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Archive for February, 2012

As a Wisconsinite of German descent I am obviously a lover of brats, among other delicious sausages.  Californians, I guess, are not sausage people.  While Italians and various chicken sausages are easy enough to find, good Chorizo has proven rather difficult and when purchasing brats we must settle for some very over priced Johnsonville variety.  Don’t get me wrong, Johnsonvilles are perfectly adequate, I just miss the varieties of fresh made-in-house sausages you can get at a Wisconsin meat market, or even a supermarket like Festival Foods.

A few weeks ago Johnsonvilles were on sale and I picked up some brats because it just feels right to have some in the freezer, just in case.  We pulled them out this past weekend when the possibility of grilling out at a friends came up, but that fell through and as we do not yet own a grill [I know! Shame on us!] I looked for an alternate way to serve up those babies in an appropriately Wisconsin style.  The result was a very tasty adaptation of mac and cheese.

I started by searching on pinterest for a homemade mac and cheese recipe that included beer, because I felt that would add to the whole “awesome Sconnieness” of the dish.  This one fit my requirements and the original poster is clearly using Leinenkugel’s so I instantly liked her and looked no further.  The two biggest changes I made were obviously adding bratwurst and also using penne instead of macaroni, since I could not find anything of the sort at Trader Joe’s.  Here’s the recipe with my adjustments noted:

Easy Beer Mac and Cheese

serves 4-6

  • 2 1/2 cups uncooked whole wheat elbow noodles (as I mentioned, I used Penne and it turned out fine)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 8 ounces milk
  • 8 ounces beer (sadly TJ’s is also lacking in WI beers so I used Mission St. Brown Ale )
  • 8 ounces freshly grated cheddar cheese (we go with the sharpest we can find, which is usually still pretty mild to us)
  • 4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • pinch of black pepper (I may have accidentally dumped in several pinches, and it may not have been peppery enough.  If you like your spice I’d say go with at least a 1/4 tsp here, too)
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 10 large basil leaves, chopped for garnish (um, we just garnished with extra bratwursts… the Epic Meal Time guys would be proud)
  • and speaking of… 3 bratwursts par boiled in beer and sliced into medallions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Prepare water for pasta and boil according to directions, shaving 1-2 minutes off of cooking time since pasta will continue to cook in the oven.

Heat a saucepan over medium high heat and add butter. Once melted and sizzling, whisk in flour to create a roux and cook until bubbly and golden in color, about 2 minutes. Add milk and beer into saucepan whisking constantly, then add cheeses and stir until melted. Turn heat down to medium and continue to stir, cooking for 5-6 minutes while mixture thickens. It will most likely NOT thicken like regular mac and cheese because of the beer, but you want it to thicken a little bit. Stir in pepper, paprika and nutmeg.

(Here’s where I added the brats to the cheese sauce before pouring on noodles.  In the future I’d probably mix the brats with the noodles before adding the cheese, but it really makes no difference)

Add cooked and drained noodles to a casserole dish, then pour cheese over top, mixing gently to combine. Top with panko bread crumbs and an additional sprinkle of cheese if desired. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes, then top with fresh basil (or the pan fried extra brats).

 

I especially loved this dish because it tastes like Wisconsin in a bowl.  It would only have been better if the weather had been less California sunshine and more Wisconsin gloom, warm comfort foods such as these taste better when its blustery outside, but I guess we can survive the sun.

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I live in what I find to be an amazing part of Los Angeles.  There’s a video floating around YouTube right now entitled “Shit People Say in L.A.” and it makes me laugh because though I’ve only resided here for about 5 months, I find myself saying many of the same (or similar things).  At one point one of the girls proclaims “I’d never live west of Vermont [Street]!”  Vermont is actually east of me…but I related to their sentiment because I’ve found myself proclaiming quite frequently that “I’d never live south of the 10.”  So yeah, I love living within spitting distance of both Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, and being a short drive (in good traffic) from places like Santa Monica and downtown.  I live right off of 3rd Street, and the two miles of it that span between home and work are jam-packed with great shopping and eating options.

Before my sisters, mom and I joined my dad in Vegas on their visit to the west coast in early January, we spent an afternoon enjoying said shopping and eating.  On our way home from a late lunch, we wandered into Matcha Source.  Mostly because I knew Ali was looking for a good place to buy tea leaves out here (there’s a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on every corner, but sometimes you want something a little less corporate…), but also because it looked cute to me.  Turns out matcha is powdered tea made of stone ground green tea leaves, so when you drink it, you’re drinking the whole tea leaf.  The lady running to store kindly made us fresh samples as we browsed.  They were busy with a huge pile of internet orders after a recent Wall Street Journal write-up, but she made time to explain to us all the benefits of matcha.  I was sold on just the antioxidant level, but there are so many more.  I also liked that the stuff, being powdered, could easily be worked into numerous recipes: lattes, smoothies, even ice cream!

