The Squeaky Green Machine Meets The Green Goddess

The minute that I saw this recipe I knew I had to make it. Everything about it called out to me, especially the title: Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwich. It sounded like the perfect meal for this Squeaky Green Machine.

After much deliberation and consultation with The Girlfriend, I decided to pair my Green Goddess from Taste Spotting with a spicy red lentil soup from EatingWell. You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that I cut some corners with these recipes.

For the Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwich, I confess that I used premade pesto. I also used herb & garlic goat cheese and Havarti on my local grocery store’s multigrain bakery bread. Next time I make these (and there will definitely be a next time), I’m going to do it on my George Foreman Grill and use more avocado.

I made the spicy red lentil soup the night before and it reheated beautifully. I didn’t have any tomato paste on hand, so I used a package of the Oven-Candied Summer Tomatoes that I had in the freezer. I skipped the spicy oil and just squirted a bunch of srirachi on top. This soup made a tasty lunch the next day when eaten at room temperature, but I wished for some pita or naan for dipping.

The Mother could hardly wait to get her hands on her Green Goddess and I felt the same. I could barely get a picture taken before diving in:

soup and sandwich

Breakfast of Champions: Green Juice

I don’t know about you, but I think this looks like the perfect breakfast for a Squeaky Green Machine:

green juice

Green juice to power a girl through the morning.

Inspired by the Spinach-Apple juice recipe from EatingWell (which is REALLY GOOD), I decided to experiment and threw everything but the kitchen sink into it.

I had two Honey Crisp apples, a green bell pepper, some kale, an inch of ginger, a couple stalks of celery and half a grapefruit – the combination ended up being pretty tasty.

The Husband, I might mention, does not think this looks appetizing at all and could not be compelled to try it. I hope that you live adventurously and give it a go!

Weekend Delights: Local Food and Craft Fairs

It was a great to finally have a weekend off with The Husband. We decided to kick things off Saturday with breakfast at The Blackbird. We haven’t been there since a fire destroyed their original location and we weren’t disappointed.

The Husband savored the Earl Gray Tea Forté from Tea Source:

tea time

While I took in the decor:
friends plaque

My breakfast deserves center stage: The Tofu Scramble. I’m glad that I took our server’s advice (especially the addition of red pepper), it was SO GOOD:

tofu scramber

Marinated tofu, broccoli, spinach, hash browns, toast & apricot preserves (vegetarian)

The Husband had the Sweet Potato Biscuits & Gravy with a side of eggs. He had been apprehensive about the biscuits being sweet potato, but his eyes lit up when he took his first bite. He said the sweetness of the biscuit was the perfect combination with the saltiness of the sausage gravy:

bisquits and gravy

The Husband described his breakfast as “a really clever twist on a classic.”

On the way home, we stopped at the Nokomis Community Center for the Nokomis Urban Craft Fair. This is the third time I’ve been, the fifth year that they’ve held it. I love craft fairs, it’s so much fun to see the items people make:

urban craft sale

More than 30 local vendors were selling their wares.

We decided to have a date night (finally for two!) that night and The Husband took me to Blacksheep Pizza, he has been dying to introduce me to “The Sicilian.” The Sicilian is a 16″ square pizza topped with mozzarella, sauce and extra virgin olive oil. They bake all of them first thing in the morning before the oven is too hot, so Sicilians are first come first serve. Fortunately, we got there in time to claim the last half of Sicilian that they had left:

the sicilian pizza

The mighty Sicilian.

The Spinach Blue Cheese Salad was really good too, and I was surprised to really like the dressing. Our server told us that it is Blacksheep’s take on Ranch – made with buttermilk. I’m not a dressing fan at all (yes, I feel it is important to stress that point) but I tell you, I wanted the recipe for this stuff:

salad

We have the perfect marriage. The Husband eats the big blobs of blue cheese and I eat the big blobs of tomatoes.

The Sicilian makes me think of an awesome cheese bread with fresh tomato on top:
pizza-salad

Sunday was less interesting but at least we have a clean house now. I did indulge in some kitchen time and tried a new vegetarian lasagna recipe.* It came together very quick and was a hit, even with The Mom!

lasagna dinner

My “Meals on Wheels” delivery for The Mom. Who wouldn’t feel better with a dinner like this?

