Archive for April 2011

Union Jack Fruit Pizza

April 28th, 2011 — 6:42am

april-2011-046I’m fortunate to have not just one, but two royal wedding celebrations in the next 24 hours. The first is a work luncheon this afternoon, and the second a traditional English breakfast (with live coverage of the wedding) very early tomorrow morning (as in 4 a.m. early).

I’m excited with how my dessert for today’s luncheon turned out. A recipe for Union Jack Fruit Pizza immediately caught my eye upon doing an online search for royal wedding recipes earlier this week. The “pizza” is made up of a sugar cookie base with cream cheese frosting dotted with rasberries, strawberries, and blueberries—all in the shape of the British Union Flag.

Let the festivities begin!

Union Jack Fruit Pizza, from Betty Crocker (serves 20)

1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 oz.) Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

4 cups sliced fresh strawberries
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh rasberries

Heat oven to 350°F. Line 15x10x1-inch or 13×9-inch pan with foil. Spray bottom only of foil with cooking spray. In large bowl, stir cookie mix, butter and egg until soft dough forms. Press evenly in bottom of pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

In small bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Spread mixture over cooled crust.

Arrange fruit over cream cheese. Refrigerate at least 1 hour until chilled. To serve, cut into 5 rows by 4 rows. Cover and refrigerate any remaining fruit pizza.

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Maple Rye Sour

April 25th, 2011 — 3:44pm

dscn1168It’s hard to pick a favorite from the three items a friend and I contributed to March’s Iron Chef Maple Syrup Dinner. But if I was forced to choose, I would pick the recipe we found in a recent issue of Saveur magazine for Maple Rye Sours.

While it’s natural to think of maple syrup running down a stack of pancakes, it’s not the first ingredient I’d think of to inspire a cocktail. Contributing writer Betsy Andrews explains that “maple syrup enhances many foods, but it’s also terrific in cocktails. Whereas simple syrup is simply sweet, maple lends flavor, richness, and nostalgia.” According to the article, the recipe is based on the Prospect Park Sour, created by Brad Farran at the Clover Club in Brooklyn, New York.

Honestly, I’ll remember less about the cocktail itself—which, don’t get me wrong, was fantastic—and more about our prolonged and dedicated search for Luxardo Amaro Abano, an Italian liqueur. We visited and called countless area liqueur stores with no luck before eventually settling on a different brand of Amaro. Although our hunt didn’t exactly take us to our intended destination, it was certainly an entertaining and memorable chase. And sometimes the best memories in the kitchen aren’t about the food at all.

Maple Rye Sour (From Saveur Magazine; makes one cocktail)

2 oz. rye whiskey, preferably Rittenhouse
1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
1/4 oz. maple syrup
1/4 oz. Luxardo Amaro Abano liqueur
Strip of orange peel, to garnish

Combine whiskey, juices, syrup, and liqueur in a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, and cover; shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a chilled sour glass and garnish with orange peel twist.

Comment » | Iron Chef Dinners, Kristin's Kitchen

A Royal Wedding Party

April 21st, 2011 — 11:57am

royalI recently received an invitation “on behalf of the royal family” to a Royal Wedding Party on Friday, April 29. Although not technically part of the royal family, two of my friends are hosting a celebration at their “palace,” during which we’ll watch the live coverage of the wedding and enjoy a “proper English breakfast.” I almost fell over when I realized the party begins at 4 a.m. Apparently that’s when the live coverage of the wedding starts (at least in Wisconsin). Needless to say, I’ve taken a vacation day at work and will break out one of my fine derby hats to partake in the festivities. I’m excited—I’ve never celebrated a royal wedding. And as I understand it, they don’t come around all that often. So pass the tea and crumpets, please.

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Sights & Tastes of Chicago

April 20th, 2011 — 1:40pm

Above are pictures from a recent weekend visit to Chicago. Highlights included hunting for vinyl, exploring the city by way of the ‘L,’ finally tracking down the film Biutiful, searching for modern design, and eating at Fox and Obel Cafe, Girl & the Goat, Frontera, and XOCO. It was a great weekend in the city filled with many new sensory experiences. Although, you know me—I’m always ready to escape back to Madison after a few days in the big city.

1 comment » | Vacation and Travel

Sunday’s Run Day

April 19th, 2011 — 3:03pm

dscn1298This past weekend and next mark the peak of my training for next month’s Ice Age 50. My training plan calls for four and five hour runs on consecutive days for both weekends. It’s a lot of running—but hopefully all the time will pay off on race day and I will have adequately trained myself to run on tired legs. And it’s certainly good to know that taper time is just around the corner.

