Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bossy Acres

There's nothing better than start-up.

Fueled by passion.

And sweat.

And more mud than God himself could possibly imagine.

Let me introduce you to Bossy Acres.

These two women, Bossy E and Bossy K, are rockin' the organic soil down in Northfield, and selling their bounty through a CSA and around town at local farmer's markets, not to mention providing produce for local restaurants.

Here they are on Facebook:

Bossy Acres Facebook Page

I recently partook of a CSA sample box and HOLY MOLY the greens were amazing!  Let's just say I've eaten enough salads in the last few days to boost my health substantially.  Their micro greens.  Their romaine.  Their BOK CHOY.

Not long ago, I made a meal of Coconut Curry Fish and Cilantro Lime Rice,  and had some rice and curry sauce left over.  Into the freezer it went.

Then the Bossy Acres bok choy called me from the fridge and said "glory, please."  Just a half pound of shrimp, a chopped onion, the leftover sauce, a bit more of the dry curry spice, and the bok choy!  Dinner was served.

There's the shrimp and the bok choy in the skillet, getting friendly.

And the finished dish.

So check out the Bossy Acres web site, "like" them on facebook, find them at farmer's markets, and enjoy them at restaurants.

Glad to see farmers who love food, love the earth, love people.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lakewinds Natural Foods

I have a job.

This is news, because I've been on the shelf for some years.

Ok, let's not go belittling home educating my children for 13 years.  Or mothering for 17 and a half.  Or some freelance writing.  A bit of blogging here and there.  Cooking up a storm in my kitchen.  Keeping house.  Gardening.

It's not like I sit around or something.

So in February, I got "back in the game" which means I have a bank account to which a paycheck is directly deposited every two weeks.  I engage, several days a week, with adults of the sentence-forming, conversation-making, life-living, leaving-the-house variety.

The best part?????


Super, duper healthy food.  Natural.  Organic.  Whole.  Delicious.  Local.  Seasonal.  FRESH.

Lakewinds Natural Foods

I work at the Chanhassen store.  There's one in Minnetonka, too, where I started my co-op experience nearly 20 years ago.  They are opening a new one in Richfield next year.

Have you ever been a member of a natural foods co-op?  You should.  There are plenty of them all over the country, and world, but if you live anywhere in the Twin Cities, join Lakewinds.  You'll be so glad, and so proud, to be part of a movement older than I am, doing good work in the community, teaching people about buying, preparing and eating delicious, natural foods.

At Lakewinds, I work in the Deli, and in the Cheese Shop.

I will admit, I have a thing about cheese.  I generally adore fat in all forms, but cheese/?  Fuggedaboudit.  Artisan cheeses.  Luscious cheeses.  I've been trained by The Queen of Cheese, who happens to be French, and she has dubbed me the Dauphine du Fromage.  I am honored by such a title.

Here I am, in the Deli.

We have to 'cover our hair' at work,and I have an official Lakewinds ball cap, but you know me.  Deli Girl, Dauphine du Fromage - she likes a bit o' color in her day - so I often wear a scarf  to coordinate the look.

In the Deli, we sell fabulous salads.  Of course there's a salad bar, but our Deli Case is full of salads and entrees, made right in the kitchen behind that green wall.  I love the kitchen.  I sneak in there often.  The staff is AMAZING and a load of fun, and I enjoy seeing and smelling (and maybe tasting) what they are up to!  They make our salads, our breads (in the bakehouse), our dressings, soups, entrees for the hot bar, desserts, and much, much more.

We also slice the freshest and best deli meats and cheeses.  All our deli meats are nitrate-free, gluten-free, MSG-free, and what you know I call "funk-free."  Our cheeses are all-natural.

We recently added a gourmet and gorgeous case of desserts - we're talking cakes, truffles, cupcakes, cookies, and cheesecake.  Let's just say it's a more-than-once-a-day task to clean the lip, finger, and breath marks off the glass, due to children (and, yep, some adults), getting very active in their gazing and ogling of the treats.

