ZuZu Cafe may not be best option during trip to Zoo

zuzu's signIn college I made it to the Henry Vilas Zoo a couple times a year and always wanted to try the cute cafe just across the street from the main entrance. During warm months the large amount of outdoor seating seemed to welcome neighbors, but the colorful building was also quaint and welcoming on cold fall afternoons. ZuZu Cafe and Market seems like a slightly misleading name because to me, a market sells food, goods, drinks…I usually associate a cafe and market with artisan cheeses, micro brews, baked goods and locally made products. This is definitely a cafe, but the market (as far as I could see) only sells beer. The dining room is open and bright, and is very child friendly (it has kid tables and chairs, and a play area). I feel like the entire cafe could use a little facelift (the displays could be updated, most of the signs are handwritten and posted with peeling tape, and everything seemed like it could use a new coat of paint or a good cleaning).

zuzu's panini

Jefferson panini

The menu options basically include sandwiches, soups, salads and a small selection of baked goods. They also have what appeared to be a full-service coffee bar. All of the sandwiches have local names like the Wingra, the Randall, the Henry and the Vilas. I got the Jefferson panini with marinated roast beef, italian relish and mozzarella cheese. I didn’t see a bread option listed anywhere so I was pleasantly surprised to have my panini arrive on sliced pita. The pita made for a sturdy but not heavy sandwich ingredient. My panini was obviously fresh because it was very crispy and steaming hot. The marinated beef in the sandwich was tangy and slightly spicy! It was tender, juicy and had a very good flavor. Ironically, I’ve made this type of marinated beef in my crockpot and it is super simple. The sandwiches come with a side of chips, which is fine but I would prefer a choice of a small salad instead of the chips.

zuzu's peanut butter cookies

peanut butter cookie

Off to the side of the main counter there is a display of baked goods. I’m not sure how fresh they are because they were all covered in plastic wrap, but I decided I wanted a peanut butter cookie. The cookie was good but nothing special. It was soft, chewy and had a good peanut butter flavor.

FOODNOTES: One of the things that threw me off about the entire place is that the prices are equivalent to any other Madison cafe but everything about the place seemed a little cheap. The food was fine, nothing special, but it was all served in plastic carnival-food baskets. You know the ones – they are bright red basket-weaved plastic oval bowl things. Even my cookie was served in one, which didn’t work out too well because the cookie kept tipping the basket over. The walls, displays, seating and signs could all use a good cleaning and/or be updated. I was also disappointed in the “market” aspect they advertise on their sign. I didn’t have coffee so I can’t vouch for or against it. 

Souper Tuesday!

Fresh veggies I added to the recipes

While people in 10 states were voting in presidential primaries I tweaked two magazine recipes to make two super healthy and tasty soups! Both recipes were pretty lacking in veggies when I found them so I definitely used them as a starting point. I added carrots and swiss chard to both recipes and broccoli to the chili. I really like ground turkey breast but my grocery store was out of it when I went shopping so I decided to try crumbling tofu into the turkey chili recipe instead.

For the lentil and chickpea stew I cooked the carrots, onion, swiss chard and broccoli for a couple minutes until soft. Then I added the veggie broth, tomatoes and lentils to the mixture. I let it simmer for a bit to combine the ingredients and added a bunch of spices. Then the entire mixture went into my slow cooker for four hours. The one thing I did really different than the recipe is I soaked my lentils in water overnight to cut the cooking time in half…it’s a very simple trick to really save some time on cooking day!

lentil/chickpea stew in the slow cooker!

Towards the end of the four hours I added the chickpeas and some more seasonings to taste! The dish turned out really well and with the addition of the broccoli and swiss chard it will be a great lunch option for the week!

The ingredients for this recipe cost a little more than ten dollars and I will be getting at least six meals out of it! I’m very excited for lunch this week!

For the chili recipe I was very excited to replace the ground turkey with crumbled tofu and it turned out really well! I also added the carrots, swiss chard and broccoli, which really adds to the flavor and heartiness of the recipe! The flavors are so good in this recipe that I’m looking forward to trying it with the turkey instead of the tofu.

tofu and chickpea chili

Original Recipes:

Curried Lentil and Chickpea Stew

Turkey Chili

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus Tip:

broccoli prep

When prepping broccoli the best tool to use is your kitchen shears. It is really easy to slip and cut yourself because of the odd angles you have to cut at when trying to chop up a head of broccoli. I usually buy my broccoli from the bulk bin to get exactly the amount I need and not a full head of broccoli. The smaller chunks are also easier to prep. The kitchen shears give you a lot of control and they make it easier to cut the broccoli into really tiny chunks or bigger pieces.

When prepping broccoli don’t throw away the stalks. The stalks have a really great broccoli flavor and awesome crunch which makes them a perfect addition to any salad. Most grocery stores sell “broccoli slaw,” which is basically shredded pieces of the stalk. So save your broccoli stalks and make your own slaw!

homemade broccoli slaw

You could shred the stalks to make actual slaw but I just chopped it up into pieces and dropped it on to my salad! The stalks stay fresh a lot longer than the florets so save them for when your a little low on fresh veggies. These tips can also be used for cauliflower!

Navy bean soup without the navy beans?

>Most people who know me know that I really love making things in my crock pot. I love the simplicity of throwing a bunch of ingredients in, turning it on, leaving for work or class, and coming back 8 hours later to a fully cooked, mostly homemade meal.

