Seasonally Inspired: Raspberry Rhubarb Compote


Rhubarb is in season right now, so catch it while you can.  Instead of making the usual suspects (pie and crisp), why not try this simple, delicious, sweet-tart compote?  It can be spooned over ice cream, big meringues with whipped cream, pudding or pound cake, or swirled into your morning yogurt if you’re feeling virtuous.  I’m having a friend for lunch tomorrow and plan on serving it over panna cotta that’s chilling as I write this.  I’d planned on making something else for dessert, but abandoned those plans as soon as I spotted those crisp, rosy stalks at Elawa Farm’s garden market this morning.

Raspberry Rhubarb Compote

makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 5 medium stalks rhubarb chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries (1 small container)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • zest of a lemon
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  1. Cut bean in half width-wise and save other half for another use.  Cut bean-half length-wise and scrape seeds out by running knife along length of pod.
  2. Place chopped rhubarb, raspberries, vanilla bean seeds and the pod you just scraped them from, lemon zest, sugar and water in a medium saucepan.  Stir.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer 6 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until rhubarb has softened.
  4. Using the back of a wooden spoon, smash some of the softened rhubarb pieces and stir to distribute.
  5. Turn off heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Remove vanilla bean pod.
  6. Spoon warm over ice cream or allow to cool completely before storing in the refrigerator.  Compote will thicken as it cools.



Breakfast Bite: Maple Chia Cherry Granola

DSC_0519You don’t have to spend a fortune on those little bags of artisanal granola you find at the market – it’s incredibly easy to make at home and customize to your liking!  When I was in Telluride last month, the hotel baked a fresh batch of chia seed-speckled granola every morning that was impossible to resist.  I came home determined to (a) make my own version, and (b) buy a home there.  I think my husband is relieved I’m focusing on the granola.DSC_0351DSC_0371DSC_0449Maple Chia Cherry Granola

makes approximately 9 cups

  • 4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup almonds*
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios*
  • 1 cup pecan halves*
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons canola or safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons fleur de sel or kosher salt, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cherries**

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  1. Place oats, coconut flakes, chia seeds, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in a large bowl.  Roughly chop almonds, pistachios, and pecan halves and add to the bowl.  Stir to combine.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, oil, cinnamon, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  Pour over the oat mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.
  3. Spread mixture evenly on a large, parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for 40-45 minutes until mixture is light golden, stirring every 10 minutes during baking time.
  4. Remove granola from oven and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel or kosher salt.  Allow to cool.
  5. Stir gently, allowing some chunks to remain.  Add the dried cherries and stir to combine.

*Feel free to substitute with any variety of  nuts.  It’s a great way to use up those odds and ends in your freezer or pantry!

**I add the cherries at the end because I find them to be too tough if they are baked.  This also allows me to set aside a little granola before they are added for the non-dried-fruit-granola fans in the house.DSC_0493

Breakfast Bite: The Perfect Poached Egg

DSC_0794Hands-down the best way to have eggs, don’t you agree?  The best part is that it’s so fast and simple, but there are a few essential steps to achieving a plump white with a perfectly runny yolk rather than something resembling a Portuguese man-o-war with its egg-y tentacles floating around in the water.DSC_0806The Perfect Poached Egg

  1. The most important step: you must use the freshest eggs possible.  Egg whites thin as they age which is why older eggs spread all over the pan.  I bought the above organic eggs from the Alden Hills Farm stand at the Lake Bluff Farmers’ Market and they were beyond incredible.  Honestly, have you ever seen such deep golden yolks?
  2. Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add a splash of vinegar.  You will not taste it (scout’s honor!) and it will help keep the white in tact.
  3. Turn the heat down so your water is at a very low boil.  Crack your egg into a small bowl or ramekin, then gently ease it into the water.
  4. Three minutes.  Exactly three minutes!
  5. Remove egg from water with a slotted spoon and ease onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess water.
  6. For extra yumminess, serve over a piece of toast with ripe, smashed avocado and a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.DSC_0793

Good Morning, Sunshine! Have Some Coffee Cake


Today marks the first day of spring, but here in the arctic tundra (also known as Chicago) we are waking up to temperatures in the low teens with wind chills hovering around zero. Whether you are anxiously waiting for your destination vacation or hunkering down at home for a stay-cation, I’ve created a warm citrusy coffeecake to distract you from the misery. Think of it as a little ray of sunshine on your plate.





