Goodbye Christmas, Hello Food Orgies

The weekend was still filled with a lot of this:christmas tree

All of the holiday celebrations meant that The Husband and I spent a lot of time on the road. Spending lots of time on the road leaves plenty of time for this:

knitting
If everything goes according to plan, I’ll have a new sweater by the end of the week.

In the midst of the holiday celebrations, we managed to try breakfast at one of my favorite Minneapolis dinner locations, Muddy Waters. I was really disappointed not to see the Breakfast Quesadilla on the restaurant menu after seeing it online, but they quickly distracted me with the Breakfast Pizza. Full disclosure, I rarely meet a pizza that I don’t like. But this one was really good, especially with the veggie chorizo and shots of sriracha that I added. Who says you can’t have pizza for breakfast?

breakfast pizza
Breakfast Pizza: eggs, tomato, mozzarella, veggie chorizo and peppers (vegetarian)

The Husband opted for the Breakfast Poutine and called it, “All of my favorite things in an orgy of calories and cholesterol.” I’m pretty sure that means he loved it:

poutine
Breakfast Poutine: home fries, sausage gravy, cheddar curds, egg & bacon

After all of the holiday revelry, we were ready to say farewell to Christmas. The Husband helped pack things up at home so we could reclaim our living room and look forward to a new year. We had a little help from our favorite teenage devil:

cleo and mrs claus
Now, if we could only finish the last of the Christmas cookies….

The Princess of Paninis

I can’t stop making paninis.

The Husband was responsible for what I now know to have been a Christmas miracle. I had no idea the joy would come into my life when I unwrapped the 5-in-1 Cuisinart Griddler Tuesday night. Yes, it was on my Amazon Wish List, but I honestly had no idea how desperately and completely I would love this kitchen gadget. Every meal that I make, I’m trying to turn into a panini now. Breakfast? No problem. Just use that griddle surface to fry an egg and then put it in a panini. Dinner? Who doesn’t want a delicious panini? It’s even great for leftovers. How about a ham, cheese and egg panini for breakfast? The Husband said it was delicious even though I popped his egg yolk in my excitement to drop the panini press. Of course, I had a vegetarian breakfast panini – a little salsa, spinach and gouda with a fried egg:panini

The Best-Good Friend was over and we tried The Green Goddess as a panini. Just when I thought nothing could improve The Green Goddess, I made it on the 5-in-1 Griddler. It was so good, we made seconds.

Now I’m considering turning my peanut butter and jelly sandwich into a panini for lunch… something tells me that it would be pretty awesome.

Watch out, everyone, this blog might turn into 365 Days of Paninis.

Notes From Santa’s Sweatshop

There was no time for local food adventures and craft fairs this weekend, this Santa has fallen behind since her holiday spirit was so late to kick in.

Saturday launched what I hope will be a new annual tradition: The Great Christmas Cookie Bake-Off. The Best-Good Friend arrived bright and early to get to work and seven hours later, we had six different kinds of cookies done and only two treats left for me to finish on my own:

Cookies
Clockwise from left: Vanilla & Chocolate Icebox Cookies, Mint Thumbprints, Salted Nut Bars, Peanut Butter Date Cookies, Sunny Honeys, Cherry & Jam Thumbprints and Lemon Meltaways (center)

It was a blast working with a friend while Swinging Christmas music played in the background, now I’m assembling the cookies for delivery to friends which definitely increases the holiday spirit even more.

Somewhere during the present wrapping and kitchen clean-up, I also managed to whip up a batch of Shutterbean’s Candy Cane Vodka for my lactose-intolerant friends because it appears that every cookie I make is filled to the brim with butter. Everyone should get a special treat this time of year:

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Rest assured, I will be saving some of this for myself. I sampled it last night (quality control is very important) in a cup of Christmas Tea and it was SO good.

Now, to finish the Christmas Eve menu and get cooking – this Santa’s work isn’t done yet!

Jumpstarting The Holiday Spirit

My holiday spirit has been slow to kick in this year, so I’ve been trying to jumpstart it since time is starting to run out.

