Butternut Woods Farm Grass-fed Highland Beef - YUM!

So we're sitting watching "The Best Thing I Ever Ate - Burgers" on Foodnetwork and I was reminded I didn't tell you all about this great new find!

Dave and I switched over to grass-fed beef a couple of years ago and it is very rare that we buy anything else.  We typically buy Thousand Hills brand because it's easy to find but we've found a new favorite.

Why grass-fed beef?  If you want the long story read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  Don't have time to read the book?  Watch Food Inc., either one will have you considering the switch.  Never mind the "green" reasons to switch to grass-fed, local beef, it's better for you too.  Studies show that grass fed beef is higher in Omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and Vitamin E than conventional grain fed beef.

And on top of all that, we just think it tastes better!

Not all grass-fed beef is the same and it does taste different from the corn fed beef you're probably used to.  If you Google grass-fed beef you're going to find people who don't like the taste.  They need to try another grass-fed beef source.  They are not all the same.

A coworker sent me a recipe for avocado burgers thinking it sounded like something I would like to make.  The recipe called specifically for grass-fed beef.  How fortuitous!  I had some!  The burgers were great.  Here's a LINK to my blog about them. 

I let Michelle know how much I liked the recipe and that Dave and I are fans of grass-fed beef.  She let me know that she had a source, Butternut Woods Farm, LLC.  So I found their Facebook page and lucky for me they had a beef offering available.  I started with ground beef but I have a deposit down on more cuts coming this spring.  I wanted to make sure I liked the beef first.

The first thing we made with the beef was plain old burgers.  I wanted to taste the meat.  All I mixed in the beef was bread, milk, salt and pepper.  The bread and milk were necessary because we were going to grill the burgers and I wanted them to stay moist.

This is delicious beef!  I like the flavor profile even better than the Thousand Hills.  Now I can't wait for our spring package that will have steaks and roasts!

If you want to check out Butternut Woods Farm, LLC here's a LINK to their Facebook page.  They are a local Minnesota farm.  We love to buy local especially when the products are this good!

Lite Fettuccine Alfredo!

I just got my new edition of Cuisine Lite and the first recipe I wanted to try was Lite Fettuccine Alfredo.  I like Alfredo, I don't love it, but every once in a while it's what I want.  Lately I've been buying the Buitoni Lite Alfredo in the dairy case.  It's ok, bland, I have to doctor it up.  So I thought if this was good I'd have found a replacement for the store purchased variety.

Yes, you can make fettuccini alfredo that is not a "heart attack on a plate" that actually tastes good.

This is good!  It's really good!  There's lemon zest in it which just brightens it right up.  The recipe makes a lot of sauce, 4 cups, which is 12 servings.  I made half a batch.

I used the Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Grain pasta rather than regular pasta.  We actually prefer this to regular pasta.  I like the nutty flavor.  I had two other substitutions.  First I don't really like Greek yogurt so it's not in the house.  I used regular non-fat plain yogurt, I just drained it through a paper towel for about 15 minutes before I used it.

The other substitution was chopped shallots for the chopped onion.

The recipe is pretty simple and I like that you can make the base up to a week in advance!  You simply blend milk, ricotta cheese, yogurt, onion, garlic, salt and nutmeg in a blender until smooth.  I found out tonight I need a new blender!  Mine is dead.  I had to use my food processor!  Sounds like an excellent excuse for me to invest in that immersion blender I've been wanting!

This mixture can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to a week.

When you're ready to make the sauce you make a roux with flour and olive oil then add the milk mixture and simmer until it thickens.  The sauce will clump as the dairy ingredients are added but continue whisking until smooth.  Finally you add some Parmesan-Reggiano, lemon zest, salt and pepper then toss it with the pasta!

I added some roasted veggies and served it with a nice seared salmon.  Yum!

Here's the recipe:

Lite Fettuccine Alfredo
Source:  Cuisine Lite

Makes 12 servings (4 cups)
Total time:  30 minutes

1 pound dry fettuccine

2 cups skim milk
1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2/3 cup 2% Greek style yogurt
1/4 cup minced onion
2 Tablespoons chopped garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil or 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose four
1/3 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano
Minced zest of one lemon
Black Pepper to taste

Cook fettuccine in a large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Blend milk, ricotta, yogurt, onion, garlic, salt and nutmeg in a blender until smooth.  You can transfer mixture to an airtight container and refrigerate up to a week at this point.

Parmigiano-Reggiano and zest; season with pepper.

Toss with pasta.

Per Serving:  248 Cal; 8g total fat (2g sat, 4g mono, 0g poly); 7mg chol; 278mg sodium; 33g carb (1g fiber, 4g total sugars); 11g protein; 1mg iron; 54mg calcium

Knoke's Grand Opening!

