Friday, November 30, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones! (pg.252)

I've never been a fan of lemon flavored dessert simply because they aren't chocolate... However, this morning I found myself jonesing for a lemon-poppy-seed-something for breakfast.  After my housemate suggested I just "go to coffee shop and get a muffin" I decided to walk to the grocery store for some poppy seeds just to defy him!


Final Challenge Challenge Recipe

This week I hit up the Eastside Co-op on Central looking for my nutritious, delicious and affordable challenge recipe meal.  Like I did with our last challenge recipe at the corner store, I went to the co-op without a plan, just wanting to be inspired by what was available.  My inspiration came in the bulk food section, where I stumbled across some cavatappi pasta.  I frequented Noodles & Co. in high school and my favorite dish was pesto cavatappi.  It seemed like a good time to re-create it, so I went in search of the same ingredients used at the food chain.  Here was my final list:

Cavatappi pasta: $1.50
Walnuts: $1.89
Tomatoes: $0.75
Spinach: $2.99
Broccoli: $2.29
Mushrooms: $0.81
Parmesan Cheese: $2.89

Items from Home:
Olive Oil
Basil (from basil plant)

Grand Total: $13.12

I started out by chopping some broccoli florets and the mushrooms and sauteing them.  At the same time, I was toasting the walnuts and getting the ingredients for the pesto sauce.

I used a variation on the Bittman recipe for my pesto.  The bulk of the pesto was spinach, but I also added a few sprigs of fresh basil, along with the toasted walnuts, some , salt, and olive oil, and blended them together.

When the veggies were finished, I tossed the cooked cavatappi into the skillet with a dollop of the pesto, mixed it up, and tossed it on a plate with a parmesan garnish.  It blew Noodles & Co. out of the water.

  In the end, this challenge assignment didn't feel like much of a challenge compared to the difficulties of shopping at a corner store.  Variety was certainly not a problem; I would say I had a harder time narrowing down what I wanted to make because the options were endless.  The price was definitely more of an issue this time around, partially because that is the nature of co-ops (high-quality food is just more expensive), but even more so because this was a more complex meal than the last one -- in particular, I bought a larger variety of veggies than were available at the corner store.  While I personally couldn't sustain an all-coop budget at this time, I would definitely like to incorporate co-ops into my shopping, especially for the bulk containers, which I found to be incredibly convenient and economical.

Co-op Recipe Challenge

Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions
For our last recipe challenge I went to my go to food source Mississippi Market on Dale and Selby in Saint Paul.  I have to say going into this challenge I was a lot more confident and comfortable.  I knew it would still be challenging to obtain a balanced meal however I was far more comfortable in what I had available to me in the store.   I tried to think of different possibilities so that I could achieve a high quality meal at $7.50 a person.  I was inspired by the barley we had the other week in lab and decided to use that as my base.  I made a caramelized onions, mushroom and barley risotto last winter and thought those would all be fairly inexpensive.

Price Breakdown:
3-4 yellow onions                 $1.69/lb
1 lb cremini mushroom      $3.49/8oz
1 cup barley                           $1.29/lb
3-5 cups vegetable stock    $2.99 32oz

Grocery Total                       $12.95

Home items = $0
sprig rosemary
olive oil
salt and pepper

I purchased the onions, mushrooms, barley, and vegetable stock. I went with local button mushrooms mainly because they were the cheapest but I could have afforded to do ½ pound of cremini However the button mushrooms were local from Minnesota were as the cremini were from California so that made me decide to stick with the button mushrooms. 

The meal was fairly simple to put together. Chopping the onions and mushrooms took the longest and after that there is little need for attention. But essentially it’s a one pot meal and takes about an hour or so to fully cook the barley.  The recipe I made feed the two of us plus there was plenty for leftovers the next day.  It was hearty and filling and a great fall/winter dinner.

