My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Monday, August 31, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

Lately it has been so busy for me with travel, food and social events, so I have not done much cooking at home which has been driving me nuts. What good is going to the farmers market if I can’t make anything I buy? Luckily we had an unexpected free night over the weekend and I was able to cook.

I recently visited the Uptown Farmers Market for the first time and thought it was a blast. The market is located on 29th Street in between Lyndale and Dupont. The Uptown Market doesn’t start until 11am, so there were no worries about getting up early just to get the good stuff! Parking was really easy as there are plenty of spots on side streets.

The market itself is pretty neat. It’s only open four times in 2009 which allows the vendors to display fresh and exciting items. Not only are there produce, food and flower vendors, but there are lots of artsy vendors too. You can find cool printed tees from Kitchen Sink Press, spicy salsa from Salsa De Jasinto, funky earrings from Mod Margarette, and veggie dogs and chili from the Magic Bus Café.


The next and final date for this market is September 20th, so don’t miss out!

We bought some zucchini, summer squash, salsa, and a few tomatoes. The zucchini and summer squash went into a Roasted Vegetables and Couscous dish along with some haricots verts, onions, and peppers I picked up from the Rosemount Farmers Market.

The roasted vegetables were very tasty and an easy way to use up veggies on their last leg (kind of like the curry I posted earlier). Let me admit though, I am not a fan of couscous. It is plain, gets stuck in my teeth, and provides little nutritional value. However, in an effort to use up some of my pantry items, I figured I’d give it another try. Even after this attempt, I’m still not a fan. Unfortunately I now have four cups of cooked couscous in my fridge and hate to waste it. Suggestions anyone? Maybe I can make some sort of veggie burgers with it as a filler?


Roast Vegetable Couscous
(adapted from Bobby Flay)

2 red (or green) peppers, cut into 1-inch dice
1 yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 onion, cut into 1-inch dice
¼ lb. haricots verts or small green beans, cut on the bias into 1-inch pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 cups vegetable stock
Pinch saffron
1 tsp salt
2 cups plain couscous

Preheat oven to 400°. Toss vegetables with oil on a cookie sheet and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, tossing once, until just cooked through. Cover to keep warm. Boil stock, saffron and 1 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes. Stir in the couscous; cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until all liquid is absorbed, about 8 minutes.

Fluff couscous with a fork and transfer to a bowl. Top with vegetables and serve.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Super Vegetable Curry

Today marks the first day of the Minnesota State Fair, also known as the Great Minnesota Get-Together and I'm totally there. Like, as in I'm sitting and blogging from the fair right now. How cool is that? WCCO was nice enough to invite me out and provide me with everything I'd need here at their building. Yay!

So far I've only tried a couple things: veggie fries (battered and fried cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini, onion, carrot and potato) and a delicious local organic watermelon courtesy of the EcoExperience Building. I have to escape from the computer and try their Chokecherry Maple Syrup Soda at some point today, but considering vendors keep delivering food, I may not need to get away!

For those of you who do not live in Minnesota and don't care about the fair, I leave you with this meal that I call Super Vegetable Curry. I was able to use local garlic and red rocket onion from Garlic Fest, cauliflower from Enberg's Produce, purple and green peppers and both wax and green beans all from the farmers market.

A couple years ago, I was close to throwing away a bunch of veggies from our CSA, but a fellow blogger, MeloMeals, came to my rescue with this dish. I change it from time to time to suit my needs, but the basics are still there.