My little jar of matcha sat in my cupboard for about a month before I decided to finally start drinking the stuff.  The sample I tried in the store had been made in the traditional way: sifted and whisked with hot water into a frothy cup of tea.  My jar, however, had a recipe for green tea lattes, and I thought that sounded more exciting.  And easier, since I did not splurge on the fancy equipment needed to perform the “tea ceremony” I just described.  And, though my taste buds have matured and the most sweetener I add to tea nowadays is teaspoon of honey, this tea has a very strong flavor that doesn’t have really even a hint of sweetness; in my brain, latte is associated with the sugary drinks I guzzle from Starbucks multiple times per week to get through the workday (Yes, we have a full service Starbucks in the lobby of the hospital.  That’s some genius marketing.)  Unfortunately, I failed to realize that skim milk isn’t particularly sweet either 😉  So my very first matcha latte was simply a slightly creamier version of a cup of hot matcha.

My solution: vanilla soy milk.  Is it blasphemous to drink soy milk coming from America’s Dairyland?  Possibly.  But, the stuff is damn good for you (again with that protein!).  And the vanilla flavor was just the hint of sweetness I needed to balance out the green tea flavor.  And, Trader Joe’s sells it cheap.  For a moment I considered almond milk, but soy has more protein.

Obviously, I am not aware of the antioxidant benefits I am apparently reaping daily.  However, I’ll vouch for the fact that 8 oz. of this stuff leaves me a little more energetic and alert without the caffeine shakes I get from coffee.  Yeah, it has caffeine too, but something about all the other compounds in the tea give it a much more subtle effect.

You can order several grades of match from the link above.  Some quick Googling will give you a few other choices as well (Teavana sells it, but their price is slightly higher than what I paid at Matcha Source.).  It’s expensive, but nowadays what healthy options aren’t?

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Turkey Stroganoff

Hi there! Tonight I bring you a classic that gets heavy rotation in our meal routine.  This hamburger stroganoff recipe comes from one of the church cookbooks in my mom’s kitchen drawer, you may remember Danielle’s praises of church cookbooks from here.  We adapt it by using ground turkey in place of beef and today I had to adapt it even further because we didn’t have quite enough sour cream.

We joke around here that I almost always mess up something when I’m cooking or doing the grocery shopping.  Last time I grabbed the wrong yogurt for Danielle, getting plain instead of French Vanilla flavored.  So we have a big container of plain yogurt that we have to use up… somehow.  Fortunately we had it tonight when I wanted to make stroganoff and we had everything on hand to make it except sour cream.  According to a Google search yogurt can be substituted for sour cream in a sauce recipe, it just makes it a bit thinner, so I also added a bit extra flour to help thicken things up.

here’s the recipe:

Hamburger Stroganoff

  • minced onioin
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder (or a couple cloves minced) to taste
  • 1 lb ground beef (or turkey)
  • dash flour (or in my case a few heaping tablespoons of flour)
  • 1 can mushrooms + liquid
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup sour cream (or if you messed up the shopping trip: yogurt!)

brown and drain meat, add all ingredients except sour cream and simmer to heat through, add sour cream last and serve over egg noodles or mashed potatoes.

And in case you’re wondering, the yogurt substitution worked well.  The dish tasted more or less how it always does (a bit extra salt and pepper might have been called for) and it was a good way to use up  yogurt we normally wouldn’t be eating.

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Hello again!  Do we have any readers left?!

The typical excuse for not blogging currently applies…I’ve been insanely busy at work.  And on the weekends when I’m not on call, I’ve been busy enjoying visitors or taking little trips.  Our parents and little sister were in town for our family Christmas and the Rose Bowl over New Year’s, and we all went to Vegas for a weekend too.  More recently, I spent a day in San Diego with a cousin.  We had brunch at a cute place in the Gaslamp District, where I had some pretty amazing breakfast burritos made with chorizo and refried beans.  Mmmmm.  And MOST recently, I visited one of my favorite food cities: St. Louis! 🙂  One of my very best friends, Holly, is in grad school at St. Louis University so I flew in on a Friday morning & four of our other pals from high school and college drove down from Wisconsin.  Our weekend pretty much consisted of drinking (including a tour of Schlafly Bottleworks & the New Glarus brews the girls were kind enough to tote down for us!), playing board games, visiting the Arch (again, for me), and…EATING!!

