Archive | October, 2011

Autumn Glory Muffins: Oat Flour, Flaxseed, Green Tomato and Banana

28 Oct
by Francine

Growing up, Saturday mornings were celebrated by making warm, delicious muffins…from a box. Since then my family’s taste buds have been enlightened and while those childhood muffins were yummy and easy to put together, they weren’t the most wholesome.

Recently I’ve been on a muffin hiatus since I’ve cut (almost all) gluten from my diet. But when I saw this muffin recipe in Everyday Food’s September issue, I was inspired to make these muffins my own way. Our plump green tomatoes (which are slowly turning pink) were shouting, “yeah! muffins!” I also wanted to use oat flour (very easy to make: all you need is rolled oats and a blender).A photo of the ingredientsI made a few (kinda big) adaptations to the recipe. It is now gluten and dairy free. :)

Autumn Glory Muffins

Adapted from Martha Stewart
  • 1 cup rolled oats, ground (pulse oats in blender until flour-y)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup flaxseed, ground (pulse flaxseed in blender until flour-y)
  • 1 cup lightly packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup grated green tomatoes (grate 2 medium sized tomatoes, no peeling required.)
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 3/4 cup soy milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
A photo of the MuffinsDirections:

Combine ground oats, ground flaxseed, brown rice flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a mixing bowl. Stir dry ingredients together.

Use a grater with large holes to grate two green tomatoes (about 1 cup). If a lot of juice forms when you are grating the green tomatoes, discard it because you don’t want the batter to become too runny.  Mash 1 medium sized banana.  Add grated green tomatoes and mashed banana to the dry mixture.

In a small bowl whisk together soy milk, egg, oil and vanilla.  Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture.  Stir until well combined.  If it is too wet, you could add some rolled oats to thicken it (I had to do this).  You could also add some walnuts or unsalted sunflower seeds (I didn’t do this, but I think I’ll do it next time).

I used silicone baking cups which don’t require greasing. Spoon the batter into muffin cups.

We have a countertop convection oven. Convection ovens move hot air around the food, enabling lower cooking temperatures. I’ve hear that this type of oven is ideal when baking gluten free. I baked the muffins at 325 degrees for 10 minutes. Then I took them out, rotated the tray (for an even bake) and baked them 10 more minutes (a total of 20 minutes). If you have a conventional oven, follow the temperature and time for original recipe: 350F for 20-25 minutes.

Allow the muffins to cool before eating.  We tasted one right when it came out of the oven (excitedly and hungrily), but the ones we had later were much better, as they cooled a lovely crunchy top formed.

I think this recipe is a great one for creative variation. I’m looking forward to making them again and trying apple sauce, pumpkin or maybe even carrot (tastes of carrot cake are dancing in A photo of a muffinmy head) in place of the banana and green tomatoes.

If you make these, I’d love to hear what variation you came up with.

Happy muffin making!

Ubuntu: Napa, CA

27 Oct
by Francine

Ubuntu: (downtown) Napa, CA

As Luke (my brother) and I stood outside this restaurant looking at the menu, two young women walked by and read, “Restaurant and Yoga Studio…how do they do that?!” It does make one imagine some wacky things—your waiter delivering your food with a sun salutation and then leading you in down dog stretches between courses to relax your stomach muscles.A photo of the window

While fun to imagine, I knew that wouldn’t be the case at Ubuntu since I’d visited their website prior to our lunch reservation.  I read about their garden/farm to table approach and discovered that the space serves as both a yoga studio and a restaurant (just not at the same time). I also knew that I’d be eating a vegetarian meal, which as someone who enjoys slow roasted pork shoulder, I was a bit uncertain. 

I mean I love my veggies, but I just didn’t know how fabulous they could be.  Ubuntu showed me that vegetables can be ah-mazing. This restaurant knocked us out of our tree poses (or for you Yoga enthusiasts Vrksasana). The creativity, flavour and presentation of the food we had at Ubuntu only happens every so often, but when it does—it’s unforgettable!

(Update: Ubuntu will be taking a sabbatical through the winter months, beginning Nov. 21st. Find out more information on their facebook wall.)

Review: (See Real Local Cooking’s criteria.)
Localness: 4

The menu changes according to what’s in season and the menu clearly highlights which items come from Ubuntu’s garden by listing the items from their garden in capital letters. Every dish seemed to have at least 2 items from their own Biodynamic garden. I overhead one of the servers explaining their growing practices to an inquisitive guest. I imagine that if one would like to they could arrange to visit their nearby garden.