And my most important takeaway from the weekend, thanks to The Blackbird Café:
inspirational plaque

* A few notes. I only used half the sauce that the recipe called for, a “Pizzeria” cheese blend, a vegetable peeler on the zucchini and cut the mushrooms very thin – because I’m not a huge fan of the fungus.

Sunday Fun-Day: Farmer’s Markets, Pumpkin Patches and Tasty Treats

Call me crazy, but there’s a part of me that enjoys waking up tired after having a great weekend. The Husband would say that I try to jam something into every free moment of the day and he’s right. But my approach makes for the most epic of Sunday Fun-Days.

We started the day with Friends in Minneapolis at the last Kingfield Market of the season. The air was crisp and fresh. I love that Minnesotans will still go to the farmer’s market in winter jackets, hats and gloves – it was 35 degrees when we left the house. The selection was impressive and I couldn’t stop staring at this vendor’s preserves:

preserves

I considered squeezing some canning into my day but knew it would only end in tears.

The four of us picked breakfasts from three different places (Gai Gai Thai, Chef Shack and Foxy Falafel), reconvening to eat:

foxy-omelette

My Foxy Falafel Breakfast Omelet (vegetarian). YUM!

thai-bowl

The Friend’s Gai Gai Thai Bowl. Two thumbs up, or so I hear!

breakfast-hash

The Friend’s Husband’s Breakfast Hash from Chef Shack. Mm-mmmm chorizo.

walleye-sandwich

The Husband’s non-traditional breakfast, a Walleye Sandwich from Chef Shack. A Minnesota classic.

Every good breakfast deserves dessert. These donuts from Bogart Loves were just what every morning needs:

donuts

Why have one donut when you can have two?

We got home in time to make a last minute batch of Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies for the party we were going to Monday night.* The Husband gave these cookies a 7 out of 10 on the cookie rating scale (that’s pretty good!):

cookie dough

The Mother arrived promptly at 1pm for our Pumpkin Carving Party. We missed The Mom-In-Law but hopefully this post will fill her in on all the excitement she missed.

When you’re having a Pumpkin Carving Party, you need pumpkins. We tried our luck at a nearby orchard called Pine Tree Apple Orchard (fyi – no dogs allowed). With the weather being so nice (by this point it was nearly 60), it seems everyone had the same idea. The pumpkins were picked over and the place was a mob scene, so we just walked around and took in the landscape:

minnesota-scenery

Fall colors.

corn-stalks

There were several “Children of the Corn” references on this walk. OUTLANDER!

We headed back to Minneapolis by way of Stillwater and found a charming pumpkin patch along the way. Doesn’t this look like the perfect scene for a fall, pumpkin-hunting day? We had a great time at Axdahl’s Farm:

barn

pumpkins

This was only a portion of the selection, there were pumpkins everywhere!

It took a while before we found the pumpkins that would become these:

jack-o-lanterns

Boo!

And these:

pumpkin-seeds

Perfect pumpkin seeds.

Perfect Pumpkin Seeds Recipe:  Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Rinse pumpkin seeds with water. I put mine in a colander and swirl my fingers around in them while running water over them, helps catch the last of the pumpkin goop. Place seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and stir to coat. Bake for approximately an hour until golden brown and crunchy, stirring seeds every 15 minutes to prevent burning.

Definitely a Sunday Fun-Day indeed. Can’t wait until next weekend….

* Update post-party: The cookies were a huge hit, they were eaten with gusto. I highly recommend this simple recipe, it is obviously a crowd-pleaser.

A Cozy Dinner for Two

With the weather getting cold again, I couldn’t wait to try a new soup recipe. I’ve been jonesing for some lentils but as I’ve mentioned before, The Husband is “not as into the bean” as I am – and sadly, that includes the lentil. A quick phone call to The Mother and I not only had a dinner date, she was offering to make her Never Fail Popovers. Sounded like a great deal to me!

The soup recipe that I basically made (it goes against my nature to follow directions) was the Very Green Lentil Soup recipe from EatingWell. My modifications included:

  • Rainbow chard instead of green chard
  • Ground cumin in place of toasted cumin seeds
  • Parsley in place of cilantro (cilantro tastes like soap to The Mother, thank goodness I don’t have that problem)
  • Skipped the fresh lemon juice and drizzle of oil at serving (because I was lazy)

The verdict? DELICIOUS. And it’s a good thing too, because I’ve got a whole lot of it to eat!

popover and soup

Adding feta when serving makes puts it over the top – keep extra close by!

