So Much More Than Cake!
One of the businesses that I truly wish we had in our town is a bakery; sadly, the one that was here closed before we even moved here. Regardless of our town’s bakery-having-or-not status, we make a point to stop at Oliver’s when we visit Kenosha- and for good reason. I was initially introduced to Oliver’s goodness via my wife’s recommendation. While their doughnuts are some of the best quality I have had, they offer a robust selection for those sweet options, as well. It is the perfect place to visit if you are looking for the classics, but also if you want to consider something less common (they have custard filled, but also are purveyors of a tasty peanut butter and jelly doughnut). I’ve had several doughnuts, and they are always fresh and flavorful.
Oliver’s is more than just exceptional doughnuts. We’re also fans of their muffins- there’s a similarly delicious wide selection here also. I’ve had Kringle from a few different vendors, and I can write with certainty that theirs is also among the best. Particularly, they have plenty of filling (some other Kringles are rather light on this… and someone should not have to think to discern a Kringle filling or flavor! Certainly not a problem here- delicious!)
Our recent visit was on a Friday, and we were surprised to note that they also had fried fish and shrimp. While fish fry in Wisconsin is definitely not a surprise, availability at a bakery definitely was. While we were there selecting our purchases, several customers came in to pick up both fish and shrimp. Upon noting this to my wife’s parents, we were told that an uncle was known to have driven for hours to get their fish fry. Oliver’s website (corroborated by my wife’s parents) notes that this has been available for quite a while. I will have to give it a try next time we are in on a Friday.
In addition to our typical doughnut purchase, we decided to try one of their pies in the refrigerator case- a pecan pie. It truly was an excellent choice. The crust was flaky, and the filling was a perfect sweet complement to the nuttiness of the pecans- without being too sweet (an issue I notice quite often with an average pecan pie). We certainly will be buying one (and more!) again.
If you’re in Kenosha, make sure to stop by Oliver’s. And don’t forget the coupon!
Sampling of Summer
Happy mid-summer from Wisconsin! Now that we have an additional year in our new space, we’re starting to transform our yard with a variety of new plants as I’ve noted earlier. It’s a slow, albeit rewarding, process for sure; there’s only so much we can do in a day/week/month, particularly when life and weather can intervene. The pace also allows for some thoughtful reflection: I know I’ve re-imagined our layout plan numerous times, but it will gradually fall into place.
We’ve been marveling at all the new flowers- some in the garden and some in the yard, and I wanted to share some Wisconsin summer with you wherever you are…
Runner beans on a tomato cage- something has been snacking on them, unfortunately…
More from the garden- radish flowers
Some Tristan strawberries-to-be (doing exuberantly well in a pot)
Milkweed (We have been pleased to see more butterflies than Monarchs in our yard, as well!)
A prickly pear cactus flower (I somewhat recently found out that prickly pear cacti are native to Wisconsin!)
Non-floral color- a Wisconsin sunset. Good night to all!
Recipe: Chettinad Tomato Lentils
I have to recommend the recipes in The Curry Bible by Jacki Passmore; we’ve tried a few so far and they’ve been excellent quality and variety-wise. The base spice mix for this curry (from pg. 90) is my favorite so far. There are so many curries, and they go beyond the pre-bottled store curries for sure. We have made this recipe several times, and it is a pleasant mix of hot and spice. It could very easily be made hotter with more/other peppers. We’ve modified the original to be less hot to work for both of our palates. (I’m more of a heat fan.) The original calls for chicken as the main ingredient, but I wanted to give lentils a try as an alternate option; it’s also a little more affordable. The lentils also hold up well in the curry, even as they are already cooked. (I was a little nervous it would be mush.)
1 lb lentils, made according to package directions
3 dried red chilies, seeds removed (I used 1 each of guajillo, ancho, and mulato chiles)
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 teaspoons cardamom
3/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon salt
7oz dried coconut (unsweetened)
Oil (I used olive)
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 teaspoon star anise
6 oz tomato paste (I used the whole 12 oz can to use it up.)
2-3 cups water
1 fresh chili pepper (I used Poblano)
Additional salt to taste
Make the lentils in a pot according to package directions. (Ours were at medium heat – simmer/boil for about 20 minutes, and they were tender.) While lentils are cooking, prepare the curry. (When the lentils are done, remove from heat and drain.) Roast the coriander seeds in a pan on medium-low heat for a minute or two and remove from heat. Put the deseeded peppers, roasted coriander, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and salt in a blender and blend to a powder. Add coconut and blend until fine.
Heat the oil in a pan. Chop the onion and add to the pan. Let cook for a few minutes, stirring as needed. (The onions don’t need to be completely soft.)
Crush the garlic- (a garlic press works well) and add to pan with the onion. Add the ginger. Don’t let the garlic cook too long- you don’t want it to burn. Add the star anise and tomato paste.