So I really like my job.  I like the people.  I like the food.  I love what we're doing at Lakewinds.

Come visit me.  I'll take you on a tour, show you the whole store, let you sample some tasty morsels in my department, tell you why you should become a member, and give you a reason to love Lakewinds as much as I do.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Roasted Asparagus Soup

I'm pretty sure the only reason to roast asparagus (other than you need it for your spring dinner situation, and it tastes good, and it's good for you), is so you can make this soup the next day.

So roast a lot while you're at it.

The roasting part is just some asparagus spears on a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and then let them sort themselves out in the oven at 375 for about 20 minutes.  They enjoy a shower of fresh lemon juice before serving.

Save the extras.

Then take some chopped onion.  About 1/2 onion for every pound of asparagus.  Saute it up in some butter, a couple tablespoons.  Add the chopped, saved, roasted, lovely asparagus.  Some salt and pepper, and some dried thyme.  Move it around til it is soft.  Then sprinkle all that with some flour, a couple more tablespoons, and let that mash up a bit.  THEN, a splash of white wine, you know what a splash is, and then a couple cups of chicken broth.

Is it simmering and getting thick yet?

Now you add some fresh chopped parsley.  Your asparagus should be soft.

Immersion blender.  Or regular.  Puree the mess of green beauty.

Into that nice mixture, add some heavy cream, maybe a half cup.  Test for salt and pepper.  And at the very end, because we like full circles and happy endings, squeeze in some fresh lemon juice.

Eat this soup hot or cold.

Be thankful it's spring, even if it is 80 one day and then snows a few days later.  We thrive on this personality disorder.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lago Tacos

I love my town of Excelsior.

Officially, I live in Chanhassen, which is loaded with its own charms and glories, but my hometown is Excelsior and I am lucky enough to live in one place and drive 5 minutes to the other.

Excelsior is having a lovely re-imagining of itself.  New restaurants, new businesses, new events and promotions.

Recently, a TACO place opened.  Taco place.  Sounds rather cheap and fast-food-ish, does it?

NOT my taco place.

Here they are on Facebook:

These people know what they are doing.  First of all, they opened up in my favorite town.  Then they chose a location only a few jig-steps from my Irish pub.  And positioned themselves next to the movie theater.  And are close enough to the lake to enjoy all that it brings.


Fresh.  Really fresh.  No shredded colby-jack.  No saucy taco beef.  No margarita mix.  No sloppy sauces or plates out from under the broiler with pools of gooey sauce and beans and melted cheap cheese blurring the lines of good taste.

Not this place.

That's me.  Notice the wavy blue paint, a nod to the waves of Lake Minnetonka.  And the whole nautical rope wrapped around the bottom of the pole.  We had to wait 20 minutes for a table.  Not a problem.

What is a problem?  My only complaint?  The 5 televisions in the bar.  It's a small restaurant, no distinction between the bar and eating area.  Do we need 5 tv's?  Not my favorite thing.

But let's get to the food!

I talked to Roger, the owner, and told him I am less about the margarita and more about the tequila.  Thankfully, they have about 149 to choose from.  Ok, exaggeration, but they have many.  He recommended a lovely Don Julio Anejo.  Smooth sipping, friends.  Comes with a "sangrita" back - some sort of blend of tomato juice, simple syrup, and Tabasco.  Oh my joy, it was perfect.

We started out with their Tortilla Chips and Dips.  House made, all.  Four dips - their tomato salsa (tasted like summer tomatoes), their salsa verde (very good, but the least best of the offering), guacamole (fresh creamy herby delicious avocado, cilantro and lime), and - the best part of the evening for me - their beans.  Oh, blessed pinto beans.

That's the dips.

And here's the bean-closeup.

I was so completely overcome by the smoky roasted flavor of these beans, I had to inquire.  WHAT do you do to make these beans become this silky goodness?

The claim was the usual cooking, the addition of pork fat, and well, we're just really good at them.

