Pickle Jar

Photos by Claire Grummon

Photos by Claire Grummon

By Claire Grummon

Snow or shine, the food trucks ubiquitously line Library Mall in perfect uniform rows waiting for hungry students to approach. The options are plentiful, ethnic and inspired. These are food trucks that could be seen in major cosmopolitan cities. The Pickle Jar truck, especially, is a work of art. Its southern charm and quirky trinkets make it stand out amongst the crowd. The truck’s wood is 150 years old and recycled from the owner’s grandfather’s farm, bringing a sense of authenticity and tradition to the food that is unparalleled by any other truck. The rule, “don’t judge the food by its truck,” did not apply in this situation.  

When I walked up to the window, two smiling and enthusiastic faces greeted me. John Pickle (hence the name) and Jennifer StCyr, husband and wife, opened their truck in the spring of 2015 after many years of their neighbors telling them it was time to let Madison experience their barbeque. They have no formal training; they’re just a couple looking to share their passion for modern, southern-style cuisine.IMG_9768-2

John’s whole family is from the South, and many of the recipes featured on their menu are inspired by the delicious, traditional meals his grandmother would make. The menu offers everything from BBQ sandwiches, to collard greens, to various pies that change with the seasons. Since they are his grandmother’s recipes, John and Jennifer take pride in their work and will happily engage in any conversation about their food and how it’s crafted. This is especially true for their meats, which are made in small batches and seasoned with care.

Their brisket sandwich is their claim to fame, and rightfully so. Their brisket is slow cooked, at low temperatures, for 18 hours. The brisket is sliced and seasoned with care, combined with their house-made barbeque sauce and pickles; it’s true southern comfort food. The pickles and sauce balance each other out beautifully and do not overpower the natural flavors of the meat, which are the real stars of the show. There’s no doubt about it: this is real southern food.IMG_9783

John and Jennifer pride themselves off of their small batches and fresh ingredients; many of which come from local farms and co-ops. Because of this, they take the proper measures to make sure that excess ingredients are incorporated with the intention to bring out the flavors of the main ingredient.  Jennifer prides herself on her collard greens side dish. She combines these fresh greens with onions, bacon, vinegar, Tabasco, red pepper flakes and brown sugar. These ingredients bring out the perfect mix of sweet and spicy and accentuate each other nicely. Warm and home-cooked, this is the perfect snack if you’re running to class.

John and Jen do it all, including delicious seasonal pies. Monday’s pies were strawberry rhubarb, sweet potato and apple. I opted for the apple pie and was not disappointed in the slightest. I found myself amazed at the perfectly baked sugary crust and finely glazed cinnamon-sugar apples. Good pie is one thing I had yet to find in Madison, and I knew I found it the second I laid eyes on The Pickle Jar’s. For a reasonable price, you can essentially have a piece of heaven.IMG_9765

The couple had new and adventurous plans for the spring. First, they moved to the Capitol Square in April, which has them excited about the different people who will be exposed to their passion for cooking. They also want to start pickling more and selling their pickles along with three different kinds of sauerkraut and pickled, ginger carrots.

Ultimately, while the food was delectable, comforting and made me nostalgic for summer barbeques, John and Jennifer are truly what make their food so special. They are eager to share their story with everyone, and are hopeful their customers will walk away with a smile on their face. If you’re looking for savory barbeque and a smile, look no further.

New Orleans Take-Out

Photo by Madison Fortman

Photo by Madison Fortman

By Madison Fortman

Good food often comes in the most unexpected places. Restaurants on the side of the road in a random strip mall are usually the ones that end up leaving the greatest impression on both your heart and your stomach. New Orleans Take-Out is no different. Pulling up to the storefront on Monroe Street is pretty anticlimactic. There is no frill, no fancy sign, and had I not been looking for it I probably would have walked right past.

Upon entering the restaurant, there continues to be no pizzazz. You can tell that New Orleans Take-Out is here for one purpose and one purpose only: making amazing food. With counters lining the walls, there is very limited seating. While the possibility to dine-in exists, ordering to go is not uncommon, as the name of the restaurant strongly suggests.

