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Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

I’ve been enjoying a nice vacation for the past week and even had my computer turned OFF most of the time (which, judging by the heat level of my laptop, I don’t do often enough). Our Christmas was enjoyable, but a little off kilter due to a few family members being sick and not able to join us. Everything went by so quickly that I’m enjoying this much needed time off. Ryan also took a few days off, so we’ve been watching movies, playing Donkey Kong Country Returns (awesome game – get it!), and not really cooking at all (weird, I know).

As per usual, New Year’s Day will be spent listening to the Top 89 songs of 2010 on The Current. I turn on the radio starting at 10:00am and don’t turn it off until the #1 song has been played. Listeners pick their top 10 songs and here are mine in no particular order along with You Tube links for the songs.

The Chemical Brothers | Another World (Further)
Atmosphere | The Best Day (To All My Friends...: The Atmosphere EPs)
Vampire Weekend | Cousins (Contra)
Sleigh Bells | Crown On The Ground (Treats)
LCD Soundsystem | Dance Yrself Clean (This Is Happening)
The Dead Weather | Die By The Drop (Sea of Cowards)
Florence And The Machine | Dog Days Are Over (Lungs)
Phoenix | Lasso (Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix)
Solid Gold | One In A Million (Synchronize)
Malachai | Snowflake (Ugly Side Of Love)

It was really tough to pick only 10 songs, but I think this is a good representation of what songs really speak to me and get me moving. 

Happy New Year!

*Every year the countdown has been a New Year’s Day treat. This year, The Current decided to play the countdown starting at 5pm on New Year’s Eve and REPLAY it on New Year’s Day. I’m still a bit irked about this change in tradition, so I’m ignoring the NYE countdown and pretending it only exists on New Year’s Day :) 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Here We Snow Again!

Since we’re facing yet another snow day, I figured it would be a good time to share my cooking endeavors from our last snow day (just over a week ago). I can’t say I made super healthy foods, but rather feel-good foods. I really need to work out after all these snow days…

Salted Pumpkin Seed Brittle

I’ve always wanted to make brittle, so after finding this recipe on The Kitchn, I decided to modify it by using toasted pumpkin seeds.

Press quickly into the pan!

Work quickly when pressing it into a pan and for an extra flavor component, press some sea salt on top too. This recipe made a lot of brittle, so we were able to share with friends at a family gathering.

Crostini with Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

I really wanted to make some appetizers, so I picked up a baguette, puff pastry, cheese, and grape tomatoes from Trader Joe’s and went to work in the kitchen.  Starting with the tomatoes, I made a nice bite-sized appetizer.

Crostini with Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
(adapted from Food & Wine)

1 small baguette, sliced into ½-inch slices
4 oz. goat cheese, softened
2 pints grape tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus 1/3 cup
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400°. In a glass baking dish, combine grape tomatoes, smashed garlic, salt, and pepper with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss well. Roast for 20 minutes or until skin starts to shrivel.

Meanwhile, combine 1/3 cup olive oil, rosemary, and oregano in a large bowl. Remove roasted tomatoes from oven and add to bowl. Stir gently and let stand 30 minutes.

Reduce oven to 350°. Arrange baguette slices on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes or until crisp. To serve, spread goat cheese on baguette slices and top with tomatoes and infused oil.

Brie, mushrooms, and raspberry jam wrapped in puff pastry.

Next, I wrapped puff pastry around brie cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions, and raspberry jam. It was baked at 400° until lightly browned on top and served with fresh fruit.

Chili Cheese & Mushroom Bites

I had one sheet of puff pastry left over so I made little appetizer cups filled with chiles, sautéed mushrooms, onions, cheddar, and Swiss.

Chocolate Pudding Pie

And I couldn’t help but make another dessert: chocolate pudding pie with a homemade pie crust.

Of course, there was plenty of champagne to go with all that food and make the day just a tad more enjoyable. Nom nom.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Wishes...with Coffee!

