Archive for February 2011

Bacon Toffee Truffles

February 23rd, 2011 — 6:35pm

It’s a well-known fact I love bacon. And in recent years, I’ve been particularly fascinated by the marriage of bacon and chocolate. Just over a year ago, my mom forwarded me the winning recipes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Bacon Bake-Off. Top picks ranged from Chocolate Bacon Baklava to Sweet Potato Pie with Maple-Bacon Peach Crumble. Most recently, I tried the recipe for Bacon Toffee Truffles. I thought the little morsels would be the perfect way to thank a friend who had given me a package of homemade bacon – cured and smoked from scratch! Turns out I was right. These truffles are phenomenal – a wonderful combination of chocolaty, nutty, bacon goodness. Enjoy.

Bacon Toffee Truffles
recipe from Dave Jurena, chef-owner of Milwaukee-based The Soup Market
Makes 6 dozen

1 pound thinly sliced bacon
½ cup whipping cream
10 ounces high-quality milk chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces toffee, coarsely ground in a food processor (see note)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups chopped blanched almonds

Cook bacon until crisp and drain well. Chop fine and reserve.

In saucepan, heat cream to a boil and pour over milk chocolate in a bowl. Let stand 2 minutes. Add vanilla and stir well until melted and shiny. Cool to room temperature, then stir in cooked bacon and ground toffee. Refrigerate until firm, 3 hours or longer.

Spoon tiny balls of toffee bacon ganache onto parchment paper on baking sheet. (The author uses a No. 100 ice cream scoop to make balls the size of a rounded teaspoon, equal to 2 teaspoons; you also could use a melon baller with a teaspoon to help release it.)

Roll ganache between palms of hands to round, if necessary. Return to refrigerator.

Temper bittersweet chocolate, melting slowly in double boiler or in bowl or pot over a saucepan of hot water until 90 to 92 degrees, stirring frequently with a fork. Do not let bottom of bowl or pot touch the hot water. Working quickly, immerse ganache into dark chocolate; remove it by balancing it on the tines of a fork. Let the excess chocolate drain, roll the ganache in almonds and return to parchment paper.

Place finished truffles on a platter when bittersweet chocolate is set, about 1 hour. Store truffles, covered, in the refrigerator, but serve at room temperature.

Note: Heath bars may be substituted for toffee.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Lessons From My First Ultra

February 21st, 2011 — 4:33pm

2323232327ffp9-9nu3239-58885wsnrcg337275398233-nu0mrj1-225x300Sharing a post I recently wrote for the dailymile community blog

Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find some amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never push through obstruction. -William James

I have to admit I’m no ultramarathon expert—far from it, in fact. I did my first and only ultramarathon last spring—the Ice Age Trail 50, which takes place in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest in La Grange, Wisconsin. So while I can’t offer the perspectives of a seasoned veteran, I can identify with the concerns and doubts some newbies may feel about tackling the daunting distance of an ultramarathon. I learned a lot during my experience. Hopefully I can pass on a few tidbits of wisdom that will help other runners tackle their first adventure beyond 26.2. Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned during my journey.

If you’re going to do it, go all out
Once I decided I was going to run an ultramarathon, I debated between the 50 kilometer and 50 mile race distances. Many urged me to ease into things with a 50 kilometer race. But my younger brother, an ultramaraton veteran, strongly encouraged the opposite—he told me that if I was going to do an ultramarathon, I should do it all the way. He reasoned that I knew I could run 50 kilometers (I had several marathons under my belt at the time), but that I didn’t know if I could run 50 miles. He encouraged me to go for it and I ended up taking his advice. Ultimately, It was a more rewarding experience to tackle something I didn’t know to be possible—to really test my physical and mental limits.

Find a training plan and take a big bite of that sandwich
I used two training plans I found online to guide my ultramarathon training. One plan was from Runner’s World (16 weeks) and the other was from Hal Higdon (24 weeks). Both are similar in their emphasis of the “sandwich run”—essentially back-to-back long, slowish runs on successive days (building up to runs of 4-5 hours each) that help practice the feeling of running on tired legs. Undoubtedly, you will find yourself running on tired legs during the course of a 50-mile race. The more you can replicate that feeling during training, the better you’ll feel during the race.

Carry and use a water bottle during training runs
In terms of hydration, my brother advised me to race with a hand-held water bottle—that way I’d always have liquids at my fingertips. I found a water bottle I liked that comfortably fit into the palm of my hand. But the thing is, those water bottles can feel like dumbbells when they’re full and you’re not used to carrying them. So I used my training runs to practice carrying the weight. My arms and shoulders were quickly tired from the added weight during the first few long runs. But after a while, I became stronger and more adept at carrying water over longer distances. By race day, I was like a mule.

