My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Butternut Squash Soup

Hope everyone had a great holiday break...perhaps you're still on a holiday break. I would love to be, but I'm here plugging away at work. It's a tough time a year to get ahold of candidates, managers, etc. and continue progressing forward, but a lot of research can be accomplished, so that's good.

Onto the food:

I seem to have gone into soup making mode lately. The latest soup to be made is Butternut Squash Soup. Typically when I think of Butternut Squash Soup, I think of a puree, but this was not completely the case.

Pulling from a recent Food & Wine issue, we pureed a bunch of cooked veggies like leeks, butternut squash, and celery with some veggie broth. I left some of the leeks whole to add later. The puree was combined with kale, corn, red pepper, carrots and pinto beans. I really wanted to use black eyed peas, but we were out. It was garnished with salt and pepper instead of bacon.

This soup turned out really well. Next time I'll leave some of the butternut squash diced too instead of pureed, but it made a sweet and creamy base. This recipe made so much that we had to send some over to Ryan's mom, which she enjoyed too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Buckwheat Salad with Mushrooms & Parsley Oil

Due to some previous work travel, I ended up with a bunch of airline miles for American Airlines although I rarely travel on that airline. So, I used my miles for a magazine subscription to Food and Wine. I'm pretty happy with that choice as they have some great recipes.

I was pulled toward a section by Melissa Clark who had slimmed down by eating smaller portions and eating healthier. One of her recipes featured was Buckwheat Salad with Mushrooms and Parsley Oil. I had never tried buckwheat groats (also known as Kasha) so I was eager to try it.

This recipe was easy to make although I seemed to make a mess! The recipe can be found here.

Buckwheat groats are hearty and taste very good. We weren't fans of the fennel, but I could tolerate some of it. We found that this meal was better the next day when the mushrooms and buckwheat were able to soak up the lemon juice and other seasonings.

Buckwheat is one of the world's healthiest foods and is a high quality protein that provides all eight of the essential amino acids. Did you know that it's actually a fruit seed related to rhubarb? Very cool.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Brussels Sprouts & Cinnamon Buttered Gnocchi

I never realized this before, but I love brussels sprouts. I don't think my mom ever served them when we were kids, which was probably a good thing. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to try them and that started my love for brussels sprouts.

I had a major craving for them lately, but we didn't have much to serve them with. We did, however, have a thing of gnocchi (okay, who am I kidding, being the pantry stocker I am, we had 2 things of gnocchi). Having watched an episode of Giada De Laurentiis recently, I took her idea of making Cinnamon Buttered Gnocchi.

The brussels sprouts were easy - boiled them, cut them in half, and sauteed with garlic and olive oil. We seasoned them with garlic vinegar.

For the gnocchi, they were boiled, drained, and sauteed in cinnamon flavored butter and sprinkled with additional cinnamon and sugar.

The two dishes don't quite go together, but they were good. We probably wouldn't make the Cinnamon Buttered Gnocchi again because of all the butter and lack of flavor, but they were good for a one-time try.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Potato Chile Cheese Soup and Scallop Wontons

Happy Monday! I had a great weekend and was able to get a lot of things done and even came up with a new way to make necklaces. I had an idea of how to do it, but wasn't sure so I packed up my stuff and headed to Sea of Beads (a beading store nearby). I sat there and practiced until I had the technique down. Then I dropped a bunch of money (somehow I can't leave that store without spending money) and headed home to start manufacturing! I'll have to take some pics of the finished products and share soon.

Onto the food...Ryan was helpful in the kitchen again and was just putting the finishing touches on these dishes when I got home.

The Potato Chile Cheese Soup (from the Star Tribune) was thickened with pureed potatoes, which made a nice texture and there were chunks of pepper to give you some substance to the soup. It was only very mildly spicy and could have used even more spice.

The Seared Sea Scallops was a recipe I've been wanting for awhile to see if it is a good appetizer and I think it is. It seems to be missing something though...maybe simply some kind of thicker sauce/"glue" to set the scallops on top of that adhere them to the wonton skins. It's a recipe from Health, so maybe they wanted to eliminate excess calories. Overall, it was very tasty and easy to eat with one hand.

Potato Chile Cheese Soup
(5-6 servings)

2 medium russet potatoes
1 to 2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ c. chopped onion
1 medium bell pepper (any color), diced
2 medium Anaheim or poblano chiles, minced
1 ½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 ½ c. milk, at room temperature
¾ c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
Minced basil, green onions, and cilantro for garnish

Scrub potatoes and cut them into small chunks. Place them in a large pot with 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook until tender, 15 minutes or so. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook for several minutes, then add the bell pepper, chiles, salt to taste, cumin and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until vegetables are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Puree potatoes in their cooking water, using a blender or food processor. Add water if needed to thin mixture. Add puree to sautéed vegetables, and then stir in the milk until well blended.

Heat the soup very slowly, being careful not to boil it. When it is hot, stir in the cheese and grind in some fresh black pepper. Serve hot, topped with a light sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Seared Sea Scallops with Wontons
(makes 2 dozen)

¼ c. light soy sauce
1 tbsp wasabi paste
2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp dark sesame oil
12 large fresh sea scallops
12 wonton skins
¼ c. chives or scallions, sliced horizontally

In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, wasabi paste, ginger, and sesame oil; mix well. Set aside 1 tablespoon of the mixture. Rinse scallops in cold water; pat dry with paper towels.