Orange Almond Coffee Cake

makes one 10-inch cake

  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice, divided
  • 2 navel oranges
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 1/4 cups almond meal
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour or gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum only if using gluten-free flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  1. Butter a 10-inch cast iron skillet.*
  2. Cut one orange into thin rounds. Peel the other orange with a vegetable peeler into long strips from top to bottom, avoiding the pith. Cut peeled strips into long, 1/8th-inch wide strips with a knife.
  3. Make a syrup by heating 3/4 cup of the sugar, 1/4 cup water, and 1/2 cup of the orange juice in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil, add orange rounds, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add orange zest strips and continue to simmer until syrup has reduced by half and strips have softened, about 15 minutes more.
  4. While syrup is simmering, place sliced almonds on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 5-7 minutes or until light golden, stirring once halfway through toasting.
  5. Remove orange rounds and strips from syrup with a slotted spoon and set aside in a bowl. Carefully pour 1/2 cup of the syrup into a pyrex measuring cup. Discard any extra (or save for a cocktail).
  6. Add the 1/2 cup of syrup back to the sauce pan with the heat on medium-low and add two tablespoons butter, stirring until melted. Stir in the almond extract and the Grand Marnier or Cointreau and remove pan from heat.
  7. In a large bowl, whisk the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, almond meal, regular or gluten-free all purpose flour, xanthan gum (if using gluten-free flour), baking powder, baking soda, and salt until combined.
  8. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, buttermilk, and the cooled syrup mixture until combined.
  9. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly combined.
  10. Add one cooked orange round (you can discard the extra rounds or save for another use) to the center of your prepared skillet or cake pan and scatter the zest strips and toasted almonds over the the bottom of the pan. Spoon cake batter (it will be thick) into pan and spread into an even layer.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. If cake begins to brown early (this happened at about 25 minutes for me) loosely cover with aluminum foil.
  12. While cake is baking, make a thin glaze by whisking the remaining 1/4 cup orange juice with 1 cup powdered sugar in a medium bowl until smooth.
  13. Let cake cool in pan for 5 minutes on a wire rack. Remove cake from pan (it will still be warm) by placing a wire rack over top of cake and flipping over. Set rack on a baking sheet.
  14. Poke holes in cake all over with a toothpick. Spoon glaze over warm cake, rubbing in gently with back of spoon, until top is covered and glaze has drizzled down the sides.

*Baking in cast iron creates a wonderful, crunchy cake exterior while allowing the inside to stay incredibly moist and tender. I didn’t try this in a traditional cake pan, but if I did, I would butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan and follow all of the steps as written, running a knife around the edge of cake before inverting it onto a cooling rack.


recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

The Weekend Kitchen: Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Lemon Compote


Nothing makes me happier than having time during the weekend to experiment in the kitchen.  These lemon buttermilk pancakes take longer to put together than your basic buttermilk pancakes, but they are definitely worth the effort.  They are light-as-air, cakelike confections that soak up the warm homemade compote or maple syrup for those who don’t like blueberry.  (Not to throw unnamed family members under the bus, but who doesn’t love blueberries?  How can you NOT love warm, syrupy blueberries?!  Somebody please explain this to me.)


Lemon Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry Lemon Compote

makes 16 small pancakes, serving four

  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour or gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup almond meal (you can skip the almond meal if you do not have it and substitute with 1/3 cup all purpose flour or gf all purpose flour, bringing your flour total to 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil or melted coconut oil
  1. Whisk all dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, buttermilk, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and oil together.
  3. Pour wet ingredients in to dry and stir until combined.
  4. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer or with hand beaters until soft peaks form.
  5. Fold egg whites into pancake mixture until incorporated.
  6. Heat your griddle or nonstick pan on medium heat and add enough coconut oil or canola oil to thinly coat.
  7. Pour 1/4 cups of batter onto your hot pan and cook until edges are set and tops have bubbles.  Flip and cook until done.
  8. Keep finished pancakes warm in a low oven and make compote (recipe below).


