Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Discover Wisconsin" at Melthouse Bistro 8/30

We have been fans of Melthouse Bistro located on Milwaukee's near East side since it opened. Yesterday was an opportunity to show our love and support our favorite business. A long running Wisconsin show called "Discover Wisconsin," that takes you around Wisconsin and shows you where to visit and eat,  was filming a segment there. Fans were asked on Facebook to come and help celebrate.

Grilled cheese instantly takes you back to your childhood. Melthouse elevates their sandwiches to a whole new level by adding the freshest of ingredients and unique toppings from BBQ pulled pork to all veggie inspired creations such as my favorite: The Sergeant Pepper. They have three different price points depending on what kind of toppings you would like on your grilled cheese.

Wisconsinites also like their beer. There is an amazing cheddar beer soup which is to die for. I am a creature of habit so I usually order the same things every time.

With the veggie options, you don't miss the meat. The "Sergeant Pepper" has cauliflower and peppers and is my must have sandwich or the "Athena" which has eggplant and feta cheese.  We got to try the amazing Wisconsin Cheese curds which my daughter nearly finished the entire plate by herself.  They do have carnivore options too with pulled pork and hamburgers.

You can pair your sandwich with their famous tomato soup, coleslaw, or even fruit. They also have a kids eat free Sunday brunch we are very fond of. There are also a selection of locally crafted beverages and desserts.

Facebook said to be at the business by 10:30PM and we were the first ones there. We got a chance or I should say, my daughter got a chance to be on camera. She is a chatterbox and will tell you exactly what she thinks (even if it embarrasses Mom!) The episode is slated to air around November 16-17th.

If you are in the Milwaukee area, you have to try this place!  It is a favorite for my family, and I am sure it will be yours too!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chicken and Rice Bake

I love that commercial "Set it..and forget it."  This is the case with this easy oven chicken and rice. I think I finally found the right proportion of rice to liquid baking this in the oven. We love rice here! I had planned on having it for lunch but my third shift hubby ate all the leftovers for breakfast!

Butter a 9x13 baking dish. Add 1 1/2 cups long grain rice. Mix one can of Campbells cream of chicken soup and 2 cups water (generally the ratio is two cups water to one cup rice but you will be ok with the soup added)

Season and place one boneless skinless chicken breast per person on top of the rice. Cover dish with foil . Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Check chicken for doneness at the 45 minute mark. I mix the rice to make sure the soup is distributed and season again with salt. And there you have it! Oven chicken and rice!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lazy Sunday Egg and Cheese Quesadillas

I am the one always yelling at my hubby when I go to make a meal and he has eaten all but two of the tortillas. Shhh...don't tell him! Today I bought these huge tortillas and made a decent sized quesadilla for two for breakfast. When I go to make tacos tonight, he will never know!

I took one of the huge burrito and divided it into two. Then I scrambled two eggs with a bit of milk, divided them onto the tortilla halves, and added cheese. Back into the hot frying pan to get some color. It goes pretty quick so don't leave the room!  I added salsa and some home made jalapenos to mine. (I forgot how hot they are!)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Comfort Food: Old School Cabbage Rolls

One of my favorite dishes my Grandma used to make was cabbage rolls. She never left me the recipe but I have learned to make them myself over the years. The filling is the same I use for my stuffed peppers and essentially the same sauce. The only difference is the use of cabbage as the wrapper. I feel like I am remembering my Grandma through my cooking. I hope to pass my dishes on to my kids and like they will have this blog to look back at. It's my gift to them in a way.

Cabbage Rolls

10-12 leaves of cabbage
1 lb ground beef
1 1/2 cup cooked and cooled long grain rice
1 small can of tomato soup
1 TBSP vinegar
1/2 can water
salt and pepper
4-5 TBSP reserved tomato soup

Firstly get a pot of water boiling. Carefully peel the cabbage leaves off a head of cabbage. Use a knife to make a v shaped cut at the stem (it is tough and doesn't cook well) Next use a tongs and put 2-3 cabbage leaves in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. You want them to soften. The color will change to bright green. Remove and let cool before adding filling.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl combine the ground beef and rice along with salt and pepper. Reserve about 4 TBSP of  the tomato soup. Mix the remaining tomato soup and a half can of water. Add to the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.

