Got Vegetables? Make Soup

It can be a challenge cooking for two. When I made a big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack the other day, I had a lot of tender vegetables left over. I turned them into creamy soup in 30 minutes.

The thin slices of potatoes and tender ribbons of cabbage seemed to demand caraway, that distinctly flavored seed typically found in rye bread. I used to love ladling my mom’s sauerkraut dotted with caraway seeds over creamy chunks of boiled potatoes.

I started the soup by sauteing chopped onions and caraway seeds in hot oil. I tried a bit of the Butter Olive Oil I bought at Oh! Olive, a cute little shop in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. The oil is organic with natural butter flavor, but is dairy-free and contains no animal products. I’ve discovered it’s perfect for popping corn, or drizzling over a bowl of hot popped corn. Anyway, when the onions began to turn golden brown, I dumped in all my leftover vegetables (I had quite a bit — only two of us ate a meal from that big pan of veggies), poured in a few cups of vegetable broth and let it all simmer together for about 20 minutes.

The potato slices were falling apart at that point and the green beans and carrots were very tender.

I used my immersion blender to puree the soup right in the pot. Of course you could use your blender or food processor for the job. I wanted to have control over how chunky the final product would be. And then, I just stirred in about a cup of milk and seasoned to taste. A sprinkle of minced fresh parsley over the top gave it the final touch.

The soup was so satisfying. The dark caraway seeds softened during the saute and simmer and added that German-style flavor I remember from years of eating the sauerkraut and dumplings my mom used to make whenever she wanted to make my dad’s day.

Either use up some vegetables you’ve already cooked or follow the recipe below.

Turn leftover Baked Garden Vegetable Stack into Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup.

I plan to bake another big batch of Baked Garden Vegetable Stack, just so I can have more of those vegetables to turn into soup.

Creamy Caraway Vegetable Soup

First, cook the vegetables. Serve some up as part of a meal, then use the rest for soup. Here’s how to bake the vegetables:

  • Olive oil, for preparing pans
  • Yukon Gold potatoes, about 2 to 2½ pounds, peeled
  • Carrots, about 1 pound, peeled
  • Onion, 1 medium, sliced thin
  • Green Beans, 5 to 6 ounces, topped and tailed (trimmed), cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
  • Cabbage, about 4 ounces, sliced thin

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Prepare 2 shallow baking pans or baking dishes that are the same size. Two jelly roll pans (11- x 15-inch) if you are feeding a family or 2 to 4 gratin dishes if you are cooking for one or two. Lightly coat the inside of each baking pan or dish with olive oil. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife or a mandolin to slice Yukon Gold potatoes and carrots 1/8-inch thick, keeping them in separate piles.

Salt and pepper the inside bottom of one pan. Arrange about half of the Yukon Gold potato slices, shingle style, in the prepared pan, covering the bottom completely. Make another layer with all of the carrots, arranging them the same way. Sprinkle the onion slices, green beans and cabbage over the potatoes. End the stack with a layer of the remaining Yukon Golds, arranging them shingle style. Push the mixture down with your hands to pack it in to the pan tightly.

Brush olive oil over the top layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Set the other prepared pan upside down over the pan of vegetables. Wrap the pans up tight with heavy-duty aluminum foil to hold them securely together.

Bake in 400-degree preheated oven for 30 minutes. Carefully flip the pans over (be sure to use oven mitts) and bake for another 30 minutes.

Remove from oven. Allow the baked stack to rest for 5 minutes, then very carefully remove aluminum foil.

Lift off the top baking pan. Lay a large cutting board over the top of the baked stack and flip the stack over onto the cutting board. Carefully remove the baking pan. Slice the hot stack into squares or rectangles and serve. Refrigerate leftovers to save for soup.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds
  • 3 (approximately) cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dairy or non-dairy milk
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Minced fresh parsley, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the oil. Add the chopped onion and caraway seeds. Saute until onions just begin to turn golden brown. Add all of the leftover vegetables to the pot. Add enough broth to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover pot and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are falling apart and cabbage and green beans are tender.

Add milk.

Puree to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle some fresh parsley on each serving. Makes about 6 servings, depending on how many vegetables you started with.

 

 

What would Julia do with a load of fresh vegetables?