The holiday cards have started to arrive. It began with my best friend’s mom sending us a card. A wave of panic swept through me as I thought about the status of our own holiday cards. I opened the envelope and my panic started to subside. I remember thinking, “Whew, it’s a Thanksgiving card, I still have PLENTY of time to make our holiday cards.”

Flash forward a few weeks and I have abandoned the thought of making our own cards, ruled out buying Hallmark type cards, and turned to the internet so I could create a card without hours of effort. I remembered a few invitations I received this summer were printed on cardstock and made by Shutterfly, so that was my first and only stop.

I also got thinking about what a Café Cyan holiday card would look like and since I cannot send you each a custom gift or a photo recipe calendar, I could put together a holiday card online!

So there you have it, my holiday wishes to you with a little side of coffee.

Disclaimer: I wrote about, mentioned, and linked to because of an awesome deal they offered to bloggers; in return I will receive 50 free Holiday cards. Plus, I got to create a cool card offering holiday wishes to all my fantastic readers (and since I’m no good with graphic design, it was a big help)!

FruitShare Time!

Remember the lovely citrus FruitShare that I wrote about last year?

Well, it’s that time of year again and FruitShare is taking orders for its Holiday Citrus Pack. Sure, it’s a bit of a splurge, but the benefits are worth it. A box full of organic grapefruit, clementines, satsumas, and oranges are sure to keep you healthy and serve as an excellent day brightener as well.  There's a smaller box available too if you just want to try it out.

I'm picking up my box on Friday (just ordered it today), so turnaround time is great.  Looks like I'll be running errands on Friday as I also have to pick up some more cookies from the Black Forest Inn.  Yum!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches

Well, hello from the snowy Midwest! Just last weekend we got a foot of snow and as I look out my window, it looks like another foot is in the midst of falling. I doubt the plows are going to touch our neighborhood until later today, so consider it a snow day!

Ryan and I plan to get some work done, watch a couple movies, and generally do nothing. Oh, and I happened to buy three bottles of champagne…you know, just in case we need it.

Of course we had to start our day with an indulgent breakfast:

Biscuits made from scratch topped with scrambled eggs cooked the Julia Child way (try it –it rocks for a quick egg), veggie bacon and cheese slices.

Seriously amazing sandwiches, all thanks to a little elbow grease (and a lot of butter) in those biscuits.

Try it yourself:

(from Joy of Cooking)

1 ¾ cup flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
6 tbsp chilled butter or shortening
¾ cup milk

Preheat oven to 450°. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter using a pastry cutter or two knives until the dough resembles small peas.

Make a well in the center and add milk. Stir with a spoon until just combined, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead with your hands 8-10 times. Roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin to ¼-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter (or a glass), cut dough into circles and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and enjoy!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cranberry Walnut Bread

Are you down with the sickness? Based on status updates, tweets, and the general sniffling and sneezing of those around me, it seems that everyone has some sort of sickness hindering them from being 100%. Since I didn’t want to be one of “the sickies”, I invested in cartons of orange juice (the kind with REAL orange juice) and not only drank up, but also incorporated OJ into the foods I made, like cranberry walnut bread.

While my investment in orange juice didn’t prevent me from getting a cold, it (and plenty of sleep) may have helped me recover more quickly. After a full day in bed yesterday, I’m ready to tackle my to-do list which includes sharing this wonderful bread.

I’ve been making this bread for a few years now and found the recipe in Everyday Food back in 2004 that was sent in by a reader. I love how moist and tender the bread is with bursts of tart cranberry and crunchy walnuts. Plus, it’s so easy to make! I forgot to photograph it a few weeks ago, so I just had to make another loaf for photo purposes.

Cranberry-Walnut Bread
(serves 8)

2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup fresh cranberries (frozen work fine too)
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°. Butter and flour an 8 ½-by-4 ½-inch loaf pan; set aside. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed until combined. Add egg, and beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, mixing until combined (dough will appear very dry). Reduce speed to low; beat in orange zest and juice. Fold in cranberries and walnuts.