Holly and I got to share Pappy’s with the girls, all of whom have heard us rave about it for almost two years now.  I branched out and got a 1/2 rack of ribs with my brisket.  To be sure, they were meaty and tasty.  But that brisket is so damn good, I don’t think I want anything else no matter how good that is.  Nobody really fell for the deep fried corn on the cob, which threw us for a loop.  The only reason I could come up with was that the previous two times I’d had Pappy’s, it was summer, so the corn was probably really fresh sweet corn.  You can’t blame the folks over there for not finding fresh corn in January 🙂  We also had lunch at Iron Barley, which was quite delicious too.  This time around I had the chili cheese dog…which they make with these awesome, slightly spicy red hots.  God, it was so good.  I mean, I enjoy a chili cheese dog from Sonic I’m that unpicky about them.  But hell, this was the best one I’ve ever had.  Now I really need to get to Pink‘s.  Just to see if there is something similar within driving distance of my current home 🙂  Every time we go to Target, we drive past and comment that we need to go.  One of these days, we’re gonna make it happen!

Anyways, our final culinary adventure took me to the lone Man vs. Food St. Louis eatery I had yet to patronize, Crown Candy Kitchen.  This also allowed me to check one more item off my food bucket list!  We had to drive through some very sketchy neighborhoods at dusk to get there, but I’m glad we went.  My chocolate malt was yummy, huge and cheap.  The friends I shared a tiny table with each got a fruit-flavored ice cream and enjoyed them.  However, both of them also worked at our local custard shop back home in high school.  Coming from Wisconsin, I think we have decidedly snobby views on what great ice cream is.  This was good, maybe it was even great…but we all decided it wasn’t mind-blowing.  I think it’s accurate to say the people of Missouri don’t know what they’re missing a couple states north 😉

Fast forward a week, and I’m back in California just chilling.  I’m on call, so there’s not much else to do besides chill haha.  Ali and Chris have been doing a vast majority of the cooking as of late, so I picked up the slack tonight.  Our list of meals has dwindled, and since I didn’t feel like thawing a 5 lb. pork loin, I had one option: Lean N’ Green Chili.

I’ve made this once before.  When Holly and I lived together, we were calorie-counting queens and had quite a collection of “healthy” cookbooks to complement our slightly horrific love of Rachael Ray and Paula Deen recipes.  This one came from a Pampered Chef cookbook.  I was intrigued by how it called for grated corn tortillas as a thickening agent instead of cream.  I was also intrigued by the large protein and fiber quantities per serving (yay chicken and beans!).  I think you’ll be blown away by the flavor of this recipe when you consider there’s only one spice in it: cumin (go figure, haha).  It’s a good spice level for me…not as crazy as full-blown cajun chicken pasta, but not as mild as my mom’s version of chili 😉  However, if you aren’t a spice person, I’d suggest using green bell pepper instead of poblano chile peppers like the recipe calls for.

The recipe also calls for making your own tortilla chips to serve with the chili, I did today, and yes they’re yummy.  I wish I had some lime juice to sprinkle on them.  However, store bought will do just fine.

  • 4 6-inch corn tortillas (I highly prefer flour tortillas in my cooking.  The hospital uses corn tortillas for their fish tacos, which is why they taste kind of gross to me.  However, since these are what thickens the chili, I didn’t want to mess around with it!)
  • 1 cup chopped poblano chile peppers, diced (A quick trip to Wikipedia on my phone in the middle of Ralph’s taught us that north of Mexico, poblanos are usually sold as “pasilla” peppers, btw.)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 pound chicken breasts, diced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (double it!!)
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed (triple or quadruple it!!)
  • 2 14.5 oz. cans of fat-free chicken broth
  • 2 15 oz. cans of pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/4 cup salsa verde or 1 10 oz. can green enchilada sauce (I use salsa verde.  I had bought a 16 oz. jar and I dumped the entire thing in this batch.  Why not?)
  • fresh cilantro to top, if you wish

First, grate the tortillas.  I have the actual Pampered Chef cheese grater they call for to do this: it has a handle to crank and everything.  If you don’t have something similar, I think a few seconds in a food processor would do the trick, but they have to be grated finely…not just in little chunks, or they won’t work their magic.  Set aside.

Then, in a pot heat 1 TBSP oil to cook the chicken in.  Season with the cumin, and a little pepper if you wish.  Cook 5 minutes, then add the peppers, onion and garlic.  Cook three minutes more.  Stir in the broth, beans, and salsa verde.  Actually, stir in 2 4 oz. cans of diced green chiles here too 😉  I just realized I had bought those for a different recipe but added them to this one by mistake.  A pretty tasty mistake, it turns out…

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.  Serve with your tortilla chips.  And sour cream if you’re Chris 🙂

Note to those readers with texture issues: this is chunky.  Delightfully chunky.  Just beware.  I’d say one batch easily stuffs four people, and would feed two for a few days.  If your party has five or more and you aren’t serving much else, I’d consider doubling the batch.  The worst that happens is you have leftovers!

This is my promise to try and blog at least once a week from here on out.  Let’s see how good I can do!!

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