My Blog on WCCO-TV: Bite of Minnesota

Monday, August 30, 2010

Two Melons Walk Into a Bar

As someone who likes to frequent farmers markets, I admit to being pretty deficient this summer. I’ve only been to the market 10 times this season and while that may seem like a lot, it is poor attendance for me. However, this last weekend, I felt back on track by getting to the market on Saturday AND Sunday. Yay!

First, I ventured out to the Minneapolis Farmers Market on Saturday. My neighbor and fellow South Metro blogger, Bill Roehl was doing a cooking demo on one of his favorite topics, peppers. For those of you who read his blog, you know he’s a big fan of hot and spicy, so his topic was quite appropriate.

After the demo, I shopped the stalls of the market for quite some time loading up on all kinds of goodies like Japanese eggplant, butternut squash, zucchini, onions, cherries, and watermelon. My most exciting find was this:

Sure it looks like a cantaloupe, but when you cut into it you’ll find green, not orange.

It’s not honeydew either, but it IS a crossbreed of the two, called the galia melon. The Gysland Brothers stall was offering samples and while others were gushing over the Crenshaw melons, this galia melon had me intrigued at its surprising banana aftertaste. I knew I made the right choice when Ryan gave his approval (he dislikes both cantaloupe and honeydew). Score!

On Sunday we were headed to the Uptown Market for a Foxy Falafel fix when I got a message from the Chef Shack telling me to swing by the Kingfield Market. Their wish was my command so we jetted to Kingfield and found out that Foxy Falafel was there too! It was almost like a celebrity sighting with Ryan tugging my shirtsleeve whispering, “she’s here…right over there…see her??” Ryan tried Foxy’s new beet falafel (thumbs up from us non-beet lovers) and I got the Sabich (eggplant, hard boiled eggs, cabbage and hummus) and loaded it with tangy Amba and spicy harissa sauce.

I have to admit that we never made it to the Uptown Market (since we were going for falafel anyway) and instead loaded up on pears, apples, corn, tomatoes and some local eggs from Kingfield.

It felt great to be back at the farmers market this weekend and now I have a ton of healthy produce to counteract the unhealthy state fair food I’ll be eating this week.

How often do you go to the market? Any great finds to share?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Swiss Chard Potsticker Succotash

Wow, I had an awesome dinner at Saffron last night! Ever since I had my first visit back in 2007, I’ve wanted to go back for so many reasons. Finally, years later (has it really been that long?), I returned and now I want to go back again. Our table tried all of the desserts: goat’s milk cheese cake, crème brulee tart, and chocolate ganache cake, most of the mezzes: fried mussels and baba ghanoush were winners for me, and an entrée of mahi-mahi atop lobster orzo. I was impressed all around. Since I didn’t take any pictures, you’ll just have to go to Saffron and see for yourself!

Ok, now that I have shared last night’s dinner, let’s skip to a few nights earlier when I was actually home for dinner. It has been great to be active in the kitchen again so I picked up some Swiss chard at the farmers market and was eager to use it in a new recipe. Remember when I made this quick meal with potstickers and edamame?

Well, if you look closely, the potstickers have changed. Last time I bought pre-made potstickers and I just wasn’t satisfied so I decided to make my own using Swiss chard. If you don’t mind spending the extra time in the kitchen to assemble these, the recipe is posted below. If you’re more in need of quick meals, just buy some potstickers like I did last time and use a teaspoon of oil to heat them up. The recipe below is a combination of two recipes and can be found in their original forms here and here.

Swiss Chard Potstickers and Edamame Succotash
(4 servings)

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
8 ounces Swiss chard, leaves coarsely chopped, stems discarded
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded, caps chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
Coarse salt and ground pepper
30 potsticker wrappers

Chili-Soy Dressing:
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp roasted red chile paste
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp chili oil

1 tsp vegetable oil
1 pkg. frozen shelled edamame
½ cup chopped pepper (red, yellow, or orange)
¼ cup chopped cilantro
2 green onions, chopped

To make potstickers, heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet. Add chard, mushrooms, scallions, and garlic and cook until the chard has wilted and liquid has evaporated, 3 to 4 minutes. Squeeze excess liquid from chard. Transfer to a bowl; stir in vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce; season with salt and pepper. Wipe skillet dry and set aside.