I stepped up to the to the counter to look at a menu, which was rather overwhelming. Dishes of New Orleans specialties range from jambalaya, shrimp creole and blackened catfish to fried cod sandwiches and oysters. As someone who has never been to Louisiana and experienced traditional Louisiana dining, I was torn over what to order. I relied on the expertise of the helpful worker at the counter who advised ordering the Mardi Gras combo. This plate has a little of everything with a sampling of jambalaya, red beans, rice and shrimp creole. My friends who tagged along ordered Deb’s Barbeque Shrimp, which is simply shrimp sautéed in butter, lemon juice and other spices. All dishes can be ordered in either a half size or full and come with a side of cornbread or French bread. I opted for a half order with corn bread. I also had to order a side of potato salad because there was a little “try me” sign next to it on the menu, and I couldn’t resist.

My friends and I were going to dine-in so we took a seat at one of the counters and waited for our meal. It was only a matter of minutes until the food was brought out to us. Again, there was nothing fancy about food presentation, because at New Orleans Take- Out, the food speaks for itself. Taking a fork full of red beans, I was sold. While beans and rice are pretty hard to mess up, they are even harder to make memorable. New Orleans Take-Out did just that, though. The beans slowly cooked and creamy were great. The white rice soaked up the juices from the shrimp creole, which added additional flavor. The creole, which is rather hot, had my nose running but my fork coming back for more. The shrimp was fresh and the vegetables a lovely touch, especially the sweet tomatoes, which juxtaposed the heat of the overall dish.

The jambalaya was able to hold its own among the plate with its tender chunks of chicken. It was seasoned to perfection, leaving it plenty flavorful, but not overpowering. I should admit that the jambalaya dish and rice made for a little too much rice for my liking. However, when it comes down to the dish as a whole, I would not change a thing. It was a great way to taste some of the best things New Orleans Take-Out has to offer.   

The side of potato salad, definitely worth trying, was fresh, creamy and not too heavy. The dish was a great way to cool down my mouth from the hot creole. The cornbread, dense and moist, topped off the meal, leaving me full and content. I should also note, my friends who ordered Deb’s Barbeque Shrimp licked their plates clean. A sign that Deb’s Shrimp is also a force to be reckoned with on the New Orleans Take-Out Menu.

New Orleans Take-Out, while not over the top, does food right. It sticks to the basics of making quality dishes that will leave you satisfied and coming back for more.

Macha Tea Company resurfaces

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

By Meghan Horvath

The deep green, frothy liquid runs towards the rim of the porcelain mug as swirls of milk add more color to the tea, the white pattern contrasting with the deep matcha tones. Following a year long hiatus, Macha Tea Company is back.

After serving Monroe Street for seven years, Ma Cha Teahouse and Art Gallery closed its doors at the end of 2014. With an expiring lease and anticipated construction on Monroe, owners Anthony Verbrick and Rachel Fox decided to close the neighborhood’s beloved tea shop.

Just over a year later, on Feb. 12 Macha reopened under the same owners, this time on the city’s east side.  

“After we closed our Monroe Street location in 2014, we didn’t have plans to reopen at that time,” Fox said. “But a few months later we came across a space we were familiar with that was only a few blocks from where we live. It felt serendipitous, so we had to take the leap.”

Now located at 823 East Johnson Street, Macha Tea Company offers an inviting space to relax and travel the world through tea.

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

“The renovation process was challenging since the building we are in is 100 years old, but with that age comes a lot of character, which was appealing,” Fox said.

Macha held a grand opening event in their new space, which was publicized via social media and drew nearly 800 people to express interest in the event on Facebook.

“I started following them on Instagram when they were doing renovations last summer,” UW student Yusi Liu said, “When they posted they were opening in the new location on Johnson, I knew I had to try it.”

Liu, a sophomore in Art History, is from Beijing, where tea is integral part of her daily routine. When far from home, tea provides a sense of comfort. That familiarity, however, also means high standards for Liu in terms of what makes it quality.

