Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sign #246 You're Disconnected from Your Food

I recently bought a copy of Kinfolk Magazine, for the first time. I'd never seen or read it, but you know, all the cool kids are reading/contributing to/talking about it, so I figured I should see what all the fuss is about. I bought Volume 8, the spring issue. Turns out, the issue is largely dedicated to ice cream! My favorite. See also: faux fried ice cream.

I flipped the page to the first of the multiple-page ice cream article, only to find a large picture of a patch of grass. I was slightly puzzled, that is, until I turned to the next page with a photo of a cow and realized, right - ice cream comes from grass by way of cows.


Thank you, Kinfolk, for bringing it all back, for reminding me where ice cream comes from, and how wonderful are the gifts of summer.

*Thanks, also, to my friend Jenna, for bringing the Kinfolk craze back home. Upon leafing through it at the lake over 4th of July weekend, she remarked "What kind of magazine is this?? I thought it was supposed to be about entertaining! And who the heck puts flowers in their ice cream cones?!" 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Waitstaff-less Cafes - Love it or Lump it?

What do you think of cafes that don't have waitstaff? I'm talking about cafes, delis or restaurants where you order at the counter and seat yourself with a table-flag in hand. You grab your own water, maybe your silverware and napkins, etc., then someone comes and brings you your food a bit later. Maybe you even have to bus your dishes.


There are a number of really great establishments in Minneapolis that fit this bill. Birchwood Cafe in Seward, Mosaic Cafe at Midtown, and French Meadow Bakery in Uptown come to mind. I can personally attest to the fact that all three of these places have fantastic, local, homemade, delicious, vegetarian-friendly, health-conscious, as well as pleasantly indulgent food. However, a recent visit to Mosaic Cafe for dinner one evening got me thinking.

For one, some people bristle at the idea of going out to a restaurant and not being waited on (ahem, husband and his grandmother). Let's create jobs and hire some waitstaff, right? If I'm going to go out to eat and pay good money for my food, shouldn't I enjoy the opportunity to have someone refill my water for me and take away my dirty dishes?

Now, I know that at French Meadow, once dinner service starts, they utilize waitstaff. And my recent visit to Mosaic confirmed that they follow the same practice. However, by the end of the evening at Mosaic  I wondered if our waiter had much experience in that role. When he brought our drinks, he carried them over by the rim, blissfully ignorant (I guess?) of the fact that he was pawing all over the area on which I was just about to clamp my lips. If I wanted to kiss your fingers, I'd ask, thank you. *Lady bartender at Northbound Smokehouse and Brewpub, are you also reading this? When he came to bus our dishes at the end of our meal, he dropped silverware on the floor and table, and knocked a pickle across our table. Granted, these are fairly innocent mishaps, but I got to thinking, maybe we'd rather just do the self-service thing?

Aside from the benign jumbles of our Mosaic waiter, who was otherwise friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable, I got to thinking, perhaps the self-serve deli model is what enables these establishments work in the way they do? In other words, maybe by bypassing waitstaff, they're better able to deliver the quality offerings they do at their fair prices and desirable locations? I don't have enough experience in the biz to know, but regardless, I'm going back for more.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hello, Weekend

Happy Friday, y'all. Is there anything better than a weekend? I hope you're planning for good times and relaxation. This weekend J and I will be busy packing. We are moving. Not far, but into another, bigger, new house. It is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time, and involves lots of hard work packing, planning and cleaning.



Thankfully we have a break planned for a family dinner at the new Union restaurant downtown. I must admit I have read mixed reviews, but am trying to keep an open mind! Looking forward to getting downtown and trying a new place.  

On the cooking front, things have been a bit sparse around my house (see above re: moving). Thankfully I've been able to tap into some pantry reserves and scrounge together some homemade grub, supplemented by birthday take-out earlier this week (a.mazing.bbq, by the way). Last night I made a riff on these sweet potato mole tacos, which definitely did the trick. Next time I'd add a bit of salt into the mole spice mix. Here's to the weekend! 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Easy Sesame Noodles

This past Saturday, I went to my regular mid-morning yoga class, then headed home for a little lunch. I love the luxury of being home to make lunch on the weekends. So, I pulled out what has become an old standard recipe for me - though I haven't made it since the warmer months last summer. It's quick, easy, and very adaptable. The ingredients and directions are more guidelines than anything. Feel free to adjust the recipe to your taste and whatever ingredients you have on hand. 

First, prepare your vegetables. I peeled a couple of carrots before slicing into matchsticks. 
Gather some bell peppers - mine ended up equaling about a half a pepper. 


Whisk together a quick sauce.



Boil your noodles, add the veggies in the last couple of minutes of boiling, drain, rinse, and toss it all together!



Easy Sesame Noodles

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side. Keeps well for leftovers. 

Ingredients: 

4-5 oz. buckwheat soba noodles
2 small carrots, cut into matchsticks
variety of bell peppers, cut similar in size to the carrot matchsticks
2 green onions, sliced
sesame seeds, to taste

Sauce:
2 Tbsp neutral-tasting oil, such as canola or grapeseed
2-3 tsp soy sauce
a splash of fish sauce, to taste
dash ground ginger
juice of 1/2 lime
honey or sugar, to taste

Directions: 

Boil the noodles according to the package directions - this ended up being about 8 minutes for me. In the last 2 minutes, add the vegetables (minus the green onion). I actually forgot this step, so instead, just stir-fried the veggies in the same pot after the noodles were done. 
Drain the noodles and veggies, rinse with cold water.