Blueberry Lemon Compote

  • 1 six ounce container fresh blueberries or 1 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • zest of a lemon
  1. Cook all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until blueberries have cooked down and sauce has thickened (about 10-12 minutes), stirring occasionally.
  2. Serve warm over pancakes or ice cream.

pancake recipe adapted from Sprouted Kitchen, compote recipe and photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Breakfast Bite: Chocolate Chip Scones

chocolate chip scones

Chocolate Chip Scones

makes 10-12 scones

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose or gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum only if using gluten-free flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup cold heavy cream (plus 1 tablespoon extra for brushing tops)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, xanthan gum (if using gf flour), sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add butter pieces to the bowl and using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (there will be bits of different sized butter).
  3. Stir in cold cream just until combined.
  4. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Pour mixture onto a sheet of waxed paper that has been lightly dusted with flour, knead into a ball with hands lightly dusted in flour, and pat into a 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick disk (I did 1/2 inch because I like mine on the thinner side).  Quickly knead scraps into a ball, pat into disk and cut into more scones, repeating until dough is gone.
  6. Using a 2 1/2 to 3 inch biscuit cutter or drinking glass lightly dusted in flour, cut out scones and place two inches apart on a baking sheet lined in parchment paper.
  7. Brush tops with the heavy cream using a pastry brush or your finger tips, and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar if desired.
  8. Bake until golden brown,  15-20 minutes.
  9. Cool scones on a wire rack.
  10. Serve warm!

recipe adapted from Art of Gluten-Free Baking

all photos via the aesthete and the dilettante

Julia’s Crepes

I know what you’re thinking. Are the style posts ever coming back? Or is it going to be cookies, crepes and carrot cakes from here on out? They will be back in rotation this week – scout’s honor. But I want to talk about Sunday morning first.

My daughter and I watched Julie and Julia (loved!) which inspired us to make crepes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Six simple ingredients were whipped together in a blender, chilled, then swirled into a hot pan, each cooking in mere seconds. We even decided to try our hand at tossing the crepes in the air to flip them over. I was expecting disaster but it worked! We giggled in sheer delight over them actually landing in the pan. I was so proud of her. And it felt really good to laugh.


adapted slightly from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

makes about 25-30 crepes, 6-7 inches in diameter

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup cold milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • canola oil
  1. Pour water, milk, eggs salt, flour, and melted butter into a blender in that exact order. Blend at top speed for 1 minute. Scrape down inside of blender with a spatula and blend a few seconds more.
  2. Pour batter into a bowl, cover, and chill. The book says to chill for 2 hours. We were impatient and made them after only 45 minutes and they were just fine.
  3. Heat skillet or crepe pan with a 6 1/2 – 7 inch diameter bottom over medium to medium high heat and brush with canola oil.
  4. Fill a 1/4 cup measuring cup two thirds of the way, remove pan from heat and hold handle in one hand while pouring batter into the middle of the pan with the other hand, then swirl it around immediately to coat the pan in a thin layer of the batter. To quote Julia, “This whole operation takes but two to three seconds.”
  5. Place pan back on the heat. When batter sets and underneath is light brown (peek by lifting with a spatula), flip crepe over by tossing or by pulling edge closest to you up and over with your fingers (carefully!). The book says it takes 60-80 seconds for one to reach light brown, but it took ours only 45 seconds. Just keep your eye on it – you’ll know.
  6. Cook on other side for only a few seconds. This second side will not be pretty and will have brown spots, but you’ll make this the side no one sees, so don’t worry.
  7. Stack cooked crepes in a lidded dish, cover, and keep warm in a low oven.
  8. Fill with cinnamon apples (recipe to follow), Nutella, or ham and cheese. Or anything else that strikes your fancy!