I think Julia Child would love Bemidji, the community in northern Minnesota I’ve called home for 11 years. I never had the opportunity to meet the woman who brought French cooking into American home kitchens, but I’ve read a lot about her and I’ve visited with people who knew the wonder woman who suggested good fun, good food and good flavor go hand-in-hand in the kitchen.

I know Julia Child demanded fresh ingredients. She would be thrilled with the two farmers markets we have in our community, offering shoppers appreciative of good food prime pickings from local gardens.

She might like to teach some cooking classes in the community kitchen at Harmony Co-op, centrally located downtown just a few blocks from the farmers markets. She’d love to visit some of the community gardens where families have an opportunity to grow some of their own food.

I’m sure she’d be amazed at all of the sharing, caring and friendly people who live in Bemidji. One of those people is Doris Swedmark, who spends 8 hours a day working in her vegetable garden that measures 30 feet x 60 feet. All of her hard work pays off — her cabbage won a blue ribbon at the county fair this year. She keeps plenty of plastic bags on hand, ready to share the bounty of her garden with others.

Swedmark shows off red cabbage in her garden.

I am one of the lucky people to come home from Doris Swedmark’s garden with a load of

Swedmark with mangle beets.

vegetables. She yanked some enormous orange mangle beets from the soil, picked some beans, carved out a chubby red cabbage with her very sharp knife, pulled some carrots, cut some kale and gathered some tomatoes. She invited me to grab some fennel and dill on my way out of the garden.

I’m not sure what Julia Child would do with all of these fresh vegetables — ratatouille, maybe? I did know what to do with my treasured loot.

I pulled out my Clay Coyote cazuela and started in on a Greek-style vegetable dish.

I weighed out a pound of beans from one of the bags, chopped an onion, minced some garlic, squeezed the seeds from some tomatoes and chopped them up, and diced a small zucchini. I sauteed the vegetables in olive oil in the cazuela, then added some water, tomato paste and a bundle of mixed fresh herbs that are commonly found in Greek cooking.

I do have luck growing herbs when I tuck them in around my flowering perennials. It took a quick trip around my gardens to collect Italian parsley, oregano, Greek basil, rosemary, thyme and marjoram. I tied the sprigs together with kitchen twine, feeling very Julia Child-like, and tucked it into the mixture in the cazuela. And then, into the oven it went for about 40 minutes. As it bubbled in the heat, a wonderful aroma wafted through my kitchen.

I planned to serve the Greek-Style Vegetables with orzo. None in the pantry. I chose some brown rice Caserecce instead. It was a good pick.

You could top the baked dish with crumbled feta cheese before serving. I didn’t. The meal was aromatic, satisfying and delicious. It’s not French, but I’ll bet Julia would approve.

Today is Julia Child’s birthday. If she was living, she’d be 100 years old. Celebrate with good fun, good food and good flavor in the kitchen — French or not. Bon Appetit!

One pound of beans from Swedmark’s garden ready to go into Greek-Style Vegetables.

Greek-Style Vegetables

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 3 chubby cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound of green beans, topped and tailed (trimmed) and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or beef soup base
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 sprig each of: Italian parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley, for serving
  • 1 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese, optional

In a large skillet or cazuela, heat olive oil. Add onions and saute until tender. Add garlic and beans and saute. Add tomatoes, zucchini, water, soup base, tomato paste and lemon zest. Stir to mix. Bring mixture to a boil. Tie sprigs of fresh herbs together with kitchen twine. Tuck them into the bubbling mixture. Cover the skillet or cazuela with aluminum foil and bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with cooked orzo or pasta of choice. Offer feta cheese at the table. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

P.S. Greek-Style Vegetables is one of the dishes I’ll be preparing on Saturday, August 18th during my cooking demonstration at 11:00 at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes.

 

 

Eat Indian tonight — start with Pakora

My favorite guy had a birthday last week. We decided to make Mango Rice Pilaf and Pakora for the evening birthday meal. We had never even heard of Pakora until we ate at an Indian Restaurant in Fridley, Minnesota a month or so ago.

When I asked the server how the crunchy dumpling that tasted like well-seasoned onion rings was prepared, he mentioned chickpea flour and water, onions and I think he said chili powder.

