Welcome to the Speckled Hen Inn

Archive for the ‘Info for Foodies’ Category

Grape Harvest in Wisconsin

September 5th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Warm days and cool nights signal the beginning of the Grape Harvest in Wisconsin.

Grape Harvest Time in Wisconsin

Grapes at The Speckled Hen Inn

The grapes, hanging heavily on the vine, have soaked up the rays of the sun throughout the summer turning plump and juicy meaning it’s time to begin harvesting them.  What an ideal time to visit the local wineries, like Wollersheim Winery just down the road from the Speckled Hen Inn, located in Sauk City. They’ve begun their collecting the fruit and will commence creating some of our favorite blends including their best seller, Prairie Fume. Among some of their other awards and praises, in 2012, Wollersheim won the “Winery of the Year” award at San Diego’s International Wine Competition.

 

Another winery nearby is the Fisher King Winery in Mount Horeb. Like Wollersheim Winery, the Fisher King has also developed grape varieties able to withstand the unsympathetic Wisconsin winters to design distinctive wines. The Fisher King has taken great care to make your visit a thorough and fulfilled one. Like many local breweries, you can view the wine production area while sampling the wines in the tasting room and on Friday nights there is free live music and sampling of gourmet foods. The staff here at Fisher King ensures that you have no desire to seek out another scene.

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to create your own wines; crafting something unique and delicious? Well, wait no more. Even if you don’t have your own vineyard to harvest, you can pick fresh grapes at Mitchell Farms in Oregon, Wisconsin. They have taken great care to provide a wide variety of 13 grapes including reds, whites, pinks and purples. Even if you aren’t confident to endure the task of winemaking on your own, they also have classes during the month of September.

 

Among the many other fruits coming into harvest at the Speckled Hen Inn, we are also harvesting grapes. We are very fortunate to have a variety of grapes as well and have been serving fruits of the vine in our breakfasts. Below is a favorite recipe of our guests for our grape sorbet served regularly as a dessert after breakfast.

 

Grape Sorbet

Grape Sorbet from The Speckled Hen Inn

Grape Sorbet
to finish breakfast

2 cups grape juice

½ cup cranberry juice

½ cup simple syrup

Have all ingredients well chilled.  Combine and process in ice cream freezer (I use a cusinart) for 20 minutes or until slightly firm.  Place in freezer until firm.

Simple syrup:

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.

Chill and use as desired.

 

Best Outdoor Dining in Madison WI

August 21st, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Our guests at The Speckled Hen Inn often ask us to recommend a venue for the Best Outdoor Dining in Madison WI.  It’s a tough call because every year the list of possibilities grows.  Here are just a few of our favorites for the best outdoor dining in Madison WI that are pretty close to the Inn.

doolittles-woodfire-grillSummer vacations consist of lazy days: tanning on the beach, shopping down the boulevard, hiking through the woods or maybe even taking in some biking around town. To finish off the day, there is nothing better than a delicious dinner out. The problem? You have to make the choice about where to go and, considering the overabundance of Madison’s restaurants, that can be an intimidating decision. As a person that loves food, patio dining and well, food, let me shed some light on the subject. Madison offers some of the best dining Wisconsin can offer and many of them have outdoor seating allowing you to continue your Madison experience throughout the evening.

Of all the restaurants that Madison has to offer, the very first patio I would check out is the Ale Asylum.  Whether you are there for dinner or beer tasting, the atmosphere won’t disappoint. Where do you start? Beer. Given that it is one of the many local breweries in the Madison area, it has an assortment of craft brews including a delicious, thick porter, an IPA hopped to perfection and a smooth pale ale. With beer in hand, you can begin to scan the menu. It may not be extensive but they’ve taken great care to give a variety of quality appetizers and entrée’s.

If something more quaint is what you are looking for, Erin’s Snug Irish Pub might be your place.  While dining in one of the most prominent Irish pubs in Madison, you will not be disappointed by their traditional Irish fare. Every day, both new visitors and regular patrons relish in the robust flavors of Shepherds Pie and Erin’s infamous Guinness Stew. One of my favorite features of this restaurant is that, between the atmosphere and staff, everyone is made to feel like they are at home among friends.