Spread batter in prepared pan, smoothing top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour (tent with foil if top is browning too quickly.) Cool in pan 10 minutes; run a knife around edges of loaf, and invert on a wire rack. Turn top side up; cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Kid in the Kitchen

Did you do any Black Friday shopping? I tried it one year and got a great deal on some fancy scissors at Michael’s and I think I got a free bag at Target too. It was fun, but I’m not really a morning person, so getting to stores at 4 or 5am just isn’t my thing. If you did go shopping, I hope you got some great deals!

We avoided any shopping craziness and had our nephew, Antonio, sleepover Thanksgiving evening. He was greeted with his own custom designed chalkboard menu and insisted on adding to it throughout the weekend.

The final chalkboard had plenty of doodles.
He helped make breakfast by whisking the eggs and flipping the blueberry bagel French toast.

After some holiday decorating, we made quesadillas for lunch. I chopped and sautéed veggies while
Antonio buttered the tortillas using a cheese spreader.

We had Antonio try some hummus, but he didn’t like it, so I made him a sour cream-ranch type dip for his veggies.

We also made some chocolate pudding and whipped cream (kids love to whisk and push buttons!).

After lunch, we went to purchase a Christmas tree and had planned on getting it from Valley Natural Foods. However, we first stopped at Home Depot to buy some more lights and ended up finding the perfect tree, a Noble Fir.

Turns out, it’s the best tree we’ve ever had, but it probably helps that we actually remembered to water it this year. After tree decorating and snowflake making, we went to eat at the Bad Waitress before grabbing second row seats at Robin Hood.

We’ve been to the Children’s Theatre plenty of times, but we’ve never seen a show on the Cargill Stage, a smaller stage without the moving parts of the main stage. It was great to be so close to the action and have the actors come right up to us, making the audience a part of the performance. Antonio loved the show and talked about the characters all the way home.

A great end to an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Thanksgiving Treat

I hope you had a great weekend! We did our first Thanksgiving meal with Ryan’s family and our second meal at my family’s house. Lots of food all around and I brought Candied Sweet Potato Casserole.

Sweet potato casserole is not something I grew up with and in fact, I don’t think I had a sweet potato until I was an adult. Three years ago I brought this dish to Thanksgiving and everyone seemed to like it, so I brought it again this year.

I baked both pans the night before until the sweet potatoes were slightly tender so I wouldn’t use up much oven time/space at the host houses. On Thanksgiving day, I warmed the potatoes up for about 10 minutes in the oven before adding the marshmallow topping and baking until browned (about 10 more minutes). I’m so glad I discovered this recipe to serve as a Thanksgiving treat.

Do you have a dish that you like to bring to holiday gatherings?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dinner Menus - Now in Chalk!

It’s pretty well known amongst my friends and family that I’d love to move closer to Minneapolis and get the heck out of the ‘burbs. While it may be a great time to buy, it’s also a horrible time to sell, so we’ll stay put for a little while longer. Instead, we’ve decided to rearrange our house and give it a good refresh.

I’ve always wanted a chalkboard in the kitchen and now I finally have it! Ryan painted this on a wall that goes from the kitchen to the living room. I’m hoping this will help answer the “what’s for dinner” question that Ryan always asks. Now I can simply point to the chalkboard instead of searching for my paper lists.

Ryan, the handyman in our house.
I hope to keep it updated (unlike the graph paper calendar I created that never progressed past October 2009).  So, I might should take pictures and post it periodically to keep myself accountable.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brioche Caramel Rolls

Remember that bake-a-long that I was doing with Catherine and Victoria? The one where we pick recipes from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and blog about our results…well, I haven’t exactly been baking along. Don’t get me wrong, I tried a few times, but failed. The problems started when I made Aunt Melissa’s Granola Bread and after 2 ½ hours, the dough barely rose. I baked it anyway and my house started to smell like burnt chemicals – perhaps something just didn’t go right.

