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Author Archive | Aleksandra Till

The Golden Egg

I’ve got a new obsession, and it is perfecting the soft-cooked egg. Recipes that are accompanied with pictures of bright sunny yolks beckon me… All varieties of dishes, topped off with soft-cooked eggs. You’ve got your noodle bowls, breakfasts, tagines, etc. They require a knack for timing. Too little time, and you have undercooked eggs with runny whites. Too long, and the yolk will harden. The goal is to get the whites cooked but the silky yolk to spill out golden decadence when you break into it.

This is the number one trick I’ve learned: use the timer. A loud one.

I wasn’t raised with soft-cooked eggs. In fact, I only ate scrambled eggs up until a couple years ago. I was so picky that as a youth, I only ate scrambled eggs prepared by my Tata or Baba! (Much to the irritation of every adult who ever served me eggs.) Though, that is another story. It is only recently I delved into soft-cooked eggs.

I am coming to realize soft-cooked eggs all serve different purposes. Soft-boiled eggs are great, but kind of tricky to get the shell peeled off quickly. So they are best when presentation is important. But for meals where the goal is to smash the egg into the rest of the dish, the poached egg is the better bet. They are quicker to the finish line. Soft-baked eggs are best when you need a little more time to get everything else ready, and they are wonderful for dipping toast (or, ahem, toasted brioche). Same with the sunny-side up egg. You want something pretty on the plate to dip toast in.

Fresh eggs are important, too. Really, nothing beats a farm-fresh eggs. I love when they are all different colors, from different chicken breeds. With a fresh egg, you are going to have a sunnier yolk and a firmer white. Not to mention the shell. I find “cheap” eggs tend to have flimsy shells (which really weirds me out). For me, eggs are one food where I will gladly pony up an extra $1.50 to support hens who are cared for.

Soft-Boiled Eggs

Soft-Boiled Eggs

Goal: Perfectly shaped egg, runny yolk

Poached Eggs

Poached Eggs

Goal: Smooth, coagulated whites (not drifting in the water), runny yolk

Soft-Baked Eggs

Soft-Baked Eggs

Goal: Whites set, runny yolk

Sunny-Side Up Eggs

Sunny-side Up Eggs

Goal: Whites set, no brown edges, runny yolk

For a thorough guide to the hard-boiled egg, we found a great post from Olivia at MyKingCook.com.

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It’s Not Beans To Me: Canning the Canned Bean

Oh, you little beans…tiny little buds. So good, yet so disdained. Here is one thing I know about beans: most people use canned. In fact, I daresay most people think it’s a complete and utter waste of time to cook dried beans.

As I softly boiled turtle beans for Blackened Corn Quesadillas (I needed the photo for an upcoming recipe on our menu), I wondered if people would genuinely be annoyed that I am making them boil beans from scratch. But one bite of the finished product convinced me that it’s worth the nominal effort.

So I feel I need to set the record straight. Here is why cooking dried beans is better than canned, and easier than you think:

1. Forget about overnight soaking. Trying to remember to soak beans the night before is a joke. I’d need to set a reminder on my phone if I’m expected to remember something like that. Despite common beliefs, you can soak them in the fridge for a good five days or so.* Mainly, you don’t want them in there so long they sprout. Otherwise, if you know you need them that week, throw the bowl (of beans covered with water) in the fridge and they’ll be good and soaked when you are ready to use them.

2. Amp the flavor with seasoning. When you soak and cook your own beans, you can add all kinds of wonderful seasoning to enhance the flavor. I am a fan of boiling beans with avocado leaf and coriander seeds in South American dishes. You can boil in flavorful broths like chicken, mushroom, beef, or vegetable. Or throw in some chili peppers so the beans lend a light heat to the dish. Get creative.

3. Say no to mush. Canned beans are soft to begin with. Forget about simmering canned beans in a slow cooker, they will disintegrate. Cooking your own beans lets you incorporate them into the dish in a way that canned can’t compete.

