Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Grandma Clara's Peppermint Dessert

I am being proactive this year and working on several of my Thanksgiving dishes ahead of time. One particular dish, a tasty and minty dessert, is one from my childhood. It was a recipe my grandmother made and was something I looked forward to every year. It may not be the most "foodie" recipe, but eating brings me back to being 8 years old at my grandma's house surrounded by lots of relatives.

Here is the recipe:

Grandma Clara's Peppermint Dessert

Recipe by Clara Newman


8-16 oz. peppermint candies (use as much as you like)

1 pint heavy cream

1 tbsp vanilla

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk

8 oz large marshmallows

Graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


1. Pour the whole milk into a large microwave-safe bowl. Add the marshmallows. Microwave for 1-2 minutes until marshmallows are puffy. Set aside to cool.

2. Place peppermints in blender or food processor. Run until the mints are a fine dust. Set aside.

3. Pour the cream into a bowl. Add sugar and vanilla. Whip cream until cream holds peaks.

4. Fold the peppermint dust into the whipped cream.

5. Fold minted cream into marshmallow mixture and incorporate. Mix in walnuts.

6. Fill the bottom of an 8x8 inch pan with graham cracker crumbs - patting down to create a solid "crust".

7. Pour mixture into the pan. Cover with aluminum foil.

8. Freeze pan (ensuring it is level).

9. When ready to serve, cut into squares and serve frozen.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Where Have I Been?

Yes, I have severely broken my New Year's resolution and had a complete lapse in my blog posting. What do they say about New Year's resolutions - most are broken halfway through the year? At least I did well through August!

Today's post won't have a lot of pretty pictures. Sorry, it is a boring word-only post.

Ok, ok, you don't care. You just want to know what I have been up to for the last 3 months or so. Right? I know you do!

We did a lot of eating from the garden. We got a nice crop of butternut squash this year as well as several pumpkins.

Our Swedish Blue ducks went for "finishing". Our friend took several of them and turned them into duck breast proscuitto and duck leg confit. Both are seriously tasty. We are really spoiled to have such a talented and sharing friend. A thin slice of the proscuitto is this wonderful combination of salt, funk and sweetness. I am in no mood to share it with anyone.

We had our 2nd annual Fall Festival on the Farm. This year we did goat instead of pig. We got the goats from Dancing Wind Farm, which is about 20 minutes from our place. We made a couple of curries with some of the goat meat (as well as a vegan butternut squash curry) and roasted a whole goat over a fire pit. Our friends and family turned out with some outstanding side dishes and the weather cooperated with sun and warmth. We are looking forward to next year.

Hubby and I attended a Women's Environmental Institute (WEI) training weekend north of the Twin Cities. It was done in conjunction with Growing Power, Inc. We got to meet Will Allen and spent the weekend building hoop houses, aquaponics units, worm composting bins and 10 foot-high compost piles. We met some really great people and had a lot of fun, despite the cold and rain (and vehicles getting stuck in mud).

While Hubby went up for deer opener, I went to a Slow Food MN event at Hells Kitchen in Minneapolis. I was a complete and total food geek by bringing our copy of Damn Good Food and having Mitch Omer sign it. He and his wife were so wonderful - very happy that we were there and graciously answering all sorts of questions. They also gave us some insight into the balancing act restaurants must do - complicated by adding local food sourcing. They would love to get local eggs, but their volume is huge. Most small, local egg producers just can't provide them with enough eggs. Hmmm....maybe Hubby and I should increase our flock...

So, that is a quick overview of what has gone on over the last 3 months. I will endeavor to be more consistent in my posting. After all, we do have that Mother-of-all food events coming up: Thanksgiving.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The garden is going like crazy right now. It is all we can do to keep up. In fact, I believe we are failing to keep up. The chickens have had their fair share of huge zucchini (that hid from our eyes until they were the size of dump trucks - how do they DO that?). Our sungold tomatoes are starting to come ripe. Oh, what a lovely, tasty snack when you are going about the garden. They are like little sweet, juicy bombs going off in your mouth. So awesome!

This weekend, Hubby and I started harvesting the Borlotti beans as fresh eating beans. This is the stage after they are green (and can be eaten like a typical green bean). The beans themselves are fully developed and can be eaten out of the shell. But it is before the beans hardened and dry (when they are good for storing to use during the winter). Borlotti beans are absolutely beautiful beans.

You cannot find these in stores (at least around here), and it is a shame. They are good for eating throughout their various stages and are simply gorgeous.

We used these borlotti beans in an "around the garden"soup which also had onions, garlic, scarlet runner beans (green stage), carrots, courgettes (zucchini), turnips, beets, potatoes, sungold tomatoes and various herbs. Yum!

There will be more to come. I'm looking forward to all the tomatoes getting ripe to start making sauces.

How are the gardens going out there?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I'm Up to Here...

With beans and apricots and will soon add zuccini (or courgettes - that word sounds so sophisticated) to the list. We survived some pretty wicked storms - except for our Bismarck corn which was blown down.

Quick post, I know. More to come with photos.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

In Memoriam

We had to put Yellow Dog down today. He seemed to be doing fine last week. But at the beginning of the week, we noticed that he wasn't eating or drinking. He seemed very uncomfortable and doing a lot more whining than usual.

We brought him to the vet earlier this week. The only thing they could find was that his bladder was huge. The vet said he had never seen a farm dog with a bladder that big. It was full and Yellow Dog seemed unable to relieve himself. They catheterized him and helped him out. But nothing seemed amiss. They sent him home with instructions to watch how he did.

Well, he didn't improve.

The dog dish sat full. The water bowl wasn't touched. Yellow Dog would wander under a pine tree and lay there - no energy, no movement. He seemed so tired. He didn't relieve himself. He just kept looking tired and uncomfortable.

Blood work was run. Xrays were taken. Nothing.

But he wasn't improving. He couldn't seem to expel his waste.

In the end, the vet thought there was some nerve issue. There wasn't anything to do.

It is a tough thing to decide to put your dog down. It was especially hard with Yellow Dog. When we moved to our little house in the field, we had no animals. Then suddenly, on the 4th of July 5 years ago, a yellow dog showed up in our yard. No tag, no collar. But he was very friendly and loved being pet and played with. Since we didn't know his name, we called him Yellow Dog.

Concerned that he would run off before we could track down the owner, we attempted to tie him up to one of the trees. Well, Yellow Dog was a clever chap and figured out how to wiggle his pinhead out of the collar and leash. But he seemed in no hurry to move on. So, we got some food and put out some water.

We made calls to the local vet to see if anyone had reported a missing dog. Nothing. We checked the local paper and the local town for posters looking for a lost dog. Nothing. Days turned into weeks. Nothing.

