2.4.16 Sweet and Salty Teriyaki Popcorn

This is it guys. This is quite possibly the most delicious popcorn I’ve ever encountered. There was a time when I figured kettle corn was the end-all be-all of popcorn deliciousness, or at the very least, I didn’t think it could get much better than Chicago mix. Then I devised this popcorn - crispy, crunchy, and coated in a sweet and salty soy sauce caramel and my popcorn game changed forever.

Okay, soy sauce caramel may sound a little out there, but look at it this way. We all know how ridiculously good regular old salted caramel is. Personally, if I have a choice when it comes to caramel, I’m choosing salted every time. And really, what’s soy sauce caramel but salted caramel taken to the next level? At least, that was my intention when I embarked on this culinary experiment and I’m happy to report that my hypothesis was correct. Soy sauce caramel IS in fact the ultimate sweet and salty combo. Punched up slightly with a little ginger and sesame to give it that teriyaki feel, this is some pretty delicious stuff.

If the thought of making your own caramel makes you want to run and hide, I can completely understand. Used to be, working with molten sugar scared the crap out of me as well. Often I’d end up with drippy, unset caramel or way-too-hard-rip-your-teeth-out caramel. Let me assure you though, I have made this recipe multiple times - without a candy thermometer no less - and it has come out great every time. I’ve included some additional notes and things I learned to help you at the bottom of the recipe as well.

As an additional nerdy sidenote; looking at this recipe, it may seem odd that we’re adding baking soda into the caramel. Among the list of other delicious ingredients going in there, baking soda certainly seems like the odd man out. The fact is, adding baking soda to caramel is the key to keeping it just the right texture. It reacts with the acidity of the other ingredients to form lots of foamy carbon dioxide bubbles (much like that vinegar and baking soda volcano you made back in science class), which in turn aerates the caramel and gives it that perfect soft and not-too-sticky texture.

Sweet and Salty Teriyaki Popcorn

Makes 8 cups

I have a sneaking suspicion that if one were to add a generous spoonful of sesame seeds to the mix along with the ginger and baking soda, it would probably be pretty awesome. But not having any sesame seeds on hand myself (boo!) I can only theorize on this point. If, unlike me, you do in fact manage to keep your cupboards stocked with sesame seeds, please give it a try and let me know how it turns out!

  • 8 cups plain popped popcorn (from about ½ cup kernels)
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut up into pieces
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp ground ginger

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Coat the inside of a large bowl with cooking spray, and add popcorn to the bowl.

2. In a medium pot over medium high heat, combine the sugar and water, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves*. Continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until sugar-water mixture is amber in color, about 10 minutes.

3. Remove pot from heat and stir in the soy sauce, butter, and sesame oil** (there will be a lot of bubbling). Once all butter is melted in, return pot to heat and bring back to a boil. Cook for an additional 2 minutes.

4. Remove pot from heat once again and stir in the baking soda and ground ginger. As soon as everything is evenly mixed, quickly pour mixture over the popcorn and toss to coat.

5. Spread coated popcorn out on your parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes, tossing once halfway through baking***.

6. Remove popcorn from oven, and allow to cool slightly before serving. Once cooled, popcorn can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

*When cooking the sugar and water, err on the side of higher heat. If your stove isn’t hot enough, all of the liquid will evaporate off before the sugar has a chance to brown, and you’ll end up with a very solid sugary mass. If this happens to you, just dump it out (very hot water and soap will do the trick) and start again - it’s only sugar and water after all.

**When you add the soy sauce, butter, and sesame oil, keep stirring until the butter is all melted in. You may notice while stirring that the caramel begins to feel like it’s solidifying on the bottom of the pot, but don’t worry! It will all liquify again when you put it back on the heat.

***When the popcorn comes out of the oven, the caramel may still seem a little sticky - this is normal! It will become hard and shiny as soon as it has a chance to cool a bit. The finished product will be edible by the handful without leaving any sticky caramel residue behind!

1.28.16 Kimchi Jjigae (Korean-Style Kimchi Stew)

For a large part of my sister’s life, she was a picky eater. And not just a little picky. I’m pretty sure she only willingly ate cheese, buttered noodles, and instant ramen for the first 18 years of her life.

This may have continued on indefinitely had it not been for the fact that in college, my sister decided to study abroad in South Korea. You can understand why initially, we were a little concerned. After all, cheese, which constituted a huge part of her diet, is relatively hard to come by in Korea. We figured that there could only be one of two outcomes to this situation: 1. my sister would starve, or 2. she would no longer be a picky eater. Luckily for all of us, she went with option 2.

