{Make Your Own} Almond Milk

almond milk - draining with title

Don’t worry, I’m not going all Euell Gibbons on you.  (What, you’re too young for that reference?  Lucky you… !)

Anyway, if you listen to the “experts” you’ll hear that dairy is good, then… dairy is bad!  Soy is good, soy is bad!  Who can keep up?!

(Thankfully, there seems to be pretty consistent praise for red wine and dark chocolate – in moderation of course.  But I digress… again.)

Dairy and voice-over work don’t go well together — at least for me.  So lately, I’ve been using almond milk instead of dairy or soy.

I love it, and use it in anything that calls for regular milk.  But one look at ingredient list on the package and I quickly run out of words I can pronounce.  I had heard how easy (and economical and “green”) it is to make your own without all the additives and preservatives.  I’m always up for a fun food experiment!

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{Trick Your Children!} Healthier Macaroni & Cheese

macaroni - plated

Moms the world over have devised some very creative ways to get their kids (or husbands) to eat more vegetables.  Today’s adaptation is one of my all-time favorites.

Years ago I discovered a couple of Diane Seed’s wonderful cookbooks.  The recipes are simple and straightforward, but unique.  And the illustrations are delightful.  When I got rid of my cookbook collection this is one I couldn’t part with. One of the first recipes I tried was her “Tagliolini with Creamed Carrots.”  Besides being delicious (and a little bit naughty) it struck me how much this tasted like homemade mac and cheese, and had that out-of-the-box orange color.  Hmmm, what if I used elbow macaroni instead of tagliolini?  Might kids fall for this sneaky way of eating more vegetables?!

Since I forgot to have children (where did those years GO!?) I needed to borrow my “victims.”  So I experimented on my niece and nephew.  While they didn’t believe for one minute that this was mac n’ cheese out-of-a-box, they loved it.  Continue Reading →

{Meatless Monday} Grilled Vegetable Sformato

sformato edited

For my sister’s birthday a few years ago, I gave her a gift certificate to a cooking class that we could do together. Since she’s not a big meat eater, I chose one that focused on great vegetarian dishes. With more and more “experts” talking about the health benefits of cutting back on meat, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to add to my repertoire either.

The class was taught by the wonderful Robin Asbell and held at Cooks of Crocus Hill.   We had a great time, and  over a few glasses of wine, learned to make a bunch of new dishes.  Robin’s “Grilled Vegetable Sformato” was our favorite.

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Bibimbap {a Korean bowl of yummy} + karaoke

bibimbap bowl

A friend found this bibimbap recipe in Bon Appetit and wanted to taste the “real thing” before attempting to make the dish at home. (I love that kind of research!) On our internet search, Hoban in Eagan repeatedly came up as one of the best Korean restaurants in the Twin Cities. So last Friday night we nabbed some friends for an impromptu dinner adventure.

The restaurant is in a strip mall (no surprise there) and looking through the windows from the parking lot, we could see it was packed. About 95% of the patrons were Korean (well, once WE walked in). We figured that was a good sign…

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Pear & Fig & Caramelized Onion Flatbread

pear fig flatbread

We are getting a little anxious for spring and summer to arrive here in Minnesota…  When it does, we fire up the Weber regularly.  When I got over my fear of the grill (I was sure I’d blow up the house) I started grilling everything!

Our favorite go-to griller?   It’s flatbread, hands down!

{First, a note about grilling:  If you’re a charcoal purist, forgive me, but for “Grilling 101” I needed the heat control of gas.  Speaking of heat control, you’ve probably already figured out not to get too close to your subject to peek for doneness.  I’ve been known to melt my mascara just enough to threaten sealing my eyes shut.  Anyway, I hope to move up to charcoal someday, but right now, I just light a charcoal-scented candle to create the ambiance.  I’m kidding about the candle.  Kind of.*}

Back to the pear & fig flatbread…

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My Spice Drawer {or, I wonder if I have OCD…}

spice drawer

When I show my spice drawer to people, they have one of two reactions — either envy, or horror.  If the picture above makes you lean toward envy, read on.  If not, perhaps you’d enjoy another post better.

When we remodeled last year, I went into heavy purge and organize mode.  (BLISS!)  The result is a kitchen in which, after 17 years, there’s a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

(I can’t say the same about my closet, or sock drawer.  Apparently, I have “selective OCD”.)

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Zucchini-Pecan Flaxseed Bread

bread zucchini nuts on cutting board with title

Now would be a good time for global warming to make an appearance.  Enough already with the cold and snow!  I don’t know about you, but I’m so over the big pots of stew, and ready to hit the farmers’ market for lighter, fresher, warm-weather fare!

Right now, I’m planning a “turtleneck burning” party.

In the meantime though, my kitchen is still cranking out comfort food…
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Memorable Meals :: “Meat Candy” @ Victory 44

devils on horseback

We’ve been on a quest lately to break out of our restaurant routine and try new spots.  Especially those that highlight local and sustainable food.  Last night’s experiment required a 25 mile drive to Minneapolis’ North Side, near Husband’s old stomping grounds.

What I like about most of these restaurants we’ve tried – Victory 44 included, is that while they take their food seriously, they don’t take themselves too seriously.  In other words, the restaurant isn’t pretentious at all.  If you’re a foodie, you’ll love it.  If you wander in off the street for a bump and a burger, you’ll love it.  And both are welcome.

We nabbed a high-top table by the front windows, with a great view of the open kitchen.  A blackboard on the wall behind us  listed the day’s menu items, which were pondered over a tasty adult beverage.

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Curried Chicken & Mango Dip

Curried Chicken Mango Dip

I had an amazing group of women over last night for a networking/happy hour of sorts. Since almost all of the guests were folks I’d never met, I decided to stick with some of my tried-and-true apped’ouevres.  This one is pretty much a slam-dunk every time…

It’s an adaptation of a recipe that a caterer traded with me after a party years ago.  It’s great because it’s super easy to throw together the day before, it freezes well (before it’s baked) and you can lighten it up a little if you like.

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{High Maintenance} Buttered Wheat Toast

toast2

I have been known to send food back to the kitchen at a restaurant.  Who hasn’t, right?  The meat is undercooked, the dish isn’t hot, the server forgot to serve the dressing on the side. But I’m not talking about the usual stuff.

I’m talking about toast.

(Wait, your honor!  Let me explain!)

A few years back we were enjoying brunch at a restaurant with our dear friends Jeff and Diane.  Somehow, the question of which one of us was the most “high maintenance” came up.  There had been plenty of “qualifying incidents” on the part of my table companions over the years, so I felt pretty safe.

Then the server came to take our order. Continue Reading →