Door County Coffee & Tea

This is a bit of an extension of my Eat Local Challenge. While coffee beans are not locally-grown in Wisconsin, which didn’t fit my challenge, I did say that I would make an exception and drink only local brews.

Enter Door County Coffee & Tea.

Any of their blends are absolutely to-die-for, but it’s the Highlander Grogg that gets me every time.

Seriously, the Irish creme and caramel combination is so good that if a 7-year-old taunted, “if you love it so much why don’t you marry it?” I’d likely reply (in a rather melancholy tone), “if only that were possible…”

Highlander Grogg, in my mind, is Sean Connery’s brogue plus George Clooney’s charm plus Jimmy Stewart’s honor with Henry Cavill’s (circa 2009) face.

What gal wouldn’t want to marry that, or, in this case, wake up to that?

If the Interwebs had smell-o-vision, be sure you’d get a big whiff. Alas, you’ll just have to buy your own grounds and brew a cup. You won’t be disappointed.

Mecca

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Pork & Beans Oup

This recipe is a version of my mom’s bean soup, which is likely a version of her mom’s soup. What can I say? Loving bacon is a generational thing in my family.

Pork & Beans Oup

Ingredients

*Unless otherwise noted, all ingredients come from the Green Bay Farmer’s Market

  • 2 lbs Fresh Green and Yellow Beans, cleaned and cut
  • 1 Ham Hock (smoked, from Maplewood Meats)
  • 1 Medium Onion, diced
  • 1 lb Bacon, crisped and crumbled (smoked, from Maplewood Meats)
  • 1 can Cream of Celery Soup (from the pantry, sorry)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste (from the pantry, sorry)

Directions:

To get you started:
Weezer: Pork & Beans

The original recipe calls for making a roux out of the bacon grease and then adding that to the soup to give it that “creaminess.” Feel free to do that if you wish. I wholly salute the use of full bacon flavor. However, for those watching their figures, this version instead calls for a can of cream of celery soup.

1. Clean and cut the green and yellow beans into a large stock pot. Cut them roughly the size that will fit in your spoon – this is a soup after all. Add smoked ham hock, whole, along with diced onion.

Damn, this is gonna be good.

2. Fill pot with water until water line reaches just above ham hock. You be the judge. Too little water and you’ll have a casserole, too much water and you’ll have zero flavor. Heat to boiling.

3. In the meantime, fry up that bacon until it’s nice and crispy. Nope, crispier. You’ll be adding it to the soup, and soggy bacon is no one’s friend.

4. Once beans are tender, remove from heat and fish out the ham hock. Butcher that baby until all of the meat is off and the gristle is trimmed. Dice the meat and add it back to the soup.

5. Add the can of cream of celery soup to the pot and stir until incorporated. Add the bacon. In place of the cream of celery soup you can also make a roux with the bacon grease (Google it) and temper it by whisking in a bit of the soup broth before you add it all to the pot. Again, Google it, but just know that adding the roux directly into the soup pot will likely result in lumpy bacon grease dumplings and not creamy deliciousness.

6. Return pot to heat and let sit until steamy enough to soothe your sore throat.

"Everything tastes better enhanced with bacon." - My Mom

One side effect of this soup is that now your house will smell like bacon. Gentlemen, I’m single.

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The Best Laid Plans…

For weeks I’ve planned to fulfill my commitment to eat local by heading to the Green Bay Farmers’ Market while I was there for Labor Day Weekend (and, of course, the Shawano County Fair, woot for small, hometown high school reunions in the form of the Firemen’s Beer Stand).

So that’s exactly what I did.

I made out my shopping list.

I woke up at 6:35 AM.

I hit the snooze when I heard it pouring outside.

I hit the snooze again when I heard it still raining the second time.

x4.

I finally meandered to downtown Green Bay at 8:00 AM with my list. I got a whole chicken from Foster’s Organic Acres out of Little Suamico (and will email them with how delicious it is after I roast the sucker with a can full of Lakefront’s Riverwest Stein up it’s butt). I also got smoked ham hocks from Maplewood Meats and will boil them with green and yellow beans from the market to make my mom’s famous bean soup. Bacon, also from Maplewood, crisped up and crumbled will finish the soup. For breakfast I got eggs from Sweet Dirt Acres that I’ll scramble with peppers, jalapenos, and Renard’s Cheese (cheddar).

