My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Long & Lazy Weekend

Whew - it's amazing how these long weekends wear you out, especially when the entire weekend is in the 90's with full sun. We didn't do much cooking, partially due to the heat and partially due to us having other activities. I don't want to go into too much detail since this is supposed to be a food blog, but here's a run down of our weekend activities:

*Went to a Twins game - TWINS WIN!
-ate free hotdogs, pop, nachos and cotton candy (ate this treat later)

*BBQ'ed at a friend's house and continued the party at Gasthof's (Ziggy Zaggy, Ziggy Zaggy, Hoi Hoi Hoi!)
-brought veggie burgers, salad, fruit and carrots
-drank some wine, beer (for Ryan) and a bunch of Red Bull and water

*Went to Canterbury for the races. Was 3 for 3 on bets and came out a few $$ ahead. We aren't big betters and tend to bet $2-$4 per race. We were intrigued about the animal cruelty aspect of horse racing. Lo and behold, PETA's recent newsletter outlines just that. It's worth a read.

*Ryan got caught up on homework and I finished reading my book club book, How to be Lost.

Besides all that, we did make some food!

First off, fruit pancakes using the Easy Vegan Pancakes recipe from VegWeb. I had premixed the dry ingredients a couple weekends ago so these would just be ready to go. Turns out, I'll have to prepare a few more of these packets since they were very good! We added fresh blueberries and bananas and served with Canadian maple syrup. We looked at the ingredient list from our old pancake mix and couldn't understand most of it. We feel much better about our new pancakes!

We also made pizza again. Yes, I made another trip to Trader Joe's on Friday on my way home from work. Ha - then I took Ryan there on Sunday so I made 2 trips this weekend! I picked up a couple extra pizza crusts for my sister, Jill. Now she just needs to come over and pick them up at my house ;) (hint, hint, Jill!) Anyway - this time we used the herb crust, my homemade pasta sauce, tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. I took the picture before I added the basil at the end, but you can use your imagination. It was great as usual.

We made biscuits from La Dolce Vegan for Biscuits and Gravy. Last weekend we tried the "sausage" and "gravy" from Vegan with a Vengeance and although it was okay, it didn't fully satisfy us. So, we're back to our traditional recipe for sausage and gravy, but keeping the new biscuit recipe in replacement for Bisquick.

Sunday night dinner was homemade by Ryan. He picked out Aloo Mattar Potatoes & Peas from La Dolce Vegan. We had some asparagus in the fridge, so he steamed that and added it to the dish. It was served over brown rice and with papadums.

This recipe called for garam masala which is:
*cumin seeds
*coriander seeds
*black peppercorns
*ground cardamom
*ground cinnamon
*ground cloves
*ground nutmeg

It's a fragrant mixture, but doesn't pack a lot of spice punch. This dish was great! It was light and colorful and had complex flavors from the garam masala. Next time we'd add "needs a little extra" spice and see how that goes or maybe just add a pepper from the garden. Overall - great job, Ryan!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Sloppy Lennies

Last night we planned on preparing Sloppy Lennies before heading to Canterbury for a few races, but apparently we didn't plan very well. Dollar Thursdays(the reason we wanted to go) do not start until June 1st! This also means no Thursday racing until then either. I guess we should have checked the schedule. Oh well, we stayed at home with this very good meal and watched Memoirs of a Geisha instead.

I made the Sloppy Lennies recipe from Leslie's version at eatpeaceplease and Crystal made some fries. We only had ¾ cup of red lentils, so I added ¼ cup regular brown lentils to reach the full cup. I totally forgot to put any basil in even though we have five plants growing out side…oh well, more for another recipe. Next time I am going to add a little more tomato sauce and water to bring the liquid level up just a bit.

As for the fries, Crystal just cut up some potatoes into strips, drizzled them with olive oil, and sprinkled on some shallot salt we picked up from Penzy Spices a few weeks back. The fries cooked for about 25 minutes at 450 and were flipped around the 15 minute mark. They turned out perfect last night!

As usual, last nights dinner serves as todays lunch. These Sloppy Lennies don't even need to be warmed up to be good.

Have a good Memorial weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lasagna to the Rescue!

Boy am I proud of us! Our weakness is Buffalo Wild Wings. We used to hang out there often and then moved on to getting take-out and enjoying it at home. On a rainy night like last night, we felt like hiding out at home with a movie and some take-out from BW3's. Ryan and I went back and forth on the issue: take-out or not to we decided to make lasagna! Sure, it took a long time to make, but it was totally worth it.

