My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Friday, June 30, 2006

Bean Pebbled Paella

Monday evening I made Bean Pebbled Paella for the 2nd time. Woo hoo! We made something twice!

This dish is great! It is totally meat-free, unlike regular Paella, and has healthy beans, greens and veggies. I just love it! I have seen many versions of this dish, but originally got the recipe out of the newspaper. I've only altered it slightly and last night used kale (from our crop share) instead of Swiss chard. I also froze the leftover beans in packets so we can make this again without worrying if the leftover beans are going to waste.

Here are the ingredients cooking.

This is after adding the kale and rice.

Bean-Pebbled Paella
(6 servings)

½ c. cooked chickpeas, plus cooking liquid
½ c. cooked dark red kidney beans, plus cooking liquid
½ c. cooked black beans, drained and rinsed, liquid discarded
2 ½ c. low-sodium vegetable broth
¼ tsp crumbled saffron threads
¼ c. olive oil
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, grimed and thinly sliced
2 tbsp chopped garlic
1 large red bell pepper, diced
3 c. rinsed and thinly sliced Swiss chard leaves and stalks, about 1 bunch
1 ripe tomato, diced
¼ c. chopped Italian parsley
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
2 c. short-grain rice, such as Arborio
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450°. Drain chickpeas and kidney beans, reserving their liquid. Rinse the chickpeas and kidney beans. Mix with the drained black beans and set aside. Combine the reserved bean liquids in a medium pot with enough veggie broth to make 4 cups. Bring the liquid to a boil and turn off the heat. Add the saffron and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the scallions, garlic, and red pepper. Sauté until the pepper is slightly softened. Add the Swiss chard, tomato, and parsley and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer. Then stir in the paprika and cumin.

Add the rice and coat well with the pan mixture. Pour the reserved hot broth mixture over rice and bring to a boil. Add the reserved beans and salt and pepper to taste. Continue to boil, stirring and rotating the pan occasionally, until the rice is no longer soupy, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the saucepan to the oven. Cook, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, until the rice is almost al dente and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and place in a warm spot; cover with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes until the rice has finished cooking and is tender, but still firm.
Since this was Ryan's last meal before heading to Atlanta (remember, I'm behind on posts!), he wouldn't be around to eat the leftovers. We froze some and then initiated a great trade with his mom. We traded a big container of paella and some fresh berries for their digital camera. Ryan took ours to Atlanta and I was still going to need one for food blogging and visiting my cousin's baby.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Gnocchi with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

We had planned on making some gnocchi for Sunday evening dinner, but the weather was too good not to grill! So, we moved the gnocchi to a side dish and figured we'd have more leftovers for lunches. We ran to the store and picked up some hot dogs and asparagus to grill.

I've been working on this gnocchi recipe for quite some time. It started with an alfredo type sauce, chicken, and sun-dried tomatoes. Now, it's a bechemel sauce (butter, milk, flour, nutmeg), sundried tomatoes, no chicken, spinach, parsley, and mushrooms served over whole-wheat gnocchi.

Next time I'd like to try this with soy milk and Earth Balance and see how it turns out. Does soymilk thicken well? Any tips?

Here's a picture of the final product. Not really the best match for grilled food, but it was still very good!!

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

10 Pounds of Berry Picking

This last weekend was wonderful! Friday night Ryan and I went to the salon and got our hair cut (mine is really short now) and tooled around town.

Saturday night was a surprise 1/2 birthday party for one of our friends and it was actually kept a surprise by all 87 invited guests. Wow, that's a first! Normally someone spills the surprise right away. It was a crazy party - one minute I'm networking with one of the parents; next minute, the parents are doing keg stands!

Before the party, Ryan wanted a light salad and asked me to just whip something up. The pressure was on!! So, I started with a bunch of greens, searched through the fridge and came up with this:

-Asian pear matchsticks
-fresh mozzarella cheese
-sauteed pearl onions

I also threw together a bunch of stuff for the dressing: sunflower butter, orange juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, onion plant tops (similar to scallions), and a bunch of basil. It was a success - Ryan was very happy.

