Super-Chunky Almond Granola with Dried Fruit

One of my favorite pieces of reading material for cooking is a magazine called Cook’s Illustrated. This is an excellent magazine for anyone learning how to cook and it even has great flavorful recipes made to perfection from America’s Test Kitchen, suitable for anyone who loves to cook and loves great food. America’s Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Their mission is simple, to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, they test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until they arrive at the combination of ingredients, techniques, temperatures, cooking times, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe. Just about anything I have cooked from this magazine has been easily “the best thing I ever ate” material. Not only does this magazine give outstanding recipes, but it also talks about tips for cooking, sometimes history of where a food came from, equipment recommendations, product ratings, and so much more. This is easily my favorite must-have cooking magazine! Thank you Uncle Randy for this wonderful Christmas gift a couple of years ago, it has transformed our kitchen and cooking skills and we can not thank you enough.

One, of my favorite breakfast meals besides eggs is granola. I love granola with a little milk or even sprinkled over some All Natural Brown Cow Yogurt. If you haven’t had Brown Cow yogurt, you are seriously missing out! You can pick some up at your local Whole Foods, it will change your mind about yogurt forever, trust me!

Now I usually get pretty cranky if I run out of granola, because the stuff is expensive from those fill-it-yourself containers at the grocery store. I mean $10 for a little 12 oz bag, seriously, are they trying to rob me blind! I just want some delicious granola! So you can understand my excitement when I saw a granola recipe in my new Cook’s Illustrated magazine issue. It’s like this magazine can read my mind.

So if you have had it with the overpriced (and underwhelming) store-bought stuff, give this recipe a try. Warning, you are in for a treat! ūüôā

Super-Chunky Almond Granola with Dried Fruit

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Ingredients:

1/3 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

4 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (DON’T USE QUICK OATS!)

2 cups raw almonds, chopped coarsely ( Use knife and not a food processor, a food processor does a lousy job at chopping whole nuts evenly)

2 cups of raisins or other dried fruit (I used Craisins, because that is what I had on hand)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper (I use both for easy clean up)

ImageWhisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in oil.

ImageChop up nuts with a knife and not a food processor, for a more even pieces.

ImageFold in nuts.

ImageFold in oats until thoroughly coated.

ImageTransfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet pan, into thin even layer (about 3/8 inch thick). Using a stiff metal spatula, compress oat mixture until very compact.

ImageBake until lightly browned, 40 to 45 minutes (rotating pan once halfway through baking). Remove granola from oven and place on cooling rack for about an hour.

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Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. Stir in dried fruit.

Store in air tight container for up to two weeks.

Enjoy!

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Kopps Frozen Custard

So I had many reasons for starting this blog. The first, was to use this as a virtual cookbook for all the recipes that Mr. Pea and I create and make. The second, was to use this as a way to build my food photography portfolio, as I am an aspiring food photographer. In this blog, I also want to talk about different restaurants that we have been to throughout Milwaukee as well as through our travels that are worth going to. Most of our friends ask us about different restaurants we have been to, and trust us foodies to give thoughtful reviews of places. Well this next place I am going to talk about, is probably a place that anyone that lives in Milwaukee has probably been to. This local Milwaukee landmark I am talking about is Kopp’s Frozen Custard.

This fabulous frozen custard restaurant has got to be my favorite guilty pleasure. It is one of the only fast food places that I will go to. Mr. Pea and I don’t visit many fast food places in general, our philosophy is that we can usually cook better food at home so why bother with the fast food crap. But Kopp’s frozen Custard is far from fast food crap, in fact, you will think you have dies and gone to fast food heaven!

Kopp’s makes the burgers that beat all burgers, period. Recently, there was a Man vs. Food episode that created a debate for which restaurant had the best burger. The only problem, Kopp’s wasn’t even a contender, probably because anybody would lose going up against this burger (or at least that is what I would like to think!). This burger is so freaking good, it is huge, buttery and made fresh to order just the way you like it. I like mine with just cheese and ketchup, but Mr.Pea likes his with raw onions and ketchup and mustard, but that is the beauty of it you can have it any way you would like.

If you are indulging with a burger you are already throwing your healthy diet out the window, so I say go all out. I like to have my burger with their tasty shoestring fries (that are light on the salt, which I like) and wash it down with a Sprecher Root Beer. Now try not to get too full, kind of impossible-but try! Why? because this is a frozen custard place of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Kopp’s without the custard!

