A “Go-To” Birthday Cake by Rita Cevaal

I have two kinds of recipes that I cook from. One is a collection that I go to automatically; it contains recipes that are quick and easy and family recipes that I have been making for decades – my “go-tos.” The other collection has more elaborate recipes that require more time and ingredients, saved for special occasions.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 2.22.42 PMI have a recipe that you will want to add to your “go-to” collection of recipes. It is quick and easy, looks beautiful, and of course it’s delicious! When reading Bon Appetit last spring this Raspberry Ricotta Cake caught my eye not only because it looked so cute but also because the ingredients were items I had at home. It makes a 9” round pan (you can also make it square, but it is prettier in a round).  It is the perfect size when you need to bring a dessert somewhere, it does not need any embellishment, and you can make it throughout the year since it uses frozen raspberries. No mixer required. It’s so easy. It’s delicious. It’s a pretty cake. It has become “the” cake for our birthdays here at Marcel’s. Try it, you will not be disappointed.

Raspberry-Ricotta Cake
  1. nonstick vegetable oil spray
  2. 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  3. 1 cup sugar
  4. 2 t. baking powder
  5. 3/4 t. kosher salt
  6. 3 large eggs
  7. 1 1/2 cups ricotta
  8. 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  9. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  10. 1 cup frozen raspberries or blackberries, divided
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 9”-diameter cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick spray. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk eggs, ricotta, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth; fold into dry ingredients just until blended. Then fold in butter, followed by ¾ cup raspberries, taking care not to crush berries. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter remaining ¼ cup raspberries over top.
  3. Bake cake until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 50–60 minutes. Let cool at least 20 minutes before unmolding.
  1. Do Ahead: Cake can be made 2 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.
  2. You can also make this in 2 6” round cake pans. Reduce baking time to 40-50 minutes.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

A Rediscovered Recipe by Julie Busteed

It’s that rare but valuable experience – where you set off in search of one thing, and find something completely different. Such was the case during a recent recipe search.  I was given a large cardboard box full of cookbooks.  Or so I thought…

The box with filled with items from a dear friend of mine who had passed away last year.  She was a wonderful cook who also had the gift of hospitality. I was blessed to receive her cookbooks. What a treasure!  

LemonBars1Upon looking more closely, I discovered that the box contained not only cookbooks but also three ring binder notebooks where she kept all of her recipes from food magazines like Bon Appetit and Food and Wine.  While leafing through the notebooks I found that she kept a list of every dinner party she had hosted, who was there, and what she served.  Her journal was a gold mine of 25 years worth of dinner parties, with notes about what worked and what did not. Since we were often guests at her home, my name reappeared many times… the earlier entries dating back to before I was married.  I, of course, don’t remember exactly what she served at every meal, but my memories were of delicious evenings feeling loved and cared for. 

I had also been looking for a lemon bar recipe that I used to make, but couldn’t find in my own files. It was such a surprise to find a copy of my recipe in her files!  I hope that you enjoy this rediscovered favorite recipe!

Lemon Bars
  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  3. 1 cup butter
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 2 cups sugar
  3. 1/3 cup lemon juice
  4. 1/4 cup flour
  5. 1/2 t. baking powder
  1. Preheat over to 350 F.
  2. Sift the flour and sugar and cut with butter until it clings together. Press with a fork into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.
  1. Beat eggs, lemon juice and sugar together. Sift flour and baking powder and stir into egg mixture. Pour over baked crust.
  2. Bake for 25 more minutes.
  3. Sift powdered sugar over top when ready to serve.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

#mymarcels by Alicia Sitley

Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to have a guest blog post this week from one of our delightful customers, Alicia Sitley.  Join Alicia and start hash-tagging your favorite finds from Marcel’s with #mymarcels on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We can’t wait to see and share your stories.  Thanks Alicia!

As I go through my daily routines, I realize that each trip to Marcel’s has helped me to collect beautiful “home souvenirs” that quickly become part of our family’s tradition. Like keepsakes from a beautiful journey, everything I buy at Marcel’s now inspires a story.

