Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween from the Scooby Doo gang!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Autumn Nuts

The roasted holiday nuts that I spoke about before were spreading earthy spice smells to every corner of the house last night. A recipe that seems so easy and so natural that I'm amazed more people don't roast their own every day! I know when we make them it's a challenge to get them off the baking tray.

Once you try this blend of holiday seasonings I'm sure it will be a favorite in your home too.

Roasted Holiday Nuts
4 cups Mixed Nuts (cashews, almonds, pecans, filberts, brazils)
2 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Rosemary
1 tbsp Sage
1 tbsp Thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Mix all ingredients but nuts together in a large bowl. Add in the nuts and fold until well coated. Lay out flat on a large baking sheet. Broil at 500 degrees on a low rack until just slightly brown, turn and roast again, about 8 minutes on first side, 5 on the next. Do not over roast. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes on pan. Place in a serving tray or store in original container for up to 1 month.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Decorating for the Season

The little hints of orange and yellow and infused our house with the Halloween spirit. The pumpkins have been carved, the holiday nuts have been roasted, and the leaves have fallen (not to mention a little snow!) Thankfully my collection of signed and special cookbooks matches the autumn colorings. But I wonder, will it go with the winter? Hopefully we won’t have any more snow so I can put off worrying.

The decorations hold a little of the antique, as does our normal d├ęcor. There are witches and ravens, sliver leaves and orange ribbons; all mixed in with our permanent collection. My parents have always been avid antique coinsurers, most likely coming from the local historic items found in my grandparents farm and the neighboring estates. They especially hunt for Redwing crocks and stoneware. These large containers were made to hold anything from butter, to water, to cured meats. While many in number there are few without cracks or blemishes. Our home holds only one small crock (used for magazines at the moment), however our collection of coffee grinders and tins continues to grow. Besides the resident coffee aficionado’s obsession with grinders, my husband has also blessed the purchases of an antique pizza flipper, the occasional wooden spoon, and my personal fetish, trivets.

Ofcourse there is always the cross generation handed down crystal from my cousin and the, get this, dish that I was baptised in. All in all, our home is a timeless mixture of old world charm and modern conveniences, or at least that’s what we strive for!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hickory Nuts and Bake Shoppes

There is one more tradition that our family follows when spending a weekend in Northern Wisconsin; a visit to the bakery.

The Spooner Bake Shoppe is one of the most delicious places you will find. It boasts of Jelly Rolls, Glazed Donuts, Cinnamon Twists, and Filled Danishes. My personal favorites are the Raspberry Filled Sugar Cookies, a sweet melt in your mouth folded piece of heaven, and the plain Croissant, which is buttery and flakey all at once.

The bakery is nestled in the Main Street section of town. Faced with dark wood and carved with detail seen in the hometown villages I'm sure the ancestors who founded it remember.

Although I’ve never tried to recreate the Raspberry Cookies, I will share a cookie recipe that also goes well with milk! The Hickory nuts I use are gathered by my grandfather, who will sit at the table with a bucket and pick the ‘meat’ from the nuts out. His weathered and gnarled hands working more deftly than mine ever could even after years of farm work.

Chocolate Chunk Hickory Nut Cookies

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cups (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
1 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1 cup hickory nuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a large bowl beat butter and sugars until creamy.
Beat in vanilla, then eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt.
At low speed, gradually add flour mixture into butter mixture; beating until just blended.
Fold in chocolate and hickory nuts.

Drop large tablespoons of rounded dough, 2 inches apart, onto a nonstick cookie sheet.
Bake cookies 10 to 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining dough.

Note: I drizzle a chocolate gnosh over the cooled cookies for a final chocolate kick.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Spanakopita - The Greek Pie

I come from a German/Irish background, growing up on dishes like Pork Hocks and Sauerkraut or Beef Pie.

Marrying into a Greek/French Canadian family has given me the opportunity to experience a wide range of new flavors and recipes. While butter seems common to both our backgrounds, the end results are very different yet wonderful in their own ways.

My personal greek favorite is Spanakopita, a spinach pie wrapped in buttery flakey phyllo dough and oh so delish!


3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs (or one bag) fresh spinach, washed, roughly chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs, beaten
12 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp coriander seeds, ground
1/2 tsp nutmeg
salt and pepper
8 tbsp (one stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 roll phyllo dough, defrosted
1/4 cup chopped oregano

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and saute both kinds of onions and garlic until soft and white. Remove from heat into a large bowl. In the same large skillet add spinach, salt and pepper. Saute the spinach until it is wilted. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. In either cheese cloth or a kitchen towl, squeeze all liquid out from the spinach. Add to onion mixture with lemon juice, coriander, and nutmeg. After the mixture is cooled mix in the eggs and fold in the feta.

