We Never Stopped Believing in Wisconsin

Over 1,000,000 signatures.  Thank you to everyone who made this happen. I love Wisconsin.

It’ll be a bleu Christmas, part II

Blue cheese, affectionately referred to as bleu at my house, is the starring ingredient in what has become a mainstay in our dinner repoirtoire: Fettuccine with gorgonzola.

The recipe that I have been using comes from this fabulous cookbook, a gift from my sister a couple of Christmases ago. It’s ridiculously easy to prepare and even ridiculously easier to eat. It’s a great meal for this crazy and hectic period in our lives between Christmas and New Year’s, the winter solstice and Boxing Day, cocktail parties, yoga classes, coffee dates and drinks at the bar… If you catch yourself at home and needing to fix dinner, give this one a try. I like to serve it with a salad of mixed greens, spinach and arugula with a simple vinagrette of stone ground mustard, freshly squeezed lemon and olive oil, and a baguette or hearty loaf from Madison Sourdough Co. Yum.

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This receipe comes from Deborah Madison’s “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone”

Fettuccine with Gorgonzola

Serves 4*

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

8 ounces Gorgonzola, broken into chunks

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 cup cream or milk

Salt and freshly milled pepper

12 ounces fettuccine

Start heating a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile, set a large bowl with the garlic, cheese, butter and cream over the pot. As the water heats, the butter and cheese will soften. Don’t worry about lumps of cheese- the heat of the pasta will smooth everything out. When the water comes to a boil, remove the bowl and salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until done. Drain, add it to the cheese, and toss everything with a fork and sppon until the pasta is coated with the sauce. Taste for salt, season with pepper and serve on warmed pasta plates.

*Or two, if you are anything like Dan and me (hungry)

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In other awesome news, my end-of-the-year list featuring the best Wisconsin protest pets of 2011 is featured today on dane101.  Here is a sneak preview:

If you are a pork eater, you can find Dan’s list for Madison’s best meals featuring pork here. We’ve been invited to Merchant tonight so that Dan can try the pork pozole (I will be indulging in the golden beet borscht, thank you) so there may be an update to that list coming soon. I also discovered what surely will be my dad’s new favorite blog, a beautifully-photographed celebration of the day’s most important meal, breakfast.

I fully intend to indulge in a healthy breakfast tomorrow morning before my yoga class and coffee date, but only after my evening run, visit to Merchant and beers with my sister at Natt Spil. It’s a fun time of year.

Cheers.

 

 

Tis the season

Happy one-year anniversary to Wisconsin Fun Next Exit.

It was a year ago this weekend that I was seeking spinach and scones and deciding to follow the advice of Orangette’s Molly Wizenberg and create my own little corner of the internet universe. I have been feeling nostalgic for the giddiness that I felt when I sat down with a bottle of wine to write that first post late on a Saturday night one year ago. I have truly enjoyed writing this and I’ve been thinking about how nice it is of you to join me here. So, thank you.

This past year has been a memorable one marked by an uprising,

a (temporary) job teaching third grade, a Packers super bowl victory, the Brewers in the playoffs, a train trip to Seattle,

road trips, old friends, new friends, an honest effort at really loving yoga (although my triangle pose is still a disaster), a new-found love of cats, specifically the two 10-year-olds who became my roomates in June,

moving to the east side, an attempt at growing a vegetable garden and cooking. Lots and lots of cooking.

Oh have I got some recipes for you. There’s an incredibly easy and delicious one for whole wheat pasta with a sauce made of butter, cream and blue cheese (go for a run first!) and tonight (while talking to my dear friend Jenn who lives in D.C. but aspires to move back to Madison) I made a vegetarian version of french onion soup with toasts and melted swiss cheese that tasted rich and hearty on this blustery day in Wisconsin. I plan on telling you all about these and more but for now it’s off to bed. Tomorrow I’ve got a date with Lambeau Field and Tuesday marks the first day of the campaign against Walker. I’ll provide the soup recipes and you provide the signatures. Tis the season for a recall. Let’s do this, Wisconsin.

Sweet dreams.

Wisconsin Film Festival

I love the Wisconsin Film Festival.

This year I saw seven films: Five documentaries, one mockumentary and one fictional story about a messed-up road trip. I saw one film in Norwegian, one in German and one in Russian. I attended films in four different theaters and collected three buttons. Two movies made me cry, six had me laughing out loud, and only one made me fall asleep (but it wasn’t the movie’s fault- it was near midnight and had been a long day.)

Over the course of the weekend I learned that during times of political turmoil in the former USSR they used to broadcast “Swan Lake” on all of the television stations, that there was an all-Black punk rock band emerging out of L.A. at the same time as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and that there are people in a small coastal village in Ireland right now fighting to save their way of life against a Shell Oil project to build a pipeline through their community.

Although the seven films that I saw this past weekend covered a vast part of the world and a variety of topics, I started to sense an underlying theme: In a world that seems to be dominated by money and greed, you have to follow your dreams and figure out what makes you happy. It’s all you’ve got.

And it’s something that I have been wondering about more since all of these protests started happening in Wisconsin… When you have more money than you know what to do with, what really makes you tick? What inspires you? When all you think about is how to get more money, does anything small ever make you happy? Like seeing a corgi riding around in a bike basket? Or opening a fresh bag of coffee beans? I guess what I’m really wondering is, have either of the Koch brothers ever squealed at the sight of a dog in a bright yellow rain slicker and chased after it to take its photo? And with that, I present to you my review of the documentary, Bill Cunningham New York.