#mymarcels1Beginning with coffee, the #mymarcels Nespresso machine saved us from severe “espresso depression” by continuing our daily cappuccino and espresso indulgences after a trip to Italy. (We even bought a second Nespresso for our college freshman, which means #mymarcels extends as far south as Champaign-Urbana.)

#mymarcels also includes our cheery cherry Le Creuset French Press; black Epicurean cutting boards so sleek they triggered a friend to confess cutting-board envy; and the gorgeous Chilewich placemats that gracefully catch our spills and withstand my daughter’s aggressive wipe downs.

And please, let us pay special tribute to the Camerons Stovetop Smoker, an “emotional purchase” after a three-minute description of its flair for mouth-watering, smoked yumminess. This smoking won’t kill you because everything it produces is so good you’d die for it first. Cheese, veggies, fish, meat, everything’s better when we smoke it!

When I visit Marcel’s, I admit I look around and long to adopt nearly everything displayed as #mymarcels, but that would just be gluttonous. Time and life’s events will inspire my next purchases, because Marcel’s rewards our journeys. What souvenirs have you taken home from Marcel’s? Look around your kitchen, then tell everyone at #mymarcels. 

Homespun by Anne Farnum

PoundcakeMy mom is a baker and has always been a baker…homemade only.  Scratch-made, homemade, homespun…call it what you would like but a box mix has never graced the shelves of my mother’s pantry or cabinets.
I know that time and memories can play tricks on you but I recall coming home every day from school and there being a fresh baked good waiting for me and my six siblings to enjoy.  The only prerequisite that my mom had was that we had to eat a bowl of cereal or a piece of fruit first.  I am now 47 years old, have four children of my own and my mom continues to bake almost daily.  In fact, my children walked to my parent’s house after school today and a pan of brownies were in the oven.  
When there is a family occasion, my mom is our go-to baker.  Whether it be a holiday, birthday, Big Game party or just a regular family dinner, it is her baked goods that are always the dessert and it’s usually not just one dessert.  There is an “appetizer” dessert and a main dessert.
My children always put in their birthday cake requests to my mom, (their Mimi), prior to the birthday celebration. My son Luke loves Miss Bebe’s Spice Cake, my daughters Lucy and Tess ask for the checkerboard Oreo Ice Cream Cake and my 10 year-old son, Hugh, always puts in his request for Delicious Poundcake. Poundcake isn’t the typical birthday cake a 10 year-old boy would request but without fail, it’s ALWAYS the one — and it is delicious! 
So, thank you Mom, for always baking for me over the years and for continuing the tradition for the next generation’s enjoyment.  

