Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is one of those great holidays that you can never forget what day it’s on. Unless, of course, you don’t know that cinco means five and Mayo means May. If that is you, you probably should have taken Spanish is second grade.

Cinco de Mayo was last Sunday, and celebration ensued. Although not quite on par with St Patty’s Day, Cinco de Mayo is definitely a boozey holiday, and pretty much every bar around the Twin Cities offered some sort of Cinco de Mayo deal. The bar scene’s not really my style, so the only celebration I partook in was hosted at the lovely apartment of a fun and fabulous friend. This party made every bar in town look downright lame. The decorations were festive:

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And the food was AMAZING. There were blue corn chips and chicken enchiladas:

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Beans with veggies and brown rice:

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And – the essentials – salsa and guacamole:

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The salsa was of the mango variety. Everything (except the chips) was homemade and utterly delicious:

chopping cilantro

chopping cilantro

I filled my plate with chicken enchiladas, beans, and plenty of chips plus salsa/guac:

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Food + friends = smiles all around

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Punch with optional tequila was still present. 🙂

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Blue Nile

Although trying new restaurants around Minneapolis is one of my favorite activities, I rarely have a completely new eating experience. ‘New’ in the sense of a cuisine or eating style I’ve literally never tried before. Last weekend, however, I had a completely new eating experience at Blue Nile. Blue Nile is an Ethiopian restaurant and lounge located in the Seward neighborhood.

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The exterior of the restaurant is beautifully painted with murals and geometric designs:

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The interior is casual and comfortable with big comfy chairs, drapes, and large booths:

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The restaurant area (pictured above) is separate from the bar area. Having never eaten Ethiopian cuisine before, the menu was a little overwhelming. The meats used in Ethiopian cooking are: chicken, lamb, and beef. There were also a wide array of vegetarian dishes featuring beans and lentils. I ordered a vegetarian combination platter which came with a variety of bean and lentil dishes – plus hot sauce and yogurt in the center:

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Ethiopian food is traditionally served with biddeena (or injera) – a flat bread made with teff.

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The best way to describe the biddeena is as a slightly thicker and spongier form of crepe. Ethiopian food is not eaten with a knife and fork but, rather, you use the biddeena to scoop up the food. It’s definitely a messy process! Hot towels are brought with the food so you can clean your hands and use it as a napkin throughout.

This was definitely a unique eating experience. After getting past the initial surprise at the eating style, it was pretty fun to scoop up food with my fingers. The food itself wasn’t my favorite. The vegetarian sampler plate got a little monotonous – although differently spiced, the bean and lentil dishes all sort of started to taste the same. If I came back to this or a similar restaurant, I would definitely want to order a meal with more variety in taste and texture.

Overall, I would say this could be a fun restaurant to try if you’re looking for something new, but I wouldn’t advise it for a first date or fancy occasion!

Spiced Chickpeas with Mixed Greens

When I made roasted tomato coconut soup last week, the recipe called for two tablespoons of tomato paste. Unfortunately, tomato paste comes in a 6oz jar. As a result, I’ve had 6 ounces (less 2 tablespoons) of tomato paste sitting in my fridge for the last few days. I also had about half of a 12oz bag of mixed greens, so I decided to use these two ingredients as the basis for a dish. Wanting to involve a protein, chickpeas seemed like a good fit.

On my roommate’s recommendation, I checked out a Spinach and Chickpeas recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Referencing Smitten Kitchen’s spices, I made up my own recipe. *full recipe below

Heat 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and 6 ounces tomato paste (less 2 tablespoons) in a skillet:

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Stir to combine and add one can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed:

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Add a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each of paprika and garam masala, stir to combine:

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Add 6oz mixed greens (this is an approximation as I used about half of a 12oz bag):

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Continue to mix until the greens cook down:

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This entire recipe look less than 15 minutes to come together. I divided it into two tupperwares with some roasted potatoes to bring for lunch during the week:

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Ingredients
- 6oz can of tomato paste
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 can of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- heaping 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- heaping 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
- 6oz mixed greens
Method
Combine water, vinegar, and tomato paste in a skillet. Stir to combine.
Add garbanzo beans, paprika, and garam masala. Stir to combine.
Add mixed greens and cook, mixing constantly, until the greens wilt.
Serve and enjoy!

Easy Tuna Bean Salad

Sorry for the hiatus in posting – I was out of town last weekend for a work related trip. While away, I managed to get in a couple workouts at the hotel fitness room. I did one 5-mile run:

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And I also got in a 45 minute elliptical workout. I was staying at a Hilton, and the fitness center had the essentials but nothing fancy: two treadmills, two ellipticals, two bikes, and some dumbbells.

When I got home, I was very ready to return to normal eating (food on vacation is fun for a little, but I like to return to my regular routine). I decided to make some tuna bean salad for lunches during the week. This recipe was really easy, took about 10 minutes to put together, and will provide healthy and delicious lunches all week! This is all you need:

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One large can of cannellini beans, one can of tuna, plain greek yogurt, dijon mustard, and capers. I drained and rinsed the beans, drained the tuna, and combined them in a bowl. I topped them with about 1/4 cup of chobani (generously portioned), one tablespoon of dijon mustard, and approximately 1.5 tablespoons of drained capers:

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Mix it all up:

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Divide into four lunches (I put my tuna salad over spinach):

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Top with tomato:

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And eat yummy lunches all week! When I bring these to work, I’ll also bring some pita and hummus to eat with.

