Archive for November 2011


Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch

November 30th, 2011 — 12:12pm

november-2011-253Earlier this semester I noticed a flyer posted in the campus building where I work promoting Cafe Lunches, put on by the popular student group Slow Food UW. The organization seems to have formed in recent years as an extension of the international slow food movement. Students unite through a shared love of preparing meals made with local and sustainable ingredients and by celebrating the stories behind those meals. What I would give to have had the opportunity to participate in this type of organization while I was an undergraduate!

Slow Food’s major projects include efforts to connect with and provide education to underserved communities, improve the campus food system, and host weekly dinner events and Cafe Lunches. The Cafe Lunches are run out of the basement kitchen of a campus church and are held each Wednesday. Student interns and volunteers select, prepare, and serve the multi-course meal, which is then made available to the campus community and public for a very reasonable price. And best of all, the menu changes weekly. menu

I’ve been so excited to visit the Slow Food Cafe. Today I finally had the opportunity to enjoy lunch there with a former colleague. The menu included the following mouth-watering options:

-Braised goose sandwich with pear, honey lavender and black pepper aioli with greens on rustic bread

-Spanish tortilla with mushrooms, peppers and kale on our bread and served with homemade hot sauce

-Orzo salad with roasted vegetables along with F.H. King and Underground Food Collective’s pepperoni and a cilantro vinaigrette

-Black eyed pea salad with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, feta and a dill vinaigrette

-Homemade French onion soup

-Sweet potato and squash pelmeni (dumpling) soup

-Homemade dark chocolate peanut butter cups

-An assortment of jam-filled shortbread cookies

I don’t know about you, but reading that menu for the first time made my jaw drop. november-2011-333

It was a tough decision, but I chose an entree (the goose sandwich), a side (orzo salad), soup (sweet potato), and a peanut butter cup, all of which cost $8. The prices vary depending on if you want just an entree, or the entire three-course meal. The meal was fantastic; certainly the best lunch I’ve had in a long time. I was partiularly fond of the great flavors in the orzo salad. It was an awesome experience—amazing food and ingredients from local farmers, all prepared and served by students in a warm and comfortable atmosphere. Definitely a win-win for everyone.

I think I may need to make Cafe Lunches a regular Wednesday outing. Luckily, I already have plans to meet another friend for lunch there next Wednesday! Any other takers, let me know…

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Janet’s Rich Banana Bread

November 29th, 2011 — 2:51pm

november-2011-306I can’t say I go to allrecipes.com for cooking inspiration all that often. But when I’m looking for a basic recipe—like Banana Bread—there’s really no better place to look for a tried-and-true option. When a recipe has been tested and rated an average of 5 out of 5 stars by more than 38,000 people, you know you’ve found a winner. And so was the case with Janet’s Rich Banana Bread. Easy to make, and amazingly moist and flavorful. I love nothing more than a slice of fresh banana bread with my morning coffee. I keep a stash of overripe bananas in the freezer so that whenever the hankering for banana bread hits me, I’m ready to spring into action. This time I doubled the recipe and made two loaves, so the next time I can just pull out a loaf from the freezer.

Janet’s Rich Banana Bread (makes 1 – 9 x 5 inch loaf)

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 medium bananas, sliced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

2. In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the sour cream, walnuts and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Thanksgiving Day Run

November 29th, 2011 — 1:01pm

dadMy dad and I completed our traditional run from my parents’ house in Brookfield to the Milwaukee lakefront on Thanksgiving Day. What originally began as a Christmas day tradition has expanded in recent years to include Thanksgiving, other holidays, and random days when I’m home visiting my parents. The route is ten miles long and includes stretches along North Avenue, through the Menomonee River Parkway and Tosa Village, and a final  stretch downtown along Wisconsin Avenue. My dad always talks about how much he looks forward to our runs and the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with his only daughter (and sometimes also my brother, when he’s in town and can join us).

