10.28.14 Roasted Sweet Potato and Chorizo Breakfast Tacos

Tacos are pretty amazing. So is breakfast. But when the two combine, the result is something utterly spectacular. Sadly, I spent many years in the dark, never having known such a culinary masterpiece existed. It wasn’t until a trip to Austin a few years ago that I was introduced to one of the greatest contributions to the breakfast world - the breakfast taco. I remember it well. Or as well as can be expected after a few too many PBR tall boys on East Sixth Street. I awoke the next morning in a hungover haze, wondering if there was anything in the world that could possibly make me feel just slightly less horrible. As it turns out, there was. The friend we were staying with nonchalantly suggested we head over to this great breakfast taco place just up the street. I admit, in my less than stellar state, I thought I had misheard him. Tacos? Breakfast? Is this for real? It was in fact real, and before long, my sorry state was drastically improved by a big plate of warm breakfast tacos. I was in heaven.

After returning home from our trip, I searched high and low for a place that served up a good breakfast taco. But alas, outside of Austin (a.k.a. breakfast taco paradise) it seemed they were few and far between. It’s okay though, because making your own is a piece of cake. Admittedly, if you’re having a bit of a rough morning, it’s not as convenient as walking two blocks to your neighborhood breakfast taco eatery, but as far as pure deliciousness goes, they rank pretty high. Also, let’s talk about how this is the perfect thing to make for your early morning football tailgate party. Those 11 am Badger games mean waking up far earlier than you ever would on a Saturday and cracking your first pre-game beer before 9 am. This makes for a long day, but let’s be honest, if it starts with a breakfast taco bar, you know it’s going to be a good one.

As with any tacos, there are loads of fillings and topping you can put into your breakfast taco. Too many to name here. However, my breakfast taco of choice is a tasty combination of chile roasted sweet potatoes, chorizo, and egg. Top with some cheese, homemade pico de gallo, fresh avocado, and hot sauce, and you have one killer breakfast.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Chorizo Breakfast Tacos

makes 4 tacos

  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ancho chile powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ cayenne pepper
  • 4 oz mexican chorizo
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 4 flour or corn tortillas, warmed
  • shredded cheese such as monterrey jack or mild cheddar
  • fresh pico de gallo (recipe follows)
  • sliced avocado, hot sauce, and lime wedges for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the sweet potato pieces, olive oil, ancho chile, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper and ½ tsp salt until potatoes are well coated. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until tender and crispy on the edges, about 40-45 minutes. Season to taste with additional salt if desired.

3. Cook chorizo in a pan over medium heat until cooked through and beginning to brown, about 7-8 minutes. Remove from pan and keep warm while you prepare the eggs. Leave chorizo drippings in the pan.

4. Whisk the eggs, milk, black pepper and ¼ tsp salt together in a medium bowl. Heat the pan you used to cook the chorizo over medium low heat. Add the eggs to the chorizo drippings, and cook, stirring gently until they achieve a soft, scrambled texture.

5. Divide sweet potatoes, chorizo, and eggs evenly between each warm tortilla. Top with shredded cheese, fresh pico de gallo salsa, avocado, hot sauce, and a squeeze of lime.

Fresh Pico de Gallo

makes about 2 cups

The longer you can let this salsa sit before serving, the better the flavor will be. Store any extra salsa in the refrigerator.

  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • ¼ medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded if less heat desired), minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp salt

1. Place all ingredients in a medium bowl; stir to combine. Season with additional salt if desired.

10.24.14 Baked Pears with Apple Cider Caramel Sauce + Other Fall Fun

I meant to just write a normal blog post today. Really, I did. But then I realized I had way too many things to share. You see, I’ve been embracing fall with a lot of cooking projects, and I feel I would be remiss if I didn’t share several of them with you immediately. After all, fall won’t last forever, and I want to make sure you have maximum fall time left to enjoy all of these tasty autumn edibles. So today, instead of just one recipe, I’m bringing you four delicious ways to celebrate fall. You lucky ducks.

