My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lavender Strawberry Lemonade Vodka Martinis

You know I couldn’t resist making vodka martinis with my lavender strawberry lemonade! As soon as Taylor from Mac & Cheese mentioned it, I was pulling out my martini shaker and putting a sugar rim on the glasses.

Ryan was on the phone when I presented him with his martini, so I didn’t have a chance to explain the drink. He promptly drank the contents and said, “You should have put some alcohol in this!” Little did he know, it was already spiked with a strong shot of Shakers vodka. Don’t you just love drinks like that?

By the way, Shakers is local vodka made in Princeton, Minnesota with local wheat and rye. We did a taste test a few months back between Skyy, Stoli, Absolut and Shakers. Shakers was by far the smoothest tasting vodka and did not burn our throats while sipping.
I know what you're thinking, who goes around sipping vodka, right? We were bored that night, but now Shakers (American Wheat) is our top choice for vodka. Be sure to try their other varieties: American Rye, Rose, and their seasonal liqueurs - raspberry honey and citrus passion fruit.
Looks like I’m in need of another bottle!

Have a great weekend! Quick shout out to our friends, Brian and Carm, who get married tomorrow. You are such a cute couple and congrats to the beginning of a long and happy life together.

This post is a contribution to Fight Back Fridays.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Strawberries Rock!

It’s that strawberry time of year again. The big strawberry picking date is set for Saturday morning. Feel free to join us. We’re headed out to Lorence’s Berry Farm in Northfield early in the morning. When you start to see these signs, you know you’re headed in the right direction:

Although I haven’t had time to actually pick strawberries, I did run down to Lorence’s and buy some pre-picked. I wasn’t sure what to expect for pricing, but it wasn’t too bad for not doing any work: $4 per pint, which was overflowing with strawberries. Although I didn’t weigh it, I’m sure it was at least (if not more) than a pound. The nice lady at Lorence’s kept putting extra strawberries in my basket – yay!

I ran home and made the Spring Strawberry Pie from Cooking Light. Remember last year? Ryan and I devoured the whole thing without taking a picture. This time I did take a picture and it’s over on Bite of Minnesota.

Ever since I bought a big bag of lavender in Portland from Sundance Lavender Farm, I’ve been waiting to make Strawberry Lavender Lemonade again. It is one of my favorite beverages and I totally skimp on the sugar. I like my stuff SOUR!

It is also yummy poured over sparkling water and extends the life of the lemonade by just a little bit.

Once we get picking, I plan to make more Berry Goodness Muffins, perhaps another pie (this time I’ll share), some freezer jam, and I’ll try my hand at Strawberry Buttermilk Gelato again this year.

Have you gone strawberry picking yet? What do you do with your loot?

Try making this recipe. I grabbed it from Cooks of Crocus Hill years ago:

Lavender Strawberry Lemonade

4 ½ c. cold water
1 tbsp dried lavender flowers
1 ½ - 1 ¾ c. sugar, to taste (*editor's note...I only used 1/2 cup of sugar)
10 fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 c. lemon juice (approximately 12 small lemons)

Place 2 cups of water, lavender, sugar and strawberries in a saucepan. Bring to gentle boil over medium heat; stir to dissolve sugar. Reduce to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a 2-quart container. Stir in lemon juice and 2 ½ cups water.

Chill and serve.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bean Pebbled Paella

This week has just flown by! I’ve been sick the last couple of days, so I sat on the couch a lot and napped to kick this cold out of me. So far so good, the cold seems to be on the way out!

Earlier in the week, I harvested some of our Swiss chard and used it in Bean Pebbled Paella, a recipe I grabbed from the Star Tribune years ago. I love that it uses beans (kidney, garbanzo, & black) instead of meat and has some yummy veggies like chard and red pepper.

This time, I tried to make all the beans from scratch instead of from a can. Since it only calls for ½ cup of each bean type, I end up with a lot of leftover beans and I didn’t want that. I also have a two pound bag of cranberry beans (aka roman beans) and used them instead of kidney.

