Saturday, July 30, 2011

Eat Local Farm Tour!

My friend Dora emailed me late last night, asking if I wanted to join her in today's first-ever Eat Local Farm Tour, a project by Twin Cities co-ops to connect organic farmers with their clients. Was I interested? HECK YEAH!!

Our first stop of the morning was Cedar Summit Farm, an organic dairy/creamery specializing in milk from pastured cows fed 100% grass during the winter months, and sustainably-raised and grass-fed pigs, chickens, and their eggs!

I snapped a couple of pretty shots while waiting for the guided tour to start:

Dave Minar, owner of Cedar Summit and third-generation farmer of the land, toured a gigantic group of curious co-op shoppers around his farm:

We learned that they grow all of their feed for their animals on their farmland, baling it and essentially "vacuum-sealing" it to better preserve the grass's nutrients through MN's long, cold winter:

(As we walked past these wrapped bales, you could actually smell that sweet, "hay-smell." Lovely!)

Dave continued, noting where the calves were kept with their mothers for two months, providing the calf with health benefits traditional dairy cows do not receive, and shared other bits about the farm's operation and history.

We also had a chance to check out the chicken coop:

As the people headed into the coop, the chickens headed out! I found this hilarious.

We also met a few pigs:

Before heading across the street to meet the dairy cows:

After selecting some cheeses to purchase from their creamery, we re-applied sunscreen and continued our tour. (Cedar Summit doesn't make their own cheese, but they do provide milk to Pastureland and Alemar Cheese Company, who makes my new favorite local Camembert-style stinky cheese to slather all over fresh baguette every chance I get!)

Next stop, Gardens of Eagan!

We followed their self-guided tour, which rambled through many of their crops, including . . .


bell peppers:




and cabbages:

Aren't the alternating rows of green and purple cabbages just gorgeous?

Last stop? Pick your own corn boil!

Apparently, even dogs like corn:

A fitting end to a gorgeous, inspirational, educational, and FUN day!

Friday, July 29, 2011

rescuing chard

I picked up the most gorgeous bunch of chard at the Farmer's Market . . . nearly two weeks ago! Bad! It was looking a little worse for the wear when I finally unearthed it from my produce drawer last night, but never fear -- cooking greens seems to hide a lot of those cosmetic blemishes, anyhow. :) I turned to an old favorite of mine: Swiss Chard with Chickpeas and Couscous:

Yum! I love this dish's simplicity, but also surprises in the pine nuts and raisins. (Yes, raisins do sound weird with greens, but it's surprisingly good! Try it.) Note that I do make a few changes from the original recipe: I cut the oil down to just a teaspoon or two, (otherwise, I find the finished greens a little too "glossy" for my palate,) and definitely cut the salt down -- I add just a pinch or two, instead of the full amount the recipe calls for. I also add a few pinches of red pepper flakes with the garlic, and a splash of red wine vinegar or lemon juice near the end -- brightens things up a bit. :) And definitely use whole-wheat couscous -- I swear I can't tell the difference!

What are your favorite uses for chard? I believe it has earned its place as my favorite cooked green . . . how about you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I cooked! For myself! Granted, it was nothing earth-shattering, (curry using up leftovers,) but still! Here it is:

Ingredients: 7 ounces of firm tofu (half a package,) 1 tsp peanut oil, 1 cup sliced red onion, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 cup roughly chopped green beans, 1 cup roughly chopped orange bell pepper, 1 cup roughly chopped snow peas, 1 tbsp curry paste, 5.5 oz can coconut milk (the little can is just so cute!), 1 tsp soy sauce, and 1 tsp sugar. Served over a bed of quinoa, this was a healthy and satisfying dinner last night!

Two things sped this meal to my table: 1. I had pre-cooked quinoa on hand, and 2. I had pre-browned cakes of tofu on hand. :)

I also learned a lesson to take with me into the future . . . I will ALWAYS brown tofu in cakes, and then cube it afterwards, instead of browning individual cubes. Takes so much less time for flipping, and you get basically the same result! Duh, Catherine. :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Chocolate, Cherry, and Almond Scones

An amazing thing happened when I woke up this morning . . . it was downright COOL in my apartment! Wahoo! The heat and humidity have subsided, at least for the time being. Better hurry up and bake something!

