air near the alarm with a big blanket.  Then I heard my neighbor yell in the open window, “Everything ok in there?” “Uh, yeah, thanks Bill.  Just doing a little cooking.” Ironically, Bill told me earlier today that he was smoking salmon tonight….outside. Guess I should’ve paid more attention to the headnote on the Roasted Artichokes recipe; in Sicily, they roast their artichokes over an open fire…outside.

Yes, I tasted them.  They are amazing; smoky (go figure), garlicy, spicy and caramelized with tender leaves.
Roasted artichokes cooling on my back deck

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Prize-winning Pico de gallo

Strawberry Pico de Gallo salad
Now that the California Giant Berries “Reciberries for Life” healthy recipe contest has officially closed, I can share what I’m sure will be the prize-winning recipe. Now, there, I just jinxed myself.
I created the recipe after eating at a little Mexican taco restaurant in south Tucson a couple weeks ago. There were no paper menus; the menu board listed – all in Spanish – fish tacos, bean tacos, chicken tacos and every-part-of-the-cow tacos. We tried almost every delicious variety (except beef tripe - I once had a very bad experience with tripe during the throughs of morning sickness several years ago.) The soft corn tortillas enrobing each taco were warm and freshly handmade. Food was served very simply on paper plates – but the simplicity of fresh corn and tomato salsas, lime juice contrasting richly sauced meats, and striking white Mexican crema was beautiful.
Tacos at Pico de Gallo restaurant in Tucson

However, the most striking dish – and the possibly the most delicious part of the meal was the restaurant's namesake, Pico de Gallo. It was fruit, spice, salt and sour lime. It was a super refreshing way to counter to the fiery spices in the tacos. Here are some photos of the Pico de Gallo and the recipe I created.

Pouring horchata, a sweet rice drink at Pico de Gallo
Horchata and Pico de Gallo salad: Fresh coconut, mango, watermelon

Strawberry Pico de Gallo
1 pound strawberries, washed and halved
½ cantaloupe, peeled, sliced in 8 slices
1 mango, peeled, cut in bite-sized chunks
½ lime, juiced
½ tablespoon sweetened flaked coconut
1/8 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/8 teaspoon chili powder

Arrange fruit on a serving platter by mounding berries and mango in center and cantaloupe slices fanning out around platter.
Sprinkle lime juice over all fruit. Sprinkle fruit with coconut, salt and chili powder.

My recipe for Pico de Gallo salad

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring has sprung cupcakes

In honor of spring, we made cupcakes. I discovered these amazingly creative rainbow cupcakes on Collaborative Curry’s blog in honor of St. Patricks Day. But since we had three sick kids on St. Patrick’s Day, no one really felt like whipping up six-colored cupcake batter. Additionally, since we used up all the red food coloring in the pantry on the red velvet birthday cake, the full rainbow of colors wasn’t really an option. Four-colored cupcake batter was created: Yellow, green, blue and the most beautiful and springy lime green color. (In fact, the lime green was exactly the color of the crocus leaves popping up in my front yard!)
We followed Collaborative Curry’s directions to pour the (rather runny) batter in the center of each cupcake wrapper and not stir.

 The coloring turned out great. However, as you can see, the cakes fell. I believe I should have added the full 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda. I may have under-baked them slightly so they would retain the amazing moistness Collaborative Curry wrote about – this may also have contributed to the fallen cakes.
Lastly, you may want to add those two additional tablespoons of sugar in the recipe to keep the cakes from being a bit tough. But with all those colors, what kid will notice the cakes are less-than-super-sweet. And with the delicious aroma and taste of 1 ½ teaspoon of vanilla, adults too will eat every crumb.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Happy Paczki Day

Yesterday was Fat Tuesday; or in any place where wonderful Polish bakeries exist, it's Paczki Day.  These traditionally Polish raised donuts are filled with a super-sized amount of jelly and are usually sold only one day a year - the day of feasting before a traditional fast on Ash Wednesday. 

It makes me smile to ponder that no one seems to know that the singular form of paczki is paczek (according to the Detroit Free Press tweet yesterday.) Obviously, no one else can eat just one either.

