Holy Manna that was good!

manna bakery

Manna’s bakery case with GF options on top

Manna Cafe on Madison’s north side is one of the best-kept secrets in Madison. It is hidden in the corner of a disheveled strip mall amidst an aging shoe-repair shop, travel agent and butcher shop. If I wasn’t expecting to pull into an old strip mall to find Manna I would have driven past it. But any sense of that strip mall disappears when you walk into Manna and are greeted by a beautiful pastry case, cheery yellow walls and a great menu. When we were there on a week-day morning both of the decent-sized dining rooms were full, and we were lucky to get a table!

manna GF pumpkin date bar

Gluten free pumpkin bar

Even though I wanted to try most of the items in the bakery case I opted for one of the gluten free options since I’m trying to go mostly gluten free now. I got a pumpkin date bar with cream cheese frosting to take home. It was the perfect breakfast the next day. Gluten free desserts tend pretty dry because they have to use weird ingredients to avoid gluten, but this bar was great. It was moist and had a great pumpkin flavor. And the frosting was great! I loved that it wasn’t too sweet (which tends to be problem for regular pumpkin bars).

For breakfast I got the A Walk-in-the Woods scramble with asparagus, mushrooms, cheddar cheese and frizzled onions on top. It was a good size with the perfect ratio of eggs to fillings. The frizzled onions on top added a great flavor and crunch. The scrambles come with some of the best breakfast potatoes I’ve had yet. They were seasoned really well and were amazingly crunchy on the outside, yet perfectly fluffy on the inside. Loved them! The scrambles also come with bread and I was pretty excited that they have homemade gluten free bread as an option! I was very happy with my breakfast. I was a little concerned about the coffee because it is served out of gas-station like serve-yourself carafes but it was hot, steamy, fresh and flavorful! The unlimited cup is definitely your best choice. My friend got the Sticky Bun French Toast and loved it, although it was a little rich with the chocolate maple syrup.

FOODNOTES: I was extremely impressed with the quality and quantity of food I got at Manna Cafe. The scramble was above the standard of most scrambles I’ve had, and the potatoes were memorable enough to bring me back for breakfast again. I loved my take-home gluten-free pumpkin bar, and can’t wait to try other seasonal gluten-free bakery options they will have. I really want to go back to try their oatmeal pancakes, the Okeefe benedict on the weekends looks super good, and a couple of the lunch options look really promising! Their lunch menu is very extensive making it a very good option for groups of people. The prices were comparable to other cafes in Madison. And don’t let the unassuming location fool you, Manna Cafe is great!

Garlic kale mashed potatoes

Garlic kale mashed potatoes and carrots

I don’t care what anyone says…kale does not taste good. It is one of the healthiest vegetables I know about but have yet to find a recipe that makes me want to actually eat it. I have tried cooking it down into soup but always end up picking it out. I have tried kale chips but these lose their novelty pretty fast. I have tried shredding it into pasta sauces and stews but nothing works. I can always taste the heavy flavor of the kale that I can only describe as GREEN. However, whenever I go to the grocery store or a famers’ market I always walk away with a huge beautiful bunch of kale. When I’m picking out the kale I am always excited about how healthy I am being and the exciting food I will make with it. When I get home, however, I remember that I don’t like kale and haven’t had good luck with cooking it.

So when I got home from the grocery store on Sunday and realized I once again bought kale I started thinking about how to use it. When I hadn’t come up with something by the time I decided to start cooking today I just started throwing stuff into a pot. I cooked some potatoes, onions and garlic in oil and red wine. By the time the carrots I wanted to use were cleaned and cut up the potatoes were cooked. I tossed in the carrots and started cleaning the kale. By the time the kale was ready to go in the potatoes were basically like mashed potatoes with cooked carrots in it. I added the kale and created this very awesome side dish. Mashed potatoes are one of my favorite sides and I also really like cooked carrots. So I am very likely to make those two items again. But by combining them with some butter, salt, garlic, and kale I have now found the best way to eat one of the healthiest veggies that I don’t like! Try it!

Pumpkin Pie in Spring

>I had an extra pie crust in my freezer and decided to make a pumpkin pie last night. However, because I can’t seem to perfectly follow a recipe I altered it. Instead of using cinnamon, ginger and cloves I only used cinnamon (partly because I don’t really like ginger and cloves, and partly because I didn’t want to buy the two spices I didn’t already have). Also the recipe called for a deep dish pie plate but I had a regular one so only half of the filling fit into the pie crust. So instead of throwing away the extra I poured it into my ramekins and baked it next to the pie on a cookie sheet.

Making Pumpkin Pie!

The pie and the ramekins turned out really well and were a great addition to a productive Saturday night (I also did a load of laundry and vacuumed my apartment!). 

Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Ramekins before baking.
Pumpkin Pie and Pumpkin Ramekins after baking!

The pumpkin desserts smelled great, were really easy to make and cost less than $5 to make! Such a great deal and great dessert option for the week!

Pumpkin Ramekin with whipped cream!

Holidays and such

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Sorry for the month-long hiatus from blogging! I know it’s not an excuse but access to the internet at my parents’ central Wisconsin home is not exactly stellar! Obviously, I went home for a the holidays but then just decided to take a break from the blogging thing!

But I’m back! So in observance of the commercialized, family-filled holidays I celebrate my first post is going to be about the non-traditional dessert I made a couple weeks after the holidays ended!

Around Thanksgiving I found this recipe for a pumpkin chocolate torte. I had a pumpkin filling (basically like pumpkin pie) and then a homemade chocolate graham cracker crust. However, the recipe called for heavy cream and I didn’t have that. So the next time I went to the grocery store I bought the cream…but I didn’t have time to make the torte until a couple weeks later and the cream had gone bad. The second time I bought the cream it also went bad. Then I decided I was going to make it at home over the holidays, only to actually read the entire recipe and realize that I needed a tart pan (which I didn’t have). So, my mom ordered one off Amazon for me and when I came back to Madison I bought another container of heavy cream (the smallest one by the way was way way way more than I needed so I ended up finding this website [http://www.supercook.com/] where you can type in the ingredient you have and it will give you a recipe that you can make! So, I ended up making cream scones which were really good!).

I mixed the filling which was pretty easy but I was supposed to crush the graham crackers and make the crust in a food processor. My food processor is a mini one that I got for $5 the day after Thanksgiving two years ago at WalMart so I had to improvise. I ended up doing the crust in three mini batches but it seems to have turned out fine. The tart ended up being pretty good, not too sweet and really good with whipped cream!

But the worst thing about it was that after I made it and baked it for an hour, I had to let it chill for 2 hours (minimum!) before I could eat any. What is that about!??! I am all about instant gratification when cooking or baking…

Moral of this post: read the ENTIRE recipe before starting because you may need a tart pan or a full-sized food processor to finish it and may need to prepare yourself to wait 2 hours for something that smells mega good!