A Bourbon Spiked Thanksgiving

Yesterday we hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. We had a lot of reasons to celebrate. We got married this year! And, my parents are getting married after 29 years of being together! (I like to think we inspired them.) We finished our new dining room!!! And it is beautiful, Thanks Brian. It was a good time to take a break and celebrate the upswings of this so-called life.

So, I super-geeked out, eyes glued to cookbooks – real life and virtual – to nail down the perfect recipes. I had a lot of people to please, ya know. Most of all my Dad. He's the picky one and well, I am a Daddy's girl, I aim to please. I always have to encourage him to try things he so quickly dismisses based on previous experiences. And when I do, he gulps it down very appreciatively. But I also have to appeal to my foodie-friends who appreciate an unexpected and new spin on the typical Thanksgiving meal. I love a good challenge. Joy!

The Menu
Roasted Turkey & Gravy - Thanks Beth!
Ham with Bourbon, Molasses and Pecan Glaze
Smashed Cream & Butter Potatoes
Cooks Illustrated Green Bean Casserole
Apple-Chestnut Stuffing
Nikki's Sweet Potatoes
Homemade Rolls - Thanks Cheryl!
Cranberry & Orange Relish
Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

There is a lot to be thankful for. Everyone raved about the food and dining room. We ate together. We cleaned up together. And then we played Rock Band. That's right. My parents are pretty sweet and both rocked multiple instruments. We ended the night with Sara & Steve playing Scene It. I got my ass handed to me. It was a great day.

A few things I am thankful for this year:
My Dad's stable health.
A clean basement.
Pulling off an over ambitious wedding.
Taking my first motorcycle ride with Brian.
Reconnecting with old close friends.
Opening my heart to new friends.
A new phone.
Two fat cats to cuddle me.
My parents are getting married after almost 30 years together!!!


What I'm Cooking This Coming Week

I have to admit that I spend way too much time nose deep in cookbooks figuring out recipes to cook each week. From the chosen recipes, I create a grocery list - by the layout of our local store. I KNOW! It's sick, but extremely efficient. Here's this week's menu.

What I'm Cooking This Week:

Wild Rice & Dried Cherry Soup
Red Bean Kiev
Asparagus & Lemon Cream Spaghetti
Rustic Minestrone
Chickpea Salad
Orange & Almond Dessert Cakes

On deck for this weekend: African Red Pepper Peanut Soup
Since B. will be spending boy time in the woods, I will make one of my favorites.

UPDATE: 10.25, 7:44 pm: African Red Pepper Peanut Soup is in my belly. Delicious.
10.28 asparagus & lemon cream farfalle consumed.


A Few Favorites This Fall

It's Fall, and I thought I'd share with you some of my favorite things this season.

My Sontuko Knife
The oversized bamboo cutting board B picked up
French Rolling Pin
This really helps with rolling out the pastry dough for my Palmiers

Garam Masala
Great spice that's sweet and savory. I love it sprinkled on top of rice and beans.
Northwoods Fire
We love this on our breakfast potatoes and in our chili.

Aged Gouda
Brie Meritage

Great spread on a warm baguette.

Tropicana Orange Juice (it really is the best)
Get the good bacteria in ya!
Chai Americaine Tea with raw sugar and milk
What I drink before bed these days.

Arborio Rice (for risotto)

I also adore this beautiful bouquet of fall flowers. Aren't they gorgeous?


Perogies / Varenyky

The perogie is amongst one of my family's favorite recipes. it was presented by a friend of the family as an alternative to fried potatoes as a sidecar to eggs. Soft pasta dough pillows a variety of fillings - our favourite? Onions, potatoes and sharp cheddar. Boiled gently, and fried up with butter onions. fantastic.

Later on i ended up befriending a Ukrainian who signed me up as a volunteer for cooking a big dinner at the ukrainian center he danced for. I would be working with the skilled and nimble hands of the female elders in the ukrainian community over in nordeast, no pressure or anything. I loved the whole process and was eager to try a real homemade perogie.

It was decadent... smooth silky potatoes with an sharp cheesey onion flavour. They didn't fry them, just a soil boil. I noticed how the dough was more durable than i had experienced and therefore no need for a firm-up in the pan. I was hooked.

There are multiple ways to serve the varenyky but my favorite is pan fried with mounds of caramelized onions and a dollop of sour cream and snipped chives.

Let me know what you think!

Perogies or Varenyky
For dough:
3 eggs yolks
3-5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
cool tap water
pinch of salt
boiling water

3 white potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed with a little milk
1/2 large onion, diced small (save other 1/2 to fry up along side them)
1/2 cup cheddar

To make the dough:
Beat 3 egg yolks together with a fork, add two cups of cool tap water, mix thoroughly. Add salt and then flour, one cup at a time, until you have a firm dough. . Mix and knead on a floured surface, adding a little flour at a time, until you have a dough that looks smooth and shiny. Don’t overknead! Oil the dough ball, and put it into a bowl, cover with a moistened cloth, and refrigerate for a half-an-hour. *To freeze: Put ball in plastic bag at this point. When you want to use it, just pop it in the fridge to defrost.

To make the potato filling:
Mash cooked potatoes with a couple tablespoons milk.. Dice 1 onion fine, fry in cooking oil or butter, and add to the potato, let cool, mix together with potatoes.

Roll out pieces of dough on a pre-floured surface. Roll out (with floured pin) to about an 1/8-1/16 inch thick. Cut with a 3" cookie cutter (the top of a glass will work just fine). Place a tablespoon or so of the filling on half of the circle, fold over and crimp the edges shut. Take our time doing this part, it's important that they are sealed. Once you've your half-moon, place it on a floured cookie-sheet with space around it. They are sticky as hell. Cover with a floured dish cloth.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and drop the pierogies in very gently. They are done when they float. Drain and transfer to a bowl and mix lightly with butter.

Meanwhile, saute the onion diced onion. Serve with buttered perogies.

Top with sour cream and snipped chives.

