What seems like another lifetime ago, I spent A LOT of time at Mickey’s Tavern. So much time, in fact, that I married one of the bartenders and after that didn’t work out, dated another. That’s an entirely different blog altogether, though.
The latter was (and still is) in charge of the very popular bloody mary mix, having to make at least 20 gallons each weekend (more often in the summer). Over the years, I helped out enough to know how it’s done and keep the recipe close because it’s his pride and joy.
Anymore, I find the bloodys there to be a little too chunky for my taste, so I’ll share with you the recipe that I enjoy now (made for me by my current boyfriend—who is neither an employee of Mickey’s nor a bartender).
A wide-mouth pint jar is my favorite bloody vessel. Into it goes ice and vodka, a few turns of salt and ground pepper. Then about 2 teaspoons of ground horsey, a shake of Annie’s Worsh sauce (it’s vegan!) and a couple of blops of Valentina (I find other hot sauces to be too vinegary).
Fill up the jar with a little can of V8, stick a pickle, and trim a celery stalk.
If you’re feeling extra, you could add some jalapeño salt, which we just discovered and find to be amazing.
There isn’t much that’s more satisfying than a crunchy corn tortilla slathered (you heard me) with beans, topped with diced onions, cheese, tomato, and lettuce.
First, though, I need to hop on my high horse, so gimme a boost here. OOMPH, thank you!
WHAT in the ACTUAL F*&K are food dyes doing in CORN TORTILLAS? Woodman’s carries five or six brands of tostada shells and all but two have artificial food dyes. I have a long-standing personal grudge against and will go out of my way to avoid buying foods with added yellow, red, and/or blue in them. Especially considering that a corn tortilla is, and only needs to be: corn, salt, and water. I mean, it doesn’t need to be YELLOWER.
HOT TIP: Full Circle uses turmeric instead of yellow #5 in their pickle products.
Whoah, Nellie! *hops off horse*
Aaaanyhoo, the El Milagro brand is without weird substances: stone-ground corn, corn oil, salt, and Cal (about which I just learned). They also have the best soft corn and flour tortillas in the world (or at least in my world).
Choose your tortilla pairs carefully because they have to sort of stack together. The curvy bendy of them makes this a little like a puzzle, but you’ll get it. Find (or make!) your favorite refried beans and schmear enough to cover the top of each of the bottom half of the pair (that was confusing… let’s look at a photo):
Top the bottoms with diced white onion and cheese and grab the tops and schmear the bottoms of those with more beans! This is getting nuts. Or beany.
Finally, more beans go on top of the top, along with more onions and cheese. We like beans, onions, and cheese in this house.
In the oven that I remembered to preheat (this time!), these go for 10 minutes and then get another three or four, depending on hunger and cheese meltage.
While they’re getting toasty, chop the tomatoes and lettuce, and gather your assortment of topping notions.
Preheat oven to 350º and line a cookie sheet with parchment (this is not entirely necessary, but I don't like washing cookie sheets).
Spoon a layer of beans onto half of the shells, cover with onions and cheese. Spoon a layer of beans onto the other half and make a bean sandwich and spoon beans onto the top of those shells. Cover with onions and more cheese.
Bake for 10 minutes and then check cheese for the desired doneness. If you like it meltier, leave 'em in for three to five more minutes.
Remove from oven and plate; top with tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, sour cream, and any other thing you'd like!
At some point in my twenties—earlier than it should have—fried food began to disagree with me. Fried cheese curds, fish, mozzarella sticks, mushrooms… and onions. Although, I never really like onion rings because they were usually embarrassing to eat; the breading slid off in my hand while the soggy, greasy onion hung out of my mouth like a cow’s tongue. I paint a pretty picture, don’t I?
To be honest, it’s okay. We all know fried food isn’t very healthy.
Enter the air fryer! We’ve got the breaded fish pretty well down, so putting an onion ring atop a turkey burger seemed like the logical next step.
Our first attempt was without using a recipe and it didn’t turn out so well. I documented it to show that not everything turns out as expected, and that’s okay!
They weren’t *awful*, they were just a little overdone and stuck together and not breaded correctly. You get the idea.
