Late summer is an amazing time of year in Michigan. We have beautiful weather, especially this year, and it’s well-deserved given the particularly brutal winter we experienced last year. My husband and I are looking forward to our annual trip to the Traverse City area later this month and being on Lake Michigan. So far, we’ve been enjoying our local communities and the Ypsilanti farmer’s market which is full of incredible produce in August.
I’ve been taking advantage of my weekend vegetable bounty the last couple of weeks with a simple recipe that is super delicious. By simply roasting some summer veggies and baking them in a casserole dish with polenta and tomato sauce you have an easy, mostly hands-off meal for a weeknight.
I’ve been adding more vegetarian and vegan meals to my diet lately for a variety of reasons. While this recipe happens to be vegan it’s also a yummy dish you could serve to meat eaters and they wouldn’t think ‘vegan’ meal, they’d just think, ‘Wow, that was really good!’.
The roasted veggies don’t need any added oil or seasoning here. They’re lovely natural sweetness is amplified through the roasting process and when paired with the creaminess of polenta and the acidity from the tomato sauce the dish achieves a really nice balance of flavors and textures. The nutritional yeast adds a slightly cheesy taste.
I’ve included my favorite veggies in the recipe below, but you can certainly mix and match as your heart desires. This could also be a great fall or winter dish with roasted butternut squash, carrots and parsnips.
What’s your favorite roasted vegetable dish?
Roasted Vegetable and Polenta Casserole
adapted from The Vegan Cheat Sheet
- 1/2 yellow onion, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
- 8 oz. whole baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned
- 1 cup of fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
- 12 oz. of your favorite marinara sauce
- 1/2 tube of prepared polenta, sliced into 3/4-inch rounds
- 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 1 yellow squash, sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
- 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread onion, mushrooms and green beans into a single layer. Roast for 20-25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
Remove the veggies and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F.
Coat the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish with 1/2 cup of the marinara. Layer half of the roasted veggies and squash over the sauce. Top with half of the remaining marinara and polenta. Repeat the layers with the remaining ingredients, finishing with the marinara. Sprinkle the nutritional yeast on top. Bake covered for 45 minutes.
Recipes | 2 Comments August 5, 2014
When experimenting with ingredients in recipes sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Okay, let’s be honest, most of the time you come out with something fine, but that you probably wouldn’t make again. Those rare times when you do hit on real success are all the more satisfying for that very reason. I recently had that feeling of joy when I made these blackberry marscapone pie bars.
A couple of weeks ago I made blackberry marscapone hand pies, but I had a ton of leftover filling and marscapone cheese. I didn’t want them to go to waste so I started thinking about using them up in another type of dessert recipe. I’ve always loved fruit bars so I started searching online for blackberry pie bar recipes that I could adapt to use what I had on hand. I found this lovely recipe from Annie’s Eats which is from The Pastry Queen cookbook. I made a few changes that I think sent these over the top.
I followed the crust recipe to a tee (warning, lots of butter here!). Because I already had the basic blackberry filling prepared I just added the eggs, flour, vanilla and salt and then swapped in the marscapone cheese for the sour cream.
Thankfully, a friend of mine who had made the original recipe from Annie’s Eats before warned me not to follow the instructions to put down foil. She suggested using parchment, which tends to be my go-to choice anyway with the big rolls from Costco I keep on hand. With all the butter, even with the parchment lined pan it was a bit of a trick to get these out, it took some finesse. That sticky butter crust tends to seep underneath the parchment like a glue. I’d suggest first spraying the pan lightly with cooking spray then line it with parchment and add another light coat of spray before pressing the crust into the pan.
After my husband and I took a bite I knew we’d scarf the whole pan down between the two of us. To save us from ourselves and to share the dessert love I brought half the pan into the office for my co-workers to enjoy the next day. They couldn’t stop raving about them! I hope you enjoy these as much as we did.
What recipes have you put your own twist on that turned out to be a winner?
