My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Sparked!

Notice that little badge on my left sidebar? Oh, you didn’t? You say you view this blog through a reader?

Ah, I get it. That’s how I read a lot of my blogs too. That means I miss out on cool widgets like the one to the left showing you that I was featured on Twin Cities Spark recently.

Find out about some of my favorite bloggers here and be sure to check out the interviews with other great Minnesota bloggers while you're at it.

Featured on Twin Cities Spark

If I plug others in the same sentence, then I can shamelessly self promote, right?

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I Blog 4 Cherries

Sometimes I get asked by non-bloggers why I blog. Sure, I don’t get paid for any of my blogging (although I would accept payment if you’re so inclined), but there’s just something about this community of bloggers that makes it so worthwhile.
I love my blogging community!

The energy, the ideas, and the stories are what it’s all about. I get to meet people who I may have never crossed paths with in real life, but now chat on a regular basis because we read each other’s blogs. For example, take my friend, Catherine, aka Food Snob. Our lifestyles are different and chances are we would have never met if it weren’t for blogging. Four years ago, we were just two Minnesota food bloggers talking about vegetarian food and now we’re splitting shares of cherries and peaches.

(Five Pounds of Sour Cherries)

How awesome is that?

You know what else is awesome? Homemade cherry pie (I made my first pie crust!):


…and vanilla ice cream.


So, you can see, blogging is totally worth it. And it tastes good too!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Sandwiches at Noodles?

Back when I had an office job, a group of us would regularly go out to lunch for birthdays. Since our office was in the suburbs and located on a large campus, our options were pretty limited. Noodles was a popular choice, but not my top choice. I had a hard time getting excited about high-calorie pasta dishes, so I’d often go for the Thai Curry Soup and a small salad time after time.

However, things have changed and I now have a reason to get excited about Noodles - SANDWICHES!

Yep, that’s right, a noodle joint is serving sandwiches and boy are they good! Recently I was invited to a “pop up picnic” event sponsored by Noodles to try the five new sandwiches debuting in a few states (including Minnesota).


I learned that the kitchen staff at Noodles was a bit tired of eating pasta day in and day out, so they started to get creative. They were taking pieces of flatbread and loading them with veggies and meat to spice up their meals. Eventually, Noodles decided it was time to introduce the sandwiches to customers and the Noodles sandwich was born.


From left to right we have the Wisconsin Cheesesteak (beef, mac & cheese sauce, cheddar cheese, red onion, red pepper and mushrooms); the Veggie Med (mushrooms, spinach, red pepper, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, feta and Mediterranean dressing); & the Chicken Med (same as the veg, but with chicken).


Here are the Mmmeatball (meatballs, spicy marinara and parmesan) and the Chicken Caesar (chicken, romaine, field greens, Caesar dressing, wonton strips and parmesan).

While the kids loved the meatball and I heard rave reviews for the cheesesteak, my absolute favorite was the veggie med sandwich. It was loaded with veggies, had a light drizzle of dressing, and came in at only 300 calories. All the sandwiches are served with soup or salad, so this could be a great opportunity to pack in vegetable servings.

Because Noodles was nice enough to give me free sandwich cards, I’m going to do a giveaway.

There will be three winners and each winner will receive two free sandwich cards (because sharing is caring, right?)
To enter:
Leave a comment (with your name) and tell me which Noodles sandwich you’d like to try.

To earn additional entries (each activity counts as an entry)*:
• Become a fan on Facebook
• Follow me on Twitter
• Tweet the giveaway on Twitter.

*You must leave a comment here for each activity in order for the entry to count

Contest ends on Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 11:59pm CST and winners will be chosen using by pulling names from a hat (because it's more fun than the random number generator).
Good luck!

FTC Disclosure: Noodles provided the sandwiches free of charge and I received sandwich cards to give away on my blog. I was not obligated to write about my experience, but thought it would be a great excuse to give away free food!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can Box Lunches Rock?

After spending many years in an office environment, I’ve had my share of box lunches: plain boring sandwiches, a bag of chips (or a cookie) and your choice of pop (which is usually picked over by the time I get to it). The nutritional profile of a lunch like this is quite poor. Sure, some eateries have gotten oh-so-inventive and added a little bag of carrots or a mushy apple, but that still does not change the fact that there are a lot of nutrients (and pizzazz) missing.

