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.
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