Archive for December 2012

Spicy Peanut Buckwheat Noodles

December 28th, 2012 — 9:45am

I recently spent time delving into Angelo Sosa’s cookbook, Flavor Exposed, which explores Asian flavors with a focus on nine profiles: sweet, salty, smoky, bitter, sour, umami, spicy, earthy, and nutty. Among recipes like Braised Short Ribs with Lemongrass Honey, and Sweet Tomato Soup with Curried Whipped Cream, I was drawn to the comparatively simple and straight-forward Spicy Peanut Butter Dressing, which Angelo recommended serving over buckwheat noodles, grilled chicken, or as a dipping sauce or salad dressing. I was happy to learn the sauce can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month—making the possibilities truly endless. For its debut, I served the sauce over buckwheat noodles, topped with slices of Asian pear and chopped herbs. It was a simple, yet flavorful and texturally interesting meal.

Spicy Peanut Buckwheat Noodles with Asian Pear and Herbs  (inspired by Angelo Sosa’s Flavor Exposed; serves 6-8)

3 cups peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 red Thai chiles, chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
3 cups coconut milk
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 x 10 ounce packages (6 bundles) buckwheat noodles
2 Asian pears, sliced
Assorted fresh herbs

Toast the peanuts in a large saucepan over medium-high heat for two minutes or until fragrant. Add the oil, chiles, ginger, and garlic, and cook for another two minutes, or until the garlic just begins to brown. Pour the coconut milk into the pan. Stirring frequently, reduce the milk by about a third. Add the fish sauce and salt and cook for two minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add lime juice.

Meanwhile, prepare a large pot of boiling water. Scatter buckwheat noodles into boiling water and cook for 4-5 minutes on high heat. Strain noodles into a colander and rinse well under cold running water. Drain well.

Spoon the spicy peanut sauce over the buckwheat noodles. Add slices of Asian pear and roughly chopped assorted herbs before serving.

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Ginger Molasses Cookies with Chocolate Chips

December 21st, 2012 — 1:25pm

I’ve had my share of ginger molasses cookies over the years, especially around the holidays. But the introduction of chocolate chips is totally new to me. In hindsight, it seems like such a simple and obvious addition—chocolate chips. Yes. Of course. Why didn’t I think of that?

I was at a holiday party a few weeks ago when a friend walked up carrying a baking sheet of ginger molasses cookies with chocolate chips—straight from the oven. The cookies were warm. They were gooey. They were loaded with chocolate. And as my friend Claire helpfully pointed out, I soon had chocolate all over my face.

Don’t you think it’s time to make one more batch of holiday cookies?

Ginger Molasses Cookies with Chocolate Chips (adapted from Turntable Kitchen via Flour; makes 18 cookies)

1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 cup chocolate chips
Turbinado sugar, for coating the cookies

1. Combine butter, brown sugar, molasses and egg in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until combined.
2. Add the flours, baking soda, and spices to a medium bowl. Stir to combine, then sprinkle over the wet ingredients. Beat until just mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips.
3. Transfer dough to an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or overnight. You can store unbaked cookie dough in the fridge for up to one week.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop generous tablespoons of dough and roll into balls. Pour a few tablespoons of turbinado sugar in a small bowl and roll each ball of dough in sugar until fully coated. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on baking sheet.
5. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the cookies are cracked on top but just barely set.
6. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon

December 19th, 2012 — 5:35am

Lately, I’ve been on a brussels sprouts kick. It wasn’t until recent years that I learned to appreciate brussels sprouts in all their glory. Known as the vegetable that elicits more than its fair share of grumbling and turned up noses, I’ve found that, add a bit of bacon, and brussels sporouts become not only bearable, but crave-worthy. Therefore, I really enjoyed this recipe for Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon from Joanne Weir. The dish is flavorful and complex, and I love the finishing touch of chopped roasted hazelnuts and a covering of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Crave-worthy, indeed.

Orecchiette with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon (recipe from Joanne Weir via Food & Wine; serves 6)

1/2 cup hazelnuts (2 ounces)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved or quartered if large
3/4 pound orecchiette pasta
3 slices of thick-cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (3 ounces)
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°. Toast the hazelnuts for 8 minutes or until fragrant. Roughly chop the nuts once they’re cool enough to handle.

In a small saucepan, boil the chicken stock until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 15-20 minutes; keep warm.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts, cover and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the Brussels sprouts with a slotted spoon and place them in a colander to drain excess liquid. Return the water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente, 12 to 15 minutes, then drain.

