Monday, August 31, 2009

Fresh Vegetables

Our garden is doing well, so that along with the CSA vegetables means lots of veggies at our house.

Here are a couple of our recent dinners.

Grilled Chicken Drumsticks with Grilled Zucchini and Caprese Salad.

Caprese Salad & Grilled Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken Bacon Club with Baked Tortilla Chips and Garden Fresh Vegetables

Chicken Sandwich

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chicken Gyros

Even after making pickles, we still had more cucumbers than we could eat, so I decided to make Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce. When I lived in Bloomington we used to go to Gyropolis every once in a while and they had really good gyros. So, considering Patrick thinks these are comparable to Gyropolis, I would say these are pretty darn good.


Chicken Gyros


For the tzatziki sauce:
16 oz. plain yogurt (not nonfat, if possible)
1/2 hothouse cucumber or 1 regular cucumber, peeled and seeded
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press (or finely minced)
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Extra virgin olive oil

For the chicken:
4 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 heaping tbsp. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
1 1/4 lbs. chicken pieces (I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)

To assemble:
Pita bread
Fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
Red onion, sliced thin
Feta Cheese

To make the tzatziki sauce, strain the yogurt using cheesecloth over a bowl. Let strain for several hours or overnight, if possible, to remove as much moisture as possible. Shred the cucumber. Wrap in a towel a squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Mix together the strained yogurt, shredded cucumber, garlic, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste, and lemon juice. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to meld.

To prepare the chicken, combine the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, yogurt, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Whisk together until mixed well. Add the chicken pieces to the bowl and mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour. Cook the chicken as desired, either in the skillet or with the broiler. Once the chicken is completely cooked through, transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Shred Chicken.

Heat pitas. Top with chicken, tzatziki sauce, diced tomatoes, sliced onions, lettuce and feta cheese. Serve immediately.

Source: Annie's Eats

Thursday, August 27, 2009

CSA Share Week #11

Our share this week was really big and the heaviest box this year. We have already eaten some of the apples, the muskmelon and one tomato. Those were all really good. I am going to make some type of vegetable lasagna with the eggplant and zucchini. The rest of the vegetables should be probably pretty easy to use up since we have dinner at Labor Day weekend with my dad's family.

This week’s box contains: Tomatoes, Muskmelon, Spinach, Arugula, Potatoes, Carrots, Onions, Zucchini, Cucumber, Eggplant, Celery, and Apples.

CSA Week 11

From left to right, top to bottom: apples, spinach, tomatoes, onions & muskmelon.

CSA Week 11 Vegetables

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Our 1st Anniversary

One year ago today, Patrick and I were married on a beautiful August day. We both had a great time celebrating with our family and friends. Here is a little look back at us on our wedding day. The photos are courtesy of JM Photography.

Wedding Pictures by JM Photography

Wedding Pictures 2 by JM Photography

For our wedding, our friend Heather gave us a bottle of wine to celebrate our one year anniversary. We jumped the gun and got out the bottle on the 22nd to celebrate. It went well with our lasagna and cheese bread.

Anniversary Wine Note

Anniversary Wine

On Sunday, our plan for the day was to pick up our complementary anniversary cake from Lund's, go on a bike ride around Lake Minnetonka and have a nice dinner at home. Here is our cake from Lund's, it was awesome as usual.

Anniversary Cake

On Saturday, I did a little research on our bike adventure and decided that we could handle a 33 mile bike ride. Here is the route we took. It wasn't too bad, but we took it pretty easy and made lots of stops on the way.

Lake Minnetonka Bike Ride

Here is a far away view of a sailboat race on Lake Minnetonka.

Lake Minnetonka

We were both exhausted when we got back, but we managed to ride our bikes to VonHansen's for a couple tender lean steaks. We already had the green beans and potatoes from our CSA and together all the ingredients made for a great anniversary dinner. We even had some wine our friend Ty had made a few months ago. And to top it off cake from Lund's.

