My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dining Out for Life - Thursday, April 30th

A quick note:

Thursday, April 30th is Dining Out for Life and all you have to do is eat out at a participating restaurant and a portion of your check goes to benefit AIDS/HIV resources. Seriously, that's it! You might even run into Sven Sundgaard :) It's a nationwide event and something I've volunteered for locally in the past.

Don't forget to get your "I Ate" sticker!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grilling Up a Slice Of The Past

Wow, it’s absolutely gorgeous out today. A day like today is truly our well deserved reward for enduring those negative 22 degree days, right? Not only did Ryan and I go on a nice walk yesterday, but we also grilled and drove to a friend’s (in the convertible, of course) to enjoy a few beers. I know it’s only April, but I can’t help but hope the weather stays warm. Pinch me, I think I’m dreaming!

Last summer, we didn’t do too much grilling. With all the wedding planning and wedding errands, it just didn’t happen as often as we would have liked. This summer will be flames up! (the grill, not our house...k?)

When we lived in London a few years back, we couldn’t grill in our little flat. Our place was up 87 stairs with no balcony, so it was pretty much out of the question. We did, however, satisfy our cravings by frequenting a place called Nando’s. Their signature dish was flame-grilled chicken marinated in their special peri-peri sauce served with sides like corn on the cob and garlic bread. Perfect for us Americans who were missing home and the grill smell was amazingly luring.

Wanting a little slice of our past, I ordered up some Nando’s Peri-Peri sauce and used it as a marinade for our tofu last night.

I parboiled peppers and Brussels sprouts and skewered them along with marinated tofu, onions and mushrooms. Ryan threw them on the grill and voila, a great blast from the past.

Now, I swear I don’t remember the sauce being *this* spicy! I used some as a side dipping sauce and next thing you know; my lips are starting to become numb (in a good and exciting way, of course).

If you want to get some Nando’s Peri-Peri sauce for yourself, you can order on their website or swing by an ethnic grocery like Holy Land. Or, if for some reason you’re not affected by this economic crisis, fly yourself over to London (or South Africa where it started) for the real thing. Enjoy!

This post is a contribution to Fight Back Fridays for Food Renegades!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A+ For Asparagus!

In preparing for asparagus season, Ryan and I went through three pounds of asparagus while testing recipes. It was a lot of fun, it kept us on task and most of all, it made us want more asparagus! We can't wait to pick up some of the local offerings in a couple weeks and try even more recipes. I'd never think to list asparagus as my favorite vegetable (green beans win that battle), but it sure has made its way to the top, especially when it's in season. Oooh, I can't wait!

I've been craving tempeh reubens for quite awhile now, ever since I saw this recipe in Vegetarian Times for Tempeh Reubens with Caramelized Onions. I'm a sucker for caramelized onions, so it was a no-brainer to me that I had to make this. I figured it would be the perfect pairing with the Grilled Asparagus Salad I had planned for lunch.

Sure enough, I loved this version of a reuben. The tempeh wasn't over powering and the sandwich highlighted all the ingredients. This was also perfect for Ryan, who dislikes sauerkraut, so he could have the onions instead.

The Grilled Asparagus Salad was also fantastic. Although only the asparagus is coated with the dressing, when tossed with the salad greens it becomes a perfectly dressed salad. Grilled asparagus is so good! You could totally make this at your next potluck grilling party. Just premake the dressing at home, throw the asparagus on the grill while everyone else is grilling, toss the asparagus in the dressing and serve over mixed greens. Voila! You now have a healthy potluck item!

Grilled Asparagus Salad with Lemon-Chive Vinaigrette
(4 dinner servings)

1 lb. thick asparagus, trimmed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
8 c. loosely packed mixed greens, washed and dried

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp lemon zest
1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
1 small clove garlic, minced
½ tsp sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp snipped chives for garnish

Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium. Toss the asparagus with enough oil to coat and sprinkle with a little salt. (Or if desired, blanch the asparagus for 2 minutes instead of using oil.) Put the asparagus on the grill and cook, rolling frequently to avoid burning, until brown and crisp-tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove. Arrange mixed greens on chilled plates or a large serving platter.

To prepare the vinaigrette: Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, chives, garlic, sugar and salt and pepper. Whisk in the oil in a slow, steady stream.

When ready to assemble the salad, toss the asparagus with enough vinaigrette to coat. Arrange on top of the mixed greens. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and the snipped chives. Pass any additional vinaigrette alongside.

