Archive for June 2009

Greek-Style Nachos

June 30th, 2009 — 11:16am

june-016Unlike the origins of some popular foods, the birth of nachos can be traced back to an exact creator and moment in time. The snack was originally created in 1943 by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya, a maitre d’ at a restaurant called Victory Club (in Piedras Negras, Mexico, just over the border from Eagle Pass, Texas). The first rendering consisted of fried tortilla chips covered with melted cheese (Wisconsin cheese, mind you) and jalapeno peppers. It was a simple dish that Anaya threw together when the wives of several US soldiers stationed at Fort Duncan came to the restaurant after it had closed for the day. He called it Nacho’s Especiales. The rest is history.

Since then, the dish has been endlessly recreated and re-imagined. Some versions are brilliant. Others, a disgusting mess of stale chips and soupy orange cheese (it’s always sad when a good thing goes so wrong). I love nachos to no end—I want ’em after I’ve finished a 70-mile bike ride, I want ’em after a few too many beers—there’s just never a bad time for nachos. I’m on an endless quest for the best.

And so, last week, I was particularly intrigued by Mark Bittman’s (creator of the New York Times’ cooking column, “The Minimalist“, and his daily blog, Bitten) recipe for Greek-Style Nachos. The dish consists of baked pita chips and ground lamb smothered in a feta yogurt sauce, sprinkled with chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. It’s a recipe that seems to marry two of my favorite dishes—nachos and gyros. Clearly, a match made in heaven. june-0051june-006june-009

Over the weekend, I set to work to bring these Greek-Style Nachos to life. I found ground lamb at Whole Foods and fresh mint and veggies at the farmers’ market. I chopped pita pockets into 1-inch triangles, brushed them with olive oil, and baked for just over ten minutes. Meanwhile, I threw all of the ingredients for the feta yogurt sauce into my blender, and mixed until smooth. Next, I browned the onions and lamb meat, with a bit of cumin. Then I lovingly assembled my nachos and devoured. You can watch a video here of Mark Bittman creating the dish. It’s nacho time. Enjoy.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Rhubarb Bread

June 29th, 2009 — 8:34am

Over the weekend, I acquired a massive amount of rhubarb. Pretty much an entire paper grocery bag full. My grandma gave me the stash, which she acquired from my Uncle Chris, who apparently grows massive quantities in his yard (does anyone else think this description faintly resembles a drug trade?). Anyhow, I was very thankful, since I love fresh rhubarb. But still, I wondered, what am I going to do with this much rhubarb?

And so, last night, I set to work with my favorite recipe for Rhubarb Bread. It’s a recipe my mom found a few years ago at the popular site, I would describe the bread as intensely moist and sweet. The recipe makes two loaves, so plenty to share with friends. I ended up chopping the rest of the rhubarb to store in the freezer for future treats. The season for fresh rhubarb might be coming to an end, but now I have it stockpiled (thanks Grandma and Uncle Chris!).

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Lightly grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together milk, lemon juice and vanilla; let stand for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, oil and egg. Combine the flour, salt and baking soda, stir into sugar mixture alternately with the milk mixture just until combined. Fold in rhubarb and nuts. Pour batter into prepared loaf pans.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, cinnamon and butter. Sprinkle this mixture over the unbaked loaves.

Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a loaf comes out clean.

2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

Indoor Herb Garden

June 29th, 2009 — 6:03am

june-011Some of you may remember the beautiful square-foot garden my parents helped me build last year. While I’m still adjusting to life without an outdoor plot, I’ve found other ways to feed my inner herb addiction within the confides of apartment dwelling. Pictured, left, is my indoor herb garden (from left: basil, chives, and thyme). While last week’s heat and humidity (not to mention my lack of attention to watering) nearly killed off all of my plant life, luckily these hearty herbs weathered the storm. Eventually, I hope to add oregano, mint, and parsley to the mix.

I love the convenience of an herb garden that is literally at my fingertips while I’m cooking. It’s so easy to snip a few leaves and add them to my latest culinary creation for added umph and flavor. I also love the look of the herbs and simple terra cotta pots in my sunny window box. They inspire life, freshness, energy, and simplicity.

