Summer of Salads, Pork…

TarragonI know you’ve heard me talk about Tarragon before in this amazing potato salad, but we fell in love with Tarragon using it on the Pork Chops I am sharing here today.  This post is about Pork, and how to enjoy it on a salad.  I realize that Bacon falls into the Pork category, but I am saving Bacon for it’s very own post…I love it just that much! 🙂

So for those of you who have never used Tarragon before, this might freak you out and make you not want to try it, but it has a licorice-like taste & smell to it.  I know, licorice is one of those love-it or hate-it things…but please don’t let you dislike for licorice deter you from trying Tarragon!  And when you use it with mustard, it’s a-mazing!  So here’s what you’ll need…

The basics...

Tarragon Pork Salad:

Pork Chops or Loin or Tenderloin

Fresh Tarragon

Garlic, chopped

Dijon Mustard

Whole Grain Mustard

Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper

Lettuce & potato pic

For the salad base:

Greens of your choice

Grape Tomatoes, sliced

Colored Peppers, sliced

Yukon Gold or Red Skinned Potatoes, cubed

Fresh Chives, sliced thin

Crumbled Blue Cheese

Olive Oil, Vinegar of your choice, Salt, Pepper etc.

Start by seasoning your Pork with the Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper.  Mix together your cut Tarragon, chopped Garlic, Dijon & Whole Grain Mustards.  Spread onto Pork, coating both sides.  Place back into fridge until time to grill.

Then move on to cleaning your potatoes.  Cut into cubes and toss with Olive Oil, Salt, Pepper & fresh Chives.  Place into two sheets of aluminum foil, wrapping the middle section together first and then tucking in both ends.  Place onto a grill at about 375-400 degrees.  Move around every so often so the bottom layer doesn’t burn.  These will take a good 45 minutes or so.  Once they are done cooking, remove from aluminum foil and place on to a plate and put in the fridge to cool.

Place Pork on the grill, making sure it’s really good and hot to begin with so you get that great grill mark action and your seasonings don’t just stick to the grill.  Once you see the sides of your meat starting to cook up, it’s time to flip them.  Cook your Pork to at least 145 degrees.  Honestly, you can make this anytime of year, just bake or sauté the Pork!

Let the Pork rest a bit before cutting into cubes and assembling your salad!  Arrange/build your salad however you like!  Add or take away any items you feel you’d like as well!

Tarragon Pork Salad

While cruising the internet, looking for other delicious Pork salads, I found these to share with you!

Here’s an interesting Spicy Pork Salad from Bon Appetit.

This Cafe Rio Sweet Pork Salad looks SO good and reminds me of the bowls you can get at Chipotle.  It’s from Your Home Based Business Mom dot com.

So, I love Pulled Pork, and recently made it a highlight of one of our entree salads.  This recipe from Lumo Lifestyle blog for Cider Braised Pulled Rhubarb Pork with wild Summer salad looks ridiculous!!  I NEED! 🙂

You’ll need this Asian Pork and Cabbage Salad from Pass the Sushi dot com.

Do you have a favorite Pork salad you want to share with me?  Please do!

Thanks for following along on my #summerofsalads!

Until next time, cheers!

Shawn

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Restaurant review: Noodles & Company…Slow Braised, naturally raised Pork

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Here I go again, talking about my favorite animal…the pig!  Noodles & Company reached out to me, not long ago, asking if I would be interested in trying some of their new slow-braised, naturally raised Pork, their treat!  Well of course!  Because if you know me, you know I love me some piggy meat!

www.whoeatslikethis.com

I’ve only been to Noodles & Company one other time, and on that day, I actually didn’t order anything for myself, just for my kids.  So I was excited at the opportunity to try it myself.  I went there on a Saturday, for lunch, with three kids in tow.  The place was hopping & after tasting the delicious dishes you see here, I know why!

www.whoeatslikethis.com

Cucumber Tomato Salad…a friend said she always orders this when she goes to Noodles & Company and it definitely stood up to that recommendation!  Even though we are in Minnesota, in what seems to be a never-ending winter, the tomatoes were juicy and delicious.  I liked that the cucumbers were cut small and there was just enough red onion to make it a perfect addition.  This starter had some magically delicious seasoning on it that brought the whole dish together.  I might have to see if I can pry that out of someone…

www.whoeatslikethis.com

Another favorite of mine was the Potstickers (chicken dumplings) and these were a perfect starter.  Fried crispy on the outside and accompanied by a delicious dipping sauce.  You can order 3 or 6 in an order as well.

www.whoeatslikethis.com

Before I made my trip to Noodles & Company, I perused the menu online, as all good food-lovers do, right?  I spied Pad Thai on the menu & knew it would be on my list to try!  The person who took my order, recommended the shrimp with this, but I declined and after the fact, was wishing I would have taken his suggestion!  It was a tasty and light option, great for a quick lunch!  They have a great assortment of Asian dishes, so it will be hard to choose on my next visit.

www.whoeatslikethis.com

The last time we visited Noodles & Company, my daughter ordered the Spaghetti & Meatballs and guess what?  My normally adventuresome kid, ordered the same thing!  She remembered how much she liked it before…meaty & moist meatballs in a sauce full of flavor with just the right amount of spice.

