Sunday, December 30, 2012

Twelve Tastes of Christmas

Since the BF and I are both broke college students, we decided to get a little creative this holiday season. We were not allowed to spend money on one another's gifts! That's right! Not a dime! Zip, Nada Zilch!
 So what is a little foodie like me to do? 

but Rachel don't ingredients cost money?
-Well yes they do, but being that he drove up from Mankato to see me all semester I was able to convince him to let me spend a little money. Tehehe so sneaky!

Anyway being that we are both big Christmas nuts, I felt it'd be fun to set up a Twelve Days of Christmas themed meal where all the different ingredients would represent each of the different days.

Partridge in a pear tree : Pear 
Two Turtle Doves : Dove Chocolate
Three French Hens : French Bread
Four Calling Birds : Chicken
Five Golden Rings : Five Butternut Squash Rounds
Six Geese a Laying : Eggs
Seven Swans a Swimming : Water(*Not Pictured)
Eight Maids a Milking : Goat Cheese
Nine Drummers Drumming : Chocolate Custard "Drums" 
Ten Pipers Piping : Champange Flutes (*Not Pictured)
Eleven Ladies Dancing : Pink Lady Apples
Twelve Lords A Leaping : Carrots 

 <- First Course 

  • 8 Maids a Milking
  • 3 French Hens
  • Partridge in a Pear Tree

Main Course->

  • 4 Calling Birds
  • 5 Golden Rings
  • 7 Ladies Dancing
  • 12 Lords a Leaping

<-Dessert Course
  • 2 Turtle Doves
  • 6 Geese a Laying
  • 9 Drummers Drumming

To make the evening a little extra special, I decorated my room winter wonderland style.

I set up a little bistro set with a gold table cloth
 Christmas china with red chargers
 Snow flake candle 
String Christmas lights
 A little Christmas tree
Pulled up the yule log youtube video
Played the Michael Buble' Christmas album
Made my Bed into a giant snow hill equipped with a skiing Santa
 I hired two elves (my mom and my brother) to cut out snow flakes to be hung all over my room.

Best Wishes and Tasty Dishes,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Jacob Frey's City Council Campaign Launch Party - at a Restaurant!

He called it the The Jacob Frey Best Campaign Launch Party Ever - but if I were judging it based on the food there, I would not be able to agree!  It was not the best food ever.  Anyway, I decided this would be a neat Field Trip because A) I wanted to go check it out anyway, B) I needed one more field trip experience and this was the only thing happening on the last night that this assignment was due that I could think of, and C) I think it's a pretty interesting question:  what does the food look like at a campaign launch party that's hosted at a well-established restaurant by a well-positioned and financially-robust Minneapolis city council election candidate?
The restaurant? Nye's Polonaise.  A well established restaurant and bar that offers the best polka dancing in town (hearsay).  The factors?  Well obviously cost would play into the type of food being served - too extravagant and he'd come off as a wasteful campaign, too cheap and he'd seem... cheap.  No food was advertised on the facebook's page but I charged ahead regardless.

Another factor was impression.  Was Jacob going to make an impression with the quality of food he was providing?  Or was it supposed to just be an after-thought - besides, the drinks being poured would be high quality, but then again that's because people had to pay for them...!  Another factor was context - this event wasn't about the food even though it was at a restaurant and so food would just make people more comfortable but it wouldn't draw people in to the event to begin with, so it definitely wasn't a centerpiece.  Thus, I guess I'm not too surprised to find out what was offered.

 First off, to clarify my statement about this not being the best campaign launch party ever because the food wasn't the best food ever, I do want to say that it seemed to be a good campaign launch party - and I definitely enjoyed the food.

          enjoying intently

The spread included swedish (polish?) meatballs that were apparently super delicious as they were gone by the time I got there. It also included a bowl of chips with a white sauce that seemed to be too close to the chip bowl to be for the veggie platter but too weird to be for the chips (polish?).  Of course then there was also a veggie platter which included uncooked cucumber, cauliflower, carrot, and broccoli to dip into some ranch-like dip (which was obviously placed for the veggies).  In a sense, it was a good variety.  Clearly, good party food because it attracts a diverse crowd; as in there was something for everyone - small portions, salty/tangy/healthy/sweet, and finger food (though I used a fork, please).  This was also probably a pretty cheap spread.  I think I was most disappointed probably because I had not yet eaten dinner and was looking for something more substantial, heh.  Maybe I should have just gone upstairs and ordered myself some dinner then...!


On the right:
Former Vikings player, marriage equality activist, singer, and chef at Seven downtown, Esera Tuaolo - maybe I should have asked him what he thought about the food given that he's a chef, heh.

