Saturday, April 22, 2017

Morels and Ramps!

Today I went morel hunting with my friend Ellen and we found these beauties!  We also found lots of ramps.  I wanted to make a pasta dish with the morels, so I stopped at Zingerman's on the way home to get some cheese and was confronted with a line....

Insider's tip: when there is a line like this, just walk up to the green door and tell them you are there to buy cheese and they will let you right in.  Way ahead of all those people.....they will shoot you with hateful stares.  You will feel like a celebrity! But the fact is, we locals know that if you are just going to the deli counter, you can walk right in anytime.   Don't wait in line for an hour to get a $20 sandwich!  Instead, just get cheese and deli meats from the counter and some bread from the bread counter and make the sandwich you want for much less!  I was looking for something Parmesan, but not actually Parmesan, for the pasta dish I had in mind.   Zingerman's is always staffed with lots of enthusiastic "foodie" types, and I met the eye of the young, clean shaven ginger gent behind the counter that sporting a maize and blue Zingerman's T shirt.  From his accent I could tell his was a rich UM student from the east coast, and his name is probably something like "Declan" to reflect his proud, but wealthy, east coast Irish heritage.  Like all young bucks that work at Zingerman's, I bet he brags to his friends about his amazing palate.  His dudes in the Conservational Ecology program or whatever he's in at Michigan probably call him "Deek" for short.  I got more death stares from those waiting to place an order for their $20 sandwich, and I stepped up to the counter to summon some cheese mongering from my new friend Deek.   Zingerman's has the best cheese counter in Michigan, no doubt.  They have hundreds of cheeses and they will give you samples of anything you want.    So I told Deek that I was looking for cheese to put in a pasta dish with the morels I just foraged, and he stared at me blankly. "I am not familiar with that recipe".   I wanted to tell him that there was no recipe yet, I was just thinking of something from food I gathered from the forest floor, but I figured it was going to take too long to explain to the lad what a morel was.   So I told him this instead:  "I want something Parmesan-y that isn't actually Parmesan" and he gave me a knowing look!  He suggested this cheese:

I took a sample and it was just what I was looking for...perhaps Deek is new because he accidentally cut me .71 lb instead of the half a pound I requested, but he apologized and have me a sweet discount.   I didn't mind, I'll put it to good use.  Perhaps I had him all wrong.... maybe his name isn't actually Declan after all.   Maybe he's just Dave and he goes to Washtenaw Community College.   So much for my stereotyping!  I stepped in front of the hundreds of people waiting to pay for their Georgia Reubens or their Pimento Cheese with pretzels (don't wait in line for the pimento cheese, make it yourself with two-year-old raw milk cheddar from Grafton Village you can get from the cheese counter) and paid for my cheese and left. It took all of 5 minutes.  Remeber this: only the tourists let Zingerman's make them a sandwich.   When you live in Ann Arbor, you make your own sandwich with their stuff!

Deek, or Dave, or whatever his real name is, did me right with the cheese.  He might not know what a morel is yet, but this cheese he selected was excellent!  If you can't find this special Italian cheese, a Parmesan or an Asiago would work just fine. 

Spring Pasta with Peas and Morels
Serves 4

8 oz. fusilli pasta, cooked and drained, reserve 1 c. pasta water from cooking
8 morels, sliced in half vertically
2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. dry white wine
salt and pepper, to taste
1 c. grated Piave cheese (or Parmesan)

Saute mushrooms in butter and olive oil until lightly browned in a saute pan, about 5 minutes.   Add frozen peas and cook until peas are hot and bright green.  Add pasta, pasta water, wine to the mushroom mixture and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 7 minutes.   Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.   Mix in cheese and stir until melted.    

I'm looking forward to making using my ramps and some diced potatoes in a frittata for breakfsat tomorrow, along with the rest of that delicious cheese.  Thank you Deek, or whoever you are.    You know your cheese, even if you don't know what a morel is!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Check out the history of the D.W. Ferry Seed Company 

I made a great soup the other day, said my husband who doesn't like a) soup for a meal and b)  stuffed peppers.    I was reminded of this soup the other day, thanks to FB "On This Day" feature, since I saved a recipe last year at this time.    I can remember years ago, when I bought a half bushel of green peppers right before the first frost from a farmer up in Romeo, and I struggled with what to do with all of them.   This recipe would have been a good answer, had I known about it.   The FB recipe I saved  via Pinterest save I had seemed to have a lot of issues, so I just used it as a guide and went my own way.  Note the brown sugar is key!     