Then the person we bought our old house from came by and said "Hey Cooper!". What? You know this dog?? Well yes, he said, he belongs to a guy down that way. I'll bring him back, if you want. Well, we felt a twinge of sadness, but felt he should go back to his owner. So, he was put into the back of the pickup truck and was driven off.

An hour later, Cooper aka Yellow Dog came bounding through the field into our yard. And that was it. He chose us.

We didn't have him for very long. But he was a great dog. He was very smart. During the winter, he would plant himself in front of the kitchen window. If he saw one of use looking out, he would look forlorn and start to shake. Once we moved out of his line of sight (but still could see him), the shivering would stop. He tore apart his fair share of garbage and stole food off the kitchen counter. He loved having his butt scratched - often looking back at us with a look of pure ecstasy as his hind hips were rubbed. He was very vocal, whining as we got out of the car when we got home from work. He perfected the downward facing dog pose - or as we called it - The Bow. He was a great pet and we loved him.

You are very much missed tonight Yellow Dog.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

...And A Cherry On Top

We have heard rumors of massive storms tonight. We'd put off harvesting our sour cherries for days, but the rumors decided it for us. Harvest time!

This is the first year we had a good harvest of cherries. FINALLY!They look great!

The Cherries

Of course, we need to actually do something with these cherries. The obvious answer is of course - Cherry Pie!

First though, the cherries needed to pitted. We had bought a cherry pitter sometime years ago. Good for us! It did make the job easier and quicker, though still pretty messy.

In Process

I looked on the interwebs. I found one recipe for a Sour Cherry Pie that called for lemon and cornstarch. Ok....then I found another from the New York Times that called for cinnamon and brandy. BINGO! The only problem was it called for tapioca as the thickener. So I used the cornstarch instead. Also, the New York Times recipe called for baking the pie crust before pouring in the filling. Too much work for me! So I didn't.

For once, the pie crust was not too bad. If you have ready previous posts, you know that pie crusts are not my forte. However, it is really hot and humid today. We don't have air condition. Thus, the dough turned out a bit more moist than I usually get it. It gummed up a bit on rolling, and still split and didn't stay nice and round. But it was a lot easier to work with and fixing it was a lot easier. Note to self - more moist crust is good.

The pie turned out great! I literally took a spoon to the cookie sheet I had underneath it and started spooning up the sweet and sour cherry-flavored goop. Ooooooooooo! Nice!

The pie

The pie is still cooling as I type. But, I know it will be good. Hubby and I will enjoy it with some Cedar Summit vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmmm.....

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Whole Hog

Yesterday, Hubby and I went to Corner Table for a butchery class. This fabulous restaurant in Minneapolis focuses on local, sustainable food and holds several classes throughout the year. Hubby follows the executive chef, Scott Pampuch, on Twitter and saw that some spots had opened up at the last minute. Woot!

We showed up to the restaurant at 12:30pm and were greeted by Scott. He got us some coffee and tea. Did you know that his tea distributor has directions on how to brew each type of tea? Yeah, I didn't either until yesterday. How much tea leaves, the water temperature, how long to steep - wow! But, I must say, it was a very nice tea.

Others started to show up - a couple we had met at one of Scott's Tour de Farm dinners last summer came in. The class is limited to 6 people, so everyone gets a chance to jump in and get involved.

The groups split into two and we were each given half a pig. Our half had the whole tongue. Most of the offal was taken out - with only the kidney left. We each took turns cutting and sawing various sections as directed by Scott. Remember folks: knife for flesh, saw for bone.

I will admit that I am, well, challenged, when it comes to handling knives. Hubby cringes whenever I wield a knife in the kitchen and either takes the knife away and does the cutting himself or retreats to the living room with a trailing comment of where the bandages are located. Well, Scott noted my incorrect hold on the knife and provided me with corrective feedback.

Needless to say, Hubby was exasperated since he had told me the exact same thing on several occasions. I am still working on remembering no index finger on the top of the blade. I will get it eventually.

I had to opportunity to cut out the tenderloin, we cut off the hind-leg for making prosciutto (Scott will make them with Mike Phillips, executive chef at The Craftsman). We sawed off the feet (or trotters - I love calling them trotters!). We mostly stuck to the primal cuts. We did prep the meat for making as large "sausage" - a Mortadella that was encased in a cow intestine. Plenty of chuckles as the sausage was stuffed, but a good time.

We did get a light snack - some head cheese, a nice soft aged cheese (creamy like brie but had a much more funky, strong crust - which I like), and DIY soft tacos with confited turkey, pickled carrots, tomatoes, basil. We brought some Nocino along as well. Scott also brought out a very tasty chocolate ganache - the small shavings had a deep, rich chocolate flavor enhanced by a nice saltiness. I felt it went great with the Nocino.

It was a very fun afternoon. If you get the opportunity to do something similar, I would encourage you to do so.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Catching Up

Yes, I have been extremely neglectful of my blogging duties. But, at least I can say that I am making an effort - if not consistent.

Things are picking up around here. We have been eating a lot of asparagus - and have gotten to the point where they grow faster than we have the ability/desire to harvest them. So, most have gone to seed. I do have to say, though, that asparagus "in-flower" is actually pretty looking. So, I don't mind.

Our radishes have gone completely bonkers, and we've eaten the first round. I believe we will be sowing a second round soon. We do have some in a pickle press with miso paste - so I am looking forward to sampling them when they are ready.

We have had several salads from our garden greens.

The peas, broad beans (fava beans), scarlet runner beans, and barlotti beans are all coming up quick, as are the zuccinis and squashes. The popcorn is coming up well, the potatoes all seem to be doing their thing. The carrots, shallots, leeks, beets, turnips, kale, and chard are growing. Our tomato seedlings seem to have made it (we did them from seed this year) - we even got a few "volunteer" tomatoes where last year's tomatoes were located. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they are Sungolds - the sweetest cherry-type tomato I've ever encountered.

We've sauteed up some broccoli rabe, which taste very much of broccoli raw but get a very mustardy flavor when cooked. Very tasty.

But, my favorite right now are our strawberries! I love garden fresh strawberries. We've nibbled a few that have come ripe up til now. But, today, I harvested a good bowlful. I macerated them with raw sugar, balsamic vinegar and black pepper - OH MY! That is SO good. I completely advocate macerating strawberries with balsamic vinegar - it is so tasty and you get a much more flavorful and complex syrup. This concoction was perfect over a bowl of Cedar Summit vanilla ice cream.

How are your summer harvests going?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Old Family Recipe

My cousin recently posted on Facebook that she had just made a rhubarb recipe from her great-grandmother (my grandmother). She raved about it, in fact. As it turns out, several of us had never heard of this mysterious recipe before. We practically demanded that she give us the recipe too. Of course, she kindly obliged. I am sharing the recipe with all of you (yes, all of you!).