Today, my sister will eat pretty much anything. In fact, after returning from her study abroad in Seoul, she shared her newfound taste for Korean cookery with our family, introducing me to kimchi, which at the time, I had never tried before. I immediately loved its spicy, funky, fermented flavor, and to this day am always finding ways to add it into my cooking.

One such method of kimchi consumption is in the form of a kimchi stew known as kimchi jjigae. Of course, my version is probably not all that authentic (it has bacon in it after all), but what it may lack in authenticity, it more than makes up for in pure deliciousness. Gochujang (Korean fermented chile paste) and gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes) add heat, while a healthy dose of kimchi adds tons of bright flavor. It’s just the thing you need on a cold winter day. And if you’re still not sold on the whole kimchi thing, let me just say this: If the world’s pickiest eater can learn to love kimchi, then so can you.

Kimchi Jjigae (Korean-Style Kimchi Stew)

serves 2 generously

I always have kimchi, gochujang, and gochugaru on hand at all times if possible, and I recommend you do the same. Here’s why: 1. Besides this soup, you can use them in a number of other delicious ways; 2. They’re relatively easy to find at most Asian grocery stores, and pretty inexpensive to boot; and 3. They will keep forever.

  • 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into pieces
  • ½ medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2 tsp soy sauce + more to taste
  • 1 Tbsp Gochujang
  • 2 tsp Gochugaru or to taste
  • 1 cup Kimchi, squeezed dry and chopped + ¼ cup kimchi liquid
  • 2 ½  cups water
  • 6 oz tofu, cut into large cubes
  • thinly sliced scallions and sesame seeds for garnish

1. In a medium pot, cook the bacon pieces over medium heat until beginning to crisp. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook until beginning to soften, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the soy sauce, gochujang, gochugaru, and kimchi and cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add kimchi juice and water and simmer 20-30 minutes. Season to taste with additional soy sauce if needed,

4. Add tofu and cook until warmed through, about 3-4 minutes more. Ladle soup into bowls and serve topped with scallions and sesame seeds.


1.22.16 Avocado, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Chopped Salad

There’s a lot of different ways to do salad. I tend to be in the category of people who, if they’re going to have a salad for dinner, they’re going to go all out. Me, if I’m having a salad, it’s usually going to be a Big Salad. The Big Salad, as defined by me, is any salad that constitutes a full meal. This can’t be a little pile of lettuce you eat, and afterwards you still feel like you could eat a horse. This is the kind of salad that, after you’re done eating it, you feel superbly satiated. The kind of salad that’s loaded with so many delicious ingredients, you sometimes forget you’re eating a salad. This is my kind of salad.

We eat a decent amount of Big Salads in our house, namely because they’re a pretty easy meal to throw together, are quite tasty, and most importantly, if you eat a Big Salad, you can eat as much dessert as you want afterwards because, hey, you ate a SALAD for dinner. That’s how that works, right?

This particular Big Salad is especially wonderful. It may be because it’s full of avocados, black beans, and chipotle roasted sweet potatoes. Or perhaps it’s the tangy cilantro lime dressing. Or maybe it’s the creamy goat cheese and crunchy pepitas that top it all off. It could be all those things. Or it could just be the fact that sometimes, a Big Salad such as this one is exactly what you need. Whatever the reason, this salad will not disappoint.

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Avocado, Black Bean, and Sweet Potato Chopped Salad

serves 3

dressing:

  • 1 cup loose packed cilantro
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • ½ tsp salt

salad:

  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into small (approx ½”) pieces
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle chile powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 romaine hearts, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 large avocado, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • cilantro sprigs, roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and thinly sliced red onion for serving

1. To make the dressing, combine all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until well blended.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

3. Toss sweet potatoes with the oil, chipotle chile powder, and salt until well coated. Spread potatoes in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400 degrees until tender and beginning to brown on the edges, about 30 minutes.

4. Place chopped romaine in a large bowl. Give your dressing a good stir, then pour over lettuce and toss to coat evenly. Divide lettuce evenly between plates. Top each with equal amounts of roasted sweet potatoes, black beans, chopped avocado, and crumbled goat cheese. Garnish with cilantro sprigs, pepitas, and thinly sliced red onion.

