My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Friday, January 30, 2009

My Sister Rocks!

So, long story short, my sister, Jill, is married to Rogelio, who is from Ecuador. He was here in the United States at the time and they have 2 adorable boys. The cards were not in their favor and after 14 years here in the US, he had to go back to Ecuador and file for citizenship from there. It's been a year since he's been gone and it's terribly hard on our family and especially on the two little boys who can only see their father on webcam.

Well, after saving and saving money, my sister, the two boys and my parents were able to take the trip of their lifetime to Ecuador to visit Rogelio and meet family members they have only heard about. It was rejuvenating for them and keeps their spirits up while they endure the long process of gaining citizenship for Rogelio. (You'd think it's just common sense to keep a loving family together amongst all these divorces out there, but whatever, I'll shut up).

Although I wasn't able to go on this trip, I did have one request...bring me back Ecuadorian treats!!! Boy did my sister deliver! Check out the loot:

First up we have some snacks. Cheetos are one of my favorite snacks, but I rarely buy them because, duh, they aren't good for you. Jill warned me that these Cheetos taste differently than our Cheetos and she was right. It just didn't have that distinctive Cheeto flavor.

I haven't tried the other two yet, but one is fried plantains and the other one is like a fruity cereal that you eat with milk (at least that's what the instructions show!).

Now we have the candy and boy did I get a lot of it! Jill says they gave me way more than they gave my brother, so hopefully he's not reading this :) I've tried most of these, but used some self restraint and still have a decent amount left. The candy bars at the top are made in Guayaquil and Ecuador is known for their crop production, especially bananas and cacao.

Most of the candy was chocolate, but there were some chewy and hard fruity candies too. The neatest treat was the red foil balls - the outer layer was chocolate coated rice crispy and marshmallow fluff on the inside. I've never had anything like it.

Here are a couple close ups for easier view:

This was seriously the best souvenir they could have brought. I love trying new candy here locally, and especially love trying treats from other countries (I'll have to post about our order from Japan sometime.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Chopped Salad with Apple Vinaigrette

Lucky for us, the weather has gotten warmer along with a nice dumping of snow, so life has been a bit easier. Another great thing is we have a new president! No matter what your views are, it's always exciting when a new president takes the oath and gets to work. It was really neat to watch him getting sworn in. I work in a very large corporate office and many people gathered in our cafe to watch it on the big screen. There's definitely a cool vibe seeing tears and hearing applause. Let's see what the future brings!

Speaking of the future...let's actually take a step into the past. We made grilled cheese last night which isn't anything special to post about, so I'll post about something awesome we made not too long ago, Chopped Salad with Apple Vinaigrette.

This was a recipe I pulled from Food & Wine when Paul Newman was featured. We were getting a winter crop share that included celery root and I had no clue how to use it, but it worked really well in this salad.

I loved the fruit/sweet flavor of this salad and the dressing was very easy to make. I don't simmer dressings often, but it really worked to give a different dimension to the dish. The feta added a good saltiness, but next time I'd use less. I'd rather splurge on the dressing than the cheese in this particular dish.

Chopped Salad with Apple Vinaigrette
(10 servings)

½ cup apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
Three 1-inch strips of lemon zest
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 medium shallot, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
¼ cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 small celery root (1/2 pound), peeled and finely diced
1 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and diced
2 large carrots, finely diced
2 cups red seedless grapes (6 ounces), halved
4 ounces feta cheese, cut into small dice (1 cup)
5 cups mesclun or other mixed greens (5 ounces)
2 romaine lettuce hearts, coarsely chopped

In a small saucepan, bring the apple juice to a boil with the cinnamon stick and the lemon zest. Simmer over moderate heat until the liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 5 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick and lemon zest and pour the liquid into a small bowl; let cool slightly. Add the cider vinegar and shallot and season with salt and pepper. Whisk in the grapeseed oil until emulsified.
In a large bowl, toss the celery root, cucumber, carrots, grapes, feta cheese, mesclun and romaine. Whisk the apple vinaigrette again and add to the salad, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Serve right away.

The apple vinaigrette can be refrigerated overnight. The vegetables and lettuce can be tossed together and refrigerated for up to 4 hours before tossing with the vinaigrette.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ode to Minnesota & Squash Soup

We're stuck with another atrociously cold day here in Minnesota.  I think it's starting to hit the East Coast, so we're not alone in this, but I am still allowed to whine.  As I was driving into work I had to take another picture of the temperature because it's still bewildering.

At least I'm not the only crazy person to be taking pictures of the temperature.  I had at least 2 other friends do the same thing :)

One of my girlfriends sent me this poem today and it gave me a chuckle.  Thanks Andrea!