Meanwhile, in a large pan, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels. Remove about half of the bacon grease from the pan, add the butter, and cook over medium-high heat until browned and nutty, about 3 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts and hazelnuts and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the orecchiette along with the reduced chicken stock and simmer, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of the Parmigiano cheese, season with salt and pepper and transfer to a large serving bowl. Garnish with bacon and the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and serve.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Crackly Whole Wheat Banana Bread

December 17th, 2012 — 9:43am

With an abundance of chocolate and sugar available for the taking in every direction I look, it felt refreshing to make a somewhat more healthy baked good this past weekend—Crackly Whole Wheat Banana Bread. The “crackly” part comes from millet seeds, which give each slice a unique and satisfying crunch. Like most banana breads, this one hits its stride in terms of flavor and moistness a few days later (if you can make it that long). I love a slice with my morning coffee. And on Sunday, I used a few slices to make French toast—although with a heaping of maple syrup and butter, I’m sure it wasn’t much better than the holiday cookies I can’t seem to avoid these days. But hey, ’tis the season.

Crackly Banana Bread (from Smitten Kitchen; makes 9×5-inch loaf)

3 large over-ripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup coconut oil, heated until it liquefies, or olive oil
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup uncooked millet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Mash bananas in a large bowl until nearly smooth. Whisk in egg, oil, brown sugar, syrup and vanilla extract. Add baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and stir until combined. Stir in flour until just combined, then millet.

Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake until a knife comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

CX State & Regional Championships

December 13th, 2012 — 12:55pm

This past weekend I participated in the Wisconsin State and Midwest Regional Cyclocross Championships at Badger Prairie Park in Verona. The weather varied drastically from the State Championships on Saturday to the Midwest Regional Championships on Sunday. Saturday was cool and dry, with a bit of sunshine, while Sunday brought several inches of snow. Although the course was more or less the same each day, needless to say, the conditions changed dramatically.

Saturday’s women’s pro/cat 1 & 2 race featured a field of 15. The best part of my race was the start. Somehow I made my way from a back row starting position to the near front. I rode with a few of the leaders for the first lap, and was eventually passed later in the race by stronger riders. The course was relatively hilly (but not anywhere near as bad as the previous week’s Booty Cross), with a great steep, stair run-up. I think we did  five loops. I ended up 9th overall, and 6th among riders from Wisconsin (it was the Wisconsin state championships, after all).

On Sunday morning, I woke up to a snow-covered landscape and debated whether or not to race. I was already registered, but the snow looked so heavy and wet, and my bed was so warm and comforting. After hemming and hawing for a while, I decided to go for it. Especially since I was considering registering for the national championships (held in Madison in January), I figured I better take advantage of the opportunity to race on the nationals course in conditions that will most likely hold into January.

I arrived early and did a couple practice laps. The course was covered in thick, wet snow. I grabbed my handlebars tightly, constantly bracing for disaster. The practice loops helped build my confidence and I became more comfortable in the snow. I realized that it was important to stay in the tracks as much as possible. Outside the tracks was as slippery as an ice rink. And descending the hills was just plain scary, tracks or no tracks.

Unlike Saturday’s race, I had a bad start. But the upside was that instead of being passed, I was the one doing the passing. Despite the crazy conditions, I stayed calm and focused. I slowly caught riders in front of me, and made a big pass on the last lap. Except a slip in the snow that caused me to go down, I was able to stay out of trouble. Hills that were ridable on Saturday were no longer ridable in the snow, requiring me to get off my bike and run up. The biggest challenge was clipping into my pedals. The snow, mud and leaves stuck to my cleats, making it nearly impossible to clip in (which obviously makes it difficult o pedal). But I could tell everyone was having the same problem. I observed one woman ahead of me near the end of the race swearing and stomping on her pedals frantically. In the end, I finished 6th, right on the tail of the 5th place rider, and couldn’t have been happier.

And while that ends the regular season, there’s more! Next up: USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Madison, January 9-13. Cyclocross in Wisconsin…in January? Should be interesting.

1 comment » | Racing and Training

Slow Food UW Cafe Lunch – 12/12

December 12th, 2012 — 12:41pm

Sadly, today was the last Slow Food UW Cafe of the semester. As a last hurrah before death by finals, the students made sure to go out with a bang. Today’s cafe was hosted by Jonny Hunter and the talented crew from Underground Food Collective. The meal included a pork (Roller Coaster Farms) sandwich with grilled onions (Driftless Organics), lettuce, roasted red peppers (Crossroads Community Farm), avocado and egg, along with a side of cole slaw. The sandwich was heavenly.

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White Chocolate Bon Bons

December 11th, 2012 — 1:44pm

Last Friday night I attended a great holiday cookie party. The hostess instructed everyone to bring a large batch of their favorite cookies— and the idea was that not only would you have the opportunity to sample the many varieties during the party, but you’d also take an assortment of cookies home with you. I’m all about making one type of cookie and coming home with twelve different kinds of cookies.

I contributed what has been my favorite holiday cookie for at least the last several years. I received the recipe from my Aunt Toby, the family’s baking extraordinaire. This is not the first time I’ve shared the recipe on my blog, but it has been a while. If you enjoy peanut butter and white chocolate, you’ll love these bon bons. They’re also remarkably easy to make.

