31 March 2014

Brie Cheese with Chestnut Butter

Portions of this post appeared in late 2008: 

Under normal circumstances, I am suspicious of food items that purport to be created to be "paired with" another food item. Having worked for an advertising agency, I know this is a marketing gimmick. It works, though.

30 March 2014

A Cheese Shop in Wisconsin: A Visit to Madison's Fromagination

Two things happened yesterday: The Badgers beat University of Arizona by one point in a heart-stopping overtime and my husband and I decided a trip to Madison was in order for the summer.

I love Madison. Its politics mirror mine (trust me, I am not talking about the governor of Wisconsin) and it makes me feel 21 again. I feel privileged to have lived there for over a decade.

Madison offers much in the way of culture and fun as well as politics, and a trip there is never complete without a bit of shopping. In recent years, shopping in Madison always includes Fromagination, one of the best cheese shops in the country.

I'm rerunning this post from 2008, as a salute to a city I love, a state I've adopted and an alma mater I'm so proud to claim: 

28 March 2014

Yah Hey! Yoopers are Finally Legit

Road Food: Pasty and apple supper, September 2007

Those of us lucky enough to be born in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have known who we are for years. We are Yoopers. Derived from U.P.ers. U-P.

Basic Warm Broccoli Salad

Fresh broccoli is always on hand in my kitchen. Like chicken, beef and potatoes, it is an empty-canvass food that offers many options: Sautéed, steamed, raw, in a stir fry and many more.

Raw broccoli salads are my favorite, but in winter something heartier seems more appropriate. This winter, I've been loving warm broccoli salads with shallots and sautéed croutons. But that's just the underpinnings of this tasty salad: The final product is determined by what is leftover in the fridge.vThe basic salad remains the same.

Here's how to make it:

27 March 2014

Cold Turkey Salad with Curry, Apricots and Cashews

It's been years since I've cooked a turkey.

I cooked my first turkey in grad school, when the publishing company I worked for gave them to all employees, even contract editors. I had no choice: There wasn't enough room in my freezer to store it, so I prepared it well before Thanksgiving. I lived on leftovers all winter long. Not a bad deal when you're a student.

26 March 2014

From My Grandmother's Kitchen: Blueberry Pudding with Raspberries

Blueberry Pudding with Raspberries

What I remember most about my Grandma Annie's kitchen in Frenchtown are the fruit desserts she made. This was one of her favorites, and mine. She made it with only blueberries at least once a year, but often added raspberries, too, as the summer progressed.

25 March 2014

Remembering Frenchtown

Frenchtown, probably in the 1930s
In the latter half of the 19th century and the first few decades of the 20th, nearly a million French Canadians emigrated to the United States. They went to New England to work in textile mills and to the Upper Great Lakes region to work in the lumber camps.

22 March 2014

Bread of the Month: Parmesan-Olive Bread with Herbs

Parmesan-Olive Bread from Bay Bakers
Every once in a while, it's good to take a break from the kitchen to rekindle the flame, so to speak.

Baked Beans with Ground Beef

Baked Beans with Ground Beef

Today's recipe, a repeat from 2008, is my most-viewed post ever. It's one of the simplest to make, too, only now I prefer to use homemade beans, not canned.

It was introduced to my family by my Aunt Jane, who often made it on cold winter nights. I've made it a few times, especially when I've also got the wherewithal to make cornbread which along with cole slaw. An apple crisp makes the perfect dessert!

The measurements of the ingredients may certainly vary, according to taste. When I make this, I use:
  • 2 medium cans of baked beans with onions
  • 1/2 pound ground beef, browned
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
I combined all the ingredients and baked in a preheated, 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes.

Some people call this dish, "Yakimi," but I could not find any reference to that on the Internet. Here in Wisconsin, you are likely to find it at family picnics and church suppers.

21 March 2014

A Visit to Quebec City, September, 2013

High on Cap Diamant, Chateau Frontenac looms over the old city.

We arrived in Quebec City at suppertime, a bit late, changed euros for Canadian dollars and grabbed a taxi to take us to Hotel 71, in the lower part of the city. A day later, we learned we were staying on the very site of Benedict Arnold's defeat in the Battle of Quebec in 1775. We could see Chateau Frontenac, looming over Cap Diamant, from our window.