Winter Grilling by Amy Patterson

For ten years my husband relished the ease of our Weber gas grill.  Hooked up to the natural gas line, there were no propane tanks for Gage to switch out.  Desired temperature was achieved by tinkering with the knob.  Location? Tucked just outside the kitchen on our deck.  Easy, no-fuss, convenient.   
I’d been nagging him about the Kamado Joe ever since I’d watched the chefs fire it up for classes out on Marcel’s back “patio.”  I forwarded him the June Cook Create Celebrate outlining what makes KJ not only a great grill, but also a value.  
Alas, we moved to a new home this fall and our reliable friend remained neatly hooked up to its umbilical cord on the deck.  No grill greeted us on our new patio.  I had my chance!  I kept gently nudging him but he was married to the simplicity and predictability of a gas grill.  In late October, our friend Brock came to visit from Alabama and could not stop talking about flavorful feats on his new “Egg.”  I had done the research and knew the KJ could easily compete.
KJ3The next week, Jill and Bob hefted the 250 pound grill out from the pick-up onto our driveway, maneuvered it on the narrow path along the side of my house and carefully guided it around the uneven stones on the back patio.  It was a precarious procedure to witness but at last, it was in place.  
I thought we might be a little cuckoo since winter was lurking but to my surprise, we have never grilled more. Gage wakes up well before the sunlight filters through our bedroom window and is installed at his desk downtown by 6 am.  Sadly, the sun has usually disappeared over the horizon in the winter when he arrives home.  After fumbling around in the dark with a flashlight a few evenings, he placed an order for a headlamp.  Now equipped, the blasts of cold air as he heads out to the patio invigorate him; coaxing the coals into position and fidgeting with the air vents to achieve the perfect combination of heat and smoke are his challenges.  There is an elemental satisfaction to tending a flame and making a meal in the fresh brisk air after being cooped up in an office all day.  
KJ2CroppedWe have experimented with whole chickens, flank steak, pork shoulders and chops, vegetables and Romaine and even successfully tried our hand at a loaf of bread.  So far, our favorite concoction has been a dish we’ve been playing with for years: Chicken Tikka Masala.  The smokiness achieved by placing the thighs on the charcoal grill gives the dish an authentic Tandoori-like dimension that I had not achieved under the broiler or on the gas grill.  We hope that you enjoy our version of this Anglo/Indian favorite!
A note from Jill: Kamado Joe grills will be available in store by early May but we can always place a special order for you at any time of year.
Chicken Tikka Masala
Serves 4
Chicken + Marinade
  1. 1 1/2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  2. 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  3. olive oil
  4. 1 T. minced ginger
  5. 1 t. ground coriander
  6. 2 t. Kosher salt
  7. 1 t. Tandoori seasoning*
  8. 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  1. 6 tomatoes (on the vine), quartered
  2. 1-2 serrano peppers (depending on the heat) Remove seeds if desired (again depending on how hot they are)
  3. kosher salt
  4. oil or clarified butter
  5. 1 t. whole cumin seeds
  6. pinch of asafetida (hing)
  7. 3 bay leaves
  8. 1 t. ground coriander
  9. 1 t. smoked paprika (hot or mild)
  10. 1 t. sugar
  11. 1/2 t. ground turmeric
  12. 1/2 t. ground cumin
  13. swirl of heavy cream
  14. 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  15. 1/2 t. Garam Masala
  16. red onion, sliced into very thin rings, soaked in ice cold water and drained
Chicken + Marinade
  1. Combine Greek yogurt, ginger, coriander, salt, Tandoori seasoning and red pepper flakes. Add oil to desired consistency (I typically use a few Tablespoons). Add chicken thighs, toss to coat and marinate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Heat grill to 450. Remove chicken from marinade and grill until cooked through. (A charcoal grill gives a nice smokey flavor) Cut into 1” pieces. Cover and set aside.
  1. Blend tomatoes, serranos and big pinch of salt in a blender until puréed. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil or clarified butter in a large sauté pan. Add the whole cumin seeds and asafetida and cook until fragrant. Add bay leaves, tomato purée, coriander, smoked paprika, sugar, turmeric and cumin. Let simmer over moderate heat until water from tomatoes cooks down. Swirl in heavy cream to taste. Simmer for a few minutes. Remove bay leaves. Add chicken pieces and any accumulated juices. If needed, thin sauce with a touch of chicken broth. Add cilantro and garam masala. Stir, gently heat through. Taste for seasoning.
  3. Serve over Jasmine or Basmati rice. Garnish with cilantro and red onion.
  1. *I use Penzey's Tandoori Seasoning
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Trends, Backstories and the Potato by Deb Forkins

The Chicago Trib just ran an article on Food and Drink Trends for 2016. According to the senior food editor Brett Thorn at National Restaurant News, “the overarching trend is people want to feel more connected with the food. They want to know the back story.” Well, FOM (Friends of Marcel’s) have been ahead of that trend for quite some time! Our chefs blend their culinary-inspired passions with backstories and love of place to bring you unique and inspiring class recipes and experiences. Our blog posts are full of food associations and recipes from our aunt’s cookbooks or our trip to Paris. Visit one of our free Tuesday Demos and learn why that particular recipe is so special to your demonstrator/hostess. It’s difficult for all FOMs to strip a dish from the context and the company with which it was consumed.

