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Sous Vide Lamb & Allspice Dram

January 10, 2014

Last week, I tried a little lamb rack marinated, cooked sous vide for an hour, and seared.


This is the final product pictured with roasted local root veggies, sweet corn from summer, and local dried black beans as succotash.  For this sous vide, I marinated the lamb with whole mustard, rosemary, and garlic in an air-sealed bag for a few hours, then dropped the bag in a crock pot on low setting, about 125 degrees water bath & fitted with a steamer insert so the meat didn’t touch the hotter bottom of the pot.  It slow cooked for one hour, then I finished by searing the rack on either side in a cast iron skillet.

Things I would do differently next time:  Because the water is 125 degrees, the product does not exceed 125 degrees while cooking, so some of the fatty bits close to the eye made for tough and stringy eats, I think I will try French-trimming the rack a bit closer to the eye to eliminate some of that.  I used a hot cast iron skillet to sear and get that tasty outer crust, which was good, but I didn’t like the whole mustard with the searing and will probably eliminate mustard altogether and maybe include it in a sauce instead.  The cast iron did not work as well with the curve of the meat, so I will try using my kitchen torch next time to get a more even sear.

Cooking sous vide reduces the water and fat loss when you cook meat, so the final product is very moist and tasty.  It also captures all of the liquid the meat does release, which you can use for sauces or gravy.  I didn’t take advantage of that this time, again largely because of the whole mustard, another reason to leave that out next time and maybe make a red wine reduction with the lamb juices containing just the tasty garlic and herbs.  The temperature controlled water did a lot to control the texture.  It’s a tastier lamb dish then I have had many times in the past.  I’m excited to try in again.

Also in the works, a homemade Allspice Dram. 003 The last few days, we have seen weather in the double digits below zero.  Great time for hot coffee, tea, and cocoa!  Also, a nice time to play with hot toddies.  I cracked some whole Penzey’s allspice in the coffee grinder and am infusing some spiced rum with it.  Today is day #3.  Soon I plan to add cinnamon stick and cardamom.  I will  report back on the progress.  My hope is to have a dram ready when the next big cold snap comes and try my hand at hot buttered rum.  Update with photo: Here is the swirl of spices and rum.  I have added one crushed white cardamom pod, a couple cloves, a cinnamon stick, and two points of a star anise.  Five days until next steps..

Stay  warm and watch your steps out there..


“White. A blank page of canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.”

January 1, 2014

It is an arbitrary choice, using a New Year as the beginning, the blank page of canvas.  It’s really just a continuation of the last chilly day.  But, here we all are, setting goals and starting again.   I am using this new blank canvas as an exuse to re-purpose this blog.  It has been a place where I go in and edit specials menus and seldom ever do more than that.  In the new year, I plan to use this space to talk about what I’m learning and create a captain’s log of this year’s cooking.

I simmered some frozen aronia berries from late last summer in simple syrup until they plumped, pureed them, and strained out the skins and seeds to make a lovely purple syrup for french toast.  It was tasty, but could have used more acidity to offset the sweetness.  I didn’t even think of the half lemon I have in the cooler, which would have benefited the end result.  Will add it to the leftovers and see.  This afternoon we are cracking one of the last jars of heirloom tomato salsa from the garden for some chips, and tonight I am cooking a small rack of lamb sous vide then quick searing it and eating it with black bean & sweet potato succotash.  It’s my first time cooking lamb sous vide.  I marinated it with whole mustard, holly honey, french thyme, rosemary, and garlic overnight.  Dropping the airtight bag in a crock pot of water on the low setting for one hour, taking it out to let it rest a bit, then searing it.

No photos of today’s activities yet, but here are a few from the end of 2013 holiday meals:

005 007 010 011 023 024 029Welcome 2014!

“Toothpick-able Appetizers”

November 27, 2013

A few festive suggestions for when you want to keep your fingers clean and don’t want to juggle flatware.  Priced per 12 people served:

Savory with Meat:

Meatball Grissini ~ edible thin breadstick as toothpick $25
Bacon Wrapped Spiced Pineapple $25
Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Prosciutto $30
Maple Mustard Glazed Apple-Chicken Sausage Bites with Pretzel Toothpick $30
Savory Veg/Cheese:
Mini Tarts (not on a toothpick, but not messy) zucchini mushroom or gruyere leek $18
Spinach Chard Cheese Bites $18
Herb Roasted Blue Potato Bites with either sour cream or Bloody Mary dip $18
Herb & Cheese Gougere (pastry puffs) with local cheese $18
Roasted Pepper & Mini Fresh Mozzarella Bites $24

Chocolate dipped fruit variety on picks $30
Tray of assorted mini gourmet sweets (cookies/bars/baklava) in paper cups $20

Current Season’s Menu

May 31, 2013

Appetizer or Lunch

Sandwich choice of croissant sections, rustic french bread, whole wheat wraps, or gluten free wraps:

