Tuesday, November 1, 2011

It's Not Goodbye, It's See You Later

You know those experiences in life that help you to become fully engaged? When you're in the moment and the melody of your life is in "tune" ? For me, it happens on beautiful mornings when the day is new and the growing season here in Minnesota has produced beautiful abundant produce.  I am in my element when perusing the tables at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market.  I often say there is nothing I'd rather do but visit the bursting market. I practically skip through the isles (not exaggerating), well maybe not skip anymore it's more crowded in the last few years.  People are catching on that that eating fresh and local is best, both for your health and your wallet.  How fun to actually have a relationship with the people growing your food!

How cool is this. In the middle of the big city -  and the local growers bring the farm to us!

I don't know the cute man standing next to the beautiful mums, but I do know these two beautiful people below.  Mary and Lester Hall.  Their family has been part of the Minneapolis Farmer's Market for over 25 years!  It is truly a labor of love and a family affair.  They grow my favorite dark leafy greens, green beans, brussles sprouts, and my new favorite, okra.  It's not just for gumbo anymore!

With Lester's hearty laugh,and Mary's warm and engaging personality, they not only sell these beautiful vegetables and beans they also give you wonderful tips on how to easily prepare them.  You can use them in the traditional Southern ways or listen to Mary's helpful tips on how to use new techniques by sauteing or roasting them to help retain more nutrients.  She calls them "Super Foods". Studies prove this, and I agree with her. What better nutrition can you get for $1.00 a bunch? Having wiggled kale into the family's diet, Mary has now shown me collard greens are equally good. These greens and more are grown locally, pesticide-free on the family farm in Princeton, MN.

You can feel the nutrition going straight to your veins just by looking at the deep rich color. Mary explained how to prepare the collard greens the traditional way by  long braising them with a ham shank. But she recommended a healthier and quicker way: Saute some onion, garlic, red pepper in olive oil, then add the collards and a splash of broth.  you can cook them for 20-25 minutes with a delicious result.  My family loved them.  

The sweet potatoes come from Lester's family farm in Mississippi.  They are beautiful, and with everything on their table grown without pesticides. Can't you just see them made into a beautiful twice baked sweet potato or a creamy sweet potato ginger spoonbread?

Okra is not something I usually race to buy at the market, but I will now.  Mary told me to just roast it with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and finish it with some parmesan cheese.  Here are the results, delicious! Evidently, it's loaded 
with fiber and anti-oxidants.  The health benefits of this ancient vegetable are too numerous to list here, google it, you'll be amazed!

As far as these gorgeous brussels sprouts go, we all know roasting them seems to be in vogue, but have you ever shredded them and cooked them quickly in a bit of olive oil?  Great just like that, but add some toasted nuts of your choice and to guild the lily, a tablespoon of cream and you'll be in love.

Mary's uncle an "old school Southern Gentleman"  is a farmer in Louisiana.  He ships burlap sacks of beautiful pesticide free dried beans to her weekly and she divides them into one pound bags complete with cooking instructions and her own basic recipes stapled on the bag.  Mary loves to encourage people to eat more beans especially for the incredible health benefits.    Lester's favorites are the Louisiana "Crowder Peas".  I've got a pot cooking on the stove right now (I put a bit of smoked bacon in for good measure).  He loves them for their nutty flavor.  Pair them with a pot of rice and you have a delicious protein packed meal.

I didn't take a picture of the pot of crowder peas, the photo probably wouldn't do them justice.  Let's just say, there was only a bit left in the pot.  The bonus is I have a half a bag left for another meal.  They made a wonderful creamy pot of goodness.

The Minneapolis Farmer's Market is open 7 days a week through mid November.  Mary and Lester are done for the season, but please make a point of visiting them next season.  It's such a rich experience when you get to know the faces behind your food. I'll remind you in the spring! 

As the market here winds to a close, go get those last few bits of sunshine, and remember to connect with the people you see behind the tables, they have rich stories to tell and you might just make a lasting friend.


I love this quote from Julia Child, "What keeps me motivated is not the food itself, but all of the bonds and memories the food represents"  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Labor Day Burgers and Pie, Oh My!

Labor Day...the last hurrah! Not really, but let's squeeze all we can out of those grills this season. This summer we discovered the grinding attachment for our Kitchen Aid mixer. All I can say is wow. Yes you can have an extraordinary gourmet burger at home. Luckily we also discovered Clancey's Meats in Linden Hills, and now that we found this mecca of meat we will never be satisfied anywhere else. They offer the finest quality products with helpful and employees passionate about meat, all of which make you want to go back for more. They have many interesting specialty food items as well. One visit we found some wonderful pickled ramps that added that special something to a family picnic.