Sunday was a beautiful day; we had Ryan's parents over for breakfast sandwiches. Then we headed out for berry picking at Lorence's Berry Farm, which is only 20 minutes south of our house. Neither Ryan nor I had been strawberry picking before (maybe when we were little kids), but wanted to check it out since we finally caught the season. Usually we miss it by a couple weeks. Boy was it fun! We couldn't stop picking strawberries and figured most of them would be going in the freezer for smoothies. By the time we were done, we had over 10 pounds of strawberries!

Then, we heard they were also allowing raspberry picking - the first of the season! So, we headed across the street to start hunting for those. Since the ripe raspberries were rare, we ended up with a couple pints of raspberries. I think at least another pint ended up in our mouths - too good!!

Here a few of the strawberries that were a bit mutated. It was fun finding these odd ones.

Strawberry season is only for a couple more weeks, so we probably won't make it back again. However, we are planning on going raspberry picking again! Yum, yum, yum!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Sloppy Lentils and Blue Potato Fries

I apologize for the lack of posting. As a good girlfriend, I had to get Ryan ready for his trip to Atlanta. He'll be gone for 10 days! However, things are not so sad because I will also be traveling to Atlanta in a few days to meet up with him :) If anyone has suggestions on healthy restaurants or fun activities, let me know!!

On to the food: I have been honored to serve as another recipe tester for Catherine and made her Sloppy Lentils last week. I am so glad to be able to try these - they are very good. I love how it smells just like the real thing while cooking and I'm not sure I could ever go back to real Sloppy Joes - it's just not worth it.

As you know, I can't give you all the details on the recipe, you'll just have to buy the cookbook! We served them on toasted whole-wheat buns alongside our Blue Potato Fries (blue potatoes from our crop share) and roasted asparagus.

Here's a picture of the fries before they cooked; the color is so neat!

After cooking, they don't looks as blue on the outside, but are totally blue inside. They taste just like regular fries. This would probably be pretty fun for kids.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Tempeh Reubens and TLT's

Tuesday night I felt the need to make a bunch of stuff. I worked from home so I didn't have the crappy commute to deal with and had extra time. I made up three dry packets of Easy Vegan Pancakes so they would be ready to go when we need to use them. I also made another double batch of granola for the next couple weeks.

I also made some Cranberry Citrus Oatmeal Cookies to freeze for later. It called for the zest of 3 oranges (supposed to be Cranberry Orange Cookies), but I didn't have oranges...but I did have a mix of orange, lemon and lime zest saved in the freezer (hence, Citrus Cookies). Finally, I knew that frozen zest would come in handy!

For dinner, I've been wanting to make Tempeh Reubens for quite some time. I used the recipe from VwaV and I thought it tasted a bit plain so I added some Dijon mustard. I didn't have capers (well, I did, but I think they've been in the fridge a bit too long, so I didn't dare use them). Everything turned out very well - I just LOVED the sandwich. I also loved the addition of pickle slices - that's the way the German delis sell them. The tempeh was perfect - so much better than corned beef for sure.

I had 8 oz. of tempeh, so I made 2 Reubens and had 4 oz. left over. Ryan wouldn't come close to a pickle or sauerkraut – no Reuben for him! So I added some liquid smoke to the remaining tempeh slices. When Ryan came home, I whipped up two TLT's (Tempeh, Lettuce and Tomato) for him. I just used my typical BLT recipe - cream cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato and tempeh with liquid smoke instead of the bacon. Ryan also liked his sandwich...his only hesitancy was the bread. He's not a lover of rye bread yet, but thought it was okay.

We both have a sandwich left over - yum!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Greek Dinner

Monday night we had my cousin, Jessie and her 4 month old daughter over for dinner. First of all, her daughter is super cute and we had fun watching her go through her emotions. Second, it was really good to see Jessie as we used to see each other more often but lately it's been busy for both of us.

For dinner, I made Greek Grilled Chicken with Greek Salad and Spanikopita. I LOVE this meal! It is so light and has a lot of great veggies too.

I made a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and zest, fresh oregano, red wine vinegar and garlic. I used 1/4 of the dressing for the marinade and reserved the rest for the salad.

