Every Thursday last summer I would set aside time during my lunch hour to go to the Mpls Farmers’ Market.  I would take a $20 out in cash and wouldn’t leave until the money was gone and my arms were sore from carrying a heavy load.

Well…this summer/fall I am sad to say that I barely made it out to the farmers’ market at all and didn’t buy much of anything all season. It was a product of being really tired during my first trimester and not feeling like cooking anything as well as being super busy at work and not being able to make time to get outside.  Lame.

The other week Erik said, “honey, remember when you used to always make roasted beets with goat cheese?”…I always included a huge bunch of beets in my weekly load of produce. So even though the beets were looking a little small at the market last week, I made sure to buy some and make Erik roasted beets with goat cheese yesterday.

He loves this dish and so do I. It’s simple, so good for you….and if you’ve never tried this pairing do so immediately. Goat cheese and beets were made for each other.

You can easily turn this side into a salad  (add greens and a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette and you’re set).

Roasted beets with goat cheese

Ingredients

7-8 medium size beets, scrubbed and tops cut off
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3rd cup crumbled goat cheese
Salt
Pepper

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place beets on top of a baking sheet lined with foil. Rub the beets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with another layer of foil.

Bake for about an hour, checking tenderness of beets after 45 minutes. They are done when they are fork tender. Remove from oven and set aside to allow them to cool.

When beets are cool, peel them (using your hands, they should peel fairly easily). Cut into quarters and divide among 4 bowls, top with crumbled goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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I took yet another Whole Foods cooking class all about Chinese Dim Sum the other weekend and my favorite dish was this Congee. It is easy, full of veggies and super flavorful.

To me, any dish with rice is comforting.  Being filipino, growing up I ate rice every single day.  Even with breakfast sometimes. Rice reminds me of sitting around the dining room table with my family.  We did that every evening.  I definitely want to do that when I have children someday. 

Congee (recipe credit to Ani Loizzo of Whole Foods)

2 cups sushi rice, rinsed well
8 ounces sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 medium onion, sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
2 baby bok choy, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, pounded and minced
2 inches of ginger, peeled and minced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1/4 cup sesame oil

Directions

Combine sushi rice and three cups of water in a medium pot with a lid and bring to a simmer. Cook for 30-35, or until the rice is very soft and creamy, stirring occassionally.

Meanwhile, heat the sesame oil in a very large pan and cook mushrooms, onions, carrots, bok choy, lemongrass and ginger until soft and brown, about 20-25 minutes. Stir together rice, vegetables, green onions and sesame seeds, season to taste and serve.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

This dish is great served plain but also with a splash of soy sauce.

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It’s amazing what you can create in the kitchen with just a few simple ingredients. I was off work Monday with little to do since I was snowed in from the previous day’s blizzard.  Nothing sounded better than the house warm with the smell of baking bread in the oven. I was inspired when I found this recipe on Honey and Jam, the bread in the gorgeous photos looked lovely and rustic.

No knead french bread (recipe found on Honey and Jam, original by Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day)

Note, I cut this recipe in half and it was still enough for two rounds of bread.

Ingredients

3 cups of lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Grab a very large mixing bowl, or a large container that you can cover. In it, mix the water, yeast, and salt. You don’t have to heat up the water to a precise optimal temperature for the yeast. I’ve even used just regular tap water, and it’s worked well for me. Just let that sit together for a while (you don’t have to wait for the yeast to dissolve completely), then dump the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to knead this, and you’re not looking to make it come together into a dough ball. You just want everything mixed well, with no streaks of flour left, and you’re done.

Leave it in your container, covered (but not airtight, or it’ll pop), for a few hours. When it has risen and then deflated a bit, your dough is done. It’s ready to be used or stored in the refrigerator.

To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough, about the size of a grapefruit. Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. It should only take you about a minute or less to do this. The dough won’t be entirely in the bottom, where it may look bunched up, but don’t worry about it.

Put it on a cutting board that’s been dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a cast iron skillet (or a pizza stone) in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan (I used a cookie sheet) in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and slash the top, about 1/4-inch deep.

After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking stone, and then quickly pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. Remove and let cool completely

I ate this bread a few different ways.  Pictured above, slathered with apple butter (homemade by my friend Libby) and also with regular butter and a pinch of sea salt.  Both sinfully good.