Want a little history with your meal? Doolittle’s Woodfire Grill abounds in historic details throughout the restaurant. Located near the East Town Mall, it is a convenient destination but that’s just the beginning. The patio dining area was created with comfort as the primary concern spacing the luxury furniture for optimal relaxation. Much of the food here at Doolittle’s is cared for by quality professionals and cooked to perfection by rotisserie. How are the barbeque ribs? Falling off the bone. How about the prime rib? It melts in your mouth. And the list goes on and on through the remainder of the menu. Yes, this is the perfect place to finish a long day of fun in the sun or shopping until you drop.

It is nice to know that no matter what kind of food and atmosphere you are in the mood for, you can find it within a short drive from the Speckled Hen Inn.

 

Raspberry Chocolate Muffin Recipe from the kitchen of The Speckled Hen Inn

August 4th, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Raspberry Chocolate Muffin Recipe from the kitchen of The Speckled Hen Inn

Raspberries for Raspberry Chocolate Muffins at The Speckled hen Inn

Red Raspberries Ready for Muffins

Raspberry Chocolate Muffins

1 2/3 cup flour

3/4 cup oatmeal

2/3 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup canola oil

2 Tablespoons orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a medium bowl.  In another bowl combine the egg, milk, oil, orange juice and vanilla.  Add the chocolate chips and raspberries to the dry ingredients and toss lightly to combine. (If you are using frozen raspberries,do not thaw them). Add the wet ingredients and stir just until all are moistened.  Spoon into 12 paper lined muffin cups.  Sprinkle tops with coarse sugar if desired.  Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.  Enjoy your Raspberry Chocolate Muffins for breakfast, coffee break or anytime.

A Wisconsin Summer favorite is raspberries straight off the bush and their tiny thorns are usually no challenge for someone on a mission for their unique flavor. Since the crop is now in harvest, it is the perfect time to come enjoy some for yourself.

Because many berries, including raspberries grow wild, many of the locals, including myself, have nostalgic memories of picking raspberries while camping or hiking as children. If seeking the wild berries isn’t in the cards for you, you can still get fresh Raspberries. One option is the famous Dane County Farmers Market on Madison’s Capital Square.  In addition to the selection of fresh berries, you will find a broad assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, houseplants, organic meats and the best bakery the area has to offer. Like most things Madison, this farmers market isn’t just about the food, it’s about the experience. While you are wandering around the square, you will find locally handcrafted jewelry and gifts, professional and amateur musicians, and food carts and cafes. Truly, it’s an event to behold.

Raspberry Chocolate Muffin Recipe from the kitchen of The Speckled hen Inn

Raspberry Chocolate Muffins

It might not equal the magic of childhood, but you can pick your own raspberries at the certified organic Blue Skies Berry Farm. It is a family owned and operated farm that has achieved the goal of producing a quality product with sustainable integrity giving their produce and sales a personal touch. Similar to the farmers market, you can find other pre-picked fruits and vegetables that are in season at the same time. Similar to most small family farms, here at the Speckled Hen Inn we have planted and cultivated several varieties of raspberries for optimal flavor and bounty. We’ve been fortunate enough to have a continual harvest allowing us to include them in our breakfasts and baked goods.  This is one of our favorite recipes evoking fond memories. Hopefully, it will bring a similar sense of comfort to your home and loved ones.

Wisconsin Cheese Curds Scramble

January 23rd, 2014 by Pat Fischbeck

Our Wisconsin Cheese Curds Scramble was inspired by a recipe from the Spring Green General Store in Spring Green Wisconsin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA8 large eggs

½ cup half and half

2 Tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese Curds

4 pieces of sun dried tomato diced

1 Tablespoon fresh dill chopped or 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Baby Spinach leaves

Sautéed Asparagus

Toasted Beer Bread

 

Break or chop the cheese curds into ½ inch pieces and set aside.

In a blender combine the eggs and half and half.  In a ten-inch non-stick skillet melt the butter over medium low heat.  Add the egg mixture, tomato, dill, salt and pepper.  Stir the eggs and scramble them until they just begin to set.  Add the cheese curds and continue stirring.  When the eggs are done remove from the heat.  The goal is to have barely melted cheese curds at the point that the eggs have completed cooking.