When I got home, I checked my copy of “Sherbanoo’s Indian Cuisine: Tantalizing Tastes of the Indian Subcontinent,” by Sherbanoo Aziz. I found her recipe for Pakora. I knew it would be good. Several years ago, Sherbanoo came to Bemidji from her home in Moorhead to do an Indian cooking class for a small group of people. The food was amazing.

Sherbanoo told me when she moved to the Fargo-Moorhead area from Arlington, Virginia in 1996, not many people in the area were familiar with Indian food. She had a hard time finding the ingredients she needed for her recipes. Now many of those ingredients, such as chickpea flour, often referred to as garbanzo bean flour, are available in mainstream grocery stores. Sherbanoo reminded me that garbanzo bean flour has a low glycemic index making it a good choice for those who must watch their blood sugar levels, it’s a good source of protein and it’s gluten-free.

Pakora is similar to a fritter that’s fried until golden and crispy on the outside. Sherbanoo told me it is a generic food enjoyed as an appetizer or snack in India. Pakora can be made with a variety of vegetables and seasonings depending on where in India you are eating. In some parts of India the crunchy dumplings are called wada.

My favorite guy and I have been experimenting on our own with pakora. Sherbanoo’s

My favorite guy frying up pakora made with recipe from “Sherbanoo’s Indian Cuisine: Tantalizing Tastes of the Indian Subcontinent.”

recipe is one of our favorites. You can find our own blend of ingredients in the pakora recipe I share in my column this week. It’s a little different than Sherbanoo’s recipe, but we find it to be perfect for our tastes, with bits of minced jalapeno and cilantro mixed in with sliced onions. Click here for that recipe.

You will find more information about Sherbanoo as well as some of her Indian recipes on her website. Click here.

 

Pakora

  • 2 cups gram flour (most commonly called garbanzo bean flour when you see it in the grocery store)
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red hot chili pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cooking oil for frying

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour and water until all the lumps are dissolved. Add the spices and the onions. Mix well. The batter will be of banana fritter consistency.

Pour the oil in a medium frying pan and place on high heat. When heated to 350 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, lower to medium heat. Gently lower one teaspoon of batter at a time into the oil. Continue until the surface is covered. Fry for about 1/2 minute on each side. Remove and drain excess oil on side of the pan. Place on a plate with a paper towel to drain more oil. Pakora may be made ahead of time and served at room temperature or warmed up in a microwave oven prior to serving. Serve with hot chutney.

Makes 10 3-piece servings. Per serving: (with 1/2 cup oil absorbed) 164 calories, 12 g fat, 9 g carbohydrates, 9 g protein, 2.3 g fiber, 259 mg sodium.

Recipe from Sherbanoo’s Indian Cuisine: Tantalizing Tastes of the Indian Subcontinent, by Sherbanoo Aziz. 2001.

Summer salad easy to tote to Independence Day picnics.

If you’ve been to a Twins baseball game at Target Field on a Sunday afternoon, you may have satisfied your hunger pangs with a refreshing healthful salad from the Roots for the Home Team Garden Goodies Cart.

A couple of weeks ago, along with with other members of the Minneapolis-St. Paul Chapter of , Les Dames d’Escoffier International, I had an opportunity to have a taste of one of the salads created by young people who are participants in the Community Design Center of Minnesota (CDC), a youth development program on the east side of St. Paul.

Bryan and Ly’s Epic Quinoa Salad was tossed together on an outdoor patio at Swede Hollow Bakery and Cafe by two young CDC program participants who work in organic, sustainable vegetable and flower gardens in several locations in east St. Paul. One of the gardens borders the Swede Hollow patio.

Garden at Swede Hollow Bakery and Cafe planted and cared for by Garden Corps interns with the CDC.

As they dumped prepared ingredients into a large mixing bowl, the girls told us that quinoa is an ancient grain that is very good for us. When all the vegetables, fruit and herbs had been tossed together, they added an Asian-inspired dressing. This salad recipe was created by CDC members.

Bryan and Ly’s Epic Quinoa Salad prepared on the Swede Hollow patio by youth participants in the CDC.

I made the salad over the weekend and packed it into jars. They traveled well in a cooler on my weekend road trip. The unusual, refreshing combination of quinoa, kale, vegetables, grapes and mint gets a little kick of heat from chili garlic sauce in the dressing. It was a very satisfying meal in the park on an afternoon with temperatures over 90 degrees.