A photo of the MenuWith such an obvious connection to their ingredients I imagined I’d find (at least) a small garden out the back door. I peeked when I went to the restroom, but no, just a small patio for al fresco dining and a parking lot. Ubuntu is after all in downtown Napa, which is great because it’s easy to find. 

And since it’s located in the fertile Napa Valley, the ingredients they use in their dishes don’t have to travel far. Their website states, “The vegetable inspired menu features ingredients from our local Napa gardens.”  Also, according to their website, “[they] adhere to the seasonal calendar and participate with local producers for products [they] are unable to farm, and [they] contribute to a greener earth by relying less on global food sources and those products with the highest carbon emission and water footprint.”

Flavour: 5

As I mentioned above, I enjoy meat dishes and I was somewhat hesitant about a ‘vegetable restaurant’ (I think one too many soggy falafels had done me in). However, the dishes we shared at Ubuntu amazed us. We probably sounded a bit funny if anyone overheard our lunch conversation. We were continually stammering, “oh the flavour,” while scooping up another dainty bite, and then muttering “wow…the flavour!” A photo of the carrot dish

One dish we had featured 24 hour marinated carrots. Every bite of this complex dish had a different taste. There wasn’t a single flavour we could pin down, they all twisted together and left us muttering to our empty forks, “wow! that’s good.”

Before Ubuntu, I couldn’t even imagine that vegetables could be so interesting, complex and swoon-inducing. We cleaned our plates completely—we didn’t want to miss out on one tiny bit of flavour.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

Each dish was a work of art: this was a very pleasant and wonderful surprise.  The first dish that we ordered was described as a gazpacho soup with many ingredients, one of which was char-grilled lime peanuts and another was melon. The dish that arrived was gorgeous—itty bitty leaves, a nearly every shade of green and served in an elegant white dish. 

The server held in her hand a small white vase and told us she was going to pour…something (I can’t remember what, because I was so overwhelmed by the loveliness of what was in front of me). She poured a clear liquid into the dish and it transformed into a little pond. The leaves delicately floated on the surface, the peanuts sunk like rocks to the bottom and a droplet of liquid rested on tiny scalloped leaf,  like a dew drop on a lily pad. It was a thing of beauty. Probably the most beautiful thing I’ve ever eaten. Magical.A photo of the magic

Comfort+Coziness = The C factor: 5

The restaurant was open and inviting: a high ceiling, big windows, long wooden tables, cozy corner tables, a bar, interesting yoga inspired sculptures and an open kitchen, which was clean and bustling. The service was welcoming and fast.

For a restaurant with one Michelin Star, there could be a tendency towards condescension, but that was not the case. The server clearly explained how the menu was set up—the menu items are appetizer sized so people usually order a few to share. This helped us feel less bewildered as we looked at the gourmet menu. Ubuntu definitely had a good vibe—maybe it comes from the veggie goodness or the yoga zen, but it could just be that laid back California charm.

Overall Rating: 14+

I highly recommend Ubuntu for a unique and memorable meal. It’s doing things right: using quality locally produced ingredients in creative and inspired ways. While it’s certainly worth it, it is a bit of a splurge. Our meal of four dishes came to about $65.  But for that price we enjoyed four unique dishes—full of flavour and beauty, with a little magic poured on top.

FoodieBytes Restaurant Deals, Menu and Reviews

Food Day 2011

24 Oct
by Deanne

Food Day 2011Today we celebrated Food Day. According the information on their website, Food Day “seeks to bring together Americans from all walks of life—parents, teachers, and students; health professionals, community organizers, and local officials; chefs, school lunch providers, and eaters of all stripes—to push for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way.”  The goal is to “create thousands of events in homes, schools, churches, farmers markets, city halls, and state capitals.”

Our restaurant was closed today, but Francine and I ate at a locally sourced coffee house for lunch, shopped at a local food co-op and then came home to harvest some lettuce from the raised beds for dinner. We were inspired by this Chopped Salad recipe by Jaime Oliver. He invited us to get creative. We did! We chopped up some green tomatoes from our two bucketfuls as well as a green pepper that another gardening customer gave us and a few Roma tomatoes from another gardener.  (We’re thankful that we know so many gardeners!)

How about you, did you do anything to celebrate Food Day?