Take two involved following a recipe of sorts. The air fryer came with a cookbook that has a bloomin’ onion, so we co-opted it for only a few rings. One of the tricks is to soak the onions in ice water until you’re ready to use them. I’m pretty sure this is to prevent them from getting “soggy”.
The second trick is to coat with the egg, then cover in the seasoned flour mixture, then dredge in the egg, and cover again with the flour mixture. The third trick is to only put as many onions into the fryer that will fit in one layer without touching.
In order to test the efficacy of this bag of tricks, we did a test batch before starting on the second version for the burgers. The results were positive.
The double-dredge and some avocado spray helped the breading stick and make it the color we expected (I wanted them to look nice on turquoise plates):
Atop the turkey burgers again they went. – Yoda.
The addition of the onions made for a beautiful burger, but its presence was a bit lost among the rest of the amazing tastes and textures. I think if we try it again, we should try them on a couple of Beyond Burgers.
This is yet another Teigen recipe fan-post. Her second cookbook garnered more than twice the post-its as her first book, and this recipe would get four; if there were that many sides of a piece of paper!
Cozy, homey, comfy, round, buttery, and well worth the extra effort of browning, brothing, and shredding the chicken, letting the soup become soup, and dumping the dumplings.
There’s enough chicken called for to have to work in batches. I think I used just a little shy of 3lbs, though the recipe calls for 4. Once all the chicken pieces are sufficiently crispy, you add water and herbs and let the magic happen over the next 60 minutes.
This part was a surprise to me as I’m used to making broth in a slow cooker over the course of 12-24 hours, but that renders the chicken meat pretty useless, and that is the opposite of what we want here.
After an hour, grab your favorite strainer, strain into your favorite large bowl (it needs to hold at least 8 cups), and discard the herbs. Fish out the chicken (see what I did there?) and use two forks to pick the meat off. We’re not going for a shred… more like sumptuous pieces.
Discard the bones and skin—this was very difficult for me—and set the meat aside.
Back into your Dutch oven, or another vessel, goes carrots, onions, celery until soft, then stir in some flour until it browns slightly.
In goes the chicken, broth, and a potato! Boil then simmer for 20 minutes.
While the soup becomes a magical display of smooth, comforting goodness, prepare the dumpling dough. It’s important to be gentle (read: don’t overwork) with the dough. So, mix those ingredients *just so* and make sure you fret about it! I kid. Cooking shouldn’t make a person fret. I think those energies get into the food and that is why you get tough dumplings.
I used two spoons to size ’em up and drop ’em in. In retrospect, I made them a skosh too big. Less than a tablespoon of dough would have been ideal; they expand more than you’d think. At least more than I thought they would.
After the dumplings dance around and soak up the delicious liquid for about 15 minutes, you’re ready to serve.
I’m not going to post the recipe here because of the unwritten rule of food bloggers, but you can google the name to find the ingredients and instructions, or you can support me (and Chrissy, theoretically) by buying her second cookbook through that link. 🎉
Madison, WI is famous for its summer festivals. There is at least one grand one per month that attracts a hungry crowd. You see, at all of these fests, there are a lot of food carts. Some of these are extensions of restaurants that most people can’t get to for lunch. Some of these are carts all on their own with specialties like cheese curds, falafel, more falafel, and 42 other places that I can’t think of right now.
While celebrating what bookends the season for me at the Willy St. Fair this summer, I had the pleasure of experiencing, for the first time, arepas—an unassuming corn disc stuffed with black beans, plantains, and cotija cheese—from the Caracas Arepas food cart.
Sometimes, when I discover something new, I get kinda pissed off that it took so long for me to find it. This exact thing happened with the aforementioned falafel, nearly 20 years ago at the same festival.
I get a little fixated on certain things, and this little maize pocket of goodness is no exception. So, I set about recreating this “simple”, homey, delectable delight—I quoted simple because it only has three ingredients, but it needs to be perfect.
I spotted the flour on the bottom shelf at Woodman’s and my eyes lit up like a kid’s on Christmas morning. I had pictured looking for one of those little boxes of polenta, but A WHOLE POUND?! Do you even KNOW how many arepas that will produce?! I don’t, actually. But I know it’ll be a lot.