I realize that my soup isn't very photogenic, but it was really delicious.   Even my husband, who shouldn't have liked it at all, really did enjoy it.  Here's how I made it.....

Stuffed Pepper Soup
Makes 10 servings

2 lb. ground beef
1 c. white rice
2 c. water
4 green peppers, seeded and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 onion, chopped similarly
28 oz. can diced tomato
27 oz. can tomato sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules
1 teaspoon pepper
2 c. water

Brown ground beef in a large Dutch oven   Meanwhile, in another pot, cook rice in water until tender.     Add peppers and onion to beef and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.   Add rice and remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes.  

I ended up freezing the leftovers for my son to enjoy when he doesn't have time to cook.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Michigan Tech Wives Cookbook

Being a fan of old cookbooks, I am always on the hunt to find new items to add to my collection.   One day I was googling around and found this recipe for Michigan Tech Wives Brownies which intrigued me because it mentioned a cookbook.   Down the rabbit hole I went.....and sure enough, I found that there was an organization called the Michigan Tech Wives Club that became popular after the war and the influx of GI Bill students. As an MTU student,  I had heard stories of young families living in quonset huts on the east end of campus.   Evidently the MTU Wives Club were very active and organized the first nursery school on campus, called the Michigan Tech Cooperative Nursery.  It was located in the barracks behind the Institute of Mineral Research.  I'm in Houghton this week, so I went to the MTU Archives to see what I could find out about the group, but they didn't have much.    I kept looking on line for the cookbook to buy somewhere, and I couldn't find it for sale, I was lucky enough to find that someone had scanned it in.  So here it is, for your reference Happiness Is....A Tech Wives Cookbook.   Ironically, the Michigan Tech Wives Brownies recipe wasn't in there.    I suspected it wouldn't be.....the last reference of the MTU Wives Club that I could see anywhere was in the late 1960s MTU Winter Carnival Pictorials (the wives liked to enter into the skits competition) and the recipe calls for mini chocolate chips, which I am pretty sure are a relatively new invention.  This book was published in December 1967.   I don't even remember mini chocolate chips being around in Houghton when I went to MTU myself in the 1980s.   In fact, it was hard to get peanut butter chips up here back then for my favorite chocolate cookie recipe.   Whenever I could find them at Jim's Food Mart, the only grocery store in town back then, I'd buy as many as I could, or I would bring them up from downstate.    There are others in the book that look tasty I'd like to try, although there wasn't any local recipes like pasties or chow chow in it.  

The inscription in the front cover is really touching...

Even though MTU is much different now and the MTU husbands are just as likely to be cooking as the MTU wives, I love the fact that these ladies got together and made this book.   I'd love to see another MTU cookbook.....maybe this will be my next venture.  I couldn't find a picture of the MTU Wives Club, but this photo of MTU's Winter Carnival Queen Candidates evokes the same vibe for me

MTU Winter Carnival Queen Candidates 1965

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Pie of the Month Club: Cherry Pie

Once again this year, I donated a pie of the month for St. Joseph Catholic Church  Silent Auction.   My friend Liz bought it for her husband's Christmas present. So once a month, I bake him a pie and deliver it to their house,   One of my favorite pies to make is cherry, and I was really interested in trying out an awesome looking lattice top I saw on Serious Eats.  I found their instructions to be very difficult to follow, however.  I had some leftover vodka pie crust dough in the freezer, so I thought that would be good to use.  I didn't want a crust recipe that would crack with all the handling this lattice top requires.  

To make the lattice top, I rolled out the dough into a rectangle, and did my best to cut strips using a pizza cutter that were 3/4 inch wide.   I used a quilting ruler to do it:

Then, I started to lay out the herringbone lattice by using Serious Eats description, but they left much to be desired.   I eventually just figured it out my eyeballing it and making each row have 3 over and 3 under and staggering the weave by one each strip.   

I then gave it a quick fork crimp and egg wash....

And that was it.  If you get your weave off, the vodka crust is very forgiving.    You can keep trying until you get it right.

I made my filling from frozen Michigan pitted sour cherries.