First off, let’s talk hot sauce. Admittedly, I’m a pretty serious chilehead. And when fall rolls around, bringing with it a spectacular hot pepper harvest, well obviously, I’m going to have to do something about it. Like make hot sauce. Now, I had never made hot sauce before, assuming it was somehow way too difficult, and preferring to just buy it at the store. But when I ended up with a semi-ridiculous amount of beautiful red and orange habanero peppers, I knew it was time to give homemade hot sauce a try.

I’ll be honest, it was way easier to make than I had thought. I started using this recipe as a base, took a few creative liberties, and before long, I had whipped up some seriously delicious fermented habanero garlic hot sauce. I mean, look at that stuff. That lovely orange color alone almost makes it worthwhile, but trust me, the flavor is on a whole other level. And the best part is, you can easily make it too! Just throw ½ pound hot chile peppers, stemmed and halved, into a food processor (you can use whatever peppers you like, or a mix!). Add 1 Tbsp kosher salt, and 4 garlic cloves, and puree until a thick, coarse paste is formed. Transfer chile paste to a mason jar, cover, and let sit on your counter to ferment for 1-3 days. Add 1 cup vinegar to the jar, stir to combine, and let sit another 1-2 days (or up to a week if you can wait that long. The longer it sits, the deeper the flavor). Strain sauce through a fine-mesh sieve, and discard solids. Mix in 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, and your hot sauce is ready to go! Store it in the fridge, and shake before using, as it will separate a little as it sits.

Now after all that hot sauce, you’re probably going to be wanting a nice cooling treat. And I’ve got just the ticket for you - the hard cider float. This is so simple, it’s not even really a recipe. Just pour your favorite hard cider into a glass, top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (or better yet, cinnamon ice cream), and try not to get a brain freeze as you inhale this stuff. That’s it. But trust me, it’s amazing.

Another important part of fall in our household is watching of scary movies. I mean, what could be better than spending a chilly fall evening inside by the fire, getting the crap scared out of you by whatever terrifying film you happen to be watching? I’ll tell you what - watching said scary movie with a big bowl of homemade kettle corn, that’s what. Kettle corn is another one of those things I always assumed was way too difficult make yourself. Boy was I wrong. Just heat 2 Tbsp canola oil in a large lidded pot over medium high heat. After about 5 minutes of heating the oil, add 1 Tbsp sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves into the oil. Add ¼ cup popcorn kernels, give ’em a quick stir to coat with oil, then put the lid on the pot. The kernels should start popping almost immediately. To keep the sugar from burning on the bottom, give the pot a good shake every 15-20 seconds. Once kernels have stopped popping, remove pot from heat, set aside for a minute or two to cool, then pour into a bowl, toss with a little salt, and devour.

And finally, I feel like the only way to end this post is with one truly awesome dessert. This is a little something I came up with a few weeks ago, and haven’t been able to stop thinking about ever since. It started with some lovely pears I acquired at the farmer’s market, picked up some inspiration from these apple cider caramels I made recently, and, well, the result was kindof amazing. Warm baked pears bathed in a buttery apple cider caramel sauce, topped with vanilla ice cream, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Who knew you could make a dessert like that with only 6 ingredients?

Baked Pears with Apple Cider Caramel Sauce

serves 2-4

  • 2 semi-firm pears such as harrow, bartlett, or bosc, halved and cored
  • ½ cup apple cider
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • vanilla ice cream
  • flaky sea salt, such as maldon

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place pears in a high sided glass or ceramic baking dish.

3. In a small saucepan, bring apple cider to a boil over medium heat. Continue to let cider boil at medium heat until reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the brown sugar until dissolved, then add the butter and stir in until melted. Let caramel mixture cook for an additional 1 minute, then pour over pears in pan.

