Rustic Apple Tart

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup shortening (4 tbs)
  • 4 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tbs salt
  • 3-6 tbs ice water
  • 4 large apples
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 table spoon confectioners sugar (powdered)

This is the BEST fall apple pie substitute I have ever made. Originally I wanted to try a peach tart but the peaches had gone bad so I had to find an alternative.

Tart crust: In a food processor combine: 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, 4 tbs unsalted butter, 1/4 cup shortening (4 tbs), 4 tbs sugar, 1/4 tbs salt and add 3-6 tbs of iced water as needed. Put the dough in cling wrap and chill for an hour.

The filling: peel and thinly slice apples and add: 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 tbs cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Assembly: Roll the dough out on parchment paper and start adding the apples in a ring working your way towards the center. Then carefully roll the edges over the sides. Lastly you are going to brush the outside with egg white and sprinkle powdered sugar on the edges. You are also going to sprinkle granulated sugar on the apple portion. Preheat the oven to 350° and bake for 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

I pre made this earlier in the day to serve, but I would let the tart chill for an hour before cutting into it.

This is a great FALL dessert, you can also pair it with vanilla ice cream or a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

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Mongolian Tofu Noodles

Ingredients:

  • 1 slab EXTRA FIRM TOFU: dry with a paper towel and cut into cubes
  • 1 tbs flour
  • 1-2  green bell pepper sliced into thin strips
  • 3 packets of ramen noodles (uncooked)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce low sodium
  • 1 1/4 cup chicken broth low sodium, or no sodium added
  • 4 cloves garlic minced cloves garlic minced
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar packed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbs minced ginger
  • 3 green onions chopped (optional garnish)
  • black sesame seeds (optional garnish)
  1. Take the diced tofu and toss it in flour: bake it at 350° on a greased pan until it gets crispy. I just kept an eye on it and baked it for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Make the sauce: cook the minced garlic and ginger in sesame oil and add soy sauce+ chicken broth+ chili flakes (you can add more if you want) + brown sugar. Reduce heat and let it cook for 20-30 minutes until it thickens. I didn’t use all the sauce only about half for this dish- I stored the rest to use later.
  3. Sauté the green pepper in oil and put aside
  4. Cook the ramen. I just add the uncooked ramen to a mixing bowl and add boiling water over it and mix around for about 1 minute and strain- this prevents the noodles from getting overcooked.
  5. Mix the crispy tofu + sautéed green pepper + noodles together top with green onions and black sesame seeds (or regular sesame seeds) and enjoy

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Homemade Cinnamon Buns

I made my cinnamon buns in a cast-iron pan but you can make it in any pan you would like.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active quick rise yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tbs softened butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Icing: 5 tbs powdered sugar+ 1 tbs milk (whole or 2%) you can add more less milk depending on how thick you want the glaze, you can also make a cream cheese icing if you want.

In a sauce pan over low heat bring together: milk + butter, remove from heat once the butter is melted. In a mixing bowl combine 2 1/4 cups flour + sugar + salt + yeast mixture ( packet of yeast + 4 tbs warm water + 1 tsp sugar) + milk mixture (milk + butter from the last step) + egg. Kneed the mixture while slowly adding in the remaining 1 cup of flour (I used my hand but you can also use a mixer). Let the dough rest for 10 minutes and preheat the oven to 350° and turn off once preheated and wait 10 minutes. Put the dough in the warm oven for 20-30 minutes for the dough to rise. On a floured surface, roll out dough into a rectangle. Spread softened butter on top and add the cinnamon + brown sugar mixture. Cut into strips and roll them. Place them in a buttered cast-iron pan and drizzle heavy cream over them before baking them (this keeps them super moist). Turn the oven back onto 350° and bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Drizzle icing over the baked cinnamon rolls and serve!

This recipe made 2 cast-iron pans worth of cinnamon rolls- so you can most definitely half the recipe if you want!

Storage: up to 2 days at room temperature OR 5 days in the refrigerator, you can also freeze them ( I suggest freezing them without glaze and adding the glaze when serving)


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Marinated & Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burger

Described on the menu as: Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushroom, Roasted Tomato Jam, Lemon Aioli, Arugula, Crispy Onion Strings I decided to make the knock off version.