4. Running out of gas. Ah, the question of flatulence. Do beans make you gassy? Does preparing them this way or that affect how gassy they make you? There are tons of opinions on the topic. I read somewhere that adding kombu (dried seaweed) while soaking and cooking the beans increases digestability, and have to agree that there have been no smelly incidences since. I was a little worried that the beans would taste like seaweed, but after they are boiled they just taste like beans. Discard the kombu when the beans are done.

…and the final debate, the argument of time…

5. Bean time = prep time + cook time. The fact that I cook at home very frequently probably makes me a faster prep than many, but I am no Iron Chef. I have found — recipe after recipe — that if I get the beans boiling on the stove before I begin washing and chopping the other ingredients, they are done cooking by the time they are needed in the recipe.

So there. Maybe I can convince one person that recipes asking you to cook your own beans are not evil. That you should put down the can and head to the bulk section and revel in the new era of flavorful, digestible and easy to cook beans.

*Don’t leave soaked beans out on the countertop more than 10 hours or so. That’s not good. The water will spoil and they will probably start to sprout after two days. Even if you want to intentionally sprout your beans — which is very healthy and a great addition to salads, by the way! — you need to change the water frequently.

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A New Grocery Delivery for the Twin Cities

I bring you Homegrown Foods, a novel meal planning and grocery delivery service in the Twin Cities where foodie meets kid-friendly. This business is an effort to make cooking incredible meals fun and easy. To take the stress off of our collective plates, and bring some inspiration and fun to preparing dinner. As a mom of three small children (4, 2-1/2, and 6 months), I know how hard it is to put dinner on the table. But we’ve been recipe-testing for over a year and let me tell you, we’ve been eating goooooood.

Well folks, now all the paperwork is in order and we are ready for you.

This business started over a year ago when I first heard about the idea from my brother-in-law, who lives in Sweden. He and his girlfriend were trying the service Linas Matkasse (there are several there, Middagsfrid was the original) where customers sign up, then enjoy regular delivery of preportioned groceries for specific recipes. This conversation was on the heels of all the moms discussing the woes of figuring out what to make, going to the store, figuring out what goes with what, and how they just want to give up. Like every other mom, more than once I have lamented, “Why do I even bother?!” Except I love to cook and that is what keeps me going.

Like, I really love to cook…I’ll take cooking over cleaning any day (cleaning makes me grumpy). So when I heard the idea I thought, wow, that is a great service. Too bad nobody is doing anything like that here. I’d love to not have to worry about what next week’s menu is. With three small kids, it’d be a blessing to get to pass on grocery shopping half the time. Somebody should do that idea… I should do that idea!

And so here we are, offering to make grocery deliveries containing four dinner kits for $8 per person. The cornerstone of Homegrown Foods is great recipes and great ingredients. I am sort of a snob when it comes to ingredients. If there wasn’t love put into producing that food item, I probably am not going to love it back. I’m gonna make sure you love your groceries. I want to bring you ingredients as if I was shopping for my own family, getting them from local, organic, artisinal producers as often as I can. Also, I am a stickler for authentic ingredients. Be it kaffir lime leaves or chorizo, you will need to substitute (or do without) no more.

Each menu is composed of four dinners: a poultry, meat, vegetarian and seafood dish. If you are a couple, this should cover you for at least a week. If you are a family of four or five, about a week. (If you are six or more, you may want to have some extra grains or lettuce mix on-hand.) The menu changes every other week to take advantage of seasonally delicious ingredients.

The recipes are from a variety of sources and are only included on the roster if they are amazing and relatively fool-proof. I dislike recipes where if one component is off, the whole dish fails. I’ve also taken the time to provide several cooking methods. Because we live in Minnesota. That means we grill in the summer and run the oven (or slow-cooker) in the winter. These recipes produce dishes that’ll make the neighbors’ noses itch with envy. I guess that is my litmus test: the kitchen should smell divine and everyone come running to the table for dinner.

– Aleks Till

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Homegrown Foods … Coming soon!

Here at Homegrown Foods, we are working intently … getting all the details sorted out to ensure the best customer experience possible before launching. Double-checking recipes (finding some new ones, too), ordering supplies, and writing some crazy code so the website is all that and more.

We hope to be able to take orders Spring 2014 and get this business cookin’!

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