5. Bake pears for 30-35 minutes, or until pears are juicy and tender. Remove pears from oven, cool slightly, and serve topped with the caramel sauce in the bottom of the pan, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

10.21.14 Brussels Sprout and Ricotta Pizza

Brussels sprouts are, hands down, my favorite vegetable. Yes, yes, I know we’ve talked about this before, but still. With full-blown brussels sprouts season upon us, I’m feeling the need to once again proclaim my appreciation for these cute little crucifers. After all, it’s not every day one can easily procure a semi-obscene amount of one’s favorite vegetable. I mean, I’m buying these things by the stalkful. You can find me, most days, roasting up a big batch of sprouts for supper, tossing them into salads, baking them into gratins, and even, horrifyingly, eating them for breakfast. I have a problem.

My latest and greatest brussels sprouts creation though, would have to be the brussels sprout pizza. In fact, I feel a little silly for having gotten this far in life without having made this before, seeing as how I consider myself to be quite an avid supporter of both brussels sprouts and pizza. It’s genius; the combination of two of my favorite foods into one, amazing überfood seems almost too good to be true. The key word here being almost. Because it is in fact real. And it’s pretty spectacular.


And to all of you would-be brussels sprout haters, fear not. Even YOU may yet enjoy this pizza. For while it is topped with copious amounts of lovely, green, garlicky, brussels sprout leaves, delightfully crisped to perfection, it is also topped with bacon. Oh, and three kinds of cheese! Yes, even someone previously at loathe to eat these bitter little brassicas, may be able to set aside their differences once they experience the utter cheese nirvana that is this pizza. It’s just that good.


Brussels Sprout and Ricotta Pizza

makes 1 large pizza

Yes, peeling the leaves off of the brussels sprouts is a little bit of a pain. But trust me, the result is wonderful - crisp crunchy leaves, with no hard, undercooked cores. The trick is to use large, leafy sprouts; cut the base off the sprout and the leaves will peel right off.

  • Pizza Dough, recipe follows
  • 1 tsp cornmeal
  • 3 slices bacon, cut into pieces
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups (loosely packed) brussels sprouts leaves (peeled from about ½ lb brussels sprouts)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • ¾ cup grated low moisture mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ Tbsp red chile flake

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Grease a baking sheet or large pizza pan with cooking spray and sprinkle it with the cornmeal. Place dough in the center of the pan and spread all the way to the edges, spreading dough as thinly as you can without tearing it. Let pizza dough rest while oven heats and you prep the rest of your toppings. (hint - if you’re having trouble spreading the dough all the way to the edges, spread it as far as you can, then let it rest for about 5 minutes. After resting, it will be easier to finish spreading the dough all the way to the edges of the pan).

3. In a pan over medium heat, cook the bacon pieces until crisp. Remove from the pan, and set aside on a paper towel to drain, leaving excess bacon grease in the pan.

4. Add the shallot and garlic to the bacon grease in the pan, and cook over medium heat until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the brussels sprout leaves, and continue to cook, stirring often, until they are just slightly wilted, about 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from heat and set aside.

4. Top pizza dough with the olive oil and spread it so it covers the surface of the dough all the way to the edges. Dot ricotta cheese evenly over the pizza crust, followed by the shredded mozzarella, brussels sprouts mixture, bacon, and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle chile flakes over the top, then pop into the oven.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until crust is browned, cheese is bubbly and brussels sprout leaves are crisp. Enjoy immediately!

Pizza Dough

Makes 1 large pizza

More in-depth details on perfect pizza dough here.

  • ¾ cup warm water
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 cups flour (preferably bread flour)
  • 1 tsp salt

1. Dissolve yeast and honey in water, let sit for 5 minutes.

2. Combine the flour and salt and a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the liquid ingredients, stirring until ingredients are just combined.  Let sit for 10-20 minutes. (note: this sitting stage allows the gluten network to start forming through hydration, which will cut down on your overall kneading time by about 50%. If you’d rather not wait, you can start kneading immediately, and you will just end up needing to work the dough for about 6-8 minutes to build up a sufficient gluten network).

3. Knead dough until a smooth cohesive ball forms and dough passes the ‘windowpane test’ (should take about 2-4 minutes if you rested the dough in the previous step, otherwise about 6-8 minutes).

