Monday, March 2, 2015

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Crispy Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

This should be called "almost vegetarian winter vegetable chowder," but it is not called that. The name was too long to fit in the allotted space.

That is how we should think of it though - almost vegetarian. Omit the bacon and you've got yourself a vegetarian situation. 

You could go even farther and hold the splash of milk and you'd have yourself a vegan party in a bowl.

Personally, I need the bacon in here. It adds some smoke and a meaty quality. It makes me think of this as more of a meal. Versus a bowl of flavored water and vegetables.

Actually, I could be a vegetarian, if and only if I could keep bacon and sausage. Basically anything pork. I don't really care for the other meats so much, but I do love the dirtiest meat of them all.  

There are lots of people who choose to eat all the meats but pork. I'm the opposite of that. I digress.

It is still healthy with the bacon. Bacon is good for you.

Enough talk about my love affair with bacon and other pork products. This recipe is flexible. I went heavy on the cauliflower because I love cauliflower. Love it.

You could use some celery root, squash, sweet potatoes. Whatever floats your boat.

I added a can of white beans to thicken it up and for a bit of protein. It is finished with some lemon juice, for brightness. 

Lemon truly brightens the whole thing up. Don't skip it. If you forgot to buy a lemon, substitute a splash of cider vinegar. It gets finished off with a small splash of milk too for creaminess.

The chowder is fairly creamy all on its own, but it is no cows milk creamy. You know what I mean? Love me some dairy. Again you can be flexible, work with what you have and like.

The crispy sprouts on top add a little color and texture. I love brussel sprouts. They are the best. Even better with crumbled bacon. I think this would be great with some crumbled goat cheese on top. Be creative. 

Reheating this was a breeze too. It thickens up though. Add some water to thin it out or do like me and pour it over some rice. Variety and flexibility. Words we should all live by.

One word of caution, easy on the salt. Taste as you go. The mustard and lemon combine for a pleasantly salty vibe, but you don't want to go crazy. Not the mention canned beans can have a lot of added salt too.


for the chowder:
3 slices, bacon
1 large cooking onion, small dice (1 3/4 cups)
1 leek, small dice (white + light green part only)
6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
4-5 thyme sprigs, leaves removed and chopped
1-2 parsnips, peeled and chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 large head of small-chopped cauliflower florets
1 ½ tbsp grainy mustard
salt + pepper to taste
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

1 can (16 oz) can white beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup lemon juice
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1/3 cup heavy cream 

for the crispy brussel sprouts:
10 brussel sprouts, sliced
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Heat a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon, cooking 8 to 10 minutes, until crispy. Remove and drain bacon, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pan, setting the bacon aside for later. 
Add the diced onions to the pot and sauté until soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the leeks and continue to sauté until the leeks are soft, about 4 minutes more. Add the minced garlic and thyme to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the chopped parsnips and cauliflower florets to the pot and stir to coat in the oil. Add the grainy mustard, salt + pepper to taste, and Old Bay. Stir to coat all the vegetables in spice. 
Add the lemon juice to the pot and stir. Add the vegetable stock to the pot, stir again, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, remove the lid and lower heat to simmer. Let the chowder cook and bubble until the parsnips and celery root pieces are tender, about 15-18 minutes.
Ladle half of the chowder into an upright blender, with the white beans, and carefully purée until smooth. Pour puréed portion of chowder back into the soup pot and bring it back to a boil. Reduce heat to low, adding the cream, stirring to combine. Check the chowder for seasoning, adjust and serve hot. (you could also use an immersion blender, be careful to leave enough whole vegetable pieces.)
While the chowder is simmering/cooking, make the crispy Brussels sprouts. Place the sliced sprouts onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Pour the 2 tsp of olive oil over top, season with salt and pepper and a generous pinch of Old Bay seasoning. Toss lightly to combine and spread sprouts evenly on the baking sheet. Slide the sheet into the oven and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, or until browned on the and crispy. You'll want to stir them once while they are roasting. Serve warm sprouts on top of the hot vegetable chowder, with crumbled bacon.

Adapated from The First Mess

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Kelsey's Sunday Brunch

Welcome to March!  Is it just me or has this winter kind of flown by?  I might be kicking myself for saying that when we hit April and there's still snow on the ground.  I'm guessing it's a combination of having a relatively mild December/January for Wisconsin and all of the excitement of wedding planning because it sure doesn't feel like it was that long ago that we got engaged.  A very busy spring and summer will be here before we even know it!

