10.2.15 Chai-Spiced Roasted Apples

It all started with a big bowl of apples on our kitchen counter and a craving for apple pie. Let’s start with the apples - it’s hard to think of another fruit or vegetable (besides perhaps heirloom tomatoes) with so many delicious and exciting varieties to try. Every farmer’s market, I find myself eyeing up some tasty Gingergolds or Cox’s Orange Pippins, buying a few apples, and before I know it, I’ve got a whole bagful.

And although I’ve been making it a point to eat what feels like several apples a day, the amount of apples in the kitchen never seems to decrease. Which is when you start thinking about other ways to use them up. Things like apple pie.

But say you’re feeling a little lazy. It happens to all of us. Yes, pie would be wonderful, but I’ll admit that from time to time, the idea of rolling out pie crust seems a little less than wonderful. That was my mindset when I was struck with this most wonderful idea -  roasted apples.

We all know that roasting is an awesome and super easy way to cook pretty much any fruit or vegetable you can think of, and these apples are no exception. But what really makes them extra delicious, is their wonderful spiciness. Before roasting, they’re tossed with the spices one typically finds in a cup of Chai tea - allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, and of course, a healthy dose of cardamom.

Essentially, you make the filling of the pie, but with no crust to speak of. Pros: No crust rolling, minimal work, and that wonderful, apple pie aroma filling your house. Cons: Well, it’s technically not pie, but in my opinion, that’s perfectly okay when eating these perfectly spiced beauties atop a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Or for breakfast atop a warming bowl of steel cut oatmeal. In a way it sort of feels like you’re eating pie for breakfast, which is always a win in my book.

Chai-Spiced Roasted Apples

makes 4 generous servings (or 6 small ones)

Feel free to use pre-ground spices for this recipe (it will make your life a lot easier). But if you’re like me and only have whole spices on hand, grinding your own will give your apples an extra boost of flavor.

  • 6 large baking apples (such as Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady), peeled and sliced
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground cloves
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients except the butter and mix until well combined.

3. Spread apples on prepared baking sheet in an even layer and sprinkle the butter pieces evenly over the top. Bake at 400 degrees until apples are soft, about 20-25 minutes. Serve warm atop ice cream, oatmeal, yogurt and granola, etc.

9.29.15 Chile Roasted Squash and Sweet Pepper Quesadillas

September can be a tricky month for cooking. On the one hand, it still feels like summer. And not just any summer, but the most perfectly warm, comfortable, low humidity summer. On the other hand, I’m running into things like root vegetables and apples at the markets and just itching to get into some heartier, fall-centric cooking. Things involving slow roasting and braising. But this weather though. Fall cooking just feels..wrong.

Of course, it doesn’t matter if the weather still feels like July, come September, you’re inevitably going to find yourself with a bounty of fall produce; things like delicata squash. Incidentally, I wait all season for this wonderfully sweet, delicious, winter squash to arrive, and as soon as they start appearing in my CSA boxes, I’m going to be cooking them, summer weather be damned.

This latest squash creation though, while it does involve some roasting, still feels like the sort of thing that could be eaten outside on a warm day, with a nice cold beverage. It seems like a fitting bridge between summer and fall. And most importantly, helps to satiate my ever present need for more cheese - I think we can all agree that the quesadilla is one of most perfect vehicles for cheese.

Also, can we just focus for a minute of how wonderful delicata squash is? First off, its wonderfully thin skin, which requires absolutely no peeling is perfect for when you want squash, but are feeling a bit lazy. Just scoop out the seeds, slice thinly, and get cooking. Also, its lovely, mellow sweetness is perfection, a perfect compliment to the smoky paprika and chile it spends some quality time roasting with. Some additional sweetness from sweet peppers and red onion rounds everything out, and once layered between crispy tortillas and warm melty cheese, you’re looking at some serious comfort food.