This easy-to-tote salad is perfect for 4th of July picnics and meals on the boat.

The Twins still have several home games scheduled for Sundays at Target Field. Stop by the Roots for the Home Team Garden Goodies Cart and try one of the fresh, flavorful and healthful salads. Roots for the Home Team makes it so easy to eat well at the ballpark.

Dates you’ll find the Garden Goodies cart at Target Field:

  • July 15th and 29th
  • August 12th
  • September 9th, 16th and 30th

 Bryan and Ly’s Epic Quinoa Salad

(recipe from Roots for the Home Team Garden Goodies Cart)

Dressing

  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups packed shredded kale leaves (remove thick ribs)
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 4 cups mixed spring greens
  • 1/2 cup roasted & salted sunflower seeds

1. Mix all dressing ingredients in large bowl. Cook quinoa according to package directions. Rinse with cool water; drain well.

2. Place quinoa in bowl; toss with half of the dressing. Add kale, tomatoes, grapes, cucumber and mint. Gently stir until well blended. Serve on top of spring greens. Drizzle each serving with remaining dressing and sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Tips from the cook

  • I’ve discovered peanuts are a delicious substitute for sunflower seeds in this salad.

Cool Breakfast in a Jar

Several years ago, when I was visiting an out-of-town friend, she served oatmeal in a very interesting way. She told me we were eating breakfast Portland-style. That’s where she had chilled oatmeal for the first time.

She called it Swiss Muesli, which I think of as a wholesome and hearty granola-type cereal. This was different. The night before serving she had mixed uncooked old fashioned oats with skim milk, brown sugar, dried fruit (she used dried blueberries and cranberries), low-fat vanilla yogurt, salt and chopped pecans. She covered the mixture and chilled it overnight. At serving time, she scooped the mixture into cereal bowls. No cooking and no heating involved. It was very good, and what a convenient way to serve a nutritious breakfast to overnight guests.

I’ve taken my friend’s breakfast idea a step or two further by making it with dairy-free milk and yogurt and portioning the mixture into wide-mouth jars for individual servings. This makes it an easy grab-and-go breakfast and a very convenient way to serve a house full of summer weekend guests or a husband who heads to the golf course very very early on weekend mornings.

This time of year, fresh berries are a must in this thick breakfast soup. I packed chopped fresh strawberries on top of the oatmeal mixture. You can stuff chunks of toasted pecans just under the lid of each jar. If my cool breakfast in jars will be eaten at home, I leave the crunchy nuts out of the jars and offer them in a bowl at serving time for each person to add as they wish.

A pint-size wide-mouth jar is just the right capacity to hold a serving of chilled oatmeal along with plenty of berries and nuts, but any wide-mouth jar will do the trick.

Children will enjoy eating their breakfast from a jar. In fact, everyone will find it fun to eat breakfast from a jar.

I served chilled oatmeal last week with Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones that I posted not long ago. It was a great taste and texture combination.

If you like the idea of the ease and convenience of preparing and serving meals in a jar, check out the Cool Veggie Bliss In A Jar that I have in my column this week. It’s a great lunch.

Now all you need to do is make room for all of these jars in your refrigerator.

Chilled Oatmeal In A Jar

  • 2 1/4 cups uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 1/4 cups plain almond milk or flax milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek-style dairy-free vanilla-flavored yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh berries (strawberries (chopped), raspberries, blueberries)
  • Toasted pecans, broken

In a large mixing bowl, blend oats with milk, yogurt, brown sugar and salt. Spoon the mixture into wide-mouth jars. Scoop berries on top of the oat mixture. Top with nuts. Seal jars and refrigerate overnight. Makes about 6 servings.

Tips from the cook

  • Skim milk and low-fat vanilla yogurt can be used for the dairy-rich version of this recipe.
  • The original recipe I got from my friend calls for 3 tablespoons dried fruit and 3 tablespoon chopped nuts to be stirred into the mixture in a large bowl before overnight refrigeration.
  • I used Greek-style SO Delicious dairy-free cultured coconut milk vanilla yogurt.

Portobello Mushroom Sandwich — It’s Amazing.