Cut each scallop in half horizontally, forming two rounds. Add scallops to soy sauce mixture in bowl, tossing to coat. Cover and chill at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°. Cut wonton skins in half diagonally; arrange on two cookie sheets that have been coated with cooking spray. Brush wonton skins lightly with remaining soy sauce mixture. Bake 6 minutes or until crisp and deep golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely.

Meanwhile, drain scallops, discarding marinade. Pat dry with paper towels. Heat a large grill pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of scallops in one layer; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Turn; continue to cook 1 minute or until scallops are opaque in center. Repeat with remaining scallops.

Arrange onto skins on a serving platter. Arrange two chive or green onion pieces over each wonton skin in a crisscross fashion. Top each with a scallop. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Canton-Style Chicken Noodles

I had a great time at our first of many holiday parties last night/last afternoon. It started at 3:30pm and was supposed to end at 5:30pm. Somehow I managed to stay for the afterparty in the bar until 7:30pm. When I got home, I felt like it was time to go to bed. What a weird feeling since we started so early!

The cool thing about our party was it was held at a sports bar/restaurant where I had 4 friends working last night. Danny, my to-be brother-in-law was our server and his brother was our bartender along with another friend of ours. The third brother was also present, but doesn't work there. So, I was surrounded by coworkers and friends all night.

Since I just grazed on appetizers, I didn't make dinner last night but will share something we recently made. Yep, we actually made some chicken. It's been a long time since we've made chicken and it was good. I sought out a free-range organic chicken breast from Valley Natural Foods for this recipe.

I also went out of my way to buy shoyu sauce only to find out that it is the Japanese word for soy sauce (which I had plenty of at home). Argh...I should have been smarter.

Canton-Style Chicken Noodles

1 tbsp canola oil
4 oz. chicken breast, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 c. snow peas
2 large tomatoes, cubed
¼ c. ketchup
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp shoyu
2 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
8 oz. thin udon

Put a pot of water on to boil for the noodles. Heat a wok or skillet over high heat. Add oil and swirl to coat. Add chicken to the pan and stir fry until browned, about 3 minutes. Add scallions, snow peas, and tomato and gently stir-fry. When tomatoes are soft and juicy, stir together the sauce ingredients and pour into the pan. Stir carefully.

Cook noodles and drain, add to pan and toss with stir-fry. Serve hot.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Disaster and Success

Ok, so I was excited for this recipe as it looked like it would be good with the green beans, teriyaki, mushrooms and ramen. However, even when reading through the recipe, I thought something might be missing. Too bad I didn't go with my gut on this because it was horrible!

First of all, the beans and mushrooms were on their last days, so that could have something to do with it. The main problem though was the lack of liquid - it needed a "cream of" something or some kind of sauce.

If anyone has any similar recipes that are actually GOOD, please share!!

On the flip side, I had a recipe that I was unsure of : Cauliflower and Potato Curry. I like cauliflower and I like potatoes and I've had them together before, but I knew Ryan didn't like cauliflower.

I made the recipe anyway with sauteed onions, curry powder, cauliflower, potatoes, some water and a can of diced tomatoes. I let it simmer for quite awhile until Ryan came home from class and told him that the meal was probably not good.

We both sat down with small plates and tried our first was awesome!! Ryan even loved the cauliflower which was totally surprising. So, we packaged it up for lunches with some pitas and went to bed happy. We forgot to take a picture though, so you'll have to imagine what it looked like.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Coconut Shrimp and Mango Salsa

Hope everyone had a great weekend. Ours was very busy as Ryan's approaching finals and I had some volunteer work to do. For the fourth year, I helped decorate Christmas trees at a nursing home. I think it's our group's 14th year doing it, so they have a great history. It's neat because all the residents come out of their rooms to watch us beautify their gathering rooms.

We made a couple things this weekend, but I haven't loaded the pictures up yet so you'll have to deal with something we made a week ago...

Ryan was back in the kitchen to make this recipe. I was going to be at my writing class, so Ryan prepped everything the night before and made this on a break from studying.

The shrimp are from our Coastal Seafood run and the recipe is from Weight Watchers so it can't be that bad for you!

We had mixed reactions on the dish - upon first bite, I wasn't impressed due to a chewy coating. However, I kept eating and started to really enjoy the shrimp and salsa together. A few minutes after I realized that I like them, I asked Ryan his opinion. He wasn't impressed either, but after a few bites, he changed his mind too!

Coconut Shrimp with Mango Salsa (we halved this recipe)
(15 servings)

1 lb. large shrimp (about 30 per pound), leave tails on if desired
1/3 c. cornstarch
½ tsp seasoned salt
½ tsp cayenne
1 ¼ c. sweetened shredded coconut
¼ c. Panko bread crumbs
3 egg whites
2-3 drops coconut extract

1 c. finely chopped mango
¼ c. chopped red bell pepper
¼ c. finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

To prepare the shrimp, line a baking sheet with parchment or foil, and spray with nonstick spray. Rinse the shrimp in a colander under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.

Combine the cornstarch, seasoned salt, and cayenne in a small, shallow bowl. Mix the coconut and bread crumbs in another small bowl. With an electric mixer in medium speed, beat the egg whites and coconut extract in a medium bowl until frothy, about 2 minutes.

Dip a shrimp into the cornstarch mixture, shaking off the excess, then dip into the egg white mixture to coat on all sides. Dredge into the coconut mixture, pressing with your fingers to help the coconut and crumbs adhere. Place on the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining shrimp. **You can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 6 hours ahead at this point. Let the shrimp stand at room temperature ½ hour before baking.

