Archive for February 2010

Asian Dumpling Soup with Shiitakes and Edamame

February 28th, 2010 — 5:30pm

february-0181I’m always a big fan of the recipes featured in the Real Simple magazine. They’re great for the perfect mid-week dinner—quick and easy, but still unique and tasty. I just received the March issue in the mail last week and particularly enjoyed the feature entitled “Put Down the Knife: save time on shopping, chopping, and cleanup with these no-hassle meals.”

I was instantly drawn to the recipe for Asian Dumpling Soup with Shiitakes and Edamame. Nothing beats a great, hearty soupĀ  in the dead of winter. The recipe was featured as a “If you don’t like cleaning up…try a one-pot recipe.” Which is perfect, actually. I love to cook, but I hate cleaning up! This one’s definitely a keeper in my kitchen. So good.

Asian dumpling soup with shiitakes and edamame
Real Simple, March 2010

2 32-oz. containers low-sodium chicken broth
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 16-oz. package frozen pot sticker dumplings or Japanese gyoza
2 medium carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced
4 oz. shiitake or white mushrooms, stems discarded and caps thinly sliced
2 cups frozen shelled edamame
1 bunch watercress, thick stems removed (about 3 cups)
1 tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
Kosher salt
4 scallions, sliced

In a large saucepan, bring the broth and ginger to a boil. Add the pot stickers and carrots and simmer until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the mushrooms and edamame and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Stir in the watercress, soy sauce, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Sprinkle with the scallions before serving.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Winter Wonderland Weekend

February 25th, 2010 — 4:09pm

february-015With falling snowflakes, sunny skies, and a thick coat of snow covering the landscape, this past weekend was one of those idyllic Wisconsin winter weekends that people in warmer climates sometimes fantasize about.

It all made for a perfect setting for two of my favorite annual Madison winter traditions. The first of which was the 7th annual Madison Winter Festival, which aims to “promote fun and healthy lifestyles during winter by showcasing snow sports and festive recreational activities.” The event features x-country ski racing, snowshoe events, half-pipe snowboarding, a 5k fun run, and an ice sculpture competition. On Friday night, a friend and I walked around the Capitol Square, watching a team of snow plows working through the night, methodically transforming the Capitol Square into one giant snow playground. Since I live only a few blocks from the square, I was able to make it to the Festival on both Saturday and Sunday to check out the events. I always love watching the professional x-country skiers—their speed and form is breathtaking.

february-0041One of my other favorite Madison winter traditions occurred on the UW-Madison campus for 12 hours on Friday. From 8am until 8pm, several members of the UW Cycling Team rode their bikes on stationary trainers in Library Mall to raise money for the Madison Area Safe Kids Coalition, which is a group that provides car seats and bicycle helmets to underprivileged kids in the Madison community.

I remember the event back when I was a student at UW, and it always brought a big smile to my face. You’ve got cyclists freezing their butts off, riding in the heart of campus during the dead of winter, enthusiastically pleading to their fellow students for support. To me, the event represents the kind of students, groups, and events that truly set UW-Madison apart. Students who are not only extremely bright, but community-minded, active, fun, passionate, generous, and hard-working.

If you think we’re hibernating until spring here in Madison, Wisconsin, you must be mistaken. There’s so much to love about winter here. All you have to do is learn how to embrace it.

Comment » | Madtown Lovin'

Fromagination Fondue Lunch

February 25th, 2010 — 8:43am

fondue020409bFromagination is a specialty market on the capitol square that sells artisanal cheeses and “perfect companions.” A stroll though the quaint, yet perfectly merchandised store, yields an other-worldly experience—with all the charm of old-world Wisconsin and the culinary luxuries of modern times. Certainly the focus of the store is the artisanal cheeses (expertly sourced from Wisconsin and all over the world), which are prominently displayed in large glass cases that run the length of the store. But more than anything else, I’m always drawn in by the “companions,” such as French macaroons, Quince and Apple preserves, Potter’s Crackers, Zingerman’s baked goods, and Dean & Deluca sauces, oils, and spices. It’s truly a foodie paradise.

Which is all to say that I was very excited to learn that Fromagination hosts communal “farmhouse” fondue lunches during the months of January and February. Isthmus food-writer Linda Falkenstein ranked the lunch as “the best thing [she] ate all year in 2009.” She described the experience as a “cheerful, sumptuous, intoxicating February picnic.” So of course, I had to try it myself. With my friend Lauren, we booked our reservation for a Wednesday in late-February and waited patiently for our chance to dip in.

