March 6, 2014

Random Faves

Our computer has been all out of sorts lately because I overloaded it with a gazillion pictures of Lola (shocker). So, the other day we cleaned it up a bit so that it was at least functional again. And instead of relishing in its working order again, I uploaded months and months of pictures off of my iPhone (which also has been filled to the brim as of late). Toddlers take up a lot of space in all areas of life, it turns out.

But I realized that I have a lot of unshared new(ish) food favorites that I haven't captured on the blog. Why haven't I captured them on the blog? Mostly because I don't take as many pictures when out to eat as I used to. It started to feel like work to lug my DSLR around. I got self conscious about people watching me snap away with my camera in the middle of a crowded restaurant. And after hearing a friend tell me she doesn't capture every moment with her phone because she actually tries to live in the moment instead, I thought she was on to something. I'm working on this. Very slowly, but surely. 

So, what that leaves me with is a few mediocre Instagram shots. Mostly with poor lighting. But I hope you'll look past it.

So, without further adieu, some of my currently Minneapolis food faves.




Sonora Grill: I've always loved Sonora Grill, but really almost never went when they were just in Midtown Global Market. I was super excited when they opened up their new sit-down location. Awesome tacos (especially the chicken one!), good coconut rice, a good kid-friendly option. Open a place over here in SW, please!




Terzo Wine Bar: This was a fabulous addition to the Fulton neighborhood. A totally refreshing new venture from the Broders. Cool wine bar with great cheese and prosciutto boards, great wines, fun daily $1 skewers, great service. Perfect balance of neighborhood hang out and special occasion place. This is a date night keeper.




Hello Pizza: How has this place not ended up on the blog yet? Totally unacceptable. We have seemingly dumped Pizzeria Lola for this place (only because it's just easier and quicker for us with our Lola in tow). Turns out this place is Lola's happy place. So much so that I actually suggested to Zach that we do our family photo shoot there. Favorites: the Spinach Artichoke Pizza, the Adobo Chicken Pie, Smokey Greens salad, and the Korean Cowboy sub. And now they deliver!

The Rookery: So, my friend and I went to try this out a few weeks ago. The waiter said he'd recommend that we try everything on the menu and that it wouldn't be too much for the two of us. "Are you sure," we asked. "Oh yea," he reassured. Bullshi*. We ordered almost everything, skipping out on maybe 5 plates. We were stuffed. Well, back up. I was stuffed. My poor friend was ready to curl up and die she was so full. But another amazing Minneapolis (well, Robbinsdale) resto! Favorites included: the leeks, the tofu, and the brussels. Oh, AND the vodka grapefruit drink. Date night worthy in a big way.

Sun Street's Monday Pizza Night: I was going to say that I wish Sun Street did pizza night every night, but then it might not seem so special. Pizza night at Sun Street is simple (just a few pizzas to choose from, just a few different wines, and beers, maybe a salad or two) but so good. I've had a few different pizzas on Monday nights there now, and they have all been great. This is a great cozy winter night dinner out.

Sebastian Joe's Nicollet Ave Pothole ice cream: What I want to know is how no one ever told me about this ice cream. I mean, the second I tasted it, I claimed it my favorite ice cream of all time. And I've been eating some good ice cream lately. Chocolatey and gooey (from drizzly salted caramel), with little crunchy bits from Heath bars and chocolate candy. I mean, seriously people. Salty, sweet, gooey, creamy, crunchy. This is a game-changer. I don't have ANY picture of this one because I'm totally in a zone when eating this stuff.

Consider yourself mostly caught up!

January 24, 2014

Lentils and Yogurt



My mom and I were talking about the best way to organize cookbooks yesterday.

She brought it up, but it was coincidental, because I've been feeling like my collection could use some sort of system lately.

I usually have an idea of what I'm looking for when I go browse through them--something sweet to take to a crafting party, a weeknight dinner recipe, a muffin recipe for Lola's snacks. But since they aren't organized at all, I spend a lot of time scanning them all. And then I get on major tangents, and remind myself for the hundredth time that I really have been wanting to make homemade pop tarts and that rose cream pastry from Laduree.




My mom was asking how I'd organize them and I threw out a few categories that would be helpful for me: Baking (Tartine, Baked, Dorie's Baking book), No Frills Weeknight Super Quick in Case Your Toddler Decides to Hang on You While You Cook (Keepers, Weelicious), Weekend (Ad Hoc, 660 Curries), Seasonal (Canal House, David Tanis), Comfort / Classics (Ina, Food 52, Smitten Kitchen). And then I said I'd want a lentil and yogurt category.

Because lentils and yogurt are my obsession right now.

Last night, I found myself asking Zach if I was making too many "lentil-y, yogurt-y things."

