Summer in Wisconsin provides beautiful days that are just about perfect. Temperatures in the 70’s, blue skies, light breeze – perfect for an outdoor picnic.
Wisconsin Capitol building in Spring
Evening sunset reflected on one wing of the Wisconsin State Capitol during a Concert on the Square
Many cities in Wisconsin host summer evening outings that involve music, food and a general picnic atmosphere. Madison residents have organized a “group picnic” called Concerts on the Square. The Square in this reference is the Capitol Square, a block in downtown Madison centered by the beautiful Wisconsin State Capitol building. Thanks to many generous sponsors and individual voluntary contributions for six Wednesday evenings each summer the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra plays a free concert on the steps at one corner of the building while thousands of folks sit on blankets and folding chairs, enjoy the music and a picnic. There are food and beverage vendors to provide a selection of local picnic fare, or many bring their own picnic baskets. Upwards of 25, 000 people show up for this community picnic each week.
Each concert has a “theme” and usually a guest performer joins the orchestra. A recent presentation featured songs from the rock group The Eagles performed by members of Jeans ‘n Classics, a Canadian group that melds popular music with orchestras. They also did a nice version of Bolero on July 15, 2015.
If you are near Madison in the summer don’t miss the Wisconsin made picnic Concerts on the Square.
Summer time is here and I’m searching the Internet for the best summer salad recipes. If you are too, you’ve come to the right place! I eat more salads in the summer for a couple of reasons, first, there are plenty of farmers market fresh veggies available, and second, salads don’t require turning on the oven so my temperature fickle apartment will stay nice and cool.
This salad is one of my favorites. It has the flavors of a caprese salad – basil, tomato and mozzarella – plus soft pita pieces that absorb the balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Continue reading for the recipe!
Blue cheese is a love it or hate it food for understandable reasons. Some people just can’t stomach the idea of eating mold. In case you didn’t know, that’s what the blue is, good old fashioned mold. Which raises the question, how come it’s ok to eat moldy blue cheese and not those fuzzy refried beans leftover from taco night last week? An even more interesting question, what about that moldy brick of cheddar? Is that alright to eat? Put on your learning cap faithful readers because here are the answers to these burning questions.
This is one of my favorite cooking related sayings, so when I heard about our newest Wisconsinmade.com gift, Wine Seasonings, I was excited to try them! If you want more of your wine to end up in the food next time you are cooking with wine, try some of the mixes and marinades from this Wisconsin company that specializes in “just add wine” creations.
I recently made the spinach dip and it couldn’t have been easier. I mixed a packet of the Wine Seasoning’s Spinach Dip Mix with 16oz of sour cream and 1/4 cup of wine. I brought the dip and some carrots to work to share with my coworkers. The dip was creamy and flavorful but I must confess, it would have been over the top amazing with some potato chips instead of the carrots.
It made enough dip for a party and since we only have a few people in the office I got to take home some leftovers. I thinned out the dip with a little bit more wine and used it as a salad dressing. The recipe book that came in the gift box also suggests using the dip as a baked potato topping or transforming it in to a seafood dip with a few extra ingredients. There are so many possiblities, and that’s just ONE of the 13 items in the gift assortment! Other packages in the Wine Seasonings assortment include:
Cranberry Tarragon Dip
Sun Dried Tomato Basil Dip
Zasty Garlic Dip
Lemon Pepper Marinade
Orange Ginger Marinade
Chicken and White Rice Soup
This is a delicious gift for a the wine-os and foodies in your life.
Mixing up a big helping of cranberry salad provides a much needed break from indulgent foods and cheese and sausage we eat here in Wisconsin, but like cheese and sausage, cranberries are a food of the Badger State- and a healthy food too! Cranberries and spinach provide antioxidants, vitamin C, and fiber just to name a few of the health benefits. Walnuts contain omega-three fatty acids, and blue cheese- well, it’s still cheese- but since the blue stuff is so strong in flavor you can use less of it compared to more mild cheese. So believe it or not, you can eat Wisconsin and still eat healthy! Click “continue reading” to see the recipe.
Croutons are a great way to use up leftover bread. When I have a partial loaf of italian bread about to go stale, or a random extra hamburger bun, or the heals of the bread that are sitting around uneaten, I just toss them in the freezer. These bread orphans, that would have otherwise ended up in the trash, can live in the freezer until I find another use for them. The uses for leftover bread are endless! Leftover bread is perfect for some quick homemade bread crumbs, stuffing, or my favorite- homemade croutons!