Turkey with Walnut Apricot Sauce

Hummus with zucchini relish, seasonal greens, & dried tomatoes

BETA Bacon, Egg, Tomato, Avocado with Garlic Dijon Mayo


Pates, Savory Pastry, & Spreads

Cannelini Bean & Rosemary with Roasted Pepper Caper Topping

Roasted Olive Artichoke Spread with Gluten Free Crackers


Tunisian Carrot Dip with Olives & Toasted Walnut


Wisconsin Cheeseball with Gluten Free Crackers (4 local cheeses & cream cheese blended and rolled with toasted nuts & herbs)

cheese ball

Rosemary Mushroom & Spinach Pizzettes

 Zucchini Mushroom or Leek Gruyere Tarts (from frozen & dried harvest)


Roasted Beet Canape on Kale with Chevre & Pecan or Hickory Nuts


Roasted Heirloom Potatoes served with Creamy Onion Dip or Bloody Mary Ketchup

roasted new potatoes

roasted new potatoes


Feta Cheese & Seasonal Greens Millet Cakes with Aioli (greens are currently arugula, ramps, & spinach but will vary with the season)


Mushroom Marsala Turkey Tenderloin Cutlets

Roasted Mushroom & Spinach Risotto

Stewed Organic Chicken with Dried Figs


Roasted Root Stew with Choice of Mushroom, Chicken, Pork, or Beef Stew Served in a Half Acorn or Festival Squash (as available)


Burritos: Choices of Bourbon Pulled Pork with Peach Pico de Gallo, Vegan Roasted Sweet Potato with Black Beans, Brown Rice, & Fresh Avocado, or Beer Braised Pulled Chicken with thinly sliced Cabbage, Brown Rice, Avocado, & Roasted Tomato.  All are served with hot sauce or salsa sides



Broccoli Lentil Salad in light mustard dressing with Toasted Almonds

Ginger Sesame Dressed Cabbage & Winter Greens Salad

Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts


Green Bay Booyah with Organic Chicken & Veggies


Sweet Corn & Peach Bisque (made with frozen preserved harvest from this season)


Roasted Pepper Tomato Soup

Quinoa Roasted Sweet Corn Salad (in Winter, with roasted Winter Squash in place of Tomato)

Roasted Marinated Roots (seasonal varieties)



Cherry Cheese Bread (or Coffeecake)


Grain-free Almond


Toasted Walnut Spinach


Whole Wheat Sesame Breadsticks

Local Honey Wheat Rolls (partly Lonesome Stonemill Wheat)


Fresh English Muffins


Greens & Millet Egg Bake ~ a gluten-free egg casserole made with whole cooked millet, local spinach, arugula, & goat milk, and topped with sharp goat cheddar, savory tasty!

Carrot Ricotta Quiche

Almond Poppyseed Coffeecake Bundt

Blueberry Bacon Coffeecake

Gluten-free Blueberry Crumb Cake

Vegan Tiramisu Coffeecake


Raspberry Framboise Brownies

Key Lime Bars

Salted Caramel Pumpkin Pie


Gluten-free, Grain-free 7-layer Bars


Meyer Lemon Vegan Bundt Cake

Grain Free Carrot Layer Cake or Almond Layer Cake

Gluten-free Fruit Tarts with Seasonal Fruit (Mandarins in Winter)


Mini Cheesecake Bites


Dark Chocolate Bottom Vanilla Bean Cream Pie


Chocolate Dipped Seasonal Fruit


Many new menu items can be made to suit special diets, just ask.  Many appetizers work well as entrees and visa versa, so be sure to mix and match as you like!

Thanks for looking!

Grain-free Bread Recipe – Ready to go!

November 5, 2012


Exciting test kitchen day!  I still offer the Gluten-free Cranberry Nut Artisan Bread, but now I have a great, entirely grain-free bread that’s perfect for sandwiches and suitable for diabetic dietary needs.  This one turned out moist and delicious!  It’s 8g. Protein per bun and only 10 carbs vs. the 41 carbs of a normal wheat sub.  Next time you need some buns for wheat-free or diabetic friends and family to eat at your function, I can offer these delicious buns.  Good luck keeping the wheat-eaters away from them!

Pie Palooza!

October 26, 2012

Pie Palooza!

November 4th at the Goodman Community Center in Madison, Nutshell will be donating six of the new Black Bottom Vanilla Bean Cream pies.

What is Pie Palooza?

A delicious Sunday brunch which includes:

Your choice of two slices of scrumptious sweet or savory pies baked by area chefs using local products; plus a farm-fresh salad; and beverages.

Chefs and bakers all over town dream up special sweet and savory pie recipes for this annual celebration of all things pie. The hardest part is deciding which slices to try!

All proceeds from Pie Palooza support REAP Food Group programs, which promote the inclusion of healthy, local, sustainably grown foods in schools, restaurants, food stores and home kitchens.

Tickets at above address.  Seatings from 9:30am – 1:30pm

Graduation Party Special!