“I’m from China and I cannot accept the lower quality powder of tea bags,” Liu said, “There’s no comparison to real leaf tea and Macha has real leaf tea.”

Macha Tea Company 2 - Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Fox is half Chinese and grew up around tea as well. Jasmine and oolong were originally her main staples, and it wasn’t until college that she gained exposure to the immense variety of teas out there.

“We both feel Madison is a great place for a small business, but particularly for tea because the market isn’t overly saturated yet,” Fox said, “It’s exciting to have the opportunity to offer something new and different to a city we love.”

Both Fox and Verbrick have been drinking tea for quite some time, and with the opening of Macha, they hope to share their passion with locals.

“Ultimately we want to remove the intimidation and pretension from tea drinking, and make it fun and easy for people to learn more and build their own knowledge base,” Fox said, “Some of the stereotypes that exist around tea drive us crazy, and we’re going to do our best to abolish them completely.”

The atmosphere of the new shop is indeed conducive to relaxed imbibing over studying or conversation. Sunlight floods in from Johnson Street as Macha’s floor-length windows illuminate the space. The walls are painted a matcha-esque shade of green and lit lanterns hang from the ceiling through the center of the room.

“I’ve been to almost every coffee shop on State Street and they all kind of have the same feel,” UW student Ibstisam Haq said. “The interior at Macha is much different, very Japanese and minimalistic.”

For Haq, a sophomore in Fashion Design and originally from Pakistan, tea is also central to his lifestyle.

“I’m from a former British colony so yes tea is huge,” Haq said, “and I love tea, I do. I drink it on a regular basis. It’s a cultural thing.”

Elaborate tea sets are available for purchase, as well as a variety of teas hand-selected by Verbrick and Fox. A world map decorates the wall above the assortment of teas, displaying the global fondness for the drink and how deeply ingrained tea is in various world cultures.

“We really dove in to more intensive research and plenty of tea drinking to continue expanding our base knowledge,” Fox said, “Over the years we’ve developed meaningful relationships with people in the industry, which is tremendously important in continuing to learn more.”

Macha offers a varied mix of seating arrangements. A cozy alcove of cushioned chairs is set up in the front of the shop, where guests can experience a more comfortable, intimate space. Then in front of the counter is a communal table ideal for studying sessions and larger groups. The back portion of Macha also houses a tea bar, which reimagines norms in terms of coffee and tea shop seating.

“The focal point of the new space is the tea bar, which is allowing us to interact with customers in an entirely different way,” Fox said, “We want people to be comfortable dropping by for a pot of tea, and while they are enjoying that we might pour them a sample of something else.”

Macha Tea Company 11 - Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Fresh baked goods are also offered. Gluten free sweet potato cake, chocolate zucchini cupcakes, ginger scones and a traditional matcha chiffon cake are all baked in house. Each can be paired with a select tea that compliments the flavors of the dessert, and owners Verbrick and Fox are more than willing to help you choose.

“We’re going to show everyone what you can do with tea, including cooking and making cocktails, to give a few examples,” Fox said, “We are always experimenting with tea blends and trying new things in the kitchen, so the new space is about continuing to challenge ourselves.” 

Though the shop was out of commission for a year, it continues to attract customers new and old. With its appeal to international students and locals alike, Macha doesn’t seem to have lost its charm.

“And now that we’re open, running a business in our own neighborhood feels very comfortable and like we were always meant to be here,” Fox said, “The energy in the East Johnson Street area is wonderful to be a part of.”

Photos by Yusi Liu

Photos by Yusi Liu

Insomnia Cookies

Photos by Molly O'Brien

Photos by Molly O’Brien

By Molly O’Brien

Insomnia Cookies has found a home on countless college campuses from the East Coast to the Midwest. So, it’s no surprise their newest installment recently popped up on State Street. With their sweet treats and late night hours, the new Insomnia is bound to be a hit.

This is the second time Insomnia has made an appearance at UW, the first time closing due to illegal activity in 2009. According to an article from The Badger Herald, Insomnia had a food truck on Library Mall that did not comply with city size restrictions and some employees also reported never being paid.