So even if you don’t have access to an outdoor plot, don’t despair! All you really need is a sunny windowsill to set that green thumb to work.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

White Chocolate, Strawberry & Oatmeal Cookies

June 25th, 2009 — 12:39pm

fathers-day-0042Following is the recipe for the cookies I entered in yesterday’s iron chef challenge. I found the recipe, which was adapted from Cooking Light, on a cooking blog entitled “Culinography.” The cookies were good (I’m always a sucker for white chocolate), but I think they would have been a little tastier had I stuck with the recipe. Instead of the white-wheat flour, I used straight-up whole wheat—which seemed to produce cookies that were heavy and dense, as opposed to light and fluffy.

1/2 cup white-wheat flour (King Arthur)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup regular oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup coarsely chopped dried strawberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
Cooking spray

3439400836_6c91098f5fPreheat oven to 350F.

Combine flours, oats, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer; beat at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended. Add strawberries and chips; beat at low speed just until blended.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray (or lined with parchment or a silpat). Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven; cool on pan 1 minute. Remove cookies from pan; cool completely on wire racks. Yields about two dozen cookies.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Concert & Strawberry Rhapsody

June 25th, 2009 — 7:45am


Last night’s concert was a phenomenal success on all accounts. It was a great summer night—albeit hot, at least the rain held off. I arrived back at the capitol square shortly after 5pm to claim our spot, set-up, relax, and do a bit of reading before my friends arrived. I had hoped to crack open a bottle of beer (my new favorite: New Glarus’ Stone Soup), but quickly realized I did not have a bottle opener. Damn. Feeling slightly dejected, I laid back and continued to peruse this week’s New Yorker sans cold, delicious beverage. Suddenly, my friend Kim appeared holding a bottle opener and a bottle of wine. I rubbed my eyes, not quite believing my good fortune. Bottle opener=much relief. Kim and I sat back and relaxed with glasses of wine until the others arrived.

We had a nice little group…Kim, Emily, Emily’s friend Cara, Lauren, Brodie, and me. Everyone contributed an item to this week’s iron chef challenge, and truly embraced the strawberry theme (which definitely made me smile inside). In fact, we even had a mystery anonymous entry.










Ok, so now let’s talk food. Wow. Strawberries. Great theme. Amazing entries.

My personal favorite was Kim’s spinach strawberry salad with poppy seed dressing. Another favorite was Lauren and Brodie’s strawberry salsa. Other great entries included Emily’s chocolate covered strawberries, Cara’s strawberry banana filling with whipped cream, my white chocolate, strawberry and oatmeal cookies. Oh, and then there was that anonymous entry—Strawberried Peanut Butter M&M’s. Those were interesting.



Next week. Same time, same place. Theme ingredient: Salmon.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Concert Spot Secured

June 24th, 2009 — 12:26pm


It’s 3 p.m. in Madison. Have you reserved your spot on the square?

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Concerts on the Square

June 24th, 2009 — 8:32am

2612663123_f71a44000bYeah! Tonight is the first of this season’s concerts on the square. This is a day for which I’ve been waiting many, many months. The concert starts at 7pm. This week’s theme is “Rachmaninov Rhapsody,” featuring guest artist Christina  Naughton on piano.

The annual series of summer concerts (on six consecutive Wednesdays) put on by the Madison Symphony Orchestra is one of my favorite Madison traditions. Gathering with friends on the capitol square to eat, drink, talk, and enjoy the great music and outdoors, is my idea of the perfect summer evening. The series is hugely popular, with people and blankets dotting every square inch of the capitol lawn. It’s quite an experience. untitled

As some of you may remember, during last year’s series a few friends and I implemented a weekly iron chef challenge in which we picked a theme ingredient and each brought a dish that incorporated that particular ingredient. This year, we’re back again. Tonight’s theme ingredient is (drum roll, please) strawberries. There should be a decent-sized group of us tonight. I’m excited to kick off this year’s series…

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Granola Bars

June 23rd, 2009 — 11:00am

fathers-day-015No, this is not another granola recipe. In fact, we’re taking things to the next level this week. As in granola bars. Yep, that’s right. Last night, for the first time, I attempted to make homemade granola bars. Quaker Chewy, eat your heart out.