debblog3Personally, I uncovered the backstory of the lowly potato this August while traveling to Cusco, Peru and the Incan Trail. I always associated the potato with Ireland, but actually the first potato crops can be traced back to the ancient Incan culture of Peru thousands of years ago. In 1536 the Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru discovering the flavors of the potato (along with the gold) and carried the tubers back to Europe. Within 4 decades from that time, most of Europe, including Ireland, was farming potatoes.

debblog2Much like our Native North Americans, the Incans revere all living things – particularly Pachymama, Mother Earth, and all things that she provides. Peru has over 3,500 kinds of potatoes, all with names that evoke an intimate connection, “best black woman,” “best red woman,” “makes the daughter-in-law cry,” “like an old bone” to name a few. One or more kind of potatoes are served at every meal. The Incans have always been farmers extraordinaire. A mountainous terrain does not lend itself to a farming culture, but the ancient Incans were architectural wizards and tamed the landscape with now famous terraces. The Andean countryside is punctuated with amazing terraces that date back thousands of years, still pristine but unused as they have been deemed historic landmarks. Today, the typical Incan farmer rents a small plot of land and feeds his family from his land, selling any surplus stock he might have. Through serendipitous events, Marc and I visited one such farm family while in Peru, high in the Andes several hours from Cusco. We were immediately embraced by Marcello (south American cousin of Marcel’s???) and his family. We spent the afternoon learning their culture, conversing through an “unprofessional” interpreter who was also our driver. We walked their small property which included the garden of potato tubers, quinoa plants, corn and assorted vegetables, the llamas they raised for wool, the plants they collected knowing which color each plant leaf or root would impart to the wool, and the large wooden loom which is central to every Incan home turning the wool into magnificent blankets and clothing. We were their guests for lunch, and sat in their one room mud block home, as the women prepared many varieties of potatoes (all amazingly delicious) over an open fire. Marcello displayed samples of his produce on a blanket spread on the ground. Marcello’s daughters showed us how to make yarn from the harvested wool, and we dyed the yarn gold. The tall peaks of the Andes surrounded us, the sun was high and the air was crisp and fresh. It was an absolutely magical day, one we will never forget, along with a newfound love for the potato.

New Year, Old Recipe by Jenny Chang

JennyChangBlog2At the start of every new year, I get the urge to hunker down in the kitchen and get cooking. This time, I was inspired to cook an old Korean favorite, JaJang Myun (noodles with black bean sauce). As a child, this was a signature dish my father would make and we kids would all slurp our noodles with enjoyment.

I know it’s generally not polite to make such noises while you dine. However for most Asians, it’s perfectly acceptable to slurp your noodles. In fact, it’s encouraged. Slurping your noodles is a sign that you enjoy your meal. So as I sit in my kitchen, sitting around the island, slurping my JaJang Myun, I smile as I watch my 3 kids slurp their noodles and see the ring of black bean sauce cover the corners of their mouths. It’s heaven seeing them enjoy the same dish I relished so often as a child.

So I leave you with this thought… what dish will you make that allows the people in your life the joy of making sounds as they eat the dish you so lovingly prepared for them? Take these little sounds as a sign that they thoroughly enjoy your meal!

JaJang Sauce
  1. ½-3/4 lb. boneless pork chop or pork belly, diced
  2. 1 large zucchini, diced
  3. 1 yellow onion, diced
  4. 3 potatoes, peeled and diced
  5. ½ cup black bean paste (available at most Asian grocery stores)
  6. 3 T. safflower, vegetable or canola oil
  7. 1 ½ T. corn starch, mixed with ¼ cup cold water
  8. julienne cucumber slices for garnish
  9. Korean style thick wheat noodles* (1lb), cook according to package directions
  1. Add 2 tablespoons oil to a large sauté pan and sauté pork until golden and crispy.
  2. Add potatoes, onions and zucchini. Cook for another 3 minutes, until onions are almost translucent. Make a well in the center of the pan and add the remaining oil. Add the black bean paste to the center of the pan where the well was made and cook the paste for a few minutes.
  3. After a few minutes, mix the paste in with the rest of the vegetables to ensure a nice coat. Add 2-3 cups of water, just enough to cover all of the vegetables and pork. Bring to a slow boil and reduce to a simmer.
  4. Add corn starch mixture and slowly stir, allowing the sauce to thicken. Simmer on low for another 5 minutes.
  5. Portion noodles into individual pasta dishes and cover with sauce. Garnish with cucumber slices. Enjoy!
  1. *Linguine pasta can be used in place of Korean noodles, however it does taste best with Korean noodles. Alternately, you can serve on top of rice.
Adapted from Maangchii Real Korean Cooking Cookbook
Adapted from Maangchii Real Korean Cooking Cookbook
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