Anniversary Dinner and Dessert

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pickle Making

We still had a lot of cucumbers from our garden and we got some more cucumbers in our CSA this week, so I decided I would try to make pickles. We haven't tried these yet, as we still have some of the refrigerator pickles from a couple weeks ago and those need to get eaten first.

Pickle Ingredients

Garlic Dill Pickles
Makes approximately 8 pints (total yield varies depending on size of cucumbers)

2 overflowing quarts of pickling cucumbers, sliced into fat coins or spears
4 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
6 tablespoons pickling salt
8 garlic cloves, peeled (1 per jar), smashed with chefs knife
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper per jar (2 teaspoons total)
1 teaspoon dill seed per jar (8 teaspoons total)
½ teaspoon black peppercorns per jar (4 teaspoons total)

Wash and slice the cucumbers.

In a large saucepot, combine vinegar, water and salt. Bring to a simmer.

Arrange jars on counter and dole out the spices to each. Pack the cucumber slices firmly into the jars. You don’t want to damage the cukes, but you do want them packed tight.

Pour the brine into the jar, leaving ½ inch headspace.

Wipe rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

When 10 minutes are up, promptly remove the jars from the pot and allow them to cool on the countertop. When the jars are cool, check the seals (by pushing/tapping on the lid).

Pickles can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year.

If you want to skip the boiling water process, these pickles are also wonderful as refrigerator pickles. Just pop the jars into the fridge once they’re cool.

Source: Food in Jars


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stuffed Zucchini & Cucumber Salad

We had a large zucchini that we recieved in our CSA and I had seen a recipe for stuffing a zucchini, so I thought this would be the perfect use for our large zucchini. We also had a ton of cucumbers that we picked early in the week, so cucumber salad was a great way to use a couple of those. We really liked the cucumber salad and assuming our cucumber plants keep producing, we will make it at least a few more times this season.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed Zucchini with Turkey Sausage Recipe
Serves 4

1 zucchini about 12 inches long, or 6 medium ones
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1 pound ground turkey
2 diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides, leaving shells about 1/4 inch thick. Reserve about half of the insides. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet on medium high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until soft. Add mushrooms and reserved zucchini insides, and sauté another 2 minutes. In a separate skillet heat a Tbsp of olive oil on medium high heat. Add the ground turkey. Lightly brown the turkey, stirring only occasionally. After the turkey browns on one side, stir it so that it has a chance to brown on other sides. Cook until the ground turkey is lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Stir in the onion and mushroom mixture from the other pan. Add the wine. Stir in tomato, basil and rosemary and cook 1 minute longer. Drain any excess fat. Remove mixture from heat and set it aside. When mixture has cooled, add cheese, egg, salt and pepper. Fill zucchini shells with mixture. Fill a baking pan with 1/4 inch of water. Place filled zucchini halves in pan and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, until golden brown. Remove zucchini from pan and serve while hot.

Source: Simply Recipes

Cucumber Salad

Cucumber Salad Recipe
Serves 2-4

1-2 large cucumbers peeled, quartered lengthwise, then sliced crosswise
1-2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, basil, or Thai basil*
2-3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss to coat. Serve immediately, or make ahead (up to a couple of hours) and chill.

Source: Simply Recipes

Friday, August 14, 2009

CSA Share Week #9

We got another share this week in our CSA. We know how to cook everything, now the big task will be using all of our produce. I think the plan is to make some pickles this weekend and hopefully some fresh salsa. That will use a big chunk of our garden harvest, but then we have the CSA vegetables to use too. We didn't get too much that will spoil fast, so will will probably just try to incorporate it into dinner as we go.

This week’s box contains: potatoes, onions, cucumbers, zucchini, carrots, celery, bok choy, green beans.

CSA Week 9

From left to right, top to bottom: summer squash, potatoes, carrots & onions.