Luckily, the new Insomnia seems to be on the right track. Walking into the small bakery, the smell of sugar is overwhelming. There isn’t much to it: a counter to place your order and a short bar with four stools looking out onto State. Of course, there doesn’t need to be much, as Insomnia is known for their delivery, which comes hot to your door at late hours of the night.

At the register, there’s one of each of their twelve different cookies on display. The rest appear to be stored in a low-heat oven, with even more baking in the back. Meaning, when they are served, the cookies come out toasty.

Served in a cardboard pizza-like box, the “Deluxe Cookiewich,” two large cookies with ice cream smashed between, came out slightly melted. I ordered mine with a triple chocolate chunk cookie on one side and chocolate peanut butter cup on the other, held together by scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The taste makes up for the lack of visual appeal. Mmm, the taste.

Unlike a traditional ice cream sandwich, this was not to be eaten with your hands. The triple chocolate chunk cookie dripped milk chocolate from my spoon as I dipped it into the vanilla ice cream. The tastes melted into one another.  It was a quick, college-style take on an old favorite. With crisp outer edges and a soft middle, the cookie truly was baked to perfection.DSCF1546

The chocolate peanut butter cup cookie making up the other half of the Cookiewich was also far from disappointment. This cookie, topped with gigantic chunks of Reese’s, was recommended to me by an employee. It had a strong peanut butter taste that would probably dry out a person’s mouth if not warm. This matched perfectly with the chocolate ice cream.

Although it complimented the warm cookies well, the ice cream was not what I, a Wisconsin-dairy-loving girl, would eat by choice. It could best be described as heavy on the ice, light on the cream.

Perhaps the most enticing thing about Insomnia is their late night delivery. Bringing cookies to students, every night of the week until 3 a.m., is a surefire path to success. The cookies, with clever names such as “Major Rager” and “B.M.O.C.,” come in packs ranging from six to 24. These can also be prepared as a cookie cake with frosting and served with ice cream. And I repeat: the cookies still come hot and fresh.

Overall, Insomnia was devilishly tasty. It took until my stomach felt stiff and heart was racing on a sugar rush to put the spoon away. I would definitely eat this again, although I doubt my doctor would recommend.

Graft-ing a masterpiece

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

By Mia Shehadi

I cannot emphasize the word “mixed” enough when it comes to my feelings about Valentine’s Day. My grandpa used to tell me that is was a dumb holiday because you should make your love feel special every day; you don’t need a company to tell you to do that. While I wholeheartedly believe that, I have come to think of it as an excuse to get dressed up and get my significant other off the couch. This holiday, I made a reservation at Graft.

Graft is a special gem located right on Capitol Square. This location is stellar because of one incredible thing: parking. Just a block or so down from the restaurant is the Carroll Street parking ramp. This is key because usually the parking on the Capitol is either non-existent or very limited. This also allows for a nice romantic stroll in the Square’s lights right before and after your meal.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

A friendly hostess greeted us at the front door, asking for our reservation and offering to hang our coats. The restaurant is oriented more for bigger parties, all the tables and booths sit at least four people and could fit larger parties with ease. A stunning retro-inspired bar greets you when you walk in and to the left are the booths. Made to be subtly private in an open space, the semi-circular booths are sectioned by bundled curtains. The seclusion is further elevated by the slightly raised platform they each sit on.  In the middle of the room are four-person wooden tables, all situated on a distressed brick floor. An accent wall of dark wood captures the eye and your gaze lingers over the gorgeous, über-colorful painting right in the middle. A chrome open-air kitchen covers the very back wall of the restaurant filling the air with a subtle comforting warmth.

Our server was outstanding. Her sense of humor combined with her genuine desire to make us feel at home are what made Tracy one of the best parts about Graft. We mentioned this random Wednesday night meal was actually a make-up Valentine’s Day. She began to throw out stellar suggestions for appetizers, her favorite entrées and dessert. We ordered Fried Chévre, scallops, hanger steak and coffee ice cream in a puff pastry drizzled with caramel sauce.

