Archive | December, 2011

The White House Kitchen Garden

30 Dec

This article has some great information about the First Lady’s garden and its somewhat-recently installed hoop houses.

This garden is every cook/gardener’s dream…there are fresh ingredients year round (thanks to the hoop houses), a third of the harvest is donated to a local food bank and it provides an outdoor classroom to help kids and (and adults) understand the importance and simplicity of growing their own food.

Have you ever grown anything in a hoop house? It sounds like an excellent way to keep cool weather crops on your plate all winter long.

Happy Day!

24 Dec
by Francine

Look what I found snuggled in a box…A photo of a surpriseIsn’t he cute!? My grandma made him for me. (For those of you who don’t know, I love hedgehogs!)

We hope your holidays are filled with good food, fun times and of course, lots of love.

PS…thanks Grandma (squeak, squeak!!)

Oh What Fun It is to Plan

19 Dec
by Deanne

I love to plan for vacations.  I’m currently planning a trip in January, but instead of booking planes and rental cars, I am planning meals.

Steve and I are going to spend a week at a cozy cabin in the woods.  This print by Renee Leigh (which can be found on etsy) captures the magic we are hoping to feel when we are tucked away in the woods with snow all around.I’m inspired to try seasonal and perhaps even local meals for the week .  The town near the cabin has a co-op.  I picture us stopping by with a prepared list in our hand to get the items needed for the week.

Does anyone have any experience or resources for this kind of planning?  

River Rock Coffee: St. Peter, MN

16 Dec
by Deanne

River Rock Coffee: St. Peter, MN

Francine and I happened to find River Rock Coffee when we stopped in St. Peter to visit the local Co-op back in October.  We were hopeful that this coffee shop would have more than the standard (usually stale) coffee shop food.  A photo of River RockWhat we found was a sweet little restaurant and coffee shop that uses locally sourced food in artistic and intelligent ways. 

River Rock has a garden in nearby Kasota. They also source ingredients from local farms: East Henderson Farm and Living Land Farm. It’s evident that they consider what’s in season when preparing their weekly menu; the first time we visited we had Autumn Black Bean Chili. A few weeks later, on our second visit, we enjoyed a cup of Tomato Soup.

Their weekly creations are posted on a “whimsy board” so that customers can gain inspiration about what to eat. River Rock also does an excellent job of maintaining their facebook page—keeping customers up to date on the delicious items cooking and baking in their kitchen. Since our first visit, we’ve returned a few times and each time we’ve found different but wonderful food (and of course, great fair trade coffee).

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

We asked if the garden was close enough to visit.  (I guess we’re becoming bolder and beginning to sound an awful lot like the characters from this episode of Portlandia.)  We discovered that the garden is at the owner’s home in a nearby community. From our conversation, it sounded like this year they relied on their CSA shares more than the garden. Nothing wrong with this, it’s great to support other community growers and showcase the farmers’ hard work through creatively prepared dishes.

A photo of the Seasonal SamplerFlavour: 5

The Autumn Black Bean Chili was delicious and beautiful. It was made with black beans, peppers, squash, and onions. I had it as part of the Seasonal Sampler with humus and flat bread.  After shopping we stopped back in for coffee, and Francine found a new way to enjoy coffee—with honey and cardamom.  She described it like this (on her facebook wall), “One sip and I’m taken back to making pulla (Finnish sweet rolls) with my au pair kids; another sip and I’m reminded of spicy Indian chai!”  When food and drink transport you to a different time and place and leave you craving more, you know you’ve been cared for by the person who was inspired to create it.

Pleasant Surprise: Yes

I am both a dreamer and a cynic when it comes to looking for a place to eat while traveling.  I dream of finding a restaurant like River Rock, but I’ve been disappointed enough in the past to not expect much when stumbling upon a new place (usually I like to research places to eat before leaving home). A photo of Tomato Soup

The fact that River Rock’s food was wholesome and delicious and made with locally sourced ingredients gave me hope about discovering new restaurants while traveling. Also, I was encouraged to discover that our Southwestern MN restaurant neighbor is supporting locally grown food.

Comfort + Coziness (The C factor): 4

The service was warm and inviting.  The staff was knowledgeable and seemed to enjoy working there. These simple things made me feel comfortable and cozy. The decor was open and fun, but I would describe it as typical for a coffeehouse—a tad eclectic with a touch of grittiness.