Begin to roll the cabbage rolls by placing a handful of the meat down one edge of the cabbage roll. Roll it much like you would a burrito. Place seam down in the baking dish  Top each with the reserved tomato soup. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour or until center is no longer pink.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sometimes Things Taste Better Than They Look! Peanut Butter Bars

I am a sucker for peanut butter recipes that say they are going to taste like my Kryptonite, Reese's peanut butter cups. I tried this recipe today. Although it tastes pretty good, the appearance was a little iffy. I am thinking of using magic coat for the topping next time. Flavor wise, the peanut center tastes pretty close.
Peanut Butter Bars

1 1/2 cups peanut butter
1 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup butter melted
1 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Melt the butter in the microwave and add to the peanut butter, confectioners sugar, and graham cracker crumbs. Add to a 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with PAM or buttered. Smooth the peanut butter evenly over the pan.

 Melt chocolate chips in the microwave starting at 30 second intervals. Stir and repeat until the chips are melted. I prefer the double boiler method which is taking a glass bowl and placing it over a pot of boiling water. That way you can prevent burning of the chocolate. Just make sure the glass container isn't touching the water.

Lastly, spread the chocolate over the peanut butter mixture. Cool in the fridge. Cut into bars. I found the chocolate was very hard to cut through. This is why I am thinking of using Magic chocolate topping found in the ice cream section. Cut into small pieces because it's very rich.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Finally a Zucchini Cake Recipe I Like and More Crock Pot Lasgana

I am always looking for new recipes for zucchini cake and found one on a blog named "Simply Recipes." I was surprised this recipe didn't have as much baking powder as in the previous recipe I had used. It actually had double the baking soda. The end result was a delicious, moist cake. It was good for me but bad for the hubby's blood sugar. At least I know this cake will be safe. No joke, my hubby ate about 8 slices of the last cake I made by himself. This recipe put his blood sugar well over 200 but I am sure we could substitute Splenda next time.

I also made crock pot lasagna with zucchini. Instead of adding ricotta, I used cottage cheese. This was a good alternative in a pinch. I made the zucchini into planks and fried them with some EVOO until translucent. I alternated the zucchini  in between the lasagna layers. This way, I only ended up using 3 ready cook lasagna noodles.

Grandma;s Zucchini Cake

2 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon and 1 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup veggie oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups zucchini pressed between paper towels
1 cup walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)

Cream Cheese Frosting
3 oz cream cheese softened
1/4 cup butter room temp.
1 1/2 to 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 9x13 Pyrex. Mix all the ingredients with a mixer and pour into the baking dish. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out with no batter while inserted into the center. Let cool before attempting to frost.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

My First Empanadas

I have been eyeballing this empanada or little hand pie maker at Bed Bath Beyond for months now. Finally it's all mine! (evil laugh) I have had empanadas with both savory and sweet fillings. I opted for ground beef with onion for mine today.

The dough recipe I got from watching the Cooking Channel and I had a few challenges today. The main one was the heat. My kitchen was really hot! I had to refrigerate the dough because it was becoming very sticky. I used carbonated unflavored water from the Soda Stream in the dough and it made the dough nice and fluffy along with the butter.

Empanada Dough makes 1 dozen small ones

3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter divided
1/2 to 2/3 cups carbonated water
2 TBSP lime juice

Use a shortening cutter to cut the cold butter into the flour. Gradually add the carbonated water and form into a ball. You may have to add more water if the dough is too flaky. Let dough rest for one hour before rolling out into 1/2 inch thickness. The bottom of my dough press has a circle on it so I was able to cut out perfect circles that would fit my press.

Ground Beef Filling

2 lbs of ground beef
1/2 onion
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 jalapeno diced

I let the filling cool and then cut the circles out with the press. Next I stretched the dough over the press and added about 2 tsp. of the cooled filling. I closed the press and it closed the edges. I did however use a fork to make sure the edges were closed.
I heated the oil until it began to ripple. I used vegetable oil. I made two empanadas at a time. They float to the surface and I made sure to turn them with a slotted spoon several times until golden brown.

