Thursday, December 31, 2015


We celebrated New Year's Eve with another couple at Zesti in Hartland. The decor is cozy with a combination of modern and rustic elements. A newer restaurant in the lake country area and off to a good start because it can be quite busy during lunch and you likely need reservations on the weekends. Let's hope it sticks around because we need more restaurants like this in our area.

As for our meal, it too did not disappoint. For starters, I ordered the Cucumber Cosmo, which was quite tasty. We both ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese because of our love of the dish at Il Mito (their sister restaurant). Our friend ordered the evening's special of Lamb Shanks with Roasted Asparagus and Lobster Mashed Potatoes. Needless to say, our friend was the big winner. Although we loved our pasta, we tasted his dish, and it was heavenly.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Lamb Shanks Special
Cucumber Cosmo

Monday, December 21, 2015

Cindy's Simple Spicy Meatballs

Chef Notes: Only three ingredient and there are only slight variations online, but this version from a friend has the best ratio for the perfect flavor. Our daughter's fav!

12-oz bottle chili sauce
9 oz grape jelly
2-2.5 lbs. frozen meatballs

Add chili sauce and grape jelly to crockpot; stir to combine. Add meatballs to sauce and stir to coat. Cover and cook on low for 3-5 hours until meatballs heated through.


Friday, December 4, 2015


A work holiday party took us to Chicago for quick overnight. After the usual networking in the earlier hours, afterward we treated ourselves to a dinner out on the town at Roy's. The cocktails, the food and the service were all outstanding. We would highly recommend!

Roy's Island Mai Tai
Chicken Entree
Roy's Trio (salmon, butterfish & mahi mahi)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Turkey & Hominy Chili with Smoky Chipotle

4 Tbsp olive oil
2-1/2 lbs ground turkey
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 Tbsp chili powder
2 large Spanish onions, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapeño peppers, to taste, seeded and chopped
28-oz can tomato purée
2, 15-oz cans white hominy, drained
2, 15-oz cans pinto beans, drained
12-oz bottle beer
2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
Sour cream, for serving
5 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced, for serving
1 bunch chopped cilantro, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

In a large pot over medium-high heat, warm 1 tablespoon oil. Brown half the ground turkey with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring occasionally until golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in half the garlic and half the chili powder and sauté for another 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer turkey to a bowl. Brown remaining turkey in same manner, transferring it to bowl with rest of turkey.

Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil to pot and sauté onions, bell peppers and jalapeño peppers with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.

Return ground turkey and any liquid in bowl to pot and add tomato purée, hominy, beans, beer, chipotles, oregano and bay leaves with 3 cups water. Simmer chili, partly covered, until it is thick enough for your taste, about 1 hour. Serve hot, garnished with sour cream, scallions, cilantro and lime wedges.

8-10 servings

New York Times Cooking

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin pie is, hands down, the most iconic Thanksgiving dessert. And something that predictable can get to be, well, a tad boring after a while. This year, you can tell your friends you're serving pumpkin pie, and you will be, but it will be in a new, much more fun incarnation: whoopie pies! Any kids at the table will be squealing with delight, and the adults will be, too, when they sink their teeth into the moist pumpkin cake layers and bourbon cream cheese filling. Reminders of that other icon, pecan pie, turn up as chopped bits of candied pecans around the edge of the filling.

Café Sid Notes: Made these for our Bunco group, and they were a hit! Definitely suggest the make-ahead tips.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
15 oz can pure pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Candied pecans:
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 Tbsp water
1/2 cup chopped pecans

6 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp) unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon (optional; substitute 1 tsp vanilla extract)