Ingredients:

  • portobello mushrooms
  • tomatoes
  • fresh basil
  • honey
  • salt/ pepper
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • lemon/ lemon zest
  • mayonnaise
  • red wine vinegar
  • chili flakes
  • minced garlic
  • dill (fresh or dry)
  • arugula
  • fried onions
  • burger buns of choice

Portobello mushroom marinate: butter+ olive oil (what ever ratio you prefer- I do more olive oil less butter)- total 8 tbs in whatever ratio, 2 cap full of red wine vinegar+ lemon zest + chili flakes

Tomato Jam: Tomatoes + fresh basil + honey to taste+ salt/pepper to taste + minced garlic

Lemon aioli: Mayonnaise + salt + fresh lemon juice + minced garlic + dill + lemon zest (I never really measure the ingredient for my aioli sauce I just add stuff until I get it to taste perfect)

Marinate burgers in the above marinate, generally speaking you want it to marinate for at least 5-6 hours, if you don’t marinate it long enough then you won’t get the right flavors in the burger it self.

You then want to grill the marinated burgers on a low heat about 3-5 minutes on both side without letting the mushroom to burn. The mushrooms will significantly shrink- so you want to use the biggest ones you find when picking a size so they shrink down to the size of a burger bun.

Lastly assemble the burger, grill the bun put down the aioli sauce add the grilled burger top it with the tomato jam, arugula and fried onions and enjoy!

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Denver: A Travel Guide

We took a 10 day trip to Denver last summer and it was AMAZING. Being in the mist of a pandemic, this would truly be a great trip to repeat since 90% of the things we did were outdoors! Colorado definitely became one of my favorite states after this trip. We flew into Denver airport and decided to drive out that same day. Our first stop on the way to hiking around the Pike and San Isabel National Forests was a cute restaurant called Shaggy Sheep to grab some ice cream! After our ice cream break, we decided to take a small hike around the corner from the shop.

Our next stop was Mount Evans, we decided to drive all the way up and enjoy the beautiful views. This is one of the 58 14ers in Colorado, at 14,260 feet above sea level. We were so high up there were still SNOW CAPS in August! The altitude gradient was very large, I felt sick by the time we going down from the mountain that evening. We were super exhausted after a day of traveling so we grabbed dinner at Efrain’s of Boulder Mexican Restaurant and called it a day.

The next morning, we decided to do a LONG hike, we though we were doing a 7 mile hike but ended up walking over 10 miles that day. We hiked the Walker Ranch Trail in  Boulder County, Colorado . The last few miles were a bit rough considering a storm was rolling in, we were tired AND we ran out of water. PRO TIP: Bring plenty of water! At the end of that day were were at 22,500 steps! We ended the night with pool time and much needed hot tub time after all that hiking. For dinner we got Indian food take out from Curry ‘N’ Kebob, and it was just the perfect meal to end the day!

The next morning we were ready for another hike. We decided to go to the Button Rock Preserve and hike the Sleepy Lion Trail. There were beautiful views along most of the trail.

I am a big foodie, so I had to find a great restaurant in the Estes Park area. We decided we wanted to go to Dunraven Inn for dinner. Fun fact: The first thing you’ll notice when you walk through our doors are the dollar bills, floor to ceiling, hanging in the entryway and the bar. The tradition began in the ’70s when a friend wrote good luck to the owner on a dollar bill and hung it on the wall. They estimate that there is approximately $16,000 hanging in the building– they remove torn, faded and worn bills and donate them to local charities throughout the year. If you are looking for some good Italian food, this is the place to go!

The next morning we decided we wanted to grab some donuts before we picked our next adventure for the day, we stopped at Donut Haus in Estes Park. We took a drive out to Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park- we did some small hikes and stoped at view points along the way. The loop around Bear Lake was the perfect walk! We were kind of exhausted after all the hiking so we took it easy. After driving around and doing a little bit of walking, we decided to take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway for some breathtaking views!

The next morning, we were off to Grand Lake Colorado. We wanted to rent a boat, but we actually found a nice hike near by and opted to hike instead. But first– WE HAD ICE CREAM at Miyauchi’s Snack Bar. We also walked along Adams Falls that afternoon. This was our detour while we were headed to Glenwood Springs. After we got into Glenwood Springs, we just hung out and found a local Mexican restaurant for dinner!

The next morning, we decided to enjoy some morning pool time before heading to my FAVORITE HIKE in all of Colorado! We hiked up to Hanging Lake, this was a rather difficult hike, but it was defiantly worth it when we got to the top! You need to get a permit, reservation to hike which should ideally be done a few days before you decide you want to hike. There are limited slots per day.

We decided to continue the hike up to the waterfall above Hanging Lake, and it was defiantly worth the extra mile!

After that hike, we definitely worked up an appetite. We decided it was time for some pizza for Rocky Mountain Pizza Company.

