Friday, December 19, 2008

Culinary Blog Tour

My Minneapolis Culinary Blog Tour

So, yes, I live in New York now. And yes, I should be giving you a culinary tour of New York. However, I don’t think a few short months is nearly enough time to find cool original places to eat in this city of 14,000 restaurants. 14,000, just in Manhattan. Sheesh. So, give me a few more months, a perhaps a stipend, and I’ll get there soon. Promise. I’m beginning to compile a list.

For now, to entertain myself at work, I’ve come up with a Minneapolis Tour. Thanks to Erin and Kate for your inspiration. And a note: this would clearly be taking place in the summer time, because I say so. Also, Alex had input in this as well.


Breakfast at Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve never eaten here, sadly, but I hear it’s fantastic. Spend the afternoon meandering around downtown, or perhaps over to St Anthony Main for a bit. For lunch, make your way to Loring Park. Assuming it’s a sunshiny day, head up to the rooftop of Joe’s Garage to grab some burgers and enjoy the view. Afterwards, you can enjoy the park, walk across the bridge to the sculpture garden, and enjoy the Walker. I hear they also have a good happy hour at 20.21, though I haven’t tried it myself. For dinner, to conclude your downtown extravaganza, head up to Solera to enjoy sangria and tapas on the rooftop.


Breakfast at the French Meadow in Uptown. If you’re early, you can even snag a table outside to enjoy some sunshine. The breakfast quesadilla is a personal favorite. Wander through uptown, perhaps even stop for an ice cream at Crema Café. Rent canoes on Lake Calhoon and enjoy the afternoon on the water or bike down the Minnihaha Creek, my personal favorite place in Minneapolis. At the end you can treat yourself to lunch at the Sea Salt Eatery before you head back.

If you’re not feeling as fit for biking, you can instead head over to St Paul early. Wander down Summit, enjoy the old houses. Perhaps even grab some cheesecake or a sandwich at Café Latte. Or you could even grab a beer and some fries on the patio at Sweenys or try some fancy craft beer at the Happy Gnome. Dinner will be all about romance though with some live jazz at Zander Café. Make reservations for a little later in the evening and try and get a booth for two by the stage.

After dinner, if you have the energy, head out for some salsa dancing with live music at either Picasa or Babalu. The former for the more high energy crowd, the later for swanky dark lighting and great wine and caiperenas.


Brunch at Café 28 in the Linden Hills neighborhood. This little organic, local café is one of my favorite places in Minneapolis. Try the salmon egg scramble. Yum. After brunch, take a stroll around Lake Harriet, and enjoy watching the sailboats.

As a snack before dinner, head up to Figlio’s in Uptown. This bar hosts its $2 happy hour all day on Sundays, enjoy some wine and some gorgonzola cheese fries.

For dinner, it’s La Belle Vie with wine pairings. Save the best for last. I have only been to the original Belle Vie in Stillwater. I’m kind of sad it’s no longer there as it was lovely and quaint, and gave you an excuse to go on a little vacation. The food there was the best food I’ve ever had. I hear that it’s just as good at the new location in Loring Park. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce and Lentil Rice Pilaf

My first attempt at homemade Indian Food!

Chicken in Cashew Nut Sauce:

3 TBS Canola Oil
1 Large Yellow Onion
3/4 C Water
4 OZ finely ground raw unsalted Cashews
1 TSP finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp Cayenne
1 TBS unsalted butter
1.5 tsp Salt
1/2 C plain yogurt

Heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a skillet, fry the onion until browned. Grind the onion with 1/4 C water cashews, ginger, garlic, and cayenne until it forms a smooth thick paste.

In a large sauce pan, heat the remaining oil along with the butter. Add the cashew pasteand stir constantly over medium heat with a few tablespoons of water for about 5 minutes. Thin out the sauce with half a cup of water. Add the chicken. Simmer, covered over low heat until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken, stir in the yogurt, pour back over the chicken and serve.

