Category Archives: Uncategorized

Grandma’s Gingerbread

Where are the posts?  How’s October Unprocessed coming?

Well, the posts have been a little slow to come not because I haven’t been cooking, but because I’ve been spending most of my weekends sewing up a LBD for my friend’s wedding.  More on the dress, the wedding and some food on another day though!

As for how October Unprocessed is going.  Well…ok?  Everything I’ve made in my own home this month has been unprocessed.  But everything I’ve eaten? Far from it!  Last weekend, for example, I was in Des Moines for a conference. I’m pretty sure the brownies I ate for lunch were laden with processed sugar.

So, yes, eating unprocessed foods isn’t too difficult when I’m in control of the ingredients, but it is a bit trickier when I leave home.  Which, you know, I like to do.  Every day.  But really, the biggest challenge this month was to find one of my grandma’s VVG recipes to make that didn’t contain any ingredients that were processed.  You see, two years ago in October, my grandma passed away so I wanted to make something to remind me of her.  I’ve noticed a lot of people checking out the Apple Kuchen recipe lately – so if you made it, I hope you enjoyed every sugary morsel of it.

I was able to slightly adapt my Grandma’s Gingerbread (which she credits to the Grandma’s molasses bottle) recipe to fit the #unprocessed bill though.  I even baked them in cupcake form so that I could freeze a few and enjoy them later this fall.  Which I think is a VVG idea!

Grandma’s Gingerbread
1 stick butter
1/3 c. honey
1 c. molasses
1 egg
2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1 c. boiling water

Heat over to 350 degrees.  Beat butter with honey and molasses.  Mix in egg.  Sift dry ingredients and then add to wet mixture alternately with water until just combined.  Bake in cupcake tins (20 – 25 mins) or greased 9″ pan (40 mins).


Grandma's Gingerbread


If you can’t take the heat…make Cranachan

I suppose getting out of the kitchen would be an option, but what fun would that be?  I know some people who decided that the best way to survive this heat wave was to buy an air conditioner.  (Apparently this is what people do when they become empty nesters.)  I suppose that’s a solution as well, but not as creative as eating your way to a cooler self.

For example, back in the days before my parents had air conditioning (such as when their five children resided with them) the solution was not to give in and buy an ac unit.  No, the solution was to pack all the kids in the minivan and take a drive in the countryside with the ac on full blast.  The ride usually ended up at the Dairy Queen in Mosinee with a round of root beer floats for dinner.  Was the house still hot upon our return?  I don’t remember, to be quite honest, because the wonderful memories of those car rides and root beer floats far outweighs my recollections of a hot and sticky house.

Well…that’s not entirely true.  As I sit here typing up this little blog post, in my sweltering city dwelling – sans AC – with sweat dripping off of me, the memory of a hot and sticky house seems a little too close for comfort (and now that I’m typing, the memory of milking cows and baling hay in this weather suddenly makes me thankful for my sweltering city dwelling!).  But thank goodness I was raised with the good sense to at least get a car with AC and to eat my way to cooling comfort when necessary.

Which brings me (finally!) to today’s recipe.  Nope, it’s not a root beer float, but instead a refreshing dessert that features whipped cream, honey, raspberries and WHISKEY.  My friend and I tried this while on our trip to Scotland and I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to make it.  The perfect time is now!  No baking required, my friends!  Eat your way to comfort!!

1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. single malt whiskey
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 pint raspberries
2 – 3 tablespoons oat bran (Scottish oatmeal is more like steel cut oats, which I don’t have.  Regular oatmeal just isn’t right.  So, I used oat bran and it was good)

Step 1:  Whip cream until soft peaks form.  Add whiskey and honey and fold in.
Step 2:  Rinse and dry raspberries.  Place a few at the bottom of each glass (I used 3 martini glasses; adjust to your preferences!).  Reserve about 10 for the top.  Fold remaining raspberries into whipped cream deliciousness.
Step 3.  Layer whipped cream mixture over raspberries in glasses.  Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Step 4.  While Cranachan is chilling, toast oat bran in a skillet, about 5 mins.  Set aside to cool.
Step 5.  Sprinkle toasted oat bran over whipped cream and top with remaining raspberries.
Step 6.  Eat your way to coolness, Scottish style!