Practice Running on Trails and Walking Hills
Most ultramarathon races take place on trails. And trail running is a completely different beast than road running, requiring intense concentration, balance, and precision. It’s important to train on the type of terrain you’ll experience during the race. Although there isn’t much trail running in the city where I live, I sought it out during training runs whenever possible—even if it meant just running on the grass along a road. I also made a trip to run on the actual course a few weeks before the race. That really helped boost my confidence going in. Another thing I practiced during training was walking up hills. Initially it was hard to get over my macho mentality of not wanting to walk hills, but it’s essential to save your energy whenever possible during ultra-distance races. I got over my ego pretty quickly.

Start the Race Conservatively
The most important piece of advice I can offer for the race itself it to pace yourself conservatively. Going into the race, I knew I was going to be running for at least 9 hours straight. That’s a really long time to be doing anything, let alone running. So take it easy. Walk the big hills with everyone else. Stop at each aid station to adequately fuel. The race doesn’t really even begin until mile 30. If you’re feeling good at that point, pick it up a little. And if you’ve committed yourself to training right and pacing yourself well, you should feel good!

Comment » | Racing and Training

Come Visit the Garden Expo

February 10th, 2011 — 5:52pm

ge_logoThis weekend I’m embarking on my very first big gig managing special events for Wisconsin Public Television. The Garden Expo is a very special event you won’t want to miss. The event offers something for everyone and provides a much needed breath of spring air. Here are the details…

The 18th annual Garden Expo on February 11-13 brings people together to celebrate the latest trends in gardening and landscaping. The event takes place at Madison’s Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center and is hosted by Wisconsin Public Television (WPT) and the UW-Extension/Cooperative Extension Horticulture Team. All proceeds from the event benefit WPT programming and community outreach.

Garden Expo highlights include:

  • More than 100 free educational seminars and demonstrations on gardening, lawn, and landscaping topics
  • A lush 1,200 square-foot central garden display
  • Dozens of nonprofit exhibitors specializing in mulching, plant species, and rain and rock gardens
  • Hundreds of vendors offering the newest in gardening and landscaping equipment, tools, services, and technology
  • Appearances by Master Gardener Shelley Ryan, producer and host of WPT’s The Wisconsin Gardener

More information about Garden Expo, including a full list of exhibitors and educational opportunities, is available at I hope you’ll come check it out!

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Smoked Gouda Mac ‘N Cheese with Cauliflower and Bacon

February 10th, 2011 — 4:02am

dscn0588When my friend Krista asked me to be a guest blogger for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s 2nd annual 30 days in 30 ways with Macaroni and Cheese blog, I was extremely excited and honored. But I was also a little intimidated. It wasn’t the blogging part that scared me, but rather the idea of creating a recipe from scratch. I obviously love to cook. But for the most part, I’m more of a follow-the-recipe sort of girl. This project definitely required me to step out of my comfort zone a bit.

My first step was to pick a cheese: Gouda. Then I poured through my collection of favorite mac n’ cheese recipes and researched many new ones. Through a combination of trial and error, and careful taste-testing, I came up with a recipe for Smoked Gouda Mac ‘N Cheese with Cauliflower and Bacon. The bacon part is essential. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be part of this project. I hope you’ll check out my recipe and the many other great mac n’ cheese recipes from other bloggers on the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board’s blog.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Chocolate Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache

February 7th, 2011 — 5:01pm

While I’m not sure this cake deserved all the fanfare it generated by a single picture on Facebook, it was a great cake. And damn good looking, too. It’s one of the dishes I contributed to last month’s Iron Chef dinner. I discovered the recipe in Baked Explorations—the newest addition to my cookbook library and a follow up to my all-time favorite from Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, owners of Baked, the wildly successful bakery in Brooklyn. Like any multi-layered cake made from scratch, this one takes work. So roll up those sleeves, grab a cup of coffee, and dig in.

Chocolate Coffee Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache
Yield: one 8-inch, 3-layer cake

Ingredients for the Classic Chocolate Cake:
¾ cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)
2/3 cup sour cream
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, softened
½ cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

For the Coffee Buttercream:
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons coffee extract

For the Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces good-quality (60 to 72%) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
¾ cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
10 to 12 chocolate-covered espresso beans

Make the Classic Chocolate Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line them with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.

In a medium bowl, mix the cocoa powder and sour cream with 1? cups hot water and set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.

Using a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and shortening together on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes- the mixture will appear to string or ribbon throughout the bowl. Add the sugars and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing about 10 to 15 seconds after each addition until the egg is incorporated into the mixture. Then turn the mixer to low, add the vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again for 30 seconds.

Beginning with the dry ingredients, add the dry mixture and the cocoa mixture to the mixer bowl in three alternating parts, ending with dry.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Use an offset spatula to level the batter. Bake the cakes for 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 30 to 45 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack and let them cool completely. Remove the parchment.

Make the Coffee Buttercream:
In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool (this takes about 7 to 9 minutes of mixing; however, you can speed up the process by pressing bags of frozen berries or frozen corn around the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl). Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy, about another 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the vanilla and coffee extracts and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

To Assemble the Cake:
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface, and evenly spread about 11/4 cups frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up. (This is known as crumb coating and will help to keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) Spread the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Refrigerate it for 15 minutes to it firm up.