For The Mother’s Never Fail Popover* recipe, it turns out we have William-Sonoma to thank for their Perfect Popover! For your own Cozy Dinner for Two, The Mother has scaled their recipe back to make 2 popovers. Here are her measurements for ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 C. milk
  • 1/3 C. flour
  • A dash or two of salt
  • 2/3 tbsp. butter

Follow the directions from William-Sonoma, but use two glass ramekins to bake instead of popover pans. VOILA!

* Be advised that it is possible to fail at the Never Fail Popover recipe. While I am incredibly cavalier in the kitchen with substitutions, I can tell you from personal experience that you should not make substitutions with this recipe. Especially do not use whole wheat flour to try adding nutritional value because the popovers will not “pop,” they will become flat little dough bricks which aren’t terrible, but definitely are not the light and airy delight that these Never Fail Popovers will be if you follow the instructions from The Mother and William-Sonoma.

Eating Well and Getting Crafty

There were no trips to Los Angeles this weekend, but my visit with California Girl left me inspired to eat well and get crafty.

The weekend started with a scrumptious breakfast at Café Maude’s in Southwest Minneapolis. If you haven’t been, go. The Mom-in-Law and The Husband agreed that it set the perfect tone for the weekend though mimosas would have put it over the top. None of us had time for a nap after breakfast, so we stuck to fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee and black tea.

Eggs and Sauteed Spinach

My Sautéed Spinach with a Fried Egg served over rice.

Huevos Rancheros

The Husband’s Huevos Rancheros.

Classic Egg Breakfast

The Mom-in-Law’s very classic breakfast, known as “The Armatage” at Café Maude’s.

The “getting crafty” portion of the weekend was easier said than done. After several failed sewing attempts, I gave up for the moment and switched to cookie baking. This Spiced Pumpkin Cookie recipe has been on my list for a month and the rain outside was the perfect excuse to get baking. They were good, but I think they’d be better with vanilla ice cream:

pumpkin cookies

This was neither crafty nor eating well, but did involve Spiced Pumpkin Cookie delivery. Danny and I went visiting and gave The Grandma her monthly pedicure. They were having such a nice visit, I had to sneak a picture with my phone. The Grandma would never forgive me if I posted a picture of her with her feet in the pedi spa – so here is Danny with The Grandma’s hand petting him:

danny

I was still itching to get some sewing in but after the failed attempts earlier, I took the easy way out and busted out the serger to make new napkins. My desire to make my own clothes after finding The Perfect Dress in Los Angeles at Matrushka might be my latest pipedream…. But check out my newest set of napkins in this adorable bee fabric from my stash:

napkins

All in all, a great weekend:

tea and biscuits

Keeping it Simple: Tomato Preserving

Tomatoes

I can’t be the only one that has a problem with getting home preserving right. My jam consistency is never correct and the time I processed salsa had me in tears. The Husband would say that it’s because I don’t follow directions when I’m cooking. While there is some validity to that theory, I would also offer that some preserving techniques are a pain in the ass and following the directions doesn’t always ensure a successful outcome.

Case in point, Tomato Basil Jam. I was ecstatic to come across a recipe that would keep me in tomato sandwiches for the entire winter. Fast-forward to my execution. The jars look pretty but the “jam” seems be rolling around like red vegetable oil inside my processed jar. Not quite what I had in mind and I followed the directions to the letter. I waited a week and the consistency is still the same even though the pectin packaging said that thickening could take time. I opened a jar to sample and it is really sweet. Definitely not what I had in mind and reaffirmation to trust my instincts (the amount of sugar in this recipe was staggering). That said, I’m still without a tomato spread to keep me in sandwiches through the winter. Does anyone have a recipe that I can try?

My preserving success seems to be come from the more simplified approaches. I acquired my dad’s vacuum food sealer this summer and have been freezing items like a crazy fool. When I grew tired of freezing whole and quartered tomatoes fresh from the vine, I tried this recipes with extremely tasty outcomes and very little effort – high priorities for me in the kitchen.

