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giving thanks for wild rice & amazing wine

November 21st, 2012 | 3 Comments »

I’ve not always been an ardent fan of wild rice. As a kid, I don’t recall eating it much, and then in my early 20′s, I had an extremely dangerous case of food poisoning that involved shrimp and wild rice and since then? Yeah, you can imagine the aversion I’ve held. And the aroma of this native grass (please don’t call it a whole grain- it’s not even close) is so pungent and strong that I often run the exhaust fan and open windows if I can while it’s cooking to avoid the old, musty-shoe smell of it.

In spite of all that, I keep wild rice on hand regularly, because what it can create in it’s finished state, with it’s firm, chewy and hearty texture is a dish worthy of any gathering, or simply a treat for your every day meal. And I’m grateful to have learned of it’s merits, growing beyond turning my back on such a nutritious and healthy food. One of my most favorite soups, this Wild Rice & Mushroom dish, is one of the best reasons to keep a bag in the pantry, and of course, once Thanksgiving is over, a simmering pot of Turkey Wild Rice soup always makes an appearance, as it makes my boy’s eyes shine like the sun. I love seeing that in his face.

And for Thanksgiving this year, in an effort to bring more non-meat options to our family table, I’ll be making a huge bowl of this Wild Rice Harvest Salad, and as I take up a spoonful, I’ll be saying thanks to the earth for producing this gem, and raise a glass of Famiglia Meschini Carmenere to toast alongside our meal.

I’m really enamored with the Famiglia Meschini wines; every one I’ve tried is full of bold flavor, true to it’s varietal and best of all, so affordably priced. I tend to get bent out of shape over wine pricing, and the perceived idea that to enjoy good wine you’ve got to spend a lot of money and the Famiglia wines turn that on it’s ear, thank goodness. If you are at all interested in getting a first-hand dunking in to all that the family stands for, they are hosting an amazing food and wine dinner in Minneapolis in January, and you can find all the information for that on this page.

The Carmenere wine is deep red and full of rich plum flavor. The taste is smooth and supple, owing to the 10% Cabernet Sauvignon in it to tame the Carmenere grape a bit. It brings an earthy nose and finishes forever, but never over-powering. Although traditionally paired with beef, it sits nicely next to this heavily flavored Wild Rice salad, resplendent with kale and sliced Brussels Sprouts, snappy apple slices and crunchy pecans. A spritely vinaigrette blends it all nicely together.

 

Wild Rice Harvest Salad

1 c. cooked wild rice (according to package directions)
1 Golden Delicious apple, sliced thin
1 c. Brussels Sprouts, thinly sliced
1 c. kale leaves, chopped fine
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
3 T. Apple Cider vinegar (or if you can find any type of pecan or other nut vinegar, use that instead)
1 t. deli style spicy mustard
Roasted pecans for garnish

In a small bowl or measuring cup, blend the oil, vinegar, spicy mustard and a few shakes of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Combine Brussels Sprouts and kale in a large bowl and drizzle a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette over it. With your hands, blend the vinaigrette and greens together, massaging slightly to help soften the kale leaves. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Add in the wild rice, apple slices and a handful of broken pecan pieces. Toss to coat and drizzle a bit more vinaigrette over it, then more salt and pepper to taste. Allow to stand at room temperature before serving, adding more vinaigrette as needed.

 

This salad leans heavily on the greens and less on the wild rice. You can swing it easily in one direction or the other, adding more wild rice and less greens if you prefer it that way.

Additional items that you could add to this salad would be endless: roasted sweet potato or carrot chunks, sliced celery, dried cranberries….. it’s a blank slate for your own personal taste. Explore! Enjoy!!

 

Disclaimer: I was provided a bottle of Famiglia Meschini wine in exchange for this post. All words and opinions are my own. 

wild rice & mushroom soup

January 18th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

I did not grow up loving mushrooms. I didn’t even like them, not one little bit. But I surely can’t blame myself, for my only exposure to them as a child of the ’70′s was from a can. And I can’t imagine anything more disgusting than canned mushrooms to a kid. No wonder I was never a fan of the fungus.

As I got older, I allowed a bit of mushroom to pass my lips; I loved them sauteed on a burger, or with a grilled steak. Provided I could have something in my mouth with them, they became only slightly more palatable to me, but I still struggled with texture, and that rich, loamy earthiness to them. Cover them with good red wine, and sauté them in copious amounts of butter and it was ok. Just ok though. Still, they weren’t on my favorites list by any means.

