Spring Thyme Cocktail (in collaboration with Chopin Vodka)


Springtime is upon us, and I’m feeling inspired to mix up a bit of sunshine in my cocktail glass to savor the first warm, sunny days of spring. I’ve chosen to lend a touch of French flavor to the perennial combination of citrus+vodka by adding a splash of elderflower liqueur and a twist of Provence with a sprig of garden-fresh thyme.



Delightfully peppery Chopin rye vodka and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice mingle with the floral notes of St. Germain to form the basis, while lemon and thyme hint at sunny afternoons on the terrace.. The result is a tart and subtly sweet spring refresher balanced with a hint of savory summer herbs, perfect for a cool spring evening or a warm spring day.



Spring Thyme Cocktail

Mix together for one small or double for one full cocktail

1 1/2 oz Chopin rye vodka
1 oz grapefruit juice
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz elderflower liqueur
Twist of lemon
Dash of orange bitters
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, bruised to release fragrance
Splash of soda water

Combine vodka, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, elderflower liquor, orange bitters and sprigs of fresh thyme with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass.

Products featured
Chopin Rye Vodka
Stölzle Glassware – Oneida Foodservice
Viski Admiral Hammered Shaker in Copper
Fee Brothers Orange Bitters 
John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board


Soupe au Pistou (Provençal Vegetable Soup)


Hard to believe last Tuesday was the first day of Spring, with some parts of the country still getting pounded by record snowstorms. While I’m anxious for the arrival of warm spring days, I fully intend to savor the last of the cold weather with the help of few more pots of soup. With the temps hovering around the mid-40s I think spring flavors are in order so today I chose a soup au pistou. A French soup similar to minestrone, this recipe is brightened by the intense green flavors of fresh herbs pistou layered upon spring peas, string beans; and wintry reserves of savory root vegetables and legumes.





Originating in the southern French city of Nice which was until the mid-19th century part of Italy, the French version differs from Italian minestrone in that it is based on a light tomato broth in place of whole tomatoes and the garnish of pistou, which is quite similar to Italian pesto but typically lacks pine nuts and parsley in favor of even more basil.






Soup au Pistou
serves 6
*Note* I like to prep all ingredients first before starting, in this case make the pistou first and chill.

For the soup
2 shallots, peeled and diced
4 carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium or 4 small zucchini, diced
2 cups fresh haricot verts (or you can use frozen), trim ends
2 cloves garlic peeled and minced
1 14oz can of cannellini or navy beans, drained
2 cups water
3 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a 4-6qt French oven or stockpot heat olive oil over medium flame and sauté shallots until soft and translucent. Add diced carrots, zucchini, green beans, garlic, fresh thyme, and salt/pepper, continue cooking until the vegetables begin to soften. Add tomato paste and gently incorporate so as to avoid breaking the green beans. Add cannellini beans, water, vegetable stock, frozen peas and bring to a simmer gently for 5-10 minutes or just until peas are cooked. Serve in a wide, shallow bowl with a spoonful of pistou swirled gently for presentation. If you enjoy it as much as I do, put a bowl of pistou in the middle of the table for late additions and serve with slices of warm baguette and sea salted butter.

For the pistou
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bunch of fresh basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan or other hard cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Place garlic, basil, and parmesan cheese in a food processor and purée. While blending, gradually add the olive oil until combined. Chill until serving.

Products featured
REVOL Ceramic Round Dutch Oven – Green Revolution
REVOL Succession Bowl
REVOL Arborescence Bowl
John Boos Block Walnut Fusion Cutting Board with Contoured Feet

Quick and Easy Chicken Pot Pie with Puff Pastry

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How is it already late January? Usually the quiet weeks that follow the chaotic holiday season seem to drag on and spring seems like a mirage far off on the horizon. Here in Chicago, we are enjoying the violent extremes of midwestern weather with weeks of sub-zero temperatures punctuated by days in the mid-50’s when even a sweater feels unnecessary. We’re starting to feel cabin fever which makes comfort food all the more necessary.

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We’ve already run the circuit of tomato soup, soupe à l’oignon, chicken soup, and even chicken with dumplings, but we still need something more. Something that exceeds the comforting capacity of delicately steamed dumplings, tender chicken, and deeply caramelized onions. We need the buttery richness that only puff pastry can provide.

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Normally, I would start a pot of chicken soup with boneless, skinless breasts; for an extra measure of flavor and to save time I chose a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store as my starting point.  Feel free to roast a whole chicken on your own (see my recipe below!), it takes little effort and you can control the level of seasoning and salt; however, today I appreciate the convenience of starting with a pre-roasted bird.

