How to Use Mint: 6 Spring Time Ideas

by Carlye Cunniff
( March 27th, 2015 )

 

Fresh MintSpring has sprung, at least proverbially, and if the weather isn’t cooperating, a burst of minty freshness in your meals can pull you out of any rut. Mint used to grow like a weed in my family’s yard, so getting my hands on it was never a problem. I love it, but I don’t always know how to use mint. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with. Check it out!

Mint Potato Salad

Healthy Potato Salad. I hesitate to call this potato salad, because I actually really don’t like potato salad. I always see it at picnics and turn my nose up in disgust. I think it’s something to do with the mayo. There really isn’t another word for this dish though, it’s potatoes, in the form of salad. But it’s healthy. And not mayo-ey. I roast the potatoes first, and let them cool overnight in the fridge. Cut them into bite size pieces, drizzle with olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and a pinch of salt. I add mint, hard boiled eggs and fennel if I’m feeling adventurous. I usually add some chopped kale, but spinach works just as well.

Roasted Beet and Millet Salad. Another make ahead salad for a healthy lunch to bring with you on the go. Combine roasted beets, arugula (spinach is also lovely), chevre, chopped mint, cooked millet and a light vinaigrette.

Orzo Salad. I get a little tired of pasta salads, especially when I want something that tastes fresh and spring like. Mint to the rescue! You can really combine anything, but one of my favorites is feta, avocado, cherry tomatoes, fresh lemon juice and chopped mint.

Tea. If you are going to invest in a lot of mint, or have some growing  in your yard, making homemade mint tea is a treat! Check out this blog post from Kelsi Shay about harvesting mint leaves and making tea for more info. And yes, she is my sister who lives on a farm and writes about her farming life.

Fancy Water. This one is so easy it barely counts, but I always forget to do it. I love adding mint to my water bottle for the morning and have something delightful to sip on all day. If I want to get really fancy I add mint, lemon and cucumber, but I don’t always have time. If I want to get really, really fancy, I put it in some seltzer water. Yum.

Coffee. Whaaaaat? Mint in coffee? I know it sounds crazy (at least it did to me) but I saw the fine people of San Francisco doing it at Philz Coffee, so thought I’d give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised, it’s delightful! Check out this article about how to make mint coffee, hot or cold.

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White Bean and Leek Lasagna

by Carlye Cunniff
( March 24th, 2015 )

White Beans and Leeks Lasagna Filling

White beans and leeks is a tried and true combination. Add cheese and you are pretty much guaranteed a perfect dish. I make a big pot of white beans pretty frequently, so am always looking for more ways to use them. I love Sprouted Kitchen’s creamy white beans and leeks recipe – it’s so simple and makes a wonderful side dish. I wanted something with similar flavor that would satisfy my need to eat copious amounts of feelings. Thank you comfort food feelings, for bringing this white bean and leek lasagna to life! Also thank you to the Sprouted Kitchen, for your wonderful flavor combinations.

Trim the leek.

Ingredients:
2 Cups Cooked White Beans (I always use dry beans and cook them myself, but canned beans also work just fine, just make sure either type is drained for this recipe)
1 Bunch Spinach, roughly chopped
1 Large Leek (cleaned, green parts removed)
2 Cloves of Garlic (minced)
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/1/2 Cups Veggie Broth
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Bay Leaf
2 Tablespoons Flour
1/2 Package No-Cook Lasagna Noodles
1 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Grated Mozzarella
1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes

Directions:
Melt half the butter over medium heat (loving that cast iron skillet for this) add leeks until they are just wilted, about 3 minutes. Transfer leeks to bowl.
Melt the remaining butter, add garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant.
Add white beans and cook until beans begin to get brown (and crispy) on the outsides.