To freeze cooked pierogies, place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight, then transfer to a plastic freezer bag.


Eating October

Fall is by far my most favorite time of the year. It feels like all the energy around me is rushing to take rest for the Winter. I get lost in the transformation. So today I took a walk over lunch – to the river – to drift my many thoughts down the river.

I just wandered, with no plan. Something that doesn't happen very often anymore. And something I plan to start doing more of. It really helps one stop to notice life moving around you. At the beginning of my walk to the river, I walked with a young woman who complimented me on my hat for two blocks just chatting about the day. I studied up close, the marble enveloping a building I drive by on my way home everyday, admiring the reflected patterns. I hopped up on a fountain to watch the water pour giddily into a pool. I approached the grain belt sign with intention. And when I got to the Hennepin Avenue Bridge I climbed up too high and dangled myself till I felt alive with danger. Then I hopped down in eager anticipation of a 5 minute walk further to Surdyks which houses my favorite cheese shop.

Passing by Nicollet Island, I caught a glimpse of the hugest driftwood ever, I might go back there just to take a picture. When I approached Nye's, I was welcomed with some polka which put a swing in my step. In and out of the cheese shop, wine store and butcher shop, I was back on Hennepin moving back across the bridge. Late for a creative pow-wow & fingers creased from Smith's Nut Brown carrier - I caught glimpse of a bride and groom walking for their wedding photos. It really was a quite beautiful day for photography. I felt grateful for that.

When I got home tonight, all I wanted was something hearty and light at the same time. My B. had run out to pick up some pasta and greens, so I started on an acorn squash. I know what you're thinking, ew, squash! But I'm telling you, I never once liked squash until I lived with a Greek girl who knew how to prepare it!

Here's what happened next

Penne with Roasted Acorn Squash

1 bag of penne, gluten free or regular
1 medium acorn squash
4 Tbsp butter (or olive oil if you desire)
1 onion, diced small
4 smashed garlic cloves, minced
10 sage leaves, minced
shaved fresh parm
fresh ground pepper & sea salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Split your acorn squash from stem to bottom, and scoop out the insides. (You can clean the seeds up and make roasted squash seeds...yum) Fill the pocket in each half with a tablespoon of butter. Cover the top of each with foil and place in a oven at 400 for 30 minutes or until a fork slides in easy. When cool, cut into cubes and set aside to cool.

Take your minced onions, garlic and butter and cook over a medium heat until onions achieve a brilliant caramel tone. Add minced sage, continue to fry up the herbs a bit. Set aside.

Add noodles to your salted water, boil until al dente. Drain and slide into the onion pan and continue to cook while adding a nob of butter or olive oil (your choice). You want to get a good crust on these noodles.

When you're satisfied, pull from heat and shave parm all over the top. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Be grateful for the delicious transition of Fall.


I made these French cookies which resemble tiny elephant ears to bring in this morning for my colleagues. The cookies are much more like pastries, their edges crunchy from caramelizing; the insides flaky and rich.

2 sheets of puff pastry
2 cups sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of crushed cardamom

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Grind cardamom pods in a mortar pestle until you've a fine dust. Mix the sugar, salt and cardamom dust well. On a large cutting board or counter, spread about a cup of the sugary mixture. Lay a defrosted sheet of puff pastry out. Sprinkle the pastry evenly with the sugar. Roll out the pastry to somewhere around 13x13 inches. Take one edge and roll up to the center. Do the same with the other side, you should have sort of a pretzel shape. Slice 1/2 slices and arrange on a light-coloured cookie sheet.

Bake the cookies for 6 minutes until caramelized and lightly browned on the bottom, then turn with a spatula and bake another 3 minutes, until caramelized on the other side. Transfer to a baking rack to cool. Wrap in wax paper to keep fresh.

Judging from one colleagues intake of 10 alone, I'd say they liked them.


Thank God for Rick Bayless and Bob Ross

Beans. They are amongst my most favorite things to eat. Green beans, soybeans, lentils, kidney, pinto, black and adzuki are a few of my favorites. They're just so versatile. And dammit if Rick Bayless himself didn't just make my beans – and Sunday afternoon prep work for thes work-week much easier.

The concept is flawless. The gentle and long cooking perspective helps the beans to keep their juices with them the entire time, as opposed to a soak or quick-cook method. It also allows them to keep relatively intact. The slow-cook advantage is the ability to infuse the flavors you want into the beans while cooking, therefore giving masterful depth with little effort.

Chipotle Beans
1.5 cups dry black beans
1.5 cups dry pinto beans
1 dried chipotle pepper
1 onion, chopped medium sized
1/2 head of garlic, smashed

Heat water to a boil in an electric kettle (or pot on the stove). You will need to cover your beans by about 4 inches, so keep that in mind. Give your beans a good rinse and add them to your crock-pot. Cover with boiling water. Turn crock-pot on high. Add dried chipotle, onion and garlic. Let cook for 4-6 hours or until beans are soft, but not delicate. You may need to add water as the beans expand and absorb. Beans normally increase to 3 times their size while they cook. 1 cup of dry beans will yield 3 cups cooked.

So what do we do with these beans? Well it varies, but once they are done, they usually go into a variety of recipes. Add jalapeno-tomatoes and a touch of cumin and you've got a great veg-chili. Add chopped tomatoes, green olives and avocado chunks and serve over brown rice for a great complete protein meal. Smash up and whip with cream cheese and bake for a great bean dip for chips. Serve over crushed tortilla chips, greens and sharp cheddar for a quick taco salad. Smash up with potatoes and make my Tomatillo Enchiladas! You can see why we make a pot each week.

Where's Bob Ross fit into all of this? Well, he's the master of the fan brush.


Comfort Food

While most people find themselves eating their way through a pint of Häagen Dazs in tough times, I head to the kitchen to work out my thoughts. It's the method of working the ingredients that eases my mind.