Cherry Pie

Vodka Pie Crust

For filling

4 c. frozen sour pitted cherries
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix together in a bowl until frozen cherries are covered.  Let stand for 15 minutes until cherries are partially thawed but still icy.  Fill the pie crust as level as possible, do not mound.    Make lattice as shown above, cover edge with foil and bake for 50 minutes.   Remove foil and bake for about 20 more minutes until top is golden and the fruit is tender.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

One Part Plant

Za'atar Sweet Potatoes and Garlicky Kale

One of the great things about having a food blog is that occasionally, I get to review cookbooks.   The good people of TLC books sent me a copy of the book One Part Plant to review.    This cookbook was written by Jessica Murname, and she advocates eating one meal per day that is plant based.    She had success with her endometriosis by modifying her diet to exclude  what she calls "inflammatory foods".  A quick Google search tells me that there are no hard and fast rules regarding what is and isn't "inflammatory" fact, there is a lot of pseudoscience out there in this space.   I did find a source I could trust in Andrew Weil.   So I approached this cookbook with some trepidation.   I just cooked a meal for 70 people yesterday at church and was overwhelmed at the special requests.  It seems everyone is looking for a magic bullet these days.   

However, if this mode of eating helped the author with her health issue, I'm fine with that.   I think the book would have been better if it just focused on the concept of eating one plant based meal per day (and skipped the gluten free) message because eating more fruits and vegetables is good for everyone, not just women with endometriosis or people that want to dabble in the gluten free space.

That being said, once I got into the recipes, I was really pleased with the book!  It came to me just in time for Lent, as I don't eat meat on Fridays during this time.    I tried out her recipe for Za'atar Sweet Potatoes and Garlicky Kale (see picture shown above) and it came out delicious.    I loved the combination of sweet potato and kale - never thought to put them together.   Her recipe for za'atar isn't my preference, but I included it here in case you can't get your hands on the good stuff.   The author is from Charleston, SC, so my guess is she doesn't have access to the great Arabic food I have in the Dearborn area.      Also, I streamlined her recipe to make it quicker by precooking the sweet potatoes in the microwave instead of boiling them and improved the recipe by adding the garlic after cooking the kale to insure better flavor.

Za'atar Sweet Potatoes and Garlicky Kale
makes 4 servings

2 c. peeled and chopped sweet potatoes
1 T. za'atar (or use her recipe below)
6 c. kale, destemmed and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Olive Oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Put sweet potatoes in a microwave safe dish and cover loosely and cook on high for about 5 minutes until tender.   Coat potatoes with oil and spread out on a cookie sheet.   Roast them for 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Sprinkle with za'atar.

Meanwhile, add some more olive oil to a skillet and saute kale until soft, about 5 minutes.   Add garlic and cook until the garlic is fragrant.  Mix potatoes and kale together and add salt and pepper if needed.  


mix together
1 T. toasted sesame seeds
1 T Sumac
2 t. dried thyme
1/4 t. sea salt (I used kosher)

If you want to check out this cookbook, you can at do so at HarperCollins.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Road Food

I've always loved Road Food, the media shared by Jane and Michael Stern.  The Sterns, who had no formal training in cuisine or journalism, met at Yale University in 1968, married in 1970, and graduated in 1971, after which they left academia to explore the USA. At first, their focus was on popular culture in general, but after traveling around the country for a few years, they realized they had been keeping an informal diary of unknown and unique places to eat: inconspicuous restaurants that were, at the time, of no interest to the food-writing establishment. After three years of travel in a beat-up Volkswagen Beetle, staying at seedy motels, and occasionally sleeping in the back seat of the car, they drafted the manuscript of Roadfood, a guide to restaurants that were neither fast food nor gourmet dining, but were an expression of local foodways.  And I've enjoyed what they have shared ever since.   So when the good people of of Blogging for Books asked me to review their latest venture of Roadfood, their 10th edition.    I am looking forward to trying their recommendations in Kentucky and Georgia, where I spend most of my time when I am not in Michigan.   I'll let you know what I find out!

Sunday, March 05, 2017 Upper Peninsula delicacy

Frequent readers of my blog know that I love the UP and the food served here.   Lately, I've been on a mission to master cudighi which is a spicy Italian sausage that can be bought in links or served as a sandwich on a long, hard roll, often with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Although it originated in Italy, it is now primarily served in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.   I like it in marinara sauce served with pasta.

But how to make it?   Whenever I'm in the Keweenaw, I get some at  Pat's IGA in Hancock or Calumet.   This is all I had to come by:

That's not a lot to go on, so I searched the internet.   I found a recipe in the fb group"Yooper Pasty", and then I found another from a generous woman nicknamed the "Venison Vixon" and then I found a kind soul that posted his recipe from the Gwinn cookbook called "Pete's Cudighi".   After much iteration, I think I found out the spice blend that tastes the best.