For cookie-cakes:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and spices in a bowl. 
  • Whisk together sugar, oil, pumpkin, egg, and vanilla in a separate large bowl until well combined, then stir in flour mixture. 
  • Using a 1-ounce ice cream scoop (I used the Pampered Chef Medium Scoop), drop onto a lined baking sheet to form 1 mound. Make 15 more mounds, arranging them 2 inches apart until baking sheet is full (you will have batter left over).
  • Bake until springy to the touch, 12 to 18 minutes. Transfer cookie-cakes to rack to cool.
  • Form and bake remaining batter on the other parchment-lined sheet. You should have a total of 32 cookie-cakes.
  • Leave oven on.
For candied pecans: 
  • Line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. 
  • Stir together sugar, salt, and 1/2 tablespoon water in a small saucepan. Heat over moderate heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to a boil. Stir in pecans. 
  • Spread mixture on lined sheet pan and bake until coating is bubbling and golden brown, about 10 minutes. 
  • Cool completely on pan on a rack. 
For filling: 
  • While cookie-cakes are baking, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer until smooth. Add confectioners' sugar and bourbon and mix on low speed until smooth. 
  • Chill filling until firm enough to hold its shape when spread, 30 minutes to 1 hour. 
Assemble whoopie pies: 
  • Spread 1 heaping tablespoon of filling each on flat side of half the cooled cookie-cakes (tip: add filling to 16 cookies before topping them so you can add frosting if needed). Top with other half of cookie-cakes. If necessary, chill whoopie pies just long enough to firm up filling again, about 30 minutes. 
  • Gently press pecans onto filling around middle of each whoopie pie to help them adhere to filling.

make ahead tips
  • If you want perfectly round cakes, a 1-ounce ice cream scoop is a worthwhile investment, because you can use it for so many other baking projects, in addition to ice cream.
  • Cookie-cakes can be baked 1 day ahead, and kept on racks at room temperature, covered with a kitchen towel.
  • Filling can be made 1 day ahead, and chilled, covered.
  • Pecans can be candied 3 days ahead and kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

16 sandwich cookies


Friday, October 16, 2015

Banana Everything Cookies

Chef Notes: With some slight modifications from the original recipe, these are some addictively good cookies — perfect use for those overripe bananas.

Banana Everything Cookies

Nonstick cooking oil spray
1 very ripe medium banana
1/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or as needed
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal or rolled oats
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray two baking sheets with oil. In a mixing bowl, mash banana well. Add oil, sugar and vanilla, and mix with a strong fork. Add flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and mix until just moistened.

Add oatmeal and chocolate chips. Using your hands or a sturdy spoon, mix well, making sure oats are well moistened. (If dough is very slippery, add one or two extra tablespoons flour.)

Using clean, wet hands, re-wetting as needed, roll dough into balls slightly smaller than a golf ball, about 1-1/3 inches in diameter (I use the Pampered Chef's medium scoop). Flatten slightly and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes (14 minutes on stoneware). Remove from heat and allow to cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

About 24 servings

New York Times Cooking

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Palacio Cafe

Our breakfast stop on the morning of our departure, we went to Palacio Cafe. My sister and brother-in-law stopped here on Tuesday morning before we arrived. They enjoyed it so much, we opted to return. Gotta love the green and red chile that Santa Fe does so well!

Smothered Breakfast Burrito with Green Chile
Huevos Rancheros
Veggie Breakfast Burrito with Green Chile on the side

Friday, October 9, 2015

Chez Mamou

Not that we need any more to eat after dinner, but Chez Mamou, the French bakery just down the street, was calling our name.  The Napoleon was delicious and apparently a special treat. It's not made very often, and we got the last one!  We love to try this place for dinner when we return to Santa Fe.

Raspberry Chocolate Indulgence
Raspberry Lemon Tart
Apricot Tart

La Casa Sena

For our final night in Santa Fe, we enjoyed dinner outside on the Sena Plaza at La Casa Sena. We had this restaurant on our list of possible dinner options, and after we stopped here earlier in the day on our food tour, we decided we need to return. We all agreed it was fantastic!