To prepare the salsa, combine the mango, bell pepper, onion, lime juice, cilantro, and jalapeno in a small bowl; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

About ½ hour before serving, preheat the oven to 400°. Spray the shrimp with nonstick spray. Bake, turning once, and spraying again with nonstick spray until the shrimp are cooked through and the coating is lightly browned. 15-20 minutes. Serve at once.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Homemade Sushi

When at Coastal Seafoods, we also picked up some sushi-grade ahi tuna, smoked salmon, sushi rice, and a rolling mat and thought we'd try sushi at home.

Sushi rice is a pain in the behind! Since this was our first time trying it, we were total direction followers as to not screw it up. So, instructions said to rinse the rice until is was no longer cloudy; we gave up after 45 minutes. Then we had to let the rice drain for 1 hour; we gave up on that after 40 minutes. Then, we have an electric stovetop, so we had to cook the rice over multiple burners at various heat levels for 15 minutes and let it sit for 10 minutes. The rice was a bit burnt. Oops!

After all those instructions, there were no details on sushi rice vinegar...were we supposed to add some or not? I added a little bit, but wasn't sure. The rice was really sticky, so I assume it was a success (despite the burnt pieces).

We made 2 kinds of sushi:
1.) asparagus, green onions, and cream cheese inside with tuna and avocado on the outside

2.) asparagus, green onion, cream cheese and marinated tuna inside with smoked salmon and avocado on the outside

For our first attempt, these turned out really well. They tasted just like the rolls at the restaurants we've been to. The appearance, though left much to be desired. We just don't quite have the rolling technique down.

Ryan and I both agreed that we'd much rather get sushi takeout than going through that rice ordeal again. Any suggestions for us on rice cooking techniques that are easier?

Tonight I have my last writing class. It's been a good course, but maybe not the right time for me with starting a new job that is consuming most of my time. However, the class has established a great foundation for more writing to come. I was at a complete writer's block before and now I know how to get the flow going again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Salmon and Asparagus Risotto

Getting back into the swing of things after a long break is tough. I knew I wouldn't be excited to go back to work. Luckily, I had Monday night free to continue some project work and make some food.

Ryan and I had a gift certificate to Coastal Seafoods (a fish shop in St. Paul), so we made a pit stop there to pick up some fish. We started with Margarita Salmon Fillets (from Cooking Light) and Asparagus Lemon Risotto (from Health).

The salmon was fantastic and cooked perfectly on our stovetop grill pan. The Asparagus Lemon Risotto wasn't my favorite. It turned out well, but the taste was a bit blah. I also think that Ryan and I like asparagus by itself rather than in a rice dish - we kept wanting to pick out all the asparagus to eat and leave the rice! Plus, we made way too much and felt horrible wasting some of it (even after taking it for lunch leftovers).

Margarita Salmon Fillets
(6 servings)

2 (4-oz.) salmon fillets
¾ tsp salt, divided
¼ c. cilantro leaves
¼ c. chopped onion
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp finely chopped seeded Serrano chile
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp tequila
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
Chopped fresh chives, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish

Place the fillets in a single layer in a 13x9-inch baking dish, and sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon salt. Combine ½ teaspoons salt, cilantro, onion, sugar, chile, juice, tequila, oil, and garlic in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Pour cilantro mixture over the fillets, and turn to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.

Prepare grill. Remove fish from dish; discard marinade. Place fish on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Garnish with chopped chives and lime wedges, if desired. Serve with yellow rice or black beans.


Asparagus-Lemon Risotto
(8 servings)

2 (14.5 oz.) cans vegetable broth
2 ½ c. water
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c. minced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ c. uncooked Arborio rice or other short grain rice
½ c. dry white wine
¼ tsp pepper
1 ½ lb. asparagus, sliced into 1-in pieces
¼ c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
¼ c. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp grated lemon rind
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

In a large saucepan, combine broth and water. Bring to a simmer. Keep warm over low heat.

Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add rice; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 2 minutes or until liquid is nearly absorbed, stirring constantly. Mix in pepper. Add broth mixture, ½ cup at a time, stirring constantly; cook until leach portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next, about 25 minutes. Add asparagus during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat; stir in cheese and remaining ingredients.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lentil and Vegetable Soup

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and hopefully you got a break like I did. It was nice to be able to see family and catch up on some neglected projects. I don't have any pictures from my holiday meals, but be assured that they were great!

As I'm trying to get more veggies and more fiber in my diet, I thought this recipe would be a good one to try so I put on my apron and started chopping.

I had everything together in about 30 minutes, put it on the stove, and had a fantastic meal. Ryan was excited when he heard he could have a bowl of soup after a long day instead of a piece of toast or some other quick snack. The soup actually provided 5 servings, so we have plenty for lunch over the next couple days.

This recipe is from Canyon Valley Ranch's spa, unfortunately obtained from a magazine, not an actual spa visit!

Lentil and Vegetable Soup
(4 servings)

1 tbsp olive oil
2/3 c. celery, diced
1/3 c. white onions, diced
1/3 c. carrots, diced
3 tbsp shallots, diced
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 1/2 qt. vegetable stock
1 c. dry brown lentils
2 tsp whole-grain mustard
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt (optional
¼ tsp pepper

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté celery, onions, carrots, shallots and garlic until onions are translucent. Add vegetable stock and lentils. Cook uncovered until lentils are just tender, but not too soft. Before serving, add mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Orange Lacquered Tofu and Bok Choy

Ryan has been rocking it in the kitchen lately and been a ton of help. Somehow, things have gotten crazy busy for me, so it's been great to come home to an already prepared meal.