All this I got in an hour and it was only on my way home to the west side of Green Bay that it started to sprinkle again.

*Whew* Made it!

I got home.

I noted the firetruck and police car up the street.

I pulled in the driveway and punched the code to the garage.

The light blinked, but the door did not open.

I punched in the code again.

The light blinked at me in mockery.

The neighbor leaned out his window, “Your power out, too?”

Great.

Long story short, I don’t have a key to my parent’s front door.

My sister does, though.

She lives 30 minutes away.

I walk down the street to ask Mr. Fireman how long the wait will be. 3 hours? 12 hours?

“I don’t know,” he said, “WPS hasn’t even gotten here yet. There are 50,000 people without power in Appleton from the storm last night.”

Awesome. 12 hours, then.

I call my sister and arrange a pick up. As I head to Shawano, where she lives, I make plans to turn my lunch with Dad into breakfast and a trip to WalMart for a change of clothes (Let that be a lesson…always leave your house looking your best. Don’t think you can just shower and get ready after you run a short errand in the morning).

“That’s funny,” I tell my Dad, “there wasn’t a storm in Green Bay, how did the neighbor’s tree fall on the line?”

“Oh, sure there was,” Dad says matter-of-factly, “there was a tiny pin prick of yellow on the radar screen this morning.”

I spend the day in Shawano, hitting up the fair, eating breakfast at a local greasy spoon that, no doubt, doesn’t use locally-sourced ingredients, bygones. I enjoy a diet SunDrop from the tap at the Firemen’s Stand (or 3). I head to my favorite sister’s house to pick up the key. I return to Green Bay wondering if I’ll just pick up my pajamas and head straight back to Shawano for the night.

I arrive, once again, at my mom’s house. I enter through the front door.

I flip the light switch…

IT WORKS!

I call my Dad. I call my sister. I take a shower. Oh, the long-awaited shower.

I unpack my Farmers’ Market finds and watch the Brewers beat the Astros.

The only Wisconsin-made product I ingested that day was the SunDrop. Three glasses.

*Sigh* The best laid plans…

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Eat Local Challenge – Surprises

As I begin this Eat Local Challenge (Day 2) I’ve come across a few surprises that I should have anticipated, yet, you know how things go…

1. It’s Hard! – My definition of “eating local” for this challenge is anything grown and/or produced in Wisconsin. This limits my choices in ways that surprise me, usually as I’m just about to order or consume something and I have to think about where it came from first. Last night, for example.

This low-carb diet has me drinking only water, diet soda (I used to drink very little soda before this), and coffee. Last night I decided to shake things up a bit and made some sugar-free Crystal Light to drink.

Whoops.

Yeah, Crystal Light is neither grown in Wisconsin (can chemicals be “grown” anywhere?) nor is it produced in Wisconsin.

What I learned before chugging the now-won’t-stop-tempting-me-simply-because-I-can’t-have-it beverage is:

a) there are so many innocuous things in my daily diet that I now can’t have during this challenge (a.k.a. I’m getting more aware of our national food system), and

b) Ew, what am I doing putting so many chemicals in my body? I think this challenge will help me banish some unhealthy processed foods from my life Disclaimer: I’m not saying Crystal Light is unhealthy, per se, just that this example made me realize how many things in our lives are processed who-knows-where and made out of who-knows-what.

2. SunDrop is Local! – Those who know me and/or came from my hometown of Shawano, WI might be shocked to hear this, but I completely forgot that I can, indeed, have some locally-made diet soda! As I mentioned above, diet soda is something I’ve caught on to because of my low-carb diet. I used to not drink soda of any kind that much, but the diet stuff has become my one glimmer of sweetness in a sugar-free wasteland.

SunDrop = Heaven's Ambrosia

Turns out, I don’t have to give up that ray of hope during this two-week challenge. Twig’s Beverage of Shawano, WI is a longtime bottler of SunDrop, also known as Heaven’s Ambrosia to those from this little lake hamlet.

Even better is that I’m heading up there this weekend (Shawano County Fair, oh the small town wonderment) and will certainly be picking up a bunch of the brew in glass bottles. Because why just drink soda when you can be amazed by its true deliciousness, too? Seriously, drinking soda from a glass bottle is the only way to go. Trust me on this.