Grandma Beulah's Rhubarb Crunch

The Crust
1 cup flour
5 Tbsp powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter

Mix together the ingredients and pat into a 9"round pan. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

The Filling
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
2 cups rhubarb peices

Beat eggs until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients. Pour over crust and bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

Add whipped cream to your serving if you so desire.

On another note: Apparently we had April in March and May in April. So of course, we now have March in May. Freeze warnings and snow - this is madness! We contemplated putting the burn barrel out in the middle of our orchard, burning away, just to keep the blossoms and fruit (yes, we have apricot fruits that are setting) from freezing. Ahhhhh! Come on warm weather! Oh, well, I will be able to console myself with rhubarb crunch.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Recipes for the Dinner

Ok, I know I am bad about posting recipes. I am making the effort to be better. Here are some recipes. The quiche recipes are based on what I did - which were variations on a basic quiche recipe I found online.

Quiche Crust (from a recipe online - makes 2 crusts)

  • 1 and 3/4 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 stick of cold, unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp sour cream or creme fraiche
  1. Mix the flour and salt together (I use a fork) in a bowl.
  2. Cut the butter into cubes or chunks. Using a pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the flour. It should be like coarse sand when it is ready
  3. Create a hole in center of the mixture.
  4. Break the egg into the hole and add the sour cream or creme fraiche.
  5. Beat the egg and sour cream/creme fraiche together with a fork, slowly incorporating the flour mixture as you go.
  6. Use your hand to get all of the dough to mix stick together.
  7. Break the dough in half and form each into a disk shape.
  8. Wrap each disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  9. Allow dough to warm up a little bit before rolling out.
Ham and Spinach Quiche

  • 1 cup of ham, cubed
  • 1 cup of wilted spinach (you can use frozen or fresh, but you will need a lot more fresh to get 1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced (any kind you want - just not the white button mushrooms, please)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 2/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 9-inch pie pan lined with the quiche crust (kept in the refrigerator until the last moment)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and saute onions until soft (3-5 minutes)
  3. Add mushrooms and saute until tender (3-5 minutes).
  4. Add the ham and allow heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Add the parsley to the mixture, mix and turn off heat.
  6. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and half and half together.
  7. Add the Gruyere cheese and the wilted spinach to the egg mixture and incorporate well.
  8. Add the ham, onion and mushrooms to the egg mixture and work together.
  9. Pour the mixture into the lined pie-pan.
  10. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  11. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
Smoked Whitefish and Asparagus Quiche

  • 1 cup of smoked whitefish, deboned and in chunks
  • 1 cup of sliced asparagus (however size you like, but larger chunks will take longer to cook)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced (any kind you want - just not the white button mushrooms, please)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup half and half
  • 2/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 9-inch pie pan lined with the quiche crust (kept in the refrigerator until the last moment)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and saute onions until soft (3-5 minutes)
  3. Add mushrooms and saute until tender (3-5 minutes).
  4. Remove the onions and mushrooms to a bowl and add the sliced asparagus. Saute until the slices green up.
  5. Add back the onions and mushrooms. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the parsley to the mixture, mix and turn off heat.
  7. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and half and half together.
  8. Add the Gruyere cheese and the smoked whitefish to the egg mixture and incorporate well.
  9. Add the asparagus, onion and mushrooms to the egg mixture and work together.
  10. Pour the mixture into the lined pie-pan.
  11. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.
  12. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Dinner and a Slug-fest

We had invited my mother-in-law to dinner today. Of course, I hadn't cleaned the house in weeks, so this morning consisted of me tearing through the house like a tornado trying to get things picked-up, scrubbed, and generally - un-mucked. I was a least on the first floor.

Then, there was the food. The food. Yes, the food!

As I posted last time, I have become enamored with the quiche. I know - why would anyone become enamored with quiche? I don't have a good answer for you. All I can say is - It is pretty easy to make, it uses eggs....and it's an easy use of eggs....

Anyway, I decided on 2 quiches this time. The first was a more traditional quiche. It was ham and spinach with a trio of mushrooms (shitake, cremini, and oyster). The second was more a niche quiche (yes, I just wrote that!). It was smoked whitefish and asparagus with the same trio of mushrooms. Both quiches used a yellow onion and fresh parsley.

The main ingredients for the ham and spinach quiche

The main ingredients for the smoked white fish and asparagus quiche

I do have to say, it is SO nice to be able to go out to our garden cut the asparagus right before using it. It doesn't get any fresher or tastier!

Both quiches used eggs, half and half, and Gruyere cheese. Here are the quiches before they went into the oven.

In addition, I made some No Knead Bread. It is interesting to see the difference in this bread when made during warmer, more humid months compared to cooler, drier months. Today's bread had much more rise in it and was much lighter and fluffier in texture than ones I made during the winter.

I also sauteed some more fresh asparagus and some of our spring onions with olive oil and then dressed them up with some local apple vinegar. It is SO good - sweet with some nice char and then the acidity of the vinegar. My mother-in-law had only had asparagus from the can and hated the stuff (not that I blame her). She was completely turned around with our fresh asparagus. There is absolutely no comparison.

I made another batch of vanilla custard (sorry - no picture). For dessert we took some shortcakes I made (a few days ago) and covered them with some orange-infused rhubarb compote (I made this a few days ago as well). This was topped off with generous dollops of the vanilla custard. This is a winner, folks. Make this for someone and they will be eternally grateful.

Here are some more gratuitous food photos.

Yes, I know this photo is dark - I am not a photographer.

See the above comment.

How did we end this glorious feast? We went out to the orchard and the garden. First, we hunted down the evil tent caterpillars that are invading our beautiful fruit trees. We sprayed a bacteria on them that is dangerous only to them. Then, in the garden, my mother-in-law pulled dandelions while Hubby and I scrounged for the evil slug. We captured some (but surely not nearly enough) of the little devils and fed them to the chickens.

Well, I am ready to have a nice glass of beer and maybe work on the pile of dishes in the kitchen. Or maybe, just the nice glass of beer.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Smoked Pheasant Quiche

Yesterday I made a Smoked Pheasant Quiche for dinner. I took a basic quiche recipe that I found online and changed things up a bit.

We had a smoked pheasant from a pheasant hunt Hubby went on last year. I stripped the meat off the bones and did my very best to remove any shot (of course, there are always a few that you miss). Then, I roughly chopped the pieces.

I made the crust for the quiche based on a recipe I found online. Geez - I've got a thing for finding these things online. Seriously - I'll do my best to find my next recipe from a recipe book - I promise!

