Tag Archives | Christina Ward


The Easy Elegance of a Trifle

Deceptively Simple and Delicious

Story by Christina Ward
Photography by Joe Laedtke

Trifle. The word is a McGuffin—a misleading name to throw you off the scent. You could not be blamed if you easily dismissed it as an abomination of Cool Whip and canned fruit. You’d be wrong.

The dessert often mocked as the worst excess of 1970s advertising pamphlets (and endlessly featured in online roundups of disgusting masses of gross gooey goop) is actually a delicate and elegant dessert.

Trifles have been done a great injustice. My mission is to redeem them! To put the trifle back on your holiday table in a place of honor to be admired and savored by all.

The origins of trifle are much more interesting than the poorly rendered color photos of the 1970s would have you believe. It is a dessert of nobility with many variations and wonderfully endless
flexibility for the cook.

Traditionally thought of as wholly English, the trifle has many European cousins. In France, it’s referred to as a “charlotte.” When French chefs came to Moscow, it morphed into “Charlotte Russe.” In Italy, we see it as “tiramisu,” “cassata” and “Zuppa Inglese.” The pastry wizards of central Europe built … Read More

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Our German Soldiers

A Place in Milwaukee During Wartime

Story by Christina Ward
Photograph courtesy of the Milwaukee County Historical Society

Walk up the steps to Dom and Phil DeMarini’s Pizza in Bay View and you’ll be walking through the doors of history and into the building where thousands of German prisoners of war slept.

In 1944, as the Allied troops invaded North Africa and began the northward sweep up the boot of Italy, the United States was faced with a new problem: what to do with the captured German troops. As the battle raged, it became apparent that the only solution was to transfer the captured enemy back to the United States. Throughout the country, camps were established to provide secure detention to over 400,000 captured Germans. Wisconsin became a temporary home to 40,000 of these PWs (to use the Army’s preferred acronym). We were considered an ideal location, given our German heritage and stillthriving German language culture. Military intelligence officials were very concerned about localized Bund activity and conducted thorough interviews with all detainees to ensure that only non-political soldiers were sent here.

Their existence was initially considered classified, as the government was anxious about local reaction to having enemy soldiers … Read More

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Portable Provisions: Fuel Your Adventures With Dehydrated Treats

Column by Christina Ward
Photography by Jennifer Janviere

Summer is the time when, in a heady frenzy to enjoy the pleasures of our brief summers, we sometimes forget to eat. I mean, eventually we get hungry and grab something fast—just so we can get back outdoors. I remember teenage days on the farm when we’d come in S-T-A-R-V-I-N-G at 10 a.m. (having already been up and outside for hours) with the most intense urge to get food fast. Quick calories came in the form of a giant ice cream cone courtesy of the Schwann’s truck and his regular deliveries of 5-quart buckets of Neopolitan to the farm.

Ice cream meals may sound like a great idea—and don’t get me wrong, ice cream always sounds like a good idea during the summer. The practicality and health ramifications of ice cream for every meal are not such a great idea.

Summer activities require energy. Complex proteins and carbohydrates provide the most bang for your buck. Sure, you can grab a “food bar” of some sort, but with a little planning and preparation, you can make healthy snacks yourself to carry throughout the summer.

Dry It Out, Take It To Go

The food … Read More

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Leftoverture: Make Your Leftovers Sing a New Tune

Column by Christina Ward
Photography by Joe Laedtke

I recently overheard this exact phrase: “We never eat leftovers.” To say I was aghast was not even close.

What planet did this woman live on? The thought of throwing away food is an anathema. It’s essentially giving the middle finger to every farmer who worked to grow that food and every underpaid migrant who worked unholy hours in a meatpacking plant. It wastes more than food; it’s a waste of money. Only in a nation where processed sugar, fat, and salt are called “food” is it acceptable to throw away so much edible matter.

But I understand the challenge. Make a big meal on Sunday and you’re still eating corned beef on Thursday. After four days of samey-samey, most people are ready to check out what’s in the dog’s bowl. We want to eat things that taste good—thus, we have the Leftover Dilemma. Make it nutritious. Make it easy. Make it last. Make it taste good. But most of all, make it interesting and somehow new, or nobody will go near it anymore.

At Your Service!

We’re going to explore two widely flexible, yet manageable solutions. That said, there’s nothing stopping … Read More

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Roast Dinner, Not Yourself

Easy meaty mainstays for your holiday feast

Column by Christina Ward
Photography by Erika Kent

Winter for us hearty souls living in northern climes is a time of reflection. We register the change of the seasons with rituals and mark the whirl of days with celebrations. The harvest is in and as we prepare for the long snowy days ahead, our thoughts turn to gratitude. Grateful that, though many go without, we will share our bounty and celebrate with friends and family. Holidays of all types bring our loved (and loathed) ones together for a meal. This season, we cooks should gift ourselves the easiest of celebratory meals to prepare: the roast dinner.

Roast meats are the traditional centerpiece of many feasts, both religious and secular. Roasting, by definition, is one of the earliest and simplest of cooking techniques—you use a dry, indirect heat to cook a larger cut of meat. Successful roasting is another story. Many a cook’s heartbreak is caused by an overcooked bird, a burnt joint, or charred rump. I promise, there are easy solutions.