Each took around 4-5 minutes to fry. I then moved them with a slotted spoon to drain on some paper towel.
I served them with a mango salsa which had two mangos diced, 1/2 jalapeno, 2 tsp. lime juice, a squirt of honey, and a dash of chili powder.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Yelp! Generous Pour at Capital Grille

I admit I don't know much about wine. Here was the perfect opportunity for me to learn at the Milwaukee Yelp! Elite event held at Capital Grille 8/7. For those of you that are not aware, is a place where you can check out your local restaurants that aren't voted on by critics but everyday people like you and I.  It is not only a place for foodies, but a place to rate and check out new local businesses. (and it's free!)

 My GPS is constantly getting me lost and yesterday was no exception. The building housing the Capital Grille is is kitty corner from Grand Avenue mall and boast bronze lions at it's entrance. There are many locals of this restaurant. Most notably in our nations Capitol. There is also free complementary parking at the Grille which is a bonus for the busy downtown local. The interior was sort of dark and manly but also had a elegant look to it. The kitchen is open to view by the diners. I know the menu must be pricey because there are none listed. I did know however the generous pour costs $25.00 and is paired to your dinner selection.

We were corralled into a side room and greeted cheerfully from our friend and Milwaukee representative Rachel. She remembered me after only meeting me a few times which I was very impressed with. There were some stand around tables and I met a lot of  Yelpers!  We started off with an Asti which I think was my favorite. It's something I usually only drink on New Years. It was to awaken our palate.

Our knowledgeable wine expert was very funny and took us through 7 different wines along with some food parings. We had scallops with a succotash, Earl-Grey ahi tuna, figs with a jelly on a crustini, steak and onions on a crustini, and an assortment of cheeses.

All and all it was a fun event and a chance to meet new people. I very rarely get out and this was a great learning opportunity for me. I didn't feel dumb for asking questions and everyone was very approachable. I think this would make a great special event restaurant for my hubby and I .

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Attack of the Giant Zucchinis... Sausage and Rice Stuffed Zucchini

I remember writing about this last year but can't find the blog. Anywhoo...I once again got these huge "Guiness Book of World Record" making zucchinis from my neighbor Alesha. They are so huge that I used some last night for dinner (grilled slices with EVOO on the indoor grill) and had enough tonight to make stuffed zucchini. I made the stuffed one last year with hamburger and homemade stuffing. This year I made a stuffing similar to what you would find in stuffed peppers.

Stuffed Zucchini

1 huge zucchini
2 cups cooked rice
16 oz can of tomato sauce
2 Italian sausages removed from casing and browned
1/2 onion
salt and pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 cup cheddar cheese shredded

Cut the ends off the zucchini  and place in the microwave for approx. 8 minutes. *be sure to poke holes in it so it doesn't explode all over the microwave! I use a rice cooker to make the rice and then cooled it down. Brown the sausage and onion on the stove with a bit of EVOO and make sure there is no pink left.

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Once the zucchini is able to be touched, use a serrated knife and cut it length-wise. Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. In a large bowl add the rice, sausage,onion, tomato sauce, and seasoning. Mix together until combined and use a large spoon to scoop it into the cavity. I used parchment paper to make a tent around each of mine. I didn't want the rice to get crispy. I started off baking it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes and ended up baking it for an additional 15 minutes. In the last 5 minutes, I topped with cheese and returned back to the oven. Serve with more tomato sauce

Sunday, August 4, 2013

No Eggs, No Applesauce...Soda Cake

Don't you love when you open the fridge to make a cake and can't find any of the ingredients you need? Such was the case tonight. I had a boxed cake mix and only 2 out of the 3 eggs to make the cake. You could substitute applesauce for the eggs if you have it. I needed something to act as the eggs would to help the cake rise, I chose soda. Replace the eggs in your recipe with about 10 ounces of soda. For lighter yellow cakes, use a Sprite, for chocolate, you can use a cola. I used Soda Stream Cola for mine and omitted the oil.