4. Spray a bowl with cooking spray, put dough into bowl, turning to coat both sides of dough with oil. Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature for 60-90 minutes, or until dough has doubled in size.


10.17.14 Homemade Hot Giardiniera

Hot giardiniera may well be greatest condiment of all time. At least in my book. A lovely, colorful hodgepodge of spicy, crunchy, slightly pickled vegetables, awash in oil, spices, and a little punch of vinegar. This stuff doesn’t mess around. Once you try it, it’s hard not to be hooked. And I’m no exception to this rule.


If you’re unfamiliar with giardiniera, well, let me enlighten you. Like many wonderful culinary delights, this most delicious condiment originated in Italy. In fact the name ‘giardiniera’, besides being really fun to try to pronounce, basically means ‘pickled vegetables’ in Italian. The original giardiniera was just that - nice, crisp pickled vegetables, usually eaten as an antipasto. Delicious, yes. Mindblowing? Well, that part came later, after Italian immigrants brought giardiniera to Chicago and decided to kick things up a notch. With the addition of hot peppers, oil, and spices this potpourri of pickled vegetables soon became the world’s greatest condiment. One would be hard pressed to find an Italian sausage, hot beef, or porketta sandwich that is not made infinitely more wonderful when topped with a pile of this stuff.

And now that I have your attention, what if I were to tell you that with minimal effort on your part, a homemade jar of this fantastic stuff could be yours? Not only that, but if you’re like me and have a whole bunch of random vegetables languishing away in your crisper, this is the perfect way to resurrect them into something truly marvelous. Best of all, making your own custom concoction means that you can make your giardiniera as hot (or as mild) as you like. Me, I’m packing in as many hot peppers as I can get my hands on. Bring a jar to your next tailgate cookout, and it’s sure to be destroyed in seconds. It’s just that good.

Homemade Hot Giardiniera

makes about 4 cups

Usually made with a mix of peppers (hot and sweet), carrots, celery, and cauliflower, feel free to tweak this recipe to fit what vegetables you have on hand. I had a lovely head of romanesco  on hand, which I subbed out for the cauliflower with delicious results. Also while serrano or jalapeno peppers are fantastic, any hot pepper will do - I happened to have a bunch of lemon drop peppers growing in my garden which made a tasty addition.  Make sure to plan ahead - the vegetables have to soak overnight, and the finished product will be even tastier after sitting for a couple of days. If you can wait that long.

  • 1 medium head cauliflower or romanesco, cut into small pieces
  • 3 celery stalks, cut into small pieces
  • 2 carrots, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium green pepper, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium red pepper, cut into small pieces
  • 5-6 hot peppers (or more to taste) such as serrano or jalapeno, cut into small pieces
  • 3 Tbsp salt (yes that’s a LOT of salt. Most will be rinsed off, don’t worry)
  • 1 cup neutral oil, such as canola
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp chile flake
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp dried thyme

1. Place chopped cauliflower, celery, carrots, and peppers in a large bowl with the salt. Mix to combine. Fill bowl with enough cold water to just cover the vegetables, then cover and refrigerate overnight.

2. Drain vegetables in a colander, and rinse with cold water to remove any excess salt.

3. In a large bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, garlic, chile flake, and herbs. Add the vegetables and mix well.

4. Transfer mixture to mason jars, cover, and refrigerate.  Let giardiniera sit for about 2 days for flavors to blend before eating. It’s a tough wait, but well worth it. Enjoy on everything.

10.14.14 Thai Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup

Well, I think we can safely say that it’s officially soup weather. In my opinion, chilly, rainy, cloudy, windy weather can always be improved with a warm bowl of soup to dig into. After a long soup hiatus over the summer months, I woke up to cold, rainy, fall, declared it soup weather, and got simmering.