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My version of a chicken pot pie, for simplicity’s sake, skips the whole pie shell approach (which is difficult to serve!) for an easy-to-make, rich and creamy chicken stew loaded with sweet spring peas and crowned with a rich, flaky pastry crust. Try it out and be sure to let me know what you think!

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Chicken pot pie with puff pastry
6 servings

Puff Pastry
1 pkg of store bought puff pastry (I like Wewalka, see next paragraph)
1 egg, whisked, for egg wash

I use and recommend Wewalka brand puff pastry because it is imported from Austria and it is made without artificial flavors or colors, contains no high fructose corn syrup, no hydrogenated oils, no bleached flours, and is suitable for vegetarians! I am not working with Wewalka, it’s just a personal choice and lucky for me it is easily available in the Chicago area. It reminds me very much of the puff pastry I used to buy in Germany, in fact I think it either comes from the same factory or has a nearly identical recipe. Visit their website at www.wewalka.us to find a retailer near you.

To prepare the puff pastry

Preheat oven to 425’F or follow the directions on the package

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up a bit while you make the stew so that when its time to bake it will be soft and pliable. Once the stew is simmering, unroll the dough leaving the parchment paper in place and cut into 9 equal portions. Bake three at a time on a 9×13 sheet pan, allowing plenty of room for even browning and crispy corners. After 15 minutes, remove from oven and brush with egg wash, add a few twists of black pepper and a sprinkle of sea salt, then bake for another 15 minutes until they are a dark golden color. By the time the pastries are done, the stew will be ready.

Chicken Stew
If you like the challenge of making your own roasted chicken, click here to check out my recipe! https://acookscanvas.com/2012/11/25/roasted-chicken-and-vegetables/
Or, for a quicker weeknight version use a store-bought rotisserie chicken.

1 whole roasted chicken
4 large carrots, diced
4 large stalks celery, diced
2 medium red onions, coarsely chopped
500g baby bella mushrooms, trimmed and quartered
5 medium golden potatoes, diced
1 pouch of frozen peas, defrost prior to adding to the soup
1 handful of fresh parsley and thyme, leaves stripped from stems
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Chop all vegetables and set aside. Heat a large dutch oven over medium heat and add half of the butter. Sauté onions until translucent, add celery, carrots, and potatoes and cook for another 15 minutes stirring frequently. Break down rotisserie chicken, removing the skin and stripping all of the meat. Once vegetables are cooked, add the chicken and chicken stock, then bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.

In a separate small saucepan make your roux; melt the remaining butter over medium-low heat until it begins to sizzle, then sprinkle in flour a little at a time until it forms a thick paste. Continue cooking slowly, stirring constantly until it begins to brown slightly then add the 1/2 cup water a bit at a time, whisking to incorporate. Add the finished roux to the stew one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly to prevent lumps from forming. Add peas, fresh parsley, and thyme, and simmer for an additional 5 minutes to thicken before serving.

Products featured
Revol 4.75qt Yellow Ceramic Cookware REVOLUTION INDUCTION 2
Revol Ceramic EQUINOX Dinner Plate 
Revol SUCCESSION Dinner Plate 
Wüsthof 4″ Extra-Wide Pairing Knife
John Boos Block 20″ x 15″ Walnut Fusion Cutting Board w/ Contoured Feet 

Crispy Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts with Garlic Roots and Panko (In collaboration with The Chef’s Garden)

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The Chef’s Garden in Huron, Ohio is a renowned source of truly world-class produce catering to some of the most well known restaurants across North America. The sprawling 300-acre farm is run by a family of passionate farmers who produce some of the finest fruits, vegetables, and herbs to be found anywhere in the world. Owned and operated by the Jones family, the Chef’s Garden opened in 1981 and has been growing micro greens, edible flowers, and heirloom vegetables ever since.

I’ve been following Farmer Lee Jones’ adventures via social media for several years now, he has appeared at such prestigious events as the Bocuse d’Or, and is a James Beard award winner, so when he contacted me to ask if I would be interested in trying out some of his produce, I jumped at the chance!

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When the box arrived, I was immediately impressed by the intense aromas and freshness of the contents, especially the delicate earthy pungency of the super hard-to-find garlic root. The fact that the Chef’s Garden has supplied culinary royalty such as chefs as Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz, Charlie Trotter, and Julia Child had me feeling inspired and I immediately set to work photographing and sampling the vegetable box they offer for home cooks.

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Each vegetable was individually packed with care, and the box contained a surprising quantity of produce. When I laid eyes on the mixed baby Brussels and garlic root, I knew immediately what I would cook first. I can admit to being an especially late convert to Brussels sprouts, having had them for the first time while living in Germany. My husband Jason grew up eating them boiled or steamed, but I knew I could bring more flavor out of them with a careful pan searing. They have since become a favorite of ours in the colder months, their rich nutty flavor and crunchy texture lends itself to a range of accompaniments from sliced almonds to raisins, cranberries, and balsamic vinegar, but this time I have a different plan for them.