I let a couple of weeks go by cuz I like to ruminate over some things (and elope to Mexico over others) and then decided it was time to dive in. I whipped up a batch of Braulio’s beans and got to work searching YouTube for instructions. I found The Frugal Chef and her arepas video. Water, a little salt, and flour. “Simple.”
I don’t have an action shot of me making the patties, cuz it takes two hands, but it’s important not to overwork the dough cuz that makes them less fluffy inside and then they won’t want to become pockets (you’ll see my solution to this shortly).
I pulled out my Green Pan griddle (holy crap, it’s more than twice the cost now) and let some butter dance around on it before gently placing these cakes of wonderfulness onto the surface.
After a short while—probably five minutes—I flipped them and put some more butter down in case Side A soaked it all up. Side B should look roughly like the above, and if done correctly, you should be able to slice it crossways and stuff it with beans. This batch turned out a little close-textured (as Mary Berry might condescend), so instead of putting the beans inside, I simply plated them on top! Problem solved. I’m not letting a little overworked dough get in the way of putting these in my face.
Top with cotija cheese and dig in.
Since I will never tire of Mexican or Hispanic foods, I thought I ought to throw together some Elotes.
Wisconsin’s corn on the cob season was quickly drawing to a close, but we were still able to grab a few ears. My intention was to grill them on the, well, grill… but, it wasn’t a beautiful summer evening (in fact, it was a freezing fall night), and fixing up the grill for corn seemed too much work. So, I used the next best thing: a gas stove!
Five roasted cobs later, I carefully sliced the kernels off into a bowl. A bowl already prepared with Mexican crema, mayonnaise, cotija, and Chili powder. Stir it up, throw in a little salt and pepper, and serve.
Tasty, corny, and very much worth the effort*.*This recipe does not include ingredients or instructions for whatever you want to put in, on, or around your arepas.
Course: Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: Hispanic, Mexican
1tspchili powderchipotle, preferably
2cmasarepa (precooked corn flour)
Roast the cobs either on the grill or gas stovetop until an appropriate amount of grill marks appear. Stand a cob on one end and slice the kernels off from top to bottom, leaving none behind. Repeat until cobbed out.
While the cobs are roasting, mix together the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl.
Stir in kernels and pop into the fridge to cool.
In a large bowl, dilute the salt into the warm water. Gradually add flour and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is pliable enough to use your hands. Mix with hands, being careful to not overwork the dough. Leave to rest for 5 minutes.
Make a ball with the dough and work between hands to form a patty—mix oil and water in a bowl to coat your hands to keep the dough from sticking—keeping the edges smooth.
Heat a griddle and melt butter. Put patties on the griddle until golden brown spots appear on one side. Keep flipping until both sides are nice and golden.
Slice and stuff with your favorite anything and eat it like a sandwich. Alternatively, top with that same anything and eat it with a fork. Adiós!
Sometimes I decide to make something for dinner because it’ll be a challenge, or we have an ingredient or leftover to use up. And, sometimes I want to make something simple so we can enjoy two episodes of Better Call Saul instead of just one.
This meal *almost* falls under “too easy to blog about”, but I know there are folks out there for whom anything can be overwhelming or proverbially out of reach. This one’s for you.
Woodman’s has a package of inexpensive, frozen, wild-caught salmon that comes as two large, skin-on, separately-frozen fillets. This is basically all you need, but we’ll dress it up a little, to make it look fancy.
Preheat the oven to 400° and get our baking sheet and parchment paper ready. If you don’t have a lemon handy, a little lemon juice will work. Cracked some pepper and salt, sprinkle capers around, and top with sprigs of thyme (this is the fancy part).
I usually bake it for 10 minutes and check the flakiness, then put it back in for 2 to 4 more.
I’d like to note here that salmon and eggs have something in common: albumen. It’s the white protein that surrounds an egg yolk, which keeps the baby chicken safe during incubation. It also seeps out of a salmon steak or fillet when cooked. This can be kinda gross to people who aren’t expecting it, so I usually try to scrape as much off as I can before plating.
While the fish is cookin’, grab your favorite medium bowl and whisk together white wine vinegar, lemon juice, canola oil, and a little agave nectar. Cut up some radishes, carrots, cucumber, and tomatoes and toss in the bowl with a whole bunch of spinach. There are some fancy sprouts pictured, too, but those aren’t required. I almost forgot to tell you to salt and pepper the salad, but you know to do that already.
