My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Vermont Cheddar Bread - I Baked!

I baked bread! Finally. I’ve owned Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for almost a year and have watched Catherine (aka Food Snob) bake beautiful bread loaves, pitas, english muffins and more from it. I was so jealous of her creations that I needed to have the book right away. I dug in and read all the instructions, but never actually made anything.

I know I needed a push, so I joined the Bake-A-Long that Catherine and Victoria started. I missed the first assignment, but finally got started on our second assignment (with some encouragement from Catherine and Victoria), which focused on Vermont Cheddar & Oatmeal breads.

Behold, my first loaf of Vermont Cheddar:



Who knew I could make bread without a breadmaker? It was so incredibly easy that I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner.

I’m super excited that there’s another batch of dough waiting in my fridge. I’m totally going to make these cute cheddar rolls that Catherine made.

If you’re interested in joining the Bake-A-Long with Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, just let one of us know. We’re looking forward to discovering new recipes from the book and would welcome suggestions.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Heart-Healthy Cookies? Yep.

Cookies! Who doesn’t love cookies? Over the years I have been pretty loyal to one kind: chocolate chip. No, I don’t want oats and I especially don’t want nuts in my cookies. Just give me the plain chocolate chip kind and I’ll be good. Until now…


I was paging through a Vegetarian Times and came across a recipe for “The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World” and thought, “yeah right, they probably taste like chalk.” So, I kept paging through the magazine only to land on the recipe again, this time realizing I had all the ingredients and should give it a try.

Um, hello, delicious! With only 3 tablespoons of oil and 1 cup of brown sugar, I couldn’t believe these tasted so good. I love how some of my chocolate chips melted just a tad to make the batter a bit chocolaty too.



The Omega-3's from the walnuts and whole grains from the oats make these much heart-healthier than normal chocolate chip cookies.  Forget white flour and white sugar, make these soon! The recipe makes 30 cookies, so be prepared to share.


Note: Make oat flour by grinding it in a coffee grinder. Also, I had to bake my cookies a little longer than called for in the recipe.

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Helping Those In Need

Tuesday evening I participated in something wonderful. I was one of 40 Minnesota bloggers who came together to help people in need at Feed My Starving Children.



The blogger volunteer event was put together by Missy at The Marketing Mama, a person who I had never met in person or online. However, her offer was impossible for me to resist. I volunteer on a regular basis through my fantastic service sorority, Gamma Sigma Sigma, and I am constantly on the lookout for other ways to volunteer in the community. Of course I wanted to join other bloggers to help those in need!
Before we went to FMSC to bag meals, we had a networking session at Houlihan’s. I was eager to see a few people I knew, Kate (Kate in the Kitchen), Molly (Tastebud Tart), Liz (Kitchen Pantry Scientist & Creative Mama), Andrea (Blah Blah Babycakes), Paul (MN Headhunter) and Kate-Madonna (Girl Meets Geek). I was also excited to meet a few people whose blogs I’ve been introduced to lately. While I didn’t get to talk to everyone as in depth as I had hoped, I have no doubt we’ll be getting together again in the future.

Red Gold & Annie’s Naturals were so excited about our volunteer efforts that we walked away with some swag too:


(I have to admit, I was already sent a giant can of these and have yet to blog about it. Perhaps a giveaway soon?)


(I ate the bunny grahams and half the fruit snacks already – delish!)

Volunteering at Feed My Starving Children was an eye opener. While many countries already rely on meals from FMSC, the recent earthquake in the struggling country of Haiti has only deepened the need for support.

After a short orientation, we got to work at our stations to assemble the meal packets:



For those who haven’t volunteered here before, each meal pack consists of the following:

1 scoop of dehydrated chicken powder:



1 scoop of dehydrated veggies:



1 cup of textured vegetable protein (TVP):



And 1 cup of rice:



After the bags are sealed and labeled, they look like this:



Our group along with other volunteers packed 13,824 meals that will feed 38 kids for 1 year.  While those numbers are exciting, the reality is that we used $2,350.08 in raw materials.  Ouch!  That's a lot of money!  Our hands helped pack those meals, but our pocketbooks need to do some helping too.  So, what else can you do?

