My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spargelfest + Harvest for the Hungry

You know how much I love asparagus, right? It doesn’t even matter if it does this. So, last year when I heard about Spargelfest at the Black Forest Inn, I got pretty excited but totally missed out.  However, I did not miss out this year thanks to an invite from Black Forest Inn themself! Yesterday I was lucky to enjoy an asparagus lover’s dream – an entire menu of asparagus for Spargelfest:

They started me off with a Spargeltini:

This was made from asparagus infused vodka and couldn’t be simpler. Just leave some asparagus spears in vodka for a week or so, strain and serve.

Next up was Cream of Asparagus soup. I had a hard time believing something this creamy came directly from the asparagus as it only had a dab of cream. I would absolutely come back just for this soup. It was so good!

Then I tried asparagus with local Fischer Farms ham wrapped in strudel dough. It was served with a fantastic mustard sauce that complimented both the asparagus and ham very well.

I was really eager to try the Asparagus Perogies. I love asparagus and I love perogies, so what a brilliant combination! The perogies were filled with cheese and asparagus and sat on top of an asparagus mousse garnished with a couple asparagus spears, crushed hazelnuts, chives, and red peppers.

Then, just when I thought asparagus options had run out, I was presented with this:

Yep, candied asparagus served atop lemon mousse. I’m sure you won’t believe me, but it was awesome! Not only was the lemon mousse excellent on its own (tart, fluffy and creamy), but little bites of candied asparagus with the lemon mousse made it extra perfect.

The asparagus served is local from the Southeast Minnesota Food Network, an organization of farms in SE Minnesota. Yay for local asparagus!

Spargelfest is an event to not miss. It runs just for a few more days through May 30th and if you dine on Friday, May 28th (tomorrow), 25% of food sales go to Harvest for the Hungry, a program of the Emergency Food Shelf Network. Isn’t it great that hungry families can get fresh produce instead of just processed junk?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Are These?

First off, I have a question for you: What do you think these are?

I’ll get to that answer in just a moment.
I'm a member of Social Media Breakfast (SMBMSP), a monthly gathering for professionals using social media. Typically held on Friday mornings, it consists of a panel discussion, Q&A, and networking. It’s also pretty well known for its abundance of bacon which recently led to bacon themed products. I suppose an abundance of apples just wouldn’t carry the same buzz as bacon does.

Last Friday SMBMSP was held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds (in the historic Progress Center) and was focused on Urban and Organic Gardening. Panelists were movers and shakers in this arena who use various forms of social media to get the word out. If you are interested in watching the discussion, here's the website.

Left to right:

Barbara Hegman, PlantJotter
Susan Berkson, Minneapolis Farmers Market
Kirsten Saylor, Gardening Matters
Debbie Morrison, Sapsucker Farms
Lee Zukor, Simple Good & Tasty

The running theme was, “we are collaborators, not competitors”. Social media is a great way to share ideas, partner with others and have a continual feedback loop. We are getting more and more in touch with our food every day thanks to farmers and farmer advocates sharing information through websites, listservs, Twitter and Facebook, but not every farmer is able to do this just as not everyone can farm.

Have you ever considered?
  • Trading your time and skills in social media for fresh produce?
  • Volunteering your time to help with garden plots for the elderly?
  • Starting a container garden of herbs, lettuce, and hot peppers?

Think about it. Do something. Get involved!

As for the above picture…those are seed bombs. Guerilla gardening in a neat and tidy ball of dirt, seeds and clay. What seeds are they? Who knows! That’s the point. Yards to Gardens passed these out around 100 of these seed bombs at SMBMSP. I can only imagine the awesomeness that will result from planting these bad boys all around town.

How do you get more in touch with your food?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Sundress Saturday

I swear Saturdays can be more exhausting than weekdays. Instead of just working all day and having an evening activity, I (and so many others) cram in as much as we can on the weekend often running from one event to another without taking a breath. And so it begins…

Before co-hosting a bridal shower for my sister-in-law, Rachel, I was supposed to hit up the Fight Childhood Hunger garage sale early Saturday morning, but considering I had a bit of a food crisis (my scones did NOT turn out to my liking), I wasn’t able to make it. Instead, I made an emergency run to Great Harvest Bread Company for cherry coffee cake.