Ryan grilled the chicken while I made the salad of lettuce (romaine and red leaf), cucumbers, tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onions and feta cheese. This was all served on a pita drizzed with the dressing.

I had also made spanikopita with phyllo dough, feta cheese, spinach, and onion. I rolled them up versus serving it as a "pie". Yum!

We have plenty of leftovers for lunches which I am excited about.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Spicy Lettuce Wraps

As you know, we have a ton of lettuce and need to continue to use it up. So, we thought we should make lettuce wraps! The recipe was based on something I saw in Health magazine years ago and we just used what we had on hand. We also used up some frozen chicken that's been in our freezer for awhile. We are trying to eventually use up all the meats in the freezer so if we want any meat products, we'll have to go buy them.

I marinated the chicken in some soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and sake. The chicken could easily be omitted here or marinade some tempeh or tofu instead. I'll have to try that sometime.

The ingredients in the lettuce wraps were: water chestnuts, garlic scapes (of course), some green tops from an onion plant, red pepper flakes, garlic, hot sauce, radishes and snow peas. They were stir-fried in a sauce similar to the marinade and served on lettuce wraps. Boy were they spicy!

The only thing I would change about this recipe would be the spice level and I'd tone it down just a little bit. Otherwise, they were great!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging with Garlic Scapes

In participation of Weekend Herb Blogging at Kalyn's Kitchen, I am writing about garlic scapes. We received a bunch of garlic scapes in our crop share on Thursday and I was eager to use them.

As I love pizza and had a pizza crust on hand, I created Spinach and Garlic Scapes Pizza. It was awesome! I sauteed some chopped garlic scapes in olive oil, added spinach and other greens from our spring mix and reduced those down. The mixture was spread across a pizza crust and topped with mozzarella cheese. Here's the recipe:

Spinach and Garlic Scapes Pizza
(4 servings)

1 pizza dough (12-inches round)
6 garlic scapes
1-2 tbsp olive oil
½ lb. spinach or other greens
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
4 dashes hot sauce
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, fresh and thinly sliced
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese, fresh and grated

Preheat oven to 475°. Heat a skillet over medium-low heat and add olive oil. Chop garlic scapes thinly and add to heated skillet. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and chopped or thinly sliced greens and cook for 5 minutes or until greens are wilted. Add hot sauce.

On a lightly floured surface, roll pizza dough into a 12-inch round crust onto a preheated pizza stone or pizza pan. Spoon greens mixture onto dough; spread ½-inch from edges. Slice fresh mozzarella cheese and place on top of greens. Grate Parmesan cheese over entire pizza. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Slice fresh basil into thin strips and sprinkle over cooked pizza.

Watch for more crop share recipes to be posted - with the overabundance of lettuce at our house, we made lettuce wraps with snow peas, garlic scapes and fresh lettuce. We'll post about that soon...right now, it's off to Father's Day festivities!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Rose of Suzhou tea

This is a simple post about the Rose of Suzhou tea from Teavana I(Ryan) enjoyed after finishing a project that has been in process for quite awhile. I had to take a picture of this tea to share because it looks so cool. It takes about 15 minutes to brew in hot water and ends up having slight hint of sweetness. This tea is "...comprised of a delicate Globe Amaranth flower hand tied with Suzhous(the Venice of China) Green Tea."

Here is a pic of the project I just mentioned. Crystal conceived the idea and I did most of the "leg work." My boss loaned me a laser level, which helped with the leveling, but gave both Crystal and I a slight headache. DON'T LOOK AT THE LASER!!! I am very happy with the way it turned out.

Friday, June 16, 2006

1st Crop Share is HERE!

Wow! That's about all I keep saying to myself after picking up our first crop share of the year. Let me back up a bit...

