Archive for January 2012


Wollersheim Port Celebration

January 31st, 2012 — 2:17pm

january-2012-247My friend Krista and I headed to Wollersheim Winery this past Saturday for the Port Release Celebration. Although I’ve been to several Ruby Nouveau Celebrations at Wollersheim, this was my first time celebrating a port release. And it was Krista’s first time at Wollersheim. We had a great time touring the winery, learning more about the history and production of port, sampling various wines (including the 2010 red and white ports), enjoying live jazz, and nibbling on our “port plates”—which included a baguette, cheese, almonds, dried apricots, and a chocolate truffle—the ultimate port pairing. Other highlights included saying hi to winemaker Philipe Coquard and seeing his Port-inspired Harley motorcycle (she’s a beauty—pictured, below).

Wollersheim’s Port is made from Foch grapes and fortified with grape brandy. It’s aged in oak barrels for 13 months and good for up to 20. The Red Port is a sweet sipping wine best enjoyed after dinner. The White Port is a wonderful before-dinner option that pairs well with cheese, bread, fruit, and chocolate. My friends Julie and Matt, long-time Wollersheim port enthusiasts, first turned me on to port at an Iron Chef dinner a few years ago. I don’t drink it all that often, but when I do, I really enjoy it. And so I loved being part of its celebration!

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Taste of the Market Breakfast

January 30th, 2012 — 9:16am

january-2012-238Mermaid Cafe hosted the “Taste of the Market Breakfast” at the late winter farmers’ market this past Saturday. Although I’ve only been to a handful of  “Taste of the Market Breakfast” events at the Madison Senior Center, this was by far my favorite meal.

The menu included wild mushroom ragout served atop sourdough crouton with poached eggs, spinach salad with beets and raw milk cheddar, an apple raspberry fruit bar, coffee and fruit juice. And live music. Everything was fantastic. All for just $8. A number of market producers contributed ingredients to the meal, including Bleu Mont Dairy, Driftless Organics, Jen Ehr Farms, Snug Haven Spinach. Definitely an incentive to roll out of bed early on a chilly January morning! Not to mention all of the wonderful market vendors offering fresh vegetables, cheeses, bakery, fruits, meats, and specialty items for purchase.

Find out more about future “Taste of the Market” breakfasts and other Dane County Farmers’ Market news by subscribing to the DCFM weekly e-mail updates (they’re fantastic and always include a current list of vendors, interesting recipes, and great pictures). And be sure to check out Mermaid Cafe—they’re doing some fantastic things (recent review here.) Hope to see you at the market!january-2012-245

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Vintage Silverware Plant Markers

January 26th, 2012 — 5:11pm

january-2012-223My latest craft project involves transforming vintage silver flatware into plant markers—effectively re-purposing and bringing new life to an old classic. I first saw these great DIY markers pictured in a magazine last spring and immediately wanted to buy a set for the herbs that adorn my windowsills. But when I searched on Etsy, I quickly discovered they’re not cheap (5 for $35). But more importantly, I realized I could probably make them myself.

Luckily, there are many wonderful tutorials on the web, put together by creative, crafty bloggers who discovered this great DIY project long before I did. A few of my favorites include posts from Shrimp Salad Circus and The Splendidly Imperfect Miss M. Following their inspiring pictures and careful instructions, I learned how to create my very own set of vintage silver plant markers.

All you need to get started is a variety of silver or silver plated flatware (not stainless steel—it won’t stamp), an alphabet steel stamping set, rubbing alcohol, a Sharpie, hammer, and a surface on which to hammer. I scoured several of Madison’s Goodwill and St. Vinny’s stores for a collection of silver plated spoons, knives, and forks. Most were priced at five for a dollar. I’m pretty sure I cleared out the city.

Luckily for this purpose, my apartment has concrete floors. Covering the spoon with a dish towel, I hammered the round part until it was perfectly flat. Then I planned the spacing of my chosen word by making small dots with a Sharpie. I then found each letter from the stamping set and pounded them one-by-one into the spoon with a hammer. I found it’s very important to hold both the spoon and steel stamper firmly in place—it’s so easy to slip and create a runaway (or psychedelic looking) letter. After stamping, I used a Sharpie marker to get into the grooves of each letter, which allows the word to pop against the silver background. Then, I dampened a paper towel with rubbing alcohol and wiped away the excess ink. And there you have it, your very own vintage silverware plant marker. A perfect project to prepare for Spring and the coming planting season!

