Archive | May, 2012

Salad Greens on our Balcony

30 May
by Francine

A photo of the spinach seedsA week ago we bought spinach, mixed green lettuce and wild rocket seeds.  We also bought some soil and the cheapest containers we could find at the garden centre.

We carefully planted the seeds in very moist soil and set the containers on our balcony, which gets a healthy dose of late afternoon and evening sunshine.

This is my first attempt at container gardening.  I’ll be sure to post about how it goes.  A photo one week in

It seems that one advantage of growing vegetables on a balcony is that we won’t have hungry rabbits nibbling at our lettuce…that is unless there are stealthy ninja bunnies in our neighborhood.

A photo all three one week in

Do you grow vegetables on your balcony?  Do you have any container gardening tips?  And most importantly…have you ever encountered a ninja bunny?  :)

How to make a Sunshine Grilled Chicken Salad

26 May
by Francine

It’s (finally) safe to say that summer has arrived (Memorial Day is just around the corner)… and even in England the 5 day forecast lists temperatures in the 70s (F) with full sun illustrations, which is amazing considering a week ago it was cloudy and so chilly that I needed to wear gloves!

To celebrate the arrival of summer my dad created a Sunshine Grilled Chicken Salad and served it as a FarmerChef specialIt’s easy to recreate this salad in your home kitchen.A photo of the salad

For the salad you’ll need fresh lettuce, grilled chicken (see marinade recipe below), almonds, pineapple, green peppers, a mild cheese (they used goat cheese) and Sweet Camelina Dressing (see recipe below).

Since I won’t be having a Memorial Day barbeque this year, I’ll plan yours…:)

Grill the marinated chicken breasts.  The big time meat-eaters can enjoy the chicken, but your leaf loving guests can have this salad.  But I’m guessing that once the meat-eaters catch a glimpse of the fresh lettuce and sweet dressing they’ll be begging you to make them a salad.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day!!

Carribean-style Jerk Chicken Marinade

(makes enough to marinate 4 large chicken breasts)

Warning…this sauce is a tad spicy!  Ease off the jalapeños and cayenne pepper if you don’t want so much heat.

  •  2 tsp onion powder
  •  4 Tbsp lime juice
  •  2 tsp allspice
  •  4 tsp oregano leaves
  •  2 tsp cayenne pepper
  •  4 Tbsp olive oil
  •  3 Tbsp juice from jalapeño peppers
  •  4 Tbsp juice from diced pineapple
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Mix ingredients together and allow chicken to marinate at least 30 minutes.A photo of the oil used in the dressing

Sweet Camelina Dressing

  • 1 cup camelina oil (purchase online, look for it at MN co-ops or buy it at Solar)
  •  1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  •  1Tbsp + 1tsp dijon mustard
  •  3 Tbsp honey
  •  1 tsp ground cloves
  •  1 tsp ground nutmeg
  •  2 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix ingredients together and top your Sunshine Grilled Chicken salad with this dressing.  Or use on your favorite salad combination.

Red Rad Relish

24 May
by Francine

My mom, Deanne, loves radishes!  I remember that she would pile them high on her plate when we’d visit salad bars.  As a kid, I thought, ‘these pink vegetables must be really good since Mom eats so many of them.’ But yikes! too spicy for kid-me.  Adult-me loves the spicy crunch of a fresh radish!A photo of the radishes from our garden

Even though I’m in soggy England, I’ve been getting some MN sunshine in my inbox.  My brother sent me this photo last week after mom and dad dug the radishes from the garden and found all sizes and shapes of round red radishes. I know that Mom must have munched a handful of them raw before handing them over to my dad and brother, who whipped up this easy-to-make relish and served it with Quick and Crustless Quiche.

There are bags of radishes for sale in the supermarkets here.  They are English grown radishes and look just like the common red radish available in the USA.  I haven’t purchased any yet, but I think I may need to do so.  I’ll have the entire bag of radishes to myself since I’m the only one who likes them in our household.  :)

Do you pile your radishes high when you visit a salad bar? Have you ever seen a watermelon radish?

Radish Relish

(makes about one cup of relish)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup freshly scrubbed red radishes, cut in halft
  • 1Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil (or any quality oil of your choice)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • pinch black pepper

Put all in food processor and pulse until a relish consistency is reached. 

Serve a spoonful with your favorite quiche, use instead of mayo in a sandwich for a kick or serve a bit on the side of a savoury dish for a springtime touch.

Getting to Know our Neighbors: Part II

21 May

Recently we’ve discovered two restaurants in our area that are doing creative and healthy things with food.