Then I had an epiphany, last summer. A major turning point in my culinary taste occurred at one of the wonderful events I attended last year with the Minnesota Food Bloggers group. It was at Cafe Levain in Minneapolis, and Chef Adam Vickerman created grilled portabella mushrooms, richly glazed in balsamic vinegar. I took a few tentative bites of them and my eyes were opened. I was re-born, re-newed and suddenly, all-out crazy for mushrooms. And to Adam’s credit, I’ve been slightly obsessed, and eating them weekly, ever since.

Mushrooms fit well into a healthy eating plan, and that makes them far more desirable given my all-enveloping obsession. Mushrooms have been revered in Eastern culture for thousands of years for their nutritional properties. Mushrooms are low in calories, fat-free, cholesterol-free and very low in sodium, yet they provide important nutrients, including minerals like selenium, potassium, copper, and vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin (the all important B vitamins) and vitamin D. And then there’s beta-glucans- something I’d never heard of before, and according to Mushroom Info:

“Beta-glucans, found in numerous mushroom species, have shown marked immunity-stimulating effects, contribute to resistance against allergies and may also participate in physiological processes related to the metabolism of fats and sugars in the human body. The beta-glucans contained in oyster, shiitake and split gill mushrooms are considered to be the most effective.” 

So I can feel good about the amount of mushrooms passing my lips, and I like that. I can incorporate mushrooms in to just about any dish, but I hadn’t really done much with them in a soup so it was fun to come across this amazing Wild Rice & Mushroom soup recipe on The Kitchn, even better that I stumbled upon it as the coldest air of the month landed on Minnesota, making for a perfect backdrop to a steaming bowl of this thick and hearty soup.

If you love a good wild rice soup with chicken, or turkey, you’ll love this lush recipe, which deeply browns mushrooms to develop their rich flavor. A bath of white wine and some good vegetable broth helps round out the simple but complex flavors. Wild rice was another food item I had to learn how to love, but thankfully, this wasn’t that difficult, and we’ve been enjoying wild rice soups for years. This one, with it deep earthy flavors and thick broth will be on repeat now. We all loved it, and soup is such a good leftover item to have on hand.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

1 c. wild rice, washed
1 large onion, diced
4 celery stalks, diced (I love the flavor of the leaves and used a lot of those)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound of mushrooms, rough chopped (I used baby portabella, but adding some porcini or oyster would be delicious)
1 t. fresh thyme
3 T. AP flour
1 c. white wine (I use pinot grigio in cooking. DO NOT use cooking wine from the grocer. Ugh)
1 Bay leaf
1-2 cheese rinds, optional
2 t. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 c. whole milk or heavy cream (I used a lot less, but adjust according to your taste)
1 T. cider vinegar
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the rice with 1 teaspoon of salt. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 40-50 minutes, or until the rice has burst open and is soft. You can leave it a bit underdone if you  wish, and cook it to taste with the final soup. Drain the rice, reserving the cooking water to use in the soup if you wish. (I did this. Wow. What a flavor)

Meanwhile, heat a teaspoon of oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and celery with a pinch of salt and cook until softened and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium and add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Cook until the mushrooms have released their liquid and start to brown; this should take anywhere from 20-40 minutes depending on the size of your stock pot. I cooked them to a really deep brown. Don’t skip this step as this is where a lot of the flavor of your soup will come from.

Once they are nicely browned, add the garlic and thyme and cook for about a minute. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to coat. Stir the flour until the mixture becomes sticky, and no visible dry flour remains. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the white wine. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan, simmering until the wine has reduced and thickened.

Add the bay leaf, cheese rinds (if using) and stock or the cooking water from the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors. Add the rosemary, milk or cream and the wild rice, cooking for another 10-15 minutes, or until the soup has thickened to your liking. Stir in the cider vinegar, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Original recipe from The Kitchn, by Emma Christenson.

***This soup will thicken as it stands, and the rice absorbs more of the liquid. I’ve found that when re-heating it the next day, it tastes best to scoop out a serving and add water to loosen it up.

Linking up to Soupapalooza 2012!!

Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine and Dishsponsored by KitchenAidRed Star Yeast and Le Creuset

simple stuffed peppers and a thick skin

November 11th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

I’m not sure if everyone with a blog is receiving an undue amount of spam comments lately, but every day I open my Dashboard, I see upwards of 100 or more spam waiting for me to delete. I rarely look them over to see if anyone real has been caught up in the filter; i’m trusting they haven’t, but my apologies if you’ve left a comment that hasn’t appeared. I am too impatient to sift through the drivel.