Anyway, crusts and I DO NOT MIX. No matter how hard I try, they always end to up dry and fall apart when I attempt to roll them out. At least this time around I did succeed in lining the pie pan with crust.

Next I sauteed 2 chopped onions in some olive oil. Once they were nice and soft, I added the sliced crimini mushrooms until they were nicely brown and tender. Next, I added the chopped smoked pheasant and heated everything through and seasoned with salt and pepper. I added a handful of chopped parsley from the garden.

I beat several eggs together with some half and half, and grated just a smidge of nutmeg into the mixture. I added a lot of shredded Gruyer to the egg mixture along with some wilted spinach. I then added the meat mixture.

I poured the whole thing into the crust-lined pie pan and baked it for 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

It was very tasty. I would definitely lower the spinach and onion levels and up the egg and Gruyer levels next time (it was a bit more chunky and less "Quiche"-y then I would have liked. But the smoked pheasant really infused the dish nicely and the crust actually kept its crispness well. Once this is tuned up, I'll post the recipe.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pictures of the Rhubarb Custard Souffle

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe. It is very nice - the souffle is very light and airy. I have to say - rhubarb and custard go together VERY well. I think we've had them together for dessert for almost a week now - and I'm still not tired of it!

Ok, here are pictures of the souffles.

The ramikens were lined with butter and ground gingersnap cookies (I pulverized some leftover ginger cookies I made for Christmas). Rhubarb compote was placed inside along with a spoonful of custard. Mixed the remaining rhubarb and custard together with an egg yolk and a bit of flour. Whipped the egg whites (recipe calls for 4 - I did 5 since I had 4 from when I made the custard and 1 from the recipe) and sugar and whipped til very stiff. Mixed some whites with the rhubarb/custard mixture and then folded that in with the remaining white. Dolloped the mixture into each ramiken. Baked on a pre-heated cookie sheet in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

So, dinner tonight will be a couple pheasants. One was smoked. I'll attempt another Jamie Oliver recipe. We seem to be all about Jamie Oliver these days. If you haven't watched his Food Revolution tv shows - I would recommend it.

Hubby has been out moving the sod rolls from the new garden area. It appears he's decided on a sod fence for the garden. After all the sod is moved, we will till up the soil with our new rear-tine tiller. Now, I know some people are anti-tiller. But, we have some insane amount of square feet of very clay soil to work up - and it ain't happenin' with a shovel and fork.

Well, dinner won't prep itself. Better be off.

The Custard Recipe

Ok, I promised to post the custard recipe that I use. I got it off the web.

Homemade Vanilla Custard


3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tsp salt
4 egg yolks
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract


Heavy saucepan
Storing container (I use the 42 oz plastic container with locking lid)


1. Mix the first 5 ingredients in the heavy saucepan with the whisk until well incorporated.
2. Place saucepan on burner and bring to the boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. You will know you are there when the mixture changes from thin and frothy to silky, smooth and thick. Watch out for flying sprays of custard - they are hot.
3. Remove saucepan from heat.
4. Whisk in the butter and vanilla.
5. Pour mixture into your storing container with the spatula.
6. Place plastic wrap right on the surface of the custard to prevent a skin from forming. Cover with lid.
6. Place in the refrigerator to cool. (I like it warm, too).

I made another batch this afternoon and will use it and our rhubarb to make a rhubarb custard souffle - a Jamie Oliver recipe. I will be sure to take pictures and post later.

Oh, and it rained this morning and last night. Yeay!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

We've Got Ducks!

Yes, they little darlings arrived yesterday. 10 Swedish Blues. They are quite cute. Hubby has some pictures over on his blog.

Will write more later. Tonight, we are going to see Flogging Molly in concert. Woot!


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sad News for Twin Cities Diners

Very sad news that Jon Radle, executive chef at Grand Cafe, passed away unexpectedly. We had just eaten at the restaurant a couple of months ago for a Simple, Good, and Tasty event. So sad - what a talented chef who was very much into local, sustainable food. Our condolences to his family and friends.

Monday, April 19, 2010

So What Have You Done Lately?

Yes, I know it has been a long time since my last post. Big slap on the wrist for me.

I've been pretty busy. I've been helping Hubby with the garden. We've got a lot of things planted: a few kinds of shell peas and sugar snap peas, broad beans, scarlet runner beans, leeks, beets, carrots, turnips, shallots, garlic (planted last fall), broccoli rabe, chard... I'm sure I'm missing stuff.

The apricot tree is in full blossom and the plum trees are just starting to blossom. They smell so fantastic. I'm so excited about those!

The windows of the house are full of tomato seedlings - romas, brandywines.

We are also getting ducks - 10 Swedish Blues. We've got a lot of fencing, posts, and a small yard pond liner. We plan on putting up the fence around the orchard - thus having the ducks help with pest control. Also, it is close the pole barn - so we can easily refill the pond with the run-off.

We also rented a sod cutter and removed a whole lotta sod next to the existing garden. Hubby had the grandiose idea of doing some 600-700 square feet. I talked him into half. We ended up doing even less than that. That was some long, hard work. We still have a field of sod rolls to deal with - but are slowly making headway. (I should say, HUBBY is slowly making headway.) The hope is to plant corn (popcorn, meal), squash, tomatoes, and potatoes. We did buy a tiller - a nice big rear-tine. There was NO WAY we could work that up with just the shovel and fork. Also, Hubby still hopes to clear out MORE land (in future years) - so buying a tiller seemed to be the smart thing to do.

We are nearly overrun with eggs. I made two batches of vanilla egg custard (non-baked). I have to say - DO NOT BUY VANILLA CUSTARD OR MAKE IT FROM AN INSTANT PACKAGE! The recipe is SOOOOO simple and a million times better than anything else. I also made a large batch of rhubarb compote. These two together make for a very happy tummy.

Well, that is the low down from here. Hope your spring plantings are going well.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Short post today

Very short post today. Nothing of real consequence (but then when ARE my post of any real consequence?). Hubby posted a short blog with pics of our homemade ravioli and our lemon ricotta pancakes. I hope to do a more interesting post soon. Until then, eat with gusto!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

It Was A Full Day

Yesterday was quite the day! So much going on - the fact that I am awake right now should fill you all with amazement. :)

Anyway, we did a lot of cooking and baking yesterday. It started off with making corn bread for a cornbread stuffing. We are getting together with some friends tonight for a themed dinner (New Orleans). So, I made Emeril Lagasse's Cornbread Stuffing. But first, I made the cornbread.

Next, I was planning on making lasagna for dinner last night. But first, we needed pasta. So, I made the Poor Man's Pasta recipe from Lidia's Family Table (I love Lidia!). She recommended this pasta for lasagna recipes.

Barefoot, cooking in the kitchen. :)

As I posted previously, I made ricotta cheese a few days ago and mozzarella after that. Here is the mozzarella.