First to the table was the Fried Chévre, three balls of goat cheese lightly fried and laid out over a black pepper and honey gastrique. The black pepper accentuated the honey, giving it a little kick without creating an overpowering flavor as using hot sauce or chili pepper might. This paired nicely with the salty, creamy cheese. Lightly frying the balls adds an array of textures, the slight crunch broke apart what would otherwise be an uncomfortable mouthful.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber

Next came the scallops. One thing that sparked a flame between my boyfriend and I is our mutual adoration of scallops. Three plump scallops sat side-by-side, dressed with braised fennel and parsley and a butternut square puree. My first reaction was excitement over the colors: the vegetables were an incredible dark green and the orange from the puree really stood out on the plate. Scallops are very easy to overcook and pretty difficult to tell if they’re undercooked unless cut in half, so practice is key when preparing this kind of seafood. Our scallops were perfectly cooked so our fork glided through them, and a slight grill at the top and bottom added a little texture to the dish.

The hanger steak was also cooked to perfection. This dish had a much richer flavor overall, from the meat, to the bread pudding, to the Gouda sauce covering the whole dish. The portion size of our dishes so far had been on the smaller side, and I’m glad this one was as well. Even though the steak’s natural flavor was able to cut through the sauce, the creaminess was very prominent. The parsnips were fantastic, adding a little bit of crunch and melding well with the gusto of the dish. The leek bread pudding helped lighten the flavor by adding a fluffy component to soak up and distribute the sauce over more items.

Last came our dessert, a cute, little trio of pastries in a large bowl. A small ball of coffee ice cream was cradled in between two halves of a light, crunchy pastry. A glorious drizzle of caramel was poured lightly over the whole dish adding visual cohesiveness and well as the perfect extra bit of sweetness.

The whole meal was fantastic: the atmosphere was incredibly friendly, yet elegant, and the staff was extremely attentive and fun. I would recommend Graft as more of a larger party restaurant, as in a birthday, meeting or corporate event. Although I went there on a date and had a spectacular time, it might be better suited for a grander celebration.

Photos by Katie Holiber

Photos by Katie Holiber


Photos by Haley Winckler

Photos by Haley Winckler

By Morgan Dorfman

Do you ever feel like escaping your current city for a night? Most of us do, but being a college student doesn’t usually allow for that. If you are in search of the big city life but you are situated in Madison, Wisconsin, reserve a window table at Francesca’s al lago located on Capitol Square.

From the low lighting to the dark woods and white walls, Francesca’s allows you to feel like you are having a night out in a big city, which is due to its big city roots. Francesca’s started as a quaint restaurant in Chicago by Scott Harris in 1992 and since then grew to 22 other locations with the same Chicago charm. Everything about the restaurant feels upscale. The bar is secluded from the dining room and there are big, round light fixtures that hang from the ceiling. The atmosphere is intimate, cozy and sophisticated. Perfect for meeting up with close friends or a loved one.

One of my favorite aspects about this restaurant is that every month they change a majority of the dishes on their menu. They hand write each new dish they add to the single page menu for a personalized touch. They keep certain dishes on their menu from month to month but when you return to dine there another time, the menu may offer completely different dishes to choose from. It keeps things fun and fresh.

Copy of IMG_0910

Photos by Haley Winckler

I dined at Francesca’s in the middle of the week and the amount of people surrounding me in the dining room remained pretty steady while I was there. Much to my surprise, the turn around time from ordering to receiving my dinner was noticeably fast. Prior to your meal, they give you warm Italian bread while you wait.

My first thought when I received my Rigatoni Con Mozzarella was about the colorfulness of the dish. Making a classic rigatoni and cheese dish creative is not easy, but the tomato basil was a sunset, orange-red with speckles of green from the basil with the white mozzarella sprinkled on top. The sauce and the cheese offered a very rich taste along with the noticeable freshness of the rigatoni. It was downright quality food.