This year’s Thanksgiving Day Run was a great success. Despite warnings to the contrary, my dad is running stronger than ever. I also appreciated the unseasonably mild temperatures, especially as we got closer to the lakefront, where the winds usually pick up dramatically. During the hour-and-a-half run, our conversations ran the gamut from life, to work, to current events and politics. By the end of the run, my dad remarked, we’ve now solved all the world’s problems. Yes, indeed. As always, at the event of the run I felt great satisfaction and a sense of achievement—in both reaching the summit (the lakefront) and in spending quality time with my dad through our shared love of running. And certainly we had worked to clear plenty of room in our bellies for our Thansgiving feast!

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Ruby Nouveau Release

November 28th, 2011 — 10:22am

november-2011-263The Saturday before Thanksgiving, I made my annual pilgrimage to Wollersheim Winery for the celebration of the release of this year’s Ruby Nouveau. The Ruby Nouveau is the first wine of the harvest. The tradition is widely celebrated in the Beaujolais region of France, which is Wollersheim Winemaker Philippe Coquard’s homeland. Ruby Nouveau is typically light, fresh, fruity, and best enjoyed within six months. And best of all, it pairs particularly well with Thanksgiving dinner—which is why Larry and I bought a few bottles to contribute to our family’s feast.

In case you’re curious for more, The Q & A pictures below provide answers to common questions about Ruby Nouveau. Cheers!

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Winter Farmers’ Market

November 22nd, 2011 — 10:35am

november-2011-257It was a packed house at the indoor Dane County Farmers’ Market at the Monona Terrace this past Saturday morning. I haven’t been to the indoor market at the Monona Terrace in a few years and was amazed to see how much it’s grown since my last visit. There were dozens of vendors selling all types of vegetables and produce. Everyone seemed to be stocking up on fresh and local ingredients for their Thanksgiving feasts. I saw several people picking up turkeys from their favorite vendors. Larry I bought apple cider, beet greens, and Kale (the kale for a side dish we’re planning to contribute to our Thanksgiving meal). market

Walking through the artificially-lit Monona Terrace isn’t quite the same as walking around the capitol square, but I have to admit, it’s a close second. We’re very lucky to have indoor options in Madison during the colder months. The indoor market will be held at the Monona Terrace through December 17. Then, after a short break for the holidays, the indoor market will resume on January 7 at the Madison Senior Center (330 W. Mifflin) through April 14. And the best part of the farmers’ market at the Madison Senior Center is the $8 breakfasts from well-known local chefs. Bring on the bacon.

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An Olin Park Wedding

November 18th, 2011 — 4:51am

november-2011-078Tuesday was a stressful morning. I arrived shortly after 7 a.m. at the downtown Madison Parks office and waited anxiously in the lobby for the start of the annual Madison Parks Shelter Reservation Lottery. Park staff distributed movie style tickets while announcing the rules and procedures for the lottery, which began  just before 8:30. I had ticket number 899. I waited as dozens of other numbers were called. There were hugs and yelps of joy between couples, who undoubtedly wanted to get married at the same place we did—Olin Park. Meanwhile, my hopes were fading. But finally, after nearly half the numbers were called, I heard mine. I approached a table, where a woman used a black Sharpie to mark my application with the number 44. From there, I was directed to stand in the next line.november-2011-250

Larry and I want to get married outside. Early in our search, Larry had suggested Olin Park, explaining that it seemed like just the place Madcity girl would get married. The park is downtown, on Lake Monona, and features beautiful views of the Madison skyline. But then we got attached to other options, and it wasn’t until a recent visit to the park with my parents that our love for Olin was renewed. And so in the days leading up to the Nov. 15 lottery, we made several phone calls to learn more about the process and strategized date options. We identified six dates, mostly in June and July, and placed them in rank order on a calendar. We were prepared. And if the lottery didn’t work out, we figured it probably wasn’t meant to be and would surely find another fitting location.november-2011-0741