Let me add something about our organization and how we do it. We go into meal planning mode - typically on a weekend where we just start picking out recipes from my recipe database (now contains over 700 recipes that are typed up on index cards and kept electronically), magazines, cookbooks, and various other resources that are in queue to be entered in the database.

We then compile a list of ingredients that we need and add them to the grocery list. I keep a list of all the possible meals in the kitchen so we can just pick one and go with it. It's been a really helpful system for us, but it's only helpful if we use it!

Onto today's meal...this one falls into the "quick and easy" category. The tofu recipe is from Vegetarian Times and the Bok Choy is from Delicious Living magazine.

Orange Lacquered Tofu
(4 servings)

¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
2 tsp dark sesame oil
1 14-oz. pkg. extra-firm tofu, drained well and cut crosswise into 8 1/2–inch thick slices

Combine tamari, orange juice, syrup, and sesame oil in a medium bowl; whisk to blend. Season to taste with a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, or cayenne for a little more spice.

Coat a large cast iron or nonstick skillet with peanut oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu and cook, without disturbing, about 7 minutes, until crisp and golden. Turn over, and cook about 5 minutes or until crisp and golden.

Pour in tamari mixture, and shake pan back and forth to coat tofu. Reduce heat to medium; cook 2 to 3 minutes, until sauce is syrupy and tofu and glazed. Sauce will get sticky if cooked longer. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Braised Baby Bok Choy with Ginger and Garlic
(4 servings)

1 cup vegetable broth
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp minced fresh ginger
1 lb. baby bok choy, rinsed and sliced lengthwise
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring broth, butter, garlic, and ginger to a simmer in a large heavy skillet. Arrange bok choy evenly in a skillet, cover and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer bok choy to a serving dish, cover and keep warm.

Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer until reduced to about ¼ cup. Stir in toasted sesame oil and pour mixture over bok choy. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Chicken Style Seitan Goodness

Since we liked the other setian we made, I thought it would be good to make a Chicken Style Seitan from the Real Food Daily cookbook. It was super easy to make – just put all the ingredients together and bake for 2 hours in a square pan. The recipe made 4 pounds, 3 of which we stuck in the freezer for later use.

We did get some good meals of the first pound. First, we had a bunch of bok choy from my Oriental Market shopping trip. So, we stir fried carrots, mini bell peppers, shallots, bok choy and chicken seitan.

We added a sauce to the dish, but I can’t quite remember what was in it…I want to say veggie broth and soy sauce and a few spices. It was served over rice and topped with toasted cashews. Overall, a pretty easy dish with lots of veggies.

Next, we come to my favorite meal with seitan…Black Bean and Seitan Tacos, which is a recipe I pulled from a Cooking Light issue quite a few years ago before I even knew what seitan was! Ryan was nice enough to make this - he told me to sit down and read a magazine or something. Ryan is great in the kitchen, but I have a hard time sitting still and not trying to help so he had to often shoo me away.

Here’s the recipe, I encourage you to try it:

Black Bean & Seitan Tacos
(6 servings)

2 tsp olive oil
¾ cup chopped onion
½ tsp dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, undrained
8 oz. seitan, finely chopped
½ tsp black pepper
12 taco shells
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
Avocados or other desired toppings

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, oregano, garlic, and jalapeño; cook 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in sherry, soy sauce, beans, and seitan, bring to a boil. Cook 7 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Prepare taco shells according to package directions. Spoon about 1/3 cup bean mixture into each shell; top each taco with lettuce, avocados, and other toppings.

We used blue corn taco shells and tried Tofutti Better than Sour Cream for the first time. The sour cream was great - hard to tell the difference. However, I'm bummed by the ingredient list because it is a lot more confusing than dairy sour cream.

For lunch the next day, we made a taco salad out of this with some tortilla chips. It was so dang good, I loved it!

Yesterday we gave Ryan's mom a pound of the seitan, so we still have 2 pounds left if anyone has ideas for us. Let us know.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Life can be easy.

Ryan and I have made quite a few things over the last couple of weeks. It was tough having to go to the grocery store and make a big trip, but it’s worth it to have healthy meals at home.

Starting off, I made another apple pie and actually took a picture before we ate it. Lucky for me, Ryan takes most of the credit for polishing it off.

We also had been making a few veggie burgers. My favorite thing to do is to sauté sliced peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach in olive oil. Then pile the toppings on a veggie burger and top it with a little bit of cheese and let that melt. Serve it on a toasted English muffin. It rocks.

A good lunch option is a Tempeh sandwich. I lean more towards the Tempeh Reuben with sauerkraut, pickle, and VwaV’s sauce and some spinach. Ryan went more the TLT route with spinach and tomato. Definitely no pickle for him!

These kind of dishes always make my life much easier. We had to do a lot of errand running that night and were proud of ourselves for making dinner before we went out and were tempted by all kinds of dining out options.

We're still alive and cooking!

Just a quick note to say that Cafe Cyan still exists and we are still cooking. Kinda a catch 22 situation...I only have time to either cook or post and I can't post without cooking, so cooking wins out in the competition of time.

Hopefully soon I'll be able to share all of our great food with you all. I just got back from some work travel and trying to play catch up so stay tuned!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"Chicken" and Dumplings

Time to fix another meal and this time, it's one of those comfort meals; Chicken and Dumplings. We originally got this recipe from Bisquik, but after reading the ingredients in Bisquik, we decided to make some changes.