The mozzarella just after separation - draining.

Stretching the mozzarella. It gets hot - thus the rubber gloves.

The finished mozzarella.

I had a whole bunch of whey left over, so I used some to make an Italian bread recipe included in the cheese recipe pamphlet. It made two huge loaves for bread with a very nice crumb. I can totally see making some really tasty garlic bread with this stuff.

The Italian Whey Bread - a bit brown, but still very good.

Then I started on the lasagna. Hubby helped by heating up some tomato sauce that we had made last summer. He added several herbs - basil, thyme, etc. It was very nicely reduced already, so all we really needed to do was heat it up.

The Sauce - tangy, lightly sweet, herby, delicious.

I shredded the mozzarella while Hubby browned some pork sausage (the only thing we didn't make) and added fennel seeds and other herbs to give it that Italian sausage flavor.

The pork sausage browning.

Then we assembled the lasagna - layering pasta sauce, pasta, ricotta, mozzarella, pork sausage, and parmesan cheese (ok, the other thing we didn't make). We topped it of with pasta, mozzarella and parmesan, covered with foil, and baked for 40 minutes. Then we uncovered it and baked an additional 20 minutes so that the top become brown, crusty, and oh so tasty!

Layering the lasagna

The lasagna was fantastic - great flavors. The pasta itself got a bit soft - not really surprising since we were using fresh pasta - but still quite nice. Gotta love it!


Finally, we needed to make the cornbread stuffing. This is an enormous recipe. I didn't have a baking dish large enough. But, the andoullie sausage smells so great when it is cooking. Lots of onion, green pepper, and celery - and the requisite "bam" of Emeril's Essence. We haven't actually tasted it yet (too full from the lasagna and didn't want to cut into the dish before our gathering today). But, it looks and smells fantastic.

Can't wait to try the cornbread stuffing.

It was a long and productive day around here. I will admit to collapsing on the couch when it was all done. But, I would have to say it was worth the trouble. I mean, I'm sure our great - great grandparents would have looked at the day and scoffed "I wish I had a day that easy!"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

Last night, Hubby and I made our very first batch of ricotta cheese. Woot!

We had gotten the cheese-making kit a few months ago when visiting Shepherd's Way Farms during an open house. They make really great artisan cheese and are only about 20 minutes away. They had Ricki's Cheesemaking Kit from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company in Massachussetts. All I can say is that it couldn't be easier and the cheese tastes fantastic.

We bought some organic whole milk. We poured the whole gallon into the pot along with a teaspoon of citric acid (from the kit) and a tsp of salt (optional).

The milk in the pot.

Adding the salt.

We heated the milk to 195 degrees F, stirring often to prevent burning. It started to curdle and look like ricotta.

Once it reached 195 degrees, we took it off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Then we scooped the ricotta into the cheesecloth-lined colander over another pot to drain for 1/2 hour.

The cheese hanging to drain for 1/2 hour.

The ricotta in the cheesecloth.

The cheese is very tasty. It is a bit sweeter than what you find in the grocery stores. It is nice and light in texture. I am so excited to use it for lemon ricotta pancakes and in homemade lasagna. Additionally, the cheese kit has a recipe to use the whey leftover to make pizza dough or bread - so we've saved the whey to do that later.

Tomorrow we will be doing our first batch of mozzarella using Cedar Summit milk. Look for the post on that in the future.

In summary, I'm very excited to venture into cheese making. The simpleness of some types of cheese I think would lend itself to making a family activity out of it for those with kids. Try it out!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Slow Food and Sustainable Farming

Two weekends ago, Hubby and I attended a couple of conferences for groups that we are interested in: The Sustainable Farming Association of MN and Slow Food MN.

The first, Sustainable Farming Association of MN, had their annual conference on the St. Olaf campus in Northfield, MN. There were a few stands for vendors ranging from organic seed purveyors to other sustainable organizations. There were various seminars throughout the day, including a film made by a faculty member and student at Gustavus Adolphus College (my alma mater).

It was interesting, but both Hubby and I felt underwhelmed by it. First, the organizers touted a "farmers market" that would be onsite. I believe the we came across one stand that had some homemade jams and jellies. Other than that - nothing. Kind of sad, especially considering the number of local producers nearby. Second, there was a lot of "preaching to the choir" going on. I mean, I think most of those in attendance already buys into to concepts. A lot of people were going off with either "We need to support sustainable farmers." and "Peak oil, climate change, and economic instablility are all linked to the need for sustainable farming." But there wasn't a lot of discussion about what we could do on a personal, local, and political/national level. Third, I was disappointed that there seemed to be a lack of minority farmers and urban farmers - both of which are growing areas of farming in this state.

I do have to say that I was impressed by all that St. Olaf is doing in this area - their student farm and its relationship with the cafeteria, the wind turbines, their composting facility. The food was really nice - much better than when I went to college (but Gustavus is making strides there, now).

The other event was the Slow Food MN annual meeting. It was held at the McNally School of Music in St. Paul. It was a soup and bread potluck. We brought two loaves of No Knead Bread and a jar of our homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. The food was quite tasty and the group was very welcoming. The business meeting was a bit chaotic (some people were unused to parlimentary procedure), but they did get through it. I'm excited about the events they have planned - including a Hmong farm and food event, a chocolate event, and repeat of the foraged food event we attended last year.

There is quite a bit of overlap with these two groups (Slow Food and Sustainable Farming Association). It makes sense, though. A lot of the farmers are the same in both groups and the food-lovers like Hubby and me are interested in the same groups. All this had Hubby and I going "Why aren't these groups more integrated and working with each other more?" Thus, I will get more into that when I talk about Transition Towns in a future post.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Grand Cafe: Simple Good and Tasty Dinner

Last Night Hubby and I attended the Simple Good and Tasty February dinner at the Grand Cafe in Minneapolis. It was a really nice event.

It was the first time we had eaten at Grand Cafe. I had heard a lot of good things about it. It had been on my "list" for a while, but we just hadn't gotten there yet. What a great way to experience the restaurant for the first time. Lee Zukor, who created Simple Good and Tasty, had reserved the restaurant for the night.

We got there a bit early and got a nice glass of wine. We stopped to chat with Lee for a bit - who was buzzing about from one group of people to the next. I have to give Lee props - we've been to a few of his events now and they have all been fantastic. The restaurants have been top notch, the people are great, and we always have tasty food.

Hubby and I started chatting with a couple. We soon discovered that not only were they from my home state of ND, but they also attended a special summer session at NDSU that I attended when I was in high school. (Oh, that time seems soooooo long ago!) While we didn't attend the same year, I discovered that I did attend with the brother of one of them. It truly is a small world - especially when you start talking about ND. Still, very cool to meet them.