With such a poor lottery pick, though, it seemed highly unlikely we’d end up with one of the dates we wanted. I was pretty certain I’d be heading home empty handed and it would be back to the drawing board for Larry and me. But a part of me held out hope as I waited in line to meet with the “scheduler.” Occasionally, I would get out of line to walk over to the calendar and see what was left at Olin. Most of our dates were already blacked out, but two still appeared free. Then just one. With just a few people ahead of me in line, I nearly had a nervous breakdown as I realized that maybe, just maybe, this would work out for us and we’d get a date—and not just any date, our second choice! Finally, it was my turn. I nervously approached the calendar and realized with joy that the date was now ours. Our wedding day.olin2

And so that’s how we came to have both a date and location for our wedding. All in the course of a Tuesday morning. Of course there’s countless other details to attend to next, but for now all of that can wait. I feel enormous relief having the biggest part of the puzzle figured out. Everything else will fall into place in time. And so for now, we’re celebrating.

In case you’re interested in a very thorough tour of the Olin Park Pavilion, where we plan to have music and dancing, here’s a great video (wish I could take credit):

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Iron Chef Macadamia Nut Dinner

November 17th, 2011 — 4:58am

november-2011-189Last Friday night marked our latest Iron Chef Dinner. The theme ingredient was Macadamia Nuts, inspired by our recent trip to Hawaii—the land of Macadamia Nuts. Julie and Matt hosted. I loved how Julie decorated the dinner table with a beautiful centerpiece adorned with a bowl of macadamia nuts surrounded by various fall pumpkins and gourds.

Larry and I contributed three dishes to the mix—Pumpkin and Macadamia Soup, Spiced Prawns with Macadamia Couscous, and Macadamia Nut White Chip Pumpkin Cookies. My favorite was probably the cookies. The prawns over couscous were also quite tasty—but in hindsight, probably not the best dish for a potluck, considering the time from frying pan to mouth is so critical for ultimate enjoyment. And while I enjoyed the flavor of the pumpkin soup, the consistency seemed all wrong. november-2011-170

We were really all quite amazed by the diversity of dishes contributed to this month’s dinner—French Toast Stuffed with Macadamia Nut Butter, Grilled Asparagus and Macadamia Salad, Pesto Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Macadamia Nuts, Coconut Macadamia Muffins, Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Blondies, and perhaps the evening’s favorite, Jill’s Cranberry Macadamia Nut Stuffing, to which everyone kept exclaiming, Jill, does this have drugs in it? Which, if you don’t already have a stuffing recipe picked out for your Thanksgiving dinner, is sure to elicit similar enthusiasm from your discerning guests. All in all, it was a beautiful and delicious spread—certainly one of our very best efforts in Iron Chef history.

After stuffing our bellies with all things Macadamia Nut, we capped off the evening in Julie and Matt’s driveway with a hammer and a bowl of macadamia nuts. We cracked the shells open and enjoyed the not-so-fresh nuts Julie and Matt had brought back from their honeymoon in Hawaii several years ago.

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Found vs. Found Festival

November 16th, 2011 — 4:04pm

november-2011-246Larry and I attended the Found vs. Found Festival this past Sunday night at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Madison. It was the ultimate match up. Childhood friends Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher (native Wisconsinites) represented the Found Footage Festival, a touring event that  showcases hilarious footage from VHS tapes uncovered at “garage sales, thrift stores, and in warehouses and dumpsters across the country.” Brothers Davy and Peter Rothbart from Ann Arbor represented Found Magazine, which is publication designed to celebrate “found”  notes, photos, and other interesting items.

Despite their similar names and missions, apparently the two groups didn’t officially meet until they happened to be booked at the same venue in Madison last April. Their meeting went well and prompted them to join forces for their latest tour, a road trip across the Midwest to duke it out in the ultimate challenge of who can present the all-time greatest “found” material.