Everything comes together so quickly! Plate and eat.
Despite my cooking prowess, I have been known to repeatedly order out (often enough to Facebook-friend the delivery guy) when I find something I *really* like. Extra-hot buffalo chicken wings were one of those repeated orders (this was way before Facebook, though).
Wings from Pizza Extreme (which appears to be now owned by Pizza Pit) were the catalyst for my transition from sorta vegetarian to completely vegetarian in 1999.
I used to order the 1 lb. wings and the 1/2 lb. fries (checking the current menu makes me feel a little ill) and would mostly finish them. Thankfully, this was when I was merely 20—an age when routine digestion and regularity weren’t as important or, lack thereof, surprising.
That fateful, final order must have come during a time of self-reflection—or extreme delusion (I was 20, after all; both of the previous could have been true)—as I distinctly remember picking up a wing and seeing a handful of pinfeathers. I threw the piece back into the round, aluminum container and put it in the fridge for my then-boyfriend… if he wanted to hear about it while eating them later. Thus began my un-chicken, total vegetarianism for, what would turn out to last roughly 20 years (more on that later).
Fast-forward to now! *cue fast forward tape noise from the 80s* *put hair up in pony-tail and put on blue eyeshadow!*
I’m an adult now, so I can exercise conscious decision-making when selecting the food I choose to eat. And, since Costco’s chicken is damn inexpensive, I buy a lot of it. A lot. And I freeze it for next time. And then I buy more, because, as we say in this house, “IT AIN’T GUNNA GO BAD!”
I’ll get to the actual food now since we are all witness (see above) to what happens when I let a month go by without writing a recipe.
Many recipes suggest rinsing and patting the chicken dry before commencing. I’ll do this for the wings because I want to get the packaged liquid off, and the dry rub (well, toss) as close to the skin as possible.
Grab your favorite metal bowl and mix together 3 Tbsp arrowroot flour, 1 tsp each cayenne, garlic powder, and some salt and pepper (I almost typed “to taste”, but don’t taste this mixture cuz it’ll be like chalk).
Toss a handful of the wings in the bowl to coat, place on a prepared baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and repeat until you run out of wings.
This is usually the point at which I realize that I’ve forgotten to turn on the oven. So, preheat the oven to 400° before you start the tossing process. When the oven is ready, put ’em in and set a timer. Mine goes something like, “Alexa? Set a chicken timer for fifteen minutes.”
While they’re enduring the first round of heat, you can make the blue cheese “cooling sauce”. Who am I kidding? This is just an excuse to get cheese into a meal that would otherwise be just fine without.
This takes some mayo, Mexican crema (or sour cream, or Greek yogurt), lemon juice, a couple of drops of Worchestershire, and crumbly blue cheese. We used celery and cucumber slices to deliver the sauce to our mouths. You can use whatever you have on hand.
The hot sauce is up to interpretation, so I’ll tell you how I make mine and you can adjust to your liking. Put a stick of butter in a small bowl and just barely melt it in the microwave, then squirt about a tablespoon of Sriracha in the bowl and stir it up.
By now, the timer should be going off, tell Alexa to hush, pull the wings out and flip each one over and set a ten-minute timer. Dance around the kitchen for ten minutes, pull the wings out and apply the hot sauce lovingly to each wing and put them back in for five more minutes.
Now, some folks would tell you to let them rest, but I say, throw caution to the wind! Plate ’em up and watch ’em go.
This is gunna be a three-parter. One part recipe, one part product review, and one part local business promotion.
I’ll start with Lake Edge Seafood. A relatively new, unassuming fishmonger and restaurant in the Lake Edge strip mall off Buckeye and Monona. They took over the corner spot held by an upscale second-hand store and I hope they do well. The interior is nice; full of the sort of tables everyone gets for their new restaurant. It’s not overly ocean-themed (like a place that rhymes with Bled Blobster), and while it smells fishy, it’s a good fishy. Like, Gramma’s-been-cleaning-bluegill-all-afternoon-and-that’s-what’s-for-dinner fishy.