www.whoeatslikethis.com

The youngest of our group, played it safe & went with the Wisconsin Mac & Cheese…cheddar & jack cheeses melted in cream & served over elbow macaroni.  Well played little one, well played!

www.whoeatslikethis.com

My son, the least adventuresome of my two, loves his Buttered Noodles at home, so naturally I let him choose that, as long as he added the Parmesan Chicken to it!  What’s great about Noodles & Company is that they encourage customization and you can add different types of protein to any dish, for example Shrimp, Tofu and of course the new slow-braised Pork!

www.whoeatslikethis.com

I saved the best for last!  Remember, the reason I came to Noodles & Company was to try the new Slow Braised Pork…so what better way to try it?  Barbecue Pork Mac….oh yeah!  First, they take their Wisconsin Mac & Cheese and add crispy fried onions, barbecue sauce & the Slow Braised Pork.  People.  Seriously.  This was ridiculously AWESOME!  And I am not just saying that, I wanted to eat more & more!

www.whoeatslikethis.com

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the awesome soda dispersing machine they had at this Noodles & Company location.  It’s called the Coca-Cola Freestyle and offers (I have read, but didn’t actually verify…) 125 Coca-Cola drink products.  It’s basically a high-tech, touchscreen soda fountain!  My kids thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread…okay maybe since the iPod…and apparently so did everyone else, as I had to wait in line, just to take a quick picture!

logoIn addition to the Barbecue Pork Mac, you can get the Peppery Pork Sandwich, which also features the slow-braised Pork.  Or as mentioned before, add the Pork to any of your favorite Noodles & Company dishes!

UPDATE:  I got a note from the nice people I am working with, on this review & I get to GIVEAWAY two vouchers for you to enjoy Noodles & Company!!  Just leave a comment below, or on my Facebook Page and I will randomly draw a winner tomorrow night!  (3-22-13)

They were also nice enough to share the following recipes with us, for you to try at home!

Thanks for “virtually” tagging along & I hope you’ll visit your neighborhood (find locations here) Noodles & Company soon to try the delicious slow-braised Pork!

Cheers ~ Shawn

Truffle Mac & Cheese ~ Recipe for the Home Chef
Serves 4 -6
Ingredients:
Cheese sauce:
  • 1 pint cream
  • 6 oz cheese (your choice)
  • 1 Tb. Butter
  • 1 Tb. flour
  • ½ tsp. Truffle oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Toppings:
  • 1 lb. Macaroni noodles, cooked and drained according to box directions
  • 16 oz.  Mushrooms (your choice) sautéed in 1 oz. butter until golden brown
  • 6 oz. Parmesan or Italian blend shredded cheese
  • 1 cup Toasted bread crumbs
Preparation:
  • Mix the butter and flour together in your hands and set aside.
  • Bring the cream to a low simmer in a thick bottomed pot.
  • Add the butter/ flour blend and stir with a whisk until smooth and slightly thickened (about 5 minutes)
  • Take the pot off the heat, add the cheese and truffle oil and whisk until smooth, season to taste.
  • Mix with macaroni noodles and top with mushrooms, cheese and breadcrumbs

Backyard Barbecue Chicken Salad ~ Recipe for the Home Chef

Serves 4 regular salads or 6-8 small sides

Ingredients:

12 oz. bag of mixed lettuce

8 oz. shredded mixed cabbage, red and green

¾ cup cole slaw dressing

4 chicken breasts, cooked, shredded, cooled

½  cup of your favorite BBQ sauce

¾ cup tomatoes, diced

¾ cup corn

1/8 cup red cabbage

 BBQ Chicken Preparation:

Bake 4 chicken breasts, completely cool and then shred into bite sized pieces.  In a bowl mix together the chicken and ½ cup BBQ sauce.

Assemble:

Mix the lettuce, cabbage (keeping 1/8 cup of red cabbage aside for garnish) and cole slaw dressing in a large bowl.

Place the BBQ chicken, corn and tomatoes on top of the mixed greens, forming the points of a triangle in the center of the salad.

Place the 1/8 cup of red cabbage in the center of the triangle to garnish, enjoy!

Disclaimer~

I was given two vouchers good for two noodle bowls and paid for the rest of my delicious meal on my own. The opinions here are my own and most of the information I didn’t get upon my visit, I found by searching the Noodles & Company website and their online menu & nutritional information.

Beer for a Year, month nine…

Yikes, month nine already!

Well, here in Minnesota, we recently had a week or so of fall-like weather and it had me thinking of Oktoberfest…this months beer!  Summit Brewery describes this beer as “Brewed in the classic Märzen style with Northern Brewer hops from Germany. Rich, toffee malt flavors up front with a clean hop finish as crisp as the autumn air.”   It’s gorgeous color had me at first glance…much like the Minnesota landscape in October!  Read more about it here.

So, thinking of cooler temps (because we are again back in the heat here) I wanted to do something that would go good with sausages or pork…and because I had just picked up a whole head of purple cabbage from my CSA, I thought Beer Braised Red Cabbage would be perfect!  I found the original recipe here, but as I do with most recipes, I doctored it up to suit my needs.

