Winter Stew

Did any of you make it to the Fulton Winter Market on Saturday? I was there from 11-2 and there was a steady stream of people coming through the whole time. We even had to turn away a few people who stopped in after the stands had started to come down. Since it’s the off season, I wasn’t sure what there would be to choose from so I didn’t come prepared to buy much. After about 5 minutes I was regretting that choice. The market seemed larger than last year’s winter market with plenty of canned goods, hearty root veggies, fresh mushrooms, hot food and cold beer. I made a few notes on where I’ll want to return for next month.

WINTER STEW

I did come away with a bag of goodies from Wise Acre, a restaurant that features local food year round.  They had ready made bags of stew mixings which, with another polar vortex coming on strong, sounded perfect. It came with a few carrots, shallots, celery root, cabbage and sprig of rosemary.  I picked up some cubed beef from the Co-op and seared it a dutch oven before removing the meat and adding in the veggies with the exception of the cabbage.  Once the shallots started to brown and get translucent I poured in a few good glugs of red wine to pick up all the good brown bits from the bottom.  I let that reduce a bit before adding in canned tomatoes, beef broth, and meat.  Once it comes up to a boil, I added in my bundle of herbs and let it sit on low for a few hours until it smells too good to ignore.

I’ve never really done much measuring with this recipe.  It’s truly whatever sounds good or what we have on hand at the time.  We’ve done carrots, onion, celery and mushrooms as well as potatoes and peas.  Herbs have ranged from just generous salt and pepper and a bay leaf to the fresh rosemary, sage and thyme from this last weekend.  It’s really easy to make it your own and any combination goes well with a buttery roll.  Hope you enjoy!

mmmMinneapolis Thanksgiving

Hi All!  I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving weekend!

I hosted my first Thanksgiving meal this year and took care of the majority of the meal.  Our Moms helped us out with a couple of salads and appetizers but I was pretty insistent about trying to do it all myself (I’ve got a bit of a stubborn streak I suppose).  I did the usual turkey and mashed potatoes but updated some of the other side dishes, courtesy of Bon Appetite’s Thanksgiving inspiration slide show.  Seriously, look through the pictures on the site and try to not get hungry.

Check out that Turkey!  The bird was ordered through Clancey’s where we usually get our meat for the week.  It was about 14 pounds, free range from a local farm.  It was a great bird but I was thrown off a bit by the giblets and such that were left in the bird.  I remember growing up with the organs and all that wrapped neatly in a plastic bag inside the turkey so you didn’t have to look at it if you didn’t want to.  Long story short, we used a flashlight and shook the bird a few times over the sink to make sure we got everything out.  I’m sure it was pretty funny to see us shaking this huge turkey over a sink:)

We brined the bird for about 6 hours before cooking.  We used one of Hub’s brewing pots to fit the bird, you use about a cup of salt per gallon of water.  You need enough water to cover the bird.  To cook the bird, I followed the advice of a friend at work that used to work in a professional kitchen.  Low heat, overnight, wake up to a finished turkey.  You add in some veggies and butter to the cavity of the turkey to help with the flavor and the juices.  I’ll have to OK it with her before I hand over the full details, but I can tell you it made for a juicy turkey that was perfectly done!

And now for the sides!
First up, Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes, we’ve made similar versions of this in the past.

Maple-Braised Butternut Squash with Fresh Thyme

Spiced Glazed Carrots with Sherry and Citrus

Slow Roasted Green Beans with Sage

We also had Creamy Corn following a family recipe but somehow I missed getting a close up of it

Now, if that wasn’t enough for you, dessert!  We made a chocolate and apple pie from scratch.  I didn’t get a photo taken of the chocolate before it was dug into, but I’ve got one of the apple for you.  I got the recipe here.  It was the first time I had a successful pie crust on the first go.  I was pretty pumped.  I made the pie the weekend before and froze it for the week raw.  Then that day I took it out and let it bake while we were eating the rest of the meal.

It was a great day and it was a fun experience to do the hosting this year.  By the end of the day we were all stuffed, as we should be.  I’m pretty sure my face looked like this kid’s.

Hope you have a good week and good leftovers!