Blackberry Marscapone Pie Bars
Makes 16-20 small bars
FOR THE CRUST
- 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 3/4 c. sugar
- pinch of salt
- zest of half a lemon
- 12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, chilled
FOR THE FILLING
- 3/4 c. sugar
- 3 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 1/4 c. water
- 2 1/2 c. fresh blackberries, divided
- 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 c. marscapone cheese
- 6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
- pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9×9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line with parchment paper and lightly spray again with cooking spray. In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Pulse a couple of times. Cut cold butter into small cubes then add to the dry ingredients. Pulse in short bursts to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is crumbly and pea sized.
Reserve 3/4 c. of the crust mixture, keep in the fridge for later. Press the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan to form an even layer. Bake 12-15 minutes, or until light brown. Cool 10-15 minutes before moving to the next step.
To prepare the filling, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add the water and 1 cup of the fresh blackberries. Stir with a spoon and press down to smash some of the berries.
Heat the pan on medium and stir the mixture frequently, smashing the berries down periodically. When the sauce has become thick and glossy after a few minutes remove from the heat and stir in the remaining fresh blackberries. Let cool for a few minutes then stir in the lemon juice. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator or freezer until cold.
In a medium bowl whisk eggs, marscapone, flour, salt and vanilla until smooth. Stir in chilled blackberry mixture. Spread filling over the baked and cooled crust. Crumble the reserved crumb mixture over the filling.
Bake until the top starts to brown and the filling is just set in the middle, about 35 – 40 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack then refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.Food, Recipes | Leave a comment July 21, 2014
I loooove zucchini, it’s one of my favorite veggies. Pair it with one of my other favorite vegetables – tomatoes – and some Parmesan cheese and you have one happy gal on your hands. Pinterest is a goldmine of recipes for foodies. That’s where a found this great new light and yummy zucchini recipe from Italian Chips.
This recipe is easy to prepare, light and refreshing and best when summer veggies are at their peak. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
What are some of your favorite ways to use zucchini?
Light Zucchini Parmesan
adapted from Italian Chips
- 1 large zucchini
- 4 tomatoes
- 2/3 c. low fat ricotta
- 1/4 c. 2% Greek yogurt
- 1 egg, yolk and white separated
- basil leaves
- 4 Tbsp. of grated Parmesan
- extra virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Wash and slice tomatoes and place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Salt tomatoes and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.
While tomatoes are in the oven, wash the zucchini and remove the ends. Slice them thinly using a mandoline. Put zucchini slices in a colander and add salt and pepper. Let them rest for 15 minutes.
In a medium bowl mix the ricotta with the egg yolk. In a separate bowl, beat the egg white until stiff and add fold into the ricotta mixture. Gently fold in the yogurt.
Grease a small casserole dish. Alternate layers of vegetables, basil and cheese starting with zucchini slices, then tomato slices, basil leaves and a layer of ricotta mixture and some grated Parmesan. Repeat layers until you run out of ingredients and finish with grated Parmesan.
Bake for 30 minutes and let cool before serving. This is great served chilled the next day for a light lunch!Recipes | Leave a comment July 16, 2014
Most women I know rate chocolate desserts and cheesecake at the top of the list for things that satisfy their sweet tooth. I have never been one of those women. For me fruit desserts and light white cakes are the best. So, the few times I’ve been to a Cheesecake Factory I was one of the oddballs that chose the Italian Cream Cake rather than one of the cheesecakes for which they’re famous.
I set out to find a copycat recipe online, but it was harder than I thought. I found a number of recipes that didn’t quite succeed in capturing the restaurant version. Then, I stumbled on a comment by ‘Anonymous’ on a this blog post that shared a recipe that hit the spot! Thank you, Anonymous – whoever your are!
This recipe creates a light white cake with a lovely not-too-sweet lemony filling. The frosting is also light and not overly sweet. The crumb topping is probably my favorite part, a bit messy during application – but, that’s part of the fun right?
