Archive for March 2009

Time to Pack…

March 31st, 2009 — 6:22pm


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Orla Kiely at Target

March 31st, 2009 — 8:29am

orla20kiely20target201_397x300_shklI still can’t believe Orla Kiely launched a line of housewares for Target. Orla Kiely is a British designer known for her big, colorful, bold patterns and trademark leaf pattern. Her ubiquitous collection spans women’s-wear, accessories, wallpaper, stationary, and housewares. From her site:

The world of Orla Kiely is one where color, pattern, graphic control, texture and rhythm continually work and rework together. Orla has a unique, immediately recognisable design language, developed through graphic patterns that celebrate her optimistic spirit. As down-to-earth as her designs are popular, the key to what drives Orla is her fixation on the evolution of a signature style, devotion to quality and practicality.

mainI’ve always coveted a Orla Kiely handbag, but they’re prohibtively expensive—anywhere from $100–$500 (Orla Kiely Stem Shoulder Bag, Above, $175). And as cute as they are, I can’t justify that price for a coated canvas handbag.

So imagine my surprise and delight upon learning that Target recently launched an Orla Kiely for Target collection! The collection includes dinner and servingware, storage boxes, closet organization, table and kitchen linens, aprons, etc. And all the items are very reasonably priced. From Target:

Orla Kiely brings her unique sense of color, pattern and graphics to her limited-edition Target collection. The assortment of wallet-friendly housewares and home décor items seamlessly toes the line between colorfully cheeky and down-to-earth practical, making the assortment timeless and just, well, happy.

Very cool. I love when big-name designers partner with big-box retailers to create budget-friendly collections for the masses. Finally, I can have Orla Kiely, without the Orla Kiely price tag. Fabulous.

And…check out these before and afters!

Comment » | Crafts & Design

Rasberry Crumb Breakfast Bars

March 30th, 2009 — 8:03am

2821165027_d33cd2632dLast weekend I made my 8th recipe from the Baked Cookbook. The recipe is sort of an outlier from those I’ve chosen so far, in that it doesn’t contain chocolate. The bars were fruity and chewy, and different  from any crumb bar I’ve tried before (especially since they weren’t so crumby). The bars were pretty good, definitely best straight from the refrigerator. My mom loved them, but my dad hated them. Me? I think I was somewhere in the middle—I enjoyed a few, but probably wouldn’ t make them again since I have so many other recipes to try.

For the crust and crumb:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces

For the raspberry filling:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound raspberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Make the crust and crumb: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-by-13-inch glass or light-colored metal baking pan. Put a long piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan, letting the parchment extend up the two short sides of the pan and overhang slightly on both ends. (This will make it easy to remove the bars from the pan after they have baked.) Butter the parchment.

Put the flour, brown sugar, oats, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a food processor. Pulse in short bursts until combined. Add the butter and pulse until loose crumbs form.

Reserve 1 1/2 cup of the mixture and set aside. (Note: The book suggests you reserve one cup only. My gut told me that was too little, and I upped it. I wanted to make sure the top of the raspberries were mostly covered, at least for packing purposes, and was glad I had changed it.) Pour the rest of the mixture into the prepared pan and use your hands or the back of a large wooden spoon to push the crust into an even layer at the bottom of the pan. The crust should touch the sides of the pan. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let the crust cool. Keep the oven on while you make the raspberry filling.tapas-043

Make the raspberry filling: In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, lemon zest, cinnamon and flour together. Add the raspberries, lemon juice and butter and use your hands to toss gently until the raspberries are evenly coated.

Assemble and bake the bars: Spread the raspberry filling evenly on top of the cooled crust. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly on top of the filling.

Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pan every 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the filling starts to bubble around the edges.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely, then cut into squares and serve. The bars can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to two days.

1 comment » | Recipes from the Cookbook "Baked: New Frontiers in Baking"

Tapas Party

March 25th, 2009 — 10:16am

full-meal_300Picture yourself in Spain. It’s early evening and you’ve just finished running with the bulls. Well, even if it were just a regular day in Spain, we bet you’d be eating tapas, the country’s beloved collection of small plates and delicious bits that accompany wine and great laughs all night long… (Guide to Tapas, Whole Foods Market)

Inspired by a recent article in Real Simple magazine (March 2009), my parents and I decided to try our hand at making several tapas for this past Saturday’s gourmet meal. I thought the recipes featured in the article, although simple, seemed a little boring, so I did some research of my own and picked the following recipes (actually, we did use the recipe for Sangria featured in the article—the rest I found on my favorite recipe Web sites). My mom and I made all of the dishes by hand, except for the Artichoke Lemon Cheese Tortette, which was an impulse buy at our local specialty grocer. My dad topped the meal off by making a wonderful dessert that tasted even more delicious than it sounds (Molten Chocolate Lava Cake). Clearly, we went a little overboard…

Artichoke Lemon Cheese Tortette
Arugula Salad with Manchego and Walnuts
Portobello Bruschetta with Rosemary Aioli
Garlicky Shrimp
Bacon-Wrapped Manchego-Stuffed Dates
Beef Empanadas
Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
Simple Sangria








Ahhh….but what a great night of eating it was! My favorite was the Portobello Bruchetta with Rosemary Aioli. The flavor was out of this world (although the preparation was immensely time consuming). The most unique dish was definitely the Bacon-Wrapped Manchego-Stuffed Dates. But honestly, each dish was unique and delicious, and I’d make them all again—although probably not at the same time.