Zucchini, Potatoes, Carrots & Onions

Vegetable Harvest

On Sunday when we got back from Grand Marais we checked out our garden and things were looking good. We picked a ton more cherry tomatoes and the cumcumbers were ready so we picked quite a few of those before they got too big. We also had some healthy romas and regular tomatoes. A lot of the bigger tomatoes have a blossom end rot problem so next summer we will have to add some type of calcium nitrate to the soil to hopefully elimate it.

Vegetable Harvest

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Grand Marais

Last weekend Patrick and I took a trip to Grand Marais, MN. On Friday when we were planning on leaving, it was pouring out and we almost decided not to go. We did end up going and we were both glad we did, it was nice to get away for the weekend.

Our first stop was in Duluth, the weather there was decent and Patrick had never been to Canal Park before so we did some exploring of the area. Our first stop was the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for truffles.

Truffles at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory

We found a cool alley to take pictures. Patrick took most of these while I took a few pictures with my phone and sent them to Luke, since he is moving to Duluth in a few weeks.

Canal Park Part II

Canal Park

Then we made our way down to the harbor to see if any ships were coming in. After we got back to the car we even took a ride over the lift bridge before we headed north again.

The Duluth Harbor

After all of our messing around all day, we barely made to the campground with enough time to set up the tent before it got dark. Since it was almost dark by the time the tent was up, we ended up eating pizza at Sven & Ole's for dinner. Below is our campsite.

Tent Site

Here are the pictures of the birch trees in our campsite.

Birch Trees

After sleeping most of the morning, we decided we needed some breakfast. We headed to the Whole Foods Coop in Grand Marais and got most of the things we needed for the rest of the weekend. When we got back to the campground we had our breakfast, oatmeal squares in cups. This brought us back to Alaska, although the cups were much easier to handle on the picnic table than they were riding in the motorhome.

Our Coop Finds & Breakfast

We were planning on going on a 7 mile hike in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area to the highest point in Minnesota, Eagle Mountain, but the weather looked pretty iffy, so we stayed around the campground instead.

Hiking Near the Campground

Sweetheart Trail Details

After the hike, we gathered wood for a campfire. Patrick built quite the elaborate stack of twigs and paper to get the fire started and by the time we started the fire he could hardly find the McDonald's bag to light.

Building a Fire

Even though we didn't go on the hike, we still wanted to do a little exploring on the Gunflint Trail. Just as we were about to turn around and go back to the campground, we saw this sign for a trail. The sign said it was 3.2km and we estimated that would be just over a mile, I guess it is more like two miles. That wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't a mosquito infested trail intended for cross country skiing. The first 10 minutes were fine, but the last 20 minutes were spent walking as fast as we could just to get to back to the car.

Hiking the Mosquito Trail

When we got back we made dinner, our standard chicken shish kabobs. Here is Patrick putting the vegetables on the skewers.

Shish Kabobs

And here is our chipmunk friend and I supervising the making of dinner.

Supervising the cooking

When we woke up Sunday morning, it was pretty foggy. Here is the Grand Marais lighthouse from the campground.

Grand Marais

After we packed up the tent, we headed to Gooseberry Falls and as you can see the weather changed dramatically in only a few hours.

Gooseberry Falls

After Gooseberry, we stopped in Duluth for a late lunch at Famous Dave's and a Rocky Road Caramel Apple at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.

Duluth on Sunday

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Cooking Tools

Soon, our tomato plants will be growing out of control. We won't be able to eat the tomatoes fast enough, so my mom gave me some of her extra canning jars, so we can preserve some of the harvest. Last summer, I made salsa with some tomatoes from the Farmer's Market. This year, I plan on making, salsa, stewed tomatoes, pickles and maybe some spaghetti sauce. I ordered the rest of my canning supplies online, including a how to book, so hopefully I will have time to read up before the tomatoes are ready.