But today when I opened the spam, and readied myself to hit ‘Delete’, one comment caught my eye, and I had to wonder if it was actual, or not. It said “I’m not sure how you can survive on this dreck. For pete’s sake would it kill you to eat a little meat now and then?’ The sender’s name seemed authentic, the email was normal, and the website looked legit. Still, after a moment of shock, I deleted it with the others. Even if it was real,  harsh criticism of my blog, my words and my life have no place here. This is my home, and I’m not interested in anyone bringing their scorn in to it.

My friends and I have had a discussion about this type of intolerance a lot. I am blessed with a bevy of amazing women in my life that share a desire for good health and well-being through our food and lifestyle. Through changes in our diets, my friends and I have found incredible health benefits that we never expected to be possible. We don’t avoid certain foods because it’s trendy and everyone is doing it; we avoid them because our bodies have clearly shown us that this is what they want. And we don’t get it, this bashing of choice. Not at all. Our choices, regardless of how anyone else views them, whether they understand or not why we do them, or really, any opinion about them, these are OUR decisions, and should never be vilified for being different than someone else’s. And since giving up meat, I get this a lot. The worst part is when it comes from family. I don’t expect anyone outside of myself to agree 100% with what I choose to do, and I consider it to be great fortune that Mike is completely on board with our healthy eating habits. I find it odd, and also disheartening though, that others feel they can impart their beliefs on me, or dump a whole lot of disrespect on my choices. They’re MY choices. Choices made for reasons of health and well-being. Choices that took time to develop, and that my body has made very clear, are correct for me. I don’t ask anyone else to believe it, accept it, or even participate in it. I just ask that it be respected.

Is that really so difficult?

I mean, really, does that pepper there LOOK so terrible? Stuffed with whole grain wild rice, legumes, vegetables and cheese, this has “Delicious!!” written all over it. You can eat it and still feel light inside, yet fully satisfied too. And it will stick with you, despite it’s feathery appearance. This is comfort food through and through.

I realize that everyone has the sense that their choices are the right ones, and that sense, as deeply ingrained as it is, seems implausible that others don’t share the same vision. What they do, what anyone does, is the right one however, for those making the decision. And this bashing about of others, a dressing down of someone who chooses differently for their life and health, can we all just agree to stop so much judging? What does it really say about someone who thinks that muscling their beliefs on others is acceptable? Does it make them seem secure in what they preach? Or does the very act of questioning someone else, of scorn and laughter over another person’s choice speak to an insecurity they have about themselves?

I don’t have the answers. I doubt this conversation will end, ever, and that makes me sad. The consumption of food has become such a hot-button issue, and everyone thinks they have the right way of doing it. We make very powerful statements by what we put in our mouths, and it seems that instead of it polarizing us, it’s turning us against each other.

What food choices do YOU make for your health? Do you ever feel like those choices are questioned by others?
How do you respond to those questions? 


Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

3 colored peppers of choice, sliced in half and cored
1 cup wild rice, washed and picked over
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can great northern beans, rinsed
1 c. frozen corn kernels
1/2 c. canned tomatoes, or 2 chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
1 c. shredded cheese of choice, plus more for topping (I used cheddar and pepper jack together)
1/3 c. shredded parmesan, with more for topping
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the wild rice, return to a simmer and cook, covered until the rice is tender 30-40 minutes. I used long grain, or regular wild rice so it took longer than if you use the cracked version. Adjust simmering time accordingly. Once rice is tender, drain excess water in a wire strainer and set aside.

Meanwhile, set your oven to Broil. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place prepared peppers on sheet, cut side up and broil for about 5-7 minutes, until edges are slightly browned and peppers are softened just a little. Remove from oven, set aside and set oven temperature to 400°.

In a deep skillet, saute shallot in oil for about 5 minutes, then add garlic and cook about a minute longer. Add the beans and corn, and heat through. Stir in the tomato and wild rice until just combined and remove from heat. Add the cheese and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When mixture is cool enough to handle, pick up a generous handful and press it together slightly, then mound it into a pepper half. Repeat with remaining peppers and filling, mounding the peppers full. You may not use all the filling but be generous. In a small bowl, place about a half cup of the shredded cheese and several tablespoons of shredded parmesan. Add two tablespoon of panko bread crumbs and toss to coat. Top the peppers with this and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the filling is hot and the cheese on top has melted. Serve immediately.

 

What’s on YOUR plate this month??

getting back in the game

January 9th, 2011 | 6 Comments »

I know, I know…. there you all are, patiently waiting for me to get my caboose in gear and start posting the food posts again. Enough of the extraneous stuff! Bring on the food! Get cooking again, would you? I can hear you all, I promise. And it’s good too, because it’s tossing me head-long back into the kitchen to start these next 12 months off in style.