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        Bill Cunningham New York

          There is a 10-second clip in Bill Cunningham New York that probably would have gone unnoticed at the Wisconsin Film Festival a few months ago: Photographing an event for The New York Times‘ Style section, Bill Cunningham is seen snapping a photo of one of the now infamous Koch brothers. The audience at the Wisconsin Union Theatre Thursday evening let out a collective groan. It was the perfect juxtaposition: The billionaire Koch brother versus Cunningham, a photographer in his 80s who at one point in the film playfully curses New Yorkers for being so “extravagant and wasteful” while he fixes his rain poncho with tape.

          Full of moments that make you grin ear-to-ear, laugh out loud or try to hold back the tears; Bill Cunningham New York is a delightful and moving documentary chronicling the life of the notoriously private, bike-riding New York Times fashion photographer, Bill Cunningham, who lived in Carnegie Hall in a tiny studio apartment for over 50 years (until he was kicked out and unwillingly moved into an apartment with a view of Central Park). Some of the best scenes in the film are the ones of Cunningham taking photos for the ‘On the Street’ feature in the Sunday Times. Standing on a street corner, or biking down a busy New York boulevard, Cunningham looks unassuming until he deftly whips up his camera strung around his neck and furiously snaps one or two photos when he sees something that catches his eye. His subject could be a bright red purse or a woman in a multi-colored rain slicker; a young man with his pants hung low or a group of women wearing black high heels. According to Cunningham, he takes to the streets to discover new trends because, “The street is the best fashion show… You stay on the street and let the street tell you.”

          Don’t doubt that the Wisconsin Film Festival can change your life. A few months after seeing Food, Inc. at the festival two years ago, I became a vegetarian. Finding myself in a bit of a clothes rut, I was hoping for the same sort of results from seeing this film. I even had a headline for this review going in to the film: ‘Bill Cunningham New York or Why I Will Never Wear Dansko Clogs Again.’ And while the film is about fashion, it is more about following your obsession and finding what makes you truly happy. During one especially poignant part of the film we learn that Cunningham used to ceremoniously rip up his paychecks in the office of the magazine where he worked. Cunningham explains his actions: “If you don’t take money, they can’t tell you what to do. Don’t touch the stuff. Money is the cheapest thing; freedom… liberty, is the most expensive.” And that is the real message in Bill Cunningham New York: We should not envy people with money; we should aspire to be lucky enough to be passionate about what we do and seek beauty in our everyday lives.

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Here’s to something small making you smile today. Cheers.

Mad-as-hell puttanesca

After three weeks of feeling the love and staying optimistic about winning the fight against the soulless tyrant now ‘leading’ my state, Tuesday night I finally gave in to the anger and was mad as hell. I needed to bang some pots around, wield knives and curse in the kitchen. I needed a recipe to match my fiery mood. I present to you, ‘Mad-as-hell puttanesca.’ It’s salty, spicy, tangy and impossible to screw up too badly (this part is key, considering I was cooking with blind rage and not paying much attention to what I threw in the skillet).

Fiery pepper flakes and garlic burning in the oil

I was first introduced to puttanesca by my friend Derek (the Packer owner). Derek told me that legend has it that Italian ‘women of the night’ would make a batch of spaghetti alla puttanesca to put on their windowsills to beckon suitors. I love to picture the open windows and curtains wafting in the breeze while a pot of spaghetti sits steaming on a dark Italian night. Derek makes a more traditional puttanesca sauce with anchovies and herbs (I always forget about those pesky herbs). I never follow a recipe when I make it, but always include a few essential ingredients: olives, capers, and tomatoes.

Muir Glen tomatoes, salty olives and capers

Between tirades delivered to Dan and the stove, a captive audience, this is what I cooked up the other night:

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Mad-as-hell Puttanesca

Ingredients:

tomatoes (crushed, diced or whole)- I like Muir Glen organic

tomato sauce

olives- cured black olives work well

capers

garlic

olive oil

kale

red pepper flakes

wine (red or white)

whole wheat pasta (spaghetti or penne)

parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a skillet over low-medium heat. Add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes- I like a lot of heat, so I add a lot. Depending on how many you are serving, add some canned tomatoes and the juice (I added half a can for the two of us). I had some leftover tomato sauce in the fridge, so I added some of that, too. Pour in some wine- red or white works fine. To add a little color and up the health ante I added some kale that I tore into bite-sized pieces. Let this simmer and bubble for a while over low-medium heat. Boil water for the pasta. Rant and rave. Cry. Take a sip of beer. Chop olives, wave knife in air, curse. Heat oven for bread. Salt the boiling water. Add pasta. Take a breath. Add the olives and capers to the simmering sauce. Put bread in oven. Dress the salad. Stir pasta into the sauce. Take bread out of the oven. Serve the pasta in bowls with freshly shredded parmesan cheese from the state that is boiling with turmoil. Serve and attempt to enjoy.

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The reason for my anger? After days and days of peaceful protests the governor illegally shutdown the Capitol to prepare for his budget address. For the first time there was an orange fence keeping protestors away from the state building in an attempt to keep the noise out of his lethal budget speech.

While we stood outside in the cold, the heartless and cowardly governor told a crowd of supporters (ushered secretly into the Captiol) inside that he plans to cut nearly $900 million dollars from Wisconsin’s public education system. He wants to take this money and give it to the people who fix roads. The same people who donated to his campaign and got him elected. On Tuesday I just couldn’t take it anymore and I erupted with sadness and rage. But now I’m back to feeling optimistic because, in retrospect, the governor is scared. I’m still mad as hell, but I also realize that the governor is working so hard to silence the voices of dissent because he knows that he is doing something wrong. I will continue to fight. And I hope you will join me.