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Baked Barley Risotto With Butternut Squash

January 25th, 2012 — 12:46pm

january-2012-1382This recipe is another new favorite of mine. A great comfort food for the winter months. I was thrilled with how this dish turned out—so flavorful and filling, and healthy, too. It’s definitely a meal in itself and makes for great leftovers. An excellent weekday option. I found the recipe in the December 2011 issue of Real Simple Magazine.

Baked Barley Risotto With Butternut Squash (from Real Simple, serves 4)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small butternut squash (about 11/2 pounds)—peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1 onion, finely chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup pearl barley
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
5 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (2 ounces), plus more for serving
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Heat oven to 400° F. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large oven-safe saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the squash, onion, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, 4 to 6 minutes.

2. Add the barley to the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook, stirring, until evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a boil; cover the pot and transfer it to oven. Bake until the barley is tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

3. Stir in the spinach, Parmesan, and butter. Serve with additional Parmesan.

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Pear and Apricot Tart

January 23rd, 2012 — 2:20pm

january-2012-225I tore this recipe out of a Real Simple magazine over a year ago. Finally, it rose to the top of my stack of pending recipes. It was originally featured in a Thanksgiving spread as a dessert option. But I think it’s a great option anytime during the fall or winter—especially if you use Bosc pears, the quintessential winter pear.

I’ve made this recipe twice in the last week. It’s quite simple, and since I already had the ingredients on hand, I figured, why not make it again? I used almond meal (from Trader Joe’s) instead of processing raw almonds (I read a recommendation online to double the amount when using meal instead of whole nuts, so I used a cup of almond meal). At first I was confused by the consistency of the tart dough (it was very soft), but then realized it’s not your standard “dough.” You don’t need to roll it out; you simply press it into the tart pan using your hands.

The tart came out exactly as pictured in the Real Simple article. It has a simple, natural beauty and the taste is not overly sweet. It looks and tastes unique. Interestingly, both times I’ve paired it with chili, but I’m sure it would compliment most any entree. When one of my colleagues sampled it at a work chili party last week, he asked, did you get this recipe from like a great grandma? Apparently he tasted an old family classic. And that’s a good sign, I think.

Pear and Apricot Tart (from Real Simple Nov. 2010; serves eight)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pears (such as Bosc or Bartlett)—peeled, quartered, and cored
1/2 cup dried apricots, halved
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup apricot preserves

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch removable-bottom fluted tart pan.

2. In a food processor, process the almonds and ½ cup of the sugar until finely ground. Add the butter, egg, and almond extract and process until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and pulse a few times just to combine (the dough will be soft).

3. Spread the dough in the bottom of the prepared pan.

4. In a small bowl, toss the pears and apricots with the lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Arrange the pears in the dough. Scatter the apricots over the dough, pressing them in gently.

5. Bake until the pears are tender and the center is firm, 50 to 55 minutes (cover the edges with foil if they brown too quickly).

6. In a small bowl, combine the preserves and 1 tablespoon water. Brush over the warm tart. Let cool in the pan before unmolding.

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Banana-Bread French Toast

January 20th, 2012 — 1:30pm

december-2011-121Larry is a library addict (could be worse, right?) One of my favorite things is that he’s constantly checking out new books for me that he thinks I might like. Mostly cookbooks. When there’s a new cookbook waiting on his coffee table for me to explore, I squeal with delight and dive in, eagerly paging through the shiny photos and blog-worthy sounding recipes. december-2011-1141

One cookbook that wasn’t likely intended for me, however, was Esquire’s Eat Like a Man. I paged through it anyway, repeatedly uttering “I wanna eat like a man” in my most manly voice. Surprisingly and rather immediately, I came upon a recipe that I absolutely had to try. And it sounded anything but manly to me. Banana-Bread French Toast. What a wonderful combination of two favorites—banana bread and French toast. But seriously, how many men have a fresh loaf of banana bread on hand at any given moment? Right. Luckily, I had a loaf in the freezer. So I set to work on this magical breakfast one morning during winter break. I had my doubts about the lemon sour cream topping, but it was a wonderful touch and a nice contrast to the sweetness from the banana bread and maple syrup. If this is what men eat like, I want more.