The next morning we were doing another hike, we decided to do the Maroon Bells Hike in Aspen. Maroon Bells Scenic Loop Trail is a 1.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Snowmass Village, Colorado that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, running, and nature trips and is best used from May until October.

The next morning we decided we wanted to go up to Pike’s Peak. Pikes Peak is the highest summit of the southern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, in North America. The ultra-prominent 14,115-foot fourteener is located in Pike National Forest, 12 miles west of downtown Colorado Springs. The drive up was pretty scary!

After spending the morning on another 14er, we decided to visit the Garden of Gods. The Park is a unique biological melting pot where the grasslands of the Great Plains meet the pinon-juniper woodlands characteristic of the American Southwest and merge with the mountain forest of the 14,115-foot Pikes Peak – America’s Mountain.

The next morning we stopped at Amy’s Donuts and grabbed breakfast before heading to Manitou Springs to do a self guided Mineral Springs Water Tasting in the area. This was on the way back to Denver.

7 MINUTE SPRING

Drilled to enhance the park of the Mansions Hotel in 1909, carbonation caused it to erupt at 7 minute intervals. It was re-drilled in the 1990’s and again in 2014.

SHOSHONE SPRING

A natural spring with the highest levels of many minerals, Shoshone Spring was highly recommended by physicians of the 1800s for its curative uses before modern medicine.

CHEYENNE SPRING

The natural soda water of Cheyenne Spring was originally bottled at the Manitou Bottling Plant. The stone Manitou Spa Building was built around Cheyenne Spring in 1893. Today this spring is piped to the cast bronze font designed and built by sculptor Paul Rogers.

NAVAJO SPRING

Navajo Spring was near the Ute Pass Trail and was a rendezvous for indigenous peoples, explorers and early settlers. The font is located on the back outside wall of current-day Patsy’s Candies Store. The candy store was originally a sampling room for the bottling works.

WHEELER SPRING​

Wheeler Spring was donated to the city by the family of Jerome Wheeler, one time president of Macy’s department store, mining and railroad magnate, banker, and chief promoter. He was also the past president of the Manitou Mineral Bottling Company.

STRATTON SPRING​

Drilled by the Stratton Foundation during the Depression as a service to the town, this popular spring stands at the intersection of indigenous trails, the historic trolley lines, and the modern highway system.

TWIN SPRING​

Twin Spring is the locals’ favorite spring for its sweet taste, calcium and potassium content and for making Manitou Lemonade or Manitou Mojitos. Originally two springs, Twin Spring now has been merged into one font.

IRON SPRING GEYSER

Once the most popular spring in Manitou, thousands of health-seekers would travel to Ruxton Ave. to drink the iron waters. The current spring was drilled by a local entrepreneur in 1910 and made wildly popular by adding orange and lemon flavoring.

Our next stop was the Red Rock Amphitheater. Red Rocks Amphitheater is an open-air amphitheatre built into a rock structure in the western United States, near Morrison, Colorado, ten miles west of Denver. We had lunch at the Ship Rock Grille in the Amphitheater were we had the best mushroom burger- we have recreated this burger a few times are home after this trip: CLICK HERE FOR MY VREY OWN HOMEMADE VERSION OF THE MUSHROOM BURGER!

The next day we were headed home, so we ended up staying in Denver.

<– Here is a 4.5 minute video highlighting some of Colorado we saw! I wish I took more videos!

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Weekend in Northern Wisconsin

Weekend in Northern Wisconsin

Since international travel has been indefinitely put on hold, this is the best time to plan ROAD TRIPS! We recently went on a weekend trip to Northern Wisconsin. It was a 3 day get away Monday thru Friday, so I added stops along the way to make the drive a bit more entertaining.

For starters, we rented a cabin in Ladysmith Wisconsin– AirBNB was pretty booked out and we ended up 6 hours north because we wanted a house with a hot tub. We happened to find exactly what we were looking for through Vrbo, click here for a link to the property we stayed at- I highly recommend it! It was super cute and remote- we didn’t even have cell phone service while we were out there, but the house had internet.

On the way up to Ladysmith we stopped at Devil’s Lake State Park, for a hike. We hiked up to the Devil’s Doorway and it was absolutely stunning. You have to purchase a parking pass before you go to the state park and print it out to leave on your dashboard- click here to get your parking sticker- good news is the sticker is good for 1 year. We did the East Bluff / Ice Age Trail, when you get on the trail head you want to go RIGHT to take a more adventurous path to the doorway, then coming back down we took the regular gravel path all the way. We hiked for a total of about 2.5 hours. The views were absolutely beautiful! There are longer hikes at the park if you have more time.