Change #1: No more Bisquik biscuits! Now we make them from scratch. We use Sarah Kramer's recipe for Baking Powder Biscuits and have baggies of the dry mix stashed and ready to go.

Change #2: More veggies! Especially because we have a lot of frozen veggies in the freezer that we need to use up.

Change #3: No more chicken! Instead we used Quorn chicken cutlets. Cooked them up on the stovetop, cut into pieces and added to the mixture.

I have to say that I love the changes we have made. The final dish doesn't taste much different than the original and we feel so much better about eating this. Doesn't it look yummy?

Here's the recipe. If you want the biscuit recipe, you'll have to buy Sarah Kramer's book, La Dolce Vegan (or e-mail me).

”Chicken” and Dumplings
(4 servings)

1 ½ cups skim milk
2 cups frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables
1 cup cooked Quorn chicken cutlets, diced
1 can condensed 98% fat-free cream of chicken soup
1 recipe Baking Powder Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450°. Mix together biscuit ingredients. Separate into eight pieces and place in a lightly greased muffin tin to bake. Bake for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, heat milk, peas and carrots, "chicken" and soup to boiling in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Cook uncovered over low heat for 10 minutes. Place cooked biscuits on top of mixture. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Roasted Butternut Squash & Greens Pasta

Inspiried by Megan the Vegan, I stopped by Groceries of the Orient on Sunday. I was originally searching for yuba, which I think I found and didn’t buy, but ended up buying a bunch of other things.

I bought some fried tofu pockets, chayote (to stuff), lychee candy (a must have!), Panko breadcrumbs, spring roll sheets, Fanta and Mangosteen Juice drink (for fun), wonton wrappers (for potstickers), bok choy (to sauté), red bean jelly ice cream treats, taro buns (worth a try), a tofu cutlet, asian pears, and an agar agar Jello-type mix (to test jello shots with agar).

We tried the red bean jelly ice cream treats and they are so different. I'm not used to eating whole beans in my ice cream, that's for sure! Stay tuned how the rest of the purchases turn out.

For dinner Sunday night, we finally used our butternut squash for Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens Pasta. I think it has been about a year since we last made this. It was so good last time and was great again this time.

Although it has many ingredients and looks intimidating, this recipe is quite easy to make. Instead of half-and-half, I used soymilk; instead of a granny smith apple, I used one of our recently picked apples; and instead of escarole, I used green swiss chard.

Here’s the recipe for it, which is adapted from the Star Tribune newspaper:

Sweet Roasted Butternut and Greens Pasta
(6 servings)

3 ½ to 4-lb. butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cut into bite-size chunks
1 medium to large onion, cut into ½-inch chunks
1 large granny smith apple, sliced
2 big handfuls of washed and dried escarole, torn
1/3 c. tightly packed torn fresh basil leaves
16 large torn fresh sage leaves
5 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 tbsp tightly packed brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
½ c. half and half
1 lb. Italian bow tie pasta, freshly cooked in salted water to tender, but still a little firm, and drained
1 to 1 ½ c. freshly shredded Asiago cheese

Slip a big shallow sheet pan (or 2 smaller ones) into the oven. Preheat oven to 450°.

In a big bowl, toss together squash, onion, greens, basil, sage, garlic, olive oil, red pepper, brown sugar and salt and pepper. Pull out the oven rack with the sheet pan on it. Carefully turn the squash blend onto the sheet. Spread it out and bake 25 minutes, turning twice, or until squash is tender.

Once the squash is tender, turn on the broiler to caramelize it. Watch closely, turning pieces often. Cook about 5 minutes; you want crusty brown edges onto the squash and wilted almost crisp greens.

Scrape everything into a serving bowl. Add the half and half, hot pasta and 1 cup of the cheese. Toss to blend, tasting for salt and pepper and enough cheese. Add apple and adjust seasonings; serve hot.

Peeling winter squash: Tough skin and hard flesh make winter squash annoying to peel. A relatively easy way to sidestep most of the work and the dangerous knife slips is to do the following: With an 8-inch chef’s knife, halve the squash lengthwise. Flip it cut-side down onto your cutting board and cut crosswise into 1-inch slices. Now it’s easy to strip away the peel and seeds. Cut the crescents of squash into small pieces.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Pumpkin Seed Crusted Tofu & Apple Pie

This recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance has been on my mind for awhile now as it seems like the perfect fall/holiday meal to make.

We had never cooked a pumpkin before and didn't know what to expect. With Ryan's help, we mastered this recipe in less than 1 1/2 hours and made an apple pie too.

The tofu is pressed as usual and then coated in toasted pumpkin seeds, cornstarch, herbs, and flour before being lightly fried in a pan. The pumpkin was simply coated in oil and roasted for 45 minutes in the oven. We debated over making the cranberry sauce and since we had all the ingredients, I threw it together at the last minute. It really helped make the dish complete.

To round out the meal, we added some broccoli. This was blanched for 4 minutes, drained, and then thrown into a hot pan with olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Finally, add a squirt of fresh lemon juice and shave some asiago or parmesan cheese on top.

Yum, yum, yum! The tofu reminded me of breaded chicken nuggets (without the chicken flavor, of course!) and was good on it's own or with a bite of everything else. We just loved this recipe and we better because we have a few leftovers.

Also, we finally made an apple pie with all those apples I picked. I'm not a crust maker, so I cheated and bought a store crust. It's just so much easier to deal with! The apple pie was fantastic and we served it with vanilla ice cream from Blue Sky Creamery. Mmmmm.....
Sorry, no pictures yet - each time we've eaten a slice, we've been pretty anxious to eat it, so no time for pics. Maybe later.