Last year I considered doing a crop share, but decided it was too costly at the time for us. So, when the idea rolled around again this year, I looked into it. I reviewed the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) guide and immediately was sold on the idea and the farm I wanted to support. It just makes sense to have fresh and local produce where money and time isn't wasted on packaging, transportation, and distribution. As for the choice of Loon Organics, it seemed like a natural decision. First off, they are organic; second, the farm is one of the only ones near us in the city of (get ready for it...) Farmington. Hee hee, I love it. And best of all, it is run by two people our age! Loon Organics is run by Laura Frerichs and Adam Cullip and they have a great training background. The farm is in its second year and they seem to be doing very well (check out their blog on our links).

So, we signed up months ago and have been waiting for this day. Since this was our first time doing a crop share - we actually signed up for a half share where we get a full share every other week - we weren't sure what to expect. We got home, unpacked our box and were amazed at how great everything looked. All of the produce is prewashed for us, so it was ready to go. We grabbed some peas right away and they were fantastic. Now we are just wondering how we are going to eat all of this - guess we have to share with friends and family!

Here's what was in the box:
*green garlic (kinda cut out of the pic-sorry)
*garlic scapes (in the middle of the pic)
*2 heads lettuce - I think it's romaine and red leaf
*Spring mix (swiss chard, beet greens, baby lettuce and spinach)
*Baby Spinach
*Red Kale
*Snow Peas
*Blue Potatoes (a bag of them)

Time to start thinking of recipes to use these up and share with Loon Organics. (what a cool name too, huh?) Suggestions are very welcome!!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Too Pretty to Eat? - Tejas

Last night we went out to eat at Tejas in Edina on 50th and France. This is a great area, like a small community of unique shops and restaurants. Of course, most of it is quite expensive, but Tejas is worth it! Not only is their food great tasting, but they present it in a very appetizing way. Everything was excellent, from their drinks to the guacamole (prepared tableside) to the main meals.

We were joined by Ryan's parents and his sister so we were able to try a bunch of dishes and drinks. Here's some of what we ordered:

White Bean and Black Bean Soup with Epazote and Jalepeno Cream. The contrasting soups are poured into the bowl at the same time to create the half and half look.

The Three-Tomato Bruschetta with red and yellow tomatoes, green tomatillos, kalamata tapanade and goat cheese.

Goat Cheese Enchilada served with a mango habanero salsa, fresh corn tortillas, grilled asparagus, and cashews. This really had a lot of flavors going on and was quite good.

Blue Crab Taco with jicama, red onions, yellow peppers, fresh corn salsa and a basil mint relish. Very light and flavorful.

Barbecued Pork Tamale with Apricot-Almond Chutney and Sweet Potato Shoestrings. This is only my 2nd time having a tamale and it was quite good. Too bad I was stuffed and couldn't finish it all. It came on a bed of barbecue sauce which provided a good amount of spice.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Let's Play 5 Things...

Ryan had class last night, so we typically don't make meals when he has class. I did however, try Annie's Aged Cheddar and Shells (thanks Catherine!) and it was very good. Less of a cardboard taste than Kraft's so I was happy.

In lieu of a food post, I'll throw out some topics and you answer*! I'll start:

5 healthy things in my kitchen:
nutritional yeast
brown rice
peanut butter
*we need to go to the grocery store!!

5 not-so-healthy things in my kitchen :
tortilla chips
ice cream
cookies (joe-joe's)
garlic bread (Fayze's)

5 things in my purse/bag:
digital camera
mp3 player
old receipts

5 things in my car:
phone headsets (for work phone and personal phone)
yoga mat
sweatshirt (white, for deflecting the sun from my black pants)

*thanks, Erica for the idea

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Lesson Learned: Read the Recipe!

Last night Ryan made dinner since I had some reports to work on for my volunteer job. The reports are due on Thursday and I'm determined to turn them in on time!

We planned to make Lemon Pulihora (Indian Lemon Rice) from Vegetarian Times magazine. We even bought a very large bag (about 20 cups) of channa dal (dry split chickpeas) when we only needed 1/4 cup. Yes, we have channa dal for life! My first sign that I should have read the recipe.