Now sometimes, when the weather seems particularly dreary, not just any soup will do. At times like these, I’m looking for something especially warming, hearty, and usually somewhat spicy. With the farmer’s markets currently rife with squash and chile peppers of all varieties, I soon realized this would not be difficult to accomplish. Well stocked with butternut squash, Thai bird’s eye chilies, and fresh lemongrass, I went home and set to work.


The soup, as it turned out, ended up being pretty fantastic. It was just what I needed. But where this soup really gets going is in the toppings. I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for toppings. Especially when said soup, delicious as it may be, is a little one-note in the texture department. A silky, smooth, pureed soup such as this one can always use a little extra texture in the form of toppings. And in this case, I went with some lovely bright cilantro and dangerously addicting crispy fried shallots (seriously, make extra, or someone like me may eat most of them before they make it onto your soup).


And let’s not forget the chile paste. If you know me, you know that I’m a serious chilehead. And while I like my food to be as hot as possible, I realize that not everyone shares this sentiment. The solution? Keep the soup mild, and whip up a super simple chile paste to add to it. Based on the Thai condiment prik nam pla, this lovely red chile sauce is a spicy, salty, umami-rich mixture of fresh Thai chilies, fish sauce and a little garlic. Add as much - or as little - as you like to achieve the perfect heat level in your soup. And if you’re like me, you’ll probably find yourself adding it to anything and everything else for a little extra fiery kick.

And if you weren’t already excited enough about making this soup, I have even more exciting news for you! Wisconsin from Scratch, along with two other awesome local blogs Things I Made Today, and Bowen Appetít, are looking to hire a social media/marketing intern! If you, or someone you know seems like a good fit for this job, we’d love to hear from you! Click here for more info.

Thai Butternut Squash and Peanut Soup

serves 4

If you’ve never cooked with lemongrass before, it can seem intimidating. In fact, it’s not as tricky to work with as you might think. This time of year, I see a lot of it at the farmer’s markets, but it’s usually readily available year-round at most Asian grocery stores. To prep for cooking, cut off the root and the leaves, peel back the tough outer layers to access the soft inner core, and finely chop. For more a more in-depth look, Food52 has great step-by-step instructions with pictures here.


  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp chopped lemongrass (from about 1-2 stalks)
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp peanut butter ( I love using Yum Butter creamy peanut butter for this)
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (about 1.5 lbs)
  • 1 14 oz can light coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice (about 1 lime)
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • Salt to taste
  • fresh cilantro, crispy fried shallots, and chile paste for serving

chile paste:

  • 5 Thai bird’s eye chiles, chopped (careful, these can be super hot; you may want to wear gloves)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp fish sauce

crispy fried shallots:

  • 4 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp salt

1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 2-3 minutes.

2. Add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, then add the peanut butter and cook for 1 minute more.

3. Add the cubed squash, and cook, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add the coconut milk, 1 cup water, and lime juice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until squash is tender, about 25-30 minutes.

5. While soup cooks, make your soup toppings. For the chile paste, combine the chilies, garlic, and fish sauce in a mortar and pestle, and grind until a coarse consistency is achieved. Alternately, if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just chop the garlic and chilies very finely and mix with the fish sauce.

6. For the fried shallots, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced shallots, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crispy (once they start to brown, keep a close eye on them as they can go from golden brown to burnt very quickly if you’re not careful). Transfer shallots to a paper towel to drain, and toss with the salt to season.

7. Once squash is tender, transfer the soup to a blender, or use an immersion blender to puree soup to a smooth consistency. Stir in the fish sauce, and season to taste with salt.

8. Serve soup topped with fresh cilantro, crispy fried shallots, and as much chile paste as you can handle.

10.7.14 Chicken, Leek, and Wild Rice Casserole

This past weekend was an awesome weekend. Mostly. Let me explain. We set out Friday night, laden down with enough snacks and beer to feed a small army for a weekend with friends in Evanston IL.  Lots of good food, friends, tailgating, Cards against Humanity, not enough sleep, and too much beer. As I said, awesome. In fact, the weekend would have been entirely perfect, if you discounted the 3+ hours we spent in the freezing cold rain watching our beloved Badgers lose to Northwestern. Sad face.

