My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pumpkin Pics Wanted

It's pumpkin time! If you carve 'em, paint 'em, or decorate 'em, I want to see the pictures.

In between all your trick or treating and costume partying, send the pumpkin pictures to me at cafecyan[at]yahoo[dot]com along with your name and city.

I'll be doing a round up on WCCO on Tuesday, November 3rd highlighting all the talented individuals, so get them to me this weekend.

I have to admit, it has been a few years since I've carved a pumpkin (hence, lack of pictures), but I definitely love roasting the seeds! This year I have been roasting seeds from anything but pumpkins and you know what? They are equally great and serve as such an awesome snack. Try it yourself.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Maple Roasted Acorn Squash

It is definitely squash season in our house. Earlier this week I had a variety sitting on my counter: buttercup, butternut, acorn and two pumpkins. There was no way I’d let any of it go to waste. I was particularly apprehensive about the acorn squash as it wasn’t really good last time when it was stuffed with tempeh and wild rice. I think it lacked seasoning and the whole thing was quite dry. It just didn’t work for me. So, this time I really wanted to find the perfect recipe and it was a success!

This recipe was so simple and our house smelled like Thanksgiving thanks to the use of sage and thyme. The apples brought just the perfect sweetness to contrast the savory squash flavor. If you don’t have acorn squash, feel free to substitute another kind and it should work just as well.

Maple-Roasted Acorn Squash
(4 servings)

1 small acorn squash (about 1 lb.), halved lengthwise, seeded
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 ½ tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup diced onion
2-3 large apples (I used Haralson), unpeeled, cored and diced
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
1 ½ tsp fresh thyme, chopped
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
Thyme sprigs, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray roasting pan and cut sides of squash halves with cooking spray; season with half the salt and pepper. Arrange squash, cut side down in pan. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover pan; turn squash cut side up. Bake 30 minutes and remove from oven.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté 5 minutes. Add apples, nuts, sage, thyme, and remaining salt and pepper; sauté 3 more minutes.

Dot squash with remaining butter. Divide apple mixture equally among the squash halves, mounding it in the cavity. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon maple syrup. Bake, uncovered an additional 20 minutes. Serve hot; garnish with thyme sprigs.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Thai Coconut Rice with Tofu

Some weeks are filled with dining out, happy hours, and quick dinners that make one long for home cooking. Not that I need anything fancy or overly involved, but just something tasty and satisfying.

This last week I’ve hit up Glacier’s Café, Fuddruckers, Manny’s Tortas, and Brasa. That is a lot of eating out if you ask me! Luckily though, on each of those visits, I was joined by friends, so that makes it all worth it.

When I’m not out running around or experimenting in the kitchen, I really like something simple like this Thai Coconut Rice with Tofu.

The coconut milk came as a gift from my sister and the lemongrass was picked up at a Kansas City farmers market and I was eager to use them both. It’s Fair Trade Month and it felt oh-so-appropriate to use Alter Eco Coral Red Jasmine Rice. I’m not a big fan of eggs in my fried rice, so we simply omitted them and because we’ve already cut down our Thai basil plant, regular basil had to suffice in this dish.

The recipe comes from The New Whole Grains Cookbook by our local cookbook author, Robin Asbell.

Thai Coconut Fried Rice with Tofu
(4 servings)

2 cups coconut milk
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
½ cup water
½ tsp salt
1 cup black, red or brown rice
1 lb. firm tofu, pressed
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp peanut oil
4 medium shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp chopped ginger
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large eggs, whisked together
4 oz. snow peas, trimmed (about 2 cups)
3 large scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup fresh Thai basil, washed and dried
½ cup roasted, unsalted peanuts, chopped

In a 4-quart saucepan with a tight-fitting lid, bring the coconut milk, lemongrass, water and salt to a boil. Add the rice, return to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cover tightly and cook for 30 minutes. When all the liquid is absorbed, remove the pan from heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the lemongrass.

In a cup, mix the soy sauce, lime juice and sugar; reserve. Heat a large wok until hot, add the oil. Add the shallots and red pepper flakes and stir-fry over high heat until the shallots are golden, about 2 minutes. Crumble the tofu into the hot oil and stir-fry, scraping often, until golden and crisp. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a few seconds. Quickly add the eggs, and add the rice and soy sauce mixture. Let cook, undisturbed, for 1 minute to set the eggs, then start stirring and turning the mixture. Add snow peas and scallions ad keep stirring. Cook over high heat until egg is cooked and no longer looks shiny or wet. Add the basil and toss quickly, then scrape out into a serving bowl and top with peanuts. Serve hot.

This is a contribution to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An Evening at the Longfellow Grill

Whenever I am asked, “What is your favorite day?” on those get-to-know-you quizzes, I am quick to answer, “Thursday”. I feel like Thursday is a day where most of the work week is over, but there is still time to complete important projects before the weekend.