I had been thinking a lot about David Cross and how much I loved him in Just Shoot Me. There is one particular episode that never fails to cheer me up. And here is the excerpt that spawned tonights dinner. I heart David Cross. So I present you with a recipe
adapted from Food Network Kitchens Cookbook

Chicken Pot Chicken Pot Chicken Pot Pie
(let's face it, you know you wanted to hear it again)

4 chicken breasts
4 cups chicken stock
4 medium potatoes, boiled and chopped into large chunks
2 carrots, sliced
handful of snow peas
4 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smushed and roughly chopped
couple sprigs of thyme
sprig of rosemary

Biscuit Dough
2 cups of flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold butter, chopped
3/4 cup milk
olive oil for brushing the tops

Stew Filling
Bring a pot of water to boil. Toss in your chopped potatoes and boil until soft, set aside. Drop in the sugar snap peas to blanch - this is mainly to keep the colour of the peas vibrant. Scoop them out after a few minutes and set aside.

Take your chicken breasts and put them into a pan. Cover completely with chicken stock and pop the lid on. Poach for 20 mins. Take off heat, let cool and then shred the chicken roughly with two forks, set aside. Reserve stock.

Melt butter in another pan and add the carrots, onion and garlic. Cook until soft. Make a roux by adding 1/3 cup of flour slowly. Once you've worked that in, whisk in the reserved stock. Once it's pulled together into a bit of a gravy, add the potatoes, sugar snap peas and chicken. Stir gently to combine. Season with herbs, salt and pepper. Pour into a ceramic baking dish.

Biscuit Dough
Whisk flour together with baking powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Work small amounts of butter into the flour with your fingertips. You should be aiming for pea-sized pieces (this helps with the flakiness factor). Gently stir in the milk until it forms a loose dough. Flour a kneading board and pat the dough into a rough rectangle about 1/2 thick. Fold the dough into thirds. Then pat out into a disc. Place dough on top of stew and cut a few breathing holes. Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.

Cook for about 20 minutes or until the top has become golden brown. Let sit for a good 5 minutes to set.

Think of David Cross while you eat it.


Banana Bread with Walnut Butter

I woke up this morning to a familiar scent from my past. Slighty sweet, a bit spicy. It was just for a second. Memories triggered by smell always seem to linger just enough for you to recognize it and then on second sniff, it's gone. The smell was banana bread, my Grandmother's and I had to try to replicate it.

Grandma Ruth's been gone now for 8 years, and lately she's become more present in my life. For such a long time it was too painful to think about her. Too emotional to sort through her belongings, let alone depart with them. This year has been a year of dealing with the past and preparing for the future, with B. I'm fortunate to have such a loving, understanding and supportive partner to open up old wounds and learn to heal them.

My Nana made the best banana bread and as hard as I've tried - I cannot get mine even close to hers. Her breads were the color of maple syrup, had a sticky top and you could see the banana threads swirl throughout the loaf. It resembled more a cake than a bread and sliced well. Although I'm going to keep at trying to nail down a recipe close to hers - there's a sweet satisfaction in knowing it will never taste as truly good without her having made it.

It's silly, but I need to get this recipe down, I'd like to introduce my own kids to it someday.

Today's recipe is a simple recipe, and one that seemed to fit my Grandma's style. Simple banana bread, no nuts, oats or fuss. Scented with vanilla - it's a moist and wet bread.

Quest for Nana's Nana Bread #1
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1.4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3.4 brown sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/3 cups of ripe, mashed bananas

For the Walnut Butter:
handful of walnuts
couple tablespoons of soft butter

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 2 9x3 inch loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Do not over-stir. Pour batter evenly into greased pans. Bake for about 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Grind walnuts in a mortar & pestel. Mix walnuts into butter.

I like to slice off a piece as I go and lightly butter. It's how my Nana did it.

*I can tell by the un-sticky surface of the bread that this isn't my Grandma's recipe...but damn it's still good. The mission continues...


Wedding Bliss

I know I haven't been around much lately, and that's because something very cool was unfolding in my life. I was devoted to planning a wedding for myself and B. I have to admit we didn't eat well while we were in the last few months of nailing down details! The day after the wedding I cooked all day long. It was a great, guilty pleasure to get back into our kitchen and start being productive again – and what better cause to celebrate than cooking a great big feast for my new husband?

I feel so much lighter in my heart knowing I've been truly chosen. I've always had this craving of belonging to someone in a more serious way. Our commitment was always there, but there is something to be said for standing up and declaring it in front of your family and closest friends that makes it real. I've never felt more balance in a relationship. The love flows both ways and is just as deep from one to the other. I am a lucky woman, he, a lucky man.

What better way to celebrate than with food?

Soon after, we headed down to Playa del Carmen for our honeymoon. Some righteous new friends had mentioned a condo their parents owned about 40 mins from where we had intended to stay. It was beautiful. We quickly decided to not be tourists and just enjoy timeless days together. We took one day trip the entire week. It was through Altournative Tours, which is a really cool company devoted to conservation. You can read about their mission here. We decided to go on the Jungle Crossing Tour into Rancho San Felipe, a small Maya family community where the Nohoch Nah Chich Cenote system is located (one of the longest explored underground river systems in the world). It was here, I tasted what the locals call Jamaica. The tea is made from Hibiscus petals, which are steeped with sugar in water. Omuhgosh. Sweet nectar of the gods. This divine treat is super easy to make and will make your kool-aid cry.


4 cups water
1/2 cup dried jamaica flowers
1/2 cup sugar
4 cups of cold water
lime slices, for garnish and a good squeeze

Serve with sugar to taste

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Remove the water from heat and add the dried flowers and sugar. Pop a lid over the pot and let steep for at least 10 minutes. About midway through, give a gentle stir to help the sugar dissolve.

Strain the tea into a large pitcher. Remember to take her easy, this stuff stains! You have a concentrated tea, so now you will want to add in another 4 cups. Stir thoroughly. Taste and adjust the amount of sugar based on your tastes. Chill. Pour over ice or drink it straight like a tough-guy. Slurp happily.

Now, do me proud and go get yourself a bag of Hibiscus flowers at your local Mexican Grocer.