Beer Braised Red Cabbage

1/2 head purple cabbage, thinly sliced

1/4 pound of bacon, diced & fried until almost crisp

2 tablespoons of butter

1 whole onion, (I used red), sliced thin

1 green apple, peeled, cored & thinly sliced

1 tablespoon of sugar (or honey & more if needed)

1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup of chicken stock

1 bottle (more or less) of Summit Oktoberfest beer

1 whole cinnamon stick

salt, pepper, (more bacon) dried fruits, etc!

So you’ll need to begin by slicing up the cabbage, as thin as you like it either by hand or in your food processor.  Slice the onion and apple as well.  Put a fairly large pan on medium heat and when warm, add the bacon.  Once the bacon has given off most of its fat, add the onion and continue cooking until the onions have started to caramelize and the bacon is almost crisp.  At this point, add the butter…yum!  Sorry, I get distracted by butter sometimes…and bacon…

At this point, you’ll then want to put in the cabbage and apple; Stir until fully coated in the butter etc.  Let this start to wilt down a bit and then add your chicken stock, vinegar, cinnamon stick and sugar.  Again, stir a bit to coat and let wilt for a couple of minutes.  The add your beer, turn the heat down and cover to simmer for 30 minutes (plus or minus depending on how you like the texture of your cabbage) stirring every so often and ensuring it’s not losing liquid and/or sticking to the bottom of the pan. About halfway thru this time, taste the cabbage to check for adequate sweetness & “done-ness”.  Both of which are very selective.  Adjust as necessary and feel free to add a bit of salt & pepper at this point as well.  Continue cooking until the cabbage is as tender as you’d like it.

This dish could be made more amazing by adding more bacon, more apples or other delicious fruit (figs, apricots, etc.) fresh herbs like Thyme and even some fall seasonings like clove, nutmeg. The picture above is with Mission Figs & Thyme (in addition to the above ingredients) that I actually cooked in my cast iron skillet on the grill the other day!  Provided you add enough liquid and really keep an eye on it, you could cook this under a small pork roast in the oven as well and the cabbage can absorb all those succulent meat juices while it cooks!  YUM!

So my friends, I hope you give this recipe a try, and find a nice place to cozy up, eat it outside, and enjoy the changing weather and beautiful landscape in your part of the country!

Until next time,

Shawn

My Oink Outing…

Recently, my husband & I signed up for a CSA with Natura Farms.  (more details on that in a future post) Yes, we have a pretty big garden of our own, but my husband had the opportunity to tour this farm, (located in gorgeous Scandia, Minnesota) and is doing some business with them already.  We were excited to not only support another local business, but have the opportunity to enjoy some things we weren’t already growing.  We usually amp up our veggie intake in the summer, but this summer, we are eating some nights, nothing but veggies!  It makes me realize I could really become a vegetarian.  But then I come to my senses…how could I not ever smell my most favorite smell, taste my most favorite food…wafting in from the grill, smoker or on a lazy weekend morning…the kitchen!  Yes, people, I am talking Pig.  Pork, glorious Pork!A friend recently posted a picture on my Facebook wall (not going to share that here, as some of you might get emotional once see how cute it was) of an adorable piglet, all pink & fuzzy.  The caption read “I love you!!!  Okay, now you can’t eat me.”  Ha!  I found the humor in it, and yes, for just the smallest of moments I thought “how could you eat something so cute?”  But that’s what makes my relationship with Pork so amazing; I can appreciate and adore the tiny precious little piglets, still a pretty pink color and all soft & fuzzy looking.  And I can appreciate the Sow, the Mama pig, who bravely bears (called “farrowing” in pig farming) those little piglets, that someday will grow to be somewhere around 270+ pounds that will eventually make it’s way to my dinner table, and finally my belly.  Until recently, I had no idea the steps involved.  That was, up until I went on my very first Oink Outing!

Last summer, some of my Minnesota Food Blogger friends (now officially known as the group Fortify) were posting pictures from their Oink Outings and I asked how I could participate in one.  Well, this spring I got an email asking if I was still interested (YES!) and what dates worked best for me (ANY!) in June.  So yes, this happened last month…and truthfully, I don’t know what happened to July…can someone tell me?  I had this awesome posting calendar all set up and the summer derailed me.  Anyway, hope you’ll forgive me and let’s talk some Piggy now!

Oink Outings, sponsored in part by the Minnesota Pork Board, brings together families & pig farmers, educating both on how pigs are raised and what Mom’s like me go through when choosing how & what to feed our families. For my Oink Outing, we were excited to partner with farmer Judy Bode’s farrow-to-wean pig farm, Rebco Pork and Executive Chef Bryan Schouten of Brackett’s Crossing Country Club.  My day began at Brackett’s Crossing where Chef Bryan prepared a mouth-watering Pork Carnitas Salad (isn’t that red taco shell gorgeous!) for our lunch and provided us with several recipes to take home and enjoy with our families. Chef Bryan was able to join us for the day, as we toured the gorgeous southern Minnesota towns of Courtland & Nicollet .  We made a pit stop on the way down, at Schmidt’s Meat Market where we were given the honor of seeing some of their huge smokers and product being prepared for the retail coolers out front.  I was even given a gift of their award-winning Raspberry Chipotle Bacon, which I used to make this Brown Butter Bacon Ice Cream.