Log onto http://www.fmsc.org/ and click on the "donate" button in the upper right hand corner.  A $30 donation will feed 6 children for a month.  Don't have $30 to donate?  Sign up to volunteer onsite.  Bring your spare change and dump it in the bucket.  Buy merchandise.  Spread the word.

Do something.

*Read blog posts from others who participated here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Polenta Cakes with Wild Mushrooms

Today feels like it should be Monday, not Tuesday. I cared for my 2 ½ year old nephew all day yesterday and while it was a blast, I wasn’t able to get all my “normal” activities done. Instead he and I had an adult/kid play date with childhood friend of mine and her son, walked around Midtown Global Market and eyed all the colorful merchandise, hiked through the snow, and played with my 2 ½ year old niece and her 1 ½ year old cousin. The kid had a great time and was pretty tired out when I returned him to his mom at the end of the day. I was pretty exhausted too and couldn’t manage a blog post after all that activity.



Now I am fully rested and excited to share another easy meal with you. This dish involves polenta and a whole lot of mushrooms. While you can certainly make polenta from scratch, using polenta from a tube is so much easier. It is typically found in the Italian section of the grocery store.

This dish took less than 30 minutes and was full of flavor from the garlic and rosemary.  I love how mushrooms absorb the flavor of what they are cooked with.  Serve alongside a green salad for a main meal or on its own as an appetizer.



Polenta Cakes with Wild Mushrooms
(adapted from Katie Lee’s The Comfort Table)

For Polenta:
1 tube polenta, plain
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For Mushrooms:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, minced
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 cups mixed wild mushrooms (I used oyster, cremini, & shiitake)
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp dry white wine
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat a grill pan or griddle to medium-high heat. Slice polenta into ½-inch circles, brush both sides with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on griddle and cook approximately 5 minutes per side or until grill marks appear.

For mushroom mixture, melt the butter, garlic and rosemary in a skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes, or until all liquid is released and mushrooms are golden brown. Season with salt and pepper and add white wine, cook until evaporated. Add lemon juice and heavy cream. Cook for 2 more minutes until cream is absorbed. Remove rosemary.

Place polenta cakes on a platter and top with mushroom mixture. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Turning Celery Root Into Soup

While I don't usually do crossover content between my two blogs, I thought it would be appropriate in this case as I've finally branched out into video.  For yesterday's column on WCCO's Bite of Minnesota, I showed how to turn this:


Into this:



See how by swinging over to my post here.

Enjoy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Potstickers and Edamame Succotash

Easy meals, that’s what I need more often in my life. I often think recipes are easy or simple because the concept and instructions are clear, not because the ingredient list is short and quick to prepare. I love making food from scratch (again, cooking is like therapy for me), but I need meals on the table in a shorter amount of time some nights.

So, I headed over to Trader Joe’s and did what I rarely do…examined the prepackaged, ready to eat foods. Most did not pass my inspection, do I really need pre-cooked rice or packaged stir fries that are loaded with preservatives, sodium and a weird tasting sauce? Definitely not, in this case, fresh is so much better.

Then I came across frozen vegetable potstickers (or gyoza) and frozen shelled edamame. I was reminded of a cover dish on an old Vegetarian Times which calls for both ingredients. Into the cart they went along with a couple frozen meals like Baked Ziti and Eggplant Parmesan. I headed home to try out this “easy” meal.



I can truly say this recipe was so easy. Done in less than 30 minutes, I even squeezed in a little freshness by adding a chopped yellow pepper instead of using frozen. The vegetable potstickers were pretty darn good. While they aren’t as good as my potstickers, they definitely did the job and saved me a good hour in prep. Here’s my adaptation of the recipe:

Vegetable Potstickers and Edamame Succotash
(4 servings)

Chili-Soy Dressing:
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp roasted red chile paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili oil

Potsticker Succotash:
2 tsp canola oil, divided
1 pkg. frozen vegetable potstickers
1 pkg. frozen shelled edamame
1 yellow pepper, chopped
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions, chopped

To make Chili-Soy Dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

To make Potsticker Succotash, heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and add potstickers, do not stir. Cook 5 minutes or until browned on bottom. Add ¼ cup water to pan, cover and cook 5 additional minutes. Transfer potstickers to a plate and pour remaining oil in the pan.