Rescue Me Pie

23 Oct

A Green Tomato Pie

by Deanne

Since we received two bucketfuls of green tomatoes, I’ve been scanning the web to learn about what  you can do with them.  I learned that tomato gardeners pay careful attention to the frosts.  They leave their tomatoes on the vines until a big frost is predicted (sometimes called the killing frost). When a killing frost is expected, they quickly harvest their tomatoes—it doesn’t matter if they’re green, pink or red.  They rescue the tomatoes just in time.

Imagine being a tomato and having no control over when you’ll be taken in by your gardener.  As it keeps getting chillier and chillier, the tomatoes may be saying, “Rescue me please, it’s getting cold!” Little do they know that what awaits them in the warm house is a sharp knife and a hot oven.

My mother-in-law mentioned that she has heard of green tomato pie and that supposedly it tastes like apple pie.  I found this recipe from blogger Alanna Kellogg of A Veggie Venture.  I made this pie crust, which was recommended in the recipe.

A photo of the pieI made a few adjustments to the recipes.  First, I chilled the bowls I used for making the pie crust.  Steve, my baking husband, suggested I do this, and I think it made the dough easier to work with. Also, I poured off most of the liquid that formed when the tomatoes were ‘marinating’ in the cinnamon and sugar.  Pouring off most of this liquid before putting the tomatoes in the pie was a good move because otherwise I think the pie filling would have been too runny.

Both recipes, the filling and the crust, are keepers.  In fact, the pie crust may be the best I’ve ever had.  Both Francine and I agree that it tasted like shortbread. However, I would like to replace the shortening with something less processed but not sure what yet.  (More butter?)

Not only did my customer rescue the green tomatoes from her garden, this pie rescued me by being really good. You see, I’ve had  more than a few cooking and baking failures (chocolate chip cookies that resemble charcoal briquettes, anyone?).  So it was exciting to have a baking success!  Rescue Me Pie tasted very good; everyone who had a slice agreed that it might even be better than apple pie(!).  

Even though I’ve set A photo of the Pieoff the fire alarm more times than I’d like to admit, I do have some pie crust experience.  As a little girl, I would sit in the kitchen while my mom made pie crust.  She’d talk about what she was doing, “it doesn’t matter if it seems crumbly, you have to patch it together.”  She’d give me bits of pie crust dough and like a little mouse I’d nibble them up.

Green tomato pie is tasty and as easy as apple pie.  It tastes like it too, which makes me wonder, can most things taste like apples with some cinnamon and sugar?

Have you ever tasted a green tomato pie? If not, are you willing to give it a try?

What to do with all this squash? part II

21 Oct

A Winter Squash Series: Sweet Dumpling Squash

by Francine

Squash is plentiful, long lasting, festive and somewhat of a puzzle. It can be difficult to get through it’s sometimes-thick skin and figure out what to do with it. I decided to figure out this puzzle by picking up four wee squashes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching each one and looking for recipes that are more than cut in half, scrape seeds, bake and top with butter. Stay tuned to find out what I did with each squash, as well as some fun facts.

A photo of squash in a box

The farmers from whom I bought the very cute Sweet Dumpling squash from told me that it’s a perfect one person squash. It’s just the right size if you’re cooking for yourself.  Simply cut it in half, roast in the oven, jazz it up with some spices or some sweetness and enjoy.

I decided to make soup for one with a Sweet Dumpling squash.

  • First I cut the squash along its waist and removed the seeds.
  • Next I roasted it for about 25 minutes at 325 F.
  • While it was cooling, I sautéed half of a small onion and one slice of bacon with a little butter (but you could use oil).
  • Then I scooped out the flesh. (I read that the shells/skins of sweet dumplings make great festive bowls.)
  • I added the the squash flesh to the onion/bacon mix.
  • After that, I stirred in some half and half along with water to get my preferred soup consistency.
  • I simmered it for 5-10 minutes.A photo of the soup
  • A dash of salt and I had myself a little bowl of sweet dumpling soup.

The taste?  To me it was like sweet corn and squash mixed together. Very tasty!  Next time I’ll use a few sweet dumplings that way I can share and maybe have some leftovers (but I doubt it). :)

Have you ever prepared sweet dumpling squash? Does it sound like fun to use a squash ‘shell’ as a bowl?

Two Bucketfuls

20 Oct

Look what we got…A photo of Green Tomatoes

One of our customers dropped them off this afternoon.  Any ideas about what we should do with them?

In college I made a sweet green tomato bread and of course, there’s always Fried Green Tomatoes.