Lentil Rice Pilaf
Note: This makes a crap ton. Reduce as necessary. :-)

1.5 C of rice (We used Uncle Ben's. I imagine you should use Basmati or something fancy, but oh well.)
1/2 C of Lentils
2 Tablespoons of Canola Oil
1/2 Teaspoon of Cumin (The recipe calls for seeds, but I only had ground powder, it worked fine.)
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 small green serrano chiles. I used half of a jalapeno.
1 TBS unsalted butter
4 C hot water or chicken broth. I used half of each.
1 medium tomato, chopped

Rinse and soak the lentils and rice for 10 minutes.
Heat the oil, add the onion, cumin, chiles and butter. Saute until the onion browns. Add the rice and lentils, mix well. Add the water and tomato. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

This was great! I got the recipe from 5 Spices, 50 dishes. A wedding gift from Sonja. Yay for new foods to cook! The only problem I had was grating the ginger. My grater didn't really work. If anyone has any suggestions for this, I'd be happy to hear them. Is there a special ginger grating tool I should have??

Clearly this didn't work very well.

Overall, I was really happy with how this turned out. Alex gave it a 9 out of 10. I would agree. I kept wanting to go back for more. The cashew sauce had a really great flavor, just a little spicy, not too heavy, but filling. I made kind of a mess of the kitchen, but I would definitely make this again! I'm excited to try more recipes from this book, not too many ingredients make for an easy shopping list for me on my way home from work!

Frying the Cashew Paste


Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Parents Come To Town.

This weekend my parents made the trip out to the big city. Though my dad was born in Long Island, he hasn't been to Manhattan since he was 6, and my mom hasn't been since the early 80's. Needless to say, lots has changed since then. Though a little stressful getting the house cleaned and the groceries bought and everything of that sort, it was fun to have them in town, and I think they had a good time and enjoyed seeing where their daughter has been living these past few months.

When I first arrived in the city, I was kind of overwhelmed with unpacking, getting settled, starting a new job, finding food, finishing editing and shooting weddings, and kind of just figuring life out. Needless to say, exploring the city didn't happen as much as I would have liked. And having a husband who does a million hours of homework a week didn't help matters much. So, having my parents visit and finally being done editing was a great excuse to see some of the sights I've missed out on, or just like to see in general.

We started out on Friday with a little bit of everything. Wandering by the Macy's windows on 34th Street, Times Square, my dad's requisite visit to the Hard Rock Cafe, the Christmas tree at Rockefeller,and FAO Schwartz at my mom's request. We also saw the windows at Bergdorf-Goodman, which, surprisingly, were really kind of cool. Incredibly detailed. They were like a fairy-tale fantasy version of the 4 seasons.

After all that, we met up with Alex and headed to dinner. On the recommendation of my boss, who seriously knows every NYC restaurant ever, we went to Luzzo's . This restaurant was fantastic. My parents hate fine dine, but love Italian. I wanted to take them somewhere authentic, not super casual, but not super fancy. This place was perfect. Our waitress was actually Italian, like, recently moved from Italy, still learning English Italian, something that just doesn't happen in Minnesota. We had calamari, two delicious pizza's, a bottle of wine (though a little pricier then I expected), and a nutella pizza. I recognize the last part is probably not actually Italian, but coffee ruins Tiramisu (yes, I'm crazy, I just don't do coffee. And I could probably learn, but I choose not to.), and who doesn't love Nutella??

Our second day wasn't quite as packed. We started off walking on the Brooklyn Bridge. It was pretty cold though, so we just got a little ways out and then turned back. Then we spent a few hours at the South Street Seaport, which my parents really enjoyed. I think it would be a fun, though touristy, place to have a cocktail in the summertime. We also ran into a Santa Pub Crawl, which was pretty fun to watch.

Mom and I on the Bridge

Battery Park

Cool Hula Hooping Santa Pub Crawler.

Seagull on the Seaport

Dad and I at South Street Seaport

The Santa Pub Crawlers

After the Seaport we headed down to Battery Park and then up to Ground Zero. Bust mostly, it was freezing. After stopping for a hotdog and a $1 slice of pizza we headed home to relax. When Alex got home we headed to Williamsburg for dinner, and tried Chai Home Kitchen. Trendy, tiny, very tasty. My parents were troopers and ate most of their meal just with the chopsticks. I would definitely try this place again. Afterwards we hit up my favorite hangout in Billyburg, Mugs Ale House. Cheap, (NY cheap at least) excellent beer, not throbbing club music, really, that's all I look for these days. :-)

Our last day was spent at Bryant Park, taking a Christmas card picture in Times Square, and seeing Grand Central. Little did we know, they have a light show on the ceiling during the holidays, unexpected, but neat.

Light show at Grand Central.