His reply: "I like what you've been making, but I wouldn't find any more recipes like that. I think we have enough."

Ha. But I had just found a recipe for Crispy Lamb with Lentils that was calling me.




I don't know exactly how this little craze started but I do know it was around the time I realized Lola liked lentils. Coincidentally, it was also around the time that I realized she probably wasn't going to ever start drinking milk again and was feeling the pressure to load her up with calcium in other ways (hence the yogurt).

Before Lola, lentils really weren't in our repertoire. We rarely ate at home, and when we did, it just wasn't lentils. Or yogurt sauces.




This is a very positive way in which this kid has changed our eating. Next time I am feeling sorry for myself that we don't get to go out to eat as much as we used to, I'll remind myself that Lola introduced me to the world of lentils and yogurt sauces.

For the past several months, this Mujuddara with Spiced Yogurt has become a dinner staple. We've also made our way through a huge batch of dal with cilantro yogurt.

We've eaten lentils sans yogurt too--in many batches of Ina's Warm French Lentils (that Lola and I eat as lunch or that I serve as dinner with sausages).



And we've eaten yogurt on a lot. A lot of Indian food, particularly. We've eaten raita next to our biryani. We've eaten a mint yogurt sauce on Afghan dumplings. And we've eaten it on pasta, mixed with caramelized onions. And...

This Mujuddara is the kind of thing I'm so happy to feed the three of us for dinner. It's super satisfying and super healthy (it'd be even healthier with some brown rice subbed in). It's simple but somehow so delicious: jasmine rice, tiny green French lentils, crispy onions, and a spiced but bright yogurt sauce (with lemon, cumin, cinnamon, mint, and coriander). And the leftovers are even better. If you're making it for a toddler, I recommend dicing the onions instead of slicing.

Just in case your toddler doesn't like strings of onions like mine. :)






January 14, 2014

The Magic That is the Smoothie



I am thankful every afternoon for the blessed smoothie.

Every afternoon, after Lola wakes up from her nap, we make a smoothie. I always make a big, big glass thinking we'll share, but only sometimes do I get any of it. I have stopped pouring mine until she is finished in order to avoid the rage that occurs when there is no more smoothie following her sweet little"mo" (with the sign "more" also, to make sure I know she really means it!).




What is magical about smoothies for a parent of a toddler is that you can put just about whatever you think your kid is needing in their diet into it.




Lola eats a good variety of fruit, so the fruit servings she gets in a smoothie are just bonus points. But, I've been relying on them to get more dairy in her (b/c she has never gone back to milk post-bottles). I also rely on them to get more veggies in her, which she eats very little of. And if I think she could use a little boost of whole grains that day, I'll throw in some of those too.




I never measure, but here is roughly the formula I use:

Half of a BANANA (always, for sweetness)

+

Handful of frozen or fresh FRUIT, such as:

Raspberries
Strawberries
Watermelon
Blueberries
Mango
Pineapple

+

Some VEGGIES, such as:

1 kale leaf
Handful of spinach
Half of an avocado
Carrot juice
Cooked beets (a little goes a long way!)
Sweet potato (I haven't tried this yet, but keep meaning to)

+

About a half cup of YOGURT (I usually use Greek for the added protein boost)

+

About 1 cup of MILK (or calcium-fortified oj)

+

WHOLE GRAINS, such as:

1-2 tbsp wheat germ
Small handful oats

=

A delicious, super nutritious, well-balanced snack for both of us.












January 7, 2014

Feeling Closer to Friends Through Food



One of my very best friends moved late this Fall. She was the latest in a string of a few good friends who moved out of state this year. It has sucked. I keep my close friends so close that it's a big blow when they leave me. It kind of crushes me.

This friend happens to be Indian and has made us delicious Indian feasts on multiple occasions. She even bestowed upon me her freezer stash of homemade samosas before she moved (the only highlight of this terrible event).

Before she moved, I was watching her son one night and ended up feeding him leftover Indian food that they had in their fridge for dinner. It smelled so good, and I instantly had this aha moment that I needed to start cooking Indian food myself (well, the three of us).

So for the last couple of months, I've been making biryanis once in a while. I love Indian food, was feeling the need to try something new in the kitchen, and I've had Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries for a couple of years. But I think what really has been driving me to make Indian food is that it makes me feel closer to her while she's far away.

Is this starting to sound rather weepy? I should clarify a bit here. I didn't lose my friend. She'll always be a close friend no matter where she is. I've even gotten to see her a few times already since she has moved. She's moving back here in a couple of years! And if anyone printed our texts, they would probably stretch all the way from MN to AZ, where she lives now. So, she's still very much in my life. Just not for "Hey, I need to get out tonight. Want to get a drink?" or "Want to take the babies for a walk?" And I miss that.