Chocolate, Cherry, and Almond Scones

(loosely based off the basic scone recipe from Vegan With a Vengeance)
yield: 15

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup chickpea flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup unsweetened dried tart cherries
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk beverage
3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt

1. Combine flours, baking powder, sugar, and salt until well blended. Stir in almonds, chocolate chips, and cherries.
2. Combine oil, milk, and yogurt in a second bowl; fold into the dry ingredients just until combined.
3. Scoop scones onto parchment-lined baking sheet (I use a #16 disher, but any 1/4 cup measure will work just fine,) and bake at 400 for 15 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Since I cannot eat 15 scones myself, I plan on sharing a few with friends, and freezing at least half the recipe. I love that the chickpea flour and yogurt (instead of the original recipe's soured milk,) add extra protein to the scones, and the whole-wheat pastry flour increases their fiber content. A great grab and go breakfast for my walk to work this week!

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I had my coworkers over for dinner last night, and we had a blast! Unfortunately, I have no pictures. My apologies! Per Ali's suggestion in my last post's comments, I did make tacos, and they were well-received. I offered corn tortillas, taco-spiced lentils, cheese, guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, lettuce, and sliced olives, and also made a simple coleslaw, (shredded green and purple cabbage, green onions, and shredded carrot, all dressed in a lemon and grapeseed oil vinaigrette,) and cut up some watermelon for sides. (Oh, there were chips, too! Had to finish up the guac somehow, right?) :) One of my coworkers brought a rice dish traditional to her home country of Madagascar, and another brought a pile of Somali food! I pulled the leftover strawberry-lavender lemonade from my party in June out of the freezer, and whipped together a couple pitchers of iced tea, too. Let's just say, we all ate too much, but we ate VERY well! :)

A wonderful way to kick off the weekend! What are you up to this weekend?

Monday, July 18, 2011

needing ideas

Hey blog folks, not much to report on my end -- it's HOT in Minnesota, and I'm not really cooking at all, not eating much besides salads, cereal, sandwiches, ice cream, popsicles, and the like. :) (I don't know about you, but I need a good excuse -- like a heat index of 106 and no air conditioning -- to justify cereal for dinner.) ;)

Anyhow, needing some advice -- I am having my staff from work over for dinner on Friday night, and I'm having a hard time coming up with something spectacular to make. I know, I know . . . I shouldn't be having a hard time with this, but there are multiple factors involved: the heat (I won't want to turn the oven, or really even the stove, on,) minimal prep (I'll need to throw stuff together when I get home from work, since they will arrive in a few hours,) and also the fact that I am cooking for myself and five other women -- only one of which is a vegetarian, and four of which are not originally from the US. I'm feeling challenged, coming up with something we'll all enjoy! Any ideas?

Thankfully, I have a full batch of lavender-strawberry lemonade left from my last party, so I've got beverages covered, at least! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

mushy, but tasty

I tried out a new veggie burger recipe last night -- Red-Lentil Burgers With Aioli. I must be spoiled rotten by the black bean burger recipe from VCON, and Melody's All-American Burgers, because I felt this Cooking Light recipe left a little to be desired. Alas.

Why is it that recipe developers think it's OK to create mushy, falling-apart veggie burgers? Who wants to eat a veggie burger that disintegrates the second you try and take a bite out of it? Sigh. While I found the flavor of these burgers excellent, they need help, big time, in the structure department. I'm thinking I'll add some vital wheat gluten, a spoonful at a time, to the remaining base and see if that helps. Any other suggestions?

And, sorry to those of you who are appalled that I let my cat on the table, but really, this is just too hilarious to pass up:

Here's what I think he's thinking:
"Um, excuse me please, but why is it that you get to eat right now, and I DON'T???? Hmmm??"