On a side note, I did host the first tofu workshop with Ryan's mom, Diane. We made the Stewed Tofu with Miso Gravy that I posted about a couple weeks ago. Although we cooked until my bedtime, it was still a success. Ryan's dad even tried some and liked it (minus the mushrooms, of course).

Monday, October 16, 2006

Green Tea Tofu Salad & Final Crop Share

Good morning! I’m here to finally provide some food updates and we’ve made some good things over the last couple weeks from the last crop share that we received. I’ll span this out over a couple days for your reading enjoyment.

Last week we finally made the Pan-Fried Tofu with Green Tea and Honey Dressing that we had mentioned awhile back and it was really tasty.

Here’s the recipe:

Pan-Fried Tofu with Green Tea & Honey Dressing
(4 servings)

1 tsp loose green tea leaves
¼ cup water
3 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp rice vinegar
½ tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp fresh mint, minced

1 16-oz. block extra-firm tofu
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp loose green tea leaves
3 tbsp white sesame seeds
¼ tsp salt
4 c. baby green salad mix
2 Asian pears or Bosc pears, halved, cored, and cut lengthwise into thin slices
1 c. halved cherry tomatoes

To make dressing: Place tea leaves in a cup and pour boiling spring water over them. Cover and let steep for 1 to 2 minutes. Discard tea leaves. Combine tea and remaining dressing ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before using. Makes ½ cup.
Press tofu for at least 1 hour. Cut tofu into 16 equal cubes.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and swirl to coat. Add tea leaves, sesame seeds and salt, and sauté until fragrant. Place tofu cubes on top and pan-fry until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Turn tofu, press into sesame seeds and pan-fry the other side until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Drain tofu on paper towels.

Toss together salad greens, pears and tomatoes in a salad bowl. Arrange the tofu cubes over the salad and spoon the dressing on top.

This turned out great! Be sure to use a large enough pan and when turning the tofu, place and press right on top of sesame seeds so they adhere and form a crust as you can see in this picture:

We substituted sundried tomatoes for fresh tomatoes and substituted an apple for the pear as we have plenty of apples to use up! We ended up doctoring the dressing a little bit as the sesame oil is a bit heavy and the mint isn't to my taste. Next time I'd add more vinegar, less sesame oil, and I'd use rosemary instead of mint. Or, you can scrap the salad part all together and use the tofu part in a different dish.

On a sad note, our joys of crop sharing are over. I picked up our last crop share and will now be on our own with produce selections. I guess it's time to venture back into the world of regular grocery shopping. Here's a great article on our farmers that was in the local paper:

In this share, we received:

Italian Parsley
Green and Red Peppers
Salad Mix
Butternut Squash
Delicata Squash
Red Onions
Baby Beets
Radishes (gone instantly!)

I also stopped at the Gardens of Eagan stand and bought a sugar pumpkin (for a future recipe), and some corn.

The butternut squash excites me. First of all, it is HUGE! Second, I have an awesome pasta, greens and squash recipe to make soon. Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Stuffed Peppers and Ooey Gooey Dessert

One of my favorite meals that my mom used to make was Stuffed Peppers. It was one of the recipes that I first asked her for while I was in college. They weren’t necessarily unhealthy at the time, but I wanted to make them healthier. So, I started substituting ground turkey for the ground beef and brown rice for the white rice and adding other veggies. Now, I’ve decided to alter them once again. I substituted Morningstar Farms crumbles for the ground turkey and it turned out great!

Here are the ingredients cooking:

Stuffed Peppers

2 cups cooked brown rice
1/2 pkg. Morningstar Farms crumbles (beef substitute)
¼ cup sweet onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, chopped
Salt and pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
¼ cup corn
Mozzarella cheese (if desired)
¾ cup water
1/3 cup ketchup
2 bell peppers (any color)
Fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. In a medium saucepan, cook brown rice per package directions. Wash peppers; chop tops of peppers and reserve. Make sure the peppers can stand up. If not, carefully slice little pieces off the bottoms until they can stand upright. Parboil peppers in boiling water for 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, sauté onion and garlic in large skillet in a small amount of olive oil. When onions turn translucent, add crumbles and cook until defrosted. Stir in salt, pepper, and garlic salt to taste. Add corn, chopped pepper tops, cheese and 1 cup of the rice. Mix water and ketchup in a small bowl; pour 1 cup over crumble mixture. Stuff mixture into pepper bottoms and place in a baking dish. Add remaining mixture and rice to dish surrounding peppers. Pour tomato sauce over top.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until browned on top. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

I also made Dreena’s Ooey Gooey bars (I can’t remember the real name of them right now), but they were great! Ryan and I couldn’t keep our hands off of them and they were gone within a few days. I would love to bring this to a gathering.

Last night was my second writing class where we rediscovered our relationship and history with writing. It was very neat to revisit some old memories of note-notebooks, penpals, and forms of journaling. Each class helps me brainstorm and think of writing ideas – it gets me “unstuck”.

Today the sun is shining, but it is deceiving as there is quite a chill out there. No winter jackets yet, so I’m still happy!

Monday, October 2, 2006

Oh Miso Gravy

Hope everyone had a great weekend! My Saturday was filled with volunteer activities; I walked with Ryan’s family in the ALS Walk in the morning. This is a yearly event we do in honor of his uncle, Paul, who died of ALS about 4 years ago. Then, I volunteered at the Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in the evening. It was a ton of fun to interact with such giving people and neat to see all the balloons lit up around Lake Phalen (yeah, one of our 10,000+ lakes).