It's winter in Minnesota  
And the gentle breezes blow  
Seventy miles an hour  
At thirty-five below.   
Oh, how I love Minnesota 
When the snow's up to your butt  
You take a breath of winter  
And your nose gets frozen shut. 
Yes, the weather here is wonderful  
So I guess I'll hang around 
I could never leave Minnesota 
I'm frozen to the ground!

This is a food blog after all, so onto the food!  We are still making things from the reFresh cookbook and here's another one.  It was named Butternut Squash Soup, but we used both acorn and butternut squash for the base.  As if two squashes aren't enough, there is a key ingredient that gave it such a unique texture:  pears!!  (good thing I proofread these otherwise it would say bears!!).

Ryan was nice enough to make the soup so I could feed my addiction to Dr. Mario (yes, the video game...can't stop!) When it was cooking, I could have sworn he used curry spice, but I was wrong - it was cinnamon! It gave a very warm flavor to the soup and again, the pears gave it a cool texture.

As you can see from the picture, we couldn't get the soup pureed perfectly with our immersion blender. If only we had a Vita-Mix...

The only thing we'd change about this is to dice the red pepper garnish much finer. It would have provided for better distribution throughout the soup.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Check It Out - NEGATIVE 17 Degrees - Ouch!

I had to post this one right away...check out the temp this morning on my way into work:

Yes, that says NEGATIVE 17 degrees. With windchill, it's NEGATIVE 33 degrees. Seriously! Today I wore my long underwear under my dress pants (sexy, right?); 2 pairs of socks with my snow boots; a tank top, a dress shirt, a sweatshirt, a fleece and my snowboarding jacket. Not to mention the essentials like a scarf, hat, and gloves. I felt like an Eskimo walking into work today, but at least I was warm!

I'll post on some food later - just had to get the word out that it's COLD! I wonder if Catherine over at Food Snob is going to go on many walks today. I know she doesn't have a car, so I'm hoping she doesn't freeze into a Popsicle.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nepalese Dal

I am very excited to say that I received several cookbooks over Christmas and hope to use recipes out of all of them very soon. I've already started with the Nepalese Dal recipe from reFresh, which holds a collection of recipes from the Fresh restaurants in Toronto. I've never been to Fresh, but I can't wait to visit the next time I'm in Toronto.

I like that this recipe called for split yellow peas. I somehow ended up with a gigantic bag of them and haven't touched them in about a year. It also called for split green peas and surprisingly I had to run to the store for those. I was shocked at myself - I'm such a stocker that I was sure I had split green peas somewhere in the cupboard.

I also liked that this recipe had a few fresh ingredients to compliment the dried peas: chopped red pepper, carrots, potato, and frozen green peas. Check out all the veggies in this pic:

Although I cut this recipe down and only used 2/3rd of the ingredients, it still made quite a bit - probably about 6 servings when it should have made 4. (Diane, we have a plate for you in the fridge if you're interested). Here's the final dish served over some brown basmati rice and garnished with some cilantro:

On a separate note, it's come to my attention that someone has stolen a picture from my site and claimed it as their own photo (thank you anonymous commenter) on another site. It's really lame as it isn't too hard to a.) take your own picture or b.) e-mail and ask my permission! I know it's happened to a couple fellow bloggers who have written about it. Has it happened to any of you?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy 2009!

A new year has arrived. Not sure what it has in store for me, but I'm still eager for change. I typically don't make resolutions, but this year I did. Of course one of them is to blog more often. I love food blogs (including my own), but have done a horrible job at updating in the last year. I think I ran out of steam and since I didn't have exclusive access to a computer, I just didn't blog. However, now I have my own little laptop which makes things quite a bit easier.

Of course another resolution is to take better care of myself by eating at home more and working out on a regular basis. It seems that since the wedding, life has been a free-for-all where eating, drinking and going out have taken priority over healthy home cooked meals and working out. Who needs to workout when a happy hour is calling?!? (see, that's exactly the mindset I need to change.)

So to kick off a happy and healthy new year, here is one of my new favorite ways to eat squash along with the fantastic Minnesota staple; wild rice: Roasted Squash Salad from 101 Cookbooks.

Through the winter, we did our first winter crop share from Rock Spring Farm. We received some awesome carnival squash in many of the shares, but wanted to do something different with it instead of just roasting it. Being a big fan of Heidi Swanson's recipes, I decided we had to try this one.

The whole thing was pretty easy to put together (except for peeling that darn carnival squash!) and the sunflower seed dressing is amazing! I plan to use this dressing on many more things in the future. I urge you to try this recipe or at least try the dressing!

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2009!!
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