Cudighi Spice Blend

3 T.table salt
1 T. ground black pepper
1 T. nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t, mace
1/2 t. dried oregano
1 t. paprika
1/2 t ground ginger
1 T. garlic powder
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. cinnamon

Mix these seasonings together in a canning jar with a lid.   Add  1 1/2 T per 2 lb of ground pork (or 1 lb ground pork and 1 lb ground turkey)  and 1/2 c. red wine and mix thoroughly.   Refrigerate for a day, and then use it to make a cudighi sandwich or as meat for marinara sauce or meatballs.    To make the sandwich, brown a patty of cudighi, and top with grilled mushrooms, onions and marinara sauce.   Put on some Italian bread and melt some mozzarella on top.   Delicious!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lemon Meringue Pie + Meringues

It's January and 50 degrees, which is just plain wrong.   Everything is muddy and foggy.   I want real winter! I want people to quit being jerks on facebook!  I want women to be respected by our president!  When life gives you lemons, they say make lemonade.   Jimmy Buffet says to pass the tequila and salt.    I say make lemon meringue pie.

I made this pie for my friend Liz who bought my "Pie of the Month" club donation at my church's silent auction.   I really like a meringue with attitude, like this one.   I originally got the idea from Cook's Country magazine for a super tall meringue that relies on a cooked syrup.  Think of it as a giant marshmallow perched on top of the pie.  Their recipe called for more egg yolks than I usually use, so I went for it.  Can't go wrong with a more rich custard, along with a generous amount of lemon rind.    Their recipe was a bit more cumbersome than it needed to be, so I adapted it to suit my  way of cooking.  And since there were extra egg whites to be had, why not make meringues for myself?


Lemon Meringue Pie + Meringues

For Lemon Filling

1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice (from 6 lemons)
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
8 large egg yolks (reserve 4 whites for meringue topping and the other 4 for meringues)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 (9-inch) pie shell, fully baked and cooled

For Meringue Topping
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites (reserved from filling)
pinch table salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk sugar, lemon juice, water, cornstarch, and salt and lemon zest  together in large nonreactive saucepan until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to simmer over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture becomes translucent and begins to thicken, about 5 minutes. Whisk in yolks until combined. Stir in zest and butter. Bring to simmer and stir constantly until mixture is thick enough to coat back of spoon, about 2 minutes.  Place plastic wrap directly on surface of filling and refrigerate until set and well chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

To make meringue topping: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to vigorous boil over medium-high heat. Once syrup comes to rolling boil, cook 4 minutes (mixture will become slightly thickened and syrupy). Remove from heat and set aside while beating whites.

With electric mixer, beat whites in large bowl at medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Add salt and cream of tartar and beat, gradually increasing speed to medium-high, until whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. With mixer running, slowly pour hot syrup into whites (avoid pouring syrup onto whisk or it will splash). Add vanilla and beat until meringue has cooled and becomes very thick and shiny, 5 to 9 minutes.

Using rubber spatula, mound meringue over filling, making sure meringue touches edges of crust. Use spatula to create peaks all over meringue. Bake until peaks turn golden brown, about 6 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature.

To make meringues, use my recipe here with the remaining 4 egg whites.  

After dropping off the pie at my friend's house.   I took to facebook and started unfollowing people that spew vitriol on social media.   It's a great day!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Upper Peninsula Inspired Glass Magnets

I'm the kind of person that goes to a craft sale and doesn't buy anything, because I think "I can make that!" but I never actually do.   My 2017 New Year's Resolution is to complete a craft each month.  I have never considered myself "crafty", although I guess I have some key skills needed to make crafts, such a sewing or cookie decorating.   I am good at copying other people's crafts.   I'm also the kind of gal that starts projects and never finishes them, and tend to be a perfectionist.    So for 2017, I am going to try to tap into my creative side and also work on my perseverance and try to complete a craft each month.  To help me,  I started a craft club on fb with some of the other Michigan Tech parents called Michigan Tech Inspired where we create an MTU or Upper Peninsula inspired craft each month to create.   My son is a sophomore at MTU and it is my alma mater, so this should be great fun!  Anyone is welcome to join....even if you don't have a connection with MTU and are interested in making crafts with an "Up North" theme.   Join us!