1 comment » | Family Fun, Kristin's Kitchen

Derby Prep

March 24th, 2009 — 7:58am

kentucky-derbyIf you’ve been with me for a while, you probably remember how much I love the Kentucky Derby. I attended the derby both last year and in 2005, and it’s high on my list of all-time favorite life experiences to date. There’s just something about Kentucky in the spring, the pageantry of the derby, watching in awe as beautiful horses gallop triumphantly around the track, parading around with friends sporting elaborate hats and sipping ice-cold mint juleps, and screaming your lungs out for a horse you put your money on solely because of its name.

Unfortunately, I won’t be attending this year’s derby. My friends and I are taking a year off with hopes of returning next year. To keep the derby spirit alive in Madison, however, I’m planning to host a small Kentucky Derby dinner party in the days leading up to the Derby (May 2). In preparation, I’ve ordered handmade invitations from Etsy and already hit up Michaels for plastic horses, wooden horse cut-outs, and a fake rose bouquet. My mom, an expert quilter, has also agreed to sew me a “race track” table runner. I’m still finalizing the menu (think: pork chops and sugar snap peas with mint julep glaze, biscuits, pecan pie, bourbon balls, and of course, mint juleps.) il_430xn_53133309

tapas-050It might not be the derby…but it’s as close as I’m gonna get this year! And I’m still excited.

1 comment » | Uncategorized

Carrot Cake Bake-off

March 23rd, 2009 — 1:14pm

So much catching up to do…

Two weekends ago, my dad and I faced off in a carrot cake bake-off. After each touted a superior recipe, we decided it was time to go head-to-head to settle the score. My dad chose his favorite carrot cake recipe—one that was handed down to him from his mother, my grandma K. It’s a simple recipe, with a dusting of powdered sugar on top instead of a more traditional cream cheese frosting. Following is the picture and recipe.home-0022

1-1/2 C vegetable oil
2 C sugar (1 brown and 1 white)
3 C all purpose flour
4 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 C milk
1/2 tsp salt
2 C grated carrots (about 8 large)
1 C nuts (optional – walnuts or pecans)

Mix wet ingredients with dry. Bake ( 350 degrees) in form pan for about one hour or until cake is done.

On the other hand, I chose a recipe for carrot cake from that is yet to fail me. It’s a three-tiered cake covered with a creamy cream cheese frosting that was originally featured in Bon Appetit, October 1994. home-010


Now there are no losers when it comes to carrot cake—but for the record, my cake did prove superior. Sorry, grandma. And how could it not with an advantage like cream cheese frosting? 

It was also great to enjoy a week’s worth of carrot cake leftovers…

Comment » | Family Fun, Kristin's Kitchen, Restaurant Reviews

No-Bake Peanut Butter Pie

March 18th, 2009 — 10:11am

My dad’s contribution to our gourmet meal was a delicious, frozen peanut butter pie. He found the recipe at It’s a very simple no-bake recipe with only two steps—mix and freeze. My dad used low-sugar ingredients, and the result was still very tasty. I was also impressed by the detail work he did with swirled chocolate sauce on top. I might recommend using a pre-made chocolate graham crust for more of a chocolate punch. Because who doesn’t like peanut butter and chocolate together?

We found that the consistency of the pie varied by the time spent in the freezer. After a few hours, the filling was still pretty creamy. After being stored in the freezer overnight, it was rock-solid frozen. I like the consistency somewhere in the middle—frozen, but still edible. Probably 4-5 hours would do the trick, or a little thaw time if the pie has been in the freezer longer than a few hours.

8 oz. package cream cheese
1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup milk
1 (16 oz.) package frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 (9 inch) prepared graham cracker crusts

1. Beat together cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar. Mix in peanut butter and milk. Beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
2. Spoon into two 9-inch graham cracker pie shells; cover, and freeze until firm.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Life of a Commuter

March 17th, 2009 — 10:51am

9picture20021Prior to now, I’ve never experienced a commute to work longer than 15 minutes. I just hopped on a bus or my bike and arrived to work in what seemed like a heartbeat. It’s always been so darn quick and easy (not to mention pleasant—no honking horns, angry commuters, etc.). I always wondered what would compel someone to waste the hours of their life stuck in a car during a long commute to work. It seemed to me that one’s qualify of life would certainly be compromised, and for what?

Fast forward to my present situation in which I’m commuting each day from Brookfield (suburb just outside of Milwaukee) to Madison. About an hour-and-twenty minutes each way. And thus I have a golden opportunity to temporarily experience life from a commuter’s perspective.

It’s not all that bad. At least the traffic flows pretty nicely on I-94, and daylight savings time has made the evening commute much more bearable. I’ve also had the great opportunity to listen to countless NPR episodes (is it sad that Ira Glass is the closest I have to a boyfriend?), and have played every song on my iPod dozens of times. Of course I’ve also become much closer with my car, a hail-battered 1996 Toyota Camry with over 140k miles. I took her to get her oil changed last week and she seems to have a new gallop in her step. Which is nice.