This custard is to die for, it is so delicious it just melts in your mouth. They make up many delicious flavors, two different kinds everyday. Don’t worry even if their flavor of the day isn’t your cup of tea, their chocolate and vanilla are so good all by themselves. My favorite flavor is their Pecan Praline, which is a Carmel flavored custard with candied pecans or pralines. Mr. Pea’s favorite is their butter pecan, which I like also like, but I am not very picky when it comes to Kopp’s frozen custard.So if you haven’t been to Kopp’s yet, I suggest you go now, you can thank me later!

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At this Glendale location, there are white and one black cow sculptures that are pretty cool ūüôā

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Must get a Specher Root Beer to wash down this delicious burger (make it a float if you think you can’t save room for dessert!)

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Look at that burger, now doesn’t that make your tummy rumble.

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Today’s flavor was one of my favorites, Orange dream, it is like a creamcicle on crack!

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Mr. Pea had Chocolate Banana Walnut Chunk, which was pretty good and those are his favorite flavors so needless to say he enjoyed it!

I <3 Kopp’s Frozen Custard!

Matzo Ball Soup

Ever since I mentioned Ella’s Deli on a previous post, I have been craving matzo ball soup! It just so happens that Mr. Pea stumbled upon a fantastic recipe that perfected the recipe for matzo ball soup this past week. Perfect! We are two peas in a pod that’s for sure!

Well I couldn’t give you the recipe for matzo ball soup without talking about some of my favorite kosher style deli’s that I have been to that are not only great but are worth the trip! The first place I already talked about, and will talk about again because it is one of my favorite places, is Ella’s Deli. This kosher style deli is located in Madison, Wisconsin and is a stop we have to make every year on the drive out to Memorial Day camping. This place has been around since 1976, and there is a reason why it is still around today, it is SOO good! They have good matzo ball soup but they also have sweet and sour cabbage soup and chili that are pretty amazing as well. If there is one thing you go to a deli for it is corned beef, and I think you all know my feelings on corned beef, since I declared it my favorite meal on St. Patty’s Day. But this corned beef sandwich piled high on rye bread is one of my favorite things to eat hands down. If you leave room for dessert, which I never can do, they have a twelve page dessert menu to fulfill your sweet tooth! It is not just the food that makes Ella’s one of my favorite places, it is also the atmosphere of all the animated displays, nostalgic trinkets and toys from years past, and the tabletop games to keep you entertained while you wait for food. Also, if you go there during the spring, summer and fall months, no trip to Ella’s is complete without a ride on the 1927 Parker Carousel! So much fun!

The next place I want to talk about is one of our local favorites Benji’s Deli. Formerly, known as Benjamin’s (which is neat, because Mr. Pea’s name is Benjamin), this kosher style deli is a family favorite, and most of our family dinners take place here. I just have to say, I have NEVER had a bad meal at Benji’s and I have been going there for years! It has been around for 35 years or so, so they must be doing something right. Oh yeah everything! Best known for their corned beef served on Miler Rye, a local bakery that makes the best rye bread I have ever had. If in the corned beef mood, I usually steer towards their take on a Ruben sandwich, the Gonzo sandwich. What is a Gonzo? It is for those people who don’t favor sauerkraut. That’s right I am just going to say it, I HATE sauerkraut! Sorry for my bluntness, getting back the sandwich, the Gonzo is a corned beef sanwich, with Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, thousand island dressing and Cole slaw, served on Miller’s rye bread. It is the best, and it has all of the good stuff from a Reuben and none of that awful kraut!

I hate to even mention this next place, because I just found out (only a few minutes ago) that a few months ago when I last went to this deli, was the last time I will EVER get to go, because it is CLOSED! To add more sting to the open wound we were (ironically enough) there on their last day of service! My heart just dropped when I read this, we were even planning a trip to go back for Mother’s Day, it is a sad day when a good place like this becomes another victim of the recession. Well in effort to let this next place live on after it has closed, I must tell you all about it. It is called George’s What’s Cooking Family Restaurant and was located in Waukegan, Illinois. I loved this place for their bread baskets alone. No matter what time of the day you go, you get a fresh bread basket stocked full of all kinds of fresh bread, crackers and bread sticks. Also, if I haven’t mentioned it before, I am a huge pickle fan! But I don’t like just any pickle, they have to be whole kosher style dill pickles, other pickles simply just do not compare! This place had some good pickles. They also are known for their corned beef, soups (sweet and sour cabbage soup, matzo and borscht), and their American diner food was excellent as well. Anything I had there, had been well amazing! Well I will always remember George’s and it surely will be missed.We had some great memories there that I will look back on, including a brunch for Mother’s Day with Mr. Pea’s late grandmother, Grandma B.