Before I get to the recipe though, I’d just like to point out that besides signifying the onset of fall, this time of year also means it’s time to get voting in the Best of Madison readers poll. With such wonderful readers (and voters) we’ve managed to win a Best of Madison bronze medal the last two years in a row, and making it a threepeat would be pretty amazing! Vote here for Wisconsin from Scratch in Best Local Food Blog (and don’t worry, you don’t need to fill out the whole form). In fact, if you’re so inclined, you can consider voting once a day every day until October 17th!

Chile Roasted Squash and Sweet Pepper Quesadillas

makes 4

I served these with a quick pico de gallo I whipped up from some late season cherry tomatoes, and hot chiles from the farmer’s market, as well as a big dollop of greek yogurt. Perfection.

  • 1 small delicata squash
  • 1 large red sweet pepper, seeded and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp chipotle chile powder
  • ½ tsp ancho chile powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp cayenne chile powder
  • 1 c grated jack cheese (or more if you’re a cheese freak like me)
  • 8 6-inch flour tortillas

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut the delicata squash in half, scoop out seeds, and slice into ¼ inch thick slices.

3. Combine the squash, peppers, and onions in a large bowl. Add the oil, cumin, paprika, chipotle, ancho, salt, and cayenne, and mix until vegetables are evenly coated with the oil and spices.

4. Spread vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees until squash is crispy and tender, about 25-30 minutes.

5. To assemble quesadillas, place 4 tortillas down and top each with 2 Tbsp of grated cheese. Divide roasted vegetables evenly between the tortillas and top with the remaining cheese, followed by the remaining 4 tortillas.

6. Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once hot, place the quesadillas on the skillet, cooking until bottom tortilla is golden brown. Carefully flip, and continue cooking until the other side is golden brown.

7. Cut quesadillas into quarters and serve! Salsa, sour, cream, avocado, lime, and/or hot sauce highly recommended as an accompaniment.

9.25.15 Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

Yikes - it’s nearly October already. How did that happen? I must admit, I’ve been trying to fit in so much in these last few months before baby boy Woolworth makes his appearance, I’ve hardly had time to think. Really, though, I can think of worse problems. Between a lovely, long Labor Day weekend (thankfully labor free), a fantastic ladies weekend in Charleston SC, and throwing Forrest one spectacularly over-the-top 30th birthday bash (yes, a backyard pig roast was involved), cooking has fallen a bit by the wayside. Not to worry though. With all of these activities behind us, and many more relaxing weekends ahead, I’m looking forward to spending much more quality time with my kitchen.

And thank goodness too, because it would be a near tragedy not to share these with brownies with you. Who doesn’t love a good brownie? Whether eaten warm with a cold glass of milk on the side, or topped with a generous scoop of ice cream, a good brownie is always delicious. Especially, as I recently found out, if you add Nutella.

Of course, if you’re going to add Nutella, you may as well really embrace the whole hazelnut thing and add some toasted hazelnuts into the batter as well. I mean, it’d be silly not to.

Chocolate Hazelnut Brownies

makes about 9 brownies

  • ¾ c flour
  • 2 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • ⅔ cup Nutella
  • 4 Tbsp butter, cut into pieces
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓  cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts (Note: to toast hazelnuts, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 until golden brown and fragrant, about 12 minutes).

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 9 baking pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

3. In a larger, microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate, Nutella and butter. Heat in the microwave for 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until the chocolate, Nutella, and butter are completely melted and smooth. Add the sugars, whisking until fully incorporated, then add the eggs and vanilla.

4. Fold in the flour mixture until just combined, followed by the hazelnuts.

5. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan and bake until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Let the brownies cool, then cut them into squares and serve.

9.4.15 Tomato, Basil, and Brie Pasta

Every so often, one of my good friends and I get together for girl’s night, which generally involves cooking a delicious dinner, watching a lot of trashy television, and eating ice cream. The things we cook vary; we’ve made everything from risotto to grilled pizza to mapo tofu. And then last week, we made this.

My friend had mentioned that she had this genius pasta recipe (I use the word recipe loosely here because it’s so incredibly easy, you almost don’t need one), and we proceeded to make and devour it. It was fantastic; definitely a highlight of girls cooking night, and one that I immediately knew needed to be shared on the blog.