So, I'm in our office typing away on my reports and Ryan comes upstairs and says, "Crystal...did you read the recipe?" Well, of course I did ;) "Because it says to let the rice mixture sit for 2 hours so the flavors meld." Uh...oops! We didn't have 2 hours to sit around and wait for dinner since it was already late. Second sign that I should have read the recipe! We agreed that we'd eat the Lemon Pulihora for lunch the next day and luckily, Ryan was able to whip up some tacos right quick so we could still eat dinner.

Lesson learned - read the recipe all the way through...including the last sentence!! I did take a taste of the dish and it was very good; something to look forward to at lunch.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Roasted Salmon with Caramelized Lemon Slices

Ryan and I were so done with eating out that we made dinner after our drive home last night. We swung by Kowalski's and picked up some fresh salmon. The fish guy could tell we were debating over 2 different types of salmon and offered us a complimentary fillet of a 2nd kind so we could do a side-by-side comparison. How neat!

I used a recipe from the trusty Star Tribune Taste section for guidance, but here's what I came up with:

Preheat oven to 450. Slice 2 tomatoes into wedges and place on the center of a shallow baking dish. Halve and quarter mushrooms and place on either side of tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place thyme sprigs over mushrooms and tomatoes. Roast for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are cooked, but not mushy. Remove from oven, cover with foil, and set aside.

Reduce oven heat to 350. Wash and dry salmon. Place skin side down on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle pepper on top and stick a couple rosemary sprigs into the salmon; squeeze half a lemon all over salmon. Roast for 20 minutes or until salmon reaches 137 degrees.

Meanwhile, slice up one lemon into 1/4-inch slices. Heat a skillet on medium-high heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the pan. Once hot, carefully place lemon slices in pan and cook until browned on both sides; about 5 minutes per side.

Chop cooled tomatoes and mushrooms; spoon onto serving plates. Place salmon over tomato mixture, top with caramelized lemon slices and garnish with rosemary. Serve with rice, couscous, or whatever is on hand.

We had a leftover box of couscous that has been in the cupboard for quite some time. I am not a couscous fan, but the box was quite good, so maybe I'll reconsider.

As for the side-by-side comparison of the salmon, Ryan and I agreed the more expensive salmon was better, but not by much. We'd have either one any day. We also liked that neither cuts had the fishy/salty taste that some old fish has. This was the fresh stuff! We were afraid that squeezing half a lemon over the salmon before it cooked may make it too lemony, but found that not to be the case. The caramelized lemon slices was what gave it the lemon flavor. Since the lemon slices weren't all over the fish, it provided for a good contrast of flavors throughout.

LaCrosse Trip

Well, we are back from LaCrosse and had a fantastic time! Ryan and I had so much fun - we travel very well together and everything tends to flow well no matter where we are.

LaCrosse is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from the Twin Cities, so it's pretty reasonable. I won't bore you with all the details from our trip, but I will highlight a few things. In addition, LaCrosse, Wisconsin isn't the culinary capital of the world, so we don't have any food pics, although we did eat a lot of food!

On to the highlights:

*Our room had a hot tub which helped relieve sore muscles from all the walking we did AND our room was right on the Mississippi River with a great view.

*Ryan discovered Red Beans and Rice at Buzzard Billy's - we will definitely be making these from scratch (any recipe suggestions??)

*Fayze's didn't disappoint - we ate there twice for breakfast and once for dinner. Yeah for Strawberry Stuffed French Toast, Eggs Benedict, Apple Cinnamon French Toast, and the Diablo Sandwich! They have their own bakery and anything breadlike is awesome.

*We tried a new Mexican restaurant: Los Tres Compadres. They had the hottest salsa I've ever had. So, we ordered the guacamole to cool us dice, that was as hot as the salsa. Finally, we won with sour cream - no spices in that stuff. We did not order food there in fear we'd never be able to taste again.

*Big thumbs up to The Wine Guys, which is a new wine shop and wine bar conveniently located near our hotel. We went there twice - once for an organic Riesling...well, and then again for another organic Riesling and some late harvest wine (not the whole bottle this time!)

*We discovered a new shop called Simply Living which was a green shop. I bought a watermelon seed bracelet and nut tree rings for both Ryan and myself. I'll have to take pics of these and post those later. They are really neat.

AND for the big finale...

