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.



No-Bake State Fair Honey Date Bars

When I created an ice cream cake for my husband’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, I thought the no-bake granola crust would be a good make-over option for my old tried and true date bars — a recipe from my grandmother’s ledger.

I’ve dubbed the new no-bake dessert State Fair Honey Date Bars. They’ve not pulled a blue ribbon from the Minnesota State Fair, but I will be preparing the sweet new-fashioned, better-than-grandmother’s bars during a cooking demonstration I’ll be doing there on August 30th.

The crust of ground granola is held together with honey. A small amount of unsweetened cocoa in the crust offers an unidentifiable depth of flavor. Half of the crust gets patted into a 9-inch square pan. I used a square tart pan with a removable bottom. It makes cutting and serving the bars so much easier. A round springform pan would also work. The round shape is conducive to cutting small wedges to serve like pie with a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream.

I made the crust and patted it into my tart pan just before heading for a vacation in Chicago with our younger son and his family. Once we got to the flat we rented in Chicago, I stuck it in the refrigerator until I had time to make the date filling. A small bowl of the granola mixture to sprinkle over the top of the bars went into the refrigerator, too.

Pretty doors on the flat we rented on North Halsted in Lincoln Park in Chicago.

After days packed with trips to the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Green City Market in Lincoln Park, train rides and bus rides, exploring the neighborhood by foot, trying new restaurants, playing at neighborhood playgrounds and even some shopping, I finally got around to preparing the date bars.

It didn’t take long to cook chopped dates with water. I flavored them with a little orange juice. If I’d been making this batch of bars at home, I would have added a sprig of fresh lemon thyme or a few lemon verbena leaves to the simmering dates. They can easily be pulled out of the cooked mixture before spreading it over the granola crust.

The date filling makes a thick layer in the pan. For my preferences, that’s a good thing. If you want less filling, just freeze half of the cooked mixture for another time. You’ll be surprised at how good it is served as an appetizer dolloped over goat cheese on crostini, garnished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs from your garden.

With my secret mixture of fresh herbs added to the simmering dates, I think these no-bake bars just might be worthy of a blue ribbon. Try them and see what you think. You’ll have to come to the Fair to learn about the secret herbal blend in the bars:)

If you plan to be at the Minnesota State Fair this year, I’d love to see you. Come say hi.

What: I’ll be doing cooking demos, preparing State Fair Honey (and herb) Date Bars

Where: Saint Agnes Demo Kitchen in the Creative Activities Building at the Minnesota State Fair

When: Thursday, August 30th at 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM.

You’ll find another version of my Grandmother’s Date Bars at this earlier post. Click here.

State Fair Honey Date Bars

  • 3 cups granola
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 pound pitted dates, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped, toasted almonds

In two batches, grind granola in bowl of food processor to fine crumbs. This can also be done by putting granola in a large zip-top plastic bag. Roll over the bag with a rolling pin or a can from your pantry until the granola becomes crumbs.

Place granola crumbs in a large bowl. Add cocoa powder, milk and honey. Mix with a wooden spoon or your clean hands until all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of 9-inch square glass baking dish, a tart pan or springform pan. Set aside.

Add about 1/2 cup of chopped, toasted almonds to the remaining granola mixture for the topping. Set aside.

Put dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is the consistency of marmalade, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool. Stir in orange juice.

Spread date mixture over crust in the pan. Sprinkle reserved granola mixture over the top.

Cut and serve. Makes 12 to 16 bars.


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.



  • 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.

Garlic, Garlic

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have fresh garlic in my kitchen ready to smash, mince, chop or slice to use for culinary enjoyment. I’ve got cookbooks devoted to garlic and file folders bulging with recipes that include several bold, pungent cloves of the stinking rose.

When I started buying garlic from local growers at the farmers market several years ago, I realized how much better it tasted than the bulbs I had been bringing home from the grocery store. Four or five years ago I attended the Minnesota Garlic Festival for the first time. That’s when I got the bug to try growing some of my own. It took me a few years to finally take the first step — getting some garlic to plant.

Early last Fall, just in time for garlic planting in northern Minnesota, a box of beautiful heads of garlic arrived at my door. Travel, busy work days and wet weather prevented the small garden plot (really a bed of weeds) that I had selected for my garlic crop from getting tilled and enriched with new soil.

On the day the first snowflakes fell, I called the seed company that I’d ordered the garlic from to ask if it would be safe for me to eat those bulbs that were meant for planting. (Please remember I’m not a gardener). “Of course,” said the woman at the other end of the phone. “Go ahead and eat them. Just order more next year if you decide to try again.” It didn’t take long for me to use up 18 bulbs of garlic — what was I thinking ordering so much for planting? (Remember, I’m not a gardener. I didn’t realize each clove becomes a new head of garlic underground.)