My friend ordered the Tortellini Con Pollo. This dish was made up of cheese filled tortellini with grilled chicken, sautéed spinach and pine nuts in a light, basil cream sauce with fresh tomatoes. The freshness of the ingredients again impressed my taste buds, along with the oozy cheese of the tortellini against the crunchy pine nuts. It can be hard to find fresh produce in Wisconsin during the wintertime, so I was very impressed with the quality of the food.

The amount of food you receive is very comparable to the price you are paying. Most items on the menu were a little more expensive, but you received quality food and a good amount of it. Between the bread and the pasta, I really wish I would have saved room to try some of their desserts, like the tiramisu!

One of the main tests that I do when I try out a new restaurant is to check out their bathroom. A chef once told me that you are able to tell how clean a restaurant’s kitchen is by how clean their bathrooms are. And to my delight, Francesca’s bathrooms were spotless.

Francesca’s is a place that I will go back to when I feel the need to have a night out on the town or to have dinner with my family. You can’t go wrong, from the intimate atmosphere to the fresh and filling food.

Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies


Photos by Emily Buck

By Kara Evenson

It’s safe to say most moms have a chocolate chip cookie recipe, but my mom’s is the best. She has yet to reveal the true origins of her recipe, but I have unconfirmed suspicions about the back of a chocolate chip package. Instead she likes to claim that it is a 200-year-old family secret. It’s not.

All throughout my life my mom has been making these cookies; from sporting events, hunting trips and work parties to whenever she just feels in the mood, chocolate chip cookies end up in the oven, and a recycled ice cream pail is ready to be filled with the most delicious cookies ever.

So I could tell all of you some sappy story from my childhood about coming home to the smell of chocolate chip cookies in my kitchen, I have a few. However, most of the time I wanted my mom to bake anything but chocolate chip cookies. We had them around a lot.

Photos by Emily Buck

Photos by Emily Buck

I am just now starting to appreciate exactly what these cookies mean. From elementary field trips and long bus rides for high school sports to moving away from home the first time and my first internship, my mom’s cookies have always made an appearance in everything I do.

That’s why, instead of a recipe that is more unconventional, I wanted to share my mom’s Very Good Chocolate Chip Cookies with all of you.

1 cup butter
½ cup olive oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
a dash of salt
3½ cups flour
2 cups chocolate chips


Photos by Emily Buck

Preheat oven at 350 °F.
Mix butter, olive oil, sugar, brown sugar and eggs in a large bowl until combined.
Add in vanilla, baking soda and salt and mix until fluffy. Add flour, mix until combined.
Fold in chocolate chips.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Sweet Potato Corn Cake Tamales

Photos by Ashley Truttschel

Photos by Ashley Truttschel

By Ashley Truttschel

Spring is the most inspiring time for me. New Year’s may be a fresh start for many, but to me, spring signifies new beginnings and opportunities. More sunshine, vibrant colors and shedding layers of clothes make me feel like a new person. I am always in a happier mood come spring and that happiness is reflected in the food I eat. These Sweet Potato Corn Cake Tamales are perfect for the transition from winter to spring. They are not only colorful and light, but they also offer a little bit of warmth for those days where winter just does not want to go away.

Adapted from Fools, Folks and Fun and Budget Bytes

Sweet Potato Corn Cakes
4 large sweet potatoes
1 cup corn
2 green onions
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Salsa Verde
2 small tomatoes
4 ounces diced green chilies
1 green onion
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Pico De Gallo
1 large Roma tomato
1 tablespoon red onion
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Southwest Sauce
1 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white vinegar
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Prick each sweet potato and wrap in a paper towel. Microwave individually for 6 minutes or until soft in the middle. Once cool, remove skins and place into a large bowl.

Slice green onions and chop cilantro. Add green onions, cilantro, corn, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt and egg into the bowl. Stir until well combined.

Stir in cornmeal and breadcrumbs.

Cover and refrigerate for a half hour.

Add all of the Salsa Verde ingredients into a food processor and pulse until combined. Refrigerate.

Chop all of the ingredients for the Pico de Gallo. Mix with lime juice, salt and pepper.

Mix mayonnaise, white wine, water, sugar, chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper and garlic powder for Southwest Sauce. Refrigerate.

