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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mill Valley Kitchen Dinner and Yogurt Lab Dessert... Perfection




Last night, my best gal pal and I went out for dinner to the Mill Valley Kitchen, a new restaurant off of Excelsior and France avenue in St. Louis Park. The restaurant is named after Mill Valley California which is located about 14 miles north of San Francisco and known for its wealthy residents, beautiful landscape and local food scene. Mill Valley Kitchen in St. Louis Park tries to recreate the atmosphere and cuisine of Northern California by incorporating fresh design, white coffered ceilings, soft brown and green decor and local organic ingredients. The space is beautiful and light, much like their fare. The most shocking part about their menu, is the calorie, protein, carb and fat content displayed underneath the menu item. Not too many restaurants could openly share calorie content with their customers without shocking them into running out the door and straight into the gym! Most everything on the menu is under 500 calories and packs major health points. For my dinner, I ordered a roasted grape salad with mixed greens, goat cheese, sunflower seeds and red onion, tossed in a light vinaigrette, which was fantastic. The grapes added a nice sweet note next to the tangy goat cheese and sharp red onion. As a side, I ordered sesame carrots, sliced into a french fry shape and baked with sesame oil and vinegar, adding an aromatic smokey grilled flavor. I felt satisfied after my light meal, which only amounted to about 400 calories. My friend and I are both ga-ga for frozen yogurt, so after dinner we ran down the road a bit to the new Yogurt-Lab in Calhoun Commons. I was encouraged to try the bazaar combination of mascarpone yogurt with balsamic glaze and strawberries, which to my surprise, was unbelievably delicious. I am looking forward to trying the Mill Valley Kitchen as well as the Yogurt-lab another time! 


Click here for a link to the Mill Valley Kitchen Website

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vegan Vegetable and Tofu Curry with Black Rice


For dinner tonight, Adam and I had our vegan landlords over for an Indian meal. I am not accustomed to cooking vegan, but luckily, Indian cusine lends itself well for meatless dishes without substituting flavor or nutrients.  For my curry dish, I used a butter chicken paste (sans chicken!), coconut milk and yellow curry sauce. I added fresh ginger, fresh garlic and cilantro to elevate my fresh vegetables. As for veg and protiens, I used cubed yams, pea pods, red pepper, broccoli, tofu and fresh peas (really anything will taste amazing dunked into a delicious curry suace). At the bottom of the curry, I spooned in black rice, which added great texture and color. Curries can seem overwhelming to prepare becuause of their endless roster if ingredients, so I prefer to take a minor shortcut by usung a pre-packaged curry paste and doctoring it up with fresh ingredients such as cilantro, ginger, onion and garlic. I guarantee, it'll turn out delicious- just don't forget to add coconut milk to cool down the heat and of course taste your sauce as you go. Please share your curry recipes by sending me a comment below this post. Cheers to good eats and a lovely summer to come!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Salads


Dinner last night was a simple chicken salad amped up by my favorite additions, salty pretzels and blue cheese grumbles. I had some extra chicken drummies in the refrigerator, so I decided to make up my own sweet, spicy and tangy marinade/glaze for my chicken. When I was a kid, my mother would always make "honey chicken drummies" for my siblings and I. I remember vividly the smell of sweet chicken baking in the oven from my upstairs bedroom...I can still smell the chicken to this day! My mother's recipe, consisted of brown sugar, salt and butter (to which us kids re-named honey chicken due to its sweetness). Based on this memory of my mother's chicken drummies, I tried to create an elevated version of this sweet treat. Follow my recipe below, and create your own food memory. Toss the chicken into a salad as I have done, or eat right off the bone with a side of veg or rice. 

"Not your Mother's Chicken" Sweet & Spicy Chicken Drummies
(serves 2)
4-6 chicken drummies
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/4-1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper 
1 tbsp butter 
1 tbsp minced garlic 
1 tbsp hoisin sauce

Preheat oven to 425. Whisk all ingredients together until sugar is dissolved. Place thawed chicken in a ziplock bag, pouring 1/3 of marinade over chicken. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. With remaining marinade, heat small saucepan over medium heat and add marinade. Allow marinade to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce is thickened. Take your chicken out of the ziplock and arrange on a baking sheet, removing excess marinade from bag. Bake at 425 for 30-45 minutes. Three times throughout the cooking process, brush reduced marinade over chicken, turning to coat. 