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Garlic roots have an intense garlicky aroma but a lovely, delicate flavor with much more subtlety than raw garlic making it a perfect accompaniment for the complex but mellow green flavors of fresh Brussels sprouts. To amp up the crunch factor I sear them in a hot pan with a little butter and add toasted bread crumbs. To enhance the rich savory earthy flavors I chose grated Parmesan cheese to create this quick, simple and delicious side dish that is the perfect addition to any holiday menu!

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Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Garlic Roots and Panko
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs fresh brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoon olive oil
Small handful of garlic roots (use more or less to your liking)
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste.

To prepare the sprouts, trim the base of each with a small paring knife, being careful not to trim too much or the leaves will fall off. Discard bruised leaves then halve lengthwise.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat; I like to use a copper pan because it heats quickly and responds instantly to temperature changes. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in pan and combine with olive oil until it shimmers, add Panko and stir constantly to toast being careful to avoid burning, then remove to a small bowl. Melt the rest of the butter and olive oil in the pan and sear the sprouts cut side down for 2-3 minutes and check for caramelization before turning. A little charring here is nothing to fear, it adds another dimension to the rich flavor. After tossing sprouts add garlic root and cook for an additional minute or so to release their flavor. Toss with panko and Parmesan and top with freshly ground black pepper just before serving.


Grilled Tomato Bruschetta

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I have a love hate relationship with Autumn. I love the colorful fall leaves, cozy sweaters and hearty stews and soups; but the end of summer also means saying goodbye to my favorite taste of summer, ripe juicy tomatoes.

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My favorite summer tomato recipe is grilled bruschetta; crusty slabs of grilled sourdough rubbed with raw garlic, topped with sweet cherry tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil. Originally served in Italy as an antipasto, basic bruschetta consists of grilled bread rubbed with fresh garlic and topped only with olive oil and salt, but makes an excellent base for experimentation.

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Variations add ingredients ranging from tomatoes, roasted vegetables, whole or mashed beans, to cheeses and cured meats, often becoming a meal in itself. My personal favorite bruschetta includes roasting the tomatoes to intensify their natural character with a bit of flavorful char, and is an excellent way to enjoy sweet, late-harvest tomatoes while they last.

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This recipe is quick and easy, and makes for a light summery dinner, or can be enjoyed as an appetizer and pairs perfectly with 2012 Sonoma The Cutrer. It’s a mild-creamy Chardonnay with notes of roasted nuts, honey, nectarine and honeydew melon. I hope you enjoy it as much as we have.

Makes 8 large toasts

8 1” thick slices of sourdough or ciabatta (I prefer La Brea)
3 tablespoons olive oil (for bread and tomatoes)
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
20 large basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 lb grape or cherry tomatoes, I chose a gourmet medley
1 large clove raw garlic, peeled
Flaked finishing salt (I like Fleur de Sel de Geurande or Maldon for this dish)

Preheat one side of grill to low. Brush each slice of bread on both sides with olive oil, set aside. In a medium bowl toss tomatoes with a tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Make a foil pouch for tomato mixture, sealing edges well to create steam.

Grill bread 4-5 minutes per side, watching closely so it doesn’t burn. Transfer to cool side of grill to keep warm while grilling foil pouch for 10 minutes.

When bread has cooled enough to handle, rub each side with garlic clove and finish with a few twists of cracked pepper. Toss tomatoes with chopped basil to combine, adding a drizzle of olive oil if necessary. Some tomatoes will have burst but most should remain intact, providing explosive little bursts of flavor with each bite. Arrange bread around bowl, topping each piece immediately before serving. Enjoy!

An AirBnb Experience at Rolling Hilltop Way in Williamsburg, Michigan

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While living in Europe, Jason and I traveled around a lot and always opted to rent apartments on Airbnb rather than hotel rooms to better experience a slice of local life. Some of the apartments we’ve stayed in were quite basic when we were on a tight budget, but most often we would choose something really nice knowing we were still spending less than we would have on even a modest hotel room.  In Paris we rented a tiny but cozy flat in the city’s narrowest building; in Rome we had a gorgeous, sunny 15th century apartment with timbered ceilings; in Strasbourg we had a roomy one bedroom with a terrace just outside the city center.