Roasted Corn Chowder

20 Oct
by Francine

My brother can cook, produce videos and make a mean pancake.  He’s kind of awesome. :)

Here’s his most recent video about how to make Roasted Corn Chowder.  I thought I’d share it with you because…

1) It’s very tasty.

2) It’s autumn, which means it’s soup season. (yeah!)

3) He made it with onions and potatoes from our local farmer. (double yeah!!)

The recipe is designed for working professionals and Leisure Gamers (professionals who like to play video games, which isn’t me, but it’s him). The recipes is broken down into “checkpoints” that you can do ahead of time to make things go faster when it comes time for cooking.

This probably won’t be the last video of his that I post on here because, like I said, he’s kind of awesome.

Wise Acre Eatery: Minneapolis, MN

19 Oct
by Deanne

Wise Acre Eatery: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Steve and I visited Tangletown Gardens, a garden center in Minneapolis, this summer.  Their website states, “We’ve created an oasis that is tranquil, yet intoxicating — a place of inspirationA photo of Wise Acre Eatery's Patio every day of the year.”  We agree, the garden center was lush and expertly designed.  We also read on their website that they had recently opened a restaurant, so we walked over to Wise Acre Eatery.

It was a hot weekday afternoon and Wise Acre was open and bustling. As we walked towards the restaurant, I noticed the neatly planted flowers and large pots overflowing with colorful blooms. The property used to be a gas station.  Its former life is noticeable in the two open glass garage doors, which allow diners to spill out onto the patio and enjoy the MN summer sun.

Review:  (See Real Local Cooking’s criteria.)A photo of the Wise Acre salad
Localness: 4.5

This restaurant sources its ingredients from its own farm in Plato, MN, which is about 45 miles from Minneapolis (directions to the farm are provided on their website). What we read about the restaurant before visiting matched the food and atmosphere we encountered. You can find menus on their website, which is always nice so that you can think about what you’d like to try before visiting.  Although they don’t mention that they serve seasonal fare, a quick glance at the online lunch menu lists items like a Shades of Autumn salad, which isn’t something that was offered when I visited in July.

Flavor: 3

The two items we ordered, the Wise Acre: a salad with smoked sausage and a Deli sandwich served with wild rice slaw and kwik pickles, sounded appealing on the menu but didn’t wow us as we ate them.  The ingredients were top notch, but we didn’t feel that they were used in creative and flavorful ways.  Since the restaurant recently opened, there is much room for growth and improvement in this area. (As restaurant owners, we know it can take time.)

Pleasant surprise: YESA photo of our Dessert

Dessert was our surprise. We don’t always order dessert but since it was my birthday we celebrated by sharing a lovely little treat of frozen vanilla custard with a rhubarb caramel topping. It was just the right kind of sweet and was served in a clear glass dish.

Also the restroom was pleasant. I know it might sound odd, but ever since I was a little girl, I’ve enjoyed visiting restaurant restrooms. Restrooms can tell you whether the owners or managers care about keeping the place clean and tidy. At Wise Acre, there were fluffy white terry cloth towels rolled up in an interesting wooden bowl. This may or may not be more sustainable than paper towels. Perhaps I should consult that book I paged through awhile back, How Bad Are Bananas?: the Carbon Footprint of Everything by Mike Berners-Lee.

Comfort + Coziness =the C factor: 5

This place had a number of interesting touches. I liked how the sandwich was wrapped in paper and tied up with string. I also liked seeing milk in glass bottles for sale in the display case as we walked in. ThoseA photo of Sandwich and Slaw kinds of things  make me feel comfortable.  On top of that, the host was very friendly and welcoming.

However, when thinking sustainable restaurant practices, a paper-wrapped deli sandwich that is not being taken out may not be the ideal presentation.

Overall Rating: 12.5+

If you ever travel to Minneapolis, you probably won’t stumble upon this restaurant and garden center because they are in a residential neighborhood, not near hotels or major businesses attractions; however, they are worth seeking out with your GPS. They aren’t too far from the airport, so if you have a few hours to spend before catching your flight, you could enjoy a seasonal meal in a comfortable restaurant and then wander across the street to explore Tangletown Gardens. Their website states that they are open all winter.  It would be wonderful to visit the lush garden center when the Minnesota winter serves up chilliness, with a side of white and gray for a solid 5 months.  (Although once again referring to How Bad Are Bananas?, greenhouses and flights have very high footprints [*sigh*…things are complicated and highly intertwined in today’s world]…but for all you banana lovers, you may be glad to know that bananas aren’t too bad after all, according to the book.)