It seemed like a good idea to try consuming the right colored foods:

green juice
I don’t think Cleo agrees with my logic, but drinking green juice can’t hurt, right?

I looked for inspiration from the Master of Holiday Joy:

Santa Dad
My dad loved playing Santa.

I turned off the latest audiobook on the brain, and turned on some Swinging Christmas tunes:
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And started planning a weekend cookie baking marathon with The Best-Good Friend.

That holiday spirit might be getting warming up, I might even have a cup of hot chocolate with candy cane vodka tonight while watching a Christmas movie.

Going Wild in the State of Hockey

I’ve been trying to work on my spontaneity lately. So when The Husband called late in the afternoon yesterday, I ignored my inner schoolmarm’s, “But this is an unscheduled event on a weeknight!” and ended up at the Minnesota Wild game. This was before I knew our tickets were THIS good!

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What does it look like being on in the third row? A little something like this:

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The Tuesday night crowd was quiet and for being so close to the ice, they sure didn’t seem excited to be there. Thank goodness for the Mikko Koivu fan in front of me, I hooted and hollered with him and we helped cheer the Minnesota Wild with Josh Harding in net to a shootout win against rivals the Vancouver Canucks.

This is the State of Hockey, go WILD!

Eggnog Lattes, Art Festivals and Suburban Diners

The weekend began with something that sounded so disgusting, it had to be delicious, an Eggnog Latte:

latte

No, I didn’t drink it, I left that to The Best-Good Friend who once again decided to tackle the eggs benedict for breakfast, this time at The Birchwood Café:

eggs benedict
The Best-Good Friend’s Beef Benedict: Beef brisket, maple-braised kale, 2 poached eggs, and preserved lemon hollandaise on an English muffin – served with greens & roasted fennel thyme vinaigrette (gf)

You may remember her love of the Korean Beef Benedict at Eat Street Buddha last weekend for our “East Meets West” breakfast. She told me that the Birchwood’s benedict was all about the sauce where the Eat Street Buddha’s was all about the meat.

Located in south Minneapolis, the Birchwood was established in 1926 and was originally a dairy. In the 1940’s, it was converted into a neighborhood grocery and in 1995, Birchwood Café was born. They support sustainable organic farming and buy close to home.

I had the Brunch Scramble:

veggie scramble
My Brunch Scramble: Scrambled eggs, Squash, parsnip, parsley, parmesan, and scallions –
served with multi-grain toast and rosemary garlic potatoes (vegetarian)

From there, we headed to the 21st Annual Women’s Art Festival. Last weekend we were admiring the beautiful work of handweaver Carol Johnson (Studio Tupla) at The American Swedish Institute’s Julmarknad celebration. She had postcards about the Women’s Art Festival and I’m so glad we saved the date, this was by far the best art festival I’ve been to this season. Here are a few of my favorite finds:

purchases
Custom handbag by Jen Hanlon Ash (photography & accessories), Sue’s Luxury Yarn’s fiber, earrings by ArtGirl56, and Raspberry Trivet by Edie Karras

This festival began in 1992 with a handful of artists and has now grown to over 100 who work in a variety of media.

After that, The Best-Good Friend and I parted ways. At home someone was inspiring me to get festive:

danny socks
New anti-slip socks!

If we were going to get a tree, it had to be now or never. The Husband was sick, so I headed down the street to the local YMCA tree sale. Voila, our tannenbaum. It’s not decorated yet, but at least it has lights:

tree

This morning I ventured out to the suburbs for my first Christmas celebration of the season – breakfast with The Girlfriend. We tried a new spot (local to her) and have found our new breakfast joint in Eagan, Ze’s Diner. The diner has a 1950s atmosphere and classic favorites:

“Vee” ggie Omelet: Sautéed onions, green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheddar cheese; served with toast
My “Vee” ggie Omelet: Sautéed onions, green peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and cheddar cheese; served with toast (vegetarian)

The rest of the day was filled with errands and holiday preparations. I’m happy to report that The Husband was feeling better and we managed to sneak in a little dinner date at my favorite of the Minneapolis Town Hall establishments, Town Hall Tap. This pretzel might just be my new favorite thing:

Creativity and Caramel Sauce

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and where it comes from. What is creativity? What makes a person creative? Is there a way to increase creativity? How is your brain involved? Genetics? Your environment? Is it problem-solving or making art?