So, I went on my merry way soaking the beans and cooking them the next day. How did it turn out? Eh, well…the garbanzo beans were spot on, but the other beans…turned into a big pot of mush. Ugh. Better luck next time, right? I was able to salvage ½ cup of the cranberry beans and my pantry came to the rescue with the black beans. I guess I need to perfect my bean cooking.

Mmm…dinner! This recipe makes a ton, so it would be perfect for a large family or to have guests over. Don’t worry if you don’t have a paella pan. I don’t and have never used one (although I wouldn’t mind trying one someday…).

Bean-Pebbled Paella
(6-8 servings)

½ c. cooked chickpeas
½ c. cooked dark red kidney beans
½ c. cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. low-sodium veggie broth
¼ tsp crumbled saffron threads
¼ c. olive oil
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, trimmed 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 and rinse chickpeas, black beans, and kidney beans. In a saucepan, add the veggie broth. Bring the liquid to a boil and turn off the heat. Add the saffron and reserve.

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

Stir in the rice and coat well with the pan mixture. Pour the reserved hot veggie broth mixture. Bring to a boil. Add the 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 to a warm spot, cover with foil and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes until the rice is finished cooking and is tender, but still firm.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Swiss Chard Harvest

Check out what I harvested from our container garden this morning:

I am so excited! I got about ten large leaves and left a ton behind for next harvest. The swiss chard looks beautiful and I can’t wait to use it. I bought a rainbow mix from Shady Acres when Ryan and I went herb shopping and divided it between two containers. One gets the morning sun and the other gets the strong afternoon sun, but both are growing strong.

I plan to use the swiss chard in Bean Pebbled Paella and will harvest it again in about a week to make a strudel with sun-dried tomatoes and gruyere. Or maybe it will be the other way around and I’ll make the strudel first…we’ll see!

I’ll be posting information on strawberry farms on Bite of Minnesota tomorrow, so if you’re interested in strawberry picking, be sure to check that out. Although Lorence’s and a couple other farms open today for U-pick, I am going to wait a week because the crop tends to be a bit heartier the second week.

Enjoy the beautiful day!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dare I Say Asparagus Again?

Thanks to our weekend quickie run to the farmers market (and thanks to my new rain jacket), we’ve been able to eat a lot of local produce this week. Lots of salads were consumed, but we also tried some new things like these sandwiches.

The picture doesn’t do it justice. How do you take a good picture of a sandwich anyway? This one was stuffed with pea shoots, thinly sliced radish, avocado, arugula, zucchini and homemade hummus. It was absolutely delicious! We’re loving pea shoots around here and can be found eating them straight out of the bag and adding them to everything.

We also had been dying to try the Chili Almond Asparagus recipe from Vegan Yum Yum with the last of our local asparagus. Talk about fresh and tasty! With only a few ingredients, it was a snap to put together. Look at how pretty it was after baking:

We topped it with a crushed almond mixture and dug in. I’m not usually a big fan of carrots in meals, but they totally worked in this dish especially because they were sliced so thinly. If you have asparagus and carrots in your fridge, head over to Vegan Yum Yum and try this now!

Tonight we’re incorporating the very last of our pea shoots into a stir-fry along with Loon Organics baby bok choy and whatever else we can find in our fridge. I just need to come up with some sort of sauce…

This post is a contribution to Fight Back Fridays! Check out some other awesome recipes each Friday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fancy Schmancy Jello Shots: Step by Step

I have to admit, I’m still recovering from the weekend. Yes, I know it’s Tuesday, but I’m not back into the swing of things. I planned on getting back into my workout routine today, but my body says, “Let’s just go on a walk instead”. I have managed to clean up the house and make some food though, so I consider that a success!

Part of the reason I’m dragging so much is because of a bachelorette party on Saturday in Stillwater. We did the boat cruise and then partied at The Freighthouse. I didn’t get to bed until 5am. Ugh.