Honestly though, I think I might miss soup season when it warms up.  I have been a lot more into making soups this year than in the past.  Canned soups can be mighty tasty, but there's just something special about homemade soup that you can't get from a can.  Recently I made this minestrone soup and it was mighty tasty.

The past couple of years for lent I've given up candy/desserts.  I choose it because it is actually challenging unlike when I was little and I would give up ice cream even though we never bought ice cream in the winter.  It also helps me make those healthier choices.  This year I did give myself one exception as my sweet friend Emily made me a countdown for my desk at work that requires the eating of one Hershey kiss per day.  I'll oblige if I must ;)
A Wisconsin tradition during lent, well let's be real it's basically a year-round tradition, is Friday night fish fry.  Nate and I decided to turn it into a little bit of a date night this week.  We were hoping to go to Quivey's Grove, a nearby restaurant that is well known for their fish fry, but an hour and a half wait we went elsewhere.  We ended up at the Tap Room at Hawks Landing where we washed down our fish with brandy old fashioneds, another Wisconsin tradition.  We rounded out date night with a game of mini golf on the indoor course at Vitense Golfland where match ended in a tie.

One thing I've been thinking about lately is how in the next few months my kitchen is going to change drastically.  Not only the actual physical kitchen since we'll be moving at some point this summer when I start law school, but also the tools I have in it.  Much of our wedding registry includes new kitchen tools or higher quality upgrades from what we have now.  Inspired by this article on essential tools for your first kitchen, I thought it would be fun to do a little comparison of what my top kitchen tools (meaning most used) are now compared to next fall/winter.
  • Chef's Knife: I have a really bad knife set that came in a kitchen starter kit I bought a few years ago (think, serrated knife can't even cut into a baguette bad) but then on top of that we have a mediocre chef's knife that while not great, can get the job done.  This gets used daily.
  • Cutting board(s): To go along with the chef's knife, we have a few different sized cutting boards that get used daily (at least).  My favorite is a giant one that can hold a ton of diced veggies but can barely fit in the sink to get cleaned.
  • Large non-stick skillet: Eggs, stir fry, grilling a sandwich, making a one-skillet meal, this bad boy can do it all.  I use mine close to daily and I honestly think that as I become more comfortable with my cast iron skillets this might be replaced, but for now, here she is.
  • Baking sheet: I may not use a baking sheet daily like some of these other things, but it does get used frequently and for a variety of reasons.  Besides just for baking, it also gets used for roasting, a tray for foil packets or even just to be there in case something overflows.
  • Spatula: Stirring, flipping, cutting, serving; it's practically a do it all tool!
What would be on your list?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad

Lately I've been trying to work more and more on developing my own recipes and just sort of winging it when I'm in the kitchen.  I'm becoming more confident in my ability to cook intuitively as I become more comfortable with different spices and ingredients.

I've found that it's best to have some inspiration when getting going and one of the best types of inspiration I've found is thinking about meals that I've really enjoyed from a restaurant or other food establishment and trying to copy it, maybe not to a tee, but at least as a base.  As I have mentioned before on the blog, the Good Food cart is one of my favorite places to grab lunch when I'm at work and you better believe that it inspired this Sweet Potato and Mixed Greens Salad.

A bed of mixed greens are topped with cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes, craisins, pecans and crumbles of tangy goat cheese.  The finishing touches come from a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.  I can be lazy at times so I usually just toss some pecans on the salad right out of the bag, but feel free to toast them or even go a little crazy and use candied pecans.  If you'd like a little more protein go ahead and throw on some chicken breast.  One of the great things about salads is they can be so easily customizable depending on your tastes by swapping out ingredients or switching up the proportions.

The recipe below is for one personal size salad that serves as the main dish for the meal.  I've increased the quantities at times as well to serve multiple people, just use your best judgement.  Be careful though, because the toppings tend to sink to the bottom of the serving dish!


  • 2-3 cups loosely packed greens, depending on what lettuce to toppings ratio you prefer (I like to use a spring mix for the greens)
  • 1/4 cup cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons craisins
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/8 cup pecans
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
  1. Spread greens over large plate or bowl.
  2. Top with sweet potatoes, craisins, goat cheese and pecans.  Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
  3. Toss as desired and enjoy!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brittany's Sunday Brunch

Good morning brunchers!