I’ll try again this year. Now I know I can buy some of my favorite garlic at the farmers market and stick some of those cloves into the ground. My little garden space is still a bed of blooming weeds that look quite pretty, actually. Hopefully, we’ll get it tilled and ready for planting before the snow flies this year.

When garlic-grower, Carol Schmidt of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota recently invited me to her home for a garlic-tasting party, I accepted without hesitation.

A couple of garlic-loving friends joined me on a sunny Saturday for the drive to Schmidt’s farm, anxious to experience our first garlic-tasting party.

As soon as we arrived on the farm, Schmidt walked us to her garden where she showed us some of the garlic still in the ground. Roly-poly bulbils, clones of the mother bulb buried under the soil, were bursting at the tops of their sturdy, tall green stems. Schmidt explained these mini-bulbs can be planted and will grow to be large bulbs if they are treated like normal garlic cloves. In the fall, Schmidt plants garlic cloves two inches deep into the soil leaving at least six inches of space between each. She is careful to be sure each clove is planted with its root end down and the tips all facing in the same direction. She tucks them in for the winter with a blanket of newspaper and two inches of chopped straw. It seems I should be able to do this, gardener or not.

Carol Schmidt pulls a bulb of garlic from the earth for close examination.

The tasting party took place in Schimdt’s dining room where she had a table of garlic prepared roasted, sliced raw, minced in olive oil and some baked on toast. An array of palate cleansers were on the center of the table.








I learned that not all garlic tastes alike. Some is bitter, some is bland. Some is creamy, some is sticky. Some burns the mouth. Some brings tears to the eyes. It all sends a strong aroma into the air.

I had some questions for Schmidt regarding garlic.

How did you get interested in growing garlic? 

About thirty years ago while working as a substitute County Extension Agent in Virginia, Minnesota, a client gave me a head and some bulbils of what she called hard-necked garlic.  The flavor difference between it and grocery store garlic was astonishing and I have kept that variety growing ever since.  I now know it is in the Rocambole garlic group, a group which some people consider to be the best-tasting garlic with the most complex flavors.  Then, some years ago, I read an article about the new food rage “Gourmet Garlic” and realized that I unknowingly had been growing gourmet garlic for 30 years.  Then I read “The Complete Book of Garlic,” by Ted Meredith and was completely hooked on tasting as many garlic varieties as I could.

What is the most difficult thing about growing garlic? 

Garlic is quite easy to grow.  It is planted in the fall and mulched to keep the weeds down and to keep it from heaving in the spring.  I fertilize in the fall before planting and once or twice in the spring before the end of May.  It sometimes is a little tricky to decide when to harvest (usually when about 40% of the leaves have died back).  For me, the most difficult part is limiting how much I grow.  We can only eat so much garlic!

The U of MN Extension has an excellent fact sheet on garlic in Minnesota at:

Carol Schmidt shows one of the varieties of garlic from this year’s harvest.

How many varieties of garlic do you grow? How do you choose them? 

Last fall I planted twenty varieties of garlic.  I plan to buy new ones for tryout this fall.

I am trying to grow at least one garlic variety from each of the ten garlic groups that we can grow fairly easily in Minnesota.  I also am trying to find the “best” garlic for the ways we use garlic:  sauteing, roasting, infusing in oil and raw (e.g. in mayonnaise). Some garlics are good for one or two uses, but not the others.  The taste and appearance of a garlic variety will vary depending on how and where it is grown, so I am growing my own to try to get the most consistent flavor.

This year at the Garlic Festival, I will also be choosing for appearance–I want the prettiest purple garlics.  And I plan to buy some of every variety of Rocambole that I can find in an attempt to determine if the Rocambole I have been growing is already a named variety or deserves its own name.

What’s the difference between the garlic we buy from farmers markets and the garlic we buy in the grocery store?

Most grocery store garlic is from California, China or Argentina and is either a variety called California Early or California Late.  Both are known for their long storage ability and excellent yields.  They are not known for their excellent taste.

Farmers’ market garlic may be the same as store-bought, but it is more likely to be one of the more flavorful gourmet garlics and very often will be a named variety.  If you want to get consistent flavor, you should buy the same variety from the same grower each year, or grow your own.

What do you think about the garlic in jars that is available in grocery stores? 

I have not tried it and since I grow my own, I probably will not.  If I weren’t able to grow my own, I would buy some to compare it to fresh.

How should garlic be stored?

Research shows that fresh garlic keeps best if stored around 57 degrees F. with a relative humidity of 45 to 50%.  It will sprout if kept between 40 and 50 degrees and dry out if kept warmer than 63 degrees F.   Our storage spot is usually about 60 degrees with 60% humidity and the garlic seems to store well.

Some garlics store better than others.  Garlics in the Silverskin group are the longest storing and those in the Turban group, the shortest.

