Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Freekah Good and Apple Squares

At this year's Farm Fest at Valley Natural Foods co-op I tried many new products, and one was freekah.  It was freekah good!  It is ancient young green wheat that is roasted, and has a nutty and chewy texture, kind of like a cross between brown rice and bulgur.  I went home right away and made their Asian Green Beans and Freekeh Salad, which is delicious.  I decided to whip up a quick lunchtime meal that I can portion out for the rest of the week, and this simple dish is quite tasty.

Roasted Squash Freekah

1 bag of rosemary and sage freekah
1 butternut squash
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1.  Dice the butternut squash into little bite-sized pieces.  Arrange on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, pepper, and 2 cloves of garlic minced. Roast at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.
2.  Prepare freekah according to directions. (I used chicken stock to give it even more flavor.)
3. Once freekah is done, toss in cranberries to soften with the heat of the grain.  Add squash when done, and mix.
4. Once room temperature feel free to add 1-2 tablespoons of EVOO, if you feel it is dry.  I didn't this time.  Enjoy for lunches throughout the week.

This past weekend I also made Splendid Table's Custardy Apple Squares.  It was a nice variation from the apple crisp we have been making, and is heavenly a la mode!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stuffed Pork Chops and Polenta

Thank goodness two of our fall favorites are low in potassium and phosphorus for a renal diet: pork and apples!  This recipe turned out to be pretty tasty, even minus any salt.  Of course, if you are not on a low sodium diet, feel free to season with salt.

Stuffed Pork Chops


  • 3 tablespoons chopped onion
  • 2 medium Haralson apples, diced finely (or other hard and tart apple)
  • 2 teaspoons minced parsley
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 4 pork chops (I used boneless)
  • In a pan with a tablespoon of butter saute apples, onion, and caraway until tender.  Remove from heat and add in parsley and a little pepper (and salt if you can have it).
  • Cut a pocket in each chop by making a horizontal slit through the meat, but don't puncture the other sides.  
  • Heat a large pan with 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Stuff each pork chop with the apple mixture and secure closed with two toothpicks each. Season with pepper (and salt, if you can).
  • Searing each side of the pork chop in the oil, about 2-3 minutes a side.
  • Transfer pork chops to a baking dish if your pan can't go in the oven.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.  Use a meat thermometer and take the pork chops out of the oven when it reads 145 degrees.
  • Cover with foil and let rest at least 5 minutes.  Remove toothpicks and enjoy!
I served them with polenta sprinkled with a little bit of Parmesan, and green beans.  

Renal Diet: Support FDA in Nutrition Labeling Changes

As many of you know Charlie is in kidney failure, so that means we are fallowing a renal diet. Renal diets turn everything you know about healthy eating upside down.  No more whole grains, rather white bread, white rice, and pasta are your friends. You have to be super strict about your phosphorus, potassium, and sodium.  Everything has some amount of phosphorus and potassium.  We are really tired of conventional stores and where all the places potassium is hidden.  If you don't buy organic meat, go look at the wrapper.  I can almost promise that they inject that pork chop with potassium and sodium to make the shelf life longer, and more appealing in color.  Now we are member-owners of Valley Natural Foods, and buy most of our items there, as most items do not have added potassium.  Please join me in supporting the FDA in changing their nutrition labels to require manufactures to put in the amount of potassium.  This is not only important to those with kidney issues, but heart as well!

Monday, October 13, 2014


This was a pretty tasty quick-fix meal.  You can get it on the table in 30 minutes flat, and is a great way to use up those last fall veggies from the garden before the frost hits.  This is an adaptation from the Curry Grilled Vegetables with Chickpeas and Creamy Polenta. Sorry I didn't get a nice picture before I ate all of it, so you have a picture of my lunch leftovers.



  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 small summer squash, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 teaspoons curry power
  • 1-2 teaspoons  zatar seasoning
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • cilantro or parsley chopped
  • feta or cheese on hand
  1. Bring water and broth to a boil.  Stir in polenta; cook until polenta begins to thicken. Cover and reduce heat to lowest setting.  Simmer polenta for 25 minutes, stirring and scraping the pan bottom and sides every 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter. 
  2. Over medium heat heat olive oil, sauté summer squash, red pepper, onion and garlic cloves.  Once softened add spices and add chickpeas until warmed. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice.
  3. Spoon polenta into a bowl, top with vegetables, sprinkle with cheese and herbs.  Enjoy!
  4. Since we are trying to reduce our sodium, I did now add salt, and I rinsed the chickpeas and soaked them in water while the polenta was cooking. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Lunches for the week: Sweet and sour chicken with spicy green beans and cauliflower

Thanks to all my family and friends for suggestions last weekend of what to make for dinner to have leftovers for lunches this week.  I have lots of ideas for next week, but decided to go with my craving for sweet and sour chicken.  

We really like this low calorie, and relatively low sugar recipe that I think I found in Cooking Light, but am not finding it online offhand.  I use whatever veggies I have on hand (lots during farmers market season), and usually add a can of diced pineapple and add the juice to the sauce, as I think it needs more sauce liquid than it calls for frequently.  

We also tried the Sriracha Cauliflower by the White of Rice Couple, which Panhia and Dave would love.  Charlie didn't care for it at all, but he isn't a big cauliflower fan.  I would make it again, but it is pretty spicy. Oh, when I make it again I will cut back the oil to only 1/4 a cup, if that.

