Archive for January 2010

Aunt Betty’s Banana Bread

January 31st, 2010 — 12:23pm


There are few things I like more than freshly baked banana bread. I love to cut myself a slice when the bread is piping hot, straight from the oven. But maybe even more, I like a slice of bread a day or two later, once the flavors have had the chance to age and meld. There’s just never really a bad time to enjoy a slice of banana bread.

I’m prepared to make a loaf of banana bread at all times. I always keep a stash of over-ripe bananas in my freezer. It’s all about strategy, really. Essentially, whenever I buy bananas, I let one or two over-ripen (to the point of being completely brown and soft). I then place the bananas in a plastic bag and throw them into the freezer until I’m ready to bake a loaf of bread. That way I’m always armed and ready.

This time I was inspired by a simple recipe for banana bread featured on Design*Sponge earlier this week. The recipe is from Heather Moore, an illustrator and designer from Cape Town, South Africa. The recipe has apparently been in her family for a log time, and originated with her Aunt Betty. I was instantly smitten by the photographs of the bread, and decided that I needed to bake a loaf immediately. The recipe is very simple. I think it produced a great loaf of bread—nice and golden brown on the outside, with great banana flavor on the inside. Enjoy!

1 stick + 1 tbsp. butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4-5 ripe bananas
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x5x3 or 8x4x4 loaf pan with parchment paper.

Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs. Add dry ingredients. Add mushed bananas and vanilla.

Bake at 350 degrees F for one hour.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Restaurant Week Reviews

January 31st, 2010 — 12:02pm

rww10Twice a year, more than 30 Madison restaurants open their doors to the masses for Restaurant Week, during which each offer a $25 three-course prix-fixed menu—with three options to chose from for each course. In recent years, my Restaurant Week outings have taken me to several of Madison’s finest—Fresco, Blue Marlin, Lombardino’s, Inka Heritage, and Harvest. It’s hands down the most affordable way to sample Madison’s best restaurants. Although some of the restaurants offer slightly smaller portions during the event, a similar meal would likely cost three to four times as much any other night. Espeically at some of the finest restaurants.

The winter Restaurant Week (usually the last week in January) is appropriately themed “Go Stir Crazy.” Because that’s what Wisconsintes have become by this time of the year—stir crazy. You may have guessed that it doesn’t take much to motivate me to get out for a night of fine dining with friends. In fact, if I could find friends to go out every single night of Restaurant Week, I most certainly would. In the end, I was able to convince a few friends to join me for two separate outings.l-etoile

My first Restaurant Week meal was dinner at L’Etoile on Tuesday night. L’Etoile is arguably Madison’s finest restaurant. Established in 1976 by Chef Odessa Piper, and now led by Tory and Traci Miller, the restaurant’s menu is inspired by the small sustainable farms and artisan producers of the Midwest. I made reservations for a few friends and I several weeks in advance. By the time Restaurnat Week rolled around, L’Etoile was booked solid for the entire week. Reservation=score.

Tuesday was actually my first ever dining experience at L’Etoile. I was very anxious to experience it, especially since hearing the news that L’Etoile will expland and relocate later this year. I must say, my dining experiece at L’Etoile was everything I had hoped for. The food, service, and atmosphere were all top notch. I chose the following options from the Restaurant Week menu:

Appetizer: Willow Creek Farm Pork Mulligatawny Soup with mint yogurt
Entree: Willow Creek Farm Pork Saltimbocca with creamy polenta, snug haven spinach, and caper brown butter sauce
Dessert: Cordillera Dark Chocolate Cake with warm chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream

Luckily, my friends and I chose different options and were all willing to share, which allowed me to sample nearly all of the menu offerings. What I loved about all of the dishes were the freshness of all ingredients and the complexity, yet subtleness of flavors. Going into the experience, I was a little worried that L’Etoile would be a bit too hoity-toity for my tastes. Certainly there were elements of that, evidenced by one particularly robotic server, but overall I found the food and service to be unexpectedly unpretentious. Which is why I’m now especially excited for L’Etoile’s new concept, which will make the restaurant accessible to more people—both in terms of space and price.