I stopped in last weekend, on a whim, to get some fish and found their deli case to be clean, crisp, well-stocked (for a Saturday, seeing that they’re closed Sundays and Mondays), and the wares were all very good-lookin’. I’d gone in the search for cod, but they didn’t have any, so I asked for enough tilapia (at $10/lb) for two hefty sandwiches. The guy said it was cheap enough that he’d recommend two fillets and we may end up with extra. I said that we’d contend with that challenge.
In order to get the scoop about bluegill (a fish that I love, adore, and wish there were more of), I asked if they ever had any on hand. He said if I called a day ahead of time, they could get some and that they’d have to order 5 lbs but wouldn’t be opposed to putting whatever I didn’t buy into the cooler for sale. Since then, I’ve been considering the possibility of putting in a 5 lb order, packing it all up nicely, and freezing it. I’ll let you know if this happens.
If you’re in the neighborhood, stop in and take a look around. They have some dry goods for sale as well. Unless I think of something else, I’ll move on to the second part: the product review.
I am both methodical and spontaneous in my decision-making. Contradictory, I know. Just ask everyone around me. Or don’t.
I had been considering, researching, vetting, questioning, and otherwise obsessing over air fryers for at least the last year… basically, since I purchased Gina’s Skinny Taste, One and Done and sorta skipped over the chapter that is specifically air-fried because I don’t really care for fried foods (crinkle-cut potatoes are the exception). I don’t care for fried foods because they make my stomach hurt and I can feel the grease hanging out in my mouth… I can feel the breading seep into and out of my pores… not super enticing, right?
So, I hemmed and hemmed (I don’t “haw” very well) and waited for a while. My hesitation came from a place of efficiency and practicality. “Why,” I said to myself, “do I need a Vitamix, an Instant Pot, a Pizzaz, two (that you know of) slow cookers, and an air fryer?” I contend that everything has a use, and some things can be stored because they are used less often. So, the Pizzaz went into a cupboard, and the tiny slow cooker found a home next to the huge one in the basement, which means I now had room for the air fryer.
But it wasn’t until one fried fish taco Tuesday when the results were delicious but they hung with me for a while, that I decided if fried fish tacos were going to be in my life, then it was air fryer time.
Still not completely convinced, I looked again at the ones I’d been eyeballing and all of the negative product reviews cited melting, smoking, and otherwise defective machinery. A friend suggested one of the Phillips’ models, but those were about three times more than I wanted to spend on something I wasn’t *absolutely* sure would make making food better.
I finally settled on a $50 version: the GoWISE USA 2.75qt. According to my purchase history, I’ve had this for less than a month and I’m pretty sure we’ve used it three times a week, on average. It continues to impress, and I look forward to thinking up creative meals, but for now, the fried fish sandwiches using fresh tilapia from Lake Edge Seafood are the current stars of the show.
Now it’s FINALLY recipe time. This may seem simple, but sometimes simple is needed, just to see what you’re dealing with.
You’ll need two buns, some mayo, dijon, relish, leaves of romaine, slices of tomato, two tilapia steaks, an egg, a cup of panko, some cayenne, salt, and pepper. And the air fryer.
I usually make the tartar sauce first, both because it’s easy, and to get it out of the way and in the fridge so the flavors can marry. If you only need enough for these two sandwiches, I’d use 1/3 c mayo, 1 tsp squirt of dijon mustard, and however much relish you like your tartar to have. If you want to make extra, it’ll keep at least a week in the fridge; I mean, it’s mayo, mustard, and pickled stuff.
Now you need a small bowl for the egg, but big enough to sloosh the fish into. Also, grab a plate, the panko, and spices.
Onto the plate of panko, sprinkle a generous amount (2 tsp) of cayenne, a couple turns of ground pink Himalayan salt, and a couple turns of freshly ground peppercorns.
Mix it all up with a fork, whisk that egg, and preheat your air fryer. Most of the recipes I’ve seen suggest running it at temp for 5 minutes before cooking in it.
Dip the fish in the egg to coat on both sides and lay on the panko plate. I usually use my fingers to get panko on the top side so I’m not shaking the fish and getting panko all over the kitchen.
Cook each piece separately (if you bought a smaller fryer) for about 7 minutes on the first side and 4 to 5 on the second, storing the first piece under a piece of foil on a plate. When the second piece is done, place the first on top and cook them together for 5 minutes so they’re both hot.