This time of winter, I always find myself bored. Bored of snow and cold and being cooped up. Luckily, the kitchen can help me stay busy. One of my favorite things to make in the kitchen lately is homemade dog treats for Bear and friends...because one batch makes like 40 biscuits! Bear doesn't need all of those. But he sure wishes he could have them all. He'll do just about any trick for one of those peanut butter goodies. I always crave peanut butter cookies after making these because they always make the place smell so good when baking. Click here for the recipe I use.

Another thing I find myself doing during the boring months of winter is puzzles. My fiancé and I love to spend time after work or weekends at our dinning room table putting together the big, tough puzzles. That's actually how we spent our Valentines day. It was a perfect day in with a puzzle and grilled cheese and tomato soup for two! Simple, cheap and comfy. Oh, and I told my fiancé to hold off on buying me flowers. He'll (we'll) be spending plenty of money on flowers for the wedding. But I still got a lovely orchid. I'm diligently adding 3 ice cubes every Friday and giving her great sunlight. Let's just say I don't have the greenest thumb but I'm trying super hard! So far so good.

One other thing that's kept me busy this winter is the wedding planning. I've been a little stressed just with the idea that it's only 4 months aways! Yikes, where has the time gone? I'm pretty sure I'm ahead of the game but I don't want to start slacking. Bakeries, invitations, bridal gifts, can see how you might forget something. Through all this planning craze, I stepped aside and thought how I need to pamper and prepare myself for the big day.

I decided to look into grown-up facial regimens. I have stuck with the high school schedule of washing my face am and pm and only using moisturizer when my face gets dry. I wanted to change that in hopes of getting a good routine down for the wedding and beyond. It took quite some time and research to find the right products but I think I found them. I went with ole henriksen because they steer clear of ingredients I'm allergic to, they got good reviews and they are not on the top of the price scale. I'll let you know how I think of them!

And although no one but my yoga mat will see my pretty toes, I treated myself to a DIY pedicure. I did this as a pampering reward after sticking to my work out plans for the week. It was a great alternative to my normal rewards, dessert! Although, I'm not completely ruling out desserts until the wedding, after all, we get free cupcakes at our bakery tastings!

How are you staying busy this winter?

Until next time,

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cinnamon Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Are sweet potatoes one of those trendy foods, like kale or quinoa?  Not that I have anything against trendy foods because it seems like usually they are things that are really good for you.  So maybe it's not so much that it's a trend but more of an awakening or coming out of sorts.  It's your time to shine vegetable that honestly is kind of mediocre but all of a sudden everyone is figuring out super delicious ways to prepare you!

Maybe sweet potatoes are trendy, maybe they aren't but I sure have seen them around a lot lately.  Part of that might be that I didn't used to care for their taste.  I don't know what it was about them, but they just didn't tickle my fancy.  All of a sudden though I love those buggars and can't get enough!

I remember learning about sweet potatoes in a class I took in college on world hunger.  Sweet potatoes are a type of yam.  There's a very similar yam that's grown in some African countries that is white or more similar looking to a baking potato.  Due to the difference in color, the African yams are seriously lacking in nutritional value that our sweet potatoes have due to the carotin that makes them orange.  Due to cultural reasons they are hesitant to switch to the orange ones.  A researcher at my university was working with some rural African villages to begin harvesting a yam that looked like what they were used to but had been developed to contain similar nutritional value to a sweet potato.  Pretty nifty!

These cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes are currently my favorite way to prepare the root vegetable.  The peeled potatoes are cubed and spread out on a baking sheet where all the action is going to happen, no need to dirty a bowl.  Extra virgin olive oil and honey are drizzled over the orange cubes and then sprinkled with cinnamon.  This creates a sweet and spicy potato after the roasting happens.  To be honest, I don't usually actually measure out the ingredients, so feel free to just wing it.

Cinnamon honey roasted sweet potatoes have great flavor and can be eaten as a side dish to any meal.  My favorite way to enjoy them is as a salad topping (salad recipe coming on Friday!)  I usually prepare a batch on Sunday and have enough then to last for salads the whole week.  Get creative though, the possibilities are endless!



  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Peel sweet potatoes and cute them into half inch cubes.  Spread out in a single layer on baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and honey.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  
  4. Cook for 30 minutes or until soft, stirring half way through.


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