11.17.15 Fig, Manchego, and Honey Pastry Twists

Last Saturday, several  Whisk bloggers (myself included) celebrated Whiskgiving. I mean, obviously this sort of thing had to happen, because as a group of food bloggers, we all love to cook.  And with Thanksgiving, a.k.a the mother of all cooking holidays, mere weeks away, it seems like something that should be celebrated.

In this case, we were each assigned a dish to bring in order to create a fantastic Thanksgiving meal. We got creative, each putting our own spin on our dishes, and everything came together for one fantastic feast. After gorging ourselves things like spiced cranberry sauce, butternut squash crostata, apple and arugula salad with curry vinaigrette, and mini cheesecakes, we officially declared Whiskgiving a success.

For my part, I was in charge of making an appetizer for our feast. I soon realized that this was absolutely perfect, because appetizers are meant to be easy (and these days, I’m all about keeping things as simple as possible). I decided to go the puff pastry route, because really, what’s not to like about puff pastry? Buying premade pastry couldn’t be easier, and it’s the perfect blank canvas to fill with something absolutely delicious. In this case, I went with homemade fig jam, nutty manchego cheese, and a drizzle of honey.

I know what you’re thinking. Homemade fig jam? Simple? Trust me on this one. I discovered, (much to my delight) that if you start with dried figs, making them into a delightfully thick, sweet, jam takes mere minutes, and really couldn’t be much easier. Of course, if you have good fig preserves already on hand (like this tasty one from Quince & Apple), you could most definitely simplify things even further, and no one would be the wiser. In any case, you’ll have a perfect appetizer for the upcoming holiday festivities, which is always a good thing in my book.

Fig, Manchego, and Honey Pastry Twists

makes 24

The fig jam in this recipe comes together really easily, so if you’re like me, you may want to make a double batch and have plenty of leftovers to eat on toast, biscuits, scones, stirred into yogurt, atop oatmeal - you get the picture. It’s some tasty stuff.

  • ½ cup dried black mission figs (about 3 oz)
  • ½ cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1-lb package frozen puff pastry, thawed (you should have two sheets of pastry)
  • 1 ½ cups grated manchego cheese
  • 2 Tbsp honey

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper

2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the dried figs, water, sugar, and lemon juice to a boil. Allow mixture to remain at a full boil over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, then transfer to blender, or use an immersion blender to puree. Voila - fig jam!

3. On a floured surface, roll out each sheet of puff pastry into a rectangle approximately 18” x 12”.

4. Spread the fig jam evenly over the surface of one of the pastry rectangles. Top evenly with the shredded cheese, and drizzle evenly with the honey. Place the second pastry rectangle on top.

5. Using a pizza cutter, cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, and then into 12 equal strips crosswise (you’ll end up with 24 strips about 6” long).

6. Holding the ends of each strip, twist around, then transfer to one of your prepared baking sheets (I baked 8 to a sheet).

7. Bake pastry twists until puffed and beginning to turn golden brown, about 15-18 minutes. Cool slightly, then serve!

11.6.15 Cilantro Lime Hummus {All Whisked Up}

Last month, I participated in Wisconsin Whisk’s first ever blog recipe swap - All Whisked Up. Not only was it incredibly fun, but I also ended up making this amazing Soy-Citrus Soba Noodle Salad. So when we decided to do another round of All Whisked Up this month, obviously, signing up for another post was a no-brainer.

This month, my assigned blog was the Edesia’s Notebook blog, written by Lesa, an avid cook  who lives in Kenosha. Her blog focuses on family friendly recipes, many of them easy to cook, and most with easily manageable ingredient lists.  As I’m currently approaching 38 weeks pregnant, I’ve definitely been feeling more tired, and generally less excited about the prospect of doing much in the way of complicated cooking. Luckily, the recipes I found on Lesa’s blog were simple and easy to follow, which was absolutely perfect.

Oh, and did I mention the sheer quantity of recipes on her blog? One look at her incredibly extensive recipe list, and I knew I had my work cut out for me picking just one to share with you. In the end, I opted for this cilantro lime hummus. I find myself doing my fair share of snacking these days, and this seemed like a perfect snack option to add to my repertoire.

Also, when I stumbled across this recipe, it immediately made me think of that cilantro jalapeno hummus I’m always buying at Trader Joe’s. The one I may or may not be completely addicted to. Obviously, making my own using Lesa’s recipe was something that had to happen. I added a bit more cilantro and a couple of jalapenos to the recipe, and the result was perfect - far better than Trader Joe himself could pull off. Welcome to my new favorite snack.