I could crawl into a vat of these beans and spend the rest of my days in the kitchen attempting to re-create their flavor.  It's a happy task I accept.  There's a bowl of pintos soaking on my counter as we speak.

I ordered the Carnitas Tacos.  Eric ordered the Walleye Tacos.

Those, dear food-lovers, are the walleye tacos.  And you will never, ever, ever, put a better fish taco past your lips in your life after you dine at Lago Tacos.  EVER.  As the menu says "beer battered, chipotle mayo, cabbage blend, pico."  Lime on the side.  A hint of queso fresco.  A side of more of the beans (you can choose rice or a corn cake, but why not have more beans?).  The walleye was MEATY.  The beer batter was light and crispy.  The pico was fresh-fresh.  These, and a margarita in the summer, could make up a weekly part of my diet.

The carnitas were great as well.  Not as caramelized and crispy on the edge of the meat as I like, but the flavor was excellent and again, it was fresh and flavorful.

Eric and I declared (well, I declared, he concurred), that at Lago Tacos, nothing gets in the way of the honest flavors of the food.  It tastes like EACH ingredient, if that makes sense.  You can pick out the flavors, name them, feel them, savor them.  Each one.

I will be back.  Breakfast, lunch, happy hour, dinner.  All year long.

Plus, they have a really cool backsplash of tile in their bar area.

Well done, Lago Tacos.  Welcome to the Lake.  Welcome to the neighborhood.  We've been waiting for something like you for years . . .

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

Good things happen when peppers are past their prime in my veggie drawer.

I had two fat bell peppers, one kind of wrinkly and one pretty nice.  And a I had a bag of those multi-colored peppers from Costco (yellow, red, orange).  I also had a nice red tomato, and everything else in my pantry and fridge to make this soup.

I like spicy.  And creamy.  You could make this without the chili flakes.  You could add more tomato.  You could skip the cream (why would you, seriously?).  It's your soup.

Here's my soup.  Enjoy all the "ORS" in the recipe.

And here's how to do the peppers in your own kitchen:

Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup

1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
big (or small) pinch of red chili flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 large bell peppers, roasted, peeled and seeded (or a couple jars of roasted red peppers)
1 large tomato, blanched, peeled and seeded (or 2 or 3 tomatoes, or 1 can whole or diced tomatoes)
2 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth, or water)
2 teaspoons fresh chopped oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil (or 2 tsp dried)
1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil, adding salt and pepper to taste, plus the sugar.  When they soften some, add your pinch of chili flakes.  Move that around a bit, and then add the white wine.  Turn up the heat and add the peppers, tomato, chicken broth, and chopped herbs.  Bring to a simmer, then lower to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool for a while (or not) and blend it up in your blender or use an immersion blender.  Put the pot back on the stove, heat on low, and add the cream, just heating the soup through.  Taste for salt and pepper.


(Just too pretty not to take a picture of the colors before pureeing.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Southshore Sizzle!

Hey local friends!


Want to help feed the hungry?

Want to watch local restaurant chefs compete in an "Iron Chef" style cook-off?

Of course you do!

Saturday, February 23 at 6:00 p.m. at the Southshore Center in Shorewood, MN.

Southshore Sizzle

This is an event, the first of its kind in our area, to promote local restaurants AND benefit the ICA Foodshelf.  Attendees are asked to bring a non-perishable food item to drop off before the event.

There will be a wine tasting, beer tasting, appetizers from the participating restaurants, Frank Sinatra impersonator, and the main event - the COMPETITION.

Restaurants participating - Joey Nova's, Hazellwood, Ike's of Minnetonka, and 318 Cafe.

Here's a picture of the delicious Slice-Salad-Wine lunch I just had at Joey Nova's today:

Who says lunch alone on Valentine's Day has to be ho-hum????

So, call the Southshore Center at 952-474-7635 to order your tickets.  $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

Come for the fun, watch the celebrity judges determine the best chef in the area, meet new friends, and have a great evening!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Influenza, Sassy Style

Yeah, well, we got the flu.