So if that sad story didn’t didn’t make you hungry for some Matzo Ball soup, I don’t know what will.

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MATZO BALL SOUP
serves about 6 people (makes 14 balls)

Ingredients for the soup:
2 chicken thighs (skin on!)
8 cups chicken stock (low-sodium, organic if possible)
2 cups small diced carrots
1 cup small diced celery
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley stems

Ingredients for the balls:
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 tablespoons rendered chicken fat (melted and cooled slightly)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup matzo meal
4 egg whites

Directions:

Place the chicken thighs in a cold pan, skin-side down, over medium heat. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes until the fat has rendered and browned. Remove from the pan, leaving the fat behind. Combine the stock and browned thighs in a soup pot over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Cook gently for 30 minutes. Remove the thighs. Add the carrots, celery and parsley stems. Cook for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together the egg yolks, chicken stock, chicken fat (from the pan with the thighs), parsley and salt. Stir in the matzo meal. In another bowl, whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. Add half of the whites into the matzo mixture and stir (the mixture will be quite stiff). Then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

ImageBring a pot of water to a boil. Use a 1/4-cup scoop to form the balls and drop gently into the water

ImageAdjust the heat so the water is barely simmering and cook for 15 minutes, when they float to the top that is good it means they will be light and fluffy.

ImageRemove the balls with a slotted spoon and place into the soup.

ImageHeat gently for 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

Egg Salad Sandwich

So I think I have finally come out of my sugar coma that took place last Sunday on Easter. This always happens to me, I get so excited  for all the candy and sweet treats around the holidays, that I over indulge and end up paying for it later! Maybe it is because I hardly have any candy or sweet treats when it is not a holiday. Oh well, maybe I will learn my lesson, one day.

Still have hard boiled eggs left over from Easter?¬† I know I do, maybe its because we dyed 3 dozen!¬† It was a lot of fun, but I have been eating hard boiled eggs all week and I feel like I haven’t even made a dent in my stash of 1 1/2 dozen eggs.¬† So I decided to get rid of them once and for all, with a good ole egg salad sandwich recipe. Everyone makes theirs a little different, but my recipe is pretty basic¬† with good flavor.

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Egg Salad Sandwich

Ingredients:

6 hard boiled eggs

1/4 cup of mayonnaise

1-2 teaspoons  Stone Ground mustard

1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons finely chopped green onions or parsley

Paprika to taste (sprinkle on top of egg mixture after you assemble sandwich)

1 teaspoon of Frontera chipolte sauce (optional, Mr. Pea likes things spicy and  adds it to his egg salad sandwich)

Directions:

Boil 6 eggs, remove shells. Chop up using a potato masher or I just use a fork.

In a medium bowl, stir the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and green onions OR parsley (and chipolte sauce, if you like yours spicy like Mr. Pea). Then take the eggs and fold them into the mayonnaise mixture. Store in airtight container until ready to use.¬† I like my egg salad cold¬† when using it for a sandwich¬† but if you like it room temperature that is fine too.¬† To assemble the sandwich, I¬† toast¬† the bread in a¬† toaster oven¬† and place Swiss cheese on one side ( you can use any cheese, but swiss is my favorite). When cheese is melted and the bread is toasted remove from toaster oven and¬† place the egg salad on the side without the cheese. Then sprinkle paprika over the egg salad mixture and top¬† with a tomato and slice in half. And that’s it,¬† it is delicious and all your hard boiled eggs are gone!

Enjoy!

 

 

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes

My favorite thing about the holidays, besides¬† spending time with family and friends is cooking.¬† If you can’t tell by now Mr. Pea and I love to cook! But, my favorite part of cooking for the holidays, is making dessert.¬† I think it is because, I am the baker of the household.¬† I can’t remember a time that Mr. Pea¬† even has made a dessert, I don’t think he has the patience for desserts though. That is fine by me,¬† that gives me the opportunity to try out new recipes and be creative in the kitchen.¬† Not that my creative juices don’t flow when I am cooking, but baking has a more creative aesthetic to it that I really enjoy.