862479430_3691f3591fMy second dining experience was for lunch at Johnny Delmonico’s on Thursday. My friend Lauren suggested that we check it out. I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant at first. Several years ago, just after I graduated from college, my family and I had dinner at Johnny Delmonico’s. My roommates had given it rave reviews. It was probably the most disappointing dining experiences I’ve had in Madison. My dad’s steak was overdone, and the risotto that my mom and I both ordered was unedible. But that was several years ago, so I figured I’d give it another shot. I chose the following options from the Restaurant Week menu:

Appetizer: Fried Calamari with sweet chili glaze
Entree: Chinese Chicken Salad with hoisin vinaigrette
Dessert: Chocolate Cake with vanilla ice cream

I’d say my experience at Delmonico’s was better than the last, but still pretty average. The service was decent, but the food was unremarkable. What I did enjoy was the sweet chili glaze on the fried calamari and the chocolate frosting on my cake. But the Chinese Chicken Salad was entirely too salty—it was just bathed in soy sauce.

That’s the best part of Restaurant Week—the experience helps you decide which restaurants you want to go back to for more. I think it’s safe to assume I’ll be heading back to L’Etoie. Sooner rather than later, I hope.

Comment » | Restaurant Reviews

Favorite Quotes From Born to Run

January 28th, 2010 — 7:00pm

borntorunEarlier this month, I finished reading “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” by Christopher McDougall. Armed with a highlighter and a pen, I tore through the book in just a few days. I marked any and all passages that struck a chord with me—be it because the words were informative, inspiring, humorous, or simply well said. This amounted to a text that is now fairly well underlined and highlighted. For now I’ll leave you with my favorites…

There’s something so universal about that sensation, the way running unites our two most primal impulses: fear and pleasure. We run when we’re scared, we run when we’re ecstatic, we run away from our problems and run around for a good time. p. 11

In terms of stress relief and sensual pleasure, running is what you have in your life before you have sex. The equipment and desire come factory installed; all you have to do is let ‘er rip and hang on for the ride. p. 12

If you really want to understand the Raramuri, you should have been there when this ninety-five-year-old man came hiking twenty-five miles over the mountain. Know why he could do it? Because no one every told him he couldn’t. No one ever told him he oughta be off dying somewhere in an old age home. You live up to your own expectations, man. -Micah True, p. 50

If some California hippie could go one hundred miles, how hard could it be? Besides, a normal race wouldn’t cut it; if Leadville was going to survive, it needed an event with serious holy-shit power. p. 59

Your body becomes so familiar with the cradle-rocking rhythm that you almost forget you’re moving. [Eventually,] you break through to that soft, half-levitating flow. You have to listen closely to the sound of your own breathing; be aware of how much sweat is beading on your back; make sure to treat yourself to cool water and a salty snack and ask yourself honestly and often, exactly how you feel. What could be more sensual than paying exquisite attention to your own body? -Ann Trason, p.69

Ultrarunning seemed to be an alternative universe where none of planet Earth’s rules applied: women were stronger than men; old men were stronger than youngsters; Stone Age guys in sandals were stronger than everybody. p. 79

Ultrarunners had no reason to cheat, because they had nothing to gain: no fame, no wealth, no medals. No one knew who they were, or cared who won their strange rambles through the woods. They didn’t even get prize money; all you get for winning an ultra is the same belt buckle as the guy who comes in last. p. 85

That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. p. 92

It wasn’t just the racing they loved; it was the thrill of exploring the brave new world of their own bodies. p. 112

When I’m out on a long run, the only thing that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn’t going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It’s just me and the movement and the motion. That’s what I love—just being a barbarian, running through woods -Jenn Shelton, p. 149

You don’t stop running because you get old. You get old because you stop running. -Jack Kirk, p. 202

Name any other athletic endeavor where sixty-four-year-olds are competing with nineteen-year-olds. Swimming? Boxing? Not even close. There’s something really weird about us humans; we’re not only really good at endurance running; we’re really good at it for a remarkably long time. -Dr. Dennis Bramble, p. 240

Just move your legs. Because if you don’t think you were born to run, you’re not only denying history. You’re denying who you are. -Dr. Dennis Bramble, p. 244

The worst thing you can give a runner midrace is false hope. What causes you to tense up is the unexpected; but as long as you know what you’re in for, you can relax and chip away at the job. p. 267

I’d get up at four-thirty in the morning, run twenty miles, and it would be a beautiful thing. Then I’d work all day and want to feel that way again. So I’d go home, drink a beer, eat some beans, and run some more. -Micah True, p. 279

I don’t want anyone to do anything except come run, party, dance, eat, and hang with us. Running isn’t about making people buy stuff. Running should be free, man. -Micah True, p. 287

7 comments » | Books, Film, and Music, Racing and Training

The Great Cold Continues

January 26th, 2010 — 12:31pm

january-017Sneeze. Cough. Cough. Drip. Blow. Cough. Cough.