Cilantro Lime Hummus

Recipe Slightly Adapted from Edesia’s Notebook

Makes about 2½ cups

  • 1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, smashed
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • salt to taste (I used unsalted tahini, and ended up needing about ½ tsp salt to season properly)
  • extra virgin olive oil and pita or chips for serving

1. Place chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lime juice, water, cilantro, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and cumin in a food processor.  Process until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides if necessary. Season to taste with salt as needed.

2. Transfer hummus to a bowl or serving dish, and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Serve with tortilla chips, warm pita bread, or za’atar spiced pita chips for dipping.

10.30.15 Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

For the record, let me just say that this may be the best cake ever. Bold statement, yes, but hear me out. It’s packed with pumpkin, making it super moist and lovely. It’s perfectly spiced with just the right amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger for a hint of pumpkin spice flavor (without - like most things labeled pumpkin spice these days - being totally over the top). And most importantly, it’s chock full of melty, delicious dark chocolate chips.

Not long ago, I realized that pumpkin and dark chocolate were a match made in heaven. Not to mention the spices we always associate with pumpkin (cinnamon, ginger and the like) make dark chocolate really sing. Once I figured this out, this cake recipe wasn’t far behind.

Okay, I’ll be honest, this wasn’t a one shot deal. It definitely took me a couple of tries to get this recipe just right. Of course, testing cakes isn’t really a terrible job if you think about it - I can definitely think of worse things. And, really, all that cake testing turned out to be totally worth it, because in the end, I wound up with this most perfect cake. I can only hope you like it as much as I did.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

serves about 12

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (or better yet, use bourbon)
  • ½ cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt until well mixed.

3. In a separate, larger bowl, mix together the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, followed by the pumpkin puree, vanilla extract, and greek yogurt.

4. Add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and stir together until just combined (batter will be thick). Fold in the chocolate chips.

5. Pour the batter evenly into the bundt pan and bake at 350 until top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean - about 55-60 minutes.

6. Cool cake slightly, then run a knife around the edge, and invert onto a cooling rack to finish cooling before slicing and eating!

10.27.15 Sambal Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a little bit of a brussels sprouts problem. As you may recall from past posts, brussels sprouts just happen to be my most favorite vegetable. Come brussels sprouts season (aka, now!), it’s hard for me to want to eat any other vegetable.

I know, I know. It’s a tough problem to have. But really, when you think about the fact that brussels sprout season will be over before we know it, you can understand why I’ve been cooking these little guys up like there’s no tomorrow.

When it comes to brussels sprouts, we all know that, while delicious in many forms, one of the best ways to enjoy them to their fullest potential is to roast them. With all of their teeny tiny leaves, you end up with maximum surface area for roasting, which in turn leads to copious amounts of perfectly browned, crispy sprouts. Me, I’m lucky if they even make it off of the baking sheet. Because seriously, when faced with a hot pan of crispy roasted sprouts, I go a little crazy.

And while regular old roasted sprouts are simply fantastic, it never hurts to up your brussels sprouts game every now and then. Such as adding a spicy twist of sambal oelek; that wonderful chile garlic paste that’s always a staple in my house. And once roasted to spicy perfection, you really can’t go wrong with tossing said sprouts in a simple vinaigrette bursting with citrus, cilantro, and plenty of fish sauce umami. Yeah, that’s some serious brussels sprout awesomeness right there. Be careful, or you may soon find yourself as enamored with these cute little crucifers as I am.


Sambal Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Fish Sauce Vinaigrette

serves 3-4 as a side

brussels sprouts:

  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed with the back of your knife
  • 2-3 thai chiles, smashed with the back of your knife (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp sambal oelek  (chile garlic paste)


  • ¼ cup (loose packed) cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 ½ Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp sriracha hot sauce
  • additional cilantro and chopped dry-roasted peanuts for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place halved brussels sprouts in a medium bowl, along with the sliced shallot, smashed garlic, and chiles (if using). In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil and sambal oelek. Pour over the brussels sprouts mixture, and mix until vegetables are evenly coated.

3. Spread brussels sprout mixture in a single layer onto a baking sheet, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees until vegetables are beginning to brown nicely, about 25 minutes. Be sure to stir the vegetables once about halfway during cooking to prevent too much browning on the bottom.

4. While brussels sprouts are roasting, make the vinaigrette by whisking together the cilantro, lime juice, canola oil, fish sauce, brown sugar, and sriracha until smooth.

5. Once brussels sprouts are done roasting, cool them for about 5 minutes, then transfer them to a medium bowl. Give the vinaigrette a good stir, then pour over the roasted brussels sprouts, tossing to coat.

