Garden Harvest Cookbook Tutorial

My grandma recently told me of a beautiful problem that was plaguing her kitchen: her garden had created an over abundance of zucchini and tomatoes.  Her and my grandpa have been scrambling away to find recipes that would fulfill all their vegetable needs, but they had a hard time finding anything tasty outside the traditional salad and kabob rut (with the exception of a gratin they made for a Sunday dinner).

The unfortunate thing about gardens is that sometimes, no matter how much harvest you give away or bake into dinners, sometimes you still have too much.  For me, I feel like I spend all winter dreaming of the delicious ways I can prepare produce from my garden only to make more than my fair share of caprese salads when summer rolls around.  Here’s my idea to combat this waste of delicious food: create a recipe book specifically tailored to the veggies you grow.

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In my version, I used a simple binder found at an office supplies store, binder dividers, construction paper, and chalk.

Since I wasn’t able to keep a garden this year, I made my (small) list of categories very general.  Tomato, zucchini, kale, peppers, and spinach.  If your garden is more in depth, or you want to push your culinary boundaries, make categories for each variety of plant you have.  Japanese eggplant? Heirloom versus cherry tomatoes?  The possibilities are endless.

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Then, load up your new cookbook with recipes you find all year long.  When your garden delivers a bounty, it’ll be easy to create something delicious from your pages of inspiration.

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Also, if you aren’t a fan of printing out pages or keeping a physical book, make a garden Pinterest board.  Make boards the same way you would for physical folders, and pin away.

Either way, don’t let your bounty go to waste.  Stay inspired!

-Ashlyn

Saturday Special (Bowl Scraper)

When you’re trying to build your kitchen arsenal up, it can be difficult to decide what is really important.  You browse your local kitchen store and are blinded by all the shiny gadgets, expensive tools, and gorgeous napkins.  Sighing, you believe that without a hefty grant, your kitchen might just have to be mediocre.  You resolve to eat more take out as not to showcase your lack of kitchen gadgetry.

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Fear not!  One of the greatest additions to your drawers is the simple, inexpensive bowl scraper!  Most run for under $1 and can be used to make lines in pastry cream, clean bowls, and just about anything else.  I have a feeling one of these will come in handy during the holidays.

It’s not an item I recommend shopping online for, as I had some difficulties.  However, the one pictured above is here.  Next time you’re at any kitchen supply shop or supermarket, I can almost guarantee you’ll find one!

 

-Ashlyn

Bien Trucha / Geneva, IL

Photo courtesy of Geneva Daily Photo

Photo courtesy of Geneva Daily Photo

If you are ever in downtown Geneva around eating time, you might be perplexed to see a line out the door of a tiny white building.  You’ll probably be driving too fast to even notice the small sign that is affixed on the window that says “Bien Trucha“.  Either way, you  will, like me, spend the next ten years wondering what the heck that place must serve in an otherwise chain restaurant town.  I’ll spare you the time, they sell the best.

It doesn’t even matter that I didn’t finish that sentence.  The best what?  It’s just the best.  I really should just leave it at that, because you just need to go for yourself, but since that’s not common restaurant review practice, I’ll continue.

On a weekday afternoon, Michael and I strolled into the busy joint without a wait.  White walls, minimal Mexican inspired art, and quaint pillows to cushion the wooden benches gave the place a trendy, yet somewhat homey vibe.  All the waiters smiled and made sure we were taken care of by bringing us a heaping bowl of homemade chips and the most amazing pureed bean dip I had ever tasted.  Warm and bursting with flavor, it gave me the same feeling a warm soup might give at a chilly tailgate.

Our waiter quickly persuaded us to order the guacamole with the fruit of the day (plum) and two cups of crema de chile poblano soup.  The guacamole had minimal salt and played delicately on the palette, making you feel like you were running through an avocado farm.  The soup, made Michael and I stop in our tracks.  A natural bright green, the pureed poblano mingled effortlessly with potato cubes and queso fresco.  It was the kind of soup that would make you give up all other food for the rest of your life.  Rich, creamy, and able to taste every flavor, it was the perfect meal, snack, dessert, and breakfast.

The cheese for my cazeulitas was served in a small rectangular dish, accompanied by fresh, warm tortillas wrapped in a beautiful towel, all served on a wooden platter.  The de Champiiones featured wild mushrooms, chile de arbol, garlic, onion, crema fresca, and chihuahua cheese, all melding together in my warm corn tortilla to create a delicious lunch.  Michael’s Bien Trucha tacos came with three homemade beauties stuffed with grilled skirt steak, home-made chorizo, chihuahua, and roasted tomatillo-serrano salsa.  He stayed silent for the whole meal, eyes closed.  That’s a sure sign of enjoyment. Our sides of esquites and arroz poblano were equally as thought out, homestyle delicious.

My only complaint is that I wish I had dined at Bien Trucha earlier.  The entire staff was friendly, ready to explain each menu item and what makes it delicious.  I was so delighted at the showcase of fresh ingredients and their true-to-their roots in each item on their menu.  A must eat.

 

The Kitchen is for Dancing

Cooking in silence is for some people.  I’d like to think that silent kitchens are only for those who use tweezers to saute onions and cut their chives on 30 degree angles.  For the rest of us, music is just as necessary as non stick pans.  When I lived near Wrigley Field in Chicago with roommates, three out of the four of us enjoyed spending time in the kitchen.  Regardless of our cooking styles, music was always present.  Below are a few suggestions from me, Michael, and Kyle.