3. Plan Ahead & Plan Some More! – My beginning stumbles during this challenge largely stem from my lack of planning. I had it in my mind that I would hit up the Saturday farmers’ market and get my fill in local produce, meats, and cheeses. What I didn’t think about is that this challenge started on September 1st, a.k.a. Thursday, a.k.a. two days before Saturday.

Whoops.

Since I’ve been so derelict in my duties, I’ve gotten by breakfast at Alterra and lunch at Comet Cafe to tide me over until I can make the market. Expense I wasn’t planning for, but, then again, it’s awesome that Milwaukee gives me so many restaurant options for eating local.

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Eat Local Challenge – Day 1

Why can I never say “Eat Local Challenge” in anything other than the Ben Bailey Cash Cab voice? In my mind I usually hear it as “EAT LOOOCAL CHALLEEEEEEEEEEENGE!” and then fruitlessly wait for a trivia question.

Today starts my two-week eat local commitment. When I first committed to this challenge I thought, “Hey, no probs, I’ll hit up the farmers’ market and stock the fridge and pantry to the gills with generous local-lovin’.”

Unfortunately, September starts today, and the farmers’ market I had planned to go to is on Saturday.

The good news is that my name was picked in a drawing at the Eat Local Resource Fair last weekend to win some goods from the Fondy Farmers’ Market. Woot! I can pick that up today and it should tide me over until Saturday.

The bad news is that I have little local foodstuffs for today’s breakfast and lunch.

No worries, though, because this brings me to my very first product promo for the challenge: Alterra Coffee Roasters. I said in my inaugural post that my challenge commits me to eating anything and everything from within the borders of our fine state of Wisconsin…with the very important exception of coffee, because I must needs my coffee. With that in mind, I am limiting myself to locally-roasted coffee, my favorite of which is Alterra.

Armed with this exception, I headed over to the Humboldt Alterra Cafe for some breakfast, as they not only locally-roast their coffee beans, but also use local ingredients in their food. I’m on a low-carb diet, which limited my menu selection, but I chose the Farmer O’Brien breakfast burrito  and simply ate all of the innards out of the tortilla.

The burrito featured the following:
Yuppie Hill Eggs
Carr Valley Cheese (or Vern’s, it was a handwritten special and now I can’t remember)
Usinger’s Breakfast Sausage
Peppers, onions, and jalapenos (I, unfortunately, don’t know where these came from)

For $1 more I ordered a coffee:
Cafe Voltaire Blend – I admit a blend named after the French philosopher who was rumored to drink 50 cups of coffee a day was the main selling point.

So, my inauguration into this Eat Local Challenge has started off a bit rocky, but I promise to adhere to my Wisconsin border parameter for 100% of my eating starting this evening.

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Eat Local Resource Fair – Recap

This weekend I set the alarm early Saturday for a quick run to the Tosa Farmer’s Market before I had to truck across town to the Eat Local Resource Fair at the Urban Ecology Center.

True to form I spent the morning dawdling and enjoying my coffee, missing the market entirely, and finally arrived on the East side at 10:45 AM – a full half hour after the fair started and 15-minutes late for the Burp! led workshop “How to Use and Preserve Herbs.”

My bad.

I did, however, learn how to freeze tablespoons of fresh herbs in little ice cubes of homemade flavor, later to be added to soups, stews, and other wonderful Cream City Cuisine recipes. Look for a post on this in the future.

The fair was also a great opportunity to find out more of what our area has to offer by way of locally-grown ingredients and locally-produced foodstuffs. I came away much informed and armed with a plethora of information and a few goodies. As a current low-carb eater, I was especially interested in learning more about where I can get beef, chicken, fish, and pork from local farmers. The 5 best takeaways I received, in no particular order:

1. Farm Fresh Atlas of Wisconsin – By far the most helpful resource I received at the fair (even comes in handy dandy website form). This oracle lists all of the WI farms that sell direct to consumers, what they sell (produce, meats, etc), and where they sell (markets, CSAs, etc).