We returned home, exhausted, happy, but still smarting a little. The obvious thing to do was whip up some good old fashioned comfort food. And not just any comfort food - chicken and wild rice casserole. Like a lot of casseroles, this version consists of a delicious saucy filling topped with a layer of crunchy crumbs, which become a lovely golden brown crust when baked. But unlike most casseroles, this version isn’t held together with lots of processed things from cans. Just lovely homemade goodness. Also, leeks, mushrooms, wild rice, sharp cheddar, and roasted chicken. And some buttery oyster crackers on top, because, well, they’re just the best. Comfort food at its finest.


Chicken, Leek, and Wild Rice Casserole

serves about 6

Don’t forget to give your leeks a good rinse before chopping. I mean, really get in there and rinse in between the layers - those suckers can be mighty dirty. And no one likes dirt flavored casserole.

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek, white and light green part only, chopped
  • 8 oz cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 1 ½ cups cooked wild rice*
  • 1 ½ cups roasted chicken, chopped**
  • 1 ½ Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup oyster crackers, crushed
  • Tabasco or other hot sauce for serving

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Once hot, and butter is melted, add the leeks, mushrooms, celery, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook until vegetables are soft and fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.

3. Sprinkle flour over the vegetables, then continue to cook, stirring, so that the flour coats the vegetables. Once veggies are coated, cook for about 1 minute, then add the milk and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens slightly, about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the cheese and sour cream until well combined. Once cheese is melted in, stir in the cooked wild rice and chicken. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if desired.

5. Pour 1 ½ Tbsp melted butter into a small bowl. Add the crushed oyster crackers and mix together.

6. Pour wild rice mixture into a medium sized (1.5 quart) baking dish or casserole dish. Top evenly with the crushed cracker mixture. Place in the oven and bake at 350 until topping is golden brown and filling is hot and bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.

7. Cool slightly, then serve with a generous splash of hot sauce.

*To cook wild rice, combine ½ cup dried rice with 2 cups broth or water and ½ tsp salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain off any excess liquid.

**If you don’t happen to have leftover roasted chicken lying around awaiting use in this most delicious casserole, never fear - you can easily roast some up. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, place your chicken on a foil-lined baking sheet, and rub the chicken all over with a tablespoon of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Pop it in the oven, and let it roast until cooked through - about 25-35 minutes for breasts, 35-40 minutes for thighs. In fact, you can roast your chicken while your rice cooks, and they’ll both be ready for casserole cookery at about the same time.

10.3.14 Apple Butter Bars with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s that time of year again. It’s not summer, it’s not winter, and it’s not spring. It’s fall, which means right about now, I’m going a little insane in the apple department. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I’ve eaten a semi-ridiculous amount of apples, washed down by an even slightly more ridiculous amount of apple cider. I’ve also made apple chutney, apple sauce, apple cider doughnuts, apple cranberry cake, apple cider caramel, and more apple butter than I know what to do with. (And there are still apples left over, sigh.)


You are probably also aware that we are not only smack-dab in the middle of apple season, but pumpkin season as well. Which means that right around now, I get a craving for those super awesome pumpkin bars. You know, the ones that are actually a cake masquerading as a snack? Those moist, spicy, pumpkin cake squares topped with cream cheese frosting? Yeah those. But, as fate would have it, as I geared up for some pumpkin bar cookery, I found that somehow I had neglected to pick up pumpkin last time I was at the store. Not wanting to make yet another store run, it seemed that my pumpkin bars plan had been foiled. Until I realized that while my pantry was definitely lacking in the pumpkin department, I did have an obscene amount of freshly made apple butter lying around. You see where this is going.


Before I knew it, I had whipped up a batch of apple butter bars. Extra moist, spiced with cardamom and nutmeg, and, if that wasn’t enough, maple cream cheese frosting to boot. Solving two problems to create an amazing treat? Pretty fantastic in my book.