Overall Rating: 13+

If you ever find yourself in St. Peter, MN and feel like a cup of fair trade coffee, a light lunch or fresh baked bread, stop by River Rock. They’ll treat you right and serve you some real local food.  We know we’ll continue visiting and enjoying their inspired creations, and we look forward to keeping tabs on the good things River Rock Coffee is up to.

FoodieBytes Restaurant Deals, Menu and Reviews

Tonight’s Dinner?

15 Dec
Southwest Chicken Soup

Here’s the latest episode of GamerKitchen courtesy of Luke.


(You can see more cooking videos here.)

Menu Trends for 2012

13 Dec

A photo of chickensGood news for those of us who hope for real local food when we eat out…

Last week, The National Restaurant Association surveyed 1800 chefs to determine the top trends in the restaurant industry for the upcoming year. A major trend identified for 2012 is local and sustainable food: yeah for real local food! 

Here are the ten upcoming trends, along with some photos taken during our culinary travel adventures.

Photo of apples1. Locally sourced meats and seafood

2. Locally grown produce

3. Healthful kids’ meals

4. Hyper-local items (food grown very locally: the restaurant’s own garden/farm or a community garden)

5. Sustainability as a culinary theme

6. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme

7. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious itemsPhoto of hyper local salad

8. Locally produced wine and beer

9. Sustainable seafood

10. Whole grain items in kids’ mealsPhoto of local distillery

Which trend are you most looking forward to? 

(Francine is looking forward to grass fed, locally raised meat and Deanne is looking forward to fresh, in season berries.)

Have you noticed any of these trends in your area or in your adventures?A photo of Vermont's Fresh Network

Beige and Sage Celery Root Soup

9 Dec
by Francine

What, you may ask, is celery root?A photo of Celery Root

It has been described as one of Mother Nature’s homeliest vegetables and unlikely to win any beauty pageants, but this root vegetable has intrigued me ever since I read about it a few years ago, while I was researching all things cooking and living in a bustling Chinese city.

Celery root and stalk celery are close cousins. One is harvested for its bulking root and the other harvested for its crisp green stalks (perfect for peanut butter spreading).

I searched for the perfect recipe, one that would allow me to taste celery root’s full flavor without other ingredients taking over. I ended up creating my own recipe after reading many and considering what I had in the kitchen—butter, garlic, chicken stock and bottles of dried sage.

During my recipe research I read over and over that you shouldn’t try to peel the celery root because it’s of its gnarly roots. (The recommended peeling method is to slice off the skin, invariably losing some of the the vegetable in the process.) Mark Bittman of the Minimalist even warned that you’ll probably just end up breaking your vegetable peeler.A photo of the peeling processThese warnings only made me more curious. I wanted to peel my celery root—mainly because I only had one and I wanted as much white flesh as possible to make it into my soup. But also wanted to peel it because I wanted to know what would happen…would my vegetable peeler really break?

Well…I can tell you that is possible to peel celery root without breaking your peeler (although I did chip a finger nail).

A photoI suppose it’s important to note that this assessment of possibility is coming from a girl who once cut an iron sided squash on her kitchen floorThe less intense way of getting this root peeled is to slice off the knobbly skin. In this video you can see Bittman peeling and slicing celery root in a way that will preserve your vegetable peel (and your lovely nails).

Here’s the recipe I came up with…warning it’s lick-the-pot yummy!

Beige and Sage Celery Root Soup

serves 2
  • 1 celery root, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5-8 whole dried sage leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (or more to get your desired soup consistency)
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

A photo of the soup


1.  In a pot over medium high heat, melt butter and add dried sage leaves.  Allow the sage leaves to cook in the butter for a few minutes to release their flavor.
2.  Add garlic to the pot and sauté for a few more minutes until the flavor has released.
3.  Add the cubed celery root. Stir together so that the butter lightly coats the celery root. Continue cooking over medium heat for 10 mins.
4.  Then add the stock and allow it to simmer until the celery root has softened. (You can tell the celery root is soft enough when you can mash it like you can mash a potato.) It should take about 15-20 mins.
5.  Once the celery root has softened, use an immersion blender to puree the soup to your desired consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can use a potato masher to make a chunky soup or you can put the soup in the blender to make a smooth soup.
6.  At this point, if you think the soup is too thick, add more stock, water or even milk to get it to your desired soup consistency. Add nutmeg and salt according to taste.A photo of the soup
7.  Time to eat!

Do you have a celery root recipe to share? If you haven’t tried celery root, I encourage you to do so. Its delicate flavor is very appealing.

PS. Thanks to Luke for suggesting the name of this soup and for taking lovely photos of the finished soup!