Canning Jars

A few of the jars still had labels on them from the last time that my Grandma Traxler canned tomatoes back in 1995. This made me wish that my grandma could see my garden and see the things I am canning today. My grandpa would always pick the vegetables, he even weeded my mom's garden just so he could share in some of the fresh produce, and my grandma would do all of the canning. I remember they used to have a small cellar in their basement where they kept the canned goods. I never really appreciated this type of home grown food when I was younger, we would just be thrilled when grandma made us a frozen pizza, but as I get older I am really growing to appreciate my those small things.

Grandma's Stewed Tomatoes

And to completely switch gears, my new favorite cooking tool is my new iPhone. I no longer have to lug my laptop into the kitchen or print off all the recipes I want to make, I am just bookmarking them and then when I need them they are easy to find. The best part is my phone takes up little space on the kitchen counter, so it can be sitting with all of the ingredients and not be in the way. I also love the grocery store app, where I can add grocery items and check them off at the store. Patrick and I can even sync our lists so if he adds something it automatically adds it to my list.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Zucchini Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

We got more zucchini in our CSA before we could even eat the stuff from two weeks before so I decided to make some muffins. And I knew that unless they had some type of frosting on them, Patrick wouldn't eat too many of them so I decided to frost most of them with cream cheese frosting. These were really good zucchini muffins, I added mini chocolate chips and it was just the right amount of chocolate to make them even better.

Zucchini Muffins with Cream Cheese Frosting

Zucchini Bread/Muffins
Adapted from several sources
Yield: 2 loaves or approximately 24 muffins

3 eggs
1 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries, raisins or chocolate chips or a combination thereof (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans, liberally. Alternately, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk. Mix in oil and sugar, then zucchini and vanilla. Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt, as well as nuts, chocolate chips and/or dried fruit, if using. Stir this into the egg mixture. Divide the batter into prepared pans. Bake loaves for 60 minutes, plus or minus ten, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Muffins will bake far more quickly, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Source: Smitten Kitchen

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 (4 ounce) package cream cheese (low fat tastes the same as regular cream cheese)
1/4 cup butter
2 cups (1/2 pound) powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the cream cheese and butter in a small mixing bowl and soften in the microwave. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and mix well. If the frosting becomes too thick, add a little milk.

Source: Annie's Eat

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Lentil Joes & Coleslaw

Last winter I found a recipe for Lentil Burgers and made them when Patrick was out of town for work. I really enjoyed them, but I wasn't sure if Patrick would like them. There was one leftover when he got home and he really liked it so we have made them a couple times since then. We have also made lentil tacos, so when we saw this recipe for lentil joes, a vegetarian sloppy joe, we knew we would like it. This meal used a lot of our CSA vegetables, kale in the lentil joes and cabbage, carrots & radishes in the coleslaw.

Coleslaw & Lentil Joes

Sloppy Lentils
(4 servings)

1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp dried Italian seasoning (or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs if you have them)
1 15-oz. can no-salt added tomato sauce
7 oz. water
1 large handful of kale, sliced thinly
½ cup dried French green lentils
2 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the oil, onion, green pepper and garlic in a large saucepan. Cook and stir the vegetables over medium heat until they are tender, but not brown. Add the Italian seasoning and cook, stirring for about 1 minute.

Add the tomato sauce, water, kale, lentils, soy sauce, Worcestershire and vinegar to the pot. Bring everything to a boil. Lower the heat; cover and simmer the lentils for 45 minutes. Lentils will be firm and will hold their shape.

Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper. If desired, add 1 tablespoon ground flax seed to serve as a thickening agent. Serve on a whole grain pita, toast, or whole grain sandwich rolls.

Source: Bite of Minnesota


3 cups cabbage
sliced carrots
sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Thinly slice of cabbage, add sliced carrots, radishes, crasins & sunflower seeds. Mix sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt until the sugar dissolves. Add oil. Mix well and add to cabbage. Toss and let sit for a while. Toss again. Taste and adjust the oil and vinegar.

Source: Riverbend CSA Newsletter