The first one is Pisoma Kitchen, which opened a few months ago.  The owner Jill, is a wonderful chef and baker, who we met previously when we attended one of her cooking classes.  Her food is yummy…we went for breakfast and came back for lunch a few days later!She’s changing up her menu every month and getting creative with ingredients.  She recently feature maple bacon cookies on their facebook page.  The restaurant is in downtown Sleepy Eye, you can’t miss it since Highway 14 goes right through the town.

A photo of the tabletopThe second restaurant is the Amboy Cottage Cafe in Amboy, MN.  This little restaurant is adorable.  I was enchanted by the decor when we visited.  The menu is extensive and it seems they are trying to use natural and locally ingredients when possible.  Hopefully more people will discover this little cottage cafe, which is located on Highway 30, just a few miles off of Highway 169.

It’s wonderful to have neighbors who are doing creative things with food in an area that sometimes feels like a never-ending field of corn.  We love going out to eat so it’s fun to have some more options.  A photo of Amboy Cottage Cafe

Learn more about our other neighbors.  And check out River Rock Coffee if you pass throguh St. Peter, MN.

A Quick and Crustless Quiche Recipe

17 May

A photo of the quiche and slawIt’s said that something can be as easy as pie (or maybe it’s as easy as pi {π}).  But pie isn’t very easy to make (or that easy to recite), but this quiche is quick and easy to make!   You could say it’s as easy as quiche.  ;)

We prepared it yesterday for our FarmerChef special. 

We used freshly harvested spinach from our garden and goat cheese from a local goat farmer.  But you could use any cheese or vegetable you have on hand.  We served it with a side of radish relish (recipe coming soon).

It was a treat to have quiche for lunch. And we’re delighted by the simplicity of the recipe we were able to develop.  There’s no crust to worry about preparing…the cheese simply becomes the crust!

Early in the Season Vegetable Quiche (Crustless)

(makes one quiche)
Wet ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 5 eggs (we used farm fresh eggs)
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • 2 cup spinach, blanched then diced
  • 1 cup feta cheese (we used fresh goat cheese from a local farmer)
 Dry ingredients:
  • 3 Tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch of black pepper
A photo of the quicheDirections:

Put butter in a frying pan and slowly caramelize onions. Transfer onions to a plate and set aside once caramelized.

Wash spinach and boil a pot of water.  Once boiling, put the spinach in the boiling water for 30 seconds. (This is called blanching.)  Remove the spinach quickly (you don’t want it to cook)!  Immediately rinse the spinach in cold water.  Then squeeze water from the spinach. You will be left with a green spinach ball.  Now dice the blanched spinach and set aside.

In a large bowl mix eggs, cream, butter, scallions, blanched spinach and caramelized onions.

In a smaller bowl mix dry ingredients.  Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Crumble feta cheese in the bottom of a greased pie pan (we sprayed ours with pan release).

Pour the egg mixture (which has the dry ingredients mixed in) over the cheese. Spread lightly to make an even surface.

Bake at 350 F for 35 min.  The top of the quiche will be lightly browned.


Mustards Grill: Yountville, CA

15 May
by Francine

Mustards Grill: Yountville, CA

A photo of the dining roomBack in January when I visted the Napa valley, I drove past Mustards a few times.  I was intrigued because the words STEAKS, CHOPS, RIBS, GARDEN PRODUCE and TOO MANY WINES edge the restaurant’s awning. 

After 3 days of driving past Mustards, which is right on St. Helena Highway (the main road through the valley), I visited their website and discovered that Cindy, the founder and executive chef of the restaurant (and a girl raised in Minnesota), planted an organic garden years ago when it was an unusual thing for a restaurant to have. 

She says of gardens, “I feel it’s important for freshness and flavor and it brings people closer to their food.”  After more than 20 years the garden has turned into 2 acres that provide the restaurant with 20 % of their produce year round.  You can read more about their gardening practices which include natural fertilizers and pest control here.A photo of the garden

Review: (Real Local Cooking’s criteria)
Localness:  5

I visited the garden, which is next to the restaurant, before I went inside.  I saw lovely leafy greens growing in raised A photo from the gardenbeds.  They had a variety of vegetables growing in raised beds as well as a small hoop house.  It’s great that their garden is right next to their parking lot; it encourages and allows guests to have a wander before or after their meals.

They also have a huge wine menu.  The wine menu is the size of the W volume of an encyclopedia (remember them?) and it features wines produced in the fertile valley and the rest of California.  While I didn’t have any wine, I would have enjoyed a glass, it was a sunny afternoon, the location was perfect and I was feeling leisurely.