However, the main reason why Thursday is my favorite day of the week is because the Taste section arrives in the Star Tribune. For the past six (or more) years, I patiently wait for Thursday to arrive so I can grab the paper and pour over restaurant openings and closings. My Thursdays became even better when the Pioneer Press started releasing the Eat section too. Wow, two food sections in one day!

When friends at work noticed my obsession with the food sections and constant chatter about newly opened restaurants an idea was sprung: Let’s start a dinner club! Through multiple lunch meetings, we determined our core members (9 of us), set some ground rules and made an overwhelming list of restaurants to visit. We also held a meeting to discuss possible names and decided upon The Finer Things Club. Totally original of us, right?

We have been going strong for almost two years now, meeting every month at a different restaurant. Last month, it was my turn to pick and I have to admit, there was a lot of pressure. Here I am the food writer of the group who attends numerous foodie events and I couldn’t decide on a restaurant!

Luckily, a friend got wind of my struggle and said he’d make it easy for me by inviting us to Longfellow Grill. Known for their made-from-scratch foods down to even the dressings and sauces, I was sure Longfellow would be an excellent choice.

Pat, our waiter (and friend) made sure we were well taken care of. He supplied us with happy hour priced drinks just before the happy hour cut off and made sure we tried a unique appetizer, Roasted Duck & Grits.

The menu describes the dish as “Slow cooked Maple Leaf Farms duck with wild Marsala mushrooms and dried cherries in a savory poultry glace, over truffle-scented cheesy grits.” Our table really liked the dish and I especially loved the grits. Super creamy yet firm and very tasty with a pop of tartness from the cherries. I’m working on obtaining the recipe as I have to make the grits at home!

[Editor's Note: I found the grits recipe -yes!]

We also shared an appetizer of Tempura Green Beans for the novelty of it.

The neat thing about Longfellow is the table spacing. Now, if I were on a romantic date, I’d hate being so close to another table, but being with a group of friends, we had no problem chatting with our neighbors. We sat next to a super sweet couple who offered us bites of their appetizers while we chatted about her former life as a recipe tester for Betty Crocker. As soon as they were finished dining, they offered a little wave as they were off to catch a Ken Burns special on PBS. How sweet!

While most of my table ordered “the best turkey burger in the Twin Cities” with a side of yummy sweet potato fries, I went with the Vegetarian Risotto.

I think the big chunks of veggies prevented this from being a delicate risotto, but it was still a fantastic dish in terms of flavor. The cheese and wine made a creamy sauce and the rice lent a nutty flavor that paired well with the spinach and herbs. My only request would be for the veggies to be chopped a bit smaller, but perhaps they were going for a more rustic dish?

We were all too stuffed for dessert, but Pat brought it out anyway, so who are we to say no? It was agreed that the Butterscotch Pudding was amazing and worth a return visit, but the Chocolate Mousse was much too rich and thick for our tastes.

Longfellow Grill was definitely worth the visit and we all enjoyed the freshly made food and attention to detail in service. We were even handed separate checks, which is sometimes flat out refused in restaurants. Small things like that are much appreciated and added to the already pleasant dining experience. Longfellow is part of the Blue Plate Restaurant Group, so you'll find similar fare at Edina Grill, Highland Grill, Groveland Tap and 3 Squares.

Longfellow Grill
2990 West River Parkway
Minneapolis, MN 55406
(612) 721-2711

Monday, October 19, 2009

Help Me Win This Contest!

Hey readers! Remember when I made the Barley & Lentil Soup with Mushroom Broth?

Well, that recipe has been entered in the Marx Food's recipe contest because I used their dried porcini mushrooms to make the delicious broth.

I need your votes to help me win this contest! It's really easy and you don't need to register anywhere. Just do this before October 21st (Wednesday):

1.) Go to

2.) Click the little circle next to Cafe Cyan: Barley & Lentil Soup with Mushroom Broth

3.) Click Vote at the bottom and you're done!

(If for some reason you don't have a circle to click, simply refresh your browser or delete your cookies.)


Friday, October 16, 2009

Smoky Black Bean Tacos with Garlicky Greens

Figured I’d do a quick post here today as it’s been a weird week. I kept thinking yesterday was Friday and now that it is actually Friday, I think it is Saturday because my husband took the day off work. We all have those weeks where things just don’t make sense, right?

We’ve been on a Swiss chard kick lately and for good reason – it is only $1 a bunch at the market. I realized that I like it a lot more when I don’t use the stalk. I think most of the nutrients are in the green leaves, so hopefully I’m not missing out on too much.

I picked up a few outdated magazines at a cook’s garage sale and Smoky Black Bean Tostadas with Garlicky Greens from Vegetarian Times stood out as one to try. We decided to go the taco route instead of tostadas, but followed the rest of this simple recipe as instructed.

I used black beans that I had cooked myself (successfully I may add), sliced up an avocado as an extra ingredient and used some of my homemade salsa instead of the chipotle salsa.

These tacos were super quick to make. Although I usually try to pick out simple recipes, this one was done in about 20 minutes. I’m not used to dinner being done so quickly. Most nights we eat around 8:30-9:00pm, but this was on our plates by 5:30pm – whoa!