The reason this recipe works so well is that it takes advantage of several important things. First and foremost, that when tomatoes and basil are in season, pretty much any recipe you put them in is going to taste absolutely amazing. And secondly, if you toss hot pasta with chunks of creamy brie cheese, it will melt wonderfully and coat everything in a silky, creamy sauce that basically makes itself. This recipe is a lazy person’s dream. Not that I’m calling myself lazy.

Tomato, Basil, and Brie Pasta

serves 4

  • ¾ lb cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (or quarters if they’re on the larger side)
  • 1 cup basil leaves (loose packed), roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 8 oz brie cheese
  • ½ lb pasta (I used casarecce, but linguini or fettuccine would also work great here)
  • parmesan cheese for serving

1. Combine the tomatoes, basil, olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper in a bowl.

2. Cut the rind off of the brie and tear it into small pieces. Add these to the bowl with the tomato mixture. Stir to combine well, and let marinate while you cook your pasta.

3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta until just tender. Drain into a large bowl and immediately add the tomato mixture to the hot pasta. Stir everything together and keep mixing until cheese has completely melted and coated pasta, about 1-2 minutes.

4. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed, then serve immediately, topped with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan. 

9.1.15 Fresh Melon Bruschetta

I must apologize for the nearly two week hiatus here. I know, it’s a bit inexcusable, especially given how many delicious things I’ve been cooking and eating lately, and neglecting to share with you. I hope we can still be friends. The fact is, there’s been a lot of fun and exciting things going on recently and I’ve been a little too busy celebrating.

Some recent celebratory events include Forrest and my 6 year anniversary, the completion of our seemingly never-ending (but admittedly well worth it) bathroom remodel, our mini babymoon vacation to Minneapolis, including a trip to the Minnesota State Fair (arguably the happiest place on earth), my 29th birthday, and the anticipation of our first ever Whisk happy hour event this Thursday. Yes, that’s a lot of things to celebrate. You can see why I’ve been so preoccupied.

With all this celebrating, it seems that a toast would be in order. Of course, since a toast usually involves champagne, something generally not recommended for someone in my current, pregnant state, we’re going to go with actual toast here. The bread kind. Also, my primary pregnancy craving for the past several weeks. So this is pretty perfect actually.

There’s a lot of things you can do with toast. If you start with a good piece of bread (Madison Sourdough Co’s Pepitas Polenta bread has been my go-to), sometimes all you need is a slather of melty butter and you’re good to go. Other times, you may want to get a little more creative. A few other highly recommended toast toppings include:

-fig butter and thinly sliced manchego cheese

-plain greek yogurt mixed with scallions, sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh chives, salt and pepper

-nutella with sliced bananas, honey, and sea salt

-summer squash, fresh herbs, and sheep's milk cheese

-marinated tomatoes and baked ricotta

Or, you can make something like this melon bruschetta. The sweetness of the melon and honey, the heat from the chiles, and the freshness from the herbs are the perfect accompaniment to a crispy, crunchy warm piece of toast. Add a dollop of creamy ricotta, and you’ve got yourself a piece of toast worth celebrating.

Fresh Melon Bruschetta

makes about 8

  • 2 cups ripe cantaloupe, finely chopped (about ¼ medium melon)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 small red chiles, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • about ½ cup whole milk ricotta
  • 8 medium sized slices toasted whole grain sourdough bread
  • flaky sea salt for serving

1. Combine the melon, mint, cilantro, chiles, honey, and lime juice in a bowl. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes for flavors to combine.

2. Spread each piece of toast evenly with about 1 Tbsp ricotta cheese, then top with the melon mixture. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

8.19.15 Tomato, Sweet Corn, and Feta Frittata

Today’s blog post is brought to you by, yes, you guessed it, more tomatoes. Okay, but not just tomatoes. Also, sweet corn, arugula, and a healthy dose of cheese. Or in other words, all of the best things.

When one has an overload of wonderful summer produce, as is most definitely the case in our household, sometimes you reach a point where you’re just not totally sure what to do with it all. This of course is one of the best problems to have. When this happens to me, I’m a fan of any recipe that is not only incredibly delicious when packed with all this summer bounty, but also adaptable enough that I can tailor it to use whatever I currently have residing in the fridge. Enter, the frittata.