      

From there, we moved on to the Bode family farm, home to Rebco Pork.  The Bode’s have 900 acres of farmland in the Courtland area.  In addition to their fifth generation pig farm, they also grow corn & soybeans.  I was very impressed with the measures they take to keep their pigs healthy; every employee showers as they enter the building, at the beginning of their shift.  They each have their own supplies for doing so, along with clothing & uniforms they must keep at the farm.  Everything gets washed there, to again protect the pigs.  So, we acted like employees, all though we didn’t shower, we did have to suit up…here’s a picture of our whole crew ready to enter the building!

First up on the tour was the farrowing barn.  Rooms where Sows were placed to give birth.  I couldn’t wait to see some of the piglets, sweet, pink & brand new!  Pig farming has changed over the years.  Technology has enabled pig farmers to know pretty close to when a Sow will be giving birth, so they can move her to the farrowing barn before her big moment.  That same technology has also enabled pig farmers to choose the type of pigs they raise; consumer demand dictates this mostly, but today’s pigs are leaner and tastier than they have ever been.  As we entered the first farrowing barn, the piglets were about three weeks old.  They’ll be weaned shortly from the Sow and headed to the finishing barns, on another part of the Bode family farm.  From their they will grow to be pushing 270+ and will shortly thereafter make it’s way to the grocery stores we all shop at.  The next farrowing barn we entered had Sows just about ready to give birth, and as my luck would have it, one was giving birth right as we came in!  I know the picture might be a little graphic, but how amazing is that!  It’s crazy to see the difference in size from those tiny little piglets and the Mama laying on her side giving birth to them.

After pulling me away from the piglets, we moved to a different area of the facility; the gestational barn.  This is where the pregnant Sows are kept until they are ready to move to a farrowing barn.  I have to admit, it was difficult for me to see the Sows, lined up, all inside cages.  Of course I thought it would all be “Wilbur-like” and they’d be roaming free, eating grass and hanging out with the ducks, geese and other barnyard animals.  But there’s good reason they aren’t.  First, we can go back to the strict measures the Bode’s take to ensure their pigs stay healthy.  Free roaming pigs can pick up all sorts of diseases from just roaming about outside.  In this environment, everything is monitored; from the water they drink, to the feed they get.  Also, they are protected.  Pigs, believe it or not, can be a lot like humans, behavior-wise.  If they were left in an environment where each pig can freely eat what & when they want, bigger pigs can bully smaller pigs and they end up not getting what they need nutritionally speaking.  So for what they are trying to do, provide healthy, nutritious Pork to families all over the country, Rebco Pork & the Bode family are doing an incredible job!

The day came to close and as I drove home from my tour, I was happy to have learned as much as I did.  It’s good to know where your food comes from.  We should all learn that someday!

So let’s talk about some of my favorite ways to eat Piggie meat!  My most favorite Pork product is Bacon.  Ah, Bacon.  What ever would I do without Bacon?  I am also not a Bacon snob.  I like any Bacon… Although I am not sure I can stomach any of the “Bacon” themed crazy products out there right now. (see below) But I will eat it in salads, on Panini’s (if you don’t own a Panini press-get one), in pasta, dipped in chocolate (aka “pig-lickers”), try it in braised Mustard Greens, Kale or Swiss Chard, I’ve put it in ice cream (see above), I’ve put it in cookies.

Someday I hope to get Bacon Roses for Valentine’s Day…who wouldn’t love that!  Hint-hint…

Since getting my smoker for Christmas we’ve smoked Ribs (see previous blog post here) and just this past weekend, finally smoked myself a Pork shoulder for pulled Pork.  I will admit, it didn’t go as well as I had planned (we ended up putting it in the oven inside for another hour + to cook) but in the end, what resulted was the most incredible, juicy, tender pulled Pork!  My husband’s comment (after it was all said and done) “this was pretty good, but if you tried my pulled Pork recipe from work, it would curl your toes”.  Uh, really? I asked why he’s never brought home any samples???  Tease.

A note about cooking pork; most people kill it.  And I don’t mean in the good way…to safely eat Pork, you need to cook it to an internal temperature of 145 degrees.  (unless it’s ground Pork, which should be 160) LET IT REST before slicing into it and you should have a juicy, delicious piece of Pork!  If you want/need more info on cooking with Pork, check out the Minnesota Pork Board’s website HERE.

      

And my other favorite way to eat Pork is slathered with Mustard (Dijon & whole grain), chopped garlic, olive oil & tons of fresh Tarragon (ok in the winter it’s dried from my garden) you have to try it this way!!  We usually either bake these in the oven or sauté them.  In the summer, definitely throw them on the grill.  We also usually do this on Pork chops, but it would be incredible on a gorgeous Pork tenderloin or roast.  (salivating just thinking about it) And for another idea with Pork tenderloin, check out my Rhubarb Beer Jam post from last month.

So yah, there’s no chance of becoming a vegetarian with all the delicious Pork available today!   Thank you to the Minnesota Pork Board, the Bode family of Rebco Pork, Chef Bryan from Brackett’s Crossing and Oink Outings for letting me participate!  Eat Pork people!!