During those lunch meetings, I took plenty of notes...notes on what would make great box lunches!  If I owned a catering company, I’d offer things like fresh green salads (no iceberg lettuce, please), chopped fruit, veggie noodle dishes, and inventive wraps and sandwiches. Instead of pop, there would be plenty of water and freshly brewed iced tea.  Since we all need something salty and crunchy, I’d offer some seasoned pretzels or chips and guacamole.

Isn't a sandwich like this so much more exciting?


Focaccia bread slathered with basil pesto and piled high with marinated mushrooms, roasted red peppers, sautéed onions, romaine, and freshly sliced tomatoes. This is such a great sandwich and I brought it to a recent family gathering along with Blue Cheese Potato Salad and sliced watermelon.


If I were served something like this for lunch, maybe I'd be taking notes on the actual meeting rather than daydreaming about a future in catering.  Well, okay, maybe I'd still be daydreaming, but at least I'd be full and happy!

How would you spice up boring box lunches?

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Power of a Flower

It’s amazing how much power a simple flower can have. Not too long ago, I was shopping at Whole Foods and having a bit of a moody day. Nothing in particular was bothering me; it was just an overall woeful feeling.

As I was exiting Whole Foods, an employee stopped me and asked if I’d like a flower. It was a weird flower, one I hadn’t seen before, and truly, it looked to be on its last legs. However, the gesture was so nice that it put a smile on my face. Someone was kind enough to give me a flower just when I needed it most.

I took the flower, put it in some water and set it in my living room.

A day later, I had this:


Funny how a simple flower can change things around.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fresh & Local Show Appearance

Over the 4th of July weekend, I was invited to be on the Fresh & Local Show through the Minneapolis Farmers Market on AM950. This was my second time on the air as I did the show last year too (with Bill Roehl from Lazy Lightning & Darryle Powers from Blue Gentian Farm). It always proves to be a great time both on and off air. I just love being on the radio and long to have my own show someday. One can dream, right?

Susan Berkson and Bonnie Dehn host the show and do a fabulous job. They create a comfortable environment and ask great questions. My co-guests were Susan Powers from Rawmazing and grower, Terry Picha. Susan and I were in studio and we had a great time discussing raw foods, farmers market produce, and meal planning.


If you didn’t hear the show live, you can listen to the show here (on the left hand side). It’s divided into four segments, but for some reason the 4th segment isn't up. I’m in the third segment found here

Speaking of radio, does anyone remember 99.5 WLOL? I came across one of my notebooks from when I was younger and found this:


Seriously, what a dork, right? I especially love the part about listening to them unless they suck. Ha!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pesto & Pasta - What a Great Combo!

After strawberry and raspberry picking this weekend, my car got quite dusty from driving on the gravel roads so I figured I’d swing by the car wash my brother manages, Green Planet Car Wash, in Lakeville. I ran it through the wash and his guys toweled it down and detailed the interior. Much better!

I told my brother, Tony, to grab a container, pop the trunk and help himself to some raspberries and strawberries. We were about to leave when he told me to hold up and handed me this:


Tony said his buddy (who sells it at the Minneapolis Farmers Market Annex, I believe) just gave him some pesto and wasn’t sure what to do with it. I had just started giving him a bunch of ideas when Tony said, “I’ll get some more, you try this one.” Heck yes – score!!


The pesto was filled with big chunks of basil, cheese and walnuts and I knew right then and there that I’d be making fresh pasta from scratch and tossing it with pesto. Perfect timing too as Ryan was going to the Tool concert, so I’d be on my own for the evening (which is totally rare).

I got to work and mixed together whole wheat and white flours, eggs, olive oil, water and salt.


After 10 minutes of kneading, I divided the dough into four pieces and let it rest (covered) for an hour.


Then comes the hard part – rolling the dough into pasta sheets. It’s tedious and takes a long time, but it is totally worth it.


The fun part is cutting the pasta sheets into noodles.  It's like my reward for cranking through all those pasta sheets. I ended up with four nice little bundles of pasta ready for boiling.


Since I was the only one eating, I boiled one of the bundles (1/4 pound of pasta) and tossed it with the pesto and some sliced cherry tomatoes.