After coming home late from the walk, Ryan had some tofu pressed, so we made the most fantastic meal…Stewed Tofu and Potatoes in Miso Gravy from Vegan With a Vengeance. This meal…is…to…die for! When I read the title, I thought, “Who wants stewed tofu?” Well, apparently, I do!

For those of you without this cookbook, it is gravy made out of mostly white wine and miso. Then you add onions, cremini mushrooms, garlic, herbs, potatoes and tofu. It tastes like Thanksgiving and should be made more often. Diane, I think this will be a recipe for our tofu workshop.

Sidebar from the food – I started my new job today and it rocks. I think I am going to be very happy. I am a Senior Recruiter for a large, international, corporate organization and it has a large campus with amenities like Caribou Coffee and a shuttle to and from the YMCA during lunch hour. My team is great, my boss is great and I hope everything continues to go well.

We were released early today so I jumped on the opportunity to drive down to Afton Apple Orchard and pick apples and raspberries. I usually go with Ryan or my sister, but neither could go with me and I was crunched on time, so I went by my lonesome.

I picked 3 pecks of apples (1 peck for my sister, Jill) and 2 pints of raspberries – white and pink. I only had 1 hour and 15 minutes to get it all done, so I got a good workout in too. The apples are a mix of Red Barron, Honey Gold and Sweet 16. I’m planning on making a pie (or two) and some applesauce. I’m very excited I made it down there as I thought we might not have a chance to this year.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ravioli, Bananas and Orange Seitan

Happy Friday! We've only made a few proper meals this week. Otherwise, we've been eating non-blog worthy like veggie burgers with sauteed peppers, onions and mushrooms, chips and salsa, quesadillas, and other meal leftovers.

Here's an idea I got from watching the new Rachael Ray talk show. It's a ravioli lasagna and quite easy to make. Instead of doing a sauce from scratch, Ryan used a canned sauce with Morningstar Farms "beef" crumbles and layered it in a dish with cooked ravoli and topped it with mozzarella cheese. It's suggested as a great potluck dish because you just pop it in the oven for 10 minutes once you arrive.

Then, Ryan treated me to a dessert of bananas wrapped in tortillas, crisped up in some oil and drizzled with a brown sugar-butter sauce. We served it alongside Dreena's Banana Ice Cream. Yum!

Last night I decided to use up the leftover seitan which I had put in the freezer a few weeks ago. I went with Vivacious Vegan's idea of breading it and finishing it with an orange juice/soy sauce combo. It was great! I was craving some veggies too, so added green beans to the meal.

On Wednesday, Catherine from Food Snob and I had a blogger meet-up at the Mall of America. It was really cool to meet her and we spent 2 1/2 hours shopping together...well, I admit, I did all the shopping while Catherine showed great restraint. We had a fantastic time and will be meeting up again in the near future.

On a side note, I start a new job on Monday (yes, I resigned from my old job and have had a few days off). I'm not sure how that is going to affect my cooking and blogging, but we'll see what the first few weeks hold. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Loads of Appetizers

I still have more to post from this weekend and since we ate leftovers, I figure I'll take this opportunity to share some more.

Since Ryan had tons of studying to do this weekend, I was able to make a lot of things in the kitchen. I tried a Sangiovese Vinaigrette recipe from my new cookbook, The Spirited Vegetarian. It was made with Sangiovese that was reduced to about half, balsamic vinegar (which we now realize is not TRUE balsamic –argh!), brown sugar, garlic, parsley, dried mustard and olive oil.

Oh yeah, the recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, but for some reason I read it as 1 tablespoon and didn’t realize until after I took the picture.

We then drizzled this over tomatoes, basil and mozzarella and served it with a foccicia bread for a post-workout meal.

On Sunday, I wanted to try out some appetizers for the Vikings game. I made Stuffed and Marinated Portobello Mushrooms from Gourmet Magazine and Phyllo Triangles with Artichoke Dip from The Everyday Vegan.

The mushrooms were awesome. We served them on some of our salad mix tossed with the vinaigrette marinade. I think this would be an awesome starter dish if we had company over. I used a little bacon for the stuffing, but could have used Smart Bacon or even omitted it altogether as it wasn’t the main highlight.

The Phyllo Triangles with Artichoke Dip were a bit messy to fold, but I managed it. I think the key is to use less filling. I like mine crispier, so now I know for next time. Also, I cheated a bit – since I didn’t have vegan parmesan, I used regular dairy parmesan. These were a great appetizer for a football game. No need for hand-eye coordination while dipping since the dip is wrapped up in a neat little package.

Since the oven was still on, I popped in a few frozen chocolate chip cookies.

I did use vegan chocolate chips, but not a vegan cookie recipe, so it kinda defeats the purpose – BUT, those chocolate chips do rock!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Crop Share #8 & Popcorn

I picked up our 8th crop share in the rain on Thursday, but luckily the boxes were pretty sheltered so our crops were quite dry.

Here is what we received:
Baby Bolero carrots
Green beans
Fennel and dill fronds
Baby Eggplant
Sweet peppers
Salad mix
Mini potatoes
Red Onions

I think we have just a couple crop shares left, and then we’re on our own at the grocery store again. I know we want to keep up our vegetable intake, but will miss the good organic veggies we receive biweekly.