*Del's and their Famous Bloody Mary's!! Yeah, we went here 3 times over the weekend. We've been here several times in the past, but this is the first time I've drank an entire Bloody Mary and boy are they good! Mom- did you hear that? I finished an entire Bloody Mary...3 times!

I think I have a hunch on their secret seasoning and will have to experiment. Here is what's in the rest of the drink: vodka, worcestshire sauce, pickle juice, tomato juice; all topped with 2 pepperjack cheese cubes, a brussel sprout, an olive, and a pickle spear.

You also get a beer chaser with your Bloody Mary. Now, I'm not a beer drinker, but I guess I was this last weekend because I couldn't get enough of the Pearl Street Brewery's Downtown Brown and El Hefe. They were just perfect. We really wanted to take some home, but I guess it's a newer local thing and they don't have a bottler yet.

So, if you couldn't tell, Del's was our favorite place for the weekend. The bartenders were favorite was the non-meathead who worked on Sunday. Very chill and Cheech&Chong-like and into the same music we are. Thanks to him, we found out about a new Minneapolis band called Downlow.

As you can see, we had a blast. We'll always have a special place in our hearts for LaCrosse and the simplier times that existed while we lived there. We miss our friends being so close, we miss seeing the same people several times in a weekend and the friendly faces around the city. But, in all reality, we need more hustle and bustle to keep us going. So, the Twin Cities suit us perfectly. Back to life...back to reality :)

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Much needed R&R!

I laugh at the title of this post - in my line of work, R&R means "recruitment and retention", but this time, I'm using it for its true meaning: "rest and relaxation"! Ryan and I are headed to LaCrosse, Wisconsin for the weekend. Why LaCrosse?, you ask. Well, we went to school down there for 3 years and when Ryan's company gave him an all expenses paid local trip for Christmas, we decided to go back to LaCrosse. We will be staying downtown on the river, which I'm excited for. When we lived in LaCrosse, our apartment was within walking distance of downtown, but not in downtown, so it will be a neat treat.

Although we don't have anything planned, we hope to meet up with old friends, shop at a farmer's/flea market, eat at our favorite restaurants (Fayze's here we come!!) and shop at some of our favorite stores that they don't have in Minneapolis/St. Paul. We'll also enjoy observing the changes that have taken place over the last few years on the campus and around the city. It's a peaceful place to live - well, if you're not living in a college apartment!

Sorry for the lack of posts - if you really need to know, we had pizza on Tuesday and grilled burgers last night with our friend, Aaron. Aaron is heading to London for a month and stopped by to get our recommendations (we used to live in London for awhile). We are very jealous!

So, anyway, we'll be back and cooking on Monday and probably tired from eating out so much.

I do have one question before I go: What summer vacations do you have planned?

Have a great weekend!!

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Veggie Lo Mein & Caramelized Tofu

We made a quick and easy dinner last night of Vegetable Lo Mein and Caramelized Tofu. The Vegetable Lo Mein was from The Vegetarian Family Cookbook by Nava Atlas and the Caramelized Tofu was from VeganLunchBox (thanks for the tips!). This is the first time I’ve used Soba noodles and they were awesome!! They only need to cook for a few minutes and are suitable for a variety of toppings like peanut sauce, soy sauce, and even a marinara sauce.

This meal was another first; cooking tofu for dinner! I’ve used tofu in many desserts in the past, but never in a main meal. I pressed most of the liquid out of the tofu and cut it in half lengthwise. I wish I would have cut it in half again because the patties turned out to be too thick and not cooked inside. To still save the tofu, I cut off the outside crispy parts and diced those up for the Lo Mein.

