Monday, September 1, 2014

April's Sunday Brunch

It is a Monday brunch kind of day because it kind of is like a Sunday. It has been another busy past few weeks and especially this past week, with my birthday and preparing for the start of my final year of graduate school.

The other week the boyfriend and I went down to Milwaukee for the state fair and to visit some of his friends. There were cream puffs, corn and other delicious treats consumed. The cute goats and other farm creatures can't be forgotten either.

On another weekend his parents took us to the Renaissance Faire in Bristol. It was a really fun and interesting experience. We saw a glass blowing demonstration, jousting and fire whips. Yes, a man dancing around with whips all aflame.

After a long warm day at the fair, he then had the pleasure of taking me to Ikea to get all the necessary things to make my new apartment liveable. Lucky guy.

I've always wanted to try canning and I know Kelsey has been itching to try it too. I gave pickles a go a couple weeks ago and tried them this past week. They turned out well for my first go at it. My boyfriend and I also made a batch of refrigerator pickles too.

The 7 jars of pickles we made need a bit of tweaking, but next year I hope to be sharing some pickle recipes with you all.

I moved again. I said I would never do it again until I graduated, but then a along came the most loveable cat EVER. That is right, I moved my whole life down the street and got out of my lease all for my cat.

On the bright side I got to spend a few nights at my parents and enjoy some home cooked food and a beautiful view that you just can't get in a downtown apartment.

My awesome friend, Hannah, and I went to the Dumpling Haus at Hilldale Mall. It was amazing. We these dumplings with meat and broth, soup in a dumpling. There was also a delicious soupy, beefy, noodle bowls.

Love me some Asian noodles and dumplings. Oh my goodness, dumplings.  She knows a lot about her Asian cuisine and is actually moving away to Germany and China for the next two years. I see a vacation in my future.

Two days after getting moved into my new apartment, I got started on making a ice cream terrine. There were a few bumps in the road, like the gas not being onto my stove. Cooking in a new kitchen for the first time is tricky.

I walked myself in circles a lot, forgetting where pots, pans and bowls new homes were in the cupboards, but I completed my masterpiece!

 My boyfriends birthday is six days before mine, aka this was his birthday present. The layers went like this from top to bottom: strawberry buttermilk, vanilla and brown butter almond brittle, with strawberry jam. Between each layer was cake and jam.

He loves strawberries and I thought this was more original than a gooey chocolate caramel terrine.A recipe for making an ice cream terrine will be on the blog soon!

More of this cake was enjoyed for my birthday the following week along with a trip to Lombardino's. Love that place. We had the calamari to start, because it is probably the best in town. Seriously.

For my main course I had pasta of course. The seafood pasta with saffron, shrimp and mussels was perfectly simple and elegant.

This weekend was also busy with the Taste of Madison and getting ready for school. Did anyone else go to the Taste of Madison this weekend? What did you get and love?


Friday, August 29, 2014

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

I've been trying to make a conscious effort to eat healthier which is why lately I've been using zucchini to justify all things baked goods.  I also use baked goods on the regular to justify my chocolate addiction, so this recipe is really a win-win.  But fo cereal, aside from begging every single person I know to take six pound zucchinis off my hands I've grating them up and tossing them in zucchini bread, zucchini brownies and now these zucchini chocolate chip muffins because everything is better in single servings, plus don't forget they're "healthy" so you can really eat two or three.

But don't worry, I've been eating zucchini the real healthy way too, slicing these bad boys and either roasting or sauteing them as well.  I've got another 10 months until wedding bells ring but only a couple until the hunt for the perfect white dress takes place and I'm hoping to have a good start on being in wedding dress shape by then.

These muffins honestly aren't the healthiest thing I could be eating, but they're a smarter option for satisfy a sweet tooth and because they're already separated into servings, you can easily freeze them and pull one or two out to thaw every few days instead of chowing down for a week straight.

If you want to try lightening them up a little more, consider halving or skipping altogether the chocolate chips and/or streusel topping.  I ended up only using about two-thirds of the topping on mine.  I'm warning you now though, you will risk getting your chocolate fix from these muffins if you omit the chocolate chips and might find yourself eating them out of the bag instead anyways!

Happy Labor Day weekend everyone!

Yields 22 muffins.


Brown Sugar Oat Streusel
  • 1 1/3 cup oats (old fashioned or quick)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold
Zucchini Muffins
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Grease or line muffin tins.
  2. In a medium bowl, add oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and butter for the brown sugar oat streusel.  Using your hands, combine ingredients until they are well mixed and crumbly.  Set aside for later.
  3. In a different medium sized bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, granulated sugar, canola oil, applesauce, zucchini and vanilla extract.
  4. Using a large bowl and large rubber spatula, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chips.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients and mix with the rubber spatula until just combined.
  6. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup, transfer batter into prepared muffin tin.  Top each muffin fully with crumbled streusel mixture.
  7. Bake for 5 minutes at 425 degrees before lowering the temperature to 350 degrees for an additional 14 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from muffin tin.
Recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction (also includes bread version).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Skillet Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic

It's the last Wednesday in August so you know what that means, the last installment of Tomato Month!  We've already brought you a salad, a pasta and a sandwich, so now I'm coming at you with this Skillet Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes and Garlic.