I used my standard lasagna recipe with the addition of the homemade sauce from Monday's post and cooked up some garlic bread as well. I do love this recipe, but think it needs a healthier kick. Right now it's some ground beef (just a little bit) and a whole lot of cheese. The only veggies are from the sauce. I've tried to put zucchini slices in there in the past, but Ryan doesn't like zucchini. I've thought of spinach...any other suggestions?

Oh, I also want to note that the mac & cheese is very good leftover for lunches. It was better the next day and even some of the saltine topping stayed crisp in the microwave. Since we don't want to be eating all this pasta from lasagna and mac & cheese, we're sending the remaining mac & cheese to Ryan's mom. Good thing we don't have to waste food and she gets to try it out too.

That's all for now! Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Homemade Mac & Cheese

I've never made mac & cheese from scratch, but thought I'd try it out for once. Let me tell you...cheese is expensive! Especially fancy cheeses like Gruyere. Overall it was pretty easy to make if you have a blender or food processor. This mac & cheese recipe had pasta, egg, milk, garlic, onion, extra-sharp cheddar, Gruyere, cream cheese and some spices. It was topped with a saltine cracker topping.

The result? It looked and smelled great. The taste was good, but not great for homemade mac and cheese. I think the sharpness of the cheeses and the heavy amount of onion were things I'd change for the future. The cracker topping rocked - it was very light and crispy. I'll have to search for other mac & cheese (or non-cheese) recipes for the future.

Although it was the hottest day this year, I still wanted to make a Rhubarb Crisp to eat with our Green Tea Ice Cream, so I kept the oven on and continued cooking. To tone down the tartness of the rhubarb, I added a few frozen raspberries. This dessert turned out great! I love the oat/brown sugar topping so much that I'd have any kind of fruit crisp with it. I took pictures, but they didn't turn out, so you'll have to use your imagination :)

Quick Dinner

Sorry guys, not much of a post today as I had an early morning networking event and a busy day at work.

Last night Ryan headed out with a friend for dinner while I went over to my family's house. I was having my mom plant some newly bought eggplant for me and my dad taught me something interesting. My grandpa loved eggplant! Now, I never got much of a chance to know either of my grandpas. We had a lot of cousins so when it was holiday time, we were all busy running around playing instead of spending quality time with grandpa. As a result, I never knew that much about him. Both grandpas passed away when I was around 14-ish. It's odd that such a small tidbit about my grandpa would get me so excited, but it did!

My sister was making dinner and I would have loved to stay - the corn on the cob looked so good! However, I had to make it an early night and head home. I made myself a quick dinner of a Morningstar Farms burger, some Morningstar Farms corn dog nuggets, and a mixed greens salad. I did whip up a dressing of balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, sesame oil and olive oil. Nothing special, but it turned out great!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Weekend in the Kitchen

We were lucky to have an open weekend which allowed us to get caught up on a lot of household stuff, including cooking. Saturday was the main cooking day.

Ryan and I made pizza for brunch (we both slept in) with the Trader Joe's crust and marinated mozzarella topped with fresh basil and Roma tomatoes. Yum! The crust was awesome - so soft and doughy. I think I'll be stopping at Trader Joe's more often just for the pizza dough.

Then I wanted to try making my own pasta sauce, so I cooked up some red and green peppers, garlic and onion in a bit of olive oil. Next I added tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, fresh basil (again!) and red wine. I let that cook down for about 3 hours before adding some more crushed tomatoes and cooked another hour. To drop the acid level, I added some sugar and then jarred it up. Tasted pretty dang good off of a spoon. I'm making lasagna this week, so we'll use that as the sauce and that will be the true test of its worth.

-Here's a pic of the beginning stages

Since I had to be near the pasta sauce for 4 hours, I just stayed in the kitchen. I whipped up some granola which we love to put over ice cream, mix with yogurt, or served plain as a snack.

Here's what was in it:
*rolled oats
*slivered and sliced almonds
*sunflower seeds
*sesame seeds
*hemp seeds
*wheat germ
*flax seeds
*dried currants
*syrup mixture of maple syrup, oil, almond extract and water

I also made Ryan's mom's Chex Mix and substituted Annie's Cheddar Bunnies and Newman's Own Spelt Pretzels, which turned out to be a good change.