That would be me with a severe head cold. Eight days and counting.

My mom worries I have the swine flu.

I do not.

But I have spent countless hours over the last week sipping tea, laying on the couch, sleeping, reading, and sucking on cough drops. All in an effort to get healthy. And to run again. Yet I remain sick.

And to add insult to injury, I had a dentist’s appointment earlier today. To have three cavities filled. Yep.  Not just one or two, but three. Because apparently I am the only 28 year-old who still gets cavities.

This conjures memories of growing up with my brother, Kelly, who never brushed his teeth. Seriously. As the responsible older sister I’ve always been, I brushed and flossed diligently. Religiously. Yet, when it came time for our regular dental appointments, I was always the one with cavities.

But I actually brush, dammitUnlike my stupid little brother!

You may just be prone to them, the dentists always delicately advised.

Meanwhile, my brother (that little bastard) always came out of those appointments scotch clean, sporting a little devilish grin to rub it all in. Still makes me mad to this day.

And we won’t even talk about the braces my pubescent, pimple-faced, greasy-banged, hairy upper lipped (read: ugly) self endured during middle school. While my brother of course remained metal-free with teeth that were perfect-in-every-way.

Oh. Why me?!

1 comment » | Uncategorized

2010 Race Schedule

January 21st, 2010 — 3:39pm


Over the last few weeks, I’ve been working to put together my race plans for 2010. I have a trusty spreadsheet that I use every year to help organize myself. I insert the name of  each race, type of race, date of race, date by which I need to register (before any kind of fee bump), registration fee, and Web site. That way I don’t miss any important deadlines. 

But more importantly, the spreadsheet helps to me to keep my budget in line. Because it’s always frightening when I “AutoSum” the registration fee column. As much as I try to space out my registrations, that bottom line figure is always tough to swallow. Last year’s registrations totaled well over $1000 (and that’s not counting all of the other many expenses associated with racing—e.g., trip to Kona, equipment and gear, bike maintenance, nutrition, etc.). The spreadsheets also helps me determine how current entry fees compare to previous years. For example, this year’s Door County half-ironman early registration fee increased by a staggering $30. In one year. In comparison, this year’s Dairyland Dare increased by a mere dollar. Quite obviously I am a huge Exel nerd. I like to analyze these kind of things.

So anyways, following is my plan for 2010. Although I’ll elaborate on my goals a bit more in future posts, I’ll tell you now that one of my biggest goals this year is to run my first ultramaraton (either a 50k, or preferably, a 50-mile race) and follow in my brother’s footsteps, so to speak. I haven’t quite settled on a race, though. I’m considering the Door County Fall 50 in October, but I’d also love to run something with my brother. So that’s the only race that is TBD. The others on the list are pretty much finalized. But I’d also like to add a few more running races to the mix—maybe another full and half marathon. We’ll see.

Mar. 6: Point Bock Run (5-mile)
May 30: Madison Marathon (marathon)
Jun. 13: Capitol View Triathlon (olympic triathlon)
Jul. 18: Door County Triathlon (half-ironman triathlon)
Aug. 1: Ripon Medical Center Triathlon (long-course triathlon)
Aug. 14: Dairyland Dare (200k cycling)
Sep. 12: Ironman Wisconsin (ironman triathlon)
Oct. 23: Door County Fall 50 (ultra-marathon)

Comment » | Racing and Training

Roasted Clementine Tart

January 21st, 2010 — 2:58pm

january-0132january-0211january-0101Roasted Clementine and Chocolate Tart with a Macadamia Nut Crust
From In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker’s Companion, by Regan Daley

One of the recipes I used for last week’s iron chef dinner came from a new cookbook my brother gave me for Christmas. It’s called In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker’s Companion. The book is cholkfull of helpful baking tips and countless recipes for sweet treats. I spent some time during the holidays leisurely leafing through the recipes. With the clementine iron chef dinner on the horizon, I was of course very excited to stumble upon a recipe for Roasted Clementine Tart.

This recipe was certainly the most time intensive of those I chose to make for the iron chef dinner, but it was one of my favorites. I loved the combination of chocolate and orange. The chocolate ganache was sinfully rich and creamy, and the macadamia nut crust only sealed the deal. This is a great recipe for the fleeting Clementine season. Enjoy!

Macadamia Nut Crust:
1 (10 1/2-or 11-inch) Rich Nut tart shell, pg. 657, made with macadamia nuts, pre-baked and cooled (let me know if you’d like the crust recipe. You can also search for it pretty easily online.)