The food was great. It started off with a beet and microgreen salad with walnuts and a nice fresh chevre cheese. The walnuts added a nice sweetness and the vinagrette cut through it all nicely without being too sharp. The main course was a cassoulet with duck from Au Bon Canard and house-made sausages. It was very smokey and the duck leg was very tender. The only thing that I was wishing for was a nice peice of crusty bread to sop up some of the sauce and beans. The vegetarian option, which one of our new aquaintances had, was a Mandan-corn polenta with sauteed greens. It is made with corn the Mandan tribes cultivated that is apparently difficult to grow but very tasty. We finished with a gingerbread pudding with an orange compote and a carmel cream (with the obligatory coffe and cream). I tip my hat to John Radle, the Grand Cafe head chef. It was a great night.

We even managed to park on the correct side of the street (Yes, we love Minneapolis's parking restrictions!!!!). We are looking forward to attending more Simple Good and Tasty events in the future. Not sure if we'll make the March dinner at Sen Yai Sen Lek, but we will make the effort if we can.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Let There Be Beer! The Minnesota Craft Brewers Winterfest 2010

I loves me some good beer. Thank God Hubby showed me that there was beer beyond the big American beer/swill that I grew up thinking was beer.

For the past few years, Hubby and I have attended the MN Craft Brewers events - the Autumn Brew Review and the Winterfest. We actually didn't attend them last year, but this year we went to the Winterfest with a couple of friends.

The Winterfest is held at the MN History Center on the Friday before Super Bowl Sunday. Tickets are sold in advance and sell out pretty much as soon as they are released. If you aren't on the email list, you will probably miss out. Tickets cost $45 each with a limit of 6 tickets per order.

Anyway, this is the first time we attended since they moved the event to the History Center (it used to be at the Landmark Center). It was was spread out over 3 floors, which was nice. It provided more room by spreading us out a bit. There was food (covered by the admission price) that included a beef stew, local cheeses and crackers, crudite, and bread. All nice, but of course the real reason to be there is for the beer.

There were a lot of good MN breweries at the festival: the bigger guys like Summit and Schells, the smaller guys like Lift Bridge, Flat Earth, and Surly, and brew pubs like Town Hall Brewery and Barley Johns Brew Pub. We took our commemorative glass around to each stand, handed the glass over and said "Give me the...(insert beer name here)".

Boy were there some good ones, too! I especially liked Lift Bridge's Belgian Biscotti: a golden brew with hints of honey and malt that really did remind you of a biscotti. They served it with the option of a Belgian Biscotti float - adding a scoop of ice cream made with the Biscotti beer. That was sensational!

My other favorite of the night was from Town Hall Brewery. They called their LSD. It is an ale made with lavendar, sunflower honey and dates. Another light-colored brew, this one got the balance of the lavendar just right. I was worried that it would be like drinking soap (a danger whenever you doing something culinary with lavendar), but it was just right. It was slightly sweet with a great smell and light hops.

Here is the program from the event, if you want to let your imagination go.

Next year's Winterfest is Feb. 4th. See you there if you can get a ticket!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Boy Am I Behind!

Ok, I admit it. I am behind on my posts. So much has gone on over the past couple and weeks, but do I write anything about it? No! Bad!!!!!!!

Ok, enough of that. I forgive me. ;-)

What has gone on? Several things, actually. The first week of February I went out to Santa Clara, CA (that's right - Silicon Valley) for a convention for work. It was pretty cool, but I won't bore everyone else by going on and on about copper surface imperfections and their impact on signal integrity.

No, I will talk about the food and drink - what else, right?

I ended up eating at a couple of places. The first was Amarin Thai Restaurant. It was in a strip mall kitty-corner from my hotel. It is a small, hole-in-the-wall sort of place. Not fancy at all. But, since it was so close, I figured I'd give it a try. I took my order to go and ate it in my hotel room.

First off was the Thai Samosa. It was peas, carrots and potatoes with some nice spices wrapped in rice paper then deep fried. It came with a peanut dipping sauce infused with a pepper oil and also had a salad of cucumber and red onion on the side. It was quite tasty. I had a pork dish with basil, garlic, chilis and coconut milk that was also quite nice over a bed of sticky rice. Nothing that blew my socks off, but quite tasty and for the price, quite a bargain.

The best meal during my trip was actually at the hotel restaurant. Now, I know what you must be thinking - Hotel restaurant? Really? I thought those were bad by nature?

But Parcel 104 specializes in seasonal, local cuisine. I was really excited to have dinner there. I started with a coconut and dungeoness crab soup with kaffir, a citrus puree and seared scallop. The bowl came with the seared scallop in the middle over the puree and the kaffir. Then, the server poured the lightly sweet brown coconut soup over the top. It the soup clearly used the brown meat of the crab for both flavor and color. It was quite delicious - slight sweet with zings of citrus. The scallop was perfectly done with a nice char.

My main course was a seared Tombo tuna steak done appropriately rare. The slices were laid out over 3 different purees - all based on cauliflower. One was infused with basil with a bright green hue. The second was infused with truffle oil (I LOVE truffle oil!), and the third was blended with curry spices. The whole plate was mixed with pickled shitake mushrooms. Each puree gave you a completely different flavor experience - all of which were good. I was, of course, partial to the truffle oil.

My dessert was chosen at the recommendation of the server - a very nice man who did a superb job. The dessert consisted of 3 parts - a pot du creme with Valhrona chocolate (very smooth with a taste that only comes from premium chocolate), two mini-chocolate lava cakes (they kicked the butt of any of the numerous chocolate lava cakes out there - and there are a lot of them!), and a scoop of banana ice cream one top of a banana slice covered in caramel. To go with it - a chocolate port that was truly like drinking heaven. I will be on the lookout now for chocolate port.

No pictures - I know! I am a bad monkey who forgot the camera at home. I really need to do a better job of that.

More posts to come to include the Minnesota Craft Brewer's Winterfest.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Our Trip to Mesa: The Good, the Bad, and Flooding

Last week Hubby and I went to Mesa, AZ for our first "real" vacation ever. We've done the occasional long weekend - adding a Friday here, a Monday there. But we never really went away for a good long week and "vacated" our lives for a while.

My folks rented a house down in Mesa from a friend for a month. So, we flew down to Mesa and stayed with them for the week. Oh, what a glorious sight! Sun! Blue Skies! Temps in the 60s! Woot! Seriously, it seemed like we were charmed. We picked up our luggage from the luggage carousel and started to look for the shuttle to take us to the car rental location. Immediately, a guy said "The shuttle to the car rental? Follow me!" He took our bags onto his luggage cart and headed down a secluded hallway. Husband started looking nervous - how did we know this guy worked for the airport? But, lo and behold - he takes us through a door right to the first shuttle and starts to load our baggage. Nice!