Banana-Bread French Toast (from Douglas Keane at Cyrus; serves one)

Thick (about two-inch) slices of banana bread
2 eggs
1 tbsp milk
Pinch of cinnamon
1 tbsp unsalted butter
Maple syrup
Half of a vanilla bean, split and scraped
Spoonful of lemon sour cream

Start with the slices of banana bread. Dried-out is better. Beat the eggs, milk, and cinnamon until well combined. In a nonstick skillet, heat the butter until barely foamy. Thoroughly coat the bread with the egg mixture (dripping off excess), add to the pan, and cook about two minutes on each side. Meanwhile, warm some maple syrup with the vanilla bean—throw the seeds and the bean in with the syrup. Top with a big spoonful of lemon sour cream—the cool tartness will balance the sugar. (To make it, add some grated lemon zest to sour cream and whip until thickened, so the cream won’t just melt and fade away when it hits the hot bread.)

Tip: For a bigger batch of vanilla syrup: split and scrape a whole vanilla bean into a can or bottle of maple syrup, close, and shake a bit. After a while, it will be ready to go.

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Poppy-Seed Danishes With Cherry-Cream Cheese Filling

January 20th, 2012 — 6:42am

january-2012-200With a day off work earlier this week, I spent my time largely in the kitchen. In a addition to a quiche and handmade ravioli, I made Poppy-Seed Danishes With Cherry-Cream Cheese Filling from a recipe I had torn out of Martha Stewart Living magazine several months ago.

I usually shy away from recipes that involve yeast—something always seems to go wrong. I either manage to kill the yeast or have difficulty finding an environment warm enough for the dough to  “double in size”—particularly during the winter. This time I got smarter. I used a candy thermometer to measure the liquid to 120 degrees precisely, and let the dough rise on the stove (since I had just cooked a quiche in the oven, the surface was warm, creating an ideal dough incubator.)

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The article said these danishes are meant to “resemble a blooming flower.” They were quite beautiful, and tasted incredible—especially hot out of the oven. I brought the remaining danishes to work the following day and my co-workers raved about their fresh taste. I’m just glad I got rid of them before I devoured the entire batch myself.

Poppy-Seed Danishes With Cherry-Cream Cheese Filling (from Martha Stewart Living; makes 9)

For the dough:
1 cup whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, plus more for bowl
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (one 1/4-ounce envelope) active dry yeast
3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface and hands
Salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
1/3 cup cherry preserves

For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk or heavy cream

1. Make the dough: Warm milk, butter, and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over a low heat until mixture reaches 120 degrees on a candy thermometer. (Butter will not melt completely.) Pour warm milk mixture over yeast in the bowl of a mixer; whisk to combine. Cover with 2 cups flour and 1 teaspoon salt (do not stir). Let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Using the dough-hook attachment, mix dough on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl, until a sticky dough forms. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce speed to low, and mix in 1 1/2 cups flour. (If dough is too sticky, mix in an additional 1/2 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Continue to mix until dough is smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, about 5 minutes more.

3. Using floured hands, turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough into a ball, and transfer to a large buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let stand in a warm place until dough is doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

4. Return dough to lightly floured surface, and punch down. Reshape into a ball. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, make the filling: Beat cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, and vanilla with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg yolk. Add poppy seeds, and beat until evenly distributed.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 16-inch square. Trim edges using a sharp paring knife to form a 15-inch square. (If dough seems too warm or too elastic, refrigerate or freeze for 10 minutes.) Cut dough into nine 5-inch squares, and divide between 2 baking sheets.