Of this past weekend’s runs, Sunday’s was certainly the the most challenging. Luckily I was able to convince my friend Krista to join me—she is such a trooper and I was so thankful for her company. We left Madison shortly after 7 a.m. and roadtripped to the Nordic Trails near Whitewater. There, we decided to run three loops of the blue trail (9.2 miles each), and Krista agreed to join me for the first two.dscn1304

It was my first time back on the trails since race day last year and Krista’s first time running the Nordic Trails.  The first few miles were relatively easy, but then we hit the hills. And they were relentless. At one point, Krista exclaimed, “holy balls.” They are the sort of hills that are so steep, they’re painful to even walk up. I was discouragingly toast after just the first loop. We took a quick break at my car to fuel up with Cliff blocks and water, and then set off on our second loop. I seemed to find my rhythm and Krista and I had some entertaining conversations that made the time pass quicker. Still, I think Krista was quite happy to finish up the loop, especially after running out of water midway through. Upon returning to my car, Krista made a mad dash for the soda vending machine and then found a cozy spot in my car for a good nap.dscn1302

I grabbed my ipod and set off for the third and final loop. The music was invigorating, and so was seeing several other runners out on the trails (presumably also training for the Ice Age 50). I ran the first few miles at a nice pace, but then hit the all too familiar set of hills that slowed my pace to a standstill. But knowing it was my last loop with the promise of lunch on the horizon helped propel me to the end. I came up to the trailhead about five minutes short of five hours, at which point I turned around to run a few more minutes to call it an even five. Because five feels so much better than 4:55!

From there, we headed to the nearby La Grange General Store for sandwiches and beer (it’s one of my all-time favorite hole-in-the-wall lunch spots and a mecca of sorts for trail runners and mountain bikers). We found a great picnic table in the sun and toasted to an incredible day of trail running. One more weekend of long runs, then it’s officially taper time!

2 comments » | Racing and Training

Iron Chef Maple Syrup

April 17th, 2011 — 1:42pm

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Maple Syrup Festival

April 14th, 2011 — 1:39pm

We fortuitously stumbled upon maple syrup as March’s Iron Chef Dinner ingredient. It was literally picked from a hat last month when we were unable to decide among several suggested options. But, oh, how lucky we were. I don’t think any of us realized then that maple syrup was perhaps the most timely ingredient we could have chosen.

Just after maple syrup was picked as the dinner’s theme ingredient, I discovered a multitude of exciting recipe sources, including a 13-page feature in the March issue of Saveur Magazine entitled “The Sweet Life: Maple Syrup Season in Quebec.” Jackpot. But then it only got better—my mom forwarded a recent article with several maple syrup recipes from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and then my friend stumbled upon a flyer for Maple Syrup Festival at Madison’s Aldo Leopold Nature Center—scheduled the day before our Maple Syrup Iron Chef Dinner. Clearly, maple syrup was just meant to be the March ingredient.

Luckily a few members of the Iron Chef crew were willing to join me for the Maple Fest outing. I have to admit, we were a bit disappointed by the extent to which the event was geared toward children, but it was still fun to roam through the open fields from station to station learning more about maple syrup production methods. Of course, my favorite part of the event was sampling the maple syrup ice cream sundaes at the end of our educational tour.

Stay tuned for more pictures and recipes from March’s Iron Chef Dinner. Until then, following is a bit of maple syrup trivia I collected at Maple Syrup Fest.

Q. How many gallons of sap does it take to produce one gallon of syrup?
A. It takes approximately 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup.

Q. About how many years does it take a maple tree to grow to tappable size?
A. On average, it takes 40-50 years.

Q. What kind of weather is good for sap flow in the trees?
A. Warm, sunny days (at least 40 degrees) and below-freezing night are idea for sap flow.

Q. What appropriately named animal depends largely on flowing tree sap?
A. It’s a bird called the (Yellow-bellied) Sapsucker.

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Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt

April 12th, 2011 — 6:49pm

dscn1273I’ve recently fallen into the bad habit of relying on quick and unhealthy dinners on weeknights after work. Despite the fact that I love cooking, sometimes dinner is the last thing I want to worry about after a long day in the office. And so I fall back on macaroni and cheese. Or cheerios. Sometimes nachos. You know the routine.

And so it was inspiring to see a feature devoted to Crock-Pot recipes in the March issue of Real Simple magazine. I tried one of the recipes last night—Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt. I devoted ten minutes to measuring and dumping ingredients into a Crock-Pot just before leaving for work, and walla, I came back at 5pm to an apartment filled with the sweet aroma of curry delight. Served over a bed of long grain white rice, a dollop of Greek yogurt, and a sprinkling of sliced scallion, it was truly magic at work.

