Monday, February 28, 2011

Forget Girl Scout Cookies...Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies

Meyer Lemons

Lately I've been on a fresh food kick, making juices, and eating lots of vegetables and fruits. I guess this is the effect of using the juicer Brad's mom got me for Christmas, how good fresh foods make me feel from the detox diet, and how good fresh OJ tastes.

I've seen some recipes on the blogs I read for Meyer lemons. I hadn't heard of them, but evidently they're sweeter than normal lemons and are grown in California. I found some at the grocery one weekend and decided to give them a try. After noticing one of them went bad today, I decided I needed to do something with them!

So I took the zest of the lemon and made Meyer Lemon Shortbread Cookies, and made lemonade from the juice. The cookies come from the Tiny Urban Kitchen blog. They don't really taste like lemon, but are very sweet, and remind me of Girl Scout cookies! No need to pay $3.50 a box anymore!

Look at all that lemon, sugar, and butter

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentines Pt.2

On Sunday Brad and I wanted to partake in cooking chili which we can have to eat during the week. Brad has made chili often, and I've attempted it once. It did not turn out so well then. But this time I was prepared, I found a cool recipe from The Kitchn blog, and had the awesome La Chamba cookware my mom got me for Christmas. When you cook tomato in the La Chamba, it's supposed to sweeten the sauce because of the reaction between the acidity of the tomato and alkaline of the clay pot. It is interesting how these pots are made. They are handmade in Columbia. They turn black after they are rubbed with a type of stone which smooths the clay out.

Saute the vegetables (1 medium yellow onion, 1 green pepper, 1 red pepper, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, gloves of garlic)

I first had to season my La Chamba by filling it with 3/4 water, and cooking it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. This seals the pores in the clay. I let it set out and cool while I cooked the vegetables. I then added my roasted canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1 tbs chili powder, 1 tbs cumin, and 1 bay leaf. Then I added the cooked vegetables.

I let the chili cook for 1:30 minutes. I then added 1 cup corn and a can of kidney beans and let it cook for 20 more minutes. This lets them get warm without turning mushy. It smelled great!

The chili turned out awesome and it will be made again! I only omitted the meat and some spices (only 1 tbs of cumin and chili, and no coriander or cayenne). I liked this chili because it is thick and not thin like I made it before. I hadn't thought of putting tomato sauce in it. But I'm partial to Cincinnati chili, so I made spaghetti noodles to go with it. I am super excited to have it throughout the week.

I enjoyed cooking the chili with Brad and am interested to see how his turned out! I can't wait to enjoy the wine my mom got us for Valentine's Day this coming spring break! Thank you mama! This Californian winery has some nice red wine, Menage a Trois Wines. If you see it, I'd definitely try it out!

My chili was a version found in Cooking Light's Way to Cook Vegetarian (pg. 404 for those who own it). It was an incredible mix of roasted bell peppers, tomatoes, butternut squash, and beans. It was a time consuming process, but after I had all the ingredients ready it went quite fast and all I had to do was let it simmer for about an hour and it was golden.

First you roast, peel and dice the peppers. Cook the onion in olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat until it starts to brown. Add spices of your choosing, I used cumin, paprika, chili powder, and a blend of my very own dried chilies and habenaro peppers with about 6 cloves of pressed garlic. After this cooks for a bit then you add the peppers, some vegetable broth, a lot of squash and crushed tomatoes. Simmer for about 20 minutes. Add beans of your choice (i.e. pintos, kidney, great northern, cannellini, etc.) Cook for about 30 - 40 minutes until it thickens and then sprinkle with some green onions for additional flavor. You can garnish this with some sour cream or cheese. I even used some leftover dill sauce from the day before.

Another cool thing I did this evening was can the chili. Katrina bought a very cool book for me over the holidays, and I have been itching to try it out! It is called PreserveIt and teaches the fundamentals of canning and preserving foods. I also got a hold of Ball's Home Canning Guide and my grandmother's pressure cooker. After I did a test run on the cooker, I put it to work. I was able to can about 7 pints of the chili goodness and with any luck it will keep so I can share it with the world. I'll let it sit around for a few weeks and then give it a test. I would also use a word of caution for those starting out the canning process - it can be extremely DANGEROUS and should be done under a very watchful eye!

Earlier in the day, I also prepared some of Katrina's famous cinnamon rolls. Unfortunately, I cannot mention an ingredient of the recipe without some harsh consequences (I almost had to leave cinnamon out of the title, but Katrina's famous rolls just didn't have that ring to it!). With that being said, they sure are a treat. Despite the hard labor and patience it takes to knead dough and wait for these scrumptious delights, it is well worth it. Maybe some day, I can reveal this top secret extravaganza to the world and you can divulge in such splendor!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentines Pt.1

This Valentines weekend Brad and I decided we wanted to try a couple new dishes that invigorated our taste buds. For Saturday evening we made one of our favorite dishes for our Valentines dinner. We cooked up some salmon with a dill sour cream dressing, roasted chili potatoes, and for me a salad, and for Brad, asparagus.