1.20.16 Smoked Salmon, Spinach, and Farro Bowls

If there’s one perfect way to eat a meal, it is, in my opinion, in bowl form. We’ve talked about this before, I know, but still, I feel it’s important to reiterate this fact. There are a lot of reasons why I feel that, when it comes to dinner (or breakfast, or lunch for that matter), bowl food is most definitely the way to go.

First and foremost, they’re generally pretty easy to make: Throw some things together in a bowl, mix them up, and eat them in one deliciously mixed up concoction. As long as everything fits together pretty well flavorwise, you’re good to go. Which is why bowls are also a great way to use up any random leftovers, or spare veggies, or intriguing condiments you happen to have lying around in your fridge. Another important thing that bowls have going for them (or at least any bowl I’m going to be making anyway) is the toppings factor. I LOVE toppings. And bowl meals were made for toppings.

Case in point - this delicious bowl monstrosity I’ve been enjoying. I’m telling you, this bowl’s got it all: A base of bright, lemony spinach and nutty farro, smoked salmon, a perfect poached egg, and a semi-ridiculous amount of delicious toppings. This is the kind of bowl I’d be happy eating for any meal of the day. And the best part is, it’s infinitely customizable. You can make this recipe as is, or use it as a jumping off point of any number of magnificent bowls. Because the fact is, a meal in bowl form is pretty much always going to be a good one.

Smoked Salmon, Spinach, and Farro Bowls

makes 2

You know me - I’m a huge fan of anything spicy. That’s why I’ve recently been obsessed with harissa, a spicy pepper paste of North African origin. I recently made some, and have not been able to resist putting on pretty much EVERYTHING. Which is why, if you’re like me, you’re going to love the extra kick it gives this grain bowl. And if spicy’s not your thing, well then, it’s easy enough to leave it out.

  • 1 ½ cups cooked farro (or other grain of your choice)
  • 1-2 oz fresh baby spinach
  • Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)
  • 2 Tbsp good extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 poached eggs
  • 3 oz hot smoked salmon, flaked
  • 2 Tbsp harissa paste (optional)
  • crumbled goat cheese, thinly sliced cucumber, thinly sliced scallions, and fresh dill sprigs for serving

1. Combine the farro, spinach, lemon juice and olive oil in a large bowl. Toss until well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Divide farro and spinach mixture between two bowls. Top each with a poached egg and equal amounts of smoked salmon, harissa paste (if using), crumbled goat cheese, cucumber slices, sliced scallions, and fresh dill sprigs.

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1.14.16 Blood Orange Campari Soda

I’m happy to report that after many very pregnant months, I am once again able to practice the fine art of mixology. And thank goodness for that. After a long, tiring day (and let’s be honest, with an infant around the house, every day is long and tiring), sometimes a good cocktail is just what we need. And these days, this blood orange Campari soda is my go-to.

Campari, for those unfamiliar (and to you I say: familiarize yourselves immediately!), is a brilliantly red aperitif that hails from Italy. Made from infused fruits and herbs, its taste can only be described as quite bitter. But bitter in the best way possible. Trust me, it’s fantastic.  Mixed with gin and vermouth, it makes the fantastic Negroni cocktail, a drink I admit to consuming many of in recent history.

However, after a 9+ month drinking hiatus, my tolerance these days is laughable, and most days, a fairly potent Negroni is a little more than I’d like to tackle. But Campari and soda? That’s a beverage I can get behind. The addition of freshly squeezed blood orange juice helps temper the bitterness (not to mention, gives this drink an incredibly beautiful color). A dash of orange bitters, an orange wedge for garnish, and you’ve got yourself one classy cocktail. Cheers!

Blood Orange Campari Soda

makes 1

If you don’t have orange bitters on hand, you can certainly make this without. Admittedly, we seem to be a little crazy in the bitters department, having about 6 or 7 types on hand at any given time, but I’d have to say that the orange bitters seem to get the most use in our house. Besides using them in this lovely libation, I often find myself adding them to Old Fashioneds, Negronis, Root and Ryes, and beer among other things.