For others like me with tons of tomatoes that prefer the simplest preservation approach, I recommend slow-roasting using a cook’s best resource: The Joy of Cooking. These are really fantastic and so simple. I have been adding them to beans and rice for quick work lunches and expect them to work well in tomato sandwiches or bruschetta.

The recipe for Slow-Roasted Tomatoes is on page 312 and calls for:

  • 4-5 large ripe tomatoes cut into 3/4″ slices
  • 1 tsp each of powdered sugar, salt and black pepper

Tomato slices are placed in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, sprinkled with the powdered mix and your favorite chopped herbs (basil, thyme or other), drizzled with olive oil and baked for 2 hours at 250 degrees. Cool at room temperature before refrigerating or freezing. VOILA!

If you want something that is more akin to the sundried tomatoes packed in oil, try this recipe from The Splendid Table with Lynne Rossetto Kasper for  Oven-Candied Summer Tomatoes. Here are mine during the final rest period in the oil:

Candied Tomatoes

I still have tomatoes waiting to be preserved, so let me know if you have other great recipes that I should try!

Sacrificing the Body in Pursuit of Culinary Wonders

Last night in my latest pursuit of culinary wonder, I almost lost a finger. Well, I may be exaggerating just a bit, but not much. I nearly lost the tip of my thumb to the mandolin. While it would be more impressive to cause oneself injury from a musical instrument, I was unfortunately using the kitchen slicer known as the mandolin at the time.

The evening started harmless enough. We were having The Mom-In-Law for dinner and I was looking forward to trying a new recipe for Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread. Fast-forward to the prep period of the night where in my typical fashion, I had tried to do a few more things than I realistically had time for. First, there was some idle chitchat with The Neighbor, which technically wasn’t my fault because she desperately needed to use our fax machine. Yes, we still have one of those and who would have guessed that someone still desperately needed to use one? Then I had to get the fresh picked grapes into the vodka to infuse (more information on my grape infused vodka in a later post). Four liters of vodka and 16 cups of grapes later, I was behind schedule getting dinner together. I started wrestling with the mandolin which seemed to be sending me signals from the beginning that I should not use it.

The Husband will roll his eyes at me, but I’m a big believer in signs. If something doesn’t seem to be going right, in my mind there is a reason for it. In his world, things just aren’t going right. Since I’m the one with the injury, we’ll say that I’m right this time. First, I couldn’t figure out where the legs were to raise the mandolin off the cutting board. Then I couldn’t get the blades to adjust. I don’t even know where the protective cup is that is used to hold the item being sliced, but that would really have come in handy. I proceeded to get slicing on the purple onion and moments before The Incident, I could hear a whispering in my ear, “This is a really bad idea… you’re going to lose a finger.” No, it wasn’t The Husband. I often hear this voice of reason immediately preceding the most impressive injuries that I have sustained. These injuries have always been my own fault and most often because I haven’t been exercising the most sound judgment.

When The Incident occurred, I was working on finely slicing three cups of the most potent onions I have ever experienced. I did what most logical people in that situation would do, jammed my thumb in my mouth because then I could pretend it hadn’t happened and everyone knows that when you do this, the injury will not hurt. The Husband urgently pressed, “WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT HAPPENED?” All I could manage? “I’m going to need the Super Glue.”

Super Glue is the most used item in my first aid kit. A chef friend once glued another thumb injury of mine together and told me that it was a common practice in the kitchen so chefs could continue working. He also told me that Super Glue was originally invented for battlefield use during WWII, which I have heard many times since. This morning I was disappointed to learn from the Super Glue site that this is an urban legend.

Anyhoo, my thumb Super Glued back on, I was able to continue preparation of the Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread. It was absolutely delicious and very easy to make. I recommend either NOT using a mandolin for the slicing, or making sure that you have the proper safety attachments in place before beginning. We served the flatbread with a mixed spring green salad tossed in a vinaigrette. The Husband and The Mom-In-Law drank Odell Brewing’s IPA while I enjoyed mine with a crisp pinot grigio.

Pear & Blue Cheese Flatbread

If you would like to try the recipe, http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/pear_blue_cheese_flatbread.html

The Regret of Sharing

I currently find myself regretting my impulse to share.

