12.16.14 Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Stew

My sister got married a few months back, and as a result of her many wonderful wedding presents, now has a kitchen stocked with pretty much every kitchen tool, utensil, and dish imaginable. I’m only slightly jealous. Amidst all of the regular things one would expect - plates, baking pans, spatulas, knives, etc. - my sister, being the creative one in the family, also registered for some pretty awesome unique kitchenware as well. Case in point, a large earthenware tagine.

You may be thinking that a tagine is a name for a stew, not a piece of cookware. In fact, both are correct. A traditional cooking vessel of North Africa, a tagine is made of clay and consists of a circular base with low sides, and a cone-shaped portion that sits atop. This is designed to redirect any condensation back into the base, thus conserving liquid. Confusingly, the food cooked inside of a tagine, usually a delicious fragrant stew, is also called a tagine. Are you confused yet? It’s okay; I was too.

My sister has recently been using her tagine fairly often and was describing to me some of the delicious tagine stews she has been cooking. It made me a little jealous. Not having a tagine of my own, I decided to make my own version using the cookware I had readily available. So, while this recipe is maybe not a true tagine stew, I used a lot of the flavors one might associate with one. The result is a delicious, spicy vegetable stew, replete with carrots, chickpeas, golden raisins and warm spices. Served over a bed of fluffy couscous, it’s one fantastic meal. Not to mention, healthy enough to justify binging on a few extra Christmas cookies. At least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself...

Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Stew

serves 3-4

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp ancho chile powder
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • ¾ lb carrots, cleaned and roughly chopped
  • 1 19 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • couscous and fresh cilantro for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook until just beginning to soften, about 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the chile powder, cumin, turmeric, paprika, salt and cinnamon, and continue to cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes more.

3. Add the golden raisins, lemon juice, and tomato paste, stirring until well combined. Cook another minute, then add the carrots and chickpeas. Give everything a good stir to ensure that everything is well mixed. Add the water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes.

4. Remove cover and cook an additional 5 minutes to allow stew to thicken slightly. Season to taste with additional salt if needed. Serve stew atop couscous with a sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top.

12.13.14 12 Days of Christmas Cookies!

We all know that one of the best parts about Christmas is the cookies. At least, it is for me - I take Christmas cookies very seriously. To be honest, I take cookies in general very seriously, so you can imagine my excitement when Christmas rolls around and presents me with the perfect excuse to bake batches and batches of cookies. Normally, this would seem slightly crazy, but during Christmas cookie season, all bets are off.

And I’m not alone. I’m sure plenty of you are going Christmas cookie crazy as well, and rightly so. As Christmas approaches, we want to see what sort of Christmas cookie concoctions you’re cooking up! Up until Christmas, Wisconsin from Scratch will be sharing one delicious Christmas cookie recipe a day via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Tag your cookie posts with #WFS12daysofcookies for a chance to have your favorite cookie recipe showcased. And just in case you needed some inspiration, here are a few Wisconsin from Scratch favorites to get you started. Happy baking!

12.9.14 Steamed Mussels with Fennel, Tomato, and Saffron Broth

I must admit, I made it pretty far in life before I ate my first mussel. The day I did though, I was sold. It was a cold wintry day a few years ago, and at a local restaurant, I decided to order a bowl of steamed mussels. A big, giant bowl, chock full of hot, fragrant broth, and shiny black mussels, with a side of crusty bread. It was heavenly. Based on their utter deliciousness, and my limited knowledge of shellfish cookery at the time, I assumed that mussels were either incredibly expensive, or incredibly difficult to cook, or both. Turns out I was very wrong.

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Not long after my first mussel experience, I decided to try making some of my own. Forrest absolutely cannot stand mussels (what? I know), so I decided to make some with a good friend who is also a big fan of these delicious bivalves. This was also smart, because she, unlike me, had some previous experience with mussel cookery. We made a delicious broth, threw in the mussels, and in just a few minutes, our delicious mussels were ready to eat. I remember thinking, wow, can it really be this easy? Yes, actually it is.

