Monday, July 30, 2012


Perfect Pairing:  Frozen chipotles in adobo sauce
If you are not familiar with chilaquiles you should acquaint yourself.  Soon.  Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican dish that is typically served for breakfast or brunch.  It consists of tortilla chips, or totopos, in a green or red salsa.  Often you will see scrambled eggs or roasted chicken thrown in there.  It is known to be a hangover cure.
I first had these at brunch in Cabo with my parents.  It was a revelation.  In all fairness, pretty much everything tastes good with this view. 

Chilaquiles are a favorite of my mom, so I decided to try to make them for Mother’s Day this year.  They are surprisingly easy and really delicious.  Be sure to use the thick cut tortilla corn chips so they don’t get too soggy in the sauce.  If you are in the Chicago area I would suggest El Ranchero chips.  They are perfect for this recipe.  You probably know them as the “green bag”.  No one seems to remember the name but they are available everywhere.
The Perfect Pairing for this recipe is frozen chipotles in adobo sauce.  Chipotles in adobo are a common ingredient in Mexican cooking.  They are super spicy, so a little goes a long way.  Because of this I always seem to have half a can leftover after using them in a recipe.  Rather than throwing these away, transfer them to a freezer safe plastic bag and store in your freezer.  When you need to use them in a recipe you can chip off a bit and toss it in the sauce or defrost on the counter.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Grandma Marge's Fruit Dessert

Perfect Pairing: Colorful fruit combination

My grandma Marge was just a peach of a lady.  She was the epitome of a grandma.  My brothers and I knew that if we were going to Grandma Marge’s house we were going to have cheese puffs, pineapple juice, pizza, and unlimited TV viewing.  That is what grandmas are for, right?
Our Christmas presents from Grandma Marge and Grandpa Bob always came in a huge bag.  All of the presents, unwrapped, would go into the bag.  She was some kind of genius to get us excited about that.  She didn’t have to wrap anything, she reused the bag each year, and all of us were jumping out of our skin excited to rip into that bag.
I also remember Grandma Marge being a fantastic cook.  My mom says that she thinks I inherited my love of cooking from her, and that she would be so proud to know I have a cooking site.  Grandma was known for writing all of her recipes in the margins and empty spaces of her cookbooks.  I inherited many of her cookbooks and I love flipping through and finding those secret recipes.  She also had stray recipes stuffed in the cookbook written on napkins and post-it notes.  That is so very me.  I can’t tell you how much I wish I could have a conversation with her about cooking! 

We have a lot of family recipes from Grandma Marge, but my absolute favorite is her fruit dessert.  It is so, so good.  She called it fruit fluff, but I am not a fan of that title.   The crust is almost like shortbread, and it is topped with a pure white fluffy layer of creamy fantasticness.   Each piece is covered with fresh fruit.  It is so pretty and scrumptious.

The Perfect Pairing for this dessert is a colorful fruit combination.  You can really play with the fruit you serve with this depending on what is in season.  If it is close to July 4th, serve it with strawberries and blueberries.  Personally, I like using kiwis, peaches, strawberries, and blueberries.  I love the contrast of green, orange, red, and blue. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Summer Corn Salad

Perfect Pairing: Slotted spoon

Oh friends, I have a treat for you. 
I am having a hard time coming up with the words to tell you how delicious this salad is. 
I am the daughter of a farmer and during late summer we have many meals that consist of just sweet corn.  It does not get much better than good sweet corn right out of the field. 

It is hard to improve on straight up sweet corn, butter, salt, and pepper, but I think this salad is up to the task.  Adding crispy bacon, grape tomatoes, basil, and avocado definitely does not hurt!
The Perfect Pairing for this salad is a slotted spoon.  There is nothing fancy about a slotted spoon but it is a great tool for this recipe.  You will need to remove the bacon from the grease to drain, and the easiest way to do that is with a slotted spoon.  Same thing with the onions that have been cooked in the bacon grease.  Yep, they are cooked in the bacon grease.  They don’t suck.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lake House Chef’s Challenge 2010 – Dessert Course

Perfect Pairing – Coconut coffee

Check out the challenge details, appetizer, and main course posts!