cinnamon apple crepes

Cinnamon Apples

my recipe

serves four (filling 8 crepes)

  • five apples of any variety, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. After slicing apples, place in a large bowl and pour lemon juice over apples. Stir.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sliced apples and stir to coat.
  3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl, then pour over apples and stir.
  4. Let apples cook uncovered over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes until apples are softened and a thick syrupy sauce has formed.

cinnamon apples

Homemade Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup cold whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar (or more if you like it sweeter)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Whisk cold cream with a mixer just until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and whisk until incorporated.

Nutella crepes

For Nutella crepes, warm a few tablespoons of Nutella in a small bowl in the microwave for 25-30 seconds to soften, then spread on crepes and top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

ham and cheese crepe

For a ham and cheese crepe, place a cooked crepe back in the pan over medium-low heat, layer with bits of ham and shredded cheese, then cover with a lid and heat until cheese has melted.

my boy
Couldn’t resist including this picture of the hound, giving me the stink eye for not sharing my ham and cheese crepe.

all images via the aesthete and the dilettante

Afternoon Snack

olate Chocolate Chip Muffins

These Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins are great little afternoon nibbles.  Extra chocolately but not too sweet, they are best served warm with a bit of raspberry jam and a glass of cold milk.  Click here for the recipe, but please make these changes: (1) increase the milk to 1 cup (2) increase oil to 2 tablespoons (3) use mini chocolate chips rather than standard size to prevent sinking in batter and reserve some for sprinkling on top  (4) my muffins baked in 18 minutes rather than the suggested 25 minutes, so check for doneness early.

To make gluten free, substitute gluten free all purpose flour for the traditional all purpose flour and whisk 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum into the dry ingredients.

photo via the aesthete and the dilettante

Breaking the Breakfast Rut

I have a confession.  Most mornings my breakfast consists of a peanut butter Think Thin bar and three cups of black coffee.  Awful, right?  Like everyone else, I’m usually rushing to get to a meeting or a workout and have zero time or inclination to get creative.

Last week I ran across a recipe for “overnight oats” that reminded me of the Swiss Muesli at the Park Hyatt in Beaver Creek, Colorado.  When we stay there, I fill up on this nutrient-rich rolled oat/fruit/nut/yogurt dish before skiing and it holds me until lunch (a cheeseburger and cold beer get me through the afternoon, but that’s another post).  So I started messing around in the kitchen and came up with three make-ahead Muesli recipes using some of my favorite ingredient pairings.  You can certainly make it the morning of, but I really like how thick the mixture becomes over time.  A thicker consistency also cuts down on the mess if you’re eating on the run.

Pistachio, Date and Orange Muesli

makes two 1-cup servings

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 3 to 4 dates, pitted and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped pistachios
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped clementine or orange segments
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • tiny pinch salt
  1. Stir all ingredients together and divide between 2 8-ounce canning jars or tupperware containers.  Cover with lid and refrigerate overnight.

Peanut Butter and Honey Muesli

makes two 1-cup servings

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (I’m addicted to Parker’s peanut butter which is in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, but any brand will work.)
  • 3 tablespoons honey (This is a lot of honey, but I wanted it to shine through as a main ingredient.  You can always use less if you prefer.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 banana (optional)
  1. Stir all ingredients together (except for banana) and divide between 2 8-ounce canning jars or tupperware containers.  Cover with lid and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Dice or slice one-half banana and stir in just before serving if desired.

Apple, Cinnamon and Maple Walnut Muesli

makes two 1-cup servings

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage 0%)
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup apple, very small diced
  • 2 generous tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • tiny pinch salt
  1. Stir all ingredients together and divide between 2 8-ounce canning jars or tupperware containers.  Cover with lid and refrigerate overnight.

The great thing about these recipes is they work beautifully with substitutions.  Play around with your favorite ingredients and see what you come up with.  Anything goes!