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So now, mussels are a thing I make much more frequently. They’re relatively inexpensive, and so simple to make. The end result is a warming, rustic dish, ideal for cold weather. Really, it’s hard to think of any reason why one shouldn’t make mussels more often. Unless, like me, your husband won’t go near them. But honestly, that’s not a huge problem either - more mussels for me. Seriously though, they are absolutely delicious; swimming in a broth of fennel, white wine, tomatoes, and a pinch of saffron; topped with fresh parsley with some crusty bread to sop up every last bit of broth, it really doesn’t get much better, does it?

Steamed Mussels with Fennel, Tomato, and Saffron Broth

serves 2

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • 1 small fennel bulb, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • pinch of saffron
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1-1 ½ lbs mussels*
  • chopped fresh parsley and crusty bread for serving

1. Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, and saffron, and cook until vegetables soften, about 4-5 minutes.

2. Add the wine, cook 1 minute, then add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

3. Add the mussels, cover pot, and cook, shaking pot occasionally until mussels are cooked, and their shells open, about 3-5 minutes. Discard any mussels whose shells do not open.

4. Place cooked mussels into 2 large bowls, and taste the broth in the pot, adding any additional salt to season if needed. Pour broth other mussels, and sprinkle liberally with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with warm bread.

*Mussels are incredibly easy to prepare, but there are a couple of important things you should know when cooking them:

  • First off, before cooking, throw away any mussels with broken shells; these are likely no good.

  • If the mussels you got have not already been cleaned, you may need to debeard them, which is less exciting than it sounds, but really not difficult at all. Here’s some detailed info on how to do this.

  • Mussels are actually alive when you cook them! In fact, you should only cook mussels that are still living. Here’s how to tell: The mussels’ shells should be tightly closed; if any are open, tap on the mussel shell, and it should clamp shut. If the shell remains open, it’s no longer alive - throw it away.

  • After cooking your mussels, only eat the mussels whose shells open up. If, after cooking, a mussel is still tightly closed, throw it away.

  • In general, a good mussel should be tightly closed before cooking, and nicely opened up after cooking. Any mussels that don’t follow this rule should not be eaten.

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12.5.14 Sweet Sorghum Spice Cookies

The madness of Christmas cookie baking has officially begun in our household. This is always a difficult time for me because there are so many different delicious types of Christmas cookies one can make, and in our case, only 2 people to eat all of these cookies. Okay, so we give away a lot to our friends, bring cookies to work, etc., but still. It’s a lot of cookies. In general, I try to limit myself as much as possible, but on average, we end up with no less than six types of Christmas cookies on any given year. So many cookies.

Over the past several Christmases, I’ve made meringues, sablés, crackles, Russian tea cookies, peanut butter blossoms, shortbread, sugar cookies, mini tarts, lemon bars - you name it, at some time or another, I’ve probably made it. But regardless of what sort of cookies I decide to try each year, the ones I always end up making every year without fail are spice cookies. The smell of baking these little guys alone is worth making them, but once you taste them, well, to me, it just tastes like Christmas.

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These spice cookies in particular are especially tasty; full of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice, with a lovely dark flavor and pleasant chewiness from the addition of sorghum syrup. Sorghum syrup, if you’re unfamiliar, is a product made by boiling down sap from the stalks of the sorghum plant, a cereal crop native to Africa. It’s similar to molasses, but has a different complex, slightly malty, smokey flavor. And unlike molasses, which is made from sugar cane, sorghum syrup can be made from plants growing a little closer to home. In fact, there are mills producing sorghum syrup right here in Wisconsin. What’s not to love about these cookies?

Sweet Sorghum Spice Cookies

makes 2 dozen

I love the malty flavor that sorghum syrup adds to these cookies. I was able to find local Wisconsin-made sorghum syrup at the grocery store in the baking aisle, but if you’re having trouble tracking some downs, you can substitute molasses instead.