Roasted Clementines:
10 medium-sized clementine oranges (also called mandarins), washed and dried, but not peeled
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 to 2 tbsp. Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, optional
3 tbsp. plus 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed

Chocolate Ganache:
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream (36%)

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. With a sharp knife slice the clementines crosswise into very thin rounds, discarding the stem and flower ends. Lay the slices overlapping in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish. Pour the orange juice and Grand Marnier over the clementines and sprinkle them with 3 tbsp. brown sugar. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and roast in the center of the oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the peels are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

2. Increase the temperature to 375 degrees. Uncover the dish and sprinkle with clementines with the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar. Return to the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the liquid has become syrupy and the oranges have begun to caramelize. Lightly cover the baking dish and allow the clementines to cool to a room temperature. (may be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored, well covered, at room temperature.)

3. To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized bowl. Bring the cream just to the simmer over medium-high heat, watching closely to see that it does not boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until thoroughly combined. Allow the ganache to cool until it has the consistency of a soft icing, then spread it evenly over the bottom of the tart shell.

4. Once the start shell has been lined with the ganache, lay the clementine slices over the chocolate in an overlapping circular pattern. Scrape the syrup from the bottom of the baking dish with a rubber spatula and spoon this liquid over the clementines. The finished tart may be assembled up to 1 day before serving and stored, lightly covered, at room temperature.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners, Kristin's Kitchen

Clementine Chronicles

January 19th, 2010 — 6:54pm

january-0062january-009january-010january-0111january-0131january-021You know how sometimes you can live in the same town as your closest friends and rarely seem them? Or how it becomes so easy to make the same tired dish and rarely step out of your culinary comfort zone? It may seem silly or insignificant to some, but one of my proudest accomplishments of 2009 was establishing the monthly iron chef dinner series among my closest friends in Madison. Each month I look forward to a new ingredient, unique culinary challenges, and most importantly, the opportunity to eat and catch up with my best friends.

I think everyone would agree that Clementine proved to be a particularly challenging ingredient this month. I had quickly discovered during my own search that there were only so many Clementine recipes from which to chose. And for the first time in a while, we actually had some duplicate entries (oh, wait. I think I brought that same Clementine torte! Did your recipe include 6 eggs?). But luckily, one can never have too many Clementine tortes…

I’m happy to report that my friends entirely rose to the Clementine challenge. Even Matt, who if you remember from a previous post, had an unfortunately debacle with a marmalade recipe, went at it again. Matt explained to me that there was no way he was going be defeated by a little marmalade recipe. Luckily, the second time was a success for Matt.

Our entries displayed great range—there was marmalade, cous cous, quinoa, chicken paillards, two tortes, and a tart (not to mention several orange-themed beverages). Following are the full slate of entries (with links whenever applicable).

Quinoa with Clementines, Green Peppers, and Black Beans
Couscous with Clementines, Chickpeas, Olives, and Dates (x2)
Chicken Paillards with Clementine Salsa
Clementine Marmalade
Roasted Clementine Chocolate Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust
Clementine Torte (x2)

Even Brodie (my friend who recently severed his finger with a table saw) made an appearance—albeit quite medicated and completely unlike himself. Without Brodie’s trademark personality, we weren’t quite the rowdy group that came to light during December’s iron chef dinner, but we still ate well and had fun.january-0121

Although the culinary prowess displayed was truly admirable, I’m going to go off on a limb here and say that not one entry completely “wowed” me this month. Everything was good. I might even make a few of the dishes again. But quite honestly, nothing really knocked my socks off. And perhaps Clementines just don’t lend themselves to “knock your socks off” kind of dishes. Who knows.

Julie called next month’s ingredient. Peanuts. We all happily agreed. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m looking forward to an ingredient where there will be more than enough recipes to go around.

2 comments » | Iron Chef Dinners

It’s Clemen Time!

January 15th, 2010 — 11:24am


january-0031Earlier this week, I purchased 15 pounds of clementines in preparation for tonight’s Iron Chef dinner. Turns out I overestimated. By a lot. In fact, I may be eating Clementines for the rest of the year. 

The reason I bought out the grocery store was because I decided to contribute not just one, but three dishes to mix:

  • Chicken  Paillards with Clementine
  • Couscous with Clementines, Chickpeas, Olives, and Dates
  • Roasted Clementine Chocolate Tart with Macadamia Nut Crust

Because, really, how could I pick just one?