Our seating was at 11am yesterday. Upon arrival, the warm store instantly provided a nice sanctuary from the blustery winter weather. After milling around the store for a few minutes, we eventually took seats with ten other dining companions. Lauren and I sat at the end of the table and shared a pot with two other women, who told us they worked at a local cheese producer. One of the Fromagination employees offered a pour of white wine, which we gladly accepted. After that, our host (the cheese buyer) explained the history and traditions behind Swiss fondue. Then lunch was served. The menu featured Roth Kase alpine-style fondue, a signature salad, Neuske’s smoked summer sausage, fingerling potatoes, roasted carrots, French cornichons, and freshly baked bread cubes for dipping. Dessert included two small chocolate chip cookies and hot spiced almonds. To say I was in foodie heaven would be an understatement.

I found the video below from a diner (Lindsay from 77square) who attended last week’s fondue lunch. Although it’s a short video, I think it helps provide a glimpse of the dining experience and atmosphere.

Words can’t do justice to the fondue lunch—every part of the meal was perfectly executed. At the meal’s conclusion, I was adequately stuffed and undeniably content. My only complaints were that we were not served Kirsh at the end of the meal (there were glasses on the table, but we were never offered a pour). Also, Lauren and I were a little surprised to realize that the glass of wine we had each accepted at the beginning of the meal had resulted in a $6 charge (in addition to the $22 lunch). I think it’s fine to charge extra for a glass of wine, but only if you make that clear to your diners from the beginning. The meal would have been perfect if not for those two hiccups. But I refuse to let them leave a sour taste in my mouth—nope, all that is left is the memory of a magical winter fondue feast.

2 comments » | Madtown Lovin', Restaurant Reviews

Iron Chef Peanut Recap

February 24th, 2010 — 8:57pm

february-020Yes, I know. It’s taken me an eternity to write this post. Or two weeks. But it feels like an eternity. So like I said earlier, Jill and Ryan hosted the February edition of our Iron Chef dinner series two Fridays ago. Peanuts were the “secret ingredient”—although I’ll let you in on a little secret: the “secret ingredient” is actually no secret, as we all come to a consensus on an ingredient at the previous month’s dinner. But still, I insist upon using the word “secret.” It makes me feel all official and sleuth-like. february-027

Now peanuts might seem like an easy ingredient to the untrained Iron Chef—I mean there’s countless recipe options that incorporate peanuts, right? But therein lies the challenge. It could be argued that there are simply too many options and recipes from which to choose. And as I recently learned during a presentation by behavioral economist Dan Ariely (author of Predictably Irrational), too many options overwhelm people (I believe Ariely actually used the word “bamboozle”). But luckily, my friends are not easily bamboozled. february-029

Consensus among the group was that this was one of our best Iron Chef dinners yet. There was a lot of harmony among the dishes—they all played together very nicely with complementing flavors and textures. Certainly it helped that most of the dishes were of Thai origin. Following is a list of all contributed dishes:

African Peanut Butter Stew
Candy Circus Peanuts
Iso Peanuts
Peanut Bacon Brittle
Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Spicy Peanut Soup
Thai Chicken Salad with Pita Bread
Thai Chicken Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce
Thai Pork with Peanut Sauce (over a bed of rice noodles)


And if that spread doesn’t make your mouth salivate, I’m not sure what will. The dinner was fabulous. My personal favorites were the Thai Chicken Satay Skewers (with three varieties of dipping sauces) and the Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, both of which Jill contributed. Sometimes I think the host has the upper hand with access to an oven and the ability to avoid transportation challenges, but Jill clearly deserved top honors. Especially with those three dipping sauces—when she named off about twenty ingredients in each, I was impressed.

Lauren also introduced our new mascot (see picture, above). She recently received the “iron” knife and fork set as a gift from one of her clients (Lauren owns a personal training gym). Obviously it’s the perfect match for our dinner series. We’ll have to figure out a way to incorporate the set into the mix.

So what’s up for next month? Instead of a single ingredient for March, we’ve decided to switch it up in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day. So Matt and Julie will be hosting an Irish-themed dinner. I’m guessing we’ll have some Irish soda bread, corn beef and cabbage, dumpling stew, and maybe a little green food coloring. It’s time to get in touch with my Irish heritage!

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

Chocolate Fudge Cookies with Toffee and Dried Cherries

February 23rd, 2010 — 3:09pm

february-002 The addition of toffee and dried cherries in this recipe for chocolate cookies is what initially drew me in. I found this one in a cookbook my brother gave me for Christmas—In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitive Baker’s Companion, by Regan Daley. Ever since I baked up a batch of Thick and Chewy Double Chocolate Cookies earlier this month, chocolate cookies have been top of mind. Those may have been the best cookies I’ve made yet—so chocolaty and uniquely chewy and brownie-like. But perhaps I just needed to try another recipe to confirm their perfection. february-0061

I had high hopes for the Chocolate Cookies with Toffee and Dried Cherries. And they were pretty tasty straight out of the oven. But disappointingly, by the next day they had hardened quite a bit and were anything but soft and chewy. And the toffee and dried cherries didn’t add much—in fact, they only seemed to overwhelm the cookie. So my advice? if you’re going to make chocolate cookies, stick with the best.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup plump, moist, dried sour cherries
8 oz. bitter or semisweet chocolate chopped into chunks about the size of the cherries
1 cup English toffee pieces for baking such as Skor Bits

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two heavy baking sheets, not non-stick, with parchment paper and set aside. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together into a bowl and set aside. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of an electric or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla. Stir in the flour-mixture in 3 additions, blending just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the chunky ingredients and mix until they seem evenly distributed.

2. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheets and place them in the center of the oven. Bake the cookies for 15-18 minutes, or until barely set in the center and just firm around the edges. Rotate the sheets once or twice. Cool the cookies on the tray for 3-5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely before storing. Store the cookies in airtight containers, layered between sheets of parchment or waxed paper for up to 5 days.

Comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Dailymile Running Buddies

February 19th, 2010 — 3:42pm

19665_592576731518_219704134_34402415_3106313_nAs much I enjoy the meditative feeling of running alone, there’s really nothing better than sharing a great run with friends. In previous posts, I talked about how I had begun to connect with fellow Dailymilers who live in and around Madison. It’s amazing how online connections through a shared love for running have blossomed into new running buddies and close friendships among a diverse cast of local athletes.19665_592576751478_219704134_34402419_2520195_n

It’s all really opened my eyes to the power of social networking. As one dailymiler recently put it—people are no longer connecting with others solely because of proximity, appearances, or other surface-level similarities. Online communities have enabled us to reach out to people from all over the world who share our interests and passions. I have to admit, for a long time I was skeptical. It just seemed weird and creepy to meet people over the internet. But with my brother’s encouragement, I finally took the plunge. And I’m glad I did. I’ve realized, there’s not much to loose, and so much to gain. I probably never would have met my new running friends, if I hadn’t opened myself to those connections. 19665_592576746488_219704134_34402418_5534345_n

In recent weeks, a Saturday or Sunday morning “lake loop” has become a staple of our Madison dailymile meet ups. Nearly every Madison runner who has ever trained for a long-distance event is intimately familiar with the lake loop—a 13-mile loop around Lake Monona. It’s one of my favorite running routes in Madison. There’s something so incredibly satisfying about running around a massive body of water—coming full circle. It’s also motivating to know that once you commit to the full loop, there’s only one way back (other than to swim, I suppose). I also love the varied terrain, beautiful lake views, frequent water fountains (during the summer months), and the distance (I often commend myself after completing the full loop—damn, you just finished a half-marathon).19665_592576736508_219704134_34402416_8233717_n

I love my new running group. The two hours we spend together make up a part of the weekend I look forward to most. As I come around the final stretch of the loop, I always feel this great sense of accomplishment and contentment. Like I’m truly doing what I’m supposed to be doing with the people I’m meant to be doing it with.

If nothing else, it’s clear that running and social networks share one thing: the power to unite.

Comment » | Racing and Training

Peanut Preview: Iron Chef February

February 17th, 2010 — 7:28pm

1 comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

Sugar Cut-Out Heart Cookies

February 17th, 2010 — 7:19pm

february-057Valentine’s Day is always a great day to bake—there are so many festive options. This year, I decided to make sugar heart cut-out cookies with raspberry jam filling. I tried a recipe for sugar cookies from my favorite cookbook: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking. According to authors Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, “the humble sugar cookie doesn’t often get its due. Too often it’s coated in bright garish icing and is inedibly sweet. Our recipe delivers a simple, chewy cookie that’s the perfect canvas for our favorite minimal, almost stark, decoration.” It’s these little humorous recipe previews that I like most about the cookbook—well, that in addition to the fact that not one recipe has let me down yet. february-047

After chilling the dough in the refrigerator for several hours, I rolled it out and cut out heart shapes using two different sizes of heart-shaped cookie cutters. I then baked and cooled the cookies, after which I assembled each “sugar cookie sandwich” and spread a thin layer of rasberry jam in between. In hindsight, it would have been a nice touch to sprinkle a dusting of powdered sugar on the cookies. Nonetheless, I think they looked lovely and tasted terrific. Hope you had a happy valentine’s day!