The fall weather has sent me straight into the kitchen where I have been busy preserving the bounty of my tomato harvest. In the midst of the salsa making, I felt a burning need to bake. I rationalized that taking a break from the tomatoes was the right thing to do because it would be wasteful for the overripe bananas to go in the garbage. And while I was at it, I could use up the Hershey bars from our last camping trip.

I scoured the internet for the best banana bread recipe and have to say, I found it. Say what you will about Martha Stewart, but I worship at her altar on a regular basis. And after moaning in delight at the first bite of this recipe, I will humbly lay loaves of delicious banana bread at her feet in tribute for many years to come.

All of this brings me to my current state of regret. In my euphoria over the piece of scrumptious bread, I decided to share. A third of the loaf went to the neighbors. Another third to friends who were hosting us for the evening. I took Grandma some slices from our remaining third, and parted with another slice to a friend who came for dinner. That left me with exactly no banana bread left. Now I sit, mouth watering and stomach growling, wishing for a bite of that tasty goodness. I never had a chance to try it out with peanut butter like I had planned. Did anyone else? Have the gifts of banana bread been eaten or are they sitting forgotten?

I wonder if The Husband will notice me intentionally ignoring the bananas we just bought so I can make more? Can I force them to become prematurely overripe somehow? Or if anyone has some overripe bananas on hand, I’m happy to bake some banana bread and share. But this time, there will definitely be limitations to my sharing. I will have that slice with peanut butter and expect it to be all I have dreamed of and more.

If you want to try Martha’s banana bread recipe for yourself:
http://www.delish.com/recipefinder/banana-chocolate-bread-recipe-mslo0612

** I used chopped up Hershey bars instead of bittersweet chocolate. My baking time took much longer than hers, so allow plenty of time.

Picture of Banana Bread

Date Night (for One)

Few people think of a Friday night alone as a fantastic opportunity, I’m glad that I’m not most people.

When my darling husband told me that he had to work late Friday night, I could hardly contain my excitement. This was the opportunity that I had been looking for, a night to prepare a meal for a king. Or, a night to prepare exactly what I had been wanting to eat, but isn’t it all the same?

Caught in the rain walking Danny after work only increased my excitement over the culinary extravaganza that was awaiting me. In my husband’s own words,  he “is not as into the bean” as I am. For months I had been sitting on a recipe for a southwestern pizza. I was downright gleeful as we turned to head home, ignoring the rainbow behind me as I urged Danny to hurry.

At home, I washed my hands and stretched my neck from side to side, ready to begin. First, I put on the proper atmospheric music to create my mood and poured myself a glass of wine. I don’t know about you, but I love a little bluegrass when I’m getting into the kitchen. There’s nothing like the Steve Martin album “Love Has Come for You” to get me in the culinary mood.  If I need to dance a little more, I ask Pandora to put together a rousing Harry Belafonte mix, but tonight, Edie Brickell sang to me while I worked up my  masterpiece.

As I was taking a sip of wine and singing along with “When You Get to Ashville,” I looked closer at the recipe. It wasn’t quite what I had remembered it to be… BBQ sauce? Not at all what I had been envisioning. That’s when I left the road more travelled and ventured into the world of my imagination. My darling husband would definitely not be comfortable with this. He is a supporter of following recipes, which I find to be more of a template when it comes to meal preparation.

I tossed black beans with corn, added some chopped jalapeno and garlic – and let’s not forget my very own homegrown tomatoes.  The more I looked at it, the more appalling the original recipe was became. Mozzarella on a southwestern pizza? That simply would not do. I sprinkled a Mexican cheese blend on top of my experiment. Baked for 10 minutes and served.

In less than 30 minutes, I had one of the most delicious meal I have ever eaten. And as I ate, Evie Briekll reminded me that the Sun Was Going to Shine again. It was a good Friday night.

P1010530 (2)

Recipe:
1 – “mini” prepared pizza crust (I used Boboli)
~ 1 cup black beans (rinsed)
~ 1 cup corn (I used frozen)
1 good size tomato, chopped
1/2 seeded and chopped jalapeno
1-2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup Mexican cheese blend
Red pepper, salt & pepper to taste

Spread mixture on prepared pizza crust, bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Enjoy – candle optional, wine encouraged.