They’re like doughnuts for rich people

It is getting to be that time of year where we think a lot about food. But let’s be honest, I always think a lot about food. Yes, Thanksgiving is upon us. Please forgive me if I seem a little shallow here, but I have consumed a total of about 372 calories today and so I am thinking about what I am grateful for in terms of things that I like to eat. I am grateful for my sister who introduced me to kale about one year ago. Since she first uttered the words, “kale and pasta,” I have eaten that for dinner approximately 42,000 times. Here is a summary of what she told me that she likes to do:

Throw a couple of glugs of olive oil in a saute pan with some garlic and red pepper flakes. After washing and drying some kale, rip it into bite-size pieces and throw that in the pan, too. Saute it for several minutes (I like mine to get a little crispy) and add some diced canned tomatoes, if you like. Tonight I might add some freshly squeezed lemon juice at the end, instead of the tomatoes. Stir in some whole wheat pasta (I like to use penne) cooked al dente and- if you’ve got it- shred some good parmesan on top. Voila. Yum.

Cooking up some kale last Friday for the 42,001st time

Tonight I am also grateful for my boyfriend who says things like, “They’re like doughnuts for rich people,” when asked to clarify “scones” to a friend of mine on the phone this past weekend (I was in the midst of kneading the dough for the first batch of scones that I ever attempted to make- more on that later). And I am also grateful that Dan- who apparently believes that I am secretly rich- makes pizza once a week on an undisclosed night (sorry dear neighbor, you told me not to tell you which night).

The whole wheat scones, or doughnuts for rich people, that I made this past weekend (I can make things without cheese-what you see on top is butter)

Finally, tonight I am grateful to my parents for many, many reasons, but one of those reasons is the Le Crueset cookware they gave me last year for my birthday. This pot has changed the way that I cook. Everything tastes better when it is cooked in my lovely green enameled dutch oven, including the gratin that I made last night. Before my sister gave me a huge vegetarian cookbook last Christmas, I don’t think I had ever paid attention to gratins, but then I started hearing about gratins everywhere. So, with my new trusty Le Crueset and after much heckling from Dan that I would never actually make a gratin, I have now made this recipe twice. Here is a warning about the following recipe: It is delicious, but it is rich. I recommend saving this one for a day when you have shoveled at least four feet of snow or skiied the Birkebeiner. You have been warned.

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This recipe comes from the cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini.

Root Vegetable Gratin with Cheddar and Horseradish Rye Crumb Crust

1 pound rutabaga, peeled* and cut into chunks

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 pound turnips, peeled and cut into chunks

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup apple cider or wine

1 tablespoon minced garlic

salt and pepper

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour**

2 cups whole milk, heated

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons horseradish

4 ounces grated aged cheddar cheese

1/2 cup rye bread crumbs

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread vegetables in large baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and cider or wine, scatter on the garlic, season to taste with salt and pepper, and toss well. Cover dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes, then remove foil and continue to roast until vegetables are brown-tipped and tender, 20-35 minutes longer. Meanwhile, make a white sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan; stir in flour and cook over low heat several minutes. Whisk in milk, bring to simmer, and cook gently 10 minutes, stirring often. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in nutmeg. Gently fold the sauce into the roasted vegetables. Transfer to a buttered baking dish (or leave in the same dish the vegetables were roasted in). Mix horseradish, cheddar, and bread crumbs with your fingers and scatter the mixture evenly over the vegetables. Continue to bake until bubbly, 20-30 minutes. Makes 6 servings.***

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*The recipe says to peel the vegetables but I just washed them well (I’m afraid of peeling off all of the good stuff!)

**I used whole wheat flour

***The recipe claims to feed six people, I am telling you that it fed two, but one of us ate A LOT

I served this gratin last night with a mixed green and spinach salad with some sliced onions and yellow peppers. I dressed it with olive oil and lemon juice in an attempt to cut the richness of the dish. This sort of worked.    

 

Delicious root vegetables

 

Bubbly gratin

Tomorrow I am off to lovely Manitowoc County where I will have the opportunity to visit some of the finest establishments that area has to offer. Stay tuned. Until then, I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday.

The beach in Two Rivers, November 2009

Yum Town called: They want their pizza back

I’ve got some super exciting news today to report: Metamorphic, the latest cd released this summer by Dan’s band, Clovis Mann, is featured on the cover of this week’s Isthmus, Madison’s weekly newspaper, as one of the top ten local albums of the year! 

On the cover of the Isthmus. Boosh!

Not nearly as important, but exciting to me, is that also means that my photo is on the cover of the Isthmus.