*Add tofu, chicken, or shrimp to make a more robust meal.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Tropical Oatmeal

Finally, tax busy season is OVER! I get Ryan back and although it’s only been one day, we’ve had a great time driving around the cities in my convertible thanks to the gorgeous 70 degree weather. We contemplated making dinner last night, but decided the craving for margaritas was too strong and headed to Boca Chica. Yum! We agreed that redemption would come at breakfast where we tend to make healthier meals that don’t involve tequila.

I rarely skip breakfast. It’s truly the one meal that can get you set for the day. While Ryan can eat yogurt and granola every morning, I need more variety and tend to eat something different almost every morning. One of my new favorites is what I call “Tropical Oatmeal” because it has pineapple, coconut and mango syrup and is completely fitting for this time of year while we wait for the fresh fruit to arrive.

I picked up mango syrup on our honeymoon at some specialty store in Vancouver. I often use maple syrup, brown sugar, or rock sugar crystals to sweeten my oatmeal in addition to fruit. Use whatever you have on hand.

Tropical Oatmeal
(1-2 servings)

¾ cup old-fashioned oats (not the quick cooking kind)
¾ cup milk (or nondairy milk)
¾ cup water (or pineapple juice)
Dash of salt
½ cup frozen pineapple chunks
½ cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Sprinkle of toasted shredded coconut
Drizzle of mango fruit puree or maple syrup

In a small saucepan, bring milk, water (or juice) and salt to a boil. Add oats and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and let cook for 5-10 minutes. Add frozen pineapple chunks and stir. Cover and let cook an additional 5 minutes or until oats are soft.
*You may want to adjust the amount of liquid depending on your desired consistency

When oats are soft, stir in toasted walnuts and transfer to a bowl. Drizzle with mango fruit puree or maple syrup and sprinkle shredded coconut on top.

While you're in the oatmeal mood, here's another recipe for lovers of apples and peanut butter.
So, how do you like the new look? It was time to do the upgrade in order to add anything cool to my site and funny enough, I go back to the layout I started with in 2006. I like the new look and the increased functionality. I’ll still be doing some tinkering over the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

Be sure to check me out at my newest endeavor, Bite of Minnesota. It’s a new food blog on WCCO’s website (the local CBS affiliate) where I talk about fresh and local foods of our area. Similar to this blog, I’ll be sharing what is in season, where to get it and how to prepare it in your own kitchen.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tomato Basil Soup

One of my guilty pleasures of the tax season is takeout from Cosi. I discovered Cosi while I was traveling for non-profit work in Morristown, New Jersey and fell in love with the flatbread sandwiches. I even had Cosi cater an event I hosted in D.C. a couple years ago just so I could get my fix. So, you can imagine my excitement when Cosi came to Minnesota and one location was right by Ryan's work!

Last tax season there were plenty of last minute calls to Ryan saying, "eek, I didn't have time to make dinner, can you pick up hummus sandwiches and tomato-basil soup from Cosi?" That was a regular occurrence until I found a stick/woody stem/piece of wood in my soup. It kind of ruined my Cosi soup experience so I decided to take matters into my own hands and create my own Tomato Basil Soup recipe.

Thanks to Joanna, I had a great outline for my own Tomato Basil Soup and can make it anytime I want because I usually have most of the ingredients on hand.

Tomato Basil Soup
(4 servings)

1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 (28 oz.) can of diced or crushed tomatoes, drained
2 cups half & half, cream, 2% milk or soy creamer, heated
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp white pepper

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté garlic until fragrant, stirring often. Add tomato paste; stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add drained tomatoes, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Puree with a stick blender in the saucepan or transfer to a blender to puree. Return to saucepan and stir in heated creamer, fresh basil, sugar, garlic powder, white pepper and salt to taste.

Serve with grilled cheese or toasted bread if desired.

I can't even tell you how many times I've made this at home. It's so easy and I highly recommend it if you're short on time for dinner. It makes for great leftovers too as the basil flavor infuses while it sits in the fridge. Yum!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Appetizers for Dinner - Thai Wontons

Here I go again, making appetizers for dinner. Just when I used up the last of the wonton wrappers, I had to go and buy some more. I was flipping through one of my newer cookbooks, The Healthy Hedonist, and came across a recipe for Thai Wontons that I just HAD to try. They took a decent amount of time to make, but boy were they worth it!

Sauté mushrooms and cabbage in olive oil and then simmer in coconut milk and green curry paste. Add bean sprouts, peanuts, and lime and start filling those wonton wrappers.

This time I fried the wontons in vegetable oil, but next time I plan to brush them with oil and bake in the oven to reduce the fat content. I was completely impressed that the wontons stayed together and didn't ooze out and make a mess with the oil. Either my technique is getting better or I'm picking the right fillings as I've had problems before with cream cheese seeping out and causing major splatters.