Vegetable Curry
(6 servings)

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp curry powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp grated ginger root
1 large purple bell pepper
1 large yellow squash
1 large green pepper
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 ½ cups (or 1 15 oz. can) garbanzo beans
¾ cup mango chutney
1 cup veggie stock
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Diced red onion, for garnish

In a very large wok pan, heat oil, spices, garlic, onion, jalapeno, and ginger until fragrant, about 10 minutes. If needed, add a bit of stock to keep the spices and garlic from burning. Throw the rest of the veggies, except red onions and cilantro, along with the tomatoes and stock. Bring to a strong simmer and add more stock if needed. Stir in the chutney and garbanzo beans and cook for 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Just before serving, squeeze lime juice over dish, stir in cilantro, and top with red onion. Serve over brown basmati rice.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Guac Off 2009

What do you get when you combine:

360 avocados
45 tomatoes
36 onions
18 limes
9 bunches of cilantro
Salt and pepper
27 secret ingredients

Besides a whole bunch of amazing guacamole, you have Metro Magazine's 2nd Annual Guac Off!

Last night, 9 teams (well, 8 teams as one was a no show) displayed their unique talents in a guacamole showdown competing for titles such as Most Authentic, Most Unique, Best Team Name and Audience Choice. Considering the names were pretty unique and the guacamole proved to be quite tasty, I knew the judges were going to have a hard time deciding on winners. In addition, each team was allowed 3 secret ingredients and while a lot of teams used jalapenos and garlic, there were some fun ingredients too such as mangoes, pineapple puree, bacon, lime zest, shallots, chipotle, sriracha, black beans, corn and radishes.

Here are a few pics from the guacamole competition. Note that due to the rain, we were all squeezed into a party room at Blue, so picture taking (and general moving) conditions were less than ideal. Add to that the 7 or so other press members taking pictures and it proved to be a challenging situation.

Team "Guac this Way". The audience screamed loudest for them, so I think they won something!


What do you do when you don't have enough counter space? Use the floor space! Great job team "Michelle Bachmann says our guacamole has a secret plan to annex part of Iraq" (is the government going to flag my blog for typing that?)

Turns out "Team Twitter" (aka Michelle Bachman...) makes awesome guacamole using pineapple puree:


My favorite of the night. Nice and spicy:

Team Montoya. Loved their authentic set up and their sweet daughter, Megan!

Guac Me Amadeus (secret ingredient = bacon):

The Hunt for Red Guactober. These guys were precise in their techniques and came wearing naval uniforms. Way to keep the theme alive!
While the teams were participating in the challenge, us guests got to drink D’Amico margaritas (read: MASA), and eat an array of finger foods:

An arrangement of tortas from Manny's Tortas. Vegetarian, Turkey & Cubano.


Yummy crostinis with blue cheese and red grapes from Barbette.

Award winning mango salsa from Baja Sol. Although they didn’t get to actually have “the shack” at the event, Carrie Summer & Lisa Carlson from The Chef Shack were whipping up some tasty watermelon gazpacho. I have to admit, I’ve never had gazpacho before much less a watermelon version. Let me say that it was delicious! I even snuck a little one home for Ryan to try. In the winter months, Carrie and Lisa will be traveling and getting inspiration for more fun foods next summer. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

As far as the guacamole winners go, I think they all were winners. The judging was a bit unofficial from what I could tell although there were specific judges. So, I’ll give you my winners: I was surprised to be pulled towards the spicy guac (Guactanamo Bay Detainees) and really liked some of the fruity guacs (Michelle Bachmann… and It’s 5 o’guac somewhere). Let’s face it, I love guacamole!

Big thanks to Natalie over at Vimlab and a “hello” to all the new friends I met from Metro Magazine, Twitter, Duffy’s Dinkytown Pizza, and Manny’s Tortas.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pizza & Fellowship

So, there’s this little place in Wisconsin fondly referred to as “The Pizza Farm” which warranted a road trip last week. It’s kind of a big to-do as hundreds of people flock to it each Tuesday and wait in line for up to two hours to enjoy brick oven wood-fired pizza with ingredients grown right on the farm.

We finally had a free Tuesday to do the two hour drive (top down, of course) to Stockholm, Wisconsin and it was a gorgeous day to be driving in a convertible.

