MN State Fair Fried (Baked) Pickles

Oven Baked PIckles |Veggie and the Beast

When I was a kid, August brought with it a wave of conflicting emotions. The excitement of an annual family beach vacation was offset by the paralyzing fear of returning to school, yet there was always one aspect of August that tilted my mood ever-so-slightly in the positive direction: The Minnesota State Fair.

While I was growing up, my family would go to the fair at least twice, but usually three times each year. Sure, us kids loved it, but the multiple journeys were mostly because of my mom. She grew up near the fair, and still transforms into a giddy kid as soon as she walks in the gates. This giddy kid then leads our hungry family from food stand to food stand, trying what’s new but mostly running to our tried-and-true favorites: cheese curds, mini donuts, and fried pickles.

Minnesota state fair oven baked fried pickles close

If you’re not a Minnesotan, you may think, “It’s a fair, big deal,” but no no no, not so fast. This isn’t just your average fair. It’s an opportunity to observe variety. Variety in food, variety in courage (I mean WHAT are those people in that bungee ball even THINKING?), and variety in people. Oh me-oh-my the people watching is fantastic: The mullets, the puffy 80s bangs, the 60+ woman in a halter top, the fanny packs…it’s just everything you’d ever want to watch while stuffing your face with fried pickles.

Minnesota state fair oven baked fried pickles stack

Since I can only make it to “The Great Minnesota Get Together” once this year, I thought that I’d try to bring a bit of the fair home. Maybe I couldn’t take the people watching home with me (which is good…things could get weird real fast), but I could try my hand at homemade fried pickles. When I say “fried” I mean baked, because deep-fried pickles should probably be limited to once, twice, or three times a year, but breaded and baked pickles should be just 20 minutes away year-round, right?

I came up with this recipe after some trial and error. My first mistake was buying a jar of pre-sliced pickles. They’re just not thick enough, so you need to make your own slices. You want a good bite of pickle, not all batter.

MN State Fair Oven Fried Pickles | Veggie and the Beast

In this first batch I also used just cornmeal and cornstarch to bread the pickles, and they turned out too thick and not crunchy enough. Then I tried just panko bread crumbs, but the crumbs were too big and not similar enough to Minnesota State Fair standards. That’s when I created this happy medium, with just a little cornmeal, a small spoonful of cornstarch, and finely processed panko crumbs. I’ve done the homework for you; If you want to make some Minnesota State Fair-style pickles at home, look no further.

If you’re feeling crazy, go ahead and fry these. They will be a bit more golden, and probably a tad crunchier, but I personally think that’s unnecessary. The drizzling of olive oil browns these up nicely, and the combination of panko and cornmeal makes them nice and crisp. You’d never even guess that they were baked.

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Whole Wheat Corn and Zucchini Galette

Zucchini and Corn Galette

Aaaaand this is me being a hypocrite. Last week I boldly stated that the BEST thing you could do during zucchini season is make chocolate zucchini cake. I’m not taking that back, heavens no, but I’m just admitting that there are a couple great things you can do.

Since one can/should only eat so much zucchini cake in a span of 2 weeks, I wanted to make a main entrée with my overflow of zucchini. A recipe I’d been eyeing from Smitten Kitchen came to mind…a buttery galette recipe with zucchini and cheese.

Did I mention there’s butter? Butter and marscapone and parmesan and goat cheese and grilled corn. And, as a sort of joke, I decided to adapt the crust to be a whole wheat pastry. Now I’m not only a hypocrite but I’m also an oxymoron…whole wheat pastry dough?…with a stick of butter folded in?…and topped with three kinds of cheese? That’s just dumb.

Dumb and brilliant.

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Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Zucchini season has arrived in a big, bad way. In the little 4×8 plot the boy and I care for (okay, he might care for it more than me), we had big plans for beans, squash, herbs, garlic, onions…the works. What do we have? A zucchini plant that’s basically grown over all the other plants, and conspired with the tomato plants to become the king and queen of the garden plot. I love tomatoes, but I’m kind of “meh” about zucchini…what the heck do we do with all of it?

After picking a particularly huge zucchini this weekend, I mentioned to the boy that I wanted to try my hand at zucchini bread. His eyes immediately lit up. “Are you making chocolate zucchini bread?” No, I wasn’t planning on that…”Well, will it have chocolate chips or frosting?” No, I’m making bread, not cake…”Oh, well Terese’s mom used to make this really great chocolate zucchini bread with chocolate chips, and it’s really amazing…” he trailed off, disappointed.

The boy’s uncharacteristically strong reaction told me that this zucchini “bread” (let’s just call it what it is…it’s cake) must be something very special. Since I’m not one to turn away from a good dessert, or really anything involving chocolate, we called the recipe holder to get the scoop.

Best. Decision. Ever.
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Economical Copycat Veggie Wrap

Vegan Veggie and Quinoa Wrap with Sundried Tomato Aioli | Veggie and the Beast

So folks, it’s official. After over a month of slowly moving items from point Veggie to point Beast, I now am living in a new neighborhood with a new roommate. I can’t complain about the company, but the location is taking some getting used to. It’s not that I dislike my new neighborhood. It’s just too…tempting.

For instance, I have not one, but TWO malls within walking distance. It seems that every corner holds an enticing boutique, and of course a Target sits just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Then there are the restaurants. Oh me, oh my, the restaurants.

Vegan Veggie and Quinoa Wrap with Sundried Tomato Aioli | Veggie and the Beast

This one particular restaurant haunts me. It creeps up on me when I’m hungry, reminding me that an awesome wrap is just a short walk away. A delicious wrap that’s full of veggies, brown rice, and a tangy vegan sun-dried tomato aioli that I could drink with a straw (gross…too far?). In short, it’s amazing. Amazing, expensive, and available for takeout. It’s a triple threat.

In an attempt to sidestep the multi-week veggie wrap purchases that would inevitably ensue, I decided to try my hand at wrap construction. With all the temptations surrounding me, I figured my bank account would thank me for trying to cure my wrap cravings at home.

Vegan Veggie and Quinoa Wrap with Sundried Tomato Aioli | Veggie and the Beast

The vegan aioli is really the star of the show, so I knew if that went awry, so too would my at-home-wrap experience. After my first bite my wallet cried out in joy. It’s creamy, tangy, and has just enough spice from the bit of cayenne.

You know what else rocks about this wrap? I’ve mentioned before that I kind of (/REALLY REALLY REALLY) hate carrots, unless they’re in cake-form, but I totally devour them here. It’s not just because they’re surrounded by good things either…there’s something about the crunch, shape, and slight sweetness of the carrots that makes me actually ENJOY them.

Vegan Veggie and Quinoa Wrap with Sundried Tomato Aioli | Veggie and the Beast

In fact, I have half of a bag left, so I see no other options than to A) make another batch of wraps or B) make carrot cake. Notice how I’m not automatically throwing myself at option B…that’s saying something.

Knowing that this wrap is waiting for me in my lunch box makes me smile. Not only do I have a healthy, economical meal, but I feel like I kind of conquered my new neighborhood apprehension. Moving to an exciting new area doesn’t need to mean throwing dollars at all the fun new things.
My bank account may need to have a talk with me about the clothes cravings, and the nearby cures, but that’s an issue for another day.
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