Sunday, June 3, 2007

Stick a fork in it – it’s done!

J.Noelle Cooks was my first foray into the wonderful world of blogging. Now that I’ve cut my chops on J.Noelle, I’m moving on to other things – or other blogs, that is. Instead of a general all-purpose cooking blog, I’ve launched three separate blogs that focus on different areas of cooking:

24 boxes
This June I will begin my second year as a CSA member of Angelic Organics and this blog will chronicle my journey through 24 boxes of vegetables. I would like this blog to be a reference and community for other Midwest CSA members to learn, swap recipes, exchange ideas and be inspired.

The format of this blog will most closely resemble the content of J.Noelle Cooks. Although it will not contain any recipes, I will have cookbook & restaurant reviews as well as information on events and classes related to cooking. You will probably see a few recycled J.Noelle posts, too.

The Gastrognomes
Silly and fun, this blog is technically not authored by J.Noelle, but by three brother gnomes – gastrognomes to be exact – who love to cook, drink and laugh. Things in the meadow move a little slower than we’re used to, so don’t be surprised if they only post every couple of weeks!

Thank you for your readership and I hope that you follow one or all three of the new blogs!


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Methods of Hunting and Trapping

I found this gem at Myopic Books in Wicker Park. The cover is what caught my eye, but the illustrations inside were the prize. In case you ever wanted – or needed – to know, here are some mehods for hunting and trapping:

I think this would make a great t-shirt – pre-order yours now!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Supper Club | Classic Comfort Food

The first ever Supper Club was held on April Fool’s Day, 2007. We put together an impressive spread:

Roast Chicken and Bacon Chowder
Pot Roast with Root Vegetables
Double-Baked Potatoes
Baked Mac N’ Cheese
Blueberry Dumplings with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Strawberry-Lemonade * vodka optional

Many thanks to Joe, Nicole, Tim and Megan for making it a great evening!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Recipe Testers Needed

When I saw that headline on, I felt duty calling. It was my responsibility as an American to test these recipes – for my country and for my fellow countrymen. Well, maybe I’m over exaggerating a bit. After all, we’re talking about America’s Test Kitchen, not actually the old U S of A. But, still, this was an intriguing offer and so I signed up. And then I waited. And waited. I started to get paranoid that maybe I didn’t make the cut. Maybe they’d done their homework and found out some of my deep, dark culinary secrets. Or maybe I was just being impatient.

Finally! I received my call to duty – an email with my first test recipe: Apple Galette. The email arrives with links to the recipe, any additional instructions and to the survey itself. You can preview the questions that they will ask you when you view the recipe. They only gave me a week for my first assignment, but I completed my task. And not five days later – another recipe! This time it was Ricotta Gnocchi.

So what are the benefits? First off, this is a great way to force myself to cook different things that I may not normally try on my own. And, I feel like my feedback contributes to a better end product that will eventually be in Cook’s Illustrated Magazine or on the PBS television show America’s Test Kitchen. And it’s good clean fun.

I can’t post any of the recipes – they’re top secret until publication! But if you’re interested in becoming a Recipe Tester yourself, I can give you that information:

Recipe Testers Needed
If you’re interested in joining a select group who help test our recipes before they appear in print, let us know? Click here to register.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Review | Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf

There’s really no explanation or photo necessary – you already know that it was good. How could it not be? But let me explain. Chris and I went to Uncommon Ground this past Saturday before heading to a concert at the Metro. We had heard good things. Years ago, it was a simple coffeehouse that hosted local artists’ shows. Now, it’s an expanded, full-service restaurant, bar and, of course, still serving great brunch and coffee. I ordered the Brown Sugar & Bourbon Glazed Pork Chop with Butternut Squash and Pecan Stuffing. Delicious. And Chris ordered the Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf with Caramelized Onions and Mashed Potatoes. Now, don’t misunderstand me – my pork chop was awesome. But, luckily, I didn’t try any of Chris’s while we were there (I was too enamored with my pork chop). But if I had, I would have had one of those “damn, I wish I had ordered that” moments and then sullenly finished my mediocre pork chop all the while pining for the meatloaf. But, alas, Chris wasn’t in the sharing mood that night and it wasn’t until he heated up his leftovers (yes – they give you TWO pieces of bacon-wrapped meatloaf!) that I got a whiff of the heavenly smell and asked for a bite. After that, I can’t wait to go back. And next time, I’m getting myself some meatloaf.