Now just a minute and listen up.  The flu is NOT a stomach virus.  At all.  The flu is influenza.  It is a high fever, aches, head ache, exhaustion, burning dry cough in the chest, and maybe some head congestion.  It comes on fast.  And knocks you flat.

A stomach bug is gastroenteritis and you will vomit and go poo for a day and then be better.  Trust me on this one.  There is NO such thing as the stomach flu.  Some kids will get stomach upset with influenza, most likely from fever or nasty draining mucus into their tender tummies.


We have the flu.  It was generously brought home by Eric from a business trip.  Thanks, pal.  I figured we'd end up with it, being it's so widespread and he was flying on a plane, etc.

We don't get flu shots.  Ever.  My kids have never had one.  My last one was in the 1970s during the 'swine flu' epidemic scare.

We do, however, try to prevent the flu.  This elderberry syrup is the number one virus and illness prevention known to man.  Ok, known to me.  Cheap and easy to make.

But some people still get sick.  Which brings me to "comfort care."

My big teen started the fun last week.  I found him fast asleep at 830 on a Friday night on my bed.  I woke him up, said "what's up?" and he coughed.  Oh yay!

I give tylenol or advil for fever relief if the fever interferes with sleep (theirs or mine).  Or if they are just plain miserable.  But if they can tolerate it a bit, we let it ride and do the good work fever was designed to do.

Healing Bath
This is basically 1 cup epsom salts (drug store, grocery store, Target), 1/4 cup sea salt (not necessary, but nice), 2 tablespoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and then 5-10 drops of each eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oils.  I like to get my oils at:

Mix all those ingredients in a big bowl (with a spoon, or with your hands) and put it in a glass jar with a lid.  You might have to break up the clumps of oil in the salts first.

Then, when someone is sick, put 1/2 cup of this good mixture into a warm or hot bath, swirl to dissolve, and let the oils lift from the steam into the respiratory passages, and soak through the skin, and do wonders.

Another great product from Beeyoutiful.  Remember the old vapo-rub our moms would put on our chests when we had a cough?  This is the natural, healing, wonderfully safe and healthy version!

I rub this on their chests, their necks, their shoulders, and even under the nose for serious sinus congestion.  Be careful around the eyes, the essential oils can sting a bit.

I will never cease to wax poetic about the qualities of good, home made broth from chicken or turkey or beef bones, and a bunch of aromatics and herbs.  It is salty and full of minerals and vitamins and gelatin and so many good things to heal the body inside and out.  AND, with the low appetite of the flu, it's a way to get a few calories in the body while hydrating at the same time.

Easy to make.  Really easy.  I just put 8 more quart containers of turkey broth into my freezer.  I bought up a bunch of frozen turkey parts (backs and necks) from my health food store.

Serve it by the mug to your flu patients.  Even tiny tots.

Sick Tea
Not a great title, but a great thing to sip.  Full of spicy aromatic ingredients, it revs up the internal furnace of the body to fight off sickness, soothe sore throats, ease coughs, and of course hydrate.

Three main ingredients - fresh ginger, cinnamon sticks, and lemon.  Recipe?

About 2 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped into big pieces.  3-4 cinnamon sticks.  1/2 a lemon, sliced or quartered.  One pot of water, at least a quart to start.  Raw (or not) honey at the ready.  Simmer the ginger, cinnamon and lemon in the water on low for as long as you like.  I keep it going all day, add more water as we drink the tea, turn it off at night and let it sit, start it up again the next day.  The longer, the better and stronger.

Pour off the liquid into a mug, stir in a big spoon of honey, and sip away.

Now, Sassy is not going to brag (much) but I am grateful for an easy flu outbreak in our home.  Eric had a light case, James got sacked pretty hard but only in bed for 3 days, Carlton and Elsa each had two days in bed followed by a wee lingering cough, and Asher is a new case today with a mild sore throat, bit of a head ache, and his chest hurts some.  No fever yet.  Wesley, Sally and I are still standing.