Make the Chocolate Glaze:
Place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in the top of a double boiler. Using a rubber spatula, stir the mixture until the chocolate and butter are completely melted and smooth.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir the glaze to release excess heat. Drizzle glaze over the cake. Refrigerate the cake for about 15 minutes to set the glaze before serving

Glaze the Cake:
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place your cake on a wire rack over the baking sheet. Slowly pour about ¾ cup of the glaze over the cake. Use a small offset spatula to smooth it out to the edges. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 5 minutes to set the glaze. Remove from the refrigerator and slowly pour the rest of the glaze over the cake. It should run down the edges in thick streams. You should be able to control the size and length of the streams by the pour. Feel free to experiment, and have no fear in playing around. This is the fun part, and there is no right or wrong way. Garnish with chocolate-covered espresso beans. Chill the entire cake for approximately 20 minutes, or until glaze is set, then transfer to cake plate. Serve at room temperature.

The cake can be stored, covered in a cake dome or cake saver, at room temperature for up to 3 days

Baked Note: There is no road map to creating the perfect chocolate ganache topping. The design (i.e., the width and number of drips) is entirely up to you. I did a fairly light ganache topping for this particular photo. For heavier ganache coverage, double the ganache recipe, pour half over the cake, and refrigerate it for 15 minutes. Then pour the remaining ganache on top.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners, Kristin's Kitchen

Iron Chef Coffee Edition

February 7th, 2011 — 4:27pm

dscn0801I wanted to share a few more pictures from last month’s Iron Chef dinner. As you may recall, the theme ingredient was coffee. It was my turn to host, and as always I had a great time preparing for the evening—everything from the bags of coffee beans I dropped by each person’s house with tiny invites rolled up inside, to filling up a glass dome with hundreds of coffee beans to serve as an Iron Chef worthy centerpiece.

We dscn0805had a great assortment of foods—coffee braised beef brisket, chocolate covered coffee beans, a coffee-flavored quinoa salad, coffee-rubbed sliders, a chocolate coffee cake, and of course, just straight up black coffee. The food was delicious, although we all kind of agreed that our last few dinners have looked…well, kind of “brown.” As such, we’ve decided to add a little color to February’s dinner. And what better way to do that than to host a Mardi Gras-themed Iron Chef dinner party. dscn0945

I’ve always said that one of my favorite parts about the Iron Chef dinner series is how much all of my friends get into it. You can probably imagine my delight when my friend Julie presented me last night with a beautifully handmade Mardi Gras masquerade mask invite for this month’s dinner. So fun. I can’t wait. It’s time to break out some Creole and Cajun recipes.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners

Dailymile Bundle Up, Run & Eat

February 5th, 2011 — 10:03am

dscn0816I love dailymile meet-ups. Our event in January was definitely the most successful to date. Mostly coordinated by Krista, we met on a Sunday morning at Mickey’s Dairybar, a long-time Madison breakfast hot spot. It was wonderful to see so many familiar faces, as well as so many new ones—friends of friends, and other brave souls who ventured out on a cold morning to meet local runners.

We split off into various pace groups for both a 5k and 10k route. I took off on the 10k Arb loop route with my friends Pat, Matt, Scott, Tim, and a few others. I had to push myself to keep up with the pace—but it definitely felt good. After the run, we all met back at Mickey’s for breakfast. I ordered the banana walnut pancakes and a chocolate shake. I’m not sure the chocolate shake was the best option in the middle of January, especially given my post-winter run shivers, but I alternated between the shake and hot coffee to stay warm. All in all great morning and a hugely successful meet-up.

Comment » | Racing and Training

Another Winter Weekend Getaway

February 3rd, 2011 — 7:20pm

dscn0873The makings of a great winter weekend: Eight friends, a house on Green Lake, snowshoes, sleds, Dogfish Head 90 minute IPA, beef stew, a toasty fire, and plenty of board games.

Although the weekend began with a bit of stress and uncertainty due to plumbing issues that temporarily resulted in a lack of water (but luckily not heat), my best friend put her plumbing skills to the test and ultimately saved the day. And from there, it was all smooth sailing. dscn0890

Definitely my favorite part of the weekend was a long snowshoe outing through the woods followed by some epic sledding runs. I haven’t been sledding in a few years, but that didn’t stop me from attacking the hill with a running start. I’m proud to say I captured some nice air time (pictured, above). But I think it’s good I stopped when I did—because ultimately I’m not sure I would have walked away in one piece had I taken another run.

Afterward, we warmed up back at the house with drinks, dinner, a fire, and lively conversation and games. It was such a great weekend and reminded me again just how magical the simple act of getting away for the weekend with friends to enjoy the beauty and activities of winter can be.

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