The Pond at Bryant Park. This place even had a temporary bar and lounge set up outside with fancy backlighting. Only in New York.

My mom also came with some new ornaments for our tree, aren't they cute??

Black Bean Burgers and Avocado Sauce

So, I'm keeping with my quest to cook one new thing per week. I hope I'll be able to keep it up, I think it's good to spice things up a bit. This weeks effort was Black Bean Burgers with Avocado Sauce and Mexican Oven Fries. I was inspired by Erin here, but then realized I apparently made the more complicated recipe. Opps. Oh well. My recipe turned out ok. Some things good, some things not so good. The burgers themselves were easier then I thought, though took a little longer then I'd hoped they would.

One thing, if you make these, eliminate the pumpkin seeds, or make extra sure you get unsalted ones. Mine were salted and it made the burgers WAY too salty. Shoot. However, the avocado sauce was awesome, I will definitely make these again. I think I'd also make the burgers again, just without the pumpkin seeds. Also, the fries were fabulous. And super easy. But a word to the wise, use tin foil in your pan. We didn't have any, and I thought that would be fine. Our pan had to soak for a few days afterwards to get off the potato stuff. Shoot.

Sizzling pumpkin seeds. 

Steaming black beans... 

The finished product!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Thanksgiving Leftovers, and the New Plan!

So, I've been meaning to start a blog for sometime now. I even signed up the blog name a long time ago, but then, well, life happened, and I never really got to it. Lame. However, I have been continually inspired by the likes of Erin, Kate, and all you crazy people who can keep up blogs. So. Here we go. 

I recently made myself a New Years Resolution. A month early, but that's ok. If I set my own timeline I'll stick to it right? I've been wanting to cook more, and now I feel like I might actually have the time to actually do it. I didn't want to get over ambitious, so the new plan is to cook one brand new thing a week. It doesn't have to be fancy, just something I've never cooked before. 

My new plan sort of this started with Thanksgiving. I was super proud to make an entire Thanksgiving dinner on my own. I made a turkey, stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, corn, parmesan snap peas, broccoli, carrots, pumpkin pie, and caramel walnut pumpkin cheesecake. Yay. 

But it wasn't really until after Thanksgiving that I actually thought up this resolution. So, I'm going to start with Thanksgiving leftover creations instead.

First, Mashed Potato Pizza. I LOVE this stuff from Pizza Luce. However, as there is no such place here in NYC, we figured what better to do with leftover potatoes then make pizza?? We always have Trader Joes pizza crusts in the house, so I used one of those. The pizza was topped with the garlic mashed potatoes, broccoli, grated cheddar cheese, and Trader Joes Turkey Bacon. On a side note, turkey bacon is awesome. It tastes like bacon but is minus the grease. Fabulous.

This turned out surprisingly well, though Alex said it needed more salt. We topped it off with some sour cream and were good to go. Mashed potato leftovers, finished. 

The second, and most important thing to get rid of was the turkey. I made about a 13 pound turkey, and with only 4 people, we had a lot left. Even with two very hungry boys. Thus I set out today to make a turkey stew. I considered making turkey stew with dumplings. My mom does this and it's really yummy. However, the supermarket in our neck of the woods doesn't sell Bisquick. And I wasn't quite up for making dumplings from scratch.  What our supermarket does sell in terms of mix was this: Jiffy. I think the package looks like it was made in the 1960's. If you look really close you can even see one of the ingredients... lard. Gross. I know. I didn't see this until I got the 67 cent box home. 

This is why I didn't make them into dumplings. I was scared the mix was going to be horrendous. I didn't want to spoil the stew. But, I figured, what the heck? I made them into biscuits. Because, why not? It was actually super easy. And, don't tell anyone. But they were really freaking good.

They went perfectly with the main course, leftover turkey stew. I was really pleased with how easy this was to make. I boiled all the leftover turkey stuff with an onion and a bunch of herbs, mainly parsley, garlic, rosemary, thyme, and whatever other spices I have on my counter. (You will quickly learn I never actually measure spices when cooking. Unless maybe for baking. I just kind of throw them in.) 

After it boiled awhile, I took out the bones, pulled off the meat and tossed it back in. Then I added 4 potatoes, some chopped up carrots, about a cup of white rice, two cans of peas, a can of corn, more garlic, and more random spices, simmer about an hour, and Voila! Tasty yummy soup. And enough to last us a week.