There are many books on the subject, I’ve listened to some good ones and stopped listening to some really bad ones. Most recently, I started reading DAVID AND GOLIATH by Malcolm Gladwell, and so far it has me even more fixated on the topic. I’m not far yet, but the publishers tell me that “Malcolm Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles and disadvantages, offering a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, or cope with a disability, or lose a parent, or attend a mediocre school, or suffer from any number of other apparent setbacks.” Read the full book description from Hatchett Book Group.

In interviews that I’ve seen with Gladwell discussing his newest book, he often mentions that in a successful entrepreneurs, the percentage that have been diagnosed with a learning disorder is often very high. He suggests that when people can’t do things the way everyone else does, they are empowered to trying to do something different or new. I like that. People are empowered to take the road less traveled. You may end up with some lemons along the way, but you can also end up with lemonade.

On my drive home last night, I realized that this creative empowerment applies to food as well. A recent postcard from California Girl revealed that she had cracked her recipe for caramel sauce. She has been trying to eliminate refined sugar from her diet and the caramel sauce was her latest challenge. I should mention that California Girl loves sugar and would most happily eat the real thing, but unfortunately can’t. Through this dietary transition, she has created an opportunity to experiment with a variety of ingredients and has come up with some yummy recipes instead of living a life less sweet.

She calls it her “Touchy Feely Caramel Sauce” since she eyeballs the measurements and as you can see on her postcard, she hasn’t been afraid to eat a few lemons along the way (it really wasn’t that bad):

postcard

California Girl’s Touchy Feely Caramel Sauce:
1 part honey or agave
1 part whipped cream
¼ part butter or coconut oil

Caramelize honey (aka: get it to boiling for about 10-15 minutes)
Add cream, boil for about 10-15 minutes more
Add butter/oil and lower to simmering, stir well.

Add a little vanilla, a dash of salt and voilà! Breakfast!*

* (1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup cream and 2 TBS fat = 1 batch of apple pie drizzle)

I have not tested this recipe yet, but it’s definitely on the list. I hope you’ll make an opportunity for some creative experimentation and give it a try! And now, time for me to get back to reading “David and Goliath.”

Dragons, Buddhas and a Swedish Christmas

The weather outside was frightful this weekend, but that didn’t keep us indoors. I like to think that us Minnesotans are of hardy stock, or else we just know how to dress for the elements. Not only do I have flannel-lined jeans but I’ve got a fantastic pair of llama socks that I knit with some of my own handspun. In temperatures hovering around zero, that’s how I roll. And let’s not go into winter jackets. As we bundled up after dinner Saturday night, I could hear “A Christmas Story” in my head. It indeed felt like we were preparing for extended deep-sea diving.

Where was dinner, you ask? The Husband and I finally made it to George and the Dragon. The food was good, but I was especially excited by the Crabbie’s Ginger Beer that I discovered. So refreshing, though I confess I was wishing for a hot toddy:

The Husband does share my zest for cold weather which meant it was time to call in the cavalry for the real fun this weekend. That’s where The Best-Good Friend came in. Outfitted in her own deep-sea diving gear (and long johns), she braved the elements with me and we started Sunday with the Eat Street Buddha, which was so good. Such a creative menu, our “East Meets West Brunch” was a delight.