To serve make a “nest” of baby spinach leaves in the center of 4 plates.  Arrange the sautéed asparagus over the spinach and the top with the scrambled eggs.  Add triangles of toasted beer bread to the plate and serve.  Serves 4.

Favorite Cranberry Recipe for the Holidays or Any Time

November 1st, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

Our favorite cranberry recipe for the Holidays is Cranberry Cherry Chutney.  We are always looking for a way to put a little twist on the traditional.  This is a nice alternative to regular sweet cranberry sauce.  It goes well with your holiday Turkey or Goose (and the cold turkey sandwiches that follow) and we like it with roasted pork as well.  The recipe showcases those freshly harvested Wisconsin cranberries from the bogs near Wisconsin Rapids, dried cherries from Door County, an apple or two from Lapacek’s Orchards near Poynette and a bit of spice from Penzeys.  It is easy to make and will keep well through the holiday season in your refrigerator.

I developed the recipe for the 2008 Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast Association Cook-Off.  We featured the chutney on a Wisconsin Breakfast Panini.  We layered hearty Italian bread from a local bakery, slices of Wisconsin Havarti cheese, slices of crisp red apple, Applewood smoked bacon, and the Cranberry Cherry Chutney.  A few magic moments in the panini press and a fabulous sandwich is ready to enjoy.  The recipe proved to be a winner.

Favorite Cranberry Recipe from The Speckled Hen Inn Bed and Breakfast

Wisconsin Breakfast Panini with Cranberry Cherry Chutney

CRANBERRY CHERRY CHUTNEY

In a medium saucepan bring 1 cup of water and 1 cup of granulated sugar to a boil.  Remove from the heat and stir in 12 ounces of fresh or frozen Cranberries, 1/2 cup cider vinegar, 1 cup of chopped dried Door County cherries, 1 teaspoon of Penzeys Baking Spice (a blend of cinnamon, cassia, anise seed, allspice, mace, and cardamom), and 1 peeled, cored and diced apple.  Return to the heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes until the apple is tender, the cranberries have popped and the mixture has thickened.  Cool and refrigerate.  The chutney will thicken more as it cools.

Enjoy on the Wisconsin Breakfast Panini, a turkey sandwich or with your Holiday feast

 

Eating Fresh, Eating Local in April

April 10th, 2013 by Pat Fischbeck

Eating fresh, local produce begins to become a real possibility now that the snow has melted away from the garden beds and wooded hillsides of our Madison Wisconsin Bed and Breakfast.  We look forward to serving fresh nibbles from our greenhouse pots and outdoor herb beds sometime in early April.

Already the pea shoots in the greenhouse are ready for snipping to add flavor and fresh color to breakfast plates.  They were so easy to grow.  Just simply pushing a pea seed down into a small container of potting mix rewarded us with quickly growing pea vines.  We may start more this week to keep a supply going until time for the outdoor gardens to supply us with more.

Chives in The Garden at THe Speckled Hen Inn in Madison WI

Chives in April

A few warm days will awaken our chive plants and then guests at our breakfast table can look forward to Wisconsin Cheddar and Chive Biscuits to accompany their farm-fresh scrambled eggs.

The ramps will be popping up in the woods behind the house soon too.  Ramps, also known as spring onions, ramsom, wild leeks or wood leeks, and wild garlic are an early spring vegetable.  They are a perennial wild onion with a garlic-like scent and a pronounced onion flavor.  They have become very popular with many local farm-to-table chefs and you will find dishes featuring ramps on many of their April menus.  We like to serve them fried with potatoes and bacon or sauteed and creamed to tuck into puff pastry shells then filled with scrambled eggs.

Here is a little tidbit for our Chicago guests:  The city of Chicago takes it’s name from the native tribe’s word for the ramps that were found growing in dense clusters near Lake Michigan.  They called the plant “shikaakwa” (chicagou).  The ramp is also considered by many folk medicine practitioners to be a Spring tonic.