Have you found any copycat recipes for your favorite foods?
Italian Lemon Creme Cake
I generally create a from-scratch white cake mix since I found out how many boxed mixes contain trans fats, which I prefer to avoid, but you can use a boxed white cake if you like.
FOR THE CAKE:
- 2 1/3 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 3 egg whites
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
FOR THE LEMON CREAM FILLING:
- 8-oz. cream cheese, softened
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 c. heavy whipping cream
FOR THE VANILLA CRUMB TOPPING:
- 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 c. powdered sugar
- 1/4 c. cold butter
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans.
In a large bowl mix together the first four ingredients for the cake (flour through sugar). Stir milk and oil into the dry ingredients. In a chilled metal bowl whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold whipped egg whites and lemon zest in with the other ingredients. Pour the batter into prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes, or until set. Allow cake to cool completely when it comes out of the oven.
Make filling by mixing cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Stir in lemon juice.
Whip cream in a large bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until it forms stiff peaks. Combine cream cheese mixture with whipped cream. Stir by hand until blended.
Make crumb topping by combining flour and powdered sugar in a medium bowl. Add butter and vanilla extract. Use your hands or a pastry blender to cut cold butter into the flour and sugar. Break butter into smaller and smaller pieces as you incorporate it into the dry ingredients you have a crumbly, pea sized mixture. Chill crumb topping until ready to use.
When the cake is completely cool, spread all but 1/2 cup of the lemon cream mixture onto the bottom half of the cake, then carefully replace the top half of the cake.
Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of cream filling over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the crumb topping on top of the cake and press it onto the sides all the way around the cake. This will get very messy!
Chill the cake for at least 3 hours before serving. Slice the cake and dust each slice with powdered sugar.Recipes | Leave a comment June 11, 2013
Baking is my favorite hobby, so when I was considering experience-inspired birthday gifts back in April, a Zingerman’s BAKE! class was one of the ideas that came to mind. My parents were kind enough to give me gift card to use toward a class. The hardest part was narrowing down which class to take when mulling over their extensive catalog. I finally settled on the fruit tart class because I love fruit based desserts and thought it would be fun to play with patterns for the layered fruit on top.
It’s nearly impossible to fault Zingerman’s on their customer service and the staff running this class were no exception. When I walked in just before the class started the instructor, Nikki, greeted me warmly and showed me to my spot at the table where I found a folder marked with my name filled with details of the pastry we’d be making along with several coupons good at the various Zingerman’s businesses. Bonus!
Nikki encouraged me to stop over at the Bakehouse for a free beverage before class started. Beverages are free to students during the scheduled class time, a nice unexpected extra. I opted for water over juice or coffee, knowing I’d want to stay hydrated as the ovens heated up the classroom.
Everyone arrived right on time and they had us go around and introduce ourselves. Several people were BAKE! veterans and spoke highly of the classes. One woman also warned us first-timers that they can become addicting!
We started with an overview of how they approach baking, including reading, and re-reading, the recipe several times before you begin, what ingredients they suggest and why they use them. Before each step in the tart making process Nikki demonstrated the technique, while throwing in some fun stories. A couple of assistants set us up with tools and ingredients and then cleared away our mess at each point in the class. Trust me, baking is much more fun when you’re not the one cleaning up!
This class was very hands on, which I really enjoyed. We made our own fruit tart from beginning to end, including the crust scented with orange zest, pastry cream with vanilla bean paste and cutting and laying out the fresh fruit design. We learned several great tricks, one of which was to crumble the tart dough into the pan and press it out, rather than going through the laborious process of rolling it out, where it often breaks anyway. That tip may not work for every pastry crust though so you’ll want to experiment!