Dessert of the Month/Pinterest Recipe of the month- Strawberry Vodka Collins Popsicles

I’m trying to do a 2 for 1 post to make up for my lack of posting during the month of May.  I’ll do a second post for both in another week or so.  Anywho…

I’ve been seeing popsicles of all kinds all over blogs, pinterst and magazines for quite awhile now and have been itching to try one.  Garden of Egan had some fresh strawberries at the farmer’s market on Saturday so I used that as my starting point for picking out my popsicle recipe.  I chose the Strawberry Peach Vodka Collins Popsicle recipe from EndlessSimmer.com.  I altered a bit since we didn’t have fresh peaches to work with.  I’ll walk you through it as I go.

First up, I started working on flavoring my simple syrup.  We still had quite a bit from making Manhattans a few weeks ago.  I place of the peaches, I picked some mint leaves from the garden and used a pestle to get the flavor to come out of the leaves and into the syrup.  If you can, do this over night at a minimum.  I used about 6 leaves for the 1/4 cup of syrup I used.

With that sitting off to the side I got started on pureeing my strawberries.  The recipe called for about 10 berries but these were a bit on the small side so I ended up using about 15 to reach the 6oz. needed.  I added in the vodka while the strawberries were still in the blender to make sure it was well mixed.

I started dividing my strawberry/vodka mix into my popsicle forms.  They were a little larger than the recipe suggested so I ended up with just 8 popsicles instead of the 12.

Next I pulled the mint leaves out of the simple syrup and added in my tonic water and the remaining vodka.  After a quick stir so make sure it was well blended, I divided the rest of the liquid between the molds and popped it in the fridge.  Then waited until the next evening to pull one out to try.

They tasted pretty good and refreshing.  The vodka wasn’t very strong, and I think you’d probably have to finish the whole 8 before you really felt effects, but they’d be fun to bring to a summer BBQ.   One thing I would change though is the tonic.  I didn’t realize it until after the popsicles were in the fridge but the tonic we had was lime flavored.  The lime flavoring really came out and while it didn’t taste bad it just wasn’t what I was hoping for.  I’ll stick to regular next time.  I was surprised at how well the popsicles held up too.  I thought with the alcohol mixed in it would turn to slush pretty quickly, but it held up about as long as you would expect any other fruity popsicle to.

When these are gone I’ll try a couple other flavor combos.  With all the mint we have growing out back I’m thinking some mojito pops would be about perfect!

Recipe- Swiss Chard Side

As you may remember, the weekend before last I picked up some swiss chard from the farmer’s market.  I knew I wanted to cook it as a side so I went with my old standby way of preparing cooked spinach to see if we’d like it.  I used a little over half a bunch of chard.  We waited until toward the end of the week so I ended up pulling out a few of the leaves. First up, I cleaned the leaves and trimmed down the ends of the stems.  You can eat the stem but you want to cut them down so you get rid of the more woody pieces. Next, I cut the leaves and stems down to more manageable pieces.  I rolled the leaves like I would to do a chiffonade cut and cut them down to pieces about an inch or so wide. When they were all cut up, I heated up some olive oil in the pan at medium heat (about 2 tablespoons, just eyeballing) and added a chopped up clove of garlic. After it had cooked long enough to be fragrant, I added in my leaves and put the lid on. I left it alone for around 3 minutes before using tongs to move the leaves around and flip them to make sure it was cooking evenly, then put the lid back on for another 3 minutes and removed it from the heat. We ate the chard with steak and potatoes from the grill.  On the whole it was really similar to cooked spinach with a slightly different flavor, just a little bit sweeter.  I’m thinking about loading up on some this week and trying to freeze some cooked like you would find frozen cooked spinach in the grocery store.  I’m going to do some more research on it to see if there are any good tips out there.  I’ll keep you posted on what I find out. I’ll be back this weekend with some boozy dessert!

Pinterest Recipe of the Month- Blueberry-Balsamic Glazed Rosemary Chicken

This month for my Pinterest Recipe, I picked a recipe that utilized blueberries in a way other than dessert.  I’m really hoping that by next summer we’ll have more blueberries than we know what to do with, and we’ll be so tired of blueberry pies and jam we’ll need another way to use them up 🙂  Dream big right?

The recipe is originally pinned from Driscoll’s.com, you can find the full recipe here.  Since blueberries aren’t in season right now, I used some frozen Minnesota blueberries in place of fresh.  It worked just as well and still had full blueberry flavor.  I also used larger bone in, skin on chicken breast (also from Minnesota) in place of 4-6 boneless, skinless.  The weight ended up being about what was called for in the recipe and made more sense since it was just for the two of us.