I will definitely be making this again and perhaps throw in some other ingredients. After chopping everything up, it only took a few minutes to cook and were on our plates in no time.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Cricket Match and Grand Old Day

Sunday was another beautiful day here in Minnesota. As planned, Ryan and I headed out to the cricket match of my new hire. We weren’t exactly sure what time it was at or where it was, but we were determined to find it. Luckily, our research paid off and we found the field on our first try. My new hire was super excited that we came to his match and was more than happy to explain all the rules to Ryan. Turns out we were quite late as the match ended 20 minutes after we arrived, so next time I’ll find out the exact start time and go to an entire match! (I'll also take pictures next time)

Since we were out and about, we headed over to Grand Old Day in St. Paul. It’s an annual event to get everyone in St. Paul out and onto the street. They close down a large portion of Grand Avenue for a parade, live music, food vendors and other entertainment. It’s also a large drinking event, but luckily, we didn’t go for that portion of the festivities because the drinking areas were packed! We did stroll up and down Grand stopping for some good food and listened to a bit of music.

I bought a CD by Ecuador Manta - my brother-in-law is from Ecuador. It was also a good chance to visit Ryan’s sister since she works on Grand. She gave us cold waters and let us use the restroom (way better than the Biffs!)

We didn’t do much for dinner since we grazed throughout the day, but we did make some tortilla chips and guacamole. Ryan made a lime and salt mixture that we dipped the chips in. Then we let the lime juice evaporate, brushed the chips with oil and baked for 12 minutes. They were very crispy which is difficult to eat with braces, so we'll try frying them next time.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Appetizer Night - Fun with Phyllo

We hadn't planned for Saturday to be a busy day, but it just happened that way. It started out slow; Ryan picked up whole-wheat croissants from Kowalski's and we made breakfast sandwiches. We were able to clean up our herbs and the house a bit before heading out to Granite City for lunch. We had only been there once before for their brewed beer - great drink specials late at night. Their food was also awesome - very fresh, tasty, and not too heavy. Service was spectacular as well. We can't wait to get a group of friends together for drinks on the patio some night.

After lunch, we headed over to the Indian market that KaiVegan had previously mentioned. It was neat to wander through the aisles and finally picked up our hard to find curry leaves!

We had planned to do a quick stop-in at my parents house, but ended up staying awhile. The weather was so nice and who could resist some family time? Ryan blew up the pool for my nephew and we played water games with him. He wasn't ready to get in the pool yet this year, but sure had fun squirting us with water guns and making big splashes in the pool!

After driving around and looking at some houses, we made it home just in time for the MTV Movie Awards...or so we thought! Turns out they were being taped on Saturday night, but not shown until the following Thursday. Bummer! Oh well, we were still making appetizers.
The first appetizer made was Mini Brie with Fruit. After having this at The Times a few years back, we were addicted. Luckily for us, we found Mini Brie, which is a perfect portion for the two of us. We wrapped 3 mini brie in phyllo dough, brushed with a little oil; put in the oven at 375 for about 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. It was served with some awesome grapes, fresh pineapple and green apple slices. Seriously, this stuff rocks!

The second appetizer was Butternut Squash, Corn, and Cilantro Phyllo Rolls from Real Food Daily. In addition to the ingredients in the title, it had onion, celery, garlic, carrots, cabbage, and a homemade tofu ricotta cheese. We first cooked the filling, let it cool and then mixed it with the tofu ricotta.

Then we placed it on the phyllo dough and rolled. These baked for about 30 minutes. We only made 1/2 the recipe and still had half of that left over which we froze for a later date. Although there was a bit of work involved, I'd highly recommend these for a party. They'd be easy to make ahead of time and pop in the oven (Diane, I'm thinking about you - this is your next appetizer!) We served it with sweet and sour sauce and some seasoned sour cream.

In lieu of the awards show, we watched The Final Cut with Robin Williams. What a freaky concept...memory implants that are extracted when you die in order to make a collage of your best memories. Ick.

A Comment About Comments :)

First, I want to apologize to all of you who have commented over the past couple days. When we were having issues with our pictures uploading, we must have accidentally turned the comment moderation on. Oops! So, if you're wondering why they didn't show up and we weren't responding, that's why!

Boy were we relieved to find that we were thinking that no one was commenting and starting to feel lonely out in the blogosphere. We have now fixed the problem, so comment away!

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Tortilla Soup

Friday Night! Last night we planned to go out and have a few drinks with my sister and decided to make a tortilla soup recipe from The Real Food Daily cookbook before we headed out. This was my first attempt at tortilla soup and the recipe turned out to be a good one.