After munching on a bunch of snack stuff all day, we were kinda stuffed for dinner, so Ryan made some Leek Rings (can you tell we were just watching Alton Brown?) Leek Rings are made just like onion rings. They taste quite similar, but the leeks have more of a garlic flavor. They were really neat to try.

On Sunday, we biked 16 miles on the Cannon Valley Trail, saw The DaVinci Code (which rocked!), and made Fish Tacos for dinner. Walleye was on sale at the grocery store and we are suckers for homemade fish tacos so we couldn't resist. I know some Minnesotans are silently cursing us for making walleye in any fashion besides the standard breading and frying, but oh well, walleye is the best for fish tacos! We've tried tilipia, grouper, and orange roughy, but walleye has a light flavor that works really well. As with all taco dishes, I had to make my awesome guacamole to load on top. That stuff is addicting.

I cut up a bunch of rhubarb and hope to make a Rhubarb Crisp this evening. Not sure what's for dinner since Ryan's going out with a friend.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Completed Herb/Pepper Garden

While Crystal was busy cooking all day, I(Ryan) took some time to plant the rest of our herbs and peppers we did not plant at Shady Acres Herb Farm.

If all goes well, here is the complete rundown of what fresh herbs we will have "in-stock" for cooking this summer:

*Basil(Genovese, Green Gate, Magical Michael)
*Lemon Verbena
*Papalo(similar to Cilantro)
*Parsley(Italian & Curly)

In addition to those herbs, we are attempting to grow Bambino Eggplant & Better Bush Tomatoes in our container garden. This will be the first time we have tried to grow any vegetables.

There are also five different kinds of peppers in our container garden: Jalapeño, Mini Red Bell, Numex Twilight, Red Hot Cherry, & Thai Yellow.

Last year we only grew Jalapeño & Thai Hot peppers, so this should be a good experiment.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Trader Joe's is Here!

Finally, Minneapolis has a Trader Joe's. There has been talk about it for quite awhile and a lot of speculation. I am happy to say that it is open for business! I realized that it is only 5 miles from my workplace, so I took off early today to head over there and it was a madhouse. The police are out monitoring traffic and parking spaces are hard to come by.

Once inside the store, I saw that there wasn't much left on the shelves which always instills a sense of panic! I had my list of favorite TJ items and tried to manuever my way through the crowds the fastest I could just in case someone was grabbing the last of my much needed Green Tea Ice Cream.

Overall, I feel it was a pretty successful trip and as always, the cashiers are a delight to talk to. Here's what I picked up:
*Yogurt Dill Papadum (wanted the curry ones, but already gone)
*Heritage Flakes (for Ryan)
*Green Tea Ice Cream
*Marinated mozzarella
*Pizza Dough
*3 Grain Tempeh
*Chocolate Soy Milk
*TJ's Cocktail sauce
*Ricola mints

Aaron, my cashier told me they may be opening one on the East Side closer to St. Paul, which would be ideal. Exciting!

Soup with Ramps & Freezer Magic

Ramps...what are these things? Here’s what I’ve learned:
*they are wild leeks
*found near running water
*taste like a mix of green onion and garlic
*leaves look like tulip leaves; root part looks like green onions with a bit of red
*you can tell their freshness by cutting the root in half - if the red is seeping down into the white part too much, then they are past their prime.
*the ramps season is quite short, only showing up during the month of May here in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

We tried ramps in Potato and Ramps Soup that Valley Natural Foods provided. Here's the recipe:

2 slices bacon
2 c. chopped ramps (including greens)
2 c. diced red potatoes
1 1/2 tbsp flour
2 c. chicken or veggie broth
1/2 c. heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, fry bacon until crispy; set bacon aside. Add ramps and potatoes to the skillet; fry on medium-low heat until ramps are tender. Sprinkle with flour; stir until flour is absorbed. Stir in broth; simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes depending on size of potatoes. Stir in the cream and heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with crumbed bacon.

-The finished product-

The recipe above gave us 4 bowls of soup (2 for dinner, 2 for lunches today). If you don't eat bacon, use a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan to fry the potatoes and ramps instead. Top with Bacos, or other bacon substitute if desired. Also, we used half chicken broth and half veggie broth and could have easily replaced the heavy cream with soy milk.

Overall, the soup was good. The first few bites were unfamiliar for us and we thought it tasted a bit "wild", but after those bites, it was really good! Make sure to check to see if your potatoes are done too - we had a few solid pieces in the soup that could have been cooked longer. Since this is a basic recipe, next time we make it, we'd like to add some other vegetables to it and experiment, but for a first try in the ramps world, it was perfect!

