PInterest Recipe of the Month- Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice

This weekend I decided I wanted to find recipe to re-boot my ‘Recipe of the Month’ idea.  With the short, cold days we’re experiencing in Minneapolis, I thought soup would be perfect.  After doing some browsing, I found this onion soup recipe and traced it back to one of my favorite blogs, ‘Smitten Kitchen’. I’ve made a few things from the blog before, so I knew it would I could trust it.  I made a couple of tweaks to the recipe including; substituting the Blue Cheese for Gruyere and using a mix of fresh parsley, chives and dried basil.  You can find the recipe right HERE.

ONION SOUP

It’s a bit of a time consuming process to cook both the rice and the onions, but the smell in the house was worth it.  It also gave me a chance to master my old nemesis, the mandolin. I used it to get nice even slices of onion and it went much faster than trying to slice them all by hand.  The soup itself was mild and pretty filling.  The recipe called out 4 servings but we could have easily done 6.  I have to say my favorite part was the pieces of baguette and cheese on the top.  After a few minutes of it soaking up the broth, it was the perfect blend of mild and sharp flavors. I could have eaten a full baguette myself if I had enough soup to soak it in.

I hope this gives you something to make the next time a Polar Vortex comes rolling through.  It seems to be once a week now around here.  Check out the rest of the recipes on ‘Smitten Kitchen’ as well, including an all time favorite; ‘Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake‘.  Follow the link for that, just do it.

Beet Chips, or The Time I Made a Burned Mess

Yup, I’m not leaving much for surprise at the end in this post.

You may remember a month or so ago when I overcame my childhood disgust for beets with a roasted beet salad.  It made me want to try different ways to use them and I thought a beet chip recipe would be perfect.  I figured it would make me feel a bit healthier eating a large bowl of beet chips rather than potato chips or pretzels.  So I started in.

raw beets

First issue came up rather quickly.  It was my first time using our mandolin (the Hubs bought it special for pickle slicing this summer) and even with the special guard, I had a hard time getting the tough, round beets to slice for me.  They really shredded more than anything else.  I was bound and determined to keep going.  I kept telling myself I’d get it on the next pass.  2 beets later, I hadn’t.

beet shavings

I didn’t want to give up.  I told myself that even though the slices we’re thinner than I thought they would be, I’d set the guide to the right thickness, so it must be right.  Nope.  I popped them in the oven and set the timer for a little bit under the recommended cooking time.  I should have set it for way under the cooking time.  I pulled out the pans and was greeted with crispy, burned chips that had gone from deep purple-y red to charcoal.  Sigh.

burnt chips

Moral of the story, I’m going to spend a little more time figuring out this mandolin and stop myself when I get the feeling that it’s not going to plan.  In the meantime, I’ll stick to my pretzels.

August Catch Up

I can’t believe we’re about to start our second full week of September already, I don’t know where the summer went! It’s still feeling more like summer than fall around here. A garden full of tomatoes and 90 degree weather makes it hard to think about. Over the past month we’ve had some more kitchen projects that I haven’t been able to update you on. All of them are designed to give us a taste of summer come January and February when we’re sick of the cold and snow.

Corn Chowder: recipe from America’s Test Kitchen.

corn chowder

Zucchini Bread, recipe below

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Canned Tomatoes: recipe from the Ball Canning Book

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We’ve been trying extra hard to not have any of our garden veggies go to waste this year. So far we’ve been doing pretty well. We’re getting an excess of zucchini again that we need to address. I think we have plenty of bread so I’m looking in to other preserving methods or easy week night recipes. So far the tomatoes have all been eaten or preserved. We’d be happy to eat our tomatoes as BLTs every night but I have a few other ideas in mind to switch it up.

Do any of you have tried and true recipes for summer? I’d love to hear from you!

Zucchini Bread- from mom’s kitchen

3 Eggs
2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Oil (canola or vegetable)
3 Cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 Tbsp Vanilla Extract
3 Cups Shredded and Peeled Zucchini
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts (optional)

1. Lightly grease two, 9 inch loaf pans. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream together eggs, sugar and oil
3. In separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder
4. Gradually add the dry ingredients to sugar, eggs and oil until completely blended
5. Add cinnamon and vanilla
6. When all other ingredients are combined, fold in zucchini and nuts if using until fully incorporated
7. Divide batter into 2 pans, cook for 50-60 minutes or until knife comes out clean

Roasted Beet Salad

It took a lot of effort for me to not title this post something like: ‘We Got the Beets’  or some other awful pun.  I’ll save you from my awkward sense of humor for the day.  I picked up beets from the farmer’s market last weekend, it’s the first time I bought them.  I have memories of having to sit at my grandparents kitchen table until I had finished all the canned, pickled beets.  I thought they were the worst veggies in the world.  Things change; since elementary school I’ve grown to like beans, Mexican food and avocados , why not beets?

beet collage

I found a recipe on Bon Appetit for Roasted Beet Salad with Citrus and Feta.  It’s seemed far enough away from the awful canned beets of  my youth and get me to use up some more of the salad greens that are overtaking the garden.  You can find the recipe here.  It went together fairly easy but it took a bit longer than I wanted it to.  I roasted the beets one night and assembled the rest of the salad the second night.  I have to admit, when I smelled the roasted beets coming out of the oven, it made me thing of those nasty bright pink discs and I had a moment of nervousness.

beet collage 2

When I started to mix up the vinaigrette and add in the citrus and cheese, I felt more comfortable with trying the beets again.  They didn’t have as strong of a flavor as I remembered and the mix with feta was pretty tasty.   I’ll probably look for other beet recipes, salads or otherwise and it was enough to put beets back on my ‘edible’ list of foods, feels good.