Risotto Breakfast Cakes

Oh my. I have the house to myself this weekend and when that happens you bet your ass I'm cooking up a storm! The afternoon rolled-in the gloom yesterday with a dreary long-lasting shower over the northern suburbs of Minneapolis. Hmmm, what to make? I had asparagus and zucchini in the chiller...

I decided on Asparagus & Roasted Tomato Risotto. I just love this. I love it because 1 batch gets us dinner with enough left over to make Riso al Salto (Risotto Breakfast Cakes) for breakfast the next morning - sweet!

Riso al Salto Towers

cooled leftover risotto
eggs (1 per person - for tops)
Parmesan curls
fresh herbes (a nice touch - not to worry if you don't have them, it will be just as delicious - maybe parsley or chives)

1. So you take your chilled risotto and form it into palm size patties. Pour a bit of olive oil in your cast iron and place the patties in. Once they've browned, flip over. Pull them out on a plate when both sides have formed a nice crust.

2. Delicately crack two eggs into a warmed and lightly oiled pan. Fry them to your desired.

3. Place risotto cake on your plate, top with a fried egg and sprinkle with Parmesan curls and fresh herbes of your choice.

A great way to complete two meals with one dish. Rock.


Muy Caliente!

Oh Baby! Huevos Rancheros, you rocked my world this morning with your sweet allure and spicy deliverance! You served me up with a smoky satisfying brunch smack-down of succulence.

I was feeling a little sassy this morning regarding breakfast. This is a great thing, you know. I'm on the upswing once again.

Life has been a series of changes for me lately and I know it's a growth spurt, but damn I have been trying to be everything to everyone and I just need some time to focus on me. Cooking helps center me. Even better is when I get to show my feelings through the food I create.

Huevos Racheros

Chili-spiked beans:
1 15 oz can pinto beans - not drained
1 small red pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. chipotle powder
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
pinch cayenne

Jalapeno Home Slices:
2 russet potatoes, thinly sliced discs
1/2 medium onion, sliced in half moons
1 jalapeno, sliced in discs
sea salt
sploosh of Heart Healthy canola oil

Fluffy Eggs:
2 large organic eggs
splash of milk
sea salt
fresh pepper

Corn tortillas:
fresh corn tortillas
fresh lime
sea salt
sploosh of Heart Healthy canola oil

corn grits

cilantro, chopped
shredded extra sharp cheddar
hot sauce
fagé yogurt or sour cream

Start your Home Slices by heating 2 Tbsp canola oil in a cast-iron pan. Drop in your russet slices (carefully), once browned on one side, flip over and add in onions and jalapenos. Once close to done, push everything to one side of the pan, and add a sploosh of canola oil, drop two corn tortillas in and brown on each side. Pull them out, sprinkle with lime juice and sea salt.

To make the beans
Sauté onions, red pepper & garlic until lightly browned. Add spices and mix. After about 30 seconds, add the beans and simmer on low.

Make polenta according to directions on the package for two servings. Add in 1/4 cup of sharp cheddar cheese and 1 Tbsp chipotle powder, mix well, set aside. (if it thickens up too much, add a tad of water and mix through before serving.)

Fluffy eggs are basically scrambled, cooked on low heat and flipped often throughout the pan. I prefer to cook mine in a saucepan so they don't dry out.

When everything is ready, place one corn tortilla down on your plate, top with a good spoonful of chili beans and a scoop of fluffy eggs. Top with cilantro and shredded cheese. Squeeze some lime on top. Serve with fixin's.

Savor the spice.


I grill when I want!

Rain won't stop me. I'm Minnesotan, for chrissakes.

I was thinking about grilling out all day long. I knew I was going to the store for the b. to pick up some animal, so I picked up a few veggies to roast and the ingredients for a new bean burger recipe I had been wanting to try out.

Our menu tonight was Rib-eye steak, seasoned with Diane's Seasoning (thanks Wright!) Roasted Vegetables, rustic chopped potatoes, zucchini, onions and cauliflower - tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt & pepper and with a little rosemary and thyme tucked in. Pinto Bean Burger, consisting of mushrooms, onions, pinto beans & spices.

It was good.



Well I never let you know - but I've been without a functioning camera lens for quite awhile. And, to be honest, I was not digging on blogging without an image to put to it.

Enter my beloved B. He truly knows when to show up and make my day. He surprised me with a new lens so I could get back to bloggin (and cooking!)

We've been working out most days each week and it's really changed how we're living. Getting up at 5 am is a regular occurance. Coffee is a reward for a hard workout. And now it's time to start changing our food to be a bit lighter. It only makes sense.

I found this wonderful recipe for this cornmeal dish. It's light and extravagant. It's lush and bright.

Grilled Polenta With Garlic-Tomato Sauce

3 cups vegetable broth
1.5 c cornmeal
2 tablespoons butter
minced small onion
2 on -the-vine tomatoes
olive oil
salt & pepper
snipped chives

1 piece of bread (gf or regular)
1 garlic clove
1/2 c walnuts
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil

1. Bring stock to boil and add cornmeal, stir till thickened a bit (around 4 minutes) and stir in butter and onions. Pour into a lightly greased baking sheet and spread evenly. Let cool.

2. Tear the bread into pieces place in a bowl with a bit of water, let soak 5 minutes. Squeeze the water out of the bread, set aside. Pound garlic & a sprinkle of salt until it forms a paste. Add walnuts, continue working the paste. Add the bread, then lemon juice, working each one in until fully incorporated. Drizzle in the olive oil until the sauce becomes thick.

3. Heat up your grill or use a stove-top grill pan.

4. Cut polenta into squares or triangles and brush with olive oil on each side.

5. Slice tomatoes in 6 pieces. Toss in olive oil.

6. Cook the polenta and tomatoes until you get a decent crust on the polenta and the tomatoes have softened. This takes about 4 minutes.

7. Plate your grilled polenta, top with tomatoes and pour the garlic-walnut sauce over the whole she-bang.



Heirloom Spring Quinoa

We have a great restaurant in downtown Minneapolis called Zelo. I blame them for the love affair I have going with quinoa, a grain I hadn't experienced until after being diagnosed with a wheat intolerance. Holy delicious. And very under-utilized. Everyone I know who tastes it's delicate nuttiness - falls into submissive lust with it. The lure is strong due to it's balanced set of essential amino acids, which makes it a complete protein in and of itself. Sweet. Quinoa delivers a hearty dose of magnesium, a mineral that helps relax blood vessels for those prone to migraines. Double sweet. After enjoying their Heirloom Grain Chopped Salad from Zelo, I just had to try to recreate it, gluten-free style.

    1 cup quinoa
    1 cup loosely packed arugula
    6 asparagus spears, blanched, popped into cold water and sliced on the bias
    2 scallions, rinsed and sliced on the bias
    10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
    1/2 avocado, sliced into chunks
    2 ounces dill havarti or fresh provolone cubed into 1/2 " pieces
    8 hearts of palm, chopped into cubes
    2 tbsp lemon peel, microplanes, no pith
    3 Tbsp lemon juice
    3-4 good glugs of olive oil
    2 generous shavings of fresh parmesan to top each serving
  1. Cook quinoa according to directions on package, pour into bowl and stir every so often to cool (make sure you rinse the quinoa first -very important)
  2. Blanch asparagus, shock in ice water and slice on the bias, toss in bowl
  3. Slice scallions thin on the bias, toss in bowl
  4. Halve tomatoes and toss into bowl
  5. Cube avocado, toss into bowl and pour lemon juice over it
  6. Cube havarti or provolone and toss in
  7. Chop hearts of palm and toss in
  8. Microplane lemon peel and toss in
  9. Add in arugula
  10. Pour in olive oil to get a light coat and mix
  11. Salt and pepper to taste and top each serving with a couple shaves of fresh parmesan

    Be grateful for food so pure.


A Super Fresh Asparagus Soup

Minneapolis is a wise-guy city. It's joke today is a snow storm forecast - two weeks into Spring. It got me thinking, what could I make that would entice Spring to follow through while keeping myself warm on a cool and snowy Spring day? I decided on an asparagus soup, one of my favorite recipes. Asparagus is in season and this recipe takes no time, and the reward...is huge.

1 pound fresh asparagus, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

3/4 cup vegetable broth homemade or bought

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons GF Flour or all-purpose flour

salt and pepper - a dash of each to taste - go easy

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth homemade or bought

2 cups milk, or soymilk

Shaved Parmesan

sprinkle of lemon juice (about a 2 tbsp or a half lemon) - to taste
top with asparagus tips and chopped chives

  1. Place asparagus and onion in a saucepan with 3/4 cup vegetable broth. Bring the broth to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer until the vegetables are tender.
  2. Reserve a few asparagus tips for garnish. Place remaining vegetable mixture in an electric blender and puree until smooth.
  3. Melt butter in the pan that was used for simmering the asparagus and onions. Stir while sprinkling flour, salt, and pepper into the butter. Stir to form a roux. Do not let the flour brown. Allow the mixture to cook only 2 minutes. Stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth and increase the heat. Continue stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Stir the vegetable puree and milk into the saucepan. Whisk in lemon juice. Stir until heated through, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with reserved asparagus tips. Sprinkle with Parmesan.
Slurp it up.



Meat is back.
At least for me it might be. With a scarlet letter "C" looming over me and with the help of responsible farmers like the Fleishers I just might have a go at it.

Sounds easy right? Not so much. I've been a strict vegetarian for, oh I'd say almost half of my life. For those of you who don't know me, that's about 16 years. Those of you who do know me - see I am old. ::wink:: Too often a lifestyle choice of vegetarianism brings forth a negative air from the carnivores. It's understandable for sure. I have often experienced the shock style spite-spew of some very righteous vegetarians myself. It's why I don't back Peta. It's all in the approach and I hate their woo.

I've been asked my views and reasons on being a vegetarian many times. Sometimes people have been rude about it but more often I think most people are just curious. There's a whole slew of reasons why one chooses to eat the way they do. For me it's a lot of things that collectively got me to where I am.

I grew up a Meat-n-Potatoes Kid. My grandmother Ruth was a dominant icon in our household. There were to be meals of meat, potatoes and of course, a side of vegetables (corn or green beans) when possible. Accompanying this was spongy white bread with loads of real butter. Our salads, if they showed up at all, were iceberg. The crisp, watery green was adorned with a pre-shred of cheddar, drizzled with Russian dressing and spotted with croutons. The recurring meats were roast beef, meatloaf and chicken dumplings. I loved those dinners. Usually I was just happy because it meant there were mashed potatoes with gravy. I swear to all things holy, if my grandmother were still alive and cooked any of those items for me, I would gorge myself on them without a second thought.

My mom Doreen was a vegetarian. Always questioned voraciously by my grandmother about her quirky choice, she held fast and continued to compile colourful meals for herself. Never one to push her views on someone, she always answered with a vague response. As a child consumed with colour, I gradually was more attracted to the hues of my mother's meals and started eating more of them.

I am very inquisitive. I always need to know how or why or what. I needed to know why my mom didn't eat meat. So I read everything I could find on the subject. Knowledge can change your life. I would definitely encourage learning about the practices of the meat industry. I don't see it as a reason to deny meat, but rather to choose selectively when purchasing.

I was about 16 when I stopped eating meat. Reading dozens of books on it I found myself disturbed by the barbaric practices. It repulsed me. I lived on pasta dishes, rice a roni and a few vegetables. In college the atmosphere lent itself well to the practice. Vegetarianism was a good way to define myself. It was in college that I started to experiment with cooking with whole foods for the first time, but with a limited budget I fell back on standards and fast food. Oh yes, a # 2 - cheeseburgers without the meat. ::chortle:: no seriously. It was a trick I had learned from a fellow Veg. Little did I know at the time, my fries were animal lard dunked.

After college I found myself a job at a large ad agency downtown. I moved out on my own and started experimenting with better ingredients. I shopped at the farmers market weekly and compiled fantastic veggie meals.

Which brings me to today. I cook every day. It truly is a release, a meditation if you will. My week is planned out by what I want to cook. It's not that I'm obsessed with food, it's more that I just love a satisfying moan from someone who just tasted my food. Selfish right?

This past summer I found out I was sensitive to wheat. It has changed the way I feel about the food I consume. What I can eat safely has changed so dramatically. This summer I picked up the book Heat, by Bill Buford. It really changed the way I felt about meat. After that it was Shauna James Ahern's book, Gluten Free Girl which ran parallel with my own experiences. When I cut the wheat out of my diet, I started feeling better. I was having less headaches and feeling less anxious. More recently I caught a show about Fleisher's on PBS. "You can see inside the animal how they were treated." What a true statement. Raising an animal on their natural diet is better for them, the environment and us. After watching this I really felt that it sums up how I feel about meat. I've never been anti-meat. I just think we owe it to be conscious of what we put into our bodies and the way it gets there. Check it out, and let me know what you think about it.

I'm still on the fence about a complete return to meat, but I'm curious.


The salad I'm hooked on.

I love me a big mess of salad.

This salad that I am about to share with you has been easing me through these grainy-gray days with it's promise of summer.

I picked up these greens at my local Trader Joes and have been hooked since. What's that you say? You desire a plethora of greens and reds running through herbes in a European bath of flavors? Delivered. How about a promise that this Spring I will begin a series of salads studies to share with you? That rocks, right?

Organic Baby Lettuces from Trader Joes include red and green romaine, red and green oakleaf, lollo rosa tango, red and green chard, mizuna, aruguls, frisee, radicchio, parsley, cilantro and dill! It's amazing, inexpensive and a great shortcut.

Messa Salad
1 bag of Herbe Salad
4 discs sliced from a beautiful herbed goat cheese
handful of dried cherries
handful of fresh walnuts

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - about 3 Tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar - a good glug to taste
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
Smidge of mustard - I love Surdyk's Herbes de Provence one, but a grainy or dijon would work nicely
Sea salt & fresh cracked pepper

Empty out your bag of greens into a large bowl
Slice your discs of goat cheese (you can crumble too if you like)
Toss in your handful of cherries followed by the walnuts

In a small bowl pour in a good splash of balsamic vinegar. Pour in your sugar. Grab a mini whisk (or fork) and pull out about a 1/2 teaspoon of mustard, add to the mix and start whisking. Pour in oil while mixing to create and emulsion. Salt and Pepper to taste. If it is too tart, add a bit more sugar, if there is not enough bite, add a bit more balsamic. This dressing is an easier and more affordable way to freshly dress your greens. Once you get the hang of it you can tweak the ingredients by adding other elements to intensify your haystack of green goodness.

Dig in and get messy. I promise it will be worth it.


I feel Spring.

Oh it's coming. I can feel it in my toes. The lightness of it all. The tippy-tops of grass being unearthed, the squirrels doing their waltz across the trees. I love it. It is, after all, my second favourite place to pause in the cycle of seasons.

I have to giggle when people ask me, "Why the hell would anyone want to live in Minnesota?" It's always such an assuming question. It's cold, right? What on Earth could possibly be remotely worthy to make someone endure such extreme temperatures?

I'll let you in on a secret. The magic is in seeing everything around you succumb to it's fate and return to the earth from which it came. It's through this transition a person realizes the impermanence of life and the care of design in everything around us. It's in the way Spring bounces onto the scene and breathes life into the ground to awaken the green. It's seeing beauty in the journey.

And with that simple answer to why, I bring forth an unfathomably divine risotto that my sweet b. made me for Valentine's Day. He really knows how to surprise me with the most fantastic meals! Since the asparagus is forging it's way into the market and tasting better and better the closer it gets to it's top season, I figure I will put this one out there just in case you see some good green unearthing in your supermarket.

Asparagus & Roasted Tomato Risotto
1 pound fresh asparagus, ends snapped
pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small minced onion.
5 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups Arborio Rice
3 tablespoons butter
fresh-cracked black pepper
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
splash of extra virgin olive oil
pinch of sea salt

Snap the ends off from your asparagus and put them into a large pot. Pour enough water in to cover them up. Cook them for about 5-7 minutes. Pluck the asparagus out of your pan and plunge into cold water. Add your stock to the pot of water you just pulled the asparagus from. Bring this mix to a soft simmer. Line up the asparagus on your cutting board and slice into 1 inch pieces. Reserve your tips for garnish.

Take your cherry or grape tomatoes and throw them on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Shoo them into the oven at 350 until they pop and roast up all pretty like.

In your Dutch Oven, add 1 tablespoon butter, your olive oil and the minced onion. Cook onion until translucent over medium heat. Then add in your asparagus, minus the tips. Add rice, remembering that a good risotto requires constant stirring. But it's oh so worth it. Begin adding the heated broth 1/2 cup at a time, taking care to make sure it's all absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup. Continue on your way until the rice gives a bit when tasted. It's a personal deal, but we like our risotto to be rich and creamy with the rice a just a bit firm. It should take around 20 minutes or so...just keep going till you love it. Because you will. I promise.

So then comes the bling. Add the rest of the butter and about 1/8 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Top your - God-given right to a decent dinner - with the asparagus tips, the roasted tomatoes and a decent shave of the remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Crack some pepper across that bad boy. Ferociously devour.


A Helpful Post

I find myself writing this entry today because I've hit a blip of frustration in navigating my way through a gluten-dusted world before. I know what it's like. The frustration at realizing slowly that your list of common dining options are vanishing. You find that you must seek out new pathways - and be less resistant. When first hearing you should steer clear of wheat, you believe your cereal eating habits are restricted. You don't consider that meeting your friends up at Fireside Pizza is now not-a-happening. You also don't consider that grabbing a sammy at Jimmy John's isn't an option either, even if you have to work through your lunch and had no time to prepare your lunch that morning cause you slept in an extra 10 minutes. Responsibility is bitch-slapped onto your face. You are gently guided into making healthier decisions in your eating. And although it seems downright evil and unfair in the beginning, at some point you realize you are feeling better, looking better and not so pissed anymore.