The filling was surprisingly spicy courtesy of the green curry paste. I also loved the crunch of the sprouts and peanuts contrasted with the sauteed mushrooms and cabbage. The wontons were served with a simple soy-sesame dipping sauce and made plenty for leftover snacks the next day. I can't wait to bring these to a party!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff

Although we had a couple days of surprisingly warm weather, it’s still pretty much winter here in Minnesota. That’s okay. We’re used to it and remain confident that summer is just around the corner. In the meantime, I still get to make comfort foods and spend a lot of time around the stove without any humidity from the outdoors.

I figured it was still appropriate to make comfort foods like the Seitan-Portobello Stroganoff from Vegan with a Vengeance. I know stroganoff traditionally calls for beef, but trust me, it’s not needed. This dish is great without beef or you can use seitan, a bread-like protein (vital wheat gluten flour, nutritional yeast, soy sauce, and more). I simmered mine in Not-Beef broth, sliced it thinly and seared it in a pan so the outsides get crispy. It was the best seitan I’ve made in a long time. By the way, seitan is best homemade, so skip the stuff at the store in the blue package - ick.

Enough about the seitan! Now onto the stroganoff! The flavors were so rich in this dish as over 4 cups of mushrooms were simmered with red wine, shallots, herbs and spices to make a deliciously creamy gravy that we served with peas over noodles.

I have to admit, this dish was incredibly time consuming. I think start to finish it took about 3 hours, which is why I've only made it twice. Sounds like I have some recipe creating to do so we can all make a quick version when the cold hits again!

Note to Bloglines Readers: I've been alerted that Bloglines is about 1 month behind in my posts. I'm not sure why this is happening, but it seems to be limited to Bloglines as Google Reader is up to date. If anyone has suggestions on how to fix this, please share in the comments or contact me via e-mail.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lazy Sunday? No Way!

A lot of cooking went on in my kitchen on Sunday – whew! I started the day with Pumpkin Waffles, got Ryan off to work and continued cooking the rest of the waffles. I also made a batch of Lemon Corn Waffles too, but ran out of cornmeal and had to substitute grits for half the recipe. Got to love substitutions! All the waffles went into the freezer and I made a jar of blueberry syrup to keep on hand as well.

For lunch snacks this week, I made black cherry Jell-O mixed with blackberry yogurt (use the yogurt instead of cold water). Then I moved onto making home-made roasted garlic pita chips. Big thanks to LeAnn for the idea!

I could have just stopped right there, but started to think an appetizer dinner would be a fun and good way to use up some veggies. I baked a dish of spinach artichoke dip and added 1/4 of a jar of sun-dried tomatoes - very awesome addition!

Next, I found potsticker wrappers in our fridge that had been foodsaved awhile back. Perfect for veggie potstickers! I filled them with kale, daikon, carrots and green onions.

I’ve posted about these twice before, but that’s because they are so good! Plus, for some reason I love the assembly line nature of making potstickers. It's meditative! We usually serve them with a dip of soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped green onions and crushed red pepper.

Want that Spinach Artichoke Dip recipe? Here you go:

Spicy Spinach & Artichoke Dip

1/4 c. butter
1 c. onion, chopped
1 (10oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
1 (14 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1 (8 oz.) pkg. sour cream
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1 c. Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tbsp Tabasco or other hot sauce
Salt to taste
Pitas and sliced veggies, for serving

Melt butter in a large saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, artichokes, cream cheese, sour cream, ¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, pepper sauce, and salt. Stir until well blended and heated through. Pour mixture into a casserole dish and top with remaining cheeses. Bake in a 350° oven until cheese starts to brown, about 10 minutes. Serve with pitas and sliced veggies. Makes about 4 cups.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Little Bites of Energy - Step by Step

We all love to snack, right? The dilemma is what to snack on, especially when in a bind. There are so many times when I’m hungry, but heading to workout or just need something to tide me over before my next meal. Some people turn to energy or protein bars, but often, those bars are not easy on your waistline or your pocketbook. Did you know you can easily make your own little energy snacks? Well, you can and I’m going to show you how!

Step 1: Soak 1 1/2 cups of pitted dates in hot water for 10 minutes; drain.

Step 2: Toast 1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts in a skillet or oven; let cool

Step 3: Grind walnuts in a food processor or blender until they are finely ground (the walnuts smell fantastic at this point!)

Step 4: Add 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and the drained dates.

Step 5: Process until spreadable like peanut butter. Form into 1-inch balls and roll in shredded coconut.

Final Step: Place in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Seriously these things are so good and I urge you to try them. You'll get some fruit, Omega 3's, and satisfy your chocolate craving all at the same time. Thanks to Student's Go Vegan Cookbook for the great idea!
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