Have you visited Wise Acre? We’d love to hear about your experience.  What things make you feel comfortable+cozy when dining out?

FoodieBytes Restaurant Deals, Menu and Reviews

Wise Acre Eatery on Urbanspoon

What to do with all this squash? part I

17 Oct

A Winter Squash Series: Delicata Squash

by Francine

Squash is plentiful, long lasting, festive and somewhat of a puzzle. It can be difficult to get through it’s sometimes-thick skin and figure out what to do with it. I decided to figure out this puzzle by picking up four wee squashes at the farmers’ market a few weeks ago. I’ve been researching each one and looking for recipes that are more than cut in half, scrape seeds, bake and top with butter. Stay tuned to find out what I did with each squash, as well as some fun facts.

Winter Squash Family Portrait

First up, Delicata squash. It’s an heirloom variety that has recently regained popularity. It has a thinner skin than other winter squash, which means it doesn’t keep as long as its thicker skinned relatives.  The farmer I bought it from told me she thinks it has a taste similar to sweet potatoes.

I clicked through a number of lavish recipes for this little guy. There are many decadent ways to prepare Delicata squash, as well as the possibility to turn it into a soup (which is always a good idea). But I wanted something that would allow me to really get a sense of its taste, so I decided to toss it in olive oil and bake until crispy.

  • I cut the squash in half, scooped out the seeds, then sliced it as thin as possible. (Before slicing the other half, I had an idea. I’d read that the skin is perfectly fine to eat, but I thought I’d try an experiment…I peeled the skin off one half while leaving the skin on the other half.)
  • After tossing in olive oil and spreading evenly on a tinfoil covered baking sheet, I sprinkled half with regular ol’ salt and the other half with sea salt and a blend of rosemary, bay and thyme (another experiment).
  • I put the tray of squash into our little convection oven at 325 degrees. After 15 minutes, the slices were beginning to brown and I gave them a flip.  After another 15 minutes, I gave the sheet a shake, then kept an eye on them until they seemed crispy brown.

Everyone wanted a taste as soon as they were out of the oven. The verdict: yum!

So how about my experiments? The slices with the skin…much nicer than the skinless ones. The slices sprinkled with an herbed salt blend…more flavourful than those with just salt. While they held up nicely once cooled, they were the best right out of the oven.

This is definitely a remake recipe. ItA photo of Crunchy Delicata Squash‘s easy, flavorful and sings fall. Find yourself some Delicata squash and give it a try!

Do you have any Delicata Squash recipes to share?  Do you like to try little experiments when you’re cooking?  We’d love to hear.

Wash Before Eating

16 Oct

A vegetable patch has always been a romantic notion for us. The loveliness of brushing the dirt off vegetables, bushels of red apples, sunshine, blue skies and smiles…all of these things wrapped up and neatly deposited on our clean white plates.

A few months ago, my dad constructed raised beds behind our family restaurant and carefully planted lettuce, radish, spinach and scallion seeds.  He chose to use no pest control of any kind, chemical or holistic…just let the vegetables do what they do.  We’ve been eagerly waiting for the day we could have garden fresh salads.

Finally, fresh cut garden salad days have arrived! Armed with scissors and a bowl, we snip off the bright green leaves. And while we expected to wash the vegetables before eating them on our white plates, we didn’t expect how carefully we’d have to wash them.

It turns out that (obviously!) puffy green caterpillars love our lettuce too. There are also small black eggs and some little green bugs that call the creases of our spinach leaves their home. Washing the greens takes a bit of time and allows for some thinking…

Of course, there are bugs on this food, it’s grown in dirt and nourished by nature. When I buy green stuff from the store, it’s so clean! How does it get so clean? And just because there are no crawly things on it, doesn’t mean there’s nothing on it. How, oh how, as a human have I become so disconnected from the thing that keeps me alive? Of course, we could concoct a pest control plan that doesn’t harm the environment. But that’s not really the point. The point is there’s so much to learn about eating from our backyard.

Lettuce washing and pondering has helped us decide to put on our thinking caps together–as a mother and daughter team–and learn about food…how do it locally, healthily, with some spice and with some adventure.  This blog will be a place where we dig in and explore sustainability, recipes, restaurants and learn from the world around us.A photo of us in our garden

So grab your most colorful scarf, let your hair blow in the breeze and let’s learn about real food, local food and cooking food together! (I’m sure we’ll find some hungry caterpillars along the way.)