From the grocery I picked up a salmon steak. I was glad to learn from Brad that the only difference is the way the salmon is cut. I thought the salmon was fine cut this way. Even though there more bones, they were easy to separate from the fish as well as the skin. Plus, I wanted the Canadian farm raised salmon instead of the Chilean, just because I thought it would be fresher since it would come from a shorter distance.

Look at all those wonderful Omega 3s!

I learned this recipe from my mom. Just slice some potatoes, glaze with a mix of olive oil, chili powder and salt. They don't turn out spicy, so a lot of chili powder goes well. Just roast them on 350 uncovered until they're browned.

Brad sent me this gorgeous necklace. I absolutely love it...and Brad! He found it from an Etsy shop I had on my favorites, 3 dots. She has some amazing jewelry. I love how the rustic wood mixes with the modern shapes and the elegance of the way it is put on the necklace.

I love the one he picked out!

Now back to the salmon. I put a layer of mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper for the marinade. This combination is acidic, so it tenders the fish well. I let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. Then I wrapped it in foil, making it into a packet so the fish would steam. This piece was a 3/4lb steak, so I baked it at 350 for 40 minutes while the potatoes cooked. It's really super easy to prepare, really healthy and not that expensive (the fish was $6.30 and it made two generous portions). I think I'll do this more often!

As I was cooking I looked out and the sky had turned this great hot pink. We've had some quite different weather lately with a lot of wind, and some pretty skies like this!

For the dressing for the salmon, mix some sour cream with lots of dill and some lemon juice. Let it sit in the fridge for a while so it will marinate the sour cream. It's best to do this as early as possible in the process of dinner.

I followed a process similar to Katrina's for dinner. I had salmon fillets and used a combination of olive oil, parsley, oregano, salt, and pepper to marinate it for about 2 hours. I then put it in some aluminum foil and topped it with sliced lemons and baked it for about 35 minutes at 350. Once it was finished I topped it off with a sour cream dill sauce. I also did the potatoes with chili powder and some asparagus roasted in olive oil and pressed garlic. I also enjoyed the dinner with a bottle of my favorite cheap white wine to not overpower the fish. Broke Ass Wine goes for about $6 a bottle and is very good for the price!

Katrina got me a new Fossil wallet and an amazing vintage coffee mug. Even though I am slimming my caffeine intake these days, I still enjoy a heaping cup of the brew early in the morning. She also sent along some of my favorite chocolates from Old Kentucky Candies in Lexington, KY. I am a sucker for chocolate suckers!

On Friday, we caught a couple of Netflix. We watched "A Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea", which was made in 1976 and based on a novel. It's horrible, don't watch it. Especially if you like cats and Kris Kristofferson.

After that we watched "The Gates" which was a documentary about a temporary art project installed in Central Park in 2005 by two French artists. It was pretty neat. Brad says he remembers ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects) writing an article about it. It was a large controversy, but created a lot of enthusiasm once it was actually installed around 30 years later.

Tonight we were looking for something a bit lighter and romantic. I chose the I.Q. which stars Tim Robbins, Meg Ryan, and Walter Matthau (He plays a wonderful Albert Einstein). It was a very interesting, and yes, romantic comedy! I don't understand why this movie flopped so bad??

After that, we were feeling more movie, so I had Katrina pick out any film she wanted. She chose Journey into Amazing Caves: IMAX. It has very great images of caves and exploring, but lacked a huge part of verbal pizazz. Once again, we were feeling like spending more time together so we watched yet another movie. I chose Ira & Abby, which is a very different movie about love and life. It is a little neurotic in places, but overall a wonderful film. I would urge you to check this out if you are into quirky romance films...

It was a really great night and I can't wait to see Brad over spring break! Which is only a month away.

It was a very great evening. Although we didn't get to actually see one another face to face, Skype and the movies sufficed. We are saving our trips for a journey up to Minneapolis to check out the city and do some sight seeing. I am very much looking forward to spring break!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Lemon Cheese Tart

I love that's probably why this book "The Modern Baker" caught my eye at the library. This book has some great recipes, and it's divided between cakes, cookies, breads, and non-sweet main course dishes. There is a smoked salmon/puff pastry/cream cheese and chive dish that looks good too...and the banana rum coconut cake...and.......did I mention the key lime cookies?

Maybe I chose this recipe to make because I want warmer weather to be here, and lemons remind me of lemonade and summer. I don't have a tart pan, so I made it in a regular pie dish and it turned out just fine. I think this would be something good to take to a potluck since it's a different type of dessert, but still rich enough for the sweet tooth.