Add frozen edamame and chopped pepper. Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove pan from heat, and stir in cilantro, green onions, potstickers and Chili-Soy Dressing. Toss to combine and serve warm.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Citrus FruitShare

My new year is getting off to a great start. Sure, it’s totally freezing outside (well, technically below freezing), but overall I feel pretty good. Luckily I started my workout routine a few months back and already see results in the form of a lower body fat percentage. In addition to that, my triglyceride level has dropped for the first time in years, so I must be doing something right.

Back when I became concerned about my triglyceride level (don’t worry folks, it’s just a few points above normal, so nothing outrageous), one of the tips the doctor gave me was to incorporate citrus fruits into my diet. I eat plenty of lemons and limes as it is, but do not often buy grapefruit or oranges as they taste so blah from the grocery store. So, when I saw a postcard for FruitShare advertising a box of citrus fruits, I had to find out more.



FruitShare founder, Everett Myers, was incredibly helpful. A farmer himself, he realized a need existed for organic fruits (especially citrus) here in Minnesota. For the citrus share, he sourced from farms in Texas and California where he built long-lasting relationships with like-minded farmers to bring the best organic citrus to us.



If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I ordered a box again this year and was so thrilled to brighten up my winter. What you see in the picture above is 20 pounds of citrus fruits: grapefruit, clementines, satsumas and navel oranges. I love freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and the juice from these grapefruits is incredibly smooth and not tart or bitter like conventional grapefruit.



The clementines and satsumas have been day brighteners for about a month now. Both are such an easy snack to enjoy.



I have juiced a couple oranges for cocktails (tequila sunrise anyone?) and plan to make candied citrus peels as well.

When I picked up my FruitShare, Everett mentioned an upcoming share of limes, Meyer lemons, and some other citrus. It seems to be right up my alley and I might just have to get more citrus. Find out more about ordering fruit on the newly revamped FruitShare website.

If your business is interested in stocking FruitShare postcards, serving as a pick-up site, or offering fruit to your employees, contact myself or Everett and he'll get you set up.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wow, it's finally 2010.  Yep, a new year and a new decade.  I usually don't do resolutions, but this year I feel like I should.  Don't get me wrong, my life is great.  It's just that I'd like to tweak it a little to make it even better, especially when it comes to blogging.  Here's what I plan to work on in the next year:

1.)  Create a taste journal
This means carrying around a little notebook and jotting down various flavors and descriptive words about the food I eat.  No, I cannot use the words, "awesome", "tasty", or "delicious".

2.)  Drink less alcohol when tasting
It is known that drinking alcohol deadens tastebuds (temporarily), so what's the point in a taste journal when I can't tell the distinctive tastes?  We'll see how this resolution goes as I love fun cocktails.

3.)  Plan posts in advance
I'm a "in the moment" blogger.  I like to write about things I just ate in more of a journal style.  However, I do think more planning can be done to keep myself more organized in ideas.

4.) Highlight great products
I too often gloss over some really great products when I should go in depth.  I have a few to share with you in the next couple months, so I'm already getting a start on this.

5.) Host giveaways
Why don't I do giveaways?  Well, I think it is related to my #3 resolution.  In order to do a giveaway, you have to have a plan.  I'll work on that.

I hope you are enjoying a lazy day today.  I am doing my all time favorite New Year's Day activity and that's listening to the Top 89 on The Current.  Listeners vote for their top 10 songs of the year and The Current compiles them into a top 89 list.  I do a little dance each time one of my picks are played. 

Here are my votes in no particular order (click on the links to hear the songs):

Rodrigo Y Gabriela | Buster Voodoo (11:11)
Band of Skulls | Death By Diamonds and Pearls (Baby Darling Doll Face Honey)
Florence and the Machine | Drumming Song (Lungs)
Solid Gold | Get Over It (Bodies Of Water)
Q-Tip | Gettin' Up (The Renaissance)
Gossip | Heavy Cross (Music For Men)
Vampire Weekend | Horchata (Contra)
The Dead Weather | I Cut Like A Buffalo (Horehound)
Amanda Blank | Make It Take It (I Love You)
Franz Ferdinand | Ulysses (Tonight: Franz Ferdinand)

Happy New Year!
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