I'm going to let David write this next few paragraphs because this is really his department.

Buy Meat with a fat content of about 15% - sometimes at Clancy's they have lean cuts. You can get a lean cut and som fattier cuts and grind them together. Just tell the butcher what I want to do, and he will help you get the right cut and fat content. Butchers are some of the most helpful people on the planet.

I just followed the directions on the grinder. I also put the fresh meat into the freezer about 20 mins to 1 hour before grinding. This will keep the meat moving through the grinder cleanly. warmer meat will smear and clog up the machine.
The grinding is so satisfying. You can tell why butchers get into the business.

Once the meat is ground - you can choose to grind it again, if you want. I choose not to. I then form the patties with minimal squeezing and pressing. our son dan formed the ones in the pics. he made sure they were perfect in shape - I think his pottery skills were showing. I like the edges of my burgers rough. How will you make yours?

Salt and pepper - liberally.

When grilling, leave the meat on the grill longer. There's a higher moisture content in the freshly ground meat, so you can and should leave it on each side longer to get the proper char. I still haven't perfected this. The meat can take the heat without being over cooked. I have to fight the urge to call it done, as it doesn't compare to cooking average ground beef.

Thanks, Kelli for letting me add a paragraph! Can I do it again sometime? I'd like to share my journey in making the perfect french omelet.

Let them rest a bit :) Find the best buns you can and butter and toast/grill them. This makes a huge difference, do not skimp on your buns!

These burgers are so good they don't need much to dress them up. We added a nice slab of heirloom tomatoes and some pickled onions.

Now for one of the BEST pies for this time of year. This is a "go to" recipe I got from a "Rosie" magazine. I'm not usually a recipe clipper, but this one I saved and passed on the old fashioned way, with a pen and paper. I made this pie for years then lost the tattered clipping. Recently I called a good friend that I KNOW I shared the recipe with. She says, "oh my Mom's blueberry pie recipe?" no, I say it's mine, well actually Rosie's which actually caught my eye because it was from Minnesota's very own Marjorie Johnson of State Fair Blue Ribbon baking fame. You might have seen her on the talk show circuit. She's a tiny person with a huge personality!

Blue Ribbon Blueberry Pie
(adapted from Marjorie Johnson)

Crust for a 9 inch pie

Use your favorite recipe I like this one from Melissa Clark. Here's a cool video to show you how easy it is to make your own crust. http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/18/video-how-to-make-the-perfect-pie-crust/ or go ahead an just get a ready made dough and blind bake it.

1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. corn starch
1/8 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups blueberries* (divided)
2 Tbsp. butter

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, salt
Stir in water and lemon juice until smooth
Add 1 1/2 cup blueberries*

Bring to full boil over medium heat. Boil 1 minute.
Stir occasionally until smooth and shiny.

Remove from heat
Stir in butter.

Put in bowl - refrigerate 1 hour.
Stir in 1 1/2 cup blueberries*
Pour into a baked pie crust
Chill 3 hours.

Top with whipped cream fresh blueberries and raspberries.

This pie would be good with any berry...blackberries, raspberries, or hey, what about fresh peaches?? YUM.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Farmer's Market in a Jar

I grew up in Southern Minnesota in quintessential small town America complete with a band stand in Central Park and surrounded by rich farmland as far as the eye could see. I loved summer as a kid. If I described a typical day it might sound like it came from a page of a sappy novel, I'll save that for my memoirs. This time of year traditionally stirred up melancholy feelings as well. I know, that doesn't make sense. My birthday comes in mid-August, who doesn't love their birthday, and also on it's heels was the Steele County Fair. Our county fair was a highlight of the summer, and it ushered in the best of the season, blue ribbons and all. Along with the culmination of the warm and luscious days of summer there would be a tinge of sadness. A nip in the air during the nights on the Midway reminded me it would soon be Fall, the start of school and no more home grown tomatoes. One of my most favorite things to eat in the world is a piece of "good bread" toasted with a slather of mayo, a thick slab of a juicy tomato and a sprinkling of salt. My Mom taught me about this simple delicacy. Bliss.

All of these feeling came rushing at me this week and the temperatures at night have been dropping and I have been enjoying the farmer's market at it's peak. I can't get enough! Could I possibly get my fill of tomatoes before they're gone?