Goat Cheese Sweet Corn Croquettes
LCS Caesar
Our wine selection
Seared Ruby Trout
Aztec Dusted Salmon
Coriander Dusted Antelope Chop


Second of two happy hour stops on day 4 of Santa Fe trip took us to Secreto. Our food tour guide highly recommended it, and a best happy hours in Santa Fe list we saw online listed it as #1. The drinks were fantastic and the service was great!

Spicy Secreto // Cucumbers, lime juice, cane syrup, Novo Fogo Organic Cachaça, elderflower liqueur and a touch of spice.  First place winner in the 2010 "Shake It Up! Competition" in Las Vegas, the largest cocktail competition in the U.S.

Blackberry Caipirinha // The bartender's suggestion, and a great variation on the standard caipirinha.

Smoked Sage Margarita // Republic Anejo Tequila with 03 Brazilian Orange Liqueur, lime juice and sage smoked into the glass with a hickory smoked salt rim.

French 75 // Gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and Gruet Blanc de Noir. We learned on the food tour that Gruet is well-recognized New Mexico sparkling wine.

Spicy Secreto & Blackberry Caipirinha
Smoked Sage Margarita
French 75

Draft Station

After our food tour and a bit of afternoon shopping, we stopped for happy hour (first of two) at the Draft Station. They had a wide variety of New Mexico craft beers on tap. It was a gorgeous day to sit out on their second floor patio overlooking the Santa Fe Plaza.


Food Tour New Mexico

Day 4, our last full day in Santa Fe, we decided to do our food tour through Food Tour New Mexico. In hindsight, we should have done this tour on our first day, because all the food was delicious and we got tons of restaurant ideas. Nick was our guide, and he was a wealth of information. The places we visited included:

La Casa Sena // Blue Corn Muffins & Golden Beet Soup

La Boca // Basca Cava Brut & Marinated Artichoke with Goat Cheese

Santa Fe Olive Oil & Balsamic Company // Free tastings!

Luminaria // Sangria, Artisan Breads & Tortilla Soup

Kakáwa // Tzul Chocolate Elixir (we were able to sample as many as we'd like) ... amazing!

Golden Beet Soup at La Casa Sena
Basca Cava Brut at La Boca
Marinated Artichoke with Goat Cheese at La Boca
Tastings at the Santa Fe Olive Oil & Balsamic Company
Sangria at Luminaria
Artisan Breads at Luminaria
Tortilla Soup at Luminaria
Tzul Chocolate Elixir at Kakáwa

Thursday, October 8, 2015


Aftre breakfast on day 3, we headed out of Santa Fe and took in the New Mexico countryside. We stopped briefly in Chimayo (church visit) on our way to Taos. The shopping wasn't as nice as Santa Fe, but we did manage to find Hero for a lunch stop and had some great sandwiches and rice bowls.

Miami (pulled pork and ham, pepperjack, chipotle mayo)
Curried Chicken Salad
Outlaw Cookies (oats, walnuts, chocolate chips, coconut and spices)

The Patio Restaurant

Day 3 started out with breakfast at The Patio Restaurant, the restaurant at La Posada de Santa Fe, where we were staying. The chorizo burrito was delicious and surprisingly not too heavy.

Chorizo Burrito
Southwest Omelet

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

El Farol

Day two in Santa, we went to El Farol for dinner, and it was fantastic.

Prickly Pear Margarita // Delicious!

Gambas al Ajillo // Obviously the picture below doesn't do it justice (forgot to take the before pic but couldn't resist the deliciously empty bowl.  The sauce was amazing!  We asked the waiter for bread so we could soak it all up!

Calamari al Estilo Asiatico // Plum sauce was good. Would have liked to have tried the fradiavolo option.

Paella de la Casa // We opted to order this entrée and still share tapas style.  Delicious!

Don't remember the names of the two desserts, but both were delicious.

Prickly Pear Margarita
Gambas al Ajillo
Calamari al Estilo Asiatico
Paella de la Casa
Fig dessert?