Fresh Dinner

Hi There!  I’ve been slacking on you guys with post updates, sorry about that.  Summer has been keeping me more interested in being outside.  Our garden is starting to pick up so tonight we had a very fancy dinner of popcorn with this strainer full of fresh peas, raspberries and a couple of radishes.  The raspberries are really starting to kick it into high gear.  We’ll have to go out and keep checking on them regularly to make sure we don’t miss any of the goodness.

raspberries radishes and peas

Garden Update- Planting Begins

Well, spring is really here!  It might have made a jump in to summer (93 today) but I’m not going to complain, it feels amazing!  I didn’t make it in last week to say hello because The Hubs and I were finally able to get in the yard and start prepping and planting.  This is what most of our nights after work looked like.

garden 1

Oh yeah, and we built a shed!  It’s a snap together, kit we picked up, took a solid afternoon.  It’s going to come in handy storing garden supplies this summer.  It kind of makes me want to paint our house to match.  This picture would be even better if the lilacs were in bloom and I’d moved the pooper scooper…

garden 2

As far as the actual garden goes, we got the main plot cleared, tilled, composted, and planted.  We’re trying onions, lettuce and chard in a few little rows.

garden 3

Next to that, we’ll have 6 squash; zucchini and butternut.  We used our mini flower pots to remember where the seeds are. We’ll take them off once things start to sprout.

garden 4

Last we’ll have cucumbers for pickling.

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Oh, and those tomato seeds we started a couple of weeks ago, well look at them now!

garden 6

These babies will go in the ground pretty soon.  We’ve been placing them out in the sun during the day now that it’s warm.  There are 9 plants of each type of tomato so we’ll be able to pick out the best of the best when they’re ready to plant.  We still have to plant the smaller plant on the other side of the yard, plus all the pots on the patio.  Hopefully we’ll finish it all up this weekend.

Oh yea!  I’m also going to volunteer at the farmer’s market this weekend!  I’m really excited to help but even more excited for it to be starting back up again.  I’ll be picking up some goodies for sure!

Black Bean Soup

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!  I hope you got in some green beer or corned beef hash to celebrate!  I’ve been spending my day drinking a lot of green juices.  Not sure why, but I decided this weekend was the best one to try a juice cleanse.  I’ll let you know how it went tomorrow, in the meantime, back to the soup.

black beans 1

In an effort to expand the staples we have on hand, we added dry beans to our pantry list.  We have always used canned in the past so this soup (and burritos we had for lunch this last week) were the first time we had to start completely from scratch.  We measured out enough beans for both the soup recipe and our lunch and let it soak overnight.

black beans 2When I woke up in the morning, The beans had expanded and only half of them were still in the water.  I quickly moved them to a larger bowl and topped them with more water to soak for the rest of the day.  When we got home from work we split the bowl in half and started one pan cooking for lunch and held the other half back for our soup.

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I started heating oil in a stock pot and added in 1 onion, 1 leek, a couple of cloves of garlic and some cumin.

black beans 3Once the veggies started to soften up and the onions became slightly translucent, we added in a few strips of chopped up bacon.

black beans 5When the bacon had browned a bit, in went the beans…

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…followed quickly by some chicken stock and a bit of water.

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The soup was brought to a boil and then left to simmer for about an hour on the stove (not exactly a quick weeknight dinner).

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When the time was up, I ladled about half of the soup into the blender.

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Boom. liquified.

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I added the blended portion back into the pot and mixed it in, as well as seasoned it with salt and pepper.

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From there, we added a dollop of sour cream and dug in.  It was very filling and satisfying for as few ingredients as it called for.  I may have added too much soup to the blender though as it was a little watery.  The sour cream had some trouble staying on the surface.  We finished all our leftovers so I’d call it a success.  I’m also glad we utilized our dried beans instead of reaching for the canned beans again.  We have a better idea of how to time things out and how much water you really need to rehydrate.  I’m going to look into ways to prep dried beans for our crock pot chili and maybe making our own chili beans with our own seasonings.  However, with the thought of spring around the corner, I’d rather start thinking of black bean salsa on the back patio.

Garden Ideas

With Daylight Savings Time this week, we’ve had sunsets at 7p.m. all week!  It’s so amazing to leave work in the sun!  That being said, it’s also got me hankering to work in the garden despite the fact it’s still covered by about a foot of snow.  Since that’s not an option, I’ve started gathering ideas of thing to try.