Once the sweet potatoes are chilled, heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Form the sweet potatoes into small patties and cook about two minutes or until golden brown. Place on paper towel to drain.

Spread Salsa Verde evenly on each plate. Place sweet potato and corn cakes on top of the salsa. Top with Pico de Gallo and Southwest sauce. Add optional toppings such as avocado, sour cream or cheese.

Makes 12-18 cakes depending on size.

Sweet Green Tea

Photo by Libby Geboy

Photo by Libby Geboy

By Libby Geboy

A twist on the traditional southern black tea, this cool drink gets its sugary sweet goodness from natural honey. For this recipe, I used 1 tsp of matcha powder whisked into the hot water, but you can use any green tea steeped to your liking.

1 teaspoon green tea
12 ounces boiling water
honey, at least 1 tablespoon (but more to taste)

Whisk the matcha into hot water, or steep the green tea for 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the honey.

Let the tea cool, add ice and go outside into the spring sunshine to enjoy fully.

Strawberry Cupcakes

Photos by Annie McGrail

Photos by Annie McGrail

By Annie McGrail

Winter is over, the snow has melted and the flowers around Madison will soon be blooming. Cravings for the comfort of chocolate are transforming into a desire for lighter flavors and foods resembling the lightness of spring.  Because of this shift, strawberry cupcakes are ideal this time of year.

From Cupcake Wars to endless specialty cupcake shops, cupcakes are the trend of this generation. There’s not much better than strawberry cupcakes topped with a strawberry buttercream frosting. The rich batter mixes with freshly chopped strawberries and bakes into an irresistibly fluffy cupcake.  Swirled on top is the buttercream frosting, which has fresh strawberries stirred in to give it a fresh, spring flavor.

Strawberry Cake adapted from Martha Stewart


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour, (not self-rising)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped strawberries, plus small strawberries for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 °F. Line two standard 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, three to four minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk and beginning and ending with the flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about four minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining egg-white mixture.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling each with a heaping 1/4 cup batter.

Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cupcakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.

Transfer pans to a wire rack. Invert cupcakes onto rack; then reinvert and let cool completely, top sides up. Frost cupcakes with strawberry meringue buttercream, swirling to cover.

Cupcakes may be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Garnish with strawberries just before serving.


Buttercream Frosting adapted from Food Network

Photos by Annie McGrail

Photos by Annie McGrail

6 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 cup butter
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 to 4 tablespoons whipping cream
1 ½ cups finely chopped fresh strawberries

In a standing mixer fitter with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed to medium and beat for another three minutes.

Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for one minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Mix in strawberries.

Homemade Pesto Pizza

Photos by Thomas Yonash

Photos by Thomas Yonash

By Emma Doenier

Ironically, I’ve never enjoyed following recipes. At most, I’ve always thought they should be considered “guidelines,” not steadfast rules. However, I do appreciate recipes, not for their instructions, but for the ideas they inspire; cooking is my form of artistic expression.

Due to my penchant for breaking recipes, I’ve avoided baking for the most part (although my roommate could tell you a few horror stories about some monstrous microwave concoctions I’ve made in our apartment).

When my dad, an avid baker and follower-of-recipes, gave me a baking stone for Christmas, I was both ecstatic and skeptical of my ability to:
1) not break the board
2) not burn down the apartment
3) not accidentally poison my roommate.

However, I think I’ve since learned how to skirt the recipe within reason, at least when baking bread. Now, my dad says my bread looks better than his. This testament to my progress has spurred me to experiment with my baking skills, and so, the baking novice has become the mad baking scientist. My baked goods are edible though, even delicious.

The following recipe calls for both a little recipe following – though by all means, please experiment – and creativity. I encourage everyone to make this recipe his or her own!

Photos by Thomas Yonash

Photos by Thomas Yonash

Pizza crust:
*makes two 13-15 inch pizzas

1 cup warm water (~110°F)
1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoon olive oil
extra flour

Dissolve the yeast in water. Let stand for five to 10 minutes; you should see a little fizzing/ bubbling. Add salt to water/yeast mixture and swirl.