We had similar luck at the car rental center. As we walked to the area to find our car - we had rented a compact car - a lady come up to us to help. She looked at our paperwork and said "You are renting a compact car? Here, I'm going to give you a complimentary upgrade to a mid-sized car." Wow!

I have to give props to the AZ highway system for their signs. So easy to follow. And, they have huge bushes of rosemary in the medians. Seriously!

We got to the house my folks are renting. It was very nice and great to see them. We had orange and grapefruit trees right outside. How cool to wake up in the morning, go outside, and pull a couple of oranges off the tree to make some freshly squeezed orange juice! Soooooooo tasty.

Unfortunately, our good fortune would not last. Hubby come down with a nasty sinus infection. He bravely tried to brush it off - doing a lot of sleeping and drinking OJ. However, it finally got to be too much. Thankfully my mom had her computer down there - I was able to check with my insurance company and find a clinic and pharmacy that was in-network.

Then, came the rain. Yes, the rain. The week before we came down, my folks were regaling me with how it was 70 and sunny all week. Of course, we come down in time for The Rain Storm of the Century followed by FloodGate: The Noah's Ark Edition. Suddenly, it was cloudy, cold (for AZ) and doing lots, and lots, of raining. Roads were closed due to flooding, someone's house got swept away by a raging river, massive snow storms at the higher elevations. It was crazy! They even had a Tornado Warning.

Even still, there were some shining moments - like the food. Yes, you knew I was going to go there.

We ate lunch one day at Cowboy Ciao in Scottsdale. Downtown Scottsdale is really nice with lots of shops and restaurants. There are some really kitschy places - selling all forms of turquoise and sand paintings - but also some really impressive art galleries and even a very cool antique book shop that had a 1400s Thomas Aquinas Summa Theologica (which the person manning the store actually took out of the cabinet and showed us). A mere $20,000. No big whoop.

Anyway, back to lunch. I had their signature mushroom pan fry - it had lots of different mushrooms with a nicely spicy tomato/pepper cream sauce smothering fried polenta. It was topped with chopped tomatoes and avocado. So tasty!

Hubby had a "salad" of confited tuna (confited in duck fat) with a salty sauteed spinach and tomatoes and a fried egg. The tuna was mixed with shallots and capers.

If you are down in the Scottsdale area - try Cowboy Ciao. I got a merlot flight that was really nice - and they didn't skimp on the wine (something that many placed do for flights and is a pet peeve of mine).

Another place we went to was Caffe Boa in Tempe. It is in the area of the the University. The head chef was originally from MN and they specialize in local foods. We were really excited to try it. We had lunch - after coming in from cold and rain. The place was very cool. We both had variations on the lunch special (sorry no pictures!): I had a half-pannini with mozzarella, basil, prosciutto, and a fig jam. It came with a side of soup that I though the server said was tripe - but it seemed more like a tomato-based vegetable soup with garbanzo beans and some small bits of beef. It was very good. Hubby had the pasta-soup lunch combo - same soup. The pasta looked more like a soup as well - in a beefy stock - rather than a sauce.

The food was good, but we had a bad experience with the server. He forgot to put in our order for the charcuterie appetizer. When we asked about (he had just put down our main course and asked if we needed anything) he asked if we still wanted it - which we did. He said it would take a few minutes - but we figured - it's charuterie. You slice the meat, put on some spreads on a plate and add bread. We finished our main course (about 15 minutes) and our places were cleared. Then we sat there....and sat there....with no one coming to bring our food or to check on us. Finally, the server showed up with the charcuterie. Really nice food - very bad service.

Finally, the other dining experience I would like to talk about is Pizzeria Bianco. So much has been said about Pizzeria Bianco - I feel like I would just be adding to the noise. But, I must say that it is fabulous. It helps to know going in that THERE WILL BE A LONG WAIT. But, I feel it is worth it.

It was our last night in Mesa - the sky was cloudy, the air was cool. We showed up at 4:30pm and got into the already long line. Several people were already in the middle of working on a full bottle of wine. Ahhhhhhh!The doors opened at 5pm. Immediately before 5pm - a swarm of people showed up - and joined their friends ahead of us who were the line place holders for the group. Yeah, I knew it would be a while.

Luckily (for us and for the owners), they have a wine bar next door. After putting our name in, we went over to the wine bar. We were lucky enough to get at least 1 bar stool and ordered beers and wine and conversed with other patrons as the bar tender would inform the next party when their name came up. We met some really cool people and tried a few AZ micro brews. Finally, at 7:45pm, we were seated at the bar inside the pizzeria.

We had the spiedini appetizer - melty fontina cheese wrapped in proscuitto on a bed of microgreens with a vinagrette.

We ordered two pizzas - the Margherita (to which we added La Quercia Proscuitto) and their Wiseguy - with onions, mozzarella, and fennel sausage.

We ate it all and I have no regrets. If you go - go early (as we sat there, people came in looking for a seat only to be told that it was a 3-3.5 hour wait). They only take reservations for parties of 6 or more - and when we went, their reservations were booked 2 months out.

Of course, the sun came back out on our last day. Our trip to the airport was as nice as our trip from the airport when we arrived.

To finish, an FYI: If you have an expired drivers license - even with the renewal paperwork - you will get through airport security, but you will not be served alcohol in the Phoenix airport. Is that a crazy world or what?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Hubby's Birthday Bonanza

Yesterday was Hubby's birthday! We had a very nice day. It started off with birthday cake from Hi Quality Bakery. Yes, I know the better thing to do would have been to bake the cake myself. However, I ran out of time and at least Hi Quality Bakery is local. They make a very nice carrot cake with cream cheese frosting with "Happy Birthday Rick" written on the top. Quite nice. I also succumbed to my rumbly stomach and got a couple of caramel pecan rolls. I know, I know.

Hubby wanted to see Avatar, so I thought it would be fun to try out that new ICON theater in St. Louis Park. That meant a drive up to the Cities, but hey, it's his BIRTHDAY! So, I went online and reserved tickets for their VIP lounge. This section is the balcony section that is only for +21 folks, serves alcohol and has a restaurant. Ticket prices: our afternoon matinee with VIP seating cost what an evening movie ticket would be elsewhere.

We got the theater for their 3:30pm matinee showing of Avatar 3D. Since I printed the tickets from the website, we didn't have to wait in line. We went right to the ticket-taker. After going upstairs, we came up to the restaurant. Quite busy and full. We checked out their drink menu (which didn't show any of their beers - so a knock for that). Their wine list and prices were comparable to most restaurants. We didn't order any food, though so we can't comment on that.