“I can’t believe we’re sitting here eating mushroom sandwiches.” My husband took another bite of the thick sandwich filled with a mix of sauteed portobello slices, onions, garlic and spinach. “A year ago, we wouldn’t have gone near a mushroom,” he said.

He was right. Until we’d gone hunting for chanterelles with Dick Ojakangas in Duluth last August, we had no idea what we’d been missing as mushroom-challenged individuals. The moment we tasted the chanterelles that Beatrice Ojakangas had sauteed, we were hooked. And that opened up a whole new world of culinary magnificence to us. You can read about that mushroom-enlightening experience on a blog post I wrote last year. Just click here to get to that story.

Since that mushroom turnaround last year, I went to Mushroom Camp, joined the Paul Bunyan Mushroom Club, tramped through the woods on a few forays and have been eating mushrooms with enjoyment. Nothing from a can, though. Only fresh mushrooms will do for my palate.

These Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches have become a favorite. It takes little time to slice up a couple of large Portobellos and marinate them for a few minutes in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Italian seasoning blend. While the mushroom slices marinate, you can saute the onion and garlic, adding some fresh spinach or kale that wilts in just seconds. Then, add the mushroom slices, cook for a few minutes and serve on toasted bread slices.

It’s a gourmet sandwich. It takes minutes to make. We think it’s amazing — in more ways than one!

The Confetti Bean Salad in my column this week goes well with Portobello Mushroom Sandwiches. You can get the Bean Salad recipe by clicking here.

You might also enjoy Mushroom Crostini. I posted that recipe on this blog not too long ago. Click here for that recipe.

Marinated Portobello Mushroom Sandwich

  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, stems removed, tops dusted with a dry paper towel
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
  • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons dried Italian seasoning blend
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 chubby cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 or 3 handfuls baby spinach leaves or baby kale leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • Bread slices, toasted or grilled

Prepare marinade by whisking 3/4 cup olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian seasoning together.  Cut portobello mushrooms into slices about 1/4-inch thick.  Arrange slices in a 9-x 13-inch glass baking dish in a single layer. Pour marinade over the slices. Use your fingers to rub mixture over the slices, coating them completely. Turn slices over and  make sure all of the cut sides are coated. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12-inch skillet (cast iron works well) over medium heat. Add onions to hot oil and saute until soft. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add spinach or kale and cook until wilted.  Add mushrooms, scraping any leftover marinade from the dish into the skillet. Stir and cook for about 5 or 6 minutes, until mushrooms are tender.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on toasted or grilled bread slices. Makes 4 sandwiches, depending on size of bread slices.

Tip from the cooks

We like to brush both sides of bread with a light coating of olive oil and toast them in our grill pan on the stove.

Better Than a Biscuit Dairy-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

Dairy-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

I’ve steered clear of biscuit-making ever since I mixed up a crumbly mess of dry ingredients with butter and buttermilk years ago. The end result, inedible hockey pucks, came after a very frustrating baking experience. The wanna-be biscuits wound up in the garbage. That was when I decided I just didn’t need to ever, ever be making biscuits. And that’s why, when Katie Novotny, owner of St. Paul Classic Cookie Co. said that scones are simply a biscuit, I got nervous.

Katie Novotny offered to show members of my Bemidji Cookbook Club how to make the perfect scone. We gathered in her bitty bakery with an enormous menu of sweet treats in the south St. Anthony Park neighborhood of St. Paul on a recent Friday morning.

She sliced small chunks of butter into a bowl holding her measured dry ingredients, emphasizing the fact the butter must be well-chilled. I use the same technique when I make my favorite recipe for scones — the ones I plop onto a baking sheet using a measuring cup. That technique keeps my hands off the dough, convincing me that I am making scones, not biscuits.

With a gentle touch, the experienced baker used her fingers to quickly work the butter into the flour mixture in her large, metal mixing bowl.

“Never over-handle the dough,” said Novotny as she mixed cold milk into the bowl. “Less is more.”

She patted the soft dough into a rectangle on her work surface and speckled the top of it with chunks of frozen strawberries and rhubarb. She explained that frozen fruit will hold its shape while baking.

Each long side of fruit-embedded dough got folded into the center, sealing the fruit inside. Novotny expertly cut the dough into four equal squares. She created triangle-shaped scones by cutting diagonally through each square.