It made me question myself, what would I have served?  I'd say, big batches of vegetable-mixed-pasta or skip the pasta and just serve loads of roasted vegetables, with an alternative of raw vegetables.  I'm tempted to say that he should have served cookies, brownies, ice cream, and cake... but I know better ;)

What would YOU serve to a large crowd at an event you're hosting?  Can you think back to your grad party?

My Pot-luck Muffins That Never Made It :(

Because of the crazy weather on Sunday, I got stuck in Wisconsin and couldn't make it back for the pot-luck :(  I did make my the muffins that I had planned to pass and thought I'd share the recipe.

The recipe can be found here:

Here are the muffins I made!

Best when eaten warm!

Bean Dip

Bean Dip
Bittmann Pg. 21

I like salsa and chips, I like guacamole and chips, and now I like bean dip and chips. This is a great alternative to the common salsa. Its easy to make and the recipe made a LOT (great for a party or pot-luck). I substituted the sour cream for plain greek yogurt and don't think it sacrificed any of the taste, although I think it made the consistency a little more loose then if I had used sour cream.

It may not look all that appealing, but trust me, its veryyy tasty!

Essential Nutrients and Why We Need Them

Essential Nutrients and Why We Need Them

Location: River Market Co-op, Stillwater, MN
Date: November 29th

Many co-ops offer/advertise events, classes, or workshops that promotes their mission statement of improving the health of community members and actively supporting the community.  My family is members of the River Market co-op in downtown Stillwater (about 30 minutes from the cities for those of you who do not know).  When I lived at home last year my mother and I would go to a lot of these health and food related seminars and workshops.  Last year is when I started to really get into food being used as medicine.  Since I don't live at home this year my mother has been having to go to these classes by herself, and she has recently been to a lot of the classes taught by a man name Don Slinger who she seems to be a bit obsessed with.  I decided to go with her to this one because I was in town at the time.

Don has always been very concerned with what he put in his body. When he was diagnosed with prostate cancer about 10 years ago he decided to do his own research about how he could help fight it in conjunction with Western medicine.  He has given many lectures on his journey towards fighting cancer (he actually does not have it anymore), this one in particular was on the essential nutrients that help him gain his health back. It was super chemistry intense, but very interesting as well. To save time and confusion I will just go over some of the main points that he talked about. 

In one of the studies Don talked about, he referred to this figure, the "Wheel of Health".  This 13 year study by Duke University showed that professionals can only help patients about 25% of the time (blue outer circle) and that patients needed to be responsible for their own health changes the other 75% of the time (note the 7 areas of personal responsibility in the green circle).  Many times throughout his cancer fight, the medical community could not help him, so Don did his own research and basically solved his own problems. He then decided to create a plan that he followed 100%, everyday during the first 9 months of his cancer, now he only does about 5 to 6 times a week. Some of the things he decided to implement in his everyday life was:
1. Building his relationships between God, himself, others, and the environment.
2. Including "natural" omega 3 and 6 + fish oil in his diet for improvement of healthy cell functions. 
3. Including minerals an iodine from kelp in his diet to fight inflammations. 
4. Eating raw, alkaline foods to increase natural emzymes intake so his pancreas wouldn't have to produce as much.
5. Oil-pulling with coconut oil to kill mouth bacteria.
6. Taking Boron and Selenomethionine supplements to suppress the tumors creation/growth.
7. Doing Magnesium chloride hexahydrate soaks.
8. Chewing his food well for proper digestion.
9. Drinking enough natural, non-toxic water - about 2 quarts a day.
10. Rebounding several times a day- a quick 5 minute exercise.

Now these things weren't over night things, it took about 8-10 months for Don to finally see results of his hard work. The above things are also not even close to everything he talked about but if your interested in learning more I can email the information he sent out to everyone, or you can do your own research.

After every presentation he always has bulk items that he has talked about that night or previous times.  Of course my mom always buys stuff, so here are some pictures of the things she bought.

He didn't talk about these in this class but I guess he
did in a different class my mom attended

stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed Mushrooms
Bittmann Pg. 31

Stuffed mushrooms are an appetizer that I always go for when offered but have never made myself. I am pleased to say they are even better when you make them yourself. They are quick and easy to make but feel pretty fancy. The recipe calls for parsley leaves but I substituted for spinach because its what I had on hand.

Perfect to past at a holiday party or gathering!