I finished assembling the tart last night—I have high hopes for the clementine/chocolate ganache combination. Last night I also completed the prep work for the other two dishes and will finish those later this afternoon. From what I’ve heard so far, my friends and I found Clementines to be a challenging Iron Chef  ingredient (clearly evidenced by my last post). There’s not an overwhelming amount of recipes from which to choose, they can be difficult to work with (in terms of peeling and handling the flesh), and the taste of Clementines seem range from very sweet to almost bitter—which can greatly effect flavor. But I’m confident we’ll rise to the challenge. I can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.

So other than finishing my last two entries, I’m pretty much ready to go. RSVPs have been received. The table is set. My apartment is clean. And the orange liqueur, orange vodka, and Blue Moon (with orange garnish, of course) are ready to flow. And. I might even break out a costume. You can call me Cutie the Clementine.

Tonight should be a lot of fun. Watch for pictures and recipes next week.

2 comments » | Iron Chef Dinners

Iron Chef January: Clementine

January 12th, 2010 — 3:22pm

january-039Preparations are in full swing for Friday’s Iron Chef dinner. This month’s theme ingredient is clementine. Impressively, my friends Julie and Matt tested their recipe this past weekend. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from Julie detailing the formidable “clementine disaster.”

Apparently it all started on Saturday when Julie’s husband Matt found a recipe for clementine marmalade that sounded good. On Sunday, he set to work on the recipe, which involved 5 hours of boiling and stirring. My favorite quote from Julie:

I tasted it after two hours, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings, but it was awful—a bit burnt and instantly rock hard the moment it was out of the pot. But, I just let him work on it in hopes that it would get better. After three-and-a-half hours, Matt was like, ‘This is all burnt and tastes really bad.’

Matt and Julie then dumped the concoction in a plastic bag for the trash. But the marmalade immediately burned a hole through the bag and leaked into the drain of their kitchen sink and began hardening. Accordingly to Julie, We cleaned the sink for about 20 minutes. Matt actually had to boil more water to pour over the hardened marmalade to help soften it. Needless to say, we will not be contributing marmalade on Friday.

Ah. The trials and tribulations of Iron Chef. But it’s the idea of stepping out of one’s culinary comfort zone (which occasionally results in a “clementine disaster”) that so epitomizes the idea of the Iron Chef dinners. But I sure do hope things go a little smoother for Matt and Julie during round two…

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

January 12th, 2010 — 2:41pm


Yesterday afternoon I decided to quickly whip up a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to bring to my friend Brodie, who unfortunately found himself in the hospital after an incident involving a table saw and his left pointer finger. Ouch. Luckily, Brodie is on the mend and doing well. He’s actually on his way home from the hospital today.  

I seemed to remember Brodie once telling me that his favorite cookie was oatmeal chocolate chip…or raisin (can’t quite recall the specifics), so I thought maybe some homemade cookies might brighten his day. I chose a recipe from Eating Well. Interestingly, the recipe includes tahini (seasame paste), which apparently helps to lower the saturated fat by more than 66 percent while adding a nutty flavor to an old classic.

In theory these cookies seemed too good to be true. And  certainly, they looked and tasted great hot out of the oven. But I found that quickly after they cooled, the cookies became hard.  Almost unedible, really. But sadly, I didn’t realize this until after I gave Brodie a bag of them. I’m sure he took one bite and was like, WTF? Not sure what went wrong. Perhaps my Tahni paste was a little past its prime. That’s the only thing I can come up with. The recipe might be worth another try. But for now, I am going to hide my face in embarassment…because I gave my friend (who was ailing in the hospital with a severed finger, no less) cookies that were rock hard. Gulp. Somebody please tell me it was the thought that counts.

2 cups rolled oats, (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour, (see Ingredient Note)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup tahini, (see Ingredient Note)
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk oats, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Beat tahini and butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until blended into a paste. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar; continue beating until well combined"the mixture will still be a little grainy. Beat in egg, then egg white, then vanilla. Stir in the oat mixture with a wooden spoon until just moistened. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.
3. With damp hands, roll 1 tablespoon of the batter into a ball, place it on a prepared baking sheet and flatten it until squat, but don’t let the sides crack. Continue with the remaining batter, spacing the flattened balls 2 inches apart.
4. Bake the cookies until golden brown, about 16 minutes, switching the pans back to front and top to bottom halfway through. Cool on the pans for 2 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Let the pans cool for a few minutes before baking another batch.

2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

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