But moving on...

I had made one recipe out of 660 Curries initially when I bought it and then put it away for a while. I think I was intimidated by the steps (making garlic paste, ginger paste, onion paste, spice mixtures, etc) and ingredient lists. But once you dig in, it's not rocket science. Just make sure you have everything prepped and ready to go before you start.




I've found my little niche for now with the biryanis, layered meat and rice dishes baked in the oven. My favorite one doesn't even require that the meat be seared or cooked before it goes in the oven. Which is good because I hate searing meat.




I've created a few shortcuts for myself with this recipe. Instead of making the ginger and garlic pastes like Iyer lays out, I simply grate the ginger and garlic with my microplane and have had great results. And once you make the Punjabi garam masala (if you make it from scratch, which I reco, you'll have enough to make the recipe a handful of times over.

I also like to use the bulk spice bins at Whole Foods for the spices to save money.

So anyway. If you have an Indian friend who moved who you miss terribly, make this, and serve it with naan and raita. You'll feel better.


Yogurt-Marinated Lamb with Rice, Saffron, and Mint, Adapted slightly from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries
Serves 6 (barely :))

For the lamb:

1 lb boneless leg of lamb, trimmed of fat, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 c plain yogurt
1/2 c fresh mint, chopped
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp grated garlic
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Punjabi garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric

For the rice:

1 c basmati rice
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green cardamom pods
2 dried bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
1 small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp saffron threads
Scant 1 tsp salt

Vegetable oil

Marinate the lamb by combining all of the lamb ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

An hour before assembling the dish, put the rice in a medium sized bowl and cover by a few inches with cold water. Scrub the grains of rice with your fingers to wash off the rice. Drain using a fine mesh sieve. Repeat 4-5 times with fresh water, until the water drains clear after rinsing process. Then, cover rice with cold water and let sit for 1 hour to soften.

After an hour, heat the butter in a medium sized sauce pan over medium-high heat. Toss in the cumin seeds, cardamom pods, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Stir and let cook until they start to smell nutty, about 20 seconds. Add onion and cook until they get light brown around the edges, about 3-5 minutes. Add the saffron and stir for a few seconds. Then add the drained rice and stir. Add 1 c cold water, along with the salt, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat a bit, and cook until there is no more water on the surface and craters start appearing on the top surface of the rice (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly oil a medium-sized covered casserole dish with vegetable oil.

Pour the lamb into the casserole dish, including any leftover marinade, creating an even layer. Then add the rice and spread it evenly over the lamb.

Cover and bake for 1 hour.





December 15, 2013

A Control Freak's Holiday Baking Woes



The problem with being a control freak is that you want to control everything. Even when you think you don't, and you try to do something that will allow others to provide input, you become all angst-y because you quickly realize you aren't in control.

Last year we instituted an annual family holiday fun day. The goal was to have a lazy day when we'd do wintery, holiday things, like make cookies, watch holiday movies, craft garland, and make snowman pizzas. I decided last year that it would be fun for everyone in the house to pick a cookie that we'd bake.

Well, last year it ended up working. I approved of everyone's choices.

This year, I didn't like what Lola and Zach picked.




In my head, after everyone had picked their special cookie, we'd have a fabulous assortment of holiday treats. It'd be perfect. In my head, I had already picked out what I had hoped they would pick out.

Guess what? They didn't pick out what I had hoped they would pick out.

Lola really can't pick out a special cookie yet. I chose for her. But I knew hers had to be chocolate chip. because she loves chocolate chips and chocolate chip cookies.

Zach chose Hello Dolly Bars, a super sweet, kitchen sink type bar. Are they good? Sure.




But are they holiday-y? No. And that ended up being what I was bummed about. We had 2 of 3 cookies that just didn't feel very festive. And we were clearly over-indexing on chocolate chips. Un-festive and lacking variety. Tragic.

So, for a few days, I tried to figure out whether I was going to ask Zach to pick something else. I wanted to. I really did. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. After all, the goal was for everyone to get to pick out a cookie that they wanted.




So, I stuck with everyone's requests. I made their cookies yesterday during our annual fun day. They (and I) happily ate them.

Today, I finally got around to mine (because making 3 types of cookies and snowman pizza and watching holiday movies and going out to brunch is too much to do in one day when you have a toddler).

And I'm happy to report that I think MINE are holiday-ish. A sugar cookie studded with anise seeds and topped with a smear of sugary frosting. In shapes, no less. Totally delicious, too.




I feel like these cookies gave me back my holiday spirit (that I temporarily lost while fretting over our apparently-very-important-to-me holiday cookie assortment).




Awareness is the first step, right? Next year I'll do better. I have a whole year to prepare myself mentally for next  year's assortment. And a whole year to control every single other meal we eat. :)

Happy holidays!