Now, onto the Freezer Magic part. A couple weeks ago, we made crab cakes with fresh crabmeat. We had never had crab cakes before, but were excited to try them and ended up disappointed - the cakes didn't hold together and tasted kinda salty. So, we froze the remaining 4 patties in hopes they would hold together next time. Well, we ate them alongside this soup and although they didn't hold together (at all!), the flavors were intensified - we could pick out the different flavors of citrus, crab, and onion. They were fantastic as a side dish!

Tonight we are heading out on a secret shop for a local restaurant so there will be no cooking, but we'll report back on the restaurant. Take care!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto with Portobello & Bow Ties (plus more herbs!)

Good morning!

We definitely got to use some of our new herbs in last night's dinner. We made yet another recipe from the Very Vegetarian cookbook; Farfalle with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Portobellos. It is basically made with a sun-dried tomato pesto, some bow-ties, sauteed garlic, red onion and portobello mushrooms. We were out of hazelnuts and used pine nuts instead for the pesto - we've tried both ways and both are very good. We also made garlic bread with some fresh ciabatta from the bakery. The pasta recipe is quite easy to make, especially if you have the pesto ready ahead of time. We've never been that prepared, but hope to be someday! The freshness of the basil, thyme and parsley came through and it was fun to do our first clippings of herbs.

Here's a few pics from the meal:
-The beginnings of a pesto-

-The final meal-

I also had a chance to take a couple more pictures of our herbs:

-Some of our basil-

-Our aloe and rosemary-

-our mint-

Last night at Valley Natural Foods I found some ramps and plan to use them in a soup tonight. I've heard about them before, but never seen them. Luckily they have smart produce folks working there - the VNF produce guy is going to try the ramps pasta recipe while I try the soup. Then we're supposed to report back to each other. How neat! Anyone else try ramps out there? Any good recipes?

Have a great day!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Herb Shopping!!

As a Mother's Day gift, Ryan and I took his mom out for a surprise. We signed up for "The Potted Herb Garden" at Shady Acres Herb Farm. This will be our 3rd year having a container herb garden and thought it was about time to get some expert advice on making the herbs more vibrant in our tough Minnesota climate. The registration fee provided us with 3 cool terra cotta containers each and 14 herbs each. Wow!

Here's our workstation:

This pot contains a ton of stuff: curly parsley, flat leaf parsley, chamomile, 2 English lavenders and lemon balm:

We also got 5 basils (3 different kinds), garden sage, French thyme, Papalo(a cilantro substitute), aloe, rosemary, and many other veggies & peppers we are trying to grow this year. I'll need to take a few more pictures after work and post them later.

Can't wait to start using these while cooking!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Vegan Mexican Posole

Over the weekend, we made Vegan Posole from Very Vegetarian and it is now in our top 5 favorite dishes! Very Vegetarian is a fantastic vegan cookbook that I found at a garage sale for $1. We have experimented with many items out of this cookbook and most have been successful - now we have another one to add to the list.

Onto the Posole. Posole is a Mexican stew typically made with pork. Since we are trying to eat less meat and incorporate more veggies and fiber in our diet, the vegan version made a lot more sense. Ryan picked this one out, so we ran to the store to buy the ingredients. Our grocery store didn't have pattypan squash, so we used butternut and it was perfect. Other ingredients were roasted poblanos and jalapeños, roasted tomatillos, hominy, white beans, garlic, and probably something else I'm forgetting! Then you have your choice of toppings: green onions, cilantro, radishes, avocados, and lime wedges. We happened to have all of the topping ingredients and went with every single one of them, plus some corn chips for good measure.

Have you tried any versions of Posole? What do you put in yours?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Welcome to Café Cyan!

This blog will be a means to share with family, friends, and the community our many adventures with food. We enjoy cooking and sharing our new dishes. Since we try so many new recipes, this blog will help us and others keep track of what we are trying. We hope you visit often!

Although we are not vegetarians, healthy food is important to us and we tend to experiment with many vegan and vegetarian recipes. If you see something you like or don't like, let us know! Food is a passion and we want that passion to be contagious.

I (Crystal) will be the primary owner and poster on this blog, my life long partner, Ryan will also be contributing. After all, he does help pick out and prepare the meals!


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