Side note: I swear Great Harvest Bread has saved me several times. I should really write them a thank you letter. Their helpful staff and yummy baked goods are simply wonderful. Thank you for existing!

I only grabbed a couple food shots at the bridal shower; it was a great spread of fresh fruit, homemade granola, organic yogurt, mimosas, and a few baked goods.

The shower went very well and gets me so excited for all the upcoming events!

After the shower, I went to Little Bean Photography in St. Louis Park for some headshots. The owner, Elissa, is part of a group I’m in called Blog Pantry and she offered up free headshots for all of us! I’ll be sure to put it up as a profile pic once I get a copy.

Then, Ryan and I were off to a dinner party at…Robin Asbell’s house! To say I was excited for this would be an understatement. Robin has already published two wonderful cookbooks and is a great role model for someone like me. She has a vegan cookbook coming out in the fall and I have been busy testing recipes for this book (hence the sporadic blog posts). To celebrate and thank the recipe testers, Robin invited us to her home where we toasted with rhubarb bellinis and yummy veggie food.

Mac & cheese with shaved truffles

Marinated mushrooms and fingerling potatoes with sorrel from the garden.

Quinoa tabouli with chickpeas

Wild mushrooms atop walnut bread

Ryan and I had such a great time. We were surrounded by fantastic food and great people who I hope to see again. I’m thrilled for Robin and the new cookbook. Cheers!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Foxy Falafel's Debut

I love farmers markets! I love the accessibility to food, farmers, and like-minded people. Another thing I love is the food vendors and this season we have a new kid on the food vendor block, Foxy Falafel. Foxy Falafel is a falafel sandwich stand run by the super cool Erica Strait.
I was lucky enough to meet Erica at the Surly Smoke release at Brasa last year. Turns out we follow each other on Twitter and have some friends in common. When I heard she was working on a falafel business, I got really excited. In addition to culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute, she worked with falafel master, Einat Admony in NYC.
Back in January, she offered us a preview of her food.  Not only did we dine on falafel, we also munched on little pastries filled with goat cheese, caramelized onion and pistachios.

We caught up with Foxy Falafel again in April at her street food debut at Buffalo Exchange and had to restrain ourselves from ordering seconds of falafel. Look at all the green herbs!

You might be asking – what makes this falafel different?
  • The chickpeas are sprouted to increase the nutrient value and digestibility of the bean.
  • The sauce! Foxy Falafel offers 3 amazing sauces. Tunisian Harissa that is full of smoky, garlicky, spicy     goodness. Then there’s the cucumber yogurt sauce that is brightly cooling. And finally the green tahini which is herbaceous and lemony. 
  • Most ingredients are organic and as local as possible.
  • The Kombucha! Kombucha is a Chinese tea that is full of probiotics that aid in many things including digestion. Flavors rotate among Chai, Black Current, Green Tea, and many more.
You can find the Foxy Falafel stand at three farmers markets this summer and keep up to date on her website:

Kingfield Market: Sundays from 8:30am – 1pm  (starts today!)
Uptown Market: Sundays from 11am – 5pm (starts June 20th)
Northeast Minneapolis: Saturdays from 9am – 1pm (starts in June)

Don’t forget to try the Kombucha! It’s seriously good and good for you!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reubens on Rye

I love a good reuben. Ryan and I sat down recently and were talking about what we order most frequently at restaurants. He was convinced reubens would be #1 for me. I disagreed…until I counted all reubens I have ordered at restaurants. When I started counting on a third hand I was convinced as well. So, Ryan was proven right and I was left with a reuben craving – again.

Remember that bake-along for Artisan Breads in 5 Minutes a Day? Lucky for me, rye bread was next on the list.

This is one of my favorite breads I have made from this book. The rye bread was dense and flavorful and I was so sad when it was gone. At least I have a few extra cups of rye flour so I can make it again soon. Seriously – peanut butter on toasted rye bread is one of my favorites from childhood.

When I make reubens at home, I definitely go for the tempeh reuben. Using Vegan with a Vengeance as a guide, I marinate and cook the tempeh and make my own dressing. The tempeh is layered with a slice of Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and a pickle and pan-fried for a couple of minutes to toast up the bread.