When we were done with the hike, we did a quick outfit change in the car. We then headed to a local winery in the area. The winery allows outside food, so we packed a lunch before leaving home in the morning and brought it along. We went to Baraboo Bluff Winery. The views were absolutely amazing!

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As you can see, I can’t make it up, the views were breathtaking. We were literally on the top of the hill looking down at the winery. The wine tasing was defiantly COVID safe, they had small group tastings and everything looked very clean!

We spend a good hour or so at the winery before continuing our 3 hour journey up north! We stopped an hour before our Vrbo in Eau Claire to grab pizza to bring to the house. We got the the house around 7pm, started up the hot tub and enjoyed the rest of the evening at home! The next morning was relaxing, the air was nice and cool and it was perfect weather to make some pancakes. After breakfast and some morning hot tub time we decided to explore the area and do other hike! Some of the Blue Hill Trails were within a 30 minute drive from the house, We decided to check our the Ice Age Trail. It was definitely a great hike BUT we only got about 15-20 mins in before we were eaten alive by mosquitoes- pro tip: BRING BUG SPRAY!

We decided to go back to the house after the traumatic mosquito situation! The house does have a beautifulbonfire pit but we didn’t use it- we even brought starters and s’mores stuff! We had a little family photo shoot at the house that evening- we even brought matching outfits!

The next morning was a lazy morning, the check out wasn’t until 11am so we relaxed and took our time getting out of there. We started the drive back to Chicago, but we had to stop and get Culver’s along the way! The last stop about an hour and half away from home was a sunflower maze at Von Bergen’s Country Market. Unfortunately it rained while we were headed there, so they were closing down right as we arrived! It was still the most beautiful thing!

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Mushroom Ramen

Ingredients:

  • 1 container chicken broth/ veggie broth
  • Assorted mushrooms of choice (3/4 lb)
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms (optional- these are very strong
  • 3-4 ramen packets
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 tbs fresh ginger/ ginger paste
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • Garlic powder (unsalted)
  • Sesame seeds
  • Miso paste
  • Soy sauce
  • 4 eggs
  • Green onions/ scallion (garnish)
  • Corn (fresh or frozen)
  • Butter
  • Red chili flakes
  • Sesame oil (optional)

1. Prepare the toppings

Soft boiled eggs→ bring water to a boil, put in the eggs, boil for 6 minutes, take out and put in a ice water bath, peel and cut in half

Chili garlic sesame oil → heat sesame oil (or vegetable oil), add chili flakes, sesame seeds and garlic powder stir (don’t bring it to a boil or it will burn)

Butter corn → heat the corn and add butter

Cook ramen →boil water, put boiling water into a large bowl, add ramen and let sit for 2-3 minutes. Rinse with cold water (you don’t want to overcook the ramen noodles)

2. Prepare the broth

Sauté the garlic, ginger and onion in oil until the onion shrinks. Add the broth of choice, chopped mushrooms, soy sauce (to taste) and miso paste (to taste). Bring to a boil, I cook it on low heat for 20-30 minutes.

3. Assemble and serve

Put the broth in a bowl, add the ramen end with toppings of choice and serve. You don’t want to add the noodles until the end or they will get soggy. You can always modify your toppings and get creative by adding: spicy miso paste, fried shrimp or tofu, meat of choice, takana, spinach, kimchee, bamboo, seaweed, bean sprouts ect.

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Knock off Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Pizza (Lou’s Special)

Knock off Lou Malnati’s Deep Dish Pizza (Lou’s Special)

I used a Lodge Cast Iron pan to make the deep dish pizza

Pizza dough ingredients:

  • 4 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbs active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 4 cups all purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 5 tbs vegetable oil

Other ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Colby jack cheese
  • 2 1/2 fresh spinach (chopped up)
  • 5 cloves of garlic (crushed/ minced)
  • 1 cup pizza or pasta sauce (you can also make your own like I did)
  • Butter

1. Prepare the Dough

Mix together 1 1/2 cups of warm water, 2 tbs active dry yeast and 4 tsp sugar and and let it sit for 3-5 minutes until it foams up/bubbles (this means that the yeast has activated- if you don’t get foam/ bubble you will have to repeat this step or your dough will not rise). Once the yeast is activated, add 5 tbs of vegetable oil into the mixture- this is your wet mixture.