The picture above sums up how everyone was feeling once we got to the dessert course.  We decided that the next year it would be much smaller portions.   But, we persevered and moved on to the final course.  The desserts had to use strawberries and once again had to feature the “secret” ingredient which was no longer a secret.  You may remember that Jon’s secret ingredient was bacon so everyone was a little concerned how this would work in the strawberry dessert.

Jon served a Bacon Wrapped Strawberry dipped in Peanut Butter Chocolate (recipe below)

Once again Jon forgot to work on his presentation ahead of time….

Everyone agreed they were really tasty!  What is not to like?  Strawberries?  Good!  Bacon?  Good!  Chocolate and peanut butter?  Good!!
I made a Chilled Strawberry Bisque (recipe below) and a Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jelly Bar

Julie made an outstanding Coconut Chocolate Cake with Sugared Strawberries (recipe below)

The Perfect Pairing for the strawberry dessert course was by Julie.  It was a strong coffee flavored with coconut rum.  It was amazing with her cake!  Check back for the results!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Sushi Dip

Perfect Pairing:  Rice crackers    
I vividly remember the first time I had sushi.  I was in college and visiting my brother in Chicago.  We ate outside on a beautiful night at a sushi restaurant called Tsunami (it has since closed), right in the heart of downtown Chicago.  I decided at that moment that I would be moving to Chicago when I graduated from college.  I also decided I would eat sushi all the time in this magical city.  I even tried to get a head start by picking up sushi at the local grocery store back in my college town in Iowa.  Bad idea. 
I have now lived in this magical city for over seven years and I absolutely love it.  I don’t eat sushi as much as I would like, but it is definitely part of the regular rotation.  While I can’t say that I have attempted making my own sushi, this dip is as close as I have come to homemade sushi.  Even though it has no fish, it still has great sushi flavors and is ridiculously easy to make. 
My friend, Marni, brought a variation of this dip to my house for a get together.  I was obsessed.  I tweaked it a bit by adding green onions, and I toasted the sesame seeds.  Another change was that I combined some of the cream cheese with the wasabi paste to ease the bite of the wasabi.  You could certainly skip this step by just spreading the wasabi paste (not powder) between the layers of cream cheese. 
This is what your cream cheese and wasabi sandwich looks like before adding the toppings.

The Perfect Pairing for this dip is rice crackers.  I had never purchased these before Marni brought them over, but they are just what this dip needs.  It truly does taste like sushi.  I have made it a few times and it is always a hit… no leftovers!  If you are a true wasabi fan you can get wasabi rice crackers.  That is my preference.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Perfect Pairing:  Pan flipping method

If you like pizza, you are probably going to like Stromboli.  I guess you could also call this a calzone.  I am not totally clear on the difference between the two.  Either way, it is basically pizza dough wrapped around the “toppings” and cheese.  After it is baked you serve the slices with a side of pizza sauce for dipping.  My family has been making a variation of this recipe for years.  For awhile we had a tradition of making this on Christmas day. 
Use whatever pizza toppings you like as the filling.  Sometimes I will use turkey pepperoni instead of turkey sausage, or all vegetables, or Canadian bacon and pineapple.  It is totally customizable.
The Perfect Pairing for Stromboli is my patented pan flipping method.  When you finish wrapping up the filling, the pizza dough seam is on top, which is not pretty, so you will want to flip it over.  The first time I made this I used a variety of spatulas, extra hands, and precision to flip it over but still ended up ripping the pizza dough and making a mess.  Fail.  I recommend you grease two cookies sheets and after securing the dough, place the second cookie sheet on top of the Stromboli, hold both sheets, flip them over, and carefully remove the top sheet.  Success!   