Take for example these lemon meringue pie cupcakes I made this past weekend for Easter.  They actually looked like little lemon meringue pies in the form of a cupcake. They were so cute! Plus, I got to use my pastry torch, and we all know how excited I get when I get to bust out my beloved pastry torch!  There was only one problem, I lost the recipe.

Yep, somewhere between here and the grocery store I lost the recipe I was going to use. And for some reason I couldn’t remember for the life of me where I got it, I forgot to bookmark it, I didn’t pin it on Pinterest, and it¬† had literally disappeared! Luckily I had already bought all the ingredients, so I decided to just wing it! To my surprise they turned out great and were a huge hit with all our family and friends. Check them out, if you like lemon meringue pie these are on a whole other level!

Lemon Meringue Pie Cupcakes

Ingredients:

Lemon cake mix (I used good old Betty Crocker, their lemon cake mix is the best!)
lemon instant pudding mix (4 serving size)
4 eggs
1 cup water
1/3 cup veggetable oil

* Add zest and juice of two lemons (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients, mix for 2 minutes on medium. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.

 Lemon Curd Filling:

(May substitute with lemon Instant Pudding with zest of 1 lemon)

Ingredients:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 lemons, zested and juiced
  • 1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

Directions:

Add enough water to a medium saucepan to come about 1-inch up the side. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a medium size metal bowl and whisk until smooth, about 1 minute. Measure citrus juice and if needed, add enough cold water to reach 1/3 cup. Add juice and zest to egg mixture and whisk smooth. Once water reaches a simmer, reduce heat to low and place bowl on top of saucepan. (Bowl should be large enough to fit on top of saucepan without touching the water.) Whisk until thickened, approximately 8 minutes, or until mixture is light yellow and coats the back of a spoon. Remove promptly from heat and stir in butter a piece at a time, allowing each addition to melt before adding the next. When done, fill cupcakes with curd and place cupcake in the refrigerator to chill.

Seven-Minute Frosting:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions:

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
  3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately, Place in piping bag and pipe frosting on top of cupcakes, then take pastry torch and lightly passover the frosting giving it a caramelized look and taste.

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Enjoy!

Asparagus and Leek Quiche

So this year for Easter we had made plans to fit¬† in time¬† with all of our family and friends. So we had brunch with Mr. Pea’s mom Easter Sunday. I think I am still recovering from the sugar overload that Easter brought this¬† year.¬† We did have some savory things on the table as well and¬† I thought I would share one of my favorite new recipes that I made for brunch, an asparagus and leek quiche.¬† This is only¬† my second time ever making a quiche, and I think it turned out well.¬† I think it is hard to beat the first quiche¬† I ever made, quiche lorraine, which is basically just a vehicle for bacon. Let’s just say this quiche was a little healthier than¬† that, if you can call quiche healthy, hey at least it had veggies in it!

Anyways, I got the recipe from this book called Eggs by Jodi Liano, I got from William Sonoma¬† one morning a long time ago¬† when Mr. Pea and I used to go to their Saturday morning cooking demonstrations when we first were learning how to cook.¬† I have only used a couple of recipes from this book, but the quiche recipes are definitely my favorite. I think that’s because I am a purist when it comes to eggs, whether fried , poached, scrambled or¬† hard boiled, I like it with just¬† salt and pepper and maybe a little paprika. Quiche is in a category of its own though,¬† I don’t consider it eggs it is more of a savory pie, and I think that’s why I like this recipe.

Asparagus and Leek Quiche

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Ingredients:

1 prebaked deep tart or pie shell

1/2 lb. asparagus (tough ends removes and spears cut diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces)

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced)

kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 eggs

3/4 cup whole milk

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Makes 6-8 servings

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare the tart or pie shell and pre-bake as directed.

Bring a saucepan of generously salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook, uncovered, until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain the asparagus, then immediately plunge it intoa bowl of ice water. When cool, drain again and pat the asparagus dry.

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Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Stir in the leek with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and tender, 4-6 minutes.

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In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and cream, Parmesan cheese, cayenne, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir in the asparagus and leek. Pour the mixture into the crust. bake the quiche until golden on top and just barely jiggling in the center, 45-50 minutes.

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Cool the quiche on  rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!