  • Ice
  • 1.5 oz Campari
  • Juice of 1 blood orange (about 2 Tbsp)
  • Seltzer Water
  • Dash of Orange Bitters (such as Bittercube)
  • Blood Orange slice for garnish

1. Combine the Campari and blood orange juice in highball glass.

2. Add ice, then top glass off with seltzer water. Add a dash of orange bitters and garnish with a blood orange slice.

1.6.16 Ginger Turmeric Chicken Soup

It’s a new year, and although we’re only 6 days in, I can safely say that this year is off to a great start. I mean, any year that starts with a new family member (can we believe he’s 6 weeks old already?) is already going to be great. But now that we’re starting to get the hang of this whole baby thing (at least that’s what I’ll keep telling myself), there’s occasionally time to fit in things like cooking. At last! Leo’s been joining me in the kitchen in his rocker, and has been very helpful in providing all manner of background baby sounds to accompany my cooking. I think we make a great team.

For example, we recently cooked up a big pot of this restorative ginger turmeric chicken soup. This soup is exactly what I’ve been craving since I came down with a nasty cold a couple of weeks ago. While suffering through a sore throat and some serious nasal congestion, I found myself dreaming of a nice hot bowl of soup, full of soothing ginger and turmeric, some chile for heat, coconut milk, shredded chicken and rice for sustenance, and some spinach because, well, green things are good for you.

When I finally got around to making said soup, my cold was a thing of the past (thank goodness), but the end result still felt like exactly what my overly-tired self needed on a wintry day. Based on Leo’s smiles and cooing during the cooking process, I’m pretty sure he approves too.

Ginger Turmeric Chicken Soup

serves 3-4

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ Tbsp finely grated ginger
  • 1 finely chopped chile pepper (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric (or 1 Tbsp finely grated fresh turmeric)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅓ cup long grain rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium chicken breast
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 4 oz fresh spinach
  • Chile flakes for garnish (optional)

1. Heat oil in a pot over medium high heat. Add garlic, shallot, ginger, chile, turmeric, and salt and cook, stirring often, until soft and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

2. Add the rice and cook, stirring often, until rice is well coated and shiny, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and the chicken breast. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook, covered, until rice is tender and chicken is cooked through, about 12-15 min.

3. Remove chicken from pot, and shred using two forks. Return shredded chicken to the pot, along with the coconut milk, lime juice, and fish sauce. Season to taste with additional salt if needed.

4. Increase heat and bring soup just to a boil, then reduce heat to low once more and stir in the spinach until just wilted. Ladle into bowls and serve. Top with chile flakes for extra heat if desired.

12.30.15 Wisconsin from Scratch Best of 2015

Another year has flown by, and it’s been quite a year. After last year’s antics, we figured it would be hard to top them in 2015. We were wrong. This year, we co-founded a food blogger collective, spent a couple of weeks living it up (and eating of course) in Puerto Rico, hosted one fantastically over-the-top pig roast, and of course, we had a baby. What a year! Of course, like most years, we also did our fair share of cooking. And let me tell you, we cooked some pretty awesome things in 2015. And so, with 2016 practically upon us, we figured it was time again to share our favorite recipes from the past year. Once again, Forrest and I were faced with the difficult task of selecting our favorite recipes, and I’m happy to report that after much deliberation, we’ve narrowed the list down to the top 15. And so, once again, we bring you the best of the best!

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Red Curry Chicken Noodle Soup

The inspiration for this particular soup is the northern Thai dish known as Khao Soi. This soup is exactly what you need on a chilly day - rich, spicy, coconut red curry broth, chicken, noodles, and loads of toppings (and we know how I feel about toppings). Chicken noodle soup has never looked better.

Black Beans and Rice Bowl with Crispy Plantains

This dish is a good example of why we should be eating food in bowl form all of the time. You start with a big bowl of rice and Cuban-style black beans and top everything with a generous helping of crispy plantains. And not just any plantains, but sweet and smokey plantains tossed with a sprinkle of ancho chile and spoonful of warm honey. Finish it all with some fresh cilantro, avocado, and a squeeze of lime, and you’ve got yourself some classy black beans and rice.

Chile Roasted Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Cilantro Rice

A favorite on Food52 this year, as well as in our kitchen. This recipe is pretty simple: Roast some chicken and sweet potatoes with chile and spices, cook up some lovely, herbaceous cilantro rice while you roast, and top it all off with a nice dollop of lime-sour cream.

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Spicy Pickled Carrot Salad

This salad was inspired by those lovely pickled carrots you typically get on a banh mi sandwich. They’re so good, I always find myself wishing for more. The obvious solution was to just make my own, which is really pretty easy. And while a big plate of pickled carrots is probably delicious, adding some cucumbers and peanuts for crunch, a super simple chile lime dressing, and a few fresh herbs makes it into the best carrot salad you’ve ever had.