What a thrill!  Dave and I were invited to the "invitation only" grand opening of the new Knoke's Chocolate's in Hudson.  Even cooler, the event landed on my birthday!  Thank you Dave Knoke for the invite and for continuing to make some of the best chocolates we've ever had.  And, of course for making this birthday so much more special.

Earlier yesterday we were at the Galleria in Edina.  I wanted a piece of chocolate after lunch so we stopped at this fancy dancy chocolate shop in the Galleria.  I was expecting fabulous.  It didn't meet my expectations because now everything has to be at least as good as Knoke's.  I totally forgot to mention it at the party last night!

They had great food and a chocolate fountain.  Dave (my Dave, not Dave Knoke) had to try the rice crispie treats dipped in chocolate!  The strawberries were delicious too.  Knoke's rents the fountains out if you're in need of one for a party!  I'm thinking it would be fun for a Sunday brunch?

Knoke's has also expanded into the world of baked goods with the new shop.  They had some adorable cakes on display and yummy cupcakes for us to try. 

As the four or five of you who read my blog know, I bake.  I'm also fussy about baked goods I have "out".  So of course I had to try one of the cupcakes.  How could I not?  I was so not disappointed!  The cake was moist and flavorful and the frosting delicious!  If you need something baked and I'm not available, check out Knoke's you won't be disappointed!  They even do the very putzy cake pops!

If you get a chance, stop by the shop today for their official Grand Opening!  They'll have samples and prizes and Dave (Knoke, not my Dave) tells me there might be some winners in their Golden Ticket contest today!   I've purchased 5 unlucky candy bars already!  I would SO love to win one!  We might just have to stop back at Knoke's today!

If you can't get there today stop by soon.  They have amazing chocolates, a fun variety of other candy, yummy ice cream and now incredible baked goods!  Never mind the always friendly staff!  Can't get to Hudson?  Check them out online at www.knokeschocolates.com!  They ship anywhere!

Jamaican Jerk Kabobs with Smoked Sausage

These kabobs are really, really good, especially if you like a little heat!  It's also pretty darn easy.  I was able to throw these together coming off a migraine and a Packer loss in the playoffs so someone with all of their faculties should have no trouble with this recipe!

They are also really good for you!  I found the recipe in my Cuisine Lite cookbook.  You can keep those healthy eating resolutions and still enjoy them!

The full recipe is below but I'll start with my editorial!

Before you start, if you're using bamboo skewers, get them soaking!

Then mix up the glaze ingredients.  I could tell this was going to be good!  Yes, there are a few ingredients but nothing too difficult.  I will admit I did cheat and used pre-chopped, refrigerated garlic.  I don't usually do that but, well, the Packer's lost!

Then I cut up the veggies.  The recipe called for green pepper.  I made it with one green, one red and an onion.  We love grilled onions in our house!

Next I cut up the meat.  Notice the color of my cutting board changed!  Be sure you are not cutting your veggies and raw meat on the same cutting board.  I have a set of four that I got from Williams-Sonoma that I just love, red for red meat, yellow for chicken, green for veggies and white for whatever else I might have to cut up!

I really like this turkey kielbasa!  It has good texture and great flavor.  I'll be using this again.

Put the skewers together and throw them on the grill!

Aren't these beautiful!  They smelled great as they were cooking too.

A serving is two skewers.  I served them with a side of Giada's Farro Salad with Tomatoes and Herbs.

Servings:  8

For the jerk glaze

1/4 cup canola oil (I used a chipoltle infused olive oil instead)
Juice of one lime, 2-3 tablespoons
2 Tablespoons minced fresh oregano
1 Tablespoon minced lime zest
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the kabobs:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 ounces turkey kielbasa, cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 green bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces (I used one green, one red and added onion)

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
Brush grill rack with oil.
Combine the oil, lime juice, oregano, lime zest, onion powder, brown sugar, garlic, allspice, cinnamon and cayenne for the glaze in a bowl.  Set aside half of the glaze for serving with the kabobs.

Thread chicken, sausage and bell pepper pieces onto eight 10-inch skewers.

Grill kabobs until chicken is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.  Turn skewers and brush with glaze every 2 minutes during grilling, using remaining glaze.

Nutritional Information (per serving, two skewers):  308 Calories; 13g total fat (3g sat., 4g mono, 6g poly); 103mg cholesterol; 578mg sodium; 11g carb (2g fiber, 7g total sugars); 36g protein; 2mg iron; 52mg calcium.

Nacho Normal Cheesecake!

Yep, it's another fun cake from Food Network Magazine!  This month's issue had a "nacho cheesecake".  How fun is that just in time for the playoffs?

Here's a LINK to the recipe.  They put pictures of each step in the recipe so it's really easy to follow.