Monday, April 16, 2012

Seared Swordfish with Avocado Relish and Roasted Broccoli Spears


Last night I made a delicious swordfish and broccoli dinner. Swordfish has recently become one of my favorite type of fish because it tastes and has the texture of a meatier fish, often considered the steak of the sea. Swordfish can stand up to bold flavors and holds up on the grill. For the broccoli, I sliced the floret into larger pieces, utilizing the stalk, which should never be overlooked or thrown out. I blanched the broccoli and then threw it onto the oven to crisp up. See recipe below.


Seared Swordfish with Avocado Relish and Roasted Broccoli Spears 
(serves 2)
2 sashimi grade swordfish steaks, thawed
1 bottle Soyaki sauce from Trader Joes


Relish:
1 large avocado 
1 lime 
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup minced cilantro 
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp cumin
Olive oil 
Pinch salt, pepper 


Broccoli:
I large broccoli floret
1/2 cup diced scallion
1/2 cup Soyaki sauce 
Olive oil 


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place swordfish in ziplock bag and pour soyaki sauce over. Refrigerate for at least and hour. Cut broccoli into large stalks and place in boiling water to blanch, until slightly tender, then drain. To prep your relish, mix diced avocado and remaining ingredients into a bowl, adding lime juice and olive oil until reaching your desired consistency. Set aside. To finish broccoli, place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 10-15 minutes until tops are crisped a bit. While broccoli roasts, place soyaki in small sauce pan and heat until reduced, and thick. Pour reduced soyaki over roasted broccoli. When fish comes out of the marinade, heat a large skillet over med/high heat and drizzle with olive oil. Sear Fish on both sides until browned and medium rare. Do not overcook! To plate, scoop the avocado relish over your fish, with a lime wedge. Place crispy broccoli on the plate and drizzle with your soyaki reduction and your diced scallion. Enjoy!





Sunday, April 15, 2012

Frozen Yogurt has Arrived....




MY BOWL: CAKE BATTER, CALIFORNIA TART, SOUR WORMS,
PRETZELS, MOCHI ... DELISH

Finally.... the day has arrived that us cold blooded Minnesotans get to enjoy the sweetness of self-serve yogurt!!! I may be the only one jumping for joy now, but just wait until you try this delicacy first hand and then you'll know how I feel ;). The East and West coasts have been going bananas over this stuff for years and now entrepreneurs have finally caught on to the craze in the good 'ole midwest. Popular coastal chains such as Pinkberry, Menchies, and Red Mango all share the a similar concept of self-service, fun environment, extensive variety and of course a healthier option to ice cream. Believe it or not, frozen yogurt on average packs in half the calories of traditional ice cream! 
I became a huge fan of these places while vacationing in California a few years ago. I first discovered that yogurt had arrived in the Twin Cities this winter while passing by a newly opened Menchies in Highland, then discovered the Yogurt Lab in Calhoun Commons, Tutti Frutti in Maple Grove and Freestyle in St. Paul as featured in my blog. That's four new shops in the past year... amazing :) These shops work by charging the customer by weight of their yogurt concoction. I must admit, it is easy to get carried away adding mochi, candies, fruit and other such yummies to your bowl making this treat fairly pricey. My husband and I are trying to buy a house in St. Paul very close to Freestyle, which of course makes me very happy. What I like about Freestyle, is that it's not a franchise or chain as is run by a native Minnesotan. The atmosphere inside the shop is beachy and fun with bold red surf boards for tables and brightly colored walls. The flavor and topping options are extensive, allowing every taste bud equal opportunity satisfaction! 


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Confetti Soup



This month has been absolute madness. On top of trying to finish out school, work, and band obligations, my husband and I have been in the process of trying to buy a house! So... if you are concerned my blogging has decreased... you know why. In attempt to salvage some sort of dinner a few nights ago, I threw almost everything in my kitchen into this "confetti soup", which surprisingly turned out delicious. The roster of ingredients included, chickpeas, fava beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, red cabbage, carrots, bacon, chicken broth, tomato paste, and white wine vinegar. In a nut shell, this has been my life lately, a confetti of this and that all pilled into one crazy delicious stew I like to call life ;). 