I thought, “better luck next time”, and eagerly mixed up a batch of Sunflower Seed Breakfast Loaf, our next assignment. But, yet again, this loaf fell flat too.

The sunflower seed dough was tossed and I moved onto the Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread…flat again! Frustrated, but not ready to give up, I discussed my issue with Catherine who thought maybe my water was too hot, killing the yeast right away.

I bought new yeast and got into the brioche assignment; this time using my laser thermometer to make sure the water temperature didn’t go over 100°. While the dough didn’t rise as much as I had anticipated, it still seemed to be working better than my previous attempts, so I moved into making caramel rolls.

Success! The brioche made for sinful caramel rolls that I couldn’t stop eating. Yum! I’m glad I stuck with the project despite several failed attempts; caramel rolls were a great reward.

Not sure what we’re picking next, but I’m eager to keep baking!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Now Open: Peace Coffee Shop

Woo hoo! I visited the new Peace Coffee Shop and it is so cool! I may be a bit biased because I happen to love Peace Coffee both for their amazing coffee and for their local involvement, so it comes as no surprise that I'm excited about the coffee shop.

Last week after the Free Arts Art Heals breakfast, I was running a bunch of errands that put me in the Longfellow neighborhood. As I was driving down Minnehaha, ready to head home, it struck me that the new Peace Coffee Shop was only a few blocks away and it was open!

I entered the coffee shop with a big grin on my face and was greeted with an equally big grin from coffee shop manager, Monika.

I already had my coffee for the day (darn!) and ate lunch (double darn!), but wanted a reason to linger and absorb the atmosphere, so I went for the soup of the day, African Peanut Soup and grabbed a seat.

Flavorful and warming African Peanut Soup.
After spotting CEO and Queen Bean, Lee Wallace, in the Brew Lab, we chatted for a bit about the new coffee shop and what the public can expect:

Be prepared for a great cup of coffee, however you like it.

Experienced baristas can pour a simple cup of coffee, make special recipe mochas and chai, or deliver the perfect pour over and French press.

Get ready to learn.

Peace Coffee wants you to learn how to do it yourself. Not only will a Brew Lab host trainings and workshops for the general public, but baristas are ready to share tips and tricks while preparing your coffee. Brew Lab events will be posted on the website as they are scheduled.

Local partnerships are oh-so-important.

Soups are brought in daily from The Wedge Co-op and chewy bagels come from Common Roots Cafe. I wouldn’t be surprised if more local partnerships crop up as Peace Coffee has a strong network to tap into.

While there are still some final touches to be done to the shop, like finishing the tile, inserting some tables, etc., I really like what I see so far and can’t wait to stop by again for the grand opening (TBA) to see the final product. Next time I’ll bring Ryan, my fellow Peace Coffee addict.

Peace Coffee Shop
3262 Minnehaha Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55406


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Broccoli, Brown Rice & Cheddar Casserole

Since I soon have to accept that it is cold out, I figured a casserole would be in order. I usually don’t make casseroles and just the word “casserole” brings back memories of mom’s elbow macaroni, ground beef and green bean concoction that we ate way too many times. (Sorry mom!) I’ve heard that casseroles and hot dishes are just a Midwestern thing, anyone know if this is true?

My friend, Kate, made this broccoli and rice casserole soon after we met last year and I’ve had it bookmarked ever since because it brought back some memories. Way back in the day, one of my favorite things to bring to lunch was a frozen vegetable side from Green Giant. Know which ones I’m talking about? The small frozen boxes of Green Bean Casserole, Cheesy Rice and Broccoli, Green Beans & Almonds, etc. One day, my taste buds noticed a significant jump in sodium content and since then, I haven’t been able to stomach them.

Luckily, Kate’s Homemade Brown Rice, Broccoli and Cheddar Casserole hit the spot and brought back my better memories of Cheesy Rice and Broccoli from Green Giant, only this time it had brown rice, organic cream of mushroom soup, and tons of fresh broccoli. It was so delicious and full of creamy cheesy goodness that I consciously had to put my fork down and stop eating.