Mix the dry ingredients together- 4 cups of flour and 3 tsp salt. Slowly incorporate your wet mixture into your dry mixture until all the ingredients come together. Kneed the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.

Let the dough rise until the dough doubles in size- you want to place the dough in a warm dry area to rise or in a warmed oven (turn the oven on for a few minutes and turn it off).

2. Assemble the Pizza

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Once the oven is preheated, heat the empty cast iron pan (12″) in the oven for 3 minutes. Once the pan in heated, butter the pan. Take 1/2 of the prepared dough, form a ball and place it in the center of the pan. Slowly press the dough into the pan and up the edges until the dough is uniformly spread. Lightly butter and salt the open face of the dough, and put it back in the over for 3 minutes.

Remove from the oven, put down a layer of shredded mozzarella cheese, top with fresh mozzarella cheese, layer of spinach mixture (sautéed garlic, spinach, salt until the spinach shrinks and squeeze out excess moisture once it cools), add a layer of sauce, top with a mixture of mozzarella and colby jack cheese, at the end add thinly sliced tomatoes (lightly salt the tomato slices).

3. Cook the Pizza

Cook the pizza at 425°F for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Take the pizza out of the oven and let it cool before using a spatula to remove it from the cast iron pan- this should be very easy since he pan was buttered. Optional step: put the pizza back into the oven for 3-5 minutes to become crispy.

Homemade Deep Dish Pizza

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Fluffy Cloud Japanese Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 1/4 cups milk 
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg yolk plus 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • PAM- for cooking
  • Maple syrup- for serving
Special equipment:

 four 3-inch-wide-by-2 1/2-inch-high ring molds: you can use any tall ring you have

This was my first time trying homemade Japanese pancakes and I was pleasantly surprised! They turned out amazing! The easiest way to make this pancake, start with THREE BOWLS!

Bowl 1: Mix together the dry ingredients: flour, confectioners’ sugar, baking powder and salt

Bowl 2: Mix together the wet ingredients: milk, melted butter, vanilla and egg yolk

Bowl 3: Mix 3 egg whites with a hand mixture until white peaks form (this takes about 3-5 minutes depending on the hand mixer

Mx together the contents of bowl 1 and bowl 2 in equal proportions, at the end fold in the contents of bowl 3

Heat up a pan on LOW HEAT- I had it on the lowest setting, spray the pan and the ring. Once the pan is heated pour the batter in 1/2 way into the mold, set a timer for 5 mixtures, flip and cook the other side for 5 more minutes.

Once it’s done pop it out of the mold and top with powder sugar ( confectioners’ sugar). Serve with fresh fruits, whipped cream, and maple syrup!

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Air Fryer Zucchini

Ever wish you could have yummy warm fried zucchini without the guilt of eating deep fried food? Now there is a solution! I LOVE my air frier- I can honestly say, most of the things I make in there actually taste fried! I recently upgraded to the GoWise Air Frier and have no complaints.

Ingredients: 

  • Zucchinis (thinly sliced, I use a Nutri Chopper to make long thin slices)
  • 6-8 oz of soda water
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 4 tbs cornstarch
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • ÂĽ tsp black pepper
  • ÂĽ tsp garlic
  • ÂĽ tsp oregano
  • 3-4 cups panko
  • 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Romano cheese (optional- I don’t always have this cheese on hand)
  • ½ tsp chopped parsley (optional)

The secret ingredient is the soda water- this makes the zucchini very crispy after it comes out of the air frier!

Combine ½ cup flour, 4 tbs cornstarch, ½ tsp kosher salt, ÂĽ tsp pepper, ÂĽ tsp oregano, ÂĽ tsp garlic (I use dry unsalted garlic), and add to 6 oz soda water and whisk together – do not over-mix (you don’t want the soda water to lose all of its carbonation. Batter should be the consistency of thin pancake batter- if it is too thick, soda water can be added.

Next step, dip the zucchini slices in the batter, then into the panko. Lay all the zucchini on a baking sheet until you are ready to air fry it.

Air fry the zucchini at 400F for 10 minutes, or until the zucchini is crispy- I think the cook times depend on the type of air frier used! Garnish the zucchini with the Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese and chopped parsley. I promise they will be the BEST you have ever tried!

Personally, I love to pair the zucchini with lemon aioli sauce.

Ingredients: 

  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup of mayonnaise
  • 1 lemon- juice and zest to taste
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbs finely chopped chives
  • 2 cloves of chopped garlic
  • ÂĽ tsp dry mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients together, and serve with the warm air fried zucchini! ENJOY!

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