March 16th, 2013 § § permalink
When I talk to people about food blogging, they always assume the cooking is the hardest part. How do you come up with new stuff to make all the time? How do you take a bag full of stuff from the farmers’ market a make it look like that?
For me, time in the kitchen has always been the easy part. And the writing comes better some days than others, but that’s more related to how many episodes of New Girl are available on Hulu than difficulty. No – it’s not the recipes and it’s not the words. It’s the photos that drag me down in the blogosphere.
I can’t tell you how many amazingly tasty meals I’ve made and photographed, only to wake up the next morning and realize every single image is slightly out of focus. Or how many times I’ve gone out for a farm-to-table dinner, snuck in my camera for a few discrete shots only to find they are blurry and underexposed when I get home. I bet I’ve had a few hundred blog fails since this site began.
I’m pretty hard on myself when I’m trying to come up with photos for posts. I like to think of Photoshop as a mini-wedding dress experience every time I plug my SD card into the computer. Images have to “sing” to me in that “this-is-totally-the-one” way every girl feels when the dress is absolutely perfect. It bugs me if the composition’s not great, if the lighting’s less than perfect. Sometimes everything will look put together, but the photo just doesn’t “feel” right.
It’s sad to say, but in our “like it – tweet it – share it” world, words mean a lot less than the images around it. What could be one of my favorite meals of the year is likely to get buried somewhere in the halls of the internet if I don’t have the right photos. Plus, when it comes to local food, there’s not always much to make into a flashy – wowza – photo. Seriously. There’s only so many ways you can pose a head of cabbage and an onion before you get that “been there – seen that” feeling.
Today’s post is a PERFECT example of my good post, bad photos problem. At the same time I planned a spot on how to make an easy, no-hassle corned beef for St. Paddy’s Day–I’ve been dreading it too. What was a tender, perfectly seasoned and slow-roasted brisket came out as a nasty, sloppy looking hunk of pink roast beast in the pictures. I’ll be honest, a piece of local grass-fed corned beef from Mississippi Market set us back a few bucks. Then to have it not appear appetizing enough to share with all of you was like rubbing all that salty corned beef, briny goodness in deep wounds.
I did my best to arrange it, slice it, plate it, prod it. I promise. As I snapped away I was certain all my shots looked like this:
Image by Lara Ferroni at KitchenDaily.com
when in fact, everything I took looks more like this:
It’s hard enough to convince people to turn away from a the supermarket and choose a local food lifestyle. A pile of once-green now turned slimy gray-yellow cabbage certainly is not helping. Where’s that extra $600 and 3 months of time to for pro-photography classes when I need it?
For now, you’ll just have to trust me. Corned beef made in the crock pot with cabbage and served with a side of boiled potatoes and carrots is truly the best way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The prep and cooking is hassle-free. The smell is heavenly. The flavor is immense. None of which I effectively communicated in these pictures. Just take my word for it (not my images) and add this to your celebration!
Slow-Cooker Corned Beef and Cabbage
Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s Bridal Edition Cookbook
3-4 pounds of corned beef brisket – trimmed
1 small head of cabbage
1. Place brisket and seasoning packet into a 4-6 quart crock pot. (You can also use a Dutch oven for this, but cook times will vary). Pour enough cold water in the pot to cover the brisket by 1-2″.
2. Cut the onion and cabbage into halves and then each half into large wedges. Stack the onion and cabbage around the brisket until the beef is completely covered.
3. Cook on low 7-8 hours, or until beef reaches an internal temperature of at least 165°F. Remove from crock pot and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve cabbage and onions with beef.
March 12th, 2013 § § permalink
Why is it that a German/Polish/Czech gal like me cannot get enough of St. Patrick’s Day?
Guinness reigns as my favorite beer of all time, and will always be the first thing I asked the bartender for the day I turned 21. Green is my favorite color. I’ve eaten up all the Irish themed blog posts this week (check out these here - here – and here!) I wait all year long for the traditional St. Paddy’s Day fare.