UPDATE ON THIS POST:

Just wanted to be clear, the thoughts expressed above are my own…since taking this tour, I have read & watched articles & videos on both “sides” of pig farming.  I have no answer to solve the problem faced by consumers & farmers today. The farm I visited was very clean and appeared to really care about their pigs.  I was compensated for my time (as I did take an entire day off of work to go) but I still wrote what I wanted to.  If given the choice, I would buy the best meat available to me; free range pigs and all.  We each do what we can, to feed our families in the responsible way we see fit.  Thanks for reading 🙂

Beer for a Year, month seven…

Rhubarb Beer Jam & dinner……

Hey beer lovers!  This months beer is Summit Sága IPA described by Summit as a beer with “Epic hop character”.  I love anything that is referred to as “epic”!  Usually I am not a fan of big hoppy beers, but this one is so clean & bright & fresh, that the first sip I had, I knew I liked it!  Further description from the Summit website says “Named after the Norse goddess Sága, drinking companion of the God Odin. With a divine tropical fruit hop aroma and clean, assertive bitterness.”  Assertive indeed!  Give it a try, it’s a great beer for summer!

In scouring the internet for recipes that contained beer, I came across this one, on the Tasting Table website but originally adapted from the Paul Virant’s cookbook, The Preservation Kitchen that had another of my favorite things…Rhubarb!  And, since last weekend I cut my teeth with my first jamming experience, I thought this would be a great idea!  But what to use this jam with?  I can’t just give you the jam, with no direction as to how to use it, can I?  So, I started thinking about dinner.  I knew this jam, no matter how much sugar went into it, would be more on the savory side.  I wanted to use it as a sauce more so than a jam.  And I wanted Pork.  We actually had some Pork Tenderloin, in the freezer, leftover from the gorgeous Crown Roast we had for Christmas dinner.  All I did to prep the Pork was tossed it in Olive Oil with salt, pepper & garlic.  I then threw it on the grill.

So I mentioned I was thinking about dinner…this week we picked up our first CSA share from Natura Farms.  In that share we had baby Rutabaga & Garlic Scapes, amongst other things.  I was super excited about the Garlic Scapes as I keep hearing about people using them for a variety of things, even pickling them!  I tweeted out the other day questions as to what to do with the Rutabaga and Garlic Scapes we had received.  The lovely Emily Anderson said I should try pesto with the Garlic Scapes (as did a couple other food friends) and maybe a Gnocchi with the Rutabaga?  Oh yes, that sounded wonderful!  So those were the two other additions to this meal, not to mention the Brown Butter Ice Cream with candied Raspberry Chipotle Bacon that I made…but that’s another post!

Okay, so first let’s talk about the Jam.  Now, I said that I wanted it more sauce-like right?  So yeah, I basically did my own thing with this one.  If you read the original recipe, you’ll see they strained the mixture, but I like texture and left mine a little chunky.  I used the same ingredients, but I didn’t can it.  I put it in a jar, planning to use it for dinner and try freezing the rest for a future meal.  So here’s my recipe:

Rhubarb Beer Jam

2 cups of Rhubarb, diced

1 cup of Summit Saga IPA beer

1 1/2 cups of Sugar

1 tablespoon lemon zest

The juice from 1/2 of a lemon

1 tablespoon of butter

First thing you’ll do is clean & cut your Rhubarb, into a small dice.  Place that into a saucepan and add the beer.  Get this going good and hot and then add the sugar & lemon juice, zest & butter.  The butter helps with reducing the amount of foam the mixture creates, but because I didn’t make an actual “jam” I didn’t really need to use it.  It was also not in the original recipe, but I remember doing that with my Strawberry Jam session last week.  I LOVE butter and will use it any chance I get!  Alright, moving on.  So your mixture should come to a small boil (enough to encourage the mixture to reduce, but not enough that you can’t get anywhere near it for fear of being splashed) and from there I just kept using my potato masher and smashing the mixture down and let it reduce by almost half.

This makes about a cup and a half so you really have almost three meals use out of it, if you aren’t canning it.  Otherwise, I would recommend using the smallest jam jars you can find.  That way you aren’t pulling a big jar out and then having to use it all up over the course of a week.  The original recipe also talks about the red hue in the end result.  Mine obviously wasn’t that color but I think that is because I used a more greener variety of Rhubarb.  I also thought that some herbs would be good in the jam, maybe Thyme (I love Lemon Thyme) or Tarragon?  I kept those out, the first time in, but might do that next time around.  I also think a heavier beer would work great too.  In keeping with the Summit theme, their Horizon Red Ale would be great with this.  The original recipe used a wheat beer, but didn’t say what brand.  I think this jam/sauce would be great as a base for a unique flatbread or bruschetta.  Have fun!

Okay, so let’s talk about the Rutabaga Gnocchi!  I have never made Gnocchi.  Yep, I can’t quite believe that myself! But this isn’t your usual Gnocchi.  It’s actually a very delicious way to use Rutabaga!  I found the original recipe on a food blog called Food and Passion.  I also found another recipe for Turnip Gnocchi on a food blog called Well fed, flat broke that sounds really good!  I might try that one this fall.