Stir in the cooked lentils slowly. Add the water- you don’t want soup, but you don’t want it to burn. Keep stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
I chopped and added the tomatoes and chili pepper at this point (you may want to wear gloves with the pepper), but depending on how cooked you would like them, you could add them earlier.
Almost done! I cooked the mixture with the added vegetables for about 5 minutes more, so they were not cooked completely through. Keep stirring as needed, and add more water if needed so that the lentils do not stick to the pan. Season with additional salt to taste, and top with a splash of lemon juice.
Enjoy!!! Remember to have fun and experiment with curry!
Also, here are some quick general spice equivalents, if you have whole spices:
1 stick cinnamon= 1 teaspoon
1 pod cardamom= 1 teaspoon
1/4″ piece ginger= 1/4 teaspoon
1 star anise pod= 1/2 teaspoon
1 whole clove= 1/4 teaspoon
New for the Garden in 2015
I’ll be the first to admit it… I’m a tinkerer. I can’t just leave well enough alone- whether it’s a recipe (even when I know it’s good!) or gardening, I always have to try a little something new. Now that we’re getting our outdoor space settled and organized, there is some work (really, actually fun) to do! We were fortunate to get a lot of space for our yard, so there is plenty of room to experiment.
Last year, we put in our new garden and did a lot of yard adjustments. While we did and will continue to fight the weeds back (organically) for the near future, I could no longer deny the glossy pages of the seed catalogs that beckoned with spring-y seductiveness all winter. And don’t get me wrong, I buy local also, with the occasional detour for items that are fairly unique offerings. Unfortunately, not everything is grown organic, but I figure that by doing things as organically as we can, we can mitigate that part somewhat.
Here are some of the new vegetables and plants we’re trying this year… More to come on the results!
I’ve started homebrewing, so a combination of a steady future supply of this essential ingredient and an abundance of fences make hops bines a perfect yard addition. I’ve bought some locally and at beer fests, and I’ve seen collections in catalogs, but The Wine and Hop Shop had the most options and good quality, also. (I think I have a few more varieties… and some wine grapes… in my future.)
Strawberry, Tristan (We liked the color of the flowers; they’re different! And… strawberries.)
Pineberry, White Carolina (Strawberries that taste like pineapple? And we’re in a zone that can grow them? Sign me up.)
Yellow Wonder Wild Strawberry (Another strawberry- another flavor.)
Attila Strawberry (I’m a fan of the productivity and flavor of alpine strawberries. And these have runners!)
White Soul Alpine Strawberry (Strawberries… gotta collect them all!)
Potato, Blue (These are just plain interesting. Several catalogs have them, but I haven’t seen them in stores yet. The story partially behind purchasing them is that my father and grandfather would argue over whether white or red potatoes, respectively, were better. I guess I’m obligated to like blue ones best!)
BEIRA TRONCHUDA PKT (Maybe not a true kale, so my wife will be extra disappointed…not really.)
Scarlet Runner Bean (The color of these, flowers and seeds, is just awesome.)
ORACH PURPLE PKT (I can’t say I’ve ever had a salty leafy vegetable, but it will be a nice contrast in the garden and should be a healthy add-in to salads.)
‘Strawberry Spinach’ (Neither strawberries nor spinach- it should be good for salad.)
Santon Charentais Melon (I am a fan of melon varieties, especially the non-standard/rare ones.)
Tigger Asian Melon (These will stand out in the garden for sure.)
Petit Gris de Rennes Melon (The melons I bought are all open-pollinated, so they will grow true from saving seeds- versus hybrids.)
Long Island Cheese Pumpkins (These are a recommended variety to use for pies. I also like to make pumpkin risotto or pumpkin soup.)
Shiso Green Perilla Aoshiso (I have red shiso/perilla. It’s extremely easy to grow from seed and makes an attractive contrast plant with the leaves and flowers. It has a wonderful aroma and appealing basil-like oil to the leaves and can be used as an herb for cooking. Just be careful when it gets close to seeding or you may end up with them everywhere. It didn’t do too poorly in a pot last year as long as I kept it watered.)
Garden Sorrel (It’s perennial, and can be used in salad.)
Quinoa, Brightest Brilliant (Quinoa is not just trendy; it is truly healthy!)
India Red Popping Sorghum (I thought this might be an alternative to growing popcorn along with sweet corn. We’ll see how this grows and how it tastes.)
Emmer Wheat (Since I’m getting into brewing, it looked intriguing. The note about the old variety sometimes being more palatable for those with gluten issues piqued my interest.)
Passion Flower, Maypop (We think it has neat-looking flowers, and I’m a fan of anything edible- maximizing use and utility of space. Oh, yes, and we still have lots of fences for vines.)