Honestly, my favorite part was the comparative tasting. Zingerman’s buys a high-end comparative fruit tart from a nearby competitor, which they don’t name, and plate a slice along with the fruit tart recipe the instructor made (and you too!). We sample the cream, and crust of each and talk about how they stand up to eachother. Our (Zingerman’s) recipe won hands down! I had planned to eat both, because dessert is my weakness, but the competitor one wasn’t worth the calories; the crust was bland and the cream tasted like Jell-O pudding. It wasn’t cheap either at around $20! The one we made that day was soooo good! You could taste the zest from the orange in the crust which gave it a bright complex flavor. The vanilla cream was rich, thick and absolutely luscious. We also had a lovely variety of fruit including, strawberries, raspberries, kiwi, blueberries and oranges which we had the chance to arrange however we liked.
Having been a seasoned at-home baker I wasn’t sure if I’d come away with anything I couldn’t have made at home or looked up online, but I was wrong. The pastry crust tip was a great time and stress-saver. I’m going to try that for some other desserts. There were some other great tips we learned along the way, but I’ll encourage to you to sign up and see for yourself what kind of knowledge they share.
Aside from this class, the only other cooking classes I’ve taken have been with Josh. We have gone to some interactive date-night-style classes at Ann Arbor Cooks! (also very fun!). Even if you’re an experienced cook or baker, like me, I think there’s a lot to learn in a group environment, and it’s also just plain fun!
Have you taken any cooking classes? What was the best tip or trick you learned?Baking Class Review | 2 Comments April 16, 2013
I celebrated another birthday yesterday. I won’t tell you which one… which means I’m definitely getting older. Over the weekend my husband, Josh took me to The Whitney, a gorgeous restored mansion-turned-restaurant, in Detroit and The Common Grill in Chelsea for two delicious dinners. To keep the ‘The… [Restaurant Name]” theme going, for my actually birthday dinner yesterday I thought it would be fun to try The Sardine Room in Plymouth, which I hadn’t been to yet.
They don’t normally take reservations for small parties early in the evenings, but when Josh called on Saturday they were kind enough to accommodate us with a 6:15 Monday reservation. It was lively when we walked in, but not completely full. It’s long and narrow with sleek high-top tables backlit by a contemporary lighted wall. We were lucky enough to be seated in a booth in the back that had a view of the kitchen.
The Sardine room focuses mainly on small plate style dishes with a few snack items and larger entrees and also some soups and salads on the menu. We went with the intention of sharing several dishes so we narrowed down our choices and decided on this selection: fried green tomatoes, a cheese board, pan seared sea scallops (for Josh), and fish tacos (for me). We also chose a larger fried chicken dinner to split that was on special. It came with a choice of two sides so we went with the mac and cheese with button mushrooms and grilled corn on the cob.
The cheese board came out first and included a cheddar with Cajun spices (my favorite), a double cream cheese and a humbolt fog goat cheese with a layer of ash, all accompanied by truffle honey a few baguettes slices and something called pear mostarda. The honey was fabulous drizzled on all the cheeses. I had never considered doing that before, but definitely will going forward! The pear mostrada was a sweet fruity condiment with a hint of mustard seed; also very good. I would have loved a few more slices of bread, but I was happy enough eating the remaining cheese straight from the board with my fork and a little honey on top.
Next came the fried green tomatoes dusted in cornmeal and topped with a smoked corn relish, chile remoulade, and scallions. They were tasty, but we vacationed in Charleston, SC a few weeks ago, so we were a bit spoiled by the amazing Southern version we had down there and this didn’t quite stack up for me.
Josh loved the pan seared scallops with pork belly confit, house bbq, hollandaise, pickled onion. I’ll have to take him at his word since I’m very allergic. It’s one of his favorite foods so he has high standards, which these apparently met.
My fish tacos were made with grilled red snapper with thyme scented cabbage, corn salsa, jalapeno slaw, tequila lime crème and served in soft corn tortillas. The tacos were tied with the cheese board as my favorite dish of the night. It was my first time eating snapper, which I thought was deliciously moist and tender. The slaw and lime crème gave a nice bright note of freshness.