This week I’ve got a few of my favorite Irish dishes to share to celebrate the holiday. First up is a revised recipe I posted a while ago for Borenkool Stamppot. It’s a traditional Dutch dish made with mashed potatoes and kale. Turns out the Irish also make Stamppot, only it goes by the name Colcannon. Stamppot. Colcannon. One in the same. How cool is that?
The kale and potato combination make up a perfect locavore dish this time of year. Local kale and potatoes are still available at the co-ops and winter farmers’ markets if you look hard enough. It can be made with other root vegetables like celeriac or parsnips instead of potatoes. Other greens (endive, spinach, turnip greens) and other meats (smoked or fried sausages, brats, stewed meats) are also good options.
Colcannon (Irish Mashed Potatoes with Kale)
3 pounds potatoes, scrubbed and peeled
1 lb. kale
2 Tbsp. sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic
2-3 Tbsp. milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. garlic powder
salt and pepper
1. Quarter potatoes and place them in a large pot with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook 8-10 minutes or until tender. While potatoes are cooking, wash kale and remove leaves from thick stems. Roughly chop.
2. Heat oil in a sauté pan with garlic. Add kale and cook 1-2 minutes until tender. Immediately remove from heat and set aside.
3. Place potatoes, butter and garlic powder in a large bowl and whip using an electric mixer until smooth. While mixing, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until potatoes reach desired consistency. If you like chunky potatoes, use less milk. For smoother texture and consistency, add more milk.
4. Gently mix in kale. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.
January 29th, 2013 § § permalink
I think we’re having our first true Minnesota winter in a long time. Days so cold I cross my fingers and crunch one eye in hopes the car starts. Mornings where I wake up to a ground again covered in white and I run to the television in hopes of a 2 hour delay from work. (Still waiting SPPS…) I’m a winter-freak. I love every part of it, with the exception of slow traffic. Snowshoeing. Skiing. Extra large snowbanks. All this winter stuff we’ve got going on this year is spectacular. (I’ve been told this enthusiasm is because I’ve never actually had to pick up a shovel since I moved to Minnesota. Not sure I entirely agree.)
Want to know what I think the very best part about winter in Minnesota is? The food. It’s no coincidence that Minnesota is famous for the casserole. There’s nothing better on a cold, snowy evening than a warm hot dish out of the oven. Okay, so maybe that’s a stretch for those of us who ate tater-tots with ground beef or tuna casserole our entire childhoods. But it is true that Minnesotans know how to warm up the house with a soup, stew or casserole better than anyone around.
My cast iron dutch oven has had one form of soup, stew or hot dish a brewin’ almost non-stop this month. Beef and barley have become our favorite warm up ingredients. My in-laws raise Black Angus cattle and graciously fill our freezer with chuck roasts and round steaks perfect for long Saturday afternoons of simmering on the stove. Last Saturday I made a beef barley stew with one very special local ingredient: Brau Brothers Moo Joos Oatmeal Milk Stout. Brau Brothers is located in tiny Lucan, MN (population 220), where the grow their own hops and source as much of their ingredients locally as they can.
That’s right. I make my beef stew with beer. Let me tell you there’s no better way. It only gets better with dark beer.
Wait. That line describes me too…
Brau Brothers Beef and Barley Stew
1 tablespoon oil
3-4 pounds of beef – (I used round steak, chuck roast or any beef shank cross-cut for this recipe)
For the Stock
1 1/2 bottles of Brau Brothers Moo Joos (or your favorite stout beer)
3 cups cold water
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups carrot, cut into 1″ chunks
1 cup celery with leaves, cut into 1″ chunks
1 large onion, cut into 1″ chunks
1 teaspoon black pepper
For the Stew
1 cup uncooked barley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup carrot, chopped into coins
1 cup celery, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
1 medium onion, diced
1. Heat oil in dutch oven over low heat. Add whole cut of beef, beer, water and salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any foam (This will reduce the remaining fat later).
2. Reduce heat, add remaining stock vegetables and pepper. Cover and simmer 3 hours.
3. When beef is tender, remove broth from heat. Spoon beef out and allow to cool slightly. Using a knife and pincers, cut the beef into 1″ pieces. After the beef is cut, skim any remaining fat from the top of the broth. You can also skim out the stock vegetables if you wish, but this is not necessary.