I met my Aunt and cousin at the Minneapolis Farmer's Market last Saturday and they couldn't believe how much I was buying. "What are you going to do with all of it"? Here is what came out of my shopping spree that day. I put some "food in jars" I didn't actually "can" it, but this will keep for a week or so (if it lasts that long)


Pictured right to left: Bacon Jam, Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Basil Almond Pesto, Tomato Jam


Bacon Jam
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Slow Cooker Bacon Jam)

1 1/2 lbs. of smoked bacon (Trader Joe's Applewood Smoked Bacon is nitrate free and a great price) Cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces
2 medium onions diced
3 cloves of garlic peeled and minced
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar (I like Bragg's)
1/2 c. dark brown sugar (packed)
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
3/4 c. brewed coffee

Cook bacon until it is crisp tender (about 20 min.) Remove from pan with a slotted spoon. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to some paper towels to drain. Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of the bacon fat. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook until translucent (about 6 min.) Add vinegar, sugar, maple syrup and coffee bring to a boil scrapping up and bacon bits from the bottom of the pan. Add bacon and stir to combine.

Cook uncovered for 3 1/2 to 4 hrs until thick and syrupy. ( you can use a slow cooker on high if you don't have time to check on it.) Transfer to a food processor and pulse a few times. Put in an air tight container. Will keep up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

Great on so many things. How about a fried egg sandwich, the "B" in BLT, with a smear of goat cheese, right off the spoon!! Possibilities are endless.


Oven Roasted Tomatoes

You don't really need a recipe for this, but I'll give you one.

Tomatoes, Cherry or Romas

Cut in half. Place on a roasting pan. I have a dedicated pan to roasting, but if you don't just use a piece of parchment on a jelly roll pan. Drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt. Roast at 225 degrees for about 3 hours.

Let cool. Put in a jar with a bit of extra olive oil.

Variations: add cloves of garlic or fresh thyme on pan.

Great added to pastas or on sandwiches. Put them in a cassarole dish for final minutes of roasting with some feta cheese and slivered basil and you have an outstanding appetizer. Sop up with crusty bread.


Basil Almond Pesto

1 c. almonds
2 c. basil leaves
2 cloves of minced garlic (you can probably put it in whole)
Juice of half a lemon
Zest from one lemon
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

Pulse almonds in the food process first until well processed. Add the basil, garlic, lemon and zest. Pulse until pureed. Slowly add olive oil and add salt to taste. Put into a jar and cover with a film of olive oil. cover with a tight fitting lid. Refrigerate. Can keep for up to two weeks.


Tomato Jam
(NY Times Food Section)

1 1/2 lbs. of ripe tomatoes
1 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. salt
1 jalapeno (or other pepper) seeded and diced

Combine all ingredients in a medium heavy bottom sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture has the consistency of a thick jam, about 1 hr and 15 min. Taste and adjust seasoning, then cool and refrigerate until ready to use. Will keep one week in refrigerator. Great with eggs, chicken or fish...how about with some soft creamy cheese on top of a cracker.

Ending with one last spoonful. I hope you enjoy every bite of what this summer has to offer.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Yo Ho Ho and Three Tablespoons of Rum

What is better than a lovely summer evening surrounded by people who share your passion for good food and drink, the hospitality of a gracious hostess, and lots and lots of smoked pork! Last week the MN Food Bloggers got together to celebrate and boy do they know how throw a party. Molly Herrmann and Tracy Morgan of "Kitchen in the Market" provided salads and make your own kabobs with wonderous sauces, Ole Olmanson of "Food for my Family" perfectly smoked pork shoulder in a "China Box"...I know I had to google it. So, you have to wash all of this goodness down with drinks that are equally delicious. I couldn't pick so I had them all. Keep in mind this was a Monday night. I started out in a very civilized manner with a lovely taste of a beautiful red wine from Kitchak Winery in Napa Valley, I could have stopped there and been very satisfied...but oh no, someone said "Have you tasted that sangria?" I toddled over to the "punch bowl" and tried it for myself. The sangria was unique in that it was bourbon based. I don't know this recipe exactly, but I do know that rosemary, blueberries and peaches were steeped in the bourbon and then finished off with rose wine. I think most of my conversations were in the vicinity of that sangria! But wait...once again I heard delighted people say "Have you tried the dark Fulton beer with the truffles?" turns out our own "Kate in the Kitchen" made creamy chocolate truffles that paired wonderfully with Fulton's dark beer!