We brought our drinks to our seats (some folks brought in a whole bottle of wine). The seats are VERY plushy - oversized and soft. There is a lot of leg room (no worries about someone thumping your seat from the back!). The seats are set together by 2s with a nice-sized "table" between each set of 2. The drink holders hold your glasses and there is ample room for food. Servers will bring your food to your seat up until the movie starts, but you have to order and pay at the restaurant beforehand. The food we saw brought in looked pretty tasty.

The movie was pretty good - visually stunning of course. Even though it was in 3D (yeah, doesn't work for me), it was still fun to see. I did notice a couple of times that I had my mouth open - the rendering and animation were really great. Yes, the storyline was predictable and a cross between Dances with Wolves, FernGully, and Star Wars. But, it was still a good time.

One nit - we went in the afternoon when there were a lot of "folks of many years" attending who needed to get up to go the bathroom several times during the movie. Get a seat at the front of the balcony or go later in the night.

After that, we went to Cooper Irish Pub (just outside and down the block). I'll do another post on that later.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

I Do More Than Sing in the Shower

I've been singing for most of my life. In grade school, we did several programs through the school year. There was a big Christmas production. Imagine the excitement that started in November when all of the Dads of our our little 2-classroom country school house would lumber into the school and start putting up the stage. I'm sure the teachers (both of them) hated it because we kids couldn't concentrate after that. All of the banging of hammers, the clanging of boards - it really was the start of the holiday season for us.

In the spring we would do Mother's Day programs, sing for the residents of the local old folk's home, and do a graduation program - among many others. I guess you could say that I got bitten by the singing bug and never recovered.

I joined choir in high school and did a lot of theater. Once I got to college, I took some voice lessons and sang in choirs there. Singing had really become a regular part of my life, and I was kind of bummed at the thought of not really doing it much after I graduated.

However, in May of my senior year, just before graduation, my college roommate turned to me and said "I'm auditioning for my Dad's choir in the Cities. Do you want to come, too?" Sure - why not? I knew my roommate's Dad was a choir director - he did choir at St. Johns University. I didn't know until then that he had a choir in the Cities.

Now here I am, several years later, and I am still singing with this choir - Kantorei. We do several concerts throughout the year at several churches around the Cities. We also do educational outreach concerts with childrens choirs, high school choirs and community choirs. This year, we are going to be working on a new CD. It is being produced by a well-known producer who specializes in choral music. We are really excited about it.

I'll be sure to let everyone know when the CD is available. Also, I'd love to see people at our concerts. Another quick plug - we are having our annual benefit dinner (we are a non-profit and this benefit dinner is our main source of revenue for the year) on Valentine's Day. There will be a multi-course meal with wines and a silent auction in addition to music by the choir. Much of the cost of the dinner is tax deductible. If you are looking for something different to do for Valentine's Day, check out our website for more details.

End plug.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Food Experience since October

Ok, I mentioned that we’ve eaten a lot of food since my post in October. I figured I’d get you all up to speed on those. After all, one of my favorite things to do is eat (and drink). Here we go – in the shortened version:

Anniversary Dinner (October): We went to Sea Change, a seafood restaurant in the Cities that focus on sustainable seafood. It is run by Tim McKee, who won the James Beard Award this year for Best Chef in the Midwest. It is one of several that he runs – all of which are very good. But before we ate there, we got into town a bit early for our reservation. So, we headed over to Spoonriver, which is across the street for drinks and an appetizer. We had their charcuterie plate as the appetizer. It was pretty good – very nice cured meats and artisan cheeses. What really stood out, though, were the pickled vegetables. Based on that, we vowed that we would come back sometime soon for dinner.

At Sea Change, we had another appetizer of raw scallops. While it was very nice and well executed, I felt underwhelmed. I think I expected more sweetness and thought that the other flavors perhaps outdid the scallop itself. The entrees were again, very nice, well executed, but didn’t “Wow” either of us.

Dinner before the Playing for Change Concert (November): I will do another post on the Playing for Change concert. But beforehand, we ate at Ristorante Luci in St. Paul. The place is known for its homemade Italian food (housemade pasta) and using local ingredients. I had a lamb shank that was braised in a light tomato sauce. The lamb actually did have a lamb-y flavor (I’ve had way too many that didn’t – very disappointing when that happens). The tomato sauce really got infused with the lamb flavor and was very tasty. Unfortunately, there was no pasta or crusty bread served with the dish. There was so much sauce, I was really looking forward to sopping it up with bread or eating it up with pasta.

Salut Bar American Edina (November): We ate here before my choir’s Audience Appreciation concert (I’ll do another post on my choir). We were on a tight schedule, and our server did a great job of getting us our food and check in time. I had butternut squash ravioli in a brown butter sauce. It was very nice. The pasta still had a bit of tooth to it (not too much, though) and the squash filling was smooth and sweet. The sauce had a bit of lemon in it, which helped to cut through the sweet and creaminess. The Hubby had a steak which was perfectly done and nicely seasoned. It was very tender. Overall, it was very good for the price.

Simple, Good and Tasty Event (December): We attended an event for Simple, Good and Tasty (a local food website) that was at The Craftsman in Minneapolis. If you haven’t eaten at the Craftsman – GO! Mike Philips, the chef and owner, does his own charcuterie and own pickling. We had some wonderful appetizers including several cured meats, braun, cheese, pates – so very tasty. They had a wonderful drink called the Stormy Night which used their own mulled wine. It was HEAVEN!

Smalley’s Caribbean BBQ and Pirate Bar (December): Yes, it is quite the name. This is also a Tim McKee venture that specializes in Caribbean-style BBQ. We ate there with my folks and Hubby’s uncle and aunt. The meat was very tender and full of flavor. The sauces are very much the Caribbean-style – less sweetness and a bit thinner with a lot of bite. The side dishes were tasty as well. Our server was fantastic, explaining things to us, asking questions, and offering up suggestions when asked.

Spoonriver (December): I told you that we vowed to go back! We ate here before attending the Guthrie production of A Christmas Carol. We had a mushroom and pistachio pate for an appetizer that came with a cranberry chutney that was quite nice. I had grass-fed roast beef with fingerling potatoes and roasted parsnips and carrots. It was very tasty, tender, and full of flavor. Hubby had a lamb stew (more of lamb with spices, broth, and yogurt) over cous-cous. It wasn’t what one would expect, though we were sort of warned by the server when he ordered it that it wasn’t the type of lamb stew people expect. It was very nice, though. My one complaint was that their mixed drinks tended to be very “summery” – a lot of citrus, cucumber, etc. There were really no “wintery” mixed drinks (see the Stormy Night from above).

We did eat at other places, but these were the big ones. It appears that I have a couple of addition blog posting to work on. So, that is “what we ate since October”.