20 March 2014

Salmon and Noodles Alfredo with Shallots and Green Peas

Salmon and Noodles Alfredo with Shallots and Green Peas

It's not easy to find fresh, affordable wild-caught salmon in grocery stores here, so I always have some frozen salmon on hand.

The challenge is then: How do I make it taste fresh?

19 March 2014

Fast and Frugal: Broccoli-Quinoa Salad with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

Broccoli-Quinoa Salad with Walnuts and Dried Cranberries

I love raw broccoli salads, with or without broccoli's frequent partner, cauliflower. I make one version with cheddar, black olives and cashews, and another with carrots, raisins and walnuts.

Eating raw vegetables makes me feel virtuous and it makes me feel better. As the weather warms up - if it does this year - I am less inclined to cook anything, unless I'm trying to use up last season's freezer contents.

18 March 2014

Rice Krispie® Bars with Peanut Butter and Oatmeal

My version of the classic rice cereal bar.

About a week ago, I stumbled upon a blog post from someone complaining about the many versions of Rice Krispie® bar recipes floating around.

I have no idea where I came across the post. Or even if I really read it. I couldn't find it in a search and it wasn't in my browser history. It may have been a nasty dream.

Because I don't know anyone who doesn't enjoy Rice Krispie® Treats.

17 March 2014

Fast and Frugal: Roasted Potatoes with Tomatoes, Artichokes and Thyme

It seems appropriate to do something with potatoes for St. Patrick's Day, seeing how it was the potato famine that drove my Irish ancestors out of counties Carlow, Cork and Wexford across the Atlantic to New York, and eventually Wisconsin.

16 March 2014

Favorite Photos of Pears and Apples

My part of the world is still snow covered, but the snow is no longer white and pristine. Instead it is gray and dingy. Officially there's less than a week left of winter, but up here were know better than to expect instant spring. Or even gradual spring. In fact, there's a rain and snow mix on the way.

All I can think of is fruit. The scrag end of winter does this to me. Although I love citrus fruits, nothing satisfies my palate like an apple or pear, eaten with a hunk of cheese.

Pears and apples are so photogenic! Here are my favorite apple and pear photos from nearly eight years of blogging:

A trio of Bosc pears; used to make this recipe.

15 March 2014

What's in My Cheese Compartment Right Now

Bleu d'Auvergne, strong, not for wimps

Although I live in Wisconsin and love traveling to France, I don't have any special knowledge of cheese: in fact, I learn something new all the time.

Tasting cheese is more enjoyable for me than tasting wine, beer, or even coffee. And yes, even chocolate.

When we finally gave our refrigerator a good cleaning yesterday, tossing out the contents of outdated bottles and jars and recycling the glass, there wasn't much left other than cheese.

Here's what's in my cheese box right this minute:

14 March 2014

Wisconsin-Style Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries

Wisconsin-Style Baked Oatmeal with Cranberries

When I tried this recipe in late 2008, I thought it was a bit bland, certainly not anything like Wisconsin, a state the produced Liberace, Georgia O'Keefe, Frank Lloyd Wright, Spencer Tracy and Gene Wilder. among others.

The original recipe is from the 2008 October issue of Midwest Living Magazine. I added cranberries, because Wisconsin is the nation's largest supplier of those tart little gems. Here is my version:

13 March 2014

Fast and Frugal: Roasted Cauliflower with Peppers and Parmesan

Recently my husband and I were forced to buy a new washer and dryer. We went all the way and purchased a set that really does make laundry chores easier, plus an ionic water-purifying system that makes detergent unnecessary.

While Mr. Frenchtown Kitchen was arranging for delivery, I was checking out new stoves and refrigerators on the showroom floor. I've got my eye on a couple models. Unfortunately, the ones I have are not yet a decade old, so we'll probably hang on to them for a while.

But the fridge is due for a major reorg. That will make it feel almost as good as new.