Here's where the rum comes in...I know you were wondering. Even though truffles and beer would have been a fine end to the evening we had a little friendly competition set up. Everyone in the group was invited to bring a pan of bars for a "bake off" (this is Minnesota you know...land of potlucks, jello "salads" and bars. Seventeen people threw their hats into the ring. I knew when this was announced I would give it a go. Trying to find something familiar but with a twist and settling on these apricot bars laced with rosemary and you guessed it RUM (although the recipe called for brandy all I could find that would even come a bit close was spiced rum)

I'm going to fast forward. I won!!! Didn't expect to. Running late, didn't get a chance to do a trial run. I am so honored because the judges were a few of my favorite food celebrities in town. Zoe Francois of "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" and Zoe Bakes, Joy Summers of City Pages, and "Eating the Minneapple" and Stephanie March of Mpls/St. Paul Magazine. To top it off Andrew Zimmern was there and told me he thought the bars were "Frickin awesome". Needless to say I was a very happy girl. I think the Captain Morgan did the trick.

Rosemary Apricot Bars
Adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Rosemary Shortbread:
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter room temp. (I used Irish butter for the creaminess)
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. vanilla
Zest from 1/2 lemon (optional, but I think brightens the taste of the bar)
1 1/2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 3/4 flour

Apricot Filling:
2 c. California dried apricots (Trader Joe's carries this tart treat) if you can't find them add the juice of 1/2 lemon to other varieties
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. honey (try to get a good local honey. I used Ames Farms Prairie Flower)
2 Tbsp. brandy (I didn't have any so I substituted Captain Morgan Spiced Rum)
pinch of salt (kosher or Maldon salt preferred)

Crumb Topping:
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1/3 c. coarsely chopped pecans or almonds ( I toasted them a bit first)
pinch of salt
3 Tbsp. chilled unsalted butter cut in cubes

Line a 9 inch baking pan with foil and butter the inside of the pan.

Make the shortbread dough by creaming together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. You can do this by hand but a stand mixer with a paddle attachment works well. Add the salt, vanilla, lemon zest and rosemary until combined. Slowly add the flour to the mixture. Lightly flour your hands and press the dough into the prepared pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 min. before baking. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly brown about 25 to 30 min. Let cool to room temp.

Combine all of the apricot filling ingredients in a heavy bottom pan. Simmer for 45 min. (mine took at least an hour) until most of the liquid is absorbed into the apricots. Let cool and then puree in a food processor until smooth.

Spread cooled apricot mixture on the cooled shortbread.

Make crumb topping by adding all of the topping ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer. Use the paddle attachment and combine until it all starts to clump together.

Top the apricot layer with the crumb topping and then bake at 350 degrees for about 20 to 25 min. and topping is browned.

Let completely cool in the pan, or if you are late for a "bake off" just go and let them cool on the way. Don't worry about them and you just might win :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

EVOO night at Levain

Wearing her ruby slippers, Dorothy clicked her heels three times and wished she were back in Kansas...As for me, I wish to be back at Cafe Levain in South Minneapolis at the Minnesota Food Blogger dinner sponsored by California Olive Ranch Olive Oil, the creative culinary talents of chef Adam Vickerman and hosted by Will and Jenny Hsu.

Beautiful ruby slippers are worn by Stephanie Meyer of FreshTart.net.

Stephanie is a leader in the food blogging community here in Minneapolis/St. Paul. She has been instrumental in gathering fellow food writers, photographers and food lovers together through the MN Food Bloggers network. At every event I look forward to seeing her super stylish shoes, as well as those of Dainia Miwa of TwinCitiesFoodie.com (not pictured, but hers were equally stunning)

Our six course meal started here in the Turtle Bread Garden down the street from the restaurant. Chef Vickerman creates his beautifully fresh dishes from local and seasonal ingredients.

The space is simple and homey. A perfect neighborhood restaurant. How could we not feel at home with the staff greeting us at the door with a glass of Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and three lovely crostinis topped with pate and pickled rhubarb, another with white beans and anchovies and the mysterious one which turned out to be a delightful roasted cauliflower mixture.

The room was glowing with the evening sun and also with the warmth of like minded people (especially our new friends from Eat.Drink.Life.Love seated at the table with us). We were all thrilled to be there enjoying every bite and sip of wine and olive oil. Yes, you heard it correctly sip of olive oil.