The event was made up of three “periods,” during which Joe and Nick from Found Footage Festival rotated on stage with Davy and Peter from Found Magazine to share their best finds with the audience. Then it was up to a few members of the audience to determine who came out on top. Armed with a video tape attached by string to a magazine, the judges voted by holding up either the video tape for Found Footage Festival, or the magazine for Found Magazine. It was a clever voting system.

Joe and Nick certainly had the hometown advantage, having grown up in closeby Stoughton, Wisconsin. Both pairs put on a good show, but the video clips are what had Larry and I practically rolling on the ground laughing. I particularly loved the footage from the corporate training videos, the “rent a friend” clips, as well as the takes featuring Jack Rebney, also known as “the World’s Angriest RV Salesman.” On the magazine side, I enjoyed Davy and Peter’s rousing rendition of “Damn, the booty don’t stop, girl.” In fact, the song keeps playing in my head on repeat. It was a fun evening. Lots of good material and laughs. I’m happy to report the Wisconsin boys came out on top. It was a great match up, but a clear victory for Found Footage Festival.

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Celeriac Potato Green Chili Soup

November 15th, 2011 — 5:43pm

october-2011-0941Another new favorite from the Madison CSA cookbook. This one is a nice spin on a classic potato soup—rich and hearty with a touch of heat from roasted Poblano chiles. It’s just the kind of soup I plan to lean on all winter long for warmth and comfort. Plus, it was fun to experiment with celeriac, an ingredient I had never before cooked with.

Celeriac Potato Green Chili Soup (from Deb Boehm, Deb and Lola’s Restaurant; Makes 4 servings)

1 large onion, sliced
2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
1 medium bub celeriac, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
4 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped Poblano or Anaheim chiles
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

Sweat onions in butter or oil over low heat until onion is completely cooked but not yet caramelized (15 minutes). Add celeriac and thyme; cook, stirring frequently, 5-10 minutes. Add potatoes, milk, and chiles; simmer until potatoes and celeriac are cooked through. Blend smooth in food processor. Season with salt, pepper, sugar, and rice wine vinegar.

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Pumpkin and Hazelnut Biscotti

November 15th, 2011 — 8:33am

november-2011-245I love making biscotti. There’s just something about how perfectly those crunchy morsels pair with coffee. I also like how biscotti is a bit off the beaten path, and not too sweet, either. Over the years, I’ve tried recipes for Oatmeal Raisin, Pistachio Cherry, and Hazelnut Cinnamon Chip. This time I experimented with fall flavors, using a recipe from Edible Madison (Winter 2010), a quarterly publication designed to celebrate the abundance of local foods in Southern Wisconsin. Although subtle, I liked the pumpkin and hazelnut flavors. My all-time favorite is still Oatmeal Raisin, but these are a great option to celebrate fall. They’d also make an awesome Thanksgiving dinner host/hostess gift.

Pumpkin and Hazelnut Biscotti (recipe from Macon Luhning, featured in Edible Madison, Winter 2010, Makes around 20-30 biscotti)

1 cup roasted and pureed pumpkin (pie pumpkin or butternut squash)
4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 eggs lightly beaten
1/2 cup toasted and crushed hazelnuts

Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and set aside. Cut butter into pats and mix on speed 3 (medium speed) in a counter top mixer until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and pumpkin puree and mix on speed 2 (low speed) until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on speed 2 until incorporated. Add half of the eggs and mix until incorporated. Add second 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until incorporated. Add second half of eggs and mix until just incorporated. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just incorporated (do not over mix). Add hazelnuts and mix until incorporated. On a floured work surface roll mixture into a log and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Press log flat (about 3/4 inch tall) and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 370 degrees. Brush biscotti with an egg wash and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Cut biscotti into 3/4-inch slices and place on a cookie sheet. Bake biscotti for 70 minutes. Makes around 20-30 biscotti.

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