-------------

Aunt Clara's Anise Seed Cookies (Recipe from Food 52, found here.)

(Note: I took a shortcut and didn't let my frosting butter come to room temp. I rushed the process and ended up having issues. As written, my frosting appeared to be too dry. But then I added too much milk to try to fix it and ended up adding another half stick of butter and a lot more powdered sugar. So, I can't vouch for the frosting. But if you know how to make a simple frosting, you'll figure it out as you go.)

September 21, 2013

Snackies



I have a lot to say about snackies.

First, this is one of probably a few too many "baby words" that I say to Lola. Snackies instead of snacks, tubby instead of bath, night-night instead of bed. They say you shouldn't do this. But I do it. I'm working on stopping.

Second, I'm a little obsessed with snacks for Lola. I find myself much more interested in brainstorming the snacks I feed her than the meals I feed her sometimes. I'm not sure why exactly this is but I have a feeling it's because I had some solid snacks growing up. My mom almost always had a special snack waiting for us when we got home from school. This time of the year, it was often ginger snaps with hot cocoa. I would sit at the counter with my snack and tell her all about my day.

A few weeks ago I was joking to her via text about how my brother always seemed to be available to come over if there was a free meal on the table. She texted me back and said "Food is the great seducer. Remember this when Lola comes home from school and you want to hear about her day." She's wise, my mom. Snacks can be very important.

Third, we have hit some sort of major growth spurt around here because Lola can not get enough to eat. She signs that she is hungry all of the time and polishes off big snacks multiple times a day. I can't seem to keep the house stocked with enough snacks for this child.

So, this week when my mom was here, we brainstormed some new snack ideas for Lola (thank god).



One of the ideas I got most excited about was these ham and cheese crepes. As most of you know, my mom is French. And a purist. So, she had a little bit of heartburn over putting ham and cheese in them, but knowing the appetite L is sporting lately, she turned a blind eye.

These puppies were a joint effort. Mimi lovingly made the crepes. I lovingly stuffed them and prepped them for the freezer. I can't wait to dig into them this week.




Here is the list of other ideas we came up with for anyone else that is in need of some new ones. (Caveat: we aren't doing nuts yet with Lola, so you'll see nut butters are not included...lord knows there are a thousand more ideas involving nut butters.)


Ham & cheese crepes (obvi)
Dips (nectarine butter, eggplant yogurt dip, hummus, veggie ricotta)
Crackers (this is our favorite homemade cracker recipe right now...our favorite store-bought are Bunnies)
Muffins (so many, many options)
Mini quiches, mini frittatas
Pancakes (whole wheat, cornmeal blueberry, pumpkin, apple cinnamon oat, veggie, corn)
Smoothies (with fruit, a veggie, yogurt, milk, and wheat germ)
Tea sandwiches
Graham crackers with honey sweetened cream cheese
Cheese & crackers
Rice pudding
Salsas (apple cinnamon, cucumber, pineapple)
Quesadillas
Pizzas (on English muffins, pitas, crackers), calzones
Toasts with spreads
Deli meat & cheese with brown rice cakes
Meatballs
Spinach ricotta bites (from Weelicious)
Clafoutis
Baked oatmeal
Zucchini coconut chocolate chip cookies
Fruity gelatin
Hard-boiled eggs
Cheddar & apple tartine
Avocado toast
Apple oat scones
Loaded baked potatoes
Chicken salad & crackers
Banana "splits"
Soft pretzels with dipping sauces
Pears baked in cream
Cheesy cornbread







September 5, 2013

One Last Hurrah


I never realized how much I love summer vegetables until this year. Maybe it's because I'm cooking at home more. Maybe it's because I know where my summer veggies are coming from. Maybe I've just hit the jackpot in picking recipes to use them in. But, I'm smitten. And sad that they are quickly coming to a close.

My favorites? The tomatoes. The eggplant. The corn.

My mom has an orchard a few miles away from her in Lancaster where she has been going almost daily to stock up on peaches and corn. I have been making fun of her because it's seriously ridiculous, the amount of peaches and corn they have been eating.


But I get it. And that's why I've been quick to accept offers from my farmer friends and my friends with farmer friends. The second I get a text asking if I could use x, y, or z, I quickly say "Yes! I actually have been wishing I had more of x, y, and z." I've become a summer vegetable hoarder.


These are a few of the recipes that have made me a vegetable hoarder. I thought I'd share. We probably have a couple more weeks? Make these recipes. Repeatedly. That's what we're doing.

Grilled Eggplant, Corn, and Bread Salad with Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette from Williams-Sonoma

Tomato Crostata with Honey-Thyme Glaze from The New York Times

Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onion from Food52

Eggplant Dip with Yogurt from Food52