Sunday, July 10, 2011


I don't write much about my other hobbies besides food and cooking on this blog, so here's a little blurb about one of my other loves -- music!

Let me just preface this by saying . . . I am a GEEK. Yes, I love indie rock. Yes, I dated a drummer. Yes, I am a member of Minnesota Public Radio, largely due to the Current. Yes, I have sold merch at shows. Yes, I have been to so many bars, so many shows, gotten home at 3 AM. But . . . I also sing in my church's choir. And I'm really excited about a special project I'm involved in this summer -- there's a big convention of handbell choir directors in town this week, and I get to be part of the choir that is singing for their finale concert/hymn sing on Friday evening! It's dorky that I'm excited to sing with two wonderful handbell choirs, but there you go. I'm also taking voice lessons this summer!

Adding to my reduction in hipness . . . I can't seem to listen to anything but Jazz 88 lately. I love jazz music these days! I tried listening to Red House Painters this morning, but had to put Jazz 88 back on after a couple of songs. Excellent music to cook/do housework to, in my opinion. I also love the bluegrass show on Saturday mornings. And I love folk music. I have had "O Susannah" stuck in my head all weekend. :) (And yes, I have been singing to myself.)

I guess I also still love Nick Drake. The tiny tots at work do, too. We wish "Pink Moon" was twice as long. We are also enjoying a collection of folk music I ripped from one of my old coteachers, and tons of world music -- they are especially loving music from Mali and Cuba right now. (Toddlers like to dance.)

What kind(s) of music have you been into lately?

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Friday night dinner!

It was a long, hot week -- oddly, since I had jury duty on Tuesday, and it was a short week because of the holiday, but still . . . you know? I decided I deserved a treat on Friday night:

A quarter-wheel of local camembert-style cheese, half of an organic mini-baguette from the co-op, and organic fresh cherries. :) (And a coconut water, since I figured it was important to stay hydrated.)

This is what happens when one runs over to the co-op hungry, just to pick up some soy milk. :) Sheesh.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


So, I was sitting around the apartment tonight, flipping through a magazine, when Oliver and I were startled by an extraordinarily loud POP . . . one of my bike tires blew out, just hangin' out in the apartment! Weird.

I had a giant, puffy kitty for a full five minutes following the explosion. He's still stalking the bike, howling, looking all confused. Poor guy.

Since the tube blew out, the tires are 15+ years old, I need a new rear light (the one I have is old, installed in a bad place, and not LED,) the chain fell off earlier this week, (although it slipped back on easily enough,) and I need a new computer, (I miss being able to see how fast I'm riding and how far I've gone,) I think it's time to take the bike in? :) Would you agree???? ;)

Craving a balance . . .

. . . of flavors, that is! Is anyone else loving the trend towards multi-dimentional, well-balanced food (in terms of flavors) these days? Think spicy sweets, salty sweets, savory dishes with a sweet component, etc. -- I LOVE this. I love salted caramels, curried ice cream, Thai food in all of its forms, dried fruits with cheeses, etc.

Tonight's dinner was another winner in my arsenal of recipes I would consider "balanced" -- Sweet and Savory Wild Rice Salad, from The Kitchn:

Oh. Holy. Delicious! The chewy whole-grains, bright herbs and citrus, crunchy almonds, sweet dried fruit (I used apricots, even though the original recipe called for dates,) and fresh cucumber and red bell pepper all combine to make something . . . balanced! (Have I used that word enough this post???) There is a lot going on in this salad, definitely, but it all works together in delicious harmony.

And an extra bonus? I calculated a serving (about 10 ounces of the salad, approximately,) at under 400 calories! Woo! Whole grains and veggies rock!

Next time I might add chickpeas . . . !!

Monday, July 04, 2011

FarMar on holiday, lower-cal banh mi, and diet check-in

Per a recommendation from one of my friends, I decided to wait to go to the Farmer's Market until today -- being a holiday, she promised me the market would be "as big as the weekend," without the crowds! Really? I was skeptical . . . and I guess, rightly so. She was right about the lack of crowds -- there were hardly any shoppers at the Market today, and really, hardly any vendors! (I had to buy eggs from the co-op! Gasp!) However, I was able to find all of the veggies I wanted from the few that came to sell today, and even a few things I hadn't planned on . . .