Pea Risotto with Crispy Prosciutto, Feta, and Mint

What better way to showcase peas than in a creamy bowl of risotto? This version really lets the peas shine, incorporating them both in whole form as well as adding some extra springy greenness as a lovely, bright puree with mint and lemon. And of course, you really can't go wrong by topping it all off with crispy prosciutto, tangy feta, and fresh mint.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars

Strawberries and rhubarb are the perfect pair. One super sweet, one terrifically tart; they balance each other perfectly. When you put them both together, you end up with a wonderful, brilliantly red, sweet-and-sour combo. It’s perfect in many ways, but I find it’s best enjoyed in bar form, sandwiched between sweet buttery layers of crumbly crust.

Whipped Feta Dip with Spiced Pita Chips

Besides being delicious and fun to eat, dip can also be dangerous. As in, you start snacking, and before you know it, you look down to find you’ve somehow eaten the entire bowl. Unfortunately, this is a very real danger when it comes to this whipped feta dip.

Grilled Pork Chops with Spicy Pickled Greens

For those times when a nice, juicy pork chop on the grill seems like just the thing you need. This version is coated in a super simple sweet and smoky spice rub, and grilled to dark golden perfection. And it only gets better when you top them with a big pile of spicy, tangy, pickled greens. A side of fluffy parmesan mashed potatoes is highly recommended.

Strawberry, Balsamic, and Lemon Thyme Smash

This winning combination of sweet ripe strawberries, tart balsamic vinegar, and bright lemon thyme is quite tasty, making for one refreshing beverage. And being alcohol-free means there’s no inevitable hangover if you accidently have a few too many. Because with a drink this tasty, that’s a definite possibility.

Key Lime Pie Popsicles

It’s hard for me to say no to key lime pie in any form, but frozen on a stick seems particularly appealing when the temps are skyrocketing. And I’m pleased to report that these pops taste just like the real deal, with the added benefit of not having to fire up your oven to bake it. Ice cold and refreshingly sour, it’s hard to imagine a more perfect frozen treat.

Grilled Peach and Bread Cheese Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

Bread cheese, or juustoleipa, is perfect for grilling, and after a short time over the coals gets beautifully melty without making a mess. Added atop this salad, along with caramelized, grilled peaches, fresh greens dressed in a basil vinaigrette, and topped off with hazelnuts, it makes for one fantastic, summery dish. Any salad that includes big pieces of warm, melty cheese is my kind of salad.

Chile Roasted Squash and Sweet Pepper Quesadillas

Delicata squash’s 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. Most importantly, this recipe helps to satiate my ever present need for more cheese.

Sweet and Spicy Apple Chutney

When it comes to fall condiment awesomeness, in my book, this is a clear winner. Packed with flavor from tart apples, tangy vinegar, savory shallots, sweet raisins, and warm spices, it’s somehow supremely satisfying straight out of the jar, terrific on toast, perfect with pork, great on grilled cheese, and honestly, I can’t imagine a fall cheese plate that didn’t include copious amounts of the stuff.

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.

Baby Leo from Scratch

By far, the best thing we made all year. Well, obviously.

 

11.28.15 Baby Leo from Scratch

Since I started Wisconsin from Scratch back in 2013, I’ve made a lot of awesome things from scratch. You’d think it would be hard to pick one of them to be the absolute best, and until recently, it definitely was. But then, not long ago, I made, without question, the best thing of all. This little guy.

I mean seriously, look at him!

Leo Everett Woolworth was born November 20th at 10:48am, weighing 7lbs, 5oz and measuring 20 inches. And I would be totally kidding if I said his birth was anything like I originally planned. I spent months mentally preparing for the whole childbirth process, only to find out at 37 weeks that this baby boy of ours was stubbornly stuck in breech position. After trying (unsuccessfully) pretty much everything we could think of to get him to flip head-down, we soon had to face the fact that this baby was going to be born via c-section.

Despite the fact that a planned c-section was not at all how I foresaw this whole birth thing going, everything went as smoothly as possible.  I’ve been recovering well, and most importantly, we got a happy, healthy baby out of the whole deal!  Which is really the only thing that matters anyway. And, really, we couldn’t be happier; we’re so in love with this little guy! All I can say is that baby Leo is, hands down, the best thing I’ve ever made from scratch.