As Easy as Pie by Teri Hiben

We’re in that time of year we call “The Holidays.”  Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Day….  Celebrations abound!  We gather with family and friends from near and far.  We have parties and dinners, catch up on the latest news in each other’s lives and reminisce about the years past.  As our families and friend groupings multiply and change, these gatherings help to deepen the love and admiration we have for one another.  At the centerpiece of these gatherings is the food: food from our past, new dishes to share.

For me, many of my family food traditions involve baking.  My mom has already been busy baking the family pfeffernusse (peppernuts) to send to each of us in the next weeks. (I can’t wait!)  Here at home there are cinnamon roll coffeecakes to mix, rise, bake and share with neighbors, as well as gingerbread and snowball cookies (and many others) to make.  There will be sweet potato crescent rolls, stollen and biscotti to create – all filling the house with enticing aromas.  But, first on the list of holiday baking are the Thanksgiving pies.  

TeriPieBlog2My love of baking was passed down from my mom, Della, who was the baker for her family of 7 on her family’s Kansas farm starting at age eight!  She’s an expert baker of many breads and cookies, but it’s her pies that have brought her fame.  She’s affectionately known as “The Pie Lady” and her pies are fervently sought out at work and asked for by friends and family.  I’ve been the willing recipient of much of her baking wisdom so have grown up baking pies of all sorts.  This Thanksgiving I’ll be baking up a few cherry pies for the pie social at church and for our dinner, I’ll be serving both apple and pumpkin pies.   Every bite eaten while spending time with people I love.

I’d like to share with you mom’s pie crust recipe.  It’s an easy, forgiving crust that bakes up flaky and tasty and is truly NO FAIL.

Happy Baking!

Della's No Fail Pie Crust
  1. 2 ¼ c. flour (can use up to half whole wheat flour)
  2. 1 t. salt
  3. 2/3 cup oil
  4. ¼ cup water
  1. Mix together flour, salt and oil with a fork. Then add water and mix. Divide into 2 disks. Roll out between 2 pieces of wax paper that you “stick” to the counter with a slightly damp dishtowel.
  2. After adding the top crust to pie, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar, if you wish.
  1. Yields a 2 crust pie.
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

B.F.D.* (*Breakfast for Dinner) by Kelly Montgomery

As a young mom, many years ago, I would often on occasion prepare Breakfast for Dinner, which, loosely translated, means “what we’ll be eating when it’s 6pm and I have no idea what I’m going to put on the table (again) and I didn’t quite make it to the grocery store (again) and I’m still in my pajamas (again).” Breakfast for Dinner was a go-to for a reason. It was a rare occasion when I couldn’t cobble together a satisfying meal from what could be found in the refrigerator and pantry. In those days, a breakfast in the evening was the result of an epic meal planning fail.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 6.32.55 AMAs time went by, “breakfast dinner” became something else entirely–my kids’ most requested meal; one I began to plan for and intentionally include in some weekly menus.  When this shift occurred, my B.F.D. game stepped up considerably. With a little foresight and a decent grocery list, I was able to dabble in more sophisticated breakfast offerings, some of which were more involved than many of my non-breakfast standbys, most of which received an enthusiastic thumbs down from my children.  They didn’t want fancy frittatas. They had no interest in blintzes or benedicts. They didn’t see the point in trying to fix what in their opinion wasn’t broken. What they craved was good old-fashioned breakfast fare. And one of their favorites was waffles. Our favorite waffle recipe is from the book that came with the waffle maker I bought 20-some years ago. We’ve tried others, but haven’t found one that we like better. 