We certainly didn't. My dear husband was at Kirschbaum's (a local German bakery which has embraced the Polish tradition) by 7:30AM for a box of these fried yeasty yummies.  They were fresh, thickly sprinkled with powdered sugar and filled with poppyseed, strawberry, blueberry, cheese (a cream cheese custard) and Strawberries & Cream fillings. The blueberry was terrible - the filling was fake food chemicals. (My kids still ate the sticky sweetness.)  But the poppyseed was amazing.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The best coffee house: Macys in Flagstaff, Arizona

Last night we returned from a winter get-away to Arizona. While it was luxurious to escape the three feet of snow blanketing our back yard, it was 43 degrees at the Grand Canyon and 45 degrees when we arrived home to Chicago. Luckily the snow was nearly gone after a week away. And fortunately, while in the desert state we were able to visit Macys European Coffee House & Bakery in Flagstaff; my vote for the very best coffee house bakery in America.

Blueberry Danish, Sticky Bun, Coffeecake
Macys may not be the most traditional European bakery; case in point, the macadamia nut sticky bun made with buttery whole wheat sweet dough and saturated, not sprinkled with macadamia nuts. The unconventional Blueberry Danish was topped with rich, sweet tofu “cream” cheese that tasted nutty and rich in the way that only a very good baker can magically make tofu taste. The Danish dough was not cloying and white-flour; instead, it too was made from whole wheat flour and was somewhat hearty – though not too thick to disqualify itself from being a delicate Danish. We also tasted a super moist Blackberry Peach Coffeecake that was heady with almond and sprinkled with the darkest and most molasses-y brown sugar-butter crumbles. Somehow, the fruit in all the baked goods was rich and flavorful, despite the winter weather outside. And that is why this place is the best: Quality ingredients and deliciously creative recipes.  

Oh, and then there was the coffee. My husband thought it was the best he’s ever tasted. They don’t do Americano drip. Only espresso. And they make beautiful latte art in the top of your steamed milk foam.

Macadamia Nut Sticky Bun

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Oatmeal Pancakes on Snow Day 2011

These pancakes are hands-down the best pancakes I’ve tasted: Nutty from the whole wheat flour, hearty oatmeal, yet with the deliciously tart flavor of buttermilk. Thus, I had to get them posted immediately so you might have the opportunity to serve them for lunch or dinner on this Snow Day 2011. Isn’t it rather incredible that all of America is snowed in on the same day?

This Whole Wheat Oatmeal Pancakes recipe is from Epicurious and I followed it exactly. If you have it, use fresh nutmeg and grate it straight into the dry ingredients. The fresh nutmeg makes the pancakes ultimately rich. And when you serve them, pull out the real maple syrup. (Those Vermont or Wisconsin maple farmers work very hard to produce it – that’s why it costs a good $7.00-8.00 a bottle.)

In fact, these were so good, we might have them again for dinner with some sunny-side-up eggs and a salad of fresh apples, frozen blueberries and bananas.

And now, since this is the most severe snowstorm we’ve experienced since living in Chicago, here’s a snapshot from the Chicago Tribune.

As of 6 a.m. the National Weather Service reported 17.3 inches of snow at O'Hare International Airport, 17 inches at Midway Airport… “Just about every main road through here is impassable,” said Lake County Sheriff’s Sgt. Curt Gregory. “People were getting stuck and requiring rescue all night, he said, but some people are still trying to drive. “You’re not going to stop that,” he said around 8 a.m.. “For the most part we’ve got the majority of it cleaned up. Now it’s just sporadic. When people leave home and think they can get through in a Honda Civic, we’ve got to go rescue them.”

-- The inbound Stevenson Expressway remains closed at Martin Luther King Drive due to the shutdown of Lake Shore Drive.
-- As of 3:45 a.m., state officials were telling motorists to stay off I-290 from St. Charles Road to I- 90 and I-57 south of I-80.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An A+ in Nutrition

For an easy ego boost, try offering kiwi slices to a classroom full of fifth and sixth graders. I was rewarded with a standing ovation! This week I had fun teaching a few nutrition classes at my kid’s school.

After explaining that your body needs 40 nutrients every single day to grow and be healthy and that the way to do this is by eating according to the Food Guide Pyramid, we tasted several “new” foods. Here are a few of the highlights:

• Every single kindergartener tasted and LIKED grapefruit. The trick was to tell them it’s a tricky fruit because it’s yellow on the outside and “super pink” on the inside. I also sliced it into wedges so the kids first tasted sweet/sour juice instead of pith.