So the original recipe called for Spinach, but I decided to use Mustard Greens.  We have this flourishing in our garden right now and I am trying to use it as often as possible.  I’ts heartier than Spinach, so it might need to cook a bit longer than if you were to use fresh sautéed Spinach.  The original recipe used frozen Spinach.  Here’s what you’ll need to make this:

Rutabaga Gnocchi:

1 cup of finely grated Rutabaga (I used a “baby” Rutabaga about the size of an orange)

1 cup of flour

1/2 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1 cup of Ricotta cheese

2 cups of fresh Mustard Greens (washed thoroughly) or Spinach, finely chopped

2 eggs

1/2 nutmeg

Olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of fresh chopped garlic for sauteeing

You’ll start by grating the Rutabaga, because it’s somewhat like Zucchini in that it will release a bunch of water, you’ll also want to squeeze it all out.  I used my box grater to grate the Rutabaga, but the original recipe said to use a Microplane if you have one.  I do, but didn’t know how to change the blade…  Set the grated Rutabaga aside once grated.  Take the Mustard Greens or Spinach and remove any longer stems.  I chopped mine up, as small as I could, so that you don’t have huge chunks of it in your Gnocchi.  Get a sauté pan going on your stove and when hot, add a drizzle of Olive Oil and throw in your greens.  Spinach won’t take but a minute or two to cook, but you’ll want the Mustard Greens to go a bit longer.  Just before you pull it off the heat, add the salt, pepper & garlic.  Set this aside for now.  You’ll want to get a big pot of water going on the stove for boiling the Gnocchi.  Once it’s up to a boil, carefully add a good handful of salt tot the water, just like you would do with pasta.

In a larger mixing bowl, add a half cup of the flour, the eggs, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and a bit of salt & pepper.  (you could even add in any fresh herbs you have like basil & chives) Now back to the Rutabaga…take a couple of paper towels and wrap the Rutabaga in it.  Squeeze to release as much water as you can.  Then place it in the bowl with the other mixture.  Once the greens have cooled, you can try to chop them up again if you feel you they are still too big.  Add this into the other mixture as well.  Once you’ve mixed everything up real good, grab a plate and put the other half a cup of flour on it.  Using a teaspoon, make small balls out of the Gnocchi mixture and place onto the floured plate.  Roll them around so they are fully coated in flour and carefully place five or so into your boiling water.  They are done when they pop to the top of the water.  Use a slotted spoon to remove them and set aside.  Looks like alot of work, but its really very easy!

The original recipe said to top the hot Gnocchi with Olive Oil and more parmesan cheese, but again, I wasn’t about the take the easy way out with this either!  In our recent CSA share I mentioned we got Garlic Scapes.  I decided to make a Pesto out of that for the sauce of the Rutabaga Gnocchi!  Many of you might be asking what Garlic Scapes are…you are not alone!  In the past, most people have thrown them away.  They are the curly tops that grow out of the garlic planted in your garden.  Don’t throw them out anymore!  Make this instead!  Anyway, I found this recipe here, on the Epicurious website, and doctored it up to my liking.  There were quite a few Garlic Scape Pesto recipes out there when I googled the name.  I found recipes made with almonds, pine nuts, walnuts…I chose the recipe here because it had Pistachios, one of my very favorite nuts!  Plus, I think it added to the bright green look to this pesto!

Garlic Scape Pesto:

10 large Garlic Scapes, diced (remove & discard the top seed pods)

Fresh Basil (as much as you want to add or leave it out)

1/3 cup Pistachios

1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon of Lemon juice

1/3 cup Olive Oil

Salt & pepper

Place all ingredients, except Olive Oil, into a food processor and puree.  Once mixture looks like the picture above, and while the food processor is running, add in the Olive Oil.  Taste the mixture and add salt & pepper as needed.  You’ll end up with about a cup and a half of pesto that should keep in the fridge for about a week.  Now, the original recipe (man I’ve said that a million times in the post…) used this with pasta, and added about a cup of pasta water to the mixture.  I took some of the water I boiled the Gnocchi in and used that the loosen the sauce a bit.  If you use it on pasta (it would be great as a dip, or again as a base for flatbread or Bruschetta) just be sure to add a bit of the pasta water to make a sauce.  Isn’t it a gorgeous Pesto?!?!  It was really good on the Rutabaga Gnocchi!

There you have it!  I was a whirling dervish in the kitchen today and managed to use four new recipes, that’s a first for me!  I hope you’ll try at least one of these!  Today I will finish up that Brown Butter Ice Cream with candied Raspberry Chipotle Bacon that you’ll see in a post next weekend that highlights my #OinkOuting adventure earlier this month.  If you are liking what I am making these days, post a comment and share this blog with your friends!  I am going to be adding a Facebook Page for my blog later this week as well!

Until then,

Shawn

Chronicles of a crazy 20 days!

Wow, it’s been a CRAZY month so far and it’s only the 20th of June!  I constantly complain about the months of May & June, as every year, they completely derail me with field trips, the end of school, parties etc.  This year, I threw in a couple extra new events, just to challenge my strength…or because I am crazy.  I know the days have been ticking by, still no post since last month….and now that I’ve had the chance to catch my breath, I thought it would be fun to, instead of the usual post, do a little recap of my activities!  Yea!  Hope you enjoy the ride…….