We started with tea, coffee and the Buddha Belly Cranberry Wontons:

wontons
Whipped cream cheese, cranberry, red curry, green onion and sweet thai chili sauce

I was enamored with the name “Egg Fu Yumelette,” so that’s what I had and it was tasty. I asked for the hollandaise on the side and it was really good:

omelet
Bean sprouts, pea pods, green onion, glass noodles, shredded carrot, thai chili hollandaise, toasted 7-grain with yellow curry hash browns (vegetarian version)

The Best-Good Friend LOVED her Korean Beef Benedict:

eggs benedict
Poached eggs, homemade kimchi, korean marinated beef tenderloin, grilled english muffin, bulgogi hollandaise sauce with yellow curry hash browns

We bundled up and headed to the American Swedish Institute. According to their website, ASI, founded in 1929, serves as a gathering place for people to share stories and experiences around universal themes of tradition, migration, craft and the arts, all informed by enduring ties to Sweden. I’m not Swedish (that I know of*) but had been tipped off by The Mother that they were having a Julmarknad. Inspired by wintertime markets across Europe, ASI’s Julmarknad included an outdoor Handcraft Fair (thankfully in a tent with heaters), musical performances and the opportunity to tour the Turnblad Mansion.

Musicians set the mood in the mansion’s main entry:
musicians

Can you believe this stained glass?

They had several room decorated to feature other countries like Iceland, Norway, and more:

It was fun seeing all of the trees – I especially loved the ones with the little tomtes:

But my favorite thing at the American Swedish Institute? The mechanical Swedish horse:

mechanicl swedish horse

There were purchases made, but I can’t share pictures because recipients might be reading.

Julmarknad had put us in the shopping spirit, so we made one more stop. Who wouldn’t feel cheered going to a store called “I Like You”? And just to make sure you didn’t forget, they make sure to remind you:

The last of the weekend adventures might also be the most experimental. I tried to remember the sewing lesson The Mother gave me when I was a kid. This Squeaky Green Machine wants a new dress and I was inspired by The Perfect Dress to try making one of my own. It’s not done, but when I pinned the pieces to the dress form, it appeared that things were moving forward according to plan. I’m cautiously optimistic:

* Post Update: The Mother emailed after reading this post to alert me that I do in fact have some Swedish in me! It appears that my great-grandmother on my mother’s side came over from Sweden. No wonder I loved all the tomtes, I’m 1/4 Swedish. 🙂

An Evening with The Mythbusters

When we saw that The Mythbusters were coming to town, we didn’t really know what to expect. Still, The Husband is a big fan and I like them as well, so we decided to splurge on an evening out.

I love the State Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. I love that it looks so old school on the outside:
marquee

And on the inside:

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But the stage is set up for a show like this:
behind the scenes sign

They got right to business and explained the science behind tricks like the bed of nails:

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Did I mention how close we were?
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Adam Savage had so much faith in phonebooks, he let Jayme Hyneman hoist him up and he hung from two phonebooks that had been shuffled together by audience members:

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Jayme took questions from the audience:
jayme hyneman

…wait, is he looking at me?
jayme_hyneman

Remember, we were really close:
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The finale was explosive. When the guy volunteered to wear where the suit of armor, did he know they would be shooting paintballs at him? Using a paintball gun like this??
paint ball gun

The Plexiglas between us felt very thin:


But the fearless knight walked away unscathed:
knight

Remember, don’t try any of this at home.
mythbusters

Girl’s Best Friend

My dog started limping a few months ago and was diagnosed with Lyme’s disease. The limp cleared up after treatment and then started rearing its ugly head last month. By last week, it was pretty obvious that there was a serious problem and his vet agreed that it was time to call in the specialists.

Until that point, I had no idea there was such a thing as rehab therapy for dogs but I’m sure glad that there is – especially as my dog moves into his senior years.

It appears that my spry 10 year old does indeed have a touch of arthritis which makes him more prone to injury. We can’t be sure when he hurt himself or how until I learn to speak canine, so it was intriguing to participate in the physical examination where this spectacular vet evaluated him in order to try to determine the problem. Through her patience and skill, we’ve identified the injury and put together an intense rehab plan that should have my pup dancing again soon. And he even has a dazzling new pair of anti-slip socks to boot:

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Danny sports his new anti-slip socks that will help prevent further injury.