  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sorghum syrup (I used Rolling Meadows Sorghum Syrup)
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • coarse sugar for rolling (such as turbinado sugar)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease two baking sheets.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and cloves in a small bowl.

3. In a larger bowl, mix the butter, sorghum syrup, and both sugars together until smooth. Mix in the egg and vanilla and stir until combined.

4. Stir in the flour mixture and mix until a cohesive dough is formed.

5. Form cookie dough into 1” balls, roll balls in coarse sugar until fully coated, and place onto greased cookie sheets. You should end up with about 2 dozen cookies.

6. Bake cookies at 375 for 8-10 minutes, or the edges of the cookies are set and tops are crackly. Cool in pans for about 10 min, then remove them and enjoy!

12.2.14 Sweet Potato Bourbon Pancakes

Well, we’ve officially made it through Thanksgiving, which means you’re probably already headlong into holiday season madness. I know we are. The tree is up, the house is decorated, the lights are hung, and throughout it all, I’ve had next to no time to cook. Until today. Somehow, amidst this whirlwind of craziness, I was able to whip up a big batch of these sweet potato bourbon pancakes. Not only were they incredibly delicious, they were the perfect antidote to a cold wintery morning.

Let’s face it, one of the best things on your Thanksgiving table last week was the sweet potatoes - am I right? Whether baked, bruleed, or topped with marshmallows, sweet potatoes make for one delicious side. But why stop there? They make a delicious breakfast too, especially in pancake form. And who doesn’t love pancakes? Especially when they’re chock full of warm winter spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, orange zest, and a splash of bourbon. Add a sprinkle of pecans, a warm drizzle of maple syrup, and a hot cup of tea to wash it all down, and you’re in pancake heaven.

And the real beauty is that if (god forbid) you still have some leftover Thanksgiving sweet potatoes taking up space in your fridge, then this is a great way to make good use of them. I mean, we couldn’t in good conscience let them go to waste, now could we? And while you’re at it, that last little bit of cranberry sauce would make a fine pancake topping...

Sweet Potato Bourbon Pancakes

makes 8-10 pancakes

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp bourbon (or sub vanilla extract)
  • ½ tsp grated orange zest
  • ¾ cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
  • pecans and maple syrup for serving

1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. Mix well.

2. In a smaller bowl,  or large measuring cup, whisk together the milk, eggs, melted butter,  bourbon, and orange zest. Add to the flour mixture, and stir together until a batter is formed. Stir in the mashed sweet potato.

3. Heat a griddle over medium high heat. Spoon pancake batter onto griddle in circular shapes (should be able to cook two pancakes at a time) and cook until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side.

4. Serve pancakes immediately topped with pecans and a healthy drizzle of maple syrup.

11.24.14 Thanksgiving Recipes Slideshow

Thanksgiving is nearly upon us, and that means it’s crunch time for planning Thanksgiving dinner. By now, you’ve probably got the basics covered. Turkey (obviously), stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, cranberries - those are all givens. But perhaps you still need a few sides or desserts to round things out. Well, look no further; we’ve rounded up our favorite Thanksgiving recipes that we’re sure will elevate your turkey day to the next level. Happy Thanksgiving!

11.21.14 Curried Green Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

Well, if we thought it was soup weather before, then it’s definitely soup weather now. There’s nothing like a warm bowl of soup on a chilly wintery evening. And if you’re like me and planning to go all out with two friendsgivings AND one regular Thanksgiving in the next week, then that’s just another good reason to cook up a nice pot of soup. You know, because once Thanksgiving is here, I’ll be eating turkey, stuffing and gravy like it’s going out of style. So for now, I figure a nice bowl of vegetable-laden soup will be good.

I happened to have some nice garnet sweet potatoes from my last CSA box of the season, and along with some carrots, garlic, and onions, I figured I had a pretty good soup base going. This also has the added benefit of cleaning out my fridge to make room for all of the Thanksgiving leftovers that will soon be residing there. After a quick perusal of the cupboards, I emerged with green lentils, sweet curry powder, and a pretty good idea of how to make all of these ingredients into one tasty, warming bowl of soup.