First, I want to try growing potatoes in a garbage can another shot.  We had pretty decent results last time and I’m hoping that with a little more rain this year it will be even better.

On the new project list, what I’m most excited about is trying to do some gutter gardens.  I think this would be an easier way to manage herbs and grow some lettuces as well as maybe keep squirrels at bay.

With the space potentially freed up by moving the herbs, I want to take another stab at growing some beans and peas.  I thought this bicycle wheel idea was pretty cool for a climbing line.  This might also work if we end using some extra garbage cans for beans.

With all these exciting ideas, what we’ll really have to do first is prune up our raspberry bushes.  It’s a pretty tangled mess right now and harvesting the berries was a little challenging.  This video from The University of Maine’s is what we’re going to use as a guide.  I’d like to get out there and start cleaning it all up as soon as the snow melts enough to clear a path.

I’m going to have to psych myself up to go out there with the cold temps but, we’ll need to do it before things start warming up too much.  I’ll just have to keep telling myself it’ll be worth it come July!

Parka, Minneapolis

I’m more than willing to admit that Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.  As an adult, it’s gotten to be less about exchanging cards and conversation hearts and more about where we’re going for dinner.  This year we tried a new place in Minneapolis, Parka.  I’d heard a bit about it as a coffee shop/home store but not much on what their sit down dinner was like.  Still I was very curious.  I tried calling to make reservations thinking, it’s Valentine’s Day, it’ll be dicey, only to find out they don’t take them.  So the Hubs and I decided to chance it and booked it over there as quick as we could after work hoping to beat a rush.  Not a problem, there was no wait and we were seated right away.  I think it was due to the fact that they’re better known for their coffee right now.  However, once word starts to spread about their food, I think things will start changing.

parka 1

First things first, we ordered a couple of beers, both from Indeed Brewing Company here in Minneapolis.  I had their Stir Crazy (a dark, winter seasonal, right) and the Hubs ordered the Day Tripper (Pale Ale, nice and hoppy, left), both were really good.  I’m going to keep an eye out for them at the liquor store.  Bonus points for the cute glasses, yup, I’m a sucker.

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We ordered a couple of apps before the meal; roasted brussels sprouts and the ham and pickle tots.  The brussels were alright; roasted with bacon, candied walnuts and smoked quail eggs.  I’m not a huge fan of hardboiled eggs so I picked around those and The Hubs thought they were a little, over done.  Not sure if I’d order them again.  I would however, order the Ham and Pickle Tots again, over and over, and not share.  They were served with an onion foam, dill pickle gel and a smear of truffle on the plate.  The inside of these jumbo tots was full of cheesy, ham and pickle goodness.  Perfect comfort food, highly recommend!

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For entrees, The Hubs got the meatloaf sandwich and I ordered the pot roast.  The meatloaf sandwich came with a side of fries sprinkled with duck fat (yum) and the sandwich looked like a cheeseburger made with a slab of meatloaf with a fluffy bun.  I had a split second of order envy but The Hubs shared a couple fries with me so it worked out.  When asked for his opinion on the sandwich, The Hubs said “Good”.  He cleaned his plate with no problem though, if that’s any indication.

parka 6

My pot roast came with carrots, both roasted whole and sliced, and potato puree.  It also had candied horseradish listed out on the menu, which I was a little nervous about.  I’m not a big fan of lots of horseradish and I was expecting it to be in larger pieces mixed in with the veggies.  Instead it came in a gel form that was dotted around the plate.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It had just enough of the horseradish kick for me and was easy for me to control how much I wanted per bite.  The pot roast itself was tender and juicy.  This dish as a whole reminded me of something you would find in your Mom or Grandma’s kitchen, but better.  Sorry Mom.

parka 7

At this point, we had both cleaned our plates and were talking about how full we were, but I had seen the dessert menu online earlier that day and didn’t want to leave without trying the apple cobbler.  It came with cheddar ice cream….what?  It was amazing!  Not only didn’t come with a scoop of white cheddar ice cream.  It also came with a piece of apple fruit leather, mini apple dumplings, apple butter and a crispy cheddar wafer.  It was apple, cinnamon overload served in a warm crock and I loved it!  It pained me that I wasn’t able to eat more than half of it before I felt like I was going to explode.  I brought what I couldn’t eat home and plan on finishing that up once I’m done with this post.

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The Hubs ordered the Cookies and Bars for his dessert.  It came with a flight of local milks but I couldn’t tell you what they are because both of our jaws dropped when we saw the plate.  The menu says ‘share if you want’ and they’re being nice, its a dessert for two, no question about it.  The Hubs had about a bite of each cookie and bar before we asked them to pack that up too.  He liked the brownie and chocolate chip cookies the best of the group but there wasn’t anything in the mix that he didn’t like.  We’re almost done with those leftovers too…

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If you’re in the area you should definitely make the trip over to Parka to try the dinner menu.  I’m going back for the tots for sure and maybe another stab at finishing a dessert.  Or maybe I’ll try the Beer Can Chicken or Spare Ribs….hmmm