Biking and El Nuevo Rodeo

Friday morning it was a beautiful spring day. Sort of like this…

beautiful Spring Day on a country road - spring Photo [source]

Okay, so I might be slightly exaggerating. But it was really nice outside and it seemed appropriate to bike to work. By 4 o’clock it had turned to this:

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You might think it was just rainy, but it was actually more of a sleet/snow that turned to water when it hit the ground. Needless to say, by bike ride home was not the greatest. I was not wearing appropriate clothing and I got soaked:

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Oh well! After I showered and changed, I had dinner with some friends at El Nuevo Rodeo. It’s a Mexican restaurant in south Minneapolis on Lake Street. I hadn’t been there before, but a friend of mine had a deal for them from restaurant.com. Have you ever heard of restaurant.com? I hadn’t, but apparently it’s a groupon-esque sight for just restaurants. We started with chips and guac (obviously):

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The guacamole was good and had hints of jalapeno and cilantro. I ordered fajitas for my main meal. I was very hungry when the food arrived, so I forgot to take a picture. They were good though. I’ve noticed that at a lot of Mexican restaurants they give you heaping portions of rice and beans with your meal. The portions at El Nuevo Rancho were much more reasonably sized. The fajitas came with meat (I got combo chicken and steak), onions, and bell peppers. They were delicious. Others at the table got flautas, chile relleno, and chicken mole enchiladas. I tried the mole sauce. It was very rich and tasty but might be a little dense if you eat too much.

We were there fairly late, and by the time we finished our meal it was happy hour. So as not to waste a perfectly good happy hour deal, one of friends ordered the Coco Loco – malibu rum, gin, coconut cream and pineapple juice served in a COCONUT!

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Everyone at the table thoroughly admired the presentation. Overall, I liked the food, but I wasn’t so smitten that I would go back here as opposed to trying the Mexican food at another establishment. If anyone knows a great Mexican restaurant in Minneapolis, let me know!

 

Quinoa and Lentil Soup Mix

Last week, I used two items from the March Bestowed package. The first was the quinoa and lentil soup mix.

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Making the soup was incredibly easy. All you do is combine the package contents with 2 cups of water in a sauce pan and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring constantly:

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When it’s finished, the soup will be pretty thick – there wasn’t a ton of ‘broth.’ I served over spinach and added some black beans and almonds:

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As you can see, it’s not very soup-like, but I thought it was delicious and very flavorful. It would definitely be a good pantry item to have on hand for a quick, nutritious meal.

The second March Bestowed item I used was the happy squeeze smoothie.

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Instead of drinking it straight, I combined it with yogurt and cereal for breakfast.

Step 1: greek yogurt (I use plain fage)

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Step 2: add fiber one, almonds, and smoothie

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I refrigerated the mixture overnight and then ate it in the morning, topped with some granola and almond milk:

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The smoothie added a nice fruity taste to the breakfast, but I don’t think I would have liked drinking it straight – that’s more of a personal preference than due to the taste though.

As always, I enjoyed trying all of the Bestowed products!

In other news…Noah and I also tried Tilia last week.

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We’ve been wanting to try Tilia for a while but have been intimidated to go on a weekend since there always seem to be a really long line (we also took this as an indication that the food would be good). We decided to go on Monday night, and that strategy worked since we didn’t wait for a table at all. Unfortunately, the restaurant was extremely dark and I felt bad using my flash, so I don’t have any pictures….but I will tell you about the food!

To start, I had a spinach salad that came with mushrooms, soft-boiled egg, and parmesan. Noah had flat bread that was served with olive oil and dukka (a mix of middle-eastern spices) to dip in.

For our entrees, I ordered a turkey burger and Noah had Grilled Bison New York Strip. I didn’t try the bison, but Noah said it tasted great. As to the burger – GREAT! The meat was really juicy, and the grilled onions on top added a great flavor. I would have liked some regular lettuce and tomato on there too, but that might have been a little too basic for this sort of establishment. 🙂

We splurged for dessert, and Noah got a butterscotch brûlée while I ordered chocolate cake that came with peanut butter and banana sauce.

Overall, everything was great. The restaurant was also very affordable for the quality of food. It’s a nice enough place though that it seems like you’re supposed to order more than one dish per person, so that brings the bill up fast. That said, I think this is better for a longer, more formal meal rather than a quick bite out. I will keep it in mind for out-of-town guests and celebrations. Bonus: they use many local ingredients!

Kidney Bean Patties

You really can’t go wrong with a veggie patty for lunch or dinner. They’re yummy, nutritious, high in protein, and easy to grab in a pinch if you make a big batch at the beginning of the week. I decided to make some kidney bean patties for the week since I had a big can of – you guessed it – kidney beans. (full recipe below)

The necessary ingredients: kindey beans (I had a 25oz. can, but two 15oz. cans would work), oats, whole wheat flour, ground cayenne, oregano, and an egg.

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Plus one chopped onion and garlic:

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Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined but still textured:

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Form the mixture into 6 patties (I used a spatula to do this since the mixture was quite sticky) and bake at 425° for 15 minutes on each side.

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These patties held together really well, and I enjoyed the little kick provided by the cayenne. I served with couscous, spinach, and salsa, but they would also go great on a bun as a burger substitute.

Kidney Bean Patties
serves 6
Ingredients
- 25oz. kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 chopped onion
- 1 tsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 cup oats
- 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 1 tsp. cayenne
- 1 egg, beaten
Method
Preheat oven to 425°

Combine all ingredients in a food processor until combined but still textured. 
Use a spatula or large spoon to form mixture into 6 patties on a baking tray. 
Bake for 15 minutes on each side.