She placed the fluffy fruit sandwiches on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

While the sweet fragrance of baking scones wafted through the bakery, the multi-talented baker gave us a lesson on how to frost sugar cookies using a pastry tube with tips attached.

I was still doubtful about my own scone-making skills. Novotny reassured me that it just takes practice with really good recipes. She suggested I watch other experienced scone-makers in action.

Could I really make scones as good as the ones created by the hands of Katie Novotny?

My first attempt didn’t work. I used my tried-and-true drop scones. With Novotny’s flatten, fill and fold method, my soft, moist dough flattened in the oven. The scones did not hold their triangular shape.

I called Novotny for help. She went over my recipe and suggested some changes. My next try ended with a batch of moist, light triangles of fruit-studded biscuit dough. Katie Novotny is not just a great baker — she is an excellent teacher. My flatten, fill and fold-friendly scone recipe is in my column this week. Click here to get to that recipe.

I became so confident, I was ready to experiment with a dairy-free scone. Why dairy-free? Less fat, less calories, less cholesterol. But, I still wanted moist, delicious scones. And that is just what I got.

The dairy-free scones are made with organic coconut spread rather than butter and unsweetened flax milk. My local natural food co-op carries Good Karma Flax Milk. You can try another non-dairy milk, such as almond or soy.

Coconut spread melts very quickly, so I measured it and put it in the freezer while I organized the remaining ingredients. Because I was using quick-melting coconut spread, I did not use my fingers for mixing. I put my pastry cutter into the freezer to chill and used that for cutting the butter into the dry ingredients.

I made Dairy-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Scones over the weekend. When my husband came home from the golf course on Sunday, he was blown away by these moist, not-too-sweet, fluffy and light scones topped with  honey-sweet crunch.

And, I’m blown away by the fact I can now make “really just a biscuit” scones that are the real deal. Thanks to Katie Novotny.

Katie Novotny’s St. Paul Classic Cookie Co. is located at:

2386 Territorial Rd,  Saint Paul, MN 55114

 

Dairy-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut spread
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened flax milk
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberry chunks
  • 1/2 up frozen rhubarb chunks
  • 2 tablespoons local honey, for brushing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

Use a whisk to mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar, nutmeg and lemon zest together in a large mixing bowl. Add cold coconut spread by small chunks to the bowl. Use chilled pastry cutter to mix coconut spread into flour mixture until it resembles coarse sand. Pour in cold flax milk. With a gentle touch, use a spoon to mix until just combined.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Working quickly, pat the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Evenly distribute the frozen chunks of fruit over the dough. Press the fruit to embed the chunks into the dough. Fold one long side into the middle. Fold the other long side over to cover the fruit. Pat to seal.

Cut the rectangle into 4 squares. Cut each square in half diagonally to form 8 triangles. Place triangles on parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the top of each one with honey. Bake scones in preheated 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes, until done. Remove from oven. Transfer scones to wire rack to cool slightly before serving. Makes 8 scones.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Earth Day with Mushroom Crostini

Mushroom Crostini

I’ve spent most of my life turning up my nose at mushrooms. That all changed last summer when I discovered the sublime flavor of chanterelle mushrooms plucked fresh from the forest floor and sauteed in butter with garden-fresh sage leaves. I blogged about my foraging experience in Duluth with Dick Ojakangas last summer. Beatrice Ojakangas immediately transformed our chanterelle harvest into a luscious appetizer. You can read that blog post by clicking here.

That foraging experience was followed by my weekend at Mushroom Camp. After that, a visit to Dallas Flynn’s farm in Frazee, Minnesota. He sent me home with some of the shiitake mushrooms he raises. Those beauties went into a pasta dish. I became hooked on mushrooms.

On this Earth Day weekend, I’m making Mushroom Crostini. Buttery cremini mushrooms or creamy and light shiitakes are both good choices for this appetizer or snack. It’s so easy to make.

First, toast some baguette slices. Brush both sides of each slice with olive oil. I toast them in a grill pan. When the weather is nice, use your outdoor grill.

Then, saute thinly sliced mushrooms with dried Italian seasoning blend. When I made this treat during a “Cooking with Herbs” demonstration for the Lakes Area Garden Club in Detroit Lakes the other night, I added a sprig of fresh thyme and a sage leaf to the pan as the mushrooms cooked. Some garlic, salt and pepper is all that’s needed for the finishing touch of flavor.