Cranachan in martini glass

Chicken Salad

A few weeks ago my friend and I went out for dinner and she proclaimed that she was on a chicken salad kick (she’s since moved on to French dips, oh well).  I don’t order chicken salad very often because it’s usually just a little too goopey for my tastes, but then I ran across this recipe in Cooking Light and thought I’d give it a whirl.  The poached cooking method for the chicken was perfect.  Plus, with a few adaptations, it was a great way for me to use up some CSA goodies.  I think now I’m on a chicken salad kick!

Chicken Salad (adapted from May 2011 Cooking Light)
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 c. chopped radish
1 c. chopped green onion
1/4 c. dried currants
1/3 c. coarsely chopped almonds

1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Fill a stockpot two-thirds full of water; bring to a boil.
Step 2:  Wrap each chicken breast half completely and tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap. Add the chicken to boiling water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°. Remove from pan, and let stand for 5 minutes. Unwrap chicken and shred; refrigerate for 30 minutes or until cold.
Step 3:  Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken, radishes, onions, currants, and almonds; toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve over salad greens.

Chicken Salad

Bran Muffins (and brief update on my vacation)

Another delay in posts, I know!  But a friend of mine and I were traveling in Scotland for two weeks, hiking the West Highland Way, and I just couldn’t post from the trail.  And last week was jet-lag recovery so cut me some slack (ahem, mom).

The trip was amazing, once we actually got there.  We departed the day the volcano in Iceland errupted, and since we were flying Icelandair, our flights were canceled.  This resulted in an unanticipated stay in Toronto for a day where we ate the best chocolate and gelatto ever (Well, for me.  I’ve never been to Italy so that opinion is subject to change.)  If you ever find yourself delayed in Toronto, head down to the Distillery District and go to Soma Chocolatemaker for some tasty treats.

Best chocolate ever. Soma chocolate maker, Toronto

Anyway, when we finally did get to cross the pond over to London, our flight to Scotland was canceled because the ash from the volcano had drifted over our destination.  Thankfully, (mostly) reliable train transportation exists in the U.K. so we took a train to Glasgow, found a hotel, and then the next morning took a train to Balloch and bus to Balmaha so we could get caught up on the trail.  Of course, the train to Balloch was canceled but by day 3 (or was it 4?) of our vacation, and still not at our actual destination, this didn’t really phase us.

Just let us get to the trail!!

After a brief encounter with what we can only assume was a crazy Scottish woman who insisted that we were deaf since we couldn’t understand anything she said, we really did finally get on the trail.  And we walked and walked and walked.  And though we were delayed in getting there, it was worth the wait.

Loch Lomond

Not a bad view, right?  I must also share these pictures of “wildlife” I took for my parents.  Sheep for my mom, the knitter, and beef for my dad the beef farmer.


Highland Beef

I should note that we were not standing in a cow pasture when we took the picture of the beef.  Rather, they were on the trail.  My friend calmly stated, “Alyssa, I grew up in Chicago and this is scaring the crap out of me.”  To which I replied, “I grew up on a farm.  Our beef do not have horns like that.  This scares the crap out of me!”  But we had nothing to worry about.  Apparently these beef are used to hikers and ignored us as we gingerly walked on by.

Shortly after passing the beefers, I thought to myself that it would be really nice to have some delicious food that night after hiking.  Most of the food we had since arriving was sort of blah.  Turns out my wish was granted when we arrived at the Bridge of Orchy hotel.  The only eating establishment in the town, the Bridge of Orchy served up some very tasty treats.  Upon the advice of a group of Scottish hikers we met on the trail, we were daring enough to try the Crisp Haggis and Chicken Money Bags which were quite tasty.  We were not yet willing to commit to the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, though (that’s haggis, turnips and potatoes if you don’t speak Scottish).  All in due time.

After such a satisfying meal, we hit the trail the next day only to be pelted by hail.  You wouldn’t believe it for some of the pics I took that day, but the weather was horrendous (make sure you roll the ‘r’ as much as possible when you read that.  Think Sean Connery times 10).  It took a lot of energy just to stay on the trail and not be blown off the side of the mountain.  Good thing we had that haggis in our bellies to weigh us down.

Between Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse, Scotland

Despite the beautiful pictures we took that day, it was the last day of our hike. The weather forecast wasn’t in our favor for the remainder of our hike, so we cut our losses and left the trail alive and well.  We embarked on a new adventure – eating haggis, neeps and tatties anywhere it’s served.