June 2, 2012#TECHmunch, an event I had been anxiously waiting to attend.  It is a one-day conference for food bloggers, sponsored by BakeSpace.com and was held at Studio 514 in Minneapolis.  You can read more about it here.  Because I have never learned the art of “sitting on my hands” (like they used to say in Girl Scouts so you wouldn’t volunteer for everything!) I decided to volunteer to help with set-up the day before and during the event!  All kidding aside, let me just share one piece of advise I have learned over the years…if you really want to make the most of an event you plan to attend, volunteer to help.  It exposes you to (work, which oddly enough, I actually enjoy-so be prepared if signing on in this capacity) many more people than if you just came as an attendee.  I met & got to know better, some really great people (Babette, Tammy, Lisa, Brenda, Meghan, Emily, Joy, Cathy, Stephanie, Scott, Molly & anyone I forgot (so sorry!) and all the food-famous speakers & panelists!) that hopefully over time, I will become better friends with!  I helped with the manual labor part of set-up the day before, something of which after my years of banquet management/service I am very familiar with.  The next day, I was assigned to help with AV.  That stands for Audio-Visual….yeah, for those of you who know me, not exactly my forte. Ha!  I managed through and the only real glitch of the day ended up not even being my fault!

The day consisted of seven different topics:  Eating your way to the top; a Fireside chat with Andrew Zimmern & Jason DeRusha, Mastering your Story, with Daniel Klein of the Perennial Plate.  SEO for food writing; with experts in the field of SEO Lee Odden, Joshua Unseth & Erik Deutsch.  A panel discussion on creating, distributing and syndicating mouth-watering content with Shaina Olmanson, Zoe Francois, Amanda Rettke & Brenda Score.  Design & Page Optimization with the Geek Girls, Meghan Wilker & Nancy Lyons.  Lessons in partnerships & monetization with Babette Pepaj and Erik Deustch. And finally, a session titled, How to get on a Food Editor’s Radar, with Stephanie March, Lee Dean, Rachel Hutton & Joy Summers.   It was a GREAT event and I was thrilled to have been able to attend.

Of course a food blogger conference isn’t complete without amazing food, which you see a bit of above.  We had beautiful pastries donated by Patisserie 46 and gorgeous berries from Driscoll’s Berries.  Fresh squeezed juices  were provided by Whole Foods, Joia Life donated some of their amazing natural sodas, Bull Run coffee helped us all stay fueled up and I cannot forget that Sangria…made by Scott Pampugh.  A backyard picnic lunch was catered by Tastebud Catering and included Chicken & fresh Corn off the grill (with a couple of amazing butters to spread), two awesome salads (a carrot slaw I NEED the recipe for!) and a refreshing Basil Lemonade that I am totally recreating at home!  Dessert, decadent chocolate brownie like confections was sponsored by (and eaten early by many of us standing in line for lunch!) Bogart Loves.  An afternoon nosh, consisting of pita breads, hummus, olives, cheese and roasted veggies was provided by Whole Foods and served along with more of that magical Sangria.  We had swag bags donated by and filled with nourishing snack bars, natural produce bags and awesome coupons from Land O’ Lakes &. others.  (sorry I didn’t link any of those….& hopefully I am not missing anyone but holy crap we had a lot of great sponsors that day!!!)

A geeky moment of the day, pictured below, is where I asked the legendary Scott Pampugh (who was also volunteering that day) to take a picture with me.  We are both from Winona, MN (that automatically makes us kindred spirits right? Although he was a Cotter boy…I won’t hold that against him!) and if you don’t know much about Scott, he’s out to change the landscape of food as we know it.  Read more about him here.  The day finished off at Fulton Brewery, where attendees got to tour the facility, dine on Hola Arepa & Anchor Fish & Chips food trucks, conveniently parking outside and of course drink beer!!  There’s gonna be a #TECHmunch in Philadelphia in October…hmmm maybe I need to plan a trip out to see the Pennsylvania relative contingency!

   

I got a day to rest up, (although I spent most of it standing in my kitchen prepping for dinner the next night!) after being on my feet at that event for 13 hours, before my Dad and his family, packed into their new RV, rolled into town.  We got him for one night, and he requested his Mother’s Rhubarb Pie.

 Oh that pie.  What did I ever do before that pie… Want to make this pie?  Check out my previous post with recipe here.  And this time I made it with homemade pie crust, another first for me.  He said “his Mother never made it better” which I guess means he liked it.  🙂

This is my almost 7th grader, just after finding out she tied for first place in overall books read for the year with her class.  When I look at this picture I just want to wail…she is growing TOO damn fast.  It truly takes my breath away.  The kids last day of school was June 7th and took the day off to hang out with them.  They both had carnivals, and my daughter had a 6th grade graduation picnic that I helped with.  It was bittersweet watching her with her classmates.  I know that next year I won’t be able to volunteer like I had this past year, going on field trips etc.  I also know that Junior High is tough, not like grade school.  At the beginning of this year I felt like there was no way she would be ready to take on the challenges of 7th grade, but now, I feel differently.  My baby, growing up so fast

   

On Sunday June 10th, we went to our first ever Minnesota Twins game.  Yeah, I know, lame.  Lame that we hadn’t gone in the last two years!  I had bought tickets through the kids school and as luck would have it, ended up sitting right next to our close friends and their kids!  It was a HOT day and I worried about us actually making it through the whole game (at one point I looked over at my daughter, and if you have kids, you’ll know the look she gave me…something between “I am about to puke or I am about to pass out”)  It was a bit terrifying, but we persevered and made it through the game!  The pictures above are of my first ever Big Ginger a delicious drink made with 2 Gingers Whiskey & Ginger Ale (again lame, that I work at the hotel, connected to The Liffey and haven’t had one yet!) and the Nacho Helmet helped!  (seriously $14 well spent!)
  