Olive oil tasting 101: Swirl, smell, sip. Taste, and close your eyes to detect the subtle undertones just like a fine wine.

The freshest extra virgin olive oil is evidently not imported...it's from California! The price point of this excellent olive oil is affordable and available at local co-ops and Byerly's and Lund's markets.

Not only did we have great wine paired with every course, each part of the meal included a different olive oil pairing used in each dish. (No we didn't drink the olive oil each time).

Each dish was uncomplicated yet with special nuances that make you wonder what that special undertone is. This beautiful neon green soup was our "Amuse-bouche" which in French means "to excite the taste buds" and give a peek into the chef's approach to cooking. It did not dissappoint. Fresh Pea Kohlarabi soup with a punch of chives, bit of parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

The freshness continued with our crisp from the garden salad of tender lettuces, radishes and peas lightly dressed with a buttermilk tarragon vinaigrette. The interest and contrast came from the sweetness of the candied nuts and creaminess of the chevre.

Sample of one of the salad recipes chef Vickerman has shared on Heavy Table http://heavytable.com/toscas-adam-vickerman-on-eating-seasonally/

This crispy on the outside, oh so pink on the inside Alaskan King Salmon, was perfectly cooked, moist and flavorful. Wonderfully dimensional in taste as it was served on a bed of creamy white beans and grilled sugar snap peas in a bit of chili oil.

Wait! There's more. Charred hanger steak with outstanding flavor served with fingerling potatoes and the piece de resistance was the ragout of local mushrooms flavored with preserved lemons and balsamic vinegar.

We didn't get a picture of the lovely unique dessert, having dived into it too soon. The starring ingredient in this trio of sweetness was the California Olive Oil Ranch olive oil. Buttery olive oil cake, creamy olive oil gelatto, and luxurious olive oil panna cotta. People at other tables were licking their plates. 5 glasses of wine and behavior changes a bit.

We received a lovely bottle of olive oil as a parting gift. The whole evening was such a treat. Now to leave you with a treat: a recipe from one of my all time favorite chefs Suzanne Goin from her cookbook "Sunday Suppers at Luques". Summer Fruit Salad with Arugula and Marcona Almonds. featuring the delicious California Olive Ranch oil. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Midnight Baker Strikes Again

Here we are mid-summer. I always have high hopes for waking up early, walking around the lake at dawn, finishing a yoga class by nine and making a beautiful breakfast for everyone. Well...this is not happening. My positive thinking side is saying, there's still hope, you can do it! The fact is, I am naturally a night owl and if you don't get to bed until 1am chances are you won't get up at dawn ready to take on the world. My daughter Maria seems to be following in my lead. I've started to call her the "Midnight Baker". Sweet smells of banana bread waft from the kitchen in the middle of the night. These Sticky Lemon Rolls are her latest creation, her first attempt with using yeast. She whipped the dough together, let it rise, rolled them out and packed them with sweet tangy lemony goodness. The beauty of this recipe is that the prepared rolls can sit around in the refrigerator over night and are ready to bake in the light of day.

To me a bowl of lemons on the table is art. Don't they just make you happy? To you lucky Californians, if you don't have a lemon tree, go plant one. Also keep lemons on hand for their many health benefits. I know this is a stretch since we are using them in a sweet treat recipe, but check out the many benefits of lemon and other citrus fruits phytonutrients, antioxidant and even antibiotic properties.

Look at how crusty and flaky they look. If a first timer can make them, so can you.

Top them off with the cream cheese lemon zesty glaze.

Enjoy with a steamy cup of tea or coffee. I'd get up early for these. They are wonderfully addicting. The pan was gone in hours (we did share a few with the neighbors) Stay tuned for the next installment of my "Midnight Baker". What will she bake up next?

This recipe has a lot of words...but don't let that intimidate you.

Sticky Lemon Rolls with Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze
(Recipe adapted from ( TheKitchn.com )

Makes 12 rolls

Lemon Roll Dough:
3 Lemons
1 pkg. active yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
3/4 c. warm milk (not hot)
1/2 c. (1 stick) very soft unsalted butter
1/4 c. white sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 eggs

Sticky Lemon Filling:
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg (if you've got it...or use ground, no prob)
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (very soft)

Lemon Cream Cheese Glaze:
4 oz. cream cheese
1 c. powdered sugar (which we had to borrow from the neighbor)

Make the Dough:
Zest and juice the lemons. Divide the zest into three parts. Divide the juice into two parts. Set aside. (half of juice used for filling, half will be used for glaze)

In the bowl of a stand mixer sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk and let stand for a few minutes. With the mixer paddle attachment, stir in softened butter, sugar, vanilla and 1 c. of flour. Stir in the salt, nutmeg and one part (1/3) of the lemon zest. Stir in eggs and enough of the flour to make a soft and sticky dough.