Dinner was absolutely awesome! I felt like I was eating a gourmet meal thanks to all the super fresh ingredients and I could truly enjoy the fruits of my labor. After all that standing and rolling out the pasta, I was more than happy to sit on the couch, re-watch 27 Dresses and wait for Ryan to come home.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Five Days of Cooking, Eating & Drinking

What a great weekend! Ryan took an extra day off work so we had a 5 day weekend together and we got a ton of stuff done around the house. No major renovation projects; just going through piles that have existed for way too long and getting our donations for various organizations out of the door.

We also went strawberry picking (on the last day at Lorence’s Berry Farm) and drove across the street to do raspberry picking too. Yum!


I did a whole bunch of cooking projects at home, went hiking with my best friend, and had a picnic with Ryan at Lebanon Hills.

I visited farmers markets, appeared as a guest on the Fresh and Local Show, and enjoyed some bloody Marys at the Herkimer afterwards. All for work, of course :)


On the 4th, we didn’t do much except for grill some shrimp from my cousin, Don, (which were awesome) and drink wine slushies. After talking about it for a couple of weeks, I finally got around to making them! I got the idea from a blogger friend, Liz, from Food Snobbery is my Hobbery and thought it was a perfect use for my newly acquired Cannon River Sogn Blanc and fresh strawberries.


In a blender, combine 2 cups strawberries, 1 cup white wine, 3 cups ice and 2 tablespoons sugar. Blend away and you will soon have an awesome summer drink! Aren’t the glasses in the above picture cool? They were my grandpa’s highball glasses and we love using them for drinks. I have great memories of grandpa and his highball glasses at Christmastime.

Hope your weekend was equally great!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Market Talk Recipes

Last weekend I had the privilege of doing a Market Talk at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. When I first accepted the task, I was really excited. Then as the date got closer, I got more and more nervous – could I really talk and cook for an entire hour??


Turns out, I have no problem talking for an hour straight. I think I get that from my dad (cough, cough, table tennis). But seriously, I had a blast and would absolutely do it again. I really love teaching and inspiring others, especially when it comes to food, so this was a perfect opportunity for me.


Since I had an hour on stage, I decided to make two things that would be great for summertime: Lavender Strawberry Lemonade and Green Bean Salad with Lemon Chive Vinaigrette. The majority of ingredients came straight from the market. I used fresh strawberries, green and yellow beans, mixed salad greens, chives, and lemons.



Both recipes would be wonderful for the 4th of July weekend. I’m making the lemonade to mix up a vodka drink as I did last year. The recipe demoed used pre-packaged lemonade, but you can also make it from scratch using freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables and are quite kid friendly too. My niece took my advice of eating them with your hands like you would French fries.


Big thanks to everyone who came out to learn something new and support me in my cooking endeavors. It was great to be surrounded by friends and family and to make new friends. As I was leaving the market, I ran into two ladies who had been inspired by the Market Talk. They had just picked up all the ingredients for the recipes and were so excited to cook something new at home. Awesome!

In case you didn't get a copy, here are the recipes I made at the Market Talk.

Lavender Strawberry Lemonade

1 64 oz. container prepared lemonade
1 tbsp dried lavender flowers
10 fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 lemon, juiced
Fresh strawberries, for garnish

Place lemonade, lavender, and sliced strawberries in a saucepan. Bring to gentle boil over medium heat. Reduce to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a 2-quart container. Stir in lemon juice.

Chill and serve garnished with fresh strawberries.


Green Bean Salad with Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette
(4 dinner servings)

1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
8 c. loosely packed mixed greens, washed and dried

Vinaigrette:
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Garnish:
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp snipped chives

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Toss the green beans with enough oil to coat and sprinkle with a little salt. (Or if desired, blanch the green beans for 4 minutes instead of using oil.) Place the green beans in the skillet and cook, rolling frequently to avoid burning, until tender, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove. Arrange mixed greens on chilled plates or a large serving platter.

To prepare the vinaigrette: Place all ingredients in a clean mason jar. Shake until combined.

When ready to assemble the salad, toss the green beans with enough vinaigrette to coat. Arrange on top of the mixed greens. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and the snipped chives. Pass any additional vinaigrette alongside.

*Add tofu, chicken, or shrimp to make a more robust meal.
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