Serve the warm mushroom mixture on the little toasts, or crostini.

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than enjoying a gift from its soil?

It will soon be time to hunt for morel mushrooms. Won’t those be the perfect treasures to create this delicious crostini? I can’t wait!

You can watch as I prepare Mushroom Crostini on my weekly Lakeland Public Television segment, Good Food, Food Life, 365. Click here to go right to the video.

Mushroom Crostini

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces cremini or shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed, sliced thin
  • Italian dried herb blend, to taste
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine, optional
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Baguette slices, toasted

Heat olive oil in saute pan. Add sliced mushrooms and Italian seasoning. Saute until mushrooms are soft and tender. Add garlic and optional dry sherry or wine. Continue to saute for a minute or two, just long enough for garlic to lose its raw flavor. Season mixture with salt and pepper.

Serve warm on toasted baguette slices. Makes about 8 crostini.

Tip from the Cook

  • Brush both sides of baguette slices with olive oil before toasting in grill pan or on outdoor grill.

 

Drink green on St. Patrick’s Day — and I don’t mean beer

A few weekends ago I listened in to several free call-in webcasts, all part of a two-day Conscious Foods Summit. It was the description of the event that caught my interest:

“The Conscious Foods Summit sessions cover the physical, emotional, mental and – yes, spiritual – benefits of eating healthfully. If you’re like most people on a path of transformation, you’re always on the lookout for ways to create more vitality that are good for the planet, too.”

Yes, I am always looking for ways to be the best me I can be. I listened to several of the live sessions. It was time well spent.

One of my Facebook friends, Jill Nussinow, also known as The Veggie Queen, presented a session titled: Why Eating Plants Can Change Your Life. The registered dietitian and cooking instructor convinced me that I must  invest in a pressure cooker. I’m one of those people who has always been a little squeamish about pressure cookers — they can explode, after all. Well, that’s what I thought. Jill Nussinow said she has used pressure cookers in the classes she teaches at Santa Rosa Community College for more than 20 years, and there has never been an exploding pot. I guess I’ll start shopping for my own.

Nussinow also inspired me to experiment with green smoothies, blended concoctions of vegetables and fruits, nothing like the protein powder and berry drink I usually make for breakfast.

My pretty green smoothie came together after a recent dinner at True Food Kitchen in Phoenix, Arizona. A list of natural refreshments on the menu included Kale-Aid, a mixture of kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger. It sounded like one of those green smoothies Jill Nussinow recommended drinking. I may have tried the health drink, but at the time I spotted it, I was already sipping on an Acai Pomegranate Mojito — a different kind of health drink.

I’ve been concocting a green drink of my own and I think it’s good. It must be. I saved some of my last batch in the refrigerator. This afternoon, when I needed a boost of energy, I went right to the refrigerator to get my powerful green liquid. It had disappeared. This evening, my husband confessed to drinking up the potent elixir before he went to bed last night. And he liked it. What?? It must be good.

It makes sense to drink green on St. Patrick’s Day. When you think of all of the health benefits this drink delivers, it makes sense to drink it everyday. It’s a great way to get some fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.

Sparkling Green Power Juice

  • 1/2 to 1 cup water
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 of a seedless cucumber, unpeeled, cut into chunks
  • 1 apple, unpeeled, core removed, cut into chunks
  • 6 chunks crystallized ginger, or to taste
  • 2 kiwi, peeled
  • 2 large kale leaves
  • 1 handful baby spinach leaves
  • Sparkling water, for serving

Place ingredients, except sparkling water, in blender in order listed. Turn on blender and puree mixture until smooth.

Pour through a fine mesh sieve and allow to drain into a bowl or pitcher. Cover juice and put in refrigerator to chill.

At serving time, pour juice into glasses and top off with sparkling water. Makes about 2 cups green juice.

Tip from the cook

The pulp that remains in the sieve can be spooned into plastic trays and frozen. Transfer frozen cubes to freezer-strength zip-top bag. Seal tightly and store in freezer. The cubes are a great addition of chilled cucumber soup made with yogurt for summer meals. In fall and winter, add frozen cubes to soups and stews for additional flavor and nutrients.

l.c. finn’s roasted pears warm the soul with cinnamon extract

Some say it makes no difference what kind of vanilla is used in cookies, cakes, quick breads and custards. Some home bakers are sure artificial vanilla flavoring works just fine for giving the best flavor to their baked goods. Others would argue that you shouldn’t waste your time baking if you use artificial flavoring. Only the real deal, pure vanilla extract, will work for giving the best flavor to desserts.