Given my obsession with creating endless varieties of granola, I’m actually surprised I hadn’t attempted granola bars sooner. I found a recipe (which was inspired by New York Times’ blogger Mark Bittman) at kissmyspatula, and was instantly smitten. According to kissmyspatula, there are 46 ingredients (from nine different countries) in a Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Bar…”nearly twice as many ingredients found in my shampoo”…”not to mention a shelf-life that could easily outlast our entire civilization.” And if that doesn’t inspire you to try homemade granola bars, I’m not sure what will…fathers-day-010

Over the weekend, I made a standard double-batch of homemade granola (probably the most time consuming part of the recipe…although you could substitute with store-bought granola). Unlike it’s processed and genetically modified cousin, this homemade granola bar recipe calls for only four simple ingredients—honey, homemade peanut butter, neutral oil (like grapeseed or corn), and homemade granola. I picked up freshly ground peanut butter and corn oil from Whole Foods last night, and then set to work on my bars. The process was as quick and easy as boiling, stirring, pressing into an 8×8 pan, and refrigerating. No baking required.

This morning, I cut the hardened mixture into standard-size granola bars. I wrapped a few in foil to distribute to work friends, and then packed the rest in a lidded plastic container. It’s a perfect mid-day snack. I think they’d also make a super cute hostess gift.

I enjoyed a bar earlier today, and it was delicious and flavorful. I would recommend storing the bars in the refrigerator, especially during the humid summer months. I noticed that the bars seemed to stick together a little better straight out of the fridge. Enjoy!

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Abby and Mark’s Wedding

June 23rd, 2009 — 10:17am


Kristin and Claudia before the wedding ceremony


Kristin and Claudia with Abby, the beautiful bride


Celebrating Wisco-style with the UW Marching Band


On the dance floor with Abby’s younger brother

I had a great time at Abby and Mark’s wedding this past Saturday. Abby is a friend of mine from college—we were freshman orientation (SOAR) guides together  during the summer after my sophomore year. From there, our friendship continued to grow as we both ventured off to graduate school to study higher education, and eventually onto similar career paths. Over the past few years, I’ve also become close friends with Mark, who is extremely kind, smart, and optimistic. He compliments Abby is so many ways.

The ceremony took place in Sun Prairie (a close suburb of Madison), and the reception in neighboring Waunakee. I traveled to the wedding with my new friends Claudia and her fiance, Eric. I met Claudia at Abby’s bachelorette party. We hit it off immediately and have become fast friends. Both Claudia and Eric recently graduated from UW law school with Mark, and have accepted jobs in Madison.

The wedding ceremony and reception were both lovely. It was wonderful to see Abby and Mark so radiant and happy, and to be part of their special day. The biggest surprise of the night was when, a few songs into the post-dinner dancing, approximately 20 members of the UW marching band stampeded into the reception hall. Apparently Abby’s mom had organized the surprise for Mark and Abby. The band played several of Wisconsin’s most popular fight songs, and everyone at the reception had a blast.

It was a great day…I wish Abby and Mark all the best.

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Father’s Day

June 22nd, 2009 — 7:59am

fathers-day-007I celebrated father’s day in Milwaukee yesterday with the best guy in the world…my one and only dad! It was a very full summer day spent enjoying the outdoors, eating great food, and catching up with my parents.

I arrived in Brookfield late on Sunday morning. From there, we drove downtown to the lakefront to enjoy lunch at the recently opened Northpoint Snack Shop, a burger and custard joint on the south end of Bradford Beach operated by the Bartolotta Restaurant Group. After filling our bellies with greasy goodness, we hopped on our bikes and rode north along the lake towards Summerfest grounds and the Lakeshore State Park.northpointcustard_story1

My dad was brave to even agree to a bike ride. He recently underwent knee surgery to remove cartilage from a pesky running injury. Luckily he’s finally on the way to recovery (just a couple more weeks till he’ll be out running again!), but getting around is still a bit challenging and sometimes painful, so we took it slow. It was a nice change to ride at a leisurely pace and take in the scenic lake and city views, and just take a day off from my bike computer, whose digital numbers always seem to scream “you’re not riding fast enough.”

After working up an appetite on our bikes, we headed to Kopp’s (er…heaven), my ultimate favorite destination for frozen custard. The flavors of the day were “Nuts for Daddy” and “Pretzels & Beer.” Delicious.fathers-day-009

From there, we headed back to my parents’  house, where my mom and dad proudly walked me through this year’s square foot garden configuration, and their new crop of raspberry bushes. I certainly look forward to reaping the benefits of the summer’s harvest! Afterwards, we sat and chatted about life, recent news, and my brother’s upcoming visit!

Finally, we enjoyed dinner at Mama Mia’s (notice a theme here: food). Great pizza. Best. Garlic Bread. Ever. All in all it was a wonderful day; certainly one of the best father’s days I can remember. I hope my dad had a nice day, too, and always knows how much he is appreciated and loved.

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