Saturday, October 24, 2009

What's a wedding without locally grown flowers?

John and I love the farmer's market. In college, we went to the Eau Claire farmer's market. It was small at first, but we wandered the two aisles of stands over and over, making friends with the vendors. In fact, after an almost break-up, we ended out at the farmer's market together again, because it was still our favorite thing to do. By the end of that Saturday morning visit, we had fallen in love again.

The Farmer's Market, being our absolute favorite place, was something we wanted to include in our wedding through the food and flower choices (in fact we often talked about getting married at the St. Paul Farmer's market). The day before the wedding, we went to the St. Paul Farmer's market and bought most the flowers for our wedding. I spent most of the day before cutting and arranging those flowers while John chopped the fresh vegetables we had purchased for the Groom's Dinner.

Here are a sampling of the flowers:

For the table decorations, I planned on floating peonies in beautiful bowls.

John's Aunt who helped set-up (thank you so much) the reception took it to another level by combining other beautiful flowers with the burgundy peonies.

Vases of beautiful fresh flowers in a variety of colors were placed around the reception hall. Lillies, peonies and sunflowers were all in season.
The sunflowers were stunning. I was surprised to see them so early in the summer.

I filled six urns with white peonies with pink streaks and white and pink snapdragons (my father's favorite flower for decorations near the chuppah. My mother always loves the smell of eucalyptis (it reminds her of growing up in California) so I made sure the chuppah decorations included it.

We also got married in front of a beautiful garden at my temple. You really can't get anymore local then using plants while they are growing in the earth.

We had a beautiful wedding day. Though the flowers may be details that not many of the guests noticed, for us they were something that made the day truly ours. Flowers from the farmer's market are also a steal. We would have never been able to afford a flower filled wedding without the incredible deals we got. If you are considering an even while flowers are in season, I would really encourage you to pick up the flowers at the St. Paul Farmer's Market. The selection and arrangements will surpass your wildest dreams.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Purple Tomatillos Salsa

You eat with your eyes first, so presentation is key to the level of enjoyment you have when you eat. When food is colorful, you will feel more satisfied with what you eat (and it will give you a bigger following at potlucks).

Salsa is an easy way to create colorful and delicious food. It is a healthy condiment that will enhance many dishes. You can't go wrong when making it either. Use what's on hand, and as long as it is fresh it will create a tasty salsa combination. Here's a preview of the final result:

8 purple Tomatillos (or regular green ones...we were just excited to find purple ones at the FM)
3 cloves Garlic
3 tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 1/2 jalapeno peppers
2 purple bell peppers
1 chipotle pepper
1 wax pepper

1 Tbsp kosher salt
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp Cumin
2 Tbsp lime juice

Chop all ingredients (exempting the already small ones such as salt and spices) finely. Combine all ingredients in bowl and serve. Please do not cut off part of the tip of your finger (as John did) while chopping with the fancy new knives you received as a wedding present because it is gross.

Here's the salsa topping some filling and delicious nachos/taco salad:

To make this, we put down a layer of corn chips then fresh lettuce/greens, vegetarian black been refried beans, some cooked chicken or seasoned ground beef (optional because you already have protein from the beans, sliced tomatoes, a sprinkle of cheese, a large helping of the tomatillo salsa and some slices of avacado. This will be the most filling nacho/taco salad you have ever had and it is relatively healthy too. The tomatillos have less mosture then tomatoes, so you don't run the risk of the salsa making your chips s or lettuce soggy. Best of all it is colorful and full of delicous frest flavors.

The uses for this salsa is endless. Try it on eggs, top baked potatoes with it or eat it plain. We love to stuff omlettes full of it or use it for a mexican flavored pizza. Enjoy!

Okra Tomato Corn Soup

Longing for the okra of his youth, my husband made this Cajun flavored okra tomato corn soup.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
3 clove garlic, minced
3 rib celery, sliced
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups diced fresh tomatoes
10-15 okra
3 cobs worth of corn kernels (cut fresh off the cob)
3 teaspoon Cajun seasoning (we use Penzy's Cajun Seasoning)
dash freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste


In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil and butter over medium-low heat.

Add onion, garlic, and celery; sauté, stirring, until celery is tender.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, sliced okra, corn kernels, Cajun seasoning, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until okra is tender.

Add salt to taste.

Okra is a fun ingredient that isn't used much in the Midwest. I love that okra has a star shape when sliced.

This Weekend's Garden Harvest

The harvest from our garden was plentiful on Sunday:

Monday, August 31, 2009

Grilling Eggplant

Eggplant can be delicous when made on the grill.

Slice the eggplant 1/8 - 1/4" thick. Brush with olive oil. Place on a medium hot grill. Flip after about 4 minutes. Grill other side for about three minutes.

The slices should have grill marks and be soft.

This recipe is so simple that there just isn't much to write about it.

We've used grilled eggplant as a side dish, or as the "meat" in sandwiches, with slices of fresh tomato, basil and a pesto mayonnaise.

Here is a healthy meal we enjoyed with tasty grilled eggplant as the main course. Pasta with pesto and a fresh green salad with Italian dressing make wonderful accompaniments:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Purple Things at the Farmer's Market

I love colorful food. When a dish contains a variety of colors it is more fun to eat and seems to taste better. And why not? Don't we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouth. I really like to include some purple into a dish. Here are some exciting purple things at the farmer's market this Saturday.

No purple carrots this week at the farmer's market (see this post) but these some of are the things we found in purple varieties last weekend.







Dragon Beans:




My husband and I love cooking with these colorful vegetables.