Uncommon Ground
1214 W. Grace (Cross Street: Clark)
(773) 929-3680

Friday, March 2, 2007

Review | Pairings with Andrea

On a recent episode of Pairings with Andrea, Andrea Immer-Robinson – the first woman ever chosen Best Sommelier in the United States and one of only 14 women in the world who have been appointed Master Sommelier by the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers – paired one of my favorite types of wine with an easy and tasty menu. She whipped up a meal of cold sesame noodles, coconut milk & curry shrimp soup and steamed vegetables with rice wine vinaigrette and paired them with a California Sauvignon Blanc. I decided to test drive the menu and see how it fared. First off, I couldn’t get my hands on the recommended wine (Flora Springs Soliloquy Sauvignon Blanc), but the friendly folks at Sam’s Wine & Spirits suggested a suitable substitution: Beckmen Vineyards Estate Sauvignon Blanc. As for the menu, I felt that three dishes would be too much food for just myself and Chris, so I chose to make the sesame noodles and soup.

The verdict: the recipes were very simple and easy to prepare. Most of the ingredients are items that you can keep on hand in your pantry or freezer – canned tomatoes, frozen shrimp, lime, cilantro, peanut butter, coconut milk, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, spaghetti and chicken broth. I prepared both dishes – from start to finish – in under an hour. So how did they pair with the wine? Perfectly. The Sauvignon Blanc was a wonderful complement to the acidity of the lime juice, the richness and sweetness of the peanut butter and the herbal notes of the cilantro. I would definitely make the cold sesame noodles again. And tomorrow, I might try the steamed vegetables to serve with the leftover soup.

Pairings is a great show if you’re just starting to learn about wine (like me). She has a very casual approach, is obviously very knowledgeable and qualified, but manages to make wine fun and approachable. And even if you’re a wine connoisseur, I think you will still find her show to be informative and a great source of ideas.

Andrea Immer-Robinson’s website
Recipes: Pairings with Andrea “Asian Cuisine”
Sam’s Wines & Spirits

The two things that I didn’t like about the soup were the tails on the shrimp (easily taken care of by buying shrimp without tails next time) and the chunks of tomatoes (I used a can of diced tomatoes). So, before I reheated the soup, I took out the shrimp and removed their tails. Then I used an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot and added back the shrimp. I also mixed in a tablespoon of fish sauce which I think brought another nice dimension to the soup. I prefer the leftover, reheated (and retooled) soup over the original version.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Recipe | Bacon Buns

Few food items are so good that they can actually be used as currency, but Bacon Buns are one of those rare exceptions. From the outside, they look like ordinary rolls. But the surprise is on the inside – a savory filling of bacon, ham and onion tucked inside a pillowy, soft dough. The recipe originates from Lithuania, where they call the buns “Lasineciai”. There was never any written recipe – it only existed in the memories of Grandmothers and Great Aunts in our family. Luckily, someone finally followed Mrs. Sobut while she was making bacon buns and recorded her every move and measure. From that original recipe, I’ve refined and revised so that even the amateur cook can create these magical buns in their own kitchen. If you try your hand at the Sobut-Buber-Mayer Family recipe, please let me know how it goes and if you have any comments or feedback.

Bacon Buns taste best fresh from the oven, but the next best thing for day-old buns is a quick zap in the microwave (wrapped in a paper towel) for 12-seconds.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Review | Vintage Cookbooks

I started collecting vintage cookbooks about three years ago, but not for the recipes – for the food photography. Food photography has come a long way since the 60’s and 70’s. But you can’t blame the nasty-looking food entirely on the pictures – there were also a lot of recipes that make you want to laugh and puke at the same time. Some of my favorite “delicacies” and “luxuries” include Weiner Winner Pizza, Molded Pork Loaf (shown below with the caption Cool Molded Pork Loaf is an appetizing work of art.), Danish Garden Salad (the white loaf shown below) and Spicy Liverwurst-Ham Nibblers. And for those of us who didn’t spend their 20’s and 30’s at key parties with ironed hair, we think of Jello as a dessert food. But some of the best savory food photography and recipes in my collection come from the pages of my vintage Jello cookbooks. So, a toast to my first blog post (and all of those brave baby boomers who ate Ring-Around-the-Tuna): “May all of my posts that follow be more appetizing than this.”