What I came away with is that healthy organic food is possible to eat on a tight budget however its not easy.  I think that a lot of planning in necessary to push your budget as far as possible.  Also to not waste anything, by utilizing every single piece of ingredient you buy which can probably take some time.  But I think doing a lot of your own preparation, preserving, and creating you can eat locally and healthy on a small budget.

Coq au Vin

One of my good friends is an eater in training. We’ve been trying to expand and develop his pallet as well as gain an understanding and appreciation for food… good food. For a little over a year now, we have been creating home made meals together. Enjoying every part to the process from grocery store trips to cleaning up the dishes after the meal is done.  Unfortunately he is moving away and our culinary journey will soon be coming to an end I have been exposing him to various different recipes and cuisines that are unfamiliar to the both of us.  But I also try to get some basic dishes that he can take and put into his recipe bank.   This past weekend we wanted to do a chicken dish something that could easily be used as leftovers for weekday lunches.  Browsing through Bittman's How To Cook Everything I found Coq au Vin or Chicken in a Red Wine Sauce on page 649.   I thought this would be a perfect staple for for over the winter months in the Midwest.  

Another one of my own personal goals is to buy local as much as possible.  I am proud to say over 50% of this meal is locally produced and 100% of the meat is raised right here in Minnesota.  I still can improve but I am very happy to pay the extra money to support such a worthwhile cause.  Also it feels great eating it!

I actually butchered the whole chicken myself.  I forgot my knives (which I will usually bring over with me) so that was quite a challenge.  But successfully we disassembled the chicken into its proper parts. 
This is another one pot dish (helps save on the pan washing, which is always a plus).  Our sauce did not quite reduce down to what we were looking for however it did have the flavors and it was quite delicious with a side of roasted garlic mashed potatoes.

 All in all I would say a success, and I believe a great recipe to have as a go to for weeknight meal or a special occasion on the weekend.

3rd Challenge Assignment - Le Pasta

 As I wandered over to Santana's, a corner-store on University Ave & SE 6th Ave, to look for a meal for my roommate and I for $15 or less I was happy to find myself as the sole customer.  The cashier quickly got involved in my project with suggestions left and right (though appreciated, it was a little off the mark).  I wanted to find a can of beans first and then work from there, to ensure my vegetarian roommate got a good share of protein, but among the various cans they offered, there were no beans!!!  I did however easily find a big bag of pasta and so I decided to use that as a base and find ingredients from there.

In their fresh aisle they had $1.50 tomatoes, a small plastic container of broccoli crowns that were browning a bit too much for my comfort and a few other things.  My grocery list was as follows:

Pasta - 3.29
3 Tomatoes - 4.47
Garlic - 0.79
Onion - 0.79
Mushrooms - 1.39
Cheese - 3.89

For a total, when tax on select items was included, was $14.98!

So I used Bittman's straightforward Tomato Sauce with Pasta directions on pg.502 and got to work.  Had the broccoli been in better shape I definitely would have used it instead of the expensive cheese; at the same time, the mushrooms only provided minimal protein and thus the cheese offered a lot (though beans would've been my first choice for a protein base).

So after simmering the tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, garlic, and seasonings some more I threw it over a bed of pasta and enjoyed a cozy yet lacking meal with my roommate!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Challenge Recipe #4
Roasted Root Vegetables and Sausage with Pear Walnut and Blue Cheese Arugula Salad
This culinary adventure began at the Seward Coop on Franklin Street in Minneapolis. After shopping at the House of Hanson corner store, it felt much better to be in a food coop. Everything looks so fresh and vibrant. The vegetables are also at the front of the store, so that's where I started collecting ingredients.

I knew I wanted a salad and roasted vegetables. Pears are good this time of year, and blue cheese tastes good with pear, and walnuts taste good with both of these ingredients so I bought them all. Usually blue cheese is on the pricier side, but Seward does baggies of blue cheese crumbles; I found a small one for about $3.00.

For the roots I picked up some sunchokes, carrots, potatoes and an onion. Sunchokes are so good! They taste just like artichokes! We serve them at the restaurant that I just started working in called The Union so I've been loving them a lot lately. Sunchokes come from a sunflower plant native to Minnesota and the midwest. 