We will also be watching our garden beds for the first shoots of asparagus.  What we find in the local markets now is tempting but just can’t begin to compare with eating fresh local asparagus especially when it comes right from our garden to our kitchen.  I’m dreaming of asparagus with poached eggs and lemony hollandaise sauce and bacon wrapped asparagus.

The first fresh local fruit of the season will also appear in April.  Hidden under the quickly melting snow we discovered that our rhubarb plants were all ready to unfurl their crinkly leaves and send up those tart juicy stalks.

The 12 Treats of Christmas – #4 Spritz Butter Cookies

December 9th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

These pretty little cookies are second only to cut-out Christmas cookies in being the cookie that will really dress up a holiday cookie tray.  They are quick to make and only need a few sugar sprinkles or a candied cherry in the center to make them sparkle.

This recipe is a bit less sweet than most spritz cookies and the finely ground almonds make them very tender.  The almond and butter flavors develop as the cookie is stored so they really are one cookie that isn’t at it’s best just out of the oven.  Give them a day or two and they will be heavenly.

I used a cookie press to make mine.  They can also be piped through a bag with a tip.  I think that the press is easier.  Cookie presses are inexpensive but seldom used except at Christmas time.  You might want to borrow one from a family member, friend, or co-worker just to save storage space.  My mom is the only person I know who actually wore one out!

Cookie Press Christmas Cookies

Cooling Spritz Butter Cookies

Spritz Butter Cookies

1/2 cup blanched almonds

3/4 cup sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

 

In a mini food processor chop the almonds to a fine powder.

Soften the butter slightly and place in the large bowl of an electric mixer with the almonds and the sugar.  Cream these three ingredients until fluffy.  Add the egg and extracts and beat until blended.  On low spead, gradually add the flour and salt and mix until incorporated.

Spoon the dough into the cookie press and following the manufacturers directions form the cookies using your favorite Christmas Cookie shape template.  I used trees and rosettes today.  Space the cookies about 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Decorate your unbaked cookies with glace cherries, sugar sprinkles, or dragees.

Bake for about 10 minutes at 375 degrees or until the cookies are a pale golden color.

Remove from the baking sheet, cool, and store for at least a couple of days before enjoying.

The 12 Treats of Christmas – #3 Rosettes

December 8th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

We saw a few flakes of snow this morning and more is predicted tomorrow…finally!  It wouldn’t be Christmas in Wisconsin without snow and it wouldn’t be Christmas at The Speckled Hen Inn without a batch of Rosettes on hand to garnish the morning fruit plates.  We make them to resemble snowflakes but dust them with spiced sugar to pair nicely with winter fruits.  We always have to save a few for our friend, Jay.

Making Rosettes does require some special equipment.  You will need a Rosette Iron.  They come in lots of fun shapes but the snowflakes are my favorites.  You can find them at specialty cookware stores especially in areas that have a Scandinavian heritage population.  You can also buy them online at Fantes.  Rosettes are fried in oil so having a deep fryer with a thermostat to keep the oil at a constant temperature is important.

It does take a bit of time to make a batch of Rosettes.  So, put on some Christmas carols and some comfy shoes and let’s get to work.

Rosettes

Rosette Snowflake Cookies

Rosette Snowflakes

1 cup flour

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

Mix milk, water, sugar, salt, and egg together with a whisk until the sugar has disolved.  Sift in the flour gradually whisking frequently (Yes, it would be nice to have 3 hands).  Let the batter rest for an hour or two in the refrigerator.

Heat at least 2 inches of oil in a fryer or pan to 365 degrees.  Place the rosette iron in the heating oil so that it seasons and gets hot too.  Lift the iron out, shake off the excess oil.  Dip the iron into the batter but only until it covers 3/4 of the iron. (Do not cover entire mold with batter…there won’t be a way to remove it from the mold!)  Hold the iron in the batter for a few seconds, lift it out and shake off any excess batter.

Dip the batter-coated mold into the hot oil.  As soon as the Rosette begins to brown slightly, lift the mold, and let the Rosette drop gently into the hot oil.  If the batter sticks (and it probably will the first time) try using a wooden chopstick to “help” it release.  Turn the rosette over to cook for an extra few seconds.  Using tongs or a spider lift the finished rosette out of the oil and let it drain on paper towels.