One thing that having a garden has really helped me with is eating more seasonable produce.  You're basically forcing it on yourself because, well, it pops up in your garden right when it's in season.  Besides when you grow it yourself, there are just so many other benefits to eating seasonably; from lower prices to having it likely grown locally so you're probably helping small businesses and farmers (especially if you hit up the farmer's market on the regular) while also reducing your produce's carbon footprint.

This dish is really a great way to maximize on seasonable produce right now.  Raise your hand if you have tomatoes coming out of your ears.  Yup, me too.  And while I love just popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth as a snack or tossing them in a salad, it's great to mix up the flavors a little bit and this skillet chicken definitely delivers on flavor.  The seasoned chicken tastes totally delicious and every time you bite into a cherry tomato it's like a miniature explosion of juices in your mouth.  Not only is it tasty but it definitely falls into the healthy category and takes minimal time and effort to make so it's a perfect weeknight dinner option.

Hope you enjoy!

  • 2 large chicken breasts (I cut mine in half so they would cook better)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  1. Spray large skillet with non-stick spray and set over medium heat.  Sprinkle chicken breasts with 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper.  Add chicken to heated skillet and cook until golden and cooked through, about 15 minutes depending on size.  Try to only flip chicken once.  Remove from skillet and set aside.
  2. Add olive oil to same skillet and heat over medium.  Add garlic and tomatoes and stir until garlic is golden, 1-2 minutes.  Add water, vinegar, Italian seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper.  Continue stirring until tomatoes are softened, 2-4 minutes.
  3. Spoon tomato and garlic mixture over chicken breasts and enjoy!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

I hate to break it to you guys but summer is quickly coming to a close.  One week until Labor Day say what?!  While I will be sad to see summer go, I'm really excited to get this coming year rolling!  Plus, let's be real, fall is one of the best times for cooking and baking with pumpkin in everything and big batches of chili.

Instead of thinking about all the things I didn't check off my summer to-do list, let's stick with the positive and I'll share a few things about this fall that I'm looking forward to:
  • Football: Nothing beats downtown Madison like a Badger football game day, not to mention I become obsessed with my fantasy football teams.
  • Wedding planning: There should be lots to do including engagement photos and dress shopping.
  • Moving: Although putting all your stuff in boxes just to unpack it again a few days later is a hassle, it also feels really good to get a fresh start in a new place sometimes. Plus I get to have my big sister as a roommate again!
  • Applying to law school: Scary and exciting all at the same time.
Lately I've been putting some thought into what we are going to be putting on our wedding registry.  In terms of what I'm going to be asking for to have in my grown-up kitchen I've been considering which brands and materials to pick and found these articles on the best materials for pots and pans and metal, glass, ceramic and silicone pans: when to use each very helpful.  It feels like such a big decision because they are pieces that I know I will be using for many years to come!  Any product suggestions that you love?

Last week my two big sisters and I cashed in Groupons we had bought to do a Paint Nite event.  The events are held at various alcohol establishments (ours was at Fisher King Winery) and there is a teacher who coaches everyone through the same painting over the course of a couple hours.  It ended up being a really fun girls night!

One of my favorite hobbies besides cooking is crafting.  In elementary school I learned how to knit at The Sow's Ear, a local yarn store and coffee shop.  I've enjoyed knitting every since and recently started working on my first project for the fall, this cute little baby pumpkin hat.

If there's any other knitters out there I wanted to share with you this new pattern by Tanis Fiber Arts for the Lady Sunnyside cardigan.  She has a code on her blog for a free download of the pattern that expires tomorrow night!  I've never had the guts to try making a sweat but I'll be stashing this one away for when the time comes.

Don't forget to follow along with me on Twitter (@kraespencer) and Instagram (@krspencer2).

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BLT Grilled Cheese Sandwich

After April's Warm Tomato, Arugula and Bacon Panzanella Salad and Brittany's Caprese Pasta, Tomato Month continues with my take on the theme, a BLT Grilled Cheese Sandwich!

I'm going to start out by being straightforward with everyone, I know I'm calling this a BLT sandwich but I' didn't put any lettuce on it.  Leafy green lettuce and a hot skillet just don't go together too well so I chose to replace it with a different green food and that's where the avocado steps in.  Because the BLT was ultimately the inspiration for this sandwich I chose to keep it in the name, and because BAT just doesn't have the same ring to it.

The tomatoes I used in these sandwiches are fresh picked from my garden this past weekend.  It just feels so rewarding to be able to eat something that you have been taking care of and growing.  The tomatoes add a nice, fresh juiciness, and the avocado a gentle softness that helps balance out the crunch of the bacon and grilled bread.  We were really happy with how this sandwich turned out and I'm already thinking about how I'll be making it again accompanied by tomato soup once the weather cools off.


Makes 2 sandwiches.

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 6 pieces of turkey bacon, cooked
  • 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 large tomato, cut in 4 slices
  • 1 avocado, mashed
  • Butter
  1. Butter the outsides of two slices of bread.
  2. Begin layering ingredients evenly on each slice, starting with one slice of cheese, then spread mashed avocado, place bacon strips and tomato slices, finally topping with another slice of cheese.
  3. Butter the outside of last two slices of bread and top the sandwiches.
  4. In a skillet preheated over medium heat, grill sandwiches for about 5 minutes on each side, or until cheese is melted.  If bread begins to burn before cheese is melted, lower heat.
Two Years Ago: Peach Almond Galette


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