Switch to the dough hook, and knead for about 5 min. or until the dough is elastic and pliable. Spray the dough with cooking oil and turn over so it is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Let stand until it has nearly doubled in volume (about an hour.)

Make the filling:
In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the nutmeg and ginger. Then work in the second part of the lemon zest with your fingers until it resembles soft sand. Slowly pour in one part of the lemon juice, stirring. Stop when it forms a wet clumpy mixture. (you might not need all of the juice)

Assemble the rolls:
Lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan with baking spray or butter. On a floured surface roll out the dough into a large yet still thick rectangle (about 10 x 15)

Spread the dough evenly with the 3 Tbsp. of softened butter. Pour and spread the lemon mixture over the top. Roll the dough up tightly starting at the top long end of the dough. Stretch and pull the dough taut as you go to keep the filling inside. Cut the long dough roll into 12 even pieces. Pinch the bottom of each roll closed. Place each one cut side up into the prepared pan.

Cover the rolls with a towel and let them rise for an hour or until puffy and nearly doubled. (Instead of doing this we put them in the refrigerator at this point...they can stay in there for up to 24 hrs.) When you are ready to bake take them out of the refrigerator and let them rise in the same manner.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 min.

Make the glaze:
With a food processor, or mixer beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the remaining lemon juice until well blended. Add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth and creamy.

Finish the rolls:
When the rolls are baked smear with cream cheese glaze and sprinkle with remaining lemon zest. Let cool for 10 min. before serving, but they are best when served while still warm.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Little Bit of Heaven

"We're going on a picnic, and this is what we're going to bring..." Grandma started our nap time stories with these words and we'd fill in the blank. I usually said potato salad (but that recipe is for another post) Her technique was to get us to close our eyes and imagine this ideal picnic with wonderful food, games and family around us. Then she would tell us that is what heaven will be like.

Last month we paid a formal tribute to my Mom's life. This celebration gathered family from across the country. We cried, laughed and had wonderful times with our extended family. My oldest kids live in California and were home for an extended time after the memorial. These pictures and simple picnic food ideas are from our family picnic with all four kids home. When younger and all under one roof, we'd go to "Turtle Fountain" near the Lake Harriet Rose Garden, our favorite spot. This particular evening was glorious with picture perfect weather, lovely simple food, a dance ensemble performing in the garden, and a game of bocce ball. Dessert came later at Sebastian Joe's Ice cream, another tradition.

Picnic instructions:
Get a bag, throw in cheese, cutting board...and your favorite "hooch". Is that how you spell it? If it's in a mason jar it's legal at the park right? San Pellegrino for the young ones.

Next, get a crusty baguette from Rustica Bakery $2.50. Voted one of the 10 best bread bakeries in America (according to Bon Appetit Magazine)

Wonderful smoked ham from Clancey's Meats in Linden Hills

Plugra European Style Butter - Under the advice from my oldest son...that's all you really need. And he's right.

Check out this snazzy new teak salad bowl I found at the thrift store for 5 bucks!

That morning we all went to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market and collected fresh and locally grown buttery lettuce, radishes and asparagus. Here are a few things we created from the trip to the market.

Simple Farmer's Market Salad

Butter lettuce (or any other beautiful tender lettuce from the market or your garden)
Thinly sliced radishes

Dress with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

1 to 2 cloves of garlic (smash with the back side of a lg knife and mash about 1/4 tsp salt in)
1 c. mayo
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. Flat leaf Italian parsley
Few Tbsp. snipped fresh herbs...Chives are great (whatever you like)

Buttermilk (well shaken) add enough to dressing to achieve desired consistency

Freshly ground pepper and salt
Dash of cayenne pepper or hot pepper sauce

Mix all together. Taste to get seasoning to your taste.

Blanched Asparagus
Check out this "How to video" Keep it green and crisp.