Paul Zerkel, Chef at Goodkind (a Bay View restaurant specializing in rotisserie meats) and I spoke about what makes for successful roasting. … Read More

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Fondue’s Friends: Mostarda and Cogna

Words by Brett Kell
Recipes by Christina Ward

Although fondue is traditionally served with crusty bread and sometimes crudités, the remainder of its ideal accompaniments can vary widely. For a non-traditional spin, try mostarda, a condiment made of candied fruit in a mustard-based syrup, eaten alone or on bread. Because fondue is so rich and creamy, it benefits from the presence of mostarda’s sweetness and acidity. Words and measurements have been translated from the original Italian recipes.

Name: Mostarda
Flavors: Tart, bright, sweet, and acidic
Origin: Italy
Story: Although mostarda is by no means a traditional accompaniment to fondue, it’s often served with cheeses in its native Italy. The mustard base relates well to the savory flavors present in fondue and raclette, while the sweetness of the fruits used in both versions below cleanse the palate.

Cremona-style Mostarda

(Makes about 48 oz.)

  •  2 1/2 lbs mixed fruit (pears, cherries, figs, apricots)
  • 2 1/2 c. cane sugar
  • Mustard powder or seeds

Peel and chop fruit. Place in a ceramic bowl and cover with sugar. Let stand on counter/table 24 hours.

Drain liquid from bowl into a small sauce pan and bring to boil, simmer 10 minutes. Return boiled liquid … Read More

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Get Your Hands Into the Stuff of Life

Making bread a matter of practice, patience for home bakers

Column by Christina Ward
Photography by Rob Gustafson

Four. Water. Salt. Yeast. Bread. The “stuff” of life. It is an old adage in all cooking that the simpler and fewer the ingredients the more important technique is. Bread baking is the quintessential expression of this maxim. Successful bread making is wholly about technique. Yes, there are subtleties achieved through changes in the types of flour, salt, yeast, and even water used in a recipe. And of course, you can boost flavor with herbs, fats, and other tasty additions. But at its core, bread is about the toothsome bite of the crust and the soft chew of the crumb—qualities only achieved through proper technique.

The revolution in bread baking of the past decade is to look backwards at how our ancestors made bread. With science at our fingertips, we now know how that alluring mixture of flour, water, salt, and yeast behave together and how to better utilize the two unmentioned ingredients needed for all bread: time and temperature.

I spoke with Gene Webb, owner of North Shore Boulangerie. Before following his dream of baking French-style breads, he studied yeast … Read More

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What Is This Pie?

The agony and the ecstasy of an American classic

Story by Christina Ward
Photography by Erika Kent

Marlys Pavlicsek grew up in Germany. Orphaned shortly after World War II, she was taken in by a family who had returned to Germany after living in the U.S. Mrs. Pavlicsek trained as a household cook, including making the classic German pastry: strüdel. At that time, every hausfrau worth her salt could make a strüdel from scratch.

But she also fondly remembers the first time she tasted American-style Apple Pie as made by her foster mother. She told me, “I opened my eyes wide and asked her, ‘What is this Pie?'”

When I met Marlys recently, her innocent, childhood question became my inspiration. What is this pie? Homey, delicious and versatile, it has become both a source of pride and torment to home bakers. We’re teased with pictures of luscious fruits encased in a perfectly flaky crust. But when we attempt to take our garden bounty and make that most American of pastry: failure. Soggy crusts, runny middles, burnt edges, mushy or under-cooked fruits, unset custards and flat meringues. Sigh. All these familiar disasters have made many swear off pie-making forever.

All is … Read More

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Basic Energy Bars

Preparation time: 15 minutes making/17 to 20 minutes baking

This is another type of “power bar;” filled with fruits and nuts, it is less of a protein bar and more of a carbohydrate energy booster. These are a wonderful (and healthy) substitute for athletes and desk jockeys alike in need of a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Like our Basic Protein Bar recipe, these allow for infinite flavor combinations! Think of these as a healthy version of Rice Crispy Bars.

A note about corn and brown rice syrups. I know many folks have an automatic aversion to them, but organic versions used in moderation can be a safe part of your diet. In this recipe it cannot, unfortunately, be substituted with other syrups (like sorghum, maple or agave). This is due to the molecular structure of the sugars in corn/brown rice syrup; they chain up nicely and act as “glue” for the rest of the ingredients. Other sweet syrups don’t have this quality. If you think “I’m going to try it anyways,” rest assured, I thought the same thing. When I tested this recipe with both maple syrup and then sorghum syrup I ended up with mounds of goo. Tasty mounds of Read More

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Baked Pumpkin Pie Protein Bars

Preparation time: 15 minutes making/25 to 30 minutes baking

Those who can’t get enough of pumpkin during the holiday season will savor these. These bars are a nice alternative to the “dessert-type” protein bars.

Tools: 8-inch square baking pan, parchment paper

1 cup rolled oats

1 ¼ cup (one 15oz can) pumpkin puree

1 cup rice protein powder

¼ cup maple syrup

½ cup plain, greek-style yogurt (or soy yogurt)

2 large eggs

1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

Optional: cranberries, orange zest, pecans, cocoa nibs/mini chocolate chips

Makes 10 bars. Nutritional info: Calories: 130, Fiber: 3 grams, Sugars: 7 grams, Protein: 12 grams. (Note that this is a guide; there can be small variance depending on ingredient choices.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Line pan with parchment paper.

2. Place oats into food processor and pulse into a fine powder.

3. Add remaining ingredients and process until completely blended.

4. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with pecans and cocoa nibs (if desired).

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until edges begin to brown and toothpick inserted into center of pan comes out clean. Read More

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