April 23, 2012

In May and June of 2012, Nutshell is offering a Graduation Party Special which includes a buffet of one meaty and one veggie choice of sandwich, fresh fruit, veggie platter, spinach cheese bites, Ranch or Egyptian Lemon Tahini dip, and four types of dessert bars.  You receive all this for $12 per person with a 12 person minimum.  $10 to deliver and set-up or pick up at our kitchen on Madison’s East side for free.  Check with for date availability.  Congratulations Graduates!


Winter Hibernation Specials

January 13, 2012

10 person minimum per item ordered

Herb infused pork ribs from Willow Creek Farm served with Winter Squash Fritters, Sauerkraut, and Wheat-free Cranberry Bread $20

Potato Pierogis made with onions and potatoes from Primrose Farm and Hook’s cheddar served with caramelized onions, organic spinach apple salad with red currant vinaigrette, and Winter squash rolls $16

Warm Quinoa and Black Beans with corn and bell peppers from the summer harvest, sundried tomatoes, and scallions, served with salsa and avocado topping,  chai stewed pears and artisan wheat bread. $14

Three Cake Choices for $30 each, serves 14+
Vanilla Bean Bundt Cake
Peanut Butter Bundt with Chocolate Ganache
Wheat-free Almond Orange Cake with Orange Glaze

Cookie Platter with your choice of frosted cut-outs, vegan walnut jam-prints, wheat-free pistachio cookies, espresso chocolate cookies, or chocolate chip shortbread $15/dozen

Dinner Party Ideas

January 4, 2010

Although I have done dinner buffets for 100 and appetizer & sweets parties for over 200 people, one popular use of my catering services, has been dinner parties for 8-12 people held in the home.  They have varied from drop-offs that just need heating to ready-to-eat drop offs, and even dinners that I have stayed to present.  It is easy to enjoy a dinner party when you don’t need to hop up and down preparing each course.  Here are a few ideas for dinner parties.

First, in planning, keep the table too-small.  A table that you need to huddle around is much more intimate.  People’s social bubbles colide and it is difficult to stay out of the conversation.  In the winter, it’s warm and cozy too.  If you are planning the seating, put the two most social talkers in the group together in the center of the table to keep the whole group engaged in the conversation.  Matched dishes are not always necessary.  I knew one person who didn’t have all the dishes she needed, and bought colorful mismatched dishes for 25cents a piece at the thrift store.  It made a bright and interesting table, and when she was done, she donated them back!  Also, some dry cleaners will do cloth napkins and tablecloths for free.  Check it out with yours!

I usually offer custom menus including one salad or soup (soup or warm salads in Winter!), one entree with appropriate sides, bread, and a small dessert.  Here are a few items I have cooked this Fall and Winter:

Salad & Soup: Warm Fennel Potato Salad, Winter Squash Soup with Crumbled Goat Cheese, Rosemary White Bean Soup, Roasted Tomato Soup from Preserved Summer Tomatoes, Couscous Salad with Seitan & Sundried Tomatoes,  Couscous Salad with Dried Cherries & Almonds, Pineapple Rice Salad with Cashews, Black Bean Quinoa Salad, Vinaigrette Veggie Slaw

Entrees and Sides: Double Roasted Chickens with Roasted Veggies & Potatoes Dauphinois, Spinach Pie with Snug Haven’s Hoophouse Spinach served with Caramelized Carrots and Saffron Rice, Spinach-Portobello Enchiladas with Spanish Rice & Favas, Individual Sundried Tomato Turkey Loaves with Cranberry Sauce and Mashed Parsnip Potatoes, Grits & Gouda Souffles with Farmer John’s Cheese served with White Beans and Greens Stew, Beef Stew Stuffed Mini-pumpkins with Cranberry Wild Rice

Desserts: Lime Curd Tarts, Chocolate-dipped Banana Shortbread, Vegan Linzercookies (Hazelnut cookie with Raspberry filling), Chocolate Coconut-milk Creme Brulee topped with Caramelized Banana, Pear-Walnut Wontons with Yahara Bay Apple Brandy soaked Pears, Wheat-free Pecan Shortbread, Fresh Fruit Kabobs with Creamy Dip, German Chocolate Cupcakes (vegan or dairy), Snow-queen Coconut Cupcakes, Brioche Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce, Mini White Chocolate Cheesecake.

Prices vary based on the complexity and cost of your menu, but typically range from $12-$18 per person.  From January through March of this year, when you book a dinner party for 8-12 people, Nutshell Catering will be donating 5% of it’s profits to MACSAC’s Partner Shares program.

“The Partner Shares Program is a unique initiative aimed at improving nutrition by increasing access to fresh, local vegetables and supporting local farmers in southern Wisconsin. Partner Shares provides financial assistance for fresh, sustainably grown produce from local CSA farms.”

Partner Shares

A farm-to-table revolution?

July 31, 2009

A farm-to-table revolution?

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