While the noodles are boiling, whisk the sauce ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. 

Toss the the noodles and veggies with the sauce. Add the green onion and sprinkle sesame seeds throughout. Mix together and add more sesame seeds to garnish, as desired. 

This salad can be enjoyed warm, room temperature, or cold. I think this would also be great with some edamame thrown in, or with your choice of protein (chicken, tofu, shrimp, etc.). Enjoy!

Inspired by this recipe, and the Otsu recipes in Heidi Swanson's cookbooks.  


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Stuffed Shells

I got it in my head the other day that I wanted to make stuffed shells. I have vague memories of my mother making pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and covered in tomato sauce when I was young, but hadn't eaten them probably since that time. After a little Pinterest fun, I found a number of vegetarian stuffed shells recipes and got to work. 

I'm now inspired to create a version stuffed with squash (since I seem to have a never-ending supply of it!), but this time around I was happy with the spinach/artichoke classic recipe I made, courtesy of Pink Basil. You (ahem, my husband) might think this recipe is complicated, what with it's multiple steps of boiling, mixing, stuffing, and baking, but I assure you, it's actually quite simple. You can mix together the filling while the shells are boiling, and stuffing the shells is easy if you squeeze them open gently like one of those old-school rubber coin purses. I love that this recipe required only a few pantry staples: pasta, jarred sauce, ricotta, parm, spinach and artichoke hearts - weeknight win! You could really speed up this recipe by pre-boiling the shells - then all you'd have to do is stir together the filling and stuff them. Recommended beverage: boxed red wine. A real Italian feast, I tell you!



The only changes I would make next time around would be to add a bit more "zip." I didn't notice any addition of salt and pepper or other spices in the recipe, so I didn't think to add them. (I was trying to follow the recipe closely, which I don't often do!) I would probably salt and pepper the filling mixture, and maybe even stir in some lemon zest or Italian seasoning. I would also probably sprinkle red pepper flakes over the top before baking. I definitely think I'll be trying this again! Recipe here

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!


I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day. I love Valentine's Day, I can't help it! I realized it can be overly commercial, like any holiday, but I love the reminder to express your love and affection for those in your life! I also happen to love red, hearts, chocolate, and mail, which really seals the deal for me. I have fond memories of making and distributing valentines and valentine boxes as a kid, and still get a kick out of sending valentines today. Me and my man are spending the night in, making lobster and drinking wine, dining by candlelight. Maybe we'll watch the latest Woody Allen flick, too. A wintry night in snuggling up with my guy and my pup makes me happy.  


Valentine postcards from Rifle Paper Co., homemade heart-shaped Oreos from Shutterbean

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Soft Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Are you on Pinterest? Lately I've been feeling rather obsessed. I, like all others that fall into Pinterest's target demographic, love it for the recipes, beautiful pictures, inspiring home and fashion ideas, and crafts. Whenever I start feeling particularly obsessive, though, I just look at the number of items other users have pinned. I'm nowhere near those there, so I breathe a little sigh of relief. 


This recipe is one I pinned. It's originally from the soon-to-be defunct Martha Stewart Whole Living Magazine, which has caught my interest in the past. While I've had varying success making recipes gathered from Pinterest, I loved this one because it was a great way to use up some vegetables I've had lying around for awhile, and it gave me an excuse to make polenta. Polenta is one of those foods that I love, and that's simple to make, yet I continually forget about it and go through long spans of time between making it. I made it on another dark, cold evening, and it proved to be just the thing. 


Soft Polenta with Roasted Vegetables

Adapted from this recipe from Whole Living 

Ingredients: 

6 baby red potatoes, quartered
2 whole carrots, coarsely sliced into coins or half-moons
2 whole parsnips, peeled and coarsely sliced into coins or half-moons
2 stalks of celery, coarsely sliced
1 C diced butternut squash
* feel free to sub whatever other hearty winter vegetables you have lying around

6 C vegetable broth, divided
1  14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
dried rosemary and thyme leaves, to taste

1 C polenta
1/2 C parmesan cheese
1 oz. softened cream cheese
salt + pepper to taste

Directions: 

Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Prep the vegetables and toss all together (minus the tomatoes) with a glug of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place vegetables in a metal roasting pan. (I used a metal 9 x 13 cake pan - just be sure it's something with taller sides that you can transfer to the stovetop later). Roast vegetables 20-30 minutes, until mostly tender, tossing halfway through roasting. 

While the vegetables are roasting, start polenta. In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid, bring 4 C broth to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and slowly whisk in polenta, whisking constantly. Turn heat down to low, cover, and cook 20 minutes.

Once the vegetables are finished roasting, transfer the pan to the stovetop and place over medium-high heat. Sprinkle herbs over vegetables, add drained tomatoes and 2 C broth. Simmer veggies in broth for about 15 minutes, until mixture has thickened slightly and flavors have melded. Season with salt and pepper. 

When the polenta is done, the liquid should be absorbed and the texture should be creamy rather than crunchy. Stir in parmesan cheese and cream cheese, until fully incorporated. 

Spoon polenta into wide, shallow bowls and ladle vegetables and broth over the top. Garnish with additional parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, to taste. 

This recipe makes for good leftovers!


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