Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I'm very tired today, so I don't have much to say about these except that they are so delicious, moist, and help you get your veggies. Oh--and they look so pretty on a sea-foam-green platter! The recipe is a combination of one from the Penzey's catalog and one from my mother-in-law. We have a couple dozen frozen so we can enjoy them year-round. You can also grate and freeze raw zucchini, and could use that to make these during the winter. Enjoy!

Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes

1/2 cup milk
1/4 tsp. white vinegar
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 tbsp. cocoa
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups finely diced or grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips
chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine milk and vinegar in a bowl and set aside. Beat butter, oil, and sugar in a large bowl until creamy. Add eggs, vanilla, and sour milk mixture and mix thoroughly. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cocoa, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir by hand. Stir in the zucchini and 1/2 of the chocolate chips.

Place cupcake liners in cupcake pans (or grease a 9x13 pan if you prefer a whole cake). Fill each liner with batter 2/3 of the way. Sprinkle the batter with the rest of the chocolate chips and the nuts (if using). Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly and the cake springs back to the touch (but avoid the chocolate chips!). Let cool, then remove cupcakes from pan.

Monday, August 24, 2009

day dresses

The past week has brought me some great finds. And with the return of "Mad Men" to AMC in the past few weeks, I'm even more excited when I come across beautiful vintage dresses that would have fit right into the office at Sterling Cooper.

flower & cross-hatch dress, Good Style Shop, $28
tie heels, Good Style Shop
belt, Target
close-up of fabric pattern and button

cotton block dress, Good Style Shop, $20
wedge sandals & locket, thrifted

The second dress has a couple of small tears at the seams that will need to be fixed, but nothing major. I also picked up two cute and very cheap items at garage/estate sales on the way back from the farmer's market Saturday.

scale, 25 cents
says "Weighs 30 Pounds by Ounces"

leaf-patterned vase, 10 cents

Sunday, August 23, 2009

almost fall

top, vintage
sunglasses, jeans, & shoes, Urban Outfitters

The weather in Wisconsin has been gorgeous--in the 60s and 70s the past week. I love when the time comes that I can bring out sweatshirts and long pants again. Fall is definitely on the way and that means school's about to start. Because of the fresh start at every new school year, it's always seemed to me that fall as much a season of renewal as spring. Along with preparing my classroom for new students, I'm also beginning to do some fall preserving.

When it comes to canning, I'm a bit lazy and a total cheapskate, so I have not made the leap and purchased a canner or canning tools. If you'd prefer the more traditional canning methods, there are fantastic tutorials online, but if you like to take a few shortcuts like me, I've given step-by-step directions for Sweet and Sour Dill Pickles here.

This recipe is from my husband's grandmother--I believe she got it from a friend of hers. It produces pickles (and onions too) that are like pickle-lover's candy, but plenty garlicky and dill-flavored as well. They're the best of both worlds. Being one of those wonderful old recipes passed from friend to friend, the amounts of ingredients are very, shall we say, flexible.

canning jars, lids, and bands (wide-mouthed jars have worked well for me)
pickling cucumbers
onion, cut into chunks
garlic cloves (optional)

1 quart vinegar (white)
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup salt
2 quarts water

First, prepare your cucumbers. I'm guessing I used about 2 pounds, but like I said, things are flexible. Cukes are getting to be a bit large by this point, but choose the smallest you can find. Most will need to be sliced into about 1-inch chunks.

If you're lucky enough to find some true baby cucumbers at this point, you won't have to cut them. However, this recipe does specify that you are to cut the cukes into chunks and I've never used the baby ones in the past. I'm not sure whether the babies will soak up as much brine as the sliced larger ones will. Try it anyway! Be adventurous with me!

I also love garlic in anything, so I also add one large or two small garlic cloves to each jar. Some people like to eat the pickled garlic straight up, but I haven't been so brave yet.

Wash and dry your jars thoroughly, even if they're right out of the package. This will ensure that your pickles are more sterile, and therefore should last longer. I made nine jars this year.

Next, place a few pieces of onion, a garlic clove or two, and a section of dill in the bottom of each jar. You'll need the bristly flower part of the fresh dill, not the feathery leaf part--if in doubt, look for "pickling dill" at your grocery store or farmer's market.

Add enough cucumbers, more onions, and more dill to the jar, leaving 1/2 inch headroom.

Seriously, don't skip the onions. They're delicious on brats, hot dogs, and hamburgers once they're all pickley and sweet.

Finally, you're ready for the stressful part. You'll need counter space for the jars and the hot pot of brine. You'll also need pot holders to set the pot on and to hold the hot jars while you screw the band on. It also helps to have two sets of hands ready. My husband sacrificed to assist me, as he hates pickles. In his words, he did it because he loves me.

Anyway, mix up the brine ingredients in a very large pot and heat until boiling. Ladle the hot brine in over the veggies, again leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace, but making sure everything's covered.

I fill and seal the jars one at a time. Before putting each seal and band on, wipe the edge of the jar clean. If there's any moisture on the edge, the seal may not take properly. Then, center the seal over the jar and screw the band over the top.

Phew! You're done! Let them sit out until all the lids have "popped". If the brine was hot enough, the lids should seal and will no longer pop when touched. Sometimes a slight touch to the lid will help along jars that haven't popped after several hours. Because the lids are sealed, you shouldn't need to refrigerate these pickles until after you've opened the jar. If by chance any of the jars do not seal, those do need to be kept in the refrigerator.