While the Rosettes are still warm, sprinkle with a mixture of 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 teaspoon of Penzey’s Baking Spice or just cinnamon.  Let cool completely.  Store in air-tight containers.

The 12 Treats of Christmas – #2 Mexican Wedding Cakes

December 7th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Think about Christmas foods and the first thing that pops into your mind is a Christmas cookie.  Sweet, buttery, nutty, chocolate bites that transport us to our childhood days and fill a kitchen with the smells, sights and sounds of holiday preparation.  The great personal reward for a busy day of shopping, wrapping, or making last minute gifts is a cup of tea and a couple of cookies.  The perfect thank you gift for a holiday hostess is a tray of cookies.

Cookies come from the heart and the hearth.  Some are treasured family recipes, reminders of holidays at Grandma’s house.  Others are from ratty looking clippings from a newspaper or magazine that sits in the recipe file until December every year.  Or they may be a healthy bite filled with the trendiest ingredients to keep you fueled through the holidays.  Whatever your idea is of a perfect cookie and IF you need an excuse to tie on an apron, Christmas time just has to be the time to preheat the oven and create some cookie magic.

Here is my recipe for Mexican Wedding Cakes.  They also go by many other names.  You will recognize them when you see them.  These small powered sugar covered, tender discs are so worth the minimal effort required to produce them.  The recipe calls for toasted pecans but I’m going to experiment with making them with the black walnuts that we collected from our land this year…I’ll let you know how it goes.

Russian Tea Cakes

melt-in-your-mouth Mexican Wedding Cakes

Mexican Wedding Cakes

1/2 cup pecan halves

1 cup powered sugar

pinch of salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups powered sugar for topping

Place the pecans on a cookie sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool completely.

In a food processor with a metal blade, process the sugar with the pecans and salt until the pecans are powder fine.  Cut the butter into a few pieces and add it to the work bowl.  Process until smooth and creamy.  Scrape the sides of the work bowl.  Add the vanilla and pulse in.  add the flour and pulse in until the dough starts to clump together.

Scrape the dough into a clean bowl, cover tightly, and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Measure the dough into 1 -inch balls and roll between the palms of your hands.  Flour your hands lightly of necessary.  Place the balls 1 1/2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees or until the cookies barely begin to brown.  Rotate the cookie sheets if necessary to assure even browning.

 

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 2-3 minutes.  Using a small metal spatula, lift the cookies from the baking sheet and roll them in powered sugar while they are still hot.  Roll them several times to achieve an even powdery coating.  Place the cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.  dust again with powdered sugar and store in a airtight container at room temperature.  They will keep for about a month (but they probably won’t last that long!)

The recipe makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

The 12 Treats of Christmas – #1 Caramel Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls

December 6th, 2012 by Pat Fischbeck

Back in the days when middle school “Family Living” class was a little more like my high school home-ec class, my daughter came home with a recipe that has become a family favorite during the Holiday Season.  I’ve made these special popcorn balls for family Christmas stocking-stuffers, for holiday fund-raising auctions, and for the treat bowl at The Speckled Hen Inn.  I hope that you enjoy them as much as we do.

Popcorn Ball

Our Favorite Popcorn Balls

Caramel Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls

10 cups of popped plain popcorn

12 caramel candies unwrapped

24 regular marshmallows

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup butter

Pop the popcorn and keep warm on a non-stick rimmed cookie sheet in a 250 degree oven.

In a large saucepan melt butter, peanut butter and caramels together over low heat stirring constantly.  When the caramels are almost completely melted add the marshmallows and stir until melted.

Pour the caramel mixture over the popcorn and mix together.  Oil your hands and shape the mixture into 8 round balls.  Be very careful.  The caramel mixture is very hot and will stick to your hands.  I’ve found that wearing food-service gloves sprayed with Pam works very well for this task.  When the popcorn balls are cool, wrap individual balls in plastic wrap tied with holiday ribbon.

Enjoy and check back with us for 11 more Christmas Treats.