Our last savory item of the night was the fried chicken dinner special. This was probably my least favorite part of the meal, although Josh really enjoyed it. I thought the skin was crisped nicely, but lacked seasoning. The mac and cheese was on the liquid side, almost like processed cheese, and I prefer a firmer style, although the breadcrumbs were good. The grilled corn on the cob was nicely seasoned, simple, but tasty.
Even with all that food I couldn’t pass up dessert on my birthday so I had the strawberry rhubarb shortcake. It took a little while to come out, but was worth the wait in my opinion. I loved that they used a pâte à choux style dough instead of the traditional biscuit or pound cake. It was light and airy with a nice buttery flavor that complimented the perfectly sweetened pieces of fruit.
They also have extensive cocktail, beer and wine lists. I was considering something called the hemingway – el dorado 3 year white rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, luxardo maraschino – but decided to keep it simple and stick with non-alcoholic iced tea instead.
Our server was great too. Very friendly, he made a point to ask if we had been there before and if we enjoyed our visit enough to return again, which we told him we definitely did.Restaurant Reviews | 2 Comments March 12, 2013
So, last week it was waffles (or wafels) and this week it’s crepes, it looks like I’m on a breakfast treat roll. Although, you can eat lunch at dinner at the new crepe spot in Ann Arbor, as well. I’m actually planning to try dinner there later this week.
Josh and I celebrated our six-year wedding anniversary last weekend the best way we know how, eating our way through the day. We started off at another Ann Arbor newbie in the former Squares location, What crêpe? (I’m going to affectionately refer to this new spot as ‘circles’ for fun). Honestly, I was sad to see Squares go. I thought they had pretty tasty food at a reasonable price for downtown.
It was the first weekend What crêpe? was open so it was pretty quiet the morning we arrived. Only a couple of other tables were filled. My first impression was, ‘Wow, look what they’ve done with the place’. The new decor has truly transformed the previous Squares fast food space into a ritzy and posh place to eat. It seems the hip interior follows suit with their other locations based on the photos I’ve seen of the Royal Oak and Birmingham locations. Dark walls and chandeliers are a big part of the ambiance, although if you look closely you may notice they’ve recycled the previous establishment’s chairs (I suppose that’s the ‘green’ thing to do).
There were plenty of staff on hand just in case a crowd showed up, but hostess and waitress were efficient and friendly. They also made a point to cover the days specials. If you look at the menu on their website you’ll get a pretty good idea of what’s available, although the Ann Arbor menu has some differences which they don’t reflect yet on the online version.
I was drawn to the Honey Bear crepe, which was filled with peanut butter and graham cracker crumbs, folded into pretty triangles and garnished with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey. It was right up my alley and delicious. I loved the slight texture the graham cracker crumbs gave the filling. I would have liked a few more berries to cut the sweetness of the peanut butter and honey, but aside from that there were no complaints on my end. Josh had a breakfast-burrito-style crepe stuffed with eggs, sausage and a few other goodies. He really enjoyed his dish as well.
Despite the tasty meal, the prices are a touch high for breakfast to make it a regular stop (at least for the less substantial sweet crepes like I had – which are around $12-$14), they might even rival Zingerman’s in that respect. I think a breakfast splurge once in a while is well worth it, but I have a hunch I’d feel more satisfied and feel a better sense of value getting a savory crepe at lunch or dinner for a similar price. They also have a selection of wine and cocktails on the menu if you like that sort of thing. They encouraged us to get a mimosa at 8:30am, but that’s a bit early for me to indulge. I guess my age is showing.
All in all, this was a good start to our celebration of love and food. We made our way back through Ann Arbor by stopping at Mighty Good Coffee for hot chocolate and lattes (the Brown Sugar Sea Salt is a must!), Eastern Accents for some pastries (sadly, closing this weekend), Songbird Cafe for lunch and the Gandy Dancer for dinner.Food, Restaurant Reviews | Comments Off
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