A couple months ago I made split pea and ham soup in my crock pot, which I listed a smoked ham hock as an ingredient. Upon locating the smoked ham hocks in the grocery store I was shocked to find that I could only buy them in a pair instead of just one. So I bought the double pack and froze the second one. Then last week I opened my freezer for an ice cream sandwich and saw the extra ham hock. I decided to look up bean soup recipes that needed a ham hock so I could use it up.

“Navy bean-less” soup with a side of brussel sprouts

I found that there are a ton of ways to make bean soup so instead of buying a bunch of ingredients to make one of the recipes I combined and altered five recipes to match ingredients I already had. All of the recipes were variations on Navy Bean soup but I didn’t have navy beans so here’s my recipe.

“Navy bean-less” soup

2 cups of your favorite type of dried bean (sorted and soaked for at least 5 hours)
4 cups of water
1 smoked ham hock
1.5 cups chopped carrots
2 cups carrots (I used half a bag of frozen corn – thawed before putting in crock pot of course!)
0.5 cup brown lentils
1 large onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp cayene pepper

combine all ingredients in crock pot, cook for at least 8 hours on high
take ham hock out, shred meat and put back in soup

It turned out pretty well and I didn’t have to buy a single thing. If I would have to guess the total cost of all my ingredients bought separately I would say it was around $12 and I ate it lunch and/or dinner for a little over a week.

Bottom line: Bean soup recipes are very versatile in the crock pot. Don’t like carrots? Add beans or peas instead. Don’t like kidney beans or pinto beans? Add chickeas and black beans! I’ve also seen recipes were they use bacon instead of a ham hock which is good for people who don’t want to deal with the skin and fat that go along with using a ham hock.

The best recipes are ones you alter to your preferences and keep updating every time you make it.

Crock Pot #2

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So after my first attempt at using the crock pot (which wasn’t an exact failure…the dish was just really salty) I have made three more meals in my crock pot. The second one was a squash medley stew that had three types of squash, tomatoes, and some other vegetables in it. That turned out pretty good but was essentially a side so I had to make chicken or rice with it every time I wanted to eat the leftovers.

The third thing I made was chicken curry stew. I was a little skeptical about making this because I’m not the biggest fan of curry powder and it had a lot of it in the recipe (2 tbs.). So I decided to only put half in and replace the other half with garlic powder. Other than curry powder and garlic powder, the stew had chicken, chick peas, and tomatoes. When I walked in after classes and work my entire apartment smelled like garlic, which is good because I love garlic! The stew turned out to be really really good (with my garlic substitution of course!), especially after I drained some of the excess liquid off. I think next time, to make it have a little more depth I will add some frozen peas or green beans!

The fourth thing I made was Chicken Chili (see picture)…not the white creamy kind that a lot of people associated with chicken chili but a southwestern type of chili. It had chicken, tomatoes, chicken stock, garlic, onions, pinto and hominy in it. I had no idea what hominy was so I Googled it and found that it is a form of processed corn…interesting. When I went to the grocery store I thought about just getting corn but the hominy was the same price so I decided to give it a try. After putting everything in the crock pot I decided, once again, that it needed more vegetables so I added a bunch of chopped up kale. The dish actually had a lot of flavor and a decent amount of spice after I added a squeeze of srachai! It was really good with some chunks of avocado or sour cream. When I made this again I will definitely replace the hominy with corn (it wasn’t bad just had a weird texture…almost like a bean), I will also replace the pinto beans with black beans, and continue to add something green (whether it be kale, peas, or green beans) and the srachai.

Supper Squash Medley

>I just finished prepping my second crock-pot recipe for tomorrow! This one will only take 6 hours…probably because it is vegetarian but I plan on making a chicken breast to go along with it! The recipe called for green chiles but I am a little afraid of using fresh chiles so I used canned ones…don’t get me wrong, I love heat. Just not the kind that makes your eyes burn just from cutting up the pepper. So I thought the more milder canned kind would be better for now! Here is the recipe.

Combine the following ingredients in your crock-pot, cover, cook on LOW for 6 hours:

-2 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced (I only had one butternut squash so I added two small acorn squash…hope this ends up working out!)
-1 can of undrained tomatoes (I always buy the no salt added type because it keeps the sodium down!)
– 1 can corn, drained
– 2 onions, chopped (I used small yellow, milder onions)
-2 green bell peppers, chopped
-2 teaspoons minced garlic (I put more than that in there because I love garlic!)
– 2 green chiles, chopped
-1 cup chicken broth
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 can tomato paste

after 6 hours…remove 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and combine it with the tomato paste….add back into the crock-pot, stir well, and cook for another 30 minutes!

I am very excited! I hope my substitutions work out!

Crock Pot

>Today, I made my first dinner in a crock pot. I was very excited about the prospect of coming home to dinner hot and ready. I decided to make beef stroganoff and prepped it this morning. While I was prepping it this morning I had quite a few difficulties that probably should have hinted to the fact that the dinner wasn’t going to be good but I ignored them!

I spilled the dry onion soup mix all over my counter and the cork in the wine cracked so I couldn’t get it out. It took me an extra 20 minutes to prep this morning but I was still excited about the meal. At lunch I came home and stirred it and is smelled salty. I decided to add some water to dilute the salt and I went back to class.

When I got home I could smell it in the hallway! But it was a disappointment. It turned out to be a salty, runny beef stew. I am a little annoyed with the crock pot recipe book that came with my crock pot but I will really want try making something it it again. The idea of a crock pot is a great idea but my first recipe was terrible…I am thinking about making a chicken chili next…the recipe is from a different cook book so hopefully it will be better! To make up for the bad stroganoff I had some Starbucks vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream and some sprinkles! That’s the way to end a bad dinner!