Of course we had to make a quick stop at Enberg’s Produce and shake hands with Mr. Mark Enberg himself. I was geeked out to see my WCCO write-up posted in his produce shop. He says the weekend after I wrote about him they sold out of everything he had. Coincidence? (probably, but let me keep thinking it’s all because of me –k-?)

After picking up a couple cucumbers, cauliflower and corn, we continued on our way until I saw *gasp* a cidery! What? Like hard cider in Wisconsin? How could I have never known this?

We went in for a tasting and came out with a couple packs of cider. My favorite is Bitter Love and I’m totally stopping there next weekend on our way down to La Crosse.

Driving just a couple miles down the road and we found what we were looking for: the pizza farm. Cars lined both sides of the street with both Minnesota and Wisconsin license plates. We hurried to grab a nice spot to enjoy the evening.

Should we go where all the people are at? (Some had extenstive set-ups, candelabras, vases of flowers, etc.)

Nope. Let’s find a relaxing shady spot (more our style):

And get in line for pizza (the Prairie Hollow cheese farmer from Mill City is in front of us):

Lots to choose from:

We’re told the wait will be 1 ½ hours and we were pizzas #154 & 155. No worries, we have cards:

And wine:

Pizza’s done exactly 1 ½ hours later! Basil Pesto with Sungolds and Pepperoni.

Sausage, tomatoes, onions, kalamata and green olives.

The verdict? The crust was doughy and totally awesome. Unfortunately, the crust was the best part. I wasn’t overly impressed by the pizzas themselves as they were a bit bland. We took a chance and tried the sausage and pepperoni as toppings (hey, had to try the farm raised stuff), but they were disappointing, so I picked it off the pizza.

Just as I scolding myself for buying two pizzas, a lady came out of nowhere looking to buy some slices. She arrived too late and couldn’t get served. So, we sold her 5 slices at $2 a slice and she tipped us a buck. Yay fellowship!

After a stop for ice cream in Bay City, we headed home for the night. I’d totally go to the pizza farm again with a group of friends or family. The drive down the Great River Road is absolutely gorgeous and a night on the farm is completely peaceful. Next time we’ll bring snacks, more wine, and enjoy the company of friends and family. Who’s in?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Purple, BBQ & Blue

By now you probably know that I love to eat from the rainbow: purple asparagus, blue potatoes, yellow carrots, white skinned radishes and even orange watermelon. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that when I came across purple cauliflower, I just had to have it.

What’s awesome about purple cauliflower is that unlike purple beans, it retains its beautiful purple color after cooking. In fact, the color seemed to become even more intense after cooking. Now who said vegetables are boring?

Although it tastes the same as traditional white cauliflower, it is said to be healthier because the purple coloring comes from anthocyanin, an antioxidant which may prevent heart disease by slowing blood clotting. If you can get your hands on orange cauliflower, you can boost your intake of beta carotene and have healthy glowing skin.

We considered making a curry, but instead decided to roast the cauliflower with sliced garlic at 400° for approximately 15 minutes. This was served alongside BBQ tofu slices which we first sprayed with olive oil and Braggs (similar to soy sauce) and baked for 30 minutes and then slathered with BBQ sauce and baked an additional 15 minutes.

Super easy dinner and light enough so that we could enjoy homemade blueberry pie afterward from our recent blueberry picking.

Mmm...blueberry pie...

This is my contribution to Fight Back Fridays.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Camping in the Rain

Camping surely was an interesting experience this year. It rained most of Friday, prohibiting us from going early and setting up camp. Once we did arrive, we found our campsites to be quite muddy and for some reason our tent smelled really bad. After set up, we grilled veggie burgers for dinner and agreed all veggie burgers should be served grilled over a fire. Yum!

Shortly after finishing dinner, the rain started again, but then it stopped. Hurrah! But then it started again and didn’t stop until morning. Rolling thunder, lightning and heavy rains kept me up most of the night. The horrible weather was accompanied by a leaky tent which soaked our bedding and some of my clothes. Argh. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper in the morning. I was tired, hungry, wet, and it started raining again soon after waking up.