Ryan and I weren’t that hungry for dinner on Friday night, so we popped some popcorn from a dried ear of corn that I received from Danny and Rachel and that was our dinner.

It was super cool. I’ve never popped popcorn like this before. You place the ear in the bag that was provided and let it pop away and season as desired. We like ours with butter (or Earth Balance depending on the day), salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. This time we used some nutritional yeast and that was good too.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Writing, Beans and Tofu

Last night I attended my first writing class. It was a small group, but pretty neat. I look forward to the writing exercises and compiling a notebook of memories and thoughts. It’s the type of class that’s left for you to interpret and use how you want. It should be neat!

While I was at class, Ryan made up some baked tofu and used up some of our old sauces in the fridge. This time it was Spicy Garlic sauce from Buffalo Wild Wings. Spicy! We also had some purple green beans and roasted Yukon Gold potatoes. It’s so crazy how the purple beans turn green so fast.

Some other presents I received for my birthday were various hemp powders from Living Harvest. Megan the Vegan got us interested in these and lucky me, Ryan bought it for me. I tried it in a smoothie this morning and thought it was pretty good. Still tastes a little powdery/chalky, but good for a boost.

This afternoon I pick up another crop share. We’ve been having some really cold weather – in the low 30’s overnight and in the 40’s (maybe 50’s) during the day so I hope the crops are doing well! I don’t want it to be winter yet.

Then I’m off to Book Club at my friend, Stephanie’s new house. It will be nice to hang out with the girls again and discuss the book we read, The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant. It was a great book with lots of suspense and history.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Smells Like Curry

Another busy and fantastic weekend has come and gone. Bar Abilene was a total blast with good food, great tequilas and fun music from the DJ. On Saturday night, we went to my brother’s new house for the first time. We ordered pizza, ate Blue Sky ice cream and opened presents from my family.

Speaking of presents, I received a number of cookbooks! I got Dreena Burton’s cookbooks; The Everyday Vegan and Vive le Vegan, and I got The Spirited Vegetarian by Paulette Mitchell, which is a book by a Minnesota author who uses wines and spirits in her dishes, and Joanne Weir’s More Cooking in the Wine Country, which has suggestions for wine with each meal.

Of course, I had to get to work and start cooking. Right away I made Creamy Raspberry Oatmeal from Vive le Vegan and loved it drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with hemp seeds.

Then I made the Banana Ice Cream from Everyday Vegan. It was so easy and we usually have frozen bananas in the freezer. What a great snack!

I also made up some chili from Everyday Vegan although it was a bit tomato-y for us. I doctored it by adding some more beans and spices. This will be for lunches this week. I guess I never took a picture of it...oops!

I made some granola from our own recipe since we have been out for awhile.

Finally, as the title of my post says, it does smell like curry in our house. We made a Tofu Curry last night. We used a recipe from Cooking Light, but omitted the chicken and potatoes and substituted tofu, which we crisped up in olive oil, ginger and garlic.

I love curry and can’t wait to eat the leftovers on this. The tofu was fantastic! We put some in the sauce and also crisped some on their own. Both versions were very good.

Our fridge is now stocked with food, so I won’t need to cook for a couple days.

Oh, on the Spinach Scare of ’06, we were lucky. Of course we had eaten it for dinner, added it to smoothies and sautéed it for lunches before the news story had come out on Friday. We threw out the rest just in case. Thanks for all our concern on it. Can’t wait for the “all clear” on spinach again!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Birthday Week Busyness

Whew! I can’t believe it’s been so long since we last posted. It’s also been awhile since we have been in the kitchen cooking a proper meal, but it happened last night!

First, let’s jump back a couple days. We did go raspberry picking on Saturday morning and it was fun, but quite chilly out. We picked about 5 pounds of raspberries and most of them went straight into the freezer. Of course some went straight into our mouths, but I also made a raspberry puree with pomegranate-cherry juice and poured a pina colada over it. Yum!

Tuesday was my birthday and Ryan was in charge of the surprise outing. He took me on a drive through many cities and side roads and eventually ended up at Midtown Global Market. This place has been on my to-do list all summer, so it was the perfect surprise! Midtown Global Market is in Minneapolis and was opened a few months ago. It’s an open setting for many global vendors to sell clothes, jewelry, groceries, produce, and even has food vendors. We split a vegetarian tamale and a strawberry smoothie before heading to Pepitos for my birthday meal. Here are our goods from the market:

Last night we were finally organized enough to make a meal. We had a bunch of beets that needed to be cooked, so we roasted them per Melody’s suggestion in orange juice, thyme, Dijon mustard, and red onion.

They turned out okay. I guess I wasn’t really clear on how to roast them. Was I supposed to cook them in the liquid, or roast them and then pour the liquid over them? Any insight? They took a long time to cook, so I’ll be trying them with some blue cheese for lunch today.

Then, I used a recipe from Real Food Daily for Blackened Tempeh and Caesar Salad. The tempeh was marinated all day in soy sauce, brown rice syrup and herbs. Then it was dusted with spelt flour and spices and baked.

The Caesar dressing was made with silken tofu, miso, lemon juice, capers, veganaise, olive oil and nori sheets (for the anchovy flavor).

This turned out really well. The dressing was great and we had almost all ingredients except for the miso. I also picked up some veganaise and I am amazed – the previous vegan mayo that I had was the texture of silken tofu and didn’t spread. I’m so excited to use the veganaise more.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!! We’re off to Bar Abilene for yet another birthday celebration for me tonight. The tequila is calling my name.
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