Dip it in your own homemade mustard (a chance to use another mason jar...I love them)


1/4 c Colman's Mustard
1/4 c White wine vinegar
1/3 c Dry white wine
1 tb Sugar
1/2 ts Salt
3 Egg yolks

You begin with Colman's Mustard, adding vinegar for tartness and wine for mellowness; then you cook with egg yolks to give the spread its velvety smooth texture. You can season the mildly flavored mustard as suggested, or leave if plain. For gift-giving, package the mustards in jars and identify them with decorative labels. In top of a double boiler, stir together mustard, vinegar, wine, sugar, and salt. Let stand, uncovered, for 2 hours. Beat egg yolks into mustard mixture.

Place over simmering water and cook, stirring with a wire whisk, until mixture thickens slightly (about 5 minutes). Pour into small jars and let cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to a month.

Makes about 1 cup.

The bubbly white flat bread in the picture is Armenian Cracker Bread...Lavash. It comes in the big rounds made by Valley Bakery. We break it up and run it under tap water quickly to soften it a bit. Great with cheese...plus it's Armenian and so is my family.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Kale, It's What's for Breakfast....(Lunch and Dinner too)

This is one of those simple meals that qualifies for the phrase, "Bang for your Buck". It's quick to make, tastes great and gives you a good amount of nutrients. Kale is one of my all time favorite vegetables. Pair it with some onion, Nitrate-free smoked bacon, for it's smoky salty goodness and an egg...viola, great for breakfast lunch or dinner!

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-lEsMnUvnaCo/TgeRV8ACWHI/AAAAAAAAzCc/TdDAPOOn9lk/DSC_0294-1.JPG There are several varieties of kale , but the three most common are curly kale (the kind we always thought was not edible...just for garnishing plates and salad bars) , red kale, and Lacinato kale . Curly kale has ruffled leaves with a bright green color, a lively pungent flavor with bitter peppery qualities The Lacinato kale is the most common. It is also called “dinosaur kale.” It is made up of dark blue-green leaves with a slightly sweeter, more delicate taste than curly kale. I usually go for the Lacinato when I can find it...easier now that it seems to be "trendy". If you have a Twitter account follow me...I "tweet" under the name @crazy4kale.

Kale and Eggs

4 slices of smoked bacon (cut into bit size pieces)
1/2 Lg onion chopped
1 bunch of Kale (cleaned and cut into ribbons)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. (crushed red pepper if you like a "kick")

Cook bacon until crisp tender remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add onion to bacon dripping and cook until soft and a bit caramelized. Add Kale and saute until softened. Season to taste.

Cap it all off with an egg. I like over easy fried in olive oil or poached with a soft loose yolk, but you could certain scramble this all together. Such a quick meal that I can now make even faster since I found the "Cut n Clean" Greens at Whole Foods triple washed and ready to go.

Kale is an alkaline food, full of fiber and sulfuric compounds, which have been found to help prevent a wide variety of cancers. Research suggests that the phytonutrients found in these foods also help activate detoxifying enzymes in the liver, which work to neutralize potentially carcinogenic substances. What a great addition to recipes you already make, sneak it into soups and pastas. Move over spinach!

Our favorite salad is, Massaged Kale Salad. When I posted this recipe the first time we liked it...but now we LOVE it. The beauty of the recipe is that it's more of a technique. You can substitute what you have on hand and make different combinations. The one we like the best is a combination of apple, golden raisins, toasted pecans and a smoky blue cheese. I brought it to a food blogger dinner and the host Stephanie of FreshTart.net took this great photo. (scroll down...it's after her killer White Bean Gratin recipe).

Monday, May 23, 2011

Butter is Back!

Did you hear? Butter is not evil. It's loaded with nutrients and unlike some liquid oils, butter is not treated with high heat to process destroying nutrients. One of butter's beneficial nutrients include lauric acid, an immune-protective nutrient. Butter is rich in vitamins A, D, E and K and contains other essential nutrients, along with short-chain fatty acids, which are not easily stored as fat in the body. All of that being said I don't mind sharing this favorite recipe with you. Butter is back!

Our family loves to eat outside on our deck and breakfast is no exception. We even plug in an electric griddle and cook the pancakes outdoors too. Spring is passing us by...not many al fresco meals yet, but plenty of raindrops. Oatmeal Pancakes were cooked in the warmth of our kitchen this weekend. They are easy, nutritious, tender and filling. The only catch is that you have to remember to soak the oats in buttermilk the night before...so worth it. These pancakes may sound ordinary, but they are absolutely wonderful. Top them with some cinnamon butter and some fresh berries and you have a breakfast as good as any weekend brunch at a restaurant, (Just add champagne evidently it's good for your health too! )

Oatmeal Pancakes

2 c. Old Fashioned Oats (if you only have quick, that's ok too)
2 c. Buttermilk (sometimes I use the old milk and vinegar or lemon juice trick if I don't have buttermilk)
2 eggs
1 stick unsalted butter (I've used half a stick...still good, if you're not convinced of the butter benefits)
1/2 c. flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt.
1 tsp. vanilla (great addition to most pancake batters)

Combine oats and buttermilk in a medium size bowl the night before you want to make the pancakes.