Now that we are back in the states we still use Airbnb to book apartments when we travel, and my friends at Airbnb asked if I would like to write about my most recent stay. Last month we stayed a few days in Traverse City and booked a condo that we’ve rented previously, one that feels so much more like a home than a rental with charming seaside decor and a fully furnished kitchen including coffee, teas, spices and all the little things which are easily forgotten. The terrace overlooks a golf course and it even has a smart tv for those who need their Netflix fix in the evening.
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AirBnb Condo1_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2017_88Our host, Alexis provides a list of recommendations for sightseeing, local restaurants, wineries, and breweries with insights into what might interest us in particular. We spent the day driving up the peninsula to visit a lighthouse; on our way back we stopped at a few wineries and snapped photos along the shoreline. In the evening we dined at The Franklin for local beers and craft cocktails before heading back to the condo for some rest before starting another day of exploring.
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We always have a nice time at Alexis’s place and are already planning another short trip later in the fall. This time we will be picking apples, shooting fall colors, and look forward to a cozy evening enjoying a bottle of red wine in front of the fireplace.

You can book your next stay in Traverse City with Alexis here.

Aerie Restaurant at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Michigan


Situated atop the tallest building in the Traverse City area, Aerie offers a fantastic view of Grand Traverse bay and an elite dining experience to match. The name Aerie refers to an eagle’s nest, and true to its name, the rooftop offers a high perch attracting eagles and hawks who occasionally swoop by in a flash of shadow.

As we are led to our table, its hard not to be distracted by the view as we take our seats. Our server Michael walks us through the menu with an easy charm and formal yet relaxed confidence reflective of his three decades at Aerie. As we marvel at the view he shares some history of the restaurant and the surrounding area and explains that it is the great depths of the bay that moderates the weather on the hottest days of summer and softens the blow of midwestern winters.





As we dine the sun starts to set across the bay, and through the great expanse of glass the room fills with a golden pink glow. Up here at the 45th parallel, once the sun touches the horizon it will disappear completely in 3 minutes 12 seconds, and Aerie is a very special place to watch it set.




Earlier in the day I had the pleasure of sitting down with Executive Chef Steffes and Chef Petrick to talk about their approach to food at Aerie and the fresh, seasonal menu, so I was excited to sit down and enjoy a meal. They had selected an excellent pairing red and white wines to compliment our meal choices; a 2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir from Black Star, and a 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay from Chateau Chantel.




To begin the meal, we are presented with a warm loaf of crusty bread with tender garlic cloves throughout, alongside oil for dipping and soft butter. We sample but try not to fill up, although the savory garlic makes it hard to resist.



Heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomato, burrata, balsamic reduction, basil puree, garlic chips, fried basil
paired with Chateau Chantel 2014 Chardonnay Proprietor’s Reserve

A classic combination of my favorite summer ingredients; large yet delicate slabs of juicy heirloom tomatoes, their rich and meaty flavors enhanced by tangy balsamic reduction, alongside creamy burrata and a sunny basil puree. Crispy garlic chips and fried basil bring a welcome textural contrast. A simple and delightful start to a meal.




Braised short rib
Braised short rib, sautéed cabbage, miso soy grilled carrots, housemade sambal oelek, crispy garlic paired with Black Star 2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir

Meltingly tender braising and a delicately charred caramelized finish bring out the intense beef flavor; a bed of deliciously sautéed cabbage with garlic and spring onions enhance the richness of the short rib. The grilled, miso glazed carrots are wonderfully rich with earthy sweetness, and together with the delightful sambal add an unexpected but wonderful punch of umami.


Salmon panzanella
Seared Faroe island salmon, crispy bread, pickled red onion, cherry tomato, cherry peppers, pickled red jalapeno, fresh celery, balsamic reduction, basil puree paired with Chateau Chantel 2014 Proprietor’s Reserve Chardonnay

Tender salmon with a perfectly crisp texture and finished with lemon zest atop a sweet/savory combination of summer vegetables. A summery dish with cubes of crusty bread, a drizzle of balsamic reduction, basil puree. An excellent choice for a light dinner and flown in fresh several times per week, the salmon paired perfectly with the Chateau Chantel chardonnay.




Fresh mussels, bay scallops, lump crab, prawns and lobster cooked in a saffron tomato broth with pickled chile pepper puree, roasted yellow cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, basil oil, grilled baguette paired with Black Star 2013 Arcturos Pinot Noir

I love a perfectly seasoned cioppino, and this is excellently prepared in a deeply satisfying red saffron tomato broth. Pickled chile puree and roasted cherry tomatoes dressed with basil oil and a crusty slice of grilled bread perfect for sopping up the marvelous broth. A deliciously filling dish made even more delightful with the selected Pinot Noir.



Whether or not you’re staying at the Grand Traverse resort, the incredible views and equally captivating menu executed by Chefs Steffes and Petrick will not disappoint!  Recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence for 2017 and an OpenTable Diner’s Choice award 2017, Aerie is an excellent choice for a dinner reservation.

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