Sunday was Grand Old Day, where historic Grand Avenue in St. Paul is shut down to allow for a parade and lots of food and music. The last couple years we’ve celebrated at phresh spa and salon where they bring in a DJ. It’s our homebase while we wander the streets searching for awesome bands. This year I brought jello shots to kick off the celebration. Everyone got a kick out of the fun shots and it got us set for a day of drinking. They were such a success that I was asked to put together a tutorial. Here it goes:

Step 1: Buy your supplies. I use citrus fruits as my serving vessel and they work well. Think about what flavors go well together. This year I made the following:

*limes filled with lime jello, triple sec and tequila (margaritas)
*oranges filled with orange jello and vanilla vodka (creamsicles)
*lemons filled with berry blue jello and black currant vodka

Step 2: Cut fruit in half lengthwise. Hollow out the fruit. I cut around a layer of pith (the white stuff) and scoop out the insides with a grapefruit spoon.

Step 3: Reserve the insides. Juice them and make a cocktail out of it. It makes for a great margarita or tequila sunrise.

Step 4: Arrange the fruits in muffin tins (mini-muffin tins work well for smaller fruit like lemons and limes)
Step 5: Mix up your jello. Add 1 cup boiling water to the jello powder. Stir for 2 minutes. Then add 1 cup of alcohol (instead of the cold water) and stir.

Step 6: Slowly pour the jello/alcohol mixture into the hollowed fruits. Don’t worry if some spills over the sides. Some of your liquid will get absorbed by the fruit, so if you have extra jello mixture, set it aside for later.

Step 7: Carefully place muffin tins in the fridge. After 1 hour, check the liquid levels and add more if you have some in reserve.

Step 8: After jello firms up (after at least 4 hours or overnight), place fruit cut side down and cut into slices.

Voila, now you have fancy-schmancy jello shots to impress your friends with. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Purple Asparagus!?!

Last night Ryan and I caught a screening of Fresh at Minneapolis’s Riverview Theater. All 750 seats were taken and it was great to be surrounded by likeminded people who believe in sustainable farming and changing the way we eat.

Before the theater, we grabbed some awesome cocktails at Town Talk Diner. I’m a big fan of their English Float which is Young’s Double Chocolate Stout with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. However, I needed to save room for popcorn later, so I went with the Spring Fever: vodka, lavender liqueur, sparkling wine and bee pollen.

Ryan grabbed the Bacon Manhattan: bacon-washed bourbon, cherry liqueur, cherry-vanilla bitters garnished with a slice of bacon with a cherry. Too funny, right?

I figure it wouldn’t be spring unless I posted yet again about asparagus. Look how lucky we were to get purple asparagus!

It is supposed to be more tender than traditional green asparagus and can be eaten raw. Too bad I learned this *after* grilling it. Oh well, it was still delicious! I baked sweet potato fries (tossed with fresh herbs), grilled some veggies and asparagus and served them with veggie dogs. Anyone have a favorite brand of veggie dogs? I tried Yves and they were just okay, but not great.

It sounds like some folks are interested in meeting up for strawberry picking. Let me figure out a date (likely the week of June 15th) and a time and we can meet up. We’ll head to Lorence’s in Northfield off of Cedar Avenue. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll send you details.

This post is a part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Asparagus Stir-Fry with Teriyaki Quinoa

Does anyone else follow Heidi Swanson and 101 Cookbooks? She always has fantastic recipes and I find myself bookmarking a lot of them. My most recent success was the Asparagus Stir-Fry she posted back in April. As long as you do the prep ahead of time, this dish is so quick to throw together. (Isn't that true for most things in life though? Do your prepwork and get your reward.) We paired the stir-fry with Teriyaki Quinoa from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. It was the perfect pairing - so tasty! I raved so much about this dish that Ryan's mom made it right after we did. I can't wait to have it again!

We've been eating a lot of asparagus lately and I made my second trip down to Lorence's Berry Farm to pick up five more pounds. I had my two-year old nephew tagging along with me for the day and once he saw the John Deere equipment he did not want to leave until he sat in the driver's seat. He was a blast to hang out with and kept me on my toes. I have a couple blisters on my hands from going down the fireman's pole at the park too many times. Ouch!

The people at Lorence's said strawberries are just a couple weeks away. Can you believe it? Time is flying by but I cannot wait to get in the fields and start picking.
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