The beauty of a frittata is that, not only does it meet all of my above criteria, but it’s one of the easiest things I can think of to make. Also, as someone who is never without eggs and cheese on hand, I’m always in a position where I can whip one of these up on a moment’s notice.

As you can see, this latest creation includes some ripe tomatoes, fresh sweet corn, peppery arugula, red onion, feta cheese and bacon because a.) these things are all delicious and b.) these are the ingredients that just happened to be sitting in our crisper, threatening to go bad if not immediately put to good use. Since it’s highly likely your vegetable surplus situation may not be identical to mine, it’s very easy to sub ingredients for what you have on hand, and simply use what I have here as a jumping off point. Regardless, you’re looking at one satisfying supper.

Tomato, Sweet Corn, and Feta Frittata

serves 4

  • 3 ears corn
  • 3 strips bacon, cut into small pieces
  • ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ¾ tsp salt, divided
  • ¾ tsp pepper, divided
  • 4 oz arugula leaves
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 6 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3.5 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • fresh chives
  • freshly ground black pepper

1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and place the ears of corn on the baking sheet on the top rack of your oven. Heat broiler to high and let the corn cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the kernels on the top side of the corn start to turn golden brown. Then, turn the ears of corn ½ turn to brown the other side, and cook an additional 5 minutes, or until the kernels on this side turn golden brown. Remove from the oven, cool slightly, then cut the kernels off of the cob.

2. Turn off broiler, place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the bacon pieces and cook until just beginning to crisp up, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, tomatoes, garlic, ¼ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper and continue cooking until vegetables are soft and no longer releasing liquid, about 10 minutes longer.

4. Add the basil and arugula and stir until arugula is just wilted, about 1-2 minutes. Remove pan from heat, make sure mixture is spread evenly along the bottom of the pan, and top evenly with the sweet corn kernels and crumbled feta cheese.

6. Whisk together the eggs, milk, and about ½ tsp each salt and pepper. Pour evenly over vegetables in pan.

7. Bake frittata for approximately 20 - 25 minutes, or until top is golden brown and puffed. Remove from the oven and top with a few tsps fresh chopped chives and a pinch or two of freshly ground black pepper. Cool slightly, then cut into wedges and serve.

8.14.15 Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Tomato Fennel Salad

I know, I know, we already talked this week about how awesome the tomato situation is right now. But the fact is, these tomatoes aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and thank goodness for that. As a result, I find myself cooking up wonderful, tomato-centric dishes on a fairly regular basis these days. Things like this tomato and fennel salad, which as it turns out is the perfect accompaniment to some super crispy chicken.


On the list of my current pregnancy related food cravings, fried chicken ranks pretty high (along with ice cream, blueberries, yogurt, cheese in pretty much any form, and V8 juice). However, as I’m sure you know if you’ve ever tried making your own, it’s rarely worth the trouble. True fried chicken, in my mind, is best left to professionals (although I keep trying to prove myself wrong on this).

Nonetheless, these breaded and pan-fried cutlets are a perfect alternative in my mind. Easy enough to put together and fry up, and of course, wonderfully satisfying. So while it may not be Harold’s, it still does a wonderful job of satisfying my cravings, and with the added bonus of not having to drive anywhere to get some. Also, try eating regular fried chicken with tomato salad - it’s nowhere near as good as this.

Crispy Chicken Cutlets with Tomato Fennel Salad

serves 2

Okay, you might end up with some extra tomato salad, but that’s hardly a problem. I’m sure you’ll find a use for it ( may I recommend topping a piece of warm naan with a slather of greek yogurt?). For an extra lovely presentation, I recommend using a variety of colors and sizes of tomatoes.


  • 1 lb tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup very thinly sliced fennel bulb
  • 1 Tbsp thinly sliced shallot
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs (such as fennel greens, basil, parsley, or carrot greens, or a mix)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper


  • 2 ¼-⅓ lb chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp hot sauce
  • ⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ¼ cup oil for frying
  • lemon wedges for serving

1. First, make the salad: Combine all of the salad ingredients in a bowl, and mix them together. Set aside for flavors to develop while you make the chicken.