Curried Chicken with Ginger and Yogurt
Real Simple, March 2011 (serves 6)

1/3 cup tomato paste
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 medium onion, chopped
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 10)
kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
1/2 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
2 scallions, thinly sliced

In a 4- to 6-quart slow cooker, whisk together the tomato paste, garlic, curry powder, ginger, cumin, and ¾ cup water. Add the onion and stir to combine. Place the chicken on top and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

Cover and cook until the chicken is tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.

Twenty minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.

Just before serving, add the yogurt and ½ teaspoon salt to the chicken and stir to combine. Serve with the rice and sprinkle with the scallions.

2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

Trailbreaker Marathon

April 11th, 2011 — 6:01pm

trailbreakerIf there’s one lesson I learned last Saturday, it’s that you have to respect the marathon distance. Just like last year, I went into the Trailbreaker Marathon thinking I’d use it as a training run for next month’s Ice Age 50. I convinced my friend Scott to sign up (and even Brodie at the eleventh hour) and was excited to get in some serious training miles alongside friends.

But instead of giving the race the respect it deserved—demanded, in fact—I opted for a more laid-back approach that ultimately led to my demise. In the twenty-four hours leading up to the race, I consumed a Gyro, Chinese Fried Rice, Egg Fu Yung, Orange Chicken, and a few bakery items from the Milwaukee Public Market. Among other randoms, I’m sure. It was carbo loading on crack. trailbreaker2

Needless to say, I paid the price on race day. My stomach was out of whack and my energy levels low. But it was my own damn fault, so I gritted my teeth and ran on. It wasn’t pretty, and I wasn’t a happy camper for most of the race, but I did run all 26.2 miles. Despite the challenges, there were actually times when I enjoyed myself—namely catching up with Scott, hitting the trails, climbing the tower and ringing the bell at Lapham Peak, finally feeling good at mile 20, and watching Brodie smash his marathon PR. And luckily, those are the memories I’ll take away from the race.

I’m trying not to get down by the fact that my time was about 17 minutes slower than last year, but it’s hard not to question my fitness and training. Especially when I’m now about a month out from the Ice Age 50. It’s clear I have a lot of work to do before then. First on the list is working on a sound pre-race nutrition plan.

2 comments » | Racing and Training

Oatmeal Raisin Biscotti

April 5th, 2011 — 4:52pm

dscn1142I’m enjoying making my way through a new cookbook a friend recently picked up for me from the library. It’s called The Craft of Baking: Cakes, Cookies & Other Sweets with Ideas for Inventing Your Own, by James Beard award-winner and celebrated pastry chef Karen Demasco. I’ve already bookmarked dozens of recipes—everything from Pumpkin Seed Brittle to Lemon Beignets with Lemon Cream.

But the very first recipe I tackled was one for Oatmeal Raisin Biscotti. I’ve tried my hand at a couple different biscotti recipes over the years and have always been pleased with the results (Pistachio Cherry and Hazelnut Cinnamon Chip). I was curious to try a new spin on biscotti, and Oatmeal Raisin seemed like a particularly unique and tasty combination.

The Oatmeal Raisin Biscotti were easy to make and quite delicious. I particularly loved the molasses flavor. I brought the biscotti to a party as a hostess gift for a fellow coffee lover. They were quickly gobbled up at dessert time and sadly only two remained at the end of the party for the hostess. But I guess that’s kind of a good sign, right? Luckily, I had set aside a few for myself to enjoy the following morning with coffee.

Oatmeal Raisin Biscotti from The Craft of Baking (makes about 3 dozen)

3/4 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup maple sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a food processor or blender, grind 1/2 cup of the oats to make a fine flour. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whisk together the oat flour, remaining 1/2 cup oats, all-purpose flour, maple sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses, and oil. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary, until combined. Mix in the cooled nuts, vanilla, and raisins, just to combine.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Shape each portion into a 16 x 2-inch log and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, placing them about 3 inches apart. Bake, rotating the sheet once, until the logs are golden and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Transfer the logs, still on the parchment paper, to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Reduce the oven temperature to 250 degrees. One at a time, transfer the warm logs to a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut them on the diagonal into 1/3-inch-thick slices. Arrange the slices, cut side up, on the baking sheet. Bake until the biscotti are dry and firm to the touch, about 1 hour. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the sheet of biscotti cool completely on the rack. The biscotti can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

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