We also made the Szechuan Green Beans by the Heavy Table that I highlighted before.  They are my fav, since you don't have to fry them in oil, you just broil them.

Sriracha Roasted Cauliflower
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (use Tamari Soy sauce for Gluten Free)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar (use distilled white vinegar for Gluten Free)
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce, homemade or regular
  • 1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds / 910g), cut into 3⁄4-inch (2-cm) florets
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a sheet pan or line it with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and sriracha sauce. Whisk well.
  3. Gently add the cauliflower to the bowl and coat with the marinade.
  4. Arrange the cauliflower on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Turn the cauliflower over and roast for another 10 minutes, or until tender.
  5. Garnish with the cilantro and serve.
Yield: Serves 4
Total Time: 30 min
This recipe is from our cookbook, Bountiful. Since everyone's spice preference varies, make sure to adjust the amount of sriracha sauce to your desired level. It it over the top excellent with a homemade sriracha sauce, however it is still great with the regular store bought variety.

Szechuan Green Beans
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 4 servings
Cook Time: 15 minutes
  •  1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (less if you prefer a gentler heat)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (use the edge of a teaspoon to scrape off the skin) and grated
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the highest position and preheat the oven to broil. On a rimmed baking sheet, add the green beans. Broil until the beans are almost tender and are speckled with black spots, rotating the baking sheet halfway through cooking, about 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and turn the beans out into a large bowl. Set aside.
  1. In a small skillet set over medium-low heat, add the oil. Once the oil starts to shimmer add the red pepper flakes, stirring occasionally, and cooking until they turn a slightly darker shade of red, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and immediately add the sherry vinegar. Swirl the skillet, and then stir in the soy sauce.
  1. Pour the garlic-vinegar sauce over the green beans. Toss well. Place the ginger pulp in your palm and squeeze the ginger over the beans to extract the juice; discard the pulp. Toss the ginger juice with the beans and serve.
Sweet and Sour Chicken 
(Sorry I don't recall where this recipe is from)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves 6 
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 2 Tablespoons apricot preserves
  • 1 lb. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger (fresh)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, slivered 
  • 1 cup green peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup red peppers, sliced
  • 1 cup snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 small can pineapple chunks
Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch and preserves and set aside.  
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok.  Stir fry chicken and remove from heat.  Add 1 tablespoon of oil and stir fry the carrots, peppers and broccoli.  Add the peas and garlic and ginger and stir try a minute. Add the sauce and chicken stock (and I add the pineapple juice) and stir in the chicken, water chestnuts and pineapple.  Sometimes it needs more stocks to thin out the sauce. 
Remove from wok and serve over brown rice.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Eagan Food Truck Festival

Last weekend Eagan held its' first ever food truck festival, Food on 4 Wheels! I can only hope that more food trucks will visit the south metro, as we had one in Apple Valley at our farmers' market once, and then Canterbury Park has a festival as well, but that is about it.
I was there right when it opened and it certainly looked to be a success.  There were 21 food trucks and I sampled three:

  1. Taqueria La Hacienda- I ordered a pork taco and al pastor (bbq pork) tacos arabes.  The pork taco was perfect.  Just the right amount to meat to toppings and a nice bit of pineapple salsa on top and lime to balance it.  The tacos arabes were yummy, but the chipolte bbq and dipping sauce was a bit too much for me.  I am excited that they have a Burnsville restaurant location, as we need a really good Mexican restaurant in the south metro.   

  2. Hot Indian Food- I read that this was one of the top 10 food trucks in the Twin Cities.  It was nice that they had a mini Indurrito (Indian Burrito) to try for the event, however  I had them create a mini lamb rice bowl instead.  It was delicious and also packed a punch. 

  3. Butcher Salt- We never have burgers at home, so this was my chance to get one hot off the grill, and it did not disappoint.  The sliders are a perfect balance of meat that has been seared, so the edges are nice and crispy, with melted cheese, bacon, onions, and a nice pickle on top with a buttered and browned bun.  I added a side of the Butcher Salted Browns- why not have hashbrowns with your slider? They were nice and salty and crispy as well, with some cheese mixed in.  However, I am a fan of ketchup with my hashers, so I was disappointed that they had no condiments available.  

  4. I hope the south metro keeps it up and offers more events like this.  It was nice that the food shelf also had a bus there, so I brought some canned goods to donate, but was sad to see I was the first person to give.  Help support our local food shelves in the summer too folks!  Eagan’s Open Door will take extra produce from your gardens too!

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014

    Black Pepper Pasta with Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

    Well, we bought goat milk and cheese making supplies two weeks ago, and never found time to make goat cheese using our kit again.  Sigh, the milk went bad before we got around to it.  So, we bought goat cheese at CostCo (killer deal) and made this pasta dish.  The recipe is basically Food & Wine's Ziti with Portobello Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Goat Cheese, with a few additions/swaps:
    • I added about double the amount of both cheeses
    • I used black pepper pasta from a vendor at the Mill City Museum, yummy!
    • I added a cup of frozen peas to the dish when the mushrooms were done cooking
    • I cooked the mushrooms in garlic olive oil
    • I used 1-2 cups of pasta water to thin out the sauce and help it cling to the noodles.
    It doesn't look pretty, but it was delicious!