I've already returned the book the library, so I will write out what I remember!

Sweet Tart Crust
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 stick cold butter

Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together. Cut the cold butter into 8 pieces and add to mixture. Pinch the butter into the flour until it is all broken up and mixed in. Add in the sugar and one egg, mix. Then add other egg, mix. Keep folding it over until it begins to stick together enough to take out and form a ball. Because of the sugar content, the dough can be kneaded about 15 times to make it form nicely. Roll out into a circle 1" larger than the pie/tart pan, about 1/2" thick. Roll mostly from the center out with each pass, trying not to touch the edges too much. Grease the pan and lay dough over, then form the edge to look nice.

Lemon Filling
16 oz cream cheese room temperature (I used one regular, and one with 1/3 fat)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs (I only used 1 egg because I didn't want to use up all my eggs, and it was fine)
2 egg yolks (I also only used 1 egg yolk)
1 cup sour cream (low fat kind here!)
2 tsp lemon zest (I'm going to add more next time for more lemon)

Make sure cream cheese is room temp. It will take a few hours to do so. Add cream cheese to mixing bowl with sugar until soft and blended. Add vanilla and lemon zest, mix. Add one egg at a time, mixing after each one. Add sour cream, mix. Fill tart/pie pan with the lemon filling.Set oven rack on the lowest position and pre-heat oven at 325 degrees. Bake 30 minutes. While the tart is cooking, make the glaze.

1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar

After the tart has cooked 30 minutes, add the glaze on top and cook an additional 10 minutes. If you want to get fancy, adding some lemon slices or some more zest would look nice.

If you are using a pie pan (like I did), cook longer (mine took an additional 20 minutes because the pie pan makes the dessert thicker than a tart pan.) It may still 'wiggle' but it will set once it cools. Don't worry if the lemon filling looks like it is going to spill over, it will lower and set once it has cooled too. I figured mine was done once the lemon filling was beginning to brown and crack at the top edge.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Community Day Meeting

On Wednesday, February 2nd our landscape architecture studio held a meeting with the community of Scott County in Kentucky. This is our final semester (thank goodness!) which is also our senior capstone project. It is one large scale project that takes our education into a real life setting. Every year the studio is given a county or community to work with  to create a comprehensive master plan for the town. We looks at issues such as transportation routes, recreation areas, historic districts, education, and many types of other issues. I am also the photographer for the project, which I'm going to enjoy!

On Wednesday we held our first meeting with the community. We presented research we had done for two weeks leading up to the meeting. My part of the research was education. I looked at the current trends of education in Scott County such as education levels. Our studio combined each of our analysis studies into a Powerpoint presentation. After the presentation, we divided up the 11 who showed up into two groups, and talked with them about how they see the county and where it needs some improvement. We learned a lot from the meeting and now we are diving into what projects we want to do for the master plan. I am going to look at the historic districts of Scott County and want to do more on streetscaping of the downtown areas.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Mushroom & Pepper Tart w/ Blueberry Cobbler

Tonight, I pulled out a new cook book and tried a variation of tart that turned out amazing. The book is called Cooking Light Way to Cook Vegetarian. The book is an amazing adventure into the world of vegetarian cooking. It features several desserts, appetizers, breads, and entrees that will make anyone's mouth water. It also has plenty of photographs and gives several tips that help make cooking much simpler. The recipes are very diverse and use high quality ingredients. I would recommend picking up a copy if you are into cooking!

Pie Crust:
1 1/4 cups of All-Purpose Flour
1/4 TSP Salt
1/4 TSP Baking Powder
2 TBS minced Chives
1/4 cup Vegetable Shortening
4 TSP Unsalted Butter, melted
Cooking Spray
1 TBS Dijon Mustard

1/2 cup Dried Porchini Mushrooms
1 TBS Canola Oil
2 TBS chopped Shallots
4 OZ Cremini Mushrooms, sliced thin
3 OZ Shiitake Mushroom Caps, sliced thin
1 Clove Garlic, pressed or minced
1 TSP chopped Tyme
1 TBS chopped Parsley
3 TBS grated Parmigiano- Reggiano Cheese
1/2 cup 2% Reduced Fat Evaporated Milk
2 Large Eggs
1/2 cup chopped bottled Roasted Red Bell Peppers


To make the crust, mix the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Cut in shortening until it resembles coarse meal. Mix butter and boiling water. Make a well in center of the flour mixture and pour butter mixture in the well. Gently draw flour into the butter mixture until clumps form. Press dough into a small ball and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°

Roll the dough out to fill a pie or tart pan. Coat the pie pan with cooking spray and press dough into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Fold any excess dough inward. Pierce the bottom and sides of the dough and line the bottom with aluminum foil and weigh down with pie weights. Bake at 400° for about 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for about 15 min and brush the crust with mustard.