Considering we couldn’t keep a fire going, it was agreed that the best option was to go into town and eat breakfast at a restaurant. We ignored all the typical socially acceptable behavior and walked into Perkins with mud-caked shoes, pants rolled up, no make-up, no showers, hats drawn low and demanded coffee. Now. After a hearty breakfast, we were ready to head back to camp and face the mud again.

Lucky for us, the rain stopped mid-day and we were able to play games, make bracelets with the kids, go on bike rides, and the usual camping activities. I’m sure you know what happened next…yep, more rain. This time it was torrential downpours accompanied by tornados.

All the campers were evacuated into a tornado shelter (aka the showers and bathrooms) and we learned a tornado touchdown was just a couple miles from us. Great. We agreed we didn’t want to spend another night like this:

As soon as the sirens stopped, our camping gear was thrown into our cars (we left our tents behind) and drove to Ryan’s parents’ house for a big sleepover. We played card games, listened to music, drank some rosemary lemonade fizz, and even cooked hot dogs under the broiler for that grilled effect. What a great way to salvage a rain-soaked camping weekend!

We sent the guys back on Sunday to grab our tents and all the other stuff we left strewn about the campsite. It proved to be a beautiful sunny day to reset up the tents, dry them out, and get it all ready for the next camping trip. Just next time I hope it’s a relatively dry trip!

Although this wasn’t much of a food post, I had to share the wettest camping experience I’ve ever had. I promise we’ll be back to food in a couple days. In the meantime, feel free to check out my Grilled Salad over on Bite of Minnesota for WCCO (the post should be up soon).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fizzy Adult Lemonade

The rain has let up here in the Twin Cities and we’re going camping! It’s never fun to set up or take down in the rain, so I hope it stays dry for awhile.

We’re not very rustic campers and tend to bring a good amount of luxuries from home. I think we have the food routine pretty much down too in regards to what works and what doesn’t work. This year it’s pretty simple: veggie burgers, yogurt and granola, sandwiches, snacks, and of course alcoholic beverages.

I’m very much looking forward to drinking more of this Vodka Rosemary Lemonade Fizz. I made up another batch just in time for camping using the lemon juice leftover from fruit jello shots. It’s delicious!

What kind of things do you bring camping (if you camp at all)? Any standard dishes?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Zucchini Lasagna Tart

The last two weeks have been crazy busy and most nights I’ve managed to cram in multiple activities which means I’m running from one thing to another. The large batch of Barley Lentil soup I made last week has helped in the meal department – at least we have something good to eat! However, there hasn’t been any time to be in the kitchen. This has been especially stressful because I had zucchini and summer squash in the fridge waiting for their day in the garbage (which I wasn’t going to let happen!)

Finally, Sunday evening, things slowed down for a day and I was able to make this Lasagna Tart I’d had my eye on and had originally bought the zucchini for. The recipe is from Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks. Did I ever mention how much I love her recipes?

A lot of times I say a recipe was “so easy to make” and in most cases, they are totally easy to make. This one, however, was not “so easy to make”. First you make the tart crust, then you refrigerate it, then you bake it, then you fill it and bake it again…ugh, another 9pm dinner.

I highly recommend doing this: make and bake the crust ahead of time. That way you have the crust all ready to go when you want to fill it.

Even with all that hard work, this dish was super yummy! If I had the time, I’d definitely make this for others, but next time I’d double the sauce so there is some to pass alongside. This would be a great dish to make when we start to get an overflow of zucchini, which should be soon.

I was even able to use up the rest of the summer squash at a barbecue last night. I simply sliced it into 1/4 –inch slices lengthwise and tossed it with vegetable oil and fresh herbs before grilling for a couple minutes. We even had some picky eaters saying, “Yum!” and I felt great about not wasting my farmers market finds.
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