Haggis, neeps and tatties are good.  Haggis on nachos are also decent.  (Yes, you read that right.  Haggis + nachos.)  But one should not eat too much haggis.  It will make your belly hurt.

Which brings me to today’s recipe.  If you find that you’ve eaten too much haggis, or too much of anything for that matter, I recommend eating some bran muffins.  Activa yogurt? Bah!  Fiber One bars?  Double bah!  Just bake up these bran muffins and I promise all will be right in your tummy.  I found this recipe a few months ago and have been meaning to share it with you for ages, but alas, just as I had to wait to finally arrive at the West Highland Way, you too needed to wait for this recipe.  But I promise, in both cases, the wait is worthwhile!

Bran Muffins (from Susan at Farmgirl Fare.  I love the name of her blog.  And all of her recipes.)
2 c. wheat bran
1 c. oat bran
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 c. yogurt
2/3 c. milk
1/3 c. molasses
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. frozen fruit (I usually use cranberries, but see Farmgirl Fare for other delicious options).

Heat oven to 375o.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk the wet ingredients together in a bowl.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Add fruit to batter.  Scoop into greased muffin tin.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Bran muffins

MMM Day 13: Alyssa Takes a Maple Break! Sort of…

Must be lucky 13, but this girl needs a maple break.  Instead of posting a new recipe, I’m pulling some gems out from the archives.  First and foremost, check out this article circa February, 2005 from the Daily Tribune of Wisconsin Rapids where my Grandpa is quoted offering this tip, “It would help if the family had a lot kids to help pick up the sap.  We’re running out of kids this year.”  Ah, gets me every time!  I think this quote is from the year my youngest brother left the farm for college and I guess Grandpa never quite forgave him or the rest of us who left.  Oh well.  I know he was proud of us, nonetheless, and a little more proud when we came to our senses and returned home to get to work.

Now for some recipes from the archives:
Hot Maple Souffles – a real wowser!
Maple Almond Granola – a breakfast standby!
Maple Cream Candy – sugar rush extreme!!

We’ll see what March Maple Madness brings us on Day 14!

Staycation Vodka Delight

On Saturday I hosted my 2nd Annual Staycation party to tide us over until spring finally springs.  This year, in addition to Staycation Sangria, we tried out a new vodka cocktail, now dubbed Staycation Vodka Delight.  Anyway, I think the name Staycation Vodka Delight is apt because it seems that those who indulged in this libation were delighted and that their winter blues were at least temporarily alleviated.  Mission accomplished!

Staycation Vodka Delight (adapted from Epicurious)
1/3 cups sugar
1 cup (packed) fresh mint leaves
1 lemon or lime, sliced into rounds
1/2 small cucumber, sliced
2 cups fresh lemon juice
2 cups vodka
2 cups club soda

Muddle mint, sugar, and citrus slicers in a pitcher.  Add cucumber slices.  Let these ingredients sit for about 30 minutes.  Add juice, vodka and club soda and let chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.  Enjoy over ice!

Surfing on Staycation!



Aunt Pat’s Grasshoppers

Happy New Year!!  I hope everyone was able to ring in the new year in a special way.  For my part, I was invited to a “Fattening” party, a potluck with fun people and delicious food, and watched the Badgers try unsuccessfully to bring home a Rose Bowl win.  I’ll admit that the football game, though fun to watch, was a bit disappointing.  The Fattening party on the other hand, was a huge success.  Not only did I get to eat a lot of tasty food and enjoy tons of good laughs, I won Bananagrams at the gift exchange!  Clearly, my year is off to an excellent start.

My contribution to the New Year’s Fattening was twofold.  I brought a version of this squash and lentil salad as my contribution toward health, and Aunt Pat’s Grasshoppers as my contribution toward gluttony.  This is the same Aunt Pat of Brandy Slush fame, so I knew it would be a hit.  That and this was perhaps one of the best parts about the holiday season while growing up, so I saw no reason why it wouldn’t be a wonderful way to ring in the new year with some new friends.

But the best part about these Grasshoppers is that you don’t really need a holiday as an excuse to enjoy them.  I recommend mixing up a batch today to enjoy throughout the new year!!

Aunt Pat’s Grasshoppers
1 pail vanilla ice cream
1/2 c. creme de cacao
1/4 c brandy
3/4 c creme de menthe

Allow ice cream to soften.  Mix in liquors and freeze.  Enjoy!!