This time I made the full recipe, which could have easily served eight. Ryan took it for lunch day after day, loving it as leftovers too. Next time I’ll have to make just half of the recipe.

Thanks for the great recipe, Kate!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Great Combinations: Brussels Sprouts & Apples

Yay, another dinner at home! I had picked up Brussels sprouts from Ann Yin over at Local D’Lish and wanted to make the Shredded Brussels Sprouts and Apple Salad from 101 Cookbooks.

I started by marinating my own tofu using the Veganomican Italian marinade recipe and the leftover container I got from the Surdyk’s Flights event. It works so well for marinating because it has a flat bottom.

Reduce, reuse, recycle!

Then I baked the strips of tofu in a 400° oven for 25 minutes or until slightly crispy, skipping the whole pan-frying step. After the tofu had cooled a bit, I cut it into bite-sized pieces and started the garlic and maple syrup in a skillet, adding sliced apples and tofu at the end per the recipe. I substituted peanuts for pine nuts simply because pine nuts are outrageously expensive, so I rarely have them on hand anymore.

It was a delicious dinner and because it’s so good for you, I didn’t feel guilty eating a ton of it. It's also a pretty easy recipe - I just chose to complicate things a bit by combining recipes.

I might as well be participating in Vegan Mofo this month.  Maybe I'll participate unofficially since I missed the sign up deadline.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hearty Fall Dinner

I survived Halloween and even stayed at home!  Last year, Ryan and I read books at a coffee shop, ran errands and went out to eat, which was a great way to people watch. This year we had too many things to do around the house, so I made a last minute candy run and had about 10 groups of trick-or-treaters come to our door.  I "forgot" to put out the mini Snickers, so it looks like I'll be making Snickers cookies soon.

While Ryan handled the trick-or-treaters, I took care of dinner. With three cookbooks open for inspiration, it made for a chaotic cooking session, something I haven’t done in awhile. In just about 1 hour, I made all of this:

Delicious and full of hearty fall flavors, this meal hit the spot. I really enjoyed the process of making the meal too. It may have been a lot of work, but I truly believe cooking is therapy (for me) and I needed some cooking therapy after working so hard on the other jobs in my life.

The chili roasted delicata squash was so simple: cut into rings, remove the seeds and chop into pieces. Toss with olive oil and chili powder and roast for 20 minutes in a 400° oven.

I steamed both parsnips and russet potatoes (in separate pots) before mashing them with a little milk and butter (soymilk and Earth Balance). The gravy is Golden Gravy from Real Food Daily and a favorite at our house. Full of rich nutritional yeast, whole wheat flour, onion and herbs, I could eat this with a spoon.

I’ve heard many other bloggers rave about the Veganomican’s Chickpea Cutlets and now I can rave too! Made of mashed chickpeas, vital wheat gluten, breadcrumbs and spices, these thin cutlets crisped up well when pan-fried and were delicious as leftovers too.

My goal is to make more meals like this in the next few months. With all the other food related activities in my life, I haven’t been able to focus on meal planning and cooking as of late. Guess I’ll have to practice saying “no” a little more often.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Cherry Berry Breakfast Smoothie

After a week of eating out, Ryan and I both woke up craving something healthy and light for breakfast. Since we have plenty of fruit in the freezer, I pulled out some tart cherries and strawberries to put in the blender and made this:

It was based on a recipe from Shape magazine called Tangy Cherry-Berry Sipper. Here is my adaptation:

Cherry Berry Breakfast Smoothie
(serves 2)

1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup pitted tart cherries
1 cup lowfat plain yogurt
1 tbsp wheat germ
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup ice
½ cup cherry juice (or use cranberry juice)
½ cup water

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into two glasses and serve with a straw.

I love smoothies and it’s a good way to pack in fruits and/or veggies quickly any time of day.
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