The cheesecake is a snap to make, just mix up the cream cheese, sugar, lemon, vanilla, eggs and a little food coloring, pour it into a pie pan and bake.  After about 25 minutes, top with a mixture of sour cream and sugar and bake for another 5 minutes then let it cool completely.

Next is the fun part!  The nacho chips are made from pie crust basted with butter and coated with sugar.  Bake for about 7 minutes then cool.

The toppings are cut up Swedish Fish, black Dots, green licorice and chocolate covered raisins.  Dave and I prefer espresso beans so that's what we used.  Making the black olives was probably the most tricky just because those things are so darn sticky when they are cut up!  I sliced the Dots into three slices then took the middle out of each one with a number 12 pastry tip.  No, I haven't figured out how I'm going to clean that yet!

The Swedish fish are mixed with strawberry jam to look like salsa.  I used a raspberry mango habanero jam.  It is nachos!

Stick the "chips" in the cake and top with fixin's and voila you have nachos!

The New Oceanaire!

The Oceanaire Seafood Room is one of our favorite restaurants.  We've been going there for years and have never been disappointed.

Recently (just two weeks ago!) The Oceanaire moved from it's home in the Hyatt at the far end of downtown Minneapolis, to the heart of downtown, 6th and Nicollet.  Dave and I just had to check out the new digs!

It's easy to find and we took advantage of the valet parking.  It's just $9 and in that part of downtown it's a bargain.  The car was met immediately as we pulled up, just after 6pm on a Saturday night.

What hasn't changed is the service.  Everyone is extremely customer focused.  The staff work as a well-oiled team and if there are any issues between them they aren't obvious to the customers.  We were there early for our reservation so we took a spot at the new blue bar and had a glass of wine.    The bar area is smaller than the old one and they've added a couple of TVs.  This was a nice thing tonight with the playoffs going on!  But it definitely makes for a different vibe from the old Oceanaire location.

The new restaurant is definitely "hipper" or "trendier".  There is a lot of stainless and blue neon.  And the big fish that adorned the walls of the old spot are gone.  I think the only fish I saw was on one of the plates!

The restaurant is also a lot louder than the old one.  I don't know if that's the acoustics of the building or because the tables are so much closer together.  It got even louder when the table next to us was seated.  There were a couple of screamers at that table.

I do feel sorry for the wait staff.  They don't have nearly the room to maneuver in this location.  The bathrooms are just past the kitchen so you have to navigate through the staff as they are bringing out dishes.  Tonight there were chairs lined up in this small space too.  I'm not sure if they are there all the time (waiting area if the restroom is full?) or not but they added to the congestion in that area.

So if you're looking for a nice quiet, cozy spot to have a good dinner, this might not be it.  Maybe had we been seated in one of the booths we wouldn't have noticed the noise and hustle and bustle so much.  We were seated at a table right next to the bar so there was more staff activity where we were seated than there would have been in another part of the restaurant.

We usually ask for Marc when we go.  He's been serving us for years.  He has a great wit and a great knowledge of both the menu and the wine list.  Marc wasn't working tonight so we got Tamara.  Watch out Marc!  You have competition.  Tamara was great.

We generally either get an appetizer or dessert, not both.  We asked Tamara which we should do and she promptly brought over the dessert menu so we could look it over before we made our decision.  She suggested appetizers and we agreed.  Really I just really wanted one of those world famous crab cakes!  They are SO good.  For $18 each they should be, right?

Dave ordered, the Black and Blue Grouper.  It was a blackened grouper served over caramelized onions with blue cheese.  It was delicious!

I seriously thought about the "fish and chips".  Yes, they have fish and chips on the menu.  I don't remember seeing that before.  But I couldn't pass up the Pan Roasted Salmon Dynamite.  It was a spicy blue crab crusted piece of salmon with a Thai chili butter sauce and a little Sriracha sauce.  It was amazing.

We also ordered a side of roasted Brussels sprouts.  YUM!

After all of that Dave still wanted dessert so we had Tamara bring the dessert menu back!  Dave decided on the apple crisp.  It easily would have fed four.  We had to box up what was left and bring it home.

Tamara and the rest of the staff were incredibly attentive.  Our water glasses were never empty, empty dishes never stayed long on the table and when the bread ran out more was brought to the table.  Tamara even took our valet number and had the car pulled around as we were finishing dessert so we wouldn't have to wait for it.

So what was our bottom line?  The atmosphere is definitely different from the old Oceanaire.  Is that good or bad?  I don't know.  Tonight we wanted to go out, have fun and have some really good seafood.  We did that.  If we wanted a quiet, romantic dinner, I'm not sure.  This restaurant is definitely loud.  Maybe it would have been different in a booth, and we'll definitely request that next time so we can compare experiences.