The need to use up a bag of cauliflower, some onions, and a red pepper, plus a nearly-empty carton of grated Parmesan cheese resulted in this side dish. But as soon as inspiration struck, I wondered: Can I make a bag of frozen cauliflower taste good?

12 March 2014

New Uses for Old Jars

An empty Bonne Maman jar makes a great twine dispenser.

It sounds crazy, I know, but there are certain jars and other glass containers that I simply cannot discard into the recycling bin.

I love Bonne Maman jars (and their contents), and always seem to find a use for mine, as in the photo above. So simple: Just punch a hole in the top and bingo! You've got a dispenser for kitchen twine.

Gingery-Orange Broccoli-Tofu Stir Fry

Gingery-Orange Broccoli-Tofu Stir Fry
In the pack of my freezer, lurked a package of broccoli spears. It was only after moving five bags of Brussels sprouts and four bags of green beans that I found it.

I've never had much luck with frozen broccoli, but I read somewhere that it can be palatable if you stir fry it in rather hot oil.

So that's what I did, adding a few extras.

11 March 2014

Chocolate-Cranberry-Chevre Truffles

Chocolate-Cranberry-Chevre Truffles

Yes, I did say I would give up desserts for Lent. Uh-huh. That's what I said.

Then I remembered I was going to make chocolate-goat cheese truffles for Valentine's Day. But I made something else instead. Cheese was involved in both endeavors. So it doesn't count as dessert.

Unless of course you prefer a cheese flight.

I can't let anything go to waste. You know that.

09 March 2014

Meatless Monday: Baked Macaroni and Cheese, Wisconsin Style

Wisconsin-style Macaroni and Cheese, on my grandmother's dishtowel.

We have sprung forward and are less than two weeks away from the spring equinox. The weather is showing slight signs of improving. I have a blocked eustachian tube, which is exquisitely painful in fits and starts, especially, for some reason, when I come in from the cold. There is, apparently, not much to be done other than what I am already doing.

Comfort food is in order.

What could be more comforting than macaroni and cheese?

How to Clean Old Salt Shakers and Pepper Mills

Cleaning old wooden salt and pepper mills is easy.

I don't have a fancy kitchen. Except for appliances, it hasn't been updated in many years. When my husband bought the house, it actually had a orange sink. That was replaced with a stainless steel sink in short order.

08 March 2014

France: What's in My Suitcase on the Way Home; Easy Aioli

We use this sauce in our favorite pasta dishes, usually with sausage.

On our last trip to Paris, the woman who checked out of the suite next to ours left behind dozens of bags and boxes from some of Paris' poshest clothing shops. The housekeeper tittered as we commented on them. I've always fancied a shopping spree in Paris myself, but the truth is, I'd probably rather buy food.

I love shopping in French supermarkets. The variety, even at the smaller stores, is incredible. The prices at FranPrix and LeaderPrice are great, the variety at T.LeClerc is vast and the deli at Monoprix is always reliable.

The night before we leave for home, I am busy wrapping cans and jars and packages in bubble wrap and clean socks. Here is what the customs people generally find in our checked baggage:

07 March 2014

Fast and Frugal: Sweet Onion Soup

Sweet Onion Soup with White Cipollini Onions

I have a bad case of cabin fever.

As I write this, our weather is going from rain to snow, from 38 degrees to below freezing, and a thin, gritty coat of ice is starting to cover roads and cars. I've got a nagging sinus infection and the weather isn't helping it.

Fortunately, I've got a carton of frozen onion soup, made three months ago and stashed in the freezer so that it would be there to comfort me when I needed it.

I need it now.

06 March 2014

Five Regional Brands I Love

Cinnamon from Penzeys

Blogging about food has changed my way of eating and enlightened me in so many ways. While I still abhor food snobs, I have become a fierce champion of fresh, close-to-home products.

Fast & Frugal: Double Almond-Apple Crisp

Double Almond-Apple Crisp
The other day I had a half can of almond paste leftover from making Jésuites. I also had several Granny Smith apples from this tasty recipe that I wanted to eat up.