June 12th brought another day I had been looking forward to for a long time, my #OinkOutings trip!  I had been so looking forward to my Oink Outing, not only because I love pigs…(loved them since Wilbur & love to eat them, in any form), but also because I had never been on a pig farm. I had no idea how pigs were birthed, raised etc. I’m happy to tell you that my expectations were met! I was well-educated that day & although it wasn’t the life I pictured, (Wilbur) I was happy to see the care taken by the Bode family both towards their pigs and staff that tends to them, 365 days a year. They are meticulous about the safety of those pigs, so that the end result, that bacon or pork loin you are cooking for your family is the best quality & safest it can be. Technology has changed pig farming; helping farmers raise pigs that are lean & delicious. Something dictated by consumer desire for leaner meat while still preserving the flavor.

It was a great day, getting to know everyone involved that advocates daily for the Pork producers of Minnesota. We started at Brackett’s Crossing where I met Chef Bryan who had cooked us delicious Pork Carnitas which we then had in that gorgeous taco shell pictured above.  From there we set out to Rebco Pork, the Bode family farm. Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!  We made a pit stop on our way down at Schmidt’s Meat Market were we toured their smoking facilities, sampled their delicious summer sausage & were treated to their award-winning Raspberry-Chipotle Bacon as a take home gift!  Stay tuned for a post later this month, where I share more pictures of our adventure along with some great recipes using my favorite meat, pork!

June 15th brought yet another birthday for me…sigh.  I am thirty-six this year.  LOL!  Really though, birthday’s aren’t a big deal for me.  I don’t expect to be lavished with gifts, but I do like to spend the day doing something I enjoy.  And, if you know me, that’s eating, drinking & shopping!  I decided We haven’t been to Stillwater in quite some time, so I thought, because it worked out that the hubby was on vacation that day, we were free!  I knew for quite some time that I wanted to check out a place called Swirl Wine Bar.  It is located in the sleepy and gorgeous little town of Afton, MN  So, that was stop number one.  There I purchased my first birthday present, a Redneck Wine Glass.  Yea, I know….don’t judge me.  I LOVE using jam jars to drink out of.  We were doing that before it was cool.  We also ordered a couple of glasses of wine, and three delicious appetizers which were devoured by the four of us.  I HIGHLY recommend making the trip and be sure to order the Grape & Brie Flatbread & the Truffle Fries…DELISH!
We then moved on to Stillwater, ducking into a few shops after strolling along the river.  One store we visited for another birthday treat was the Stillwater Olive Oil Co.  I love how these little shops have popped up all over and hadn’t actually been in one until that day!  They had many different varieties of Olive Oils, some infused and Vinegars-rich, syrupy aged Balsamic’s and a great variety of flavored white Balsamic’s.  We chose a bottle of Persian Lime infused Olive Oil and Sicilian Lemon white Balsamic vinegar.  The vinegar just exploded the second it hit my tongue… I thought it would be fun to start a hashtag to chronicle my day; you can find my posts by searching for #BirthdayNosh and the picture collage above was some of the deliciousness of the day!

Gorgeous Strawberries!  Ever since I was young, I wanted to learn to can.  It’s been one of those things on my food bucket list, that I have been scared to try.  All it really takes is patience and organization.  The Strawberry Jam I made this weekend was SO good!  Stay tuned for a future post on canning.  I plan to do a Rhubarb Beer Jam for my next ‘Beer for a Year‘ post, and just last week, we signed up for a CSA share from Natura Farms and they have Currents and Elderberries, so hopefully I will get the opportunity to use those in future canning endeavors.  I also plan this summer to make Chow-Chow; a pickled vegetable deliciousness I had back in Pennsylvania Amish country.  Again posts to follow…..

And finally, June 17th, Father’s Day…..

The hubby loves ribs, so I decided that I would break out the smoker and attempt to make a scrumptious dinner for him.  The weather forecasters said “a gorgeous day is on tap for Sunday” and guess what?  It rained on and off ALL day!  The picture above was taken by my daughter, as she came out laughing at me standing there with the umbrella.  Yes, I could have let it go, but seriously at one point it rained for over an hour.  I know this because I stood there that long…and for the first time ever, I was maintaining a consistent temp on the smoker and didn’t want to ruin that!  The things we do for love…..

Oh yeah, his present?  The gorgeous cookbookVolt Ink” written by brothers Michael & Bryan Voltaggio of Top Chef fame.  It was really a win-win gift. 🙂

So, there it is people.  The last crazy 20 days of my life.…hope you enjoyed following along.  I promise to get back on my regular schedule of posts, none of which hopefully will be this long!

Until then,

Shawn