6. Transfer to a serving plate and top with more cilantro and a sprinkling of chopped peanuts. Serve immediately. 

10.21.15 Sweet and Spicy Apple Chutney

Dear apple chutney,

Can we talk about how I can’t seem to get enough of you? Come this time of year, I always find myself cooking up a batch, and with good reason. When it comes to fall condiment awesomeness, in my book, you’re a clear winner. Allow me to elaborate:

First of all, you’re absolutely packed with flavor - tart apples, tangy vinegar, savory shallots, sweet raisins, and warm spices. When you combine all of those things, you end up with the ultimate sweet/savory concoction. Perfection, really.

Something this complex sounds like it might be hard to make, but not you apple chutney. A little chopping, a little sauteeing, and a healthy dose of simmering, and before you know it, you’re done. It’s hardly more difficult than making applesauce, except that plain old applesauce has nothing on you. You’re more like applesauce’s cool cousin - spicier, more complicated, and a lot more fun.

Also, let’s not forget about all of the wonderful ways one might enjoy you. With all of those flavors you’re packing, it’s hard to imagine what you wouldn’t be good on. You’re somehow supremely satisfying straight out of the jar, terrific on toast, perfect with pork, and honestly, I can’t imagine a fall cheese plate that didn’t include you. But, in my humble opinion, the best way to enjoy your wonderfulness is in a grilled cheese sandwich. Paired with a nice, sharp Wisconsin cheddar and crispy, buttery bread -  I didn’t think it would be possible to improve on the utter perfection that is the grilled cheese, but you’ve somehow managed it. Apple chutney, you’re the best.

Sweet and Spicy Apple Chutney

makes about 2 cups

  • 1 Tbsp canola or other neutral oil
  • ¼ cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 large shallot)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup golden raisins
  • 4 medium apples (I used fuji), peeled, cored, and sliced (about 3 ½ - 4 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar

1. Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the shallot, garlic, and ginger and cook until soft and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the garam masala, salt, and turmeric, and cook for an additional 1 minute, then add the apple cider vinegar and raisins and cook for 1 minute more.

3. Add the apples and brown sugar, stirring to mix well. Heat until liquid in the bottom of the pot starts to boil, then reduce heat to low and cover (it will seem like there is hardly any liquid, but resist the temptation to add more here as the apples will release a lot of liquid as they cook down).

4. Continue to cook, covered, over low heat for about 20 minutes, giving the chutney a good stir every 5 minutes or so.

5. Remove cover from pot and use a fork or potato masher to mash cooked apples to a chunky consistency. Continue to cook, uncovered, until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 8-10 minutes. Eat immediately, or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

10.16.15 Maple Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Earlier this week, fellow Whisk founders Vicky, Bowen, and I gave a little presentation about Whisk at 1 Million Cups. Besides being a great way to get info on Whisk out to more members of the Madison entrepreneurial community and get some useful feedback, I figured this presentation would also be a good opportunity for me to test out my latest muffin recipe on all of the attendees. Because, really, who doesn’t love muffins?

And so, I started off my Wednesday morning by toting a few batches of these maple pumpkin cranberry muffins over to the Madison Public Library in preparation for our presentation. And I have to say, they were very well received.

Of course, it may have something to do with the fact that maple, pumpkin, and cranberries are flavors that were basically meant to be together. They just taste like fall. Their sweetness and tartness balance perfectly, leaving you with a super moist, super flavor-packed muffin. And with the added crunch of toasted pumpkin seeds on top, you have yourself the perfect morning treat.


Maple Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

makes 1 dozen

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 6 Tbsp butter, melted
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp fresh orange zest
  • ⅔ cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

3. In a larger bowl, beat the egg together with the sugar, then mix in the pumpkin puree, melted butter, maple syrup, vanilla, and orange zest. Add the flour mixture and stir to combine. Fold in the cranberries.

5. Grease a 12 cup muffin pan, or line wells with paper muffin cups. Divide the batter evenly between each of the 12 cups. Top evenly with the pepitas.

6. Bake muffins at 350 degrees until puffed and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly before serving.

10.13.15 Apple Cider Braised Chicken

This is the sort of dish that just screams fall. Because, I’m just going to say it, at this point, I’m ready for some fall weather. There’s something so cozy about cool nights, roaring fires, crunchy leaves, and steaming mugs of hot tea and apple cider. I know, I know. In a few months, I’ll be so over it, it won’t even be funny. But for now, the woodpile is stocked, the boots and sweaters are coming out of the back of the closet, and after a summer of sitting mostly idle, my trusty teapot is back in action.