The service and food are still outstanding.  And the valet parking was convenient if you don't like figuring out parking downtown.

Oceanaire remains on the top of our list of favorite places to go.  If you get the chance definitely check it out!  Ask for Marc or Tamara and we know you'll have fabulous service.

Avocado Burgers!

A friend of mine sent me a link to a recipe for avocado burgers.  I had visions of a burger with avocado sliced on the top.  Not so!  The avocado is mixed right in the burger.

Here's the LINK

It's a simple enough recipe, beef, avocado, green chilis, green onions, garlic, lemon pepper and salt.  Emily, the developer of the recipe suggests grass fed beef.  I agree. 

Dave and I switched over a couple of years ago and we wouldn't go back.  Not just for the environmental reasons, but because we think it tastes better! 

If you want more reasons read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan or watch the movie Food Inc.  You'll be looking for a source of good grass fed beef!

I mixed it all up and portioned it into patties.  Next time I might just add some of the spicy Wholly Guacamole for an added kick!

We threw them on the grill.  Don't they look yummy?

I topped mine with tomatoes and some yummy gruyere cheese.  Dave opted for cheddar!  We had a side of potato wedges and called it dinner!  They were so flavorful and juicy!

YUM!  Thanks Michelle for sending me the link.  We'll definitely do these again!


I've had the book Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg for a while now.  Over the last couple of months I've really started using it.  I'm a HUGE fan of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day so I knew I would like this book too.

Dave and I aren't big pizza eaters.  We might order it once a month?  Maybe not that often?  Since I cracked this book we're having pizza two or three times a month!  Whipping up a batch of the dough is so easy and it lasts in the frig for two weeks.

We've perfected (at least as far as we're concerned) the "regular" crust.  We just stretch it to the size we want it, top it with our favorite toppings (no, I don't let David put sauerkraut on his!) and bake.

I decided to try and make the thin crust pizza.  Dave really likes thin crust and who can't use a few fewer carbs?

The technique is pretty simple, take that glob of dough and roll it between two greased sheets of parchment.

I know, it's not round!   It's artisan!

 It can be baked either on the parchment or off, though the book notes that if you take it off the parchment the dough will start to contract.  I left it on the parchment just because it was easier to transfer it to the stone!

It turned out great!

I can't wait to try more from the book... maybe flatbread next?

It's a Chili kind of night!

Happy New Year everyone!  It's that time of year where all you hear about is resolutions and weight loss strategies and yes, healthy recipes.

I received my copy of Food Network Magazine this week.  There are several recipes I wanted to try, including a cheesecake that looks like nachos (definitely not on the "light" list)!  But that's for another post.

I started with the Spicy Vegetarian Chili.

Here's a LINK to the recipe.

For those of you interested in the nutritional information: 
Per 1 cup serving: 156 Calories; 4g Fat (21.7% calories from fat); 6g Protein; 27g Carbohydrate; 7g Dietary Fiber; trace Cholesterol; 536mg Sodium.  Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 0 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat.

I won't kid you, there is lots of chopping to be done for this chili, onions, peppers, carrots and a chipoltle chili.  There are a lot of seasonings in this chili too, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano (yep, oregano!) and garlic.

There are also some unusual ingredients like cocoa powder, a couple of corn tortillas and brewed coffee.

I will admit I only used two tablespoons of chili powder rather than the three the recipe called for.  Three just seemed like too much with everything else.  It's plenty spicy (not hot spicy but seasoning spicy) with just the two tablespoons.

The veggies are chopped and sauteed in a little olive oil.  I used a chipoltle infused oil this time.  Isn't this beautiful?

The seasonings are added along with some tomato paste and things really start smelling good!

The recipe calls for canned roma tomatoes.  I opted for some fire roasted tomatoes instead.  Just to add a little smoky flavor!  Bean and water are added too and the whole thing simmers for about an hour and a half.  It really didn't look this much like mud.  It's just the picture!

The final touch is adding grated cauliflower.  Yes, grated. No, I've never grated cauliflower before.  It pretty much crumbles.  Next time maybe I'll just finely dice it!

Dave and I both really liked this chili.  It had enough heat for our noses to run but our mouths weren't on fire.  It had the nice slow, back-of-your-tongue heat that you get from chipoltle peppers.  What was really surprising was neither of us could tell ther was no meat in it!  I don't know if it was the diced carrots (I've never put those in chili before) or maybe it was that shredded cauliflower but the chili had a meat texture with no meat!   I think it's a keeper!

Oh and Dave would like me to remind all of you that I "forgot" the cilantro.  NOT!

Homemade Pita Bread

Jalapenos have come in at Farmer's Market which has me thinking of all recipes jalapeno.  I'll probably can some too, but that will ...

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