Flavor: 4

It seems that Mustards have featured items that change regularly, if not daily, which they often post about on their facebook page.  When I visited they were featuring some different Latin American dishes, the recipes came from a cookbook, possibly written by someone connected to the restaurant (but I don’t remember).  I decided on a tortilla and black bean soup, and I was very tempted by the tres leches cake.  I also had a simple mixed green salad which I found fresh and fun to eat since I’d just visited the greens in the garden.A photo of my soup

But the best flavor of the meal was simple and happened by accident.  The waiter brought a fresh chunk of crusty bread and plunked it right down on the white tablecloth.  He also set down a dish of soft butter, a tiny dish of sea salt and a small pepper grinder.  It was presented in such a way that it reminded me of how you sometimes get olive oil and black pepper in a little dish, which is perfect for dipping bread.  So I thought, “Oh cool, here you can smear butter on the bread and then dip it in the sea salt and freshly ground black pepper,” so that is what I did. And it was amazing.

Only after I had gobbled up all of the bread made perfectly flavourful by the salt and pepper, did I realize that they weren’t suggesting dipping the bread in those three things, they were just placing salt, pepper, and butter on the table.  Oh well…I discovered a wonderful new way to eat bread.

Pleasant Surprise: YES

At a quick glance this restaurant looks a bit like a roadside attraction and perhaps at one point it was a greasy spoon spot, but it has been transformed.  And taking something old and giving it new life is something that I love! 

Mustards holds onto its roadside diner identity and feel by offering large portions of comfort food…BBQ pork, steak and garlic mashed potatoes and they’ve also left the outside looking a bit boxy.  But they’ve transformedA photo of the salad and bread a diner into a spot for fine dining…there’s lovely dark wood work, black and white tiled floors, windows everywhere to let in as much light as possible and white tablecloths.  They also added a garden and made the restaurant a place that celebrates fresh ingredients.

Perhaps I’m delighted by this because it’s a bit of what my parents have done and are trying to do at Solar.  They aren’t aiming to make it a fine dining establishment, but they have re-purposed an old drive in, invented tasty menu items (baked hot wrap anyone?), planted a raised bed vegetable garden and introduced a once a week FarmerChef special.

The C factor (Comfort+Coziness): 5

A photo of the restaurant's awningI liked that there were lots of windows; it helped create a cheerful environment and it also provided views of the gorgeous golden hills.  The staff was welcoming and friendly.  I felt comfortable dining by myself, but I would have loved to have shared the meal with someone.  It would have been fun to linger over a glass of wine with a friend. 

Ho hum…if someone had joined me I probably wouldn’t have made the bread+butter+sea salt+black pepper mistake, but I’m glad I did that because it was delicious. :)

Overall Rating: 14+

If you ever find yourself driving along Highway 29 between Napa and St. Helena, stop at Mustards Grill.  I think you’ll enjoy browsing the garden, eating yummy food and finishing off a day of vineyard visits with a glass of wine.

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Egg Drop Soup with Fresh Spinach

11 May

A photo of the spinach in our garden

What to do when you have lots of eggs and the first snips of spinach from the garden? 

You make egg drop soup topped with garden fresh spinach!

Luke put on the FarmerChef hat yesterday and created this quick and easy soup.

Egg Drop Soup with Fresh Spinach

(makes 8-10 servings)
  • 2 quarts chicken broth
  •  1/4 tsp white pepper
  •  1/2 tsp sesame oil
  •  1 tsp soy sauce
  •  1 cup mushrooms, cut into strips
  •  6 green onions, sliced
  • 5 eggs,beaten
  • 1 cup spinach leaves, chiffonade (a cooking technique in which herbs or leaves are cut into long thin strips)
A photo of Egg Drop SoupDirections:

In a large pot, bring the chicken broth, white pepper, sesame oil and soy sauce to a boil.

When the broth is boiling, add the mushrooms and green onions and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Reduce the heat until the rolling boil returns to a simmer.

While stirring the broth with a fork or chopstick, slowly pour a steady stream of eggs into the broth. Continue to stir until the eggs are cooked. Taste the soup and adjust seasonings if necessary.  You can add more soy sauce or sesame oil if you like.

When ready to serve, ladle into a bowl and top with the fresh spinach.

Asparagus Soup: FarmerChef Style

10 May
by Deanne

We had lots of locally grown asparagus last week, which was grown by a farmer in our town (His asparagus fields were even featured in the local newspaper.) 

To celebrate the lovely and tender asparagus shoots, Steve created a creamy asparagus soup which we served as our FarmerChef special.

This recipe calls for roux.  Roux is a cooking mixture of wheat flour and fat (typically butter) that is used in many sauces for thickening purposes.

Steve makes a large amount of roux by heating butter and then gradually adding in wheat flour and stirring until a thick light brown sauce forms.  He then refrigerates it and uses it a bit at a time.  Using roux is a bit of a chef’s secret weapon and knowing how to make and use it will allow you to make many recipes.