Trust me when I say this bread was one of the easiest things I’ve ever baked.  Delicious and beautiful, too.  I loved everything about my Monday off, but this homemade bread was my fave part of the day.

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I have a confession to make. I am a huge loser on Friday evenings. It is likely that by 6pm I am in my pj’s and in bed by 9pm watching movies on Netflix or reruns of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on Food Network. I can’t help it. By Friday evening I am wiped out, exhausted. The thought of putting on eye liner, brushing my hair and going out for cocktails is the furthest thing from my mind.

I get a lot of crap for this from my hubby and friends. They all know better than to try to get me out on a Fridays. Yup, on Fridays I am known as “lame Jenna”. 

And so when Erik was up for a lazy evening with me last Friday I was thrilled. I had my eye on this chunky tomato soup ever since the latest issue of Food and Wine magazine showed up in my mailbox a week ago. I love making homemade soup but sometimes they can be a bit fussy and time-consuming. Not this soup. You simply chop up a few veggies, open a couple cans of whole, peeled tomatoes and bam, delicious tomato soup. Erik and I had this with a bacon, cheese, tomato and avocado panini.

A perfect meal for my perfectly lazy Friday evening.

Chunky tomato soup (recipe adapted from Food and Wine)

Ingredients

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
4 thyme sprigs
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups water
Two 28-ounce cans peeled Italian tomatoes—drained and finely chopped, juices reserved

Directions

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, fennel and thyme and cook the vegetables over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel are softened, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the water and the tomatoes and their juices and bring to a boil. Simmer the soup over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced by one-third, about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme.

Transfer half of the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot.

I imagine that you are all a lot cooler than me on Fridays (and probably in general).  What did you do this weekend?  And do you have today off?  I do!  Minnesota got a nasty snow storm yesterday so I am most likely going to be hanging out all day, maybe baking a thing or two and hanging with my kitty. 

Happy Monday!

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{Photo credits and recipes: Martha Stewart}

I’ve eaten polenta a bunch of times when dining out, but it never occured to me to include it in my cooking repertoire. For some reason I was intimidated by polenta but fortunately that disappeared when I attended a Whole Foods cooking class last week. The creamy polenta with goat cheese dish was so easy!  And oh my god…so good.

Polenta is made from ground yellow or white cornmeal.  It is very easy to prepare, just add water, the cornmeal, heat and stir.  The texture is smooth, like a porridge I guess you could say.  Any type of cheese can (and should!) be added for a delicious savory meal.  It can also be baked, grilled and served cut up into bars like those shown above.  Or made into a quick bread.

Today’s post was inspired by that class and my newfound love of polenta. How amazing do all of these polenta recipes look? Click below for the recipes (all from Martha Stewart):

Mushroom Polenta Diamonds
Polenta Quick Bread with Lemon and Thyme
Baked Polenta Squares with Mediterranean Toppings
Fried Polenta, Eggs, and Sage
Grilled Polenta and Balsamic Mushrooms
Polenta Wedges

Do you have any ingredients that you were intimidated by but have since conquered? Comment and share!

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Brussel sprouts didn’t have a very good rap growing up in my house. My mom used to tell stories about how her parents would make her stay at the dinner table until her brussel sprouts were gone. My mom hated brussel sprouts. Her parents must never have cooked them using this recipe below.

My friend Libby made this brussel sprout recipe the other night for dinner in addition to roasted potatotes and chicken. It was a pretty simple meal, but hardy and delicious. I have to admit this was only my second time ever eating brussel sprouts (first was just a couple weeks ago at Cafe Lurcat), what can I say? I listen to my momma. But since giving them a chance they have quickly climbed up to being one of my top fave veggies.

Brussels Sprouts with Crisp Prosciutto (recipe from Cookinglight.com)

Ingredients

3 cups trimmed halved Brussels sprouts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup chopped prosciutto (about 1 1/2 ounces)
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation

Cook Brussels sprouts in boiling water 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add prosciutto. Cook 6 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan; set aside.

Heat pan coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add Brussels sprouts; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add butter, salt, and pepper, stirring until butter melts. Remove from heat; drizzle with juice. Add prosciutto; toss to combine.

Note: Pull off any limp outer leaves, and closely trim the stem end-don’t cut too much off, or the Brussels sprouts may fall apart.”


{Photo credit: above two are from my crappy camera}

{Photo credit: Cooking Light, Randy Mayor}

3 comments