7. Cut a 2-inch line from the 4 corners of each square into the center. Spread a heaping tablespoon filling onto each. Dollop centers with a heaping teaspoon preserves. Fold the 2 top corners into the center of each square. Repeat with remaining corners to form petals. Brush petals with egg wash. Bake until deep golden brown, 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool slightly.

8. Meanwhile, make the glaze: Mix together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until ready to use. (If glaze gets stiff, add more milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is achieved.)

9. Drizzle Danishes with glaze, and let stand for 10 minutes.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Creating a Woody Work Space

January 19th, 2012 — 11:53am

jan2I love the look of wood grain accessories—even the faux-bois variety. Using inspiration from an article in Martha Stewart Living about creating a “woody work space,” I set to work on my latest craft project. I bought two rolls of wood grain contact  paper from hardwarestore.com (available in Ultra Light Pine, Cherry Woodgrain, and Pickled Wood, from $5.49 a roll) and then coated everything in sight—boring binders, a used Kickapoo coffee tin, and an old, heavily-used mouse pad. The process is easy—simply cut the paper slightly larger than the surface you want to cover and then trim excess with a craft knife. I’m very happy with how the wood grain design transformed my work space—instant DIY chic. jan3jan1

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Pasta With Roasted Cauliflower, Arugula, and Prosciutto

January 18th, 2012 — 10:41am

january-2012-093I recently stumbled upon WGBH’s “Weekend Daily Dish,” a series featuring recipes and cooking tips from Boston’s top chefs and food critics. The following recipe from Susie Middleton, editor at large for Fine Cooking magazine, is the one that immediately stole my attention. I tackled the recipe during winter break when my time and appetite were abundant. I purchased prosciutto and dried orecchiette from Fraboni’s. I love the simple flavors and beautiful colors that make up this dish. It’s one of my new favorites.

Pasta With Roasted Cauliflower, Arugula, And Prosciutto (from Susie Middleton for WGBH’s Weekend Daily Dish; serves 4)

Kosher salt
One-half medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into 3/4-inch florets (3-1/2 cups)
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
9 large fresh sage leaves
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
6 thin slices prosciutto (about 4 oz.)
12 oz. dried orecchiette
5 oz. baby arugula (5 lightly packed cups)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.

Toss the cauliflower, tomatoes, oil, 3/4 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper on a rimmed baking sheet; spread in a single layer. Roast, stirring once or twice, until the cauliflower begins to turn golden and tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse the sage and garlic in a food processor until minced. Add the prosciutto and pulse until coarsely chopped. Once the cauliflower is golden, toss the herb mixture into the vegetables and continue to roast until fragrant and the cauliflower is golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.

Boil the orecchiette until al dente, 9 to 10 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Stir in the roasted cauliflower mixture, arugula, cheese, and enough pasta water to moisten. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Rolo Stuffed Cookies

January 10th, 2012 — 2:33pm

These are my new favorite cookies. They are extraordinarily easy and tasty. Basically cookies from a cake box mix—which is sort of like cheating, but doesn’t bother me in the least. My friend Julie introduced me these delectable nuggets when she brought a couple dozen to the Dailymile Holiday Lights Run social in early December. I enjoyed more than my fair share—the gooey caramel filling kept drawing me back for more. And when I learned just how easy they are to make—man, that was the clincher. I experimented a bit by rolling the dough balls in sugar before baking (some I rolled in granulated, others in powdered sugar), which was a nice finishing touch, but certainly not necessary. If you like chocolate and cake, and have limited time on your hands for baking, this recipe is for you.

1 package of fudge marble cake mix
2 large eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
~26 individually wrapped Rolo candies

1. Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheet with parchment paper (or just Pam spray).

2. In a large bowl, combine yellow part of cake mix, eggs, and oil, stirring to combine.

3. Slowly stir in the entire package of chocolate mix to form marbled cookie dough. (Be careful not to stir too much or you will lose the marble effect.)

4. Roll dough into balls (somewhere around 26 or so depending on how big you make the balls).

5. Shape each dough ball around 1 piece of candy and place on parchment paper.

6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm.

7. Cool on paper for 10 minutes. Remove from cookie sheet and completely cool on rack.

4 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

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