2. Place chicken breasts in a heavy duty freezer bag, lay the bag on the counter, and use a large rolling pin to pound them to approximately ¼ inch in thickness (if you can’t get them that thin, it’s okay, your cutlets will just take a bit longer to cook).

3. Place the flour in a shallow dish or bowl. In a second bowl, whisk together the eggs and hot sauce until smooth. Place the panko breadcrumbs in a third shallow dish or bowl. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Season the chicken cutlets liberally on both sides with salt and pepper.

4. Take one chicken cutlet and dredge it in the flour until fully coated. Dip into the egg mixture, followed by the breadcrumbs, making sure that it gets fully coated with crumbs. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cutlet.

5. Heat the oil in a pan over medium-high heat and once heated, place the cutlets in the pan and cook, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides (about 2-4 minutes per side). Once cooked, transfer cutlets to a plate lined with paper towels to sop up any excess grease.

7. Serve the cutlets hot, topped with copious amounts of tomato fennel salad, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

8.11.15 Tomato and Smoked Cheddar Galette

There are a lot of great things about this time of year in Wisconsin: Beautiful (if somewhat unpredictable and at times unbearably humid) weather, plenty of exciting outdoor activities (not limited to outdoor concerts, boating, hiking, picnics, markets, and general wonderfulness), access to some of the best ice cream in the world (you know we’re taking serious advantage of this), and a serious abundance of ripe, summer tomatoes.


Seriously though, I can’t get enough of these guys. I’m pretty much eating them as fast as I can, and in many different ways. While I absolutely love a humble caprese salad, or a simple tartine, or even eating my tomatoes straight up with just a sprinkle of sea salt and a dash of black pepper, sometimes, just sometimes, you have to take your tomatoes to the next level.

The next level, in my case, being this gloriously summery savory galette, chock full of ripe summer tomatoes, fresh herbs, and a semi-ridiculous amount of cheese. After all, weren’t tomatoes and cheese pretty much made to be together? This tasty tart is perfect for any summer meal, but tastes particularly wonderful when eaten in any sort of al fresco dining situation, be it picnics, porch suppers, or impromptu backyard brunches.

Also, in the interest of enjoying tomato season to its full, spectacular extent, here are some other Wisconsin from Scratch favorites to help you make the most of your tomato bounty:

Tomato and Smoked Cheddar Galette

serves about 4

  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp cold butter
  • 2 Tbsp ice water
  • 1 ½ cups grated smoked cheddar cheese
  • ⅓ cup cream cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 Tbsp hot sauce
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced into ¼” slices
  • 1 cup mixed cherry tomatoes, halved (or sub one additional large tomato, sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped chives

1. Make the crust: Combine the flour, cornmeal, and salt in a medium bowl, mixing until well combined. Cut the butter into very small pieces and mix in using your hands or two forks until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the water, and mix until a cohesive ball of dough is formed. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 20 minutes before working it further.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

3. Combine the grated cheddar, cream cheese, scallions, dill, hot sauce, and black pepper in a bowl until well mixed. Check seasoning and add any salt if needed (the smoked cheddar I used was plenty salty, but this can vary between different cheeses).

4. Remove dough from the fridge and roll out on a well-floured surface until you have a large circle approximately 12 inches in diameter. Transfer dough to your lined baking sheet.

5. Spread half of the cheese mixture evenly into the center of the dough circle, leaving about a 3 inch border around the edges. Top with half of the sliced tomatoes, followed by the remaining cheese mixture, and the remaining tomatoes. (If you’re using cherry tomatoes, I recommend layering these on the top layer, as it will look prettier).

6. Fold up the edges of the dough around the filling, and sprinkle the top evenly with the parmesan cheese. Bake at 375 degrees until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes.

7. Remove from oven, and sprinkle the evenly top with the fresh chopped chives and a couple of pinches of freshly ground black pepper. Cool slightly, then cut into slices and serve.