I didn't want this to be a monochromatic post (you should eat a rainbow of colors) so I decided to add some orange cauliflower:

Cheesy Zucchini Saute

This recipe is the best way to use up a lot of zucchini quickly. It makes a good meal on it's own or could be a delicious side dish.

1 small red onion
3 tablespoons of butter
3 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
2 eggs (if serving as main course, if it is a side then leave out this ingredient)
black pepper to taste
8 basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese
2 diced fresh tomato

1. Dry shredded zucchini by dabbing with a paper towel. I didn't do this and the cooking was complicated by too much moisture. It didn't get as crispy as I would have liked.

2. In a large skillet, saute onion in butter until crisp and tender.

3. Stir in zucchini, salt, black pepper and garlic. Cook and stir for 5-7 minutes until zucchini is crisp and tender.

4. Crack 2 eggs over the dish. Allow to cook slightly. Stir into zucchini mixture and allow to cook for 2 minutes. You may want to leave this ingredient out if this will be served as a side dish rather then a main course.

5. Top with tomato, basil and cheese.

6. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes until all the cheese in melted.

Dinner is served:

You can really play around with this recipe. I really liked it, but have a few variations in mind that might be good. For example, topping it off with some bread crumbs during step 5 might give it a nice texture and would taste delicious on the warm tomatoes. It would also be really good if sour cream, black olives and salsa were added before it was done cooking for a tex-mex flavor.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Couscous Salad

Couscous is a miracle grain. It cooks in 5 minutes, taste good as left overs and is exceedingly versatile*. Even on a hot day, the required preparation (boil 1 cup of water with butter, take off heat, pour in couscous and have sit covered for 5 minutes) is unlikely to raise the temperature of your house.

The ingredients to this dish are also totally negotiable. All quantities should be adapted to adapted to taste. This quantity serves 2-4 people.

Suggested Ingredients:
1 cup of whole wheat couscous
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
2 cup(s) fresh baby spinach leaves (may want to rip up slightly)
1/4-1/2 cup basil leaves ripped
1 can chickpeas (drained)
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon virgin olive oil
1-2 pinches of red pepper flakes
1 dash of salt

1. Make Couscous: In a large sauce pan combine 1 cup water, 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Pour 1 cup of dry couscous into the sauce pan. stir well. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork your done. You will be shocked at how easy this was if you have never made couscous from a box before.

2. Pour warm couscous over raw spinach and basil leaves. Stir. The warm couscous will slightly wilt the leaves for you.

3. Add in tomatoes, olive oil and chickpeas. Then season to taste with other ingredients.

This dish is a new favorite on our table and disappears fast. My dear husband likes that it includes chickpeas for protein and a variety of different vegetables. We typically serve it with a cucumber/purple pepper/tomato salad (tossed with a little pepper and balsamic vinegar) as we have been trying to fill 75% of our plate with vegetables. They go well together.

Dinner: A serving of steak, couscous salad and cucumber salad.

* My research (Wikipedia) has shown that couscous is able to cook so quickly because it is sold in a processed "minute rice" form. However, I contend that unlike minute rice, it taste very good as an instant. This could clearly be a result of my lack of experience with the long cook couscous.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Fajita Scrambler

When we host party in the summer, we usually serve fajitas. We love the fresh grilled taste of fajitas. With lots of choices this build your own type meal leave all our guests happy, whether vegetarian or carnivore. It is also an easy meal to build. You simply grill peppers, onions, steak/chicken. Serve with tortillas, black beans, cilantro, Spanish rice, salsa and lots of guacamole and you have a feast. However, we tend to make too much and have to try out different things to use up the left overs. This is one thing recipe I threw together breakfast the day after hosting a group of friends for lunch. It is a left over thing so feel free to throw in whatever you have.

Ingredients (serves 2):
2 tortillas
3 eggs
1 small splash of milk
1/4 cup fat free cottage cheese
1/8 cup mozzarella
grilled peppers, onions and steak (as much or as little as you want/have)
3 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup black beans (drained...minimal extra liquid)

1. Beat eggs in small bowl and add small splash of eggs.

2. Pour egg mixture in a hot skillet. Stir as you usually would when making moist scrambled eggs (we are not going for light and fluffy here).

3. As the mixture cooks add the left over fajita ingredients, cottage cheese, mozzarella, black pepper and black beans.

4. When the scrambled eggs are cooked to your liking (should be moist, but no longer liquid, scoop onto the tortillas (warm tortillas slightly in microwave first) and breakfast is served!

You may want to serve with any leftover salsa, guacamole, or grilled tomatoes.

This was a big hit with my husband (though anything that can be labeled a 'breakfast burrito' tends to appeal to him). The cottage cheese gives it a different texture then your typical scrambled eggs, but give it a try. It gives a creamy and cheesy flavor without all the fat of other cheeses and the added protein really helps this breakfast stick with you on a busy day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tomatoes have arrived!

It has been a cool summer, which has been great for us (no AC) but has lead to sparse yields from our 15 tomato plants.

We've been able to harvest some cherry and grapes daily for the past month.

We even got a occasional larger tomato. So exciting that we had to take pictures of them.

But mostly, we had a whole lot of these:

Well, we had a warm weekend and now we've got tomatoes. We've got heirloom and yellow and beefsteak, oh my! We've got a wide variety (can you see the purple ones...fancy shmancy):

You may ask, "now that you've got all these tomatoes, what are you going to do now?" We've got all sorts of plans for salads, caprese, fresh salsa, stuffed tomatoes and bruschetta. When you've got tomatoes, the possibilities are endless and delicious.