I began prepping while Crystal laid down for a nap after a tiring week. Crystal's nap only lasted about ten minutes, and I had only just finished chopping the onion when her dad came rolling in unexpectedly on his new motorcycle. My sister called shortly before to see if she could join us for dinner and showed up at the same time as Crystal's dad; we were now close to hosting a full on dinner party! Crystal chatted with her dad and showed him our herbs and peppers while I continued to prepare dinner and caught up on life events with my little sis. The soup prep began with:

*soy sauce(tamari substitute)

*black pepper

*tomato paste

I sautéed the onions and garlic for about six minutes, then added the jalapeño and spice mixture, and sautéed another minute longer. Next in was the vegetable stock, tomatoes, and tomato paste. This all simmered for ten minutes before adding some corn tortillas and then the soup cooked for ten minutes longer. Once the tortillas began to fall apart, I removed the soup from the heat, blended it up in batches, and let it cool for a few minutes before serving.

I also made the crispy tortilla strips recipe from the same cookbook. They were seasoned with chili powder, brown sugar, and salt. They were the perfect crispy item to add to this soup. The meal turned out delicious for Crystal, Rachel, and myself. We ate it up, invited a few people over for another drink, and later headed out for to meet up with Rachel's boyfriend and some other people we know. It was a very fun night and I would definitely make this soup again.

Friday, June 2, 2006

School Lunches Rock!

As Ryan mentioned yesterday, last night we had appointments at EQ Life - Ryan was getting his first professional haircut in years (he usually just buzzes his own hair with the clippers). It turned out great - nice to have a bit more style for him. I had a 1 hour organic facial - how relaxing and the scents were fantastic! They used Eminence products with scents like Quince Apple, Sour Cherry, Rosehip, Honeydew. Yum! (literally - some got on my lips and it tasted quite good)

So, we had to have a quick dinner which is one of our faves, Italian Dunkers. This originated back in our school lunch days. I always ate the school lunches and most of my friends did too. Ryan was too cool for that and often went out with his "cool" friends. He would, however, eat school lunch on Italian Dunker days (although he was still too cool to sit with me). So, we had to replicate it.

We use Ragu's Mama's Meat Sauce - we've tried some meatless sauces, but it's just not the same. We take a loaf of french bread, cut it into 1-inch slices, spread on some butter and garlic and top with mozzarella cheese. That goes under the broiler for a couple minutes. Then we dunk them into the heated sauce and eat. Very satisfying and quick.

TGIF! There's a lot going on this weekend with the grand opening of Midtown Global Market, Grand Ole Day and my new hire just invited me to his cricket match on Sunday. They are the #1 team going for the championship, so it should be exciting. I have another secret shop scheduled and the MTV Movie Awards are on (appetizer night!) Let's see how much we accomplish.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

What's Left?

We are nearing another grocery shopping trip, so it was time to use up some stuff before it went bad. We decided to grill outdoors last night, which allowed us to use up the last of the pork in our freezer, our wilting potatoes, and the rest of our asparagus that was also nearing the end.

I(Ryan) used a pre-made marinade for the pork that has been in our cupboard for many months. We are trying to use up the products that we believe we can make healthier ourselves. We have been using more fresh ingredients in our meals and trying to eat healthier, so using up these products could be somewhat of a long process. We have collected quite a bit of these types of products since moving into our place three years ago.

I steamed the asparagus for about 4 minutes before putting it on the grill. The asparagus then cooks on the grill for 2-3 minutes per side or until the tips are slightly charred. I have overcooked asparagus on the grill before which means it is either too charred (tastes like charcoal) or too “stringy,” so be cautious and keep an eye on it.

The texture of the potatoes was a little gooey because of the “last days” status they were in to begin with. But overall, the meal was a success. Tonight we are going with Italian dunkers, which will be an easy meal to prepare before I get a haircut and Crystal gets a facial at EQ Life.

Only two weeks until our first crop share arrives from Loon Organics Farm! I can't wait to find out exactly what we will get and then plan meals accordingly.
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