Ashlyn

Birdhouse in Your Soul-They Might Be Giants

Scarlet Begonias-The Grateful Dead

Lend Me Your Love-slackstring

Michael

Pepper-Butthole Surfers

Love or Leave Me Drowning-Blitzen Trapper

The Baker-The Aquabats

Kyle

The Weakerthans-Exiles Among You

Defiance, Ohio-The Year

Radiator Hospital-Our Song

-Keep dancing, friends!

New Normals

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Today was a day for discovering a new normal.  After moving back (for what seems like the hundredth time) to Chicagoland, Michael and I spent the day immersed in food.

If you are from Chicagoland, you know that homegrown, quality food is somewhat hard to find.  This is perplexing because more often than not you are surrounded by farmer fields.  Our local Meijer, Jewel-Osco, and Caputo’s are surrounded by these vast expanses of fertile, food growing soil, yet you’re hard pressed to find much more than two “Illinois Grown” items at the market.  This is an issue I discovered only after living in Michigan and finding “Grown in Michigan” stickers on just about everything.  Weird because, well, I’ve never been stopped by a combine on the highway or seen a runaway cow in Michigan, as I often do in Illinois.  If anyone can tell me why this is true you’d be helping a Midwestern girl out.

Michael spent the morning making homemade pasta, cream puffs, and sauce.

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In addition to the cooking fest that took place in my parent’s kitchen this morning, we journeyed to two of the greatest local showcases of food in the area, Heritage Prairie Farm and Ream’s Elburn Meat Market.  The former is one of the Northwest suburb’s best kept secrets, providing fresh, grown-on-site produce, honey, and packaged goods right on Heritage Prairie Farm.  In addition to the farm store, they offer farm dinners once a month with special themes and a weekly farmer’s market.  Today, we picked up a pound of lamb meat for burgers and fresh picked cherry tomatoes that almost didn’t even make it to the house they were so good.  Ream’s, a local meat market, specializes in beef, chicken, and pork, supplied from local farmers and butchering in house.  Even for a vegetarian like myself, it’s a hometown gem.  Plus, if you ever want to learn the best ways to butcher, cook, or eat your meat, stop by and the friendly folks can help you out!

How do you spend these beautiful fall days?

-Ashlyn

Saturday Special

Sometimes when I am scrolling through Pinterest, browsing a local culinary shop, or reading about all the new restaurants via Bon Appetit, I get a little giddy.  My guess is, since you’re reading a food blog, that you do, too.  I know you share my love of all things new in the food world, so every Saturday I’m giving you a little treat.  A spotlight on a restaurant I’m drooling over, a recipe I’m dying to try, or a cool new tool that I wish was nestled next to my stand mixer.  So, without further ado, today’s Saturday Special is:

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

Photo courtesy of Serious Eats, Brad Thomas Parsons

Photo courtesy of Serious Eats, Brad Thomas Parsons

After hearing about Jeni and here handmade creamy goods, I was hooked.  Starting in Ohio, and now with locations in Tennessee and Chicago, the ice cream is made in small batches, with an attention to detail.  Constantly developing new flavors, like Brambleberry crisp and Riesling poached pear sorbet, making a trip to a scoop shop almost seems like a necessity to life.  Now that I am back in Chicago, I plan to run to the one on Southport and devour my share of heavenly yumminess.

Kitchen 101: How to Use a Chemex

It’s just for hipsters in their Brooklyn apartments with their exposed brick walls and Arcade Fire playing on their turntable, you say.

It’s just for brooding baristas, with their ironic paper crane tattoos and hair swooping over their hungry eyes, you say.

You like your $20 coffee maker, you say.

You don’t have time for pour over, you say.

Well, it’s not and your wrong, I say.

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Gone are the days where the brooding hipsters get all the good coffee because now we can all have explore the joys and taste the greatness of pour over coffee!  Simply put, pour over coffee is made manually, with the help of freshly ground beans, a strange looking hourglass shaped glass, and hot water.  The reason this coffee tastes so good (and is a little more expensive to order at a coffee shop) is because the technique leaves the beans evenly soaked, not acidic, and smooth.  Try for yourself.

Needed:

Chemex

Chemex unbleached square coffee filters

Coffee grinder

Really good coffee beans (Pelican is my favorite)

Kettle

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How to:

1. Bring enough water for however many cups you want to boil in a kettle.

2. When water is boiled, grind enough beans to cover the blade.  Grind until you can still see chunks of bean, as you don’t want the cofee too fine.  Never do this in advance, as beans lose flavor and aroma the minute they are ground.

3. Open up square filter.  You want it to be shaped like a funnel, with the paper two sides thick on one side and one side thick on the other.  Set the filter into the top of your Chemex and pour the ground coffee beans inside.

4.  Slowly begin to pour your hot water over the beans.  You want to do this in a circular motion, not just pour it on top in one location.  Start by pouring your water on the sides of the paper and slowly work closer to the beans.  Allow the water to settle, then continue to pour.

5.  Once all the water is poured, wait until it has drained into the basin of your Chemex.  Once you are finished, enjoy your delicious coffee!  Skinny jeans and a copy of Slaughter House 5 are optional.

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