In the morning mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl lightly beat the eggs. Melt and slightly cool the butter. Mix the eggs and butter into the oatmeal mixture. Add the flour mixture and gently mix together.
This batter is thick.

Prepare a griddle with oil. Make sure it's good and hot. Flip when the pancakes are set around the edges and nice and brown. Serve with pure maple syrup.

* Great cooked with some coconut oil (great health benefits in raw organic coconut oil too)

Cinnamon Honey Butter
1/4 c. softened unsalted butter
2 tsp. honey
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Mix together. Slather on your favorite pancakes. Would be great on apple or sweet potato pancakes. Stay tuned for those recipes :) in the Fall (unless it never warms up here)

We love these pancakes with fresh berries, but give them an "oatmeal cookie" flavor by adding some walnuts and raisin to the batter.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A Delicious Life Well Lived

I haven't blogged for a while. My fingers hesitate on the keys. I want to write, I need to write. If I start to form the words, this will all be real and I so wish it wasn't. Last week my beautiful Mother Loretta passed away far too soon and much too young. She is so much of the reason I have a delicious time and why I appreciate wonderful food, and sharing it with others. Her zest for life and all things sparkly were transferred every day with her smile. She would read cookbooks like novels, pour over the Minneapolis/ St. Paul Magazine restaurant section planning her next adventure. Dad didn't always share her desire to check out new restaurants, but he would often find her dressed to the nines on Friday when he got home, knowing if she coyly used the phrase let's just "go out for a cup of soup" he would usually oblige. It always turned out to be much more than soup!


My "cooking lessons" were watching her create magic out of her cast iron skillet and limited tools. Not usually allowed to help, but I always observed and loved to look at the pictures in her 1960's Better Crocker cookbook. This is where she got the recipe for her scratch buttermilk pancakes with the separated egg whites that were lighter than air, sparking my desire for homemade while everyone else was embracing the processed easy box mixes. The jewel of the book to me was the flaming Baked Alaska. I begged for it...never got it until I was married with kids of my own. This turned out to be Grandma's special Christmas Eve gift to all of us. Every year she would make it in the same bowl with rum soaked pound cake and new flavors of premium ice cream. She would flame the masterpiece to our ooohs and aahhs, a treasured tradition. A silver bowl held the berry compote she ladled over the creamy delight. Mom always paid close attention to presentation, teaching me that everything tastes better on a pretty plate or a crystal glass.

Mom was great at making something from nothing and also jazzing up the ordinary to make it gourmet. One of her creations came from her days in boarding school. The food wasn't always the best, but she fondly remembered a simple dish they served in the cafeteria called Egg Gravy. It's basically creamed eggs on toast...doesn't sound too appealing right. Well it's turned into a family favorite loved by all. The condiments make it extra special, you'll love it. My twist is adding some kale as a side...always working the nutrition angle. I'm sure she won't mind.

Loretta's Famous Egg Gravy

Scrambled eggs, in white sauce with crusty oven toast, served with toppings

White Sauce

2 Tbsp. Butter
2 Tbsp. Flour
1 c. milk
Salt and Pepper to taste. I add some garlic too.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir until the butter and flour are well combined. Pour in milk, stirring constantly as it thickens. Add more milk depending on desired consistency.

Scrambled Eggs

8 Eggs
2 Tbsp. water or milk
2 Tbsp. Butter

Heat butter to foaming pour in beaten eggs. Cook until soft curds form

Stir scrambled eggs into the white sauce. Serve over bread of your choice toasted in the oven to give it extra crunchiness. Butter the toast and spoon the "gravy" over the toast. This dish is complete like this, but Mom always had tons of condiments so everyone could customize their own. Here are some favorite topping ideas, but of course use your imagination as well

Shredded Cheddar
Crisp smoked bacon
Sauteed Mushrooms
Sliced Green Olives
**(Sauteed Kale with onions and smoked bacon)


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