I stopped by the meat counter to find a little protein and flavor for the meal and the butcher suggested the garlicy Ukranian pork sausage. I said "ok," and ended up spending almost exactly $15.00. 

The nice thing about this meal is that it could have easily fed four people, or two people with leftovers. Also the higher priced ingredients like arugula and blue cheese crumbles could be used to enhance many more meals. 
To begin, preheated the oven and put the rice on the stove while I chopped the vegetables. I tossed the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic. I sliced the sausage into half inch rounds, threw it all on a baking sheet and put it in the oven at 360. 

While the rice was cooking and vegetables roasting, I sliced the pear and arranged it around the plate. Then I added a handful of arugula and topped it off with the walnuts and blue cheese crumbles. For the dressing I used a balsamic vinaigrette I keep in the fridge made of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, maple syrup, mustard, pepper and salt.  
About 20 minutes in I give the veggies a stir and flip over all the sausages then cook for another 20 minutes.
When the vegetables were soft and sausage cooked, I spread some rice on my plate and piled on the roasted goodness. I put on some Sam Cooke, poured myself a glass of wine and enjoyed every bite of this meal. Bon Apetite!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fettuccine Alfredo

Today I made Fettuccine Alfredo (pg. 506-507) from Mark  Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

The recipe called for:

  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • fettuccine 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • ground black pepper

I brought a pot of water to a boil and salted it. This would be used for the fettuccine.

While the pasta was cooking, I warmed up a bowl in the microwave. Then I whisked 4 eggs, 1 cup heavy cream, and and 2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese in the warmed bowl. I doubled the ingredients because the ingredients given were for 4 servings. The recipe said to toss the pasta with the cheese-egg-cream mixture, drizzle it with the butter, and then toss again. However, in my cheese-egg-cream mixture, the cheese wasn't melted very well. Because of this, I added the butter to the mixture and put the mixture in a small pot to heat it up a bit and melt the cheese. This also thickened the mixture.

When the fettuccine was done, I poured the Alfredo sauce over it. Then I topped it with cooked broccoli and chicken. Which I prepared at the same time as the Alfredo sauce and fettuccine.

The broccoli was a suggested addition in the book.

Everyone said it tasted really good! It was very simple to make, so I think I will probably make it again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cream Cheese Brownies

Cream Cheese Brownies
John Frame

Getting ready for next weeks lab on deserts, I decided to give it a try on some brownies found on page 881 of the red Bittman book. I decided to try the variation that included cream cheese. I was a little leery of baking after the butter cookie fail that I made. But I hunkered down and went to work on them.

This was the first time that I made brownies and I was really surprised at how easy they were to make. There was not much to them besides chocolate, butter, flower, sugar, and egg. The only extra ingredient that I had to add for the cream cheese variation was some cream cheese. The baking time was not too extensive and very comparable to other box brownie mixes.

Overall, the brownies turned out great. I think these brownies were better than the ones that I have made from the box kits and almost just as simple. The cream cheese variation was a very nice variation and I would definitely make them again. Next time I might try some of the other variations just to see how they taste and turn out. These brownies were great by themselves but they were extra tasty with a scoop of ice cream on top.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cornercopia: U of MN Student Organic Farm

If you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the farm check out
On October 30th I went and volunteered some time out at the student organic farm its located on the north west end of the Saint Paul campus.  The farm currently is home to 2.3 acres of certified organic soil.  

The compost piles
 The farm has a small shed to hold its tools, two new high tunnels that will be used for some winter growing research this coming winter, a few bins of compost piles.  Also I was told that during the summer the farm also housed some chickens and rabbits, however both were gone this late in the season.  

Dinosaur Kale

When I got there almost the last day in October the farm looked a little sparse but there was some heartier fall crops that were still scattered around the fields.  Some delicious dinosaur kale caught my eye, as well as some green cabbage that was in the second field back.