Place 1 rounded teaspoon filling in the center of the potsticker wrapper. Moisten edges with water using your finger. Bring two edges together, forming a triangle and enclosing filling. Lightly press along the filling edges to push out extra air. Fold top point down and pinch a couple of small pleats along top layer of wrapper to seal. Place filling-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat. Keep dumplings and unused wrappers covered with damp paper towels while working.

Heat remaining tablespoon vegetable oil in reserved skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange dumplings in pan, tightly, filling-side down, and cook until deep golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup of water. Return to heat. Cover and cook until heated through, all the water has evaporated, and bottoms are crisp, 7 to 10 minutes more (remove the lid for the last 30 seconds of cooking). Slide dumplings onto a plate and wipe out skillet.

To make Chili-Soy Dressing, whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

To make succotash, heat 1 teaspoon canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add frozen edamame and chopped pepper. Sauté vegetables for 5 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove pan from heat, and stir in cilantro, green onions, potstickers and Chili-Soy Dressing. Toss to combine and serve warm.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Finally - Blueberry Picking!

Last week, Ryan and I finally made it down to Maiden Rock for some much needed blueberry picking. Since blueberry season arrived sooner than normal, we were afraid we had missed it! I frantically called John at Rush River Produce who assured me that I didn’t miss the season, but they were winding down. I was instructed to arrive by 8:00am on Thursday because those arriving after 8:45am wouldn’t have a chance at picking. Eek!

We woke up at 6:00am and hit the road by 6:30am not expecting the dense low-lying fog throughout our drive:

The view from up above.
Luckily, we made it shortly after 8:00am and got picking right away. The blueberries were abundant, but a little tart (fine with me!) Soon after, we felt the effects of the high humidity with sweat dripping off our noses and soaking our clothes. It was quite the sauna experience, but well worth it as we came away with 15 pounds of blueberries.

After a short nap (hey, I’m not used to getting up at 6:00am people!) I made the requisite blueberry pie. While I usually use flour as a thickener, the Joy of Cooking says to use cornstarch, so I tried it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t too happy with the results. The pie tastes awesome, but it feels a little more congealed gelled. I think I’ll go back to my flour method moving forward.

I also made Berry Goodness Muffins, which are my absolute favorite muffins.  Full of goodies like oat, spelt and garbanzo bean flour, applesauce and nutmeg, they also have three kinds of berries: strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. Yum!

Most of the remaining berries will be frozen, distributed to friends/family, and eaten raw, but I’m still on the hunt for other uses. Let me know your favorites!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Upcoming Class: Yes You Can Can

Being immersed in the world of food can offer some cool opportunities. Over the last year I have met some really neat people who do really neat things with food. Through my blog posts, you’ve seen me try my hand at canning and preserving and I even own the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, but I’m merely an amateur at this whole canning business. So, when a friend of mine from WWRC (Women Who Really Cook) told me she was teaching an upcoming canning class at Cooks of Crocus Hill and asked me to come over for a test run; I was thrilled at the prospect of learning from someone who has been doing it for years.

Jill Jacoby grew up on a farm in Southwestern Minnesota where she was introduced her to canning as a way to preserve unused produce on the farm. Throughout childhood she competed in 4-H and perfected her jam making process. Since moving to Minneapolis, Jill has been gleaning fruit (using fruit that would otherwise go to waste) and turning it into creative jams and jellies to sell at farmers markets under the Jilla Jellys name.

When I arrived at her house, Jill was already prepping the fruit and informed me that we’d be making a blueberry-nectarine jam as she found some nectarines that were “just ripe”, which makes for a flavorful jam.

The process was pretty simple and not as precise as I had originally thought because most fruits can be water canned safely.  However, there are still rules to follow in sterilization, time and temperature when canning. The blueberries and nectarines were boiled with sugar, pectin, and calcium.

After a few taste tests to make sure the sugar levels were okay, we poured the jam into jars and sealed them for storage.