Classic Sugar Cookies
Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
Yield: 15-18 2 1/2″ cookies

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons cold vegetable shortening
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter, shortening, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until just combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.february-046

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Unwrap the chilled dough, and put it directly on the work surface. Roll the dough to 1/4″ thick. Use your favorite cookie cutter to cut shapes in the dough, and transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, until they are set but not browned. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack for 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Peanut Bacon Brittle

February 16th, 2010 — 2:40pm

As I mentioned previously, one of my contributions to this month’s Iron Chef dinner was Peanut Bacon Brittle. Inspired by the recent Milwaukee Journal Bacon Bake-Off, I decided to use one of the winning recipes that incorporates both peanuts and bacon (bonus!). Interestingly, the brittle was a big hit with the guys at the party. They were digging into “dessert” before dinner even began. I’m not sure if it was the bacon, or the combination of sweet and savory, but nearly the whole batch was finished before I left the party. Although the brittle was a little chewy for my tastes, the bacon added a nice flavor punch. Guaranteed to be the hit of your next dinner party!

1 pound bacon
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup chopped peanuts

Grease or butter a large nonstick cookie sheet.

In a skillet, fry bacon until crisp and crumble into small bits.

In medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, and water over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves and syrup comes to a boil. Make sure to heat and stir until lumps dissolve.

Using a candy thermometer, increase heat to high, and cook without stirring until mixture reaches 290 degrees.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter, vanilla, baking soda, salt, peanuts, and bacon bits. Mixture may foam up. When it stops foaming, pour the hot mixture onto prepared baking sheet as thinly as possible. Use a silicone spatula or a buttered spatula to spread.

Allow to cool at least 10 minutes. Break into chunks. Keep refrigerated.

Note: if using salted peanuts, omit the 1/2 teaspoon salt. Makes 1 pound.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners, Kristin's Kitchen

My Personal Fitness Influences

February 14th, 2010 — 10:22am

11537_1243902170350_1013226766_30765177_4946621_nToday’s mission on Dailymile is to write about someone who “personally influenced your fitness lifestyle.” And not a famous athlete like Steve Prefontaine, Ryan Hall, or Kara Goucher, but rather someone personal and unique. When I read the prompt, I immediately thought not just of one person, but two—my parents.

My dad’s influence on my fitness lifestyle began very early on and has had a tremendous impact on my life’s path. A product of the running boom of the 1970’s, fitness—and running in particular—has been big part of my dad’s life for as long as I can remember. My dad had a pretty stressful career while I was growing up, and running was always his outlet, his sanctuary. Over the course of several miles he was able to transform from corporate to family life. As soon as I was born, my mom was pushing me in a stroller while my dad competed in the Al McGuire run. I remember as kids, my brother and I would often accompany my dad on bikes during his runs. Pretty soon, we were partaking in 5k and 10k races with my dad. I realize now how lucky I was to share my dad’s passion for running with him then, and how great it was to have that kind of role model early on. Although I most certainly did not have a passion for running back then, it grew within me overtime.

What I admire most now is my dad’s outlook on running—quite simply, he loves running for what it is. He rarely races. Even though I’ve often tried to push him to compete more because I know he would dominate the 50-55 year old division, running has never been about attaining a certain place, time, or distance for my dad. For him, the pleasure of running comes from hitting the pavement on any ordinary day—feeling the rhythm of his legs, breathing fresh air, enjoying the outdoors, and pushing his body to the limits. More than anything, though, I think he looks forward to the special runs he shares with my brother and me. Our holiday runs to the lakefront, running in the north woods at our cabin, etc. Those are the most precious runs of all.

My mom is a more recent fitness influence. Certainly my mom has been a great influence on me in a number of ways; but quite honestly, her influence rarely crossed over to the fitness realm. Sure, she was aways there cheering on the sidelines and encouraging me to reach my goals, but she was always sort of the non-athlete of our family. Initially, my mom decided to become a walker in order to loose weight. When my dad signed up for the Madison Marathon in 2003, seemingly out of nowhere, my mom registered, too. And amazingly, she tackled the same training schedule as my dad—only she walked the miles. So as he would head out on a 20-mile run, my mom would go walk 20 miles. And as if running 20 miles doesn’t take long enough, try walking them. My mom would be gone for hours on end. On race day she was ready. Unfortunately, the weather was not. It rained all day. For once, I was on the sideline proudly cheering her along. I will always remember my mom’s face that day—her smile, focus, and determination. It was cold and wet, and she was in pain. But there was no way she wasn’t getting to the finish line. She crossed the line in just over six hours, and I couldn’t have been prouder.

My mom continued to enjoy walking, but about two years ago, something ignited within her. I think she became tired of being the only one in our family who didn’t run. For so long, she had wanted so badly to become a runner, but had convinced herself she couldn’t do it. With the help of the community and support on dailymile, my mom set out on a journey to become a runner. She started very slowly. She’d run a few minutes, walk a mile. Next time she’d run a few more minutes. Over time, she was able to build herself up to greater distances. Just yesterday, my mom ran 11 miles. My mom is a runner. Which makes us a family of runners. And clearly, my mom has contributed a lot more to my own athletic determination and focus than I ever realized.

3 comments » | Family Fun

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