In other awesome news, tonight was pizza night. Sometimes you have those weeks substitute teaching where you spend part of your week bored into submission by the task of cutting out laminated math sheets for multiple hours and part of your week in awe of what is wrong with society when a first grader is hoisting his chair over his head to throw across the room and flipping desks over. There is something that makes these weeks better and that something, my friends, is pizza night.

I don’t remember exactly how it started or when (but I do know that it use to coincide with watching The Biggest Loser until Dan and I realized that we wanted to shoot the television, not unlike that gentleman from Black Earth who did shoot his television this week over a dancing Palin) but pizza night has become one of my favorite things that I look forward to all week long. While I like to do a lot of the cooking, there are a few things that I leave up to Dan because he does them very well: Tacos al pastor (we ate these before I quite meat- we’re still working on the veggie version), omelettes, pancakes and pizza. Dan starts his pizza with a Rustic Crust crust from the Willy Street Co-op and globs on Muir Glen pizza sauce (which to he adds chopped up hot chili peppers from the olive bar olives).

Pizza prep work

Next come the onions and the shredded Farmer John’s cheese. He tops it off with a sliced portabella mushroom cap, olives and tonight, a jalapeno pepper. YUM! We devoured it with a spinach salad with a  mustard vinagrette and some roasted broccoli with sea salt, pepper and lemon. And a nice, cheap red wine that I purchased tonight after my run at the local pharmacy- and that’s not slang for liquor store.

Oh delicious pizza pie

Back to first grade tomorrow. Fortified by pizza, I am ready.

Do yourself a favor and…

Want to know a secret? Sometimes at the end of a run I like to sprint down my neighbors’ street so that they think I run really fast. The best case scenario for this situation is that they are sitting out on their deck drinking beer so that they get to see me run really fast and then offer me a beer to replace my fluids. Once in awhile I lace up my running shoes just to sprint past their house a few times and try to get offered a free beer. No, that last part isn’t true.

On to the mac-n-cheese. The official title for this log entry is “Do yourself a favor and make this recipe for skillet macaroni and cheese immediately if not sooner.” It is soooooooooo crazy delicious!!!!!!! I found it on a New York Times website featuring vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. It’s made with whole wheat pasta, broccoli and mushrooms and you can use skim or low-fat milk (I used 1% and it was super creamy) so it has some redeeming qualities in terms of health. Oh! And you use real butter so you can avoid that poisonous stuff that comes in the tub. So, there you go! It’s health food! I omitted the tarragon because a) I gave up looking for any on the sticky spice shelf above my stove after about 2 1/2 seconds and b) I know that I have heard of tarragon, but I don’t really know what tarragon is (Is that terrible? Am I missing out?). I figured that red chili pepper flakes would be the perfect substitution for the tarragon and I was right.

This photo does not give justice to how good this tastes

The amazing thing about this recipe is that I usually have to double or triple the sauce part of recipes in order to make dishes saucy enough for my taste. I love sauce. But this recipe actually satisfied my desire for sauciness (that is a strange-looking word) as it is written. I didn’t even add all of the milk because it seemed like it was going to be too much, but, in retrospect, I could have added it all. It says that this recipe provides 6 side-dish servings. All I can tell you is that Dan and I polished it all off in one sitting but I had been sprinting back and forth in front of my neighbors’ house in hopes that they would give me a beer. I accompanied the dish with a salad of delicious spinach greens (with olive oil and lemon juice) that I risked my sanity in obtaining at the indoor farmer’s market this past Saturday. Enjoy.

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This is a recipe from the Health section of the New York Times website.

Skillet Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli and Mushrooms

This skillet-supper version of the classic is quicker and easier to make. This hearty comfort food easily functions as the main dish for vegetarians.

Ingredients

4 ounces grated Cheddar2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard cheese1 tablespoon unsalted butter1 small yellow onion, chopped

6 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

3 cups low-fat or fat-free milk

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced tarragon leaves or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 ounces dried whole-wheat pasta shells (not the large ones for stuffing), cooked and drained according to the package instructions

4 cups small broccoli florets, cooked in boiling water for 1 minute (broccoli can be added to the pasta during the last minute of cooking, then drained with the pasta in a colander)

Preparation

1. Mix the Cheddar and Parmigiano-Reggiano in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. Melt the butter in a large, high-sided, oven-safe skillet. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.

 3. Add the mushrooms and cook until they release their liquid and it comes to a simmer, and then reduces by about two-thirds, about 5 minutes.

 4. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables in the skillet. Stir well to coat.

 5. Whisk in the milk in a steady, thin stream until creamy. Then whisk in the mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper. Continue whisking until the mixture starts to bubble and the liquid thickens, about 3 minutes.

 6. Remove the skillet from the heat. Stir in three-quarters of the mixed cheeses until smooth. Then stir in the cooked pasta and broccoli.