My only precaution- sometimes the bread in the freezer situation gets a bit out of hand. Click “continue reading” to see the recipe and the crazy amount of bread that piled up in my freezer.
Looking for more fun things to do in Wisconsin this summer? Here’s something fun you can do anywhere, any time: hold a wine and tapas party. This past weekend, friends gathered at the wine and tapas party held every few months in my neighborhood.
This Wisconsin wine and tapas party originated with someone who wanted a small, intimate party of friends who would gather to share different wines and seriously critique them. Each guest was asked to bring a bottle of a certain type of wine and some food. No kids invited! That was the rule. The conversation, wine, and food would be haute gourmet!
Well, free a bunch of adults from the demands of young children for an evening, set out bottles of wine and a tapas selection of gourmet food and any hopes of seriousness go flying with the pigs. The adults were having fun!
So much fun that as the wine and tapas party roamed through the neighborhood over the ensuing months, the party grew larger and larger. Neighbors invited more and more neighbors to join in the fun. The bottles on the kitchen counters got more numerous and the food went from ordinary potluck to gourmet food. Nowhere in site was a Cheerio, goldfish, chicken nugget, or even cheese pizza. Instead, this weekend we feasted on shrimp, freshly-caught, smoked and grilled lake-fish, crackers with melted goat cheese, bacon, and herbs, and of course, muchas comidas caliente-Mexicana! (I’ve not been the only chili-deprived parent.)
I also broughtt something my children would abhor. I brought broccoli and cauliflower salad. Keep reading for the recipe.
Jimmy the Ground Hog in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin said spring would come early in Wisconsin. And it is. Lately, we’ve had days of 33 degrees on which kids descend coat-less from the school bus exclaiming, “It’s so WARM!” A few birds are tentatively singing. And when the snow falls, some of it even melts. But this melting is not all good at the end of this Wisconsin winter. Melting means that the snow which melted into water must now go somewhere. And when the snow on the roof melts, where will this new rooftop river run when the gutters remain packed with 9″ of ice? This ice dam is too high for the water to surmount, so instead that water flows through the roof and runs down the inside walls of the house. A waterfall right in the house. Such is the stuff of dreams.
Time for a food dream, – a summer food dream. It’s the only path past winter frustration. Must dream of food symbolizing summer. Must make summer salads. Must make herbed Greek salad with cucumbers! Read on for the recipe.
Valentine’s Day is past. Mardis Gras is over. The last of my chocolate cakes have been eaten. Time to get back to eating healthy foods again. It’s the boom and bust cycle of affluent eating. We can afford to eat fattening, tasty foods so we do. Then we regret that we did so we resolve to eat healthy foods… again. A lot of us made this resolution on January 1st. But by February 1st, we’d slipped. Yet how could we help it? Valentine’s Day is a whole day dedicated to eating chocolate. Mardis Gras is a whole night dedicated to eating in excess absolutely everything we want. The holidays and advertisers conspire against us…And now, here’s Lent. For Christian believers, Lent is 40 days of back on the wagon of healthy living. But not to despair, chocolate Easter bunnies are coming. In the meantime however, we need healthy foods that also taste good.
My first contribution to this post-Mardis Gras season is this recipe for cauliflower broccoli salad with apples and raisins, except as usual, I substituted cranberries for the raisins. Cranberries are a super-food that’s super healthy. But more to the point, I love cranberries. Keep reading for the recipe.
Uh-oh, it’s Martin Luther King Jr. day. No school for the kids. Who will watch them while I’m at work? Time to call in the calvary. Time to call Dad! Yes, last night my Chicago father drove to Wisconsin to care for his grandchildren today. This loved and welcomed sitter comes cheap. I don’t pay him by the hour, or pay his gas money. I reward him with steak, spinach salad, and a medley of Wisconsin wild rice. And the great thing is, he’s happy about the pay. That’s because I’ve been learning to cook. And I’m learning from some great Wisconsin chefs.
I found a better spinach salad recipe than the one I’d used for years. This one’s called Spinach Salad with Hazelnut Vinaigrette and is served at the Stout Lodge, Island of Happy Days in Mikana, Wisconsin. Grace Howaniec reprinted the recipe in her collection of recipes from excellent Wisconsin restaurants. Her cookbook is called Encore Wisconsin in the hopes that you and I will be able to reproduce these marvelously delicious dishes at home. The chefs represented in this cookbook demonstrate their flare to cooking in their creative choices of ingredients. For example, I never would have thought to put hazelnuts and mandarin oranges in my spinach salad. But in this salad I did and …WOW! What a superior salad. Keep reading for the spinach salad and hazelnut vinaigrette recipe.