The downsides. By the end of the week (essentially 18 hours of commuting), I’m dragging. My mom said she could see it in my eyes last Friday (…or did I just look like shit?). To get to work when I want to be there, I need to wake up at 5:15 a.m., hit the road by 6 a.m., park, and then take a ten-minute bus ride to work (so as to avoid the outrageous costs of parking on campus). It’s the same routine on the way home. I’ve been trying to leave work earlier than normal so I can get home by 6:30/7 p.m. All of this commuting time leaves for very little “Kristin time,” as I like to call it. My workouts have dropped off dramatically, and the commute (coupled with the fact that my life’s possessions are boxed up in my parents’ basement) has left me feeling frustratingly disheveled (as you’ll see clearly, below).

I must say, however, that I’ve mastered the art of multi-tasking while driving. I can drive, eat my breakfast , drink my coffee, and operate my iPod all at the same time. During the first few drives, I wasn’t so lucky.  On my first, I spilt my coffee all over the car and walked around the office for half the day before realizing I had dried up clumps of oatmeal scattered across my shirt. There’s also days like yesterday and today when I forget important things at home, namely my wallet. Yesterday I realized quickly (as I needed gas), and drove back home immediately, thus effectively adding 20-minutes to my commute. Amazingly, I forgot my wallet again today but didn’t realize until I arrived in Madison, which meant I had no bus pass nor cash. I walked the 30-minutes from my car to the office, and skipped lunch (because I forgot my wallet AND lunch).

Today has not been a good day in my life as a commuter, but I think I’m starting to get a handle on the tricks of the trade. I’m also very thankful this is only temporary.

3 comments » | Uncategorized

Gourmet Shrimp Enchiladas

March 17th, 2009 — 9:58am

home-0161Following is the recipe for Gourmet Shrimp Enchiladas that my mom whipped up for last Saturday’s gourmet family dinner. My mom found the recipe at This entree was outstanding. I loved the interesting twist on enchiladas, and have been dreaming about the flavors in this dish since last weekend.

My mom purchased the shrimp at Empire Fish, which is Wisconsin’s best seafood wholesaler and retail supplier located on Watertown Plank Road in Milwaukee. She also substituted fresh cilantro for the parsley in the sauce, which I would agree was a good substitution, as I love the flavor combination of  tomatoes and cilantro. The original recipe also strongly recommended using Fontina cheese. It’s a little more pricey, but the results are well worth it. Enjoy!

Gourmet Shrimp Enchiladas
8 soft taco-size flour tortillas

4 tbsp. soft cream cheese
¼ cup sour cream
½ lb cooked baby shrimp
½ cup Fontina cheese
¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 tbsp. finely chopped white onions
3 tbsp. finely chopped red peppers
fresh ground pepper, to taste
¼ tsp. chili powder
¼ tbsp. dill weed
1/3 lemon, juice of

1/3 cup half-and-half
3 tbsp. cream cheese
4 medium roma tomatoes, chopped coarsely
¼ cup white onion, chopped coarsely
1 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/3 cup grated Fontina cheesehome-0021home-0031home-018

1. Filling: Combine sour cream and cream cheese. Beat by hand until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and combine well. Set aside.
2. Sauce: Heat half and half with cream cheese until melted and smooth (I use the microwave).
3. In a separate bowl, combined tomatoes, onion, parsley, salt, and pepper.
4. To assemble: Lightly oil a shallow casserole large enough to hold 8 enchiladas in one layer. Pour enough of the cream cheese sauce to just lightly coat the bottom of the pan. On the center of each tortilla, place about 3 tbsp. filling mixture. Roll up and place seam-side down in casserole. Pour remaining cream cheese sauce over the enchiladas. Cover with tomato mixture and sprinkle with Fontina cheese. Bake at 475 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until filling is hot and bubbling. Serves 4

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tarts

March 13th, 2009 — 8:43am


As promised, here is my recipe for Mushroom Goat Cheese Tarts. It’s my favorite appetizer because the goat cheese pairs so wonderfully with the mushroom mixture. The recipe is simple and easy, but the results are impressive and unique. You could bring these little numbers to a party and be an instant hit. Enjoy!

2 tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 spring onion, finely chopped
10 large button mushrooms, sliced
1/4 cup white wine
2 packages of filo cups (2 pkg. of 12)
1/4 cup goat cheese (chevre)
1//4 cup mascarpone
salt and pepper to taste

Saute the garlic in the butter until golden. Add the white parts of the spring onion and continue to saute until soft. Add mushroom slices and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over medium heat until cooked through and beginning to brown. Add wine and reduce just a bit. Remove from heat and toss in the green part of the spring onion, and give it a good stir. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.


Arrange the filo cups on a baking sheet. Add a bit of mushroom saute to each cup. Mix the chevre and mascarpone in a bowl with some salt and pepper. Top each mushroom cup with a little cheese mixture. Bake for 5-10 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot or at room temperature.

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