Put flour into a bowl. Make a well in the flour and add half of the yeast mixture.

Work in the yeast mixture with your fingers, then add the olive oil and work in. Add the rest of the yeast mixture and knead vigorously for approximately 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

If you have a food processor, add half of the flour to the processor. Add the yeast mixture and pulse until homogenous. Add olive oil and pulse. Keep adding remaining flour to food processor and pulsing (five to seven minutes), until dough is smooth and elastic.

*Add some chopped rosemary to dough (one to two tablespoons. to taste) and knead in for more flavorful dough; depends on type of toppings you want later though, so choose wisely!

Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly greased bowl. Place a damp cloth over the bowl and cover with a plastic bag. Let the dough rise for 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 500°F with a baking stone inside. If you don’t have a baking stone, an alternative could be a large cookie sheet.

Lightly flour a work surface. Divide dough into two equal halves. Roll each half into a 13 to 15 inch circle (~1/8-inch thick). Liberally flour/cornmeal a pizza peel (or whatever you have on hand to get the pizza easily into the oven – I use a plastic cookie sheet).

Fold the dough in half, then in half again, and transfer onto the floured pizza peel. Unfold.

Now rub a thin layer of olive oil (approximately one tablespoon) over the dough surface and top each shell with you favorite pizza toppings, leaving some space around the edge for the crust! You can also freeze one of the dough halves for a later date.

Photos by Thomas Yonash

Photos by Thomas Yonash

White Cheddar Pesto:
1 1/2 to 2 cup basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil (add more if needed)
1/3 cup walnuts
2 to 3 garlic cloves
½ cup sharp white cheddar and/or parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in food processor and blend. Add more olive oil if needed.


Toppings for pesto pizza:
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
cherry tomatoes, halved
5 to 10 sun-dried tomatoes, cut into small pieces (to taste)
~½-1 teaspoon oregano
1/3 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup mushrooms
meat of choice (I like Italian seasoned turkey meat, or Italian chicken sausage)
salt to taste
1 package goat cheese or feta

Sauté all the ingredients, except the cheese.

Scoop pesto onto pizza shell and spread evenly, leaving about one inch edges for the crust. Spread the sautéed ingredients over the pesto. Dollop goat cheese onto pizza evenly.

Ease decorated pizza off of pizza peel and into the oven. Bake for 10 minutes and then check the pizza. Keep checking it every couple minutes if not done until the pizza has a golden brown crust.


Beginner’s Chocolate Cake

Photo by Libby Geboy

Photo by Libby Geboy

By Delaney Jacobson

Looking to kick-start your baking abilities? For our readers with limited baking experience, kiss boxed cake mix goodbye, because this delectable chocolate cake recipe is for you. Even I can’t mess this one up. What this cake lacks in complexity, it makes up for in taste, guaranteed. Did I mention this cake is also low in fat? Delicious and reduced-guilt? It’s almost too good to be true.

This was my grandmother’s specialty, as well as the first cake she taught me to bake. Its secret ingredient? Vinegar. That’s right. Now, before you refuse to bake this cake, don’t let its unconventional ingredients deter you. During the mixing process, the vinegar reacts with the baking soda to create a moist, dense cake with no trace of a taste of vinegar.

This recipe is very flexible (I opted for some coconut oil in place of the vegetable oil). As far as the topping goes, you can either dust the cake with powdered sugar or cocoa powder, or spread on your favorite frosting. For a Southern twist, top your cake with a fudgy frosting and garnish with chopped pecans.

For a rich, decadent chocolate cake, I have found that Hershey’s “Special Dark” cocoa powder works wonders. However, for those of you who prefer a milk chocolate version, regular unsweetened cocoa powder will do. Simply adjust the cocoa powder in accordance with your chocoholic desires.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup warm water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
¼ cup powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix dry ingredients. Make a well in dry ingredients and add wet ingredients. Mix well. If the batter is not thin enough, add more warm water 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the desired consistency.

Pour into an eight or nine inch square or round pan. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool before frosting or dusting with powdered sugar.