Sour Cream Waffles
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 1 cup sour cream
  3. ¼ cup butter or margarine - melted
  4. 1 cup buttermilk
  5. 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  6. 1 t. baking powder
  7. ½ t. salt
  8. ¾ t. baking soda
  1. Combine eggs, sour cream, butter (cooled) and buttermilk. Beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Slowly add dry ingredients to liquid mixture; stir until well blended. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Bake according to directions provided with your waffle maker.
Adapted from Vitantonio Waffle manual
Adapted from Vitantonio Waffle manual
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/

Batter Up! by Judy Fitzgerald

batter /ˈbætə/

  1. a mixture of flour, eggs, and milk, used to make cakes, pancakes, etc, and to coat certain foods before frying

Not to be confused with…

Batter up!

  1. (baseball) (Used by an umpire to invite the next batter to the batter’s box, especially at the beginning of a half-inning.)

The noun “batter” takes me back to my childhood days with my mother, Sally, teaching me and my two younger sisters, Diane and Susie, how to make batter for cakes, cookies and breads. Not to be mistaken with the baseball umpire terminology used by my dad Geno and brother Steve! To this day, I recall pulling out my Mom’s recipe box packed with all of her handwritten recipes. We had recipe books, but I thought the best ones, collected and saved for many years, came right out of the recipe box. I would go straight to the “Desserts and Baked Goods” divider in the box, thumbing through each and every individual recipe to decide which sweet treat would be chosen for the week. My two sisters would often join me in this ritual which generally began in the fall and continued through the cold winter months inside of our Madison, WI family home.

Our kitchen was usually stocked with just the right ingredients for most of these recipes.  We often baked a cake, bread, or pies but thousands of homemade cookies came out of our oven on Sunday afternoons in anticipation of packing lunches for the week ahead. We always included something sweet for our home packed lunches.  With four kids in our household, that meant A LOT of hand packed lunches everyday, every week, year after year. My dad and brother loved participating in “quality control.”

PumpkinBreadJudyOne of my favorite things to bake for lunches or to give away were what we referred to in our household as “quick breads.” Some of these homemade favorites included Pumpkin, Banana, Zucchini and Rhubarb. We made several mini size loaves, which included frosting or a sprinkling of a sugar, butter and cinnamon topping.  After just the right amount of time in the oven (always tested doneness of our baking with a toothpick), we allowed them to cool and then wrapped each one individually in foil and finished with a bow to give away as gifts for any holiday, birthday or whatever else we deemed was a reason to give a homemade sweet treat.

So as we head into the Fall 2015 baking season, I flashback to the fall baking of my childhood days and have included a time-tested favorite recipe for Pumpkin Bread.  It is shown here as originally written on my duplicate recipe card. My duplicate copy didn’t have step by step instructions.  You see, after all those years, we had the steps memorized!

Batter Up! and Enjoy

Pumpkin Bread
Pumpkin Bread
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 3 cups sugar
  3. 1 cup oil
  4. ¾ cup water
  5. 3 ½ cups flour
  6. 1 ½ t. salt
  7. 2 t. baking soda
  8. ½ t. baking powder
  9. 3 t. cinnamon
  10. 1 t. ground cloves
  11. 1 t. nutmeg
  12. 1 - 16 oz can pumpkin
  1. 2 T. melted butter
  2. 3 – 4 t. brewed coffee
  3. 1 cup powdered sugar
  4. 1 t. vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Mix all bread ingredients and pour into 3-4 small loaf pans.
  3. Bake for one hour.
  4. Mix together frosting ingredients and frost cake while still warm!
Marcel's Culinary Experience https://www.marcelsculinaryexperience.com/