They don't look to pretty on the outside!

For my volunteering I got to harvest beans.  The beans was a research project done by Tom Michaels who is a professor in horticultural science.  There was plenty of beans left over from his study and he gifted it to the student farm.  It was amazing the variety of beans that were out there. 

But it was a surprise to open each pod and see the varieties!

This fall I have been experiencing a significant food transition.  I have always been interested in eating local, sustainable, organic food if I can. But I would not completely translate that with my dollar. That is up until now, between this class and Food Choices a class offered through the center of spirituality and healing I have been exposed to a large amount of evidence that I need to advocate my opinions and beliefs by purchasing food that supports and represents my views.   I have focused on eating organic for quite sometime now eating local and seasonal is my new goal.
I think volunteering at the farm is a great way to start to get involved in our local campus food system.  Gaining experience and understanding for what other systems are like and what challenges they face trying to be in a food system that may not necessarily be built to handle.   Healthy food starts with healthy soil and farming and gardening are the base for any sustainable food system that is needed in our society. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Martha Stewart's Chunky Apple Cranberry Sauce

For Thanksgiving dinner I decided to make the cranberry sauce. I was intrigued by this recipe on and decided to go with it. I was a little unsure about the savory qualities of the onion, ginger, and mace but Martha has never failed me so I went with it.

  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup dried currants

I ended up using cinnamon instead of mace because I could not find it anywhere, and I omitted the currants.
cran heart
First I combined the onion, red wine, and sugar and let it simmer
Then threw in the cranberries, apple, mace, cinnamon, orange zest, ginger, and orange juice and cooked it until all the cranberries had split and the apples were soft
The result was a delectable chutney that tasted great on the thanksgiving turkey

White Bean and Collard Green Soup

For the holiday weekend I am heading out of town and decided to get my blog recipe done prior to the feast of the holiday.   I thought a hearty soup would be appropriate to enjoy the day before, as well as the few days after the massive amounts of turkey and sides the weekend has to offer.  I have been really trying to cook with seasonal ingredients, so I wanted to make a soup that would do a fair job of representing November in Minnesota.  I decided to go with Bittman's White Bean and Collard Green Soup on page 136.

 Okay I know white beans doesn't scream Minnesota but I recently volunteered out at the U of M student organic farm and picked bean pods of all kinds so I figured it was acceptable for me to use beans.  This recipe was extremly simple; one pot, through in everything but the greens let her cook for at least an hour and then finish off with the collards to your liking.
 I quite enjoyed the soup on Wednesday and what I hear is that it will only get better!

Two Recipes in One Post: Pumpkin Ravioli and Garlic Almond Kale

I was staying at my parents house on Friday night and decided to make two recipes from Jenny Breen's cookbook, Cooking Up the Good Life, for dinner, one as my weekly assignment and one as my lab assignment.  I made Pumpkin Ravioli with Corn Cream Sauce (p.97) and Garlic-Almond Kale (p.58).

Both of my parents gave me some help with general sous chef activities, like chopping and boiling water, but the bulk of the prep was my own.

This is the pumpkin puree ravioli filling, which contained garlic, pumpkin, and spices.

I made the ravioli dough, rolled it out, and cut it into squares.  At first I cut really large squares so started making them smaller as I went on.

Here are the minced garlic, chopped roasted almonds, and kale pieces for the kale dish.

Ravioli in boiling water.

Kale all ready to eat.

Here's the ravioli, corn cream sauce, and kale all on the stove at once.

Here's the final meal.  It was really tasty.  We all loved the corn cream sauce, and my parents who have never eaten kale before really enjoyed the kale dish.  I did have one issue which was the ravioli.  I had a lot of trouble getting the ravioli filled, as it all squeezed out of the dough when I closed the pockets.  In the end, there wasn't quite enough filling in the ravioli and the pasta wasn't quite rolled thin enough.  As leftovers, I just put extra pumpkin on each bite and it was perfect.  I might try ravioli again, I'll just have to look up how to perfect the technique!