Jill gave me some blueberry-nectarine jam to take home under the promise that I’d let it sit for a few months and then check the quality. However, based on my taste tests, the jam was just too dang good to keep on the shelf, so I broke my promise after only a couple days and dug in, eating it straight from the jar. Sorry, Jill!

Learn how to make jam with Jill at her “Yes You Can Can” class by registering online or over the phone. The class will be held at the Edina location of Cook of Crocus Hill this Sunday, August 15th from 1pm – 3pm. She will show you how to make Basic Grape Jelly, Peach Basil Chutney, Plum Brandy Jam, Tangy Sunshine Marmalade, and Apple Cinnamon Butter. My mouth is already watering at the thought of Tangy Sunshine Marmalade!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Black Bean Tostadas

My post-vacation resolution was to put off grocery shopping for as long as possible. A few things have been helpful in this:

1.) We had a bunch of food leftover from vacation
2.) Our container garden is going strong
3.) My pantry is well stocked

Already I’ve made green beans and bacon (using canned green beans and fake bacon), pepper, onion and mushroom quesadillas, pear and peanut butter oatmeal, blueberry pancakes, Swiss chard quiche, a couple batches of guacamole (I had 6 avocados leftover from vacation), iced tea, granola, and tortilla soup.

So far so good, but we’re getting to the end of our stock. In an effort to further avoid the chore of grocery shopping, we whipped together some tostadas the other night.

French Meadow Bakery sells these fantastic Sprouted Grain Tortillas that have 5 grams of fiber each. We put them in the oven at 400° for 5 minutes to brown while we sautéed a can of black beans with a little cumin and chili powder. The tostadas were topped with arugula, sorrel, and sun gold tomatoes from our container garden, diced avocado, and goat cheese. By the way, I found these little goat cheese medallions from Trader Joe’s that come in a pack of 6-1oz. portions, which are perfect if you’re only using a small amount of goat cheese each time.

Well, I’m off to clean some soy sauce spillage from the fridge so our new groceries can have a fresh and clean home!

Monday, August 9, 2010

North Shore Vacation Eats

Aw, the end of vacation…always a sad thing. We were recently up on the North Shore of Lake Superior for Ryan’s sister’s wedding and it was wonderful! The wedding took place in Two Harbors at Grand Superior Lodge where we rented a cabin for the week. The days leading up to the wedding were a little nerve racking (favors to finalize, speeches to write, rooms to decorate), but once the couple said, “I do”, the party and relaxation began.

The day after the wedding, Ryan and I took a hiking trip up to Grand Marais and had one of the best dinners ever at the Angry Trout Café. While a little pricey at $22, it was totally worth it for fresh grilled fish, tons of veggies and freshly made dressings. Check it out over on my Bite of Minnesota blog.

Another place worth mentioning is the Duluth Grill. It merely looks like a simple diner or truck stop restaurant on the outside. However, when I saw a lady exiting the restaurant with a green smoothie, my heart skipped a beat – I knew that shade of green could have only come from spirulina (my favorite smoothie addition) and I got really excited to check out the menu.

Sure enough, they had a whole flexitarian section along with a Gluten-Free section on their menu. Yipee!! I quickly decided on the Wild Rice Melt (with tons of sweet potato fries) and Ryan ordered the Bean & Tempeh Burrito. Both were excellent except for the slightly cold sweet potato fries.  We’ll definitely be stopping here again when in Duluth!

After being home for a week, it’s sinking in that vacation is over. The pictures have been posted, the laundry is done and our house is almost back in order. All we can do now is dream of our next trip to the North Shore…

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Noodles Sandwich Winners!

Yay, it's time to announce the winners in the Noodles Sandwich Giveaway!

From the looks of your comments, it seems to be a divided group.  Half of you would order the Wisconsin Cheesesteak sandwich and half of you would order the Veggie Med sandwich.  Great choices!  Luckily, three of you will get two coupons, each good for a free sandwich at Noodles so you can try them for yourselves.

I put all the entries into a hat and drew three winners:

And here are their comments:

Congratulations Dr. Tri Runner, Jesse S., and Mushi!  Send me an e-mail and I'll get those cards delivered to you soon.

Thanks to everyone for entering!
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