Apple Butter Bars with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

makes about 16 bars

  • 1 cup apple butter
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground cardamom 
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x9 square baking pan.

2.  In a large bowl, mix together the apple butter, eggs, vegetable oil, and both sugars until well blended.

3. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cardamom, salt and nutmeg. Once combined, add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees until top begins to brown, and a toothpick inserted into the bars comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Let bars cool completely before frosting.

5. To make the frosting, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and maple syrup until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar bit by bit until a smooth frosting consistency is achieved. Spread frosting atop bars, cut into squares and devour immediately.

9.30.14 Baklava Baked French Toast

I’ve always been a big fan of breakfast. Especially a nice, leisurely breakfast. You know, complete with hot beverages, newspapers spread out everywhere, and lots of general lounging around. And what better for a breakfast such as this, than a deliciously hot, golden, pan of baked french toast, fresh out of the oven. Because I wasn’t joking about the lounging around part. Why stand over a stove, flipping toast on the griddle when you can just make the oven do all of your work for you? Let me just say, whoever invented oven french toast was a pure genius.


The other day, I had a craving for just such a breakfast. I was getting ready to french toastify, when I was struck with a genius idea. You see, for some reason, I’ve had baklava on the brain (I blame the huge jar of honey staring down at me every time I open up my spice cabinet). And while I love baklava, I was just not in the mood to fiddle around with phyllo dough. But then it struck me - baklava...in french toast form. Not only would it be far easier to pull off than actual baklava, but I could get away with eating it for breakfast. Sold.


Imagine - thick slices of challah bread, soaked in cinnamon honey custard, topped with a spiced walnut crumble, and baked until golden. And of course, finished with a generous drizzle of warm honey syrup to truly baklavize it. Fantastic? I think yes.  And best of all, like most oven french toast, you can make the majority of it the night before. That’s right, slice up your bread, whisk up your custard, mix them together, and forget about it until morning. Then it’s just a quick spin with the food processor to whip up your walnut crumble, and 45 minutes later, you’re enjoying one pretty amazing breakfast. Throw in a cup of hot tea and a couple of perfectly ripe pears to round everything out, and that’s my kind of breakfast.


Baklava Baked French Toast

serves 8

I made this with walnuts, since that’s the sort of baklava I’m used to making (okay, let’s be honest, I only had walnuts), but if one was feeling daring, pistachios would make a deliciously unique topping. Give it a try, and invite me over for brunch.

french toast:

  • 1 pound loaf challah bread, preferably stale, sliced into 1” thick slices
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt

walnut crumble:

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 4 Tbsp cold butter, cut into pieces
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt

honey syrup:

  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 4 whole cloves

1. If your bread is not already stale, lay the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until they crisp up slightly. Or, if you plan ahead, you can leave the bread slices lying out on your kitchen counter overnight to help speed up the staling process.

2. Grease a 9x13 baking dish, and arrange bread slices in overlapping rows in the dish.

3. Whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, honey, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Pour over bread in pan, making sure all of the bread is well coated (it helps to push down on the bread with a spatula to help it soak up more of the custard).

4. Cover pan tightly with foil, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

5. After french toast has had time to chill and soak, remove from the fridge, and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

6. While oven heats, prepare the walnut crumble by combining the walnuts, butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and salt in a food processor and pulsing until nuts are coarsely chopped (about 20-30 seconds).

7. Sprinkle walnut crumble mixture evenly atop the soaked bread, re-cover tightly with the foil, and place in the oven. Bake covered for 20 minutes, then remove foil and continue to bake until top is golden brown and walnuts are toasty - about 25 minutes more.

8. While french toast bakes, prepare the syrup. Combine the honey, water, cinnamon stick, and cloves in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes. Remove the cloves and cinnamon stick before serving. (hint: if you’re planning on a super lovely, lazy morning, you can make the syrup the night before, refrigerate it, and just re-warm in before serving)

9. When french toast has finished baking, remove from oven, cool slightly, then serve hot topped with honey syrup.