White Chooolate Bon Bons (recipe from my Aunt Toby; makes 3 dozen)
2 cups crunchy peanut butter
2 cups Rice Krispies
12 ounce package of mini-chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
Almond bark/white chocolate

Mix first five ingredients together. Shape into balls and place on wax paper-lined cookie sheets. Freeze.

Melt a few pieces of almond bark at a time. Take out a few balls (leave remaining in freezer until ready so they do not thaw) and dip into melted almond bark. Let harden on wax paper.

2 comments » | Kristin's Kitchen

La Fuente’s Caldo de Camaron

December 10th, 2012 — 6:43am

My mom recently sent me this recipe for Caldo de Camaron (shrimp soup) from La Fuente Restaurant in Milwaukee with rave reviews. The ingredient list and directions seemed easy enough, so I made the soup one night last week after work. Although the chopping required was a bit time consuming, I also find the activity relaxing and therapeutic. The resulting soup was delicious. Even my Mexican food connoisseur taste tester agreed. This one’s a keeper for sure.

La Fuente’s Caldo de Camaron (Recipe from La Fuente Restaurant via Nov. 13 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; makes 4 servings)

11 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 lemon, cut into wedges
1/2 cup diced onion
2 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
2 pounds medium shrimp (31-to-40 count), headless and deveined but with shells

2 cups (about) cocktail sauce (divided)
6 ounces chopped cilantro (about 1 medium bunch, stems removed)
6 ounces diced onions (about 1 medium)
8 ounces diced tomatoes (about 2 medium Roma tomatoes)
2 avocados, diced (make sure they are ripe and soft to the touch)
Lemon wedges for garnish
Tortilla chips or crackers

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add peppers, lemon wedges, the 1/2 cup diced onion, bay leaves and salt. Add shrimp and cook 5 to 10 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and are cooked through. Do not overcook.

Remove shrimp from broth and let cool slightly. Peel and discard shell. Strain broth and discard any solids. Set shrimp and broth aside.

To assemble: Set out four large decorative soup bowls and put 1/4 cup cocktail sauce in each bowl.

Divide cilantro, onions, tomatoes and avocados among the bowls.

Reheat shrimp if needed by microwaving about 2 minutes. Divide shrimp among the four bowls. Add 3/4 cup of the reserved broth (rewarmed if needed) to each bowl. Top each serving with a few tablespoons of the remaining cocktail sauce and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve with tortilla chips or crackers.

1 comment » | Kristin's Kitchen

Booty Cross Race Report

December 7th, 2012 — 10:55am

Sunday marked the last regular season WCA cyclocross race—Booty Cross. I never did learn the meaning behind the name, or why the race changed from its former name of “Wizard Cross,” but I’m guessing in this case “booty” refers to a) a fine buttocks developed from riding one’s bicycle up steep hills, or b) a valuable prize or award for a podium finish at Booty Cross. Perhaps both.

Held at Hiestand Park on the East side of Madison, the course featured ridiculously challenging climbs and technical descents. I’d spectated at the race last year, so I thought I had a sense of what to expect. I knew it would be awful and difficult, and a feeling of dread filled my mind all morning. I overhead countless riders complaining about the hills. There were swear words flying, and I heard the mumblings of “this is not a cross course” repeatedly.

Despite the challenges (we’ve already established that I’m awful at hills), Larry encouraged me to stay positive—and reminded me that the course would be difficult for everyone. He advised me to come up with a mantra that I could repeat to myself during the race, something like, when other people get tired, I get tougher. So that’s the mindset I tried to get into before the race. I may not be the best hill climber in the field (far from it), but I can take the pain and draw strength from the challenge.

I had a great start and quickly found myself in 4th place among a very talented field of women. We hit several hills on each lap.  Most I could ride up very slowly; others I couldn’t ride at all, and had to hop off and push my bike to the top. I’ve never quite experienced the intense burn I felt in my lungs and legs. My heart was pumping wildly and I could barely breathe. Riding down the steep descents wasn’t much of a break either; it was just plain scary. I felt totally out of control.

I got tied up on a technical descent/climb on the second loop and lost time. Shortly after, I was passed by a few women. I tried to hang and was able to keep three of the women in site for the rest of my race. Near the end of my fifth lap, I was passed by the 45+ men’s leader, which meant my race was over at the end of the lap. I was the first woman to be pulled from the race, while those ahead of me headed out on a sixth and final loop. It was my first early pull from a race, but instead of being disappointed (as I’m sure I’d feel at any other race), I felt lucky. No more hills. I ended up in 7th place. It was a tough race with a fast field, but I was relatively happy with my race.

Next up is Wisconsin State CX Championships (Saturday) and Midwest Regional CX Championships (Sunday) this weekend in Verona.

3 comments » | Racing and Training

St. Nick’s Day 2012

December 7th, 2012 — 5:34am

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