What I came up with was a simple, Double Almond Apple Crisp, using this recipe as inspiration:

Throwback Thursday: Chicken Salad with Olives and Clementines

Chicken Salad with Olives and Clementines

I have not tired of clementines yet, and I've been eating them for two months now. It is time to DO something with them, work them into a recipe. This could be it, since I have all the ingredients on hand. I might even try it with canned tuna (see below). I know I will use a sweet cipollini onion.

04 March 2014

Pineapple-Cashew Crisp, Coleslaw Pizza and Other Flops

Probably the cardinal rule of food-blogging success is: Don't talk about your failures.

I've never played by the rules.

Restoring Old Wooden Cutting Boards

One of my chef father's cutting boards, which I use as a prop

I relish having time now to be a slow and patient cook, assembling all my tools and ingredients before I begin. When I was a child, I loved watching cooking shows because the hosts always had everything in front of them. I loved the clank of glass on glass as ingredients were emptied into bowls or pans and the soft thump on cutting boards as items were sliced or chopped.

03 March 2014

Roasted Red Cipollini Onion Quarters with Brussels Sprouts

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Red Cipollini Onions

Obviously I was terrified of begin snowed in without access to vegetables this winter. I have a freezer full of them, especially Brussels sprouts.*

New! A Word or Two About Blogging

Since I occasionally talk about brands on this blog, I thought it was a good idea to address the issue of food blog ethics.

This blog is totally sponsor-free. But I think it's important to showcase brands that I use and like, especially when they are based in Wisconsin or Michigan, my home states.

Seven (Edible) Reasons to Dream of Summer Farm Markets

Northern Wisconsin's abbreviated growing season makes it hard to eat fresh and local year-round, although we are faring much better this year, thanks to hoop houses that many area growers have installed on their farms. We have two winter farm markets.

I dream of summer markets, though, especially with the Daylight Savings Time and the spring equinox only days away.

Here's what I'm thinking about as I dream:

Big Juicy Tomatoes
Favorite Way to Eat: Sliced, on a breakfast tartine, with cheese, avocado or cucumber.

02 March 2014

Red Butter Lettuce and Roasted Asparagus Salad

Red Butter Lettuce
I heard cardinals singing their spring song on Friday, proof that it may still be winter, but that spring will someday arrive. I thought of this light salad from 2007:

I once read that the hallmark of a good French cook is the ability to improvise, to take random ingredients and toss together a credible meal.

Kitchen Tools: A Old-Fashioned Egg Timer

My hourglass egg timer
When I moved into a tiny studio apartment in downtown Madison, Wis., I had a great deal of fun setting up my equally minuscule kitchen, which was about five-feet across. For the amount of kitchen gear I had - dishes, a few pots and pans, a coffee pot and a casserole dish - it was surprisingly efficient.

I was a block off busy, funky State Street and could see and hear the saffron-robed Hare Krishnas swaying and chanting on the corner and listen to a reggae band practice on weekends. I cooked lots of vegetarian meals with curry and cumin.

I purchased a few small items at the shops along State Street, which were a mix of bookstores, clothing boutiques, music stores and gift/kitchenware retailers. Among them was this German-made egg timer, which is perfect for making a decent 3-to-5 minute boiled egg.

The harder you like your egg, the longer you boil it. I think the perfect egg is a four-minute egg.

When I was a child, soft-boiled eggs and toast were standard fare for sick days. Mine were usually served with toast points on a small tray by parents who liked to make eating fun.

"Eat light, you'll feel alright," my mother used to say.

I still use my egg timer; it's been with me since college.

Want to boil a slightly harder egg? Martha Stewart shows you how, in her inimitable style. She's not using an hourglass timer, but she seems to agree on length of boiling time.

Here's another link to help you make perfect eggs, time after time.

01 March 2014

French Toast with Walnuts and Manuka Honey

You really don't need maple syrup with honey-drenched French toast.
The sun brings frigid temps today in Wisconsin.  This time of year, gray days are damp but milder than gold days. This post is from 2008:

Key Lime Chicken with Ginger

Welcome to March. This month Daylight Savings begins again in anticipation of spring. It is a shock at first, skies staying light into the early evening. But it is always welcome. As the days grow longer, my palate requires lighter, less savory dishes. This recipe is from 2008: