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.


© 2007 All writing and photography is owned by Lollya.