Lilac, Dwarf Josee Reblooming (My wife adores lilacs; this one blooms for quite a while.)
Luffa Sponge, Packet (I thought we’d give these a try to see if we could grow some sponges. The biggest challenge will be the time to maturity.)
PEANUT JUMBO VIRGINIA (This is another item that might be a plant maturity stretch, but I’m willing to give it a go. Not many catalogs had peanuts for sale. The flowers are a nice accent in the garden.)
SILVER BELLS TM CHOCOLATE VINE
VIOLET CHOCOLATE VINE (Not actually chocolate… they just smell like it! The seed pods are tasty too! At least one of each vine is needed.)
Apios Americana “Potato Bean/Groundnut” (I’m still debating on which vendor I will use to get this, as it’s not offered in many catalogs I can find. I discovered it via the linked blog. This flowering native plant with edible parts looks well worthy of growing. Ahem… fences.)
Sunberry/Wonderberry (An interesting find… appears to be an annual.)
Fir, Korean (Blue pine cones! Blue pine cones!)
Redwood, Dawn (I was intrigued partly that this is an ‘older’ type of tree. Not too long ago, I read that it was somewhat recently fairly rare.)
Phew! It’s a lot of seeds and plants, but time and the season will tell what the garden and yard may provide. As you may have noticed, I’m a fan of the rare and/or different. And don’t worry, we’re still growing the classics, too. What new plants are you trying this year?
Lately, I’ve been coming across recipes that call for steeping items over a period of time, so savor the spirit of slow with me! I started homebrewing recently, and while I don’t know that I’d describe the brewing process with “steeping” at any point, essentially that’s what I did with the last batch to infuse some cherry flavor during the fermentation process. As long as we’re on the subject of alcohol, let’s start with a primer on extracts. Those tiny bottles in the stores aren’t the cheapest item on the shelves, so let’s see how to make our own vanilla extract:
I’ve got a batch processing in a small canning jar, and it has gone along nicely. It is handy to know that it is essentially an endless/bottomless recipe, too! I was also referred to a similar recipe by a friend and found it again in a vanilla cookbook at a resale store (it also mentioned vanilla sugar!)
For more adult beverages, we can make coffee liqueur or orangecello.
Another intriguing idea was to infuse honey using lemon verbena leaves to impart the lemon flavor (pouring the honey over the leaves in a small canning jar).
Steep it good!
March 18 is National Sloppy Joe Day
March 18 is National Sloppy Joe Day. I didn’t initially realize there is quite the variety in the etymology for the names of the sandwich! It’s very regional.
I was trying to locate a map that combines region with the associated name, but no luck for now. I guess we’ll just have to make some instead!
We might have lost some Saturday morning cartoons, but one show not to miss on Saturday mornings is Recipe Rehab on CBS. Above is the promotional clip from today’s Chicken Pot Pie episode. The basic synopsis revolves around transforming an enjoyed but unhealthy family recipe (high amounts of fat, salt, using prepackaged goods, preservatives, and/or lack of fresh vegetables, etc.) The half hour show pits two chefs against each other in a friendly, yet competitive game to create an improved version of the dish utilizing the essence of the original. The new meals are prepared by the family, and rated in several categories like ease of preparation and taste. A nutritionist also provides one of the scores. Often, the chefs will re-imagine the presentation of the dish along with finding ways to impart flavor through additional ingredients, spices, and fresh vegetables. If the show is not on your station, or you can’t otherwise watch, episodes and recipes are available online. It’s difficult to not get hungry much too early in the morning, even after breakfast! I’d highly recommend checking it out as a way to think about eating healthy. Whether you are cooking for yourself or for your family, it exhibits some excellent ideas about swapping ingredients for the better and encouraging all members of the family to participate in meal making and cooking.
DIY Laundry Soap
Here is a Homemade Laundry Soap recipe, courtesy of Ace Hardware:
1 box of super washing soda 3lb 7oz
1 box of Borax 4 lb 12oz
1 box of pure baking soda 4lb
3 bars of Fels-Naptha soap 5.5oz
(optional) 1 container of Oxy-Clean 1.3lb
Grate the Fels-Naptha bars using a cheese grater or food processor into a fine consistency. Pour each of the ingredients into a large container and mix well. (Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. It can be used in high-efficiency washing machines.)
5 Essential Positives
These 5 positives really struck me; I had to share them:
5 Positive Things
1) Don’t let someone else’s opinion of you become your reality.
2) Never let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life.
3) It’s never too late to be what you might have been.
4) If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.
5) Begin each day with a grateful heart.
We saw these at Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen from a trip to Chicago a while ago. (As a side note, the food we had was excellent and recommended. I had one of the bowls- spicy Thai brown rice with tiger shimp, along with the butternut squash soup.)