• My kid – daughter of a dietitian – knew the answer to every single nutrition question.

• The fifth and sixth graders were presented with a tray of fruits and veggies and asked to identify the following for extra credit: Persimmon, fennel, guava, kiwi, pomegranate, Bosc pear, star fruit, cactus paddles. One kid got eight of 10 correct.

• One sixth grader told me his mom de-prickers, slices, and fries cactus paddles for dinner. And she’s not Hispanic, she’s Irish.

• There was not a single kid in grade K, five or six who refused to taste the star fruit.

• The fifth graders kept trying to get me to okay soda: “What if you drink it alongside a glass of milk.” “Can you have pop just once a day?” “But if my mom sends it in my lunchbox, it must be ok.” Ugh, I can’t argue with that last comment: Moms – if you put it in their lunchbox, you’re giving it an inherent stamp of approval.

• But I did get the 10-year-olds to utter , “Oh gross!” when I held up a bag of Skittles…by simultaneously holding up a bag of 9 teaspoons of sugar – the amount in the Skittles.

In summary, it’s cool to wow kids with starfruit.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chicago-isms: Stopping for "some Bakery", "coffee, and"

We stopped off for some bakery yesterday. That’s right. “Some bakery” is a Chicago-ism, that in most parts of the country – and in proper English – would translate to “some baked goods.” Maybe it’s because this city is so rich in bakeries with the tradition of preparing such incredibly delicious baked goods that the phrase implies that one would take home the entire bakery. Or maybe it implies a bakery is an integral part of a neighborhood. Either way Weber’s Bakery on Archer Ave is not to be missed.  Erich is the third generation in his family to be turning out most delicious German ‘bakery’in the city.

In fact, Weber’s poppyseed pastries or apple fritters would be perfect to have at your next “coffee, and.” That’s another Chicago-ism and it means coffee klatch or coffee break.

Yesterday, while returning our delightful guests to Midway Airport, we had the opportunity to stop at Weber’s to pick up some bakery for today’s coffee, and. Specifically, we ordered fresh rye bread, a chocolate donut, poppy seed Danish, apple pastry, prune Kolacky and butter croissants.  It was all placed lovingly in a box by one of many helpful counter attendants and tied with an old-fashioned twine stringing machine.  (My girls loved watching this machine that whipped the string around the box and tied it snuggly!)

Weber’s lists their signature items as buttermilk poundcake, Banana Split Torte, Kolacky, chocolate cake donuts, Grandpa Rye Bread, Cinnamon Raisin Cylinder, Fresh Strawberry & Cheese Coffee Cake, Raisin Houska, Sauerkraut Rye Bread and brownies. All that bakery is good. My list would also add: Poppyseed Danishes and apple pastries. But I would scratch out the chocolate donuts; while they have dense delectable frosting made with two different chocolates, the cake donuts always taste like they’ve been fried in old grease. (A downfall of places that fry A LOT of donuts…like Dunkin.)

The apple pastry is a unique masterpiece. It is a few paper-thin layers of pastry dough wrapped around a large mound of spiced-cooked apples and walnuts that have been sprinkled with sweet bread crumbs.

The poppy seed Danish is rich buttery sweet dough stuffed with ooey-gooey poppy seed filling and drizzled with just enough creamy glaze.

Unfortunately the Saurerckraut Rye bread is not made every day. (That’s right sauerkraut is baked right into round loaves of crusty rye.) Instead, we took home a beautiful loaf of plain rye that must have been stuffed with 2-3 tablespoons of caraway seeds. Caraway can be a questionable flavor for many kids, but mine think it tastes like peppermint sprinkles. The dark black seeds do have a zing-y quality! And my eight-month old baby had his first taste of rye bread today. He loved it – another testament that introducing strong flavors early on can lead to wide-ranging kids’ palates! (That’s what I’m hoping!) The rye bread is delicious when lightly toasted and topped with aged Wisconsin Brick cheese; a German classic that started with some classic German bakery (the bread) from a classic German bakery (Weber’s)! Got that?