The other thing that inevitably comes with cool fall weather is slow cooking. Warming, delicious things like soups and chilis. Or something like this beautifully braised chicken I recently made.

There’s something wonderful that happens when you slowly cook down chicken legs and thighs in a sweet-savory broth of cippolini onions, garlic, fresh rosemary, and apple cider. The sauce thickens wonderfully, the meat becomes so tender, it practically falls off the bone, and you’re left with one super satisfying dish; perfect for warding off that fall chill in the air.

Oh, and did I mention just how awesome your house will smell while this is cooking? As if you needed more reasons to make this dish. And for the record, let me just say that you’re definitely going to want to serve this atop a big fluffy pile of mashed potatoes. Trust me on this one.

Apple Cider Braised Chicken

serves 4

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 ½ lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and/or thighs
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onion (I used 3 smallish cippolini onions)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary


1. In a large, high-sided pan, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. Season both sides of the chicken pieces evenly with the salt and pepper, then add to the pan, skin side down.

2. Cook chicken until skin is golden, about 5-7 minutes. Flip chicken pieces, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on the other side. Remove chicken pieces from the pan, and set aside.

3. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add the flour and cook for an additional 1 minute.

4. Pour in the apple cider vinegar and stir quickly, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. After about 30 seconds, add the chicken stock and apple cider.

5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer. Add the chicken pieces back to the pan, as well as the rosemary sprigs (it’s a good idea to tie them together with kitchen twine so they’re easier to fish out at the end). Cover pan, and simmer for 30 minutes.

6. Remove cover from pan, flip chicken pieces, and continue to simmer, uncovered, until chicken is very tender, about 30 minutes more. Serve immediately atop mashed potatoes.

10.9.15 Soy Citrus Soba Noodle Salad {All Whisked Up}

Remember a couple of months ago when I talked about the launch of Wisconsin Whisk? Well, let me just say that since our initial launch in early August, things have really been happening. Our little food blogger collective is not so little anymore - we now have nearly 40 members from across the state! We’ve already had a couple of fun meetings, and through the process, I’ve met a lot of other awesome Wisconsin food bloggers.

Of course, additional fun activities to get to know our fellow bloggers better are always a good idea in my book. Which is why we recently started “All Whisked Up”; a way for Whisk members to get to know each other’s blogs better by secretly matching each participant with another member’s blog. Our mission is to check out our assigned blog, find a recipe from it, recreate said recipe, and share it. It’s a fun way to get to know other bloggers (not to mention a good excuse to experiment with some delicious recipes). Obviously, I had to join in on the fun.


For this first month of “All Whisked Up”, I was paired up with Erica of Wisconsin Fun Next Exit. Erica’s blog showcases some really delicious looking vegetarian recipes and lots of beautiful photographs (her recent trip to Door County is making me all kinds of jealous). I had lots of fun poking around on her blog, searching for the perfect recipe to share with you.

In the end, I opted to make this super flavorful soba noodle salad because a.) I somehow just happened to have everything I needed to make it on hand (thanks to our latest CSA share for all the mizuna and radishes) and b.) because noodles are always the answer.

This recipe came together easily, and as expected, it was absolutely delicious. But really, when you’re talking about noodles tossed with lots of citrus, fresh herbs, chiles, and sauteed greens, how could it not be? Topped with a little crunch from some peanuts and radish and a squeeze of fresh lime, it was perfection.

Soy Citrus Soba Noodle Salad

slightly adapted from Wisconsin Fun Next Exit

serves 2

salad and garnish:

  • 3-4 oz buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 large bunch mizuna or other hearty green (such as kale, spinach, collard greens or chard), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chile garlic paste (optional)
  • 1 medium persian cucumber, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 large radishes, thinly sliced
  • chopped scallions, dry-roasted peanuts, fresh cilantro, and lime wedges for serving


  • ½ cup chopped scallion (green part only)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp finely minced ginger root
  • 1 thai bird chile, finely chopped (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp chile garlic paste (or more to taste)

1. Cook the soba noodles according to package directions. Strain and let cool while prepare the greens and dressing.

2. Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the chopped greens and chile garlic paste if using. Saute until greens are just beginning to soften. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. Make the dressing by combining all dressing ingredients in a bowl and mixing together well.

4. In a large bowl, combine the cooked soba noodles, sauteed greens, sliced cucumber, and the dressing. Toss together so that all ingredients are well mixed and everything is coated with the dressing.

5. Divide noodle mixture evenly between two bowls and top with sliced radish, scallions, peanuts, fresh cilantro, and lime wedge