With Amazing Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

Honestly, I have no clue what happened to me between Christmas and New Years but I had ZERO desire to cook a thing. Nothing. Who was that girl? I get an extreme amount of pleasure in the kitchen; I love the act and the art of cooking, pulling something from the stovetop or oven that fills the room with incredible smells, moving tastes about on my tongue and delighting in the flavors within. This is who I am, it’s what I love. But there was that week, that flux week between holidays that always just feels odd, like the end of something when we’re not quite ready for the new thing to begin and everything in me just went swirling down the proverbial toilet. Good thing for a loving spouse who made a few meals and for copious amounts of leftovers.

But then, I came roaring back with an idea, a brainstorm that drove me to a creative new height. I wanted something light, healthy and easy to put together. I wanted to add a new line to my ever burgeoning arsenal of recipes, the list I go to time and again, options that fall into place in our dining repertoire with ease. What jumped out from under my hands was this Wild Rice Stuffed Pepper, that despite being completely meat-free, the Teen did eat part of his without one iota of complaint. There was no suspicious poking at it, no scowling or contempt.

Yeah, who was that kid, you say? Mine. The young man who seems to be changing every day that I look at him, the one approaching his 17th birthday. He’s become a bit more acceptable to new things, less rigid about what he won’t eat. I’m liking the results.

Really, the adjectives necessary to describe this dish are extravagant. Mind-boggling. Flavorful and light, but hearty and comforting as well. Mike and I loved these too, but then, I knew we would. We’d be meat-free more often if it weren’t for the Carnivore. This dish, once the lovely colored peppers were home from the market, came together entirely from my pantry and freezer. I love those types of meals. Opt in the fresh produce, fill the edges with staples and sit down to a lovely meal. This is the cooking I like.

Wild Rice Stuffed Peppers

3 colored peppers of choice, sliced in half and cored
1 cup wild rice, washed and picked over
1 small shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can great northern beans, rinsed
1 c. frozen corn kernels
1/2 c. canned tomatoes, or 2 chopped fresh Roma tomatoes
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
1 c. shredded cheese of choice, plus more for topping (I used cheddar and pepper jack together)
1/3 c. shredded parmesan, with more for topping
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add the wild rice, return to a simmer and cook, covered until the rice is tender 30-40 minutes. I used long grain, or regular wild rice so it took longer than if you use the cracked version. Adjust simmering time accordingly. Once rice is tender, drain excess water in a wire strainer and set aside.

Meanwhile, set your oven to Broil. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place prepared peppers on sheet, cut side up and broil for about 5-7 minutes, until edges are slightly browned and peppers are softened just a little. Remove from oven, set aside and set oven temperature to 400°.

In a deep skillet, saute shallot in oil for about 5 minutes, then add garlic and cook about a minute longer. Add the beans and corn, and heat through. Stir in the tomato and wild rice until just combined and remove from heat. Add the cheese and panko. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

When mixture is cool enough to handle, pick up a generous handful and press it together slightly, then mound it into a pepper half. Repeat with remaining peppers and filling, mounding the peppers full. You may not use all the filling but be generous. In a small bowl, place about a half cup of the shredded cheese and several tablespoons of shredded parmesan. Add two tablespoon of panko bread crumbs and toss to coat. Top the peppers with this and place in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the filling is hot and the cheese on top has melted. Serve immediately.

KATE’S NOTES:
Look for good sturdy peppers that are heavy and full for this dish. They’ll hold the filling better. I like to find ones that have four ‘knobs’ on the bottom if I can. It makes for a more even cut. If you like to make stuffed peppers the regular way, by coring the entire pepper instead of cutting it in half, by all means do so. I like this method for the ease of eating them.

There is endless versatility in this recipe: use brown rice and black beans, or regular rice and red beans. Add frozen peas or even cooked cubes of squash. Add in a host of fresh herbs. Skip the panko to make them gluten-free. It helps to bind the ingredients but I will say that it’s not necessary at all. Change up your cheese, or add chopped leftover meat if you have it.

turkey hangover, with extras

November 27th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

It happens, right? There’s so much turkey, and celebrating and eating, then more eating and more celebrating and having another piece of pie before we drag full tummies home and into bed, falling exhausted against the pillows.

Then we open the fridge to see all that leftover turkey. That is, if you’re lucky enough to be gifted with leftovers.