Gefilte Fish... Wah?





Passover dinner this year came and went as many do, firing up the grill for meaty steaks, matzo, a prayer or two and some pleasant dinner conversation about the woes of the world... Just kidding! This years passover was a bit rebellious, for one we forgot the seddar plate, the manual, and the setting this year was up at the cabin instead of home, which I must admit was quite nice. Getting to the important piece here, WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GEFILTE FISH? It has been a passover tradition to dish out this jarred, bazaar looking product, we refer to as fish, but WHY? I learned that gefilte fish is Yiddish for, "stuffed fish." The dish is a Jewish tradition and is made from poaching ground fish such as carp, whitefish or pike. The ground fish is then pressed and formed into fish patties if you will. Post WWII, gefilte began to make it's way into grocery stores in jars, for longer shelf life and lower cost. This fish is often served during passover, because it is not considered to be subject to the "evil eye." Furthermore, fish is not considered as milk or meat, and according to kosher law, it may be eaten more often (Wikipedia). For our dinner, my mother bought the jarred fish and doctored it up with fresh vegetables and broth. To be honest, I actually like this weird stuff... and wouldn't ever consider banishing it from the passover table :)





Monday, April 2, 2012

Peninsula Malaysian Cuisine

007 Popiah 
Open Kitchen 


043 Sambal Sotong 


119 Green Curry Vegetables

104 Spicy Golden Tofu 

175 Seafood Chow Fun

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of dining at Peninsula Malaysian with friends. I have dined at Peninsula a handful of times in the past and have always admired the variety and authenticity of their food. Malaysian cuisine is notable in that it represents many ethnic groups resulting in influences of Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and Thai cuisine. This variety is obvious in their extensive four page menu. Peninsula is located on 26th and Nicollet on Eat Steet in Minneapolis. Peninsula's chef, Tong spent 15 years cooking at a well known Malaysian restaurant in New York City where he honed his skills before beginning his Minneapolis career. For an appetizer we ordered Popiah, a Malaysian egg roll filled with tofu, bean sprouts, and jicama drizzled with oyster sauce. The roll was laking in flavor and texture. I would have liked to see the addition of fresh herbs or a crunchy element to liven up the dish. Next to arrive was the Sambal Sotong, a squid dish with fish sauce and shrimp paste. Our waiter warned us before ordering that this dish was quite spicy and fish sauce heavy. Personally, I love fish sauce as well as spice and was not put off by his warning. When the plate arrived, I could smell the potency of the fish sauce from the table... he was not joking! However, when I began to taste the squid, the fish sauce was much milder than I had expected based on its smell. I enjoyed the hint of salty fish sauce in the back of my tongue while flavorful chili and spices could be tasted upon first bite. Next, we received the Vegetable Green Curry, Golden Tofu and Chow Fun. By a sweeping win, my favorite dish was the Golden Tofu, which we later found out from our waiter is used with homemade pressed tofu in house. The tofu spice blend tasted similar to Siracha hot sauce and packed a punch of heat. The selling point to this dish is the play on texture from crispy on the outside to soft and airy on the inside. The Green Curry dish was on the milder side, which helped us save our palates from burning off :) I enjoyed the curry and would definitely order it again. The Seafood Chow Fun came with an incredibly liquid sauce, also on the milder side. I would compare the sauce to what you'd find in an egg drop soup, thick and starchy. I loved the chow fun noodles and seafood, yet was not a huge fan of the corn starch rich sauce glazed over the dish. We all left the restaurant with burning tongues and contented full tummies. We had a few hits and a few misses, but overall a wonderfully flavorful and unique meal. Peninsula will still remain on my top Minneapolis restaurant lists!


Click here for a link to their website 

Crispy Kale and Noodle Bowl


As you may know from reading my blog, I love kale, especially crispy. This weekend I whipped together a quick noodle bowl using a thick flour noodle, "Ho Fun" and pan searing kale over high heat with sesame oil. The sauce for the noodles was a combination of soy, hoison, garlic, sugar and rice wine vinegar. I pan fried the noodles with sesame oil and egg in a hot wok after cooking the noodles first al dente. The egg adds a nice texture and flavor to any stir-fry. You can make fabulous noodle bowls at home with a bit of imagination. Try your hand at a noodle bowl and send me your photo to be featured on my blog!