Field Trip

Midtown Market Field Trip

I had heard about the Midtown Market from one of my roommates, she had gone with her parents when they came to visit. A few weeks later, my mom and sister came to visit and thought we'd check it out. We went on a sunday morning and were surprised to find they had salsa dancing lessons going on that early, or at all for that matter. The market felt like a mix of a farmers market, a art fair, and festival all combined. they had several food stands, a central market area with fresh and local fruits and veggies,  a large cheese stand (yum!), and clothing, art, and jewelry stands. My sister and I were pretty occupied with a soy candle stand. We spent time walking around the whole market, bought some cheese, some fresh veggies, a candle or two, and them got some food. We all ended up getting food from different vendors. My mom got mexican, my sister got american, and I got asian. The food was tasty and seemed authentic. After we ate we watched those participating in the salsa lesson. Under normal circumstances (as in not sunday AM) I may have joined in but left that for another time. It was fun to see people of all ages joining in and you could tell who were the regulars. We could have spent more time just wondering around but my mom and sister had to get on the road back home. My take away from the market was the very apparent fact that food is such a large part of all cultures.
I will definitely be going back to the Midtown Market. Time well spent.

Cinnamon Butter Cookies

This week I made Cinnamon Butter Cookies (pg. 892-893) from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.

This recipe called for:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup milk

First I heat the oven to 375F. Then I creamed together the butter and sugar. After that I added the vanilla and egg and beat it until it was well blended. 

I mixed together the dried ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder) in a bowl. Then I added half the dry ingredients to the mixed wet ingredients. I beat it for a bit and then added some milk and beat it again. The I added the remainder of the dry ingredients and the remainder of the milk, and beat it a final time. 

Then I dropped it by spoon full onto a baking sheet. 

After that I made the cinnamon sugar. That called for 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon. 

I sprinkled the cinnamon sugar onto the dropped cookie dough. 

Then I put it into the oven until the outsides were browned.

My sister couldn't wait for them to come out of the oven. She thought they were delicious and I agreed.

Food Truck Field Trip

(photo cred:
 I have had the privilege of working in the Mr. Mustachios food truck a few times over the summer but by far my longest shift was this fall during the Zombie Pub Crawl where I worked a 12 hour shift.  We were only operating for about 6 of those hours and during that time I was on my feet almost the entire time taking orders, money, prepping some of the food, and serving it out the window.  The novelty of it all gets lost to you around hour 4 or so, but it stays pretty fun and interesting with the different customers, or drunk zombies, coming through.

My friend is the operator of the food truck, which is owned by the Nomad World Pub.  Since the Nomad doesn't have a kitchen to serve food, they decided to invest in a food truck which they park outside the bar on special event nights such as during their weekly bocce ball tournaments or the soccer tournaments that they show on their TVs.  I help out some with the prep work (we use the Brian Coyle Community Center's kitchen for all of the food prep) but mostly write down ticket orders, take cash or credit on an iPad, and hand the food off.

photo cred: Lizzie Houns
Unfortunately I don't have any more pictures to show because as the 'face' of the food truck I didn't really have much time to grab my camera (and just kinda forgot about my camera as the night grew long).  However a friend unexpectedly showed up and so we "swapped" costumes for a bit as you can see here to the left.

We only served three things that night as I can recall:

  • Penne pasta bed topped with marinara sauce, italian sausage, and some shredded cheese
  • Belgian frites (fries) with a sriracha aioli
  • Dumplings (can't remember the filling... some veggie/meat mix) with a dipping sauce
  • And there might have been a fourth thing... can't remember exactly, but it could have been our usual: fish tacos.

The food isn't exactly the healthiest, but my friend and I don't have total control over that - we have to please the food truck owners.  The most exciting part is the dream my friend and I share to take this food truck to be our own, cook up some real tasty and healthy food, maybe subsidize really fresh ingredients if they're pricey by over-charging for unhealthy desserts, but ideally working directly with a farm (or owning the farm ourselves) to get fresh produce on the daily.

Some of the challenges that I experienced on this field trip when cooking were around food safety.  If someone had to go into the bar to get something or back to the kitchen to get something, it meant I had to cook up the food as well as take tickets/cash which made it hard to keep my hands clean constantly - this plus the time when our water ran out - plus the time we were moving so fast and I dropped the tongs on the floor but we were out of water to wash the tongs and I couldn't find the other pair for a while.........

I mean we made it through the night, we found ways around our troubles and no one got sick from our food - only from their binge drinking.  But it really showed me how much preparation and back-up you need to have, how thoroughly you need to prepare, to deliver a safe, quick, and tasty meal/snack.