I also pickle and freeze (in a non-defrosting freezer) whole cloves of my Rocambole garlic.  I have not tried freezing any other varieties.  And I dehydrate slices for garlic powder.

Do you have a favorite garlic dish?

We like to crush garlic, sprinkle it with salt to taste, squish it into a slurry with the back of a spoon, add an equal amount of a nice California olive oil (Lucero Manzanillo is wonderful for this) and drizzle it over corn-on-the-cob, eggs-over-easy on new potatoes or dip fresh bread in it.  We usually do a head at a time and keep it refrigerated till we use it up–but we do not keep it for more than a week because of the danger of botulism.


I left Carol Schmidt’s home with a hanger full of curing Rocambole garlic that she took from her front porch. My head was dizzy with all I had learned. Once again, I am motivated to grow my own garlic. I’ll save some cloves from the heads of garlic Schmidt gave me. I’ll also pick up a couple of bulbs while I’m at the Minnesota Garlic Festival that will be held this year on August 11th at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Minnesota. When you are at the Festival, look for Carol Schmidt heading up the first ever garlic growing contest: “The Big, The Small and The Ugly.” Find details about the contest here.

You can read more about garlic and my time with Carol Schmidt in my column this week. Click here to get to that column.

All-Purpose Garlic Crostini topped with cream cheese and Blueberry-Plum Sauce makes an excellent summer appetizer.

All-Purpose Garlic Crostini

  • 1 baguette
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 chubby cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut the baguette into 1/4-inch-thick round slices. Whisk the olive oil, garlic, black pepper, salt and cayenne in a small bowl. Brush each side of the bread rounds with the olive oil mixture. Arrange the slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Bake the prepared bread rounds in preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes, turning the rounds over half-way into the baking time. Remove crostini from oven when they are golden brown and crisp. Cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

All-Purpose Blueberry-Plum Sauce

  • 2 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed
  • 2 cups chopped plums
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger-root
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary, basil or thyme
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • coarse salt and pepper

In a large skillet, combine blueberries, plums, sugar, ginger, fresh herbs and vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer the mixture gently until plums begin to break down, 15 to 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely before using or storing in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

Serve with All-Purpose Crostini and softened cream cheese or goat cheese.

Tips from the cook

  • Just because this sauce is seasoned with fresh herbs doesn’t mean it can’t be used with all things sweet. Try it on ice cream, French toast, pancakes, toasted bagels and even cheesecake.
  • It’s the perfect match for chicken and pork. Spread it on a tortilla when you make your next wrap.
  • This Sauce and Crostini travel well. I got the Sauce recipe several years ago from a friend I was going on a camping/canoe trip with at Lake of the Woods. (Remember Ann? I’ve shared some of her great recipes on this blog.) She suggested I make it to take along. I did. We had it at base camp the night before we took off in our canoes for five days. It was a hit with my group of 9 camping/canoeing buddies.
  • Crumble crostini to make crunchy croutons to sprinkle on salad. Use the crostini to hold your favorite topping. This time of year, when tomatoes are fresh from the garden, a traditional bruschetta topping is amazing.





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)


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


  • 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.

Layers of Chocolate, Strawberries and Cream

When I pulled out the pocket folder filled with recipes I’ve gathered from cooking classes I’ve attended over the years, I was surprised to see that some of the recipes dated back to 1984. That was the year I started taking classes from Andrea Halgrimson in her cozy little kitchen in Fargo. I had two young sons at the time. Gathering with a small group of food-loving people in Andrea’s kitchen was always a special night out for me.

I flipped through my stash of recipes to find Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake. On a May evening in 1984, Halgrimson mixed up a biscuit-like chocolate dough that she rolled out and pressed into large round cake pans. The two chocolate shortcake layers were packed with a filling of whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

That was the night I got over my fear of unflavored gelatin. Halgrimson showed how easy it is to dissolve a little gelatin in water in a glass measuring cup. She placed the measuring cup in a small amount of water in a saucepan over low heat. As the water in the saucepan warmed up, the granulated gelatin dissolved in the water in the cup. Easy.

The warm gelatin and water mixture got whipped into thick cream that created the filling for the chocolate shortcake. The gelatin stabilizes the whipped cream, making it stay fluffy and beautiful as the shortcake sits in the refrigerator. The stabilized whipped cream will also have a much longer life at room temperature.

This time I used stabilized whipped cream to make my own Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake.

I baked the light and moist chocolate cake that I use for creating Strawberries and Cream Chocolate Roll. When it was cool, I pulled out the round cutters that I found at an antique shop in Pequot Lakes last month. One can never have too many round and square cutters:)

The tin has seen better days, but the cutters are in perfect condition. I love them.

I stacked the thin chocolate cake rounds with lots of sweetened stabilized whipped cream and fresh strawberries. Magnificent individual desserts!