Last night, we made the executive decision to cut down the middle of each fillet and that made it much easier to handle. It also revealed that an entire fillet per sandwich was a bit much, so we had the rest with eggs for breakfast.
Toast, heat, or otherwise warm the bun and top with tartar, romaine, and tomato slices. Place fish and serve with crinkle chips.
2tilapia filetsor other whitefish in a hoagie shape
2tspcayenne pepper powder
2long bunshoagie, brat, etc.
2beefsteak tomato slices
Mix all ingredients together, store in the fridge until ready to use.
Preheat air fryer on 400º for 5 minutes.
Mix panko and spices together on a plate or other dredging vessel. Whisk egg in a small bowl.
Coat a piece of fish with the egg, and dredge in the panko mix. Place in the fryer for 7 minutes, flip and cook for another 5. Repeat with the second piece. Put the first piece back in with the second for another 5 minutes, checking frequently for good color.
I was on a vegan cookbook kick for a while, amassing all sorts of reference material for the one week that I tried being completely vegan (you can’t eat out *at all* unless you know the chef). It wasn’t difficult as long as I didn’t try to substitute anything for cheese. People try to tell you (themselves, really) that cheese substitutes are a sufficient facsimile, and they’re just not. The only thing that comes reasonably close is Minimalist Baker’s Vegan Parm. I still use this instead of that jarred parm that isn’t even mostly cheese to begin with.
ANYHOOOOO, along the way somewhere, I started making these overnight oats for my weekly morning snack and I’ve been making it since that vegan trial week in May 2016.
Grab yourself a banana, peel, halve, sprinkle with cinnamon and smash.
Using my trusty Pampered Chef Measure-All, I slide it to the 1-cup mark and pour in the oats.
Then, I slide it to 1/4-cup and measure the chia seeds.
I get nervous Every. Single. Time. that I’m going to knock it over and chia seeds will be everywhere in the kitchen for 100 years. Those go in, and I flip the Measure-All over and pour in 1 1/2-cups of almond milk. I didn’t get a shot of this cuz… boring.
Mix it all together and put your snap-tight lid on and leave it in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you’ll need to give it a good stir.
Then, I top it with frozen blues from Costco. The ones that fall on the floor become dog treats, but you knew that already.
Then I pack as much as I can into a jar and continue on with the rest of my snacks.
I treated myself to Chrissy’s 2nd book, Cravings, Hungry for More and, of course, started out by making one of the most difficult recipes in it. In fact, she cites that this one is ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT RECIPES IN HER LIFE.
It’s in the Thai Mom chapter, which makes sense if you’ve ever seen, smelled, or tasted Tom Yum. There are some “weird” ingredients, but I contend that if you know where to find them and have them in your kitchen, you may think of a whole new palette of food to which you can add some oomph.
The weirdish ingredients are lemongrass, Thai chiles, galangal, fish sauce, and kaffir lime leaves. They are worth the scavenger hunt if you’re not in a city with a Thai bodega or somewhere not a traditional grocery store. Although, the lines are blurring with “traditional” and “ethnic” stores. I prefer, however, to go to Viet Hoa under the guise of needing lemongrass and leaving with that, a cleaver, and yet another soup bowl.
Thankfully, I already had kaffir lime leaves saved in the freezer from some other very adventurous dish, and the fish sauce never (?) goes bad. Woodman’s has started carrying Thai chiles, and you can substitute ginger for galangal. So, really all I needed from Viet Hoa was the lemongrass. Oops!
After the chopping, the dish is pretty simple to put together except for the Thai chiles… I didn’t want to have to wash the food processor, and super-fine-knife-chopping isn’t my forté, so I got to pull out the mortar and pestle, which I’m pretty sure has been used one time. Ever.
A very brief time later, it became obvious that I wasn’t going to make a paste, and did it really matter? Who knows. I was tired of wearing nylon gloves.
Happily, I had some leftover noodles from a box of Costco soups that we just didn’t get around to finishing. So, as Chrissy suggests, I saved the flavor packets and used the two bags of noodles. The peeled shrimp get thrown in at the end and cook for a couple of minutes.
Now we feast!
Get her book and treat yo’ self to this dish. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!