I've always liked to cook. As a child I often was the side-kick assembler to my Grandma's pot roast or Heinz-smothered meatloaf. As an adult I often hear my friends and family express cooking to be time-consuming and find the results, "Not worth it."

So all of this brings me to share with you -the lonely pioneer- what i know, as you head out on your own gluten free journey. Pony up to the challenge. It's not going away.

Here's some starting points.

Investigate optional shopping markets. That's right. Get out there an explore what your city/town/blip-on-the-map has to offer. Hell, even Blue Earth, Minnesota has a Co-op and they ring in at 3,395 people. If you live in the city, look for Trader Joe's, Fresh & Natural Foods, Whole Foods, Kowalskis, Byerly's, Lunds, any specialty store. Search around you many even have a Gluten Free Bakery nearby that can make a cupcake to tide you over till you get a recipe working for ya.

I'm going to lay out some resources that I rely on, for people who are from the Twin Cities area.

Trader Joe's
This place obviously cares about people with food obstacles. There is one located in Maple Grove and one residing in St. Louis Park. Here is a list of all of their gluten free products. I suggest printing out the list and highlighting some things that sound good to you for your first trip there, it really helps.

Some of my favorites include:
The flour-less chocolate torte is a divine pick-up. Grab a few varieties of berries and some heavy cream to whip for the top, and voila, dessert. For crackers I really like Savory Thins, which are sesame flavored. They definitely have an Asian flare to them which I adore. I also enjoy the Almond Crackers by Blue Diamond. One of my favorite finds at Trader Joe's are the Veggie Flaxseed Tortilla Chips, they are healthful and taste fantastic. GF French Rolls in the bakery section can be frozen and used when you don't have time to prepare your own bread. These are a bit greasy, but great for Saturday morning egg & cheese sandwiches.

Speaking of bread...

Madwoman Bakery
Might as well just go straight here for the best GF bread in town, if you are not interested in making your own. Madwoman packs a full bakery case of gluten free goodies sure to please. They also carry a small but sure line of specialty items, such as GF lasagna noodles, crackers, cookies and frozen foods. I really enjoy the carrot cake bars and the peanut butter frosted chocolate cupcakes. The owners of Madwoman Bakery are wicked nice and will make you feel at ease. Pick up some Kombucha - it is chuck-full of pro-biotics which will help heal some of the GF symptoms you might be experiencing. I really dig on the Mango and Divine Grape flavors. Madwoman also carries books about food allergies, and there are tables to lounge at while you review the many offerings while noshing on treats. I picked up Wheat Free Worry Free by Danna Korn. It helped me to learn what wheat was actually doing inside of my body. It also gives a ton of information on what to look out for as well as how to cope with questions from family and friends, which can be very challenging and overwhelming.

Next, you can head to The Wedge, over in Uptown. This place is great for quite a few reasons. First off, they have a great assortment of things that will help you out when you aren't ready, or don't have the time to cook from scratch. For example, pick up Tinkyada Pasta there. It's some of the best GF pasta you'll find. I tried corn, quinoa, and assorted rice versions before settling on this sturdy brand. It's closest in texture to wheat pasta, and holds up to sauce. Start there, then branch out when you're ready for other tastes and textures. Tinkyada produces noodles in varying shapes which is nice too. Also on hand in the refrigerated section are brown rice and corn flour tortillas. You'll need those, they are great for wraps (although a bit crumbly) quesadillas and enchiladas. Down the bakery isle, you will find mixes for bread, pizza crust, brownies and pancakes, all gluten free. It's pricey, but one thing at a time. In the cookie isle, there are gluten free gingersnaps that are way worth it. There are frozen GF breads and crusts, do try them, I preferred the mixes when I started. Bob's Red Mill does a GF flour mix that I used chronically until I started understanding the way flours worked. Do not miss the deli. I repeat, do not miss the deli. Everyday in case are fresh made options just for you. Want an egg salad sandwich, but don't have time to make bread, check. Want a deliciously warm GF morning muffin, check. Want a GF pasta salad, but not the mushy leftover, check.

One of the best places I could recommend besides TJ's, Madwoman & Wedge is Fresh & Natural Foods. This one is new for me...but do check it out. They carry a wonderful assortment of produce as well as many items that are gluten free.

I know it's a bunch of looking around, testing and shopping at various places to keep your pantry stocked. But get over to Madwoman to relieve your stress of missing bread and baked goods, that will put you in a better mood to shop.

And I know that it's hard, believe me. Just a couple months ago, I threw homemade pasta dough on the floor in the "all time best hissy fit" a 31 year old could throw when it wouldn't hold together after an Italian GF blog told me it would. Grrr, bastards.

Just know, I understand. I so do. I have for the last 5 years held a dream of being a personal chef to my nearest and dearest family and friends. I was even working on a business plan. Then all of this happened.

I had stopped in at Madwoman one day to get a pick-me-up cupcake. I was low. I told him of my plans to prepare inspired and healthy meals for my family and friends. I told him of how I thought often of my family with multiple tastes and how I'd just like to deliver a dish that could satisfy them all. I told him of two of my best friends who struggle with their weight and love of food and how I wanted to be the person that stocked their fridge with delicious options they loved, instead of the Seattle Suttons standards, of which they selectively consumed. I wanted to express my concern for kids not eating their vegetables, on the same path to where I was today, as a 31 year old. He stopped me and said this: "We need you. Don't give up. We need you."

All my passion lies in food. I may not be able to join you all at the cool new pasta bar on the corner. I may not even be able to partake in that wonderfully decadent birthday cake from Wuollets. But I will cook for you. I do a pretty good job. And it's nice to be needed, isn't it?

Hope this helps.


Tomatillo, Potato & Pinto Enchiladas

Most days I walk into the kitchen as my therapy of the day. Some days I cook for hours...barely delivering food for my family before 9pm. But some days I am finding I need something a little less consuming. Something that serves up quality taste in a timely manner. I present you with the best damn enchiladas that have ever passed my lips. I love enchiladas. Besides rocking the vegetarian world with taste, these here enchiladas will make a meat monger drool with pleasure.

2 large potatoes, diced, skins on

4 Tbsp ketchup

olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 teaspoon garlic salt

pinch cayenne

1 (15.5 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped, save some for top

6 corn or flour tortillas

1 jar tomatillo salsa (you can make your own as well)

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese – shredded

sour cream to serve

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). In a bowl, toss diced potatoes together with ketchup, cumin, chili powder, garlic salt, and cayenne, and place in a lightly oiled baking dish. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, mash pinto beans in a mixing bowl with a potato-masher. When potatoes are done, add to the mashed pinto beans and mash all together. Add most of the chopped cilantro, leaving just enough to sprinkle on top after you pull the enchiladas out of the oven.
  3. Grab yourself a tortilla and stuff it, I mean, no whimpy enchiladas. Fill that sucker. Roll it up and place in baking dish seam side down. Continue rolling until you have used up all the mixture. Pour tomatillo salsa over the entire pan of enchiladas until you’ve got a good coat on em.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, pull out, sprinkle with the shredded sharp cheddar cheese and stick it back in until it’s melted.
  5. Pull out the enchiladas and sprinkle with remaining cilantro.
  6. Serve with sour cream


African Red Pepper Peanut Soup

I've been slacking here. It's not my fault really, the camera went off and died on me. B says it's the lens, which apparently is a better part to break than the motor. But, blog without a photo? EEK. Lucky for me, I have a ton of food photos to blog about.

It's been a pretty unkind Winter here in Minneapolis. The sun has even seemed to be running from the cold and wind.

Enter my recipe for an African Peanut Soup. It's sure to warm up your inside. This soup is such a crazy mix of tastes I have never experienced. The first time I made it, I went straight back for more and even made a new batch the very next day. If you enjoy Pad Thai, Curries, Peanut sauces or just peanut butter in general, get on with making this.

Here we go:
3 Tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped fine

2 large red bell peppers, chopped fine

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 cans tomatoes with green chilies (Mexican tomatoes)

8 cups vegetable stock

2 Tbsp chili powder

1 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 cups cooked brown rice

salt and pepper to taste

How to put it all together:
  1. Place olive oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Cook onions and red peppers until slightly caramelized and tender add the chili powder, mix. Add garlic towards the end. Stir in tomatoes, vegetable stock and salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  2. Stir in peanut butter really well, add in rice and cook 10 more minutes, with the pot covered.


On Being Spontaneous

The best results sometimes come from spontaneously throwing something together out of what you have. We do that a lot in my house - one because I like to make things up to feel like a real chef, and two - I'm not one to run to the store over slight imperfections in ingredients on hand. It may be the only place in my life where I am truly spontaneous. ::wink::

So this is based off from my favorite mac and cheese recipe, which I have yet to share. I will post that here soon. I just wanted to get this up. I'm really wanting to share my food with others since the interest is high right now. This version substituted traditional Gruyere and Parmesan with what was in my cheesebox - Aged Gouda and Parmesan.

The GF pasta dish turned out SO well - I even used GF breadcrumbs and it was very hard to tell the difference from my original recipe. Yay for GF individuals everywhere.

The dish is plated with a version of my favorite salad as of late. That too shall come...


Seared Salmon on Coconut Spinach

In my world there is no better way to start off a year than to cook a new and delicious meal for my love. So I settled on a surprise meal of Seared Salmon rested on Coconut Curry Spinach. I adapted this recipe from a few recipes, but worked mainly from Donna Hay's gem. I enhanced her version with more vegetables for me and cooked up some spiced brown rice to serve it over. I hope you enjoy.

Get yourself a big ol' fresh piece of salmon. Pop it into a shallow dish with 2 tsp. fresh grated ginger, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 2 tablespoons Tamari (or soy sauce for those of you okay with wheat). Marinate this about 5 minutes on each side. When ready, cook in a high heat frying pan - 1 minute on each side or toss whole deal into the oven/toaster oven for about 20 minutes at 350 or until you are happy with the pinkness.

Onto the curry.

A small pot will do to boil up a couple yukon gold potatoes. Once soft, cube and let cool.

If you'd like some rice, cook up what you will. I made brown rice according to instructions on the package.

Grab a pan out and pop in 1 small diced onion, fry until translucent. Add in 2 cloves of crushed and minced garlic, 2 small red chilies, seeded and chopped and 2 tablespoons Asian chili or red curry paste. Cook for around 2 minutes and then add one can of coconut cream (not milk) the potato cubes and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add one bag of pre-washed spinach, mix until it wilts.

To plate, put a bit of rice down, slide the salmon next to it and smother with the coconut spinach mixture.

Go back for seconds. And thirds.


Wild Rice & Dried Cherry Soup

That's right, you heard me. I know you're thinking...a vegetarian wild rice soup? Yes. With cherries? Oh yes! And it's fabulous. I'd even go as far as more fabulous than the original deal with chicken and flour base. Yay!

Let's get down to bid-ness.

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add one carrot, one celery stalk and one medium onion, all finely chopped to the pan, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender. This should take around 8 to 10 minutes. Once this is ready, add 3 tablespoons of flour (I used GF, but you can use regular) and mix well. Add in 3 cups of vegetable stock (or chicken if you wish) slowly until all lumps are gone. Let soup continue to cook for about 5 minutes so that the base can thicken. Add in 2 cups of cooked wild rice and 1/2 cup of dried cherries. Turn down your heat to low, stir occasionally and simmer soup for about 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of heavy cream or half-and-half. Salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fried sage leaves if you wish.

Eat all of it because it is delicious.


© 2007 All writing and photography is owned by Lollya.