Unroll the phyllo dough onto a clean surface, with a damp towl covering the sheets so they do not dry out.

Take one sheet of phyllo and lay out on a dry surface. Brush the long sides with the melted butter. Place a large teaspoon of the filling at the end of the sheet in the middle. Fold the sides over and brush entire strip with more butter.

Sprinkle with oregano. Fold the end with the filling at an angle into a triangle as you would a flag.

Brush the top with butter and place on a nonstick baking tray. Repeat until all the filling is used up. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until the triangles are golden and crispy. Can be served hot, warm, or cold.

Note: This dish can be put together like a lasagna and served in squares also.

The triangles can be frozen on the trays and then placed in a freezer bag and stored for up to 6 months. Do not defrost frozen Spanakopita, but cook for 30-40 minutes.

Little House on the Lake

Growing up in northern Wisconsin my younger sister, brother, and I had free range of the woods, lake, and other wildlife. We would wake up to loons crying through the mist, spend our day learning from our Homeschooled books, and fall asleep reading Little House on the Prairie.

There are some things in life that are only available in rural areas. The farmers stands along side the road being one and fresh spring water another. Only locals know of the springs. There is no google link you can click on with reviews. There are no signs pointing to the well worn trail that leads into the woods. And no water quite like it. These memories are part of my life and make me who I am today.

Although my family has moved just a little south now, we still have land and a cabin on that same lake. It has lovingly been named 'Blueberry' for the wild berry bushes that grow there. Every changing of the season brings a new reason to travel north.

Our puppy, Madison, especially enjoys the trips. Oh the smells and sounds that are up at the cabin!

The lake is especially fun for all the dogs. Our old family black labrador, Ranger, carried shore rocks up with him on every jump off the dock, while my parents current yellow lab, Dexter, just enjoys flying off the dock until he's too tired to swim back.

Madison however is not a swimmer and prefers to catch floating acorns in the shallows.

Cooking anything at the cabin can be a challenge. The limited pots and pans, some with dents, is always an adventure.

Fresh fish are also not so easy to prepare, as you have to catch them first. Something we practice rain or shine with a smile.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Apple Cranberry Crumble: The Beginning

Autumn is my favorite season, trust me, you'll hear that a lot. The changing of the leaves, the cooling from summer, the savory meals that follow.

This fall we traveled to northern Wisconsin and witnessed some of the most beautiful landscapes that I can remember. Growing up in the north woods gave me an appreciation for nature that has always stayed with me. Since we lived in a refurbished cabin on a lake supermarket shopping was a luxury we did not enjoy. Instead we made our breads from scratch, canned our own sauces, and on occasion stopped at local farm stands for produce.

This is where I found myself 17 years later. At a small wayside cart filled with fall squash and newly picked apples. Produce like this would be an arm and a leg in the cities, so we bought all our house would handle. A whopping 5 dollars worth!

The gourds now peek from every corner, while the apples have turned over 3 deserts and counting. Luckily Wisconsin also boasts a large cranberry source, so what better to go with the small green apples.

Note: When making apple deserts that call for cinnamon, I substitute cinnamon decoration beads (about 4 or 5 for this recipe) They give the same flavor and also add a festive red color to the mixture.

Apple Cranberry Crumble

4 small Apples, Golden Delicious recommended
2 tbsp butter, unsalted
1 1/2 cup cranberries
3/4 cup white sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp corn starch

Cream Cheese Crust

8 oz, half package cream cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


2 tbsp butter, unsalted
1/2 cup brown sugar

Mix the crust together and chill. Peel apples, remove core, and slice into thick pieces. In a sauce pan heat the apples together with cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. Once the apples are slightly soft add corn starch mixed with 1/2 cup of water. Remove from heat and let cool. The corn starch mixture will thicken, add more water if too think or clumpy.
Cook cranberries by direction. If fresh cranberries are used, boil with 1/2 cup of water and sugar till skins pop. Remove from heat and cool.
In a shallow baking pan spread crust out on the bottom. Cut the apples up into small chunks. Layer cranberries and then apples over the crust. Mix crumble together and sprinkle on top.
Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees covered for 20 minutes, remove cover and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Welcome to BlogLand

With the changing of the seasons we tend to look inside, start preparing for winter, and in my case... start a blog.
After viewing eye candy in blog land for over a year I will attempt to add my sugar and spice to the mix. I hope it turns out well :)

I tend to follow 3 different paths in my life.

1) Job big or small, do it right or not at all. I attribute this to my father who said it often in my childhood. If you have a task, do it to the best of your ability, every time.

2) Practice makes perfect. Although you might not get things 'right' the first time you can always learn, always grow, and always ask for help.

3) Be healthy and happy. Good food and a healthy life will take you far, but a little fat never hurt anyone either! As my sister likes to say 'It's the holidays, add more butter.'