White Beans
Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
Add spinach and cover skillet until spinach wilts.
Transfer spinach and beans to bowl with leeks, toss to distribute.
Add veggie broth, cream and bay leaf to the skillet and boil over high heat. Mine totally boiled over. So watch it carefully! You’re going for a thickening reaction to the heat, so keep checking.
Add flour and whisk until smooth. Boil again, until sauce is nice and creamy.

White Sauce
Get rid of that bay leaf and pour sauce over leek-spinach-bean mixture.
Add half of both cheeses to the mix.
Taste this and season with salt and pepper. I highly recommend tasting this delicious mixture more than you think you need to. Yum!
Assemble the lasagna! Start with a buttered baking dish, then layer first sauce, then cheese, then noodles. I got three layers!
Bake for about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. I like to make my lasagna the day before and let it sit in the fridge so the flavors can percolate, but you don’t need to.
Enjoy!

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San Francisco Tourist Attractions That Have Great Food

by Carlye Cunniff
( March 20th, 2015 )

 

I Love San Francisco

On a recent vacation to San Francisco, my boyfriend and I got to enjoy beer week, sunshine, and hiking in the wonderful Marin headlands. We also (thanks to me) got to venture into the land of tourism at it’s worst – Fisherman’s Wharf. The noise, and all the people, and all the junk being sold is not my idea of a good time. So why did I drag us there? The sea lions! I wanted to see them (again). I don’t think it was worth it. They are kind of stinky (actually really foul) and the battle to get to them was full of chain restaurants, strip mall style tourist shops and throngs of people bearing selfie-sticks. And, I was asked to experience all this on an empty stomach, because when you are in San Francisco, you do not waste your hunger on lousy food. So, what are some San Francisco tourist attractions that have great food? Read on!

Cowgirl Creamery

The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. I have to admit, I was skeptical about this one. The boyfriend suggested it for breakfast, which in theory sounds nice. I am however, someone who needs to eat upon thirty seconds of waking up so I don’t hurt anyone so the bus ride, walk and decision making process of eating at the market seemed overwhelming. It was worth it though! I admit, we didn’t go on a Saturday, when I imagine the market is crazy. There was still a good sized crowd, and the food offerings are San Francisco quality. It did take us a long time to decide, there are so many options for delicious, local and healthy food, but the cheese at Cowgirl Creamery was calling. As a side note, Cowgirl Creamery’s website has a cheese library, just sayin. A delightful sandwich, full of three different artisan cheeses from their dairy, plus other locally sourced ingredients, made for a perfect brunch to be enjoyed while soaking up the sunshine on the dock. To top it all off, a latte from iconic Blue Bottle Coffee.

Mario's Cigar Shop

Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Store. As I understand it, Mario’s is a North Beach neighborhood staple – a tourist attraction that locals also frequent. We actually found ourselves here after a long walk (up and over Coit Tower) from the Ferry Building and the Tiramisu I indulged in was much appreciated. It was also really tasty, a perfect combination of flavors and served with no fuss. Though our options were pretty limitless (beer, wine, booze, dessert, lunch) we both enjoyed some Italian Soda’s whilst sitting in the window, watching the world go by. The place is small, charming and a lovely retreat for the sugar-low or thirsty traveler.

Buena Vista Cafe

The Buena Vista Cafe. So the sea lions were potentially not worth the trip to Fisherman’s Wharf, but the Irish coffees at Buena Vista Cafe might have been. My man talks about these Irish coffees on a weekly basis, and has to make a stop here whenever he comes to San Francisco. The shop is a tourist magnet – they sell shirts and hats and all sorts of wearables. They also sell awesome Irish coffee. I would have a seat at the bar, order one of the famous coffees, and watch the masters at work. The bartenders are no nonsense, the cheesey attitude that oozes over the rest of Fisherman’s Wharf disappears at the door to Buena Vista. I don’t really love Irish coffee as a general rule, but this is the perfect pick-me-up. The method has been perfected throughout the years (and is well documented on much of the cafe’s merchandise) and it’s working.

What are your favorite San Francisco tourist spots? Let us know in the comments!

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