 7. Preheat the broiler after setting the rack 4 to 6 inches from the heat source. Meanwhile, sprinkle the remaining cheese over the ingredients in the skillet. Set the skillet on the rack and broil until light browned and bubbling, about 5 minutes. (If your skillet has a plastic or wooden handle, make sure it sticks outside the oven, out from under the broiler, so the handle doesn’t melt.) Cool for 5 to 10 minutes before dishing up.

 Yield: Makes six side-dish servings.

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Two signs today that a Wisconsin winter is on its way: I ran all the gas out of the mower this afternoon and alternate-side parking starts tonight. This means that I get to annoy my neighbors (not the ones with the beer) when their side of the street doesn’t get plowed because of my car. Oh joy. At least we have macaroni and cheese. Here are a few photos from last winter.

Snow Day, December 2009
Lake Wingra, December 2009
Snowman on our way to snow day beers at the Laurel, December 2009

Tonight I am cooking up a stir-fry with bok choy, broccoli, kale (it’s delicious), and garnishing with some parsley that I discovered going strong in the garden today as I ripped out the straw-like tomato and pepper plants from this summer. While wandering around Willy Street Co-op today I decided to make up a sauce with coconut milk, lime juice and probably some pepper flakes. I’m winging it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Bye weeks and Clovis Mann

It’s a bye week which is probably good for the Packers, but bad for the fans. Unless you had a baby shower that you had to attend that some good fan strategically scheduled for the bye week. Otherwise you are stuck silently suffering as you wonder how many sacks Clay Matthews has while you pretend to ooh and ahh over a diaper genie or baby bjorn (which you have no idea what these are or their intended use). This has not happened to me, but I bet it has happened to someone.

Do you think people in other states dress up their cats in onesies with their favorite sports team’s logo? This leads me to the photo of the day…

Danger Boy in his favorite Packer outfit

In other news, I’m super proud of Dan’s band Clovis Mann and all of the great press (like this article on the local sounds magazine site)that they have been getting for their latest album, Metamorphic. It is also exciting because the picture on the cover is one that I took last summer at the Bandit County Fair (and it is my third album cover)!

The tunnel to the Mississippi River at the Bandit Co Fair, June 2010

Apparently like a squirrel hoards nuts for the winter I am doing the equivalent of this by storing whole wheat pasta and cheese in my stomach. Tonight I am trying a recipe for mac-n-cheese that I found on the New York Times website. I’ll let you know how it goes. Go Pack.

Back that kale up

Howdy. Let’s take a trip back to last Thursday. This idea of starting a blog (from here on out I will be calling it a log, until I come up with something better, because blog sounds so unappealing) has been brewing for awhile but for some reason last Thursday I became highly energized about it. I sat down at my computer and started to write. This is what I wrote: “Sometimes you can find inspiration in the oddest of places. Like bathroom stalls.” I went on to explain that during a break from a three-hour literacy methods course in the Educational Sciences building on the UW campus I would go into the same bathroom and ponder an expression of graffiti that declared something about following your bliss and that the answer was to “ride an f-ing bike.” For some reason I really liked that.

After I went for a nice run outside in the unseasonably warm November evening, I elicited Dan on a mission to Willy Street Co-op for ingredients for a winter kale pasta recipe that I found on 101 cookbooks. I also had a secret mission in mind.

I used kale from the farmer's market, but this is a photo of the lovely kale and swiss chard at the Willy St Co-op

Did you know that the largest consumer of kale in this country is Pizza Hut, but that it isn’t for eating- it is used to decorate the salad bar?!?!? I learned that in my brilliant cookbook, From Asparagus to Zucchini from the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. C’mon people, it is time to get this superfood off of the ice surrounding the 3-day-old salad mix with all of the life sucked out of it and into our mouths!

Olive bar, I love you
Yummmmm... cheese

After the grocery store we stopped off at Star Liquor for a bottle of wine- I was excited to see that one of my favorite beers is back in season: Sierra Neveda’s Celebration Ale. Thank you Chico, CA for this beer and for Aaron Rodgers!

Celebration Ale has arrived

On the way home we took a detour for my secret mission which was unsuccessful. I wanted to see if the bike graffiti was still on the bathroom wall so that I could take a picture of it but it had been sandblasted or painted over. Ah well, Dan says art is meant to be destroyed.

On to the kale pasta. I followed the recipe but adapted it slightly. Instead of goat cheese I used feta in the sauce and then we shredded Edelweiss Grass-Fed Emmenthaler (I had never heard of this but it was the right price and it looked like a parmesan) for the garnish. We also added some delicious black olives (I’m blanking on what they are actually called but Dan decided they taste like whiskey so they are now “whiskey olives”). Ooh! And add some red pepper flakes. I served it with a baguette from Madison Sourdough Co and some roasted cauliflower.