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Lake House Chef's Challenge 2010 - Main Course

Perfect Pairing: Spicy Bloody Mary

Be sure to read the recaps of the 2010 challenge here and here.

By the time the main course round of the Lake House Chef’s Challenge 2010 rolled around the kitchen mess was nearing epic proportions.  The competitors were fighting for space and helpers.  It was quite the scene!  The required ingredient for the main course was chicken and the competitors still needed to incorporate their “secret” ingredients. 
Jon made a Bacon Wrapped Chicken and Veggie Skewer
We reminded him that he needed to “present” it and this is what he came up with.  Needless to say, the wheels had fallen off a little bit since the first course presentation.

I made a Spicy Chicken Milanese with Arugula Salad (recipe below)
Julie made a Coconut Crusted Chicken with a Pineapple Salsa
The Perfect Pairing for the appetizer round was Jon’s VERY spicy bloody mary.  Jon was not messing around with this cocktail.  He made his own vegetable juice by simmering tomatoes, veggies and hot peppers on the stove for hours.  He mashed everything and strained it off.    He made bloody marys with the juice, gin and a crispy slice of bacon for garnish.  Only the strongest of the group could finish these fiery drinks but I think they remain the most discussed item of the night!

Still to come.... dessert and results! 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Grapefruit Margaritas

Perfect Pairing:  Summer Party

I just had a wonderful holiday weekend with my family.  Even though we had 100+ degree temperatures we made the most of it with lots of swimming and boating.  We also beat the heat with homemade ice cream, mojitos, and chilled white wine.  It was pretty fantastic!

I am on a grapefruit kick right now.  Once I realized you could peel and eat grapefruits rather than using a specialty spoon, it was on.  It is a labor of love to peel one, but it is worth it in the end.
I don’t love sweet drinks, so this margarita was perfect.  The ruby red grapefruit juice and the triple sec add just enough sweetness, without any other added sugar.  You could blend this with ice but I prefer it on the rocks.  There is a good amount of booze involved, so be careful!
The Perfect Pairing for Grapefruit Margaritas is a summer party.  They are refreshing and perfect for hot weather.  Try these out if you are looking for a variation to the original margarita.  I prefer the grapefruit variety!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Un-Recipe Files – Chicken Sausage Appetizer


I never have any problem finding appetizer recipes that are full of cheese and carbs.  Why is that?  There are unlimited dips, spreads, cheese plates, crostinis, etc.   My family and friends often make a meal of appetizers, so I like to have some protein available in addition to the standard fare.  Those seem to be harder to find.
This has to go under the “Un-Recipe Files” collection because it cannot even pretend to be a recipe.  I started serving these at parties a few years ago and it never fails, people always comment on how much they like them.  I buy fun flavors of fully cooked chicken sausage, then slice and sauté them until they are a caramelized.  I serve them with spicy mustard and a container of toothpicks for easy grabbing.
In this photo I served Bacon & Pineapple and Chicken & Apple flavored sausages and Boetjes mustard.   Simple and delicious.
Happy 4th of July!!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Fruit Pizza Cookies

Perfect Pairing:  4th of July

July is my favorite month of the year.  The weather is beautiful and it is always jam-packed with fun events.  It is also my birthday month.  I happen to be turning a “special” age this year.  Eeek. 
In other news, I heard 30 is the new 25.
I love the 4th of July and everything that goes with it.  We always have a big group at the lake and we play all day and then watch the fireworks over the water in the boat.  We usually go the tacky route and string up red, white, and blue twinkle lights and play John Philip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever over the boat speakers.  It is always fun and memorable.
These cookies are a spin-off of the popular fruit pizza recipe, but in individual portions.  The base is store bought sugar cookie dough, so that can’t be any easier, and the spread has just 3 ingredients.  Top the cookies with some fresh fruit and you have an easy and crazy delicious dessert.
The Perfect Pairing for these lovelies is easy, 4th of July!  Use a combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries and you have a perfectly patriotic dessert that everyone will love. 

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