For our first craft this month, we made glass magnets.  It was a true test of my perseverance.    I found instructions several places online, and I talked to friends that made them with their 4H or Girl Scout troop so I thought this was going to be a snap.  If kids can do it, surely I can!  I headed out to Michaels on my lunch hour one day to buy supplies.   I found the glass gems in 1.5" size, and some strong disk magnets.  I saw that some people use thin magnets with adhesive on the back that can be cut with scissors, but these glass gems are heavy and I wanted them to stay put, so I went with beefier magnets.    Next stop, the adhesive aisle!  Being an engineer, I have a glue fetish.   I love to get the exact perfect fixative for every project.   Which glue to buy?   Online, people were raving about E6000 and Quick Grip, so I got some of that.   Also there is the crafter's favorite, Mod Podge.   I remember Mod Podge (or as I used to call it, "Modge Podge") from my own Girl Scout Holiday Bazaar crafting days myself.   We used Mod Podge to make Holly Hobbie plaques to sell.  So I got some of that, too.   I left the store with enough glue to make crafts for a lifetime!

To prep for my year long crafting extravaganza, I actually cleaned and organize the spare room I like to call the "craft room" (my husband calls it the "crap room") and set forth.  And that's when my inner  perfectionist reared it's ugly head.   The downside of being an engineer is that it makes you constantly look for how things can go wrong in any situation, and prevent them.   So, before I could unleash whatever artistic vision I might have deep down inside my soul, I needed to first determine which adhesive worked best.    I decided to use a vintage postcard image of the Keweenaw that I love as my prototype.  I used Microsoft Publisher to make my image, and spent more time than I should have trying to exactly match the blue of Lake Superior to fill the rest of the circle.   Did you know that there are apps you can get that will tell you the exact Pantone color of something?   I now know this, but I didn't need to learn this, because that kind of color matching doesn't need to happen when you are making an image this small that will be viewed under a blob of glass.   Just get it close enough!   Once I was able to move on, I printed a few copies on paper to test adhesives.    I had read online that Mod Podge tends to make ink jet print ink run because it is water based, so I was hoping the other adhesives wouldn't.    Then I started to wonder if E6000 and Quick Grip were actually the same thing, just sold under different brand names, so off I went to find the MSDS sheets on them to figure that out.   See this is why I never get crafts done!  (I'll cut to the chase: no they are not the same).   Then, I noticed that the ink printed on paper seeped through the back side, so I also tested printing on card stock and glossy photo paper.    I had read on the internet that putting the printed paper in the freezer would prevent it from running, which sounded like bullshit to me, but I tried it anyway:

No freezing required

The bottom line?   Mod Podge on card stock worked the best!  I was correct, the freezer idea didn't work....the other 2 adhesives resulted in clouding of the image with some crystal residue.   The Mod Podge didn't stick at all to the glossy photo paper.  Also, when I used some E6000 to stick the magnet on the back, it showed through on the other side.   Another downside to being an engineer is that we are very thrifty, so I decided to repurpose all my prototypes except the one that worked best by soaking them in hot water to remove the image.  Lesson learned: if you make a magnet you don't like, you can start over.   It even worked on the glue that is supposed to be waterproof.

So now it was time to get down to the art.   What images to pick?   The other crafters in my group were already well on their way making many Michigan Tech Husky related magnets and sending theme off in care packages to their students.   Since I knew I wanted to go with my vintage Keweenaw Land postcard image, I decided to stick with the vintage theme.  I found some great images of Houghton establishment logos to use, plus some mid century winter sport scenes.   My son is a hunter and a fisherman, so some old school hunting images would be great, too.  The lift bridge, the miner statue....the MTU logo of my 1980s was fun to find images.   Remembering that I don't need to match everything perfectly, I made a template of 1.5 inch circles in Microsoft publisher, and then used the shape fill with a picture option to make the images.   I found that rectangular images with a lot of space on the periphery tended to work best.  For those that didn't have that, I just filled with a color that looked close enough, and then placed the image on top of it.

I printed them out on business card weight card stuck I had in a cream color that further enhanced the vintage look, and cut them out with scissors.  I wet the back of the glass gem with Mod Podge (it was opaque white) and then pressed them down on the image, making sure to get all the air bubbles out.   I let them dry overnight, and then used the scissors to trim them.   I stuck the magnets on the back with Quick Grip, but I am sure E6000 would work just as well.    Voila!  I completed  a craft!!!  YAY!

Glass Magnets
I packed up a care package to send to my son, including these magnets and some snacks.  I'm looking forward to our February craft.  Meanwhile, I've got tons of requests for these magnets, so I put them up for sale in my Etsy store.   Check it out!