I’m a member of the pure vanilla extract club. I would never use an imposter in the custard for our family’s special banana cake, layers upon layers of homemade vanilla custard, sliced bananas and vanilla wafers covered with a thick blanket of real whipped cream. My special pound cake would have something missing if it was made with artificial vanilla. Pure vanilla extract costs a bit more than its artificial look-alike, but to me, it’s worth every penny.

Chad Gillard and Lee Zwiefelhofer favor the real deal, too. The two Twin Cities guys were discussing the absence of locally-made vanilla extract – extracts of any kind, really, as they downed some Finnegans together. They decided they’d make it themselves. In 2010 they started a company called l.c. finn’s Extracts, l. for Lee, c. for Chad and finns for those Finnegans that were downed as the business ideas developed. A few months ago, they launched their first three extracts: vanilla, cinnamon and cardamom.

When Gillard (you may also know him as the Aunt Else’s Aebleskiver guy) sent me the three extracts to try, I quickly opened the brown, glass bottles and sniffed each one. A whiff of cardamom extract brought floral, citrus fragrance to my nose. I thought how much it would be appreciated by Scandinavian bakers who smash whole cardamom pods to get the seeds they sprinkle liberally in their cakes, buns and pastries. How much easier it will be to use l.c. finns cardamom extract.

The cinnamon extract smelled sweet, warm, homey and exotic all at once. I added it to a batch of granola I mixed up that afternoon, along with some l.c. finn’s vanilla extract. The next morning, a splash of cinnamon extract was a fine partner to my fresh red grapefruit for breakfast.

l.c. finn’s vanilla extract has a rich, full-bodied, slightly earthy aroma that has brought new flavor to my homemade granola. I plan to use it in my next batch of Power Balls.

Organic cinnamon sticks, organic green cardamom pods and Madagascar vanilla beans soak in alcohol for weeks in an incubator kitchen in Minneapolis to produce l.c. finn’s Extracts. The flavor is given plenty of time to develop. Zwiefelhofer and Gillard have an approach to extract that takes plenty of time – they aim for full flavor with no additives.

Gillard and Zwiefelhofer give a portion of their profits to a scholarship fund they have created to give financial assistance to potential food entrepreneurs. The scholarships will give these students an opportunity to attend Kindred Kitchen, a training program in north Minneapolis that can help them start their own businesses.

Last month, Heavy Table named Gillard and Zwiefelhofer as food entrepreneurs to watch in 2012. When I visited with Gillard by phone recently, I asked what we might expect to see. “We’ll soon be introducing anise extract and chocolate extract. We’re working on pecan and almond extracts,” he said. “And, we are developing hibiscus extract. Tea lovers are enjoying hibiscus. We think there are many other ways to enjoy the flower that research suggests may help control blood pressure.”

Right now, l.c. finn’s Extracts are available in select stores in the Twin Cities area. You can find a list of those locations on the l.c. finns web site. You can also order extracts on the l.c. finns web site.

A recipe for roasted pears came in the box with the extracts I received. They are quick, easy, elegant and versatile. Serve for dessert with ice cream or whipped cream. They were delicious chopped and stirred into granola or oatmeal.

Only the real l.c. finn’s deal will do.

l.c. finns Roasted Pears

1. Slice pears in half and remove core. Place in lightly greased baking dish.

2. Mix olive oil, Cinnamon Extract and salt together.

3. Spoon mixture evenly over pear halves (or apples).

4. Roast for 45 minutes at 400 degrees F.

5. Serve warm, with dollop of Cardamom Whipped Cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream.

l.c. finns Cardamom Whipped Cream

1. Chill large glass or metal bowl and mixer beaters in freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. Pour heavy whipping cream in the ice-cold bowl.

3. Beat whipping cream with ice-cold beaters until peaks are just about to form.

4. Add sugar and Cardamom Extract.

5. Continue to beat until peaks form. Do not over-beat, cream will become lumpy and butter-like.