I was moving fast and panicking a little because the recipe said the kale should only be in the boiling water for 10 seconds!

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This is a recipe from Heidi Swanson and her website, 101 cookbooks.

Winter Pasta

I used penne here, but you can substitute whatever pasta you like. Spinach can be substituted for the kale if you like as well.

4 cloves of garlic, peeled
4 small shallots, peeled
1 small bunch of kale – 1/2 lb / 8 oz, stalks removed, washed well
1/3 cup / 80 ml extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup / 2 oz goat cheese, plus more for topping
2 tablespoons + hot pasta water
fine grain sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh lemon juice – optional
12 oz / 340 g dried penne pasta
fresh thyme – and thyme flowers

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the boiling water generously, and add the garlic and shallots. Boil for 2-3 minutes, stir in the kale and cook for another ten seconds. Don’t overcook. Working quickly, use a slotted spoon or strainer to fish the greens, garlic, and shallots from the water. Use a food processor to puree the ingredients along with the olive oil and goat cheese. Add a couple tablespoons of hot pasta water if needed to thin things out if needed. Then season with a touch of salt and plenty of black pepper. Taste. Depending on your goat cheese, you might need a little extra acidic oomph if your sauce is a bit flat. If so, add fresh lemon juice a bit at a time until you’re happy with it the sauce. Set aside.

Reheat the pot of water and boil the pasta per package instructions. Drain and toss immediately with the green sauce. Serve topped with a few pinches of fresh thyme, and more crumbled goat cheese.

Serves 4-6.

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Yum. Thanks for going back in time with me to remember this meal and the beginning of this log.

Seeking spinach and scones in the cold November rain

We sat next to each other at the picnic table the other day. Me: Disheveled hair. Brown eyes. Aspiring writer. You: Nice laugh. Pizza lover. Prospective reader. Coffee?

Wading in Lake Michigan, June 2008

 

And so it begins. Inspired by Molly Wizenberg of Orangette fame, I have decided to, as Molly wrote, “stick my neck out there” and hold myself accountable to something. With a Journalism degree in my pocket that was put on the back burner, I still crave the rush of seeing my name in the byline. While I used to fantasize about being the next Woodward or Bernstein, I then began to picture myself as Carrie Bradshaw, staring blissfully out of the open window of my walk-up apartment with a martini in my hand and a brilliant revelation at my fingertips. I now want to write children’s books, food articles and everything in between. I love to cook and take photos. I stopped eating meat (besides fish) one year, one month and three days ago. When it comes to pizza, I believe what my boyfriend, Dan, says and that olives are the new sausage. I love swimming with my family in a lake in Iowa in the late summer afternoon when the sun starts to hang lazily in the sky, ready for happy hour, not quite ready for bed.

On this site I hope to write about food, Wisconsin, road trips, music and the things that make me (and hopefully you) happy, like seeing dogs being driven around in bike trailers intended for children. Or blasting this song at exceedingly loud volumes. Let’s get this party started.

I woke up today to a gray and rainy morning desperately seeking spinach and scones. The last farmer’s market on the square was last weekend and so Dan and I begrudgingly (after retrieving coffees from EVP) drove downtown to go to the indoor market at the Monona Terrace (after parking the car we got to play with an eight-month old corgi). The indoor market is disorienting for many reasons, including the hallucinogenic orange carpeting, the fluorescent lighting and the fact that I no longer know where to find my favorite vendors. Dan managed to find the spinach man and after purchasing spinach and a rutabaga we fled the indoor market and escaped back into the cold and blustery day. I had my heart set on a scone from Lazy Jane’s Cafe but first we decided to stop by the memorial dedicated to Otis Redding whose plane crashed in Lake Monona in 1967. A million years ago- before Dan and I were dating- we attended a wedding at the Monona Terrace and a group of us left the reception to find the memorial and ceremonially pay our respects to Mr. Redding. This visit was a bit more brief. And sober.

Otis's memorial

And we were off to Lazy Jane’s where we sat upstairs- in the sweltering heat- and were joined by Stosh, who is visiting from Pittsburgh. I laughed as Dan and Stosh told stories about Ford’s Gym and nibbled at a lemon cream scone while we waited to hear the cooks downstairs yell my name throughout the cozy house-turned-cafe telling us that our food was ready. And when that happened, I devoured a curry tofu scramble with a side of some damn good potatoes. Yum.

Lazy Jane's
Lemon cream scone and coffee
Nice kitties

 And there you have it. My first entry. In the coming months I hope to share recipes, photographs, and tales of my adventures around Wisconsin. For now, sweet dreams.