4. If stock has reduced to less than 6 cups, add in additional water to equal 6 cups. Return beef to the pot and add in barley and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add in remaining vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 30 more minutes until stew vegetables are tender.
Note : The stock steps can be made the night before and refrigerated. Return the beef to the pot and follow step 4 up to 3 days later.
January 7th, 2013 § § permalink
Remember these? All those beautiful jars of tomatoes you picked, peeled, and packed this summer? They’re ready to come off the pantry shelves and into tonight’s dinner. January is the month where most locavores start eating down the freezer, cold storage, and pantry shelves in preparation for spring. I know, I haven’t lost my mind. It’s still January. My friends all roll their eyes at me, but I’m seriously counting the days! Once we’re past the holidays, the garden starts calling!
My favorite way to think spring in the middle of January is to make a meal from ingredients I stored from last year’s growing season. Tonight we’re having classic grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in homemade tomato soup, made with my home-canned tomatoes and frozen herbs from the garden. Mid-winter comfort food at its best. I chopped up a few Minnesota-grown hydroponic tomatoes for some fresh flavor, but this soup is good without too. The key is to simmer the soup slowly, releasing all the rich tomato flavor your elbow grease locked in during the canning process last summer.
What recipes are your favorites to use up your home canned tomatoes?
Home-Canned Tomato Soup
* Note * This recipe is adapted from a MarthaStewart.com recipe using fresh tomatoes. If you have fresh tomatoes in season, substitute the 3 1/2 cups canned tomatoes for 3 1/2 pounds of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped.
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes with their juices
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 C. chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, oregano, and garlic chives)
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan and basil for garnish
Heat oil in a large stock-pot. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender. Add in remaining ingredients and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until juice is reduced by 1/3 and soup has slightly thickened.
Blend with a stick blender until soup is smooth and no large chunks remain. Serve warm with grated parmesan and basil.
January 4th, 2013 § § permalink
Today is National Spaghetti Day.I know, right? What a fantastic day to celebrate! I can think of no less than a hundred references to my all-American favorite. Singing “On Top of Spaghetti” on the bus ride home. Spaghetti Junction in downtown St. Paul. Spaghetti westerns. The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Throwing spaghetti on the wall. Uh-oh-Spaghetti-O’s. A spaghetti strap dress.
I could go on and on…
Today I thought I’d pay tribute with one of my favorite spaghetti recipes, pumpkin carbonara. Traditional carbonara sauce is made with copious amounts of pancetta, cream and parmesan. There’s nothing I love more than bacon and heavy cream. But since we’re all only 4 days into those New Year’s resolutions I thought we’d lighten things up a bit. I adapted my recipe from this Cook’s Country magazine low-fat carbonara by adding frozen pumpkin puree from our garden, substituting local ham for the Canadian bacon, and skipping the mayo. Lastly, I used a wider spaghetti to soak up all that tasty sauce. Any size pasta you’ve got will do just fine. If it’s January 4th, I’d definitely choose spaghetti to celebrate!
Adapted from Cook’s Country Oct/Nov 2008
1 large egg plus 1 egg white
1 cup of Parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
1/4 cup half and half
2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup fully cooked ham, cut into 1/2″ chunks
2 slices bacon, chopped into 1″ pieces
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/3 cup white cooking wine
1 teaspoon pepper
1 pound pasta
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water before draining.
2. While pasta is cooking, combine, egg, cheese, half and half, and pumpkin in a food processor. Set aside.
3. In a large skillet, cook ham and bacon until browned. Remove from pan and set aside on paper towel. To the bacon drippings add garlic, wine and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes until garlic softens. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. When pasta is finished cooking return it to the pot. Add the 1 cup of pasta water to the food processor mixture while the motor is running to temper the eggs. Add wine and garlic mixture. Pulse until just combined.
5. Pour sauce over pasta, toss in bacon. Top with salt and more grated Parmesan. Serve immediately.