And shortly thereafter, I was feeling warm and cozy, slurping away at a big bowl of curried lentil soup topped with a creamy dollop of yogurt and some chopped scallions. Easy to make, filling and hearty, without being overly heavy, it was just what I needed. Rounded out simply with a hunk of good, crusty, seeded bread, it made for a perfect supper.

Curried Green Lentil and Sweet Potato Soup

serves 4

Not all curry powders are created equal. Some are hotter than others, so give yours a taste before you add it to your soup. If it’s on the spicier side, you may want to add less than the recommended 1 Tbsp, or vice versa if you have a mild powder and prefer a spicier soup.

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil or ghee
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into approximately 1” pieces
  • 1 cup green lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • plain yogurt and chopped scallions for serving

1. Heat oil or ghee in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, curry powder, salt, and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until onions soften, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the sweet potato and lentils and stir to combine. Cook, for 1 minute, then add the broth, lemon juice, and bay leaf.

3. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer partially covered until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender, about 30-40 minutes.

4. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve nice and hot, topped with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped scallions

11.18.14 Maple Soy Glazed Salmon with Sauteed Spinach

Not long ago, I was in a particularly fall-like mood. My CSA had just arrived, chock full of fall veggies, and there was a crisp fall chill in the air. It was on that gloriously autumnal evening that I first whipped up this delicious salmon dish. Originally, it was a way to use up the copious amounts of potatoes and late season spinach in our latest CSA haul, but after trying it, it was so tasty, I instantly knew I had to make it again.

And then, a mere 3 weeks later, fall had fled and left us in what appears to be full-on winter. Not having had another chance to make that salmon in the final weeks of fall left me slightly disappointed. But, I still had potatoes and spinach to use up, and I figured I wouldn’t let a little wintry weather get in the way of my fall cooking. So, once again, I set to work making it; reducing maple syrup, soy and rice vinegar into a lovely glaze, brushing it atop salmon, and broiling to a bubbling, glossy shine; sauteeing spinach with tart-sweet apples, earthy shallots, and some crisp toasted walnuts; boiling and mashing beautiful golden butterball potatoes. Before I knew it, I was once again tucking into this most fall-like of meals. But as I devoured it, watching snow falling outside, I realized that although it started as a fall inspired dish, it was hearty and cozy enough for this wintery weather as well. In fact it’s the perfect dish to transition between fall and winter; fall-like enough to keep you from feeling too wintery, yet warm and satisfying enough to stave off cold, snowy weather.

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Maple Soy Glazed Salmon with Sauteed Spinach

serves 2

The salmon and spinach are delicious when served atop mashed potatoes, but really any root vegetable mash would be tasty - celeriac, rutabaga, or turnips would make for one delicious dish as well. 

  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 10 oz salmon, cut into two equal portions
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 8 oz fresh spinach, tough stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • ½ Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp toasted walnuts
  • mashed potatoes for serving

1. Place oven rack at its highest position and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, and rice wine vinegar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, then continue to cook over medium heat until mixture begins to reduce and thicken slightly, about 5 minutes.

3. Place salmon on a foil-lined baking sheet and pour all of the soy glaze over top, using a basting brush to help coat the salmon. Place pan in preheated oven, and bake for about 8 minutes.

4. After 8 minutes, remove salmon from oven, turn broiler on high, and use a basting brush to re-coat the salmon with and glaze that has pooled on the pan. Place salmon under broiler and cook until glaze is bubbling and glossy, about 2 minutes. Remove from oven and keep salmon warm while you finish the spinach.

5. Start the spinach while the salmon bakes: Heat 1 Tbsp butter in a large pan over medium heat, and once melted, add the apple, shallot, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until shallot and apples are soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the spinach and cider vinegar and stir, cooking until spinach is just wilted. Remove from heat and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

6. Serve salmon atop mashed potatoes, and top each piece with half of the spinach mixture. Enjoy immediately.