Reduce oven temperature to 375°.

Prepare dried mushrooms per directions; save 1/4 cup of liquid for cooking. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add cremini and shiitake mushrooms; cook 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in porchini mushrooms, tyme; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in parsley lemon juice, pepper, and salt.

Pour mushroom mixture evenly over the tart crust. Combine 2 TBS of cheese with milk and eggs, stir with a whisk. Pour over the mushroom mixture in the tart crust. Sprinkle with chopped peppers and remaining cheese. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until it is set. Cool for 10 minutes and garnish with chives or parsley. The dish goes extremely well with southern style cole slaw.

The Mushroom and Roasted Pepper Tart requires some time to make, but they are a delicious treat. This dish has reinvigorated my love of cooking and I plan to walk through the book one recipe at a time until I'm either overweight or satisfied.

I was a bit inspired by Katrina to attempt a simple cobbler recipe with some frozen fruit Katrina and I picked this summer in the Apostle Islands. It is extremely simple and equally tasty. The recipe I used can be found at I simplified the ingredients list a bit.

6 cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup sugar

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 TBS sugar
3/4 TSP baking powder
1/4 TSP salt
1/4 TSP baking soda
5 TBS chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup fat-free sour cream
3 TBS 2% reduced-fat milk
1 TSP sugar


Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare filling, combine first 2 ingredients in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish.

To prepare topping, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (flour through baking soda) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in sour cream to form a soft dough.

Drop dough by spoonfuls onto blueberry filling to form 8 dumplings. Brush dumplings with milk; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon sugar. Place baking dish on a jelly roll pan. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until filling is bubbly and dumplings are lightly browned. Serve with ice cream or whipping cream and coffee.

Cooking Night

Another cooking night between Boo and I. Tonight I made the tomato tart again. It was good, but it wasn't as good as the one I made before, but how can I compare to a real garden tomato and fresh mozzarella? Tonight I had a special variety of tomato, but it just wasn't like the garden tomato. I also recommend using chunks of cheese or shred your own. I've found that pre-shredded cheese of any kind really looses a lot of its taste because it dries out. However, it was still good and the mustard really adds the flavor to this dish.

Mine didn't exactly look like this. All I would need is a tart pan and fresh basil though!

After the tomato tart, I wanted some dessert. So I decided to make a single serve fruit cobbler that I've made a few times before. I kind of just made this up. I basically put whatever fruit I want in the bottom of a baking dish. Frozen fruits work well for some reason, I think it's because of the water content. Then I add a spoonful of sugar on top and let them sit while I'm making the crust. You can make any amount you like for the crust, just remember the 1,1,1 rule, give or take. 1 tbs melted butter, 1 heaping spoonful of flour, and 1 spoonful of sugar. I usually use 3 to go over a small ramekin dish. Then just bake at 350 until bubbly and brown, about 30/40 minutes. It's usually best to bake it while cooking something else since it takes so long.

Earlier this week I sent out Brad's Valentine's present. I hope he likes it!

 I also spent some time taking some photos on manual settings. I like these type of shots where the car lights are shown like this, but the road is too well lit and the effect doesn't work as well. Just experimenting!

Brad made a totally different type of tart. It seems like it turned out well from what he says! He decided to make a blueberry cobbler after he saw my peach raspberry one!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Storms & Cameras

Anyone who knows about Wisconsin weather knows the old saying "If you don't like the weather here, wait five minutes!" Well, I waited a few days and its still cold and snowy outside.

On Wednesday, the University of Wisconsin-Madison canceled classes due to 'blizzard-like' conditions. Madison also canceled ALL of its bus service. This meant most of those who travel by foot or public transit were stranded for the day. I spent my time digging myself out of the two feet of snow that the Snowmageddon 2011 dropped on us. Most of the early morning and afternoon was devoted to clearing the sidewalks for pedestrians. However, I did take the time to do some phone interviews for my research.

In reality, this storm was not nearly as bad as last year's. In 2011, we were hammered with about 24 inches of accumulation in three days. In December of 2009, I remember spending the day, a better part of 8 hours, digging myself and my car out of two feet of snow that accumulated over the course of one evening! I guess this crazy weather is just something that Wisconsinites come to love about the great northern experience.

Also, today I received a few new purchases in the mail that may help expand the content of this blog a bit. I just ordered a new camera bag (Lowepro's Slingshot AW 200) and the Nikon Telephoto Lens (AF-S DX VR Zoom Nikkor 55 - 200mm f/4-5.6g IF-ED). This should let me take my camera more places and capture more of the landscape photography I am so keen at trying to shoot. I am also looking to experiment with some HDR photography techniques and expand my skills and knowledge as a photographer. I use a simple, versatile, and lightweight D40 and enjoy using it on everything from food to landscapes... I am excited for what the future of photography may bring!