2. Outpost Natural Foods – I’m always tempted to refer to “Outpost Natural Foods” as “Outpost Natty Foods,” as a sort of throwback to my college days (bonus points if you get the reference). I think I will do so here as it’s always nice to know one can amuse oneself.

The one thing I’ve always known about OP Natty is that it is home to your favorite organic fare. That, and you should always bring your own bags.

What I didn’t know, however, is that the OP Natty also provides a fine stock of local products including meats, produce, dairy, beverages, and snacks.

Staring down the barrel of this Eat Local Challenge and faced with the idea of driving miles out of the city to pick up half a cow at the nearest farm, I’m suddenly comforted to know I can just head to the meat counter instead.

3. Goody Bag – Outpost Natural Foods is the sponsor of this Eat Local Challenge, and they lovingly provided all of us bloggers with a goodie bag for our troubles. The bag itself is a beautiful cloth bag sewn by a lady in South Milwaukee, and it was filled with delicious, local foodstuffs…I can only assume. I must wait to try the hot chocolate and shortbread cookies for a few weeks yet, but rest assured I will put that coffee to work, and it will work until its fingers bleed.

4. Winter Farmer’s Market – Turns out that the dead of winter in Wisconsin can still boast some local farmers’ market fare. The Milwaukee County Winter Farmers’ Market begins in early November, runs through mid-April, and, I assume, sells local harvest foodstuffs but I can’t imagine what those could be. Scavenged berries and dried venison? Canned goods? For some reason, I have that scene from Bambi in my head where the deer are eating the bark off of the trees because the frigid winter weather is just too bleak. I hope there’s more than bark. I kid. Sort of. If you’re as curious as I am, then I guess we’re making a date for November 5th, the first market of the season.

5. Low-Carb Challenge – The only bummer of the day was the numerous food samples at the fair that I could not enjoy. Vegan cupcakes, ice cream, and baked goods were no-no’s, yet I was able to enjoy a small bright spot in the delicious hard cheeses. Trust Wisconsin to provide me with a little bit of joy.

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Eat Local Milwaukee – Blogger Challenge!

Ladies & Gentlemen,

Get ready, heat up your Staubs, organize your spice cabinet, and let’s get cooking for the 4th annual Eat Local Challenge! We have been selected to be one of 5 food bloggers from the Milwaukee area to participate in this 2-week challenge to eat local.

I (Mandi) will, for two weeks, eat nothing but local food (as defined by me, see below) and blog about my experience. The challenge will take place September 1-14. You can check back here every day for progress reports on how I’m doing. I anticipate much difficulty finding locally-grown/produced grains, proteins, and spices in this concrete jungle, and I’m sure there will be a bit of grumbling on my part based upon the things I won’t be able to eat in regards to my definition of “eat local” below. I should probably also mention I am starting a low-carb diet tomorrow. This may or may not make the challenge more difficult.

Luckily, the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee is hosting an Eat Local Resource Fair this Saturday to feature local food vendors, cooking demos, and resources to help me in this challenge. In addition, www.eatlocalmilwaukee.org is a great place to find even more resources including restaurants with locally-sourced ingredients to get you through the 14 days.

I’m excited to take this challenge. I’m honored to have the opportunity to share my experience with you. I hope you can join me, even in some small way, in supporting local businesses and food producers, which is good for our environment as well as our local economy.

What “Eating Local” Means to Me:
“Eating Local” for the purposes of this challenge, as I define it, means anything grown and produced in the state of Wisconsin. I reserve the right to make an exception for items necessary for a meal but yet are not grown/produced in Wisconsin – whether for historical, climatological, or cultural reasons. These items include, but may not be limited to, spices, baking ingredients like sugar, baking soda, and flour, and olive oil. My use of these exceptions will be as limited as possible. My one trump card is coffee. I must have the coffee, and I will heed to the restrictions of this challenge by only enjoying coffee brewed from local roasters.

Join Me!
You can join me in taking the challenge of eating locally – whatever that means to you – from September 1 – 14.

In addition, you can join me for the Eat Local Resource Fair THIS SATURDAY to learn more about eating local, where you can get locally-produced foods, and how you can make this a part of a permanent lifestyle.

Saturday, August 27th
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E. Park Place, Milwaukee, WI

Stay tuned for updates on my experience!