To start off, I pre heated my oven and melted half of the butter and oil in a heavy bottomed pan.  When it was starting to bubble, seared the chicken until it had a nice golden brown finish.

Then I set the chicken off to the side in a baking dish and got started on the glaze.  I added the remaining oil and butter to the pan and then tossed in my chopped shallots.  They browned up really quickly, faster than suggested in the recipe.

With the shallots browned I added in the blueberries.  I’d rinsed and drained the blueberries first (actually, I talked the Hubs into doing it) before I added them to the pan.  They really steamed up because of the extra water.

Once the steam settled down, I added in the vinegar, syrup and salt and pepper.  It was at this point that I realized the rosemary, I was sure I had, was in fact gone.  Whoops!  Well, too late to turn back now.  The mixture simmered and reduced on the stove for about 10 minutes.  Driscoll’s recipe calls out the blueberries should collapse at this point, but since they were frozen and a little collapsed to begin with, I just followed the time.

I spooned the mixture over the chicken breast and popped the chicken in the oven.  It said it would only take about 10 minutes but in reality, it took about 30-35 minutes because of the size of the chicken.  Just keep checking it with a thermometer.

Overall it was a really tasty recipe.  It was a great way to spice up regular chicken breast and I liked that it only used two pans to make something that sounds so complicated.  Most of the ingredients you might already have on hand to make it even easier to whip up.  I’ll keep this guy on hand and maybe try the glaze on other meats from the grill throughout the summer.

Dessert of the Month- Lavender, Lemon, Almond Cake

In the spirit of the change of seasons into spring, I went with a light dessert this month.  It’s also my first shot at a recipe, not a recipe from scratch mind you, but adapting one that I’ve had success with before.The base of the recipe is from Giada De Laurentiis of Everyday Italian on the Food Network, you can find the original recipe here.  The additions I made were adding in the lemon juice and lavender flowers.  I also adjusted my cooking time based on the size of cake pans I had available.  Her original recipe calls for an 8 inch cake pan at 35 min.  The local ingredients I used were butter, eggs, sour cream and lavender.


Start by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees and butter and flour a 9 inch cake pan.  Then mix together your cake flour, cornmeal, and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

Then, cream together your butter and almond paste until it’s nice and smooth.  I scraped down my bowl a few times and spread a bit of it against the side to make sure it was well mixed and I didn’t have any large pieces of almond paste left behind.

Next up, I added in my vanilla as well as fresh squeezed lemon juice.

When its it well blended, slowly add in your powdered sugar, keeping the mixer going until it’s light and fluffy.

Next start adding your eggs one at a time, waiting until each one is incorporated before adding the next.

When your eggs are incorporated do a quick scrape of the bowl before you add in the sour cream.

Finally, slowly add in the mix of dry ingredients until incorporated.

Once the batter was fully mixed, I measured a tablespoon of lavender.  It’s important to note that I bought the lavender at the co-op in the spice section.  Make sure you use lavender that’s meant for cooking and not anything that’s been treated for home decor use.  Probably not the best idea for your stomach.  I ran my knife through the dried flowers to chop them up a bit, then slowly folded them into the batter little by little to make sure they were evenly distributed.

Then I poured the batter into the prepared cake pan and smoothed the top with a spatula before letting it bake for 30 minutes.

When the top of the cake is golden brown and the edges are pulling away from the pan its done.

I let it cool in the pan for a bit before turning it out onto a cooling rack to bring it to room temperature.  To dress it up, sift some more powdered sugar over the top before you cut and serve.  You could also sprinkle with a bit of lemon zest or more of the lavender to really make it shine.

You’ll end up with a fairly dense cake that’s subtly sweet and gives you a nice blend of flavors.  Enjoy!

Dessert of the Month- Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Hi Everyone!  I hope you all had a good Valentine’s Day yesterday and got some fun treats to celebrate!

For the February Dessert of the Month I thought it was only appropriate it went along with the holiday and after some online searching I settled on Red Velvet Whoopie Pies…with cream cheese frosting filling:) Courtesy of the blog, Annie Eats.

To start up, I whisked together my dry ingredients; flour, salt, cocoa powder and baking powder and set aside.

adding vanilla

I creamed together the butter sugar until fluffy.  Then added in the egg and  vanilla one at a time making sure each was incorporated before moving on.