But if we fall?  We are ready.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

The kids and I just finished a unit study on Africa.

This year we've "visited" Europe, North America, and South America.  Now that we've left Africa, we'll make a stop in Asia and then finish with Australia/Oceana.

We try to cook a little something from each place we learn about.  I'm not so great on the crafting and artsy stuff, but dang!  we can cook what we learn.

I knew they would not go for Peanut Soup.

And it's hard to procure Zebra or Giraffe meat out of season.

So Moroccan Chicken Tagine it was.  And it was good.  All sorts of flavors we love around here - cumin, coriander, ginger, garlic, turmeric.  Sweet apricots and honey.  Spicy cinnamon.  Fresh cilantro.  Good for the Sassy family.

Lots of recipes I found called for almonds - we skipped.  None of them asked for a dry rub on the chicken - I did it anyway.  I doubled the amount of dried apricots.

That's 12 chicken thighs and a whole package of couscous there.  We are hungry folks.  I'll give you the amounts for 8 pieces of chicken.

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
1/2 tsp EACH cinnamon, cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper
2 tablespoons grapeseed (or other oil with a high smoking point)
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 - 1" piece of fresh ginger, finely minced
1/2 tsp EACH (again) of the spices above
handful of fresh cilantro stems, minced (reserve leaves for garnish)
handful of fresh parsley stems, minced (reserve leaves for couscous)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup dried apricots
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons honey
1 - 15 ounce can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
large handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 box couscous, cooked according to package directions, with fresh chopped parsley added

Sprinkle the chicken with the spices - rub it all over and turn to coat.  Let it sit while you chop and prep other ingredients.

In a large dutch oven, heat the oil on medium high heat.  In batches of 3 or 4 at a time, brown the chicken, skin side down first, for about 6-8 minutes.  Remove to a plate.

Add the onion and carrot to the oil.  Turn the heat down to medium and cook until it starts to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the ginger and the parsley and cilantro stems, plus the other half teaspoon of each of the spices, salt and pepper.  Stir.  Add the apricots and chicken broth, stirring to loosen any bits stuck to the sides of the pot.  Bring to a slow boil.

Add the chicken pieces back to the pot, crowding them in and nestling them into the sauce - skin side up.  Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes until the chicken is tender.

Prepare the couscous.

Remove the chicken to a platter.  Add the honey and the chick peas to the pot, stirring and simmering, taste for salt and pepper.

Arrange the chicken and sauce on a large platter.  Surround with couscous or have it all to one side if your people like their couscous "unsauced."  Sprinkle the entire platter with fresh chopped cilantro.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Chocolate Sauce

Hershey's syrup is funk.

There, I said it.  Never plan to be a spokesperson for the company, so it's all good.

And it is SO EASY to make your own chocolate syrup.  A few cups of home made syrup costs a fraction of the cost of the squeezy bottle kind, and lasts as long in your fridge (unless you have teens, then it's gone way sooner) and tastes a million times better.

See this cake?

That's an angel food cake (from a box, no one can be funk-free ALL the time).

Then you frost it with real whipped cream which has some of your home made chocolate syrup whipped in at the end.

But since you love chocolate, you drizzle some extra syrup on top of the cake before serving.

This stirs beautifully into milk for chocolate milk or hot chocolate.  It is perfect on ice cream.  It really only needs a spoon and your mouth, but I have no idea personally.  Ahem.

I googled and polled friends and tried several recipes and figured out the combo of ingredients that works best for me.  Enjoy!

Chocolate Syrup

1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp corn starch
2 tsp vanilla

In a medium saucepan, bring water and sugar to a simmer, stirring often.  When sugar is dissolved, whisk in cocoa, salt and cornstarch.  Bring to a boil, reduce, and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour into a quart jar, cover and refrigerate.  You can also store it in squeeze bottles for easy use.