This dessert is heavenly and needs nothing but a dainty edible flower on top. If you’re looking for over-the-top decadence, drizzle each dessert with your favorite hot fudge sauce.

Just another way to enjoy the fresh-picked berries of the season.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake

  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar plus extra for sprinkling
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh strawberries
  • Sugar for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
  • 2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15- x 10- x 1-inch jellyroll pan. Line the greased pan with waxed paper. Grease and flour the waxed paper. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs at high speed of an electric mixer until foamy. Gradually add ¾ cup sugar, continuing to beat for 5 minutes until mixture is thick and fluffy.  Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt together. Add sifted ingredients to bowl and blend on low speed. Add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and mix to blend.

Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake for about 11 minutes in preheated 350-degree oven. Cake should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger.

While cake bakes, place chopped strawberries in a shallow dish. Sprinkle with sugar to taste. Refrigerate until needed.

Sprinkle large, clean linen or cotton kitchen towel with granulated sugar in a 15- x 10-inch rectangle.

Remove cake from oven and immediately loosen from sides of pan and turn out onto sugared towel. Carefully peel away the waxed paper. Allow cake to cool.

When cake is cool, prepare the cream filling. Place gelatin and cold water in a glass measuring cup or custard cup. Place cup in a saucepan containing an inch of water. Heat gently until the gelatin melts.

Place whipping cream and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat until the cream has thickened slightly. Stir 2 tablespoons of the cream into the warm gelatin and quickly add mixture back into the large bowl of cream. Immediately resume beating. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cream and continue beating until cream is thick.

Use a 2 3/4-inch or 3-inch round cookie cutter to make 12 rounds of cake. Place 4 cake rounds of serving platter, sugared side down. Top with whipped cream filling and prepared strawberries. Place another round of cake on top of each, sugar side up. Top with more cream and strawberries. Place a third round of cake on each serving. Garnish with an edible flower, if desired. Makes 4 dessert servings.

Tips from the cook

  • Try using vanilla sugar for sweetening the strawberries.
  • It’s important that the dissolved gelatin mixture is still warm when added to the whipping cream. It thickens as it cools. Thick gelatin will create little gelatin balls in the whipped cream, resembling tapioca. You don’t want that.

Baby Artichokes — Pure and Simple

When I visited Green Scene Organic Market in Walker a couple of weeks ago, I was given a lesson on artichokes  that covered both the large globe artichokes and the smaller variety referred to as baby artichokes.

Years ago, my friend Cathy taught me how to eat an artichoke. Unfortunately, they were cooked and ready to eat by the time I got to her house, so I never had the opportunity to learn how to prepare an artichoke. Like so many home cooks, I remained intimidated by the thorny vegetable that is actually an unopened flower bud of a plant related to the sunflower in the thistle family.

Erin Andrus Haefle, owner of Green Scene, showed me how easy it is to prepare a globe artichoke by snapping off some of the tough outer petals, trimming off the top with a knife and steaming it in a pot of water until it becomes tender. After preparing some artichokes at home and leisurely eating them with friends, I wondered why I didn’t give them a try much sooner — so many good conversations and buttery morsels of artichoke I’ve missed.

You can watch Erin on video as she demonstrates how to prepare an artichoke when you read my column on line this week. Click here to watch the video.

Part two of my artichoke cooking primer came from the chef at Green Scene, Kristin Melby. She turned a pound of baby artichokes into completely edible melt-in-the-mouth, two-bite nuggets.

You can learn how to prepare baby artichokes, too, by watching Kristin in the video below.

Baby Artichokes are delicious when sauteed in olive oil, showered with a bit of fresh citrus juice and sprinkled with sea salt. I think they would be lovely tossed with some pasta. When I prepared baby artichokes at home following Kristin’s instructions, we ate them as a snack while they were still warm.

I’ve discovered eating artichokes is a special event — a ritual of sorts. The artichoke experience forces me to slow down, enjoy the adventure and focus on the people who are joining me around the table.

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

It’s all about food — real food.

Baby Artichokes Pure and Simple

Recipe from Green Scene Organic Market, Walker, Minnesota

  • 1 pound baby artichokes, cleaned and halved or quartered
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • half medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or balsamic vinegar
  • pinch salt
  • pepper to taste
  • freshly grated Parmesan Regiano

Prepare artichokes and keep in bowl of acidified water  (1tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup cold water) or equivalent amount of vinegar to water.

Pour 1/2 cup tap water into saucepan. Add artichokes and cover tightly. Steam over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.

Remove from heat and drain artichokes in strainer .Using the same sauce pan, return to heat and add the olive oil. Heat until a light smoke appears. Add onions and garlic and Herbs de Provence to pan and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. Add artichokes and continue cooking over low heat 5 minutes or more, depending on desired texture and artichoke size. Add lemon juice and season to taste.

Transfer to serving bowl. Add freshly grated Parmesan and serve.


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.