Next up, added about a third of the dry ingredients followed by half of the buttermilk.  I repeated until both the dry and buttermilk were gone.

Then I added in my 1 oz. of red food coloring.  Handy little tip: you can buy food coloring in that size at the grocery store.  It’s easier to do that than useing the little guys you can buy in packs of 4.

Once the batter was mixed together the real fun began.  Obviously I had to go for the heart shapes so I loaded up my pastry bag with red velvet dough, laid out my parchment paper and went to work.

I started with a round tip.  It was way to small of a tip.  The dough didn’t come out easily and took too long to pipe out and make a heart shape.

Next I tried a star tip.  The dough came out a little better but I didn’t like the texture I was getting.  So I took out the metal tips and just used the cut end of the bag.  Much, much easier.

I didn’t use a template that was recommended by Annie.  However, if I were to make it again, I would.  The hearts were pretty easy to do, but without the template they were a little lop sided.

The cookies baked pretty quickly, only about 7-9 minutes and the pans had to be turned halfway through. Then I let them cool for a bit before moving them to cooling racks.

While they were cooling I started on the cream cheese frosting.  It goes really quickly.  First, you cream together the cream cheese and butter until it’s nice and smooth.  Make sure you don’t have any lumps.

Next up, add in your vanilla.  Then you start gradually adding powdered sugar.  I sifted in half a cup at a time letting it get fully incorporated before adding in the next batch.  You’ll end up with A LOT of frosting.  Not that it’s a bad thing:)

With the frosting done and the cookies cooled, I started pairing up my ‘hearts’ to make sandwiches.  Here I had another realization on why the template was so important.  Besides the fact that a lot of my hearts ended up looking more like kidney beans, it was hard to get good matches for even sandwiches with the cookies back to back.  I fudged it a little and had some cookies face up just to make them even and keep frosting on the fingers to a minimum.

I used a second pastry bag to pipe frosting on for each tiny sandwich.  I didn’t go all the way out to the sides when I piped it on.  This kept the frosting from spilling all over the place when you press on the top.

And there you go!  I put them in the fridge over night to let the cream cheese frosting firm up a bit.  I brought some to work the next day.  They got good reviews and it was fun to make something so mini and bite sized and I like giving out something homemade for holidays.  I think I’ll also use the cream cheese frosting again for cakes or some other treats.  I’m sure you could just do little rounds or go really crazy and try some other shapes for cookies too.

Give it a try and have some fun!

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
Recipe from AnnieEats.com
(Source: cookies adapted from Dinner and Dessert, originally from Better Homes & Gardens, December 2008; frosting frosting adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride)

Yield: approximately 18 sandwich cookies, but depends entirely on the size of hearts you make


For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 oz. red food coloring

Ingredients:

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.

Using a heart template cut out from card stock, trace evenly spaced hearts onto pieces of parchment paper sized to fit two cookie sheets.  Place the parchment on the cookie sheets so that the side you have drawn on is facing down; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in the egg until incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Blend in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, beat in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, beating each addition just until incorporated.  Repeat so that all the buttermilk has been added and then mix in the final third of dry ingredients.  Do not overbeat.  Blend in the food coloring.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the parchment paper using the heart tracings as a guide.  Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops are set, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.  Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets at least 10 minutes, until they can be easily transferred to a cooling rack.  Repeat with any remaining batter.  Allow cookies to cool completely before proceeding.

To make the cream cheese frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.

Transfer the frosting to a clean pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip.  Pair the cookies up by shape and size.

Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.

Pipe frosting onto the flat-sided cookie of each pair, leaving the edges clear.  Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.  To store, refrigerate in an airtight container.

Bacon Mashed Potatoes

Ok, ok.  I have one more post about my bacon and then we can move on, but I had to figure out what to do with the remainder of the pound of unsliced pork belly.  I tossed around the idea of bacon cheeseburgers or bacon wrapped something or other, then, I remembered the loaded mashed potatoes we’ve had at a steakhouse downtown.  My favorite part were the huge chunks of bacon that were all mixed in.

It was really easy to recreate.  I started boiling the potatoes (about 6 yukon golds, MN) on the stove in boiling water, cut into chunks, skin left on, and while that was plugging away I cut the remainder of my pork belly into smaller cubes.