 I love eggs, cheese, and broccoli so it's great that there's a delicious way to combine it all!  Not to mention simple...!  Bittman lays it out on page 802 with a lot of great options for different ways too cook it up.
 First I had to soften up my broccoli and onions which I did in some water.  Afterward, per Bittman's instructions, I should have chopped it up a bit but for some reason I felt compelled to put big pieces of broccoli in my omelette.
I don't think I followed Bitt's instructions closely enough to achieve a good egg form, as noticeable in the picture - but luckily it's only just the beginning of learning how to make the perfect omelette...!  And yeah, I probably should have cut up my broccoli hah.  Either way, I sure enjoyed it and look forward to making some more complex versions (he suggests filling it with mashed goodies, jelly, or fruit...!).


 There is nothing like a warm, cozy loaf of bread on a cold winter day.  Seriously though, when your apartment building has an old radiator heating system that has only one thermostat to control the air temperature for 20+ apartments.... yeah you're not going to make everyone happy!  In my case, it's often a little cooler than I like in my room (then again I like to hang out in boxers when I'm home...).  TMI???  Regardless, armed with cranberries, walnuts, and chocolate chips I was very excited to make some bread from Bittman's Fruit-and-Nut recipe on page 843.
 I had been wanting to bake the whole semester and only finally got around to it a few weeks ago.  What I did was inspired by this whole wheat walnut bread I had eaten at Lucia's that was just so delicious.  I can't say I got anywhere near it, but it was definitely a step in the right direction (especially with cranberries and chocolate chips ;).
After a nervousness of over-checking the bread and thus opening the oven door way too many times... I am happy to say it was neither under-cooked nor burnt!  This warm loaf was delicious with my added ingredients and the warmth of the oven also helped warm up my apartment!  I think next time I want to make it a little more moist though.  Oh!  I also cut the sugar in half (maybe because I was making up for it with cranberries and chocolate chips), cutting it from 1 cup to a half a cup - and I thought it was totally fine!

Saint Paul's Farmers Market

I went to check out the Saint Paul's Farmers Market.  Its located in downtown Saint Paul at
290 East 5th Street.  I went there Saturday October 27, it was a perfect brisk fall morning.  I just love our falls here in Minnesota.

There was quite a lot of action going on up and down the long aisles under the covered market.   Venders trying to stay warm selling there goods. There were a large assorment of fall vegetables, lots of greens, squashes, pumpkins, a variety of tubers. Fruits like apples and cranberries. You can get an variety of processed meats from local farmers.  And there are a few stands that have specialty products like honey, cider, and cheeses.

The consumer demographic was quite large. I saw families with young children, older couples, young couples, groups of friends, a mix of races and nationalities.  I also noticed the SNAP programs EBT and the many vendors that marketed their acceptance of them.  It was a fun experience and I left with a bounty of local product, some are my staples and a few new varieties like the purple cauliflower I thought would be fun to try.  I have slowed down on going every week but I do know that the winter farmers market started up a few weeks ago and would love to go and check out their winter selection.  I am sure there are a lot of recipes I can discover cooking from that.

A Scramble for Eggs

 Had I had more time, I think I would have made Bittman's "The Best Scrambled Eggs" but let's just say I was in a scramble when I made these a while ago.  Bittman gives a lot of ideas to add to your scrambled eggs on page 793.  I decided to make mine with tomato, red bell pepper, spinach, and a topping of mozzarella cheese.
 I think I added the spinach in too soon.  Not that it was bad in the end, but I think it makes more sense to add them in soon before you're done cooking the eggs so that they retain a certain freshness to them (including nutritional value).
In the end, with a nice cold glass of orange juice and a sprinkle of mozzarella cheese, I sure enjoyed my scramble for a breakfast.

Field Trip #1: Golden Valley"s Farmers Market

Golden Valley's Farmers Market
Location: Golden Valley, MN
Date: September 16th, 2012

I know this was from a long time ago, but like most college students I like to procrastinate till the very last minute for everything.

I love farmers markets.  They are a great way for community members to gather and talk to one another, as well as getting to know their local farmers.  It is also a great way to keep money and jobs within the local economy.  Every farmers market is different, not only can they have a wide range of different produce but there can also be flowers, homemade goods/gifts, informational booths, and even musicians. 

This specific farmers market field trip was to Golden Valley, MN.  I was actually over there for another class, and we came across the city's farmers market.

It it located in the parking lot of Golden Valley's City Hall building.

They had a surprising amount of booths here.  Vegetable booths, a honey and jelly booth, gift booths, informational booths (2 on community volunteer projects), homemade soaps booth, musicians, as well as many more.  With the amount of booths, there weren't that many people there, but I'm assuming this is because I arrived towards the end of the market.  All of the boothees (ha I know that is not a word) I talked to were very nice and informative.  

I  did not end up purchasing anything here because before I came to Golden Valley I was in Stillwater, at my parent's house, taking all the vegetables from our garden there FOR FREE!