I always make more than I think I even need. I’m fine with leftovers, in fact, I love having to re-purpose my food into something else. And this year, with a huge ziploc bag of turkey, I am chomping at the bit to make some awesome meals in the next few days. So, what’s in your plan for that meat? The leftover gravy? The stuffing? Extra potatoes?

These are some ideas for that extra bounty from our holiday.

The simplest of all meals would be to combine turkey, and any leftover gravy that you have and serve it over bread. or leftover mashed potatoes. Or both. Talk about comfort food. This is one of Griffin’s most favorite meals to eat, and I’m sure if I suggest this to him, he will roll his eyes in pleasure, nodding emphatically for me to put it together.

A good frittata is perfect for using up leftovers, and if there are leftover mashed potatoes, you can whip up an interesting version of it by whisking the potatoes and eggs together. This will create a fluffier version of frittata, or make it into a scramble by adding chopped turkey and a little bit of cranberry relish if you have it. Cranberries in eggs is surprisingly good, but just a little as it can easily overpower all other flavors.

Leftover mashed potatoes can be made into Potato Cakes. This rich and comforting food is a rare indulgence in our house, but perfect for those potatoes. Form the mashed potatoes into a cake and dredge it in seasoned flour. Heat a skillet, and melt some butter then place the cake in the skillet and let it sit until the bottom is superbly browned and crispy. Carefully flip it over and do the same to the other side. Be patient and keep the heat moderate, as you will be amply rewarded with a crusty and hot little side for your breakfast.

Will you make soup? That’s pretty standard, especially if you have a turkey carcass to use. I love a good soup, and we eat soup in the wintertime every week. My friend Missy has a wonderful recipe for Creamy Turkey Wild Rice soup on her blog. The photos make my mouth water. That’s the kind of soup that will make an appearance in my kitchen too, as there’s nothing better for a cold night than a warm and creamy, comforting pot of soup. One year I discovered just how good leftover gravy was in making soup. I started a pot of vegetables sizzling before I realized that I was out of soup stock base. I did have gravy, leftover in the freezer so I pulled out the container and chopped out just enough pieces, adding it to the pot with water. It made for a perfect soup.

A quick meal to throw together with leftover turkey could be Turkey Quesadillas. We like to keep tortillas on hand, as well as cheese so that a quick meal can be put on the table when the creativity flow has been stymied. Heat your tortilla in a pan then top with shredded cheese and chopped turkey. If you enjoy them, you could add canned beans too, like pinto or black beans. Top with another tortilla, and cook, turning once until tortillas are crispy and browned. Serve with salsa and sour cream.

A good option for lunch would be a turkey salad. I love Curried Chicken Salad, and substituting turkey is perfect. The recipe I include below calls for dried cherries, but subbing either dried cranberries, or even a scoop of extra cranberry relish would make this really delicious. Bonus points for utilization!

Another favorite salad option, one that would be perfect for lunches at work is this Turkey and Dried Cherry Pasta Salad. Again, sub in dried cranberries, or the fresh relish for a unique taste. And another good salad option, making a hearty dish that’s perfect for a meal or as a side is this Turkey & Wild Rice Curry Salad from Brenda, of A Farm Girl’s Dabbles. I saw her recipe and just about started drooling. I love salads like that; there’s just so much going on in one bowl. It’s a party for anyone’s tastes buds.

And naturally, a turkey sandwich is standard. Jazz it up by spreading your bread with cranberry relish first for a nice twist.

Curry Cashew Chicken Salad
From The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott

2 cups cooked chicken
1/2 c. dried cherries, cranberries or raisins
1/2 c. chopped roasted salted cashews
2 green onions, finely chopped

Dressing:
1/2 c. mayo or preferred creamy spread
2 T. mango chutney or fruit spread of choice
2 t. curry powder
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 t. fresh ground pepper
1 t. dijon mustard

Combine chicken, fruit, nuts and onion in bowl. Separately, mix together dressing ingredients and stir until combined and creamy. Pour over salad and stir thoroughly to coat. Chill. Eat.

Turkey & Dried Cherry Pasta Salad

1# pasta of choice
2 c. cooked turkey, chopped
1 c. dried cherries (sub cranberries, or even raisins)
1/2 c. minced red onion
1/2 c. minced celery
1/2 c. chopped toasted almonds

Dressing:
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 T. white vinegar
1-1/2 c. mayonnaise
2 T. cold water
2 T. poppyseeds
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine cooked pasta, turkey, dried fruit, onion, celery and almonds in a bowl. Whisk dressing ingredients together until smooth and pour over pasta mixture, tossing to coat. Serve topped with extra almonds, if desired.