Delicious! Now that I have made my own bread, I really need to try fermenting my own cabbage to make sauerkraut. Maybe in the fall…

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gorgeous Mother's Day

I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day yesterday! With most holidays, Ryan and I usually make the run from my family’s house to his family’s house in an effort to celebrate with both families on the actual holiday. It totally burns us out. This year, we concentrated on one house and guess what – it was wonderful!

After a late night volunteering at the PACER benefit (starring Lyle Lovett – who was actually pretty darn good), we woke up bright and early to make brunch for my mom. Ryan and I intended to go morel mushroom hunting afterwards, but were having such a great time that we couldn’t tear ourselves away. Ryan cleaned and scrubbed my mom’s kitchen while I raked up grass in the yard. My parents have ½ an acre, so there was a lot of grass!

Ryan and I are taking a National Camera DSLR class and needed to get some “homework” done to practice the skills we learned in Level 1. My mom has a gorgeous flower garden, so it was fun testing out the camera settings in the yard.

We were also able to deliver a few bundles of asparagus as we had just picked up 10 pounds from Lorence's Berry Farm. Yum - can't wait to make some at home for dinner tonight before Level 2 of our DSLR class.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Caramelized Ramp Polenta with White Sauce

While I was out of town, the Twin Cities experienced a bit of warm up. Knowing that some of the spring goodies like ramps, fiddleheads, and morels only had a small window of availability, I jumped into action and started contacting the co-ops. Again, Mississippi Market came to my rescue and I picked up a few bunches of ramps. While I made my new favorite ramp recipe, I also wanted to try something a bit more challenging.

I’ve been cooking my way through Lauren Ulm’s Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday cookbook and really wanted to make the Caramelized Leek and Spaghetti Squash Polenta with White Sauce. I figured I could easily sub in ramps for the leeks. Now, I’ve never been afraid of a complicated recipe. In fact, I shy away from simple recipes in an attempt to spend more time in the kitchen. However, this one was a bit too long.

There were many steps like roasting the squash:

And chopping and sautéing the ramps:

Then the spaghetti squash and ramps get combined with cornmeal and vegetable broth to make a polenta mixture. Of course the mixture has to cool in the fridge – I got impatient and stuck it in the freezer while I whisked together the white sauce. After the polenta cooled, it got broiled.

The whole process took over a couple hours, which I felt was a little long. Luckily it was quite tasty, especially with the use of ramps instead of leeks.  I doubt I'll make it again as written, but I'm intrigued enough to play around with the recipe a bit.  In the meantime, I’ll stick with Lauren’s other wonderful recipes because they rock!

Anyone else ever bit off more than they could chew? (Yeah, yeah, pardon the pun.) I’d love to hear your stories!

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

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Look! A Blog Post!

Well, hello there! Yeah, yeah, I haven’t blogged in about 10 days. My husband, Ryan, was sure to point this out last night saying, “I want blog updates! I keep clicking on your site and there’s nothing new. Where’s the rest of your Arizona trip?  Where's all our good food?” I suppose I should be flattered because he’s such a fan, right?  I guess it was the kick in the butt that I needed.

So anyway, perhaps I should pick up where I started slacking. I had a couple readers ask me some great questions about the Arizona Farmers Markets:

The produce was locally produced! Surprisingly, Arizona has a decent amount of produce farms around the Phoenix area, but just like in the Midwest, everything has its season. The markets close down in the summer because it’s simply too hot and dry to have abundance and variety. I would love to return in the fall to see the changes with the produce offerings.

Whit is a local (and a super cool girl – check out her blog), so she knows the surprising abundance of farms in Arizona. Sorry, Whit, I didn’t see any homemade yogurt, but I do make my own so I should do a how-to post sometime soon. Then YOU can make your own :)
I thought it was pretty nifty too! What’s Your Grind has a small batch roaster that they keep in the back of their van. They even have a 1-minute video demonstrating it on their website (scroll down to the bottom).
I still have a ton to say about my Arizona trip, but I also have plenty to say about the excitement of spring coming to Minnesota. So hopefully I can tackle both – perhaps my weekend posts can take me back on vacation while my weekday posts stay focused on real life. Deal?
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