Please post a comment if something needs clarification. Happy pickling!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

wisconsin tomatoes #2

herb butter-and-goat cheese linguine with fresh tomatoes
roasted garlic bread

Another tomato-filled meal: linguine with a sauce of butter, shallots, herbs, white wine, and goat cheese. Very creamy and rich. My husband doesn't like dill, so I only topped mine with dill and he used basil. This meal was so close to being entirely produced in Wisconsin. Dang! Only the dried herbs were from outside our area of the state. Please leave me a comment if you try anything and let me know how you like it!

Salt and pepper
1 pound linguine pasta (I prefer fresh)
8 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
6 tablespoons butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley (or 4 tsp. dried)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon (or 4 tsp. dried)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. dried)
2 cups chopped multicolored heirloom tomatoes
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving a ladleful of the pasta cooking water.

  2. While the pasta is working, in a serving bowl, add the crumbled goat cheese. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the white wine and cook until slightly reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the parsley, dill, tarragon and thyme. Stir in the reserved pasta cooking water.

  3. Add the pasta to the goat cheese. Pour the herb sauce on top, season with pepper and toss for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and toss gently for another minute; season with salt and pepper.

Monday, August 17, 2009

wisconsin tomatoes

We've been getting beautiful tomatoes from the farmer's market, the local co-op, and our CSA box. That means almost every meal uses tomatoes--I have to take advantage while they're available! By the way, you can freeze a whole tomato in a freezer bag. When you're ready to use a tomato in a sauce or pasta in the winter, just run the tomato under warm water until the skin slips off and chop it up. Oh, and it's not a bad idea to core the tomato before freezing.

caprese salad

Anyway, here's one of the meals I made with CSA tomatoes--a simple caprese salad. I snagged the recipe from Giada De Laurentis, but used balsamic vinegar in place of the lemon juice (we've had a lot of lemony dishes lately and needed a change). The fresh tomatoes grown nearby and ripened on the vine really make the salad. The basil was also from our CSA farm and the fresh mozzarella is made in southern Wisconsin as well. There will be more tomato recipes coming in the following days.

Edit: When you follow the link, you'll see a platter filled with tomatoes of all sizes and large slices of mozzarella. Since I only had grape tomatoes, I used those and tossed them with cherry-sized fresh mozzarella balls that I halved. In a nutshell, use whatever tomatoes you have available.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Comments about Fred MacMurray's cake that I baked are now posted at Silver Screen Suppers. Yes, I am "Shirley", named for Shirley Maclaine's adorable and sassy but distressed character, Fran Kubelik in "The Apartment".

photo from Photobucket

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

milwaukee in pictures (mostly food)

Lake Michigan & Milwaukee skyline

"Brew City Hot Brown" open-faced turkey sandwich with mashed potatoes, beer gravy, bacon, Swiss, and tomatoes
Comet Cafe

"Leghorn Sandwich" with chicken, cream cheese, and peach jelly
Comet Cafe

shu mai pork dumplings
EE Sane Thai/Laotian Restaurant

pad Thai
EE Sane Thai/Laotian Restaurant

my favorite bike
Rockerbox Motorcycle Street Party

Matt's favorite bike (+ my shadow)
Rockerbox Motorcycle Street Party

ginger pork stir fry by our host

"Scran the Eliminator" egg scramble with sausage, hot peppers, and colby-jack cheese
Comet Cafe

breakfast burrito
Comet Cafe

Monday, August 10, 2009

what is it?

When I learned that the Silver Screen Suppers blogger needed recipe testers for her Hollywood stars' recipes, I jumped on the chance to try them out. I requested several recipes, and the first one I made was Fred MacMurray's Chocolate Fudge Upside Down Cake. This cake was especially great because Mr. MacMurray hails from my in-laws' hometown of Beaverdam, Wisconsin. Not only did I feel a swell of state pride as I whipped up the cake, it also turned out to be quite delicious.

So....here it is!

It definitely tasted better than it looked. If I make it again, I will certainly choose a more suitable platter than my grandma's cake keeper--one with sides to catch all the drippy chocolate sauce that ran off the cake and onto my counter. Who knew that a "chocolate fudge" cake would actually be doused in chocolate? Ha. The top of the cake (which became the bottom) is also covered in chopped walnuts, but we thought we might try pecans or peanuts another time.

Check out the Silver Screen Suppers blog and the upcoming cookbook that will feature this recipe.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


All of a sudden the backyard and the CSA box have gone from mostly green to vibrantly colorful and rich. A white lily even popped up out of a flower bed like a weed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

time for a recipe

I've made enough fashion posts for awhile. It's time to get back to cooking! At my parents' house this weekend, we ate quite well. One morning, my mom made a delicious puff pancake -called krupsua or pannukakku-for breakfast.

Krupsua - Finnish Puff Pancake

5 eggs
1 c flour
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c sugar (optional)
2 c. milk

Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a 9 x 13 pan at 350 (glass pan) or 375 (metal pan). Meanwhile, beat the eggs slightly. Add flour and whisk until smooth. Stir in salt, sugar (if using), and milk. Take melted butter in pan from oven and spray the sides of the pan with cooking spray. Pour in batter. Bake for approximately 35 minutes, until golden brown.

It's a very dense and eggy oven pancake that's great with fruit, syrup, or even just powdered sugar. We ate ours with vanilla yogurt and blueberries. The recipe is a favorite from our family friend, Suzie.