Even though this video is about Cajun cooking, it quickly shows how to make a roux that you can use in a variety of dishes.

Asparagus Soup: FarmerChef Style

(makes 8 large bowls of soup)
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup bacon, diced very small
  • 6 inch bunch of asparagus, diced with tips reserved
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 3-4 Tbsp. roux
  • 1 cup cream
  • butter, for sautéeing
A photo of asparagus soupDirections:

In a large stock pot add diced bacon and cook until crispy.  Once the bacon is cooked you can remove the grease if there is too much, but leave some so that you can sauté the onions with the bacon.  Sauté together until the onion is translucent.

Add in the diced stalks of asparagus and lightly salt and pepper.  Sauté together with the onion and bacon until the asparagus is tender.  Once tender, add 3 chicken broth and bring to a gentle boil.

Remove from heat and purée using an immersion blender.  Return to low heat and add roux and cream to thicken.

Meanwhile gently sauté reserved asparagus tips in a bit of  butter. Add the tips to the soup and served immediately.

Purple Sprouting Carbonara

9 May
by Francine

After watching the carbonara recipe on GamerKitchen, I was inspired to make it in our English kitchen.

A photo of purple sprouting broccoliInstead of using asparagus, I decided to use purple sprouting broccoli. It’s a lovely variety grown in the UK that seems to be the vegetable that helps the folks here get through the late winter period…when root vegetables are on their way out and cabbage type of plants take a rest until the spring sunshine warms them up again. 

I’ve come across a number of posts written by Brits in which they express their love for this first crunchy vegetable of the year…

Purple sprouting broccoli is one of the vegetable wonders of later winter. There it stands whatever the weather throws at it, and come spring it sprouts forth endless florets that have all the sweetness of a cold winter and yet the tenderness of summer to come. Alys Fowler

Instead of using ground Italian sausage, which I was unable to find at our A photo of the sausages I usedlocal supermarket, I decided to use some wholesome British raised pork sausages.  Perhaps the packaging persuaded me, as I was wearing my own red wellies (rainboots) to do the shopping. 

I cut the sausages into bite-sized pieces and sautéed them in a bit of butter.

I used gluten free fusilli pasta that was made with rice flour, tomatoes and spinach.

I took the advice of the recipe maker to get creative with the ingredients….I used a different vegetable, meat and pasta, but otherwise I followed his recipe exactly. 

It was a lovely supper for two on a rainy evening.

A photo of the dish

FarmerChef Specials Weeks 8-10

4 May
by Deanne

Steve and I dreamed up the idea of offering some locally sourced dishes at our restaurant almost a year ago.  While we were excited by the idea, we were also challenged in two big ways.

  1. How would we find the time and inspiration to create dishes using only seasonal and local ingredients?
  2. How could we create specials that would work with the current operational flow of our busy fast casual restaurant (where all items are grilled, fried or sent through the impingement oven to order)?

 We decided that instead of trying to move the entire restaurant’s menu to locally sourced offerings we would introduce them weekly through a FarmerChef specials.  For information check out our FarmerChef page.

A photo of Francine in the kitchenA perfect solution to our challenges was temporarily living under our roof.  Francine, our daughter, as you dear readers know, has now moved to England, but she was staying with us for awhile.  She is inventive and creative in the kitchen so it was natural for her to become a FarmerChef.  She researched and came up with some great ideas for what to do with ingredients that we had sourced locally.

Since she left on April 8th, we’ve been stumbling a bit. The food and photography has not been as inspiring as the work she was doing for us.  But we’ve been persistent and we will continue to learn and improve.

Here is an update on how we’ve continued with our little food service experiment.

Week Eight  A photo of Egg Salad sandwiches

We made Egg Salad on Whole Wheat Sourdough Sliders with local greens. 

This sold well and tasted great, but as you can see from the picture it looks a little boring.

Week Nine  

Warm Italian Pasta (Gnocchi) Salad….the food idea didn’t work for our kitchen and it wasn’t very healthy.  We tried to deep fry the gnocchi and it tasted great right out of the fryer, but it didn’t hold up.  We sold two servings, but no one raved about this dish.

A photo of the veggie tacosWeek Ten

Veggie Tacos..these were great! It’s definitely a recipe worth revisiting. This recipe by Cadry’s Kitchen inspired us.

We had one lonely little delicata squash and didn’t want to make more soup so we made tacos!  Steve cut the squash into small pieces and mixed in chipotle seasoning and smoke before we roasted the squash.  While we enjoyed the tacos, we didn’t have any other adventurous eaters…no worries, more for us! :)