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My New Best Friend: Cuisinart SS-700 Single Serve Brewing System

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for my new best friend. Although Evan and I have only had this beauty for less than two days, we have already used it to make coffee, a chai latte, and hot chocolate. It all took about a minute, which is one of the reasons why the Cuisinart SS-700 Single Serve Brewing System is my new best friend.

We still have some Dunkin Donuts coffee left, but that’s not a problem. It came with something that allows us to use the left over coffee in our new machine. We haven’t done it yet, but when we do, we will let you know how it turned out.

We found the cheapest cups to be at Bed Bath and Beyond when you use their 20% off coupons. They had a pretty decent selection. Otherwise, Amazon.com is cheapest and they have the widest variety.

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Football Grub – Super Bowl XLV

SUPERBOOOOOWL!

Yeah. We’re excited.

If you’ve been living under a rock, or just outside of Wisconsin, then maybe you don’t know that the Packers beat the Chicago Bears yesterday for a trip to Super Bowl XLV.

And everyone said the Packers were cocky for wearing cowboy hats and boleros in September...

Well Packers fans, we have the perfect food for any Super Bowl spread. An old camp standby from my days as a camper, Junior Counselor, and Counselor, this dish is stick-to-your ribs good, and is even easy to make over a campfire, er, if that’s your thing. Regardless, it’s a crowd pleaser as we found out during yesterday’s NFC Championship.

My fondest/worst memory of this meal is as a counselor in charge of Treehouse Village (just as it sounds…a bunch of treehouses in the middle of a pine forest filled with me, 20 kids, a fire pit, a water pump, and an outhouse).

This is Tower Village, but you get the idea...

The camp cooking staff sent us out with a cooler full of cheese, Fritos, bug juice, taco seasoning, and a 5 lb. log of frozen beef. The chances of thawing and cooking 5 pounds of frozen beef and feeding 20 campers is nil when you have an hour and a half. Thanks, Puck (inside joke).

Needless to say, lunch ran a bit late, the campers left satisfied, while the counselors left hungry (somebody had to do all of the cooking and clean up, after all).

We hope you’ll have an easier time of it in two weeks as you prepare for your Super Bowl party…

Chili Cheese Fritos

Ingredients:
2 lbs. ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
1 small onion, diced
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
Shredded cheese

Preparation:
Brown meat and onion in deep frying pan over medium heat. Drain fat once meat is fully cooked.

Add tomato sauce and taco seasoning. Stir until fully incorporated, and heat through.

Serve over Fritos and top with shredded cheese.

Serves: 6-8 hungry and excited Packers fans

Editor’s Note:
It seems I was dreadfully remiss in not providing cooking instructions if any of you Super Bowl watchers want to brave the winter weather and cook this meal outside over the fire. Well, let me fix that right now. Use the following instructions to cook Chili Cheese Fritos over an open fire in the great outdoors…

Preparation: (over the fire)
THAW ground beef. See above, this is important.

Build fire in safely enclosed fire pit. You’ll want a log cabin shaped structure, not teepee. Log cabin = heat, teepee = light.

Rub soap on the underside of your campfire cookware pan (this will help with cleanup of char marks).

Brown meat and onion in pan until fully cooked. You won’t be able to easily drain the grease off, so resign yourself to a few extra calories.

Add taco seasoning and tomato sauce, stirring until fully incorporated. Heat through.

Serve over generous handful of Fritos and topped with cheese.

Add more wood to the fire, put your feet up, and enjoy your latest caveman escapade.

Posted in Beef, Main Dishes | Tagged , | 3 Comments

IronCupcake: Milwaukee Pro/Am Cupcake Clash

Here’s the deal, folks.

On Sunday, February 13th I will be competing as an amateur in IronCupcake: Milwaukee’s Cupcake Clash.

War never tasted so good.

 You can attend the event for $6 and taste all the cupcakes your little heart desires for $1 (each cupcake). The $1 price of a taste also includes a vote for the Best Cupcake awards (Pro, Amateur, Overall).

The best part (besides my baking, that is)? Duff Goldman from Ace of Cakes will be the celebrity guest judge!

It’s a great event for the whole family – bring the kids, eat some cupcakes, but don’t be surprised that my recipe includes something boozy. This is me, after all.

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