I tossed the cubes in a frying pan on the stove and while they started sizzling I drained the potatoes (check with a fork for tenderness) and started mashing.  I like to leave a smidgen of water in with the potatoes and then add in a little milk to make them creamy.  The amount of milk is really up to you.  It all depends on how thick (or not) you want them to be.  I also added a couple of tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper to taste.

By the time the potatoes were done so was the bacon.  I scooped the the mega sized bacon bits on to a couple of paper towels and patted them dry, then right into the pot with the taters.  Stir them in and done!

They were so rich and creamy!  Definitely not very high up on the healthy side dish meter but, eh, they’re worth it.  It’s also an easy way to spice up something that you might already be making for dinner.  Even if you don’t have cubes of pork belly to work with, I don’t think you’d have any complaints if you crumbled up some cooked slices.

It’s BACON Part II

Alright folks, tonight is the moment of truth.

I’ve been curing my pork belly in the fridge for over a week.  I checked it at one week and it was still a little soft in spots, so I added more salt and gave it a couple more days of massaging and flipping.  I took it out today and it felt firm all over and just look at the edge in the picture, doesn’t it already look like bacon?

I just popped it in the oven where it needs to roast for a couple of hours until it’s fully finished.  I’ll be checking on it regularly for the rest of the night.  Friday night we’ll have the big taste test and see how it worked out.  I’m really looking forward to it, hope you are too:)

Minnesota Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

Hi Everyone, I hope you all had a good weekend.  We finally had winter hit over this weekend and it made soup sound that much better, especially something hearty like creamy wild rice and mushroom soup!  I found the recipe on The Kitchn, it’s a great site to find recipes along with other kitchen ideas like organization or new cookbooks.

I started up the wild rice in a pot of boiling water.  Grown right here in Minnesota.

While that was cooking away I started chopping up my veggies.  First up, 4 stalks of celery.  I cut each one in half to keep the pieces smaller.

Then 1 large onion (from Minnesota).

Then 1 pound of mushrooms.  I used button mushrooms (from Wisconsin)

I started cooking up the onion and celery in my dutch oven and let them cook until the onions were translucent.

Then I added in the mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms were nice and brown I added in garlic and oregano and stirred until fragrant.  Then added in flour to thicken it up, constantly stirring until the veggies were thick and gooey and the flour was thoroughly mixed in.

Then I added in some white wine to de-glaze the pan, let the wine reduce and added in my chicken stock and bay leaf.  I skipped the cheese rinds suggested in the recipe since we didn’t have any on hand and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, I drained my now cooked wild rice and set aside.

When my 20 minutes were up, I added in my cream, wild rice and rosemary to finish up the soup.  I let it simmer again for about 15 minutes until it was nice and thick before finally adding the cider vinegar.

The soup was soooo good!  It was perfect for a cold night and was really great with a little french bread.  It made more than enough for leftovers with the two of us.  I will for sure be making this again.  I think it’d make a good soup to bring for lunch or for a long week when you just need some good leftovers from the fridge.  However, it’s very time consuming so it’s not last minute dinner friendly.  Highly recommend this one.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup
From The Kitchn

Makes about 6 servings

1 cup wild rice
1 large onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced
1 pound mushrooms, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1-2 cheese rinds (optional)
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
2 teaspoons rosemary
1 cup whole milk or cream
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons salt, divided

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the wild rice and one teaspoon of salt, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 40-50 minutes, until the rice has burst open and tastes tender. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid to use as stock if desired.

While the rice cooks, prepare the rest of the soup. Warm a teaspoon of oil in a dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery with a half teaspoon of salt, and cook until the onions have softened and turned translucent, 3-5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and stir in the mushrooms and another half teaspoon of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released all their liquid and turned dark brown, 15-20 minutes. Don’t skimp on this step! This is where the soup gets its deep, rich flavor.

Add the garlic and oregano, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over the veggies and stir until the vegetables become sticky and there is no more visible dry flour. Increase the heat again to medium-high and pour in the wine. Stir and scrape the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Continue simmering until the wine has reduced and thickened a bit.

Add the bay leaf, cheese rinds, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes to meld the flavors. Add the rosemary, milk, and wild rice. Simmer for another 10-15 minutes, until the soup has thickened to your liking. Stir in the cider vinegar. Taste and add more salt or vinegar to taste.

Leftovers will keep refrigerated for up to a week.