Try this recipe for yourself. The great spices and the added garlicky greens made these way better than our boring quickie plain black bean/avocado tacos. By the way, I have a ton of queso fresco left over - any suggestions on how to use it?

This post is a contribution to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fondue For You

On Saturday morning, I was a guest on the Fresh & Local radio show on AM950. My secret desire is to host a radio show someday, so this gave me a taste of the radio experience without the stress of planning a whole show format. Susan Berkson and Bonnie Dehn, the hosts, made us feel completely at ease and it truly felt like we were having a conversation amongst friends.

Susan and Bonnie turned it over to the guests to discuss what we’d make with ingredients found at the farmers market. I knew just what to do with Brussels sprouts, apples, sweet potatoes, green beans, and squash: fondue!

My friend gifted me with a fondue pot last year I’ve been eager to use it, but was waiting for the right time. Considering my front yard is covered with snow and it is already time to break out the winter jacket, I could think of no better time than now.

Right after the radio show, Ryan and I headed to the Minneapolis Farmers Market (in the freezing cold!) and shopped for the goods picking up tiny baby Brussels sprouts and some Eichten Farms smoked Gouda.

We steamed the Brussels sprouts and asparagus, roasted the onion and sweet potato and chopped up a Haralson apple.

The Gouda was melted with Emmentaler cheese and combined with white wine, pomegranate liqueur, rosemary, cornstarch, and rehydrated Matsutake mushrooms from Marx Foods.

There are tons of fondue recipes out there. Feel free to experiment with various cheeses and alcohols (beer, brandy, wine, etc.). Pretty much anything can be dipped – just make sure it stays on your skewer! Our personal favorite was apple and brussels. Be sure to keep the fondue over a heat source otherwise the cheese will seize up.

The radio show should be up here today or tomorrow. The show is done in four segments, so be sure to listen to them all as my fellow guests were awesome and full of great information. I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m eager to hear the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Simple Brussels Sprouts Salad

Awhile back in the blogger world, it was pretty vogue to post a pic of your fridge for all to see. It was kind of like a peek inside someone's life, which is always cool.

I never posted a fridge shot last time around, but luckily, City Pages Hot Dish invited me to share and did a little write up on it.

One of the items in my fridge were brussels sprouts and I had them front and center (well, bottom and center) so I wouldn't forget they were in there. A lot of folks do not like brussels sprouts. I tend to believe that's because they've only had the mushy stinky variety. It's unfortunate because brussels sprouts are totally yummy if prepared in the right way. Sometimes I roast them, sometimes I put them in a veggie hash, but often times I just prepare this simple salad:

All you have to do is slice the brussels sprouts very thinly, toss with the juice of 1/2 a lemon and a pinch of salt and pepper. Then add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, some chopped toasted walnuts, and grate Parmesan or Asiago cheese on top and toss again. Let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors meld.

We served this alongside a homemade deep dish pizza and I have to say that a mix of pizza and brussels sprouts salad kind of rocked.

Check out the fridge shot here:

The uber organization is all my husband, Ryan. He likes to have things quite accessible and in the right spots. I'm the one who just throws things in there.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Barley Minestrone Soup

The weather this week has definitely taken a turn towards fall. The temps are in the 50’s and it’s been rainy the past few days. I’m so sad; I don’t want our great summer to end! However, I am one to try to embrace things with happiness, so I took advantage of the colder weather and made soup.

Jessica Chapman, a writer for The Hot Dish on City, was recently looking for a vegetarian minestrone recipe so I sent her my favorite one from Fine Cooking magazine. After sending it to her, I realized I had all the ingredients in my fridge (and yes, I had half a head of cabbage from my last cabbage dish).

This soup is awesome, especially if you use the rind (or a piece) of Parmesan cheese while the soup is simmering. All the vegetables are able to shine through and flavor the broth. Plus, all those vegetables have varying textures and shapes to make you feel satisfied after eating.

I’ve adapted it from the original non-vegetarian recipe. Be sure you use an awesome broth for this. If you can’t make your own, find your favorite at the store. My favorite veggie broth is Kitchen Basics because of the low-sodium content and rich flavor. I find it at Byerly’s. For this recipe, we tried Edward & Sons Not-Chick’n bouillon cubes. It was very good, but a bit on the salty side, so I didn’t season with any additional salt.

Barley Minestrone
(6 servings)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped Savoy cabbage
1 cup diced onion
1 cup sliced carrot
¼ cup diced celery
2 cloves garlic, sliced
8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 (14.5 oz.) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1-inch piece of Parmesan cheese rind
1 cup quick cooking barley
1 (14.5 oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (or 1 ½ cups fresh kidney beans)
Kosher salt
Freshly grated black pepper

Heat oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cabbage, onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the broth, undrained tomatoes, rosemary and Parmesan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add barley and stir to combine, and continue cooking for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until barley is tender. Discard rosemary and Parmesan and add the kidney beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

This post is a contribution to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays!
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