Here's what I got for $23:

Cilantro, chives, dill, lettuce, daikon, cabbage, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, green beans, grape tomatoes, and radishes. All gorgeous, all reasonably priced, and all local! Woo!

The second I saw the daikon at the FarMar, I started thinking, "must . . . make . . . banh mi!!!!!" Dinner tonight:

I based my sandwich on this recipe, with a few changes: increasing the portion size, cutting down on the mayo, and increasing the amount of pickled daikon/carrot and cilantro in the sandwich. (The pickle is the best part, don't you think??) Anyhow, the tofu marinade was spectacular, (I did add some garlic and ginger to the original recipe, 'cause I can't ever quite stop fussing, you know?) and even with my adjustments, my dinner still totaled under 400 calories. Sweet! I love eating a giant, spicy, mayo-y, tangy sandwich for dinner and still sticking with my "diet." Yum.

So, how's this whole "diet" thing going, you ask? Well, pretty good. I swear, this would be a LOT harder without my awesome app that makes it super easy to look up different foods, portion sizes, etc. And strangely, I've lost 5 pounds already. (Part of me really thinks I didn't get a completely accurate starting weight, so . . . I'm guessing I've really lost more like 3 - 4. Progress is progress, though!)

What have I learned so far? Eating healthfully really isn't all that challenging -- I just have to plan ahead. Also, I naturally eat about 50 grams of protein per day, (the recommendation for most women, I understand,) get more than enough fiber, generally eat a very low-sodium diet, consume more fat than this program thinks I should, (but I think it's operating under old "low-fat" ideals,) and get about half of my daily calcium needs from my food, even though a glass of milk never passes my lips. (I do take a multi, which finishes off my calcium needs for the day.) Also, since I am so active, I have had plenty of room in my daily calorie limit for treats such as ice cream cones, pie, cookies, homemade popsicles, etc. -- and I have given myself the freedom to take one meal "off" per week, especially since I have had so many parties and other social obligations involving food lately. (It's summer! I better enjoy myself a little bit, eh?)

Sigh . . . how did it get to be 8:00 already? Hmmmm . . . better start unwinding for the night, since I have JURY DUTY tomorrow morning! Boo. I would so much rather be at work this week! New job, lots to do . . . darn you, jury duty, getting in the way!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

weekend eats, somewhat

I haven't made much of anything noteworthy this weekend, (it's still salad time, in a bad way, and I have also been working on finishing up party leftovers from last weekend,) but I did manage to whip up a couple fresh things!

First, Almond Butter Granola Bars:

I have tried, and failed, many times to make homemade granola bars. They seem to suffer from so many problems: too sweet, too sticky, too crumbly, too hard, just never quite . . . right, you know? However, my homemade granola bar issues have been resolved, thanks to a recipe from Anja. These bars, in my opinion, are PERFECT -- soft, chewy, almost oatmeal-cookie like in texture, chock full of healthy protein and fat, and you know what they don't have? Any sugar! Or maple syrup! Or honey! The base is simply pureed banana and almond butter, with a whole bunch of good stuff stirred in, and then all baked away to perfection. MMMMMMMMM!!!!! These will come in super-handy for those mornings where I just can't stomach food at 5:30 AM, and prefer to munch on something during my commute.

I also made more spring rolls, in an attempt to use up leftover herbs:

I added tofu (yum!) and avocado (kind of weird) this time, which added to the spring rolls' staying power. I have made a meal out of spring rolls and peanut sauce a couple of times already this weekend. :) I only wish I had remembered I had a cucumber in the crisper, too! That would have added to their deliciousness.

I have been spending lots of time with friends this weekend, (tea, walking, movies, biking, bowling, and maybe even fireworks tomorrow,) and it's been good to get out of the house quite a bit! I love enjoying summer in Minnesota, as best I can. :)